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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 1 hour 59 min ago

FY2015 US Foreign Arms Sales Up 36% | Stratofortresses Get JASSM in $9.1M Deal | US Readying $1B Deal with Taiwan

2 hours 39 min ago

  • US arms sales abroad have increased by 36% in the 2015 fiscal year to $46.6 billion. According to the Pentagon, these projections are going to continue over the next number of years as foreign states rush to replenish stocks and upgrade equipment. The news comes as US companies have complained that the process of approving sales by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) is too slow and can not keep with demand. However it has been said that this process will be streamlined to ease the backlog. Recent purchases have seen a shift in the types of sales being sold. Previous years had seen a focus on helicopters, munitions and equipment sales, but recently shifts have been made towards fighter jets and missile defense systems amid regional tensions in the Middle East and Asia.

  • Lockheed Martin has been put on contract to upgrade the B-52H to carry its new extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff (JASSM) Weapon in a deal worth $9.1 million. The facelift will allow the B-52 to carry missiles that will double the bombers strike distance. The JASSM takes advantage of several concurrent digital upgrades that will allow every B-52 to carry smart weapons internally for the first time and on its pylons, giving the 54 year old a new lease on life and usability.

Middle East North Africa

  • Russia is to install the S-400 missile defence system in Syria it has been announced. The system will be installed at the Latakia airbase in the aftermath of the shooting down by Turkey of one of its fighters this week, and coincides with the moving of the Moskava guided missile cruiser from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Last week we called out the Daily Mail for hysteria after it claimed the system was already in place in Syria, but unfortunately this has turned out to more of a prophecy. What else does the Mail know?


  • Switzerland is to buy six Hermes 900 Heavy Fuel Engine (HFE) UAVs from Elbit Systems in a deal worth $200 million. The delivery of the UAVs is expected to be completed by 2020 when the current UAVs in service are retired. The Hermes are thought to provide a considerable increase in the capability of the Swiss Air Force, who currently operate the Ruag Aerospace ADS 95 Ranger for their reconnaissance and surveillance needs. The Hermes saw extensive action during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last year as well as being used by Brazil when it hosted the World Cup.

  • Airbus is to offer surveillance and intelligence reconnaissance upgrades for its A400M and A330 Airborne tanker planes. The announcement comes at a time when governments are seeking a short-cut to enhance intelligence gathering capabilities, as action against the Islamic State increases along with operational requirements. The ability for these aircraft to hold all required fuel in their wings allows for existing off the shelf equipment to be installed with ease. Airbus has orders for these planes from France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, all of whom are currently taking action in the Middle East. This could be seen as an attempt by Airbus to boost the usability of their aircraft amid a decrease in sales of the A400M. The drop is a result of the crash of one of the planes in Spain earlier this year.

Asia Pacific

  • India is to sign a deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighters from France it has been announced. The signing coincides with French President Hollande’s visit to New Delhi to celebrate Republic Day. It is expected that the delivery of the Rafale fighters will be completed within seven years and is part of India’s move to increase its air force strength to maintain effectiveness against both China and Pakistan.

  • A new arms sale is being prepared between Taiwan and the US, in a move that is likely to increase tensions with China. Details of the $1 billion deal have yet to be announced, but it is likely to include missile frigates, amphibious assault vehicles, and various missiles. The sale will be the first between the two in four years; however, over the duration of the Obama administration, $12 billion of arms transactions have been completed. The announcement comes after Obama came under criticism for not doing enough to support Taiwan in the region where tensions between China and its neighbors have been rising. This has seen increased militarization efforts by both South Korea and Japan, and the completion of several arms deals with the US.

  • Japanese defence minister Gen Nakatani has raised the possibility of installing the THAAD missile defence system in the country. The system would be installed to protect against any threat that may come potentially from North Korea, who have raised the possibility of testing missiles. Pyongyang announced a no sail zone off the east coast of the peninsula earlier this month between November 11 and December 7. Nakatani’s comments come along with speculation that South Korea and the US have been discussing the installation of THAAD by Seoul during talks over deterrence methods to threats from the North. These rumors have been downplayed by both countries.

Today’s Video

  • With Kurdish forces making gains against the Islamic State, its Mad Max inspired home made armor has been getting some traction in the press recently.

Categories: News

Airbus’ A400M Aerial Transport: Delays, Development, and Deployment

2 hours 41 min ago
A400M rollout, Seville
(click to view full)

Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition.

Airbus’ biggest program issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as a combination of A400M delays and Lockheed’s strong push for its C-130J Super Hercules narrow the field for future exports. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into the delivery phase. Will Airbus’ 3rd big issue become its own customers?

The A400M Program History A400M concept
(click to view full)

The original EUR 16 billion A400M Letter of Intent was signed in December 2001 for development and production of 196 aircraft, with a 1st flight in 2006 and initial deliveries in 2008. A EUR 20 billion contract was eventually signed between the EU’s OCCAR agency and Airbus Military in May 2003, for 180 planes. June 26/08 saw the first A400M aircraft rolled out at the final assembly line in Seville, Spain, but aircraft weight growth became a critical issue, testbed issues slowed engine certification, 1st flight slipped to December 2009, and the 1st delivery to a customer (France) took until July 2013.

A 2009 French Sénat report estimated that A400M production would ramp up only in 2014, and that it would take until 2020 to clear the backlog introduced by development delays, assuming acceptable settlement of contractual and development issues. Costs per A400M aircraft were placed at EUR 145 million.

The beginning of deliveries is a key milestone, and its lateness escalated into a significant issue. In September 2008, EADS CEO Louis Gallois reportedly sent a letter to the governments of 7 countries who had ordered the A400M, asking them to waive the contract’s built-in penalties for late delivery. Their alternative was a freeze in production from Airbus. Their core customers refused to budge, the freeze came to pass, and it took until November 2010 before a revised OCCAR contract got the project moving again.


The full details of Airbus’ revised deal can be found in Appendix A, but the gist is that the core countries paid more, including “loans” whose conditions make repayment unlikely. The program was overhauled, and the timeline changed. Overall, A400M deliveries would be an average of 3.5 years late, with an initial plane for France scheduled in March 2013 (it was actually July 2013). The 2012 – 2024 delivery schedule from the revised 2010 agreement is reproduced below:

Unfortunately, as of 2013, this schedule is already obsolete. Airbus Defence & Space’s biggest challenges are fourfold: schedule, shifted orders, second-hand sales, and speed of delivery.

Schedule. In the 2010 deal, France and Spain initially decided to space the same number of planned aircraft over a longer delivery time. Subsequent budgets indicate further delays in France, and other customers are also looking to delay their deliveries. That will “save” money in a particular budget year, but stretching out production means paying fixed costs over a longer period of time. Which means higher costs per plane, unless additional orders fill out the production line and make up the difference.

Shifts. Unfortunately, other core customers are making that difficult. In the 2010 deal, Germany and Britain responded to budget pressures by reducing their orders slightly, while remaining within the contract. Their “options” will almost certainly never be exercised, which means a de facto order reduction of 10 planes.

Second-hand Sales. Airbus’ biggest deal concession was subtle, but its effects are even more far-reaching: customers are allowed to re-sell their aircraft on the global market. So far, at least 26 A400Ms will be up for sale from the core group: 13 from Germany, and 13 “austere configuration” planes from Spain. Both countries need the initial deliveries to keep their aged airlift fleets running, but the “zu verkaufen” signs should start going up around 2018. France is also considering such sales, but in a more abstract way. For now, their immediate and urgent need for aerial transport capacity will keep them squarely focused on bringing the A400M Atlas into their operational fleet.

Speed of delivery. A lack of serving aircraft to act as an example and qualification, and a backlog of almost 200 planes, have already cost Airbus potential opportunities in Norway, Canada, and India. Lockheed Martin is using that time to solidify the C-130J variant’s position as a transport and special forces aircraft with roll-on special mission options, including precision weapons and maritime patrol. Meanwhile, Embraer’s jet-powered KC-390 is putting its own plans and customer base together on 2 continents.

A400M: Tech Specs and Issues Airbus on A400M

According to the February 2009 report from the French Sénat, serious development problems and delays have arisen in the aircraft’s digital engine controls, navigation and low-level flight systems, horizontal tail surfaces, and the definition of the wing design. The November 2010 agreement involves an interim standard that would not be capable of the more sophisticated flight modes, until avionics issues have been resolved.

The key specifications change to date involves base weight estimates that have risen by 12t/ 26,500 pounds. Airbus isn’t proposing to change the aircraft’s 37t carrying capacity, which implies a new maximum landing weight of 134t instead of 122t. That means that the most likely performance changes will be to speed (300 knots target), unrefueled range (3,450 nm target for 20t C-130J class payload; 1,780nm target at maximum 37t), and to the length of runway required for takeoff (914 m/ 3,000 feet target) and landing (822 m/ 2,700 feet target) when fully loaded.

A400M cockpit
(click to view full)

A cruise speed of Mach 0.68 – 0.72 would have approached the C-17 strategic transport’s Mach 0.74 – 0.77, and significantly bettered the C-130J’s Mach 0.56 – 0.59. Testing of production aircraft will reveal where the A400M ultimately ends up, and how much of a competitive advantage it can retain. After 2015 or so, the jet-powered Embraer KC-390 will put even more pressure on the A400M to offer competitive performance in this area.

Takeoff and landing distances are also worth watching. Some customers and potential customers may have issues if performance changes extend those runway lengths extend too far, and begin to exclude a number of bases currently in use by Lockheed’s competing C-130 family.

A400M: Industrial Team

Technically, the OCCAR contract is with Airbus Military Sociedad Limitad (AMSL). AMSL includes various divisions of EADS (90%), Turkish Aerospace Industries (5.6%), and Belgium’s Flabel (4.4%). Industrial roles include:

Contracts & Key Events 2014 – 2015

Malaysia’s delivery schedule. 1st UK delivery and schedule. RAF Brize Norton

November 27/15: Airbus is to offer surveillance and intelligence reconnaissance upgrades for its A400M and A330 Airborne tanker planes. The announcement comes at a time when governments are seeking a short-cut to enhance intelligence gathering capabilities, as action against the Islamic State increases along with operational requirements. The ability for these aircraft to hold all required fuel in their wings allows for existing off the shelf equipment to be installed with ease. Airbus has orders for these planes from France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, all of whom are currently taking action in the Middle East. This could be seen as an attempt by Airbus to boost the usability of their aircraft amid a decrease in sales of the A400M. The drop is a result of the crash of one of the planes in Spain earlier this year.

November 16/15: Germany has reportedly fined Airbus €13 ($14) million for its failure to deliver on time two A400M military transport planes. This follows reports from earlier this year of the German Ministry of Defense seeking €300 ($280) million compensation from the company over its delays and France cancelling its order in favor of C-130 Hercules from Lockheed.

October 12/15: Egypt is showing interest in the Airbus A400M, according to two Spanish press reports [Spanish]. With potential deals falling through with South Africa and Chile (which opted for the Embraer KC-390), the North African country would be the first export customer after Malaysia joined the program in 2005, as well as the first customer following the crash of one A400M in May. Egypt operates 24 C295 transports, also manufactured by Airbus.

September 11/15: The Royal Air Force appears to have taken delivery of its fourth A400M aircraft, with 70 Squadron’s Twitter account posting a photograph of the new transporter at RAF Brize Norton. A third aircraft was delivered in July, with a total of 22 on order from Airbus. The Ministry of Defence’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation began work in August to expand the Brize Norton airbase to accommodate the growing fleet.

August 6/15: With the delivery of a third Airbus A400M transporter to the Royal Air Force in July, the UK’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has begun construction of a new maintenance facility for the fleet. The $65.7 million project at RAF Brize Norton is slated for completion next year, with the RAF expecting the delivery of nineteen more A400Ms.

May 11/15: Following the crash of an Airbus A400M transport aircraft in Seville, Spain on Saturday, the Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe and Turkish Air Force have grounded their fleets. The aircraft was on an Airbus test flight, with the crash killing four crew members. The destroyed aircraft was due for delivery to Turkey in June, which would have made it the third Turkish A400M, following a 2003 contract for ten of the aircraft.

March 17/15: First delivery to Malaysia. Malaysia
the first of four Airbus A400 transport aircraft, with this being the first export customer for the model.

Jan 30/15: Military aircraft chief fired over delays. Airbus sacked its military aircraft chief as European partners chafe at continuing delays in the delivery of the A400M heavy lift plane. Domingo Ureña Raso is out and the program’s industrial activities will be transferred to another unit. A wider reorganization is underway, the details of which are to be announced in late February.

Dec. 8/14: MRO. The UK’s Defence Equipment & Support and France’s DGA finalized their joint support contract with Airbus via the OCCAR agency, whose terms had been a point of contention for years (see Oct 12/11 entry). In the meantime France had put an ISS contract in place back in February 2013. The two countries will share spares inventory and maintenance services. Sources: UK MoD | DGA.

Nov. 28/14: UK schedule. Since the 1st delivery was delayed and acceptance is taking more time than expected, one or two of the UK’s first 4 A400Ms may now be delivered in early 2015. Officials hope to reach initial operating capability later that year with 7 aircraft, and reach the total of 22 deliveries by 2018. Standard Operating Clearance 1.5 has slipped into 2015, when the aircraft should demonstrate tactical capabilities that are still unmet.

Source: AviationWeek: A400M Capability Delays Won’t Impact U.K. Operations.

Nov 17/14: UK 1st delivery. Following its maiden flight in August, the UK received its first A400M aircraft at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, where the fleet will be based. This comes about 6 weeks behind the expected date.

UK’s 1st

Nov 14/14: Airbus outlook. Airbus announced strong financial results 9 months into 2014 but had this to say on the Atlas:

“The A400M programme industrial ramp-up is ongoing and entering into progressive enhancements of military capabilities but with some delays incurred. The sequence of progressive enhancements and deliveries is under negotiation with customers and related costs, risks and mitigation actions are under assessment. A contractual termination right became exercisable on 1 November 2014. However, management judges that it is highly unlikely that this termination right is exercised.”

Final assembly

Sept 23/14: Malaysia. Airbus announces that the 1st of 4 aircraft ordered by Malaysia is under final assembly in Seville, Spain, and will be delivered at the beginning of 2015, presumably before the LIMA ’15 airshow. Two more deliveries are to follow through 2015, and a final one in 2016. Malaysian pilots are currently being trained by the company. With just 4 planes this will complement rather than replace the existing fleet of C-130s.

The program’s cost comes to MYR 3.5 billion (around $925 million at 2005 exchange rates) including training and logistics, according to the Malaysian Air Force. That’s a sizable investment for a country whose entire defense budget barely reached $5 billion in 2014 (MYR 16.1 billion), with just $850 million (MYR $2.7 billion) available for “development” (i.e. procurement) according to the Treasury.

IHS Jane’s has the cost at a much higher MYR 8 billion. We think that’s just wrong. It contradicts official figures, and even after a sizable industrial offset with Composites Technology Research Malaysia (CTRM) as part of the original deal, it’s way out of scale with both the aircraft’s known flyaway cost and the country’s finances. Sources: Airbus, Malaysian Air Force and Treasury websites | IHS Jane’s: “First A400M for Malaysia takes shape” | See also MYR 3.5 billion figure in 2012 Malaysia Star, “A400M airlifter gets RMAF chief’s seal of approval”.

Sept 22/14: Germany. Several German newspapers report that an internal memo exchanged last month between the Defense Ministry and federal government auditors states that the government reserves the right to push for price reductions or even terminate the order on a case-by-case basis for any aircraft that falls short of its contractual configuration. The Bundeswehr will need the aircraft soon if it wants to help in interventions from Western Africa to Iraq, as its 5-decade-old Transalls are creaking and some parts are no longer available. There is always the SALIS fallback, which is starting to look long in the tooth for an “interim” solution. Sources: Reuters: “Germany pushes Airbus for cost cuts on A400Ms” (sourced on tabloid Bild am Sonntag) | Die Welt: “So marode sind die Maschinen der Bundeswehr”.


Aug 29/14: UK 1st flight. Airbus announces that MSN15, the 1st of 22 aircraft order by the RAF, made its maiden flight, one month ahead of its scheduled delivery.

Aug 28/14: Aerial Refueling. An Airbus A400M test plane successfully performs 5 air-to-air refueling tests with a Spanish EA-18 Hornet fighter, with 33 dry contacts and 35 wet contacts that dispensed 18.6 tonnes of fuel.

The A400M has a basic fuel capacity of 50.8 tonnes, which can be expanded using optional extra cargo hold tanks. Full provisions for Air-to-Air Refueling (AAR) operations come installed as standard, but the A400M requires the installation of an air-to-air refueling kit with the requisite pods, etc. in order to become a tanker.

A400M: Short take-off

July 24/14: A400M Batch I. Aircraft MSN10 (4th production A400M, France’s 3rd) becomes the first of its type to be produced in “Batch 1” version, with a fuel inerting system, and improvements in the avionics and cargo system. In addition:

“To enable the delivery of MSN010, OCCAR-EA has prepared and signed in behalf of France a Contract Amendment related to the implementation of the LPM (Loi de Programmation Militaire) conditions and has signed in behalf of France and the UK a contract amendment related to the definition of “Batch 1 aircraft”, including FR/UK swap of production aircraft. This concludes extensive work performed by all parties that define the conditions of delivery for the four FR Batch1 aircraft (MSN10, 11, 12 and 14) and that update the A400M delivery schedule.”

Sources: OCCAR, “First A400M in “Batch 1″ configuration delivered”.

July 16/14: Aerial Refueling. Airbus performs the first aerial refueling of the A400M, using an RAF A330 Voyager with a Fuselage Refueling Unit. In the course of 4 flights, by day and night, in southern Spain, the A400M received more than 80 tons of fuel in 100 “wet contacts.”

The A400M relies on its probe for refueling, and requires a drogue hose from its refueling tanker. Sources: Airbus DS, “Airbus A330 tanker aircraft refuels A400M”.

July 7/14: Turkey. Turkey’s A400M Atlas complete its 1st international flight, carrying the TuAF’s Soloturk F-16 demonstration team to London for Farnborough on July 2, and touching down in Luxembourg on its way back. Sources: Hurriyet, “Turkish A400M carries military equipment in debut international flight”.

July 2/14: Sub-contractors. South Africa’s Denel Aerostructures announces a 6-year, R 260 million (about $24.2 million) sub-contract from Airbus to manufacture a combination of aluminum rails and cross-tracks for the A400M’s cargo hold. It was reportedly a competitive tender bid.

The firm is already building the plane’s center wing box top shell, and the cargo hold components are expected to begin delivery to Germany by September 2014. Sources: The Citizen, “Denel Aerostructures land military airbus deal”.

May 22/14: Germany. Diehl Defence announces that it will work with its long-time partner Elbit to supply defensive systems for the German A400M fleet. Their cooperation would combine 3 of Elbit System´s J-MUSIC systems into a multi-turret DIRCM (Directed Infrared Counter Measure) system with 360 degree protection.

MUSIC comes in podded (C-MUSIC) and DIRCM solutions, and is designed to protect civilian airliners as well as military aircraft. Existing MUSIC military customers include Italian Air Force C-130J and C-27J military transports and AW101 CSAR helicopters, and Brazil’s KC-390 military transports. Sources: Diehl Defence, “Diehl signed a cooperation agreement with Elbit Systems on A400M protection system” | Defense Update, “Israeli DIRCM laser to protect German A400M transport planes”.

April 4/14: Turkey. Airbus announces that Turkey finally accepted its 1st A400M, and “following today’s contractual transfer of title, the aircraft will be flown to Kayseri air base in central Turkey, where it will initially be used for training.” Airbus CEO Tom Enders had denounced (q.v. Feb 27/14) the Turkish Air Force’s earlier refusal of the aircraft delivery as pure bargaining. Sources: Airbus, “Airbus Defence and Space delivers A400M to Turkish Air Force.”

Feb 27/14: Chile. Infodefensa reports that Chile has sent Airbus an RFI in September 2013 regarding 4-6 C295 light tactical transports, and is also expressing interest in up to 6 A400Ms. Chile actually signed a Declaration of Intent to buy up to 3 A400Ms in July 2005, but they formally switched their interest to Brazil’s smaller jet-powered KC-390 in 2010. Their tactical airlift fleet certainly needs some help, as it’s composed of 3 very aged C-130B/H Hercules medium tactical transports, 3 old C-212 light tactical transports, and about 13 DHC-6 Twin Otter “bush planes”.

The C295 is already in Chilean service as a maritime patrol aircraft, and Chile is reportedly interested in signing a deal for a couple of transport variants before the end of the year. C-212s suffered a series of lethal accidents in 2012, including a Chilean crash that killed 21 people. Their replacement is a high priority. The A400M vs. KC-390 question is less clear, as Chile’s delivery timeline is closer to “end of the decade.” The 2010 MoU with Embraer isn’t binding, and Chilean sources told Infodefensa that:

“Lo que se hara sera evaluar las prestaciones de ese avion, cuando hayan ejemplares de produccion, para determinar si satisface los requerimientos operativos de Chile, sin descartar otras opciones que puedan cumplir dichos requerimientos en mejor forma”

Translation: “When the KC-390 has a flying plane to evaluate, we’ll see if it satisfies our requirements. But we reserve the right to pick something else first, if we think it meets our requirements better.” The A400M is a larger plane that will carry heavier loads, by a margin of around 10t, and may also perform better in Chile’s dusty environs. The flip side is that it’s a significantly more expensive plane, but Chile might be able to get a deal on some of the 13 “austere configuration” aircraft that Spain plans to sell. FACh commander in chief Gen. Jorge Rojas Avila happened to be in Spain at the time of the report, and toured Airbus Military’s factory in Getafe. Sources: Infodefensa, “Chile, interesada en adquirir aviones C-295 y A400M” | Chile’s Defense & Military, “Is Chile Bailing Out on Embraer’s KC-390 Cargo Plane?”.

Feb 27/14: Turkey. Airbus CEO Tom Enders isn’t super-happy with Turkey these days, because they haven’t accepted delivery of production aircraft #3. The plane made its maiden flight on Aug 12/13, and its 1st flight in TuAF colors on Aug 28/13. Enders says that:

“The aircraft is ready to go…. It’s the same aircraft that we delivered to the French Air Force that has been instantly operational and fit for flight. I find the situation increasingly unacceptable…. I constrain myself to one word. Bargaining…. In a multinational program that’s really a problem. How can you efficiently ramp up production if you have no certainty that your customers are taking those aircraft?”

Enders has a point, and subsequent statements imply that Airbus will look to press its case via OCCAR and other core countries, if things don’t settle soon. On the other hand, the Turks didn’t just make a random decision. Undersecretary for Defense Murad Bayar has said they don’t believe that production aircraft #3 meets their contract’s specifications and capabilities. Which is no surprise, given recent German reports (q.v. Dec 11/13). So, yeah, bargaining. Sources: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Airbus CEO Says Turkish Delay in Taking A400M Threatens Ramp-Up” | Turkish News, “Airbus and Turkey dispute over A400M military aircraft ” | Airbus Military, “First Airbus Military A400M for Turkish Air Force makes maiden flight” and “Airbus Military A400M flies in Turkish Air Force”.


France accepts 1st production A400M, but long-term fleet size in question; Spain will sell 13 A400Ms, bringing the second-hand pool to 26 now; French initial support agreement; UK long-term training contract; LAIRCM for UK A400Ms, but no refueling pods. French A400M
(click to view full)

Dec 11/13: Germany. The German defense ministry says that they expect their 1st A400M in November 2014 as planned, but it will not have the full military capabilities ordered. That will require retrofits after delivery, and they’re only expected to be complete by mid-2015. Sources: Reuters, ”
Germany may get full-spec A400M airlifter later than planned”.

Oct 3/13: Training. France signs an agreement with Germany to harmonize training, and share facilities. Training for maintainers and type rating for flight crews will take place at Wunstorf AB, Germany beginning in summer 2015. Operational aircrew training will take place at Orleans AB, France beginning in 2014, and German students will begin training there from 2018 onward.

This isn’t the only multinational effort underway: France in discussing a joint A400M support deal with Britain (q.v. Feb 18/13), and there are efforts within the EU’s EATC to define common operational procedures and common training. Sources: French Air Force, “A400M : Signature d’un partenariat de formation franco-allemand”.

Joint training: France & Germany

Oct 1/13: The economic challenge. Defense-Aerospace points out that the initial A400M ceremony is just the beginning of the real challenge, which is profitability. His core point is simple: 174 planes might keep a production line going for 6-7 years at rates below their 30 planes per year peak, but won’t recover even R&D and launch costs, let alone pay off additional terms from the 2011 deal.

Giovanni de Briganti further calculates that around 1/3 of the core customer planes have disappeared (3 Britain + 7 Germany now options, 13 German and 13 Spanish to sell, and possibly another 10-15 French to sell = 51/174, or 29.3%), and notes that most of the disappearances will compete with Airbus in the export market.

On the bright side, Airbus can look forward to selling one of very few global options during its production run. The C-17 line is about to close, and the Chinese aren’t quite ready to join the inter-theater airlift competition with their Y-20. That leaves the A400M up against the smaller C-130/ KC-390 class 20-ton capacity intra-theater transports, Ukraine’s comparable but ailing An-70 turboprop program, and Russia’s IL-476 jet. Airbus officials tout Lockheed Martin’s super-long sales period for the C-130, but that’s only because it had enough domestic and foreign orders to keep its line open continuously. If Airbus’ core customers cannibalize its near-term export sales and shut the production line, the program may not have a long term to sell in. Sources: Defense-Aerospace, “Ceremony Opens A400M Profitability Challenge”

The Big Ceremony
click for video

Sept 30/13: France. A delivery ceremony for the 1st A400M is held at the Airbus Military Final Assembly Line in Seville, Spain. French and Spanish dignitaries are present, and other deliveries are expected to take place soon. The end of August saw a new A400M flown in Turkish colors, and Sources: French Air Force, “L’A400M Atlas arrive dans les forces” | Airbus Military releases: Aug 28/13, Sept 30/13.

Sept 4/13: Testing. More than a week of gravel airfield testing at Ablitas in northern Spain goes well, with the runway still usable after 25 landings, and no issues with the engines or cockpit, and damage to the A400M “minimal and within expectations.”

Demonstrations included ground maneuvering, rejected take-offs, and propeller reverse thrust at speeds as low as 70kt / 130 kmh, both with and without the optional nosewheel deflector. Sources: Airbus Military, Sept 4/13 release.

Aug 2/13: France. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirms France’s official target of 50 A400Ms by 2025, but also confirms that the new defense budget would see only 15 A400Ms delivered by 2019, instead of the 27 envisioned in the 2010 agreement. He adds that after 2019, those requirements could change:

“Je n’ai pas fait mes arbitrages pour savoir ce qu’il y aura apres 2019…. Le nombre d’A400M sur le total d’avions de transport dont nous aurons besoin n’est pas fixe.”

France can’t reduce the 50-plane order without heavy financial penalties. What they could do is add more A400Ms to a growing second-hand sales pool, stifling Airbus exports (q.v. July 26/13). Les Echos [in French].

Aug 1/13: France. France accepts delivery of the 1st production A400M. It will head immediately to Orleans-Bricy air base, where it will be used as a training platform. The plane will eventually become part of the French Air Force operational transport fleet. France DGA [ in French] | Airbus Military.

France accepts 1st A400M

July 26/13: Spain. The Spanish government approves an extra EUR 877.33 million (about $1.165 billion) in their 2013 budget, in order to finance payments that have come due on several major weapons programs. Just EUR 46.6 million of that total involves the Airbus A400M. At the same time, they will look to sell half of their proposed A400M fleet, and make cuts in other programs, in order to finance investments in their troubled S-80 submarine program, and purchases of their Pizarro (ASCOD 2) tracked IFVs:

“Contractually, Spain has to take all of the 27 A400Ms it has ordered,” a spokesman for Airbus Military told July 29, “but if it wants to sell some of them, we have nothing to say.” He also said that the first 14 aircraft are due to be delivered by 2020, and that a decision to sell off the aircraft on will not be taken until after then, “so it’s still some time off.” He added that Spain’s final 13 A400Ms would be delivered in an austere configuration, without many mission systems, to reduce cost.

Germany also intends to sell 13 of their A400Ms, as a Parliamentary condition of accepting the revised 2010 deal. That cut-rate pool of 26 second-hand planes is larger than orders in all but 2 core countries, which means it’s going to put a crimp in export orders. That isn’t ideal for Airbus, but it isn’t completely negative. If they don’t meet their export targets for new-build planes, they don’t have to pay back their EUR 1.5 billion “Export Levy Facility” loan from the core partner countries. Sources: Defense-Aerospace | Publico [in Spanish].

July 21-22/13: Certification. France may be proceeding to military type certification of the A400M, but Der Spiegel reports that Germany will have serious trouble. Germany is behind France in its delivery schedule, but close enough to delivery that certification needs to start now. Unfortunately, the commercial/ OCCAR approach to certification is incompatible with German law. It needs official Bundeswehr approval from the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw), working with the quality standards authority in Koblenz or the Military Technical Department 61 in Manching, Bavaria.

The bad news? Instead of the dozen qualified inspectors they’d need, a decade of steady cuts has left the BAAINBw with no qualified inspectors, and misplaced confidence in an external solution has left them with no legally-compliant plan. Both problems might have been solved with the planned Europe-wide military certification, but Europe hasn’t established any such system. Meanwhile, Airbus Military points rather inflexibly to the production contract, which doesn’t have any provisions for German inspectors to oversee final assembly.

As a result, plans explicitly designed to cut the cost of German licensing may end up backfiring, and create a situation in which the German inspectors who must be involved in certification can’t obtain the information they need to certify, but are still held personally responsible under German law in the event of an accident.

BWB undersecretary Stephane Beemelmans has formed a working group (q.v. Dec 20/12), whose May 31/13 memo recommends the immediate hire of 6 people at basic salaries up to EUR 108,000 per year, and the eventual creation in Cologne, Munster, or Manching of a national military certification agency of up to 400 employees within 4 years. Meanwhile, he’s trying to push the concept of a “virtual” national military aviation authority for the operation to certify the A400M. The legality of that approach could end up being decided by a court, and if it is, German A400M flight operations would be placed in a precarious legal position.

Germany’s defense ministry responds to subsequent questions from Bloomberg by emailing a response that doesn’t answer any of the key questions: “The timely delivery of the German A400M, according to the contract changes from 2010, is secure at this time.” Maybe, but delivery doesn’t mean you can fly them. Der Spiegel | Bloomberg.

