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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 41 min 26 sec ago

Joint RFP Coming for A330 MRTT | DISA OKs 23 Cloud Providers | SAIC Buys Scitor | Smell in Denmark: Piranhas

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 21:59

  • The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) granted 23 cloud services Provisional Authorizations to host mission data, the DoD announced on Monday. The cloud hosts have been granted authority to host data up to an Impact Level 2, which doesn’t include information classified as secret, only that which is Non-Controlled and Unclassified. Among these 23, commercial firms AT&T, Amazon Redshift, Microsoft, IBM and Verizon are alongside defense contractor Lockheed Martin and US Government services including the Treasury and the USDA National Information Technology Center. This announcement comes in the context of recent announcements that the Army is seeking to transition an increasing portion of its data storage to cloud-based hosts.

  • The Air Force has opened registration for a $2 million Air Force Prize, which will see competitors demonstrating their ability to develop a “small, lightweight, fuel-efficient turbine engine.” The design must be capable of producing 100bhp, with a minimum of 2bhp per pound, along with a host of other technical specifications.

  • SAIC has acquired intelligence firm Scitor Holdings in a $790 million deal finalized Tuesday. The acquired business will join the SAIC Intelligence Community Customer Group. Scitor has experience working on classified contracts with the Air Force and intelligence community.

  • On Tuesday six firms were awarded a five-year $49.9 million order dependent contract by the Army for persistent intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance concepts research and development.

  • The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle has been given milestone C approval from the Defense Acquisition Executive. The Global Hawk demonstrated interoperability and software maturity prior to milestone C, with the program fully funded throughout the Future Years Defense Program.


  • Three European nations are expected to issue a joint RFP for Airbus Defence & Space A330 Multi Role Tanker/Transport aircraft in coming days. Poland, Norway and the Netherlands will pool the procured aircraft and jointly operate them once they have been bought. The three nations have stated their intention to allow other European countries to join their select group, which announced the A330 as the only military off-the-shelf option capable of fulfilling their requirements. Following this, the Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’ARmement (OCCAR) prepared negotiations with Airbus for a potential acquisition. The fleet of multi-rote tanker transport aircraft (MRTT) is expected to enter service in 2019. Other European operators of the A330 MRTT include the UK, with India and Saudi Arabia also international customers for the aircraft, among a host of other nations.

  • OCCAR also announced that it is taking over management of two Italian naval shipbuilding projects. The Multipurpose Combat Ship Program and the Logistic Support Ship Program have been integrated into OCCAR, bringing the total number of European programs it manages up to twelve, alongside the management of the Netherlands and German Boxer program. The first ships in each class are due for delivery in 2020 and 2019 respectively.

  • Denmark is buying Swiss Piranha V 8×8 armored personnel carriers. The new APCs will replace the fleet of legacy M113s, with the Danes planning on buying at least 206 new Piranhas. The Piranha beat off competition from the VBCI and three other competitors, including the BAE Systems CV-90. The Danish MoD previously ordered 45 of the CV-90 IFVs.

  • Turkish firm Otokar has unveiled a variety of new vehicle models at the IDEF 2015 exhibit currently underway in Istanbul. A lighter anti-tank variant of the Tulpar APC – known as the Tulpar-S – has been displayed, which features a remote weapon station manufactured by Aselsan, another local firm. The RWS features four Kornet anti-tank missiles and a machine gun.

  • Russia is reportedly pushing upgrades for equipment previously sold to Turkey. These include the BTR-80 armored personnel carrier and Mil Mi-17V helicopters, which were ordered by Turkey in the 1990’s, as well as anti-tank missiles and other equipment.


  • India and France are planning on establishing a joint committee to operationalize the deal for 36 Rafale fighters struck by Indian PM Modi in April. The committee is to finalize negotiations by the end of July, with Dassault reportedly looking for an Indian partner to facilitate the manufacture of the Rafales under India’s new “directed offsets” policy, with an Indian manufacturing line set to augment the busy Dassault production line in France.

  • Following its latest successful test last November, the medium-range Akash surface to air missile (SAM) was inducted into the Indian Army on Tuesday. The missile’s first successful test-firing was in the 1990’s, with the missile already equipping the Indian Air Force, which is looking to potentially increase the number it fields.

  • The first pair of F-model CH-47 helicopters have entered service with the Australian Army, with five more scheduled for delivery by August. The seven helicopters were ordered in 2010 contract along with training simulators and spares for $470 million. The Aussie F models are US-configured, in comparison to other international customers such as the UK and Canada which ordered modified versions.

Today’s Video

  • A promo vid for the Tulpar APC…

Categories: News

Le Phenix: France Modernizes Its Aerial Refueling Fleets

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 09:58
C-135FR refuels A330
(click to view full)

France currently relies on 14 C-135s for its aerial refueling needs, but these militarized relatives of the Boeing 707 are expensive to maintain, lack key technologies required for unrestricted flight, and are approaching 50 years old. Over those intervening decades, European governments have built up their own aviation industry, and the Airbus A330 MRTT has been ordered by a number of countries. In 2014, France is finally joining them, and beginning a EUR 3 billion program for 12 A330 “Phenix” aerial tanker-transports.

The French purchase will cap a series of interim moves to keep the existing fleet operational. French governments have searched for space in their multi-year military budgets to fund recapitalization, even as technical delays held up key projects…

What’s Now, and What’s Next C-135FR
(click to view full)

France’s aerial refueling fleet consists of 11 C-135FRs modernized from KC-135A equivalent status, and 3 KC-135Rs. Both fleets fly with GE/Snecma CFM56-2 turbofan engines, in place of more primitive Pratt & Whitney J57 turbojets. In addition to standard aerial refueling roles, they remain vitally important to the reach France’s nuclear deterrent, which retains a significant dependence on Mirage 2000N and Rafale F3 fighters armed with ASMP-A missiles.

In 2009, France’s DGA announced that they would be modernizing the avionics in the Armee de l’Air’s 11 C-135FR aerial tankers to the C-135FR RENO2 standard, in order to keep them compliant with ICAO regulations for operation in civilian airspace. The goal was to deliver the first modernized aircraft in 2011, finish deliveries by 2013, and begin replacing the fleet in 2015 with A400Ms and A330 MRTTs. Budget problems (A330, see below) and late projects (A400M, late by 3.5 years) have scrambled that timeline, and so France added its 3 KC-135Rs to the upgrade program.

France also has a small passenger transport fleet, made up of 3 shorter-range A310s and 2 long-range A340s. They can fly long distances more efficiently than France’s C-160 Transall and C-130H Hercules fleets, using civilian airports and other infrastructure to carry larger numbers of troops and some cargo.

Unfortunately, the sum total of all current French fleets would only meet 25% of the airlift requirements set out in France’s 2008 defense white paper, and falls well short of aerial refueling requirements. France’s aerial refueling and large/ long-distance transport fleets will be replaced in a 2-part maneuver.

Airbus: A330 MRTT

At the high end, France is buying 12 A330 MRTT tanker-transports to replace 14 C-135 variants, and 5 Airbus passenger jets. They are significantly larger than the C-135s and A310s they replace, albeit slightly smaller than the 2 A340s. They will be delivered in a conventional core configuration, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and equipped with both Cobham’s underwing hose-and-drogue refueling units and the Airbus Refuelling Boom System (ARBS). France will be the 1st customer for an “MRTT Enhanced” option that upgrades the mission system, flight controls, IFF, and refueling boom, while providing better cruising performance.

The planes are expected to carry full defensive systems, and can be configured in a variety of layouts for carrying up to 271 passengers. MEDEVAC arrangements will include the French MORPHEE intensive care module, which can carry up to 10 patients and 88 passengers. Cargo payload can be up to 40t of containerized freight.

C-160 Transall
(click to view full)

At the lower end, France has modernized the avionics on its 14 C-130H medium tactical transports, and bought a fleet of 27 new CN-235 light tactical transports from Airbus to offset the decrepit state of their 52-plane C-160 fleet. The ultimate solution involves around 50 A400M Atlas medium-heavy tactical transports, which finally began delivery in “austere configuration” by 2013. The A400M is covered in-depth via its own DII FOCUS article.

If the appropriate Cobham plc wing pods are added, fully equipped A400Ms will be capable of refueling both jets and helicopters, though their 4-turboprop design will make them less efficient than the A330s in the jet refueling role. They’ll also become France’s core cargo airlifters, with short take-off capability and in-air refueling ability that will let them carry 35t+ loads intra-theater distances. They won’t be as efficient as the new A330s for long-range cargo work, but their ability to carry tactical loads like vehicles, helicopters, etc. will more than make up for it.

France’s future fleet is expected to be:

  • 12 Airbus A330-MRTT Phenix aerial tanker-transports
  • 50 Airbus A400M Atlas tactical transports with aerial refueling capabilities
  • 27 Airbus CN235 light tactical transports

Contracts & Key Events 2014

A330 order coming at last; KC-135R upgrade contract; A330 training has already begun. A330 refuels A400M
(click to view full)

Nov 21/14: A330. France’s DGA hammers out an agreement with Airbus to supply A330 MRTT tanker-transports, but they haven’t formally signed a contract yet. The EUR 3 billion program is expected to cover 12 A330 planes in France’s specific “Phenix” configuration, It also includes associated support and training systems, spares, ground support equipment, and an initial 5 years of in-service support from first delivery.

Purchases are expected to take place with an initial order for 1 plane before the end of 2014, a major order for 8 planes in 2015, and then 3 more that will be ordered at some future date. The 1st flight of the A330-MRTT Enhanced variant is expected in fall 2015, with flight testing beginning in earnest by July 2016. Initial delivery to the Armee de l’Air is expected to take place in 2018, followed by the 2nd A330 in 2019, and then the rest at a rate of 1-2 per year. In other words, France’s C-135s and existing Airbus transports will be completely replaced somewhere between 2024 – 2029.

France’s A330 MRTTs will use the standard basic configuration: Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines, 2 underwing Cobham hose-and-drogue pods, and the high-flow, fly-by-wire Airbus Refuelling Boom System (ARBS). French “Phenix” aircraft will also benefit from A330 Enhanced improvements that include upgraded an mission system, flight controls set, IFF, and refueling boom, while providing better cruising performance. Communications and defensive systems, and internal outfitting, are also expected to receive some customization. Once the contract is signed, France will become the A330’s 6th military customer after Australia (5), Britain (13), Saudi Arabia (6), Singapore (4), and the UAE (3); with India (6) and Qatar (2) waiting in the wings. Sources: French DGA, “Le ministre de la Défense annonce la commande de 12 avions MRTT” | Airbus DS, “France announces order for Airbus A330 MRTT air-to-air refuelling aircraft” | Defense News, “France orders 12 “Phoenix” aerial refuellers from Airbus for €3 Billion” | Le Journal de L’Aviation, “Jean-Yves Le Drian officialise les A330 MRTT Phenix”.

12 A330-MRTT Phenix

Oct 28/14: A330. The French Ministry of Defense formally approves the launch of the program to buy 12 A330-MRTTs, during a session of its investment committee. Airbus had reportedly submitted a proposal back in February 2014. Sources: Le Journal de L’Aviation, “Jean-Yves Le Drian officialise les A330 MRTT Phenix”.

Aug 21/14: KC-135R. The 1st modernized KC-135RG is delivered to Istres AB in France, by an American crew who ferried the aircraft from San Antonio.

The upgrades include avionics that meet the RENO Global Air Traffic Management standard, creating navigation standards identical to those of modernized American KC-135s. They also preserved the on-board intercom that’s unique to the French planes, fitted a high-frequency wire antenna, and re-configured the aircraft to carry standard cargo pallets. Sources: French Armee de l’Air, “Le premier KC-135 renove se pose e Istres”.

June 10/13: KC-135R. Rockwell Collins Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $44.5 million firm-fixed-price contract to install the KC-135 Global Air Traffic Management Block 40 Upgrade into 3 French KC-135R aerial tankers.

France flies 3 KC-135Rs alongside its 11 C-135FRs, and the Block 40 upgrade is a well proven solution. The USA finished its own KC-135R fleet retrofits in 2010.

Work will be performed at Cedar Rapids, IA and is expected to be complete by Nov 10/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WKKPA at Tinker AFB, Okla., is the contracting activity (FA8105-13-C-0001).

KC-135 RG upgrade

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

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

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

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

2010 – 2013

C-135R upgrades; A330 delays; Lancaster House accord with UK offers a fill-in A330 option, but France doesn’t bite. C-135FR & JAS-39C/Ds
(click to view full)

Feb 22/12: A330. Defense Aerospace reports on a 2012 news conference involving French DGA head Lauren Collet-Billon. He leaves the door open to participation in Britain’s FSTA, but makes it clear France will have its own tankers:

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

Due to budget difficulties and other commitments, they are not. Sources: Defense Aerospace, “France Could Loan Rafales to Royal Navy”.

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

An interim contract for 5-7 A330 MRTT planes is now expected in 2013, which means that Britain’s AirTanker LLC partnership is less likely to see any French leasing contracts (q.v. Nov 2/10). Sources: AIN, “French Air Force Chief: Tankers Soon, but Anglo-French UAV Much Later”.

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

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

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

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

Oct 12/10: C-135FRs. The French Air Force recaps the C-135FR modernization, and says that the first modified C135 is expected to be delivered in early 2011. Delivery of the equipment will continue until 2013. Sources: French Armee de l’Air, “Renovation des avions ravitailleurs de l’armee de l’air”.

Jan 14/09: C-135FRs. France will replace the avionics in its 11-plane C-135FR fleet, in order to comply with ICAO requirements and fly in civil air space. Modified planes will become C-135FR RENO2.

The EUR 37 million (almost $50 million) installation contract will be handled by Air France, who is also handling a similar set of upgrades to E-3F AWACS fleet. The planes have similar base airframes, with the tankers using the militarized C-135 as their base, and the E-3Fs using the civil 707-320B. DGA release [in French] | Flight International.

C-135FR RENO2 upgrade

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

The parliamentary committee reportedly asked Morin if sharing the British FSTA service might help as a stopgap. If so, it would be a partial one at best. Not only is FSTA unable to operate in even low-threat areas, a commercial service cannot be used to refuel nuclear-armed strike aircraft. That was not an issue for Britain, whose nuclear weapons are limited to submarine-launched Trident missiles. Defense News. “France To Delay Air Programs: Mirage Jets, Tankers, C2 Hit by Cuts”.

Additional Readings

Other A330-MRTT Customers

Categories: News

US Units in Europe Demand, Get Lethality Upgrades | French & Indian Chiefs: We’ll Keep Subverting India’s (Broken) Procurement

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 02:18

  • The Army’s European-deployed Stryker mobile guns have been given a provisional thumbs-up for more powerful weapon systems. The current 12.7mm machine guns will be upgraded to 30mm autocannons, with the “high priority need” a reflection of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s requirement for increased lethality, according to a memo obtained by Breaking Defense earlier this month.

  • The first GPS-III satellite currently under construction by Lockheed Martin is now ready for system testing. The satellite was connected to its propulsion system on Monday and will undergo rigorous testing in coming months. The GPS-III contract covers eight satellites, which will bring improved accuracy and anti-jamming capabilities compared to current systems.

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

  • Also on Monday, Virginia-based S-T Solutions was handed a $24.5 million contract modification for support services to the Asymmetric Warfare Group. This support includes the provision of “personnel, expertise and skills” to the AWG, including the observation, training and advising of Army and Allied forces in the identification, mitigation and countering of asymmetric and emerging threats. The AWG incorporates a mix of Service personnel and Department of the Army civilians and contractors.

Middle East

  • Saudi Arabia has reportedly used cluster munitions during operations in Yemen against Houthi rebels. Outlawed in 91 countries via a 2008 treaty, another 81 countries reserve the right to keep using them, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the (supplier) US, Iran, Russia, China, the Koreas. In the Middle East, full state signatories include only Iraq and Lebanon.


  • Following the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighters in April through government to government negotiations – side-lining India’s negotiations with manufacturer Dassault – the Indian Defense Minister announced on Monday that further negotiations between the French and Indian governments will begin this month. The Rafale’s selection as preferred bidder in the country’s MMRCA competition subsequently stagnated, with Prime Minister Modi bypassing the negotiations following pressure from the Indian Air Force. The French Defense Minister will visit India later this week, during which time the opening negotiations for more government to government Rafales are expected to begin.

  • Meanwhile, an Indian parliamentary panel has slated the country’s defense procurement processes, the failed Rafale negotiations in particular. New Defence Procurement Procedure policies are expected to be finalized this June in an attempt to recover from decades of well-earned notoriety for procurement delays.

  • On Monday, the Indian Defense Minister announced that a massive block of potential defense procurement deals had been cleared, with 90% of these in the “Make in India” contract category.

  • With 22.5% of all UAV imports over the 1985-2014 period, India has topped the list of unmanned aerial systems importers. The principle beneficiary of India’s UAV spending has been Israel, particularly the IAI Heron and Searcher variants.

  • The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has received its sixth Austal Cape-class patrol boat, ordered in August 2011. The $330 million design, built and support contract covers eight ships, with the remaining two set for delivery later this year.

  • The Royal Australian Air Force has received its first range-extended JDAM wing kits. Designed by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and manufactured by Boeing and sub-contractor Ferra Engineering, the kits increased the JDAM’s range from 24km to 72km in tests and will equip the RAAF’s F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft.

Today’s Video

  • The Stryker Mobile Gun System:

Categories: News

Future GPS: The USA’s GPS-III Programs

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 02:01
GPS IIIA concept
(click to view full)

GPS-III satellites, in conjunction with their companion OCX ground control, system are the Global Positioning System (GPS) future. They offer big advantages over existing GPS-II satellites and GCS, but most of all, they have to work. Disruption or decay of the critical capabilities provided by the USA’s Navstar satellites would cripple both the US military, and many aspects of the global economy.

The time-based GPS service is the most-used application of Einstein’s Theories of Relativity. GPS has become part of civilian life in ways that go go far beyond those handy driving maps, including crop planting, timing services for stock trades, and a key role in credit card processing. At the same time, military class (M-code) GPS guidance can now be found in everything from cruise missiles and various precision-guided bombs, to battlefield rockets and even artillery shells. Combat search and rescue radios rely on this line of communication, and so does a broadening array of individual soldier equipment.

This DII FOCUS article looks at the existing constellation, GPS-III improvements, the program’s structure, its progress through contracts and key milestones, and extensive PTN (Positioning, Timing & Navigation)/ GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) research links.

GPS: The Existing Array A GPS primer
click for video

The GPS constellation needs to contain at least 24 evenly spaced satellites, though 27 is preferred to maintain proper global coverage from Medium Earth Orbit. USAF Space Command wants to have at least 30, in order to ensure that a quick series of on-orbit satellite failures, or problems caused by an orbit’s somewhat “dirty” status, don’t drop the constellation below 27. Those failures are possible, as a look at the current constellation demonstrates. At the end of 2012, there were 31 healthy GPS satellites on orbit:

Navstar II concept
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9 Block IIAs. Plus 4 more not in healthy shape, of 19 launched. Intended design life: 7.5 years. Due to good design, redundant components, and clever adjustments, these satellites have lasted significantly longer than that. The record is over 20 years.

12 Block IIRs. Intended design life: 10 years. Launches began in 1997, so some are already beyond that. Adds on-board clock monitoring. 21 GPS IIRs were built by Lockheed Martin, of which 8 were modernized to GPS IIR-M status.

7 upgraded Block IIR-Ms. Each IIR-M satellite includes a modernized antenna panel that provides increased signal power, 2 new military signals for improved accuracy to within 1 meter, enhanced military encryption, flexible power anti-jamming capabilities, and a 2nd civil signal (L2C) that will provide users with an open access signal on a different frequency. The additional signals make a difference, because it allows receivers to see the error created by the Earth’s ionosphere, then use advanced algorithms to refine positioning accuracy.

The 8th and final GPS IIR-M was launched in August 2009, but 2nd of type SVN-49 is “unusable”.

3 GPS-IIF. The next set of satellites are Boeing’s Block IIF. Intended life: 12 years. Their improvements include architecture updates; power, processor, and weight improvements; more accurate atomic clocks, better jamming resistance, and operational capability for a new military signal. On the civil side, there’s a 3rd “safety of life” civil signal (L5) in the aviation protection spectrum, which is expected to enable more widespread use of GPS for civil aviation, air traffic control, and high-precision measurement.

There will eventually be 12 GPS-IIFs in space, if all goes well.

GPS Control Segment
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Ground control: An updated ground control segment known as the Architectural Evolution Plan is also proceeding. On the control side, AEP adds a new Master Control Station at Schriever AFB, CO, and an alternate station at Vandenberg AFB, CA. More ground antennas have been added to control GPS satellites by using USAFSCN remote tracking stations, and monitoring was improved by cooperating with the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s MS network. With respect to its technical back end, AEP is designed to move control of the constellation off of 1970s-era mainframe computer systems, and onto a modern graphical interface. It will also add a distributed architecture that can run parallel applications, instead of putting everything in a single queue.

AEP first became operational in September 2007, and added the capability to control Block IIF satellites in March 2008. Nevertheless, it’s an interim solution with key limitations. It cannot put a navigation message onto, or control, modernized signals like the civil L2C, or the GPS IIR/M’s dedicated military coded signal. Nor will it be able keep up with growing demands for improved situational awareness and other required evolutions. That’s why it was considered for GPS III control, but rejected.

The GPS III Program

When fully deployed, the current vision for GPS-III is that the new satellites will feature a new L1C civil signal that will be compatible with Europe’s Galileo GNSS constellation; a cross-linked command and control architecture that allows the entire GPS constellation to be updated from a single ground station; and a spot beam antenna that provides resistance to hostile military jamming while improving accuracy and integrity.

The USAF has had issues with over-budget satellite programs in the past, in part because the technology requirements were often leaping ahead on too many fronts at once. This is a natural response to systems with a satellite’s large launch costs and long life cycle, but the lagging launch schedules and liberal cost overruns were becoming limiting. GPS III incorporates these lessons, and will be set up as an incremental acquisition, with a ground segment and 3 blocks of investment and inserts:

GPS Block IIIA. These satellites are larger than previous Navstar buses. Bigger size allows more power, which in turn creates a signal that’s easier to acquire. The wide-angle whole Earth antenna will be supplemented by a high-gain directional antenna, allowing +20db signals (roughly 105x power) to specific areas of the globe. The more sensitive a receiver must be, the easier it is to jam, and the wider the jamming radius at a specific jamming power. Additional satellite power, plus additional signals which offer signal gains of their own, plus a directional antenna boost, really adds up when you’re trying to make the signal robust.

On the civil side of the ledger, signal type gains and increased transmitting power mean something just as consequential: GPS receivers can become cheaper and more reliable. This will be especially true for high-end, high-precision civil GPS, once the new L5 signal is fully deployed.

On the signals front, initial GPS IIIA satellites will feature agreed-upon compatibility withEurope’s rival Galileo GNSS system, add a 4th civil signal (L1C) to the new L1A/ L2C/ L5 roster set; and add a stronger military GPS (m-code) signal that’s expected to deliver fourfold accuracy improvements and 3x-8x improvement in anti-jam capability. These simple requirements ensure that older GPS-IIA satellites can quickly be replaced by the newest proven designs.

The USAF would like to cap GPS IIIA satellites at 8 (2 R&D + 6 operational, all 8 will be launched), but the initial contract has provisions for up to 12 GPS-IIIA satellites if necessary.

GPS Block IIIB. The 2nd generation adds a cross-linked command and control architecture. In English, this means that the entire constellation of GPS IIIB+ satellites will be updated at once from a single ground station, instead of having to wait for each satellite to orbit in view of a ground antenna as is currently the case. These satellites are also expected to carry SAR/GPS, via a Canadian-Provided 406 MHZ Search And Rescue repeater. This used to be called the Distress Alerting Satellite System (DASS); it’s designed to improve combat SAR, and accommodate existing and planned 406 MHz beacons across the globe.

Up to 8 GPS-IIIB satellites are slated for launch.

Einstein? Really?
click for video

GPS Block IIIC. Adds a high-powered spot beam to deliver greater M-Code power, better resistance to hostile jamming, and improved accuracy. Other technologies that become mature during the development period could also be added. The USAF intends to launch up to 16 GPS-IIIC satellites.

The first launch of a GPS-IIIA satellite is expected in 2014, with all 32 GPS Block III satellites expected to be on orbit by 2022.

By 2016, the L2C signal will be aloft on 24 satellites for consistent global coverage: The GPS-IIR-Ms, the launched IIFs, and the 1st 2 GPS-IIIs.

The L5 signal is only aloft in test mode, and will take until around 2019 for global availability. That could happen earlier, or become more robust, depending on Europe’s Galileo program.

The L1C signal will only be aloft on GPS-III, so it’s likely to take until 2021 or later before it’s aloft with full GPS global coverage. L1C has been adopted beyond GPS-III and Galileo, however, which makes global coverage possible at an earlier date if the right configuration of cooperating satellites is aloft.

The new GPS-III M-Code signals won’t have full global coverage until around 2021, either, but directional antennas are likely to give the US military new options in targeted regions earlier than that.

OCX & MGUE: New Ground Control & Receivers Legacy system
(click to view full)

These systems will be accompanied by a next-generation global positioning system control segment (GPS OCX) intended to control both GPS II and GPS III satellites. OCX will deliver new GPS mission planning, constellation management, ground antenna, monitoring station, and satellite command and control capabilities, using open architecture electronics that allow faster improvements, and a service-oriented software architecture for much faster incorporation of its capabilities into other systems. Block I will also incorporate the new M-code military GPS signal.

The previous ground control segment incumbents both joined new bidding teams: Boeing bid as part of Raytheon’s team, while Lockheed Martin joined Northrop Grumman’s team in March 2008. Team Raytheon won the contract in 2010.

Unfortunately, software development has been a challenge, and key blocks will finish late. In response, the GPS directorate funded a stopgap Block 0 “Launch & Checkout” command and control capability, which wouldn’t work with the satellite’s jam-resistant M-code signal, or its 3 new civil signals. Block 0 won’t be an issue for long, though, because technical problems with the satellites themselves delayed initial launch by 2 years

Under the full OCX Block 1 contract, the Ground Control System will handle both existing GPS-II and new GPS-III satelites. Raytheon’s team will develop and deliver control segment hardware at Schriever AFB, CO, and Vandenberg AFB, CA, and update up to 17 monitoring stations around the globe by October 2016. The goal is to reduce the sustainment cost by 27%, then boost those savings to 50% within 3 years. When Block I’s software is done, it will also add the new M-code signal.

OCX Block 2, which will include the new L2C civil signals, has been moved back to June 2017.

DAGR drawn
(click to view full)

Outside OCX, a program called Modernized GPS User Equipment (MGUE) isn’t part of GPS-III directly, but it’s necessary in order to bring GPS III’s advantages to troops in the field. The program includes efforts like the ground-based GPS receiver application module (GB-GRAM-M), and takes advantage of GPS-III changes to the Signal-in-Space. MGUE aims to demonstrate the critical technology needed to incorporate a new M-Code military signal and security architecture, using precision-encrypted Y-code, M-Code, and coarse acquisition-code receivers that can process new and legacy signals.

GPS-III Budgets

Note that launch contracts are a separate item. The USAF is investigating the idea of cutting per-satellite launch costs by finding a way to launch 2 satellites in each boost from SV-5 onward. The question is whether evolving rocket technology and commercial competition will give them that option, without requiring expensive changes to the satellite design.

GPS-III: Industrial (click to view full)

Lockheed Martin’s program management and spacecraft development effort will be centered in Newtown, PA, with final assembly, integration and test located in Denver, CO. Their GPS Processing Facility (GPF) uses a former Atlas rocket assembly building, with nearly 40,000 square feet of spacecraft assembly and test area, including a clean room high bay designed for manufacturing efficiency by minimizing space vehicle lifts and distances between operations. The GPS team studied Lockheed Martin’s high-volume aircraft production lines, and used virtual reality modeling technology to lay out the factory floor. Each GPS III satellite will move through sequential work stations for various assembly and integration operations, much as a car or airplane does, culminating with environmental test procedures. The GPF has dedicated thermal vacuum and anechoic test chambers for that.

Outside Denver, Lockheed’s Sunnyvale, CA operations will provide various spacecraft components, and a launch support team will be based at Cape Canaveral, FL.

GPS-III: Contracts and Key Events FY 2014

Satellites #5 & 6 ordered; GPS-III and OCX reaching final testing stages: SV-1 delay. LMCO on GPS
click for video

May 5/15: The first GPS-III satellite currently under construction by Lockheed Martin is now ready for system testing. The satellite was connected to its propulsion system on Monday and will undergo rigorous testing in coming months. The GPS-III contract covers eight satellites, which will bring improved accuracy and anti-jamming capabilities compared to current systems.

Sept 18/14: SV-1 delay. USAF Space Command officials tell Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio that the navigation payload supplied by subcontractor Exelis has had technical problems, and GPS-IIA SV-1 is now scheduled for by the end of 2015. Lockheed has earned $42.1 million in bonus fees for SV 1-2 from May 2011 to May 2014, but the May 2013-2014 period’s $17.1 million bonus was forfeit as a result. Sources: Bloomberg, “Lockheed Lost $26.2m in Award Fee Over GPS III Satellite Delay”

May 14/14: MGUE. Raytheon in El Segundo, CA receives a $22 million modification for MGUE (military global positioning system user equipment) software coding and security, bringing the total cumulative face value to $51.8 million. They need to finish the GPS receiver cards software coding, and perform security certification. The GAO has explained why this component of GPS-III is so important (q.v. March 12/14).

$7 million in FY 2014 USAF RDT&E funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed at El Segundo, CA and is expected to be completed by Aug 31/15. USAF Space and Missile Systems Center Contracting Directorate in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-12-C-0012, PO 0015).

April 1/14: SV 7-8. Lockheed Martin announces a $245 million contract from the USAF, for GPS III satellites SV-7 and SV-8. This builds on previous contracts for long-lead time items (q.v. Feb 20/13, Feb 14/14). Sources: Lockheed Martin, “U.S. Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin Full Production Contracts For Next Two GPS III Satellites”.

GPS-IIIA: Satellites
7 & 8

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. GPS III’s 8 critical technologies have been assessed as mature, but 3 (incl. the timekeeping system and the key GPS signal generator) are late on qualification testing. In addition, issues identified in testing have forced fixes to components that include the mission data unit, and issues that include radio frequency isolation/ signal degradation. That forced later hardware delivery, so qualification testing is way behind. Result? a 2-year launch delay from April 2014 to April 2016.

The program is considering dual-launching GPS III satellites, potentially beginning as early as SV5. That would help to ensure a healthy constellation, but they’ll need rockets that can accomplish this. Preferably without requiring really expensive mid-stream design changes to the satellites.

On the ground, GPS III satellites will require OCX Block 1 control systems before they can be considered part of the constellation. At present, that’s a 6-month delay after SV1 launch, but additional OCX issues could push that back, wasting some of the 1st satellite’s useful time in orbit. Delays have already cropped up (q.v. March 30/12), and The 2nd GPS-IIIA satellite won’t even launch until OCX Block 1 is ready. At present, software development for OCX Block 0 is expected to finish testing by early 2015, and Block 1 development has begun development. Testing of the prototype, which requires Block 0/ Block 1 software and hardware components together, isn’t scheduled before December 2015. That’s 18 months after OCX’s Critical Design Review, and just 10 months before OCX Block 1 is supposed to be complete in October 2016. Overall, OCX will have just 7/14 technologies mature before October 2015, which is about 3 years after system development began.

March 12/14: GAO Report. The US GAO offers details of the USA’s major military space programs, in GAO-14-382T – “Space Acquisitions: Acquisition Management Continues to Improve but Challenges Persist for Current and Future Programs.” The cost figures for the GPS-IIIA and OCX programs are reflected in the charts above, and that growth has been under control. The challenge lies in the schedule, for reasons described above (q.v. March 31/14).

