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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 21 min 26 sec ago

Heat Vision: US Teen Series Fighters Getting IRST

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 16:31
IRST: B-2, ICU
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F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet Block IIs fighters are beginning to enter service with the US Navy and Australia, carrying significantly improved AN/APG-79 AESA radars and other electronic upgrades. Recent years have seen another spreading improvement within global fighter fleets, however: Infra-Red Search & Track (IRST) systems that provide long range thermal imaging against air and ground targets. Most of these deployments have been on Russian (MiG-29 family, SU-30 family) and European (Eurofighter, Rafale, Gripen NG) fighters, or special American exports (UAE’s F-16E/F Block 60 Desert Falcons, Korea & Singapore’s F-15K/SG Strike Eagles).

That absence puts American fighters behind an important curve. This IRST approach can defeat radar stealth in some instances, by focusing on engine exhaust, or on the friction of the aircraft as it powers through the atmosphere. As F-14 pilots will recall, long range electro-optics also offer positive identification, conferring the ability to use a plane’s aerial missiles at their full ranges. Best of all, IRST offers a passive way to locate and target enemy aircraft, without triggering the target’s radar warning receivers. When coupled with medium-range IR missiles like some Russian AA-10 variants, France’s MICA-IR, or even future versions of AMRAAM NCADE, an IRST system offers a fighter both an extra set of medium-range eyes, and a stealthy air-to-air combat weapon. Programs are underway to give some American “teen series” fighters this capability, albeit in a somewhat unusual way…

Tanks for the View: The IRST + Fuel Solution F/A-18F w. tanks
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Retrofits into existing aircraft can be tricky, but in July 2007, Boeing’s RFI selection process and tapped Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control division in Orlando, FL to supply up IRST systems for F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet Block II aircraft. That began as a Systems Development and Demonstration effort, but the program received Milestone B approval in July 2011, and the EMD contract followed in August 2011. The first production deliveries of up to F/A-18 E/F IRST systems were expected in 2012, with initial operational capability expected in 2013.

Lockheed Martin’s IRST is described as “the next generation of the F-14D AN/AAS-42 IRST that accumulated over 200,000 flight hours aboard U.S. aircraft carriers.” The question for Boeing was where to put it.

IRST tank
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Instead of modifying the Super Hornet’s airframe’s structure or wiring, the partners will be taking an unusual route: modifying a 480 gallon centerline fuel tank to carry 330 gallons of fuel + the IRST system. The drawback to this approach is that a centerline tank with IRST needs to stay on the airplane in combat, compromising its aerodynamic performance and radar signature.

On the bright side, this approach will allow refits to existing Super Hornets, and indeed to all “teen series” fighters in the US arsenal, once software integration is performed to tie the IRST into each new plane type’s “multisource integration algorithms.” IRST tracking data must be correlated with other sensors like the fighter’s radar, radar warning receivers, etc., in order to make its surveillance and targeting simple enough to be useful to the pilot. MSIA integration ensures this.

Industrial partners in this effort are:

  • Boeing IDS (lead contractor)
  • Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (SpectIR IRST sensor)
  • General Electric (F/A-18 fuel tank with the sensor housing)
  • Meggitt Defense Systems Inc. (IRST unit’s cooling sub-assembly)


IRST Future: A SpectIR for all Teens? IRST pod on F-15C
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A similar approach was suggested for the USAF’s F-15C/D fleet, but it would have been a full centerline pod, rather than a fuel tank with additional capabilities. The two firms already had a history of cooperation on the F-15. Boeing has already installed Lockheed Martin’s Tiger Eyes system, which includes an IRST as part of its suite, on in Korean F-15K and RSAF F-15SG Strike Eagles.

The Pentagon’s FY 2012 budget proposed to end funding for the F-15 program, but Lockheed Martin and Boeing continued to develop “SpectIR” as an option that “will be transportable across a wide range of platforms.” The FY 2013 Presidential Budget for 2013 shows the USAF F-15C SpectIR program picking back up again in FY 2015, and the Air National Guard has its own options. Because IRST is an open ANG requirement for Homeland Defense, the US ANG can just use National Guard & Reserve Equipment Appropriation (NGREA) funds to buy a system, once it’s ready.

Lockheed Martin has privately funded the SpectIR dedicated IRST pod, and is conducting tests to demonstrate its readiness. They see the market extending well beyond F-15 fleets. Integration work for the team will obviously be easier on Boeing and Lockheed Martin “teen series” fighters like the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18. Nevertheless, other platforms around the world would be eligible, if manufacturers or customers wanted to fund integration.

As an interesting aside, there are reports that the USAF’s targeting pods chosen under the new ATP-SE contracts may provide a lesser form of air-to-air IRST capability, alongside the ground surveillance and attack functions.

Contracts and Key Events 2011 – 2014

Super Hornet pod receives EMD contract, begins test flights; USAF backs away from F-15C SpectIR pod, but Lockheed Martin doesn’t. F/A-18F w. IRST
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July 16/14: R&D. FBO.gov posts a USAF pre-solicitation for improved IRST technology:

“This is a Request for Information (RFI) for the Air Force to determine the feasibility of developing a next generation airborne long range offensive IRST that is a staring system based on combinations of innovative optical design, high dynamic range IR large format focal plane array (FPA) technology and advanced processing methods. This exploratory concept is in contrast to current implementations using scanned and smaller format arrays…. Advancements in large format two-dimensional FPAs offer potential advantages in clutter rejection, more frequent updates, longer integration times and multi-frame detection techniques. It is expected that by exploiting these advantages an IRST can be developed that supports long range detection and tracking of targets in cluttered environments with a low false alarm rate over a large field-of-view (FOV).”

Note that this solicitation isn’t specifically aimed at this program; indeed, the focus on large format arrays seems aimed at transferring the equivalent of space-based technologies to larger airborne fleets. With that said, it illustrates an important advantage of the podded approach. Technology advances do filter down, and one of the compensating advantages against a pod’s extra drag is that they offer the most inexpensive swap-out options as new technologies become available. The question is whether technology improvements would boost existing podded IRSTs, or just improve onboard options for ground surveillance & targeting pods lite LITENING and Sniper from partial to full IRST capabilities. Sources: US FBO.gov, “Infrared Search and Track Technologies, Solicitation Number: RFI-RQKS-2014-0001″.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. This interesting tidbit came from the US Navy’s detailed RDT&E justifications for PE 0204136N:

“Delays in the schedule for IRST are due to technical challenges with the Fuel Tank which led to additional flight test requirements.”

Feb 18/14: Testing. US Navy flight testing of Boeing’s IRST pod has progressed to Boeing’s Super Hornet, and the pod made its 1st test flight on an F/A-18F at Edwards AFB, CA on Feb 11/14. Sources: US NAVAIR, “You can run, but you can’t hide” | Boeing, “U.S. Navy Tests Infrared Search and Track on Boeing Super Hornet”

April 15/13: F-18. Flight tests have begun for the Super Hornet’s IRST, attached to the nose of a Beechcraft King Air. The advantage of that arrangement is that you can bring a few engineers and their gear along for the ride. Boeing’s Test & Evaluation group sees themselves as a rapid prototyping shop, so that kind of arrangement suits them just fine. Boeing feature.

Feb 24/12: F-15. Lockheed Martin announces that its “SpectIR” IRST pod successfully acquired, tracked and provided a weapons-grade firing cue during a recent Air National Guard (ANG) flight test. It’s part of a privately-funded Lockheed Martin effort, and the US Air National Guard retains an open requirement for IRST capabilities in its fleet.

The transportable pod format used for the F-15 doesn’t have a fuel tank included, and Lockheed Martin is aiming for “plug-and-play use for the F-15, F-16 and other platforms.”

Nov 10/11: Meggitt Defense Systems Inc. announces that it has won approval to move into the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the Super Hornet IRST’s environmental control unit.

Aug 19/11: EMD contract. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $135 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, firm-fixed-price engineering, manufacturing, and development contract, to complete development of the IRST pod and make it ready for production. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (57%); Orlando, FL (35%); Santa Ana, CA (4%); and Irvine, CA (4%), and is expected to be complete in September 2015.

This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1: “Only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements.” US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-11-C-0036). See also Boeing | Lockheed Martin.

EMD contract

July 21/11: Milestone B. The U.S. Navy’s F/A-18E/F IRST program achieves Milestone B approval to proceed into the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase. Boeing | Lockheed Martin.

Milestone B

March 15/11: USAF backs off. An Aviation Week report confirmsthe end of the USAF’s F-15C/D IRST program, saving $34.9 million in FY 2012, and $345 million for the total program from development to production and fielding. One interesting passage noted the different services’ takes on the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet program:

“Air Force officials cite “technical challenges” with the F-15 version as their rationale. However, they also say that a version of the IRST designed for the Navy is “behind schedule.” Navy officials, however, say that the effort is proceeding as planned. “The Navy’s F/A-18 IRST program is meeting program cost and schedule requirements,” says Marcia Hart-Wise, a spokeswoman for the service’s Super Hornet program.”

The USAF’s decision may also be prompted in part by revelations that the LITENING G4-SE surveillance and targeting pod has been found to have air-to-air capabilities in testing. Targeting pod sensors will continue to advance, and if they’re already able serve dual-duty as basic IRST systems, they could be seen as a medium-term solution.

Feb 14/11: The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 budget request, and accompanying documents seem to indicate the end of the USAF’s F-15 IRST retrofit program. See Budget Overview [PDF].

2007 – 2010

Super Hornet development contracts; System for F-15C. SU-30K w. IRST

April 28/10: F-15. Lockheed Martin announces a contract from the Boeing Company to continue developing system requirements for a USAF F-15C IRST. The single-seat F-15C Eagle is the USAF’s air superiority model. Company representatives tell DID that this effort will be similar to the Super Hornet’s concept, and will use some common components like the receiver, processor, and IMU(Inertial Measurement Unit, for positioning) but it will be a dedicated centerline pod instead of a converted fuel tank.

Lockheed Martin already has an active IRST production line, and their built-in “Tiger Eyes” system equips some foreign F-15s like Singapore’s F-15SG Strike Eagles.

Nov 16/09: Revisions. Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO receives a not-to-exceed $28 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order, in order to incorporate a revised specification and statement of work for the Super Hornet’s IRST development effort (N00019-05-G-0026).

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (50%); St. Louis, MO (40%); Santa Ana, CA (5%); and Irvine, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete in September 2010. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.

Initial development revised

May 18/09: Lockheed Martin announces a $4 million contract from Boeing for the technology development phase of the F/A-18E/F IRST program. The contract follows a 2-year pre-system design and development program, in which Lockheed Martin was down-selected as the sole source provider (see July 2/07 entry).

The corporate release adds that Lockheed Martin is the only U.S. company with an active IRST production line, and notes that the system “is readily adaptable to a wide range of installation options on various platforms.”

March 11/09: Boeing announces that its IRST tank system has successfully completed a series of 6 flight tests at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, and 4 at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, CA. The system successfully demonstrated transfer alignment, long-range target detection, and the ability to operate in a fuel tank.

For the Super Hornet platform, they also tested the IRST’s integration into the plane’s “multisource integration algorithms.” That lets the Super Hornet’s systems correlate IRST tracking data with other sensors like its radar, radar warning receivers, etc., in order to produce a single picture of the battlespace around it. IRST systems need that kind of integration to be effective, and it’s work that may have to be done anew for each new aircraft type that is fitted with this system.

Dec 10/08: Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO received an $12 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-05-G-0026) for research and development services in support of the Technology Development phase of an IRST system for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (50%) and Orlando, FL (50%), and is expected to be complete in October 2009. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.

Initial development

July 2/07: Lockheed Martin picked. Boeing chooses Lockheed Martin as its IRST partner, and the firms invest more than $10 million of their own money on a risk reduction demonstration, with U.S. Navy participation. They expect to receive a US Navy IRST development contract in the summer of 2008, with a total value of over $500 million through the development and production phases of the program. Boeing release.

Additional Readings

Tag: IRSTpod, IRSTtank, f-18irst, f-15IRST

Categories: News

FY2014 “Use It Or Lose It” Season Opening at the Pentagon

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 16:01

  • The US Department of Defense now expects to spend $26B more in procurement and research/development by the end of the current fiscal year (Sept. 30) than outlined in recent budget documents. Up until April their contracting was significantly below last year though things picked up in June. The final 2 months of the fiscal year traditionally see an uptick in federal spending. DoD is now even more likely to spend everything they’ve got in light of Senate appropriators going after unspent funds from prior years.

Q2 Earnings

  • Lockheed Martin’s Q2 2014 sales decreased by 1% to $11.3B. Aeronautics posted a nice 13% growth rate thanks to the F-35, Missile Systems sales were flat, but the other divisions lost ground from a year ago.

  • United Technologies reported Q2 2014 revenue up 7% to $17.2B thanks to solid growth at UTC Aerospace Systems and Sikorsky. New order growth on the other hand slowed down.

  • Rockwell Collins’ Q3 FY14 sales grew by 12% to $1.26B thanks to the addition of ARINC to their topline. Government sales on the other hand declined by 6% to $535M.

Middle East

  • Given the increase in ISIS attacks in and around Baghdad, the Institute for the Study of War expects the insurgents to mount a larger offensive within days. With the central government under such direct pressure, the Kurds have been taking control of oil fields with increasing de facto autonomy.

Asia

  • India’s Defence Acquisition Council cleared a set of acquisitions worth Rs 21,000 crore (INR 210 billion / $3.493 billion). DID covers the big light transport buy today; DAC also includes 32 HAL Druhv helicopters for the Navy and Coast Guard (INR 70 billion), 5 new supply vessels (INR 90 billion), 5 OPV ships (INR 20 billion), 5 fast patrol boats (INR 3.6 billion), and Search & Rescue equipment (INR 9 billion).

Feeling Safer Already

  • Computer forensic analyst Jonathan Zdziarski released a presentation [PDF] on July 18 that listed potential back doors and attack points because of undocumented services running on iOS mobile devices that he thought had no use for end users, developers or support staff. Apple subsequently posted a short explanation about what they call “diagnostic capabilities”, but Zdziarski is not convinced.

So You Thought LCS Was Threatened

Categories: News

France Upgrading Their E-3F AWACS

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 15:42
E-3F AWACS
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The French Armee de l’Air is upgrading its E-3F AWACS radar aircraft, in a $460 million program.

The E-3 Sentry AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft is based on a militarized version of the Boeing 707-320B. It remains the world’s most widely used large-jet AWACS platform, in service with the USAF, Britain, France, NATO, and Saudi Arabia. Over the years, the world’s E-3 fleet has required improvements to keep its radars and electronics current with advances in technology. France received its 4 E-3F aircraft between 1991-1992, and undertook its own RSIP improvement program from 2002-2006. Now, they’ve set their E-3F fleet’s upgrade path to Block 40/45 capability. Which is being delivered at last, after the US government suddenly attempted to get in the way…

The AWACS Upgrade E-3F in
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The E-3 Block 40/45 is the most current variant – and the largest enhancement in the history of the U.S. Air Force’s E-3 AWACS fleet.

It includes new, open-architecture mission computing hardware and software, which shifts from mainframe-based computing to a set of networked servers and modern displays. This will provide the computing horsepower to automate some existing tasks, such as Automatic Air Tasking Orders and Airspace Coordination Order updates. It also makes future upgrades easier. Corresponding software/hardware upgrades replace existing buttons and switches with a point-and-click interface and drop-down menus. Upgraded radar equipment will be complemented by “multisource integration capability” that provides a coherent single picture from the radar, ESM emission detectors, Link-16, and other sources, providing a single picture view for detecting and identifying targets. Improved navigation and communications systems round out the upgrades, and may give some E-3s the ability to operate in less restricted airspace around the world.

Airworthiness testing of the USAF’s Block 40/45 upgrades began in June 2006, mission system testing began in April 2007, and testing finished in September 2008. Depending on government funding profiles, the Block 40/45 upgrades will be installed on the entire USAF fleet of 32 E-3 AWACS by 2016 – 2017. Nor is the USA alone. Britain is determining and inserting upgrades as part of its $1.2 billion through life maintenance program, NATO is in the middle of its own $1.32 billion mid-life upgrade, and the Saudis are making RSIP improvements.

Now France has formally contracted for its own Block 40/45 improvements. Each national AWACS baseline is slightly different, and so each Block upgrade set will differ slightly. Beyond the standard Block upgrades, French E-3Fs will add upgraded Identification Friend or Foe Interrogation, including Mode S and Mode 5 capability. Mode 5 IFF uses a much improved algorithm, and other performance improvements include encryption, range, and civil compatibility. It also adds “lethal interrogation” as a must-respond last chance, and has the ability to distinguish individual aircraft even when they’re close together. The further addition of Mode S assigns a discrete response ‘squawk’ which is unique to that aircraft. Together, they improve combat identification, and enable unrestricted flight in civilian airspace.

The overall French program is $466 million: $440 million for the contract, plus a $26 million reserve. Boeing’s share is $324 million. Air France Industries was to begin installing the enhancements at its Le Bourget Airport facility near Paris in 2012, but it took until June 2013 due to US government delays. The entire fleet was scheduled to complete this upgrade in Q3 2015.

Contracts and Key Events 2012 – 2014

US bureaucratic bungling gets in the way; 1st plane in, 1st modified plane comes out. E-3F MLU: Done!
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July 22/14: Delivery. Boeing formally delivers the 1st E-3F mid-life upgrade, following ground and flight tests at Avord Air Force Base and qualification by France’s DGA procurement agency. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Delivers Upgraded French AWACS Aircraft”.

Feb 17/14: 1st complete. Boeing’s team has successfully completed the 1st of 4 Mid-Life Upgrades to France’s E-3F fleet. While this 1st E-3F+ aircraft undergoes ground and flight tests at Avord Air Base, the others will follow their upgrade rotation through AFI KLM E&M’s facility at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. The DGA expects to validate the upgrade and deliver this 1st E-3F to the Armee de l’Air later in 2014. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing and Air France Industries Successfully Complete Major Modification of French AWACS Aircraft”.

June 17/13: 1st in. Boeing opens the 50th Paris Air show by announcing that subcontractor Air France Industries has begun upgrading the 1st E-3F’s electrical, mechanical and structural systems and mission hardware at its Le Bourget facility. Which is conveniently, the location for the air show.

The upgrades were supposed to begin in 2012, but US government foul-ups (vid. Sept 24/12 entry) delayed the program. Boeing.

April 19/13: Re-baselined. Boeing IDS in Seattle, WA receives an $11.4 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive-firm, cost-plus-fixed-fee re-baseline of the French mid-life upgrade delivery order 67 schedule, “due to impacts of the partial stop work order issued June 19, 2012.”

The total cumulative face value of the contract is now $354.1 million. Work will be performed at Seattle, WA, and is now expected to be completed by Dec 31/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/HBSKI at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA manages the contract (F19628-01-D-0016, DO 067 Modification 4).

Sept 24/12: US delays. Defense News covers France’s problems upgrading its E-3F AWACS fleet, thanks to bureaucratic bungling on the American side of the table. The problem is that the Pentagon ordered Boeing to stop work on the upgrade, because they needed to hold a review regarding technologies that might be too sensitive for export. Boeing already had staff in Paris, who need to be kept but cannot work. Overall costs: another $5 million.

The US government wants France to pay the extra $5 million. France already spent $10 million on a 2009 risk reduction study that looked at engineering and technologies, and the Pentagon didn’t make an issue of anything at that time. France says, not unreasonably, that if the Pentagon’s serial mistakes caused the problem, and they are the ones managing the program under Foreign Military Sale rules, then the Pentagon can pay for the extra costs. One French official made the blunt statement: “The credibility of FMS is in play.”

So is the schedule. Thanks to these delays, upgrades won’t start until mid-2013, a year late. That could make it tough to meet France’s Q3 2015 deadline.

2006 – 2011

DSCA request; Upgrade contracts; Through-life support contract. E-3F AWACS
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Oct 7/11: Separate upgrade. Air France Industries completes a EUR 50 million DGA contract from 2008, which brings their E-3Fs up to current ICAO civil aviation standards. Some communications upgrades, including satellite communications, were also added. France’s 4 E-3Fs received this preliminary upgrade between early 2010 and autumn 2011, and are all back in service now. French DGA.

Full Block 40/45 upgrades will begin in 2012, under a separate contract.

Sept 12/11: Air France and the French MdlD’s SIMMAD Aircraft Through Life Support Organization have renewed the through-life support contract for France’s fleet of 4 E-3F AWACS aircraft. This 5-year deal increment runs to Sept 1/16. Air France KLM won’t disclose costs, but says:

“Through life support covers the complete array of AWACS engineering support services… technical and documentary support for the aircraft and its mission-specific systems, painting, and heavy maintenance concurrently with Mid-Life Upgrade work, maintaining the related engineering resources, and providing IT and logistics support services. Two related projects will also by continued under the terms of the contract, namely the digitization of all technical documentation, and the integration of airworthiness monitoring into the AWACS computer systems.”

Through-Life Support continued

Jan 7/11: Air France Industries and KLM Engineering & Maintenance, which joined forces following the Air France/ KLM merger, announce a contract with Boeing Defense, Space & Security to install the E-3F’s modification kits.

The work will begin in 2012 in the AFI facility at Le Bourget, outside Paris, and will end when the 4th and last aircraft has been refitted. A team from Boeing will be on-hand throughout the program to oversee operations. AFI KLM E&M

Installation contract

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

Jan 22/10: Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $323.9 million contract “which will provide the French airborne warning and control system mid-life upgrade.” At this time, the entire amount has been obligated by the 551 IA/PKA at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA (F19628-01-D-0016/DO 0067).

France will be the first country outside the USA to field Block 40/45 E-3 AWACS aircraft. See also Boeing release | Hanscom AFB Integrator Magazine.

E-3F upgrade contract

Sept 26/08: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] France’s request to upgrade 4 E-3F Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) Aircraft with Block 40/45 Mission Computing, Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) Interface, and Mode 5/S Identification Friend or Foe (IFF). In addition, this proposed sale will include related spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, integration, personnel training and equipment, contractor engineering and technical support services, and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $400 million.

France will use this upgrade to maintain full interoperability and interchangeability with U.S. and other NATO coalition partners, and will have no difficulty absorbing the additional AWACS aircraft into its armed forces. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, WA will be the prime contractor, but implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any U.S. Government and contractor representatives to France.

DSCA request:

March 2006: Study. A risk reduction study identifies risks associated with the upgrade and transition. Source.

2004: Study. France decides to look at upgrading their E-3Fs from Block 30/35. They contracted with Hanscom AFB’s Electronic Systems Center to perform a feasibility study to identify what would be the new French AWACS mid-life upgrade for mission computing and air battle management.

The study was performed to compare the U.S. Block 40/45 system and the NATO mid-term system. After the study, the French concluded they wanted to pursue the U.S. Block 40/45, with French-specific requirements added/ retained. Source.

Late 1990s: France’s E-3F fleet receives upgrades such as electronic support measures that can detect and backtrack incoming radar beams and other electromagnetic emissions, a passive listening and detection system, and a radar system improvement program, which enhanced the capability to detect and track aircraft and missiles. This brings them to roughly Block 30/35 equivalent. Source.

Upgrade to Block 30/35

Additional Readings

Categories: News

The C-130J: New Hercules & Old Bottlenecks

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 20:00
RAAF C-130J-30, flares
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The C-130 Hercules remains one of the longest-running aerospace manufacturing programs of all time. Since 1956, over 40 models and variants have served as the tactical airlift backbone for over 50 nations. The C-130J looks similar, but the number of changes almost makes it a new aircraft. Those changes also created issues; the program has been the focus of a great deal of controversy in America – and even of a full program restructuring in 2006. Some early concerns from critics were put to rest when the C-130J demonstrated in-theater performance on the front lines that was a major improvement over its C-130E/H predecessors. A valid follow-on question might be: does it break the bottleneck limitations that have hobbled a number of multi-billion dollar US Army vehicle development programs?

C-130J customers now include Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States. American C-130J purchases are taking place under both annual budgets and supplemental wartime funding, in order to replace tactical transport and special forces fleets that are flying old aircraft and in dire need of major repairs. This DID FOCUS Article describes the C-130J, examines the bottleneck issue, covers global developments for the C-130J program, and looks at present and emerging competitors.

The (Private) Labors of Hercules: the C-130J Family C-130J Hercules
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Most American planes rely on their huge home market as their base, then seek exports. The privately-developed C-130J “Super Hercules” was different. Australia, Britain, Denmark, and Italy were all ahead of the curve, and have been operating this heavily redesigned upgrade of the popular C-130 Hercules transport aircraft for several years. By the time the C-130J finally reached “initial operating capability” for the US military late in 2006, these faster-moving foreign customers were already banding together to create a common upgrade set for their serving fleets. A number of variants are currently flying in transport (C-130J), stretched transport (C-130J-30), aerial broadcaster (EC-130J), coast guard patrol (HC-130J), aerial tanker (KC-130J), special forces (MC-130J), and even hurricane hunter weather aircraft (WC-130J).

The C-130J looks a lot like its predecessors, except for the new 6-bladed Dowty propeller. In reality, a number of changes have been made to its construction and components, and its internal systems are almost wholly new. Unlike most defense programs, however, the C-130J was not a government contract. Lockheed Martin spent almost $1 billion of its own funds developing the update, then began selling it in the USA and abroad. Over 150 have been sold so far.

Base Platform: The C-130J Super Hercules Promo
click to play video

The C-130J’s improvements are mostly clustered around 2 key characteristics: performance, and operational costs. Instead of Rolls Royce 4,600 shp T56 Series III turboprop engines, it uses lighter Rolls-Royce AE2100D3 engines coupled with a 6-blade Dowty R-391 propeller system made of composite materials. The overall system generates 29% more thrust, while increasing fuel efficiency by 15% and offering improved reliability and maintenance. Compared to the earlier production C-130E (note: there was an intermediate C-130H version, the C-130E is 1960s-era but many nations still operate them), maximum speed is up 21%, climb-to-altitude time is down 50%, cruising altitude is 40% higher, and range is about 40% longer.

The enhanced capacity of the “J” variant is especially noteworthy in hot and/or high altitude operations, where the new plane can deliver 40% better payload/range performance than earlier versions. US experience in places like Afghanistan and Iraq indicates that as many as 3 C-130H models may be required to do the job of 1 C-130J in these “hot and high” conditions.

C-130J Cockpit
(click to view full)

The C 130J only requires 3 crew members for most missions instead of 4, and avionics have been changed to incorporate more advanced capabilities into the night-vision-system compatible “glass cockpit” (computer screens, not dials) and heads-up display. A pair of mission computers and 2 backup bus interface units provide dual redundancy for the Hercules’ systems. Equally important, they host an integrated diagnostics system to assist with maintenance and help reduce long-term ownership costs.

The interior of the C-130J has also seen a number of improvements, simplifying and automating key cargo tasks. An automated airdrop system, for instance, delivers parachute loads more precisely. These kinds of additions have dropped the crew from 4 to 2 (pilot, co-pilot). In addition, innovations such as flip-over rollers allow loaders to reconfigure the cargo area for different loads in about 5 minutes rather than the traditional 25 minutes, getting planes out of airstrips quickly and maximizing overall loading/unloading efficiency during larger operations.

An optional aerial refueling system can extend the C-130J’s range significantly, while optional aerial refueling kits can convert the C-130J into an aerial tanker that can handle both helicopters and jets due to its range of flight speeds, and offloads fuel faster than previous KC-130 versions.

Finally, the C-130J Maintenance and Aircrew Training System (MATS) is designed to complement the C-130J, adding a high-tech simulation angle to both flying and maintenance training.

The worldwide fleet of C-130Js exceeded 355,000 flight hours As of August 3/07.

C-130J vs. C-130J-30
via CASR
(click to view full)

The stretched C-130J-30 adds 15 feet of fuselage length over its C-130J counterpart, most of which is placed forward of the wing as the plane stretches from 97’9″ (29.3 m) to 112’9″ (34.69 m). The extra cargo space allows it to add adds 2 standard pallets (to 8), 23 litters (to 97), 8 CDS bundles (to 24), 36 combat troops (to 128), or 28 paratroopers (to 92) over C-130H/J models, and the aircraft’s maximum weight increases by 9,000 pounds (to 164,000 pounds/ 74,393 kg), while maximum allowable cargo payload rises by a ton (to 44,000 pounds/ 19,958 kg).

In practice, maximum normal C-130J-30 payload is 2,000 pounds higher than the C-130J, but 500 pounds lower than the C-130H’s 36,500 pounds. Even so, the extra space comes in handy. C-130J-30s can carry 33% more pallets of equipment or supplies, 39% more combat troops, 31% more paratroopers, or 44% more aeromedical evacuation litters than previous unstretched Hercules versions. The stretched C-130J-30 also shares the C-130J’s ability to use much more of its theoretical cargo capacity in hot or high altitude environments than previous C-130 versions.

In exchange, the stretched C-130J-30 suffers a speed drop of 7 mph (410 mph at 22,000 feet) vs. the C-130J, a 2,000 foot lower ceiling (26,000 feet with full payload), and maximum range at full payload that falls by 115 miles to 1,956 miles. It does outshine the smaller C-130J when carrying only 35,000 pounds of cargo, however: its 2,417 miles is a 576 mile increase over the C-130J, and a 921 mile increase over the C-130H.

Note that except for maximum normal payload, all of the C-130J’s figures remain significantly better than the C-130H, with statistics of 366 mph at 22,000 feet, a 23,000 foot ceiling, and range at maximum normal payload of 1,208 miles.

C-130J Variants

As one might imagine, Special Forces variants are undergoing the most change.

HC/MC-130J Increment 1. Modifications include additional defensive countermeasure dispensers, high-altitude ramp and door hydraulics, a 4th flight deck crew member station, an extra intercom panel and 60-Hertz electrical outlets in the cargo compartment.

HC/MC-130J Increment 2. Includes increased 28-volt direct current internal power capacity, crash-worthy loadmaster scanner-position seats, and provisions for Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures defensive systems. This is as high as the HC-130J Combat King IIs are expected to go, though they’ll also receive a T-1 communications modification with a Specialized Automated Mission Suite/Enhanced Situational Awareness system (SAMS/ESA: SADL data link, High Power Waveform, and Air Force Tactical Radio System-Ruggedized), Blue Force Tracker, and the Joint Precision Airdrop System.

HC/MC-130J Increment 3. Includes a 400 Amp power supply, dual special mission processors, and a secure file server. MC-130J Commando IIs will be improved to Increment 3.

AC-130J “Ghostrider”. This new gunship will be based on the MC-130J, but it won’t carry hose-and-drogue refueling pods. It will have a 400 Amp power supply, added defensive systems, more surveillance sensors, terrain-following radar, and a Precision Strike Package (PSP).

The PSP includes a side-firing 30mm GAU-23A chain gun, wing-mounted GBU-39 GPS-guided SDB-I bombs, and laser-guided AGM-176 Griffin missiles launched from a “Gunslinger” attachment on the rear cargo door. It may eventually add a side-firing 105mm howitzer like existing AFSOC AC-130H/Us, and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles like the USMC’s KC-130J Harvest Hawks, but those aren’t currently funded. These weapons will be controlled from a dual-console Mission Operator Pallet in the cargo bay, which will include multiple video, data, and communication links.

Ghostrider surveillance equipment will include 2 day/night surveillance and targeting pods and a ground-looking synthetic aperture radar pod, tied into the pilot’s helmet-mounted display. Defensive systems will include the AN/ALR-56M radar warning receiver, AN/AAR-47(V)2 missile warning system, and AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing system, along with standard options like fuel tank foam, system redundancy, and some armoring.

One sore point is its comparative lack of armor compared to the AC-130H/U, with no armoring for the Mission Operator Pallet and just 7.62mm level protection elsewhere. Most AC-130s brought down in Vietnam were killed by 37mm guns.

The Value of Variants KC-130J’s “gunslinger”
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These variants and kits give the C-130J an edge in the global market, and will help Lockheed Martin retain that edge as the 20-ton tactical transport market starts to get crowded in 2020 or so. The type’s strong Special Forces niche has already helped to close orders with export clients like India, who could easily have chosen additional orders of plane types already in its fleet (AN-32, IL-76). The second big edge for the platform is a related niche: multi-role armed transports that can deliver troops and supplies, then provide close-air support for counterinsurgency fights. The KC-130J’s Harvest HAWK kits, and C-130H-derived MC-130W Combat Talon, offer prospective customers an important set of clip-on capabilities that none of its major competitors (A400M, KC-390, MRTA) are even designing, let alone fielding.

Those “ecosystem strengths” are going to become more important in future. The C-130XJ, unveiled in December 2011 at the Credit Suisse aerospace and defense conference in New York, NY, may not offer enough savings by itself to prompt orders from target customers like South Africa. A cheaper base aircraft, plus existing modifications available on the market, is more appealing. Likewise, the C-130NG could sell among existing C-130J customers, but its changes by themselves might still leave it lagging behind the performance of new jet-powered rivals like Embraer’s multinational KC-390 and HAL/Irkut’s MRTA, the price of low-cost turboprop options like China’s Y-9, and very much behind the capacity of Airbus’ larger A400M. The existence of clip-on kits and proven specialty variants may have to sell it, instead. Especially if it, too, fails to resolve the biggest limitation in today’s medium tactical transport field…

Turbulent Flight: The C-130J Program WC-130Js
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The privately-developed Hercules variant has been the subject of heavy criticism and a 2005 near-death budget experience, followed by its reinstatement by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on the stated grounds that canceling the contract would be almost as expensive as completing it – though a later government report established that its cancellation costs were wildly overstated.

In order to comply with the FY 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, however, Air Force Print News reports that the C-130J contract was converted from the existing commercial item procurement to a traditional military procurement in FY 2006. In technical terms, it was converted from a Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 12 to an FAR Part 15 contract, which includes much more extensive Congressional oversight and cost reporting requirements. In bottom line terms, this involved repricing 39 aircraft, resulting in net savings anywhere from $170-245 million (reports vary). Under the restructured contract, the Air Force said Lockheed cut the program cost by 8% for the remaining 26 Air Force C-130Js, and nearly 12% for 13 Marine KC-130Js.

The Wall Street Journal noted this as a decision by Lockheed to cut its profit margins on the plane, after investing $1 billion in private funds to develop it. Lockheed spokesman Tom Jurkowsky was quoted as saying that “national defense outweighs the continued recovery of funds we invested in its development.” It’s widely suspected in reports from Associated Press et. al. that direct criticism of the FAR Part 12 contract by Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] played a role as well.

Excel
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Since FY 2006, American C-130J orders have continued, and the aircraft has continued to expand its export successes as well. C-130J aircraft are now flown and/or under contract by the USAF and Air National Guard, US Marines, and US Coast Guard; and by Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Italy, Iraq, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, South Korea, and Tunisia.

According to official Pentagon documents, the C-130J’s past and planned American budget breakdowns include:

Note that each year’s procurement budget almost always includes advance “long-lead time material” orders for the next fiscal year. That way, once the main contract is issued, construction isn’t delayed by long waits for predictable items.

The C-130J and the 20-ton Bottleneck RAF C-130J & friends
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The C-130J offers a genuine improvement over past versions of the Hercules, especially in hot and/or high-altitude environments where all aircraft lose lift and carrying capacity. It has proven these capabilities during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, where its additional reserves of power have come in very handy on the front lines.

On the other hand, the ability to fit into tactical transports is a very common requirement and benchmark for ground systems, including armored personnel carriers. Billions have been spent on R&D for the wheeled Stryker armored vehicle family, and for the USA’s $160+ billion Future Combat Systems MGV armored vehicle family. Both vehicle families were sold as options that would fit into US tactical transports, in order to meet the military’s timeframe goals for deploying units to crisis situations. Both projects failed to meet their goals after spending billions in R&D, leaving the USA’s expensive C-17 fleet overworked, and achievement of the USA’s strategic deployability goals unlikely.

Unlike the pending Airbus A400M, therefore, which offers a larger interior and a 33-35 ton vehicle capacity, the C-130J doesn’t solve the sub-survivable 20-ton armored vehicle limit that has stymied multiple US armored vehicle programs. As such, it represents an improvement that fails to address US tactical airlift’s key bottleneck limitation. Meanwhile, reports from the USAF indicate that C-130Js are often flying with very little weight and/or small cargo, because the demands of counterinsurgency airlift lead to more and smaller requests from a number of front line sources.

The C-130J thus finds itself in the odd position of offering capabilities that are both too great for many tactical needs, while being too small to meet important American strategic goals. Even Special Forces worry that future air defense threats will make the C-130 non-survivable in future gunship and insertion roles.

A400M
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That’s the bad news. On the other hand, its major competitor the Airbus A400M went through major delays and contract re-negotiation in System Design & Development, and has a production backlog of over 180 aircraft as deliveries are beginning. Future competitors like the Indo-Russian MRTA, and Embraer’s multinational KC-390 are currently in even earlier R&D stages. Which means that any nations needing to replenish a 20+ ton tactical airlift fleet any time soon are limited to a choice of buying the C-130J, or purchasing old designs like Russia’s AN-12 or China’s Y-8 aircraft.

As the A400M becomes available, and the 20-ton segment begins to crowd with new offerings, the C-130J will face a very different competitive environment. Without major American C-130J buys, or establishment of the C-130J as a market leader in key segments like Special Operations, recouping its $1 billion investment would have been challenging for Lockheed Martin. Fortunately for the firm, they’ve made considerable progress toward both of these goals.

Contracts and Key Events C-130J: SIGINT roll-on
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The USA’s JMATS contracts for C-130J simulators and training are a critical but separate component, and are covered in their own article. International customers aren’t part of JMATS, so their arrangements may be covered here.

DID has covered C-130J buys in Canada, India, Israel, Iraq, and Norway; and the UAE’s potential buy, as dedicated articles. Important milestones from those purchases may also appear here.

DID also has a separate article covering training and simulators, under the MATS, JMATS, and JMATS-II programs.

Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued by the Headquarters Air Force Material Command (AFMC) in Wright Patterson AFB, OH; and the contractor is Lockheed Martin Corporation in Marietta, GA. Note that coverage is complete only from Jan 1/06 forward.

FY 2014

Orders: Saudi Arabia (2 KC-130J), India (6 KC-130J-30), Israel (2 C-130J-30), Civil (10 LM-100J); ROKAF deliveries done. C-130J at work
click for video

July 18/14: India. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, GA receives a maximum $564.7 million contract modification to to fund 6 more India foreign military sales C-130J-30s, field service representatives and 3 years of post-delivery support after the first aircraft delivery. $50.9 million of this contract is committed immediately, and this brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $2.067 billion; but the contract itself applies to orders beyond India’s.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA and is expected to be complete by April 30/20. Once all 6 planes are delivered, India’s fleet will rise to 11, given the March 2014 crash of KC3803. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract as India’s agent (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0273).

India: 6 C-130J-30

July 16/14: LM-100J sale. ASL Aviation Group in Dublin, Ireland signs a Letter of Intent with Lockheed Martin to order up to 10 LM-100J commercial freighters. Their Safair subsidiary in Johannesburg, South Africa currently operates 6 L-100-30 (C-130E/H) aircraft, but the LM-100J will be an entirely new type for their Air Contractors subsidiary in Dublin. Lockheed Martin adds:

“Engineering and detailed design of the LM-100J is currently underway. Assembly of the first aircraft will begin in 2015 and first flight of the LM-100J is expected by early 2017. Because much of the flight test done to civil certify the C-130J in the late 1990s will be directly applicable to the LM-100J, testing and certification of the newest Hercules variant is expected to take about twelve months.”

Which means deliveries can be expected in 2018, unless problems arise in testing. The firm sold 115 L-100s from 1964 through 1992, positioned to address the oversize cargo market and unimproved airfields. They’ve also been used for airdrops and humanitarian aid, VIP transport, aerial spraying, aerial firefighting, etc. Unfortunately, Lockheed acknowledges that legacy L-100s have higher direct operating costs relative to Russian An-12s, or even relative to 737 freighters when the 737′s special ground-handling cargo equipment is available. The LM-100J is intended to address that, while adding CNS/ATM compliance that will allow them to fly in civil airspace after 2015.

The firm predicts double-digit growth in the Latin American, African, and Middle Eastern air freight industries over the next decade, as a subset of overall 4% per year growth in the global market. Sources: Lockheed Martin Code One Magazine, “LM-100J: Airlifter For Hire” | Lockheed Martin, “ASL Aviation Group Signs Letter of Intent To Procure Lockheed Martin LM-100J Freighters”.

Civil: 10 LM-100Js

May 30/14: Korea. The ROKAF’s final 2 C-130J-30s fly out from Marietta, GA, to join their fellows in South Korea (q.v. Dec 2/10, March 27/14). Lockheed Martin is still working under an initial 2-year support and training program for the 4 planes, and is also involved with the ROKAF’s C-130H fleet. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “ROKAF Receives Additional C-130J Super Hercules Aircraft”.

Korea deliveries done

April 25/14: Extended Life. Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA receives an initial $27.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for extended service life center wing boxes [DID: the section of the fuselage that connects to the wings] on 5 C-130J aircraft. Aging C-130E/H planes have received replacements; USAF C-130Js only began entering service in February 1999, but it’s the mileage that matters. Lockheed Martin would say only that replacement decisions are “based upon the service life of the part”, which can be shorter if a plane is subjected to heavy operational use. Meanwhile, the ESL wing boxes are equipping production line aircraft as well.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 budgets. Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Dec 30/16. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition by the USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLKCA at Robins AFB, GA (FA8504-14-C-0003).

March 28/14: Crash. An Indian Air Force C-130J-30 (tail #KC 3803) hits a hillock during low-level flight training, and crashes in a riverbed 116 km west of Gwailor. Everyone dies, including the 2nd-in-command of the 77 ‘Veiled Vipers’ squadron, Wing Commander Prashant Joshi, 2 pilots, and a trainee.

The C-130 J was reportedly part of a 2-plane formation that had taken off from Agra. Sources: The Indian Express, “5 officers killed as IAF’s new showpiece Super Hercules crashes near Gwalior”.

Crash

March 27/14: Korea. The ROKAF takes delivery of 2 of its 4 ordered C-130J-30s (q.v. Dec 2/10), in a Marietta, GA ceremony. This makes them the plane’s 14th customer. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Republic Of Korea Air Force Accepts First C-130J Super Hercules”.

March 6/14: Raytheon in McKinney, TX receives a $10.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 10 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems, to be installed on AFSOC HC/MC-130Js.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY12 aircraft procurement budgets. Work will be performed in McKinney, TX and is expected to be complete by April 2015. There’s 1 set source for these, so this contract was not competitively procured per FAR 6.302-1. The US Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division in Crane, IN manages the contract (N00164-12-G-JQ66-0045).

March 4/14: FY15 Budget. The USAF and USN unveil their preliminary budget request briefings. They aren’t precise, but they do offer planned purchase numbers for key programs between FY 2014 – 2019. The C-130J program is still waiting for the full FY 2014 contract (q.v. Dec 6/13, Feb 12/14), but that budget introduced a multi-year contract (q.v. April 10/13), which makes cuts in FY 2015-2018 very difficult.

The USAF’s FY 2015 budget request involves 13 C-130Js (7 regular USAF, 2 MC-130J, 4 HC-130J), while the USMC plans to buy 1 KC-130J. The overall effect will drop US annual production from 17 in FY 2014 (6 C-130J, 1 KC-130J, 5 AC-130J gunships, 1 HC-130J, 4 MC-130J) to 14 in FY 2015, but steady exports should cushion that.

The USAF’s initial materials don’t delve beyond FY 2015, but the USMC plans to order another 5 KC-130Js from FY 2016 – 2019. They’ll finish the FY 2014-2018 deal 1 KC-130J short of their maximum, though, with only 6 planes bought, and make up the 7th in FY 2019. Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] | USAF, Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Overview.

Feb 28/14: Support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $54.3 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for depot level repair of 50 KC-130 aircraft engines, propellers and other propulsion system components for the US Marine Corps (47 planes/ $50.2M / 92%) and the government of Kuwait (3 planes/ $4.1M/ 8%).

$24.5 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy O&M budgets. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN (92%), Al Mubarak, Kuwait (2.1%); various locations in Japan (2%); Cherry Point. NC (1.3%); Miramar, CA (1.3%); and Fort Worth, TX (1.3%), and is expected to be complete in February 2015. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-14-D-0007). See also Rolls Royce, “Rolls-Royce supports US Marine Corps KC-130Js through $50 million contract”.

Feb 25/14: Support. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA receives a sole-source $12.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide spare parts that are unique to US SOCOM’s HC/MC-130Js, and can’t be drawn from general C-130J fleet spares.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 aircraft budgets. Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Feb 16/16. USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WISK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0209).

Feb 12/14: Engines. Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce complete a long-term agreement worth up to $1 billion, to deliver approximately 600 AE2100 turboprop engines for American and international contracts from 2014 through 2018. That works out to about 150 aircraft, but it’s probably closer to 125 with spares added in. Rolls Royce benefits from more predictable demand, while Lockheed Martin presumably benefits from lower prices.

Rolls Royce adds that “the agreement secures the Rolls-Royce AE 2100 as the engine of choice for all variants of the C-130J to 2025.” That was never really in doubt. The most likely break-point for an engine upgrade would be the design of a new C-130NG variant, in order to address competition from jet-powered 20-ton class transports after 2020. Sources: Rolls Royce, “Rolls-Royce and Lockheed Martin agree US$1BN deal to power future C-130J aircraft”.

Multi-year engine contract

Jan 31/14: AC-130J. The USAF flies a fully-converted AC-130J gunship for the 1st time, at Eglin AFB, FL. They also appear to have scales the program back a bit:

“A total of 32 MC-130J aircraft will be modified for AFSOC as part of a $2.4 billion AC-130J program to grow the future fleet, according to Capt. Greg Sullivan, the USSOCOM AC-130J on-site program manager at Det. 1.”

The Pentagon’s recently-released DOT&E report for FY 2013 had placed the AC-130J program at 37 aircraft. Sources: USAF, “New AC-130J completes first test flight”.

Jan 31/14: Support. A $105.3 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract modification, exercising the 3rd option under the USAF’s C-130J Long Term Sustainment Program. It’s a 2-year ordering period for sustainment services including logistical support, program management support, engineering services, spares, and technical data. Funds will be committed as needed through task orders.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Jan 31/16. USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLKCA at Robins AFB, GA manages the contract (FA8504-06-D-0001, PO 0026).

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). Their focus is on US SOCOM’s variants: HC-130J/MC-130J Combat King II CSAR/ Commando II transports, and AC-130J “Ghostrider” gunships. The USAF intends to field 37 HC-130J Combat King IIs developed to Increment 2 capability, 57 MC-130J Commando IIs developed to Increment 3 capability, and 37 AC-130J Ghostrider gunships that will be converted from MC-103Js (TL: 94 MC-130Js produced).

All: The core problem across this fleet involves the enhanced electrical system and in 400 Amp power supply, which is required for Increment 3 upgrades and AC-130J gunship conversions. At present, the fleet is limited to a 200 Amp system. Minor issues include Mean Time to Diagnose a Fault of 119 minutes (30 required), and just 83% probability of completing a 4-hour mission without a failure (95% required). The good news is that DOT&E deems the HC/MC-130J to be operationally effective and operationally suitable, with a 95% mission availability rate (89% required) and survivable in the low to medium threat environments it was meant for.

AC-130J: The program conducted a Preliminary Design Review in March 2013 and a Critical Design Review in August 2013, and 1st flight was expected in January 2014. The PSP weapon set is planned in 3 increments, and both development and the Live Fire Alternative Test Plan (ATP) will leverage some data from the C-130H-based AC-130W. This was concerning, though:

“Armor requirements and the amount of armor differ significantly between the AC-130U and AC-130J aircraft. The AC-130U armor was designed to provide protection to the aircrew stations, personnel, ammunition, and critical systems against a single 37 mm high-explosive incendiary round at a range of 10,000 feet, while the AC-130J’s primary crewmember positions and oxygen supplies should be protected against single 7.62 mm ball projectile at 100 meters [DID: just 330 feet, where bullet velocity is higher] …. The planned armor layout on the AC-130J does not include the Mission Operator Pallet, which should be considered a “primary crewmember” position and protected in accordance with the associated Force Protection Key Performance Parameter (KPP).”

The 37mm criterion isn’t random: most AC-130 kills over Vietnam involved 37mm guns. It isn’t rare for gunships to face enemies that can deploy 14.5mm – 23mm guns, to say nothing of the common .50 cal/ 12.7mm caliber. Even an unarmored C-130J would be a difficult kill for a 12.7mm machine gun. With that said, it sounds like they’ve left the crew nearly unprotected, in an aircraft that’s designed to go where the enemy is shooting. That does require an explanation.

Jan 27/14: Engines. Rolls Royce in Indianapolis, IN receives an $182.7 million firm-fixed-price, requirements contract modification, exercising the 7th annual option for AE2100-D3 engine logistics support, program management support, engineering services, spares, and technical data.

Funds will be spent as needed. Work will be performed at Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete by Jan 31/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLKCA at Robins AFB, GA, manages this contract (FA8504-07-D-0001, PO 0023).

Jan 21/13: LM-100J. No, it’s not gamerspeak for iRobot’s “Looj” gutter cleaner, or for a fast sled. It’s Lockheed Martin’s new civil variant of the C-130J, and the FAA just received Lockheed Martin’s Program Notification Letter for a type design update. FAA documents refer to it as an L-382J, but it will be marketed at the LM-100J. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin Files For FAA Type Design Update”.

Dec 26/13: Support. Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA ereceives an $11,060,628 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for logistics and engineering services in support of the C/KC-130J Aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps/Marine Corps Reserve, U.S. Coast Guard and the Kuwait Air Force.

Work will be performed in Marietta, GA (65.3%); Afghanistan (12%); Palmdale, CA (9.2%); Kuwait (3.3%); Okinawa, Japan (3%); Miramar, CA (1.8%); Cherry Point, NC (1.7%); Elizabeth City, NC (1.6%); Fort Worth, (1.5%); and Greenville, SC (.6%); and is expected to be completed in December 2014. No funds are being obligated at time of award. Funds will be obligated against individual delivery orders as they are issued. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Marine Corps/Marine Corps Reserve ($8,886,223; 80.3%); U.S. Coast Guard ($1,423,148; 12.9%); and the Government of Kuwait ($751,257; 6.8%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 U.SC 2304(c)(1). The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-14-D-0006).

Dec 6/13: long-lead. A sole-source, maximum $169.7 million firm-fixed-price advance procurement contract for funding related to 18 C-130Js. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 procurement budgets.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Oct 31/16. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages this contract (FA8625-14-C-6450).

Dec 3/13: long-lead. A $48.5 million advance procurement contract modification for funding related to 5 more C-130Js. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 procurement budgets.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 aircraft budgets. Work under this multi-year contract will be performed at Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA until Dec 31/16. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0230).

Dec 3/13: #4. Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA receives a not-to-exceed $81.2 million modification to an existing contract to fund Israeli C-130J-30 aircraft #4, advance long-lead procurement of C-130Js #5 and 6, and external fuel tank modification kits.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be completed by June 30/16. This contract is 100% foreign military sales for Israel, with the USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH acting as Israel’s agent (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0231).

Israel: 4th C-130J-30

Oct 10/13: DMS Redesign. Lockheed Martin Corp., Marietta, Ga., was awarded a $21.6 million contract modification to redesign the C-130J’s Color Multipurpose Display Unit and Multi-Function Color Display for C-130J aircraft. Computer equipment goes out of production quickly, and the CDU & MFCDs need new central processor and graphics processor chip sets, in order to cope with “diminishing manufacturing sources.”

Sure beats trying to source spares from grey traders whose supply chain includes Chinese counterfeits.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA and is expected to be complete by Sept 30/15. This contract actually includes 15% foreign military sales to C-130 customers Norway, Israel and Kuwait, on top of the $21.6 million in FY 2012 in USAF procurement funds that are committed immediately. USAF Force Life Cycle Management Center/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0228)y. (Awarded Oct. 10, 2013)

Oct 3/13: A maximum $181 million not-to-exceed contract modification lets Saudi Arabia buy 2 KC-130J transport and tanker aircraft under the US umbrella deal, along with associated non-recurring engineering support. It’s just a small part of the 25-plane, $6.7 billion request (q.v. Nov 9/12).

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be completed by April 2016. This contract is 100 percent foreign military sales for Saudi Arabia. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/WLNNC, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0177).

Saudi Arabia: 2 KC-130J

FY 2013

US order; Saudi request; DOT&E report. Saudi C-130
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July 25/13: Israel. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, GA receives a maximum $13 million unfinalized contract for the advanced procurement of a 4th Israeli C-130J-30 and field services representatives, out of an FMS case for up to 9 planes (q.v. July 30/08). The total cumulative face value of the contract it’s bought under is now $1.631 billion, but most of that contract doesn’t involve Israel.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Dec 30/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract as Israel’s FMS agent (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0172).

July 11/13: Engines. Rolls Royce in Indianapolis, IN a $22.4 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification for more USMC KC-130J Power-by-the-Hour support.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in February 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-09-D-0020).

