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AMRAAM: Deploying & Developing America’s Medium-Range Air-Air Missile

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 17:33
AIM-120C from F-22A
(click for test missile zoom)

Raytheon’s AIM-120 Advanced, Medium-Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) has become the world market leader for medium range air-to-air missiles, and is also beginning to make inroads within land-based defense systems. It was designed with the lessons of Vietnam in mind, and of local air combat exercises like ACEVAL and Red Flag. This DID FOCUS article covers successive generations of AMRAAM missiles, international contracts and key events from 2006 onward, and even some of its emerging competitors.

One of the key lessons learned from Vietnam was that a fighter would be likely to encounter multiple enemies, and would need to launch and guide several missiles at once in order to ensure its survival. This had not been possible with the AIM-7 Sparrow, a “semi-active radar homing” missile that required a constant radar lock on one target. To make matters worse, enemy fighters were capable of launching missiles of their own. Pilots who weren’t free to maneuver after launch would often be forced to “break lock,” or be killed – sometimes even by a short-range missile fired during the last phases of their enemy’s approach. Since fighters that could carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 tended to be larger and more expensive, and the Soviets were known to have far more fighters overall, this was not a good trade.

Some MRAAM History, and AMRAAM’s Design Approach

Before 1991, the combat record of all air-air missiles was generally poor – and most of the kills scored in combat belonged to short-range heat-seeking missiles. The USA entered Vietnam expecting that 70% of AIM-7 Sparrow missile shots would result in a kill. The real-world total was 8%, even though the USA faced older MiG 17-21 aircraft, rather than the newest Russian fighters.

That trend began to shift somewhat in the 1980s. The Falklands War had no aircraft on either side that could use medium-range air-air missiles, but Israeli F-15s and F-16s used AWACS and poor Syrian tactics to produce an 88-0 kill ratio in 1982. The F-15s’ medium-range AIM-7F Sparrow missiles performed better in terms of fire:kill ratios than they had in past conflicts, but the vast majority of kills were still made with Sidewinder or Python short-range missiles. Further afield, the Iran-Iraq War saw Iran’s F-14 Tomcats demonstrate good performance with their long-range Phoenix missiles, against Iraqi aircraft that often lacked radar warning receivers, and never saw the missiles coming. A reprise of sorts took place in 1991, when exceptional situational awareness and poor Iraqi tactics allowed US aircraft to score around 80% of their Iraqi air-air kills in 1991 with modernized AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range missiles.

The lessons that had led to the AMRAAM program still applied, however, and the conflicts in Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq demonstrated the potential value of longer-range missiles and some of their enabling technologies. That helped AMRAAM retain its support, despite initial development glitches and rising costs. It still aimed to remove the shortcomings that made the AIM-7 a somewhat dangerous weapon for its own side. The key lay in its new approach to guidance.

AIM-120A cutaway
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In beyond-visual-range engagements, AMRAAM is guided initially by its inertial reference unit and microcomputer, which point it in the right direction based on instructions from the targeting aircraft or platform. A mid-course target location update can be transmitted directly from the launch radar system to correct that if necessary, an approach that may avoid triggering enemy radar warning receivers. In the final phase of tracking, however, the internal active radar seeker becomes completely independent and guides the missile through its own active lock-on. Most sources place its reported range at about 50 km/30 miles[1].

F/A-18C, loaded for bandits
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When coupled with modern radars, AMRAAM’s guidance approach allows a fighter to launch and control many missiles at once, avoiding a dangerous fixation on one target. Its autonomous guidance capability also provides a pilot with critical range-preserving launch and leave capability, improving survivability and helping to avoid “mutual kill” situations. Even more advanced technologies are emerging that go one step further, and allow secure “hand-off” of a fired AMRAAM to another friendly fighter.

All of these abilities, of course, assume an air environment in which it is possible to use IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe), AWACS (Airborne Warning & Control Systems) aircraft, Link 16/MIDS, etc. to safely distinguish enemy aircraft from friendlies. This has been a problem in past conflicts, resulting in rules of engagement that force the use of visual identification before firing. Obviously, that negates many of the tactical advantages of having beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles.

Customers & Performance Launch from F-22
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AMRAAM is a joint U.S. Air Force and Navy program that achieved initial operational capability in 1991, and is still in brisk production over 20 years later. At least 28 other countries have also bought AMRAAM variants, which can be fitted to F-15s, F-16s, the F/A-18 family, F-22s, F-35s, EADS Eurofighters, and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen. Germany’s aging F-4 Phantom IIs, the British/German/Italian Panavia consortium’s Tornado aircraft, and Britain’s Harriers can also carry them.

Dassault’s Mirage 2000v5 and later have been advertised at times as having this capability, but confirmation is weak, and no current Mirage 2000 customer flies with this option. The reports probably represented offers to add this capability. Dassault’s 4th generation Rafale aircraft is also listed in some venues as having AMRAAM capability, though Raytheon has never said so, and all Rafales currently operate with MBDA’s MICA missiles instead.

Even so, AMRAAM’s record of sales success has made it the global standard for medium-range AAMs, and the number of beyond visual range kills as a percentage of total air-to-air victories has risen sharply during the “AMRAAM era.”

What does this mean in practice for missile performance?

To date, RAND’s Project Air Force notes that AIM-120 missiles have demonstrated 10 kills in 17 firings, for a 59% kill rate. That’s a significant improvement over the AIM-7’s record, and AIM-120A and AIM-120C missiles split these kills equally. Victims have included an Iraqi MiG-25 and MiG-29, 6 Serbian MiG-29s, a Serbian J-21 Jastreb trainer/light attack jet, and the accidental downing of a US Army UH-60A helicopter. The last of these incidents occurred in 1999.

One caution regarding these figures is that both AMRRAM missiles, and electronics used for electronic countermeasures, have both advanced considerably in the dozen-plus since the missile’s last combat kill. A second set of cautions involves the circumstances of these victories. There are no reports of electronic countermeasures being used by any AMRAAM victim, none of these victims were equipped with beyond visual range weapons of their own, the Iraqi MiGs were fleeing and non-maneuvering, and the Serbian MiGs reportedly had inoperative radars.

These difficulties in assessing true BVRAAM (beyond visual range air-air missile) performance in the modern era are magnified by a corollary fact: None of AMRAAM’s competitors have been able to compile much of a performance record, either. With the end of recurring full-scale Arab wars against Israel, the globe’s top trial venue for full-scale warfare has evaporated, leaving few opportunities to put modern anti-aircraft systems to a real test.

AMRAAM: Upgrades & Derivatives AIM-120C

The Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) approved AIM-120A AMRAAM Full Rate Production (Milestone III B) in April 1992. Subsequent modifications have produced improvements in a number of areas, but the AIM-120D is likely to be the first really large jump in AMRAAM capabilities from version to version. It should be noted, however, that incremental upgrades add up over time. An AIM-120C-6, for instance, is a generation beyond an AIM-120A in terms of its overall capabilities.

AIM-120B was first delivered in late 1994. It had a number of electronics upgrades, from the guidance section to hardware modules and processor. Its hardware was also reprogrammable, which is not possible with the AIM-120A.

AIM-120C missiles featured a change in shape, with smaller fins that would allow 3 missiles to be carried inside the F-22A Raptor‘s stealth-maximizing internal weapons bays. A number of incremental updates brought it to AIM-120-C6 status, including guidance section upgrades, smaller control electronics, a slightly larger rocket motor, an improved warhead, and a target detection upgrade.

At present, the AIM-120-C7 is the most advanced AMRAAM approved for export beyond the USA. The AIM-120-C7 is currently in production for almost all export customers, with an improved seeker head, greater jamming resistance, and slightly longer range. Additional work continues to improve the C7’s resistance to electronic countermeasures, and this 2-phase EPIP program is scheduled to continue into FY 2017.

US-only AIM-120D missiles will feature the C7 improvements, but the D version reportedly adds a very strong set of upgrades. Pentagon documents confirm the use of smaller system components; with an upgraded radar antenna, receiver & signal processor; GPS-aided mid-course navigation; an improved datalink; and new software algorithms. The new hardware and software is rumored to offer improved jamming resistance, better operation in conjunction with modern AESA radars, and an improved high-angle off-boresight “seeker cone,” in order to give the missile a larger no-escape zone. Less-publicized improvements reportedly include a dual-pulse rocket motor, for up to 50% more range and better near-target maneuvering.

AIM-120D fielding is scheduled for FY 2015 on the F/A-18C/D Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-15C/D Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle, and F-16 Falcon. The F-22A is expected to integrate the new missile in FY 2018. At present, the AIM-120D is not available for export, and that won’t necessarily change when integration is done.

Other AMRAAM-Related Systems

Other AMRAAM variants exist.

NCADE. The most interesting AMRAAM modification remains an R&D program designed to see if AMRAAMs modified with an AIM-9X Sidewinder’s infrared seeker and a 2nd stage rocket booster could be forward-deployed on fighters, and used to shoot down ballistic missiles during their lift-off phase.

With the coming addition of IRST systems to American fighters, NCADE would also offer an effective no-warning long-range weapon against aerial enemies, including stealth fighters. To date, however, the US military and Congress have failed to take an interest in NCADE beyond initial development work. Raytheon has also declined to pursue a self-funded approach.

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SAM/GBAD. A parallel set of modifications and enhancements have seen AMRAAM missiles pressed into service in a surface-air missile role. Programs like Norway’s NASAMS, the USMC’s CLAWS (ended in 2006), etc. are often referred to by the umbrella term SL-AMRAAM, for Surface Launched AMRAAM. SL-AMRAAM contractors include Raytheon, as well as Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace of Norway, and Boeing.

Kongsberg has sold its related Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) system to Norway, Finland, The Netherlands, Oman, Spain, and the USA. There are rumors that a SLAMRAAM type system has been deployed in Egypt, and such systems have drawn official buying interest and rumored contracts from Chile, and the UAE. The key to effective deployment is integrating the system, and its accompanying IFCS control system and AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel radars, with a country’s wider air defense command and control systems.

The US Marines killed their own CLAWS program in 2006, the same year the US Army’s SLAMRAAM passed its System Critical Design Review. The Army eventually canceled SLAMRAAM in FY 2012. Even so, the USA has a deployed system to protect the Washington DC area, and exports keep the surface-launched AMRAAM option alive and well if the USA changes its mind.

The 3 surface launchers for AMRAAM at present include the 8-missile “universal launcher” which can be mounted on medium trucks, the 5-missile CLAWS for smaller vehicles, and the 6-missile fixed NASAMS. All 3 launcher types provide 360 degree coverage, with a 70 degree off boresight capability – i.e. a 140 degree target acquisition cone. In June 2007, Raytheon announced more SLAMRAAM upgrades via options to add SL-AMRAAM-ER extended range variants (likely via a rocket booster on the missiles), and an AIM-120 variant with an AIM-9X infrared seeker. The latter would allow a mix-and-match combination of radar/infrared SAM sets, similar to the Spyder, VL-MICA, etc. being fielded by international rivals. On which topic…

AMRAAM’s International Competitors R-77/AA-12 on MiG-29
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The AMRAAM’s most prominent global competitors, in declining order of prominence, include:

Russia’s Vympel R-77, also known as the AA-12 Adder and colloquially called the ‘AMRAAMski’. It is a larger missile with a similar guidance approach, and reportedly offers a slightly longer range, varying from 60-90 km (36-54 miles) depending on assessments of its drag coefficient. It looks a bit like the French MICA missiles, but its “screen door” or “potato masher” tail fins are its most distinguishing characteristic. Comparisons of its maneuverability, electronics, and hence its fire:kill effectiveness ratio remain a matter of speculation in public-domain circles, and there are also reports that the R-77 can be launched and ‘handed off’ to another aircraft. This has tactical implications, as discussed by one DID source:

“The ‘cobra’ maneuver… where the Flanker pitchers [vertically] to over 100 degrees is not a stunt, it is a missile launch maneuver for a over-the-shoulder launch on a passing head-on target by an IMFIL missile, as briefed to me by the Director of TsAGI. German Zagainov.”

The R-77 can equip modern SU-30 fighters like the SU-30MK2, modernized SU-27s, and some of the most modern MiG-29/35 offerings as well. There are also reports that India has even fitted the missile to its upgraded MiG-21 ‘Bisons,’ leveraging their new Phazotron Kopyo radars and upgraded avionics.

There are reports that the coming RVV-MD upgrade may extend the missile’s range to 110 km. A R-77M ramjet version has reportedly been developed with 150+ km range, but confirmation of the ramjet program’s success and status remain sketchy. Firmer reports[2] now exist re: Russia’s ongoing development of the Novator K-100-1, which is based on the KS-172 missile instead; it will have a reputed range of 200-400 km.


MBDA’s Meteor, which also includes Saab in the development group and adds Boeing as its American partner. The Meteor stems from Europe’s different fighter design philosophy and acquisition timing. Their 4th generation fighters were introduced in the 1990s, and feature less stealth than the F-22A or F-35. The Eurofighter, Gripen, and Rafale can be fitted with existing missiles like AMRAAM or MICA, but ultimately the Euro vision was that air supremacy against threats like the SU-30/R-77 combination required a long range (100 km/ 60 miles or more) missile – one with extreme maneuverability and ramjet propulsion that gives it Mach 4 powered flight to the very end of its range, rather than the “burn and coast” approach of most missiles. The Meteor is that missile, and it is currently undergoing testing and evaluation; it’s expected to begin service on JAS-39 Gripen fighters by the end of 2014.

Initial platforms for the Meteor BVRAAMs will include Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen (2014), EADS/BAE Eurofighter (2017), and Dassault’s Rafale (2019). MBDA has announced that it will be modified in future to fit the F-35’s stealth-enhancing weapon bays; given its characteristics, it also seems like a natural future upgrade for older planes like Tornados and F/A-18s. Forecast International sees MBDA as Raytheon’s biggest overall air-air missile competitor in the coming years.

Rafale w. MICA-RF & IR
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MBDA’s MICA family. MBDA inherited MICA from the French firm Matra. It uses a guidance philosophy similar to AMRAAM’s, and has very good maneuverability. MBDA posts its range as 60 km. What’s different is that it comes in 2 versions, and is designed for use at all engagement distances. The MICA IR version uses infrared homing, like many short-range AAMs. This allows it to be used at close range, or used to conduct no-warning attacks at longer ranges, using advanced IRST (InfraRed Search and Track) type optronics that have become common on 4+ generation fighters. The MICA RF uses active radar guidance like AMRAAM, and is in service aboard upgraded Mirage F1s, Mirage 2000-5+, and Rafale fighters.

MBDA’s truck-mounted or ship-mounted air defense versions are imaginatively named Vertical Launch MICA. The system’s ability to carry IR-guided MICA missiles allows effective operation in environments where turning on one’s radar will attract enemy strikes.

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RAFAEL’s Derby. Derby 4 looks a lot like AMRAAM, but it’s actually based on Israel’s own well-developed missile technology. It lists a 50 km effective range like AMRAAM, but this is questionable given its size and commonalities with the shorter-range Python 4; some observers place its range closer to 30 km. Derby 4 has been updated with a new seeker, has lock-on after launch capability for snap employment in short-range aerial engagements, and features its own programmable ECCM (Electronic Counter-Countermeasures) technologies. Apparently, it still lacks an in-flight datalink, and must rely on last-reported position before switching to active mode. Derby has been exported to a few Latin American countries.

RAFAEL’s truck-mounted SPYDER combines Derby and short-range 5th generation IR/imaging-guided Python 5 missiles, to create a versatile system adapted for use against a wider range of threats. A new Spyder 6×6 truck version (SPYDER-MR) was unveiled at Eurosatory 2006 that doubled mixed missile capacity to 8, and put boosters on all missiles to improve their range and performance. SPYDER customers include India’s order for 18 SPYDER systems of 5 vehicles each, Peru’s buy of 6 systems, and an order from Singapore.

AMRAAM: Program

AMRAAM continues to be funded in the USA as a joint USAF/ Navy effort, based on proportional contributions, and AIM-120C/D missiles are in active production for the US military and allied countries. The USA alone was expected to account for nearly 18,000 AMRAAMs bought, but as of the FY 2014 budget submission, expected orders would be 16,153: 11,792 for the USAF, and 4,461 for the US Navy.

The AMRAAM family of missiles has also chalked up significant export success from foreign air forces and armies. Those sales aren’t part of American budgets, but their boost to sales and production volumes does lower costs for the missile’s American customers. Obviously, export orders vary widely by country and year, and it can be many years between repeat AMRAAM buys from foreign air forces. In aggregate, however, foreign orders represent a very significant source of demand, which keeps production lines active, improves volume, and helps lower costs for the Pentagon. Indeed, the Pentagon’s cost per missile estimates in its budgets are dependent on at least 200 missile orders per year from foreign sources.

AMRAAM prices vary depending on the year, and their production quantity. The current average cost for AIM-120Ds seems to be somewhere around $1.5 million per missile. Which isn’t cheap, but if it blows up even a bargain-basement $25 million fighter, it’s a very good exchange ratio.

AMRAAM Program: Technical Challenges “Heave!”
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DMSMS. During the May 2010 AMRAAM International Users’ Conference, the USAF’s 649th Armament Systems Squadron raised the issue of “Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS).” In English, it means that companies who manufacture some parts are either going out of business, or ceasing production. The 649th ARSS said component shortages would begin as soon as 2012, unless AMRAAM customers built up spare stocks, or paid for missile redesign and retrofit work that would solve the problem. Time will tell.

Delivery Halt. Consistent problems with cold-temperature testing of AMRAAM rocket motors halted all AMRAAM deliveries to all customers from 2010 – 2012, and created almost a 2-year inventory backlog. Raytheon and ATK were puzzled, because the rocket motor’s design was the same, but subtle reformulations in the rocket motor’s fuel were to blame. Norway’s NAMMO stepped into the breach as the new primary rocket motor supplier, and Raytheon is gradually catching up AMRAAM deliveries to the USA, Chile, Finland, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. April 2014 reports indicate that ATK has qualified its own new motor, and will become a supplier again in FY 2015.

AIM-120D. The AIM-120D is still in developmental testing by both the US Air Force and US Navy at Eglin AFB, FL, and China Lake Naval Weapons Station, CA. Funding was issued to prepare the manufacturing line for full production, and production orders are well over 350 missiles. The first production set of AIM-120D missiles was scheduled to be delivered from December 2007 – January 2009, but “continuing delays in resolving developmental hardware issues and less-than-expected effectiveness in flight test execution” have stymied the program.

The AIM-120D will finish about 6 years behind its 2008 target date for operational testing, due to technical failures that include missile lockup and aircraft integration problems. Some of those issues seem to be resolved now, but the missile won’t be fielded on any fighters until FY 2015, and a System Improvement Program will be needed afterward.

AMRAAM: Contracts & Key Events CATM training
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Unless otherwise specified, The Headquarters Medium Range Missile System Group at Eglin Air Force Base, FL issued the contract, and Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ was the contract recipient.

Some definitions of terms are useful. AMRAAM All-Up Rounds (AURs) include the missile and its storage container. Air Vehicles Instrumented (AAVIs) are fully functional missiles with telemetry electronics instead of a warhead, and are used to support free flight testing. If the order says “Telemetry missiles” or “Warhead Compatible Telemetry Instrumented System (WCTIS)” configured AAVIs, on the other hand, the missile is meant to support live fire warhead testing. Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM) have seeker heads but no rocket motor or warhead; they are used in testing, training – and in combat exercises, where they can help keep score without any risk of real casualties.

FY 2015

Dec 12/14: Japan. The US DSCA officially announces Japan’s export request for 17 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM missiles, 2 Captive Air Training Missiles (CATMs), containers, missile support and test equipment, support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $33 million. Japan already has older AIM-120C5s in its inventory. The small size of this request matches Japan’s order for its first F-35s.

FY 2014

F-35 test

Aug 12/14: Turkey. The US DSCA officially announces Turkey’s export request for 145 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM missiles, 10 extra missile guidance sections, 40 LAU-129 launchers, plus containers, support equipment, spare and repair parts, integration activities, publications and technical documentation, test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and other US Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $320 million.

This follows a $157 million request for 107 AIM-120C-7s (q.v. Sept 26/08). The DSCA says that these missiles will be used on the TuAF’s F-16 aircraft, and eventually their F-35As.

The principal contractor will be Raytheon in Tucson, AZ, and if a contract is signed, multiple trips to Turkey involving U.S. Government and contractors will be needed for technical reviews/support, program management, integration, testing, and training. The exact numbers and duration are unknown, and will be determined during contract negotiations. Sources: DSCA #13-50, “Turkey – AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM Missiles”

DSCA request: Turkey (145)

July 18/14: Lot 27. An $8.5 million a firm-fixed-price contract modification is an order from Australia, as part of Production Lot 27 (FY 2013, q.v. June 14/13). The money adds integration and testing for AMRAAM contract line item numbers 0008, 0009, and 0010, and brings the total cumulative face value of the multinational contract to $564.8 million. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed at Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by June 30/16. USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBAK at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-13-C-0003, PO 0026).

June 30/14: Support. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a sole-source $163.2 million fixed-price/ fixed-price-incentive/ cost-plus-incentive contract for AMRAAM Program Support and Sustainment (PSAS). PSAS provides sustaining engineering, program management, contractor logistics support. It will also address the diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortage tasks involving the AMRAAM CPU chip, improving the AMRAAM guidance section within the current performance envelope, and developing applicable test equipment.

$88.6 million is committed immediately, using a combination of USAF and US Navy missile/weapon budgets, and some O&M budgets. This contract has unclassified 45.7% foreign military sales service/repair requirements for Saudi Arabia, Korea, Israel, Singapore and United Arab Emirates.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by Jan 31/17. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBAK at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-14-C-0026).

June 27/14: DC NASAMS. Raytheon IDS in Tewksbury, MA receives an $8.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to sustain the USA’s NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems) “interim air defense capability deployed in the Homeland Defense Area 1″ (i.e. in Washington, DC). This is a new follow-on service contract for the missile system, with 1 base year bought and options for up to 4 more years.

All funds are committed immediately, using US Army FY 2014 O&M funds. Work will be performed at Redstone Arsenal, AL, with an estimated completion date of June 27/14. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with 1 received by US Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal Missile at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-14-C-0114).

April 23/14: Industrial. Raytheon is making progress on its AMRAAM backlog, now that Nammo is supplying rocket motors that fully meet specifications. As of March 5/14, the firm has reportedly recovered $179 million (28.8%) of the $621 million withheld by the U.S. Air Force since 2012.

Bloomberg News cites USAF spokesman Ed Gulick as the source. The firm has reportedly told the USAF that it expects to be fully back on schedule by July 2014, and the corresponding funds are being released under a revised delivery schedule agreed on in December 2012.

Gulick adds that ATK has qualified a new motor, and is expected to resume deliveries to Raytheon in May 2015. Sources: Bloomberg, “Raytheon Recovering From Missile Delivery Delays, Air Force Says”.

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). They cover the AIM-120 rocket motor problem, the AIM-120C3-C7 Electronic Protection Improvement Program (EPIP) software upgrade, and the AIM-120D.

As of October 2013, Nammo had manufactured 1,000 motors in their role as the sole source provider for new production motors.

The EPIP is in integrated testing under a plan that DOT&E approved in April 2012, though the ongoing lack of a budget from the US Senate has delayed the program.

The AIM-120D’s problems since December 2011 are better known, though most details are classified. IOT&E testing resumed in May 2013, but the program continues to experience delays. Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) is progressing, and is scheduled to end in FY 2014. On the good news front, captive-carry performance has exceeded the interim Mean Time Between Failure requirement, and is approaching the mature requirement of 450 hours.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The USAF and USN unveil their preliminary budget request briefings. They aren’t precise, but they do offer planned purchase numbers for key programs between FY 2014 – 2019. The detailed documents are released over the course of the next week, and those figures have been added to the charts and background above.

The AIM-120D has been delayed for a couple of years by testing issues, preventing the US military from benefiting from its extended range, improved seeker, etc. The Navy says that “AMRAAM procurements have been deferred in FY15 to ensure adequate time to correct testing and production delays,” which fits with planned Initial Operational Capability in FY 2015 for the Navy’s Hornets and Super Hornets. Meanwhile, they’re dropping purchases from just 44 in FY14 (-10 from request) to 0 in 2015 (-83 from FY14 plan). In contrast, the USAF is moving ahead with AIM-120D buys, buying 183 missiles (-16 from request) in FY14 and requesting 200 (-15 from plan) in FY15.

The Navy says that they’ll eventually catch up with its buys, which are slated to accelerate beyond its earlier plans. They plan to purchase 138 AIM-120Ds in FY 2016 (+30), 154 in FY 2017 (+26), 233 in FY 2018 (+63), and 274 missiles in FY 2019. The USAF is saying similar things, with a planned spike in FY 2017 (+30) and 2018 (+86), and continued high production in 2019. In reality, however, promises of “more later” very rarely come true. At about $1.5 million per missile, the required increases aren’t ruinous, but if finding the funding was easy, they wouldn’t be making reductions now. Source: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] | USAF, Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Overview.

Feb 25/14: Testing. Raytheon in Tucson AZ receives a sole-source $20 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for work associated with AMRAAM Aircraft Integration, operational testing, and flight test support. The primary objective of this effort is to provide the necessary aircraft lab, flight test, flight clearance, simulation support, and repairs/maintenance during all aircraft integration efforts. If there are failures, troubleshooting, failure analysis etc. will be added as well.

$3 million in FY 2013 and 2014 RDT&E funds are committed immediately to 5 task orders (TO 0001 Simulation Support, TO 0002 Integration Support, TO 0003 Flight Clearances, TO 0004 Tech Support and TO 0005 Management/Financial Support).

Work will be performed at Fort Worth, TX; Eglin Air Force Base, FL; Hill AFB, UT; Edwards AFB, CA; Nellis AFB, NV; White Sands Missile Range, NM: China Lake/Point Mugu, CA; St. Louis, MO; Seattle, WA: Baltimore, MD, and Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by September 2019. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBA at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-14-D-0009).

Dec 19/13: AIM-120D. Raytheon Missiles Systems, Tucson AZ, has been awarded a sole-source $40 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for system improvements to include design, development, and test of the AIM-120D missile. Still working on that…

$4 million is committed immediately from FY 2013 – 2014 RDT&E budgets. Work will be performed at Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by March 31/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBA at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-14-D-0082).

FY 2013

Orders: USA, Oman, Saudi Arabia; 1st launch for F-35; Operational mobile SAM introduced; Deliveries & payment resume with new rocket motor supplier. AMRAAM delivery
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July 19/13: ROK.The US DSCA announces [PDF] the Republic of Korea’s official request for 260 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM missiles, creating a contingency stock for use with its KF-16 and F-15K fighters. The order will also include missile support and test equipment, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of US Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $452 million, but that will depend on a negotiated contract.

The principal contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Company in Tucson, AZ, and if a contract is negotiated, it will require multiple government and contractor trips to South Korea over an 8-year period for technical reviews/support, program management, and training. Raytheon representatives will also be needed in South Korea to conduct modification kit installation, testing, and training.


July 18/13: AIM-9X Block 3. Flight Global reports that US NAVAIR is pushing for an AIM-9X Sidewinder Block III, and hopes to give the short-range missiles a 60% range boost. That range would start to push the AIM-9X into comparable territory to France’s MICA.

US NAVAIR intends to launch the Block III’s EMD development phase in 2016, developmental testing in 2018, and operational tests in 2020, followed by Initial Operational Capability in 2022.

Part of the reported rationale involves the proliferation of digital radar jammers on enemy fighters, which lowers AMRAAM’s odds of a successful radar lock. NAVAIR doesn’t say it, but the F-35’s provision for just 2 internal air-to-air missiles forces all weapon options to be more versatile – which sometimes means more expensive. Unfortunately, programs like the “Triple Target Terminator” were seen as too expensive. Raytheon’s AMRAAM-derived NCADE was another alternative, but the US military hasn’t pursued it.

June 25/13: SL-AMRAAM. Raytheon delivers the first NASAMS High Mobility Launcher. Norway is the customer, and the electronics improvements on HML will also be retrofitted on their fixed NASAMS systems. These improvements include modern upgrades like GPS and north-finding instrumentation. Raytheon.

June 14/13: FY 2013. A $534.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for AMRAAM Production Lot 27. The FY 2013 totals are supposed to be up to $332.3 million to buy 180 AIM-120D missiles for the USAF (113) and Navy (67), and the other 51% of this order is AIM-120C-7s for Oman (F-16C/Ds) and Saudi Arabia (F-15C/D/S/SA). The cost ratios make it very likely that there are more than 180 missiles headed abroad, and their combined recent DSCA requests involve 27 for Oman and 500 for Saudi Arabia.

Given a standard 2-year delivery lag for orders, it’s likely that we’re looking at all of Oman’s request, and part of Saudi Arabia’s. The USA depends on a minimum of 200 AIM-120C orders to keep per-missile prices at their estimates, and this set should cover that. Raytheon is touting their recent ability to deliver faster than specified, which should help ease concerns about the backlog that developed from their 2010-2012 delivery stoppage.

Work will be performed at Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by Jan 31/16. USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBA at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-13-C-0003).

FY 2013

June 6/13: F-35. First full launch of an AMRAAM from the new F-35 fighter. In this case, it was an AIM-120-C5 AAVI from an F-35A, #AF-01. It isn’t a targeted launch yet, which depends on the Block 2B software. They just want to be sure that it can be launched from the internal bay without blowing up the plane. USAF | LMCO F-35 site | AFA Air Force Magazine.

April 4/13: AMRAAM + F-15SGs. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Singapore’s request to buy 100 AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) – but it’s the context for this $210 million export request that makes it important. Sure, Singapore also wants 10 AMRAAM Spare Guidance Sections and an AMRAAM Programmable Advanced System Interface Simulator (PASIS). They also want 18 AN/AVS-9(V) Night Vision Goggles, the H-764G GPS with GEM-V Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM), and Common Munitions Built-in-Test Reprogramming Equipment (CMBRE-Plus) “in support of a Direct Commercial Sale of new F-15SG aircraft.”

In other words, they’re about to buy another 12 F-15SGs as F-5 replacements and grow their fleet to 36, instead of buying 12 F-35Bs that won’t be useful until 2018 or later.

Because the fighters are a DCS sale, Singapore will manage it themselves, and figures aren’t disclosed. They’ve done this for all of their F-15SG buys, and past estimates for their 12-plane buys have been around $1.5 billion ($125 million per aircraft + support etc.). Their support and training infrastructure is already in place, so the total may be lower this time.

The $210 million FMS request will cover additional containers, spare and repair parts, support equipment, tools and test equipment, training equipment, and US government and contractor support – though Singapore won’t need any more on-site representatives. The prime contractors will be Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ (AMRAAM); Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, AZ; ITT Night Vision in Roanoke, VA (NVGs); and ATK Defense Electronic Systems in Clearwater, FL.

DSCA Singapore: 100 – and more F-15SGs coming

Jan 10/13: Fixed. The USAF resumes AMRAAM payments to Raytheon, freeing up $104 million in immediate funds. Deliveries from now on will be based on ready missiles, rather than using a number of milestones from progressive funding.

Norway’s NAMMO AS is Raytheon’s new rocket motor supplier, and deliveries of missiles with new NAMMO motors are beginning this month. About 125 motors have been delivered so far, with production set to reach 100 per month very soon.

ATK needs to reformulate their fuel and re-certify it, which isn’t likely to take less than 18 months. They’re out for now, but the experience has reminded the USAF and Raytheon that multiple supplier arrangements have value. Enough value to justify more money in a tight budget environment? We’ll see.

The late deliveries create penalties for Raytheon worth about $27 – $33 million, which includes things like no-cost labor to install software upgrades, warranty coverage and free repairs. The USAF gets warranty coverage for 325 AIM-120D missiles, and 40 no-cost repairs. Reuters.

Motor switch, payments & deliveries resumed

Dec 12/12: Weapons. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Oman’s request for weapons to equip its existing and ordered F-16s. Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Oman involving “many” U.S. Government or contractor representatives over a period of up to or over 15 years for program and technical support and training. The request includes 27 AIM-120-C7 AMRAAMs, among many other weapons. The estimated cost is up to $117 million for all, but exact costs will be determined by any negotiated contracts.

DSCA Oman: 27

Nov 19/12: Support. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ is being awarded a $6.4 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract to provide AMRAAM flight support.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and will run to the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30/13. The AFLCMC/EBAD at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-13-C-0052).

FY 2012

Stopped deliveries. Poland. NASAMS launch
(click to view full)

Sept 6/12: NASAMS USA. Raytheon IDS in Tewksbury, MA receives a $9.65 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for maintenance and sustainment services in support of the Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System. There is a NASAMS system guarding the USA’s National Capital region.

Work will be performed in Redstone Arsenal, AL, with an estimated completion date of Aug 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-12-C-0276).

July 23/12: Stopped deliveries. IHS Jane’s reports that Raytheon has been unable to deliver any AIM-120 missiles for almost 2 years, because they keep failing cold firing tests designed to mimic temperatures at high altitudes. Raytheon and motor manufacturer ATK say that the materials and formulation haven’t changed in more than 30 years, but consistent test failures began in late 2009, and Raytheon reportedly has a stock of 800 undeliverable missiles.

Something, somewhere has changed, but what? Raytheon and ATK are highly motivated, as payments have been suspended until the problem is fixed. As of this date, they’re still looking for that fix. Raytheon’s official statement as of September 2012 is:

“Restoring AMRAAM to full production is a top priority for Raytheon, and has the full involvement of company leadership and our rocket motor suppliers. Raytheon has continued to produce AMRAAM guidance and control sections on schedule, while we wait for our primary supplier to deliver compliant rocket motors. All resources of Raytheon and our supplier, as well as government and other experts have been engaged to resolve the rocket motor manufacturing issues. We have developed a second rocket motor supplier that has begun to deliver. Raytheon recently delivered 132 AMRAAM all-up rounds to the U.S. Air Force. We continue to work closely with our rocket motor suppliers and our customer; we expect to be on track making additional significant missile deliveries to our customers before the end of the year.”

Deliveries Frozen

May 10/12: An $11.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for “central processing unit, circuit card assembly spike extension” in Production Lot 24 (FY 2010) AMRAAMs. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and will run until July 31/13 (FA8675-10-C-0014, PO 0021).

March 23/12: AIM-120D. Bloomberg reports that the USAF is now withholding a total of $621 million in payments to Raytheon for the AIM-120D: $419 million in FY 2010 payments, and $202 million from FY 2007-2009.

Since January 2011, Raytheon has met or exceeded planned monthly delivery goals just 3 out of 14 times, and the AIM-120D production line is 193 missiles behind schedule as of Feb 29/12, according to Air Force data. Part of the problem is that ATK “has had difficulty for the past year consistently producing rocket motors to specification”. ATK says they’ve committed their top talent to the issue, and look forward to resuming deliveries to Raytheon “in the near future.” Raytheon would hope so, since the accumulating delays already cost them about $180 million in FY 2012 budget cuts, and could cost them again in FY 2013.

March 20/12: Cracked Up. The Taipei Times reports that the ROCAF currently has 120 AIM-120-C5s and 218 AIM-120-C7s in inventory, thanks to deliveries that began in 2004. Unfortunately, some of them were experiencing cracking in their pyroceramic radome nose cones. American investigators concluded that Taiwan’s high humidity, plus the pressure created by supersonic flight, were the problem. The ROCAF will respond by improving storage and rotation cycles.

The Taipei Times does note that Taiwan’s radar-guided MBDA MICA and locally-built Tien Chien II missiles aren’t having this problem, despite being exposed to the same conditions.

Nose job

Feb 3/12: Polish request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Poland’s official request to buy F-16 weapons, as well as a 5 year fleet support contract that includes associated equipment, parts, and training. The entire contract set could be worth up to $447 million, and includes up to 65 AIM-120-C7s. See “2012-02: Poland Requests F-16 Weapons, Support” for full coverage.

DSCA Poland: 65

Jan 26/12: The Pentagon offers releases concerning its 2013 budget, including some news about program cuts, but the Comptroller doesn’t have the full budget documents up yet.

One encouraging piece of news for Raytheon is that one of the areas designated for protection or budget increases involves “Improved air­ to air missiles.” Despite its problems, the AIM-120D may be safe, for now. Pentagon release | “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices” [PDF]

Jan 26/12: A $17.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide test integration of software that’s intended to update and improve the US-only AIM-120D missile. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/13 (FA8675-09-C-0201, PO 0013).

Jan 17/12: DOT&E. The Pentagon releases the FY2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The AMRAAM is included, specifically the ongoing problems with the AIM-120D. The report says that there is still no date set for its operational testing readiness review, which was supposed to happen in 2008. Why not?:

“The four key deficiencies include missile lockup, built-in test (BIT) failures, aircraft integration problems, and poor GPS satellite acquisition… Raytheon has solved the BIT fail problem and has developed a pending solution to the GPS failure problem… The Air Force accomplished the final DT/OT(developmental testing/ operational testing) shot successfully in August 2011, but Raytheon has not yet resolved missile lockup or aircraft integration problems.”

FY 2011

Lot 25. Exports. SLAMRAAM ended. SLAMRAAM from FMTV
(click to view full)

Aug 31/11: FY 2011 order. A $569 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for the FY 2011/ Lot 25 AMRAAM order, divided 77%/ 23% between US government sales and Foreign Military Sales.

USA & General: 234 AIM-120D All-Up-Round (AUR) missiles; 101 AIM-120D CATMs; 4 AIM-120D AAVIs; 8 integrated test vehicles; Air Force AIM 120D guidance section; 103 non-developmental item-airborne instrumentation units; test equipment; Personnel Reliability Program Phase IV.

Exports: 203 AIM-120C7 Foreign Military Sales AURs; warranty for 100 CATMs; warranty for 25 AIM-120C7 AURs (Bahrain); and Foreign Military Sale software and contractor logistics support (FA8675-11-C-0030).

FY 2011

June 29/11: Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $10.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for the “Processor Replacement Program Foreign Military Sales software extension probability of weapon effectiveness.” The AAC/EBAC at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages the contract (FA8675-09-C-0052, PO 0032).

June 16/11: FY12 zero-out? Flight International reports that the USA may cut Lot 26 AIM-120D production from the FY 2012 budget:

“Raytheon’s production line for the [AIM-120D] is more than 100 weapons behind schedule and operational testing has yet to begin…[so] the House appropriations committee’s defence panel wants to eliminate funding [for all 379 missiles] in the AIM-120D production account… in the fiscal year 2012 defence budget. Such a move, if approved by the Senate, would gut Raytheon’s production line for one year. Since its AIM-120D and export AIM-120C7 missiles are produced on the same line, the price of the latter could rise as order quantities are reduced. That could leave foreign buyers with a larger bill or fewer missiles next year.”

Asked about this, the USAF told DID that the AIM-120D is almost finished combined developmental and operational test phase. The next significant program milestone is the Operational Test Readiness Review (OTRR) in August 2011, to determine if the program is ready for dedicated operational testing.

As of the end of May 2011, the US military has taken delivery of 225 AIM-120Ds, vs. a contract delivery requirement of 361. That’s a backlog of 136 missiles, which are only paid for after they are delivered and signed for via DD250 documentation.

June 2/11: Australia request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Australia’s formal request to buy up to 110 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAMs, 10 AIM-120C-7 AAVIs, 16 AIM-120C-7 CATMs, plus containers, weapon system support equipment, support and test equipment, site survey, transportation, repair and return, warranties, spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of support. The DSCA specifically notes that:

“The proposed sale will allow the Australian Defense Force to complete Australia’s F/A-18 program under their Project AIR 5349. Phase I allowed acquisition of F/A-18[F Super Hornet] Block II aircraft and Phase II is for the acquisition of weapons.”

The estimated cost is $202 million, with Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ as the contractor. Actual costs will, of course, depend on the terms of any eventual contract. Australia already uses AMRAAMs on its older F/A-18A/B Hornets, but its F-111s did not. A larger AMRAAM-capable fleet means a need for a few more missiles. This proposed sale wouldn’t require any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives in Australia.

DSCA Australia: 110

Feb 17/11: AMRAAM component shortage? Focus Taiwan covers a ROCAF report on the May 2010 AMRAAM International Users’ Conference, in which the USAF’s 649th Armament Systems Squadron raised the issue of “Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS).” In English, that means people who manufacture some parts of the missile are either going out of business or ceasing production. The 649th ARSS said component shortages could begin as soon as 2012, and recommends that countries revise their AMRAAM support contracts to include maintenance and warranty clauses.

The longer term hope is to issue contracts for Raytheon to develop replacement components, as part of a joint logistics support plan extending to around 2030. Taiwan will join some other AMRAAM users in raising the issue of humidity, which makes it harder to store and maintain the missiles, and could accelerate their spares problem.

Component problems

Feb 16/11: Swiss budget. Switzerland approves its 2011 armament program. Biggest expense in the $450 million total? CHF 180 million ($192.8 million) to upgrade its stocks with new AIM-120-C7 AMRAAM medium range air-air missiles, alongside the old AIM-120Bs which were bought in 1992 with the air force’s 26 F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters.

The Defence Ministry no longer considers the AIM-120Bs to be up to date from an operational point of view, and is buying what it terms a “minimum number of guided missiles” to address that situation. The new AIM-120-C7s will be available alongside the older AIM-120Bs, though the latter are likely to be used more often in reserve and training roles. Swiss VBS | defpro. See also the Dec 21/10 entry, for the associated DSCA request.


Feb 14/11: FY 2012 budget. The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 budget request, even as it waits for the new 112th Congress to pass the FY 2011 budget that its predecessors failed to enact. The $579.5 million request would buy 379 missiles (218 USAF, 161 Navy), and provide $80.7 million in R&D for “product improvements such as fuzing, guidance, and kinematics.”

Jan 31/11: Support. A $15 million contract for AMRAAM technical support: systems engineering, small software enhancements, test support, maintenance and modification of special test assets, support to the Navy hardware in the loop simulation, aircraft integration, and other technical engineering requirements. At this time, no money has been committed – task orders will be issued if needed (FA8675-11-D-0050).

Jan 6/11: SL-AMRAAM. The Pentagon announces a number of changes, instead to take $150 billion from administration and weapons programs, and shift them into higher priority weapon programs. One of the proposed cancellations is the Army’s SLAMRAAM program which, like all of these proposed cuts, must be agreed and legislated by the US Congress before it comes into effect.

On the one hand, given the ongoing decline of American tactical airpower, canceling SLAMRAAM in favor of keeping older, short-range Stinger and Avenger air defense missile systems is a definite risk. On the other hand, AMRAAM ground-based air defense systems are selling around the world in Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, et. al., and will remain available as a mature system that can be implemented quickly if the need is recognized. Pentagon release re: overall plan | Full Gates speech and Gates/Mullen Q&A transcript || Atlanta Journal Constitution | The Atlantic | the libertarian Cato Institute | The Hill | NY Times | Politico | Stars and Stripes || Agence France Presse | BBC | Reuters | UK’s Telegraph | China’s Xinhua.


Dec 21/10: Swiss request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Switzerland’s official request to buy 150 AIM-120-C7 missiles, 6 AIM-120-C7 Telemetry Missiles, 24 AIM-120-C7 Captive Air Training Missiles, and 1 spare Missile Guidance Section, plus missile containers, weapon system support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documents, repair and return, depot maintenance, training and training equipment, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is $358 million.

Switzerland would use the missiles on its existing fleet of F/A-18C/D Hornet aircraft, which already carry earlier-model AIM-120B AMRAAMs. The prime contractor will, of course, be Raytheon Missile Systems Corporation in Tucson, AZ.

DSCA Switzerland: 150

Dec 13/10: SLAMRAAM. Raytheon announces the 2nd test firing of an unguided SLAMRAAM from its new carrier platform, an FMTV truck. Details and purpose are the same as the 1st firing, discussed in the Sept 9/10 entry.

Oct 20/10: Saudi Arabia. As part of a nearly $30 billion weapons export request that involves upgrading their entire F-15S fleet, and buying 84 new F-15SA Strike Eagles, Saudi Arabia also seeks export permission for up to 500 AIM-120-C7 AMRAAMs as one of the weapons in their request. US DSCA [PDF] | DID’s “The Saudis’ American Shopping Spree: F-15s, Helicopters & More

DSCA Saudi: 500

FY 2010

SAR. Radomes. Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Chile. AIM-120D into F-22A
(click to view full)

Sept 28/10: Support. A $10.2 million contract modification which will extend the period of performance of the AMRAAM aircraft integration support effort contract through Sept 30/13. $1,815,268 has been committed (FA8675-08-C-0050; PO0016).

Sept 10/10: More radomes, please! A $25.8 million contract modification to restart the AMRAAM Radome “Phase II Pyroceram” project. At this time, the entire amount has been committed (FA3002-09-C-0003; AO0017).

A USAF representative explained that Raytheon had produced a large number of missile radomes before the line shut down, and it was thought that they would cover all future requirements. Since then, AMRAAM orders have surged ahead of those estimates, and stocks of radomes have been drawn very low. Production has to begin again, and this contract modification asks Raytheon to qualify the factory to build the same design radome as before. Production of new radomes will occur under the AMRAAM production contract, awarded separately, beginning in 2012.

Sept 9/10: SLAMRAAM. Raytheon announces that an unguided version of its ground-launched SLAMRAAM had a successful test firing from an FMTV truck at Eglin Air Force Base, FL. SLAMRAAM was initially mounted on Humvees, but it has become clear that those weren’t tough enough, so the Army will be using FMTV medium trucks instead. An FMTV derivative called the Caiman is even up-armored with a V-hull to survive mine blasts.

Missiles won’t launch exactly the same way from a different vehicle, however, because the launching itself creates different turbulence effects. That can have effects on nearby soldiers, and even on subsequent missiles if they’re ripple-fired. Understanding these “dynamic launch effects” was the goal of this test, and Raytheon adds that it will “reduce risk on future potential FMTV missile integration efforts, such as the AIM-9X.” Many other ground-launched air-to-air missile conversions use a dual setup of infrared and radar guided missiles, from Israel’s Spyder to France’s VL-MICA; adding AIM-9X to SLAMRAAM would give it the same versatility.

Aug 6/10: FY 2010 order. A $492.4 million contract which will provide AMRAAM missiles to American and international customers, and appears to be the FY 2010 buy. Note that AIM-120Ds and their accompanying training and test missiles are only sold to the US military. The order includes:

  • 132 AIM-120D AURs;
  • 12 AIM-120D Air Vehicles Instrumented (AAVI)
  • 87 AIM-120D Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM)
  • Warranty for 85 AIM-120D AURs for the USAF
  • Warranty for 10 AAVIs for the USAF
  • Warranty for 87 CATMs for the US Air Force and Navy
  • AIM 120D guidance section and rear data link for the USAF
  • 273 AIM-120C7 AURs for all Foreign Military Sales customers
  • Warranty for 58 AIM-120C7 AURs for Foreign Military Sales customers Chile (13) and Jordan (45)
  • 192 non-developmental item-airborne instrumentation units
  • Test equipment; HIF/Spike life time buy; and contractor logistics support. This includes

Foreign Military Sales class customers within this order total 44% of its value, and include Morocco, Jordan, and Kuwait (q.v. Nov 15/10 entry); plus Canada, Chile, Finland, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. At this time, the entire amount has been committed (FA8675-10-C-0014).

FY 2010

April 28/10: Alternate rocket motor. Raytheon announces that it’s working with Norway’s NAMMO to begun qualifying an alternative rocket motor for the AIM-120 AMRAAM that would be interchangeable with current motors, and maintain the same performance as the current rocket engine. ATK is currently the primary rocket motor provider. Raytheon Missile Systems Air Warfare Systems VP Harry Schulte says that this is simple prudence for a key product, which has been bought by 36 countries, with more than 1.8 million captive-carry hours and more than 2,900 live firings:

“A second source of rocket motors ensures Raytheon will meet its commitment to the U.S. and international warfighter by providing a continual supply of AMRAAMs.”

NAMMO has a long-standing relationship of its own with Raytheon, and has delivered more than 40,000 rocket motors for the AIM-9 Sidewinder short range air-air missile program. It also seems like an good move if rocket motors are creating a problem for AMRAAM, which turns out to be the case. NAMMO ends up as the new supplier before all is said and done, with ATK free to pursue supplier certification without affecting deliveries. Raytheon release.

April 2/10: Support. A $13.5 million contract which provides support for 4 months of AMRAAM system engineering and program management, due to delay of Lot 24 (FY 2010 production), which would otherwise have covered those funds. At this time the entire amount has been obligated by the 695ARSS/PK at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (FA8675-09-C-0052). When asked about the delay, the team at Eglin AFB has this to say:

“The Air Force has changed contracting policy, departing from the more streamlined, “review-discuss-concur” (sometimes known as “alpha contracting”) approach of recent years, in favor of a traditional contracting approach that requires considerably more cost information and independent auditing by the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

This policy change has extended the schedule for negotiating and awarding our contracts. The Lot 24 contract, planned to be awarded in March/April originally, is now forecast for a June/July award. The four-month “bridge” contract was awarded to protect the program’s critical engineering and management workforce… [but] does not increase the ultimate cost of the Lot 24 contract.”

April 1/10: SAR. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. AMRAAM makes the list, for both good and bad reasons:

“Program costs increased $6,402.7 million (+43.0%) from $14,880.6 million to $21,283.3 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 3,887 missiles from 13,953 to 17,840 missiles (+$3,775.7 million) and associated schedule, engineering, and estimating allocations

  • (+$457.7 million). Costs also increased due to software integration efforts (+504.4 million), the realignment of Navy and Air Force missile procurement during fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2024 (+$918.6 million), an increase in telemetry equipment to support training (+$422.9 million), and increases in tooling and test equipment, diminishing manufacturing sources requirements, and production/test support resulting from the extension of the production program from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2024 (+$280.4 million).”


March 16/10: R&D. A $19.5 million contract to continue funding the AMRAAM system improvement program. At this time, the $2.8 million has been committed by the 696th ARSS at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (FA8675-10-C-0105).

March 9-11/10: AIM-120D. The new AIM-120D AMRAAM takes the first 2 Developmental Test/ Operational Test (DT/OT) live shots, at Eglin AFB, FL. Eglin officials tell DID that “Performance appeared to have been as predicted, but the [full] test data is still under review. The March 9 shot from a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet resulted in a “lethal intercept” of the target, presumably due to proximity detonation. The March 11th shot from a USAF F-15C resulted in a direct hit.

The AIM-120D Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase is complete [and] fielding will follow the completion of an extensive operational testing effort that is currently underway. The 3rd and final DT/OT shot is planned for early-May 2010, and all missiles for the testing programs have been delivered.

March 2/10: SLAMRAAM. Raytheon announces that the USA’s Surface Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (SLAMRAAM) program has received approval from the U.S. Army for long-lead purchases, not to exceed $18 million, leading to low rate initial production. The step toward LRIP status is an important milestone for that program.

Nov 15/09: Kuwait, Morocco & Jordan order. The US government executed separate letters of offer and acceptance with Kuwait, Morocco and Jordan enabling those US Middle East allies to purchase AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs).

In earlier requests to the US Congress, Kuwait had asked to buy 120 AIM-120-C7 AMRAAMs (see Sept 9/08 entry); Morocco had asked to buy 30 AIM-120-C5 AMRAAMs (C5 is the production version before the C7 – see July 9/08 entry); and Jordan had asked to buy 85 AIM-120-C7 AMRAAMs (see Aug 3/09 entry). The 3 countries will use the AMRAAMs in both air-to-air and air defense missions.

Jordan, Kuwait & Morocco

Nov 10/09: Chile request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a request by Chile to buy 100 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and associated parts, equipment and logistical support for approximately $145 million. DSCA requests are not contracts. If Congress does not block the request within 30 days, negotiations can begin for related contracts.

Chile intends to use these missiles to improve its capability to meet current and future threats of enemy air-to-air weapons. Chile is updating its military’s capability while increasing interoperability of weapon systems between itself, the US, and other allies.

DSCA Chile: 100

Oct 29/09: Rocket boost? Alliant Techsystems (ATK) announces a nearly $10 million contract to improve rocket motor technologies for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), and well as future air-to-air missile systems. The scope of the work being performed under the Counter Air/ Future Naval Capabilities program is to develop technologies that will extend missile range, decrease time-to-target, improve end-game maneuverability, and improve the rocket motor’s response to insensitive munitions stimuli.

There are 4 main areas that ATK will concentrate on: high burn rate propellants for improved kinematics; improving case stiffness for reduced weight and agility; low erosion nozzles for improved performance; and multi-pulse propulsion for better end-game maneuverability. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, CA manages the contract. ATK expects to complete the work by June 2013.

FY 2009

FMS, Jordan, Bahrain. F-18F launch
(click to view larger)

Sept 16/09: Testing. Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ received a $22.2 million modification, which changes a previously awarded unfinalized contract (N68936-09-C-0097) to a cost-plus fixed-fee contract. Raytheon will design, build, and integrate an all-inclusive AMRAAM hardware-in-the-loop simulation system for military construction project P710, at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (75%) and China Lake, CA (25%), and is expected to be complete in September 2011. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA will manage this contract.

The hardware-in-the-loop simulation facility includes hardware mounts, a flight table that can mount the core seeker assembly etc., and an anechoic chamber, in order to create simulated missile firings. It can test the missile’s radar seeker and ECCM (electronic counter-counter-measures) against simulated targets and threats, from a variety of imagined speeds and angles, and produce Monte Carlo simulations that explore hundreds of “firings” and create statistically useful results, without using up hundreds of missiles and expensive airframe time. It can also test the signals being sent to the rest of the missile, and make sure the software and mechanics are doing what they’re supposed to do.

The move from Point Mugu was prompted by changes mandated in the USA’s 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, and the new facility is expected to begin operations in September 2011 with AIM-120C7 capability. By September 2012, the facility is expected to be fully operational, with the ability to handle AIM-120C3-C7 models. See also NAVAIR release | Thanks to NAWCWD China Lake for clarification.

Aug 18/09: R&D. A $20.1 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract for the AMRAAM system improvement program. At this time $2.5 million has been committed. The 696th ARSS at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages the contract (FA8675-09-C-0201).

Aug 3/09: Jordanian request. The DSCA announces [PDF] Jordan’s official request to buy 85 AIM-120C-7 missiles, 6 AIM-120C Captive Air Training Missiles, missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and support. The estimated cost is $131 million.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require bi-annual trips to Jordan involving 6 U.S. Government and 4 contractor representatives for program management reviews over a period of up to 5 years.

DSCA Jordan: 85

July 28/09: Bahrain request. The DSCA announces [PDF] Bahrain’s official request to buy 25 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAMs, missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and support. The estimated cost is $74 million.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require bi-annual trips to Bahrain involving 6 U.S. Government and 4 contractor representatives for program management reviews over a period of up to 5 years.

DSCA Bahrain: 25

May 11/09: FY 2009 order. A $521.3 million firm-fixed-price contract to Raytheon Co. of Tucson, AZ for AMRAAM production (FA8675-09-C-0052). This appears to be the Lot 23 contract. At this time, the entire amount has been committed. The order includes:

  • 105 containerized AIM-120D AMRAAM All-Up-Rounds;
  • 72 AIM-120D captive air training missiles, and warranties;
  • 11 instrumented AIM-120D “air vehicles,” for missile flight tests;
  • 2 AIM-120D integrated test vehicles, which include guidance systems etc.;
  • 106 “non-developmental items,” including airborne instrumentation units, test equipment, Phase 1A activities related to AMRAAM radomes, quad target detection device parts replacement work to address obsolescence, US Navy AIM 120D guidance section and development infrastructure support equipment, and upgrades; and
  • 495 AIM-120C7s for Foreign Military Sales outside the USA.

FY 2009

Feb 22/09: UAE order. A Raytheon official confirms that the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. government have executed a letter of offer and acceptance for 224 AIM-120C7 missiles, to equip the UAE’s F-16E/F Block 60 fighter fleet.

Terms are not disclosed, but the number matches the DSCA sale request on Jan 3/08. That request involved a larger package that also included JDAM smart bombs and other weapons; it was worth up to $326 million. Reuters.


Feb 13/09: Newer chips. The USAF issued a $21.7 million modification to a cost plus fixed fee contract with performance incentives. Raytheon of Tucson, AZ will conduct the AMRAAM Processor Replacement Program, Phase II. At this time, the entire amount has been committed (FA8675-07-C-0055, P00022).

Some sources cite 30 MHz as the original speed for AMRAAM’s processor, in a world where computer chips that were cutting edge midway through the AMRAAM program’s lifespan are now museum pieces. Newer chips definitely offer the potential for performance improvements, but the most important benefit in this case may be the newer chips’ continued availability from manufacturers.

Jan 12/09: A $6.7 million modification to the AMRAAM Lot 22 Production contract (see May 28/08 entry). At this time, the entire amount has been committed (FA8675-08-C-0049, P00008).

Dec 10/08: Greece. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $7.9 million contract modification to administer AMRAAM-related industrial offset programs in Greece, as a modification to the Production Lot 21 contract. See also the July 1/08 entry, covering the addition of 130 AIM-120C7s to Greece as part of the Lot 21 production run.

At this time the entire amount has been obligated. 695 ARSS at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages this contract (FA8675-07-C-0055, modification P00020).

Nov 25/08: AIM-120D. The Air Force is paying $6 million to modify a firm fixed price contract with Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ. This contract will upgrade 2 guided weapons test sets to AIM-120D Capability, including spares, and additional GPS. At this time, all the money has been committed (FA8675-07-C-0055, Modification P00019).

Oct 20/08: Turkey, Denmark & Finland. Rocket motors have shelf lives, too. The USAF issues a contract modification for $12.9 million. In exchange, Raytheon will supply 436 propulsion sections (baseline rocket motors) that will be installed in AIM-120B missiles. This effort supports foreign military sales to Turkey, Denmark, and Finland, and all funds have been committed (FA8675-08-C-0049, P00005).

