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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 52 min 25 sec ago

L-3 Comm Vertex Aero Gets $302.2M to Support C-12 Huron | Outgoing USAF Chief of Staff Gives Props to Restarting F-22 | GE: $3.5B Engines to SK for KF-X Fighters

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 23:50
Americas

  • L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace has been awarded a $302.2 million US navy contract for logistics services in support of the C-12 Huron utility lift aircraft. Work to be carried out includes post-production, full commercial-type aircraft maintenance, logistics support and materials for the Marine Corps Reserve C-12 and Navy TC-12B trainer aircraft with a completion date set for June 2021. The military version of Hawker Beechcraft’s King Air 200, the C-12 is a multi-mission aircraft that provides personnel and cargo transportation, range clearance, medical evacuation, courier flights, and humanitarian rescue or assistance.

  • “Not a wild idea” is outgoing USAF’s chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s thoughts on restarting the F-22 production line as industry officials and the air force have repeatedly dubbed the concept a nonstarter. In an era of declining military budgets and streamlining of services, Walsh’s comments will bolster lawmakers supporting the superiority fighter’s reintroduction, and may see an F-22 revival gaining traction, after the full House passed legislation that would, if approved by the Senate and signed into law, direct the service to study the possibility.

Middle East North Africa

  • RADA has announced the sale of a number of its RPS-42 Tactical Air Surveillance Radar Systems to an unnamed Asian country. The $2 million contract will see the Israeli firm deliver the system this year, and will be installed by the purchaser on its own tactical vehicles. Once installed, the system will provide the customer with a mobile air surveillance solution for its armed forces.

  • Turkish defense procurement officials revealed that the Turkish Navy is keen to induct a long-range maritime patrol aircraft to complement its CN-235 and ATR72 fleet, with Boeing’s P-8A a favored choice. Requirements from Ankara include being able to fly 1,000 to 1,200 nautical miles away from their main base in Turkey, and fly 12 to 15 hours as well as being able to fulfill anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare roles. While a request for information is expected to be released soon, the parameters set may make the competition a very small one.

Europe

  • The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) could have a contractor chosen for its laser directed energy weapon demonstrator by next month. Andy Rhodes, a business development executive at Raytheon UK, dropped the date of June 3 as a possible MoD announcement date when talking to reporters during a tour of the company’s plant in Glenrothes, Scotland. The company is part of a Babcock-led consortium including Lockheed Martin, Thales UK, MBDA and Rheinmetall. The consortium’s offering involves a modified truck-mounted version of Raytheon’s Phalanx close in anti-missile with the gun removed to make way for the laser, which is being developed by Qinetiq. Lasers for three other contenders are believed to be supplied by the company.

  • Russian manufacturer Aviacor has delivered another An-140 turboprop aircraft to the Russian Navy, bringing to three the number operated by the service. The aircraft’s configuration is primarily for passenger transport but can also be modified to carry cargo. As well as providing An-140s, Aviacor is conducting maintenance and overhauls of Tu-154 aircraft, modernization of Tu-95MSs and maintenance of An-74 aircraft.

Asia Pacific

  • Just days after the lifting of the US arms embargo, Vietnam look like they may request F-16s and P-3 Orions from Pentagon’s excess defense articles (EDA) program. Hanoi may also look into purchasing US made UAVs alongside the aircraft to improve its air defense and maritime security capabilities in order to enhance its position in the South China Sea. It’s also likely that the government will look to achieve a similar P-3 deal given to Taiwan including torpedoes (banned under the embargo) and an F-16 EDA procurement given to Indonesia.

  • General Electric is to provide its F414-GE-400 engines for South Korea’s KF-X fighter after beating a European consortium offering the Eurojet EJ2000. The deal is estimated to be worth up to $3.5 billion, and contracts are expected to be finalized and signed in June. Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KIA), who is developing the jet alongside Lockheed Martin, plans to develop and produce 170 twin-engined jets initially, with 50 destined for export to Indonesia.

Today’s Video

  • RADA’s RPS-42 Tactical Air Surveillance Radar System:

Categories: News

P-8 Poseidon MMA: Long-Range Maritime Patrol, and More

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 23:45
P-8A Poseidon
(click to view full)

Maritime surveillance and patrol is becoming more and more important, but the USA’s P-3 Orion turboprop fleet is falling apart. The P-7 Long Range Air ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) Capable Aircraft program to create an improved P-3 began in 1988, but cost overruns, slow progress, and interest in opening the competition to commercial designs led to the P-7’s cancellation for default in 1990. The successor MMA program was begun in March 2000, and Boeing beat Lockheed’s “Orion 21” with a P-8 design based on their ubiquitous 737 passenger jet. US Navy squadrons finally began taking P-8A Poseidon deliveries in 2012, but the long delays haven’t done their existing P-3 fleet any favors.

Filling the P-3 Orion’s shoes is no easy task. What missions will the new P-8A Poseidon face? What do we know about the platform, the project team, and ongoing developments? Will the P-3’s wide global adoption give its successor a comparable level of export opportunities? Australia and India have already signed on, but has the larger market shifted in the interim?

Program Summary A P-8 primer

The Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft program to replace the P-3 fleet began in earnest in 2000, and the 737-based P-8A was rolled out in July 2009. The US Navy has ordered 53 of 109 planned aircraft as of February 2014, and received 13.

Initial Operational Capability was declared in November 2013, but P-8A Increment 1 aircraft have a number of problems. Overall, the new plane remains roughly equal to its P-3 predecessor in most surveillance tasks, but it has a much smaller array of weapons, and has experienced ongoing integration and reliability problems. The biggest issues include surface radar scan stability and quality issues, cueing and auto-tracking shortfalls in the electro-optical system, and too many crashes in the mission software controlling everything.

The Navy is trying to fix these and other problems, while developing Increment 2 upgrades. Meanwhile, the P-3 fleet is aging out from under them. P-8A Increment 2 is slated to field in 2016, improving wide-area search and weapon capability. Increment 3, to be fielded around 2019, will improve sensor capabilities and mission system electronics.

India was the plane’s 1st export customer, with an initial order for 8 P-8i variants. They’ve received their 1st aircraft, and plan to increase their order to 12 soon. In February 2014, Australia committed to 8 P-8As plus an option for 4 more, but that contract hasn’t been signed yet.

P-8A Poseidon: Platform & Capabilities P-8A Poseidon: cutaway
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The P-8 will use the same 737 airframe as the U.S. Navy’s C-40 Clipper naval cargo aircraft, the E-737 Wedgetail AWACS aircraft on order by Australia, Turkey, and South Korea; and the U.S. Air Force’s T-43 Navigation trainer. The base model is Boeing’s 737-800 ERX, with “raked” wingtips that improve performance for low-level flight.

That airframe must accomplish a wide range of tasks. It will search for and destroy submarines, monitor sea traffic, launch missile attacks on naval or land targets as required, act as a flying communications relay for friendly forces, and possibly provide and electronic signal intercepts. Like its predecessor, its radar capabilities will make it well suited for land-surveillance missions, when the Navy decides to use it that way.

A plane with that many capabilities will play a role in a number of emerging military doctrines. It will be a key component in the U.S. Navy’s Sea Power 21 doctrine’s Sea Shield concept, by providing an anti-submarine, anti-ship and anti-smuggling platform that can sweep the area, launch sensors or weapons as needed, and remain aloft for many hours. The P-8A MMA will also play a key role in the U.S. Navy’s FORCEnet architecture, via development of the Common Undersea Picture (CUP). As a secondary role, it will support portions of Sea Power 21’s Sea Strike doctrine with its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

Unrefueled range is published as “over 4,000” nautical miles/ around 7,500 km. A more strenuous flight profile would involve 4 hours on station conducting low-level anti-submarine missions, at a range of more than 1,200 nautical miles/ 2,200 km. A dorsal receptacle allows in-flight refueling if necessary.

P-8: Weapons P-3 Orion, armed –
note Sidewinder
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The P-8A has 11 weapon hard points: 5 in the rotary weapon bay, 4 under the wings, and 2 under the fuselage. Weapon load can exceed 10t/ 22,000 pounds, and all hard points have digital weapon interfaces.

Given that P-3C Orions have been modified to carry sea-skimming attack missiles like the Harpoon, land attack missiles like the Maverick, and even AIM-9 Sidewinder air-air missiles, it seems reasonable to assume that the Poseidon MMA will be at least as capable. Reaching that plateau would involve carrying sonobuoys, torpedoes, depth charges, Harpoon anti-shipping missiles, SLAM or AGM-65 Maverick land attack missiles, and either AIM-9 Sidewinders or NCADE-derived AIM-120 AMRAAMs. Some Boeing illustrations even show them with JDAM or JSOW GPS-guided weapons attached to underbody hardpoints.

The P-8A’s initially-certified armament will be much more modest, however: Mk 54 lightweight torpedoes, depth charges, and some free-fall bombs, plus a built-in triple launcher and accompanying storage for up to 120 sonobuoys – or devices compatible with a sonobuoy launcher, such as Piasecki’s Turais UAV. American testing is currently underway with Boeing’s AGM-84 Block IC anti-ship missile, Australia is looking into the upgraded AGM-84 Block IG, and India has ordered the AGM-84L Harpoon Block II variant with land attack capability.

Mk 54 lightweight torpedoes equipped with Boeing’s GPS-guided High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability (HAAWC) glide bomb kit promise to extend the plane’s capabilities, by turning the torpedo into a weapon that can be launched from high altitude. That allows the P-8A to remain within its preferred aerodynamic envelope of high-altitude cruise, and reduces the fatigue and corrosion associated with low-level flight. Boeing received a development contract in April 2013, but this capability isn’t expected until P-8A Increment 2, with initial operating capability in 2016.

Beyond that, pilots have commented that P-8 suffers from the lack of a precision weapon that can safely be used in a crowded maritime environment. Smaller boats like FACs are more likely to be targets in that kind of crowded littoral environment, so the missiles can be smaller: the TV/infrared guided AGM-65 Maverick, laser/radar guided Brimstone, tri-mode GBU-53 Small Diamater Bomb II, etc. The lack is felt keenly; the earlier the fix can come, the better. By the mid-2020s, the adoption of more advanced anti-ship missiles under the OASuW program seems likely to fix this problem at the high end as well.

P-8: Sensors P-8 AGS concept
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Weapons don’t mean much unless an enemy can be found. The P-8 will rely on a combination of sonobuoys, radars, day/night surveillance equipment, and ESM (Electronic Support Measures) gear. The Magnetic Anomaly Detector that extends behind P-3s and other maritime patrol aircraft isn’t very useful at altitude, and the USA won’t field it on the P-8A, but India will do so on the P-8i.

A canoe-shaped fairing under the plane is expected to house a mission bay that will initially include the Raytheon-Boeing AN/APS-149 Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS), designed to provide targeting-grade tracking of moving targets on land and at sea. It reportedly emerged out of a “black” (classified) program, and details regarding the system remain sketchy. It’s known to be a Boeing-Raytheon AESA MTI (Active Electronically Scanned Array/ Moving Target Indicator) radar, and has already been deployed on some Navy P-3s (see pictures – scroll down to “NAWC-23 at Dallas Love Field”).

LSRS is slated for replacement by a modernized evolution called the Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS) in Increment 3 or 4. It’s rumored to have performance standards that match or exceed the USA’s current 707-based E-8C JSTARS battlefield surveillance aircraft. The long profile of LSRS/AAS is probably why Boeing moved the P-8’s weapons bay to the back of the plane in 2003, and the radar’s capabilities would allow it the P-8 to serve as a targeting platform for its own or others’ weapons.

AN/APY-10 set
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The AN/APS-137Dv5 radar used on the USA’s most modern P-3Cs will also form a key part of the P-8A’s radar suite, after a number of upgrades and a new designation. This enhanced nose-mounted system has been referred to as AN/APS-197, but was formally given the AN/APY-10 designation in June 2006. It offers reduced weight, improved MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures), and a color weather display. In the P-8A, it will also feature improvements such as “joint technical architecture” compliance, better performance in track-while-scan and target detection modes, and full integration with the Boeing mission system.

India’s P-8i adds air-to-air surveillance capabilities to its APY-10 International radar, an enhancement that could filter back to the US fleet in future upgrades.

The AN/ALQ-240v1 Electronic Support Measures system will alert the plane to radar and communications emissions, and track the signals to geolocate their sources. It complements the Early Warning Self Protection System, and enables fast offensive counterattacks.

The P-8’s radars and ESM will be supplemented by L-3 Wescam’s MX-20HD long-range optical surveillance turret. This large surveillance turret houses up to 3 day/night imaging sensors, and 3 laser payloads (i.e. rangefinding, marking/pointing, target designation) that can be swapped in and out. L-3 Enhanced Local Area Processing (ELAP) improves imaging clarity on board, extending effective range and image clarity before the images are broadcast elsewhere.

The most important submarine-finding equipment remains the plane’s sonobuoys, which produce noise and then transmit their receiver data back to the plane. The SSQ-125 MAC will be a generational step forward, but the P-8’s onboard mission software has to be fully capable of interpreting it, and that won’t happen until at least Increment 2. The idea behind Multi-static Active Coherent sonobuoys combines electronically-generated, software-controlled pings, whose echoes can be detected and appropriately identified by multiple receiver sonobuoys in a dropped group. That nullifies a submarine’s standard profile-minimizing head-on maneuver, and the tone’s coherence allows doppler shift equations to reach beyond the contact’s current location and calculate its speed and heading. GPS receivers in source and receiver sonobuoys can sharpen targeting further, which is very useful in conjunction with high-altitude, GPS-guided torpedo kits like HAASW.

P-8: Upgrades & Variants Mk54 HAAWC
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Additional modifications and improvements can be expected over the program’s life, as is the case for any major weapon systems. The P-8A was designed to incorporate additional “spiral development” of new weapons and equipment, and it won’t really achieve the capabilities defined in the Pentagon’s official June 25/10 Capability Development Document until v3.0.

Spiral One/ Increment 2: Adds initial HAAWC high altitude torpedo capability, Multi-Static Active Coherent (MAC) for wide-area acoustic surveillance, improvements to sonobuoy drops, integration of Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS) radar capability, Automatic Identification System ID for use with compliant civilian ships, updates to the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) mission system, and other acoustic and communications upgrades. Increment 2 planes should become operational around 2016, but integration and test of these capabilities will be done incrementally. It’s always possible for some items to slip to the next spiral.

Spiral Two/ Increment 3: Enhances MAC, early delivery of HAAWC Datalink, more updates to the TOC mission software, and other changes to the plane’s sensors and systems as time and money allow. Introduction of the Advanced Aerial Sensor (AAS) high-resolution AESA radar is expected in this phase. The goal is to bring the P-8A to full compliance with the 2010 JROC specifications, and give the plane a more open electronic architecture for faster integration of new components, and this increment will take a big step forward with interfaces the MQ-4C Triton UAV, which may include full “Level 4” control of its flight and sensors. The program plans a full and open competition for the Increment 3 system architecture contracts, and intends to buy the intellectual property rights as well.

At the moment, India is the P-8’s only export customer, though Australia has signed an MoU ad paid for joint development. India’s P-8i jets will share a number of systems with the American P-8As, including a version of the AN/APY-10 radar. Other key technologies will be specific to the P-8i, however, owing to technology transfer issues or local choices.

Overland Role? E-10 M2CA Concept
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With the cancellation of the USAF’s E-10 follow-on to its E-8 JSTARS battlefield surveillance planes, the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon may even be poised to inherit a dual land and sea surveillance role. USN P-3s have already found themselves pressed into overland service, and the much-greater capabilities of the P-8’s LSRS/AAS radars will only make that crossover more attractive.

Boeing has already proposed to replace the USAF’s 17-plane JSTARS fleet with an add-on “P-8 AGS” order, as an alternative to upgrading the 707-based E-8s with new engines, radars, and electronics. That proposal was denied, but the E-8Cs received only a minimal upgrade designed to keep them operational, and the USAF has decided that the 707-based platform is costly to operate and maintain over the long term. They do have a program that aims to field a JSTARS successor by 2022, and if that program survives, the P-8 AGS can expect to compete with the smaller Raytheon/Bombardier Sentinel R1 and a Gulfstream 550/650 derivative.

The USA’s default option is to cancel JSTARS RECAP, in order to fund its KC-46A aerial tanker, F-35 fighter, and new bomber programs. The E-8C JSTARS fleet would then become vulnerable to future USAF fleet-sized cuts. Meanwhile, the P-8As would field in the Navy with comparable or better radars. They would informally take over some of the JSTARS role, alongside USAF surveillance UAVs like RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 and its EQ-4 BACN connectivity counterpart.

Something needs to fill the role. NATO’s cancellation of its AGS program’s Airbus 321 MCAR battlefield surveillance jet leaves just 22 battlefield surveillance planes available for global use: the USA’s 707-based JSTARS fleet, and Britain’s newer 5-plane ASTOR Sentinel R1 fleet that’s based on Bombardier’s Global Express business jet.

NATO’s AGS is survived by a 5-UAV program based on the RQ-4B Block 40 Global Hawk, which was originally expected to work with the A321 MCAR as an adjunct. That same 2-tier model survives in the Poseidon program, however, and both tiers of the Navy program will offer land surveillance capabilities. The Poseidon’s Global Hawk UAV companion is called the MQ-4C Triton, developed under a program called BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance).

The P-8’s BAMS Companion: Kicking It Up a Notch BAMS/P-8 mission sets
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The P-3 fleet’s heavy use in both maritime surveillance and overland roles points up a potential problem with the P-8A. As an expensive but in-demand asset, a wider coverage scope could actually accelerate the problem of high flight hours building up in a small fleet. The problem is that airplane lives are measured in flight hours, and usage intensity. See the Strategic Review article “Brittle Swords: Low-Density, High-Demand Assets” [PDF] for more background on this phenomenon.

The logical response is to pair the P-8s with a lower cost counterpart. Hence the P-8’s companion Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV program, run by NAVAIR’s PMA-263 program management office.

The BAMS competition was widely seen as a fight between Northrop Grumman’s high-flying, jet-powered RQ-4 Global Hawk and General Atomics’ turboprop-powered Mariner (a cousin of its MQ-9 Reaper); but other options were offered as well, including an “optionally manned” business jet.

Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4N Global Hawk eventually won, and will be known as the MQ-4C Triton. The US Navy plans to buy 61 of them + 5 test UAVs, and begin operations in 2015. Like the P-8, the MQ-4C is attracting export interest, which could grow the entire international fleet past 66 machines.

DID’s BAMS FOCUS Article covers MQ-4C requirements, international dimension, contracts, and developments. Given their expected numbers, the Tritons could easily find themselves joining their P-8 companions in overland surveillance roles.

P-8A Poseidon Program Program Goal & Competitors P-3C Orion
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Many people would contend that the P-3 Orion is the greatest maritime patrol aircraft ever flown. These aircraft entered service in 1959, and will continue to serve past 2015. Modifications to their equipment have sharpened their capabilities, and even given them a land-attack and surveillance role. In service with 15 countries, the Orion is a great success – but it’s a very old success.

After the abortive P-3G program, the US Navy began a 2-year requirement study in 1997, and the Defense Acquisition Board initiated a number of concept studies during the 2000 to 2002 period. During a 2-phase Component Advanced Development (CAD) program in 2002-2003, Boeing and Lockheed each received $27.5 million to develop their initial designs.

Lockheed’s Orion21 design was based on the P-3 airframe, with United Technologies subsidiaries Pratt & Whitney (7,000 shp PW150A turboprop engine) and Hamilton-Sundstrand (the same 8-bladed NP2000 propeller being refitted to carrier-based E-2 Hawkeye AWACS and C-2 Greyhound aircraft) as key partners.

As noted above, Boeing’s design was based on its 737, one of the most widely produced passenger jets in the world.

Program Timeline

In June 2004, Boeing IDS’ 737-based proposal was awarded the $3.9 billion cost-plus-award-fee contract to develop the Navy’s P-8 Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft. The P-8’s system design and development (SDD) contract covers the full range of platform development including all of the on-board mission systems, the modifications to the airframe itself, all of the training systems, and all of the software laboratories required to produce almost 2 million lines of reliable code. It also covers all of the integrated logistics elements, including the trainers, simulators and courseware. Essentially, everything that’s required to get ready to build the production P-8 is part of the SDD contract.

The MMA Program was cleared by a US technical review board to proceed into the design phase, and passed a preliminary design review in September 2005. In January 2007, their entry received the formal US Navy designation of P-8A Poseidon; and in July 2007, Australia made the P-8 an international program by giving their participation “first pass approval.” In December 2008, India became the 1st export, with a customized P-8i design.

The P-8A achieved American Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in late November 2013. IOC is defined as 1 squadron of 6 aircraft, with personnel who are trained and certified to deploy.

US P-8A Program Budgets

Recent budgets for the P-8A program from FY 2008 to the present have included:

Excel
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Note that annual budgets also include advance procurement for the next year’s buy, so that key items like engines and other long lead-time equipment are ready to go when it’s time to build the P-8s. For instance, the FY 2012 request included long-lead items for 13 FY 2013 aircraft. The Pentagon says that “aircraft procurements are tightly coupled to the [expected] P-3 retirement rates,” but budget cuts will begin to affect production after 2013.

US Numbers and Basing No?!?
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The U.S. program began as 108 planes, and formally stands at 109 production aircraft plus an additional 8 system design & development aircraft (6 flight-test, 2 ground-test). There will actually be 114 program aircraft. The 1st developmental test aircraft (“T1”) and the 2 ground-based static and fatigue test planes aren’t fully configured, and so they aren’t included in the official program total. The Dec 31/31 SAR lists the P-8’s development and production cost at FY10$ 30.33 billion, and the total life cycle cost for procurement plus 25 years of life cycle support will probably be a bit higher than initial estimates of about FY04$ 44 billion.

The current American basing plan is for:

  • 6 operational squadrons at NAS Jacksonville, FL (36)
  • 1 larger “Fleet Readiness” training squadron at NAS Jacksonville, FL (12)
  • 6 squadrons at NAS Whidbey Island, WA (36)

Instead of basing 3 squadrons at Hawaii Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe Bay, HI, it will only have a rotating squadron detachment. There will also be periodic squadron detachments to Corondo Naval Base, CA near San Diego. Japan has been promised stepped-up P-8A deployments, and that will probably be its own rotating squadron detachment once arrangements are finalized. Beyond operational aircraft, the fleet will have:

  • 2 “development squadrons” with 2 aircraft each (4). They will be used for testing and development of standard tactics and procedures, before moving on to operational service at locations to be determined.

  • “Pipeline attrition” aircraft that can temporarily replace aircraft that are taken out of action for maintenance, permanently replace crashed aircraft for a squadron, or be inserted as “rotation substitutes” to help keep the fleet’s flying hours more even (19).

P-8A Industrial Partners

The P-8i program in India has also attracted its own set of industrial partners, due to a combination of Indian insistence on local content, and security/technology transfer concerns from the USA. Industrial partners in India include well known players like Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), Dynamatic Technologies Ltd., HCL Technologies Ltd., Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), Larsen and Toubro Ltd. (L&T), Wipro Ltd., as well as a set of less familiar aerospace and electronics players. See full coverage at “P-8i: India’s Navy Picks Its Future High-End Maritime Patrol Aircraft“.

As things currently stand, key P-8A Poseidon partners, and some other sub-contractors, include:

One innovation within this group involves the way the base airframes are built. The traditional approach for military planes derived from passenger jets has been to either have a separate production line, or to take a normal airframe from the existing line and make structural changes to it on the military line, along with equipment installations. For the P-8A, the process is different.

The fuselages arrive from Spirit’s commercial 737 production line in Wichita, KS already strengthened, without windows, and with a weapons bay. No modifications are necessary.

Outfitting is completed in Renton, WA, where all or the P-8’s other unique structural features are added right on the main 737 production line. Aircraft quality and performance acceptance flight testing takes place right at Renton Field.

Final installation and checkout of the mission system and special flight test instrumentation happens at Boeing Field, near Seattle, WA.

P-8A Poseidon: Contracts & Key Events

Unlike many other military programs, Boeing appears to be handling the sub-contracts for most of the plane’s equipment itself, which leaves production order figures much closer to the plane’s true purchase cost.

Unless otherwise noted, US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contracts. Note that items unique to India’s P-8is will be covered in that article, and not here.

FY 2015 – 2016

May 27/16: Turkish defense procurement officials revealed that the Turkish Navy is keen to induct a long-range maritime patrol aircraft to complement its CN-235 and ATR72 fleet, with Boeing’s P-8A a favored choice. Requirements from Ankara include being able to fly 1,000 to 1,200 nautical miles away from their main base in Turkey, and fly 12 to 15 hours as well as being able to fulfill anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare roles. While a request for information is expected to be released soon, the parameters set may make the competition a very small one.

April 7/16: The US Navy has awarded Boeing a $235.2 million modification contract to obtain long-lead materials and parts required for the P-8A program. The deal will see the company produce and deliver 11 Lot 8 full-rate production IV of the multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft by January 2017. This follows up on a potential $2.5 billion order for the aircraft from January for building the aircraft for both the Navy and the government of Australia.

March 28/16: The UK’s planned purchase of 9 P-8A Poseidon aircraft has been approved by the US State Department. The $3.2 billion sale was a top priority for the British government with the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) saying the aircraft “will enhance Britain’s capabilities to provide national defense and contribute to NATO and coalition operations.” The UK’s intention to purchase the aircraft was made last November in order to help the UK protect its nuclear deterrent and fill a gap left by a much-criticized decision to scrap the Nimrod spy-plane program in 2010.

March 2/16: Boeing is to provide the US Navy with two addition P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft in a deal worth $276.2 million. Production and delivery is expected to be completed by February 2019. The February 29 contract follows the much larger order of 20 P-8A aircraft with 16 for the Navy and four going to Australia. It’s expected that the Navy will require 117 P-8As to take over operations as the P-3C Orion comes closer to the end of its operational life.

February 1/16: The US Navy has placed an order with Boeing for twenty P-8A Poseidon aircraft in a contract worth $2.5 billion. Sixteen will replace the P-3C Orion used by the Navy for long-range, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare as well for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Four will be sold to Australia under the US Foreign Military Sales program. Included in the contract, Boeing will also be tasked with providing obsolescence monitoring, change assessment, and integrated baseline and program management reviews.

July 30/15: Boeing has ended its contract with state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, citing shoddy production quality of HAL-manufactured components for India’s P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft under construction by Boeing, as well as components for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The $4.7 million contract in question was signed in February 2010.

July 1/15: Also on Monday the Navy handed Boeing a $358.9 million contract to provide long-lead production materials for twenty-nine Full Rate Production P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and ASW aircraft. The twenty-nine aircraft are split between Lots II and III, with the Navy set to take nine of the former and sixteen of the latter, with the remaining four Lot III aircraft earmarked for the Royal Australian Air Force. Boeing received a $295.6 million advance acquisition contract in August 2014 for long-lead items for a dozen Full Rate Production Lot II P-8A aircraft, with funding for four of these similarly destined for the RAAF.

June 30/15: The Navy awarded Boeing a $14.1 million delivery order for development and definition of system requirements for the P-8A Poseidon Multi Mission Aircraft, to build towards the program’s Increment 3 Capabilities Integration System Requirements Review Systems Engineering Technical Review. The aim of Increment 3 is to enhance the Multi-Static Active Coherent system, provide early delivery of the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability datalink, improve the Tactical Operations Center mission software and introduce the Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS) high-resolution AESA radar, as well as other changes to the plane’s sensors and systems as time and money allow.

May 27/15: Rockwell Collins was awarded a $24.8 million IDIQ contract to supply the Navy and Australia with aircraft direction finders, radio tuner panels and high frequency radio shipsets for the P-8A Poseidon, with the contract slated for completion in 2020.

May 5/15: On Monday Boeing was awarded a $118.1 million contract modification for training systems and services for the Navy and Australia, in support of the P-8A maritime multimission aircraft, including the procurement of Operational Flight Trainer and Weapon Tactics Trainer systems, as well as other training assets for the Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force.

Oct 14/15: Delivery #18. Boeing delivered the 18th P-8A Poseidon aircraft to the US Navy ahead of schedule, as it departs Boeing Field in Seattle, WA for the fleet readiness training squadron at NAS Jacksonville, FL. It was Boeing’s 5th delivery of 2014, and Boeing is under contract for 53 P-8As so far. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Delivers 18th P-8A Poseidon to U.S. Navy”.

FY 2014

Full Rate Production begins; Australia commits to 8 planes; Basing decisions made; 1st official deployment; Boeing introducing Challenger MSA as a lower-tier option; DOT&E report shows flaws in the Navy, as well as flaws within the aircraft; Watch those roofs, they bite; An ASW pilot’s viewpoint. Check-out line
(click to view full)

Sept 29/14: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives an $11.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for training-specific P-8A data storage architecture updates and upgrades, to include hardware, software, and integration. See also Sept 25/14, which covers data storage architecture changes to existing aircraft. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (35%); Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, FL (30%); NAS Whidbey Island, Washington (30%); and St. Louis, MO (5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2015. The Naval Air Warfare Center’s Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL manages this contract (N00019-12-C-0112).

Sept 29/14: Support. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $43.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for P-8A integrated logistics and contractor services. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed in Seattle, Washington (58%); Jacksonville, FL (12%); Valencia, CA (6%); Linthicum, MD (5%); Greenlawn, NY (3%); and various locations within the United States (16%), and is expected to be complete in April 2017 (N00019-12-C-0112).

Sept 29/14: Infrastructure. RQ Construction, LLC in Carlsbad, CA, wins a $21 million firm-fixed-price contract to design and build the P-8A Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and Mobile Tactical Operations Center at NAS Whidbey Island, WA. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 and 2014 Navy construction budgets. The contract also contains 2 unexercised options, which could raise its value to $23.1 million.

The new low-rise TOC facility will include the commander, patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 10 headquarters. It will be accompanied by demolition of an existing building, and demolition with hazardous waste disposal may be required. For the mobile TOC, RQ will renovate and convert the current TOC B2771 to a new Mobile TOC. Both facilities will contain classified spaces.

Work will be performed in Oak Harbor, WA, and is expected to be complete by September 2017. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with 19 proposals received by NAVFAC NW in Silverdale, WA (N44255-14-C-5006).

Sept 25/14: Upgrades. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $26.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to conduct retrofit services on the Data Storage Architecture in P-8A Low Rate Initial Production Lots 1-3. $9.8 million in FY 2012 Navy aircraft budgets is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be complete in September 2016 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Aug 18/14: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $30.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification “for the development of a structural repair manual in support of the P-8A Poseidon Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft.” Even as an interactive electronic product, that isn’t cheap. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA and is expected to be complete in November 2018 (N00019-12-C-0112).

Aug 14/14: FRP-2 long lead. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $295.6 million advance acquisition contract, which buys long-lead time items for 12 Full Rate Production Lot II (FY 2015) P-8As: 8 US Navy ($152 million / 51%), and 4 for Australia ($143.6 million/ 49%). This is Australia’s 1st order, and is likely to contain customization funds as well. $207.8 million is committed immediately, including $55.8 million from Australia.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (82.6%); Baltimore, MD (6.2%); Greenlawn, NY (4.2%); the United Kingdom (3.5%); and North Amityville, NY (3.5%), and is expected to be complete in April 2018. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-14-C-0067).

July 31/14: Delivery #15. The US Navy’s 15th P-8A Poseidon arrives at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL, shortly after the VP-16 “War Eagles” finish the type’s 1st deployment abroad at Kadena AB in Okinawa, Japan. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Delivers 15th Production P-8A Poseidon to U.S. Navy”.

July 29/14: Australia. Flight Global reports that Australia is looking to incorporate the AGM-84G Harpoon Block I anti-ship missile into its P-8As. It’s also known as the AGM-84 Block IG, and reportedly adds seeker improvements and re-attack mode. It could be created by upgrading existing Australian AGM-84 missiles, which serve on the AP-3C fleet.

There seems to be a bit of a divergence on the P-8, but no matter which missile is picked, it needs to be fully integrated with the plane’s mission software. The USA has been testing the AGM-84 Block IC, while India’s P-8i seems set to host the GPS/radar guided AGM-84L Block II with land attack capability. Australia has requested Harpoon Block IIs for other platforms, but appears to be satisfied with smaller-scale air-launched upgrades. Sources: Flight Global, “Australia pushes for Harpoon integration on P-8As”.

July 21/14: Infrastructure. Korte Construction Co., DBA The Korte Co. in St. Louis, MO wins a $36.2 million firm-fixed-price contract to build the P-8A Multi-Missioned Maritime Aircraft Training Facility at NAS Whidbey Island, WA. The 2-story operational training facility will include space for 8 OFTs (operational flight trainers) and 6 WTTS (weapons tactical trainers), with associated support network and communications equipment, classrooms, and administrative spaces. The facility will also contain bridge cranes, special access program facility spaces, and extensive networking equipment. All funds are committed immediately using FY 2014 US Navy construction budgets, but a pair of unexercised options could increase the cumulative contract value to $36.3 million.

Work will be performed in Oak Harbor, WA, and is expected to be complete by January 2016. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with 23 proposals received by NAVFAC Northwest in Silverdale, WA (N44255-14-C-5002).

July 4/14: Foxtrot Alpha’s “Confessions Of A US Navy P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol Pilot” interviews a US Navy P-3C pilot who now flies P-8As. He sees the P-8A as a safer aircraft that’s easier to fly, and the ability to perform any tactical job from any workstation magnifies the aircraft’s flexibility. It’s implied that the new plane will change the standard career zenith from being a Fleet Replacement Instructor, to being a Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School Instructor.

With that said, “the lack of a Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) aboard the P-8A is a drawback,” and the Harpoon missile’s lack of precision in crowded shipping environments makes the current absence of weapons like the AGM-65 Maverick “a major step back”. The growth of long-range anti-aircraft missiles like the HQ-9, S-400, etc. also presents a radar-guided threat to maritime patrol planes in the littoral environment, and so the lack of rasdar-centric defensive systems is a concern in the community. A key excerpt:

“ASW is all about the time from the last known position of the sub in question. Geometry rules everything…. [speed increases] the chance of catching a submarine by minimizing the time from its last point of detection…. There are currently two schools of thought in the Maritime Patrol Community right now when it comes to how the P-8 should be used. One where it works closely along the lines of its predecessor, and follows the P-3’s traditional mission sets of ASuW, ASW and limited ISR, and another where the P-8 can be adapted more dramatically for a litany of missions, including direct attack on ground targets. Personally, I believe the P-8A should also be equipped with a more robust set of weapons and sensors for the fight against smaller vessels in constrained littoral environments.”

Finally, the pilot bemoans the removal of aerial tanker roles from the P-8 MMA’s original vision, which could have tied each squadron to a carrier air wing during deployment phases:

“When a carrier would go into flight ops, the P-8A would launch, tank aircraft using drogue and hose buddy stores, conduct a surveillance flight around the carrier, tank during recovery, and then return to base…. A great idea withered on the vine because of shortsighted petty inter-service politics [from the USAF]”.

A pilot’s view

July 2/14: Delivery #14. Boeing announces delivery of their 14th P-8A Poseidon aircraft on schedule, to NAS Jacksonville, FL. So far, the US Navy has ordered 53, and Boeing will deliver 7 more this year. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing, U.S. Navy Expand P-8A Maritime Patrol Fleet with 14th Delivery”.

June 25/14: Increment 3. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $14.9 million delivery order for P-8A Poseidon Increment 3 Interface Development. $3.3 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy R&D budgets.

They’re referring to technical interfaces here, not display screens, and the order involves test beds which can be used to verify that new additions are compatible: 2 Mission Systems Emulation Environment (MSEE) units with all required hardware, Tactical Open Mission software with P-8 baseline architecture interface data exposure modifications, interface adapter computer software configuration items, and P-8A real-time simulator with interactive warfare simulator. In addition, this order includes the development, documentation, and delivery of hardware and software updates for 4 existing MSEE units.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA, and is expected to be complete in September 2016. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-11-G-0001, DO 3051).

June 17/14: JSTARS Recap. The USAF is looking at options for recapitalizing JSTARS, with Initial Operating Capability of 4 planes by 2022, in order to counter escalating operations and maintenance costs. The planes need to accomodate about 13 crew and a 13′ – 20′ radar, stay on station for 8 hours with aerial refueling capability for more, and reach 38,000 feet. The USAF plans to ask for $2.4 billion over the next 5 years, but the dollars don’t really exist to launch another major USAF program. Hence USAF JSTARS recapitalization branch chief Lt. Col. Michael Harm:

“With the completion of the 2011 JSTARS mission area analysis of alternatives study and the onset of Budget Control Act-directed budget levels, it became clear that the future of the JSTARS weapons system lay in a more cost-effective platform as compared to extending the lifecycle of the current 707 airframes.” ….The Air Force is currently drafting requirements for the program, which will be finalized by early 2015, Harm said. In order to keep the system affordable, it plans on using commercial, off-the-shelf equipment and minimizing new technology development.”

Boeing is expected to enter its P-8, which is already configured for the mission and the above requirements once the LSR radar is added. Added costs would be limited to expansion of communications links and software development, and Navy commonality would be a big plus.

Raytheon’s Sentinel R1 already serves in the JSTARS role with Britain’s RAF, and the smaller Bombardier jet needs ongoing system and software development to reach its full potential. Operating costs would be lower, expanding the current USA-UK Airseeker RC-135V Rivet Joint ELINT/SIGINT partnership to encompass Sentinel R1s is a thinkable option, and Bombardier can lean on Raytheon and/or its Learjet subsidiary as the American lead. Aerial refueling might be the issue, given Sentinel’s configuration and the USAF’s insistence on dorsal boom refueling.

Gulfstream is looking to do something similar by partnering up and offer either the G550, which is already in use by Israel and its customers in AEW&C (CAEW) or ELINT/SIGINT (SEMA) variants, or the longer-range G650. They say that the’ve done the design work for aerial refueling, but haven’t had a customer take them up on it yet. E-8 JSTARS lead Northrop Grumman, who led the canceled E-10A program but retains key technologies, is a very logical partnering choice. With that said, Lockheed Martin has their own expertise to offer, and their Dragon Star ISR aircraft-for-lease is a Gulfstream.

The USA’s default option, of course, is to do nothing. The E-8C fleet would then become vulnerable to future USAF fleet-sized cuts. Meanwhile the P-8As would field in the Navy and informally take over some of the JSTARS role, alongside USAF UAVs like RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 and its EQ-4 BACN counterpart. Sources: NDIA National Defense, “Industry Ready to Compete for JSTARS Recapitalization Program”.

June 5/14: Testing. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $28.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for the design, development, fabrication, installation and testing of airworthiness flight test equipment. The challenge is to correctly predict that something might go wrong in future.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (58%); Seattle, WA (34%); and Huntsville, AL (8%), and is expected to be complete in December 2016 (N00019-04-C-3146).

June 4/14: Basing. At the close of the Environmental Impact Study, the US Navy has decided to consolidate P-8A basing. NAS Jacksonville, FL will have 6 squadrons plus the “fleet replacement” training squadron, while NAS Whidbey Island, WA will have the other 6 squadrons. There will be a permanent rotating squadron detachment at Hawaii Marine Corps Base, and periodic squadron detachments to Corondo Naval Base, CA near San Diego.

This effectively means that Jacksonville won, getting 7 squadrons instead of 5, and is less than the 8 Whidbey squadrons being touted earlier (q.v. May 3/13). That doesn’t stop House Armed Services Committee and Electronic Warfare Working group member Rick Larsen [D-WA-2] from claiming credit, though. In full fairness to the Congressman, it’s a better than the initial plan for 4 squadrons, just a climbdown from expectations since the Pentagon decided to concentrate on 2 operating bases. Sources: Rick Larsen’s office, “Larsen: Navy P-8A Decision Great for NASWI, National Security”.

May 12/14: FRP-1. Raytheon in McKinney, TX receives a $50.1 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, exercising an option for 16 APY-10 radar kits that will be installed in FY 2014’s Full Rate Production Lot I P-8As. It also covers installation and checkout technical support, configuration management, reliability and maintainability failure reporting and corrective actions, engineering change orders/proposals, integrated logistics support, technical data, and repairs.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in McKinney, TX (53.38%), Reston, VA (8.35%); Little Falls, NJ (7.78%); Spring Valley, CA (6.51%); Black Mountain, NC (4.24%); Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada (2.73%); Poway, CA (2.50%); Simsbury, CT (2.43%); Leesburg, VA (2.33%), and various locations throughout the United States (9.75%), and is expected to be complete in November 2016 (N00019-13-C-0161).

April 24/14: Software. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives an $8.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for P-8A software updates. Mission Software has been a problem for the plane so far (q.v. Jan 23/14 etc.).

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy aircraft and maintenance budgets. Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (27.6%); Huntington Beach, CA (18.9%); McKinney, TX (18.4%); Grand Rapids, MI (13.4%); Baltimore, MD (7.8%); Rolling Meadows, IL (4.2%); El Segundo, CA (3.9%); Farmingdale, NY (3%); St. Louis, MO (1.5%); and Amityville, NY (1.3%), and is expected to be complete in August 2015 (N00019-11-G-0001, DO 3008).

April 17/14: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/13 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF]. The P-8A’s costs have dropped, mostly because they’re ordering 8 fewer planes:

“Program costs decreased $1,865.8 million (-5.4%) from 34,395.0 million to $33,069.2 million, due primarily to a decrease of 8 [production] aircraft from 117 to 109 (-$1,560.4 million) and a revised estimating methodology for labor hours and rates and adjustments to commercial aircraft pricing (-$548.0 million). There were additional decreases for revised escalation indices (-$255.8 million) and reduced estimates for business base benefits created by the Royal Australian Air Force aircraft procurement (-$184.8 million). These decreases were partially offset by increases in other support due to updated actuals and a revised interim support strategy (+$289.1 million), revised estimates to reflect the application of outyear escalation indices (+$136.0 million), and a net stretch-out of the procurement buy profile (+$121.7 million).”

Fewer planes

April 14/14: LSRS/AAS. Aviation photographer Russell Hill takes pictures of a P-8A at Boeing Field in Seattle, with the canoe-shaped LSRS double-sided ground-looking AESA radar beneath. This bit from Foxtrot Alpha was interesting:

“With this in mind, compartmentalizing [and classifying] the program deep within the Navy may have saved it from being shot down via the [USAF] who would protect their existing, even if potentially inferior, ground moving target indicator mission at all costs. Although some of this is speculative, this same story has come up again and again, both in the press and in my own discussions with people associated with the communities that deployed and developed the LSRS.”

Foxtrot Alpha elaborates on the uses of this system, from tracking targets down to human size, to targeting weapons from its own stores or other platforms via datalink updates, to damage assessments. Can these capabilities be extended to add cruise missile detection and electronic warfare? Even if not, the author is correct in pointing to the E-8C JSTARS overlap. With the JSTARS fleet set to receive only minimal upgrades, we would be equally unsurprised if the P-8 ends up taking over this role. Sources: Foxtrot Alpha, “Exclusive: P-8 Poseidon Flies With Shadowy Radar System Attached”.

April 8/14: MSA. Boeing is targeting P-3 operators for their Challenger MSA, which means they’ll be competing with themselves to some extent. Their Canadian partner Field Aviation adds weight to that by touting future options including SATCOM, side looking airborne radar, and even weapons on wing hardpoints. That last change would sharply narrow the difference between the P-8A and Challenger MSA.

Base MSA equipment will include Selex ES Seaspray 7300 maritime surveillance radar, and FLIR Systems Star Safire 380 day/night surveillance turret. That creates a high-end product for Coast Guards as well as a mid-range product for militaries. The question comes down to customers, and Boeing is reportedly targeting “20 to 30” within a total market space of around $10 billion. As one looks at the list, however, one sees a number of countries within the P-3 customer base who won’t become customers soon, if ever: Australia (P-8 & UAV), Japan (home-built P-1), Brazil (will pick Embraer’s), Canada (P-3 LEX), Chile (C295 MPAs), New Zealand (P-3 LEX), Norway (P-3 LEX), Pakistan (P-3 LEX), Portugal (P-3 LEX & C295 MPAs), Spain (C295 MPA home), and Taiwan (P-3 LEX). As a quick sort, that leaves Argentina, Germany, and South Korea as likely targets before 2025 or so, with possibilities in Chile and Spain as unlikely.

Of course, the same sort reveals that the P-8A itself may have a bit of a long slog for exports, unless it can open markets that the P-3 didn’t reach. Sources: Flight Global, “Boeing to target current P-3 operators for MSA sales”.

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. Changes to the Program Dashboard are reflected in the article. Most of the rest isn’t anything new, though they note that the sonobuoy launcher has experienced testing problems and is still receiving fixes.

On the good news front, GAO cites Boeing’s use of more pre-acceptance flights, which helped resolve more issues before formal acceptance. With that said, the P-8 still seems to have plenty.

Over the longer term, Increment 3 plans to give the plane a more open electronic architecture for faster integration of new components. The program plans a full and open competition for the Increment 3 system architecture contracts, and intends to buy the intellectual property rights as well.

March 5/14: MSA. Well, that was fast. Boeing’s Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) derivative based on the Challenger 605 business jet (q.v. Nov 19/13) recently completed its 1st flight, a 4-hour test that took off from Toronto, Canada’s Pearson International Airport. Boeing’s partner Field Aviation needed to establish that aerodynamic performance met predictions, and that it handled like a regular model even with the radome and other modifications.

Additional airworthiness flights are scheduled for the next 2 months, after which the MSA will fly to a Boeing facility in Seattle for mission system installation and testing. Here’s hoping they can work out some of the myriad bugs in the base P-8 mission system before that happens. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft Demonstrator Completes 1st Flight”.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The USN unveils their preliminary budget request briefings. They aren’t precise, but they do offer planned purchase numbers for key programs. Full numbers follow days later, and are plotted in the charts above. In the P-8A’s case, however, the numbers may mislead.

After buying 16 P-8As in FY 2014 to begin Full Rate Production, the FY 2015 request drops to just 8 (-8 from plan), before the long term plan bounces back to 15 (-1), 13 (-1), 13 (+3), and 7 (+7) planes from FY 2016 – 2019. Note the trick. While stating that the FY15 cut “was necessary to comply with affordability constraints,” the buys are shifted several years into the future, as if the same dilemmas won’t recur. But the same hard choices must be made, when the time comes.

The missing 8 aircraft are found in a separate $26B wish list that is far from certain to get traction in Congress, and the number of flaws in the P-8A could actually make a FY 2015 order cut attractive. It would reduce the number of retrofits required to correct problems with initial aircraft, and move more planes beyond the point at which Increment 2 is likely to be ready. The 737 production line isn’t going anywhere, which gives the Navy the luxury of industrial time. On the other hand, the Navy may not have the same luxury of budgetary time, as future buys must take place with F-35B/C fighter production ramped up, and programs like SSBN-X beginning to bite.

With fewer ships on hand, assets like the P-8 are becoming more important to sea control, playing roles once reserved for sailing frigates. The question is whether the US Navy values that enough, compared to other options like destroyers. They’ve seemed very ready to cut similar assets from even well-performing programs like the E-2D AWACS, and the P-8’s MQ-4 Triton UAV companion is seeing a medium-term procurement slowdown of its own. Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF].

Feb 25/14: FRP-1. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $2.07 billion firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising options for Full Rate Production (q.v. Jan 3/14) Lot 1: 16 P-8As, and 16 Ancillary Mission Equipment kits for the US Navy. Subsequent orders under FRP-1 include:

  • $50.1 million APY-10 radars (May 12/14)
  • $26.9 million DMS re-design (Nov 20/13)

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (78.4%); Baltimore, MD (4.7%); Greenlawn, NY (2.4%); Cambridge, United Kingdom (1.6%); Rockford, IL (1.1%); North Amityville, NY (1%), and miscellaneous locations throughout the continental United States (10.8%), and is expected to be complete in April 2017 (N00019-12-C-0112).

FRP Lot 1

Feb 21/14: Australia commits. The Australian government gives 2nd pass approval for AIR 7000 Phase 2B, and sets A$ 4 billion as the budget for 8 P-8As and infrastructure. An option for 4 more could be exercised, depending on the forthcoming Defence White Paper review’s conclusions. This isn’t a contract, but one is expected to follow soon.

The planes will be based at RAAFB Edinburgh near Adelaide, in southern Australia, and the program’s A$ 4 billion cost includes new basing, infrastructure, and support facilities. Australia’s 1st P-8A is expected in 2017, with all 8 aircraft fully operational by 2021. The P-8s will perform their work “with high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles,” which are expected to be Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Tritons, but Australia hasn’t formally made its UAV decision yet.

As has so often been the case in the region lately, China is the gift that keeps on giving for American defense contractors. In early February, China sent guided missile destroyers Wuhan and Haikou, the 20,000t landing ship Changbaishan, and a submarine escort through the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. That forced an Australian AP-3C to scramble north to observe their combat simulations, and created pressure on Australia to offer a timely response. Which may help explain why this announcement was made by Prime Minister Abbott himself. Sources: Australian DoD, “P-8A Poseidon Aircraft to boost Australia’s maritime surveillance capabilities” | Australian Aviation, “Govt approves RAAF P-8 acquisition” | The Australian, “RAAF to get eight new Poseidon ocean patrol planes in $4bn deal” || The Lowy Interpreter, “China makes statement as it sends naval ships off Australia’s maritime approaches” | The Diplomat, “Australia Startled by Chinese Naval Excursion” | NZ Herald News, “China warships in Pacific raise alarm” | The Hindu, “New Indian Ocean exercise shows reach of China’s Navy” | China’s CCTV, “Combat vessels training for quick response in electronic war”.

Australian approval

Feb 18/14: Crunch! A 550-foot-long hangar near Naval Air Facility Atsugi collapses, following 21″ of snow in the past week and 35″ over the past month. Washington D.C. residents are nodding grimly in recognition, with visions of roof shoveling dancing in their heads.

The good news is that the recently arrived P-8s are fine, because the facility was an old Kawasaki Heavy Industries Group/ NPPI repair hangar for US and Japanese aircraft, and the P-8s don’t need much of that. The bad news is that at least 4 US Navy P-3C planes were in the hangar, and 3 of them ended up being damaged beyond repair. There’s no immediate word on Japanese aircraft casualties, and cleanup is still underway.

This will give the P-8As much more to do in the near term, while the US Navy figures out how to restore surveillance levels over the medium term. Sources: Stars and Stripes, “Navy Orions likely damaged in hangar collapse”.

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). The P-8’s core issues have been covered via advance leaks, but this passage in the report is especially notable, and had not been reported:

“I provided a specific example of the former case to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I found that the P-8A Multi-Mission Maritime Patrol Aircraft could be fully compliant with all Key Performance Parameter (KPP) and Key System Attribute (KSA) threshold requirements, and nonetheless possess significant shortfalls in mission effectiveness. The P-8 requirements define supporting system characteristics or attributes that are necessary, but not nearly sufficient, to ensure mission effectiveness. In an extreme case, the contractor could deliver an aircraft that meets all the KPPs but has no mission capability whatsoever. Such an airplane would only have to be designed to be reliable, equipped with self-protection features and radios, and capable of transporting weapons and sonobuoys across the specified distances, but would not actually have to have the ability to successfully find and sink threat submarines in an Anti-Submarine Warfare mission (its primary mission). The lack of KPPs/KSAs related directly to mission effectiveness will inevitably create a disconnect…”

Other issues surfaced in the full report, but not in the news reports based on early leaks. SAR radar scans of the surface were a known problem, but DOT&E says they are outright ineffective, and that the problems include radar stability and image quality. These and other gaps give the P-8A Increment I limited effectiveness against “evasive targets attempting to limit exposure to detection by radar and other sensors,” and Mk 54 torpedo limitations add to the platform’s problems in those scenarios. Likewise, the ESM/ELINT system’s deficiencies were known before, but not the fact that “signal identification capabilities are limited [to a narrow level] by ESM signature library-size constraints.” There are problems with interoperability of the communications systems, including the International Maritime Satellite, Common Data Link, and voice satellite systems. Finally, the EWSP defensive system doesn’t offer protection or even warning against radar-guided threats, which include the most likely missiles an enemy fighter might launch at the aircraft.

The report did concede that the P-8A “unarmed ASuW maritime surface target search, classification, track, and cue-to-attack capabilities are equivalent to P-3C capabilities.” On the good news front, there’s the reliability numbers: an on-time take-off rate of 93.6%, and airborne mission abort rate of only 1.6%, both well above operational requirements. The catch is that the mission system has a lot of software faults, which get in the way during missions and need to be fixed.

Work on new capabilities continues. AGM-84 IC Harpoon anti-ship missile testing has begun, but full weapon tests won’t happen until FY 2014. Detection problems are expected to be addressed in Increment 2 with the fielding of the Multi-Static Active Coherent (MAC) system of sonobuoys, and HAASW GPS-guided kits in that increment may offer improved torpedo options against evasive targets, beginning around 2016. Increment 3, to be fielded around 2019, will improve sensor capabilities and the mission system architecture. That’s a good focus, and the level of problems in both areas will demand a lot of extra work before that increment even begins.

Jan 23/14: Testing. Bloomberg News reports that an unreleased copy of the Pentagon’s annual DOT&E report isn’t positive for the P-8A. DOT&E chief Michael Gilmore reports that the P-8 still exhibits “all of the major deficiencies” identified in last year’s report, and is “not effective [DID: does not meet stated criteria] for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission and is not effective for wide area anti-submarine search”.

To review, DOT&E’s FY 2012 annual report (q.v. Jan 17/13) focused on the P-8 sensors’ ability to work as advertised, and to work together. The main radar has track-while-scan deficiencies, problems with high-resolution image quality, radar pointing errors that were especially troublesome over land and in littoral regions, and cross-cue errors with the MX-20HD surveillance turret. The MX-20HD itself had issues with auto-track integration, and interference was making it hard for the AN/ALQ-240(V)1 ESM systems to accurately pinpoint radars and communications sources around the plane.

On the one hand, this is not an adequate standard for a platform that the US Navy has declared as an Initial Operational Capability. On the other hand, these problems don’t make deployment to Japan stupid. Current P-8As may not match up to modernized P-3C Orion SMIP capabilities, but they do offer better availability, and can cover a bigger area. USN Lt Caroline Hutcheson says the P-8s “fully met” the criteria for “effective” patrols, and real-world experience in Asia is a good way of both training the P-8 crews and clarifying the aircraft’s problems. You can bet that it will also train American and Japanese fighter crews, who are likely to be close at hand whenever and wherever the P-8s fly. Sources: Bloomberg, “Boeing Surveillance Plane Found Not Effective for Mission”.

Jan 17/14: Support. Northrop Grumman Systems Electronics Sector in Baltimore, MD receives a $33 million cost-plus-fixed-fee completion job order to design and build AN/ALQ 240 ESM operational test program sets, and stand up a repair depot at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN. ESM detects coherent electro-magnetic emissions and backtracks them to their point of origin, allowing it to pinpoint enemy communications, radars, etc.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Linthicum, MD, and the contract will run until September 2019. The US Navy Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN manages the contract (N00164-13-G-WT15).

Jan 3/14: NAVAIR PMA-290 receives approval to enter P-8 Full Rate Production from the Milestone Decision Authority. Note that NAVAIR’s date for the release is Jan 17/14, but it didn’t appear on the site until Jan 24/14. Poor form, that. Sources: US NAVAIR, “P-8A aircraft gets green light to enter full rate production”.

FRP approved

Dec 23/13: LRIP-4. A $6.8 million fixed-price-incentive-firm contract modification to buy initial spares for the 8 P-8A aircraft in LRIP Lot IV.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Grand Rapids, MI (24.9%); Torrance, CA (18.8%); Greenlawn, NY (15%); Irvine, CA (14.5%); Freeland, WA (8.5%); Avenel, NJ (5.2%); Rockford, IL (3.3%); Wilson, NC (3.1%); Manfield, OH (2.8%); Rochester, NY (1.8%); West Chester, OH (1.5%); Sarasota, FL (0.5%), and Wichita, KS (0.1%). Work is expected to be complete in April 2017. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-12-C-0112).

Dec 4/13: #13. Boeing delivers the 13th production P-8A ahead of schedule to NAS Jacksonville, FL, marking a perfect on-time record for the year. This is the last of the LRIP-2 aircraft, and LRIP Lot 3 planes will begin delivery in 2014. So far, Boeing has received 4 LRIP contracts for a total of 37 aircraft. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Delivers 13th P-8A Poseidon to US Navy”.

Nov 29/13: IOC & Deployment. The inaugural operational deployment of the P-8A Poseidon begins, as the VP-16 War Eagles squadron leaves NAS Jacksonville, FL, for Kadena AB in Okinawa, Japan. VP-16’s final P-3C Orion deployment ended in June 2012, and their transition to the new P-8A finished in January 2016.

As the first 2 P-8s took flight to Japan, the US Navy declared Initial Operational Capability for the P-8A. Squadron VP-5 has completed their P-8 transition, and VP-45 began the shift away from the P-3C this summer, after returning from deployment. Meanwhile, the VP-30 FRS and the Integrated Training Center continue to qualify crew members ad replacement personnel. Sources: USN, “P-8A Aircraft Program Achieves Initial Operational Capability” | US NAVAIR, “P-8A: Road to deployment” | Defense News, “Poseidon’s inaugural deployment starts Friday”.

IOC, 1st official deployment

Nov 20/13: Support. Boeing in Seattle WA receives a $10.2 million firm-fixed-price requirements contract to repair 559 different P-8A items on an as-needed basis.

Work will be performed in Dallas, TX and is expected to be complete by Sept 30/15. This sole source contract was not competitively procured, in accordance with FAR 6.302-1, by NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-14-D-006F).

Nov 20/13: FRP-1. Boeing in Seattle WA receives a $26.9 million to a fixed-price-incentive-firm contract modification, exercising an option for diminishing manufacturing sources re-design in support of P-8A Full Rate Production Lot I.

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Seattle, WA, and is expected to be complete in April 2017 (N00019-12-C-0112).

Challenger MSA
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Nov 19/13: Challenger MSA. Boeing knows that its 737-based P-8 Poseidon sea control jet may be a bit too much plane for some customers. While the P-8A preps its flight display at the 2013 Dubai airshow, Boeing confirms a long-standing rumor by teaming up with Canada’s Bombardier to offer a surveillance-only Challenger 605 MSA with equal or better endurance and range, a lower purchase price, and lower operating costs. It’s kind of amusing to do this at a venue where some of your booth visitors have larger and more expensive planes than the P-8 in their private hangars, but Dubai’s exhibition draws from a wide geographic area.

The Challenger 605 large business jet’s base range of 4,000 nmi/ 7,408 km is better than the 737-800’s, and its wide cabin is well suited to special mission crews and equipment. It’s believed that the plane will carry the same core mission system as the P-8A, as well as some common sensors, but space considerations are likely to force some sensor downgrades with respect to items like radars, magnetic anomaly detection, etc. Canada’s Field Aviation is currently modifying a Bombardier Challenger 604 jet, and expects to hand it over for initial testing and presentation to potential customers in 2014. Sources: Bombardier, Challenger 605 | Boeing, Nov 19/13 release | Pentagon DVIDS, “DOD supports 2013 Dubai Airshow [Image 1 of 15]”.

Oct 28/13: Increment 3 ABA TD RFP. NAVAIR released its finalized RFP for the P-8A Increment 3 Applications Based Architecture (ABA) development, which will lead to the delivery of 2 prototypes. 2 awards for these ABA TD contracts are expected to be worth about $20 million each. By the EMD phase there will be a single award, but this will be a full and open competition rather than a downselect from the winners of this RFP. The deadline for offers is January 9, 2014. N00019-13-R-0045.

Increment 3 Initial Operational Capability was scheduled to Q1 FY20 as of the March 2013 industry briefing [PDF], which also gives a sense of the requirements scope.

Oct 28/13: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $99.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to add a Maintenance Training Device Suite (MTDS, with 6 Virtual Maintenance Trainer Devices and 14 Hardware Type II devices) and an Ordnance Load Trainer into P-8A LRIP-2.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 procurement funds. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 procurement funds. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (45%); Orlando, FL (25%); Whidbey Island, WA (15%); Huntington Beach, CA (10%); and Jacksonville, FL (5%). Work is expected to be complete in June 2016 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Oct 25/13: Training. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $26.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to incorporate the recent Test Release 21.1 block software upgrade on 8 operational flight trainers, 6 weapons tactics trainers, 3 part task trainers, and 44 mission system desktop trainers. It’s listed as being “in support of the P-8A LRIP-2,” but it’s really a service to the entire fleet, based on upgrades to current configuration.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 procurement funds. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (81%); Huntington Beach, CA (8%); Tampa, FL (8%); Seattle, WA (2%); and Hauppauge, NY (1%), and is expected to be complete in October 2015 (N00019-09-C-0022).

FY 2013

Australia reaffirms commitment; Initial P-8i delivery; USN revising basing plans?; DOT&E highlights sensor issues; An all-737 US ISR fleet?; China’s hacks include the P-8A. P-8A in Japan
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Sept 30/13: APY-10. Raytheon in McKinney, TX, is being awarded a $29.5 million firm-fixed-price contract to stand up an APY-10 organic depot maintenance facility. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2011 and 2013 aircraft procurement budgets, and contract options could bring the aggregate total to $39.1 million.

Work will be performed at the Fleet Readiness Center South East, Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be completed by March 31/16. $22.1 million in FY 2011 funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, today. The buy was sole sourced in accordance 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1) by the US Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center in Jacksonville, FL (N68836-13-C-0071).

Sept 24/13: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $225 million fixed-price-incentive-firm contract modification for 6 P-8A Poseidon OFT (operational flight trainers), 6 WTT (weapons tactics trainers), 2 part task trainers, 1 training systems support center, 3 10-seat electronic classrooms, and a 20-seat electronic classroom. All finds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (30.4%); Tampa, FL (21.3%); Whidbey Island, WA (15.2%); Huntington Beach, CA (5.9%); San Francisco, CA (4.2%); Long Island, NY (2%); Tulsa, OK (1.9%); Jacksonville, FL (0.9%); and various locations throughout the United States (18.2%); and is expected to be complete in March 2018 (N00019-12-C-0112).

Sept 24/13: LRIP-4. Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in McKinney, TX receives a $48.8 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for 14 APY-10 radar kits, as part of the P-8’s LRIP-4 aircraft buy: 13 production, plus 1 spare. Raytheon will also provide a number of services: installation and checkout, technical support, configuration management, reliability and maintainability failure reporting and corrective actions, engineering change orders/proposals, integrated logistics support, interim contractor support, technical data, and repair of repairables. All funds are committed immediately, and see July 31/13 entry for LRIP-4 totals.

Work will be performed in McKinney, TX (99%) and Seattle, WA (1%), and is expected to be complete in January 2016. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302.1, since Raytheon makes the radar (N00019-13-C-0161).

Sept 19/13: LRIP-4 Support. Small business qualifier XTRA Aerospace in Miramar, FL receives a $16 million firm-fixed-price contract for Boeing 737 commercial spare parts, to support LRIP-4’s P-8As (q.v. July 31/13 for totals). There’s certainly a large pool of 737s and associated spares flying all over the world. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Miramar, FL and is expected to be complete in December 2016. This contract was competitively procured via electronic request for proposals, with 3 offers received by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-13-C-0147).

Sept 18/13: LRIP-4. A $172.3 million fixed-price-incentive-firm contract modification for product services in support of the 13 LRIP-4 P-8As. They’ll provide spares & logistics support; interim contractor support; support equipment; and change technical publications as the aircraft change. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2011 and 2013 procurement budgets, and $30.1 million will expire on Sept 30/13.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (58.79%); Jacksonville, FL (11.47%); Valencia, CA (5.59%); Linthicum, MD (5.4%); Greenlawn, NY (3.21%); Salt Lake City, UT (1.28%); St. Peters, MO (1.82%); Carson, CA (0.83%); Camden, NJ (0.75%); Mesa, AZ (0.75%); Middlesex, United Kingdom (0.74%); Torrance, CA (0.59%); Mississuaga, Ontario, Canada (0.59%); Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (0.52%); and other various inside the United States (7.63%) and outside the United States locations (0.04%) (N00019-12-C-0112).

Sept 6/13: Increment 3. Small business qualifier Progeny Systems Corp. in Manassas, VA receives a $8.3 million to begin developing a software architecture for P-8A Increment 3. Technically, this is a cost-plus-fixed-fee Small Business Innovation Research Phase III contract under Topic N121-045, “Maritime Airborne Service Oriented Architecture Integration.” Phase III contracts are the last stage before commercialization, and this project will finish a service oriented engineering development model for increment 3, along with source code and a Unified Modeling Language (UML) model. All funds are committed immediately, using the FY 2012 RDT&E budget.

Now, let’s unpack that into English.

Software has become a larger and more important component of advanced weapon systems – just as it has in your washing machine. The corollary is that technical and software architecture have a bigger and bigger influence on reliability, maintenance costs, and upgrade costs. The P-8 has a lot of sensors and software, and they need an architecture that lets them all work together even if the individual components change. “Service oriented” means that key capabilities are provided as unified infrastructure, which can be called by programs that may not have many other commonalities. Google Maps, which has been incorporated wholesale into a number of 1st responder applications, is a well-known example of a (web-based) service. At the tools level, UML is a way of modeling the flow and function of software without writing code. That makes quick, iterative changes a lot cheaper. Some UML tools can take the created model, and produce an initial code set that will follow those directions. It’s not an end point, because programmers still need to adjust the code for efficiency and other goals, but it’s a good start that can assist rapid prototyping.

Work will be performed in Manassas, VA, and is expected to be complete in September 2015. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-5 by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ (N68335-13-G-0001).

July 31/13: LRIP-4. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $2.042 billion fixed-price-incentive-firm contract modification for LRIP Lot 4: 13 P-8As, and 13 ancillary mission equipment kits. It also orders 1 lot of diminishing manufacturing sources parts and long-lead parts associated with next year’s order: 16 P-8As under Full-Rate Production Lot I.

Total spending on LRIP-4 is $2.279 billion, or $175.3 million per plane, and consists of the following awards:

  • $48.8 million APY-10 radars (Sept 24/13)
  • $16 million commercial 737 spares (Sept 19/13)
  • $172.3 million support (Sept 18/13)
  • $2.042 billion base

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (78.4%); Baltimore, MD (4.7%); Greenlawn, NY (2.4%); Cambridge, United Kingdom (1.6%); Rockford, IL (1.1%); North Amityville, NY (1%); and other various locations inside and outside of the United States (10.8%) (N00019-12-C-0112). See also: US NAVAIR | Boeing.

LRIP Lot 4

July 10/13: Australia. A DSCA request for Mk-54 torpedoes confirms the seriousness of Australia’s interest in the P-8A, as the DSCA says:

“Australia will use the MK 54 torpedo on its MH-60R helicopters and intends to use the torpedo on a planned purchase of the P-8A Increment 2 Maritime Patrol and Response aircraft.”

July 8/13: IOT&E done. NAVAIR announces that a July 1/13 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation report found the P-8A “operationally effective, operationally suitable, and ready for fleet introduction.” That keeps the program on track for Operational Evaluation and an initial deployment this winter, when the first P-8A squadron will deploy with P-3 and EP-3 squadrons.

Deliveries to date include 15 aircraft: 6 test aircraft for NAVAIR, and 9 initial production planes to the fleet.

IOT&E complete

June 24/13: Testing. One of NAVAIR’s P-8A test aircraft serving in VX-20 successfully fires an AGM-84D Block IC Harpoon anti-ship missile, which scores a direct hit on the Low Cost Modular Target’s fabric. The Point Mugu Sea Test Range firing is the 1st live Harpoon firing by a P-8. US NAVAIR.

May 31/13: Hacked. The P-8A program is listed as one of several programs that leaked design data to Chinese hackers. Given the P-8’s critical role in the Pacific, and with Pacific allies like Australia and India, this is not a good development.

The leaks are damaging. The question is “how damaging?” All parties are remaining close-lipped about that, though reports show that a number of key P-8 sensors and sensor integration functions aren’t fully effective yet. Even a massive P-8 breach may be closer in scope to the Silicon Valley practice of filing early patents, so they don’t have to reveal subsequently-refined elements of the final working product.

On the flip side, even marginal help in developing their next generation of maritime patrol planes is valuable to the Chinese. Existing maritime patrol planes are based on the old Y-8 four-engine turboprop, but Chinese firms are busy assembling similar A320 family passenger jets in country for Airbus, and intend to design their own narrowbody competitor. China also has direct military experience with the 737, after converting 3 to become military command post aircraft. Washington Post WorldViews | Washington Post.

Hacked

May 30/13: LRIP-3. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $53.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for spares in support of the LRIP Lot 3 (q.v. Sept 21/12), which will build 11 P-8As. This brings total P-8A LRIP-3 contracts to $2.263 billion.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (60.80%); Linthicum, MD (14.89%); McKinney, TX (6.44%); Valencia, CA (4.85%); Huntington Beach, CA (3.47%); Mesa, Ariz. (2.22%); Salt Lake City, UT (1.10%); Johnson City, NY (0.95%); Huntington, NY (0.84%); Grand Rapids, MI (0.57%); Richmond, CA (0.50%) and various locations throughout the United States (3.37%), and is expected to be complete in June 2016. All funds are committed immediately (N00019-09-C-0022).

May 7/13: Support. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $14.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for interim P-8A support. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (56%) and Seattle, WA (44%); and is expected to be complete in November 2013 (N00019-09-C-0022, PO 0076).

May 3/13: Basing. Rep. Rick Larsen [D-WA-2] emerged from a meeting about the US Navy strategic plan for 2013 – 2030, and promptly told local media that NAS Whidbey Island would be getting 49 planes (8 squadrons), instead of the 24 aircraft (4 squadrons) based there under the original plan. The first 2 P-8A squadrons arrive at NAS Whidbey in 2015, a 3rd will follow in 2016, Squadrons #4-6 arrive in 2017, and the 7th and last squadron arrives in 2018.

The Navy had been considering new basing plans (vid. Nov 14/12), and Larsen’s disclosure indicates that they’ve chosen “Alternative 2”: 49 planes in Whidbey Island, WA; 47 in NAS Jacksonville, FL; and just 2 in MCB Hawaii Kaneohe Bay. The big loser is obviously Hawaii, which lost 16 of the 18 P-8s that were supposed to be based there for wide-ranging coverage of the Pacific.

Whidbey’s P-8s are deployable planes, but the crews’ families will be in Washington State, and so will more advanced maintenance and support. Whidbey News Times.

April 29/13: LRIP-3 Training. A $21.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to upgrade the Training System Support Center for P-8A LRIP Lot 3, including tooling and data for the Weapons Tactics Trainer. All funds are committed immediately, and $21.1 million will expire at the end of the fiscal year, on Sept 30/13.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in August 2016 (N00019-09-C-0022).

April 17/13: P-8i. India’s P-8i completes flight testing, which included dropping Mk.82 500 pound unguided bombs. Printed materials describe them as “depth bombs” (anti-submarine depth charges), but it’s also true that the addition of an inexpensive Boeing kit could convert Mk.82 bombs to GPS-guided JDAMs, or even JDAM-ER glide bombs with extended range. Time will tell whether the P-8 family capabilities expand in this direction. Boeing feature, incl. video | Boeing Frontiers magazine.

April 10/13: FY 2014 Budget. The President releases a proposed budget at last, the latest in modern memory. The Senate and House were already working on budgets in his absence, but the Pentagon’s submission is actually important to proceedings going forward. See ongoing DID coverage.

The US Navy is clearly focused on cash flow rather than total costs, and the P-8A joins other programs that will pay more long-term, in order to pay less per year in the near term. The FY 2014 budget subtracts 9 P-8As from FY 2014-2016, while adding 11 from FY 2017-2018. The procurement difference is around $1.3 billion, but the value of the 2 added planes means the Navy is paying about $800 million more on an even comparison. Assuming the Navy actually sticks to this new plan through 2018, rather than making further cuts.