July 19/13: Certification. The Certification and Qualification Committee of experts from the 7 A400M partner countries recommend its certification to France’s DGA, who is expected to accept that recommendation and issue a certificate in time for final acceptance of the 1st plane. The DGA acts as France’s technical authority, which is responsible for issuing a military type certificate allowing A400M flights.

Civil certification by EASA is its own separate process, and so is military qualification by the EU’s managing Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR). DGA [in French].

April 22/13: UK Costs. In response to a Parliamentary question from Angus Robertson [SNP – Moray], UK Secretary of State for Defence Dunne says that their A400M program is likely to come in around GBP 770 million over initial approval costs (around $1.23 billion), despite a cut in the fleet’s size from 25 to 22 planes. As Dunne explains, however:

“It should be noted that the cost variation quoted is assessed against MOD project approval figures, which represent the total MOD costs for any particular project. They therefore do not necessarily reflect contractual obligations. Project performance can be affected by a number of reasons, not all of which are in the contractor’s control.”

Dunne also acknowledges a conflict between this information and his written answer to Mr. Robertson on Nov 6/12, which listed EADS as having 0 projects over budget. The difference? This answer acknowledges Airbus Military as part of EADS, and it also addresses forecast costs rather than budgets to date. Mr. Dunne adds “the passage of time” to that list, making one wonder what has changed in the last 5 months. UK Hansard.

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

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

Does Mr. Dunne even read his own press releases? The RAF’s new A330 Voyager MRTTs lack key defensive systems, in order to avoid conflicts with their secondary use as civil charter planes. Those kinds of warning and decoy systems are necessary for refueling aircraft in hazardous environments, as several Parliamentary reports have noted. Dunne’s own March 4/13 announcement touted their importance to the A400M. Flight International.

March 13/13: EASA cert. Airbus Military announces full EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) civil Type Certification for the A400M. Civil certification is and long and arduous process, and its completion means that the A400M will be able to take advantage of fuel and time saving civil air routes.

French military certification trials continue, but they’re a separate issue. So, too, are other ongoing tests for advanced military functions, including air-to-air refueling when equipped with hose & drogue pods, airdropping of supplies and paratroopers, and low-level flight. Airbus Military.

Full EASA Type certification

March 6/13: Testing. Maiden flight of the 1st production-model A400M, which will be delivered to the French Armee de l’Air. Airbus Military.

March 4/13: UK LAIRCM mods. The UK MoD announces a GBP 80 million (about $120 million) contract to develop and install A400M modifications that would let it support Northrop Grumman’s LAIRCM defense system against optically-guided missiles. Those kinds of systems provide, in the words of UK minister Phillip Dunne, “essential defensive capability and peace of mind when operating in hostile environments.”

LAIRCM is designed to equip large aircraft, rather than fighter jets. It detects incoming missiles, and fires a laser at the seeker head. It isn’t powerful enough to destroy the missile, but by varying the pulses, it can provide massive false returns to the seeker. UK MoD

March 4/13: UK. The UK Ministry of Defence signs an 18-year, GBP 226 million ($340 million) contract with Airbus Military and Thales UK to supply RAF A400M training services. The contract is technically with the A400M Training Services Ltd. joint venture between those 2 firms. The contract will design, build, and manage the A400M Atlas Training School for aircrew and ground crews at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, including the full flight simulators and all synthetic training equipment, and support the RAF’s own course design team and training staff.

The simulators will be built at Thales UK’s facility in Crawley, West Sussex. They’ll include 2 full flight simulators for RAF pilots, a specialist workstation to train loadmasters, a cockpit simulator to train engineers, and a suite of computer-based training equipment.

Note that this is not the same as the joint support deal said to be in negotiations with France, but this infrastructure will accompany that eventual solution. UK MoD | Airbus Military.

UK training facilities

Feb 18/13: France. The EU’s OCCAR signs an initial 18-month In-Service Support (ISS) contract, on behalf of the French Armee de l’Air. The amount isn’t revealed, but it covers industrial on-base maintenance support, spares management, extended query answering service, etc. for the initial operating base at Orleans.

In November 2012, Airbus Military proposed that this 18-month period should be followed by an extension that adds the UK. “The parties concerned are currently discussing this offer with an expectation to reach an agreement during the second semester of this year.” Airbus Military.

Initial support: France

Jan 15/13: MSN7, the 1st production A400M, rolls out of the Seville hangar in French air force colors. It’s scheduled for delivery around mid-2013. Airbus Military.


A400M becomes “Atlas”; French Senat report concerned about support; Initial certifications. Final assembly
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Dec 20/12: Germany. Germany’s defense ministry approves he formation of a working group to “develop an organization for the safe use of Bundeswehr aircraft and aviation equipment for transportation.” The deadline for their initial report in May 31/13.

What they really mean is that the A400M’s flight certification process doesn’t mesh with German laws, and they need a fast fix. See July 22/13 entry for more. Source: Der Spiegel.

Dec 10/12: Airbus Military has successfully completed the 300 hours of Function & Reliability (F&R) flight-testing, which had been interrupted by engine troubles. This is the last major step toward full certification. Airbus Military.

Aug 31/12: Engines. Airbus Military re-confirms that it will deliver the expected 4 A400Ms in 2013, though France’s 2nd plane will be a bit late within the year.

They also discuss the engine problems that kept them out of Farnborough air show (vid. July 4/12), which also suspended EASA full Type Certificate (TC). The problem was apparently a crack of a cover plate isolating elements within the Propeller Gear Box (PGB), and Europrop is currently validating a new design. As a consequence, the civil Type Certification and military Initial Operating Capability (IOC) will now move into Q1 2013.

July 9/12: Training. Britain places a GBP 50 million order for its first A400M Full Flight Simulator (FFS) and Simulator Support System (SSS), to be co-located with the A400Ms at RAF Brize Norton. It will be delivered in spring 2014, ahead of the first delivery to the Royal Air Force later in 2014. The FFS will be maintained by a joint venture consisting of Airbus Military and Thales UK’s Training & Simulation Ltd (TTSL). The 2 firms have been working on these simulators since 2007, with Airbus providing the data and software package to faithfully simulate its A400M, and Thales providing the simulator.

These simulators are developed and produced in Crawley, UK, and this is actually the 4th FFS. Airbus Military’s International Training Centre in Seville, Spain ordered the 1st, and France and Germany ordered #2 and 3. UK Prime Minister’s Office | Airbus Military.

July 7/12: The EU’s OCCAR and the A400M program countries give their transport an official operational designation: “Atlas.” That’s better than some of the suggestions out there, vid. July 19/10 entry.

The previous “Grizzly” moniker was an unofficial handle, used for the test planes. Airbus Military | UK MoD.

A400M Atlas

July 5/12: French Senat support report. With deliveries about the begin, the French Senate committee on foreign affairs and defense releases its examination of the A400M’s certification and support arrangements, while expressing the hope that budget austerity won’t cut existing A400M orders any further. They’re concerned that the support agreements look set to be a series of individual country arrangements, especially for the engines, and that basic provisions like a common spare parts pool aren’t being established. That will be much more expensive, and the Senat explains that 2/3 of a plane’s total lifetime cost is tied up operations & maintenance (in French, the acronym is MCO). On the other hand, individual arrangements would also let each country support its own local aerospace companies with maintenance contracts. All politics is local, so the French will have a very difficult time realizing the Senat’s ideal:

“En particulier, le principe du juste retour doit être définitivement abandonné et liberté doit être donnée aux industriels contractants de choisir leurs sous-traitants en fonction de leurs compétences et non pas de leur nationalité.”

The Senat may have more luck with their push for a common certification process, especially in light of the multi-national EATC transport pool. Common certification would simplify multi-national deployment of planes in the pool, but the Senat also sees a European military flight certification process as an important brand item for weapons exports. Senat Release | Full report [PDF, all documents in French]. See also Oct 12/11 entry.

Senat report: MCO

July 4/12: Atlas shrugs. Unexplained metallic shards in an engine gearbox will keep the A400M from performing its flight display at Farnborough 2012. The plane will be on static display instead.

The British event is the world’s most important airshow, and engine problems also cut short its planned flights at the Paris Air Show (“Le Bourget”) last year. This is a sensible precaution under the circumstances, but none of this will improve the already-poor relations between Airbus and Europrop. Bloomberg | Reuters.

No Farnborough flight

May 29/12: Engines. Flight International looks at the TP400-D6 turboprop engine sub-program’s progress and history. EPI President Simon Henley describes it as designed “for a civil-standard life, with all of the commercial reliability and availability aspects you’d design, but in a military environment.” Other key excerpts:

“An in-flight shutdown in June [2011] led to redesign of the engine’s idler gear, while the inlet vane was tweaked after the discovery of high-pressure compressor blade fatigue… In the course of bringing the TP400-D6 to series production, assembly was consolidated at MTU Aero Engines’ Munich facility and pass-off testing at MTU’s site in Ludwigsfelde, near Berlin… Having the TP400-D6 line at Munich was seen as a route to greater efficiency for MTU, which could move manpower between different lines – commercial and military… ramp-up plans provide for annual production to reach a peak of 120 in 2015. EPI aims to reduce the time to assemble and test a TP400-D6 from an initial 60 days to 30 days. The engine is flat-rated at 10,000shp (7,460kW) at sea level, and has an uprated take-off capability of 11,000shp for hot and high conditions.”

May 30/12: South Africa. Denel Aerostructures (once Denel Saab Aero) is still losing money, and has pushed expected profitability back to 2016/17. They’re on track to deliver their first A400M parts this year, reportedly losing money on producing A400M parts, but have renegotiated with Airbus and raised prices. They’d better, because Airbus appears to be their only large customer. They just received a R700 million (currently about $82 million) capital injection from the National Treasury. IOL BusinessReport | Mail & Guardian.

May 5/12: EASA RTC. Airbus Military has received the A400M’s initial Restricted Type Certificate from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Full EASA civil certification is expected in mid-2012, and military Initial Operating Clearance is expected later in 2012. Certifications are often overlooked, but without them, new aircraft usually won’t be accepted into military service.

Europrop International has been ahead of the overall aircraft in this respect: its TP400-D6 engine got EASA type certification in May 2011, while the propeller was certified in March 2012. Relations with Airbus Military are still poor, however, as emphasized by this excerpt from the Airbus release:

“The fleet of five A400M development aircraft continues to make good progress in the intense flight-test campaign in order to ensure delivery of a reliable aircraft to our customer and has now completed more than 3,100 hours in the air, despite continued engine challenges.”


March 30/12: High altitude testing. Airbus Military announces that A400M “Grizzly 2” recently visited La Paz, Bolivia, to perform high-altitude tests from an airport located more than 13,000 feet above mean sea level.

The firm also used the trip to do some promotion, showing the plane at the FIDAE airshow in Chile, and visiting Lima, Peru. Chile had an option for up to 3 A400Ms, but seems set to order Brazil’s KC-390s instead. Peru may prove to be more promising.

March 22/12: Prop certified. The European Aviation Safety Agency grants United Technologies Hamilton Sundstrand subsidiary Ratier-Figeac a FH385/386 propeller system type certificate. This is an important certification milestone for the platform, and for the 11,000 hp engine that drives the 8-bladed, all-composite, 17.5 foot diameter propellers.

This is the largest all-composite propeller in production, which handles twice the power of any existing in-service propeller. The firm says that it offers a thrust efficiency peak close to 90% at high cruise speeds, and each wing features a pair of clockwise and counter-clockwise rotating propellers for added aircraft stability and control.

In addition to the propeller system, Hamilton Sundstrand and its subsidiaries supply the A400M’s Secondary Electrical Power Distribution Center (SEPDC), Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), Ram Air Turbine (RAT) emergency power system, Trimmable Horizontal Stabilizer Actuator (THSA), and the Throttle Control Assembly (TCA). Hamilton Sundstrand.


Series production restarts, but engine still a source of friction; Export targets? Certifiable
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Oct 12/11: MRO. The head of France’s DGA, Laurent Collet-Billon, has told the Assemblée Nationale’s defense commission that Airbus’ maintenance proposals have not been satisfactory, “…notably as regards to the engine.” Without a negotiated maintenance contract, the DGA is threatening to refuse to accept the planes, which would hold up the associated payments.

France is due to be the plane’s 1st operational customer, in March 2013. That requires a first-increment maintenance contract, until Britain begins to receive its planes and a joint maintenance contract can be signed. Les Echos is reporting that the price gap in current negotiations is around 20%.

Kepler Capital equity analyst Christophe Menard also points out that European MRO budgets are set to decline on average by 3.8% per year between 2010-2015, which helps explain the DGA’s drive for savings. On the other hand, Airbus can’t afford to bleed a lot more cash on the A400M project, and they can’t agree to another unrealistic plan like the A400M’s ruinous design phase. To make matters worse, ongoing distrust between Airbus and Europrop appears to be pushing Airbus to seek a significant margin of financial safety, before they will commit to a maintenance contract that includes the A400M’s engines. Aviation Week | Dow Jones | Les Echos and Commission de la défense nationale et des forces armées [both in French].

Sept 17/11: Testing. A400M “Grizzly 1” performs the grueling “high-energy rejected take-off test.” That means it was loaded to the maximum take-off weight, then made a take-off run that was aborted at the V1 decision speed – the maximum speed at which the pilot has to decide whether to continue a take-off. Grizzly-1 blew out 3 tires stopping the plane, which isn’t unusual under the circumstances, and the test was considered a success. Airbus Military.

June 12/11: Marketing. Aviation Week talks to Airbus Military SVP of commercial business, Antonio Rodriguez Barberan. He sees the A400M as dominant by default within a decade, as Boeing’s C-17 line shuts down. Airbus Military’s estimate is 2,450 heavy transport aircraft around the world that are on average 26 years old. 1,015 are in North America, followed by Russia with 475:

“Barberan and his team know which countries to target when they ramp up marketing next year: those with major air forces and a large number of old transport aircraft – such as C-130s, C-17s and Ilyushin Il-76s. “In the next 10 years Asia will be a major market,” he says, except for China… Other candidates include Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates… “In the medium-to-long term the U.S. market is huge and there is a capability gap which the A400M would fill in due time.” This is also true for Australia, which recently procured C-130s, “but in 20 years, when these are becoming old, we will be there.” No presentations have yet been made to India, “but due to the size of the market the A400M would be perfect,” he says.”

May 6/11: Engine cert. Europrop International GmbH (EPI) announces that their TP400-D6 engine has received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) type certification. It is the first large turboprop engine to have been certified by EASA, and the first military engine to have been certified by EASA to civil standards from the outset. EPI.

May 3/11: Europrop International GmbH (EPI) announces that have finalized an amendment to their agreement with Airbus Military SL for the TP400 engine. The firm says that the amendment resolves all existing issues, but doesn’t give details.

See also March 16/11 entry. EPI | Flight International.

Europrop settlement & certification

March 24/11: Testing. The A400M completes Vmu tests for the lowest feasible takeoff speed. Airbus Military.

March 16/11: Aviation Week reports that the qualified progress between OCCAR and Airbus Military could lead to agreement between the Europrop International (EPI) TP400-D6 engine consortium and Airbus Military, to settle conflicting compensation claims over engine-related delays. Airbus wants EUR 500 million in damages from EPI, and EPI counterclaims EUR 425 million from Airbus. The overall program’s limbo has had a predictably chilling effect on settling this issue.

Former Europrop EVP Jacques Desclaux, who left in January 2011, says the firm is already working according to the broad terms of the OCCAR-Airbus agreement, and believes the OCCAR deal will finalize “within a few weeks.” Meanwhile, engine FADEC software is now flying on 2 of the 4 development aircraft, with software and A400M civil certification planned for the end of 2011. European Aviation Safety Agency engine certification wasn’t really set up for turboprops, just turbofan jets. EASA certification is expected soon, however, and initial production deliveries of the 11,000 shp engines are expected to start in April 2012, with 8 (2 aircraft sets) delivered by the end of 2012, and 16 by the end of 2013. Production won’t really take off until 2014, in part as a result of lessons from the A380 to go slow and incorporate changes that emerge from testing.

Desclaux does say that in at least one instance, debris ingestion during a test of unprepared/rough runway performance forced a safe shutdown, without internal failures in the engine, and subsequent engine removal. That’s not alarming, but it is a good example. The A400M is supposed to handle those conditions, and depending on what engineers find, there could be design changes.

March 9/11: ELF payments. France pays EUR 417 million into the Export Levy Facility, as its share of the EUR 1.5 billion total. The money will be paid back as (or rather, if) the plane reaches specific export targets outside the consortium.

Meanwhile, consortium member Belgium has paid EUR 200 million to Airbus so far, of its EUR 891 million bill for 7 A400Ms to replace its current fleet of 11 C-130s. L’Express | Belgium’s 7 Sur 7.

March 9/11: Leadership. EADS announces that the first 4 production (non-test) A400Ms will be produced in 2012, adding that the production rate will gradually be ramped up to 2.5 aircraft per month by the end of 2015.

They are also replacing program head Rafael Tentor, who has led the programme for the last 4 years, with EADS Sogerm President & CEO Cedric Gautier. Tentor will in turn take over all other Airbus Military programs, covering the C212/ CN235/ C295, as well as the A330 MRTT and all other tanker conversions.

March 7/11: Reports surface that last-minute negotiations with Britain and Turkey have prevented the A400M consortium deal from unraveling, but as of March 9/11, A400M production is restarting without agreement from those 2 countries. Defense News | Reuters.

March 3/11: Testing. Airbus Military has successfully completed the number of required simulated flight-cycles on a full scale test airframe to achieve European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) civil type certification for the A400M.

The MSN5001 test specimen at Dresden has undergone 1,665 cycles, about 5 times the maximum number of flights expected to be recorded annually by each A400M in service. By mid-2012, 25,000 simulated flights will be performed – about 2.5 times the A400M’s design-life. See also Jan 18/11 entry. Airbus Military.

Cold weather

Feb 8/11: Testing. The A400M does initial cold weather trials in Kiruna, Sweden, accompanied by an Airbus A340-300 carrying support equipment and the test team. It will experience further cold weather testing in Kiruna and at other locations this winter and next. Flight International.

Jan 25/11: 40 for Germany? The governing German Free Democrats’ deputy caucus leader, Juergen Koppelin, says that Germany will stick to its pledge of 53 A400Ms plus 7 options. On the other hand, the options are dead, and Germany now plans to retain a fleet of only 40, and resell 13 on the global market. AP | Defense News.

Jan 20/11: Training. CAE announces a contract from Airbus Military to design and manufacture an A400M cockpit maintenance operation simulator (CMOS) based on CAE Simfinity virtual maintenance trainer (VMT) technology, to support maintenance technician training. The training device will feature virtual displays of the A400M aircraft, cockpit and maintenance accessible areas to provide familiarization, troubleshooting and procedural training for maintenance technicians.

The A400M CMOS will be and will be delivered to the Airbus Military training centre in Seville, Spain in 2012. The base contract includes options for CAE to develop additional A400M CMOS devices, as well as other A400M training systems for maintenance technicians. The contract’s value is cloaked by its presence within a scattershot set of announcements worth a total of “more than $140 million.”

Jan 20/11: Germany. Lawmakers from Germany’s Free Democratic Party symbolically delay their approval of Germany’s EUR 500 million share of the A400M loan agreement. German approval is seen as the last hurdle to signing the program’s contract changes. The vote is now on the Budget Committee’s agenda for next week, where it is expected to pass. Bloomberg.

Jan 18/11: Testing. Airbus Military announces that:

“Major fatigue testing of the Airbus Military A400M has begun on schedule in Dresden in January (see attached photos). The test airframe, known as MSN5001, will be subjected to a punishing regime of loads, 24 hours per day, for an initial four weeks, eventually simulating 160 flights per day. The first 1,665 simulated flights are required for European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) type certification of the A400M, but over the next 18 months a total of 25,000 simulated flights will be performed – equating to 2.5 times the A400M´s design-life. Static testing of another A400M test airframe, MSN5000 was completed in Madrid in September 2010. That airframe continues to be used for further fatigue tests of composite structures which will last until early 2012.”

Jan 12/11: A400M series production restarts, as EADS lifts its suspension. EADS CEO Louis Gallois says the firm still believes there will be global demand for 400-500 A400Ms, but added that EADS will not mount an export sales campaign until the A400M is flying with the launch customers. EADS plans to deliver the first A400M in Q1 2013, which means the decision will give competitors like the C-130J and KC-390 a substantial window of opportunity. Defense News.



Re-negotiated contract is the year’s big focus, and event; South Africa cancellation still at loose ends; CEO jumps from A400M. No pressure…
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Dec 20/10: Testing. “Grizzly 4” makes its first flight, and the fleet of A400M development aircraft completes just over 1,000 hours flight-time and 300 flights n 2010. The overall flight test program will include 5 aircraft and over 3,700 flight hours. Airbus Military

Nov 13/10: CEO jump. A 10-man team of project staff jumps from A400M “Grizzly 3’s” ramp over the La Juliana drop-zone near Seville, Spain. Talk about pressure: it includes Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders, and OCCAR’s A400M Programme Manager Bruno Delannoy. Both men are experienced skydivers, and the team of 10 had 35,000 previous descents between them.

A stunt? A lark? Both – but also a compelling and dead-serious way of putting oneself behind the company/ team’s products, so soon after the very 1st jump. Color us impressed. Airbus Military.

Nov 12/10: Malaysia. Malaysia’s official Bernama press agency reports that Malaysia remains committed to its order for 4 Airbus A400Ms, adding that “It was reported last year that Malaysia, which would receive the planes in 2013, would not have to fork out extra money for the four air-lifters it ordered in 2005.”

A400M flight-test
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Nov 5/10: A contract at last. An agreement was signed March 5/10, but that wasn’t a contract, and some details remained. The terms of the finalized negotiations with OCCAR and the 7 A400M launch customer nations (Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey) are mostly the same as the March 5/10 announcement: Another EUR 2 billion for system design & development, EUR 1.5 billion repayable pending exports, accelerated pre-delivery payments from 2010-2014, and a EUR 1.8 billion FY 2009 write-down that turns EADS’ income negative for that year.

Britain has reduced its order from 25 to 22 planes, and there were rumors that Germany would drop its order from 60 to 53, losing a total of 10 confirmed orders. Later reports indicate that the final agreement converted those 7 German and 3 British planes into options instead, which is much the same thing. It also reportedly removed automated low-level flight technology, allowing Germany to save EUR 670 million (about $940 million). The remaining sticking point remains the timing of those accelerated payments, which will now be negotiated in a contract amendment. EADS | Bloomberg BusinessWeek | Reuters India.

New contract

Nov 4/10: Testing. “Grizzly 3” is used for the A400M’s first paradrop, as 6 freefall paratroopers from the UK armed forces (2), French armed forces (2), and the French Centre d’Essais en Vol (2) jump in separate passes from 6,000 feet, at the Fonsorbes drop zone near Toulouse, France. Four of them jumped from the left-hand side door, and two from the ramp.

The paratroopers reportedly liked the A400M as a jumping platform. That may be related to the plane’s low 110 kt/ 203 kmh stable air speed, and also to a pair of small deflectors installed ahead of the side door, after previous tests with balloons and dummies noted turbulence and noise problems inside. Airbus Military | Flight International.

Aug 4/10: Testing. Airbus Military announces that the A400M’s all-composite wing has passed stress tests that subjected the design to 150% of the maximum bending load expected during the type’s operational life, which moved the aircraft’s wingtips upwards by 1.41m/ 4.6 feet. Airbus Military | Flight International.

July 29/10: Program update. During an investors’ briefing, EADS reports a more than 50% decrease in profit in first half underlying earnings compared to 2009, “weighed down mainly by exceptional negative foreign exchange impacts.” They also had this to say:

“The percentage of completion methodology was resumed on the A400M programme. In the second quarter, based on the allocation of internal milestones, around [EUR] 300 million in revenues were booked on the programme. Customer Nations and EADS continue working towards a contract amendment. In the meantime, the A400M flight test programme is progressing better than expected; however, the development of the Flight Management System is on the critical path, with more challenges than expected. Risk mitigation actions are being undertaken. Management assumptions of March 2010 underpinning the A400M provision calculation remain valid. As previously indicated, reassessment of these assumptions could have a significant impact on future results. “

See EADS | Defense News.

July 19/10: A400M-T Grizzly. The A400M gets a name: “A400M Grizzly,” after the North American bear. The name has been in unofficial use by the aircraft’s flight test crew for some time. “Atlas” was one of the more commonly-floated alternatives. Slyer suggestions included “Airavata,” the name of the Indian deity Indra’s white elephant. Technically, this designation applies only to the 5-plane test aircraft fleet. Airbus Military had this to say:

“The new name is not the product of an expensive marketing study, nor something devised by a team of branding experts, nor the result of months of debate among the sales team. Instead it is the affectionate nickname given to the aircraft by the close-knit group of flight test pilots and engineers who first saw it safely into the air… The Flight Test Team seized on the resemblance between the mighty airlifter’s hunched appearance and the muscular shoulders of the grizzly bear… By the time of the first flight on 11th December, the name had stuck sufficiently firmly that it was adopted as the aircraft’s radio callsign – Grizzly One.

Furthermore, a little-known fact is that the first flight also carried a party of non-human passengers – teddy bears to raise funds for the EADS-sponsored charity Aviation Without Borders – a nice reminder of the Grizzly’s future role in civic and humanitarian missions. The name rapidly spread throughout Airbus Military and beyond, and at the ILA Berlin airshow in June 2010 an informal Grizzly One logo appeared on MSN1 when it made its first public airshow appearance.”

July 11/10: South Africa. South Africa canceled its 8-plane order in November 2009, but the exact terms must be negotiated. A January 2010 deadline has passed, and the South African government has put Airbus on legal notice to recover its deposit. Airbus Military has already canceled one of South African A400M supplier orders (to Denel Saab Aerostructures) and expressed its intent to cancel its other orders and industrial offset investments without South African orders. It has also reportedly made an offer to supply 4 A400Ms at ZAR 4.3 billion (about $570 million), without the first 2 years’ maintenance costs, with credit given for South Africa’s ZAR 2.9 billion deposit. IOL.

July 7/10: Germany. Germany is reportedly considering dropping its A400M orders from 60 to 53, and taking 15 of its aged 83-plane C160 transport fleet out of service, as part of EUR 9 billion in long term cuts. That could be challenging, as the new agreement allows for a 10-plane cut, and Germany and Britain together would take up all 10. That may create resistance, if partners like Spain also wish to cut their orders. Reuters.

July 7/10: France. A parliamentary defense committee hearing gets initial details from defense minister Herve Morin re: future programs. Morin said that the French A400M orders would go ahead as planned, as would its Barracuda nuclear-powered fast attack submarine, Felin advanced infantry set, FREMM multimission frigate, Rafale fighter and VBCI armored vehicle.

Plans to field 14 new A330 MRTTs to replace France’s C-135FR aerial tankers would be delayed, and so would a EUR 700 million life extension and air defense upgrade for France’s Mirage 2000D strike aircraft, a major upgrade to the national airspace command-and-control system, and elements of the Scorpion land systems modernization program. Defense News.

July 7/10: Testing. Test aircraft MSN 3 makes its first flight, joining MSN 1 & 2 in the air at the same time. The fleet passes the milestone of 100 test flights and 400 flight hours. Airbus Military.

June 8/10: 1st public flight. As ILA 2010 kicks off in Berlin, the A400M made its first public flight – but German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg chose not to attend. Bloomberg reports that despite the March 2010 financing agreement:

“Since then, the two sides have failed to produce a written contract, as European states grapple with the fallout from deficit crises gripping the region… [The agreement] allowed the ordering countries to cut the total number of planes by 10. The U.K. took up the offer first, saying it would take as many as three fewer A400Ms. Germany has also said it will likely take fewer than 60 units. Negotiations remain difficult because of the number of countries involved and the challenging economic climate, Domingo Urena, who heads Airbus Military, said at the show today. Urena oversees the A400M, the A330 tanker and smaller transport planes. “I cannot deny that the economic situation is making things more difficult,” he said.”

See also OCCAR pictures and video of the flight demonstration.

March 29/10: UK. The UK MoD announces that its still in the A400M program, but may be buying fewer aircraft than the 25 originally planned:

“…Following discussions between Partner Nations and Airbus Military, an agreement in principle has been reached… which will provide the basis for a formal contract amendment in the coming months. Under the revised agreement, Airbus Military will deliver at least 22 aircraft.”

Though this is not yet set in stone, Aviation Week wonders about Germany in particular as it asks: “Who Will Cut A400M Next??”

March 24/10: France. French DGA head Laurent Collet-Billon tells a French parliamentary defense committee that the A400M contract is expected to be finalized in June 2010. The 10% increase in cost per aircraft can be handled within existing budgets, but France’s EUR 400 million contribution to the export levy will come from the general budget, appearing after 2020 and being staggered over several years. Exact numbers won’t be clear until the 2010 -2014 payment plan becomes clear.

In order to keep the base program within France’s budgets, delivery delays mean that the Armée de l’Air will have just 35 A400Ms by 2020. Meanwhile, its 51 Transall C-160s, 14 C-130Hs and 19 Casa CN-235s can only meet 25% of the freight target set by France’s most recent defense white paper.

France is in talks with Britain and Spain on a common A400M maintenance program, but Germany has opted to go its own way. Defense News.

March 12/10: Marketing. Airbus says that it expects production of the A400M’s limited operational configuration to begin in 2010.

It also has visions of selling 210 A400Ms to the US government, despite the now-entrenched position of Lockheed Martin’s C-130J in the USAF and SOCOM fleets, and the object lesson of being shoved out of the KC-X aerial tanker competition. Associated Press | Dow Jones | Business Week

March 10/10: Testing. A400M MSN1 performs a test flight from Seville, Spain, then flies on to Toulouse, France for further testing. The humidity associated with Seville’s recent weather had been affecting the instrumentation on the turboprop blades.

So far, MSN1 has logged 39 flight hours, flying up to 30,000 feet and reaching its maximum operating speed of 300 knots (555 km/h) and Mach 0.72, and down to its stall warning speed. MSN2 has been handed over for flight tests with the same heavy test instrumentation as MSN1; MSN3 is in production ground tests, and is slated for flight testing with medium instrumentation in mid-2010; and MSN4 is in final assembly and scheduled to begin flights with medium instrumentation by the end of 2010. The 5th aircraft, MSN6, will be the first built to production standards, and fitted with light instrumentation. Airbus Military release.

March 6/10: MSN2. Test aircraft MSN2 is handed over. Source.