Oct 15/08: Testing. The AIM-120C7 AMRAAM enters the U.S. Navy’s Weapon System User Program (WSUP) evaluations, fired from Super Hornets of the U.S. Navy’s VFA-143 squadron against a BQM-167A target drone. The Navy fighters also fired one of the new short-range AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles during the joint mission, which included USAF F-15Cs from Eglin Air Force Base’s 60th Fighter Squadron.

Raytheon’s release adds that “All missiles guided within lethal range of the target and were assessed as 100 percent successful.”

FY 2008

South Korea, Singapore, Finland, Greece, Morocco, Kuwait, UAE, Turkey. F-15C fires AMRAAM
(click to view full)

Sept 26/08: Turkish request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Turkey’s official request to buy 107 AIM-120C7 AMRAAM missiles, 2 missile guidance sections, missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, and various support services. The estimated cost is $157 million.

Raytheon Electronic and Missile Systems of Tucson, AZ is the prime contractor. The Turkish Air Force uses AMRAAMs, and will have no difficulty absorbing these missiles into its armed forces. Implementation of this sale will not require the assignment of any additional U. S. Government or contractor personnel in country.

DSCA Turkey: 107

Sept 10/08: R&D. A cost plus fixed fee contract for $7.4 million, in return for work on AIM-120C3 through AIM-120C7 Counter Advanced Electronic Attack (EA) Risk Reduction and Concept Refinement (RR/CR). In English, this work will make it harder to jam most of the AMRAAM missiles in current service. At this time all funds have been committed by the 328th Armament Systems Group at Eglin AFB, FL (FA8675-08-C-0247).

Sept 9/08: UAE request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announces [PDF] the United Arab Emirates’ official request to buy 288 AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) missiles, 2 Air Vehicle-Instrumented (AAVI) missiles, 144 LAU-128 Launchers, Surface Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (SL-AMRAAM) software, missile warranty, KGV-68B COMSEC chips, training missiles, containers, support and test equipment, missiles components, spare/repair parts, publications, documentation, personnel training, training equipment, contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related support elements. The estimated cost is $445 million.

The principal contractor will be Raytheon Corporation in Waltham, MA. The purchaser intends to request industrial offsets, but specifics will be defined in negotiations between the UAE and Raytheon. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 10 U.S. Government personnel and 15 Contractor representatives to the United Arab Emirates for a period of 3 months. Also, various personnel will be required to travel to the United Arab Emirates in one-week intervals, for surveys and other program requirements.


Sept 9/08: Kuwait request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Kuwait’s official request to buy 120 AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), 78 LAU-127-B/A launchers that fit on its fighter aircraft, 78 LAU-127-C/A Launchers, Captive Air Training Missiles, missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government (USG) and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support. The estimated cost is $178 million.

The prime contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Corporation in Tucson, AZ. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of up to 10 U.S. Government and contractor representatives for one-week intervals twice annually, to participate in training, and technical review.

DSCA Kuwait: 120

July 11/08: Finland request. Finland requests 300 AIM-120C7 AMRAAM missiles, plus missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, and other related support. The order could be worth up to $435 million. Finland already uses AMRAAM missiles on its F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters. DSCA announcement [PDF].

DSCA Finland: 300

July 11/08: Singapore request. Singapore requests 128 AIM-120C7, 72 AIM-120C5, and 6 CATM missiles as part of a larger package worth up to $962 million.

DSCA Singapore: 200

July 9/08: Morocco request. Morocco requests 30 AIM-120C5 missiles as part of a larger package for its forthcoming F-16 C/Ds worth up to $155 million.

DSCA Morocco: 30

July 1/08: Greek order. An $87.6 million contract modification will provide 130 AIM-120C7s to Greece, and 6 Non-Developmental Item Airborne Instrumentation Units (NDI-AIUs) to Germany, as a modification to the AMRAAM Production Lot 21 contract. At this time all funds have been committed (FA8675-07-C-0055, P00011).


July 1/08: Processor replacement. A $13.2 million modification to a cost plus fixed fee contract for the Processor Replacement Program, Phase I. This project will replace the data processor module that’s common to both AMRAAM and the new Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) naval ship defense missile. The problem is that the AMRAAM Data Processor (ADP) and the Input-Output application specific integrated circuits (I/O ASIC) in the guidance section electronics aren’t manufactured any more. The electronics industry has much shorter life cycles than the military does, so the USAF is looking to replace these obsolete parts and do any redesign required.

This effort supports the US military and foreign military sales to Greece and Taiwan. All funds have already been committed (FA8675-07-C-0055, P00012).

June 20/08: South Korea request. South Korea is requesting $200 million worth of additional air-air missiles and precision attack weapons for its F-15Ks: 125 AIM-120C7 AMRAAMs, 14 CATMs, and 2 dummy rounds; plus AGM-54G Mavericks, JDAMs, Paveway II/IIIs, and chaff. Read “South Korea Buying Weapons for its new F-15Ks.”


June 6/08: The USAF is modifying the firm-fixed-price Lot 21 production contract with Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, AZ by $44.8 million, in order to provide AIM-120C-7 Software Tapes 18A/20 to Greece and Taiwan. At this time, $17.4 million has been obligated (FA8675-07-C-0055, P00010).

May 28/08: FY 2008 order. A $412.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for Lot 22 AMRAAM production: 98 AIM-120D All-Up-Round Missiles, 11 AIM-120D Air Vehicles Instrumented (AAVIs), 8 AIM-120D Integrated Test Vehicles (ITVs), 78 AIM-120D Captive Air Training Missiles, a warranty for 68 AIM-120D AURs (USAF), a warranty for 11 AAVIs USAF, and a warranty for 78 CATMs (USAF/USN).

This order also includes 213 AIM-120C-7 foreign military sales AURs, 5 AIM-120C foreign military sales AAVIs, 269 Non-Developmental Item-Airborne Instrumentation Units, Spares (US/FMS), Test Equipment, Obsolescence to include Radome source replacement, Quad Target Detection Device parts replacements, and second source funding for the Common Air Launched Navigation System. At this time, all funds have been committed (FA8675-08-C-0049).

Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2010 and continue through 2011. See also Raytheon release.

FY 2008

May 21/08: AIM-120D. A modified cost plus contract for $9.8 million, required because the Phase IV AMRAAM SDD program to develop the AIM-120D is experiencing turbulence. “Continuing delays in resolving developmental hardware issues and less-than-expected effectiveness in flight test execution are the primary reasons for the SDD program being behind schedule.” DID asked for clarification, and the program office explained:

“The AMRAAM Phase IV SDD program has experienced unexpected delays during the transition from POD (proof of design) to POM (proof of manufacture) hardware design and integration for a variety of reasons. The hardware delays varied from late deliveries from subcontractors to minor redesigns of CCAs culminating in delayed production of POM units and a corresponding schedule slip. The program has also experienced less-than-expected effectiveness over the past year in flight test execution due to weather, aircraft and target maintenance delays(such as the recent extended F-15 Fleet grounding), and POM missile hardware availability for flight test. The POM hardware issues have been resolved and Raytheon Missile Systems is now successfully producing POM missiles for aircraft integration and test efforts.”

The current forecast date for the functional configuration audit has slipped about 10 months, from June 30/08 to April 30/09. That schedule extension increases the contract’s cost by about 10%, which is available with the existing program budget. Technical requirements have not changed, and at this time $6.8 million has been obligated (FA8675-04-C-0001, P00047).

Feb 12/08: SLAMRAAM. The Project on Government Oversight watchdog group issues a December 2007 report from the US DoD’s Office of the Inspector General, which was obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. It discusses, and faults, the US Army and Defense Contracting Management Agency’s handling of the $623 million SLAMRAAM ground-launched anti-aircraft missile program. DID includes more complete excerpts and summaries from the report, including program manager and DCMA responses, and adds more details regarding the SLAMRAAM system.

Jan 3/08: UAE request. The UAE requests 224 AIM-120C7 AMRAAMs, as part of a larger weapons purchase request to buy its F-16 E/F Block 60 Desert Falcon fighters that could be worth up to $326 million.


FY 2007

SAR. Netherlands, Pakistan, Israel. AIM-120A launch
(click to view full)

Sept 26/07: Sub-contractors. A contract modification for $7.8 million, which buys 309 replacement baseline rocket motors to be installed into AIM-120A, AIM-120B, and AIM-120C Air Vehicles. Raytheon actually buys these from ATK. At this time all funds have been obligated. The 695th ARSS at Eglin Air Force Base, FL issued the contract (FA8675-07-C-0055, P0004).

Sept 25/07: Sub-contractors. Harris Corp. Government Communications Systems Division of Melbourne, Fla. received a modification to a firm fixed price contract for $9.3 million. This action provides 86 sets of Warhead Replacement Tactical Telemetry (WRTTM) applicable to AIM-120 AMRAAMs. Also, line items are included for Data, Interim Contractor Support (ICS) required to maintain and repair the WRTTM, ICS required to maintain and repair the WRTTM Test Sets and Support Equipment, ICS required to perform services in support of approved Engineering Change Proposals, ICS services and materials required for Program Management, ICS Services and Materials required to provide Quarterly, 5 days on-the-job training sessions for Tyndall AFB, FL, personnel for the operation and maintenance of the WRTTM Test Set and Support Equipment.

At this time all funds have been obligated. The 542nd Combat Sustainment Wing at Robins Air Force Base Ga. issued the contract (F09603-03-C-0006-P00018).

Aug 24/07: Israel request. The US DSCA announces [PDF format] Israel’s request to buy 200 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air (AMRAAM) missiles, containers, components, spare/repair parts, publications, documentation, personnel training, training equipment, and other related support elements. The estimated cost is $171 million, and the principal contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Corporation, Tucson, AZ.

As noted above, AMRAAM competes to some extent with RAFAEL’s shorter-range Derby 4 missile. To date, however, Israel’s Cheyl Ha’avir has elected to purchase AMRAAMs instead for its fighters. See “Israel Requests $642M in Missiles, Fuel” for complete coverage.

DSCA Israel: 200

June 19/07: SLAMRAAM Plus? Raytheon announces SLAMRAAM upgrades via options to add SL-AMRAAM-ER extended range variants (likely via a rocket booster), and a variant with AIM-9X infrared seekers to match the combination radar/infrared surface-to-air sets like Spyder, VL-MICA, et. al. being fielded by international rivals.

April 16/07: FY 2007 order. A $180.3 million firm fixed price contract for 96 AIM-120D AMRAAM Air Vehicles, 5 AIM-120D AMRAAM Air Vehicles Instrumented, 105 Airborne Instrumentation Units, and warranty for 25 USAF Captive Air Training Missiles. This action also funds the Manufacturing Excellence Model Initiative, Test Equipment, and 2 priced options. At this time, $175.6 million have been obligated. This work will be complete January 2010 (FA8675-07-C-0055).

FY 2007

April 9/07: SAR. The Pentagon releases its April 2007 Selected Acquisition Report, and AMRAAM is one of the systems covered. Overall program costs increased $1.6 billion (+12.2%) from $13.2 billion to $14.8 billion:

“…due primarily to lower-than-expected Foreign Military Sales (FMS) projections (+$557.9 million) and an acquisition strategy pricing change (+$859.2 million). There were also increases related to a stretchout of the annual procurement buy profile (+$93.7 million), additional special tooling and test equipment (+$54.8 million), and an overrun in the AIM-120D (Phase 4) system development and demonstration contract (+$32.7 million).”


AIM-120A: preparing for a swap

Jan 29/07: Rocket switch. U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) officials and 435th Munitions Squadron airmen recently moved to shift serviceable rocket motors from older AIM-120A AMRAAMs and put them in unserviceable AIM-120B and C models, creating viable AIM-120 B/C missiles. The systems involved are part of USAFE’s war reserve assets, but also serve as a forward-positioned stockpile for the U.S. Central Command and elsewhere. The in-house weapon overhaul of 63 missiles saved the Air Force more than $31 million and approximately 3 years of time, and was the largest field retrofit in the AMRAAM’s history.

Dec 6/06: SLAMRAAM. Kongsberg announces a contract valued at NOK 345 million (about $60 million) with the Netherlands for NASMS system deliveries to the Dutch Army under the Future Ground Based Air Defence (FGBAD NL) program. The program combines systems from EADS with the SLAMRAAM-based NASAMS surface-to-air system developed by Kongsberg.

Dutch SAMs

Nov 17/06: Pakistan. A $269.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option to purchase 500 AIM-120C5 AMRAAM missiles and rehost on behalf of Pakistan (100%). Work will be complete April 2011 (FA8675-05-C-0070/P00028). This order is part of Pakistan’s $5.1 billion program to buy new F-16s and upgrade its existing fleet, and is the biggest AMRAAM export order to date. See also Raytheon’s January 15, 2007 release.


Nov 8/06: AIM-120D & AFSO-21. A USAF article discusses how the AIM-120D Production Program Manager was a bit skeptical when he was asked to be team leader on an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century rapid improvement event. By the time they were done, however, they had cut the acquisition-delivery time down from 11 months (48 weeks) to 4.5 months (20 weeks) using AFSO process improvement tools. Maj. Charles Seidel was impressed – and so were other weapons programs. Here’s what they did.

Nov 2/06: A $5.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for AIM-120D production transition, with all funds already obligated. This work will be complete March 2007 (FA8675-06-C-0003/P00005).

Oct 31/06: SLAMRAAM. Raytheon announces that its AMRAAM-based Complementary Low Altitude Weapons System (CLAWS) air defense system finished 14 month Limited Technical Inspection in just 12 months and exceeded performance expectations, clearing the way for Marine Corps acceptance of the final 2 fire units. The tests took place at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems’ Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, MA.

CLAWS is a SLAMRAAM/HUMRAAM variant, and despite test success, the USMC decided that US air superiority made it an acceptable cancellation. Time will tell if that is wise.

Oct 17/06: SLAMRAAM. Raytheon Fires Surface-Launched AMRAAM to Test New Command Destruct/Self Destruct Capability. The successful tests took place in Sweden, following successful SLAMRAAM tests in Norway.

FY 2006

NCADE. Pakistan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia. F-16 launches AIM-120
(click to view full)

Sept 29/06: Singapore & Saudi order. A $65.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option to purchase 123 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAMM) Air Vehicles (AAVs) Air Intercept Missile (AIM)-120C-5 missiles: 9 are for the USAF and 114 are foreign military sales to Singapore and Saudi Arabia (DefenseLINK did not break that out by country). The contract also includes 51 warranties and foreign military service software configuration management. Work will be complete November 2008 (FA8675-05-C-0070, PO 0026).

Singapore & Saudi

Sept 15/06: FY 2006 supplement. A $112.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide for 104 AIM-120C7 AMRAAM Air Vehicles, 112 Non-Developmental Item, Airborne Instrumentation Units (NDI-AIUs), proposal preparation, L3 Communications Pulse Code Modulation, Encoder Qualification Non-Recurring Expense, NDI-AIU Test Equipment Upgrade as well as 12 AIM-120D AMRAAM Air Vehicles Instrumented (AAVIs), 50 AIM-120D Captive Air Training Missiles (they have the seeker but no rocket motor), and an option for AIM-120D production transition.

The AIM-120C7 is the most current AMRAAM missile, but the other elements of the contract certainly indicate that the transition to the AIM-120D is getting closer (FA8675-06-C-0003, PO 0003). An October 6, 2006 Raytheon release notes that this contract supplements the Lot 20A effort awarded in February 2006; the two Lot 20 contracts combined total $168 million. The first production set of AIM-120D missiles will be delivered from December 2007 through January 2009.

FY 2006 SUP

July 26/06: AIM-120D. A $25.4 million cost-plus contract modification. This action provides for AMRAAM AIM-120D system demonstration development contract re-baseline. At this time, $7.4 million has been committed. Solicitations began April 2006, negotiations were complete July 2006, and work will be complete in June 2008. The Headquarters 328th Armament Systems Group, Eglin Air Force Base, FL issued the contract (FA8675-04-C-0001/P00028).

June 28/06: Pakistan request. The US DSCA announces Pakistan’s request for 500 AMRAAMs and 12 training missiles, as part of a $650 million weapons request within a $5.1 billion program to expand and refurbish its F-16 fleet.

DSCA Pakistan: 500

May 9/06: Contract. a $21.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for advanced medium range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) lead time away material, and systems engineering performance responsibility (SEPR). The lead time material will cover 12 operational test missiles (AIM-120D) and 40 initial operational capability missiles (AIM-120D and AIM-120C7). Work will be complete in October 2007 (FA8675-06-C-0003/P0002).

April 28/06: NCADE. Raytheon Company announces a $7 million contract from the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) for a risk reduction demonstration associated with the evolving Network Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) program. NCADE is testing the idea that a modified AMRAAM might be able to shoot down ballistic missiles just after launch, if a fighter can get close to the launch area.

The 12-month Raytheon effort will focus on propulsion systems and seeker enhancements as part of the overall NCADE system capability. Work on this contract will be performed at Raytheon’s Missile Systems business in Tucson, Ariz. Aerojet will perform propulsion work at its Redmond, WA location.


April 21/06: Testing. Most people don’t think about the effect that all those nifty aircraft maneuvers have on the weapons it’s carrying – but weapons developers have to, and so does the USAF. This article describes April 2006 tests of the AIM-120D missile in an F-22A Raptor weapons bay, in order to check the effect of noise and vibration on the missile. Previous tests with the AIM-120-C7 had determined that vibration levels in certain frequencies were harmful to the missile’s electronics, and the AIM-120D has a different navigation system as well as a different arrangement of electronics cards. The test was used to validate Raytheon’s modeling and assumptions, and the results are fed back into ongoing development.

March 13/06: Support. A $5.5 million firm fixed price contract option, exercised as a separate contract for a 11 month repair capability and a 11 month Service Life Prediction Program for non-warranted Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) Air Intercept Missile-120 components consisting of the AMRAAM Air Vehicle missiles, airborne instrumentation units, common field level memory reprogramming equipment, missile built-in test sets, containers, Navy captive air training missile, foreign military sales AMRAAM air vehicle instrumented missiles and repairable components of these items for the Air Force, Navy and 26 foreign military sales countries. This work will be complete in January 2007 (FA8675-06-C-0073).

Feb 17/06: Industrial. A $35.4 million firm fixed price contract for production transition (1 Lot), test equipment/tooling (1 Lot), unique identification, non-recurring expense (1 Lot), and software trouble reports (USN) (1 Lot). Solicitations were complete in April 2005, negotiations were complete in February 2006, and work will be complete by March 2007 (FA8675-06-C-0003).

FY 2005 and Earlier (Partial) AMRAAM on LAU-129 rail
(click to view full)

August 23/05: Singapore request. The US DSCA announces Singapore’s request to buy 200 AIM-120C Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and 6 CATM-120C AMRAAM Captive Air Training (CAT) Missiles, as part of a “provisional” $741 million weapons order.

Singapore soon makes its accompanying choice official: the F-15SG Strike Eagle is its next-generation attack aircraft.

DSCA Singapore: 200

April 4/05: FY 2005 order. Raytheon Company announces a $200 million contract from the USAF for continued production of 434 more AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air missiles (AMRAAM).

FY 2005


fn1. It’s worth noting that “missile range” is an extremely variable number – obviously, a missile’s effective range for 2 aircraft closing head on is much greater than a situation where one aircraft is fleeing and the missile must catch up. Most missile ranges are posted for head-head engagements. See the “Air-Air Missile Non-Comparison Table” for a fuller explanation, with diagrams, and key figures for most international missiles.

fn2. Jane’s Defence Weekly, July 11/07.

Additional Readings & Sources: Current Missiles

Additional Readings & Sources

Categories: News

CBO Sees Through US Navy’s Backloaded Shipbuilding Budgeting

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 13:50

  • The latest review by the US Congressional Budget Office concludes like in past years that the US Navy’s shipbuilding plan is underfunded, especially in the out years. “CBO’s estimate of the cost of new-ship construction in the Navy’s 2015 shipbuilding plan is $66 billion, or 13 percent, higher over the next 30 years than the Navy’s estimate.”

  • Loren Thompson from the Lexington Institute: Why The Navy’s Next ‘Boomer’ Is The Most Important Program In The Pentagon Budget.

Use It Or Lose It

  • Canada is looking to add [CTV] a 5th aircraft to its fleet of C-17s.

  • Algeria reportedly received [Jane’s] the first of possibly 2 C-17s, though there is no confirmation from either their government or Boeing.


  • CSIS, an American think tank, has suggestions [PDF] for federated defense programs in Asia.

  • According to the Times of India, an Air India A-320 almost hit a UAV at the high-altitude airport in Leh.


  • Today’s video comes from Sweden and shows Gripen JAS 39 footage during bombing exercises:

Categories: News

Brazil’s Mi-35M / AH-2 Sabre Attack Helicopters

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 21:43
AH-2 Sabre
(click to view full)

Brazil’s defense budget saw a steep rise in the late 2000s, a necessary step after years of neglect. One of its priorities was to select an attack helicopter – something the country has not previously fielded to its Army or Air Force. competitors reportedly included the Italo-Turkish AW-TAI A129 Mongoose, EADS’ Tiger, and Russia’s heavyweight Mi-35M, a modern variant of the Mi-24 Hind that became famous in Afghanistan. The Mi-24/35 is unique among dedicated attack helicopters in that it can carry a handful of troops, in addition to performing its offensive role.

The A129 and Mi-35M were the reported finalists, and November 2008 reports cited the Mi-35M4 as the winner of a contract for 12 “AH-2 Sabre” helicopters. It took until the end of 2014 for deliveries to be completed.

Contracts & Key Events AH-2 Sabre – FAB TV

The AH-2 Sabres will be used in the Amazon region; and basing appears to revolve around Porto Velho in the western Amazon, near Bolivia’s northern border. They will operate in conjunction with Brazil’s Embraer land and ground surveillance jets (R-99A/P-99A) Super Tucanos, S-70 Pave Hawks, and other local assets. Major Amazon region neighbors include Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia; the region is a prime location for trans-national narco-terrorists and drug traffickers.

Dec 10/14: Deliveries. Brazil’s Air Force announced that an An 124 transport aircraft finally delivered the last 3 of their 12 AH-2 Sabre helicopters at the end of November. Squadron Poti, the 2nd squadron in the 8th aviation group, is now training pilots for these helos. Source FAB: “FAB completa frota de helicópteros de ataque”; “Esquadrão Poti capacita pilotos de AH-2 Sabre”.

(click to view full)

April 10/13: RIA Novosti reports that Mi-35 deliveries will take even longer: fall 2013, for a 2008 order of just 12 machines. Russian FSMTC director Alexander Fomin confirmed that date at the LAAD 2013 defense exhibition in Rio de Janeiro.

Aug 29/12: Deliveries. Russia has delivered the 7th, 8th, and 9th Hind E attack helicopters to Brazil. Igor Korotchenko, head of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Global Arms Trade and will complete the Mi-35M contract by the end of the 2012. Which is fairly slow delivery, on a 2008 contract for 12. RIA Novosti.

April 15/11: Aviation Week reports that:

“The Mi-35M already has had some export successes. In 2006-2008, 10 rotorcraft were delivered to Venezuela, while in 2009-2010 Brazil received the first six of 12 aircraft ordered. Rostvertol already has assembled three more Mi-35Ms for Brazil, but their delivery is in limbo owing to the country’s defense budget cuts.”

April 17/10: Brazil’s FAB formally inducts the Mi-35 into service at BA Porto Velho. FAB [in Portuguese]

April 6/09: RIA Novosti reports that Russia will start deliveries of Mi-35 Hind attack helicopters to Brazil by the end of 2009. Alexander Fomin, deputy director of the Federal Service on Military-Technical Cooperation:

“We have recently signed a contract to deliver 12 Mi-35 helicopters to Brazil. The first deliveries will start by the end of this year or the beginning of 2010″… The official said the contract was worth about $150 million.”

Nov 25/08: The $300 million contract was reportedly signed during Russian “President” Dmitry Medvedev’s recent visit. The Brazilian newspaper “Folha de São Paulo” offers an interesting side note, claiming that the purchase was delayed because the Brazilian Air Force wanted the helicopters to be fitted with Elbit Systems’ avionics, manufactured and/or assembled by Elbit’s Brazilian subsidiary AEL.

The Russians argue that this would be uneconomic for such a small batch of aircraft, but the choice would provide important commonality with avionics already present in the FAB’s Super Tucano light attack and surveillance turboprops, F-5BR fighters, and A-1M AMX light attack jets. News reports regarding the contract signing have not revealed whether this issue was addressed in the contract. Moscow Times | China’s Xinhua | Flight International.

12 Mi-35Ms

Categories: News

Korea’s T-50 Family of Trainers/Fighters

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 20:00
T-50 Golden Eagle
(click to view full)

South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle family offers the global marketplace a set of high-end supersonic trainer and lightweight fighter aircraft. They’re hitting the international market at a good time: just as many of the world’s jet training fleets are reaching ages of 30 years or more, and high-end fighters are pricing themselves out of reach for many countries.

The ROK’s defense industry is advancing on all fronts these days. Its shipbuilding industry, one of the world’s busiest, is beginning to turn out its own LHDs, and even high-end KDX-III AEGIS destroyers. On the armored vehicle front, Korea’s XK2 tank and K9/K10 self propelled howitzer are beginning to win export orders, and its XK-21/KNIFV amphibious infantry fighting vehicle may not be too far behind. All fill key market niches, promising performance at a comparatively inexpensive price. Now its aerospace industry is in flight abroad with the KT-1 turboprop basic trainer, complemented by the T-50 jet trainer, TA-50 LIFT advanced trainer & attack variant, and FA-50 lightweight fighter.

The TA-50 and FA-50 are especially attractive as lightweight export fighters, and the ROKAF’s own F-5E/F Tiger II and F-4 Phantom fighters are more than due for replacement. The key question for the platform is whether it can find corresponding export sales.

T/F/A-50: The Planes T-50, 3-view
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The T-50 was developed by Korea Aerospace Industries, Ltd., with cooperation and global marketing support from Lockheed Martin. Both firms were aware that many training aircraft fleets are aging, even as higher-performance fighters demand trainer aircraft that can keep up. The Korean government needed a fleet of trainers, and saw an opportunity to give their aerospace sector a strong boost in the process. Total investment in the T-50’s RDT&E program amounted to more than $2 billion: 70% from the Korean government, 17% from KAI, and 13% from Lockheed Martin.

With a length of 43 feet and a wingspan of 30 feet, the 2-seat T-50 is about 4 feet shorter than the F-16; overall, it’s only about 80% of the F-16’s size. The relative size of the control surfaces and tails are larger, however, to improve handling characteristics at lower speeds and make the aircraft easier to land. Larger landing gear is also fitted, to absorb harder landings, which is to be expected from student pilots. Its form’s resemblances to Lockheed Martin’s F-16 are suggestive, and include the blended mid-set wing, complete with leading-edge root extensions and rear ‘shelf’ fairings ending in F-16-style split airbrakes. The air intake layout on the sides is somewhat similar to the F/A-18 Hornet or Northrop’s excellent but ill-fated F-20A Tigershark, and the aircraft is powered by the same engine: GE’s popular, reliable and fuel-efficient F404, with slight improvements over the F404-GE-402 to enhance single-engine redundancy and reliability.

The T-50 trainer carries a basic navigation / attack system, which gives it some multi-role capability. The aircraft can carry Sidewinder missiles on the wingtips, as well as fuel, rockets, or qualified bombs on its 5 underwing and center pylons. The center pylon and 2 inner underwing pylons are “wet,” and can accommodate 150 gallon fuel drop tanks.

The T-50 family’s empty weight is 14,000 pounds, and maximum takeoff gross weight is 27,700 pounds. The plane’s F404-GE-102 engine produces 17,700 pounds of thrust at afterburner. Maximum rate of climb is 39,000 feet per minute; and the maximum speed is Mach 1.5. Service ceiling is 48,500 feet, the design load factor is 8gs, and the trainer airframe is designed for up to 10,000-hour service life (8,344 hours for the A-50).

T-50 cockpit
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Still, the plane is designed to be a trainer, with better rear visibility than a 2-seat F-16. An “active stick” ensures that stick movements in the front or rear are transmitted to the stick in the other seat, to improve monitoring and learning. Embedded training features, in-flight recording and post-mission debriefing capability are all built in. The standard tools of a modern fighter pilot’s trade are likewise present: “glass cockpit” of digital screens, HUD (Head Up Displays), HOTAS (Hands On Stick And Throttle) control systems to keep everything at the pilot’s fingertips, triple-redundant electrical system, fly-by-wire, advanced radio and navigation systems including INS/GPS, and a Martin-Baker zero-zero ejection seat. The seat back angle is 17 degrees – similar to the seat angles of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the F/A-22.

Per the standards for modern trainers, the aircraft is part of a larger, integrated training system that includes simulators, computer-based training, cockpit and maintenance trainers, and a training management system.

Maintenance has also received careful thought. The new trainer’s airframe will require no mandatory depot maintenance, and the aircraft boasts a “single-tier design” with some 250 access panels, allowing technicians to get at any major system. Extensive self-diagnostics are expected to help keep maintenance costs down.

All in all, the T-50 may remind some people of the F-16 that was originally designed by the 1970s “Fighter Mafia,” who were busy breaking every big-jet, multi-role, high-priced rule the USAF had cultivated for over a decade. The T-50’s 0.65:1 thrust/weight ratio ensures that it’s no F-16. Even so, more than 25 years after the F-16 entered service, the T-50 family retains one more comparison point: a similar price point in absolute dollars. Its $20-30 million cost places it firmly on the high end of the modern trainer market, but its supersonic performance and fighter versatility could still make the T-50 family very popular indeed.

Key market competitors include the subsonic BAE Hawk, Aermacchi’s now-supersonic M346, and its Russian twin the Yak-130.

T-50 Variants Black Eagles
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At present, 3 variants of the T-50 are planned, beyond the basic T-50 trainer aircraft.

T-50B aerobatic variant. It has replaced ancient A-37 Dragonflys in South Korea’s “Black Eagles” national aerobatic team. This makes South Korea 1 of just 4 countries whose aerobatic teams fly locally designed and manufactured supersonic aircraft. Their Black Eagles perform in this category alongside the USA’s Thunderbirds (F-16) and Blue Angels (F/A-18), Russia’s Swifts (MiG-29) and Knights (SU-27), and China’s 1st Aerobatic Team (J-10s).

TA-50 lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT). Offers weapons training and usage, eliminating weapon training hours in more expensive jets, and allowing operational employment. TA-50s add an internal 3-barreled M61 20mm cannon, and can carry AIM-9 Sidewinder air-air missiles, AGM-65 Maverick short-range strike missiles, rocket pods, Mk80 family bombs, and SUU-20 practice bomb carriers. The TA-50 has full avionics including stores management, and the IAI/ LIG Nex1 version of the ELM-2032 multi-mode radar is an option. Some reports add Lockheed Martin’s AN/APG-67v4 multi-mode radar as an alternative option, derived from the radar that equipped Northrop’s F-20 Tigershark.

Other reports have mentioned that the TA-50 has provisions for radar warning receivers and specialty pods, if customers wish to add them, but this isn’t confirmed. That would seem like a better fit with the FA-50, as a complete low-end light fighter that’s able to add precision strike bombs and other weapons to its arsenal.

KAI’s FA-50
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FA-50 lightweight fighter. A slightly more expensive variant that’s fully fitted for the lightweight fighter and light attack roles, with a secondary role as a lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) if necessary. It is beginning to gain good traction in the international marketplace.

Weapons are slated to include the same lightweight 3-barreled M61 20mm gun and weapon set as the TA-50. The ELM-2032 radar is a big step forward, and the plane’s electronic architecture reportedly adds the ability to integrate GPS-guided weapons like JDAM bombs, WCMD/SFW cluster bombs, and eventually JSOW glide bombs. A targeting and surveillance pod, AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, and other advanced weapons will likely follow, as the ROKAF and other customers look to diversify their roles.

KAI on FA-50

There is a small catch. The FA-50 is a joint KAI/ Lockheed Martin project, and the associated co-operation agreements reportedly included a number of restrictive terms. One is that Lockheed Martin won’t transfer aircraft source code to other nations, leaving Lockheed as the sole integrator for key capabilities. A 2nd provision is that the T-50’s capabilities cannot exceed Korea’s F-16s. A 3rd provision reportedly banned South Korea from integrating T-50 variants with non-U.S. technology that the United States doesn’t have.

Provisions 2 and 3 had a big influence on the plane’s radar options. Instead of SELEX Galileo UK’s Vixen 500E AESA, the first FA-50s will use a cooperatively produced version of IAI’s popular ELM-2032 multi-mode radar, via LiG Nex1 and SamsungThales. The radar will be tied to additional datalinks like Link-16, radar warning receivers, and a MIL-STD-1760 databus. FA-50s will also be able to carry additional electronic countermeasures equipment, and specialty pods like LITENING or Sniper ATP for targeting, surveillance, etc.

SamsungThales and LiG Nex1 may be enough “laundering” for ELM-2032 radar exports to Islamic countries. Reports re: Iraq’s sale say nothing about a substitution, and any radar switch would require a full integration project. Lockheed Martin’s AN/APG-67v4 radar, developed for the F-20, would be an obvious alternative, and Selex ES’ Grifo is a popular global choice for light fighters. A longer-term possibility involves a step up to more advanced AESA radars, which are already making inroads into the medium end of the fighter market. An imminent program to upgrade the ROKAF’s KF-16s with AESA radars could offer KAI a way up. Once the ROKAF adds Raytheon’s RACR AESA radars to its F-16s, the FA-50 could add the same radar without violating the FA-50’s MoU restrictions. The need for Lockheed Martin’s agreement to integrate an American AESA radar would be the only remaining obstacle.

T/F/A-50: The Program T-50 cutaway, KAI

Click here for full graphic, from KAI [1500 x 696, 454k].

Home Customer: 142 ROKAF: 50 T-50, 10 T-50B, 22 TA-50, 60 FA-50.
Export Customers: Indonesia (16 T-50i), Iraq (24 FA-50), Philippines (12 FA-50).
Prospects: Botswana, Chile, Peru, Thailand, Brunei, UAE (~48), USA (up to 350).
Losses: Israel (M-346), Poland (M-346), Singapore (M-346), UAE (M-346 picked 2009, but still no contract).

Arirang report

KAI is the T-50’s prime contractor, and is responsible for the design of the fuselage and tail unit, final assembly of the aircraft, and design of the accompanying training systems. The mid-mounted variable camber wings are manufactured by Lockheed Martin, who is also responsible for the avionics and fly-by-wire flight control system, and provides technical consulting.

The production line at Saechon is designed for a 1.5-aircraft-per-month production capability with a single shift, but the assembly process can produce up to 2.5 aircraft per month by simply adding another shift if orders increase. Man Sik Park, director of the T-50 management team at Sacheon, adds that “Getting more customers than our line can currently handle is no problem because we can increase the production rate further with additional tools and assembly jigs.”

KAI’s TA-50

The ROKAF already has production orders for 102 of KAI’s aircraft: 50 T-50 trainers, 22 TA-50 LIFT/ light fighters (with an option for another 22), 10 T-50B aerobatic aircraft that replaced the Black Eagles’ A-37 Dragonflys, and 60 FA-50s to replace the RoKAF’s F-5 Tiger II and F-4 Phantom fighters.

Outside South Korea, Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems and KAI have created the T-50 International Company (TFIC) to pursue export markets. Indonesia (16 TA-50 “T-50i”), Iraq (24 FA-50 “T-50IQ”), and the Philippines (12 FA-50) have signed contracts. Botswana and Chile have both reportedly expressed interest, as well as Brunei. The UAE has yet to sign its trainer deal for 48 planes, and wants an armed variant that doesn’t exist for its chosen M-346, so KAI may yet be able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, as they did in Iraq. The USA is TFIC’s biggest target, however, thanks to the 300-plane T-X program to replace the USAF’s supersonic T-38 trainers.

The FA-50 in particular will offer performance that competes favorably with peers like the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17, and India’s Tejas LCA. All 3 of these jets are likely to find themselves dueling for the niche once occupied by a pair of 1960s-1970s era competitors – Russia’s MiG-21s, and Northrop’s amazingly popular F-5, which still flies with the ROKAF. Both aircraft types are still flying in many air forces, and both are reaching the end of their lifespans. Hence the market opportunity. The difference is that unlike its Chinese and Indian competitors, the F/T/A-50 family’s secondary trainer role makes it attractive to 1st and 2nd world air forces as well.

Contracts & Key Events 2014

Philippine contract for 12 FA-50s; Export prospects; Indonesian deliveries done; Does the ROKAF need stopgap rental fighters? FA-50 & AGM-65G

Dec 14/14: Philippines. Filipino President Benigno Aquino says that the first 2 of 12 FA-50s ordered back in March are on track to be received by his country sometime in 2015, with the remaining 10 to follow by 2017. That’s a couple years later than they were aiming for when the negotiations started, but the order took about 2 years to materialize. Source: Manila Standard: “First 2 Korean jets to arrive next year”.

Dec 12/14: Brunei? Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah gave a smiling thumb up aboard an FA-50 on display at the Gimhae airport. According to South Korea’s Yonhap agency, this may be more than a photo op as an envoy from Brunei visited the headquarters of KAI in Sacheon last month. Source: Yonhap: “S. Korea’s FA-50 jet to be displayed at Busan airport”.

Oct 10/14: Weapons. The FA-50 fires an AGM-65G Maverick short-range strike missile for the first time, hitting a retired ship moored 7 km away in the East Sea (Sea of Japan). The Maverick actually has an outside range of around 20+ km, but that wasn’t what they were testing here. Sources: Chosun Ilbo, “FA-50 Fighter Jets Hit Target with Guided Missile” | Joong Ang Daily, “Air Force successfully test fires guided missile.”

July 17/14: USA The USAF experiences a flight in a ROKAF TA-50, as part of their due diligence for the coming T-X advanced trainer competition. Major-to-be Lee Seong-wook and Lieutenant Lee Kwang-won from the 16th fighter wing put the American team in the backseat of their TA-50s for 4 sorties.

The American due diligence team also visited South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), 16th Fighter Wing and Logistics Command, and the 16th fighter wing’s operation and maintenance. Sources: ROK MND, “Korean Trainer Aircraft TA-50 shows its excellence”.

March 28/14: Philippines. The Philippines signs the P18.9 billion contract for 12 FA-50 jets, paid for from the P85 billion initial fund under the Revised Modernization Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. That’s currently $420.9 million, which is close to the $422 million at which the government starts paying the exchange risk. Let’s hope they’re hedged. The moves will give the Philippines a fighter force again, with 2 jets arriving for training and IOT&E 18 months after the Letter of Credit is “opened,” another 2 a year after that, and the last 8 by 2017. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had an interesting way of describing the negotiations:

“In the Philippines we have an old saying that goes like this, “Pagkahaba-haba man ng prusisyon, sa simbahan din ang tuloy. Literally, this translates to no matter how long the procession is, it still ends up in the church. What we went through these past months even years is akin to a procession: slow, tedious and full of challenges. And like a procession we knew where our destination was and why we’re doing it.”

That last sentence becomes especially interesting, in light of PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Okol’s comments to GMA News. He said “kung anong ibbiigay sa atin ngayon, we make do what is given,” while adding that the FA-50s are “a step in the right direction.” The PAF ultimately wants more advanced fighters, with full multi-role capabilities. They may find their FA-50s growing into precisely that, as the ROKAF adds more advanced weapons. Otherwise, they’ll need to be able to afford what they want. Sources: KAI, “KAI won a contract to export 12 FA-50s to the Phil” | GMA News, “PAF wants more sophisticated fighter planes, but will make do with FA-50″ | Philippine Daily Inquirer, “PH acquires P23.7B-worth of fighter jets, helicopters” | The Philipiine Star, “2 contracts for purchase of fighter jets signed today” | Rappler, “PH Air Force a joke no more, gets fighter jets” | Arirang, “Korean government to sell 12 FA-50 fighter jets to Philippines”.

Philippines: 12 FA-50s

March 28/14: Exports. A post on KAI’s official blog announces the Philippine sale, and confirms that “KAI is eyeing to further exporting the T-50 variant aircraft to the U.S.A., Botswana, the U.A.E., Thailand and Peru.” Chile no longer gets a mention, but they still have a need. Sources: KAI, “KAI won a contract to export 12 FA-50s to the Phil” | KAI Fly Together Blog.

March 26/14: Fill-ins. The ROKAF needs to retire its fleets of 136 or so F-5E/F Tiger light fighters, and about 30 F-4 Phantom fighter-bombers. Meanwhile, The F-16 fleet is about to begin a major upgrade program that will keep part of that fleet out of service. The F-X-3 buy of F-35As is expected to be both late, and 20 jets short of earlier plans. The KF-X mid-level fighter project will be even later – it isn’t likely to arrive until 2025, if it arrives at all. The ROKAF is buying 60 FA-50s to help offset some of the F-5 retirements, but the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA) sees this combination of events leaving South Korea about 80 planes short.

FA-50 deliveries only began in August 2013, and foreign FA-50 orders from Iraq and the Philippines are beginning to take up additional slots on the production line. As such, the ROKAF may be leaning toward a quicker stopgap:

“The Air Force is considering leasing used combat jets as part of ways to provide the interim defense capability because replacement of aging F-4s and F-5s wouldn’t take place in a timely manner,” a senior Air Force official said, asking for anonymity. “As midlevel combat jets are mostly in shortage, the Air Force is considering renting 16 to 20 used F-16s from the U.S. Air Force…. “The U.S. Air Force stood down some F-16s in the wake of the defense spending cut affected by the sequestration,” another Air Force official said, asking not to be named. “Under current circumstances, we can rent F-16s or buy used ones.”

It will be interesting to see if the USAF will let the ROKAF lease, or just have them buy the jets at cut-rate prices. Sources: Yonhap, “S. Korea considers F-16 lease deal to replace aging jets”.

Feb 21/14: Philippines. News reports say that the 2 sides have reached agreement, with a formal contract signing to follow in March 2014. It’s reportedly a $422 million deal for 12 FA-50s, denominated in US dollars, with the Philippine government taking the exchange risk that total costs won’t climb much above P18.9 billion. They’ve also decided to reduce spare parts purchases by $500,000, which is almost always a false economy that hurts aircraft availability. In exchange, KAI accepted a much lower down payment of 15% per Philippine law (q.v. Dec 26/13), and will take risks regarding the cost of some equipment furnished through the USA.

The first 2 FA-50s will be delivered by September 2015. Sources: Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Deal to buy 12 fighters jets from South Korea reached” | Rappler, “PH completes negotiations for 12 fighter jets” | Yonhap, “FA-50 sales to Philippines make headway, deal possible as early as March: source” | The Malay Mail, “Philippines to buy 12 South Korean fighters for US$422m”.

Indonesian T-50i
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Feb 13/14: Indonesia. KAI has completed the delivery of all 16 T-50i jets, via a series of ferry flights between September 2013 and January 2013. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono hosts a commemoration ceremony celebrating the T-50i’s deployment at Halim Perdanakusumah Airport in Jakarta. Sources: KAI release [in Korean] | The Korea Herald, “S. Korea completes delivery of 16 T-50 trainers to Indonesia”.

Indonesian deliveries done


ROKAF follow-on FA-50 buy, takes 1st FA-50 delivery; Iraq buys 24 FA-50s; Philippines pick FA-50; Loss in Poland; FA-50 potential in Indonesia; Opportunity in Taiwan? TA-50 drops tank
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Dec 26/13: Philippines. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin says that they’ve recommended an exemption from laws that limit government contracts to 15% payment before goods are delivered, in order to allow KAI’s requested 52% down payment for FA-50 fighters. Ultimately, it will be President Aquino’s decision.

Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez had more good news concerning negotiations, saying that: “We have settled the turnaround time issue. We are discussing the payment scheme” (q.v. Dec 2/13). It sounds like they’ll end up pretty close to KAI’s request payment schedule, but Velez still wouldn’t place any kind of timeline on negotiations. The issue is that any delays beyond this point are going to change the in-service date for the country’s air force, and the planned 2015 time frame is already a bit late, given Chinese pressure. Sources: The Philippine Star, “DND seeks release of funds to buy Korean fighter jets”.

Dec 20/13: Poland. Poland’s MON picks the M-346 as its next jet trainer. The package includes 8 planes + 4 options, along with simulators and other training systems, spares, and technical support.

Even though the M-346 was the only finalist without certified dual-role capability, Alenia (PZL 1.167 billion / $377.1 million) was the only contender to submit an offer within the MON’s PZL 1.2 billion budget. BAE’s Hawk T2 LIFT (PZL 1.754 billion/ $566 million) and KAI/Lockheed’s T-50 (PZL 1.802 billion/ $582 million) did not fit, and consideration of lifetime costs wasn’t enough to save them from disqualification. Read full coverage at: “Poland’s New Advanced Jet Trainer: M-346 Wins“.

Loss in Poland

Dec 12/13: FA-50. Iraq signs a $1.1 billion deal to buy 24 T-50IQ light fighters, which Korean news agencies cite as an FA-50 variant. The price works out to about $46 million per plane, but it necessarily includes added costs like initial training infrastructure. If the Iraqis have learned anything from their other programs, it will also include a solid initial supply of spare parts. KAI expects a 25-year, $1 billion T-50IQ support deal to follow shortly.

These “T-50IQs” will apparently serve double duty: as the IqAF’s advanced jet trainers once pilots graduate from T-6B turboprops, and as a backup fighter force. The deal is a big save for KAI, as Iraqi interest in the TA-50 armed trainer had apparently waned in favor of the Czech L-159T. Increased instability in the region may have helped revive their interest, as it will take more than the IqAF’s 36 ordered F-16IQs to provide even reasonable airspace control. A supersonic “F-16 lite” provides Iraq with better air defense, though it may come at the cost of some counterinsurgency strike performance relative to the L-159. KAI is quoted giving a delivery window of 2015 – 2016, while Reuters cites April 2016 – 2017.

Note that the Yonhap article has a key error. The plane exported to Indonesia, Peru & Turkey is KAI’s KO-1/KT-1 turboprop trainer and counterinsurgency aircraft, not the T-50 family. The T-50 family has been exported to Indonesia, and the Philippines is negotiating. KAI hopes that the breakthrough in Iraq may trigger interest elsewhere in the Middle East. Perhaps it will re-open the UAE’s 48-plane armed trainer pick, which has been stalled since 2009. Sources: KAI, “KAI has signed the contract with Iraq for exporting T-50 supersonic advanced jet trainer & light attack” | Korea Times, “Korea exports 24 attack jets to Iraq” | Reuters, “S.Korea’s KAI sells fighter jets worth $1.1 billion to Iraq” | Yonhap, “S. Korea to export 24 FA-50 light attackers to Iraq”.

Iraq: 24 FA-50s

Dec 2/13: Philippines. As China places growing pressure on the Philippines and Korea alike over territorial claims, TA-50/ FA-50 negotiations drag on and actual fielding of useful jets is farther and farther away. The issues seem to be substantive, however, rather than bureaucratic. South Korea wants a 52% down payment of PHP 9.8 billion ($224.25 million). The budgeted funds involved 15% down, which is apparently tied to government contracting laws rather than a different self-evaluation of customer risk. The 2nd issue reportedly concerns delivery times for spares under the support contract. South Korea wants a much longer delivery time.

Philippine Defense Undersecretary for Finance Fernando Manalo says that they’re preparing a “firm position” for submission to KAI, who have to decide whether they’ll accept it. If not, however, the Philippines’ alternatives are sparse. India’s Tejas isn’t ready, and the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17 is out of the question. They could take on the risk of old, high flight hours, early-block F-16s from the USA. Or, they could seek to buy refurbished Israeli Kfir C10s for less money, if Israel is willing cross China by selling them. Meanwhile, they’ll remain helpless against Chinese aerial provocations. Sources: Rapler, “‘Major issues’ with South Korea delay PH fighter jets”.

Nov 13/13: Taiwan? Submarines remain high on Taiwan’s agenda, but they aren’t the only items. The ROCAF plans to go outside the USA entirely for its new jet trainer, but replacements for the AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chung have been canceled before. The last AT-3 was delivered in 1990, but South Korea’s T-50 family is reportedly quite tempting.

Taiwan needs to grow its fighter fleet, and a TA-50 sale would also provide Taiwan with a local interceptor and light attack jet. China has been antagonizing South Korea lately, and a TA-50 sale would certainly provide a diplomatically painful riposte. Sources: Defense News, “Taiwan Still Hungry for More US Arms”.

Oct 28/13: KF-X shrunk? Aviation Week reports that KAI has responded to the KF-X’s program’s stall with a smaller, single-engine “KFX-E/ C501″ design that uses the F-35-style C103 design as a base, and proposes to reuse some systems from the FA-50. South Korea’s subsequent decision to short-circuit a competition in favor of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A fighter means that the T-50 partner is also committed to helping with KF-X, and efforts to move the delivery date earlier will add impetus to plans that reuse existing technologies. Read “KF-X Fighter: Pushing Paper, or Peer Program?” for full coverage.

Oct 22/13: Poland. President Park Geun-hye and President Bronislaw Komorowski signed a cooperation pact in Seoul, spanning issues from defense to trade and energy. President Park pitched T-50 trainers as well as submarines. Her counterpart sounded somewhat noncommittal, as the AJT competition remains open at least until early 2014.

Oct 17-21/13: Philippines. For her first state visit at home since her election, President Park received Filipino President Benigno S. Aquino III to discuss several bilateral agreements, including defense cooperation. The phrasing of her official statement implies that a contract for FA-50 aircraft has not been signed yet, but a Memorandum of Understanding has. So much for a deal signed by July (q.v. Jan 30/13).

The MoU request is confirmed at 12 jets, backed by a budget set aside of close to PHP 19 billion (about $440.5 million). After the official visit, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported that China had pressured South Korea not to sell the planes. This was officially denied by the South Korean government, but confirmed by anonymous government officials. China and the Philippines have unresolved territorial disputes in the South China Sea, in that section the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea. Sources: ROK President | Chosun Ilbo.

Sept 10/13: Indonesia. The first 2 T-50i jets take off from Sacheon airfield in Korea, en route to Indonesia. Their trip will take it to Gaishung, Taiwan; Cebu, Philippines; and Spinggan, Indonesia; before arriving at its future home base of Ishuwahyudi, Indonesia. Source: ROK MND | KAI release, Sept 10/13.

June 28/13: T-50i cert. The T-50i receives its military type certificate through the South Korean Government’s airworthiness authority committee, which is chaired by the DAPA defense procurement agency’s bureau of analysis and evaluation, MACA (Military Airworthiness Certification Authority).

KAI adds that 6 pilots from the Indonesian Air Force have been training since February 2013 with the T-50 and TA-50, accompanied by Indonesian ground maintenance crews. T-50i deliveries are expected to begin in September 2013, with all 16 delivered within the first half of 2014. Source: KAI release, June 28/13.

T-50i military type cert

Aug 20/13: FA-50. KAI delivers the 1st FA-50 fighter to the ROKAF, with another 60 due for delivery by 2016 to replace about 120 Vietnam-era F-5E/F Tiger II fighters. KAI sees a bright future in Asia, where IHS projects that defense budgets will increase beyond by 35% from 2013 – 2021.

Park Jeong-soo and other KAI officials say they aim to sell about 1,000 T-50 family planes by 2040 or so, but even factoring in Asian growth, their success or failure in the USA’s 300 plane T-X requirement will play a huge role in whether or not they achieve it. Source: Reuters, “South Korea targets growing Asian defence market with fighter jets”

TA-50 delivered

June 19/13: Indonesia. KAI representatives at the 50th Paris Air Show tell Flight Global that Indonesia will receive its full complement of 16 T-50i jet trainers (q.v. May 25/11) between September 2013 – February 2014. They’re also pursuing a deal for 12 FA-50 light fighters, which would replace the TNI-AU’s F-5s. Flight Global.

May 7/13: FA-50s. KAI borrows the people who seem to write most of the technical manuals for consumer electronics, in order to describe the 1.1 trillion won (about $1.02 billion) ROKAF contract for full rate production of the FA-50. Based on our translation of their English translation, KAI seems to be saying that follow-on FA-50s will begin arriving in August 2013, and that production will continue into 2016. This timeline fits previous reports, and implies that KAI has been doing advance production work.

KAI’s writers wouldn’t be faithful to the spirit of those technical manuals if they didn’t leave out important information, so they made sure to leave out the number of planes bought. The ROKAF ordered 20 FA-50s in December 2011, and was slated to order another 40-110 as the follow-on. Given the contract funding, and expected costs, it appears that the ROKAF has ordered another 40 FA-50s, at around $25.5 million per plane. Subsequent reports confirm it.

You’re denying yourself one of life’s guilty pleasures if you don’t read the original KAI release in all its glory. See also: UPI.

ROKAF: 40 FA-50s

March 6/13: Philippines. The Zamboanga City Times reports that the country’s Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) has only just given the go-ahead to draw up a Terms of Reference document, in advance of a government-to-government deal for 12 FA-50 fighters.

The document will define what has to be achieved; stakeholders, roles and responsibilities; resource, financial and quality plans; work breakdown structure and schedule; and success factors/risks. That isn’t a small job, yet the official line is that the TOR will be done and negotiations held by the end of 2013, which aircraft flying within about 2 years – or about a decade after they retired the F-5s in 2005. It’s possible, but both of those dates seem optimistic at best.

Jan 30/13: Philippines. Agence France Presse reports that the Philippines is headed into negotiations with KAI in February 2013, and expects to have a deal by July. Their jets won’t arrive until 2015.

The big question is, which jets they will be? AFP and Flight International report that they’ll be FA-50 fighter variants, rather than the TA-50 armed trainers. If the PAF technical team mentioned in the Oct 29/12 entry came back with unsatisfactory answers about the TA-50, KAI’s FA-50 is the logical next option. Close parsing of the public statements made by Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez don’t provide direct confirmation. FA-50s will be more expensive, however, making TA-50s a potential fallback option in negotiations. Nothing is final yet, and we’ll only know the answer when the deal is done.

Postscript: Manila Channel wins the award for media confusion, by posting a graphic of Russia’s developmental T50 stealth fighter in their story. Uh, guys, these aren’t the fighter jets you’re looking for. Chosun Ilbo | Manila Channel | Manila’s Sun Star | Bloomberg | Flight International.


ROKAF orders 1st FA-50s; Philippines picks TA-50? KAI privatization fails. T-50 line
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October 2012: FA-50. The FA-50 gets South Korean type certification. Source.

Oct 29/12: Philippines. The Philippine Star says that a PAF technical team is investigating whether the TA-50 can deliver “medium range missiles”, and the quality of its radar system. If the country decides to remain on course for a competition, these questions will become more important.

Radars are important to surveillance as well as air superiority, and the Philippines needs both. South Korea has a partnership with IAI for its EL/M-2032 radar, which includes surface scan capabilities, on the FA-50; will the Philippines pay for that? Beyond the radar, the term “medium range missile” is very ambiguous. TA-50s can deliver AGM-65 Maverick short-range strike missiles or AIM-9 Sidewinder short range air-to-air missiles, but they would require additional integration to deliver a medium range anti-ship weapon like an American AGM-154C JSOW glide bomb, an anti-ship missile like the AGM-84 Harpoon, or a medium-range air-to-air missile like the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

Oct 28/12: Philippines. The Philippine Star reports that their buy is becoming a competition again:

“The Philippine Air Force (PAF)’s planned acquisition of lead-in fighter jets from South Korea or any friendly state may take longer than expected after it was decided that the multi-billion peso defense procurement will be bid out instead of the government entering into a government-to-government deal.”

That changes Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s June announcement of a TA-50 buy from South Korea, with deliveries expected to begin in 2013. Philippine media report that the offer of 12 jets would include a soft loan of $560 million from South Korea’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund, disbursed through the Export-Import Bank of Korea.

Aug 31/12: KAI Privatization fails. Korean Air Lines Co. is the only bidder to register by the extended deadline, but rules governing sales by government entities require at least 2 bids.

Korean Air generated 3.3% of revenue making plane parts in 2011, and has tried to buy into KAI before. Beyond stepped up Korean orders for T-50 jets and Surion helicopters, KAI is also makes civil and military parts for Boeing, and is building a new plant to make Airbus A320 wing components under a $1.2 billion deal signed in March 2012. Bloomberg.


Aug 6/12: KAI privatization crashing. The government wants to privatize KAI, but finding a bidder has been difficult, and it looks like they’re about to fail on the Aug 16/12 deadline.

The government and its Korea Finance Corporation (KoFC) wanted to sell 41.75% of KAI via a publicly opened bid, which includes 11.4% of KoFC’s 26.41%, and shares owned by Samsung Techwin (10%), Hyundai Motor (10%), Doosan (10%), and KDB Bank (0.34%). The bid terms require at least 2 competing bidders, but as the JoongAng Daily explains, all of the major South Korean firms who could afford such a bid have other priorities. The asking price is also perceived to be high, and the market is reinforcing that by driving down KAI’s share price in anticipation of a failure to privatize it. Now political opposition to privatization is also growing, which could be the final nail in the coffin.

Aug 2/12: Philippines pick. The Philippines DND’s undersecretary for finance, munitions, installations and materiel, Fernando Manalo, makes the country’s choice official: KAI’s T-50s. Chinese bullying in the West Philippine Sea around Scarborough Shoal played a significant role in pushing them toward a more capable fighter, which would remove the M-346 from contention. Meanwhile, used F-16s were seen as too expensive to operate, with little airframe life left.

The problem is that without an approved modernization budget, the armed forces can’t sign a contract. If the country does sign a contract by the end of 2012, they want 2 of the Golden Eagles to be delivered immediately, so that their pilots will be trained by the time the other 10 arrive in 2015. Manilla Bulletin | Manilla Standard Today.

June 20/12: Philippine buy? ABS-CBN news of the Philippines quotes Philippine air force officials as saying they will buy 12 TA-50s, in order to restore the air force’s ability to police Philippine airspace.