Overall, the OCX Block 1 ground control is slated to be ready for GPS III satellites by October 2016, 9 months after the first GPS IIIA satellite is available for launch (and 6 months after the revised launch date). The GAO adds that synchronizing receiver capabilities is equally important, via programs like MGUE:

“Satellites require ground control systems to receive and process information from the satellites, and user terminals to deliver that satellite’s information to users….. but development of satellites often outpaces the ground control systems and the user terminals…. lead to underutilized on-orbit satellite resources, and thus delays in getting the new capabilities to the warfighters or other end-users. In addition, there are limits to satellites’ operational life spans…. [so] they use up time in their operational lives without their capabilities being utilized…. budget authority for user terminals, ground systems, and satellites is spread throughout the military services, and no one is in charge of synchronizing all of the system components, making it difficult to optimally line up programs’ deliveries.”

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The overall trend is slight cuts across the board for GPS-IIIA, OCX, etc. in FY 2013-2016, with ramped-up procurement spending beginning in FY 2017. That’s normally a bad sign for a program, but R&D, OCX, and MGUE spending will be declining at the same time, and GPS is vital enough that it may have better odds than most. One interesting note in the detailed budget documents:

“The Air Force is seeking authorization to exercise the contingency options for SV09-10 under the current contract. SV09-10 would utilize the same technical baseline as SV08. Additionally, the Department is investigating the future use of a multi-year procurement (MYP) strategy for GPS III which includes fixed-price contracting of multiple satellites to establish stable production and strategic sub-tier management…”

Feb 3/14: SV 7-8 long lead. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Newtown, PA receives a $14.4 million fixed-price-incentive-firm modification, providing long lead time materials for GPS III satellites 7-8. This would be on top of the Feb 20/13 contract.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 missile budgets. Work will be performed predominantly in Clifton, NJ, and is expected to be complete by June 2015. the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center Global Positioning Systems Directorate at Los Angeles AFB manages the contract (FA8807-13-C-0002, PO 0006).

Dec 12/13: SV 5-6. Lockheed Martin in Newton, PA receives a $200.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to begin production of SV-5 and SV-6. All funds are committed immediately from FY 2013 missile budgets. This builds on previous contracts for long-lead time items in satellites SV-3 to SV-8 (q.v. Feb 8/13).

Work will be performed at Littleton, CO, and Clifton, NJ, and is expected to be complete by Dec 14/17 (SV-5) and June 14/18 (SV-6). USAF Space and Missile Systems Center Contracting Directorate at Los Angeles AFB, CA manages the contract (FA8807-08-C-0010, PO 0276).

GPS-IIIA: Satellites
5 & 6

Oct 17/13: Testing. Lockheed Martin’s full-sized GPS III Nonflight Satellite Testbed (GNST) at Cape Canaveral successfully communicates via cross-links with faithful USAF hardware simulators for the GPS IIR, GPS IIR-M, and GPS IIF satellites. It’s the 1st time GNST has communicated with flight-like hardware from the rest of the GPS constellation and with a navigation receiver. Got to keep checking off the boxes. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin GPS III Satellite Prototype Proves It Can Successfully Communicate With GPS Satellite Constellation”.

Oct 3/13: OCX. Raytheon Company announces that their OCX ground control system has completed its software Iteration 1.5 Critical Design Review (iCDR). It follows an Aug 1/12 announcement for Iteration 1.4’s iCDR. Iteration 1.5 software development brings OCX software development into the home stretch: it includes the mission-critical Launch and Checkout System (LCS) software, and serves as the cyber-hardened baseline to which additional capabilities will be added to complete OCX Blocks 1 and 2.

LCS recently received Interim Authority To Test certification for one year with no liens, which is a very good sign for information assurance. Full system test and evaluation will begin in late 2013, and early site integration is scheduled for early 2014 at Schriever AFB, CO and Vandenberg AFB, CA. That will be followed by acceptance testing in 2014, in preparation for an expected 2015 launch of GPS-III SV-1. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon completes critical design review for GPS OCX software Iteration 1.5″.

FY 2012 – 2013

Satellites #3 & 4 ordered; Satellites 5 & 6 begun; GAO says ground control is behind; Pathfinder satellite prototype/testbed is ready. How GPS Works
(click to view full)

July 19/13: Testing. Lockheed Martin’s full-sized, functional GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) prototype arrives at Cape Canaveral AFS, FL aboard a C-17 jet from Buckley AFB, CO. GNST will begin to dry run launch base space vehicle processing activities and other testing, before SV-1 arrives in 2014. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin GPS III Satellite Prototype To Help Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Prep For Launch”.

Feb 20/13: SV 7-8 long lead. Lockheed Martin Space System Co. in Newtown, PA receives a $58.2 million contract modification, covering long-lead materials for GPS-III satellites SV-7 and SV-8, using FY 2013 funds.

Work will be performed in Newton, PA, and is expected to be complete by June 30/17. Type of appropriation is fiscal 2013. The SMC/GPK at Los Angeles AFB, CA manages the contract (FA8807-13-C-0002). See also Lockheed Martin, “U.S. Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin Contracts to Begin Work on Next Set of GPS III Satellites”.

Feb 8/13: SV 5-6 long lead. Lockheed Martin Space System Co. in Newtown, PA receives a $62 million firm-fixed-price contract for GPS-III Space Vehicles 5 and 6. Lockheed Martin has confirmed that this is a long-lead time materials contract, to ensure that key materials and sub-components are ready when the main order is placed.

Work will be performed in Newtown, PA, and is expected to be complete by June 30/17. The SMC/GPK, Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8807-13-C-0002).

Feb 6/13: Lockheed Martin announces that they’ve completed Software Item Qualification Testing (SIQT) for GPS-III’s spacecraft bus flight software, which controls the spacecraft on orbit and monitors the health and safety of the satellite’s subsystems.

The flight software has already been integrated and tested on the program’s GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) prototype, and now it will go on to integration and testing in SV 1, scheduled for “launch availability” in 2014.

Nov 27/12: OCX. Raytheon in Aurora, CO receives a $7.2 million contract modification to support the GPS Next Generation Operational Control System. Work will be performed in Aurora, CO, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/13. The USAF’s SMC/GPS group at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA manages the contract (FA8807-10-C-0001, PO 0079)

Nov 19/12: Testing. Team Lockheed Martin has completed thermal vacuum testing for the Navigation Payload Element (NPE) of their GPS-III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST). The milestone is one of several environmental tests, and verifies the equipment’s ability to survive the hostile space environment. Lockheed Martin.

Oct 11/12: OCX to EMD. The OCX (Next Generation Operational Control System) has successfully met all requirements to enter into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase. Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall signs the memo. USAF.

OCX Milestone B

Aug 20/12: Launch Options. AviationWeek reports that the Air Force is considering dual or triple launches for GPS satellites. Operators such as Arianespace have argued in favor of their dual-payload capabilities, as it happens used by the USAF with its CHIRP piggybacked to the SES-2 commercial satellite last year. The CEO of International Launch Services (ILS) countered with arguments in favor of single-satellite launches. In any case the Pentagon and Air Force are watching how competitors abroad are ramping up their networks: Arianespace is making dual launches for Galileo while China is using triple launches for its Beidou positioning network.

The Air Force is also looking at SpaceX as a potential (multi) launch provider, following their joint announcement with NASA and NRO that they would consider options besides EELV.

Aug 1/12: Software. Raytheon announces that they’ve successfully completed OCX software iteration 1.4’s Critical Design Review (iCDR). Based on their description, this seems to be the stopgap Launch & Checkout capability, which won’t work with the satellite’s the jam-resistant M-code signal, or its 3 new civil signals.

May 31/12: Support. Lockheed Martin announces a $68 million contract to provide GPS-III mission readiness, launch, early orbit checkout, and on-orbit operations engineering support.

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will provide technical support to the Air Force’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), and provide the Launch and Checkout Capability (LCC) ground control system required to manage GPS III SV-1 in 2014. Lockheed Martin’s Newtown, PA facility will also support the operations of the 1st 2 GPS III satellites – from launches in 2014 – 2015, through their expected 15-year service lives in space.

May 29/12: Lockheed Martin announces that it has powered on the GPS III “Pathfinder” Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST), with its Mission Data Unit and advanced atomic clocks on board. The rest of the GNST’s Navigation Payload Element is scheduled for delivery to the GPS Processing Facility in fall 2012.

The GPS III SV-1 satellite will follow Pathfinder, and Lockheed touts lessons learned that include:

  • 50-80% reductions in labor hours and defect rates between similar activities on the GNST and SV-1.
  • Identification of “tens of millions of dollars in cost savings” for the production satellites, based on process improvements recognized during GNST integration and test.

GNST “Pathfinder” testbed powered on

March 30/12: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012. With respect to the GPS III satellites:

“The GPS III is experiencing cost growth and the contractor is behind schedule, but the program does not expect these delays to affect the launch of the first satellite… In November 2011, the contractor’s estimated cost at completion for the development and production of the first two satellites was over $1.4 billion or 18 percent greater than originally estimated; the program office estimated the cost to be about $1.6 billion. [Reasons given included] including reductions in the program’s production rate; greater than expected efforts to produce engineering products compliant with more stringent parts, materials, and radiation testing requirements; test equipment delays; and inefficiencies in the development of both the navigation and communication payload and satellite bus.”

With respect to the OCX ground control system, the first 2 software packages have been completed, but the complexity of the software development effort has proven challenging. The problem is that of OCX’s 8 software iterations (6 Block I and 2 Block II), Block I phases 3 & 4 have started late, and will finish late.

The testing process is being tweaked to find defects earlier, which is standard practice in many modern methods. Even so, the bottom line is that GPS OCX Block I isn’t expected until August 2015. The first GPS III satellite launch is planned for in May 2014, so the GPS directorate is funding a stopgap “Launch & Checkout” command and control capability. Any delay in the delivery of the launch and checkout system could potentially cause the Air Force to delay the launch of the first GPS III satellite, and even if it launches on time, L&C won’t work with the satellite’s the jam-resistant M-code signal, or its 3 new civil signals.

GAO report

Jan 11/12: SV-3/SV-4 start. Lockheed Martin Space System Co. in Newton, PA receives a $238.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee with award fee contract, exercising the option to begin production of GPS III satellites SV-3 and SV-4. It’s the 1st major GPS-III satellite contract since 2008.

Work will be performed in Newtown, PA, and is expected to be complete by Jan 24/16. The USAF’s. SMC/GPK in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-08-C-0010, CLIN 0016).

GPS-IIIA: Satellites
3 & 4

Jan 6/12: Lockheed Martin Space System Co. in Newtown, PA receives a $21.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee with award fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for a launch checkout and capabilities system. It will perform launch and early orbit activities of the GPS-III satellites, from a co-located contractor facility.

Work will be performed in Newtown, PA and King of Prussia, PA, and is expected to be complete by Dec 18/20. The USAF’s SMC/GPK in El Segundo, CA manages this contract (FA8807-08-C-0010).

Jan 3/12: MGUE. L-3 Communications Corp. in Camden, NJ receives a $25.7 million cost-plus-award-fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, to correct MGUE receiver card deficiencies and complete the contract. They fell short during functional qualification testing, and these changes are needed for the cards to meet contract requirements. This modification also implements updated MGUE interface control documents, adds functionality to delivered Military-Code (M-Code) GPS receivers to provide additional military utility, and increases performance design margin in functions within receivers for future M-Code receiver developments.

Work will be performed at L-3 Communications Systems Co./Interstate Electronics Corp. in Anaheim, CA, and is expected to be complete by July 26/13. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-06-C-0003, PO 0088).

Dec 30/11: MGUE. Raytheon in Waltham, MA receives a $38.5 million cost-plus-award-fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, to correct MGUE receiver card deficiencies and complete the contract. They fell short during functional qualification testing, and these changes are needed for the cards to meet contract requirements (see also Dec 14/11 entry).

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA, and is expected to be complete in November 2012. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-06-C-0004, PO 0073).

Dec 22/11: OCX. Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems in Aurora, CO receives a $30 million cost-plus-incentive-fee and cost-plus-award-fee contract for the Launch and Checkout System element of OCX. The Launch and Checkout System is necessary to support the launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle I, which includes support exercises, rehearsals, launch, early orbit and checkout.

Work will be performed in Aurora, CO, and is expected to be complete by March 31/16. The USAF SMC in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-10-C-0001, PO 0054).

Dec 14/11: Lockheed Martin announces that they have delivered the GPS-III’s Non Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) to Denver, CO. The full-sized, flight equivalent prototype will be mated with its core structure, navigation payload and antenna elements before completing pathfinding activities and environmental test checkouts. They also announce that their new GPS-III Processing Facility (manufacturing line, see program section) has opened.

Dec 13/11: MGUE. Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $20.8 million cost-plus-award-fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to complete the Modernized User Equipment (MGUE) effort, to correct MGUE receiver card deficiencies that were identified during functional qualification testing. It also implements updated MGUE interface control documents; adds functionality to delivered military-code GPS receivers to provide additional military utility; and increases performance design margin in functions within receivers for future military-code receiver developments.

Work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, IA, and is expected to be complete on Feb 28/13. USAF SMC/GPK in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8807-06-C-0001, PO 0060).

Oct 10/11: Lockheed Martin announces that it has turned on initial power to GPS-III’s Non Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST). The GNST contains power subsystem components, harnesses, plus tracking, telemetry and control hardware. Flight software versions have also been delivered for all of the spacecraft and payload computer processors. In parallel, GPS III teammate ITT is integrating the GNST Navigation Payload at their facility in Clifton, NJ.

The GNST will be shipped to Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Processing Facility in Denver before the end of 2011 to demonstrate Assembly, Integration and Test procedures. It will then be delivered to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the summer for 2012, for pathfinding activities at the launch site. Launch is currently scheduled for 2014.

FY 2010 – 2011

Team Raytheon wins OCX, finishes PDR; Layoffs at Lockheed.

Sept 26/11: OCX. Raytheon announces that its OCX control segment has been certified as completing its Preliminary Design Review.

Sept 6/11: OCX. Raytheon says that it has completed the action items that emerged from the USAF’s GPS-III OCX control segment’s June 2011 Preliminary Design Review.

Raytheon VP Bob Canty says that the design itself was assessed as architecturally and technically sound, adding that about 66% of the initial software is developed, but not all of it is tested. A good rule of thumb: until software is tested, it isn’t really developed. Aviation Week.


June 14/11: Layoffs at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. this branch of the firm employs around 16,000 employees in 12 states, but intends to shed 1,200 employees by year-end, including a 25% cut in middle management to reduce impacts elsewhere. LMSS’ Sunnyvale, CA; Pennsylvania; and Denver, CO sites will be hardest hit, and the firm’s release says that it’s pushed in part by several of their major programs moving beyond the labor-intensive development phase.

Space Systems says it will offer “eligible” salaried employees an opportunity for a voluntary layoff, plus career transition support for all affected employees. Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin Layoffs

March 15/11: Lockheed Martin announces that its GPS III team, has successfully completed the program’s first major flight software integration milestone, tying the initial flight software builds to the flight-like computer processors for the satellite bus On-Board Computer (OBC), the Navigation Payload Mission Data Unit (MDU), and the Communications Payload Thin Communications Unit (TCU).

The team at Lockheed’s software integration laboratory in Newtown, PA will now work to fully qualify the flight software, then load it on the GPS Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST). Meanwhile, the firm says that their team has completed more than 50% of the GPS-III program’s Manufacturing Readiness Reviews (MRRs), and remains on track to deliver the first GPS IIIA spacecraft as planned in 2014.

Jan 19/11: OCX. Raytheon touts its new El Segundo, CA GPS Collaboration Center, opening in February 2011. The 17,900-square-foot center will include an executive presentation room, state-of-the-art operations and demonstration areas, high-definition video-teleconferencing capabilities, and the ability to interact with the GPS OCX system in an operations-like environment. Raytheon VP and GPS OCX program manager Robert Canty:

“Through the center, Raytheon and Space and Missile Systems personnel will be able to collaborate with the Air Force and program partners via virtual demonstrations from Raytheon’s other program locations in Aurora, Colo., and the Network Integration and Experimentation Center in Rosslyn, Va.

The Raytheon GPS OCX team has completed Phase A of the program, and is on schedule to complete the Phase B preliminary design review in winter 2011.

Nov 2/10: OCX. Raytheon announces completion of the software specification review for the GPS advanced control (OCX) segment, which will provide command, control, and mission support for the GPS Block II and Block III family of satellites. The review includes several analyses: the architecture; operations concept; segment, prime mission and interface requirements; and allocation to the software requirements specifications, interface requirements specifications, and operational concept document.

The next step for the OCX segment is the Preliminary Design Review, scheduled for spring 2011.

Sept 28/10: OCX. Raytheon team completes integrated baseline review for the $886.4 million GPS advanced control segment (OCX), which will provide command, control and mission support for the GPS Block II and Block III family of satellites. The OCX system will include anti-jam capabilities and improved security, accuracy and reliability and will be based on a service-oriented architecture to integrate government and industry open-system standards (see Feb 25/10 entry).

Sept 15/10: The US GAO issues report #GAO-10-636, “Global Positioning System: Challenges in Sustaining and Upgrading Capabilities Persist.” Some excerpts:

“The Air Force continues to face challenges to launching its IIF and IIIA satellites as scheduled… GPS IIIA appears to be on schedule and the Air Force continues to implement an approach intended to overcome the problems experienced with the IIF program. However, the IIIA schedule remains ambitious and could be affected by risks such as the program’s dependence on a ground system that will not be completed until after the first IIIA launch. The GPS constellation availability has improved, but in the longer term, a delay in the launch of the GPS IIIA satellites could still reduce the size of the constellation to fewer than 24 operational satellites [required for full global coverage]. Multiyear delays in the development of GPS ground control systems are extensive. In addition, although the Air Force has taken steps to enable quicker procurement of military GPS user equipment, there are significant challenges to its implementation… GAO recommended last year in terms of establishing a single authority responsible for ensuring that all GPS segments are synchronized to the maximum extent practicable… The GPS interagency requirements process… remains relatively untested and civil agencies continue to find the process confusing… Challenges remain for the United States in ensuring that GPS is compatible with other new, potentially competing global space-based PNT systems.”

Sept 10/10: GPS-III’s 1st contract deliverable goes out ahead of schedule, as the GPS III Bus Real Time Simulator (BRTS) shipped from its Newtown, PA, facility to Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, CA. Acceptance testing for the BRTS was completed 7 days after delivery.

The BRTS is a risk reduction tool that will allow Aerospace Corporation to independently validate GPS III flight software for the USAF, as Lockheed Martin delivers bus flight software increments. Lockheed Martin.

Aug 31/10: MGUE. As an example of the system-wide harmonization the GAO refers to, officials at Rockwell Collins successfully delivers 21 modernized receiver cards for the prototype ground-based GPS receiver application module (GB-GRAM-M) under the GPS Wing’s Receiver Card Development program. These GB-GRAM-M receiver cards recently completed formal contractor qualification testing, and have been delivered to support the GPS Wing’s developmental test phase.

Asked about this effort, the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center’s GPS Wing responds that the cards will take advantage of the new capabilities that the GPS-III satellites will provide, and the receiver takes advantage of GPS-III changes to the Signal-in-Space but this is not part of the program directly.

The goal of their larger Modernized User Equipment (MGUE) program its part of is to demonstrate the critical technology needed to incorporate a new M-Code military signal and security architecture, using precision-encrypted Y-code, M-Code and coarse acquisition-code receivers that can process legacy signals as well. USAF.

Aug 20/10: Lockheed Martin announces that the GPS-III program has completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) phase 2 months ahead of the baseline schedule, after more than 350 representatives from the USAF GPS Wing, GPS III contractor team, and representatives from the Department of Defense, Air Force Space Command, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration participated in a 4-day Space Vehicle CDR at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company’s new Patriot Center in Newtown, PA.

Completing the CDR enables the GPS-III team to move forward into production, and Lockheed Martin says that the program is still on track for an initial GPS-IIIA launch in 2014. Lockheed Martin.

Aug 18/10: Honeywell announces that its GPS-III On Board Computer (OBC), Reaction Wheel Assembly (RWA) and Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) have successfully completed Critical Design Reviews. The total contract value for these 3 sub-contracted components is more than $106 million through the life of the program.

Honeywell’s OBC is part of the telemetry, tracking and command subsystem, and runs flight software that provides attitude, power, and thermal control. It is the first radiation hardened high-speed processing system based on commercial PowerPC chip technology. Honeywell’s RWA provides momentum control for the space vehicle, which allows it to provide more accurate positioning. The IMU’s fiber optic gyroscopes provide attitude reference information for the space vehicle, extending mission capability by 50%. The RWA and IMU are part of the attitude control subsystem.

April 12/10: OCX. Boeing announces that it will develop portions of the U.S. Air Force’s new GPS OCX ground control segment, as a member of the Raytheon team. Boeing will provide infrastructure, development of the ground systems, and continued 24/7 operational and sustainment support, installing hardware and software at GPS control stations at Schriever AFB, CO; and Vandenberg AFB, CA.

Feb 25/10: OCX. Raytheon Co. in Aurora, CO won an $886.4 million contract to provide the GPS advanced control segment (GPS OCX), which will provide command, control and mission support for the GPS Block II and Block III family of satellites. The OCX development contract will be 73 months long, and will include development and installation of hardware and software at GPS control stations at Schriever AFB, CO and Vandenberg AFB, CA, deployment of advanced monitor stations at remote sites, and initial contractor support with sustainment options for 5 years. with If those sustainment options are exercised, the contract could be worth up to $1.535 billion.

The Raytheon team includes Boeing, ITT, Infinity Systems Engineering, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SRI International and Braxton Technologies. ITT’s release sees their OCX contract as the continuation of an initial phase awarded in 2007, adding that ITT payloads have been on every GPS satellite ever launched, and have yet to experience a mission-related failure in orbit.

They beat out a Northrop Grumman-led team that included includes Lockheed Martin. The 55 CONS/LGCD at Offutt Air Force Base, NE manages the contract. Raytheon | Los Angeles AFB release | ITT release [PDF].

Raytheon wins OCX

FY 2004 – 2009

Initial development contracts for satellites & OCX; Lockheed Martin wins satellite contract; Can GPS-III deliver in time? USNO Atomic Clock
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July 22/09: OCX. The U.S. House Appropriations Committee cut $97.4 million from President Obama’s FY10 request for $486.8 million for development of the GPS III operational control segment (OCX). The committee attributed the cut to a “GPS control segment contract delay.”

The two prime contractors under Phase A of the GPS OCX development are Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. Responding to the funding cut, Raytheon said it “is committed to burning down risk in our current Phase A activities and looking forward to receiving an award for the GPS OCX program Phase B activities later this year.” Northrop Grumman said, “We will work through any impacts this could potentially have to the program with the Air Force.” The Phase A contract expires in September 2009. Both companies are leading teams that are bidding on the Phase B work, which is expected to be awarded in the Q4 2009.

June 20/09: OCX. Northrop Grumman’s GPS OCX team submits its proposal to the U.S. Air Force for the single-winner OCX Phase B contract, after working in parallel with Raytheon’s team on the 22-month Phase A contract. Presumably, Raytheon also submits its proposal, but no announcement was made. NGC release.

May 21/09: PDR. Lockheed Martin announces that the GPS III team has successfully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) phase for the GPS III spacecraft segment. The milestone was the culmination of 70 subsystem and assembly PDRs that had been executed over the past 6 months by Lockheed Martin, ITT, and General Dynamics.

Nearly 150 representatives from the U.S. Air Force Global Positioning Systems Wing and user communities, including representatives from the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Space Command, the Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Agency participated in the 4 day Space Vehicle PDR at Lockheed Martin Space Systems facilities in Newtown, PA. The next major milestone is the Critical Design Review, and first launch is projected for 2014.

Satellite PDR

May 7/09: GAO Report. The US Government Accountability Office releases report #GAO-09-670T, “Global Positioning System: Significant Challenges in Sustaining and Upgrading Widely Used Capabilities.” The report questions the fundamental underpinnings of the GPS Block IIIA program:

“It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption… the current IIF satellite program has overrun its original cost estimate by about $870 million and the launch of its first satellite has been delayed to November 2009 – almost 3 years late. (2) Further, while the Air Force is structuring the new GPS IIIA program to prevent mistakes made on the IIF program, the Air Force is aiming to deploy the next generation of GPS satellites 3 years faster than the IIF satellites. GAO’s analysis found that this schedule is optimistic, given the program’s late start, past trends in space acquisitions, and challenges facing the new contractor. Of particular concern is leadership for GPS acquisition, as GAO and other studies have found the lack of a single point of authority for space programs and frequent turnover in program managers have hampered requirements setting, funding stability, and resource allocation…”

April 21/09: OCX. Raytheon announces a $21.5 million contract extension to perform additional risk-reduction R&D for the next-generation Global Positioning System Operational Ground Control (OCX) segment. To date, the release maintains that the program remains on budget and ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, Bob Canty, Raytheon GPS OCX vice president and program manager:

“We are working with our customer to continue to reduce program risk to ensure that we have the lowest-risk program going forward. What’s critically important on this program is to be able to deliver our team’s commitments fully and on-time.”

See also SatNews.

March 31/09: GAO Report. The US GAO audit office delivers its 7th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. Despite GPS III’s status, it focuses instead on the prior GPS IIF program, including the interim Architectural Evolution Plan ground system upgrade:

“As a result of development and production problems, the program office now estimates the launch of the first Block IIF satellite will be delayed to October 2009 – almost 3 years later than its original launch date… technical problems discovered during thermal vacuum testing resulted in additional schedule delays and cost increases on the program… The Block IIF program is also experiencing other technical problems… The delivery of the first AEP segment allowed for the transfer of operations of current GPS satellites from the existing ground control system. In March 2008, AEP was upgraded to add the capability to control Block IIF satellites… the development schedule for the final AEP upgrade, which will ensure the integrity of the GPS signal, may not allow enough time for sufficient operational testing before the scheduled launch of the first Block IIF satellite.”

March 4/09: MGUE. The Air Force is modifying a contract with the Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in El Segundo, CA for $12.7 million, changing the original system engineering and integration services contract to expand the Modernized Global Positioning System User Equipment program.

This program is designed to ensure that American military forces have receiver equipment that can beginning taing advantage of new GPS features as they’re introduced. At this time $69,368 has been obligated by the USAF GPS Wing in El Segundo, CA (FAA807-07-C-002/P00019).

Feb 16/09: OCX. Northrop Grumman’s team successfully completes the System Design Review for the GPS OCX program. The System Design Review included a comprehensive exam of the total system architecture: software, hardware, processes, interfaces and operations by USAF program managers, operators and technical experts. This is the final major milestone under the Phase A contract, laying the foundation for the final decision on which team to pick: Northrop Grumman’s, or Raytheon’s.

Northrop Grumman’s release says that the team currently includes Harris Corporation; Integral Systems Inc.; Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Service; and Infinity Systems Engineering.

Feb 2/09: OCX. Northrop Grumman announces that its team has successfully demonstrated command and control of a GPS IIR-M satellite , using its GPS OCX Modernized Capability Engineering Model (MCEM) to successfully command and control a satellite test simulator located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FLA, from a Northrop Grumman plant in Redondo Beach, CA. As part of the process, the USAF provided the Northrop Grumman team a data set embedded with several anomalies:

“The team initiated contact with the test satellite and commanded it through a series of complex procedures that demonstrated the ability to restore mission operations and the delivery of highly accurate position and time information for GPS users. The Northrop Grumman team successfully controlled a new secure military signal that will substantially improve the availability of accurate GPS data to U.S. forces.”

Dec 13/08: OCX. Raytheon’s team successfully completes GPS OCX’s System Design Review and modernized capability engineering model demonstration on time, and within budget. The team demonstrated the ability to command modernized GPS signals, provide situational awareness and expose data on the network during the modernized capability engineering model demonstration.

The originally announced team included Boeing, ITT Industries, Braxton Technologies, Infinity Systems Engineering and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; but the Raytheon SDR announcement adds SRI International to the team. Raytheon | Braxton Technologies | GPS Daily.

Aug 18/08: The US DoD releases its latest Selected Acquisition Reports. GPS-III appears as a new program, and total program cost is baselined at $4.002 billion.

SAR baseline

July 21/08: Northrop Grumman announces that its GPS OCX team recently completed the Standard Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Appraisal Method for Process Improvement (SCAMPI) software assessment, passing another significant milestone for the multi-billion dollar program and continuing Northrop Grumman’s enterprise-wide audit successes. NGC’s release adds:

“The government uses SCAMPI appraisals to identify strengths and weaknesses of software, engineering and management processes, and to reveal acquisition development risks for corrective action. These appraisals are frequently used as part of a process improvement program or for rating prospective prime contractors and their key subcontractors. The U.S. Air Force GPS Wing conducted a multi-week, comprehensive software appraisal, thoroughly examining more than 1,000 documents and measuring them against hundreds of criteria.”

July 18/08: Boeing wins an R&D contract for the “High Integrity GPS” project, which aims to leverage the Iridium constellation to improve military GPS accuracy and resistance to jamming. Victory of a sort, from the jaws of defeat?

Boeing’s HiGPS

May 21/08: After losing the GPS-III contract, Boeing will lay off 750 Southern California employees at plants in El Segundo and Seal Beach. This will reduce the staff of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems from 7,200 employees to about 6,450. National Examiner.

Boeing layoffs

May 20/08: In “Who’s Leaking Air Force Procurement Information?“, the crew at the pro-Boeing Tanker War Blog raise a interesting question: was the result of the GPS-III contract effectively leaked to the public almost a month before the award? On April 29/08, Loren Thompson of The Lexington Institute published “Boeing and the Air Force at War: The Damage Spreads.” It included this quote:

“But the tone of Boeing’s tanker campaign has led at least some service officials to believe the worst about the company, a feeling that is spreading far beyond tankers. For instance, the service has probably delayed announcing award of the GPS III satellite contract in part because it fears another Boeing protest.”

There is more than one way to read that snippet, but the betting odds reading suggests that Boeing has lost this contract. The participants in Tanker War blog include legislative assistants on Capitol, and the post adds that:

“A number of people on the Hill tell us that they have very strongly believe a main source for these leaks [is]…”

May 15/08: Winner! Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. of King of Prussia, PA received a cost plus incentive fee/cost plus award fee contract for $1.46 billion for the first increment of the GPS III contract, covering 2008-2017. Lockheed Martin’s flight-proven A2100 satellite bus will serve as the base platform, and first launch is currently expected in 2014.

This initial contract funds 2 GPS IIIA research and development satellites (SV-1 and SV-2), a capability risk reduction and maturation effort to get key technologies ready for GPS IIIB and GPS IIIC, a GPS satellite simulator, “continue support for the Nuclear Detonation Detection System mission,” and a satellite bus real time simulator that lets the USAF test new electronics and additions. It also includes options for 10 additional GPS IIIA production satellites. At this time $96.8 million has been obligated. The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, CA issued the contract (Lockheed Martin: FA8807-08-C-0010; Boeing: FA8807-08-C-0012). USAF release | Lockheed Martin release | ITT release copy [PDF format] | National Examiner.

Lockheed Martin wins GPS-III development, incl. Satellites
1 & 2

April 28/08: OCX. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces that Lockheed Martin has joined its Global Positioning System (GPS) Next Generation Control Segment (OCX) team.

Nov 21/07: OCX. The USAF awards a pair of a cost plus fixed fee, firm-fixed-price 18-month contracts to Northrop Grumman of Carson, CA ($160 million, FA8807-09-C-0001) and Raytheon Company of Aurora, CO ($159.8 million, FA8807-09-C-0003). At this time $16 million has been committed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. The firms will develop a new next-generation global positioning system control segment (GPS OCX) design with new anti-jamming technologies, more advanced predictive algorithms, and more frequent clock and ephemeris updates.