A400M: timely aid
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March 5/10: Negotiations – initial agreement. EADS officially announces that an agreement has been struck to continue the A400M program. Governments will add an additional EUR 2 billion in funds, and EUR 1.5 billion in loans that would be repaid as exports are booked – and presumably not repaid if exports flop. In addition, the agreement waives all late penalties, and will accelerate pre-delivery payments from 2010-2014 – a form of stealth contribution due to net present value considerations, whose exact amount have not been finalized. Formal approval by European defense ministers is expected March 8/10.

The A400M will also enter service with reduced capabilities. Cargo capacity will go down by “several hundred kilograms,” but the Germans will not budge on their insistence that the A400M be able to transport their 31.45t/ 34.667-ton Puma IFVs in Class A armor configuration. They have reportedly relented on their unique requirement for a sensor-coupled autopilot system that would handle the dangerous task of very low-level flying, in order to assist with special forces insertions and remain below hostile radars. The A400M’s air-air refueling capabilities have not been scrapped, but they have reportedly been pushed back to a future upgrade.

In response to the deal, EADS is raising its FY 2009 loss provisions for the A400M to EUR 1.8 billion pre-tax, turning its EBIT and net income negative. EADS’ 15% shareholder Daimler AG may also face a writedown, in Q1 2010. Exact results will be released at EADS’ Full Year 2009 disclosure on March 9/10, but this addition to previous write-downs would reportedly push EADS’ realized losses to EUR 4.2 billion.

As an additional industrial twist, Reuters reports that Spain has submitted a written proposal to relocate jobs, tools and machinery from Filton, UK to the final assembly site at Seville, Spain, if Britain weakens its purchase commitment in the next defense review, or balks over its share of additional costs in the re-negotiated agreement. Britain has yet to agree on what form its extra financial commitment should take. The key manufacturing obstacle would involve transferring Filton’s massive jigs that hold the wings in place. There are reports that Spain’s government, already hurting from Greek-level annual deficits and depression-level unemployment, would pay for their disassembly and transport. EADS release | French DGA [in French] | AP | AP re: capabilities reduced | Aviation Week | BusinessWeek | UK’s Daily Telegraph | Defense News | Deutsche Welle | Flight International | Sweden’s The Local | NY Times | Reuters | Reuters re: Spain vs. UK | Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Wall St. Journal | WSJ re: Daimler.

Feb 15/10: Negotiations. EADS receives a new offer from the A400M’s 7 member governments. There are reports that it includes another EUR 1.5 billion in loan guarantees and EUR 2 billion in additional payments, which falls short of the EUR 4.4 billion in additional government costs that EADS had sought. At the same time, the German government has been forced to deny reports that it would tap guarantees from the Deutschland Fund state aid pool and loans from the KfW state development bank, in order to make its contribution.

Financial Times Deutschland reported that options on the table from Airbus’ end may include a stripped-down initial version of the A400M that seeks only civil certification, with subsequent upgrades to the full military version.

EADS spokesman Alexander Reinhardt says the company is now studying the offer and “we will answer it in due time.” EADS has said it needs a decision so it can book its share of the cost overruns in its 2009 financial results to be released on March 9/10, rather than carrying them over into 2010. AP | Aviation Week Ares | Bloomberg | Capital Business | Defense News | New York Times | Reuters | Straits Times.

Jan 1-7/10: Negotiations. Airbus spokesperson Stefan Schaffrath admits that a cancellation of the A400M project has become a realistic scenario, and appeals to customer nations to reach a financing agreement by the end of January 2010. Defense representatives of the 7 European partner governments are expected to meet on Jan 14/10, in order to discuss this issue.

Reports also surface in newspapers like Financial Times Deutschland that cost overruns are now estimated at up to EUR 11.3 billion total over the original EUR 20 billion program cost, with EUR 5.3 billion (currently about $7.62 billion) sought as additional customer funding. While various unions are lobbying their member governments to keep the program, reports indicate that Airbus may be offered less than this amount, and Airbus head Thomas Enders reportedly sees odds of an agreement as only 50-50. He has recommended sacrificing the A400M if continuing it will continue to hurt Airbus’ profitable civilian aircraft business, by bleeding its available cash and engineering talent. More to the point, Airbus spokesman Schaffrath confirms that Airbus has developed detailed plans to move all of the A400M program’s engineers to important civilian projects like the A350XWB.

On the flip side, Airbus would have to repay EUR 5.7 billion in development funding, over and above losses already taken. The additional financial impact would be that payout, minus any future loses the company would avoid by canceling the project. If European governments decide to lowball EADS, therefore, it’s likely to be finely calculated to have EADS lose just a bit less than it would lose under a contractor cancellation scenario. With estimates of up to 40,000 direct and indirect jobs depending on the program in Europe and the UK, however, and European prestige on the line, Airbus has some leverage of its own in these negotiations. Financial Times Deutschland [in German] | Agence France Presse | AP re: SAS union | Bloomberg | Der Spiegel | Deutsche Welle | UK Financial Times | Handelsblatt [ in German] | UK’s The Independent | Reuters | UK’s Telegraph | UK’s Times Online. See also Leeham News: “Outlook for Airbus, Boeing in 2010“.


Maiden flight; South Africa cancels order; Negotiations over core country contracts, as French Senat examines what went wrong and EADS takes a big writedown. Cue Violins…
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Dec 11/09: The A400M performs a 3:47 maiden flight, following its take-off from Seville, Spain at 10:15 local time. Airbus Military said that aircraft MSN 1 and its 4 Europrop International TP400D turboprop engines performed as expected. For its first flight, the aircraft took off at a weight of 127 tonnes (metric tons, about 280,000 pounds) rather than its maximum take-off weight of 141 tonnes, carrying 15 tonnes of test equipment that included 2 tonnes of water ballast. A 6-man crew explored the aircraft’s flight envelope within a wide speed range, and tested lowering and raising of the landing gear and high-lift devices at altitude.

MSN1 takes off
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In the first half of 2010, MSN 1 will be joined by MSN 2 and MSN 3. they will be followed by MSN 4 by the end of 2010, and a 5th aircraft in 2011. This fleet will be used for some 3,700 hours of test-flying before the first production A400M delivery to the French Air Force at the end of 2012, then used for additional military development flying. At least, that’s the hope. After reports that the project faces over EUR 5.3 billion in production cost overruns, Airbus CEO Tom Enders reminded reporters that current financing arrangements for A400M development do not work, and some rather large issues remain to be solved:

“I hope we can soon provide certainty that we are able to continue the A400M programme. This is expected by those at Airbus, our partners and suppliers worldwide who contributed so strongly to today’s success as well as by the air forces who wait for their plane.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel added emphasis to this point, when she said in a Dec 11/09 speech that the flight was good news and that Europe needed a new transport, but added that they could not afford to wait forever for it. Stamford, CT’s Hexcel Corp., which produces composite structures for the A400M, saw the day as unalloyed good news, as its shares jumped on news of the first flight. Airbus military release | Agence France Presse | Barcelona Reporter [incl. video] | Bloomberg | Deutsche Welle | UK’s Financial Times | London Free Press | NY Times | Reuters re: program audit | Reuters re: Merkel | Reuters re: German order | Seattle Post-Intelligencer | UK’s Telegraph | Connecticut Post.

1st flight

Dec 2/09: Negotiations. Officials from the 7 European governments that launched the troubled A400M military transport plane met to try to overcome the program’s contract deadlock. Despite reports that EADS is consideration cancellation of the aircraft, EADS CEO Louis Gallois says that there is no “Plan B”. Meanwhile, the 7 European countries involved in the program will create a panel of industry experts with members from each contract country, in order to advise them as they work toward a new contract. Forbes | NY Times | Reuters | UPI | Wall Street Journal.

Nov 25/09: Negotiations. EADS issues a release that reiterates the Nov 16/09 statement, and:

“…explicitly cautions against the misinterpretation of figures taken out of their context as long as negotiations with the customer OCCAR and the launch nations are ongoing.”

Nov 18/09: Engines. Airbus starts the A400M’s engines at its Seville, Spain facility using the built-in Auxiliary Power Unit instead of external sources, and runs all 4 Europrop International (EPI) TP400 engines on a production aircraft. This is a first for the program, and follows dry and wet cranking the propellers, and tests of the APU.

The engines on aircraft MSN01 were successfully run at low power settings in ground-idle and flight-idle modes for 4 hours. After the first full run, during which the engines performed flawlessly, the engine cowls were opened and inspections showed that there had been no hot-air or fluid leaks. Tests running the engines up to maximum take-off power are planned soon, in line with promises that the aircraft’s first flight would occur by the end of 2009. Airbus Military release.

Nov 16/09: Negotiations. An EADS disclosure statement says that:

“Under a continuation scenario, which is deemed the most probable, the A400M provision for which [EUR] 2.4 billion in charges have already been accrued has a wide range of possible outcomes depending on the negotiation process and could substantially alter the financial statements of EADS in the future.”

Nov 6/09: Agence France Presse reports that Malaysia still intends to remain a customer, but delivery will be delayed by at least 3 years to 2016 or even 2017.

Nov 5/09: SAAF cancels. South Africa announces that it is canceling its A400M contract, and seeking R2.9 billion (about $380 million/ EUR 256 million) in returned payments. Read “South Africa to Cancel its A400M Order” for more.

Oct 8/09: South Africa. Airbus Military Sociedad Limitada says that there will be minimal degradation to the aircraft technical baseline, but confirms a 4-year delay to the South African A400M order, which could extend to 5 years depending on the Test Flight Programme results. South Africa’s Minister of Defence and Military Veterans adds that:

“It was during this interaction that it became clear that the acquisition costs will increase by more than 25% and another 15 – 20% increase to the initial logistic package which translates to an overall programme cost increase to over R 30 billion [DID: $3.955 billion on this date, almost $495 million per plane] by the time we take delivery of the first aircraft.”

South Africa cancels

Sept 25/09: Negotiations. Aviation Week reports that Airbus has come to an agreement in principle with A400M launch customers to restructure the contract for the airlifter, and is keeping to its objective of performing a first flight in 2009.

Aug 28/09: South Africa. Denel Saab Aerostructures is one of the partner firms being hurt by A400M program delays. South Africa’s Engineering News quotes Denel Saab Aerostructures (DSA) CEO Lana Kinley:

“This is a high fixed costs business… You need to bring in revenue. We are not doing particularly well at the moment. Essentially, it is all about getting more order cover. “The A400M delays have created a big hole in our work. We expected to be in production by now, and we’re not. We’re still doing design work on the A400M.”

July 28/09: $$$. EADS announces its first half 2009 results. On the bright side, the 1st A400M development aircraft is being prepared for engine fitting, the 2nd aircraft is assembled and has entered systems testing, and final assembly has begun for the 3rd. The C-130 flying test bed for the Europrop engine has successfully performed 12 flights with more than 35 flight hours, and a first version of the revised engine software FADEC is showing good initial results in testing.

On the flip side, EADS is taking further writedowns related to the A400M project (all Euro symbols replaced by EUR):

“Due to the continuing high level of uncertainty on the programme, EADS retained the early stage accounting treatment of this programme

  • . This resulted in an EBIT* impact of EUR -191 million for the first six months… -120 million taken in the first quarter. Substantial negative income statement impacts may still have to be booked in future periods… Airbus Military revenues accounted for EUR 855 million (H1 2008: EUR 898 million) of the Airbus total benefiting from an increase in tanker as well as medium and light activities. This was more than offset by the difference between the absence of the Power On Milestone – booked in the first quarter of the previous year – and the revenues booked as the recoverable part of the A400M costs. Accordingly, EBIT* stood at EUR -36 million (H1 2008: EUR -20 million).”

See: EADS: First Half 2009 results | EADS release.

July 27/09: $$$. Thales Group announces a EUR 102 million write-down connected to the A400M project, and says that it will seek compensation from Airbus for the project’s delays. Thales makes the A400M’s avionics and flight management system.

The firm actually caught both barrels in this financial report, as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner delays also delivered a blow to their profitability. Thales: First Half 2009 Results | Reuters | London Telegraph

July 24/09: Negotiations. The A400M partner nations relax the negotiation timeline, and move the decision back from end of July to the end of December 2009. Britain’s change of mind is key to that agreement, and is partly influenced by a major “root and branch” review planned for all defense programs. That review could not possibly be complete by the end of July, and a first draft is due in early 2010. That fits far better with the proposed French and German end of 2009 timeline. Agence France Presse | BBC | BBC re: UK defence review | Deutsche Welle | NY Times | Seattle Post-Intelligencer. EADS release.

Final design?
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June 22/09: Negotiations. The Ministers of Defence of the 7 program partner nations (Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Spain, Turkey) met to receive and analyze the “Group of Experts” report analyzing the A400M program and its way forward. The official release notes that:

“A number of issues still need to be resolved, before a negotiation phase can be entered. Therefore, in order to ensure ourselves that the conditions offered by industry fully satisfy the Nations, it has been decided to allow, in agreement with industry, an extension to the standstill period, with a decision being taken by Partner Nations by the end of July.”

Defense-Aerospace reports that France and Germany had been pressing for an extension of the moratorium period to the end of 2009, but Britain vetoed that proposal. In the end, the moratorium was extended only to the end of July 2009. A technical committee will now examine all aspects of the aircraft’s production plans, which will lay the groundwork for key decisions, and re-negotiation on production, delivery and financial schedules. Defense-Aerospace | Joint A400M partners release: PDF format [in English] Spanish Ministry of Defense [in Spanish].

June 13/09: Negotiations. Defense-Aerospace reports on a Le Bourget 2009 briefing by EADS CEO Louis Gallois, Airbus CEO Tom Enders, and other EADS executive. Gallois said that EADS has already spent all EUR 5.7 billion in A400M development funds, and has lost EUR 2.8 billion on the initial contract for 180 aircraft, with an ongoing burn rate of “over 100 million euros” of its own money every month.

EADS is reportedly betting on future exports beyond the initial European nations, in order to justify the program. EADS North America CEO Ralph Crosby reportedly confirmed that the A400M had been offered to the US Air Force, though those rumors were mostly tied to a special operations contract won by the MC-130J Super Hercules.

Operationally, EADS has launched an initiative, overseen by Airbus COO Fabrice Bregier, to enhance program management throughout the group. The A400M’s first flight is tentatively scheduled for late December 2009, but could slip slightly into early January 2010. EADS CEO Louis Gallois hopes that can coincide with the end of contract re-negotiations. He adds that Britain is taking part, saying:

“We need the UK, we want to have the UK with us… but I don’t think it would kill the contract if the UK withdrew.”

June 5-15/09: France. With a fleet of aging C-160 and Lockheed Martin C-130H tactical transports that continue to see heavy demand, France is looking at the one option its government had said would not be considered. French Defense Minister Herve Morin is quoted as saying that the government has expanded its stopgap options to include lease or purchase of some C-130Js; and Bloomberg reports that France has officially requested C-130J availability and performance data for review. France has also approved the modernization of its 10 newest C160 Transalls so they can remain in service until the first A400Ms arrive, which is now expected to happen in 2014-15.

Other possibilities for France include stepped up per-hour leasing of Russian AN-124s under NATO’s SALIS pool, per-hour C-17 leasing under NATO’s SAC pool, acquisition or lease of EADS’ smaller C-295Ms, or advancing their planned Airbus 330 MRTT aerial tanker & transport buy.

These interim options group themselves by tradeoffs. Some contenders (C-295M, A330 MRTT) lack the reinforced floors required for dense tactical loads like armored vehicles. Others (AN-124, A330 MRTT, C-17s to lesser extent) require longer runways, which removes some of their utility as front line delivery aircraft. Range and refueling capability are potential issues for some (C-295M, some C-130Js), while maintaining overall fleet strength and front line airlift availability is a concern in other cases (AN-124, C-17, A330 MRTT to some extent). The C-130J offers less capability than the A400M, but it sits in the middle of many of these tradeoffs, which may be why it has climbed back into interim consideration. Aviation Week | Bloomberg News.

A400M wing cover
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March 30/09: Negotiations. Airbus CEO Thomas Enders sits down for a feisty interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel, and talks about the A400M. The firm later issues a release reiterating its commitment to the A400M, which is obvious from reading the interview but bears repeating in these situations. Key excerpts:

“Objection! If we can manage to get the program back on course now, the A400M will be a success story. That is what we want — but not at any price. In any case, we cannot build the plane under the conditions that we’ve had up to date… Our American competitors would never have accepted such conditions. We’ve made big mistakes, and errors have also been made on the customer side. We should now rectify these together.

…We submitted a few proposals back in December. This basically concerns three issues. First, …the risks and opportunities are appropriately shared by the customer and the industry… Airbus will no longer carry the risks alone of engineering the engine… Engineering, flight tests and the start of production have to be optimized… to minimize the risks of series production. And third, studies need to be conducted… It could save everyone a great deal of time if [some promised capabilities] were only introduced step by step…”

Enders also stresses the “enormous financial and industrial challenges” presented by the A350 XWB and A380 super-jumbo programs, as a key consideration when deciding how much A400M program risk Airbus is willing to accept. Full Der Spiegel interview | EADS release.

March 17/09: France. Laurent Collet-Billon, the DGA’s recently appointed Director General, says that France is looking at the possibility of leasing or buying alternative transport aircraft to meet the shortfalls created by late A400M delivery. The DGA is also contemplating refusing at least some of the late A400M aircraft. Collet-Billon:

“It is one of the alternatives which we have to examine. We have not yet finished examining the capacity gap and that could lead to a reduction in the target (of 50 aircraft).”

That is partly because France has multi-year military budgets, so paying for bridging capabilities means subtracting money from something else. While Lockheed Martin’s C-130J is completely ruled out as a bridging solution, France does have options that include buying more flight hours of Russian AN-124s and IL-76s under NATO’s SALIS program, joining NATO’s SAC pool of C-17s, or accelerating buys of Airbus tanker-transport aircraft to pick up some of the load.

Meanwhile, a 3-month program moratorium imposed by OCCAR will allow all parties re-visit the technical specifications, the schedule, price, and project organization. Reuters | Aviation Week.

March 5/09: UK. Britain’s RAF is under strain, trying to sustain an aerial supply bridge for 8,000 deployed troops in Afghanistan. With its 20 C-130Ks (C1/C3) being forced toward retirement, Aviation Week reports that Britain is looking at the possibility of leasing 5 C-130Js as a potential “bridge” until the A400Ms can begin to arrive, and/or finding ways to add to their 6-plane C-17 fleet [DID: Britain ended up buying 2 more C-17s, and cut its A400M order by 3].

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

Feb 10/09: French Senat report. France’s Sénat release a full report [in French] detailing their investigation into the A400M program, and their recommendations. They recommend that the EUR 20 billion euro contract be renegotiated, in order to preserve a program they see as critical to Europe’s aerospace industry. They also cite life expectancy issues with France’s current C160 Transall fleet, and reveal that the A400M faces a number of challenges which have not previously been made public.

The report faults EADS for failure to grasp the project’s complexity. It faults participating governments for rushing into a program whose structure made failure likely; and for relying on the EU’s OCCAR for oversight it lacked the authority or resources to perform, instead of appointing one of their national procurement agencies to lead the project. France’s own DGA has performed this role for other multi-national projects, notably the stealthy nEUROn UCAV.

With respect to the A400M program’s problems, blame is cast widely, but the core problem is identified as the 2001 contract, which was amended in 2003. The Senat report believes that the A400M program was almost guaranteed to fail, thanks to its call for simultaneous development of a new airframe, a new engine and new avionics; without the EUR 500 million risk reduction studies recommended by industry; and with tight timelines that left no allowance for delays. French Senat report [HTML, in French] | French Sénat Report [PDF, in French] | Defense-Aerospace highlights [English].

Senat report

Feb 9/09: Negotiations. Britain’s Financial Times reports a “major row” over the integration of Airbus Military in Spain, and the parent company’s efforts to bring the A400M project under direct control. It adds that “There have been mounting tensions between Tom Enders, Airbus chief executive, and Carlos Suarez, head of the military division,” and hints at accompanying national political complications. Mr. Enders declined comment when asked about this, but the Financial Times article also quotes an EADS statement:

“EADS is not aware of any political issues with the Spanish government over the integration of the military division. Carlos Suarez is still fully in charge. We are still in the process of integrating our military division into Airbus.”

Meanwhile, Reuters UK reports that first delivery will not happen before the end of 2012, and quotes a report from Le Figaro that places the expected overall cost to Airbus at EUR 5 billion total (about $6.45 billion). It could be higher, according to French Senator Jean-Pierre Masseret, who notes that the terms of the initial contract contain a release clause that allows the governments to pull out if the plane hasn’t flown 14 months after a stipulated milestone. EADS’ reported plans for first flight in 2010 would miss that April 2009 deadline.

France’s Sénat is issuing a report which argues that the program is critical to Europe’s aerospace industry. That argument is likely to fly with major customers like France, Germany, and Spain, though it offers a strong opportunity for expanding NATO’s SAC C-17 pool as a interim step. It may carry less weight with customers like Britain, however, who already fly their own C-17As and competing C-130J-30 Hercules, and who might see a contractual exit as a cost-savings measure. Financial Times | CNN | Reuters UK | EADS general release re: A400M program.

Jan 24/09: Negotiations. An EADS release formally denies any intent to withdraw from the A400M program.

Jan 14/09: Defense Aerospace’s “EADS Draws Battle Lines for A400M Negotiations” discusses key elements of the firm’s position, based on statements made during EADS annual press conference. Referring to John Hutton’s statements, EADS CEO Louis Gallois states that:

“We share his frustration… We signed the contract, and have our share of responsibility, but we were not alone to have underestimated the program… [the governments and EADS] thought [the A400M] was a flying truck, but in fact it is a civil aircraft certified by civil aviation authorities and a military aircraft, with full military capabilities… it is more complex than Rafale or Eurofighter… We have to discuss risk sharing [and a split of costs over expected amounts] with our customers.”

In return for joint sharing of financial consequences, the article also reported that EADS would offer affected governments a partial bridging solution involving other Airbus aircraft. The A330s mentioned could not carry tactical vehicles, but they could serve to ferry personnel long distances.

Jan 12/09: Negotiations. British Defence Secretary John Hutton tells Parliament that:

“We cannot accept a three to four year delay in the delivery of these aircraft. It is going to impose unnecessary and unacceptable strain on our air assets and we, along with all of our partner nations, will have to consider very carefully indeed what the right response now to this problem is as we go forward…”

For Britain, the most likely course of action would involve additions to its fleet of 6 C-17s, involving either additional purchases or participation in NATO’s SAC C-17 pool. A speedup of its FSTA public-private partnership involving 14 Airbus A330 MRTT aerial tanker/transporters is another likely response. Britain also operates Lockheed Martin’s C-130J, however, and could decide to augment that fleet instead if other options prove difficult to execute, or too expensive for its budget. A report in The Guardian quotes Lockheed Martin representatives as saying that the A400M’s delays could spur sales of “dozens more” C-130Js to various nations.

The markets also reacted poorly, as EADS shares fell 5% on the news. Evolution Securities analyst Nick Cunningham is quoted as saying that Airbus could face as much as $6 billion in total cost overruns on the program, a figure that could rise further if the company has to pay damages to customers over the late deliveries. Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch analyst Charles Ermitage estimates that EADS may have to take an additional writedown of EUR 2.6 – 3.9 billion, which produces a figure of EUR 4.3 – 5.6 billion (about $5.8 – 7.5 billion) when added to the EUR 1.7 billion 2008 writedown. Reuters UK | Marketwatch | defpro op-ed and analysis | The Guardian re: Lockheed Martin.

Jan 9/09: A New Deal? Airbus Military and EADS have proposed a new program approach for the A400M, as well as “changes to other areas of the contract including in particular certain technical characteristics…” Outside reports are pointing to likely changes in aircraft rage and lifting capacity. Range has some room for movement, given the plane’s installed mid-air refueling capability. Payload could become very problematic if payload falls below 33 tonnes/ 36 tons, as a number of armored vehicle programs are already in motion that will depend on this capability.

Negotiations are taking place with the respective governments through Europe’s OCCAR joint procurement agency, which manages the A400M program. With respect to costs, Airbus Military and EADS will not commit to figures until a finalized industrial plan, “including the availability of systems,” is complete and OCCAR has reacted to this proposal. EADS also continues its public friction with the Europrop consortium by adding:

“Airbus Military is still working with the engine consortium to firm up a date for the first flight.”

Airbus continues to hold to its position that series production should resume only when “adequate maturity is reached, based on flight test results.” This prevents future contract issues around upgrades of the initial aircraft to production configuration, but delays delivery. Indeed, EADS itself admits that first delivery of the A400M would not occur for 3 years after first flight – a flight that has yet to happen.

The net result of these changes is that the A400M project is effectively in limbo until these issues are resolved. Analysts are beginning to see 2013 as the likely first delivery date, a date that will stress the aging tactical transport fleets of many of the A400M’s partner countries.

2008 and earlier

Airbus Military suspends production over contract dispute; Project delays and cost overruns confirmed. A400M asembly
(click to view full)

Nov 14/08: $$$. EADS releases its Q3 2008 results, which include considerable discussion of the A400M. Key excerpts:

“The pressure on the A400M programme remains… EADS is more determined than ever to get this complex programme under control… In the A400M programme, the unavailability of a committed and reliable schedule for the propulsion system, which compounds unresolved issues with certain equipment supplies as well as equipment and systems integration, will lead to further delays… EADS has started to discuss with its main customers to define next steps. Once a schedule update is achieved, EADS will resume the milestone accounting and further update the A400M charge, for which [EUR] 341 million have been recorded in the third quarter of 2008… [an additional revenue boost of EUR] 803 million resulting from the move to the early stage accounting methodology in the A400M programme applied in Q3 2008… revenues include the A400M Power-On milestone revenue recognition – shifted from 2007 and worth around [EUR] 400 million.”

“As the outcome of the A400M construction contract cannot be estimated reliably, EADS can currently not comply with all requirements to account for the contract under the estimate-at-completion accounting methodology… EADS has suspended the application of estimate at completion methodology accounting [“milestone accounting” for the A400M project] and has then recognised contract costs incurred to date as an expense directly in the income statement as well as corresponding revenues as far as such contract costs incurred are expected to be recoverable under the “early stage” method of accounting. The loss-at-completion provision was then updated only to cover additional losses under the contract which EADS was able to estimate reliably.”

Nov 4/08: Reuters relays a report from the French newspaper Les Echos that Airbus Military has suspended A400M production, and the first flight. A new planning schedule for the project is not expected before December 2008.

At present, 2 planes have been assembled, a 3rd is mostly complete, and some plane sections have been built or are undergoing assembly. The French newspaper quoted a source close to the program, which translates as:

“If the rate isn’t slowed down, the problem is one will end up with lots of aircraft parked up that risk having to be taken back [to fix the issues that one always finds in flight testing].”

See: Les Echos [in French] | De Tijd [in Dutch] | Reuters.

Production suspended

Oct 29/08: Negotiations. In the wake of cabinet approval for France’s 6-year defense planning law, Reuters quotes French defense minister Hervé Morin:

“I told (EADS CEO Louis) Gallois I agreed to look at things with regard to penalties. With the explicit condition that if one day we were ready to close our eyes to a certain number of penalties, EADS commits itself to a precise, firm and definitive delivery date.”

slow starter?
(click to view full)

Sept 25/08: Engines. Safran Group, part of the EuroProp International consortium building the A400M’s TP400-D6 engines, issues a release in response to EADS. It says:

“SAFRAN, along with its partners in EPI, the European consortium in charge of the engines for the A400M military transport, would like to clarify the following points.

1) The eight TP400 turboprop engines for the first two A400M flight test models have been delivered to Airbus Military.

2) The control software for these engines, also covering control of the propeller and the nacelle, which are the responsibility of Airbus Military, are currently in the final phase of compliance with civil aviation standards. However, prior to the first flight of the A400M, this software will integrate adjustments following the completion of engine test flights on a C-130. These tests, which are under the responsibility of Airbus Military, have not yet started; EPI delivered the test engine in late 2007, and received flight readiness approval for the engine and associated software on the C-130 in April 2008.”

Translation: if there are program delays look to EADS Airbus, not EPI.

Sept 25/08: Engines. An EADS release confirms that the A400M’s first flight will be delayed, but will not commit – yet – to early 2009:

“…because of the unavailability of the propulsion system. The first flight actually depends on the results of the test campaign to be done on the flying test bed, which should start in the coming weeks, and on the readiness of the propulsion system. Only after this and further discussions with customers, the financial, technical and schedule implications can be reliably assessed. The 2008 guidance of the group is not changed at this point.”

June 26/08: Rollout. The 1st A400M aircraft test aircraft is rolled out at the final assembly line in Seville, Spain. EADS.

A400M Rollout

Nov 5/07: $$$. EADS announces major financial charges, related to its “reassessment” of A400M delivery delays:

“While the calculations are not yet finalized, EADS now believes it will need to expense between € 1.2 billion and € 1.4 billion, of which more than € 1 billion for Airbus. This estimate is the best that can be established at this point of the programme development, and is consistent with the delays of 6 months, with a risk of a further slippage of up to a half year, that were announced on 17 October 2007. This figure does not include new potential issues… [and] forces EADS to discontinue its EBIT

  • guidance for 2007, which will be replaced by an updated guidance on 8 November, along with the disclosure of third quarter earnings.”

April 26-27/07: Delays. A Reuters news agency report quotes an official from A400M supplier Zodiac company as saying that the A400M deliveries will be delayed for 3 months, and may be delayed for 15. EADS responds by citing private decisions within the consortium and says:

“This re-adjustment to the production programme has been undertaken in order to ensure optimum flow-through of assemblies and sub-assemblies to the Final Assembly Line in Seville. The customers were duly informed of the decision and are satisfied that the measures will not affect the aircraft delivery schedule. It is categorically denied that a further twelve months’ delay is or has been contemplated and any such comments by outside parties are speculative and without foundation.”

In light of subsequent events, the kindest thing that can be said about this official statement is that it was mistaken. EADS.

Appendix A – The A400M Program: Dilemmas & a Deal The Dilemmas A350XWB
(click to view full)

Former EADS CEO Louis Gallois has been quoted as saying all expected profits from the initial 180 orders are already invested, adding that the A400M is “a heavy lossmaker” which was creating problems for EADS’ financial performance. He reportedly added in his September 2008 letter that the present position was “untenable”, unless a deal is agreed that “keeps everyone happy.”

That took until November 2010, and involved a production freeze from Airbus along the way. Why were they so willing to confront so many customers over this issue?