That ability was lost when the country retired its remaining F-5 aircraft in 2005, and the USA no longer bases fighters at Clark AB or USNB Subic Bay. Chinese violations of Philippine airspace and claimed maritime zones have been creating a lot of tension, and the country has been looking at its options for a couple of years now. Their efforts have involved requests for 12 used American F-16s, as well as examination of KAI’s TA-50 and Alenia’s M-346 Master. The M-346 doesn’t have an armed version yet, and the USA hasn’t issued a formal DSCA clearance yet. That leaves the TA-50 as its only approved option that can be bought right now.

The TA-50 deal is reportedly worth around 25 billion pesos (about $590 million), with a contract expected by the end of 2012. All 12 fighter jets are expected to be delivered by the end of 2013. If so, the Philippines would join its neighbor Indonesia as a TA-50 customer.

A 2nd contract for 6 fixed-wing aircraft is expected to replace the country’s OV-10 Bronco counter-insurgency planes, and designs from the USA (likely the AT-6B), Brazil (Super Tucano), and Korea (likely the KT-1) are expected to compete. Given the TA-50’s 2-seat design and ability to use laser-guided weapons, another possibility would be to add options to any TA-50 contract, and use it in both roles. This would be less effective for counter-insurgency, or as an intermediate trainer, but contribute more to airspace policing and defense. It depends where the country’s priorities lie at the time, and external events are unstable enough to change them. Philippines’ ABS-CBN | ABS-CBN re: 2nd buy | South Korea’s Yonhap.

May 16/12: Philippines. Philippine President Benigno Aquino says that his government had asked to buy second-hand F-16s from the USA, but is concerned that maintenance costs on these aging aircraft could end up being too high. This was the problem that forced the country to mothball its F-5 force in 2005, but it seems there is good news. From the AFP report:

“We do have an alternative, and – this is a surprise – it seems we have the capacity to buy brand-new, but not from America… These are manufactured by another progressive country that I won’t name at this point.”

Feb 17/12: US T-X delayed. The USAF confirms that it won’t make a T-X selection until 2016, and doesn’t expect initial operational capability for its new trainers until 2020. Until then, they will continue to use 2-seat F-16Ds to bridge the gap from T-38 trainers, to the F-22A and F-35. Flight International.

Feb 16/12: Israel. The T-50 loses to Alenia’s M-346, as the preferred bidder to stock IAI & Elbit’s TOR public-private joint training venture. Governmental approval is required, and a contract award for 30 planes is expected later in 2012. If the expected billion-dollar contract is signed, deliveries would be expected to begin in the middle of 2014. In return, Italy is rumored to have pledged to buy an equivalent amount of equipment from Israel: IAI’s CAEW 550 AEW&C jets, and a new jointly-developed reconnaissance satellite.

Those contracts were signed in July 2012. Until now, South Korea has been buying a lot of defense gear from Israel. The question is whether that will continue. Read “Trainer Jets for Israel: From the Skyhawk, to the Master” for full coverage.

Israel loss

Feb 11/12: International training. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quotes an unidentified defense ministry source who said that Portugal has become the preferred partner for a WON 300 billion (about $267 million) T-50 International Military Flight Training Center Consortium (IMFACC). A Memorandum of Understanding might be reached as early as March 2012.

If Portugal wins, they will have beaten potential sites in the USA, Australia, the Philippines and Spain. IMFACC will be a training center for international customers like Indonesia, as well as South Korean pilots who need to be free of flight time restrictions in their own, crowded country. Portugal has large over-water territories to facilitate flight training, and offers a more central location than Australia or the Philippines.

Feb 7/12: FA-50 radars? IAI reveals a $150 million order from an unnamed customer for its EL/M-2032 fighter radar, from an unnamed customer. A Globes report places the customer within Asia, and the timing is one of several factors that suggests a South Korean order.

Read “IAI’s $150M EL/M-2032 Radar Contract Mystery” for full coverage. It includes a survey of potential Asian customers, and the other likely candidate for this order.

Feb 3/12: US T-X. Asia One reports that recent announcements of US budget cuts are expected to affect the T-50, as the USA’s cornerstone T-X program looks set to be delayed:

“The US is by far the largest market for KAI, which hopes to sell at least 350 units to it. But it has deferred its decision on whether to acquire new trainer jets or develop them on its own, or turn their old fighters into trainer aircraft. The so-called T-X project is expected to be further delayed given the US defence cuts. Experts have estimated that the global demand for trainer jets and light fighters over the next three decades will amount to around 3,300 units. KAI aims to export around 1,000 units during that period.”


FA-50 order; Indonesia is T-50’s 1st export customer; TA-50 rollout; Polish do-over; Israeli competition; KAI IPO. FA-50 prototype
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Dec 28/11: FA-50. Korea Aerospace Industries signs a 20-plane, $600 million FA-50 production contract with DAPA, bringing total T-50 family orders to 102 planes. This is a follow-on to the December 2008 development contract, which produced 4 prototype and test aircraft. Deliveries to the ROKAF are expected to begin in 2014.

South Korean orders could eventually swell to over 100 FA-50s, as the ROKAF seeks to replace its F-5E/Fs. This could also help in competitions like Poland’s, by broadening KAI’s in-production T-50 family technology options. KAI | Flight International.

ROKAF: 20 FA-50s

Nov 22/11: AESA for KF-16s? Raytheon declares that it is “responding to the Republic of Korea’s official launch of the F-16 radar upgrade competition with the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar system (RACR).” RACR is designed as a drop-in AESA radar for F-16 fighters, and is based on the technologies in the AN/APG-79 radar that equips US Navy Super Hornets.

No word yet on other competitors, but any KF-16 AESA upgrade could break a technology logjam for the FA-50 as well.

Oct 28/11: Poland. Poland steps back from its existing trainer & light fighter RFP, and says it will re-do the competition. They seem to have been surprised at the cost of meeting their previous specifications, and will opt for a trainer with lower combat capabilities in the next round. That means the new jets won’t really be able to replace their SU-22s, but it also means that, in the words of deputy defense minister Marcin Idzik, Poland won’t “be the sole country to acquire such an [aircraft as we had requested].” This implies that even the TA-50, which looked to have good odds of winning the bid, was insufficient.

The new RFP is expected in spring 2012. Read “Poland Seeks Advanced Jet Trainers/ Light Fighters” for full coverage.

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

In Israel, KAI is once again competing against Alenia’s M-346 Master. Italy has reportedly made an interesting barter offer, and the 2 countries built close ties under Prime Minister Berlusconi. Israel’s final choice will be a significant geopolitical decision – read “Trainer Jets for Israel: Skyhawk Scandal Leads to End of an Era” for a full explanation, and ongoing coverage.

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

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

June 2011: Iraq. Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that the Iraqis may have made an oil-for-aircraft deal to buy Korean T-50 family jet trainers, some of which could also serve as effective light fighters. If so, this indicates serious budget issues, and makes the reported deal for Aero Vodochody L159T jet trainers questionable. Will the L-159’s potential Iraq deal become yet another canceled Czech?

As of Jan 5/12, however, no public announcement had been made regarding either platform.

May 26/11: KAI IPO. If KAI seemed to jump the gun on the Indonesia announcement, there may be a clear motive. The Korea Exchange has just approved an IPO for the firm to go public, which is expected to raise around $525 million in cash for the firm. Announcing the sale just ahead of that approval is permissible, and has the effect of boosting the expected asking price. Woori Investment & Securities, and Hyundai Securities, will manage the deal. Reuters | Wall St. Journal.


T-50: takeoff
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May 25/11: Indonesia win. Well, that was fast. KAI executive VP Enes Park is quoted as saying that the Indonesian Defense Ministry signed a $400 million deal for 16 jets – or $25 million per plane, which is not the deep discount deal touted earlier. Aviation Week says that the contract reportedly involves a T-50 with a gun and weapon pylons (i.e. TA-50), though the actual designation is T-50I.

The planes will replace about 10 Hawk Mk.53 subsonic trainers, and may also supplement or replace the TNI-AU’s 5-6 remaining F-5E/F fighters. Read “Indonesia Looking for Trainer/Attack Aircraft” for full coverage.

May 20/11: Indonesia win? In the wake of an ROK-Indonesian agreement to expand economic and industrial cooperation via a joint secretariat, and reports that KAI has been designated as Indonesia’s preferred trainer jet bidder, Indonesia’s Amir Sambodo suggests that Indonesia might buy 16 T-50 family jets, in exchange for 4 or more additional CN-235 aircraft bought from Indonesia’s Dirgantara. Read “Indonesia Looking for Trainer/Attack Aircraft” for full coverage.

April 12/11: Indonesia. The Indonesian government sends a letter to KAI, designating the South Korean firm as the preferred bidder to replace Indonesia’s BAE Systems Hawk 53s. Source.

Indonesia is 1st export win: 16 “T-50i” TA-50s.

Feb 24/11: UAE stall. Flight International reports that M346 negotiations between the UAE and Alenia Aermacchi have stopped, with no word on when they might resume. Having said that:

“The door appears to remain closed to KAI and the T-50, with officials from the South Korean company agreeing. “Obviously, we would love to get back into the competition and offer the T-50. But we have not had any discussions with the UAE officials about the T-50 since they picked the M-346, and we are not expecting that to change any time soon,” says a KAI official.”

That quote would seem to contradict recent reports by UPI and Defense News, which said that the UAE had re-opened talks.

Jan 24/11: TA-50 rollout. South Korea rolls out the first production TA-50 variant, with light attack capabilities. The TA-50s will mostly be used to train new military pilots on air-to-air and air-to-surface missions before they deploy to KF-16s or F-15Ks, but they can also perform combat missions themselves as secondary air patrol or ground attack assets, and could be asked to do that in the event of a war.

South Korean media report that TA-50 deliveries will continue until 2012, to be followed by full F/A-50 fighters from 2013 onward. KAI | Korea Herald | idomin [in Korean, picture]



50th T-50 delivery; SFW bombs for FA-50s; Singapore loss; Iraq stall. Alenia’s M346
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Oct 25/10: Iraq Czeched? Prague Monitor and Iraq Business report that the Czech Republic might sell up to 25 used Aero L-159s to Iraq. Iraq has been holding a competition for 24 jet trainers between Korea’s T-50, the UK’s Hawk, and Italy’s M-346.

If the L-159 has become a focus, rather than just a competitor, it’s likely that the price of new jet trainers was too high, given other pressing needs – and that Iraq is now looking at value over newness. Time will tell.

Sept 28/10: Singapore loss. Rumors of a loss in Singapore are confirmed, via a EUR 250 million contract to supply Singapore with 12 M-346 trainers and related systems. The win comes via Alenia’s global marketing agreement with Boeing, who already supplies Singapore’s new F-15SG fighters. Read “Finmeccanica’s M-346 AJT: Who’s the Master Now?” for full coverage.

Singapore loss

Sept 2/10: Poland RFP. Poland’s Ministry of Defense (MON) issues its jet trainer RFP for 16 planes, plus support, related training systems like simulators; and initial training for 6 instructors, 6 pilots, and 50 ground crew. 1.45 billion zlotys (about $467 million) has been budgeted, and the T-50 is a contender.

Aug 9/10: Indonesia finalists. Air Forces Monthly reports that Indonesia’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration has narrowed its 16 plane advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft shortlist to the Czech Aero L-159B, South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle, and Russia’s Yak-130.

That leaves both Alenia’s M346 Master and China’s JL-9/FTC-2000 out in the cold. Interestingly, the common denominator for the 2 eliminated types is poor secondary ground attack capabilities.

July 1/10: Singapore loss? Defense News reports that Singapore’s government has selected Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 as the preferred bidder in its $1.3 billion competition for 48 advanced jet trainers. Aermacchi teamed up with Singapore’s ST Aero to compete against the KAI-Lockheed team, with Boeing providing the ground-based training system to support the M-346.

Singapore’s MINDEF has not made its decision public, and neither KAI, nor Aermacchi, nor South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) procurement and export agency could confirm the tip. The report adds that the UAE’s M346 deal remains in limbo over a side deal to develop UAVs together, which may give the T-50 an opening. Singapore’s loss in particular is a sharp blow to the platform, however, and may set other events in motion – including privatization:

“The state-owned Korea Development Bank (KDB) announced in April 2009 that it would sell its 30.5 percent stake in KAI, which has three other major local shareholders – Samsung Techwin, Doosan Infracore and Hyundai Motors, each with a 20.54 percent stake. But KDB temporarily withdrew from its decision in the face of opposition from KAI’s labor union, which argued that the privatization effort could hurt overseas sales of the T-50… Earlier this year, a KoFC(Korea Finance Corp.) official said, “If KAI fails to sell the T-50 to Singapore, discussions of the KAI privatization would certainly be resurfaced. Our position will be re-established after that.”

See also the official SAF cyberpioneer’s articles covering the BAE Hawk, Alenia M346, and KAI T-50.

May 12/10: #50. The ROKAF holds a ceremony to celebrate the delivery of the 50th T-50 jet, which completes the RKAF’s orders for that variant.

The Korea Herald reports that the T-50 project had cost WON 2.2 trillion ($1.9 billion) on the T-50 project as of 1997, with training beginning in April 2007. The jet has been used to train 190 pilots so far. KAI | Korea Herald.

Last ROKAF T-50

April 6/10: SFW for FA-50s. Textron Defense System announces that the ROKAF will integrate their Sensor Fuzed Weapon (SFW) smart cluster bombs on the FA-50 light combat aircraft. Through a foreign military sale led by the Eglin Air Force Base Air Armament Center and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration of South Korea, Textron Defense Systems expects to begin providing inert integration rounds starting in 2010.


ROKAF’s Black Eagles switch; UAE loss; IAI EL/M-2032 radar & Elisra ECM for FA-50; M61 20mm gun contract. Black Eagles T-50B
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Oct 29/09: AESA offered. Flight International reports that Raytheon officials are touting their RACR model AESA radar for the F/A-50 at the 2009 Seoul air show. Northrop Grumman’s similar SABR radar, which has been designed to compete with RACR in the F-16 retrofit market, is another possibility. Buying an American radar would step around the provisions that F/A-50 source code may not be shared with other countries; whether it would also overcome the agreements’ other obstacles remains to be seen.

Sept 23/09: EL/M2-2032 radar deal. Israel Aerospace Industries announces a $280 million pair of contracts with South Korea, one of which covers EL/M-2032 radars for the TA-50 and FA-50 fighters. The fighter radar will be co-produced by IAI ELTA and South Korea’s LIG Nex1.

The other order reportedly involves Israel’s Oren Yarok (“Green Pine”) long-range air defense and missile tracking radar. Earlier discussions had revolved around figures of about $215 million for 2 Green Pine radar systems, and current reports offer a figure of $200 million for an undisclosed number of systems. The low number of TA-50 and F/A-50 fighter orders at this early stage of their development, and the EL/M-2032 fighter radar’s low R&D needs given its mature state, makes those figures plausible in the absence of a detailed breakout between the 2 contracts. Globes adds that IAI’s usual contract policies involve a down payment of 25-35%, suggesting that it will record $70-98 million revenue from these contracts in its consolidated financial report for 2009.

The release and follow-on reports do not mention South Korea’s KF-16s, which are also slated for a radar upgrade. IAI release | Globes business | Agence France Presse | Flight International.

M-2032 radar deal

Sept 21/09: Israel. Flight International reports that Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 Master and the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 have emerged as the leading candidates to replace the Israeli Cheyl Ha’avir’s TA-4 Skyhawk advanced jet trainers. See also full DID coverage: “Israel’s Skyhawk Scandal Leads to End of an Era.”

Aug 2/09: Israel. As reports of Israeli radar cooperation to equip KAI’s TA-50 and FA-50s swirl around the media, Israel has sent a formal delegation to evaluate and test-fly the T-50 as a potential replacement for its Skyhawks. This is the first time in 40 years that Israel is considering purchasing a fighter jet not made either locally, or in the United States.

Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that other candidates include the T-45 Hawk variant, and Alenia’s M-346. Media reports currently cite the T-50 family as the front-runners for the 20-30 plane Lead-In Fighter Trainer order. Read “Trainer Jets for Israel: Skyhawk Scandal Leads to End of an Era” for ongoing coverage.

July 23/09: IAI radar. The Korea Times reports that South Korea’s LIG Nex1 will sign a deal with Israel’s IAI Elta Systems on Sept 3/09. That deal will involve the first phase of development for an indigenous radar based on the EL/M-2032 passive phased array radar, to equip TA-50 and F/A-50 aircraft. The radar’s back end ends up being a SamsungThales project.

An official from the ROK’s DAPA procurement agency told the Times that the radar is expected to be built by the end of 2010, and enter service in 2011. In the mid- to long-term, sources told The Kora Times that the domestically-built radar is likely to be installed on upgraded KF-16 fighters. The Times adds that the effort may even lead to Korean development of an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar under future agreements with IAI Elta, who has also developed the EL/M-2052 AESA.

The South Korean Air Force is buying 50 T-50 trainers, 22 TA-50s with secondary attack capabilities, and 10 T-50Bs modified for aerobatics; and is expected to add 60 F/A-50 light fighters by 2012 to replace its F-5 Tiger and F-4 Phantom fighters.

April 30/09: Black Eagles switch. The ROKAF’s Black Eagles acrobatic flight display team retired its Cessna A-37 Dragonflys after the 2009 Seoul Air Show. The ROKAF announces that they will re-debut with a fleet of 8 T-50B Golden Eagles at Seoul’s international air show in October 2009. Note that the final Black Eagle paint scheme ended up being different than the initial scheme depicted in the photo, above.

This will make the Black Eagles one of the few air force aerobatic teams to use locally designed and manufactured supersonic aircraft, alongside the USA’s Thunderbirds (F-16) and Blue Angels (F/A-18), Russia’s Swifts (MiG-29) and Knights (SU-27), and China’s 1st Aerobatic Team (J-10s). Defense News.

Black Eagles fly T-50B

March 15/09: UAE post-mortem. The Korea Times cites an upcoming $500 million competition in Singapore between the Aermacchi M346 and KAI’s T-50, while delving into some of the reasons behind the recent UAE loss:

“The government’s role is much bigger than it appears in this kind of competition,” [the military analyst] said. “And what the Korean government did in the UAE is, to be frank, far from [adequate].” Italy, which had developed close ties with Middle Eastern countries over the years, rolled out marketing promotions there with pledges of large industrial cooperation projects, including construction of an F-1 racing track… [in contrast] None of the Korean projects have been delivered to Abu Dhabi through a ministerial channel.

When National Assembly Speaker Rep. Kim Hyeong-o visited the UAE in January, he heard from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, that the preferred bidder will be “decided upon industrial cooperation offered, as well as the trainer jet quality.” He remarked that the country hadn’t heard anything from Seoul for nine months… To make matters worse, Seoul didn’t even take the opportunity of a last chance from Abu Dhabi, after the Korean delegation failed to make it to February’s International Defense Exhibition & Conference held there, where UAE was awaiting a new offer.”

March 12/09: Price problem? The Korea Times publishes an article that wonders if the T-50’s supersonic speed has created a price handicap:

“Although the UAE acknowledged the T-50 has remarkably high quality, the country apparently put more value on cooperative projects in the aerospace industry that the Italian side pledged,” the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a statement, which also pointed out a disadvantage in price. A T-50 jet’s flyaway cost is set at 20 billion won to 25 billion won ($13.5 – $16.9 million), while the M-346 costs 18 billion won to 20 billion won.” [$12.15 – $13.5 million]

DID’s take? Advanced jet training does focus on in-air operation, take-off and landing, and blind flying, with secondary weapons training opportunities. Within those constraints, the price of supersonic flight may not be seen as worthwhile. What the capability does, is give the T-50 family a full secondary fighter role that goes beyond the traditional “secondary light ground attack” role for trainers. The ultimate question for the market to answer is how much it values that capability, in an era of shrinking defense budgets that create stronger demands for multi-role platforms, as well as closer attention to costs.

Feb 25/09: UAE setback. At IDEX 2009, the UAE announces that it has begun negotiations for 48 M-346 aircraft from Finmeccanica’s Aermacchi. If the EUR 1 billion deal is finalized, the T/A-50 will have lost this export competition.

Feb 24/09: Iraq. Iraq officially requests T-50 jets, even as Iraq and the ROK sign economic agreements to develop oil fields near Basra, and open Iraqi public infrastructure contracts to South Korean firms. For full details and updates, read “T/A-50 Golden Eagles for Iraq?

Feb 11/09: Elisra ECM for FA-50. Flight International reports that Israel’s Elisra will supply the F/A-50’s electronic warfare and self-protection equipment, under an initial contract worth $7 million for the initial 4 prototypes. The equipment will be supplied over the next 2 years, and “Elisra sources indicate that the selected EW system will include radar warning receivers and chaff and flare dispensers.”

This contract involves the adaptation of proven systems, rather than a new design. The joint Elbit systems (70%)/ IAI (30%) venture Elisra already makes the self-protection systems that equip many of the IAF’s F-16s.

Jan 15/09: Iraq. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and the World Tribune both file reports concerning Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi’s ongoing visit to South Korea, which included inspection and a test flight of the T-50. South Korea sent a 3,600-strong contingent to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil in September 2004 as part of the U.S.-led forces, and a total of 18,000 South Korean troops served in rotation around northern Iraq until 2008.

DJ Elliott of the Long War Journal says that the T/A-50 was suggested in fall 2007 to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense by MNSTC-I’s Coalition Air Force Transition Team. Iraq’s pending trainer aircraft purchase appears to be Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6 Texan II, but a jet trainer is required as an interim step between the T-6 and more advanced planes like the F-16s Iraq is requesting. If Iraq begins with T/A-50s, however, they would also become the new IqAF’s first jet fighters, and give Iraq qualitative parity with many of the fighters currently flown by its semi-hostile neighbors Syria and Iran.

Read “T/A-50 Golden Eagles for Iraq?” for more.

Jan 12/09: M61. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products announces a contract by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for up to 82 of its 3-barreled M61 20mm cannons that will equip the TA-50 and FA-50 variants. Price was not disclosed, but deliveries will begin in October 2010. By May 2013, there are enough orders to account for all guns.

Manufacturing will be performed at General Dynamics’ Saco, ME, facility, and the program will be managed by General Dynamics’ Burlington, VT facility. S&T Dynamics, LTD of South Korea is the designated Korean Industry Partner (KIP) for the program, and they will produce the ammunition containers under a subcontract arrangement with General Dynamics.

Jan 8/09: Poland. The Korea Times reports that Vice Defense Minister Kim Jong-cheon will visit Poland later from Jan 19-23, and that his agenda includes a push for the T-50 trainer. The jets may have very stiff competition, however, as Finland is re-selling its used BAE Hawk trainers.

The report also confirms that competitions are still active in Singapore (12-16 jets, up to $500 million) and the UAE (35-40, $1+ billion, subsequently lost to M346).


FA-50 development contract; Radar complications. EL/M-2032
(click to view full)

Dec 30/08: FA-50 development. South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) signs a WON 400 billion (about $317 million) contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to develop 4 prototypes of the F/A-50 light attack jet by 2012.

Full production of about 60 aircraft is scheduled to begin in 2013, at which point the F/A-50s will begin replacing 1960s era A-37 dragonfly attack jets, F-5E/F Tiger II light fighters, and F-4 Phantom II fighters as the ROKAF’s low-end fighters. The Korean buy could extend to 150 aircraft, and its capabilities and price point make exports likely.

That potential was one of the reasons the F/A-50 project has been delayed. The F/A-50 is a joint KAI/ Lockheed martin project, and the agreement includes a number of provisions related to American weapons export policies, and to corporate interests at Lockheed Martin. One stipulation was that Lockheed would not transfer aircraft source code to other nations. Another was that the T-50’s capabilities could not exceed Korea’s F-16s. A 3rd provision banned South Korea from integrating T-50 variants with non-U.S. technology that the United States doesn’t have.

Korea originally wanted to equip the F/A-50 with the lightweight Vixen-500E AESA(Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar developed by U.K. firm Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems, but that would have violated all 3 of the above provisions. Lockheed Martin pushed for its AN/APG-67v4 radar, which equips the T/A-50 LIFT. Instead, the Koreans chose the proven EL/M-2032 mechanically scanned radar from Israel’s IAI Elta Systems. That radar serves on some Israeli F-16s and also equips a range of other aircraft around the world that include F-16s, F-4 Phantoms, F-5 Tigers, MiG-21s, Kfirs and other Mirage variants, India’s Sea Harriers, and India’s forthcoming Tejas lightweight fighter. Korea Times.

FA-50 development

Dec 10/08: After more than 40 years of service, Israel is finally looking to replace its versatile A-4 Skyhawk fleet. KAI’s T-50 family is reportedly one of the 4 contenders. Read “Israel’s Skyhawk Scandal Leads to End of an Era“.

Aug 28/08: An upgraded F/A-50 lightweight fighter counterpart would be a logical replacement for South Korea’s vintage F-5E/F and F-4 fighter fleet, and may also prove attractive as a global export. Flight International reports that the design is almost complete, but program approval for additional South Korean F/A-50s is being held up by 2 key issues.

One is the desire for an AESA radar, which would sharply improve the little fighter’s capabilities while lowering maintenance costs. Both Northrop Grumman (SABR) and Raytheon (RACR) have designed new AESA radars for F-16 refits, and the nature of AESA radars allows them to be resized very flexibly. The bad news is that negotiations with the US government haven’t been able to secure US authorization for AESA radar exports to South Korea. This forces the Koreans to go ahead with a more conventional but limited radar like the AN/APG-67v4, or put the F/A-50 on hold until AESA approval is granted. If it would be granted to a project that’s likely to compete with made-in-USA F-16s on the global export market.

The other issue is Lockheed Martin’s participation. Lockheed helped develop the T-50, and has the fighter development and advanced weapon integration experience that KAI lacks. On the other hand, its involvement raises costs. KAI is reportedly pushing for this partnership, but the government must conclude that the benefits would be worth those extra costs. Likely arguments to that end include lower project/financial risk, improved export prospects, and greater likelihood of American technology export approvals.

2006 – 2007

ROKAF orders 50 more; 1st T-50 delivery; Lockheed Martin MoU; UAE opportunity. T-50, underside
(click to view full)

Nov 1/07: UAE. Reports claim that Aermacchi’s M-346 and KAI’s T/A-50 are the finalists in the UAE competition, with Britain’s Hawk LIFT eliminated by BAE’s own admission. Flight International report. A Korea Times report pegs the UAE’s purchase total at 35-40, rather than 60. Time will tell.

They also add a market prediction from KAI officials that expect T-50 variants will secure about 30% of the 3,300 aircraft global trainer market within 25 years – about 1,100 aircraft.

Oct 26/07: KOIS reports that Korea’s commerce and industry minister Kim Young-ju is headed to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the T-50 is competing against the BAE Hawk Mk128 LIFT and Aermacchi’s M-346 for an estimated 60-plane, $1+ billion order. The UAE is expected to choose its next generation trainer jet by early November 2007. See “Korea’s commerce, industry minister pitches T-50 jet to UAE.”

Oct 15/07: On the eve of the Seoul 2007 Air Show, KOIS reports that the T-50 is poised to pick up orders in the United Arab Emirates (60 jets), Greece (30), and Singapore (40). “Korea is expected to sign the deals with the three nations this month or next month,” said Yoon Cha-young, executive director of the Korea Aerospace Industries Association.

Dec 13/06: 2nd ROKAF order. The Government of South Korea has signed a contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for “approximately 50″ additional T-50 and TA-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainers. The new aircraft will be used for advanced jet training and lead-in fighter training. All the aircraft will be delivered from KAI’s production facility in Sacheon, South Korea.

Subsequent reports from South Korean media mail this order down at 57 planes: 25 more T-50s, 22 TA-50s, and 10 T-50Bs to replace the Black Eagles’ aerobatic planes. Lockheed Martin release.

ROKAF #2: 57 planes

Nov 16/06: Lockheed MoU. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin sign a memorandum of understanding today to expand their strategic relationship. Ralph Heath, president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, in the Lockheed Martin release:

“First, the memorandum is a recommitment to continue our efforts in marketing the T-50 Golden Eagle to international customers. Additionally, we will seek ways to collaborate on future opportunities in Korea, the United States and the international marketplace. We value the important, long-standing relationship we have with KAI.”

“First, the memorandum is a recommitment to continue our efforts in marketing the T-50 Golden Eagle to international customers” said Ralph Heath, president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “Additionally, we will seek ways to collaborate on future opportunities in Korea, the United States and the international marketplace. We value the important, long-standing relationship we have with KAI.”

Hae Joo Chung, KAI president:

“This new agreement means that our two companies will look to cooperate in the areas of aircraft modification and upgrades, as well as the future fighter requirements for the Korean government. The new business sector of Performance Based Logistics Support provides an important opportunity for cooperation with Lockheed Martin in Korea and with international customers.”

Lockheed MoU

July 17/06: Lockheed Martin release: “Last month program officials announced the opening of a new marketing office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. This facility gives KAI greater proximity to potential customers in the Middle East and Europe and allows the Korean-based company an opportunity to grow its business-base.”

Jan 4/06: 1st delivery. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) delivers its first 2 production T-50 advanced jet trainer aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF). Designated KAI-1 and KAI-2, these aircraft are the first deliveries to a customer since the award of the production contract just 24 months ago. In addition to these 2 aircraft, KAI will deliver another 8 aircraft to the ROKAF in 2006, and 1 per month afterward. Lockheed Martin release.

1st deliveries

2005 and Earlier

Testing milestones. T-50: KAI-1
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Feb 11/05: The supersonic T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer has attained several significant technical milestones, including reaching maximum load factors (8g), maximum operating speed (Mach 1.3, design limit Mach 1.5), beginning stores separation testing (fuel tank jettison), and completing its second lifetime (lifetime = 8,334 flight hours) of structural durability testing. Lockheed Martin release.

Oct 26/04 – Jan 6/05: The T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer successfully completes aerial gunfire testing. A total of 10 test flights were conducted under a variety of flight conditions, including 3 supersonic flights. Testing included operation of the gun and ammo handling system, plus measurement of vibration levels and adequacy of the gun bay gas purging capability.

The tests used the 3rd Full Scale Development aircraft, the first in the A-50 lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) configuration. The gun is a lighter weight, internally mounted 3-barrel version of General Dynamics’ standard 6-barrel M61 used by many fighters. It has a rate of fire of 3,000 rounds per minute, and the ammo system holds 205 rounds of ammunition. The gun will be used for both ground strafing and aerial gunnery training. Lockheed Martin release.

Feb 7/04: As part of the aircraft’s external stores testing, the first flight with external fuel tanks occurs. The 150-U.S. gallon, jettisonable fuel tanks are built by Sargent Fletcher of El Monte, CA. A single tank extends mission duration and range about 15-20%, and the three-tank configuration extends them by about 40%.

These external stores tests aim to verify the T-50 aircraft’s stability and control, flutter and handling qualities when loaded with fuel tanks, weapons, and other stores. Later flights will verify performance, store functionality and interfaces, and store separation. Approximately 280 sorties utilizing all 4 of the T-50 flight test aircraft are planned for external stores testing with external fuel tanks installed, and external stores flight testing will continue until the end of Full-Scale Development. The ROKAF is conducting the flight testing from Sacheon Air Base, South Korea. Lockheed Martin.

March 15/04: Lockheed Martin announces that the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has begun engine air start flight testing of the T-50’s F404-GE-102 jet engine. Air start testing involves intentionally shutting down the engine in flight and restarting it, in order to verify the air start envelope and procedures. This effort is expected to include 15 flight tests over a 7-month period.

Dec 19/03: 1st orders. KAI receives a production contract from South Korea’s DAPA for 25 T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic advanced jet trainers. The undisclosed contract covers the aircraft, alternate mission equipment, integrated support, and production start-up costs. The aircraft will be built at KAI’s modern aircraft production facilities at Sacheon, South Korea, with Lockheed Martin as the principal subcontractor. The first production T-50 will be delivered in late 2005. Lockheed Martin adds that:

“The Korean government had earlier approved plans to purchase about 100 aircraft, half in the basic T-50 configuration and half in the T-50 Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) version. The T-50 LIFT version is designated the A-50 by the ROKAF and includes a multimode radar, an internal 20 mm cannon and… weapons… The 25 aircraft in the initial contract to KAI are all in the basic T-50 configuration. The remaining aircraft in the approved plan will be purchased in a follow-on contract.”

ROKAF order: 25 T-50s.

Nov 3/03: T-50 Flight testing with captive AIM-9 air-to-air missiles is initiated. Source.

July 29/03: F/A-50? Flight International reports that KAI has begun a study for a possible fighter version of the T-50, even as it finalizes production plans with Lockheed Martin in preparation for an expected order for the first 24 T-50s next month.

April 28/03: The T-50 Golden Eagle completes its 100th test flight, and reaches a speed of Mach 1.2 on the same day.

On April 25th, the airframe durability vehicle completed one lifetime of testing, equivalent to 8,334 flight hours, at the Agency for Defense Development testing laboratory in Taejon, South Korea. Testing continues on a second lifetime, which is expected to be complete in April 2004. Lockheed Martin.

Feb 19/03: Supersonic. The T-50 achieves supersonic flight for the first time. The milestone flight was accomplished on the No. 1 flight-test aircraft during the 60-minute flight from the air base at Sachon, South Korea. The top speed achieved was Mach 1.05 at an altitude of 40,000 feet. Full afterburner on the General Electric F404-GE-102 engine was used to accelerate to the target speed, then minimum afterburner was used to sustain the speed. Approximately one minute was spent in the supersonic regime.

“The aircraft accelerated through the Mach smoothly and quickly,” said Major Choong Hwan Lee, Republic of Korea Air Force test pilot for the flight. “I observed no adverse flight or handling characteristics. I was able to hold the target speed of Mach 1.05 with plenty of excess power available, so I have no doubt this aircraft will be able to achieve its maximum design Mach of Mach 1.5.” Lockheed Martin release.


Nov 25/02: The T-50 Golden Eagle advanced supersonic trainer reaches its stated operational ceiling of 40,000 feet during a test flight. All systems operate normally.

The actual maximum service ceiling for the T-50 is estimated to be 48,500 feet, the altitude where rate of climb is limited to 100 feet per minute at maximum power (full afterburner). Lockheed Martin.

Nov 8/02: The 2nd T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer successfully completes its 47-minute flight from KAI’s facility at Sachon, South Korea. Lockheed Martin.

Additional Readings The T-50 Family

Competitors & Market

Competitions Covered

Categories: News

Eurocopter’s EC665 Tiger HAD Helicopters

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 15:00
Tiger HAP & HAC
(click to view full)

Eurocopter’s Tiger had always had a very odd setup in that it came in two seemingly incomplete versions (HAP scout and HAC/UHT anti-tank), whose respective deficiencies severely limited multi-role flexibility and hence exports. The new Tiger HAD (Helicoptere Appui Destruction) variant fixes those deficiencies, and looks set to become the default version for new-build EC665 Tiger exports.

The HAD project began in December 2005, as the EU’s OCCAR organization for armament cooperation signed a formal contract in Bonn, Germany and set out initial procurement numbers for Spain. This was followed by the French DGA’s announcing the restructuring of its own 80-helicopter order, and each customer has made its own choices as the new variant has gone from concept to initial delivery.

EC665 Tiger Species MTR390 maintenance
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The Tiger is the first all-composite helicopter developed in Europe, with a fuselage made from 80% carbon fibre-reinforced polymer and kevlar, 11% aluminium, and 6% titanium. The helicopter comes in different versions, however, and it was the shortcomings of the initial versions that pushed Eurocopter toward Tiger HAD.

All Tiger helicopters use a common airframe, which can be mistaken for AgustaWestland’s A129 at first glance. Tiger helicopters lack the A129’s nose-mounted sensors (sometimes substituting a gun in their place) or the 5-bladed rotor of the A129I, however, and feature a “hunchback” over the engines and winglets on the tail stabilizer.

A pair of compact Rolls Royce/ Turbomeca MTR390 engines deliver 1,285shp each, driving the Tiger to 124 knot (142 mph/ 237 kph) cruise speed and a 145 knot (167mph/ 277 kph) speed when armed. The cockpit is the digital “glass cockpit” one expects in modern aircraft, displaying instrument information, pictures from the sensors, moving digital maps, GPS navigation, et. al. Thales TopOwl helmet-mounted sights project most critical information right onto the pilot’s field of view, however, including weapon and sighting controls. Defensively, EADS electronic warfare suite, which also equips the NH90 medium helicopter, is used for most Tiger variants. It includes a radar warning receiver, laser warner, MILDS AN/AAR-60 missile launch detector, and MBDA’s SAPHIR-M chaff / flare dispenser, all tied together through a Thales central processing unit.

The French Tiger HAP Tiger HAP
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The French HAP version is intended to be a scout and escort helicopter. It incorporates Mistral anti-aircraft missiles, a 30mm chin turret from Nexter, and 68mm SNEB unguided rockets. Unlike the Franco-German HAC/UHT version, however, the HAP lacked Sagem’s Osiris mast-mounted sight/designator that could be so useful to a scout helicopter, substituting a roof-mounted Sagem Strix sight instead.

The other thing it lacks is laser-designation capability for guided rockets, or the ability to fire anti-tank missiles. While the HAP has an extra 10 knots of full speed when armed, and better climb and hover characteristics than its HAC/UHT counterpart, its configuration sharply limits the helicopter’s usefulness. The HAP variant has since become an orphan with a cut-down buy from France, and no exports.

It is built in Eurocopter’s Marignane, France facility.

The German Tiger UHT Tiger HAC/ UHT
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The HAC/UHT anti-tank version has the improved Osiris mast-mounted sights and can fire HOT-3 or Trigat/PARS-3 anti-tank missiles, American FIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles, 70mm Hydra rockets, or 12.7mm gun pods. An improved Tiger ASGARD variant was fielded as part of ISAF operations in Afghanistan as of December 2012. It incorporates sand filters, additional defensive systems, a mission data recorder, satellite communications, and upgraded 1,467 shp MTR390-E engines for operation in Afghanistan’s lift-sapping high altitudes and heat.

What the German Tiger lacks is a chin turret and cannon, with its obvious applications against trucks and light armored vehicles. That’s a strange omission for an anti-tank helicopter, and Germany is the only customer for this variant. It is built at Eurocopter’s facility in Donauworth, Germany.

The bottom line? The national requirements of France and Germany left each country with a variant whose basic deficiencies made them unexportable. It wasn’t until export customers demanded a fully multi-role scout and attack helicopter that Eurocopter began to field competitive platforms.

Fixing the Tiger: From ARH to HAD Tiger ARH
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Australia’s Tiger ARH (Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter) version is a modified Tiger HAP with a Nexter 30mm cannon, and a laser designator incorporated in the roof-mounted Sagem Strix sight. That allows the firing of Hellfire II laser-guided anti-armor missiles, and gives Australia the option of adding laser-guided rockets as well. The helicopter carries the Hellfire’s M299 “smart” launchers, and adds the ability to carry 70mm rockets and American Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Finally, Tiger ARH contains various changes to incorporate equipment that’s compatible with Australian communications, and items that come from Australian manufacturers.

The first Tiger ARH took its maiden flight in February 2004, and deliveries on the 22-helicopter order began in December 2004. Tiger ARH has entered service with Australia’s military, but it has experienced issues. It will not be covered in this article.

Tiger HAD test
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Tiger HAD was the next step, and seems likely to form the basis for all subsequent exports.

Tiger HAD builds on ARH advances, adding upgraded MTR390-E engines rated at 1,467shp each, ban IFF interrogator function, and improved ballistic protection. The Spanish version substitutes an electronic warfare/warning system from Indra, in place of EADS’ EWS.

Weapon carriage is also broadened, and includes a Nexter 30M781 30mm turret, 68mm or 70mm rockets, MBDA Mistral air-to-air missiles, and RAFAEL/Eurospike Spike-ER or Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire II anti-armor missiles.

The 2005 contract modification that created Tiger HAD involved the Spanish DGAM (Direccion General de Armamento y Material), French DGA (Direction Generale de l’Armement) and German BWB (Bundesamt fur Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung). The agreement covers the development and production investments in Tiger HAD for both Spain and France, helicopter production for Spain and France, and the retrofit of Tiger HAPs to HAD status for Spain.

French trials

France’s fleet will include 40 earlier-model HAP escort and support versions and 40 HAD versions. Alex Youngs of Rolls Royce (who make the Tiger’s MTR390 engines) confirmed that this was just a restructuring of their existing order from 70 HAP escort/scout + 10 HAC/UHT attack helicopters to 40 HAP escort/scout + 40 HAD multi-role helicopters. The 1st French Tiger HAD was scheduled for delivery in late 2010, and was actually delivered early, in March 2010.

Spain has ordered 24 Tiger HAD/E helicopters: 18 new, and 6 Tiger HAP-to-HAD/E upgrades. A 2013 decision by the Spanish government will put 6 of the helicopters up for sale on the global market, as a way to cut the military’s budget without paying contract cancellation fees.

France’s Tiger HADs are built in Marignane, France. Spain’s Tiger HAD/Es are built in Albacete, Spain.

These contracts bring the total number of Tiger helicopters ordered through the EU’s OCCAR armament cooperation agency to 172: 68 helicopters for Germany (UHT, cut from 80), 80 for France (40 HAP, 40 HAD) and 24 for Spain (HAD/E). A total of 17 EC665 helicopters are designated for the resale pool: 11 Tiger UHTs from Germany (so 57 operational), and 6 Tiger HAD/E from Spain (so 18 operational).

Australia’s 22 Tiger ARH helicopters weren’t ordered through OCCAR, and subsequent exports are also likely to be beyond OCCAR’s ambit.

Contracts & Related Events 2014

HAD Block 2. French Tiger HAD

Dec 10/14: France. Airbus delivers the first 2 HAD Block 2 Tigers that will be operated by the French Army’s GAMSTAT aero-mobility group, then assigned to the 1st Army Combat Helicopter Regiment located at the Phalsbourg-Bourscheid Air Base in Eastern France.

Nov 21/14: France. The DGA procurement agency qualified the HAD Block 2 Tiger for the French Army. So far they have received 46 Tiger helos, 40 of which are in HAP version to be converted to HAD over time. Block 2 qualification improves rocket targeting, and adds external fuel tanks, support for Spike and Hellfire anti-tank missiles, and digital communications. Airbus says these helos are also be navalized. Source: DGA, “Qualification finale du Tigre en version appui-destruction (HAD).”

March 6/14: Germany. The German Army receives the last of 12 Tiger UHT helicopters modified to the ASGARD (Afghanistan Stabilization German Army Rapid Deployment) configuration.

2011 – 2013

Export opportunities; Delivered and Certified in France; Spain looking to sell 8 of 24 helicopters.

July 30/13: The initial Tiger HAD/E variant assembled at Eurocopter’s Spanish facilities in Albacete, Spain, makes its 1st flight. Albacete makes the Tiger’s rear fuselage sections, but full assembly is a new step – Spain’s HAD/E testing prototype had been assembled in Marignane, France, as were all 6 of Spain’s Tiger HAP/E helicopters.

HAD/E-5002 will be the first machine to enter service with the Spanish Army’s FAMET, with delivery planned by the end of 2013.

EADS’ release cites other partners, including ITP/MTRI consortium (MRT390-E engine), Indra, Amper, ELIMCO, Aernnova, TECHNOBIT, DMP (Desarrollos Mecanicos de Precision), Sacesa, and Celestica. EADS.

July 26/13: Spain. The Spanish government approves an extra EUR 877.33 million (about $1.165 billion) in their 2013 budget, in order to finance payments that have come due on several major weapons programs. The Tiger HAD/E is one of them, and will receive EUR 88.26 million. Spain’s Spike missile programs will receive another EUR 34.5 million.

At the same time, in order to finance investments in their troubled S-80 submarine program, and purchases of their Pizarro (ASCOD) tracked IFVs, Spain will look to cut other programs – and the Tiger is also one of those. The contract is already signed, penalties make pull-out too expensive, so 6 of the 24 are now designated for second-hand sale. Other cuts include selling 13 of 27 A400M aerial transports, and reducing the number of serving Leopard 2A6E tanks from 190 – 116. Sources: Defense-Aerospace | Publico [in Spanish].

Jan 25/13: Certified. France’s DGA bestows military type certification on the Tiger HAD. Certification is an often-overlooked aspect of delivering combat ready gear, and several helicopters (incl. the NH90 and Mh-92) have seen multi-year delays while that get sorted out. French DGA [in French].

French military certification

Dec 5/11: Malaysia. Eurocopter includes the Tiger in its LIMA 2011 presence, including a flying display. Malaysia is expected to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for attack helicopters, and Eurocopter has a local subsidiary. EADS.

June 4/12: Korea. South Korea announces the finalists for its AH-X attack helicopter program, but the Tiger isn’t on their list. Eurocopter is KAI’s partner for South Korea’s Surion medium helicopter program, but that didn’t seem to help them here.

The finalists are AgustaWestland/TAI’s T-129, Bell Helicopter’s AH-1Z, and Boeing’s AH-64. In the end, the ROK picks the AH-64E Apache Guardian. Defense Update.

Oct 19/11: Korea. Eurocopter indicates its interest in participating in South Korea’s planned 2012 RFPs for helicopters. They’re proposing the AS565 Panther platform for the Light Attack Helicopter (LAH) program and the EC665 Tiger for the Heavy Attack Helicopter (AH-X) program. EADS.

2008 – 2010

Missile orders; Tiger HAD testing. Tiger HAD w. Spike
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Dec 17/10: France. The first pre-serial Tiger HAD (fire support and destruction) for France makes its maiden flight from Eurocopter’s plant in Marignane, France. During the next several months, Eurocopter will conduct joint testing and development flights of the French and Spanish Tiger HAD. EADS.

Sept 16/10: Testing. The first Tiger HAD begins its 15 month flight test program at Eurocopter’s Albacete, Spain facility. This is the first time that Eurocopter Spain has taken on the responsibility for testing a helicopter prototype.

Block 1 qualification is scheduled for December 2011, and includes Mistral and Spike missile firings. The first production Tiger HAD helicopters are scheduled for delivery early 2012. EADS | Eurocopter.

April 10-19/10: Delivery. The Tiger HAD variant is qualified by the French DGA procurement agency on April 10th, and officially delivered on April 19th. EADS.

1st delivery

June 30/09: Engines. A Tiger helicopter powered by 2 of the new MTR390-E prototype engines successfully completes its maiden flight. The MTR390-E is being developed by MTRI GmbH, a German joint venture that includes MTU Aero Engines, Safran Group’s Turbomeca, Rolls-Royce and ITP. In the Turbomeca release, MTRI Managing Director Clemens Linden says that:

“The MTR390-E engine will further enhance the performances of the Tiger under demanding flight conditions, providing power growth of 14 per cent for missions in ‘hot and high’ environmental conditions in which the new HAD helicopter will be operated. All of this is possible using the same engine architecture, envelope and installation interfaces.”

Sept 11/08: Testing. EADS Eurocopter announces that it successfully completed a firing campaign using the Spike air-to-ground missile, at the Spanish National Institute for Aerospace Technology’s (INTA El Arenosillo firing range in Spain. EADS reports that Spain is still on track to receive its first helicopters from 2011 onward.

During the Spike tests in El Arenosillo, 7 missiles were fired: 5 without their main propulsion units, and the other 2 in lock on before launch (LOBL) mode and then lock on after launch (LOAL) modes at targets 6-8 km away. The first 5 firings validated integration with the Tiger HAD, and safe separation with the booster in hover and in forward flight. The 2 full firings hit their targets.

Feb 6/08: Sensors. The SAFRAN Group’s Sagem Defense Securité received an order from OCCAR for roof-mounted STRIX surveillance and targeting systems that will equip all 64 Tiger HAD helicopters ordered by France and Spain. The first deliveries will take place in 2009. The Strix also equips Tiger HAP and ARH helicopters, but Germany’s Tiger UHT/HAC uses Sagem’s Osiris mast-mounted sight instead. Sagem release.

Feb 6/08: Weapons. Spain announces a series of Tiger-related contracts:

Sas Tda Armements of France received EUR 3.7 million for 68 mm rockets.

Nexter received a small EUR 765,000 contract for 30mm ammunition to equip the Tiger HAD’s gun.

MBDA France receives a EUR 27.7 million contract for Mistral II ATAM anti-aircraft missiles to equip Spain’s 24 Tiger HADs. See also Sept 7/07 entry.

Feb 4/08: Weapons. France and Lockheed Martin sign a Letter of Offer and Acceptance for Hellfire II missiles, which will equip France’s Tiger HAD helicopters. Numbers and costs are not disclosed, but Defense News reports that the French received identical pricing to the USA’s Hellfire II Buy 13 contract, which bought 4,622 missiles for $305.9 million on behalf of the USA and Britain. That’s about $66,200 per missile. The contract covers “multiple warhead variants,” and the semi-active laser homing Hellfire II has 4 warhead options: AGM-114K high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT); AGM-114M blast fragmentation; AGM-114K-A HEAT and blast fragmentation; and the AGM-114N metal augmented charge (thermobaric) warhead.

As an interesting side note, Defense News adds that France is also running a competition for its next long-range infantry missile, between the American Javelin, Israel’s Spike-LR, and MBDA’s Milan-ER. A winner is expected in 2009. Lockheed Martin release | Defense News report.

Jan 28/08: Weapons. General Dynamics Santa Barbara Sistemas operations in Spain signs a EUR 40 million (about $64 million) contract with the Spanish Army for the supply of 44 Air Land Spike-ER Missile System launchers and 200 missiles for Spain’s Tiger HAD helicopters. In addition, General Dynamics Santa Barbara Sistemas will provide integrated logistics support (ILS). Work is expected to be complete by 2012. GD release.

2005 – 2007

Tiger HAD contract; France (Hellfire) & Spain (Spike-ER) pick different anti-armor missiles; 1st flight. Spanish testing
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Dec 14/07: The first flight of the HAD version of the Tiger (HAD S/N 5001) takes place at Eurocopter’s Marignane, France headquarters on schedule. This flight enables the start of the flight test period. HAD S/N 5001 is the first serial HAD for Spain, and will be transferred to Eurocopter España in 2009. The HAD version will be qualified end 2010, and deliveries to France and Spain are expected to begin in 2010. Eurocopter release.

1st flight

Nov 30/07: Weapons. The Spanish Council of Ministers sets aside EUR 44 million over 6 years (2007-2012) to buy Spike-ER missiles as their Tiger HAD helicopters’ primary anti-armor weapon. See DID coverage.

Spain picks Spike-ER missiles

Sept 7/07: Weapons. The Spanish Council of Ministers sets aside EUR 27.7 million over 5 years (2007-2011) to buy MBDA Mistral ATAM anti-aircraft missiles for its Tiger helicopters. Mistral is already in service with Spanish Army, airborne, and Marines units as a man-portable air defense missile, and equips earlier Tiger versions. See DID coverage.

June 4/07: Weapons. Lockheed announces that the French have selected their Hellfire II missile to equip French Tiger HAD helicopters. The European Trigat missile was originally supposed to fill that role, but Germany’s withdrawal from the program killed it.

The Australian Tiger ARH is another Tiger variant equipped with the Hellfire II missile; for the French competition, Lockheed Martin is teamed with MBDA, which will integrate the Hellfire missile launcher onto the Tiger and provide technical support. Original semi-cryptic announcement | June 18th Paris Air Show announcement.

France picks Hellfire missiles

Naval trials
(click to view full)

May 21 – June 7/07: Testing. Under the supervision of Eurocopter and the French DGA procurement agency, a Tiger HAP helicopter takes part in navalization trials on a Siroco Class LSD amphibious ship and a Lafayette Class frigate, in extremely severe weather that includes 6-meter (19 foot) swells, winds close to 100 km/h, and deck angles up to 12 degrees. Eurocopter Australian Aerospace release

The trials are successful, with strong implications for French and Spanish employment of their Tiger HAD helicopters – and for Australia’s Tiger ARH, now that Australia has ordered 2 new Canberra Class LHDs based on Spain’s BPE ship.

Jan 10/07: Spain. RAFAEL and General Dynamics Santa Barbara Systems of Spain announce a $424.5 million contract with the Spanish Army for 2,600 SPIKE-LR missiles and 260 launchers. This decision makes an accompanying air-launched buy much more likely – which is exactly what happens in November 2007. RAFAEL release [MS Word format] | General Dynamics release.

Dec 15/06: Weapons. France’s DGA procurement agency has wrapped up testing of the Tiger ARH and Hellfire II missile at the Woomera Testing Range in South Australia. Successful testing will confirm a template for adding Hellfire capability to the new Tiger HAD. Gizmag.

June 30/06: Turkey loss. Turkey shortlists 2 helicopters for their attack helicopter competition: AgustaWestland’s A129, and Denel’s Rooivalk. The Tiger was reportedly eliminated on cost grounds, and Kamov/IAI’s Ka-50/52 Erdogan also failed to make the shortlist.

Turkey eventually chooses the A129, whose production line is moved entirely to Turkey. Read “Turkey Finally Lands Its Attack Helicopters” for full coverage.

Loss in Turkey

Dec 5/05: The inaugural Tiger HAD contract is signed between Eurocopter and the EU’s OCCAR armament cooperation organization in Bonn, Germany. This inaugural Tiger HAD contract involves the Spanish DGAM (Direccion General de Armamento y Material), French DGA (Direction Generale de l’Armement) and German BWB (Bundesamt fur Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung). It covers the development and production of Tiger HAD for both Spain (18) and France (40), and the retrofit of 6 Spanish Tiger HAPs to HAD status.

This agreement supersedes the ITP (instruction to proceed) signed on Dec 8/04, which had officially launched the HAD (Helicoptere Appui Destruction) version of the Tiger. EADS.

Contract: 40 France,
24 Spain

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Global Defense Sales in Second Year of Decline

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 14:35

  • According to the SIPRI nonprofit, global armament sales lost 2% YoY to $402 billion. Russia’s internal demand has driven strong growth for their manufacturers for 2 years in a row. See also SIPRI’s updated top 100 list.

US Biz Dev

  • DARPA is organizing a webcast [FBO] on January 6 to present the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, whose purpose is to develop algorithms that can be used to help UAVs fly autonomously in busy environments.

  • DARPA is also looking for information [FBO] on composite material formats and manufacturing techniques that may lower costs in the aerospace sector close to those enjoyed by the automotive industry. They’re specifically interested in small and lightweight composite parts.


  • Krauss-Maffei Wegmann delivered the first of 20 Leopard 2 A7 battle tanks ordered by the German army. These were initially Leopard 2A6-NLs operated by the Netherlands, which then sold them to Canada, which in turn sent them to Germany because Canada had borrowed 20 2A6M tanks from the Germans back in 2007. Confused yet? KMW [PDF, in German] | Die Welt [in German] | Jane’s.

  • On Saturday Sweden’s Ministry of Defense announced that a Russian military jet with its transported off had nearly collided with a Swedish commercial passenger plane taking off from Denmark. The Russians first said their plane was 70km away from Sweden’s, then came up with other more fanciful theories. The Local | Russia’s Sputnik.

Middle East

  • Reuters reports that the Islamic State seized the town of al-Wafa in Iraq’s Anbar’s province.

  • Mexican sources deny Iran’s claim that they had expressed interest in acquiring Iranian UAVs.

US Offset v3

  • Bob Martinage from the CSBA think thank recently discussed his paper on the need for the US to develop a new offset strategy. Video below:

Categories: News

Expendable Wave: Raytheon’s MALD & MALD-J Decoys

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 01:00
(click to view full)

The Bosnian “Nighthawk Down” incident in 1999 showed that even old air defense systems could still be dangerous, and that smart tactics and selective use could keep those systems alive against heavy opposition. The challenge is finding them and targeting them. Against truly advanced air defense systems like the Russian SA-20 family, however, the challenge is survival. Advanced stealth technologies, advanced anti-radar weapons, and successful electronic jamming are required.

Air-launched decoys can help, and they are not a new concept by any means. The same technologies used in cruise missiles allow construction of “stealth in reverse” decoys that fly long distances along pre-planned flight patterns, carrying radar reflectors that simulate the radar return of fighter or bomber aircraft. Enemy air defenses see them as incoming aircraft, and must decide to either shut down and hide, or activate and reveal their position. If American aircraft are flying behind a wave a decoys, either option can be dangerous. The USAF’s ADM-160B/C Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) program began as a DARPA effort in 1996, but made it all the way into production, and is branching out into new fields. The US Navy already has their own ITALD, but they liked one of the new MALD variants enough to add it, too.

MALD and Its Variants MALDs, loading

The ADM-160 MALD has changed over its program lifespan. One big change was required range, which forced the Air Force to move to a larger decoy. That led to a re-compete, which Raytheon won from original incumbent Northrop Grumman in 2003. Prices have increased along with size and capability, from $30,000 to $120,000 per decoy. This is still much cheaper than a $70 million fighter. Range for the 300 pound system has also increased, to 500 nm/ 575 miles, with the ability to loiter over targets.

With its range and loiter time, however, MALD lends itself to other uses as well. One obvious use is to install radar jamming equipment, instead of radar reflecting equipment. The resulting system can add realism to an incoming wave of MALD decoys while neutralizing specific threats, or fly ahead on a mission of its own. The “MALD-J” electronics will have to be powerful enough to be useful, however, while remaining small and light enough to fit into a 300 pound MALD decoy.


The USAF wants to explore those possibilities. Raytheon received a 2-year, $80 million US Air Force contract for MALD-J Phase II risk reduction in April 2008, and MALD-J received its milestone C go-ahead into low-rate production in November 2011. Deliveries begun in the fall of 2012, for use with USAF F-16 fighters and B-52H bombers. Meanwhile, the US Navy is working to integrate it with its regular F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter fleet, as a lower-end alternative to its dedicated EA-18G Growler electronic attack variant.

A 3rd MALD type, MALD-V, would have an open payload space for insertion of modular surveillance gear, jammers, or other equipment. This may provide the go-forward architecture, and give customers the option of turning MALD into a UAV, or even a hunter-killer that homes in and destroys radars targeting it. But after several test failures in 2010/11, the Air Force clipped the program’s wings by terminating research on MALD-J Increment II.