The dual award is designed to reduce risk, by introducing competition. Phase A is the competitive risk reduction effort which includes trade studies, requirements definition and engineering model development. That competition will include a system requirements and system design reviews, and creation of a modernized capability engineering model. These deliverables will support OCX “Key Decision Point B,” whereupon the USAF will decide on the single prime contractor to finish OCX development and field the system.

The previous GPS control segment incumbents each joined a team. Lockheed Martin lost the original bid, and eventually joined Northrop Grumman’s team. Boeing never competed alone, and was an early member of Raytheon’s team. Raytheon | Northrop Grumman | Inside GNSS.

OCX Ground control: Initial Development

Dec 16/06: Co-competitors Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corp. and Boeing Co. each receive a $50 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification to accomplish a GPS III system design review (SDR) in March 2007. The USAF’s Global Positioning Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA intends to reach its key decision point B single-selection in June 2007, when they will award the multi-billion dollar development contract for building GPS III.

In early 2005, the GPS III program was restructured from an FY12 first launch to no later than an FY13 first launch. It would eventually be moved again, to 2014. GPS World.

Phase B Development

Jan 7/04: The Headquarters Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA awards a $20.8 million contract to Boeing in Seal Beach, CA, and $20.786 million to Lockheed Martin in King of Prussia, PA for GPS III Phase A acquisition. These 2 contractors have been selected to “competitively mature GPS III requirements for a successful system requirements review, in support of key decision Point B acquisition milestone.” In English, this means they’ll develop key technologies so the USA can make a strong case to begin the formal System Design & Development phase.

At this time, $10.3 million of the funds have been obligated; further funds will be obligated as individual delivery orders are issued. Solicitation began September 2003, negotiations were completed in December 2003, and work will be complete by December 2005 (FA8807-04-C-0001 [Lockheed]; FA8807-04-C-0002 [Boeing]).

Phase A Development

Additional Readings GPS Generally

GPS-III Program Background

Official Reports

Other GNSS Systems – and Alternatives

News and Views

Categories: News

Israel Sells Heron UAVs to India, Sets Record

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 01:54
Latest updates: 3rd squadron stands up in the south. Indian Heron UAV
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In November 2005, media reports claimed that India was set to purchase some 50 Heron MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAVs from Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) in a deal worth $220 million. They would be put to use carrying out reconnaissance missions on India’s mountainous borders with China and Pakistan, and along India’s long coastal waters. India was said to have been close to sealing the deal in 2004, but it was postponed due to the change in governments in New Delhi.

The Heron’s performance during the December 2004 tsunami apparently clinched the deal. Its performance since, and Chinese aggression on the Indian border, has green-lighted a follow-on contract.

The Herons

Heron, multi-sensor
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India already had about 12 Heron-1 drones before the 2005 sale, and they played a crucial part in search and rescue operations following the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004. IAI Searcher tactical UAVs and and their high-end Heron UAV counterparts were used to locate trapped survivors and missing bodies near the Andaman and Nicobar islands, relaying clear live feed photographs while in flight, and allowing immediate response as soon as survivors or victims were identified on screen.

The Heron UAV is reportedly capable of flying for over 24 hours at a time at altitudes around 32,000 feet. IAI lists flight time as >40 hours, and says that it has demonstrated 52 hours of continuous flight. It has a maximum range of about 3,000 km and can carry a maximum payload weighing 250 kg/ 550 lbs. As a large MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAV, it’s built to carry multiple payloads at a time for a variety of missions. Choices include electro-optical and thermal surveillance equipment, SAR radars for ground surveillance, maritime patrol radars and sensors, signals and other intelligence collection antennas and equipment, laser designators, and even radio relays.

India doesn’t discuss its UAV payloads, but reports have its Searcher IIs equipped with the standard day/night surveillance turret, while the Herons are similar to Israel’s maritime patrol configuration, with an Elta Systems radar and a stabilized Tamam surveillance and targeting turret.

A subsequent Heron-2 or Heron-TP variant is larger, with a bigger 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop to power it. Typical mission payload rises to 1,000 kg, which can be carried to around 45,000 feet, and the UAV has a maximum flight time of over 36 hours in favorable conditions.

India and Israel are not alone in being impressed by the Heron’s capabilities. As of 2011, leased Herons or Heron variants are operating in Afghanistan on behalf of the Australian, Canadian, French, and German armed forces; and have participated in demonstrations involving US SOUTHCOM and its Latin American partners. Subsequent years have also seen confirmed or rumored export sales to Brazil’s federal police, Ecuador’s navy, Singapore’s armed forces, and Turkey.

Contracts & Key Events

Israeli Heron-TP
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May 5/15: With 22.5% of all UAV imports over the 1985-2014 period, India has topped the list of unmanned aerial systems importers. The principle beneficiary of India’s UAV spending has been Israel, particularly the IAI Heron and Searcher variants.

Dec 29/13: +15. India’s Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reportedly approved an INR 12 billion (about $300 million) budget to buy another 15 Heron UAVs and associated equipment from Israel, and upgrade the existing fleet for improved communications.

The move would give India 40+ Herons, which is a respectable fleet. India’s massive border length, and the number of neighbors it needs to keep an eye on, mean that it really needs more than this. The new UAVs are reportedly slated for the Chinese and Pakistan borders, whereas the existing 3 squadrons seem to be more focused on India’s eastern and western seaboards. Sources: Times of India, “Govt clears proposal for buying 15 UAVs from Israel” | Israel’s Arutz Sheva, “India to Buy 15 Drones from Israel” | (Anti-India) Kashmir News Service, “Indian govt clears proposal for buying 15 Israeli UAVs”.

Sept 8/13: Shift east. India shifts some of its Heron UAVs to the 4,057 km Line of Actual Control between India and China. The Searcher Mk.II UAVs suffer from endurance restrictions and high altitude performance shortfalls, so the IAF wants to replace them all with Herons in that area. As the UK’s Daily Mail reports:

“Though unrelated, this development comes just a day after the furore over the contents of a report filed by Shyam Saran, chairperson of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), indicating a loss of almost 640 sq km of Indian territory in eastern Ladakh to China…. the army will soon issue a formal communication about the [UAV] proposal, which came directly from the ground formations posted along the LAC…”

Sources: UK Daily Mail, “India sends Heron drones to LAC to boost surveillance efforts”.

April 11/12: 3rd Squadron. India’s Navy commissions a 3rd UAV squadron of IAI Searcher tactical UAVs and IAI Heron long-endurance UAVs, in order to step-up surveillance in the Gulf of Mannar, Palk Strait and Palk Bay. INAS 344 will be operated from INS Parundu, the naval air station in Uchipuli, Tamil Nadu, in southern India. It will be controlled by Eastern Naval Command

INAS 344 joins the western INAS 343 naval UAV squadron in Porbandar, Gujarat and the original INAS 342 eastern squadron at Kochi in Kerala. sUAS News.

March 31/11: Flight International:

“India’s navy has operational requirements for additional unmanned air vehicles made by Israel Aerospace Industries, sources say, with these to potentially include improved Heron or Heron-TP systems carrying maritime sensor payloads. Evaluations using some systems have already been carried out, they add.”

Jan 21/11: 2nd Squadron. The Indian Navy stands up INAS 343 (the “Frontier Formidables”) at Porbandar, Gujarat, near the Pakistani border. Gujarat has the longest coastline of any Indian state.

This is India’s 2nd Heron/Searcher UAV squadron; INAS 342 has been operational since 2006. Flight International | India Defence | MarineBuzz.

Aug 2/09: Reports that the deal has been approved:

“The Indian Army is going in for two more “troops” (six to eight birds each) of advanced Heron UAVs from Israel for Rs 1,118 crore [DID: then about $230 million], after getting the nod from the Defence Acquisitions Council headed by defence minister A. K. Antony.”

Times of India | SatNews.

India: 12-16 Herons


Nov 4/05: Reports of the sale. In analyzing the Heron sale, Stratfor notes that:

“The purchase will allow India to better protect its long borders and to pave the way for the planned 2007 acquisition of Israeli Phalcon radar — all while seeking to convince Pakistan that the security balance between the two countries will not shift further in New Delhi’s favor. Pakistan, however, is unlikely to be placated, and will endeavor to counter the Indian acquisition… Despite the negative resonance this deal will have in Islamabad, the Herons will strengthen New Delhi’s ability to deny access to jihadists crossing into India from Pakistan by enhancing India’s border surveillance capabilities.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Daily Times newspaper has sources who claim that the Indian Army is also making inquiries about the Hunter UAV, a smaller IAI aircraft that is also in service with the US Army. RQ-5A Hunter UAVs have logged substantial flight time in Iraq, and demonstrated their ability to drop small precision munitions like the Viper Strike. Pakistan’s Daily Times | India Defence | Stratfor

Additional Readings:

  • IAI – Heron Family. Range for the Heron-1 is given as 350 km, but since the drone flies at well over 100 km/h, and can stay up for far, far more than just 3.5 hours, that makes no sense. A 24 hour flight at 125 km/h is 3,000 km, the figure used in this article.

  • Defense Update – Heron TP (Eitan)

  • IAI – Searcher Mk.III

News & Views

Categories: News

US Army Moves Ahead with V-Hull Strykers

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 01:09
M1126, post-IED
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Under current plans, the 8×8 wheeled Stryker armored vehicle will be the future backbone of 8 US Army and 1 National Guard medium armored brigades. The 5th Stryker Brigade from Fort Lewis, WA was the first Stryker unit sent to Afghanistan, deployed in the summer of 2009 as part of a troop level increase. The brigade was equipped with 350 Stryker vehicles. In the first few months of deployment, they lost 21 soldiers, with 40 more wounded, to IED land mines. The losses prompted the Army to examine modifications to their Stryker vehicles, in order to make them more resistant to land mines.

One result is the Stryker hull redesign, creating the v-hulled Stryker DVH. The US Army is now on pace to order 2 brigades worth, as it moves toward the end of Stryker armored vehicle production.

Strykers, Struck: The Afghan Experience & Response Struck Stryker
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The Strykers have come under criticism for their performance in Afghanistan since the first Stryker brigade was deployed there in the summer of 2009. The Stryker vehicles have been faulted for their lack of maneuverability on rough terrain, a problem that Canada’s similar LAV-IIIs have also experienced.

That creates an associated vulnerability to IED land mines planted in the road. In June 2009, the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division deployed to Kandahar province. It had 37 troops killed in action and 238 wounded over its year-long deployment, and their flat-bottom Strykers were diverted part-way through into road guard missions, away from intense combat. Their replacement, the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, continued the “freedom of movement” missions, and had suffered 14 KIA, 5 noncombat KIA, and more than 100 wounded, as of May 2011. Stars and Stripes reports:

“In one incident in August [2010], a 1st Squadron flat-bottomed Stryker was struck by a massive bomb hidden in a highway culvert in Kandahar province. The blast peeled away the armor protecting its engine like the skin of an orange, snapped off a wheel at the axel and mangled the metal cage that was designed to protect troops from rocket-propelled grenades.

[Pfc. Dustyn Applegate]… doesn’t rate the Stryker as a good vehicle for the sort of counter-IED mission that his unit was engaged in… “That’s the bad thing about the Stryker,” he said. “It has a flat bottom, so when the blast happens, it just blows up instead of up and out like with an MRAP. There is no safe place on the Stryker.”

On the other hand, “M1126 Strykers in Combat: Experiences & Lessons” detailed surprisingly positive reviews of the wheeled APCs’ performance in Iraq. There, they made good use of roads, and their relative silence compared to tracked vehicles was an asset in urban warfare. If the Stryker is not the vehicle for all situations, it has at least proven to be very useful under defined circumstances.

Any campaign that includes the mission of securing key roads, which is to say any mission that depends on economic progress and trade growth, will find Strykers very useful – so long as they remain survivable.

Deflecting Danger: The Strykker DVH Effort V-Hull at work:
Cougar MRAP

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Hence the Stryker double-v hull design, which channels blast force away from the vehicle and its occupants. The US Army has announced contracts to produce 742 Stryker DVH vehicles, as retrofits and as new production vehicles. That’s the full extent of the current plan, which was a major step beyond the program’s initial plan of 450 Stryker DVHs.

The modified M1126 Stryker ICVV/DVH infantry carrier is the base variant for 7 additional configurations, which will be employed as part of coherent v-hulled Stryker Brigade Combat Teams: M1129 DVH Mortar Carrier, M1130 DVH Command Vehicle, M1131 DVH Fire Support Vehicle, M1132 DVH Engineer Squad Vehicle, M1133 DVH Medical Evacuation Vehicle, M1134 DVH Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle, and the Infantry Carrier Vehicle DVH-Scout (ICVV-S). The ICVV-S is a new configuration that allows internal stowage of the Long Range Advance Scout (LRAS) surveillance system, which is mounted externally on the standard M1127 Reconnaissance Vehicle.

The Stryker DVH program retains a connection with overall Stryker modernization efforts. In a sense, it just prioritized one element of that plan for faster fielding, and made them the front-line vehicles for an SBCT in-theater. That will rise to 2 SBCTs by the end of 2012. After that, the Army says that:

“Once the Army decides on the appropriate future force structure, fleet mix and overall number of combat vehicles, the quantity of DVH Strykers and variants of Strykers will be finalized.”

America isn’t the only one upgrading its LAV-IIIs. Blast-protection efforts are underway for Australia’s ASLAVs, and in Canada via the near-term LAV LORIT program, and their longer-term LAV-III upgrade to the same base vehicle.

To date, however, the Stryker Double-V Hull remains unique to the USA.

Left Behind

Stryker M1128, Iraq
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Some Stryker typers won’t be getting the DVH treatment. The US Army does not plan to purchase Stryker DVH versions of the M1127 Reconnaissance vehicle (which does have an ICVV-S DVH counterpart), M1128 MGS assault gun, or the M1135 Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle. Once the DVH vehicles are done, and the last set of M1135s are ordered and produced, overall Stryker production will end.

During the December 2010 Stryker DVH Configuration Steering Board, the Army decided not to pursue full-rate production for the standard M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System, either. While the M1128’s 105mm gun offers potent firepower, the type already has significant weight and protection issues that haven’t been resolved. The Army decided that neither continued production nor DVH made sense for this type, unless the Stryker Modernization program gave the vehicle more base heft and power.

That seems less and less likely. According to US Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry:

“Stryker Modernization has been replaced with a reduced-scope Engineering Change Proposal (ECP). The scope of the ECP for Stryker upgrades is still to be determined, but the following will be considered: buy-back Space, Weight, Power, and Cooling (SWaP-C) deficiencies, improve mobility and protection, and provide ability to accept future network and protection upgrades.”

Contracts & Key Events M1126 DVH Exchange
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Under the contracts, the GM General Dynamics Land Systems Defense Group partnership in Sterling Heights, MI will provide design and integration engineering services, test articles/prototypes, and procurement of materials, including long-lead materials, to support the modified hull design with related integrated system changes. The US Army says the contract objectives are an integrated solution that will provide improved protection levels to support operations in Afghanistan.

The Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) in Warren, MI manages these contracts.

FY 2013 – 2015

M1126 DVH
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May 5/15: The Army’s European-deployed Stryker mobile guns have been given a provisional thumbs-up for more powerful weapon systems. The current 12.7mm machine guns will be upgraded to 30mm autocannons, with the “high priority need” a reflection of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s requirement for increased lethality, according to a memo obtained by Breaking Defense earlier this month.

Jan 12/14: Good news, bad news. The good news: the Army wants to convert all 9 of its standard Stryker Brigades to the DVH configuration, using the DVH Exchange option.

The bad news is what you’d expect: no funding beyond the first 2 brigades they’ve already done, and the 3rd they hope to finish by 2016 (q.v. Sept 10/13). Which means GDLS Canada’s LAV-III/ Stryker manufacturing equipment will have to be placed in layaway mode for a future production line restart, to be triggered by either future US Army orders or foreign sales. Either way, however, a line restart always costs extra. Sources: Defense News, “US Plans Radical Upgrade of Stryker Brigades”.

Sept 10/13: 3rd brigade. The Project Manager for the Stryker Brigade Combat Team received the approval from the Army Acquisition Executive to begin buying a 3rd brigade of Stryker DVH vehicles to switch with an existing brigade. The initial 66 vehicle conversions of an eventual 337 have been awarded via a $118 million contract to GDLS. Deliveries will begin in July 2014, and the initial 66 will be complete by February 2015.

As of this order, the DVH Exchange pilot program had wrapped up in April 2013 after delivering 52 vehicles on time and under budget. Remaining brigade orders will be based on the availability of funding, using an incremental approach over FY 2014-2016. Sources: US Army, “Army gives green light for procurement of 3rd Stryker Double-V Hull brigade” | GD, “General Dynamics Awarded $118 Million for Stryker Double-V Hull Vehicles” | Yellowhammer News, “80 Anniston Army Depot jobs preserved with DVH Stryker announcement”.

Orders for 3rd brigade begin

Oct 15/12: DVH Exchange. The US Army announces that they’ve completed the 1st vehicle in their Stryker DVH exchange program. The exchange involves taking a standard Stryker variant, reusing common parts, refurbishing them, and inserting the parts into a vehicle on the DVH production line.

The Army is documenting the teardown and reuse process, in hopes of having clearer figures if the Army decides that it wants more Stryker DVHs later on. Obviously, they’re hoping to find out that this saves money, by using a lot of the old parts. Once they’ve had a chance to try and make this process more efficient, then cost it, they’ll be in position to present a case. US Army.

FY 2012

M1126 DVHs, Afghanistan
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March 4/12: Plans. The US Army clarifies its plans for the Stryker DVH: 760 total, to be delivered by the end of 2012, equipping 2 Brigade Combat Teams. When queried, however, Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry said that:

“…the Army has a current procurement target of 742 Double-V Hull (DVH) Stryker vehicles… which will be completed by December 2012. Procurement of 158 NBCRVs which are on contract in FY12 & FY13, will complete the current planned Stryker vehicle purchase. Once the Army decides on the appropriate future force structure, fleet mix and overall number of combat vehicles, the quantity of DVH Strykers and variants of Strykers will be finalized.”

With respect to performance in-theater, Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, says there have been about 40 land mine incidents for the DVH. In 38 of those incidents, all soldiers walked away with just minor injuries. In his words: “That vehicle has performed beyond our expectations.”

Jan 18/12: Industrial. GDLS’ newly-acquired Force Protection manufacturing facility in Ladson, SC, will be doing work on another v-hulled vehicle. About $10 million in new work is moving there, to install additional combat-related communication and protection equipment on 292 Stryker DVH (Double-V Hull) 8×8 wheeled APCs, which are getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan.

The new work begins in March 2012, and will occupy about 45 jobs until about February 2013. Force Protection.

Jan 17/12: DOT&E Report. The US Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation issues his FY 2011 Annual Report, which includes the Stryker DVH program. The program get good reviews, based on tests. The modified Strykers retained the same basic mobility, proved their performance against land mines, and actually had better reliability than their flat-hulled counterparts. They were rated both operationally effective for performance, and operationally suitable for reliability.

Quibbles were minor, involving data collection for the M1126 ICVV’s operational assessment, and problems with the Stryker DVH driver’s compartment being too small for larger Soldiers. The Army is planning a driver’s compartment redesign, and will continue to test the other 7 DVH variants through Q3 2012. In the nearer term, February 2012 is expected to see the end of Styker ICVV-Scout operational testing, and M1129 Mortar Carrier Vehicle DVH developmental and operational testing, at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

Oct 25/11: +177. General Dynamics Land Systems announces a $367 million order for another 177 Stryker double-V hull (DVH) wheeled APCs, raising the US Army’s buy to 2 full Stryker DVH Brigade Combat Teams. Work on Stryker DVH vehicles is performed in Anniston, AL and Lima, OH, as well as the main production facility in London, ON, Canada (W56HZV-07-D-M112, #0266, Mod.1).

The firm says that over 320 double-V-hulled Stryker vehicles have been produced so far, under a contract awarded in July 2010 for 450 double-V-hull vehicles. Deliveries will be complete by July 2013. DID checked with GDLS, and confirmed that this order brings the total number of ordered Stryker DVH vehicles to 742.

Oct 5/11: +115. General Dynamics Land Systems announces a $243 million contract to produce and deliver another 115 Stryker DVHs. General Dynamics will also provide production sustainment support and obsolescence management services. Work will be performed in Anniston, AL, London, ON, Canada, and Lima, OH. Deliveries will be complete by September 2012 (W56HZV-07-D-M112, #0266).

The firm says that about 300 double-V-hulled Strykers have been delivered so far, under a contract awarded in July 2010, with initial deliveries rolling out in May 2011. This order begins to go beyond the program’s original goal of 450. GDLS.

FY 2011

M1126, Mosul – no DVH
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June 1/11: A $40 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification “for Stryker double-V hull development and delivery of prototype vehicles.”

Work will be performed in Sterling Heights, MI, and London, Ontario, Canada, with an estimated completion date of July 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).

May 20/11: Deployment. Stars & Stripes relays the US Army’s statement re: Afghan deployments of the Stryker DVH, and also details combat statistics and criticisms related to the Stryker’s deployments in Afghanistan.

May 9/11: Deployment. US Army:

“In the coming weeks, Soldiers in Afghanistan will begin to see 150 new Strykers with a double-V hull, or DVH… The Stryker DVH, with enhanced armor, wider tires and blast-attenuating seats, went from conception to production in less than one year… “The rapid turnaround of the DVH is responsiveness at its best,” Col. Robert Schumitz, Stryker Brigade Combat Team Project Management Office, project manager, said… Engineers at General Dynamics Land Systems conceived of the double-V-hull design and tested it at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif… There are 140 Stryker DVH’s already in the Army supply chain, and plans are to field a total of 450 vehicles.”

April 12/11: +404. A pair of contracts worth $49.5 million revise earlier orders for 404 vehicles. The wording is confusing, but GDLS clarifies that: “The dod announcements are not new vehicles or contracts” – designating them as limit increases to existing contracts.

A $37.2 million firm-fixed-price contract revises the not-to-exceed amount and obligated amount for Double-V hull production cut-in to 178 Stryker vehicles. Work will be performed at London, Ontario, Canada, and Anniston, AL, with an estimated completion date of Feb 29/12. One bid was solicited and one received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).

A $12.3 million firm-fixed-price contract revises the not-to-exceed amount and obligated amount for Double-V hull production cut-in to 226 Stryker vehicles. Work will be performed at London, Ontario, Canada, and Anniston, AL, with an estimated completion date of Feb 29/12. One bid was solicited and one received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).

March 3/11: +15. GM GDLS Defense Group, LLC in Sterling Heights, MI receives an $18.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract that will “provide for support for 19 Stryker flat-bottom vehicles and 15 Stryker double-V hull vehicles.” Work will be performed in Sterling Heights, MI, with an estimated completion date of Feb 29/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).

Dec 3/10: Support. A $91.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee/firm-fixed-price contract, for service to support performance specification changes to the Stryker vehicle. These changes will design and buy “necessary components to support the Stryker mine protection kit” for vehicles in the Afghan theater.

Work will be performed in Sterling Heights, MI (5%), and London, Canada (95%), with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/10. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).

Oct 27/10: +46. A $8.3 million firm-fixed-price contract cuts the modified double-v hull design into another 46 Stryker vehicles on the production line. Note that cut-in contracts pay for making the changes and for the new materials, not for the entire Stryker.

Work will be performed in London, Canada (50%), and Anniston, AL (50%), with an estimated completion date of Feb 29/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112, #0256). This order brings the total to the program’s goal of 450 vehicles.

Oct 13/10: +45. A $9.5 million firm-fixed-price contract to cut the modified double-V hull design into the production of another 45 Stryker vehicles. Work is to be performed in London, Ontario, Canada (50%), and Anniston, AL (50%), with an estimated completion date of February 2012. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).

FY 2010

M1129 MC – no DVH
(click to view full)

Aug 10/10: Renovations may be more difficult than they first appear. A $20 million firm-fixed-price contract adds the modified hull design (double-V hull), into an additional 78 new-build vehicles, raising the total to 359. It also revises the obligated amount for the previous 281 vehicles (vid. July 9/10). Work is to be performed in London, Ontario, Canada (50%), and Anniston, AL (50%), with an estimated completion date of Feb 22/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112). See also GD release.

Aug 6/10: A $9.8 million firm-fixed-price contract revises the obligated amount for the production cut-in of the revised Stryker performance and hull design into 281 new-build vehicles (vid. July 9/10). Work is to be performed in Sterling Heights, MI (30%), and London, Canada (70%), with an estimated completion date of Feb 16/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-07-D-M112).

July 9/10: A $30.1 million firm-fixed-price contract directs production cut-in of the revised Stryker performance specifications, which incorporates a modified double-V hull design, into 281 vehicles. The new vehicles will be sent to Afghanistan. Work will be performed in London, Canada (70%), and Sterling Heights, MI (30%). Deliveries will begin in January 2011 to allow vehicles to be available for use by the Stryker brigade that will rotate into Afghanistan in 2011, and will be completed by February 2012. (W56HZV-07-D-M112). See also GDLS release.

June 1/10: The GM GDLS Defense Group, LLC in Sterling Heights, MI recently received a $29.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract buys 14 Stryker Double-V Hull prototype vehicles for government ballistic, performance/durability, and logistics testing and demonstration.

Work is to be performed in Sterling Heights, MI (41%); and London, ON, Canada (59%), with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by TACOM, CCTA-AI in Warren, MI (W56HZV-07-D-M112).

April 9/10: A $58.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for a modified hull design for the US Army’s Stryker vehicles to improve performance and survivability in Afghanistan. Work is to be performed in Sterling Heights, MI (41%), and London, Ontario, Canada (59%), with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/11 (W56HZV-07-D-M112).

March 11/2010: During US Senate testimony in early 2010, Gen. George Casey said that the US Army was planning to modify the Stryker vehicle with a double V-shaped hull designed to deflect land mine blasts from below.

The Stryker M1135 NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) reconnaissance and M1128 MGS assault gun variants would reportedly not be modified under the current plan. That could create field issues, since the M1128 is meant to act as firepower support in Stryker brigades.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

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

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 11:30
P-8A Poseidon
(click to view full)

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

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

Program Summary A P-8 primer

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

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

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

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

P-8A Poseidon: Platform & Capabilities P-8A Poseidon: cutaway
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

P-8: Weapons P-3 Orion, armed -
note Sidewinder
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Program Timeline

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

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

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

US P-8A Program Budgets

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


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

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

The current American basing plan is for:

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

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

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

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

P-8A Industrial Partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

P-8A Poseidon: Contracts & Key Events

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

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

FY 2015

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

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

FY 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A pilot’s view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fewer planes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRP Lot 1

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

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

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

Australian approval

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

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

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

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The P-8’s core issues have been covered via advance leaks, but this passage in the report is especially notable, and had not been reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRP approved

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

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

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

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

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

IOC, 1st official deployment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, let’s unpack that into English.

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

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

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

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

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

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

LRIP Lot 4

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

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

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

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

IOT&E complete

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DOT&E testing report

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

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

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

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

1st P-8i delivery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P-8A Inc-3 development

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

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

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

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

See release | report [PDF].

FY 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LRIP-3 main order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P-8A induction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st production delivery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LRIP-2 main order

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

FY 2011

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

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

P-8i 1st flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

737 questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

LRIP-1 main order

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

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

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

New facility

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2010

SAR kicks program total up to 122; P-8i passes design review; Indian contract for APY-10 with air-air as well; Boeing proposes P-8 AGS to USAF; Saudi Arabian P-8A interest; Shoot ‘em up with Southwest. E-8C JSTARS
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Sept 13/10: P-8 AGS? The battle over the E-8 JSTARS fleet’s future is heating up. Boeing is proposing a derivative of its P-8A Poseidon sea control aircraft as a proposed $5.5 billion, 1-for-1 replacement of the current E-8C fleet, instead of paying that estimated amount to upgrade the E-8Cs with new cockpits, sensors, and engines. The Boeing AGS version would include the Raytheon-Boeing Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS), Raytheon’s AN/APY-10 multi-mode radar in the nose, some the same Electronic Support Measures for emissions geo-location that are featured on the E/A/18G Growler electronic attack lane, and an electro-optical surveillance and targeting turret. A P-8 derivative would also give the USAF space and integration for weapons on board, or additional sensors in those spaces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improved APY-10

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

P-8i design review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAR baseline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SDD ends at $4.5 billion

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

P-8A unveiled

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australia MoU

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

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

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

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

1st flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 for India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2008

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

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

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

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

1st aircraft ordered

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

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

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

India request – missiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FY 2002 – 2006

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

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

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

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


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

Wing change

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boeing wins SDD

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

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

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

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

Phase II development competition

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

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

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

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

Phase I development competition

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

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

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

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

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

What about sales beyond India?

P-3/ CP-140 Aurora
(click to view full)

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

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

Subsequent developments have cast doubt on that forecast.

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

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

CN-235MP Persuader
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Readings & Sources Background: P-8 Aircraft

Background: P-8 Components & Complementors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background: Multimission Maritime Aircraft Program

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

Market & Competitors

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



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

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

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

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

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

Battlefield Surveillance

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

News & Views

Categories: News

Embraer Threatens Delivery Slow-Down to Late-Paying Brazil | SecDef to Push Scorpions to India | Slovakia Executes (smaller) Black Hawk Deal

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 04:08

  • Canada is planning a major mid-life extension program for its fleet of Victoria-class subs. Various options are being considered, with a report expected by June. The project is expected to be worth between $1.2 and $2.5 billion, with the aim of extending the boats’ life by six to eighteen years. Lacking an indigenous submarine industry, the Canadians will have to look to foreign suppliers in order to fulfill modernization requirements.

  • Huntington Ingalls christened DDG-113 on Saturday, with the new Arleigh Burke-class ship named after the Pearl Harbor Medal of Honor recipient John Finn. The 29th ship of the class, the Navy recently told Congress that it would pursue a ten-ship multiyear contract for the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class in 2018, as part of its thirty-year shipbuilding plan.

  • The Air Force awarded a $51.9 million contract to Ohio-based Sawdey Solution Services Inc. Friday for advisory and assistance services to the Agile Combat Support Directorate, while the Navy awarded a $16 million contract for legacy data processing subsystems for Ohio-class subs.

  • Embraer is contemplating slowing the KC-390 production line in response to the Brazilian government’s lethargic payment schedule, a result of attempts to firm the country’s federal budget. The Brazilian manufacturer posted a $58.9 million first quarter loss on Thursday, with a falling real.


  • European firm Airbus is reportedly making a formal complaint against the German intelligence services over alleged industrial espionage after reports surfaced that German intelligence helped the US in gathering technical information that was later reported to be used by the US to spy on the firm.

  • Slovakia is buying nine UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters from the US for $261 million, significantly less than the $450 million deal previously slated by the DSCA. This is the latest in a flurry of Black Hawk contracts, with Mexico and Tunisian recently the same variant of the UH-60. Bahrain became the first international customer for the M model in 2010.


  • Vietnam is buying fifty submarine-launched 3M-14E Klub land attack missiles. The missiles will equip Vietnam’s fleet of Kilo-class subs, with Russia having already handed the Vietnamese twenty-eight of the missiles in the last two years, according to recent SIPRI database updates. This is likely to alter Chinese strategic planning, given the significant capability jump such missiles provide.

  • China’s J-11D fighter has completed its maiden flight. The upgraded D model also reportedly includes the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system developed for the J-16, which the PLAAF received last year. The new aircraft is also purported to boast composite materials and improved air to air capabilities. However, reports have detailed how the PLAAF may require both the J-11D and the Russian Su-35, in order to fill a capability gap before China’s fifth-generation fighters enter service.