April 3/13: HAAWC. Boeing in St. Charles, MO wins a $19.2 million combination cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-fixed-price-incentive, firm-fixed-price contract to design and build HAAWC (High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability) kits for lightweight torpedoes. HAAWC is its own effort, but it’s also arguably the most important improvement slated for P-8A Increment 2 aircraft (q.v. Feb 18/13, for changes to the planes). Boeing will build on their experience with JDAM GPS guidance and GBU-39 SDB-I wing kits, in order to create a strap-on kit that adds precision guidance and long glide ranges to existing lightweight torpedoes.

$14.2 million is committed immediately, and $9.8 million of that will expire at the end of the fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. The contract includes options that could raise its value to $47 million.

Work is expected to be completed by April 2016. This contract was competitively procured with proposals solicited via FedBizOpps, and 3 offers were received by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-13-C-6402). See also Boeing.

March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. The P-8A is generally proceeding well, and Boeing has come to an agreement over limited release of commercially-sensitive pricing information:

“According to program officials, the P-8A has reduced the unit cost of the aircraft on each of its first three production contracts. To help ensure the price is fair and reasonable, DOD negotiated an agreement with Boeing to provide the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) access to data on select Boeing commercial aircraft procurements. The P-8A airframe has been designated a commercial item, so the contractor is not required to submit cost or pricing data. Officials indicated DCAA did not raise any concerns regarding the reasonableness of aircraft pricing prior to the award of the third production contract.”

March 29/13: #7 delivered. Boeing hands over P-8A #7 to the U.S. Navy on schedule, and it departs for NAS Jacksonville, FL. It’s the 1st delivery from the LRIP-2 order. Boeing.

March 25/13: AAS. Aviation Week reports that Boeing will soon get another fatigue testing contract, this time to test the effects of the canoe-shaped AAS long-range radar fairing. Adding it creates new fatigue stress points, so the S-2 full-scale fatigue-test platform at Boeing will conduct 2 complete AAS mission lifetimes, then a 3rd P-8A mission lifetime without the AAS, followed by a residual-strength test and a tear-down analysis.

This is expected to be a $138 million effort, running through 2017. Boeing has already started flight certification work involving AAS-equipped P-8s (vid. Feb 1/12), and this is a logical next step. The AAS is expected to become operational sometime shortly after P-8A Increment 2, which is expected to be in service around 2016.

March 14/13: Fatigue testing. A $128.4 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification covers engineering labor to perform extended lifetime fatigue testing, teardown, and post-teardown analysis of the P-8A airframe. These tests, and the changes that result, are necessary before the US Navy can set a safe flight hours limit for the airframe. They’re hoping for 150% of the airframe’s specified service life, but the testing will tell. Using a long-serving civilian jet as the base should give the Navy a pretty good starting point, but there are some structural changes in this version, and the usage patterns will be rather different.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (95%), and St. Louis, MO (5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2018. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation, Navy contract funds. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-04-C-3146).

March 8/13: Training. A $12.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification aims to keep the P-8 simulators in sync with produced aircraft. They’ll update 3 systems to the TR-12 software version, and go through Aircraft Program Revision Records from Block 9.2 to TR-12 to see if they need to add anything else.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in December 2013. All contract funds are committed immediately, and expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/13 (N00019-09-C-0022).

March 4/13: Australia. Aviation Week reports that Australia may want more P-8As, at the possible expense of its MQ-4C companion UAVs:

“The RAAF is quietly making a case for 12 Poseidons, arguing that eight would not be enough to cover the vast oceans surrounding the continent. And the unmanned requirement is now described as “up to” seven high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft, potentially reducing Northrop Grumman’s opportunity. At the same time the air force sees an argument for a supplementary drone, possibly the Predator, to take on some of the electronic-intelligence missions that would otherwise fall to the Poseidons and Tritons.”

This is a bit of a head-scratcher. The stated purpose of sustained ocean coverage would be better served by adding another orbit of 3-4 MQ-4Cs (to 10-11), and using the P-8s as more of a fleet overwatch and contact response force. Likewise, it makes little sense to use a different UAV for ELINT/SIGINT collection, especially the slow and shorter-range MQ-9. Rather, one would use the MQ-9s in nearer-shore maritime and EEZ patrols, along the lines of the 2006 Northwest Shelf experiments, in order to free up MQ-4Cs for longer-range expeditions over strategic corridors, and the ELINT/SIGINT mission to which they are so well suited.

Feb 8/13: HAASW. ERAPSCO Inc. in Columbia City, IN receives a $7.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification for engineering and manufacturing development services in support of the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare system. This is actually an Increment 2 upgrade to the new P-8A sea control aircraft. It makes drops more accurate by using a GPS-based algorithm; receives, processes, and stores in-buoy GPS data received from AN/SSQ-53, AN/SSQ-62, and AN/SSQ-101B sonobuoys; and will remotely send commands, and receive and process data from the AN/SSQ-101B’s digital datalink.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (52%) and Columbia City, IN (48%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014. $890,000 in FY 2013 Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation, Navy contract funds are committed immediately. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00421-11-D-0029). See also Military Aerospace.

Feb 4/13: #6 delivered. Boeing delivers the 6th production P-8A Poseidon aircraft to the US Navy, successfully completing the first group of LRIP aircraft from the January 2011 contract. Recall, too, that 6 ready-to deploy aircraft is the threshold for Initial Operational Capability. The Navy isn’t quite there yet.

P-8As #7-9 are undergoing mission systems installation and checkout at Boeing Field in Seattle, WA, and #7 will be delivered to the USN later this quarter. P-8As #10 and #11 are in final assembly on the 737 production line in Renton, WA. Boeing.

Jan 31/13: Support. Boeing receives a $19.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy additional P-8A equipment adaptors, support equipment, and technical publications.

Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (70.8%); Seattle, WA (15.7%); St. Peters, MO (10.7%); Falls Church, VA (1.2%); Chatsworth, CA (0.6%); Anaheim, CA (0.2%); El Dorado Hills, CA (0.2%); and Berwyn, PA (0.2%); Camden, NJ (0.2%); and New York, NY (0.2%); and is expected to be complete in April 2015. All contract funds are committed immediately from the FY 2011 “2011 Aircraft Procurement, Navy” budget line, and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Jan 17/13: US DOT&E report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The P-8 is included, and the P-8A’s participation in international exercises along regular testing is helping them find issues. The good news is that the plane is improving in many areas. The bad news is that the plane still has a lot of gaps and teething issues before it’s ready for serious service.

The P-8’s biggest problems lie with its sensors’ ability to work as advertised, and to work together. The main radar is suffering track-while-scan deficiencies, high-resolution SAR image quality problems, radar pointing errors that are especially troublesome over land and in littoral regions, and cross-cue errors with the MX-20HD surveillance turret. Then there’s the MX-20HD surveillance turret itself, whose auto-track integration isn’t working. The AN/ALQ-240(V)1 ESM systems for pinpointing radars and communications sources around the plane are also problematic, suffering from faulty identification and interference with anti-submarine displays.

Wide-area submarine searches using the twin-sonobuoy multi-static active acoustic capability (MAC) approach will be a big step up from current IEER advanced sonobuoys, but their delayed integration (FY 2014 or later) still leaves adequate sonobuoy capability on board.

The other P-8 problem worth mentioning is that the main fuel tank overheats in hot weather during grounding and low-level flight. This sharply limits anti-submarine flight patterns, especially over chokepoints and critical facilities in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Florida and the Caribbean, East Africa, Hawaii, San Diego, etc. Customers like India and Australia won’t be thrilled, either, unless this is fixed.

DOT&E testing report

Dec 20/12: Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $7.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for P-8A training system program and configuration management, engineering, and quality assurance. This modification will bring the hardware platforms of the Weapons Tactics Trainer (WTT) and Operational Flight Trainer (OFT) up to the LRIP Lot 1 Block 8 configuration, so it keeps up with the planes themselves.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be completed in June 2014. All contract funds are committed immediately, and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/13 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Dec 19/12: P-8i. Boeing “delivers” the first P-8I aircraft to the Indian Navy in Seattle, WA. 2013 will see India receive aircraft #1-3, with planes 4 and 5 under construction.

Indian personnel will conduct some training in the USA with the US Navy, while India builds up INS Rajali at Arakkonam Naval Air Station in Tamil Nadu (SE India). Those imperatives are underscored by the P-8i’s absence from Aero India 2013 in February, despite strong interest and anticipation within India. Boeing | IANS | Boeing re: Aero India 2013.

1st P-8i delivery

Dec 17/12: Upgrades. Boeing in Seattle, WA received a $16.1 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification, covering required engineering and labor to change the cooling medium in the existing P-8A Liquid Air Palletized System (LAPS) from polyalphaolefin, to ethylene glycol and water. They want to ensure compatibility between the LAPS and the Special Mission Cabin Equipment. Once development is done, Boeing will manufacture 3 P-8A conversion A-Kits, for use on the initial aircraft.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (81.6%); Huntsville, AL (8.8%); Mesa AZ (7.6%); and St. Louis, MO (2.0%) and is expected to be complete in December 2014. $14 million is committed immediately, and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/12 (N00019-04-C-3146).

Dec 11/12: R&D. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $175.5 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification for engineering, integration, and test work on P-8A changes and upgrades. The work will cover its weapons management, acoustics, and communication subsystems.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (43.3%); Huntington Beach, CA (22.4%); St. Louis, MO (24%); and Baltimore, MD (10.3%). $31.6 million are committed immediately, with the rest available until December 2015 (N00019-04-C-3146).

Dec 4/12: Training. Under a new 5-year, $56 million contract, Boeing will maintain U.S. Navy aircrew training devices for the P-8A, its P-3C predecessor, EP-3 Aries electronic eavesdropping planes, EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare jets, and older SH-60B Seahawk helicopters.

Mark McGraw, Boeing’s VP for Training Systems and Government Services, says the firm is looking to offer these services internationally. It’s a somewhat natural extension for its own products, like the EA-18G. It’s less natural for Lockheed Martin’s P-3s, Northrop Grumman’s EA-6s, and Sikorsky’s SH-60s.

The training devices are located at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, FL; Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, HI; NAS Whidbey Island, WA; and Kadena Air Base, Japan. Boeing will deliver P-8A training systems to NAS Jacksonville in 2013, and other sites will follow with trainers and all support functions. Boeing.

Nov 26/12: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA received a $26.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to continue developing the P-8A’s maintenance training curriculum. Materials will include computer-aided instruction for use in a classroom setting, interactive courseware for self-paced in-service training, and practical exercises to be used on various maintenance training devices. This seems like minor stuff, but if it’s done poorly, a multi-billion dollar fleet will suffer from lower readiness rates. Which turns out to be very expensive.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in June 2015. All contract funds are committed immediately, and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Nov 14/12: Basing. US Fleet Forces Command announces that they’re considering a number of basing plans for the P-8A, under supplemental environmental impact analyses. Of the 4 plans under consideration, 2 would base just 2 P-8s in Hawaii, instead of having 18 aircraft in 3 squadrons to offer good coverage of the Pacific theater.

The main plan is listed above: 42 planes in NAS Jacksonville, FL; 24 in Whidbey Island, WA; 18 in MCB Hawaii Kaneohe Bay; and 8 unallocated.

“Alternative 2” would put 47 planes in NAS Jacksonville, FL; 49 in Whidbey Island, WA; and 2 in MCB Hawaii Kaneohe Bay.

“Alternative 5” would put 47 planes in NAS Jacksonville, FL; 28 in Whidbey Island, WA; and 18 in MCB Hawaii Kaneohe Bay.

“Alternative 7” would put 54 planes in NAS Jacksonville, FL; 42 in Whidbey Island, WA; and 2 in MCB Hawaii Kaneohe Bay.

Alternatives 2 and 7 would damage the US Navy’s much-hyped “Pacific Pivot,” by having fewer aircraft in good position to offer coverage. Forward basing in Guam and with allies like Japan and Australia may help, but it’s more effective to do that and to base planes in Hawaii. Given the importance of aerial surveillance to anti-submarine warfare, one may also legitimately wonder if just 2 P-8As in Hawaii leaves Pearl Harbor insufficiently defended. The US Navy has often had a problem backing up its proclamations with actual platforms, but this one offers particular cause for scrutiny. Navy EIS site | Pacific Business News.

Oct 18/12: ESM. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives an $8.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order issued under basic ordering agreement to update the P-8A’s ESM sensor’s digital measurement unit “to overcome obsolescence issues”.

Work will be performed in Linthicum, MD (86%), and Seattle, WA (14%), and is expected to be complete in April 2015. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-11-G-0001).

Oct 5/12: Australia. Australia’s government signs a A$ 73.9 million with the USA to help develop the P-8A Increment 3, marking Australia’s continued commitment to the A$ 5 billion project that will replace its 19 AP-3Cs. This marks A$ 323.9 million in project contributions so far.

The Increment 3 Project Arrangement falls under the Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development Memorandum of Understanding signed in March 2012, which provides the framework by which the P-8A will be acquired, sustained and developed thought it service life. No basing decisions have been made yet, but they’re expected to end up at the AP-3C’s current home, RAAFB Edinburgh in South Australia. Australian DoD | Perth Now || Defense Update | UPI.

P-8A Inc-3 development

Oct 4/12: ESM. Northrop Grumman’s P-8A Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system is officially designated AN/ALQ-240v1. ESM systems use adaptive tuning, precise direction finding and geolocation to detect, identify, and target radars and other electronic threats to the aircraft and Navy vessels.

Northrop Grumman also provides the P-8A platform’s EWSP (early warning self-protection system). ESM isn’t part of that system, but it is complementary. NGC.

Oct 3/12: P-8 AGS advocacy. The Lexington Institute releases a report that recommends replacing all 73 of the USAF’s C-135/ Boeing 707 derived special mission aircraft with 737 derivatives. The E-8C JSTARS fleet of 16 operational planes would be swapped out for a derivative of the P-8A – basically, Boeing’s P-8 AGS concept. Overall, 73 planes would be replaced with 60 aircraft with higher mission-readiness rates, lower operating costs, and the ability to use existing global maintenance networks. It’s a bit of a turnaround for Lexington, who had strongly supported JSTARS re-engining and refurbishment before. Excerpts:

“The Air Force is currently spending so much money to keep its recon planes operational that it may be feasible to develop and field replacements based on commercial derivatives at little additional cost if it can retire aging 707s and C-135s quickly… The cumulative savings of substituting 737s for existing planes would total $100 billion across the life-cycle of the fleet, with annual savings likely to exceed $3 billion once the new planes were fully fielded. Most importantly, the 737 replacement program can be implemented within projected budgets for the ISR fleet… In the process it can eliminate 4,000 support billets and save over 80 million gallons of jet fuel each year, freeing up funding for activities where it can be applied more productively.”

See release | report [PDF].

FY 2012

LRIP-2 & 3 orders; P-8A inducted into USN; Increment 2 R&D; P-8A launches torpedo; Boeing looking at smaller airframe as a budget alternative. P-8 drops Mk54
(click to view full)

Sept 27/12: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $13.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification buys spare parts in support of 10 P-8A operational flight trainers (OFTs), 7 weapons tactics trainers, 3 part task trainers, the training systems support center, and 15 electronic classrooms. Boeing will also buy Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 15 classified parts; manage spare parts and delivery; coordinate orders, quotes, and receive process; support inventory inspection processes; and deliver the spares. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in June 2014 (N00019-09-C-0022)

Sept 26/12: Spares. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $34.6 million firm-fixed-price modification to a fixed-price-incentive-fee contract, buying additional spares for the 11 LRIP Lot 3 P-8A aircraft.

Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (59%); Greenlawn, N.Y. (13%); Amityville, N.Y. (8%); Seattle, Wash. (7%); Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (6%); Anaheim, CA (4%); Irvine, CA (2%); and El Paso, TX (1%); and is expected to be complete in September 2015 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Sept 26/12: Support. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives an $18.9 million fixed-price-incentive-firm contract modification for equipment maintenance, site activation, and other support of Low Rate Initial Production P-8As. Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (57%); Jacksonville, FL (38%); and Kadena, Japan (5%), and is expected to be complete in November 2013 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Sept 25/12: Part obsolescence. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $15.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to fix obsolescence issues. They’ll need to replace and integrate suitable hardware and software components in the P-8A’s Multi-Purpose Control Display Unit and Tactical Control Panel that have gone obsolete because those parts aren’t manufactured any more, and the Navy doesn’t have enough inventory to ignore that.

Work will be performed in Grand Rapids, MI (84%), and Seattle, WA (16%); and is expected to be complete in September 2014. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-11-G-0001).

Sept 21/12: LRIP-3. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $1.905 billion fixed-price-incentive-firm contract modification for 11 Low Rate Initial Production Lot 3 planes. This brings total P-8A LRIP-3 contracts to $2.209 billion.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (75.5%); Baltimore, MD (4%); Greenlawn, NY (2.5%); North Amityville, NY (2.3%); McKinney, TX (1.8%); Cambridge, United Kingdom (1.5%); and various location inside and outside of the continental United States (12.4%), and is expected to be complete in May 2015 (N00019-09-C-0022).

LRIP-3 main order

Aug 31/12: FRP-1 lead in. A $244.9 million advance acquisition contract to begin buying long-lead materials for 13 P-8As, with firm-fixed-price line items. That means it’s for the FY 2013 order (LRIP-4? FRP-1?).

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (63.8%); Greenlawn, NY (11.7%); Baltimore, MD (11.0%); North Amityville, NY (8.2%); and McKinney, TX (5.3%); and is expected to be complete in April 2016. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR6.302-1 (N00019-12-C-0112).

Aug 28/12: Too big? Boeing is starting to look at options beyond its P-8A, because their customers are saying that they don’t need its full versatility, and find its $200 million price tag prohibitive. Bombardier’s Challenger 600 seems to be the target platform, and the resulting plane would probably sacrifice weapon carrying capability in order to be a specialty surveillance plane.

Boeing aren’t the only ones working on this, of course. Established competitors include EADS’ CN-235 Persuader, C-295 MPA, ATR-42 MP, and ATR-72 ASW turboprops; and Embraer’s P-99 MP jet. Saab has options are in development based on the Saab 2000 regional turboprop and Piaggio P-180 executive turboprop, and Russia has a unique offering in development based on its Beriev Be-200 amphibious aircraft. There is also some talk in Britain of adding maritime patrol capabilities to its Sentinel R1 ground surveillance jets, based on Bombardier’s Challenger.

Among American manufacturers, Lockheed Martin is working on an SC-130J Sea Hercules modification, and the firm says they expect to sign at least one contract “in North Africa.” It’s designed as a $150 million alternative, to be developed in 3 stages. Stage 1 will involve roll-on/ bolt-on radar and electro-optical sensors, and accompanying processing workstations. Stage 2 would add wing-mounted, anti-surface weapons, along with upgraded workstations and weapon control systems. Stage 3 would be a full anti-submarine conversion, including sonobuoys, a magnetic anomaly detector boom, extra fuel pods, and 2 added bays for 6 Harpoon missiles. Defense News.

July 24/12: LRIP-3 lead in. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $107.1 million fixed-price-incentive-firm contract modification to provide additional funding for LRIP-3’s long-lead time materials That means items that need to be in the factory early, so that LRIP Lot 3’s 11 planes can be assembled and delivered on time. See also March 26/12 and Sept 8/11 entries – this brings LRIP-3 long-lead orders to $304 million.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (63.8%); Greenlawn, NY (11.7%); Baltimore, MD (11%); North Amityville, NY (8.2%); and McKinney, TX (5.3%). Work is expected to be complete in May 2015 (N00019-09-C-0022).

July 24/12: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $28.2 million fixed-price-incentive-firm contract for 22 flight management system trainers; 44 mission systems desktop trainers; 2 desktop training environments; updates to the P-8A Air Combat Training Continuum courseware; and all associated spares, support, and tools.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (48.2%); St. Louis, MO (35.8%); Jacksonville, FL (10.9%); Bloomington, IL (3.2%); Anaheim, CA (0.8%); Dallas, TX (0.8%); and Wichita, KS (0.3%). Work is expected to be completed in June 2014. $25.5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-09-C-0022).

July 24/12: Australian sub-contractors. Boeing announces a very minor set of contracts ($1.85 million) to Australian companies Lovitt Technologies Australia and Ferra Engineering, to manufacture parts and assemblies for the P-8A.

Lovitt Technologies in Melbourne already supplies parts for the V-22 and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and will add mission systems parts and assembly fabrications for the P-8. Ferra Engineering in Brisbane also supplies Super Hornet parts, as well as spares for Boeing’s commercial jets. They’ll add P-8 internal and external airframe parts and assemblies to their roster.

Boeing has a number of programs of interest in Australia, including F/A-18AM/BM Hornet upgrades, new F/A-18F Super Hornets, the E-737 Wedgetail airborne early warning plane, and an expected P-8 buy (vid. May 6/09 entry). Boeing’s Office of Australian Industry Capability (OAIC) works with the Australian Defence Materiel Organisation’s Global Supply Chain Program, to identify and train industrial partners. Over the past 4 years, Boeing says they’ve awarded US$ 230 million in contracts to Australian firms.

July 17/12: #2 delivered. Boeing delivers the 2nd production P-8A to US Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL for aircrew training.

Meanwhile, 3 more P-8As are undergoing mission systems installation and checkout in Seattle, WA, and 3 are in final assembly in Renton, WA. That covers 8 of the 13 low-rate initial production aircraft ordered so far. The 6 flight-test and 2 ground-test P-8As ordered under the development contract are already delivered, and they’ve completed more than 600 sorties and 2,800 flight hours, mostly at NAS Patuxent River, MD. Boeing.

July 18/12: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives an $11.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for the Block 9.2 software upgrade of the Operational Flight Trainer, the Weapons Tactics Trainer, and the Part Task Trainer in support LRIP Lot 1. This modification also includes the procurement of a Mission System Desktop Trainer. Bottom line: the trainers must have the same software and capabilities as the flying aircraft.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (85%), Seattle, WA (12%), and Anaheim, CA (3%), and is expected to be complete in May 2013. $9.9 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-09-C-0022).

July 7/12: P-8i. India’s first P-8i begins flight-testing in Seattle, and all test objectives are met in its initial flight. Boeing test pilots will continue the process at a US Navy test range west of Neah Bay, WA, and at a joint U.S./Canadian test range in the Strait of Georgia. They believe that they are on track to deliver the 1st P-8i to the Indian Navy in 2013. Boeing.

May 12/11: No P-8 JSTARS? Gannett’s Air Force Times reports that that the USAF will hang on to the battlefield surveillance mission, even though it won’t be upgrading its E-8C JSTARS planes. The real story is that the USAF’s F-35, Next-Generation Bomber, and KC-46A aerial tanker projects are sucking all of the budgetary oxygen out of the room. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz:

“I think that [Chief of Naval Operations Adm.] Jon Greenert would tell you that he can’t do both the maritime P-8 mission and the entire GMTI [Ground Moving Target Indicator] overland mission… Based on the analysis of alternatives, the more attractive option is a business-class aircraft with cheek sensors that operates at 40,000-foot plus and at much less of a flying-hour cost… That’s probably the right solution set, but we don’t have the [budgetary] space to pursue it right now.”

A Navy official emphasized that the P-8A’s primary focus is anti-submarine warfare, followed by surveillance in maritime areas. They see overland ISR as a tertiary mission, just as it has been for the P-3C. The long-term question is whether force structure trends will force a change in thinking, if the P-8A becomes the most capable option available. The performance and availability of the USAF’s RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 [PDF] fleet is likely to be the determining factor.

May 11/12: Increment II R&D. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $13.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order modification for P-8A Increment II risk reduction activities. This effort includes acoustic processor technology refresh work, multi-static active coherent Phase I capability, Automatic Identification System prototype development, and high altitude anti-submarine warfare sensor capability. As one might guess, Increment II is the next evolution of the design for the fleet, to be built into new aircraft and retrofitted into delivered planes.

Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA (70%), and Seattle, WA (30%), and is expected to be complete in January 2013 (N00019-05-G-0026).

March 28/12: Rollout & induction. The 1st P-8A from the LRIP-1 is inducted into USN Squadron VP-30 at Jacksonville, FL, for training. Following the ceremony, dignitaries cut a ribbon in front of the $40 million, 14-acre P-8A Poseidon Integrated Training Center facility. The first crew begins formal training in July, and the Navy eventually plans on having 42 total P-8As at Jacksonville NAS by 2019: 12 training planes plus 30 operational aircraft.

Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey said that P-8As are currently rolling off the Renton, WA assembly line at a rate of about 1 per month. US Navy photo release | Florida Times-Union | Puget Sound Business Journal.

P-8A induction

March 26/12: LRIP-3 long lead. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $30.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, buying additional long lead time materials for the FY 2012 Low Rate Initial Production III lot of 11 planes.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (63.8%); Greenlawn, NY (11.7%); Baltimore, MD (11.0%); North Amityville, NY (8.2%); and McKinney, TX (5.3%); and is expected to be complete in May 2015 (N00019-09-C-0022).

March 23/12: Boeing VP and P-8 program manager Chuck Dabundo says that the P-8A is expected to be ready for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOTE) from June – August 2012. He adds that: “The P-8A full-flight envelope should be cleared to conduct… realistic missions and maneuvering flight profiles during the IOT&E,” addressing one of the concerns from the 2011 DOT&E report (vid. Jan 17/12).

Meanwhile, the 1st operational flight and weapons tactics trainers are completing their set-up in the P-8A Integrated Training Center at NAS Jacksonville, FL. The other LRIP-1 plane is undergoing mission systems installation, with a hand-over to the Navy expected in mid-year. Aviation Week.

March 19/12: Sub-contractors. ITT Exelis touts its compressed air weapon ejection release technology, which successfully launched an MK 54 torpedo from P-8A test aircraft T-3’s weapon bay (vid. Oct 31/11). Many launch systems still use electrically-triggered explosive cartridges for launch separation, which has higher purchase and maintenance costs over time.

ITT was awarded the initial system design and development contract in August 2005, and says that it has received follow-on contracts totaling more than $30 million to date. Work is being performed by the Exelis Electronic Systems division in Amityville, NY.

March 4/12: 1st production delivery. Boeing delivers the first LRIP-1 plane to the US Navy in Seattle, after having built 6 flight-test and 2 ground-test aircraft. The delivery paves the way for flight training to begin. Boeing | Jacksonville Business Journal.

1st production delivery

Feb 13/12: Budget Cuts. The Pentagon submits its FY 2013 funding request. P-8A production will continue to ramp up, to the expected 13 planes, but future buys will be lower than planned, removing 10 planes from the program over the next 4 years. It’s always possible to add them back at the end of the program, but the USA’s current fiscal straits, and long-term entitlements explosions, make that unlikely:

“Due to changing priorities within the Department and funding constraints, the Department deemed that it was a manageable risk to reduce P-8A procurement by 10 aircraft from FY 2013 – FY 2017. Savings total $5.2 billion from FY 2013 – FY 2017.”

Feb 13/12: APY-10 air-air. Raytheon announces that it has delivered the 1st AN/APY-10 International radar to Boeing, for installation in the nose of India’s 1st P-8i. They also confirm that, per rumors reported on Feb 3/10:

“To meet unique requirements for the Indian navy, Raytheon has added an air-to-air mode, which provides the detection and tracking of airborne targets, allowing customers to detect threats in the air as well as at sea. In addition, an interleaved weather and surface search capability has been added to provide the cockpit with up-to-date weather avoidance information while performing surveillance missions.”

Feb 1/12: AAS. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $227 million cost-plus-award-fee modification contract for “interim flight clearance for the P-8A aircraft in the special mission configuration,” using the T-1 and T-3 test aircraft. Later reports confirm that the special configuration involves the P-8’s AAS radar pod.

Boeing tells us that this is about military airworthiness certification, which enables operational use of an aircraft (like a 737) in a special configuration. It’s also the precursor step to full fleet flight clearance. The time and expense involved in such certifications is often overlooked by casual observers, but over the last few years, this step has held up deployment of several big-ticket defense items around the world.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (59%); Baltimore, MD (32%); and St. Louis, MO (9%), and is expected to be complete in August 2016. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity(N00019-04-C-3146).

Jan 17/12: DOT&E Report. The Pentagon releases the FY2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The P-8A is included, and currently suffers from 2 major sets of issues that need to be fixed. One is mechanical, and involves bank angle limits. The other is software defects:

“The P-8A currently has an operational flight envelope limit that precludes it from flying at a bank angle greater than 48 degrees when maneuvering. In order to fly operationally realistic tactics during anti-submarine warfare missions, the aircraft will have to fly maneuvers that require a bank angle of 53 degrees… Although 92 percent of the priority 1 [DID: can’t perform mission-essential capability] and [priority] 2 [DID: impairs mission-essential capability, no onboard workaround] software problems have been closed, the current closure rate is not sufficient to have all the priority 1 and 2 software problems resolved by the start of IOT&E [Initial Operational Test & Evaluation]… There are 369 priority 1 and 2 software problems as of September 21, 2011. Software problems discovered during the later stages of the integrated testing may not be fixed in the software version that is currently planned for IOT&E, and may require additional software upgrades prior to starting IOT&E to ensure the software is production-representative.”

Jan 12/12: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $9.2 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification for spares, repairables, trainers, and courseware in support of FY 2011 production of P-8As under LRIP Lot 2 (vid. Nov 3/11 entry). Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (60%), and St. Louis, MO (40%), and is expected to be complete in September 2012 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Dec 19/11: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $19.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy 1 P-8A weapons tactics trainer, 9 of its 10-seat e-classrooms, and 6 of its 20-seat e-classrooms, as part of the FY 2011 LRIP Lot 2 production (vid. Nov 3/11 entry).

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (75%), and Seattle, WA (25%), and is expected to be complete in March 2014 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Dec 16/11: Training. The 1st full-motion operational flight trainer (OFT) and weapons tactics trainer (WTT) are delivered and placed in NAS Jacksonville’s P-8A Integrated Training Center. The Navy’s VP-30 Sqn. fleet introduction team (FIT) instructors worked with Boeing on the courseware, and had input into the design of the simulators.

P-8As are expected to begin shipping to patrol squadrons beginning in July 2012. US NAVAIR.

Nov 4/11: Increment II. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $10 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to help plan Increment 2 acoustic processor technology updates for the P-8A. P-8A increment 2 is scheduled for fielding in 2016.

Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA (75%), and Seattle, WA (25%), and is expected to be complete in January 2013. $2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-05-G-0026).

Nov 3/11: LRIP-2. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $1.378 billion firm-fixed-price-incentive contract modification, to buy Low Rate Initial Production Lot 2’s set of 7 P-8A aircraft, plus US Navy aircrew and maintenance training beginning in 2012, logistics support, spares, support equipment and tools. The training system will include a full-motion, full-visual Operational Flight Trainer that simulates the flight crew stations, and a Weapons Tactics Trainer for the mission crew stations.

Unlike many other military programs, Boeing appears to be handling the sub-contracts for most of the plane’s equipment itself, which leaves these figures much closer to the plane’s true purchase cost.

Work will be performed in Chicago, IL (21.9%); Greenlawn, NY (12.3%); Puget Sound, WA (11.5%); Dallas, TX (6.6%); North Amityville, NY (5.8%); Cambridge, United Kingdom (4.8%); and various locations in and outside the continental United States (37.1%); and is expected to be complete in January 2013 (N00019-09-C-0022). See also Boeing.

LRIP-2 main order

Oct 13/11: Testing. P-8A aircraft T-3 successfully launches its first MK 54 torpedo in the Atlantic Test Range, from 500 feet above water. The test verifies safe separation, with further weapon testing to come. US NAVAIR.

FY 2011

LRIP-1 order; 1st production P-8A flight; P-8i 1st flight; Training arrangements; New production facility; 737 MAX complicates the choices for customers. P-8 T1 over Cascades
(click to view full)

Sept 28/11: P-8i 1st flight. Initial flight for the P-8i, which takes off from Renton Field, WA and lands 2:31 later at Boeing Field in Seattle, WA. During the flight, Boeing test pilots performed airborne systems checks including engine accelerations and decelerations and autopilot flight modes, and took the P-8i to a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet. Boeing.

P-8i 1st flight

Sept 26/11: Training. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $32.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 1 P-8A Operational Flight Trainer and 1 P-8A weapons tactics trainer, as part of LRIP Lot 2. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (75%), and Seattle, WA (25%), and is expected to be complete in April 2014 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Sept 23/11: LRIP-2 ancillaries. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $319.9 million fixed-price incentive-fee contract for P-8A LRIP-2 spare parts, support equipment and tools, logistics support, trainers, and courseware. LRP-2 involves 7 aircraft.

Work will be performed in McKinney, TX (35%); Hazelwood, Mo. (35%); Seattle, WA (14%); Jacksonville, FL (4%); Anaheim, CA (4%); Baltimore, MD (3%); Camden, NJ (3%); and Greenlawn, NY (2%). Work is expected to be complete in March 2014 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Sept 8/11: LRIP-3 lead-in. A $166.8 million fixed-price-incentive contract modification, funding for long lead time materials in support of LRIP Lot 3’s 11 planned P-8As.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (63.80%); Greenlawn, NY (11.69%); Baltimore, MD (10.98%); North Amityville, NY (8.24%) and McKinney, TX (5.29%); and is expected to be complete in May 2015 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Aug 31/11: Training. Jax Air News reports on the coming transition to the P-8A at the VP-30 Fleet Replacement training squadron. According to Commanding Officer (CO) Capt. Mark Stevens, VP-30 will teach both the P-3 and the P-8, until the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force community completes its transition to the Poseidon by 2017. Flight Instructor Trainers are completing commercial B-737 type rating school in Seattle, WA, then they train in VX-20’s 4 Poseidon test aircraft at Pax River, MD.

The first P-8A transition squadron to be trained at VP-30 will be the VP-16 ‘War Eagles’ beginning in July of 2012, as they return from deployment to face 6 months of training. VP-30 will also begin training replacement P-8 pilots, NFOs and aircrew in August of 2012, at the new P-8A Integrated Training Center (ITC), which includes classrooms, 10 full-motion operational flight trainers (OFT) for pilots, and 9 mission system trainers for aircrew – each with 5 operator stations.

Aug 19/11: Testing. P-8A T2 returns from Yuma, AZ, where hot environment ground and flight tests took place over 13 days from July 7-20/11. July temperatures at Yuma average 107F/ 42C. Now that T2 is back to Patuxent River, MD, it continues required mission systems testing to include the acoustic system, Sonobuoy Launching System, Sonobuoy Positioning System, and Electro-Optical/Infrared system. US NAVAIR | Maryland’s Bay Net.

July 25/11: LRIP-2 lead in. A $21 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification adds more long lead materials funding for the 7 LRIP Lot 2 production aircraft.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (63.80%); Greenlawn, NY (11.69%); Baltimore, MD (10.98%); North Amityville, NY (8.24%); and McKinney, TX (5.29%). Work is expected to be complete in December 2013 (N00019-09-C-0022).

July 22/11: Testing. US NAVAIR announces that the P-8A completed the clean flutter program in June 2011, including open & closed bay doors, and began loads testing in preparation for Operational Assessment in 2012.

Flutter is described as a vibration that continuously builds in intensity; the team needed to demonstrate that the P-8A remains safe throughout its flight envelope, without weapons. Loads testing verifies that it’s safe with weapons carried.

July 21/11: 737 MAX. American Airlines, which has traditionally been a Boeing/McDonnell Douglas stronghold, splits its $40 billion fleet replacement order between Boeing and Airbus, ordering 460 planes between 2013-2022, with options for more. The new aircraft will replace older MD-80s, as well as larger Boeing 757s and 767s.

Airbus will deliver 260 A319/A320/A321s beginning in 2013, of which half will be A320neo family planes with new geared turbofan engines from Pratt & Whitney (PurePower) or GE/CFM (LEAP-X), beginning in 2017. They also have 365 options with Airbus for additional aircraft. Boeing will deliver 200 737s, beginning in 2013, with options for another 100. Half of those initial 737s, and 60/100 options, will involve 737 MAX planes with LEAP-X engines, but no delivery date is set.

Those re-engined 737 MAX planes will have to be developed and certified, of course, with estimates that place them 1-3 years behind Airbus’ planned 2015 A320neo introduction. The effect is to upset Boeing’s strategy to introduce an entirely new narrowbody jet. Airline interest in the re-engined 737 seems set to delay that planned switchover, and AA’s order alone will keep the 737 in production for at least a decade. This is not good news for Boeing, but it might be good news for military customers of 737 derivatives. The thing is, they now have a choice of their own to make about their future fleets (vid. June 8/11 entry). Using a 737 MAX offers important life-cycle cost reductions, but it also involves modifications to existing designs for 737 specialty aircraft like the P-8. Someone will have to pay for that. American Airlines | Airbus | Boeing | GE/CFM | Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Seattle Times | Forbes.

July 7/11: 1st P-8A flight. The first P-8A Poseidon production aircraft completes its first flight, taking off from Renton Field, WA and landing 3 hours later at Boeing Field in Seattle, WA. This is an LRIP Lot 1 plane, which now leaves final assembly and enters mission system installation and checkout in Seattle. Boeing will deliver it to the Navy next year in 2012.

This production P-8A is the first to include an improved CFM56-7BE engine with high- and low-pressure turbine modifications, that is now standard on all new 737NGs. The design also incorporates drag reduction improvements that Boeing started phasing into 737 production earlier this year, but the expected fuel savings vs. older models are only 2% or so, compared to about 15% for geared turbofan models. Boeing | CFM | Boeing re: new design.

June 8/11: 737 dilemmas. Under pressure from planes like Airbus’ developmental A320 NEO and Bombardier’s C-Series, which carry ultra fuel-efficient geared turbofan engines, Boeing is reconsidering the future of its 737 platform. The company had been looking at developing a whole new narrow-body jet by 2020 or so, then discontinuing the 737 around mid-decade. Customer pressure is now leading them to consider a re-engined 737 as an interim step, which means fuselage and landing gear changes.

All of these dynamics affect current and future P-8 customers, as well as potential customers for programs like their E-737 AEW&C. Boeing is urging its customer to place orders for military 737 derivatives before 2020, rather than waiting beyond, and is considering whether it may wish to offer modified variants based on the re-engined 737. The net effect of these moves may actually be to delay, or shift, customer buys. While thousands of 737s will remain in service after the line closes, guaranteeing parts availability for some time, expensive assets like a P-8 or E-737 are expected to be in service for 40-50 years. The prospect of an engine-driven step change in operating costs, alongside a potential next step change via blended wing body designs, in a future world of expensive fuel, adds even more food for thought. Fleets must be renewed, but a potential customer envisioning its fleet in 2065 may hesitate at the prospect of ordering a high-end aircraft platform at the very end of its civil counterpart’s production run, with further step-change technologies on the way. Boeing’s push has the effect of focusing attention on those questions, and it remains to be seen whether the results are positive or negative. Bloomberg.

737 questions

March 9/11: Sub-contractors. BAE Systems announces a Low Rate Initial Production contract from Boeing to provide 6 ruggedized P-8A mission computer systems. No cost figures are released.

March 7/11: Sub-contractors. Spirit AeroSystems delivers the 1st LRIP production P-8A fuselage to Boeing via rail car, whereupon Boeing workers begin final assembly by loading it into a tooling fixture and installing systems, wires and other small parts.

The Poseidon team is using a first-in-industry in-line production process that draws on Boeing’s civilian Next-Generation 737 production system, by making all P-8A military modifications in sequence during fabrication and assembly. The pervasive approach to this point has involved producing a civilian plane, then flying it to another plant for “militarization” work. Boeing.

Feb 2/11: APY-10. Raytheon announces a low rate initial production contract from Boeing to deliver 6 AN/APY-10 radars plus spares as part of LRIP Lot 1 production.

Jan 21/11: LRIP-1 main order. Boeing receives a $1.53 billion contract modification, finalizing the Low Rate Initial Production Lot I (LRIP-1) contract for 6 P-8As to a fixed-price-incentive-firm contract, and launching production. Boeing will supply the 6 planes, plus associated spares, support equipment and tools, logistics support, trainers and courseware. This brings P-8A LRIP-1 contracts to a total of $1.64 billion, including the April 23/09 advance materials contract, or about $273 million per place. That per-plane cost will climb if key mission equipment is provided under separate contracts as “government furnished equipment,” which is usually the case.

It’s quite common for planes from the LRIP sets to be more expensive than full rate production aircraft, sometimes, by another 100-200%. The P-8’s initial production on the live 737 passenger jet line is likely to dampen that tendency, but installing the military equipment will have a learning cost curve of its own. Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (76%); Hazelwood, MO (10%); Baltimore, MD (4%); Greenlawn, NY (2%); Tampa, FL (2%); McKinney, TX (1%); North Amityville, NY (1%); Hauppauge, NY (1%); Anaheim, CA (1%); Grand Rapids, MI (1%); and Rockford, IL (1%); and is expected to be complete in January 2013 (N00019-09-C-0022). See also US NAVAIR.

LRIP-1 main order

Jan 7/11: Testing. Boeing completes full-scale static testing of the P-8A Poseidon’s airframe, after ground test plane S1 undergoes 154 different tests, with no failure of the primary structure. During 74 of the tests, the airframe was subjected to 150% of the highest expected flight loads.

In September 2011, the Boeing P-8A team will begin refurbishing the S1 plane to prepare it for live-fire testing at Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake, CA. Boeing will begin fatigue tests on its second ground-test vehicle, S2, later in 2011. Boeing.

Nov 11/10: Industrial. An official ceremony opens the new P-8 aircraft production facility near Boeing Field in Seattle, WA. It’s actually 2nd stage production. Boeing Commercial Airplanes employees assemble the P-8s on the 737 line in Renton, WA, including all structural modifications. That improves flow time, costs, and quality. The next step is a short flight to Boeing Field near Seattle, WA, where Boeing DSS employees install military mission systems and conduct aircraft tests. Boeing.

New facility

Oct 15/10: Testing. NAVAIR’s P-8A test aircraft launches sonobuoys for the first time, as part of P-8 weapons testing. A total of 6 sonobuoys were involved in 3 low altitude launches at the Atlantic Test Range, using the P-8’s rotary launch system.

That system uses 3 three launchers with the capacity to hold 10 sonobuoys each, and it can launch single or multiple shots. The aircraft’s overall sonobuoy storage capacity is 120, fully 50% percent greater than the P-3’s capacity of 80. US NAVAIR.

Oct 4/10: India. India’s navy wants to grow its P-8i fleet to 12 planes, by exercising a $1 billion option for 4 more. Indian sources are telling the media that the prices and offset agreements would be the same as the original $2.1 billion contract for 8 aircraft. The decision follows a recent visit by Indian defense minister Antony and Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma. The proposal will now be sent to India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval, and other steps also remain on the to do list. The Times of India:

“P-8Is are being customised to Indian naval requirements, with communication, electronic warfare and other systems being sourced from India. For instance, defence PSU Bharat Electronics is delivering Data Link-II, a communication system to enable rapid exchange of information among Indian warships, submarines aircraft and shore establishments, for the P-8Is to Boeing. There is, however, the question of India having not yet inked the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) being pushed by the US as ”a sensitive technology-enabler” for P-8I and other arms procurements.”

See: India Defence | Times of India | Zee News | China’s Xinhua.

FY 2010

SAR kicks program total up to 122; P-8i passes design review; Indian contract for APY-10 with air-air as well; Boeing proposes P-8 AGS to USAF; Saudi Arabian P-8A interest; Shoot ’em up with Southwest. E-8C JSTARS
(click to view full)

Sept 13/10: P-8 AGS? The battle over the E-8 JSTARS fleet’s future is heating up. Boeing is proposing a derivative of its P-8A Poseidon sea control aircraft as a proposed $5.5 billion, 1-for-1 replacement of the current E-8C fleet, instead of paying that estimated amount to upgrade the E-8Cs with new cockpits, sensors, and engines. The Boeing AGS version would include the Raytheon-Boeing Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS), Raytheon’s AN/APY-10 multi-mode radar in the nose, some the same Electronic Support Measures for emissions geo-location that are featured on the E/A/18G Growler electronic attack lane, and an electro-optical surveillance and targeting turret. A P-8 derivative would also give the USAF space and integration for weapons on board, or additional sensors in those spaces.

Northrop Grumman believes the Boeing figure may be a lowball price, and has its own proposal to add 1′ x 8′ array radars on the plane’s cheeks, derived from the firm’s APG-77 and APG-81 AESA radars that equip the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters. Today, J-Stars operations have to “break track” with a target to collect an image. The cheek fairings would solve that problem, while keeping the existing AN/APY-7, in order to lower the upgrade price to around $2.7 billion: $900M re-engining, $500M new APY-7 receiver and exciters, $1 billion for the cheek array, $300M for avionics upgrade and battle management improvements. This would replace the previous push to replace the APY-7 with their MP-RTIP radar.

Northrop Grumman executives have expressed concern that USAF officials have not showed them the 2009 initial capabilities document that could launch a competition to replace or upgrade the E-8C, something that’s common practice, even though it isn’t a required step. That may be because the USAF is considering even wider options – like putting the focus on “persistent ground looking radar and optical surveillance with high resolution moving target capability,” instead of an E-8C vs. 737 AGS competition. If so, the firms could find themselves competing with other platforms, possibly including derivatives of airship projects like the US Army’s LEMV and others. Aviation Week | Flight International.

Sept 8/10: LRIP-2 lead-in. A $136.6 million contract modification for long-lead materials in support of P-8A LRIP (low-rate initial production) Lot 2 aircraft.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (63.8%); Greenlawn, NY (11.7%); Baltimore, MD (10.9%); North Amityville, NY (8.3%); and McKinney, TX (5.3%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013 (N00019-09-C-0022).

Sept 8/10: Sub-contractors. India’s Economic Times reports that Maini Global Aerospace (MGA) has bagged an outsourcing contract worth up to $10 million to make structural components for the extended range fuel cells of the Boeing P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime (MMR) aircraft. These components would be common to the P-8A and P-8i.

July 29/10: Testing. Boeing’s T3 test aircraft successfully completes its first flight test, which is focused on aerodynamics and safety. T3 is the P-8A program’s mission-system and weapon-certification aircraft. T3 will soon fly to join the other 2 test aircraft at NAS Patuxent River, MD. Boeing.

July 18/10: AN/APY-10i. Raytheon announces a contract from Boeing to develop an international version of the AN/APY-10 surveillance radar for India’s P-8i. It’s a private arrangement, and Raytheon’s director of strategy and business development, Neil K Peterson, tells DNA India that details of the contract are still being worked out. He adds that “The radar we will be giving to the Indian Navy’s planes will have more features than those with The US Navy.”

This is the first sale of the APY-10 beyond the USA. The challenge is to provide excellent performance, without including some of the American radar’s protected features. Raytheon describes the APY-10 as a “long-range, multimission, maritime and overland surveillance radar.” So far, Raytheon is under contract with Boeing to provide 6 AN/APY-10 systems and spares for the US Navy’s P-8A program, and has delivered 4. The firm says that it remains on or ahead of the production schedule. Raytheon | DNA India.

Improved APY-10

July 16/10: India. Boeing successfully completes the P-8i’s 5-day final design review with the Indian Navy in Renton, WA, USA. That locks in the design for the aircraft, radar, communications, navigation, mission computing, acoustics and sensors, as well as the ground and test support equipment. It also paves the way for the program to begin assembling the first P-8I aircraft, which will include Indian-built sub-systems. Boeing P-8i program manager Leland Wight says that Boeing is on track to start building the P-8I’s empennage section before the end of 2010. Boeing.

P-8i design review

June 2010: BAE Systems completes the mission computer system qualification testing, and flies aboard the program’s 1st mission systems test flight in Seattle. Source.

April 10/10: US Navy Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-20’s first P-8A Poseidon test aircraft arrives at NAVAIR Patuxent River, MD facilities. Capt. Mike Moran, Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft program manager (PMA-290), said that the program continues to meet all performance criteria and is on track for initial operational capability in 2013.

The Poseidon Integrated Test Team includes Navy test squadrons VX-20 and VX-1, and Boeing; they will use this “T1” aircraft to evaluate the P-8A’s airworthiness and expand its flight envelope. When the production-configured T2 and T3 arrive later in 2010, they will be used for extensive mission systems and weapons system testing. US NAVAIR release | YouTube video.

April 1/10: SAR baseline. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisition Report. The P-8A program is on the reporting list, because of the aircraft added to the program plan:

“Program costs increased $1,288.0 million (+3.9%) from $32,852.9 million to $34,140.9 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of nine aircraft from 113 to 122 aircraft (+$1,620.6 million) and associated schedule and estimating allocations (+$50.0 million), and an increase in other support costs associated with the quantity increase (+130.5 million). Costs also increased in estimating due to commercial aircraft pricing, avionics maturation, and aircraft design changes (+$505.2 million); revised assumptions for labor rates, learning curves, new material escalation indices, and other minor estimating changes (+$70.1 million); additional effort for test and evaluation, resolution of aircraft weight growth, and changes in the electro-optical infrared subsystem (+$83.7 million); increased scope to correct deficiencies (+$210.8 million); and costs resulting from the Boeing machinists union strike and rate increases (+$73.0 million). These increases were partially offset by the application of revised escalation indices (-$863.3 million), a decrease in initial spares in accordance with the long-term support strategy (-$278.5 million), acceleration of the procurement buy profile eliminating fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 (-$187.8 million), and removal of the Increment 2 development (-$147.9 million).”

The 122 consists of 117 production P-8A aircraft, 3 production representative aircraft that will support operational testing, and 2 fully configured developmental test aircraft. Aircraft “T1” will fly but is not production representative, so it isn’t counted. Neither are the 2 ground-test partial-builds used for static and fatigue testing, or the es-Southwest LFTE plane.

The other confusing element in this report is the removal of “Increment 2” features. Increment 2, previously known as Spiral 1, adds acoustics and communications upgrades, as well as an initial high altitude weapons capability – the HAAWC torpedo/ Longshot kit.

NAVAIR explains that the P-8A is using an evolutionary acquisition strategy, that will continue to improve the capabilities of the system over the life of the program. So far, so normal. However, none of these forecast improvements are included in the program’s Acquisition Program Baseline (APB: cost, schedule and performance parameters), which is the basis for the SAR. Increments 2 & 3 have received budget funding, with Increment 2 expected to reach Initial Operating Capability around 2016. Since neither of these increments has held a formal milestone review, however, the associated costs don’t formally count yet.

SAR baseline

March 24/10: Just shoot me, redux. Need to speed up testing? Want to shoot a plane full of holes? Fly Southwest! Engineers at NAWCWD’s Weapons Survivability Laboratory (WSL) spent just $200,000 to add a cast-off 737 from Southwest Airlines to the P-8A Poseidon Live-Fire Test and Evaluation (LFTE) Program. NAWCAD WSL vulnerability engineer Paul Gorish found the plane while shopping for individual parts. It came complete with in-flight magazines; and after arriving at China Lake, CA, the engines, auxiliary power unit, avionics and windshield were the only things removed.

LFTE tests involve shooting various sections of the plane with different anti-aircraft rounds that it might encounter in theater, then assessing the damage and using that data to improve the aircraft’s survivability. The first LFTE test will look at how the hydraulics in the tail portion of the aircraft react when hit with a threat. Another test will evaluate how the oxygen bottles will react to a ballistic impact in a fully pressurized cabin.

The original plan called for the ground-test aircraft (S1) to arrive in 2012. Now they can offload some of the tests planned for S1 onto this 737, beginning in summer 2010, and complete all tests within the tight schedule. It’s also expected that Southwest’s former jet will become a source of parts to build-up the incomplete test-plane S1 into a more representative P-8A surrogate. US NAVAIR release.

Feb 4/10: Testing. Boeing successfully completes weapons ground vibration testing on P-8A Poseidon test aircraft T1, after loading 18 different weapons configurations onto the test aircraft over a 1 month period. For each set, external shakers induce vibration of the aircraft’s wings, stabilizer and stores to verify the plane’s structural integrity and reactions, using with more than 100 accelerometers and other external devices.

The effort comes before full flight testing at Pax River, MD, and follows May 2009 ground vibration tests without weapons. Boeing release.

Feb 3/10: India. Flight International reports that Boeing plans to put an additional Raytheon radar on the aft section of India’s P-8is, and is exploring an air-to-air mode for the APY-10. India wanted air-to-air capability and a 360 degree radar, and the AN/APY-10 provides only 240 degree coverage from the P-8’s nose section.

Feb 3/10: Self-inflicted delay. Flight International reports that the US Navy is facing a self-inflicted 6-month program delay. The ferry light to Patuxent River, MD was scheduled for September 2009, but the trip had been delayed to Q1 2010. The first 2 P-8As are in Seattle doing flight tests, and could perform all testing there, but the US Navy wants all testing done at NAVAIR’s east coast facility. Unfortunately, the Navy doesn’t have its designated facility ready to receive the P-8, hence the 6-month delay.

Feb 2/10: FY 2011 budget. The Pentagon releases its FY 2011 budget request, containing $2.92 billion for the P-8A program. That request includes $1.99 billion for 7 more P-8 aircraft, advance procurement for 9 FY 2012 aircraft, plus $929.2 million for Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation. The Pentagon adds that “aircraft procurements are tightly coupled to the P-3 retirement rates.”

Feb 2/10: Sub-contractors. Herley Industries, Inc. of in Lancaster, PA announces a $1.5 million sub-contract for integrated microwave assemblies, to be used in the U.S. Navy’s P-8A aircraft. This is Herley’s first production award under the P-8A program, as opposed to system design & development contracts.

Jan 29/10: Studies. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $16.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement (N00019-05-G-0026). They will conduct studies and analyses for the acoustic processor technology refresh, and capability analysis planning for the P-8A. In an era where more and more countries are fielding quiet, advanced submarines, and electronics become obsolete every 4-5 years, this kind of ongoing work is necessary.

Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA (83%), and Seattle, WA (17%), and is expected to be complete in July 2011.

Dec 4/09: IOT&E. Boeing in Seattle, WA received a $12.5 million not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-04-C-3146) in support of the P-8A initial operation test and evaluation (IOT&E). Specific efforts include the modification of courseware and training devices and transition, and integration of organic maintenance.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (60%), and Seattle, WA (40%), and is expected to be complete in January 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

November 2009: APY-10. A Boeing and Raytheon worker formally finish installation of the APY-10 radar in the nose of P-8A test plane T2. T2 is the P-8A program’s primary mission system testbed, and it will enter the U.S. Navy’s flight test program in early 2010, after a follow-on phase of radar installation and additional instrumentation. During flight tests, US Navy and Boeing pilots will verify the performance of all aircraft sensors, including the APY-10. Boeing release.

Oct 24/09: Saudi Arabia. Abu Dhabi newspaper The National reports that Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in buying 6 of Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, in a deal worth a reported $1.3 billion (about 4.8 billion riyals). The National says the lanes would be part of a larger $20 billion naval modernization:

“They took the steps to say to the US Navy that they are interested,” Ray Figueras, the director of strategic development for the P-8 Poseidon at Boeing Integrated Defense Systems (IDS), said of the Saudi Royal Navy. “We’ve been told there is a need for six.”…Details of the naval overhaul were announced last December when US defence officials said Saudi Arabia wanted to buy the P-8 along with the H-60R Seahawk multimission helicopter built by Sikorsky Aircraft, unmanned Fire Scout helicopters built by Northrop Grumman, and smaller combat ships… The [P-8] aircraft are said to cost $220 million each…”

Saudi Arabia has long coastlines of shallow seas, and a special interest in protecting the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Its own topography lends itself well to larger fleets of smaller maritime patrol aircraft, but extending operations out to deal with threats like pirates near Yemen and Somalia would require a long-range aircraft. As always in the Gulf, corporate and political relationships also play a strong role in national choices.

Oct 15/09: Testing. The first US Navy test pilot flies a P-8A, alongside a Boeing test pilot. Initial test flights have centered around Boeing’s Seattle facilities, but the P-8A will move to Patuxent River, MD, in early 2010 for more advanced tests. The Integrated Test Team will include personnel from the Navy’s VX-1 and VX-20 squadrons, and from Boeing. They will spend the next 36 months flying and evaluating 3 aircraft, designated T1, T2 and T3. NAVAIR’s release quotes Lt. Roger Stanton:

“For the baseline P-8, it certainly flies like a 737… The interesting flying for the P-8 really will come when we have to emulate the P-3 mission – high bank angle, low altitude, autopilot integrated into our mission with missiles on the wings. It will get interesting.”

FY 2009

India becomes 1st export sale; P-8A rollout; 1st flight; USN wants 117 + 8 P-8s; MoU with Australia; AAS radar follow-on to LSRS; Initial basing plans announced. P-8A Rollout
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Sept 4/09: DCK cut off. The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. in Baltimore, MD receives a $37.4 million firm-fixed-price contract to design and build a P-8A Operational Training Facility at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. The facility will include space for 10 operational flight trainers (OFT), bridge cranes over the OFT devices, 8 weapons tactics trainers, and 4 part task trainers; plus support equipment, computer based training stations, internal and external network communication equipment, training media storage, maintenance support shops, administrative offices, student study rooms, briefing areas, communications closets, and secure compartmented information facilities. The contract also contains an option, which would increase the contract’s value to $37.95 million if exercised. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be complete by June 2011.

If this sounds familiar, it should. The July 2/09 entry describes a similar award to DCK North America. On July 13/09, however, Balfour Beatty Construction files a bid protest with the GAO protesting the US Navy’s award to DCK on multiple grounds. The government review of the protest led them to terminate DCK’s award, and re-evaluate the bids; that removed the basis of the protest, and led to its formal dismissal on Aug 5/09. The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company won the re-evaluation, and the contract previously awarded to DCK will be Terminated for Convenience.

This contract was competitively negotiated via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with 21 proposals received in Phase One and, 7 Phase One offerors selected to proceed to Phase Two. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast in Jacksonville, FL will manage this new contract (N69450-09-C-1291).

Aug 27/09: AAS. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $25 million not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-04-C-3146). Work will be performed in Seattle, WA and is expected to be complete in February 2010.

The award updates Annex B of the P-8A system specification to include additional requirements associated with the Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS)/P-8A interface requirement specification (IRS). The IRS refines requirements for the integration of the AAS maritime and littoral intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance radar, and the associated special mission cabin equipment on P-8 aircraft.

July 31/09: AAS/ LSRS. Raytheon announces a multi-year contract authorizing development of the Advanced Airborne Sensor, the follow-on to the canoe-shaped Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) that equips the most advanced P-3Cs.

As the sensor prime contractor, Raytheon will oversee development, production and installation of the AAS on the P-8A. Raytheon will work closely with its associate prime contractor, Boeing, for engineering, aircraft modifications, integration and flight test.

July 30/09: Final SDD order. A $334.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-04-C-3146) for a P-8A Stage II test aircraft with mission systems installed. This is the 3rd and final option aircraft under the original System Development & Demonstration contract. This contract also covers modifications and engineering work needed to turn these 3 additional test aircraft into “production representative” airplanes, and the spares needed to support them.

Contracts under the SDD and test acquisition phase have now grown to about $4.5 billion, and include 8 ordered planes: 6 flight test aircraft, a full-scale static loads test airframe, and a full-scale fatigue test airframe. Two of the flight test aircraft have already successfully flown as part of a Boeing relocation and system flight check process. Testing on the static loads airframe is underway, and the Navy will begin formal flight testing later in 2009.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (82.4%); Norwalk, CT (4.6%); Oklahoma City, OK (4.3%); McKinney, TX (3.4%); Greenlawn, NY (3%); and North Amityville, NY (2.3%), and is expected to be complete in April 2013.

SDD ends at $4.5 billion

July 30/09: P-8A Unveiled. Boeing and the U.S. Navy formally unveil the P-8A Poseidon, during a ceremony at the Boeing facility in Renton, WA. US Navy release | NAVAIR release | Boeing release.

P-8A unveiled

July 2/09: Infrastructure. DCK North America, LLC in Large, PA wins a $37.9 million firm-fixed-price contract to design and build an Operational Training Facility for P-8A aircraft at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL. The facility will include space for 10 Operational Flight Trainers (OFT), 8 Weapons Tactics Trainers, 4 Part Task Trainers, support equipment, bridge cranes over the OFTs, computer based training stations, internal and external network communication equipment, training media storage, maintenance support shops, administrative offices, student study rooms, briefing areas, communications closets, and Secure Compartmented Information Facilities.

Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be complete by June 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with 21 proposals received in Phase I and 7 Phase I offerors selected to proceed to Phase II. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast in Jacksonville, FL manages this contract (N69450-09-C-1257).

The award is subsequently overturned, following a GAO protest and re-compete.

June-July 2009: The US Navy reviews its future needs and decides that the P-8A program needs to grow to 117 operational aircraft, instead of 108.

May 6/09: Australia MoU. Australia announces a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States Navy (USN) to cooperatively develop upgrades to the P-8A Poseidon aircraft and its support systems. Cooperation will begin on P-8A Spiral One. Australia’s DoD hopes the information will help them understand the aircraft better before the final purchase and timing decisions begin, influence the direction of P-8A improvements, and provide early opportunities for Australian industry to become part of the global program.

This ministerial release has raised the total value of Australia’s 8-plane “AIR 7000, Phase 2” program to A$ 5 billion (currently about $3.7 billion) from A$ 4 billion on July 20/07 (see entry), when Australia granted “first pass approval” to the P-8.

Australia MoU

May 5/09: Boeing rolls P-8 model T-2 out of the paint hangar at its Renton, WA, facility, displaying its U.S. Navy colors. T-2 is actually the 3rd of 5 test aircraft. Aircraft T-1 will be painted in the same gray paint scheme later this summer. Photo release.

May 2/09: Australia. Australia’s Defence White Paper reiterates its interest in 8 long-range maritime patrol aircraft, as part of an A$ 5 billion “AIR 7000, Phase 2” program. Boeing’s P-8A will be that aircraft, unless something goes very wrong on the path to a final contract.

P-8 #T-1
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April 25/09: 1st flight. Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon test aircraft #T-1 successfully completes its 1st flight, spending 3:31 in the air and reaching a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet. Prior to takeoff, the P-8A team completed a limited series of flight checks, including engine starts and shutdowns. During the flight, test pilots performed airborne systems checks including engine accelerations and decelerations, autopilot flight modes, and auxiliary power unit shutdowns and starts.

After Boeing paints the aircraft, installs more test instrumentation, and conducts further ground tests, the integrated Navy/Boeing team will begin formal flight testing of the P-8A during Q3 2009. Boeing release.

1st flight

April 13/09: LRIP-2 lead-in. Boeing in Seattle, WA received a $109.1 million advance acquisition contract to buy long lead-time materials in support of the P-8A’s low rate initial production (LRIP) Lot I orders, and reserve production line slots in support of P-8A LRIP Lot II.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (87%) and Baltimore, MD (13%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR(Federal Acquisition Regulations clause) 6.302-1 (N00019-09-C-0022).

March 12/09: India. In a notice to the US Congress, the State Department has said that it will license the direct commercial sale of P-8i aircraft to India, having factored in “political, military, economic, human rights and arms control considerations.” India’s domain-b.

A DCS buy doesn’t use a US military office as its agent, and is not subject to the same public notice provisions as a Foreign Military Sale buy. Even so, there are still some legal hurdles and agreements that must be present before a DCS item can be delivered to the customer.

Feb 11/09: India & EUMs. Reports surface that standard American provisions around “End Use Monitoring”, and information sharing restrictions that accompany American defense exports, are beginning to become a problem for the P-8i sale. Read “An EUM Bellwether? India/US Arms Deals Facing Crunch Over Conditions.”

Feb 2/09: Indian partners. The Wall Street Journal’s LiveMint reports that Boeing will buy aerospace structures and aviation electronics products worth at least INR 29.41 billion (about $600 million) from Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), Dynamatic Technologies Ltd, HCL Technologies Ltd, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T), Wipro Ltd, and simulator-maker CAE’s subsidiary Macmet Technologies Ltd.

Wipro, HCL, L&T and HAL declined to comment, but a Dynamatics, executive confirmed that the firm had been chosen as a vendor. A BEL executive said the firm had entered into an agreement with Boeing for communication equipment, radars, electronic warfare systems and contract manufacturing, but a contract was yet to be signed. Swati Rangachari, a spokeswoman for Boeing in India:

“Our team is working on the offset strategy and will be in touch with industry partners in a while… We will concentrate in the areas of avionics (aviation electronics) and aerostructures.”

Meanwhile, Flight International takes a deeper look at India’s nascent private aerospace industry, and its challenges, in “Can India’s aerospace manufacturers step up?

Jan 2/09: Basing. The US Navy formally announces its basing plans. the plan involves 13 squadrons: 1 “fleet replacement” (training) squadron and 5 operational squadrons at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, FL; 4 fleet squadrons at NAS Whidbey Island, WA; and 3 fleet squadrons at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, with periodic squadron detachment operations at NAS North Island. Introduction of the P-8A MMA squadrons is projected to begin no later than 2012, and is expected be complete by 2019.

This decision implements the preferred “alternative 5” identified in the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the Introduction of the P-8A Multi-Mission Aircraft into the U.S. Navy Fleet (q.v. Nov 20/08 entry). US Navy.

P-8i concept
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Dec 5/08: India contract. The Indian government announces that it has signed a $2.1 billion deal with Boeing for 8 maritime patrol aircraft in “P-8i” configuration. The $2.1 billion figure is the commonly reported total at the moment; DID cautions readers that exact dollar figures for Indian contracts often take some time to clarify. The contract reportedly includes lifetime maintenance support, and an option for another 8 aircraft. Indian Navy spokesman Commander Nirad Sinha:

“Though we have signed a deal, final clearance is still required from a U.S. authority… The first plane delivery is four years from the final contract signing, so I think it should come in 2013.”

Firm industrial agreements in India and decisions regarding indigenous Indian technologies for the P-8i are expected to follow, and Boeing’s release commits to delivering the 8th aircraft by 2015.

This order makes India the P-8 program’s lead export customer, and 2nd international participant. Australia has joined the program and given the P-8A what’s known as “first pass approval,” but any contract must wait for second pass approval from the government. See: Boeing | India Defence | CNN Money.

8 for India

Dec 29/08: India. The P-8I deal for India appears to be moving closer. India Defence reports that “virtually all the steps” required for the contract to be signed, including tabling of it in the Cabinet Committee on Security for approval, are complete. Reports place the deal at Rs 8,500 crore (about $1.7 billion) for 8 jets, with first delivery coming within 4 years and all deliveries by 2015. India currently flies 8 Tu-142s. India Defence | StrategyPage.

Dec 22/08: Bloomberg News reports that an Oct 31/08 budget memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England approved shifting away as much as $940 million from the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft program, in order to complete payment for the 3rd DDG-1000 destroyer that Congress partially funded in FY 2009. The Navy proposed getting 2 aircraft instead of 6 in the initial production phases.

Meanwhile, the US Navy faces significant challenges keeping the existing fleet of P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft in the air. Almost 1/4 of this aging fleet has been grounded due to safety concerns, and the Navy is forced to retire some aircraft every year. Even though they are in greater demand than ever over key sea lanes, and in overland surveillance roles on the front lines. Early introduction of the P-8A has been touted as critical to maintaining these capabilities, and avoiding both near-term and long-term shortfalls.

Nov 20/08: Basing. The US Navy releases environmental impact statements (EIS), and prepares to go ahead with its initial basing plan for the P-8A fleet. Under a “preferred” basing plan, 84 Poseidons would replace 120 of the older P-3C Orions. Their deployment would involve: 5 squadrons of 6 planes each at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL (30); another 4 squadrons at NAS Whidbey Island, WA (24); and 3 squadrons in Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe, Hawaii (18).

The goal would be to begin introducing the planes in 2012, and finish by 2019. The Navy still must issue a “record of decision” for the Poseidon plan.

NAS Brunswick was not considered as a potential home base because all P-3 aircraft and supporting functions are being transferred to NAS Jacksonville per the BRAC 2005 recommendations. The Navy did consider Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu as an alternative Hawaii site, but concluded there wasn’t enough land available at Hickam AFB to support them. US Navy P-8A EIS site | Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Seattle Times | Seattle Times re: Hawaii | Honolulu Advertiser, incl. other Kaneohe changes.

Nov 6/08: Engine cert. CFM International’s announces that its CFM56-7B27A/3 engine model has been jointly certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency for the U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon, paving the way for flight tests in 2009 and initial operational capability in 2013. Each engine is rated at 27,300 pounds (121 kN) takeoff thrust, and the type has been subjected to extreme heat and icing conditions over extended periods of time as part of its certification.

CFM International (CFM) is a 50/50 joint company between Snecma (SAFRAN Group) and General Electric Company. The CFM56-7B family is very widely used in commercial aviation and powers other 737 military derivatives like the Boeing 737 AEW&C “Wedgetail” and the US military’s C-40 transport aircraft. CFM release.

Nov 2/08: Strike over. Boeing’s strike formally ends, after an agreement is reached between Boeing and the IAM.

FY 2008

US orders 1st planes; Live-fire testing; Boeing strike creates disruption; Indian interest becomes serious. P-8A: oncoming
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Sept 11/08: India. The Times of India reports on the Harpoon missile sale as just one of several pending buys, and says that:

“…This [Harpoon sale] comes even as India’s biggest-ever defence deal with US – the one to buy eight Boeing P-8i long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft for Rs 8,500 crore – has been sent for final clearance to the Cabinet Committee on Security after finalisation of commercial negotiations.”

Sept 10/08: Test plane order. Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $278 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-04-C-3146), exercising an option for 2 P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) aircraft with mission systems, in support of the System Development and Demonstration Phase of the MMA. This order covers 2 of the 3 test aircraft options included in the original SDD agreement.

Work will be performed in Seattle, WA (90%), and Wichita, KS (10%) once the strike ends, and is expected to be complete in September 2011.

1st aircraft ordered

Sept 9/08: India’s Harpoons. India looks to buy 20 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles and other items from Boeing, as part of a $170 million official request announced by the US DSCA. See: “India Requests Harpoon II Missiles” for more details.

This is the air-launched version of the Harpoon, but that missile – and especially its GPS-capable version – is not currently integrated with any of the aircraft in India’s current inventory. India also has its Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, and an air-launched version is currently in development and testing. A Harpoon buy appears to make little sense, except that P-8A aircraft could carry them without requiring an expensive integration project. Something that is not true for India’s existing Russian or French missiles. Which adds fuel to the rumors that a P-8 deal is close.

As it happens, the eventual July 2010 contract will equip India’s 10 Jaguar IM fighters in No.6 Squadron. The P-8i’s missiles have yet to be determined, and will be a separate Foreign Military sale.

India request – missiles

Sept 6/08: Strike! A strike begins at Boeing, shutting down production for any P-8 aircraft that are still in factory assembly. The potential exists for a long and damaging strike at Boeing; DID’s “Boeing Strike Poised to Disrupt Deliveries” covers the key issues and potential impacts.

Aug 12/08: Industrial. Boeing announces that the first P-8A Poseidon for the U.S. Navy has moved from factory assembly to systems integration and pre-flight work. Boeing IDS will now focus on calibrating the flight-test instrumentation on board the aircraft, before moving it to Boeing Field in Seattle early in 2009 for systems integration and additional testing.

Aug 10/08: India. Sindh Today reports that India ‘s contract negotiating committee has completed its report on price negotiations with Boeing, after Boeing won the technical bid and the trials of the product. Negotiations were reportedly stuck due to the end-user agreement, under which Boeing can conduct physical inspections of the aircraft as and when it wants to check if the product is being used for the purpose it has been acquired. This is linked to requirements under American ITAR laws, which regulate sales of military equipment whether they are conducted as FMS or direct commercial sales. India’s defence ministry reportedly separated that set of negotiations from the deal itself, knowing that a signed deal will be significantly harder to cancel, on either side.

The contract will reportedly be a direct commercial agreement between Boeing and the Indian Navy, rather than an announced Foreign Military Sale. The cost is reportedly around $2.2 billion, and that deal will now go to the defence acquisition committee (DAC) and then to the cabinet committee on security (CCS) for approval.