Program Timeline Industrial Team

More than 125 Raytheon employees design and build the MALD and MALD-J in Tucson, AZ; Goleta, CA; and El Segundo, CA. Key suppliers for MALD and MALD-J components include:

  • AUSCO in Port Washington, NY
  • Advanced Industries Inc. in Wichita, KS
  • CEI in Sacramento, CA
  • Celestica in Austin, TX
  • Eagle Pitcher in Joplin, MO
  • EDO in Bohemia, NY
  • Enser in Pinellas Park, FL
  • Engineered Fabrics Corp in Rockmart, GA
  • GDOTS in Redmond, WA
  • Hamilton-Sundstrand in Rockford, IL & San Diego, CA
  • LaBarge in Joplin, MO
  • Moog in East Aurora, NY
  • Tecom in Westlake Village, CA
  • Teledyne Microelectronics in Los Angeles, CA
  • Daico, in Carson, CA
  • Cobham in San Diego, CA

Boeing and Lockheed Martin don’t supply components, but will be responsible for making MALDs work with their respective aircraft.

Contracts and Key Events FY 2014 – 2015

DOTE not sure about navigational accuracy. Lot 7 and beyond. Radio link.

Dec 9/14: data link. Almost 6 years after a January 2009 award to study the feasibility of adding a data link to MALD-J, Raytheon announces that it has conducted successful tests of that capability with the US Marines in Yuma, AZ. The benefit is to allow in-flight targeting adjustments.

Oct 15/14: Lot 9-11. The Air Force intends to award multiple sole source contracts for a total of $471M to Raytheon Missile Systems (RMS) for MALD-J lots 9-11; parts obsolescence management, sustainment, aircraft integration, non-warranty repair, technical support, and development of any future variants based on the MALD design.

June 30/14: USAF procurement. The Air Force releases a justification & approval document dated Oct. 31/12 that explains how lots 7 to 10 plan to procure 200 units each year from 2014 to 2017, on a Firm Fixed Price basis. Lots 7 and beyond should be contracted under a 10-year warranty, like lots 5 and 6, vs. 15 years for the first 4 lots. Source: FBO [PDF].

June 27/14: Lot 7. RMS is awarded a $80.8 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Lot 7 Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammer (MALD-J) missile that includes data, mission planning, process verification program, and operational flight software. Work will be performed at Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2016. Fiscal 2012, 2013 and 2014 procurement and operations and maintenance funds are being obligated in the amount of $79,112,476 at time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/EBJM, Eglin Air Force Base, FL, is the contracting activity (FA8682-14-C-0004).

shoot these drones

May 2014: state of program. Raytheon says it has delivered a total of 1,000 MALD-Js, and all 33 flights performed during the past 2 years were successful, without elaborating on the success criteria.

January 2014: DOTE. The Pentagon’s Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, released its FY2013 report, with a section on problem discovery affecting OT&E. On MALD-J:

“All MALD-J vehicles launched during developmental testing performed within the navigational accuracy requirements. During IOT&E at an open-air flight test range (a more challenging operationally representative environment), several MALD-J vehicles experienced unexpected navigational accuracy issues. There were several different causes of the navigational errors, all classified, but all arose from technical performance issues that should have been uncovered during developmental testing.”

There is also a dedicated brief [PDF] on the program that details test activity so far.

FY 2011 – 2013

Milestone C for MALD-J; Lot 4-6 orders are all MALD-Js; Work begins to add MALD-J to MQ-9 UAVs, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and transport aircraft; MALD-J Increment II terminated; MALD-V for surveillance? IOT&E. MALD CONOPS

April 22/13: Lot 6. Raytheon announces a USAF contract for 202 more MALD-Js and containers as Production Lot 6. It was exercised as an option under the Lot 5 contract “in Raytheon’s first quarter of 2013.”

As usual, contract work will take place primarily at Raytheon’s missile facility in Tucson, AZ.

Feb 13/13: MQ-9 UAVs. Raytheon Company and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. announce that they’re working to integrate MALD/MALD-J decoys onto the MQ-9 Reaper UAV. The Reaper’s slow speed means that their use would need to be timed well, and arranged carefully so as not to make their mission obvious. On the other hand, the Israelis have made an art form out of using drones to provoke air defense batteries into using their radars and communications, then harvesting the emissions for analysis and counter-programming. Enough of that in advance, and the MALDs could just look like the big killer strike wave has finally arrived.

Ground Verification Test phase completed in November 2012 at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, CaA. Integration is estimated to conclude in 2013.

Aug 22/12: Lot 5. An $81.8M firm-fixed price contract for MALD-Js, to be completed by the end of August 2014 (FA8682-12-C-0002).

July 6/12: F/A-18E/Fs. Raytheon announces that the MALD-J has begun integration with the US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. That will involve additional tests and demonstrations once work is finished to tie it into the Super Hornet’s systems. Meanwhile, the USAF is preparing to begin receiving MALD-Js for its F-16s and B-52s by the end of 2012.

The dedicated EA-18G Growler electronic warfare fighter doesn’t have the space to add MALD-J without badly compromising its range, but MALD-Js on regular Super Hornet fighters will give the US Navy additional electronic attack options beyond the Growler fleet.

June 01/12: In an interview with Defense Daily, Raytheon business development manager Jeffrey White defends the program, thanks to several successful tests so far this year. He adds that swarms of up to 192 decoys can be loaded on and dumped from heavy transport aircraft (see May 25/11 entry on MCALS). Now wouldn’t that be nice for business?

March 29/12: GAO report. The Government Accountability Office reviews the Pentagon’s airborne electronic attack efforts and starts its section on underperforming programs with MALD/MALD-J:

“In September 2011, citing ‘successful completion of MALD-J engineering and manufacturing development activities,’ the Air Force exercised a priced option to upgrade 240 of its planned MALD units to the MALD-J configuration, subsequently decreasing MALD quantities to 596. Because all future production lots are now planned as jammer-configured decoys (MALD-J), the 596 total represents the full MALD procurement – without the program having ever met the criteria necessary to proceed into full rate production. Since the MALD and MALD-J designs are identical – except for the addition of a jammer module to MALD-J–the absence of a proven manufacturing process for MALD introduces schedule risk to production of MALD-J.”

February 27/12: The FY 2013 President Budget terminates work on MALD-J Increment II. The USAF had previously planned to spend $272 million in order to develop this new version, which was intended to improve sensitivity and jamming power.

No MALD-J Increment II

Dec 2011: DOTE. The Director, Operational Test & Evaluation, issues its annual report [PDF]. They are satisfied by the Air Force’s follow-up on past recommendations, but urge a change to the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) so that some decoys can be used during exercises and training. The current CONOPS doesn’t allow that because of the device’s expendable nature. Overall, 2011 has been a better year for MALD-J than MALD.

Nov 29/11: Raytheon announces that the USAF has approved the MALD-J jammer variant for Milestone C, clearing it to enter Low Rate Initial Production. They also exercised a $5 million contract option, to convert Lot 4 production of the baseline MALDs into MALD-Js.

Milestone C

Sept 6/11: Raytheon touts a successful test with multiple MALD-Js in both free-flight and carry modes, simulating an electronic attack. That’s the last major hurdle toward a Functional Configuration Audit, and once that’s official, the USAF could authorize Milestone C and begin production by the end of 2011.

June 29/11: Boeing touts the first MALD-J powered launch “earlier this month” from a B-52 flying over the Gulf of Mexico, at the Eglin Air Force Base, FL test range. Boeing designed the avionics software on board the B-52 that controls and launches Raytheon’s MALD-J. Boeing.

May 27/11: LRIP-4. Raytheon Missile Co. in Tucson, AZ receives an $83 million firm-fixed-price contract modification MALD low rate initial production lot four (LRIP-4) production.

Work will be performed at Tucson, AZ. The contract is managed by the AAC/EBJM at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (FA8682-10-C-0007, PO 0019).

May 27/11: MALD-J/V. A Flight International article discusses US Navy interest in the USAF’s jammer variant, and notes work on a MALD-V, with an empty payload compartment that could carry surveillance payloads as well.

May 25/11: MALD MCALS. Raytheon announces that they’ve launched two MALD “instrumented shapes” from the ramp of a C-130 Hercules, using the new Raytheon-funded MALD Cargo Air Launched System (MCALS).

Adding cargo aircraft as a platform would offer many more options for using MALDs, on both combat strike and cargo missions. MCALS’ steel, birdcage-like framework body sits on a standard cargo pallet, and can hold as many as 8 MALDs. At a pre-determined altitude, the ramp is opened and MCALS rapidly ejects the MALDs, which then initiate a standard wing deployment and engine ignition sequence.


“Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division plans to enter into a five year Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) with Raytheon Missile Systems… ceiling in the amount of [$12.5 million, for] engineering, logistics and test support, test item hardware and software, support equipment hardware and software, prototypes, test and assembly fixtures, repair services, training, and various data products. This requirement will be negotiated on a sole source basis in accordance with the statutory authority 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1) as implemented by FAR 6.302-1… The POC for information regarding this requirement is Mr. Matthew Lucas, Code CXMN, telephone (812)854-8864, fax 812-854-3805 or send a request via e-mail (E-MAIL preferred)…”

FY 2006 – 2010

MALD-J: From initial R&D to EMD contract and free flight; MALD free-flight from F-16; USAF reaches initial target level for MALDs. MALD
(click to view full)

May 5/10: LRIP-3. Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ receives a $96.7 million MALD low rate initial production contract for a 24-month effort, to include operational test and evaluation. Raytheon expects to supply 300 MALD decoys. At this time, $89.8 million has been committed by the 692th ARSS/PK at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (FA8682-10-C-0007).

Raytheon has already delivered more than 100 units to the USAF, and this Lot-III order for 300 is nearly equal to the total of Lots I and II combined. Additionally, the contract requires the delivery of the MALD-Jammer, in preparation for the MALD-J initial operational test and evaluation phase. Raytheon release

April 30/10: MALD-J EMD. Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ receives a $53.1 million contract to develop the MALD-J active jamming variant. This includes the associated engineering, program management, supportability, mission planning, modeling and simulation, hardware fabrication, production readiness, software and testing efforts. At this time, $24.5 million has been committed by the 692th ARSS/PK at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (FA8682-10-C-0010).

During EMD, Raytheon will put MALD-J through an aggressive series of free-flight and captive-carry tests, in order to meet the required operational availability date of 2012. Raytheon states that MALD-J has successfully completed all 27 test events so far, culminating in a free-flight test in December 2009, and a 2nd free-flight test April 27/10. Production is expected to begin in 2011. Ken Watson, the U.S. Air Force’s MALD program manager, explains the stakes:

“In executing the MALD-J program, Raytheon has been ahead of schedule and under budget for 39 months in a row… The success of this program is crucial because it will reduce or eliminate the need for manned stand-in jamming aircraft.”


March 31/10: MALD. Raytheon announces that they have now delivered “an operationally significant quantity” of MALD decoys to the USAF, allowing the service to reach its “required assets available” as scheduled. Raytheon had committed to a 2010 delivery schedule in 2003.

Raytheon will continue to deliver additional MALDs to the U.S. Air Force, and expects to deliver its first system to the U.S. Air Force in 2012. It also says that it “continues to make progress developing a jamming variant of the MALD.”

Feb 18/10: MALD-J. Raytheon announces that the USAF completed a critical design review (CDR) for the MALD-J variant. Passing the CDR follows completion of the 1st MALD-J free-flight test in December 2009. This sets the stage for a final system design and development and low rate initial production.


Jan 13/10: MALD-J. Raytheon announces that the USAF completed the 1st free-flight test of the MALD-J variant. The test demonstrated that the MALD-J has reached a technology readiness level 7 and sets the stage for the system to enter engineeing and manufacturing development. The Feb 18/10 announcement notes that the free-flight test was conducted in December 2009.

June 14/09: MALD-J. Raytheon announces that the company and the USAF completed a preliminary design review of the MALD-J variant.


March 17/09: MALD-J. Raytheon announces that the USAF accepted delivery of the 1st MALD low-rate initial production unit. With this delivery, Raytheon said that it is on schedule to meet the USAF required asset availability date of March 2010.

1st MALD-J delivery

Jan 15/09: Datalink? Raytheon announces that it received a $12.2 million USAF contract to study the feasibility of increasing power and adding a data link capability for the MALD-J. The contract requires Raytheon to integrate a data link and more powerful jammer amplifiers into the baseline MALD/MALD-J vehicle. Raytheon will also determine the technical feasibility and performance capability of MALD-J Block II prior to building and flight testing the new vehicle.

April 9/08: MALD-J. Raytheon announces that it received a 2-year, $80 million contract from the USAF for Phase II risk reduction for the MALD-J. The contract calls for Raytheon to further develop, integrate and test the MALD-J variant.

MALD-J Phase II Dev

Feb 26/08: MALD. Raytheon announces that MALD completed government and Raytheon verification team flight testing on Jan 11/08. This sets the stage for MALD to enter low-rate initial production later in 2008. The testing, which began in June 2007, put the MALD through a series of flight profiles including jettison and powered flight tests from both F-16 and B-52 aircraft.

MALD flight testing

Oct 24/06: MALD. Raytheon announces that a series of MALD vehicles have demonstrated successful separation when launched from an F-16 fighter. The flight tests took place at Eglin Air Force Base, FL, under a development contract managed by the 728th Armament Systems Group. In total, 9 free-flight launches took place from May to July 2006 at Eglin.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Naval Swiss Army Knife: MK 41 Vertical Missile Launch Systems (VLS)

Sat, 12/13/2014 - 08:00
MK 41s in action
(click to view full)

The naval MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) hides missiles below decks in vertical slots, with key electronics and venting systems built in. A deck and hatch assembly at the top of the module protects the missile canisters from the elements, and from other hazards during storage. Once the firing sequence begins, the hatches open to permit missile launches of various types. It is also being adapted for land use, as part of the USA’s plan to forward-deploy ballistic missile defense in allied countries.

The Mk.41 is the most widely-used naval VLS in the world, in service with the US Navy and with many countries outside the United States. Lockheed Martin is the system’s prime contractor, with components and canisters provided by BAE Systems Land & Armaments. In September 2011, however, the US Navy assumed the final integrator role.

A Naval Swiss Army Knife: The MK 41 VLS MK 41, loading
(click for alternate view)

More than 11,000 MK.41 VLS missile cells have been delivered, or are on order, for use on 186 ships and 19 ship classes, in 11 navies around the world. This system currently serves with the US Navy as well as the Australian, Canadian, Dutch, German, Japanese, New Zealand, Norwegian, South Korean, Spanish, and Turkish navies. The UK seems to be next.

The MK 41 VLS can hold a wide variety of missiles: anti-air and ballistic missile defense (Sea Sparrow, ESSM, Standard family), anti-submarine (VLASROC), land-attack (Tomahawk) and more. One simply drops different missile canisters into the MK 41’s common interface.

The Housing: VLS Cells

The MK 41 VLS is itself available in 3 different sizes, to meet differing hull and mission requirements:

  • The Strike length MK 41 is the largest system accommodating the widest variety of missiles, up to and including Tomahawk cruise missiles for land attack, and SM-3s for ballistic missile defense. Its capabilities cover almost every mission in naval warfare: anti-air, anti-submarine, ship self-defense, land attack, and ballistic missile defense. In future, it also has the potential to carry anti-ship missiles, like the LRASM/OASuW. A land-based version will make up part of the USA’s “Aegis Ashore” missile defense complexes in Romania and Poland.

  • The Tactical length Mk 41 is over 7 feet shorter than the Strike length, and can accommodate a variety of missiles up to approximately 18.5 feet in length. SM-2 Standard and RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow air defense missiles, and VL-ASROC anti-submarine missiles, will fit in a tactical length cell.

  • The Self-Defense Launcher (SDL) is specifically designed to carry self-defense missiles for small ships, and is shorter and lighter than the other variants. Its size and weight are designed to accommodate smaller ships like corvettes and frigates, as well as aircraft carriers with limited deck and hull space.

The MK 41’s most recent Baseline VII upgrade was rolled out in 2004, upgrading the module’s electronics. Advances include cell-based architecture, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) processors, a modern real-time operating system, programming written in the object-oriented C++ language, Ethernet communications, and fiber optic channels, all within an open architecture approach. These changes opened the door to compliance with the US Navy’s Open Architecture Initiative, added RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile capability, and improved life cycle maintenance and future upgradability.

This Baseline VII configuration is currently fielded on new U.S. Navy destroyers (DDG 91 and later); efforts are underway to modernize the USA’s CG-47 Ticonderoga Class missile cruisers, and eventually older Arleigh Burke Class destroyers as well.

The Blades: Canisters & Inserts

The key to the system’s flexibility is its canisters, which come in different vertical sizes. The canisters serve as missile shipping and storage containers. During missile launch, they provide an internal launch rail and help contain the rocket motor’s exhaust gas. Tactical-length canisters can use adapters in order to fit into strike-length Mk.41 cells, but you can’t fit a strike-length canister into a smaller tactical-length cell. Designations include:

  • Mk.13: Tactical length canister for standard size SM-2 air defense missile variants
  • Mk.14: Strike length canister for BGM-109 TLAM Tomahawk cruise missiles
  • Mk.15: Tactical length canister for VL-ASROC anti-submarine rockets
  • Mk.21: Strike length canister for SM-2 Block IV and SM-3 Block I long-range air/ballistic missile defense missiles. The MOD 3 variant supports the new SM-6 successor to the SM-2.
  • Mk.25: Tactical length Quad-pack canister for RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow air defense missiles
  • Mk.29: Strike length canister for the future SM-3 Block II ballistic missile defense missiles, which are wider. Uses more composites for lighter weight.

Inserts can also enhance a cell’s flexibility. Lockheed Martin’s Extensible Launching System (ExLS) is, in effect, a semi-permanent Mk.41 canister that acts as a quad-pack adapter, allowing ships to fire smaller weapons like Nulka anti-missile decoys, RIM-116 RAM block 2 defensive missiles, or even small land attack missiles, from their Mk.41/Mk.57 vertical launchers. ExLS can also be hosted in a ship on its own, creating an independent launch system that competes with the Mk.41 SDL.

The MK41 VLS system’s leading competitor is DCNS’ Sylver family of launchers. They equip the French Navy’s Charles de Gaulle nuclear aircraft carrier, the Franco-Italian Horizon Class frigates, the UK’s Type 45 destroyers, and Saudi Arabia’s LaFayette-derived Sawari II frigates, among others. In 2005 the Sylver launcher was also picked to equip the multi-role Franco-Italian FREMM frigates, which have been ordered by France, Italy, Algeria, and Morocco.

MK 41 VLS Contracts

Unless otherwise indicated, all contracts are issued by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (NAVSEA).

FY 2014-2015

No one to compete with Lockheed Martin. UK adoption. More LockMart, more cowbell

Dec 12/14: N00024-13-R-5332 Award. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training is awarded a $235.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for MK 41 electronic and mechanical modules and related equipment, that can reach $356.8M with options. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (69.5%) and the governments of Saudi Arabia (26.3%) and Norway (4.2%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (95.1%); Orlando, FL (4%); and Clearwater, FL (0.9%), and is expected to be completed by March 2022. Funds come from the Navy’s FY 2013 and 2014 shipbuilding/conversion and other procurement; FY 2014 Defense-wide procurement funds; and FY 2014 research, development, test and evaluation.

October 9/14: UK. In a reply to Rory Stewart, the Chairman of the House of Commons Defence Committee, Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon wrote that a Flexible Strike Silo fitted with Mk41 launchers will be part of Type 26 frigates. Source: MoD/House of Commons [PDF].

Aug 14/14: FY13-17. NAVSEA completed its initial evaluation of proposals received in answer to the VLS Electronic and Mechanical Launcher Production solicitation N00024-13-R-5332 (q.v. Feb 13/13) which closed on Nov. 21, 2013. Bad news for the Pentagon’s goal to compete more contracts: just one offer “was determined to be in the competitive range” and other competitors are closed from the solicitation.

FY 2011-2013

USN takes over integrator role from Lockheed Martin; MoU with MBDA could change the industry; MK-41 for British Type 45 ships? FY13-17 plans. MK 41 line drawing

July 25/13: Support. BAE Land & Armaments LP’s US Combat Systems division in Minneapolis, MN receives a $9.2 million contract modification for MK-41 engineering services. They’ll support of research, development, test, evaluation, upgrades, operation, maintenance and product improvements for the US Navy (96.02%), and for the governments of South Korea (3.49%); the Netherlands (0.38%) and Canada (0.11%).

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Minneapolis, MN (87%); Brea, CA (12%); and Aberdeen, SD (1%), and is expected to be complete by September 2013. $89,928 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13 (N00024-13-C-5325).

June 28/13: Multi-Year Canister deal. BAE Systems’ US Combat Systems group in Minneapolis, MN, is being awarded a $40.3 million firm-fixed-price contract, covering FY 2013 orders for MK 14 MOD 2 (Tomahawk), MK 21 MOD 2 (SM-3), MK 21 MOD 3 (SM-6), and MK 25 MOD 0 (ESSM) VLS Canisters; ancillary hardware; and associated support equipment. All funds are committed immediately. This is the initial award for the advertised FY 2013 – 2017 contract (q.v. May-June 2012 entry), though its period of performance could run through 2019 if all options are exercised. BAE cites a maximum possible value of over $400 million.

The initial $40.3 million contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (96.7%) and the government of Thailand (3.3%) under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. In January 2013, Thailand opted for a limited initial buy of 9 RIM-162 ESSM missiles. They’ll equip its 2 Chinese-built Naresuan Class frigates, which carry American Mk.41 VLS systems.

Work will be performed in Aberdeen, SD (90%), and Minneapolis, MN (10%), and is expected to be complete by by July 2015. This contract was competitively procured via and the Navy Electronic Commerce Online websites, but just 1 offer was received. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C. manages the contract (N00024-13-C-5314). See also BAE Systems.

June 27/13: Support. As the Mk.41’s Mechanical Design Agent, BAE Systems announces a $91.4 million contract from the U.S. Navy to develop technical solutions for new canister (incl. Mk.29) and missile integration, as well as launcher improvements, and continued support of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Program and Aegis Ashore. BAE.

May 15/13: MBDA MoU. MBDA signs an MoU with Lockheed Martin Lockheed Martin that has the potential to shake up the naval missile industry. It sounds innocuous: both companies agree to jointly explore the market for the integration of MBDA naval missile systems into Lockheed Martin’s MK-41 Vertical Launch System, and ExLS VLS/cell insert.

They’ll begin with a late 2013 demonstration involving Britain’s new CAMM-M Sea Ceptor missile, but the implications reach far beyond. MBDA has a wide array of naval missiles for both air defense and precision attack, but most are compatible only with DCNS’ rival SYLVER system. Adding those missiles to the Mk-41 would give it overwhelming dominance in the global naval market. Read “CAMM Opener for the Naval Missile Market: MBDA & LMCO’s MoU” for full coverage.

MK.41 MoU with MBDA

Feb 13/13: New plan for FY13-17. NAVSEA cancels the presolicitation that it had issued in the summer 2012 (N00024-12-R-5320) and replaces it with N00024-13-R-5332. In it they announce their intent to issue a single solicitation in March 2013 for the MK 41 VLS Launcher Production Contract for FY13-17 launchers, ancillary hardware, and associated support equipment in support of US Navy, AEGIS Ashore, and Allied Navy requirements.

These requirements consist of up to 120 modules (10 USN DDG 51 Class shipsets), 3 AEGIS Ashore modules, up to 48 Allied Navy modules, and VLS upgrade kits and spares for Aegis Modernization (AMOD) and DDG modernization programs.

Mechanical and electronic requirements may end up addressed by a single contract or separate ones.

Sept 14/12: FY 2012 Canisters. BAE Systems Land and Armaments’ US Combat Systems Division in Minneapolis, MN receives a $7.3 million contract modification for MK 21 MOD 2 SM-3 canisters, as well as canisters to fit SM-2, SM-6, and RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow air defense missiles, VL-ASROC anti-submarine weapons, and RGM-109 tactical Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles.

Work will be performed in Aberdeen, SD (87%) and Minneapolis, MN (13%), and is expected to run until July 2014. US Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-10-C-5349).

July-Aug 2012: pre-RFP. On July 2 NAVSEA issued a presolicitation (N0002412R5320) in advance of issuing an RFP in September for the production of MK 41 launchers and ancillaries over the FY13-17 period to align with the MYP procurement of the underlying ships. They intend to award a single Firm Fixed Price contract via full and open competition. The award is planned for January 2014, with work lasting until 2020. Like in the case of the separate RFP for canisters, allied countries are taken care of within this contract.

Since then NAVSEA has updated its presolicitation, including a short set of questions and answers posted on Aug 20/12 following an Industry Day on Aug 7/12. Offerors must be US-based, but the winning prime can subcontract to qualified foreign subcontractors. NAVSEA has indicated, however, that do not want any subcontractor to have more than 20% of the total contract. The slides used during that event are classified Distribution F – thus, you will not find them posted here, nor on or NECO.

May-June 2012: Canisters. NAVSEA released a presolicitation (N0002412R5314) in preparation of an FY13-17 production contract for MK 41 VLS MK 14 Mod 2, MK 21 Mod 2, MK 21 Mod 3, and MK 25 Mod 0 canisters. An Industry Day took place on June 4. The final RFP is expected for the summer 2012, while the award planned for May 2013 will reward the winning bid with a Firm Fixed Price contract via full and open competition. As of February 2012, Chris Deegan, the Executive Director PEO IWS, estimated [PDF] the value of this award at $710M.

March 29/12: 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). See also BAE release.

Feb 9/12: BAE Systems’ U.S. Combat Systems division in Minneapolis, MN receives an $8.75 million contract modification for MK-41 technical and engineering services. Work will be performed in Minneapolis, MN (82%), Brea, CA (17%), and Aberdeen, SD (1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2012 (N00024-09-C-5394).

Jan 10/12: Lockheed Martin MS2 in Baltimore, MD receives a $20.6 million modification to previously awarded contract for MK 41 VLS production support material, interim support parts, and equipment to support construction of new Arleigh Burke Class Flight IIA destroyers.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (41.1%); Lewisburg, TN (19.1%); Fort Walton Beach, FL (18.8%); Johnstown, PA (9.2%); Simpsonville, SC (5.5%); Clearwater, FL (3.2%); and Sterling Heights, MI (3.1%). Work is expected to be complete by June 2015. US Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-11-C-5302).

Nov 23/11: Lockheed Martin MS2 in Baltimore, MD receives an $11.7 million contract modification for MK 41 VLS ordnance alteration kits, production support material, interim support parts, and equipment in support of DDG 51 class destroyer new construction, overall Aegis modernization programs, and land-based Aegis Ashore programs. Aegis Ashore is likely to require significant physical engineering changes, while the electronics need to be kept up to date with planned upgrades to the Aegis combat system and other shipboard equipment.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (41.1%); Lewisburg, TN (19.1%); Ft Walton Beach, FL (18.8%); Johnstown, PA (9.2%); Simpsonville, SC (5.5%); Clearwater, FL (3.2%); and Sterling Heights, MI. (3.1%), and is expected to be complete by September 2014. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC issues the contracts.

Sept 22/11: Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors (MS2) in Baltimore MD receives an $8.8 million contract modification to provide electrical design agent services for the MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS). Work can include the integration of new missiles into VLS; integration of VLS into new ships; technical refresh; systems engineering; computer program engineering; and failure analyses.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (82%), and Ventura, CA (18%), and is expected to be complete by December 2012.

Sept 1/11: Aviation Week reports that the U.S. Navy’s Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) will now acquire FY 2010-2012 VLS launcher module mechanical structures directly from the subcontractor, and assume the role of major systems integrator. PEO IWS VLS Program Manager Toan Nguyen:

“We broke the mold on an established business engagement and emphasized a message of affordability… By eliminating efforts associated with managing the major subcontractor, we have gained efficiency while retaining our efficient manufacturing and integration processes.”

June 29/11: Lockheed Martin MS2 in Baltimore, MD receives a $13.1 million contract modification for MK 41 VLS ordnance alteration kits, production support material, interim support parts, and equipment in support of DDG 51-class new construction, and of Aegis modernization programs for the Navy’s CG-47 cruisers and DDG-51 destroyers.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (29.5%); Ft. Walton Beach, FL (18.8%); Moorestown, NJ (11.6%); Lewisburg, TN (10.1%); Johnstown, PA (9.2%); Owego, NY (9.0%); Simpsonville, SC (5.5%); Clearwater, FL (3.2%); and Sterling Heights, MI (3.1%), and is expected to be complete by June 2013 (N00024-11-C-5302).

June 20/11: Mk41 for British Type 45 destroyers? Raytheon Missile Systems VP Ed Miyashiro is telling journalists that a number of other platforms are being looked at for NATO/European ballistic missile defense, including Britain’s Type 45s. The ship class’ MBDA Aster-30 missiles have just begun land tests against ballistic missiles, but Raytheon’s SM-3 family has both a longer testing record, and an SM-3 Block II that promises very significant performance improvements. For cash-strapped European governments, it also comes with much cheaper missile defense development costs, thanks to American and Japanese advance work.

The issue would be integration. Spanish F100 frigates are the most straightforward, with the same AN/SPY-1D radars and Mk.41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) as American ships. The same AEGIS BMD upgrade set used in American destroyers would suffice. Dutch and German F124 frigates, and the pending Danish Ivar Huitfeldt Class ships, also carry the MK.41 VLS, but use higher-performance Thales APAR and SMART-L radars. That requires additional integration and modification work, but all 3 classes are using a shared core system. The British, French, and Italian ships would be the most work. While they all share a similar core air defense system, they all use different radars, while sharing key electronics and DCNS’ Sylver VLS. That means both electronics work, and physical changes to the weapons array. In his conversations, Miyashiro mentions that they’re looking into the possibility of fielding SM-3 compatible inserts in DCNS’ Sylver A70 VLS, which is the required size for the 6.6 meter SM-3. Britain’s Type 45 Daring Class has space for adding the larger Sylver A70 launchers up front, but Miyashiro has reportedly said that they’re also looking at the possibility of inserting the Mk.41 VLS there.

A Mk.41 VLS would require some combat system integration, in exchange for very wide flexibility beyond the SM-3s. It would also give the Daring Class the ability to use an array of new weapons, including Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles, which current British doctrine will only fire from submarines. Aviation Week | Defense News.

June 3/11: BAE Systems Land & Armaments, LP in Minneapolis, MN wins a $54.6 million firm-fixed-price sole-source contract for MK 41 Vertical Launching System mechanical modules and related equipment and services. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring its cumulative value to $55.5 million.

The launchers will be installed in 3 different DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Flight IIA destroyers: HII’s DDG 113 & 114, and Bath Iron Works’ DDG-115. Each ship will receive 2 sets, for a total of 6. Production on the missile launchers will begin in June 2011 and run through 2013, though the contract runs to September 2015. Work will be performed in Aberdeen, SD (45%); Aiken, SC (25%); York, PA (20%); Louisville, KY (5%); and Fridley, MN (5%). Work is expected to be complete by September 2015 (N00024-11-C-5301). See also BAE release.

March 30/11: BAE Systems in Minneapolis, MN receives an $8.9 million contract modification to help integrate wider (21″ vs. 13.5″) SM-3 Block II missiles into the MK 41 vertical launching system. The firm will provide design, analysis, and test services for the MK 29 Mod 0 canister in support of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), and engineering services for MK 21 Mod 3 canisters and MK 41 installation efforts.

Work will be performed in Minneapolis, MN (77%), and Brea, CA (23%), and is expected to be complete by December 2011 (N00024-09-C-5394).

Nov 29/10: The US Navy’s PEO-Integrated Warfare Systems issues a readiness and sustainment contract to BAE Systems, to establish and maintain the ship interfaces for the Standard Missile family. That includes, but is not exclusive to, the Mk41 vertical launch systems carrying the missiles. These services include systems and software engineering, systems integration, testing, and computer-aided design. The contract has a 1-year base period, with up to 4 one-year options. If all options are exercised, it will be worth $60 million. Work will be conducted at a BAE Systems Support Solutions facility in Rockville, MD, and at customer sites in Tucson, AZ and around the world.

Under the same contract, the company also works with the Navy to support Standard Missile family interfaces for Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Taiwan. BAE Systems.

Nov 19/10: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors, Ships and Aviation Systems in Baltimore, MD receives a $24.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising to exercise the 2nd option for spare and repair parts used in the MK-41 vertical launching system.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (15%), and Ventura, CA (85%), and is expected to be complete by November 2014. The Naval Inventory Control Point in Mechanicsburg, PA manages this contract (N00104-01-D-ZD52).

FY 2009- 2010

New canister for SM-3 Block II, SM-6; ExLS fit-in adds versatility; Turkish request. ExLS, explained
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Sept 30/10: Successful thermal model testing of the new Mk.29 VLS canister on board the US Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship. NSWC Port Hueneme engineers took the lead in coordinating the event requirements and schedule, prepared the ship for testing, reviewed test planning documentation, provided 7 other VLS canisters for the test event and conducted the onload and offload of the 8 VLS canisters to and from the test ship.

The canister and missile used were the MK 29 Mod 0 Prototype P1 canister and SM-3 Blk IIA engineering unit inert missile. The Mk29 canister is designed to house the future SM-3 Block IIA , which is 21″ wide throughout. The SM-3 Block 1s, which fit into Mk21 canisters, are just 13.5″ wide above the booster stage. The MK 29 canister design is also a departure from previous VLS canister designs, using mostly composite materials in order to reduce weight. US NAVSEA.

Aug 11/10: Lockheed Martin announces a successful test-firing of a Nulka decoy from their new Extensible Launching System (ExLS) insert. ExLS allows a ship to launch launch of smaller payloads like Nulka decoys or NLOS-LS missiles from Mk41 VLS or larger Mk57 PVLS VLS cells. This avoids deck mountings that might compromise stealth, or custom launchers with their added costs.

The flight test at Eglin AFB, FL comes after 3 years of development and integration, and demonstrated the new launcher in a fully tactical configuration. The ExLS test was conducted with support from the Naval Surface Warfare Centers at Dahlgren, VA and Crane, IN, as well as Nulka developer BAE Systems Australia.

June 30/10: BAE Systems, Land & Armaments, LP, U.S. Combat Systems, Minneapolis, Minn., is being awarded a $9.1 million contract modification for FY 2009 canister production of MK25 Evolved Seasparrow quad-pack canisters.

Work will be performed in Aberdeen, SD (80%); Odessa, MO (10%); and Minneapolis, MN (10%); and is expected to be completed by February 2012 (N00024-09-C-5317).

April 13/10: BAE Systems Land and Armaments’ U.S. Combat Systems division in Minneapolis, MN receives an $8.6 million not-to-exceed contract modification to integrate SM-3 and SM-6 ERAM missiles into Mk.41 canisters and launchers. This mechanical design agent work will be performed in Minneapolis, MN (80%), Brea, CA (15%), and San Diego, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete by April 2011 (N00024-09-C-5394). SM-3s have already been fired from Mk.41 launchers as a matter of course. In response to DID’s questions, BAE Systems said that their work extended to new variants:

“…yes, there are several versions of SM-3 [to integrate, as well as the new SM-6]; we are working for the US Navy to integrate them with Mk 41 and to design missile canisters for them. We coordinate Mk 41 launcher integration with our teammate Lockheed Martin.”

Feb 1/10: Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Baltimore MD received a $31.4 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract to be the electrical design agent for the MK 41 VLS, on behalf of the USN and 8 allied navies. It combines purchases for the US Navy (26.7%), and the governments of Japan (29.7%), Turkey (14.2%), Australia (7.7%), Spain (7.0%), Canada (6.0%), South Korea (5.0%), Netherlands (2.1%), and Germany (1.6%); and includes options which, if exercised, would bring its cumulative value to $104.9 million over 4 years.

Efforts under the contract include design agent services to support the MK 41 VLS program and the life cycle support facility through efforts such as the integration of new missiles into the VLS, integration of VLS into new ships, technical refresh, systems engineering, computer program engineering, and failure analyses.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (92%); and Ventura, CA (8%); and is expected to be completed by September 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $3.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command at the Washington Navy Yard, DC (N00024-10-C-5347). See also Lockheed Martin release

SM-3 Evolution
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Aug 6/09: BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP’s U.S. Combat Systems in Minneapolis, MN received a $7.5 million ceiling cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for canister integration and mechanical design agent services related to the Mk 41 VLS’ fit with Standard Missile (SM) SM-3 and forthcoming SM-6 missiles. The SM-6 is a new missile that will replace the SM-2, while SM-3 is adding new features, and SM-3 Block II will widen the missile body to 21″. BAE would later inform DID that this contract was specifically targeted at the SM-3 Block IIA, along with SM-6.

Work will be performed in Minneapolis, MN (90%); Brea, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete by August 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-09-C-5394).

March 20/09: Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Baltimore, MD received a fixed-price, not-to-exceed $49.9 million contract for FY 2009 MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) production and delivery requirements. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (43%), and for the governments of Turkey (56%) and Australia (1%t) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (64%); Minneapolis, MN (19%); Fort Walton Beach, FL (14%); Eagan, MN (2%); and Virginia Beach, VA (1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2012. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-09-C-5392).

Nov 20/08: Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors (MS2) received a $6.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract for design agent engineering services. They will support updated MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) installation in the U.S. Navy’s CG-47 Ticonderoga Class guided missile cruiser modernization program, and the Turkish Navy’s MEKO Track IIA and IIB frigates.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (84%) and Ventura, CA (16%), and is expected to be complete by May 2009 (N00024-04-C-5453). See also Lockheed Martin release.

April 4/08: Turkey request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Turkey’s formal request for 6 MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) Baseline VII tactical modules, and 2 sets of MK 41 VLS upgrade kits. They would be used to modernize 2 MEKO Track IIA frigates and 4 ex-FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates, and to upgrade 2 MEKO Track IIB frigates’ MK-41 VLS from baseline IV to baseline VII configuration. Updates to the ships’ fire control system upgrades will add RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile capability. Services will include installation and testing, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, equipment operation and maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, support and test equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, launch system software development and maintenance and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $227 million.

The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors of Baltimore, MD, and Moorestown, NJ. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale, and implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government representatives or contractor representatives to Turkey.

FY 2006 – 2007

Turkish & Australian orders; Open architecture upgrades for USN. SM-2 launch
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Aug 30/07: Turkish order. Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems in Baltimore, MD received a $6.4 million firm-fixed-price modification #P00121 to previously awarded contract (N00024-98-C-5363) for procurement of 2 MK 41 Vertical Launching System shipsets for the Government of Turkey under the Foreign Military Sales Program. This procurement will include spares, special tools, test equipment, material and services to refurbish fixtures and transport equipment.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (70%) and Minneapolis, MN (30%), and is expected to be complete by March 2010.

Aug 15/07: The US Navy’s Open Architecture Initiative is placing a strong focus on a new electronics approach for its new ships and its upgrade programs. Open architecture exploits commercial computing technology standards, which makes it easier for the Navy to switch vendors, replace components, and perform upgrades when necessary.

Lockheed Martin’s release describes their Mk41 VLS open architecture efforts, from past upgrades that laid the foundation, to current efforts aimed at making the system’s software “portable” across different computer processors and operating systems, to future efforts aimed at greater software modularity and re-use.

July 26/07: Lockheed Martin announces a $23.2 million firm fixed price contract modification to upgrade MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) on the USA’s CG-47 Ticonderoga Class guided missile cruisers to Baseline VII status. The effort is part of Naval Sea Systems Command’s Cruiser Modernization Program, which will update the ships’ combat systems, as well as the hull, mechanical and electrical systems.

Specifically, Lockheed Martin will provide new electronics hardware to upgrade the MK 41 VLS to Baseline VII on 2 of the 16 modules aboard the USA’s 22 serving CG 47-class ships (each module is 8 cells). The upgrade will extend the multi-mission launching system capability to include the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), which will let the ships carry up to 64 of these air defense missiles in their 16 modernized Baseline VII cells. Lockheed Martin release.

March 15/07: BAE Armament Systems Division in Minneapolis, MN received a $19.1 million fixed-price-award-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-5464) for procurement of FY 2007 MK 14 MOD 2 Canisters. It covers the renewal and upgrade of 145 existing canisters and the manufacturing of 97 new MK 14 canisters, and includes packaging, handling, storage, transportation equipment, and FY07 reconfigurable coding plug assemblies. Work will be performed in Aberdeen, SD; deliveries are expected to begin by summer 2008, and are expected to be complete by January 2009. BAE release.

MK 14 canisters for the MK 41 vertical launching system, store, transport in safety, and enable loading of Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles into the MK 41 vertical launching systems aboard DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers and CG-47 Ticonderoga Class cruisers.

“This contract modification will bring the total of renewed and upgraded canisters under this contract to 1036 MK 14 canisters and the production of 97 MK 14 Mod 2 canisters,” said Gary Tatge, BAE’s program manager of the MK 41 VLS and canisters.

March 13/07: Lockheed Martin Corp. Maritime System and Sensors – Marine Systems in Baltimore, MD received a $16.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-98-C-5363) to provide MK 41 Baseline VII Vertical Launching System launcher ship sets for 3 Royal Australian Navy Air Warfare Destroyer Class (Project SEA 4000) ships and Spain’s new F100 Alvaro de Bazan Class frigate [F-105, unnamed as of this writing] under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program.

The modification combines purchases for the governments of Australia (73%) and Spain (27%), and includes the labor associated with production of installation and checkout (INCO) spares, INCO special tools and test equipment, onboard repair parts and other ancillary equipment. Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD and is expected to be completed by December 2009.

Jan 30/07: Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, MD received a $5.6 million cost-plus-award-fee modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-5453). It exercises options for technical engineering services in support of MK 41 Vertical Launching System Integration for the Governments of Spain (60%); Australia (37%); Germany (2%); and Korea (1%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (80%) and Ventura, CA (20%), and is expected to be complete by October 2008.

Nov 20/06: Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors (MS2) Littoral Ships and Systems in Baltimore, MD received $26.6 million to exercise an option under previously awarded contract (N00104-01-D-ZD52) for the manufacture of spare and repair parts used in the MK-41 Vertical Launching System. This will be an undefinitized contractual action for the MK-41 Vertical Launching System Performance Based Logistics (PBL) supply support contract. Work will be performed in Ventura, CA (85%) and Baltimore, MD (15%) and is expected to be complete by November 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Inventory Control Point in Mechanicsburg, PA.

Nov 9/06: Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, MD received an $8.7 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-5453) to provide funding for technical instructions that will authorize engineering and technical services support for logistics (requisition and repairs), system integration, product improvement, and production support of MK 41 VLS equipment for new construction ships. This is referred to as “exercise options for engineering and technical services in support of the FY 2007 Vertical Launching System (VLS) Depot, Installation & Check-out (INCO), and logistic requirements.”

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (86%) and Ventura, CA (14%) and the work is expected to be complete by October 2007 (N00024-04-C-5453).

Nov 9/06: Lockheed Martin Maritime System and Sensors/ Littoral Ships and Systems in Baltimore, MD received a $60.7 million firm-fixed-price modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-98-C-5363) for procurement of four MK 41, MOD 15 Baseline VII, Vertical Launcher Ship (VLS) Sets. This work is taking place on behalf the Governments of Australia (73.2%) and Spain (26.8%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

Lockheed will also provide launcher support equipment and the associated labor for establishing material requisitions, program scheduling requirements, and establishment of purchase orders with suppliers and performance of necessary business and production operations. Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (52.7%), Minneapolis, MN (22%), Aberdeen, SD (8%), Aiken, SC (7%), Ft. Totten, ND (5.2%), and East Elmhurst, NY (5.1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2008.

Nov 1/06: BAE Systems Land & Armaments, LP in Minneapolis, MN received $8.6 million fixed-price-plus-award-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-5454) for procurement of MK 25 MOD 0 canisters, packaging, handling, storage, and transportation equipment, reconfigurable coding plug assemblies and explosive bolts for Navy and NATO SeaSparrow Program Office (NSPO) foreign government requirements. MK 25 canisters for the MK 41 Vertical Launching System store, transport in safety, and enable loading of the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) into the MK 41 Vertical Launching Systems aboard Navy ships. This modification combines efforts for the US Navy (57%) and the Governments of Germany (32%) and Spain (11%) under the foreign military sales program. Work will be performed in Aberdeen, SD and is expected to be complete by December 2008.

Sept 15/06: BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP in Minneapolis, MN received a $15.6 million fixed-price, award-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-5454) for procurement of FY 2006 Mk. 13 MOD 0 Canisters for FY 2006 Navy and Foreign Military Sales, including packaging, handling, storage, and transportation equipment, and FY 2006 Reconfigurable Coding Plug Assemblies.

Mk 13 canisters for the MK 41 Vertical Launching System store, transport in safety, and enable loading of SM-2 Standard air defense missiles into the MK 41 Vertical Launching Systems aboard various US and foreign ships [1]. Work will be performed in Aberdeen, SD and is expected to be complete by January 2008. This modification supports requirements for the US Navy (16%); the Governments of Japan (30%) and South Korea (25%) under the Foreign Military Sales program; and the Governments of Germany (20%) and The Netherlands (9%) under a Memorandum of Understanding.

April 10/06: Lockheed Martin Corp. Maritime System and Sensors – Marine Systems in Baltimore, MD received a $50.6 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-98-C-5363). The contract modification provides funding for the procurement of the hardware, design, fabrication and delivery of 36 MK 41 VLS Baseline VII modules, with sets of 12 being installed on each of three new DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers. This modification completes the procurement of the modules initiated by a $27 million August 2005 contract awarded in August 2005 for the purchase of long-lead materials.

Design and fabrication work will be performed at Lockheed Martin’s Middle River, MD, facility outside Baltimore, while other work takes place in Aberdeen, SD (40%); Minneapolis, MN (10%). Delivery is scheduled to be complete in 2010. See also Lockheed release.

March 22/06: BAE Systems and Armaments, LP in Minneapolis, MN received a $6.4 million fixed-price-plus-award-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-5464) for procurement of Mk 14 MOD 2 Canisters for FY 2006 USN requirements, including packaging, handling, storage, and transportation equipment, and FY 06 Reconfigurable Coding Plug Assemblies. Mk 14 canisters for the MK 41 Vertical Launching System store, transport in safety, and enable loading of Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles into MK 41 Vertical Launching Systems like the ones aboard the USA’s DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers and CG-47 Ticonderoga Class cruisers. Work will be performed at Aberdeen, SD and is expected to be complete by January 2008. This contract was not competitively procured.

Feb 20/06: Lockheed Martin received a $5.4 million contract modification from NAVSEA to continue providing technical and engineering support services for the MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) program. The modification includes $4.4 million for Lockheed Martin to perform VLS Baseline VII design engineering support to the MK 41. The work includes VLS tactical software updates, auto test equipment maintenance, and other engineering support for Baseline VII that will be performed at Lockheed Martin’s Baltimore facility. In addition, $1 million goes to support the VLS Depot at the company’s Life Cycle Support facility in Ventura, CA. See Lockheed release.

Dec 30/06: BAE Systems and Armaments, LP in Minneapolis, MN received a $9.8 million fixed-price-plus-award-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-5464) for procurement of FY 2006 Mk 14 MOD 2 canisters for FY 2006 USN requirements, including packaging, handling, storage, and transportation equipment, and FY 2006 reconfigurable coding plug assemblies. Mk 14 canisters for the MK 41 Vertical Launching System store, transport in safety, and enable loading of Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles into MK 41 Vertical Launching Systems like the ones aboard the USA’s DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers and CG-47 Ticonderoga Class cruisers. Work will be performed in Aberdeen, SD and is expected to be complete by January 2008.


fn1. The DefenseLINK release says that the Mk.13s enable loading of Tomahawk missiles, but this is incorrect. Several of the countries listed as part of this contract simply do not employ Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles in any capacity – but they do employ SM-2 air defense missiles, which the MK 13 does accommodate.

Additional Readings

  • US Navy Fact File – MK 41 VLS

  • Lockheed Martin – Mk41 Vertical Launching System (MK 41 VLS).

  • BAE Systems – VLS MK 41 Strike Length Missile. Strike length cells, as opposed to Tactical length Mk.41 cells, can accommodate longer missiles like the SM-3 anti-ballistic missile and Tomahawk cruise missile.

  • BAE Systems – VLS Mk 41 Missile. As the U.S. Navy’s Mk 41 canister design agent, BAE Systems has developed the Mk 25 Quad-Pack canister that fits 4 RIM-162 ESSM anti-aircraft missiles into a single Mk.41 cell.

  • Lockheed Martin – Extensible Launching System (ExLS) [PDF]. Fits into a Mk. 41 cell, as a semi-permanent adapter for a range of existing and new munitions. Quad-packed Nulka decoys or RIM-116 RAM missiles, or strike munitions like NLOS-LS/NETFIRES, are some examples. Developed under IRAD funding.

  • Global Security – MK 41 VLS

  • DID – BMD, in from the Sea: SM-3 Missiles Going Ashore. Mk.41 launchers will also be land-based, now.

  • DCNS – Sylver. Also a family of launchers, from the small A35 to the strike-length A70.

  • Raytheon – Seapower brochure [PDF]. The MK 57 will be used only on the USA’s DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class. Will accommodate larger missiles with higher rocket massflow than the Mk.41, uses a more advanced exhaust gas management system, and is designed to lower the risk of secondary explosions if the VLS itself is targeted by advanced cruise missiles.

Categories: News

Brazil & France in Deal for SSKs, SSN

Fri, 12/12/2014 - 21:45
Current: S30 Tupi
(click to view larger)

Brazil’s submarines are seen as a key part of the country’s new national armaments and defense strategy, which was released on Dec 18/08. It places a higher priority on protection of Brazil’s offshore energy reserves, and sees submarines as key players in that effort. The experience of the 1982 Falklands War, in which Argentina’s entire fleet was kept in port by Britain’s nuclear fast attack boat HMS Conqueror, is often cited as instructive.

In 2008, Brazil and France signed an agreement to build 4 diesel-electric submarines (SSK), and provide assistance in developing and fielding the non-nuclear parts of 1 nuclear fast attack submarine (SSN). Key specifics, such as the presence or absence of SSK Air Independent Propulsion technologies, have yet to be made public, but the terms of the agreement leave the possibility open. Reports regarding the submarine deal’s value have varied, but the budget is now set at almost EUR 7 billion. Financing now appears to be in place, and recent releases explain the budgets, the timing, and some of the key players in Brazil’s Prosub program.

The Boats Future: Scorpene class
(click to view full)

Brazil is not alone in looking to modernize its submarine fleet. On the west side of the continent, Chile now fields DCNS’ new SSK Scorpene class as the O’Higgins class. Brazil’s neighbor Venezuela is also looking to boost its sub fleet, but plans to use Russia’s SSK Kilo Class instead. Brazil currently fields 5 U209 derivatives, as its SSK Tupi and SSK Tikuna Classes.

Brazil’s first 4 new diesel-electric submarines will be variants of the CM-2000 French/Spanish Scorpene design, which has also been sold to Chile (O’Higgins class), India, and Malaysia (Tunku Abdul Rahman class). The stretched AM-2000 Scorpene ordered by India can use French MESMA air-independent propulsion (AIP), allowing the submarines to remain underwater longer without coming up to snorkel air into their diesel engines. Surface and near-surface steaming is always the most vulnerable period for a submarine, which can be spotted by radar and other surface surveillance techniques.

The level of Brazilian technology inserts and development work, as opposed to license construction and technology transfer, was not announced when the deal was signed, as it needed to be fleshed out during the design phase. Mercopress reports in 2010 suggest that the Brazilian submarines will be about 5m longer compared to other Scorpenes, with another 100 tonnes displacement. The Scorpene’s AIP section adds 8.3m and 305 tonnes, so if Mercopress is correct, the added size is not related to any decision re: AIP.

Expected Scorpene costs are currently EUR 415 million (currently about $592 million) per boat, and the level of customization required will determine the project’s overall risk profile. This is similar to India’s budget of about $3.5 billion for an even mix of 3 CM-2000 and 3 AM-2000 Scorpene submarines, or $583 million or so per boat. The 1st diesel-electric sub will begin construction in 2011, with an expected in-service date of 2015; submarines #2-4 will enter service in 2017, 2019, and 2021.

Brazil’s MDD initally saw the nuclear-powered submarine as a far larger boat, at 6,000t compared to the diesel-electric boats’ 1,400-1,800 tonnes. By 2013, a Marinha do Brazil tech center submarine design that used Brazil’s 2131-R Pressurized Water Reactor was expected to weigh in at 4,000t submerged. The model showed the 2131-R reactor positioned amidships, with 8 torpedo tubes at the front. Printed literature showed a 2nd design that traded 6 vertical launch tubes for 6 of the torpedo tubes.

Even 4,000t is significantly larger than France’s existing SSN Rubis Amethyste class fast attack boats, which weigh in at around 2,730t submerged. Some of this can be accounted for by the need for more space, in order to accommodate larger early-stage nuclear propulsion systems. Even so, the famous USS Nautilus managed to displace only 3,500 tons. Since nuclear weapons are specifically prohibited by Brazil’s current constitution, however, a large SSN fast attack vessel is almost certainly the goal. A 4,000t vessel would fit somewhere between the Rubis Amethyte boats, and France’s new 5,300t SSN Barracuda class

Construction of Brazil’s nuclear boat is expected to begin in 2015, and it’s expected to enter service in 2021. Cost for the submarine is pegged at about EUR 2 billion, with EUR 1.25 billion assigned to Brazil’s indigenous Project Aramar nuclear propulsion/ power program. DCNS’ role involves assistance with hull technology and construction, and with non-nuclear internal technologies.

Finally, Brazil aims to set up improved naval construction facilities and a base capable of handling nuclear submarines at Itaguai, a port just south of Rio. Brazil’s U209 submarines are currently based out of Rio de Janeiro, but that densely populated city offers too many technical and environmental issues to host nuclear-powered submarines. These construction projects are expected to cost EUR 1.868 billion (6.9 billion Reals). The nuclear submarine base will be built by the Sociedade de Proposito Especifico, or SPE consortium, which includes Brazil’s Odebrecht (50%), France’s DCNS (49%) and the Brazilian Navy (1% “golden share,” with veto power).


Brazil announced in October 2012 the names of its future submarines:

  • Riachuelo (S40) – lead ship, laid down in 2010, delivery expected in 2015 and commissioning in 2017
  • Humaitá (S41) – laid down in 2013, to be commissioned in 2018
  • Tonelero (S42) – to be commissioned in 2020
  • Angostura (S43) – to be commissioned in 2021
  • Álvaro Alberto (SN-BR 10)

Contracts and Key Events

The submarines will be built by Itaguai Construcoes Navais, a joint venture with an initial capital of 10 million reals that will be responsible for management control. Odebrecht has a 59% interest, and DCNS the remaining 41%.

Work in progress (in Portuguese)

Dec 12/14: Infrastructure. President Dilma Rousseff inaugurates the main building of the construction shipyard in Itaguai, which is big enough that 2 submarines can eventually be assembled in parallel there.

Sources: Brazilian government, DCNS.

Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System (SUBTICS)

Feb 10/14: Infrastructure. DCNS commissioned a new integration facility in Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer near Toulon is southern France. It will be used to test data processing combat systems before they’re shipped to Brazil to be installed on board their SSKs. The company says about 20 Brazilians will receive training in combat system design and integration in 2014/15, as part of knowledge transfer agreements that Brazil was adamant about.

Chile’s SS O’Higgins

April 9/13: Mock-up. The Brazilian Navy’s stand at LAAD 2013 includes an actual size combustion element for their proposed 2131-R Pressurized Water Reactor nuclear design, and 2 models of their proposed SN-Br nuclear submarine. Shephard was told that the reactor design had help from France, but that the reactor itself would be built in Brazil at a later date.

The model from the Marinha do Brazil’s Sao Paulo tech center showed the 2131-R reactor positioned amidships, with 8 torpedo tubes at the front. Printed literature showed a 2nd design that traded 6 vertical launch tubes for 6 of the torpedo tubes. Tonnage is less than the original 6,000t estimate, and is now expected to be closer to 4,000t. Which is still a large submarine, even if it’s relatively small by SSN/SSBN standards. Shephard Media.

April 18/12: Sub-contractors. DCNS signs a major partnership agreement with Brazil’s Progen consulting engineering and service company, based in Sao Paulo. This partnership will give Progen a key role in both sourcing local firms to perform work on Brazil’s Prosub program, and monitoring their quality. DCNS also has an eye to upcoming naval competitions for Brazilian surface vessels:

“More specifically, DCNS and Progen plan to expand local purchasing for the Brazilian Navy’s other surface vessel programmes.”

Dec 7/11: 1st join. DCNS begins joining sections for Brazil’s 1st Scorpene submarine. The resulting 200t Section 3 & 4 assembly will be about 6m in diameter and 24m long, and will hold the operations center, the torpedo room, and on-board utilities. During the first half of 2012 the tanks and large structures will be added to this hull, as well as the bridge fin, the ballast tanks, the access trunk and the fresh air induction cupola.

Brazilian welders are working in Cherbourg alongside their French counterparts. DCNS has hosted 115 trainees since the beginning of the contract, and the current roster is 36. DCNS.

July 16/11: 1st cut. The DCNS/ Odebrecht joint venture ICN (Itaguai Construcoes Navais), launches construction of their 1st Scorpene submarine with a ‘first cut’ ceremony in Itaguaí, Brazil. Journal do Brazil [in Portuguese] | Colombia’s Terra [in Spanish] | UK’s Telegraph.

Nov 22/10: A Mercopress article fits the Scorpene and SSN projects into a larger context.

“The Brazilian navy is planning to build and incorporate in the next [3] decades a fleet of six nuclear powered and 20 conventional submersibles (15 new and five refurbished)… Conventional submarines will be built in two lots with a first batch of 15 new ones, of which four of them will be a reformed version of the French Scorpion with an additional 100 tons displacement and five metres longer. The other five includes the current five [SSK Tupi and SSK Tikuna Class] submersibles that will be refurbished. The first [Scorpene] is scheduled to be delivered in the second half of 2016 and the rest in the period extending to 2021.”