Money played a big role, as EADS was facing several major investment sinks. One was the ongoing effort to address issues with its A380 super-jumbo, which had cost the firm billions of euros. Another was the decision to develop the A350XWB as a major new technology project, after existing customers told Airbus that its plan for incremental improvements to existing designs would not be able to compete with Boeing’s 777. Then there’s the market for “single-aisle” airliners like Airbus’ A320 family, which makes up the bulk of Airbus’ orders. With Boeing working on a 737NG project to bring the next generation of aircraft to market in that class, Airbus had to invest billions of its own to create the A320neo, or face the prospect of a serious strategic setback.

The A400M’s issues flew the project directly into this financial storm. Project delays are already costly, and a November 2007 release from EADS reported a EUR 1.2 – 1.4 billion charge to earnings flow (up to $2 billion) as a result of the delays to that point. Payment of the EUR 1.2 billion penalty clauses on its first 180 aircraft would make those figures much worse, and might even have made it impossible for the A400M project to ever hope to turn a profit.

With anticipated A400M profits already invested, every dollar of profitability slashed would have to be replaced with investment dollars, during a major downturn for the airline industry, at a time when multiple investment projects were already straining Airbus’ capacity. All without any assurance that the A400M’s initial margin issues would be made up with enough subsequent orders at full rate to create an acceptable average return.

Worse, Airbus’ classic resort to government subsidies for investment dollars was constrained by a trade dispute with the USA over that exact issue, at a time when a $35 billion aerial tanker contract that Airbus had originally won hung in the balance.

Outright A400M cancellation is not possible without customer unanimity, and that will never be forthcoming. Liquidated damages may be possible for individual governments, however, if they refuse to accept late aircraft. That gave both parties considerable leverage in the run-up to the November 2010 contract.

The Deal A400M for loadmasters
(click to view full)

Under that deal, EADS ended up funding EUR 4.2 billion of the EUR 6.2 billion cost overrun to that point. That meant another EUR 1.8 billion write-down.

In exchange, EADS received 4 concessions that justified resuming production. The 1st was another EUR 2 billion for system design & development funding from the 7 partner nations: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, and Turkey. Each country would contribute funds in proportion to their number of orders. The 2nd contribution was another EUR 1.5 billion paid to Airbus as an Export Levy Facility quasi-loan, repayable by Airbus Military if the A400M wins enough exports beyond the initial group of 7 partner nations to reach 280-300 aircraft ordered over a 30-year period. To date, existing, potential, and withdrawn A400M customer include:

The 3rd concession involved a new project baseline for deliveries, and a full waiver of the EUR 1.2 billion in late penalties based on the old project baseline. The 4th concession accelerated pre-delivery payments from 2010-2014, in order to help Airbus’ cash flow. The 2012 – 2024 delivery schedule from the revised 2010 agreement is reproduced below:

Overall, A400M deliveries would be an average of 3.5 years late, with an initial plane for France scheduled in March 2013 (it was actually July 2013). Unfortunately, as of 2013, this schedule is already obsolete.

In the 2010 deal, France and Spain initially decided to space the same number of planned aircraft over a longer delivery time. Subsequent budgets indicate further delays in France, and other customers are also looking to delay their deliveries. That will “save” money in a particular budget year, but stretching out production means paying fixed costs over a longer period of time. Which means higher costs per plane, unless additional orders fill out the production line and make up the difference.

Unfortunately, other core customers are making that difficult. In the 2010 deal, Germany and Britain responded to budget pressures by reducing their orders slightly, while remaining within the contract. Their “options” will almost certainly never be exercised, which means a de facto order reduction of 10 planes.

Airbus’ biggest concession was subtle, but its effects could be far-reaching. Its customers are allowed to re-sell their aircraft on the global market.

Additional Readings Background: A400M Program

News and Views

Categories: News

Thanksgiving 2015

Thu, 11/26/2015 - 00:32

It’s that time of year again. For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving, or who just want a feast, the US Defense Commissary Agency has some tips for cooking turkey, and ham .

DID offers thanks to all of our readers, and to all American and allied soldiers in uniform. We will return on Friday.

Categories: News

Tensions Mount Over Syria | Russia Installing Comm Systems for Chinese Su-35s | Iran: Russia Delivering S-300s

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 00:20

  • One of two Lockheed Martin X-56A Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) has crashed during testing in California. According to a US Air Force statement, the UAV crashed shortly after take off and sustained significant damage. The aircraft had already made 16 successful test flights and spent a total of 6 hours in the air prior to the accident, since its first flight in July 2013. Testing will continue with the USAF’s second X-56A.

  • The Mexican Navy has completed an Airbus C295W flight from Mexico to Bolivia. Landing in El Alto airport in La Paz, the flight was aimed at demonstrating the aircraft’s ability to operate in extremely hot and high conditions. With La Paz located at over 4,000 meters above sea-level, the ability to operate in such conditions is important for missions in several countries in the region, and has been hailed as quite the success by both Airbus and the Mexican Navy.

Middle East North Africa

  • Vladimir Putin has called the downing of one of its fighters by Turkey (in Syria) a “stab in the back.” Turkey defended the decision to down the Su-24 after repeated warnings that the Russians had violated Turkish airspace on the Syrian border. The shooting of the plane is the first time a NATO member has downed a Russian or Soviet aircraft since the 1950s. World stock markets fell as a result, as investors worried that tensions could escalate, and as a growing cast of characters continue maneuvers, air strikes and missile launches in the skies of Syria.


  • The US Army has begun the second phase of its training and equipping mission in the Ukraine. The $265 million “Operation Fearless Guardian” aims to allow Ukrainian forces to operate more safely and effectively in the field and to monitor and secure its borders. At present, there are 300 US troops in western Ukraine facilitating the mission along with other NATO members and other US personnel. Escalating conflict in the eastern Donbass region has gone mostly unnoticed by a media focused on Russian and NATO intervention in Syria.  Since violence erupted last year, over 6,000 people have been killed in the Donbass region alone with many more either internally displaced or having fled to Russia.

  • Russia is to install communications systems for China as part of the $2 billion sale of Su-35 fighters. The deal includes the delivery and installation of the NKVS-27 communications system which will begin in 2016. The delivery of the 24 fighters will follow in 2017. It has been speculated that the Chinese may attempt to reverse engineer and copy the design of the aircraft as it did Su-27SK and could include the communications system. The NKVS-27 is designed to ensure information interaction between CPs and crews of any aircraft.  Interaction may be by means of conversations through voice communications radio networks as well as data exchange through data exchange radio networks.

  • A Pakistani Air Force (PAF) pilot has died during a training flight. Muarium Mukhtiar died after her FT-7PG crashed due to an unspecified in-flight emergency. Muhtiar was one of 20 female pilots in the PAF since females were allowed combat roles in 2006. The accident has been one in a series of crashes of PAF aircraft this year which included another fighter in September, and two military helicopters in August and May. Pakistan is currently revamping its older aircraft in service and co-developing new fighters with China to reduce dependence on western companies.

  • Indonesia has announced plans to purchase a new AW101 in 2016. The helicopter will replace the air force’s aging AS332 Super Puma and will be used as presidential transport as well as for other VVIPs. The purchase will be followed by the sale of two more AW101s in 2017, replacing the remaining Super Pumas which have been in service for the last 25 years. Its nice to see President Widodo treating himself to a new luxury aircraft.

  • According to the Iranian Ambassador to Russia, the delivery of the S-300 missile defense system has begun. The first of five shipments of the system comes months ahead of schedule and in advance of the lifting of some economic sanctions against Iran. An expansive interpretation of the July agreement between Iran and six other nations over its nuclear program paved the way for the $600 million sale earlier this month. Russia had previously and repeatedly used the prospect of selling the system to Iran as a bargaining chip on other matters over the past three years.

Today’s Video

  • The commencement of sorties from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft
carrier against the Islamic State in Syria.

Categories: News

LCS Program Sees Two More Launches | UK Announces Defense Spending Increase | Indonesia Inks Deal with KAI as Part of KF-X Program

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 00:20

  • The US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship Class (LCS) program is picking up speed as two more of the ships were launched over the last few days. November 20 saw the USS Omaha enter the water in Mobile, Alabama and the USS Milwawkee was commissioned the following day by the Mayor of Milwawkee. There are now five LCS class ships operational and they are being completed at an average of four per year. It is hoped that by 2018, 38 of the ships will have undergone construction in only 13 years and will be operating in shallow and coastal waters throughout the world.

Middle East North Africa

  • Pakistan is to keep using the the Russian made RD-93 engine for its series of JF-17 fighters. The confirmation comes after hints made by Chinese officials that Pakistan would revert back to an original arrangement with China but Pakistan Air Force (PAF) officials are happy with the Russian engine. PAF officials have said that improvements to the JF-17 along with the reliability of the RD-93 engine has resulted in a number of interested parties. Russia on the other hand will be happy to see product solidarity due to economic sanctions over Ukraine closing many export markets.

  • A task force led by French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle has commenced operations against the Islamic State. The 261.5m nuclear-powered vessel, commissioned in 2001, is the largest warship in deployment by any Western European country. Aircraft on board the vessel include Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard, Dassault Rafale M and E 2C Hawkeye aircraft, as well as EC725 Caracal and AS532 Cougar helicopters. This is in addition to the six Rafale and six Mirage 200 already stationed in Jordan and UAE. Both Russia and the UK have offered assistance to the French with the UK allowing the French Air Force to conduct air strikes from their RAF base in Cyprus.


  • The UK has announced an increase in defense spending as part of the Strategic Defence & Security Review. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged an extra $18.15 billion, bringing planned spending to $269 billion over the next ten years. Plans have been made to purchase nine new Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to aid in surveillance and anti-surface ship warfare as the government scrapped its Nimrod spy-plane program in 2010. The review also includes plans to create two ‘Strike Brigades’ for rapid troop deployment and eight BAE warships. In order to keep within budget spending, civilian staff will be cut at the defence ministry by 30%.

  • QinetiQ has been awarded a $231 million contract to deliver technical services to the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) fast jets and A400M aircrafts. The contract comes as part of an agreement developed jointly between QinetiQ and the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) called the Strategic Enterprise. The agreement is aimed to increase cost effectiveness in providing services to the RAF. The A400M recently replaced the C130-J fleet and a total number of 22 will be operational by 2019. Fast jets to be maintained involve the Tornado and Typhoon which have recently had their life expectancy extended under the Strategic Defence & Security Review.

Asia Pacific

  • A deal has been signed between between Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and the Indonesian government as part of South Korea’s KF-X fighter program. The agreement includes details of shared costs of the joint engineering and development phase of the fighter. Indonesian contributions to the costs amount to $1.5 billion, about 20% of the costs. KAI was announced as preferred in March by the South Korean Defence Acquisition Production Administration (DAPA) and will collaborate with Indonesia with design and some part production. Planned production of the indigenous fighter will commence in 2025 with Indonesia as one of the first customers as export. Indonesia hopes the collaboration will help their own indigenous development capabilities in future.

  • India announced the latest test of their Advance Air Defence (AAD) Interceptor missile, although its success has yet to be announced by officials. This is the 11th test of the missile and follows the April 6 failure. Tests scheduled for September and then October had been postponed due to the system not being ready. The AAD missile is part of India’s two tier and indigenously developed missile defence system with both high and low altitude anti-ballistic missile capabilities.

  • Task Force Talon, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) battery in Guam have completed their replacement of missiles. The exercise took place between September and November and involved a total replacement of its existing Interceptor stock to help maintain combat readiness. With a force of 200 soldiers, Task Force Talon is about a third of the size of the traditional air defense Patriot battalion. The exercise comes at a time of increased activity in the Pacific region and talks of installing further THAAD systems in South Korea which may be seen as a threat to an increasingly aggressive China.

Today’s Video

  • The sky is getting pretty crowded in Iraq. Flights between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan have been cancelled due to increased Russian air strikes and cruise missiles in the area.

Categories: News

Boeing E-3 Sees First Deployment | Denmark Expected to Confirm F-35 Order Shortly | Japan to Get RQ-4 UAVs Through FMS

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 00:20

  • US Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work has suggested that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter will take part in Canada’s latest jet selection competition. The announcement comes after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he would not be purchasing the jet as part of Canada’s replacement of older CF-18s. Work’s comments appear contrary to the Canadian administration but seems to be coming across as part of US efforts to rescue Canadian participation in the program.
  • Raytheon has announced the completion of the First Program Planning Review for the Multi-Object Kill Vehicle (MOKV) program. The news comes ahead of the concept review in December and when completed will allow for defense from long range ballistic threats and penetration aids. The MOKV contact was awarded in Raytheon in August at a cost of $9.7 million.
  • The latest upgrade of the Boeing E-3 Sentry has seen its first deployment in south-west Asia. The E-3G model reached Initial Operation Capacity (IOC) in July and was the product of developments costing $2.7 billion dollars. Improvements included updates to the aircraft software and hardware, some of which dated back to the 1970s. The upgrades have been hailed as a game-changer in airborne surveillance and air battle management. The E-3G is said to begin combat missions immediately.

Middle East North Africa

  • The development of Turkey’s indigenous long range missile defense program may involve helpfrom either France or China. President Recip Erdogan made the announcement a week after the cancellation of a $3.4 billion development deal with China prior to hosting G-20 leaders. The news was a relief to NATO members but renewed cooperation with the Chinese in the development of the system may raise fresh concerns. Further details have yet to be announced but the new deal may either be opening a tender process or by inter-governmental agreement. The news comes among claims by Erdogan that Turkey will shortly be able to export rather than import armaments.


  • While rumours continue over the fate of Canada and the F-35 program, Denmark is expected to confirm an order for the aircraft this December. It was reported last year that the order would be for 30 of the aircraft and would be replace the F-16s that are currently in service in the Royal Danish Air Force. Other European countries expected to make purchases include Norway and the Netherlands.
  • The Swiss Air Force have banned the use of their jets by civilians in the wake of a crash last month. The crash of the F-18 Hornet during training exercises in eastern France had no civilians on board and the pilot safely ejected from the aircraft. According to Swiss television station SRF, a number of civilians have ridden in military jets over the last number of years. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Asia Pacific

  • Japan is to receive three RQ-4 Block 30 (I) UAVs after the sale was cleared by the US State Department on Friday. The deal will also include associated parts, equipment and training costing $1.2 billion in total. The purchase comes at a time when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been beefing up his country’s defense spending to counter Chinese influence. It was announced earlier this year that Japan is planning its largest ever defence budget which, if approved, will be in the region of $41 billion.
  • The long awaited death of India’s indigenous Nishat UAV program has come to pass. The final of four UAVs in use by the Army has crashed less than a week after the program was officially cancelled. The final nail in the program’s coffin occurred earlier this month after a third UAV crashed amid technical problems cited by the Indian Army. However, these claims have been refuted by the Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO), who claim army incompetence and poor handling by the army. While the blame game continues, we do know that we won’t be seeing any more Nishats in the Indian sky.

Today’s Video

  • George Lucas meets the Navy. The crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower try their hand at Star Wars.

Categories: News

Swiss F-18s Grounded

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 00:19
Swiss F/A-18Cs
(click to view full)

Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO received a $6 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price delivery order issued under basic ordering agreement N00019-00-G-0148. This modification provides for support for the Phase II C/D fleet retrofit effort to upgrade a variety of systems for 24 F/A-18C and 6 F/A-18D Hornet aircraft for the Government of Switzerland under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO and is expected to be complete in March 2009. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD is the contracting activity.


November 23/15: The Swiss Air Force have banned the use of their jets by civilians in the wake of a crash last month. The crash of the F-18 Hornet during training exercises in eastern France had no civilians on board and the pilot safely ejected from the aircraft. According to Swiss television station SRF, a number of civilians have ridden in military jets over the last number of years. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Categories: News

CSBA Releases US Navy/Marine Tipping Point Report | Thales Intros Spy’Ranger Mini-drone | China Signs $2B+ Contract with Russia for Su-35s

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 00:20

  • The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton UAV has reached a significant stage as it now enters the program’s Milestone C review. Operational tests will involve six test flights and if successful will lead to the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT & E) phase. Successful testing of the UAV will lead to a production contract (albeit at low levels initially) with the Navy committed to ordering three in 2016 but will increase orders to 68 in 2017. Overseas contracts potentially include seven of the Tritons being procured by Australia with Germany, India and the UK also looking at purchases.

  • Boeing has reached an important milestone in the development of the latest Harpoon Block II+ missile after successful tests carried out by the US Navy. The main feature of the missile is the ability to receive in-flight updates through a network enabled data link as well as an upgraded GPS guidance kit. The missile will receive more rigorous testing in the new year but all seems to be pointing to the positive for Boeing who also this month received increased orders of its existing systems from foreign buyers worth $124.6 million.

  • The Center for Strategic & Budgeting Assessment have released a report titled “Deploying Beyond Their Means: America’s Navy and Marine Corps at a Tipping Point”. The report highlights fears that at its present state, the Navy and Marine Corps are approaching a point at which the fleet cannot meet the demand for forces from the regional combatant commanders and may face the need to reduce presence abroad, leaving interests and allies vulnerable. One solution suggests an increase in the portion for the fleet that is forward deployed as fewer ships are required to maintain a given level of presence. This would include having two instead of one aircraft carriers in Japan which would save about 20 percent in the deployment length by not having to transit from the West Coast and boost presence in the region. One of the main concerns and remits of the CSBA is the growing influence and threat of China in the Pacific Theater.

Middle East North Africa

  • Combined efforts are being made between Britain and France in the wake of a recent increase of action against the Islamic State (IS). In the Mediterranean, the Royal Navy HMS Defender has been sent to provide air defense cover for a French naval task force led by the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. This adds to ongoing air strikes by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Iraq as well as providing surveillance support by sending RAF MQ-9s over the IS capital of Raqqa to aide French bombing runs. At present the RAF have not taken part in bombing IS positions in Syria but recent opinion polls suggest that Prime Minister David Cameron may have enough support to win a House of Commons vote to start a campaign before Christmas.


  • The Thales Group has unveiled its newest surveillance and reconnaisance mini-drone, the Spy’Ranger. According to the company, this new tactical UAV comes from the need for a response to an increase in battlefield anti-drone measures. Designed in collaboration by a team of European UAV developers from both Thales and French aerospace SME Aviation, the Spy’Ranger follows a decade of experimentation on micro and mini UAV systems used by the French armed forces, and is fitted to build on endurance and provide increase security and survivability in hostile environments.

  • MBDA have pushed back the first use In-Service Date (ISD) of the Brimstone 2 missile by six months after testing on Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornados. Problems sited with the warhead involved technical issues that had lead to detonation failures and the Inital Operational Capability (IOC) has been pushed back to May 2016. The Brimstone missile has seen successful use in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq and had been looked at by both the US and French Air Forces. $10 million worth of the RAF stockpile was bought by Saudi Arabia, the only other nation to have the Brimstone currently in its arsenal.

Asia Pacific

  • China has signed a substantial contract with Russia to purchase 24 Sukhoi Su-35 fighters in a deal that is said to be worth $2 billion. The agreement comes shortly after speculation that a number of countries were interested in purchasing the advanced fighters, including Pakistan, Indonesia and UAE, during the Dubai Air Show. This comes at an important time for Russia who have been suffering economically from falling oil prices and frosty trade relations with western nations and Ukraine. Arms sales have been one constant in this rather bleak financial outlook as the Kremlin looks to find new buyers for its military technologies.

  • Following China and their inking of contracts for the Sukhoi Su-35 fighters, the Indonesian ambassador to Russia has announced that they too are interested in making a purchase. Ambassador Djauhari Oratmangun told news agency RIA Novosti that a delegation will be sent from Russia to Jakarta to discuss contracts for the purchase of a number of the aircraft. No further details about the deal are known but seem to be part of a plan to increase trade between the two in 2016 by $5 billion.

Today’s Video

  • With Thales big unveiling of the Spy’Ranger Mini UAV what will it mean for frontline forces?

Categories: News

Aurora Flight AACUS Program Soars with $11M Contract | Argentina Gets US Approval for 4 Bells | LM Visits SK Re: Tech Xfer for KF-X Fighter Program

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 00:19

  • The US Navy has awarded Aurora Flight Sciences a contract worth $11 million to support flight testing of the Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program. The flight testing will take place as part of the governments development of the latest generation of unmanned cargo UAS which are able to land in more rugged terrain and will forgo the need for trained operators. The issue of safe resupply in remote areas has been a question for some time with the Marines requesting such a need while in Afghanistan.

  • Argentinas updating of its air force continued today after the $80 million sale of 4 Bell 412EP Helicopters was approved by the US State Department. The sale follows the recent delay in upgrading its fighter fleet after problems concerning the quality of Kfir Block 60 fighters from Israel which were set to replace its aging Rafales.

Middle East North Africa

  • The Israeli Knesset has begun deciding on this years budget which will see a vote on a major overhaul of defense spending and funding of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The changes will see a shift from shorter defense budgets to a long-term one fixed at $15 billion over the next five years. This will allow for greater long term acquisition and training programs as well as increased efficiency in the awarding of longer term fixed contracts. The measures come as the government is looking to increase technological abilities and cost effectiveness of existing defense systems such as its Iron Dome batteries to counter regional threats. Recent upgrades to the system which increased threat sensitivity caused an interceptor to launch after a false alarm caused by gun-fire within the the Gaza Strip. The rocket exploded mid-air resulting in an expensive firework display.

  • The US State Department has approved a sale worth $157 million to the Kingdom of Morocco. The deal includes TOW 2A, Radio Frequency (RF) Missiles (BGM-71E-4B-RF), M220A2 TOW Launchers as well as the associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support with the principal contractor being Raytheon. The sale goes as part of the cooperation between the two countries and aiming to help against security threats in the region.


  • Andreas Heeschen, majority shareholder of German arms manufacturer Heckler and Koch (H&K), is set to invest $74.6 million of his own money into the company. The move comes in an effort to reduce the large debt at H&K, increase the firms liquidity and boost credit ratings. H&K have had a tough time of it lately with the German Army dropping the G36 model as the primary rifle of the force and export restrictions imposed by chancellor Angela Merkel. This saw exports to the middle east grind to a halt; however it may not be all doom and gloom for H&K. The most recent installment in the 007 franchise saw James Bond drop his trusted Walther PPK in favor of Heckler’s VP9. The switch may see an increase in sales of the $719 pistol among US gun enthusiasts leaving the company shaken but not quite stirred.

  • Russia has successfully launched the new EKS-1 satellite as part of the upgrade of the Oko early warning system. The satellite is set to be able to operate in the highly elliptical Tundra orbit and is the first in a series of replacements in its aging missile defense system which dates back to the Soviet era.

Asia Pacific

  • Indonesia’s PT Pindad has continued its recent spate of industrial collaborations after announcing that it is to team up with South Australia defense industry body the Defence Teaming Centre (DTC). This follows announcements in September and October that PT Pindad was to collaborate with BAE Systems and PT Len Industri respectively which aim at increasing the capabilities and technologies at PT Pindad who are the largest suppliers of military equipment and systems to the Indonesian National Armed Forces. The nature of the most recent deal is said to focus on the production of 4×4 and 6×6 vehicles and comes at a time where the company has received increased interest from international customers looking to do business.

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

Today’s Video

  • A look at AACUS and its capabilities.

Categories: News

Morocco’s Air Force Reloads: And Now, The Training…

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 00:18
French Mirage F1s
(click to view full)

Morocco’s combat air force currently flies 2 squadrons of old F-5 fighters, and 2 squadrons of only slightly newer Mirage F1s. T-37 light jets serve as high-end trainers. Their neighbor and rival Algeria flies MiG-23s of similar vintage, but the Force Aérienne Algérienne also flies SU-24 Fencer and SU-25 Frogfoot strike aircraft, plus even more modern and capable MiG-29s, and is receiving multi-role SU-30MKAs as part of a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.

Morocco can’t beat that array. Instead, they’re looking for replacement aircraft and upgrades that will prevent complete overmatch, and provide a measure of security. Initially, they looked to France, but key reversals have handed most of this modernization work to the United States.

Slips and Shifts Dassault Rafale-B
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France’s Rafale is part of a set of European 4+ generation fighters that were developed and fielded during the 1990s-early 21st century, with the aim of surpassing existing offerings among America’s “teen series” fighters, as well as Russia’s MiG-29 Fulcrum and SU-27/30 Flanker family. “Dogfight at the Casbah: Rafale vs. F-16” discussed the French sales slip-ups that cost Dassault its first export order for the 4+ generation fighter. That outcome is now official.

In a final twist of the knife, the multi-billion dollar fighter deal involves new-build F-16s, at a price comparable to the rumored figures for the Rafale. Not to mention an accompanying American deal to replace Morocco’s T-37 trainer fleet with T-6Cs, and contracts for air-launched weapons, targeting pods, C-27J short-haul transports, and CH-47D helicopters.

France has retained upgrade work for the Mirage F1 fleet, and their program could end up having applications elsewhere. Other Mirage F1 upgrade opportunities may exist in Gabon, Libya and perhaps Ecuador; while countries like Argentina may become buyers for second-hand but similarly-refurbished French, Jordanian, and/or Spanish aircraft.

Contracts and Key Events 2013 – 2015

P5 System

November 19/15: The US State Department has approved a sale worth $157 million to the Kingdom of Morocco. The deal includes TOW 2A, Radio Frequency (RF) Missiles (BGM-71E-4B-RF), M220A2 TOW Launchers as well as the associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support with the principal contractor being Raytheon. The sale goes as part of the cooperation between the two countries and aiming to help against security threats in the region.

July 31/14: CH-47 engines. Honeywell Aerospace International, Phoenix, Arizona, was awarded a $121.9 million initial foreign military sales contract order, on behalf of Turkey, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. Morocco’s request for 3 CH-47Ds (q.v. Oct 26/09) included the uprated T55-GA-714A engines.

It’s the 1st order under a new contract covering up to 440 total engines and 365 engine fielding kits. All funds for this order are committed immediately, but the wider contract will have a total potential value well north of $121 million. Work will be performed until Dec 31/18 in Phoenix, AZ. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-14-C-0021, PO 0001).

April 11/14: Cubic Corporation announces a $5 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to supply its P5 Combat Training System to the Moroccan Air Force. The system includes both pods carried on aircraft and ground infrastructure, allowing “rangeless” training and reconstruction of air combat for debriefing later. Since the US military also uses the system, it will also allow joint training.

The system will be used with Morocco’s F-16s, and it will make a big difference to the effectiveness of Morocco’s pilots. Sources: Cubic, P5 CTS/TCTS Brochure [PDF] | PR Web, “U.S. Air Force Selects Cubic for Moroccan P5 Air Combat Training System”.


(click to view full)

Aug 29/12: F-16s. The last 3 Moroccan F-16s leave Texas and head to Ben Guerir AB, Morocco. That makes 22 F-16s, with 2 more delivered but based at Edwards AFB, CA for integration testing of new weapons, etc. The RMAF owns them, but they won’t arrive in Morocco until 2013. Arabian Aerospace | defenceWeb.

Aug 10/12: F-16s. Arabian Aerospace offers an update on the status of Morocco’s F-16s. All 8 F-16Ds are in service, along with 5 of the F-16Cs. The F-16 Block 52 fighters are now in service with the Escadron de Chasse ‘Falcon’ at Ben Guerir AB, near Marrakech. Two further squadrons, ‘Spark’ and ‘Viper’ will stand up at the same base.

A cadre of 10 pilots have graduated from instructor training in the USA with the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing, and that group will train the other Moroccan pilots. Meanwhile, Morocco’s F-5 fleet may find itself relegated to advanced trainer and reserve duties.

July 8/12: AIM-9X-2. The May 19/11 DSCA request leads to a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) to buy Raytheon’s AIM-9X Block II short range air-to-air missile for Morocco’s new F-16C/Ds. Numbers and prices are an “undisclosed quantity,” but can be inferred by consulting the DSCA request: 20 + training missiles.

The RMAF will be the 4th country using the Block II version with the added datalink and lock-on after launch capability, after the USA, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. AIM-9X Block I customers include Australia, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Singapore, Switzerland, and Turkey. Raytheon.

20+ AIM-9X-2 missiles

April 3/12: F-16 #4,500. Lockheed Martin commemorates the 4,500th F-16 Fighting Falcon delivery – “an advanced Block 52 aircraft destined for Morocco.”

Later reports peg it as the last Moroccan F-16, and 1 of 2 that will be retained in the USA for integration tests at Edwards AFB, CA until some time in 2013. LMCO Release | Flickr photo gallery.


RMAF F-16s

Dec 5/11: F-16 ECM. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX receives a not-to-exceed $32.4 million firm-fixed contract, to provide Morocco’s 24 F-16s with Advanced Countermeasures Electronic Systems Electronic Warfare Systems (ACES) modules that have “updated date protection.”

ACES defensive systems are actually a Raytheon product (vid. the Dec 1/08 entry), but they were explicitly included in Lockheed Martin’s base F-16 contract (vid. Dec 22/09 entry). That’s why the work location lists as Fort Worth, TX. The USAF Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB acts as Morocco’s managing agent (FA8615-08-C-6050, PO 0026).

Aug 1/11: F-16s. The first 4 of 24 new Block 52 F-16s leave Lockheed Martin’s facility in Fort Worth, TX, on a ferry flight to Morrocco. Lockheed Martin.

F-16 launches AIM-9X
(click for AIM-9X zoom)

May 19/11: AIM-9X missile request. The US DSCA announces Morocco’s official request to buy 20 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder short range air-to-air missiles, plus 10 CATM-9X-2 Captive Air Training Missile All-Up-Rounds (missiles with seekers and wiring, but no motor, in their case), 8 CATM-9X-2 Missile Guidance Units, 8 AIM-9X-2 Block II Tactical Guidance Units, 2 Dummy Air Training Missiles, plus containers, missile support and test equipment, provisioning, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support. The DSCA adds that the “Royal Moroccan Air Force is modernizing its fighter aircraft to better support its own air defense needs.”

Recall that the July 9/08 DSCA request for F-16s involved AIM-9Ms, which still equip many American aircraft and are inferior to the Vympel R-73/AA-11 Archer missiles flown on Algerian fighters. AIM-9X missiles are significantly more advanced, with greatly improved seekers and maneuverability. The key Block II addition is lock-on after launch, which takes full advantage of the missile’s characteristics, and the advantages of helmet-mounted sights. By telling the missile to fly to a designated location and look for a target, kills have even been scored behind the firing aircraft. This initial number of missiles would give the RMAF’s new F-16s enough missiles to train with, and field a very preliminary operational capability.