Aug 4/08: LRIP intent. NAVAIR discloses in a FebBizOpps notice that it expects to order 10 P-8A aircraft in fiscal 2010, followed by 12 in FY 2011 and 14 in FY 2012. That would make up the entire set of 36 during Low Rate Initial Production. LRIP is traditionally more expensive than full-rate production, and almost $6.3 billion is budgeted for that phase.

Boeing had said in 2004 that it could accelerate production and move up the first in-service unit by up to a year, from FY 2013 to FY 2012. Now, Flight International reports that “An airframe fatigue crisis facing the Lockheed P-3 Orion fleet has recently forced NAVAIR to publicly consider accepting Boeing’s offer…”

The 10 aircraft projected for FY 2010 would need to receive advance funding for long-lead items in the FY 2009 budget, and should be deliverable by 2012 to stand up one squadron. At the moment, 5 developmental prototypes are in various stages of assembly, with first flight in Q4 2009. As one can see, the timeline for accelerated production hinges strongly on the avoidance of any major engineering or testing issues that delay the P-8A’s progress.

May 20/08: Industrial. P-8 production begins using moving assembly line techniques, which were pioneered with other aircraft. The P-8s will be positioned in a straight-line configuration on the factory floor and stay at a production station for a period of time before advancing to the next station. Standard processes, visual control systems and point-of-use staging are in place, allowing work to flow continuously and quickly. Boeing release.

May 1/08: Industrial. Boeing joins the wing assembly and fuselage of the first P-8A Poseidon in Renton, WA. The next major P-8A assembly milestone will be engine installation this summer. Boeing’s release says that the team remains on track for delivery of the first test aircraft to the Navy in 2009.

April 20/08: India. India’s NDTV reports that:

“India is set to sign a $2.2 billion deal, its biggest with the US, for eight long-range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft, even as the Indian Navy chief opposed ”intrusiveness” in the use of military hardware the country purchases.

Negotiations for the purchase of the Boeing-P8I LRMR aircraft are in the final stages and are likely to be wrapped up during Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta’s visit to the US that began Sunday [DID: That did not happen]. The agreement for the purchase under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route will be signed between the two governments in New Delhi later this year, official sources said.”

March 18/08: MX-20 picked. Boeing picks L-3 Communications Wescam to supply its MX-20HD EO/IR multi-spectral sensor turrets as the P-8A’s digital electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) imaging sensors. L-3 Wescam’s turrets use Enhanced Range Local Area Processing (ELAP) technology to produce real-time image enhancement for EO Day, EO Night & IR video that extends their surveillance range, clarifies the picture, and offers maximum haze penetration.

Deliveries are scheduled to begin in mid-2008. Wescam turrets also serve on Britain’s updated Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft. L-3 Wescam release.

Dec 11/07: Sub-contractors. Team Boeing and the US Navy celebrate the start of P-8A fuselage production at Spirit AeroSystems’ Wichita, KS facility, loading the first P-8A fuselage component into a holding fixture on the factory floor. The fuselage assemblies eventually will come together on Spirit’s existing Next-Generation 737 production line. In early 2008, Spirit will ship the first P-8A fuselage to Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Renton, WA for wing assemblies and systems integration. NAVAIR release | Boeing release.

Oct 22/07: Just shoot me. Boeing announces that its P-8A Poseidon team completed the program’s 200th live-fire shot in September 2007, at the U.S. Navy’s Weapons Survivability Laboratory in China Lake, CA. During testing, live ordnance is fired into simulated aircraft sections to replicate a potential threat environment. Dry bays are locations adjacent to fuel that also may contain electrical and hydraulic lines, as well as environmental control systems or engine bleed-air lines. The systems being designed and developed will ensure that dry bay fires are automatically detected and suppressed.

P-8A fire suppression testing began in April 2005, and will continue through 2009. Full-scale live-fire testing is slated for 2012 using the P-8A static test aircraft. Boeing release.

FY 2007

Nose radar becomes APY-10; Curtain lifted on larger LSRS radar; CDR goes well; Australian approval, and Indian interest. P-8 production
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Aug 9/07: Sub-contractors. Boeing announces that Spirit AeroSystems has joined its P-8A Poseidon industry team. Spirit will build the 737 aircraft’s fuselage and airframe tail sections and struts in Wichita, KS. After completion, Spirit will ship the components to Boeing facilities in Renton, WA for final assembly and introduction of mission-specific systems. Spirit is also part of Boeing’s KC-767 team, and works with Boeing as a partner to produce many of its civilian aircraft.

July 20/07: Australia. Australia grants first pass approval for Phase 2 of its AIR 7000 program, which is the manned aircraft portion. First pass approval allows Australia’s Department of Defence to commence formal negotiations with the United States Navy join the P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) program; Phase 2 is currently estimated at A$ 4 billion (currently about USD$ 3.52 billion). Australian DoD release.

AIR 7000, Phase 1 involves a Multi-mission Unmanned Aerial System to accompany/ supplement the manned Phase 2 aircraft. Australia gave First Pass Approval to that segment in May 2006, and a final decision and contract regarding participation in the USA’s BAMS program is expected by the end of 2007. These 2 components will replace Australia’s AP-3C Orion aircraft, which are scheduled for retirement in 2018 after over 30 years of service.

July 3/07: India. Defense News reports that Indian officials will be studying Boeing’s P-8A and Airbus A319 aircraft in France, Germany, Spain and the United States as they prepare for a decision re: their maritime patrol aircraft competition.

Don’t get too excited yet; bids were submitted back in April 2006, but that’s only the very beginning. Indian officials will be sending preliminary evaluations go to the MoD by September 2007, which will lead to a short list of bidders. A preliminary decision and price negotiations will begin “within two years,” i.e. by mid-2009. Past experience has demonstrated that such price negotiations can take years themselves – or even sink deals entirely, something that has happened repeatedly during India’s attempts to purchase second-hand Mirage 2000 fighters.

June 18/07: Sub-contractors. United Technologies subsidiary Hamilton Sundstrand, announces that its Kidde Aerospace & Defense unit has been selected to supply Dry Bay Fire Protection Systems for the Boeing P-8A. The non-halon Dry Bay Fire Protection System will detect and suppress fires and explosions in the aircraft’s compartments in case flammable fluids leak in due to ballistic damage or system faults. The potential program value could exceed $100 million for both domestic and international sales over the life of the program.

Hamilton Sundstrand had previously been selected to supply the electric power generating system, power distribution and cooling systems on the P-8A. Hamilton Sundstrand release.

June 15/07: Perfect CDR. The P-8A Poseidon successfully completes its Critical Design Review (CDR) at Boeing facilities in Seattle, WA, without a single request for action. A CDR without a single request for action is a fairly rare event, and the July 3/07 NAVAIR release explicitly complimented Boeing’s team on their achievement.

The program will seek approval in a summer 2007 program readiness review to build 2 test aircraft before the next milestone decision to enter full-rate production of the Poseidon. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition Dr. Delores Etter would be the approving executive. NAVAIR release.

CDR

May 17/07: LSRS. Ares blog at Aviation Week Reveals the Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) that equips a few P-3Cs, and will equip the P-8A.

Bill Sweetman discusses the radar, explains the likely link to a design modification made by Boeing early in the program, and notes the possible convergence of the Navy’s P-8A’s mission with the overland surveillance job done by the USAF’s E-8C JSTARS – though NATO’s Airbus 321-based AGS, with its own UAV companion, would appear to be an even closer comparison.

March 29/07: Infrastructure. Sauer, Inc. in Jacksonville, FL received $14.7 million for task #0001 under previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N62477-04-D-0036) for the Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) Test Facilities supporting the MMA Program at Patuxent River, MD. Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD, and is expected to be complete March 2009. This contract was competitively procured, with 2 proposals received by The Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Washington, DC.

Jan 9/07: P-8A MMA formally given the designation “Poseidon”.

June 28/06: Infrastructure. John C. Grimberg Co. Inc. in Rockville, MD won a $6.1 million for firm-fixed-price task order 0009 under a previously awarded indefinite-quantity, multiple-award construction contract. The funds cover design and construction of P-8 aircraft test facilities at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. It is the first of two projects that together will support the maintenance testing and instrumentation needs of the P-8 MMA program. This phase will build a new 2-story P-8 MMA test complex building on a wooded site adjacent to Building 1463 and across the street from Hangar 305. The building will include engineering offices, maintenance and telecommunications rooms. Work is expected to be completed by July 2007.

The basic contract was competitively procured via the NAVFAC e-solicitation website, with 17 proposals received and an award made on July 22, 2004. The total contract amount is not to exceed $500 million over the base period and 4 option years, and the 7 approved contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the existing contract. Two proposals were received for this task order by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Washington, DC.

June 6/06:Raytheon P-8A MMA Radar Receives New AN/APY-10 Nomenclature.” As this August 24 release notes, key portions were also delivered to Boeing early for integration into the P-8A.

“APY-10”

FY 2002 – 2006

Competition contracts, but Boeing’s 737 wins; Wing design changes; PDR; Milestone B. Weapon separation
wind tunnel tests
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Feb 23/06: Testing. Boeing announces the completion of P-8A weapons separation wind tunnel tests at the Arnold Air Force Base Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma, TN. These help to ensure that explosives-filled weapons won’t blow up the aircraft when dropped. See release.

Nov 21/05: See DID’s article “Boeing Wins $24M for P-8A & BAMS-Related Software Development

Nov 9/05: PDR. Boeing announces a successful P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) program Preliminary Design Review. During the 5-day session, Navy representatives reviewed the P-8A’s system architecture and initial design to ensure the Boeing-led industry team is on target to meet program performance requirements and can proceed to detailed design. Boeing adds that the integrated team must complete 9 action items before the PDR can be considered officially “closed” or complete.

The next major program milestone will be a Critical Design Review, scheduled for 2007. See Boeing release.

PDR

June 2/05: Boeing announces an altered P-8A wing design to improve low-level performance, changing the wing extension from a blended winglet to a raked or backswept wingtip. See DID coverage.

Wing change

April 5-7/05: SFR. The U.S. Navy’s P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) program successfully completes its System Functional Review (SFR), receiving approval from the technical review board (TRB) to proceed toward the design phase – effectively, Milestone B. The review board assessed system requirements and functional performance to determine that all requirements and performance allocations are defined and consistent with cost, schedule and risk constraints.

Stu Young, chairman of the SFR board and technical director for the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems division, said “Their progress since award is remarkable.” The next step, a Preliminary Design Review, is scheduled for September 2005. See Boeing release.

SFR

April 18/05: Boeing’s team announces a competition for fire-suppression systems in the P-8’s dry bays adjacent to fuel tanks containing electrical and hydraulic lines, environmental control systems, or engine bleed air lines.

The testing program involves two “iron bird” test fixtures. A gun will fire an explosive projectile to ignite a fire in the bay, while inflicting only moderate damage to the test fixture. Preliminary tests are scheduled for April-May 2005. Development and verification testing of the selected systems will continue through 2009. Full-scale live-fire testing is scheduled for 2012 using the P-8A static test aircraft. There’s more in the full Boeing release.

April 13/05: Boeing’s P-8 team announces the completion of 1,300 hours of high-speed wind-tunnel testing a full week ahead of schedule on March 18, 2005. The team conducted the tests at the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffet Field, CA, using a 6.2 percent scale model in the 11-ft. transonic wind tunnel. Previous low-speed wind tunnel tests in Boeing’s 20 x 20 ft. subsonic wind tunnel facility in Philadelphia, PA looked at a variety of unique features, in addition to the basic stability of the aircraft with weapons bay door open, or flaps down, or landing gear down to simulate takeoff and landing conditions.

Preliminary analysis of test data revealed no major surprises or obvious problems, and the team took measures to improve test productivity that saved 200 hours of the testing time. See Boeing high-speed release | low speed release.

Sept 30/04: The Boeing Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) program successfully passes an in-depth, 3-day System Requirements Review (SRR) by the U.S. Navy. See Boeing release.

June 14/04: Boeing! Boeing’s team receives a $3.89 billion contract to build the Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA). The award goes to Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, CA as a cost-plus-award-fee contract for the System Development and Demonstration of the Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft. The team will produce 7 test aircraft during the program’s System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase.

Work will be performed in Long Beach, CA (91%); Baltimore, MD (4%); McKinney, TX (2.5%); Grand Rapids, MI (1.25%); and Cincinnati, OH (1.25%), and is expected to be complete in June 2012. This contract was competitively procured under a request for proposals, with 2 proposals solicited [DID: Boeing & Lockheed) and 2 offers received by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-04-C-3146).

Boeing states that the P-8 MMA program will employ about 1,600 people at IDS facilities in St. Louis, MO; Seattle, WA; and Patuxent River, MD. See also Boeing release.

Boeing wins SDD

Nov 13/03: Boeing Announces Formation of MMA Industry Team.

Feb 20/03: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA receives a $20.5 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price, multiple award contract (N00019-02-C-3253) to conduct phase II of the multi-mission maritime aircraft component advanced development effort. Work will be performed in Marietta and is to be completed in May 2004. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. Lockheed Martin release.

Feb 6/03: Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach, CA receives a $20.5 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price, multiple-award contract (N00019-02-C-3249) for Phase II of the Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft Program’s Component Advanced Development effort. During CAD Phase II, Boeing will develop and demonstrate key features of the mission system including systems architecture, software, displays and sensors, along with additional air vehicle performance analysis. The Navy plans to award a single contract for MMA System Development and Demonstration, or SDD, in early 2004.

Work will be performed in Puget Sound, WA (54%) and Long Beach, CA (46%), and is to be complete in May 2004. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity. Boeing.

Phase II development competition

Sept 12/02: Boeing announces that they have received one of two contracts for Component Advanced Development, or CAD, of the Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft, or MMA program. The contract is valued at almost $7 million.

During CAD Phase I, contractors are expected to validate risk mitigations for each concept via modeling and simulation; define and select system architecture; and refine system requirements, validate the operational requirements document, seek source selection for system development and demonstration, and develop milestone-B acquisition documentation. Once this five-month effort is complete, the Navy will choose two or three preferred concepts to be carried forward into CAD Phase II. These concepts will then be further refined and will form the basis of competitive proposals for a single contract award for MMA System Development and Demonstration (SDD), expected in early 2004. See Boeing release.

Sept 12/02: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. announces a $7 million contract for Phase I of the U.S. Navy’s Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) Component Advanced Development (CAD) program.

In its release, Lockheed touts a rigorous system engineering and program management processes and tools to quantify and reduce system risks and to develop detailed plans and schedules for future phases of the program; “these include the successful risk-management approach developed during the JSF concept demonstration program. “In addition, full-scale fatigue test data developed during the P-3 Service Life Assessment program will directly benefit the MMA platform, further reducing program risk… Lockheed Martin’s proposed integrated support system approach is a blend of commercial best practices and proven technologies leveraged from military programs, including the S-3 Prime Vendor Support (PVS) and the F-117 Total System Performance Responsibility programs. S-3 PVS has reduced overall depot-level scheduled maintenance costs by nearly 50 percent, increased aircraft availability by 25 percent and reduced scheduled maintenance tasks by 57 percent.”

Phase I development competition

Appendix A: India’s Interest & Broader Export Potential TU-142M “Bear”

The P-8 replaces the P-3 Orion aircraft currently in service with 15 countries. The question is, will that be enough to ensure market success?

The Indian Navy’s interest in joining the P-8 program was communicated in 2005, and some Indian Navy sources believed that a Air India’s decision to spend $6 billion on 50 Boeing civil jets would incline Boeing toward a favorable response. Whether or not that purchase was a factor, it’s a matter of record that Boeing submitted a bid involving 8 737-derived P-8 aircraft for India’s Maritime Patrol Aircraft competition – and won.

The P-8A matches the operational profile currently assigned to the Indian Navy’s Russian-made Tupolev-142 “Bear” and Ilyushin-38 “May” long-range reconnaissance, maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. It faced strong competition, and its 2015 delivery schedule was a potential issue the bid; but other factors were also at work, and the plane won.

Discussions concerning the P-8 came in the wake a 2005 visit to India by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, in which the USA expressed its desire to make improvements in their strategic relationship. Given the two nations’ shared interest in an arc that stretches from the Staits of Malacca to the coast of East Africa, many analysts see naval cooperation as the likely linchpin of their future military relationship. Washington’s initial offer of at least 12 P-3C Orions would have matched India’s requirements profile immediately, but participation in the P-8A offered an aircraft with superior performance in all respects, a much longer operational lifespan, plus accompanying strategic, industrial, and prestige benefits. Some analysts considered the request a sort of test by India of its long-term importance to the USA. If so, it appears that the relationship has passed the test.

What about sales beyond India?

P-3/ CP-140 Aurora
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By mid-2005, age had shrunk the global P-3 fleet to something on the order of 225 P-3 type aircraft flying on behalf of 15 countries. Even so, this represents a substantial market. The question is, who will claim it?

Some nations who fly the P-3 already have a natural interest in the P-8, while others like India recognize its obvious usefulness against both the diesel submarine threat and a variety of threats related to the war on terrorism, anti-drug efforts, et. al. As such, the market opportunity for the MMA could be quite substantial. A 2004 story in Aviation Week said that Boeing believes there are opportunities to sell 100 to 150 P-8s abroad.

Subsequent developments have cast doubt on that forecast.

At the end of 2004, Australia, Canada, and Italy were named by the U.S. government as being the most likely partners in the development of the P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA). Each potential international partner would be expected to contribute approximately $300 million toward the development of the P-8A. The U.S. also approached other allies but according to eDefense they were “less responsive,” raising the prospect of a competing European system at some future date based on an Airbus airframe – or even a more complete bifurcation of the maritime surveillance market.

The US Navy entered formal talks with Australia, Canada, and Italy, but nobody opted in. Australia has since taken strong steps toward buying P-8As, but Canada has made no commitments of any kind, and Italy has since taken steps to purchase ATR twin-turboprop maritime patrol aircraft instead.

CN-235MP Persuader
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This lack of interest has to concern Boeing, because the P-3’s successor will not be the only game in town. The EU’s focus on developing a rival defense industry, and European states’ reduced need to patrol long sea lanes in the absence of a global Soviet threat, are creating a number of smaller competitors. These include aircraft like the French Falcon Surmar, and the EADS/CASA CN-235MP Persuader already ordered by Spain, Indonesia, Ireland, Turkey, UAE, and the US Coast Guard. Italy is exporting ATR-42MP turboprops and flying them in their Coast Guard, while building larger versions based on the popular ATR-72 for customers like Turkey. Then there are new entrants like Brazil, whose P-99 MPA is based on their successful ERJ-145 regional jet.

During the P-3’s era, long over-water patrols of the vital Atlantic sea lanes were an absolute necessity for all NATO members, lest Soviet submarines destroy all hope of reinforcements from America. With the demise of the Soviet Union, that need is gone. European maritime surveillance and attack requirements have shrunk sharply, and many countries see the P-8’s range and endurance parameters as unnecessary.

As a result, the global maritime patrol category appears to be bifurcating into a broad class of nations who buy smaller and less capable options based on passenger/utility turboprops, business jets, or even long-endurance UAVs, and an elite few with more extensive requirements who can and will buy aircraft in the P-8A’s class.

The USA still faces strategic naval competitors, and its aircraft must still cover long sea lanes. This geographic need is shared to varying degrees by a few other nations like Australia, Britain, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Denmark, France, India, Japan, Oman, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, and the UAE. France (ATL3, Falcon 50 Surmar bizjet derivative) and Japan (P-X jet) each have their own programs, and neither Russia nor China are eligible customers for American or European aircraft. Australia, India, and the USA are already on board with the P-8A. Which countries join them likely boils down to how many of the remaining countries (Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, plus rich “prestige buyers” in the Middle East), eventually choose to include aircraft with the P-8’s range, equipment, and performance.

Boeing is looking to cover its bases via a Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) partnership with Canada’s Bombardier and Field Aviation. The Challenger 605 large business jet’s base range of 4,000 nmi/ 7,408 km is better than the P-8’s base 737-800 airframe’s, its operating costs will be lower than a 737’s, and its wide cabin is well suited to special mission crews and equipment. The MSA expected to use the P-8’s core mission system, but its size will preclude use of some P-8 sensors, and it won’t be armed. Field Aviation is modifying a Bombardier Challenger 604 jet, and expects to hand it over for initial testing and presentation to potential customers in 2014.

Additional Readings & Sources Background: P-8 Aircraft

Background: P-8 Components & Complementors

  • DID – Kicking it Up a Notch: Poseidon’s Unmanned MQ-4C BAMS Companion.

  • DID – Global Hawk UAV Prepares for Maritime Role (updated). These efforts are relevant to BAMS.

  • Raytheon – AN/APY-10. Redesignated, after significant modification from the P-3’s AN/APS-137 radar. India’s APY-10 variant adds air-to-air capability.

  • Flightglobal – US Navy surveillance system developed to rival Northrop Grumman’s JSTARS. They’re discussing the AN/APS-149 LSRS (Littoral Surveillance Radar System), which doesn’t get much public discussion otherwise. August 2007 article.

  • L-3 Wescam – MX-20. The P-8’s electro-optical surveillance and targeting turret.

  • DID – Listening Sticks: US Navy Sonobuoy Contracts. Explains the various types.

  • Linux Sys-Con (Aug 1/06) – Boeing Selects Wind River Carrier Grade Linux For P-8A MMA System.

  • Stork (Nov 18/05) – Stork Aerospace selected by Boeing for development and management of the P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) wiring [link offline]. Stork has a world-class specialty in this area, and are doing the wiring for the F-35 fighter as well. The package includes development of all P-8A Mission System wire bundles, fiber optics, coax and data bus wiring systems and delivery of systems for first 3 developmental test aircraft, development laboratories and four follow-on optional operational test aircraft. The contract is currently valued at approximately $12 million during a 4 year period.

  • Seapower (June 2005) – Boeing Eyes High Flying Torpedo.. The HAAWC Mk54 lightweight torpedo would be launched from the P-8A Multimission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) at an altitude of 30,000 feet and glide seven to 10 minutes to the water entry point, where it would shed its wings and activate a parachute to lower the torpedo into the water. This avoids the need to make a time-consuming descent from their surveillance altitudes of 30,000 feet to a release altitude of 300-1,000 feet, which saves wear on the wings. Is it also an implicit admission that the 737 is not particularly well suited to long stints at low altitudes?

  • Avionics Magazine (Sept 1/04) – B737 Joins the Navy. Excellent treatment of the P-8A’s electronics.

Background: Multimission Maritime Aircraft Program

As always, DID relies heavily on Pentagon budget documents for its charts, etc.

Market & Competitors

  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics [AIAA] Aerospace America Magazine, via WayBack (April 2002) – Maritime patrol market: Escaping the doldrums. By the Teal Group, an aerospace industry analyst firm. Very good at outlining the contours of the P-8’s market, as well as some of the turboprop vs. jet trade-offs.

Prop-Driven

Jets

  • CASR – Aurora Alternatives – EADS MPA320 / MPA319. The A319 MPA doesn’t have many other sources. This article explains why – it was originally an A320 MPA, but Spain and Italy chose cheaper alternatives. Changes were made, and India was the launch customer target for the “MPA319-CJ”, but Boeing’s P-8i won instead and that may be the end of the Airbus platform. See also Flight International’s “EADS proposes maritime variant of Airbus A319 with bomb bay doors for India.”

  • DID FOCUS Article – Nimrod Was Actually a Good Hunter: Upgrading Britain’s Fleet (updated). Provides an interesting basis of comparison to the P-8A program. Like the P-8 Poseidon, the Nimrod is also a converted passenger jet – albeit one of 1950s vintage design. That proved to be a problem, and the program and fleet were eventually scrapped, without replacement.

  • DID – Japan’s P-X Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Our readers supplied some answers re: Japan’s absence from the list of P-8 partners.

  • CASR – Bombardier Challenger 604 MMA. “Since 2003, Challenger 604 Multi-Mission Aircraft of the Royal Danish Air Force (Flyvevabnet) have been flying sovereignty/fisheries enforcement patrols around Greenland and the Faroe Islands. These Canadian-made aircraft are Bombardier Challenger 604 bizjets equipped with quick-change interiors for different roles including VIP transport, medevac, maritime surveillance (for which search radar is fitted), fisheries / EEZ protection, ice reconnaissance, SAR, and environmental protection…”

  • Airliners.net – Dassault Falcon 50. “The Surmar is a maritime patrol version of the [Falcon 50EX] ordered by the French navy (fitted with a FLIR and search radar).” See also Dassault’s Multi-Mission Falcon page.

Battlefield Surveillance

  • Britain’s RAF – Sentinel R1. A modified Bombardier Global Express long-range business jet.

News & Views

Categories: News

KF-X Fighter: Korea’s Future Homegrown Jet

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 23:30
KODEF ’11 slide
(click to view full)

South Korea has been thinking seriously about designing its own fighter jet since 2008. The ROK defense sector has made impressive progress, and has become a notable exporter of aerospace, land, and naval equipment. The idea of a plane that helps advance their aerospace industry, while making it easy to add new Korean-designed weapons, is very appealing. On the flip side, a new jet fighter is a massive endeavor at the best of times, and wildly unrealistic technical expectations didn’t help the project. KF-X has progressed in fits and starts, and became a multinational program when Indonesia joined in June 2010. As of March 2013, however, South Korea has decided to put the KF-X program on hold for 18 months, while the government and Parliament decide whether it’s worth continuing.

Indonesia has reportedly contributed IDR 1.6 trillion since they joined in July 2010 – but that’s just $165 million of the DAPA’s estimated WON 6 billion (about $5.5 billion) development cost, and there’s good reason to believe that even this development budget is too low. This article discusses the KFX/IFX fighter’s proposed designs and features, and chronicles the project’s progress and setbacks since 2008…

Changing Stories: The “F-33/ Boramae” KF-X Fighter Unofficial KF-X vid
click for video

Unrealistic early visions of an F-35 class stealth aircraft developed on the cheap produced some attention-getting models, but they appear to have given way to the idea of a fighter with slightly better kinematic performance than an F-16C/D Block 50, along with more advanced electronics that include a made-in-Korea AESA radar, the ability to carry a range of new South Korean weapons under development, and a better radar signature. The Jakarta Globe adds that the plane is eventually slated to get the designation F-33.

The project goes ahead, the 1st step will involve picking a foreign development partner, and the next step will involve choosing between 1 of 2 competing designs. The C103 design’s conventional fighter layout would look somewhat like the F-35, while the C203 design follows the European approach and uses forward canards in a stealth-shaped airframe. It’s likely that the choice of their foreign development partner will determine the design choice pursued.

Either aircraft would be a twin-engine fighter weighing around 10.4 tonnes, with stealth shaping. In order to keep ambitions within the bounds of realism, KFX Bock 1 fighters would only have to meet the radar cross-section of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or Eurofighter Typhoon. Sources have used figures of 0.1 – 1.0 square meters.

Note that even this specification amounts to developing a plane similar to or more advanced than the JAS-39E/F Gripen, from a lower technological base, with less international help on key components, all for less development money than a more experienced firm needed to spend. South Korea’s own KIDA takes a similar view, questioning the country’s technical readiness for something this complicated, and noting an overall cost per aircraft that’s twice as much as similar imported fighters.

KFX Block 2 would add internal weapon bays. Present plans call for Block 1 would be compatible with the bays, and hence upgradeable to Block 2 status, but Block 1 planes wouldn’t begin with internal bays. The fighter’s size and twin-engine design offer added space compared to a plan like the Gripen, but this feature will still be a notable design challenge. Additional tolerance and coating improvements are envisioned to reduce stealth to the level of an F-117: about 0.025 square meters.

KFX Block 3 would aim for further stealth improvements to the level of the B-2 bomber or F-35.

No timeline has been discussed for Block 2 and Block 3 improvements. At this stage of the program, any dates given would be wildly unreliable anyway.

KF-X: Program & Prospects T-50 line
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The KF-X project remains a “paper airplane,” without even a prototype under construction. The program was reportedly postponed until April 2011 due to financial and technological difficulties, and now a second postponement appears to extend to June 2014. If South Korea elects to proceed at all. The ROK Agency for Defense Development says that if full-scale development begins in October 2014, the 1st KF-X Block 1 prototype flight wouldn’t take place until September 2020. Based on the history of other programs, the new plane would be hard pressed to enter service before 2025.

Indonesia is currently the only KF-X foreign development partner, with 20% of the project. The project is sometimes referred to as “IFX” (Indonesia Fighter eXperimental) in that country, whose huge archipelago leads them to value range. That could create a problem if the KF-X design shrinks, in order to present a lower cost profile.

Turkey is a big defense customer for South Korea, and discussions have been held concerning KF-X, but Turkey wanted more control over the project than a 20% share, and no agreement has been forthcoming. The TuAF is already committed to buying about 100 F-35As to replace its F-4 Phantoms, and many of its F-16s as well. They’re also investigating the idea of designing their own fighter, and have enlisted Sweden’s Saab to assist (vid. March 20/13 entry).

In the interim, KAI’s FA-50 is emerging as a low-end fighter to replace existing ROKAF F-5s and F-4s, and South Korea is scheduled to have its F-X-3 competition decided before the KF-X resumes. That could leave them with a high-end fleet plan of 80-100 stealth-enhanced F-15SE Strike Eagles, split between new buys and upgrades. It’s fair to ask where an expensive KF-X program would fit in that mix, especially when even on-budget performance of WON 14 billion for development and production could buy and equip over 110 more F-15SEs, instead of 130-150 “F-33s”.

ROK Flag

Moreover, if KF-X was developed, how big would the 2025 – 2040 export market really be? The Teal Group’s Richard Aboulafia is right that “The world fighter market needs a modern, F-16-class mid-market fighter.” With that said, even in a hypothetical market where F-16, F/A-18 family, Eurofighter, and Rafale production lines had all shut down, that would still leave South Korea competing for mid-tier purchases against China’s J-10, J-11, and “J-31”, Russia’s SU-35 and possibly its MiG-35, and Sweden’s JAS-39E/F.

On the other hand, KAI needs development work after the FA-50 is done. As one 2009 article asked, how far can industrial nationalism go? The next 18 months will offer an answer to that question.

Contracts & Key Events 2014-2016

K-FX C-501: no.
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May 27/16: General Electric is to provide its F414-GE-400 engines for South Korea’s KF-X fighter after beating a European consortium offering the Eurojet EJ2000. The deal is estimated to be worth up to $3.5 billion, and contracts are expected to be finalized and signed in June. Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KIA), who is developing the jet alongside Lockheed Martin, plans to develop and produce 170 twin-engined jets initially, with 50 destined for export to Indonesia.

April 21/16: South Korea looks set to decide on which engine provider will be selected for its KAI KF-X fighter as early as the end of the month. Suppliers looking to win the contract are European firm Eurojet Turbo GmbH and the US’s General Electric. Seoul is seeking to locally produce 120 twin-engine combat jets under the KF-X program that is estimated to cost some $16 billion. Deployment of the new planes is hoped to start in mid-2020 to replace its aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s.

January 25/16: South Korea’s KF-X fighter program has kicked off as officials from KAI, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), Lockheed Martin, the Indonesian Defense Ministry and PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) met in Sacheon, South Korea for the first time. Six prototypes of the fighter will be produced by 2021 with completion of the development due for 2026. 120 fighters will be produced by 2032 to replace the F-4 and F-5 jets in service. Collaboration in the program sees Lockheed Martin provide twenty-one key technologies used in the US F-35 fighter and the government of Indonesia is to provide $1.4 billion toward research and development in the project. Seoul will spend $7.1 billion in the project’s development.

December 28/15: South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) is set to sign a development contract with Korea Aerospace Industries for the continued production of the indigenous KF-X fighter. The news follows the granting by the US government for the transfer of 21 technologies used in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 which had been the subject of much wrangling over the last number of weeks. Washington had denied the transfer of four key technologies back in April citing security concerns. The contract will see the production of six prototypes by 2025 with an expected 120 jets produced by 2032.

December 7/15: South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has been accompanied by high level diplomats to discuss the KF-X fighter program with Lockheed Martin. The trip to the US follows the visit by Lockheed staff to Seoul last month to discuss the transfer of 21 technologies from their F-35 fighter jet. The inclusion of diplomats shows that Korea is looking to bolster their bargaining power amid the refusal to allow the transfer of four key technologies by the US government. DAPA claimed that they are capable of developing these four key technologies, but failure to secure the remaining 21 would be of serious consequence to the development of Korea’s own indigenous fighter.

November 19/15: Lockheed Martin staff are visiting South Korea this week to further discuss the transfer of technologies in relation to the development of the $6.9 billion KF-X fighter program. The talks come following a recent refusal by the US to allow the transfer of the four core technologies necessary for the program which could put the future of its development in jeopardy. Despite this, both Lockheed and the South Korean government are confident that the transfer of another 21 technologies will go ahead as planned with possibly some minor alterations to the technologies initially listed. The State Department however did approve the sale of 19 UGM-84L Harpoon Block II All-Up-Round Missiles and 13 Block II upgrade kits totally $110 million.

October 30/15: A subcommittee in South Korea’s Parliament has passed a $58.8 million budget for the country’s indigenous KF-X fighter program, with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) planning to press ahead with the development of critical technologies required for the jet, despite the US State Department preventing F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin from exporting four key technologies to the country. The country’s Ministry of National Defense will also stand-up a KF-X project team to manage the development of these four technologies.

October 26/15: South Korea’s defense acquisition agency is reportedly planning to press ahead with development of the four key technologies required for the country’s KF-X indigenous fighter program, refused by Washington in April. South Korea is thought to be capable of finding replacements for three of these technologies; however the acquisition of an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system is a particularly difficult problem for Seoul. It was thought that the technology would be transferred as part of offset arrangements for the South Korean F-35 acquisition, with Saab reportedly offering to develop an AESA solution for South Korea, unveiling a new radar system earlier this month.

October 21/15: South Korea’s president has fired the country’s senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs Ju Chul-ki following failure to secure the transfer of four key technologies from the US required for the country’s KF-X indigenous fighter program. The blockage of the technologies in April – subsequently confirmed by the South Korean government in September – has also led to a criminal investigation into a senior security official in the country, as US SecDef Carter publicly reiterated the refusal to transfer the critical technologies last week.

October 7/15: South Korea and Indonesia look set to sign a set of agreements later this month to cement the two countries’ industrial commitments to the collaborative development of the South Korean KF-X indigenous fighter program. The two states signed an engineering and development agreement in October 2014, which split the development costs 80-20 to South Korea. The two countries reiterated their commitment to the program in May this year. Meanwhile, the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration announced on Tuesday that a separate organization will be established specifically to manage the KF-X program.

September 28/15: South Korea’s $6.9 billion KF-X program has hit a major speed bump with refusal by the US government to approve the transfer of four core technologies from F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin to the country’s defense procurement agency, with the South Korean government now confirming that Washington refused the transfer back in April. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) will now have to look elsewhere to acquire these technologies, which include an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, EO targeting pod, RF jammer and IR search and track system. Lockheed Martin promised to transfer 25 technologies to the country when it signed a Foreign Military Sales contract for 40 F-35s in September, with the homegrown fighter project seemingly now in jeopardy.

April 10/15: GE to push engines. General Electric is reportedly looking to supply jet engines for the South Korea KF-X program, submitting a proposal to Korea Aerospace Industries, following the company’s selection as preferred bidder at the end of last month. The F414 engines GE is proposing has previously equipped the US Navy’s Super Hornets and Growlers, the Saab Gripen NG and the Indian Mk II Tejas.

March 31/15: KAL eliminated. South Korean manufacturer Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) was selected as preferred bidder today in the country’s indigenousKF-X fighter program, South Korean media reported today, beating a partnership of Airbus and Korean Airlines. KAI are expected to partner with Lockheed Martin for the $7.9 billion program, which will replace the existing Korean fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighters, as well as equip the Indonesian Air Force, which joined the project in 2010.

Feb 23/15: KAL partners with Airbus.
On February 22, Yonhap reported that KAL indeed signed an MOU with Airbus to present a join offer.

Jan 27/15: KAL prospects dim. After proposals were sought on December 23, one government official was quoted as saying that price may be a controlling factor. That probably presupposes that KAL’s international partners, like Boeing, were staying with them, as they can help make up for the leaner engineering department at KAL. But one report indicated that Boeing was pulling out. The consortium, also to have included Airbus, would have pushed a revised F-18 model.

Oct 15/14: F-35 & KF-16. Korean media report that a proposed $753 million price hike for BAE’s KF-16 upgrade deal could result in cancellation. Lockheed Martin waits in the wings, and is reportedly extending an offer that would include more technical help with the multinational KF-X fighter program if the ROKAF switches.

The US government is reportedly demanding another WON 500 billion (about $471 million) for unspecified added “risk management,” while BAE is reportedly requesting another WON 300 million ($282 million) to cover a 1-year program delay. The Koreans are becoming visibly frustrated and distrustful, and have said openly that the deal may be canceled.

Lockheed Martin’s angle is a spinoff from their recent F-35A deal, which will supply 40 aircraft to the ROKAF. Part of their industrial offsets involved 300 man-years of help designing the proposed KF-X. They were cautious about providing too much help, but they reportedly see enough benefit in badly wounding an F-16 upgrade competitor to offer another 400 man-years of support for KF-X (total: 700) if the ROKAF switches. Sources: Chosun Ilbo, “U.S. in Massive Price Hike for Fighter Jet Upgrade” | Defense News, “F-16 Upgrade: Problems With S. Korea-BAE Deal Could Open Door to Lockheed” | Korea Times, “Korea may nix BAE’s KF-16 upgrade deal”.

Sept 24/14: F-35A. DAPA agrees on a WON 7.3 trillion deal for 40 F-35A fighters. including technology transfer in 17 sectors for use in KF-X. Transfers will include flight control and fire suppression technologies, and this appears to have been the final part of the KF-X puzzle. DAPA is said to have finalized their WON 8.5 trillion KF-X development plan, but it still has to be approved.

Subsequent reports indicate that Lockheed Martin has limited its proposed help with KF-X to just 300 man-years, rather than the 800 desired. In exchange, they offered a very unusual offset: they would buy a military communications satellite for South Korea, and launch it by 2017. Lockheed Martin isn’t saying anything, but Thales is favored as the source, as they provided the payload for South Korea’s Kopmsat-5 radar observation satellite, and have played a major role in KT Sat’s Koreasat commercial telecommunications satellites.

Why wouldn’t Lockheed Martin, which makes these satellites itself, just built one? Because this way, it doesn’t have to deal with any American weapon export approval processes and restrictions, which would have delayed overall negotiations and might have endangered them. That’s a lot of effort and money, in order to avoid ITAR laws. Or added help for KF-X. Sources: Yonhap, “Seoul to buy 40 F-35A fighters from Lockheed Martin in 7.3 tln won deal” | Defense News, “F-16 Upgrade: Problems With S. Korea-BAE Deal Could Open Door to Lockheed” | Reuters, “Exclusive: Lockheed to buy European satellite for South Korea in F-35 deal”.

Aug 31/14: DAPA gave public notice of KF-X bids this month, with plans to pick the preferred bidder (likely KAI) in November 2014, and sign a system development contract in December 2014.

The estimated WON 20 trillion development and production cost for 120 fighters is giving South Korea pause, especially with the ROKAF’s coming fighter fleet shortage (q.v. March 26/14). Sources: Korea Herald, “Fighter procurement projects pick up speed”.

Aug 21/14: Engines. GE declares their interest in equipping the ROKAF’s KF-X. The firm already equips some ROKAF F-15Ks (F110), Korea’s own T/TA/FA-50 fighter family (F404), Surion helicopters (T700-701K), and many ROK naval ships (LM2500). The F404, LM2500, and T700 are all assembled locally in South Korea. GE is promising to expand aero engine technology cooperation, increase the component localization rate, and support KF-X exports via joint marketing, while ensuring that over half of KF-X’s engine components are locally assembled.

GE’s F404, F414, and F110 jet engines are all viable possibilities. The key questions will involve matching their engineering specifications to the new platform: space, weight and balance, fuel consumption vs. onboard fuel, and twin-engine thrust vs. expected weight.

GE competitor Pratt & Whitney’s F100 engine equips some ROKAF F-15Ks, and all of its F-16s. Sources: Yonhap, “GE eyes S. Korea’s fighter jet development project” | Joong An Daily, “GE wants in on new fighter jets”.

July 18/14: Twin-engines. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff endorse the plan to develop KF-X as a twin-engine fighter by 2025. That seems to pick the C-103/ C-501 (q.v. Feb 6/14), a twin-engine design that’s similar to the F-35 in overall shape. This decision an important step, but it isn’t a contract, or even a budget.

The state-funded Korea Institute for Defense Analysis (KIDA) didn’t favor the twin-engine option, because they believed it would increase the fighter’s cost, and wouldn’t have a competitive edge. There actually is an edge for twin-engine fighters in a number of markets, because they’re less likely to crash due to engine failure. A country with large or remote areas to cover – Indonesia, for instance – will benefit from that choice. As for increases in cost, fighters like the Anglo-French Jaguar and Taiwan’s F-CK are smaller twin-engine planes that were successfully developed at reasonable cost. The key cost factor isn’t engines, it’s overall specifications.

With that said, this choice does rule out KF-X’s least-cost, least-risk C-501/ KFX-E design, which would have been derived from the single-engined FA-50 that’s currently in production at KAI. Sources: Defense News, “S. Korea Opts for Twin-Engine Fighter Development” | Reuters, “S.Korea military chiefs endorse $8.2 bln development plan for home-built fighters”.

JCS picks twin-engine C-103 design

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”.

Jan 5/14: Budget. The Korea Times reports that the 2014 defense budget has appropriated KRW 20 billion (about $19 million) to finalize KF-X’s design. A subsequent report from Aviation Week describes conditions that might be difficult for KF-X to meet:

“The latest South Korean budget provides 20 billion won ($19 million) to continue KF-X studies in 2014, hedged by two major conditions—development cost must be capped at just under $8 billion and be complete by 2025, and the aircraft must be approved for export by the U.S. An international partner must be found and contribute a 15% investment.”

A decision between the available design options is possible by February, and would be followed by detail design work. With respect to US export approval, AW confirms that “Eurofighter is still trying to offer South Korea 40 Typhoons, along with support for KF-X.” Unlike Lockheed Martin’s expected assistance, the vast majority of Eurofighter GmbH technology would be beyond American export approvals. Unfortunately, the ROK military’s short-circuiting of DAPA’s fighter competition (q.v. Nov 22/13) will expand the scope of possible American KF-X export clearance interference. Korea Times, “Military to flesh own fighter jet plan” | Aviation Week, “Fast-Changing Trends In Asia Fighter Market”.

Feb 6/14: KAI’s official blog talks about the prospects for the K-FX. It clarifies that the design decision will be between the C-103, which is a twin-engine design similar to the F-35 in overall shape, and the FA-50 derived C-501/ KFX-E. Sources: KAI Blog.

2011 – 2013

Program halt lifted, as specs get clearer; Indonesia confirms, then faces a delayed program again; Turkey invited, but seem to be going their own way. KAI’s FA-50
(click to view full)

Nov 22/13: KF-X moved up. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff add urgency to proposed development of the local KF-X fighter, moving it from a long-range project to an intermediate-term project for development by 2020. Past timelines have given 7 years from the beginning of development to the end, which is already pretty fast. Even if KF-X receives follow-on approval and budgets, 7 years means development doesn’t end until 2022 or so.

They also announce that there will be no competition for F-X Phase III – the F-35 is the only option. As a result, Lockheed Martin is expected to lend its expertise to KAI for KF-X, as part of an industrial offsets program that will also include a new military communications satellite and a cyber-warfare training center. ROK’s Yonhap, “(LEAD) S. Korea decides to buy 40 Lockheed F-35s from 2018” | Aviation Week, “South Korea To Order 40 F-35s, Maybe 20 More Later” | E&T, “South Korea confirms F-35 fighter jet deal” | NY Times, “In South Korea, Delays Drag a Project to Build Homegrown Fighter Jets” | China’s Xinhua, “S. Korea picks Lockheed Martin’s F-35 as main fighter jet”.

Nov 5/13: Sub-contractors. Rockwell Collins is expressing interest in KF-X. They’re already a significant avionics supplier for existing T-50 family jets and Surion helicopters. Honeywell’s senior director of APAC Customer Business Mark Burgess:

“We are in discussions with KAI and Samsung Techwin to explore how Honeywell can contribute to the KF-X program.”

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. Overall weight would drop from around 11 tonnes to 9.3t (an F-16 is 8.9t), removing advance provision for an internal weapon bay, and leaving 2 underbody stations unused if a centerline fuel tank is carried.

Engine choices would involve the same PW F100 or GE F110 choice available to F-16s, leaving KFX-E vulnerable to US export bans. Avionics would come from LIG Nex1, and a Korean AESA radar with about 1,000 T/R modules and a claimed performance similar to the F-16E/F’s AN/APG-80 would be fitted. Unlike the F-35, the targeting pod would have to be carried externally, and self-protection antennas will be part of a carried package, rather than conformal. South Korea believes they can develop the targeting pod themselves, and they’ve already developed an ALQ-200K ECM pod that could be adapted for internal carriage.

The problem with all of this is that the design math is adverse. KFX-E’s ceiling offers poorer acceleration and range versus the F-16, a design that doesn’t appear to be optimized for maneuverability, and a radar that’s likely to be technically behind the ROKAF’s upgraded KF-16 fighters, all without the benefits of stealth in its initial configuration. The product would due to enter service the mid-2020s, and costs are difficult to predict but are unlikely to be less than a current F-16. This would augur poorly for exports, and makes the case for internal ROKAF adoption more difficult. Worse, launch partner Indonesia in particular values range, which would endanger their continued participation. KFX-E seems to be a formula that minimizes one type of risk, while increasing others. Sources: Aviation Week, “KAI Proposes Smaller KF-X Design” | IHS Jane’s, “ADEX 2013: KAI unveils new version of KFX fighter” (incl. picture).

July 30/13: Turkey. Hurriyet quotes “a senior official familiar with the program” who says that $11 – $13 billion would be a realistic development cost for Turkey’s planned TF-X fighter. That actually is a reasonable estimate for a 4.5+ generation machine, but even this figure adds $50 million per plane to a large national order of 200 fighters. Keeping costs within the official’s $100 million per plane target will be challenging, which means a 200 jet program would cost Turkey $31 – $33 billion if everything goes well. Which won’t happen, especially if Turkey pushes for ambitious specifications.

That math offers daunting odds for a national jet program, and much of the same math can be expected to apply to KF-X. Will sticker shock cause Turkey to take another look at collaboration with Korea? Push them to abandon TF-X and buy something else? Or just be ignored by local politicians looking to make big promises? Hurriyet Daily News.

May 23/13: EADS. EADS Cassidian reportedly announces that they would invest $2 billion in the K-FX fighter development project, and help market the plane internationally, if the Eurofighter is chosen for F-X-3. Investments would include a maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility that could extend to the KF-X, and an aerospace software center.

It isn’t a bad idea for EADS. Barring multiple orders from new sources, it’s very unlikely that the Eurofighter will still be in production by 2022. Upgrades and maintenance will continue for some time, but the C-203 KF-X design could offer EADS a new option to sell, with a fundamental design that can improve toward stealth fighter status. The question is whether South Korea wants to go forward. Yonhap News.

May 16/13: Indonesia. Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro says that they remain committed to the KFX/IFX program. The Jakarta Post:

“We have told our South Korean counterparts that we will continue doing our part. Whatever their decision is, and whatever technology they focus on, we will follow their lead and our 20 percent of share will remain,” Purnomo said…. TB Hasanuddin of House Commission I on defense and foreign affairs, said that about Rp 1.6 trillion ($164.8 million) was already spent on the project.”

The question is whether South Korea chooses to pick up the project again, after the 18-month delay is over.

April 29/13: Details. Aviation Week recaps the ROK ADD’s KF-X plan (q.v. Feb 18/13 entry), and quotes “a former air force officer who has been involved in planning for KF-X” to say that radar cross-section for Block 1 will be between 0.1 – 1.0 square meters. It adds that the choice between the conventional layout C103 and C203 canard design probably comes down to the development partner Korea chooses: C103 if American, C203 if European.

Candidate engines for the twin-engine design are reportedly the GR F404 used in the FA-50, Eurojet’s EJ200 used in the Eurofighter, or GE’s F414 used in the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, and India’s Tejas Mk.II. Snecma’s M88, used in Dassault’s Rafale, reportedly isn’t a candidate. Aviation Week.

April 5/13: South Korean media detail a proposal from EADS to produce 80% of F-X Phase 3’s 60 fighters at KAI, if DAPA picks their Eurofighter. The Yonhap report also discusses this potential industrial boost for KAI in the context of the KF-X program,:

“Many have been calling on the Park Geun-hye administration to promptly make a decision to either go ahead with the large-scale airplane development project or put on the brakes if it is deemed economically unsustainable.”

The rest of the Yonhap report may be switching contexts to the F-X-3 high-end fighter acquisition, as it describes a decision to be made by June 2013, as part of a renewed emphasis on major defense projects in light of North Korea’s actions. That doesn’t entirely track with previous reports that place resumption of KF-X at June 2014, if it happens at all. It does track with reports concerning the F-X-3 program, so the confusion could just be poor writing. What is true is that provocations from North Korea are very much a double-edged sword for KF-X. On the one hand, they boost the idea of defense spending generally. On the other hand, they raise needs like anti-submarine warfare, missile defense improvements, etc. that will be higher priorities than KF-X. Yonhap News Service | Hankoryeh.

March 20/13: Turkey. The Turks appear to be picking an independent course toward their future fighter aircraft, in line with rumors that they wanted more control than the KF-X program could give them. Their SSM signed an August 2011 deal with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to carry out the conceptual design work, and recent reports add a preliminary agreement between TAI and Saab Group for technical assistance. Reports add that TAI is expected to acquire Saab’s aircraft design tools, which would make cooperation much easier.

These moves don’t completely rule out KF-X participation, but they do weight the odds the other way. Defense Industry Undersecretary Murad Bayar says that Turkey’s project began in 2012, adding that after some modeling trials, one of the designs has matured. After completing the design phase, the undersecretary will offer a program plan to Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee.

Turkey faces some of the same dilemmas as South Korea. If 2023 is the first flight date for a 4.5 generation fighter, there’s a real risk that the design will be outmoded from the outset. On the other hand, designing and prototyping an indigenous jet from scratch takes time, and technical overreach versus current capabilities is incredibly risky. One “top official from a Western aircraft maker” told Hurriyet that Turkey may already be headed down that path: “…we had to step back when we understood that the technical requirements for the aircraft are far from being realistic.” Hurriyet | Hurriyet follow-on | AIN.

March 1/13: 2nd Delay. Indonesian Defense Ministry official Pos Hutabarat confirms that KF-X has been postponed by 18 months to June 2014, while President Park Geun-hye decides whether to continue the project, and secures Parliamentary approval for that choice. Indonesia signed a 2010 MoU to become part of the project. Reports indicate an investment to date of IDR 1.6 trillion (about $165 million), with 30 PT Dirgantara Indonesia engineers at KAI working on the project.

UPI says that the KFX/IFX fighter’s price has already risen to $50-$60 million per aircraft, and this is before a prototype even exists. That’s already comparable to a modern F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or JAS-39 Gripen, in return for hopes of similar performance many years from now. Jakarta Globe | UPI.

2nd program delay

Feb 18/13: Details. Aviation Week reports that the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis has given KF-X a sharp negative review, even though it’s a defense ministry think-tank. In brief: the ROK isn’t technologically ready, and the project’s KRW 10+ trillion cost will be about twice as much as similar imported fighters. The 2013 budget is just KRW 4.5 billion, to continue studies.

Those studies are coming to some conclusions. The ROK ADD would still have a pick a design if they go ahead: either the conventional C103 fighter layout, or the C203 design with forward canards. Either aircraft would be a twin-engine fighter weighing around 10.4 tonnes, with stealth shaping. Bock 1 would only have to meet the radar cross-section of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or Eurofighter Typhoon. Block 2 would add internal weapon bays, which Block 1 would be compatible with but not have. Additional tolerance and coating improvements would reduce stealth to the level of an F-117. Block 3 would aim for further improvements to the level of the B-2 bomber or F-35.

The ROK Agency for Defense Development says that if full-scale development begins in October 2014, the 1st KF-X Block 1 prototype flight would take until September 2020. Based on the history of other programs, the new plane would be hard pressed to enter service before 2025. Aviation Week.

Oct 27/11: KF-X specs. Fight International:

“In 2013, South Korea and two national partners will start developing a medium-sized and probably twin-engined fighter. It will be more agile than a Lockheed Martin F-16, with an advanced sensor suite and fusion software on a par with the US company’s new-generation F-35. Aiming to enter operations in 2021, the new design will also carry a bespoke arsenal of indigenous missiles and precision-guided munitions. That is the vision for the KF-X programme, outlined on 21 October at the Seoul air show by South Korean government and academic officials.”

DAPA’s technical requirements reportedly include an AESA radar and onboard IRST (InfraRed Search and Track) sensors, standard fly-by-wire flight and HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) pilot controls, an NVG-compatible helmet-mounted display, and sensor fusion to the large screen single display. That last bit is especially challenging, and DAPA acknowledged that foreign partners will be needed. They hope to begin flight tests in 2016-2017, with an 8-year system development phase and a 7-plane test fleet (up from 5 prototypes at the Indonesian MoU).

Under this vision, South Korea’s LiG Nex1 would also develop a compatible line of short and medium range air-to-air missiles, strike missiles, and precision weapons to complement DAPA’s 500 pound Korea GPS guided bomb (KGGB). That array will expand global weapon choices if DAPA follows through, but the challenge will be getting them integrated with other countries’ aircraft. Ask the French how that goes.

KF-X specs

July 14/11: Indonesia confirmed. About a year after the MoU, The secretary general of Indonesia’s defence ministry, Erris Heriyanto, confirms the MoU’s terms to Indonesia’s ­official Antara news agency. KAI EVP Enes Park had called Indonesia’s involvement unconfirmed at the November 2010 Indo Defence show, but the Antara report appears to confirm it.

Turkey unveiled indigenous fighter plans of its own in December 2010, with the aim of fielding a fighter by 2023, but they haven’t made any commitments to KF-X. Flight International.

April 2011: Postponement of the KF-X project is reportedly lifted, as South Korea gets a bit clearer about their requirements.

Resumed

2008 – 2010

Reality check scales back specs, before indecision suspends program; Indonesia signs MoU. T-129: Quid pro quo?
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Dec 27/10: Yo-yo. South Korea’s Yonhap News agency reports that South Korea’s military is trying to swing KF-X back to a stealth fighter program, in the wake of North Korea’s Nov. 23 shelling on Yeonpyeong Island.

Subsequent reports indicate that the uncertainty about KF-X requirements leads to a program halt, until things can get sorted out. Yonhap.

Aug 9/10: Turkey. DAPA aircraft programs director Maj. Gen. Choi Cha-kyu says that Turkey is actively considering the K-FX fighter program, and would bear the same 20% project share as Indonesia if they come on board.

There are reports that in return, Turkey wants the ROK to pick the T-129 ATAK helicopter under the AH-X heavy attack helicopter program. Turkey bought the A129 Mangusta design from AgustaWestland, as part of a September 2007 contract to build 51-92 helicopters for the Turkish Army. Korea Times | Hurriyet.

Now: TNI-AU F-16A
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July 15/10: Indonesia. Indonesia signs a Memorandum of Understanding to participate in KF-X. They’ll pay 20% of the estimated WON 5.1 trillion (about $4.1 billion) development effort, with 5 prototypes to be built before 2020, and commit to buying 50 of the fighters. South Korea has only committed to 60% of the development cost, which leaves 20% in limbo. DAPA’s KF-X program director Col. Lee Jong-hee says:

“There are two options on the table. One is to lure financial investments from other nations, such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The other is to receive investments from Western aircraft makers wishing to participate in the KF-X.”

The Indonesian agreement follows a March 2009 Letter of Intent that was co-signed by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Indonesian MPs urged the government to conduct a feasibility test beforehand, but that wasn’t done. Key issues from Indonesia’s point of view include KF-X’s adequacy for the TNI-AU’s needs; technical and fiscal feasibility; technology and cost risk; the benefits to Indonesia’s aviation industry, given a break-even set by Aviation Week at 250-300 fighters for under $41 million each; and the role of 3rd country tech for engines. etc. which could still leave the fighters subject to foreign embargoes. Defense News | Jakarta Post.

Indonesia joins the program

Sept 12/09: KF-X drivers. Aviation Week offers their take on KFX’s positioning and industrial drivers:

“South Korea has decided that it can’t afford to build a cutting-edge stealth fighter…. it is considering building a gen-4.5 fighter, which might emerge as a jazzed up Typhoon or Super Hornet…. KFX would go into service in the early 2020s, perhaps a quarter of a century behind its technology level.

….Korea Aerospace will run out of fighter development work in a few years when the FA-50 is finished. It presumably does not have the technology to step straight from that to a combat drone. And it can’t spend next decade building up skills with an improved, single-seat FA-50, because the air force wants bigger aircraft…. the KFX would perhaps be an extreme example of sacrifices made in the name of self reliance or, perhaps, nationalism.”

July 23/09: KF-X. Defense News reports that “South Korea Drops 5th-Generation Fighter Plan,” but the title is misleading. The Weapon Systems Concept Development and Application Research Center of Konkuk University asked Boeing, Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin and Saab about their views on the per-plane cost estimate of $50 million, as well as budget-sharing ideas and technology transfer.

The problem is that South Korea’s specifications as described most closely mirror the ($150-180 million each, and $10+ billion development) F-22 Raptor, indicating that some reconciliation with reality is still necessary. The center will wrap up the feasibility study by October 2009, and DAPA is supposed to issue a decision on the KF-X initiative by year’s end. That will determine whether KF-X competes with/ supplants F-X-3, or proceeds as a separate program.

May 12/09: Changing gears. The Korea Times reports that the ROKAF’s Studies and Analyses Wing made an interim decision KF-X operational requirements in March 2009:

“Basic requirements call for a F-18E/F Super Hornet-class aircraft equipped with 4.5-generation semi-stealth functions, a domestically-built active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar [“based on accrued technologies from Israel”], a 32,000-pound of engine thrust and fully integrated weapons and sensors systems…. The KF-X aircraft would be either a single-engine fighter or a twin-engine one, [the source] added. It is the first time that KF-X operational requirements have been revealed.”

DAPA expects a final program decision around the end of 2009, and KF-X is expected to be part of the military’s 2010-14 force improvement package.

Jan 28/08: Reality check. The current program was scheduled to be followed by a KF-X program to develop and indigenous 5th generation/ stealth fighter to replace all F-5E Tiger IIs and F-4E Phantom IIs. After a feasibility study in 2008, the project would aim to produce the next-generation jets by 2020, with the goal of building 120 planes in a bid to secure proprietary technology and strengthen the country’s medium level fighter jet capacity. The goal is reportedly a single-seat, twin-engine plane with about 40,000 pounds of thrust from its engines, with more stealth than the Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale, but less stealth than the F-35.

Now the Korea Development Institute has delivered a report concluding that the economic and industrial returns would be weak in proportion to its cost: about 3 trillion won/ $3 billion in returns, on a 10 trillion won investment. Papers quote foreign experts who estimate development costs of up to $12 billion. Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration said the KDI report was for reference only, and the project decision would include other factors such as export prospects and technological capacity.

$7 billion is not a sum to be thrown away casually, and the difference would be very noticeable within South Korea’s defense budgets. Options like partnering with EADS on a stealthier version of the Eurofighter, for instance, might lower development costs and offer an additional option. Nevertheless, with F-X-3 likely to select a stealthy platform, a merger with the K-FX program and negotiation of an industrial deal seems more likely. Especially given South Korea’s demographic crunch, which will begin to bite by 2020. Chosun Ilbo | Korea Times.

Additional Readings The KF-X Program

Related Programs

Categories: News

Pentagon Admits No F-35 IOT&E Until 2018 | USS John Paul Jones Validates Aegis MRBM Tracking | Chinese Not Keen on US Supplying Tomahawks to Japan

Wed, 05/25/2016 - 23:55
Americas

  • It may have been coming for some time, but the Pentagon has finally admitted that the F-35 will not be cleared for full rate production until 2018. Frank Kendell, the program’s chief weapons tester, had been warning of delays for some time; however, it had been maintained by some that the jet’s initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) would occur as planned in August or September 2017. Now that reality has hit home, the extra six months will be spent retrofitting the 23 aircraft required for IOT&E with the full 3F software and hardware patches.

  • USS John Paul Jones was used to validate the ability of the Aegis Baseline 9 to track Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) targets within the Earth’s atmosphere recently. Supported by the Navy, Missile Defense Agency, and Lockheed Martin the use of the missile destroyer marks the first demonstration of Aegis’s ability to conduct a complicated tracking exercise against an MRBM during its endo phase of flight. The development comes as targets and threats have become more advanced, with Aegis BMD evolving over the last 20 years from a tracking experiment to today’s capability in which it can detect, track and engage targets.

Middle East North Africa

  • Leonardo-Finmeccanica has announced that Pakistan will purchase an undisclosed number of AW139 helicopters for Search & Rescue missions. This will add to 11 already in service, and delivery is to commence in 2017. The contract is part of a fleet renewal program spread over several batches, including a logistic support and training package.

Europe

  • Ukraine’s Antonov has been tipped as the favorite candidate in Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s. (HAL) medium military transport aircraft program. The company emerged as the frontrunner out of five bids received by the company after meeting all the necessary requirements alongside a recent design with state-of-the-art aviation systems like fly-by-wire, high-efficiency engines and all-weather operations. Antonov or AN class of aircraft have been part of the Indian Air Force (IAF) for over five decades. The IAF has more than 100 AN-32 aircraft recently upgraded on its inventory.

  • Sweden’s air force looks set to advance a competition to select its new jet trainer to replace the service’s Saab 105 by the end of the decade. After an initial request for information was issued late last year, the air force and the state’s procurement agency now need to refine their exact needs for the right replacement. Sweden had initially expressed interest in participating in a proposed multinational Eurotraining project however that failed to materialize.

Asia Pacific

  • An op-ed piece published last week, suggesting the US should supply AGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles to Japan has received a rebuttal from Chinese researchers. Experts from the China Institute of International Studies stated that while the idea of supplying the missile to Tokyo was not new, it would pose a threat to other countries in East Asia. The warning most likely comes following efforts started last year by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pursue changing the country’s post-WW2 constitution to allow it to re-arm and expand its forces.

  • Israel’s Rafael Advanced Systems looks set to win the Indian Army’s short-range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) contest with its Spyder system. According to the Economic Times, the Spyder seems poised to win after offerings from Sweden’s Saab and Russia’s Rosoboronexport failed to comply with the Army’s requirements during technical trials. The competition has been running for five years.

Today’s Video

  • The “Hell Cannon“: Homemade artillery of Syria’s rebel armies:

Categories: News

Serious Dollars for AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)

Wed, 05/25/2016 - 23:50
AEGIS-BMD: CG-70
launches SM-3
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The AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System seamlessly integrates the SPY-1 radar, the MK 41 Vertical Launching System for missiles, the SM-3 Standard missile, and the ship’s command and control system, in order to give ships the ability to defend against enemy ballistic missiles. Like its less-capable AEGIS counterpart, AEGIS BMD can also work with other radars on land and sea via Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). That lets it receive cues from other platforms and provide information to them, in order to create a more detailed battle picture than any one radar could produce alone.

AEGIS has become a widely-deployed top-tier air defense system, with customers in the USA, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Norway, and Spain. In a dawning age of rogue states and proliferation of mass-destruction weapons, the US Navy is being pushed toward a “shield of the nation” role as the USA’s most flexible and most numerous option for missile defense. AEGIS BMD modifications are the keystone of that effort – in the USA, and beyond.

The AEGIS Naval Ballistic Missile Defense System What Is AEGIS? AEGIS Combat Control
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Aegis, named after the legendary protective shield of Zeus, is deployed on over 80 serving naval ships around the globe, with many more Aegis-equipped ships planned or under contract. It’s the primary weapons control system on board American Ticonderoga Class Cruisers (CG-47) and Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers (DDG-51), as well as Japan’s Kongo & Atago Class destroyers, Korea’s KDX-III Class destroyers, Norway’s Fridtjof Nansen Class frigates, and Spain’s F-100 Alvaro de Bazan Class frigates. Australia’s Hobart Class F100 derivatives will join this set shortly.

The heart of these ships’ defensive suites is the AN/SPY-1 Radar System, a 3D air/surface search and tracking radar. This high-powered phased array radar is able to perform search, track and missile guidance functions simultaneously, with the ability to track over 100 targets at over 100 miles. Terminal guidance depends on mounted illuminators, since current SM-2 missiles are limited to semi-active radar homing.

Partial AN/SPY-1

The other key to Aegis is the Aegis combat system software, which takes input from a number of systems in order to create a unified picture of the threat environment. AEGIS equipped ships are key elements in modern carrier and battleship battle groups, providing fleet area defense and communicating an integrated air picture for more effective deployment of naval aircraft.

Most Aegis suites can be converted to missile defense, with the addition of hardware upgrades and a set of software updates. We refer to these upgraded systems as AEGIS BMD. The AN/SPY-1B radar variants that equip Ticonderoga class cruisers CG 59-73, and the AN/SPY-1D variant that equips DDG-51 destroyers and foreign Aegis ships in Japan, South Korea, and Spain, can be upgraded to support missile defense. On the other hand, the AN/SPY-1A radar on some Ticonderoga class cruisers is reportedly ineligible. The much smaller AN/SPY-1F hasn’t received a BMD upgrade design, and may or may not be capable.

Aegis was designed from the outset to operate with the Standard missile family, and both systems reach their maximum potential when deployed together. The current mainstay for air defense is the SM-2 Block IIIB. For missile defense, the longer-range SM-3 is the system’s main option, and it’s capable of exo-atmospheric kills up to 200 miles away, as ballistic missile prepare to re-enter the atmosphere. The “Burnt Frost” intercept showed that modified SM-3s were even capable of killing satellites in lower orbits.

A new variant of the SM-2 Block IV is being revived and fielded as the Near Term Sea-Based Terminal weapon (NT-SBT), for last-phase endo-atmospheric intercepts as the warhead descends toward its target. The new SM-6 will begin taking over that terminal defense role as of 2015.

As a ship combat system, Aegis can and does operate with a variety of other weapons, but Raytheon’s Standard family missiles are the only ones with ballistic missile defense capabilities.

AEGIS BMD: Versions & Capabilities SM-3 Launch –
note rocket booster

AEGIS BMD went to sea with its initial operating capability in October 2004. During at-sea tests, the system and its missiles have been successful in 25/31 interception attempts – and 80.6% success rate.

AEGIS BMD 3.0. Its Long Range Surveillance & Tracking (LRS&T) wasn’t recommended for engaging ballistic missiles, but it reportedly extended the ship’s radar tracking range to 500 km/ 300 miles. That allowed equipped vessels to support engagements by other ships. Over time this version was phased out, as AEGIS BMD ship systems were upgraded.

AEGIS BMD 3.6 Supports full engagement, and was certified for tactical deployment by the U.S. Navy and the USA’s Missile Defense Agency in September 2006. The most recent certified version as of November 2014 is AEGIS BMD 3.6.3. This system retains long range tracking, can engage enemy missiles, and adds the capability to target short-range ballistic missiles as they re-enter the atmosphere in their final stage of flight. This allows them to make full use of SM-2 Block IV variants like NT-SBT, alongside longer-range options like the SM-3. Testing has demonstrated some unplanned bonus capabilities, including the ability to launch using another system’s tracking data, and to intercept MRBMs (1,000 – 3,000 km range).

AEGIS BMD 4.x Improvements include both hardware inserts and software development. Incorporation of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Signal Processor (Aegis BSP) into the AN/SPY-1 radar helps the system detect, track and classify objects more effectively, in order to defeat more complex ballistic missile threats like decoys and multiple warheads. The Aegis BSP, which has been installed in all new Aegis destroyers beginning in 2010, is an open architecture design. BMD 4.x also adds an adjunct computing suite that will continue AEGIS BMD’s migration toward open architecture electronics, and supports the improved SM-3 Block IB missile. The 4.0.2 sub-version on a number of current ships changes the timing of SM-3 rocket pulses, as a response to the FTM-16E2 test failure.

BMD capability will be included in modernized, open architecture combat systems in Aegis cruisers and destroyers starting in 2012, and even US Navy Aegis ships that are not slated for BMD will be changing over to a full open architecture (OSA/ MOSA) system as part of ongoing upgrades to the DDG-51 and CG-47 ships. The move lets the Navy buy commercial electronics components from a much wider variety of suppliers, saving money and ensuring easier future upgrades.

AEGIS BMD 5.0. AEGIS BMD 5.0 is expected to complete the system’s open architecture shift, with a new multi-mission processor and new computing workstations and display systems. There are proposals to upgrade all American Aegis ships with AN/SPY1B/D radars to have AEGIS BMD capability, so the full OSA/MOSA migration could prove significant.

In 2015 – 2016, a BMD 5.0 CU upgrade will restore terminal phase intercept capability within the atmosphere, allowing ships to use the SM-6 as a 2nd line of defense. This upgrade is also known as Aegis Baseline 9.C1, and has already been fitted to some ships, but they haven’t tested terminal intercept capability yet.

SM-3 evolution
(click to view full)

AEGIS BMD 5.1. The next big step forward for AEGIS BMD will be a new missile, coupled with the AEGIS BMD 5.1 software. The SM-3 Block IIA will use a different design that’s 21″ in diameter, instead of 13.5″ like the Block Is. That will allow for more powerful rocket motors, and considerable increases in range. The SM-3 Block I is mostly designed for use against short and medium-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs/MRBMs), and lacks the range to defend countries like Poland or The Czech Republic from the sea.

The Block II’s range will put most of the Czech Republic and Poland within range of inshore ships, and could allow just 2 ships to offer full coverage of Japan. Its improved range and speed will add effectiveness against Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) that have ranges of 3,000 – 5,000 km, as well as some capability against full Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). It’s due in 2018.

AEGIS BMDS: The Program CEC Concept
(click to enlarge)

Tracking program spending on ship modifications is difficult to do in isolation, as Pentagon budget documents tend to treat “AEGIS BMDS” as a single category, which includes both ship upgrades and SM-3 missiles. The floating “SBX” radar deployed in the Pacific is also used in naval ballistic missile defense, but it is not an Aegis system and so does not come under AEGIS BMD budgets.

Based on Pentagon documents and outside sources, funding patterns include R&D, ship conversions, and SM-3 missile purchases. A GAO study gives totals over the years as:

FY 1995: $75 million.
FY 1996: $200.4 million.
FY 1997: $304.2 million.
FY 1998: $410 million.
FY 1999: $338.4 million.
FY 2000: $380 million.
FY 2001: $462 million.
FY 2002: $476 million.
FY 2003: $464 million.
FY 2004: $726.2 million.
FY 2005: $1.16 billion.

Beyond that:

The US MDA states that an in-service Aegis ship with no BMD capability can be given AEGIS BMD 3.6.1 capability for about $10 million to $15 million, or a AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 capability for about $53 million. An in-service ship with AEGIS BMD 3.6.1 installed can be upgraded to AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 for about $45 – $55 million more, for a total upgrade cost of $55 – $70 million if you have to do it twice.

BMD Ships & Deployment

We talked to the US Navy in order to confirm the ships, homeports, and combat system details of the fleet’s ships. As of October 2013, every ship from DDG 51 – DDG 77 will have received AEGIS BMD or have entered conversion. Conversions will continue within the fleet, and new ships under the current multi-year contract for DDG 117 – DDG 123 will all be delivered with BMD capabilities pre-installed – likely 5.0CU to start.

It has been a steady rvolution for the fleet, as it morphs toward its new “shield of the nation” role.

In March 2007, just 6 American warships had the ability to engage ballistic missiles, while another 10 were equipped with AEGIS Long Range Surveillance & Tracking version 3.0.