With respect to the nuclear submarine program, control of the entire uranium enrichment process is step 1. Uranium gas has reportedly begun trials at a $130 million plant in Iperó, and full production capacity is reported as 40 tonnes.

May 27/10: DCNS begins cutting steel for the Brazilian Navy’s new diesel-electric submarines at its Cherbourg facility. The forward half of the vessel will be built at the Cherbourg centre, while the after section will be built in Brazil. Submarines 2-4 will be built entirely in Brazil. DCNS.

Sept 2/09: Budget approval. Brazil’s Ministerio Do Defesa announces [in Portuguese] Senate approval of the long term budgets for Brazil’s helicopter and submarine programs. The Prosub program’s budget is EUR 6.79 billion (about $19 billion Reals, or $9.7 billion) and runs from 2009-2024. EUR 4.324 billion of this total will be paid for with 20-year financing from BNP Paribas S.A, Societe Generale, Calyon S.A. Credit Industriel et Commercial, Natixis, and Banco Santander.

The announcement confirms that the diesel-electric submarines will be modified Scorpene class boats, with technology inserts and work for over 30 Brazilian firms. Brazilian manufacturers of technologies like advanced valves, pumps, water and air purification, etc. can be expected to see especial benefits. The nuclear-powered submarines will be far larger, at 6,000t compared to the diesel-electric boats’ 1,400-1,800 tonnes. France will transfer the technology necessary for submarine design and construction, as well as design and construction of the shipyard and naval base – but not nuclear propulsion technologies. Brazil’s Ministerio Do Defesa [in Portuguese] | MDD on JV Agreement [in Portuguese] | DCNS release | MercoPress | MercoPress re: France’s consolidation as naval supplier.

Aug 25/09: Venezuela’s Latin American Herald Tribune cites the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, and reports that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has approved a strategic plan for the defense of the Amazon and Brazil’s offshore oil fields that includes the 5-submarine project, along with military and procurement reorganizations, and the restoration of Brazil’s arms industry. The proposal will now be submitted to Congress, Brazilian media reported.

July 21/09: Sub-contractors. France’s state-owned DCNS Group (DCNS) acquires a stake in Itaguai Construcoes Navais SA, which will build military naval vessels (at present, submarines). Source.

April 16/09: Financing. Forecast International relays a Defense News report, which says that financing is secure based on “an authorized French source” at the 2009 at the Latin American Aerospace and Defense Show. BNP Paribas, the leading lender in the deal, reportedly asked for a state-backed guarantee from the French, who provided the guarantee through the export credit agency COFACE. That covers 70% of the total, with the other 30% reportedly coming from the Brazilian government.

The report also claims that the deal involves 4 Scorpene Class submarines, and that the total value is $8.8 billion. On the other hand, earlier reports had placed the deal’s value at a similar number of Brazilian Reals, not dollars, and the selection of the Scorpene Class has yet to be confirmed in official releases.

Feb 26/09: Financing. Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paulo reports that Brazil is seeking 8.5 billion reals (about $3.6 billion) to build 1 nuclear-powered and 4 diesel-electric fast attack submarines. The report also cites unidentified navy officials, who say that the global credit crunch may jeopardize the financing required to execute that deal. Bloomberg News.

Rubis Amethyste Class
(click to view full)

Dec 22/08: Contract. The purchase agreement is announced. While reports point to DCNS’s Scorpene Class as the conventional submarines, additional details in DCNS’ delayed release may contradict this:

“DCNS will act as prime contractor for four conventional-propulsion submarines to be built by the Joint Venture that will be set up by DCNS and Brazilian partner Odebrecht. The submarines will be designed in cooperation with Brazilian teams under DCNS design authority to meet the Brazilian Navy’s specific needs: They will be ideally suited to the protection and defence of the country’s 8,500 km coast. The first submarine is scheduled to enter active service in 2015. DCNS will produce key advanced-technology equipment in its own plants.”

It is not uncommon for joint ventures of this sort to build an established design with some local electronics et. al. swapped in, or to begin with an existing design on the way to a new ship class. A DCNS joint venture with India is already building Scorpene Class boats, for instance, while Singapore’s Formidable Class stealth frigates are one of several ship classes around the world based on DCNS’ LaFayette Class.

DCNS will also provide design assistance to build “all portions of Brazil’s new SSN class, except for the nuclear plant.” The key question will be how much commonality Brazil’s new SSN and SSK boats will share. If commonality is desired, DCNS has an obvious option at hand – and it is not the Scorpene. France’s current Rubis Amethyste class SSNs are scheduled for replacement by the forthcoming Barracuda class, but the design has already been converted to a conventional counterpart in the Turquoise class diesel-electric submarine. Using the Amethyste/Turquoise design as a base would allow Brazilian sailors to train on existing French nuclear vessels, while delivering a proven nuclear design, and providing the first export orders for the Turquoise class.

The third component of the deal involves “prime contractor assistance to Odebrecht,” as they build the shipyard that will build all 5 submarines and a naval base for the Brazilian Navy. French government | DCNS | AP | Bloomberg | Reuters UK

Dec 18/08: Brazil releases its national defense strategy, which calls for greater surveillance capabilities over the amazon, protection of its deepwater offshore oil reserves, and the rejuvenation of its defense industrial base. AP report | Estrategia Nacional de Defesa [Portuguese]

Additional Readings

Categories: News

House Armed Services Subcommittee Chairmen Shuffle Chairs

Fri, 12/12/2014 - 14:11

  • US House Armed Services Committee Chairman-elect Thornberry announced subcommittee chairs: Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities: Joe Wilson [SC – was Thornberry]; Seapower and Projection Forces: Randy Forbes [VA – same]; Military Personnel: Joe Heck [NV – was Joe Wilson]; Tactical Air and Land Forces: Michael Turner [OH – same]; Strategic Forces: Mike Rogers [AL – same]; Readiness: Rob Wittman [VA – same]; Oversight and Investigations: Vicky Hartzler [MO – was Joe Heck, she’s the only new entrant]. All Republicans of course since the GOP controls the lower house.


  • BAE Systems is to buy Eclipse Electronic Systems from Esterline for $28M. Reuters.


  • Earlier this week AVIC president Lin Zuoming sounded very confident in the superiority of the J-31 over the F-35. Today an anonymous source at AVIC is deflating expectations in the Global Times.

Russia & Europe

  • Commissioning of the 1st nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine in Russia’s Borei class had to wait for 5 years after launch because of software problems, but 2 years later these issues seem to have been resolved as boat #2 was commissioned a year ago and the 3rd sub in the class was just accepted [TASS] by the Russian navy. 3 others are currently under construction, and 2 final boats are planned for unspecified dates.

  • The 2nd of 4 Admiral Gorshkov-class frigates under construction in Russia was launched today [TASS]. The lead ship in project 22350 is expected to be commissioned soon now.

  • Ukraine’s defense Minister Stepan Poltorak asked parliament for a 50 billion hryvnias ($3.2B) defense budget for 2015, as well as an increase in the number of troops. That’s a sizable increase, but financing will be more difficult than ever as the country is again on the verge of bankruptcy. Interfax Ukraine | Russia’s TASS | Deutche Welle.

  • Ukraine’s new truce sort of worked for its first 24 hours, since shots fired didn’t result in casualties: Bloomberg | Ukraine MoD.

Laser Show

  • Today’s video was released earlier this week by the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research and shows tests that proceeded aboard USS Ponce during a deployment in the Persian Gulf between September and November. The CRS has a good backgrounder [PDF] on shipboard lasers. Sadly the Iranians missed an opportunity to test their “US designed” UAVs in the process.

Categories: News

Australia Preps Regional Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Program

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 21:38
PB Lata

Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat program solves a regional problem. Australia needs stability, but many of its neighbors are island sets with vast territories to cover, small populations, and small economies. Australia’s regional Defence Cooperation Program eventually provided 22 Patrol Boats to 12 different Pacific nations from 1987 – 1997. This includes all ongoing maintenance, logistics support and training, as well as Royal Australian Navy (RAN) specialists in the countries where the PPBs are based. Pacific nations, in turn, use them to support their local military, police and fisheries agencies.

It hasn’t always gone well…

Australian patrol boats were used in Papua New Guinea’s blockade of Bougainville during their civil war, and in 2000, the Solomon Islands boat was co–opted by Malaitan militias and used against Guadalcanal villages. Even so, the program’s overall benefits led Australia to begin a life-extension program in 2000, designed to extend Australia’s involvement to at least 2017 at a cost of A$ 350 million.

In 2014, the Australian government made another major commitment to the program, with a $2 billion proposal to build new boats.

Contracts & Key Events Honaira

Dec 9/14: Tending the tender. Frazer-Nash, a British engineering consultancy which opened offices in Australia in 2010, announces that it was recently contracted by the Australian government to review the PPB-R’s high level technical specifications. The AUS $186K award was for a consulting engagement from July to November 2014. Meanwhile Power Initiatives, another consulting firm, won an AUS $243K study on October 7 to support the acquisition. These are small awards but they show that the tender is moving along. The effort is known as SEA3036.

Oct 17/14: Tender. Australia’s DMO published a notice saying that they intend to “release a Request for Tender (RFT) in Quarter 3 2014/2015 seeking a prime contractor for both the acquisition and support of a replacement fleet of Pacific Patrol Boats with the possibility that the support contract will include the provision of training services to the Pacific Island Countries.”

June 17/14: Announcement. Australia announces an A$ 594 million program to build “more than 20″ purpose-designed, all-steel patrol boats for 13 PPB member countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and new member Timor-Leste.

Exact numbers and allocations will be discussed with the member states, and the boats themselves will be built under a competitive tender. Given that the current program involved 22 boats, a final tally of 22-25 boats is reasonable. The major cost driver will actually be an estimated A$ 1.38 billion for 30 years of through-life sustainment and advisory personnel costs. Sources: Australian DoD, “Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence – Maritime security strengthened through Pacific Patrol Boat Program” | Fiji Times Online, “$2b for Pacific patrol boat program”.

March 6/14: Maritime security cooperation talks between the Federated States of Micronesia and Australia. Micronesia’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs Lorin S. Robert singled out the Pacific Patrol Boat program:

“We cannot overemphasize its importance and its utility not only in ensuring maritime surveillance and law enforcement but also in addressing emergency relief operations, apprehending and preventing sea-borne security threats and delivering needed government services to outlying remote islands in the federation…”

Unsurprisingly, the program’s future was a subject of their talks. At the time, the report said only that “The dialogue ended on a clear direction of what to achieve for 2014 and the long-term plan for the patrol boats.” Sources: Islands Business, “Australia, FSM discuss Pacific patrol boat program”.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Australia’s Submarine Program in the Dock

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 21:30
Buoy oh buoy…
(click to view full)

The January 2010 failure of a generator aboard HMAS Farncomb was just the latest in a long history of problems faced by its fleet of 6 Collins Class diesel-electric submarines – which have sometimes been reduced to just 1 operational vessel. That readiness issue presents an immediate financial headache for Australia’s government, and adds a longer-term challenge to the centerpiece of Australia’s future naval force.

With just 6 submarines in its fleet, Australia’s current deployment set-up leaves little room for error. Even a normal setup of 2 in maintenance, 2 for training but available if needed, and 2 on operations makes for a thin line, given Australia’s long coastline and sea lanes. Almost 15 years after the first Collins Class boat was delivered, they are still short of this goal. When crewing problems are added to the mechanical issues, the failings of its current fleet are creating sharp questions about the Australia’s 2009 White Paper plan to build 12 new diesel-electric fast attack submarines, as the future centerpiece of the 2030 Australian Navy.

A Cursed Class? HMAS Farncomb
returns, 2005
(click to view full)

One of the goals for the Collins Class program was to advance Australian shipbuilding capabilities, by creating state-owned ASC Pty Ltd. to build a foreign submarine design. ThyssenKrupp’s Swedish Kockums subsidiary was chosen to design them, based on the A19 Gotland Class. At 3,000t, their long-range design is the largest diesel-electric submarine type in the world.

Collins was launched in 1993, and delivered in 1996. Its successor boats of class were commissioned in 1998 (Farncomb), 1999 (Waller), 2001 (Deschaineux and Sheean), and 2003 (Rankin). Many of those boats have been laid up for very long periods, and there have been a number of periods when the RAN has had just 1 fully operational submarine available – or less.

That’s a shaky record for a fleet whose final boat of type entered service more than 10 years ago. Launching a submarine building industry is admittedly very difficult, and using what amounts to a new design added to that risk. The Collins Class has performed well in exercises with the US Navy, where it has scored successes against American Los Angeles Class nuclear-powered fast attack subs. On the other hand, it has also encountered a long-running sequence of issues, including significant difficulties with its (Australian chosen) combat systems, noise issues due to mechanical faults, major program cost growth to A$ 6+ billion, schedule slippage, and the reliability issues noted above. As the government’s own Phase 1 Coles Review noted:

“Ownership of a submarine design requires the ‘parent nation’ to invest in facilities and equipment to allow it to operate the submarines effectively – shipbuilding facilities, docks, manpower and training, operational support facilities, engineering and scientific resources, access to the necessary industry resources and skills, and a properly resourced and effective supply chain. Due to the failure to recognize fully what they were taking on, the various agencies involved did not make all the necessary investments post delivery…”

The effects aren’t just mechanical, or financial. Crew retention issues are exacerbated by low mechanical readiness, which restricts training opportunities, and so limits the available pool of crew. That forces higher deployment rates away from home and family among qualified submariners, which in turn feeds back into low recruitment and retention.

Farncomb, and the Future Readiness issues
(click to view full)

The January 2010 issue with HMAS Farncomb is emblematic. It involved failures in 1 of the submarine’s 3 French Jeumont-Schneider, 1,400 kW/ 440-volt DC generators, and has served in many respects as the final straw. As the Australian Department of Defence put it at the time:

“The problem stems from the way some of the generators were manufactured. At no time was the crew at risk but investigations are continuing in order to determine the impact this deficiency might have on the remainder of the submarine fleet.”

That’s a bland way to describe a serious problem. The generators must power all systems on board, from oxygen generation to combat electronics, and also drive the Collins Class’ 7,200 shp Jeumont-Schneider DC motor. Given the dangers inherent in a submarine’s mission, electrical redundancy, back-up capability, and reliability are all critical.

There were fears that fixing HMAS Farncomb’s generator problem could require cutting open the pressurized hull. If that’s the case, repair costs would be high, and Farncomb would join 3 other boats in a long “deep maintenance cycle”. HMAS Deschaineux was due back in the water in early 2010, but didn’t re-enter service until May 2010. HMAS Sheean wasn’t due back in service until 2011, and HMAS Rankin has no set date yet – it is merely “in queue” behind Sheean. While HMAS Collins reportedly had its generators given a clean bill of health, investigation of the entire fleet’s generators was required. The stakes were clear: if additional problems were discovered, the repair schedules for Deschaineux, Sheean, and Rankin would become much less predictable.

This is just one of several major shocks to the program over the years. Farncomb’s issues, and continuing problems with the fleet as a whole, finally led Australia’s government to commission an independent Coles Review in July 2011. Instead of focusing on a post-mortem, it was charged with finding a way forward to fix the problems. By December 2012, the final recommendations were in, and a sustainment review was complete by April 2014.

Sustainment regress & progress
(click to view full)

This is exactly what Australia needs if it’s going to operate a serious submarine force, because the Collins Class program’s steady pulse of shocks have combined to compromise more than Australia’s strategic present. Left unaddressed, and unremedied, they will compromise Australia’s strategic future. The persistence of serious mechanical issues and very low readiness rates, into 2010 and beyond, raises legitimate questions concerning the long-term risks of Australia’s A$ 36 billion, 12-boat future submarine program.

Australia is a middle power with a small population, without a long submarine building tradition, and without an active submarine construction line. That it overcame these disadvantages to build and field the Collins Class is a respectable achievement, notwithstanding the problems that class as faced in service. At the same time, the strategic stakes in Asia are rising rapidly, and submarines are becoming more important as the country’s neighbors grow their economic and military power into the sea lanes around Australia. An expanded submarine force makes strong strategic sense as a key guarantor of Australian interests and sovereignty – but in some respects, any new program will be starting again from square one. Over a decade can be expected between the commissioning of HMAS Waller in 2003, and construction of any new submarines.

Does repeating the Collins program’s industrial structure for the core of Australia’s future defense risk creating the same cost and readiness issues in the new submarines? If not, why not, especially given the long interval between delivery of HMAS Rankin and future construction of the next submarine type? What are the strategic risks of treating the core of Australia’s future defensive posture as a make work program first, and a defense program second? What savings might be had by simply ordering some or all of the proposed 12 boats from a foreign manufacturer? Should ASC become a wholly-owned subsidiary of whichever firm wins the competition to build Australia’s next 12 boats? Or should the 12-sub program just be scaled back sharply, as too big a risk for cost inflation and low value for money?

Some of these questions are already being raised, by politicians, by media editorials, and now by the government’s own Coles Review. Unless these readiness and technical issues can be turned around, Australia’s governments, of whatever party, should expect more questions – and fewer submarines in both their present and their future.

Updates & Developments 2013 – 2014

Final Coles Review looks at sustainment; Fire on HMAS Waller; Rankin out of FCD, Farncomb in; Shorter FCDs mean changes to industrial processes. HMAS Sheean & S-70B

Dec 10/14: Simulator upgrades. Thales announces the completion of simulator improvements ordered on June 19/12, which include their C2000-X simulation technology, among changes. Source: company press release.

Nov 20/14: No coverage. A recent incident involving a Russian naval task force that sailed close to Australia’s northern waters highlights issues of force structure, readiness, and basing for the RAN’s submarines. In the end, Australia had to content itself with sending 2 ANZAC Class frigates and an AP-3C Orion aircraft, because there were no submarines that could reach the area in time.

The RAN actually has 3 submarines available, but HMAS Rankin was sailing from Western Australia to Tasmania in the south, and the other 2 active submarines were conducting work-up trials off the coast of Perth in the west. To give readers a geographic idea, sailing from Australia’s western coat to its northeast coast is kind of like sailing from Spain to Estonia. None of Australia’s 3 operational submarines could arrive in time.

This isn’t a failing of the Collins Class. A force of 6 submarines is only going to generate about 3 operational boats, and Australia’s submarine base remains fixed on its inaccessible west coast. Defensively, that’s great. In deployment terms, not so great. Lacking the endurance and constant high-speed capabilities of nuclear-powered boats, Australia needs submarine bases in its north and/or east if it wants to project power forward in a timely way. The 2012 Force Posture Review has recommended this course of action. Sources: The Australian, “Russian ships expose failings of Australian submarine operations”.

Sept 8/14: ASC losing sub-building? News Corp. reports that the government is fast-tracking their pursuit of Japanese Soryu Class submarines, because of growing concerns about the $2+ billion cost of maintaining the Collins boats beyond 2026; some estimates put that cost at more than $2 billion. Hence Soryu, especially given Australia’s urgency:

“The Government cannot afford a submarine capability gap and every day past 2026/27 when Collins class is due to begin decommissioning, adds days of risk,” a senior defence source said.”

This risk profile may even get Australia’s future submarines built abroad. ASC’s poor performance building the Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers has reportedly left deep skepticism about trusting them with a project that’s conservatively estimated at $A 36 billion. In contrast, building the Soryus abroad might reduce the cost to a more certain A$ 25 billion. Read “Australia’s Next-Generation Submarines” for full coverage.

Aug 5/4: Support. ASC says that they’ve has been recontracted to provide Collins Class maintenance, but doesn’t say for how long. Under the contract extension, ASC will continue to work on the Collins Class submarines at its headquarters at Osborne in Adelaide, South Australia, and Henderson in Western Australia.

Henderson already hosts significant submarine maintenance work and inventory management, and will be used for all mid cycle and intermediate maintenance work, enabling the focus at Osborne to be on the new 2-year Full Cycle Docking (FCD). Those new FCDs will have to be done in 33% less time, and some early industrial initiatives to meet it have included introduction of a circumferential hull cut (q.v. July 1/14), construction of a new Maintenance Support Tower in Osbirne to provide better access, “remediation” of the supply chain, and the establishment of a rotable pool of spare parts. Sources: ASC, “ASC awarded submarine maintenance contract for SA and WA”.

July 5/14: Misconduct? Former submariner Rex Patrick (q.v. ) has accused senior naval officers of attempting to muzzle his public criticisms of the Collins-class submarine, and has asked the Australian Federal Police to examine the Navy’s conduct. Sources: The Australian, “Collins-class submarine critic calls in AFP over navy ‘plot’”.

July 1/14: HMAS Rankin out of FCD. ASC announces that they’ve completed the Full Cycle Docking (FCD) for HMAS Rankin in South Australia, delivering her early under the agreed integrated master schedule. Rankin will be the last submarine serviced under the RAN’s previous Full Cycle Docking schedule. Sources: ASC, “Rankin handed back to Navy”.

July 1/14: HMAS Farncomb into FCD. HMAS Farncomb arrives at ASC North in readiness for her Full Cycle Docking (FCD), which is the first under Australia’s new 10 years service + 2 year FCD schedule. Sources: ASC, “Farncomb arrives for maintenance under new schedule”.

July 1/14: Industrial. ASC makes a circumferential cut to remove the entire back end of HMAS Collins, a 1st for the company. The engine is being removed entirely to a workshop, and will be swapped into HMAS Farncomb to keep everything on schedule. Why do this?

“Normally, the main motor refurbishment within the submarine takes approximately a year to complete, with other work within the aft end of the boat delayed while this takes place. [This way]… the main motor can be removed and refurbished in a workshop, allowing other work scheduled in that section of the boat to be conducted, including metal loss repairs.”

The cut takes a lot of preparation: removal of all electrical cables, pipes and mechanical items which cross the frame spacing; anechoic tiles over the joint removed; casing brackets and the stinger seat removed; and extra submarine cradles prepped to support the end section. Once prepared, the existing weld joint was cut using an automatic gas thermal cutter, and pulled backwards using a railed transfer system. This will be the approach going forward. Sources: ASC, “Circumferential cut on Collins”.

May 5/14: Industrial. Removing a submarine’s anechoic tiles without damaging them, or the hull, is a long process. ASC thinks they’ve found a way to improve that sharply:

“Prior to each hull cut, a large number of tiles need to be removed…. a cross functional team investigated alternative methods of tile removal, including Ultra High Pressure Water Blasting…. The trial showed that the water blasting would take approximately 35 minutes to remove a tile as opposed to the 17 hours it usually takes. In addition, an engineering assessment of the hull test piece identified that it left the hull in a better state than the previous manual method.”

They think the overall savings on HMAS Farncomb’s Full Cycle Docking will be up to 4,000 worker hours. Sources: ASC, “Tile removal rethink creates significant saving”.

April 8/14: Final Coles Review. The Coles Review finishes its work with a post-implementation final review. It cites considerable improvements, including greater availability of spares, less planned maintenance over-runs, fewer breakdowns, and faster repairs to operational boats when problems occur. Overall, the RAN is up to 2-3 available boats most of the time, after long stretches where the range was 0-2. To get 2 deployable submarines, you actually need a fleet of 6: 3 submarines available for tasking more than 90% of the time, a 4th submarine in short-term maintenance, and 2 more in long-term maintenance.

The challenge will be moving from the current 8 years service + 3 years maintenance interval to a 10+2 framework, which compresses the Full Cycle Docking (FCD) by a factor of about 2, while cutting about 30% of the worker hours. This final report recommends treating the 1st example, HMAS Farncomb in July 2014, it as a dynamic schedule and progressively refining it. Even so, there is significant concern that they’re not going to be able to execute the FCDs in time. Beyond those efforts, the report says that the focus on output vs. efficiency has been justified by circumstances, but the emphasis must flip. Unfortunately:

“It was all too clear to me that the lack of suitably qualified experienced personnel in the DMO to operate within and fulfil their role in an output focused Enterprise, may stall or even reverse the achievement of benchmark availability. It would be an astonishing outcome if the inability to sustain the knowledge and energy now evident in the Collins Class Transformation Program were to lead to its undoing – particularly given there is every indication benchmark performance could be achieved at a lower long-term cost with reduced DMO project oversight. This problem needs to be addressed urgently.”

Workforce development is actually an issue at all levels, but hiring constraints on DMO could make it impossible for them to achiee their goals. An overall IT system to help manage the process is another missing piece. Meanwhile, there’s some key work to do on HMAS Collins, or it won’t be very helpful even if it is ready:

“HMAS Collins will need to be upgraded to match the rest of the Class, otherwise major systems will be unsupportable and she will not be as deployable as the rest of the Class. If a significant amount of upgrade work is not carried out in the period prior to HMAS Collins FCD (she is currently in pre-FCD), then this may have an impact on the overall schedule for HMAS Collins’ FCD.”

There’s more beyond these key highlights – like all of the Coles Reports, it’s quite detailed. Sources: Australia DoD, “Minister for Defence and Minister for Finance – Joint Media Release – Final Coles Review into submarine sustainment” | DMO, “Final Coles Review into Submarine Sustainment” | Full Report [PDF].

Final Coles Review – Sustainment

Feb 27/14: HMAS Waller. The submarine HMAS Waller, fresh out of scheduled maintenance, experiences a fire while traveling on the surface. Nobody dies or is injured, but 4 sailors are helicoptered off for observation. The Navy is still looking into the cause. Sources: Australian DoD, “Fire onboard Royal Australian Navy submarine”.

Waller fire

Feb 25/14: HMAS Waller. ASC Pty Ltd. awards the crew of HMAS Waller their Platypus Cup, to “the Collins Class submarine whose crew best demonstrates the rigorous training needed to ensure the safe and effective operation of the vessel.” Sources: ASC, “HMAS Waller wins Platypus Cup”.

Jan 20/14: The A$ 30-40 billion size of the future submarine project guarantees political scrutiny, and conservative columnist Paul Sheehan decides to start as the new center-right Liberal Party government prepares its 1st budget. It’s a sign worth watching regarding the political fate of the $A 30+ billion future submarine program, and as one might expect, the article isn’t exactly complimentary to the Collins Class.

The Australian DoD takes direct issue with the piece, though it isn’t a great idea to use sentences like “There is no ingrained ‘culture of delusion and arrogance’ within the Australian Defence Force when it comes to the development of capability requirements.” The rest of the reply uses a better form of argument, and includes this statement:

“While we do not comment on the operations of the submarine fleet there have been numerous periods when up to four submarines have been in service. In fact for most of the last two years Navy has continuously had four submarines in service.”

One note: “in service” is not the same as “immediately available for operations.” Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, “Future Submarine project a farce that has missed a mention” | Australia DoD On The Record, “Inaccurate reporting of Navy capability”.

Dec 17/13: ANAO Report. Australia’s National Audit Office releases their 2012-13 Major Projects Report. The Collins Replacement Combat System project has slipped by 36 months over the past year, hitting a total of 108 months (9 years) delay. In comparison, the Collins Class Reliability & Sustainability program is “only” 99 months behind.

The R&S program has seen an overall increase of A$ 339.4 million to A$411.4 million, including A$ 302.8 million for the implementation of additional scope, for a total increase of 471.4%. It actually consists of 22 separate sub-projects,a and only the Special Forces upgrade (on Collins & Dechaineux) and the Torpedo Decoy represent capability upgrades. Of the 22, “Five engineering enhancements have been completed and the two new capabilities are being implemented. However, completion of the remaining 15 engineering enhancements is priority driven and will be continually reassessed throughout the project.” Spending to date amounts to A$ 334.7 million, which will make the management of further work a challenge. Full Operational Capability is scheduled for 2022.

Submarine availability has been one of the factors in both projects, and is the primary reason behind the RCS program’s 2013 slippage. The budget now stands at A$ 450 million and the program has spent A$ 431.9 million. With that said, there hasn’t been much cost change over the past year. HMAS Waller and Farncomb have the CS04 version installed, while HMAS Dechaineux and Sheean have CS05 and its sonar processing improvements installed. HMAS Rankin is testing with CS05, and HMAS Collins will have to wait for its Full Cycle Docking, which has moved. That final installation will be completed in 2018, with Full Operational Capability currently expected to occur in 2019.

Nov 28/13: Upgrade Phase 5B.1. ASC Pty Ltd. receives an A$ 57 million/ $50 million contract from the Australian government to update and modernize the Collins Class Integrated Ship Control Management and Monitoring System (ISCMMS), then turns around ans signs a SEK 180 million / $27.5 million sub-contract with Saab. The contract will run between 2013 – 2016 and will involve Saab’s Security and Defence Solutions operations in Adelaide.

ISCMMS provides maneuvering control and integrated platform systems management. It has been a quiet and reliable success story, but the electronic components need updating to avoid obsolescence problems, and the software needs to be ported to compatible standards. This is SEA 1439 Phase 5B.1 on the DMO’s list of upgrade projects for the Collins fleet. Sources: ASC, “ASC signs multi-million dollar contract” | Saab, “Saab signs contract to upgrade Australian Submarine Sub-System”.

ISCMMS upgrade

Oct 10/13: At the Pacific 2013 maritime security conference in Sydney, DMO’s David Gould is confident that a 7-year life extension would leave Australia with operational submarines, but:

“What could become operationally important in the future is the relative survivability of the submarine in a changing operational environment into the future, to 2030, when you’ve got more new, modern submarines being deployed in this area of the world and so forth.”

Outgoing head of the Future Submarine Program Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt is most concerned about the expected jumps in sonar capabilities, thanks to technical advances and improved computer processing. The Collins Class already has some problems with noise, so this is a very valid concern. Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, “Extension for submarines”.

Sept 25/13: A confidential report “has identified 68 critical problems on the navy’s Collins-class submarines that it warns pose a high to extreme risk of forcing their retirement before new submarines can be built.” The Australian DoD fires back after the report is published, saying that identifying potential issues and risks involved in life extension was the whole point, and that many of the issues are “already known and are or have been addressed in planned upgrades or through continuous improvement programs…. There has been significant improvement in submarine availability over the last 15 months.”

That may be so, but long-term risks must be credibly addressed, and this is where the RAN has demonstrated great difficulty over the last decade or more. Time will tell. Sources: The Australian, “Secret Defence report signals Collins subs crisis” | Australian DoD, “Submarine reporting in The Australian, 25 September 2013″.

June 24/13: Delays. The Australian reports that HMAS Ranking and HMAS Collins will be in maintenance much later than the advertised 3-year maintenance turnaround deadlines:

“The Rankin is the youngest submarine in the fleet yet it has been docked since 2008. It will not be released by shipbuilder ASC until the middle of next year [mid-2014] at the earliest. The Collins is the fleet’s oldest and has been at the ASC facility in Adelaide since last August. It will not be released until 2018.”

Sources: The Australian | Eric Palmer ELP.


Is the Collins fleet unsalvageable? Submarine rescue vessels. HMAS Waller
(click to view full)

Dec 12/12: Reports. The Government releases the Final Report of the Coles Review into Submarine Sustainment, the results of their Collins Class Service Life Evaluation Program, and the findings of the Future Submarine Industry Skills Plan that began at the end of 2011. The 4th element isn’t a report, it’s plans for a new submarine testing facility in Adelaide.

The Service Life Evaluation Program found what the DoD pretty much had to find, given delays in their future submarine program, and the government’s selection of a longer and riskier approach for that effort. Despite the submarines’ record, “there was no single technical issue that would prevent the Collins Class submarines from achieving their theoretical platform life, their planned withdrawal dates, or a [7-year] service life extension…” A confluence of multiple issues with uncertain resolution? They didn’t say.

With respect to the Industry Skills, indigenous design capability for submarine and surface ships is weak, white collar skills are spread thin, and the blue collar workforce is too sparse, especially in supervisors and electrical trades. Sources: Australian DoD, “Reviews of Australian submarines released” | Australian DoD, “Minister for Defence and Minister for Defence Materiel – Joint Media Release – Collins Class Service Life Evaluation Program” | Coles Review | Future Submarine Industry Skills Program.

Several Key Reports

Dec 10/12: Costs. Former submariner and Acoustic Force CEO Rex Patrick (q.v. Oct 7/10) continues to call government estimates into question, describing DMO estimates to date as “spectacularly and consistently wrong”:

“Each of the six boats costs twice as much to sustain and operate as an American nuclear submarine, while falling far short…. “In 2014-15, the accounting cost of Australia’s submarine force will, by Defence’s own numbers, hit $1 billion…. He said the real cost [per boat for operating the Collins Class] is running at “just shy of $100 million…. a number that is made even worse when one considers their availability; a recent US Department of Defence report put the per-boat operating and sustainment cost of the Los Angeles and Virginia class (of nuclear submarines) at $50 million and $59 million respectively…. For the $600 million-plus annual cost of keeping between two and three 20-year-old Collins-class submarines at sea, the RAN [Royal Australian Navy] could buy a brand new, reliable, deployable, high-end submarine every year.”

Sources: The Canberra Times, “Keeping Collins afloat ludicrous: expert”.

O&M costs

Dec 10/12: Costs. Former submariner and Acoustic Force CEO Rex Patrick (q.v. Oct 7/10) continues to call government estimates into question, describing DMO estimates to date as “spectacularly and consistently wrong”:

“Each of the six boats costs twice as much to sustain and operate as an American nuclear submarine, while falling far short…. “In 2014-15, the accounting cost of Australia’s submarine force will, by Defence’s own numbers, hit $1 billion…. He said the real cost [per boat for operating the Collins Class] is running at “just shy of $100 million…. a number that is made even worse when one considers their availability; a recent US Department of Defence report put the per-boat operating and sustainment cost of the Los Angeles and Virginia class (of nuclear submarines) at $50 million and $59 million respectively…. For the $600 million-plus annual cost of keeping between two and three 20-year-old Collins-class submarines at sea, the RAN [Royal Australian Navy] could buy a brand new, reliable, deployable, high-end submarine every year.”

Sources: The Canberra Times, “Keeping Collins afloat ludicrous: expert”.

O&M Costs

Nov 29/12: Submarine rescue. The Dutch firm Damen touts the Royal Australian Navy’s Nov 16/12 order for a Rescue Gear Ship 9316, which will be used to support the country’s submarine fleet. The RGS 9316 will actually be built at a Damen shipyard in Vietnam, and is due to be delivered in 2016. It will be similar to their SD Victoria, built for Serco UK to support Britain’s Royal Navy.

The release also mentions an August 2012 order for an Escape Gear Ship 8316 Submarine Rescue Vessel, to be delivered by 2015. Damen | Marine Log | SD Victoria video.

Submarine rescue vessels

Nov 15/12: Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare’s speech at the Submarine Institute of Australia conference sends a signal that the Collins Class can have its life extended. Of course, the government more or less has to believe that, since their Future Submarines project isn’t going to produce new boats in time. The time frame being bandied about is “one more duty cycle” of 8-10 years, and HMAS Collins would be the first to have her hull cut open so the diesels and generators can be accessed.

Meanwhile, the Minister calls out an instance of media bias in his speech:

“The CEO of DMO, Mr Warren King, recently commented: “good news stories about Defence don’t sell papers”. At the supplementary estimates in mid October 2012, the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley explained that one particular journalist – who had had an extremely positive experience on the HMAS Farncomb during its successful efforts at RIMPAC – filed a good news story on Collins and was told by his editor that “it was unpublishable” (p.58 – Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee Estimates, 17 October 2012). “

The Collins Class is a deserving target for criticism, but news suppression is not professional nor honest. The fact that it’s distressingly common these days doesn’t make it any more acceptable. See: Minister’s speech transcript | Canberra Times.

Nov 14/12: Sonar upgrade. Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation signs an A$ 22.2 million contract with Thales Australia to update their submarines’ Scylla sonars. Thales is the original manufacturer, and currently holds the in-service support contract.

The custom-designed processing boards in the Scylla Signal Processing Cabinets will be replaced with commercial alternatives, sharply reducing the number of boards while improving capacity. These changes will require re-hosting the software on a different system, but the payoffs will include reducing electronics that aren’t manufactured any more, improving reliability, lowering power consumption, taking up less space, and saving about a tonne of weight. Once the software is re-hosted, which is no small task, further software development can take advantage of the new hardware’s capacity, in order to improve overall sonar performance.

Most of this work will be performed at Thales Australia’s underwater systems facility in Rydalmere, in western Sydney. Sea trials are scheduled for 2013, followed by physical installation in the 1st of 6 submarines in 2014. It’s all part of an additional A$ 700 million, which has been budgeted over the next 4 years for Collins Class submarine sustainment. Australian DoD | Thales Group.

July 25 – Aug 3/12: Problems continue. After reporting a successful torpedo firing and sinking exercise during RIMPAC 2012, Australia’s DoD reveals that a leak is forcing HMAS Farncomb to return to port immediately. Fortunately, the submarine was at periscope depth, and the problem “has been traced to a split in a hose on the submarine’s weight compensation system.” The Liberal Party’s shadow defence minister, David Johnston, reminds Sydney Morning Herald readers that these kinds of breakdowns are all too common:

“Farncomb is no stranger to this kind of incident… In August it lost both its propulsion motor and emergency back up in deep water off the Western Australian coast. The second, a few months later in the South China Sea, involved a build up of toxic gases that had the crew wearing oxygen masks and blowing its emergency ballast tanks for a rapid ascent.

In May last year another Collins Class submarine, HMAS Dechaineux was forced to return to Singapore for repairs after breaking down on its way to a training exercise, also in the South China Sea. It was the only submarine due to participate in the 5-nation exercise and the embarrassment was amplified when the Navy News published a pre-written account of its daring exploits on the presumption nothing could go wrong.”

Meanwhile, decisions concerning Australia’s replacement submarine plan may not happen in time. Australia DoD | state-funded ABC | The Australian | Sydney Morning Herald.

June 19/12: Simulator upgrades. Thales Australia announces a contract to upgrade the Collins Submarine Platform Training Simulator (PTS), at HMAS (naval base) Stirling’s Submarine Training and Systems Centre (STSC) in Western Australia. The PTS has been in service since 1993, and includes a Propulsion Control Simulator (PCS) and a Submarine Control Simulator (SCS). The upgrades will ensure that the simulators match all the changes that have been made to the submarines themselves. Given ongoing difficulties in recruiting enough submarine crews, an effective and fully up-to-date simulator is a critical link in Australia’s attempt to fix this situation.

Thales is well positioned to provide simulators for the Collins Class, since it provides and supports the sonar suite, towed array, periscope visual system (also getting upgrades under a recent contract), communications mast and other key sensors.

April 23/12: An interview with Minister for Defence Stephen Smith touches on the Collins Class’ ongoing problems, and the decisions to be taken regarding Australia’s future submarines. An excerpt:

“…since the 1990s we have had long-standing, well known, entrenched maintenance and sustainment issues and difficulties with our Collins Class Submarines… under governments of both political persuasions… it would be irresponsible to rush into the Future Submarine Project without seeking to fully understand… in particular the maintenance and sustainment of the Collins class submarine and the inability over almost two decades to get better operational service out of the Collins Class Submarine.

That caused me to establish the Coles Review, the first part of which I received in December of last year, and the second and final part of which I am expecting to receive in the course of the next month or so… [In addition,] one of the studies we have currently under way is a study trying to better define the life of type [DID: expected service lifetime] of the Collins Class Submarine.”

April 21/12: Unsalvageable? Commander James Harrap, a 20-year navy veteran, resigns from the RAN after commanding both HMAS Waller and HMAS Collins. While the boats and their crews had “serviced the navy well and achieved much,” the media obtain a copy of his overall assessment. It is stark and scathing: scrap the class.

“I don’t believe the Collins-class are sustainable in the long term and many of the expensive upgrade plans which have been proposed would be throwing good money after bad… Over the last two years, I believe these problems have become worse… Throughout my command of both Collins and Waller, full capability was never available and frequently over 50 per cent of the identified defects were awaiting stores… Collins has consistently been let down by some fundamental design flaws, leading to poor reliability and inconsistent performance. The constant stream of defects and operation control limitations makes getting to sea difficult, staying at sea harder and fighting the enemy a luxury only available once the first two have been overcome.”

The submarines’ diesel engines come in for special criticism, but they are far from his only target. His final conclusion: “I do not believe we have the capability to independently design and build our own submarines.” The Australian.


Coles Review, RAND lessons learned reports; $105 million per year each for maintenance?; Some periods have seen 0 subs available; Can new submarines be built in time?

Dec 13/11: Coles Review, Phase 1 Following its July 19/11 announcement (q.v.) and Nov 4/11 delivery, Phase 1 of the Coles Review of RAN submarine sustainment is made public. It goes so far as to call the government’s chosen structure to manage Australia’s submarine force “unfit for purpose,” and the report’s own statement of its raison d’etre is a concise summary of the fleet’s visible issues:

“Despite increases in funding for sustainment, and strenuous efforts on the part of the various authorities and agencies involved, the level of submarine availability continues to fall. The length of dockings is increasing and submarines frequently have to return to harbour with problems. Loss of availability had also been caused by lack of crews, and the level of crew availability remains critical to the support of operations. Ministers became increasingly concerned about damage to the national reputation and frustrated at the apparent inability of Defence to sort out the problems. There was also a strong perception, especially in the DMO, that the ASC was operating inefficiently on a forward funded cost-plus contract for sustainment. The two Commonwealth Departments involved – DoFD (as owner and shareholder of ASC) and DoD (as owner, customer and operator of the submarines) – determined that an independent review was needed… Taking these findings together, we found the disparate organisation to be unfit for purpose. Recovery will demand a very serious and concentrated effort to change relationships for the better. This will be a major undertaking which goes well beyond anything the team expected to find…”

Along the way, it describes fractured and mutually hostile organizational responsibility in government, no culture of performance at builder ASC, a “damaging” relationship between ASC and the DMO, poor RAN planning or even commitment to its submarine force, “micromanagement from afar”, high levels of parts cannibalization between submarines, unclear requirements, and unrealistic goals. Its interim process recommendations have all been approved for immediate implementation, and despite its negative appraisal of ASC, they recommend that the In-Service Support Contact (ISSC) being negotiated should proceed as planned, as an interim, step to a more performance-based contract. Notable observations included:

  • “…we have been unable to identify any unanimity of view as to the actual requirement for submarine availability even at the most senior levels…”
  • “Recent figures indicate that around 85% of lost MRDs are due to operational or safety defects, and of those, about 45% are due to lack of stores. Around 15% of lost days are due to maintenance overrun.”
  • While the RAN now has 3 trained crews, that doesn’t mean 3 submarines available for operations unless leave and training are removed from the equation;
  • 33% of trained RAN submariners have been qualified for less than 2 years;
  • Crews don’t always carry out normal maintenance, and aren’t punished for it;
  • “We were unable to establish why it is that FCDs [Full Cycle Dockings] take as long as three years, noting that the second FCD (HMAS FARNCOMB) took barely two years… [that’s] a long time even by modern nuclear submarine standards…”
  • “There is a range of key suppliers to the program beyond ASC itself. This list includes Raytheon (combat system integrator), Thales (sonar), Babcock (weapon launch and handling), Pacific Marine Batteries, Drive Train (diesels), BAES (optronics), and the US Navy (tactical command system). There are others who supply specialist products or services without which the program could not succeed.”
  • “Of particular note is the issue of [electronic] obsolescence which, 15 years into the program, has the potential to engulf the submarines with further problems…”

Phase 2 is due in April 2012, and will focus on issues of program management, commercial contracts, engineering, and costing. It aims to offer a framework and industry best practice benchmarks against which the DMO, RAN and ASC performance can be measured. Phase 3 will be the final report, but there will also be a Phase 4 follow-up that looks at progress, and implementation of the new ISSC. Coles Review, Phase 1 [PDF] | Australian DoD | Minister transcript: ABC Interview | RAN.

Coles Review, Phase 1

RAND Report
(click to read)

Dec 13/11: RAND Lessons Learned. Australia’s DoD releases RAND’s requested report of lessons learned from US, UK, and Australian submarine programs. RAND Report.

Oct 15/11: $$$$ Australian media look at the Collins Class’ annual costs:

“Figures obtained by the Herald Sun, show the six Collins subs cost about $630 million a year – or $105 million each – to maintain, making them the most expensive submarines ever to put to sea… The annual price for “sustainment” (maintenance and support) is $415.9 million for 2011-12 with operating costs running at $213.4 million for the year, for a total of $629.3 million.

A US Navy Ohio Class nuclear attack submarine – more than three times the size of a Collins boat – costs about $50 million a year to operate.”

See: Herald Sun | Courier Mail, incl. infographic | Australia’s Daily Telegraph.

Oct 5/11: Swedish consulting and software provider Systecon AB announces an order from Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) for its OPUS10 maintenance support software. OPUS10 optimizes spare parts stocks and support for complex technical systems within defense, transportation, energy and production, and ASC will use OPUS10 in their current re-evaluation and improvement of the Collins Class’ support program.

Sept 15/11: Liberal Party opposition defense spokesman Sen. David Johnston seems to be waking up to the seriousness of Australia’s submarine problems. The Australian:

“The undoubted lead Australia once had in regional submarine capability has, despite the best efforts of our very committed submariners, disappeared,” he told parliament. “Our Collins-class submarines are inherently unreliable, technically challenging to maintain and difficult to crew. We rarely have more than two submarines available to go to sea and there have been instances of late where there have been none, repeat none, available to defend our borders.”

July 25/11: The Australian reports that Australia’s DoD:

“…will seek US help with Australia’s plan to build 12 big conventional submarines to replace the navy’s six troubled Collins-class boats… After initial problems with the Collins fleet a decade ago, the US provided a state-of-the-art combat system and the latest technology to improve the subs’ propulsion systems and make them less noisy.”

July 19/11: Labor Party Defence Minister Stephen Smith admits that there are “long-term difficulties” with the Collins Class submarine fleet, and announces a full independent review led by British private sector expert John Coles. The Minister cites too many stretches where only 1-2 submarines have been available, and there are reportedly doubts that the subs’ diesel engines are robust enough to last until 2025 as planned:

“These problems are significant and highly technically complex. At times we have seen as few as one Collins Class submarine available for operations. This situation is unacceptable but will not be addressed simply by continuation of the status quo… As a consequence, the Government will conduct a review into the optimal commercial framework for the conduct of Collins Class Submarine sustainment… My ambition is that the Coles Review will do for the Collins Class Submarine what the Rizzo Report has done for our amphibious fleet capability: a clear sighted path to improve the sustainment and availability of the Collins Class Submarines… Without having confidence in our capacity to sustain our current fleet of submarines, it is very difficult to fully commence, other than through initial planning, the acquisition program for our Future Submarine. This is consistent with the absolute necessity to work very hard in the early days to get projects right and thereby avoid, reduce, and minimise project difficulties down the track.”

The Coles Review has been asked to provide an interim report by December 2011, and a final version by March 2012. The key questions are how long this will delay Australia’s future submarine program, and whether the review will include political-structural weaknesses in the program, or confine itself to procedures. Minister for Defence ASPI transcript | ASC release | Adelaide Now | Australian Broadcasting Corp. and ABC AM radio | Canberra Times | Queensland’s Courier-Mail | Sydney Morning Herald | The Australian.

July 18/11: Labor Party defense minister Stephen Smith, Jason Clare the Minister for Defence Materiel, and Paul Rizzo release their requested report: “Plan to Reform Support Ship Repair and Management Practices.” It follows serious failures in the legacy amphibious ship fleet, and acknowledgement of widespread issues in the Royal Australian Navy with engineering and ship maintenance generally. Though it isn’t about the Collins Class per se, its recommendations will affect Australia’s submarine programs.

All 24 of Mr. Rizzo’s recommendations are accepted, and he himself will be in charge of chairing the implementation committee he recommended. Two-star Commodore Michael Uzzell is also promoted to a new position: RAN Head of Engineering. Report page with Full Report [PDF format] | Australian DoD release and transcript | Sky News interview.

May 15/11: Australia’s Kokoda Foundation releases “Under the Sea Air Gap: Australia’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Challenge. The study “attempts to identify issues surrounding Australia’s Anti Submarine Warfare capabilities that will require greater scrutiny in the period leading up to the 2014 Defence White Paper.”

Author Brice Pacey is concerned that the design for Australia’s next-generation submarines might not be complete until 2019, and the first boat might not be ready until 2030. With the Collins Class scheduled to begin retiring in the mid-2020s, that would present a problem. Australia would need to either extend the lives of a class that has not performed well or reliably, or accept a vestigial submarine fleet even as it neighbors build up their capabilities. See also Adelaide Now.

April 14/11: Australia’s ASPI think-tank releases “The once and future submarine – raising and sustaining Australia’s underwater capability.” Based on past acquisitions, beginning the future submarine program immediately would only deliver the 1st boat in 2025; further delays would create timing issues with the Collins Class’ retirement. On which subject:

“…the boats have spent so little time in the water due to maintenance and crewing problems that the hulls have not been pressure cycled anywhere near to the extent anticipated. However, a life-of?type extension for the Collins is not an especially appealing prospect for a number of reasons. To start with, the drive train in the Collins has been problematic since day one, and attempts to keep the fleet going into the late 2020s would almost certainly require work to replace the highly problematic diesel engines (which are already ‘orphans’ in the world of maritime diesels). That alone is an undertaking requiring major engineering work, not to mention a lot of money. It is a simple fact of geometry that the engines can only be removed by cutting the pressure hull. Given that less complex mid-cycle dockings are taking 100 weeks to complete (against an anticipated 52 weeks), this exercise would result in considerable downtime. It could be that every five years of additional life would come at the cost of one or two extra years out of the water and/or conducting sea trials for each boat being upgraded. This would further exacerbate the already disappointingly low availability of the fleet.”

2009 – 2010

HMAS Farncomb the lone sub left – then its generators fail; Generator failures, crew recruiting examined in hearings; RAN puts 3 to sea. Dechaineux returns
(click to view full)

Nov 22/10: The Royal Australian Navy announces that it has 3 Collins Class submarines at sea, adding that both HMAS Collins and HMAS Deschaineux have sailed from Fleet Base West for the ASWEX exercises:

“HMAS Collins had been visiting the east coast of Australia but has returned to her home port to participate in ASWEX. Collins steamed over 10,400 nautical miles around Australia, with port visits in five states and territories. She also qualified 20 new submariners and had 17 sailors complete professional development qualifications.

HMAS Dechaineux has returned to duty after an incident with a civilian tug boat… repairs to the propeller took only a week to complete, at the Henderson shipyard in Western Australia… HMAS Waller is also at sea carrying out training after undergoing scheduled maintenance.”

Nov 9/10: HMAS Dechaineux, which returned to service in May 2010, will miss the Royal Australian Navy’s annual anti-submarine warfare exercises. The submarine was carrying out a routine maneuver with a tugboat while departing its berth at Fleet Base West, when the tug crossed over Dechaineux’s stern; there were no injuries to people, only the submarine.

HMAS Collins, which was at sea, will fill in for the annual exercise. RAN.

Oct 7/10: Under a radical plan authored by Rex Patrick and other former submarines, Australia would retire HMAS Rankin and HMAS Collins immediately, and begin replacing the Collins Class with locally-built, off-the-shelf designs from Europe, instead of waiting until 2025:

“Australia should rapidly acquire four locally built military-off-the-shelf (MOTS) submarines to address the submarine availability issue and address the growing capability gap between the Collins-class submarines and the modern submarines proliferating throughout the region… The Collins-class submarine program has been an unmitigated failure… [HMAS Rankin and HMAS Collins]… are not available anyway, there are no crews for them and maintaining them is placing an ever increasing burden on the navy’s budget.”

Under his plan, the first boat of an initial batch of 4 would be operational for the navy within 5 years, and all 4 would be operational in under 8 years. The Australian | Adelaide Now.

June 17/10: Ministerial release:

“With the recent successful docking of the first submarine at Australian Marine Complex (AMC) in Henderson, Western Australia, ASC have marked a key milestone for the $35 million purpose-built submarine support facility… With this increase in capability ASC is now able to carry out maintenance on as many as three submarines at any one time.”

May 24/10: HMAS Dechaineux returns to service following its Full Cycle Docking at the ASC Pty Ltd. in Adelaide, giving Australia a 2nd operational submarine. Australian DoD photo release.

May 4/10: Australia’s government announces a pair of battery contracts to small/medium firm Pacific Marine Batteries Pty Ltd.

A 6-year, A$ 81 million (currently $75 million) Acquisition Contract will provide 5 lead-acid Collins Class Submarine battery sets.

A parallel 7-year Standing Offer, on the other hand, will provide short notice technical support from the firm. Pacific Marine Batteries will continue to provide an Environmental Protection Authority approved storage facility for up to 4 battery sets (2 in storage and 2 ready for disposal), as well as equipment capable of conditioning the cells before installation, and decommissioning and disposal services.

HMAS Rankin,
(click to view full)

March 30/10: Generator fail. The Australian Senate’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade hears a range of testimony, including updates regarding Australia’s submarines. The bottom line? The Australian firm that manufactured the generators under license didn’t manufacture them to the same standard as the original French firm. The Chair is Archie Bevis [Labor – Brisbane], and the other speakers are Mr. Kim Gillis, General Manager of the Collins effort at Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation; and Bob Baldwin [Liberal – Paterson]:

“Mr BALDWIN – As I understand it, the issue is that the windings failed on the generators – is that correct?

Mr Gillis – That is correct. We have worked with a company called machinemonitor who are specialists in this particular area. They are providing the quality control. We have now found the best companies in Australia to do vacuum impregnation, which was the failure of the first system – they were not done properly when they were originally manufactured…

Mr BALDWIN – Are there any indications that generators on other submarines are likely to fail?

Mr Gillis – As to the generators that are on Collins, the original ones were actually manufactured in France. The inspections on those would indicate that they are very solid and we are not expecting to have a failure on those. The remainder of the Collins-class submarines that had their generators manufactured in Australia are susceptible to this particular failure. We are monitoring those. We are looking at the way in which we can ensure that we do not get the same sort of failure. We do have three generators on each submarine. The normal requirement is to only operate two. So what you can do is: by operating them at about 80 per cent of their normal operating profile, you restrict the likelihood of a failure. We have now also been able to prove a world’s best practice way of doing this work. We are also going through the following process: from now on, in the normal process of doing their midcycle dockings, their intermediate dockings or their full-cycle dockings, we are undertaking this work. We will be changing out the complete set of generators in the submarines.

Mr BALDWIN – That was my next question. So on the Collins you are doing all three generators?

Mr Gillis – On Farncomb we are only having to do two because we had already swapped out one of them.

CHAIR (Mr. Bevis) – Is there any liability that the original supplier of these faulty generators is exposed to? Have we looked at that?… [exchange follows] I just make the observation that, if we are in the business of handing out money to Australian or American businesses or anybody else in the development of things, we should sure and hell be in the business of making sure what they provide has been delivered properly and in accordance with the contract. I appreciate that you were giving off-the-cuff testimony and what you said may not have been a considered assessment. But, if that was indeed a considered assessment, it seems to me we were not supplied with what we ordered and we should not bear the total cost of making good the repairs.

Mr Gillis – I think it is a matter of the quality of the product that was demonstrated at the time. Its warranty was for a certain period of time and it had exceeded the original warranty period. When an item like that has passed its warranty period, you do not have very much recourse. We would have liked it to have lasted longer and to an indefinite fit, but it is very unlikely that most companies will warranty a piece of manufacture like that for the life of a submarine.

CHAIR – I fully accept that.”

On HMAS Farncomb, there appears to be one small consolation, which is that the repairs are going faster than planned:

“Mr Gillis – Yes. Just in respect of the generators on Farncomb, the original estimate was that it would take in the order of 23 weeks to undertake the repair of the generators. Just due to the physical dimensions, the requirement to get them in and out was a very big task. The Submarine Program Office – a combination of ASC, the Navy and the DMO – have worked collaboratively to produce a much better system of getting them in and out. We have worked with a company called Hofmann Engineering in Western Australia who are specialists in confined-space engineering. Hofmann undertook the challenge to have them removed, repaired and put back in a period of approximately 57 days. They are currently on track… We are very pleased with the work that has been undertaken to date.”

There’s always a tension between buying proven products, and providing design and industrial work for Australian firms. The Kinnaird Review recommended more off the shelf purchases, and the Collins Class was a major exhibit in that recommendation. Having said that, sub-contracted/ licensed manufacture of exactly the type cited above is also the most common way to reconcile true off-the-shelf purchases with industrial needs. By definition, however, a licensed manufacturer does not have the same experience level and process control as the original manufacturer would. This is one of the inherent risks of “indigenization” – and in this case, the risk came back to bite Australia. Australia Hansard transcript | Sydney Morning Herald.

March 30/10: The Australian Senate’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade also discussed overall ADF recruiting with Air Chef Marshal Houston. This an especially important issue with respect to the submarine force, which has been hurt by the lack of trained crew:

“Air Chief Marshal Houston – Submarines are going very well. I am very, very happy with the work Chief of Navy has been doing and indeed the work that Phil Minns and his people have been doing on recruitment and retention. In terms of where we are at the moment, we have had an increase of 25 in the submarine force since July. Our target this year is to increase from the current 468 people in the submarine force to 500 by the end of the year. Essentially, if we make that target and then we qualify 100 people a year, we will be well on the way to restoring the submarine force to where it needs to be. That will enable us to establish a fourth crew by the end of next year. Right now with the 468 people, we have three submarines fully manned. I visited one of those crews very recently with the Chief of Nay [sic] – HMAS Dechaineux, which is coming out of full-cycle docking in Adelaide. I was really taken with the high morale on board that vessel.

The other thing that I think is crucial as we go forward is to keep our separation rate with the submarine force below 10 per cent. If we go back to 2008, you will recall that the Chief of Navy put in place a submarine sustainment project under Admiral Moffitt. Admiral Moffitt made a number of recommendations which were all accepted by the Chief of Navy. Since that time, we have gone forward on a very positive and constructive platform. I am very confident that the major problems are behind us. Having said all that, if the economy goes into another boom condition, we are always going to have challenges for both our recruitment and our retention. But at the moment, it is looking good and we are seeing a lot of interest from junior recruits in the business of being a submariner.