The estimated cost is up to $50 million, with exact totals to be negotiated if a contract is signed with prime contractor Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ. Implementation of this proposed sale will require travel of U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Morocco on a temporary basis for program technical support and management oversight, but the DSCA has no estimate of how many yet.

AIM-9X-2 missile request

May 18/11: T-6Cs. The Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) has received the first 12 of 24 T-6C trainers from Hawker Beechcraft, to replace its existing fleet of T-34 and T-37 jet trainers. Arabian Aerospace.


(click to view full)

Sept 30/10: F-16s. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL wins an $8.1 million contract for Type I special operations and maintenance training for the government of Morocco in support of their F-16 program. At this time, $6.2 million has been committed by the AETC CONS/LGCI at Randolph Air Force Base, TX (FA3002-10-C-0030).

This seems like a minor award. Without awards like this, however, you can throw away everything else spent on the aircraft. Or, you can rely on foreign contractors to keep a fleet ready, and hope they stick around if that fleet ever gets used in a state-to-state shooting war

July 19/10: F-16s. Pratt & Whitney announces a $145 million to provide F100-PW-229 Enhanced Engine Package (EEP) turbofan engines for the RMAF’s new F-16s. The new engines will be delivered in 2010 and 2011.

The Royal Moroccan Air Force became the 22nd international customer to select the F100 engine family, which powers F-16s and F-15s around the world. The F100 was the launch engine for these fighters, but technical problems led to severe readiness issues. Eventually GE’s rival F110 engine entered the market, and wound up powering most of the USAF’s new F-16s. The 2 engine competition never let up, however, and the new F100-PW-229 EEP has given the Pratt & Whitney team a number of important wins in head-to-head competitions around the world. To date, F100-PW-229 powered aircraft have logged more than 2.5 million flight hours in more than 18 years worth of operational service.

July 19/10: T-6Cs. Hawker Beechcraft Corporation rolls out the first of 24 Beechcraft T-6C military trainers ordered by the Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF). Hawker Beechcraft [PDF].

July 7/10: C-27Js. Alenia Aeronautica delivers a C-27J to Morocco, the 1st of 4 aircraft ordered in October 2008. Source: Combat Aircraft, Sept 2010 | Flight International | Morocco Aeronautique.

April 28/10: Mirage F1s. Arabian Aerospace reports on progress with Morocco’s MF2000 Mirage F1 upgrade program, which will upgrade 27 Mirage F1s (F1CH, F1EH and F1EH-200) at an estimated cost of $420 million. In the case of the Moroccan upgrade, the first 2 aircraft were upgraded at Charleroi in France, with the 3rd undergoing modifications in-country. The prototype made its maiden flight on Oct 19/09, and flight tests and certification are expected to continue throughout the spring and summer of 2010. The upgrade is handled by the new Association Sagem Thales pour la Renovation d’Avions de Combat (ASTRAC) joint venture between Thales and Sagem’s SAFRAN.

The MF2000 adds the standard “glass cockpit” of digital 2-color displays. A new Head-Up Display and full HOTAS(Hands On Stick And Throttle) controls brings the pilot area into line with modern standards, as does a modern zero-zero ejection seat, and compatibility with a helmet-mounted display system if one is added later. A pair of SAGEM mission computers interfaced with a MIL STD 1553B digital databus, and a hybrid Sigma IN/GPS, back this up, and modern secure radios are used for communications. The older Snecma ATAR 9K50 engines are retained, but with a 4% thrust boost and longer life through a new compressor module, redesigned high-pressure turbine, and corresponding increases in mass flow and engine temperatures.

The old Cyrano IV radar is replaced by Thales RC400 (RDY-3) multi-mode pulse Doppler radar, which is similar to but smaller than the Mirage 2000-5’s. Weapons carried can include a variety of guided and unguided weapons, in addition to the onboard 30mm DEFA cannon. Air-air options include the short-range MBDA Magic 2 or Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder, with MICA IR/RF missiles available as longer-range options. Damocles surveillance and targeting pod integration makes a big difference in the plane’s air-ground capabilities, as does its ability to carry French AASM GPS-guided bombs. ARMAT anti-radiation missiles and AM39 Exocet anti-ship missiles can be used for specialty missions. For defense, a new digital radar warning receiver (RWR) and an external PAJ FA ECM pod, plus Corail flare launchers and Phimat chaff dispensers, improve survivability.

Mirage F1 MF2000

April 8/10: F-16 insurance. In FedBizOpps solicitation #FA8615-10-R-6045, the USAF issues a request for information. Seems that Morocco is looking to insure its F-16s between the time the US government accepts them from the manufacturer, and the time they are handed over in Morocco. When you consider the need for checkout flights by Lockheed Martin test pilots, long ferry flights, and ongoing integration flight tests, this makes sense.

One all-risks insurance policy would cover 22 planes for 3-5 months each, and another would either cover 2 planes for up to a year and a half, or just cover those final ferry flights. Coverage would be up to $50 million per plane, with a $250,000 deductible. Coverage would last from initial delivery in Texas until engine turn-off and completion of all published post-flight pilot checklists. The coverage would also include a desired $500 million in liability coverage, with no deductible. Edwards AFB is in California… are they sure $500 million is enough?

The first twenty-two (22) aircraft will be ferried over the period of July 2011 – December 2012. These last 2 aircraft will be held in the US for up to a year, performing integration and characterization flight tests at Edwards AFB, CA, and integration and characterization flight tests at Fort Worth, TX. The last ferry will occur sometime in the year 2013 for the last two aircraft.


US CH-47D, Iraq
(click to view full)

Dec 22/09: F-16s. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX receives an $841.9 million contract for 24 F-16 Block 52 aircraft with electronic warfare systems (Raytheon’s ACES, see Dec 1/08), along with associated support equipment, alternate mission equipment and support elements for the government of Morocco. At this time, $672.8 million has been committed under management of the 312th AESG/PK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8615-08-C-6050, PZ0008).

Note also the $233.6 million long-lead buy on May 30/08. As one can see, some expensive but essential components like engines (vid. July 19/10, June 6/08) are covered under separate contracts, so even $1.075 billion (about $45 million per plane) isn’t the full price for an operational fleet of 24.

24 F-16s

Nov 25/09: F-16s. L-3 Communications in Arlington, TX receives a $21.6 million contract to provide the Royal Moroccan Air Force with 2 F-16 Block 52 aircrew training devices and associated support. The 677 AESG/SYK at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio manages the contract (FA8621-10-C-6251).

Oct 26/09: Chinooks. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Morocco’s official request to buy 3 CH-47D Chinook helicopters with 6 (2 per helicopter) uprated Honeywell T55-GA-714A Turbine engines, 2 spare T-55-GA-714A Turbine engines, 4 AN/ARC-201E Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS); plus associated mission, communication, navigation and ground support equipment, as well as spare and repair parts, special tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, site survey, and U.S. government and contractor technical and personnel services. The estimated cost is $134 million, and Boeing in Ridley Park, PA will be the prime contractor.

Morocco’s air force ordered 12 CH-47Cs, from Italy’s Elicotteri Meridionali (now AgustaWestland, see photos), who built them under license by Boeing. They were delivered in 2 batches of 6 each, in 1979 and 1982, and fly with the Escadre Hélicoptère in Rabat. Their current state of repair and serviceability are not known for certain; some orders of battle place their current operational number at 9, in which case these 3 helicopters would return the fleet to full strength.

CH-47D request

Oct 20/09: F-16s. Lockheed Martin CFO Bruce Tanner, discussing Q3 2009 earnings, reveals that Morocco and Iraq will be delaying their planned F-16 purchases “beyond 2011”. Q3 Podcast [MP3] | Q3 Earnings slides [PDF] | Flight International.

Sept 21/09: T-6. Hawker Beechcraft Corp. in Wichita, KS receives a contract for 24 T-6C trainer aircraft, spares, program support, operational flight trainers, ground support, on-site support and technical publications. The Dec 19/07 DSCA listing said that Morocco was requesting 24 T-6B trainers, but Morocco will be the launch customer for the new variant.

At this time, $37.1 million has been obligated. The AESG/SYI at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base manages this foreign military sales contract (FA8617-09-C-6170).

The Royal Moroccan Air Force is the launch customer for the new T-6C model, and Hawker Beechcraft’s Oct 12/09 release adds more details. Like the US Navy’s newly certified T-6B, the T-6C features an integrated digital “glass” cockpit and advanced avionics suite, including a a Head-Up Display (HUD), Up Front Control Panel (UFCP), 3 Multifunction Displays (MFDs) and Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) controls. What it adds is wings equipped with hard points, to allow for external fuel tanks, and an open architecture Esterline CMC Cockpit 4000 avionics suite that’s the first in its class to incorporate a fully integrated and FAA-certified dual FMS/GPS navigation suite. See also Dec 19/07 entry.

24 T-6Cs

Sept 9/09: F-16s. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Morocco’s formal request for F-16 C/D Block 50/52 aircraft support equipment and weapons at an estimated value of $187 million.

DSCA said that the proposed sale will allow the Moroccan air force to modernize its aging fighter inventory, thereby enabling Morocco to support both its own air defense needs and coalition operations (emphasis DID’s), adding that “Morocco is a major non-NATO US ally.” The proposed sale includes:

  • 40 LAU-129A launchers;
  • 20 AGM-65D infrared-guided Maverick air-to-surface missiles;
  • 4 AGM-65D Maverick training missiles;
  • 4 AGM-65H TV-guided Maverick training missiles;
  • 60 Enhanced GBU-12 Paveway II kits, which include GPS-aided, laser guidance systems for the 500 lbs GBU-12 bombs;
  • 28 M61 20mm Vulcan cannons;
  • 28 AN/ARC-238 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radios (SINCGARS) with HaveQuick I/II (a frequency-hopping system used to protect military radio traffic) or Saturn I/II;
  • 1 ground based simulator;
  • 40 LAU-118A missile rails;
  • 6 AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER targeting pods with ground station. Previous DSCA requests had included 12 SNIPER ATP or LITENING pods, and the RMAF has begun buying SNIPER;
  • 16 Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) pods that record an aircraft’s in-flight data during dogfighting exercises;
  • 4 ACMI ground stations:
  • 8 Joint Mission Planning Systems (JMPS);
  • 2 Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receivers (ROVERs);
  • 30 AN/ALR-93 radar warning receivers;
  • 30 AN/AVS-9 night vision goggles.

Other items included in the request are containers, bomb components, support equipment, repair and return, spares and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, US government and contractor technical, engineering, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support.

The principal contractors will be:

  • Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX
  • Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ
  • L3 Communications in Arlington, TX
  • Advanced Night Vision System in North Salt Lake, UT
  • Marvin Industries in Inglewood, CA
  • Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT
  • Goodrich ISR Systems in Danbury, CT
  • BAE Advanced Systems in Greenland, NY
  • Boeing in Seattle, WA
  • Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in St Lewis, MO
  • Boeing IDS in Long Beach, CA
  • Boeing IDS in San Diego, CA
  • Raytheon in Lexington, MA
  • Raytheon in Goleta, CA
  • Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, TX
  • Northrop-Grumman Electro-Optical Systems in Garland, TX
  • Northrop-Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, MD

Some contractors on this list may not be featured in final orders, depending on which ancillaries are chosen.

F-16 weapons request

Sniper ATPs
(click to view full)

Aug 03/09: F-16s. Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Orlando FL receives a $30.3 million contract for the purchase of Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATPs) for Morroco’s F-16s. The Dec 19/07 DSCA request specified either Sniper ATP or the LITENING pod.

The contract includes integration support, product spares. and logistics support. Sniper ATP deliveries will be completed in 2011. The number of pods was not disclosed. Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center/448 SCMG/PKHCB at Robins Air Force Base, GA manages the foreign military sales contract (FA8522-09-C-0013).

Feb 23/09: F-16s. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products announces a 5-year, $39 contract from Lockheed Martin for F-16 Ammunition Handling Systems (AHS). The initial order is $8.9 million, covering guns that will equip Turkey’s 30 new F-16C/D Block 50s, and Morocco’s 24 new F-16C/D Block 52s. Final assembly will be performed at GDATP’s Saco Operations facility in Saco, Maine, with testing and program management performed at the company’s Burlington Technology Center in Burlington, VT. Deliveries will begin in April 2010.

The General Dynamics F-16 Ammunition Handling System utilizes a closed-loop, linkless feed system, giving it greater ammunition capacity than previous designs and eliminating potential damage from ejected ammunition casings. The system is combined with GDATP’s M61A1 20mm Gatling gun.


C-27J Spartan
(click to view full)

Dec 1/08: F-16s. Raytheon announces a contract from Lockheed Martin for its ACES (advanced countermeasures electronic system) for 24 Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16 Block 52 aircraft.

The ACES system is Raytheon’s latest offering for the F-16, and consists of a radar warning receiver, digital jammer and chaff-flare dispensers. The system features a new, all-digital, low cost, high performance radar warning receiver for dense signal environments, and a new digital RF memory-based (DRFM) jammer with enhanced resource management and an upgraded bag of tricks. Raytheon’s contract calls for deliveries to begin in December 2009.

Note that the original DSCA announcement involved 28 of ITT’s AN/ALQ-211 AIDEWS; or BAE Systems’ AN/ALQ-178 SPEWS suites, or or Raytheon’s AN/ALQ-187 ASPIS II suites. ACES would represent an upgrade from ASPIS II.

Oct 23/08: C-27Js. Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia Aeronautica announces [PDF] that the Moroccan Defence Ministry has placed a EUR 130 million order for 4 C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft. Industry and local sources say it also includes a 2-year training and spares package, plus options for a VIP module.

This brings the total number of firm C-27J orders received to 121 (US Army 78, Italy 12, Greece 12 + 3 option, Romania 7, Bulgaria 5 + 3 option, Morocco 4, Lithuania 3), and is the first order from a non-NATO country.

The Alkowat al malakiya al jawiya (RMAF) currently operates a fleet of about 19 C-130H/KC-130H Hercules aircraft as its mainstay transports. This order appears designed to supplement that C-130 feet with smaller short-field cargo aircraft, which don’t have the same number of flight-hours on their airframes. Later reports, however, indicate that the C-27Js will actually replace some C-130s.

4 C-27Js

Aug 28/08: F-16s. Goodrich Corp. Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems of Chelmsford, MA wins an $87.9 million contract for 4 DB-110 airborne reconnaissance pods, 1 mobile ground station, 1 fixed ground station, 2 mission planners, data links, in-country technical representatives, technical manuals, and test and integration support. At this time $37.8 million has been committed. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH is managing the contract (FA8620-08-C-3013). See the DSCA listing in the Dec 19/07 entry; the DB-110 beat BAE’s TARS alternative.

Goodrich Corporation announced the contract back on July 14/08, to equip the Royal Moroccan Air Force’s new Block 52+ F-16 fighters. Work will be performed by the company’s ISR Systems teams in Chelmsford, MA and Malvern, UK.

Chilean F-16D Block 52
(click to view full)

July 9/08: F-16s. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Morocco’s formal request for weapons to equip its new F-16s. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $155 million.

The request includes a number of different weapons, along with containers, bomb components, spare/repair parts, publications, documentation, personnel and training, contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related support elements.

The principal contractors will be:

  • Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX (F-16)
  • Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, TX (Paveway)
  • Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, WA (JDAM)
  • Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ (AMRAAM, HARM, Maverick, Paveway, Sidewinder)

Weapons requested will include:

  • 30 AIM-120-C5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to Air Missiles (AMRAAM). The most recent production version is the C7.
  • 60 AIM-9M SIDEWINDER Missiles. The most recent production version is the next-generation AIM-9X, but most American aircraft still carry AIM-9Ms.
  • 20 AGM-88B/C HARM Missiles, used to attack radar sites.
  • 8 AGM-65D/G MAVERICK Missiles, which use imaging infrared (IIR) guidance. The AGM-65G is especially useful against hardened targets.
  • 45 AGM-65H MAVERICK Missiles. These use camera-based guidance, which can be more useful in hot desert environments.
  • 50 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tail kits (20 GBU-31 for MK-82 500 lb bombs, and 30 GBU-38s for MK-84 2,000 lb bombs);
  • 20 GBU-24, PAVEWAY III laser-guidance and fin kits to convert 2,000 pound bombs.
  • 50 GBU-10, PAVEWAY II laser-guidance kits for 2,000 lb. bombs with penetrating warheads for hardened targets.
  • 150 GBU-12, PAVEWAY II laser-guidance kits for 500 lb. bombs.
  • 60 Enhanced GBU-12 PAVEWAY II bombs, with dual-mode GPS/laser guidance.
  • 300 MK-82 training “bombs”
  • 60,000 training projectiles for 20mm cannons, which are found in the F-16 and in Morocco’s F-5s
  • 4,000 self-protection chaff for use in the ALE-47 self-protection system
  • 4,000 ALE-47 self-protection flares and associated equipment and services.

Morocco can order up to these amounts, if the sale is not blocked by Congress within 30 days.

F-16 weapons request

June 6/08: F-16s. Pratt & Whitney announces that its F100-PW-229 engine has been selected by the Royal Moroccan Air Force to power their new fleet of F-16 Block 52 aircraft, beating GE’s F110-GE-129. The engine program is valued at approximately $170 million, with deliveries to take place in 2010 and 2011.

The F100-PW-229’s Engine Enhancement Package (EEP) aims to increase the time until full depot inspection from 7-10 years, while providing up to 30% life cycle cost reductions and reduce the predicted in-flight shutdown rate by up to 25%. To date, F100-PW-229 powered aircraft have logged more than 963,000 flight hours in more than 16 years of operational service, and the Royal Moroccan Air Force becomes the 22nd international customer to select the F100 engine family for F-16 or F-15 aircraft.

May 30/08: F-16s begin. Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems Co. of Fort Worth TX received a firm fixed price contract not to exceed $233.6 million for 24 F-16 Block 52 aircraft, along with associated support equipment, alternate mission equipment and support elements for the Government of Morocco. At this time $124.3 million has been obligated. The 312AESG/PK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages this contract (FA8615-08-C-6050).

As one might guess from the amount, this isn’t the full purchase price, just the cost of key materials and components that have long lead times, and must be ordered now to ensure timely delivery of the finished fighters. Note: this contract was re-announced on June 5/08.

24 F-16s


Start here –
(click to view full)

Dec 19/07: F-16s. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Morocco’s formal request for 24 F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft as well as associated equipment and services – but not weapons. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $2.4 billion. The proposed sale includes:

  • 24 F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft with either the F100-PW-229 or F110-GE-129 Increased Performance Engines (IPE), and APG-68v9 radars;
  • 24 Conformal Fuel Tanks (pairs);
  • 5 F100-PW-229 or F110-GE-129 IPE spare engines;
  • 4 APG-68v9 spare radar sets;
  • 30 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing Systems (CMDS)
  • 30 AN/ALR-56M Radar Warning Receivers (RWR)
  • 60 LAU-129/A Launchers;
  • 30 LAU-117 Launchers;
  • 6 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems;
  • 12 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper ATP, or AN/AAQ-28 LITENING advanced surveillance and targeting pods. Even the choice is surprising, as Northrop Grumman’s LITENING was jointly developed with RAFAEL of Israel; DID predicts a Sniper ATP purchase.
  • 5 Tactical Air Reconnaissance Systems (TARS) or DB-110 Reconnaissance Pods (RECCE); Goodrich’s DB-110 is already integrated into Poland’s F-16s, an eventually won here, too.
  • 4 AN/ARC-238 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) radios with HAVE QUICK I/II;
  • 4 Link-16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals (MIDS-LVT);
  • 2 Link-16 Ground Stations;
  • 4 Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Embedded GPS/ Inertial Navigation Systems (INS);
  • 4 AN/APX-113 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) Systems;
  • 28 AN/ALQ-211 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suites (AIDEWS); or 28 AN/ALQ-187 Advanced Self-Protection Integrated Suites (ASPIS II); or 28 AN/ALQ-178 Self Protection Electronic Warfare Suites (SPEWS)
  • 1 Unit Level Trainer
  • Associated support equipment, software development/integration, tanker support, ferry services, CAD/PAD, repair and return, modification kits, spares and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor technical, engineering, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support.

The principal contractors (and some of their key offerings) will be:

  • Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX (F-16 prime)
  • Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, TX (Sniper ATP)
  • BAE Advanced Systems Greenlawn, New York (Electronic Warfare, IFF, TARS)
  • Boeing Corporation Seattle, Washington
  • Boeing Integrated Defense Systems (three locations) St Louis, MO; Long Beach and San Diego, CA
  • Raytheon Company (two locations) Lexington, MA; Goleta, CA
  • Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ
  • Northrop-Grumman Electro-Optical Systems in Garland, TX (LITENING)
  • Northrop-Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, MD (AN/APG-68v9)
  • Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT (F100 engine)
  • General Electric Aircraft Engines in Cincinnati, OH (F110 engine)
  • Goodrich ISR Systems in Danbury, CT (DB-110)
  • L3 Communications in Arlington, TX

Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Morocco involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, program management, and training over a period of 15 years.

F-16 request

Dec 19/07: T-6. The DSCA release [PDF] notes that:

“The Royal Moroccan Air Force’s (RMAF) fleet of T-37 aircraft was produced in the early 1960s. The T-37s high fuel and maintenance costs, and low mission-capable rates led to the RMAF’s decision to procure new trainer aircraft. The T-6B aircraft will reduce fuel requirements by 66%. The RMAF will use these new aircraft to modernize its air force and to improve operational capability in coalition operations and exercises, and contribute to a modern air defense network for the legitimate defense of Morocco.”

Hence Morocco’s official request for 24 T-6B Texan trainer aircraft with very secondary light attack capability. Associated equipment will include Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with CMA-4124 GNSSA card and Embedded GPS/Inertial Navigation System (INS) spares, ferry maintenance, tanker support, aircraft ferry services, site survey, unit level trainer, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support.

The estimated cost is $200 million, and the principal contractors would be:

  • Hawker Beechcraft Corporation in Wichita, KS (aircraft)
  • Pratt & Whitney Corporation near Montreal, Canada and in Bridgeport, WVA (engines)
  • Martin Baker in Middlesex, United Kingdom (ejection seat)
  • Hartzel Propeller in Pique, OH (propeller)
  • CMC, with headquarters in Montreal, Canada and offices in Ottawa, Canada and Sugar Grove, IL (cockpit avionics)
  • L-3 Vertex in Madison, MS

Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Morocco involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, program management, and training over a period of 15 years.

T-6C request

Why The F-16? DID Analysis Dassault Rafale
(click for cutaway view)

Defence Aerospace claims that France’s Rafale offers were 18 jets for EUR 1.8 billion (currently $2.6 billion), or 24 jets for EUR 2.4 billion (currently $3.45 billion), along with MBDA’s Mica air-air missiles and AASM GPS-guided bombs:

“Contrary to earlier reports, Morocco is buying new F-16s, and not surplus US Air Force aircraft. The price it is paying is broadly comparable to that offered by France for the Rafale, giving the lie to reports that Moroccan authorities were swayed by a cut-rate offer made by the United States.

France made two offers, one for 18 Rafales for 1.8 billion euros ($2.6 billion), and one for 2.2 billion euros ($3.2 billion) for 24 aircraft. The French offers included a full weapons suite (MICA air-to-air missiles and AASM laser-guided bombs) as well as an extensive ground environment, that Morocco will have to buy separately for the F-16s.”

A 2012 Arabian Aerospace report says that the French bid shift came when the US reportedly counter-offered up to 36 second-hand F-16s at a cost of just $1.4 billion. France’s revised offer reportedly offered the choice of 12 Rafales and 12 Mirage 2000 aircraft, or a higher-end buy of 24 Rafales. The US response involved 24 fully up to date F-16C/D Block 52s at $2.4 billion.

There’s little transparency in these sorts of negotiations, so the public may never know why Morocco chose as it did. Few would dispute that the Rafale is a significantly better plane, offering Morocco a level of quality overmatch that the F-16C/Ds cannot promise against neighboring Algeria’s MiG-29s and SU-30s. The F-16s’ potential winning edge thus comes down to some combination of the most likely explanations: price, network effects, strategic leverage… and pride.

When comparing the offers, the first thing any analysis must note is that a reasonably extensive support network is in fact built into the American offer. Equivalent weapons like the AIM-120 AMRAAM and Paveway II/III kits were not included, but they are unlikely to add more than $200 million to the price of 24 aircraft. An American dollar discount of 45% can still make that an attractive offer; indeed Morocco’s “equivalent choice” actually involves a 33% discount of 24 F-16C/Ds for the price of 18 Rafales, assuming a budget of around $2.6 billion for the aircraft and basic weapons.

Depending on relative in-service rates, the difference in aircraft that are actually available for use at any given time could widen further. That’s a significant consideration when the numbers neck down to under 24 aircraft, in order to cover an entire country against a potential opponent who can field over 60 aircraft of comparable or better quality.

TuAF F-16s
(click to view full)

The second factor to consider is “network effects,” in which the value of a military platform increases with the number of associated choices in weapons et. al. F-16s do have the advantage of offering a much wider set of choices in weapons, targeting pods, engines, and other related equipment. This expands Morocco’s weaponry options to handle a variety of strategic scenarios, and avoids the Rafale’s limiting choices of either accepting supplier lock-in, or pursuing expensive local integration projects. The F-16’s network effects could well be more attractive to a country who values flexibility highly, and understands that flyaway aircraft cost, like the cost of a new car from a dealer, is only the beginning of the real expense of ownership.

The 3rd factor to consider is that the F-16 sale may also be set in the context of a wider security relationship with the USA, which would offset Morocco’s aircraft quality differential in a different way. The US DSCA adds that:

“The proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by enhancing Morocco’s capacity to support U.S. efforts in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), as well as supporting Morocco’s legitimate need for its own self-defense. Morocco is one of the most stable and pro-Western of the Arab states, and the U.S. remains committed to a long-term relationship with Morocco.”

That relationship undoubtedly had a role to play getting the American F-16 in the door as an alternative. Many people think that countries sell arms to people they wish to befriend; that is only very partially true. It is more true to say that countries tend to buy arms from nations whom they wish to be their friends, when the potential for a strategic relationship is a factor at all. This helps to explain why the F-16 became Morocco’s #1 alternative instead of (for instance) Sweden’s JAS-39 Gripen. Or cheap Russian fighters, which would be fatally compromised by Russia’s near-certain choice of Algeria and its gas reserves over Morocco in the event of a crisis.

While these security relationship dynamics always apply to global weapon purchases, it is very unlikely that they were decisive in winning the deal. If Morocco desires a relationship with the USA that extends to military support in times of crisis, that relationship cannot be dependent on a single minor aircraft sale; given the way America works, it either exists in any event, or it does not exist at all.

The last factor to consider is pride. Past reports have indicated that France’s initial sales efforts quoted one price, while a later call to the DGA concerning France’s price per aircraft gave a much lower figure. Negotiations went very cold after that, and serious discussions began with the Americans that would eventually lead to the F-16 sale. In a part of the world known for holding pride and honor in very high esteem, that kind of gaffe tends to have serious consequences. Not serious enough to break Morocco’s relationship with France entirely, of course; France is valued for strategic reasons. It was serious enough, however, that if the French reports are true and Morocco could find a “good enough” alternative, pride and the satisfaction of honor alone could explain the denouement we have seen:

# Buy American jets to exact redress and serve as a warning to France not to do that again, while improving relations with another powerful ally.
# Couple that with a EUR 500 million order for a French FREMM frigate to shore up another need, and demonstrate to France that relationship still exists, and honor has been satisfied.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Uruguay Interested in Elbit UAVs to Monitor Terror | UAE Uses Patriot Missiles to Defend Yemini Targets | Brit PM at G20: $3B for SAS/Special Forces

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 00:39

  • Northrop Grumman have selected Swiss company Garmin’s GSX70 weather radar as part of a contract to modernize and retrofit the USAF RQ-4 Global Hawk fleet. The GSX70 was selected for its ability to better recognise weather threats and allow for better decision making as well as its easy integration capabilities with the RQ-4. The installation of the the radar is said to begin in the first quarter of 2016 with Northrop’s contract running until 2020.

  • Argentina’s drive to replace its aging Mirage fighter fleet with second hand Israeli Kfir Block 60 fighters has come under criticism from Argentine Air Force number three, Brigadier Mario Roca. Argentina had planned to purchase fourteen of the fighters (which included two  two-seat traners) with the deal to have cost between $220-360 million. The criticisms arose when the first six fighters would arrive within 18 months, but without weapons systems, and all upgrades needed to be completed in Israel. The deal has for now been put on hold indefinitely with Defence Minister Agustin Rossi deciding to leave the deal to be concluded by the next administration. Opposition politicians have stated that if elected, they would look into replacing the fleet independently.

  • Uruguay has expressed an interest in purchasing a number of the Elbit Skylark I UAV after watching them being deployed by the Israeli Defence Forces. The UAV has been deployed extensively by the IDF at battalion-level system in support of artillery units and is operational in many militaries worldwide including Australia, Sweden and Canada. Uruguay would deploy the UAV in order to monitor areas which may potentially host terrorist threats. In August of this year, the Al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas captured one of the drones after it fell into the Gaza Strip. They claimed to have been able to make its services operational after checking it wasn’t booby trapped.

Middle East North Africa

  • UAE Patriot missiles have been credited with shooting down two ballistic missiles launched by Houthi militants in Yemen. The UAE have had the Patriot battery deployed in the Marib provence of Yeman since September as part of a Saudi led coalition against the Shia insurgency there. The sale of the Patriot missile systems to various Gulf nations by the US has been part of a concentrated effort to counter Jihadist activity in various countries in the region. Earlier this month, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) cleared the sale of $380 million worth of munitions to the UAE who it sees as an “important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East”.


  • French multi-national Safran S.A. has cancelled its plan to build engine parts for the Rafale combat aircraft in India. The decision came after an initial order of 126 jets worth $15 billion was reduced to only 36 in June. Negotiations since then have stalled repeatedly over pricing offset clauses as well as civilian investments made by French firms in Indian industry. These investments would have seen $4.5 billion worth of offsets by French companies in India under Prime Minister Modi’s Make in India initiative which was launched last year. Safran’s participation would have seen a co-venture of a plant in Bangalore with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd but it seems Safran want you to buy in bulk if they’re to Make in India.