July 2/13: Training. IKBI Inc. in Choctaw, MS receives a maximum $7.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for a Special Forces HC-130J Simulator Facility at Moody AFB, GA. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received by the Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah, GA (W912HN-13-C-0011).

June 10/13: Libya. The US DSCA announces the new government of Libya’s official export request [PDF] for 2 stretched C-130J-30 aircraft, 10 Rolls Royce AE 2100D3 engines (8 installed and 2 spares), aircraft modifications, Government Furnished Equipment (including radios), support and test equipment, personnel training package, and a 3-year package for other forms of US Government and contractor support. Libya would join their neighbor Tunisia as a C-130J-30 customer.

The DSCA request cites “a mix of legacy C-130s” in operation, but pre-revolution reports weren’t clear on their airworthiness, and it’s unclear if the new government has working C-130s to fly alongside its (former Air Libya) BAe-146. The estimated cost for the 2 stretched C-130Js is $588 million, which is a tremendous amount, but they’ll need to build up the associated infrastructure from a very damaged base. The scale of the support is made clear by the request. A USAF logistics specialist will help Libya establish supply systems for flight operations, supply management, inventory control, and documentation procedures. At the same time, 4 contracted Field Service Representatives (FSR) and 1 Logistics Support Representative (LSR) will need to have expertise in airframe, avionics/electrical systems, propulsion systems, ground maintenance systems, and logistics support. As expected, Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor.

Libya has been making a number of announcements about rebuilding its air force, and favoring countries that helped them during the war. It’s hard to give much credit to reports that the country will be buying both Rafale and Eurofighter jets in the near future, though one understands why they might want to repay France and Britain in some way. Meanwhile, transport is a higher priority for a large country with lots of hostile terrain, and a weak central government.

DSCA request: Libya C-130J-30s (2)

May 31/13: LAIRCM. Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA receives a $16.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to finish designing LAIRCM aircraft modification kits (A-Kits) for the USMC’s KC-130Js, to protect them against shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. This modification includes 10 LAIRCM A-Kits, a test kit installation of a LAIRCM A-Kit, and a validation installation of a LAIRCM A-Kit.

Work will be performed in Marietta, GA (51%); Greenville, SC (31%); and Rolling Meadows, IL (18%), and is expected to be completed in November 2015. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 and 2013 contract dollars. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-13-C-0017).

April 29/13: Iraq. Lockheed Martin announces that it has ferried Iraqi C-130J-30s #4-6 to the USAF, as an interim step in delivering them to Iraq. Once the planes arrive in Iraq, they will complete the order, though the contract itself will continue with support services. Lockheed Martin.

Iraqi C-130J-30s all delivered

April 10/13: FY 2014 & MYP. 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 C-130J program submits a proposed $5.809 billion multi-year buy from FY 2014 – 2018, which would purchase 79 planes: 43 aircraft for SOCOM (25 MC-130J + 13 HC-130J + 5 AC-130J), 29 C-130Js for the USAF, and 7 KC-130Js for the US Marine Corps.

All aircraft would be fully funded with initial spares in their order years, and the multi-year deal would include a priced option for 5 more United States Coast Guard HC-130Js – whose base aircraft and array of radars and equipment are very different from SOCOM’s HC-130Js.

Multi-year buy proposed

April 4/13: Tunisia. Lockheed Martin announces that they’ve delivered the 1st of 2 stretched C-130J-30 Super Hercules to the Republic of Tunisia, marking the first delivery to an African country.

Tunisia currently operates a fleet of C-130Hs and C-130Bs, but they were bought in the mid-1980s. Lockheed Martin’s 2010 contract involved 2 planes between 2013 – 2014, plus training and an initial 3 years of logistics support. The Tunisian government fell in the meantime, but the new government still needs the planes.

Feb 22/13: Engines. Rolls Royce in Indianapolis, ID receives a $16.8 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for more additional power-by-the-hour work in support of the USMC’s KC-130Js.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in July 2013. Funds will be committed by individual delivery orders, as needed. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-D-0020).

Jan 17/13: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The report covers the C-130J platform generally, as well as the HC/MC-130J special forces variants.

The biggest take-away is that the USAF is scrapping plans to field the Block 7.0 upgrade, or incorporate the set into the production line. Block 7.0 has been experiencing delays, and is expected to enter test & evaluation in early 2013, but the results will probably just be used to plan the USAF’s Block Upgrade 8.1.

On the bright side, the C-130J family’s DTADS maintenance support system is a “significant improvement” in multiple areas, but the Windows XP operating system means it can’t connect to government networks. Windows 7 is apparently the minimum.

With respect to the special forces platforms, the HC/MC-130J got a preliminary rating of being as good or better than previous variants, and availability/ maintenance rates were also improvements (vid. Nov 1/12 entry). Key strengths include better takeoffs from short or unimproved runways, expanding the flight envelope for aerial refueling, and improved cargo loading and unloading features. Despite that latter assessment, airdrops create very high workloads and head-down time for the pilot monitoring the drops. The new HC/MC-130Js may also have to do some retrofits to add standard search and rescue equipment: flare launcher tubes, large forward scanner windows, additional oxygen regulators, and intercom panels.

Survivability and situational awareness were another area mentioned, though the specific survivability issue wasn’t detailed. With respect to situational awareness, pilots would like a tactical datalink such as Link 16, so they’re more aware of what’s around them. Inside, the loadmasters want more control over cargo lighting, especially since the night vision lighting is a bit problematic for covert operations. On an audible level, the loadmasters want the intercom system to transmit system tones for diagnostic or defensive system alerts.

Jan 16/13: India support. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $6.7 million contract modification for Power by the Hour support to the IAF’s C-130Js.

Work will be performed at Hindan Air Station in New Delhi, India, and is expected to be complete by Jan 30/13. The AFLCMC/WLKCB at Robins AFB, GA manages the contract on behalf of their FMS client (FA8504-07-D-0001-0501-09).

Aug 6/12: Made in India. The Hindu reports that the offset program has begun to bear fruit, with some components now made in India:

“The latest feather in the Tata cap is that certain critical components for the C-130 are now being ‘Made in India’… on the outskirts of Hyderabad. That is the promise held out by Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Ltd., (TLMAL), a joint venture between Tata Advanced Systems and Lockheed Martin. The Friday gone by was a landmark day with TLMAL delivering the first C-130 Center Wing Box (CWB) to Lockheed.”

Nov 9/12: Saudi Arabia The US DSCA announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s DSCA request for up to 25 C-130J family aircraft, in a deal that could be worth up to $6.7 billion once a contract is negotiated.

The RSAF currently operates 30 C-130H medium transport aircraft, and another 7 KC-130H aerial refueling tankers with secondary transport capabilities. External engine fleet and depth maintenance contracts take care of them, but as the hours pile up, replacement looms. The Saudis would replace their fleet with just 20 stretched C-130J-30s, and another 5 KC-130Js. On the other hand, the stretched planes offer more room, and the C-130J’s extra power makes a big difference to real cargo capacity in Saudi Arabia’s lift-stealing heat. The request includes:

  • 20 C-130J-30 stretched transports
  • 5 KC-130J aerial tankers, which could be armed in future
  • 120 Rolls Royce AE2100D3 Engines (100 installed and 20 spares)
  • 25 MIDS-LVT Link-16 systems
  • Plus support equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, and U.S. Government and contractor support.

The prime contractors will be Lockheed-Martin in Bethesda, MD (C-130Js); General Electric Aviation Systems in Sterling, VA; and Rolls Royce Corporation in Indianapolis, IN (engines). Implementation of this sale will require the assignment of U.S. Government and contractor representatives to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for delivery, system checkout, and logistics support for an undetermined period of time.

DSCA request: Saudi C-130J-30 & KC-130J (25)

Nov 1/12: MC/HC-130J. Lockheed Martin announces that their HC-130J Combat King II and MC-130J Commando II special operations planes have been formally certified as “Effective, Suitable and Mission Capable” by the USAF’s Operational Test and Evaluation Center.

Oct 23/12: 13 more. An $889.5 million contract modification for the USA’s FY 2012 production aircraft buy of 13 planes: 7 MC-130J CSAR planes and 4 HC-130J Commando IIs for SOCOM, 1 KC-130J for the USMC, and 1 USAF C-130J production aircraft.

Work will be performed in Marietta, GA, and run to July 31/15 (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0139).

FY 2012 main buy

FY 2012

Israel buys #3/9; USCG buys 3; Senior Scout SIGINT kit; India’s follow-on request for 6 more; Mexican request; C-130XJ, C-130NG, and SC-130J “Sea Hercules” concepts unveiled; AC-130J gunship appears. Norwegian C-130J
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Sept 28/12: A $218 million contract modification to buy 3 more US Coast Guard HC-130J Long Range Surveillance aircraft, which will bring the USCG fleet to 9, and add 2 more roll-on mission suites. The 3rd plane will get its mission equipment from a future contract, scheduled for FY 2013. By 2016, the Coast Guard plans to accept these aircraft and base them at Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii.

The HC-130J’s special mission suite is comprised of a 2-person mission system operator station located behind the pilot and co-pilot, a belly-mounted 360-degree Seaspray 7500 long range search radar, nose-mounted day/night surveillance turret, and an advanced mission communications suite. Work will be performed in Marietta, GS, and Greenville, SC. The contract runs until May 31/16 (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0069).

The current Coast Guard C-130 LRS fleet includes 23 HC-130Hs, and 6 HC-130Js based at Air Station Elizabeth City, NC. The USCG’s HC-130Hs are running out of useful service life, and by 2027, the USCG is planning to have a uniform fleet of 22 HC-130Js. See also USCG | Lockheed Martin.

3 USCG HC-130Js

Sept 25/12: Mexico. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Mexico’s official request for 2 stretched C-130J-30 aircraft, 10 AE2100D3 engines (8 installed and 2 spares), aircraft modifications, communication equipment, other Government Furnished Equipment, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment and publications, personnel training and training equipment, and other US Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $412 million, which is very expensive for 2 C-130Js, but there are a number of add-ons to consider, and actual cost will depend on contract negotiations.

The DSCA notice says that Mexico will use the planes as “Presidential support,” but local defense expert Inigo Guevara says that they’re mostly intended for regular defense use. The FAM’s existing tactical transport fleet of 7 old C-130E/K/Ls is reaching its limits, and the recent buy of 4 new C-27J Spartan light tactical transports replaced an original requirement for 5 used C-130H aircraft to upgrade that fleet. The 2 C-130J-30s offer a heavier-lift option with some C-27J engine and avionics compatibility. Guevara says that current requirements will eventually add another 2 Super Hercules transports, leaving a tactical transport fleet of 4 C-27Js and 4 C-130Js. Any VIP modules are likely to be “roll-on, roll-of” options. Guevara adds that:

“The Presidential fleet is getting a new aircraft in the form of a strategic transport (very likely a Boeing 787 Dreamliner), which will replace the current B757 and should arrive by 2016. It is apparently being acquired through a [full turnkey] wet lease.”

DSCA request: Mexico C-130J-30s (2)

Sept 21/12: The Air Force’s 19th Special Operation Squadron is retiring its MC-130E Combat Talon I simulator, and they are waiting for an MC-130J simulator to replace it. They do not quite seem to know what to do with it. Any takers? It would be quite the living room conversation piece.

Sept 10/12: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $9.7 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract modification, to meet increased requirements for the USMC’s “power by the hour” per-engine support contract. Translation: the USMC is flying its KC-130J fleet for more hours than the contract had expected.

Work will be performed in Cherry Point, NC, and is expected to be complete in February 2013. All contract funds 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 (N00019-09-D-0020).

Sept 5/12: Iraq. The 1st of 6 C-130J-30 Super Hercules for the Iraqi Air Force has completed its first flight, at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, GA facility. Lockheed Martin.

Aug 30/12: Oman delivery. The 1st C-130J ordered by Oman is formally accepted by the country at a signing ceremony in Marietta. Lockheed Martin initially told DID that the delivery of this plane was likely to happen in early November, but the Sultanate sped up the process and flew its plane home on September 12. Lockheed Martin.

Aug 28/12: Sea Hercules? Defense News reports that Lockheed Martin is working on an SC-130J Sea Hercules modification. 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 surface attack 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.

Lockheed Martin reportedly says they expect to sign at least one contract “in North Africa”. Tunisia, who already has a contract for 2 C-130J-30s that was signed shortly before their revolution, could certainly use that capability. So could Britain, which has its own fleet of C-130s, but no maritime patrol planes since they retired the Nimrod fleets.

Lockheed Martin will have no shortage of competitors around the world. 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. On the development front, Boeing is starting to look at options beyond its P-8A Poseidon, 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. There’s also some talk in Britain of adding maritime patrol capabilities to its Sentinel R1 ground surveillance jets, based on Bombardier’s Challenger. 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.

Aug 8/12: Oman. Flight testing begins for the 1st of Oman’s 3 ordered C-130Js (1 C-130J-30, 2 C-130Js). Oman currently operates a fleet of 3 C-130Hs purchased in the early 1980s, and their first new Hercules is scheduled for delivery later in 2012. Lockheed Martin.

July 23/12: AC-130J. Production begins in Marietta, GA, but the gunship is actually built as an MC-130J Commando II. It will become an “AC-130J” (vid. Feb 19/12 contract) when it’s equipped with a “Precision Strike Package. When queried, Lockheed Martin representatives said that:

“The initial contract is to cross-deck the current MC-130W [DID: link added] equipment to the new AC-130Js. The PSP referenced here is a new package.”

AC-130J Initial Operating Capability is scheduled for 2015, and AFSOC expects to order 16. Lockheed Martin.

AC-130J begins

June 7/12: Norway request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Norway’s formal request to buy 2 C-130J-30s equipped to the USAF baseline, 9 Rolls Royce AE2100-D3 Engines (8 installed and 1 spare), plus aircraft modifications for Norwegian specifications, Norwegian-compatible communication equipment and support, defensive countermeasure systems, other Government Furnished Equipment, tools and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of US government & contractor support.

If a contract is signed, Norway’s C-130J-30 fleet will rise to 5 planes. The prime contractor will be Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA, but the proposed sale won’t require any more representatives in Norway. The estimated cost is set at up to $300 million, however, which is about the cost of Norway’s first 4 planes (vid. Nov 7/07 entry). Actual amounts will depend on negotiations, but it looks like Norway is thinking about a significant support contract as well.

DSCA request: Norway C-130J-30 (1)

June 4/12: Norway. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, ID receives a $14.3 million (face value) firm-fixed-price contract to purchase spares, field services support and program management, return and repair support, and engineering services support for the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s C-130J fleet at Gardermoen AFB, Norway. Work is to be complete by Jan 31/14. The WR-ALC/GRBKB at Robins AFB, GA manages the contract, on behalf of its Norwegian client (FA8504-07-D-0001-0602).

May 8/12: Canada. The Royal Canadian Air Force formally accepts the 17th CC-130J Super Hercules at a Marietta, GA ceremony, completing the order placed in December 2007. Lockheed Martin.

Canada: all delivered

April 2/12: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $25 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification for contractor logistics support and technical engineering support of USMC KC-130Js’ AE2100-D3 turboprop engines, and R391 propellers.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in February 2013. All funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-09-D-0020). Navy/USMC C-130Js fall under a separate engine maintenance agreement than the USAF – see also April 6/10, Feb 27/09 entries.

March 9/12: MC-130J “Commando II”. USAF officials announce that the MC-130J’s designation will change from “Combat Shadow II” to “Commando II”.

The 1st aircraft with the “Commando” designation was the C-46, which flew missions “over the hump” from Burma to China in World War II, conducted covert missions during the Korean War, and flew many missions for the CIA’s “Air America”. Some still fly to this day, for civilian airlines in remote areas. Hopefully, the MC-130J won’t also be adopting the C-46′s reputation as a maintenance nightmare that was dangerous to fly on military operations. USAF.

MC-130J becomes “Commando II”

March 15/12: Norway crash. Norway’s newest C-130J-30 crashes into Sweden’s Mount Kebnekaise at an altitude of almost 5,000 feet, during the international military exercise “Cold Response.” All 5 crew are killed, and the RNoAF is left with just 3 C-130J-30s. Read “Norway Renews Its Tactical Transport Fleet” for full coverage.

Crash

Feb 29/12: AC-130J, etc. A $70 million firm-fixed-price advance procurement contract, buying long-lead items for US AFSOC: 2 AC-130J gunships, 1 HC-130J “Combat King” Combat Search And Rescue, and 4 MC-130J “Combat Shadow” transport aircraft. This is the FY 2013 budget request, but long-lead materials to ensure on-time construction are always in the previous year’s budget.

The AC-130J is new, and hasn’t been talked about much. The current AC-130H “Spectre” and AC-130U “Spooky” gunships remain vulnerable to even light defenses like anti-aircraft cannons, and are often restricted to night flying. On the flip side, they offer unparalleled fire support volume and accuracy, up to and including 105mm howitzer fire, to help special forces and friendly troops out of jams. SOCOM’s heavy gunship fleet has seen predictably heavy usage in recent years, and needs replacement. The hanging question is what capabilities a full C-130J gunship option might have.

Work will be performed Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete during calendar year 2016. The USAF/AFMC Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0081).

Feb 22/12: Israel #3. Israel buys its 3rd C-130J-30, out of a formal October 2008 FMS request for up to 9 special forces capable planes. It does so by exercising a maximum $58.3 million firm-fixed-price option, on top of previous planning and advance long lead procurement funding (vid. April 8/11).

Work will be performed in Marietta, GA, and expected to be complete by Nov 30/14. The ASC/WLNN at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH is Israel’s Foreign Military Sales agent for these buys (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0085).

Israel: 1 C-130J-30

Feb 22/12: Support. A $7.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for C-130J and HC/MC-130J spares for at Moody Air Force Base, GA. Work will be performed in Marietta, GA, and the contract runs through Dec 31/13. USAF AMC’s Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0085).

Feb 22/12: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $45.2 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification, exercising an option for AE-2100D3 turboprop engine and R-391 propeller contractor logistics and technical engineering services, for the USMC’s KC-130Js.

Funds will be committed only as services are needed, and work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN until February 2013. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-09-D-0020).

Feb 16/12: #250. The 250th C-130J Super Hercules variant ever built is delivered to Dyess Air Force Base, TX. It’s the 15th of 28 planes that will ultimately be delivered to Dyess AFB by 2013.

To put that in perspective, a Jan 30/11 MC-130J delivery to US Special Operations Command marked the 2,400th C-130 delivered, of all types, since production began. Lockheed Martin.

#250

Jan 31/12: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $112.2 million firm-fixed-price, requirements type contract, exercising Option V/ Year 6 of the C-130J’s AE2100D3 engine and R-391 propeller support contract. That includes logistics support, program management support, engineering, spares and technical data are included.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN until Jan 31/13. The Warner Robbins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB, GA manages this contract (FA8504-07-D-0001, #0600).

Jan 31/12: Support. Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA receives a $63 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-award-fee, time-and-material, and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to support systems unique to the C-130J. Their work will include logistics support, program management support, engineering services, repairs, spares and technical data.

Work will be performed in Marietta, GA until Jan 31/14. The Warner Robbins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB, GA manages this contract (FA8504-06-D-0001, PO 0020; Delivery order 0700).

Jan 31/12: Norway. Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA receives a $7.8 million firm-fixed-price, time-and-material contract for spares, field support representatives, program management, return and repair support, and engineering services from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, to support their new 4-plane C-130J fleet.

Work will be performed in Marietta, GA until Jan 31/14. The Warner Robbins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB, GA manages this contract (FA8504-06-D-0001, #0606).

Dec 28/11: Support. An $8.5 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for spares and material in support of the USMC’s KC-130Js. Funds will be obligated by individual delivery orders as they are issued. Work will be performed in Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete in December 2013. US NAVAIR manages this contract (N00019-09-D-0015).

Dec 13/11: Engines. A $10.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 9 spare C-130J quick change engine assemblies, under the terms of the Fiscal Year Orientation Committee IV contract. The units are a split buy: 5 units for the U.S. Air Force; and 4 as a Foreign Military Sales effort for Kuwait (q.v. May 27/10, July 20/09 entries). Work will be performed in Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Nov 28/14 (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0068).

Dec 7/11: SIGINT kit. Lockheed Martin delivers the USAF’s 4th Senior Scout containerized roll-on, roll-off signals intelligence (SIGINT) system. Senior Scout was 1st fielded in Operation Desert Storm (Iraq) in 1991, but the latest model is enhanced to be structurally compatible with the newest C-130J, adds updated system interfaces and technology enhancements, and offers better maintenance access. Lockheed Martin considers Senior Scout to be part of its DRAGON Shield series of modular ro-ro ISR offerings.

Acceptance testing is about to begin, and if all goes well, the USAF’s other 3 Senior Scouts will be converted to the same standard over the next 2 years. Lockheed Martin.

Dec 2/11: New variants. Flight International reports on Lockheed Martin EVP Ralph Heath’s presentation to the Credit Suisse aerospace and defense conference in New York. The presentation mentions 2 new variants: the stripped-down C-130XJ, without the automatic loading system and other niceties; and a more streamlined C-130NG concept aimed at the market beyond 2020.

Oct 27/11: India request. The US DSCA announces India’s official request to buy up to 6 more C-130Js, which would bring its fleet to 12. The previous May 25/07 request also asked for C-130J USAF baseline aircraft, but the order involved stretched C-130J-30s. It remains to be seen whether India will order more stretched C-130J-30s (likely), or 6 of the smaller C-130Js. The estimated cost is up to $1.2 billion.

Read “India Buys C-130J-30 Hercules for Special Forces” for full coverage.

DSCA request: India C-130J (6)

FY 2011

Israel buys #2; MATS II training contract; Block 7.0 software contract; Australian software innovation; Oman’s request; Crashworthy seating; What India left out. Deliveries: 1st SOCOM HC-130J & MC-130J, Qatar’s 4; India’s induction. MC-130J enhancements
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Sept 29/11: 1st MC-130J delivered. Lockheed Martin delivers the 1st of 20 MC-130J Combat Shadow IIs to United States Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), at Cannon Air Force Base, NM. Delivery had been scheduled for August.

While the HC-130J is the combat rescue model, the MC-130J is the standard special operations insertion and cargo plane. It’s also based on a KC-130J tanker, with the UARRSI boom refueling receptacle, Enhanced Service Life Wing, Enhanced Cargo Handling System, a surveillance and targeting turret, a combat systems operator station on the flight deck, and dual SATCOM. They’re more or less the same planes, actually, just with different roles, and different operators. Initial operational capability is planned for 2012.

Sept 28/11: Qatar. Lockheed holds a delivery ceremony in Marietta, GA for Qatar’s 4 ordered C-130J-30s. Arabian Aerospace.

Qatar – full delivery

Sept 24/11: 1st HC-130J delivered. US Air Combat Command officials receive their 1st HC-130J Combat King II, at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ. Delivery had been scheduled for August.

The new HC-130J will be flown by the testing squadron, then members of the 79th Rescue Squadron will complete the 8 months of training needed to fly and operate the new model. USAF officials expect HC-130Js to begin regular duty at the base in early 2013. USAF.

Sept 16/11: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract modification to increase the ceiling on engine support contract line items for the KC-130J fleet. They include power by the hour, which pays a fixed fee per engine flight hours, and spares. The KC-130J fleet are triple-role aircraft: cargo, aerial refueling, and on-call strike aircraft (with the Harvest Hawk roll-on kit).

Work will be performed in Cherry Point, NC, and is expected to be complete in February 2012. No funding is being committed at time of award, but it’s available if needed. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract, as the KC-130Js are USMC birds (N00019-09-D-0020).

July 11/11: A not to exceed $89 million firm-fixed-price contract modification commits FY 2011 Congressionally-mandated advance procurement funding for 9 C-130J family planes: 1 USAF stretched C-130J-30 aircraft, and 8 US SOCOM HC-130J/ MC-130Js.

These 9 planes will receive their main orders in FY 2012, but advance ordering ensures that manufacturing can start when that order does come in (FA8625-11-C-6597 PO 0029).

May 2/11: Qatar. The 1st of 4 Qatar Emiri Air Force C-130J-30s has completed production at the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, GA. It would make its first flight on June 8th. See also Oct 7/08 entry.

April 8/11: Israel #2 & 3. Israel exercises $76.2 million in fixed-price not-to-exceed (NTE) options to buy a 2nd C-130J-30 aircraft, and begin planning and advance long lead procurement for the 3rd Israeli aircraft.

This unfinalized contract also includes recurring in-line production modifications for the 2nd aircraft to include but not limited to the following: Block 6X Operational Flight Program (July 30/08 DSCA cited Block 7.0, looks like Israel-specific mods), enhanced service life wing, 2 embedded Global Positioning System Inertial Navigation System Embedded Module IVs with Precise Positioning System and GAS-1 controlled radiation pattern antenna, and a UARRSI receptacle on top of the plane to accept aerial refueling booms. The 657th AESS at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH manages the contract (FA8625-11-C-6597).

Israel: 1 C-130J-30

April 5/11: MC-130J i3. A $21.4 million contract modification for MC-130J increment 3, to develop 1 trial kit installation, and perform developmental tests of this capability on 1 MC-130J increment 2 aircraft. The overall scope of this effort is to add the C-130J Block 7.0 software upgrades, and “a special mission processor capability that include both developmental [work] and integration of known/low risk improvements.” The ASC/WLNNC at Wright Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8625-11-C-6597 PO0002).

March 31/11: Lockheed Martin Corp. in Marietta, GA receives a $10 million firm-fixed-price contract to obligate FY 2010 advance procurement funding for 1 FY 2011 C-130J aircraft. Work will be performed at Marietta, GA (FA8625-06-C-6456-P00243).

March 29/11: MC-130J rollout. Lockheed Martin officially rolls out the 1st MC-130J Combat Shadow II for the U.S. Air Force’s Special Operations Command (AFSOC). Contracts have been placed to build 15 MC-130Js, and AFSOC is authorized to buy up to 20, against an approved long term requirement for 37 to replace the aging MC-130H fleet. Initial Operational Capability with the new type is expected in 2012.

All C-130J special forces configurations are based on the KC-130J aerial tanker, as they also have aerial refueling roles for SOCOM helicopters. Beyond that, MC-130Js will have the Enhanced Service Life Wing, a boom refueling receptacle (UARRSI) so they can be refueled in mid-air, more powerful electrical generators, a day/night surveillance turret, a combat systems operator station on the flight deck, and provisions for LAIRCM missile defense systems, among others. Technically, it’s basically the same as the HC-130J, it just performs a different role. Lockheed Martin.

MC-130J rollout

March 29/11: India. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives an $8.5 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide “spares, fuser, and program management support” for the Indian Air Force, to support the arrival of their new C-130J fleet. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB, GA manages the contract (FA8504-07-D-0001-0501).

March 22/11: USAF Air Combat Command’s HC-130J personnel recovery aircraft, completes developmental testing by receiving fuel from an aerial tanker boom. This test point also applies to AFSOC’s MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft.

Rollout of the first MC-130J is later celebrated at the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, GA on March 29/11, and the first HC-130Js and MC-130Js started deliveries in September 2011, instead of August. Initial Operational Capability for both is scheduled for 2012.

March 18/11: Support. An $8.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide C-130J logistics support through Jan 31/12. Work will be performed at Lockheed Martin Corp. in Marietta, GA (FA8625-11-C6597).

March 1/11: Australia – C-17 or C-130Js? Australian Minister for Defence Stephen Smith confirms that the government is looking into buying a 5th C-17, and has sent a Foreign Military Sale Letter of Request to the United States asking about costs and availability.

The tradeoff under consideration was whether to buy 1 more C-17A, or buy 2 more C-130J-30 Super Hercules tactical transports between 2013-2015 under project AIR 8000 Phase 1. One C-17A can carry up to 4 C-130 Hercules loads in a single lift, and cover twice the distance in three-quarters of the time. On the other hand, it costs over 3 times as much, and can’t be in 4 places at once. In the end, Australia chose to buy the C-17 instead.

Feb 14/11: The 1st MC-130J Combat Shadow II for US AFSOC completes manufacturing, and will begin flight tests after additional special mission equipment like the chin-mounted sensor turret is installed. MC-130Js work insertion missions, almost always at night. Their missions can include low-level aerial refueling missions for special operations helicopters, along with infiltration/ exfiltration, and resupply for special forces teams.

Feb 5/11: India induction. The 1st Indian C-130J-30 with Special Forces enhancements is inducted in a special ceremony at Air Force Station Hindon, India. There’s still work to do, however. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik says of the American communications and security systems that were left out: “We have our own communication system and yes, we will be integrating them on the aircraft. They are already being made and they will be put on the aircraft.” Andrha News | MSN India.

Jan 31/11: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $203 million contract modification to cover support services for the C-130J’s AE-2100D3 engines and R-391 propellers, under the Option Year IV (5th overall year) of their support contract. Sustaining services will include logistics support, program management support, engineering services, spares and technical data.

At this time, $49.6 million has been committed by the Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center GRBKA, at Robins Air Force Base, GA (FA8504-07-D-0001, 0500).

Jan 31/11: Support. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Marietta, GA receives a $69.8 million contract modification to cover support for systems unique to the C-130J fleet, as opposed to systems that are common to C-130Js and earlier model Hercules. The contract exercises the 2nd option, covering years 6 through 8 of logistics support, program management support, engineering services, repairs, spares and technical data.

At this time, $20 million has been committed by the Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center GRBKA, at Robins Air Force Base, GA (FA8504-06-D-0001, PO 0015).

Jan 28/11: Iraq, Norway. A $16.9 million contract modification exercises an option to purchase support equipment and spares for Iraq, as well as logistic support services for Norway. Both are C-130J customers, and Norway has already received its 4 aircraft. At this time the entire amount has been obligated by the ASC/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8625-06-C-6456).

Jan 11/10: USA, Norway. Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems in Marietta, GA receives a $13.3 million contract modification, exercising an option to purchase support equipment and spares for the United States and Norway.

While the platform is not named, the contract number is the C-130J contract. At this time, the entire amount has been committed by the ASC/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8625-06-C-6456).

Indian C-130J-30
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Dec 21/10: Sub-contractors. BAE Systems Technology Solutions & Services in Rockville, MD receives a $12 million contract for C-130J/J-30 Loadmaster crashworthy seats systems. The contract will buy 101 systems: 7 “first article” systems for testing, then up to 88 systems and 6 systems of spares. $8.5 million has been committed by the WR-ALC/GRBK at Robins AFB, GA (FA8504-11-D-0003).

Dec 17/10: India. India’s 1st C-130J is formally delivered in a ceremony at Marietta, GA.

Dec 2/10: South Korea. Lockheed Martin announces a contract with the Republic of Korea for 4 stretched C-130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft, which are a one-for-one replacement of the ROKAF’s 4 C-130H-30s in its 12-plane Hercules fleet. Deliveries will take place in 2014, and the contract also contains a 2-year support program including aircrew and maintenance training.

The absence of a previous DSCA announcement indicates that this is a Direct Commercial Sale. Prices were not disclosed, but the flyaway cost of a C-130J-30 is around $65 million, and the modifications and maintenance agreement will be extra.

South Korea: 4 C-130J-30

Nov 30/10: Training. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Orlando, FL receives a $23.3 million contract for the HC/MC-130J Special Operations variant’s weapon systems trainer. At this time, $2,044,798 has been committed by the ASC/WNSK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8621-06-C-6300).

Nov 18/10: Oman request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] The Sultanate of Oman’s request for equipment, support and training associated with 1 stretched C-130J-30 aircraft being bought through a separate Direct Commercial Sale (see June 5/09 entry). The RAFO C-130J-30 would receive 1 AN/AAQ-24(V) Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures System, 7 AN/AAR-54 Missile Approach Warning Systems, 2 AN/ALR- 56M Radar Warning Receivers, 2 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser Sets, plus communication and navigation equipment, software support, repair and return, aircraft ferry and refueling support, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is $76 million.

Lockheed Martin sells the C-130, but for this request, the prime contractor will be Northrop Grumman Corporation in Rolling Meadows, IL. Implementation of this proposed sale will require annual trips to Oman involving up to 10 U.S. Government and 10 contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, and program management for a period of approximately 6 years.

DSCA request: Oman support & defensive

Nov 10/10: A $160 million contract modification that commits FY 2010 advance procurement funding for 16 C-130J aircraft that will have their contracts completed in FY 2011. At this time, the entire amount has been committed (FA8625-06-C-6456; P00174).

Nov 8/10: Production accelerating. Flight International reports that Lockheed Martin has entered the final 12 months of F-22A production in Marietta, GA, and details the shifts underway. They add that the plant is also working to treble the C-130J’s production rate, to about 36 aircraft per year.

Oct 7/10: Australian innovation. Australian Defence magazine reports that Australian software investments are about to benefit global C-130J fleets, thanks to strong support from RAAF No. 37 squadron and the DSTO. The software is estimated to save about $2 million in maintenance hours and fuel over the plane’s lifetime. How?

Multi-engine propeller planes need to “balance” their propellers, in order to reduce vibration levels. That’s normally a labor-intensive process involving up to 5 maintenance staff, and multiple ground runs, over 1-2 days. Australia’s DSTO decided to look into a software solution that drew on an existing advanced engine monitoring capability, and coupled it with algorithms that take the flight data. Balancing now takes 2 hours, without the need for engine ground runs.

Flight tests before and after were promising, and the UK, Italy, Denmark, Canada and Norway will begin using the software soon. The USA is still reviewing the software license.

Oct 6/10: India omissions. Indian defense journalist Shiv Aroor lists the technologies that he says will not be in India’s C-130J-30 special forces aircraft, as a result of India’s refusal to sign the USA’s CISMOA End-User Monitoring agreement: AN/ARC-222 SINCGARS radios, KV-119 IFF Digital Transponder (Mode 4 Crypto Applique), TACTERM / ANDVT Secure Voice (HF) Terminal, VINSON KY-58 Secure Voice (UHF/VHF) Module, and no SINCGARS/crypto features in the embedded AN/ARC-210v SATCOM Transceiver.

Oct 5/10: India. The 1st of 6 Indian C-130J-30 special forces aircraft takes flight from Lockheed Martin’s plant and airfield in Marietta, GA.

FY 2010

USA plans to increase buy; Israel buys 1st; Kuwait buys 3; Oman requests 2 and buys 2; Tunisia buys 2; Australian modernization plan; Italian 5-year support deal; US multi-year contract proposal; Deliveries: Canada accepts 1st; Norway’s 4th and last; HC-130J rollout. Danish C-130J
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Sept 13/10: A $59.8 million contract modification to buy 1 more FY 2008 OCO C-130J aircraft. At this time, $39.6 million has been committed (FA8625-06-C-6456; PO0193).

DID offers our readers the usual caveats, and reminds them that buying an aircraft doesn’t necessarily include “government furnished equipment” niceties like engines, etc.

Sept 2/10: A $315.6 million contract modification buy 3 FY 2008 “Overseas Contingency Operations” (supplemental wartime funding) C-130Js; 1 FY 2008 OCO KC-130J aerial tanker/ transport for the US Marines; and 1 FY 2010 HC-130J aircraft for US SOCOM. At this time, $250.8 million has been committed (FA8625-06-C-6456; PO0178).

Aug 31/10: Sub-contractors. UK firm GKN Aerospace announces that they have delivered the 1,000th C-130J engine nacelle. The firm has been supplying these since 1993, and plans to increase production from 18 aircraft sets (72 nacelles) per year in 2008 to “near double that” in 2011. GKN has set up a new state of the art production line at their Isle of Wight facility.

To meet this significant production rate increase GKN Aerospace has moved manufacture to an entirely new, state of the art production line at the Company’s site on the Isle of Wight, UK.

Aug 16/10: Oman contract. The Sultanate of Oman buys 2 C-130J aircraft, to complement the stretched C-130J-30 that’s already under contract for delivery in 2012. When this buy is complete, they will have replaced their existing fleet of 3 1980s-vintage C-130Hs with 3 C-130Js.

The 2 new C-130Js will not be the stretched J-30 version discussed in the July 2/10 DSCA announcement, and will be delivered in 2103 and 2014. Price is not disclosed, and the DSCA announcement referred to a “direct commercial sale” of the aircraft themselves, to accompany Oman’s request to buy up to $54 million worth of defensive equipment and support through the Foreign Military Sale procedure.

Oman: 2 C-130J

Aug 5/10: Italian support. Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia Aeronautica signs a 5-year, EUR 155 million (about $203 million) contract with the Italian Air Force to provide technical and logistical support services to their fleet of 20-21 C-130Js and C-130J-30s.

Alenia will partner with Avio and Lockheed Martin to offer a fully integrated service that will be responsible for the supply of spare parts, management of the supply chain, equipment maintenance including landing gear, the maintenance of the Air Ground Equipment (AGE), and engineering support activities, including responsibility for the C-130J flight simulator based at the 46th Air Brigade of Pisa.

Alenia will have overall responsibility, and will execute most of the work. Avio will be in charge of the complete propulsion system, including overhaul and technical/logistical and engineering assistance to the Aeronautica Militare’s 92 Rolls Royce AE2100D3 engines. C-130J builder Lockheed Martin will be responsible for the supply of repair components produced in the U.S. and for any modifications. These 3 companies have been providing support and technical and logistical assistance to the Italian C-130J fleet since 2007.

Italy support

HC-130J
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July 29/10: The 1st production HC-130J personnel recovery variant flies at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Marietta, GA. It’s due for delivery to USAF Air Combat Command in September 2010, and is scheduled to reach initial operational capability in 2012. An Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOCOM) MC-130J variant of this aircraft will fly in early 2011.

July 20/10: Canada Engine support. Rolls Royce announces a contract from Lockheed Martin. The base contract to support the Canadian CC-130Js’ AE 2100D3 engines is worth USD $70 million, and the entire contract could be worth up to $260 million over the CC-130J fleet’s lifetime.

Under this contract, Rolls-Royce will be providing all engine management and repair, logistics support and on-site technical support for the engine. It is paired with the long-term fleet support contract mentioned in the Dec 18/09 entry. Read “Replacing Canada’s Failing CC-130s: 17 C-130Js” for full coverage.

Canada engine support

July 1/10: Norway. The last of 4 ordered RNoAF C-130J-30s heads off to Norway. Read “Norway Renews Its Tactical Transport Fleet” for full coverage.

Norway: all delivered

July 2/10: Oman request. The US DSCA announces Oman’s request to buy additional equipment, logistics support, and training for 2 stretched C-130J-30 aircraft, which are being bought via a Direct Commercial Sale outside of the DSCA’s Foreign Military Sales process. Additional military equipment bought under FMS rules includes 2 AN/AAR-47 Missile Approach Warning Systems, 2 AN/ALR-56M Radar Warning Receivers, 2 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser Sets, plus communication equipment, software support, repair and return, installation, aircraft ferry and refueling support, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of U.S. government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $54 million.

The Royal Air Force of Oman currently operates 3 C-130H aircraft, and has already bought 1 C-130J-30 (q.v. June 5/09). They can absorb the new equipment, but a sale would require annual trips to Oman involving up to 10 U.S. Government and 10 contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, and program management for a period of approximately 6 years.

DSCA request: Oman support & training

June 18/10: Multi-year proposal. The Hill reports that Lockheed Martin continues to work on a multi-year C-130J buy, and that the current negotiations for 65 C-130Js would serve as a starting point. Lockheed Martin’s international VP for air mobility business development, Jack Crisler, says the key target is 10% savings demonstrated, adding that his firm plans to propose the multi-year contract in September-October 2010.

The proposal could also become more inclusive, potentially adding US Special Operations and US Coast Guard aircraft. If other multi-year deals serve as any guide, the deal might also end up including foreign buys, which would benefit from the US government’s volume pricing. USAF acquisition chief David Van Buren says the USAF is receptive to the idea, but past discussions haven’t shown that 10%+ savings over the existing year-by-year contracts. The USAF reportedly pegs the current price of a C-130J, without spares or Government-Furnished Equipment such as engines and some electronics, optional refueling pods, etc. at $57.6 million.

June 4/10: Canada acceptance. Canada formally accepts the first of 17 CC-130J Super Hercules aircraft, to the Canadian Forces 8 Wing in Trenton, ON, 6 months ahead of the original delivery schedule. The remaining 16 aircraft will begin delivery in winter 2010 as planned, with deliveries running into 2012. Canadian DND.

May 27/10: Kuwait contract. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Marietta, GA announces a $245 million contract to provide 3 KC-130J aerial tankers to the government of Kuwait. This order is part of a larger approved request to buy up to 8 KC-130Js and associated equipment (see July 20/09 entry).

KC-130Js will provide aerial refueling for the Kuwait air force’s F/A-18 C/D fighter fleet, and augment its current airlift fleet of 3 L-100s (civilian C-130). Kuwait’s KC-130Js also will perform air mobility, disaster relief and humanitarian missions throughout the world.

Kuwait: 3 KC-130J

April 30/10: Israel +1. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Marietta, GA receives a $98.6 million contract, to provide one C-130J aircraft for the government of Israel. The contract also includes additional non-developmental items for the aircraft, and $18.5 million of foreign military financing has been committed by the 657th AESS at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8625-06-C-6456).

This order has been some time in negotiation, and follows a July 30/08 DSCA announcement that covered up to $1.9 billion for 9 stretched C-130J-30 aircraft, with Special Operations features.

Israel: 1 C-130J-30

April 19/10: HC-130J rollout. Lockheed Martin rolls out the first HC-130J combat rescue tanker, at an official ceremony in Marietta, GA. The 563rd Rescue Group, based at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ and at Kirtland AFB, NM will be the first bases to receive the new model for training purposes once it has undergone initial testing, which typically takes about a year. Initial Operational Capability is slated for 2012. Maj. Gen. Thomas K. Andersen, USAF Air Combat Command’s director of requirements, said that:

“The recapitalization of the C-130 fleet is a big deal and the new model represents a quantum leap in technology which allows us to continue completing the mission. Right now, the C-130 has one of the lowest availability rates [emphasis DID's] in the Air Force and the introduction of the J-model will increase that rate by 46% as well as decrease needed crewmembers from 7 to 5.”

The HC-130J, like all of the Special Forces C-130Js, uses a KC-130J tanker baseline. It adds the Enhanced Service Life Wing, Enhanced Cargo Handling System, a dorsal aerial refueling boom receptacle, an electro-optical/infrared sensor, a combat systems operator station on the flight deck, and provisions for the large aircraft infrared countermeasures system (LAIRCM) missile defense system. The maintenance techs especially appreciate the C-130J-standard improved diagnostic systems, as opposed to the C-130H models’ more manual approach. Lockheed Martin is currently contracted to build 21 HC/MC-130Js, and the USAF is currently authorized to buy up to 31 (11 HC-130J, 20 MC-130J). USAF | Lockheed Martin.

HC-130J rollout

April 6/10: Engines. Rolls-Royce announces $51 million engine production and MissionCare services contract for the AE 2100D3 engines on the USMC’s KC-130J tanker. The award falls under a 4-year contract with US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), which is administered at NAS Patuxent River, MD.

Rolls-Royce will provide engines, engine management, support, trouble shooting, parts supply and logistics support for aircraft operating at 3 US Marine Air Stations: Miramar, CA; Cherry Point, NC; and Okinawa, Japan.

April 3/10: The first HC-130J combat rescue tanker leaves Lockheed Martin’s main assembly building in Marietta, GA. The plane next steps include a trip to the painting facility, production flight testing, and formal presentation to the USAF on April 19/10. The HC-130J will be delivered later in 2010, then undergo operational flight testing to meet an Initial Operating Capability target of mid-2012. Lockheed Martin release.

April 1/10: Support. Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA received a $77.1 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-09-D-0015) to provide additional funding for logistics and engineering services in support of the US Marine Corps KC-130J aircraft.

Work will be performed in Cherry Point, NC (36%), Miramar, CA (36%), and Okinawa, Japan (28%), and is expected to be complete in December 2010. The Naval Air Systems Command manages the contract.

April 1/10: SAR – more C-130Js. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. The C-130J is featured, because the US military wants more of them:

“C-130J – Program costs increased $3,148.8 million (+26.2%) from $12,029.3 million to $15,178.1 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 34 aircraft from 134 to 168 aircraft (+$2,749.3 million), and increases in other support costs (+$972.8 million) and initial spares (+$394.7 million) associated with the quantity increase. These increases were partially offset by decreases for actual contract values for aircraft costs (-$541.5 million), to properly account for advanced procurement that was erroneously reflected in the previous report (-$246.0 million), and for funding reductions in fiscal 2010 through fiscal 2015 (-$140.9 million).”

SAR – more C-130Js

March 2/10: Tunisia contract. Lockheed Martin announces an unspecified contract with Tunisia for 2 C-130J-30 stretched transports, and says the contract was signed in February 2010.

Deliveries are scheduled for 2013-2014, and the Tunisian contract also contains an initial 3 years of logistics support. The country currently operates a fleet of C-130Hs and C-130Bs, first purchased in the mid-1980s.

Tunisia: 2 C-130J-30

Feb 25/10: Australia upgrades. Australia’s government announces that they have approved AUD $45 million to upgrade and modernize their C-130J fleet, as part of a multi-national Joint User Group Global Project Arrangement with United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Italy. The “Block 7.0″ upgrades will address system obsolescence, maintain international compatibility, and enable these aircraft to comply with new global air traffic standards. Defence minister Sen. Faulkner is quoted as saying that:

“Importantly, there is likely to be significant opportunity for Australian Industry to be involved in the national installation and support of the upgrade. Funding for these elements will be considered by Government following successful testing of the first modification kit on an Australian C-130J. [as a] risk management strategy.”

Feb 1/10: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. of Indianapolis, IN receives a $146 million firm-fixed-price contract, exercising Option III (year 4) of logistics support, program management support, engineering services, spares and technical data in support of the C-130J propulsion systems. This includes the AE2100D3 engine, and the R-391 propeller as well.

At this time, $42.7 million has been committed by the 330th ACSG/GFKA at Robins AFB, GA (FA8504-07-D-0001, Delivery #0400).

Jan 22/10: Support. A $16.7 million contract completely funds an “engineering change proposal” (ECP) to replace the C-130J’s Star VII mission computer. (FA8625-06-C-6456).

Jan 13/10: Canada. The 1st Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules produced for Canada leaves the company’s paint facility in Marietta, Georgia.

CC-130J: just painted
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Dec 18/09: Canada support. The Government of Canada signs a C$ 723 million (currently $698 million) contract amendment with Lockheed Martin. This initial CC-130J fleet support funding covers an initial 5 1/2 year period ending June 30/16.

The contract also includes a mechanism to extend the period of in-service support throughout the fleet’s service life, to 20 years or more. Public Works Canada release.

Canada support

Dec 22/09: Support. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Orlando, FL receives a $14.5 million contract to provide FY 2010 operations and maintenance services for the C-130J. At this time, $3.5 million has been committed (FA8621-06-C-6300, P000046).

Dec 19/09: The 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein AB, Germany, flies its first C-130J Super Hercules mission in support of U.S. Air Forces Africa to bring home 17 American troops from a training mission in Mali. 37th Airlift squadron of the 86th Airlift Wing, 17th Air Force flew the mission.

The USAF release cites the C-130J’s increased range as a helpful factor in Africa, and also cites the aircraft’s improved cargo capacity, especially in hot and/or high-altitude conditions. A pickup of this nature exercises the former but not the latter, expanding operational familiarity with the aircraft, in return for higher operating costs to perform this particular mission.

Nov 23/09: Italian crash. Italian air force C-130J #MM62176 crashes and burns after a touch-and-go landing, during a routine training sortie from Pisa. The crash kills both pilots, and all 3 passengers. It could have been worse – the plane crashed on a nearby railway line, but an oncoming train managed to stop.

C-130J MM62176 was delivered to Italy in 2000 as its 1st of 12 regular C-130Js, but was later adapted for tanker applications. The Italians have not halted flying operations with their remaining 21 C-130Js, which include 1 KC-130J and 10 stretched C-130J-30s.

This is not the 1st C-130J lost. On Feb 12/07, A UK Royal Air Force C-130J was extensively damaged by 2 land mines that were detonated while it was landing on a semi-prepared strip in southern Iraq. The British decided to destroy the plane. Flight International.

Crash

Nov 9/09: Engines. Rolls-Royce announces an $8.5 million contract to provide AE 2100D3 spare engine parts to power the C-130J military transport aircraft for the US Air Force. As part of this order, deployable kits and initial provisioning spares will be delivered to Cannon AFB in NM, Dyess AFB in TX and Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

The contract, which is managed by Robins Air Force Base in GA, involves an initial 956 AE 2100D3 spare engines parts for delivery through 2011.

Oct 20/09: Industrial. Lockheed Martin CFO Bruce Tanner, discussing Q3 2009 earnings, reveals that global C-130J deliveries will grow from 12 aircraft in 2008 to 16 in 2009 and 26 in 2010. Q3 Earnings slides [PDF] | Flight International.

Oct 19/09: Shadow Harvest. Flight International reports that Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division wants clearance to export its “Shadow Harvest” roll-on/roll-off suite of intelligence sensors for the C-130 Hercules, which was developed for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) with sponsorship from the Miami, Florida-based Southern Command.

Shadow Harvest is designed to identify targets concealed under camouflage or foliage, and reportedly includes BAE’s SPIRITT hyperspectral camera, and a low frequency/ multi-band synthetic aperture radar (MB-SAR), among other sensors, plus containerized roll on/off controllers and displays. It’s expected to become an official USAF program of record by 2012.

Oct 19/09: C-130 plans. Flight International has a video of 2 USAF Colonels who are answering questions regarding a number of C-130-related programs, including potential future gunships, programs to add weapons to C-130s beyond the USMC’s KC-130Js, SOCOM programs, etc.

Oct 16/09: Lockheed Martin Corp. in Marietta, GA received an $827.4 million contract for advance procurement funding for 3 FY 2010 C-130J aircraft, 4 FY 2010 HC-130J aircraft, and 4 FY 2010 MC-130J aircraft. An option is being exercised for the acquisition of 1 HC-130J aircraft to be fully funded with FY10 funds. Note that MC/HC-130Js are Special Operations aircraft.

At this time, $8.3 million has been obligated. The 657 AESS/SYKA at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH manages the contract (FA8625-06-C-6456, P00087).

Oct 5/09: Lockheed Martin officially launches production of its HC/MC-130J special forces search-and-rescue aircraft. Future upgrades involve an internal investment to design a retractable housing for the aircraft’s MTS-A turret, in order to reduce drag and extend range. Other possibilities reportedly include airframe changes to accommodate more equipment, possibly including an enlarged nose section, and a wider cross-section for the fuselage. Flight International.

FY 2009

Qatar orders 4; Iraq orders 4; USA begins arming C-130Js; UAE says “maybe”; France interested – really?!?; Australian 5-year support deal; Canadian 5-year support deal; Shadow Harvest kit clearance?; Italian crash; Video re: USAF thinking. AE2100 engine
c. Rolls-Royce plc 2009
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Sept 30/09: Support. Lockheed Martin Corp., of Orlando FL received a $9.9 million contract which will provide for FY 2010 C-130J maintenance and training, as orders are placed by the 677th AESG/SYK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8621-06-C-6300).

Sept 10/09: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives an $11.1 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-09-D-0020) from the U.S. Marine Corps, for 3 of the C-130J’s AE2100D3 turboprop engines. Work will be performed in Cherry Point, N.C., and is expected to be complete in May 2012. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract.

Aug 24/09: Engines. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA receives a $30.2 million modified contract to purchase the quick engine change assemblies for American C/KC/BC/HC/MC-130J aircraft, and Foreign Military Sale aircraft for Norway and India.

“At this time $31,972,726 has been obligated.” The US Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages this contract (FA8625-06-C-6456).

Aug 11/09: Iraq order. A $140.3 million unfinalized firm-fixed-price contract modification for 2 more Iraqi C-130J-30s, completing their 6-aircraft request. The contract also includes engineering and integration tasks associated with Iraq’s distinctive C-130J-30 configuration.

At this time no funds have been obligated. The 657 AESS at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH manages this contract (FA8625-06-C-6456/P00098). Read “Iraq Orders C-130Js” for all contracts and requests related to that program.

Iraq: 2 C-130J-30

July 20/09: Kuwait request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Kuwait’s official request to buy up to 8 KC-130J cargo/refueling aircraft and associated equipment, parts and support for an estimated cost $1.8 billion. This would significantly upgrade Kuwait’s air force, which currently lacks aerial refueling aircraft, and depends on just 3 L100 civilian C-130E equivalents for transport duties. Kuwait’s purchase would reinforce a trend in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which has seen similar purchases and requests in the last year from Saudi Arabia (A330s), Qatar (C-130J-30s), and the UAE (C-17s, C-130Js pending).

Kuwait has requested 8 KC-130Js with the accompanying 32 AE-2100D3 Turbo propeller engines, plus 8 spare AE-2100D3 Turbo propeller engines, 4 AN/ALR-56M Radar Warning Receivers, 4 AN/AAR-47 Missile Approach Warning Systems, 4 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispenser Sets, and 20 AN/ARC-210 (RT-1851A(U)) Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency HAVEQUICK/SINCGARS Radio Systems. The contract, to be negotiated, would also include spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and other related elements of program support.