Mr BALDWIN – At what stage do you consider you will have six fully qualified crews to man six submarines?

Air Chief Marshal Houston – I talked to the Senate committee about this the other night. Nobody in the world maintains six for six or 50 for 50 or whatever. Submarines just are not like that. Submarines are the most complex weapons system that defence forces operate, and what you should anticipate is that, of those submarines, at least 50 per cent will be in some form of maintenance servicing at any one time. We have benchmarked against all of our friends and allies, and I can assure you that the way we run our submarines is consistent with the way all of our allies run their submarines. Nobody has one crew for each submarine they possess. What they have is sufficient submarine crews to sustain the capability that is defined by the government that owns that capability. In our case, we could not employ six submarine crews.”

Feb 12/10: Australia’s Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet, announces that a new joint Australian Submarine Program Office will be established in Adelaide as of March 2010, in order to manage the Collins Class’ availability. A tripartite meeting between RAN Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Russell Crane, DMO Program Manager Submarines Mr. Kim Gillis, and ASC Pty Ltd CEO Steve Ludlam met to agree to the new project office’s proposed charter. The office will commence work in March 2010, and will operate as an integrated product team of Navy, DMO and ASC personnel led by DMO’s Director General Submarines, Commodore Bronko Ogrizek. Combet adds that:

“Discussions between the parties have also focused on a way forward for HMAS Farncomb’s generator repairs and a maintenance schedule change which will improve overall submarine availability.”

See: Australian DoD | ASC Pty release.

Jan 25/10: The Collins Class submarine HMAS Farncomb encounters a generator failure, which reduces Australia’s operational Collins Class submarine fleet to 1 boat in 6 – HMAS Waller. Plus HMAS Collins, which is only qualified for training purposes.

The cost of repairs is not yet predictable, and the mechanical issue could extend beyond HMAS Farncomb. Continuing issues with the class also leads to questions concerning the feasibility of, and proposed strategy for, Australia’s next-generation submarine program. DoD Release | Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) | ABC Radio transcript | The Australian | The Australian: op-ed | Defpro.

May 21/09: Adelaide Now reports that problems for the Collins class have worsened:

“With HMAS Waller tied up at the Henderson shipyard south of Perth for urgent battery repairs, the only seaworthy sub is HMAS Farncomb.

The other four boats are either out of active service (HMAS Collins) or out of the water for major maintenance known as full cycle docking (HMAS Sheehan, Rankin and Dechaineux)…”

Additional Readings


Other Coverage

Categories: News

Airspace Management Decongestion & Deconfliction Issues

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 14:14

  • Readers can decide for themselves what the latest GAO report on UAV integration regulatory efforts in the US national airspace may say about the Administration’s priorities, or the state of the US economy as a whole:

“As of December 4, 2014, FAA granted seven commercial exemptions to the filmmaking industry allowing small UAS operations in the airspace. However, over 140 applications for exemptions were waiting to be reviewed for other commercial operations such as electric power line monitoring and precision agriculture. […] A 2014 MITRE study found that Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada have progressed further than the United States with regulations that support commercial UAS operations.” [Emphasis DID.]

  • That said, US lawmakers expressed alarm [WaPo] about the risks posed by cheap drones used in civilian airspace at a House Transportation Aviation Subcommittee hearing yesterday (full video).

  • And they have a point, as deconfliction is a serious issue. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recently disclosed [BBC] that a “serious risk of collision” had occurred last July between a small rotorcraft UAV and an Airbus 320 about to land in Heathrow.

  • For reference, here’s the list [PDF] of small commercial UAV operators approved by the UK CAA.

  • Airports in the Arabian peninsula are becoming increasingly busy since they positioned themselves as inter-continental hubs between Europe, Asia, and Africa. A significant amount of airspace in the region is reserved for military use. The UAE has been working to alleviate the pressure and better coordinate military and civilian airspace uses, something that China would be well advised to emulate. The National | Emirates 24×7 (May 2014) | NATS airspace management company.

Sat Storage

  • The GAO also asked whether DoD should look more closely at its satellite storage costs and risks. These costs can add up to surprising amounts.


  • The French Army released its 2014 “Grand Rapport” [PDF, in French], which provides an overview in numbers of their equipment and missions.

  • Today’s video comes from 2 of the 4 Dutch F-16s currently in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission taken as they recently escorted [in Dutch] 2 Russian Su-34s flying to the Kaliningrad exclave:

Categories: News

Europe’s Air Transport Command Agreements

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 23:38

One of the driving forces behind Airbus’ A400M military transport program, and of “pool” programs like NATO’s SALIS with Russian AN-124s or its recent SAC C-17 pool, is Europe’s shortage of transport aircraft to support military missions. This shortage will not be fixed any time soon. In the interim, NATO pools are about to be augmented by a more local partnership.

As the Netherlands struggled over proposed defense cuts in 2007, its Ministerie van Defensie signed an agreement with Germany, France and Belgium to create “European Air Transport Command” (EATC) as a coordination pool for their own military transports. The EU EDA also has a parallel program with much wider participation, the European Air Transport fleet (EATF). EATF offers a step short of EADC level integration, while laying the foundation for wider EADC membership in future. They’re farther away than they’d like to be, but probably closer than you think.

(click to view full)

The EU’s European Defense Agency describes the European Air Transport Fleet (EATF) as a framework federating different national and multinational military air transport fleets and organizations in Europe. Their stated goal is to improve available air transport services through cost-effective pooling, sharing, exchange and even acquisition of various capabilities, including aircraft, training, cross-servicing activities, cargo handling, maintenance activities, spare parts, etc.

The draft European Air Transport Command (EATC) agreement set out how participating countries will manage the command’s operations, which will be conducted out of Eindhoven in The Netherlands. This new command will employ between 150 and 200 jobs in the area – but it won’t become a central base. The military air transport aircraft core will involve C-160 Transalls in France and Germany, and C-130H Hercules transports in Belgium & Holland, but will also include other aircraft. EATC’s initial assets included 19 CASA CN235 light transports, 135 Transall C-160s, 29 C-130 Hercules, 10 Airbus A310s (some with aerial refueling capability), 2 Airbus A340s, 2 KDC-10 aerial tankers, one DC-10, and a variety of liaison and VIP aircraft from participating countries Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

As A400Ms enter service, they’re expected to become part of EATC. All planes will continue to be stationed and maintained on the air bases of the participating countries. Even so, EATC participants expect to benefit from more “surge” capability available at need, as well as greater efficiencies in overall fleet use.

Note that 3 of the 4 core EATC countries have orders for A400M transports on the way (France – 50, Germany – 60, Belgium – 7), while the Dutch have made no firm decision re: replacement of their aging C-130H-30s. EATC is one way of weighting the scales for that eventual decision… and of course, it also furthers the EU objective of creating a parallel military structure outside of NATO.

The EATF French AF CN-235
(click to view full)

The European Air Transport Fleet is a parallel step along that same road. The EU’s European Defence Agency recognizes that EATC is “a major step towards more combined training as well as harmonisation of airlift procedures and processes in Europe,” and wants to complement that with a wider effort. EATF allows national assets to remain strictly national, but success would lay the framework for greater federation via the EATC. As the EDA puts it, the goal is:

“…a flexible and inclusive partnership between national and multinational military air transport fleets and organisations in Europe, aimed at the enhancement of standardised air transport services through cost-effective pooling, sharing, exchange and/or acquisition of various capabilities, including aircraft, training programmes, cross-servicing activities, cargo handling, maintenance activities, spare parts, etc.”

The EDA wants to take the next step by creating a common European Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Course by 2014, with full operation by 2019. That would represent a very large step toward common procedures and training.

As of March 2012, EATC still had its original 4 members, but EATF had 20 members: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. Note that EATF includes all 4 EATC members.

Timeline & Events Aces Hi-iiiigh

December 2014: C-27Js. The EDA recently gathered representatives from the 5 EU users of C-27J Spartan transport aircraft: Bulgaria, Italy, Greece, Lithuania, and Romania. The initiative was launched in May, and while not strictly part of EATC, it is meant to complement that broader effort, as well as the Spartan User Group where non-European countries are also found. Participants will meet again early next year to further discuss ideas such as pooling simulators or share parts.

June 2014: EATT. The 3rd European Air Transport Training unfolded over 2 weeks, organized for the first time in Bulgaria. According to the EDA the exercise involved 460+ participants, 19 crews, and 10 transport aircraft of 5 different types, coming from 10 different countries in addition to the host. 100 sorties were flown over 150 flying hours. 40 tons of cargo and over 100 paratroopers were dropped. Next year’s exercise will take place in Portugal. EDA fact sheet [PDF, in EU English].

German C-160D & A400M

Jan 30/13: EATC. The International Institute of Strategic Studies offers an update regarding EATC’s use in Mali, where French troops are spearheading a war against al-Qaeda’s local affiliates:

“The most obvious concern, however, is airlift. Moving additional troops and equipment from France has highlighted Paris’s – and Europe’s – continuing lack of strategic lift.

In the first week of Operation Serval, France looked to the UK, Europe’s only operator of Boeing C-17s (pictured above), for assistance. It garnered support from Canada and the US for additional C-17 airlift. Private-sector Antonov An-124s were also used. The overall effort was coordinated by the European Air Transport Command which, despite its name, only covers France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. French Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall medium and tactical transport aircraft, as well as a Belgian C-130 and two German C-160s, have also been used. French air force Airbus A340 and A330 passenger aircraft transported military personnel. Intra-theatre air transport includes French Army Puma helicopters, with reconnaissance and fire support provided by Gazelle and Tiger helicopters.”


June 4-15/12: EATF. The 1st ever multinational European Air Transport Training (EATT) exercise is held at Zaragoza AB, Spain. It’s organized by EATF’s Ad Hoc Working Group Tactical Air Transport (AHWG TAT), in close co-ordination with the EATC in Eindhoven.

In all, 6 nations (Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, and the Czech Republic) participated with 8 aircraft (C-130s, C160s, C295s) and 14 crews. Sweden, Greece, Italy and Bulgaria participated with observers, and the US supported the event with several Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Course (AATTC) instructors.

The EDA’s ultimate goal is to establish a permanent European AATTC based on the existing US course, with initial operating capability in 2014, and full operating capability by 2019.

1st EATF joint training exercise

March 2012: EATF. Hungary joins EATF Category A.

Nov 16/11: EATF. The European Defence Agency announces that Norway has signed its European Air Transport Fleet (EATF) Programme Arrangement. Norway is not an EU member, but then, neither are some of the other signatories. Its biggest contribution would be 4 new C-130J Super Hercules medium transports.

EATF Partnership signatories now number 18: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

May 23/11: EATF. EU EDA: 18 European Ministers of Defence (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Spain and Sweden) sign the EATF Category A Programme Arrangement, launching EATF as a program and establishing a management committee.

EATF launched

Summer 2011: EATF. ATARES goes live. Accounting is one of the biggest barriers to fleet sharing. In response, EDA launched a “web-based accounting software development” study to understand the financial issues involved in paying for shared Air Transport, Air-to-air Refueling and other Exchange of Services (hence ATARES). ATARES New Accounting & Invoicing System (ANAIS) allows EATF members to carry out accounting related tasks in accordance with defined users’ rights.

March 9/11: EATF. The EU EDA’s Steering Board in Capabilities approves the Outline Description and the EATF Category A Program, linked to a set of separately launched EATF Category B projects and related work.

Sept 1/10: EATC. European Air Transport Command (EATC) formally stands up and begins operations at Eindhoven AB in the Netherlands. The first commander is German Major General Jochen Both, who commands a staff of 200. Membership is open to expansion, and other European countries are reportedly considering it. Dutch MvD, incl. video [in Dutch] | French Air Force, incl. video [in French] | Key Publishing | Belgium’s LeVif [in French] Logistek [in Dutch] | Nederlands Dagblad [in Dutch] | Fenetre sur l’Europe [in French] | Russia’s RIA Novosti [in French].

EATC begins operations

Nov 17/09: EATF. The EU European Defence Agency’s Steering Board agrees to move ahead on the “European Air Transport Fleet (EATF)”, and the 14 ministers sign a Letter of Intent (Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden). Romania signs the EATF LoI a few months later, to make 15. EU EDA.

Oct 29/09: EATC basing. The Dutch MvD and media sources confirm that the European Air Transport Command (EATC) will definitely be located at Royal Netherlands Air Force Headquarters in Eindhoven AFB, Netherlands. The Netherlands will begin a tender for construction of temporary housing on base, in order to meet the 2010 deployment schedule. Dutch MvD’s Defensiekrant #38 | Luchtvaartniews [in Dutch].

Nov 10/08: EATF. Aviation Week reports that 12 European Defense Agency (EDA) member countries have agreed to pool airlifter resources in the future, with the focus on the A400M. A formal letter of agreement is due in 2009 from existing A400M customers Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain; as well as prospective customers the Czech Republic, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, and Slovakia.

Initial operational capability is planned for 2014, with full operational capability planned for 2017. The scope of this cooperation, and number of aircraft involved, has yet to be worked out. The arrangements are likely to parallel’s NATO’s SAC pool of 3 C-17s, however. The Netherlands and Romania are already NATO SAC participants, so they’ll be familiar with the concept.

Oct 25/08: A400M. Europe’s two leading maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) providers Lufthansa Technik and Air France Industries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to offer an extensive global component & logistic support service for Airbus A400M customers. Under this scheme, the companies will provide component repair & overhaul, engineering services, management of a dedicated component pool including all required logistics not only at the Air Forces’ A400M main bases, but also during various missions around the globe.

This kind of arrangement is similar to Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster Sustainment Partnership, and has obvious benefits for any kind of pooled approach to A400M deployment. Lufthansa Tehnik release.

February 2008: EATF. The EDA Steering Board in Capabilities formation decides to establish a Project Team to study viable models for the development of a European Air Transport Fleet (EATF).

May 23/07: The initial EATC agreement is signed among Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Dutch MvD release | Defense Aerospace translation.

EATC agreement

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Estonia Acquires CV90 IFVs from Netherlands in Biggest Procurement Ever

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 21:56
For sale

The Netherlands and Estonia signed an agreement on Dec. 9/14 for the sale of 44 CV 9035NL Mk-III tracked infantry fighting vehicles. These vehicles are used but were acquired in recent years before the Netherlands decided it no longer needed them, or more accurately, could afford them. The Dutch had announced their intent to sell these vehicles in September 2013, and Estonia had been revealed as their buyer in October 2014.

Russia was already making Estonia nervous after cyber attacks in 2007, but the Baltic states have had even more reason to worry after the events that unfolded in Ukraine through 2014. For Estonia, clearly annexations have consequences.

Dutch CV90s
in their own words

The Netherlands had ordered a total of 193 CV90s from BAE Systems Hägglunds AB in Sweden, in infantry transport and command/control configurations. Deliveries took place between 2008 and 2011, so by the time Estonia receives them they will still have 2 decades of use in them. The Royal Netherlands Army’s remaining fleet is now comprised of 132 CV90s.

Given that the initial contract placed by the Dutch in December 2004 for 184 vehicles was valued at €749 million ($931M at today’s exchange rate), a 113 million euros ($141M) acquisition looks like a pretty good deal for the Estonians. Especially given the fact that this agreement includes maintenance toolkits, training, spares, and even ammunition.

There’s a long history of used sales between the two countries that goes back to 2004 and includes the sale of XA-188 APCs in 2010. The Dutch also sold their remaining Leopard tanks to Finland in early 2014. (Incidentally Finland is also a CV90 user.)

Astute readers will note that 193-44=149, leaving 17 vehicles unaccounted for. Were the Netherlands able to scale back their orders to the initial 184? And/or did they use their freshly issued CV90s in combat before leaving Afghanistan? The CV90 Afghan deployments that we know of were those of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Info tips welcome.

Readings & Sources

Categories: News

China Says Hypersonic Missile Tests Are Business As Usual

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 16:40

  • Last week Bill Gertz at the Washington Free Beacon reported that according to US officials China had conducted its 3rd test of a hypersonic missile. Chinese officials seemed to implicitly confirm the test in the state-run China Daily today.

  • Yu Long is the second former United Technologies employee accused of having attempted to provide a foreign country with sensitive documents related to defense aerospace programs. Hartford Courant | Fox CT.

  • WSJ: the minuscule cost of equipping a Chinese soldier.

US Biz Dev

  • DARPA will host a proposer’s day [FBO] about the Resilient Synchronized Planning Assessment for the Contested Environment (RSPACE) program on January 5 in Arlington, VA. It is one of several programs pursued by the research agency to maintain coordination even when communication networks are disrupted.

  • The US Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI)’s Program Manager Constructive Simulations (PM ConSIM) will host an industry day [FBO] about the Intelligence & Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer (IEWTPT) on January 9 in Orlando, FL.

  • The US Army postponed its industry day about the Grenadier Sighting System (GSS) to February 11, 2015. A draft RFP should be released on January 12. The idea is to provide day and night targeting for M320 grenade launchers that’s more accurate than the current folded leaf sight and handheld laser range finder. Caveat Propositor: a market survey had already taken place in mid-2012, and a previous draft RFP issued last year was eventually cancelled in September 2013.

  • The US Army issued [ASFI] a 2nd request for information on Increment 2 of the controversial Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) program.

US Congress

  • The Hill reports that the US House Armed Services Committee will soon have 6 new Republican members: Sam Graves [MO], Ryan Zinke [MT], Elise Stefanik [NY], Steve Knight [CA], Tom MacArthur [NJ], as well as Martha McSally pending the result of a recount in Arizona.

Used LSD for Brazil?

  • According to Poder Naval [in Portuguese], the Brazilian Navy is sending a team to France to evaluate whether acquiring the Foudre-class Siroco dock landing ship would make sense. The French ministry of defense announced in mid October that the Siroco and 4 other ships would be decommissioned in 2015 as part of a broader restructuring effort. Chile acquired another used ship in the class 3 years ago.

Iranian drones for Mexico?

  • Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Iranian parliament National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, claims that Mexico is interested in Iranian drones. Boroujerdi did meet with [in Spanish] Mexican senators, though nothing was said publicly about drones. It may make sense to support counter-narcotics operations like Colombia does, but believe it when you see it.

CIA Torture

  • In yesterday’s Rapid Fire we got Senator Dianne Feinstein’s last name completely wrong. We didn’t mean to slur or to commit one of our infamous puns, though it may have sounded that way, and edited the entry as soon as this was pointed out. Please excuse what was an honest, absent-minded mistake.

  • The Washington Post has an easily scannable list of highlights if yesterday’s report was too much to stomach. Senator Feinstein’s full speech on the Senate floor yesterday can be seen 56 minutes into the video below:

Categories: News

Space Based Space Surveillance: Follow On Needed

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 13:40
SBSS Constellation
(click to view larger)

In January 2001, a commission headed by then US Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld warned about a possible “space Pearl Harbor” in which a potential enemy would launch a surprise attack against US-based military space assets, disabling them. These assets include communications satellites and the GPS system, which is crucial for precision attack missiles and a host of military systems.

“The US is more dependent on space than any other nation. Yet the threat to the US and its allies in and from space does not command the attention it merits,” the commission warned.

One of the systems that grew out of the commission’s report was the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) project, which is developing a constellation of satellites to provide the US military with space situational awareness using visible sensors. After a slow start, SBSS Block 10 reached a significant milestone in August 2012 with its Initial Operational Capability, followed by full operational capability less than a year later. But lack of funding casts as shadow on whether this capability will be maintained beyond 2017. By 2014/15 the Air Force worked on a stopgap project as well as an effort to obtain proper funding for follow on satellites to be launched at the start of next decade.

Space Tracking SBSS Concept
(click to view larger)

The SBSS system is intended to detect and track space objects, such as satellites, anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, and orbital debris, providing information to the US Department of Defense as well as NASA. The SBSS is a stepping stone toward a functional space-based space surveillance constellation.

The SBSS is a follow-on to the Mid-Course Space Experiment/ Space-Based Visible (MSX/SBV) sensor. The initial SBSS satellite is expected to improve the US government’s ability to detect deep space objects by 80% over the MSX/SBV system.

The MSX/SBV system was a late 1990s missile defense test satellite; by 2002 most of its sensors had failed. However, 1 small package called the SBV sensor was able to search and track satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) using visible light. This sensor lowered the number of “lost” objects in GEO orbit by a factor of 2.

Building on the success of the MSX/SBV visible sensor, the SBSS Block 10 further develops the technology and replace the SBV sensor. Block 10 involves the development of 1 satellite as a pathfinder for a full-constellation of space-based sensors.

The SBSS Block 20 constellation is expected to include 4 satellites when fully developed and the SBSS constellation was originally expected to be operational in FY 2013.

However, delays have plagued the system. In late 2005, an independent review team found that the program’s baseline was not executable; that the assembly, integration, and test plan was risky; and that the requirements were overstated. The SBSS program was restructured in early 2006 due to cost growth and schedule delays. The restructuring increased funding and schedule margin; streamlined the assembly, integration, and test plan; and relaxed requirements. The launch of the initial satellite was delayed and costs increased by about $130 million over initial estimates.

Northrop Grumman, the prime contractor for the SBSS system, awarded a Boeing-led team that includes Ball Aerospace and Harris Technologies a contract to develop and deploy the Block 10 SBSS Pathfinder satellite and ground system. The program itself was back on track, but funding for follow-on was then nixed several years in a row.

Contracts and Key Events

Jan. 2015: SBSS FO revival? The SBSS program office plans to hold an industry day on January 22 in El Segundo, CA to discuss their acquisition strategy for the satellite’s stalled follow on. Air Force Space Command has sought $251 million over the FY16-19 FYDP to restart work on a program involving 3 smaller satellites in low Earth orbit, with the 1st launch around 2021 or 2022. It’s not the size of the sats that matters to provide real-time, all-weather access, but rather their orbital position.

Attendants will also be debriefed on the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) latest results with the ORS-5’s System Capability Demonstration, an effort involving the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Lincoln Laboratory that may bridge the gap between SBSS’ end of life and the launch of its follow on.

Sources: FBO: solicitation FA8819-15-C-0006 | Spaceflight Now: “Air Force satellite to continue tracking of space traffic” | Space News: “U.S. Air Force Planning Three-satellite Replacement for SBSS“.

March 2014: follow on delayed. The US Air Force’s FY 2015 budget request delays delivery of the SBSS follow-on by a year, which suggests that it’s not entirely dead, but rather frozen.

April 2013: follow on cancelled. As per the USAF’s RDTE FY 2014 budget request, “the SBSS Follow-on program was terminated in FY14 and beyond to pay for higher department priorities.” This is not a surprise as Congress had already cut into follow on funding as early as FY11.

April 1/13: FOC. US STRATCOM declares that the SBSS satellite has reached Full Operational Capability.

Aug 20/12: Air Force Space Command declares Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the Space Based Space Surveillance Block 10 satellite. IOC marks a certain level of program maturity within the Production and Deployment (P&D) phase of the acquisition lifecycle. This follows an IOT&E phase conducted in March-April 2011 that DOT&E found adequate [PDF].

According to the GAO’s FY2012 report on space acquisitions, the Air Force decided to wait before asking for follow-up funding given the size the funds required, but this might be in play for FY2013.


Feb 23/11: The SBSS satellite begins full operational duty within the Air Force’s 1st Space Operations Squadron in the 50th Operations Group, 50th Space Wing, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. It is operated 24/7 by a a crew of 4 consisting of a mission commander, mission crew chief, payload systems operator and satellite systems operator.


Sept 25/10: The Air Force successfully launched the 1st SBSS satellite, Block 10, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, aboard an Orbital Sciences’ Minotaur IV rocket. Block 20 will provide more robust capability and will be composed of a constellation of 4 satellites.


Jan 15/10: Boeing in Seal Beach, CA received a $30.9 million contract exercising the option for CY2010 maintenance and operations services to provide the requirements for the development and delivery of the logistics infrastructure of the Space Based Space Surveillance Block 10 system. At this time, $7.8 million has been obligated. The SMC/SYSW in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8819-08-C-0006, P00014).

Oct 6/09: A planned launch of the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite aboard a Minotaur 4 rocket was delayed indefinitely due to technical concerns with the launch vehicle, the USAF said. The SBSS launch is slated to take place from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.

Feb 5/09: Boeing announced that it successfully completed initial satellite testing and demonstrated end-to-end mission functionality of the ground and space systems of the integrated Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system.

The SBSS team demonstrated end-to-end mission functionality starting with the generation of mission plans in the Satellite Operations Center at Schriever Air Force Base, CO, in response to simulated tasking. These plans were sent via the encrypted Air Force satellite control network to command the flight space vehicle in Boulder, CO, to take images using the payload optics. The Boeing-led team also demonstrated progress toward operational readiness by completing the second full mission exercise. The exercise employed a mission scenario using the SBSS ground segment and a space vehicle simulator.

April 21/08: The Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) System Block 10 team announced completion of the payload electronics, high-speed gimbal and testing of the space vehicle’s visible sensor, enabling the start of payload integration and test.

The SBSS gimbal and visible sensor enable responsive tasking as events in space warrant. The Boeing-provided onboard payload computer performs immediate detection of space objects and provides future capability for improved Block 10 performance.

Dec 11/07: Boeing announced that it had successfully completed a series of Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system tests as part of the development of a new operational sensor for the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.

Tests of the SBSS system’s visible sensor, payload electronics and high speed gimbal further validate that the enhanced capability of SBSS will be twice as fast, substantially more sensitive and 10 times more accurate than the capabilities currently on orbit, resulting in improved detection of threats to America’s space assets.

May 9/07: Northrop Grumman Missions Systems in Carson, CA received a $97 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to the Space Based Space Surveillance contract. The modificaiton is being issued to increase the contract value to recognize a subcontract overrun. No additional work is being added to the contract by this modification. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract(FA8819-04-C-0002/P00055).

April 23/07: Northrop Grumman Mission Systems in Carson, CA received a $20.5 million cost-plus-award-fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to the Space Based Space Surveillance contract to transfer work from Northrop Grumman Mission Systems to Boeing as part of a program restructure. The work transferred includes external interface management, program protection support, on-orbit support and certification and accreditation. This modification also adds additional systems testing requirements to the contract. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8819-04-C-0002/P00052).

Oct 23/06: Northrop Grumman Mission Systems in Carson, CA received a $13 million cost-plus-award fee and cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification incorporating the re-planned program schedule for the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system due to budget reduction in FY 2003 and FY 2004. It also incorporates a program launch slip from June 2007 to December 2008 for SBSS. The award will be made to Northrop Grumman Mission Systems as a contractor modification to an existing contract. The Space Superiority Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8819-04-C-0002/P00039).

Dec 17/04: Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems Corp. in Redondo Beach, CA received a $223.2 million cost-plus award-fee contract modification to develop and deliver a Space Based Space Surveillance Pathfinder satellite. This modification definitizes the unpriced supplemental agreement awarded March 26/04 (with a not-to-exceed clause) of $46 million. The location of performance are Boeing in Huntington Beach, CA, and Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, CO. At this time, $82.7 million of the funds have been obligated. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8819-04-C-0002, P00016).

Oct 20/04: Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems in Redondo, Calif., is being awarded an $9 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification. The Northrop Grumman Mission Systems (NGMS) is currently on contract to develop and deliver a Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Pathfinder satellite. This change order incorporates design changes critical to the development, launch and operation of the SBSS system. The award will be made to NGMS as a change order to an existing contract. At this time, $36,000 of the funds have been obligated. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8819-04-C-0002, P00011).

May 20/04: A Boeing/Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. team received a $189 million contract from the US Air Force for the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system. Ball Aerospace is responsible for the space segment including spacecraft bus and visible sensor payload. The team will develop a satellite and the ground segment, and will provide launch services. The team will also be responsible for mission planning, mission data processing and operation of the system for up to one year, prior to transitioning it to the Air Force. The Boeing/Ball team was chosen for the SBSS subcontract by Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, acting on behalf of the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

March 24/04: Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems in Redondo Beach, CA received a $46 million cost-plus-award-fee contract. Northrop Grumman Mission Systems (NGMS) will develop and deliver a Space Based Space Surveillance Pathfinder satellite. These efforts include the purchase of materials and services necessary to design, build, launch and operate this single satellite with a visible sensor payload and to design, build and operate a ground segment to support initial satellite operations. The award will be made to NGMS as an undefinitized contract action to an existing contract. The locations of performance are Boeing in Huntington Beach, CA, and Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, CO. At this time, $23 million has been obligated. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8819-04-C-0002).

Additional Reading

Categories: News

Taiwan’s Force Modernization: The American Side

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 08:00

Despite China’s ominous military buildup across the strait, key weapons sales of P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, Patriot PAC-3 missiles, and diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan had been sabotaged by Taiwanese politics for years – in some cases, since 1997. The KMT party’s flip-flops and determined stalling tactics eventually created a crisis in US-Taiwan relations, which finally soured to the point that the USA refused a Taiwanese request for F-16C/D aircraft.

That seems to have brought things to a head. Most of the budget and political issues were eventually sorted out, and after a long delay, some major elements of Taiwan’s requested modernization program appear to be moving forward: P-3 maritime patrol aircraft, UH-60M helicopters, Patriot missile upgrades; and requests for AH-64D attack helicopters, E-2 Hawkeye AWACS planes, minehunting ships, and missiles for defense against aircraft, ships, and tanks. These are must-have capabilities when facing a Chinese government that has vowed to take the country by force, and which is building an extensive submarine fleet, a large array of ballistic missiles, an upgraded fighter fleet, and a number of amphibious-capable divisions. Chinese pressure continues to stall some of Taiwan’s most important upgrades, including diesel-electric submarines, and new American fighter jets. Meanwhile, other purchases from abroad continue.

Tracking the Programs: Patient Progress & Stalled Sales

Fortunately for Taiwan, there is movement beyond the stalled backwaters of F-16 and submarine sales. Can a combination of foreign weapon sales approvals and domestic efforts break Taiwan’s defense equipment logjam? Can the broader US-Taiwan defense relationship be saved, or is it eroding fatally?

Those are questions for the future. This Spotlight article will focus on the here-and-now instead, chronicling key developments and purchases as they arise.

Aerial Acquisitions

In the modern era, control of the air is the first requirement of effective defense. For an island country, control of the sea, or the ability to deny that control to enemies is equally strategic. Taiwan’s key modernization efforts in both areas remain troubled, which impairs the amount of real deterrence, and security, their military modernization can bring them.

ROCAF Mirage 2000-5
(click to view full)

The ultimate issue for Taiwan is one of numbers. In the air, quantity has a quality all its own. Taiwan expects to retire its F-5 and Mirage 2000v5 fighters by 2020. The ROCAF is moving to modernize its old F-16 fighters, but any fighter has a fixed airframe life, measured in flight hours. Modernization is a medium term solution, not a long term one, and does nothing to address the growing numeric imbalance across the strait. Even as US military studies suggest that the USAF and US Navy will find it more and more difficult to fly fighter reinforcements to Taiwan, and keep them in its airspace.

With 24 ROCAF F-16 fighters out of service for upgrades at any point, 16 in the USA for training at Luke AFB, and 30% of the remaining machines (32) unavailable for other maintenance, Taiwan’s fleet of 146 F-16s shrinks to about 74 F-16s in operational service. If equivalent rates hold true for the 71 locally built and upgraded F-CK-1C/Ds, that means about 50 operational Hsiung Ying fighters, for a total available fighter fleet of just 124 machines. Most of which will be 1980s level technology.

Consistent reports indicate that the USA has asked Taiwan to hold off on their request to add 66 new F-16s, in order to avoid a direct “no.” Reports suggest that a strong lobbying effort from China is dooming that effort, even as the PLAAF continues to add aircraft like the 4+ generation J-10, and equally advanced long-range SU-27 family fighters to its arsenal.

The Obama administration confirmed that perception in September 2011, when it opted to approve ROCAF F-16 fleet upgrades, rather than new F-16C/D Block 52 sales. They attempted to thread the needle by offering more advanced technology than the equipment in F-16 Block 52s, which have been sold to countries like China’s ally, Pakistan. The question is whether this is actually a worst-of-all-possible worlds outcome: showing weakness abroad on Taiwan, failing to extend the F-16 production line and American jobs at home, and offering cutting-edge technology that risks falling into the hands of Chinese intelligence.

The USA is also selling Taiwan the newest version of its attack helicopter, the AH-64E Apache Guardian. Its Longbow radar mast allows it to use radar guided, fire and forget missiles, and it also carries Stinger missiles for defense against enemy aircraft. Engine and communications upgrades, including the ability to control UAVs remotely, round out that package. The 30 Apaches would serve alongside Taiwan’s 60+ AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters, as a rapid reaction force able to counterattack beachheads and exploit the hilly island’s natural chokepoints.

Sea Control

At sea, the situation is simultaneously less overtly perilous, and less hopeful. China’s navy is certainly growing, but is not yet overwhelming. The problem is that without air superiority as cover, no Taiwanese surface navy can expect to survive, in order to maintain control of the seas around Taiwan. Britain faced the same equation in World War 2, and prevailed by winning in the air.

ROC Seadragon sub
(click to view full)

If that isn’t possible, a good submarine force is the classic military solution. Submarines are capable of either destroying efforts to cross the strait, or strangling Chinese trade as it moves through Southeast Asia’s key choke points. Modern missiles give them vastly longer offensive reach, and modern submarines are very difficult to find and target once they put to sea. For a nation like Taiwan, they’re the ultimate conventional deterrent against invasion.

Taiwan’s comprehensive failure to field this trump card stems even more directly from Chinese pressure. The USA approved a sale request in 2001, but they haven’t produced conventionally-powered subs for many decades, and don’t want to be the supplier. Without that option on tap, Chinese diplomacy has utterly strangled Taiwan’s efforts to find a party who is (a) able to make diesel-electric subs; and (b) is willing to sell them to Taiwan. The Republic of China currently relies on 2 submarines that are too old for anything but training missions, and 2 Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) class submarines. The Hai Lungs were ordered from the Dutch firm Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM) in 1981, as a derivative of their Zwaardvis (Swordfish) class. A follow-on order for 4 more submarines was blocked by the Dutch government in 1992 thanks to Chinese pressure, and RDM went out of business a few years later.

Since then, Taiwan has explored a number of alternatives to obtain diesel-electric submarines, without success. They are even reportedly considering building their own boats from foreign designs. Australia’s experience suggests that this course may be fraught with peril, and Taiwan has a number of technology gaps to address: ship design technology, torpedoes, sonar, propulsion systems, combat systems, and submarine periscope lenses. On the other hand, if the alternative is no submarines at all, and submarines are one of your most critical national defense needs, the perils of caution may outweigh the risks of inexperience. Taiwan seems determined to face the peril, and a report is expected by June 2014.

Land Defense CM11 tank
(click to view full)

Land defense improvements currently center on portable missiles, mobility, and massed counterattack against amphibious or paradropped beach-heads. The missiles provide dispersed, hard-to-target defenses against enemy aircraft and armored vehicles. Helicopter mobility allows rapid response to enemy airdrops or pre-positioned guerrilla units. Massed counterattack means the heavy armor of tanks, which remain the most important and element for crushing enemy beach-heads.

Taiwan’s situation with respect to tanks isn’t very good. The Republic of China Army currently fields about 480 M60A3 tanks acquired in the 1990s, but the M60 first entered US service in 1960, and the A3 version entered US service in the late 1970s. They’re joined by 450 much older CM11s (modified M48H 105mm turrets with improved fire control, mated to M60 hulls), and 300 of the M-48 medium tanks whose base design dates back to the 1950s: 50 M48A3s, and 250 CM12s (modified CM11 turrets mated to M48A3 hulls).

Contracts & Key Events Patriot Radar
(click to view full)

This article focuses on foreign imports, and the vast majority come from the USA. The US DSCA references to “the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States” are diplo-speak for “Taiwan” or “Republic of China”. DID uses the conventional term instead. Note that DSCA requests are not contracts; those are separate announcements, and sometimes years pass between the two events. Having said this, a DSCA request does open the door to contracts as permitted weapons exports through the Foreign Military Sales process, unless Congress moves to block the proposed sale within 30 days.

Note that upgrades to the ROCAF’s locally-designed and built F-CK-1 fighters are covered in a separate article, as an Indigenous Taiwanese program that sits outside this article’s scope.



Dec 09/14: Frigates. Taiwan has a NT$5.5 billion ($176M) budget approved and ready to acquire 2 Perry-class frigates whose sale is well on its way to finally be approved by the US, after years of stalling (q.v. Sept 10/14). The US Senate approved S. 1683 on December 4, and since a similar bill (HR. 3470) had already been passed by the House in April, a reconciled law should be on the President’s desk soon.

China is not happy, but they’re making a lot of fuss for 2-4 weaponless ships that the US Navy gave up upgrading and Australia found tough to modernize.

Sources: Reuters: “Taiwan says to buy two U.S. frigates despite China anger” | Xinhua: “China firmly opposes US arms sale to Taiwan“.

P-3C arrives

Nov 3/14: Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX receives a $271.8 million firm-fixed-price modification to install 142 F-16S aircraft upgrade kits. The total cost is, of course, much larger, since the kits must also be bought – which is at least a $1.85 billion proposition (q.v. Oct 1/12). Work will be performed in Taiwan, and is expected to be complete by May 31/22.

This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. The USAF’s Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8615-12-C-6016, PO 0006).

F-16 upgrade installation

Oct 29/14: UH-60M. A Taiwanese Army official tells a legislative committee that UH-60Ms will begin to arrive soon, with the first 6 to arrive in mid-December 2014, and the rest of the 60 arriving in 6 more batches into 2018. Of the 60 UH-60Ms, 45 will be used by the Army, and the other 15 will be used for disaster relief by the Ministry of the Interior’s National Airborne Service Corps.

In other news, the 2 pilots who crashed their AH-64 onto a city roof are “still undergoing a series of flight tests before they can resume training missions.” Could be a while, guys. On the P-3 front, a flight simulation system has recently become operational in Taiwan to help train people for the sea control plane. Sources: Focus Taiwan, “Taiwan to take delivery of first batch of Black Hawks in December”.

UH-60 contract schedule

Oct 28/14: Minehunters. Italy’s Intermarine S.p.A. and Lockheed Martin win a contract to support local construction of 6 mine countermeasures vessels (q.v. Sept 5/12), which will be built at a brand-new Ching Fu Shipbuilding facility in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The ships are expected to be about 52m long and 700t.

Intermarine will build the 1st hull at its shipyard near La Spezia, Italy, but Ching Fu will finish it and build the remaining 5 ships. Lockheed Martin’s role is focused on the combat system. Sources: Intermarine SpA, “Mine Countermeasure Vessels” | Defense News, “New Spanish Frigate Detailed, Deal for Taiwan Minesweepers Announced”.

6 minehunters

Oct 23/14: Jet Trainers. Defense Minister Yen Ming says that Taiwan wants to buy advanced trainers. Right now, the progression out of basic flight training goes from T-34 turboprops, to the AT-3 jet trainer, to the supersonic F-5E/F as a Lead-In Fighter Trainer. The T-34s will remain for now, but the AT-3s and F-5E/Fs would be retired.

The announcement comes right after a dual-crash of AT-3 jet trainers during a routine aerobatic training mission in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. Lt. Col. Chuang Pei-yuan was killed.

The question is which trainer will be available to Taiwan, given the likelihood of Chinese counter-pressure. The big 4 are Britain’s Hawks, Italy’s M-346 Master, Korea Aerospace/ Lockheed’s supersonic T-50 Golden Eagle family, and Russia’s Yak-130. Beyond, Czech firm Aero is releasing new L-159T and L-169 trainers, which can perform the same air policing and light attack roles as the Hawks, Yaks, and Golden Eagles; and Boeing & Saab are supposedly working on their own jet trainer offering. Since even Boeing & Lockheed have international partners, which of these countries will have the fortitude and willingness to offer them to Taiwan?

On the other hand, if Taiwan moves some of its indigenous F-CK-1 fighters into the F-5F’s LIFT role, their advanced AT-3 trainer replacement options would expand to include Brazil’s Super Tucano, Swiss Pilatus trainers, and Beechcraft’s T-6 family from the USA. Sources: Focus Taiwan, “Taiwan set to purchase advanced trainers in 2017: defense minister”.

Oct 19/14: Submarines. The Taiwanese submarine Hai Hu (Sea Tiger) launches a pair of UGM-84 Harpoon missiles, demonstrating a successful upgrade that vastly increases the submarine’s reach to over 100 nautical miles. Taiwan now employs all 3 types of Harpoon missile, launched from its frigates, F-16s, and submarines. Sources: Agence France Presse, “Taiwan tests submarine-launched missiles: report”.

Subs: Harpoon capability

Oct 19/14: AH-64E. Taiwan receives the last 6 helicopters, completing delivery of the 30 it ordered under the TWD 59.31 billion ($1.95 billion) contract. It now has 29 available for service (q.v. April 25/14). Sources: Focus Taiwan, “Taiwan takes final delivery of Apache helicopters”.

A-64Es all delivered

Oct 14/14: PATRIOT. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Grand Prairie, TX receives a $595.5 million foreign military sales contract modification, covering FY 2014 production for Kuwait, Taiwan, Qatar, and the UAE. They’re selling 152 PAC-3 cost reduction initiative missiles, 15 PAC-3 launcher modification kits, and the associated ground equipment, tooling, and initial spares. $543 million is committed immediately.

The PAC-3 CRI missile was used as the base for the PAC-3 MSE missile, but the MSE missile also added a number of new technologies, and changed the missile’s structure. In contrast, PAC-3 CRI missiles offer PAC-3 performance at a slightly lower cost.

Work will be performed in Grand Prairie, Lufkin, and El Paso, TX; Camden, AR; Chelmsford, MA; Ocala, FL; Huntsville, AL; and Anaheim, CA; and will continue until May 31/16. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-14-C-0034, PO 0008).

PAC-3 missiles: Kuwait, Qatar, Taiwan, UAE

Sept 10/14: Frigates. Taiwan won’t get its 2 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates (q.v. Aug 5/10, April 22/12, Nov 13/13) on schedule, because the US Senate can’t be bothered to authorize the sale. That will keep 2 aging Know Class frigates in continued service until 2016. The Chinese-language United Daily News reported Tuesday that the frigates were expected to be delivered in 2016, under a project budgeted at NTD 5.56 billion ($185.42 million) in total.

Note that the frigates being decommissioned by the USA had all major weapons removed long ago, making them essentially large Coast Guard cutters with sonar and torpedoes. Source: Taiwan’s Want China Times, “Delivery of US Perry-class frigates to Taiwan could be delayed”.

Sept 10/14: Submarines. US CNO Admiral Jonathan Greenert confirmed that he had a conversation with Taiwanese officials during a recent visit, covering the sale or provision of submarines to Taiwan. Neither he nor the Taiwanese would talk about the content of that conversation.

The best case scenario would involve the USA transferring a few key technologies like periscope lenses, torpedoes, and combat systems, albeit at technology levels that don’t surpass what they believe China to have. That way, stolen technologies wouldn’t matter. The worst case scenario is that the issue was discussed, and Greenert explained why no help is likely.

The event was held by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and focused on the US’s Asia Pacific rebalancing strategy. Sources: Taiwan’s Want China Times, “US chief of naval operation discusses sub deal with Taiwan”.

Sept 2/14: P-3Cs. Weapons for Taiwan’s P-3Cs become an issue:

“The Chinese-language China Times yesterday cited a recent report by the Control Yuan’s National Audit Office as saying that…. 12 P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft from the US cost US$1.96 billion and are under the operational command of the Air Force 439 Composite Wing unit…. [but] the US disagreed with a plan to have the aircraft carry ordinances, such as mines and depth charges, made by Taiwanese manufacturers.”

Taiwan’s P-3s can carry Harpoon anti-ship missiles, but they really need modern torpedoes in order to engage enemy submarines successfully. Depth charges can be used against submarines, but their limit of 50m handicaps them. Meanwhile, mines would turn them into a potent blocking force if they can survive long enough over the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan has American Mk-46 lightweight torpedoes available for use aboard its destroyers and frigates, but until the P-3s are ready and able to deploy their own torpedoes, CNA News quotes a ROCAF commander who says that submarine contracts from Taiwan’s P-3s would be passed on a nearby ship. If there is one.

Aug 30/14: Tien Kung. Lin Yu-fang of the parliament’s defense committee says that Taiwan plans to spend TWD 74.8 billion (about $2.5 billion) from 2015 – 2024, buying the locally-made Tien Kung 3 (Sky Bow 3) medium range air defense missile system to replace the aging Hawk batteries, and defend the island against aircraft and cruise missiles.

That will make the Tien Kung 3 Taiwan’s lower-tier air defense counterpart to its new PATRIOT missiles, but the country denies that the Tien Kung 3 will be used to equip its 10,500t, American-built Kee Lung (Kidd) Class destroyers. Those ships will continue to rely on Raytheon’s SM-2 missiles for protection. Sources: Defense News, “Taiwan to spend $2.5 billion on anti-missile systems” | Taiwan’s Want China Times, “Taiwan denies Tien Kung missiles to be deployed on destroyers”.

Aug 20/14: AH-64E. Deliveries are a bit delayed. Taiwan is set to take delivery of 6 more AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in late August, which would bring their fleet to 23. This batch was supposed to arrive in May, and the delay is reportedly due to shipping issues. The final batch is now expected in October. Sources: Focus Taiwan, “Taiwan set to take August delivery of more Apache helicopters”.

Aug 20/14: F-16S: Lockheed Martin announces a successful Critical Design Review for integration of Northrop Grumman’s SABR radar in an F-16 (q.v. July 31/13). The SABR AESA radar will equip Taiwan’s F-16S upgrade, as well as Lockheed Martin’s global F-16V offering. Lockheed Martin is now describing Taiwan as the F-16V’s launch customer. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “F-16V Completes Major Capability Milestone”.

Aug 11-12/14: Fighters, incl. F-35B? Taiwan’s MND reaffirms its continued interest in F-16C/D or better fighters, while openly stating their goal to acquire F-35s at some point:

“Ministry of National Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he said Taiwan’s Air Force is ideally looking for aircraft with short-take off and vertical-landing capabilities and acknowledged that “it is our goal to acquire F-35s.” He admitted that it would be nearly impossible to obtain the fighters in the short term, “but we will continue to make effort on this issue.”

That seems to point clearly to F-35Bs, which make excellent sense when facing an opponent with thousands of runway-damaging ballistic missiles. The MND also denied China Times reports that the Mirage 2000-5 fleet was had maintenance issues because the French weren’t cooperating, leading to cannibalization of existing fighters. The MND said the fighters were being well-maintained by the French – the question is how much credence to give that assertion. Sources: Focus Taiwan, “Taiwan to seek U.S. sales of more advanced fighter jets: official” and “F-16C/D jet fighters still a consideration: Defense Ministry”.

July 15/14: Crash investigation. The AH-64E crash (q.v. April 25/14) is ruled as pilot error:

“The investigation report shows that the primary causes of the accident were the combination factors of human errors and environment,” Maj. Gen. Huang Kuo-ming told reporters.

The environment refers to fast descending clouds, which disoriented the pilots while they were flying at a low altitude. Still, they should have checked the instruments to maintain adequate height. Taiwan has received 18 of their 30 helicopters, though they only have 17 now. Sources: Defense News, “Pilots Blamed for Taiwan Apache Crash”.

June 3/14: Submarines. ROC Ministry of National Defense (MND) Navy Command Headquarters has confirmed that Taiwan will try to replace part of the pressure hull on one of its existing Tench/ Guppy-II Class submarines. The boats were modernized to Guppy II standards in 1949, and transferred to Taiwan without torpedo systems in 1973, for use in anti-submarine training. Once in Taiwan, they were renamed SS-791 Hai Shih (ex-Cutlass) and SS-792 Hai Pao (ex-Tusk). Attempts to restore their torpedo firing capability reportedly failed, leaving them as surveillance and training vessels only.

The first problem is that they’re the world’s oldest serving submarines. While their core diving mechanism is simple and reliable, their continued safety under the compressing water pressure of a dive is a concern. MND has said that China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) and the Ship and Ocean Industries Research and Development Center (SOIC) have been appointed to oversee replacement of SS-791 Hai Shih’s lower pressure hull, in an TWD 450 million (about $15 million) program that will take place at a Navy Maintenance Command dry dock. Some old piping may also be replaced.

SS-791’s problem is the entire pressure hull, and its external hull would still be 70 years old after the replacement. A mistake would kill the boat, and even success may not leave Taiwan with an operational training submarine. But perhaps that isn’t the point. This is a good initial step, if the goal is moving CSBC and SOIC toward the capabilities they need to build a design provided by the USA, or to lead a local project to reverse-engineer and build a new submarine. If an unsafe submarine is sacrificed in the process, that may be seen as an acceptable “last hurrah.” Sources: China Post, “Old Taiwanese submarine to get new pressure hull: MND” | Taipei Times 2007, “Feature: World’s longest-serving sub feted” | San Francisco Maritime National Park Association, “Museum documents an operating US, WW II built submarine in Taiwan”.


April 25/14: Crash. During a training exercise, a Taiwanese AH-64E crash-lands on the roof of a low-rise residential building in Taoyuan county. Guys, that’s not what we were supposed to be training today.

The Helicopter is a complete wreck, but the pilots suffer only minor injuries, and no residents are hurt. Sources: The Daily Mail, “How did they get out alive? Lucky escape for pilots of Apache attack helicopter after it crashes into a housing block in Taiwan” | South China Morning Post, “Two Taiwan pilots injured as Apache chopper crashes into building”.

AH-64E crash

April 10-14/14: Frigates. The US House of Representatives passes HR.3470, a bill authorizing the sale of 4 decommissioned US frigates to Taiwan. It also officially reaffirms US support for the Taiwan Relations Act, which has lately found itself honored mostly in the breach. The bill was passed by voice vote, so there are no exact totals. The next step is consideration by the US Senate, which requires cooperation from Senate Foreign Relations committee chair Bob Menendez [D-NJ].

Success would bypass the State Department’s DSCA and make the USS Taylor [FFG-50], USS Gary [FFG-51], USS Carr [FFG-52], and USS Elrod [FFG-55] available to Taiwan, though Defense Minister Yen Ming has said that Taiwan would only buy 2. Taiwan would also have to add weapons back if they want anti-aircraft or anti-ship capabilities. The frigates have some residual value as anti-submarine platform without that, but Chinese control of the air and prominent use of missile attack craft would give them very short lifespans unless these capabilities are restored in some way. Taiwan was happy for the gesture, while China followed with predictable staged theatrics. Sources: GovTrack on HR 3470 | The Diplomat, “US House Approves Frigate Sale to Taiwan” | Focus Taiwan, “Taiwan planning to buy two warships from U.S.: defense minister” | Reuters, “China angered by latest U.S. arms sale plan for Taiwan” | Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs [in Chinese].

April 5/14: F-16. A CNA report says that the ROCAF will begin the process of upgrading its F-16 fleet in the second half of 2016, after the initial jets that are in the USA for compatibility testing etc. are finished. They don’t have an end date for the conversions yet. Sources: Taiwan’s Want China Times, “Taiwan air force to start upgrading F-16s from 2016″.

April 4/14: Submarines. So, good news?

“Minister of National Defense Yen Ming told a legislative committee that the United States “is willing to help us build the submarines together.”

The question is, what does that actually mean? the US hasn’t disavowed helping Taiwan acquire submarines over the past 8 years, they just haven’t done anything. Sources: Kyodo News International, “Washington agrees to help Taiwan build attack submarines”.

Feb 5/14: P-3s. Despite problems with the flight control systems in some recent deliveries (q.v. Jan 2/14), the ROCAF says that their overall delivery timetable will not be delayed, and could even be ahead of schedule. Sources: FOCUS Taiwan, “U.S. delivery of P-3C aircraft to Taiwan on schedule: military”.

Jan 27/14: F-16s. There are rumors that the USAF will remove the The Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite (CAPES) program from the 2015 budget request, in favor of a general F-16 service-life extension program (SLEP). We’ll know more in early March 2014. Taiwan was already complaining about having to pay most of the integration costs for the new configuration, but a USAF pullout would raise prices again. With the economy going soft, that could become a problem.

One option would be to make a troublesome switch from riding the USAF’s coat-tails and adopt the South Korean model for a BAE-led upgrade, which will integrate a different set of avionics that includes Raytheon’s RACR AESA radar instead of Northrop Grumman’s SABR AESA. Unfortunately, South Korea is still in the study phase, so even the ROKAF couldn’t tell Taiwan what’s involved in a switch. Singapore has also formally requested upgrades to its F-16 fleet, but the RSAF doesn’t seem to have decided on their exact configuration either, and their use of Israeli technology in some areas could be hard to duplicate.

Unless NGC strongly believes that Singapore will pick their SABR radar over Raytheon’s RACR, they’re the contractor with the most to lose if Taiwan’s upgrade fails. Can they deploy enough lobbying resources to keep CAPES, and hence their confirmed foothold in F-16 radar replacement? Stay tuned. Sources: Defense News, “F-16 Upgrade Dropped From US Budget Proposal, Sources Say”.

Jan 22/14: AH-64E. The China Post reports:

“The Army Aviation Special Forces Command yesterday said the grounding of the Apaches is set to be lifted in mid-February following the six-day Chinese New Year holiday that runs from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, once they replace the main transmission boxes. So far, the command has received several batches of new main transmission boxes and has installed them in half of the 12 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.”

A subsequent report moves that date back a bit. The groundings will be lifted during the week of Feb 10/14. Sources: Taiwan’s China Post, “Army to lift grounding order on Apache helicopters after CNY” | “Grounding order for Apache helicopters to be lifted next week”.

Jan 21/14: Size cuts. Taiwan’s Defence Minister Yen Ming (KMT Party) proposes to cut Taiwan’s military by 20%+, from a current size of 215,000 to 170,000 – 190,000. There doesn’t seem to be a firm plan, only vague statements that cuts would take place across all 3 services, “in stages contingent upon the government’s budgets, the acquisition of new weapons and demographic changes.”

The news report touts it as “the latest sign of warming ties with former rival China”, which would cast this as a foolish move. Before jumping on that, however, we’d refer readers to the demographic reference. There has been a small widening at the very bottom of Taiwan’s population pyramid lately, but the proportion of children aged 0-14 has dropped from a 1990 census of 26.9% to 15.65% in 2010. If you’re trying to recruit a military, that matters. As StrategyPage recently noted:

“Some Taiwanese politicians, desperate to find volunteers for the military have proposed that the descendants of Chinese soldiers who fled to northern Burma and Thailand after the communists won the Chinese Civil War in 1949, be granted Taiwanese citizenship if they join the Taiwanese Army…. Taiwan, like many other nations during the last two decades, is finding that moving from conscription to an all-volunteer military is not easy. For two years now the military has been only able to recruit 30 percent of the soldiers it needs to be all-volunteer by 2014.”

This issue isn’t specific to American equipment, of course, but it will affect those buys. Recruitment shortfalls usually indicate that the high-end of the recruiting pool is suffering the most – exactly the people who will be needed to operate and maintain advanced new equipment. Sources: Channel NewsAsia, “Taiwan to slash armed forces by up to 20 percent” | StrategyPage, “Attrition: Taiwan Wants To Recruit From The Lost Army”.

Jan 2/14: P-3Cs. Taiwan’s 2nd P-3C sea control aircraft arrived on Dec 12/13, but 2 more were still hung up in Guam by a malfunction in the flight control system. P-3C #3 received a fix and arrived on Dec 17/13, but #4 is still waiting in Guam as of this date.

Why the delay? No P-3C supply facility at the military base in Guam, and U.S. personnel on Christmas vacation. At least Taiwan isn’t paying for the repairs; since that’s true, we can also expect corrective action within the refurbishment process. The rest of the 2013 – 2015 delivery schedule remains intact (q.v. Oct 31/13), but Taiwan’s 40 year old fleet of 11 twin-engine S-2T Trackers won’t formally retire until 2017. Focus Taiwan, “Malfunction delays U.S. delivery of P-3C aircraft to Taiwan”.

Jan 2/13: AH-64Es. A 2nd batch of 6 attack helicopters arrives, but none of the new helicopters are cleared for flight yet. Taiwan has checked its own AH-64Es and found no obvious problems, but they’re still waiting for the US Army report that will clarify why the US AH-64E’s main transmission failed in December. Training will take place in simulators until then.

AH-64Es #13-18 will arrive in March 2014, #19-24 will arrive in May 2014, and #25-30 will arrive in July 2014. Sources: Focus Taiwan, “Taiwan to receive six more Apache choppers Thursday”.


Long-range radar ready; National programs to develop a new fighter and a submarine gain traction; The real American problem with submarines for Taiwan. AH-64E
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Dec 17/13: AH-64Es. Taiwan’s Army is notified of a main transmission failure in a US Army AH-64E attack helicopter. They respond by grounding all 6 Apache helicopters, pending a full investigation by the U.S. into the cause of the malfunction. Sources: Defense News, “Taiwan Grounds New US-Made Apache Helos Over Malfunction Fears” | Focus Taiwan, “Taiwan to receive six more Apache choppers Thursday”

AH-64Es grounded

Dec 17/13: BMD Radar. Raytheon IDS in Sudbury, MA, has been awarded a $6.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price, cost-reimbursement contract modification to create a testing environment related to the Taiwan Surveillance Radar program. The TSR is a huge, fixed radar installation based on an improved version of the PAVE PAWS system, used to track ballistic missiles thousands of kilometers away. Taiwan reportedly shares its data with the USA.

The technical term for this contract is “follow-on support string upgrade engineering change proposal.” In English, they’ll create a controlled site-like testing environment in the USA to test modifications, and perform system troubleshooting. You certainly don’t want to use the main radar for that. Work will be performed in Sudbury, MA and is expected to be complete by Nov 8/17. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/HBNA at Hanscom AFB, MA manages the contract (FA8730-13-C-0003, PO 0005). The same contract was also posted on Dec 13/13.