  • Ukraine is seeking to license produce the Chinese Hongdu L-15 and assemble the fighter craft locally at the Odessa Aviation Plant. The cost and number of planes are unknown but the Ministry of Defense hopes to start production in 2016. While it had been speculated last year that the Ukraine may go with western companies to help modernize their forces, the Chinese deal will provide a cheaper alternative. Producing the L-15 will have the added the bonus of familiarity due to its similarity to the Russian Yak-130. The early 2000s saw discussions of the possibility of joint production between Russia and Ukraine of the Yak-130 however recent tensions over the Crimean annexation and fighting in Ukraine’s eastern region has seen an end to any military cooperation. The deal with China will see an increase in the production of the aircraft amid earlier deals with Zambia and Pakistan.

  • Fresh from the G20 summit British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced an extra $3 billion for the SAS and other special forces in the wake of the Paris attacks by the Islamic State. The funding will be spread out over the next five years and is said to be spent on weapons, vehicles (including perhaps helicopters), protective equipment, night-fighting kit and improved communications. None of this funding will be used on a recruitment drive and it is earmarked singly to tackle terrorist threats. Specifics of what exact equipment and helicopters have yet to be released, but spread out over five years, one wonders how much this will help in the short to medium term besides giving Cameron the image as the best option for a safe Britain.

Asia Pacific

  • The Indian Army has decided to cancel a two decade long indigenous Nishant UAV program after the third of four in use by the army crashed near the city of Jaisalmer on November 4. The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) had been developing the Nishant UAV since 1995 with the aim of developing India’s own reconnaissance and intelligence gathering abilities. Phase 1 had seen four of the UAVs introduced in 2011 and continuation would have seen 8 more orders of the UAV by the army. The announcement comes shortly after Prime Minister Modi’s recent push to increase development within India’s private defense industry and the sharing of  indigenously designed Rustom UAVs by the government. In the wake of the Nishant duds,  these companies may be best served looking elsewhere for design ideas.

  • Boustead DCNS Naval Corporation has been awarded a $279 billion dollar submarine refit contract by Malaysia. The refit will take place upon the Royal Malaysian Navy’s (RMN’s) two Scorpène-class diesel-powered attack submarines over the next 18 months. The joint venture between the Malaysian Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation (BHIC) Defence Technologies and French shipbuilder DCNS is said to also greatly improve Malaysia’s shipbuilding and refit capabilities for further modernization of their fleet and future cooperation in the development of its own indigenous naval capabilities.

Today’s Video

  • A look at the Skylark I, one of the world’s smallest drones that may be making its way to the Uruguayan Air Force.

Categories: News

The Larks, Still Bravely Singing, Fly… Elbit’s Skylark UAVs

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 00:18
Skylark-I launch
(click to view full)

Elbit’s Skylark-I mini-UAV has become a popular choice for portable “over the hill” surveillance, as nations like Israel, Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, Poland, Sweden, et. al. adopt it for battlefield use. Bental’s electric propulsion system using brushless permanent magnetic motors is an especial benefit to Skylark operators, as its silent operation avoids warning enemy targets of its presence.

In an effort to build on that success, Elbit soon introduced the larger Skylark-II for battalion level UAV operations, fired from a rail launcher mounted on small wheeled vehicles rather than launched by hand. In exchange for the launcher requirement and a doubling of the crew size to 2, the Skylark-II gains a mission radius of 50-60 km instead of 10 km, and the ability to mount larger sensor packages. Awards soon followed from sources as varied as Popular Science and industry analysts Frost & Sullivan – but awards don’t pay the bills. Fortunately, orders have followed.

The UAVs Skylark-I Concept
(click to view full)

Skylark I comes in 2 versions. The standard Skylark I is launched by hand, and flies below 1,000 feet for up to 1.5 hours, with a mission range of 10 km/ 6 miles. Each “system” comprises 3 UAVs, 2 surveillance and targeting payloads, a ground station, an operating console and a communications link. Skylark I competes in the mini-UAV market, and remains a serious international competitor to Aerovironment’s popular RQ-11B Raven.

The new Skylark I-LE (long endurance) increases flight time from 1.5 hours to 3 hours, with a mission range “greater than 15 km.” It can carry the same payloads etc. as Skylark I, usually Controp’s D-STAMP or the new uncooled U-STAMP infrared payload.

The LE Block 2 swaps in a new engine and power system, and touts the performance of a Day/Night sensor payload – which is probably Controp’s M-STAMP.

Skylark-II launch
(click to view full)

The larger Skylark II cannot be launched by hand, like its counterparts; it must use a rail launcher instead. The launcher is usually towed by a small wheeled vehicle, and requires 2 crew to operate. The UAV can fly at medium altitudes, with a flight time of around 6 hours, a mission radius of 50-60 km/ 30-36 miles, and larger sensor packages on board. Skylark II competes in the lower tier of the conventional UAV market, alongside models like Boeing’s ScanEagle/ Integrator, Textron AAI’s RQ-7 Shadow, Aeronautics’ Aerostar, IAI’s Searcher, etc.

Its standard mission package is a Micro-CoMPASS turret with a day sensor, cooled infrared night sensor, and a laser illuminator and tracker. An advanced digital communication system from Tadiran Spectralink rounds out its capabilities. Israeli forces will soon be swapping in Controp’s TD STAMP surveillance turret.

There’s also a Skylark II-LE, which could become the standard Skylark II export offering. It moves the engine to the rear, alters the fuselage, and adds a new tail configuration. Endurance has more than doubled to over 15 hours, and with its new datalink, it can operate out to 150 km. This will give it the ability to compete with popular offerings like Boeing’s ScanEagle.

Contracts & Key Events

Note that some sales may not be publicized, or may not be detailed, as is often the case with purchases from Israel. Reports of Skylark buys for Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, and Slovakia have been rumored, but they aren’t reproduced here for lack of confirmation. Israel has also made large sales to countries like Azerbaijan and Georgia, but those sales have not been detailed, so it’s hard to tell if Skylarks have been part of the package.


Skylark I-LE Block 2
(click to view full)

November 18/15: Uruguay has expressed an interest in purchasing a number of the Elbit Skylark I UAV after watching them being deployed by the Israeli Defence Forces. The UAV has been deployed extensively by the IDF at battalion-level system in support of artillery units and is operational in many militaries worldwide including Australia, Sweden and Canada. Uruguay would deploy the UAV in order to monitor areas which may potentially host terrorist threats. In August of this year, the Al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas captured one of the drones after it fell into the Gaza Strip. They claimed to have been able to make its services operational after checking it wasn’t booby trapped.

2012 – 2013

American SUAS ‘win’; Israeli Upgrades; I-LE Block 2 introduced;

Jan 3/13: SUAS 2013-2017. U.S. Army Contracting Command in Natick, MA awards a 5-year, $248 million multiple-vendor fixed-price Small UAS contract. From

“The Army currently has fielded 1,798 RQ-11B systems and 325 RQ-20A systems and has a requirement to sustain and maintain this existing fleet. The Army has met 92% of the RQ-11B Army Acquisition Objective (AAO), and has met 83% of the anticipated need for RQ-20A (required by USFOR-A-issued JUONS). Additionally, the current [DID: RQ-11B & RQ-20A] fleet has pre-planned spiral upgrades such as the Gimbal payload, which will be competed and retrofitted under this effort. The need exists to complete the AAO; maintain, sustain and upgrade the fleet; and procure future SUAS Systems as required by DoD, Other Government Agencies (OGA) and foreign countries.”

Vendors will compete for each order, and work can include full Unmanned Aerial Systems, upgrades, testing, packaging, marking, and storage and shipping. Work location will be determined with each order, and the contract runs until Dec 20/17. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 5 bids received. All 5 qualified to compete:

  • RQ-11B Raven & RQ-20A Puma: AeroVironment Inc. in Monrovia, CA (W911QY-13-D-0073). Obviously, they’re in a strong position for fleet upgrades at least, as well as for additional UAVs.

  • NOVA Block III: Altavian in Gainesville, FL (W911QY-13-D-0074). They’re not a household name, but their air/land UAV is working with the USACE (Army Corps of Engineers). They partner with ISR Group Inc. in Savannah, TN for support and service.

  • Skylark I-LE Block 2: Elbit Systems of America LLC in Fort Worth, TX (W911QY-13-D-0075).

  • Skystinger, and others: Innovative Automation Technologies LLC in Gainesville, FL (W911QY-13-D-0076). Skystinger is more like the RQ-11 Raven, while their AXO is closer to the RQ-20 Puma. Note that The Skystinger is the only UAS that IAT could confirm, but they did say there was more than 1 UAS offered.

  • Desert Hawk III: Lockheed Martin Corporation, Owego, NY (W911QY-13-D-0077). The Desert Hawk has been successfully used on the front lines by British forces.

The AECV contract expires in 2013, so this appears to be the follow-on. See also: AeroVironment | Elbit Systems | Gainesville Sun.

SUAS multi-vendor

Dec 13/12: Israel. Israel’s Artillery Corps already employs Skylark I-LE UAVs within its “Sky Rider” unit. The unit is upgrading to the Skylark I-LE Block 2, with the “Version 10” operating system and new communications links. Artillery units are getting a new “Tamoon” command and control system, and the new UAVs will be compatible with Tamoon and with the Army-wide DAP (Digital Army Program). Once the UAV is attached to the DAP, Sky Rider Commander, Lt. Col. Uri Gonen says that battalion commanders will be able to pinpoint a UAV’s location on their screens, and determine the area it is observing.

The Artillery Corps is also looking at a brigade-level UAV, and has held some initial trials. That might be an opportunity for the Skylark II-LE, but there are a number of other UAVs within Israel that could compete for this role. This is Israel, so they expect the winning UAV to be in the field within 18 months. Source: Ba’Machane (official IDF magazine), via Elbit Systems. Note that the translation here is “Sky Rider,” not Sky Raider.”

Aug 2/12: I-LE block II. Elbit Systems announces that it will showcase the new Skylark I-LE Block II at this month’s AUVSI conference in Las Vegas, NV. The new UAV can be built in the USA, and adds a new engine and power system, plus an improved day/night sensor turret.

June 11/12: Sweden. AeroVironment announces that they’ve won Sweden’s competition, and will supply 12 SUAS systems in a mix of RQ-20A Puma AE and Wasp III air vehicles, plus a set of common ground stations, training, and logistics support. Contract options could increase the buy to a total of 30 systems. The firm adds a roundup of foreign RQ-11 Raven, RQ-20 Puma, and Wasp customers, which demonstrates why they’re Elbit’s top competitor:

“In addition to Sweden, other international governments that have purchased AeroVironment small UAS include Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Italy, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.”

Swedish loss

May 23/12: Airbag issues. Flight International:

“Israel Defense Forces confirms that operations of the mini-unmanned aerial vehicle have been halted until further notice, pending the completion of work to determine what caused its airbag to be deployed in flight several times during recent weeks… Flights… will resume immediately after the issue has been resolved, with the aircraft mainly used by artillery units to provide an “over-the-hill” intelligence capability.”

2008 – 2011

Wins in Israel, France; Canada goes another way; Skylark I-LE introduced. Skylark-I LE
(click to view full)

Dec 13/11: Sweden. Sweden bought 6 Skylark UAV systems in 2007, but it’s looking to replace them with a follow-on buy. Their FMV is reportedly looking to buy a 2-tier system with ranges of 10 and 20 km, respectively, plus associated common ground control stations.

That could open the door to a buy of Skylark 1LE and Skylark II UAVs, but it also introduces new competitors into the mix. Shephard Media.

Dec 1/11: The UAS Dynamics joint venture ends, as Elbit Systems USA buys General Dynamics’ share. It was marketing Elbit’s Skylark I/II, Hermes 90, and Hermes 450 UAVs in the USA. Elbit Systems.

UAS Dynamics

Dec 20/10: Elbit Systems Ltd. announces a $16 million contract from the Polish Ministry of National Defense to supply a testing set of mobile multi-sensor monitoring and surveillance systems for Poland’s Rosomak, a variant of Patria’s 8×8 AMV wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier. The systems include Skylark UAV integration. Read “Poland & Elbit to Cooperate on Rosomak APC Surveillance Upgrade” for more.


Aug 3/10: Canada. Canada, previously a Skylark customer, buys [PDF] 5 of Prioria Robotics Maveric mini-UAV systems for use in Afghanistan. See also Nov 19/06 entry.

March 8/10: France. France’s DGA delivers Skylark I and Wasp-III mini-UAVs to French Special Forces, less than 3 months after contracts were signed for Elbit Systems’ Skylark (Oct 18/09) and Aerovironment’s Wasp-III (Nov 4/09), following verification and testing.

The DGA says that the Skylark delivery completes a set, following earlier DGA deliveries in 2008 and 2009. The Wasp-IIIs, on the other hand, will be entering an operational evaluation phase to assess their future value. DGA [in French].

Jan 26/09: Israel. Elbit Systems issues a clarifying release [PDF], adding that that the Israeli “Sky Raider” contract is worth approximately $40 million.

Dec 16/08: Skylark I. Elbit systems announces that Israel’s Defense Ministry has picked the Skylark I-LE to fill the battalion-level “Sky Raider” IDF tender. The IDF has been operating Skylark Is since 2005, but this purchase will supply mini-UAVs for all IDF Ground Forces battalions, including training and logistics support battalions. When the non-linear battlefield makes front lines irrelevant, and your country is 15 km wide at its narrowest point, that’s a smart decision.

Defense Update reports that the IDF intends to buy up to 100 systems at an estimated cost of $50 million, and Flight International states that options could raise the deal’s value to $100 million equivalent. Each system comprises 3 UAVs, 2 U-STAMP uncooled surveillance and targeting payloads developed by Controp, plus a ground station, an operating console and a communications link.

Elbit’s Skylark I LE had to compete with several Israeli UAVs, owing to the country’s strength in that sector. Competing options included IAI’s Bird’s Eye 400/600; Aeronautics Defence Systems Ltd’s Orbiter, which has won some export success; RAFAEL’s shoulder-launched Skylite A and the larger 2-man Skylite B; and Top I Vision/Rotem’s Casper 250.

Note that Defense Update and Flight International have different accounts regarding the competitors and deal value. While DID respects Flight International, Defense Update has earned its reputation as the top source for developments in Israel. Elbit Systems release | Defense Update | Flight International.

Israel’s Sky Rider artillery UAV program

Sept 1/08: Skylark I. Elbit Systems Ltd. announces [PDF] a contract to supply Hermes 450 and Skylark 1 UAV systems to “a country in the Americas” for the total of approximately $25 million. All UAVs are to be delivered within a year.

New information points to Mexico as the customer, with 2 complete Hermes 450 systems and a complete Skylark system.


Skylark-I, ADF in Iraq
(click to view full)

Aug 3/08: Skylark I. Australia places its 3rd Skylark I mini-UAV order, valued at “several million dollars.” Elbit informs DID that these are standard Skylark Is, not the new Skylark I-LE model.

Australia is also working with Boeing to lease ScanEagle UAV services as its mid-tier solution, instead of the canceled Project JP129 Elbit Systems release [PDF].

3rd Aussie order

June 18/08: Upgrades. UV-Online reports that Elbit has made significant changes to its line of Skylark UAVs:

“Meanwhile the work on the company’s Skylark UAVs has vastly improved the performance of both the Skylark I and II. The company has changed some of the elements of the airframe structure, integrated a new battery and looked at power management. According to officials the new Skylark I-Long Endurance (LE) and Skylark-II LE can now stay aloft a lot longer.

The Skylark I-LE has doubled its endurance from 90 minutes to three hours with a mission range greater than 15km. The Skylark II-LE is almost completely a new system in its outward image with a much changed aerostructure. The engine has bee moved to the rear, the fuselage has been altered and there is also a new tail configuration. The endurance has more than doubled to over 15 hours and with a new datalink it can operate out to 150km.”

March 24/08: Skylark I. Elbit Systems Ltd. announces [PDF format] that it has won “a tender involving 10 of the leading UAV manufacturers worldwide,” and will supply Skylark I UAV systems to France’s Special Forces. This contract marks Elbit Systems’ first UAV contract with France.


2005 – 2006

Wins in Australia, Canada, South Korea; Problems with Canadian UAVs; Skylark II introduced. Skylark II concept
(click to view full)

Dec 17/07: Skylark II. Elbit System announces that the Skylark-II has been selected by the South Korean military as their “preferred solution” in ” a tender involving extensive technical tests and including UAV manufacturers from all over the world.” The first phase of the contract includes one comprehensive Skylark® II system. Additional systems are expected in the future.

The UAVs will be equipped with their standard-issue payload: Elbit subsidiary Elop’s advanced 8″ Micro-CoMPASS turret with a day sensor, cooled night sensor, laser illuminator and tracker; and an advanced digital communication system from Tadiran Spectralink, which is about to be wholly merged [PDF] into Elbit Systems. Elbit release.

South Korea

June 17/07: Recognition. Elbit Systems Ltd. announces that business research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan has presented them with a “Best Innovative Product Award” for 2007 in the Aviation & Defense Category, for their Skylark-II. It is praised for bringing the capabilities of more expensive UAVs to a smaller and cheaper vehicle. Philadelphia Examiner | Israel Times.

Nov 19/06: Skylark I. Israel’s Globes business daily relays a Flight International report re: Canadian experiences with the Skylark I in Afghanistan:

“The British weekly quotes a technical director in the Canadian Army interim small UAV programme, Captain Rob Sanders as saying, “Most of them aren’t flying in Afghanistan. For some reason, in some parts of the country it will fly great, or today it will fly. The same one, at a separate time tonight, won’t fly. So they have grounded them all trying to figure out what is going on. We are sending a couple of specialists over there to sort that out.”

Despite requests, Elbit declines to provide updates concerning the resolution of this problem. On April 6/09, Boeing subsidiary Insitu receives an award to provide “small unmanned aerial vehicle (SUAV) services” to support the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere, using its ScanEagle UAV.

Canada problems, loss

Nov 8/06: Recognition. Elbit Systems Ltd. announces [PDF | HTML via Shepherd] that its Skylark II UAV has received a “2006 Best of What’s New” Award from Popular Science Magazine in the Aviation and Space category. If you haven’t heard of this feature before, the magazine explains:

“Each year, the editors of Popular Science review thousands of new products in search of the top 100 tech innovations of the year; breakthrough products and technologies that represent a significant leap in their categories. The winners – the Best of What’s New – are awarded inclusion in the much-anticipated December issue of Popular Science, the most widely read issue of the year since the debut of Best of What’s New in 1987. Best of What’s New awards are presented to 100 new products and technologies in 10 categories: Automotive, Aviation & Space, Computing, Engineering, Gadgets, General Innovation, Home Entertainment, Home Tech, Personal Health and Recreation.”

Oct 3/06: Skylark I. Canada joins Australia in choosing Elbit’s Skylark. The UAV was first ordered on a temporary basis, as part of the $200 million set of emergency purchases for Operation Archer in November 2005.

It was picked more formally as Canada’s future mini-UAV in October 2006, following a competition that reportedly included IAI’s I-View 50 with its unique parafoil landing system, and Boeing’s larger ScanEagle UAV. Thales Canada will act as the prime contractor.


June 13/06: Skylark II. Elbit Systems formally introduces the Skylark II “close range class tactical UAV system.” Release.

Skylark II

Nov 3/05: Skylark I. Australia chose Elbit’s Skylark as its mini-UAV, to complement Israel Aerospace Industries’ larger I-View 250 and some Boeing ScanEagles used at battalion and brigade levels.


Additional Readings

Categories: News

US to Sell $1.29B in Smart Bombs to Saudis | Turkey-China T-LORAMIDS Collaboration Kaput | Australian DoD Issues RFI on IFVs Worth $7.1B

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 01:02

  • The US State Department has cleared the sale of $1.29 billion worth of smart bombs to Saudi Arabia. The purchase will replenish supplies used in recent air strikes against both Iranian backed Houthi insurgents in Yeman and Islamic State forces in Syria. Details of the sale were posted by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) last Friday and follow last months shopping spree by the Saudis which totalled $11.25 billion. Last months sale included four multi-mission Littoral combat ships as well as various equipment and munitions which came in the wake of the US-Iranian nuclear agreement. Several Gulf nations made requests to the US to help modernize their military before they acquiesced to the deal.

  • A crack has been found on the wing of the F-35C fighter during durability testing earlier this month. The crack was located on one of the 13 wing spars of the aircraft but the Pentagon has assured that the government and engineering teams are working on a solution and retrofits are being planned for existing aircraft. The US Navy does not see the setback impacting upon the planned Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the C model set for August 2018. One does wonder will this impact upon Canada’s order of the aircraft which has been put into question since the election of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month. Trudeau announced that he would put an end to their participation in the F-35 program for a more costly alternative during campaigning. This may increase the cost by US$1 million per aircraft.

Middle East North Africa

  • Turkish officials have announced that a program to develop a long-range air and missile defense program (T-LORAMIDS) with China has been cancelled . The program, which was to be worth $3.4 billion had faced competition from US company Raytheon as well as Franco-Italian company Eurosam but neither will be revisited as Ankara has decided to continue developing a defense system independently. The tender, which was initially awarded earlier this year was a cause for concern by other NATO members who expressed issues over security and compatibility with existing NATO systems. It is still unknown as to whether Turkey’s indigenous system will fit into the existing NATO infrastructure but we may know sooner rather than later after this weekend’s G-20 summit which concluded on Monday.


  • Saab has announced the successful full integration of its RBS 70 NG into the air defense system of the Czech Republic, the first time the company has done so for any country. The integration comes as part of efforts by the Czech ministry of defense to modernize it’s existing systems and military hardware in order to become a NATO -interoperable force which has been under way since 2006. Saab will no doubt look to emulate such co-operation with future clients and cater to their needs in future contracts.

  • Russia has test fired two ballistic Bulava SLBM from a submerged position in the White Sea hitting targets in the Kura test range in the Russian Far East. The launch was conducted on the 4th generation strategic nuclear submarine, the Vadimir Monomakh and was hailed as a success by the Russian Ministry of Defense, who wish to have eight of these vessels in operation by 2020. The Russian tests follow a week after the US Navy tested its own Trident II SLBMs in California, which one nightscape photographer initially mistook for the world ending.

  • Vladimir Putin has used the G20 summit in Turkey to claim that the Islamic State has been funded by up to 40 different nations, including members of the G20 group. Data supplied by Russian security analysts was circulated to attending diplomats however Putin did not mention any by name during his speech to the public or relay details to the media so it’s difficult to ascertain how accurate his claims are or to what extent they are being funded. Putin also used the meeting to highlight the extent of IS oil sales, which amount to about $50 million per month and how integral these are to funding their operations in the region. The Pentagon stated on Monday that they have already started targeting IS routes confirming they had hit 116 fuel trucks in strikes on Sunday. The G20 nations vowed to up cooperation and security steps in the wake of the attacks in Paris last week but this fell short of agreeing on any joint strategy for Syria.

Asia Pacific

  • The Australian Department of Defense have issued a request for information for 450 tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) as part of the Australian Defence Force’s largest ever land systems acquisition program. Project LAND 400, which is now in its third phase, has been a major overhaul of existing aging equipment of the ADF and in total will cost approximately USD $7.1 billion. Phase Three will aim to replace the existing M113AS4 and it is hoped that these will be replaced by 2025 and the M113AS4 LOT by 2030, but the Australian DoD find the machinery decaying given current and emerging threats.

  • South Korea has warned that North Korea may be planning to launch an SLBM in the near future following the issuance by Pyongyang of a no-sail zone off the east coast which has been in place for the last month. The warning comes alongside the visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to the hermit kingdom this week. Moon oversaw multinational negotiations over the North’s nuclear capabilities during his tenure as South Korean foreign minister between 2004-06 but these deals ultimately fell through. South Korea has also announced its plan to introduce its own UAV development program starting in 2017 and costing $674 million. The UAVs will help monitor the 4 kilometre De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) between the two nations which has been in place since 1953.

Today’s Video

  • Saab and Czech Army RBS 70 Test Fire.

Categories: News

Australia’s M113 APC Family Upgrades

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 00:19
M113A1 & M1A1s, 1AR
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The M113A1 family of vehicles was introduced into service in Australia in the mid 1960s, and arrived in time to see service in Vietnam. Additional vehicle variants were added until 1979, and there are 766 M113A1 vehicles currently in the Australian Army fleet. By February 2005, however, only 520 remained in service.

A number of upgrades have been suggested for Australia’s APCs(Armoured Personnel Carrier) over the years, with a number of different reviews and upgrade proposals submitted. Many of Australia’s M113s remained in the old M113A1 configuration, though some had at least been repaired and overhauled at 25,000 km. Bushmaster wheeled mine-resistant vehicles have replaced some M113s in the ADF, but the M113’s lightweight, tracked, off-road mobility remains important to Australian mechanized formations, and to troops deployed in combat zones. A plan approved in the 1990s involved a “minimum upgrade” of 537 vehicles from 1996-1998, at a cost of about A$ 40 million in 1993 dollars, with a major upgrade to follow. That major upgrade did follow – along with schedule slips, and cost increases from around A$ 594 million to nearly A$ 1 billion.

New-Old Vehicles: The M113-AS4s M113AS4 APC
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There are 7 variants of the upgraded M113AS family being produced under LAND 106. Enhancements are being made to a variety of areas.

Protection: Add-on external armor kits to protect against weapons up to 14.5mm; internal spall liners; hull reinforcement to improve mine protection; fuel tanks moved from inside to outside. The change in configuration also allowed the introduction of stealth characteristics into the design by decreasing the overall turret profile, and reducing the vehicle’s radar cross-section and infra-red signature.

Firepower: A new Australian designed and built electrical turret, with improvements designed to lessen the battering its occupant takes. It will host a new .50 caliber weapon that sports a quick change barrel and day/night sights.

M113AS: new controls
(click to expand)

Mobility: Replacement of the engine, transmission, drive train and driver’s controls. To maximize the benefits of this new driveline, the suspension, track and road wheels are also being replaced.

Internal: Compartment improvements like heat mitigation measures and better stowage of equipment externally where it isn’t so much in the way. New electrical and fuel systems; a land navigation system that combines GPS and INS.

The exact designations refer to the upgraded vehicles’ general characteristics. M113-AS3 variants have 5 road wheel stations per side, and a Recommended Gross Vehicle Mass of 15,000 kg/ 33,069 pounds. AS4 variants are stretched by 666 mm/ 26.2″, with 6 road wheel stations per side, and an RGVM of 18,000 kg/ 39,683 pounds. Variants include:

  • Armoured Personnel Carrier (M113-AS4 APC). Most common variant.
  • Armoured Fitters (M113-AS4 AF). Includes a new Hiab crane with a significantly enhanced 2.4-tonne lift at 4 meters. 38 planned of 350.
  • Armoured Recovery Vehicle Light (M806-AS4 ARVL). Includes a Sepson winch capable of a 13-tonne single line pull. 12 planned of 350.
  • Armoured Ambulance (M113-AS4 AA)
  • Armoured Command Vehicle (M113-AS4 ACV)
  • Armoured Logistic Vehicle (M113-AS4 ALV)
  • Armoured Mortar (M125-AS3 AM)

The final vehicles will be transportable in the RAAF’s C-17A heavy-lift aircraft (4 per plane, vs. 3 for larger armored vehicles), though that hasn’t been certified as of March 2012. One M113AS4 may be transportable in an Australian C-130J tactical transport aircraft if enough equipment is removed, but it hasn’t been certified, even though the initial test took place 6 years ago in March 2006. ANAO is correct to cite that gap as possible evidence of a problem.

On land, the upgraded M113s will have to wait for the arrival of its LAND 121 (“Overlander”) Phase 3 heavy trucks to transport them, and the ADF will need to lease commercial vehicles until then.

Australia’s LAND 106 The Program

A plan approved in the late 1990s involved a “minimum upgrade” of 537 vehicles from 1996-1998, at a cost of about A$ 40 million in 1993 dollars, with a major upgrade to follow. That initial plan was derailed mid-stream by an unsolicited contractor proposal to combine the 2 phases. The end result was Australia’s LAND 106 project, which aimed to perform major upgrades to a smaller set of 350 M113 APCs. That program suffered from problems in its early stages, delaying any fielded modernization until 2007.

The operational effect of that switch has been to delay fleet upgrades by about a decade. Final delivery is now expected to take place at the end of 2012.

M113AS4 FV
(click to expand)

The LAND 106 M113 Upgrade was scheduled to be completed in 3 stages, and delivery of the first company group of upgraded M113s was scheduled for 2006.

Stage 1: Development and preliminary testing of 2 Demonstration vehicles. Completed in 2004.

Stage 2: Design, construction and testing of the first 14 of the Initial Production Vehicles (IPV). This stage encountered a number of technical difficulties, resulting in an extensive Test and Evaluation Phase. Delivery of the initial 16 Phase 1 & 2 vehicles (14 APCs, 1 AF and 1 ARVL) to the 1st Brigade in Darwin was completed in December 2007.

Design development of the remaining 4 vehicle variants will continue through to the end of 2009.

Stage 3: Design, construction and testing of the remaining IPVs, and the delivery of 336 production standard vehicles. Began with successful completion of the Production Readiness Review for the base M113 APC variant in November 2007.

When Tenix’s land systems business was acquired by BAE Systems, it was easy for the vehicle’s original manufacturer (United Defense, now the largest part of BAE Land Systems) to assume leadership of the project via its new subsidiary. Tenix had chosen Germany’s FFG as the major technology partner for the program. Other key subcontractors and suppliers include Thales Optronics, Moog GmbH, SKF Australia, Bisalloy and a number of Australian SMEs including Imag Australia Pty. Limited.

The ANAO’s 2012 Report

Australia’s independent audit department, the ANAO, has issued a number of reports covering the LAND 106 program, with the program nearing its end, the 2012 audit offers a solid retrospective of the program, its progress, and the lessons learned from its problems. The core of its conclusions:

“Deficiencies in the [2002] Major Upgrade Contract meant that technical problems with the vehicles’ design and production could not be effectively managed under its provisions. Contrary to the advice tendered to government when the major upgrade was initially approved, critical milestones were not effectively incorporated into the contract, which also failed to properly specify vehicle payloads, prioritise vehicle technical specifications in order of necessity and desirability, or establish clear terms for liquidated damages.”

The project subsequently failed to perform, but the government found that it was in a poor position to collect damages, and so ended up renegotiating the contract in 2 global settlements, in an attempt to fix the contract’s original problems. What the November 2007 and August 2011 settlements could not fix, was the time, effort, and money wasted as a result of those omissions.

Defence considers that the Prime Contractor is currently on course to deliver all 431 vehicles by October 2012, after the delivery date has been revised several times.