The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta, Georgia. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

DSCA request: Kuwait KC-130J (8)

June 5-15/09: France? With the A400M program seriously behind schedule, and a fleet of C-160 and Lockheed Martin C-130H tactical transports that continue to see heavy demand, France is apparently looking at the one option its government had said would not be considered.

French Defense Minister Herve Morin is quoted as saying that the government has expanded its stopgap options to include lease or purchase of some C-130Js; and Bloomberg reports that France has officially requested C-130J availability and performance data for review. Other possibilities for France include stepped up per-hour leasing of Russian AN-124s under NATO’s SALIS pool, per-hour C-17 leasing under NATO’s SAC pool, acquisition or lease of EADS’ smaller C-295Ms, or advancing their planned Airbus 330 MRTT aerial tanker & transport buy. France has also approved the modernization of its 10 newest C160 Transalls so they can remain in service until the first A400Ms arrive, which is now expected to happen in 2014-15.

These options group themselves by tradeoffs. Some contenders (C-295M, A330 MRTT) lack the reinforced floors required for dense tactical loads like armored vehicles. Others (AN-124, A330 MRTT, C-17s to lesser extent) require longer runways to operate from, which removes some of their utility as front line delivery aircraft. Range and refueling capability are potential issues for some (C-295M, some C-130Js), while maintaining overall fleet strength and front line airlift availability is a concern in other cases (AN-124, C-17, A330 MRTT to some extent). The C-130J sits in the middle of many of these tradeoffs, which may be why it has climbed back into consideration. Bloomberg.

June 5/09: Oman order. Lockheed Martin announces that the Sultanate of Oman has ordered a single stretched C-130J-30, to complement its 3 existing C-130H aircraft which were bought in the 1980s. Price is not disclosed.

The Lockheed Martin release doesn’t mention the UAE as a customer, despite earlier reports that contracts had been negotiated at IDEX 2009 (see Feb 25/09 entry). Company representatives informed DID that they are in final negotiations with the UAE, but have no contract yet, adding that negotiations are also underway with Israel (see July 30/08 entry).

Oman: 1 C-130J-30

May 27/09: Engines. Rolls-Royce announces an $80 million contract to provide AE 2100D3 spare engines and parts to power the C-130J military transport aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, the Royal Norwegian Air Force and the Indian Air Force.

The contract, which is managed by Robins Air Force Base in GA, involves an initial 27 AE 2100D3 spare engines and parts for delivery through 2011.

May 8/09: Armed C-130Js. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA received a $22.8 million firm-fixed-price contract to develop a roll-on, roll-off armed targeting capability for the Marine Corps’ KC-130J. The program is known as Harvest Hawk.

Work will be performed in Palmdale, CA and is expected to be complete in December 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $15.5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-09-C-0053).

May 4/09: Armed C-130Js. The USAF is also interested in roll-on armament for its C-130 fleet, and issues a PIXS solicitation for a “Precision Strike Pkg 360 Degree Situational Awareness Camera System.” The solicitation adds that:

“This system would operate at altitudes at or above 10,000 feet and act as a hostile fire indicator system to provide aircrew with the ability to virtually scan the outside of the aircraft for hostile ground threats that would possibly target them. This system is part of a broader Persistence Strike Package (PSP). The purpose of the PSP program is to add a modular PSP to a medium lift cargo aircraft, to include a medium caliber gun and Stand-Off Precision Guided Munitions (SOPGM).”

April 30/09: Iraq order. Lockheed Martin of Marietta, GA receives a maximum $292.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy 4 C-130J-30 aircraft for the Iraqi government. At this time, $6.9 million has been obligated. The 657 AESS in Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8625-06-C-6456,P00080).

Note the July 25/08 entry. The initial request was for 6 aircraft. Since the DSCA request went unchallenged, Iraq’s government has the freedom to buy up to 2 more aircraft at a later date.

Iraq: 4 C-130J-30

April 30/09: The Air Force is modifying a fixed price contract with Lockheed Martin Corp., of Marietta, GA for $15.8 million. This contract modification will exercise options to purchase Special Forces configuration equipment for 6 MC-130J Global War on Terror aircraft. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 657 AESS, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8625-06-C-6456).

March 11/09: Australia support deal. Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) announces a contract to EADS Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace to provide Through Life Support services for the RAAF’s fleet of 12 C-130J and stretched C-130J-30 Hercules aircraft. Australian Aerospace already supports the RAAF’s AP-3C maritime patrol aircraft, so this is not a huge departure for the firm. Lockheed Martin will be the sub-contractor for aircraft maintenance, engineering, and supply chain management; and engine support will continue to be provided by Dubai Aerospace Enterprise subsidiary StandardAero under an existing contract arrangement.

The contract is worth up to A$ 292 million, and is structured as a 5-year rolling contract whose continuation will reportedly be linked to demonstrated performance and cost containment, with an eye to: improved delivery of services; performance-based, long-term, support arrangements; relationship with the Commonwealth; price disclosure; and meaningful transfer of risk. Contract extensions can continue under these arrangements, through to expected life-of-type in 2030.

RAAF Air Vice-Marshal Thorne says that the contract will create over 80 additional industry jobs in the Sydney/Richmond area over the next year. Australian DoD.

Australia support

March 5/09: Britain. Britain’s RAF is under strain, trying to sustain an aerial supply bridge for 8,000 deployed troops in Afghanistan. With its 20 C-130Ks (C1/C3) being forced toward retirement, Aviation Week reports [link now broken] that Britain is looking at the possibility of leasing 5 C-130Js as a potential “bridge” until the A400Ms can begin to arrive, and/or finding ways to add to their 6-plane C-17 fleet.

Senior British Defense Ministry officials are believed to have met on March 4/09 to examine proposals for the ministry’s next “Planning Round 09.” Airlift and budget issues would have been prominent within those discussions.

Feb 27/09: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $106 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for logistics support, technical engineering support services, and spare engines and associated parts for the U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J, which includes the AE2100D3 turboprop engine and Dowty R391 propeller.

The KC-130J MissionCare contract is a single contract line item number is used to pay a fixed price based on aircraft hours flown. Under the terms of the agreement, Rolls-Royce will provide engine management, support, trouble shooting, parts supply and logistics support for the aircraft, operating at 3 U.S. Marine Air Stations: Miramar, CA, Cherry Point, NC and Okinawa, Japan.

The contract covers a base year plus 3 option years, with the base year funded at $39.1 million and running to February 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-09-D-0020).

Feb 26/09: Norway engine support. Rolls-Royce announces a $23 million MissionCare support services and spares contract for AE 2100D3 engines. The engines are installed on the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s (RNoAF) C-130Js.

The contract is modeled after the USAF’s Power By The Hour contract, providing a comprehensive support package to the RNoAF on a per-engine flight-hour basis. The contract covers on-site technical support, maintenance support, training, provision of spare parts, supply replenishment with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for the engine, and supply of an R391 Dowty propeller.

Feb 25/09: UAE. The UAE announces an AED 5.9 billion (about $1.6 billion) deal for 12 of Lockheed Martin’s C-130J medium-range tactical transports, which will accompany a deal for 4 of Boeing’s larger C-17s. Abu Dhabi’s privately-owned Waha Capital usually finances airline purchases, and has been tapped to finance the C-17 and C-130J contracts.

Neither deal is finalized, and the C-17 contract takes a while. The C-130J contract remains unsigned as of September 2012.

Feb 2/09: Engines. The USAF is modifying a contract to Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN for $120 million, in return for spares, program management support, engineering services, and technical data in support of the C-130J’s AE 2100D3 engine and R-391 propeller. At this time $17.5 million has been committed, and the contract will be managed by 330 ACSG/GFKA at Robins AFB, GA (FA8504-07-D-0001, P00004).

Dec 16/08: Industrial. Reuters reports that Lockheed Chairman and CEO Robert Stevens told the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington that the company expected to sell “hundreds [of C-130Js] domestically and hopefully hundreds internationally” in coming years. “We’re building one airplane a month and our goal is to maybe double that…” he said.

Dec 12/08: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN received a $6 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract (N00019-03-D-0002). The Us Marine Corps is buying 2 more AE2100D3 turboprop engines for their KC-130Js.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN and is expected to be complete in July 2010. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract.

Dec 3/08: Canada. The Ottawa Citizen’s defense reporter Davd Pugliese reports that Canada has signed a contract for early delivery of 2 of its 15 ordered C-130Js. One aircraft will arrive in June 2010, and the other will arrive in July 2010.

This still misses the RFP’s original must-deliver date of early 2009, but that was based on a contract being signed in 2006, instead of in 2008. Under the signed 2008 contract, the delivery deadline for the first Canadian C-130J would have been January 2011.

Dec 1/08: MC-130J mods. The USAF is modifying a firm-fixed-price not-to-exceed $74.9 million contract to Lockheed Martin Corp in Marietta, GA. It includes time and material and cost reimbursement, and covers an Engineering Change Proposal for one-time efforts to incorporate Special Operations Forces-unique modifications in the MC-130J. At this time, $19.6 million has been committed (FA8625-06-C-6456).

See also the related June 13/08 entry.

Oct 7/08: Qatar order. Qatar recently moved to upgrade its military transport capabilities by buying 2 C-17 strategic airlifters, and 18 AW139 utility helicopters. Now it will also add 4 stretched C-130J-30 tactical transports, under a recent $393.6 million deal with Lockheed Martin.

Qatar has never flown C-130s, so the package includes 4 aircraft, training of aircrew and maintenance technicians, spares, ground support and test equipment, servicing carts, forklifts, loading vehicles, cargo pallets, and a team of technical specialists who will be based in Qatar during an initial support period. See also July 29/08 entry.

Qatar: 4 C-130J-30

FY 2008

Canada orders 17; India orders 6; HC/MC-130J special forces configurations unveiled, get initial US orders; Qatar orders 4; Italian 3-year support deal; Israel request; Iraq request; 1st US Coast Guard C-130J delivered; As US SAR points to program growth, Lockheed confident C-130J will make it. USMC KC-130J
(click to view full)

Aug 14/08: Sub-contractors. Rockwell Collins Aerospace and Electronics, Inc. in Portland, OR received a $7.2 (in total ceiling amount) firm-fixed-price, Basic Order Agreement (BOA) for spares, repairs, and engineering services and support of HGS-3000 heads-up display system for the C-130J aircraft sustainment program.

Work will be performed 100% in Portland, Ore and is anticipated to be complete at the conclusion of the BOA in August 2013. Funds will be obligated as each job order is identified. This contract was competitively procured via Federal Business Opportunities, Navy Electronic Commerce Online, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane website with one offer received by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, IN (N00164-08-G-WT00).

July 30/08: Israel. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notifies Congress [PDF] of Israel’s request for up to 9 stretched C-130J-30s, including a number of ‘non-standard’ equipment items associated with Special Forces use. The total value could be as high as $1.9 billion.

Read Israel Orders ‘Special’ C-130J-30s for full coverage.

DSCA request: Israel C-130J-30 (9)

July 29/08: Qatar. DACIS reports [link now broken] that The Qatari Ministry of Defense has awarded Lockheed Martin an undisclosed contract for C-130J Hercules transports. While no DSCA announcement has been issued, there are civilian versions of the C-130 that would not require a Foreign Military Sale request. Later announcements reveal that Qatar ordered 4 planes.

The move comes just a couple of weeks after Qatar signed deals with an estimated $1.5 billion value, acquiring 2 C-17 strategic transport aircraft, and 18 AW139 light/medium utility helicopters. The Persian Gulf sheikhdom doesn’t have a real military transport fleet at the moment, just a VIP flight of business and passenger jets. With these 3 contracts, Qatar has now modernized its aged utility helicopter fleet, and acquired longer-range military transports to back that up. See subsequent announcement on Oct 7/08.

July 25/08: Iraq request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Iraq’s official request for 6 stretched C-130J-30 aircraft, which will supplement the 3 refurbished C-130E’s that currently form Iraq’s medium transport fleet.

The estimated cost is $1.5 billion, and the prime contractor will be Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX and Rolls-Royce Corporation in Indianapolis, IN. Going forward, up to 10 U.S. Government and 10 contractor representatives will participate in 2-week long annual technical and program management reviews. Lockheed Martin and Rolls Royce aren’t the only contractors for this request, however, which also includes defensive equipment from Alliant Techsystems and BAE Systems. The detailed request includes:

  • 6 stretched C-130J-30 aircraft identical to the USAF baseline standard
  • 28 Rolls Royce AE 2100D3 engines, (24 installed, 4 spare)
  • 8 of ATK’s AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning Systems (6 installed, 2 spare)
  • 8 of BAE’s AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing Systems (6 installed, 2 spare)

Plus a stock of spare and repair parts, configuration updates, integration studies, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, technical services, personnel training and training equipment, foreign liaison office support, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, construction, and other related elements of logistics support.

DSCA request: Iraq C-130J-30 (6)

July 17/08: Industrial. It was touch-and-go for a while, but the C-130J’s future now looks much more assured. Ross Reynolds, vice president of C-130 Programs for Lockheed Martin, announces that the company has notched 221 C-130J orders, with a current backlog of 58 aircraft. Flight International’s article adds that:

“Having dropped plans to upgrade its ‘Legacy Herks’ under Boeing’s troubled avionics modernization programme (AMP) the USAF has instead opted for new aircraft, based on a common airframe derived from the US Marine Corps’ KC-130J. The new requirement initially calls for 115 aircraft; initially comprising 78 HC-130Js for Air Combat Command and 37 MC-130Js for AFSOC. In anticipation of the huge new USAF requirement, Lockheed Martin says that it is ready to ramp up production to 24 aircraft per year from the current 12.”

July 15/08: Sub-contractors. Lockheed Martin holds a briefing at the Farnborough International Airshow 2008 concerning its new HC-130J and MC-130J configurations. In addition, Lockheed Martin discussed 3 new technologies that will become part of all future C-130Js: (1) a Global Digital Map Unit built by Israel’s Elbit Systems; (2) a TacView Portable Mission Display for mission planning and in-flight replanning, built by Canada’s CMC, who recently finished a delivery to US AFSOC for its AC-130H/U gunships; and CMC’s InegriFlight commercial GPS Landing System Sensor Unit to give the planes an Instrument Flight Rules and civil-certified Global Navigational Satellite System. CMC Electronics | Flight International re: TacView.

June 13/08: +6 SOCOM. The Air Force is modifying a firm fixed price contract with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Marietta GA by $470 million, as an unfinalized contract to buy 6 HC/MC-130J special operations aircraft. The aircraft will be bought in FY 2009, and this contract includes associated long lead material and non-recurring aircraft production efforts using FY 2008 advance procurement funding. At this time $75 million has been committed by the USAF/AFMC, Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8625-06-C-6456 P00037).

The new variant will add several features to the baseline KC-130J, including Block 6.5 flight-control software, an extended service life wing, an enhanced cargo handling system, a boom refueling receptacle, and electro-optical/infrared camera, a combat systems station and armor.

This move effectively abandons an earlier option of holding a competition to replace existing HC/MC-130s. The USAF is authorized to replace the 68 oldest HC/MC-130N/Ps, including some that entered service in 1964. Whether it chooses to replace its entire inventory with C-130J variants remains an open question at this point; a future competition is not impossible. See also USAF release | Flight International.

May 30/08: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN received a $9.7 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-03-D-0002) for logistics support, technical engineering support services, and spare engines and associated parts for the U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J, which includes the AE2100D3 turboprop engine and R391 propeller.

Work will be performed at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC and is expected to be completed in November 2008. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD is managing the contract.

May 28/08: HC/MC-130J. Lockheed Martin unveils its privately-developed HC/MC-130J at the ILA exhibition in Berlin. It can be refueled in flight, ad can also mount the KC-130J’s refueling pods to act as a tanker itself. Advanced imaging and radar systems for low-level night flights and battlefield surveillance, modern electronics including the addition of a dual-display combat systems operator station, and a wing with longer service life round out the enhancements.

This tailored common core special operations variant is intended to the HC-130N/P King Bird CSAR/tanker, MC-130E/H Combat Talon special forces transports, and MC-130P Combat Shadow special forces transports/tankers. Lockheed also hopes that this hopes new common core airframe will form the basis of a future gunship to replace existing AC-130s; see the Additional Readings section, however, for questions about the design’s appropriateness to the future Special Operations environment.

SOCOM has issued an official acquisition decision memorandum for 68 aircraft has now been issued to replace the older MC-130E, MC-130P and HC-130P aircraft, with an overall program target of 115 aircraft and an initial operational capability (IOC) date of 2012. In the absence of orders, Lockheed Martin has used private funds in order to ensure timely development, though India’s recent billion-dollar order of 6-12 MC-130J type aircraft has helped ease the risk. Lockheed Martin is also keenly aware that the larger Airbus A400M’s biggest disadvantage is the fact that deliveries are expected to begin in 2011, with a substantial order backlog of about 180 aircraft. By accelerating its own efforts, they place their future competitor at maximum disadvantage for the prestigious US SOCOM contract, which can then be levered into niche-role contracts with other countries looking to boost their special forces and search-and-rescue capabilities. Flight International.

HC/MC-130J design unveiled

May 9/08: Support. GE Aviation Systems LLC of Sterling, VA received a firm fixed price contract for $9.4 million to establish organizational level propeller repair capability for the C-130J aircraft at 8 different bases. At this time all funds have been committed. Robbins AFB, GA issued the contract (FA8504-080C-0002).

April 7/08: SAR. The USA decides to buy more C-130Js, and that means higher overall program costs which must be note in the Pentagon’s Selected Acquisition Reports release:

“Program costs increased $3,958.2 million (+49.0 percent) from $8,071.1 million to $12,029.3 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 52 aircraft from 82 to 134 aircraft (+$2,937.8 million) and associated estimating and schedule allocations

  • (+$399.6 million). There were additional increases in initial spares (+$85.7 million) and other support costs (+$546.9 million) associated with the higher aircraft quantity. These increases were partially offset by decreases from the acceleration of the procurement buy profile (-$18.1 million) and withholds for higher Air Force priorities and programming changes (-$12.6 million).

…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.”

SAR – more C-130Js

April 2/08: Lockheed Martin announces delivery of a 6th C-130J Super Hercules to 41st Airlift Squadron, 463rd Airlift Group, at Little Rock Air Force Base, AR. The 41st, also known as the “Black Cats,” is the first active-duty C-130J combat squadron in the Air Force.

March 18/08: +2 KC-130J. A $133.2 million “undefinitized contract action” (UCA) for 2 FY 2009 KC-130J aircraft and the associated long lead materials and parts. At this time $30 million has been obligated. Kirtland AFB in NM issued the contract (FA8625-06-C-6456 P00033).

March 11/08: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN received a $6.5 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-03-D-0002) for logistics support, technical engineering support services, and spare engines and associated parts for the U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J, which includes the AE2100D3 turboprop engine and R391 propeller.

Work will be performed in Cherry Point, NC, and is expected to be complete in May 2008. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.

Feb 29/08: USCG. Lockheed Martin delivers the first “missionized” HC-130J long-range surveillance maritime patrol aircraft to the U.S. Coast Guard for maritime search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and homeland security missions. Mission equipment includes installation of a belly-mounted surface search radar, a nose-mounted electro-optical infrared sensor, a flight deck mission operator station and a mission integrated communication system. The mission system installed on the HC-130J is derived from the same software series developed for the mission system pallet onboard the HC-144A (EADS-CASA CN-235) maritime patrol aircraft concurrently in testing.

Lockheed Martin is working within the Deepwater acquisition framework to deliver 3 fully-equipped HC-130Js under a under a fixed-price contract, and is on schedule to complete the aircraft In March 2008. A contract modification is expected to begin work on a 4th aircraft, which would give the Coast Guard an inventory of 6 HC-130Js.

USCG 1st missionized HC-130J LRSM

Feb 1/08: Support. A firm fixed price contract for $103.1 million for services that include logistics support, program management support, engineering services, repairs, spares and technical data in support of systems that are unique to the C-130J. This modification exercises option 1 of the contract, covering years 3-5. At this time, $12.5 million has been committed.

Parts that are shared with the rest of the C-130 Hercules fleet tend to be bought through pre-existing maintenance programs – partly because this is easiest, and partly because more aggregation improves the military’s bargaining position. The 330th ACSG/GFKA at Robins Air Force Base, GA issued the contract (FA8504-06-D-0001, PO 0006).

Jan 30/07: India order. The USA and India reportedly sign a Letter of Agreement for 6 C-130J-30 transports, plus additional communications equipment, spares, etc. (q.v. May 25/07 request).

There’s an additional option for 6 more planes in this contract, which the Indian government can buy at the same agreed-upon price.

India: 6 C-130J-30

Jan 16/08: Canada order. Canada signs a USD $1.4 billion contract for 17 C-130J aircraft, as replacements for about 23 aging CC-130 Hercules aircraft.

A 20-year maintenance deal with Lockheed Martin is also in the works, and will be finalized at a future date; the entire program is estimated to be worth about C$ 4.9 billion (currently $4.8 billion).

Canada: 17 C-130J-30

Nov 30/07: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives an $11.1 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-03-D-0002). It exercises an option for logistics support, technical engineering support services, and spare engines and associated parts for the US Marine Corps’ KC-130J aerial tankers/ transports, which are powered by Rolls Royce’s AE2100D3 turboprop engine and the R391 propeller.

Work will be performed in Cherry Point, NC, and is expected to be completed in May 2008. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD.

Oct 25/07: USA multi-year deal offer. The Hill reports that Lockheed Martin has offered the US military a 5-year, $6+ billion deal for 120 C-130J, KC-130J, and C-130J-S (short) aircraft. What are the deal’s parameters? Why now? Short answer: a rival’s delays make a lock-in possible that would guarantee the aircraft’s future.

Oct 12/07: Britain. The UK Parliament’s Defence Committee examines Britain’s airlift capacity in light of current usage, A400M schedule slippages, and future needs. Key C-130J related excerpts from the document’s Q&A and government responses include:

“We share the Committee’s concerns regarding the medium and longer term consequences of the current high levels of use of the C-17 and C-130 fleets. We wish to reassure the Committee that we already monitor very closely the impact that flying rates have upon the expected life of our aircraft. We constantly monitor the fatigue that our aircraft are subject to in order to reassess our ability to maintain military capability in the future and enable early action to be taken where necessary. In the long term, the MoD is taking account of the reduced life-expectancy of its aircraft as a result of increased flying hours… The Department agrees with the Committee that some aircraft are incurring additional maintenance and repair activity as a result of the conditions in which they are employed. For example, the use of the C-130 Hercules onto natural surfaces rather than paved runways results in some unavoidable damage to the under-belly surface of the aircraft… . While the replacement of [earlier version] C-130K with 25 A400M will, overall, result in a one-for-one replacement, the increased payload and range of A400M roughly doubles the relative airlift capability offered by C-130K.”

See the full report: “14th Special Report. Strategic Lift: Government Response to the Committee’s Eleventh Report of Session 2006-07; HC 1025” [PDF]

Oct 10/07: Italy support deal. Lockheed Martin, Alenia Aeronautica and Avio SPA have signed a EUR 97 million ($137.5 million) agreement to provide Long Term Support (LTS) for the Italian Air Force’s C-130J Super Hercules fleet. This Raggruppamento Temporaneo d’Impresa (RTI) is led by Alenia Aeronautica, and will provide joint support of the Italian C-130J/J-30 fleet of 22 aircraft for a period of 3 years.

Lockheed Martin’s portion of the contract is about $47 million; its responsibilities include integrated logistics support management, avionics/mechanical line replaceable unit repair service, on-site resident support , field service support, supply chain management, engineering support and technical publications updates.

Italy support

Oct 9/07: Delivery. Lockheed Martin announces that it has recently delivered the first KC-130J Tanker to US forces in Japan. Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron 152 (VMGR-152), Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, took delivery of its first KC-130J on Sept 30/07, representing the 27th KC-130J to be delivered to the USMC.

The USMC Air Expeditionary Force has had 6 KC-130Js in theater since February 2005, which have flown 8,854 sorties totaling 17,398 flight hours. August 2007 set a deployment one month record with 318 sorties, 621.9 flying hours, just over 6 million pounds of fuel offloaded, and 127,014 pounds of cargo carried.

Oct 3/07: Support. Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems of Marietta, GA received a contract modification for $6.9 million, incorporating Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) 06-0700076R1 entitled, “Block 6.0 Installations and Production Non-Recurring.” This ECP will retrofit and install Block 6.0 on all currently fielded US Air Force and US Air Force Reserve C-130J, EC-130J, and WC-130J aircraft. A separate ECP is currently in work at the 657th AESS for production incorporation of Block 6.0, which will enable C-130J aircraft to be produced in the Block 6.0 configuration. At this time all funds have been obligated. For more information please call (937) 255-4599. USAF/AFMC Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base OH (FA8625-06-C-6456, P00014).

FY 2007

US contract restructured; US JCA competition loss; Canada win; India request; Norway request. Deliveries: Denmark’s 4th & last. C-130J-30
(click to view full)

Aug 3/07: +5. Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems in Marietta, GA received a firm-fixed-price contract modification for $322 million. This contract modification is an unfinalized contract for 5 more C-130J aircraft under the US Congress’ FY 2007 Global War on Terrorism supplemental funding. At this time, $161 million has been obligated. Work will be complete in December 2010 (FA8625-06-C-6456/P00021). Note that this figure has not yet been added to the budgetary totals above.

Aug 3/07: Lockheed Martin announces delivery of a 3rd “C 130J Super Hercules” to the 41st Airlift Squadron “Black Cats” at Little Rock Air Force Base, AK. The Black Cats are the first active-duty C-130J combat squadron in the Air Force, and one of the most highly decorated airlift squadrons in U.S. military history.

This was a minor tidbit, but the release also quoted Lt. Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition at the Pentagon. He accepted the new C-130J on behalf of the “Black Cats” and said that: “As our aging intra-theater airlift and tanker fleets need replacing, we anticipate that the C-130J will be a competitive contender for those missions.”

Interesting. Note the use of the word “contender.”

July 11/07: Denmark. Lockheed Martin announces delivery of the 4th C 130J Super Hercules to the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF), completing the current order. Denmark’s first C-130J was delivered in March 200,4 and began operational service only one month after arriving at the RDAF’s 721 Squadron in Aalborg, Denmark.

RDAF C-130Js are being deployed and used in missions around the world and have already accumulated nearly 5,000 flight hours. One RDAF C-130J operating in Kuwait over the past six months has flown 250 missions, transported 1,600 passengers and moved 500,000 pounds of cargo. RDAF C 130Js were also deployed in support of the tsunami humanitarian relief effort in Southeast Asia and to support the United Nations in Africa. In addition to operating in the hot, harsh conditions of both Southwest and Southeast Asia, RDAF C-130Js have successfully performed in extremely cold conditions as well. They fly to “Station North” in Greenland, the Danish Navy’s most remote base located only 580 miles from the North Pole.

Denmark – all 4 delivered

June 28/07: Support. Lockheed Martin Simulator, Training and Support in Orlando, FL received a firm-fixed-price contract modification for $7.65 million for C-130J Training, Block 6.0 (USAF) and Block 6.5 (USMC) upgrades. This work will be complete by September 2009. To date, total funds have been obligated. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8621-06-C-6300/P00009).

June 18/07: +1 KC-130J. A firm-fixed price contract modification not to exceed $64.2 million, for 1 additional KC-130J aircraft for the United States Marine Corps. The aircraft is being added to those awarded under contract FA8625-06-C-6456 P00008, on Dec 8/06 – see below. To date $32.1 million has been obligated (FA8625-06-C-6456/P00015).

This additional aircraft is being funded entirely by dollar savings realized by the USMC as a result of the conversion of the C-130J Multi-Year Procurement (MYP) contract from FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) Part 12 to FAR Part 15. This total of 5 aircraft will now be specified under one single proposal, and work will be complete by March 2010.

May 25/07: India. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notifies Congress [PDF] of India’s request for 6 C-130J Aircraft in Special Forces configuration, as well as associated equipment and services. The planes are destined for India’s special forces, and the total value if all options are exercised could be as high as $1.059 billion.

See full DID coverage of India’s buy.

DSCA request: India C-130J (6)

April 18/07: Norway. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notifies Congress [PDF] of Norway’s request for 4 stretched C-130J-30 aircraft, as well as associated equipment and services. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX will supply the aircraft, and will be responsible for procuring and integrating the defensive systems. Rolls-Royce Corporation in Indianapolis, IN will supply the engines. The total contract values, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $520 million. DSCA adds that:

“Norway intends to use the C-130J aircraft for intra-theater support for its troops involved in worldwide operations. Additionally, the aircraft will be used for humanitarian relief operations in various locations to include the Sudan, the Middle East, and Afghanistan.”

The purchase encountered some political controversy, but American bureaucrats made extra efforts to expedite key approvals and move the sale forward. In the end, a deal was completed.

DSCA request: Norway C-130J-30 (4)

Jan 31/07: Support. A $33.6 million firm-fixed-price with time & material and cost reimbursement contract modification. This contract modification will exercise period 2 options to purchase the following items: program and management data for 1-year, technical and engineering data for 1-year, engineering drawing for 1-year, logistics support data for 1-year, technical manual contract requirements data for 1-year, initial C-130J aircraft peculiar spares for 9 aircraft, reliability and maintainability program for 1-year, field service representative support for 1-year, ground maintenance station admin. support for 1-year. At this time, total funds have been obligated, and work will be complete January 2008. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8625-06-C-6456).

Dec 20/06: Support. A $37.5 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-04-D-0001) to exercise an option for logistics and technical engineering support and spares for the U.S. Marine Corps’ KC-130J aircraft and other Government C-130J aircraft. Work will be performed in Cherry Point, N.C. (85%); Miramar, CA (10%); and Okinawa, Japan (5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2007. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.

Dec 8/06: +3 Js, +2 KC-130J. A $256.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to purchase 3 C-130J-30 transports and 1 KC-130J aerial tanker, as authorized and funded by the FY 2006 Global War on Terror (GWOT) supplemental authorization. This modification is an undefinitized contraction action (UCA) that will obligate 50% ($128.1 million) of the $256.2 million not-to exceed amount. These aircraft, slated for delivery in 2010, were authorized and funded by the FY06 Global War on Terror supplemental authorization. This contract brings the total number of C-130Js ordered to date to 186 (FA8625-06-C-6456/P00008).

A June 2007 modification brought the FY 2006 supplemental value to $320.4 million, for 3 C-130Js and 2 KC-130Js. See above. These figures have not yet been added to the budgetary figures above, pending question to the US military.

Nov 22/06: Canada. Ottawa Citizen – Lockheed wins $4.9B contract. The story contends that DND representatives did not seriously examine Airbus’ bid, and gives these details:

“The Conservative government has quietly named Lockheed Martin’s C-130J aircraft as the winner of a $4.9-billion bid to replace the military’s aging Hercules transport planes… The Canadian government will spend $3.2 billion to buy 17 of the aircraft and another $1.7 billion for a 20-year service contract for the planes. Lockheed, as the prime contractor, will be responsible for the maintenance contract as well. The contract for the planes is expected to be signed by the summer of 2007. The first aircraft will be required to be delivered three years after that.”

DID has a detailed, in-depth spotlight article covering Canada’s tactical airlift competition, its requirements, the proposed alternatives, and ongoing developments: “Canada’s CC-130s to Fail In 3 Years — $4B RFP for Replacements (updated)

Nov 21/06: No JCA joy. Lockheed Martin’s JCA protest is not successful. The reason their “shortened C-130J” was disqualified from the finals?

Their bid wouldn’t have provided jam-resistant GPS instrumentation until 2012, and its incorporation required the USAF to sign on to the existing upgrade contract for the C-130J fleet (FA8625-04-D-6425). The RFP, on the other hand, wanted the planes delivered with those systems installed. The other competitors complied, and even a clarification request to Lockheed didn’t wake them up. The GAO seemed none too happy with Lockheed Martin’s protest, either, stopping just sort of calling its arguments dishonest.

Nov 3/06: Support. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Orlando, FL received a $17.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for C-130J training, FY 2007 contractor logistic support, aircrew, training system support Center and FY 2007 change management. At this time, $17.25 million have been obligated, and work will be complete September 2007. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8621-06-C-6300).

Oct 25/06: US C-130J contract converted. The multi-year procurement contract for the C-130J Hercules is converted from a commercial item Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 12 to a FAR Part 15 military contract, with increased contractor overhead for costing data etc.

Read “C-130J Acquisition Program Restructured” for full coverage.

US restructuring

FY 2006 and earlier

24-year British support deal; Multinational upgrade; Cancellation threat in USA; Inspector General report says cancellation fee estimates wildly overstated; USMC’s KC-130Js operational; USAF accepts 1st C-130J; Delivery #100. UK C-130 C5
(click to view full)

Oct 16/06: International block upgrades. Lockheed Martin announces a $110 million upgrade contract to bring the C-130J Super Hercules transports flown by Australia, Britain, Italy and Denmark to an agreed standard. See “C-130J Reaches USAF IOC, Adds $110M for Multinational Upgrades” for full coverage.

International upgrades agreement

Aug 14/06: JCA GAO protest. Lockheed Martin files a protest with the GAO and urges a freeze on the Joint Cargo Aircraft program until its complaint is resolved, following the exclusion of its shortened-fuselage C-130J from the JCA competition.

August 2/06: JCA loss. C-130J, CN-235 eliminated. The US Army informs Lockheed that its shortened C-130J does not qualify for the JCA, and also eliminates the EADS/Raytheon CN-235.

July 18/06: Support. A $10.5 million firm-fixed-price, time and material, and cost-reimbursement contract for production and installation of stepped frequency microwave radiometer modification kits for 10, WC-130J. This work will be complete August 2007. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8625-06-C-6456)

June 23/06: IG Report. The Washington Post reports on a Pentagon inspector general report, which claims that the purported $1.78 billion cancellation costs may have been overstated by up to $1.1 billion. According to the report, the estimate Rumsfeld was given was “incomplete and did not provide reliable information for making an informed decision,” leaving decision-makers incapable of rationally deciding the cost-effectiveness of continuing or terminating the contract.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had bowed to strong Congressional pressure when he decided not to terminate the C-130J program as he and the Pentagon had originally proposed. At the time, the cited reason was cancellation costs.

June 21/06: Support. The USAF issues a $112 million firm-fixed-price with time & material and cost reimbursement contract for:

  • C-130J Peculiar Spares (Initial) Existing Bases: (8 kits)
  • C-130J MATS Peculiar Spares: (1 Lot)
  • C-130J Readiness Spares Packages Air Force (Little Rock): (1 Lot)
  • C-130J Readiness Spares package ANG (Rhode Island): (1 Lot)
  • WC-130J High Priority Mission Spares Kits USAFR Keesler AFBG: (1 Lot)
  • EC-130J Quick Engine Retrofit Kit – FY06 (1 each).

At this time, $33.1 million has been obligated. Solicitations and negotiations were complete March 2006, and work will be complete January 2007. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8625-06-C-6456)

June 7/06: JCA bid. Lockheed Martin announces that they have proposed their in-production short-fuselage variant of the combat tested C-130J for the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program. JCA requirements called for an aircraft capable of short-field performance, able to transport a payload of 12,000 pounds, and designed to accommodate new technology such as defensive systems and state-of-the-art avionics.

Lockheed had been partnered with Alenia Aeronautica on the C-27J Spartan/”Baby Herc,” but that went awry. In the end, the shortened C-130J would be disqualified from the competition, which the C-27J won.

US JCA loss

June 2/06: Britain support deal. The UK MoD announces a GBP 1.52 billion contract ($2.86 billion at conversion) to Marshall Aerospace in order to support its fleet of C-130 Hercules transport aircraft over the next 24 years. As prime contractor, Marshall Aerospace will work in partnership with the UK Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO), the Royal Air Force, Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce to deliver the Hercules Integrated Operational Support (HIOS) programme. The HIOS programme will provide guaranteed levels of aircraft availability to a fleet that includes both older C3/C1 models (C-130K stretched and normal) and C4/C5 models (C-130J-30 and C-130J). See full DID coverage.

British support

May 24/06: Training. Lockheed Martin Simulator, Training and Support in Kennesaw, GA received a $32.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for C-130J Training Device Fuselage Trainer #2, Loadmaster Part Task Trainer, Aircraft Interface Monitor, Visual Awareness Recognition Screen, Weapon System Trainer Local Networking, Training System Support Career (5-months), Contractor Logistics Support (5-months), aircrew training (5-months) Instructor Operation Stration course, ISO Computer Base Trainer, Premium Training Time, and U. S. Marine Corps proposal prep. At this time, $20.2 million has been obligated. The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8621-06-C-6300).

April 17/06: Engines. Lockheed Martin announces that the Rolls-Royce AE2100D3 engine powering the C-130J Super Hercules transport fleet has reached the 1,000,000 flight hour milestone. The engine also powers Alenia’s C-27J, but Lockheed’s figure is derived from 250,000 flight hours for the worldwide C-130J fleet (4 engines per C-130J). The “common core” AE engine line is manufactured in Indianapolis, IN.

As of this date, a total of 182 C-130Js are on order, and 136 have been delivered to the U.S., Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard, USMC, Coast Guard, the Royal Australian Air Force, Britain’s Royal Air Force, the Royal Danish Air Force, and the Italian Air Force.

1 million engine flight hours

Feb 1/06: Support. A $164 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price award-fee, cost-plus fixed-fee, time-and-materials, and cost-reimbursement contract for sustaining services including logistics support, program management support, engineering services, spares and technical data in support of systems peculiar to the C-130J family.

At this time, $13.5 million has been obligated. Solicitations began August 2005, negotiations were complete in January 2006, and work will be completed by 2 years of sustainment service performance. The Headquarters Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins Air Force Base, GA issued the contract (FA8504-06-D-0001).

Feb 1/06: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN received a $72.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for sustaining services in support of the C-130J propulsion system which includes the AE 2100D3 engine and Dowty’s R-391 propeller system. The contract includes logistics support, program management support, engineering services, spares and technical data. At this time, $18.9 million has been obligated. The Headquarters Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins Air Force Base, GA issued the contract (FA8504-06-C-0004).

FY 2005 and earlier (incomplete) KC-130J refueling CH-53E

April 29/04: The U.S. Marine Corps announces that the commander of Operational Testing and Evaluation (OT&E) has “recommended full fleet introduction of the Lockheed Martin KC-130J [aerial tanker] for operational use.”

April 16/04: US Acceptance. The U.S. Air Force formally accepts its first Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules.

USAF acceptance

Aug 6/03: Delivery #100. Lockheed Martin announces the delivery of the 100th C-130J Super Hercules airlifter. The customer is the Italian Force’s 46th Air Brigade based in Pisa, Italy.

#100

Additional Readings & Sources

News & Related Developments

  • Deutsche Welle (Nov 6/07) – Report: Half of Germany’s Military Planes are in Shambles. Germany isn’t alone with this problem, and: “…corrosion and wear and tear have turned over half of Germany’s [C-160] Transall planes into decrepit machinery. The sources apparently said that it was becoming more difficult to locate spare parts for the planes, some of which are more than 40 years old… Germany had originally planned to replace the remaining Transall planes with Airbus’ new A400M model by 2014, but that schedule may have to be revised due to recently announced delays in delivery.”

  • Defense News (Oct 29/07) – Airplanes on Life Support. Moseley, Wynne Plead: Let USAF Pull the Plug [dead link]. They’re talking about aircraft that can’t fly but must be kept per Congressional directives, which includes a number of C-130E Hercules and KC-135E Stratotankers. “One C-130E Hercules from the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is so old and in such bad shape it cannot safely fly. Yet U.S. Air Force maintainers must tow it around the tarmac every so often to make sure its tires don’t go flat, and crank up the engines every month to make sure they still run… More than 20 percent of the service’s C-130Es are grounded or have significant flight restrictions…”

  • Aviation Week’s Defense Technology International (Jun 13/07) – A400M Could Dominate Strategic Lift [link now broken]. Also covers the C-17 program, and C-5 AMP/RERP upgrades. “The trend in airlift demand is going to place a premium on aircraft that carry more than a C-130. The goal of carrying Future Combat Systems vehicles on the C-130 has been abandoned. Even the new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles are so heavy that a C-130 will carry only one of them. And plans call for the Army to get bigger. If there is an airlift crisis in 2015-20, you read it first here.”

  • DID (April 4/07) – Keeping the C-130s Flying: Center Wing Box Replacements. On February 14, 2005, the US Air Force announced that they were grounding nearly 100 C-130E models because of severe fatigue in their wings, including a dozen that had been flying missions in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. By November 2006, the USAF had kept 47 aircraft under flying restrictions, plus another 30 completely grounded because of the cracks. Other aircraft are expected to wear out as they fly, however, and the replacement program doesn’t expect to get ahead of the “grounding-restriction curve” until 2012.

  • National Defense Magazine (February 2000) – Industry Titans Vying for Early Lead in Cargo Aircraft Markets.

Competitors

Special Forces

  • Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments: Robert Martinage, Senior Fellow – Stealthy Mobility & Support: Aircraft for US Special Operations Forces. [PDF] Feb 22/07 Presentation at CSIS – Future of SOF Aviation Project. Note payload requirements of only 20,000-30,000 pounds, less than the C-130.

  • StrategyPage (Aug 22/09) – Fly Hard, Pay Later. “…adding $4 billion worth of new aircraft… over the next five years. The 1st Special Operations Wing… 37 new C-130J… converting 17 of the aircraft to AC-130 gunships, to replace the 25 currently available… The 1st SOW flew 3,200 combat sorties last year, each of these averaging about four hours over hostile territory. There were also 4,200 training sorties, which mainly served to provide 3,200 new air crew for 1st SOW aircraft.”

  • Military Aerospace Technology (March 16/05) – Next Generation Gunships. Includes significant details re: Lockheed Martin’s MACK concept, which may have a significant influence on future SOCOM aircraft.

  • Jane’s (Feb 7/03) – Concepts vie to win US special ops aircraft race. But the designs, including Lockheed’s MACK concept, are also aimed at the medium transport market.

Categories: News

India Buys C-130J-30 Hercules for Special Forces

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 19:29
1st flight
(click to view full)

In May 2006, India Defence quoted Air Chief S.P. Tyagi saying that “the IAF is planning to buy C-130J planes” for its special forces and Border Security Forces. Reports indicate that the IAF was particularly attracted to the C-130J’s ability to land and take off even in improvised or short airfields, and without lights. Those characteristics have served the Hercules well in other anti-terrorism scenarios like Operation Yonatan in Entebbe, and are now more routine maneuvers thanks to the C-130J Hercules’ modern avionics and increased engine power. That extra power also means that the ‘J’ model performs well in “hot and high” conditions, which can reduce the useful load of older Hercules or similar transport aircraft by 50-60%.

The new C-130J-30 planes will be bracketed by India’s larger Ilyushin IL-76 jet transports on the high end, and on the lower end by twin-engine Antonov AN-32 turboprops. India’s interest in the Hercules is quite specific to the Special Forces at the moment; but the plane’s capacity for additional specialty operations like aerial refueling enhances those operations, and gives the IAF a number of additional employment options. The AN-32s are currently undergoing mid-life refurbishment, and a joint project with Russia’s Irkut looks set to develop a Hercules competitor in time for the AN-32′s replacement cycle. In the interim, however, India is fielding 11 C-130J-30s for its Special Forces…

Contracts & Key Events 2012 – 2014

2nd tranche bought; Crash. IAF C-130J-30
(click to view full)

July 18/14: +6. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, GA receives a maximum $564.7 million contract modification to to fund 6 more India foreign military sales C-130J-30s, field service representatives and 3 years of post-delivery support after the first aircraft delivery. $50.9 million of this contract is committed immediately, and this brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $2.067 billion; but the contract itself applies to orders beyond India’s.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA and is expected to be complete by April 30/20. Once all 6 planes are delivered, India’s fleet will rise to 11, given the March 2014 crash of KC3803. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract as India’s agent (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0273).

6 more C-130J-30s

April 23/14: Post-mortem. The excellent Shiv Aroor at Livefist sheds some light on the possible cause of KC3803′s crash. Short version – the trailing plane was too close and too low:

“The IAF’s former flight safety boss (and then AOC-in-C, Western Air Command) Air Marshal P.S. Ahluwalia tells me, “From the information available, there appears to have been a breach of flying discipline on two fronts. One, by the ill-fated aircraft, which may not have updated and compensated its flight path to accommodate wake and other turbulence during closely formated flight. And two, by the lead aircraft itself.”

Sources: Livefist, “Wake Turbulence, Flying Discipline Likely Doomed IAF C-130J”.

March 28/14: Crash. IAF C-130J-30 tail #KC 3803 hits a hillock during low-level flight training, and crashes in a riverbed 116 km west of Gwailor. Everyone dies, including the 2nd-in-command of the 77 ‘Veiled Vipers’ squadron, Wing Commander Prashant Joshi, 2 pilots, and a trainee.

The C-130 J was reportedly part of a 2-plane formation that had taken off from Agra. Sources: The Indian Express, “5 officers killed as IAF’s new showpiece Super Hercules crashes near Gwalior”.

Crash

Jan 16/13: Engines. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $6.7 million contract modification for Power by the Hour support to the IAF’s C-130Js.

Work will be performed at Hindon Air Station in New Delhi, India, and is expected to be complete by Jan 30/13. The AFLCMC/WLKCB at Robins AFB, GA manages the contract on behalf of their FMS client (FA8504-07-D-0001-0501-09).

Aug 6/12: Industrial. The Hindu reports that the offset program has begun to bear fruit, with some components now made in India:

“The latest feather in the Tata cap is that certain critical components for the C-130 are now being ‘Made in India’… on the outskirts of Hyderabad. That is the promise held out by Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Ltd., (TLMAL), a joint venture between Tata Advanced Systems and Lockheed Martin. The Friday gone by was a landmark day with TLMAL delivering the first C-130 Center Wing Box (CWB) to Lockheed.”

2009 – 2011

India takes delivery of all 6, and requests another 6; What equipment won’t India receive? Hindon landing
(click to view video)

Dec 23/11: Training. Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA receives a $38.4 million firm-fixed-price contract “for the government’s intent to award a contract modification to support the C-130J India FMS Program.” The modification includes a weapon systems trainer (WST) project to include Phase I and II configuration, associated administration costs, air shipment, spares and support equipment, on-site training, and a visual display system.

Work will be performed in Marietta, GA; Orlando, FL; and Tampa, FL, and is expected to be complete by Dec 19/12. The ASC/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract, as India’s agent (FA8625-06-6456, PO 0289).

Dec 15/11: #6 delivered. India’s final ordered C-130J-30 leaves Marietta, GA, for delivery to India. Lockheed Martin: “This aircraft, like its five predecessors, was delivered ahead of schedule and under budget.”

All delivered

Dec 12/11: Costs. Indian defense minister Antony answers a Parliamentary question, and confirms key details about India’s first 6 C-130J-30s:

“Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) have been signed with the Government of the United States (USG) for the procurement of ten C-17 Globemaster aircraft as well as six C-130J aircraft along with associated equipment for the Indian Air Force (IAF) The estimated cost of the procurement of the C-17 aircraft is US $ 4.116 billion while the cost of the procurement of the C-130-J 30 aircraft is US $ 962.4 million… The induction of the C-130 J30 aircraft commenced in February 2011 and five aircraft have been inducted into the IAF so far. The sixth aircraft is planned for induction by end of December 2011.”

Dec 7/11: Indian defense minister Antony answers a Parliamentary question by saying that:

“Government has not inked any follow-on deal for acquiring nine additional C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft with the US. However, a Letter of Request (LoR) has been issued to the U.S. Government for the procurement of the additional aircraft… The cost of the procurements will be known once the Contracts are finalised and signed.”

This may have been a simple mistake, as the DSCA announcement was for 6, in line with plans announced some time ago.

Oct 27/11: The US DSCA announces India’s official request to buy up to 6 more C-130Js, which would bring its fleet to 12. The previous May 25/07 request also asked for C-130J USAF baseline aircraft, but the order involved stretched C-130J-30s. It remains to be seen whether India will order more stretched C-130J-30s (likely), or 6 of the smaller C-130Js.

The estimated cost is up to $1.2 billion, and the prime contractors would be Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA, and Rolls-Royce Corporation in Indianapolis, IN. Offset agreements associated with this proposed sale are expected, but will be defined in negotiations. Implementation may require the assignment of ten U.S. Government and contractor representatives in India for a period of up to 3 years. India would get:

  • 6 C-130J family planes with USAF baseline equipment, including 24 Rolls Royce AE 2100D3 turboprop engines
  • 6 spare AE 2100-D3 turboprop engines
  • 8 AAQ-22 Star SAFIRE III surveillance and targeting turrets with Special Operations Suites (2 are spares)
  • 8 AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning Systems (2 are spares)
  • 8 AN/ALR-56M Advanced Radar Warning Receivers (2 are spares)
  • 8 AN/ALE-47 Counter-Measures Dispensing Systems (2 are spares)
  • 3200 flare cartridges
  • 8 AN/ARC-210 Radios (Non-COMSEC; vid. Oct 6/10 entry)

The sale could also include general spare and repair parts, configuration updates, communications security (COMSEC) equipment and radios, integration studies, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, technical services, personnel training and training equipment, foreign liaison office support, Field Service Representatives’ services, and other U.S. Government and contractor support. US DSCA [PDF] | IBN Live | Times of India.

DSCA request: 6 more

Sept 8/11: #5 delivered. India’s 5th C-130J-30 Super Hercules leaves the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, GA ahead of schedule, en route to Air Force Station Hindan in India. India’s 6th C-130J will be delivered in October 2011. Lockheed Martin.

June 15/11: #3-4 delivered. India’s 3rd and 4th C-130J-30 Super Hercules leave the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, GA, en route to Air Force Station Hindan in India. Lockheed Martin says that:

“The remaining two C-130Js on order will be delivered later this summer. Equipped with an Infrared Detection Set, the aircraft can perform precision low-level flying, airdrops and landing in blackout conditions. Self-protection systems and other features are included to ensure aircraft survivability in hostile air defense environments. The aircraft also is equipped with air-to-air receiver refueling capability for extended range operations.”

India’s airlift is getting a wide-ranging boost over the next couple of years, as refurbished An-32REs begin re-entering service, and its new Boeing C-17s start arriving.

March 29/11: Support. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives an $8.5 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide spares, fuser, and program management support for the Indian Air Force to support the arrival of their new C-130J fleet. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB, GA manages the contract (FA8504-07-D-0001-0501).

Feb 5/11: Induction. The 1st Indian C-130J with Special Forces enhancements is inducted in a special ceremony at Air Force Station Hindon, India. There’s still work to do, however. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik says of the Amerivcan communications and security systems that were left out: “We have our own communication system and yes, we will be integrating them on the aircraft. They are already being made and they will be put on the aircraft.” Lockheed Martin | Andrha News | MSN India.

India inducts C-130J-30

Dec 17/10: #1 delivered. India’s 1st C-130J is formally delivered in a ceremony at Marietta, GA. India’s Economic Times.

Oct 6/10: Exclusions. Indian defense journalist Shiv Aroor lists the technologies that he says will not be in India’s C-130J-30 special forces aircraft, as a result of India’s refusal to sign the USA’s CISMOA End-User Monitoring agreement: AN/ARC-222 SINCGARS radios, KV-119 IFF Digital Transponder (Mode 4 Crypto Applique), TACTERM / ANDVT Secure Voice (HF) Terminal, VINSON KY-58 Secure Voice (UHF/VHF) Module, and no SINCGARS/crypto features in the embedded AN/ARC-210v SATCOM Transceiver.

Excluded gear

Oct 5/10: The 1st of 6 Indian C-130J-30 special forces aircraft takes flight from Lockheed Martin’s plant and airfield in Marietta, GA. Lockheed Martin.

1st flight

June 9/10: Lockheed Martin announces that India’s first 3 aircraft have taken the final positions on Lockheed Martin’s assembly line in Marietta, GA. First aircraft arrival in India is scheduled for February 2011.

Aug 24/09: Support. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA receives a $30.2 million modified contract to purchase the quick engine change assemblies for American C/KC/BC/HC/MC-130J aircraft, and Foreign Military Sale aircraft for Norway and India.

“At this time $31,972,726 has been obligated.” The US Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages this contract (FA8625-06-C-6456).

Aug 5/09: Sensors. FLIR Systems announces a $7.2 million foreign military sale to the Indian Air force to equip its new Hercules aircraft with FLIR’s Star SAFIRE III infrared multi-sensor surveillance systems, which include laser ranging/pointing and geolocation, but not laser targeting. FLIR Systems will also provide training and related services.

Numbers were not mentioned, but see the DSCA request below, which lists up to 8 sets (6 + 2 spares). Work on this order will be performed at FLIR’s facility in Wilsonville, OR, and deliveries are expected to be complete by 2011.

US Coast Guard C-130Js will also carry Star SAFIRE IIIs. This FMS order represents the first fixed-wing sale of FLIR Systems products to the Indian Ministry of Defense, but ongoing projects in areas like maritime security (RUAG Dornier Do-228NG) etc. may create other opportunities for FLIR.