By July 2009, the number of fully BMD-capable ships had grown to 18, with 42 SM-3 missiles and 47 SM-2 Block IV variants available for use.

By the time CRS issued its FY 2012 report, there were 22 ships with AEGIS BMD 3.6.1, 2 with BMD 4.0.1, a store of 104 SM-3 missiles (92 Block IA and 12 Block IBs) to accompany about 100 SM-2 Block IVs.

The FY 2012 budget brought the total number of ordered BMD ship conversions to 35, and a combination of conversions, upgrades, and new-build ships will keep growing that number. From a FY 2013 CRS report:

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In the end, these CRS charts reinforce the belief that a significant portion of America’s destroyer and cruiser fleets will eventually receive these upgrades. Indeed, the US Navy’s FY 2015 – 2043 long-term plan will plateau between 80 – 97 BMD-capable ships.

AEGIS BMD Test History Beyond the USA JS Kongo into Pearl
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American ballistic missile defense ships won’t be alone on the seas. Japan has its own AEGIS BMD program, and began full installation of AEGIS BMD 3.6.1 systems in its Kongo Class Aegis destroyers in 2007. All 4 ships have now finished their installations, deployed SM-3 Block I missiles, and participated in BMD tests. The Japanese are also partnered with the USA to develop the SM-3 Block II: a larger, faster missile variant with an improved kill vehicle. This implies long-term upgrades for JMSDF combat systems to AEGIS BMD 5.1.

According to the US Congressional Research Service, other countries that the US military views as potential naval BMD operators of American equipment include the United Kingdom (Type 45 Daring Class, PAAMS/Aster-30 and possibly SM-3 too), the Netherlands (De Zeven Provincien Class, Thales BMD/SM-x), Spain (F100 Class, AEGIS BMD/SM-x), Germany (F124 Class, Thales/SM-x), Denmark (Ivar Huitfeldt Class, Thales/SM-x), South Korea (KDX-III, AEGIS/SM-6 confirmed), and Australia (Hobart Class, AEGIS/SM-6 confirmed, could add SM-3). Note that all countries listed here as potential operators could add SM-3s to Mk.41 vertical launch systems on board, as well as shorter-range SM-6 point defense BMD missiles. Infrastructure for one equals infrastructure for the other.

Aegis ships operate variants of the passive array SPY-1D radar, and one country has already taken steps. Spain already has ships equipped with AEGIS Long Range Surveillance & Tracking version 3.0, and ESPS Menendez Nunez has participated in US missile defense exercises as a tracking ship. The non-Aegis European countries mentioned here use variants of Thales’ SMART-L for long-range scans, coupled with modern active-array fire control radars. The Dutch De Zeven Provincien Class ship HNLMS Tromp has participated in US missile defense exercises as a tracking ship, sporting its Thales combat system and advanced Thales APAR/SMART-L active array radars. The Dutch are currently working to extend the class’ radar range even farther, in preparation for full BMD capabilities.

The US CRS omits France and Italy, even though they host the PAAMS combat system and BMD-capable Aster-30 missile on their 4 Horizon Class ships. France is also committed to building a national BMD system, so their omission is especially puzzling.

Contracts & Updates FY 2015 – 2016

1st BMD 5.0CU test. FTM-25 explained

May 26/16: USS John Paul Jones was used to validate the ability of the Aegis Baseline 9 to track Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) targets within the Earth’s atmosphere recently. Supported by the Navy, Missile Defense Agency, and Lockheed Martin the use of the missile destroyer marks the first demonstration of Aegis’s ability to conduct a complicated tracking exercise against an MRBM during its endo phase of flight. The development comes as targets and threats have become more advanced, with Aegis BMD evolving over the last 20 years from a tracking experiment to today’s capability in which it can detect, track and engage targets.

December 9/15: The crew of the USS John Paul Jones got quite a workout while testing the Aegis combat system during an exercise off Wake Island on October 31. They first intercepted a short range air launch target (SRALT) missile with the THAAD missile defense system. The Aegis was then tested as a C-17 then launched an extended medium range ballistic missile (EMRBM) through the debris of the first intercept. If that wasn’t enough, the crew were simultaneously engaging a BQM-74E air-breathing target with a Standard Missile-2 Block IIIA guided missile at the time. The tests were aimed at improving and enhancing the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, which is the naval component of the Missile Defense Agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System.

Nov 6/14: FTM-25. USS John Paul Jones [DDG 53] successfully engages 1 short-range ballistic missile target with an SM-3 Block IB missile, and 2 cruise missiles with a par of SM-2 Block IIIAs, in the FTM-25 Stellar Wyvern test.

DDG 53 has the Aegis 9.C1 combination, which represents the next evolutionary step. It finishes the system’s open architecture shift, adding a new multi-mission processor and new computing workstations and display systems. The upgrade’s goal is to rapidly switch between BMD and the area air defense role, allowing full use of SM-6 missiles in a terminal BMD role as well as multiple engagements like this one.

Other test participants included discriminating sensors flown on two MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles and sensor systems ashore; Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) Enterprise Sensors Lab; C2BMC Experimentation Lab; and the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex located at PMRF. Sources: US MDA, “Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System Completes Successful Intercept Flight Test” | Defense Update, “System upgrades are key in Aegis destroyer’s success defeating ballistic, cruise missile raid on the recent test”.

Oct 17/14: FTX-20. USS John Paul Jones [DDG 53] engages in the FTX-20 tracking test of a ballistic missile target, testing both the combined Aegis 9.C1 combat system (Aegis Baseline 9 with BMD 5.0 Capability Upgrade), and the ability to launch and engage based solely on tracks from remote airborne sensors.

Other test participants included the Sea-Based X-band Radar (SBX), Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) Demonstrators; Discrimination Sensor Technology (includes a UAV – likely MQ-9 – with an MTS-B optical sensor turret); Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) Enterprise Sensors Lab; C2BMC Experimentation Lab; and the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex located at PMRF. Sources: US MDA, “Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System Detects and Tracks Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Target”.

FY 2014

BMD 5.0 contracted for development, but won’t become universal; CRS highlights program cuts, GAO highlights software glitches and Euro deployments. FTM-22 test

Jan 15/15 29/14: Raytheon announced that the Navy has approved the SM-6 for additional Aegis systems, to include those Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers from the 1994-keel-laid The Sullivans (DDG-68) onward.

This appears to put to rest concerns that the Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) program wouldn’t be able to employ (see “Weapons” section) the standard family of missiles.

Sept 29/14: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives an $8.1 million contract modification for a single FY 2015 AEGIS BMD 4.0.2 ship installation, bringing the contract’s total value to date to $2.0106 billion.

Work will be performed at Moorestown, NJ, with an expected completion date of March 27/16. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001, PO 0154).

Aug 8/14: 4.1/ 5.0. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a $193.6 million contract modification for necessary material, equipment, and supplies to define, develop, integrate and test Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense 4.1 and 5.0 Capability Upgrade baselines through their respective certifications. At present 4.0.2 is the most recent fielded version. $19.5 million in FY 2014 Navy RDT&E funds is committed immediately, and the entire modification brings the contract’s cumulative face value to $2.003 billion.

Work will be performed at Moorestown, NJ, with an expected completion date of May 31/16. fiscal 2014 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $19,500,000 are being obligated at time of award. The Missile Defense Agency, Dahlgren, Virginia, is the contracting activity (HQ0276-10-C-0001, PO 0150).

July 23/14: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a $40.7 million not-to-exceed contract for 1 multi-mission signal processor equipment set, ballistic missile defense 4.0.2 equipment (the most modern fielded variant), and Aegis Weapon System upgraded equipment to support fielding Aegis modernization capabilities to the fleet. $20.3 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 budgets.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (57.8%); Clearwater, FL (41.5%); and Owego, NY (0.7%), and is expected to be complete by March 2016. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to 10 U.S. C. 2304(c)(1), as implemented by FAR 6.302-1. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-14-C-5106).

May 27/14: Limited Upgrades. USNI reports that many existing BMD ships won’t receive an upgrade to Aegis Baseline 9, which lays a foundation for the use of missiles like the new SM-6 beyond the ship’s radar range, and for terminal ballistic missile defense:

“Out of 28 early Arleigh Burke-class DDGs (Flight I/II), 21 will not receive a full upgrade to their Aegis combat systems and instead have a midlife upgrade that will focus on the mechanical health of the ship and some will have upgrades to the ships’ anti-submarine warfare systems as part of a cost saving strategy, Naval Sea Systems Command told USNI News on Friday…. The estimated cost of the reduced upgrades is about $170 million per ship for the news systems and testing. The full upgrade costs about $270 million…. Ships without a combat system refresh at some point — usually during a midlife upgrade — only average from 17 to 19 years in the fleet, several naval experts told USNI News.”

Our chart of BMD ships has been updated accordingly. Sources: USNI, “Navy Quietly Downscales Destroyer Upgrades”.

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

The FY 2015 budget cuts 132 SM-3 missiles from the FY 2014 budget’s 2015-2018 buys, and it will also change the composition and makeup of the naval BMD fleet via a combination of slower upgrades, and the mothballing of 4 BMD ships. The US Navy’s FY 2015 decision to sideline its 11 newest Ticonderoga Class cruisers (CG 63 – 73) will remove 4 ships from the BMD fleet until the late 2020s, and the damaged USS Port Royal will probably never return to service. Expected returnees include CG 67 USS Shiloh (2024, BMD 4.0.1 now), CG 70 USS Lake Erie (2026, BMD 4.0.2 now) and CG 72 USS Vella Gulf (2027, BMD 3.6.1 now).

Aegis BMD 4.0 is at an advanced stage, but there are still a few things everyone would like to see. They include a test featuring remote authorized engagement with an SM-3 Block IB against a medium/intermediate-range ballistic missile target, operationally realistic testing using its improved engagement coordination with THAAD and PATRIOT missiles, and
an Aegis BMD 4.0 test featuring simultaneous BMD/cruise missile intercepts.

April 7/14: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a $13.7 million modification to contract for support of Aegis BMD Program Office advanced concepts initiatives, to identify technology for introduction into present and future Baselines/Spirals. This modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $1.789 billion, from $1.775 billion.

All funds are committed immediately, using MDA FY 2014 RDT&E budgets. Work will be performed at Moorestown, NJ, with an expected completion date of June 30/14. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001, P00138).

April 1/14: GAO Report. GAO-14-351 focuses on acquisition goals and reporting for missile defense in general. A 17 month delay in the modernized Aegis system is at a problematic point:

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

March 14/14: GAO report. The GAO releases GAO-14-248R, regarding the USA’s EPAA plans for defending Europe from ballistic missiles. With respect to Aegis Ashore, they note that the Phase 2 system in Romania will be installed with an interim version of its software. The final version won’t be ready until 2017, which makes one wonder about the AEGIS BMD v5.1 software that supposed to be ready for deployment by 2018. This is a wider theme for GAO, who say that:

“A highly concurrent schedule for Aegis Ashore installations and Aegis weapon system development mean issues discovered during testing could require fixes, possibly after operational deployment. DOD believes that concurrency risk is properly balanced… flight testing will not affect technical design.”

March 4/14: MDA Budget. The MDA finally releases its FY15 budget request, with information spanning from FY 2014 – 2019. AEGIS BMD has a number of related budget lines: Aegis Ashore Phase II & III construction, BMD Aegis R&D, Land-Based SM-3 R&D, Aegis SM-3 Blk IIA R&D, Aegis Initial Spares procurement, Aegis Ashore Phase III procurement and AEGIS BMD O&M.

That’s $2.135 billion in FY15, for a diverse set of programs from missiles to ship refits to land-based installations. If BMD testing and BMD targets are added, on the grounds that most MDA testing involves AEGIS BMD systems, the FY15 total rises to $3.006 billion.

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). The SM-3 Block IA went 4/5 this fiscal year, thanks to a faulty IMU chip in the FTI-01 test’s missile (q.v. Oct 25/12). That chip is only present in a few Block IAs, and isn’t in Block IB. The SM-3 Block IB went 3/3 in FY13, but after a string of 5 successful flights, the report notes an issue with the 2nd missile’s TSRM cold gas regulator during FTM-21. Overall:

“With the completion of FTM-21 and FTM-22, the IOT&E flight testing phase for Aegis BMD 4.0 and SM-3 Block IB guided missiles is nearly complete. However, the program needs to complete Flight Test Other-18 (FTX-18) and planned HWIL testing of raid engagement capability and Information Assurance testing using accredited models and simulations in the test runs-for-the-record before an assessment of effectiveness and suitability can be made. Additionally, the program needs to test Aegis-Aegis, Aegis-THAAD, and Aegis-Patriot engagement coordination; only the first of these three types of engagement coordination is planned for live-target testing before the SM-3 Block IB Full-Rate Production decision in 4QFY14.”

Oct 3/13: FTM-22. An SM-3 Block IB missile from the cruiser USS Lake Erie destroys a medium-range, separating ballistic missile target that was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. It represents the 5th successful test in a row of the SM-3-IB/ AEGIS BMD 4.0.x combination since the September 2011 failure. Sources: MDA release, Oct 4/13 | Lockheed Martin release, Oct 4/13 | Aerojet Rocketdyne release, Oct 4/13.

FY 2013

BMD 5.x development contracts; BMD 4.x installation contracts; SM-3 Block IIB is terminated after reports cast doubts on it; Glitches in FTI-01 test, but successes in 3 others. FTM-20 launch
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Sept 23/13: R&D. Lockheed Martin Mission System and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a $20 million sole-source cost-plus-award-fee contract modification. They’ll identify technology for introduction into present and future Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Baselines and upgrades. Initial funding begins with just $50,000 in RDT&E dollars.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, with an estimated completion date of June 30/14. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001, P00125).

Sept 18/13: FTM-21. USS Lake Erie [CG 70] ripple-fires 2 SM-3 Block IB missiles at a short range, separating ballistic missile target. As it happens, missile #2 isn’t needed, because the 1st one hits. The bad news is that missile #2’s TSRM cold gas regulator, which was redesigned after the FTM-15 fail, glitched out during the 2nd pulse rocket motor firing. It didn’t affect the score, but the Navy wants to know if there’s a common underlying root cause they haven’t quite fixed.

As usual, the test centers around the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. It’s the 4th consecutive success for the SM-3 Block IB since the Sept 1/11 failure. Sources: the FY 2013 Annual Report | US MDA release, Sept 18/13 | Lockheed Martin release, Sept 19/13.

Sept 10/13: FTO-1. A successful joint test of AEGIS BMD and land-based THAAD missiles from the Pacific Kwajalein Atoll/Reagan Test Site destroys 2 medium range target missiles.

The test involved full inter-operation. A land-based TPY-2 radar was positioned forward as the warning radar. It acquired the targets, and passed that onto the joint C2BMC (Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications) system. C2BMC cued DDG 74 USS Decatur, outfitted with AEGIS BMD 3.6.1 and the SM-3 Block IA missile. Decatur acquired the track, then launch and killed its target. C2BMC also passed the track to a land-based THAAD battery’s own TPY-2 radar, which provided the intercept guidance for a successful pair of THAAD missile shots. The 2nd THAAD missile was actually aimed at the SM-3’s MRBM, in case it had failed to achieve intercept, but that turned out not to be necessary this time. Sources: US MDA, Sept 10/13 release | Lockheed Martin, Sept 11/13 release | Raytheon, Sept 10/13 release.

July 1/13: 5.1 + Increment 2. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ, receives a sole-source, cost-plus-incentive-fee/cost-plus-award-fee/cost-plus-technical-schedule incentive fee contract modification worth $295 million, raising the total contract value to date to $1.73 billion. This covers system engineering and program management for BMD 5.1 software through the Critical Design Review (CDR), and SM-6 interceptor Increment 2 through Preliminary Design Review (PDR).

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ until March 2015. SM-6 Increment 2 will provide terminal-phase ballistic missile defense capability, allowing the missiles to act as a 2nd layer beneath SM-3. BMD 5.1 software and SM-6 Increment 2 are scheduled to reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) by 2018 (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

May 16/13: FTM-19. An SM-3 Block IB missile is launched from the cruiser USS Lake Erie [CG 70, BMD 4.0.2], and hits a separating, short-range ballistic missile target. This is the 3rd consecutive successful test for the SM-3 Block IB, after its September 2011 failure. Which should clear the way for the full FY 2013 missile order. Overall, this test brings the SM-3 family to 25/31 (about 80%) in ballistic missile intercept tests. US MDA | US DoD | ATK | Lockheed Martin.

April 25/13: BMD 5.0. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a $69.4 million sole-source, cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to continue developing AEGIS BMD 5.0, increasing the total contract value from $1.34 billion to $1.41 billion.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, and is expected to be complete by May 31/14. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

April 10/13: FY 2014 Budget. The President releases a proposed budget at last, the latest in modern memory. The Senate and House were already working on budgets in his absence, but the Pentagon’s submission is actually important to proceedings going forward. See ongoing DID coverage. The biggest news is the SM-3 Block IIB Next-Generation Aegis Missile’s effective termination into a technology demonstration program. Its ability to defend the USA from European bases became questionable, and its timelines were never realistic. The USA will buy the originally-planned number of land-based GBI missiles instead.

March 15/13: R&D. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Moorestown, NJ receives a sole source, cost-plus-award-fee contract modification. The $24 million option supports Program Office efforts to identify technology for introduction into present and future Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Baselines/Spirals. The total contract value jumps from $1.316 billion to $1.34 billion.

The work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ through Dec 31/13. The contract has no Foreign Military Sale components, and the US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages it (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

Feb 13/13: FTM-20. CG-70 USS Lake Erie uses AEGIS BMD 4.0.2 and an SM-3 Block IA missile to hit a medium-range ballistic missile target, based on tracking data from in-orbit Space Tracking and Surveillance System-Demonstrator (STSS-D) satellites. The 4.0.2 system incorporates the changes made in the wake of the FTM-16E2 failure, and changes the timing of SM-3 rocket pulses.

Tracking from space can extend ship launch ranges, which allows one ship to cover a larger area. On the other hand, a September 2012 NRC report saw the system’s PTSS successor constellation as a waste of money, which provides very little value beyond existing satellites. They recommended that the USA should invest in upgrading the land-based GMD and its radars instead, in order to improve ICBM intercepts.

The missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, as usual. The SM-3 destroyed its target, and initial indications are that all components performed as designed. MDA’s release says that FTM-20 is the 24th successful SM-3 intercept in 30 flight test attempts since intercept tests began in 2002. US MDA | US DoD | ATK | Lockheed Martin | Northrop Grumman | Raytheon.

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

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

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

Feb 7/13: +3 destroyers. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ has its sole-source-cost-plus-incentive-fee/ cost-plus-award-fee contract limit raised by $30.2 million, in order to install AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 on 3 US Navy destroyers. This raises the overall contract from $1.286 billion to $1.316 billion.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ; Pearl Harbor, HI; San Diego, CA, and Norfolk, VA through March 15/15. Initial funding will use FY 2013 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds. The Missile Defense Agency, Dahlgren, Va., is the contracting activity (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

Oct 25/12: FTI-01. The US Army and Navy conduct a combined developmental and operational tests that involves the back-end C2BMC system, Army PATRIOT PAC-3 and THAAD missile intercepts, and Navy SM-2 and SM-3 missiles launched from USS Fitzgerald [DDG 62]. The PAC-3, THAAD, and SM-2 intercepts all work. The SM-3 Block IA intercept does not.

“The flight test began with an Extended Long Range Air Launch Target (E-LRALT) missile airdropped over the broad ocean area north of Wake Island from a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft, staged from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The AN/TPY-2 X-band radar, located with the THAAD system on Meck Island, tracked the E-LRALT and a THAAD interceptor successfully intercepted the Medium-Range Ballistic Missile. THAAD was operated by Soldiers from the 32nd AAMDC.

Another short-range ballistic missile was launched from a mobile launch platform located in the broad ocean area northeast of Kwajalein Atoll. The PATRIOT system, manned by soldiers of the 94th AAMDC, detected, tracked and successfully intercepted the target with a PAC-3 interceptor. Additionally, a second PAC-3 interceptor also intercepted a low flying cruise missile target over water.

The USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62) successfully engaged a low flying cruise missile over water. The Aegis system also tracked and launched an SM-3 Block 1A interceptor against a Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM). However, despite indication of a nominal flight of the SM-3 Block 1A interceptor, there was no indication of an intercept of the SRBM.”

Sources: US MDA, “MDA completes BMDS FTI-01 live-fire demonstrations” | Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin’s Missile Defense Systems Engage Multiple Targets During First Ever Integrated Ballistic Missile Defense System Test” | Raytheon, “U.S. Military Engages Targets With Raytheon Equipment in Largest Missile Defense Test in History”.

FTI-01: mixed results

FY 2012

BMD 4.0.1 certified; BMD 5.0 install contract Navy wants to scrap 7 cruisers, Congress wants to keep damaged CG 70; CRS report lays out BMD ship plans; European deployments to Rota planned; 2 tests go well; Key NRC report analyzes ballistic missile defense in-depth, says SM-3-IIB can’t protect USA from European bases. FY 2013 Budget fight
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Sept 28/12: Keep USS Port Royal? In the wake of Senate Appropriations Committee support, and partial agreement from the House Appropriations Committee support, the US Navy is now saying that it wants to keep USS Cowpens (CG-63), USS Anzio (CG-68), USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and USS Port Royal (CG-73) in service, instead of decommissioning them in March 2013.

USS Port Royal, which ran aground off of Hawaii in 2009 (q.v. Feb 8/09 entry), is the only BMD-capable ship in that set, and her required repairs will pose a separate problem for the Navy and for Congress. It may well be cheaper to pay $55 million and convert one of the other 3 rescued cruisers for the BMD role, than it would be to repair USS Port Royal. Naval Technology.

Sept 25/12: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $27 million contract modification to previously awarded contract for the production of 2 multi-mission signal processor equipment sets that upgrade a SPY-1D radar for BMD, 3 AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 equipment sets, and 5 Aegis Weapon System upgraded equipment sets.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (74%); Clearwater, FL (25%); and Akron, OH (1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2014. $11.8 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-11-C-5118).

Sept 14/12: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $58.1 million contract modification to produce 1 one FY 2012 multi-mission signal processor equipment set (which upgrades a SPY-1D radar for BMD), 2 AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 equipment sets, and 1 upgraded Aegis weapon system equipment set.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (74%); Clearwater, FL (25%); and Akron, OH (1%), and is expected to finish by December 2014. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington DC (N00024-11-C-5118).

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

This includes AEGIS BMD systems. The report explains very clearly that the window for stopping a warhead before it has enough energy to hit “defended” areas makes it difficult to impossible to position a ship in a place that allows even future SM-3 Block II missiles to hit their target. The report still believes that AEGIS BMD has a strong role to play, and will form the core defense of critical locations like Hawaii.

Aug 29/12: BMD 5.0 for 4. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $7.9 million sole source cost-plus-incentive fee/ cost-plus-award-fee contract modification. It exercises an option to install, test and check out the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Baseline 5.0 Weapon System on up to 4 Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers, raising the total contract value from $1.272 billion to $1.28 billion. These ships will enter service in FY 2013 and FY 2014.

BMD 5.0 will finish the system’s migration into the DDG Modernization Program’s Open Architecture (OA) efforts, which would allow the installation of Aegis BMD capability as a retrofit to all serving American destroyers. Firing the longer-range US/Japanese SM-3 Block IIA missile will require another upgrade, however, to AEGIS BMD 5.1.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ from Aug 29/12 through Dec 31/15. FY 2012 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds will be used, but they won’t expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

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

Issues involving the SM-3 Standard missile family are covered in that FOCUS article, while European missile defense is covered in a separate DID Spotlight piece. Other key excerpts:

“As can be seen Table 4, under the FY2013 budget, there are to be 36 BMD-capable Aegis ships by FY2018 [32 converted + 4 new destroyers], or 7 less than projected under the FY2012 budget for FY2018 [37 converted + 6 new destroyers]. The proposal under the FY2013 budget to retire seven Aegis cruisers early, in FY2013 and FY2014… may explain part of the difference… Some observers have been concerned that demands for BMD-capable Aegis ships are growing faster than the number of BMD-capable Aegis ships… [in addition] The Navy projects that implementing the 30-year plan would result in a cruiser/destroyer force that remains below 90 ships every year… except FY2027, and that reaches a minimum of 78 ships… in FY2014-FY2015 and again in FY2034. The projected cruiser-destroyer shortfall is the largest projected shortfall of any ship category…”

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

The Aegis BMD 4.0.1 configuration and its improved signal processor were certified in March 2012. It is now operational on 2 Navy ships, with installations underway on 2 more. US MDA | Lockheed Martin | Raytheon.

May 9/12: FTM-16E2a. This test goes better than FTM-16E2 (q.v. Sept 1/11), as USS Lake Erie [CG 70] successfully fires its SM-3 Block IB missile and intercepts the target. Sources: US MDA, “Second-Generation Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System Completes Successful Intercept Flight Test”.

March 15/12: Scrapping CG 73. The US Navy proposes to scrap 7 Ticonderoga Class cruisers, in order to reduce operations and refit expenses as part of proposed budget cuts. USS Port Royal, an AEGIS BMD capable cruiser that ran aground in 2009, is scheduled for scrapping in March 2013. Information Dissemination on NAVADMIN 087/12.

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

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

FY 2011

Equipment and test event contracts; DSB reaffirms support for Aegis/SM-3 combination; CRS lays out ballooning demand, upgrade costs; GAO criticizes MDA’s baselines and cost estimates; FTM-15 test shows early launch-on-remote capability, but FTM-16 Event 2 fails. DDG-70 fires SM-3
(click to enlarge)

Sept 1/11: FTM-16E2. The first ABM test of the new SM-3 Block 1B missile does not go well, as the launch from the AEGIS BMD 4.0.1-equipped USS Lake Erie [CG-70] fails to intercept the target missile during “FTM-16, Event 2”. The US MDA is now 21/26 for SM-3 missile intercept attempts, plus one successful satellite kill.

The root cause of failure turns out to be abnormal performance in the 3rd stage, during thrust pulses for final rocket maneuvers. That stage is common to Block IA and Block IB missiles, so the program decides that the least disruptive approach is to change the ship’s Aegis BMD 4 software to control the timing between pulses. There are no further problems in the next 3 SM-3 Block IB tests. US MDA | Aviation Week pre-test | GAO report explains cause.

FTM-16E2 test failure

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

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

July 29/11: Mod Kits. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $118.6 million fixed-price-incentive contract for 2 multi-mission signal processor (MMSP) equipment sets; 3 AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 equipment sets; and 5 Aegis Weapon System upgraded equipment sets, to support fleet BMD modernization. Sets will be delivered to 7 ships: the Ticonderoga Class cruisers USS Princeton [CG 59]; USS Cowpens [CG 63]; and USS Gettysburg [CG 64]; and the Arleigh Burke Class destroyers USS Arleigh Burke [DDG 51]; USS Barry [DDG 52]; USS John Paul [DDG 53]; and USS Benfold [DDG 65].

Work will be performed in Moorestown, N.J. (74%), Clearwater, FL (25%), and Akron, OH (1%), and is expected to be complete by September 2013. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC (N00024-11-C-5118).

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

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

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

“Some observers are concerned… that demands from U.S. regional military commanders for BMD-capable Aegis ships are growing faster than the number of BMD-capable Aegis ships. They are also concerned that demands from U.S. regional military commanders for… BMD operations could strain the Navy’s ability to provide regional military commanders with Aegis ships for performing non-BMD missions… Options for Congress include, among other things, the following: accelerating the modification of Aegis ships to BMD-capable configurations, increasing procurement of new Aegis destroyers, increasing procurement of SM-3 missiles, and providing funding for integrating the SM-2 Block IV BMD interceptor missile into the 4.0.1 version of the Aegis BMD system.

…MDA states that an in-service Aegis ship with no BMD capability can be given a 3.6.1 BMD capability for about $10 million to $15 million, or a 4.0.1 BMD capability for about $53 million. MDA states that an in-service ship with a 3.6.1 BMD capability can be upgraded to a 4.0.1 BMD capability for about $45 million to $55 million.”

July 5/11: Testing. Lockheed Martin has begun testing its AEGIS ACB-12/ Baseline 9 combination (SPY-1 radar & multi-mission signal processor (MMSP)) against live aircraft in a “stressing electronic-attack environment.” The instrumented, pod-equipped Learjets are operated by firms like L-3, on behalf of the US Navy.

ACB-12 will equip both retrofitted ships and new DDG-51 destroyers. Lockheed Martin’s delivery date for Baseline 9 is November 2012, with certification about a year later. Next steps include simulations of a modern Midway-style scenario involving enemy aircraft and ballistic missiles, which have gained new urgency with reports of China’s DF-21 ballistic anti-ship missile. Jim Judd is currently Lockheed Martin’s technical director for ACB-12. Aviation Week.

June 3/11: FTM-16. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $219.5 million cost-plus-award-fee, cost-plus-incentive-fee, and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, finalizing work for the FTM-16 ballistic missile defense test. This finalizes the total contract at $294.5 million, which includes the engineering, development, testing, support and material necessary to deliver an SM-3 Block 1B missile; and to provide engineering support, production engineering and obsolescence, surveillance and flight test support, and travel during the 55-month (about 4.5 year) performance period.

FTM-16 is scheduled for late summer 2011. It will demonstrate AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 mounted in USS Lake Erie [CG 70], in conjunction with the 1st flight test of the SM-3 Block IB interceptor. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ through Sept 30/15, and about $32 million in FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds will be used. The US Missile Defense Agency at Dahlgren Naval Base, VA manages this contract (HQ0276-11-C-0002). See also US MDA testimony to HASC [PDF].

June 1/11: Support. Photon Research Associates in San Diego, CA receives a $9.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for specialized technical systems analysis services in support of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, as well as the land-based THAAD program, on behalf of the US Navy ($8 million/ 85%) and the government of Japan ($1.4 million/ 15%).

These services involve operations research support, physics analysis, test plans and procedures, test data collection analysis and test data review, test monitoring, real-time mission support, technical management support, technical reports and briefing preparations, in support of test and evaluation and systems engineering activities related to various national test ranges as required.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (70%), and the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, HI (30%). Work is expected to be complete in May 2013, and $401,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-2, by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, CA (N68936-11-C-0023).

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

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

FTM-15 was less dramatic than the SM-3’s 2008 satellite kill, but it’s equally significant. Launch on remote track was supposed to wait for AEGIS BMD 5.1, and SM-3 Block IB was supposed to begin addressing IRBMs, with full capability only in SM-3 block II. Instead, the test also combined to extend the current system’s proven capabilities, while validating the difficult connections that make a missile defense system more than the sum of its parts, and proving out an important early warning element (STSS satellites) in the system. US MDA | Lockheed Martin | Raytheon | Lexington Institute.

Launch-on-Remote, anti-IRBMs come early

April 6/11: BMD 4.0.1. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $34.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/ cost-plus-award-fee modification with technical/schedule performance incentives. That money will be used to fund schedule and “within scope” adjustments to AEGIS BMD Baseline 4.0.1 development, and to multi-mission signal processor (MMSP) development under two separate contract line items (CLINs). Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, and runs through December 2014. FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used to fund this effort, and the US Missile Defense Agency manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

For AEGIS BMD 4.0.1, the contract funds an initial delay in the certification schedule, and an adjustment to the original test plan.

For MMSP, it covers an extension to the development schedule, to account for alignment with changes to the ACB-12 overall combat system development and integration program plan. Those changes are “attributable to a delay in delivery of government furnished equipment.”

March 31/11: Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA receives a not-to-exceed $10.4 million delivery order for a set of AEGIS BMD radar electronics upgrades. Items include a stable master oscillator (STAMO); radio frequency (RF) combiner; ordnance alteration kits; and associated spares, material and installation services. The STAMO provides a very precise and pure RF source that is amplified in the Continuous Wave Illuminator, so the Fire Control System can illuminate targets for a missile engagement. The RF Coherent Combiner modification improves the accuracy of power and phase monitoring, reducing the need for sphere tracks to assess radar performance.

Raytheon confirmed to DID that these items were AEGIS BMD related. Work will be performed in Norfolk, VA (45%); Burlington, MA (28%); and Andover, MA (27%), and is expected to be complete by August 2013 (N00024-11-G-5116, #0010).

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

“In 2010, MDA was able to meet or exceed its delivery goals for several MDA activities, such as missile defense upgrades to Aegis ships… MDA finalized a new process in which detailed baselines were set for several missile defense systems… [but] GAO found its unit and life-cycle cost baselines had unexplained inconsistencies and documentation for six baselines had insufficient evidence to be a high-quality cost estimate… GAO makes 10 recommendations for MDA to strengthen its resource, schedule and test baselines, facilitate baseline reviews, and further improve transparency and accountability. GAO is also making a recommendation to improve MDA’s ability to carry out its test plan. In response, DOD fully concurred with 7 recommendations. It partially concurred with 3…”

FY 2010

Equipment and test event contracts; Multi-year support contract; BMD on 21 ships now; Navy panel on Aegis readiness issues. USS Lake Erie [CG 70]
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Jan 5/10: Update. Lockheed Martin provides a year-end update of AEGIS BMD progress to date. It is now installed on 21 American ships, as well as all 4 of Japan’s Kongo Class destroyers.

AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 was formally tested in June 2010, with at sea tracking exercises of medium and intermediate range targets during the last quarter of 2010. That iteration will finish AEGIS BMD’s transition an open electronic architecture during the “Advanced Capability Build 12” software and hardware upgrades, scheduled for 2012.

July 7/10: AEGIS Readiness Issues. A Gannett’s Navy Times story discusses their copy of a fleet review panel report. The panel, headed by Vice Adm. Phillip Balisle (ret.), says that:

“The SPY radar has historically been the best supported system in the surface Navy, and coincidentally supports one of the most critical Navy missions today: ballistic-missile defense. Yet SPY manpower, parts, training and performance are in decline… it can be assumed that less important systems could well be in worse material condition.”

Problems behind the rise in requests for technical assistance, and poor performance in inspection reports, include a lack of top-qualified personnel, sailors who aren’t fully trained on maintaining the radars, and a Navy bureaucracy and maintenance funding shortages that make it so difficult to order replacement parts, crews are giving up and commanders are choosing to take risks with lower performance, in order to avoid sidelining the ship. Retired Office of Naval Intelligence analyst and longtime “Combat Fleets of the World” editor A.D. Baker III, offered this summation:

“The Aegis readiness shortfall is just one of a vast number of problems related to pushing people too far and not giving them the training or funding resources to carry out their duties properly… This will significantly affect our putative BMD capability. The money is going to missile development and procurement, not to maintenance of the detection and tracking system – without which the best missiles in the world won’t be of much use.”

June 14/10: Lockheed Martin, Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $131.6 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-5101) for 4 multi-mission signal processor equipment sets, 4 ballistic missile defense 4.0.1 equipment sets, and 6 Aegis weapon system upgraded equipment sets.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (82%); Clearwater, FL (13%); and Eagan, MN (5%), and is expected to be complete by September 2013. $9.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages this contract.

April 26/10: BMD 4.0.1. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $151.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/ cost-plus-award-fee modification, exercising options to complete the development and test of the Aegis BMD Baseline 4.0.1, then install and verify it in 4 Aegis cruisers or destroyers.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ from April 2010 through Dec 31/13, and $10 million in research, development, test and evaluation funding from the FY 2010 budget will be used to get this effort underway for the US Missile Defense Agency (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

Feb 10/10: Testing. Lockheed Martin announces that the US Navy awarded the company a $160 million follow-on contract for technical and engineering support at its land-based test facility for the Aegis Ballistic Defense (BMD) System. The Combat Systems Engineering Development Site (CSEDS) in Moorestown, NJ, develops and integrates computer software for the Aegis BMD System. In addition to ongoing support for CSEDS, the new contract calls for Lockheed Martin to support, operate and maintain the Naval Systems Computing Center (NSCC) and the SPY-1A naval radar test suite located near CSEDS.

AEGIS BMD, 2009
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Nov 12/09: +6 ships. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency announces the next 6 ships that will be modified for AEGIS BMD. All will be stationed on the East Coast, which currently has just 2 BMD-capable ships. Defense News.

Oct 21/09: AEGIS BMD. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a Cost-Plus-Incentive-Fee / Cost-Plus-Award-Fee contract with a total value of $1.035 billion, to serve as the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Combat System engineering agent and the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Weapon System design, development and computer program source for Aegis cruisers and destroyers.

Work is to be performed in Moorestown, NJ from Oct 1/09 through Dec 31/14. FY 2009 RDT&E funding will be used to incrementally fund this effort for $15.2 million. The Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA issued the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

FY 2007 – 2009

Equipment and test event contracts; Satellite killer; Japanese score 1st foreign intercept; Pacific Blitz test failure; USS Port Royal runs aground; BMD 4.0.1 developed and installed; BMD 3.6 testing complete. USS Port Royal: Oops.
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June 23/09: BMD 4.0.1. Lockheed Martin announces that it has installed the latest BMD 4.0.1 evolution and new Aegis BSP signal processor on the cruiser USS Lake Erie [CG-70]. Over the next year, USS Lake Erie will complete a series of tests, leading up to full certification of the system upgrade by the U.S. Navy in early 2011.

BMD 4.0.1 installed

May 12/09: Mod Kit. Raytheon, Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA received a $6.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order, with delivery incentives, for one AN/SPY-1 radar transmitter multi-mission capability ordnance alteration kit, including radio frequency monitor coherent combiner, technical manual changes and installation/checkout spares.

The AN/SPY-1 radar transmitter multi-mission capability modifications are part of the Aegis modernization program along with the multi-mission capability enhancement, a commercial-off-the-shelf based multi-mission signal processor which is being developed in parallel with this procurement. The multi-mission signal processor, and these transmitter modifications, will provide the AN/SPY-1D radar system with near AN/SPY-1D (V) radar performance, augmented with full AEGIS ballistic missile defense signal processor capabilities.

Work will be performed in Norfolk, VA (67.5%); Sudbury, MA (20.5%); and Andover, MA (12%), and is expected to be complete by October 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC (N00024-06-G-5109).

Feb 8/09: Aegis, Involuntarily Ashore. The guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal [CG-73], one of just 3 cruisers with AEGIS BMD installed, runs aground off of Hawaii. The warship suffers heavy damage to the underwater bow sonar dome and to her propellers and propeller shafts, and is drydocked. Bubbleheads has a link roundup.

Port Royal runs aground

Nov 1/08: Pacific Blitz. The US Navy has 2 ships fire SM-3s at 2 incoming ballistic missiles. Only 1 of them hots its target. USS Paul Hamilton [DDG 60] fired 1st and was successful, but USS Hopper’s [DDG 70] ability to successfully detect, track and engage the target wasn’t enough to get an interception. The US Navy’s record for intercept tests is now 16 of 19. Sources: US MDA, “Navy Intercepts Ballistic Missile Target in Fleet Exercise Pacific Blitz”.

Mixed test results

Oct 21/08: BMD 3.6. Operational Testing of the Aegis BMD 3.6 System completed.

BMD 3.6 testing done

Burnt Frost

Feb 20/08: Burnt Frost. USS Lake Erie [CG 70] launches a modified SM-3 missile, aimed at a malfunctioning American reconnaissance satellite [USA-193] instead of an enemy missile. The intercept is successful, adding a new dimension to American BMD capabilities.

The 5,000 pound satellite was probably a radar satellite, but the fact that the USA had lost control shortly after launch on Dec 1/06 meant that most of its toxic hydrazine fuel was still on board. Analysis from the Joint Space Operations Command at Vandenberg AFB, CA says that the on-board hydrazine propulsion fuel was successfully and completely neutralized, with “nearly 100 percent of the debris safely burned-up during reentry within 48 hours,” and the remainder of the satellite expected to safely re-enter the atmosphere and burn up “within the next few days.” Sources: US MDA, “One-Time Mission: Operation Burnt Frost” | USAF, “Operations Group blazes new trail during Operation Burnt Frost”.

Satellite kill!

JS Kongo fires SM-3
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Dec 17/07: Japan test. Japan’s JS Kongo AEGIS destroyer [DDG-173] becomes the first ship beyond the US Navy to destroy a ballistic missile, launching an SM-3 Block 1A to successfully intercept a medium-range ballistic missile target fired from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The veteran ABM test participant USS Lake Erie [CG 70] sailed from its homeport of Pearl Harbor to participate as a secondary, using its radar to track the target.

This marks the 12th successful intercept overall for the SM-3. Read “Japanese Destroyer JS Kongo Intercepts Ballistic Missile” and “Japan’s Fleet BMD: Upgrades & UORs” for more in-depth coverage. We won’t be covering further Japanese tests beyond the article’s master chart.

Japan: 1st BMD intercept

March 10/07: Support. General Dynamics Information Technology announces a contract by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to provide support to the Missile Defense Agency’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program directorate. The contract has a total potential value of $191 million over 5 years, if all options are exercised. Under the contract, General Dynamics will provide systems engineering and program management assistance to Aegis BMD for production, fleet introduction and fleet operations and support. The company also will provide test and evaluation engineering management and safety, quality and mission assurance engineering; and support international programs including Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and cooperative development activities.

Feb 28/07: BMD 4.0.1. Lockheed Martin Maritime Sensors and Systems in Moorestown, NJ received a $979.2 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to continue design, test, and deliver the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Block 2006/2008 (Consolidated) Weapon System capability (BMD Baseline 4.0.1). Updates will include an improved signal processor, and continue the AEGIS BMD’s migration to open architecture electronics.

Work will be performed at Moorestown, New Jersey and is expected to be complete by Dec. 2010. The contract funds will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. FY2007 research and development funds will be used. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C. is the contracting activity (N00024-03-C-6110).

Additional Readings Background: AEGIS BMD and Missile Defense

Background: Other BMD Assets

Official Reports

News & Views

Categories: News

Israeli “SPYDER” Mobile Air Defense System – First India, now Vietnam

Wed, 05/25/2016 - 23:48
SPYDER Mobile Firing Unit
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Israel’s SPYDER air defense system follows a recent trend of using advanced air-air missiles designed for fighter jets as ground-launched surface-to-air missiles (SAM). This truck-mounted system mixes radar and optical tracking with any combination of short to medium-range Derby 4 and ultra-agile short-range 5th generation Python 5 air to air missiles, in order to create a versatile system adapted for a wider range of threats. Hence its inclusion in in our AMRAAM FOCUS article’s “international competitors” section.

India has become the system’s inaugural export customer. SPYDER will reportedly replace India’s Russian-made OSA-AKM/SA-8 Gecko and ZRK-BD Strela-10M/ SA-13 Gopher SAM systems, and the purchase has decisively shelved the Indian DRDO’s failed Trishul project.

More success may be on the way. As India’s Air Force gears up, the Army is reportedly about to follow suit with an even bigger contract.

The SPYDER System SPYDER Systems
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Each SPYDER ADS-SR Mobile Firing Unit can slant-launch up to 4 missiles in either lock on after launch (LOAL) mode, or lock on before launch (LOBL). This short-range version offers 360 degree quick engagement capability and 60-target tracking via IAI’s Elta EL/M 2106 ATAR 3D surveillance radar and TOPLITE optical sensor, a kill range of over 15 km, and openly advertised effectiveness from 20 – 9,000 meters (65 – 30,000 feet).

A new SPYDER ADS-MR 6×6 truck version was unveiled at Eurosatory 2006. It’s restricted to LOAL but offers 8 vertical-launch missiles in any mix, adds a dedicated radar vehicle with a more powerful radar, and puts boosters on all missiles, in order to improve advertised range to 50 km/ 30 miles, and performance to 16 km/ 52,000 feet.

A typical SPYDER squadron consists of 1 Mobile Command and Control Unit, plus 4 Mobile Firing Units with their own built-in power supplies and missile sets of 4-8 missiles.

Contracts and Key Events SPYDER MR vs. SR
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May 26/16: Israel’s Rafael Advanced Systems looks set to win the Indian Army’s short-range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) contest with its Spyder system. According to the Economic Times, the Spyder seems poised to win after offerings from Sweden’s Saab and Russia’s Rosoboronexport failed to comply with the Army’s requirements during technical trials. The competition has been running for five years.

October 26/15: Vietnam has purchased [Vietnamese] SPYDER air defense systems, manufactured by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. The surface-to-air missile system is capable of launching the company’s advanced Derby beyond visual range and Python-5 missiles, with it unclear whether the Vietnamese military has purchased the Short Range (SPYDER-SR) or Medium Range (SPYDER-MR) version, with respective ranges of 20km and 50km.

Aug 18/09: Indian Army’s QR-SAM. The Times of India reports that India’s Ministry of Defence has finally given the go-ahead for the army’s INR 40 billion (about $820 million) Quick-Reaction SAM program. These mobile missiles would protect Indian maneuver elements like armored columns and troop concentrations, as well as important areas and installations. The Army seeks to equip 3 regiments with this contract, which is over twice the size of the IAF’s 18 squadron purchase. The Times of India:

“With the indigenous Akash and Trishul air defence projects not meeting its “user-requirements”… The Defence Acquisitions Council, chaired by defence minister A K Antony, discussed the entire matter on Monday. Though there was no official word, sources said the Israeli SpyDer QR-SAM systems had been selected for the project.

…The projects were in a limbo for quite some time now, with one of the main reasons being the naming of Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael in the Rs 1,160-crore Barak-I deal kickbacks case by the CBI. The government, however, was reluctant to blacklist these Israeli armament firms because it held that it would prove “counter-productive” since there were several “crucial” defence projects underway with them.”

Jan 20/09: SR-SAM – Revenge of DRDO? India Defence reports that neither MBDA nor India’s state-run DRDO have given up on their “SR-SAM” short range air defense proposal. Rumors peg it as a combination of DRDO’s Trishul and MBDA’s VL-MICA system, though Trishul’s failure and VL-MICA’s techologies mean that claims regarding Trishul technology are likely to be about saving face as much as anything else.

The “Maitri” LLQRM proposal’s positioning would be directly competitive with RAFAEL’s SPYDER, and VL-MICA is deployable as a mobile system. That could affect SPYDER’s future expansion within the Indian military, and might even affect its prospects if program problems crop up. MICA’s capabilities mean that SR-SAM/Maitri would also be directly competitive with India’s indigenous Akash, and might even impinge on the proposed medium range MR-SAM deal involving a longer-range Barak missile.

Dec 11/08: The Indian Ministry of Defence confirms that it has signed the Spyder contract – and canceled Trishul. Defence Minister Shri AK Antony, in a written reply to Shri Tarini Kanta Roy in Rajya Sabha:

“Ministry of Defence has signed a contract with M/s Rafael, Israel to procure Spyder Low Level Quick Reaction Missile System (LLQRM) for the Indian Air Force.

The proposal for Trishul system was foreclosed due to its inability to meet certain critical operational requirements. However, it served as a technology demonstrator and the expertise acquired with the technologies developed during design and development phase of Trishul Missile System are being utilized for developing state-of-the-art Short Range Surface to Air Missile System.”

Costs were not disclosed, though some reports place the deal at $260 million; previous reports of R 18,000 crore would be about $362 million at current exchange rates. Nor was the future composition of India’s Spyder force; Spyder systems now come in the 8-pack, booster-enabled SPYDER ADS-MR, and the 4-pack SPYDER ADS-SR. Indian MoD | domain-b.

Oct 13/08: DNA India reports that a new order from the Union government downgraded both IAI and RAFAEL’s position as weapon suppliers to India, and may place the Spyder contract in jeopardy. The issue is not expected to sort itself out until after the 2009 Parliamentary elections. Read “India Downgrades Vendor Status of IAI and RAFAEL” for more.

Sept 1/08: The Spyder contract was delayed for almost 2 years by political accusations, but those have apparently been put to rest. Defense News reports that a $260 million contract has now been signed with Rafael. The Indian Air Force will receive 18 Spyder systems, with deliveries beginning in early 2011 and finishing by August 2012. Unusually, the contract will not include any mandatory industrial offsets.

March 19/07: Reports indicate that MBDA is working on a deal with the DRDO, whose Trishul short range anti-aorcraft missile project continues to flounder. DRDO’s Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) would team with MBDA to develop a “new-generation low-level, quick-reaction missile (LLQRM) system” known as ‘Maitri’, for the Indian Navy and Air Force. India Defence.

The project is said to be worth $500 million and is to be signed in May between the Hyderabad-based DRDL and MBDA. It is retry to revive the work done under the unsuccessful Trishul LLQRM project,

October 2006: India Defence quoted Air Chief SP Tyagi as saying India is close to wrapping up a deal to purchase quick reaction surface-to-air missiles from Israel as a mobile air defense system. Under the deal, India proposed to buy 18 SPYDER (Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby) missile systems and accompanying missiles in a deal worth more than Rs 1,800 crores (18 billion Indian rupees, or about $395.4 million at the time). RAFAEL would be the prime contractor, and Israel Aircraft Industries the major subcontractor.

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Categories: News

Airfields Afloat: The USA’s New Gerald Ford Class Super-Carriers

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 23:50
USA’s Nimitz Class &
UK’s Invincible Class
(click to view full)

Some nations have aircraft carriers. The USA has super-carriers. The French Charles De Gaulle Class nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India’s new Vikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t, while the British Invincible Class carriers that participated in the Falklands War weigh in at just 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy’s excellent new Cavour Class (27,000t), and Spain’s Principe de Asturias Class (17,000t). The USA’s Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000+ tonne range. Hence their unofficial designation: “super-carriers”. Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.

Nimitz Class cutaway
(click to view full)

As the successor to the 102,000 ton Nimitz Class super-carriers, the CVN-21 program aimed to increase aircraft sortie generation rates by 20%, increase survivability to better handle future threats, require fewer sailors, and have depot maintenance requirements that could support an increase of up to 25% in operational availability. The combination of a new design nuclear propulsion plant and an improved electric plant are expected to provide 2-3 times the electrical generation capacity of previous carriers, which in turn enables systems like an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS, replacing steam-driven catapults), Advanced Arresting Gear, and integrated combat electronics that will leverage advances in open systems architecture. Other CVN-21 features include an enhanced flight deck, improved weapons handling and aircraft servicing efficiency, and a flexible island arrangement allowing for future technology insertion. This graphic points out many of the key improvements.

DID’s CVN-21 FOCUS Article offers a detailed look at a number of the program’s key innovations, as well as a list of relevant contract awards and events.

The New Gerald R. Ford Class CVN-21: Improvements and Innovations CV 1: USS Langley
(click to enlarge)

The Nimitz Class was designed in the 1950s and 1960s, and despite a number of equipment changes since then, the basic design remains. Rear Adm. Dennis M. Dwyer, the Navy’s program executive officer for aircraft carriers, put it this way in a May 2003 National Defense Magazine article: “If you take the time period between Nimitz and CVN-21 [design], it’s the same time period between [the USS] Langley (CV 1) – the first carrier – and Nimitz.” The Langley was commissioned in 1922.

The technological jump is much shorter. Aircraft carriers are a mature technology, and CVN-21’s refinements are more about marginal improvements to effectiveness, cost-efficiency, and future upgradeability than any revolution in carrier design.

Even so, creating a new ship class isn’t cheap. According to NAVSEA, the cost of the initial design work to create the CVN-21 ship class and develop its new technologies is projected at $5.6 billion. By 2005, as advance construction began, the estimate for building the CVN 78 Gerald R Ford was $8.1 billion, plus about $5.4 billion in ancillary work related to the class as a whole. Newport News worked to test the design-build strategy before overall construction kick-off in 2007.

DID investigated the CVN-21’s exact build cost, and the future operating cost savings expected as a result of its design innovations. Essentially, CVN-21 carriers are expected to generate savings in 2 major ways.

One is through an array of design and automation changes to various areas of the ship that reduce the required number of sailors aboard.

The other is through reduction in the number of major maintenance overhauls required. NAVSEA expects these changes to save $5 billion per ship over the ships’ projected 50-year lifetime.

Meanwhile, measures are being taken aimed at improving the carriers’ effectiveness and survivability.

Ford Class: New Technologies CVN-21 Enhancements
(click to view full)

An electromagnetic aircraft launching system (EMALS) will replace the steam-powered system used on current ships. The current steam catapults are large, heavy, and operate without feedback control. They impart large loads to the airframe via sudden shock, and are difficult and time consuming to maintain. Additionally, the trend towards heavier, faster aircraft will soon result in energy requirements that exceed the capacity of steam catapults.

EMALS Components
(click to view full)

EMALS offers a 30% increase in launch energy potential, as well as substantial improvements via reduced weight, smaller volume, and more flexibility; plus increased control, availability, reliability, and efficiency. Self-diagnostics can be embedded in it, simplifying maintenance. The other thing that simplifies maintenance is the removal of the 614 kg of steam required for each aircraft launch, plus hydraulics and oils, water for braking, and associated pumps, motors, and control systems. A corresponding Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) system will replace existing Mk7 hydraulic motors with a system based on electric motors, in order to handle the arresting wires used to catch aircraft tailhooks on landing.

The EMALS-based system will take up far less space, providing design flexibility. EMALS launchers can be moved far more easily, downsized and incorporated into a ramp to provide additional launchers for short take-off aircraft, etc. Finally, its steadier acceleration is expected to reduce launch strains on naval aircraft, which helps extend their airframe life. That isn’t calculated as part of cost savings for the ship, but it definitely adds up over time.

The bad news? EMALS is such a big change from existing steam-driven catapult systems that it’s a critical technology for the CVN-21 Class. Its progress and performance will have a substantial effect on the ships’ on-time delivery, and on their ability to fulfill their cost promises.

Advanced arresting gear. The Naval Air Systems Command, headquartered at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, is working on an improved system for trapping aircraft as they land and hook the arresting cables. This electrical-hydraulic combination will be designed to be able to handle emerging platforms, such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, which are heavier and able to return to the ship with more unexpended munitions than their predecessors.

A redesigned nuclear reactor is expected to supply 25% more power for propulsion, but require only 50% the maintenance costs and a 50% reduction in sailors required to operate it. Removing the steam catapults in favor of EMALS is synergistic, reducing work on the maintenance-heavy steam conduits and allowing the steam from the nuclear reactor to do other things – like make electricity. The CVN-21 Class is expected to have 3 times the electricity generating capacity of the Nimitz Class. If our personal experiences with power hungry electronics over the last 20 years are anything to go by, they may need it.

NAVSEA says that the Ford Class is planned to have a long-lived reactor, but an expensive mid-life refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) is still planned after about 25 years of operation.

Rear Adm. Dwyer has estimated that these and other technical changes involving increased automation will enable the size of the CVN-21 ships’ crews to be reduced from about 3,000 – 2,500, and possibly as low as 2,100. Note that some 2,500 personnel are also carried in the air wing, and will not be subject to reductions from any of the methods described here.

DBR on CVN-21
(click to view full)

Dual-Band Radar. This was pioneered on the Zumwalt class DDG-1000 destroyers. Most warships carry 2 radars with very different functions. The volume search radar performs wide area scans over a large footprint, while the targeting and fire control radar guides missiles and other weapons fired by the ship. They are integrated at the combat system level, but each is a separate sub-system, operating in different bands with different detection strengths. The DBR approach integrates both a SPY-3 active-array X-band radar for excellent fire control against saturation attacks, and an active array S-band radar for wide area search and performance in clutter, in order to provide a single combat picture with fewer coverage gaps and better response. All in less space than existing systems, allowing designers to shrink the “island” tower on deck.

The use of active-array, digital beamforming radar technology will help DBR-equipped ships survive saturation attacks, since they can allocate emitters to track and guide against tens of incoming missiles simultaneously. Active array radars also feature better reliability than mechanically-scanned radars, and recent experiments suggest that they could have uses as very high-power electronic jammers, and/or high-bandwidth secure communications relays. Read “The US Navy’s Dual Band Radars” for full coverage.

Ford Class: Design Improvements CVN 79 Concept, 2009
(click for alternate view)

Electronic upgradeability. CVN 21 will also employ an integrated warfare system that allows its electronics to slot into a single, open-architecture, scalable weapons system, based on commercial, off-the-shelf technologies. Dwyer noted that the US Navy would like everything to “plug and play.” While technology never works quite that way, the process can be made easier – and doing so would improve long-term performance. As Rear Adm. Dwyer pointed out:

“Right now, the way we build aircraft carriers is to buy all the electronic equipment up front, then take seven years to build a ship and deliver it with obsolete electronics. It’s kind of crazy now that you think about it. We don’t want to do that any more… What we’d like to do is put the electronic equipment in separately from the actual shipbuilding process.”

Along similar lines, CVN-21 will feature a so-called smart deck, equipped with redundant and flexible fiber-optic cable that is easier to move and repair than hard copper wiring. It can be blown through the ship for installation – and more easily reeled out for replacement. Its capacity is also easier to upgrade, by clipping on terminating devices that allow for richer exploitation of different electromagnetic bandwidths of light.

A NASCAR flight deck philosophy. The “island” tower on the flight deck is being redesigned, reduced, and moved. As Rear Adm. Dwyer noted: “The people who actually handle aircraft said, ‘The island’s in the wrong place. It makes the aircraft all jam up. Why don’t you move it?'” So the island has shifted 100 feet aft, and the carrier’s elevators, deck et. al. are being shifted to a racetrack-like pattern of operations, complete with “pit stop” parking et. al.

It is this system that accounts for the expected 33% improvements in operational flights per day – a key measure of the carrier’s ability to both project power and defend itself. The US Navy’s goal is 160 sorties per day for the Ford Class, vs. the Nimitz Class’ 120 in a 12-hour fly day. Surge goal is 270 sorties on 24-hour fly days, vs. 240 sorties for the previous Nimitz Class.

Survivability also received attention. While the bridge and flight deck operations will remain on the island, the carrier’s command and decision centers are being moved from the island, to a “smart deck” down lower in the ship. This places them somewhere that’s both safer, and less in the way of aircraft operations. Meanwhile, the fuel tanks and bomb/ missile/ ammunition magazines are getting more armor, and the hull is being reinforced.

Transitional Carrier: CV 77, USS George H.W. Bush CVN 77: Men at work
(click to view full)

The improvements described above are large leaps. To help with this transition, the USS George H.W. Bush was designed as a transitional ship between the Nimitz Class and the Ford Class. As such, CVN 77 has been a candidate for development, evaluation, and incorporation of a range of advanced technologies and acquisition reform initiatives. The hope is that these initiatives would result in lower life cycle costs, and also set the standard by which further improvements in the CVN-21 Class will be measured.

Technology innovations fielded in CVN 77 are targeted to achieve a 15% reduction in Operation and Support Costs, and they will also be backfit as feasible in the other nine ships of the Nimitz Class through the Carrier Improvement Plan. The carriers’ mid-life refueling overhauls and refit are the most likely time, given the scale of effort required. Some cost-saving transitional features and improvements designated for this last ship of the Nimitz Class included:

  • A new automated JP-5 jet fuel system with programmable consoles and an improved filtration system (for significant reduction in operational/maintenance workload)

  • A new vacuum collection sewage system that utilizes fresh water instead of sea water for flushing. This creates fewer long term corrosion problems, and reduces the quantity of sewage from water closets and urinals by ratio of 10 to 1.

  • Enhanced radio center automation, which involves integrating communications apertures and C4I systems within the radio room to enable an automated full service integrated network that operates at greater effectiveness and efficiency.

  • A composite mast made from a lighter, composite material instead of steel that reduces topside weight (up to 20 tons) and reduces electromagnetic blockage. It also includes accelerated introduction of new antenna technology: mast clamp current probe antennas will eliminate numerous HF antennas.

  • Some propulsion plant changes to reduce manpower and maintenance requirements, though this will not represent a full conversion to the new CVN-21 nuclear power plant.

The George H.W. Bush was originally scheduled to be finish construction in April 2008, but delays pushed the timeline back to about March 2009, and increased costs from $5.9 billion to $6.2 billion in appropriation-year dollars. The Newport News Daily Press reports that CVN 77 was commissioned on Jan 10/09 at NAS Norfolk, despite being approximately 3-4 months away from the point at which it would normally be considered ready. The ship was towed into place for the ceremony, whose date was set in order to commission the ship while its namesake’s son was still President. In practice, however, this meant that the Navy accepted the ship even though it had never tested its major operating systems or nuclear reactors at sea.

The carrier is now in service. She was officially delivered to the US Navy on May 11/09, and departed on her first mission on May 11/11.

The CVN-21 Carrier Replacement Program (click to view full)

The USA’s carrier replacement project has been underway at some level for many years now. Activity can easily trace back to 1994, and really kicked off in 1997 when the Naval Research Advisory Committee (NRAC) was asked to study technology opportunities that might be useful in “CVX.” From that moniker, the effort evolved to become the “CVN-21 Carrier Replacement Program.” As the ships are built and fielded, however, more and more references will be made to the CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford Class instead.

Long-lead appropriations for the Gerald R. Ford [CVN-78] began in 2001, and long-lead appropriations for the unnamed CVN 79 are already underway. Beyond that, construction of additional carriers becomes less certain. Current Pentagon plans call for a “drumbeat” of one new carrier every 5 years, which slows planned construction, raises per-ship costs by adding more fixed costs, and also imposes additional costs by requiring more re-designs for new electronics etc. with each new ship. The USA’s rapidly-deteriorating fiscal situation are throwing even that plan into difficulty, however, even as advances in ship-killing missiles are calling the large aircraft carrier’s pre-eminence into question.

Purchases of something as expensive as a super-carrier take time, and are spread over many annual budgets. First, finished items like engines, which must be present at early stages of construction, are bought as “long-lead” materials, along with some advance sub-assembly work. Then full construction funding is appropriated over several years. Recent budgets include:

(click to view full) 3-D Pump Room model
(click to view full)

The target date for CVN 78 commissioning was 2014, but current plans say it won’t be delivered before September 2015. Initial Operational Capability isn’t expected until FY 2017, with Full Operational Capability in FY 2018. When it does enter service, it will replace America’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier – the 50+ year old USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which retired in 2012. CVN 78 is also expected to serve for 50 years, from 2014-2064.

Newport News is designing the new ships using a 3-D product model tool called CATIA (Computer-Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application), a widespread standard for advanced design in the shipbuilding industry that is also in widespread use by the global auto industry. They’re also using CAVE, (Computer-Aided Virtual Environment), a 3D immersive environment tool used for viewing certain areas of the CATIA product model, and refining the construction strategy.

CVN-21 Class: Contract Awards & Key Events

Unless otherwise specified, the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contracts. Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc., formerly Northrop-Grumman’s Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. in Newport News, VA, is the project lead and contract recipient.

FY 2013 – FY 2016

CVN 78 structural erection done. Cost inflation. CVN-21 Concept
(click for alternate view)

May 25/16: Huntington Ingalls has been awarded a $152 million US Navy contact for advance planning for the construction of the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN 80). The third aircraft carrier in the Gerald R. Ford class was named in honor of the Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Work to be carried out includes engineering, design, planning, and procurement of long-lead-time material, and will be performed at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division through March 2018. Construction is to commence in 2018 and be delivered to the Navy in 2027.

September 24/15: Delivery of the first Ford-class carrier to the Navy will be delayed owing to the need for additional testing before sea trials can begin. The Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) will now be delivered in May 2016, six to eight weeks after the scheduled March 2016 delivery date. With the carrier currently 93% complete, the cost of the test will be absorbed below the $12.9 billion cost cap mandated by Congress. The ship’s schedule took a hit in August when Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall ordered the Navy to conduct full-scale shock tests on the Ford, rather than the second carrier in class, the Kennedy. That decision will likely push back the carrier’s Initial Operating Capability by several months.

August 20/15: Newport News Shipyard will lay down the hull of the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) on Saturday, following the awarding of $4.3 billion in contracts in June to accelerate construction of the second Ford-class carrier. The ceremony will mark the official start of the ship’s construction, with first work on the hull having begun in 2011.

August 13/15: The Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) carrier will undergo shock testing, despite this likely causing schedule delays of up to six months. Previously, Navy officials planned to carry out the tests – designed to replicate extreme combat stress – on the second carrier in class, the John F. Kennedy, due to enter service in the early 2020s, in order to accelerate the Gerald R. Ford’s entry into service. Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall reportedly ordered the Navy to conduct the tests, despite the inevitable delay such testing would produce.

June 8/15: Huntington Ingalls was awarded $4.3 billion through two contracts on Friday, with the shipyard handed a $3.35 billion detail design and construction contract for CVN-79, a member of the Navy’s new class of super-carriers. The subsidiary of Newport News Shipyard also received a $941.2 million modification to a previously awarded contract in support of CVN-79, also known as the USS John F. Kennedy. The new class of carriers was recently criticized for being too expensive, with Huntington Ingalls the sole manufacturer of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The John F. Kennedy is the second ship in the class, under construction with a cost-cap of $11.5 billion.

Mar 11/15: McCain complains about Ford-class costs.Former carrier pilot Sen. John McCain told Navy officials that the new Ford class of carriers is too expensive, coming in between $11 and $13 billion per copy. The first is being tested now before being delivered to the Navy. The second (JFK) and third (Enterprise) are in various states of construction. The Enterprise will be the ninth ship to take on the name. The eighth, CVN-65, was a carrier McCain served on in the 1960s, flying A-1 Skyraiders in a ground support role.

Mar 2/15: CVN-79 work moved up, but schedule stays put. The Navy tells Congress that it will move up work on the JFK, but not to launch the ship any sooner. To do so would create an impractical overlap of an extra carrier for a couple year prior to the retirement of CVN-68. Instead, they will delay the completion of the ship, waiting until the last minute to purchase and install the electronics, which presumably will be somewhat improved by the period just before launch in the summer of 2022.

Mar 2/15: CVN-73 will get its Refueling and Complex Overhaul in 2017, with preparation work moved up. The USS George Washington will come back to port in July 2017 for its RCOH. Work has been awarded to Newport News Shipbuilding for planning, design and procurement – a 30-month project leading up to the actual work.

May 8/13: Hearings. The US Senate Armed Forces Seapower subcommittee hears testimony from US Navy officials covering US Navy shipbuilding programs. The prepared statement says that a 2012 affordability review has led to noticeable changes in CVN 79, and lessons learned will lead to higher ship completion percentages at each build stage. An excerpt:

“Inarguably, this new class of aircraft carrier brings forward tremendous capability and life-cycle cost advantages compared to the NIMITZ-class it will replace. However, the design, development and construction efforts required to overcome the technical challenges…. have significantly impacted cost performance on the lead ship. [The detailed review and revised build plan for CVN 78]… will not recover costs to original targets… but should improve performance on the lead ship while fully benefitting CVN 79 and following ships of the class.”

See April 10/13 entry for expected costs per ship, which do decline in real terms for CVN 79-80. The question is whether practice will meet predictions. SASC prepared statement.

May 7/13: CVN 78. HII Newport News hoists the last of 162 primary structure “superlifts” onto CVN 78 Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), a 75 foot long, 66 ton ship catapult forward section.

The lift ends 3 years of structural erection work, and 3 1/2 years since construction began in November 2009. There’s still a lot of work left before the ship is even floated out to begin finishing: hull painting, shafting work, completion of electrical systems, mooring equipment, and installation of radar arrays. HII.

May 6/13: CVN 79. A $60.8 million long lead-time material contract for CVN 79, which began attracting funding in 2009. HII has been working with their suppliers, and HII VP for CVN 79 Mike Shawcross says that this award will help them implement some of those buying initiatives for air conditioning systems, controllers and pumps, etc. Announced CVN 79 construction preparation contracts now stand at $1.865 billion, with the main construction contract expected later in 2013.

Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by October 2015 (N00024-09-C-2116). See also HII.

April 10/13: FY 2014 Budget. The President releases a proposed budget at last, the latest in modern memory. The Senate and House were already working on budgets in his absence, but the Pentagon’s submission is actually important to proceedings going forward. See ongoing DID coverage. The program remains steady, with $1.68 billion requested to fund the 2nd year of construction for CVN 79 John F. Kennedy, and completion costs for CVN 78 Gerald R. Ford.

The FY 2014 budget submission places the $FY13 cost of CVN 78 at $12.829 billion, and the expected cost of CVN 79 at $11.338 billion. CVN 80 is pegged at $13.874 billion (+22.4% vs. CVN 79), but that’s in 2018. Math reminder: just 4.2% inflation, compounded over 2014-2018, is 22.8%.

Per ship costs

April 1/13: CVN 78. HII in Newport News, VA receives an $18.2 million contract modification for for CVN 78 special tooling, special test equipment, and supplier related vendor support services.

Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete in September 2015. All funds are committed immediately, using the FY 2011 Shipbuilding and Conversion budget (N00024-08-C-2110).

March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. As of August 2012, CVN 78 was 51% complete, but its build costs have grown by 17% since the 2008 construction contract was issued. There’s enough blame to go around. A build contract awarded when the 3D model was incomplete and only 5/13 critical technologies were mature. Government-furnished equipment arriving late. Construction problems like warping and flexing of new steel decking, a shortage of new valves, and welding complications. The DBR radar decision that forced the CVN-21 program to take on a new immature technology, instead of receiving a mature technology from the DDG 1000 program.

The 3D model is complete now, and either 6 or 12 of the 13 critical technologies are mature, depending on whether you ask GAO (6) or OSD (12). Now the challenge is to have all of the required sub-components arrive in configurations that fit the design, and don’t reveal a need for constraint-breaking changes during testing. CVN 79 John F. Kennedy and CVN 80 Enterprise will change in response to all of the construction and testing issues found in CVN 78 Gerald R. Ford, which is normal. The hope is that required changes won’t be too difficult to fit into CVN 79. Meanwhile, retrofits of CVN 78 could be costly, driving its build price higher.

The US Navy plans to award the CVN 79 main contract in September 2013, take delivery of the USS Gerald R. Ford in September 2015, have the Ford ready for deployment by March 2017, and award CVN 80’s main build contract by the end of 2017.

March 21/13: CVN 79. A $407.4 million contract modification can be drawn on in order to extend construction preparation efforts, and provide the ability to procure additional long-lead material and advance construction activities for CVN 79 if required. If the funds aren’t needed, fine. If budget issues or political gridlock create a problem, this funding can help preserve the construction schedule.

This may be an expansion of the March 7/13 contract. Either way, DID’s records show that the total for all announced contracts involving CVN 79 is around $1.8 billion so far. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA and is expected to complete by October 2015 (N00024-09-C-2116).

March 11/13: CNAS – Carrier eclipse? The center-left CNAS think-tank publishes a new example of their “disruptive defense papers,” with USN Capt. Henry J. Hendrix’s “At What Cost a Carrier?” [PDF] He proposes slowly divesting from aircraft carriers, while canceling the F-35C and building a transition bridge of UCAVs to lengthen carrier strike range and lower operating costs. Precision strike would also shift toward undersea platforms. On the surface, fewer carrier battlegroups would enable investment in more “influence squadrons” of amphibious ships, patrol corvettes, riverines squadrons, etc., in order to make up the “presence deficit” complained of by the Navy. The core of his argument is summed up in these excerpts:

“Nimitz-class carriers can generate approximately 120 sorties a day. Ford-class carriers, with the new… EMALS… launch around 160 sorties per day, a 33 percent increase in launch capacity. This seems very impressive until one realizes that the USS George H.W. Bush, the last Nimitz carrier, cost $7 billion and the USS Gerald R. Ford is coming in at $13.5 billion. In the end, the nation is paying nearly 94 percent more for a carrier that can only do 33 percent more work. 13 Even factoring in projected savings from reduced manning and lower maintenance costs, this investment is still not a good use of U.S. taxpayer money…. The inefficiency of manned aviation, with its massive fiscal overhead of training, pilot currency and maintenance, is rapidly outpacing its utility. The idea that the United States needs a large sortie capability inexorably drives decisionmakers to large carriers. These maritime juggernauts are expensive and hence need to be defended by an ever-larger ring of exquisite technologies in order to launch a historically shrinking number of very expensive aircraft from ever-increasing distances that may or may not drop their bombs. This raises the question of who is shaping whom within the current strategic environment.