  • The Indian-manufactured INS Arihant nuclear SSBN is progressing well with sea trials, according to the Chief of the Indian Navy. Launched in 2009, the sub’s reactor went critical in August 2013 and is thought to have begun shakedown voyages from March last year. Based on the Russian Akula-1 design, the INS Arihant is India’s first indigenously-manufactured nuclear sub and a critical component of the country’s pursuit of a nuclear triad capability. In related news, the Indian MoD has restricted all future shipbuilding to domestic yards, with private shipyards having a potential workload of $3.2 billion over the next fifteen years.

  • Two Indian firms are reportedly moving to sell 108 new MLRS systems to the Indian Army. The TATA Group and Larson & Toubro are primary manufacturers of the Pinaka MLRS and are set to take the lion’s share of the $306.6 million contract, which is yet to be signed off by the Defence Ministry.

  • US Secretary of Defense Carter is >a href=””>expected to offer the Textron AirLand Scorpion light attack/trainer aircraft to India through a joint technology development program known as the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) when he visits the country in June. The Scorpion will be one of a host of agenda items Carter is expected to discuss on his visit. Nigeria and the UAE have also expressed interest in the cheap aircraft, which boasts low production costs through a high portion of commercial components, pushing the aircraft’s per-unit price to less than $20 million.

Today’s Video

  • Chinese media on the J-11D:

Categories: News

India’s Project 75 SSKs: Too Late to Save the Submarine Force?

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 01:00
Scorpene cutaway
(click to view full)

India’s submarine fleet currently consists of 16 boats: 10 Russian SSK Kilo (Sindhugosh) Class, 4 locally built SSK U209 (Shishumar) Class, a leased nuclear-powered Improved Akula Class SSN from Russia (INS Chakra), and its own INS Arihant SSBN. Most of the Kilos have been modernized, but readiness rates for India’s existing submarine fleet sits below 40%, and the U209s will have trouble lasting much beyond 2015. With Pakistan acquiring modern submarines, and Chinese submarine building exploding, expanding India’s submarine fleet became an obvious national priority.

In 2005, India confirmed that it would buy 6 Franco-Spanish Scorpene diesel submarines, with an option for 6 more and extensive technology transfer agreements. Unfortunately, 7 years after that deal was signed, “Project 75″ has yet to field a single submarine. A poor Indian procurement approach, and state-run inefficiency, are pushing the country’s entire submarine force toward an aging crisis. This DID FOCUS article covers the Scorpene deal and its structure, adds key contracts and new developments, and offers insights into the larger naval picture within and beyond India.

The Scorpene Class Scorpene
click for video

The SSK Scorpene Class diesel-electric fast attack submarine was jointly developed by DCN of France and Navantia of Spain, and incorporates advancements that stem from being developed about 10 years later than DCN’s Agosta 90 Class. Many of the Scorpene’s internal systems and weapons, however, are shared with Pakistan’s Improved Agosta 90B.

Displacing 1,565 metric tonnes, the standard CM-2000 Scorpene Class is 71.7m (219 feet) long with a submerged speed of over 20 knots, and submerged range at 100% battery usage and 4 knots speed of 134 hours or 536 miles. This new submarine class incorporates a high level of system redundancy to achieve an average 240 days at sea per year per submarine, and the endurance to undertake a 50 day patrol before being resupplied. In addition, its maximum diving depth is 300 meters (about 1,000 feet), giving the commander good tactical freedom for a conventional submarine.


The Scorpene’s SUBTICS combat management system, with up to 6 multifunction common consoles and a centrally situated tactical table, is co-located with the platform-control facilities. The vessel’s sonar suite includes a long-range passive cylindrical array, an intercept sonar, active sonar, distributed array, flank array, a high-resolution sonar for mine and obstacle avoidance and a towed array. Each Scorpene submarine features 6 bow-mounted 533mm torpedo tubes, and stores 18 weapons divided between torpedoes, missiles, and mines (stacked, up to 30).

India was leaning toward Finmeccanica’s Black Shark, the same heavyweight torpedo used in Chile’s Scorpene subs, but that decision has been put on hold by corruption allegations. Fortunately, a contract for the MBDA SM-39 Exocet was signed along with the original submarine contract. The Exocet SM 39 variant is launched from a submarine’s torpedo tubes using a VSM (Vehicule Sous Marin), a self-propelled and guided container that will maneuver before surfacing so as not to reveal the position of the submarine. Once it surfaces, the Exocet missile leaves the VSM and proceeds to the target like a normal surface variant of the missile.

In addition to these regular weapons, the Scorpene platform also offers advanced capabilities for mine warfare, intelligence gathering and special operations.

Scorpene subs can hold a total company of 31-36 men, with a standard watch team of 9. The control room and the living quarters are mounted on an elastically supported and acoustically isolated floating platform, really a ship within the ship.

The India order brought the number of committed Scorpene submarine sales on the international market to 10. Scorpene orders worldwide now sit at 14, and include Chile (2 O’Higgins class CM-2000 with split Navantia/DCN production, both delivered); Malaysia (2 with split Navantia/DCN production); and now India (6 from DCN-Armaris and local manufacture, 3 each CM-2000 and AM-2000 AIP, delivery expected 2015-2020). Brazil would later undertake its own project, which will build 4 SSK Scorpenes and 1 nuclear-powered SSN fast attack submarine.

India’s Submarine Programs

Current Project 75 figures:

  • Submarines: 6 CM-2000 Scorpene Class, #5-6 may have AIP, but that’s unlikely.
  • Contract signed: 2005
  • Schedule: Delivery from 2015-2018. May not even begin until 2017.
  • Cost: INR 235.62 billion

Project 75 had a pre-priced option for 6 more Scorpenes, but India as decided to pursue a follow-on “Project 75i” as a separate program instead. It could field 6 more Scorpenes, or it could field a very different design. The sections below provide more details.

Project 75: Schedule, Cost & Plans Final construction
(click to view full)

The Scorpene deal had simmered on the back-burner for several years, and media reports touted a deal as “close” in 2004, but nothing was finalized until late 2005. The cost had been subject to varying estimates over the life of those multi-year negotiations, and continued to change after the contract was awarded, but the final figure for the first 6 boats is now generally accepted as being about $4.5 billion.

India’s long-term objective is full made-in-India design, development and construction of submarines. Construction is the first step, and “Project 75″ Scorpene submarines will all be built in India at state-owned Magazon Docks Ltd. (MDL).

That insistence on local production, rather than having the first couple built at their home shipyard with Indian workers present on exchange, has cost India. There have been issues involving technology transfer and negotiations, but it’s also true that MDL simply wasn’t ready. Expected delivery dates for the first 6 were set at 2012-2017, until everyone had to bow to the obvious and begin promising 2015-2018. Given the record to date, and the difference between schedule slippage of 1st vs. final deliveries, it’s reasonable to expect deliveries stretching beyond 2018. Recent reports are even suggesting that deliveries may not begin before 2017.

Meanwhile, costs are growing.

Planned costs for the Project 75 deal had a range of reported figures, until a contract was signed. In the end, the reported figure was Rs 15,400 crore, or $3.5 billion converted equivalent at the time. Subsequent auditor reports indicated that the program would actually cost about Rs 18,798 crore (about $4 billion), and escalations to Rs 20,798 crore/ $4.38 billion and then Rs 23,562 crore/ $4.56 billion have followed. That makes for about a 25.4% cost increase from the auditors’ baseline.

Tracking actual contracts is more difficult. Contracts signed as of August 2009 totaled INR 207.98 billion/ Rs 20,798 crore. The contracts were signed at different times, and will be paid over different periods, so a true currency conversion is difficult. A weakening American dollar and Euro have cushioned the increases somewhat, but most of the project’s cost involves local currency purchases. Contracts reportedly include:

  • Rs 6,315 crore contract with DCNS’ predecessor for transfer of technology, combat systems and construction design.
  • Rs 1,062 crore contract with MBDA for sea-skimming Exocet missiles and related systems
  • Rs 5,888 crore contract with MDL for local submarine construction
  • Rs 3,553 crore set aside for taxes
  • Rs 2,160 crore for other project requirements
  • Rs 2,000 crore added in March 2010 to cover added finalized costs of the “MDL procured material (MPM) packages”
  • Rs 2,764 crore unaccounted for yet in public releases, but envisaged in final INR 235-237 billion program costs.

Project 75: Industrial Scorpene
click for video

On the industrial front, the Scorpene deal will enable India to reopen its submarine building assembly lines. The initial plan was for all 6 boats to be built entirely in India by Mumbai-based Mazagon Dock Ltd. (MDL), whose submarine lines had been shut down after they finished manufacturing German HDW Type 209 diesel subs in 1994. That plan has remained steadfast, despite delays created by MDL’s work.

The French firm DCNS (Thomson CSF became Thales, which became the Armaris naval JV, then DCNS) was set as the overall industrial prime contractor for this program. DCNS is also in charge of the technology transfer and delivery of all services and equipment, and DCNS subsidiary UDS International will supply the combat systems with help from Thales. An ancillary contract signed between DCNS’ predecessor Armaris and MDL provides for a team of French technical advisers during the construction of the first 2 submarines.

Tracking contract value for foreign firms is challenging.

The key foreign contractors for the Project 75 Scorpene buy are DCNS and Thales, who will provide the “MDL procured material (MPM) packages” of propulsion, sensors, weapons systems etc. that fit into the hull. When the initial contract was signed in 2006, Thales revealed that India’s Scorpene contract was worth nearly EUR 600 million (USD $736 million) to their company, in return for key subsystems for the submarines’ 6 UDS International SUBTICS integrated combat systems, underwater sensors, communications and optronics, and electronic warfare equipment. A corresponding DCN news release put the total value to all members of the DCN Group at EUR 900 million, but did not address possible overlaps with Thales.

Finalized supplier contracts changed overall totals, which increased by EUR 300 million to about EUR 1.8 billion total. The allocations also changed, since Thales sold part of its naval business to DCN in 2007, creating DCNS. Some of the Thales products destined for the Scorpene became part of the DCNS Group when the merger took place.

A variety of Indian subcontractors, such as SEC, Flash Forge, Walchandnagar Industries, et. al. are involved in the submarines’ construction, manufacturing and delivering specific parts for incorporation into the vessels.

By late 2010, delays at MDL led to reports that Scorpene construction might be altered to include other Indian shipyards, and even DCNS in France. That shift to other shipyards hasn’t happened for Project 75, but it is planned for the follow-on Project 75i. Whether that plan can survive rent-seeking lobbying by India’s state-owned industries remains to be seen.

Overall Timeline, Plans & Options Project 75 & 75i Timelines

A March 8/06 release from the Indian Ministry of Defence gives the long history of the Type 75/ Scorpene contract’s genesis. After numerous delays, final negotiations were held with vendors in 2005. This reportedly cut INR 3.13 billion from the 2002 negotiated position, and involved other concessions. Even so, India’s program budget had to rise in order to accommodate the final contract.

As is often true in India, some of this was self-inflicted. In 2009, India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reported that the government’s delays in finalizing a deal had probably raised the project’s cost by 2,838 crore, or about 15% of the project’s total cost – and that was before the additional Rs 2,000 crore contract to DCNS was finalized in 2010.

“Project 75″ had options for another 6 submarines, but that was replaced by a 6-boat “Project 75i” competition in 2007. Introducing another competition risks slowing India down, and may add industrial disruption from a new design and new partners, in order to add improved technology. Key requirements reportedly include an Air-Independent Propulsion module, and the ability to launch supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles from vertical launchers. As of 2014, however, there isn’t even an official RFP.

The AIP Option MESMA AIP section

Like many modern diesel-electric submarines, the Scorpene class is exceptionally quiet. It can also be equipped with an additional section that holds a MESMA brand AIP (air-independent propulsion) system. A CM-2000 Scorpene can operate underwater for 4-6 days without surfacing or snorkeling to get oxygen to recharge its batteries. An AM-2000 Scorpene AIP, in contrast, will be able to operate underwater for up to 18 days depending on variables like speed, etc. Each AIP section costs around $50-60 million, and adds 8.3 meters (27 feet) and 305 tonnes to the hull section. The resulting AM-2000 Scorpene AIP is 70m long, and displaces 1,870t.

Naval Chief Admiral Arun Prakash has said that the agreement gave India the option of incorporating AIP technology after delivery of the 3rd Scorpene submarine. India’s Navy appeared to be opting to do this in Scorpenes 4-6, but the state-run DRDO research organization made a typical play to develop their own AIP “hull plug” for the Scorpene. They’re now talking about fielding only submarines 5 & 6 as AIP boats, if DRDO’s technology is ready.

The need to test such systems extensively after they’ve been developed means that DRDO has effectively defaulted on their future 2015 delivery target, even as Pakistan fields all 3 of its Agosta 90B boats with mature French MESMA AIP technology inside.

India’s specifications for Project 75i boats are expected to require pre-installed AIP systems.

Sub-Par: India’s Underwater Plans & Realities Shishumar Class
(click to view full)

If India can overcome its government’s own obstacles to fielding an effective submarine force, reports by Indian media have described a long-term desire to manufacture up to 24 submarines in a phased manner. In the mid-200s, Admiral Prakash publicly stated an objective of “24 subs in 30 years.” A more likely outcome involves cutting the current operational fleet roughly in half by 2025, and returning to the current inadequate fleet size by 2030 – 2035.

Most of the Project 75 delays, and many of the cost increases, are attributable to India’s slow decision making and lack of readiness. Meanwhile, India’s existing fleet continues to age, and the size of India’s submarine fleet will become a serious concern by 2016 or so. The situation is fast approaching a crisis, especially given India’s general Anti-Submarine Warfare weakness. Key risk factors that are creating the crisis include:

Risk: Age-out. Based on a 30-year safe lifetime for submarine hulls due to the constant pressure squeeze and release from diving, India will need to start retiring its first 2 U209/ Shishumar Class submarines around 2016 – 2017, or find a good reason to extend them past that 30-year lifespan. At the same time, 3 of the Navy’s early Kilo/ Sindhugosh Class boats would also be at or beyond a 30-year lifespan by 2017, for a total of 5 boats at risk. By 2020, the figure will be 9 boats: 2 U209s, and 7 Kilo Class. By 2025, all 4 U209s and 8 of the 9 remaining Kilo Class submarines would be past 30 years of service.

If 33 years is the service cutoff instead, the fleet would drop by 3 boats in 2019 (2 U209, 1 Kilo), 2 more in 2020 (2 Kilo), 2 more in 2021 (2 Kilo), 1 in 2022 (1 Kilo), 1 in 2024 (1 Kilo), 1 in 2025 (1 U209), 1 in 2027 (1 U209), and 1 in 2033 (1 Kilo).

Risk: State Firms. Poor performance by state-run firms has gone from a risk to a crisis. Project 75 was supposed to begin Scorpene deliveries in 2012, but that may be delayed to 2017. Since placing a new submarine type in operational service can take up to 2 years of trials and exercises, it could be 2019 before India fields its 1st new operational boat.

Risk: India’s Government. India’s 4th-World class procurement process adds even more risks. The risk of delay has already materialized. Despite initial solicitations in 2008, the 75i RFP still pending in 2014, and even declaring a winner isn’t expected before 2017. India’s navy has given up on its sensible risk-mitigation plans to have the first 2 boats built abroad. Worse, India’s government wants to add state-run Hindustan Shipyard Ltd. (HSL) in Visakhapatnam as a submarine builder. This is the same yard that destroyed the Kilo Class INS Sindhukirti in a bungled refit, which does not inspire confidence. There is marginal comfort in the fact that the Modi government intends to open Project 75i to private industry, and substituting inexperience for demonstrated issues of competence may be an improvement.

The bottom line? India is unlikely to field any Project 75i submarines before 2025. Even this date assumes that the 75i competition won’t become bogged down in unsubstantiated allegations and process freezes and fail to deliver anything.

DID reminds our readers that long term plans for major capital acquisitions have a way of shrinking over time as budgetary tradeoffs are made – 32 DD (X) destroyers for the USA became 12, and then 3. The difference is that submarines are the strategic platform of the 21st century, and India needs a strong presence in the Indian Ocean if it intends to be a significant strategic actor. Meanwhile, the buildup of China’s submarine and naval forces is likely to keep the importance of Indian submarines front and center.

Time will tell if actual budgets, shipbuilding execution, and political performance can match the Navy’s appetites. So far, the record isn’t encouraging.

India’s Scorpene Project: Contracts & Key Events 2014-2015

DAC clears Project 75i, but conditions set by India’s political class cut the throat of their submarine force structure; Sindurakshak raised as inquest continues; Other Kilo Class accidents; New government takes action on batteries for existing fleets; Still no action on Black Shark torpedoes. (ex-)INS Sindhurakshak
(click to view full)

May 4/15: The Indian-manufactured INS Arihant nuclear SSBN is progressing well with sea trials, according to the Chief of the Indian Navy. Launched in 2009, the sub’s reactor went critical in August 2013 and is thought to have begun shakedown voyages from March last year. Based on the Russian Akula-1 design, the INS Arihant is India’s first indigenously-manufactured nuclear sub and a critical component of the country’s pursuit of a nuclear triad capability. In related news, the Indian MoD has restricted all future shipbuilding to domestic yards, with private shipyards having a potential workload of $3.2 billion over the next fifteen years.

Oct 24/14: Project 75i. India’s top-level Defence Acquisition Council clears INR 900 billion in acquisitions, including INR 530 billion for Project 75i to build 6 AIP submarines in India. The government intends to identify capable shipyards for the foreign partnership within the next 2 months, from among 7 major shipyards (4 of which are state-owned).

Wouldn’t it be better to have the outside partners identify their preferred shipyards, since their primary incentive is directed toward contract performance rather than the results of political lobbying? One might add that if the chosen submarine vendor ends up disagreeing with India’s shipyard choice, it’s only going to prolong negotiations whose late timing and contract structure already guarantee a force crisis for India’s submarine fleet.

Other DAC clearances today include 2 SDV underwater commando delivery vehicles; up to INR 32 billion to buy and license-build about 300 Spike family launcher systems and 8,000 missiles; INR 20 billion to have the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board build about 360 more BMP-2 tracked IFVs under license; and INR 18.5 billion for 12 more license-built Do-228NG short-range transport and maritime surveillance aircraft from HAL. Sources: NDTV, “6 Made-in-India Submarines for Navy for 53,000 Crores” | IANS, “Defence ministry clears Israeli anti-tank missile, six submarines”.

DAC Approval: Project 75i

Sept 7/14: Project 75i. Indian policymakers decide to cripple their strategic posture:

“Frustrated with seven years of debilitating delay in even kicking off the process to select a foreign collaborator to help make new-generation stealth submarines, the Navy has junked its long-standing demand for getting two of the six such vessels directly from aboard…. all the six new submarines, armed with both land-attack missile capabilities and air-independent propulsion for greater underwater endurance, will be constructed in India with foreign collaboration under ‘Project-75-India’….

Once the global tender or RFP (request for proposal) for P-75I is issued, it will take at least three years to first select the foreign collaborator and then finalize the project with it. It will thereafter take another seven to eight years for the first submarine to roll out.”

So, no tender. When there is one, we’re at 2017 for a winner. India will need to start retiring U209/ Shishumar Class submarines by 2016, or find an excuse to extend them past a 30-year safe lifespan. At the same time, 3 of the Navy’s early Kilo/ Sindhugosh Class boats would also be at or beyond a 30-year lifespan, for a total of 5 boats at risk this way before a Project 75i winner is even declared. Waiting another 8 years after a winner is declared brings us to 2025 for the 75i rollout, by which time all 4 U209s should be retired, and 8 of India’s 9 Kilo Class boats would have ages ranging from 34 – 39 years. Only INS Sindhushastra would be under the 30-year mark. That could leave India with its submarine force cut in half, when its current fleet of 13 is already acknowledged as inadequate to India’s strategic needs.

In contrast, here’s what strategic urgency that forced the original plan plus urgency looks like: an 2-phase RFP issued in late 2014, with an expeditious evaluation and a winner in 2015. There’s a commitment to build the first 2 boats abroad, with some Indian workers present on exchange, and a target for Indian participation that can be finalized while construction begins. That would add 2 more submarines to India’s fleet by around 2019; even if service cutoff is set at 33 years, India’s total fast attack submarine fleet would still have dropped from 13 to 11 boats. By 2025, if the 1st Indian-built Project 75i boat rolls out as planned, the type has already been through their long trials and exercise period, and can enter operational service before INS Shalki must decommission. It also sails into a reduced but modern fleet that has held steady at 10-12 front-line submarines: 6 Scorpene submarines, the Kilo Class INS Sindhushastra, the U209 Shankul and the soon-to-depart U209 INS Shalki, 2 Project 75i boats with fully trained crews, and a possible renewal of the nuclear-powered INS Chakra’s lease. Sources: The Times of India, “Delays force Navy to drop demand for foreign submarines”.

Program timelines and India’s sub fleet

June 23/14: Batteries. India’s government new has decided to take swift action to replace submarine battery stocks, as India works to keep its existing fleet in the water until 2016.

The Navy has issued an RFP to buy 7 Type-I battery sets (248 batteries each) for Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, plus 2 sets of Type-II batteries (540 batteries each) for their U209 Shishumar Class. They’re also buying new cables. The Kilo Class submarine INS Sindhuratna needs those cables to become operational again, and the belief that old and dangerous battery sets may have played a role in Sindhurakshak’s sinking (q.v. Feb 26/14) has made it clear that the red tape blocking new buys needed to be cut.

What the report doesn’t say is whether a resolution was found for the fact that “the Defence Ministry had stopped purchases from a particular vendor.” One supposes that we won’t know until the RFP responses come in, but these sorts of considerations should have planners attention for the future Scorpene fleet as well. Sources: Mail Online India, “Centre rushes to buy new submarine batteries as Navy suffers shortage”.

June 5/14: Sindhurakshak raised. Resolve Marine Group begins raising INS Sinhurakshak (q.v. Jan 19/14), which has lain at the bottom of Mumbai harbor since explosions sank the Kilo Class submarine on Aug 14/13. After the harbor was dredged to be 8 feet deeper in that area, Resolve used a twin-barge technique that raises the boat using chains, sinks the carrier barge beneath the raised boat, lowers the submarine onto the sunken barge, then refloats the barge and carries the submarine away.

The is important to the entire fleet, and not just because it clears critical space in Mumbai harbor. If forensics reveal that the explosion was terrorism, India will need to overhaul its security procedures. If the problem involved unstable batteries that MoD couldn’t replace in a timely way (q.v. Feb 26/14), then the risk to the entire serving submarine force rises until this can be dealt with, and India’s naval crisis is even worse. Sources: India Today, “INS Sindhurakshak lifted from Mumbai harbour floor in massive salvage operation”.

June 2/14: New Man. The BJP’s Shri Arun Jaitley takes over as Defence Minister, while also holding the ministries of finance and corporate affairs. He himself says that MoD will be a temporary assignment, leading many observers to wonder what’s going on. The answer may lie in the Ministry of Finance’s repeated sabotaging of military modernization project approvals. The Times of India writes:

“The finance ministry is often blamed for being a “big obstacle” for military modernisation plans. But with Arun Jaitley straddling both MoF and MoD as of now, there is “hope” the “detailed action plan” for the submarine fleet will be swiftly cleared. Jaitley, on being asked by TOI if there was “a conflict of interest” in handling both the ministries, replied, “Well, I see it as supplementing of interest”…. Navy is down to just nine operational diesel-electric submarines, with another four stuck in long repairs and refits. All the 13 submarines are over 20 years old, while eight of them have crossed 25…. Though this over Rs 50,000 crore project[75i] was granted “acceptance of necessity” in November 2007, the global tender to select the foreign collaborator is yet to be even floated…. “Since early-April, it’s now again with MoF. The tender or RFP (request for proposal) can be issued only after first the MoF and then the cabinet committee on security approves it,” said a source.”

If a unified minister can get the Project 75i RFP out, finalize the Black Shark torpedo buy, and make a decision about India’s M-MRCA program, he could do a tremendous amount of good for India’s defenses in a very short time. Sources: Indian Gov’t, “Arun Jaitley takes over as Defence Minister” | India’s Economic times, “BJP men, others fail to find logic in alloting defence to Arun Jaitley” | Times of India, “Modi govt must act fast to save India’s depleting submarine fleet”.

May 15/14: Torpedoes & 75i. Ajai Shulka writes that the absence of a torpedo contract needs to be a priority for the new BJP government, if they want to avoid a situation where India’s new Scorpenes are defenseless against enemy submarines:

“Consequently, when the first Scorpene submarine is commissioned in 2016, it will be armed only with the Exocet anti-ship missile. Were it to be challenged by Pakistan’s silent new Khalid-class submarines – the French Agosta-90B -the Scorpene will have empty torpedo tubes. Even if the new government signs the contract quickly, delivery would be unlikely before 2017…. A top-level navy planner laments the MoD’s lack of accountability, contrasting it with how former navy chief, Admiral D K Joshi, took responsibility for warship accidents and resigned.”

Meanwhile, no upgrade and life-extension has been approved or contracted for India’s aging U209 boats, and Project 75i has no contract. When 75i is underway, it plans to entrust construction of 1 of 6 submarines to state-owned Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, Visakhapatnam (HSL) – the same yard that destroyed the Kilo Class INS Sindhukirti during a bungled refit. Building Project 75i in 2 Indian shipyards would also mean paying double for transfer of technology (ToT). On the other hand, it may speed badly-needed deliveries. If you can trust the 2nd shipyard to perform. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “Scorpene subs to join fleet without torpedoes” | See also March 11/13, Dec 23/13 re: torpedoes.

April 10/14: Sabotage? The Sindhuratna Board of Inquiry is reportedly recommending the court martial of a Commodore, and a notation of “severe displeasure” on the records of 2 mid-ranking officers. Another change at the top may be on the way, courtesy of India’s electorate. dna India, “Sindhuratna mishap: Navy Board of Inquiry recommends action against officers” | PTI, “Top Navy officer may face court martial in submarine mishap”.

April 9/14: Sabotage? A preliminary Board of Inquiry still isn’t ruling out sabotage, which was an immediate conclusion when the Kilo Class boat INS Sindhurakshak sank in August 2013. While the initial, minor explosion could have been an accident, malfunction, or human error, the major explosions are attributed to the torpedoes. Those supposedly can’t trigger without human intervention, but the old saw about making things foolproof always applies. More can’t be known until the submarine is fully salvaged around August 2014, and forensic tests can be performed. Sources: The Hindu, “Sindhurakshak may have been sabotaged: probe” | Hindustan Times, “INS Sindhurakshak fire: ‘Sabotage’ angle in report is disturbing”.

April 6/14: Kilo Fire. The Kilo Class boat INS Matanga catches fire while undergoing a refit at Mumbai’s Naval dockyard. It’s a minor incident, involving a contractor performing steel welding in the Sewage Treatment Plant compartment and causing insulating material in the adjacent compartment to smolder. This isn’t something that would happen at sea, and they put the fire out immediately. Deccan Chronicle, “Fire on board INS Matanga at the Naval dockyard in Mumbai, no causalities reported”.

Feb 26/14: Kilo Fire. The Kilo Class submarine INS Sindhuratna experiences a fire during training near Mumbai, killing 2 officers and felling 7 sailors unconscious due to smoke inhalation. The problem was a smoke build-up in the Kilo Class submarine’s battery compartment – a problematic area that has been subject to procurement delays. The Times of India explains:

“TOI has learnt that the batteries on INS Sindhuratna were old and had not been replaced. “The batteries were not changed during its refit (maintenance) that was done in December 2013. The submarine is a diesel-electric vessel, which runs on battery power provided by 240 lead acid batteries weighing about 800 kg each. These batteries tend to release flammable hydrogen gas, especially when they are being charged, and submarines have safety systems to address emergencies arising out of this. Old batteries are even worse,” the source said.”

The submarine wasn’t fully loaded with weapons, which was extremely fortunate for all involved. Reuters adds:

“One former senior submariner describes a gridlock in which bureaucrats make “observations” and note their “reservations”, but make no decisions to buy or replace equipment for fear of being implicated in corruption scandals. “No one wants to touch the damn thing,” he said, noting that delays also cause procurement costs to escalate.”

In response, chief admiral DK Joshi resigns. Joshi is known as a very upright character, and he’s upholding an important tradition by his actions, while also reportedly expressing his own dissatisfaction with the MoD. It’s certainly convenient for some politicians to have him take the blame, but that may not be where the real problem is. Sources: Hindustan Times, “INS Sindhuratna mishap: Navy chief resigns as 2 go missing, 7 injured” | Firstpost India, “INS Sindhuratna: Report on battery system overhaul will haunt AK Antony” | NDTV, “Two officers died in fire on board submarine INS Sindhuratna, confirms Navy” | Reuters, “UPDATE 1-Navy setbacks show defence challenges facing next Indian govt” | Times of India, “Major mishap averted as INS Sindhuratna wasn’t fully loaded”.

Feb 6/14: Project 75i. Russia’s Rubin Design Bureau says that they’ve made progress adding vertical launchers to their newest Amur-1650 submarines, in order to incorporate Klub-S (SS-N-27B/30B) missiles that offer various combinations of subsonic and even terminal supersonic anti-ship, land-attack, and anti-submarine variants. Chief designer Igor Molchanov believes that they could install tubes for Brahmos missiles, without compromising the submarine’s capabilities.

He also made a pitch for Rubin’s own AIP solution, which cracks diesel fuel to obtain its hydrogen instead of storing the highly explosive gas on board. The Amurs are expected to compete against France’s Scorpene, Germany’s U214 or stretched U216, and Spain’s S-80. sources: RIA Novosti, “Russia Prepared to Modify Submarines for Indian Tender”.

Jan 19/14: Kilo Salvage? India has reportedly received 2 RFP responses for a DSRV rescue submarine, in case there’s another submarine emergency. Meanwhile:

“After an exhaustive study, an empowered committee of the Indian Navy has submitted to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that to salvage the sunk, Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhurakshak, will cost upto [sic] Rs 300 crore. However, the MOD is yet to respond. It was learnt that a final decision on this is now being awaited since the MoD is ‘vetting the entire proposal’. It was also learnt that the navy has recommended a particular firm in its report to the MoD.”

That’s about $50 million, and even after paying it, the boat probably can’t be returned to service. On the other hand, no salvage means that the Board of Inquiry is stalled, which matters because there are strong suspicions that she was sunk by a terrorist attack (q.v. Aug 14/13). The sunken sub is also taking up an important berth in Mumbai’s crowded naval base.

Resolve Marine Group subsidiary Resolve India ends up winning the order in February 2014, with a bid described as “under Rs 240 crore” (around $40 million). Sources: India Today, “Salvaging INS Sindhurakshak to cost upto Rs 300 crore, navy tells MoD” [sic] | Times of India, “Indian arm of US company wins Sindhurakshak salvage

Jan 19/14: Accident. The Kilo Class boat INS Sindhughosh runs aground while trying to enter Mumbai Harbour. Its entry was delayed, and by the time it was cleared, the tide was too low. Salvage efforts rescue the sub by floating it off as the tide rises.

The Indian Navy is initially saying that there was no damage, and that the submarine remains operational. It’s hard to see how this can be determined without a drydock examination, but so far, no decision has been made to do that. Or to launch a Board of Inquiry. Sources: India Today: “Navy salvages submarine INS Sindhughosh stuck off Mumbai coast” | Calcutta Telegraph, “Armed sub scare”.

Kilo aground

Jan 18/14: Torpedoes. India’s DAC may have cleared the INR 18 billion buy of 98 WASS Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes, but the Ministry of Defense has cold feet after the Jan 1/14 cancellation of fellow Finmeccanica Group AgustaWestland’s AW101 VVIP helicopter contract, and is “doing a rethink.”

Finmeccanica won’t be blacklisted, because it would affect too many other Indian programs and fleets. State-sector delays have already pushed the initial Scorpene delivery back to September 2016, so the MoD can afford to dither. Even so, the AW101 court case will take a while, and a decision will probably be needed while it’s still in progress. The Indian Navy is just lucky the submarines weren’t delivered on time, then forced to go without torpedoes. Which may still happen, unless the Ministry is forced into action. Sources: Times of India, “Defence ministry reviews move to buy torpedoes”.