According to the ANAO, a range of factors hurt project schedule performance, including:

  • Delays in the preparation and stretching of M113 hulls under the CSP Contract, which are needed to feed into the major upgrade production line.
  • Missing/broken lifting eyes on existing M113, which caused delays in moving hulls through the CSP process).
  • Poor quality, with more vehicles than expected needing rework after quality inspections. That was an especial problem, because the production facilities at Bandiana had limited room for rework.
  • The ANAO refers to “facility failures at the Defence-owned facilities in Bandiana.”
  • Hull de-lamination, resulting in additional preparation work, and laminar cracking, which resulted in hulls being set aside until a suitable repair technique could be developed.
  • Delays in the technical development of the ALV [cargo variant] and AM [mortar variant]; and
  • Shortages of VIC 3 vehicle communication harnesses, supplied by Defence as government furnished equipment, and required to finish the vehicle.

M113AS4s, Exercise
Chong Ju 2009
(click to view full)

According the ANAO, the full cost of the M113 upgrades is close to A$ 1 billion for 431 vehicles. A$ 2.32 million per vehicle isn’t small change, though in fairness, it is half or less of the cost of a new, modern tracked IFV like BAE’s M2 Bradley, or its CV90. Australia’s Chief of Army responded to the ANAO by saying that:

“…as the Capability Manager … I am satisfied that the [upgraded M113] provides a significantly enhanced capability to Army and that it is a potent and capable platform. I am also satisfied that the delivery of [the upgrade project] satisfies the original requirement specified by the Capability Manager.”

The question ANAO asks is whether the project’s long delays, and 20-year run, have left those requirements behind. The M113AS4 is much less capable than modern IFVs. It has weaker armor protection, less formidable weaponry, and remains stuck with old communication gear. That last issue will be a problem going forward. ANAO:

“The M113 relies on the VIC 3 model communications harness as its main electronic communication system. There are currently a limited number of these harnesses available, and priority… is given to the ASLAV vehicles, currently deployed to Afghanistan… Army aims to rectify this shortage by December 2012 through fitting the Bushmaster fleet… with updated SOTAS communications systems, which will make an increased number of VIC 3 harnesses available… [Even so,] the electronic systems fitted to the upgraded vehicles do not permit optimal communication and data transfer with heavy tanks and the other force elements, such as artillery and aircraft, with which they are intended to operate… Army originally expected to address the current communications limitations of the M113 by fitting to these vehicles the systems to be developed under projects LAND 75 and LAND 125.64 However, in the context of the 2012-13 Federal Budget, the relevant phases… will not now proceed.”

An even more alarming problem involves the M113s’ reliability. ANAO:

“Maintenance records classify the vehicles as ‘Fully Functional’; ‘Restricted Use’; or ‘Unserviceable’. Over the three years to December 2010, the proportion of vehicles at the School of Armour classified as ‘Fully Functional’ decreased from an average of 62 per cent in 2008 to 38 per cent in 2010. Since 2010, this has not improved: Defence advised that as at 19 March 2012 the proportion of vehicles classed as ‘Fully Functional’ was 39 per cent across Army. The main factors affecting vehicle availability have been a lack of supplies (spare parts) and mechanical failures.”

That reliability level would become a serious problem if the upgraded M113s had to be deployed. It also affects the math of a comparison with more expensive IFVs. Assume that buying a new IFV would be 225% of the final upgrade cost, that the budget to buy them remains the same, and that we use reliability benchmarks met by those modern IFVs:

  • 431 M113-AS4s x 39% fully functional = 168 available IFVs.

  • 192 modern IFVs x 70% fully functional = 134 available IFVs

At similar availability rates, Australia’s DoD would have a strong argument for its choice. Given the actual number of available machines, however, a good counter-argument can be made that it would have been better to own 134 IFVs that are much more capable. What is certain, is that neglecting this key performance parameter seems to have cost Australia hard.

Contracts and Key Events M113AS4 FV and ARVL
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November 17/15: The Australian Department of Defense have issued a request for information for 450 tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) as part of the Australian Defence Force’s largest ever land systems acquisition program. Project LAND 400, which is now in its third phase, has been a major overhaul of existing aging equipment of the ADF and in total will cost approximately USD $7.1 billion. Phase Three will aim to replace the existing M113AS4 and it is hoped that these will be replaced by 2025 and the M113AS4 LOT by 2030, but the Australian DoD find the machinery decaying given current and emerging threats.

May 24/12: The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) issues “Upgrade of the M113 Fleet of Armoured Vehicles.”

Specific conclusions are covered in the previous section, but its overall tone is that many of the program’s problems and cost increases were avoidable. They also point out that the final product is an APC that’s under the capability standard of modern alternatives, despite its costs. This is true, and was known in advance. Australia accepted that trade, in exchange for what it saw as a lower-cost option, with better transportability. Limited communications compatibility with its companion M1 tanks, and the withdrawal of the M113s from plans for Australia’s new battlefield management C4I systems, is a more serious issue. Most serious of all is the fact that availability rates for the upgraded M113s remain abysmal – under 40%! That will impact training, and unless it’s corrected, it will become a serious problem if the armored vehicles ever get deployed.

Meanwhile, BAE has qualified for the first 3 incentive payments under the August 2011 re-negotiation, and looks to be on target to deliver all M113s by the end of October 2012.

May 10/12: Australia’s budget features a series of reductions. From the Chief of Army’s Budget Message:

“M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Carriers. One hundred M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Carriers will be placed into temporary storage [along with 15 M1A1 Abrams tanks]. The APCs will be placed into temporary storage in a condition where they can be rapidly returned to service when Army’s fiscal situation improves. Army will need to develop an equipment and training methodology to ensure an adequate number of crews are maintained to meet contingency requirements.”

Lt. Gen. D.L. Morrison later pens a letter to the editor of The West Australian, reiterating his confidence in the M113AS4, and citing the current measures as “informed solely by a need to reduce operating costs in order to focus key resources to operational priorities and linked training support.”

August 2011: 2nd global settlement. Dissatisfaction with BAE’s performance led Australia’s DoD to begun reviewing its legal contractual options in June 2010, but it eventually decided that it was on softer ground than it thought, and decided to negotiate a solution instead. The new agreement involves a number of concessions from Defence, and according to the ANAO, key provisions included:

  • BAE withdraws A$ 5 million in postponement claims.
  • Australia’s DoD won’t exercise contractual rights to liquidated damages of approximately A$ 1 million for late delivery.
  • Final delivery date for all vehicles moves from April 2012 to Dec 9/12.
  • Incentive payments totaling A$ 2.8 million are available to BAE if certain production targets are met between August 2011 – October 2012, including delivery of the last vehicle by the end of October. Defence says this was done to avoid having BAE close some of its facilities early, and set LAND 106’s schedule back even further.

Oct 7/10: BAE Systems Land and Armaments LP’s US Combat Systems business announces a $14 million contract to provide T150F double-pin track link assemblies and sprockets, for Australia’s M113 upgrades.

Work on the track shoes will take place at the BAE Systems’ Anniston, AL facility by the existing workforce, and is expected to be complete in July 2011. The contract was awarded by Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation office based in Washington, DC.

M113AS4 night test
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March 27/09: The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) issues “Management of the M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier Upgrade Project.” The 2009 ANAO report praises progress in a number of problem areas that were highlighted in the 2005 report. The 2007 renegotiation and restructuring has helped the program make significant progress in key areas, from management, to technical development. Having said that:

“The M113 Major Upgrade Project commenced in July 2002 and has suffered a series of delays. Army has so far received 42 of the 350 vehicles to be upgraded [which is behind schedule]… In July 2008, the Prime Contractor informed Defence that the existing production facilities at Bandiana, Victoria, were not adequate to the task and, at December 2008, there was a potential shortfall of around 100 upgraded vehicles by December 2010.

The backlog is caused chiefly by delays in extending the hulls. This is proving to be more complex than anticipated, and is taking longer than expected… would not be able to deliver 350 upgraded vehicles by December 2010. Defence is currently negotiating arrangements with the Prime Contractor…”

Oct 28/08: Australia’s Labor Party government announces an A$ 220 million (currently about $143 million) addition to LAND 106. BAE will upgrade another 81 M113s to equip Darwin’s 5 RAR mechanized infantry and the recently established 7 RAR, raising the total to 431 vehicles.

BAE Systems’ production line at Bandiana in northern Victoria will now remain open until July 2011, and additional facilities will be opened in Williamstown, Victoria and Wingfield, South Australia to ensure that delivery commitments are met.

May 22/08: The LAND 106 project is reported to be back on track. Frontier India:

“The M113 project experienced some well-known technical problems in the development phase, and it was feared these problems would impact on the cost and schedule of the project,” the announcement said. The serious technical risks faced by the project have now been resolved, the schedule pressures have been reduced, and the project does not face cost pressures said the release.”

Nov 15/07: The first 4 M113AS4s built by Tenix Aerospace and Defence are accepted into service with the Australian Army’s 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (Mechanised Infantry), during a ceremony in Darwin. Australian DoD | Space Daily.

M113A1, last exercise
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June 11/06: Australia’s DMO contracts with Honeywell Germany to supply the new TALIN 500 Inertial Navigation Unit for the M113 vehicles at a cost of A$ 11 million.

Acquired under Project JP5408, the TALIN 500 is the central component of the new navigation system for the M113s, integrating a global positioning system (GPS) with the inertial navigation functions as a backup if GPS isn’t available. The new system will provide full navigation capability to both the commander and driver of the M113. DMO believes the system has export potential. DoD release | DMO On Target article.

July 28/05: The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report criticizes Australia’s management of its M113 upgrade program, beginning with the 3-year delay between project approval in June 1999 and the July 2002 contract and continuing to the present day. The report add that the November 2006 goal for introduction into service is unlikely to be achievable. ANAO report | Jane’s

July 15/02: Australia’s Liberal Party government announces an A$ 400 million (then about $223.5 million) contract with Tenix Defence Land Division to upgrade 350 M113 tracked armored fighting vehicles to M113-AS4 configuration. Imag Australia Ltd. Pty release.

June 2002: The M113 Major Upgrade Project is approved at a cost of A$ 552 million (ANAO figure).

Additional Readings and Sources

Categories: News

Raytheon Finishes PDR for NGJ Program | Russian MoD Denies Deploying S-400 in Syria | Germany Fines Airbus $14M on Delayed A400Ms

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 00:20

  • Raytheon has announced its completion of the US Navy’s Preliminary Design Review for its Next Generation Jammer program. The NGJ is set to replace the ALQ-99 jamming pods on the EA-18G and it is hoped to have reached operational capabilities by 2021.

  • Airbus has received a further order for 12 of their UH-72A light helicopters by the US government which will bring the total ordered to 400. The latest batch is said to be used for pilot training.

Middle East North Africa

  • The Russian Ministry of Defense has denied claims made by Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper that it has deployed its S-400 Air Defense System in Syria. The allegations came after a number of foreign journalists had been invited to the Latakia airbase where Russian warplanes have been based. While the Daily Mail have been known for publishing hysterical articles in the past, the defense system’s sale to China earlier this year has been seen as a cause for concern by western nations.

  • Qatar have still to make their downpayment for 24 Rafale fighters from France despite contracts being signed by both nations six months ago. The deal, which is worth approximately $7 billion cannot be executed by manufacturer Dassault until such a payment is made and will no doubt be on the agenda for Qatari prime minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani’s visit to Paris this week. The visit is said to go ahead despite last Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris.


  • Germany has reportedly fined Airbus €13 ($14) million for its failure to deliver on time two A400M military transport planes. This follows reports from earlier this year of the German Ministry of Defense seeking €300 ($280) million compensation from the company over its delays and France cancelling its order in favor of C-130 Hercules from Lockheed.

Asia Pacific

  • The first of Japan’s ordered E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft are underway as the US government issued contracts to Northop Grumman for $151 million to build one of the aircraft. Japan hopes to buy four in total which they hope will boost their maritime capabilities in the region.

  • Japan has announced that it plans to sink its retired JS Shirane destroyer with its new XASM-3 anti-ship missile next year, keeping its planned IOC for 2016 on track. Developed by Mitsubishi, the new missile will replace the ASM-1 and ASM-2 missiles currently in use.

  • India’s Barak-8 will be test-fired between now and the end of the year after it was announced that preparations are being made on board the INS Kolkata for the test which the Navy hope to have installed on all future warships and retrofitted on its current Kolkata class destroyers.

  • China is believed to receive the first of its order of the S-400 Air Defense System from Russia within the next 12-18 months it has been announced. The six battalions ordered will greatly increase the range available on the S-300 system currently in place and is set to increase China’s air defense space, particularly in the East China Sea.

Today’s Video

  • Rafale Fight Jet

Categories: News

UH-72 Lakota Light Helicopter Lands Airbus in US Defense Market

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 00:19
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DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This is DID’s FOCUS Article regarding the US Army’s Light Utility Helicopter program, covering the program and its objectives, the winning bid team and industrial arrangements, and contracts.

The US Army’s LUH program will finish as a 325 helicopter acquisition program that will be worth about $2.3 billion when all is said and done. It aimed to replace existing UH-1 Hueys and OH-58 Kiowa utility variants in non-combat roles, freeing up larger and more expensive UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for front-line duty. In June 2006, a variant of Eurocopter’s EC145 beat AgustaWestland’s AB139, Bell-Textron’s 412EP Twin Huey, and MD Helicopters’ 902 Explorer NOTAR (No Tail Rotor) design. The win marked EADS’ 1st serious military win in the American market, and their “UH-145” became the “UH-72A Lakota” at an official December 2006 naming ceremony.

Eurocopter has continued to field new mission kits and deliver helicopters from its Mississippi production line, while trying to build on their LUH breakthrough. A training helicopter win will keep the line going for a couple more years…

The LUH Program: Objectives & Background RAH-66 Comanche
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The LUH program spun out of the canceled $9 billion AH-66 Comanche stealth scout/attack helicopter, as one of the US Army’s cheaper reinvestment and recapitalization options. LUH helicopters are intended to replace Vietnam era UH-1H Hueys and OH-58A/C Kiowa aircraft in the U.S. Army and National Guard. Note that the US Marine Corps will continue to fly the modernized UH-1Y Venom, and the civilian para-military DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is likely to retain many of its OH-58s and may pick some up from Army surplus.

The US Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters, meanwhile, will be replaced by 368 militarized Bell 407s between FY 2006-2013 under the $2.2 billion Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) program, the first of the AH-66 spinoffs. These efforts are part of the Army Aviation Modernization Program, along with programs like the Warrior UAV and hopefully the Joint Cargo Aircraft to replace the Army’s C-123 Sherpa light transport planes.

UH-60 Blackhawk

The intent was to acquire a Commercial-Off-the-Shelf (COTS)/ Non-Developmental Item (NDI) aircraft that is Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) Type Standard Certified, and produce approximately 322 new LUH helicopters between 2006-2015. They will fill the niche missions in which the Army’s standard UH-60 Black Hawk’s size, capability, and operating expenses may be unnecessary, performing a wide range of general support missions in the United States and overseas. Transport of personnel and supplies, disaster relief operations, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, drug interdiction, and homeland security will all be likely tasks.

In 2006, therefore, while the rest of EADS was targeted for divestment and beginning to face bottom line issues, Eurocopter continued to fly. Fresh off of major wins with Korea’s KHP development program ($1.3 billion) and Australia’s NH90 order ($1.5 bilion), Eurocopter racked up the biggest win of all in June: its EC145 would serve as the USA’s future Light Utility Helicopter, replacing existing UH-1s and OH-58s in a 322 helicopter, $3+ billion program between 2006-2015. Losing entries included Team MD Helicopters’ 902 Explorer NOTAR (No Tail Rotor) design, Bell-Textron’s 412EP Twin Huey, and Team AgustaWestland’s AB139. See DID coverage of the 4 competing teams.


The US military subsequently raised the planned number of UH-72 LUH helicopters to 345, but shifts near the end of the program cut the final number to 325, and aimed to place the last orders in FY 2014. In 2015, however, Airbus was picked for a 100-helicopter contract as the US Army Aviation Center of Excellence’s prime training helicopter. Budgets over the life of the program included:

The LUH Winner: Eurocopter’s EC145/ UH-72A EC145 w. hoist
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The UH-72A Lakota is a militarized version of the Eurocopter EC145, which in turn is a new and thoroughly modified version of the famous BK 117-C1. It was given its Lakota designation in keeping with the Army’s tradition of naming rotary-wing aircraft after native American Indian tribes. Requests for the naming originate with the tribes themselves, and their history and traditions must be aligned with the helicopter’s characteristics and uses in US Army service.

The Lakota is outfitted with an advanced avionics suite that includes a “glass” (digital screen) cockpit for flight and navigation instrument display. Its civilian version is already FAA Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) certified, and safety features include redundant hydraulic and electrical systems. An array of radios allows communication with civilian first responders, as well as military channels.

The aft cabin, including baggage area, is 50.77 ft2, at 4.59 x 11.23 feet. That cabin can be switched between a 6-seat (3-3) arrangement, or 2-3 seats plus 2 MEDEVAC stretcher rails. If a medic needs to work on a patient in the air, operational capacity drops to 1 stretcher. A high-set main and tail rotor design allow safe loading and unloading through the main side doors and rear-fuselage clamshell doors, even while the rotors are turning.

Those turning rotors are relatively quiet, for a helicopter. That was true of the old BK-117, is true of the EC145, and remains true for its military counterpart. Quietness makes helicopters easier to operate in civilian airspace, and provides front-line advantages if UH-72 variants are ever deployed that way.

UH-72A S&S
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So far, the US military’s UH-72As have stuck to their original intent, and are used for service away from the front lines. They’ve been used most often for medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions, search and rescue, border patrols along the U.S./Mexican border, and VIP transport. They’ve also found niche roles in missile testing, and in general aviation support and combat flight training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany; the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Ft. Polk, LA; and the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, CA. Special missions have included disaster response following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and oil spill monitoring and response flights along the U.S. Gulf Coast after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

They’ve also remained true to their initial affordability promises. Deliveries have been on time and on-budget, and in 2012, US Army project manager for utility helicopters, Col. Thomas Todd, said that the UH-72A is cheaper to operate than its predecessors were. He cited a readiness rate of over 90%, which is excellent even for such a young fleet, and a parts cost that’s 30-40% less than UH-1 and OH-58 legacy helicopters. That parts cost is especially good news. The history of modern military programs has usually involved lower availability rates, and higher maintenance costs, than the equipment it replaces. Since operating and maintenance costs are a majority of any platform’s real costs over time, lowering those costs makes a big cumulative difference to the Army’s future budgets.

UH-72A Lakota Variants UH-72A S&S
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Overall, 7 UH-72A variants exist, but several of them are really kits that can be rolled on and off of the base helicopter.

MEDEVAC/Search and Rescue. This mission “B-kit” includes the external rescue hoist, 2 stretchers, plus associated medical equipment and systems. Two medics are positioned in rear-facing seats behind the pilot and co-pilot.

Missile Test LUH. This variant operates in the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll, Pacific Ocean. The Kwajalein helicopters are painted in high visibility orange, and come with skid-mounted floats, integrated life rafts, and jettisonable cockpit doors.

UH-72A Security & Support (S&S) Battalion. This 3rd kit is more extensive. It includes an external hoist, a forward centerline-mounted camera system which can track targets at up to 9 miles away using electro-optical and infrared sensors, a laser pointer, a 30 million candlepower searchlight, an operator console, cockpit and cabin touch-screen displays with moving maps that can navigate to streets as well as military coordinates, a video management system, a digital video recorder and data downlink system, and additional avionics and communications equipment that can be synced with first responders on the ground. The US Army National Guard plans to buy at least 100 UH-72A S&S helicopters: 17 retrofitted and 83 new build.

Training. Current proposals would replace existing US Army TH-67 (Bell 206) and OH-58 training helicopter fleets with the UH-72A, allowing those existing types to completely retire from US Army service.

Airbus is also trying to interest the Navy in using the UH-72 as a replacement for its aging TH-57 Sea Ranger (Bell 206) helicopter trainer fleet. The helicopters would add Garmin G1000H avionics, and be fitted with student, instructor, and observer seats.

VIP transport. This adds more and nicer seats, for a total of 3 rear-facing seats located behind the cockpit, 2 forward-facing seats just aft of the helicopter’s side doors, and 3 seats behind them.

2 more kits are left deliberately undefined, except to say that they are “associated with training missions that teach soldiers how to fight aircraft and recognize friend or foe on the battle space.”

US Navy. The 7th variant was produced for a different customer, the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD. Their variant is exactly what you would expect: it trains test pilots from the U.S. military and allied countries. Navy H-72A modifications include jettisonable cockpit doors, a cockpit voice and flight data recorder, a main rotor blade folding kit, and an air traffic advisory system.

AAS-72X+ concept
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The platform’s next frontier was supposed to involve a step beyond kits, into a fully armed version.

In 2009, EADS North America moved to build on their success. With Bell’s ARH-70 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter canceled due to cost overruns, EADS announced a partnership with Lockheed Martin to offer an EC645/AAS-72X variant for the US Army’ Armed Aerial Scout competition. After initial tests, they decided to favor performance over full commonality, and used the EC145-T2 as the base for their armed scout. The AAS-72X+ adds uprated Arriel 2E engines and the Helionix avionics suite, and switches to an enclosed Fenestron tail rotor instead of the UH-72A’s twin-tail high configuration.

Lockheed Martin is in charge of mission systems and weapons, and the team’s bid will push the advantages of having a similar base type for armed scout, training, and support roles. The problem is that the USA decided to do away with their scout helicopter fleet altogether, so any sales will have to be exports.

LUH Industrial Arrangements

UH-72A program management is located in Huntsville, Alabama and led by the EADS North America Defense business unit of EADS North America. Production takes place at American Eurocopter’s Columbus, Mississippi facility, which received a major expansion to accommodate the Light Utility Helicopter program.

The production line is a version of Eurocopter’s EC145 multi-mission helicopter line in Donauworth, Germany. The initial UH-145s were actually built on Eurocopter’s existing EC145 production line in Germany, and shipped to Columbus, MS for final assembly and completion. Even before the contract was formally awarded, the first UH-145 helicopters were already under assembly, and components had been allocated for the manufacture of 7 more UH-145s. It was a gutsy move, but once the contract was won, it helped American Eurocopter deliver its first 8 machines to the US government on budget and ahead of schedule.

The line was duplicated in Columbus through a series of steps that began with partial assembly, followed by full assembly and the subsequent U.S. manufacture of major subsystems. Growth continued at Columbus, up until full build-up of the aircraft on a new assembly line in 2007.

Columbus, MS facility
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American Eurocopter’s expansion of the 92,200 square foot Columbus facility grew it to to approximately 276,000 square feet to accommodate the UH-145 program. As of July 2006, this plant built A-Star AS350 helicopters at a rate of about 30 per year, and its advanced metallic production center manufactures components that include aft fuselage sections for all new production A-Star/Ecureuil helicopters sold worldwide. It also handles assembly and customization of other American Eurocopter helicopter models for U.S. customers. On a federal level, the Columbus plant was already re-engining and upgrading U.S. Coast Guard Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin search and rescue helicopters to the improved performance HH-65C version; and assembling, customizing and delivering EC120B helicopters ordered by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Employment at Columbus grew from the current staffing of 129 to approximately 330, plus 20-40 additional jobs at the company’s headquarters in Grand Prairie, Texas for program support.

Other suppliers also geared up. Turbomeca USA, which builds the UH-145’s Arriel 1E2 engines, grew its Grand Prairie, Texas facility by 35-45 new jobs. Thales USA transferred production of its Meghas avionics suite from Europe to a new facility in Irvine, California. Meghas also equips the Eurocopter EC145, EC135, EC155, EC120, EC130 and AS350 helicopters, and manufacturing of avionics for all these aircraft types, as well as the UH-145, was relocated to Irvine.

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UH-72A deliveries have gone well. UH-72A deliveries to the US Army commenced in December 2006; the first 7 helicopters were delivered by June 2006, whereupon the first active unit was equipped. Deliveries continued at the rate of 1 per month until September 2007, then rose to 2 helicopters per month.

By 2010, there were 7 different H-72 configurations produced on the line, and 10 new fielding sites stood up, making 31 basing locations in the continental U.S., Puerto Rico, Germany, and the Pacific Ocean’s Kwajalein Atoll.

From December 2006 – November 2012, EADS North America delivered 243 Lakota helicopters, on budget and either on time or ahead of schedule. Delivery rates can now reach over 4 helicopters per month, or up to 53 helicopters per year. As the LUH program winds down, however, that production rate is set to slow and then stop. It’s currently 3 helicopters per month, but under the proposed FY 2014 budget that will taper to 1 per month by September 2014. By June 2015, LUH production will end.

American UH-72As: Contracts and Key Events

Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued by the US Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL; and the recipient is EADS North American Defense in Arlington, VA.

FY 2016

MEDEVAC exercise
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November 16/15: Airbus has received a further order for 12 of their UH-72A light helicopters by the US government which will bring the total ordered to 400. The latest batch is said to be used for pilot training.

FY 2013 – 2014

Orders; AAS-72X tests but ARH is cancelled; From early termination to another 90-100 training helicopters.

Sept 29/14: Thailand. The US DSCA announces Thailand’s official export request for up to 9 UH-72A Lakota Helicopters, an Aviation Mission Planning Station, plus warranty, spare and repair parts, support equipment, communication equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $89 million, and the principal contractor will be EADS North America in Herndon, VA.

Thailand’s last UH-72A request became an order in under a year. The 9 helicopters will surely be welcome in the Mississippi plant, but they aren’t about to make a significant industrial difference. Read “Huey’s Departure: Thailand’s New Helicopters” for full coverage of their importance to Thailand.

DSCA: Thailand (9)

Sept 22/14: Lawsuit. AgustaWestland sues the US Army, seeking an injunction to stop its planned UH-72A training helicopter purchase. The claim states that the Sept 4/14 sole-sourcing decision wasn’t justified properly, while claiming a massive price difference of $7 million per UH-72 vs. $3.25 million for their helicopter. That price matches expected costs for the AW119Kx Koala, which is built near Philadelphia.

AgustaWestland representatives point out that the UH-72 has a restricted flight maneuver envelope, while Bell Helicopter representatives cite “a cost difference of $1,000 to $1,500 per flying hour more for the UH-72” in exchange for training on a glass cockpit and a twin-engine platform.

The stakes are higher than usual. AgustaWestland is also touting the Koala as a replacement for the US Navy’s TH-57 Creek, which is based on the same Bell 206 airframe as the Army’s TH-67 fleet that the Airbus UH-72 would replace. The Navy doesn’t have a formal program to replace the TH-57 Sea Ranger fleet, but it is aging, and an Army trainer buy would be a natural cross-service lead in. Meanwhile, the threat of sequestration (q.v. Aug 24/14) is driving pressure to buy more UH-72As immediately. If the lawsuit delays the training buy for long enough, the Army has to choose between accepting the risk of a smaller replacement fleet, or picking a cheaper option. Sources: AIN, “AgustaWestland Sues over Airbus Army Trainer Plan” | Bloomberg, “AgustaWestland Sues U.S. to Block Airbus Helicopter Buy” | Reuters, “Finmeccanica unit sues to block U.S. helicopter deal for Airbus” | Defense News, “AgustaWestland Pitches AW119 for US Navy Helicopter Trainer”.

Aug 24/14: TUH-72. Despite Kendall’s cautions, all 4 Congressional defense committees are moving to approve a $110.8 million reprogramming request that would buy another 21 UH-72As in FY 2014. These helicopters would be slotted for the training fleet, and sequestration is the reason for their haste. The FY 2016 budget is the one under threat if sequestration continues, and Fort Rucker, AL needs a bare minimum of 60 helicopters for instructor and student training needs. The added 21 + 55 in FY 2015 would provide 76, leaving the fleet ready to go despite sequestration.

If things work out in FY 2016, the remaining 24 helicopters can be ordered to raise the training fleet to 100. If sequestration hits, FY 2015 funds could be reprogrammed, or some helicopters could be moved out of the National Guard. Sources: Forecast International, “Congress Signs Off on Plan to Buy 21 Additional UH-72A Lakotas in FY14”.

Aug 6/14: TUH-72. Pentagon Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall says that he wants to see the Army’s business case for buying 90 UH-72s to replace existing TH-67 Creek (Bell Model 206B Jet Ranger III, initial training) and OH-58 Kiowa (tactical training) machines, under the proposed Army Aviation Restructure Plan.

We can summarize the cases. The Army says that removing these helicopter types from the fleet, and consolidating on the UH-72A, will save on support costs. Bell Helicopters says that the single-engine TH-67 fleet is 16 years old on average, and can still be used and supported for some time. On the other hand, the UH-72A production line won’t be around forever. Sources: Defense News, “Kendall Wants Business Case for US Army Helicopter Swap”.

June 26/14: Support. EADS-NA in Herndon, VA receives a $14.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, for UH-72A contractor logistics support. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Army O&M budgets.

Work will be performed at Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of May 15/15. US Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal – Aviation at Redstone Arsenal, ALmanages the contract (W58RGZ-06-C-1094, P00811).

May 27/14: Support. EADS North America, Inc. in Herndon, VA receives a $33.8 million modification, exercising an option to increase contractor logistics support for the UH-72A. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Army O&M budgets.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16 (W58RGZ-06-C-0194, PO 0795).

May 23/14: Politics. 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 UH-72 is explained this way:

“Authorizes $612.6 million in procurement for UH-72A Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). At the request of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, the Secretary of Defense directed the Army to procure 100 additional LUH as a replacement training aircraft rather than transfer any from National Guard for that purpose. Additional funds would authorize procurement of a total 90 new aircraft to replacement of the Army’s legacy aviation training aircraft.”

$612.6 million is $196 million above the Defense Department’s budget request, and supposedly adds 35 more helicopters in Fiscal Year 2015. That creates a total of 90 ordered if the House agrees, which explains phrases like “decreases the risk and cost to the Army in their divestiture of TH-67 training aircraft”. Implicitly, it also removes the 45 helicopters and $387.6 million planned for 2016, and cuts the future training fleet from 100 to 90. Sources: US Senate Armed Services Committee, “Senate Committee on Armed Services Completes Markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015” |, “Senate Bill would Fund Alabama Defense Programs”.

May 14/14: #300. Airbus Group delivers 300th UH-72A to the US military, on time and on budget. The UH-72A S&S will enter service with the Missouri National Guard. The firm touts an American workforce that is “more than 50 percent U.S. military veterans”. No doubt they’re all happy about the 2-year extension to Army orders. Sources: Airbus, “Airbus Group delivers 300th on-time, on-budget UH-72A Lakota helicopter to U.S. Army”.