To continue to invest in aircraft carriers at this stage, to believe that the USS Ford, with a service life of 50 years, can see the carrier through to a 150-year life unchallenged upon the high seas smells of hubris. Advancements in surveillance, reconnaissance, global positioning, missiles and precision strike all signal a sea change in not only naval warfare, but all forms of warfare.”

See also Information Dissemination, which responds that the carrier isn’t becoming obsolete – its air wing is.

March 7/13: CVN 79. A $65 million contract will provide the ability to order additional long lead material and advance construction activities if required. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by October 2015. Additional funding is not being committed yet (N00024-09-C-2116).

Dec 1/12: CVN 80. Nearly 12,000 past and current crew members, family and friends attend the formal inactivation of the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, at Naval Station Norfolk, VA. It’s the last public ceremony, but there’s still a lot of work to do, and significant contracts to issue, before the ship is deactivated and safe.

US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus doesn’t attend, but he plays a video message to announce that the 3rd Ford Class carrier, CVN-80, will become the next USS Enterprise when and if she is built. US Navy | USN CVN 65 site.

From one USS Enterprise to the Next

Jan 26/13: CVN 78. HII lowers the 555t “island” onto Gerald R. Ford’s deck. The island hosts the bridge, air traffic command center, etc. It’s the 452nd of about 500 modular “lifts” involved in assembling the carrier, which is almost 90% structurally complete right now. HII.

Jan 17/13: DOT&E Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The Gerald R. Ford is included, as the Navy plans for its service entry as the 1st ship of its class.

An operational assessment actually began in September 2012, trying to assess build progress and future test readiness. OT&E’s biggest concern is that the current Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP) will test components, but doesn’t have enough testing involving all of the pieces working together. Their concern is that “platform-level” problems will start cropping up during Initial Operational Test & Evaluation, which can be hard to fix, and could delay either delivery or IOC.

The battle over Total Ship Survivability Trials (TSST) and the Full Ship Shock Trial (FSST) is still on. The Navy and OT&E are closer to agreement on TSST, but the budget isn’t there. They’re still at odds over moving FSST to CVN 79. The Navy wants to reduce the gap in available carriers. OT&E believes the 4-6 month delay is outweighed by having test data to affect the design of future carriers.

Other issues noted by the report involve various key technologies that will have a big say in whether the ship is ready on time, from the DBR radar (combat system integration an issue), to the EMALS (new armature, making progress), Advanced Arresting Gear (significant redesign of multiple components) and CANES onboard networking (testing in Q4 FY 2014). The Virtual Carrier model is a minor technology needed to test Sortie Generation Rate, which is supposed to represent a major improvement. It needs more refinement before it’s useful.

A final concern involves the F-35’s big engine, whose 10,000 “power module” is too heavy for current underway replenishment systems (the line and pulley system used with supply ships). The Ford Class carriers will have a system rated to 12,000 pounds, but plans to install that new system on the supply ships have slipped by 8 years.

Oct 4/12: Industrial. A 1,024-metric ton unit of CVN 78 is lifted into the drydock at the Huntington Ingalls Newport by the shipyard’s 1,050-metric ton crane. This superlift is their biggest to date, and contributed to assembling the gallery deck (i.e. O-3 level). HII | NAVSEA.

FY 2012

More work on CVN 78, 79. CVN 78: May 2012
(click for alternate view)

Sept 27/12: CVN 79. A $296.1 million contract modification for more CVN 79 John F. Kennedy long-lead-time materials, and continuation of construction preparation efforts in FY 2013. This will include necessary research studies; engineering; design; related development efforts; advanced planning; advanced procurement for detail design and procurement of long lead material; advance construction; life cycle support; logistics data and other data.

Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by October 2015 (N00024-09-C-2116).

Aug 30/12: CVN 78. A $9.7 million modification to the Gerald R. Ford’s cost-plus-incentive-fee detail, design and construction contract, covering one-time engineering efforts to configure the Gerald R. Ford’s decision centers. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to complete by September 2015. The USN Supervisor of Shipbuilding Conversion and Repair in Newport News, VA manages this contract (N00024-08-C-2110).

Including the main build contract in FY 2008, the total for announced contracts that are specific to CVN 78 is around $6.63 billion so far. Billions of dollars in contracts aimed at “CVN-21” also contributed to the ship’s design, and to early manufacturing experiments and efforts, but their benefits will be shared among all ships of class.

Aug 9/12: Testing tiff. The DOT&E disagrees with the Navy’s position that computer modeling is enough to evaluate the new carrier’s survivability, without using explosive underwater shock tests. In fact, they’ve revoked approval of the Navy’s test plan. BusinessWeek:

“The U.S. Navy is inappropriately delaying or scaling back $70 million in needed combat testing of the USS Gerald R. Ford, an aircraft carrier that may cost $14.2 billion, in the name of cutting costs, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

A test that would “rigorously evaluate the ship’s ability to withstand shock and survive in combat” would be postponed until a second carrier in the new Ford class is built and may not be completed for seven years, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, told Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in a July 12 memo obtained by Bloomberg News.”

July 18/12: CVN 79. A $43.4 million contract modification for more CVN 79 “long lead time material.” That category actually includes research studies, engineering, design, life cycle support, and advance planning; as well as long lead items and advance construction.

To date, announced long-lead contracts for CVN 79 have reached $1.0478 billion. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by October 2015 (N00024-09-C-2116).

July 16/12: CVN 78. A $7.6 million contract modification to buy previously planned materials to build CVN 78 Gerald R. Ford. This modification increases the effort under the existing cost-plus-fixed-fee provisioned items order. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to complete by September 2015. The Supervisor of Shipbuilding Conversion and Repair in Newport News, VA manages this contract (N00024-08-C-2110).

Dec 21/11: CVN 79. Huntington Ingalls, Inc. in Newport News, VA receives an $113.2 million contract modification, exercising options to continue construction preparation for CVN 79 John F. Kennedy, including engineering, detail design, and lead yard services. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by October 2012 (N00024-09-C-2116). See also HII release.

Oct 26/11: CVN 79. A $16.9 million contract modification exercising priced CVN 79 research, development, test and evaluation options. HII will provide all services and material in preparation for final detail design and construction of the John F. Kennedy, including research studies; engineering; design; related development efforts; advanced planning; advanced procurement for detailed design and procurement of long lead material; advance construction; life cycle support; logistics data; etc.

Work will be performed in Newport News, VA. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00024-09-C-2116).

FY 2011

Work on CVN 78, 79. CVN 78: Aug. 2011
(click to view full)

Sept 12/11: Industrial. HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division places an 825-ton superlift section, completing the Gerald R. Ford’s stern. The final superlift of the ship’s aft end included the steering gear rooms, electrical power distribution room, store rooms and tanks. At 90 feet long, 120 feet wide and 30 feet deep, the superlift was among the largest of the 162 that comprise CVN 78, the future USS Gerald R. Ford. HII.

Sept 8/11: Future carrier options. James Hasik looks at future options for the American super-carrier fleet, and delivers a preliminary cost analysis for various scenarios – including a scenario that involves halting the new CVN-21s after the John F. Kennedy, mothballing 2 existing Nimitz Class boats, and dropping to 8 operational carriers.

July 29/11: CVN 78. A $504.1 million contract modification to complete one-time platform engineering support related to the CVN 78, the Gerald R. Ford. Work will be conducted in Newport News, VA, and ship delivery is expected to take place in September 2015. (N00024-08-C-2110).

July 14/11: Rumors are flying that the Navy is looking to delay further carrier build contracts, in order to save money. A WTKR Virginia report adds fuel:

“U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes asked two top-ranking Navy admirals about a rumor he’d heard: that the Navy was considering deferring the purchase of the Newport News-built John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier by two years. The answer he received in a subcommittee hearing Tuesday – a beat of silence followed by a deflection – left him and other members of Virginia’s congressional delegation unsettled.”

Some proposals would even cancel the Kennedy, and use the money to buy LHA/LHD amphibious ships instead. American LHA/LHDs can carry fighters, and the LHA-6 America Class is an escort carrier in all but name. See Aviation Week | The Hill | WTKR.

May 29/11: The US Navy announces that CVN 79, the 2nd ship of class, will be named the USS John F. Kennedy. It will continue the namesake legacy of the non-nuclear powered CV 67, which was retired in 2007.

CVN 79 named

May 21/11: Industrial. HII moves a 945-ton pre-assembled “superlift” section into place near the stern of the ship, using the shipyard’s 1050-metric ton crane. This is one of the heaviest of 162 superlift modules making up the Ford, and was itself assembled over 18 months from 18 smaller structural units. It contains a diesel generator room, a pump room, an oily water waste pump room, 16 complete tanks and 18 partial tanks that will be completed when the superlift is welded to the rest of the ship.

The Gerald R. Ford’s keel was laid Nov 14/09, and christening is planned for 2013, with delivery to the U.S. Navy in 2015.

Feb 25/11: Steel is cut to begin building CVN 79, the 2nd carrier in this class. If only budgets and funding could be as certain. The carrier isn’t due for delivery until 2020, and the yard has received almost $1 billion for the carrier, but more than $900 million is tied up in Congress, as it wrestles with the FY 2011 and FY 2012 budgets.

Funding for the CVN-79 and a planning contract for the mid-life nuclear refueling and overhaul of the Abraham Lincoln carrier are both in flux at the moment. Both are “long fuse, big bang” projects, where the ability to order materials and ramp up staffing in a timely manner are critical. If funding issues create schedule stoppages, they’ll make the program late, and raise overall costs. Northrop Grumman | Newport Daily Press

CVN 79 “steel cut”

Jan 21/11: CVN 78. Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding Inc. in Newport News, VA received an $11 million contract modification to previously awarded contract in support of the USS Gerald R. Ford’s [CVN 78] engineering detailed design work.

Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete in September 2015. The US Navy Supervisor of Shipbuilding Conversion and Repair in Newport News, VA (N00024-08-C-2110).

Dec 8/10: CVN 79. A $323.6 million contract modification to continue construction preparation efforts for CVN 79, the as-yet unnamed 2nd aircraft carrier of the Gerald R. Ford class. Work will include necessary research studies; engineering; design; related development efforts; advanced planning; advanced procurement for detailed design and procurement of long lead material; advance construction; life cycle support; logistics data, and other data to support the anticipated FY 2013 ship detail design and construction.

Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by October 2012 (N00024-09-C-2116). This contract raises CVN 79’s specific announced advance contracts to $874.3 million over the last 4 years. See also Northrop Grumman release.

Nov 10/10: CVN 78. A $189.2 million contract modification is just part of the planned funding for detailed design engineering work supporting construction of the Gerald R. Ford [CVN 78].

Work includes engineering; integration; related development efforts including drawing and work package development; advanced planning; design weight estimate; lifecycle support products and related logistics data; production planning; test and evaluation; further definition of initiatives to reduce CVN 78 class total ownership costs; and other data necessary to support construction of CVN 78. Northrop Grumman’s Mike Shawcross, VP of Gerald R. Ford-class engineering adds that: “Now that the design is in the three-dimensional product model, our engineering and planning effort is focused on the production of instructions for the shops and ship assembly.”

Work will be conducted in Newport News, VA, and is expected to complete by September 2015. This contract was not competitively procured; there wouldn’t be any point (N00024-08-C-2110). See also Northrop Grumman.

Nov 5/10: CVN 79. A $55.1 million contract for additional materials and assemblies, as the shipyard gets ready for an expected CVN 79 ship detail design and construction contract in FY 2013.

Work includes necessary research studies; engineering; design; related development efforts; advanced planning; advanced procurement for detailed design and procurement of long lead material; logistics data; and other data. It will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA, and is expected to be complete by Aug 25/14 (N00024-09-C-2116).

FY 2010

Cost increases. CVN 78: July 2010
(click to view full)

Sept 30/10: CVN 79. A $37.8 million contract modification for additional long lead time materials as the shipyard prepares to start building CVN 79, the 2nd Ford class carrier. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by October 2016 (N00024-09-C-2116).

Sept 7/10: CVN 79. A $12 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for procurement of additional long-lead-time materials in support of CVN 79 construction, the 2nd carrier of this class. Work may include research studies, engineering, design, related development efforts, advance planning, advance procurement, logistics data, and other data to support an expected FY 2013 ship detail design and construction date for CVN 79.

While aircraft carriers of the same class are broadly the same, the multi-year gap in construction generally means that each is fielded with slightly different technologies. Lessons from earlier ships also lead to minor design changes, which must be planned out and accounted for.

Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by October 2011. This contract was not competitively procured, as the ship’s contractor is already determined (N00024-09-C-2116).

July 28/10: CVN 78. Northrop Grumman Corporation lifts 2 diesel generators weighing over 195,000 pounds each into the aft section of the Gerald R. Ford [CVN 78], at the company’s Shipbuilding sector in Newport News, VA. The ship is now about 11% complete.

When underway, the carrier will generate its electricity through its nuclear power plant. the diesel generators serve as emergency backups. Northrop Grumman.

May 12/10: CVN 78. Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc. in Newport News, VA receives an $186.6 million contract modification, as part of the planned increments of detailed design engineering work supporting Gerald R. Ford [CVN 78] construction. Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding will complete the detail design and construction of CVN 78 including engineering; integration; related development efforts including drawing and work package development; advanced planning; design weight estimate; lifecycle support products and related logistics data; production planning; test and evaluation; further definition of initiatives to reduce CVN 78 class total ownership costs; and other data necessary to support construction.

These design efforts will continue to be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by September 2015 (N00024-08-C-2110).

May 3/10: Gates’ speech. US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates delivers a speech at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space Convention, in National Harbor, MD. It’s widely seen as casting doubt on the future of the USA’s Ford Class carriers. Excerpts:

“The U.S. operates 11 large carriers, all nuclear powered.  In terms of size and striking power, no other country has even one comparable ship… At the higher end of the access-denial spectrum, the virtual monopoly the U.S. has enjoyed with precision guided weapons is eroding – especially with long-range, accurate anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles that can potentially strike from over the horizon.  This is a particular concern with aircraft carriers and other large, multi-billion-dollar blue-water surface combatants, where, for example, a Ford-class carrier plus its full complement of the latest aircraft would represent potentially a $15 to $20 billion set of hardware at risk. The U.S. will also face increasingly sophisticated underwater combat systems – including numbers of stealthy subs – all of which could end the operational sanctuary our Navy has enjoyed in the Western Pacific for the better part of six decades… Our current plan is to have eleven carrier strike groups through 2040 and it’s in the budget. And to be sure, the need to project power across the oceans will never go away. But, consider the massive over-match the U.S. already enjoys. Consider, too, the growing anti-ship capabilities of adversaries.  Do we really need eleven carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?  Any future plans must address these realities.

And that bring me to the third and final issue:  the budget… Just a few years ago, the Congressional Budget Office projected that meeting the Navy’s shipbuilding plan would cost more than $20 billion a year – double the shipbuilding budget of recent years, and a projection that was underfunded by some 30 percent… I do not foresee any significant increases in top-line of the shipbuilding budget beyond current assumptions. At the end of the day, we have to ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 to 6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines, and $11 billion carriers.”

April 20/10: CVN 79. Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc. in Newport News, VA received a $16.8 million modification to buy more long lead time materials, as part of construction preparation for CVN 79, the 2nd carrier of this class. Work will include necessary research studies; engineering; design; related development efforts; advanced planning; advanced procurement for detailed design and procurement of long lead material; logistics data; and other data to support the anticipated FY 2013 ship detail design and construction contract.

Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by March 2012 (N00024-09-C-2116).

April 1/10: SAR – Congress costs us. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. The new carriers experience large cost increases, but most of them are self-inflicted by Pentagon program scheduling. The exception is the EMALS catapult system:

“Program costs increased $5,426.4 million (+15.5%) from $35,119.1 million to $40,545.5 million, due primarily to the shift from a four-year to five-year build cycle (+$4,131.2 million), which placed the program on a more fiscally sustainable path while continuing to support a minimum of 11 aircraft carriers through fiscal 2040. Additional increases resulted from revised cost estimates for the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) (+$1,292.6 million), platform non-recurring engineering (+$350.0 million), and labor and material projections (+$311.7 million), a stretch-out of the procurement buy profile (+$520.6 million), and the application of revised escalation indices (+$301.8 million). These increases were partially offset by decreases resulting from inflation and other miscellaneous adjustments (-$933.1 million) and a shipbuilding reduction across the program (-$627.0 million).”

SAR increase

March 30/10: The US GAO audit office delivers its 8th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. With respect to the “CVN 21 Program,” it says:

“The CVN 21 program has consistently demonstrated the maturity of its critical technologies later than recommended by best practices… Three of these technologies – EMALS, advanced arresting gear, and dual band radar-present the greatest risk to the ship’s cost and schedule… Construction of approximately 50 percent of the ship’s units are complete. According to program officials, these units are low on the ship and only account for 9 percent of the ship’s production hours… the fiscal year 2010 President’s Budget recommends moving the carrier to a 5-year build cycle. If adopted, the fabrication start date for CVN 80 will be delayed by 2 years, which will increase the amount of shipyard overhead costs paid under the CVN 79 contract.”

Most of the GAO’s commentary concerns critical carrier sub-systems, however, and those comments are covered in that section, below.

Dec 23/09: CVN 79. A $31.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract, to buy more long lead time materials as the Navy prepares to begin construction on CVN 79. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by April 2013 (N00024-09-C-2116).

Nov 14/09: CVN 78. A 23-story, 1,050 metric ton capacity gantry crane lifts an 81-foot by 96-foot building block into place in Dry Dock 12, during a keel-laying ceremony for the Gerald R. Ford [CVN 78]. Under partial block construction, each module is pre-outfitted with pipes and fixtures that will make final assembly quicker and more efficient. This ship’s blocks are larger than past carriers, which forced a $40 million upgrade of the gantry crane. Local media report that yard workers have assembled about 540 of 1,200 blocks that will be welded together in dry dock from 2009-2012, to form the Ford’s skeleton. A new $37 million stadium-sized manufacturing facility with a retractable roof will allow work to continue in any weather, and the firm hopes this will help the Ford avoid some of the delays that have plagued other carriers.

NGC’s Newport News shipyard has been assembling the units since 2006, with about 1,500 waterfront workers and about 2,000 engineers and planners involved in the program at the end of 2009. When construction peaks in 2013, the number of construction workers is expected to hit 4,000. US Navy | Northrop Grumman | Newport News, VA Daily Press | Reuters.

CVN 78 “keel laying”

Oct 28/09: FY 2010 budget. President Obama signs the FY 2010 defense budget into law. The Pentagon’s FY 2010 budget request of $1,397.3 million included 1,223.7 million as the 3rd year of incremental funding for CVN 78, plus 173.6 million in RDT&E. The reconciled budget tables that came out of House-Senate conferences list $739.3 million for the program, but the release characterizes it as full funding of the Pentagon’s request. White House | House-
Senate Conference Report summary [PDF] & tables [PDF] | Pentagon AFPS article.

Oct 9/09: CVN 78. Northrop Grumman uses the foundry at its Newport News, VA shipyard to melt 35 tons of steel, in order to cast the strut arms needed to support the Gerald R. Ford’s propeller shafts. Their release quotes aircraft carrier construction program VP Mike Shawcross, who says that about 5% of the construction contact is complete at this point. The Nov 14/09 keel-laying is the next major milestone.

FY 2009

EMALS dependency. CVN 78, March 2009
(click for alternate view)

April 3/09: Tech crunch. Naval site Information Dissemination runs an article assessing EMALS’ current state, and the Navy’s contention that the system poses no schedule risks. The title: “Wal-Mart Called, They Want Their Yellow Smiley Face Back.”

Despite the title, the background is valuable, and the discussion is substantive. Is EMALS a technology too far? Or is it just a complex technology with more issues than expected, each of which is being dealt with but at a rate that creates some schedule concerns? What, if anything, does a realistic Plan B look like? Delay construction until EMALS is ready, given its promised operations costs savings? Extensively redesign CVN 78 for steam catapults? Buy another CVN 77 design ship instead, and store the pieces that have already been made?

March 30/09: GAO report. The US government’s GAO audit office issues GAO-09-326SP: “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs.” With respect to EMALS and the CVN-21 program, it says that 10/14 technologies are either fully mature, including the nuclear propulsion and electrical plant, or approaching maturity. Of the remaining 4 immature technologies

“…the development and design of the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), the advanced arresting gear, and the dual band radar (composed of the volume search and multifunction radars) present the greatest risk to the ship’s cost and schedule.”

Ominously, it adds:

“A February 2008 program assessment recommended a number of changes to the EMALS program to improve performance. The Navy re-planned the test program and changed the management approach. The CVN 21 program office is now responsible for overseeing EMALS production and ship integration, rather than the Naval Air Systems Command. In addition, EMALS will no longer be provided as government-purchased equipment. Instead, the shipbuilder will purchase EMALS, giving it a more direct role in managing the integration on CVN 78. The cost impact of this change has not been finalized.”

There are also schedule concerns:

“Problems during EMALS development have already resulted in cost growth and schedule delays. In order to meet CVN 78’s delivery date, the Navy adopted a strategy that will test, produce, and ultimately install EMALS with a high degree of concurrency. In September 2008, the contractor completed the first round of high- cycle testing, gaining confidence in the performance of the generator–a source of past problems. Contractor-led integrated land-based system testing will not be complete until the end of fiscal year 2011–2-years later than estimated in December 2007. Assuming no further delays, EMALS will not demonstrate full performance of a shipboard ready system until at least 7 months after installation on CVN 78 has begun…”

Jan 15/09: CVN 79. A $373.5 million cost plus fixed-fee contract covering construction preparations for CVN 79, the 2nd aircraft carrier of the Gerald R. Ford Class. Efforts will include engineering, detail design, test and evaluation, research and development with some suppliers, and purchases of long lead time items. Special performance incentives are also included under the contract.

Work will be performed in Newport News, VA, and is expected to be complete by October 2010. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-09-C-2116). The full scale construction contract for CVN 79 is expected to begin in 2012. Northrop Grumman release.

FY 2008

Main CVN 78 contract. CVN 78 sub-assembly
(click to enlarge)

Sept 10/08: A $5.115 billion cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-award-fee contract for the detail design and construction of USS Gerald R. Ford [CVN 78]. This contract includes a $30 million option which would bring the total contract value to $5.145 billion, if exercised.

The May 21/04 contract covered up to $2.7 billion in advance construction or purchase of sections and items that were not dependent on the detail design; Northrop Grumman says that about 1/3 of the ship’s 1,200 structural units are already under construction. This contract takes the next step, and begins full ship construction based on the detail design. The contract will include engineering; integration; related development efforts including drawing and work package development; advanced planning; design weight estimate; lifecycle support products and related logistics data; production planning; test and evaluation; further definition of initiatives to reduce CVN 78 class total ownership costs; and other data necessary to support construction of CVN 78.

Work will be performed in Newport News, VA. The ship’s keel will be laid in the fall of 2009 (Nov 14/09), and delivery to the Navy is scheduled for September 2015. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-08-C-2110). See also NGC release.

Main CVN 78 contract

March 14/08: During US House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee hearings about the proposed the FY 2009 budget, chairman Gene Taylor [D-MS] discusses on the state of the program:

“Another very risky program is the new aircraft carrier. Not that the Navy and Newport News Shipyard don’t know how to build aircraft carriers, they do. However, one of the major new technologies, the electro-magnetic launch system, or EMALS, has not even been tested in a shipboard configuration and the ship is already under construction. Just this last week the Navy requested an additional $40 million dollars for continued development of EMALS because, and I quote, ‘the contractor underestimated design and production cost.’ The cynic in me would say the contractor purposefully low-balled the bid to get the contract knowing full well the Navy would be forced to pay whatever the true costs of the system turned out to be. Perhaps we should have built another Nimitz class carrier until the research and design for EMALS was complete.”

Read “US Navy’s 313-Ship Plan Under Fire in Congress” for more.

Jan 31/08: CVN 79. A $16.3 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-2116), exercising an option to develop and refine the second-of-class CVN 79 design. The integrated product and process development contract funds research and development that aims to reduce the price, reduce lifetime ownership costs, and maintain weight/center of gravity service life allowance thresholds. All of which ties in to the ongoing systems development, engineering services, technology options studies, and feasibility studies underway for the as-yet unnamed CVN 79. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA and is expected to be complete by October 2008.

Jan 11/08: CVN 78. A $595.9 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-2118) to continue CVN 78 class design effort, long lead time material procurement; and non-nuclear advance construction for the lead ship of the class, Gerald R. Ford [CVN 78]. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA (92%) and Groton, CT (8%), and is expected to be complete by July 2008. See May 21/04 entry for more details.

Northrop Grumman Newport News “will provide all services and material in preparation for construction of CVN 78 including necessary research studies; engineering; design; related development efforts, including required engineering development models and prototypes for engineered components; advanced planning; advanced procurement for detailed design and procurement/fabrication of long lead material; advanced construction; system specifications; design weight estimate; logistics data; lists of government-furnished equipment; production planning; further definition of initiatives to reduce CVN 78 class total ownership costs; and other data to support an integrated product data environment for the CVN 21 program.”

FY 2007

Gerald R. Ford class.

Sept 24/07: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD], the ranking minority member in the US House Armed Services subcommittee on Seapower & Expeditionary Forces, releases a statement re: the GAO’s August 2007 report, which he requested:

“At my request, the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office previously and now the GAO have told Congress the Navy’s current shipbuilding program is unrealistic based upon the Navy’s past performance. The development of three critical technologies has been delayed to such an extent that this first-of-class ship must experience 100% success in order to come in on budget and on schedule eight years from now. The GAO report also reminds us that both the shipbuilder’s initial cost estimate and the DOD independent estimate were higher than the Navy’s budget. As far as comparisons to LCS go, what is most disturbing is that the cost for CVN 78 is orders of magnitude higher than LCS. If CVN 78 should experience just 10% cost growth – far less than LCS – in the eight years until its scheduled delivery, the Navy will request another billion dollars. In this budget environment, that’s going to be a difficult sell. It reminds me that VADM Cebrowski’s alternative fleet study suggested a larger number of smaller carriers might provide more value than the Navy’s strategy of a few Super Carrier platforms.”

Aug 23/07: GAO report expresses doubts re: project costs:

“While the Navy has mitigated the impact of some technologies, such as the nuclear propulsion and electric plant, three systems–the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), the dual band radar, and the advanced arresting gear–have faced problems during development that may affect the ship’s construction costs… A structured design approach and a lengthy construction preparation contract have enabled the program to perform more work prior to construction than on previous carriers… Costs for CVN 78 will likely exceed the budget for several reasons. First, the Navy’s cost estimate, which underpins the budget, is optimistic… Second, the Navy’s target cost for ship construction may not be achievable… Third, the Navy’s ability to manage issues that affect cost suffers from insufficient cost surveillance. Without effective cost surveillance, the Navy will not be able to identify early signs of cost growth and take necessary corrective action.”

July 24/07: In a statement before the US House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces, Congressional Budget Office representatives testify that [PDF]:

“CBO believes that the Navy’s cost estimate for the first ship of the class, the Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), is optimistic. In its budget submission to the Congress, the Navy estimates that the CVN-78 will cost about $10 billion in 2008 dollars, including about $2.2 billion for nonrecurring engineering and design.16 The Navy argues that actual construction time and cost for the CVN-78 will be less than for its predecessor ship, the George H.W. Bush (CVN-77). CBO, by contrast, estimates that the CVN-78 will cost about $11 billion, allowing for the cost growth that has affected past shipbuilding programs at the CVN-78’s stage of construction. If the CVN-78 experiences [cost growth] similar to that of other lead ships the Navy has purchased in the past 10 years, costs could be higher still.17 Moreover, Navy officials have told CBO that the confidence level associated with their estimate is below a 50 percent probability of meeting the cost target, which also suggests that costs could increase. In addition, a number of critical technologies for the CVN-78 are still under development, and difficulties could still arise in integrating the various new technologies associated with that class.”

Jan 19/07: Gerald R. Ford Class: It’s official. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announced that USS Gerald R. Ford would be the name of the first CVN-21 aircraft carrier, which would henceforth be designated the Gerald R. Ford Class. This selection honors the 38th President of the United States, and pays tribute to his lifetime of service in the Navy and the U.S. government. See official NAVSEA release.

“Gerald R. Ford” Class

Nov 30/06: CVN-21. A $754 million modification (cost type) to previously awarded contract #N00024-04-C-2118 for continuation of CVN-21 design effort; long lead time material and non-nuclear advance construction; and system development, engineering services, and feasibility studies for the Future Aircraft Carrier Program. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA (90%) and Groton, CT (10%), and is expected to be complete by December 2007. The contract includes an additional $106.7 million in options which would make this an $860.7 million award, and bring the total value of Northrop Grumman’s CVN-21 advance construction contracts so far to $2.1 billion.

See May 21/04 entry for more details. Under this contract modification, Newport News will provide all CVN-21 services and material in preparation for ship construction planned to commence in FY 2008, “including the necessary research studies; engineering; design; related development efforts including required Engineering Development Models and prototypes for engineered components; advanced planning; advanced procurement for detailed design and procurement/fabrication of long lead material; advanced construction, system specifications; design weight estimate; logistics data; lists of government-furnished equipment; production planning; further definition of initiatives to reduce CVN-21 total ownership costs; and other data to support an integrated product data environment for CVN-21.”

Mike Shawcross, vice president of the CVN 21 program for Northrop Grumman Newport News, said that they are “more than 50% complete with the overall design.” See also Northrop Grumman press release.

FY 2006 and earlier

Specs complete. CVN 79 early concept
(click to enlarge)

Nov 15/06: CVN 79. DefenseLINK announces a $7.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, level of effort contract for systems development, engineering services, and feasibility studies for CVN 79, the second ship of the class. Northrop Grumman, on the other hand, announces it as a $24.6 million total planning and design contract, including planning, feasibility studies, system development, engineering services and other design efforts. Work will be performed in Newport News, VA and is expected to be completed by October 2007. The contract was not competitively procured (N00024-07-C-2116).

“This is our first contract for the CVN 79 and an important step forward for the CVN 78 program,” said Mike Shawcross, the vice president responsible for CVN 79 at Northrop Grumman’s Newport News sector. “We’re focused on using the work we’ve accomplished on the first ship of the class, CVN 78, as the basis for a successful integration into the planning and design for CVN 79.” Construction on CVN 79 is slated to begin in 2012, with delivery to the US Navy in 2019.

Oct 17/06: Gerald Ford? President George W. Bush signs the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2007. Section 1012 of the act declares that “[it] is the sense of Congress that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of the Navy designated as CVN-78 should be named the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford.”

Sept 5/06: The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and the Program Executive Officer (PEO) Aircraft Carriers held a signature and awards ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard to commemorate the certification of the ship specifications for the CVN 78 aircraft carrier, after 12 months of specification writing and 3 months of intense reading sessions. NAVSEA’s Ship Design, Integration and Engineering Directorate (SEA 05) and lead design shipyard Northrop Grumman Newport News led these efforts.

This certification marks a major milestone in the future aircraft carrier design process, and forms the basis of the technical data package used to prepare a ship construction contract. The CVN 78 Ship Specifications were signed by Rear Adm. David Architzel, PEO Aircraft Carriers, and Rear Adm. Kevin M. McCoy, NAVSEA’s deputy commander for SEA 05. NAVSEA release | PEO Carriers release.

Specifications done.

July 29/06: Leadership. Rear Adm. Dennis M. Dwyer is honored at the end of his tenure as PEO Carriers. He receives the Navy Distinguished Service medal for his “exceptionally meritorious service,” for his efforts in “Aircraft Carrier design and build, government and industry business modeling, and workforce restructuring methodologies… Dwyer’s ultimate contribution – the design and build of the U.S. Navy’s Next Generation Aircraft Carrier – CVN 21 – will decisively affect the Nation’s strategies, policies, and defensive posture for the next 50 years…” See NAVSEA release.

Nov 15/05: CVN-21. A $558.7 million cost-type modification exercises an option under previously awarded contract N00024-04-C-2118 for continuation of CVN-21 design effort; long lead time material procurement and non-nuclear advance construction; system development, engineering services, and feasibility studies for the future aircraft carrier program. See Oct 29/04 for further details.

Work will be performed at Newport News, VA (92%) and Groton, CT (8%), and is expected to be complete by December 2006, though it would be followed by other contracts in this vein in 2006 and 2007. This contract was not competitively procured. See also Northrop Grumman’s press release.

June 7/05: CVN-21. A $9.2 million cost-type modification for CVN-21 construction preparation, non-propulsion plant long lead-time material and advance construction. Work will be performed at Newport News, VA and is expected to be complete in December 2006. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-04-C-2118).

April 1/05: CVN-21. A $50.6 million cost-type modification for continuation of CVN-21 engineering services and feasibility studies for the future aircraft carrier program. Work will be performed at Newport News, VA (85%) and Groton, CT (15%), and is expected to be complete by December 2006. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-04-C-2118).

Oct 29/04: CVN-21. A $492.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee and cost-plus-award-fee modification exercises an option for continuation of CVN-21 design effort; long lead time material and non-nuclear advance construction and system development, engineering services, and feasibility studies for future aircraft carrier programs. See May 21/04 entry for further details.

Newport News Shipbuilding will provide all CVN-21 services and material in preparation for ship construction planned to commence in FY 2007, including research studies; engineering; design; related development efforts including required engineering development models (EDMs) and prototypes for engineered components; advanced planning; advanced procurement for detailed design and procurement/ fabrication of long lead material; system specifications; design weight estimate; logistics data; lists of government-furnished equipment; production planning; further definition of initiatives to reduce CVN-21 total ownership costs; and other data to support an integrated product data environment for CVN-21.

As we have seen with programs like the LPD-17 San Antonio Class, changes at the design stage are far cheaper to execute than changes at the engineering stage. Work will be performed at Newport News, VA (87%) and Groton, CT (13%), and is expected to be complete by October 2005. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-04-C-2118).

May 21/04: CVN-21. A $182.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with performance incentives for CVN-21 design effort; long lead time material and non-nuclear advance construction; and system development, engineering services, and feasibility studies for the Future Aircraft Carrier Program. Newport News Shipbuilding will provide all CVN-21 services and material in preparation for ship construction. Work will be performed at Newport News, VA (87%) and Groton, CT (13%), and is expected to be complete by December 2006. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-04-C-2118).

Northrop Grumman would later describe this contract as having a potential total value of $2.7 billion, adding that this contract to build and buy key sub-assemblies and sectional pieces:

“…allowed shipbuilders to test the design-build strategy, exercise new processes, prototype new features used on this ship before the overall construction contract was awarded, and to build a sufficient backlog of ship units to support production, undocking and delivery.”

CVN-21: Other Related Contracts and Events

Coverage under this section includes 2 key technologies that are also broken out as independent, free-to-view articles: EMALS electro-magnetic aircraft catapults, and the accompanying AAG arrester gear system; and the carrier’s new AN/SPY-3 & AN/SPY-4 dual-band radar. Listings for those 2 programs will feature only major milestones.

FY 2012 – 2013 1st F-35C launch
(click for video)

May 29/13: JPALS. Raytheon in Fullerton, CA receives a $14.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS), maintenance Design Phase II. They want to change the design to allow for increased organizational level maintenance (i.e. on board ship) of JPALS Increment 1A ship systems.

Work will be performed in Fullerton, CA (60%); Cedar Rapids, IA (28%); and Indianapolis, IN (12%); and is expected to be complete in December 2013. $13.9 million is committed immediately, using FY 2012 – 2013 funds, and $5.3 million of those will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-08-C-0034).

JPALS
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May 24/13: JPALS. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/12 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF]. For JPALS, which began development in 2008:

“Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) Increment 1A – Program costs increased $106.8 million (+10.7%) from $996.0 million to $1,102.8 million, due primarily to additional engineering effort for algorithm refinement and development of an alternate configuration for the JPALS Inc 1A ship system variant, resulting in a smaller footprint for air capable ships (small combatants) (+$84.5 million). Additional increases were attributable to an extension of the procurement and installation profile from FY 2018 to FY 2020 (+$15.3 million) and a related increase in support costs (+$2.3 million), and a quantity increase of 1 system from 26 to 27 systems (+$7.5 million) and associated estimating allocation (-$1.4 million). These increases were offset by a decrease in initial spares requirements (-$1.5 million).”

The GPS-centric JPALS will be installed well beyond the Ford Class – indeed, beyond the US Navy. This technology may become a separate article, but for now we’re adding it here as a key CVN-21 technology, which will play a critical role in handling F-35 fighters and UAVs. A JPALS 1A Milestone C production decision is expected in Fall 2013.

JPALS landing system – cost increases

Nov 18/11: F-35C launches. The land-based EMALS at Lakehurst, NJ launches an F-35C Lightning II fighter for the 1st time. The EMALS launch of test aircraft CF-3 follows more than 50 steam catapult launches.

Both EMALS and the F-35C are currently in test and evaluation, but the F-35C is especially important to the new catapult, and the new carrier. The heavy fighter will be their most significant technology companion over the carrier’s life cycle, and its 70,000 pound/ 31,800 kg maximum takeoff weight places it very close to the F-14D Tomcat. EMALS and the F-35C need to demonstrate that they can help each other with maintenance costs, or the real price of EMALS will escalate significantly. US NAVAIR.

FY 2010 – 2011

May 9/11: EMALS Delivery. General Atomics delivers the 1st set of EMALS production components to US NAVAIR, for installation in the Gerald R. Ford. NAVAIR will convey the items on to Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc., in Newport News, VA. General Atomics.

March 31/11: CVN 78 CEC. An $8.1 million contract modification for AN/USG-2B systems delivery and test aboard the Nimitz Class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln [CVN 72, headed into deep refit] and the Gerald R. Ford. It’s a key component of the Navy’s Cooperative Engagement Capability, which allows equipped ships to share a common picture of threats around them, even if those threats are out of their own sensor range.

Work will be performed in Largo, FL (47%); St. Petersburg, FL (20%); Dallas, TX (18%); and McKinney, TX (15%), and is expected to be completed by May 2013 (N00024-08-C-5203).

1st EMALS launch: F/A-18E
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Dec 18/10: Launch! The EMALS test catapult at Naval Air Systems Command in Lakehurst, NJ successfully performs the 1st electro-magnetic aircraft catapult launch in history.

The F/A-18E Super Hornet from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) was piloted by Lt. Daniel Radocaj. Chief Petty Officer Brandon Barr of NAWCAD’s Test Department was the “shooter,” assisted by Petty Officers 1st Class Hunsaker and Robinson, and Petty Officers 2nd Class Williams, Wong, and Simmons.

Engineers will continue system functional demonstration testing at NAVAIR Lakehurst, with test launches set to expand to C-2 Greyhound cargo aircraft and T-45 Goshawk trainers in 2011. The ALRE program manager at this time is Capt. James Donnelly, and Cmdr. Russ McCormack of PMA-251 is deputy program manager for future systems. US NAVAIR | USN Photo release | Gannett’s Navy Times.

1st EMALS Launch

Oct 12/10: AWE. Exlar Corporation announces an award from Federal Equipment Company in Cincinnati, OH to provide its GM30 linear actuators for the Gerald R. Ford’s Advanced Weapon Elevators. The AWEs can carry up to 24,000 pounds at speeds up to 150 feet per minute, a big improvement over previous designs.

Exlar’s GSM30 linear actuators are used to fire locking pins to keep the elevators in position at each deck level. They combine a brushless servo motor, an inverted roller screw and an encoder/resolver feedback source into a single compact assembly. The brushless servo design allows them to be used in state-of-the art closed loop servo systems, where electronic control of positioning and velocity is required.

Aug 11/10: SDTS tests. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Tewksbury, MaA receives a $36.1 million contract modification (N00024-05-C-5346) for mission systems equipment (MSE) that will be used on the US Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship, in support of the Anti-Air Warfare Self Defense Enterprise Test and Evaluation Master Plan. The equipment will support the DDG 1000 and CVN 78 classes of ships, in addition to follow-on operation test and evaluation efforts for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (RIM-162 ESSM) and Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP).

Work will be performed in Andover, MA (58.7%); Portsmouth, RI (32%); Sudbury, MA (5.4%); Tewksbury, MA (2.7%); and San Diego, CA (1.2%). Work is expected to be completed by March 2013. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages this contract.

March 31/10: Power & cooling. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Tewksbury, MA received a $9.8 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5346) for CVN 78 dual-band radar common array power system and common array cooling system long-lead time materials and associated efforts. These materials, and associated engineering and management efforts, must be bought now, to ensure that critical production schedules are maintained for the CVN 78 program.

Work will be performed in Andover, MA (87.8%); Sudbury, MA (10.4%); Tewksbury, MA (0.9%); and Portsmouth, RI (0.9%), and is expected to be complete by September 2010. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages these contracts.

March 30/10: GAO report. The US GAO audit office delivers its 8th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. With respect to key CVN-21 sub-systems, DID has divided the comments by system:

“While CVN 21 program officials stated that the EMALS program is on schedule to deliver material to the shipyard when it is needed for construction, concurrent EMALS testing and ship construction continue to present cost and schedule risks to the program… As a result of the [2009 EMALS] tests, the program identified design changes that are necessary to improve the performance of EMALS, but add cost and schedule risk to the program… The Navy plans to test EMALS with actual aircraft in summer 2010. The Navy awarded a not-to-exceed fixed-price production contract to General Atomics for EMALS and the advanced arresting gear in 2009. At the time of award, the contract price had not been finalized. The Navy expects to finalize the price of this contract in March 2010.”

“…The advanced arresting gear includes seven major subsystems. Programs officials expect that six of the subsystems will be mature after analyzing data from a recent reliability test. The remaining subsystem – control system software – will remain immature until integrated land-based testing with actual aircraft occurs in fiscal year 2012. This testing will overlap with the first arresting gear deliveries to the shipyard.”

“…Testing of carrier specific dual band radar functionality is scheduled to conclude in fiscal year 2012. Dual band radar equipment will be delivered incrementally from fiscal years 2012 through 2014… Given the recent decision to truncate the DDG 1000 program, CVN 21 program officials stated that the dual band radar production line may be idle for up to 4 years before production begins for CVN 79 [and so adding] costs associated with restarting the production line.”

March 12/10: Fiber optic cabling. As fiber optic cable replaces conventional cabling in large naval vessels, driving down component manufacturing and repair costs becomes especially appealing. The US Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in Dahlgren, VA issues the Kitco/kSARIA LLC limited partnership small business in Norfolk, VA a $9.8 million contract for the automated fiber optic manufacturing initiative (AFOMI). AFOMI seeks to drive lifetime fiber optic component manufacturing and repair costs down by miniaturizing and automating as many processes as possible. If the effort suceeds, it will have obvious benefts beyond CVN 78, or even the military sphere.

Kitco/kSARIA LLC is a limited partnership of KITCO Fiber Optics in Virginia Beach, VA (contract administration, 10%), and kSARIA Corp. in Lawrence, MA (technology development & manufacturing, 90%). kSARIA has worked with the US Navy for some time, and touts itself as “the only fiber cable manufacturer in the world with an end-to-end automated assembly process.” Work is expected to be complete in March 2015, but $1.5 million in contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Naval Electronics Commerce Online and Federal Business Opportunities Web sites, with 2 offers received (N00178-10-D-2003). See also Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine | Video overview.

Nov 9/09: AAG. General Atomics in San Diego, CA receives a $102.2 million modification to the unfinalized EMALS Ship-set contract (N68335-09-C-0573) to provide for the production of 1 counterpart advanced arresting gear system ship-set for CVN-78. While EMALS will serve as the Ford’s launch technology, the Advanced Arresting Gear will offer related improvements around carrier landings, using a system based on electric motors rather than the Mk7 hydraulic system used with current arrester wires. Unlike EMALS, AAG is also slated for refits to existing Nimitz class carriers.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (35%); Mt. Pleasant, PA (28%); Tupelo, MS (15%); Waltham, MA (12%); and Aston, PA (10%), and is expected to be complete in September 2015. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages the contract.

AAG CVN 78

FY 2007 – 2009 EMALS motor, HCT-1
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June 30/09: EMALS. General Atomics in San Diego, CA received an unfinalized $573 million ceiling-priced contract to build the EMALS shipset for the Gerald R. Ford [CVN 78]. This is added to a $43 million long-lead contract (q.v. March 27/09), creating a total of $613 million.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (49%); Tupelo, MS (19%); Mankato, MN (12%); Waltham, MA (4%); and various locations across the United States (16%), and is expected to be complete in September 2015. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 602-1. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages this contract (N68335-09-C-0573).

CVN 78 EMALS

April 23/09: DBR. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Tewksbury, MA received a $217 million cost plus fixed fee modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5346) for 2 Volume Search Radars (VSR). Lockheed Martin makes the antennas for these radars, but Raytheon is the lead contractor, and also makes the radars’ common back-end electronics and software.

These S-band naval radars will be mounted on one of the new DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyers, and on the inaugural CVN-21 carrier USS Gerald R. Ford [CVN 78]. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (95%) and Sudbury, MA (5%), and is to be complete by March 2013. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C. manages this contract.

DBR radar for CVN 78

April 15/09: Review. Reuters reports that the U.S. Navy has completed a major review of EMALS that weighed possible technical, costs, and schedule risks. The Navy has decided to proceed, on the grounds that EMALS is the best option for keeping the program on schedule, vs. redesigning and building the ship for steam. The system’s potential cost savings are also listed as a factor by US Navy spokesman Lt. Cdr. Victor Chen.

The Navy is reportedly starting detailed, fixed-price contract negotiations with General Atomics. If that becomes the basis for a renegotiated contract, it would shift the risk of delays or additional work onto the contractor.

EMALS survives

April 7/09: DBR. Raytheon announces a successful initial “lightoff” test of the Dual Band Radar, which includes the X-band AN/SPY-3 Multi-Function Radar and S-band Volume Search Radar. Both radiated radiated at high power during lightoff at the Navy’s Engineering Test Center in Wallops Island, VA. Following this successful lightoff test, the radar suite will begin an extended period of operational performance testing.

March 31/09: EMALS. The Daily Press of Virginia reports:

“We’re still conducting a review to assess and mitigate risks in the program cost, schedule and performance of EMALS,” said Lt. Cmdr. Victor Chen, a Navy spokesman. “At this point, EMALS is still the launching system of record for (the Ford).

…If EMALS is scrapped for the Ford, the shipyard would have to re-engineer the carrier to support the old steam-driven catapults used on previous ships. That process, which includes running thousands of feet of new pipe to and from the Ford’s propulsion system, could extend the construction schedule by up to a year and is expected to cost several hundred million dollars.”

“At this point…” is perhaps not the ringing endorsement one had hoped for.

March 27/09: CVN 78. Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc. in Newport News, VA received $43 million, unfinalized modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-2110). The contract covers long lead-time materials that must be ordered early, in order to ensure timely production of Gerald R. Ford’s [CVN 78] EMALS catapults. Materials bought will include Energy Storage Subsystem (ESS) Induction Motor Stator Assemblies, ESS Induction Motor Rotor Assemblies, ESS Exciter Stator Assemblies, ESS Exciter Rotor Assembly, ESS Rectifier Assemblies, ESS Main Rotor Assemblies and Power Conversion Subsystem Rectifier material components.

Work will be performed in North Mankato, MN (74%); Mt. Pleasant, PA (17%); and San Diego, CA (9%), and is expected to be complete by November 2012. The US The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, D.C. manages this contract.

EMALS CVN 78

Nov 3/08: Nuke plant. Curtiss-Wright Corporation announces a contract from Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc. (BPMI), to provide critical valves for the nuclear propulsion systems in the U.S. Navy’s next 4 Virginia-Class submarines, and the 2nd Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier [CVN 79]. The contract contains options for up to 4 more sets: a submarine ship-set and an aircraft carrier ship-set funded in 2008, and 2 additional submarine ship-sets to be funded in 2009.

The value is over $83 million if all options are exercised, and the initial award is for an initial ship-set of submarine valves and long lead materials valued at approximately $15 million. Curtiss-Wright’s Flow Control segment will perform the work at its facility in East Farmingdale, NY. Delivery is scheduled to commence in 2009 and continue through 2017.

Variants of Curtiss-Wright’s Smart, Leakless Valves are already used in the commercial nuclear power industry. These fully automated, sealed solenoid valves can control the flow of liquids, gas, and steam, withstanding up to 2500 psi pressure and 670F temperatures while requiring little to no maintenance over long periods. The firm is now using the valve beyond nuclear power applications, and has a $62 million contract to retrofit all of the JP-5 jet fuel pumping station valves on the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz class aircraft carriers.

Oct 20/08: DBR. Raytheon announces a $23.5 million U.S. Navy contract to adapt the Dual Band Radar (DBR) it’s developing for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyer, for installation on the future U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford [CVN 78]. Raytheon will deliver DBR supporting equipment hardware and software designs to meet the installation and integration requirements of the CVN 78 class of ships.

Sept 30/08: SSDS. An $8.3 million cost-plus fixed-fee letter contract to act as the SSDS Platform System Engineering Agent. The contractor will be responsible for the integration of complex war-fighting improvements into the modular SSDS, including components associated with the new Gerald R. Ford Class carrier’s Dual Band Radar (DBR), and with the popular Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (90%); Tewksbury, MA (2.5%); Portsmouth, RI (2.5%); St. Petersburg, FL (2.5%); and Tucson, AZ (2.5%), and is expected to be completed by April 2009. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-08-C-5122).

Nov 28/07: General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) catapult recently passed its final critical design review (CDR), led by Mr. Dave Cohen of NAVAIR’s Systems Engineering competency. The team spent a week thoroughly reviewing the entire EMALS program, and determined that the design is technically compliant with requirements and properly documented, although “a few open action items remain.” As noted above, EMALS is one of the new technologies that will be critical to the CVN-21 Class’ ability to fulfil its cost-saving promises and enter service on time.

Capt. Stephen Rorke, Aircraft Launch & Recovery Equipment program manager thanked the team for open and honest dialog during the months leading up to the CDR as evidenced by the fact “the team knew about all open issues prior to the review and that no issues of major significance surfaced during the CDR.”

The next step in the process is to begin installing the full size, ship representative EMALS equipment in the recently completed EMALS test facilities at Naval Engineering Station Lakehurst, NJ. The EMALS equipment installation is scheduled to begin in mid 2008, with actual testing to begin in early 2009 and continue throughout 2009. The first components of the EMALS equipment is scheduled to be delivered to Northrop-Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding in Norfolk, VA for installation in the Gerald R. Ford [CVN-78] in 2011. The USS Gerald R. Ford is scheduled to be delivered to the US Navy in 2015. NAVAIR release.

EMALS CDR

FY 2004 – 2006 new weapons elevator
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Dec 13/05: Electronics. Raytheon Company passed the systems requirements review (SRR) for the CVN-21 Class’ electronics. They’re the industry lead for integration of all government furnished combat systems, C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and aviation support systems.

Raytheon is working to leverage the open architecture and technology advancements achieved as the mission systems integrator on the DD (X) destroyer and LPD-17 San Antonio Class ship programs. The idea is to create common technologies and processes across multiple platforms in the U.S. Navy fleet. Raytheon.

Oct 20/05: AWE. Northrop-Grumman selects Federal Equipment Company and their technology partner, MagneMotion to design and build the advanced weapons elevator for CVN-21.

Newport News sector awarded the approximately $50 million contract following a year-long design competition, during which vendors refined their designs and built and tested a full-scale, one-quarter load elevator drive. The preliminary design competition concluded in early 2005, and a full-scale prototype elevator for land-based testing is the next step. Prototype testing will be completed by late 2007, after which Federal Equipment will begin to manufacture the production units. These units are scheduled for shipboard installation on CVN 78 in mid-2010.

AWE SDD

Oct 20/05: Nuke plant. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC awards Bechtel Bettis Inc. at Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin, PA a $480.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-98-C-4064) for naval nuclear propulsion work at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory. As DID notes in its coverage: “Bettis [Atomic Power Laboratory] is engaged solely in the design and development of naval nuclear propulsion plants. …A major new initiative for the Laboratory is design of the nuclear propulsion plants and electrical power systems for the next class of US Navy aircraft carriers.”

See “The US Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Contracts” for coverage of all American naval nuclear propulsion work.

Aug 11/05: Infrastructure. On Aug. 11 Northrop Grumman Newport News hosted a ceremonial steel cut and grand opening ceremony for one of several new facilities that will support CVN-21 construction. The ceremony was held in the shipyard’s new Heavy Plate Bay.

April 18/05: SSDS. Raytheon Technical Services Company LLC will lead a group of companies working under the Navy’s direction to design, install and test a new version of their SSDS combat system, which will integrate all onboard weapons systems and electronics on the Navy’s first CVN-21 class aircraft carrier (CVN-78). These systems will protect CVN-78 from attack by cruise missiles and other weapons, and integration will be centered on Raytheon’s proven Total Ship System Engineering approach to a common enterprise computing environment. DID covers the contract, which could be worth up to $95 million over 12 years.

Feb 23/05: AAG pick. Reports indicate that the US Navy has selected a team led by General Atomics to perform the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) Program. The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) down-selected from the 2 contractors performing the Component and Technology Development phase. Other team members are Curtiss-Wright Electro-Mechanical Corporation, Engineered Arresting Systems Corporation, Foster-Miller, Inc. (now QinetiQ North America), John J. McMullen Associates, Inc., and EDO Corporation.

In the 5-year, $95.8-million SDD phase, the GA-led Team will design, develop, manufacture, install, and demonstrate a production-representative AAG unit. System installation and demonstration will be at a NAVAIR test facility at Lakehurst, NJ. Defense West News.

AAG SDD

April 2/04: General Atomics is awarded a System Development and Demonstration (SDD) $145 million contract to design, build, integrate test and support a full scale, full length, shipboard representative Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for NAVAIR Lakehurst, at the Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, NJ. The contract is the final step in a multi-phase research and development acquisition program to replace the current steam catapults used on aircraft carriers. According to the Navy release, “General Atomics, based in San Diego, will have its equipment installed at Lakehurst by 2006 and conduct testing in 2007-2008.”

The EMALS land based support facility is to be built by Hensel Phelps Construction Co., of Aurora, CO under a $20.5 million contract, and is expected to be complete by December 2005 [DID: the ribbon cutting would actually take place in November 2007, and construction will last to late 2008]. It will include building the infrastructure, supporting buildings and related utilities for the EMALS program. US Navy | General Atomics.

EMALS base SDD

July 30/03: Infrastructure. The US Navy opens its new CVN-21 Government Design Site in the Washington Navy Yard. The design site will have 60 workstations and allow more than 100 engineers to participate on an as-needed basis in the CVN-21 design effort. This will include engineers from NAVSEA, Naval Air Systems Command, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, Office of Naval Research, Northrop Grumman Newport News, as well as Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren and Carderock Divisions. Although the CVN-21 design site is not the first at the Washington Navy Yard, it is the largest. Co-locating government engineering and technical expertise close to the aircraft carrier program office is designed to ensure critical and timely support throughout the design effort – a vital factor to the continued success of the program.

CVN-21 Class: Additional Readings and Sources

Official Reports

Ancillary Systems

The Carrier’s Future

Categories: News

Huntington Ingalls: $152M for Aircraft Carrier Enterprise | Saab’s $1.27B UAE Deal Sees Biz Jets Become GlobalEyes | Netherlands First F-35As Land to Fanfare

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 23:50
Americas

  • USAF commitments to maintain 1,900 aircraft beyond 2021 may be in trouble according to the Pentagon’s annual aviation, inventory, and funding plan for fiscal years 2017 through 2046. Budget constraints across the armed forces are requiring the Air Force to retire more aircraft than it procures; with the report predicting the fleet to reach its lowest in point 2031. The report notes that the service plans to sunset John McCain’s beloved A-10 between FY18 and FY22, but hints that those plans “are subject to change,” while Congress’s desire to restart the F-22 Raptor production line looks increasingly like a non-runner.

  • Huntington Ingalls has been awarded a $152 million US Navy contact for advance planning for the construction of the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN 80). The third aircraft carrier in the Gerald R. Ford class was named in honor of the Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Work to be carried out includes engineering, design, planning, and procurement of long-lead-time material, and will be performed at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division through March 2018. Construction is to commence in 2018 and be delivered to the Navy in 2027.

  • Weapons testers upgrading the Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk have commenced laser-printing simulated ice for ice-shape testing on the UAV. Using a process known as “selective laser sintering,” it is possible to characterize ice buildup on the aircrafts wings and V-tail, a common problem found on most aircraft. The testing will now allow operators to know the airframe’s exact tolerance to buildup when carrying different fuel loads. In use since the late 1990s, the USAF is looking to extend the UAV’s lifetime through to 2034 instead of early retirement.

Middle East North Africa

  • Saab has announced increased interest in its configuration of a Bombardier 6000 business jet with the company’s GlobalEye system for the UAE. The $1.27 billion deal will see the heavily adapted Global 6000 to be capable of conducting airborne early warning and control (AEW&C), maritime and land surveillance, and electronic intelligence duties. Included in the package is Saab’s improved Erieye ER active electronically scanned array radar, now capable of a 70% greater detection range than its previous sensor, and the ability to spot challenging targets, such as cruise missiles, small unmanned air vehicles and hovering helicopters. Combining its below-fuselage mounted maritime search radar and electro-optical/infrared sensor will enable operators to locate surface threats and submarine periscopes, while its primary sensor’s synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indication modes will be used to locate land targets.

Europe

  • The first two Dutch F-35As have successfully landed in the Netherlands, marking the Joint Strike Fighter’s first eastbound transatlantic journey. Dubbed AN-01 and AN-02, the fighters were welcomed by a crowd of 2,000 including Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. The aircraft will now spend the next few weeks conducting noise and environmental tests over the country, designed to determine the levels of noise disturbance the residents experience. The jets will perform flights over the North Sea range and then appear and fly at the Netherlands’ Open Days in June.

Africa

  • After showcasing its Parabot super robot at this year’s SOFEX in Jordan, South Africa’s Paramount Group is setting its sights on increasing their defense collaboration with US firms. With partnerships already existing with Boeing, Airbus, and firms in Kazakhstan and Jordan, Paramount’s founder, Ivor Ichikowitz, believes the company has much to offer the US defense industry, not just in supplying technology, but in philosophy, as the US attempts to rethink how it acquires defense capabilities. Having known nothing but government budget restrictions since its foundation in early post-Apartheid South Africa, Ichikowitz said, “We’ve always had to come up with technologies that give our customers the most capabilities for the least amount of money.”

Asia Pacific

  • The Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) successful test-firing of an indigenous Advanced Air Defense (AAD) missile interceptor on May 15 is being called into question following claims that the launch didn’t occur in the first place. Initially it was claimed that the missile successfully tracked, engaged and destroyed a naval version of the Prithvi missile, which was fired to simulate an enemy target. However “informed sources” talking to The Hindu newspaper claim that the test was a failure as the interceptor was never launched. Perhaps its back to the drawing board for the DRDO, again.

Today’s Video

  • Recording of the F-35A’s arrival in the Netherlands:

Categories: News

RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 23:45

RQ-4A Global Hawk
(click to view full)

Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV has established a dominant position in the High Altitude/ Long Endurance UAV market. While they are not cheap, they are uniquely capable. During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the system flew only 5% of the US Air Force’s high altitude reconnaissance sorties, but accounted for more than 55% of the time-sensitive targeting imagery generated to support strike missions. The RQ-4 Global Hawk was also a leading contender in the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV competition, and eventually won.

The Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program (GHM-D or BAMS-D) aims to use the proven RQ-4 Global Hawk airframe as a test bed for operational concepts and technologies that will eventually find their way into BAMS, and contribute valuable understanding to the new field of maritime surveillance with high-flying UAVs. It’s not just a test program, however, as its remaining drones also deploy to assist the fleet in active operations.

Contracts and Key Events

BAMS-D to Pax River
click for video

All contracts are managed by The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD. The US military lists Northrop Grumman Corp. Integrated Systems, Western Region in San Diego, CA as the contractor, which is technically true. While that was the original contract, NGC Integrated Systems was combined with NGC Space Technology to form Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in January, 2009.

FY 2015 – 2016

Increasing ops tempo.

May 25/16: Weapons testers upgrading the Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk have commenced laser-printing simulated ice for ice-shape testing on the UAV. Using a process known as “selective laser sintering,” it is possible to characterize ice buildup on the aircrafts wings and V-tail, a common problem found on most aircraft. The testing will now allow operators to know the airframe’s exact tolerance to buildup when carrying different fuel loads. In use since the late 1990s, the USAF is looking to extend the UAV’s lifetime through to 2034 instead of early retirement.

November 23/15: Japan is to receive three RQ-4 Block 30 (I) UAVs after the sale was cleared by the US State Department on Friday. The deal will also include associated parts, equipment and training costing $1.2 billion in total. The purchase comes at a time when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been beefing up his country’s defense spending to counter Chinese influence. It was announced earlier this year that Japan is planning its largest ever defence budget which, if approved, will be in the region of $41 billion.

November 18/15: Northrop Grumman have selected Swiss company Garmin’s GSX70 weather radar as part of a contract to modernize and retrofit the USAF RQ-4 Global Hawk fleet. The GSX70 was selected for its ability to better recognise weather threats and allow for better decision making as well as its easy integration capabilities with the RQ-4. The installation of the the radar is said to begin in the first quarter of 2016 with Northrop’s contract running until 2020.

October 2/15: Northrop Grumman has been handed a $3.2 billion IDIQ contract to develop, retrofit, modernize and sustain the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk fleet, with the contract running to 2020. Cost estimates for Global Hawk modernization efforts out to 2020 – originally slated as $4 billion in May – were subsequently revised down to approximately half of that earlier this month.

September 16/15: Cost estimates for upgrades to the RQ-4 Global Hawk could be half of the $4 billion previously slated, according to an Air Force official. The requirement for a new Electro-Optical system and wide-angle camera could reduce the figure down; however, this appears to be achieved through the cutting of non-essential upgrades, including a sense and avoid sensor, which were included in the original figure. With the Air Force arguing to retain only one of its two current high-altitude ISR aircraft (the other being the Cold War-era U-2), the reduced cost estimate could bring the Global Hawk into direct competition with a set of upgrades proposed by Lockheed Martin for the U-2, known as the TR-X.

May 15/15: The Pentagon is set to award $4 billion in contracts for modernization of the RQ-4 Global Hawk over the next five years, with the program funded to 2020. The program recently achieved milestone C, a key requirement for the platform to progress with modernization efforts.

May 6/15: The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle has been given milestone C approval from the Defense Acquisition Executive. The Global Hawk demonstrated interoperability and software maturity prior to milestone C, with the program fully funded throughout the Future Years Defense Program.

Feb 4/15: Northrop Grumman starts production on four units to go to South Korea. In late 2014 the Republic of Korea awarded Northrop Grumman a contract for four RQ-4s, including two ground stations and various support equipment. This is the first Pacific sale for the Global Hawk under the Foreign Military Sales process. RQ-4s are already being procured by Australia and Japan.

FY 2013 – 2014

Increasing ops tempo.

RQ-4A Global Hawk
click to play video

June 13/14: FY 2014. Northrop Grumman System Corp. in San Diego, CA receives a $61.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for BAMS-D operations and maintenance services: logistics support; field service representatives; and organization, intermediate, and depot-level maintenance. That’s a significant increase, compared to past years, but the Navy has been clear about their intent to raise operational tempo (q.v. Sept 6/13).

All funds are committed immediately, using US Navy FY 2014 O&M budgets. Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (70%); outside continental United States (25%); and Rancho Bernardo, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete in June 2015. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-12-C-0117).

Jan 23/14: The BAMS-D fleet hits 10,000 flying hours supporting missions in the Middle East. It has been helpful during movements of carrier and amphibious groups, and has reached its goal of 15 missions per month (q.v. Sept 6/13). Sources: NGC, “Northrop Grumman-Built Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator Unmanned Aircraft Surpasses 10,000 Combat Flying Hours”.

Sept 6/13: More missions. A maximum $10 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for additional BAMS-D/ GHMD operations and maintenance services. The goal is to increase BAMS-D operational tempo from the current 9 maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions per month to a sustained level of 15 missions per month. That will require more people to handle maintenance and operations, rather than more UAVs. $3 million is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (70%), and outside continental United States (30%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014 (N00019-12-C-0117).

Aug 21/13: FY 2013. A $27.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, exercising an option for this year’s BAMS-D operations and maintenance services. All funds are committed immediately, and expire at the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30/13.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (70%), and outside the continental United States (30%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014 (N00019-12-C-0117).

Dec 18/12: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Bethpage, NY receives a $7.2 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to support new Airborne Recorder certification requirements for BAMS-D. The change was forced by an NSA Information Assurance Security and Requirements Directive.

Work will be performed in Anaheim, CA (75%); Bethpage, NY (20%); and San Diego, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013. Funding will be committed as needed (N00019-08-C-0023).

FY 2011 – 2012

Crash.

BAMS-D crash
click for video

Aug 29/12: FY 2012. Northrop Grumman in San Diego, CA receives a $40.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for continued operations and maintenance services in support of the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance – Demonstrator Unmanned Aircraft System, also known as the Global Hawk Maritime – Demonstrator.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (70%) and outside the continental US (30%), and will run until August 2013. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-12-C-0117).

June 11/12: Crash. An RQ-4A BAMS-D Global Hawk crashes into a marshy tributary of Maryland’s Nanticoke River, during a routine training flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River. There were no injuries to civilians and no property damage, but the crash site has been blocked to recreational boat traffic while the agency investigates.

The crash leaves 4 UAVs in the program: 3 for testing, tactics, and doctrine development in the USA, and 1 deployed abroad with the 5th fleet. CNN | Wired Danger Room | WBOC.

Crash

Aug 23/11: FY 2011. A $35.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, exercise an option for another year of operations and maintenance services in support of the U.S. Navy Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (75%), and outside the United States (25%), and is expected to be complete in September 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-C-0018).

FY 2009 – 2010

Deployments. MP-RTIP radar.

Global Hawk Cutaway
(click to view full)

July 23/10: FY 2010. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Sector in San Diego, CA receives a $29.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide operations and maintenance services for the U.S. Navy’s Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration.

Work will be performed outside the U.S. (50%); and in Patuxent River, MD (30%); and San Diego, CA (20%), and is expected to be complete in August 2010. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1.

July 15/10: A $5.5 million contract modification for software development to test maritime surveillance and maritime imaging modes for the MP-RTIP radar. At this time, all funds have been committed by the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA (F-19628-00-C-0100; P00209).

The Northrop Grumman/Raytheon MP-RTIP is a 1.5 x 4 foot active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar designed to provide better resolution than current ground-viewing systems. It will equip new Global Hawk Block 40s, but at the moment, it’s experiencing software challenges with “concurrent” mode, where the radar tracks moving targets (GTMI) while maintaining a high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mapping scan. See also Aviation Week.

Oct 1/09: Deployment. One of the U.S. Navy’s 2 RQ-4 GHMD/ BAMS-D UAVs returns from service with Task Force 57, which operates in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and North Arabian Sea. The UAV conducted operational “field tests” that included over 60 flights over land and sea areas, and over 1,000 hours in the air, providing images to Task Force 57 in near real-time. The BAMS-D UAV was operated by navy personnel back in the United States at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD.

A team from Commander Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 2, Commander Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 5, NAVAIR, and Northrop Grumman Corporation conducted the deployment. A forward-deployed contingent of Northrop Grumman personnel, under oversight of Patrol Wings 2 and 5, provided maintenance for the aircraft, while working closely with counterparts on the USAF’s Global Hawk maintenance team.

The Navy’s 2nd BAMS-D UAV has now been sent overseas to continue field testing, while the returning aircraft returning aircraft undergoes depot-level maintenance and conducts other tests closer to home. US Navy NAVAIR, Oct 20/09 | StrategyPage.

Aug 17/09: Inside the Navy reports that the US Navy plans to use the GHMD in support of anti-piracy operations near Somalia, but satellite communication and control issues will need to be resolved first.

July 15/09: FY 2009. A $26.6 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057) for additional operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) Program.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete in August 2010. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09.

April 23/09: FY 2009. An $8.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus fixed fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057) to provide additional operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD).

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (90%) and San Diego, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete in November 2009. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

March 24/09: Deployment. The Navy’s 1st unmanned Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator “Global Hawk” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle lands in the 5th Fleet’s Area of Responsibility, completing its 17th successful operational mission. The UAV was flown by Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing FIVE and other P-3 aviators via a satellite link from a mission control station located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. Source [PDF].

Feb 4/09: Deployment. Reports indicate that one of the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration UAVs has deployed to CENTCOM’s theater of operations by the US Navy. Information Dissemination believes that its future will include pirate tracking off of Africa’s eastern coast. GHMD is a limited program that is both a predecessor to BAMS, and a way to experiment and learn how an advanced maritime patrol UAV can be used in real world operations (CONOPS).

Dec 23/08: Recognition. Northrop Grumman announces that US Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX-20) gave the RQ-4 Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) team its Q2 2008 Test Team of the Quarter award. To date, the 2 GHMD demonstrator aircraft have flown more than 1,350 hours.

The team’s accomplishments included performing more than 1,000 hours of flight operations over an 18-month period, troubleshooting issues with the communications system, integrating the automatic identification system into the aircraft so it can be used in civilian air space, conducting tests with the ocean surveillance initiative, and developing tactics and guidelines for unmanned patrol systems. From January to June 2008, the team also supported various operational activities, including the Southeastern Anti-Submarine Warfare Initiative 08-2, the USS Iwo Jima Group Sail, and the Commander Carrier Strike Group 8. The team’s successes during this period culminated with the Trident Warrior exercise in June 2008, when the team flew more than 113 hours over a 5-week period, including an unplanned 23-hour humanitarian mission in which a GHMD was re-tasked to assist in the Northern California wildfires. July saw the UAVs participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2008 fleet exercise, which saw the team finish 4 missions totaling more than 92 hours.

Nov 10/08: Training. The USAF discusses some of the logistics involved. A cadre of USAF RQ-4 pilots from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale AFB, CA are teaching a class of 3 active-duty P-3 Orion pilots and one civilian contractor how to fly the Global Hawk. Navy officials are looking to the Air Force to assist in expediting their pending RQ-4 Global Hawk deployment, one reason the normally 5-month course is being condensed to 4.

FY 2003 – 2008

GHM-D EMD . BAMS victory.

P-8A MMA Concept
(click to view full)

Sept 18/08: FY 2008. A $12.6 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus fixed fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057) for operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD), including operation and sustainment, logistics support and sustaining engineering throughout the demonstration.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (90%) and San Diego, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete in September 2009. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

April 22/08: BAMS. Northrop Grumman Corp. Integrated Systems in Bethpage, NY wins a cost-plus-award-fee contract with an estimated value of $1.16 billion for the BAMS System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase, which will create the MQ-4N Triton UAV companion to the P-8A Poseidon. The award later prevails over protests from the losing coalition of Lockheed Martin and General Atomics.

See DID’s BAMS FOCUS article for more.

RQ-4 wins BAMS

Dec 19/07: FY 2008. A $12.1 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057) for operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD), including operation and sustainment, logistics support and sustaining engineering throughout the demonstration.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (90%) and San Diego, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2008. Contract funds in the amount of $4.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

April 30/07: FY 2007. A $7.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057) for operations and maintenance support for the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD), including operation and sustainment, logistics support and sustaining engineering throughout the demonstration.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (90%) and San Diego, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2007. Contract funds in the amount of $4.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Nov 30/05: FY 2006. $10.5 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0057). It exercises an option for operations and maintenance support of the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD), including operation and sustainment, logistics support and sustaining engineering throughout the demonstration. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (79%) and Patuxent River, MD (21%), and is expected to be complete in November 2006.

Sept 20/05: Support. $27.1 million not-to-exceed delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-05-G-0009) for the procurement of initial spares in support of the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program. Work on this contract will be performed in San Diego, CA (46%); El Segundo, CA (28%); Salt Lake City, UT (19%); Indianapolis, IN (4%); and Falls Church, VA (3%); and is expected to be complete in September 2007.

Oct 6/05: 1st flight. The first RQ-4A Global Hawk UAV slated for the Navy’s GHMD program made its first flight from Palmdale, CA, to Edward’s Air Force Base, CA. US Navy.