More costs, and more delays, all preventable; BrahMos can launch underwater, just not deploy; Torpedo buy hung up; China buying more advanced Russian subs. BrahMos
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Dec 23/13: Torpedoes. India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approves an INR 18 billion proposal to buy WASS Black Shark torpedos for the Scorpenes. The decision comes a week before the government decides to cancel a different Finmeccanica group contract for AW101 VVIP helicopters, which is about to become a strongly-contested court case. Sources: The Week, “Proposal to buy torpedos from AW’s sister company”.

Dec 17/13: Project 75i. With its submarine force waning, the Indian MoD announces that 2 of the coming Project 75i submarines will be built abroad:

“Based upon the Naval HQ proposal, Defence Acquisition Council has taken a decision that P-75 I project will have 4 submarines (out of six) built within the country (03 at Mazgaon Dock Limited, Mumbai and 01 at Hindustan Shipyard Limited, Visakhapatnam, on Transfer of Technology, and two to be built in collaborator’s yard abroad.”

Nov 30/13: Scorpene supplemental. France is reportedly offering India an interesting deal. DCNS would build 2 Scorpene submarines in France, for delivery that would coincide with the induction of India’s 1st locally-built boat. In 1 stroke, they’d give India’s navy enough working modern submarines to meet naval commitments, until the rest of the Scorpenes arrive in service.

France is also reportedly pushing to have India make a 2nd-generation fuel cell MESMA system India’s official “Plan B,” in case DRDO can’t meet its 2015 delivery commitment for an indigenous Air-Independent Propulsion supplementary system. Extensive testing requirements for AIP systems all but guarantee that DRDO’s AIP is already late, but DRDO insists as usual that they’re on track this time. Their preferred approach is to wait until official failure in 2015 before beginning any decisions. Which would, of course, hold up construction of submarines #5 & 6, further crippling India’s submarine fleet, while India’s bureaucrats and politicians take their customary years to make a decision.

DRDO is correct to worry that acceptance of MESMA AIPs in the last 2 contracted boats would badly damage hopes for a DRDO-led AIP retrofit of the first 4 Scorpenes. It would also strengthen DCNS’ position for Project 75i, of course, by offering fleet commonality, while proving that MDL is already trained to accomplish MESMA AIP fit-outs. Sources: Livefist, “France Offers 2 Quick Scorpenes, DCNS ‘Worried’ About DRDO’s AIP”.

Aug 26/13: Project 75i. In the wake of the Sindhurakshak’s sinking, Indian media report that the country may look to lease a 2nd nuclear submarine from Russia. On the SSK front, the Times of India reports that defense minister A K Antony may be rethinking the Ministry’s slowness, and consider compromising his own renewed push toward an all-indigenous procurement policy.

In India, this consists of asking bureaucrats to kindly expedite the Project 75i building plan, 14 years after the program was approved to go forward. The paper reports that a Draft CCS Note with required specifications, concrete building plans, etc. will be sent to the Cabinet Committee of Security in “a month or so,” and that it contains the Navy’s requested provision that the 1st 2 submarines would be built abroad. If CCS approval leads to a fast contract, it’s entirely possible that India could have 2 operational Project 75i submarines before it has 2 operational Project 75 Scorpenes. That would shore up the submarine force quickly, but it would also be embarrassing.

The rest of Antony’s reaction consists of chest-beating about no more schedule slippages at state-owned Mazagon Docks Ltd., and calls for better and “faster” refits and maintenance for the shrunken 13-sub fleet – 11 of which are 20-27 years old. Can the Minister guarantee either outcome? No. Are they even technically achievable? If he knew, he would have been doing it already. Sources: Times of India, “Submarine shock: Antony fast-tracks projects”.

Aug 14/13: Sunk. An explosion and fire sink the Kilo Class INS Sindhurakshak while the boat is docked in Mumbai, killing 18 people on board. Firemen manage to contain the blaze to the submarine, so it doesn’t end up sinking the submarine docked next to it as well. The explosion happens the day before India’s independence day, and the comprehensiveness of the damage leaves observers inside and outside India considering the possibility that it was a terrorist plot.

Whether it was or it wasn’t, India’s fleet just lost its 2nd newest submarine. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “INS Sindhurakshak crippled; experts blame battery fire and ammunition explosion” | The Hindu, “Submarine blasts due to ‘possible ignition of armament'” | Hindustan Times, “Russia distances itself from India sub disaster”


July 23/13: Late, again. MDL Chairman and Managing Director Rear Admiral Rahul Kumar Shrawat (ret.) confirms to The Hindu that “We have set a new target of September 2016 for delivery of the first Scorpene,” instead of the already-late date of 2015. Deliveries were originally slated to begin in 2012, and the latest confession won’t win many fans in the Indian Navy. The Hindu:

“The Navy, however, is livid over the yard’s persistent disregard for deadlines. Top Navy officials rue that by the time the Scorpenes are commissioned, they would be obsolete. The first three Scorpenes will not even have air independent propulsion (AIP)…. MDL’s long-drawn procurement processes and sluggishness in technology absorption gave the projects hiccups at the start itself. Meanwhile, the project cost grew exponentially from the original Rs.18,798 crore to Rs. 23,562 crore in 2010 with a renewed timeline.”

May 14/13: The Hindustan Times illustrates the dire situation facing India’s navy, due to mismanagement of India’s submarine programs:

“As reported first by HT on April 9, a confidential defence ministry report had warned that India had never before been poised in such a vulnerable situation and its undersea force levels were “at a highly precarious state.” …China operates close to 45 submarines, including two ballistic missile submarines. It also plans to construct 15 additional Yuan-class attack submarines, based on German diesel engine purchases.

The size of India’s submarine fleet will roughly be the same as that of the Pakistani Navy in two years…. merely six to seven submarines, including India’s first and only nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant.”

That may be a bit pessimistic. The 4 U209s will need to begin retiring, leaving 10 Sindhugosh (Kilo) Class submarines that began entering service in 1986. At least 8 of those have been refitted under Project 08773, and can be expected to serve for several more years. That makes 9 submarines, but at Indian operational levels, that leaves just 3-4 boats available for missions. On the other hand, China’s fleet is venturing into the Indian Ocean more often, and bases like Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan will make that easier and easier. Keeping up with Pakistan won’t be enough, and the article is correct to point out that India is barely clearing even that low bar. Hindustan Times.

April 15/13: More delays and costs coming. The Times of India reports that bureaucratic delays by the Ministry of Defence may force Scorpene submarine deliveries to start in 2016, even as costs are set to rise again:

“According to sources, Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) has informed the Navy that the project would be delayed by another 18 months…. Consultants from Navantia, the Spanish shipbuilding company, left the project in the last few days. The technical assistance pact for Navantia and DCNS, the French partner in the consortium, expired on March 31, sources said. With MDL failing to get the defence ministry’s approval in time, about 10 Spanish consultants working on the submarine project left India…. DCNS leadership is expected to meet with MDL top brass this week in Mumbai and present their own demand for additional technical assistance fee.”

Every problem listed here was preventable, and so is the crisis coming to India’s submarine force. A contract that built the first 2 boats abroad, with Indian engineers and specialists working at the foreign shipyard before transferring home to build the last 4 at MDL, would have cut technical assistance requirements, while delivering working submarines to the navy on time. India’s Navy has learned that lesson, and is lobbying hard for an analogous arrangement under Project 75i. Based on reports to date, the ministry hasn’t learned anything, and is resisting. Its political leaders would rather have the vote bank of state run jobs, and their associated financial arrangements up and down the supply chain. Even if that costs more, and leaves India strategically vulnerable. Somehow, that isn’t corruption.

March 20/13: BrahMos underwater. India successfully tests its supersonic PJ-10 Brahmos Mach 2+ cruise missile from a submarine. BrahMos joint venture CEO A Sivathanu Pillai describes it as the 1st underwater firing of a supersonic cruise missile anywhere in the world, and the missile successfully hit its target 290 km / 156 nm away.

Here’s the catch: none of India’s current submarines can fire the new submarine-launched missile. It’s too big to launch from a torpedo tube, and will need to use a vertical launch tube with the correct diameter. India’s Project 75i submarines are nearly certain to add this modification, but they won’t be ready until 2023 at the earliest, a decade after a submarine-launch Brahmos conducted its 1st test firing.

New Indian Express editorial director Prabhu Chawla attributes this disconnect to poor planning in the MoD. The truth is that there has been no shortage of planning, or lead time. Solicitations for the follow-on Project 75i reportedly began in 2008, and there is still no RFP. Likewise Air-Independent Propulsion was discussed in 2006, but the ball has been dropped and it’s unlikely to appear in any of the 6 ordered Scorpene submarines. What has been in short supply is timely execution, thanks to a combination of delays stemming from MoD practices, industrial failures, and hindrances put in place by politicians. No amount of planning can trump that. Times of India | Chawla op-ed.

March 18/13: Legal. India PIB:

“A complaint was received alleging financial irregularities against the then Director in-charge of Scorpene Submarine project in a Defence Shipyard. The complaint is under enquiry.”

March 11/13: Torpedoes. Defense minister Antony offers a written Parliamentary reply to say that India still hasn’t finalized a contract for torpedoes. A Special Technical Oversight Committee (STOC) was convened to review the complaints about the proposed Black Shark buy, and approved it as fair and to procedure. In other words, no wrongdoing. The high-level political Defence Acquisition Committee accepted the report in September 2012 (6 months ago), and has done… nothing. The purchase has now been delayed for over 3 years.

Welcome to India. Part of the reason involves allegations that WASS’ parent firm Finmeccanica paid bribes to secure a contract for 12 AW101 VVIP helicopters. In Italy, its CEO is facing bribery charges, and has been deposed. That sort of thing could get the parent firm blacklisted, which would also scuttle the torpedo buy, and could make it difficult for India to build its Vikrant Class indigenous aircraft carriers. As of March 11/13, Finmeccanica subsidiary AgustaWestland has been given a ‘show cause’ notice regarding cancellation of the AW101s, but did not have the contract cancelled until January 2014. No blacklisting will follow. See also Jan 12/10, Jan 31/11, Oct 28/12. India PIB.

March 8/13: China. An analysis piece in The Hindu by Vladimir Radyuhin points out that China continues to build a modern submarine fleet – including the most advanced conventional subs from Russia. The problem may be a pervasive one, stemming from poor Russian delivery and support on one hand, and India’s red-tape slowness and inability to make decisions on the other:

“At the end of last year, Russia concluded a framework agreement with China for the sale of four Amur-1650 diesel submarines…. It will also mark the first time that Russia has supplied China with more powerful weapon platforms compared with Russian-built systems India has in its arsenals. In the past, the opposite was the rule…. India risks being eclipsed by China on the Russian radar screens. As Russia’s top business daily Kommersant noted recently, even today, Russian officials from top to bottom tend to look at India with “drowsy apathy,” while Mr. Putin’s visit to India last year was long on “meaningless protocol” and short on time and substance.”

Jan 4/13: Investigation. India’s Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has launched an inquiry against Commodore (ret.) Gopal Bharti, who heads up Project 75. The inquiry is in response to an unnamed internal whistleblower. The financial irregularities which include train fare reimbursement and taking his son abroad at public expense, aren’t earth-shattering. On the other hand, the CVC is investigating allegations that Bharti deliberately refused to place orders for 170 critical items, and are curious about the disappearance of 15 high pressure specialized underwater valves from his department.

Innocent until proven guilty, but the range of allegations are pretty broad. Times of India.


India gambles on own AIP system – will it even be ready?; Kilo Class upgrades done; Project 75i gets official OK, but no RFP; India looking for land strike missiles on 75i subs. Pakistan’s A90Bs
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Dec 4/12: AIP. StratPost offers an AIP system update from Indian Navy chief, Admiral D.K. Joshi

“AIP plugs for the fifth and sixth of (Project) 75 are under consideration. [DRDO’s Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL)] has been tasked to develop that. It is doing so. What is to be seen is whether the… timeline Matches the delayed production timelines of (Project) 75. In case this comes online in conformity with the fifth and sixth ones they will be put into place, but if for some reason they are not ready at that point in time we would not delay the production timelines…. This would [also] become an option for any of the subsequent indigenous options [Project 75i]…. The next line will have an AIP plug.”

Meanwhile, all 3 of Pakistan’s comparable Agosta 90B submarines will include DCNS’ mature MESMA AIP technology.

Dec 5/12: Project 75i. India’s cabinet Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AON) for buying “Project 75i”, India’s next 6 submarines. A global RFP is reportedly due “very soon,” and the Indian government has reportedly decided to spend up to $10 billion/ Rs 55,000 crore on India’s future submarine force.

Project 75i diesel-electric SSK subs will have air-independent propulsion, and India is also looking to equip them with conventional land attack missiles. DCNS could offer the AIM-2000 Scorpene with the MESMA AIP, and might be able to offer integration of MBDA’s developmental MdCN cruise missile. The MdCN is already slated for DCNS’ SSN Barracuda Class nuclear fast attack submarines, and the right electronic commonalities could give any French proposal a notable advantage over German and Spanish competitors.

If India prefers its own BrahMos missile, on the other hand, 2 things will happen. One is that the playing field will be level. The other is that any submarine chosen would have to be a modified design, with vertical launch tubes sized for BrahMos. Indian government | Zee News.

Oct 28/12: Torpedoes. More headaches for India’s Black Shark torpedo buy. As if their direct competitor’s complaint wasn’t enough, a probe is now underway into India’s EUR 560 million purchase of 12 AW101 VIP helicopters. AgustaWestland is also a Finmeccanica company, and there are several cases of India’s blacklist laws being invoked against firms on the basis of mere corruption allegations, with no available proof.

The Rs 1,700 crore buy of 98 torpedoes for the Scorpene fleet was expected to be followed by a similar buy for Project 75i’s 6 submarines, and possibly a 3rd buy to plus up stocks and equip the new SSBN Arihant Class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. That could mean a total of up to Rs 5,100 crore, or about EUR 733 million / $947 million at risk given current conversions.

As for Atlas Elektronik’s claims that the torpedo bid was rigged (vid. Jan 31/11 entry), the Indian MoD’s Acquisitions Wing, Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), and Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju have all rejected the claims, despite strong circumstantial evidence. India MoD | India’s Business Standard.

July 17/12: Sub-contractors. SEC Industries and DCNS today officially inaugurate new 1,500 m2 of workshop facilities at SEC’s Hyderabad facilities, and formally deliver cofferdam door coamings after successful Factory Acceptance Tests. The work was done under a September 2011 sub-contract between SEC DCNS India Pvt Ltd., and a second sub-contract for additional work was signed in 2012 (vid. March 23/12 entry). DCNS.

June 23/12: Kilo Class. Russia completes its set of 7 mid-life refits and modernizations of India’s Kilo Class submarine fleet, which were delivered from 1986 – 2000. Russia handled repairs and modernization for 7 boats, while Indian shipyards have delivered 1 and are working on another 2.

This last boat, INS Sindhurakshak ended her mid-life refit in Zvezdochka about 15 years after she was built. A submarine’s expected safe lifetime is usually about 30 years, but India may be forced to contemplate a 2nd refit series. Ortherwise, they may not be able to keep their overall submarine fleet at acceptable levels, while they wait for Scorpenes and Project 75i boats arrive. Additional refit efforts generally cost more for each additional year of safe service delivered. The Hindu.

June 11/12: Industrial. DCNS signs a strategic partnership for bringing DCNS technologies, methods and skills into India’s private Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Company Limited. Pipavav is a shipbuilder, repair & dry-docking firm, and were recently chosen by MDL to form a Joint Venture to build warships for the Indian Navy. DCNS.

March 23/12: Sub-contractors. DCNS India announces a Scorpene sub-contract and transfer of technology with SEC Industries Pvt Ltd of Hyderabad, India. The deal for hull hatches, cofferdam doors, knuckle hoses, ballast vent valves, High Pressure air cylinders, weapon handling and storage system is worth about Rs 310 crore/ EUR 50 million. To make this work, DCNS will provide SEC with full plans for the components, training for over 40 SEC personnel at DCNS facilities during 2012-2013, plus 5 years of on-the-job training and support for manufacturing and quality control at SEC in Hyderabad.

SEC is known in Indian defense circles as a manufacturer of missile airframes and components, and signed a deal with Israel’s IAI back in 2008. The company’s previous experience had been with heavy pump set and road-roller equipment. DCNS.

March 19/12: Delays. The 1st Indian Scorpene sub is now confirmed as scheduled for delivery in June 2015, barring further delays, and program cost is now confirmed at Rs 23,562 crore (currently about $4.56 billion).

The original schedule was for delivery by December 2012, with submarines arriving each year until December 2017. The new official schedule has deliveries beginning 2.5 years later in June 2015, with submarines arriving every 9 months until September 2018. Costs are up about 25.4% from the original CAG-audited cost of Rs 18,798 crore after the deal was signed, or 87% over the program’s initial 2002 figure. Indian MoD | New Kerala | PTI.

Jan 14/12: Fleet readiness. The Hindu reports that construction of India’s 2nd Arihant Class submarine, Aridamana, leaves it slated for launch in late 2012 or early 2013. Fabrication of the 3rd ATV submarine has begun. Meanwhile, unnamed sources in the Indian Navy continue to express concern about the country’s silent service:

“The decline in the operational availability of submarines [as low as 40 per cent] has seriously compromised the force’s vital sea denial capability. The absence of Air Independent Propulsion… is another debilitating factor.”

What this means is that if India has 12 operational submarines (9 Kilo, 4 U209, 1 in refit at any time), it would only be able to field 4-5 boats in an emergency situation.


Inquiry into Black Shark torpedo buy; Scorpenes will be late; Do India’s U209s need life extensions now?; Navy wants Project 75i to be a mix of foreign and locally-built, in order to be on time; State-run stranglehold on Indian defense industry; MDL-Pipavav public-private JV to build and service warships.

Sept 13/11: Industrial. Private shipbuilder Pipavav Defence & Offshore Engineering Company (PDOL) and state-owned Mazagon Dock (MDL) agree to form India’s first public-private partnership venture to build warships and submarines for the Indian Navy.

Mazagon Dock Pipavav Ltd will be held 50/50, and it will help MDL fulfill existing orders while competing for future defence contracts in India. Pipavav chairman Nikhil P Gandhi is quoted as saying that it’s “primarily to fast-forward the process of warships and submarine contracts held currently by the MDL.” India’s Financial Express | Indian Express.

July 29/11: Rear Admiral MT Moraes takes over as the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Submarines) at Delhi, to look after the planning and acquisition of submarines.

Rear Admiral Srikant is also slated to take over as Flag Officer Submarines (FOSM) based at Visakhapatnam, this is the indian Navy’s class authority on submarines, responsible for defining standards, policies and procedures for their operations and maintenance. Rear Admiral G Ashok Kumar will take over as Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) at Kochi. India MoD.

June 8/11: Sub-contractor. DCNS India Pvt. Ltd. signs an undisclosed contract with Flash Forge India Pvt. Ltd., an ISO 9001:2008 certified manufacturer of customized special material forgings based in Visakhapatnam.

This first contract with Flash Forge for the manufacturing of mechanical equipment is the conclusion of a long process for DCNS, which involved identification of potential partners, audits of the manufacturing and quality processes, qualification, and then a competitive Request For Proposal (RFP). With a lot of the advance work out of the way, DCNS expects to announce other local contracts in the near future. DCNS.

June 6/11: IANS relays a report in the May 2011 issue of India Strategic, quoting DCNS India Managing Director Bernard Buisson to say that 2 Scorpene combat systems have been delivered to Mazagon Docks Ltd. (MDL). They’re in the process of integrating the first one.

Buisson reportedly said that there are about 20 – 25 French engineers assisting in technology transfer, and added that DCNS has had technical discussions with the Indian Navy on installing MESMA air independent propulsion (AIP) systems on board the last 2 submarines. That move would raise the subs’ cost, and DCNS said they are (still) awaiting the Navy’s response. IANS | India Strategic.

May 18/11: Delays. The Times of India reports that 2 Indian naval crews will be going to France “after some months” to train for operating the SSK Scorpene fast attack submarines. The article notes that by 2020, India’s fleet will comprise just 5 Kilo Class and 4 U209 Shishumar class boats available, and quotes an unnamed official:

“We now hope to get the first Scorpene by August 2015. Each submarine will have just a 36-member crew since automation levels in them are very high,”… “The first Scorpene will be ‘launched’ into water in 2013, and will be ready for commissioning by August 2015 after extensive harbour and sea trials,” said a top DCNS official. “The target is to deliver the sixth submarine by 2018, one every nine months after the first one in 2015. The third and fourth submarines are already under construction at MDL…”

April 6/11: Stretch the Shishumars? The Scorpene project’s lateness, and uncertainties around Project 75I award and delivery dates, have led India’s Navy to talk with Germany’s HDW about upgrading the capabilities, and extending the lifespans, of its existing U209 Shishumar Class boats, inducted from 1989-1994. Zee News.

Feb 16/11: P75i. Indian media quote Indian navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, who reiterates that the follow-on program to the Scorpene deal is already cleared by India’s government. The result could add 6 more Scorpenes to the order books, or it could result in a parallel program to build another model. With 7 of India’s 14 active submarines due for retirement by 2015, and the Scorpene program 3 years late because of self-inflicted delays, the Indian government’s unwise choice to avoid building any Project 75 Scorpene submarines in France has created a looming crisis for the Navy.

Verma says that the Navy is going through responses to the September 2009 RFI, and hopes to be able to issue a tender in 2011. Responses have reportedly included DCNS (Scorpene AIP), Germany’s HDW (U214) and its Swedish Kockums subsidiary (several options, incl. the forthcoming A26 design), Navantia (S-80), and Russia’s Rosoboronexport (Amur 1650), He adds that Project 75i is looking for an improved combat management system, better sensors and detection range, and the certain inclusion of Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology. Reports place the order total at $11 billion, but that seems high even if it includes both the current $4.38 billion for Project 75’s 6 subs, and a Project 75i program for another 6 diesel-electric boats. Time will tell.

The current plan is for India to order 2 submarines built at the winning foreign shipyard, and build 3 at Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) in Mumbai, and 1 at Hindustan Shipyard in Visakaphatnam. That’s similar to the Project 75 plan pushed by India’s Navy, who wanted 2 boats built abroad because they feared that delays and performance issues might create problems for the Scorpene. Political favoritism overruled that request, and the feared scenario has come to pass. This time, the government is showing slightly more flexibility, by approving the plan to have 2 submarines built abroad in order to avoid a complete crash in fleet numbers. On the other hand, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) refused to accept the recommendation the Project 75i avoid MDL, due to that shipyard’s existing workload. Instead, the government assumes that it would be able to build 3 more submarines, which may even be of a different type, on an accelerated production schedule, while still delivering all 6 Project 75 Scorpene boats to the revised schedule. Yeah, right. IANS | Times of India.

Jan 31/11: Torpedo trouble? India’s Central Vigilance Commissioner has opened an inquiry into Project 75’s planned buy of 98 heavyweight torpedoes, after Atlas Elektronik GmbH executive director Kai Pelzer reportedly lodged a direct complaint. The complaint refers reportedly refers to irregularities in the conduct of the procurement process, including specific charges of corruption. The CVC inquiry was ordered in December 2010.

Atlas Electroniks’ complaint is straightforward: the competition was rigged. The RFP makes the torpedo vendor responsible for seamless integration and/or interface of the torpedo with the SUBTICS combat system. The Finmeccanica/DCNS Blackshark is the Scorpene’s default torpedo, but Atlas had to have their plan approved by the MoD’s Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC). That approval was given, but Atlas’ integration proposal was failed in the user trials. India’s DPP, Para 13, doesn’t allow requirements that “prejudice the technical choices by being narrow and tailor made.” The TEC’s approval escaped that trap, but Para 70a allows only one remaining vendor after trials. Atlas says this was the Navy’s intent all along.

The inquiry suspends India’s planned buy of Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes from Finmeccanica subsidiary Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel (WASS), until this can be sorted out. Atlas Elektronik Gmbh was offering their DM2A4 Seahake. Both torpedoes feature advanced seeker heads, and can be controlled by a trailing fiber optic cable. Defense World | Economic Times of India | Subsequent Business Standard coverage.

Jan 18/11: Industrial. India’s Economic Times sums up the latest revisions to India’s Defence Procurement Policy, amid hopes that the stranglehold of state-run firms on major Indian defense contracts might be loosened:

“…(DPP) 2011 has made it clear that the state-owned companies will get preference while awarding major defence contracts. Private sector will get certain concessions, but the situation has not gone down well with the players… According to DPP 2011, foreign defence vendors can now discharge their offset obligations in the civil aviation, internal security and training sectors, compared to the earlier mandate of discharging the same in the defence industrial sector only… The minister also brushed away concerns that the new policy guidelines related to the capital intensive shipbuilding industry favoured the defence PSUs, in spite of the demonstrated ability of private sector companies, such as Larsen and Toubro (L&T) and Pipavav Shipyard in recent years… L&T, which has invested millions on its state-of-the-art shipbuilding facility at Hazira, was promised a critical role in developing and manufacturing India’s second submarine line, Project 75I, along with the state-owned PSU Mazagon Dock, but was later sidelined… The new policy – which has divided procurement into two different sections – mandates that the DPSU shipyards will be given contracts on a nominated (non-competitive) basis, while the private shipyards will have to participate through a competitive bidding process. Further, it remains the government’s call to decide which contract should be open to competitive bids in the first place, raising questions of whether the government is queering the pitch further.”


Costs rise, delivery slips; India picks WASS Black Shark torpedoes.

December 2010: Torpedoes, etc. WASS (Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei) has launched its first subsidiary in India: Win Blue Water Services (WBWS)/ It will focus on naval equipment, market research and analysis, supporting offset and supply chain management, and creating a service hub for the Middle East and Asia.

WASS has operated in India since 1975. Their A244/S light torpedo recently received an Indian contract to upgrade their stocks to Mod 3, and their Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) partnership is producing the C303 anti-torpedo countermeasures system, which is already 50% indigenized. The firm sees opportunities in artificial underwater targets, underwater surveillance systems for strategic areas and offshore energy production, etc. The more work it does, the more value it can count toward Indian requirements for industrial offsets, and the more it can compete with “indigenous” products for the Indian Navy. WBWS is planning to start joint ventures for its different domains, and is in the process of discussions with Indian companies including Larsen & Toubro. India Strategic.

Dec 2/10: Delays. The headline reads “After delays, Scorpene submarine now on track: Navy chief.” Unfortunately, the IANS article doesn’t offer many specifics to support that contention, so it’s hard to evaluate.

Nov 30/10: P75i. India’s PTI reports that Russia’s Rosoboronexport will offer the latest Amur-1650 class submarines to India for Project 75i, the follow-on tender for 6 new submarines that will either extend or complement the current Scorpene contract.

The Amur is known as the Lada class in Russia, and renaming it the “Amur” for export is probably a good idea, in case anyone still remembers those infamous Lada automobiles. The new class was developed by the Rubin Central Design Bureau of Naval Technology as an improvement to the Project 636 Advanced Kilo-class diesel-electric fast attack submarines, and is said to be even quieter. The 1,765t Amur 1650 variant is larger than the Amur 950 model, and has an option for air independent propulsion. It lacks the 950’s 10 vertical launch tubes, relying instead on 6 reloadable torpedo tubes.

Sept 29/10: Industrial. An Asia Times article, “Leaks in India’s submarine strategy,” says that the submarine construction program has changed:

“India is in the process of getting six Scorpene subs… to be built at the Mazagon facility in Mumbai… but this procurement is experiencing a slowdown. Mazagon Docks in Mumbai will construct three of the six, Hindustan Shipyard Ltd in Visakhapatnam will construct one, and the other two may be procured from foreign sources or built by another private shipyard in India.

“The delivery of the first of the French Scorpenes, which was supposed to enter service in December 2012, has been delayed. Antony addressed this situation in parliament only a few weeks back. This will clearly impact upon India’s undersea force levels,” said [Observer Research Foundation senior fellow Dr. Rajeswar] Rajagopalan. “India has about 35 private shipyards, of which L&T [Larsen & Toubro Ltd] and Pipavav are believed to be competing to build the two submarines, of the six planned.”

The report adds that shrinkage of India’s operational submarine fleet may even force 2 submarines to DCNS shipyards, so they can be delivered and become operational in time. As of March 2012, however, India has done none of these things – just added more overhead and reports, and pushed delivery back.

March 10/10: Costs. DefenseWorld reports that the Indian government has approved another Rs 2,000 crore for the Project 75 Scorpene submarine program, to cover the purchase of contractor-supplied MPM equipment packages for the Project 75 Scorpene submarines.

Negotiations over the price increase have been stalled since October 2005, which has delayed the Project 75 program by 2 years.

Extra for equipment packages

April 26/10: Delays. Sify News quotes a Parliamentary response by defence minister Antony regarding the Scorpenes:

“A programme of construction of six Scorpene submarines is currently underway at Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) under transfer of technology from a French company. As per the contract, the first submarine was scheduled to be delivered in December 2012 and thereafter one each every year till December 2017… There has been a delay due to initial teething problems, absorption of technology and augmentation of MDL purchased material. The first submarine is now expected to be delivered in the second half of 2015… The delay in scheduled delivery of submarines is likely to have an impact on the envisaged [submarine] force level… However, the gap in submarine capacity has been addressed by modernisation with the state-of-the-art weapon and sensor fit on the existing submarines…”

See: Sify News | Indian MoD – less detailed.

March 30/10: WIL partnership. An Indian PR Wire release by Walchandnagar Industries quotes DCNS Chairman Patrick Boissier, who was speaking after the unveiling of the “Vinod Doshi Technology Center”:

“Said that the company which was Europe’s leading company in , ship building , off shore patrol vessels and Submarine manufacturing and valued at Euros 2.5 billion had signed an MOU with WIL last year manufacturing of critical technical parts for Scorpene” submarines for the Indian Navy… Walchandnagar Industries was identified for the project after we scouted for strategic partners and we were convinced that they would provide us the with High level technology for critical manufacturing components, he added “Talking about our future plans is premature, but it is possible in the long term to work with Walchandnagar Industry for world markets after our project in India is completed as we have a 30 % market share in Submarine manufacturing.”

While the release adds a piece to the industrial puzzle, careful reading of Mr. Boissier’s statement shows no commitment made.

Jan 12/10: Torpedoes. India’s MoD picks the DCNS/Finmeccanica WASS Blackshark heavyweight torpedo to arm its Scorpene Class submarines. The Blackshark is the standard torpedo offered with the class, and already serves with Malaysia’s Scorpene. India’s total buy is projected at 98 torpedoes, for Rs 1,700 crore, but there is no contract yet.

Their competitor was Atlas Elektronik, who supplies the SUT-B torpedoes that arm India’s upgraded U209 Sindhugosh Class. Atlas’ new DM2 A4 Seahake, which has demonstrated very long range engagements, would have been the torpedo used on the Scorpenes. Source.

Torpedo picked


CAG auditors unimpressed with Project 75; More money needed; India’s submarine readiness problem.

Dec 2/09: Delays. The Indian government confirms earlier reports, via a written reply to a Parliamentary question:

“As per contract signed with Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL), first Scorpene submarine is scheduled to be delivered in December 2012 and thereafter, one each every year till December 2017. On account of some teething problems, time taken in absorption of technology and delays in augmentation of industrial infrastructure and procurement of MDL purchased materials (MPM), slippage in the delivery schedule is expected. Delay in scheduled delivery of submarines is likely to have an impact on the envisaged submarine force levels [for the Navy as a whole]. Loss on account of the delayed delivery is difficult to quantify at this stage.

This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Shri Prabhat Jha and Shri Prakash Javadekar in Rajya Sabha today.”