2006 – 2008

India requests 6 planes, then buys them. C-130J vs. C-130J-30
via CASR – click to view

July 15/08: HC/MC-130J. Lockheed Martin holds a briefing at the Farnborough International Airshow 2008 concerning its new HC-130J and MC-130J Special Forces configurations, which are unveiled after its work has begun on India’s order. In addition, Lockheed Martin discussed 3 new technologies that will become part of all future C-130Js: (1) a Global Digital Map Unit built by Israel’s Elbit Systems; (2) a TacView Portable Mission Display for mission planning and in-flight replanning, built by Canada’s CMC, who recently finished a delivery to US AFSOC for its AC-130H/U gunships; and CMC’s InegriFlight commercial GPS Landing System Sensor Unit, to give the planes an Instrument Flight Rules and civil-certified Global Navigational Satellite System. Lockheed Martin release | Frontier India | CMC Electronics | Flight International re: TacView | Flight International re: ILA Berlin 08 briefing, in May.

March 28/08: Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems of Marietta, GA receives a modified contract for $595.8 million. This is an unfinalized contract for 6 Indian Foreign Military Sales (FMS) C-130J aircraft pursuant to Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) IN-D-SAA. In addition to aircraft, this contract includes C-130J Spares, Support Equipment, Logistics Support, and Development/Integration of Indian-unique capabilities.

At this time, 50% of the contract’s value to date ($297.9 million) has been committed. The rest will follow in stages, while a final price is negotiated. Wright-Patterson AFB, OH handles the contract on India’s behalf (FA8625-06-C-6456 PO 0044).

March 17/08: India’s MoD:

“The Government has signed a Letter of Offer & Acceptance with the US Government for the procurement of six C-130J-30 aircraft for the Indian Air Force. The estimated value of the aircraft along with associated ground support equipment, ground handling equipment and the role equipment is 962,454,677 USD. The delivery of these aircraft is likely to be completed by December 2011.”

Contract: 6 C-130J-30s

Feb 27/08: C-130J-30s. An Indian MoD release confirms that the planes in question will be C-130J-30s.

Feb 6/08: Indian newspapers report that the deal for C-130J aircraft has been signed already, and are beginning to leak details. Early indications are that India has bought 6 C-130J-30 stretched versions, with an option for 6 more, and that Lockheed Martin has agreed to follow India’s 30% industrial offsets rule. American Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force Bruce Lemkin, who handles U.S. Air Force international affairs, also confirmed a deal to Reuters, but gave fewer specifics.

The Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force (IAF), Air Chief Marshal FH Major, told the India Strategic website and defence magazine that a Letter of Agreement (LAO) was signed on Jan 30/08 in a quiet New Delhi ceremony. It covers 6 aircraft, plus infrastructure, spares and spare engines, related equipment, and operational and maintenance training – essentially, the package outlined in the DSCA release below. He added that “India has retained options to buy six more of these aircraft for its special forces for combined army-air force operations,” and said that “It would be a couple of metres longer than the standard Hercules aircraft, and equipped with equipment for night and battle zone operations.”

He is almost certainly describing the C-130J-30 stretched version, which is 15 feet longer than the C-130J. The DSCA’s noted package of communications equipment, ground collision avoidance and other night operations features, and electronic countermeasures would make India’s C-130J-30s the most advanced transports in their fleet by a wide margin.

Finally, Indian law requires that large defense deals offer 30% value in industrial offsets for deals over Rs 300 crore (3 billion rupees). This deal is over 10 times that limit, and details of how Lockheed Martin will go about fulfilling the offset obligation are currently being negotiated. The process of fulfilling those obligations will give Lockheed a strong web of existing Indian relationships to draw upon in further Hercules deals, however, and will also help lay a foundation for the $10 billion MMRCA fighter program’s 50% offset requirement, if the firm’s offer of its F-16 should win. The Hindu | The Hindustan Times | Reuters.

Feb 1/08: Voice of America reports that:

“Defense Ministry officials [claim that] India’s security cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, recently approved a deal to buy six Hercules transport planes from the United States. The contract for the C-130J planes is expected to be signed next month. The deal will be worth more than $1 billion.”

Cabinet approval

Nov 26/07: Sales to India typically take a very long time. Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Shri KV Patel and Shri BK Tripathy in Lok Sabha:

“The Government is processing a proposal for procurement of C-130J transport aircraft for the Air Force. No contract has been concluded for the procurement as yet. There is also a proposal for joint development of a Medium Transport Aircraft by India and Russia.”

He’s referring to the MRTA project, which won’t be ready until at least 2015. While Indian procurement officials have been known to shilly-shally for that long, their special forces probably have the need level and clout required to push the C-130J sale through.

IL-76 vs. C-130H

May 25/07: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notifies Congress [PDF format] of India’s request for 6 C-130J Aircraft in Special Forces configuration, as well as associated equipment and services. The total value if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.059 billion, and the request includes:

  • 6 Lockheed Martin C-130J United States Air Force (USAF) baseline aircraft including USAF baseline equipment
  • 4 Rolls Royce AE 2100D3 spare engines
  • 8 AAR-47 Missile Warning Systems (2 are spares)
  • 8 AN/ALR-56M Advanced Radar Warning Receivers (2 are spares)
  • 8 AN/ALE-47 Counter-Measures Dispensing Systems (2 are spares)
  • 8 AAQ-22 Star SAFIRE III Special Operations Suites (2 are spares)
  • 8 ALQ-211 Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures (2 are spares)
  • 2 spare AN/ARC-210 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS)
  • 8 spare Secure Voice Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency Radios
  • 4 spare Secure Voice High Frequency Radios
  • 3 spare AN/AAR-222 SINCGARS and Key Gen (KV-10) Systems
  • 1 KIV-119 Non-standard Communication/COMSEC equipment
  • 2 ARC-210 Non-standard Communication/COMSEC equipment

Also included are spare and repair parts, configuration updates, communications security equipment and radios, integration studies, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, technical services, personnel training and training equipment, foreign liaison office support, Field Service Representatives’ services, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support. Implementation of this proposed sale may require the assignment of 10 each U.S. Government and contractor representatives in India for a periodic of up to 2 weeks.

The principal contractors will be: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX and Rolls-Royce Corporation in Indianapolis, IN. Offset agreements associated with this proposed sale are expected per India’s rules covering foreign defense purchases, but they will be defined in negotiations. Note that Rolls Royce is already gearing up operations in India, and Lockheed Martin has offered to perform extensive F-16 assembly work in India if it should win the $6-10 billion MRCA fighter competition. DSCA adds that:

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of an important partner and to strengthen the U.S.-India strategic relationship, which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South Asia. India and the United States are forging an important strategic partnership. The proposed sale will enhance the foreign policy and national security objectives of the U.S. by providing the Indian Government with a credible special operations airlift capability that will deter aggression in the region, provide humanitarian airlift capability and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces in coalition operations.”

DSCA request: 6 C-130Js

Dec 14/06: U.S. Air Force officials and others confirm delivery of an Indian Defence Ministry request for details of a possible purchase of 6 C-130Js, to the U.S. embassy in New Delhi. Per standard procedure, the embassy has forwarded it to the U.S. Air Force’s office of international affairs. See India Defence coverage.

DID Brief: May 5/06 AN-32 at Thiose, India
(click, and note mountains)

Lockheed sources initially gave a figure of 12-13 aircraft as the number under discussion, which would take over the special forces role and supplement India’s current fleet of 100 or so medium lift twin-turboprop AN-32 “Sutlej” aircraft. No word on whether the Hercs in question would be C-130Js with minor customizations, or a J variant of the heavily-modified and much more expensive MC-130 “Combat Talon” special forces aircraft. India’s emerging Air Force philosophy and terrorism threat profiles would seem to suggest the MC-130 as the best doctrinal fit, while budgetary constraints (the MC-130H lists as $155 million in FY 2001 dollars, and an MC-130J Combat Talon III would cost more) would suggest the C-130J route.

India is currently planning a major upgrade of its AN-32 fleet as well as its 25-30 IL-76 Gajraj strategic transport aircraft, in order to extend their life by 10-20 years. Lockheed Martin is also offering India the $60-80 million C-130J Hercules as a fuller AN-32 replacement option.

Will India’s potential purchase represent a mere stopgap until the $100-120 million A400M begins to hit the market around 2010, and creates a major competition for India’s next-generation tactical airlifter? Will a deal be done around an indigenous project instead, something that India often prefers despite the project failures and increased costs common to such projects in its history [DID: subsequently done with Irkut, to create a similar-sized, jet-powered MRTA]? Or is a C-130J order a potential door-opener for a much larger Lockheed order, one that can be delivered sooner to a customer who decides that it would rather have more aircraft available, and doesn’t need more than 20 tons of lift capacity?

Additional Readings

Categories: News

India’s Light Transport Competition: Follow Avros to Exit

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 18:02
IAF’s 748M Avro
(click to view full)

India’s slow-motion force modernization has made significant progress within its aerial transport fleet. Their AN-32s are being modernized, stretched C-130J Hercules have been bought for their special forces, and the IAF’s high-end IL-76s will soon be joined by 10 Boeing C-17 heavy transports. Now, at the very bottom of India’s fixed-wing transport force, it’s time to replace the 6 tonne capacity of the IAF’s 30 or so surviving 748M Avros. The planes are currently used for troop transport, communications, and training.

The 2 leading contenders are a familiar pair, and would be more like western counterparts to the higher-performance AN-32s. A number of other makes and models have been floated, which could make for an interesting competition if enough of them respond.

RFP: Terms & Contenders Polish C-295M
(click to view full)

India issued its original RFP for up to 56 light cargo aircraft, with an estimated value of INR 130 billion. That was $2.34 billion when the RFP was issued, but the Rupees weakness (just $2.04 billion equivalent on Nov 12/13) may force India to spend more of its own currency for the same results. India would take delivery of the first 16 planes from the original manufacturer, then their chosen Indian partner would produce the other 40 under license. Planes #17 – 32 would also have 30% Indian content, and planes #33-56 would have 60% Indian content.

That workshare will require an Indian partner, but it can’t be HAL because they’re over-committed.

The 2 main contenders are the same pair of rear-ramp turboprops that dominate light tactical transport competitions around the world: Airbus Military’s C295, and Alenia Aermacchi’s C-27J Spartan. Each has won, and lost, its share of competitions.

The C295. It’s more cost-efficient to operate, which makes a big difference over its lifetime. It’s also closer to the Avro 748M conceptually, though its payload is 9.25 tonnes. Specialty variants include an airborne early warning variant that’s in development with Israel’s IAI, and a C295 ASW maritime patrol variant that’s already on offer for India’s medium maritime patrol aircraft needs.

C-27J
(click to view full)

The C-27J Spartan. Offers the width and floor strength to handle loads like vehicles and small helicopters, though it’s shorter than a C295 and will carry fewer cargo pallets. Maximum payload is 11.5 tonnes, and the Spartan shares some engine and avionics commonalities with India’s C-130 fleet. Specialty variants include an AC-27J Praetorian gunship that’s in development with ATK.

Other contenders have been mentioned, but their odds are slimmer.

Saab 2000 MPA concept
(click to view full)

Antonov’s AN-148 regional passenger and cargo plane is the strongest “outside” contender. It’s high wing twin-jet design is unique in this field, and it can carry a mix of passengers and up to 9 tonnes of cargo. The plane has a number of other customers around the world, including countries with comparable climate variations and high altitude terrain. Indian airlines have reportedly ordered 18 of them, and there has been some talk of setting up some production facilities in country.

On the flip side, the AN-148 has been criticized for high operating costs, and the Russian carrier Rossiya has cited operating efficiency below its Boeing 737s. Those costs were reportedly a big reason why Aeroflot declined to expand its order, though the Russian carrier also cited reliability issues. Iran is the type’s largest customer, with over half of the estimated 250 planes in global service.

Ilyushin’s IL-114 is used as a regional airliner in Uzbekistan, whose 14-plane order made them the IL-114′s only customer. Cargo capacity lists as 6.5 tonnes, and production has ended. That isn’t a hugely appealing combination, even if the manufacturer promised to move all future production to India.

Saab 340/2000 turboprops are also out of production, though military variants have been sold to Pakistan, the UAE, and other countries based on refurbished aircraft. Maximum cargo payload is around 6 tonnes, but it’s loaded through a side door, not a ramp. Saab’s regional turboprops have almost 500 models in service around the world, and are reportedly being offered as the base for India’s medium maritime patrol aircraft needs. Saab has been building Indian partnerships as part of its M-MRCA fighter bid. They could offer to restart turboprop production in India, with the intention of winning both Indian military contracts, and extending civilian sales in the region.

Contracts & Key Events Civil AN-148
(click to view full)

July 21/14: HAL, no. India’s Defence Acquisition Council clears a set of acquisitions worth Rs 21,000 crore (INR 210 billion / $3.493 billion). This includes Rs 12k – 13k crore project for the Avro replacement project, which may not be enough given the rupee’s recent fall.

New BJP Party defence and finance minister Arun Jaitley also pushed thorugh a provision that the private sector will be the sole player in making 56 transport aircraft to replace the IAF’s Avros, dealing HAL right out of the competition. India’s private sector firms like Tata, Reliance, Mahindra and L&T are expected to look for a foreign partner, and to use a foreign design, with 16 planes built abroad and 40 in India. The tender was reportedly sent to Airbus, Alenia, Embraer, Lockheed Martin, Ilyushin, Saab, and STE Ukraine.

The move stands to create a private sector competitor for HAL, but the firms in question will need to buy and build facilities that include airport rights and a production line. That may be hard to amortize over 40 planes; worse, all light transport candidates mentioned to date are either poorly-suited to civil aircraft sales, or have already been pushed out of the global market. That market will only become more crowded, if a HAL/CSIR project to develop a regional airliner bears fruit by the mid-2020s.

Despite all of these considerations, if the Indian government is determined to introduce private-sector competition – and this one may be – they will find a way. Dassault Aviation quite liked Reliance Industries Ltd., and wanted to put them in charge of Rafale production in India, so it will be interesting to see if they bid and how they do. Sources: The Asian Age, “A boost for India’s aerospace industry” | India’s Business Standard, “Ajai Shukla: Midwifing new aircraft” | International Business Times, “What Does Indian Defence Get in Military Projects Worth ?34,260 Crore?” | Times of India, “Modi govt clears private sector entry into military transport aircraft project”.

RFP – private sector only

Feb 25/14: India’s Ministry of Defence clears INR 130 billion in military projects to go ahead, but delays 4 key initiatives, including this one. From The Times of India, “Decision on four key defence deals put off”:

“The proposed Rs 13,000-crore project to supply 56 transport aircraft to IAF, in turn, was meant to promote private sector entry into the domestic aerospace arena. But it has got stuck after heavy industries and public enterprises minister Praful Patel raised questions about why state-run units were being kept out of the project.”

Nov 11/13: Delay. India’s Defence Acquisitions Council extends the Avro replacement RFP by 3 months. The problem is the Congress Party’s Minister for Heavy Industries Praful Patel, who is pushing to keep state-run units (basically, Hindustan Aeronautics) in the project, despite their commitment and performance issues. “The matter is being examined in detail,” said an official. Sources: Times of India, “Antony defers decision on critical but controversial missile deals with Israel”.

Nov 27/12: RFP. Aviation Week reports that India has issued its Request For Proposals, and expects to begin deliveries within 4-5 years:

“The Indian air force (IAF) is looking at several options including IL-114 variants from the Russian Ilyushin Aviation Complex, Ukrainian An-148 Antonov, the twin-turboprop European EADS Casa C-295 and Italian Alenia C-27J Spartan medium-sized military transport aircraft.”

Subsequent reports add Embraer and Lockheed Martin (C-130J) to the list, and Embraer in particular is an unusual choice. India already flies C-130Js for their special forces, but their 20t medium transport niche is expected to be filled by the Indo-Russian MRTA collaboration, which will become a rival to both Embraer’s KC-390 and to the C-130J. Embraer does have smaller civilian ERJ/E-Jet airliners, but the KC-390 is their only military transport.

RFP

Sept 28/12: Industrial. StratPost reports that India’s plan to build most of its light tactical transports in India is hitting some financial roadblocks:

“After more than a year of discussion, it now appears that Indian industry has decided not to step up with bids to build the replacement aircraft, in partnership with foreign manufacturers, because of the financial infeasibility… The procurement was stipulated to have been under the ‘Buy and Make Indian’ channel under the Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP), for which only Indian companies could be the lead bidders, in collaboration with foreign manufacturers… [the problem is that] Indian industry has found the order to be too small to justify the capital expenditure…”

The estimated $200-250 million is a lot to invest in a project that ends at 56 aircraft. It’s probably a poor business decision, unless there’s a strong prospect of future sales beyond the IAF’s order, or of significant industrial offsets work from other IAF foreign aircraft buys. RP Defense.

July 27/12: Approval. The Ministry of Defense’s acquisition council gives the go-ahead for a global tender to replace the IAF’s 748M Avros, and sets out the terms of local manufacture: 1st 16 in India, 30% local content for the next 16 planes, then 60% local content for the final 24.

HAL won’t be participating, as they are: “already burdened with projects, such as the SU-30MKI production and upgrades of Indian air force’s aircraft fleet, including the Mirage, MiG 29 and Jaguar aircraft.”

That limitation will place the winner’s Indian partner in a unique position as a competing Indian aircraft builder. Larsen and Toubro, Mahindra and Mahindra, and Tata are all seen as potential partners for foreign competitors. UPI.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

DSP Satellites: Supporting America’s Early-Warning System

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 17:39
DSP-16 Deploys
(click to view full)

Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites have been monitoring the skies as America’s early-warning system for ballistic missile launches since their first launch in 1970. The current Satellite Early Warning System (SEWS) consists of 5 DSP satellites; 3 provide frontline operational service, with 2 available as backups should problems emerge with the primary satellites.

The program’s lifetime has seen the launch of 23 DSP satellites, and improvements to DSP via 5 upgrade sets have allowed those satellites to exceed their design lifespan. The USAF’s fact sheet lists the satellites’ unit cost at $400 million, though they do not mention what fiscal year baseline that figure is linked to. While the DSP satellites successfully detected Iraqi SCUD launches during Operation Desert Storm, testimony before Congress has noted that there are some classes of missiles the DSP constellation has trouble with. The USAF’s way over-budget SBIRS program was created to address that, but the DSP constellation will be up for a long time. This entry will be updated to cover new developments, contracts, and more.

The DSP Satellites DSP Satellite

DSP satellites use an infrared sensor to detect heat from missile and booster plumes against the earth’s background. The first DSP was launched in 1970, and the final DSP bird was orbited in 2007.

The spacecraft and sensor were upgraded several times throughout production to protect against evolving worldwide threats. In 1995, improvements were also made to ground processing systems, in order to improve detection of short-range missiles.

Today’s DSP-I (improved) weighs 5,200 pounds vs. just 2,000 pounds for the original versions, requires 1,275 watts of power vs. 400, uses 6,000 detectors vs. 2,000, and is approximately 33 feet long and 14 feet in diameter. Recent technological improvements in sensor design include above-the-horizon capability for full hemispheric coverage and improved resolution, as well as increased on-board signal-processing capability.

The DSP constellation is being replaced by the SIBRS-High program. Unfortunately, that program has been beset by massive cost overruns, technical challenges that continue to present problems, and uncertain performance. Despite its problems, the U.S. Air Force is proceeding with the program. Until SIBRS-High is ready, however, the DSP constellation will be the USA’s sentinel against ballistic missile launches.

Contracts & Key Events

The development and acquisition of DSP satellites is managed by the Space Based Infrared System Program Office at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (Air Force Materiel Command) at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA. Contracts usually list the Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA as the issuer.

July 17/14: Political. The Senate Appropriations Committee approves a $489.6 billion base FY 2015 budget, plus $59.7 billion in supplemental funding. One item is very consequential to the DSP constellation:

Defense Meteorological Satellite Program [DMSP]. — The budget request includes $87,000,000 for storage, integration, test, launch, and early-orbit checkout of one Defense Meteorological Satellite Program [DMSP] satellite. Air Force analysis indicates this satellite will not be needed on-orbit until 2020, costing an additional $425,000,000 in storage during that period. This amount is excessive for a 1990s technology satellite originally costing approximately $500,000,000. The Committee is aware that only a few of the capabilities provided by this satellite cannot be met by other existing civil and commercial satellites. The Committee questions the Air Force’s current plan to launch this satellite in 2020 at a significant cost to the Government for a capability that may be met through other space-based assets. Therefore, Committee directs the Air Force to reassess its plan for the last DMSP and pursue a least cost approach for the disposition of this satellite. Of the amount requested for DMSP, the Committee provides $30,000,000.

At the same time, however, the SAC votes to allot $125 million to add a competed EELV launch order in FY 2015. The USAF has indicated that they might prefer to launch DSP-20 as soon as possible, rather than scrap it. Especially if this helps to extricate them from the mess created by restricting competitive launches and triggering a lawsuit from SpaceX. Note that the FY 2015 budget still has to be voted on in the whole Senate, then reconciled in committee with the House of Representatives’ defense budget, then signed into law by the President. Sources: Senate SAC, “Committee Approves FY 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill – Report: Department of Defense” | DID, “FY15 US Defense Budget Finally Complete with War Funding” | DID, “Sued from Orbit: SpaceX and the EELV Contract“.

July 15/14: DSP-20 to compete. The USAF got some pushback about the ULA block buy at the House Armed Services Committee hearings on July 10th. USAF Secretary Deborah Lee James is telling reporters that they’re looking to reprogram $100 million, and move the DMSP-20 weather satellite launch into FY 2015 as a competed contract. That would raise the number of purchased FY 2015 launches to 6, but the amount committed strongly suggests that SpaceX would win the deal. Sources: DoD Buzz, “Air Force Seeks $100 Million for Rocket Rivalry” | Space Politics, “DOD official defends EELV block buy, endorses launch competition”.

Sept 27/13: FY 2014. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, CA receives a $19.3 million cost-plus-award-fee contract for FY 2014 DSP on-orbit support and sustainment. This modification provides for another 110,392 labor hour, including factory level operations, DSP spacecraft and sensor management & support, on-site support, and in depth missile threat analysis to the 2nd Space Warning Squadron.

Work will be performed at Redondo Beach, CA, and is expected to be complete by Sept 30/14 (FA8810-09-C-0001, PO 0080).

Sept 26/12: FY 2013. Northrup Grumman Space and Mission Systems in Redondo Beach, CA receives a $41.1 million contract modification for FY 2013 on-orbit support and sustainment of DSP sensors and satellites.

Work will be performed in Redondo Beach, CA until Sept 30/13 (FA8810-09-C-0001, PO 0067).

Sept 23/11: FY 2012. Northrup Grumman Space and Mission Systems in Redondo Beach, CA receives a $39.5 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification, exercising an option for FY 2012 on-orbit support of the DSP sensors and spacecraft bus, under the defense on-orbit support and sustainment contract.

Work will be performed at Redondo Beach, CA (FA8810-09-C-0001, PO 0047)

Oct 8/09: FY 2010. Northrop Grumman Space Technology in Redondo Beach, CA received a $35.4 million contract modification for on-orbit sustainment of the DSP spacecraft, primary infrared sensor and mission analysis (FA8810-09-C-0001, PO 0019).

June 14/09: 20 years. The USA’s DSP Flight 14 satellite reaches 20 years of on-orbit operations, following its June 14/89 launch aboard a Titan IV rocket. USAF.

20 years on-orbit

Oct 1/08: Northrop Grumman Space Technology in Redondo Beach, CA received a cost-plus-award-fee $38.3 million contract to provide on-orbit sustainment support for the DSP spacecraft, primary infrared sensor and mission analysis.

The contract consists of an initial year, plus 4 one-year options. If all options are exercised, the contract would have a maximum value of $206 million (FA8810-09-C-0001). See also NGC release.

Multi-year support contract, FY 2009 – 2013

Nov 11/07: United Launch Alliance launched the DSP-23 satellite aboard the 1st operational Delta IV Heavy expendable launch vehicle for the US Air Force. The DSP-23 launch completes the deployment of the DSP satellite constellation.

DSP-23 launch

Sept 29/06: Post-production. Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems Corp. in Redondo Beach, CA received a $41.8 million cost-plus-award fee contract modification. The Defense Support Program will extend the current spacecraft post-production support contract with Northrop Grumman Space Technology from 30 September 2006 thru 30 September 2007, due to a 1-year launch slip. This work will be complete September 2007 (F04701-96-C-0030, PO 0145)

Sept 22/06: Northrop Grumman Information Technology Inc. in Azusa, CA received a $39.2 million cost-plus-award fee contract modification which provides a one-year extension to the defense support program (DSP), sensor post production support contract (Oct. 1 2006 to Sept. 30 2007). Work will be complete September 2007 (F04701-96-C-0031, PO 0180).

Under this contract, Northrop Grumman will provide storage and storage support of the DSP satellites in accordance with satellite environmental requirements, annual testing of stored satellites, trend analysis, integration returns (repair and return failed/ obsolete components), safety analysis, load analysis, maintenance of all launch site safety requirements, multiple readiness reviews and rehearsals, multiple integrated systems test, test and prepare satellites for launch site, launch vehicle integration, sustaining engineering of the on-orbit satellites (multiple block build), early on orbit testing support for newly launched satellites, anomaly resolution and flight operations support for DSP constellation. They will also be tasked with operational performance analysis for performance assessment and mission performance improvement, including recommendation for retrofitting satellites in storage.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Saab Won’t Chase Danish Jet Deal

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 15:51

  • According to a Danish newspaper Saab bowed out of Denmark’s fighter jet competition because they think Denmark’s participation in the F-35 program makes the deal a foregone conclusion. Politiken [in Danish] | Reuters. The F-35 was barely disguised in a couple episodes of Denmark’s highly recommended Borgen TV series.

Middle East

  • The conflict in Gaza now took more than 600 lives. Israel lost 27 soldiers since ground operations started, as Hamas is proving less hapless than in past fights.

  • Can’t keep up with who hates whom in the Middle East? Here’s a handy cheat sheet [seen on Twitter, source unknown], though it’s missing a few players such as Qatar. This should be a live dashboard too, given shifting makeshift alliances.

Russia

  • The shooting of MH17 doesn’t seem to be enough for China to stop its implicit but consistent support for Russia since its invasion of Crimea.

Asia

MRAP Attack

  • Some police departments across the US are getting more post-Afghanistan freebies from the Department of Defense than they could possibly need.

  • Speaking of Afghanistan after the departure of Western troops:

“Many in Afghanistan worry that the soaring violence shows the Taliban [...] are on the rise again as international military forces rapidly withdraw at a time when an election crisis threatens to undermine the next Afghan government and the country’s first democratic transition of power.”

RIMPAC 2014

  • Their raspberry berets might be an acquired taste, but humming by an Indonesian Marinir provides a good soundtrack to today’s video, courtesy of the US Marine Corps. They trained together in Hawaii earlier this month to practice jungle patrols.

Categories: News

The Great Engine War II: PW F135 vs. GE-RR F136 for F-35s

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 19:38
Gentlemen, start your…
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In January 2006 the Pentagon attempted to remove FY 2007 funding from the F-35 Lightning II’s second engine option, the GE/ Rolls Royce F136. As predicted, protests from fellow Tier 1 partner Britain followed at the highest levels of government. Many in the US Congress, meanwhile, were openly skeptical of handing Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine the keys to the entire F-35 fleet. In the end, the Pentagon’s argument that low program risk made R&D spending on F136 development a waste, failed. Congress re-inserted funding, and F136 development has continued on schedule.

Fast forward to the FY 2008 budget. For the second year in a row, the USAF removed funding for the GE/RR F136, arguing that killing the F136 would free up $1.8 billion. Politicians disagreed, and the USA’s GAO auditors backed them up. Funding was reinstated. Again. That process was repeated every year until December 2011, when Pratt & Whitney was finally handed its engine monopoly over the US military’s core fighter jet of the future…

The F136 Program F136 concept
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The JSF dual engine program had always envisaged a leader-follower strategy for development – it was never a competition during the development phase. When Boeing’s X-32 and Lockheed Martin’s X-35 competed to become the Joint Strike Fighter, Pratt & Whitney’s F119 was deemed to be the only production engine suitable for use as a base for an engine to power both aircraft. As the winning F-35 fighter’s SDD phase began, both engine types were already receiving funding, but the F135 engine had started much earlier, had begun development from an in-production base engine, and had already flown on the demonstrator aircraft.

Pratt & Whitney’s F135 received a 4-year head start on development thanks to a $4.8 billion System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract on Oct 26/01, and that was set to grow to a total of $7.5 billion in funding over the F-35′s development period. It powered F-35 test aircraft, and equips initial F-35 production models. It was about 24 months behind the 2001 schedule, however; even as Pratt & Whitney was lobbying to be the F-35 engine’s sole-source supplier and maintainer, estimates placed them over budget by a reported $2.4 – 3.4 billion.

GE and Rolls Royce’s F136 was at an earlier stage of development. It was derived from the F120 engine that had powered the YF-23 Black Widow prototype, and follow-on F136 development was launched in earnest by a $2.47 billion SDD contract in August 2005, after almost $600 million in pre-SDD funding.

The idea was to replicate the very successful experience of the P&W F100 and GE F110 engines that power F-15 and F-16 models. The F110 had an even longer lag of 4 years behind the F100, but its arrival made a big difference to the F-16, which was suffering from the F100′s problems. Ongoing competition straightened that out fast, and created what were in effect free upgrades, as well as cost and reliability benefits (q.v. “F100 and F110: The 1st Engine War,” below). Fleet reliability was also improved, by creating a mixed fleet of F100 powered and F110 powered F-16s.

These characteristics become even more important when a single fighter type is expected to be the future backbone of all 3 military services. See “Engine War II: The American Debate,” below, for a fuller treatment.

F136: Industrial

F136: GE/RR workshare
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F136 engine development was led by GE Aviation in Evendale, OH near Cincinnati suburb; and by Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis, IN. GE Aviation was responsible for 60% of the F136 program: developing the core compressor, coupled high-pressure/low-pressure turbine system components, controls and accessories, and the augmentor. Rolls-Royce was responsible for 40% including the front fan, combustor, stages 2 and 3 of the low-pressure turbine, and gearboxes.

Rolls Royce’s LiftSystem fan for the F-35B STOVL was to be common to both the F135 and the F136 engines.

International participant countries like the Netherlands were also contributing to the F136, through involvement in engine development and component manufacturing. Nedtech and DutchAero (formerly Philips Aerospace), for example, had contracts with Rolls Royce for F136 backup motors and blisks. Stork-Rheinmetall had testing contracts, and was leveraging its strong expertise in fan blades. Had the F136 entered service, this international roster would have expanded.

Sitrep at the End Capitol Building

The first complete new-build F136 engine began testing early in 2009, and expected to see flight testing by 2011-2012. If all went well, the first production F136s could be available in 2012. The F136 program was 2-3 months behind the original 2005 schedule, and on budget, but with less testing under their belt. That’s a bit of a caution flag. Additional engine costs and rework are always a risk once stress testing begins in earnest, and Congress created issues by not providing the full amount of budgeted funding during development.

These lags seemed stressful at the time. They were more than stressful – they were dangerous. Just not for the reasons GE thought.

GE thought the problem was the F-35 program’s schedule. F-35 fighter production was scheduled to step up considerably in 2010, but the planes’ SDD phase and associated testing wasn’t expected to be complete before 2014, well after production deliveries had begun. That originally created schedule pressures for the F136 team, who wanted to be ready before the fighter’s SDD phase finished, and before Britain fielded its new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in 2015.

As it turned out, that wasn’t the problem.

By 2011, when GE and Rolls Royce canceled the F136, 2016 looked (and was) too optimistic as the projected end of the Joint Strike Fighter’s development phase. Production clearly wouldn’t reach full rates for several more years, and Britain’s plans had changed so much that they wouldn’t be flying any planes off of a carrier again before 2020. Testing issues had even changed the order of fielding and full-rate production for the F-35′s 3 variants.

The problem was the political schedule. The Pentagon began trying to kill the F136 in 2007, but their premises and justifications were found to be flawed, or even completely missing. They were not helped by the fact that key analysts like Congress’ GAO auditors had consistently expressed support for the alternative engine program as a good use of funds. So the problem became whether the engine could survive politically, in order to become a viable competitive alternative for customers like US Navy, Britain (who was expected to pick it), et. al.

Congressional and international support remained solid for 3 years. Then the 2010 mid-term elections ushered in a wave of new representatives in the House, many of whom were part of a “Tea Party” protest wave that pushed to retrain US government overspending before its economic backlash could seriously damage the country. The F136 got caught in that sentiment by a freshman caucus looking for a victory. A co-belligerence of right-wing Republicans with a preponderance of Democrats saw the F136′s political defenses fail in 2011, before the engine could make it into service.

The F136: Detractors and Defenders F100 and F110: The 1st Engine War F110-GE-129 testing
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The Pentagon’s argument for canceling the F136 boiled down to 2 main pillars. One is that the F135′s derivation from the F-22A Raptor’s extensively-tested F119 engine reduces its development risks. The second contention is that The F135 is working well, which means any funds given to the F136 subtract from the total number of fighters in the F-35 program.

The Lockheed F-16, which currently flies with either P&W’s F100 or GE’s F110 engines, is an illustrative example of how a dual-source engine program can work. In program terms the F110 was introduced even later, fully 4 years after F-16s with P&W’s F100 began front-line operations in USAF units. Nevertheless, the strategy was a success. It created more competition, solved a slew of problems with the early F100 engines that were in service, and sustained the American industrial base by leveraging a popular fighter program in 2 ways. It also led to a raft of free technology improvements, from higher thrust engines to maintenance improvements, that continue to this day. With 2 competitors available for American and foreign buys, each knows that complacency will lead to rapid replacement as the F-16′s engine of choice. This is true with respect to support costs, as well as for purchase costs.

The GAO consistently reported that these benefits more than paid for the cost of developing the F110 engine. The marketplace will also tell you that, without a report.

Although the P&W F100 was the F-16′s original engine, and is still chosen by some foreign customers, GE’s F110 currently powers over 80% of the USAF’s F-16 fleet. A number of other global customers also have mixed-engine F-16 fleets, which serves as a hedge against technical risk for their primary fighter force. You can tell by an F-16′s designation: Block x0 F-16s (i.e. F-16C Block 50) have GE’s F110 engines; Block x2 F-16s (i.e. F-16C Block 52) have P&W’s F100 engines.

Competition is even bleeding into the F-15 program, which had always been far more uniform. F-15s almost all carry variants of the F100, though some of Saudi Arabia’s F-15S and Korea’s F-15Ks, and all of Singapore’s F-15SGs, are breaking that mold by selecting GE’s F110. Note that you can’t tell the F-15′s engine by a block number or by any other designation, unless the type is a single-engine fleet like the F-15SG.

Engine War II: The American Debate

Lift fan module
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Given the positive maintenance and performance results from dual-sourcing the P&W F100 and GE F110 engines for the global F-16 and F-15 fleets, and the appeal of district jobs, the Pentagon had an uphill battle on its hands in Congress. They remained willing to try, however, which meant that the F136 engine kept requiring resurrection.

Revival efforts were boosted by support from the US Congress’ Government Accountability Office, whose auditors have consistently supported the long term financial and operational benefits of a dual-engines program. In 2007, they estimated that sole-source lifecycle cost for the entire F-35 engine program at $53.4 billion, while the alternate engine program would require another $3.6 – $4.5 billion. They believe that actual experience from past engine competitions suggests that it is reasonable to assume savings of at least that much, while improving contractor and engine performance, and acting as a hedge against fleet-wide risk.

The F136 has also enjoyed bipartisan support from Armed Services committee members.

Cost risk: One obvious consequence of a single-engine program would be a major win for United Technologies, as it would be the engine supplier for the backbone of the US tactical fighter fleet and a potential export star. They would also inherit a very lucrative aftermarket of spare parts and support lasting until 2050 at least, and possibly beyond. Back on Feb 5/07, Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. John Warner (R-VA) grilled Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Pentagon Comptroller Tina Jonas over concerned that eliminating the F136 would be the equivalent of handing Pratt & Whitney sole engine development right:

“If we have but a single engine, then we’re in effect giving a sole-source contract to one contractor, which could amount to $100 billion… I’ve calculated that out. It’s extraordinary.”

Verdict as of 2014: F135 purchase costs remain high, which is a bad omen for long-term support costs because the program needs lower per-plane costs right now. Absent an alternative, that hasn’t been enough to make a difference. The larger the F-35 fleet grows, the less leverage customers will have with Pratt & Whitney as a sole support supplier.

Operational risk: In 2009, House Armed Service Air-Land Subcommittee chair Neil Abercrombie [then D-HI] stressed the fleet reliability issue, stating that it simply was not prudent to have 80-90% of the USAF, Navy and Marine Corps’ fighter fleet dependent on one engine type, from one manufacturer, which can ground all of those fleets if mechanical flaws or difficulties surface. The conservative Heritage Foundation stressed the same issue, so those 2 have agreed on at least 1 thing over the years.

Verdict as of 2014: This has been a problem, and the entire F-35 family has been grounded a couple of times already over engine issues.

From Top: F-35A, C, B
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Other long term issues arose as politicians debated the merits of a dual-sourcing program.

Industrial: The Lexington Institute believed that GE would probably exit the tactical engine business, in line with its famous “#1, #2, or gone” approach. While GE would still have the contract for the F414 engine in the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets and Saab’s JAS-39NG, it would have no toehold in the future fighter market. Under those circumstances, a spin-off and sale of its fighter engine assets to focus on helicopter and commercial engines would not be unthinkable.

Verdict as of 2014: Hasn’t happened yet. GE continues to service its existing engines, and is successfully marketing the F404 and F414 for foreign fighter programs like South Korea’s T-50 family and India’s Tejas LCA. GE could still exit the fighter engine business, but it won’t happen soon. They continue to do some R&D around F414 variants with better power or better efficiency, participate in advanced US government engine research programs, and have high dual-use hopes for their 7,500 shp class T708 turboshaft/ turboprop. Still, it remains true that most of their cutting-edge R&D efforts these days are firmly on the civilian side.

International. Then there were the potential consequences for the JSF program as a whole. Britain has invested $2 billion in the F-35 as the only other Tier One partner, and the participation of Rolls Royce with GE in the aircraft’s F136 engine is an important industrial spinoff. The UK’s F-35 participation has been questioned and technology transfer issues. Budget issues remain a threat to the program as a whole, and the question of related industrial spin-offs remains part of Parliament’s concerns.

The Dutch are also involved in F136 production, even as that Tier 2 partner considers alternative platforms like the JAS-39NG. Nedtech and DutchAero (formerly Philips Aerospace) have contracts with Rolls Royce for F136 backup motors and blisks, while Stork-Rheinmetall had testing contracts, and was leveraging its strong expertise in fan blades.

Dealing a serious blow to the program’s industrial spin-off potential for the UK would create risks for the program as a whole, especially with Britain facing a serious budget crisis in the wake of 2009′s Great Recession. Dutch involvement in the F136 was far smaller, but until production orders are placed, anything that might tip the balance against the F-35 was worth sober second thought.

Verdict as of 2014: Absent an alternative engine, F135 engine costs and reliability are a sales negative for the plane as a whole, but there aren’t any clear signs that it’s costing the program any near-term sales. Britain’s F-35 order has been cut by an uncertain amount, but a cut of half or more remains a possibility. The Dutch came close, but didn’t cancel; still, they their buy from 85 to 33-35 fighters, as a result of overall aircraft costs. Canada may end up doing something similar. It isn’t clear that keeping the F136 in play would have made enough difference to change these outcomes, and the F-35 hasn’t yet lost any of the few fighter competitions it’s known to have entered.

Updates and Key Events FY 2012 – 2014

GE & Rolls Royce give up; Subsequent F135 problems push Senate SAC to recommend a reassessment of the sole-source engine approach.

F136 w. Lift System
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July 17/14: Politics. The Senate Appropriations Committee approves a $489.6 billion base FY 2015 budget, plus $59.7 billion in supplemental funding. It includes a section covering the F135 engine, and it’s clear that the members aren’t happy:

“F135 Engine. When the Department of Defense made the decision to terminate the alternate engine for the F–35 Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] in May of 2011, it reassured the Committee that a second engine was no longer necessary as a hedge against the failure of the main JSF engine program. The Department also stated that the financial benefits, such as savings from competition, were small if they existed at all. Since that time, the F135 engine has experienced numerous problems, including the failure of an oil flow management valve and a pre-take-off fire in the past few weeks, both of which grounded the entire fleet of over 100 aircraft. Further, the F135 engine unit cost has not declined as projected. However, the Committee believes that had the alternate engine program continued, competition would have incentivized the F135 engine manufacturer to find creative methods to drive down prices and ensure timely delivery of a high quality product, which is consistent with current Department preference for competition in acquisitions. Therefore, the Committee recommends the Secretary of Defense reassess the value of an alternate engine program creating competition to improve price, quality, and operational availability.”

American budgets still have to be reconciled in conference with the House of Representatives, then signed by the President, so there’s no guarantee that this remains in the FY 2015 defense budget as passed.

The USAF is saying that the F135 engine fire is probably a one-off event, based on examination of the other 98 planes. Even so, the point about fleet availability has been made, and the meltdown appears to have destroyed a $120 million jet, and killed the F-35′s much-hyped attendance at the world’s top military air expo in Farnborough. Even so, Pentagon acquisition Chief Frank Kendall is saying that “We’re not interested in this point in going back several years and opening up to another competitor.” It’s also worth asking if GE and Rolls Royce are interested, based on their own cancellation (q.v. Dec 2/11). Sources: DID, “FY15 US Defense Budget Finally Complete with War Funding” | Defense News, “Senate Panel to Pentagon: ‘Reassess’ Value of Alternate F-35 Engine” | Foxtrot Alpha, “Axing The F-35′s Alternative Engine Was An Incredibly Stupid Move.”

Dec 2/11: F136 Ended. Joint GE/ Rolls Royce press release:

“The GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team (FET) has reached the decision to discontinue self-funded development of the F136 engine for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) beyond 2011… recognizes the continued uncertainty in the development and production schedules for the JSF Program… difficult circumstances are converging that impact the potential benefit of a self-funded development effort… [The team] will continue to fulfill its termination responsibilities with the federal government…numerous patented technologies from both companies… six F136 development engines had accumulated more than 1,200 hours of testing since early 2009. The [engine] consistently delivered on cost and on schedule, and was rewarded with high marks by the Department of Defense…”

Outside reports indicate that a key blow was an Oct. 31 meeting between GE Aviation leadership and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in which “it became clear that the [Defense Department] would not support the FET self-funding effort,” which depended on some level of cooperation with respect to the use of test facilities, access to delivered engines, etc. They also indicate that even if the 2012 budget approves self-funded development and forced the Pentagon to support it, the project is dead.

It’s that last position that prompts a certain amount of speculation. The ultimate reason for ending development, beyond complete Pentagon non-cooperation, could be a business case. Schedule difficulties were explicitly cited, as sliding production expectations make it hard to plan when to have manufacturing investments ready. Then, too, funding 20% of a $3+ billion program is a significant outlay, and the engine partners may see budgetary train wrecks in the USA and Europe imperiling planned F-35 purchases. If the plane’s trajectory follows the F-22′s, exports stall, and real production totals end up closer to 2,000 than 6,000, the lure of an up-front investment shrinks accordingly. Especially if the Pentagon makes a political decision not to buy it, no matter what, leaving the F136 competing for a small pool of small export orders. Revelations may come in time, but for now, the reasoning is not as clear as the outcome.

The only consequential questions left now are GE’s long-term future in the fighter engine business, and the size of the monopoly gift handed to Pratt & Whitney. The latter has been estimated at up to $100 billion over the F-35′s lifetime for both engine buys and the real kicker – support costs. See also Aviation Week | Bloomberg | Cincinatti.com.

GE/RR cancels F136

May 9/11: Politics. The Full House Armed Services committee releases its mark-up of the FY 2012 defense budget. The mark up includes Section 252, which blocks the Pentagon from spending any money for “activities related to destroying or disposing” any “property owned by the federal government that was acquired under the F136 propulsion system development contract.” The proposed budget also reinstates the F136 program, without funding, allowing the GE/RR team to use existing engines, test facilities, etc. HASC | Bloomberg.

FY 2011

Pentagon issues stop work order, but GE/RR will self-fund as it touts fixed-price early production offer; New GOP representatives from the “2010 wave” kill the F136; Did the Pentagon lobby Congress illegally?; F-35B and hence LiftFan placed on probation; F135/136 engines undeliverable at sea?; GE runs complete propulsion system for the 1st time.

F136 Prototype
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May 5/11: F136 self-funded. The GE/RR team announces that they will self-fund the F136 through FY 2011 and 2012, completing the remaining 20% of development. In return, they will retain the hardware, assemblies and testing capacity funded by the government. That would keep the alternative engine “viable” for both the F-35 and for a future U.S. Air Force long-range bomber, which gets initial funding in FY 2012.

According to a September 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands, published by Wikileaks, “prospects for winning continued Dutch support for the JSF are dim without continuation of the F136 program.” Aviation International News.

April 25/11: Contract termination. The DoD announces that it is canceling the contract to build an alternate engine for the F-35 JSF fighter jet. It informed the General Electric/Rolls Royce team and Congress that the F136 JSF engine contract has been terminated. In the FY 2011 continuing resolution funding the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, Congress failed to fund the F136 engine, DoD said.

GE and Rolls-Royce said they would press for funding to be restored in FY 2012. They estimate taxpayers have spent roughly $3 billion on the project so far. “I can assure you we are not giving up,” GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said in a letter to employees, according to a Reuters report. “We continue to be encouraged by the bi-partisan support for the engine on the merits of its performance and value,” the companies added in a statement after the termination announcement, the report added.

March 24/11: Stop work order. The Pentagon issues a stop-work order on the F136:

“The Department of Defense (DoD) today issued a stop work order in connection with the Joint Strike Fighter extra engine program… The House of Representatives has recently expressed its own opposition to the extra engine in its passage of H.R. 1 including the adoption of the Rooney Amendment which removed all fiscal 2011 funding for this program. In addition, funding for the extra engine was not authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2011, enacted in January. In light of these recent events, Congressional prerogatives, and the administration’s view of the program, we have concluded that a stop work order is now the correct course. The stop work order will remain in place pending final resolution of the program’s future, for a period not to exceed 90 days, unless extended by agreement of the government and the contractor.”

The bit about 2011 continuing resolutions is technically true, insofar as no specific funding directives are offered at all for any part of the F-35 program. The decision pulls $460 million in funding from the program, and House Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon [R-CA-24] said that:

“The views of the president and Secretary Gates are well known on this topic, but those opinions – however strong – are not the law. The Joint Strike Fighter F136 engine program is funded under the current continuing resolution. The secretary should follow current law and not pre-empt the congressional deliberation process by yanking funding after a single amendment vote… canceling the engine competition and awarding a sole-source, never-competed contract constitutes the largest earmark in the history of the Department of Defense… The Department’s decision is especially troubling when you consider their preferred engine has experienced development delays and a cost to complete increase of 445 percent over the last three years.”

Sen. John Kerry [D-MA] expressed similar concerns about the process, but restoring funding in the Senate, which struck it from the budget in 2010, and then persuading the House to go along in reconciliation, will be difficult. The Senate didn’t include the engine in its bill either, but senators voted down both versions, leaving the program in limbo. GE and Rolls Royce say they will now self-fund F136 development through the 90-day period, while continuing to make their case for the original dual-engine program. US DoD | Rep. McKeon | Australian Aviation | Aviation Week | Bloomberg | Boston Herald | Flight International | DoD Buzz | Gannett’s Air Force Times | Lancanshire Telegraph | Reuters.

Pentagon stop-work order on F136

Rep. Toomey on
his strategy
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Feb 15/11: House votes to kill. Rep. Thomas Rooney [R-FL-16] offers an amendment to H.R. 1, which is the new Congress’ 1st bill because its predecessor failed to pass a FY 2011 budget. H.Amdt.16 proposes to strip $450 million in funding for the F136 engine out of the budget, and passes 233-198-1. The margin of difference from last year is largely among the Republican freshman class, who were the focus of strong lobbying – though on balance, Republicans voted against the amendment 130-110. With Democrats voting 123-68-2 in favor, however, the vote was carried.

A GE statement said that “While we are disappointed at the outcome, the debate to preserve competition will continue… Last fall, the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee called the F136 engine a ‘near model program.’ ”

The House isn’t done with H.R. 1, and could reverse the amendment before it finishes. Reconciliation with the Senate must also happen before this is final, but last year, it was House pressure that kept the dual-engine program alive. One proponent is Sen. Patrick Leahy [D-VT], who tweets:

“House vote is pound foolish & not even penny wise. Ending the alternate engine: A blunder that would yoke taxpayers for a generation.”

Agree or disagree, it’s pretty clear that the fight isn’t over. For the 1st time in the program’s history, however, GE is not working from a position of strength. GovTrack on H.Amdt.16 | THOMAS covers the floor debate that begins with the amendment | Rep. Rooney statement | Bloomberg | libertarian Cato Institute | DoD Buzz | The Hill | Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Sky Talk | Washington Post || Sen. Sherrod Brown [D-OH] reaction.

Feb 16/11: Deception? Rep. Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD-6], chair of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee, has some pointed questions for SecDef Gates about a memo circulating on Capitol Hill, which says it was prepared by the Department of Defense, containing statements that seem to be untrue, which was not sent to House Armed Services committee members, and which could conflict with statutes that the Pentagon may not lobby members of Congress. Those are not trivial issues, so here’s the document [PDF], and the full transcript of the exchange:

Bartlett: For the past two days two papers have been circulated by the Congress here. One on Monday, one on Tuesday. They are unsigned and undated. It simply says prepared by the Department of Defense. The Office of the Secretary of Defense for legislative affairs has refused to respond over the last three days to why these papers are not dated, why they were not provided to the [House] Armed Services Committee.

Sir, when I was a little boy, my mother impressed on me that an intent to deceive is the same thing as a lie. In each of these papers there is a statement, “The F136 alternate engine is currently three to four years behind in development compared to the current engine program,” and yesterday’s paper said the F136 engine is already three to four years behind in the development phase.

Sir, as you know the first engine is now about 24 months behind in its development and I understand that the second engine is just two to three months behind in its development cycle. So, in reality, had they both been started at the same time, the second engine would now be well ahead of the first engine.

Sir, are you comfortable that these two [issue papers[ that have gone through the Congress for the last couple of days do not constitute a violation of the statute that prohibits the Pentagon from Lobbying the Congress?

Gates: I am not in the slightest aware of either one of those documents...

Bartlett: Sir, these two papers are circulating. They are both unsigned and undated. And the Office of the Secretary of Defense Legislative Affairs refuses to respond over the last three days as to why these papers are not signed... they were provided to everyone else in the Congress except the Armed Services Committee, is my understanding.

Are you comfortable sir, that this does not violate the statute that says, the Pentagon cannot lobby Congress?

Gates: Let me see the papers and find out the background before I make a judgement on them."

Feb 15/11: Politics. DoD Buzz offers an initial report on the F136's prospects in H.R. 1, and sees both House and Senate prospects as positive, while noting the challenge from new Republicans led by Rep. Toomey. See the video re: his "keep it simple" advocacy strategy.

Feb 14/11: Politics & Costs. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates implies that if the new Congress doesn't specifically require F136 engine funding, he'll make the call himself. The program's status under the continuing resolution has been a question (vid. Dec 22/10 entry), and Gates reportedly said:

"The Congress has not spoken with one voice on this matter and the department has been operating this fiscal year under ambiguous guidance at best... I decided to continue funding the JSF extra engine on a month to month basis [at abut $28 million per month] “for an excessive and a unjustified program that is slated for termination… when the current continuing resolution expires, I will look at all available legal options to close down this program.”

GE takes the unusual step of responding directly, and more or less accuses the Secretary of dishonesty. Whether it’s a fair cop based on this and other statements is for readers to decide. Rick Kennedy, GE spokesman, in an email to DoD Buzz:

“He claimed the F136 engine program would cost $3 billion to complete – a figure already discredited by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). GE and Rolls-Royce believe the number is closer to $1.8 billion. He failed to discuss the continuing cost overruns for the lead Pratt & Whitney engine for JSF, which last week grew an additional $1 billion in 2010 and now totals $3.5 billion in just the development phase alone… He failed to discuss a four-year, struggling JSF flight test program in which the lead P&W engine has failed to operate throughout the full flight envelope – and how the P&W engine still needs untold hundreds of millions of dollars… We couldn’t agree more – there needs to be a debate on whether to hand a $100 billion monopoly of a single engine supplier whose costs are out of control.”

Feb 10/10: F135 costs. Aviation Week reports on a Pratt & Whitney media roundtable, as part of budget lobbying. The company announced a “handshake” with the JSF program office on an LRIP Production Lot 4 fixed-price contract for F135 engines, at a unit cost 16% below the LRIP 3 cost-plus contract. On the other hand, as part of the F-35 development replan (vid. Jan 6/11 entry), Pratt & Whitney will receive about $1 billion more.