May 2/03: R&D. Raytheon Co. in Falls Church, VA receives a $5 million not-to-exceed order against a previously awarded basic ordering agreement N00019-02-G-0350 for requirements development and initial design of the Block 3 Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) data control processor, data link controls and payload processing. The contract also includes preparation of an engineering plan to integrate this system into existing ships. The TCS will provide a single unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mission planning, command and control, data processing and dissemination system for operation of a whole range of UAV types. Work will be performed in Falls Church, VA (80%), and Rancho Bernardo, CA (20%), and is expected to be complete in December 2003.

Feb 5/03: EMD. $185.2 million cost-plus-award-fee using an undefinitized-contract-action contract modification. Provides for engineering and manufacturing development activities in support of the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration.

Further funds will be obligated as individual delivery orders are issued, and work will be complete by September 2006 (F33657-01-C-4600, P00020).

GHM-D EMD contract

Additional Readings

Categories: News

UAE Buys Saab’s Erieye AEW&C Aircraft

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 23:40
Arabian/Persian Gulf
(click to view full)

In November 2009, Saab announced a 1.5 billion SEK (about $220 million) contract from the United Arab Emirates for 2 of its Saab 340 regional turboprops, equipped with Erieye active-array radars that can scan large airspace volumes, and with related command and control systems. The Saab 340 AEW contract also includes ground equipment, initial spares, and support services.

The UAE is just the latest buyer of Saab’s Erieye system.

The Erieye, and Its Competitors cutaway view
(click to view full)

The Erieye family of Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft offer of small size, lower purchase price, dual air/sea scan capabilities, and comparatively cheap operating costs are making it one of the world’s most popular AEW systems. The antenna reportedly provides coverage out to 450km, with a detection range of 350km even inchallenging conditions. The Erieye Ground Interface Segment (EGIS) provides a 2-way exchange of data via an associated “Link-E” datalink sub-system, and the plane’s capabilities can can also reportedly be used to support border control or even rescue operations.

The UAE joins Sweden, Pakistan, and Thailand, who have all ordered systems based on Saab’s S340/S2000 regional passenger turboprops. Brazil, Mexico, and Greece all ordered R-99As/ EMB-145 AEW&Cs that pair Erieye with Embraer’s ERJ145 regional passenger jets.

Key global competitors for Erieye systems include Boeing’s developmental E-737 ordered by Australia, South Korea, and Turkey; Israel’s Phalcon system (active on 707, IL-76, and Gulfstream G550 jets), and Northrop Grumman’s carrier-capable E-2 Hawkeye. That may become relevant, as some reports depict the Saab 340 Erieye as an interim system for the UAE, on the way to a final purchase of additional AWACS platforms.

The UAE’s aircraft order also fits into a regional trend, as the Emirates move to establish a leadership position within the Gulf Cooperation Council’s accelerating command-and-control efforts. Over time, the GCC’s ability to fuse the UAE’s efforts with local infrastructure like long range radars, Saudi Arabian 707-based E-3 AWACS/TASS planes, and other assets, may begin to produce cooperative situational awareness on a regional level.

Contracts & Key Events Thai S340 Erieye
(click to view full)

May 25/16: Saab has announced increased interest in its configuration of a Bombardier 6000 business jet with the company’s GlobalEye system for the UAE. The $1.27 billion deal will see the heavily adapted Global 6000 to be capable of conducting airborne early warning and control (AEW&C), maritime and land surveillance, and electronic intelligence duties. Included in the package is Saab’s improved Erieye ER active electronically scanned array radar, now capable of a 70% greater detection range than its previous sensor, and the ability to spot challenging targets, such as cruise missiles, small unmanned air vehicles and hovering helicopters. Combining its below-fuselage mounted maritime search radar and electro-optical/infrared sensor will enable operators to locate surface threats and submarine periscopes, while its primary sensor’s synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indication modes will be used to locate land targets.

February 18/16: Following a custom $1.27 billion two-aircraft deal to provide an early warning and control (AEW&C) system to the UAE, Saab has officially launched the new early warning aircraft to the wider market. The GlobalEye combines the Erieye ER active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar with Bombardier’s Global 6000 business jet. The Erieye had been previously offered on the Embraer 145, Saab 2000 and Saab 340, but its incorporation on the Global 6000 will allow it much greater altitude and endurance capabilities, flying at 11,000 ft for 11 hours. The business jet will likely be armed with Saab’s RBS-15 anti-ship missile and a lightweight torpedo; possibly a EuroTorp weapon. Saab’s announcement comes as they look to provide maritime, land, and air surveillance capabilities to countries increasingly involved in anti-terrorism, anti-piracy, or territorial monitoring operations.

November 10/15: Saab has received an order for two additional Airborne Early Warning aircraft from the United Arab Emirates in a deal valuing $1.27 billion. The Swing Role Surveillance System (SRSR) will incorporate the company’s Erieye radar and other sensors aboard two Bombardier Global 600 business jet platforms. The UAE already operates two Saab Erieye-equipped AEW turboprop aircraft, ordered in November 2009 through a $220 million contract.

March 16/11: The Khaleej Times reports that Sweden’s Saab Group will deliver the 2nd S340 Erieye to the UAE slightly late, in April 2011. It quotes Swedish Ambassador Magnus Scholdtz as saying that “We’ve offered to the UAE to sell 4 more such aircraft… it is up to the UAE to decide.”

Nov 17/09: 1.5 billion SEK (about $220 million) contract for 2 of Saab’s S340 Erieyes announced. An official statement hinted at more orders to come, saying that:

“The UAE Air Force & Air Defence is currently evaluating several options to purchase permanent solution Command and Early Warning aircraft to meet the UAE Armed Forces operational requirements.”

Local defense media picked up on this theme amd noted the order’s interim status, pending a wider buy that could involve more Erieyes, Boeing’s 737 AEW&C, or Northrop Grumman’s new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. Deliveries of the 2 Erieye planes are scheduled for Q3 2010, and Q1 2011. Saab [PDF] | Arabian Aerospace | Dubai Airshow 09 | Khaleej Times | UAE’s The National.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

LM Bags $331.7M FMS for GMLRS | Russia’s MOD Looks to Buy First Mil Mi-38 Helos | US Arms Embargo Lifted from Vietnam

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 23:52
Americas

  • Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $331.7 million foreign military sales contract by the US Army. The sale will see the company provide the defense departments of Israel, Singapore, Finland and Jordan with the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which includes 290 alternative warhead rocket pods, 34 unitary rocket pods and 529 reduced range practice rocket pods. Work and delivery of the system is expected to be completed by March 31, 2018.

  • Sikorsky’s HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter is to move into the detailed design phase after successfully passing an air vehicle preliminary design review by the US government. The UH-60 Black Hawk variant will now enter a 75-month engineering and development phase which will see nine aircraft produced, including five “system demonstration test articles” to support operational testing. The design includes air force and mission-specific avionics, equipment and defensive countermeasures, plus a larger internal fuel capability and cabin area when compared to its UH-60 cousin and is unique enough to warrant its own development phase and even a separate assembly line.

Middle East North Africa

  • British-made cluster bombs have been discovered in a village in northern Yemen, all but confirming that the banned munition is being used by the Saudi-led coalition in the region. The BL-755 cluster bombs, originally manufactured in the 1970s, were purchased by the air forces of Saudi Arabia and UAE to be used on the British made Tornado fighters. Locals described the ordinance as “hanging off trees”and are believed to have been there since air strikes in July and August.

  • An advanced missile approach warning system has been integrated on Israeli CH-53 transport carriers, giving the helicopters an extended service life until 2025. Dubbed Dragon Block 3, the system provides 360 degree coverage alongside a more effective warning of missile attack and fast activation of countermeasures equipment. The troop transports have had their fair share of trouble from rocket attacks having seen extensive use in conflicts in south Lebanon and the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Europe

  • Russia’s Defence Ministry looks set to become the first customer of the Mil Mi-38 multi-role helicopter. The helicopter’s manufacturer Russian Helicopters made the announcement in a press release last week, and it is expected to pass a series of flight tests according to the ministry’s requirements. Designed to take part in a variety of missions, the Mi-38 is capable of carrying either troops or cargo as well as participating in search & rescue and offshore operations.

  • Italy is to release $179.5 million toward the development of the Centauro II wheeled tank program by the consortium of Italy’s Iveco and Leonardo-Finmeccanica. An update of the older Centauro wheeled tank, it will include a new hull, better armor and upgunning to a 120mm gun compared to the 105mm found on the original. However the cash injection will be lacking in other programs with the planned arming of Italy’s UAVs to be postponed and only $23.5 million made available for procurement of the light-weight Freccia armored vehicles.

Africa

  • Prosecutors in South Africa are to appeal a court ruling that they should reconsider corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma. 783 charges against the controversial president were dropped just weeks before the 2009 election in which he was elected. The allegations stem from a $5 billion arms deal in 1999 which involved companies from Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK, France and South Africa. In 2005, Schabir Shaik, Zuma’s former financial advisor was jailed in connection with the deal after being found guilty of soliciting a bribe on behalf of the president.

Asia Pacific

  • US President Barack Obama has announced the lifting of a decades long arms embargo on Vietnam. Speaking in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and under a looming bust of Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, Obama said that the move will end a “lingering vestige of the Cold War” and pave the way for more-normal relations between the two countries. The move comes as Vietnam looks to recenter allies amid a growing spat with China over ownership of islands in the South China Sea, while also looking to lessen their reliance on Russian weapons manufacturers, factors that may make Hanoi one of Washington’s new best friends in the region.

Today’s Video

  • Boeing’s latest commercial for the Advanced F-15:

Categories: News

GMLRS Rockets: FRP-VI Orders

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 23:50
M270 firing M30 GMLRS
(click to view full)

Precision artillery fire offers an alternative to air support. It has a shorter reach, but very considerable throw-weight and repeatable fire, plus 100% persistence and availability in any weather. GMLRS is a highly accurate GPS-guided rocket that can be fired by ground forces 35 miles away and arrive on target, in under a minute, under any conditions, with a 200 pound unitary warhead that will take out a fortified house. That’s very useful. When integrated into a battlefield surveillance/strike setup like Task Force ODIN, their effectiveness is kicked up several more notches. Rocket pods can be carried on M142 HIMARS truck-mounted systems (1 pod, 6 rockets), or tracked M270 MLRS launchers (2 pods, 12 rockets).

In July 2011, Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, TX received a $438.2 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Full Rate Production Lot VI. It includes:

  • 767 unitary rocket pods (with 6 x 227mm rockets each)
  • 508 reduced range practice rockets (RRPR, used for training)
  • Plus integrated logistics support.

They’ll go to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as well as GMLRS pods for Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers Japan, Jordan, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Unlike last year, neither the Pentagon nor Lockheed Martin will discuss specific numbers of rocket pods per customer.

Work will be performed in Grand Prairie, TX; Camden, AZ; Orlando, FL; and Lufkin, TX, with an estimated completion date of April 30/14. One bid was solicited with one bid received by US AMCOM Contracting Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-11-C-0166). See also Lockheed Martin release.

Updates

May 24/16: Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $331.7 million foreign military sales contract by the US Army. The sale will see the company provide the defense departments of Israel, Singapore, Finland and Jordan with the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which includes 290 alternative warhead rocket pods, 34 unitary rocket pods and 529 reduced range practice rocket pods. Work and delivery of the system is expected to be completed by March 31, 2018.

Categories: News

HH-60W – The USAF’s New Combat Rescue Helicopter

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 23:48
HH-60G, Afghanistan
(click to view full)

In 2006 the US Air Force awarded Boeing a contract worth north of $10 billion for 141 HH-47 combat search-and-rescue helicopters, but by mid-2009 the CSAR-X program was cancelled during its System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase by the Pentagon. At the time Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote that this program had “a troubled acquisition history and raises the fundamental question of whether this important mission can only be accomplished by yet another single-service solution.”

That cancellation may have been warranted, but the underlying operational constraints are increasing as years go by, with a tentative replacement for aging helicopters that keeps slipping. In 2012, the Air Force got the green light to take another crack at it. The competition narrowed to a single bidder, and after wobbly budgetary announcements, the program was greenlighted. By the end of 2014 it was officially designated as HH-60W.

Aging HH-60G Pave Hawks

A solution to replace the USAF’s aging HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopters becomes more pressing as SAR(Search And Rescue) and MEDEVAC(MEDical EVACuation) flight hours keep piling in. These helos are derived from early-model UH-60 Black Hawks, and were fielded starting in 1982 with an estimated operational life of 7,000 flight hours. Of the initial 112 airframes, the inventory was down to 99 as of late 2010. Only 93 of them were assessed as flyable as of March 2012, with signs of structural fatigue (i.e. cracks) on a majority of them. They are all expected to have reached the 7,000-hour milestone by 2019. In September 2011 two of them were already exceeding 10,000 flight hours.

HH-60G: Longest Sunset Ever

The shortfall in the fleet has been addressed with an Operational Loss Replacement (OLR) program that funded 20 replacement H-60 family airframes over FY 2011-12. That’s just a short-term stopgap, as maintaining older helos becomes increasingly expensive and dangerous.

HH-60M and CRH budgets – Source: DoD Comptroller, Feb. 2012

Development funding for a new program was featured in the FY 2013 President Budget, but Congressional dithering took its toll. A couple of months into FY 2014, the Air Force sounded ready to both award the contract, and deprive it of any funding in its FY 2015 budget request. By March 2014, however, funds had been found.

Savvy observers will recall that years ago, CSAR-X Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was scheduled for 2012, at 10 operational aircraft. In order to defend its lead on this all-service mission, the USAF is putting an emphasis on affordability and fast production. Even so, it will be several more years before meaningful replacements begin to arrive in the field. IOC for the CRH-60M isn’t expected until 2020.

CRH: Contracts & Key Events FY 2015 – 2016

Official designation.

May 24/16: Sikorsky’s HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter is to move into the detailed design phase after successfully passing an air vehicle preliminary design review by the US government. The UH-60 Black Hawk variant will now enter a 75-month engineering and development phase which will see nine aircraft produced, including five “system demonstration test articles” to support operational testing. The design includes air force and mission-specific avionics, equipment and defensive countermeasures, plus a larger internal fuel capability and cabin area when compared to its UH-60 cousin and is unique enough to warrant its own development phase and even a separate assembly line.

Nov 29/14: Designation. The CRH is officially designated by the Air Force as HH-60W – or 60-Whiskey more informally – as the HH-60G’s successor. A name will be picked up later. The systems requirement review is scheduled later this fiscal year, with initial deliveries expected in FY19. For one this will depend on how the FY15 budget is actually wrapped up, as well as whether sequestration affects FY16 spending. The W in HH-60W could very well mean “wait”, as this project is clearly not among the Air Force’s top acquisition priorities.

FY 2014

Sikorsky wins, but will there be money? Fuel the Pave Hawks
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June 26/14: EMD Contract. As the sole offeror, Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $1.278 billion Engineering & Manufacutring Development contract that uses a combination of fixed-price-incentive/ firm at target price/ firm-fixed-price clauses to develop and produce up to 4 CRH-60M Pave Hawk Combat Rescue Helicopters, 7 training systems, and initial product support. The government’s Affordability Target Gate was around $2 billion, so the USAF is happy.

The same contract will be used to buy around 108 production helicopters, and if all options are exercised, the contract’s value could rise as high as $7.9 billion. It has been structured to handle quantity changes, so 112 CRH-60Ms (4 + 108) is the target, but it may not be the final tally. IOC is planned for 2020.

It’s also worth being careful around the math. One may be tempted to say that $7.9 billion – $1.28 billion EMD = $6.62 billion, which divides by 108 to get $61.3 million per helicopter during the production phase. That’s almost 3x the regular UH-60M rate, but it wrongly assumes that all of the options are just helicopters. Sikorsky has confirmed that the options also include things like training devices, spares packages, etc., and exact CRH-60M prices will be negotiated year to year as helicopters are bought.

$298.5 million is committed immediately, using FY 2013 and 2014 USAF R&D budgets. Work will be performed at Stratford, CT, and is expected to be complete by June 2029, if all options are exercised. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WISV’s Rotary Wing Branch of Special Operations Forces and Personnel Recovery Division/ISR Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH manages this contract (FA8629-14-C-2403). Sources: Pentagon | USAF, “AF Awards New Combat Rescue Helicopter Contract” | Sikorsky, “Sikorsky Awarded U.S. Air Force Contract to Develop New Combat Rescue Helicopter”.

CRH’s EMD & Production contract

March 4/14: Funds found. After initially saying during the FY15 budget rollout that CRH would be delayed by a year for lack of funding, the Air Force then scrambled to indicate otherwise, in these terms:

“Due to the criticality of this mission, the Air Force will realign about $430 million from other Air Force priorities beyond fiscal year 2014 through 2019 in order to award the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) contract to United Technologies’ Sikorsky…. The contract is expected to be signed not later than the end of June 2014. Before moving forward with the contract, the program must complete a Milestone B review including independent cost assessments. In order to enable this timeline, Sikorsky must also agree to extend its pricing through June.”

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James refers to the contract as “a good competitive price” that “effectively uses the $334 million Congress appropriated for the program.” Plus a bit more. Congress has to approve this, though past indications suggest that this won’t be a problem. James does add that “if the FY16 DoD budget drops back to sequestration levels, this program, along with many others, will need to be reevaluated.”

USAF will go ahead

Dec 13/13: Politics. Secretary of Defense Hagel gets a letter from 74 of 528 Congressional representatives, who don’t want the USAF to leave new combat rescue helicopters out of USAF’s budget. They cite Gen. Moseley’s (correct) characterization of CSAR as a moral imperative for USAF pilots.

The USAF is cagey about committing to anything in response. It’s also worth asking, and answering: if a CRH-60M is really the only choice left, could the US military just choose to equip planned HH-60M buys with a fitting for an aerial refueling probe, then handle the job using a combination of Army (HH-60M) and USMC (MV-22) assets? By all accounts, this is a question being asked in the Pentagon. Using other services’ platforms could meet the moral imperative objection. If the answer is “no, that won’t do,” an effective case requires a precise explanation of why not. Sources: Defense News, “Congress to Hagel: Keep funding search-and-rescue helos.

Nov 22/13: The Air Force posts on its CRH solicitation page that:

“In response to the CRH solicitation, the USAF received one proposal. That offer, from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation has provided an acceptable technical solution and the USAF intends to award a contract based upon budget availability. The USAF is laying the groundwork to award the CRH contract in the second quarter of fiscal year 2014. The award is contingent on the outcome of the President’s budget review process where CRH would need to be funded across the future year’s defense program.”

Earlier in the week Defense News had reported that a CRH start was not funded in the FY 2015 – 2018 budget plans, which were put together by the Air Force under the assumption that sequestration will remain in place over the entire period. Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning explained that new program starts were caught between a rock – the biggest priorities being F-35, KC-46 and the future strategic bomber – and a hard place called sequestration. Maybe this public messaging that the Air Force may have to curtail its combat search and rescue mission will succeed in what looks like a deliberate effort to shame Congress into disarming at least part of the sequester.

FY 2013

RFP, but pull-outs leave just 1 bidder; USAF says that’s OK, but they’re delaying the award. UKMCA/CHC S-92
(click to view full)

Aug 2/13: Delay. USAF spokesman Ed Gulick says that the CRH award will be delayed past Oct 1/13, instead of being awarded before Sept 30/13. The 1-year delay is attributed to “time required to complete an independent cost estimate and the impact of government furloughs.”

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the USAF is either more focused on other spending priorities and likely to drop CRH in coming reviews, or taking the extra time in order to help ensure that the award will be as difficult as possible to challenge. With Sikorsky’s “CRH-60M” as the only contender, a challenge is likely anyway if the award goes through. Reuters.

Jan 4/13: Only 1. Reuters reports that the USAF wouldn’t confirm that it had received only 1 CRH bid, but USAF spokesman Ed Gulick said that they had “acquisition procedures in place to proceed with this important acquisition regardless of the number of bidders.”

That may not stop GAO protests, however, which doomed the USAF’s CSAR-X predecessor. Ominously, EADS North America Chief Executive Sean O’Keefe is quoted as saying that as written, CRH’s terms didn’t call for an evaluation of full life cycle costs. The Defense Department’s emphasis on affordability, and a new federal law which required such an evaluation, could be enough to sustain a protest.

Dec 12/12: Why 112? James Hasik wonders about the math behind 112 CRH helicopters. Why that number?

“I have watched at least two NATO air wars now in which the US Marine Corps seems to have had the hammer for CSAR. It’s important to note that the Marines don’t actually have specialized CSAR units or aircraft… What they do have is long-range rotorcraft and guys who train hard… In Bosnia in 1995, that was a CH-53 and some escorts from the Kearsarge, pulling out an USAF F-16 pilot. In Libya in 2011, it was an MV-22 from (coincidentally) the Kearsarge, pulling out an USAF F-15 crew.”

“…Without seeing the missions needs statement, it’s hard to know what led to the number 112, but the quantity is easy to criticize, and on the numbers… [set of assumptions made]… The point is that even under these unrealistically generous assumptions, the USAF would only want a fleet of 112 dedicated CSAR aircraft if it was figuring on losing lots of planes in a massive bloody war. The only plausible opponent that could give it that much trouble is China, and in that case, the H-60 hasn’t anywhere close to the range needed to recover the aircrews.”

He doesn’t think that math augurs well for budgetary survival.

Dec 11/12: Sikorsky alone. After studying the RFP’s structure and terms, most bidders decide that it’s impossible to win. Once minimum requirements are met, it’s a straight cost battle, with no credit for additional capacity or capabilities, and terms that will disqualify any bid over $6.84 billion. That’s a legitimate contracting approach, especially with the USAF’s top priorities leaving very little room for anything else. The KC-46A tankers are urgent, the F-35 program is set to spend huge amounts of money, and the vastness of the Pacific has made the next-generation bomber a priority. As contracting consultant Jim McAleese notes, everything else is going to be pushed to bare minimums to pay for them.

For CRH, this means that Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin are the lone team willing to bid. Their 2010 teaming agreement for the HH-60 Recap was issued long before the current RFP, and they won’t say which helicopter they’re bidding. All they could tell us is that: “Sikorsky intends to continue with its proposal to offer the Air Force a proven, affordable combat rescue helicopter system to perform the critical mission of saving warfighters’ lives.”

The HH-60M is certainly proven in this role, but the S-92 could also be touted as “proven” given its coast guard service, so the statement means nothing. As for the others:

  • AgustaWestland and Northrop Grumman have decided not to bid the AW101/ “HH-71”.
  • Boeing won’t bid the HH-47 that won the cancelled CSAR-X competition.
  • Nor will the Boeing-Bell team bid the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor.
  • Eurocopter has decided not to submit a bid, either, which presumably would have involved the special forces/ SAR variant of its EC725 Cougar, or a modified NH90 FAME with the MEDEVAC/SAR kit.

The question now is whether the USAF will simply barrel ahead with a late FY 2013 contract and say “these were our terms, whomever bids, bids” – or withdraw and revise the RFP. Reuters | Aviation Week | Defense News.

Oct 22/12: RFP. The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition announces the posting of the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) RFP to the FBO.gov website, launching the acquisition program. All previous discussions are superseded by the RFP, and a contract isn’t expected until Q4 (summer) 2013.

The Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract will develop the system and produce 8 helicopters. It will be a Fixed-Price Incentive Firm (FPIF) contract, with options for 16 more Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) helicopters. The FPIF contract includes a mandatory 11% profit margin at target cost, with another 1% possible if schedule performance meets the criteria. If costs go over that target cost, they’ll be shared 50/50 with the government, reducing contractor profit margins, until 120% (and just 1% profit) is reached. At that point, all further costs belong to the contractor.

Full Rate Production (FRP) options will be Firm Fixed-Price (FFP), and the USAF expects to buy around 85. A small portion of the contract will be a combination of FFP and Cost Plus Fixed Fee (CPFF) in order to cover “over and above” repairs and studies and analyses.

Known competitors to date include Sikorsky/ Lockheed Martin (HH-92? HH-60M?), and AgustaWestland/ Northrop Grumman (AW101/ HH-71). Both helicopter types already perform search and rescue roles. Boeing is believed to be examining a bid involving the V-22 tilt-rotor, similar to AFSOC’s existing CV-22s. FBO.gov | USAF | AIN Online | Rotorhub.

CRH RFP

FY 2011 – 2012

RFP drafts. From USAF Draft Statement of Work: Sept. 2012
(click to view full)

September 2012: Industry Day and 3rd draft. Details emerge as contractors seek clarification on terms and schedules. The “affordability gate” has been set at $6.848B, a number the Air Force does not seem keen to elaborate on. It is going to be a Best Value award with expected discussions past initial proposals, as the sums at stake lead the contracting officers to think an award without discussions would not be realistic. A 1% schedule incentive is built in, to be paid after (timely) delivery.

The draft Statement of Work shows how production of 112 helicopters is expected to be scheduled between EMD over FY 2013-16, followed by LRIP in FY 2017-18, and FRP in FY 2019-24. That would exactly replace the initial HH-60 fleet, but would be below the canceled 141 helicopter CSAR-X buy. CRH’s 2018 date for Initial Operational Capability would come 6 years later than CSAR-X had been aiming for.

One contractor made a salient comment that the Air Force just brushed aside in their answer by saying they won’t change their communications requirements:

“Spec requires basic comms capabilities — have quick SINCGARS, UHF-SATCOM, etc. However, HH-60G is acquiring new suite of multi-band radios that will also provide crypto modernization, full compliance with GATM (ED-23B) [DID: Global Air Traffic Management], and advanced waveforms such as SRW and MUOS. Won’t CRH be a step backwards from what will be fielded on HH-60G in FY14?

The government’s curt answer is disconcerting, given that CRH deliveries are expected several years after said HH-60G upgrades. GATM retrofits were also made on KC-135s an on C-5s among others, to meet new FAA standards and allow shared access within both civil and military airspace.

Finally, the USAF found that answers to an earlier round of classified questions were not mailed out back in July, leaving contractors hanging dry for the expected clarifications. This is to be corrected promptly.

The final RFP was originally scheduled earlier in 2012, and was postponed a couple of times. At the time of this writing its new release date is not known, though Wright-Patterson Public Affairs tells DID that it should be “very soon” as the 3rd draft should be the last iteration before a finalized RFP. As of July 2012, the date for the award was set to Q3 FY2013, but this now looks likely to slip by at least a quarter. Contractors will have 60 days to submit their proposals.

AW101/ CH-149
(click to view full)

Sept 18/12: AW101. Northrop Grumman and Finmeccanica’s AgustaWestland announce they will partner to bid on CRH, as well as the future presidential helicopter. They will offer the 3-engined, AW101-derived “HH-71” to compete for CRH.

Subsequent displays reveal a number of distinguishing features beyond the 3 engines, including a custom-designed medical suite, 7.62mm minigun turret mounted above the ramp, and rotor blades that push air away to reduce brownout during landings. Release | DoD Buzz.

March 21/12: Industry Day. interested contractors are briefed during an Industry Day whose information package is available on FBO (CCR validation required).

RDT&E budgeted as of PB 2013 – source: USAF
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Feb 2012: In the FY2013 President Budget, the USAF starts ramping up RDT&E funding for the CRH with 2 test airframes in FY13.

Jan/Feb 2012: After conducting an Acquisition Strategy Panel, the USAF Acquisition Executive approved the acquisition strategy in January. On February 10 the Materiel Development Decision (MDD) was received from OSD/AT&L.

This clears the way for an RFP with an approach centered on seeking and existing production helicopter with modifications that use existing mature technologies or subsystems requiring limited integration. In this case a Technology Development phase is not necessary and the acquisition process can proceed to the System Development phase.

MDD

Jan 30/12: HH-60Gs. Rotorhub reports that he HH-60G fleet carried out more than 9,700 sorties in 2010, recovering over 1,900 personnel, but falling to around 8,000 sorties in 2011. With respect to cracking and other issues, the past 6 years have seen 83 structural issues that required unscheduled depot maintenance. Col. Chad Franks, the commanding officer of the 347th Rescue Group adds some thoughts:

“What we have done over the last few years is we have put add-ons onto the [HH-60G] aircraft but it has not been integrated the way it should have been. So for us, getting that total integration of our mission systems and our rescue systems all in one package would be ideal… Given the aircraft we have lost over the last nine years, our first job is to get back to 112. We are doing that by buying UH-60Ms right off the line and outfitting them with our rescue equipment.”

August 2011: the Air Force issues a Sources Sought solicitation for a HH-60 Recap Program. This later morphed into the CRH, as per entries above.

May 26/11: Defense Tech reports on the HH-60 Recap program. Meanwhile:

“The service has initiated a band aid program to replace the 13 lost [HH-60] aircraft in the next couple of years with UH-60M airframes purchased from the Army. Still, this does little to address the fact that the vast majority of the CSAR fleet is aging and overused, with dozens of airframes developing stress cracks.”

April 27/11: AW101. AgustaWestland announces that they’ll offer the AW101-derived “HH-71” for the HH-60 RECAP program, and the AW139M for the USAF’s CVLSP utility helicopter competition. Vertical.

July 16/10: Boeing & EADS. Flight International reports that Boeing and EADS Eurocopter have each submitted data 2 alternatives for the HH-60 replacement program:

“Boeing has submitted data on the CH-47 and V-22 to the US Air Force as potential replacements for the HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet of combat search and rescue helicopters (CSAR), a spokesman says… the UH-60M [is] a helicopter less than half the size of the heavylift CH-47 and barely one-third the maximum takeoff weight of the V-22 tiltrotor.

The same variance in size, roughly put, also applies to the aircraft proposed by EADS, which are the NH-90 and EC-725 Super Cougar. EADS submitted data on both aircraft because they believe they “offer proven capabilities at best value and lowest cost to the taxpayer,” says EADS NA chief operating officer Dave Oliver.”

July 15/10: HH-60? Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin announce that they’ll compete together for the HH-60 Recap program, using a modified H-60M Black Hawk. The HH-60M is already in service as a US Army MEDEVAC platform. Sikorsky.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Russia’s Mi-38 Stopgap Heli Getting Funding

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 23:45
Mi-38 dimensions
(click to view full)

Russian Mi-8 and its Mi-17 derivative have been familiar sights for several decades, and continue to sell around the world. These helicopters are significantly larger than the American UH-60 Black Hawk family, but have about the same carrying capacity, at about half the price. They are also far more commonly armed than their American counterparts, giving them a secondary strike and fire support role that many countries find useful.

Successor designs have been hurt by funding delays, but the Russian oil and gas industry’s push toward more remote regions is creating a demand for higher performance machines. As an interim step before Russian manufacturers can field longer-range, compound helicopter designs like the Ka-92 or Mi-X1, the EuroMil collaboration between EADS Eurocopter and Oboronprom subsidiaries Mil and Kazan aims to produce the Mi-38. Improved engineering, and Pratt & Whitney Canada’s 2,500 shp PW127 T/S engine, aim to raise the helicopter’s maximum internal load from 4,000 kg to 5,000kg, and maximum sling load from 4,500 kg to 7,000 kg. While the initial target market is civil, military variants are certainly possible.

Mi-38
(click to view full) Updates

May 24/16: Russia’s Defence Ministry looks set to become the first customer of the Mil Mi-38 multi-role helicopter. The helicopter’s manufacturer Russian Helicopters made the announcement in a press release last week, and it is expected to pass a series of flight tests according to the ministry’s requirements. Designed to take part in a variety of missions, the Mi-38 is capable of carrying either troops or cargo as well as participating in search & rescue and offshore operations.

March 12/09: Kazan Helicopter Plant announces that they expect to receive about RUB 3 billion (approx. $85 million) in Russia’s upcoming Federal Target Program (FTP) for the development of civil aviation technology, split 50/50 between the state and Oboronprom, toward the completion and launch of the Mi-38. flight tests are scheduled to end in 2009, with serial production at the Kazan Helicopter Plant slated to begin in 2010.

Categories: News

Vietnam’s Russian Restocking: Subs, Ships, Sukhois, and More

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 23:40
Kilo Class cutaway
(click to view full)

In April 2009, reports surfaced that Vietnam had agreed in principle to a deal with Russia for 6 of its diesel-electric Kilo/ Project 636 Class fast attack submarines. By December 2009, it was an inflection-point deal for a capability that Vietnam has never had before. By November 2013, the new submarines had begun to arrive.

Nor is that the only change in Vietnam’s military capabilities these days, courtesy of their long-standing relationship with Russia. There have been some outside deals for items like maritime surveillance floatplanes, and a Dutch deal will provide high-end frigates. For the most part, however, Vietnam’s new combat power in the air, at sea, and on land is coming from Russia. China’s displays of naval might are only part of the mosaic influencing Vietnam’s decisions in these matters.

Vietnam’s New Military Buys: Considerations & Conclusions Southeast Asia
(click to view full)

China’s 2009 display of naval might certainly marks an increased shift toward “forward defense” farther from its borders, a policy that must eventually include China’s trade lifeline to Vietnam’s south, through the Straits of Malacca. It also underlined a growing gap between China’s increasingly advanced ships and high capacity hovercraft, and Vietnam’s fleet of older Soviet and even American ships.

Ownership of the Spratly Islands remains very much in dispute, and Vietnam and China share a centuries-long history of mutual distrust and occupation. Recent punctuations of that animosity include the 1979 3rd Indochina War; this was followed by a significant skirmish in 1981, and a naval skirmish over the Spratly Islands in 1988. Today, Vietnamese protests over a Chinese bauxite mine in Vietnam, and media disobedience over the Spratly Islands issue, serve as a reminder that the 1989 treaty has not changed the relationship’s underlying fundamentals.

Key Platforms Submarines Kilo Class for China
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China itself has adopted a strategy of building up a submarine force to counter a superior surface opponent (the US Navy). It’s entirely logical for Vietnam to adopt a similar approach vis-a-vis China, especially given that China’s lifeline of raw materials and exported goods from and to Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and parts of Asia passes right by Vietnam’s doorstep.

Aside from Thyssen Krupp Marine’s U209 family of submarines, the Russian Kilo Class are the world’s most widely exported subs. They’re known for a level of quietness that’s significantly better than other Russian designs, and have been produced in the Project 877EKM, and the Project 636M “Improved Kilo” / Varshavyanka Class variant that Vietnam is receiving. Countries operating or ordering these submarines include Russia, Algeria, China, India, Iran, Poland, and Romania.

There had been some speculation that Vietnam’s emphasis on shallow water operations, and proximity to the Straits of Malacca, might have made DCNS’ novel 885t, $200 million Andrasta Class of “pocket submarines” attractive. Instead, Vietnam appears to have opted for a longer-range, higher capacity 3,000t submarine from its tried and true Russia partner. They can be armed with 533mm heavy torpedoes, mines, and/or the 3M54 Klub-S family of missiles. The Improved Kilo Class boats will be named:

  • HQ-182 Hanoi (delivered)
  • HQ-183 Ho Chi Minh City (testing complete 2014-01)
  • HQ-184 Hai Phong (launched 2013-08, arrival 2014)
  • HQ-185 Khanh Hoa (arrival 2015)
  • HQ-186 Da Nang (arrival 2015)
  • HQ-187 Ba Ria-Vung Tau (arrival 2016)

Other Naval Dinh Tien Hoang
(click to view full)

The new submarines are the most important new Russian addition to Vietnam’s capabilities, but they are not alone. A mixed set of 6 stealthy Gepard 3.9/Dinh Tien Hoang Class light frigates will add surface warfare and patrol punch. The first pair optimized for surface attack are already delivered, plus orders for 2 model emphasizing anti-submarine warfare, and 2 upgraded ships with undetermined capabilities as yet.

Gepard 3.9 frigates. These ships are a combined diesel-turbine export version of Russia’s Project 11611 (Tartarstan) frigates, which serve in the Caspian fleet. The 102m/ 2,100t design sits in the grey area between small frigates and large corvettes, and despite their 5,000nm endurance, they’re best suited to local maritime patrol and interdiction. Their stealth-enhanced ship design and 8 sub-sonic Kh-35E anti-ship missiles make them potentially dangerous adversaries in littoral regions; other armament includes 1 AK-176 76mm main gun, 2x AK-630 family multi-barrel 30mm automated guns, and 12-20 mines. There’s space at the back of the ship for a Ka-27 helicopter, but no hangar.

Air defense is handled by a Palma turret derived from the land-based SA-19 Tunguska, carrying twin AO-18KD multi-barrel 30mm cannons and 8 SOSNA-R 9M337 hyper-velocity laser beam rider missiles. An optical turret in the Palma’s center handles fire control, and a command module includes the 3Ts-99/Positiv ME1 target detection 3D radar. It’s mounted in place of the 9K33M “OSA-M”/SS-N-4 Gecko twin-launcher missile system installed on Russia’s frigates, and provides a maximum air defense reach of 10 km and 19,500 feet altitude, with a 2nd kill zone out to 4 km for the 30mm guns.

The ASW ships can be expected to carry 533 mm torpedo tubes, depth charges, and an RBU-6000 12-barreled Anti-Submarine rocket launcher.

This size and weapons array may not be much to get excited about, relative to other international frigate designs, but it will make them Vietnam’s most capable combat ships until the Dutch Sigma Class frigates arrive. There has been talk about including Shtil-1 air defense missiles with a 50 km range on the last 2 ships, in place of the Palma turret. Adding those would quadruple the ships’ air defense radius, but the ship’s overall changes would need to extend beyond that mounting.

Molniya/ Project 12418 FAC. These missile-armed Fast Attack Crafts, derived from the Tarantul-class Soviet corvette design, will help modernize a fleet that’s mostly made up of aging Soviet FACs, and captured American ships from the Vietnam War. The new ships are small, at just 550t full load, but they pack a very dangerous set of 8 sub-sonic Kh-35E anti-ship missiles, or 4 Moskit/ SS-N-22 Sunburn supersonic anti-ship missiles. Up to 10 may be built under the 2010 contract.

An agreement to license-build the Russian Kh-35 anti-ship missile adds extra impetus to Vietnam’s maritime modernization.

Air Force: SU-30MKs, and…? SU-30MK2 weapons
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Vietnam’s air force is still reliant on the same core platform that formed their high end during the Vietnam war: the MiG-21. Swing-wing SU-22M4 strike and close air support fighters are only slightly newer. After that, there’s a sharp technological break to SU-27 air superiority fighters. Vietnam is slowly extending that modernized base with newer multi-role SU-30 planes from the same fighter family, strengthening air defenses and adding a long-range strike capability. They need that kind of firepower, given China’s own set of SU-30/J-11s, and the existence of flash-points like the Spratleys far from the mainland. The question is how they manage to balance that qualitative improvement with the need for fighter numbers, as the MiGs and SU-22s age out.

Note that even the most modern fighters will be limited without AWACS/ AEW support for wider awareness and coordination, and patrol ranges around key disputed territories like the Spratlys will be limited without mid-air refueling platforms. The bad news is that Vietnam doesn’t have a lot of budget to spare, and its ground forces are also in need of significant upgrades. The good news is that options like the Airbus/IAI C295 AEW, BAe 146 tanker conversions, and IAI Bedek’s K-767 tanker conversion of used commercial aircraft are creating new lower-cost options.

Contracts and Key Events

This section covers only Vietnamese contracts with Russia. As the “Additional Readings” section notes, Russia is not Vietnam’s exclusive arms provider – but it is the country’s most important defense relationship.

2014 – 2016

May 24/16: US President Barack Obama has announced the lifting of a decades long arms embargo on Vietnam. Speaking in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and under a looming bust of Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, Obama said that the move will end a “lingering vestige of the Cold War” and pave the way for more-normal relations between the two countries. The move comes as Vietnam looks to recenter allies amid a growing spat with China over ownership of islands in the South China Sea, while also looking to lessen their reliance on Russian weapons manufacturers, factors that may make Hanoi one of Washington’s new best friends in the region.

January 5/16: Vietnam has received possession of two more Su-30MK2 fighters, bringing the current number now operated to to thirty two. Dubbed the King Cobra, the Vietnamese Air Force hopes to have this increased to thirty-six by the end of 2016. The latest order, for twelve jets, was signed in 2013 and worth $600 million. Flight training for the aircraft is being provided by the Indian Air Force, who also operate the Russian made aircraft in their own military. In the past, India has trained Vietnamese naval personnel in operating Russian Kilo-class submarines.

Dec 10/14: Submarines. HQ-184 Hai Phong is reportedly on its way to Vietnam, after technical acceptance was signed on Dec. 4. The rest of the project appears on track: sea trials for boat #4 started in June, while the keel of #6 was laid in May.

Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines: Admiralty Shipyards provide Vietnamese Navy with third Project 636.1 submarine, Vietnam media relaying Russian sources.

Testing “Lightning” ships

Dec 8/14: Fast Attack Crafts. HQ 377 and HQ 378, the first 2 of 6 Molniya fast attack, are handed over by Ba Son Corporation for induction by the Vietnamese navy. The ships had been tested in April and delivered in June. The government seems to support Ba Son’s request to build a new, more modern shipbuilding factory.

Sources: Nhan Dan: Ba Son Corporation urged to complete, hand over missile boats | Tuoi Tre News: Vietnam to boost defense development, improve military combat capacity | Vietnam Breaking News: Vietnam to build more Russian missile boats | Asitimes: Vietnam holds technical test for its first 2 domestically-made high-speed missile boats.

Aug 27/14: SU-30s. Russia & India Report says that negotiations are underway to deepen Vietnam’s training relationship with India, progressing beyond subs to include its 36 SU-30MK2 jets by 2015. Malaysia already trains with India, as their SU-30MKM jets have a lot in common with the IAF’s SU-30MKIs. Vietnam’s SU-30MKs lack canards and thrust vectoring, but India is a logical pairing:

“India and Vietnam are likely to sign a defence agreement, under which Vietnamese pilots will be trained to operate Russian-built Sukhoi fighters, sources in the Indian Defence Ministry told RIR. The agreement is likely to be signed when Indian President Pranab Mukherjee visits the Southeast Asian country in September. The details are being finalised during the on-going visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Vietnam, the sources said…. India will also consider the sale of the Indo-Russian BrahMos missiles to Vietnam [DID: q.v. Dec 3/13 entry], although a deal is not imminent, the sources added.”

Adding the air-launched, supersonic BrahMos to Vietnam’s arsenal would make Indian training the only sensible solution, while greatly increasing Vietnam’s strike reach and capabilities. Sources: Russia & India Report, “India to train Vietnamese pilots to fly Sukhoi fighters”.

April 23/14: Frigates. Russia’s Nudelman Precision Engineering Design Bureau confirms that the “People’s Army of Vietnam Navy” (Maoist heritage, much?) will equip its Project 11661 Gepard anti-submarine light frigates with the same Palma air defense and CIWS system that sits on the first 2 surface warfare frigates. The ships are scheduled for delivery in 2017, and given the space constraints involved in a 2,100t platform, it’s always interesting to see what can and can’t stay when they’re equipped for a new role. Sources: IHS Jane’s Navy International, “Vietnam to arm new Gepard-class frigates with Palma CIWS”.

April 1/14: Frigates. Vietnam’s 2nd batch of Gepard frigates are scheduled for delivery in 2017, according to Zelenodolsk Shipyard’s annual financial statements. That set is supposed to be optimized for anti-submarine duties. Sources: IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Vietnam to receive two more Gepard frigates in 2017”.

Feb 27/14: Frigates. Vietnam has reportedly ordered 2 more Gepard Class/ Project 11661K frigates from Russia’s Gorky Shipyard, which will bring their fleet to 6.

None of the announcements discuss terms, or mention which variant Vietnam is buying this time. The small 2,100t frigates have space limitations, which forces some role-based equipment tradeoffs. Current orders involve 2 Gepards ordered in 2006 and optimized for surface strike with anti-ship missiles (q.v. March 5/11), plus 2 frigates ordered in 2011 and equipped as anti-submarine specialists (q.v. Dec 7/11). There have been unconfirmed reports that subsequent ships would add Russia’s SA-17 derived 3S90E Shtil-1 naval anti-aircraft missile system, providing much wider air defense out to 50 km. Sources: Vietnam.NET, “First of a New Class Patrol Ships Laid Down at Zelenodolsky Shipyard in Russia” | Defense Update, “First of a New Class Patrol Ships Laid Down at Zelenodolsky Shipyard in Russia” | Defense Studies, “Second Batch of Gepard Equipped with Sthil-1 Missile”.

2 more frigates

Jan 16/14: Submarines. Vietnam’s 2nd submarine, HQ-183 Ho Chi Minh City, completes operational tests in Russia and receives its checkout certificate. It will be loaded onto a barge, and is expected to arrive in Vietnam around May 3/14.

HQ-184 Hai Phong was launched on Aug 28/13, and is also expected to be delivered to Vietnam in 2014. HQ-186 Khanh Hoa is due in 2015, and HQ-185 Da Nang can be inferred as also arriving that year. HQ-187 Ba Ria Vung Tau is due in 2016. Sources: Bao Dat Viet, “Tau ngam HQ-185 Da Nang ha thuy ngay 28/3” | Thanh Nien News, “Vietnam’s second Russian submarine completes testing” | Vietnamnet, “Russia hands over the second submarine to Vietnam”.

T-90
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Jan 10/14: Tanks. Vietnam is reportedly investigating the possibility of upgrading at least some of their existing fleet of about 480 T-72 main battle tanks, and buying T-90s to begin replacing their force of almost 1,000 elderly T-55s. Due diligence has reportedly been done with India’s T-90s, which also face the ravages of hot climates.

The problem is cost. T-72 upgrades can be sourced from a number of countries besides Russia, but top of the line new tanks are costly. If new armored personnel carriers also have to be bought for Vietnam’s armored formations, the entire project gets very expensive very quickly. On the other hand, defeats on land are very, very expensive when you have a large and aggressive neighbor on your border, and a long history of animosity. Tanks may not be the whole answer, but Vietnam will have to spend money to upgrade its land forces in some way.

Vietnam’s armored forces include various models of Russian and Chinese equipment, which means their fleets are fragmented as well as old. Consolidation of any sort would be helpful, though their terrain means that light vehicles can be as important as heavy armor. Israel has been talking to Vietnam about military deals, and one wonders if they’ve discussed conversion of the T-55s into refurbished Achzarit heavy APCs. Sources: Tinnong, “Viet Nam xem xet mua xe tang T-90 cua Nga”.

Jan 3/13: Submarines. HQ-183 Hanoi is unloaded from the Dutch Rolldock Sea carrying vessel into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. Sources: Vietnam.NET, “In pictures: Hanoi submarine arrives at Cam Ranh port” | Thanh Nien, “First Russian-made submarine arrives in Vietnam” (also several pictures) | Vietnam.NET, “Vietnam’s most modern submarine launched” | Taiwan’s Want China Times, “Vietnam receives its first Russian Kilo-class submarine”.

1st sub arrives

2012 – 2013

12 more SU-30MK2s; Kh-35 anti-ship missile partnership; Singapore partnership for submarine rescue; Vietnam will need help with training and maintenance. Kh-35E/ SS-N-25
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Dec 3/13: Weapons. Vietnam has reportedly placed an official request for a derivative of the Russian SS-N-26 Oniks missiles that already equip a couple of its shore batteries:

“Vietnam formally requested India to supply the Indo-Russian BrahMos cruise missiles at a meeting in New Delhi, informed sources told RIR. The request was made when Vietnam Communist party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong visited the Indian capital, the sources said, adding that the Southeast Asian country was looking at enhancing security cooperation with India… During Phu Trong’s visits, requests were also made to India for submarine training and for conversion training for Vietnamese pilots to fly Sukhoi-30 aircrafts.”

The PJ-10 Brahmos is also a supersonic, radar-guided, medium-range anti-ship and strike missile. Vietnam’s current and planned ships aren’t good platforms for BrahMos, and Vietnam already has similar SS-N-26 shore batteries in place. A buy from India could deploy mobile shore batteries, but the most likely interest involves the developmental air-launched BrahMos, designed to be carried by SU-30 fighters. That would add about 300 km of strike range to Vietnam’s fighters, using a lethal threat to both enemy ships and shore installations. Deploying that combination would be almost as significant as Vietnam’s new submarines in shifting the South China Sea’s overall balance of power. Sources: Russia & India Report, “Vietnam looking to purchase BrahMos cruise missiles”.

Nov 7/13: Submarines. The Improved Kilo Class boat HQ-183 Hanoi is handed over to the Vietnam Navy in Russia, where its crew has been undergoing training. It will be loaded onto a barge on November 11/13, and prepared for shipment to Vietnam.

At the same time, representatives from Russia and Vietnam sign a document that will transfer a new submarine sailor training center in Cam Ranh Bay to the Vietnam Navy in January 2014, when the Hanoi and its cadre arrive at Cam Ranh Bay. By the end of 2014, Vietnam is expected to have 3 of its 6 ordered submarines. Sources: Vietnam Bridge, “Russia hands over Cam Ranh submarine sailor training center to Vietnam” | RIA Novosti, “Russia to Deliver 2 More ‘Black Hole’ Subs to Vietnam in ’14”.

Oct 25/13: Infrastructure. Vietnam officially inaugurates a maintenance line in Da Nang’s “Factory A32” for Su-27 and Su-30 fighters. Other countries have had real problems waiting for Russian support, so moving more of that support in-country will boost the fighter fleet’s availability. Sources: People’s Army Newspaper Online, “Maintenance line for Su-27 and Su-30 fighters unveiled”.

Sept 26/13: Infrastructure. Vietnam is committing to a ship repair facility in Cam Ranh Bay that can handle Russian ships by 2015. It’s a win for their ally, but Vietnam is also trying to turn Cam Ranh Bay into a broader maritime service center. US Military Sealift Command ships have received repairs and basic maintenance there over the last couple of years.

Strong naval maintenance capabilities for Russian designs is also a big asset to a force that operates Russian ships almost exclusively. Sources: RIA Novosti, “Vietnam Sets 2015 Deadline for Soviet, Russian Ship Repair Facility”.

Sept 24/13: Frigates. Russia’s Zelenodolsk shipyard has begun construction on Vietnam’s next Gepard Class 2,100t light frigates, which will be optimized for anti-submarine warfare instead of surface attack (q.v. Dec 7/11). Sources: RIA Novosti, “Russia Starts Building 2 Frigates for Vietnamese Navy”.

Sept 6/13: Submarines. Singapore and Vietnam sign a Memorandum of Agreement regarding submarine rescue. If there’s an accident involving a Vietnamese submarine, Singapore’s 85m, 4,300t submarine rescue and support ship MV Swift Rescue will steam over with its submersible rescue vessel, Deep Search and Rescue Six (DSAR 6).

Singapore operates its own set of ex-Swedish diesel-electric submarines: 4 old but modernized and “tropicalized” Challenger/ Sjoormen Class boats, and 2 modern Archer/ Vastergotland Class Air Independent Propulsion boats that received similar treatment. Sources: RSN – Assets – Ships | RSN – Assets – Submarines | Singapore MINDEF, “Republic of Singapore Navy and Vietnam People’s Navy Sign Submarine Rescue Memorandum of Agreement”.

Submarine rescue agreement

August 21/13: SU-30s. Interfax and RIA Novosti report, and Vietnam confirms, that a new contract signed earlier this month will lead to the delivery of another batch of 12 SU-30MK2s by 2015. When added to 2 earlier contracts, Vietnam’s SU-30MK2 fleet will rise to 32 fighters.

Sources differ in their reporting of this contract’s value, worth $450 million or $600 million depending on whom you ask. The higher value is similar to the previous batch of 12 planes, and is probably the fully-loaded cost with support and parts, but excluding weapons. This is about the level of detail you can publicly expect from such countries. Communist Party of Vietnam.

12 SU-30MK2s

July 5/13: Submarines. Russia’s Interfax says that Vietnam’s 2nd submarine, Ho Chi Minh City, has returned to Admiralty Shipyards of St. Petersburg after series of sea trials. The 1st sub, Hanoi, was launched in August 2012 (vid. Aug 28/12 entry), and both are scheduled for handover to the Vietnamese Navy later in 2013. Earlier reports had targeted the end of 2012 for Haoi’s handover.

Note that the photograph in the linked article is not a Kilo Class sub. Thanh Nien News.

May 21/13: SU-30s. A Tuoi Tre News article offers some revealing information, alongside the classic Stakhanovite paeans.

“Living in rented houses, many of the [SU-30 maintenance] staff have to work as part time teachers in local schools to earn extra income for their families. They even use their own money to buy devices to test tools of their own invention before submitting ideas to leaders.”

Needless to say, economic conflicts of interest among the maintenance staff for your nation’s premiere air asset offers all kinds of potential vulnerabilities.

May 17/13: SU-30s. A Tuoi Tre News article discussed the propensity of Vietnamese pilots to stay in the aircraft and try to land, even if the failure is very serious. Materiel worth more than people? That does seem to be part of the attitude, but if so, it’s a long-standing predisposition:

“For example, three-star colonel and pilot Dao Quoc Khang managed to save his Su-27 when its engines broke down just seconds after taking off…. in April last year, captain and chief of Air Strike Regiment 935 Nguyen Xuan Tuyen and flight head Nguyen Gia Nhan saved a Su-30MK2 while they were on a regular patrol over East Sea and its engines suddenly stopped working when it was 600km from the coast. “….We told ourselves in our minds that we are responsible for keeping the US$50 million asset of the State in one piece. It is made from the labor of citizens. And we must protect it at any price, even if that means our lives,” pilot Tuyen said.”

In fairness, ejecting 600 km from the coast is near-certain death, given Vietnam’s limited search and rescue resources. So the brave and selfless-sounding justification doesn’t actually change their decision, and is the sort of thing you’d expect in an article that quotes political commissars with a straight face. Or is the mentality in the pilot’s justification real? That’s the interesting question.

March 29/13: Submarines. Rubin design bureau general director Igor Vilnit pledges to deliver the 1st Project 636M Improved Kilo Class submarine to Vietnam “in 2013 as scheduled.” Odd. Earlier reports from RIA Novosti (vid. Aug 28/12) had the handover taking place at the end of 2012.

The first boat has been built by Admiralteiskie Verfi shipyard in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is undergoing sea trials. All 6 boats are due for delivery by 2016. What isn’t addressed in these reports is Vietnam’s recruiting, training, infrastructure, and maintenance preparations. As Vietnam’s Australian neighbors have discovered the hard way, neglect of any of these 4 “invisible” elements leads to an undeployable submarine force. Vietnam has the advantage of beginning with a proven, tested submarine design, but in all other areas, they’re building from a very low foundation. RIA Novosti.

Oct 26/12: SU-34s? Phun.vn cites a report from the mysterious site “Periscope 2,” wherein it’s suggested that Vietnam plans to replace its fleet of 50 or so aged SU-22 strike aircraft with SU-34s, and that export approval will be given immediately, once it’s requested. The report also suggests that Saab JAS-39 Gripens will replace the VPAF’s even older fleet of 150 or so MiG-21s, that L-159s may replace existing L-39 trainers alongside Vietnam’s reported Yak-130 options, and that Vietnam may be interested in C295-AEW planes.

All of the above are possible, and militarily reasonable choices. Even the L-159 could be reasonable, if bought second-hand as a dual role trainer and MiG-21 fill in, to give the VPAF a dual Russian & Western fleet with appropriate weapon options. The thing is, “reasonable” doesn’t mean “likely”, and DID could find no other reports along these lines. Any of the non-trainer deals would be quite expensive, and Vietnam’s economy is a bit shaky these days. In addition, all of the non-Russian equipment would require export approval for American military items.

We throw this item in for reader interest, with a strong caution concerning its reliability. Phun.vn [in Vietnamese].

Aug 28/12: Submarines. Russia’s RIA Novosti reports that the Admiralteiskie Verfi shipyard in St. Petersburg has launched Vietnam’s 1st Project 636 diesel-electric submarine. The boat is due for handover to Vietnam by the end of 2012.

July 27/12: Political. Vietnam says that Russia can set up a base in Cam Ranh Bay, but it would be a maintenance base, not a military base. Vietnam is trying to promote Cam Ranh as a ship maintenance center, and has even worked on ships from US Military Sealift Command. Sources: RIA Novosti, “Vietnam Ready to Host Russian Maritime Base”.

June 21/12: Fighters. Vietnam is conducting air patrols over the disputed Spratly Islands, using its long-range Su-27 fighters.

“Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, protested against the patrols by Vietnamese Su-27 fighters over the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea at a press conference in Beijing…. The flights by fighters from the Vietnam People’s Air Force over the Spratlys are routine and will continue, according to the Vietnamese military officials.”

State-owned China Radio International makes some valid points when it cites reasons not to be too concerned about Vietnam’s Su-27s: payload limitations, the lack of AWACS support for wider awareness and coordination, and the lack of mid-air refueling platforms. On the other hand, there’s no denying that the Su-27s and Su-30s offer Vietnam a leap forward in both air superiority and strike roles. With that foundation in place, it’s possible for Vietnam to begin closing some of the other gaps in coming years. Sources: Taiwan’s Want China Times, “Beijing downplays threat of Vietnam’s air force”.

March 29/12: Sub training from India? Singapore’s Asia Times:

“For full-scale underwater warfare training, it appears Vietnam will turn to India. The two countries have been engaged in high-level military talks with special emphasis on maritime cooperation. Since the Indian navy also employs Kilo-class submarines, New Delhi would be well suited to train Vietnamese crews. China responded warily to this bilateral warming trend in both words and deeds when a Chinese warship reportedly confronted an Indian navy vessel leaving a Vietnamese port in August… Moscow will reportedly build a submarine base for Vietnam at strategic Cam Ranh Bay, a one-time American and later Soviet naval base…”

Feb 15/12: Kh-35. RIA Novosti reports that Vietnam will begin joint production of a modified SS-N-25 Switchblade/ Kh-35 Uran subsonic anti-ship missile, whose base characteristics are similar to the American xGM-84 Harpoon. The project is described as similar to joint Russian-Indian production of the PJ-10 BrahMos missile, which was derived from the supersonic SS-N-26 Yakhont.

The Kh-35 can be launched from Ka-27 naval helicopters, ships, or shore batteries, but haven’t been integrated with Vietnam’s new SU-30MK model fighters, or its forthcoming Kilo Class submarines. Even so, this joint venture will give Vietnam assured low-cost production and support for an important element of naval deterrence in the South China Sea.

The Kh-35 looks set to become Vietnam’s mainstay anti-ship missile for its navy, and a joint project also gives them a base to make changes. India undertook to integrate Brahmos with its Su-30MKI fighters, for example, and Vietnam’s air force may have similar plans for their modified Kh-35 project. The urge to use locally-built weapons in new ships also seems to be deep-seated. Kilo Class submarines are already configured for 3M54 Klub family (SS-N-27) missiles, and only time will tell what the Vietnamese plan to do with this shared technology.

KH-35 missile partnership

2009 – 2011

Vietnam orders 6 Improved Kilo Class subs, 12 SU-30MK2 fighters, 2 Gepard Class ASW frigates; 2 Gepard/ Dinh Tien Hoang Class surface warfare frigates delivered; Vietnam begins building Molniya FACs locally; China’s underwater neighborhood getting crowded. Gepard 3.9, 2-view
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Dec 7/11: ASW Frigates. Rosoboronexport and the Zelenodolsk Gorky Plant have finished shipping Vietnam’s 1st 2 Gepard Class frigates, and have just signed a contract for 2 more. That isn’t a surprise, as reports from March 2010 were already discussing a set set. Unlike the first set, however, this next 2 will concentrate on anti-submarine warfare, rather than surface attack missions.

Vietnam’s example may also be creating ripples in the region. Gorky Plant Deputy Director Sergei Rudenko adds that Vietnam’s neighbor Cambodia has expressed its own interest in the Gepard Class. Interfax-AVN.

2 more Gepard Class frigates

Oct 25/11: FACs. Vietnam is beginning to get assembly kits and components for its Molniya/ Project 12418 missile-armed fast attack craft. They’re working under the technical supervision of the “Almaz” Central Maritime Design Bureau in St. Petersburg, and the OJSC Vympel shipbuilding plant. Russia has built 2 for Vietnam, and Vietnam is building its first 4 boats of class, with an option for 4 more. The ships are small, at just 550t full load, but they pack a very dangerous set of 4 Moskit/ SS-N-22 Sunburn supersonic anti-ship missiles, or 8 of the sub-sonic Kh-35E anti-ship missiles.

Deliveries of parts to Vietnam, which began in 2010 under a $30 million contract, will continue through 2016. ITAR-TASS (Google Translate).

Vietnam begins assembling FAC boats

Oct 20/11: Patrol boats. Vietnam signs acceptance certificates for the last 2 of 4 Project 10412/ Svetlyak Export Class patrol boats at Almaz Shipbuilding Firm. The 390t class was originally developed for the KGB’s border guards, mounting an AK-176M 76.2mm cannon, an AK-630 30mm gatling gun, and a mount for very short range SA-16/SA-18 anti-aircraft missiles.

The first 2 ships were delivered to Vietnam in 2002, and the 2 follow-on order ships were laid down in June 2009. Unfortunately, repeated issues with key components, including the Arsenal AK-176M gun mounts, delayed construction. The ships will be moved to St. Petersburg, and embarked on a transport ship for shipping to Vietnam. RusNavy.

Aug 22/11: Frigates. The Gepard Class frigate Ly Thai To [HQ-012] arrives at Cam Ranh Bay. Sources: Defense News, “Vietnam Receives Second Russian-Made Frigate”.

March 5/11: Frigates. The Vietnamese Navy officially accepts the 1st Gepard class frigate from Russia, naming it the Dinh Tien Hoang, after the first Vietnamese emperor. Vietnam became the class’ 1st export order with a contract for 2 ships in December 2006, and the HQ-011 Dinh Tien Hoang was launched in August 2009. HQ-012 Ly Thai To, the 2nd frigate in the order, was launched in March 2010, and has been in sea trials since August 2010.

The Gepard 3.9 ships are a combined diesel-turbine export version of Russia’s Project 11611 (Tartarstan) frigates, which serve in the Caspian fleet. The 102m/ 2,100t design sits in the grey area between small frigates and large corvettes, and despite their 5,000nm endurance, they’re best suited to local maritime patrol and interdiction. Their stealth-enhanced ship design and sub-sonic Kh-35E anti-ship missiles make them potentially dangerous adversaries in littoral regions, and other armament includes 76mm and 30mm guns, 533mm torpedoes, depth charges, and a 9K33M “OSA-M”/SS-N-4 missile system for air defense. This size and weapons array may not be much to get excited about, relative to other international frigate designs, but it will make them Vietnam’s most capable combat ships. DatViet report [Google translate] | AvWeek Ares.

Gepard Class frigate accepted

March 27/10: RIA Novosti reports that Chinese admirals are beginning to grasp the implications of advanced diesel-electric attack submarines in the hands of several regional neighbors, located right near China’s shipping lifelines.

Vietnam’s Kilo Class, Malaysia’s Scorpene Class, and Singapore’s Vastergotland Class submarines are all on China’s Southeast Asian radar. In the background, Indonesia continues to express its intent to buy Kilo Class submarines of its own.

Postscript: Indonesia eventually ended up buying a modern South Korean variant of the German U209.

March 25/10: Submarines. It’s good to be a good customer. Russian defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov says that Russia will help Vietnam build the submarine base it needs to house its new Kilos, provide a loan to help buy rescue and auxiliary vessels and planes for Vietnam’s navy, and build a ship repair yard. That yard would benefit the Russians, too, as it could service visiting Russian navy ships.

Vietnam’s geographic position could make its service yard attractive to other navies as well, giving other countries even more reason to focus on relations with the Southeast Asian nation. A good service yard could wind up being as important to Vietnam’s geo-political position as the submarines themselves. Associated Press | China’s Xinhua.

March 23/10: Russia’s Voice covers growing ties between Russia and Vietnam, which is becoming one of Russia’s biggest arms customers:

“Vietnam backs multilateral cooperation with Russia especially in military defense, stated Vietnam’s president Nguyen Minh Triet during talks with Russia’s Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in Hanoi. “Each of Russia’s victories is like our own, the president said, and we support Russia in the Georgian conflict.” The president said that the US decision not to deploy its ABMs in Eastern Europe is also a victory for Russia… Anatoly Serdyukov noted that Vietnam is Russia’s strategic partner and Russia is ready to train Vietnamese personnel at the Russian Defense Ministry’s academies.”

March 16/10: Frigates. Russia’s Zelenodolsk PKB shipyard launches Vietnam’s 2nd Project Gepard 3.9 light frigate into the River Volga. In May 2010, the warship will sail to St. Peterburg and then travel by sea to Vietnam for sea trials. The 1st ship in the order was launched in August 2009.

A separate report indicates that Vietnam could be preparing to order 2 more light frigates of this type. ITAR-TASS [in Russian] | ITAR-TASS Arms [in Russian].

Feb 10/10: SU-30s. Interfax reports the signing of a formal contract between Russia and Vietnam for 12 SU-30MKK fighters, for delivery in 2011-2012, plus associated weapons, service, and support. The deal is reportedly worth $1 billion, and is signed the day after a Russian contract to build Vietnam’s first nuclear plant.

The exact state of the contract is less than clear, so we’re sticking with Dec 15/09 as the date. Agence France Presse | AP | RT | Straits Times.

SU-30MK & SU-27SK
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Dec 15/09: Shortly after Vietnam makes its defense white paper public, reports indicate that it has ordered 6 Improved Kilo Class submarines and 12 SU-30MKK fighter jets from Russia, during a visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed Defense Ministry official on Dec 15/09, who said the submarines were improved “Project 636” types, and gave the deal’s value at of $2 billion, with delivery taking place at a rate of 1 submarine per year. The Sukhoi Su-30MK2 fighter jet deal was valued at $600 million, and would raise Vietnam’s SU-27/SU-30 family fleet to 20 fighters.

Vietnam also invited Russia to help build its 1st nuclear power plant, and hopes to begin construction in 2014 and put it on line by 2020. The country has been growing its manufacturing capacity in recent years, partly at China’s expense, and needs to improve its electric grid in tandem. Vietnam’s Thanh Nien News | RIA Novosti | Agence France Presse | Associated Press | BBC News | China’s Xinhua | Agence France Presse analysis.

12 SU-30s & 6 Improved Kilo submarines

Dec 4/09: Russia’s RIA Novosti reports:

“According to the Vedomosti business daily, Moscow and Hanoi are close to sign deals on the purchase of six Kilo class diesel-electric submarines and 12 Su-30MK2 Flanker-C multirole fighters. The submarine contract, worth an estimated $1.8 billion, includes the construction of on-shore infrastructure and training of submarine crews and will be the second largest submarine contract concluded by Russia since the Soviet era after the 2002 deal on the delivery of eight subs to China.”

April 27/09: Initial media reports. The submarine deal’s value is reported to be around $1.8 billion, and the SSKs would be built at Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg. In addition to submarines, the Vietnamese Navy order is said to include new heavyweight torpedoes and missiles (most likely Klub family) to arm them.

This is a big step forward. There have been rumors that Vietnam owns 2 ex-Yugoslav mini-submarines for use in commando operations, but the Vietnamese People’s Navy doesn’t own any full size submarines that can take on enemy subs and ships.

Some of the Russian reports note that these 6 submarines were once planned for Venezuela, adding that Russia’s Rosoboronexport canceled the deal following Hugo Chavez’ meeting with US President Barack Obama. That must be judged an extraordinarily thin public rationale for canceling a $1.5+ billion purchase. A sinking global oil market, and Venezuela’s growing economic dependence on its declining oil production for revenue, are far more likely reasons for any delay and/or shift. See: RIA Novosti | MosNews | St. Petersburg Times | Singapore Straits Times | Defpro.

Additional Readings

News and Views

Categories: News

USN Research Lab Develops CASA to Film Intercepts of US Spy Planes | HELMTTs Destroy Laptops with Lasers | Boeing Hopes to Persuade Denmark on Super Hornets

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 23:57
Americas

  • The US Naval Research Laboratory “has developed a prototype” Common Airborne Situational Awareness (CASA) camera pod to film Chinese and Russian intercepts of US spy planes. Spy planes under the Pacific Command have been recently involved in a number of increasingly reckless intercepts by Russian and Chinese fighters; however, cameras onboard are unable to document proof of fighter flying close by. CASA allows for coverage from all angles with the pods to be carried under the wings of P-3 or P-8 aircraft.

  • A High Energy Laser Mobile Test Truck (HELMTT) operated by the US Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command has been tested successfully, shooting down a large number of UAVs, quadcopters and laptops with just a blast of concentrated light. HELMTT includes a 10-kilowatt laser — equivalent to about 10 million handheld laser pointers — a beam control system, acquisition and tracking sensors, and other supporting equipment, mounted on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, or HEMTT. The system is designed to track incoming threats, such as rockets, artillery, cruise missiles, UAVs, and even threats on the ground, and then destroy them with a laser, rather than with kinetic munitions.

Europe

  • Crew from television network Russia Today (RT) were treated to a tour of Russia’s A-50U AEW&C platform. The Ministry of Defense hosted the event at an air base in the Ivanovo Region, some 254Km from Moscow. Tasks to be undertaken by the aircraft include detecting and tracking a number of aerial (fighter jets, bombers, ballistic and cruise missiles), ground (tank columns) and surface (above-water vessels) targets, informing command centers about the developments in the air and sea, and directing fighter and strike aviation.

  • Boeing is still holding on to hope that it can sell its Super Hornets to Denmark after claiming that the Danish government had used “incomplete and possibly flawed data” to conclude that the Super Hornet was more expensive to operate than the F-35. The comments were made by a Boeing official speaking to a Danish parliamentary committee last Thursday following the government’s decision to opt for the next generation F-35 to replace its aging F-16s.

  • Almaz-Antey has revealed that its S-300V4 air defense system is now capable of engaging targets up to 400Km away. Utilizing technologies found in its fifth generation systems such as the S-400 and a new longer range missile, S-300V4 systems are considered to be more efficient than their predecessors by up to 2.5 times. The upgrades will make it considerably more difficult for enemy Airborne early warning and control aircraft to operate safely within the new radius.

Asia Pacific

  • Rumors that Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s trip to meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin would involve discussions over an acquisition of Su-35 fighters have been dismissed by the Indonesian Foreign Minister. Retno Marsudi denied that any discussions over the fighter took place, with defense talks revolving around increased security cooperation, including information exchanges as well as technology transfer related to the purchase of weaponry.

  • Selection of a fighter to be manufactured under the “Make in India” initiative will be decided by next March according to India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar. Models in the running include Boeing’s F18A, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault’s Rafale or the Saab Gripen. Parrikar also mentioned that the ministry’s negotiations over its drawn out purchase of 36 Rafales will be wrapped up in “weeks.”

  • The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has agreed to purchase a decommissioned Airbus A340-500 passenger jet from Thai Airways. A total of $50 million will be paid to the national carrier over four installments between 2016 and 2017. It’s expected that the aircraft will be converted over for military use by Thai Aviation Industries to help boost its transport capabilities.

Today’s Video

  • RT’s look at the A-50U:

Categories: News

Super Hornet Fighter Family MYP-III: 2010-2015 Contracts

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 23:50
Breakthrough…
(click to view full)

The US Navy flies the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighters, and has begun operating the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare & strike aircraft. Many of these buys have been managed out of common multi-year procurement (MYP) contracts, which aim to reduce overall costs by offering longer-term production commitments, so contractors can negotiate better deals with their suppliers.

The MYP-II contract ran from 2005-2009, and was not renewed because the Pentagon intended to focus on the F-35 fighter program. When it became clear that the F-35 program was going to be late, and had serious program and budgetary issues, pressure built to abandon year-by-year contracting, and negotiate another multi-year deal for the current Super Hornet family. That deal is now final. This entry covers the program as a whole, with a focus on 2010-2015 Super Hornet family purchases. It has been updated to include all announced contracts and events connected with MYP-III, including engines and other separate “government-furnished equipment” that figures prominently in the final price.