Aug 29/09: Costs. The Times of India reports that the Defence Acquisitions Council has decided to approach the Cabinet Committee on Security to approve a EUR 300 million (about Rs 2,000 crore) cost spike for the French ‘MDL procured material (MPM) packages,’ from a EUR 400 in 2005 to EUR 700 million now. The MPM packages go inside the hulls being produced by Magazon Docks Ltd., and reportedly include virtually all major systems connected with sensors, propulsion, and other systems.

Contracts signed to date include the October 2005 Rs 6,315 crore contract with DCNS’ predecessor for transfer of technology, combat systems and construction design; the October 2005 Rs 1,062 crore contract with MBDA for sea-skimming Exocet missiles and related systems; a Rs 5,888 crore contract with MDL for local submarine construction; Rs 3,553 crore set aside for taxes; and Rs 2,160 crore for other project requirements. Total: Rs 18,798 crore. India Comptroller and Auditor General reports that the government’s 9-year delay in finalizing the deal has probably raised the project’s cost by 2,838 crore, or about 15% of the project’s total cost before this price rise.

July 20-27/09: CAG report critical. India’s Comptroller and Auditor General releases a report critical of the Scorpene acquisition, and Defense Minister A K Antony admits to India’s Parliament that the project is running about 2 years behind schedule, due to “some teething problems, absorption of technology, delays in augmentation of industrial infrastructure and procurement of MDL purchased materials (MPM).”

The CAG report criticizes the fact that the submarine requirement was approved in 1997, but no contract was signed until 2005, and then for only 6 of the envisioned 24 boats. Overall, the project cost had increased from Rs 12,609 crore in October 2002 to Rs 15,447 crore by October 2005 when the contract was signed. Once it was signed, the CAG believes that “the contractual provisions resulted in undue financial advantage to the vendor of a minimum of Rs 349 crore.”

The overall project, which includes a submarine construction facility at Mazagon Dockyards Ltd. (MDL), is placed at Rs 18,798 crore, or 187.98 billion rupees (currently about $4 billion). The Times of India believes that the final program cost will be over Rs 20,000 crore (currently about $4.3 billion), as the cost of key equipment that MDL shipyards needs is rising quickly. Rediff News notes other excerpts from the CAG report, adding that an accompanying Rs 1,062 crore deal for Exocet anti-ship missiles will have issues of its own:

“But even before the missiles becomes operational on the submarine, the warranty period of first two batches of the missiles supplied by the company would have expired, it added. India also extended to the [submarine] vendor “Wide ranging concessions” on warranty, performance bank guarantee, escalation formula, arbitration clause, liquidated damages, agency commission and performance parameters…”

See: Times of India | Rediff news

CAG report & costs

Jan 13/09: Sub-standard force. A CNN-IBN TV program highlights the case of the Kilo Class submarine INS Sindhukirti, whose repair schedule reportedly ran for 10 years, and which “has been in dry dock at Vizag for a refit programme for close to five years now.”

A confidential Indian CAG report is said to have found that only 7 of India’s 16 submarines are available for combat at any time. That’s not an unusual percentage for a submarine force, but if 10 of the 16 are due for phase-out by 2012, the impact on force levels is obvious. To maintain current numbers, one submarine would need to be inducted every 2 years, but there have been no additions since 2001. Source.

2006 – 2008

Deal for subs signed; India considering AIP propulsion addition; Scorpene unlikely to make 2012 deadline; India begins soliciting for follow-on Project 75i submarines.

May 28/08: Delays. The Hindustan Times reports India’s navy may not be able to induct the first Scorpene submarine by the 2012 deadline, as the French have yet to part with crucial details including design and drawing documentation. “A senior navy official confirmed to HT on Tuesday that the project had been delayed by a year.”

The Scorpene project is not the only Indian naval project with delivery issues, and these situations have begun to create combat power issues for India’s navy. The article states that by 2015, India’s fleet will have shrunk from 16 submarines to 10 Kilo Class plus the Scorpenes. See also subsequent Financial Express report.

Feb 28/08: P75i.India Looking for Additional Submarines.” The Project 75i RFP is reported to be worth about EUR 3 billion/ $4.5 billion, and responding firms are apparently Spain’s Navantia (S-80 confirmed), France’s DCNS (unknown, Scorpene or Marlin Class that’s under design), Russia’s Rubin (Improved Kilo), and Germany’s HDW (unknown, U212A or U214).

Project 75i RFP

March 22/06: Costs. India’s MoD responds to Scorpene-related financial and security breach allegations:

“No contract or contracts were signed with French firms for Rs. 16,000 crore for the Scorpene project. The total cost of the two contracts signed with the two French firms, M/s ARMARIS and MBDA, for the project is Rs. 7,197 crores.

The Government did not pay an extra amount of Rs. 4,500 crore than what was negotiated earlier. On the contrary, after the present Government came to power, it re-examined the project even though all negotiations had been completed in 2002 and the Ministry of Finance had accorded approval to the project in 2003. The present Government held negotiations and was able to achieve a reduction of Rs. 313 crore in the contracts with the two French firms from the negotiated position in 2002… As a result of the negotiations, the Government was also able to achieve several long-term concessions. These included the revision of the escalation formulae to the advantage of the Indian side by adjusting the fixed element in the ARMARIS contract and placing a cap on escalation in the MBDA contract. A cap was also placed on the Exchange Rate Variation (ERV) for calculation of profit for the Public Sector Undertaking, Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL).

Besides the contract with the two French firms, the only other contract that was signed was with the Defence Public Sector undertaking, Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL), for Rs. 5,888 crores for the indigenous construction of the submarines. Therefore, even taking into account the value of contract signed with MDL, the total value of all contracts signed for the Scorpene project is Rs. 13,085 crores out of the sanction accorded for Rs. 18,798 crores towards the project. Out of the balance amount of Rs. 5,713 crores, Rs. 3,553 crores is for payments towards taxes and Rs. 2,160 crores towards other items to be acquired during the project period for which only preliminary steps have been taken. No contract or contracts have been signed for the items under this head. A Technical Agreement was also signed between India and France to ensure the continued support of the French Government to the “project.

The Integrity Pacts signed to ensure transparency of the project, contain, severe penalties in case of breach of any of its provisions. The safeguards include cancellation of the contract, recovery of all advances with interest at a rate of 2% higher than the European Inter Bank Offered Rate or EURIBOR, non-payment by the buyer of any dues on any other contract to make such recoveries, imposition of Liquidated Damages and the recovery of all sums paid to any middleman or agent… The French company that has been accused of committing to pay commission to the alleged middleman has denied all the allegations and has stated that all the e-mails published in the articles in a journal that carried this story are fake and fabricated… The French company has since been reported to have filed a case in the Delhi High Court on 24th February 2006 against the journal which first made the allegations.

…Some press reports also sought to establish a link between the Scorpene project and the breach of security that had occurred in the Directorate of Naval Operations in the Naval Head Quarters… However, the leaked information did not pertain to the Scorpene project.”

March 1/06: AIP?India Looks to Modify Scorpene Subs With MESMA AIP Propulsion.” Submarines 4-6 will include the MESMA system, according to reports. Those reports are contradicted by later reports, which make it clear that no AIP submarines are contracted yet.

The article also includes information about competing AIP systems.

Oct 7/05: After 4 years of delays, India has finally signed a $3.5 billion submarine deal for French-Spanish Scorpene SSKs, to be manufactured under license by Mumbai-based Mazagon Dock Ltd., and delivered to the Indian Navy between 2012-2017. A contract signed between Armaris and Mazagoan docks provides for a team of French technical advisers during the construction of the first 2 submarines.

The government also awarded global missile systems group MBDA the contract to supply its Exocet SM-39 anti-ship missiles, to arm the Scorpenes. Indian Express.

Scorpene deal & Exocets

Appendix A: India’s Current Submarine Force, and Rival Navies Chinese SSK Project 636
(click to view full)

India’s two most prominent competitors are Pakistan and China.

Pakistan currently owns 5 submarines. Their 4 French Daphne submarines (Hangor Class) were retired in 2006. A pair of French Agosta 70 submarines (Hashmat Class) acquired from the French Navy were modified to fire Harpoon anti-ship missiles in 1985, but they won’t last much longer. Three updated Agosta 90Bs (Khalid Class) are also in service, commissioned in 1999, 2003, and 2008, respectively. PNS Hamza has a MESMA Air-Independent Propulsion system that lets the submarine stay underwater for much longer periods of time, and the other two Agosta 90B boats are getting MESMA retrofits. On balance, this will make them slightly more advanced than India’s new Scorpenes.

Pakistan had an opportunity to add to its diesel-electric fleet, but they’re reportedly pursuing nuclear submarine technology, while shelving a plan to more than double their advanced SSK fleet. On balance, that’s good news for India.

As of 2008, China owned about 66 submarines; 18 of them were Type 035/33s, which are Chinese derivatives of the 1960s-era Romeo Class. The Romeos were based on 1944 U-Boat designs, and even the 17 Type 35s aren’t expected to last much longer, or retain much of a role beyond training. If one leaves out all SSBN/SSGN nuclear missile submarines, all 5 of China’s problem-plagued Type 091 Han Class SSN nuclear powered attack subs, and all of the Romeo derivatives, China’s attack sub force alone still stood at 36 boats in 2008: 4 Type 093 Shang Class SSNs, 12 Kilo (Project 636) & Advanced Kilo Class (Project 877) SSKs, 13 Type 039 Song Class SSKs, and 7 Type 041 Yuan Class improvements of the diesel-electric Song Class.

China continues to build Shang Class SSNs and Yuan Class SSKs, which means that overall fast attack fleet numbers can be expected to grow.

As noted above, India currently operates 16 submarines, but only 12-14 can be said to be in service, and the fleet could face a noticeable decline beginning in 2015 or so:

Shishumar Class: 4 German Type 209 SSK submarines, built locally and delivered between 1984 – 1994. The vessels are expected to reach their end of service life between 2016-2024. The United News of India (UNI) reported on Sept 6/04 that Siemens of Germany has offered the Indian Navy an upgrade for the Shishumar Class submarines, which will involve the installation of their Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system. As of 2014, India has only managed to approve the idea of a non-AIP refit for 2 subs.

Sindhugosh Class: 10 Russian Kilo Class/ Project 877 SSKs, built (1986-1991, 1997, 2000) under a contract between Rosvooruzhenie and the Indian Defense Ministry. They’re very quiet submarines, but there are reports that the Indian Navy considers them underpowered. Most of these subs have received mid-life refits in Russia, but the quality of those refits has been a subject of dispute. Key components of these mid-life refits and upgrades have include tube-launched Klub-S cruise missiles, plus a hydro-acoustic “USHUS” complex, a CCS-MK radio-communication system, and Porpoise Electronic Support Measures to locate radar emissions. A couple of these submarines are still undergoing work in India.

INS Sindhukirti was incapacitated by a bungled refit state-run Hindustan Shipyard Ltd. (HSL), and has been laid up since 2007. INS Sindhurakshak was destroyed by an in-harbor explosion in August 2013, leaving 8 operational subs.

Scorpene Class: 0 built or in service. Earliest expected in-service date is now 2015 for the 1st boat, and that date could slip to 2018. The entire fleet of 6 may not be operational until after 2020.

INS Chakra: 1 Improved Akula Class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine, owned under a 10-year lease from Russia. Its primary purpose is to train nuclear submarine crews for the Arihant Class, but INS Chakra is fully capable, and could be pressed into operational service. The former K-152 Nerpa was handed over in January 2012, but as of January 2013, the boat had issues with readiness.

Arihant Class SSBN. 1 boat in trials, with 3 others under construction. Designed and built in India, this nuclear-powered submarine has a limited ability to launch nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. Arihant was launched in July 2009, and conducted her 1st K-15 missile firing in March 2012, but hasn’t been commissioned yet. The Indian Navy hoped to do so in 2013. See “India’s Nuclear Submarine Projects” for further details.

Additional Readings & Sources Background: India’s Submarines

Background: India’s Nuclear Submarines

Background: Related Technologies

Additional Readings: News and Events

Additional Readings: Rival Navies

Categories: News

Carrier Signal: China’s Naval Aviation

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 00:46
SU-33s: folded, landing
(click to view full)

In 1998, the former Russian carrier Varyag was bought by a Chinese firm for use as a “tourist attraction.” Nobody believed that, and by 2005, she was in drydock for secret refits. Still, a carrier needs planes. Near the end of October 2006, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper revealed that Russian state-run weapon exporter Rosoboronexport was in negotiations with China to deliver SU-33s, a variant of Sukhoi’s SU-27 Flanker with forward canards, foldings wings, an arrester hook, a reinforced structure, and other modifications that help it deal with carrier operations and landings.

By 2009, Russian media were reporting a breakdown of negotiations, citing low order numbers and past pirating of Russian SU-27/30 designs. China built on that prior piracy to produce its SU-33 look-alike “J-15,” with the reported assistance of an SU-33 prototype bought from the Ukraine. It’s now 2012, and China’s myriad deceptions have served their purpose. They don’t have an active carrier force yet, but they’re very close.

A Carrier for China

The PLA Navy has made contradictory statements regarding its wish to have an operational aircraft carrier, but most expert observers believed they were working on a program to do so. Those beliefs were correct.

The Liaoning

China’s Dalian Shipyard refitted the 65,000t ex-Soviet Navy aircraft carrier Varyag (previously Riga), which the “Chong Lot Travel Agency” acquired from the Ukraine in 1998 for $20 million. She was in in extremely poor condition, as one might expect of any ship after a decade or more of serious neglect. Indeed, she spent 16 months under commercial tow circling in the Black Sea, while negotiations proceeded with the nervous Turks to allow her to be towed through the critical Bosporus Strait. The Turks didn’t have anything against China, per se. They were just afraid that the ship’s size and condition would result in a shipping disaster. After a long trip, Varyag arrived in China in 2002, and entered drydock in 2005.

China’s assurances that the Varyag was destined to be a floating hotel were ludicrous on their face, and very soon they were sharply at variance with the ship’s observable paint job. Nobody with a gram of sense ever believed the cover story. The real question was whether the Chinese believed they could bring Varyag up to operational status, or whether they planned to just use the ship as a learning platform, in preparation for their own construction efforts later.

The carrier was commissioned in 2012 as the Liaoning, and there is every indication that China plans to make it fully operational. Weapons have been fitted, including close-in gatling guns and short-range air defense missiles.

Real operation, however, requires planes.

In October 2006, reported that China would spend $100 million to buy 2 Su-33 fighters from Komsomolsk-on-Amur Production Association for ‘trial and evaluations,’ with delivery expected in 2007-08. Reports claimed there was also an agreed option for another 12 Su-33 fighters, with the potential for the deal to grow to 48 SU-33s and $2.5 billion.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that this was simply a ploy to rip off Russia’s design. Russia backed out of the sale, and tried to negotiate a much larger up front commitment from China.

Unfortunately for the Russians, the Chinese acquired an SU-33 prototype from the Ukraine, married it to their past experience copying SU-27/30 fighters, and created the “J-15″ instead.

China landed a J-15 on the Liaoning in late 2012, opening the way to a true naval aviation force. With 2 more locally-built carriers underway, that force can be expected to grow quickly. American naval observers keep stressing the decade-long amount of time required to train and field an effective carrier force, but China has a wealth of engineering talent, and a large aviation force to draw on. Don’t be surprised if the Chinese beat American predictions by a comfortable margin.

Reports and Key Events 1st J-15 landing
click for video

May 4/15: China’s J-11D fighter has completed its maiden flight. The upgraded D model also reportedly includes the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system developed for the J-16, which the PLAAF received last year. The new aircraft is also purported to boast composite materials and improved air to air capabilities. However, reports have detailed how the PLAAF may require both the J-11D and the Russian Su-35, in order to fill a capability gap before China’s fifth-generation fighters enter service.

Nov 25/12: China announces the 1st at-sea landing of a J-15 aboard the Liaoning. “We have done all these test flights from the very beginning, and finally we mastered the key skills for the landing of carrier-borne aircraft,” says People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) deputy commander Vice-Admiral Zhang Yongyi. China People [in Chinese] | Xinhua | Al Jazeera | India’s Economic Times.

J-15 carrier landing

Sept 25/12: Liaoning. Chinese authorities officially confirm that they have commissioned the “Liaoning” as their 1st aircraft carrier. Chinese MoD [ in Chinese] | Washington Post | WSJ.


April 25/11: J-15. Pictures of China’s new “J-15 Flying shark” carrier-borne fighter are published in China’s state-owned Global Post. Its uncanny resemblance to Russia’s Su-33 is noted by all and sundry. Defense Tech.

June 4/10: J-15. Russian sources are quoted in RIA Novosti as saying that China will have a hard time duplicating the SU-33. Col. (Ret.) Igor Korotchenko, a member of the Defense Ministry’s Public Council

“The Chinese J-15 clone is unlikely to achieve the same performance characteristics of the Russian Su-33 carrier-based fighter, and I do not rule out the possibility that China could return to negotiations with Russia on the purchase of a substantial batch of Su-33s… Korotchenko said China was unlikely to solve technical problems related to the design of the folding wings and to develop a reliable engine for the aircraft, although the first J-15 prototype reportedly made its maiden flight on August 31, 2009, powered by Chinese WS-10 turbofan engines.”

In the end, they seem to do fine. Note that the picture accompanying the article is actually a Chinese J-10 land-based fighter.

Dec 17/09: China’s carrier, which is reportedly known as the Shi Lang (after the Chinese general who took possession of Taiwan in 1681), now has a radar mast. The ship is under guard, but it can be seen from a nearby highway, painted in the gray shade used by the Chinese navy. Many workers can be seen on the ship, with lots of visible change to the superstructure, and material is seen going in and out. The Chinese have reportedly been in touch with Russian naval construction firms, and may have purchased plans. StrategyPage adds:

“Late last year, China announced that its first class of carrier aviators had begun training at the Dalian Naval Academy. The naval officers will undergo a four year course of instruction to turn them into fighter pilots capable of operating off a carrier. China already has an airfield, in the shape of a carrier deck, built at an inland facility.”

March 20/09: Chinese defense minister Liang Guanglie reportedly tells visiting Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada that:

“Among the big nations only China does not have an aircraft carrier. China cannot be without an aircraft carrier forever… China’s navy is currently rather weak, we need to develop an aircraft carrier.”

The Agence France Presse report adds that earlier in March 2009, China Daily quoted Admiral Hu Yanlin as saying:

“Building aircraft carriers is a symbol of an important nation. It is very necessary… China has the capability to build aircraft carriers and should do so.”

March 13/09: Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that negotiations are continuing for the SU-33 sale:

“Negotiations for the sale of Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-capable combat aircraft to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) are still continuing with both sides interested in coming to a final agreement, Russian industry sources have told Jane’s . “Previous reports that these discussions are at an end or that the ‘contract has been cancelled’ are incorrect,” said a Russian source close to the programme.”

SU-33 carrier launch
(click for 3-view)

March 10/09: The Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper reports that Russia is refusing to sell China SU-33 jets, citing past piracy of the design for its SU-27 fighters. China initially sought 2 SU-33s for its “trial basis” order, which are a modified variant of the SU-27. Subsequent negotiations reportedly raised the “trial” order to 14 of the 50 aircraft China said it wanted, but that was not enough to remove the basic problem.

In 1995, China received a license for the production of 200 Su-27SK fighters; that agreement was later terminated at 95 planes. China cushioned the blow by ordering a total of 110 SU-30MK2s between 1999-2003, but they are now producing a “J-11B” fighter that appears to be an SU-27 with Chinese radar and avionics, and Chinese WS-10 engines in place of Russian Lyulka AL-31s. The issue was reportedly raised at the 13th meeting of the Russian-Chinese Committee for Military Cooperation in December 2008, without resolution.

If Russia believes that its SU-33s are being ordered so they can be cloned by the Chinese, creating a future with no further orders from China, and a cheaper version of their weapons offered for global export, then their lack of interest in a deal is understandable.

Note that concerns are also being raised in Russia around ongoing production of Russian-derived Cold War era designs by Eastern European countries, which could create future diplomatic incidents. Pravda report.

2001 – 2008 Varyag, under renovation
(click to view larger)

Dec 31/08: More carriers. Japan’s Asahi Shimbun:

“China will begin construction of the country’s first domestically produced aircraft carriers in Shanghai next year, with an eye to completing two mid-sized carriers by 2015, military and shipbuilding sources said. Beijing is also expected to complete work on a never-finished former Soviet aircraft carrier moored in the northeastern port of Dalian, to provide training for carrier-based pilots and crew. The two 50,000- to 60,000-ton carriers will rely on conventional propulsion systems, not nuclear power…

According to sources close to Shanghai municipal authorities, one of the world’s largest shipbuilding facilities was completed this fall on Changxingdao island at the mouth of the Changjiang river near Shanghai. One of the four docks there is for construction of the aircraft carriers, they said.”

See also: Information Dissemination.

Dec 23/08: China’s defence ministry spokesman Huang Xueping discusses that country’s carrier plans during a rare press conference, called to announce the dispatch of Chinese warships to the Somali coast on anti-piracy patrols. When asked about rumors of a Chinese aircraft carrier, he said that:

“An aircraft carrier is a symbol of overall national strength and a symbol of the competitiveness of the nation’s naval force… The Chinese government will take into overall account the relevant factors and seriously consider the relevant issue.”

See: Agence France Presse, via Defense News.

Oct 24/08: Jane’s report:

“Russian sources have now told Jane’s that under the current proposal the Russian in-service Su-33 would be put back into production and the PLAN would acquire 14 of this type to be used for the training phase of the programme…

“The next step will be to modernise the Su-33, which was first designed in the late 1980s, with a new set of state-of-the-art onboard systems,” a KnAAPO representative told Jane’s on the eve of the biennial Air Show China in late October. “What this new aeroplane is most likely to be is a combination Su-33 airframe with a radar, avionics and cockpit instrumentation that is a ‘developed’ configuration based on the Su-30MK2, and this will be the PLAN’s operational version.”

Sept 19/08: Indian Express cites a small article in a recent issue of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, which announced that the first batch of 50 pilots cadets have been inducted at the Dalian Naval Academy to undergo training on ‘ship borne aircraft flight.’ The first batch of pilots undergoing training on ‘basic theories of surface ship and flight’ will reportedly graduate from the academy in 4 years.

Nov 1/06: Russian news agency RIA Novosti describes SU-33 negotiations as “at a preliminary stage.” That same article also noted that Alexander Denisov, who headed Russia’s delegation at Airshow China 2006, said that Russia is ready to help China design an aircraft carrier if asked.

March 1/02: The Tsavliris Salvage Group has delivered the Varyag’s hulk to her new owners in China, at the end of a marathon towage operation lasting 110 days.

The ship couldn’t go through Suez because she can’t move under her own power, so she was towed out of the Mediterranean and around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Maritime Journal.

Nov 1/01: The Varyag’s engineless hulk has passed through the Bosporus Strait’s tight curves and powerful currents, after finally getting permission from Turkey. The Turks had been concerned about a major shipping disaster, which had held up passage for 15-16 months.

The ship was towed through without incident, but it took 6 hours, instead of the usual 1.5 hours expected by a normal ship like an oil tanker. CNN. Additional Readings & Sources

Other News

Categories: News

Victoria Class Submarine Fleet Creating Canadian Controversies

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 00:32
HMCS Victoria
(click to view full)

Canada’s aging fleet of Oberon class submarines had become simply too old to put in the water. In July 2000, their de facto retirement became official. The question was: what, if anything, would replace them? With long coastlines, and a significant portion of its iced-in northern seas used as running grounds for foreign submarines, Canada’s military believed that giving up its submarine capability was not a viable option for a country that wished to maintain its sovereignty.

Unfortunately, the country’s purchase of 4 second-hand diesel-electric Upholder Class submarines from Britain ran into controversy almost from its inception. In early 2008, controversy flared again as the submarines’ C$ 1.5 billion Victoria Class In-Service Support Contract (VISSC) became an issue. Subsequent revelations concerning spiraling costs, boats in poor condition, and few to no actual submarines in service have kept the fleet controversial to the present day.

The Victoria Class Program Victoria Class
(click to view full)

The Upholder Class began service in 1990, but construction issues and an all-nuclear fleet ensured that all 4 were retired from Royal Navy service in 1994. Canada paid about C$ 750 million for their initial purchase, and the submarines were delivered between 2000-2004.

The British had chosen to dock and retire their Upholders rather than upgrade them, so the job of performing the submarine’s first deep refit was left to Canada. Whereupon they discovered that British had stored the subs with water in their fuel tanks, key welds needed to be redone, at least one hull dent had to be fixed, and some diesel exhaust valves needed replacing. The damage was pervasive. HMS Upholder (now HMCS Chicoutimi) spent a total of 9 years in long-term saltwater storage before her transfer, while the other vessels spent between 4 – 6 years.

Self-inflicted wounds added to the misery. Canada also wanted compatibility with its store of Mk48 torpedoes, rather than replacing the weapons with the British Spearfish torpedoes that the subs had been built for. The resulting work included replacing some Upholder systems with fire control devices from the defunct Oberon Class, a decision that was meant to be economical. It didn’t work out that way.

Unsurprisingly, refit and refurbishment costs for the renamed Victoria Class skyrocketed well past the initial GBP C$ 750 million estimate. Beyond the costs involved, the need for refits and their slow pace have left Canada fielding the equivalent of training submarines for about a decade. At more than one point, problems have left the entire fleet of commission. Meanwhile, the cost of the refits, plus the cost of modifying Canada’s Mk.48 torpedoes to a modern standard, cost more than the Spearfish torpedoes would have – while rendering Canada’s submarines unable to fire more effective weapons like Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Just to make things interesting, an intellectual property dispute remains a problem for fleet maintenance. The state-owned shipyard that made the submarines was privatized to VSEL just a month after construction began, and the intellectual property was transferred to the new company. The British government has the right to use the information for its own purposes, but not to sell or give it to Canada. That left Canada in a very difficult position with respect to repairs and overhaul, with some of the technical data package designated as “information only,” and key data missing for equipment and sub-systems.

Canada’s 4 Submarines

Taking Chicoutimi home
(click to view full)

HMCS Victoria, SSK 876: Commissioned in 2000. In 2004, her electrical system was destroyed when the submarine was hooked up to an on-shore electric supply. Entered her Extended Docking Work Period (EDWP) at Esquimalt, BC in 2005, and was supposed to become operational again by 2009, but wasn’t even undocked until April 18/11. Camber dive took place on Sept 26/11, and a torpedo firing test took place in July 2012, leading to full readiness. The Navy expects 4 years of service after that, followed by another EDWP from 2016 – 2019. By 2018, the submarine will have had 4 years of full operational capability, 6 years of below-standard readiness, and 8 years of maintenance.

HMCS Windsor, SSK 877: Commissioned in 2003, and has been one of the more active submarines. Sailed from June 2005 – December 2006, and spent 146 days at sea in 2006 alone. The boat participated in a number of large US-Canadian exercises, and trained for special operations capabilities, including the first ever parachute rendezvous at sea practiced with Canada’s Pathfinder paratroopers. On the other hand, extensive corrosion during her storage period with the Royal Navy restricts her diving depth.

Windsor entered EDWP in 2007 at Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Scott in Halifax, NS. She wasn’t expected to leave until 2012, but operational status took until 2013. That was supposed to be followed by 5 years of service, and then a 2-year maintenance period from 2018 – 2020, but 1 of her diesel generators broke down. It will need to be replaced in a refit, which will begin in March 2014 and could last up to a year. Meanwhile, Windsor is a training sub at best.

HMCS Corner Brook, SSK 878: Commissioned in 2003. Spent 463 out of 1769 days at sea (26%) between October 2006 and mid-June 2011, engaging in various NATO, CAN/US exercises as an “opposing” sub, supporting Operation NANOOK near Baffin Island in August 2007 and August 2009, and Operation CARIBBE around the Caribbean Basin and Eastern Pacific in March 2008 and March 2011.

Corner Brook had an accident shortly after Canada took possession, as a malfunction in her SSE underwater decoy deployer let in 1,500 litres/ 400 gallons of saltwater. In 2008 and 2009 she was deployed and then taken in for short maintenance periods, and was expected to become operational again in spring 2010. Unfortunately, she hit the seabed on June 4/11 during a training exercise off the BC coast, damaging her bow. Corner Brook is currently in an “Extended Limited Maintenance Period” dockside at Esquimalt, BC, to be followed by an EDWP from 2014-2016, once Chicoutimi is done. If that repair and refit goes well, Corner Brook would become operational again in 2016. The plan is for the submarine to serve 6 more years after that, before her next 2-year maintenance period begins in 2022.

HMCS Chicoutimi, SSK 879: Commissioned in 2004. On Oct 5/04, HMCS Chicoutimi was sailing from Falsane, Scotland when it was disabled by a fire caused by the entry of seawater. One sailor died, 2 others were injured, and the boat had to be rescued by British frigates before being shipped home on a cargo vessel. In response, Canada conducted a full inquiry, and the entire submarine fleet was docked until May 2005. The inquiry determined that the short was possible because the wiring had just 1 layer of waterproof sealant, instead of the 3 layers specified in the original British construction contract.

Chicoutimi was eventually shipped all the way over to Esquimalt, BC, on the west coast, but she was laid up for over 5 years before the EDWP deep maintenance formally began. It’s supposed to end in 2012, with a return to service due in 2013, but it wasn’t even floated out of drydock until November 2013. Testing at sea will begin in early 2014, but it’s possible that she may never become a fully operational boat. See Sept 23/11 entry, below.

Maintaining the Fleet

The Canadian Navy aren’t the only ones looking forward to having working submarines in the water. The US Navy needs to train against diesel-electric subs, but doesn’t operate any. Canada’s next-door fleet will be an oft-requested partner for naval exercises. The question is when and if they can show up. According to the Royal Canadian Navy, the entire fleet has accumulated just 1,131 days at sea from 2003 – 2013, compared to 1,077 days at sea in just 4 years of service with Britain’s Royal Navy.

Canada defines Full Operational Capability (FOC) as a weapons-ready sub available “in each of the ocean spaces in which we base,” which means the east and west coasts. By 2013 – 13 years after the first submarine had been delivered – Canada still had not achieved FOC. The Canadian plan to achieve it in 2013, with HMCS Windsor on the east coast and HMCS Victoria on the west coast, went by the wayside with Windsor’s breakdown. Early indications are that FOC won’t happen until 2014 at least.

Once it does happen, the challenge becomes keeping 2 submarines operational. The process of awarding that ongoing support contract began in 2006, but quickly ran into its own set of delays. The Canadian government finally pushed through a decision on the fleet under the Victoria-class In-Service Support Contract (VISSC) in January 2008, but implementation ran into another lawsuit filed by the losing bidder, as well as strong pressure from a member of the Prime Minister’s own party. Who happened to be the Canadian Parliament’s recognized authority on submarines. It all got sorted eventually, and a follow-on support contract was issued in 2013, but MP Bill Casey’s questions remain valid. See Appendix A for more details.

Contracts & Key Events 2014

Sept 24/14: MK48 Canada. The US DSCA announces Canada’s formal export request for up to 12 MK-48 Mod 7 Advanced Technology Torpedo Conversion Kits, which would upgrade 12 of Canada’s existing inventory of MK-48 torpedoes from Mod 4 to Mod 7. The torpedoes would be used in Canada’s Victoria Class submarines, and the proposed purchase includes containers, spare and repair parts, weapon system support and integration, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and US Government and contractor support.

The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Sippican, Inc. in Marion, MA; and the estimated cost is up to $41 million, or about $3.42 millon per conversion kit. Canada has significant relevant infrastructure, including MK-48 Mod 4/4M and MK-46 Mod 5A (SW) torpedoes, so they won’t need any additional US government or contractor representatives. Sources: US DSCA #14-49, “Canada – MK-48 Mod 7 Advanced Technology Torpedo Kits”.