About $600 million will pay for extra engines and other resources to support extended flight testing of the F-35 from October 2013 to October 2016. The remaining $400 million or so will pay to improve the performance and durability of the F135, increasing the design margins and robustness of the engine, and addressing interstate damper, clutch, and roll post issues with the STOVL lift system – which is common to both engines. The $400 million is being presented as normal post-qualification improvement initiatives, and P&W military engines VP Boley sums up their case with respect to cost overruns so far:

“GE says we took a $5 billion development contract and turned it into $7.5 billion,” Boley said, answering a question about cost overruns on Pratt’S SDD contract. Two-thirds of the overrun – $1.6 billion – was a result of requirements changes “for which we got new money”, he said. The other $800 million was down to Pratt’s performance – “That’s 10% on execution, not a 50% gross overrun,” he argued.”

Actually, math suggests 16.7% on execution, based on an original $4.8 billion SDD contract.

Jan 24/11: F136. Forecast International summarizes F136 progress in 2010: 4 engines added to the ground test fleet, an a total of 6 engines measuring engine performance and endurance. GE says that they have met expectations of thrust, temperature margins and fuel consumption, demonstrating consistent light-offs and operability of the augmentor, successful completion of CTOL common exhaust system clearance testing, significant thrust margins at sea-level test conditions, and reaching maximum augmented thrust.

In early December 2010, GE ran a complete propulsion system for the first time with the common hardware for F-35B STOVL operatio, including the Rolls-Royce LiftFan. Production also began on test engine #41, which will be the first F136 to fly on the F-35. Final assembly began in early 2011 with acceptance testing expected to occur mid-2011. Flight testing is scheduled to begin late in 2012. defpro | q.v. also related GE release.

Jan 6/11: F-35 program changes. As part of a plan detailing $150 billion in service cuts and cost savings over the next 5 years, Defense Secretary Robert Gates states that he is placing the Marine Corps’ F-35B on the equivalent of a 2-year probation:

“By comparison, the Marine Corps’ short take-off and vertical landing variant is experiencing significant testing problems. These issues may lead to a redesign of the aircraft’s structure and propulsion – changes that could add yet more weight and more cost to an aircraft that has little capacity to absorb more of either. As a result, I am placing the STOVL variant on the equivalent of a two-year probation. If we cannot fix this variant during this time frame and get it back on track in terms of performance, cost and schedule, then I believe it should be cancelled. We will also move the development of the Marine variant to the back of the overall JSF production sequence.”

F-35 program SDD is extended again to early 2016, versus mid-2015 as planned in the 2010 restructuring, a move that’s likely to push initial operational capability (IOC) into 2017 and cost the program $4.6 billion. Individual services are assessing their model’s specific dates.

FY 2011/ LRIP-4 will be cut from 42 to 32 planes by amending the contract, and eliminating 10 F-35Bs. FY 2012 will see production held at 32, with just 6 F-35Bs bought to maintain the supplier base for the type. F-35 production is already behind, so this may not matter as much in reality. FY 2013 will see the production process speed up. It will still fall short of the previous plan for 549 LRIP orders by FY 2016/ LRIP-9, however, with only 415 ordered by that time.

To fill the gap created from the slip in the JSF production schedule, the Department of the Navy will buy 41 more Navy Super Hornet family planes in 2012-2014, and extend another 150 F/A-18 A-D Hornets for longer service via center barrel replacements and other refurbishments. 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 | Aviation Week | the libertarian Cato Institute | Defense Update | Flight International | 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.nce Presse | BBC | Reuters | UK’s Telegraph | China’s Xinhua.

Major F-35 program shifts: cuts, F-35B probation, Super Hornets

Dec 22/10: FY 2011 “Budget”. The US Senate passes H.R. 6523, the House’s Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011. This is actually a “continuing resolution,” not a budget. After passing in identical form in both the House and Senate, it was introduced to the President to be signed on Dec 29/10, and became Public Law No: 111-383 on Jan 7/11. The funding will only extend to March 4/11, however, giving the incoming House and Senate full opportunity to pass their own budget.

See also May 13/10, July 28/10, and Sept 15/10 entries, which describe the provisions in the House and Senate bills. As passed, however, H.R. 6523 does not include program-level detail, so there is no amount specified for the F136 engine – or even the F-35 itself. In lieu of a defense appropriations bill, the Congress simply approved a resolution continuing FY 2010 spending levels. Sen. Sherrod [D-OH] specifically asked [PDF] the Office of Management and Budget about this, and got an answer [PDF] stating that:

“As my office indicated in the correspondence your letter references, Section 8006 of the FY 2010 Defense Appropriation Act required the Department of Defense (DoD), as a statutory matter, to fund the Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine program during FY 2010. As currently drafted, H.R. 3082 [DID: link added] would continue FY 2010 funding, terms, and conditions for the entire Federal government through March 4, 2011… In the case of continued FY 2010 provisions… DoD would be expected to continue funding activities on a pro-rata basis during the period covered by the CR, so as not to impinge on Congress’ full-year funding prerogatives for FY 2011.”

Dec 1/10: No at-sea engine deliveries? Gannet’s Navy Times raises a huge potential issue for the F-35′s naval variants: the engine and its packing are too large and too heavy for carrier aerial delivery platforms, and even too heavy for ship-to-ship replenishment stations. This will make sustained operations very difficult, as on-board space for spares is limited:

“…the F-35C’s Pratt & Whitney F135 engine, contained in its Engine Shipping System, is too large for the cargo door on a standard carrier onboard delivery plane and for the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, the program office acknowledged in a response to a follow-on query from Navy Times. The engine can be broken down into five component parts, but just its power module and packaging alone won’t fit into the [C-2 Greyhound] COD or the V-22. The JSF Program Office says the V-22 Osprey, like the MH-53E helicopter, can externally carry the F135 engine module, the heaviest of the five components, at least 288 miles “in good weather.” One outside analyst, Jan van Tol of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, wondered how the Osprey, in hover mode, could safely lower the module to the flight deck or pick up an out-of-service engine in higher sea states… Moreover, the Navy has no fleet V-22s and has no plans to acquire them.

The 9,400-pound engine module and transport container also cannot not be transferred from a supply ship to a carrier during underway replenishments [UNREPs] – when two ships are sailing side-by-side and connected by supply lines – because, [Capt. Chris Kennedy of the JSF Program Office] said, “It’s too heavy for the unrep station [on Nimitz class carriers].”

No word on whether the F136 has similar problems. It’s likely.

Nov 28-29/10: Not a competition. A Viewpoint op-ed in Aviation Week by former deputy defense secretary Gordon England prompts a reply with AvWeek’s Bill Sweetman. The crux of the matter is that claiming there was any sort of competition for the F-35′s engine, or that Pratt & Whitney won, is dishonest. The engine program has unfolded as envisioned, a leader – follower dual engine program established before source selection, with the leader being a sole-source project based on the F119 (P&W’s F135), as it was considered to be the only suitable in-production engine to begin from. Gordon England Viewpoint | Bill Sweetman reply.

Oct 15/10: F136. The failure of F136 engine 008 in late September 2010 has been diagnosed, and it’s unique to that individual engine. A seal clearance in a fan that was set too tight, causing friction. Engines 05 and 07 continue to run well in tests, and will not need any modifications. DoD Buzz.

Oct 14/10: Politics. GE holds a local rally, with bipartisan political attendance, in support of its F136 engine. The firm is also adding about 500 jobs in the area, but they’re related to its new systems business, and developing the next-generation version of its best-selling CFM56 engines that power many passenger planes. GE says that about 1,200 jobs in its Evendale facility are tied to the F-136 engine.

After the November 2010 mid-term elections, its going to be political primary season in Ohio. In practical terms, that means the F136 project probably has to fully end in 2010, or its continuation is likely to become a political platform for Presidential hopefuls courting Ohio voters. ABC News | Cinicinnati Enquirer | WLVT.

Oct 12/10: Same same. USAF Gen. Norton Schwartz, speaking at the National Press Club, admitted there may be savings to be had through engine competition, but said “The question is, can we afford it in the short term.” That’s a step back, but GE was having none of it. GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said to DoD Buzz:

“GE and Rolls-Royce have already invested a considerable amount of their own money into the program. It’s very difficult to internally fund the engine if the F136 is not a JSF program of record. The SAC-D report called the F136 a “near model program,” and we have offered a unique fixed-price offer for early production engines which shifts the risk for early production to the contractors.”

FY 2010

US GAO, British government weigh in to keep F136; Congress prevents cancellation, again, in the face of a veto threat; Expected F135 development costs reach $7.28 billion; F136 has a test engine problem; F-35 program criticism grows in Congress; Are senior Pentagon officials giving misleading testimony, and touting a non-existent business case?; What happened during the last (F100 vs. F110) engine war? F136 testing
(click to view larger)

Sept 28/10: F136. GE emails reporters to say that:

“Approximately three hours into a mechanical check-out on September 23 at the GE Aviation facility in Evendale, Ohio, an F136 development engine experienced an anomaly at near maximum fan speed. Engine #008 was shut down in a controlled manner. Initial inspection revealed damage to airfoils in the front fan and compressor area. The engine is currently being disassembled for a thorough investigation.”

That investigation later reveals that the problem was specific to engine #008, and is not shared by other F136 engines. DoD Buzz.

Sept 23/10: UK. US Sen. Carl Levin [D-MI, Senate Armed Services chair] releases a letter he received from British Defense Minister Liam Fox, supporting the F136:

“As you know, the United Kingdom (UK) was the first international partner in the F35 programme in 2001, providing not only the largest international financial contribution of $2 billion but also key elements of technology… Furthermore, we have been the first partner to commit to aircraft purchases. I thought you would therefore wish to know our views on the alternate engine strategy so that your Committee can take them into consideration.

The UK – and we believe other international partners on the programme are worried that a decision now to cancel the second engine may save money in the short term but end up costing the US and her partners much more in the long term. A second engine provides competitive discipline during the procurement of the production engines. The alternative, of course, is the creation of a permanent monopoly with all the disadvantages that would flow from that… [and] all the risks and vulnerabilities that this brings…”

Britain is currently in the middle of big decisions about budget cuts, a state that’s expected to last for several years. The Hon. Liam Fox’s letter [PDF] | DoD Buzz.

Sept 15/10: Politics. The US Senate Committee on Appropriations’ Defense subcommittee votes to cut the FY 2011 F-35 request by 10 planes, to 32 aircraft. Comments by key committee members reveal a growing skepticism bordering on hostility, noting that the USAF hasn’t contracted for the 30 fighters approved last year, calling the program’s progress “disturbing,” and even going so far as to say that the committee considered cutting off funds altogether. The subcommittee does not insert funding for the F136 engine – though it criticizes the Pentagon for abandoning the dual engine strategy:

“The incongruence of the insistence on canceling the second engine program which has been a near model program and which most analysts expect would curtail long term costs of the entire JSF program with the equal insistence on the need to fully fund the JSF program is hard to rationalize.”

With the House subcommittee voting 11-5 to continue the F136 engine, it seems likely that the House bill will contain those funds. If the full Senate Appropriations Committee adds an amendment, the Senate bill could add them as well. After that, there will be votes and amendments on the House and Senate floor, followed by the budget bill reconciliation process between the House and Senate. See: Senate Appropriations Committee release and webcast | The Hill magazine | DoD Buzz | Military & Aerospace Electronics.

Sept 15/10: GAO Report. The US GAO auditors release report #GAO-10-1020R: “Joint Strike Fighter: Assessment of DOD’s Funding Projection for the F136 Alternate Engine,” to Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin [D-MI]. In a significant departure from their normal conclusions, they think the Pentagon’s $2.914 billion estimate might be too high.

The Pentagon’s projection for remaining development funding in FY 2011-2016 is $1.533 billion. That breaks down as $1.188 billion for development & testing, and $345 million for engine component improvement work. It would be followed by $1.381 billion in procurement funing, which breaks down as $133 million in production tooling funding, $747 million in non-competitive engine and spares buys, and $500 million in support costs.

The Pentagon’s own belief is that their estimate has an even chance of being either too high or too low, but GAO says their 2 biggest assumptions push their estimate toward overestimating costs. The GAO believes that with F-35 schedule slippage and F136 progress, competitive buys could begin within 2 years, instead of in 4, cutting non-competitive buys. Competition could also save the Pentagon most of its “Engine Component Improvement Program” funds, as the competitors follow their behaviour with the last F100/F110 engine competition, and invest in their own efforts.

July 28/10: Politics. The House Defense Appropriations subcommittee approves its version of the FY 2011 defense budget, and votes 11-5 to spend $450 million on the F136 fighter engine. House Appropriations Committee | AFA | Aviation Week | Terre Haute, IN Tribune-Star | Australian Aviation.

July 27/10: Politics. In a letter to colleagues, the chairman (Rep. Robert Andrews, D-NJ) and and ranking member (Rep. Michael Conaway R-TX) of the House Armed Services Committee’s defense acquisition reform panel urge their fellow members of the House Appropriations Committee to fund the F136 engine. AFA | Letter [PDF].

July 13/10: F-16 History. Over at Military.com’s DoD Buzz, Former F-16 fighter pilot and test pilot Robert Newton, CEO of Newton Consulting & Engineering Inc., writes:

“There are volumes of information, metrics, reports, and books like The Air Force and the Great Engine War that describe the history, detail the lessons and highlight the value of a second jet engine source… We were all impressed by the F100′s high thrust; however, in-flight we had performance shortfalls and throttle restriction that to some degree forced us to baby the motor in order to avoid engine problems: stalls and/or afterburner blow-outs. We often felt as if we were flying the engine as opposed to employing the aircraft. Unfortunately the situation on the ground was even worse… reliability was a fraction of the requirement… our maintainers made herculean efforts to keep our F-16s in the air. They would routinely remove and replace engines and the engine back shop would all too often tear them down completely. In a short time, engine shop operating budgets and manpower to perform all the unplanned maintenance snowballed and drove our maintenance squadrons to the brink of operational bankruptcy.

Then our world changed. The Pentagon saw the wisdom of introducing a second engine in the form of GE’s F-110 and we discovered an engine with unrestricted throttle movements, higher thrust, and the potential to actually meet all the reliability requirements… That initial spark of competition generated a new energy level that was unmistakable, impossible to quantify, of immeasurable benefit, and enduring… When we had problems or new technical opportunities, the creative minds of each team made it theirs and in turn set new standards of excellence for both engines.”

June 17/10: The battle between Secretary of Defense Gates and GE becomes a direct exchange, as a result of the Secretary’s tendency to say things about the F-35 program that skirt the edge of strict truth.

In this case, Gates’ quote to a Senate hearing was that “We think that the engine does not meet, probably does not meet, the performance standards that are required…” The clear implication is that the engine is faulty, which drew the unusual step of a direct rebuttal from GE vice chairman John Rice. Rice noted that since 2005, Pentagon evaluations have rated F136 performance “exceptional” 7 times and “very good” 3 times, with positive reports from the F-35 project office as recently as May 2010. He also contested Gates’ repeated statements that the F136 would take another $2.9 billion to develop (vid. fixed price offer Sept 14/09, April 27/10), giving figures of $1 billion more for development and $800 million to jumpstart early production. GE spokesman Rick Kennedy also offered a direct rebuttal, saying that “The engine is not falling short of requirements – it’s meeting and exceeding requirements.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell would later retreat from some of Gates’ statements, saying that the Pentagon believes the engine would meet Pentagon requirements at the end of development, and that all Gates meant was that the engine couldn’t meet final requirements while only part-way through its development. Readers can judge for themselves whether that was really what Gates wanted his audience to believe. The Hill.

May 28/10: Politics. In the face of Presidential veto threats, the US House of Representatives passes H.R. 5136 by a vote of 229-186, with 17 non-votes. It also votes 231-193 against an amendment that would have diverted F136 engine funds elsewhere.

While the margin appears to fall short of being veto-proof, many of these “no” votes against represent declared and publicly-stated opposition to the bill’s repeal of the US military’s ban on openly gay members, before the US military has delivered its own report on the issue. The corresponding Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chair Sen. Carl Levin [D-MI] also goes on record supporting the F136, and pronounces himself “very encouraged” by the House vote. The SASC will play an important role in reconciling the House and Senate bills into one document. See also GE release.

May 28/10: Politics. Before the House vote is taken, President Obama releases a statement that explicitly threatens to veto any budget that includes funding for an alternate engine for the F-35 joint strike fighter or more C-17 cargo jets. On the other hand, the bill includes repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay members, and a veto must include the entire bill.

If a veto is given, both the House and Senate must field a 2/3 majority vote to override. If one house fails, the other will not even vote on the matter. According the Congressional Research service, from 1789 through 2004, only 106 of 1,484 regular presidential vetoes were overridden by Congress. A budget stalemate has deeper consequences as well, of course, and presents grave political risks to all sides. White House statement | US Army | US Senate on veto procedures.

May 19/10: Politics. The full US House Armed Service Committee approves its subcommittee’s markups with respect to the F136 engine, which will become part of its H.R. 5136 budget submission to the full House of Representatives. Excerpt:

“Multiple studies, ranging from GAO reports to the Department’s own internal study, have consistently shown that there is no additional cost to fund the competitive engine, and that the second engine will generate additional savings… The Joint Strike Fighter is expected to represent 95 percent of our nation’s fighter fleet. The engine will be required to meet demands that have been asked of no other engine. The Committee believes it is unwarranted to risk grounding our entire fleet and incurring billions of dollars in unnecessary costs by cutting the second engine… a critical insurance policy for more than one trillion taxpayer dollars and for our national security. The bill authorizes $485 million for the alternate engine program and requires the Secretary of Defense to submit to the President a budget that includes a plan for the funding, development, and procurement of the competitive engine for the F-35.”

In response, Secretary of Defense Gates has pledged to “strongly recommend” a veto if F136 engine funding is included. His problem is that the President’s position has weakened significantly in the last year, with a number of members of his own party running for election against his administration – not least former Murtha aide John Crtiz [now D-PA-12]. The political questions in play are whether Obama can risk a veto threat over this issue, and whether Congress will back down if he does. House Armed Services Committee | GE.

May 13/10: Politics. The U.S. House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee and Air-Land Forces subcommittees each mark up the House of Representatives’ National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 5136) – and both of them vote to authorize $485 million in continued funding of the GE/Rolls-Royce F136 engine. Air-Land subcommittee chair Adam Smith [D-WA-9]:

“Today, the competitive environment created by having dual-sourced engines for the Joint Strike Fighter is estimated to save $1 billion during the next five years, and $20 billion over the life of the program. The committee has believed that competition in the F-35 engine program helps ensure against the operational risk of up to 95 percent of the entire U.S. tactical fighter fleet being grounded due to an engine problem. Competition has been demonstrated to help limit cost growth in acquisition programs, including as the first alternate engine program did for the F-15, F-16 and F-14. And competition has also been demonstrated to motivate contractor responsiveness, technical innovation, and improve engine maintainability, reliability, and durability.”

That markup has teeth, too. Until the Pentagon’s Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics certifies that all F136 funds have been committed, the last 25% of all F-35 program funds for FY 2011 will be withheld. These proposals survive to the full HASC committee markup session, on May 19/10. House Armed Services Air-Land subcommittee and Seapower subcommittee opening statements.

May 3/10: Politics. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks to the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition in National Harbor, MD. He reiterates his strong opposition to the F136, and signals that he will continue to make it a political and budgetary issue. Excerpt from the transcript:

“In this year’s budget submission, the Department has asked to end funding for an extra engine for the Joint Strike Fighter as well as to cease production of the C-17 cargo aircraft – two decisions supported by the services and by reams of analysis. As we speak, a fight is on to keep the Congress from putting the extra engine and more C-17s back into the budget – at an unnecessary potential cost to the taxpayers of billions of dollars over the next few years.”

See Feb 25/10 and Feb 16/10 entries, below, for the debate about that analysis. In a follow-on speech, Gates reiterates that he will “strongly recommend” Presidential veto of the FY 2011 defense bill, if the F136 engine is included in the budget.

April 27/10: F136 fixed-price offer. GE and Rolls Royce reiterate, and extend the period for, their fixed-price offer for the F-35′s F136 engine. Unlike last year’s offer, this one includes lower fixed prices in 2013 and 2014 as well, and assumes the entire risk of cost overruns rather than sharing overages under a set formula as is common.

The offer amounts to a commercial-type contract, where the manufacturer absorbs the cost of the early production engines, and recovers it through later sales and service. The fact that this is seen as attractive by the GE/RR team speaks to the opportunity presented by the F-35 – and implicitly, to the value of a sole-source approach to Pratt & Whitney. GE Aviation President and CEO David Joyce says that accepting this competitive approach would save the government $1 billion over the next 5 years, and $20 billion over the life of the JSF program. Sources: Reliable Plant magazine | Reuters.

March 22/10: F136. The GE/ Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team announces that their 3rd production-model F136 engine has successfully hit full afterburner in an advanced testing facility at GE, and reached “all major objectives” during this testing phase for thrust, temperature margins, and fuel consumption. Note that the engine nozzle is common to both the F135 and F136 engines, as part of their designed interchangeability. Another 6 F136 engines are scheduled for testing in 2010, to measure engine performance and endurance. Rolls Royce release.

March 19/10: GAO Report. The US Congress’ GAO releases a report re: the F-35 program, and offers testimony. See: “Joint Strike Fighter: Additional Costs and Delays Risk Not Meeting Warfighter Requirements on Time” | “Joint Strike Fighter: Significant Challenges Remain as DOD Restructures Program” (testimony). Excerpts:

“The F135 primary engine development effort – a separate contract from the airframe development effort – is now estimated to cost about $7.3 billion, a 50 percent increase over the original contract award. This includes an $800 million contract cost overrun in 2008. Engine development cost increases primarily resulted from higher costs for labor and materials, supplier problems, and the rework needed to correct deficiencies with an engine blade during redesign. Engine test problems have also slowed development.

The alternate engine program to develop a second engine source – the F136 – is also encountering cost and schedule challenges… The JET estimates about $1.6 billion would be needed to complete F136 development in 2016. Contractor officials told us that funding stability, engine affordability, and testing issues are key concerns… [But GAO reiterates its past findings that the alternate engine program makes financial sense overall].

March 10/10: F135 The total cost to complete the Pratt F135 engine is now estimated to be $7.28 billion – $2.5 billion more than the $4.8 billion initially projected for the engine, and an increase of $600 million from the $1.9 billion cost overrun that was reported in 2009 by the House Armed Services Committee. Pratt & Whitney also disputes the reports, saying that its “war on costs” was working. Spokeswoman Erin Dick:

“I can unequivocally say that our costs are coming down; that there are currently no additional overruns associated with the development of the F135 engine and the government has expressed confidence in our cost reduction strategy going forward.”

An unnamed source tells Reuters that the F-35 program’s 13-month delay, and Pratt’s need for additional flight tests that add personnel costs and other overhead, are the reasons for the increases, saying that there is no “$600 million surprise.” Aviation Week | Reuters | Reuters follow-on.

F135 projected development costs

Feb 25/10: Rep. Ike Skelton [D-MO], Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, issues a statement about the US DoD’s business case for the F136:

“Yesterday, I was finally provided with a copy of the ‘business case’ upon which Secretary Gates based his decision to oppose the development of the competitive engine for the F-35. While the committee is still reviewing the analysis, it appears that the Department’s approach focuses on near-term costs to the exclusion of what the committee sees as the long-term benefits of this program. The costs of the second engine in the next few years must be balanced against the fact that life-cycle costs of having two engines are comparable to having only one. The Department’s analysis does not consider the risk that a single engine would present not only to our fighter force, but to our national security, given that the F-35 will account for 95 percent of our nation’s fighter fleet. With this program, as with all others, we cannot use near-sighted vision when long-term security is at stake. I look forward to continuing the dialogue on this program with my colleagues and the Department of Defense. But I remain unconvinced that terminating the alternate engine program makes sense.”

Feb 24/10: Politics. DoD Buzz identifies some supporters and skeptics from watching committee hearings. On the supportive side: Norm Dicks [D-WA], the expected chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense, and Jim Moran [D-VA]. Not supportive: Rep. Kay Granger [R-TX].

Feb 16/10: Politics. DoD Buzz reports that the current chairs and ranking Republican members of the House Armed Service Committee, its Seapower subcommittee, and its Air and Land Forces subcommittee, have all signed a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates regarding the F136 engine program. They ask the Secretary for the full business case behind his recommendation to terminate the F136 engine, stating that:

“We will not detail here the accumulated testing failures, required redesigns, major cost growth and repeated delays experienced this far with the baseline engine. We simply note that, in our view, these problems bolster the case for a competing alternative engine…

In an August 2009 speech in Fort Worth, you mentioned that the “business case” did not support the alternate engine program. The committee requested a copy of that “business case,” and was told by your legislative affairs staff that there was no formal analysis, beyond the Department’s 2007 study. Yet you again referenced the “business case” during the February 3rd hearing and in your February 1st meeting with chairmen and ranking members of the congressional defense committees. Therefore, we respectfully request that you immediately provide the committee with the “business case” analysis you referenced in testimony that supports discontinuing the alternate engine program for the F-35.”

See: DoD Buzz | Scanned copy of the letter [PDF].

Feb 1/10: FY 2011 budget. The Pentagon unveils its FY 2011 budget request. Once again, Secretary of Defense Gates says he will advise President Obama to veto any defense budget that includes funds for the F136 engine. DoD briefing transcript.

Dec 10/09: F136 delay & funding. Military.com reports that the F136 program will be delayed by about 4 months due to the diffuser redesign, and quotes an unnamed congressional aide:

“It doesn’t help that, with at least a $30 million a month burn rate, [Office of the Secretary of Defense, who opposes the F136] is not giving them the money they need. Having no appropriations bill doesn’t help, but the CR lets them spend at the burn rate needed. Also, they have been shorted about $175 million over the 2007-2009 period by Congress from what the program office said was required to execute the planned program. Last I heard it was half, $15 million, so far, for what GE needs in December (as of last week). It is not good when the program manager is having to spend the kind of time he is having to spend on managing pennies instead of focusing on engine issues.”

Nov 2/09: F136. GE and Rolls Royce announce that they will redesign a diffuser that directs air into the combustor for the engine, after a nut came loose during testing.

Rick Kennedy, a GE spokesman, tells Reuters the companies expects to have the reworked F136 engine “up and running before the end of the year.” He also disputes a comparison of the F135 and F136 engines at similar life-cycle stages, published by Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. Reuters.

Oct 28/09: FY 2010 budget. President Obama signs the FY 2010 defense budget into law. That budget provides full funding for 30 F-35 aircraft (16 USMC F-35Bs, 12 USAF F-35As, and 4 Navy F-35Cs), and continues the F136 alternate engine program. White House | Cincinnati Business Courier.

Oct 6/09: Politics. House and Senate conferees rejected the approach taken by US Secretary of Defense Gates and the Obama administration, and fully funded the F136 in the reconciled FY 2010 defense budget. Military.com reports that:

“The authorization conferees agreed to fund the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter F136 alternate engine at $560 million, with no restriction or certification requirements – House and Senate related provisions (H 218 & 242; S 211) dropped. The conferees also agreed to fully fund the $6 billion requested for procurement of 30 F-35 aircraft, which includes 16 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps and 4 F-35Cs for the Navy and 10 F-35As for the Air Force. The conference report is expected to be taken up in the House [on Oct 7/09].”

Looks like Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee chair Sen. Inouye [D-HI] knew what he was doing (q.v. Sept 9/09 entry). See also Aviation Week’s article: “Levin Happy to Lose on Alternate JSF Engine.

FY 2006 – 2009

Congress blocks Pentagon attempts to defund the engine; GE/RR submit unsolicited fixed-price offer for early engine production; P&W offer to match with a fixed-price F135 offer “if requested”; Gates makes case for F135 cancellation, amidst controversy over engine costs; F-35 director told not to discuss F135 issues?; F136 with “double-digit” performance growth potential vs. F136? F136 nozzle tests
(click to view full)

Sept 15/09: LRIP-4 offer. Pratt & Whitney responds with an offer of its own:

“Pratt & Whitney has offered to provide the F-35 Joint Program Office with a firm fixed price proposal for the F135 engine if requested… [Meanwhile,] The company’s F135 engine Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 4 contract proposal reflects confidence in the aggressive cost reductions actions underway by providing the Joint Program Office special protections against cost growth and incentives for significant cost reduction…

Pratt & Whitney’s LRIP 4 contract proposal covers production, sustainment, spare parts and engineering support for 37 F135 engines, consisting of 20 conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)/carrier variant (CV) and 17 short-takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) engines for F-35 aircraft. The same methodology that Pratt & Whitney and the U.S. Government used to achieve a 30 percent cost reduction on the F119 engine is being employed on the F135 engine.”

There are 2 likely reactions to this announcement. One will say that the fixed-price offer makes sole-sourcing the F135 much less risky, and argue that sole sourcing should proceed. The other will note that the proposal was prompted by a competitive offer, and say that rather than being an argument against the dual-engine program, the F135 fixed-price offer serves as an excellent illustration of dual-sourcing’s benefits and importance.

Sept 14/09: Fixed price? GE and Rolls Royce put out a release, offering a fixed price F136 engine, fleshing out Rep Driehaus’ [D-OH-1] statement in the April 23/09 entry:

“In response to cost overruns and schedule delays in major weapon programs, The Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 was signed into law to mandate competition through the entire life of major defense programs – including funding competing sources. To drive head-to-head engine competition and predictable costs, the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team has submitted an unsolicited fixed-price contracting approach [emphasis DID's] for the JSF program office – a unique approach for the early production years of the JSF F136 engines.

The approach covers initial F136 engine production, beginning with the F136 second production lot, shifting significant cost risk from taxpayers to the Fighter Engine Team until head-to-head competition begins between the F136 and the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine in 2013… The financial risk for early production engine lots would be shared between the government (which manages the engine configuration) and the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team (which is responsible for the engine program execution). “

The release also reminds readers that Pratt & Whitney’s F135 contract is reimbursed as “cost plus” an agreed percentage, while citing House Armed Service Committee figures that place F135 development $1.9 billion over plan since 2002, with a 47% rise in per-engine costs.

GE/RR: fixed-price early production offer

Sept 13/09: Aviation Week Ares reports that an F135 engine had been damaged and shut down about 2,455 cycles into a 2,600-cycle durability ground test. The precise cause remains under investigation, and there is a possibility of loose objects in the damaged engine. Damaged components included the integrally bladed rotors of the 1st and 2nd fan stages, and the compressor. A subsequent Sept 18/09 report from Military.com questions subsequent characterizations of the problems as minor:

“The investigation found that a worn bushing is the “potential cause, which tells us this issue can be addressed with little or no impact on cost or schedule.” But a congressional aide, told of Pratt’s comments, dismissed them, saying that… a Sept. 14 Pentagon fact sheet about the incident says that the engine damage was “significant.”… [The] aide also noted that this is the third failure the F135 has experienced, adding that caution is warranted given that significant problems with the F100 engine that powers most F-15s and F-16s “didn’t really show themselves until two years after initial operational capability.” The OSD document says that “an approximately 1 inch by 1.5 inch piece separated from a blade on Rotor 1 of the fan. At the time the separation occurred, High Cycle Fatigue sweep tests were being conducted, but high loads at this location on the fan blade were not expected.”

This was a new F135 IBR design, intended to succeed the already-tested first-generation design that currently flies on the F-35 test fleet.

Sept 13/09: An Aviation Week report says that a high-level, independent Joint Assessment Team (JAT) has been formed by the Pentagon’s chief procurement executive to investigate concerns about a surge in the projected cost of Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine.

Sept 9/09: Military.com reports that the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee’s markup of the FY 2010 defense spending bill contained no F136 money, which is surprising because its chair Sen. Inouye [D-HI] has always been a supporter:

“After the subcommittee’s brief markup of the bill Wednesday morning, Inouye had quite a twinkle in his eye when he told several reporters that the engine was now a matter for conference and acknowledged that he worried about a fight on the Senate floor over the engine’s funding if the money had been n the defense appropriations bill. Making it a matter for conference may well ensure that the engine funding has a smoother sail than it would have if Inouye had included it in his bill.

General Electric and Rolls Royce made it very clear that they are not worried about the engine’s fate. “There is strong and broad support for an engine competition for the Joint Strike Fighter. In fact, both Inouye and (Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee) Ranking Member Cochran, along with a number of the members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, are longtime supporters of the F136 engine. In addition, the competitive engine received strong endorsement in the House on an overwhelming 400-30 vote,” said GE spokesman Rick Kennedy in an email headed “Joint GE/RR statement.”

Aug 31/09: At a press conference, Secretary of Defense Gates explains his case for the F135 as the global F-35 fleet’s sole engine:

“First of all, we have looked at the business case a number of times in terms of an alternative engine to the F135. The general conclusion is that it would cost several billion dollars in addition; that it would, just by the nature of things, be three or four or more years behind the F135 engine. And there’s no reason to believe that it would not encounter the same kinds of development challenges that other new engines have encountered along the way.

And so at this point, where we’re trying to count every dollar and where a dollar from one program – added to one program takes away from another program that we think is more important, we feel strongly about the fact that there is not a need for a second engine…The final decision [on a veto], obviously, is up to the president… every dollar additional to the budget that we have to put into the F-35 is a dollar taken from something else that the troops may need. So it’s as important to watch the costs here as it is on everything else.”

Readers may note that while Gates’ rationale revolves around immediate costs, it does not address the issues of long-term costs, fleet readiness, and allied participation that have been raised elsewhere. Full transcript | Pentagon AFPS article.

Gates’ case

Aug 28/09: Not a competition. Aviation Week Ares hosts a guest article by USMC Lt. Gen. Michael A Hough (Retired):

“As the former Director/ Deputy Director of the Joint Strike Fighter Program (1997-2001) and Deputy Commandant of Aviation (2002-2006), I have watched with disappointment over the last few months as those advocates of sole-sourcing the F-35 with only the Pratt & Whitney engine have attempted to spin a tale of myth and innuendo to deliberately muddy the waters around the issue of the competition of the engine for the F-35. Let me set the record straight.

First, there was no JSF engine competition as part of the overall air frame competition. We didn’t compete the JSF engine … it never happened! In 1995, the three primes in the competition selected the core of F-22 engine (119) to power the JSF demonstrators during the Program Definition & Risk Reduction Phase (1996-2001). This was done to leverage the maturity of the F-22’s 119 engine core to not only save money, but also to save time by reducing the cycle time of the phase to meet the milestones in the aggressive demonstration schedule. Although it was simple as that, it was “not” a competition!”

Aug 24/09: Silenced. Military.com reports that the JSF program manager has been ordered not to discuss issues with Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine:

“…source with access to Joint Strike Fighter officials says that Marine Maj. Gen. David Heinz, PEO for the program, was recently called onto the carpet by Defense Secretary Gates. The message: stop talking about problems with the Pratt & Whitney engine and how second engine programs have proved themselves in the past. “They have hammered Heinz to say nothing more about this,” our source says.”

Aug 24/09: Politics. The right-wing Heritage Foundation maintains its support for the F136 project in “Why Congress Cares About Engine Competition for the Joint Strike Fighter“:

“Should Congress fail to fund the alternate engine, there will be only one type of engine available for a plane – the JSF – that will constitute 90 percent of all U.S. fighters in 2035. Because it is a single-engine plane as opposed to dual-engine, if something goes wrong with the engine, it could lead to a system-wide grounding of every aircraft until the problem is identified and fixed–unless there is an alternative available. Such a scenario constitutes an unacceptably high risk. Further, Congress just passed a new acquisition reform law that demands competition for all major subsystems – including fighter engines. Consequently, Congress must keep JSF alternate engine funds intact when the final defense bills are signed into law later this year.”

Aug 12/09: Congressional Quarterly reports that Senate Appropriations Committee chair Daniel Inouye [D-HI] is holding firm on support for the F136, even against a veto threat. He’ll be joined by House Appropriation Committee chair Jack Murtha [D-PA], whose amendment stripped F-22 funding from the final House defense bill:

“Inouye’s refusal to back down from his support of a two-engine program is noteworthy, given that he relented in his support of the F-22 fighter jet under circumstances similar to those at play on the F-35 engines.”

Aug 3/09: Aviation Week DTI reports that the F-35′s Joint Project Office raised its estimate total program costs, because Pratt & Whitney is not achieving the projected learning curve for F135 engine production. Tolerance and yield issues with manufacturing parts have raised the estimated average cost from $ 6.7 – $8.3 million (24%).

July 30/09: Politics. The US House passes its “H.R. 3326: Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010” by a crushing 400-30 vote. The bill contains a number of provisions that challenge official Pentagon decisions, including $560 million of continued funding for the F136 alternate engine program.

As House members prepare for negotiations with the Senate on a single, final bill to send to the President, the contrast between the overwhelming recorded House vote, and the Senate voice vote, leaves the F136 in a very strong position. See also: GE/Rolls Royce release | Cincinnati.com | Cincinnati Business Courier | Flight International.

July 28/09: F135. Military.com’s DoD Buzz reports that:

“In other JSF news, the program’s top officer, Marine Brig. Gen. David Heinz, took Pratt and Whitney to task for quality control problems with its F-135 engine that have resulted in up to 50 percent of parts being thrown away because they do not meet the high standards required by the JSF program. “I am pushing very hard on Pratt to do better,” Heinz told me when I asked him about cost increases in the engine program. He said he expects Heinz to improve to the point where 80 percent of parts meet his standards… Heinz would not be drawn on whether he supported a second engine program.”

July 23/09: Politics. The Senate adopts, by non-identifying voice vote, an amendment to S.1390, the Senate’s version of the FY 2010 defense budget. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s [I/D-CT] amendment removes program funds for the F136, and requires certifications from the Pentagon in order to continue the program. The amendment’s stated criteria are that the F136 must reduce the total life-cycle costs of the F-35 program, and improve fleet operational readiness, while not disrupting the F-35 program during any phase, or resulting in fewer fighters over the program’s life cycle.

Since the Pentagon has been trying to kill the F136 for several years, however, the content of those certifications is irrelevant because they would never happen. Sen. Lieberman represents rival engine maker Pratt & Whitney’s home state.

The amendments must eventually be reconciled with H.R. 2647, the House of Representatives’ FY 2010 bill, which funds the F136. Preserving the Lieberman Amendment through reconciliation could be a difficult hurdle, given the lack of “political skin” involved in a voice vote. Senatus blog has the amendment.

July 16/09: Aviation Week reports that political gamesmanship is leading the Obama administration to issue veto threats if the F136 alternate engine program is canceled. The threats are weaker than the ones issued over the F-22, and are being issued as “the President’s advisers will recommend a veto” rather than a direct Presidential threat.

A defense bill veto is a major step, and both GE and congressional backers would be able to marshal strong resistance in creating a backlash. United Technologies, who makes the F135 and currently holds an engine monopoly for the JSF, is trying to head that backlash off, and strengthen its hand, by paying for ads advocating F136 termination.

June 26/09: Politics. The House votes 389-22 to reauthorize the Joint Strike Fighter Competitive Engine Program as part of H.R. 2647, the FY 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, with $603 million in funding. Rep. Steve Driehaus [D-OH] release | Cincinnati Business Courier.

June 2009: History. As part of an article about the KC-X aerial tanker program, National Defense magazine addresses the history of fighter engine competition:

“There are several high profile examples that demonstrate the dramatic improvements that are possible with production competition. The so-called “Great Engine War” to supply the F-16 and F-15 aircraft demonstrated that the introduction of a second production source cut the pre-competition shop-visit rate, per 1,000 engine flight hours, in half. The scheduled-depot-return-rate went from every 900 cycles to every 4,000 cycles, all while reducing the warranty costs from an initial bid of $53 million for warranty coverage, on roughly $130 million worth of engines, to a mere 5 percent premium. All this resulted in a dramatic improvement in engine reliability, higher performance and lower unit costs from both suppliers.”

June 12/09: Operational Risk. House Armed Service committee Air & Land subcommittee Chairman Neil Abercrombie [D-HI] issues his statement regarding the committee’s changes to H.R. 2647, the proposed FY 2010 budget. He is quite emphatic concerning the F136 program:

“This issue is not about contractor ‘A’ or contractor ‘B.’ The issue is that we do not believe that it is prudent for up to 80 to 90 percent of the fighter fleet to be dependent on a single engine type, provided by one manufacturer.

Being tied to one engine is too high an operational risk to take. This is what happened to the F-15 and 16 fleets in the ’70s when those aircraft were dependent on one engine type. This also happened to the AV-8 ‘Harrier’ fleet when it was grounded for 11 months due to engine problems. In the cases of the F-15, F-16, and AV-8, none represented a large fraction of the existing fighter force.

With all services depending on one aircraft and one engine type for the vast majority of its capability, the potential is for the entire F-35 fleet to be grounded, if there is similar problem, as has been experienced in the past.

Therefore the mark includes an increase of $603 million for the competitive engine, reduces the JSF procurement request by one Marine Corps and one Air Force aircraft and the overall U.S. fiscal year 2010 procurement from 30 to 28 aircraft. “

May 20/09: GAO Report. The GAO issues report #GAO-09-711T: “Joint Strike Fighter: Strong Risk Management Essential as Program Enters Most Challenging Phase.” With respect to the F136 engine, the GAO adds that:

“To date, the two contractors have spent over $8 billion on engine development – over $6 billion with the main engine contractor and over $2 billion with the second source contractor… In each of the past 2 years we have testified before this committee on the merits of a competitive engine program for the Joint Strike Fighter. As we reported last year, a competitive strategy has the potential for savings equal to or exceeding that amount across the life cycle of the engine. Prior experience indicates that it is reasonable to assume that competition on the JSF engine program could yield savings of at least that much… Results from past competitions provide evidence of potential financial and nonfinancial savings that can be derived from [dual] engine programs.”

April 23/09: Politics. In reponse to renewed Pentagon efforts to cancel the F136, Rep. Steve Driehaus [D-OH-1] sends a bipartisan letter with 24 House signatures, including House Minority Leader Rep. John Boenher’s [R-OH-8], to President Obama. The letter goes beyond simple support for the F136, and proposes a new agreement for both engines – while revealing that GE/RR is willing to offer a fixed price deal for remaining F136 development and production:

“The shortsightedness of the budgetary requests by the DOD fail to recognize the long-term benefits and cost savings that are widely projected with the development of a competitive propulsion system… It would be prudent for the DOD to revisit the current contract for the JSF propulsion system to address questions of operational risk, cost savings, responsible government action, and relations with key allies… Unlike other recent attempts to renegotiate defense contracts, it is proposed that a new agreement be settled to develop and then fund engines for the JSF by both Pratt and Whitney and the General Electric/Rolls-Royce team…”

Feb 5/09: Politics. Aviation Week reports that the forthcoming Pentagon budget will try, for the 3rd year in a row, to kill funding for the GE/Rolls-Royce F136 engine.

Feb 13/08: CDR. GE and Rolls Royce announce – “GE/RR F136 Jet Engine Passes Critical Design Review.”

F136 passes CDR

July 9/07: Heat & Thrust. Aviation Week quotes Jean Lydon-Rogers, president of the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 engine team, as saying that “Heat dissipation is a huge problem” for JSF. The team is reportedly still brainstorming approaches, in order to manage internal heat without using air-cooling external vents that create detectable thermal hot spots. The idea is to cycle heat from the engine, electronics and power systems into the fuel.

The team also tells Aviation Week that because their F136 engine was designed after the F-35 had its weight growth issues and subsequent modifications, their design takes advantage of the aircraft’s larger inlet. The team claims that single-digit thrust percentage increases could be accomplished with a software change, and claims that even “double-digit increases are feasible without a major redesign.”

March 22/07: GAO Report. The US Government Accountability Office releases report #GAO-07-656T: “Analysis of Costs for the Joint Strike Fighter Engine Program” An excerpt:

“Continuing the alternate engine program for the Joint Strike Fighter would cost significantly more than a sole-source program but could, in the long run, reduce costs and bring other benefits. The current estimated life cycle cost for the JSF engine program under a sole-source scenario is $53.4 billion. To ensure competition by continuing to implement the JSF alternate engine program, an additional investment of $3.6 billion to $4.5 billion may be required. However, the associated competitive pressures from this strategy could result in savings equal to or exceeding that amount. The cost analysis we performed suggests that a savings of 10.3 to 12.3 percent would recoup that investment, and actual experience from past engine competitions suggests that it is reasonable to assume that competition on the JSF engine program could yield savings of at least that much. In addition, DOD-commissioned reports and other officials have said that nonfinancial benefits in terms of better engine performance and reliability, improved industrial base stability, and more responsive contractors are more likely outcomes under a competitive environment than under a sole-source strategy. DOD experience with other aircraft engine programs, including the F-16 fighter in the 1980s, has shown competitive pressures can generate financial benefits of up to 20 percent during the life cycle of an engine program and/or improved quality and other benefits. The potential for cost savings and performance improvements, along with the impact the engine program could have on the industrial base, underscores the importance and long-term implications of DOD decision making with regard to the final acquisition strategy solution.”

The USAF’s hill just became a bit steeper.

May 22/06: GAO Report. Read “GAO Slams F-35 Dual-Engine Program Cancellation.”

In fairness, the British Financial Times notes that the US Department of Defense criticized the GAO report as “misleading in a number of respects,” while contending that the F135′s derivation from the F-22A Raptor’s F119 engine reduces its development risks, and makes reliance on it acceptable. Sources: GAO-06-716R: [HTML abstract | full PDF version].

Additional Readings

Official Reports

Other Background Materials

http://web.archive.org/web/20140721235640/http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/axing-f-35s-alternative-engine-was-an-incredibly-stupid-1601589678/all

  • R&D Magazine (March 2/11) – JSF Vote Risks an Engine Today; an Industrial Base Tomorrow. By General Electric – and the base they refer to is their firm’s long-term involvement in fighter engines.

  • Aviation Week (June 1/10) – The Great Engine Misinformation War [dead link].

  • Aviation Week (March 10/10) – JSF Engine “Competition” Story Rises From The Grave [dead link]. The article’s main point? There never was one, as Sweetman works to set the record straight.

  • Aviation Week (Oct 13/09) – 56,000 lb. thrust F136? [dead link]. Discusses a 2002 revelation from Rolls Royce, which may turn out to have been specific to the Boeing X-32 JSF design.

  • Aviation Week (July 17/09) – War of Words Erupts Over F-35 Engines [dead link]. Excerpt.

  • Heritage Foundation (Aug 24/09) – Why Congress Cares About Engine Competition for the Joint Strike Fighter

  • DID (Feb 27/06) – P&W, Rolls Royce Define Cooperation on F135 Jet Engine. That’s a necessity, since Rolls Royce will produce all F-35B lift fan modules. P&W also hopes to take some of the sting out of the F136′s possible cancellation.

  • DID (Aug 24/05) – $3.43B for F-35 JSF Engine Development. The contracts cover both engines.

Categories: News

KF-X Fighter: Pushing Paper, or Peer Program?

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 18:06
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.” He’s right, but even in a hypothetical market where production lines for the F-16, F/A-18 family, Eurofighter, and Rafale 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

K-FX C-501
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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 (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 rules 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
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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?
(click to view full)

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
(click to view full)

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

Was the Missile Launched Against Flight MH17 Stolen or Given?

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:38

  • The missile that took down flight MH17 may have been stolen by pro-Russian insurgents at the end of last month, since they proclaimed to have taken control of BUK systems as then relayed by state-owned Russian media.

  • An unnamed American intelligence officer told the Washington Post that Russia had also moved similar missile systems into Eastern Ukraine in the week(s) before the attack.

  • FT: evidence mounts on how jet was downed:

“The apparent SBU wire tap evidence indicates that three Buk-M1 systems were brought into eastern Ukraine from Russian territory and handed to the rebels. One allegedly crossed the border into Ukraine at 1am on July 17, near Sukhodolsk. Another was apparently brought in from Russia-controlled Crimea. The third appeared to have been in rebel hands for longer [DID: no mention of systems stolen from Ukraine].”

“I think we have to act as if we’re entering a new Cold War. [...] We have to have more regular live exercises and snap exercises so that we are clear that we are sending a message to Russia that we are not sitting back – we are ready and we are capable – because that’s the only message the Russians understand.”

Middle East

  • ISIS insurgents have reportedly captured at least 52 155mm M198 howitzers from Iraq’s military during the past few weeks. They will need experienced artillerymen to operate them with any degree of accuracy, though that won’t prove necessary if they simply aim to terrorize the whole city of Baghdad.

  • The UN calls for a ceasefire as deaths pass 500 in Gaza. Sunday was the deadliest day since the conflict broke out, bit didn’t Hamas refuse a ceasefire brokered by Egypt and accepted by Israel just days ago?

Global Export Focus

Deliveries

  • Beechcraft announced the delivery of the 1st of 4 King Air 350ER aircraft to the Mexican navy. It’s unclear whether these are surveillance or pure transport – likely the latter.

  • The UK’s landing Platform Helicopter Assault Ship HMS Ocean is back at at sea after a refit and subsequent trials. Royal Navy video.

Dept of Don’t Ask Us to Apply Our Own Laws to Ourselves

  • An editor at Ars Technica found that his Passenger Name Records (PNR) created by travel companies and shared with the US Department of Homeland Security include personal information from IP addresses to full credit card numbers transmitted in the clear. DHS (part of US federal government), please meet FTC (ditto).

Coalition of the Unwilling?

  • The video below, from the Atlantic Council, discusses whether the threat posed by ISIS will lead states that don’t like each other much to work together:

Categories: News

India Refurbishing its AN-32 Transport Fleet

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 17:36
AN-32 over Taj Mahal
(click to view full)

The Antonov AN-32 “Cline” builds on the general design of the widely-used AN-26 light transport plane, but high placement of the engine nacelles above the wing allow bigger propellers, driven by 5,100 hp AI-20 turboprops that almost double the output of the AN-26′s engines. As a result, the AN-32′s 14,750 pound/ 6900 kg load capacity is almost 50% better than its AN-26 cousin’s, and it can take off with much better load fractions in hot and/or high-altitude conditions, whose thin air could be a problem for other aircraft. AN-32s serve with a number of countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, and the type was purchased in 2008 by Afghanistan.

India was the plane’s launch customer in the 1980s, and its fleet of up to 105 aircraft are used by the IAF’s Parachute Training School, by its military for humanitarian personnel and supply airdrops, and as an important link in the transport chain to the disputed Siachen glacier area in northern Jammu and Kashmir. That length of service has taken a toll, hence India’s decision to modernize over 100 planes to An-32RE status…

The New AN-32REs AN-32 at altitude
(click to view full)

The process began with a Parliamentary Committee suggestion in 2000-01. The intent to upgrade the AN-32 fleet was restated in 2006, and India went on to perform pre-upgrade surveys of its fleet. Anotnov and Israel’s Elbit Systems were said to be the likely contractors, with the latter playing a role as an equipment supplier. The Ukraine’s Motor Sich will work on upgrades to the engines. The formal announcement cited the Ukraine’s state agency Spetstechnoexport as the contract winner, but the Antonov Plant and Civil Aviation Plant 410 are actually executing the contract.

The $400 million main project envisages a Total Technical Life Extensions (TTLE) for 40 aircraft at Antonov-certified plants in Ukraine, at the rate of 10 aircraft per year. It also includes the supply of material and transfer of technology for the upgrade of remaining 64 aircraft at the IAF’s No. 1 Base Repair Depot (BRD) in Kanpur (tl. 104). A parallel 3-year, $110 million contract with Motor Sich OJSC in Zaporizhia with upgrade the fleet’s AI-20 engines. The 40 AN-32 aircraft upgrades in Kiev are expected to be completed by March 2014, and the upgrades at 1 BRD are scheduled to finish by March 2017.

With over 800,000 flight hours on India’s 104-plane fleet, the airframes needed an extensive structural refurbishment to extend their service lives for another 15-20 years. So, what else goes into a TTLE’d An-32RE?

A combination of press reports and Ukrainian announcements says that the engines are being upgraded, while the structural changes lower the plane’s overall mass, leading to better fuel consumption. In the cockpit, the 1980s avionics are being replaced with a new “glass cockpit” of display screens, a satellite navigation system, a better flight management system, aircraft collision warning equipment, ground collision early warning equipment, modernized aircraft rangefinders and height finders, a new radar set with 2 multifunctional indicators, new oxygen equipment, and noise and vibration reduction measures, and modernized crew seats.

Taken together, the upgraded An-32 will be able to make full use of runways with international ICAO category Instrument Landing Systems Category II runways, allowing takeoffs and landings in visibility as low as 300 meters. India’s MAFI program will give the new planes up to 67 bases in India that can make full use of these capabilities.

The AN-32 upgrade program not only survived India’s contract to purchase 6-12 C-130J Hercules aircraft configured for special forces operations, it appears to be complementary. On Oct 14/08, Zee News quoted Agra Air Station’s Air Officer Commanding Air Commodore Shouvik Roy:

“With special operations being the focus of the Air Force in the days to come, the upgraded aircraft will be used increasingly for operations involving tactical transport. The improved on-board avionics will facilitate night operations and even search and rescue.”