Hornet MYP: Aircraft Types Hornet vs. Super Hornet
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Super Hornets are flown by the US Navy, replacing the service’s retired F-14 Tomcat fighters, and by Australia’s RAAF. The US Marines fly smaller, earlier-generation F/A-18 C/D Hornets that are no longer in production, and will replace them with F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) Lightning IIs when the time comes. While both F/A-18A-D and F/A-18E/F fighters are referred to as Hornet family planes, the Super Hornets have less than 40% commonality with previous F/A-18A-D versions. The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets have been enlarged in all dimensions and fitted with 2 extra weapons pylons. The new design created pylon vibration problems early on, which explains the new “dogtooth” design on the wings’ leading edge. Super Hornets also have more powerful GE F414 engines, instead of the F404s that equipped the Hornets. The air intakes have been modified to accommodate the new engine’s demands and lower the plane’s radar signature, and other “signature shaping” measures have been employed around the plane.

The F/A-18E is a single-seat Super Hornet. The 2-seat F/A-18F sacrifices some range, carrying only 13,350 pounds of fuel – 900 fewer pounds than the F/A-18E. In exchange for this reduced range, it adds a 2nd crewman with an advanced attack station cockpit to assist in strike roles.

In addition to its strike role, both versions of the Super Hornet are also taking over the tactical refueling role from the retired S-3 Viking sea control aircraft. Any F/A-18E/F can do this, as long as they have the specially-equipped drop tanks that can extend refueling hoses. This isn’t an operationally efficient option, compared to the retired S-3s or A-6s, as the Super Hornet’s capacity is very limited. Nevertheless, there are situations where it is helpful and effective.

Super Hornet Block II F/A-18E & F-14:
passing gas
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Beginning with Lot 26 (FY 2003), Boeing began building Block II Super Hornets, with a re-designed forward fuselage and a number of electronic enhancements. The most important upgrade involves the AN/APG-79 AESA radar which can perform simultaneous air and surface scans, and is likely to offer advanced improved reconnaissance, jamming, and even communications capabilities. Plus other capabilities the government may wish to add. Electronic Countermeasures are upgraded by replacing the AM/ALQ-165 with the AN/ALQ-214 IDECM jammer, which can work with ALE-50 or ALE-55 towed decoys.

Block II also includes the Advanced Crew Station (ACS), complete with Advanced Mission Computers and Displays (AMC&D) that offer more screen area (8″x10″ Display), and upgrade the mission computers from an assembly language to an open architecture higher order language (Lot 25+). A Fiber Channel Network Switch and Digital Video Map Computer round out the ACS improvements.

The EA-18G: Electronic Attacker EA-18G: key systems
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The EA-18G Growler is based on the F/A-18F. It removes the 20mm cannon in the nose, adds new electronics, and mounts special electronic warfare pods on the aircraft’s underwing (AN/ALQ-99) and wingtip (AN/ALQ-218) pylons. Typically, the EA-18G retains 2 fuselage slots and 2 underwing slots for weapons carriage, though the wing pylons can also be used to hold extra fuel. Typical weapon loads will include anti-radar missiles like the AGM-88 HARM/AARGM family on the 2 free underwing pylons, plus 2 AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles on the fuselage slots for aerial self-defense.

The EA-18G Growler will replace the old EA-6B Prowler aircraft, whose airframes date from the Vietnam era. With the retirement of the USAF’s EF-111 Ravens, the Prowlers are now the only dedicated jamming aircraft in America’s inventory that can accompany tactical strike missions. They are also called upon for a wide variety of other missions, including missions over Iraq to cover convoys and jam remotely-triggered IED land-mines. See “EA-18G Program: The USA’s Electronic Growler” for full in-depth coverage.

Can the Super Hornet Keep Up? Chinese J-20
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At present, Super Hornets are multi-role fighters that can compete against contemporary designs, albeit with some drawbacks. The key question for the US Navy, which intends to keep them in service to 2030 and beyond, is how long they can remain competitive.

Despite a switch to higher-thrust F414-GE-400 engines, the Super Hornet family’s added size and weight gives it poorer acceleration than the older F/A-18 C/D Hornet, which was already middle of the pack in that category. One compensation is that Hornet family designs have traditionally excelled in “low and slow” dogfights, but that edge is being eroded or reversed by external competition from 4+ generation opponents like the thrust-vectoring Russian SU-30MKI/A/M, SU-35, and MiG-35; from agile European opponents like the Eurofighter Typhoon, France’s Rafale, and Sweden’s JAS-39 Gripen; and from the next generation of full-stealth planes like the super-maneuverable Russian PAK-FA/ “SU-50? and China’s J-20.

For now, the Super Hornets can rely on next-generation AESA radars, JHMCS helmet-mounted displays (HMDs), and pilot-friendly controls and software, in order to maintain their status as air superiority fighters. Issues with APG-79 AESA radar reliability, and lack of testing for multi-shot engagements using medium-range missiles, thin their margin of error. Even if those issues are fixed someday, the Super Hornet’s overall electronic advantages are beginning to erode as rivals field AESA radars, HMDs, and other advanced electronics of their own. Expected and fielded upgrades to existing rivals, and new designs like the Russian-Indian PAK-FA/ “SU-50?, and China’s J-20, will reach electronic parity well within the Super Hornet’s operational lifetime.

Malaysian SU-30MKM
(click to view larger)

Most rivals were also were designed with IRST (InfraRed Search and Tracking) to allow no-warning passive targeting, an area where the Super Hornet is just starting to catch up. As aerodynamically better fighters gain similar electronic suites, and exports make those fighters more common, it’s logical to be concerned that the Super Hornet will be pushed away from air superiority roles against advanced opponents.

If so, the Super Hornet would be forced into a more limited strike fighter role, only to be challenged by very dangerous modern long-range air defense systems. Which is why the EA-18G is so important to the fleet.

What’s Next for the Super Hornet? CBC: Boeing’s pitch
click for video

In the immediate term, a special centerline fuel tank with an embedded IRST sensor pod is being developed to give the Super Hornet some parity with peer fighters, albeit at the cost of extra drag.

Immediate improvements are also being made to ground attack, via a Distributed Targeting System (DTS) that brings together data feeds from different sensors, and adds a pre-loaded, high-resolution imagery database to overlay on top of the sensor data. The idea is to be able to fire ground attack weapons with more certainty about the target, and less delay from navigating through multiple screens, handing off coordinates, etc.

F/A-18F Advanced
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In order to compete farther into the future, Boeing invested in private development alongside its partners, and created a Super Hornet Roadmap centered around 3 areas: (1) doubling down on electronic advances, (2) trying to improve flight performance in strike or air superiority roles, and (3) improving the design’s radar signature (RCS).

Electronics. A new cockpit based on large touch-screen technology and more advanced computers is designed to bring the Super Hornets closer to sensor fusion parity with the F-35, without relying on a helmet-mounted-display as their single point of failure. An internal IRST will detect infrared emissions from enemy aircraft, replacing the current drag-inducing IRST/fuel centerline tank option, and addressing a disadvantage vs. the F-35 and contemporary European and Russian fighters. Full spherical laser and missile warning systems would be added to improve survivability.

The EA-18G, which is built around and for electronics, will receive special upgrades of its own if the USA’s Next Generation Jammer goes into production.

Performance.On the performance side, improved engines would offer the Super Hornet family either better fuel use and range (F414 EDE), or more power (F414 EPE).

Up top, new dorsal Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT) are shaped to add lift, adding 3,500 pounds of fuel for strike and EW missions, but creating almost zero net drag at sub-sonic cruising speeds. Boeing engineers are quite proud of the CFTs, which are actually a Northrop Grumman product. The net extension is some combination of up to 130 nautical miles of combat radius (+260 nmi range), or 30 minutes of extra station time. That gives the “Advanced Super Hornet” a maximum base combat radius of 700 nautical miles with unmodified F414-GE-400 engines.

In an era where the Navy is emphasizing the Pacific theater and its vast distances, while inheriting carrier-based fighters with a shrunken strike reach, upgrades to add the CFTs could represent a huge return on investment. The EA-18G will appreciate this range boost the most, because the fighter’s canted pylons mean that each of its 3 required drop tanks generates a lot of drag.

On the flip side, the CFTs do add weight and some transonic drag, hurting already-marginal transonic acceleration. Missions like Combat Air Patrol would probably accept the extra cruising drag inherent in multiple droppable tanks, in order to make full use of a cleaner configuration and improved engines in dogfights.

“Stealth” F/A-18E
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Stealth. The final set of upgrades involve stealth. The Super Hornet will never be as stealthy as an F-35, but it has a notably smaller Radar Cross Section than earlier F/A-18s, even though it’s a bigger plane. Advanced Super Hornets can widen that advantage by adjusting the design a bit, adding special RCS-reducing coatings, and carrying up to 3 enclosed and specially-shaped weapon pods. Each pod could carry up to 4 x AMRAAM missiles, or 2 x 500 pound/ 1 x 2,000 pound bomb each.

Combat radius with the CFTs and a centerline weapon pod, but no external ordnance, rises by 130 nautical miles to around 700 nmi. If the plane stays within the existing 570 nmi circle, it adds 30 minutes of station time instead.

Testing also showed that a “clean” F/A-18F Advanced with CFTs and a single centerline weapons pod dropped radar cross-section by 50%, compared to a Super Hornet whose external pylons had to be loaded with fuel tanks and the same weapons.

Will that be enough?

Boeing and Northrop Grumman have been funding the testing, and investing along with Hornet Industry Team partners GE Aviation and Raytheon. As of August 2013, Boeing says that these enhancements are ready for inclusion as new-build options, or as retrofits to existing fighters. That’s an attractive proposition.

Boeing’s customers will decide if it’s enough. The US Navy would like to keep buying Super Hornet family planes beyond 2014, but the most likely path for upgrades is some kind of retrofit program. Australia has ordered 12 more EA-18Gs soon, which could keep the line running at reduced output into early 2016. After that, Canada, Denmark, Malaysia, and the Gulf Cooperation nations Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar are seen as the most likely export prospects.

The USA’s Super Hornet Family Program (click to view full) Excel
download

The EA-18G Growler is bought under the same multi-year contract, and uses the F/A-18F Block II’s base airframe and equipment. As noted above, some equipment is swapped out, and other internal equipment is added for the conversion. Then jamming pods, fuel tanks, and weapons are hung on the fighter’s hardpoints to create a fully mission-ready plane. Australia was initially going to buy just the basic EA-18G with internal equipment, but decided to buy the full array of specialty stores. That pushed their costs up by about $1.25 billion for 12 fighters.

Fortunately for the US Navy, it can re-use existing AN/ALQ-99 underwing jamming pods from its EA-6B Prowler fighters. Unfortunately for the US Navy, those pods are wearing out fast, have reliability issues, and use technology that will have trouble coping with mid-band threats beyond 2018. A separate program called the Next Generation Jammer will have to survive, and start delivering gear, in order to fix that; its totals are not listed here.

The MYP-III Buy F/A-18E, Parked
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Unlike countries like France, the USA sets its defense budget on a year-by-year basis. Multi-year contracts are not a new concept in American defense procurement, however, and they are often used to save money. Contractors get the predictability of production and deliveries over 4-5 years, which allows them to negotiate with their sub-contractors for quantity discounts, make longer term investments, and pass some of the savings along. The down-side from the government’s point of view is that if requirements change, or circumstances intervene, these contracts are much more expensive to cancel or restructure. Most of the Super Hornet program has been made up of multi-year contracts:

After the first 62 Super Hornets were bought under Low Rate Initial Production, the first multi-year Full Rate Production contract bought 210 Super Hornet fighters from FY 2000-2004 inclusive. MYP-II bought 230 Super Hornet family fighters from FY 2005-2009 inclusive, and deliveries from those contracts will continue into 2011. Boeing claims that these 2 multi-year contracts saved the US Navy about $1.7 billion.

Initially, the plan was to replace MYP-II with single year procurements in 2010, 2011 and 2012, in order to finish up the program. Congress was less certain. Concerns about the F-35 program’s timing, and the Navy’s fighter gap as older aircraft retire, led to pressure for another multi-year contract. In order to qualify for a multi-year deal, however, any proposed buy must first meet several legislative criteria. In My 2010, the Pentagon certified that a Super Hornet family MYP-III would meet those criteria, paving the way for the current MYP-III contract. It covers FY 2010-2014 buys, with deliveries through to August 2015.

MYP-II and MYP-III have produced the entire planned program of EA-18G electronic warfare fighters, with MYP-III having a very slight edge at 50.9% of those aircraft. MYP-III comprises a much smaller percentage of overall F/A-18E/F Super Hornet production for the USA, and its percentage would be even lower if delays to the F-35C program hadn’t forced emergency Super Hornet buys.

Sharp-eyed readers will note a big difference between these budgets, and the announced MYP-III multi-year contract figure with Boeing. Once a multi-year contract is signed, it’s important to understand how fighters are bought, in order to understand the difference. The $5.3 billion MYP-III contract, like its $8.56 billion MYP-II predecessor, covered only the airframes, which are used by the Super Hornet and Growler programs alike. Engines, radars, jamming devices, and other equipment are installed under these MYP contracts, but they are usually specified, designed, and paid for under separate contracts, as “government furnished equipment.” This drives the final cost of fielding operational fighters much higher than any initial MYP contract would suggest, though reports seem to settle around a $60 million flyaway cost for the F/A-18E/F.

To highlight GFE’s range and importance, a section below tracks items that are directly traceable to F/A-18E/F family purchases in general, which is inevitably just a subset of the real total.

Contracts & Key Events, FY 2010-2016 F/A-18F, landing
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The EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft has a history and role that extend beyond this MYP contract. It’s covered separately in its own FOCUS article, though its base airframes come from this contract.

Unless otherwise specified, The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, MD, USA manages these contracts, and Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO is the contractor. Northrop Grumman is the original creator of the YF-17 that spawned the F/A-18 series, and manufactures about 40% of each Super Hornet (center & aft fuselage, vertical tails) or 50% of each EA-18G (above plus Electronic Attack systems). All work performed in “El Segundo, CA” is almost certainly NGC’s work.

Finally, note that any links in this section are not updated if their owners allow them to lapse.

FY 2016

May 23/16: Boeing is still holding on to hope that it can sell its Super Hornets to Denmark after claiming that the Danish government had used “incomplete and possibly flawed data” to conclude that the Super Hornet was more expensive to operate than the F-35. The comments were made by a Boeing official speaking to a Danish parliamentary committee last Thursday following the government’s decision to opt for the next generation F-35 to replace its aging F-16s.

February 15/16: Boeing is to decide whether or not they are to go ahead and self-fund the building of F/A-18 fighters, as production of the planes at their St. Louis plant has slowed from three planes a month to two. Delays in approval of the sale of 28 F/A-18s to Kuwait by the US Government has forced Boeing to consider investing hundreds of millions in order to maintain production rates for future sales of the fighter. The investment comes as the company faces job cuts, particularly in the commercial division, in addition to a federal investigation into whether it properly accounted for two jetliners, the 747 and 787. The deal with Kuwait is said to be worth approximately $3 billion to the company.

November 5/15: The Navy has reiterated its desire to procure additional F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to cope with operational demands and cover delays to the F-35 program. The service is looking for an addition of 24 to 36 Super Hornets, with acquisitions taking place in FY2017 and FY2018; meaning an extension to Boeing’s St Louis production line’s planned closure in 2017. The company has previously asserted that it intends to keep this line open even if orders from the Navy are slow, citing potential international orders including an expected order for 28 jets from Kuwait. Congress is also deliberating over a production order for a dozen Super Hornets in FY2016, which in itself could extend the production line out through 2018.

FY 2015

August 24/15: The Navy has also ordered more radio-frequency jammers for its fleet of Super Hornets. Harris Corp was awarded a $97 million contract for the company’s twelfth production lot of ALQ-214 radio-frequency integrated countermeasures systems, with an option for a thirteenth in 2016 included within the contract terms. The ALQ-214 systems are capable of operating with ALE-50 or ALE-55 towed decoys and provides protection against radar-guided missiles.

June 9/15: Raytheon has been awarded a $10.6 million contract to provide testing equipment for assessing the Small Diameter Bomb II on the FA-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft, including jettison test vehicles and instrumented measurement vehicles, with these presumably to assess the future viability of using the SDBII with Super Hornets. The SDBII recently passed Milestone C, facilitating its progression to low rate initial production by manufacturer Raytheon.

FY 2014

USN debates its future options; Loss in Brazil, Preliminary work to integrate Kongsberg’s new JSM naval strike missile; Australian ANAO report cites platform issues – US DOT&E report explains them; Advanced Super Hornet prototype flies. F/A-18E
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Aug 7/14: Iraq. With thousands of Yezidis trapped on Mt. Sinjar, and The Islamic State threatening the Kurdish capital of Erbil with captured heavy equipment from the Iraqi army, the US President orders USAF relief airdrops and limited airstrikes from American carriers.

The aircraft use Paveway laser-guided bombs, but this is exactly the kind of environment and situation that’s well suited to MBDA’s Brimstone missiles (q.v. July 20/14) under analysis by the Navy. Sources: White House, “President Obama Makes a Statement on the Crisis in Iraq”.

July 20/14: Weapons. Navy Recognition reports that the US Navy is “beginning environmental and integration analysis” of the dual-mode laser/MMW radar Brimstone 2 missile, as a potential option for Navy Super Hornets. Brimstone was originally developed as a close air support weapon, but MBDA has also been touting Brimstone 2’s naval capabilities, including demonstrations against fast boat swarms.

Adding Brimstones would give the Super Hornet a comparable capability to the AGM-65 Maverick carried by Navy F/A-18C/D Hornets, plus more weapons on station. Unlike Lockheed Martin’s Hellfires or Raytheon’s SeaGriffin, Brimstone is designed and qualified for use from fast jets, offering a strike missile that can replace the AGM-65 Maverick on a 3-for-1 basis at each hardpoint. Laser-guided rockets like APKWS could one-up that to 7-for-1 replacement, but only the shelved Navy LOGIR program’s imaging infrared guidance mode would match Brimstone’s fire-and-forget targeting/ salvo firing capabilities.

Positive reports from Congressional committees that want to “counter high-speed, erratically maneuvering targets on land and at sea” may give the Navy another $10 million in FY 2015 to pursue the idea. Sources: Navy Recognition, “U.S. Navy is evaluating MBDA’s Dual Mode Brimstone for its F/A-18 Super Hornet jets”.

July 16/14: Industrial. Super Hornet program manager Capt. Frank Morley says that the U.S. Navy might agree to accept slower deliveries than 2 planes per month to help extend the company’s production line by a year to the end of 2017. On the other hand, “my marching orders are not to do that at any additional cost to us.”

He adds that Boeing has already used some of its own funds to pay early procurement costs for another 12 EA-18G jets, which does seem to be the way things are working out in Congress. Sources: Reuters, “AIRSHOW-U.S. open to slower Boeing deliveries, but no extra cost”.

June 30/14: +11. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $1.939 billion fixed-price-incentive-fee contract for full rate production of 11 FRP Lot 38 F/A-18E aircraft for the US Navy, and 33 EA-18G aircraft for the US Navy (21) and the government of Australia (12 for $533.4 million, which is 27.3% of the total). The USN’s total is $1.406 billion, using USN FY 2013 (F/A-18E) and 2014 (EA-18G) aircraft budgets (72.7%).

The extra F/A-18Es come from a $605 million Congressional markup in FY 2013. Which is why FY 2014 may not be the very last Super Hornet family order, if Congressional mark-ups of the 2015 National Defense Authorization bill or defense appropriations bill survive the budget process. The House Armed Services Committee has approved 5 Growlers, and the House Appropriations Committee has approved funds for 12 Growlers.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA (46%); St. Louis, MO (30%); Fort Worth, TX (2%); East Aurora, NY (1.5%); Irvine, CA (1percent); Ajax, Ontario, Canada (1%), and various locations within the United States (18.5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2016. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 USC. 2304(c)(1). US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contracts for the US Navy, and acts as Australia’s agent (N00019-14-C-0032). See also US NAVAIR, “Contract awarded to produce F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers” | Seapower, “Boeing Awarded to $1.94 Billion Contract for F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers”.

44 bought: 11 F/A-18Es, 33 EA-18Gs

May 22/14: Support. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $9.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order modification to an existing performance based logistics contract, covering F/A-18E/F supply chain management of spares and repairs. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (40%), and Jacksonville, FL (60%); and is expected to be complete by December 2015. US NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA manages the contract (N00383-06-D-001J-0014).

May 6/14: Politics. House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chair Buck McKeon [R-CA] is proposing to add $450 million to fund 5 EA-18Gs and their equipment in the FY 2015 budget, instead of the 22 on the unfunded priorities list. The committee’s proposed changes would also preserve all F-35 funding, while cutting the Navy’s unmanned UCLASS R&D budget in half to $200 million.

Meanwhile, Missouri Lawmakers say that they’ve already gathered over 80 signatures from Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives, and the International Association of Machinists will be weighing in. The HASC markup will make the lobbying job more challenging, and they’ll need to more than triple that number of allies in order to get the full 22 planes. As the saying goes – show me. Sources: Flightglobal, “House bill promotes EA-18G and U-2S, but hits UCLASS” | Reuters, “Boeing, backers to fight for funding for 22 Boeing jets”.

May 5/14: Sharp-eyed readers might note that the last full contract for Super Hornet family jets was in FY 2012. That isn’t an accident. Boeing program manager Mike Gibbons says that they’ve finally hammered out a contract for 47 planes: 11 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets (FY 2013) + 21 EA-18G Growlers (FY 2014) + 3 EA-18Gs included in a legal settlement with the US government + 12 EA-18G Growlers for Australia. If so, there should be an announcement shortly.

It’s worth emphasizing that all of these planes are long-planned buys, it just took a while to come to terms on this batch. If the FY 2015 budget funds another 22 EA-18Gs, they would be the subject of a separate contract negotiation. Sources: Reuters, “Boeing sees contract soon for 47 more F/A-18, EA-18G fighters”.

May 5/14: EA-18G #100. Boeing [NYSE: BA] delivers the 100th EA-18G Growler to the US Navy, and the ceremony was turned into one more element of Boeing’s push to increase the Navy’s buy from 114 to 136. Sources: US Navy, “Navy’s Newest Electronic Attack Aircraft Reaches Centennial Milestone” | Boeing, “Boeing Delivers 100th EA-18G Growler to US Navy”.

100th EA-18G

March 11/14: Budgets. CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert has confirmed that the Navy has placed 22 more EA-18Gs on their FY15 unfunded request submission. The Pentagon’s FY14 budget already contains a $75 million option for advance procurement, as a result of Congressional additions. If the Navy’s FY15 suggestion is approved for inclusion by the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff, the $2.14 billion request would receive more momentum toward a possible Congressional insert in FY15.

The unfunded requests list has a number of items on it. If Congress does decide to fund 22 EA-18Gs as one of their choices, the US Navy would use it to raise some squadron rosters to 7 jets, while Boeing would use it to extend the Super Hornet production line by a year or more. Sources: Reuters, “UPDATE 1-U.S. Navy confirms Boeing jets on ‘unfunded’ priority list”.

March 4/14: FY15 Budget. The Navy unveils a preliminary budget request briefing. It doesn’t break down individual programs into dollars, but it does offer planned purchase numbers for the Navy’s biggest programs from FY 2014 – 2019. Short answer: no plans to buy any more Super Hornets or EA-18Gs, but that doesn’t mean that Congress couldn’t add some later. This interesting tidbit came from the US Navy’s detailed RDT&E justifications for PE 0204136N:

“Delays in the schedule for IRST [pod] are due to technical challenges with the Fuel Tank which led to additional flight test requirements.”

Source: US Dept. of the Navy, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] | US Navy, detailed budget justification.

Feb 28/14: Support. A $22.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for supplies and services to support follow-on test and evaluation of the F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy aircraft budgets. Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD (76%), St. Louis, MO (22%), El Segundo, CA (1%), and Bethpage, N.Y. (1%) and is expected to be complete in January 2015 (N00019-11-G-0001, 0166).

Jan 31/14: Support. A $38.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for F/A-18E/F logistics support and associated material requirements.

All funds are committed immediately, using USN FY 2014 budgets. Work will be performed at St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/15. The contract was not competitively procured in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2304 (c)(1) by US Naval Supply Systems Command’s Weapon Systems Support group in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-06-D-001J, 0017).

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). The Super Hornet family is included, and as is often the case these days, software at various levels is the main issue.

Quick background: All F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornets and EA-18Gs use high-order language or “H-series” software, and will carry the APG-79 AESA radar. Their current “OS version” (System Configuration Set, or SCS) is H8E Phase I, and Phase II is in testing. F/A-18A-D Hornets and F/A-18E/F Block I Super Hornets (to Lot 26) use “X-series” software, currently SCS 23X, with SCS 25X in testing. These USN aircraft use the APG-73 radar.

SCS 25X has been delayed for a year, with system qualification testing only beginning in FY 2014. SCS H8E has also hit delays, to the point where 6 of its 14 new capabilities were stripped out: AESA electronic warfare capability, integrated ESM and high-gain ESM to detect emitters using only onboard sensors, the ability to identify specific emitters, single-ship geolocation, integration of the ALQ-214(V)4 defensive jammer, and RNAV (Area Navigation) for GPS civil airspace navigation instead of using TACAN. They’ll presumably be pushed back to SCS H9, along with AGM-154C-1 JSOW integration (q.v. Nov 17/13). Testing for the remaining 8 H8E enhancements is expected to end in March 2014.

The biggest news for the Super Hornet family, however, is the 2 major weaknesses that H8E will not correct. One is the APG-79 AESA radar, whose software instability has been a problem for 7 years. That wasn’t even on the agenda for SCS H8E. Neither was “an end-to-end multi-AIM-120 missile shot” to take on multiple opponents, which has never been successfully operationally tested. That isn’t a good statement to make about a nation’s core naval fighter, and the Navy doesn’t plan to fix that until SCS H12 in FY 2016-2017. Those situations, and these statements from DOT&E, are legitimately concerning:

“…operational testing has yet to demonstrate a statistically significant difference in mission accomplishment between F/A-18E/F aircraft equipped with AESA and those equipped with the legacy radar…. Overall, the F/A-18E/F/G is not operationally effective for use in certain threat environments, the details of which are addressed in DOT&E’s classified report….”

Jan 22/14: SLEP. Boeing in Jacksonville, FL receives a $17.8 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity delivery order under the F/A-18 A-F Depot Level Service Life Extension Program, for remanufacturing activities and associated maintenance and sustainment.

$249,399 in FY 2014 USN aircraft budgets is committed immediately. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL (92%) and St. Louis, MO (8%), and is expected to be complete in September 2014. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-14-D-0001).

Jan 22/14: Support. Boeing in Jacksonville, FL receives a $17.8 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity delivery order contract to support the F/A-18 A-F Depot Level Service Life Extension Program, including both maintenance and remanufacturing work.

Around $250,000 in FY 2014 USN aircraft budgets is committed immediately. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL (92%) and St. Louis, MO (8%), and is expected to be complete in September 2014. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-14-D-0001).

Dec 30/13: Support. A $22.2 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for Super Hornet Family automated maintenance environment integrated software. Your car dealer has these for your machine, and the US Navy has them for its machines. The difference is that new software capabilities can also deliver enough maintenance savings to justify development, and the military’s fighters change more than your car does. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($19.25M / 86.6%) and the government of Australia ($3M / 13.4%).

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 US Navy aircraft budgets and FMS funding from Australia. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in December 2015 (N00019-11-G-0001, DO 0140).

Dec 30/13: Support. A $46.7 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for integrated logistics support and sustaining engineering for F/A-18A-D, F/A-18E/F, and EA-18G aircraft for the U.S. Navy ($36.6M / 78.3%) and Australia ($7M / 15.1%); plus $501,289 / 1.1% each from Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, and Switzerland. Support will include logistics, engineering, provisioning, information systems, technical data updates, support equipment engineering, training and software integration support.

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (70%); El Segundo, CA (15%); Oklahoma City, OK (6%); Bethpage, NY (5%); and San Diego, CA (4%), and is expected to be complete in December 2014 (N00019-11-G-0001, 0110).

Nov 25/13: ECP. A $37.3 million delivery order modification to a delivery order for F/A-18E/F and EA-18G Trailing Edge Flap engineering change proposal retrofit kits. They’re buying 48 Trailing Edge Flap Redesign kits, 48 left hand units, and 48 right hand units.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 USN aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in July 2017. Fiscal 2014 aircraft procurement, Navy contract funds in the amount $37,338,608 will be obligated at time of award; none of which expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-G-0001, DO 007302).

Nov 17/13: ANAO Report. Australia’s National Audit Office releases their 2012-13 Major Projects Report, which includes some interesting notes concerning the JSOW-C1/ Block III. Australia to place an interim buy of AGM-154Cs in time for the F/A-18F’s planned December 2010 Initial Operating Capability, and they did. But the AGM-154C-1s that are effective against ships and moving targets won’t be done until at least February 2016, because software and integration issues forced the US Navy to delay adding JSOW-C1 until the next core software release. The USN also canceled the planned September 2014 tests. Other issues and notes:

“The Super Hornet is meeting its capability objectives. Identified anomalies, limitations and improvements of the USN common aircraft software, radar, electronic warfare, mission planning, and training devices are being fed back into the USN spiral development program as part of Super Hornet sustainment, and RAAF/DMO are accessing opportunities to influence USN decision makers on the priority for addressing these areas under a RAAF/USN common paradigm.

….Spares availability has been affected by late delivery of spares because of Original Equipment Manufacturer delays and USN delays in award of Supplier contracts leading to an impact on performance, supportability and schedule.

….There is a possibility that the Forward Looking Infra Red performance will be degraded. This was identified as an emergent risk in the 2011-12 MPR and has now been realised. Engineering Change Proposal No 35 will introduce an Electronic Image Stabilisation Card. This issue has been transferred to Air Combat and Electronic Attack Systems Program Office Risk and Issues Log for management.”

Dec 18/13: Brazil. Saab picks Saab’s Gripen NG as their future fighter in a surprise announcement, shortly after reports that a deal for Super Hornets was killed by public revelations that the NSA had spied on Brazil’s presidency and government (q.v. Aug 12/13). The 36 plane contract will be worth about $4.5 billion, which is about 29% less than Boeing’s reported $5.8 billion bid. A final contract and financing deal is expected in December 2014, along with a long-term maintenance deal estimated at around $1.5 billion. Deliveries are expected to begin 4 years later.

The Brazilian Air Force has a dedicated website to explain its choice. Dassault issued a terse statement pointing out the presence of US parts on Gripens, and positioning the Rafale in a different league. Which may or may not be true, but it’s indisputably true that global fighter buys have historically been heavily weighted toward a less-expensive league. Gripen and the Super Hornet are just within that low to mid price range. Rafale isn’t. Indeed, its reported $10.2 billion purchase + maintenance costs would have been 70% more expensive than the Gripen. Sources: Brazil MdD, “FX-2: Amorim anuncia vencedor de programa para compra de novos cacas” | MdD, “Perguntas & Respostas sobre a definição do Programa F-X2” (Q&A) | Dassault, “FX2 contest – 2013/12/18” | Folha de Sao Paulo, “Dilma agradece Hollande por apoio contra espionagem dos EUA”.

NSA spying loses Brazil deal

Dec 9/13: Industrial. Boeing’s VP in charge of the Super Hornet family, Mike Gibbons, sees USN fleet upgrade funds to add Advanced Super Hornet features as “a given.” He says that Boeing is “extremely bullish about how much of a future we think we have on Super Hornet and Growler production,” and cites recent multi-million dollar investments in their St. Louis production line as proof of the firm’s belief that local and export orders can keep it open to 2020 and beyond. USN Program Director Capt. Frank Morley says the Navy has taken delivery of 490/ 563 planned Super Hornets, and 90/ 135 planned EA-18G Growlers.

Barring further orders, Gibbons says that March 2014 is the industrial deadline for Boeing to decide whether it will invest its own funds to keep supplier orders coming. The firm has studied C-17 program lessons on how to cut production rates in half, leaving Super Hornet capacity at 24/year without increasing costs. Gibbons gives Boeing a $37 million share of the flyaway cost for a ~$50 million F/A-18E/F, while placing EA-18G flyaway cost at ~$60 million.

On the other hand, Gibbons concedes that Boeing was waiting until the US Navy’s FY 2015 budget request comes out before buying long-lead items, and another set of mandated across-the-board cuts would likely cement the program’s termination. One option to keep the plane as an option beyond 2016 would involve combining the adjacent F/A-18 and F-15 production lines into a single flexible line. That would require serious investment, but it would extend the production life of both planes. Aviation Week, “Boeing Faces March Funding Decision On Super Hornet, Growler” | Reuters, “Boeing must decide on F/A-18 production in March 2014: executive”

Dec 5/13: Politics. House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chair Rep. Randy Forbes [R-VA-04] sends a letter urging the Pentagon to buy more Super Hornets beyond 2014, or find other ways to keep the line open (q.v. upgrade option Nov 4/13) past 2016. His argument is fairly straightforward:

“With future carrier-based aircraft still in development until 2019, I strongly believe that creating a single U.S. tactical aircraft supply chain at this time is too great a risk…. will eliminate vital competition that could result in spiraling costs…. also eliminate competition among aircraft radar and engine producers. In other instances, the Department has taken steps to appropriately ensure multiple manufacturers in the shipbuilding and submarine industries. The Navy and the Department should nurture its tactical aviation manufacturing in the same way.”

Despite Rep. Forbes’ title, he’s going to have a very hard time prevailing amidst current budget cuts. Reuters offers some hope, saying that the USN is very interested in buying more, but had no funding available. In other words, “let’s see if rumblings among some Republicans are followed by actions that ease the sequester’s disproportionate effect on defense.” If not, the US Navy’s proposal to deal with further sequestration cuts by pausing F-35C production and pushing its IOC to 2021 creates strong pressure in the Pentagon to end Super Hornet buys now, lest continued production begin eating into F-35 purchases and encourage further F-35B/C cuts. Sources: J. Randy Forbes letter, “Forbes: Continuation of F/A-18 Production Line Crucial for Strength of Tactical Aircraft Industrial Base” | Reuters, “U.S. lawmaker urges continuation of Boeing F/A-18 fighter line”.

Nov 6/13: Weapons. Boeing and Kongsberg take the 1st step toward Joint Strike Missile integration with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter family. All they did was ensure that the weapons fit on the aircraft’s external pylons. Next, they have to conduct wind tunnel tests in early 2014, to assess the effect of the missiles on the plane’s aerodynamics, and likely stress on the pylons. That has to be followed by live captive carry testing to verify their conclusions, and of course full integration with the aircraft’s electronics will be its own separate effort.

Norway doesn’t fly Super Hornets, but potential JSM partner Australia does (q.v. May 16/13), and so does the US Navy. F-35 integration won’t be ready until 2021-2022, but successful F/A-18 integration would give the JSM an early deployment option with any future Super Hornet customers, such as Kuwait, Brazil, or Denmark. It would also provide an incentive for Australia to commit to JSM early and deploy the missiles well before 2025, by offering them a much more immediate fleet upgrade. Finally, Super Hornet integration would provide an opening to put JSM forward as an AGM-84 Harpoon missile replacement for the US Navy, if the higher-end LRASM program falls to coming budget cuts. Sources: Boeing, Nov 6/13 release.

Nov 4/13: USN Upgrades? US Navy F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Manager, Capt. Frank Morley, discusses the Advanced Super Hornet with Defense Tech:

“We’re getting good performance numbers on it and good signature measurements. These are items the Navy is considering…. We reduced the signature of the aircraft by over 50-percent. We added low-signature treatments to specific areas of the airplane and then when we designed the conformal fuel tanks and enclosed weapons pod….”

Oct 31/13: Trick, or Treat? An FBO.gov Pre-solicitation notice for up to 36 Super Hornet family fighters in FY 2015 is cancelled. This effectively terminates media speculation concerning the potential for additional US Navy orders, in light of added F-35 delays resulting from R&D budget cuts.

On the other hand, FY 2014 may not be the Super Hornet family’s last order year. Australia has confirmed plans to buy another 12 EA-18Gs, and the official request to negotiate that deal is already cleared. Denmark intends to make a decision concerning 24-32 fighters in mid-2015; the Super Hornet is competing against Lockheed Martin’s much more expensive F-35A, and Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen. Brazil was reportedly ready to buy 36 Super Hornets in 2013; NSA spying scandals torpedoed negotiations, but the competition hasn’t been closed. In the Middle East, Kuwait and Qatar are both evaluating future fighters, and preparing to order new planes.

Australia’s 12-plane order is very likely to arrive before supplier shutdowns begin; after that, timing will begin to matter to Boeing. FBO.gov | Breaking Defense | Flight Global.

FY 2013

Another 15 extra bought; 2014 budget switches final production to EA-18Gs from Super Hornets. F/A-18F & EA-18G
(click to view full)

Sept 23/13: ECP. A $38.2 million award for fixed-price, incentive-fee delivery order for F/A-18E/F and EA-18G trailing edge flap retrofit kits. The flaps were redesigned as part of an engineering change proposal, and the order includes 48 trailing edge flap kits, 48 left hand units, and 48 right hand units. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be completed in July 2017 (N00019-11-G-0001, 0073).

Aug 12/13: Brazil – NSA fallout. Reuters reports that revelations of NSA spying may have damaged the Boeing Super Hornet’s chances in Brazil. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s October meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff won’t discuss the deal, and the unnamed political source was blunt: “We cannot talk about the fighters now… You cannot give such a contract to a country that you do not trust.”

In July, the O Globo newspaper published documents leaked by Edward Snowden that revealed U.S. surveillance of Internet communications in Brazil and other Latin American countries. Nobody who has been paying attention can possibly be surprised, given concerns regarding transnational drug cartels, Brazil’s close relationship with Iran, and the growth of Islamist activities in the “triple border” junction area of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Brazilian senators may not have been paying attention, or may just have been playing their expected role when they questioned President Rousseff’s visit to Washington in toto.

Brazil could just go ahead and pick another plane, but fighters seem to be dropping down the government’s priority list. Huge protests against corruption and misuse of public money have left the government skittish about big outlays, and another government source tells Reuters that they no longer expect a decision in 2013. With 2014 as an election year, that means 2015 for any fighter decision. The Brazilian government isn’t exactly responding with denials following the Reuters report, and for Boeing, later is better than sooner. Reuters, “Spying scandal sets back U.S. chances for fighter jet sale to Brazil”.

May 24/13: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/12 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF]. The EA-18G is included, thanks to the 2014 budget switch that shifted the final Super Hornet buy and added a few more:

“EA-18G Growler Aircraft – Program costs increased $2,023.9 million (+18.3%) from $11,060.3 million to $13,084.2 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 21 aircraft from 114 to 135 aircraft (+$1,752.1 million) and associated schedule and estimating allocations (-$60.7 million). There were also increases in support costs for integrated logistics support/reliability demonstration, production engineering, and developmental testing) (+$306.6 million).”

SAR – Super Hornet switch

May 9/13: Testing. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives an $18.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery to support Follow-On Test and Evaluation of the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, MD (78%); St. Louis, (21%); El Segundo, CA (0.5%); and Bethpage, NY (0.5%), and is expected to be complete in February 2014. All contract funds are committed immediately by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-11-G-0001).

April 10/13: FY 2014 budget. The Obama administration finally releases its budget proposals, including the Pentagon’s FY 2014 requests. One of the most notable changes in the Navy’s “Procurement by Weapon” file is the addition of 21 more EA-18Gs, with a $2 billion budget. At the same time, plans to buy 13 F/A-18E/F fighters for around $1.14 billion were canceled. The $274 million in FY 2014 involves spares, and shared costs related to the EA-18G. In effect, the Super Hornet order was transmuted into Growlers, raised pro rata by about $375 million total for that switch, then had 8 more planes added to it.

The shift into an all-Growler buy was helped by the Australian purchase of 12 Airborne Electronic Attack kits, which lowered costs for added US orders. Strike while the iron is hot, and all that. The other story associated with this shift involves the F-35B/C. The F-35 program is improving, but it has basically stood still or even gone backwards over the last 5 years. That means late introduction, and even later Initial Operating Capability. Especially given the poor progress of software development, and the additional progress required to create a combat-ready F-35. Not having stealth-enhanced F-35s is more than a fighter gap – it’s also a strike gap against improving air defenses. The most obvious way to close that gap is to add to the EA-18G fleet, in order to help existing naval fighters get through enemy defenses before F-35s start contributing sometime in the early 2020s. Even after F-35s arrive, EA-18Gs will remain invaluable to coalition warfare for a long time, and have real utility in small wars that feature remotely-detonated bombs.

FY 2014 is expected to end Super Hornet family orders, barring exports outside the USA. That leaves the USN’s Super Hornet program finishing with 552 fighters bought (though DID’s records show 549), and the EA-18G program finishing with a higher-than-expected 135 planes. Recall that at one time, the planned buy of EA-18Gs was just 80.

April 3/13: Embraer. Embraer’s CEO Luiz Carlos Aguiar talks to Defense News about F-X2 and other subjects. Regarding the fighters:

“I think [the decision is] going to be in the next months, this year, I would say. Our role in that depends… on who is going to win. We have a memorandum of understanding with all three of the contenders. Each of them offers an offset program, but we prefer not declaring publicly our preference…. Whatever they choose, we’re going to be in the process. They need to make this decision because Brazil needs that…. With the F-X, we can even go further in terms of technology, and even some new products could come up with one of these three contenders. That’s what I can tell you, I can’t go further than that.”

Given Embraer’s dominant position in the Brazilian aerospace industry, it would be shocking if any of the contenders had chosen not to sign industrial partnership MoUs with Embraer. In light of the April and August 2012 agreements, the “new products” comment suggests that Boeing may have replaced Saab as Embraer’s preferred choice. That isn’t at all certain, however – as Aguliar surely intended. Defense News.

March 13/13: Denmark. The Danes pick up their fighter competition as promised, following their announced hiatus in April 2010. Invited bidders include the same set of Lockheed Martin (F-35A), Boeing (Super Hornet), and Saab (JAS-39E/F) – plus EADS (Eurofighter), who had withdrawn from the Danish competition in 2007. The goal of a 2014 F-16 replacement decision has been moved a bit farther back, and now involves a recommendation by the end of 2014, and a selection by June 2015.

The Flyvevabnet are reported to have 30 operational F-16s, with 15 more in reserve, out of an original order of 58. Past statements indicate that they’re looking to buy around 25 fighters as replacements, but there are reports of a range from 24-32, depending on price. Danish Forsvarsministeriet [in Danish] | Eurofighter GmbH | Saab | JSF Nieuws.

March 8/13: Brazil. Brazil has asked the 3 F-X2 finalists to extend their bids for another 6 months from the March 30/13 deadline, as the Brazilian commodity economy remains mired in a 2-year slump. The competitors had hoped for a decision by the time the LAAD 2013 expo opened in April.

The length of the cumulative delays could create changes for the bids, and it effectively squashes any faint hopes that the new jets would be able to fly in time for the 2014 World Cup. Reuters.

Dec 28/12: Support. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives an $81.75 million firm-fixed-price delivery order covering integrated logistics support and sustaining engineering services for the F/A-18 A-D Hornet and F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighters, and EA-18G Growler tactical jamming aircraft. They’ll provide in-service engineering, information systems, automated maintenance environment, technical data updates, support equipment engineering, training, and software integration support for the US Navy ($69.5M / 85%); and the Governments of Australia ($9.0M / 10.98%); Canada ($544,992 / .67%); Finland ($544,992 / 0.67%); Kuwait ($544,992 / 0.67%); Malaysia ($544,992 / 0.67%); Spain ($544,992 / 0.67%); and Switzerland ($544,992 / 0.67%)

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (70%); El Segundo, CA (15%); Oklahoma City, OK (6%); Bethpage, NY (5%); and San Diego, CA (4%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013. This contract combines purchases under the Foreign Military Sales Program. All contract funds are committed immediately, and only $342,372 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00383-06-D-001J).

Nov 30/12: +15. A $687.6 million ceiling-priced fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification for 15 Production Lot 37 (FY 2013) F/A-18E Super Hornet airframes “in accordance with the aircraft variation in quantity clause.” Which is to say, beyond planned multi-year orders. This follows a similar Jan 25/12 order from Production Lot 36.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (45.2%); El Segundo, CA (44.6%); Hazelwood, MO (3.4%); Cleveland, OH (1.7%); Torrance, CA (1.4%); Vandalia, OH (1.0%); Ajax, Canada (1.0%), and various other sites within the continental USA (1.7%), and is expected to be complete in July 2015. $645.5 million is committed on award (N00019-09-C-0019).

FY 2012

Japan loss; 15 extra bought; MYP-II deliveries done; Boeing lobbying to extend MYP-III. Australian F/A-18Fs
(click to view full)

Sept 10/12: A $12 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order, to perform requirements planning and analysis “necessary to identify Production Transition Support for the F/A-18 E/F and E/A-18G aircraft programs”. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be completed in May 2013 (N00019-11-G-0001).

Aug 23/12: Australia. Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare announce their decision to proceed with the conversion of 12 Super Hornets into Growlers for about $1.5 billion, with availability expected for 2018.

This doesn’t affect MYP-III, since all 24 of Australia’s F/A-18F Block II Hornets were bought under MYP-II (vid. Feb 22/12 entry), and all of them have already been delivered. This conversion order takes the 12 Australian F/A-18Fs that were pre-wired for EA-18G conversion, and adds the internal electronics and pods. Australia DoD.

Australia EA-18G conversion

April 1/12: Raytheon in El Segundo, CA receives a $7 million order for 13 ECP-6279 retrofit kits in support of F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft. ECP = Engineering Change Proposal, a design alternation. Work will be performed in Forest, MS (80%), and El Segundo, CA (20%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013 (N00019-10-G-0006).

March 30/12: Extend MYP-III? That’s what Boeing is lobbying for. The $2.5 billion add-on would extend production by as many as 37 Super Hornet family fighters, beginning with a $60 million increase in the Navy’s FY 2013 budget for advance purchases.

Boeing’s document claims that the Super Hornet program supports 100,000 direct and indirect jobs and has 1,900 suppliers across the US. Additional orders beyond 2014 would keep the line open past 2015. In return, they’d keep the Navy from suffering a fighter shortfall due to the F-35B/C program’s extended delays. The F-35s aren’t likely to see Initial Operational Capability before 2018, and could run later than that. Bloomberg | DoD Buzz.

Feb 22/12: MYP-II done. Final delivery of all orders under the previous MYP-II contract, which Boeing says covered 233 aircraft for the USA (210 + 23 added options), and another 24 F/A-18Fs for Australia. Boeing.

MYP-II final delivery

Jan 31/12: Support. A $48.1 million firm-fixed-price delivery order contract modification for integrated logistics support and sustaining engineering services in support of US Navy F/A-18 A-D, F/A-18 E/F, and EA-18 G aircraft. This includes in-service engineering, information systems work, technical data updates, support equipment engineering, training and software integration support.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (70%); El Segundo, CA (15%); Oklahoma City, OK (6%); Bethpage, NY (5%); and San Diego, CA (4%); and is expected to be complete in December 2012 (N00383-06-D-001J).

Jan 25/12: +15. A $687.5 million ceiling-priced modification to the MYP-III fixed-price-incentive-fee multi-year procurement contract buys another 15 FY 2012 Super Hornets in Full-Rate Production Lot 36, using the variation in quantity clause: another 14 single-seat F/A-18Es, and an F/A-18F.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (45.2%); El Segundo, CA (44.6%); Hazelwood, MO (3.4%); Cleveland, OH (1.7%); Torrance, CA (1.4%); Vandalia, OH (1%); Ajax, Canada (1%); Irvine, CA (0.7%); Johnson City, N.Y. (0.5%); and Grand Rapids, MI (0.5%); and is expected to be complete in October 2014 (N00019-09-C-0019).

15 more added

Dec 20/11: Japan loss. Japan’s F-X competition picks Lockheed Martin’s F-35 over Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet International, and EADS’ Eurofighter.

Japan

FY 2011

More for USN; More for Australia?; #500 delivered; USN’s long-term maintenance planning. F/A-18Es over Afghanistan
(click to view full)

Sept 30/11: Support. A $22 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide non-recurring engineering in support of the F/A18E/F and EA-18G multi-year procurement. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in October 2014 (N00019-09-C-0019).

Sept 29/11: Support. A $298.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for logistics support and associated material requirements for the F/A-18E/F aircraft. This effort also includes the government of Australia (3%, $8.96M) under the Foreign Military Sale Program.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is to be complete by December 2014. US Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA manages this contract (N00383-06-D-001J, #0014).

Sept 12/11: Australia. During a joint press conference with Canada’s defense minister Peter MacKay, Australian Minister for Defence Stephen Smith says that they might buy more Super Hornets – but no decision has been taken. The window is closing, however, unless the USA extends production beyond MYP-III. So:

“Our position on Joint Strike Fighters I’ll restate. We’ve committed ourselves to 14. The White Paper or the Defence Capability Plan talks in terms of ultimately a number up to or around 100, but we’ve committed to 14… we’ll do an exhaustive risk assessment in the course of next year and make a judgment next year about whether we need any transition capability… The last thing I will allow will be a gap in our capability for our air combat capability. And if I am concerned or worried or not persuaded there won’t be a gap in terms of delivery of the Joint Strike Fighters, then an obvious option for us is more Super Hornets. We’ve made no decision to that effect.”

July 12/11: Former USAF F-16 pilot Mike Gerzanics pens “Testing the new-generation Super Hornet“, documenting his experience flying an F/A-18F Block II simulator. Overall, he was impressed by the radar and liked the aircraft, but said:

“My overall feel for the pilot/vehicle interface, while it is effective and combat proven, was that it lags newer aircraft. Tactical information, for the most part, is presented on separate displays, forcing the pilot to do much of the fusion. This federated arrangement is no different from what I experienced when I flew a Block 60 F-16 simulator… [In contrast,] The F-35’s level of integration and sensor fusion was a generation ahead of what I experienced in the Block II Super Hornet and Block 60 F-16 simulator sessions… A next-generation [Super Hornet] cockpit is also under development and has a very large 19in x 11in touch-sensitive display. I was able to fly a cockpit built around this display and can confirm that it provides an ideal palette to display fused tactical information.”

June 13/11: +9. A $408.8 million ceiling-priced fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification for 9 single-seat F/A-18Es from Full-Rate Production Lot 35, in accordance with clauses that let the US Navy add aircraft above baseline FY 2011 purchases.

As usual, note that these contracts are for airframes and integration, leaving out purchases of minor accouterments like radar, engines, etc. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in December 2013 (N00019-09-C-0019).

9 more added

April 20/11: #500. Boeing and the U.S. Navy celebrate the induction of the 500th Super Hornet family fighter (F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers) into the US Navy. Boeing.

#500

April 15/11: SAR – more planes. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 30/10 includes the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. While EA-18G plans rise to 114 aircraft:

“F/A-18 E/F – Program costs increased $2,888.8 million (+6.0 percent) from $48,091.4 million to $50,980.2 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 41 aircraft from 515 to 556 aircraft (+$3,105.4 million) and associated schedule, engineering, and estimating allocations

  • (+$208.6 million), the application of revised escalation indices (+$392.2 million), and an increase in initial spares for the additional 41 aircraft (+$94.1 million). These increases are partially offset by a reduction due to multi-year procurement contract award (-$390.4 million), adjustments for current and prior escalation (-$397.8 million), and decreases in other support costs (-$56.5 million).

  • Note: Quantity changes are estimated based on the original SAR baseline cost-quantity relationship. Cost changes since the original baseline are separately categorized as schedule, engineering, or estimating “allocations.” The total impact of a quantity change is the identified “quantity” change plus all associated “allocations.”

See also April 1/10 entry.

SAR – more planes

March 3/11: Support. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives an $8.8 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for integrated logistics support; in-service engineering; information systems; technical data; support equipment engineering; automated maintenance environment; training/software integration support; provisioning; and A-D sustaining engineering services in support of the F/A-18 A-D Hornet, F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and EA-18G Growler aircraft.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (70%); El Segundo, CA (15%); Oklahoma City, OK (6%); Bethpage, NY (5%); and San Diego, CA (4%), and is expected to be complete in December 2011. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00383-06-D-001J).

Feb 14/11: FY 2012 request. The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 budget request: $2.662 billion for 28 Super Hornets ($153 million RDT&E, $77.2 million spares, $2.432 billion procurement), and $1.125 billion for 12 more EA-18Gs ($1.108 billion procurement, $17.1 million RDT&E).

Note that this funding also provides the advance procurement resources for 28 FY 2013 aircraft, continues research into planned spiral upgrades of F/A-18E/F onboard systems, and funds common shared cost between the EA-18G and F/A-E/F programs out of the F/A-E/F budget. The EA-18G buy is very much in line with the FY 2011 request, while the Super Hornet order rises sharply from the FY 2011 request of $1.976 billion for 22 aircraft ($148.4 million RDT&E, $41.2 million spares, $1.787 billion procurement). The F-35 program’s lateness is making itself felt here, otherwise the Super Hornet buy would actually have fallen from FY 2011 – 2012.

Jan 18/11: Support. US NAVAIR discusses its efforts to create a 6-year Planned Maintenance Interval (PMI) site for Super Hornet aircraft. With large numbers of Navy Super Hornets near their scheduled deep inspections and maintenance, they plan to use the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) hangar at Cecil Commerce Center, near Jacksonville, FL, as an overflow and companion facility for NAS Oceana, VA.

This is a boring sort of detail that ensures the continued viability of a fighter fleet intended for operations, not just for show. FRCSE has to tow the aircraft over in NAS Oceana, but the Florida facility will be fly-in/fly-out. Airplanes progress through 4 work cells: disassembly and inspection, repair, final assembly and operations, and flightline preparation for the Functional Check Flight. FRCSE is working on 4 prototypes in FY 2011, with a goal of 16 planes per year.

Jan 6/11: More F/A-18s. 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. The F-35B goes on probation, and F-35 production is cut by over 100 planes during the 2012-2016 period.

In exchange, the Navy will order 41 more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, using MYP-III options. That means another 15 in FY 2012 & 2013, and another 11 in FY 2014, on top of existing order plans. Pentagon release re: overall plan | Full Gates speech and Gates/Mullen Q&A transcript | F-35 briefing hand-out [PDF] || Atlanta Journal Constitution | The Atlantic | The libertarian Cato Institute | Defense Update | Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Sky Talk blog | The Hill | NY Times | Politico | Stars and Stripes || Agence France Presse | BBC | Reuters | UK’s Telegraph | China’s Xinhua.

More Super Hornets

Dec 30/10: FIRST. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $69.1 million delivery order under the F/A-18 Integrated Readiness Support Team (FIRST) Program for continued support of F/A-18 A-D Hornet, F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and EA-18G Growler fleets of the U.S. Navy ($64.6M/ 93.6%); and the governments of Australia ($1.7M/ 2.5%), Canada ($513,996; 0.7%), Spain ($513,996/ 0.7%), Finland ($513,966/ 0.7%), Switzerland ($513,996; 0.7%), Kuwait ($513,996; 0.7%), and Malaysia ($256,998/ 0.4%).

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (70%); El Segundo, CA (15%); Oklahoma City, OK (6%); Bethpage, NY (5%); and San Diego, CA (4%). Work is expected to be complete in December 2011. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00383-06-D-001J). See also Jan 3/06 entry, in this section.

Dec 22/10: Support. An $11.7 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification for one-time engineering in support of the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G Multi-Year III buy. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in February 2012 (N00019-09-C-0019).

Dec 6/10: Support. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $17.6 million modification to a delivery order, for supplies and services in support of the follow-on test and evaluation of the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed in Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD (77%); St. Louis, MO (21%); El Segundo, CA (1%); and Bethpage, NY (1%), and is expected to be complete in October 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-11-G-0001).

FY 2010

Program expands; MYP-III contract; FY 2010 budget adds more; Super Hornet International. F/A-18F over CV-63
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Sept 28/10: A $5.297 billion modification, converting a previous advance acquisition contract (N00019-09-C-0019) to a fixed-price-incentive-fee multi-year contract. Over its lifetime to May 2015, MYP-III will supply 124 base airframes: 46 single-seat F/A-18Es, 20 two-seat F/A-18Fs, and 58 of the EA-18G electronic attack airframes for the US Navy. Deliveries will begin in 2012. Boeing F/A-18 and EA-18 Programs Vice President Kory Mathews:

“Procurement of these 124 aircraft through a multi-year contract… will generate more than $600 million in cost savings for U.S. taxpayers… Boeing and its Hornet Industry Team suppliers have delivered every Super Hornet and Growler on schedule to the warfighter and on budget for the taxpayer from the first Super Hornet delivery… The first two F/A-18E/F multi-year contracts generated more than $1.7 billion in savings for the United States.”

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (45.2%); El Segundo, CA (44.6%); Hazelwood, MO (3.4%); Cleveland, OH (1.7%); Torrance, CA (1.4%); Vandalia, OH (1%); Ajax, Ontario, Canada (1%); Irvine, CA (0.7%); Johnson City, NY (0.5%); and Grand Rapids, MI (0.5%). Work is expected to be complete in May 2015. See also Boeing.

MYP-III

Sept 28/10: Support. A $249 million delivery order under a firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract covers logistics support and associated materials for F/A-18E/F aircraft. Work will be performed in St Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete by September 2011.

This effort combines purchases for the US Navy (99%) and the government of Australia (1%), and was not competitively awarded. The Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA manages this contract (N00383-06-D-001J, #0010).

Sept 24/10: Support. A $21.6 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for integrated logistics support, in-service engineering, information systems, technical data, support equipment engineering, automated maintenance environment, training/software integration support, provisioning and sustaining engineering in support of F/A-18 A-D, E/F, and EA-18G aircraft. This modification combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($18.5 million; 85.7%) and the governments of Australia ($2.5 million, 11.5%); Canada ($212,300, 1%); Spain ($147,700, 0.7%); Finland ($98,500, 0.5%); Kuwait ($61,500, 0.3%), Switzerland ($52,300, 0.2%), and Malaysia ($12,300; 0.1%), under the Foreign Military Sales program.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (70%); El Segundo, CA (15%); Oklahoma City, OK (6%); Bethpage, NY (5%); and San Diego, CA (4%); and is expected to be complete in December 2010. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00383-06-D-001J).

Aug 10/11: Support. A $9.3 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for organizational level peculiar support equipment in support of 4 emerging F/A-18E/F aircraft squadron stand-ups (VFA-25, VFA-146, VFA-192, and VFA-151). Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in July 2013. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages the contract (N68335-10-G-0012).

July 20/10: Super Hornet International. Boeing’s VP and General Manager of Global Strike Systems, Shelley Lavender, announces a “Super Hornet International Road Map” at Farnborough 2010. Technology modifications would include internal IRST to detect infrared emissions from enemy aircraft (instead of the US Navy’s current retrofit approach using a modified centerline fuel tank), an enclosed weapon pod to lower radar signature, full spherical laser and missile warning systems, a new cockpit based on large touch-screen technology, improved F414 engines (EDE/EPE), and conformal fuel tanks mounted up top to boost range.

These enhancements are described as an “international road map,” reflecting ongoing competitions in Brazil, Denmark, India, and elsewhere. These same modifications also have the potential to become part of a US Navy multi-year buy agreement with Boeing, if the Navy is willing. Presentation [PDF] | See also “Future Hornets?” section, below.

June 17/10: Exec change. Boeing announces that 26-year veteran Kory Mathews will serve as program vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 Programs within Boeing’s Global Strike Systems division. The VP is responsible for customer satisfaction and the quality, cost, and schedule performance of every facet of the F/A-18A-F and the EA-18G family, and leads all activities associated with program development, production, and support.

Mathews moves from his role as VP and Chief Engineer for Boeing Military Aircraft. He succeeds Bob Gower, who has been named to the new position of VP Boeing Military Aircraft (BMA) India.

May 19/10: MYP? As part of its revisions to the FY 2011 defense budget, the House Armed Services Committee’s summary is vocal and insistent about their request for another multi-year buy program:

“…the Committee is extremely concerned by the Navy and Marine Corps managing and accepting an unprecedented level of operational risk within their tactical air force structure while waiting for the completion of the F-35B and F-35C. The Committee estimates that by FY 2017, the Navy and Marine Corps inventory could be at least 250 aircraft short of requirements – the equivalent of five carrier air wings. This is an unacceptable outcome, and the Committee will not support future budget requests [emphasis DID’s] that fail to address the factual realities of a naval strike fighter shortfall. Barring a complete reversal of the development and performance failures in the Joint Strike Fighter program, the Committee expects future budget submissions to continue the production of F-18s to prevent our naval airpower from losing significance in our nation’s arsenal. Because of the Navy’s inability to meet required reporting dates, the bill makes technical corrections to the multi-year authority provided in the FY10 NDAA and requires the Secretary of the Navy to use the savings garnered from the multi-year procurement contract for 124 aircraft, over the previously planned annual procurement contracts, to procure additional F/A-18E or F/A-18F aircraft up to the quantity that the savings would enable.”

See House Armed Service Committee: Chairman’s statement | Summary [PDF] | Tables [PDF].

May 14/10: MYP? The Pentagon takes a big step closer to a multi-year contract for Super Hornet family fighters:

“[Ashton Carter] certified to Congress that the proposed F/A-18 multiyear procurement met statutory requirements, including substantial savings, for 124 F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft. The proposed agreement will run for four years, from fiscal 2010 through 2013… the Department of the Navy will continue to work with Congress to gain necessary legislative authorities required before the Navy may enter into a multiyear contract… [to] acquire the remaining program of record for the 515 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 114 EA-18G Growlers.

The Navy’s fiscal 2011 budget request, sent to Congress Feb. 1, includes $1.9 billion to buy 22 Super Hornets and $1.1 billion for 12 Growlers. In fiscal 2012, the Navy plans to buy 24 more Growlers and one Super Hornet, with 25 more Super Hornets in fiscal 2013.”

See: US DoD | Rep. Todd Akin [R-MO-2] | Sen. Kit Bond [R-MO] statement and Letter to SecDef Gates [PDF] | DoD Buzz.

May 1/10: MYP? Two months after its 1st request, the Pentagon asks for a second extension of 5 months, in order to negotiate a 3rd multi-year procurement deal for Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet family fighters. Tough sledding, or just bureaucrats stalling? The Hill.

April 6/10: Support. FBO Pre-solicitation #N0001905G0026Phase4ModLine

“The Naval Air Systems Command intends to issue a cost plus fixed fee order under existing basic ordering agreement N00019-05-G-0026 with The Boeing Company in St. Louis, Mo for the procurement of over and above support during the Phase 4 mod line on a sole source basis. Boeing will be installing multiple engineering change proposal kits into F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft during the phase 4 mod line. The Boeing Company is the sole designer, developer, manufacturer ad integrator of the F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft and is the only source with the knowledge, expertise and on-site personnel base necessary to accomplish this effort.”

AMRAAM from F/A-18F
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April 1/10: SAR – more planes. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program cost changes up to December 2009. All Super Hornet family aircraft are included, because the Pentagon plans to buy more of them:

EA-18G – Program costs increased $2,901.0 million (+33.5%) from $8,649.1 million to $11,550.1 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 29 aircraft from 85 to 114 aircraft (+$2,342.5 million) and associated schedule and estimating allocations

  • (+$7.8 million), and an increase in support costs for 26 expeditionary aircraft associated with the quantity increase (+$547.6 million).

F/A-18 E/F – Program costs increased $1,746.6 million (+3.8%) from $46,344.8 million to $48,091.4 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 22 aircraft from 493 to 515 aircraft (+$1,872.9 million), and increases in other support costs and initial spares associated with the quantity increase (+$427.9 million). These increases were partially offset by a reduction in the estimate for foreign military sales (-$198.3 million) [DID: which would have helped defray some American costs] and the estimate for actual contract costs and efficiencies (-$208.6 million), and the application of revised escalation indices (-$131.9 million).”

SAR – more planes

March 1/10: MYP? Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn asks for an extension on the deadline to notify Congress of a new multiyear Super Hornet family deal. Lynn reportedly told the congressional defense committees that the Pentagon had recently received “a viable offer” from Boeing for 124 of the fighters, but would need more time to evaluate the contract offer. The Hill.

July 30/09: The US House of Representatives passes its defense budget (H.R. 3326) by a crushing 400-30 vote. The FY 2010 Super hornet buy had been cut to 9 fighters in the Pentagon request, in order to fund the F-35 program. Both the House and the Senate promptly added $560 million and 9 more Super Hornets to their bills, bringing the FY 2010 total to 40 planes: 18 Super Hornets and 22 EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft.

This is in line with past years, and avoids a production line slowdown at Boeing. It also addresses expressed concerns about a naval fighter numbers gap created by the retirement of older fighters, and the uncertainty of the F-35C’s on-time arrival. The House also appears to be gearing up for another 5-year procurement contract for 150 more Super Hornet family planes, instead of reverting to year-by-year buys.

Reconciliation eventually took place with the Senate’s counterpart S. 1390 bill, and the final total of 40 Super Hornet family planes remained.

June 23/09: MYP? Government Executive magazine reports that Boeing has submitted an unsolicited offer to the US Navy for an MYP-III program that would build 149 Super Hornet family aircraft over the next 5 years for $50 million each base cost, instead of the planned Navy buys of 89 aircraft over the next 3 years. As always, key government-furnished equipment like engines, radars, the EA-18G’s electronic warfare equipment, etc. would fall under their own separate contracts, so actual cost per operational plane will be higher.

Present studies indicate that age and retirement, coupled with the F-35C program’s long lead time, will leave the Navy below its planned number of operational carrier-based fighters, rising to a maximum of 69 planes in 2017.

Feb 3/10: MYP? Ranking House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee Rep. Todd Akin [R-MO] publicly supports building more Super Hornet family aircraft, and advocates a multi-year buy approach for the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G, similar to the 2005-2009 contract. In Rep. Arkin’s release, he says that:

“I remain concerned that the Department of Defense is not taking the Navy’s strike fighter shortfall seriously… The Super Hornet is an active production line, and is dramatically cheaper than the JSF, which may not deliver anywhere close to on time… In this case, a multi-year procurement could save hundreds of millions of dollars, but the DoD seems to have their head in the sand. Secretary Gates mentioned that he thinks we need to have a 10% savings before we use a multi-year agreement. However, the Congress already gave DoD the authority to use a multiyear in this situation, even if the savings is less than 10%… A multiyear procurement could save nearly half a billion dollars over the next few years. To not pursue that savings is just irresponsible.”

FY 2009 and earlier

FY 2010 order raised; F-35 issues; FIRST support contract. F/A-18E, armed
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June 2/09: Budget battles. US Navy CNO Adm. Roughead defends the FY 2010 budget decision to request only 9 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets instead of 18 ($1.19 billion, incl. $127.7 million RDT&E), alongside the planned 22 EA-18G Growlers ($1.69 billion, incl. 55.4 million RDT&E). The decision was made in order to speed up F-35 fielding and procurement, though the F-35C carrier model isn’t scheduled for fielding until 2015. The US Marines’ F-35B STOVL(Short Takeoff, Vertical Landing) variant still hopes to begin fielding in 2012. Current FY 2010 plans call for 30 F-35s: 10 USAF F-35As, 16 USMC F-35Bs, and 4 USN F-35C test aircraft.

Gannett’s Navy Times quotes Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway re: Future plans:

“The initial vertical flight has slid right six or seven months… going to happen this fall… But the most recent information we have out of Fort Worth is that the engine is developing even more power than we thought it might for vertical lift, so we’re encouraged… We reach initial operating capability in 2012… We are the first of the services… We’re anxious to put it aboard ship and see how it performs there. Then we will make a joint Navy-Marine Corps decision in terms of what the resulting numbers of our buy needs to look like. But we’re fairly encouraged by what we see.”

They weren’t successful. Both the House and Senate defense bills went on to add $560 million for 9 more F/A-18 E/F aircraft, raising the FY 2010 buy to 18. There is also talk of a follow-on MYP-III contract.

FIRST: the goal
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Sept 26/07: FIRST prize. The F/A-18 Integrated Readiness Support Teaming (FIRST) program receives the system-level award for excellence in the field of performance-based logistics from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). Under FIRST, the US Navy pays for a set level of aircraft readiness, not individual spare parts or services. Industry has the incentive to make parts and systems more reliable, while the customer enjoys increased readiness at a lower cost of ownership.

FIRST has improved the Super Hornet’s mission capable rate from a problematic 57% in 2000 to 73% thus far in 2007, while providing significant cost savings. In Boeing’s press release, FIRST program manager Larry Sellman is quoted as saying something the British already knew, which is that:

“We continue to prove that streamlining the support for a major weapons system through a public/private partnership is the best solution for everyone.”

Jan 3/06: Boeing announces a long-term, $995 million performance-based logistics contract from the US Navy for the F/A-18E/F Integrated Readiness Support Teaming (FIRST) program. FIRST consolidates a number of existing Naval Inventory Control Point (NAVICP) contracts into one, and adds new services including an automated maintenance environment with an integrated software program that improves maintenance data, fault diagnosis and decisions; as well as integrated electronic technical manuals for F/A-18A-D Hornet models.

Under FIRST, Boeing will manage and forecast spares and repairs, oversee spares inventories, make supportability improvements within the budget in order to meet its availability targets, and handle obsolescence management and technology insertion. Like the British “contracting for availability” agreements, the objective is to improve fleet support and aircraft readiness while reducing costs. Boeing will be rewarded for having the aircraft meet in-service readiness targets, rather than getting paid for spare parts or hours worked.

Boeing currently provides field service representatives on site at aircraft bases in California and Virginia under the Hornet support network concept, and this infrastructure will be leveraged for the new contract. Several original equipment manufacturer suppliers, along with Navy depots in California, North Carolina and Florida, will also be used to perform FIRST repairs.

FIRST began in 2001 with annual contracts, and the program is projected to provide approximately $1.0 billion in cost avoidances and savings over the 30-plus-year life cycle of the Super Hornet. FIRST was nominated for the Department of Defense awards program for excellence in performance based logistics by the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Tactical Aircraft in Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD, USA.

FIRST support contract

GFE: Ancillary Contracts & Developments

As noted above, multi-year procurement buys don’t extend to all Super Hornet and Growler components, many of which are provided as “Government Furnished Equipment.” Nor do they cover many fixes and changes to the fighter family’s design. This section includes some of those ancillary items, from FY 2010 onward. It isn’t 100% comprehensive, but may help readers understand the scope involved.

Additional GFE coverage can be found in DID’s separate Spotlight article covering the AN/APG-79 AESA radar, and an effort to develop long-range Infrared Scan & Track capabilities as a bolt-on addition; those contracts are not included here. Nor are specific items unique to the EA-18G, like jamming equipment, which is covered in the Growler’s own FOCUS article.

FY 2014

AIM-120C7 onto LAU-116
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Sept 19/14: Support. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $9.4 million delivery order for engineering and logistics support services to improve F/A-18A-F and E/A-18G readiness, expand Interactive Electronic Technical Manual/Structural Repair Manual work packages, and perform maintenance planning. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy O&M funds.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri, and is expected to be complete in September 2015 (N00019-11-G-0001, 0211).

Sept 19/14: Support. Boeing in Jacksonville, FL receives an $8.8 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification, exercising an option for depot-level service life extension and remanufacturing activities, including associated maintenance support and sustainment in support of the F/A-18E/F aircraft. Funds will be committed as needed.

Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL (92%), and St. Louis, MO (8%), and is expected to be complete in September 2015 (N00019-14-D-0001).

Aug 28/14: HARM computers. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives $24.6 million for a firm-fixed-price delivery order to provide 158 High Speed Anti-Radiation Command Launch Computers for the U.S. Navy (121) and the government of Australia (37) for F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft. These CLCs work with AGM-88 HARM and AARGM missiles, which are designed to destroy enemy air defense radars. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 – 2013 US Navy ($20.5M / 83.5%) and Australian ($4.1M / 16.5%) budgets.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete in February 2018. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-G-0006, DO 0060).