Dec 9/13: Submarines. Taiwan’s United Daily News reports that defense minister Yen Ming and Navy Command Headquarters chief Adm. Chen Yung-kang are strong supporters of a made-in-Taiwan submarine program. Partisan wrangling over the USA’s request for a NT$ 10 billion “contract design fee” (about $340 million) is generally seen as the key obstacle to progress on the 2001 sale approval, but the report also cites:

“…the U.S. Navy’s reluctance to build diesel-electric submarines at a U.S. shipyard because it fears that Congress would ask it to buy the conventional submarines to save money if an American shipyard had the capability to build such a ship.”

Taiwan’s shipbuilding industry association is scheduled to come up with a comprehensive assessment report by June 2014, and the military is reportedly doing its own due diligence in parallel. This won’t be easy. Taiwan would need to update its ship design technology, and would neither either considerable help or external sources for torpedoes, sonar, propulsion systems, combat systems, and submarine periscope lenses. Sources: FOCUS Taiwan, “Talk of the Day — Taiwan thinking of building its own submarines”.

Nov 13/13: On the list. Submarines remain high on Taiwan’s agenda, but they aren’t the only items. The ROCN will replace 2 of its FF-1052 Knox Class anti-submarine frigates in 2014, using 2 refurbished FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates. The rest may be replaced with local catamaran corvettes that have more of a surface warfare bent. The ROCN also seem to like the new minehunters, as they reportedly want to build some local MCM ships based loosely on their 2 new Ospreys. That’s a smart decision, and feasible for smaller shipyards.

Taiwan’s Marines reportedly want to buy another 48 AAV-7 amphibious personnel carriers, bringing their total fleet to 102 and allowing them to retire their ancient LVTP-5A1s.

The Air Force would like precision strike weapons, but if they’re thinking in terms of JDAM-type weapons, that won’t help them get inside Chinese air defenses. They’ll probably need to use their own weapons for that, and JDAMs are approved for export but the Air Force has delayed the purchase until 2014 or later. The ROCAF plans to go outside the USA entirely for its new jet trainer, but replacements for the AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chung have been canceled before. The last AT-3 was delivered in 1990, but South Korea’s T-50 family is reportedly quite tempting. China has been antagonizing South Korea lately, and a TA-50 sale would also provide Taiwan with a local interceptor and light attack jet. Sources: Defense News, “Taiwan Still Hungry for More US Arms”.

Nov 4/13: AH-64. Taiwan’s first 6 AH-64E attack helicopters have been re-assembled in Taiwan’s Kaohsiung Harbor, after arriving by ship. Four were flown to the Aviation and Special Forces Command in Tainan’s Guiren Township for initial flight testing, and the other 2 will arrive as part of the official ceremony on Nov 7/13. The US reportedly asked Taiwan’s military authorities not to reveal the AH-64E’s cockpit layout or configuration in its public display. If only it were that easy (q.v. Oct 28/13).

The helicopters will become operational in April 2014, with Guiren Air Force Base in Tainan serving as a training and basing focal point. More than 60 Taiwanese pilots and maintenance personnel returned to Taiwan in August 2013, after completed 20 months of training in the USA that will let them act as instructors. Still, there were limits, which echoed circumstances surrounding the delivery of Taiwan’s AH-1W Cobras over a decade ago:

“While Taiwanese pilots and maintenance personnel managed to get a full understanding of the aircraft software and hardware, the pilots were unable to obtain training in certain special flight skills. The Taiwanese trainees were asked to leave the classroom or training site whenever the American instructors were giving lectures on certain critical courses or special flight maneuvers, the officials said.”

They’ll have to figure those out on their own. A 2nd batch of Apache helicopters is scheduled for delivery in late December 2013, and 3 more batches of 6 will complete deliveries by the end of 2014. Sources: Focus Taiwan, “Taiwan takes delivery of first Apache choppers” | Focus Taiwan, “Talk of the Day — AH-64E Apache choppers debut in Taiwan” | Flight International, “Taiwan receives first batch of AH-64E Apaches” | Focus Taiwan, “Apache choppers to bolster Taiwan’s combat capability: expert”.

AH-64Es arrive

Oct 31/13: P-3Cs. President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday touted the P-3’s capabilities, during an official ceremony at Pingtung Air Base. The delivery schedule is supposed to fly in planes #2-4 by the end of 2013, planes #5-9 in 2014, and #10-12 in 2015, when the full P-3 squadron will be commissioned. Taiwan’s aged S-2Ts are scheduled to be decommissioned by 2017. Sources: Taipei Times, “President hails P-3C patrol aircraft”.

Oct 26/13: Espionage. Taiwan’s MND announces that a Major and 12 other officers are under investigation for selling details concerning Taiwan’s upgraded E-2C 2000 (aka. E-2K) AEW&C air surveillance planes. The last 2 planes only arrived in Taiwan on March 8/13.

E-2Ks aren’t the most modern version, but they are the most widespread type in the US Navy, so compromising their radar system or battle management system is a problem for the US Navy, as well as for Taiwan. National Party Rep. Ting Shou-chung acknowledged to Voice of America that this kind of leak could make the USA more reluctant to share advanced technology with Taiwan, but basically, it’s too late to fix the damage. Poor security has been a problem in Taiwan for some time now (q.v. Additional Readings). Even so, recent years have seen authorization and delivery of the USA’s most modern attack helicopters (AH-64E) and air defense missiles (PATRIOT PAC-3), a large ballistic missile defense radar, and some of America’s most modern AESA fighter radar technology for Taiwan’s F-16s. More significant technologies aren’t likely to be available to Taiwan anyway, the USA can’t take back what’s already given, and it’s more than unlikely that the USA would derail existing contracts. Sources: MND announcement [in Chinese] | Epoch Times, “Taiwanese Major Sells Military Secrets to China”.

Espionage: Hawkeye 2000 compromised

Sept 23/13: P-3Cs. Taiwan will be receiving its first P-3Cs at Pingtung AB within the next day or two, depending on Typhoon Usagi’s progress and course. Four of the 12 planes are expected by the end of 2013.

Subsequent reports indicate that the plane arrived on Sept 25/13. Sources: Taipei Times, “P-3C maritime patrol aircraft to arrive in Taiwan”.

Aug 8/13: AH-64E. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $92.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, as part of Taiwan’s AH-64E buy and associated support. The Pentagon says that this brings the cumulative total face value of this contract to $716.7 million. The original DSCA request, including 30 helicopters, weapons and 6 years of support, had a maximum of $2.532 billion (q.v. Oct 3/08).

FY 2009 procurement funds are being used, which was the year Taiwan placed the order. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as Taiwan’s agent (W58RGZ-09-C-0147, PO 0025).

click for video

July 31/13: F-16s. Raytheon’s RACR AESA may have won the South Korean F-16 upgrade contract, but refits for Taiwan and the US military will use Northrop Grumman’s SABR instead. It will also become the standard radar for Lockheed Martin’s “F-16V” new-build/ upgrade offering, replacing Northrop Grumman’s own APG-80 AESA used in the F-16E/F.

The Taiwanese deal still needs a firm radar contract, but this is a 10-figure combined opportunity. It’s a huge win for Northrop Grumman, whose AESA radars also equip USAF F-22A (APG-77) and global F-35 family (APG-81) fighters. Northrop Grumman.

SABR AESA radar picked

July 28/13: Submarines. US Under Secretary of Defense James Miller responds to Rep. Robert Andrews’ [D-NJ] letter by repeating what we already know. Taiwan’s government approved full funding for an American study re: diesel submarine design and feasibility in 2008, but the State Department and Pentagon still haven’t agreed to conduct one.

He adds, disingenuously, that “Taiwan has not submitted any requests for technical assistance or export licensing support pertaining to a submarine program.” First, the State Department’s DSCA would have to allow such a request to go forward to the Pentagon. Second, export licensing support and technical assistance would have their parameters defined by a feasibility study. Taipei Times.

May 14/13: Support. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX receives a maximum $85.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, foreign military sales (FMS) contract for engineering and technical support services to Iraq and Taiwan. Orders will be placed as required.

Iraq operates Bell IA-407s, and also has a handful of UH-1N twin-Hueys. Taiwan’s heliborne strike force currently relies on OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scouts and AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, and a dwindling stock of aging single-engine UH-1H Hueys remains the backbone of their utility helicopter fleet. It’s reasonable to assume that most of these funds will be spent in Taiwan.

The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-13-D-0131).

April 25/13: PATRIOT PAC-3. Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang says that Taiwan has already deployed a PATRIOT PAC-3 battery in the north, which is ahead of the expected 2014 date. He adds that Taiwan will deploy the next 3 PAC-3 batteries in the south. Focus Taiwan.

April 24/13: AH-64. A $19.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, as part of Taiwan’s order for AH-64E helicopters and related support. The Pentagon says that this order brings the total cumulative face value of this contract to $624.4 million, of the maximum $2.532 billion noted in the October 2008 DSCA request. DID is having a hard time squaring that with known announcements.

Oddly, the Pentagon’s notice cites FY 2009 procurement contract funds as the source; presumably, they’re referencing Taiwan’s original order funding. The US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as Taiwan’s FMS agent (W58RGZ-09-C-0147, PO 0022).

April 9/13: Keep an eye out. It didn’t take long for Taiwan’s long range mountaintop radar in Hsinchu County to come in handy. The Americans have reportedly asked the ROCAF to strengthen radar sweeps toward Northeast Asia for possible missile launches, and relay surveillance information. The Hsinchu radar is in the BMEWS class, with the ability to detect and track ballistic missiles from a range of up to 5,000 km. China Post.

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April 8/13: UH-60M. L-3 Link Simulation & Training announces a contract for 2 Taiwan Army UH-60M Operational Flight Trainers (OFTs). The contract is the result of a letter of agreement between the U.S. and the Taiwan Army, and is the 1st export of their UH-60M OFT. The 1st trainer will be operational at Shinshou Training Facility in Q4 2014, and the 2nd will follow in Q1 2015. A companion contract provides for 1 year of support, with a 1-year extension option. The US Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO-STRI) will manage the purchase as Taiwan’s agent.

The OFTs are mostly similar to those used in the US Army’s Flight School XXI program. A 6-degree of freedom electric motion system is coupled with a supplemental motion system that simulates helicopter vibration. High-fidelity software is designed to accurately simulate each platform’s engine, electrical, hydraulic, navigation and communications systems, and even aircraft survivability equipment. It’s even compatible with night vision goggles. The big difference will be a Taiwan geo-database, for faithful reproduction of flights over their home terrain.

April 5/13: As the US DSCA submits South Korea’s request for stealth-enhanced F-15SE Strike Eagles and F-35A stealth fighters, US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers points to that process as a clear example of the political weakness in Washington. “The threats the [South] Korean air force face are the same as those of Taiwan’s air force,” and the argument that China could easily ground Taiwan’s F-16s by staging a massive missile attack on air bases applies equally to North and South Korea. Taipei Times | Read “Korea’s F-X Multi-Role Fighter Buys: Phases 2 & 3” for full coverage of South Korea’s fighter modernization.

March 13/13: Beyond F-16s. Citing a newly released quadrennial defense review, Taiwan’s media say that the ROCAF wants to step beyond their upgraded F-CK-1s, and develop a new fighter with features like lower radar cross-section, long-range, and aerial refueling receiver, as well as the ability to launch missiles against land targets or ships.

Taiwan’s military currently estimates that the fighter and small submarine development programs will cost about NT$500 billion (about $16.9 billion). Which means they’ll be lucky to keep the real total below $20 billion. Senior officials are also careful to add that they haven’t given up on getting more F-16s, which could squeeze development budgets for something new.

On the other hand, Liberty Times quotes KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang statements that “For our national survival, we need to build up our defense capability under our own steam,” as a result of the USA’s increasing reluctance to assist Taiwan. Focus Taiwan.

March 13/13: Submarines. Taipei’s MND responds to reports that Taiwan has given up on buying new submarines abroad, by confirming that they’re “reviewing the relevant plans and budgets” for a 4-year local development project that was brought to the TWD 7 billion (about $236 million) National Defence Industrial Development Foundation in late 2012.

The ROCN actually foresees a budget closer to TWD 10 billion (about $340 million) to fund design, equipment acquisition, building industrial capability, and testing for a 1,000t – 2,000t submarine. Even that figure seems awfully low for a country that hasn’t built submarines before, and probably won’t be able to use an existing design as a base. Asia One.

March 8/13: E-2 AWACS. The last 2 upgraded Hawkeye 2000s arrive at Kaohsiung International Airport Station in southern Taiwan for follow-up tests and inspections (q.v. Nov 8/11 entry). This completes Taiwan’s E-2T Hawkeye upgrades, and restores its militarily critical AWACS fleet to full strength. Focus Taiwan.

All E-2 upgrades delivered

Feb 19/13: P-3s. StandardAero-San Antonio Inc. in San Antonio, TX receives a $10.6 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification, exercising an option for the overhaul of 16 T56-A-14 propulsion systems for the Government of Taiwan under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

That model of the T56 is unique to the P-3 family, and that number of engines would equip 4 refurbished P-3s. Or serve as fleet spares, which is more likely.

Work will be performed in San Antonio, TX and is expected to be complete in February 2014. All funds are committed immediately, and the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages the contract on behalf of its FMS client (N00019-09-D-0014).

Feb 8/13: P-3s. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Owego, NY receives a $9.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to incorporate engineering change proposals (ECPs) in Taiwan’s 12 P-3 aircraft. Upgrades will improve both Harpoon Block II compatibility, and improved radar and signals emission location.

Specifically, the ECP implements the Complimentary Navigation Message, which updates RINU-G and Control Display Unit software with a message set that helps the radar/GPS guided Harpoon Block 2 Missile with precision targeting. They’ll also replace the standard AN/ALR-95 Electronic Support Measures system with the more advanced AN/ALR-97. The final modification upgrades technical publications to reflect the “Mode-T” software instead of the “Mode “4” software.

Work will be performed in Owego, NY (31%); Jacksonville, FL (18%); Van Nuys, CA (16%); Aberdeen, MD (14%); Cedar Rapids, IA (13%); McKinney, TX (3%); Marietta, GA (3%); and Woodland Hills, CA (2%), and is expected to be complete in February 2014. All Foreign Military Sales contract funds are committed immediately, and will be managed by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ on behalf of their ROC client (N00019-09-C-0031).

Feb 1/13: Long-Range Radar. Agence France Presse reports that Taiwan’s US-made long-range early warning radar is now deployed near the northern county of Hsinchu, on its mountaintop perch. The NT$40.9 billion (about $1.35 billion at 2013 conversions) project loks similar to existing Pave Paws stations, and reportedly has a 5,000 km range. The added warning time for ballistic missile attacks is just minutes, but it matters a bit more when minutes were all you had before. The ability to add a bigger picture view on top of the short range PATRIOT radars is very important for national command and control.

As a bonus, the radar’s ability to see into Chinese airspace, and even to monitor North Korean launches, makes it an equally valuable asset to the USA. If Taiwan decides to share that data, which is a reasonable assumption, it becomes a more valuable ally. AFP.

SRP long-range radar deployed


F-16 upgrade program begins; A domestic submarine program?; Budget for 4 frigates in 2013?; Stinger missiles; Harpoons prepped. F-16V
click for video

Oct 24/12: Planes? No tanks. Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu tells a legislative hearing that the cost of Taiwan’s F-16 upgrades is the reason for delays to tank purchases and self-propelled artillery upgrades. He adds that before requesting the 70-ton M1s, they would have to conduct a compatibility evaluation on the country’s infrastructure, such as roads, highways and bridges.

It’s certainly possible for large purchases to squeeze out less important items, within a defense budget. Then again, it’s also pretty common for a party that doesn’t really want to implement stronger defenses to use this sort of thing as an excuse to avoid doing what needs to be done. The KMT’s recent record makes it hard to tell which interpretation is the truth. Focus Taiwan.

Oct 1/12: F-16s. Lockheed Martin announces a contract valued at up to $1.85 billion to begin upgrading 145 ROCAF F-16A/B Block 20 fighters to the “F-16S” (not T?) configuration, including an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, embedded global positioning, electronic warfare upgrades, and other avionics improvements. Note Lockheed’s use of the word “begin”; the complete upgrade is very likely to cost more than $1.85 billion.

The F-16S upgrades will follow the Sept 21/11 DSCA request, which Lockheed Martin has firmed up into a global offering. The firm’s proposed F-16V was announced at Singapore’s airshow in February 2012.

Contract: F-16 upgrade

Sept 5/12: Minehunters. The ROCN plans to spend TWD $35.9 billion ($1.2 billion) to buy 6 domestically built minehunting ships over a 12-year period, but that budget has yet to obtain final legislative approval:

“Although information on the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) mine warfare capabilities remains sketchy, naval analysts, including James Bussert of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, believe each of the three PLAN fleets comprises one squadron of mine layers. The US Navy estimates the PLAN uses as many as 30 types of mines (including submarine-launched) and has an inventory of between 50,000 and 100,000…. Taiwan has strategic oil reserves of approximately 1.45 million kiloliters of crude, which would last the nation for about 30 days. Besides disrupting shipments of crude and natural gas, which could bring Taiwan to a standstill, the mining of Taiwanese harbors and waterways would severely undermine the confidence of global cargo fleets and thereby cause serious damage to Taiwan’s economy.”

The question is whether they will build their own design to accompany the new Osprey Class (q.v. Aug 2-10/12), or a foreign design. Sources: Taipei Times, “Taiwan plans to build six minehunting Navy ships”.

Aug 28/12: PATRIOT. The Taipei Times reports that new PATRIOT PAC-3 defense sites will begin construction in September 2012 around Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung cities. A private contractor will handle the NT$ 61.4 million (about $2 million) contract, but the move has a significance that’s out of proportion to its size.

The PAC-3 systems would join Taiwan’s 3 upgraded PAC-2/ Config-3 units, currently deployed around the capital city of Taipei in Wanli, Nangang, and Sindian. The 4 new PAC-3 batteries from the October 2008 notification are reportedly being considered for a number of sites, including Greater Taichung’s Dadu Mountain, Greater Kaohsiung’s Jenwu District, Greater Tainan’s Hutoupi, protection for Taiwan’s E-2 2000 Hawkeye early-warning planes at Pingtung’s airport, and possibly the small airport terminal at Chiayi. About 386 missiles have been ordered so far, and the full PAC-3 systems are scheduled to arrive in 2014-2015. Another 2 PAC-3 batteries would follow under the 2010 DSCA request, as part of a future purchase phase.

Aug 2-10/12: Minehunters. Taiwan’s 2 Osprey Class minehunting ships arrive after their 2-year refurbishment and training period in the USA, and are inducted into the ROCN in welcoming ceremony at the Zuoying naval base, in the southern port city of Kaohsiung.

Taiwan’s fleet of minehunters now numbers 10 ships, but these are by far the newest and most capable. Designed in the 1990s instead of the 1950s, Osprey Class ships are equipped with an array of mine-hunting devices including Raytheon AN/SQQ-32 sonar, remotely-operated AN/SLQ-48 Mine Neutralizing Vehicles (MNV), video sensors, remotely-controlled mine detonators, cable cutters, and a pair of .50 caliber machineguns. The minehunters have a cruising speed of 10 knots, and mission endurance of 15 days. China Post | Taiwan Today | Defense Update.

2 Minehunters arrive

Aug 3/12: P-3s. The good news is, a Taiwanese P-3C Orion aircraft recently completed its 1st functional trial flight in late July 2012, and Taiwan should begin receiving its new P-3C sea control aircraft in 2013. The bad news is, the military’s plan to build a hangar at an air base in Pingtung County in southern Taiwan has gone nowhere.

The ROCAF says that the new planes could be placed in C-130H hangars, but that isn’t a long-term solution. The problem appears to be lack of jurisdictional clarity between the ROCAF and Navy over who will control the planes, and hence who will issue the RFP. Focus Taiwan.

July 24/12: Tanks. The Taipei Times reports that Taiwan is looking to join countries like Morocco, and try to obtain refurbished M1 Abrams tanks. The tanks used in Iraq and Afghanistan need major maintenance overhauls, and one option for the Army would be to sell the tanks to allies, and let them pay for the RESET costs.

“Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General David Lo… told local media yesterday that efforts to acquire used battle tanks from the US were currently under evaluation… Deputy Minister of National Defense Chao Shih-chang… [said] the Army was seeking to procure 200 tanks to bolster its forces, adding that the great bulk would be deployed in Hukou Township… [with] the 584th Armored Brigade… Taiwan’s efforts to procure the 70-tonne main battle tank go back to the early 2000s, when it requested M1-A2s from the US, a request that Washington turned down.”

July 13-22/12: Upgrade MoU signed. Reports indicate that the US and Taiwan have signed the $3.7 billion MoU to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16s, with upgrades occurring at a rate of 24 fighters out of service at a time, beginning in 2016 and continuing to 2028. The actual Letter of Acceptance (contract) is expected to be finalized within a couple of months, but it has a number of reported twists and conditions that are puzzling.

One of the oddest is that Taiwan will have no say in which radar (Northrop Grumman SABR or Raytheon RACR) is picked in 2013-2014, and then installed. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin’s recent agreement with state-run AIDC appears to have shut BAE out of the picture, without the opportunity to compete or be evaluated.

Another odds proviso is that Taiwan won’t recover it’s engineering costs to integrate the new AESA radars, if the US Air National Guard adopts the same radar and methods to retrofit its own F-16s. Taiwanese sources told Defense News that the MoU allows “some” reimbursement if other F-16 customers adopt the same retrofit. The most likely near-term customers are Korea and Singapore. AIDC [in Chinese] | Defense News | Defense Update | Reuters India (abridged) | Reuters, via Aviation Week.

July 11/12: LMCO-AIDC MoU. At the 2012 Farnborough Air Show, Taiwan’s AIDC and Lockheed Martin sign a memorandum of understanding to expand their strategic relationship, and jointly explore opportunities for the Taiwan F-16 A/B Retrofit Program.

The MOU defines potential collaboration on F-16 retrofit modifications, F-16 component parts manufacture and other potential offset projects. Its practical effect is to shut BAE Systems out of any competition (vid. March 14/12 entry). Lockheed Martin | Reuters.

F-16 upgrade MoU

June 25/12: F-16s. Reports from Taiwan indicate that the Ministry of National Defense is giving the USA’s May 2012 draft Letter of Acceptance for F-16 modernization some hard thought, as it screens the items and prices in the USA’s rumored $3.8 billion response. A decision is expected by the end of July.

The United Evening News reports that the $600 million cost for the AESA radars in particular has created unease among “senior government officials,” who are reportedly asking for other options. There’s certainly precedent for installing previous-generation APG-68v9 radars in early-model F-16s instead, as is being done for Pakistan. It would be a major improvement on Taiwan’s current radars, and equal other F-16C/D Block 52 fleets around the world, but would remain a generation behind AESA performance. Both Raytheon and Northrop Grumman are touting their RACR/SABR next-generation radars as drop-in refits for older F-16s, but Taiwan is being told that additional system engineering work would be required. The Pentagon has reportedly promised to remit some of those custom design costs, if other countries choose to add AESA radar systems to their F-16A/Bs in the future. The China Post | Focus Taiwan | Agence France-Presse.

May 29/12: AH-64 helicopters. Boeing in Mesa, AZ received a $97.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification “of an existing contract to procure Block III Apache AH-64D attack helicopters in support of Foreign Military Sales.” Which means Taiwan. Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/17. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-09-C-0147).

This brings total ROC Apache Block III contracts to $683.8 million so far, of the maximum $2.532 billion noted in the October 2008 DSCA request. This current total includes equipment like fire control radars and air-launched Stinger missiles, which were part of that request.

May 17/12: Minesweepers. Taiwan’s CNA reports that the former USS Oriole and USS Falcon Osprey Class coastal minehunting ships are scheduled for delivery to Taiwan in July after being refitted and reactivated. They are due to be commissioned into service in October 2012.

May 17/12: F-16s. The US House of Representatives approves Rep. Kay Granger’s [R-TX-12] amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310), which requires the Obama administration to approve the sale of 66 new F-16s to Taiwan. It’s 1 of 19 amendments that passes on a voice vote, before the House passes HR 4310.

Granger’s amendment is companion legislation to her House Bill (H.R. 2992) that “Directs the President to carry out the sale of no fewer than 66 F-16C/D multirole fighter aircraft to Taiwan”, and to Sens. Cornyn and Menendez’ Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act of 2011 (S.1539). Unless the Senate also passes a similar amendment to the 2013 budget, however, it won’t matter. Neither HR 2992 nor S 1539 has passed individually, and the final 2013 defense budget needs to pass both the House and the Senate with the same text. The wording is also somewhat questionable, as the President isn’t really the decider, and can always offer the excuse that the State Department never forwarded a request. Which is true – the State Department is blocking that request. Forcing approval of that request, either by State’s DSCA or via legislation removing this request from DSCA’s hands, might have been a better tactic. Rep. Granger | The Hill.

May 6/12: UH-60Ms. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT received a $43.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for engineering services, to convert 4 more UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters “to the specific unique configuration for Taiwan.” In other words, to finish the 4 helicopters bought on June 30/11. This brings the total cost of those 4 helicopters to $91.8 million, or $23 million per machine so far.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, with an estimated completion date of Oct 31/14. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by Taiwan’s FMS agent, the US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).

4 UH-60Ms

May 2/12: Link-16. Data Link Solutions in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $9.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order to Taiwan of MIDS-LVT terminals, as a Foreign Military Sale transaction.

Work will be performed in Wayne, NJ (50%), and Cedar Rapids, IA (50%), and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/14. This contract was competitively procured via and the SPAWAR E-commerce website, with 2 offers received. The competition was real, as Taiwan has shifted its buys back and forth over time. US Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, CA manages the contract, on behalf of its FMS client (N00039-10-D-0031).

April 27/12: F-16s. Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX] has lifted his hold on the confirmation of former Obama aide Mark W. Lippert, as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. It comes after Obama’s Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs, Robert L. Nabors II, sends a letter that promises to consider sales of new F-16s to Taiwan. Careful reading shows that this is all it promises, and Obama’s former aide will play a large role in any decisions. Unless there’s another reason to believe in a policy about-face, therefore, it’s unreasonable to expect any change, despite this language:

“We understand your desire to see Taiwan’s air force modernized with the addition of new F-16C/Ds… especially given the pending retirement of F-5s… [The new ASD] would use the position as the U.S. Chair of the U.S.-Taiwan Defense Review Talks and the interagency Monterey Talks to oversee the development of a combined review of Taiwan’s long-term defense strategy and resourcing plan, to include on Taiwan’s air and missile defense needs… We recognize that China has 2,300 operational combat aircraft, while our democratic partner Taiwan has only 490… The Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the inter-agency and the Congress, will play a lead role as the Administration decides on a near-term course of action on how to address Taiwan’s fighter gap, including through the sale to Taiwan of an undetermined number of new U .S.-made fighter aircraft.”

April 22/12: More frigates? Media reports say that Taiwan may look to increase its fleet of FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates from the current set of 8. The defence ministry has reportedly briefed President Ma Ying-jeou, and is said to be ready to include a budget for 4 more in 2013.

These frigates are generally sold for very little money, except the cost of refurbishment. Taiwan’s FFG-7 frigates are fully armed, and include the original pop-up launcher for SM-1 air defense and Harpoon ship attack missiles. The US Navy has removed missiles from its own frigates, however, so adding them back would be part of the refurbishment contract, if Taiwan wants that. Bangkok Post. See also Aug 5/10, Jan 10/10.

March 20/12: Cracked AMRAAMs. The Taipei Times reports that the ROCAF currently has 120 AIM-120C-5 and 218 AIM-120C-7s in inventory, with deliveries that began in 2004. Unfortunately, some of them were experiencing cracking in their pyroceramic radome nose cones. American investigators concluded that Taiwan’s high humidity, plus the pressure created by supersonic flight, were the problem. The ROCAF will respond by improving storage and rotation cycles.

The Taipei Times does note that Taiwan’s radar-guided MBDA MICA and locally-built Tien Chien II missiles aren’t having this problem, despite being exposed to the same conditions.

March 14/12: F-16s. Lockheed Martin and BAE are both pushing to perform Taiwan’s F-16 upgrades, as part of a wider competition in this area between the 2 firms. BAE’s recent wins in providing fire-control and advanced ethernet capabilities for 270 US ANG F-16s, and upgrades for some Turkish F-16s, sends notice that Lockheed can expect competition in Taiwan, South Korea (up to $1.6 billion for 134 KF-16s), and Singapore (70 F-16C/Ds).

Taiwan will be a challenge for BAE, because its armed forces and government have a long-standing relationship with Lockheed Martin that they may be loath to jeopardize. Defense Update.

March 13/12: Thai Submarines. Thailand has dropped plans to buy 4 second-hand German U206A submarines, and let their option rights expire on Feb 29/12. Reports say that Thai Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat refused to approve the deal, after several reviews of the navy’s submarine purchase plans.

The tiny 550t submarines are especially well-suited for shallow, constricted waters and near-coast operations. They’re old, but they’d fit Taiwan’s needs extremely well, offering a bridge buy whose layout and plans would also help teach Taiwanese designers. Or, the stealthy, shallow-water U206s may find another global buyer who values their unique specialties, and has a near-term need. Colombia has already bought 2 of the 6 submarines available. Europe Online.

Feb 27/12: Submarines. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense officially denies a magazine report saying that Taiwan was going to buy Greece’s U214 Papanikolis Class submarines, since Greece couldn’t pay.

The Hong Kong-based Chinese-language magazine, Asian Week (probably “Yazhou Zhoukan”), added that HDW officials has visited Taiwan in October 2011, and been told that a deal was possible for under $800 million each, plus 10-20 years guaranteed support, and US approval. The report added that HDW had officially informed the US about the proposal. Taipei Times.

UGM-84 Harpoon
(click to view full)

Feb 22/12: Harpoons for subs. Modernizations will allow Taiwan’s navy to arm its 2 submarines with UGM-84 Harpoon missiles, beginning in 2013. The move will greatly increase their submarines’ reach, allowing attacks from up to 70 miles away. That makes it much harder for enemies to protect themselves against a submarine attack, by widening the required search field.

Taiwan already equips its F-16s and some navy ships with other variants of this missile, but a submarine’s stealth adds a new level of difficulty for Taiwan’s enemies. Local reports indicate that integration will involve the addition of a stand-alone fire-control system for the missiles, to avoid the added time and expense of full integration. It will also require either changes to the torpedo tube mechanisms, or conversion/addition of a dedicated torpedo tube. For tactical reasons, it’s much better to have all torpedo tubes missile-capable, as this allows fast salvos of multiple missiles. Since firing a missile announces the submarine’s presence and location rather loudly, attacks on well-defended naval groups (like, say, an invasion force) will be much more effective as a missile swarm, rather than using the classic kung-fu movie approach where the attackers conveniently fight the defender one at a time. If, indeed, the submarine lives long enough to keep launching more attacks. See also July 29/10 entry. Taipei Times | 9abc | India’s Zee News.

Sub modernization

Feb 21/12: Submarines. The Taipei Times reports confirmations from the ROC Navy that it will begin a domestic submarine program in 2013, with “assistance from one or a number of foreign countries”, in order to create a small 1,000t – 1,500t design. The goal is reportedly to deliver a prototype within 3-4 years, and the ROCN would reportedly seek budgets for the program within 2 months.

Semi-native sub program?

Feb 13/12: PATRIOT. The USA’s FY 2013 budget documents include information about Taiwan’s PATRIOT PAC-3 missile orders. Looking through past years as well, one sees 386 PAC-3 missiles ordered from FY 2010-2013: 96 in FY 2010, 96 in FY 2011, 154 in FY 2012, and 40 missiles for FY 2013.

Feb 7/12: Minesweepers. An article about the Iranian mine threat to the Strait of Hormuz notes that the former US Navy Osprey Class minehunting ships Oriole and Falcon have been authorized for sale to Taiwan (vid. Jan 29/10 entry), but are still being refurbished in Texas.

Jan 5/12: Stingers. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AA receives a $7.8 million firm-fixed-price contract, to buy FIM-92H Block 1 Stinger missiles for Taiwan. The designation FIM-92H refers to FIM-92D missiles, which have been upgraded to the current FIM-92 RMP Block I standard. They can be used with air-to-air launchers on helicopters, or they can equip troops on the ground.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/16. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by Taiwan’s contract agents at US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-09-C-0520).


$5.3b F-16 upgrade program; Taiwan is a security risk for secrets; Political dogfight over F-16s in USA; Taiwan to try building submarines itself?; Major PATRIOT missile buy; AH-64D Block III attack helicopter buys; Upgraded E-2 surveillance planes returning; 1st 4 UH-60M helis ordered; Plans for new torpedoes. ROCAF F-16A Block 20
fires AGM-65 Maverick
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Dec 30/11: PATRIOT. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Andover, MA receives a $34.3 million firm-fixed-price contract, providing initial funding for 3 Taiwanese Patriot fire units and training equipment. DID is investigating possible connections to the Dec 16/11 announcement.

Work will be performed in several locations within Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, Italy, Greece, and Canada, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2016. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract, incl. services as Taiwan’s agent (W31P4Q-12-C-0069).

Dec 30/11: PATRIOT. Lockheed Martin in Grand Prairie, TX receives a $606 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for FY 2012 PATRIOT requirements – which includes missiles, launchers, and ground support for Taiwan. Within the PATRIOT system, Lockheed Martin produces the PAC-3 missile, the missile canister 4-packs, a fire solution computer, and the Enhanced Launcher Electronics System (ELES).

Work will be performed in Grand Prairie, TX; Camden, AR; Lufkin, TX; Chelmsford, MA and Ocala, FL, with an estimated completion date of July 30/15. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by US Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract, as Taiwan’s FMS agent (W31P4Q-12-C-0002).

Dec 30/11: AH-64D. Longbow Limited Liability Corp. in Orlando, FL receives an announced $64.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, but Longbow LLC pegs its actual value at $181 million, with options to extend performance past 2015, to 2017.

It’s said to include 15 Longbow Block III Fire Control Radar assemblies for Taiwan’s AH-64Ds, marking the Block III version’s 1st export order.

For the US Army, the order includes 14 Block III Radar Electronics Units, which are smaller then their predecessors, and offer lower weight, maintenance and power requirements. The Army is also buying 14 Unmanned Aerial System Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA) systems and spares, which provide a 2-way, high-bandwidth data link that lets the helicopter crew control nearby UAV flight paths, sensors and lasers at long ranges, while receiving high-quality imagery from the UAVs on the helicopters’ own displays.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract, including its work as Taiwan’s FMS agent (W58RGZ-10-C-0005). Lockheed Martin | Northrop Grumman.

Dec 30/11: AH-64D. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $13.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to fund FIM-92H Block-1 Stinger missiles and their air-to-air launchers for Taiwan. China’s near-certain air superiority in the event of a conflict makes aerial combat weapons for Taiwan’s attack helicopters a smart move. Their maneuverability and near-earth flight profile would make them a very difficult foe for many fast jets.

Taiwan’s DSCA request was for up to 173 missiles, which will be used on its AH-64 helicopters (q.v. Oct 3/08 entry). A $45.4 million contract has already ordered 171 of the missiles, plus ancillary equipment that included 24 of 35 requested Stinger Captive Flight Trainers with live guidance systems, but no rocket motors (q.v. June 25/09).

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/16. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract, as Taiwan’s FMS agent (W31P4Q-09-C-0520).

Dec 27/11: E-2s. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a $6.9 million delivery order modification exercising an option for sustainment, engineering and technical services, and travel in support of ROCAF E-2Cs.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (70%), and Pingtung Air Force Base, Taiwan (30%), and is expected to be completed in January 2013. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract on behalf of its FMS client.

Dec 19/11: E-2s. Taiwan gets 2 of its E-2Ts back as Hawkeye 2000s. The arrival of the 2 planes in Kaohsiung city brings their fleet size back to 4, with 2 more still in the USA for upgrades. Taiwan News.

Dec 16/11: PATRIOT. Raytheon announces a $685.7 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract from Taiwan for additional PATRIOT fire units, featuring current electronics, an improved man-machine interface, and claims of lower life-cycle costs. The firm adds that this award is in addition to the 2009 contract for new systems, and the 2008 contracts to upgrade Taiwan’s existing systems. Work under this contract will be performed at Raytheon’s Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, MA; El Paso, TX; and Huntsville, AL.

When queried, the firm clarified that this order will be built from the ground up as PATRIOT PAC-3, and that “fire unit” means the complete system, including radars, generators, antenna, ECS command module, and missile launchers. Taiwan is already beginning to build experience with the equipment, as Raytheon recently delivered the first upgraded Configuration-3 radar system, 10 months ahead of the original requested program plan. See also Taipei Times.

Major PATRIOT contract

Dec 15/11: Submarines. More reports that Taiwan is moving toward its own submarine program, per the Sept 19/11 entry below. The story adds one expert’s recommendation that the money and time might be spent on fast-attack missile boats like the Chinese Type 022. Which would be a good recommendation, if standard combat scenarios weren’t assuming PLAAF control of the air over the Formosa Straits.

The Taipei Times also reports that Taiwan turned down a proposed 2003 deal to buy up to 8 Sauro Class boats from Italy as they were decommissioned. The Fincantieri submarines had entered service between 1980 and 1992, which means they would have had limited remaining service life, and Taiwan decided that it was better not to buy them. Unfortunately, no deal for new submarines turned up.

Dec 7/11: AH-64 helicopters. Boeing in Mesa, AZ received a $141.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for “services in support of 30 Apache AH-64D attack helicopters for Taiwan.” See also the June 10/11 and Oct 8/10 entries for that order.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/17. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL, who is acting as Taiwan’s agent (W58RGZ-09-C-0147).

Dec 7/11: BMD Radar. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA receives a $42.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee and firm-fixed-price contract for the Surveillance Radar Program. Specifically, this system includes a UHF phased array radar integrated with Taiwan-furnished Identification Friend-or-Foe beacons; 2 Missile Warning Centers; and communications and interface architecture and protocols to specific nodes within Taiwan’s military communications infrastructure, consistent with US restrictions

The SRP is a Foreign Military Sales Program managed by the USAF Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, MA, to provide Taiwan with the elements of a missile and air defense capability. Work will be performed in Sudbury, MA, and is expected to be complete by Nov 9/12 (FA8722-05-C-0001, PO 0062).

Dec 7/11: PATRIOT. Raytheon in Andover, MA received a $12.7 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, and cost-reimbursable contract. The award will modify an existing contract for technical services in support of Taiwan’s PATRIOT air defense missile system.

Work will be performed in El Paso, TX, and Taipei, Taiwan, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/15. by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL, who is acting as Taiwan’s agent (W31P4Q-11-C-0317).

Nov 8/11: E-2s. Taiwan ships its 3rd and 4th E-2T Hawkeyes to the USA for upgrades to Hawkeye 2000 configuration (vid. Oct 3/08 entry). The move leaves Taiwan without any operational E-2Ts, as the first 2 planes aren’t expected to return from their upgrades until the end of 2011.

In their absence, the ROCAF does have 2 newer E-2C+ Hawkeye 2000s to rely on, but the move remains a calculated risk. Taiwan News.

Oct 5/11: PATRIOT. Raytheon IDS in Andover, MA receives a $20.4 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, to provide PATRIOT technical assistance services to Taiwan. Work will be performed in El Paso, TX; Taipei, Taiwan, and Andover, MA; with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W31P4Q-11-C-0317).

Nov 18/11: F-16 dogfight. Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX] sends a letter to President Obama, that also clarifies Taiwan’s current position re: the F-16s:

“Shortly after your Administration announced the F-16 A/B upgrade package, I wrote to President Ma to ask him for clarification on Taiwan’s military requirement for new F-16C/Ds. On Oct. 14, I received an unequivocal response, stating that Taiwan needs both the upgraded F-16A/Bs and the new F-16C/Ds to fulfill its “self-defense needs in qualitative and quantitative terms.” The sale of new F-16C/Ds to Taiwan also has the backing of 47 Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and 181 Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives who this past year have sent letters of support to your Administration. In your recent speech to the Australian Parliament, you stated that “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.” I applaud this rhetoric, but it will ring hollow unless it is followed by meaningful action…”

Nov 14/11: A day after the New York Times publishes an editorial urging President Obama to sell out Taiwan, Rep. Ed Royce [R-CA-40] tells a Formosa Foundation group in Los Angeles that Congress is not contemplating abandonment. That may seem like harsh language, but the New York Times op-ed reads:

“President Obama… should enter into closed-door negotiations with Chinese leaders to write off the $1.14 trillion of American debt currently held by China in exchange for a deal to end American military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan and terminate the current United States-Taiwan defense arrangement by 2015.”

“Sell out” is a perfectly appropriate description. New York Times | Taipei Times.

Pakistani F-16D-52
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Sept 21/11: F-16 Block… 59s? The US DSCA issues up to $5.95 billion in ROCAF F-16 related upgrade and support requests, over 3 separate notifications. The procedure for Foreign Military Sale mode requests is that if Congress doesn’t block the sale within 30 days, negotiations and contracts can commence. The US military is technically the buyer and contract manager, but they do so on behalf of their FMS client. The exact DSCA requests include:

Pilot Training: Many foreign militaries train their combat pilots in the USA, taking advantage of America’s larger swathes of open airspace for training, and of training alongside combat-proven American pilots. Taiwan already trains its F-16 pilots at Luke AFB near Glendale, AZ, and a buy request worth up to $500 million would continue funding this program over the long term.

The training provides a “capstone” course that takes experienced pilots and significantly improves their tactical proficiency. Funding would cover flight training, supply and maintenance support, spare and repair parts, support equipment, program management, publications, documentation, personnel training and training equipment, fuel and fueling services, and other related program requirements.

L-3 Communications Corporation in Greenville, TX would be the lead contractor for this service, but there would be about 90 U.S. contractors providing various forms of aircraft maintenance and logistics support at Luke AFB. US DSCA [PDF].

Spare Parts: This Foreign Military Sales Order II program (FMSO II) request would provide funds for blanket spare parts orders, under the Cooperative Logistics Supply Agreement (CLSSA), to support Taiwan’s F-16A/B Falcon, F-5E/F Tiger II, and F-CK IDF Ching Kuo fighters, and C-130H Hercules transport aircraft. The estimated cost is up to $52 million.

Procurement of these items will be from many contractors providing similar items to the U.S. forces, and implementation of this sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives. US DSCA [PDF].

RACR retrofit
(click to view full)

F-16 Fleet Retrofit: This request [PDF] would retrofit up to 145 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters. The technologies involved in some aspects of this retrofit are something of a surprise, as they go beyond the new F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft Taiwan was said to be looking for – a type that was recently sold to China’s ally Pakistan. These retrofits are more advanced than that, rising to a technology level that would be ahead of any F-16 the USAF flies, and similar to (but not the same as) the UAE’s unique F-16E/F Block 60 Desert Falcons.

The estimated cost is up to $5.3 billion. The most advanced gear includes:

  • 176 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars. The only F-16s currently flying with AESA radars are the UAE’s F-16E/Fs, which carry Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-80. Northrop Grumman (SABR) and Raytheon (RACR) are both offering AESA radars that retrofit into the same nose space as the original F-16 radars, while offering 2x-3x performance improvements over even the Block 52’s AN/APG-68v9 radar. Despite their retrofit target market, a sale would hand over some of America’s most advanced fighter radar technologies, derived from platforms like the Navy Super Hornets’ APG-79 (RACR) and the F-35’s APG-81 (SABR).

  • 176 Electronic Warfare Management systems, incl. possible upgrades to 82 ALQ-184 Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) pods to incorporate Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology; and/or 176 of Terma’s AN/ALQ-213 EWMS; or ITT’s new AN/ALQ-211v9 AIDEWS(Airborne Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite) pods with DRFM; or Northrop Grumman’s AN/ALQ-131 pods with DRFM. DFRM is a major step-change in EW effectiveness. It can do more things at once, do them faster, and is easier to modify with new programming. F-16 sales to Pakistan pointedly specified solutions without DFRM.

  • HAVE GLASS II application. This is a special coating that reduces the plane’s radar reflectivity. Recent F-16 sales to Pakistan did not include this technology.

Other performance improvements would involve:

  • Engineering and design study on replacing existing F100-PW-220 engines with F100-PW-229 IPE engines, designed for longer life and improved performance.

  • 128 Night Vision Goggles

  • 176 Embedded Global Positioning System Inertial Navigation Systems

  • Upgrade of 158 BAE APX-113 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe Combined Interrogator Transponders. These are the “bird slicers” just ahead of the cockpit.

To improve the plane’s offensive performance, especially in ground strike mode, Taiwan wants the following ancillary equipment and weapons:

  • 128 of VSI’s Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems. These Helmet Mounted Displays track the pilot’s head movements, and make a huge difference when using “high off boresight” missiles like the AIM-9X, which has a wide sighting cone.

  • 40 Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder short range air-to-air missiles. By comparison, recent F-16 Block 52 sales to Pakistan pointedly specified previous-generation AIM-9M missiles.
  • 56 AIM-9X Captive Air Training Missiles, with no motor or warhead
  • 5 AIM-9X Telemetry kits, with a working motor, but telemetry instead of a warhead
  • 153 LAU-129 Launchers with missile interface, which can fire AIM-9X Sidewinder or medium range AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles

  • 16 GBU-31v1 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) GPS-guidance kits for existing 2,000 pound bombs.
  • 80 GBU-38 JDAM kits for existing 500 pound bombs.

  • 64 CBU-105 Sensor Fused Weapons with Wind-Corrected Munition Dispensers (WCMD). These are GPS-guided cluster bombs, whose tuna-can shaped submunitions spin out to hunt and destroy enemy vehicles and tanks over a wide area.

  • 112 Dual Mode/ Global Positioning System Laser-Guided Bombs, either Raytheon’s Enhanced Paveway, or Boeing’s Laser JDAM.
  • 16 x 2,000 pound: GBU-10 Enhanced Paveway II or GBU-56 Laser JDAM
  • 16 x 2,000 pound: GBU-24 Enhanced Paveway IIIs, with longer glide range and “bunker buster” penetrator warheads
  • 80 x 500 pound: GBU-12 Enhanced Paveway II or GBU-54 Laser JDAM

  • 86 tactical data link terminals; especially useful for ground support strikes

  • Upgrade 28 of Lockheed Martin’s electro-optical infrared targeting Sharpshooter pods.

  • Buy another 26 of Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAQ-33 Sniper or Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-28 LITENING targeting & surveillance pods. The most current SE variants of these pods offer major advances in performance; the question is whether Taiwan would get those.

Also included in the buy request: More 20mm ammunition, alternate mission equipment, update of Modular Mission Computers, new cockpit multifunction displays, communication equipment, Joint Mission Planning Systems, maintenance, construction, repair and return, aircraft tanker support, aircraft ferry services, aircraft and ground support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support.

F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX would be the prime contractor, but additional contracts could include:

  • BAE Advance Systems Greenland, NY
  • Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in St Louis, MO
  • Goodrich ISR Systems in Danbury, CT
  • ITT Defense Electronics and Services in McLean, VA
  • ITT Integrated Structures in North Amityville, NY
  • ITT Night Vision in Roanoke, VA
  • L3 Communications in Arlington, TX
  • Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, TX
  • Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training, and Support in Fort Worth, TX
  • Marvin Engineering Company in Inglewood, CA
  • Northrop-Grumman Electro-Optical Systems in Garland, TX
  • Northrop-Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, MD
  • Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT
  • Raytheon Company in Goleta, CA
  • Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in El Segundo, CA
  • Raytheon Missile System in Tucson, AZ
  • Symetrics Industries in Melbourne, FL
  • Terma in Denmark

Taiwanese sources state that these buys would be paid for over a period of 10-12 years, once contracts are negotiated. Implementation of this sale will require at least 5 contractor representatives for engineering and technical support, over the first 2 years of the program. Another 2 trips per year will be required for U.S. Government personnel and contractor representatives for the duration of the program, for program and technical support. See also: Focus Taiwan | Bloomberg | Reuters.

Sept 21/11: Reactions Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX] is among those who remain unimpressed by the upgrade offer. He has added a Senate rider that incorporates the language of his “Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act” (vid. Sept 12/11), as an amendment to H.R. 2832, the House Trade Adjustment Assistance bill that’s now making its way through Senate concurrence. The core of his disagreement is that upgrades don’t meet Taiwan’s request, and confirm Chinese influence on weapon sales that violates of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. This also seems to be the widespread perception in Taiwan, though the KMT is defending the deal as expected.

Upgrades also won’t keep the F-16 production line rolling in Cornyn’s state past mid-2013, whereas a 66-plane order would add several years of continuation for about 2,000 jobs.

Cornyn’s amendment fails in the Senate. On the other hand, Rep. Kay Granger, [R-TX-12, which is Fort Worth] has introduced an S.1539 companion bill in the Republican-controlled House. If it passes there, it could find itself back in the Senate as a stand-alone bill. See also Focus Taiwan re: Taiwanese politics | Sen. Cornyn statement | Rep. Granger statement | Rep. Duncan Hunter [R-CA] op-ed | US-Taiwan Business Council [PDF] | Associated Press | Breitbart Big Peace op-ed re: security issues | Houston Chronicle | Miami Herald | Fort Worth Telegram Sky Talk re: House bill | WSJ Washington Wire || Special addition: FP magazine offers Taiwanese YouTube editorial animation videos.

DSCA: F-16 upgrade request

GR9 in Afghanistan w.
Sniper, Paveways
(click to view full)

Sept 19/11: Fighter Plan B – Go VTOL/STOVL! The Washington Times reports that a U.S. Defense Department study has concluded Taiwan’s best response to the threat of massive Chinese missile strikes against its airfields, is by buying short-takeoff and vertical-landing jets such as the V/STOL(Vertical/ Short Take Off and Landing) AV-8B Harrier II, or the new F-35B Lightning II STOVL(Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing capability) model. Read “Plan B: A V/STOVL Fighter for Taiwan?” for the full analysis and report.

Sept 19/11: Submarines. Focus Taiwan reports that Taiwan is considering building its own diesel-electric attack submarines:

“The military has commissioned a local shipbuilder to contact a non-U.S. country capable of building submarines for cooperation in building conventional submarines… sources said the Naval Shipbuilding Development Center has been very busy studying the blueprint of the country’s two… submarines… Moreover, naval authorities are preparing to send personnel abroad to study production technology or negotiate technology transfers for building pressure-resistant hulls, the most difficult part in submarine production, the sources said. Initially, the military may start from building small submarines weighing in the hundreds of deadweight tonnages.”

Maybe they can get a real deal from Germany for its 500t U-206As?

Sept 14/11: F-16 dogfight. Foreign Policy magazine reports that Sen. John Cornyn will not stall Senate confirmation of Ashton Carter as the Deputy Secretary of Defense. That kerfuffle had nothing to do with the Taiwanese sale; instead it involves assurances of Carter’s full support for the F-35 program, which faces strong budget pressures, and is assembled in Fort worth, TX.

Sept 12/11: F-16 dogfight. Amid rumors that the Obama administration will refuse Taiwan’s F-16 request, Sens. John Cornyn [R-TX] and Robert Menendez [D-NJ], introduce S.1539, The Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act of 2011. It would remove the decision from the administration’s hands, and force the USA to approve the sale of 66 new F-16s to Taiwan. This would not force a sale itself, of course, since Taiwan must choose to buy. But it would remove all approval road blocks.

The bill’s co-sponsors include Sens. Richard Blumenthal [D-CT] and Joe Lieberman [I-CT], Sens. Tom Coburn and James Inhofe [both R-OK], and Jon Kyl [R-AZ]. It has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, who must then approve it for submission to the Senate. GovTrack for S.1539 | Bloomberg | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Texas Insider.

Aug 30/11: Security Sieve. The Wall St. Journal publishes Taiwan is Losing the Spying Game, by Taipei Times deputy news chief and Jane’s Defence Weekly correspondent J. Michael Cole. Key excerpt:

“…another factor may be at work: the penetration of almost every sector of Taiwanese society by Chinese intelligence. For the U.S. government and defense manufacturers, any arms sale to Taiwan carries the risk that sensitive military technology will end up in Beijing… Anyone who has followed developments in Taiwan over the years knows how deeply Chinese forces have infiltrated Taiwan’s military, especially its senior officers… Taiwan’s reputation has not been helped by a string of embarrassing cases involving members of the armed forces or civilians who spied for China… Even more damaging are the instances when culprits got away with a light sentence… Whether warranted or not, Taiwan is increasingly perceived as leaking secrets like a sieve.”

Taiwanese leaks

August 17/11: F-16 dogfight. According to the Taipei Times, President Ma Ying-jeou said the island was still seeking to acquire F-16C/Ds while the Ministry of National Defense denied having been notified by Washington officials of a refusal to proceed with the sale. The US State Department is saying no decision has been made yet. Vice President Joe Biden was in China until yesterday but this issue was not on the agenda, according to the Washington Times.

August 14/11: F-16 dogfight. No sale? That’s what Republic of China MND officials say that a US DoD delegation told them at the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition. This would confirm reports from June 2011, though the decision remains to be officially confirmed by US sources – something expected to happen by October 1st. In an interview with Defense News, deputy defense minister Andrew Yang said just last week:

“If we don’t get the F-16C/Ds to replace our vintage fighters, then we lose our leverage and immediately face the challenge of fulfilling our responsibility of preserving peace and stability in the region. [..] Otherwise, the U.S. has to send its own military to replace our daily patrols in the region.”

Instead, retrofits on older F-16A/Bs are being offered, reportedly including ASEA radars, targeting pods and other upgrades. After all, even the USAF is considering upgrading its F-16 fleet to guarantee a smooth bridge until it has enough F-35s. Whether all, or only some, of the 146 jets would be upgraded appears to still be up in the air. AviationWeek | DefenseNews | Taipei Times.

July 14/11: F-16 dogfight. The US State Department is trying to convince Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX] to lift his hold on the nomination of Bill Burns as deputy secretary of state. Cornyn is demanding that the administration (and the State Department, who handles formal sales requests) clarify its policy on Taiwan arms sales first. Foreign Policy magazine.

June 30/11: UH-60s. A $48.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 4 “green” (basic) Black Hawk helicopters and government-furnished equipment to contractor-furnished equipment in support of Foreign Military Sales to Taiwan. Work will be performed in Startford, CT, with an estimated completion date of May 30/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).

A series of queries that ended up with the US Army have confirmed that these are UH-60Ms, and are just the basic airframes plus installation. That still leaves key items like engines (which will be installed, but are bought separately), defensive systems, training, and spares to be handled by other contracts, and leaves the prospect of modifications by the receiving country for that country to address. This is also the pattern used by Sweden’s recent CSAR/MEDEVAC buy. Note that there is a larger Taiwanese UH-60M request outstanding (vid. Jan 29/10 entry).

June 27/11: F-16 dogfight. Defense News reports that Taiwan’s June 24 petition to submit a letter of request (LoR) for new F-16 fighter jets was blocked by the U.S. State Department, under orders from the U.S. National Security Council.

Current US laws require Taiwan’s defense needs to be the sole criterion for judging military sales requests. This request could be worth more than $8.5 billion, and would extend the F-16 production line for several more years beyond its current planned closure, in 2013.

June 14/11: The Taipei Times reports that:

“A senior military official who requested anonymity said the Ministry of National Defense had been forced to return NT$1 billion (US$34 million) allotted for military equipment purchases to the national treasury because Washington was stalling on a decision to sell the submarine plans and F-16C/D aircraft long requested by Taipei… starting next year, it would only allocate the “lowest operational necessity” costs for the potential purchase of the submarine plans and F-16C/Ds, the official said, adding that the funding would very likely be lowered to about US$10 million and become symbolic funding rather than actual funding. This does not mean that the Republic of China government has grown pessimistic about or is no longer interested in acquiring the F-16C/Ds and submarine plans from the US, the official said…”

June 10/11: AH-64s? Reports surface that Taiwan has signed a contract for 30 AH-64D Apache Longbow Block III attack helicopters under its Sky Eagle program, making it the type’s 1st export customer.

Per earlier contracts & requests, Taiwanese AH-64s will include Hellfire Longbow fire-and-forget light strike missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles among its weapon options. In exercises, helicopters have proven to be very challenging opponents for fixed-wing aircraft, and the growing aerial imbalance over the China Strait makes some form of aerial engagement capability a necessity for any Taiwanese attack helicopter. The Dec 3/08 DSCA entry set a maximum estimated price of $2.532 billion for 30 helicopters, all associated equipment and initial support, and requested stocks of Stinger and Hellfire Longbow missiles.

US Army AH-64 project manager Col. Shane Openshaw is quoted as the source for the news, and says that Taiwan’s helicopters will be delivered from 2012-2013. The contract signing is consistent with April 2011 reports, and this will be treated as the full contract signing – but see also April 12/11, Oct 8/10, July 26/10, April 12/10, June 25/09, and Oct 3/08 entries, plus Flight International | Rotorhub | Asian Skies blog.

AH-64E attack helicopter order

May 26/11: F-16s 45 American Senators (out of 100) write to President Obama, supporting Taiwan’s request to buy 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters, in order to help keep pace with China’s buildup. Its authors include Senate Taiwan Caucus heads Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and James Inhofe (R-OK), as well as Senate China Working Group leaders Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Expressed concerns include both the imbalance created by China’s buildup of advanced fighters, and the economic benefits of the F-16 production line. The President is expected to ignore the letter, however, and the US State Department continues to stall the necessary approvals for the request to go forward. Full text [PDF] | Foreign Policy magazine | Flight International.

May 24/11: Harpoons for subs. US discusses the ongoing effort to arm Taiwan’s 2 submarines with Harpoon missiles:

“The Naval Air Systems Command, Precision Strike Weapons – PMA-201, intends to award a sole source contract to The Boeing Company, St. Louis, MO, for the acquisition of Encapsulated (ENCAP) Harpoon Certification Training Vehicle (EHCTV) Servicing Site and Weapons Station (WS) Support Equipment (SE) in support of the Taiwan Navy ENCAP Harpoon program. It is anticipated that a Firm Fixed Price (FFP) delivery order against Blanket Ordering Agreement N00019-11-G-0001 will be issued. This acquisition is being pursued on a sole source basis under the statutory 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1), as implemented by Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 6.302-1, only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements. It is anticipated that a Firm-Fixed Price type contract will be issued. THIS NOTICE IS NOT A REQUEST FOR COMPETITIVE PROPOSALS.”