Contracts and Key Events IAF AN-32
(click to view full)

July 17/14: CAG Report. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India points out some problems in the An-32RE program:

“IAF had paid USD 719,500 (Rs 3.16 crore) per engine against the contract of June 2007 [for 17 engines], whereas, it had to pay USD 10,90,000 (Rs 5.43 crore) per engine against the contract of December 2009 [for 100 engines]. Thus, IAF had to incur a total of Rs 227 crore extra on procurement of 100 aero-engines…. Despite being aware of long-term requirement of aero-engines, IAF failed to project the entire requirement which resulted in the extra avoidable expenditure.

“….Due to delay in initiation and conclusion of the contract, facilities for upgradation of an aircraft could not be set up in time despite an investment of Rs 272 crore on Transfer of Technology resulting in grounding of more than 50 percent of the transport aircraft fleet…”

Sources: Jagran Post, “CAG pulls up IAF for grounding AN-32 transport planes”.

March 29/14: Delivery. A 7th batch of 5 upgraded AN-32REs flies out of Kiev toward Kanpur, India. Ukroboronprom mentions that the fly-outs occurred immediately, and that:

“Taking into consideration the [Russian annexation of] Crimea [and threats to Ukraine], the European partners, as an exceptional case, have opened the sky for the military transportation aircrafts, so that the vehicles will be able to arrive at destination place in time.”

Normally, these planes would ferry themselves to India via Russia. The final set of 5 from Ukraine are scheduled for delivery and departure in summer 2014. After that, the contract will involve upgrade kits that are installed in India. Sources: Ukroboronprom, “The seventh batch of An-32 Aircrafts upgraded was supplied to the Air Forces of India”.

March 29/14: MAFI. India’s Business Standard discusses India’s INR 25 billion “Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure” (MAFI) project, which is being led by Tata Power’s strategic electronics division. It uses Doppler Very High Frequency Omni-directional Radio Range (DVOR), and Category II Instrument Landing Systems (ILS), allowing direction from 300 km and operations in visibility as low as 300 meters.

ICAO ILS Category II compatibility is an important goal for the AN-32RE, but the challenge is that India can only upgrade 5-6 bases at any given time. The eventual goal is 30 IAF and navy bases set up by 2016, including 8 along the Chinese border. By the end of 2019, the goal is to expand MAFI to 67 air bases, including 2 owned by the ministry of home affairs. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “First upgraded IAF base commissioned”.

Feb 10/14: The Ukrainian state export agency Ukroboronprom announces a “new contract for repair and renovation of aircraft equipment between Indian Air Forces and SFTE Spectechnoexport”, involving India’s An-32s.

The on-site translation is poor, but it appears to be either a tranche of the original upgrade deal, or a longer-term maintenance and spares arrangement. No figures are provided. Sources: Ukroboronprom, “New contract for renovation of aircraft equipment was signed in interests of the Ministry of Defense of India”.

Jan 31/14: 35/105. Antonov advertises its coming presence at India’s DefExpo 2014, and offers an update regarding its An-32RE conversions:

“Today enterprises of Ukraine perform deep modernization of the fleet of 105 AN-32 light military-transports of Indian Air Forces. Till present, works on 35 airplanes were completed.”

Things appear to be moving slowly, as contracted, at a rate of just 10 per year. Meanwhile, India needs to have begun preparation for its own upgrade work, which will begin once AN-32RE #40 is delivered. Sources: Antonov, “ANTONOV will participate in DEF EXPO?2014 in Delhi”.

Feb 5/13: 25/105. Antonov offers a progress report. So far, the firm has upgraded and re-delivered 25 AN-32REs, out of the total order for 105. They’re also looking to provide 1-stop service for the fleet:

“Developing cooperation with India on the AN?32 programme, ANTONOV Company proposes to realize the principle of integrated operational support of the aircraft. It implies all the services, including: scientific and research investigations, scheduled maintenance and repair, engineering services, training of personnel, modification of the aircraft, providing with technical documentation, warranty maintenance, spare parts and vendor items deliveries to be rendered through the “single window” – ANTONOV Company. This system will provide the most efficient interaction between the aircraft operator and enterprises participating in the programme.”

It’s a lucrative opportunity, but India’s poor experiences with the Ukrainian firm’s Russian counterparts is likely to be an obstacle.

June 8/11: The IAF inducts the first 4 refurbished An-32RE transports back into service at the Palam AFB. India had sent 5 AN-32s to the Ukraine, and the remaining one will be inducted after it is finished re-equipping.

An-32s have limited range, and Spets Techno Export ferried the An-32REs from Kiev to Ankara, Turkey; Cairo, Egypt; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Doha, Bahrain; and the United Arab Emirates, before bringing them to New Delhi. India Strategic’s article also discusses the deal’s value, players, and timelines.

1st returns to service

March 10/10: A Parliamentary reply clears up one aspect of the deal – when it was signed:

“The Government has signed a contract for ugpradation of AN-32 aircraft with M/s Spets Techno Export, Ukraine on June 15, 2009. This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in written reply to Shri Gireesh Kumar Sanghi in Rajya Sabha today.”

Feb 3/10: Engines. Engine-maker OJSC Motor Sich in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine announces a $110 million contract to modernize the IAF AN-32 fleet’s AI-20 engines.

The 3-year deal is running from December 2009 – 2013, and 2010 will reportedly see Motor Sich modernize around 100 engines. Unless this is a multi-stage process, that would be close to half of the stock. Sources: Ukrinform, “Motor Sich modernizing engines for India Air Force”.

Engine upgrades

July 22/09: India MoD release:

“A contract for Total Technical Life Extension, Overhaul and Re-equipment of AN-32 fleet has been concluded with Spets Techno Export, Ukraine to overhaul and upgrade these planes, as part of the IAF fleet management approach. The project includes calendar life extension up to 40 years, overhaul and re-equipment of AN-32 aircraft. There were no conditionalities at the time of acquisition of AN-32 with the Russian Government. This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Shri Vijay Jawaharlal Darda and Smt Shobhana Bhartia in Rajya Sabha today.”

June 13/09: Reports say that India’s Ministry of Defence signed a $400 million deal with Ukrainian firms to refurbish “close to 100″ AN-32s under a life extension contract. Reports are slightly conflicting, due to lack of transparency on both sides. The contract is eventually established as covering 105 planes, and is signed 2 days later, on June 15/09.

Word of the deal leaked after a June 9/09 AN-32 crash, shortly after it took off from the Mechuka landing base near the Chinese border. The state of the fleet is well known, and early leaks re: upgrades are a good way to divert heated inquiries into the fleet’s safety. Indian Express.

Contract signed

March 3/09: Jane’s adds that the upgrade will involve about 70 aircraft, adding that around 50 of the 100 remaining AN-32s will require structural refurbishment, as well as systems modernization. It will apparently be performed in cooperation with Elbit Systems, whose avionics are popular with the Indian military.

Feb 16/09: According to the Ukraine’s official news agency UKRINFORM, Ukraine’s Aviant Aircraft Building Plant in Kiev appears to have won the upgrade contract for India’s AN-32s. Ukraine’s national news agency reports that:

“At the meeting with India’s Defense Minister it was noted that in the context of a recent victory of the Ukrainian party in a tender on modernization of the fleet of 105 An-23 planes of the Indian Air Force, the relevant bilateral military-technical cooperation has prospects of achieving a qualitatively new level. The work on the contract is being completed now.”

Contract amounts were not mentioned. In India, however, it is wise not to count on any contract until it is actually signed.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

A Higher-Tech Hog: USAF A-10C Upgrades and Refurbishments

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 17:06
A-10A over Germany
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A-10s w. LITENING
(click to view full)

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

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

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

SADL screen
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The USAF adds that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contracts & Key Events

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

FY 2014

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

July 15-18/14: Political. The Senate Appropriations Committee approves a $489.6 billion base FY 2015 budget, plus $59.7 billion in supplemental funding. It includes $338 million to keep the A-10C fleet in service. Barring a Presidential veto and Congressional cave-in, that pretty much sets things in stone – the A-10 will survive for one more year. Sources: Arizona Daily Independent, “Senate Appropriations Committee saves A-10 in 2015″ | Reuters, “US Senate defense funding bill rejects some Pentagon cost-cutting” | Verde Independent, “Congress takes another step toward saving A-10 fighter from budget ax”. See also DID, “FY15 US Defense Budget Finally Complete with War Funding”.

June 19-20/14: Political. The full House vote on HR 4870 would preserve the A-10 for one more year, after 300-114-17 passage of a June 19/14 amendment to “prohibit use of funds to divest, retire, transfer, or place in storage, or prepare to divest, retire, transfer, or place in storage, any A-10 aircraft, or to disestablish any units of the active or reserve.” Sources: GovTrack.US, “House Vote #322 in 2014″.

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

The House Armed Services Committee had a different viewpoint (q.v. May 8/14 and DID’s FY15 budget cycle), and so did the Senate (q.v. May 23/14). What really matters is what the House end up approving by final vote, but these kinds of losses can hurt political momentum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2015 Budget: Retire the fleet

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

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

FY 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gen. Welsh’s address
click for video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Front-line reality

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

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

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

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

Europe, Adieu

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

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

FY 2012

A-10C fleet cut; 1st re-winged A-10C rolls out; A-10C flies on biofuel; Thales acquires Scorpion HMD. Alcohol-to-Jet
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Nov 5/12: Thales buys Scorpion HMD. Thales announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Gentex Corp.’s Visionix subsidiary for Helmet Mounted Displays (HMD) and motion tracking. Products include “Intersense” motion tracking, and the Scorpion HMD that equips American A-10Cs. Thales has a strong position in helicopter HMDs with its TopOwl, but it hasn’t had quite as much luck with fighter HMDs. Visionix has good technologies, which can help Thales improve that position against the Elbit/Rockwell joint venture VSI, and secondary competitors BAE systems and Saab Group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alcohol flight

May 16/12: Flight International:

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

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

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

1st re-winged A-10C

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

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

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

A-10 fleet cuts

FY 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2010

A-10C getting a Scorpion HMD, but not Hellfire missiles. A-10A fires Maverick
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Sept 27/10: OFP Suite 7, no Hellfire. A $48 million contract modification which will allow for the “completion of the full A-10 Suite 7 Operational Flight Program.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2009

$1.72 billion TLPS multi-award maintenance contract; A-10C adds Laser JDAM; Wing cracking in 130 planes. LJDAM test from A-10C
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Sept 24/09: Boeing announces that it received 2 separate contracts from the US Air Force to support modernization of its 365 A-10A+ and A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft. The contracts, which have a total value of $4.2 million, consists of several tasks ranging in duration from 3 to 18 months as part of the A-10 Thunderbolt Life-Cycle Program Support (TLPS) contract. For details on the TLPS contract, see the June 11/09 entry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also: Lockheed Martin | Boeing | Northrop Grumman.

TLPS support contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wing cracking grounds 130 A-10s

FY 2008

USAF prepared to compete future support; A-10C #100 delivered; Creating a 3-D model of the A-10. A-10C at Davis-Monthan
2006-11-29
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Aug 29/08: New Rules. Aviation Week reports that the A-10C program is likely to be an early test case for a dramatic rule change inserted in the USA’s 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which requires DoD task & delivery order contracts exceeding $100 million to be awarded to multiple contractors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

100th A-10C delivered

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

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

FY 2007

$2.015 billion contract for new wings; 25 more kits; Work on SADL datalink; A-10C arrives and reaches IOC. IOC ceremony
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Aug 22/07: Basing. The USAF announces that an associate group of about 215 reservists will support the active duty 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, GA, while a smaller associate detachment of 14 reservists will augment the A-10 Formal Training Unit at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. The arrangement means the reservists and active-duty personnel have opportunities to train and deploy as a unit; development of fighter associate units began in March 1997 with the launching of the Fighter Reserve Associate Test program. The success of that program led to the signing of an agreement in April 2003 by the commanders of ACC (Air Combat Command) and AFRC (Air Force Reserve Command) to establish fighter associate units at ACC F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-15 Eagle locations.

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

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

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

1st arrival & IOC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re-winging contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

GAO on costs

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

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

FY 2005 – 2006

179 upgrade kit orders (or is it 239?); DSMS delivered. The Warthog in Winter
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Sept 27/06: +107 Kits. A $49 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-incentive fee and time and material contract. Lockheed Martin’s release cites 107 PE kits, representing the 2nd production lot following the initial award for 72 kits in March 2005:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2004 and earlier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A-10C upgrade contract

Additional Research Background: A-10 Platform & Enhancements

News & Views

Categories: News

MALE Performance Enhancement: Piaggio’s P.1HH Hammerhead UAV

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 16:04
Hammerhead concept
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At present, the USA and Israel have strong global leads in the UAV field, especially in the area of plane-sized Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) class or larger machines. That lead is eroding quickly, however, as new countries and firms decide that UAVs offer a useful niche with manageable development costs.

Poor US policy is also helping to drive this trend, and the new P.1HH “Hammerhead” UAV is a classic example. Italy is likely to become the initial customer for this high-performance UAV, but the platform itself and the Italian firm that makes it have strong connections to the UAE…

The P.1HH Hammerhead UAV P180 Avanti II
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The P.1HH Hammerhead is based on Piaggio’s sleek, Ferrari-approved P180 Avanti II business turboprop. Rapid deployment inside larger aircraft is engineered by adding a quickly detachable joint for the outer wings, and the high aspect ratio laminar wings have been stretched from 14.03m to a 15.5m/ 50’10″ wingspan. Maximum takeoff weight is slightly higher than its civil progenitor, at 6,146 kg / 13,550 pounds.

The Mach 0.7 certified P180 begins with jet-class speed, and the Hammerhead maintains that legacy. Its rear-facing Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B turboprop engines, and low noise propellers, let it cruise quietly at 395 knots/ 732 km per hour for fast deployment or wide-area coverage; alternatively, it can throttle down to a Predator-like 135 knots to get a slower look, or to stretch endurance. It flight ceiling of 45,000 feet sits above many competitors, offering protection from shorter-range air defense missiles. The Hammerhead does give up some endurance relative to a Predator, with only 16 hours at low speed loiter. On the other hand, the P180 Avanti II has an impressive 2,700 km/ 1,500 nmi range, and the Hammerhead’s civil derivation will give it a leg up for flight certification in unrestricted areas.

1st flight
click for video

The core of the UAV is the Selex ES SkyISTAR Mission Management System (MMS), coupled with the firm’s Vehicle Control Management System (VCMS) that commands the aerodynamic control surfaces and manages the on-board equipment. VCMS LRUs are installed inside the large volume fuselage, spaced for temperature control as well as survivability. Selex ES also supplies remote-piloting Ground Control Station (GCS), and UAS datalink and communications systems that can work beyond line of sight (BLOS). The UAV and GCS are NATO STANAG USAR 4671 compliant, which will help streamline approval to fly in the airspace of other countries that have ratified this UAV airworthiness standard.

To put all that together: The MMS handles the overall mission, runs the sensors, and processes the data. During flight operations, the on-board VCMS is commanded from the off-board GCS via the airborne datalink system, and relies on a triple redundancy Flight Control Computer (FCC) system and multiple remote multi-lane Servo Interface Units (SIU) to handle the aircraft. The ATOL takes over for take-offs and landing, which should contribute to fewer losses.

Payload could be more than 500 kg, but Piaggio plans to keep it within that limit, in order to avoid export issues with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MCTR) that Italy has signed. Finmeccanica’s Selex ES will supply an electro-optical day/night turret, along with its e-scan Seaspray 7300 radar for land and maritime surveillance.

Initial plans involve a surveillance-only UAV, but there is more than sufficient space for weapons in a weapons bay, if customers like Italy decide they want that. The key limitation is the MTCR treaty’s 500 kg payload maximum, not the aircraft’s capabilities.

Positioning and Prospects ADCOM United-40
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The P.1HH Hammerhead a solid set of attributes, with design advantages that are likely to endure. Even so, product positioning could make sales beyond Italy and the UAE a challenge. Even if all American and Israeli rivals like the MQ-9 Reaper, Predator XP, Hermes 900, and IAI Heron TP were excluded from consideration, the Hammerhead will still need to compete with Turkey’s Anka, Denel of South Africa’s Bateleur, Sagem’s Patroller, the UAE’s own ADCOM (United-40 et. al.), and developments in Europe and in countries like India, South Korea, and China. The dominant theme in those comparisons is still a tradeoff. The Hammerhead gives buyers extra speed, and sometimes extra payload and range as well, in exchange for less endurance and the possibility of higher operating costs. The P180 Avanti II may offer remarkable efficiency for its aircraft class, but a twin-engine passenger aircraft conversion isn’t likely to match thinner and slower single-engine, never-manned designs.

As a surveillance-only UAV, Piaggio will need to depend on customers whose need to cover large areas with fewer assets eclipses the value of longer orbits. That’s a limiting definition. If they do develop weapons options that don’t require American approval, they’ll open an important sales window, but other countries are also working to close that gap. Their long-term advantage would be much swifter reaction time, which is real but still a tradeoff for less ongoing coverage. Meanwhile, Piaggio’s use of Pratt & Whitney turboprops gives the USA enough leverage to block sales using its ITAR weapons export laws; that’s exactly what they did to block an export sale of Brazilian EMB-314 Super Tucano light attack turboprops to Venezuela.

Despite a November 2013 agreement to resurrect a European MALE UAV project, and the Hammerhead’s clear positioning as a qualified candidate that won’t require a lot of development investment, Europe doesn’t look especially promising. European programs prefer to hand out favors to large, established firms, even if it means re-inventing the wheel – recall the Tiger attack helicopter program, and corresponding rejection of AgustaWestland’s similar and ready-to-buy A129. Selex ES has ties to Italy’s Finmeccanica, but those ties would have to to eclipse Alenia’s UAV partnership with EADS, and Italy won’t be in the driver’s seat of a European UAV partnership. European success would be a pleasant surprise, but it would be a surprise.

Contracts & Key Events P.1HH Hammerhead
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July 17/14: Testing. The P.1HH HammerHead DEMO flight program is partly done. It has has validated and fine tuned its advanced control laws, including take-off and landing, augmented modes, flight envelope protection and automatic flight. Automatic management of the ground run both in takeoff and landing has been tested, along with the day/night surveillance turret that’s controlled by the SkyISTAR system.

Next steps in flight testing from Trapani-Birgi in Sicily, Italy involve further testing of the sensors, including installation of an enhanced SkyISTAR Mission Management system that allows the UAV to manage the Seaspray7300E radar. Sources: Selex ES, “P.1HH Hammerhead Programme reaches New Milestone: Autonomous Flight Modes Successfully Validated”.

Nov 18/13: MPA. Tawazun Group subsidiary ADASI says that their P180 MPA program is on schedule, with the first prototype set for its first flight in mid-2014 in Italy. Their release is interesting, because it also suggests potential targets and reach for the Hammerhead:

“The UAE-based company and its partners are actively promoting the MPA as a high-tech solution for maritime patrol, ground surveillance, tactical Intelligence ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and COMNIT (intelligence, technical and intelligence information) security, and have identified Asia, Australia, Africa and the Middle East as the target markets.”

Nov 14/13: 1st flight. Initial flight of the P.1HH HammerHead DEMO, at Italy’s Trapani “Birgi” Air Force base.

If the UAV continues to be successful, it might be able to act as the missing component of the long-frozen M-346 advanced jet trainer deal with Italy. The UAE is looking for a UAV they can arm, and it might also form a very interesting manned/unmanned offering combination with the P180 MPA. Sources: Piaggio Aero, Nov 18/13 release.

1st flight

Oct 31/13: Buy in. Piaggio Aero sees its share structure list heavily toward the UAE and India, after a Shareholders Assembly approves a EUR 190 million buy-in. The HDI Hedge Fund drops from 33% to a 12.5% share. At the same time, Chairman Piero Ferrari increased his share from 1% to 2%, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Company raised their share from 33% to 41%, and India’s TATA Group raised its stake from 33% to 44.5%.

While Piaggio is a civil aircraft company, it’s stuck in a classically Italian slow production mode of about 11-12 planes per year. Many of the new funds are reportedly earmarked for the firm’s 2 defense projects, the Maritime Patrol variant and the P.1HH Hammerhead UAV. Sources: Piaggio Aero Nov 12/13 release | Defense News, “UAE Ups Its Stake in Drone-maker Piaggio Aero” | Defense World, “UAE To Beef Up Stake In New Italian UAV Development”.

Ownership shifts

June 18-24/13: Italy. Italy indicates that they intend to buy 10 Piaggio P.1HH “Hammerhead” MALE UAVs. Taxi tests have already begun and flight testing is expected to begin at the Italian government’s Sardinian test ranges in August or September 2013, with the Aeronautica Millitare managing military certification. Italy is looking for an initial operational capability in 2016-17, and says they will proceed with or without additional partners. Firm backing would give the Hammerhead at least a chance of competing in France and beyond. Aviation Week | AIN re: Hammerhead | Aviation Week follow-on.

June 12/13: Testing. Piaggio tests the Hammerhead UAV’s Vehicle Control Management System (VCMS) in a series of engine and ground handling tests. Sources: Piaggio Aero, June 12/13.

June 18/13: Rollout. Piaggio publicly unveils the P.1HH Hammerhead UAV at the Paris Air Show, after less than a year developing the aircraft in conjunction with Finmeccanica’s Selex ES. CEO Alberto Galassi says:

“The P.1HH HammeHead [sic] and the MPA Multirole Patrol aircraft are the most challenging and technologically advanced aviation programme that Piaggio Aero has ever conceived. They support Piaggio Aero in its newly declared vision of becoming a prominent player in the surveillance and security sector producing leading edge Unmanned Aerial Systems and Multirole Patrol Aircraft together with our world recognized state of the art business aviation aircraft.”

Sources: Piaggio, June 18/13 release.

Rollout

May 9/13: Italy. Aviation Week interviews Italy’s national armaments director Gen. Claudio Debertolis, who reveals that Italy asked to arm its MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs 2 years ago. The USA has refused to cooperate, halting Italian efforts even though Italy is responsible for wide swathes of territory in Afghanistan, and was the point country for NATO’s campaign against Libya in 2011.

Arming the Aeronautica Militare’s UAVs is a high priority, and Debertolis confirms that Italy is in talks with potential European partners to move forward with a covert “Super MALE” weaponized UAV program. The main question revolves around funding. America may have delayed Italy for so long that it doesn’t have the budget to do anything, even convert its existing UAVs. Aviation Week.

Feb 14/13: Testing. The Hammerhead UAV has its 1st engine start and runway taxi. It’s equipped with 2 rear-facing Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66B turboprop engines, and low noise 5-blade scimitar propellers. Source: Piaggio Aero, June 18/13 release.

P180 MPA concept
(click to view full)

July 13/12: P180 MPA. The UAE firm Tawazun is financing development of a Maritime Patrol Aircraft variant of the Avanti II turboprop, with a wingspan stretched all the way out to 21.38 m/ 65′ 2″. Mission endurance at 100 mni from base, in the most taxing low-level (5,000′) profile, is estimated at 7 hours with 45 minutes of fuel reserve. The project will come under Tawazun’s Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments (ADASI), who is financing the development of 2 prototypes from a team that includes Piaggio, Sweden’s Saab, and Tawazun firms. First flight is scheduled for 2014.

The UAE bought 2 Bombardier Q400 MPA aircraft in 2009, and Saab has its own MPA candidate based in its Saab 340 turboprop, but the Avanti MPA’s performance is much closer to existing maritime patrol jets like Embraer’s EMB-145 MP. A range of up to 6,111 km/ 3,3300 nmi, at up to 41,000 feet, with 10+ hour endurance at 648 kph/ 350 knots is certainly competitive, while offering efficiency bonuses during maritime patrol’s low-level flight profiles.

The UAE’s air force already operates 2 P180s as VIP/ MEDEVAC/ Utility aircraft, and ADASI & Mubadala’s involvement lead observers to believe that the UAE will supplement its 2 Q400s with some P180 MPAs, once development is complete. Neighboring Oman would also be a good candidate, but they bought 5 C295 MPAs in 2012; Mubadala may have more luck with the smaller GCC states like Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. The MPA will contribute to the Hammerhead’s market opportunities by trialing potential cross-over equipment, and also by establishing sales reach and reputation in conjunction with the UAE. Then, too, a common manned-unmanned force combination might be very interesting to some buyers. Sources: UAE’s The National, “Mubadala partnership with Piaggio takes flight”.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

EA-18G Program: The USA’s Electronic Growler

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 18:10
EA-18G at Pax

The USA’s electronic attack fighters are a unique, overworked, and nearly obsolete capability. With the retirement of the US Air Force’s long-range EF-111 Raven “Spark ‘Vark,” the aging 4-seat EA-6B Prowlers became the USA’s only remaining fighter for radar jamming, communications jamming and information operations like signals interception [1]. Despite their age and performance limits, they’ve been predictably busy on the front lines, used for everything from escorting strike aircraft against heavily defended targets, to disrupting enemy IED land mine attacks by jamming all radio signals in an area.

EA-6B Prowler
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All airframes have lifespan limits, however, and the EA-6B is no exception. The USA’s new electronic warfare aircraft will be based on Boeing’s 2-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet multi-role fighter, and has 90% commonality with its counterpart. That will give it decent self-defense capabilities, as well as electronic attack potential. At present, however, the EA-18G is slated to be the only dedicated electronic warfare aircraft in the USA’s future force. Since the USA is currently the only western country with such aircraft, the US Navy’s EA-18G fleet would become the sole source of tactical jamming support for NATO and allied air forces as well.

DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article describes the EA-18G aircraft and its key systems, outlining the program, and keeping track of ongoing developments, contracts, etc. that affect the program.

Growler: The EA-18G Program EA-18G: The Platform EF-111 “Spark ‘Vark”
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While other electronic warfare platforms like the EC-130H Compass Call exist, their slow speed makes their use as tactical jamming aircraft during airstrikes problematic. The most common tactical option for electronic attack, therefore, takes an existing fighter such as the A-6 Intruder (EA-6B Prowler) or F-111 Aardvark (the recently-retired EF-111 Raven, aka. “Spark Vark”), then modifies it via new wiring, changes to the airframe, and additional pods. The price has typically been reduced performance, reduced weapons capability, and sometimes even a larger basic radar signature for the airframe.

The current EA-6B is an excellent example. The good news? Since it’s based on Grumman’s robust A-6 Intruder attack aircraft, it offers excellent range, ample carrying capacity, and efficient subsonic performance. The bad news? Poor self-defense against aerial opponents, a large radar signature, and difficulty keeping up with friendly aircraft traveling at high subsonic cruise speeds.

The EA-18G Growler/ Grizzly has avoided many, but not all, of these typical tradeoffs.

EA-18G: key systems
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The EA-18 is more than 90% common with the standard F/A-18F Super Hornet, sharing its airframe, AN/APG-79 AESA radar, AN/AYK-22 stores management system, and weapons options. The exception is the Super Hornet’s 20mm Vulcan gatling gun, which has been removed from the nose in favor of electrical equipment.

Additional electrical equipment is added throughout the airframe, and Raytheon’s internally-mounted AN/ALQ-227 communication countermeasures system uses a dedicated, omni-directional antenna for signals detection, analysis, and recording. That system works with the plane’s AN/ALQ-99 high and low-band jamming pods, in order to perform complex jamming tasks. Northrop Grumman’s ALQ-218v2 is a digital wideband radio frequency receiver, with selective jamming and geo-location capabilities. It currently equips the EA-18G’s wingtip pods.

The use of pods comes with certain penalties. The increased drag of the external pods, coupled with the shorter range of the F/A-18 E/F base platform vis-a-vis the A-6 it replaces, means that external fuel tanks will be needed. The presence of those fuel tanks on the aircraft’s “wet” pylons, and of the pods on its wingtips and underwing pylons, doesn’t leave much space for other weapons. Despite these limitations, Growlers will be more capable of aerial self-defense than their predecessors. EA-18Gs will typically be armed with a pair of AIM-120 AMRAAM medium range air-air missiles mounted under the engine intakes, and another pair of AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation) or AGM-88E AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided) missiles on underwing stations for destroying enemy radar sites.

EA-18: Looking Beyond RAAF EA-18G concept
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Boeing has also surveyed future users of the EA-18G “Growlers” to find out what upgrades they might like to see after the US Navy starts fielding the EA-18G. While the AN/ALQ-99 radar jamming pod has received positive reviews, and will be a critical component of the EA-18G’s initial kit, reports consistently cite it as a maintenance and reliability problem. The US Navy’s EA-18G program manager has said that it might eventually have to be replaced, and the USA’s Next-Generation Jammer program is already in motion to do just that. The EA-18 program is also exploring adding more weapon types and replacing the satellite communications receiver, as part of the budget planning process.

Meanwhile, exports beckon. That would be something of a departure, as the USA has traditionally been the only country to field tactical electronic attack aircraft. As anti-aircraft missiles on the global market become more and more sophisticated, however, serious players are going to need this kind of capability.

Australia has already stepped up, becoming the 1st EA-18G export customer. Their F/A-18F contract specified that 12 of its 24 new planes would have all of the internal modifications required to become an EA-18, if the right equipment is added. August 2012 saw Australia take that next step, at a cost of about $1.56 billion (around $130 million more per plane).

A less expensive “EA-18 Lite” export version could reply on the ALQ-218 wingtip pods, and the internally-mounted ALQ-227 system. The APG-79 AESA radar that equips all EA-18Gs could also be used as a jammer, if future software development is forthcoming along those lines. The resulting “EA-18 Lite” combination would be a stronger SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) option than the F/A-18F, with more range and available weapons than a full EA-18G, but less jamming than the full EA-18G, and less stealth than the F-35A. EA-18 Lites would be able to identify and geo-locate enemy radars, for instance, and immediately target them with GPS-enabled anti-radar missiles like AARGM. Jamming in low-intensity environments, such as the use of EA-6B Prowlers in Iraq to jam enemy land mine detonation frequencies over key convoys, would also be possible. Even so, the removal of the expensive and fragile ALQ-99 pod would remove the plane’s most advanced jamming, unless ECM pods from other global sources could be integrated instead.

As the Super Hornet production line heads to a close around 2015, the availability of this unique conversion option is an important argument for Boeing, as it tries to sell prospective customers on the F/A-18 Super Hornet as their future fighter.

EA-18G: Industrial Program Rollout ceremony
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Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) PMA-265 is the U.S. Navy acquisition office for the EA-18G. Boeing is the prime contractor, building the forward fuselage and wings and conducting final assembly. Northrop Grumman, who designed the YF-17 lightweight fighter that became the F/A-18 family, is the principal subcontractor. They supply the center and aft fuselage and act as the airborne electronic attack subsystem integrator. The Hornet Industry Team will divide key EA-18G component production across Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Electric (F414 engine) and Raytheon (AN/APG-79 AESA radar) manufacturing facilities.

The EA-18G has faced its share of normal development challenges. A $7 million supplemental contract was required, in order to make its wingtip-mounted AN/ALQ-218 (V)2 radio-frequency receiver systems durable enough to withstand harsh weather. Managing the human interface complexities of going from 4 crew in the EA-6B to just 2 crew in the EA-18G is also an ongoing focus. The EA-18Gs were set to receive their production software and hardware build in July 2007, which is the last major challenge through the end of test and evaluation. Software build 2.0 will fix deficiencies discovered in the first software tape, add 36% more software functionality, and roll in capabilities for communications jamming and Multi-mission Advanced Tactical Terminal systems hardware. The pace of testing provided the team an extra 2 months to incorporate fixes into that software push.

The Growler’s level of commonality with its Super Hornet predecessor helps to keep development costs down, but complex integration is still required for the various electronic components, and testing is still necessary. At the moment, however, the program is slightly under expected cost, as it nears the end of a 5-year system design & development contract.

EA-18G flight testing and Operational Evaluation is taking place at the Navy’s Patuxent River, MD and China Lake, CA test sites, and on Navy carriers, through 2008 and 2009. Fielding is also beginning at NAS Whidbey Island, WA.

At present, industrial partners include:

  • Boeing (F/A-18, EA-18G prime contractor)
  • GE (F414 engines)
  • Northrop Grumman in Bethpage, NY; El Segundo, CA; St Augustine, FL, Baltimore, MD (F/A-18 structures, EW systems and software incl. ALQ-218 and wingtip pods, EW support)
  • ITT in Thousand Oaks, CA (ALQ-99 jamming pods, INCANS interference canceling)
  • Raytheon in El Segundo, CA; Ft. Wayne, IN; and Largo, FL (APG-79 AESA radar, ALQ-227 CCS)
  • Alion Science and Technology Inc. in Annapolis, MD (EM analysis)
  • Ball Aerospace, Westminster, CO (MATT antenna)
  • Cobham’s Sensor and Antenna Systems division in Landsdale, PA (low band antennas)
  • GKN Inc. in St. Louis, MO (complex parts fabrication)
  • Harris Corp in Melbourne, FL (data storage devices)
  • Nurad in Baltimore, MD (wingtip pod radome)
  • Times Microwave in Wallingford, CT (RF/IF coaxial cables)

EA-18G: Numbers & Budgets INCANS: RDT&E…
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The current plan for the EA-18G program is up to 114 planes, and the FY 2015 budget could push that to 137. The number has risen steadily from the original 90, after growing awareness of this mission’s importance reversed a slight decline to 88 earlier in the program.

The EA-18G received DoD approval to enter Full Rate Production on Nov 23/09. Initial early deliveries to Fleet Replacement Squadron VAQ-129 have begun, which allows the Navy to begin general aircrew training and develop standard operating procedures. Initial EA-18G Operational Capability was achieved in September 2009 with the US Navy electronic attack squadron VAQ-132 located at Whidbey Island, WA where the Navy’s current EA-6B squadrons are based. The US Navy expects a complete transition of all production Growlers to the fleet by 2015.

Excel
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Budgetary figures below are based on Pentagon documents. All figures are in millions, and deliveries tend to occur 2 fiscal years after orders are placed:

As of November 2012, NAS Whidbey Island had 79 EA-18Gs: 41 in the VAQ-129 Fleet Replacement (training) squadron, plus 6 operational and 1 transitioning squadron of 5 planes each (35), and then 3 more planes. The desired total is 11 operational squadrons, and if 22 more planes are bought in FY 2015, each operational squadron will rise to 7 planes. The USN’s 6 EA-6B squadrons will all transition to EA-18Gs by 2016, but the USMC will keep its EA-6Bs in service until 2019, when F-35Bs are expected to replace USMC electronic warfare capabilities with stealth.

EA-18G: Contracts & Other Developments EA-18G and F/A-18F
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In general, this FOCUS article will only cover purchases that refer exclusively to the EA-18G, unless the EA-18G items are specifically broken out, or their inclusion helps make later EA-18 program buys more comprehensible.

As noted above, many procurement items will be shared between the EA-18G and the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, on which the platform is based. DID’s Spotlights on the MYP-II (FY 2005-2009) and MYP-III (FY 2010-2014) multi-year Super Hornet contracts cover all airframes and integration from 2005-2014. Fleet support costs are also part of the F/A-18E/F contracts, due to aircraft commonality; while common “Government-Furnished Equipment” items like APG-79 radars, GE’s F414 engines, etc. are bought through separate contracts of their own.

“Airborne Electronic Attack” (AEA) Kits include the AN/ALQ-218 wingtip pods, and AN/ALQ-227 Communication Countermeasures Set/Electronic Attack Unit, as well as other unique internal electronics and gear that make the plane an EA-18G instead of an F/A-18F. What they do not include, is the AN/ALQ-99 pods carried underneath the Growlers. Those are simply moved over from retiring EA-6B Prowlers, following minor hardware and software compatibility modifications.

Unless otherwise specified, all awards are made to Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO, and/or are awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, MD.

FY 2014

EA-18G
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July 18/14: Testing. Commander Jeannie Groeneveld, who is the spokeswoman for the US Pacific Fleet’s naval air force, says that May and June tests with extra EA-18Gs on deck went well. It would be surprising if she had said anything else, under the circumstances. Sources: Reuters, “AIRSHOW-Carrier test with extra EA-18G jets went well U.S. Navy”.

July 17/14: Politics. The US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense approves 12 additional E/A-18G Growler aircraft during the markup of the FY 2015 defense spending bill. The full House Appropriations Committee has also approved 12 EA-18Gs, so this move improves the odds that 12 planes will be the final buy after reconciliation. Sources: Bloomberg, “Senate Panel Rejects Pentagon Cuts in Spending Bill”.

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 for early procurement 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”.

July 11/14: AEA support. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Bethpage, NY receives a 5-year, $198.9 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide Airborne Electronic Attack software configuration set upgrades and ancillary hardware. They’ll support EA-6B and EA-18G aircraft owned by the United States ($179.0 million / 90%) and the government of Australia ($19.9 million / 10%). $675,697 is committed immediately from FY 2014 US Navy O&M funds.

Work will be performed in Point Mugu, CA, and is expected to be complete in July 2019. 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 (N68936-14-D-0018).

June 30/14: EA-18Gs. 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

June 27/14: ALQ-99. Exelis Inc. in Clifton, NJ receives a sole-source, $15.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the design, engineering analysis, program, manufacture and test of the AN/ALQ-99 tactical jamming system’s universal exciter upgrade’s shop replaceable assembly redesign. ALQ-99s are the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G aircraft. This procurement is to design and manufacture three components of the universal exciter: the modulation direct digital synthesizer, the direct digital synthesizer and the oscillator switch to eliminate the use of obsolete parts. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (10%), and the government of Australia (90%), under the Foreign Military Sales program. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Amityville, New York (97%), and Clifton, New Jersey (3%), and is expected to be complete by June 2017. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to the authority of 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1), by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN (N00164-13-G-WM01).

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 their 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: #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” | Reuters, “Boeing, backers to fight for funding for 22 Boeing jets”.

100th EA-18G

April 25/14: The US Navy has decided to add 22 EA-18Gs to its FY 2015 unfunded priorities list, and its plan to cut FY 2015 – 2019 buys of the stealthy F-35C from 69 to 36 fighters has led to questions about its longer-term priorities. The truth is, the F-35C won’t be fully tested and ready until the end of this period anyway. Every deleted fighter is just 1 less plane to fix later. CNO Adm. Greenert has said to Congress that:

“[Stealth] is needed for what we have in the future for at least 10 years out there and there is nothing magic about that decade… But I think we need to look beyond that. So to me, I think it’s a combination of having aircraft that have stealth but also aircraft that can suppress other forms of radio frequency electromagnetic emissions so that we can get in.”

It’s unwise to pair a non-stealthy Growler with F-35s, because that just gives away everybody’s position. On the other hand, a strike package of EA-18Gs, F/A-18E/Fs, and F-35s could be an interesting “watch my right hand” option for future commanders. Ultimately, if the F-35s are deemed to need jamming of their own 15+ years down the road, they’re likely to get a rearranged version of the Next-Generation Jammer that’s designed to fit internally, with some possible external carriage in external structures that could fit like like Terma’s multi-role gun pod. Sources: Military.com, “Boeing Builds the Navy an F-35C Exit Strategy”.

April 24/14: The US Navy’s Carl Vinson [CVN 70] Carrier Strike Group will conduct a 3-day exercise in May, in order to test paper analysis that says raising the number of EA-18Gs Growlers on an aircraft carrier from 5 to 7-8 would be more effective overall. If the results confirm the paper analysis, an added buy in FY 2015 becomes a lot more likely. Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “New Growler construction may depend on upcoming Navy exercise”.

April 7/14: Boeing continues to lobby for inclusion of 22 EA-18Gs in the Pentagon’s final FY 2015 budget. They’re stressing the Growler’s effectiveness across the electro-magnetic spectrum, vs. the F-35′s stealth optimization in limited bands. They add that “Increasing computing power, advanced sensors and evolving aircraft detection methods are degrading the benefits of stealth.”

All of these points are valid, and it helps that Advanced Super Hornet tests hit their marks regarding radar signature reduction and flying quality. It’s also true that stealth aircraft work earlier in the detect – track – reach – kill chain, preventing coordinated responses rather than having to defeat them. Sources: Flight Global, “Navy pleased with “Advanced” Super Hornet tests, wants more Growlers” | Military.com, “Boeing: Growler Eclipses F-35′s Stealth Advantage”.

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.

It’s important not to make too much of this yet. First of all, inclusion is a big “if.” Second, the unfunded requests list has a number of items on it. If Congress does decide to fund 22 EA-18Gs above and beyond the proposed budget, the US Navy would use it to raise some squadron rosters to 7 jets, while Boeing would 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. Source: US Dept. of the Navy, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF].

Jan 24/14: NGJ. The US Navy reaffirms Raytheon’s Next-Generation Jammer contract award, after carrying out a new cost and technical analysis of all 3 original bids. Technology development efforts resume after a 6-month delay, but it moves the entire program back. A Milestone C/ Low-Rate Initial Production decision won’t happen until winter 2019 at the earliest. That means the 2020 fielding goal for the mid-band NGJ Increment 1, which would replace the EA-18G’s underwing AN/ALQ-99 pods, is already under strain. Read DID’s “The USA’s NGJ Strike Jammers” for full coverage.

Nov 26/13: AEA #100. Northrop Grumman delivers the 100th EA-18G Airborne Electronic Attack kit to Boeing. Sources: NGC, “Northrop Grumman Delivers 100th EA-18G Airborne Electronic Attack Kit”.

FY 2013

Instead of ending production, FY 2014 USN budget orders 21; Australia import request for 12 more EA-18Gs; EA-18 mechanic shortage. EA-18G on
USS George Washington
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September 2013: Land Basing. The USNI’s Proceedings magazine has an article by VAQ-132 squadron Commander Dave Kurtz, whose EA-18Gs deployed widely across a series of Pacific land bases in 2012–13. The lessons from this experience, he says, argue for a dual carrier/ land-based role that more closely resembles past employment of the US Navy’s P-3 sea control aircraft, rather than its F/A-18 hornets.

Fleets would still have their designated carrier-borne squadrons, such as the Pacific theater designated squadron aboard USS George Washington [CVN 73]. The ability to fly new squadrons in or carry them on ship lets the Navy add planes to theater as needed, and gives airborne electronic attack a maneuvering element within the theater that has more options, and isn’t tied to the carrier’s primary missions. On the other hand, if the carrier needs to re-embark them, or add their it can. Sources: USNI Proceedings, Sept 2013 [subscription req'd].

Sept 25/13: Testing. A $41.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for 10 pre-production Operational Test Program Sets in support of the EA-18G. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in August 2018. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages this contract (N68335-10-G-0012, 0046).

Sept 23/13: ECP. A $38.2 million 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).

Sept 20/13: Testing. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a $10.9 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract related to work on the EA-18G’s core avionics program (known as the “Operational Flight Program”), avionics subsystem emulation, and some of its electronic attack units. The plane’s avionics and jammers need to work well together, or the plane will be in trouble. Northrop Grumman will provide up to 3 EA-18G systems emulation laboratory systems; up to 2 electronic attack unit/communication countermeasures sets/ALQ-99 integration test systems for the plane’s main jammer pods; 1 electronic attack unit/ALQ-99 integration test system; and one ALQ-218(V)2 integration test system for the plane’s signals interception and geo-location pods.

Just under $1 million is committed immediately, Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (65%); Baltimore, MD (33%); and Camarillo, CA (2%), and is expected to be completed in January 2017. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1, since Northrop Grumman makes the plane’s jamming equipment. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, CA manages the contract (N68936-13-D-0036).

Aug 8/13: TTNT. Boeing touts July 15-19/13 flights of an EA-18G Growler equipped with “sensor system upgrades and its newest data network.” Subsequent conversations with Boeing reveal that the network is Rockwell Collins’ TTNT (Tactical Targeting Network Technology), which has been in development since 2001.

TTNT creates high-bandwidth, on-the-fly networks by using an IP-based wireless waveform for mesh networking, with real-time bandwidth allocation and ad hoc security authentication. Latency is low enough that it can be used for safety-of-flight applications like positioning and controlling the carrier-based X-47B UCAS-D drone. Individual weapons like missiles can also join, mesh participants can be moving at up to Mach 8, and range is reportedly over 300 nmi. Slower Time Division Multiple Access waveforms like Link 16 will still be used, and will continue to receive improvements, but TTNT looks like the long-term future foundation.

EA-18G operational deployment of TTNT is expected in 2018, making it just the 2nd plane in the fleet to receive TTNT as a production capability, after the E-2D Hawkeye AWACS plane. TTNT will also be retrofitted into existing EA-18Gs, and will eventually become ubiquitous within the US military. Boeing and the Navy will work closely with supplier partners Northrop Grumman, Harris Corporation, L-3 Communications and Rockwell Collins to upgrade the EA-18G fleet. Sources: Boeing Aug 8/13 release & inquiries; see “Additional Readings and Sources” for more on TTNT.

July 17/13: EA-18G mods. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $17 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for phase I of the NGJ pod’s EA-18G hardware integration. $10 million is committed immediately. According to the July 10/12 RFP, the EA-18G will need a number of minor changes in order to work with the new pods. NAVAIR acknowledges possibilities that include improved fiber networks and switches on board; plus modifications to NGC’s ALQ-218 onboard tactical jamming receiver, mission computer and stores management system, digital memory devices, mission planning software, and specialized onboard jamming equipment including the EIBU, EAU, and Jammer Technique Library.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in October 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-G-0001, #2049).

May 10/13: ALQ-99. L-3 Communications Corp. in San Carlos, CA receives an $8.4 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract, in order to establish a depot for repair of the AN/ALQ-99 (V) Band 4 pod’s L8003 output traveling wave tube. $1.9 million is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in San Carlos, CA, and is expected to be complete in April 2018. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with FAR 6.302-1 by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN (N00164-13-D-WS59).

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. Most F414 contracts are shared between EA-18s and F/A-18E/Fs.

Work will be performed in Lynn, MA (59%); Hooksett, NH (18%); Rutland, VT (12%); and Madisonville, KY (11%), and is expected to be complete by in March 2015. $22.2 million will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-11-C-0045).

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 some time 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.

Feb 28/13: Australia. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Australia’s official request to buy another 24 Super Hornet family planes and associated equipment, which could be worth up to USD $3.7 billion. The split includes 12 more EA-18Gs, but its special equipment is missing from the request: the AN/ALQ-99F-V jamming pods, ALQ-218 jamming pods, CN-1717/A INCANS to prevent the plane from jamming itself, and equipment associated with radar-killing HARMN/AARGM missiles.

Without those things, Australia would be left with another 12 pre-wired F/A-18Fs, though they can always share the items bought under the May 22/12 special equipment DSCA request throughout the fleet. Or place a follow-on order for the AEA kit and pods, just as they did with their first 12. Read “Australia’s 2nd Fighter Fleet: Super Hornets & Growlers” for full coverage.

Australia requests 12 more

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 20/12: Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $164 million firm-fixed-price contract, exercising an option to begin procurement of 12 Airborne Electronic Attack Group B-Kits and 4 Equivalent Ship-sets of spares for the Royal Australian Air Force.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (41.1%); St. Louis, MO (36.3%); Bethpage, NY (19%); and Fort Wayne, Ind. (3.6%), and is expected to be complete in March 2015. All contract funds are committed immediately. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manage the contract on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale client (N00019-09-C-0086). Note that the entire conversion of 12 aircraft is expected to cost about $1.5 billion (vid. Aug 23/12).

Australian orders begin

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.

Nov 15/12: AOL Defense reports that the US Navy’s buildup of EA-18G fighters reflects a distrust of stealth. Given ongoing advances in technologies like passive radars, mistrust might be justified, but we don’t see it. The Navy’s commitment to F-35 variants is huge, and efforts like UCAS-D and UCLASS require stealth in order to make much sense. Verbal hemming and hawing doesn’t mean much until it’s embodied in budgets, and Ockham’s Razor suggests that the urgency around more EA-18Gs and Super Hornets traces to F-35 delays rather than distrust.

With respect to the EA-18Gs, the fleet’s biggest shortage is mechanics and support technicians. They’re pulling them from EA-6B squadrons so quickly, that the Navy has had to hire over 200 contractors from L-3 to keep the 6 Prowler squadrons running. Why not just hire them for the EA-18G? Because you can find civilians who were former EA-6B techs, but none who were EA-18G techs.

FY 2012

Australia goes ahead with 12 Growler kits; GAO report says ALQ-99 pods have poor reliability, won’t be as effective beyond 2018; DOT&E says EA-18G reliability is improved; Structural changes continue. EA-18G refuels
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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 A$ 1.5 billion (about $1.557 billion), with availability expected for 2018.

All 24 of Australia’s F/A-18F Block II Hornets have already been delivered. This conversion will take takes the 12 Australian F/A-18Fs that were pre-wired for EA-18G conversion (vid. Feb 27/09 entry), and adds the internal electronics and pods. Australia DoD.

Australia decides on EA-18G conversions

Aug 7/12: Australian costs. Australia’s Canberra Times gets some clarification on the difference between the Australian government’s A$ 300 million estimate to convert 12 F/A-18Fs into EA-18Gs, and the USD 1.7 billion mentioned in the May 22/12 DSCA request. Short answer: The difference is the $1.4 billion cost of the 34 AN/ALQ-99 jamming pods, if they are bought outright:

“Australia wasn’t planning to buy the ALQ-99 electronic warfare pods, just the systems and hardware to allow them to be fitted on an ”as required” basis… a Defence spokesman has explained. ”The initial proposal that underpinned the 2009 cost estimate would have provided a lesser capability than Defence now proposes to acquire”. The pods would have had to be obtained from the United States Navy whenever Australia wanted them, a source said.”

March 29/12: GAO Report. The US GAO releases “Airborne Electronic Attack: Achieving Mission Objectives Depends on Overcoming Acquisition Challenges. The EA-18G isn’t a problem, and the program gets high marks. GAO’s larger concerns involve an integrated electronic warfare plan that has had key planks removed at stand-off ranges (B-52 pod canceled), and in close against high end systems (no stealth UCAVs), even as plans to mount systems on UAVs are faltering because they’re too dangerous to the UAVs carrying them. The other problem is the AN/ALQ-99 pods that will be moved over from the EA-6Bs to the EA-18G, and accelerated wear among the EA-6Bs carrying them:

“By the end of fiscal year 2012, 32 EA-6Bs will be upgraded to the [most modern] ICAP III configuration. Navy officials told us that persistent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, have degraded the condition of EA-6B aircraft… The Navy’s Low Band Transmitter upgrade to the AN/ALQ-99 system is intended to replace three aging legacy transmitters that suffer from obsolescence and reliability problems. According to Navy officials, persistent use of these transmitters in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has exacerbated system shortfalls… However, Navy officials project that even with [maintenance & operations] improvements, system capabilities will be insufficient to counter anticipated evolutions in threat radars and missiles beginning in 2018. This shortfall is expected to be addressed by the new Next Generation Jammer.”

Feb 23/12: ALQ-99. Sensor and Antenna Systems, Inc. in Lansdale, PA receives a $39 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising exercise an option for 48 low band transmitters, 13 vertical polarized antennas, and 28 horizontal polarized antennas associated with the AN/ALQ-99 low band transmitter. The ALQ-99 isn’t used exclusively on EA-18Gs, but they will all migrate to the Growler as the EA-6Bs are replaced.

Work will be performed in Lansdale, PA, and is expected to be complete in August 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-C-0047).

Feb 22/12: Australia. Adelaide’s The Advertiser reports that March 2012 will feature Defence Minister Stephen Smith announcing an A$ 200-300 million decision to upgrade 12 of Australia’s Super Hornets to EA-18 electronic warfare planes.

“News Limited understands that the first [EA-18] aircraft will be converted at the Boeing factory in St Louis and the remainder at Amberley RAAF base near Brisbane.”

It also reports that the Minister favors a September 2012 decision to buy another 12 F/A-18Fs, in order to make up for the F-35A’s expected lateness. The RAAF is reportedly against this, given expected defense reductions this year, and worries that the cost will eventually be paid for by fewer future F-35s. Which may be true. On the other hand, Australia needs to keep its fleet combat-capable while it waits.

Feb 1/12: A $132.8 million contract modification, exercising an option for 12 sets of EA-18G airborne electronic attack kits and the associated non-recurring engineering, as part of Lot 36 Full Rate Production. This figure is very much in line with last year’s order, vid. June 29/11. Note, too, the use of “Lot 36 FRP”. The EA-18G hasn’t had time for nearly that many production lots, but the Hornet airframe has. EA kits comprise the various specialized technologies that distinguish the EA-18G from the F/A-18F.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (41.1%); St. Louis, MO (36.3%); Bethpage, NY (19%); and Fort Wayne, IN (3.6%). Work is expected to be complete in September 2014 (N00019-09-C-0086).

AEA kits

Jan 17/12: DOT&E mixed. The Pentagon releases the FY2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The EA-18G is included, and the news is pretty good:

“Emerging 2011… results suggest the EA-18G remains operationally effective, while operational suitability has notably improved… the EA-18G system met the threshold for operational availability. The point value for reliability met the 14-hour threshold, but the 80 percent confidence level (lower bound) fell below the threshold. Maintainability did not meet the threshold level but only by a small measure, and built-in test performance was largely improved since IOT&E. Maintenance documentation was improved from IOT&E, but Navy personnel still rated the system as difficult to use and incomplete in some areas. DOT&E analysis of test data is still ongoing and a complete assessment will be published in early FY12.”