DSCA request: MK48-7AT upgrade kits (12)

May 4/15: Canada is planning a major mid-life extension program for its fleet of Victoria-class subs. Various options are being considered, with a report expected by June. The project is expected to be worth between $1.2 and $2.5 billion, with the aim of extending the boats’ life by six to eighteen years. Lacking an indigenous submarine industry, the Canadians will have to look to foreign suppliers in order to fulfill modernization requirements.

Feb 5/14: Windsor. It has been known for several months that HMCS Windsor, which completed a $209-million refit just 18 months ago, has a broken Paxman Valenta 16-cylinder diesel generator. Now, Canada’s Navy is beginning to detail what’s involved in the fix.

The submarine will be drydocked in March 2014, for repairs that will take at least 7 months, and could last up to a year. They’ll replace the generator, but if the Dutch breach hatch is too small, they’ll need to cut the submarine in half and repairs will take much longer. There’s a replacement generator in the spare parts inventory, and the total cost for the generator and labour is about C$ 1.5 million. Other maintenance and engineering changes will also be carried out at the same time, at additional cost, and of course the generator cost itself could rise quite a bit if they need to cut Windsor in 2.

Once all that is done, the Navy will have to re-test Windsor, and perhaps finally fire a torpedo from a sub they’ve owned for over a decade. Sources: CBC News, “Submarine HMCS Windsor shore bound after engine failure.”

2012 – 2013

Torpedo firing. Windsor breakdown. VISSC.

Windsor & frigate
(click to view full)

Nov 26/13: Chicoutimi. HMCS Chicoutimi is released from dry dock after a long refit, to begin basic camber dive, tracking, and shallow diving tests. If that goes well, full trials will take place in early 2014 – almost a decade after the boat was last at sea. The Halifax Chronicle Herald adds that:

“National Defence could not provide upgrade costs for Chicoutimi on Wednesday. Repairs to two other submarines, HMCS Victoria and HMCS Windsor, came in at about $200 million each, but their docking period was not as long as Chicoutimi’s.”

Sources: DND, “Fact Sheet – Royal Canadian Navy Submarines: Fleet Status” | Halifax Chronicle Herald, “Sub involved in fatal fire back in water”.

Sept 8/13: Spy story. In 2008, Canada signed a C$ 1.3 million deal with the German firm Applied Radar and Sonar Technologies GmbH to install acoustic monitoring devices, as part of an underwater training range. Delivery was supposed to take place in 2009. Fast forward to a a December 2012 briefing note prepared for senior DND staff, which says the company has disappeared, the contract is terminated, and they’re going to try and use international collection agencies to collect about C$ 1 million.

Just one problem. The Ottawa Citizen tracked the firm to Izmir, Turkey. Its CEO says that not only has the equipment been ready for a while, but DND officials have visited him in Turkey at least 4 times over the years. The hangup is transportation costs, and the core of the 2012 allegations involve sloppy research by the Ministry of Public Works and Government Services, which is disconnected from DND’s efforts.

As to why they’re in Turkey, and why the shipping charges are a problem, the “Kremer Affair” is an interesting story. In 2005, Germany’s BND intelligence service asked the firm to pass along information acquired from arms deals with foreign customers. Applied Radar and Sonar Technologies declined, and shortly thereafter, German police seized their computers and company equipment. German courts cleared the firm of wrongdoing under the charges, and said that compensation was in order for the grave damage to the firm’s finances and operations, but the government hasn’t paid. The firm relocated to Turkey to avoid further harassment, but the entire affair left them without the funds to ship Canada’s equipment per the contract. DND was contacted about this in 2009, and refused to pay anything more.

A more rational decision model might have looked at the small shipping sum involved, the firm’s proven ethics, and the cost of not having the range at full readiness, and paid it. Instead, here we are. Sources: Ottawa Citizen, “Missing $1M DND equipment order not missing all along, contractor says” | Note to Public Works – there’s this thing called Bing…

July 23/13: Corner Brook. DND spokeswoman Tracy Poirier responds to the Ottawa Citizen:

“At this point, the full extent of the damage to HMCS Corner Brook is being assessed during her ongoing Extended Limited Maintenance Period, and a full repair cost is not yet known…. These cost estimates will be known prior to the commencement of HMCS Corner Brook’s Extended Docking Work Period in 2014.”

Over 2 years after the damage occurred (June 4/11). No estimate on the full repair cost. That’s a remarkable statement, and not in a good way.

July 4/13: VISSC. The Government of Canada issues a 5-year, C$ 531 million extension to Babcock Canada Inc. exercising the Victoria In-Service Support Contract’s 1st option period. All heavy maintenance work covered by the in-service support contract will take place at Victoria Shipyards Co. Ltd., in Esquimalt, BC.

VISSC: 1st option period

July 4/13: The Halifax Chronicle-Herald confirms that HMCS Windsor will complete tests that include torpedo firing this fall, but generator replacement will push its in-service date into 2014.

June 11/13: Report. The left-wing CCPA and Rideau Institute jointly publish “That Sinking Feeling: Canada’s Submarine Program Springs a Leak” [PDF]. Despite the report’s origins and title, the sections dealing with the Victoria Class submarines are well researched and fact-based, and the report’s tone is more sober and analytical than its title might suggest. Recommended reading, as long as its biases are kept in mind and its conclusions treated as an opinion. The one major caveat we’ll add is that submarines are expensive to maintain and operate, period, so their contention that Canada could have bought new submarines for the price of the VISSC deal rings hollow.

Beyond its useful chronicling of the fleet’s history, the report also raises concerns about the submarines’ out of service date. The Canadian Navy plans the keep the submarines in service to 2030, but difficulties in sourcing spare parts and other problems could force early retirement. Submarines aren’t mentioned anywhere in Canada’s official National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, and the 10-15 year lead time required to buy major items means that Canada’s time to start replacing their fleet is almost up.

Canada’s Conservative Party government has sent mixed signals about this issue, and may not wish to buy new submarines. Saying so publicly, on the other hand, would raise questions about the wisdom of sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into continued submarine support contracts. The report’s authors also put forth the possibility that there is no plan, which has to be considered as a serious possibility. On the other hand, the Canadian Naval Review says that submarines don’t fit the NSPS local build model, and doesn’t expect discussions of a separate follow-on program to begin for a few more years. Report | CBC | Globe and Mail | National Post | Canadian Naval Review.

April 30/13: Windsor. 3 serviceable boats? Not so fast. CBC News:

“The Royal Canadian Navy has confirmed that HMCS Windsor – fresh from a $209 million refit – is unable to perform as expected because of a broken mission-critical diesel generator…. Windsor will only be able to operate in Canadian coastal waters [on 1 generator] until the diesel generator – a huge 16 cylinder engine – is removed from the submarine and replaced… the navy has been forced to withdraw the sub from planned exercises off the southern U.S. coast.”

That leaves just 1 operational submarine, HMCS Victoria. HMCS Chicoutimi “may become operational” by the end of 2013, but if the warnings in the Sept 23/11 entry are true, it will never be truly operational. HMCS Corner Brook won’t be ready in 2013, and still needs repairs from her 2011 collision with the sea bottom.

HMCS Windsor: generator breakdown

April 14/13: Readiness. A Toronto Sun article reports that within a month, HMCS Victoria will be joined in service by 2 more boats. Wasn’t one of those boats supposed to be ready in 2012? After that, the next submarine released from dry dock will be 2015.

The article also points to the rise of submarine fleets all around the Pacific Rim. The question is whether Canada’s submarines have the range and support structure to offer much presence in that theater. Toronto Sun.

Feb 25/13: Personnel. From the Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. Vice-Admiral Maddison:

“You will recall that last year I spoke to a concern over the number of qualified submariners… I am pleased to report to the committee that we have closed that gap significantly.

Right now I think I am about 45 dolphins short in an establishment of about 372. This includes the submarines themselves, the crews, the training infrastructure ashore and key staff positions. As Victoria has run… that captain is qualifying submariners in a very deliberate training cycle, and of course, success begets success. As we see the submarines running and support growing… it is attracting those in the recruiting centres to say, “Not only would I like to join the navy, I would like to be a submariner.” This is the state we have been driving toward, and we are enthused by that.”

July 19/12: Torpedo firing. HMCS Victoria has fired its first actual MK-48 torpedo, sinking a decommissioned ship USNS Concord off of Hawaii during the RIMPAC 2012 exercises. Sources: RCN | Ottawa Citizen.

March 19/12: Torpedo firing. HMCS Victoria, Canada’s only active submarine, becomes the 1st ship of class to prove that it can use a weapon. The boat fired a MK48 exercise torpedo in waters off Nanoose Bay, BC.

When Canada elected not to buy the British Spearfish torpedoes along with the submarines, all of the submarines’ torpedo tubes had to be modified, and the fire control systems had to be removed and replaced. HMCS Victoria is said to be the only submarine that has completed those efforts so far. Sources: CBC.

Mk.48 torpedo firings

2008 – 2011

Timid Chicoutimi. No operational subs. HMCS Windsor
(click to view full)

Oct 28/11: Faced with rumors that the government intends to follow Denmark’s lead and scrap their submarine force, the Canadian DND releases a full briefing on the Victoria Class boats, their accomplishments, and their maintenance schedules. This information is incorporated above.

The intended message is that the Navy is close to success, with submarines coming up to par in 2012 and 2013. Canada DND.

Oct 27-28/11: Scrap the subs? Defence Minister Peter MacKay is asked whether Canada should scrap its current submarine fleet due to rising costs and non-performance. His answer includes this aside:

“There was a decision taken some time ago to go with diesel electric… But you know, in an ideal world, I know nuclear subs are what’s needed under deep water, deep ice.”

This aside is simple truth for arctic under-ice patrols, and was recognized at the time. Canada’s Liberal Party government decided, for political reasons, that Canada would not operate any nuclear powered vessels. Modern Air-Independent Propulsion systems offer the possibility of limited under-ice patrols by diesel-electric subs, but that wasn’t an option in the 1990s. Hence the Upholder Class buy. Conservative House leader Peter Van Loan moves quickly to quash speculation of an SSN buy with the words: “There is no plan to replace the diesel-electric fleet purchased by the Liberals.” Note, however, that these words could be consistent with scrapping the fleet – and not replacing it at all. CBC | Ottawa Citizen | Vancouver Sun.

Sept 23/11: Chicoutimi. Nova Scotia’s Chronicle Herald reports that government promises of a 2013 return to service by HMCs Chicoutimi in 2013 are untrue/misleading, based on the word of a former submariner aboard that boat:

“When HMCS Victoria was taken to the West Coast, local dockyard workers were told to take out the pieces that needed fixing, he explained in a phone interview. However, the parts were thrown in the garbage. As a result, when Victoria was eventually reactivated, the parts needed to get it operational were taken from Chicoutimi, he said. “Chicoutimi will be nothing more than a harbour training sub,”… The navy may be able to get Chicoutimi running again, the former crew member said. But that would involve stripping parts from HMCS Corner Brook, [which means]… at least 2016 before Chicoutimi would be ready… because there are differences between systems on the two subs, he said.”

He adds that 2/3 of the submarine’s crew have had to be discharged for medical reasons following the fire, and other Canadian submariners have left for civilian jobs – including refit-related jobs at CSMG. He estimates only 80 medically fit submariners remaining, which would only crew 2 slightly under-strength subs, or 1 submarine, with a crew swap ready. If there were any subs to sail, of course.

Chicoutimi never ready?

Sept 4/11: No subs. Canadian media confirm that with HMCS Corner Brook dockside, Canada has no operational submarines. HMCS Corner Brook will be repaired and overhauled during a planned maintenance period, but that will keep it out of service until 2016. Canadian Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Brian Owens said that:

“The navy is focused on HMCS Victoria and HMCS Windsor and returning both to sea in early 2012… Trials are already underway with Victoria in anticipation to her returning to sea.”

Canada has a majority government, so there’s no immediate pressure on the Prime Minister, but it does leave the submarine program exposed if the government decides to step up its deficit-fighting efforts. Denmark faced a similar decision some years ago, and abandoned submarines in favor of a bigger surface navy. Investment in ice-capable ships like their Thetis Class has since strengthened their position in the Arctic, rather than weakening it as some had feared.

No operational subs

June 4/11: Crash. HMCS Corner Brook hits bottom while on a 12-day advanced submarine officer training exercise, under Lt.-Cmdr. Paul Sutherland. There were no major injuries, but it was reportedly Canada’s only operational submarine at the time.

A Board of Inquiry is looking into the incident. Meanwhile, a team of submariners and civilian defence workers at CFB Esquimalt have now begun preparing the vessel for extended maintenance in 2012 – an operation whose costs and duration are not known. Goldstream News Gazette, July 26/11.

HMCS Corner Brook crashes

March 23/11: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Canada’s request for 36 MK-48 Mod 7 Advanced Technology (AT) Torpedo Conversion Kits for their existing MK-48 Mod 4 stocks, plus containers, spare and repair parts, weapon system support & integration, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost of the torpedo upgrade is $125 million, but the actual price will be finalized once a contract is signed. That may not happen very soon, as a federal election has just been forced by the minority Conservative Party government’s fall over its proposed budget.

$3.5 million per torpedo does seem rather high for conversion kits, but it is in line with the Netherlands’ July 29/10 DSCA request for the exact same thing. The DSCA states that Canada intends to use the MK 48 7ATs on their Victoria Class diesel submarines, and that no technical issues are expected, as the country already has some torpedoes of this type in stock, has significant experience with the MK 48 Mod 4/4M and MK 46 5A(S)W, and has good infrastructure for maintaining these weapons. All true, but what about the submarines using them? The CASR think tank notes that the original Upholder Class wasn’t designed to work with Mk 48s:

“The Mk 48 Mod 4s are hold-overs from the retired Oberon class SSKs and obsolete by the time Canada bought the Victorias… Royal Navy subs were armed with a completely different torpedo. So the question is why didn’t DND dump the obsolete Mk 48 Mod 4 in favour of the British Spearfish torpedoes that armed the Victorias while they were still Upholder class?… The Submarine Capability Life Extension Project of 1998 was supposed to result in Victoria class subs operational early in 2004. Instead, these SSKs have undergone near-endless refits – HMCS Victoria, for example, has spent nearly 6 years in dry dock with only a little over 100 days on sea trials.”

The question is whether the existing combat systems and other elements of the submarine have been made compatible with the American Mk.48s. Canada has attempted to refit its submarines with some systems taken from the Upholders, to ensure this compatibility. Torpedo firing trials will reveal their success.

DSCA request: MK48-7AT upgrade kits (36)

Feb 23/11: Windsor. A CBC News access to information request reveals that Canada spent C$ 45 million on repairs to HMCS Windsor alone in 2010, almost 3x the C$ 17 million budget. The refit which started in 2007 and was supposed to be done in 2009, bow looks like 2013 at the earliest. The documents also show that HMCS Victoria has only been at sea for 100 days since its 2000 delivery. CBC adds that:

“It appears that every system on the British-built submarine has major problems, according to the documents, including bad welds in the hull, broken torpedo tubes, a faulty rudder and tiles on the side of the sub that continually fall off… Because [HMCS Windsor] has been in drydock in Halifax for so long, it has become a bird sanctuary. The navy spent thousands of dollars just trying to keep the pigeons from roosting in the vessel.”

Dec 23/10: Victoria. Canada’s DND confirms to Post Media that HMCS Victoria’s delivery date following its C$ 195 million refit in Esquimalt, BC has been delayed again, to mid-2011:

“According to the Defence Department, the Victoria is the first of the submarines of its class to undergo such a retrofit and that parts, infrastructure and technical expertise initially were lacking… The valuable lessons learned from HMCS Victoria have proven useful and are being applied to other vessels in the class.”

That would put the submarine in dry dock for about 6 years, and make its re-entry into service about 2 years late. Montreal Gazette.

Nov 5/09: Transparency? No. The CBC reports that despite their freedom of information requests, Canada’s defense department refuses to reveal the cost of carrying HMCS Chicoutimi from Canada’s east coast, through the Panama Canal, and around to Victoria for repairs. Former Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey had estimated that it would cost C$ 16 million, but:

“In a 130-page document released by the Department of National Defence under an access to information request by CBC News, every reference to costs was blacked out. The department said it cannot release the numbers because of third party privacy rules.

…The documents revealed that the Victoria-based company awarded the submarine refit and maintenance contract for the submarines had not finished its preparation to do the work at the time it was given the contract… The documents say the decision to locate the submarine maintenance program on one coast was to enhance efficiencies, streamline maintenance and create a centre of excellence. They state that should offset the cost of the Chicoutimi transfer.”

April 3/09: Chicoutimi. The Victoria Times reports that HMCS Chicoutimi is being carried around to Canada’s west coast, aboard a heavy-lift ship. It will arrive in Victoria during the beginning of May 2009, about 9 months earlier than previously scheduled.

The submarine will be brought directly to shore and placed on a temporary stand, then undergo “essential preservation work” prior to a refit. Meanwhile, HMCS Victoria is currently undergoing work at Esquimalt’s HMC dockyard.

July 3/08: Support. The Government of Canada announces that it has awarded the Victoria Class submarine maintenance contract to the Canadian Submarine Management Group (CSMG) of British Columbia, who were the original winners of the 2006 RFP solicitation.

The 5-year, C$370 million (currently $363 million) contract covers project management oversight to plan and organize the submarine refits; material acquisition; repair and overhaul; engineering services; and provides for scheduled refit and maintenance activities. Subject to continuing satisfactory performance, a number of extension options can be exercised to expand this work to provide for an additional 10 years of submarine fleet support that could bring the contract to a potential total value of C$1.5 billion (currently $1.47 billion). Canadian government release | Reuters.

VISSC maintenance contract awarded

June 18/08: Medical fallout. Tests performed by the National Research Council concluded that significant amounts of carbon monoxide, perdite, and other chemicals were released by the fire, and that it is reasonable to conclude the crew was exposed to carcinogenic material in the smoke. That is hardly surprising; the question is how much carcinogenic material, what the future risks may be, and whether there may be other health consequences.

The NRC report adds that It also states that any long-term health effects would probably manifest within hours or days after exposure to a 1-time event, which usually has a minimal cancer risk. At the briefing, Cmdr. Jeff Agnew said the report shows the chances of long-term health effects of inhaling smoke from the fire are “slim to none… But you can never say never.” The Canadian Forces recommends periodic monitoring of the submarine’s crew members.

Media reports do not appear to address the issue of subsequent health complaints by submarine crew members, except to note them. Canwest News | CTV | UPI

June 17/08: Medical fallout. After the HMCS Chicoutimi’s fire in October 2004, many of the submarine’s 55-member crew had to breathe in the smoke and live in the ash for days as a mater of course, as they struggled to save and return their stricken submarine. Since that date, some of the crew members have reported breathing troubles and variety of neurological disorders. claims to Veteran’s Affairs have been held up, or even rejected due to lack of information.

A report covering exactly what the sailors were exposed to was expected in the 2005 board of inquiry, but the tests were not completed until just recently. The Canadian Press news service reports that a briefing on the subject is scheduled for June 18/08 in Halifax, involving Canadian vice-admiral Drew Robertson.

June 4/08: Just 1. A Minister’s briefing that admits Canada will have just one operational submarine until 2009, in order to cover 3 oceans and one of the world’s longest coast lines, has put the Victoria Class submarine program back in the spotlight. The briefing reportedly states that:

“If pressed on submarine availability [the Minister should focus on] a maintenance regime that plans for at least one submarine to be available for operations until steady state is achieved in late 2009, after which two or more submarines will usually be operational and available at all times… and to repair Chicoutimi as part of that submarine’s already scheduled maintenance period in 2010-2012.”

A return to service in 2012 would be 2 years later than originally planned, and involve a total sideline period of about 8 years. CanWest News | CTV | Victoria Times | UPI

Appendix A: The Submarine Support Contract Controversy HMCS Victoria
(click to view full)

The VISSC contract is seen as an important final stage in getting the Victoria Class into active service at last. It was put out for tender in September 2006, and 3 consortia bid. In January 2007, Canadian Submarine Management Group (CSMG) of British Columbia was deemed “most compliant” due to its points rating, and picked as the preferred bidder. A lawsuit by Irving Shipbuilding caused the government to break off negotiations, however, stalling the C$1+ billion deal.

In November 2007, it was reported the government might cancel the deal, which represents about 150 of jobs in Victoria over 15 years. That drew outrage from local BC politicians. In January 2008, however, a decision was taken to re-start those negotiations with CSMG to get the deal done. DND spokesman David Martin told the Canadian Press news agency that those negotiations are underway, adding that a final contract was expected in a few months.

The decision reportedly went all the way up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s desk. Even so, the signing of that contract faced waters yet again.

Independent-minded Canadian MP Bill Casey of Nova Scotia [Cons – Cumberland Colchester Musquodoboit Valley] is known as the Canadian Parliament’s foremost authority on the Victoria Class submarines, and his investigations began long before the HMCS Chicoutimi incident. He blasted the contract award, noting that HMCS Victoria experienced problems transiting the Panama Canal because the class is not designed to operate in warm waters, and lacks adequate cooling. Barring a sharp speed-up of ice melting that clears the Northwest Passage sooner than expected, or the use of Russia’s Northern Sea Route, a deficiency of that kind would make shuttling the subs between the maintenance yard in British Columbia and their base in Nova Scotia a difficult exercise at best.

On the contractor end, one of the rival groups was led by BAE Systems (Canada) Ltd., and included the politically-connected east coast shipping giant Irving Shipbuilding, whose share of the work has been estimated at 50% if their consortium had won. Irving company Fleetway, Inc. was the 3rd member of this consortium.

Irving Shipbuilding did more than just file a formal protest when the consortium lost – they made a public case about the costs to the taxpayer of shuttling the subs from the Atlantic to the Pacific for maintenance. VP Kevin Hudson called the award a “travesty,” and said that “We are proceeding with our court action and believe our case is very strong.” The firm had already been involved in 2 court actions over this contract.

Other Irving spokespeople called on the government to re-bid the contract.

Irving spokespeople point out that CSMG partner Weir Canada Inc. drew up initial plans for the contract’s statement of work and evaluation criteria, and cite that as “a grave conflict of interest and use of insider knowledge.” The company added that the winning bid failed to meet the necessary requirements, and the total estimated value of the contract’s scope of work was not included in the price evaluation.

For its part, Canada’s Navy was unwilling to re-bid, given delays to date and the needs of its submarine fleet. One “senior defence source” put it bluntly to CP: “Going back out to tender and getting it totally put to bed means three years. We can’t afford that.”

This time, the contract stuck. Irving was out of luck, and the Victoria-class In-Service Support Contract (VISSC) went to Victoria Shipyards in Esquimalt, BC. In addition to fleet maintenance, the contract will also cover Extended Docking Work Period (EDWP) deep refit work to HMCS Chicoutimi and HMCS Corner Brook.

Additional Readings & Sources The Victoria Class


Other Background Articles

News & Views

Categories: News

House Protects A-10 from Air Force | Swiss F-5s Left on Lawn | Most of India’s Arjun Tanks Aren’t Working

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 02:43

  • On Thursdaythe House Armed Services Committee voted to keep the A-10 operational for another year, with the 2016 defense policy bill including an amendment to prohibit the Air Force from retiring the plane. The amendment – proposed by Rep. McSally – passed while a “middle ground” amendment proposed by Rep. Moulton failed. That amendment would have allowed the Air Force to retain a hundred of the aircraft while retiring up to 164.

  • On Thursday, Raytheon was awarded a $559.2 million undefinitized contract action by the Missile Defense Agency for multiple fixed-price incentive firm, firm-fixed-price and cost reimbursable contract line items. The first of these is an order for 44 Standard Missile-3 Block IB missiles.

  • The Navy meanwhile awarded United Technologies a low-rate initial production contract valued at $157 million for variants of the F-135 engine, the propulsion system of the F-35. The initial production of 90 engines is split between the F-135-PW-100 and -PW-600 variants, with Thursday’s LRIP contract consisting of 76 of the former and 14 of the latter, with 35 of the systems earmarked for foreign partners and Foreign Military Sales.

  • Boeing has been handed a $247.1 million support contract by the Army for Apache and Chinook airframe and weapons system overhaul, repair and recapitalization. The work is expected to run to 2019.


  • The French defense procurement agency announced Thursday that a Rafale fighter successfully test-fired a Meteor missile for the first time earlier this week [French]. The beyond-visual-range missile has been developed by European missile house MBDA, with France becoming the fourth customer for the weapon in 2011. Tuesday’s test involved personnel from the French DGA, Rafale manufacturer Dassault and MBDA, with the Rafale’s Meteor capability forming an important part of the fighter’s F3R upgrade program.

  • In the latest headache for the Swiss Air Force, the planned mothballing of F-5 fighters – following the discovery of structural cracks earlier this month – is delayed [German] because there are not enough hangars available to store the aircraft.

  • Saab is anticipating a finalized contract for new Swedish submarines within months, while also negotiating mid-life upgrades to the Swedish Navy’s Gotland-class. Sweden agreed in March to procure two new A26 subs, with the pre-upgrade Gotland-class already a very capable design

Middle East

  • Dassault’s already strained Rafale production lines are to be put under even greater pressure following the announcement Thursday of a $7 billion contract with Qatar for 24 of the fighters. The UAE also restarted talks with the French earlier this month, following the jet’s recent successful export to Egypt and India.


  • The majority of India’s fleet of Arjun main battle tanks are reportedly inoperable owing to problems integrating several foreign-manufactured systems. The Indian Army has identified 18 major problems with the vehicles, with 78 more minor issues also contributing to the low level of availability. The Mark II version of the Arjun – currently under development by the Defense Research and Development Organization – has also seen setbacks in recent months.

  • South Korea is establishing a civilian defense procurement academy, looking to create an air-gap between industry and the military. Modeled after the Defense Acquisition University in the US, this attempt to minimize corruption in the defense-industrial base comes amidst a significant government anti-corruption drive. Three South Korean defense firms – Doosan DST, Lig Nex1 and Poongsan – were recently identified as having no anti-corruption measures in place in the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Index.


  • South African firm Denel is reportedly exploring the possibility of restarting the Rooivalk helicopter production line. The company is looking into the feasibility of finding potential foreign partners, integrating technology improvements and subsequently restarting the production line, with a clearer idea of the Rooivalk’s future expected within 18 months.

Today’s Video

  • The Rooivalk helicopter – uglier than an Apache?

Categories: News

Navy Field Testing Semi-Auto Carrier Recovery | Russia, Japan Follow SOCOM in Developing ‘Terminator’ Suits

Thu, 04/30/2015 - 02:41

  • On Wednesday the House Armed Services Committee shot down an amendment intended to transfer money from the F-35 program to the National Guard and Reserves as part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. Representative Jackie Speier pushed to shift $589 million – representing six F-35 fighters – from the $1 billion funding increase, with Speier’s amendment losing on a voice vote, following a heated exchange between the Democrat Representative and Chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee Rep. Mike Turner.

  • The Army awarded an up-to $3.89 billion firm-fixed-price and cost reimbursable, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to Thales Defense & Security for rifleman radios, beating out two other bids. Thales was previously awarded a US Army contract in 2012 for its AN/PRC-154 radios, jointly developed with General Dynamics.

  • Also on Wednesday, the Navy awarded a $62.5 million contract to Timken Gears & Services Inc. for two Main Reduction Gear systems for Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers. The MRG systems are used to turn the very fast rotational speed of an engine, such as a DDG-51 type destroyers’ LM2500 turbines, into efficient slower speed rotation of the ships’ propellers.

  • The Navy has field-tested the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies (MAGIC CARPET) software onboard CVN-77, with the software intended to assist landing aircraft. The system is scheduled for deployment in 2019.


  • French president François Hollande announced Wednesday that the country would implement a $4.2 billion increase to its annual defense budget, a break from previous strategic planning for the 2014-2019 period. With a detailed budget expected to be presented before the country’s cabinet on 20th May, the government needs to find an additional $4.2 billion to finance military procurement and operations over the 2016-2019 period. Indonesia has also committed to double its defense budget by 2020 to $15 billion, representing 1.5% of GDP.

  • Russia and China are reportedly close to signing a final agreement to jointly construct helicopters. The precise model of helicopter the two are intending to construct has not been disclosed, although it is thought that the new helicopter will seek to surpass the enormous Mi-26 heavy lift helicopter’s impressive operational capabilities.

  • Meanwhile, TASS is reporting that the Russian defense industry will be supplying exoskeletons to the Russian Armed Forces “within five years.” The fancy suits are to be capable of lifting up to 300kg and making “incredible jumps.” The Chinese have also shown recent strides in exoskeleton technology, while Japan is also exploring the idea. SOCOM is also currently seeking up to a dozen potential vendors to submit proposals for its Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit competition, with these twelve expected to submit proposals at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa next month.


  • In a boost to the country’s defense industry, two privately-held Indian firms – Bharat Forge and Punj Lloyd – have been selected as finalists for the Indian Army’s $2.65 billion anti-air gun requirement. The replacement of aging Swedish L70/ZU 23 guns will involve procurement of over 1,100 vehicles, with an initial contract expected to see 428 new guns over five years.

  • British Prime Minister has reiterated the offer of Eurofighter Typhoons for India’s MMRCA competition, with the European nation offering “a better deal than Rafale”. The Typhoon was one of two finalists in the competition, losing out to the Rafale as preferred bidder.

  • The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile appears to be on the cusp of significant export success. The joint venture between India and Russia may soon be exported to South American countries such as Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina, as well as other countries including South Africa, with reports of preliminary discussions having already taken place between India and these states. India recently stood-up a third regiment of BrahMos missiles.

  • The Indian Air Force will receive an additional four HAL Tejas light combat aircraft by the end of this year.

Today’s Video

  • A Chinese exoskeleton suit at the Zhuhai Airshow last year…

Categories: News

Air Force Testing Plasma Engines | Gripen on Export Roll | Tata/Airbus Likely to Reap Growing Light Air Transport Orders

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 03:31

  • The Air Force will test a plasma-based propulsion system on board a X-37B reusable space vehicle, in a joint effort between the The Air Force Research Laboratory, Space and Missile Systems Center, and Rapid Capabilities Office. A Hall thruster can provide greater fuel efficiency compared to conventional engines, with the new thruster a modified version of those equipping the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites. The launch is scheduled for 20th May.

  • On Tuesday, the Air Force awarded a $325 million IDIQ contract to engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney for the Versatile Affordable Advanced Turbine Engines (VAATE) engine’s Phase III stage. That is the same amount GE won several months ago for the same project.

  • Also Tuesday, Lockheed Martin was handed a $10.5 million contract to provide the UAE with Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sights for the AH-64 helicopter, with the UAE having first formally requested the Apache in November 2010.

  • The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency is looking to the Army for modernization of its UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, with a view to convert A-models to newer L-models. The deal is a mirror of a previous 2008 arrangement, with the CBP receiving upgraded L-models to extend the lifespan of their Black Hawks by 15 to 18 years.


  • Saab is confident about Gripen exports to Eastern European states, with the company reportedly set to sign a contract with Slovakia for up to a dozen of the jets later this year. Finland is also looking to modernize its fighters, with the Air Force looking to upgrade its existing fleet towards the beginning of next decade. The Gripen has seen export success in Brazil, with the company also angling for a potential sale to India, to fulfill its single-engine fighter requirement.

  • The Czech Republic is planning on bolstering its troop numbers by 63% by 2025, an increase of around 10,000 men. Similarly, the Czech defense budget is set to grow to 1.4% of the country’s GDP by 2020, up from the 2015 level of 1%.


  • The DSCA has cleared a $96 million support contract for India’s fleet of five C-130J transport aircraft. Similarly, the agency has delivered a notification to Congress regarding a potential $1.5 billion support package for Australia’s fleet of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft.