May 23/11: Submarines. Taiwan’s government denies that it has backed off of its program to buy 8 diesel-electric submarines, amidst reports that the program has been scaled down to 4 boats. The USA agreed to the 8-boat sale in 2001.

Nevertheless, the main problem remains, no matter how many are ordered. Despite policy papers from think-tanks like the neo-conservative AEI, The USA doesn’t produce diesel-electric submarines, and the countries who do make them have been too intimidated by Chinese threats of trade retaliation to supply them. Asia Times believes the rumors may be a political ploy by the Ma KMT government, which sees its support slipping before the 2012 elections and knows that defense is a weak issue. Floating the rumor and then responding looks like action, though it changes nothing. Iran’s Press TV | Asia Times.

May 16/11: Torpedoes. Taiwan’s military reportedly plans to budget $860 million to purchase new Mk54 and Mk48 torpedoes over the a 10-year period.

$300 million will reportedly be used to buy 600 Mk54 lightweight torpedoes, replacing existing Mk46s. They’re designed to launch for ships, and from aircraft like Taiwan’s incoming P-3C Orion sea control planes.

Another $160 million will be spent on the purchase of 40 Mk48s, replacing the existing German-made SUT heavyweight torpedoes Taiwan acquired with its 2 Hai Lung II (Zvaardis) Class subs built by the Netherlands. Another $400 million would cover 100 Mk48s, if Taiwan finds a way to source and purchase the 8 diesel-electric submarines it wants. See also July 20/10 entry, Focus Taiwan.

May 10/11: Defense committee member Rep. Lin Yu-fang [Nationalist Party] is quoted as saying that Taiwan intends to push back the due date for buying Patriot missiles from 2014 to 2017, and postpone buying Black Hawk helicopters from 2016 to 2019-2020. He says that those monies will be spent instead on the transition and recruitment costs associated with scrapping conscription, and fielding an all-volunteer force by 2015.

Defense Ministry spokesman Luo Shou-he cited the reason as production delays by U.S. defense contractors, but the contractors don’t seem to think so. Agence France Presse, via My Sinchew | AP, via Washington Post.

April 12/11: Defense News reports that representatives from the U.S. government and Boeing will arrive in Taipei in May 2011, to wrap up the AH-64 Block III Foreign Military Sale deal. Author Wendell Minnick.

March 23/11: P-3 MPA. CAE announces a series of military contracts in more than 10 countries valued at approximately C$ 100 million, including a contract to build P-3C training devices for the Taiwan Navy. They’ll design and manufacture a P-3C Level D operational flight trainer (OFT) as well as a P-3C operational tactics trainer (OTT) for the P-3’s sensor operators. Both training devices will be delivered to Taiwan in 2014.

Feb 17/11: AMRAAM missiles. Focus Taiwan covers a ROCAF report on the May 2010 AMRAAM International Users’ Conference, in which the USAF’s 649th Armament Systems Squadron raised the issue of “Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS).” In English, that means people who manufacture some parts of the missile are either going out of business or ceasing production. The 649th ARSS said component shortages could begin as soon as 2012, and recommends that countries revise their AMRAAM support contracts to include maintenance and warranty clauses.

The longer term hope is to issue contracts for Raytheon to develop replacement components, as part of a joint logistics support plan extending to around 2030. Taiwan will join some other AMRAAM users in raising the issue of humidity, which makes it harder to store and maintain the missiles, and could accelerate their spares problem.

Jan 6/11: P-3C. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors Tactical Systems in Eagan, MN receives a $47.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for the initial outfitting of 12 Taiwanese P-3Cs with new avionics components.

Work will be performed in Eagan, MN, and is expected to be complete in December 2012. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages the contract, on behalf of its foreign Military Sales customer (N00019-09-C-0031).


USA’s non-public Direct Commercial Sales process now open to Taiwan; Major $6+ billion FMS request for 60 helicopters, 2 minehunting ships, sub-launched missiles & PATRIOT air defense upgrades; AH-64 helicopter buy; Sub-launched Harpoon missile buy; ATACMS ballistic missile buy; Up to 20 “Search & Rescue” helis; E-2C early-warning aircraft upgrades; We could use some new tanks; Military balance keeps tilting against Taiwan. ATACMS from M270

Dec 30/10: E-2C. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a $6.6 million delivery order modification, exercising an option for engineering, technical and sustaining services in support of Taiwan Air Force E-2C aircraft under the Foreign Military Sales program.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (75%), and at the Pingtung Air Force Base, Taiwan (25%), and is expected to be complete in December 2011. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale customer (N00421-05-G-0001).

Dec 26/10: P-3C. The China times in Taipei reports that Taiwan will receive its first P-3C Orion sea control aircraft in 2011. They end up being about 2 years ahead of themselves. Agence France Presse.

Dec 23/10: E-2 Hawkeyes. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives an $11.9 million firm-fixed-price delivery order to convert 2 E-2T aircraft into E-2C Hawkeye 2000 aircraft. These efforts will also support the transition to an anticipated performance based spares & maintenance solution for the aircraft.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY, and is expected to be complete in September 2012. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract on Taiwan’s behalf (N00019-10-G-0004).

Dec 23/10: Missiles. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Grand Prairie, TX receives a $916.2 million firm-fixed-price contract, with some cost-plus-fixed-fee contract line item numbers. They’ll provide 226 ATACMS missiles; 24 launcher modification kits; ground support equipment; contractor field support; and initial spares in Foreign Military Sales to United Arab Emirates, and Taiwan.

This order is probably deliberately ambiguous. ATACMS missiles are used with tracked M270 MLRS (2 pods) and FMTV medium truck-mounted M142 HIMARS (one pod) systems, with the ATACMS missile replacing all 6 of a pod’s 227mm rockets. In exchange, it offers a GPS-guided strike range of around 150 miles – which could technically cross the Taiwan Strait at its narrowest points, but in practice would be limited to the very useful ability to hit any target in Taiwan from a central firing location.

Taiwan doesn’t operate the HIMARS systems the UAE has purchased, or the MLRS. On the other hand, its 57 Thunderbolt 2000 systems mounted on HEMTT heavy trucks do carry rocket pod options that include 2 sets of 6 227mm rockets each, which indicates potential ATACMS compatibility. The UAE’s latest DSCA request included 100 ATACMS missiles and 60 training rockets, but a 2006 request could cover another 200 missiles. This leaves Taiwan’s actual ATACMS order ambiguous, pending more direct clarification.

Work will be performed in Grand Prairie, TX; Lufkin, TX; Ocala, FL; Camden, AR; and Chelmsford, MA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command, AMCOM in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-11-C-0001).

DSCA: ATACMS missiles

Oct 8/10: AH-64 order. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $141.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 31 AH-64D Apache helicopters and 2 fixed-site Longbow crew trainers, matching “the Taiwan AH-64D aircraft configuration.” Work is to be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of July 30/15. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the US Army’s AMCOM Contracting Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-09-G-0147).

This is just the initial contract. The amount is enough to get work started, but won’t even come close to paying for 31 helicopters. See April 12/10, and also Oct 3/08, which identified the helicopters as AH-64D Block IIIs. Past experience, and the specifics of this Pentagon announcement, strongly imply that Taiwan’s AH-64D Block IIIs may not be the same as other nations who order the type.

Sept 13/10: Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Dallas & Grand Prairie, TX received a $7.8 million firm-fixed-fee and cost-plus-fixed fee contract for PAC-3 FY 2010 subset efforts to include the following: United States enhanced launcher electronics system kit cables; Taiwan control interface circuit card assembly redesign; Taiwan power and control circuit card assembly redesign; Taiwan missile test set; Taiwan portable four-pack test set; Taiwan seeker digital processor parts; United Arab Emirates (UAE) portable 4-pack test set; UAE guidance processor unit redesign – tooling and test equipment.

The estimated completion date is Oct 31/12, with work to be performed at Dallas, TX (95.74%), Camden, AZ (0.25%), and Ocala, FL (4.01%). One bid was solicited and one bid received (W31P4Q-10-C-0002).

Sept 6/10: BMD progress. Taiwan expects its initial missile defence shield to be ready in 2011, including 6 batteries of Patriot PAC-3 missiles, a “long-range early warning radar system,” and an integrated command and control system that also incorporates its own “Tien Kung” missiles. The China Times places the overall cost at about T$ 300 billion (currently about $9.39 billion), with about T$ 150 billion going toward the Patriot systems and T$ 40 billion to the long-range radar. Agence France Presse.

Aug 12/10: DCS OKed. The U.S. Department of State confirms that it will allow U.S. companies to make a number of defense sales to Taiwan as Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), instead of as Foreign Military Sale (FMS) packages. Items expected under $100 million or so in expected DCS deals include support for Taiwan’s air defense radar system, and an improved radar for its F-CK Ching-kuo fighters.

For Taiwan, DCS sales have 2 big advantages over FMS transactions. One is that they don’t have to pay middleman fees to the US military units who must oversee and manage the entire process. If the item in question can be competitively sourced and is well-understood, that can lower costs. The other, bigger advantage is that they don’t require the same level of public notification and political approval, which gives them a lower political profile. See the “Additional Readings” section below, for more on the differences between DCS and FMS sales. Taiwan’s CNA | CNA follow-up.


Aug 5/10: Frigates. Reports surface that America will sell Taiwan 2 more refurbished FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Class Perry frigates for $40 million. On the other hand, “The Ministry of National Defense declined to comment on the report and a spokeswoman at the American Institute in Taiwan said she was not aware of it.”

The ROC Navy already operates 8 similar FFG-7 derivative Cheng Kung Class frigates, alongside its 6 high end Kang Ding Class Lafayette derivatives. AFP via Taipei Times | Pakistan’s The News International

July 29/10: Harpoon order. A $66 million firm-fixed-price contract for:

  • 32 Lot 85 Harpoon missile bodies (HMB) for the government of Taiwan
  • 4 Harpoon canister grade “B” missiles for the government of Canada
  • Associated spares and support.
  • Harpoon missile spares for the governments of Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal, Japan, the United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan, Turkey and Singapore, to include containers;
  • Plus Block II guidance section upgrade kits; wire bundle assemblies; and guidance control units.

  • GM-84 Harpoon missile body consists of the Guidance Section, Warhead Section, Sustainer (propulsion) Section, and the Control Section. The Harpoon missile body, along with an appropriate air, canister (ship) or other launch kit (to include wings, fins, booster if applicable for UGM-84s), makes up a Harpoon AUR. This contract combines purchases for the governments of Taiwan ($43.8M; 66.4%), Canada ($10.1M; 15.3%), Portugal ($7.6M; 11.5%), the Netherlands ($3.2M; 4.8%), Japan ($514,864; 0.8%), the United Kingdom ($263,986; 0.4%), Israel ($194,635; 0.3%), Pakistan ($169,360; 0.3%), Turkey ($31,643; 0.1%), and Singapore ($2,584; 0.1%) under the Foreign Military Sales program.

Work will be performed in St. Charles, MO (55.3%); McKinney, TX (10.7%); Toledo, OH (6.2%); Huntsville, AL (4.5%); Lititz, PA (3.7%); Middletown, CT (2.7%); Grove, OK (2.3%); Galena, KS (1.6%); Minneapolis, MN (1.5%); Motherwell, UK (1.2%); Elkton, MD (1.1%); Kirkwood, MO (1%); Anniston, AL (0.8%); Clearwater, FL (0.7%); McAlester, OK (0.6%); Melbourne, FL (0.6%); and various locations in and outside the contiguous U.S. (5.5%). Work is expected to be complete in June 2011. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-10-C-0053).

Harpoon missiles

July 26/10: Hellfire missiles. The Longbow, LLC joint venture in Orlando, FL received a $39.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for engineering services supporting the Hellfire and Hellfire Longbow missiles. Work is to be performed in Orlando, FL (50%); Baltimore, MD (25%); United Arab Emirates (10%); and Taiwan (15%), and will run to Sept 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, AMSAM-AC-TM-H in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-10-C-0256).

The Hellfire Longbow missile is a fire-and-forget version of the Hellfire anti-armor missile. Unlike the semi-active laser guided Hellfires, Hellfire Longbow missiles rely on millimeter-wave guidance, and work in conjunction with the mushroom-shaped Longbow radar mast that’s mounted on top of the AH-64D attack helicopter’s rotor. Taiwan became a Hellfire missile customer in 2005, but doesn’t operate the Longbow variant yet.

July 20/10: Radars. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA receives a $29.2 million contract modification for the surveillance radar program, which aims to provide Taiwan with elements of its missile and air defense system. This is a foreign military sales program managed by the 850th ELSG/PK at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA, and $8,324,987 has been committed (FA8722-05-C-0001, P00073).

July 20/10: Taiwan’s Liberty Times reports that Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou ordered the country’s defense ministry to draft a draw up a shopping list of weapons Taiwan needs. It reportedly includes MK-54 lightweight torpedoes to replace aging Mk-46s, “dozens” of M1A2 tanks, and amphibious landing vehicles. Taiwan’s current tank corps is headlined by a set of about 480 M60A3 Patton tanks, which are 1960s-1970s technology, and a larger set of M48 variants, whose design dates from the early 1950s. UPI.

July 19/10: Tilting balance. A report sponsored by Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense, and published in Taiwan’s naval studies journal, estimates that China will increase the number of short- and medium-range missiles pointed at the island to 1,960 by the end of 2010. That would rise from the last current count of 1,300-1,400. The report estimates that these missiles would have the ability to destroy 90% of Taiwan’s infrastructure. AP | Reuters | RTT News | Taiwan News.

This day also marks the start of an annual computerized wargame by Taiwan’s military, simulating an invasion by China. During the 5-day drill, Chinese forces attack from Guangzhou and Nanjing, while Taiwanese forces test counter-attack strategies. eTaiwan News | Agence France Presse.

June 23/10: E-2s. Taiwan News reports that upgrades are beginning for Taiwan’s E-2T fleet of early warning aircraft. The ROCAF retains 2 E-2Ts and 2 newer E-2C+ Hawkeye 2000s, but it sent 2 “folded and wrapped” E-2Ts by truck from Kaohsiung’s Hsiaokang Airport to the city’s port under heavy escort, for loading onto a Taiwanese freighter and shipment to the USA.

Upgrades are being done in batches of 2, and are expected to finish up in 2012, at a total cost of NT$ 5.6 billion (currently about $175 million). See also July 21/09, Oct 3/08.

E-2 upgrades

June 1/10: Patriot. Raytheon Co. in Andover, MA receives a $21.3 million firm-fixed-price contract, covering spares for Taiwan’s PATRIOT Config-3 upgrade, and for Kuwait’s Patriot radar upgrade.

Work will be performed in Andover, MA, with an estimated completion date of June 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W31P4Q-09-G-0002).

April 30/10: Patriot. BAE Systems in Sealy, TX received a $5.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 8 of its M1086A1P2 and 9 of its M1A096A1P2 Patriot vehicles with Patriot kits installed for the country of Taiwan, as well as 7 M1088A1P2 FMTV tractor-trucks, for a total of 24 vehicles purchased with this modification. Work is to be performed in Sealy, TX, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/10. One bid was solicited with one bid received by the TACOM Contracting Center in Warren, MI (W56HZV-08-C-0460).

Taiwan appears to have chosen FMTV medium trucks, as opposed to the Oshkosh HEMTT heavy trucks used by the US Army. While Oshkosh will own the next FMTV medium truck contract as well, BAE Systems retains the rights to key variants, and are currently the only production source for FMTV vehicles.

Chinese Type 022
(click to view full)

April 12/10: Corvette. Taiwan unveils a proposed design for a 1,000 tonne “carrier killer corvette,” as some media sources describe it. The catamaran design looks a lot like China’s current Type 022 catamarans, but would be armed with Taiwanese Hsiungfeng III ship-to-ship missiles. At this point, the project itself is not a firm decision, and could be built locally (most likely) or become a foreign tender.

While fast attack craft with advanced ship-killing missiles are always dangerous to carriers, they are also very dangerous to amphibious assault groups in an invasion scenario. Other potential uses could include coastal patrol, and even acting as a naval “cavalry screen” against China’s Type 022s, in order to buy space for American naval forces. See: Naval OSINT (with picture) | Defense News | Manichi Daily News, Japan | Singapore Straits-Times | UPI.

April 12/10: AH-64s. Defense News reports that a contract for 30 AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters is expected to be signed in May 2010, for arrival in Taiwan between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. Focus Taiwan.

March 16/10: Tilting Balance. The U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission holds a public hearing on “Taiwan-China: Recent Economic, Political, and Military Developments across the Strait, and Implications for the United States.” Much of the debate surrounds Taiwan’s remaining request for F-16s, either implicitly or explicitly. Mark Stokes, of Project 2049, lays out a framework for thinking about these issues in his testimony:

“Aerospace power will become an increasingly powerful instrument of PRC coercion… Aerospace power likely will dominate any conflict in the Taiwan Strait and could shape its ultimate outcome… The cross-Strait security situation often is viewed within the context of a military balance. However, PLA capabilities should be judged against specific political objectives in a given scenario and assessed in light of Taiwan’s vulnerabilities, as well as assumptions upon which U.S. decisions… are made… An amphibious invasion is the least likely yet most dangerous scenario… Coercive strategies could include a demonstrations of force as seen in the 1995/1996 missile exercises, 1999 flights in the Taiwan, or in the future a blockade intended to pressure decision makers in Taiwan to assent to Chinese demands, strategic paralysis involving attacks against the islands critical infrastructure, limited missile strikes, flights around the island, just to name a few.

A coercive campaign could be geared toward inflicting sufficient pain or instilling fear in order to coerce Taiwan’s leadership to agree to negotiations on Beijing’s terms, a timetable for unification, immediate political integration, or other political goals. Military coercion succeeds when the adversary gives in while it still has the power to resist and is different from brute force, an action that involves annihilation and total destruction.”

See also RAND’s testimony regarding the overall military balance, and the challenge of Chinese missile salvos aimed at RoCAF air bases. Hearings page | Taipei Times | WIRED Danger Room.

Feb 25/10: Javelin missiles. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Orlando, FL received a $21 million firm-fixed-price contract for FY 2009-2011 hardware production of Javelin anti-tank missile systems to Taiwan.

Javelin is a joint venture between Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. Work is to be performed in Tucson, AZ (50%, Raytheon), and Orlando, FL (50%, LM), with an estimated completion date of Jan 17/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received by Aviation & Missile Command Contracting Command, CCAM-TM-H in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-09-C-0376). See also Oct 3/08 entry.

More Javelin missiles

Feb 22/10: Tilting balance. The Associated Press receives a US Defense Intelligence Agency report (DIA-02-1001-028) that supposedly says Taiwan’s air force is not ready to withstand an attack from China. While the Taiwanese have 400 combat aircraft to serve in various roles, “far fewer of these are operationally capable.” The F-5 fleet is near the end of its combat life, and its F-16A/B Block 20s need upgrades. Its Mirage 2000v5s are the most advanced in the fleet, but they are so expensive to maintain, and have had such chronic difficulties with the aircraft’s turbine fan blades, that Taiwan is considering retiring them.

That’s significant for Taiwan’s F-16 request, because under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, decisions on Taiwan’s weapon requests must be “based solely” on judgments concerning Taiwan’s defense needs, without other political considerations. AP | Defense News | Reuters

Feb 11/10: War by other means. Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Kuan Bi-ling alleges, and the Fisheries Agency confirms, that Chinese pressure on Indonesia has led to a government-recommended boycott of fishing vessels made in Taiwan. The economic impact is estimated at NT$ 100 million per year. The move is not a military move, but it does have some military implications. It’s both a protectionist strike in favor of China’s growing shipbuilding sector, and a way of weakening Taiwan’s breadth of expertise in that area. Taiwan News.

Feb 3/10: EC225 helicopter order. Taiwan is spending $112 million for 3 of Eurocopters’s EC225 Super Puma MkII+ helicopters in search and rescue (SAR) configuration, with an option for up to 17 more machines.

The order is carefully calculated, and the ROC government says the helicopters are for civilian use. The choice of helicopter is also careful, as China’s own Ministry of Communications already operates 2 EC225s for SAR duties, as does Japan’s Coast Guard to the east. On the other hand, EC225s could be converted to medium military helicopters quite quickly – a point that has been brought up before over Eurocopter’s EC175/ Z-15 and Z-9 joint ventures in China. France uses the military EC725 for SEA and Special Forces duties, and Mexico and Brazil have also ordered it. To this point, China has been silent concerning this order. Taiwan News | Defense News | DNA India | The Guardian, UK | Reuters.


Jan 31/10: F-16 dogfight. eTaiwan News quotes Premier Wu Den-yih, who says that Taiwan and the U.S. are still discussing F-16s and diesel-electric submarines:

“The premier also told reporters that the government would calculate if the cost of the package announced by the U.S. was not too high. The weapons had to come at a reasonable price for a useful quality level, he said. Wu said discussions on the F-16 jets were most likely to bear fruit, while the price tag for the submarines was “scary.” …Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said yesterday that Taiwan’s success in achieving the arms purchase was the result of hard work by the previous DPP administration.”

Link 16 Display
(click to see situation)

Jan 29/10: DSCA – One from category A, one from category B… The US DSCA announces up to $6.45 billion in official requests to recapitalize Taiwan’s battlefield helicopter fleet with 60 UH-60Ms, complete the upgrade of its Patriot missile system to PAC-3 status with missiles and command facilities, add Link-16 capability to key assets, purchase 2 Osprey Class minehunter ships, and buy 12 Harpoon Block II test missiles.

In response, the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, released a statement condemning the move. There are reports that China will cut off military-to-military cooperation with the US, boycott Obama’s planned nuclear summit in April 2010, and even levy trade sanctions. As media like the UK’s Financial Times point out, however, growing protectionist sentiment in the USA makes trade sanctions against American firms an extremely risky move for the Chinese. China Post | Radio Taiwan International | Taiwan News | Taiwan Today | AllGov | The Australian | BBC News | UK’s Financial Times re: China’s risks | New York Times | Reuters | Times of India | Wall Street Journal | Voice of America | China Daily | China’s Xinhua | China’s Xinhua re: sanctions. See also Taiwan News: “The shadow over Taiwan’s arms procurement.”

UH-60M Black Hawks. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Taiwan’s official request for up to 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to replace its aged UH-1H Huey fleet, at an estimated cost is $3.1 billion. The principal contractors will be United Technologies’ subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, CT (UH-60M), and General Electric Aircraft Engines in Lynn, MA. The DSCA adds that:

“The purchaser has requested offsets; however, at this time they are undetermined and will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and contractors.”

Specific equipment sought includes:

  • 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters
  • 120 T-700-GE-701D engines installed
  • 18 spare T-700-GE-701D engines
  • 69 AN/APR-39Av2 Radar Warning Receivers
  • 69 AN/ALQ-144Av1 Infrared Countermeasure Sets
  • 69 AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems
  • 69 AN/AVR-2B Laser Detecting Sets
  • 120 GAU-19/A .50 cal Machine Gun Systems
  • 310 AN/AVS-9 Aviator Night Vision Goggles.
  • Associated .50 cal ammunition, pyrotechnics, cartridges and propellant actuated devices, to equip the guns and countermeasures systems.
  • Plus “other explosives including devices,” Po-Sheng Communication/Data Link Systems, ammunition, spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, and other support.

Taiwan doesn’t operate Black Hawks yet, but its Navy operates S-70C Seahawk helicopters, so it has some experience with the general type. Implementation of this proposed sale may require the assignment of 2 contractor representatives for a period of up to 2 years.

DSCA: UH-60M request

MIDS-LVT/ Link 16: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Taiwan’s official request to buy 35 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems Low Volume Terminals (MIDS/LVT-1), 25 MIDS On Ships Terminals, plus spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, training personnel training and training equipment, repair and return, software and hardware updates, publications and technical documentation, and U.S. Government and contractor engineering and support services. The estimated cost is $340 million.

This may seem like an afterthought, but it’s actually a critical contract. MIDS-LVT terminals are a standardized way of embedding “Link 16″ datalinks into ships, aircraft, and land systems. By transmitting encrypted information to each other and filtering out duplications, Link 16 allows participating platforms to see the same tactical picture – what one sees, all can see. This dramatically improves awareness amidst the inevitable “fog of war” , and can help to minimize friendly fire incidents. LVT-1 terminals are used in aircraft, as well as ground units like Patriot missile systems. They include both Tactical Air Navigation System, and voice capabilities.

The prime contractor will be selected through a competitive procurement conducted by the U.S. Government, involving ViaSat and the BAE Systems/ Rockwell Collins joint venture Data Link Solutions. Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives to participate in training, program management, and technical reviews.

DSCA: Link-16 datalinks

Osprey Class minehunters The US DSCA announces [PDF] Taiwan’s official request to buy 2 Osprey Class coastal mine-hunting ships, including refurbishment and upgrade, overhaul of their AN/SQQ-32 sonars, transportation, support and test equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is $105 million.

The USA’s 12 Osprey Class mine-hunters were built from 1993-1999 out of fiberglass-reinforced plastics, in order to minimize their magnetic signature. These 804t/ 57m vessels locate mines using the high definition SQQ-32 sonar, then neutralize them using a remotely controlled UUV(Unmanned Underwater Vehicle). Despite continued threats in critical global areas like the Strait of Hormuz, and adequate performance, the Osprey Class was taken out of US Navy service in 2006-2007. Taiwan would join Egypt (2), Greece (2), Lithuania (2), and Turkey (2) as customers for these second-hand vessels. Approval for the transfer of Oriole [MHC-55] and Falcon [MHC-59] was authorized back in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-229), but the US State Department had dithered over the request (q.v. Nov 18/09 entry).

For this contract, a U.S. Prime contractor for the refurbishment will be chosen after a competitive source selection. Implementation of this sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government personnel or contractor representatives.

DSCA: Minehunters request

Harpoon Block II missiles. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Taiwan’s official request for 12 “Harpoon Block II Telemetry” missiles. The DSCA release cites 10 “RTM-84L” and 2 “ATM-84L” missiles, which have telemetry payloads for missile tests, instead of the warheads found on standard RGM-84 (ship-launched) and AGM-84 (air-launched) variants. In addition to the missiles, Taiwan would receive containers; training devices; spare and repair parts; supply/technical support; support equipment; personnel training and training equipment; technical data and publications; and U.S. Government and contractor support.

The estimated cost is $37 million, the prime contractor will be Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, Missouri, and implementation of this sale will not require any additional U.S. Government personnel or contractor representatives.

The Harpoon Block II could be militarily significant, because its GPS guidance and improved clutter resolution allow it to attack land targets, as well as ships. See also the Oct 3/08 entry, requesting submarine-launched Block II missiles. Taiwan is building its own “HF-2E Hsiung Feng” land attack cruise missiles with much longer ranges, however, so the Block II’s land-attack capability would not be a new military development in the region.

DSCA: Harpoon missile request

Patriot Missiles & C2. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Taiwan’s official request to complete its Patriot upgrade plans, adding PAC-3 missiles and additional command equipment.

  • 114 PATRIOT Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles
  • 26 M902 Launching Stations
  • 3 AN/MPQ-65 Radar Sets
  • 1 AN/MSQ-133 Information and Coordination Center
  • 1 Tactical Command Station
  • 3 AN/MSQ-132 Engagement Control Stations
  • 3 Communication Relay Groups
  • 5 Antenna Mast Groups
  • 1 Electronic Power Plant III (EPP)
  • Plus battery and battalion maintenance equipment, prime movers, generators, electrical power units, trailers, communication equipment
  • Also personnel training and equipment, tool and test sets, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, Quality Assurance Team support services, and U.S. Government and contractor support.

The estimated cost is $2.81 billion, and the principal contractors will be Raytheon Corporation in Andover, MA, and Lockheed-Martin in Dallas, TX. “The recipient, which already has PAC-3 missiles in its inventory, will have no difficulty absorbing these missiles… Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government and contractor representatives.” See also Dec 23/09, Oct 16/09, Jan 26/09, and Oct 3/08 entries.

DSCA: PATRIOT missile request

Jan 14/10: E-2s. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, N.Y., received a $6 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement to provide engineering, technical and sustaining services in support of Taiwan’s 6 E-2T/E-2C+ Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (75%), and at Pingtung Air Force Base, Taiwan (25%), and is expected to be complete in January 2011. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00421-05-G-0001).

Jan 14/10: P-3C planes, shipped by land. Since the P-3 production line isn’t active any more, all 12 of the mothballed P-3s slated for Taiwan had to come from stored US Navy aircraft at AMARG’s “boneyard” near Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ. The problem is that all 12 were labeled “non-flyable” due to structural fatigue, which made the 2,000 mile trip to Lockheed Martin’s refurbishment and re-winging facility in Greenville, SC, a bit of a challenge.

After considering and rejecting rail transport due to offloading and re-loading risks, the AMARG team decided to use a flatbed truck. That’s an unusual method, but it worked. Their approach has stirred interest from other P-3 operators, and even US federal government agencies. Read “Delivering Your Plane, By Truck” for more.

Jan 10/10: Frigates? Reports surface that Taiwan plans to buy 8 FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates from the USA, then outfit them with more advanced systems. Australia has already laid down a blueprint for that kind of modernization, adding SM-2 Standard and RIM-162 ESSM anti-aircraft missiles to their FFG-7 Adelaide Class frigates at great expense. But reports in the Taipei-based China Times speak of refitting the frigates with an AEGIS combat and radar system. That would break new technical ground, and may prove difficult to add, given the FFG-7 ships’ limited “growth space.” Agence France Presse | Information Dissemination.

Jan 3/10: The Washington Post adds fuel to speculation that approval of additional equipment sales for Taiwan – but not F-16s – is imminent:

“The Obama administration is expected to approve the sale of several billion dollars in Black Hawk helicopters and anti-missile batteries to Taiwan early this year, possibly accompanied by a plan gauging design and manufacturing capacity for diesel-powered submarines for the island…”

Taiwanese Patriot batteries already exist, of course, and their expansion contract is a done deal as of late December 2009. The next step is exporting the PAC-3 missiles themselves. Washignton Post | Radio Taiwan.


Major order for new PATRIOT missile ground systems; P-3 sea control planes ordered; Taiwan buys Stinger air-air missiles for its coming AH-64 attack helicopters. Patriot system
(click for explanation)

Dec 23/09: Patriot SAM. Raytheon announces Foreign Military Sales contract awards totaling $1.1 billion to fund new production of Patriot Air and Missile Defense System for Taiwan. The awards include ground-system hardware through an initial contract valued at $965.6 million, and an initial spares contract valued at $134.4 million.

See the Oct 3/08 DSCA release; this is the contract for the radars, ground stations, and other ancillary equipment besides the missiles themselves. The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages this contract for new-production Patriot fire units, which will include new advances in technology, improved man-machine interfaces, and (hopefully) reduced life-cycle costs over earlier generations.

Major PATRIOT contract

Dec 10-13/09: UH-60s yes, U214s maybe? Reports surface that Taiwan will not get its F-16s approved, but will get its purchase of UH-60s approved. The reports add that a 3-way sale would let Taiwan buy U214 submarines from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems’ HDW subsidiary. Radio Taiwan International | Taiwan Today.

Nov 18/09: F-16 dogfight. Rep. Ileana Ross Lehtinen [R-FL] introduces co-sponsored bill H.R. 4102. The bill cites key provisions of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that are not being followed, including the stipulation that weapon requests be “based solely” on judgments concerning Taiwan’s defense needs, without other political considerations. It also cites Taiwan’s expressed desire for F-16 C/D fighters, and the lack of any arms transfer notifications to Congress for Taiwan during calendar year 2009 – despite Taiwan’s expressed desire for F-16s, H-60 Blackhawk helicopters, diesel submarine design, and additional Patriot PAC-3 systems. Nor have the Osprey class minehunter coastal ships Oriole [MHC-55] and Falcon [MHC-59] been transferred, even though Congress authorized the sale of these ships in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-229).

The bill is essentially a Congressional freedom of information request, requiring reports 90 days after enactment and at least annually thereafter, so that Congress is aware of any discussions conducted between any executive branch agency and the Government of Taiwan during the covered period; and any potential transfer of defense articles or defense services to the Government of Taiwan. This would prevent unelected agencies from using their refusal to present requests to Congress as a way to keep such sales off of the political agenda.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; if it is not killed by that committee, it would proceed to a floor vote. See Taiwan Today | Bill tracking via GovTrack.

Oct 16/09: Patriot SAM. Raytheon in Andover, MA receives a $77.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for Taiwan’s Patriot hardware upgrade program. Work is to be performed in Andover, MA (8%), and Burlington, MA (15%), with an estimated completion date of June 30/15. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W31P4Q-09-G-0001).

See also the Jan 26/09 and April 23/08 entries, below.

July 21/09: E-2s. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives an unfinalized $154.1 million contract to upgrade all 6 of Taiwan’s E-2 Hawkeye AWACS aircraft from Group II configuration to the more advanced Hawkeye 2000 (H2K) export configuration. See Oct 3/08 entries for more details.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (40%); St. Augustine, FL (22%); Rolling Meadows, IL (6%); Dayton, OH (6%); Windsor Locks, CT (5%); Greenlawn, NY (4%); Mississauga, Canada (4%); Marlboro, MA (4%); and other various locations throughout the United States (9%); and is expected to be complete in June 2013. As Northrop Grumman is the E-2’s manufacturer, this contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-09-C-0040).

E-2C 2000 AWACS upgrade

June 30/09: F-16s. A Flight International article says that Taiwan may see progress regarding its F-16 orders:

“Taiwan’s plans to buy new Lockheed Martin F-16C/D fighters appear to be gaining some traction, with the outgoing de-facto US ambassador to the island saying that senior officials in Washington are likely to consider the issue shortly… Taiwan’s defence minister Chen Chao Min said this week that, contrary to media reports, Washington had not asked Taipei to choose between upgrades to its existing F-16A/Bs and new F-16C/Ds. Requests for mid-life upgrades for the F-16A/Bs and the new fighters are proceeding in tandem, he added.”

June 25/09: Stinger SAMs for AH-64s. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $45.4 million firm-fixed-price contract from Taiwan for 171 FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 24 Captive Flight Trainers (CFT) with seekers but no rocket motors, 68 Air to Air Launchers (ATAL), 7 Launcher Circuit Evaluators, 2 Digital Launcher Test Sets (DLTS), 60 Coolant Reservoir Assemblies, 3 Launcher Emulators, one Lot of CFT Spares, one Lot of ATAL Spares, and one Lot of DLTS Spares.

The missiles will equip Taiwan’s 30 requested AH-64D Block III Apache attack helicopters; see also Oct 3/08 entries.

Work is to be performed in Tucson, AZ with an estimated completion date of July 31/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the US Aviation & Missile Command Contracting Center at Redstone Arsenal, AlL (W31P4Q-09-C-0520).

March 16/09: Tilting balance. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry announces its defense review, including plan to cut its troop numbers by 60,000, and end the standard 12 months of compulsory military service within 5 years. This will leave the island with 215,000 troops.

The review adds that China currently has at least 1,300 ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan, and has deployed advanced Russian-made SU-27 and SU-30 fighters near the island. Defense News.

March 16/09: F-16 dogfight. Taiwan News reports that the country intends to continue pursuing F-16 fighters. The country does not have a formal embassy in the USA, but the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) serves the same functions. TERCO spokesman Vance Chang responded to media requests by noting that the F-5E/F fighters that make up most of the country’s air force have been in service for more than 34 years.

“The planes now are obsolete and spare parts are difficult to obtain… [given China’s ongoing modernization] our air superiority capability is at a serious disadvantage.”

The U.S.-Taiwan Business Council represents about 100 companies, including Lockheed Martin. The organization’s president, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, adds that under the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act, the USA “has an obligation to assist Taiwan to maintain a credible defense of its air space, which includes modern fighters.” This would explain a July 2008 US Navy PACOM evaluation that deemed the F-16s militarily unnecessary, a silly position on its face but explicable if one begins from the desired political result.

March 13/09: P-3 MPAs. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors Tactical Systems in St. Paul, MN receives a $665.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of phased depot maintenance, structural service life extension, and avionics modification to refurbish and sell 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft to the government of Taiwan. This contract also provides for ground handling, support equipment and publications.

Work will be performed in St. Paul, MN (50%); Greensville, SC (27%) and Marietta, GA (23%), and is expected to be complete in August 2015. This contract was not competitively procured, and is managed by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-09-C-0031). See also the Sept 12/07 DSCA request.


March 11/09: F-16 dogfight. Taiwan’s speaker is quoted as saying that the US has refused to sell Taiwan 66 more F-16s for about $5 billion, in order to augment and modernize the Republic of China’s fighter defense fleet. Wang Jin-pyng was quoted as saying that:

“The U.S. doesn’t want to give them to us… They wouldn’t name a price. It’s mainly because mainland China would oppose the sale.”

See: Taiwan News | Reuters | Washington Post.

Feb 23/09: P-3 MPAs. Defense News reports that Taiwan, the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin have finally settled issues over price and offset options, and are to soon sign a $1.3 billion contract to refurbish and supply 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. Taiwan had traditionally been opposed to buying refurbished aircraft taken from AMARC in Arizona, but re-starting the P-3C production line was not a realistic option. Lockheed Martin has re-started a production line to re-wing existing P-3Cs, however, and countries like Norway, Canada, and even the US Navy have been taking advantage of that capability to extend the service lives of existing aircraft.

Delivery of the P-3s would end the career of Taiwan’s 37 ancient S-2T Trackers, which are reportedly down to just 3 operational aircraft, even as China’s own submarine fleet grows by leaps and bounds.

Jan 26/09: Patriot SAM. Raytheon announces a $154 million Foreign Military Sales contract to upgrade more of Taiwan’s Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems ground systems and radars from Configuration-2 to Config-3 standard, enhancing the ROC’s ability to deal with threats like China’s growing array of ballistic missiles pointed at the island.

Work under this contract will be performed by Raytheon IDS at the Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, MA; the Warfighter Protection Center in Huntsville, AL; the Mission Capability and Verification Center at White Sands, NM, and by Raytheon Technical Services Company in El Paso, TX.

FY 2006 – 2008

$6+ billion request for PATRIOT missiles & systems, new AH-64 attack helicopters, E-2 early-warning aircraft upgrades, Javelin anti-tank missiles, submarine-launched Harpoon missiles, and aircraft spares; $1.96 billion request for 12 P-3C sea control aircraft; 2 new E-2 Hawkeye 2000 early warning planes commissioned.

Oct 3/08: DSCA Shopping Lists. It would appear that the financial crisis in the USA has a silver lining for Taiwan’s military, as a series of DSCA announcements worth $6.363 billion are issued to Congress’ extended session. All export requests are listed in DSCA releases as being “…consistent with United States law and policy as expressed in Public Law 96-8. The U.S. is committed to providing military assistance under the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act.”

Purchase requests include:

Ar/Missile Defense – Patriot PAC-3 [see announcement, PDF]:

  • 330 PATRIOT Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles
  • 24 Launching Stations
  • 4 AN/MPQ-65 Radar Sets
  • 2 Tactical Command Stations
  • 2 Information and Coordination Centrals
  • 12 Antenna Mast Groups
  • 6 Communication Replay Groups
  • 4 Engagement Control Stations
  • 282 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) (115 AN/VRC-88E, 96 AN/VRC-90E, 13 AN/VRC-91E, and 58 AN/VRC-92E) radios
  • 9 Electronic Power Plant III (EPP)
  • 50 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems (MIDS, provides Link 16 data sharing)
  • Plus battery and battalion maintenance equipment, vehicles, generators, electrical power units, personnel training and equipment, trailers, communication equipment, tool and test sets, spare and repair parts, publications, supply support Quality Assurance Team support services, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics services, technical documentation, and other related elements of logistics support.

See also Nov 9/07 request re: upgrading its Patriot PAC-2 batteries to be PAC-3 compatible (Config-3). The estimated cost of this request is $3.1 billion, and the prime contractors will be Raytheon Corporation in Andover, MA and Lockheed-Martin in Dallas, TX. Taiwan has not previously purchased PAC-3 missiles, but they do use PAC-2s. They will require several U.S. Government representatives for 2-week intervals twice annually, to participate in program management and technical reviews.


Hawkeye 2000 test aircraft
(click to view full)

Ar/Missile Defense – Hawkeye 2000 [see announcement, PDF]:

Taiwan already flies 2 E-2C+ Hawkeye 2000 and 4 E-2T Hawkeye aircraft for airborne early warning and control, and wants to upgrade the E-2Ts to the Hawkeye 2000 configuration used by the USA, France, Japan and others. The upgrade will include provisions for the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (Link 16 for a common battlespace picture), avionics, navigation and non-navigation upgrades, and aircraft electrical, mechanical, and survivability upgrades, all necessary hardware installations, support equipment, spares and repair parts, installation and training, publications and technical documents, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related elements of logistics and program support.

American Hawkeye 2000s also have Cooperative Engagement Capability, which allows them to provide shared battlespace pictures and targeting for properly equipped Patriot PAC-3 and PAC-2 missiles. If CEC is not included, the JTIDS/Link 16 can be used to share a battlespace picture and provide advance warning, but cannot be used for targeting.

The estimated cost is up to $250 million, and the prime contractor will be Northrop Grumman Corporation in Bethpage, NY. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 6 contractor representatives to the recipient for a not to exceed a 5-year period.

Taiwan has requested industrial offsets with this order; they will be defined in negotiations with Northrop Grumman.

DSCA: E-2C 2000 AWACS upgrade request

Air Force – Aircraft Parts [see announcement, PDF]:

This blanket order would allow Taiwan to requisition follow-on spare parts as required to maintain its C-130H Hercules transports, F-5E/F Tiger II fighters, F-16A/B fighters, and F-CK IDF fighter aircraft. The requisitions can include communication equipment, radar, and other related elements of logistics support, as well as spares. The estimated cost is $334 million, and items will be ordered from appropriate contractors as needed.

Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government and contractor representatives to the recipient.

AH-64D w. Arrowhead
(click to view full)

Army – Apache Longbow attack helicopters and weapons [see announcement, PDF]. Taiwan currently flies AH-1W Cobras in this role, and an attack helicopter deal has been in the works since 2002. The AH-64D beat Bell’s AH-1Z Viper on the grounds that it was battle proven, while the AH-1Z remains developmental.

Taiwan is requesting 30 AH-64D Apache Longbow Block III attack helicopters, the helicopter’s most modern configuration which is just beginning to enter service in the USA. The helicopters will be equipped with 30 Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (MTADS/PNVS “Arrowhead”), 17 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars and AN/APR-48 Radar Frequency Interferometer (FCR/RFI), 69 T700-GE-701D Turbine Engines. Composite horizontal stabilators, crew and maintenance trainers, depot maintenance, all necessary support equipment, tools and test equipment, integration and checkout, spares and repair parts, training and training equipment, and other forms of support are included in the base purchase.

The request also includes applicable weapons for these helicopters: 173 FIM-92F Stinger Block I Air-to-Air Missiles, 35 Stinger air-air missile Captive Flight Trainers with live guidance systems but no rocket motors, 1,000 AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire anti-armor missiles that can use the APG-78 and their own radar’s millimeter-wave guidance for “fire and forget” capability, and 66 M299 Hellfire missile launchers.

The estimated cost is $2.532 billion, and Taiwan has requested industrial offsets; these will be defined in direct negotiations with the contractor(s). Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 2 U.S. Government personnel for a period of 6 years to provide intensive coordination, monitoring, and technical assistance. In addition, 6 contractor representatives will be in country serving as Contractor Field Service Representatives for a period of 5 years, with the possibility of a 5-year extension. The principal contractors will be:

  • The Boeing Company in Mesa, AZ and St Louis, MO (AH-64)
  • General Electric in Lynn, MA (Engines)
  • Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL (Longbow Hellfires, M299, Arrowheads)
  • Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY
  • Northrop Grumman Corporation in Baltimore, MD (Longbow Hellfires)
  • Raytheon Company in Tucson, AZ (Stinger missiles)
  • Inter-Coastal Electronics in Mesa, AZ
  • BAE Systems in Rockville, MD

DSCA: AH-64D request

Army – Javelin missiles [see announcement, PDF].

Taiwan wants to buy 182 more man-portable Javelin anti-armor missile rounds and 20 command launch units, plus 40 missile simulation rounds, trainers, rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries, support equipment, spare and repair parts, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $47 million.

Raytheon/Lockheed-Martin’s JAVELIN Joint Venture in Orlando, FL will be the prime contractor. Implementation of this proposed sale will require a U.S. Government Quality Assurance Team consisting of 1 contractor and 2 U.S. Government representatives in country for 5 days to accomplish the initial deployment of the missiles. Taiwan won’t need more help than that, as they were one of the Javelin “fire and forget” missile’s early customers in 2002.

DSCA: Javelin missile request

UGM-84 Harpoon launch
(click to view full)

Navy – Harpoon missiles [see announcement, PDF].

Taiwan requests 32 UGM-84L Sub-Launched Harpoon Block II missiles for its 2 Seadragon Class submarines. Harpoon Block II includes GPS guidance that makes them easier to use near shore (for instance, against amphibious landing ships on final approach), and also gives the missiles some land attack capability out to their 150 mile range. Taiwan’s request adds 2 UTM-84L Harpoon Block II Exercise missiles, 2 Advanced Harpoon Weapons Control System (Version 2) for installation on the Seadragon Class, 36 Harpoon containers, 2 UTM-84XD Encapsulated Harpoon Certification and Training Vehicles, test equipment and services, spares and repair parts for support equipment, and other forms of support.

The estimated cost is $200 million, and the contractor is Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas in St Louis, MO.

The US DSCA notes that “The recipient has previously purchased both air and surface launched HARPOON missiles and will be able to absorb and effectively utilize these submarine-launched missiles.” As such, no additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives will be required.

DSCA: Sub-launched Harpoon missiles request

Sept 29/08: Taiwan News reports that:

“The Pentagon was expected to notify the U.S. Congress of its intention to sell the arms to Taiwan by the end of its current session last Friday. Taiwan has expressed worries that if the U.S. missed the deadline, the Legislative Yuan would have to start the process of approving a budget for the arms package from the start… Congress had been extended to deal with the current financial crisis, and therefore the arms deal could still be approved.

The package includes Patriot missiles, Apache helicopters, diesel-powered submarines, anti-tank missiles, submarine-launched missiles and P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, but not new F-16 fighter jets Taiwan was hoping to buy.

The U.S. State Department notified the Taiwanese media late on Friday that government departments were still reviewing the deal, and that once it was approved, Congress would be immediately notified.”

This did not sound like anything close to a sense of urgency, but events would prove otherwise. Pro-China elements in the US State Department are still blocking approval of Taiwan’s unofficial request for F-16C/D fighters.

April 23/08: Patriot SAM. Raytheon announces a $79 million Foreign Military Sales award from the U.S. Army to provide Taiwan with Patriot Configuration-3 radar upgrade kits and related engineering and technical services. This is part of a much larger order; see Nov 9/07 entry for more.

Work will be performed by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems at the Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, MA; the Warfighter Protection Center in Huntsville, AL; and the Mission Capability and Verification Center in White Sands, NM.

Nov 9/07: PATRIOT upgrade request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] “The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States” formal request to upgrade and refurbish their 3 existing PATRIOT fire units’ ground support equipment to the latest Army Configuration 3 under a $939 million contract. Raytheon Corporation in Andover, MA will be the prime contractor. Although the purchaser generally requires offsets, at this time, there are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale and no additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives will be required.

Obviously, this effort is less helpful than acquiring new Patriot PAC-3 missiles to add to Taiwan’s defense. Instead, they are adding Patriot PAC-3 radar and communications enhancements to Taiwan’s existing Patriot batteries, turning them into a PAC-2 GEM+ type configuration in use by a number of US allies. The PAC-2 missile is larger than the PAC-3, and uses a fragmentation warhead instead of the PAC-3 missile’s “hit to kill” approach. Patriot’s widely-touted performance during the 1991 Desert Storm operation turned out to be significantly overstated, but when coupled with PAC-3 class radars et. al., it has demonstrated useful capabilities against incoming ballistic missiles. The specific sale includes:

  • 2 PATRIOT, MIM-104 (Patriot-As-A-Target)
  • Radar Enhancement Phase 3 (REP-3)
  • Classification, Discrimination and Identification Phase 3 (CDI-3)
  • Remote Launch Communication Enhancement Upgrade (RLCEU)
  • An Electric Power Plant.
  • 36 AN/VRC-88E SINCGARS EXP Vehicle Short Range Radio Systems
  • 32 AN/VRC-90E SINCGARS EXP Vehicle Long Range Radio Systems
  • 4 AN/VRC-91E SINCGARS EXP Long Range Radio Systems
  • 11 AN/VRC-92E SINCGARS EXP Dual Range Radio Systems

It also includes non-MDE (Military Designated Equipment under US Arms transfer laws) items such as
all necessary modification kits, communication support equipment, tools and test equipment, integration and checkout, spares and repair parts, installation and training, publications and technical documents, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, other related elements of logistics and program support, and 4 telemetry kits for its live fire training.

DSCA: PATRIOT upgrade request

P-3 Orion, armed -
note Sidewinder
(click to view full)

Sept 12/07: P-3 MPAs. The US DSCA announces [PDF] the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States” official request for 12 ‘excess’ P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, with strong surveillance and anti-submarine capabilities. The estimated cost is $1.96 billion. DSCA adds that:

“This sale is consistent with United States law and policy as expressed in Public Law 96-8. The United States is committed to providing military assistance under the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act. The recipient’s current patrol aircraft are reaching the end of their fatigue and operational service life. To maintain national security it is necessary that recipient replace these fixed-wing aircraft with an airborne operational capability for land-based maritime patrol and reconnaissance, including economic exclusion zone surveillance and protection, command and control, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-surface warfare. The recipient can absorb these additional aircraft into its inventory.”

Offset agreements associated with this proposed sale are expected, but they will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and contractors. Principal contractors include Lockheed Martin of Eagan, MN; Lockheed Martin Aircraft Center of Greenville, SC; Rockwell Collins of Cedar Rapids, IA; Raytheon Company of McKinney, TX, EDO (Condor Systems) of Morgan Hill, Ontario Canada; and L3 Wescam of Ontario, Canada. There may be up to 32 U.S. Government and contractor representatives with varying technical skills and disciplines who will be required, following the delivery of the aircraft, to provide support for 1 year after the last aircraft delivery. The exact request includes:

  • 12 ‘excess’ P-3C Orion aircraft with T-56 engines. It is likely that they will begin with ‘boneyard’ stored aircraft that need refurbishing to fly, and significant modifications to be viable for any significant period. Some parties like Norway, for instance, are making their P-3s viable by completely replacing their wings as part of their general overhaul.
  • Aircraft activation, aircraft life extension and avionics modification, transportation
  • 3 excess TP-3A aircraft (non-operational, to be used as airframe spares) with T-56 engines
  • 15 Data Link terminals
  • 19 MIDS-LVT Link 16 terminals
  • 2 MIDS On-Ship Terminals

Plus a mobile operation command center, Command Control Communications Computer Intelligence Surveillance, Reconnaissance, (C4ISR) network integration, training devices, medical services, support and test equipment, engineering technical services, supply support, operation and maintenance training, ground support C2 facilities, documentation, spare/repair parts, publications, documentation, personnel training, training equipment, contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related support elements.

DSCA: P-3C MPA request

April 16/06: President Chen Shui-bian presides over the commissioning of 2 E2C+ Hawkeye 2K planes recently purchased from the United States, and calls for an end to KMT blocking of his special military budget requests. The 2 new planes join 4 E-2Ts bought in 1995. China Post.

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: Policy

Background: Equipment

News & Views

Categories: News

France Finally Kickstarts Scorpion Land Vehicle Acquisition

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 01:58
Scorpion launch (in French)

In 2009 France was planning to start delivering by 2015 VBMR multirole armored vehicles to replace a variety of aging infantry vehicles starting, within a large modernization program called Scorpion. But the 2010-14 multiyear budget relied on a number of rosy assumptions that were soon disproved by reality, and the Scorpion program was one of the mismatch’s casualties, along with plans to start working on a second aircraft carrier.

Promises were made again in the next 5-year budget plan, while maintenance costs kept increasing to sustain vehicles offering an underwhelming mix of limited protection, autonomy, or mobility. French defense manufacturers also started to sound the alarm as Scorpion became increasingly vital to prevent factory closures. The French DGA defense procurement agency paid heed to their plea and issued a tender limited to national manufacturers. By the end of 2014 the ministry of defense finally initiated the 1st procurement tranche of a program expected to last beyond 2025.

On one hand, the expected turnaround from prototype to delivery in 4 to 6 years is tight and will put pressure on contractors, though they started some early conceptual work in 2010. On the other hand this still amounts to a late and light production schedule for the rest of the decade.

The Scorpion Acquisition VAB Ultima

This major program intends to rationalize a hodgepodge of aging land vehicles and systems while preserving France’s industrial base. The 2 main vehicles in this program share a common chassis and will offer protection from mines and IEDs and ballistic threats at NATO’s STANAG 4569 Level 4. There’s been no public information on engines yet.

The main components of the planned, full acquisition are:


  • 1,722 véhicules blindés multi rôles (VBMR)

Dubbed “Griffon”, VBMRs will replace Véhicules de l’avant blindé (VAB) 4×4 infantry carriers acquired starting in 1976 and upgraded in the late 90s. While the ubiquitous VAB turned into 36 variations, no more than a handful of VBMR variants should be created, between troop transport, medical, command/control, and artillery observation purposes.

The 6×6 designs will weight between 20 and 24 tons, with a remotely-operated 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine gun or a 40mm grenade launcher. Deliveries should reach 780 units by 2025. The infantry transport version will carry 8 troops in addition to the crew of 2.

  • 248 engins blindés de reconnaissance et de combat (EBRC)

Dubbed “Jaguar”, EBRCs will replace AMX10RC and Sagaie light tanks, as well as VABs in their HOT antitank configuration, to perform combat and reconnaissance missions. These legacy vehicles lost mobility and autonomy with upgrades, but their design remains vulnerable to current threats, and they have become expensive to maintain given their average age. VABs for instance grew from an initial 13 tons to about 16 tons in the latest Ultima configuration.

Jaguar is a 6×6 wheeled 25-ton design with a crew of 3. For armament it will be fitted with a 40mm cannon jointly developed by Nexter and BAE with a 1,500m reach, a remote-controlled 7.62mm machine gun, and MBDA’s MMP (3,500, reach). Deliveries should reach 110 units by 2025.

  • 358 lightweight VBMRs

This 10-ton 4×4 design will replace 4-ton Véhicules Blindés Légers (Light armored vehicles) procured since 1990. Deliveries between 2021 and 2025 should reach 200 vehicles.

  • The Système d’information du combat SCORPION (SICS)

This common communications platform will replace 6 separate legacy systems, starting in 2016.

  • 200 overhauled Leclerc XL tanks

This looks somewhat like an extraneous graft in this program, so that France doesn’t give up entirely on what’s left of its battle tank fleet.

Contracts and Events

Dec. 5/2014: Development contract. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian announces the phase 1 award in the Scorpion program, in line with commitments made in the 2014-19 defense budget planning law known as LPM. This 1st tranche, worth €752 million ($932M). Deliveries will start in 2018. Nexter, Thales and Renault Trucks Defense (RTD) have partnered to form a temporary consortium for the purpose of this program. Safran will provide optronics, and as noted above, CTA International (a Nexter-BAE joint venture) and MBDA will contribute the most significant weapon systems.

Phase 1

Jan. 16/2014: Préférence nationale. Les Echos reports that the DGA procurement agency restricted its tender to French manufacturers, and cited article 346 of the European Union Treaty to exclude bids from other member states.

Sources: Les Echos: Blindés : l’armée lance un appel d’offres de plus de 2 milliards d’euros | EDA: Article 346 of the TFEU.

Nov. 9/2011: industrial team. Nexter and Renault Truck Defense sign a cooperation agreement to jointly manufacture VBMRs.

Feb. 22/2010: initial decision. An inter-ministerial investment commission approves the start of Scorpion’s research and development phase.

Readings and Sources

Categories: News

Russia Seeks to Match THAAD, GMD US Missile Defense Systems

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 16:29

  • The state-owned Russian TASS agency quotes Pavel Sozinov, an armament designer at Almaz-Antey:

“Russia is working on an equivalent of the THAAD missile defense complex, which is capable of intercepting ballistic intermediate range missiles and, to a certain extent, warheads of inter-continental ballistic missiles. It will undergo testing soon.”

US Doctrine

  • USAF Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria tells Defense News that the F-35 brings data fusion magic to Close Air Support missions, thus saving time during target acquisition. But he doesn’t address the question of friendly fire risks brought by dropping Small Diameter Bombs from F-35s vs. using a gun from a slower aircraft such as the A-10.


  • Airbus announced that it has signed a buyback agreement with Patria to divest its entire 26.8% stake in the Finnish firm. They expect to close the transaction by the end of the year. Airbus recently started to divest its stake in Dassault Aviation.

  • Final bids were submitted to Denmark in a competition to replace the country’s M113 APCs. How many vehicles they will order still appears uncertain.

  • Canada signed yesterday a Declaration of Intent with Ukraine “to explore opportunities to conduct joint military training and capacity building in response to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine.”


“[O]n some issues, it is impossible for both sides to win. China’s territorial disputes, for example, with the possible exception of the one with India, which is big enough to allow room for a conceivable compromise, are zero-sum. Most fundamentally, China’s aspiration for regional leadership challenges American naval supremacy in the western Pacific. And little so far suggests that any American leader would be willing to lose enough to let Mr Xi’s China feel it had won.”

  • AVIC president Lin Zuoming is less subtle [Strait Times]: he is certain the J-31 “can definitely take [the F-35] down.”

  • The annual B.C. Lee lecture hosted by the Heritage Foundation conservative think tank was dedicated to U.S. national security and rising China. Video below:

Categories: News