Nov 1/11: Spares. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a sole source, firm-fixed-price, maximum $26 million contract from the US Navy for airborne electronic attack spares and radio frequency switches. Since much of this equipment is common to the EA-18G and EA-6B platforms, the Growler’s share isn’t entirely clear, but it will be growing over the performance period.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY and Linthicum, MD, running until July 31/14 and paid for by FY 2012-2014 Navy Working Capital funds. The US Defense Logistics Agency Aviation Strategic Acquisitions group in Philadelphia, PA manages the contract (SPM4AX-12-D-9401).

Oct 19/11: Australia. During an interview with Australia Broadcasting Corporation Radio, Labor government defense minister Stephen Smith discusses the possibility of turning 12 of Australia’s Super Hornets into EA-18G Growler electronic warfare fighters, whose conversion price tag is described by the interviewer as “upwards of A$ 300 million.” The EA-18G recently saw their its combat use over Libya, and:

“We’ve just started the process of making a judgment about whether acquiring [them] would be in our national interest or our national security interest… we took the sensible precaution of wiring up half of our Super Hornets for this potential. But it is a very expensive capability. We’re just going through the process… this possibility would come as no surprise to our friends and neighbours in the region. It’s been on the public record before and part of the [2009 Defence] White Paper.”

The minister does not contradict the price figure, and in a related ABC TV interview, he mentions costs of “hundreds of millions.” The minister also implied that further delays or issues with the F-35A could make an EA-18 conversion more likely, as a way to strengthen Australia’s air capability in the interim. ABC radio transcript | ABC24 TV news transcript.

Oct 3/11: Innovation. Boeing discusses recent changes to the Super Hornet family’s wing frame, which sharply reduced the number of parts, and the amount of assembly time. Modern manufacturing technologies let them replace a large number of components from different subcontractors, with a machined 1-piece component that makes up much of the wing frame. That reduces rework and labor assembly time, while improving the wing’s reliability. Boeing (incl. video).

FY 2011

1st combat deployments to Iraq & Libya; AARGM radar-killing missile test; DOT&E report says EA-18G is effective, but not reliable, esp. re: software; Next-generation jammers. VAQ-132 returns
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July 29/11: Support. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, N.Y receives a $54.8 million, 3-year indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for engineering, technical and program support services for ongoing development & maintenance of EA-6B operational flight software, EA-6B “unique planning component,” and EA-18G operational flight software. Both aircraft types are handled by the Navy’s Airborne Electronic Attack Integrated Product Team.

Work will be performed in Point Mugu, CA (90%), and Bethpage, NY (10%), and is expected to be complete by July 2014. $200,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N68936-11-D-0028).

July 9/11: Deployment returns. VAQ-132′s EA-18G Growlers all return to their home base at NAS Whidbey Island, WA, after completing an 8-month land-based deployment to Iraq and Libya. Deployed EA-18Gs now include VAQ-141 aboard the USS George H.W. Bush [CVN 77], marking the Growler’s first sea-based deployment. They’re part of Carrier Air Wing 8, operating in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. Boeing mentions that “a third electronic attack squadron, VAQ-138, recently deployed to a land-based location,” which could mean that they’ve replaced VAQ-132 over Libya.

By the end of 2015, 3 expeditionary squadrons and 10 carrier-based squadrons are scheduled to transition from the EA-6B Prowler to the EA-18G Growler. US NAVAIR | Boeing.

June 29/11: AEA FRP-2. A $130 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 12 airborne electronic attack kits and associated engineering, as part of EA-18G orders in Super Hornet family full rate production Lot 35. Note that this isn’t ordering airframes, or radars, or engines – just the electronic attack equipment. Some simple division should help readers get a better sense of how much “government furnished equipment” can add to the price of a fully functional fighter, especially a very specialized plane like the EA-16G.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (43.3%); St. Louis, MO (33.3%); Bethpage, NY (17.8%); and Fort Wayne, IN (5.6%), and is expected to be completed in July 2013 (N00019-09-C-0086).

AEA Kits

May 25/11: AARGM. The Navy’s new AGM-88E AARGM radar-killer missile successfully completes its 1st EA-18G Growler test, during a captive-carry flight at China Lake, CA. Growler work will continue, in parallel with the ongoing AARGM Integrated Test & Evaluation phase using FA-18C/D Hornets.

The test squadrons have also used Super Hornets, and Cmdr. Chad Reed, deputy program manager for Anti-Radiation Missiles within the Direct and Time Sensitive Strike program office (PMA-242), says that F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler testing since November 2010 totals 25 flight hours, compared to over 150 flight-hours on F/A-18C/D Hornets. US NAVAIR.

March 30/11: Support. 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 30/11: Support. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives an $8.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification to provide engineering and software services in support of EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler aircraft. Services will include design, development, integration, test and distribution of the operational flight programs, flight test and aircraft integration support, and engineering support to transition the electronic attack mission from the EA-6B to the EA-18G.

Work will be performed at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in Point Mugu, CA, and is expected to be complete in December 2011. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at Point Mugu, CA manages the contract (N68936-08-D-0026).

March 20/11: Combat debut. The EA-18G makes its combat debut during opening strikes against Libyan air defenses, using the 5-plane Scorpions squadron that had been deployed to Al-Asad in Iraq (vid. Feb 1/11). They’re currently operating out of NAS Sigonella and Aviano Air Base, in Italy. US Navy | CNN.

Combat debut

Feb 3/11: DOT&E. A January 2011 report by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) rates the EA-18G as “operationally effective,” (can perform its mission), but not “operationally suitable” (supportable in a sustainable way). Software stability in particular is seen as an ongoing issue.

The US Navy disagrees. They say it’s both effective and suitable, and argue that the DOT&E included items outside the scope of the program for its 2010 report. “None of the anomalies were showstoppers,” says the Navy, and scheduled testing in early 2011 should tell them how many of the remaining issues are still a problem. Aviation Week | See also past DOT&E 2009 report (2010 release, PDF).

Feb 1/11: 1st deployment. DLA Aviation discusses the challenges it has faced working to support the EA-18G’s 1st expeditionary deployment, at Al-Asad AB, Iraq. VAQ-132′s deployment began in mid-November 2010, but a 2009 change placed them on land, instead of on the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70).

The removal of the carrier’s inherent support infrastructure was just the first of many issues as DLA planned for the land-based deployment. Another was an expected increase in flight hours from 30 hours per month, to over 100 hours. Having about 30,000 parts in common with the F/A-18F helps, as DLA also supports Super Hornets in theater. Even so, a delay in receiving Navy requirements forced DLA to do a lot of expediting, finding lateral support, and asking for spot buys, in order to ensure 100% inclusion of the items they believed they’d need to keep the lanes running. In the end, the pack up kit of consumable parts for the 5 EA-18Gs included about 900 of the most needed items.

Nov 29/10: Support. A $6.7 million firm-fixed-price delivery order under the basic ordering agreement. Boeing will provide operational level (front line, not depot-level) support equipment that’s specific to the EA-18G, and not common to other Super Hornet aircraft. This will help new EA-18G aircraft squadrons stand up with everything they need.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in November 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, N.J. manages this contract (N68335-10-G-0012).

Nov 19/10: EW Trends. Aviation Week, “Directed Energy Weapons Attack Electronics” :

“The lightning rod for rapid fielding of directed energy (DE) weapons and advanced sensors will be the military’s next-generation jammer programs that exploit technologies like active electronically scanned arrays (AESAs) antennas and high-power microwave (HPM) capabilities, say senior U.S. government and industry officials at the 13th Directed Energy Conference.

Radars on the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35, and Boeing F/A-18F and EA-18G, already have the potential to fire focused beams of energy as soon as funding is available to develop the necessary advanced algorithms.”

FY 2010

SAR costs go up because EA-18G numbers do, in light of F-35 delays; Full-Rate Production approved; 2nd squadron declared ready for action; New facilities at NAS Whidbey Island, WA to serve as key hub for the Growler fleet; 1st new crew graduates for EA-18G; EA-18G, carrier landing
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Aug 6/10: Spares. A $5.9 million ceiling priced delivery order for repairable support for advanced electronic attack components of the EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (84%); Bethpage, NY (8%); Whidbey Island, WA (3%); Melbourne, FL (2%); St. Augustine, FL (2%); and Fort Wayne, IN (1%). Work is expected to be complete by January 2011. The Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA manages this contract (N00383-06-G-006B, #0012).

May 28/10: Support. Raytheon Network Centric Systems in Fort Wayne, IN received an $8.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to provide performance-based engineering services in support of the EA-18G’s AN/ALQ-227 communication countermeasure systems. Support services will include systems engineering, testing, product assurance, logistics, training, and production.

Work will be performed in Fort Wayne, IN, and is expected to be complete in May 2015. 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 (N68936-10-D-0013).

May 24/10: Infrastructure. A ribbon-cutting ceremony marks Hangar 5′s recapitalization at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, WA. The $55.8 million design-build project began in January 2008. The improved facility will house 5 EA-18G Growler squadrons, the Electronic Attack Weapons School and Commander, Electronic Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet. US Navy photo release.

April 1/10: SAR. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. The USA wants more EA-18Gs:

“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).”

SAR – more EA-18Gs

March 5/10: 1st graduates. The US Navy’s EA-18G Fleet Replacement Squadron trainers in VAQ-129 graduate Class 09-08, the first class of 5 “Category 1″ EA-18G aircrew that come straight from flight school. The squadron had previously trained veteran EA-6B pilots from VAQ-132 and VAQ-141, where the new “Cat 1s” will be assigned.

The 9-month course included a wide range of activities, from computer-based training, to lectures, simulators, and flights. Flights include day and night formation flying, basic radar mechanics, air-to-air fighter tactics, airborne electronic attack, in-flight refueling, and day and night carrier qualification. The Airborne Electronic Attack portion of the syllabus is new, and is being refined with each successive class.

Unlike the EA-6B, where student pilots carrier qualify with a veteran instructor in the right seat, the CAT 1′s must take the Growler to the boat as a “crew solo”: a student in the front, and a student in the back. US Navy.

Feb 12/10: 2nd squadron. The “Shadowhawks” of VAQ-141 are declared “Safe for Flight” in their new EA-18G Growlers at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, WA, following an 8-month training period under fleet replacment squadron VAQ-129. The Shadowhawks are the 2nd operational squadron to achieve this qualification, after the “Scorpions” of VAQ-132. Both squadrons had previously flown EA-6B Prowlers. US Navy.

Jan 12/09: Support. Wyle Laboratories, Inc. in Huntsville, AL received a $10.8 million cost-plus fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to provide airborne electronic attack engineering support for the EA-6B, EA-18G, and other advanced electronic attack derivatives at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) in Point Mugu, CA.

Work will be performed at NAWCWD, Point Mugu, CA (85%); NAWCWD, China Lake, CA (5%); Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, MD (5%); and Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, WA (5%). Work is expected to be complete in January 2015. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to Federal Acquisition Regulations by NAWCWD in China Lake, CA (N68936-10-D-0014).

Feb 3/10: F-35 vs. F/A-18. 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.”

Jan 7/10: F-35 delay. Media reports surface that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a delay in the Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 program, cutting planned purchases from 2011 – 2015 in order to fund research, development, testing & evaluation (RDT&E). In FY 2011-12, the US Navy will reportedly compensate for the implicit F-35C delays, by buying another 24 Boeing Super Hornet family planes for $2.4 billion.

A Bloomberg report confusingly mentions “F/A-18E/F planes that are capable of jamming enemy radar,” which could indicate the addition of 24 EA-18Gs. The Growlers would help to fill immediate gaps in airborne jamming, which is in high demand. They would also help maintain long-term fighter numbers with aircraft that would remain operationally viable farther into the future than standard Super Hornets. Bloomberg | Business Week | Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Nov 30/09: AEA FRP-1. A $386 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-09-C-0086) for the procurement of 22 EA-18G Lot 33 Full Rate Production (FRP) airborne electronic attack (AEA) kits, 22 EA-18G Lot 34 FRP AEA kits, and the associated non-recurring engineering.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (46.5%); Bethpage, NY (22.7%); St. Louis, MO (13.5%); Melbourne, FL (5.5%); Fort Wayne, IN (3.7%); Thousand Oaks, CA (3.7%); Wallingford, CT (2.6%); Nashua, NH (1.1%); and Westminster, CO (0.7%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012.

AEA Kits

Nov 30/09: 22 conversions. A $9.4 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0014) to incorporate engineering change proposals 6251 and 6251R1 and convert 22 Lot 33 F/A-18F aircraft to EA-18G aircraft. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (62%); El Segundo, CA (36%); and Mesa, AZ (2%), and is expected to be complete in September 2011.

EA-18Gs start out as F/A-18F base airframes, then receive additional wiring and other changes, before the full airborne electronic attack set is integrated.

Nov 23/09: The US Department of Defense approves Full Rate Production (FRP) of the EA-18G Growler. The EA-18G program now can proceed from Low Rate Initial Production to quantities of 20+ aircraft per year, as budgeted in FY 2010.

The EA-18G achieved Initial Operational Capability in September 2009 with US Navy electronic attack squadron VAQ-132, based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington State. Boeing release.

FRP approved

Oct 29/09: A maximum $51 million firm-fixed-price, sole source contract for 23 line items in support of the EA-18G’s FY 2010 program. There was originally 1 proposal solicited with 1 response, and the date of performance completion is Dec 31/12. The Defense Logistics Agency Philadelphia, in Philadelphia, PA manages this contract (N00383-06-D-001J-TH05).

Oct 28/09: FY 2010. President Obama signs the FY 2010 defense budget into law. That budget provides funding for 22 EA-18Gs, and Congress increased related F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet purchases from 9 to 18. White House | House-
Senate Conference Report summary [PDF] & tables [PDF].

FY 2009

OpEval has EA-18G declared operationally effective and suitable; Carrier moniker will be “Grizzly”; Australia pre-wires 12 F/A-18Fs for future conversion; EA-18 Growler Lite?; EA-35s?; F-22 Raptor killed by EA-18G. EA-18G from below
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July 28/09: IOT&E. The US Department of Defense releases the EA-18G Growler’s initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) findings, which recommended it for use in the fleet and gave it the best rating of “operationally effective, operationally suitable.” Effectiveness refers to mission performance evaluations, while suitability focuses on maintainability and reliability.

The initial EA-18G combines 2 fielded systems, in the F/A-18F airframe and the same Improved Capability III (ICAP III) electronic warfare suite used on current EA-6B Prowlers. That lowers risk, but it’s still a new combination. As it happens, software anomalies were discovered during the IOT&E process. The EA-18G team is developing a software update release, to be implemented during the normal verification and correction of deficiencies (VCD) period later this year. US Navy NAVAIR.

July 1/09: A $27.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-09-C-0086) for additional time-critical parts in support of EA-18G Full Rate Production.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in September 2009. The EA-18G has a set manufacturer, so this contract was not competitively procured.

June 8/09: EA-18G Grizzly. Gannett’s Navy Times reports that the EA-18G’s “Growler” moniker sounded too close to the EA-6B’s “Prowler”, so the EA-18G will now be known as the “Grizzly” in operational situations, in order to avoid any confusion or mistakes. Presumably, the standard NATO “G” phonetic alphabet call of “Golf” was seen as somewhat lacking. “Growler” will remain the EA-18G’s primary moniker outside of carrier decks.

The Navy does something similar with the F/A-18F, which is colloquially called the “Rhino”. F/A-18Fs were the first Super Hornets to get new and improved AN/APG-79 AESA radars in their nose cones.

“Grizzly” moniker

April 29/09: Support. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY received a $9.9 million cost plus fixed fee contract for various products, and 73,571 hours of engineering services, in support of the EA-18G Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Integrated Product Team. The firm will provide assistance with design, development, integration, test and distribution of Electronic Attack Unit software, technical evaluations, and testing of changes; and will support follow-on test and evaluation integration and test.

Work will be performed at Point Mugu, CA, (85%); Bethpage, NY, (10%); and China Lake, CA, (5%), and is expected to be completed in April 2012. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to the FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division in China Lake, CA manages this contract (N68936-09-D-0026).

Feb 27/09: Australia. Australia is pre-wiring 12 of its planned 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets, in order to allow future conversions to EA-18 Lite status. The additional cost for the pre-wiring on the production line is A$ 35 million, out of an order now cited as A$ 6.6 billion. Completing that fit out to “Growler Lite” status is expected to involve an additional A$ 300 million, with the go/no-go decision set for 2012.

Characteristically, the new Labor Party government’s release ends with a shot at the procurement policies of the previous Liberal Party government:

“If the Howard Government had taken a more prudent approach in making the Super Hornet decision rather than rushing to fill their impending air combat capability gap, they may have realised that this was a more effective approach to take.”

Feb 25/09: EA-18L Growler Lite? Media reports indicate that an export variant will soon be offered. The ALQ-99 radar jamming pod is still considered top secret, even though some of its hardware is a generation or two behind, and the program to field its replacement Next Generation Jammer has already begun.

Instead, export versions would reply on 2 components. Northrop Grumman’s ALQ-218v2 is a digital wideband radio frequency receiver, with selective jamming and geo-location capabilities. It currently equips the EA-18G’s wingtip pods, and the US Navy’s EA-6B Prowlers. Raytheon’s internally-mounted ALQ-227 communication countermeasures system makes use of a dedicated, omni-directional antenna for signals detection, analysis, and recording; but the removal of the ALQ-99 pods would remove its complex jamming functions, unless a foreign-made pod could be integrated with it instead. The export EA-18 would also ship with Raytheon’s APG-79 AESA radar, which equips existing EA-18Gs and F/A-18E/F Block II aircraft, and could be used as a jammer with additional software development.

The combination would be a strong SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) option, albeit one with less stealth than the F-35A. It would allow EA-18 Lites to geo-locate identified radar emitters, for instance, then target them with GPS-enabled anti-radiation missiles like AARGM. These capabilities could also be supplemented by foreign radar jamming pods bought on the international market, in order to create an aircraft with capabilities comparable to the EA-18G. Flight
International
| StrategyPage.

Feb 25/09: Raptor Killer. Stephen Trimble photographs a kill decal on EA-1, the 1st of 2 Lot 27 F/A-18Fs converted into flying EA-18G prototypes. Turns out, the kill decal is a F-22A Raptor, making EA-1 one of the few aircraft to ever achieve this feat:

“I did learn the EA-18G kill was courtesy of a well-timed AIM-120 AMRAAM shot. And I learned the simulated combat exercise took place at Nellis AFB. How the EA-18G escort jammer got the shot, and whether its jamming system played a role in the incident were not questions the pilot was prepared to answer.”

F-22 kill

Dec 23/08: AEA FRP-1. An unfinalized contract with a ceiling price of $50.3 million, to buy time critical parts (TCP) for 22 Full Rate Production (FRP) Airborne Electronic Attack systems. They will be fitted into the FY 2009 buy of 22 EA-18Gs. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO and is expected to be complete in May 2009. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-09-C-0086).

Dec 23/08: Support. A $21.2 million firm-fixed-price, cost plus fixed fee modification to a previously awarded delivery order contract (N00383-06-D-001J) for integrated contractor engineering, logistics, and equipment to support the EA-18G.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (60%) and St. Louis, MO (40%), and is expected to be complete in December 2010, but $7.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Dec 1/08: Spares. A $95 million delivery order under a previously-awarded Performance Based Logistics contract for spares in support of the EA-18G Growler. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (40%), and El Segundo, CA (60%), and is expected to be complete by September 2011. The Naval Inventory Control Point manages this contract (N00383-06-D-001J-TH00).

Nov 30/08: EA-35s? Aviation Week reports that the USAF (F-35A) and US Marines (F-35B STOVL) are moving toward plans that would let them convert F-35s into electronic attack aircraft that would serve alongside the EA-18Gs. Plans aren’t yet firm, but officials apparently hope that the F-35′s extremely advanced electronics and sensors, combined with parallel efforts like the Next Generation Jammer program, will allow the planes to be used as “EA-35s” without requiring dedicated and modified airframes.

In a world where small pods that can clip onto any fighter in the fleet have completely replaced dedicated “RF-” reconaissance fighters, the idea of a parallel development for “EA-” fighters does not seem ridiculous. See DID’s October 2005 “Supersonic SIGINT…” for more. Nevertheless, any program to create a full EF-35 capability will face challenging technical questions. An EW specialist interviewed by Aviation Week explained some of them:

“…if it’s in an external pod, [the extra radar reflectivity] will give away the aircraft’s location. Yet, if you put the guts of an NGJ into the weapon bays of a single-engine single-generator aircraft in order to maintain all-aspect stealth, you are rapidly going to run out of available power to run it… [And] If the aircraft has to maintain all-aspect stealth, then how can you do the necessary jamming… [Plus,] electronic attack is one area where size does matter… an EB-52 carrying large-aperture, active electronically scanned array radar with the output of an electronic techniques generator routed through it can be a very long-range electronic weapon. [Large ilitary aircraft of many types] are also possible platforms for the Next-Generation Jammer. Finally, unmanned aircraft of the [RQ-4] Global Hawk and [MQ-9] Reaper size could have the necessary size, power and payload.”

Nov 21/08: Training. Boeing delivers its first EA-18G Growler maintenance trainer to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, WA, 2 weeks ahead of schedule. Boeing delivered the first fleet EA-18G and an EA-18G aircrew trainer to VAQ-129 in June 2008.

The EA-18G Maintenance Trainer (EAMT) is a set of 3 devices. One is a hardware mockup that represents the gun bay and pallet, and the second represents a wingtip pod. The mockups are used to support training on installation and removal procedures for the Growler’s unique equipment. The third device is the Visual Environment Maintenance Trainer, where student interacts with the trainer via a fully replicated cockpit and displays to test and troubleshoot, while an instructor/operator station controls the simulations and 2 touch-screen displays provide graphical representations of the aircraft and support equipment. Boeing release.

Nov 4/08: OpEval. NAVAIR announces that the EA-18G Growler has moved to Operational Evaluation (OpEval), following initial sea trials on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower [CVN-69] from July 31/08 through Aug 5/08.

Oct 30/08: Support. A $6.5 million modification/ delivery order under a previously awarded contract to purchase repair-of-repairables support for the E/A-18 G Growler. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO and the contract will end when the fiscal year does on Sept 30/09. The Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA manages this contract (N00383-06-D-001J, #0004).

Oct 2/08: OpEval. The Kitsap Sun reports that Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9 has been using the USS John C. Stennis [CVN 75] as part of the EA-18G’s Operation Evaluation (OpEval), which includes carrier night landings and tests of the new electronic components’ durability under the controlled crash conditions of carrier landings.

Cmdr. Al Bradford, the squadron’s electronic warfare branch head, described this effort as “the final exam for the aircraft.”

FY 2008

SAR cites rising costs due to more planes; 1st delivery to fleet training squadron; 1st HARM radar-killer missile test; Support center inaugurated. EA-18G sea trials
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Sept 25/08: AEA LRIP-2. A $206.7 million modification to a previously awarded firm fixed price contract (N00019-07-C-0035) for 21 Airborne Electronic Attack Kits: 18 EA-18G low-rate initial production II kits, 3 EA-18G FY 2008 supplemental funding Kits, and associated non-recurring engineering. These kits are installed during conversion of the F/A-18F airframe to an EA-18G aircraft; see also June 13/08 entry.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (45%); Bethpage, NY (22%); St. Louis, MO (13.5%); Melbourne, FL (5%); Fort Wayne, IN (4.7%); Thousand Oaks, CA (4.2%); Wallingford, CT (2.5%); Nashua, NH (2.4%); and Westminster, CO (0.7%), and is expected to be complete in November 2010.

AEA Kits

Sept 25/08: Trade studies. A $6.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus award fee contract for 13 EA-18G trade studies to delineate technical solutions for improved EA-18G functionality and/or correction of identified deficiencies.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (60%); Bethpage, NY (30%); and Baltimore, MD (10%), and is expected to be complete in September 2009 (N00019-04-C-0005).

Sept 18/08: Spares. A $14.6 million ceiling-priced delivery order contract for spares in support of the EA-18G Growler aircraft. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO and is expected to be complete by March 2011. The Naval Inventory Control Point manages this contract.

Sept 18/08: Support. A $13 million ceiling priced modification to delivery order under a previously awarded contract for support equipment and engineering support for the EA-18G Growler aircraft. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO and is expected to be complete by April 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by The Naval Inventory Control Point (N00383-06-D-001J, #0004).

Aug 5/08: +3. A $659.2 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0014), exercising the option for 13 F/A-18Fs and 3 E/A-18G aircraft for the U.S. Navy. Note that these are just airframes, without key components like radar, engines, and other associated equipment. The full cost of the delivered aircraft is significantly higher.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (28.7%); El Segundo, CA (25%); Goleta, CA (8.6%); Clearwater, FL (2.3%); Greenlawn, NY (2.1%); Burnsville, MN (2.1%); Johnson City, NY (2.1%); Brooklyn Heights, OH (2%); Vandalia, OH (2%); Grand Rapids, MI (2%); South Bend, IN (2%); Mesa, AZ (1.8%); Fort Worth, TX (1.8%); and at various locations across the United States (17.5%), and is expected to be complete in January 2012.

Aug 5/08: HARM. The EA-18G Test Team at NAWCWD China Lake conducts its first AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) test. HARM is designed to seek and destroy enemy air defense radars; it will be replaced by the AGM-88E AARGM beginning in 2010. Source.

July 31/08 – Aug 5/08: Initial sea trials on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower [CVN-69] involve 319 approaches, 62 catapult shots and 62 arrested landings. They had originally been scheduled over 10 days, but that time was cut in half. VX-23 Sqn’s EA-18G department head, Cmdr. Jaime Engdahl describes some of their innovative responses in the NAVAIR release, and notes their combined use of developmental testers and operational testers in the cockpit at the same time. Engdahl:

“In OpEval, the operational testers already have hundreds of hours of flight testing, they know what the systems are like, they have input into design changes and potential problems. The real benefit is the Fleet gets a better product earlier.”

July 23/08: The EA-18G Test Team at NAWCWD China Lake conducts its first AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-To-Air Missile (AMRAAM) live fire. While jamming threat systems located at Echo range, the Growler engaged and fired on the BQM-74E target drone. Airborne chase cameras as well as optical trackers on the target drone confirmed safe weapon separation, followed by a very close missile pass to the target drone. It was scored as a hit, since the AMRAAM warhead uses a proximity fuze.

This event marks the first release of any live weapons by an EA-18G. It also distinguishes the EA-18G by virtue of its air-air capability; other electronic warfare aircraft have traditionally relied on short range missiles like Sidewinders for self-protection. NAVAIR release.

June 24/08: Spares. Contract modification #0012 to a previously awarded contract for the purchase of initial spares in support of the E/A-18G Growler. Orders will be placed as needed, but this contract cannot exceed $45.7 million.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and will be complete July 2010. The Naval Inventory Control Point (NAVICP) in Philadelphia, PA manages the contract (N00383-06-D-001J, order number 0004).

June 13/08: 18 conversions. A $17.6 million modification to previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract N00019-04-C-0014 will incorporate engineering change Proposal 6251 and 6251R1. That proposal involves converting 18 of production Lot 32′s F/A-18F aircraft to EA-18G aircraft. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (70%), El Segundo, CA (29%), and Mesa, AZ (1%), and is expected to be complete in September 2010.

Boeing representatives confirm that this contract involves the routine process of converting basic F/A-18F production airframes into EA-18Gs, as part of the joint multi-year contract (Super Hornet MYP-II). This particular contract will install all of the required fittings et. al. that are necessary for the Growler’s specialized equipment. The actual contract for that equipment (wingtip pods, electronics “black boxes” etc.) and its installation will follow later, as another modification.

June 3/08: Delivery. Boeing delivers the first fleet EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack (AEA) aircraft to the U.S. Navy’s VAQ-129 Vikings Electronic Attack Squadron at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, WA ahead of schedule and within budget. The Vikings are a Fleet Readiness squadron, which means they’ll be the training squadron for all EA-18G pilots.

The delivery follows 5 test aircraft, and the Growler is scheduled to enter Operational Evaluation in September 2008. If OpEval goes well, the aircraft will be moved from Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) to full-rate production. Boeing release | US Navy.

1st delivery

May 14/08: Infrastructure. Boeing holds a grand opening for its new EA-18G Growler Support Center (GSC) at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, WA. The center will provide technical and logistics support for the EA-18s once the Navy accepts the first fleet Growler at the aircraft’s NAS Whidbey Island home base in early June of 2008.

The GSC will house approximately 24 representatives from the Navy and the Hornet/Growler industry team of Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Electric. The center, along with the base’s existing supply chain management facility, will ensure that logistics support for new Growlers is readily available, per the FIRST performance-based maintenance contract for the US Navy’s Super Hornet fleet. Boeing release.

March 14/08: AEA LRIP-2. A $28.2 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-07-C-0035) for time-critical parts in support of the EA-18G’s Low Rate Initial Production II (LRIP II) Airborne Electronic Attack kits. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in April 2008.

March 5/08: Infrastructure. Small business and native business qualifer Alutiiq International Solutions, LLC in Anchorage, AK received a $21.2 million firm-fixed-price design/build contract for facility improvements at the Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island. The firm will upgrade existing facilities, and undertake some new construction in order to support the EA-18G aircraft.

Work will be performed in Oak Harbor, WA, and is expected to be complete by April 2011. This contract was competitively procured via the Naval Facilities Engineering Command e-solicitation website, with 2 proposals received by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Northwest in Silverdale, WA (N44255-08-C-6009).

Nov 19/07: Re-baselined. The Pentagon releases their latest Selected Acquisition Report, and the EA-18G is on it:

“The SAR was submitted to rebaseline the report from a Development to a Production estimate following approval of Low Rate Initial Production (Milestone C) in July 2007. Program costs increased $321.5 million (+3.8%) from $8,368.0 million to $8,689.5 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of five aircraft from 80 to 85 aircraft.”

SAR

FY 2007

Low-rate production of EA-18G Airborne Electronic Attack kits begins; EA-18G system development tests done. EA-18G takeoff
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Aug 31/07: AEA LRIP-1. A $122.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for 8 of the EA-18G’s Low-Rate Initial Production I (LRIP I) Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Kits and associated non-recurring engineering. In addition, this modification includes an unfinalized contract action for one FY 2007 supplemental funding EA-18G LRIP I AEA Kit, which would bring the total to 9.

The AEA kits involve internal electronics that distinguish the EA-18G from an F/A-18F, plus the ALQ-218 wingtip jammer pods.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (51.2%); St. Louis, MO (11.1%); Bethpage, NY (10.2%); Melbourne, FL (8.5%); Fort Wayne, IN (8.5%); Thousand Oaks, CA (4.4%); Wallingford, CT (2.6%); Nashua, NH (2.6%); and Westminster, CO (0.9%), and is expected to be complete in December 2009 (N00019-07-C-0035).

AEA Kits begin LRIP

Aug 31/07: Industrial. A $13 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-04-C-0005) for the procurement of additional factory test equipment in support of the EA-18G aircraft. Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (78.3%); St. Louis, MO (11.6%) and Bethpage, NY (10.1%), and is expected to be complete in April 2009.

Aug 22/07: Spares. $40 million for delivery order #0002 under previously awarded contract, to purchase initial spares in support of the E/A-18 G Growler. Work will be performed at St. Louis, MO and is to be complete by May 2009. The Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA issued the contract.

August 6/07: Radomes. A $10 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-04-C-0005) for the design, development, fabrication/assembly and qualification of up to 20 EA-18G Extended Low Band Radomes. Radomes are an interestingly tricky. They need to be tough enough to handle the buffeting at the front of the fighter, while being transparent to radar signals from the fighter. The EA-18G adds even more electro-magnetic challenges to that equation.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (55%) and Mesa, AZ (45%), and is expected to be complete in September 2009 (N00383-06-D-001J).

July 2007: Milestone C. The EA-18G receives Milestone C approval, clearing it to move ahead into Low-Rate Initial production.

Milestone C

April 21/07: Testing. NAVAIR announces that the EA-18G Growler has finished an ambitious regimen of flight tests, concurrently completing both system developmental testing and an independent fleet operational assessment within the first 90 days of flight test. Feedback from operational testers is being immediately incorporated into development of the platform and its systems.

The EA-18G mission systems test team and aircrew from Flight Test and Evaluation Squadrons VX-23 at Pax River, VX-31 and VX-9 at NAWS China Lake, CA and Boeing contractor crews used EA-18G prototypes EA-1 and EA-2, logging over 100 hours of flight tests plus additional range testing as of late March 2007.

As one example of its success, the program schedule required the Growler to radiate ALQ-99 pods in a Pax River chamber by the end of February. As a result of early software delivery and solid system performance, the EA-18G test team was able to demonstrate this jamming capability in December 2006, radiate jammers in-flight by the end of January 2007, and ensure that jamming functions did not interfere with safe operation of any on-board systems across the entire ALQ-99 radiation spectrum. See full NAVAIR release: “Growler zaps through initial testing.”

Feb 16/07: AEA LRIP-1. A $6.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for time-critical parts in support of the EA-18G Low Rate Initial Production I Airborne Electronic Attack kits. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO and is expected to be complete in April 2007. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-07-C-0035).

FY 2005 – 2006

Formal rollout ceremony; 1st test aircraft delivered; 1st test flight with all jamming pods; 1st AEA kits ordered; INCANS verified – and what’s that; EA-18G Growler
(click to view full)

Sept 22/06: Delivery. The first test aircraft EA-1 is delivered to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. EA-2 is scheduled to follow it by the end of 2006.

Aug 3/06: Rollout. At the formal rollout ceremony for the EA-18G, Boeing presented the aircraft to a crowd of more than 750 U.S. Navy customers, industry partners and Boeing employees at its Integrated Defense Systems facilities in St. Louis, MO. U.S. Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations and guest speaker at the ceremony, said: “It is clear that the demand for electronic warfare is not only going to remain high, but is going to grow…”

Rollout & delivery

June 30/06: AEA kits. An $82.4 million cost-plus-award-fee modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract for the first production representative lot of airborne electronic attack (AEA) kits for the EA-18G aircraft. This modification provides for 4 AEA kits, spares, and support equipment.

Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (42.5%); Bethpage, NY (28.2%); St. Louis, MO (18%); Fort Wayne, IN (4.8%); Nashua, NH (2%); Melbourne, FL (1.6%); Wallingford, CT (1.6%); and Westminster, CO (1.3%), and is expected to be complete in September 2008.

June 29/06: SDD. A $19 million firm-fixed price modification to the previously awarded firm-fixed-price with economic price adjustment F/A-18E/F airframes Multi-Year II (MYP II) contract. This modification provides for incorporation of Engineering Change Proposal 6251 to convert 4 of the Lot 30 F/A-18F aircraft to EA-18G system development and demonstration aircraft. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (55%); El Segundo, CA (42%); and Mesa, AZ (3%), and is expected to be complete in September 2008.

May 30/06: Testing. The Boeing EA-18G program test team flew a modified F/A-18F equipped with wingtip antenna and high- and low-band jamming pods for the first time, as part of ongoing flying qualities and carrier suitability testing to validate the EA-18G’s shipboard effectiveness. See Boeing release.

Feb 17/06: Displays. Honeywell International, Inc., Defense and Space Electronic Systems in Albuquerque, NM receives a $7.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-05-C-0033) to exercise an option for the full rate production of five-inch-by five-inch (5″ x 5″) forward and aft advance multi-purpose displays (AMPDs) for forward fit in Lot 30 F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft, and retrofit into Lots 22-24. This option provides for the procurement of 96 forward AMPDs (84 for forward fit into F/A-18E/F, 8 for forward fit into EA-18G, 8 for retrofit, and 9 spares) and 40 aft 5 x 5 AMPDs (26 for forward fit into F/A-18E/F, 8 for forward fit into E/A-18G, 4 for retrofit, and 2 spares). Work will be performed in Albuquerque, NM, and is expected to be complete in February 2008.

EG-18 FAST lab
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Feb 06/06: Testing. Boeing announces that the U.S. Navy has approved their test plans and processes for integrating several key subsystems into the EA-18G Growler. Successful completion of its first two test readiness reviews (TRR) in January 2005 and November 2005 allows Boeing to begin developing and integrating the systems at Boeing labs in St. Louis. The reviews focused on several key areas of the aircraft’s software: mission computer, electronic attack unit, the stores management system, interference blanking unit, the ALE-47 countermeasures system, EA-18G instrumentation system, mission planning and integration of the digital memory device.

Engineers will now focus on integration of EA-18G Build 1, the first of two builds of the airborne electronic attack aircraft software. The aircraft’s initial flight is scheduled for fall 2006 or early 2007, and EA-18G lab features like high-speed links and the Facility Automated Set-up and Test, or FAST architecture are designed to help engineers to meet the integration schedule. See Boeing release for further details.

Jan 31/06: Training. A $19.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-04-C-0005) for modeling and simulation, design, and development of a training system for the EA-18G aircraft. Work will be performed in Arlington, TX (50%) and St. Louis, MO (50%), and is expected to be completed in June 2008.

Jan 24/06: Testing. The EA-18G completes Jammer Flight Testing at Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC), Patuxent River, MD. EA-18G department head (VX-23) Cmdr. Jaime W. Engdahl notes that the tests exercised all available jamming types for Build 1.5 in Bands 7/8/9, with “no notable EMC issues” and “no surprises.”

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, IN is the cognizant Technical Authority for the plane’s AN/ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System (TJS) Pod, and is teamed with Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and NAWC Point Mugu, CA to integrate the pod onto the EA-18G.

The word “pod” implies a level of plug-and-play that isn’t there; this effort required major electrical and structural modifications to the ALQ-99, including the development of the Pod Interface Unit, followed by 2 years of extensive environmental, flight performance, and integration testing performed at Crane, IN; Boeing in St. Louis, MO; and at NAWC Point Mugu and NAWC Patuxent River. US Navy.

Nov 8/05: INCANS. Boeing completes the initial laboratory verification of the EA-18G tactical aircraft’s Interference Cancellation (INCANS) system, and demonstrates the system’s capabilities during aircraft ground testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. The INCANS system will allow the EA-18G to conduct voice communications over UHF radio with friendly forces while simultaneously jamming enemy communications, a difficult trick. The current EA-6B Prowler, for example, can’t do this. See Boeing release.

INCANS verification

EA-18G Prototype
(click to view full)

Sept 1/05: Mission planning. An estimated value $6.4 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract to develop, integrate, test and deliver 13 mission planning interfaces for the EA-18G aircraft. Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL (79%) and St. Louis, MO (21%), and is expected to be complete in August 2008 (N00019-04-C-0005).

Aug 17/05: Training. An $8.3 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract to provide modeling and simulation; design and development for a training system for the EA-18G aircraft. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (50%), and Arlington, TX (50%) and is expected to be completed in June 2008 (N00019-04-C-0005).

July 13/05: Training. A $500 million not-to-exceed indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for the procurement of new F/A-18 E/F and EA-18G Trainer and Training Systems, upgrading existing systems, and including a full range of analysis; modeling and simulation; design, development; production; modification; test and evaluation, delivery; refurbishment; relocation; and product support of all training systems for the U. S. Navy and U. S. Marine Corps’ aircraft platforms.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be completed in July 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL (N61339-05-D-0003).

Oct 21/04: Boeing Begins Work on First EA-18G Test Aircraft.

FY 2002 – 2004

ALQ-218 wingtip pods have issues; Milestone B approval; Initial flight demonstration. EA-18G rollout
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Sept 27/04: ALQ-218 issues. A $7 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract to provide additional fault isolation in the ALQ-218 (V)2 Tactical Jamming Receiver components in support of the EA-18G System Development and Demonstration. Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (73%); St. Louis, MO (14%) and Bethpage, NY (13%); and is expected to be complete in September 2009 (N00019-04-C-0005).

Dec 29/03: A $979 million ceiling-priced cost-plus-award-fee contract for system development and demonstration (SDD) of the E/A-18G weapon system.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (55%); Bethpage, NY (25%); Baltimore, MD (15%); El Segundo, CA (2%); St. Augustine, FL (1%); Hollywood, MD (1%); and Camarillo, CA (1%), and is expected to be complete in December 2009. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-04-C-0005). The 5-year SDD program for the EA-18G runs from FY 2004 until early FY 2009 and encompasses all laboratory, ground test, and flight tests from component level testing through full-up EA-18G weapons system performance flight-testing. See also Boeing corporate release.

EA-18G system development

Dec 18/03: The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) receives Milestone B approval to proceed into EA-18G System Development and Demonstration (SD&D). Approval was granted by Michael Wynne, acting under secretary of defense, (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics).

The EA-18G contract team received its first pre-SD&D contract in September 2002 to support preparation efforts for the SD&D phase, and an SD&D contract is expected shortly. The 5-year SD&D program is expected to run from FY 2004 to mid FY 2009, and encompasses all laboratory, ground test, and flight tests from component level testing, through full-up EA-18G weapons system performance flight-testing. NAVAIR announcement.

Milestone B

Nov 15/01: Boeing Successfully Completes Initial EA-18 Flight Demonstration.

Appendix A: The EA-18G and the Future Force Mix F-22A & F/A-18E
(click to view full)

The question of exactly where and how the new Growlers will fit into the future force remains a live issue. There has been a serious absence of integrated direction and planning in the Pentagon over the last decade re: the future of airborne electronic warfare platforms, and a relatively low priority assigned to dedicated “Wild Weasel” (anti-SAM) or electronic attack capabilities. This has arguably taken place in an environment where current capabilities remained “good enough.” The result, however, may be a lack of a clear niche in terms of establishing the EA-18G’s mission breadth and concept of operations (CONOPS).

At the moment, the assumption must be that the EA-18G will do it all for the US military as a tactical strike jammer. Despite the existence of the turboprop-driven EC-130H Compass Call, wavering interest in EB-52 SOJ long-range bomber jammers for the USAF, and the potential to create USAF and US Marine electronic attack F-35 Lightning IIs and F-22A Raptors by leveraging their vast installed capabilities, the EA-18G Growler is currently slated to be the only dedicated aircraft in this niche.

While EA-18Gs will fit in very well with the USAF’s F-16s and F-15 Strike Eagles, and with their Super Hornet counterparts, operational challenges arise in pairing them with the stealthier F-35 Lightning II fighters slated for use by the USAF, Marines, and Navy; or with “Global Strike” teams of stealthy F-22As and B-2 bombers. Long-range aircraft like the B-52 or B-1 also present potential operational challenges, due to the EA-18G’s range.

As effective AWACS aerial surveillance aircraft and ever more sophisticated anti-aircraft missile systems being exported around the world, the answers to such challenges will matter. The Growlers aren’t scheduled to enter service until 2009, and the F-35 Lightning II may be delayed to 2015. The EA-18Gs will be invaluable during that 6 year interim and beyond, as a key accompaniment to the legacy force. By 2010, however, with the F-22 production line coasting to a close, Reagan-era aircraft beginning to retire, and a new set of partner aircraft and threat capabilities on the horizon, deeper thinking about the US military’s long-term airborne electronic attack capabilities and composition will be required.

The Growler squadrons will undoubtedly be necessary – but will they be enough?

Footnotes EC-130H Compass Call
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(1) This doesn’t make the EA-6Bs the USA’s only electronic warfare aicraft. The US also has 13 “Compass Call” EC-130H Hercules variants, and these 4-engine turboprops offer long-endurance coverage that extends over very wide areas. Unlike an EA-6B or EA-18G, they won’t accompany strike packages directly. They do train to support tactical aircraft as they cross behind the forward edge of the battlespace (FEBA), while remaining behind the FEBA line themselves and blanketing a wide area with bogus primary targets, secondary targets, and targets of opportunity for enemy missiles and aircraft. They are also very well suited to providing persistent coverage for key convoys and other missions in-theater during “small wars” campaigns, and monitoring cell phone frequencies over wide areas.

The pending growth in stealthy and/or supercruising opposing fighters, coupled with longer-range air-to-air and ground-launched anti-aircraft missiles, is going to push FEBAs back sharply during state-to-state conflicts. That’s likely to magnify the strategic EW fleet’s role, in order to provide a protective cloak of misdirection that lets key strategic assets like aerial tankers and AWACS planes remain close enough to support allied fighters. The future strategic EW fleet will involve a tension between follow-on EC-130Js or similar aircraft to replace the EC-130H fleet, vs. a more distributed capability based on the USA’s Next-Generation Jammer, or similar pods that might equip most strategic assets sent near harm’s way. [return to article]

Additional Readings and Sources

A quick note to readers. The aircraft’s official program name is the EA-18G Growler. On carrier decks, however, it’s called a “Grizzly,” just as its F/A-18F counterpart is a “Rhino” rather than a Super Hornet. This makes it impossible to confuse similar sounding names, amidst the thunderous cacophony of a carrier deck.

Background: Core Platform

Background: Ancillary Technologies Radar & Jamming Technologies

Other Important Technologies

Official Reports

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Categories: News

Super Hornet Fighter Family MYP-III: 2010-2014 Contracts

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 18:00
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
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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
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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
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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 2010-2015 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 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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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 for early procurement 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: EA-18Gs. 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
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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
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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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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
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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.

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

Japan’s Next F-X Fighters: F-35 Wins Round 1

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 16:33
F-35A
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In December 2011, Japan picked Lockheed Martin’s new F-35A stealth fighter as its next fighter aircraft, to replace its aging F-4 “Kai” Phantom fleet. The F-35 was actually their 2nd choice.

Back in February 2006, Inside The Air Force (ITAF) reported that momentum was building within the USAF to sell the ultra-advanced F-22A Raptor abroad to trusted US allies, as a way of increasing numbers and production. Japan clearly wanted them, and the Raptor was a topic of diplomatic discussions in several venues, including a 2007 summit meeting. In the end, however, US politics denied export permission for downgraded export variants of the F-22, and its production line was terminated. That left Japan looking at other foreign “F-X” fighter options in the short term, while they considered a domestic stealth fighter design as their long-term project.

In the ensuing F-X competition, the F-35 Lightning II beat BAE’s Eurofighter Typhoon, as well as an upgraded F/A-18E Super Hornet from Boeing. Now Lockheed Martin has to deliver, and so will its Japanese partners. Will the F-35A’s price and program delays create problems in Japan? This article looks at the JASDF’s current force, its future options, and ongoing F-X developments.

The JASDF: Structure & Choices F-4EJ “Kai(zen)”
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The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) currently has 3 fighter jet models in its fleet: F-15J/F-15DJ Eagles, its F-4EJ “Kai” and RF-4EJ reconnaissance Phantom IIs, and the Mitsubishi F-2 – a larger, longer-range variant on the F-16C. The Mitsubishi F-1 entered service in 1978 and is still listed on the JASDF web site, but it has now been replaced by F-2s [1]. Now, 42 F-35As will begin to replace the 80-plane F-4 fleet, but that won’t be the end for Japan.

The JASDF introduced the F-4EJ in 1973. It currently serves mostly in anti-shipping and other “permitted” strike roles, though it can also be used for air defense and policing. The RF-4EJ reconnaissance version will be replaced by F-15Js with special pods, and Japan has indicated that they will begin retiring the rest of the F-4 fleet early in the 2010s.

Japan has top-tier manufacturing experience, but they also had a qualitative and quantitative problem. Japanese firms have already produced F-15Js under license, and designed and produced the Mitsubishi F-2 in conjunction with Lockheed Martin. The F-2 is larger than an F-16 and has more range, but its performance doesn’t compare to an F-15, and it costs nearly as much. The F-2s won’t be built in expected numbers, which means they cannot replace the F-4EJs and RF-4EJs.

J-20 Prototype
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The Japanese had important choices to make, and the 2010 tsunami sharpened that urgency by destroying 18 of Japan’s F-2 fighters. Then China pushed things to the next level, unveiling its J-20 twin-engine stealth fighter prototype.

The Phase 1 plan was for Japan to choose a future F-X fighter by the end of 2011, buy about 50, and begin receiving them in 2016. Meanwhile, Japanese industry is trying to figure out how to keep itself busy now that license production of F-15 components and F-2s is ending. The Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies’ proposal involves producing F-X fighters and their F-XX follow-on buy until 2028, and having some of those 100-120 planes replace existing F-15Js as well. That would be followed by a Japanese fighter design, to begin development by 2017 based in part on lessons learned from their ongoing ATD-X stealth technology demonstrator. Japan hopes to fly ATD-X in 2014-2016, and the SJAC’s idea was that its successor could enter production around 2028, as the foreign-designed F-X fighter line closed down.

When choosing their initial F-X buy, the Japanese had several options.

The Winner: F-35 Lightning II F-35A test flight
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If stealth is desired, Lockheed Martin’s plane is considered a “second best” option to the F-22. While other contenders have sharply reduced their radar signature when compared to planes like the F-16, the F-35 is significantly ahead because it’s designed for stealth from the outset, including internal weapon bays. As China moved to introduce its own J-20 stealth fighter, that criterion seemed to eclipse all others in Japan’s thinking. “Joint Strike Fighters” also offer exceptional performance in the reconnaissance role, while its set partnership model smooths technology transfer issues. That transferred technology is very important to the Japanese, who are quietly working on stealth fighter concepts of their own. Finally, the F-35 will be widely used, offering commonality with key allies and ensuring a steady stream of upgrades without requiring steady Japanese investment.

On the negative side, the F-35′s single-engine design would be a concern during maritime combat air patrols, as it increases the odds of having an engine issue cause the complete loss of the fighter. Beyond that, the F-35′s industrial structure is largely set, its development delays could make on-time deliveries a problem, any early deliveries will cost well over $100 million per plane, and its declared status as a strike fighter clashes somewhat with Japan’s avowedly defensive posture.

Rising tensions in the area led Japan to conclude that it needed good ground-attack capabilities as an explicit requirement, and based on their mathematical analysis of submitted information, Japan concluded that the F-35A was more capable all around than other fighters with proven records. The choice was announced in December 2011, and agreement to buy up to 42 fighters was signed in June 2012.

Media reports aren’t completely precise, but they seem to suggest that Japanese F-35As could eventually fly with up to 40% Japanese manufactured content. Reports and documents indicate that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. will be involved in work on aircraft bodies, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. on mission-related avionics, and IHI Corp. on engines.

DDH-181 Hyuga & USN’s
LHD-2, post-tsunami
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The F-35B’s STOVL (Short Take Off, Vertical Landing) capabilities might make it an especially valuable future option, as a defensive aircraft that could operate from dispersed land locations, rather than bases that are easily targeted by enemy missiles.

It has a shorter range than other variants, but Japan is also fielding 18DDH Hyuga Class helicopter carriers for roles like disaster response, and will soon field larger 22DDH Izumo Class ships. They’re called “helicopter destroyers,” because Japan is currently prohibited from operating aircraft carriers, but it should be noted that other countries are planning to operate F-35Bs from comparably-sized ships. This very fact may inhibit Japan from ordering the F-35B, despite its potential usefulness as a land-based fighter.

Japan had other options, too. They included:

Boeing: The Traditional Supplier F-15Js
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Boeing and its predecessor firm McDonnell Douglas supplies the JASDF’s F-4s and F-15s. Their next-generation choices included:

Upgraded F-15s Japan could have chosen to go ahead and buy “kaizen” F-15Js at a comparable cost, possibly with the AESA APG-63v3 radar being fielded by Singapore. Additional capability boosts would come from attached pods like ReeceLight or SHARP for reconnaissance, or combination recon/targeting pods like LITENING or Lockheed’s Sniper ATP.

The concern in Japan is that this option could leave them without an air-to-air advantage against current PLAAF SU-30MKK aircraft, let alone potential future upgrades like the SU-35, or China’s J-20.

Boeing’s new F-15SE “Silent Eagle” appeared to be aimed directly at these concerns. It adds a number of important advances that will help it hold its own with currently-fielded fighters, and is optimized for the kinds of long-range, over-water combat patrols the JASDF requires. In full-stealth mode, its strike capability is sufficiently secondary that it need not raise alarm bells, but it’s still present.

While a combined F-15 Kai/ F-15SE buy appeared to be the easiest move, things did not work out that way. Boeing did not submit the F-15SE, and F-15 upgrades will have to be a separate, future issue for Japan. Instead, it submitted…

Super Hornet Int’l
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F/A-18Ei Super Hornet. The base for Boeing’s submission was the AN/APG-79 AESA radar equipped Block II model, and the F/A-18F model has already been sold to Australia. The “Super Hornet International Roadmap” is on the drawing board, adding improved radar signature, the ability to carry weapons in low-RCS underwing pods, better defensive systems, an advanced wide screen cockpit display, and more fuel capacity without increasing drag.

The other Super Hornet option for Japan would be even more exotic. Some of Australia’s Super Hornets are being fitted to receive electronic warfare equipment, which would allow conversion to EA-18G signals intercept and jamming fighters. That’s a unique capability, but Japan’s avowedly defensive posture makes it much less useful to them than it is to other countries.

Even with the EA-18G option, the Super Hornet was an odd bid choice. Beyond the electronic attack role, it’s less capable than the most current F-15 models, such as Singapore’s F-15SGs. Its main benefits relative to the F-35 and European options involved a low price in the $60 million range, the potential for significant license-production in Japan, and future commonality with Japan’s main defense partner, the US Navy.