Aug 18/14: AMC. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Minneapolis, MN receives a $16.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for the full-rate Lot 38 production of 60 Advanced Mission Computer Type 3s for E/A-18Gs ordered by the US Navy (48 AMCs / $9.8 million / 60%) and the government of Australia (12 AMCs / $6.5 million / 40%). All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy aircraft budgets and Australian FMS funds.

Work will be performed in Bloomington, MN and is expected to be complete in August 2016. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 USC 2304 (c)(1) by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-14-C-0068).

Aug 11/14: Engines. General Electric Co. in Lynn, MA receives a $311.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 75 F414-GE-400 engines and associated devices: 48 production installs for the US Navy ($194.9 million / 63% / all production installs), and 27 for Australia ($116.6 million / 37% / 24 EA-18G production installs and 3 spares), under Production Lot 14. In addition, this modification provides for spare after burner modules, fan modules, high pressure combustor modules, combustor modules, and high and low pressure turbine modules for the US Navy and the government of Australia. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013-14 US Navy aircraft budgets, and Australian funds.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (59%); Hooksett, NH (18%); Rutland, VT (12%); and Madisonville, KY (11%), and is expected to be complete in September 2016. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contracts (N00019-11-C-0045).

July 23/14: Training. L-3 Communications Corp. in Arlington, TX, receives a $14.1 million firm-fixed-price delivery order modification to improve F/A-18E/F and EA-18G Tactical Operational Flight Trainers (TOFT). The update reduces host/instructor operator station hardware, centralizes software storage in a SAN and provides expandable software storage for future TOFT enhancements, allows for multiple software configurations, and updates all analog Mission Management System (MMS) video output to digital. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed in Lemoore, CA (20%); Miramar, CA (20%); Whidbey, WA (15%); Oceana, VA (15%); China Lake, CA (10%); Arlington, TX (10%); and Atsugi, Japan (10%), and is expected to be complete in June 2016. The Us Navy’s Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL manages the contract (N61340-12-G-0001).

July 23/14: Support. Boeing in Jacksonville, FL receives a $7.7 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification for additional FY 2014 F/A-18A-F depot-level service life extension and remanufacturing activities, including associated maintenance support and sustainment. Funds will be committed as individual delivery orders are issued.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri (61%), and Jacksonville, FL (39%), and is expected to be complete in July 2015. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity (N00019-14-D-0001).

July 14/14: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $6.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to a previously awarded for aircraft armament equipment items: SUU-789A/A centerline pylons for the US Navy (35) and Royal Australian Government (15); and ALE-50 well covers for the U.S. Navy (11). All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA (95%); Irvine, CA (4%); and St. Louis, MO (1%), and is expected to be complete in May 2017. This contract combines purchase for the U.S. Navy ($4.9 million / 70%) and the government of Australia ($2 million / 30%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity (N00019-14-C-0032).

May 14/14: Ejection seats. Martin Baker Aircraft Co., Ltd. in Higher Denham nar Uxbridge, Middlesex, England receives a $26.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to exercise an option for the procurement of 89 Navy aircrew common ejection seats for F/A-18 series and EA-18G aircraft for the U.S. Navy (65) and the government of Australia (24). In addition, this option provides for associated hardware, equipment, technical data, and production support services for the US Navy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the governments of Australia, Switzerland, Malaysia, and Canada. All funds are committed immediately, using a variety of FY 2013 and 2014 budgets.

Work will be performed in Johnstown, PA (60%) and Higher Denham, England (40%), and is expected to be complete in May 2016. This contract combines purchase for the US Navy and Marine Corps ($18.8 million, 71%), NASA ($4,985; 0.2%) and the governments of Australia ($6.9 million, 26%); Canada ($538,347; 2%); Switzerland ($154,525; 0.6%); and Malaysia ($39,878; 0.2%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-12-C-0066).

Feb 3/14: A $42.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for F/A-18E/F and EA-18G jumper bundles, pylons, and bomb racks.

All funds are committed immediately, using USN FY 2013 aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Meza, AZ (71%) and St. Louis, MO (29%), and is expected to be complete in May 2018 (N00019-09-C-0019).

Jan 29/14: Raytheon Technical Services Co. LLC in Indianapolis, IN receives a $17.3 million firm-fixed-price delivery order from Australia and the USN for missile launchers. The government of Australia ordered for 28 LAU-115D/A and 30 LAU-116-B/A launchers ($11.4 million / 66%), while the USN ordered 34 LAU-116-B/A missile launchers ($5.8 million / 34%). LAU-115s are used carry air-ti-air missiles like AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder. LAU-116s are mounted on the undersize of the aircraft, and allow it to carry AIM-120 AMRAAMs there.

All funds are committed immediately, using USN 2013-2014 aircraft budgets and funds from Australia. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in September 2016 (N00019-10-G-0006).

Jan 28/14: Marvin Engineering Co., Inc. in Inglewood, CA receives a $7.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 156 BRU-32 Ejector Bomb Racks in support of the F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft.

All funds are committed immediately, using USN aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Inglewood, CA, and is expected to be complete in July 2016 (N00421-13-C-0002).

Nov 6/13: F414. General Electric in Lynn, MA receives an $8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, for F414-GE-400 engine long-lead materials.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 budget dollars. Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (59%); Hooksett, NH (18%); Rutland, VT (12%); and Madisonville, KY (11%), and is expected to be complete in October 2015 (N00019-11-C-0045).

Nov 5/13: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $13.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for Super Hornet family equipment: 270 station control units, 13 aerial refueling stores (ARS) air probes, 13 ARS fuel probes, 26 ARS suspension lugs, 168 chaff dispenser cover, 26 ALE-50 towed decoy dispensers, 26 ALE-50 decoy protectors, 26 ALE-50 decoy chassis, 26 ALE-67 Radar Warning Receiver mounting bases, 26 mounting retainers, and 12 centerline feed-thru plates.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 budget dollars. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in August 2015 (N00019-09-C-0019).

FY 2013

China Lake TOFT
(click to view full)

Sept 23/13: Avionics. A $12.9 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for 114 Super Hornet advanced navigation system retrofit kits. $2.8 million is committed immediately. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in May 2017 (N00019-11-G-0001, 0164).

Sept 23/13: ECP – DTS. A $24.6 million for firm-fixed-price delivery order for Distributed Targeting System B kits (modification kits), bulk data cartridge units and mass storage units. It’s part of the F/A-18E/F Full Rate Production I aircraft Distributed Targeting System engineering change proposal. The DTS is discussed in the “Future Hornets” section.

This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($17.75M/ 72%) and the Government of Australia ($6.83M/ 28%). All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL (75%); St. Louis, MO (21%); North Reading, MA (1.6%); and various other locations in the United States (2.4%); and is expected to be completed in August 2015 (N00019-11-G-0001, 0161).

July 18/13: F414. General Electric in Lynn, MA receives an $87 million firm-fixed-price contract modifications, exercising an option for 22 Full Rate Production Lot 17 F414-GE-400 install engines to equip 11 F/A-18E/F aircraft. Other Lot 17 engine buys have included 18 engines (EA-18Gs, Dec 28/12) and 52 engines (Nov 30/12). All funds are committed immediately from Navy FY 2013 procurement budgets. A Sept 26/12 contract set the maximum at 83 engines, and they’ve now ordered 82 engines for 41 planes.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (59%); Hooksett, NH (18%); Rutland, VT (12%); and Madisonville, KY (11%), and is expected to be complete in October 2015. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-C-0045).

July 17/13: ECP. Boeing in St. Louis, MO, is being receives an $8.1 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for 84 F/A-18E/F retrofit kits (ECP 6282, AYC 1439 A1). All funds are committed immediately.

Engineering Change Proposals are long-term modifications to the aircraft, involving very specific parts of the plane. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (80%), and St. Charles, MO (20%), and is expected to be complete in February 2016. T US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-G-0001, #0141).

June 13/13: Radar. Raytheon in El Segundo, CA receives a $22.4 million order, covering 53 ECP-6279 retrofit kits for F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft. ECPs involve aircraft or component modifications, and the announcement doesn’t explain which one, but our coverage elsewhere shows that it involves improvements to the APG-79 AESA radar. All funds are committed.

Work will be performed in Forest, MS (80%), and El Segundo, CA (20%), and is expected to be completed in July 2015. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-G-0006; delivery order 0036).

June 13/13: Radar. Boeing St. Louis, MO receives a $9 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for 30 ECP-6038 R2/R3 retrofit kits for the F/A-18 E/F aircraft, including radomes for the AN/APG-79 active electronically scanned array radar. A fighter’s radome nose cone is very specialized. It needs to allow the right radiation wavelengths to pass in and out easily, while remaining durable enough to handle the shocks and stresses of flight.

Work will be performed in Marion, VA (57%) and St. Louis, Mo. (43%), and is expected to be completed in January 2016. Fiscal 2013 Aircraft Procurement Navy contract funds in the amount of $8,996,280 are being obligated on this award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-G-0001).

May 29/13: Avionics. Honeywell Aerospace Defense & Space in Albuquerque, NM receives a $9 million firm-fixed-price contract for 121 F/A-18E/F and EA-18G advanced multi-purpose displays. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Albuquerque, NM, and is expected to be complete in January 2015. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-13-C-0048).

May 9/13: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $6.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for F/A-18E/F and EA-18G armament equipment, including SUU-78A/A Pylons and well covers. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA (85%); St. Louis, MO (9%); and Irvine, CA (6%), and is expected to be complete in January 2016. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-09-C-0019).

May 9/13: F414. General Electric Co. in Lynn, MA receives a $22.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 6 F414-GE-400 engines, pre-installed in 3 EA-18Gs.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (59%); Hooksett, NH (18%); Rutland, VT (12%); and Madisonville, KY (11%), and is expected to be complete in March 2015. Contract funds in the amount of $22,237,386 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-11-C-0045).

May 6/13: F414. General Electric Co. in Lynn, MA receives a $45.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 7 F414-GE-400 spare engines, 1 fan module, 13 high pressure compressor modules, 9 high pressure turbine modules, and 8 low pressure turbine modules.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (59%); Hooksett, NH (18%); Rutland, VT (12%); and Madisonville, KY (11%), and is expected to be complete in November 2015. Fiscal 2013 Aircraft Procurement Navy funds in the amount of $45,156,940 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-11-C-0045).

May 6/13: Seats. Martin Baker Aircraft Co. Ltd. in Upper Denham, Middlesex, England receives a $25.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 100 Hornet/ Super Hornet family Navy Aircrew Common Ejection Seats (NACES), on behalf of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. In addition, this contract provides for NACES hardware, equipment, technical data, and production support services for the US Navy, US Marine Corps, NASA, and the government of Finland. The contract breakdown is: US Navy and Marine Corps ($25M / 99%); NASA ($4,389 / 0.3%, F/A-18 Hornet only); and the government of Finland ($184,379 / 0.7%, F/A-18C/D Hornets only).

Work will be performed in Johnstown, PA (60%), and Upper Denham, Near Uxbridge, Middlesex, England (40%), and is expected to be complete in April 2015. All funds are committed immediately, with $2.9 million expiring at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. It’s managed by US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD (N00019-12-C-0066).

April 26/13: Weapons. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $12.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to integrate the new AGM-154C-1 JSOW into the F/A-18E/F aircraft’s H10E Operational Flight Program (core operating system) software. This JSOW variant can hit moving naval targets, turning the stealthy glide bomb into a short range anti-ship missile.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete in February 2015. $7.7 million in FY 2013 Navy Weapons Procurement funds are committed immediately, with the rest available as needed. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-10-G-0006, #2002).

April 19/13: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a maximum $14.8 million contract for airframe structural support components. The award is a firm-fixed-price, sole-source, definite quantity type contract with no quantity options for the USAF.

Work will be performed until Aug 31/18. The contract is managed by the US Defense Logistics Agency Aviation in Richmond, VA, (SPM4A1-09-G-0004-865W).

March 22/13: Gun. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products in Williston, VT receives a $7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 19 M61A2 Lightweight 20mm Gatling Gun Systems in support of FY 2013 F/A-18 E/F aircraft. EA-18Gs don’t carry the cannon.

Work will be performed in Williston, VT and is expected to be complete in March 2015. All funds are committed immediately, from the FY 2013 Aircraft Procurement, Navy budget line. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-10-C-0024).

Feb 27/13: AMC. Harris Corp. in Palm Bay, FL receives a $10.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the obsolescence upgrade to the Fibre Channel Network Switch (FCNS) used in the Advanced Mission Computer & Displays (AMC&D) system on board US Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft.

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL and is expected to be complete in September 2015. The USN is using funds from its FY 2012 Aircraft Procurement and FY 2013 Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation accounts, and all funds are committed immediately. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to the FAR 6.302-1. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-13-C-0039).

Jan 10/13: AMC. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Minneapolis, MN receives a $19.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 76 forward fit Type 3 Advanced Mission Computers for the F/A-18E/F and E/A-18G aircraft. All contract funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Bloomington, MN (80%) and Albuquerque, NM (20%), and is expected to be complete in December 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-C-0014).

Dec 28/12: F414. General Electric Co., Lynn, MA receives a $67.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 18 F414-GE-400 Production Lot 17 install engines, and 24 “devices”. They’ll be used in EA-18Gs.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (59%); Hooksett, NH (18%); Rutland, VT (12%); and Madisonville, KY (11%), and is expected to be complete in March 2015. Contract funds in the amount of $67,141,518 will be obligated on this award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-C-0045).

Dec 19/12: Avionics. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives an $8.9 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement for 285 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) retrofit kits in support of F/A-18C and F/A-18F aircraft.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (56%); Meza, AZ (37%); and El Paso, TX (7%), and is expected to be complete in June 2015. All contract funds are committed immediately, of which $1.35 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract.

Dec 19/12: F414 ECIP. General Electric Aviation in Lynn, MA receives a $17.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for engineering and engine system improvement services, as part of the F414 and F404 Engine Component Improvement Programs. $10.8 million are committed immediately, of which $6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 13/13 (N00019-11-G-0001).

This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($13.3M / 75.6%) and the Governments of Sweden ($1.3M / 7.4%); Australia ($832,277 / 4.8%); Canada ($516,877 / 3.0%); Spain ($514,156 / 2.9%); Finland ($380,856 / 2.2%); Korea ($225,793 / 1.3%); Kuwait ($233,955 / 1.3%); Switzerland ($204,030 / 1.2%), and Malaysia ($48,967 / 0.3%), under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in Lynn, MA, and is expected to be complete in December 2013. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-G-0009).

Dec 18/12: Raytheon Technical Services Co. LLC in Indianapolis, IN receives a $17.3 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for 102 LAU-115B/A missile launchers to equip US Navy F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft (86 / $15.1M), and Australian F/A-18Fs (16 / $2.2M). These launchers are used with various adapters for air-to-air missiles: short range AIM-9 Sidewinder/ AIM-132 ASRAAM, or medium range AIM-7 Sparrow/ AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN in and is expected to be complete in October 2015. All contract funds are committed (N00019-10-G-0006).

Nov 30/12: F414. General Electric in Lynn, MA receives a $197.5 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract, exercising an option for the procurement of 52 Production Lot 17 F414-GE-400 install engines and devices, used in F/A-18E/F family fighters. That many installed engines would equip 26 planes.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (59%); Hooksett, NH (18%); Rutland, VT (12%); and Madisonville, KY (11%), and is expected to be complete in March 2015. All contract funds are committed with this award, which is managed by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-11-C-0045).

Nov 15/12: Marvin Engineering Co. Inc. in Inglewood, CA receives a $17.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for 420 BRU-32 B/A Ejector Racks. These racks can be positioned on the Super Hornet family’s centerline or wing hardpoints, and are used as the base for many stores fittings. BRU-32s have 14- and 30-inch suspension hooks, and can hold single stores or BRU-33/A vertical ejector racks (VER). The 14-inch hooks add compatibility with LAU-115/A, LAU-117/A, and LAU-118/A missile launchers. Operation is via gas pressure, with a safety interlock and sway bracing. Sensing switches are incorporated to provide status information to the cockpit.

Work will be performed in Inglewood, CA, and is expected to be complete in December 2015. All contract funds are now committed. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals, with 2 offers received by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-13-C-0002).

Nov 14/12: Training. Boeing discusses an ongoing project to allow flying Super Hornets and F-15E Strike Eagle fighters to interact with virtual opponents flown in simulators, as well as “constructive” threats created wholly by a computer. This will reduce the number of opposing “red” aircraft that have to fly real missions alongside the F/A-18E/Fs or F-15Es.

Boeing began developing this modeling and simulation technology on its own in 2007, and a series of demonstrations with an F-15E through November 2009 verified key components. A Super Hornet recently completed its 1st flight tests with these new technologies, and the most recent flight tests, involved 2 F/A-18Es and 2 F-15Es simulating air combat against 2 live F-16s and 12 virtual aircraft, as well as multiple ground threats. A constructive E-3C Block 40/45 AWACS surrogate provided command and control.

Under the current 3-year, $6.3 million contract with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the pilot project will culminate with a capstone demonstration at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in late 2013. Boeing.

Nov 13/12: IFF. The US Naval Air Traffic Management Systems (PMA-213) program office plans to begin Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Mode 5 testing aboard an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet this winter, as part of its effort to field the civil-military signal on nearly every surface, subsurface and airborne platform in the fleet.

Compared to NATO’s Mode 4, it adds better encryption, spread spectrum modulation, time of day authentication, and a unique aircraft identifier. IFF Mode 5 level 2 adds aircraft GPS position information and other attributes, which can help IFF systems when aircraft are grouped closely together. Once fielded, Mode 5 IFF is expected to achieve Joint Initial Operational Capability in FY 2014. US NAVAIR.

Nov 7/12: Training. L-3 Link Simulation & Training (L-3 Link) announces a contract from the US Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division to integrate SimuSphere HD-9 high-definition displays on 13 F/A-18E/F Tactical Operational Flight Trainers (TOFTs) at NAS Lemoore, CA; NAS Oceana, VA; and Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. The Atsugi TOFTs will be new, and the others will be upgrades. This will be followed by upgrades to 4 existing EA-18G TOFTs at NAS Whidbey Island, WA.

This award follows L-3 Link’s successful fielding of SimuSphere HD-9 systems on 4 existing F/A-18C TOFTs at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana, VA in April 2012. The changes will help the TOFTs take full advantage of L-3’s HD World simulation product line, which combines high-definition databases, image generation systems, physics-based processing and visual system display technologies. The upgraded TOFTs will support a full range of tactical training capabilities, including the ability to use their actual flight night vision goggles, and experience real-world performance over a 360-degree field-of-regard.

FY 2012 F414-GE-400 engine
(click to see in sections)

Sept 26/12: F414. General Electric Co. in Lynn, MA receives a $327.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 80 Production Lot 16 F414-GE-400 engines, 2 F414-GE-400 spare engines, 1 high pressure turbine module, and long-lead materials for the FY 2013/ Lot 17 order of 83 F414-GE-400 engines.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (59%); Hooksett, NH (18%); Rutland, VT (12%); and Madisonville, KY (11%), and is expected to be complete in June 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-C-0045).

Sept 26/12: TOFTs. L-3 Link Simulation & Training Division in Arlington, TX receives a $46 million firm-fixed-price delivery order covering high definition visual systems for 23 F/A-18 and EA-18G Tactical Operational Flight Trainers (TOFTs), and installation of 2 government-owned F/A-18E/F TOFTs at the Naval Air Facility Atsugi, in Japan. Looks like the USN’s stock of government-owned TOFTs just hit 3 (q.v. March 1/12 entry).

Work will be performed in Arlington, TX (92%), and Atsugi, Japan (8%), and is expected to be complete in May 2015. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL manages this contract (N61340-12-G-0001).

Sept 6/12: AMC-4. Boeing successfully flight tests General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems’ new Type 4 Advanced Mission Computer during a 90-minute flight at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, CA. Additional testing is planned, and Boeing is set to deliver Super Hornets and Growlers with the new computer in 2014.

The AMC increases Super Hornet family computing power and accelerates image and mission processing functions, in order to support new functions like the Distributed Targeting System, Infrared Search and Track pod, and a new high-definition touch-screen display.Boeing.

Sept 6/12: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $21.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft armament equipment. It includes station control units, ALE-50 towed decoy protectors, dispensers and chassis, air probes, fuel probes, suspension lugs, mounting bases, mounting retainers and centerline feed thru plates.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO and is expected to be complete in October 2014. The US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-C-0019).

Aug 29/12: Memory. A $10.6 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for engineering services required to retrofit a new Digital Memory Device in Production Lot 26-29 F/A-18E/F aircraft.

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL (78%); St. Louis, MO (19%); and Oklahoma, City, OK (3%), and is expected to be complete in December 2014. $1.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-G-0001).

July 12/12: F414. General Electric in Lynn, MA receives a $13.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for F414-GE-400 engine support.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (90%) and Evendale, OH (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012. $274,986 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-C-0045).

May 23-30/2012: SATCOM. Boeing and the US Navy’s VX-31 Squadron have successfully completed an in-flight satellite communications (SATCOM) system demonstration using an EA-18G. If the system is added to fleet F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as well, it would allow their aircrews to conduct 2-way, secure voice and data communications that reach around the globe.

The test took place at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division’s Advanced Weapons Lab at China Lake, CA, less than 90 days after the initial request. The secure voice & data transmissions were received by ground personnel at China Lake, and across the country at NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD.

Boeing says they have delivered more than 480 F/A-18E/Fs to the U.S. Navy, adding that the fighters have logged more than 166,000 combat flight hours supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Boeing.

May 29/12: ECM. Raytheon in Goleta, CA receives a $9.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for the digital conversion and testing of 56 AN/ALR-67v3 radar warning receivers.

Work will be performed in Forest, MS (48%), San Diego, CA (38%), and Goleta, CA (14%). Work is expected to be complete in September 2014, and US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract.

May 7/12: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $16.3 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification for F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft armament, including jumper bundles, pylon attach fittings, sensor well covers, adaptors, and pylons.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be completed in May 2015. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-C-0019).

May 1/12: Seats. Martin Baker Aircraft Co. Ltd. in Higher Denham near Uxbridge, Middlesex, England receives a $22 million firm-fixed-price contract for 88 Navy aircrew common ejection seats and associated hardware, equipment, technical data, and production support services for the US Navy ($21.9M / 99.69% / 12 F/A-18A+, 22 F/A-18E; 12 F/A-18F; and 24 E/A-18G) and the government of Kuwait ($69,121 / 0.31% / 18 F/A-18C).

Work will be performed in Johnstown, PA (60%), and Upper Denham, Near Uxbridge, Middlesex, England (40%), and is expected to be complete in March 2014. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304c1. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-12-C-0066).

April 4/12: F414 ECIP. General Electric Aviation in Lynn, MA receives an $8.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for the F414 Engine Component Improvement Program, to include engineering and engine system improvement support. Work will be performed in Lynn, MA, and is expected to be complete in December 2012.

This contract combines purchases for the US Navy ($8.3M / 93%) and the government of Australia ($578,616 / 7%). US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-G-0009).

March 6/12: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives an $8 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification for 57 SUU-78 A/A pylons, and 40 ALE-50 towed decoy well covers.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in December 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-C-0019).

March 5/12: Gun. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products in Williston, VT receives awarded a $7.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to exercise an option for 21 M61A2 20mm Lightweight Gatling Gun Systems in support of FY 2012 F/A-18 E/F aircraft.

Work will be performed in Williston, VT, and is expected to be complete in February 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00421-10-C-0024).

March 1/12: TOFT. The US Navy has installed its only government owned and operated Super Hornet Tactical Operational Flight Trainer (TOFT) at its China Lake, CA facility, in order to save millions of dollars by avoiding shuttle flights to NAS Lemoore, CA.

The TOFT takes up 1,800 square feet, and requires 30 tons of extra air conditioners, but it offers local VX-9 and VX-31 pilots an alternative for qualification training and mission rehearsal. It also allows Navy PMA-205 to conduct software upgrade tests locally, shortening turnaround times. China Lake’s TOFT is identical to those located at NAS Lemoore and NAS Oceana, except that the 9-panel Simusphere visual-display dome has been replaced by a 5 foot flat panel screen. If you try this at home, we want to see the pictures! Boeing.

Feb 29/12: ECM. Raytheon Co., Space and Airborne Systems, Goleta, CA receives a $77.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for Full Rate Production Lot 14: 89 AN/ALR-67v3 radar warning receivers, and 9 countermeasure signal processor weapons replacement assemblies.

The AN/ALR-67v3 is the standard RWR system for Super Hornet family fighters, and also equips some F/A-18 Hornets – Canada and Switzerland both operate earlier-generation F/A-18 Hornets, and Australia operates both Hornets and Super Hornets. This Radar Warning Receiver is more like mission central for defensive systems. It doesn’t just alert the pilot(s) that enemy radars are targeting their fighter; it provides accurate identification, lethality, and azimuth displays of both hostile and friendly emitters. In its spare time, it controls the electronic warfare data bus, and interfaces with electronic warfare systems, the onboard radar, the airborne mission computer, and the F/A-18 weapon systems. It’s the first deployed radar warning receiver to combine a fully channelized digital receiver architecture with the power of dual processors.

Work will be performed in Forest, MS (34%); Lansdale, PA (18%); Goleta, CA (17%); Chatsworth, CA (11%); San Diego, CA (10%); Sydney, Australia (4%); Milwaukie, OR (3%); and McKinney, TX (3%). Work is expected to be complete in December 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-C-0052).

Feb 17/12: Boeing receives a $22 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G follow-on test and evaluation supplies and services (N00019-11-G-0001).

Work will be performed at the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Md. (77%); St. Louis, MO (21%); El Segundo, CA (1%); and Bethpage, NY (1%), and is expected to be completed in February 2013. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-G-0001).

Feb 16/12: Displays. Honeywell International Defense & Space Electronic Systems in Albuquerque, NM receives an $8.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 124 full rate production advanced multi-purpose displays (70 5″x5″ forward displays; 36 5″x5″ aft displays; and 18 8″x10″ displays) for Lot 35 F/A-18F and EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed in Albuquerque, N.M., and is expected to be completed in December 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. manages the contract (N00019-10-C-0061).

Feb 10/12: Raytheon in Goleta, CA receives an $11.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for 56,488 hours of sensor system software and hardware support in order to update, improve, and enhance F/A-18 Hornet & Super Hornet family aircraft, including the EA-18G.

Work will be performed in Goleta, CA (59%), and El Segundo, CA (41%), and is expected to be complete in February 2015. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($7.4M/ 64%); and, under the Foreign Military Sales Program, the governments of Malaysia ($1.3M/ 12%), Finland ($961,391/ 8%), Switzerland ($877,792/ 8%), Australia ($501,595/ 4%), and Kuwait ($501,595/ 4%). This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1, by the US Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division in China Lake, CA (N68936-12-D-0001).

Feb 2/12: F414. General Electric Aviation in Lynn, MA receives a $7.5 million performance-based logistics requirements contract modification to supply repair & replacement consumables for 879 US Navy F414 engines, which equip its F/A-18 Super Hornet family planes.

Work will be performed at Lynn, MA (90%), and Jacksonville, FL (10%), and will run until Dec 31/12. This was a sole source requirement by NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-11-D-002M).

Jan 27/12: Avionics. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Bloomington, MN received awarded a $20.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for the full-rate production of 80 Type 3 Advanced Mission Computers (AMC) for the US Navy’s F/A-18E/F and E/A-18G aircraft ($19.9M/ 96%), and 3 more Type-3 AMC spares for Australia ($0.7M/ 4%).

Work will be performed in Bloomington, MN (80%), and Albuquerque, NM (20%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-C-0014).

Jan 12/12: A 5-year, $80.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for maintenance, manufacturing of parts, instrumentation and engineering support for all models of the F/A-18 & EA-18G aircraft including future variants for both domestic and Foreign Military Sales, to pay for ground and flight test programs at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD. Funds will be obligated on individual task orders as they are issued, between now and January 2017.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (97%), and St. Louis, MO (3%). This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-12-D-0003).

Dec 8/11: AMC-4. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $6.7 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification for the Delta phase of the Advanced Mission Computer (AMC) Type 4 system, which finalizes development and prepares AMC Type 4 for production. See Sept 15/11 entry for background.

Work will be performed in Bloomington, MN (71%); St. Louis, MO (24%); and Linthicum, MD (5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-C-0019).

Nov 18/11: Launchers. Raytheon Technical Services Co., LLC in Indianapolis, IN receives a $55.9 million delivery order modification, exercising an option for 237 LAU-116B/A and 213 LAU-115D/A launchers, for use on Super Hornet family aircraft. LAU-115 launchers sit under the wings, and mount 2 AIM-9 or AIM-120 air-to-air missiles each, if LAU-7 or LAU-127 launchers are bolted to its sides. They could also carry one past-generation AIM-7P Sparrow missile directly, but don’t. LAU-116 launchers are the ones that sit flush with the plane’s side body, and hold AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in August 2015. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-G-0006).

Nov 18/11: Maintenance Tech. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives an $11.2 million firm-fixed-price delivery order modification for the automated maintenance environment, data-at-rest, and similar automated maintenance environment in support of the F/A-18 A-D, F/A-18 E/F, and EA-18G aircraft. Your car’s mechanic uses this technology, and the people who maintain $60+ million fighter jets need it, too. It’s one of those “small ticket price, big difference” items.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in December 2012. $263,864 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00383-06-D-001J).

Nov 9/11: Australia. Boeing had been working with Australia’s Production Parts to provide Super Hornet rudder pedal kits, but the firm entered receivership in August 2011. Managing these kinds of minor shifts and contingencies is one of the headaches of running a global supply chain, and foreign suppliers add an extra layer of difficulty, even as their presence helps firms retain international customers.

Over 2 months later, Boeing has signed a contract with Ferra Engineering in Brisbane, Australia. Ferra will produce the rest of Production Parts’ order, as well as 123 additional kits for the global Super Hornet program. The switch has helped by the Australian government’s Global Supply Chain Program, which funded Boeing’s specialist team in its search for an alternative. Boeing works on a number of projects in Australia, and from 2007-2011, 24 Australian companies have won 101 Boeing sub-contracts worth A$ 256 million. Australian DoD.

Oct 3/11: A Boeing video details changes made to the Super Hornet family’s “outer” wing frame design, which converted it from an assembly of many parts from different vendors, into a machined 1-piece frame with far fewer additions. Labor assembly time savings alone were about $16,000 per plane.

Note that despite the name, the outer wing frame sits inside the visible wing. The flip side of this effort is that any cracks or serious damage to that now-larger part, involve replacing a larger and more expensive item, which also needs more storage room. Even there, however, faster replacement time and more certain quality may offer offsetting benefits.

FY 2011 AN/ALR-67 V3
(click to view full)

Sept 29/11: DTS. A $12 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for the low rate initial production of 26 Distributed Targeting Systems and supporting equipment/documentation for the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft. Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL (85%), and St. Louis, MO (15%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013 (N00019-11-G-0001).

The Distributed Targeting System improves onboard hardware and software processing, in order to produce precise ground targeting solutions. It’s part of the US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Network Centric Warfare Upgrades program, and is slated for operational testing in late 2011, and deployment in operational fighters in 2012.

Sept 27/11: DTS. A $7 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for the design, development, and first article production of Operational Test Program sets 824, 825, and 560, in support of the F/A-18E/F Aircraft Distributing Targeting System.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in December 2014. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages the contract (N68335-10-G-0012).

Sept 15/11: ECM. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $7.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft armament equipment, to include a number of systems. 174 station control units comprise the first set of capabilities.

F/A-18E/F Super Hornets with tanks can act as low-capacity hose-and-drogue aerial tankers, and this order covers 22 aerial refueling store (ARS) suspension lugs; 12 centerline feed-through plates; 11 ARS air probes; and 11 ARS fuel probes.

Self-protection items include 6 ALE-50 dispensers for those towed active missile decoys; 6 ALE-50 chassis towed decoys; and 6 ALE-50 protector towed decoys. They’re also ordering 4 sets of mounting bases and retainers for the plane’s ALR-67 radar warning receivers.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in December 2013. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-09-C-0019).

Sept 15/11: AMC-4. Boeing in St. Louis, MO received a $7.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to continue development of the new Advanced Mission Computer (AMC) Type 4 System for the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft. This modification will also begin the necessary customization of the AMC for use in existing Navy F-18s.

Tom Mantia is Boeing’s AMC Type 4 program manager, and a production contract is expected in 2012. Boeing later adds that the new computers will “increase aircraft performance, address obsolescence issues, and improve image- and mission-processing functions.”

Work will be performed in Bloomington, MN (66.5%); St. Louis, MO (25%); and Linthicum, MD (8.5%), and is expected to be complete in October 2012. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-09-C-0019).

Sept 13/11: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $46.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order 0014 for new spare parts to support the USA’s F/A-18E/F aircraft.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be completed in Dec 30/13. This was a non-competitive requirement, and one offer was received in response to the solicitation by NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-06-D-001J, #0014).

Sept 13/11: F414. General Electric Aircraft Engines in Lynn, MA receives a $38.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 3 F414-GE-400 spare engines; 15 combuster modules; 20 high pressure turbine modules; 15 high pressure compressor modules; and 10 low pressure turbine modules. All will support American Super hornet family aircraft.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (51.9%); Madisonville, KY (20.9%); Hooksett, NH (12%); Rutland, VT (4.6%); Dayton, OH (2.5%); Jacksonville, FL (1.8%); Muskegon, MI (1.6%); Terre Haute, IN (1.6%); Bromont, PQ, Canada (1.3%); Asheville, NC (1.2%); and Evendale, OH (0.6%), and is expected to be completed in March 2013. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-06-C-0088).

Aug 30/11: ECP. A $16.9 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price -incentive contract modification for non-recurring and recurring engineering in support of Engineering Change Proposal 6213R2, “Trailing Edge Flap Honeycomb Redesign” for the F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in May 2015.

The “honeycomb” is the flap’s internal structure. The April 27/10 entry documents structural issues discovered in long-term fatigue testing, which have led to this redesign. When combined with the $25 million in the June 17/11 entry, this ECP has reached $41.9 million (N00019-09-C-0019).

Aug 1/11: F414. General Electric Aircraft Engines in Lynn, MA is being awarded a $71.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for supplemental engine purchases of 18 F414-GE-400 engines and associated device kits. That would equip 9 Super Hornet family planes, which are seeing more orders due to the F-35C Lightning II’s development delays.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (44.8%); Madisonville, KY (18.1%); Evandale, OH (14.1%); Hooksett, NH (10.4%); Rutland, VT (3.9%); Dayton, OH (2.2%); Jacksonville, FL (1.5%); Muskegon, MI (1.4%); Terre Haute, IN (1.4%); Bromont, Canada (1.2%); and Asheville, NC (1%). Work is expected to be complete in July 2013 (N00019-06-C-0088).

July 13/11: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $53.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for Super Hornet family “armament equipment,” including jumper bundles, pylon attach fittings, sensor well covers, adaptors, pylons, and tooling.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in February 2015. $19.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract.

June 30/11: F414. GE Aviation Engines in Lynn, MA receives a 3.5 year, performance based logistics contract to support the F414 engine components used on the F/A-18E/F, and EA-18G aircraft. The contract is worth up to $414.6 million, and GE will be responsible for engine repair, engine replacement, consumables support, and program support as required.

Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be complete by December 2014. This contract was not awarded through full and open competition, but only 1 firm (the engine manufacturer) was solicited, and 1 offer was received by the US Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-11-D-002M).

May 12/11: F414. General Electric Aircraft Engines Business Group in Lynn, MA receives a $9.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 1 spare F414-GE-400 engine; 8 combustion modules, 7 fan modules, and 1 high pressure turbine module.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (51.8%); Madisonville, KY (20.9%); Hooksett, NH (12%); Rutland, VT (4.6%); Dayton, OH (2.5%); Jacksonville, FL (1.8%); Muskegon, MI. (1.6%); Terre Haute, IN (1.6%); Bromont, QB, Canada (1.4%); Asheville, NC. (1.2%); and Evandale, OH (0.6%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-06-C-0088).

April 21/11: ECM. Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in Goleta, CA receives an $84.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 87 Full Rate Production Lot 13 AN/ALR-67v3 radar warning receivers for the U.S. Navy (77/ $72.1M/ 85%) and the government of Switzerland (10/ $9.4M/ 11%). In addition, this option provides for the procurement of ALR-67 weapons replaceable assemblies for the governments of Canada ($2.5M/ 3%) and Australia ($762,842/ 1%).

Work will be performed in Goleta, CA (41%); Lansdale, PA (18%); Forest, MS (12%); Chatsworth, CA (11%); San Diego, CA (10%); Sydney, Australia (4%); Milwaukie, OR (2%); and McKinney, TX (2%). Work is expected to be complete in December 2013. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract. See also Raytheon release.

April 8/11: Boeing receives a $7.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for supplies and services to support the F/A-18 E/F Structures Service Life Assessment Program. It’s very important to have a baseline for that, and to test for unexpected early fatigue spots within the fleet.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (82.8%); El Segundo, CA (14.6%); Bethlehem, PA (2.5%); and Lynwood, CA (0.1%); and is expected to be complete in December 2013. $101,924 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-G-0001).

March 30/11: A $40 million awarded fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification for one-time engineering services in support of the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G’s next generation advanced mission computer system.

Work was performed in Bloomington, MN (53.7%), Baltimore, MD (33.3%), and St. Louis, MO (13%). This is a retroactive contract, with the Pentagon noting that “Work was completed in December 2010” (N00019-09-C-0019).

March 25/11: Avionics. Boeing receives a $10.6 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for 741 Honeywell model GG1320 ring laser gyros, to be installed in F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft for the U.S. Navy (714) and the government of Australia (27 spares).

Work will be performed in Clearwater, FL (87%), and St. Louis, MO (13%), and is expected to be complete in April 2013. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-G-0001).

March 22/11: F414. General Electric Aircraft Engines in Lynn, MA receives a $246.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 68 F414-GE-400 engines and device kits from Production Lot 15, to equip F/A-18E/F aircraft. That would equip 34 planes, without spares.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (44.8%); Madisonville, KY (18.1%); Evandale, OH (14.1%); Hooksett, NH (10.4%); Rutland, VT (3.9%); Dayton, OH (2.2%); Jacksonville, FL (1.5%); Muskegon, MI (1.4%); Terre Haute, IN (1.4%); Bromont, Quebec, Canada (1.2%); and Asheville, NC (1%); and is expected to be complete in April 2013. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-06-C-0088). See also The Daily of Lynn.

On the same day, GEAE also received a $453.1 million firm-fixed-price, sole-source, requirements-type contract for engine parts, from the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. This Defense Logistics Agency contract runs until March 31/12, and is almost certain to include some F414 related parts, but also includes engine types equipping other aircraft and helicopters: F/A-18 A-D Hornets, F-16s Falcons, large aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and VC-25 Air Force One, and helicopters like the UH/AH-1, AH-64, H-60 family, etc. (SPM400-03-D-9404).

March 7/11: Gun. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products in Williston, VT received a $7.8 million firm-fixed price contract modification, exercising an option to buy 22 M61A2 lightweight 20mm Gatling gun systems in support of the F/A-18 E/F program. Note that EA-18Gs never mount the nose cannon, as the space is taken by electronics.

Work will be performed in Burlington, VT (50%), and Saco, ME (50%), and is expected to be complete in April 2013. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00421-10-C-0024).

March 4/11: Seats. Martin-Baker Aircraft Co., Ltd. in Middlesex, England receives an $18.3 million firm-fixed price contract modification to exercise an option for 65 Navy Aircrew Common Ejection Seats (NACES). They will equip F/A-18 A+/C+ Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft flown by the U.S. Navy ($18.2M/ 99.4%), and the air forces of Australia (F/A-18A+ and F/A-18F; $51,920/ 0.27%) and Kuwait (F/A-18C+; $61,730; 0.33%). This option also buys associated hardware, equipment, technical data, and production support services.

Work will be performed in Johnstown, PA (60%), and Middlesex, England (40%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-07-C-0011).

March 4/11: Avionics. Honeywell International Defense & Space Electronic Systems in Albuquerque, NM receives an $8.3 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-10-C-0061) to exercise an option for the procurement of 131 Advanced Multi-purpose Displays (68 of their 5″x5″ forward displays; 42 of their 5″x5″ aft displays; and 21 of their 8″x10″ displays) for Lot 35 F/A-18F and EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed in Albuquerque, NM, and is expected to be complete in December 2011. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-C-0061).

Feb 28/11: Boeing in St. Louis, MO, receives a $29.5 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification for F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft armament equipment, including jumper bundles, pylon attach fittings, sensor well covers, adaptors, and pylons.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in December 2014. $27.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-C-0019).

Feb 16/11: ECM. ITT Corp. Electronic Warfare Systems in Clifton, NJ receives a $14.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for 6 full rate production Lot 8 AN/ALQ-214v3 onboard jammer systems for installation on the F/A-18E/F aircraft. The AN/ALQ-214 is a major subsystem of the Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures (IDECM) Radio Frequency Countermeasures (RFCM) Program, a self-protection electronic countermeasures suite designed for use against radar guided missiles. It’s integrated with ALE-50 and ALE-55 towed decoy systems.

Work will be performed in Clifton, NJ, and is expected to be complete in November 2013. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-11-C-0002). See also ITT on ALQ-214 | BAE on ALQ-214.

Jan 7/11: F414. General Electric Aviation in Lynn, MA receives a 3-year, $576 million performance-based logistics contract for repair, replacement, and program support for F414 engine components used on F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G aircraft. This multi-year procurement arrangement is an availability-based contract, and works through the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center – Southeast in Jacksonville, FL.

Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL (62%), and Lynn, MA (38%), and is expected to be complete by December 2013. Funding is provided by Navy Working Capital Funds, and this contract was not competitively awarded by the Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-11-D-001M). The Jan 6-7/11 contracts build on the success of a series of previous F414 PBL contracts dating back to 2002. See also GE release.

Jan 6/11: F414. General Electric Aviation in Lynn, MA receives a $58.4M, 6-month extension of its existing performance-based logistics contract for repair, replacement, consumables support, and program support for the F414 engine used on F/A-18 E/F, and EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (96%), and Jacksonville, FL (4%), and is expected to be complete by June 2011. Funding is provided by Navy Working Capital Funds, and this contract was not competitively awarded by the Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-08-D-002M).

Dec 29/10: ECM. Raytheon in Goleta, CA receives a $7.8 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for the retrofit and testing of 33 digital [electronic] countermeasure receivers, in support of the F/A-18 E/F. ECM receivers capture opposing signals for analysis and subsequent jamming.

Work will be performed in Forest, MS (65%), and Goleta, CA (35%), and is expected to be complete in February 2013. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-G-0006).

FY 2010 F/A-18F w. tanks
(click to view full)

Sept 24/10: Tanks. GE Aviation Systems, LLC in Santa Ana, CA received a $21.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 241 FPU-12/A 480 gallon external fuel tanks for the F/A-18 E/F (136) and the EA-18G (105) aircraft, including related program support. Work will be performed in Santa Ana, CA, and is expected to be complete in February 2012. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-10-C-0076).

Sept 24/10: A $28 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order against a previously issued order basic ordering agreement for Super Hornet and EA-18G aircraft armament equipment including pylons, well and chaff dispenser covers, station control units, protector and dispenser magazines, dispenser chassis, probes, lugs, plates, and mounting bases and retainers.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be completed in June 2013. $3.55 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-05-G-0026).

Sept 23/10: Avionics. Honeywell International Defense and Space Electronic Systems in Albuquerque, NM received a $10.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 185 advanced multi-purpose displays – 116 of the 5″ x 5″ forward displays; 46 of the 5″ x 5″ aft displays; and 23 of the 8″ x 10″ displays – for F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed in Albuquerque, NM, and is expected to be complete in December 2011. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-10-C-0061).

Aug 19/10: F414. GE Aviation in Lynn, MA receives a $6.3 million order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-09-G-0009) to work on the F414 Component Improvement Program. Work will be performed in Lynn, MA, and is expected to be complete in June 2011.

July 28/10: F414. General Electric Aircraft Engines Business Group in Lynn, MA receives a $28.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for the procurement of 6 F414-GE-400 engines; 4 F414-GE-400 engine fan modules; 14 F414-GE-400 engine high pressure combustion modules; and 5 F414-GE-400 combuster modules, for installation in F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (49%); Madisonville, KY (21%); Hooksett, NH (12%); Albuquerque, NM (7%); Rutland, VT (5%); Dayton, OH (2%); Wilmington, NC (2%); Evendale, OH (1%); and Bromont, Canada (1%), and is expected to be complete in December 2011 (N00019-06-C-0088)

July 8/10: IFF. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $43.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to integrate IFF(Identification Friend or Foe) Mode 5 capability into the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G’s AN/APX-111 combined interrogator transponder (CIT), including upgrades to 3 Mode 5 CITs, buying 14 Mode CITs for test, and implementation of Mode 5 into automated test equipment.

Identification friend or foe (IFF) systems aren’t foolproof, but they can reduce friendly fire dangers. IFF Mode 3/A is also required for flight in many regions of civilian airspace. BAE’s AN/APX-118 CITs provide both IFF coded query and IFF coded response. The new Mode 5 is a NATO IFF standard. Compared to NATO’s Mode 4, it adds better encryption, spread spectrum modulation, time of day authentication, and a unique aircraft identifier. IFF Mode 5 level 2 adds aircraft GPS position information and other attributes, which can help IFF systems when aircraft are grouped closely together. In this respect, Mode 5 shares some characteristics with the new civilian IFF Mode-S.

Work will be performed in Greenlawn, NY (75%), and St. Louis, MO (25%), and is expected to be complete in September 2014. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-10-C-0078).

June 17/10: ECP. Boeing announces a $25 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0014) to incorporate engineering change proposal 6213R2SOW, “trailing edge flap honeycomb redesign” into the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft. The “honeycomb” is the flap’s internal structure. Hints of why that might be underway can be found in the April 27/10 entry.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in October 2013. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10 (N00019-04-C-0014).

May 27/10: ECP. Boeing in St. Louis, MO received a $6.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-05-G-0026) for 144 kits in support of F/A-18E/F engineering change proposal #6282, “Fatigue Test Article 50/Fatigue Test Article 77 Post-Cost Reduction Initiative Inner Wing Retrofit Out of Warranty Kits.”

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in January 2015. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract.

May 21/10: Gun. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products in Burlington, VT receives a $9.8 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for 30 M61A2 20mm lightweight gatling gun systems for the F/A-18E/F.

Work will be performed in Burlington, VT (50%), and Saco, Maine (50%), and is expected to be complete in September 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year, and this contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-10-C-0024).

May 5/10: F414 Improvements. GE describes 3 of the programs underway to improve its F414 engine, which powers all Super Hornet family fighters.

The US Navy wants the F414 EDE (Enhanced Durability Engine), which uses an advanced high pressure turbine and 6-stage high pressure compressor (HPC) that offers a 2-3x hot-section durability gain, and reduced fuel consumption.

The F414 EPE (Enhanced Performance Engine) is based on the EDE, but it has a new fan to increase airflow, and aims to increase thrust by 20%. It is explicitly “targeted for potential international customers,” but may also have applications in future Super Hornets. F414 EPE longevity and fuel gains will not be the same as the EDE on which it’s based, owing to its design differences.

The 3rd program is a retrofittable F414 noise reduction kit project, with serrated nozzle edges where each “lobe” penetrates into or out of the primary airflow and generates a secondary flow, reducing jet noise by 2-3-decibels. The USN has identified funding for a program to further test and mature the technology to prepare it for incorporation in the USN F414 engine fleet, with work scheduled to continue through 2011. GE Aviation.

April 27/10: ECP. FedBizOpps solicitation #20058-10:

“The Naval Air Systems Command intends to place a Firm Fixed Price order under an existing Basic Ordering Agreement, N00019-05-G-0026 with The Boeing Company of St. Louis, Missouri 63166, for the procurement of 4 sets of Production Tooling and 4 sets of Retrofit Tooling associated with Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) 6213R2C1, “Trailing Edge Flap (TEF) Redesign” for the F/A-18 E/F and E/A-18G aircraft. ECP 6213R2 shall correct the deficiencies found during testing and teardown analysis: Cocure rib 1 shear clip failure, cracks in the inboard hinge area, cracks in the front spar, cracks in the splice rib, numerous fastener failures, cocure skin stability and rib pull off, micro cracking in the cocure rabbet. This ECP should result in an increase of the Safety Flight Hours on the TEF. This synopsis/solicitation is for the Non-recurring portion only. A new pre-award synopsis/solicitation shall be done for the recurring portion of this effort at a later date. Boeing is the sole designer, developer, manufacturer and integrator of the F/A-18 E/F and EA-18 G aircraft in its various configurations and is the only source with the knowledge, expertise and on-site personnel base necessary to accomplish this effort.”

March 11/10: F414. General Electric Aircraft Engines in Lynn, MA received a $326.1 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-06-C-0088), exercising a US Navy option for 80 F414-GE-400 engines and modules, 2 spare engines, 1 engine fan module; 8 engine high pressure turbine modules; 33 combuster modules; and 80 engine device kits. The contract also includes advance procurement funding to buy long-lead material for future F414-GE-400 engines.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (49%); Madisonville, KY (21%); Hooksett, NH (12%); Albuquerque, NM (7%); Rutland, VT (5%); Dayton, OH (2%); Wilmington, NC (2%); Evendale, OH (1%); and Bromont, Quebec, Canada (1%), and is expected to be completed in May 2012. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract.

March 30/10: ECP. Boeing Co. in St. Louis, MO received a $6.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement (N00019-05-G-0026) under Engineering Change Proposal 6240R1, “FT 50 18K Main Landing Gear Sidebrace Fitting Failure – Revision for Retrofit”, covering 144 kits for the F/A-18E/F aircraft.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA, and is expected to be complete in October 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.

March 26/10: Avionics. Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $5.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-priced contract (N00019-09-C-0069), exercising an option for 124 ARC-210 RT-1824C radio receiver transmitters for the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, IA, and is expected to be complete in December 2010. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD.

Feb 16/10: F414 Improvements. General Electric Aircraft Engines in Lynn, MA received a $7.3 million modification to a previously issued order under a basic ordering agreement. This money funds the demonstration of new technologies, with the goal of reducing the specific fuel consumption of the F414-GE-400 engine by 3%. This effort is in support of the “Near Term Energy Efficiency Technology Demonstration and Research Project,” under the USA’s 2009 economic stimulus funding.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (89%), and Evendale, OH (11%), and is expected to be completed in December 2010. $7.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-09-G-0009).

Dec 4/09: F414. General Electric Aircraft Engines in Lynn, MA receives $28.1 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract, for engineering and integrated logistics services in support of the F/A-18E/F fighters’ F414-GE-400 engines.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (78%); Evendale, OH (13%); Lemoore, CA (5%); and Jacksonville, FL (4%). Work is expected to be complete in December 2010, but $1 million in contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract (N00019-06-C-0088).

Future Hornets?

This section will cover efforts that could make significant changes to the Super Hornet family as a whole. Unless otherwise noted, these efforts are not part of any multi-year buy contract.

Super Hornet
International tour
click for video

Aug 28/13: Advanced Super Hornet. Boeing and Northrop Grumman announce that initial flight tests of their “Advanced Super Hornet” have validated the Conformal Fuel Tanks, RCS (stealth) shaping, and Weapons Pod. Combat radius with the CFTs and pod, but no external ordnance, rises by 130 nautical miles to around 700 nmi. Meanwhile, radar cross-section vs. a Super Hornet carrying the fuel and weapons externally drops by 50%.

Northrop Grumman designed and built the conformal tanks ahead of schedule, in less than 10 months, using rapid prototyping. The tanks can be used on all Super Hornet variants, and hold up to 3,500 pounds of additional fuel. That means a combat radius boost of up to 130 nautical miles, 30 minutes more station time, or some combination. The EA-18G will find the tanks especially helpful, as they reduce both overall weight and drag compared with the 2-3 external fuel tanks they’d otherwise carry.

Best of all, from a business standpoint, these capabilities can be retrofitted to existing fighters. Orders from the USA or Australia would give the modifications a big boost, and improve Boeing’s standing in a number of international competitions. A similar F-15SE solution may be about to provide more validation by winning a big tender in South Korea, and competitions are afoot in Brazil, Denmark, Malaysia, several Mideastern countries, and possibly Canada. Boeing’s timing is good. Sources: Boeing feature, incl. video | Boeing Aug 28/13 release | Northrop Grumman Aug 28/13 release.

Advanced Super Hornet

March 26/13: F/A-18i. Malaysia’s Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition includes many of the aircraft vying to replace its MiG-29Ns. The F/A-18 Super Hornet exhibit is especially interesting, as the mock-up includes Boeing’s conformal fuel tanks to extend its range. That’s a feature from the Super Hornet International concept, and Boeing is looking to take the tanks into flight tests by summer time. If all goes well, they hope to interest the US Navy in buying some, while offering the tanks to international customers.

Boeing engineers are quite proud of the tanks. Their shaping is said to add lift, creating almost zero net drag at cruising speeds. If tests bear that out, it means that almost all 3,000 pounds of extra fuel could be used to extend range. With that said, nothing in physics comes without cost. The conformal tanks add weight and some transonic drag, reducing the Super Hornet’s already marginal transonic acceleration during missions that add them. This isn’t a fatal problem if the goal is long-range strike, but it could be an issue for air superiority missions like Combat Air Patrol. The logical solution would be to remove the conformal tanks for those kinds of missions, and accept the extra cruising drag inherent in multiple drop tanks. Flight International | DEW Line.

July 10/12: Cockpit. Boeing and its partner Elbit Systems have been working to add wide screen touch displays for its next-generation fighters. The 11″ x 19″ displays themselves are almost as big as the F-35’s, without sacrificing the Head-Up-Display as the F-35 did. The display technology itself is conventional. Making sure that the display can work smoothly with all of a plane’s on-board system is the challenge. Once that’s done, pilots can tap to bring up displays, use fingers to zoom in, even customize which displays to show, how big they should be, and where they go. Sources: Boeing feature, incl. video.

Feb 1/12: Distributed Targeting System. Boeing announces that it has started production of the Super Hornet family’s new DTS. The Navy granted approval for Low Rate Initial Production, following successful initial operational assessments at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, CA, and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. DTS is part of the US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Flight Plan, and Network Centric Warfare Upgrades program.

DTS upgrades involve a module with its own advanced processor that brings together data feeds from different sensors, and a pre-loaded, high-resolution imagery database to help with geo-registration. The idea is to be able to fire ground attack weapons with more certainty about the target, and less delay from navigating through multiple screens, handing off coordinates, etc. DTS can be retrofitted during scheduled maintenance periods, or see a more aggressive rollout to front line squadrons if required. That will be up to the US Navy.

Boeing representatives would not directly specify exactly which sensors would be integrated by DTS, beyond the APG-79 AESA radar and ATFLR targeting pod. It’s reasonable to believe that DTS will also include input from the plane’s threat monitoring and electronic warfare sensors, in order to backtrack those dangerous threats and quickly target them; the EA-18G already does some of that. Boeing representatives declined to discuss the exact difference in pilot response times enabled by DTS, aside to say that it was “significant” in tests, and noting that pilots seemed to like using the DTS’ pre-loaded high-detail map in the display next to their primary sensor feed. They wouldn’t say exactly why, but it’s certainly easy to see how that might help in any crowded targeting situation. In an urban battle, for example, where you want to make sure you have the right building in your geo-registered crosshairs.

Nov 4/11: Super Hornet International. Boeing continues to discuss Super Hornet International designs. Not much has changed beyond earlier releases, though they do mention that the dorsal conformal fuel tanks will have a similar center of gravity to the aircraft, and that up to 3 weapon pods would be able to carry up to 4 x AMRAAM/ 2 x 500 pound/ 1 x 2,000 pound bomb each. That’s in line with earlier reports, which touted 2 x AMRAAMs and 2 x 500 pound JDAMs per pod, but the 2,000 pound JDAM option is new. So, too, is confirmation that the new design would have additional radar shaping to lower its cross section further.

With the Super Hornet out of contention in India, Japan appears to be the main target, though the Super Hornet is also being marketed to Brazil, Greece, Denmark, Kuwait, and Qatar, among others. Aviation Week.

F/A-18E/F International
(click to view larger)

July 20/10: Super Hornet International. Boeing’s VP and General Manager of Global Strike Systems, Shelley Lavender, announces a “Super Hornet International Road Map” at Farnborough 2010. Technology modifications would include internal IRST to detect infrared emissions from enemy aircraft (instead of the US Navy’s current retrofit approach using a modified centerline fuel tank), an enclosed weapons pod to lower radar signature that can carry up to 2 AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles and 2 JDAM 500 pound smart bombs, full spherical laser and missile warning systems, a new cockpit based on large touch-screen technology, improved F414 engines (EDE/EPE), and conformal fuel tanks mounted up top to boost range.

These enhancements are described as an “international road map,” reflecting ongoing competitions in Brazil, Denmark, India, and elsewhere. These same modifications also have the potential to become part of a US Navy multi-year buy agreement with Boeing, if the Navy is willing. Presentation [PDF]

May 6/10: Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman details a number of proposed Super Hornet family improvements, unveiled by Boeing at the Navy League show in Washington DC. They include a big-screen cockpit like the F-35’s, but of one single screen; GE’s F414 engine programs; the Navy’s Next Generation Jammer program focused on the EA-18G; and potential integration of either MBDA’s long-range Meteor air-air missile or its own developmental Joint Dual Role Air Dominance Missile (JDRADM).

April 22/10: Green Hornet. The US Navy’s F/A-18F “Green Hornet” test aircraft becomes the first plane to achieve supersonic flight using a biofuel blend fuel that combines 50% conventional JP-5 with 50% renewable additives. “Green Hornet” is actually a range of efforts ranging from test flights like this, to more energy efficient aircraft refueling policies at the Navy’s master jet bases, to ongoing research and development efforts by NAVAIR and General Electric to reduce Specific Fuel Consumption (SFC) for the F414 jet engine.

The biofuel blend used in this Earth Day flight is derived from the camelina sativa plant, which is U.S.-grown, and not used for food. The objective was a flight showing no difference in performance between the biofuel blend and standard JP-5, with an ultimate goal to develop protocols to certify alternative fuels for naval use.

The Navy Fuels Lab at NAVAIR Patuxent River, MD will develop those certification requirements for a variety of biofuel sources, while the USA’s Defense Energy Support Center awarded the $2.7 million contract to Sustainable Oils of Seattle and Bozeman, Mont. for 40,000 gallons of the camelina-based fuel. NAVAIR pre-release | NAVAIR release | Boeing.

June 9/07: More Stealth? Defense Technology International claims that new computing capabilities may allow a stealthier “Block III” version of the Super Hornet, since it’s now possible to accurately model the radar cross section and aerodynamics of an aircraft when it’s loaded with external weapons etc. Boeing’s president for advanced systems, George Muellner, says. “It’s not the bombs and missiles – it’s the interactions between them and the airframe. Ten years ago, it would have taken you six months of Cray time to model it. Now you can do it on a distributed network of PCs.”

Jane’s has also talked about the idea of a stealthier Super Hornet under development by Boeing’s Phantom Works, noting that the basic Super Hornet already incorporates some edge alignments, swept inlets, treated blocker vanes in front of the engines, and other stealth (“low observable”) features. Stealthier external weapons would definitely offer an important next step, since the F/A-18 E/F lacks the internal weapons bays found modern stealth fighters like the F-35 Lightning II and F-22A Raptor.

Additional Readings

These links are kept current by Defense Industry Daily, as they offer especially useful background and research resources. 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: Aircraft

Background: Program

Background: Aircraft Ancillaries

News and Views

  • Aviation Week (Nov 4/11) – Boeing Reveals Details Of International F-18 [dead link]. Not much change beyond earlier releases re: Super Hornet International: conformal fuel tanks, up to 3 weapon pods with 4 x AMRAAM/ 2 x 500 pound/ 1 x 2,000 pound bomb each, plus F414 EPE engines, and better radar shaping. Japan is seen as the main target.

  • Boeing (Oct 3/11) – Wings of change for F/A-18, EA-18G programs. Wing frame redesign project. Includes an embedded video.

  • Flight International (July 12/11) – Testing the new-generation Super Hornet. An F/A-18F Block II simulator, to be precise.

  • Aviation Week (April 22/11) – Rhino’s Revenge (Super Hornet upgrades). Dead link. At the time, it was the Super Hornet International Roadmap.

  • Boeing (Dec 13/10) – Ramping up for delivery. A video feature that looks at the final stages of integration and delivery for EA-18G Growler and Super Hornet jets.

  • Boeing (Sept 28/10) – A fighter jet rain check. “When it comes to the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing engineers in St. Louis use a special process called the Water Check Test to rule out areas where moisture could seep into the aircraft and its electronics suite…”

  • Boeing Frontiers (July 2008) – Their ‘Flight Plan’ [PDF]. How to modernize the Super Hornet and keep it relevant. At this point, the focus is on the Block II model and new AESA radar, plus an undetermined IRST implementation and the ROVER datalink.

  • Flight International (March 13/07) – Ultra Hornet. Describes the updates to create the Hornet Block 30/Block II+; the performance enhancements are all electronic rather than aerodynamic. Interestingly, among future Flightplan enhancements is a limited electronic attack function for all APG-79 AESA radars.

  • DID (Oct 22/05) – Supersonic SIGINT: Will F-35, F-22 Also Play EW Role?

Categories: News

US Navy Readying Tactical Cloud by Year End | AH-64 Damaged When Training Exercise Goes Awry | France Blocking US Efforts to Transfer Missile System to NATO

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 23:56
Americas

  • The US Navy is to deploy AeroVironment’s Blackwing tube-launched unmanned aircraft system from its manned submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles. The company made the annoucement at this years’ Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition. Based on their Switchblade UAS, AeroVironment’s Blackwing “employs an advanced, miniature electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) payload, Selective Availability Anti-spoofing Module (SASSM) GPS and AeroVironment’s secure Digital Data Link (DDL).”

  • A new lethal anti-surface ‘tactical cloud’ is to be rolled out by the Navy later this year. This new “kill web” offensive anti-surface network will allow Navy aircraft and ships to strike surface targets by sharing the targeting information. The scheme will use information ranging from sensors in space to the undersea to share information in a so-called tactical cloud that will allow aircraft and ships to access a range of targeting information to launch weapons against surface targets.

  • An AH-64 attack helicopter taking part in an exercise at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert was forced to land after a soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord damaged the rotor-craft with live rounds. According to reports, the soldier in question was role playing as OPFOR and his rifle had a blank-fire adapter which was blown off by the first live round. While the OPFOR is usually not issued live rounds, the soldier apparently used a live magazine issued from his home station and scored 5-7 hits on the Apache.

Europe

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

  • US attempts to have the European missile system it built handed over to NATO are being blocked by the French government. Approval for the hand-over was hoped to be finalized during the organization’s July summit in Warsaw, but Paris has voiced concerns over the system’s IOC and whether the system will be truly under alliance, and not US, control. Washington is anxious that failure to agree on NATO control will be interpreted by Russia as a sign of weakness.

  • Airbus Helicopters is rumored to have won a $725 million contract to provide and support a fleet of helicopters to the UK for the next 17 years. The nod comes as Paul Livingston, the chief executive of Ascent Flight Training was the guest of Airbus Helicopters at a recent industry dinner. Owned by Lockheed Martin and Babcock, Ascent has a 25-year private finance initiative deal with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to train all British helicopter and fixed-wing crews in a program known as the military flying training system. According to an industry insider, Livingston would not have allowed himself to be a guest of any bidder had the competition still been in play.

  • Rheinmetall has been given a contract to upgrade the fire control units and guns of the Swiss Air Force 35mm Oerlikon Skyguard air defense system. Completion of the modernization order is due for 2019 and will extend the service life of the weapon until at least 2025. The upgrades ordered will avoid a capabilities gap prior to introduction of a successor system for Swiss short-range air defence of ground assets.

Asia Pacific

  • South Korea is to join Japan and the US in a joint trilateral missile defense exercise in Hawaii on June 28. The exercise will precede the much larger Pacific Rim exercise due to begin on June 30. For the smaller event, each nation will contribute one Aegis destroyer which will track simulated ballistic missile targets and determine if they exchange the tracking information among each other.

Today’s Video

  • The unveiling of Saab’s Gripen E smart fighter:

Categories: News

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

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 23:50
Voyager & friends
(click to view full)

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

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

A330-200 MRTT: The RAF’s Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft Voyager K3 & C-130J
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

FSTA vs. VC10
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The A330 MRTT has a maximum fuel capacity of 111,800 kg, or over 246,000 pounds. In the tanker role, the A330-200 provides twice as much fuel to receiver aircraft as the VC-10. The aircraft also has the capacity to carry 43,000 kg of cargo, including up to 32 463L cargo pallets, or up to 272 passengers, while carrying a full fuel load. AirTanker offers a scenario in which the A330 can fly 270 troops and 8,000 kg of their equipment some 4,700 miles, while also operating as an aerial tanker. Fuel capacity is slightly less than the TriStar’s 139,700 kg, but it carries slightly more passengers (272 vs. 266) and has slightly greater cargo capacity (43t vs. 31t). What it will not have, is the ability to take on more fuel in the air itself, in order to extend its own missions.

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

UK FSTA: Program Details & Industrial Team Making FSTA
(click for video)

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

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

Schedule
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK FSTA: Contracts & Key Events 2015 – 2016 Queen’s Birthday
(click to view full)

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

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

2013 – 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st civil lease

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

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

Core fleet delivered

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

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

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

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

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

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

TriStar fleet retired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013

VC10s retire; RTS for Eurofighters; Program on schedule; Britain creating an operational refueling gap? Voyager & friends
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

VC10s retired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012

1st service flight; Britain facing capability crunch; Conversion work switches to Airbus in Spain. Tornado contact
(click for video)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airbus Military takes refueling conversions from Cobham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st service flight, Release To Service

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

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

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

2011

1st FSTA arrives. A330: Voyager 01
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2010

FSTA production
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009

Program on track. FSTA-1 to Getafe
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July 10/09: The FSTA program’s first Airbus A330-200 flies from Airbus’ Toulouse, France, factory to the Airbus Military facility at Getafe, Spain, on schedule, today. Conversion of this first FSTA aircraft with military avionics and refuelling capability will now commence, in a new, purpose-built, permanent hangar. AirTanker Services release [PDF].

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

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

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

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

2008

PFI. LAIRCM selected. FSTA A330-200
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July 16/08: LAIRCM picked. Northrop Grumman announces that their AN/AAQ-24V Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures Systems (LAIRCM) system has been selected to defend the UK’s aerial tanker fleet. Under the terms of the $93 million contract, Northrop Grumman’s Defensive Systems Division will provide LAIRCM system hardware and support to Thales U.K., a member of the AirTanker consortium.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2006 – 2007

Contractual progress. Tanker fuel systems
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Nov 8/07: In its earnings guidance release, EADS says that:

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

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

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

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

2000 – 2005

Program start. Final bids. A330 picked. RAF TriStar KC1
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July 11/05: AirTanker announces [MS Word format] that Phill Blundell has been appointed as the firm’s Chief Executive. He had joined AirTanker from BAE Systems at the start of May 2005 and has been assuming greater responsibilities leading up to his formal appointment. His last role at BAE Systems was Group Managing Director C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), with a focus on non-platform and complex systems integration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TriStar & USN F/A-18Cs
over Afghanistan
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As always, the devil will be in the details – and in a PFI, any agreement that offers too much of an advantage to either side will ultimately prove to be in the best interests of neither party.

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

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

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

Appendix B: Britain Former Refueling Fleet

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

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

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

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

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

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

VC10s: Distinctive, but Discontinued VC10 & Tornado F3s
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The RAF’s 19 Vickers VC-10s were famous for having 4 engines – 2 mounted on each side of their rear fuselage. This has the happy side-effect of minimizing turbulence for pilots taking up refueling stations behind their wings. Unlike the TriStars, VC10s were equipped with a probe-and-drogue refueling system capable of refueling 2 aircraft simultaneously from the 2 underwing pods; they could also use a single fuselage-mounted Hose Drum Unit (HDU). They also differed from the TriStars in that they could be refueled themselves, thanks to the installation of a fixed refueling probe in their nose. Only 11 were serving by 2002, in 3 tanker versions:

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

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

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

Additional Readings & Sources Background: A330 Voyager Tanker/ Transports

Background: FSTA Program

News & Views

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

Background: Britain’s Other Tankers

Categories: News

V-22 Aerial Tanker Variant on Tap for 2018 | Israel’s Sea-based Iron Dome Intercepts Salvos in Test | Saab Premiers First of Three Gripen E’s

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 23:50
Americas

  • The Navy’s V-22 Osprey program has set 2018 for the deployment of the aerial tanker variant of the USMC’s MV-22B. Once the new capability is installed, it will be possible for the air combat element of a Marine Expeditionary Unit to refuel in air its F-35 Lightning II strike fighters and CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters, and eventually even other V-22s may be a possibility. This capability will extend the reach of the amphibious ready groups for strike and assault missions.

  • Raytheon’s SeaRam anti-ship defense system has undergone its most rigorous testing in recent US Navy testing. Targets successfully engaged involved two supersonic missiles flying in complex, evasive maneuvers which the system successfully took down with the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 missiles. The SeaRAM is an upgrade of Phalanx Block 1B and it swaps out the gatling gun with an 11-round Rolling Airframe Missile guide.

  • A collaboration between MIT and Lockheed Martin engineers is to focus on the innovations needed to enable generation-after-next autonomous systems. The signed agreement was formalized during a ceremony at the campus last Friday and provides a multi-year framework between MIT and Lockheed Martin for collaborative research, exchange of visiting scientists, support of student Undergraduate Research Opportunities, fellowships, and internships at Lockheed Martin. Dr. Padraig Moloney, who spearheaded the new initiative, stated “We’re confident that our relationship and collaboration in these technical areas will influence the fields of autonomy and robotics for the next 15-20 years.”

Middle East North Africa

  • On Wednesday, Israel claimed that it had successfully intercepted a test salvo of shore-launched short-range rockets with a new sea-based version of the Iron Dome. The testing took place two week ago on board the force’s INS Lahav Sa’ar-5 corvette-class surface vessel which has had the IAI/Elta developed Adir radar and Rafael-developed Iron Dome integrated on board. It remains unclear, however, what types of threats the system engaged.

Europe

  • Austria’s Diamond Aircraft has announced the maiden flight of its DART-450 (Diamond Aircraft Reconnaissance Trainer). The aircraft is a first all-carbon fiber tandem, 2-seat civilian and military trainer with a sidestick and pneumatic ejection seats. Powering the DART-450 is the Ivchenko-Progress/Motor Sich AI-450S turboprop engine, a 5-blade MT propeller, and a GARMIN avionic system, giving the trainer a top speed of 250kts.

  • Saab rolled out the first of its three Gripen E fighters yesterday, with the test fighter to be handed over to the flight test department this summer. The unveiling comes three years before the first of at least 96 production models are to be delivered to the governments of Brazil and Sweden. Saab expects that between 400-450 Gripen E models could be produced over the life of the program.

  • MBDA has been awarded a $600 million UK MoD contract for futher development of the Spear 3 missile. The missile is described as the sister weapon to MBDA’s Brimstone already in service with the RAF, in use in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State militants. Already, the Spear 3 has been test-fired from a Typhoon aircraft but the contract will allow MBDA to develop the missile for use with the controversial F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

Asia Pacific

  • Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha became the first chief to fly the indigenous HAL Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas fighter in a short sortie on Tuesday. Raha’s flight came during a visit to meet team LCA in Bengalaru which involved the inauguration of the Tejas’ painting hanger. The only other top IAF officer to have flown the LCA was Deputy chief of Air Staff Air Marshal SBP Sinha, in September 2014.

Today’s Video

  • V-22 Aerial Refueling Proof of Concept:

Categories: News

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