  • India’s Coast Guard is reportedly set to join the Indian light transport aircraft replacement program, bringing the total value of the project up by 45% to around $2.76 billion for a revised total of 62 aircraft. A single bidder – a joint bid with partners Tata Group and Airbus – remains, following Alenia’s departure in October. This burgeoning number of aircraft may grow, with the Indian Navy also potentially seeking to jump on the bandwagon.

  • Airbus Group Australia Pacific and the Australian Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) have commissioned a joint support center at Brisbane Airport to provide engineering, technical and other services to the Australian military’s fleet of Tiger and Taipan helicopters. The new center will be staffed by both civilian and military personnel, expected to number 250 people when the center is fully operational.


  • Following the August 2014 announcement that BAE Systems intended to sell its majority share in its Land Systems South Africa business to South African state-owned Denel, the divestiture is reportedly complete. The $56.6 million deal comes as the company mulls selling most of its US services group.

Today’s Video

  • A Customs & Border Protection Black Hawk over Super Bowl XLIX…

Categories: News

Lacking Realistic CAS Alternative, Congress May Forbid AF from Dumping A-10 | House Also Meddling in F-35 Basing Decisions | Poland to Decide Attack Heli Vendor in 2015

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 16:27

  • The House Armed Forces Readiness Subcommittee is seeking clarification regarding F-35 basing criteria. The panel is asking the Secretaries of the Navy and Air Force to specify the methodologies leading to site selection, as well as a host of other related F-35 stationing, basing and laydown decisions. All this is included as Report Language attached to the 2016 Defense Authorization Bill, which can be found on page 145 of the bill.

  • Also on Monday, the House is seeking to block the A-10 from being retired, with Rep. Martha McSally reportedly planning to introduce an amendment to prevent the Air Force from pushing the aircraft aside. This amendment will be attached to Thornberry’s version of the defense budget, with the A-10 fleet fully-funded. An A-10 recently had to conduct an emergency landing while deployed to Iraq, with the aircraft’s engine reportedly suffering “catastrophic damage.”

  • MIT was awarded a $3.06 billion IDIQ contract Monday for operation of the Lincoln Laboratory Federally Funded Research and Development Center, with the aim of long-term technological development and prototyping. The contract extends to 2020, with $600,000 committed immediately. Also on Monday, DRS Sensors & Targeting Systems Inc. was awarded a $7.3 million cost-plus fixed-fee development contract for Air Force detector array systems, beating out 18 other offers.

  • The Air Force has retired a final pair of C-130P special mission aircraft from the Pacific region, with the aircraft being replaced with the upgraded C-130J Commando II.


  • On the heels of Poland’s recent selection of Airbus for its new fleet of transport helicopters, the country’s Deputy Defense Minister announced Monday that the Defense Ministry will select a winning supplier for thirty attack helicopters by the end of the year. Four companies have reportedly expressed interest in competing.

  • A Franco-Italian satellite was launched on Sunday, joint developer Thales announced Monday. The SICRAL 2 telecom satellite is a joint program between the Italian Defense Ministry and the French defense procurement agency DGA. The Italians will benefit from a majority stake in the new capability. This is the latest in a series of French and Italian cooperative satellite projects.

  • Swedish subsidiary of the UK-based defense giant, BAE System Hägglunds has incorporated “active damping” technology from Formula 1 motor sport into its family of CV90 armored vehicles. This is designed to improve the speed and stability of the vehicle, reducing the wear on components and providing a more stable platform for gunnery targeting. The new system reportedly boasts speed improvements of 30 to 40%, setting records in the process.


  • Taiwanese media reported Monday that a Chinese S-300PMU2 SAM system acquired a lock on a Taiwanese Air Force Ching-Kuo IDF fighter last year, with the jet taking evasive maneuvers to break the SAM’s lock. The PLA tested the S-300PMU2 system in May last year, with the Russians agreeing to sell the Chinese more capable S-400 systems in January this year.

  • Indian defense imports rose 56% over three years, according to data published by Janes. The Indian defense market remains robust for international players, with the government seeking to boost the country’s domestic manufacturing base through mandatory technology transfers, offset agreements and majority-Indian ownership. Despite the increase in imports, India’s own defense industry is becoming increasingly capable, with indigenous warships, aircraft and strategic weapons all taking great strides in recent months.

  • In a further illustrative example, the Indian Navy is reportedly using Swedish composite fiber materials for its new stealth corvettes, with the carbon fibre-based composite forming the new ships’ superstructure.

  • In parallel to a recent push from the Indian High Court to the Defense Ministry, the Indian Home Ministry is replacing many INSAS rifles of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the counter-terror force responsible for combating Maoist and Islamist terror groups. The much-criticized INSAS rifles – developed by the state Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) – will be replaced by 67,000 time-tested AK-47s. Criticism of the INSAS stems principally from its error percentage rate of 3%, resulting in much more regular jamming than the AK’s 0.02% error rate.

Today’s Video

  • A pre-dampened CV90…

Categories: News

A Higher-Tech Hog: USAF A-10C Upgraded, Refurbished, Unloved

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 11:06
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.

(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 2015

Election results make retirement tougher. A-10 firing run

April 28/15: The House is seeking to block the A-10 from being retired, with Rep. Martha McSally reportedly planning to introduce an amendment to prevent the Air Force from pushing the aircraft aside. This amendment will be attached to Thornberry’s version of the defense budget, with the A-10 fleet fully-funded. An A-10 recently had to conduct an emergency landing while deployed to Iraq, with the aircraft’s engine reportedly suffering “catastrophic damage.”

Nov 11/14: Politics. The USAF has a new angle in the A-10 fight, proposing to retire 72 A-10s in order to switch their maintenance workers over to the F-35. It’s being sold as part of having the F-35A reach Initial Operational Capability, but A-10 proponents like Sen. McCain and Kelly Ayotte say the USAF has other choices. The USAF says that their previous plan B has been blown apart by renewed needs in Iraq and Syria. Sources: Defense News, “USAF Discussing A-10 Compromise With Congress”.

Nov 4/14: Elections. American mid-term elections leave the Republican Party with a bigger House Majority, and recapture the Senate from the Democrats. That result leaves John McCain [R-AZ] as the new chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. There are 80 A-10s at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ in Tucson, and McCain is very much a proponent of engagement in places like Iraq, Syria, and other places where the A-10’s unique capabilities make a big difference. He’s going to be a staunch opponent of any retirement plans.

The election also features A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Martha McSally [AZ-2], who was the first woman to command an American fighter squadron, and has been described as one of the Republicans’ top House recruits. McSally is narrowly ahead in a traditionally-Democratic district, but the vote count and recount process is going to take a little while. If she is elected, it will have obvious implications for A-10 lobbying in Congress. Sources: AP, “Sen. John McCain vows to save A-10 from retirement” | McSally for Congress, “McSally Campaign Statement on Challenge to Uncertified Ballots” | Politico, “The House GOP’s top recruit”.

FY 2014

Attempted retirement of the fleet. A-10Cs
(click to view full)

Sept 19/14: Ki Ho Military Acquisition Consulting, Inc. in Layton, UT wins a $31.4 million firm-fixed-price, engineering support, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to identify new and developing technologies that can “support the accomplishment of A-10 missions, and either eliminate or minimize operational and/or sustainability gaps.” $5.3 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 USAF O&M funds.

Is this operational consulting, or payment to make more arguments for retiring the A-10? Poor results so far against in Iraq and Syria aren’t making fantastic arguments for other systems.

Work will be performed at Hill AFB, UT, and is expected to be complete by Sept 15/19. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, with 3 offers received by the USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Hill AFB, UT (FA8202-14-D-0002).

Sept 9/14: Support. Korean Air Lines’ Aerospace Division in Seoul, South Korea receives an estimated $46 million firm-fixed-price maintenance and repair contract for depot level support to A-10 aircraft stationed in the Asia/Pacific region. Funds will be committed as needed.

Work will be performed at KAL’s facility in Seoul, South Korea, with an expected completion date of Sept. 30/20. This contract was a competitive acquisition, with 2 offers received by USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Hill AFB, UT (FA8202-14-D-0001).

Week of June 20/14: Politics. Things continue to move at a brisk pace in the House, with floor action starting for HR 4870 then leading to a vote within days. The White House issued its usual set of “strong” disagreements [PDF], with C-130 AMP, E-3s, and AH-64 transfers among the points of contention. At least the executive appreciated that someone in Congress sided with them to retire A-10s. But it was not meant to be, as an amendment against divesting A-10s easily passed with a 300-114 roll call. This was expected given the fact A-10 retirement was at odds with the already approved authorization bill.

The Administration will now have to find Senatorial opponents to the A-10, among other cuts the House doesn’t want, that are convinced enough to push the issue all the way through reconciliation. The odds are not in their favor.

On June 20 the bill was wrapped up with a 340-73 roll call, showing even broader bipartisan support than the authorization bill: amendments [PDF] | Bill report [PDF].

June 10/14: Politics. The House Appropriations Committee votes 13-23 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.

What really matters is what the House ends up approving by final vote, but these kinds of losses can hurt politically. Sources: DoD Buzz, “House Panel Votes to Scrap the A-10 Warthog”.

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: Politics. 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: Sub-contractors. 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 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 |

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 | 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
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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
(click to view full)

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

India’s Light Transport Competition: Follow Avros to Exit

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 01:02
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
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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 were 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. Work with Jordan is developing a gunship variant for counter-insurgency operations.

An alliance between Airbus and Tata offered the promise of a future private-sector Indian aerospace firm, with enough serious foreign backing that this program could turn them into a HAL peer competitor for other programs. Unfortunately, this team was also the only bidder. India will have to waive procurement rules that prevent contracts from sole-bidder competitions, or the competition will have to restart and the opportunity will be lost.

(click to view full)

The C-27J Spartan. Offers short-field takeoff performance, and the width and floor strength to handle loads like vehicles and small helicopters. On the flip side, it’s shorter than a C295, costs more to operate, 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-130J fleet. Specialty variants include an AC-27J Praetorian gunship that’s in development with ATK.

The C-27J’s biggest problem in this competition is India’s AW101 VVIP contract, which has been canceled by a bribery scandal whose core allegations have been dismissed by an
Italian court. AgustaWestland, like Alenia, is a Finmeccanica company. Unless the C-27J is 1 of just 2 competitors with offers, the rules adopted by the new BJP government would prevent their bid from even being considered. Their plane isn’t a perfect fit, and if Finmeccanica believes they won’t be picked under any circumstances, why waste the money putting together a bid? They publicly declined.

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


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.

The problem is that some key technology is Russian, and the Russians aren’t cooperating with Ukraine. Which prevented Antonov from offering it to India. Lesser problems include 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.

India already flies An-32 light tactical transports, which are being modernized to An-32RE status. They’re a bit heavy for this competition, and any Antonov plane will now have to deal with the risk factor of being subject to disruption by the Russian-backed civil war.


Ilyushin’s IL-114 has been mentioned. It’s used as a regional airliner in Uzbekistan, whose 14-plane order made them the IL-114’s only customer. Only 7 remain in service, however, plus 1 plane that was resold to Russia’s Radar-MMS as an electronics testbed. Cargo capacity lists as 6.5 tonnes, and it has excellent low-speed loitering capability, but production has ended. It was recently rescued from this very unappealing combination by Russia’s invasions of Ukraine, which derailed purchases of the An-140T and caused Russia to revive the IL-112 as a military transport derivative. They didn’t offer it to India, though.

Saab 2000 MPA concept
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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.

One possible option would be to offer to restart turboprop production in India, with the intention of both winning Indian military contracts, and extending civilian sales in the region. The problem is, 40 aircraft isn’t a large enough number to justify that investment – and Saab reportedly wasn’t sent the RFP.

Contracts & Key Events Civil AN-148
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Nov 3/14: 1 bid. Airbus and the Tata Group were the only bid submitted by Oct 22/14. Creating a production line for 40 planes is completely uneconomical, so even 1 bidder is an achievement. Asis so often the case, Indian procedures could derail it.

The problem is the lack of reasonable competitors, even without added economic hurdles. Antonov informed India that they couldn’t bid because Russia’s Voronezh Aircraft Production Association has severed ties, and they can only produce the aircraft by working together. Finmeccanica’s Alenia and Russia’s UAC-Ilyushin chose not to bid, Saab reportedly wasn’t solicited; and Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Embraer were solicited, but have no real offerings in this capability class.

India now has yet another self-created defense dilemma. Their de facto ban of Finmeccanica from new contracts, following allegations of corruption that have failed in Italian courts, have predictably injured capabilities in other areas. Unless the IAF gets its way, and a top-level political decision is made to set aside India’s procurement laws against single-vendor competitions, this competition is blocked. Which means the Modi government’s golden opportunity to create a private-sector Indian military aerospace firm is also blocked. Will the Modi government bite this bullet? Sources: Defense News, “Ukraine Misses Deadline, Lone Bidder Remains for Indian Aircraft Competition”.

Oct 30/14: Alenia out. IHS Jane’s reports that Alenia is bowing out:

“The C-27J Spartan is the most modern multimission tactical transport aircraft available on the market…. The Indian Air Force [IAF] Avro Replacement programme instead calls mainly for a basic medium transport aircraft and, therefore, Alenia Aermacchi decided to not participate to the tender…. India remains a very strategic market for Alenia Aermacchi proprietary products…”

It is certainly possible to conclude that an RFP doesn’t value your product’s features enough to be competitive, and bow out. Short take-off and tactical vehicle carriage don’t seem to be emphasized in India’s competition. It’s also possible to conclude that the political environment won’t allow you to be picked, but still need a face-saving exit that doesn’t alienate an important market. Readers can decide for themselves which category this falls into. Sources: IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Alenia decides not to contest Indian MTA requirement”.

Oct 27/14: Industrial. Press reports say that Airbus is on the verge of negotiating a partnership with Tata to manufacture aircraft for the defense sector. Airbus CN-235/ C-295 are the obvious option, but Airbus’ deep expertise could easily be bent toward other projects as well, including sub-contracting for other projects, helicopters, etc.

If carried out, this would be the 1st major defense sector tie-up under the new rules that allow 49%-owned joint ventures with foreign companies. The previous limit was 26%. Sources: Times of India, “Airbus may partner Tatas for manufacturing defence transport aircraft”.

Oct 4/14: Industrial. Defense News quotes an unnamed source, who says that the Indian government has been talking to major private sector industrial players about setting up a full production line for up to 250 Tejas Mk.2 fighters. That would certainly justify the investment. If carried out, it would do 3 big things: (1) sidestep HAL’s production difficulties by partly or wholly removing Tejas from HAL’s purview; (2) Create a full competitor to HAL in the aerospace sector; and (3) Turn the winner into India’s 1st major private sector defense firm.

Since it seems apparent that the Indian government would have to fund a new production line for HAL anyway, funding the line elsewhere and reaping the benefits of diversification and competition is a logical policy option. Especially since the resulting competitor would also be a potential source for programs like India’s light transport competition.

The challenge is that setting up a production line for modern combat jets isn’t simple, and some kind of partnership with a foreign firm like Boeing, Saab, Dassault, et. al. would almost certainly be required. Tata Group, Mahindra & Mahindra and Larsen and Toubro have been mentioned, and L&T Heavy Engineering President Madhukar Vinayak Kotwal has confirmed that discussions are taking place, but that’s all he is prepared to say. Watch this space. Sources: Defense News, “India Offers To Spend $12B To Break Monopoly”.

Sept 26/14: IL-114. After Russia’s invasions and annexation of Ukrainian territory break relations between the 2 countries, the An-140T can no longer serve as the planned An-26/ An-72 replacement. Russia’s response is to revive the IL-114, and the IL-112 military variant, both of which will be powered by Klimov TV7-117SM turboprops. Those engines offer a tradeoff of good fuel burn, in exchange for around 30% of the engine life compared to western alternatives. Digitization of the design with modern avionics etc. is also expected.

Russia wants a pair of IL-112s for flight and ground testing, and has reportedly offered to spend about RUB 8 billion (about $233 million) to complete development of a modernized IL-114 and the accompanying militarized IL-112. Meanwhile, local authorities in Samara have promised to invest between RUB 1 – 1.5 billion into Aviacor’s modernization. Aviacor is expected to replace An-140 production with the new IL-114, which might also replace the recently-stalled proposal for Rostec to license-build Q400 twin turboprops from Canada’s Bombardier for the Russian market. The Il-112 will reportedly go into production at the VASO plant in Voronezh, which is expected to discontinue manufacture under license of the Antonov An-148. Sources: AIN, “Russia Dumps An-140T Airlifter for Home-Made Ilyushins” and “Russia Looks To Resurrect Il-114″.

Sept 15/14: No bids. India had to extend the deadline to October 2014, after their Avro replacement tender attracted zero bids and just 2 firms turned up on Aug 28/14 to even indicate interest. That’s awkward.

Their main problem may be pretty simple: absent long-term expectations of sales beyond the Indian government, who is going to spend money to build a manufacturing facility with full airport rights for an order of around 40 planes? Approximately nobody. The problem is, someone has to do it if the private sector is going to get into the game as a legitimate competitor to state-run firms like HAL. One wonders if the solution is to split the industrial development angle from the specific transport competition, creating 2 sequential processes. Sources: India’s Financial Express, “Global Vendors Give A Miss to Defence Min’s $3.5-Bn Aircraft Project; Deadline Extended”.

No bids

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.

Finally, the tender must survive Indian politics. India needs a wider bidding circle than Airbus (CN235/ C295), Alenia (C-27J), and Ilyushin (?), if it wants to be certain of avoiding a trap in which Ilyushin’s Ukrainian location is deemed too precarious, Alenia’s candidacy is crippled by the AW101 contract’s bribery allegations, and Airbus becomes a sole bidder who can’t be awarded a contract under India’s byzantine rules.

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.


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

BAE, Airbus Selling Assets | Navy Winces, Asks to be Thrown into F-18 Briar Patch | Army Saves Time Not Re-Inventing Fire Control

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 03:07

  • BAE Systems is looking to see what it might get were it to sell its services division. The parts for sale generate between one and two billion dollars per year and employ almost 8,000 people, a ratio about on par with non-technical professional services industries. The BAE divisions, however, involve technical, mission and IT support services.

  • Similarly, Airbus is reportedly shopping around its defense electronics business as part of its plan announced in 2014 to raise cash by selling non-core assets. Its hopes for cash raised are also optimistic, having asked an investment bank to organize a sale that would realize ten times EBITDA.

  • The Russian military is doing the Dance of the Seven Veils, almost showing off a series of new armor assets, said to included AFVs, main battle tanks, self-propelled artillery and an APC. The Ministry of Defense appears to be trying to build up suspense leading up to the annual May 9 parade in Moscow, where the vehicles are expected to figure prominently.


  • The Navy is floating a trial balloon that it might procure a couple dozen more F-18s due to F-35 delays. The Navy has been especially impacted by the delays as its variant, the F-35C VTOL version. Running a couple squadrons as F-18 shops would also save the Navy between one and two billion dollars, which starts to add up.

  • In a comment that will bemuse F-35 critics, a Chinese military expert scoffed at suggestions that China adapt its F-35 knockoff, the J-31, to add VTOL capabilities. Song Xinzhi reportedly poo-pooed the idea, indicating that it would be too expensive, impractical, cause heat problems and foist unreasonable range limitations.

  • The Army is proud of its having re-used a common fire control system across various artillery and related systems. Of seven systems employing the MFCS since 2000, most saw between a year and three years of quickened deployment for having foregone a custom fire control system.

  • Boeing took a flyer and privately financed the production of 10 C-17A Globemasters. With a series of Commonwealth countries expressing interest, five are still left unsold.

  • General Dynamics NASSCO will get $24.2 million – and potentially $96.3 million – for maintaining and upgrading Littoral Combat Ships running out of San Diego.


  • Although China has already transferred the technology to Pakistan so that the junior partner in their military relationship can produce the JF-17 Thunder fighter, China has agreed to provide Pakistan an additional 50 jets over the next three years and 110 in total. Pakistan reportedly cannot make them fast enough to keep up with military demand.

Today’s Video

  • The X-47B unmanned fighter demonstrator successfully refueled autonomously…

Categories: News

Last of the Globemasters: The USAF’s Final C-17 Orders

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 01:25
Happy ‘trails…
(click to view full)

The C-17 has had more money-driven last hurrahs than The Who. Even so, FY 2010 featured the USAF’s last planned orders of C-17 Globemaster III short field, heavy-lift transport jets.

The Pentagon had been trying to end the program for years, but 3 factors led Congress to keep adding new C-17s to the budget, year after year: (1) deep doubts about the premises, pre-9/11 vintage, and quality of the Pentagon’s mobility studies; (2) uncertainty concerning the C-5 Galaxy super-heavy transport’s upgrade programs; and (3) a fleet wear tempo much higher than originally forecast, driven by constant requests from theater for C-17s.

All things end, and there were no new C-17s bought in the FY 2011 or FY 2012 budgets. That would leave the USA with a total ordered fleet of 223, once they’re all under contract. At long last, they are.

Contracts & Key Events, 2009 – Present Hawaii air show
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Final USAF C-17 purchases, by year, are 15 in FY 2008, 8 in FY 2009, and 10 in FY 2010. Foreign orders have kept the production line alive, and in 2012, a single C-17 was ordered to replace an aircraft that had been destroyed. Order placement may not conform exactly, depending on the progress and timing of negotiations. Those numbers, coupled with greater certainty in the cut-down C-5 upgrade program, and a looming budget crises in the USA, make it likely that the end has finally come. Enhancements and maintenance will continue to attract significant budgets, but USAF production will end. In response, Boeing is throttling back annual C-17 production. In order to keep the C-17 production line and sales cycle alive, they’ll have to depend on foreign orders from export customers like the UAE, India, etc., orders for a civilian transport version to provide outsize cargo and/or remote equipment delivery, or some other contingency.

The expected total of 223 USAF C-17s sits just above the program’s original goal of 210 planes, which may be a fortunate thing. The Global War on Terror created very heavy demand for C-17s, resulting in increased flying hours that are wearing out the fleet early. Adding additional aircraft will help the fleet as a whole last longer, by distributing flight hours across more planes. At the same time, US vehicle programs continue to exceed the weight limit of lesser transports, ensuring robust future demand.

Unless otherwise noted, Boeing Defense, Space and Security’s Global Mobility Systems unit in Long Beach, CA executes the contracts, which are issued by by the 516th AESG/PK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH. Note that separate contracts exist for F117 engines, and for other “government furnished equipment” that is part of the final, operational aircraft.

No more coming
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April 27/15:Boeing took a flyer and privately financed the production of 10 C-17A Globemasters. With a series of Commonwealth countries expressing interest, five are still left unsold.

Sept 12/13: Era ending. Boeing delivers the USAF’s 223rd and last C-17A Globemaster III, which flies off to its assignment at Joint Base Charleston, SC. It marks the end of an era that began with the C-17’s 1st flight, on Sept 15/91.

In a follow-on release, Boeing says that C-17 production for all customers will end in 2015, with the closure of the Long Beach, CA assembly line after the last 22 C-17s are delivered. It’s possible that a couple of additional orders might materialize, but that’s not enough. As Boeing Defense, Space & Security President Dennis Muilenburg put it:

“Our customers around the world face very tough budget environments. While the desire for the C-17’s capabilities is high, budgets cannot support additional purchases in the timing required to keep the production line open…”

Boeing will take a charge of < $100 million this quarter, and expects to begin the layoff process in 2014 for nearly 3,000 employees in Long Beach, CA; Macon, GA; Mesa, AZ; and St. Louis, MO. They had throttled back production to try and keep the line open for foreign sales, but the number of customers with the budget to buy them was always limited, and so was the amount of extra time those orders could give the production line. Sources: Boeing video feature | Boeing releases, Sept 12 and Sept 15/13.

Final USAF delivery, Plant shutdown announcement

June 19/12: One more. Boeing receives a $169.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1 USAF C-17A replacement aircraft. Boeing has confirmed that this contract is for the USAF.

It is needed to replace the C-17 lost in the 2010 accident, but the contract doesn’t include important “government-furnished” items like engines (another $35-38 million), military communications and defensive systems, etc. See the February 2011 entry for average C-17 costs.

Work will be performed in Long Beach, CA, and will be complete by May 23/13. The ASC/WLMK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8614-06-D-2006, DO 0010).

+1 C-17

Jan 23/12: Finis. Boeing in Long Beach, CA receives a $693.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to delivery order (DO) 0006, for 5 more USAF C-17s. DO 0006 is noted on May 16/11, and bought the 1st 5 aircraft of the USAF’s FY 2010 order. This agreement and contract is confirmed as closing the books on USAF C-17 production, by bringing the order to its expected 10.

+5 C-17s

Work will be performed in Long Beach, CA, and is expected to be complete by March 20/13. The ASC/WLMK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8614-06-D-2006, DO 000603).

May 16/11: A $962.5 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against the basic C-17 production contract, for 5 of the FY 2010 C-17A aircraft. At this time, $471.6 million has been committed.

Boeing representatives said that a contract for the other 5 is expected later in 2011 (FA8614-06-D-2006, DO 0006).

+5 C-17s

February 2011: According to the USAF’s FY 2012 budget documents [PDF], flyaway costs for the last set of FY 2010 C-17s is around $193 million each, rising to a full operational cost per aircraft of about $256 million once spares, site support, training, etc. are also factored in.

All planned USAF orders (incl. FY 2010) and existing export orders would see the C-17 production line end at the end of November 2012, with the USAF taking the final delivery. [Addendum: A subsequent order from Australia pushes this to the end of December 2012.]

Jan 20/11: Boeing announces the 2nd phase of C-17 Program Production Rate and Work Force Reductions. 1,100 employees cut, 900 in Long Beach, CA, as production drops from its high-water mark of 15 C-17s per year down to 10 per year.

Boeing hopes to keep the line open longer this way. The tradeoff is added fixed costs from running the line for more years, vs. the potential for new orders each extra year the line is still running. Recent experience with export orders shows latent demand around the globe, and once the C-17 line stops, strategic airlift options will shrink to rented Russian/Ukrainian AN-124s, or the medium-heavy lift Airbus A400M.

Planes are replaceable
…people aren’t
(click for video)

July 28/10: Crash. A USAF C-17A (tail number 00-0173) crashes at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, killing all 4 crew aboard. The crew were preparing for Elmendorf’s Arctic Thunder Air Show, which went ahead on July 31/10. The crash is attributed to pilot error.


June 22/10: A $1.5 billion contract modification to buy 8 more C-17 aircraft for the USAF. At this time, $734.4 million has already been committed (FA8614-06-D-2006).

February 2010: Budgets. The USAF’s FY 2011 budget submission [PDF] gives an average C-17 flyaway cost to date of around $201 million over the entire program, rising to a full “weapon system cost” of $267.5 million once required spares and support are also factored in. Despite this, it also notes that:

“The FY2010 appropriation of $2.5B “for the procurement of ten C-17 aircraft, associated spares, support equipment and training equipment as required” is not sufficient for this requirement. Shortfall estimated at $530M.”

These 10 aircraft would push total USAF buys to 223. That’s 13 more than the original program goal of 210, and far more than the 180 plane fleet the USAF would have had without Congressional intervention. On the other hand, the 223 were built over a longer manufacturing time frame than originally planned, and in the face of a fleet whose first C-17s are going to be retiring early due to heavy usage.

Feb 6/09: FY 2009. A firm-fixed-price contract to McDonnell Douglas Corporation of Long Beach, CA for an amount not to exceed $2.95 billion. This is an unfinalized contract to buy 15 more C-17A Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft in FY 2009, and separate contracts can be expected for engines and government furnished equipment that is part of the final, operational plane. At this time, $114.6 million has been committed. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH will manage the contract (FA8614-06-D-2006).

Budgets to the end of FY 2008 would bring the American fleet to 205 aircraft, and the FY 2009 budget calls for 8 more.

+15 C-17s

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Army Tests MRZR-4 Buggies | Canadians Test Domestic UAV | Italy Probes Alleged Copter Bribes | Court: India’s Rifle a Stinker Too

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 03:39

  • The Army is currently evaluating Ultra Light Combat Vehicles – the Polaris MRZR-4 – with a potentially large procurement in the pipeline. This acquisition is dependent on results of the testing currently underway, with the vehicles already used by Special Operations. The Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence wants approval for a plan to procure commercial off-the-shelf vehicles, with a target of fielding 300 by 2016, before a longer-term acquisition strategy can be implemented.

  • A dozen Air Force A-10s are to be deployed to the Middle East for six months, with 350 personnel accompanying them. This latest batch of A-10s in the second the US has sent to assist in the fight against ISIL.

  • The Canadian Department of National Defense is testing a small UAV to evaluate its maritime surveillance and ASW capabilities. The Canadian-manufactured Brican TD100 will use magnetometers to search for metallic objects (submarines, mines, ships, etc), with the aircraft’s payload, which is more than twice as large as the Canadian military’s ScanEagles.

  • Tinker Air Force Base (Oklahoma) has been named as one of four potential locations to base the Air Force’s fleet of new KC-46A refueling tankers, alongside Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base (North Carolina), Westover Air Reserve Base (Massachusetts) and Grissom Air Reserve Base (Indiana).


  • Former managers of Italian group Finmeccanica’s AgustaWestland company are reportedly being investigated by Italian police. The corruption probe is revolving around the sale of helicopters to Algeria over the 2009-2011 period. AgustaWestland was awarded a contract for 100 helicopters in 2009, following-on from a 2007 order worth EUR400 million. The company was awarded a further order for six helicopters in 2012.

  • French firm Sagem has reportedly prepared an unsolicited upgrade package for the French Air Force’s fleet of C-130 transports. The proposal would see the aircraft kitted out with the firm’s SSA-1101 Gerfaut system, allowing the aircraft to carry eight AASM guided bombs under its wings.

  • On Thursday, the UK’s Ministry of Defence released figures detailing the number of ground vehicles and aircraft it holds under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. The data reveals how the UK Armed Forces have been trimmed as a result of budgetary constraints. The number of attack helicopters held in the UK fell by 17% compared to 2014, part of a 43% fall from 2008. Over the last seven years the number of combat aircraft has fallen by 31%, the number of armored combat vehicles by 35%; however, the number of artillery pieces rose in comparison to last year by 3%.

  • Russia will begin using Orlan-10 UAVs to monitor Arctic regions from the beginning of May, according to Russian media, with the aircraft having undergone climate testing earlier this year.

  • The country is also reportedly seeing export success with its Ptero-class UAVs. The manufacturer – AFM-Servers Ltd – is in talks with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China regarding the UAVs, with six of the company’s Ptero-G0 systems already sold.

Middle East

  • Iraq is reportedly set to receive its first batch of F-16 fighters in July, following a 2011 $3 billion contract for 18 of the aircraft.

  • The undisclosed customer in Raytheon’s $2 billion contract announced earlier this week for Patriot air defense systems is now thought to be Saudi Arabia. The company secured a multi-billion dollar contract with Poland this week, with the Patriot system also a contender for Germany’s air defense modernization requirement.


  • India’s High Court has instructed the Defense Ministry to review steps to replace the INSAS assault rifle used by para-military and counter-terror troops, following a Public Interest Litigation filed by retired Lt Col Deepak Malhotra. The retired veteran has alleged that the rifles had directly contributed to the deaths of service personnel. In 2005 43 Nepalese troops were killed after their base was attacked by Maoists and their INSAS rifles malfunctioned. The rifle’s problems have now become well-documented, with the Defense Ministry making their most recent order of the rifles two years ago. The Ministry has ten weeks to respond to the PIL.

  • Indian firm Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd has been awarded a $3.1 billion contract to construct three stealth frigates, as part of the Indian Navy’s Project-17 program. Seven frigates are due to enter service from 2023 onwards, with four ships planned for construction by Mazagon Dock Ltd in Mumbai, with the remaining three due to be constructed in Kolkata.

Today’s Video

  • A classic A-10 strafing run video…

Categories: News