Buy European Eurofighter: Rising sun?
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The Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale were seen as possibilities, and coupling them with the MBDA Meteor long-range air-air missile might have been very attractive, given Japan’s needs. Price is likely to be close to the F-35, and similar to the option of buying more F-15s.

Dassault Aviation declined to participate with its Rafale, and Saab’s single-engine JAS-39 Gripen NG wasn’t a contender, but Eurofighter campaigned hard. Their plane is a very capable twin-engine air superiority aircraft. Tranche 1 versions have very limited ground-attack capabilities that would satisfy “defensive-only” criteria, while the latest “Tranche 3″ offers a good set of multi-role capabilities. The plane’s carriage of the long-range Meteor missile, and integrated IRST system that can find even stealth aircraft by their heat signatures, offer another pair of advantages over American contenders.

The Super Hornet raised questions of comparative capability relative to China’s new fighters, while industrial and technology sharing remain issues for the F-35, so the Eurofighter had a chance. Their platform did well, but Japan rated theoretical capability very highly, and their desk-bound mathematical analysis hurt Eurofighter. The Typhoon was seen as the most fuel-efficient plane, and its bid had the best industrial benefits for Japan. On the other hand, EADS and BAE had trouble meeting Japan’s purchase cost targets while giving Japanese firms all of that work, and picking it would have meant deviating from Japan’s strongly American industrial links and equipment infrastructure. That’s no small move, in a society that sets such store by deep industrial relationships.

What They Really Wanted: F-22s No climbing Mt. Fuji
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F-22J-EX. The F-22 was at the top of Japan’s wish list, due to its unmatched aerial performance, high level of stealth, and twin-engine design. In February 2006, a Lockheed Martin official confirmed that a proposal to sell Japan F-22s in some form of downgraded “international variant” was working its way through the Air Force with the support of the Japanese government. At the time, it was “at the three- or four-star level” and among civilian decision-makers. The request was pursued at the highest levels of government, but the USA killed the fighter by refusing to export it.

Japan’s combination of long sea zones and growing rivalry with China make a long-range, twin-engine, supercruising andunprecedented stealthy interceptor with reconnaissance capabilities a natural choice. Leveraging existing Japanese partnerships with Lockheed and Boeing made it nearly irresistible. With it, Japan would have had unquestioned air superiority over its territory for the foreseeable future.

There were clear American advantages to a sale. The USAF originally intended to buy 700-800 F-22 fighters, but that was cut to 442, then 381, and finally to just over 180. That left USAF planners concerned, even as foreign projects like Russia & India’s PAK-FA/SU-50, and China’s J-20, prepared to challenge US air superiority. If upgrades and proliferation led to confirmed fighter overmatch against US aircraft within the next decade, an active F-22 production line would have had considerable strategic and financial value.

On the negative side, the F-22′s extensive capabilities made many in the USA very nervous risking security breaches of its electronic architecture, stealth aspects, or next-generation data links. Licensed Japanese production, a standard requirement for other Japanese fighter deals, would be unlikely – or extremely limited if allowed. The aircraft’s $137-160 million base flyaway cost also gives pause, since a Japanese buy would require significant and expensive changes to the plane’s electronics. Some estimates placed the cost of an F-22J at around $250 million per plane.

Japan never had a chance to find out, as political moves within the USA blocked all F-22 Raptor exports. The USA was left to support its shrunken fleet all by itself, which includes financing a very expensive set of electronics upgrades over the next several years.

Japan’s F-X: Contracts and Key Events 2013 – 2014

Getting ready…
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July 17/14: Weapons. In the wake of recent changes that allow Japan to export some defense items to certain customers, and engage in multinational collaborations with allied countries, Japan is becoming involved with MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile:

“Separately, the government also gave a green light to Japan’s joint research with Britain using Japanese seeker technology. It’s a simulation-based project linked to a Meteor missile development among European countries. Defense Ministry official Toru Hotchi said Japanese officials are hoping the research can lead to a technology that can be used for F-35 stealth fighter jets that Japan plans to purchase for its Air Self-Defense Forces.”

Meteor is about to enter service on the JAS-39C/D Gripen, with Eurofighter and Rafale qualification to follow by 2018. MBDA has previously stated that they plan to field a variant for internal carriage in the F-35, and have taken some design-related steps, but there’s no definite program or timeframe yet. Could interest be picking up? Sources: DID, “Meteor Missile Will Make Changes to Accommodate F-35″ | (USA) ABC, “Japan Approves Joint Missile Study, Export to US” | NY Times 2014-04, “Japan Ends Decades-Long Ban on Export of Weapons”.

Feb 4/14: Bottakuri. Costs continue to rise for Japan, and F-35Js could end up costing YEN 300 billion each. Meanwhile, Japan’s new 5-year Mid-Term Defense Plan will buy just 28 F-35s by 2018, of a 42 plane order that would see 38 assembled in Japan under a final assembly and checkout deal. At that rate, they won’t make the target of completed deployment by 2021 without a high 2019 order surge. Meanwhile, prices have already climbed from the original YEN 9.6 – 9.9 billion agreement to YEN 14.95 billion each for 2 jets in FY 2013, and YEN 15.4 billion each for 4 more in FY 2014.

“Added to this are plant and tooling up costs of [YEN] 83 billion for 2013 and [YEN] 42.4 billion for 2014 as Japanese companies Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Electric and IHI establish assembly and production lines…. Sources here have privately begun to refer to the F-35 deal as a “bottakuri bar,” referring to establishments that lure customers… and force them to pay exorbitant bills through a range of excess charges for items not mentioned explicitly on the menu….. locally produced versions of US kit generally cost double their US prices…. Kiyotani said the F-35′s costs could climb to more than [YEN] 300 billion a fighter.”

Abe’s decision to print money at astronomical rates (q.v. Aug 22/13) is going to worsen this problem by dropping the exchange rate. The Yen has lost 28% of its value vs. the US dollar since June 29/12. Defense analyst Shinichi Kiyotani is quoted as saying that lack of specifics in Japan’s 10-year plan reflects uncertainty over the country’s ability to afford the F-35, and its 200 F-15Js and 90 or so F-2s will eventually need replacement. What to do? Sources: Defense News, “Future of F-35 Unclear as Costs Mount in Japan”.

Aug 22/13: Local non-discount. The Asahi Shimbun reports that Japan’s F-35As will be noticeably more expensive than their American counterparts, due to the cost of incorporating Japanese-made parts. They’re correct in general, but their figure is misleading.

The US government has reportedly authorized 24 engine and radar components to be produced in Japan, accounting for about 10% of the plane’s value, and that number is expected to grow with additional approvals. Overall, IHI Corp. will manufacture 17 engine fan and turbine parts, while Mitsubishi Electric Corp. will produce 7 radar system components that include signal receivers. Parts for the rear fuselage, wings, and undercarriage will come from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and other Japanese contractors. That will help Japan gain important experience for its own stealth fighters, and build on the composites manufacturing expertise gained in its F-16-derived F-2 program. The government has reportedly budgeted YEN 83 billion (about $844.1 million) in FY 2013 for F-35 related industrial infrastructure, including new facilities at an MHI factory in Aichi Prefecture.

The problem is that Japanese firms will be manufacturing only for JASDF F-35s, sharply raising per-part costs. The 2 aircraft ordered in 2013 will be the first with Japanese parts, and are now budgeted at YEN 15 billion (see also Sept 6/12, now about $153.5 million) each. Japanese sources cite it as a jump from YEN 10.2 billion (+47%), but sources when the contract was signed cited YEN 9.6 billion. Which makes the new figure seem like an even bigger jump of 56.3%. The real jump? Just 27%. On June 29/12, the equivalent dollar value for YEN 9.6 billion was $120.9 million per plane. A jump to $153.5 million is only 27% in real terms.

Abe may be more hawkish than his predecessor, but running the money printing presses full-bore will make it much more expensive for him to execute on those promises. Sources: Asahi Shimbun, “Japan-made parts to push up price of F-35 fighter jets for ASDF” | New Pacific Institute, “Japanese Companies to Manufacture 10 percent of each of Japan’s F-35As”.

Aug 13/13: 22DDH & F-35. A New Pacific Institute blog post looks at the new 22DDH/ Izumo Class “helicopter destroyer,” and its suitability for F-35s. The author doesn’t believe the ship is very suitable, as it would require expensive modifications that include a new landing surface, much greater munitions storage, greater aircraft fuel capacity, and possibly even new aircraft elevators. A ski jump isn’t 100% necessary, but would be important for good performance. Even after all of those expensive modifications, F-35 carrying and servicing capacity would be very limited, and the pilots would need expensive naval aviation training. It might be a good “lily pad” to extend air defense range in the southern sectors if Japan ever buys (very expensive) F-35Bs, but that’s about it.

Bottom line? The ship’s design makes it better suited to the helicopter and disaster operations it’s publicly touted for, and those needs alone are likely to keep the ship busy. NPI, “Does the Izumo Represent Japan Crossing the “Offensive” Rubicon?”

March 25/13: Long-lead. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $40.2 million fixed-price-incentive (firm-target), contract to provide long lead-time parts, materials and components required for the delivery of 4 Japanese F-35As, as part of Low Rate Initial Production Lot 8. See also June 29/12 entry.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in February 2014. All funds are committed immediately, and this contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD, who is acting as Japan’s agent through the FMS process (N00019-13-C-0014).

Feb 15/13: Industrial. Jane’s reports that Mitsubishi Electric Corporation is no longer banned from bidding on Japanese military contracts, now that they’ve finished paying the National Treasury back for previous overcharges in defense and space contracts. The ban could have affected MEC’s planned involvement in providing avionics and other products to Japan’s F-35A fighter program.

2012

F-35A DSCA request and contract; How the F-35A won; The future of stealth debated. White Paper
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Nov 9/12: Industrial. Japan may begin receiving F-35As by 2016, but local industrial participation faces a number of barriers, due to Japan’s 1967 arms export guidelines. Media reports say that current plans to allow participation in the multinational project, under amended arms export guidelines, wouldn’t lead to deliveries of Japanese F-35A avionics, or of exportable parts for the main wings and tails, before FY 2017.

Media reports are vague, but seem to indicate that Japanese F-35As might eventually reach 40% domestically manufactured content. Japan Today | Yomiuri Shinbun.

Sept 6/12: Bottakuri. More cost hikes for Japan, as defense officials Defense Ministry officials cite “lower production efficiency” as the reason its next 2 F-35As will be YEN 15.4 billion (about $195 million) per plane and initial spares. The initial budget was YEN 13.775 billion per plane for the first 4, which works out to an 11.8% increase.

The ministry is trying to find the full YEN 30.8 billion for the FY 2013 budget request, in order to cover the 2 fighters in it. The Japan Times.

July 2012: Why the F-35 won. The Japanese Ministry of Defense releases its “Defense of Japan 2012” White Paper. Among other things, it explains exactly why the F-35 won. All 3 contenders fulfilled all mandatory requirements, but the F-35 was rated as the overall winner based on the 2nd stage evaluation of capability, industrial participation, cost, and support. It’s difficult to tell whether the F-35A’s subsequent cost jumps would have changed this evaluation, if they had been admitted at the time. Based on what the government says it knew…

The F-35A was deemed to have the highest capability. This may seem odd for a plane with no exercise experiences or operational history, but the rating was done as a mathematical analysis, not a flyoff. Within the inputs that Japan received and believed, the F-35A scored highest overall, with a good balance of high scores across air interdiction, weapons and targeting, electronic warfare capability, and stealth target detection capability.

Eurofighter won the industrial participation segment with the highest level of domestic participation, but had a harder time keeping its local manufacturing proposals within Japan’s prescribed cost bracket. The clear inference is that Japanese Eurofighters would have cost more than other customers have paid.

The F/A-18E+ Super Hornet International was best for purchase cost, while the Eurofighter Typhoon had the lowest expected fuel expenses. The F-35A eked out a “Gilligan win” here by placing 2nd in both sub-categories, and by avoiding the need for “renovation expenses.” Japanese KC-767s don’t mount pod and drogue refueling systems, which is what the Eurofighter and Super Hornet require. The Lightning II uses the same dorsal aerial refueling system as existing JASDF fighters, which avoids the need for KC-767 or C-130H refits.

In terms of support and maintenance costs, the F-35A was given the highest score, due to its in-depth, fleet-wide ALIS maintenance and diagnostic system. Having said that, all 3 contenders proposed performance-based logistics (PBL) based on delivered availability, so all 3 scored the same.

June 29/12: Buy 4, for more. Officials from Japan’s defense ministry say that they have agreed to terms for their first 4 F-35As, despite a 9.1% price increase. The price hike was caused by American cuts, which have shifted 179 aircraft out of the order book over the next 5 years. The planes will reportedly cost 9.6 billion yen (about $120 million) each over the entire buy, up from the original plan of $110 million. American officials said they could not offer the Japanese a lower price than other partnership nations. That makes the Japanese contract a good bellwether for the real base cost of an F-35A in the near future.

Fortunately for the Japanese, the overall contract remained at the expected YEN 60 billion (about $752.4 million). The cost of the 2 simulators and other equipment dropped to YEN 19.1 billion ($240.83 million) from the expected YEN 20.5 billion. Defense News | Fort Worth Star Telegram | Reuters.

42 F-35As

May 1/12: F-35A DSCA request. May 1/12: The US DSCA formally announces Japan’s official request for an initial set of 4 Lockheed Martin F-35As, with an option to buy another 38 and bring the deal to 42 aircraft. “The Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s F-4 aircraft will be decommissioned as F-35′s [sic] are added to the inventory.”

The aircraft would come with Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engines, and Japan would also want up to 5 spare engines. Other components of the deal would include Electronic Warfare Systems, Reprogramming Center support to keep those EW systems current, additional software development and integration, a fight trainer system for the F-35, other forms for personnel training & equipment, transport to Japan, ALIS (Autonomic Logistics Information System) maintenance support systems, US government & contractor support that includes ALGS (Autonomic Logistics Global Support); and initial spare parts, technical data, tools & test equipment.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Japan involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, programs management, and training over a period of 15 years to conduct Contractor Engineering Technical Services (CETS) and ALGS for after-aircraft delivery.

The estimated cost is $10 billion, which works out to $238.1 million per plane. Until a set of contracts are signed, it’s hard to split that accurately between purchase and support costs, and long support deals can add a lot to costs. Japan is also interested in considerably more local assembly than most of F-35 buyers, which is likely to add a number of unique costs of its own. Even so, the announcement has a ripple effect in Canada, where its huge cost per fighter draws a new round of questions about the plane. US DSCA [PDF] | Canada’s Postmedia.

F-35 request

April 2/12: Stealth’s future? A Japan Today article goes straight to the main military point at stake: the future effectiveness of stealth technologies:

“As more nations develop stealth fighters, then the use of radar as the main target acquisition device will be taken over by infrared, wake tracking, electro-optics, and radio/electronic chatter detection – thereby side-stepping radar stealth features – in short order.”

It’s a bit more complex than that, especially given the fact that stealth tends to be optimized for certain frequencies, so radars will still play a role. Still, the falling cost of high-bandwidth networking, and the need for a counter to stealth technologies, does suggest a range of countermeasures over the coming decades.

Feb 22/12: Negotiations. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura conveys Japan’s determination to stick to agreed prices and supply schedules for Japan’s F-35s, after Japan’s Sankei newspaper cites unidentified US government officials as saying that Japan had threatened to cancel its orders if prices climbed.

“When we were selecting the fighter, we asked those making the proposals to strictly observe their proposed prices and supply schedules. Japan has conveyed this to the US from time to time…”

The question is whether this matters. Once a contract is signed, backing out becomes so difficult that for practical purposes, it’s impossible unless the price increases are wildly egregious. The time to back out is before any contract is signed. After that, the contract’s own structure and penalties must serve as a government’s insurance. Reuters UK.

2011

F-35A chosen as F-X; F-35 technical issues; China unveils J-20 stealth fighter prototype. F-35A: Winner.
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Dec 20/11: Winner! Japan’s Ministry of Defense announces that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II has won the F-X competitive bid process for 42 planes. The initial contract will be for 4 F-35A jets in Japan Fiscal Year 2012, which begins April 1/12. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2016. Japan’s Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa reportedly said at a news conference that:

“…of the four parameters [performance, cost, industrial, and support], the most important was performance. When we think about our national security needs for our future fighters, we have to consider various security environments, and the movements and changes by various countries. In view of this we need to have a fighter that is capable of responding to these changing needs.”

The reported budget for Japan’s initial 4 planes is YEN 55.1 billion (about $706 million, or $176.5 million per plane and initial spares). Overall, the cost is expected to be YEN 9.9 billion (about $127 million) per plane, with spares. On the industrial side, a final assembly and checkout facility is expected in Japan, as well as work on components. Reports and documents indicate that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. will be involved in work on aircraft bodies, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. on mission-related avionics, and IHI Corp. on engines.

As F-4 replacements, the F-35As will have an air defense role, but Japan does have a large cadre of dedicated F-15Js to perform that mission. Note that there’s still an F-XX program in the future, aimed at replacing Japan’s F-15Js. Numbers as high as 100+ planes have been floated, but that will depend on both economic straits, and local geopolitical threats. Japan Ministry of Defense [ in Japanese] | Lockheed Martin | Pentagon | AFA Magazine | BBC | Bloomberg | The Diplomat: interview, and Flashpoints blog | Defense News | Gannett’s Navy Times | Reuters | UK’s Telegraph | Wahington Post | Yahoo!

F-35A wins

Dec 13/11: F-35 problems. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and POGO obtain an internal Pentagon “Quick Look Review” dated Nov. 29, which says the F-35 is headed for serious technical troubles. The overlap between testing and production has been a sore point for the US GAO in particular, as significant changes due to failures revealed in testing will require expensive retrofits of produced fighters, along with the extra costs of changing future production. Even as operational aircraft were being bought, from June 2010 – November 2011 there were 725 change requests for the fighter, of which 577 are still not yet available to implement.

Major issues issues raised included unexpectedly severe shaking (“buffet”) during high-speed maneuvers, problems with the helmet system’s night vision display, and frequent failures of an important electrical component that can knock out power and affect both oxygen and cockpit pressurization. The team also expressed concern at the slow progress in developing and testing the plane’s combat roles, including “certain classified issues” that especially affect air defense performance. Star-Telegram | POGO.org, incl. full Quick Look Review | Australia’s Herald Sun | The Hill.

Nov 4/11: Super Hornet International. Boeing continues to discuss Super Hornet International designs. Not much has changed beyond earlier releases that noted improved F414 EPE engines, a large touch-screen panel, warning systems with 360 degree spherical coverage, and conformal fuel tanks to extend range. 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 4 x AMRAAM/ 2 x 500 pound/ 1 x 2,000 pound bomb each, while keeping the plane’s radar signature low. 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 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.

Sept 26/11: F-X RFP submission deadline. Boeing confirms that it’s offering the F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornet, which has also been exported to Australia. Boeing also makes the stealth-enhanced F-15SE design, but appears to have decided not to offer it.

Eurofighter GmbH submits the Eurofighter Typhoon, with BAE acting in a lead role. While the submission is described as “cost effective,” the firm is not explicit regarding the status of the submitted aircraft: new, or used.

Lockheed Martin is expected to submit the F-35A, but has made no announcement. Boeing | Eurofighter.

Mitsubishi F-2s
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April 13/11: RFP. Japan issues the Request for Proposal for its F-X fighter competition. Source.

F-X RFP

March 2/11: Eurofighter. During high level visits, British officials continue to press the case for the Eurofighter as Japan’s future F-X fighter, over offerings from Boeing (F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or F-15SE Silent Eagle) or Lockheed Martin (F-35A/B/C). One interesting wrinkle is that reconnaissance capabilities could become an important requirement, a move that would give the F-35 family an edge. BAE et. al. are fighting an uphill fight, but they’re not alone: in January 2011, the European Business Council in Japan launched a defense and security committee to promote defense-related business cooperation. Asahi Shimbun | Japan Times | L.A. Times.

Jan 18/11: China’s J-20. The Wall Street Journal reports that China’s unveiling of its J-20 stealth fighter has creates ripples in the region:

“Tom Burbage, general manager of the F-35 program for Lockheed Martin Corp., said Beijing’s progress in developing the J-20 has created a “stronger sense of urgency” throughout the Asian-Pacific region about air-force modernization. He said Japan, South Korea and Singapore are now engaged in bilateral discussions with U.S. government officials over the F-35… Mr. Burbage said the U.S. government has asked Lockheed to provide preliminary information on how it could build the Joint Strike Fighter with Japanese industrial input, building either major subcomponents or completing final assembly in Japan… on aircraft for its own military inventory.”

2008 – 2009

Efforts to buy the F-22 fail, Japan looks at other options. F/A-18F over CV-63
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Nov 23/09: F-35. In the wake of a FY 2010 American defense budget that ended F-22 production, while maintaining the ban on exporting the aircraft, Japan has been forced to look at other options. Kyodo news agency reports that Japan is considering buying 40 F-35s, and that the Japanese defense ministry is seeking fiscal allocation in the 2011 budget. According to media reports, the plane beat the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, F-15 Eagle variants, and EADS’ Eurofighter. The acquisition plan is likely to be incorporated in new defense policy guidelines and a medium-term defense plan to be adopted in December 2010.

The F-35s are estimated to cost YEN 9 billion (about $104 million) each; that’s a rather low figure, when compared to actual expenditures by the USA and Australia. If the reports are true, the critical question would become: what model of F-35? The F-35C’s longer range might suit Japan very well, while the F-35B’s ability to make use of highways and helicopter carriers would add a very interesting wrinkle indeed. Japan Today | Agence France Presse | domain-b | Times of India.

Oct 4-7/09: F-35. The Japan Times reports, and Jane’s confirms, that Japan is negotiating a requested payment of about YEN 1 billion (around $11 million), in order to receive “sensitive” information about the F-35′s capabilities. Japan wanted the F-22, and is reportedly still considering it; the government is also reportedly looking at the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault’s Rafale, Boeing’s stealth-enhanced F-15SE, and its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The Japan Times adds that:

“It is rare for a country to be charged such a large sum for information on potential imports of defense equipment. The U.S. also told Japan that Washington will not provide information on the F-35′s radar-evading capabilities until Tokyo makes a decision to purchase it, the sources said.”

One wonders about the wisdom of that sales approach, if true.

July 31/09: F-22. The US House passes “H.R. 3326: Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010” by a 400-30 vote. The final version strips out F-22 funding. As House members prepare for negotiations with the Senate on a single, final bill to send to the President, the amendment vote, and subsequent passage of HR 3326, effectively marks the end of the F-22 program. F-22 production will continue through remaining funded orders, and cease in 2011.

Both the House and Senate versions of the 2010 defense authorization bill require a report to study the potential for F-22A exports. The House version listed only Japan, while the Senate bill did not restrict the countries involved. Development work would be required before production, however, which creates real problems. While it’s theoretically possible to bridge that time gap by resurrecting the American program in future defense bills, the aircraft’s supply chain will stop producing certain parts, and begin losing the people associated with them, long before the final delivery in 2011. That makes a production line restart in 2013 or beyond a very difficult and expensive proposition for potential export customers like Japan. See also: Aero News.

F-22 program ended

June 5/09: F-22. Reuters reports that US Senate Appropriations Committee chair Senator Daniel Inouye [D-HI], has sent sent letters on the F-22 issue to Japanese ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, and to American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Inouye reportedly supports repeal of the 1998 “Obey Amendment” that bans F-22 exports, and the USAF is also said to have decided to support exports to select countries. Reuters adds that there is even growing Congressional support to repeal the Obey Amendment in the face of North Korea’s stepped-up belligerence, and the prospect of significant job losses if F-22 production is closed per Gates’ FY 2010 budget. The exact quote from one of their sources is “…decent support, but it’s not a slam-dunk.”

The senator confirmed sending the letter, but would not discuss its contents. Reuters claims that the letter conveyed some conclusions from a recent USAF study, which placed the estimated cost of developing an F-22 Export version at about $250 million per plane, assuming a production run of 40-60 planes. The USAF study also reportedly assumed that production of an F-22EX would begin in 4-5 years, with delivery beginning in 7-9 years following a re-start of the F-22 production line.

That price tag is about $80-100 million above the cost of a more-capable F-22A. It factors in average costs per plane for production line restart, and for substituting and integrating replacements for components that the USA still does not wish to export. The final cost per plane could certainly end up being higher, if the development and integration program runs over budget. It could also be lower, but only if the substitution program meets projections and one of 2 things happens: (1) The production line is not shut down, due to Congressional appropriations over the next 3 years; and/or (2) More F-22EXs are bought to spread out the F-22EX program’s development and restart costs, via additional Japanese buys or by adding other countries as F-22EX customers.

May 19/09: F-22. A Japan Times article looks at the barriers to F-22 fielding on the Japanese side of the equation, and concludes:

“In sum, Japan’s acquisition of the F-22 would involve significantly increasing defense spending, rethinking the domestic production of weapons platforms and implementing a more robust legal and enforcement framework to protect classified information. Under current circumstances, these developments are not in the cards.”

Given that some of the F-22′s material/manufacturing methods are considered to be among its more sensitive technologies, domestic manufacturing in Japan is unlikely to be an option at all.

April 6/09: F-22. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announces his recommendation to terminate F-22 orders at the end of FY 2009, leaving the USA with a fleet of 187 aircraft.

F-15SE unveiled
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March 17/09: F-15SE. Boeing unveils the F-15SE “Silent Eagle,” which appears to be aimed directly at Japan. The aircraft has slightly canted vertical tails to improve aerodynamics and reduce weight, minimal additional radar shaping, the addition of coatings to improve radar signature further, and a pair of conformal fuel tanks with cut-in chambers for 2 air-to-air missiles each, or air-to-ground weapons like the 500 pound JDAM and 250 pound GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The tanks would be swappable for traditional conformal tanks if desired, and weapons could also be carried externally. BAE’s DEWS electronic self-protection system would be fitted, along with Raytheon’s AN/APG-63v3 radar that will equip all Singaporean F-15s and be retrofitted to the American fleet.

The intent appears to be to offer a “budget Raptor” in the $120 million range, with a basic radar signature that’s competitive with newer fighters like the similarly-priced Eurofighter Typhoon. Advantages would include better radar signature when internal carriage is used for long combat air patrols or limited precision strikes, a superior and proven AESA radar, longer range, and more total carriage capacity if necessary. On the flip side, it would not provide the same maneuverability options as canard equipped contenders like EADS’ Eurofighter or Dassault’s Rafale. The total package would come closer to parity with the SU-30MKI/M and subsequent versions of Sukhoi’s offerings, but may or may not measure up against longer-term opponents like Sukhoi’s PAK-FA or China’s J-XX. From Boeing’s release:

“Boeing has completed a conceptual prototype of the CFT internal-carriage concept, and plans to flight-test a prototype by the first quarter of 2010, including a live missile launch. The design, development, and test of this internal carriage system are available as a collaborative project with an international aerospace partner.”

That partner could also be Israel, which has now expressed interest in the F-15SE, and also made its own requests for F-22s.

Dec 28/08: F-22. Japan’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper reports that the country is likely to drop its attempts to buy F-22s, amid signs that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s new administration may halt production of the aircraft.

Congress has yet to weigh in, however, and a consensus for continued production could easily change the odds for exports as well. Defense News report.

Oct 10/08: Eurofighter. Flight International’s “Eurofighter gets serious about Japan’s F-X contest” discusses political developments:

“If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said that the Typhoon did not have a chance due to the close US-Japan ties. I am no longer sure of that,” says a Tokyo-based industry source close to the Japanese defence ministry. “Washington’s continued refusal to release information on the [Lockheed Martin] F-22 has strained bilateral defence ties, and Japanese politicians and bureaucrats are eyeing the Typhoon as a viable alternative to the other American fighters that are on offer.”

Flight International’s sources indicate that Japan will make one more push in 2009, after the American elections. If that fails, it is likely to abandon efforts to secure the F-22, and move to buy other options.

July 16/08: Eurofighter. BAE executives interviewed at Farnborough discuss the Eurofighter’s opportunities with Japan if the USA refuses to sell that country F-22EX fighters. BAE says that is willing to share more of its technology with Japanese companies, establishing Japan as a so-called home market where it manufactures and sells products. Current BAE home markets include the U.K., the USA, Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Saudi Arabia.

The executive also mentions that BAE is looking hard at India and South Korea for future growth, adding that Defense spending in Korea will be greater than in the U.K. within 5 years. Bloomberg News.

2006 – 2007

Japan pushes for F-22, but is undermined by pro-China interests; USAF F-22As deploy to Kadena, Japan. F-22: Off to Kadena…
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Nov 15/07: F-22. The Lexington Institute’s quick brief “Asian Security: Japan Needs Better Tools To Do Its Part” weighs in, in favor of Japan’s case:

“The F-22 is the Air Force’s new top-of-the-line fighter, far superior to any other fighter in the world in its agility, survivability and versatility. It’s so capable that policymakers aren’t inclined to export it, even to trusted allies like Japan. But does that really make sense if Raptor is the plane best suited to protecting the Japanese home islands against cruise-missile attack or preempting a ballistic-missile launch by North Korea? It sounds like Washington is saying it wants Japan to play a bigger role in regional security, but with inferior weapons — or that the Japanese will have to depend forever on America to do the really tough missions… if we really want the Japanese to be partners in regional security, we should be willing to trust them with other top systems too — especially since they’re the one ally we have that isn’t inclined to export weapons.”

July 24/07: F-22. Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said he has recommended that the F-22 Raptor not be sold to Japan. His comments came during a briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and concern a new U.S. “capabilities assessment group” of Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Office of the Secretary of Defense and industry officials who are reviewing Japan’s fighter requirement. Defense News.

June 28/07: CRS on F-22. The US Congressional Research Service issues its report re: selling F-22EX aircraft to Japan (last revised: July 2/07). The report itself is completely non-committal, as it sketches out the options. While the USAF and defense industry are solidly behind the idea as a way to keep the F-22 production line alive, there is some opposition in Congress. Key paragraph:

“The executive branch proposes and Congress reviews arms sales on a case-by-case basis. The sale of F-22s to Japan raises both broad questions about the security environment in East Asia and questions that are specific to domestic interests. Factors that argue for a transfer include potential benefits to U.S. industry, contribution to the defense of allied countries, and promoting U.S. interoperability with those countries. Factors that argue against a particular arms transfer include the likelihood of technology proliferation and the potential for undermining regional stability.”

Increased Chinese capabilities and the need for a longer-range, twin-engine jet with the ability to take on modern SU-30 family jets is mentioned in the report body, but the military capability drivers are sidestepped and this is not highlighted as a key issue in favor. Japan’s policy of domestic production and license-building is mentioned in the document as a potential stumbling block, but it, too, is absent from the summary paragraph. CRS reports also tend not to present counter-arguments or responses to objections/contentions, as an attempt to remain “above” political debate. That tendency is also present here, and weakens the report as an analytical document. In a particularly interesting side note, however, the CRS report adds:

“A final industrial base issue pertains to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Although originally intended to be complementary aircraft, F-22 and JSF capabilities, development, and production have converged. Implicitly if not explicitly, these aircraft are competing for scarce procurement funds. Extension of F-22 production would likely bring these aircraft into even sharper competition.”

May 23/07: Given the Raptor’s top secret status, American trust in the purchasing country’s security levels and intentions is a significant part of any export decision. Israel’s past defense cooperation with China, for instance, which included sales like “Harpy” anti-radar drones without timely US notification, has created serious issues. It led to temporary suspension from Israel’s observer status in the F-35 program, and is also widely seen as a serious impediment to its current request for an export version of the F-22.

International espionage is a constant of international relations, and victimization is assessed differently; but sufficiently serious leaks can also have repercussions if they indicate a systemic problem, or happen at a high enough level.

Details are sparse, so it’s difficult to assess the true importance of recent developments in Japan. Reuters reports that classified data on the USA’s AEGIS naval radar/combat system, SM-3 missiles, and Link 16 tactical data net had been “leaked” in Japan. Local media said authorities believe that computer disks containing the classified data were illegally copied and circulated among dozens of students and instructors at a naval college in western Japan. The reports follow a police raid on Saturday of a naval college in western Japan over a “leak of data” in March 2007 when police found one of the disks at the home of a Japanese naval officer in Kanagawa during a separate investigation of his Chinese wife over her immigration status. AEGIS, SM-3 missiles, and Link 16 are all key nodes in Japan’s outer layer of its initial ABM defense system. Link from Taiwan’s China Post | Associated Press.

May 18/07: F-22. Bill Gertz, Washington Times: “Pro-China officials in the White House and Pentagon are quietly undermining Japan’s request to buy 50 advanced F-22 jet fighter-bombers, to avoid upsetting Beijing’s government, according to U.S. officials familiar with the dispute… Both the Air Force and the F-22 manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp., favor building an export version… The F-22 export is a major test of U.S. support for Japan and is being watched closely by Japanese government officials who are worried Washington will not back Tokyo and instead kow-tow to Beijing on the sale.”

April 30/07: F-22. Japan applies to buy fighter Australia rejects. The USA’s stated willingness to consider Japan’s F-22EX request re-ignites controversy in Australia, in the wake of the Australian government’s attempt to defuse the issue by maintaining that the USA will not sell the F-22 abroad.

April 27/07: F-22. Japan has yet to receive clearance for F-22EX fighters, but discussions are progressing. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency: “Seoul eyes advanced jets beyond F-15K” contends that the issue of F-22 exports to Japan will be under discussion during the imminent summit between U.S. President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The decision will be watched closely by South Korea, which also wants 5th generation fighter jets for its 3rd phase F-X purchase. An excerpt:

“China is modernizing its air force at a rapid pace,” said Dennis Wilder, senior director for East Asian Affairs at the White House National Security Council. “And so we are very positively disposed to talking to the Japanese about future-generation fighter aircraft.”

Japan has worked to improve its diplomatic and military relations with the USA, stressing its reliability as an ally and collaborating on sensitive technologies like missile defense. Hence the current situation, in which exports of the F-22 can be discussed with some odds of success. South Korea, which has made a very different set of choices, is unlikely to be received as positively.

April 20/07: F-22. Flight International reports that Israel has approached the USA about acquiring Lockheed Martin F-22s, as concern mounts about new threats to the IAF’s regional air superiority from proposed sales of advanced US weapons to the Gulf states, and Israeli assessments of a growing threat from Iran. Sources say that the issue was raised during a recent one-day trip by US defense secretary Robert Gates to Israel.

While unrelated to the Japanese request, and very uncertain for reasons of its own, the Israeli request raises both the pressure to create an F-22EX version, and the perceived market & benefits from doing so.

Feb 17-18/07: F-22. Kadena Air Force Base (AFB), Japan received 10 F-22A Raptors in the aircraft’s first overseas deployment. The F-22As are assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, VA, and are under the command of Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver. The aircraft started their deployment with a stop at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, but a software issue affecting the aircraft’s navigation system was discovered on February 11th, causing the aircraft to return to Hickam. The issue was corrected and the aircraft continued on to Kadena.

The 27th FS deployed more than 250 Airmen to Kadena for the 90-120 day deployment, which is part of a regularly-scheduled U.S. Pacific Command rotational assignment of aircraft to the Pacific. See USAF release.

Feb 11/07: F-22. The F-22A’s first foreign deployment, to Kadena Air Force Base (AFB) in Japan, runs into a serious problem. The aircraft started their deployment with a stop at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, but a software issue affecting the aircraft’s navigation system was discovered on February 11th, forcing the aircraft to return to Hickam without navigation or communications.

October 2006: wide spectrum of opinion in Australia (including the opposition Labor Party) is also pushing for an F-22EX request, based on arguments and strategic needs that are very similar to Japan’s. At the moment, however, the current Liberal Party government remains absolutely committed to the F-35A as its only future fighter force option.

September 2006: DID’s “Japan Looking to Expand Missile Defense & Military Spending” report looks at Japan’s current security situation, and political-economic shifts that may be very consequential for its defense market.

Feb 18/06: F-22. Inside Defense’s Air Force Plans to Sell F-22As to Allies offers a fuller discussion and analysis of Japan’s F-22 bid.

Footnotes

fn1. Reader Keith Jacobs informs DID that despite the JASDF listing of 7 F-1s in service, “The JASDF marked retirement of the F.1 with a six-aircraft flypast at Tsuiki Air Base (Kyushu) in 2006 (forgot actual date – but Feb or March if I remember correctly. They were aircraft of the 6th Hiko-tai (the final squadron unit). 6th Hiko-tai has now transitioned to F-2A and has its full complement of aircraft of the new fighter. JASDF also retired the last Fuji T-1B, assigned to the 5th Technical Training School and dispersed them to museums (as they did the T.3) from Komaki Air Base. “ The date of that retirement at Tsuiki was March 6/06.

Additional Readings Background: Japan’s Plans

Background: Fighters

News & Views

  • New Pacific Institute, Japan Security Watch (Aug 13/13) – Does the Izumo Represent Japan Crossing the “Offensive” Rubicon? Conclusion: no.

  • Aviation Week (Oct 22/12) – Japan Aims To Launch F-3 Development In 2016-17 [dead link]. See also News of Japan abridged version. Now known as “F-3″ instead of “i3″, this would be a Japanese-designed stealth fighter as a follow-on to the F-35. Hence the importance of industrial offsets. If F-3 progresses slowly, opportunities open up for more F-35s.

  • Bloomberg (Sept 2/11) – Lockheed Stealth Jet May Win Japan Deal. Speculative analysis. Suggests that stealth is a very important criterion for the Japanese.

  • Aviation Week (June 11/09) – Boeing Studies Stealth Eagle Options [link now broken]. Interesting point made re: retrofits and stealth sales: “It’s not how low can you go, it’s how low are you allowed to go, and the U.S. government controls that,” says Brad Jones, Boeing program manager for F-15 future fighters. “We can get to different levels depending on the country.”

  • Japan Times (May 16/09) – Hurdles to a Japanese F-22

  • USA Today (July 12/07) – Japan may hold key to F-22′s future, thousands of jobs

  • US Air Force Association Magazine (June 2006) – “Air Force Alliance” for the US and Japan. There have been major changes in the alliance over the last few years, as the level of cooperation between the 2 countries has grown by leaps and bounds.

Categories: News

MH17 Attack: Looking for Clues In A Potential Pivotal Event

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 16:31

  • More than half of the 298 people dead in the MH17 shot over Ukraine yesterday are Dutch nationals. So far Prime Minister Mark Rutte issued a very short statement while his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called for an international investigation. Here’s a quick overview [in Dutch] of media coverage in the Netherlands.

  • Daily Beast: the missile that likely shot down MH17.

  • US Senator John McCain wants to “impose the most severe sanctions” on Russia.

  • Will this tragedy sway European politicians into a tougher stance against Russia? And will it force China away from its de facto acceptance of Russian aggression in Ukraine? So far the Chinese foreign ministry has offered the usual bromides, but they have a rather amicable relationship with Malaysia and may find they can’t pretend to be neutral while satisfying everyone, or even anyone.

  • Russia’s Pravda says that Canada is offering Ukraine 20 decommissioned F/A-18A/B fighters for refurbishment cost, along with support. Reports from Canada only mention CF-18s being sent to bolster NATO air patrols over the Baltic States, and Army units headed for Poland. Canada has a Ukrainian community that’s over 1 million strong, in a country of 30+ million – big enough that they could influence the next election. The Harper government has taken a front-rank role since the crisis there, but that has meant Russian retaliation. Just how far would Canada be willing to go?

Middle East

  • As expected the Israel Defense Forces started ground operations in Gaza yesterday to go after Hamas’ tunnel network. Prime Minister Netanyahu said today they may “significantly” widen the operation if necessary.

Asia

  • Japan’s National Security Council approved the launch of a joint missile research project with the UK, that could help improve MBDA’s Meteor.

  • Yet another Malaysian oil tanker was hijacked 2 days ago by pirates in the South China Sea. Leading anti-piracy operations in the region would be a big opportunity for China to do more there than push its neighbors around.

State of the Industry

“Companies that mostly make military products may find life is harder. The turn in the spending cycle may encourage them to dream that vast, money-spinning programmes like the F-35 will return, and the good times will roll again. But the evidence is that an often unreliable, inefficient and over-rewarded industry is at last being forced to change its ways to survive.”

From the Dept of Tinfoil Hat Obsolescence

  • DARPA is working with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to develop an implantable neural device that could help restore memory.

  • Today’s video, hosted by the conservative Center for Security Policy, discusses how the mammoth planned initial public offering of ecommerce Chinese firm Alibaba has national security implications. This may first sound unexpected and a tad paranoid, but this is an interesting perspective that connects the dots of what the Chinese have said and done in past years:

Categories: News

Pocket Gunship: From AC-XX to the MC-27J Praetorian

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 15:45
C-27J 3-view
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In mid-2008 Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) made a $32 million budget reprogramming request in order to buy a C-27J light tactical transport plane and convert it into a small prototype AC-XX gunship, using “proven/known” weapons and systems.

That effort foundered for good when the USAF canceled the C-27J, but programs to turn existing USMC and AFSOC C-130s into light gunships had laid the technical foundations. Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi figured that a C-27J gunship might have a lot of appeal on the international market. Especially if the gunship kit could somehow co-exist with its role as a transport. In 2012, they unveiled exactly that, thanks to a collaboration with America’s ATK: the MC-27J Praetorian.

MC-27J: SpecOps Platform at a Regular Force Price Aircraft and Weapons Viper Strike, open
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The MC-27J’s conversion begins with external mounts for 2 surveillance and targeting turrets, and a ground-scanning radar. It can still be used in cargo and MEDEVAC roles, and the added sensors and defensive systems make it more suitable for special forces employment in those capacities. It becomes a gunship or command aircraft by adding extra screens and controls to the cockpit, and adding Roll-On, Roll-Off palletized systems to the cargo bay. The RO-RO systems include accompanying displays for their sensors, a trainable GAU-23 30mm cannon, precision guided munitions, advanced communications, and a networked mission management and fire control system.

The MC-27J will receive weapons in 3 stages.

Phase 1: The prototype Italian Air Force conversion is expected to deploy to Afghanistan in 2014 with only its surveillance sensors on board.

Phase 2. Installs the 30mm cannon, and finalizes the core systems based on experience in Afghanistan. The GAU-23′s 200 rpm is more about precision shooting in short bursts than the “lead hose” capabilities of the AC-130H/U, or of older gunships like the AC-47.

Phase 3. Will add precision weapons, with Raytheon’s Griffin-B missile and MBDA’s Viper-E as confirmed weapons that will be fired from a ramp-mounted Common Launch Tube set. ATK’s own GPS/laser guided Hatchet precision mini-weapon is under evaluation, as an option for qualified export customers.

Meanwhile, Airbus has been working with ATK and Jordan’s government, delivering smaller MCN-235 gunships that use laser-guided 70mm rockets and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles as precision weapons. The chart below compares these global offerings:

Airbus, ATK, and Jordan have also begun work on a gunship conversion for 1 of Jordan’s larger C-295 light transports, which would turn the C-27J’s most frequent light transport rival into a peer gunship rival as well.

The Business Case AC-130H Firing
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The MC-27J is positioned to compete against C-130 options by offering lower purchase and operating costs. Countries who can’t shell out over $100 million for an AC-130U/J Hercules, or even $70+ million for a KC-130J with a Harvest HAWK armed kit, might be willing to spend $40-50 million for a C-27J that can use shorter runways, plus a roll-on/ roll-off (RO-RO) weapons kit that offers dual-role transport or armed escort options. Compared to the C-130J, ATK touts:

“…a 50% lower acquisitioned Life Cycle cost while offering 70% commonality in training, logistics and spares. In operational terms it can perform 90% of routine C-130 theater missions. Its ruggedness is confirmed by mission availability rates in excess of 85% recorded in over three years of operational deployments in the austere and extreme Afghan environment.”

New aircraft are needed for this gunship role, as counter-insurgency becomes a larger preoccupation for many rulers and existing fleets wear out.

The proposed AFSOC AC-27J “Stinger II” acquisition came against the backdrop of an AC-130 fleet that’s quickly being flown to the limits of the fleet’s safe airframe flight hours. AFSOC AC-130s reportedly need 14 hours of maintenance for every hour in flight, and wing cracks have forced major center wing box replacement operations 5 years ahead of schedule. AFSOC had investigated a number of AC-130 alternatives [PDF], including smaller aircraft and even stealth designs. They chose an immediately available, affordable C-27J base that could let AFSOC try some new concepts, without foreclosing future options. Ultimately, however, this inexpensive effort foundered in favor of more expensive solutions based on the C-130: the AC-130W and AC-130J.

AFSOC aren’t the only C-130 operators with this problem, however, which opens up a global market for replacement planes at different price points. Alenia has also noticed the continued popularity of aged Douglas C-47 “Puff the Magic Dragon” gunships, whose updated variants still serve in places like Colombia, Indonesia, et. al.

The MC-27J is their answer.

Contracts and Key Events MC-27J concept
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July 16/14: Phase 2 Testing. The MC-27J Praetorian Phase 2 has completed the first phase of ground and flight testing, with the support of the Italian Air Force (ITAF). The ITAF MC-27J was modified with an L-3 Wescam MX-15Di Electro-Optical and Infrared Turret, and Alenia says that the tests “exceeded all test objectives and demonstrated the accuracy of ATK’s side-mounted GAU-23 30mm cannon.”

This is good news for the ItAF, but not enough for Alenia. The truth is, their product’s current capability is considerably behind Jordan’s smaller Airbus CN-235 gunship, which can use guided weapons and has already been delivered. Jordan is now working with Airbus and ATK to create a larger MC-295 that uses the same systems, creating an even closer peer competitor. Source: Alenia, ATK and Alenia Aermacchi Successfully Complete Testing on Italian Air Force C-27J with Roll-On/Roll-Off Palletized Gun Systems.

Dec 3/13: Colombia. Alenia is offering the MC-27J as a gunship replacement for Colombia’s ancient AC-47T Fantasma (“Spooky”) gunships. AC-47s are based on a World War II vintage C-47 Skytrain airframe, and were used in Vietnam. They focus on high rates of fire from 12.7mm machine guns, and so the MC-27J’s 30mm GAU-23 Bushmaster cannon and possible precision weapons are a bit of an operational shift.

The Fantasmas have received a number of upgrades because they’re tremendously useful to Colombia, but they won’t last forever. Alenia is smart to offer, but they’ll have competition. The FAC already operates the smaller Airbus CN-235-200 transport, and Jordan is modifying that plane into a mini-gunship rival, with an ATK weapons suite that’s known to include rockets and Hellfire missiles. The “MC-235″ lacks the MC-27J’s heft and short-field performance, and its lighter and faster-firing M230 30mm chain gun has implications for accuracy and for required flight profiles, but its guided weapon integration is a strong point in its favor. Sources: Defence Market Intelligence, “Colombia; FAC mulls MC-27J gunship acquisition”.

Nov 18/13: Italy. Italy becomes the MC-27J’s 1st customer, signing a contract during the Dubai 2013 air show to convert up to 6 of their 12 C-27Js to the MC-27J “Praetorian” configuration. The aircraft will be used to the Italian Comando Operativo Forze Speciali (COFS).

During Phase One, Alenia Aermacchi will develop and deliver the Praetorian prototype to the Italian Air Force by spring 2014, immediately followed by testing in an operational scenario. The configuration will involve changes to the mission systems and communications, and the roll-on/ roll-off palletized weapon and fire control systems.

Phase Two will encompass installation of the Praetorian configuration in 3 existing C-27Js by the end of 2016, preparation of another 3 C-27Js to be able to install the Praetorian systems if needed, and setup of full support capabilities. Sources: Alenia Aermacchi, Nov 18/13 release.

Italian order: 3 + 3

June 30/13: Testing. i-HLS reports that the planned MC-27J gunship will undertake the first test firings of its 30mm cannon while slaved to an electro-optical/infrared sensor at the end of 2013 or early 2014. Israeli sources also point to a possibility that the GATR guided rocket cooperation between Elbit systems and weapons integrator ATK may result in adding Israeli weapons systems on the MC-27J.

June 17/13: Phase 1 Testing. ATK and Alenia Aermacchi have made some progress, successfully completing Phase 1 with ground and flight tests of the GAU-23 Roll-On/Roll-Off 30mm Gun System pallet at Eglin AFB, FL. Interestingly, the test events were designed and certified by the USAF, and deemed successful by Air Force Special Operations Command.

With the USA’s small fleet of C-27J JCA planes sidelined by the USAF, SOCOM could be a very viable candidate to pick up the planes. If they want them. Alenia.

July 9/12: MC-27J. So what if AFSOC didn’t bite? Alenia Aermacchi is going ahead anyway, creating a competition with EADS’ CN-235 gunship for countries that want a less expensive alternative to the C-130J. The MC-27J is a collaboration with ATK, who was involved in Jordan’s CN-235 gunship conversion.

The MC-27J is designed to be a flexible special missions aircraft that can perform surveillance, gunship, command and control, or transport roles. Its RO-RO palletized system integrates enhanced electro-optical/infrared targeting sensors, a trainable 30mm cannon, precision guided munitions, advanced communications, and a networked mission management and fire control system. ATK will integrate precision weapons onto the platform, and developed a roll-on/ roll-off (RO-RO) GAU-23 30mm gun pallet that can be installed or removed in 4 hours.

Alenia has reportedly claimed interest from Australia (who is buying C-27Js) and Britain, and hopes this will add pressure to reverse the cancellation of American C-27J orders. Alenia Aermacchi | ATK | DoD Buzz.

Jan 26/12: JCA to End. Preliminary FY 2013 budget materials discuss coming shifts in Pentagon priorities, as the US defense department moves to make future cuts. The USAF’s 38-plane C-27 fleet will now be eliminated entirely, and sold:

“The new strategic guidance emphasizes flexibility and adaptability. The C-­27J was developed and procured to provide a niche capability to directly support Army urgent needs in difficult environments such as Afghanistan where we thought the C-130 might not be able to operate effectively. However, in practice, we did not experience the anticipated airfield constraints for C-­130 operations in Afghanistan and expect these constraints to be marginal in future scenarios. Since we have ample inventory of C-130s and the current cost to own and operate them is lower, we no longer need – nor can we afford – a niche capability like the C-27J aircraft. The Air Force and the Army will establish joint doctrine relating to direct support.”

MC-130W Combat Spear
(click to view full)

May 15/09: Plan B. Gannett’s Air Force times reports that Air Force Special Operations Command’s plan to buy 16 C-27Js under the Joint Cargo Aircraft program, for conversion to AC-27J Stinger II gunships, has fallen apart with the removal of Army C-27J funding in the FY 2010 budget.

In response, they’re investigating a “Plan B” that would add roll-on, roll-off kits to its MC-130W Combat Spear fleet. The MC-130W program began in 2006 to replace combat losses of the MC-130E/H Combat Talon, but it is based on the older C-130H, not the new “J” version of the Hercules.

May 13/09: MC-130W beats AC-27J. Aviation Week reports that the C-27J gunship project appears to be dead:

“…efforts to field a gunship variant of the C-27J, called the Stinger II, appear to have dropped off of the radar. During the official DOD rollout briefing, Adm. Steve Stanley, said the MC-130W will be the platform of choice for gunships. That doesn’t jibe with what AFSOC was pushing in earlier budgets, including the command’s desire last year for a C-27 platform on which to begin weapons testing.”

Meanwhile, SecDef Gates is proposing to cut C-27J buys in favor of C-130s, and take the plane from the Army. Early solicitations from the USAF suggest that they may be moving toward modular roll-on/roll-off solutions for their MC-130 fleet, similar to the US Marines’ “Harvest Hawk” program for their KC-130Js.

AFSOC loss

Sept 9/08: DoD Buzz reports that Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, reiterated his strong support for the C-27J “Stinger II” gunship at the US Air Force Association’s annual meeting. During his presentation, Wurster said AFSOC is looking to field about 16 of these aircraft.

July 25/08: Aviation Week reports that AFSOC is looking to reprogram $32 million of its budget to field an AC-27J prototype.

Past proposals to arm AC-130s with precision weapons like GBU-44 Viper Strikes, Hellfire missiles, etc. have always stumbled against the issue of integrating them into an old airframe. Integration into a new-build aircraft may offer a tempting opportunity to give the new gunships new capabilities, at an affordable price. This is the “Stinger II” prototype’s other benefit: its ability to serve as a systems integration platform to help define the current state of the art, without sidelining even more of the in-demand AC-130 fleet for long refit periods. All of which may help to explain why AFSOC, who fields the $100+ million AC-130H/U gunships based on the larger C-130 Hercules tactical transport, still wants $11.5 million to execute an AC-XX feasibility study and engineering analyses. Overall:

“This prototype will serve as a risk mitigation effort to field a new platform to operate in austere locations, with increased operational flexibility and a smaller support tail of manpower and logistics.”

Based on known airframe and conversion costs for the C-27J and other platforms, further funding for the AC-XX effort will almost certainly be required in FY 2010. See also Air Force Association Magazine.

Additional Readings Background: C-27J and Ancillary Equipment

Note that other than the 30mm cannon, no specific weapons have been confirmed for the MC-27J.

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