May 6/14: Support. EADS North America in Herndon, VA receives a $25.5 million option for UH-72A contractor logistics support.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Army O&M budgets. Work will be performed in Columbia, MS, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/15. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-06-C-0194 P00787).

March 28/14: EADS-NA in Herndon, VA receives a $34 milllion contract modification to sole-source, foreign military sales contract for 6 UH-72A Lakota helicopters with AN/ARC-231 radios, the Mission equipment package, and environmental control units to deal with Thailand’s heat.

It’s a dubious purchase, as Thailand already operates similar helicopter fleets from other manufacturers, and won’t make much of an industrial difference with the Us Army committed to its training order. Read “Huey’s Departure: Thailand’s New Helicopters” for full coverage.

Thailand buys 6

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The UH-72 gets a big win. As part of the Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI) the UH-72A will become the primary training aircraft at the US Army Aviation Center of Excellence in Ft. Rucker, AL.

That means 100 more UH-72A orders are scheduled for FY 2015 – 2016, to equip the Army’s Initial Entry Rotary Wing training fleet.

Feb 18/14: +4. A $22.9 million modification for 4 UH-72A Lakota helicopters, with the standard add-ons of ARC-231 radios and engine inlet barrier filters to keep incoming air clean.

All funds are committed immediately, using Army FY 2014 other procurement budgets. Work will be performed in Columbia, MS, and the estimated completion date is March 31/15. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-06-C-0194, PO 0766).

4 UH-72As

Jan 17/14: Budgets. Congress doubles the planned buy of UH-72As in 2014, so the final order will be for 20 rather than 10. It ends up being a mid-point compromise between 10 and the original 31. It’s part of the omnibus spending package. Sources: Airbus Group, “Congress continues support of UH-72A Lakota helicopter”.

OH-58D, Afghanistan

Jan 14/14: No AAS. The US Army’s OH-58D scout helicopter fleet will be retired without a successor. This means the end of Airbus’ hopes to sell the AAS-72X to the US military, though they could still offer it as an export package if a country was willing to pay the remaining development costs.

Instead, the Army will rely on a mix of their AH-64E attack helicopters and UAVs. The Army realized that they didn’t have enough money to buy enough AH-64s, and that they were going to shrink the number of people in the Army. The current leadership has decided that 698 AH-64Es, who will be able to control the planned fleets of unarmed RQ-7B Shadow and armed MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs from the air, will provide an “80% solution.” In parallel, a rebalancing will move more UH-60 utility helicopters to the National Guard alongside the UH-72s, where they can offer useful capabilities during natural disasters etc., while shifting AH-64 attack helicopters to the active-duty force. Sources: US Army, “Army aviation flying smarter into fiscal squeeze” |, “Army planning to scrap OH-58 Kiowa Warriors helicopter fleet: Reports” | Jackson Sun, “National Guard: Tennessee could lose 30 OH-58D helicopters, including at Jackson flight facility, under proposed Army plan” | The Motley Fool, “The U.S. Army Is About to Make a Huge Mistake”.

End of US Scout helicopters

July 1/13: Support. EADS North America in Herndon, VA receives a $12.9 million firm-fixed-price option for contractor logistics support for the Army’s aviation assets. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS.

The only platform that fits is the UH-72A, and the Pentagon says that this award brings the cumulative total face value of the LUH contract to $2.265 billion (W58RGZ-06-C-0194, PO 0703).

June 20/13: Thailand. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Thailand’s formal request for 6 ready-to-fly UH-72A Lakota Helicopters, communication equipment, an Aviation Mission Planning Station, plus spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of contractor and government support. The estimated cost is up to $77 million.

It’s part of an effort by Thailand to add a new light utility helicopter to its fleet, and would represent the UH-72A’s 1s export order, but the base EC145 has been exported to a number of other countries already. If the UH-72A is chosen, the principal contractor will be EADS North America, in Herndon, VA. Implementation will require U.S. Government or contractor representatives in Thailand for a period of 5 weeks for equipment de-processing/fielding, system checkout and new equipment training; plus a Contractor Furnished Service Representative (CFSR) for a period of 1 year. Read “Huey’s Departure: Thailand’s New Helicopters” for full coverage of Thailand’s multi-platform recapitalization drive.

DSCA Thailand: 6

May 30 – June 7/13: Lobbying. EADS North America is lobbying to reverse planned cuts to the UH-72A program, and essentially restore a year’s worth of orders. The have Congressional representatives attending, but the rallies are at their own plants in Mississippi and Texas. EADS NA re: MS | | WCBI, incl. video | EADS NA re: TX.

April 25/13: #250. American Eurocopter delivers the 250th UH-72A, which will be operated out of Oklahoma City by the Oklahoma National Guard. It’s actually the 255th, if you count the US Naval Test Pilot School’s 5 machines, and it’s the 54th UH-72A S&S configuration delivered to the US military.

EADS NA says that the combined Lakota fleet’s operations have now exceeded 150,000 flight hours, while maintaining over 90% availability. EADS North America.


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 UH-72A’s record of on-time and on-budget delivery didn’t entirely protect the LUH program. Instead of buying 31 in 2014 and the last 10 in 2015, the proposed budget would cut 31 machines, and close the program with a 10-helicopter buy in 2014. EADS North America chairman Sean O’Keefe vowed to fight the cuts, which would remove about $345 million from the firm’s order books. It will be interesting to see if he has any luck. See also EADS North America.

Feb 27/12: Support. EADS North America in Herndon, VA receives a $15.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for Contractor Logistics Support. At this point EADS North America’s site is advertising 279 LUH helicopters delivered.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/13. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Jan 3/13: MEP support. EADS North America in Herndon, VA receives a $26.3 million firm-fixed-price contract. The award will provide for the modification of an existing contract to procure contractor logistics support for LUH Mission Equipment Packages.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Nov 16/12: +34. EADS North America, Herndon, VA receives a $181.8 million firm-fixed-price contract, to deliver 34 more UH-72A helicopters (10 standard, and 24 S&S), plus engine inlet filter barrier kits that help the helicopters cope with dust and sand.

This order brings the total number of UH-72As ordered to 312/347; so far, about 243 have been delivered. EADS North America says that the Lakota fleet has averaged an operational availability rate greater than 90% in the 21 military units that enjoy full contractor logistics (CLS) support. The spare parts fill rate under the hybrid CLS concept supporting all 33 units has averaged 97%, but there’s no word of the total availability rate.

34 UH-72As

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/14 (W58RGZ-06-C-0194). See also EADS-NA.

Oct 12/12: AAS-72X. The US Army holds preliminary flying tests of the EC145-T2 at Fort Hood. It’s related to the AAS program, but they’re flying the civilian version instead of the AAS-72X+ prototype. DVIDS.

FY 2012

Orders; #200 delivered; Security & Support variant operational; UH-72A delivering lower operating costs; Armed Aerial Scout unveiled. UH-72A at JMRC
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Sept 25/12: Support. A $10.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for services in support of the UH-72A Lakota. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Sept 28/13. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Aug 28/12: Ancillaries. A $33.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy UH-72A Security and Support Mission Equipment Packages. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/14. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Aug 17/12: Support. A $19.8 million modification to the existing firm-fixed-price contract (W58RGZ-06-C-0194) for logistic support. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2012.

August 2012: MEDEVAC. The US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) announces that after an inaugural test cycle that included Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) testing, 12 medical devices are now Airworthiness Certified on the UH-72A.

July 18/12: AFTD gets 3. The US Army fields 3 UH-72A Lakota at Redstone Arsenal, AL for the Aviation Flight Test Directorate, a part of the Redstone Test Center. They’ll be used for general support, and as a rotary wing chase platform to support the developmental testing of aircraft and aviation systems. Huntsville Times.

July 17/12: Support. A $9.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for UH-72A engineering support services. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

July 9/12: A $15.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification of an existing contract buys contractor logistics support to June 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

May 29/12: Support. A $26 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, for contractor logistics support. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

May 22/12: 100,000 flight hours. EADS North America announces that the US Army & National Guard’s fleet of 219 delivered UH-72As achieved 100,000 total flight hours on May 10/12.

100,000 hours

April 9/12: Support. A $12.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for contractor logistics support services. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. Five bids were solicited, with 3 bids received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

April 3/12: Update. US Army project manager for utility helicopters, Col. Thomas Todd, discusses the UH-72A Lakota fleet. So far, the Army has taken delivery of 209, and the fleet is in use in 42 states and approaching 100,000 flight hours. Fully 2/3 of the fleet will be located in National Guard units. Along the Mexican border, for instance, 11 Lakota aircraft have racked up 700 flying hours working the Southwest Border Mission, from operating locations in Larado and Harlingen, TX. Col. Todd:

“The real success story for us: it’s been on schedule [and] it’s met its cost targets perhaps better than any other aviation program we have got that’s active right now… It maintains consistently 90 percent operational availability rates… When we compare [to OH-58s and UH-1s] our parts fill rate is higher, and our parts cost or our contracts cost is easily 30-40 percent less. That’s a huge measuring stick for us, in these resources constrained times.”

April 2/12: AAS-72X+. American Eurocopter unveils its AAS-72X+ contender for the Army’s Armed Aerial Scout, which may or may not become a program. Unlike the LUH, it will be based on Eurocopter’s EC-145 T2, which adds more powerful 1,038 shp Turbomeca Arriel 2E engines, replaces the dual-tail rear rotor with an enclosed Fenestron, and uses the Helionix glass cockpit and avionics suite instead of Thales Meghas. American Eurocopter.

March 1/12: #200. A ceremony at American Eurocopter in Colombus, MS marks the 200th UH-72A delivered the U.S. Army, a Security and Support (S&S) variant. American Eurocopter says that the program remains on-time and on-budget. American Eurocopter.


Dec 23/11: +39. A $212.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy 39 UH-72As. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

American Eurocopter adds that 32 of these UH-72As will be produced in the Army’s Security and Support (S&S) Battalion configuration, and says that US Army deliveries stand at 198 UH-72As as of January 2012.

39 UH-72As

Nov 5/11: S&S stood up. The first battalion of UH-72A helicopters with the Security & Support Mission Equipment Package enters service with the US military, in the Mississippi National Guard’s Company C, 1st of the 114th Security and Support Battalion.

EADS says that 69 of the 100 anticipated S&S MEP installations have been ordered. Of those, 52 will be built-in, 16 will be retrofits, and the last will be the S&S MEP prototype, which was delivered and fielded in this 1st UH-72A S&S battalion. EADS NA.

UH-72 S&S

FY 2011

Orders; Haiti mission; Dedication at Crazy Horse Memorial; New Eurocopter manager; Rescue; AAS-72 testing. DC Guard UH-72As
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Sept 7/11: A $9.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, to increase the funding for contractor logistics support flight hours. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, and Trumbull, CT, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Aug 29/11: +32 S&S kit cut-ins. A $43.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification buys production line cut-in for 32 Security & Support mission equipment packages on 32 base UH-72As.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Aug 24/11: Half-time. EADS North America announces that it has now delivered more than half of the planned 345 Lakotas to the U.S. Army, with sustained output reaching 53 helicopters per year and 180 machines delivered to the US military.

UH-72A Lakota helicopters are now operating from 31 basing locations, and the U.S. Army has ordered 219/345 possible UH-72As under the current contract. EADS NA.

July 25/11: A $10.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide UH-72A spares support. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

June 16/11: +14. A $74.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 14 UH-72As and 14 airborne radio communication systems (previous contracts suggest the AN/ARC-231). Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

14 UH-72As

June 7/11: Personnel. American Eurocopter announces Peter Cutler’s hiring as VP Military and Federal Government Programs. In this position, he will be responsible for the U.S. Army UH-72A LUH program, the associated Armed Aerial Scout capture effort, and expanding sales to the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and FBI.

Before his hiring, Cutler spent 24 years at Sikorsky, finishing as the leader of their product support organization. He holds a B.Sc. Industrial Engineering from Rutgers University, and an MBA in Industrial Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

May 27/11: Haiti. Soldiers from Florida’s Army National Guard’s B Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation (Security and Support) return to Cecil Field in Jacksonville after a 30-day rotation in Haiti. The overwater deployment involved 2 helicopters and 12 personnel, and missions included over 140 sorties over 30 days for passengers and cargo, command and control operations, reconnaissance operations, personnel recovery training exercises, and hoist training exercises. EADS NA.

May 16/11: Crazy Horse. A ceremony at South Dakota’s Crazy Horse Memorial mountain marks the inauguration of UH-72A Lakota helicopters into the state’s National Guard. The ceremony included a Native American blessing, singing and dancing, and a commemorative blast on the mountain carving of the Lakota warrior. EADS NA UH-72 site.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Charles Murphy says “Lakota” is a word that will represent all the people in the 7 tribes in the Dakotas and Nebraska, and he says they appreciate what the Guard has done.

April 2011: Update. The Army UH-72A fleet surpasses the 60,000 flight hour milestone.

Production in 2010 saw 53 helicopters delivered, and another 41 retrofitted with new missions equipment. That includes the now FAA-certified Combat Training Center mission package. The Security and Support MEP began retrofits this month, and early 2012 will see first delivery of new-production UH-72A S&S helicopters. So far, the Army’s UH-72As have freed up at least 23 Black Hawk helicopters for military service oversees. Source 1 | Source 2.

March 30/11: +4. A $21.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 4 more UH-72A light utility helicopters; 4 AN/ARC-231 radio system production cut-ins; and 1 engine inlet barrier filter production cut-in.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of April 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

4 UH-72As

March 1/01: This is not a drill. A UH-72A operating from the U.S. Army’s National Training Center Air Ambulance Detachment at Ft. Irwin, performs a real rescue, when a man is trapped in his truck in the surging Mojave River. EADS’ UH-72 site

Feb 14/11: FY 2012 request. The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 request, though the failure of the last Congress to pass a budget means that it’s FY 2011 requests are also pending.

All UH-72 funds from FY 2010-2012 are procurement funds; there is no RDT&E outlay. Orders are tailing off slightly from $325.2 million for 54 helicopters in FY 2010, to $305.3 million for 50 helicopters in FY 2011, to $250.4 million for 39 helicopters in FY 2012. The overall program, as noted earlier, calls for 345 UH-72s, plus the 5 the Navy ordered for its test pilots school.

Feb 9/11: Update. EADS North America provides an update on orders to date:

“The U.S. Army has ordered a total of 32 UH-72A Lakotas from EADS North America in Fiscal Year 2011… The latest contract brings Lakota orders to 219, composed of 214 rotary-wing aircraft for the U.S. Army and five for the U.S. Navy. Another Army order for 18 more UH-72As is projected in the current Fiscal Year budget, with the Army targeting a total acquisition of 345 helicopters through 2015, for a total of 350 from both services.”

Jan 4/11: +12. A $52.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 12 UH-72A helicopters, 12 Airborne Radio Communication systems, and 2 Engine Inlet Barrier Filters that keep sand and fine particles out of the intakes.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of April 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

12 UH-72As

Dec 7/10: AAS-72. EADS North America flies the 2nd of 3 company-funded Armed Aerial Scout 72X Technical Demonstration Aircraft (TDA), at the company’s American Eurocopter facility in Grand Prairie, TX. The 40 minute flight was used to demonstrate integrated targeting sensor, manned/unmanned teaming (MUM-T) and communications and navigation capabilities. EADS NA.

Nov 18/10: Update. The US Army showcases the new security and support model at the Pentagon. The Army says that 140 of 345 planned UH-72As have been delivered. Col. Neil Thurgood, project manager for Utility Helicopters at Redstone Arsenal, AL says that Lakotas are almost exclusively being used by the National Guard in support of homeland security, adding that there are no current plans to send the helicopter into combat. US Army.

Oct 26/10: Update. EADS North America touts the 5 UH-72A variants to date, and states that 138 Lakotas have been delivered to Army and Army National Guard units (133), and the U.S. Navy (5). Overall, the UH-72A fleet has flown more than 40,000 hours in operational service.

The 5 variants are MEDEVAC, Security & Support, VIP transport, and 2 more “associated with training missions that teach soldiers how to fight aircraft and recognize friend or foe on the battle space.” EADS UH-72 site.

Oct 25/10: AAS-72. The Armed Aerial Scout 72X (AAS-72X) team of Lockheed Martin, Eurocopter, and American Eurocopter is preparing for the initial flight of their 1st company-funded Technical Demonstration Aircraft (TDA). The 3 AAS-72X TDAs will have fully-integrated Mission Equipment Packages (MEP), and the initial flight is scheduled to occur in December 2010.

The MEP has been simulated in flight tests with a weight of 2,300 pounds, and development has continued at the MEP Systems Integration Laboratory in Lockheed Martin’s Orlando, FL facility. EADS NA.

Oct 18/10: Sub-contractors. Curtiss-Wright Controls, Inc. announces a contract from American Eurocopter to provide Skyquest Video Management Systems for the U.S. Army’s UH-72A Security and Support (S&S) Battalion Mission Equipment Package (MEP). The estimated value of the contract is $20 million, based on projected helicopter production and deliveries over the next 5 years. EADS North America has 187 Lakota helicopters on order from the Army, with the potential for up to 345 helicopters through 2015.

The Skyquest airborne surveillance system is designed, developed and manufactured at the firm’s Embedded Computing facility in Laindon, East London, UK. The hardware will be shipped to American Eurocopter’s Columbus, MS facility, where it will integrate the Skyquest VMS system onto the S&S Battalion-configured Lakotas. The contract will continue through 2015.

FY 2010

Orders; Production hits full rate; Navy deliveries; New security & Support kit; New missile test copters; #100 delivered; C-17 loading test; AAS-72 tests. Kwajalein UH-72A
(click to view full)

Sept 29/10: +36 S&S. A $67.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 16 security and support (S&S) mission equipment package (MEP) retrofits, and 20 S&S MEP production cut-ins, for Army National Guard LUHs. Work is to be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion day of Aug 31/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

U.S. Army National Guard security and support battalions are on call to their own and neighboring states to help civil authorities as requested, and they can also be tasked for military missions. Most currently fly UH-1 Hueys. Asked about this MEP set, Eurocopter USA replied:

“The UH-72A S&S Battalion configuration includes a forward centerline-mounted camera system with electro-optical and infrared sensors and laser pointer, a 30 million candlepower searchlight, operator console, cockpit and cabin touch-screen displays with moving map, a video management system, a digital video recorder and data downlink system, plus an external hoist and additional avionics and communications equipment.”

36 UH-72A S&S

July 28/10: Update. Eurocopter says that it has delivered 125 UH-72As so far, all of which have been on time and on budget.

June 6/10: Kwaj. The US Army deploys 4 specialized UH-72A helicopters to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll, Pacific Ocean. The Kwajalein helicopters arrived in a C-17, and are painted in high visibility orange. They’re also equipped with skid-mounted floats, integrated life rafts, and jettisonable cockpit doors. Source.

April 2010: Germany. The US military delivers 5 UH-72As to the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Germany. The JMRC helicopters will support pilot training for combat engagements, carry observers of war game scenarios performed against aggressor unit aircraft squadrons, and perform MEDEVAC duties as needed. The JMRC’s UH-72A fleet is scheduled to rise to 10 by January 2011. Eurocopter | UH-72 site.

EC645/AAS-72X concept
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April 15/10: AAS-72. EADS North America and its industry team of American Eurocopter and Lockheed Martin announce that they will independently fund and develop 3 armed scout AAS-72X helicopter variants, in order to demonstrate the design’s performance and (they hope) its low risk.

The first AAS-72X Technical Demonstration Aircraft (TDA) is scheduled to be operational in late 2010, and will be used for mission equipment and weapon system integration, performance testing and survivability validations. In addition to the 3 demonstration helicopters, Lockheed Martin has established a high-fidelity systems integration lab for the AAS-72X at its Orlando, FL facility. EADS NA.

March 11/10: #100. The 100th UH-72A delivery is celebrated at a rollout ceremony. Col. L. Neil Thurgood, the Army’s project manager of the utility helicopter office, said:

“The UH-72A Lakota program has progressed on schedule and within budget constraints… The aircraft has been well received by Army aircrews and we have maintained a remarkably high operational availability rate combined with an admirable safety record. We especially look forward to fielding even more of these capable aircraft to Army National Guard units throughout the United States.”

The 100th Lakota helicopter will be deployed to Germany with the Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center. US Army.


Jan 9/10: Update. The Alabama Army National Guard receives the initial 2 UH-72A Lakotas, of an expected 4 to base at Army Aviation Support Facility #2 in Birmingham, assigned to Detachment 1, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment. They will replace existing OH-58 Kiowa helicopters, and are the first new National Guard machines in many years. The unit is tasked with state level support for Alabama’s governor and state organizations, as well as federal level missions include aerial command, control and reconnaissance in homeland security operations.

EADS North America produces the UH-72 in Alabama. As of Jan 9/10, the firm says it has delivered 93 Lakotas to U.S. Army and Army National Guard locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, and 5 to the U.S. Navy. Future deployments of UH-72As are anticipated in the Pacific, Europe and Japan as well. EADS-NA release.

Dec 31/09: Ancillaries. An $11.7 million firm-fixed-price contract. It funds program year 5 for 624 hours of contractor field team in support of the main post helipad at the National Training Center, and adds 6 clip on B-kits that add MEDEVAC/SAR hoists to the UH-72A. Work will be performed in Arlington, Va, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16 (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Dec 3/09: +45. A $247.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for 45 UH-72A helicopters, 30 MEDEVAC equipment packages, 30 MEDEVAC B-kits, 30 Hoist B-Kits, 4 VIP mission equipment packages, 11 engine inlet barrier filters, 34 environmental control units, and 45 airborne radio communication 231s. This contract funds FY 2010 production (5th contract year), and brings the total number of Army UH-72A orders so far to 178.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of June 30/11. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194). See also EADS North America release.

45 UH-72As

Nov 16/09: Update. Aviation Week reports that UH-72A production has hit a rate that translates to 55 helicopters per year, and chronicles the Army National Guard’s transition from UH-1 medical (MEDEVAC) helicopters to UH-72As.

The District of Columbia National Guard’s 121st Medical Company (Air Ambulance) at Fort Belvoir, VA is the 1st Guard unit to receive aircraft in medevac configuration: 6 UH-72As replacing 9 UH-1H/Vs, with 2 more delivered in 2012 to the 1-224th Aviation Battalion (Security and Support), replacing 2 OH-58s. They will be joined at Fort Belvoir by 8 UH-72As in the active Army’s 12th Aviation Battalion.

The D.C. National Guard is reportedly in discussion with Martin-Baker to develop a sliding, rotating seat that would let a medic treat a stretcher patient while remaining buckled in.

Nov 12/09: Navy. EADS North America delivers the 1st of 5 H-72A training helicopters for the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD, where it will be used to train test pilots from the U.S. military and allied countries. Navy H-72A modifications include jettisonable cockpit doors, a cockpit voice and flight data recorder, a main rotor blade folding kit and an air traffic advisory system. EADS release.

Deliveries to the school were completed in January 2010. US NAVAIR.

Oct 5/09: Update. EADS North America announces a successful demonstration, during which it loaded 4 U.S. Army UH-72s and a company-owned EC145 into a U.S. Air Force C-17. The loading test confirmed that 5 UH-72As can be accommodated in the C-17’s cargo bay with minimal disassembly (including no removal of the folding rotor blades), and that the aircraft can rapidly be made mission-ready upon arrival with no maintenance test flights required. The demonstration was performed at Gulfport, MS in preparation for a future delivery of 4 U.S. Army UH-72A Lakotas to the Pacific theater for basing on the Kwajalein Atoll.

EADS says that to date, more than 85 Lakotas have been delivered on or ahead of schedule and on budget. Current plans call for up to 345 Army UH-72As to be acquired through 2016, plus 5 H-72A helicopters for the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, MD. EADS North America also is offering its Armed Scout 645 variant in response to the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter competition, if it re-opens.

FY 2009

Orders; Partnership with Lockheed Martin; EC645 armed scout unveiled; New UH-72 VP at Eurocopter; 1st Full Assembly Line UH-72A delivered. UH-72A Lakota
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Aug 11/09: Personnel. EADS North America announces that Gary M. Bishop has joined them as VP of the Armed Scout 645 program. Bishop previously led the Boeing industry team responsible for the U.S. Army’s Apache Longbow programs at Mesa, AZ, managing managed Apache Longbow remanufacture and new production programs for Block I, Block II, Extended Block II, and Wartime Replacement Aircraft. Bishop was also responsible for the Apache Block III developmental program. Before that, Bishop served as the United Kingdom Apache program manager, and the acting director for all International Apache Programs.

Bishop holds a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY; a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA; and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, RI He also is a graduate of the Program Manager’s course at the Defense Systems Management College at Ft. Belvoir, VA.

July 29/09: Testing. EADS North America today announces the results of its private UH-72A “high/hot” flight demonstrations near Alamosa, CO. Operating at a takeoff elevation of more than 7,500 feet and carrying a simulated 2,300-pound Mission Equipment Package (MEP), the helicopter successfully hovered-out-of-ground-effect at a density altitude of 6,000 feet and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This meets the requirement included in the Army’s October 2008 Sources Sought document, which reflects the mission environment in theaters like Afghanistan.

The demonstration flights were also used to validate controllability and tail rotor authority at full altitude and load, while a subsequent flight with the simulated MEP payload completed a 2:30 flight with a 35-minute fuel reserve.

May 5/09: AAS-72. EADS North America unveils their Armed Scout 645 offering (later changed to AAS-72X) for the Army’s armed aerial scout requirement, and announced that Lockheed Martin has been picked to provide the Mission Equipment Package (weapons integration, targeting, etc.). The Armed Scout 645 will be built at the same Columbus, MS facility where the Army’s UH-72A Lakota is currently produced. EADS NA.

May 4/09: LUH to ARH. At the Army Aviation Association of America 2009 convention in Nashville, TN, EADS North America announces that it has teamed with Lockheed Martin to offer an armed scout variant of its UH-72A Lakota for the US Army’ Armed Aerial Scout competition. The EC645 Armed Scout will be based on the same Eurocopter EC145 commercial airframe as the Uh-72A, and would be produced at the same Columbus, MS facility. Team Site | EADS North America release | Flight International.

Jan 21/09: +5. A $25.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 5 more UH-72A helicopters, plus 2 MEDEVAC (MEDical EVACuation) equipment packages, 2 MEDEVAC B-Kits, 2 Hoist B-Kits, and 2 “Environmental Control Units” (air conditioning, see Nov 10/07).

Work will be performed at Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of March 1/10. One bid was solicited and one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Dec 2/08: +39. A $208.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 39 UH-72 helicopters, covering Program Year 4 of the Army’s LUH contract. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS and Grand Prairie, TX with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/10 (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

44 UH-72As etc.

Oct 7/08: Industrial. EADS North America delivers its first full assembly line (FAL) UH-72 on schedule from the production facility at Columbus, MS. The production transition process from Eurocopter to the US facility involves 3 major overlapping production phases: Light Assembly Line (LAL), Full Assembly Line (FAL) and Production Line (PL).

EADS North America’s initial UH-72A from the FAL phase was the 41st Lakota delivered to the Army. The machine completed 7 of the 14 assembly production work stations in Columbus, including the installation of flight instruments, engines, tail boom and doors to systems test, flight testing and airworthiness approval. This aircraft also incorporates the first UH-72A tail boom that was entirely manufactured at the Columbus facility. EADS NA release.

FY 2008

Orders, incl. Navy contract; Program total rises to 345; UH-72A named “Lakota”; Cramped medical space; Overheated? Hoist close up
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Sept 22/08: Lakota, meet the Lakota. The Lakota tribe reportedly feels that their reputation as a peaceful people is well-matched with the UH-72’s civil rescue capabilities and domestic mission focus. A pair of UH-72As from the 5th Aviation Battalion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, are present for the Lakota Sioux’s annual sun dance in Rosebud, South Dakota, with the pilots invited to participate in the traditional ceremony that honors the tribe’s warriors and elders.

The deployment also includes a fly-past of Mount Rushmore. EADS NA release.

Tribal ceremony

Sept 15/08: +5 Navy. A $24.8 million firm/fixed/price contract for the purchase of 5 UH-72A Light Utility Helicopters for the US Navy Test Pilot School. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of June 30/16. Bids were solicited online, and 5 bids were received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194). NAVAIR release.

5 Navy UH-72As

EADS North America’s release adds that:

“Today, more than 40 aircraft are operating with Army and Army National Guard units across the country… Lakota deliveries to the Army and National Guard currently average three to four helicopters per month, with the capacity to reach five UH-72s monthly.”

April 7/08: SAR – more UH-72As. The LUH program is mentioned in the Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report to December 2007:

“Program costs increased $208.4 million (+11.1 percent) from $1,881.8 million to $2,090.2 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 23 aircraft from 322 to 345 aircraft ($139.3 million). There was an additional cost increase for modifications to address issues identified during the Initial Operational Test (+$171.1 million). These modifications included ARC-231 secure radios and cabin ventilation kits for all 345 aircraft, engine inlet (air) filters for 66 aircraft, and medical evacuation kits for 84 aircraft.”

DID note: If modifications cost $171.1 million, and additional helicopters $139.3 million, the extra helicopters cannot be “primarily” responsible for the overall increase in costs.

SAR – more UH-72s

March 27/08: Support. A firm-fixed-price contract for $7.2 million, increasing the PY03 Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) hours to ensure continued CLS coverage for the UH-72A. The action also exercises the option for PY03 Procedural Trainer Support Labor to ensure that coverage is available for maintenance of the Procedural Trainer following acceptance.

Performance locations include Fort Irwin, CA (33.3%), Fort Eustis, VA (33.3%), and Fort Polk, LA (33.3%). The estimated completion date is Dec 31/08. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Dec 14/07: +43. A $213.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for Light Utility Helicopters. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, and is expected to be complete by Sept 30/08. There was 1 bid solicited on Dec. 12/07, and 1 bid was received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

EADS North America informs DID that the order covers 43 helicopters, plus associated items like rescue hoists, MEDEVAC kits, and training.

43 UH-72As

Dec 11/07: Update. EADS North America issues a release summarizing the UH-72A program’s achievements in 2007: meeting milestones, making deliveries, good in-service rate over 90%. Their helicopter’s recent difficulties are not mentioned.

Nov 10/07: The LUH program encounters its first spot of trouble. The Associated Press reports that during flight tests in Southern California in 80-degree weather, cockpit temperatures in the UH-72A Lakota soared above 104 degrees, the designated critical point for communication, navigation and flight control systems. In response, the Army will be installing air conditioning in many UH-72s, something that’s common on the EC145 civilian helicopters it’s derived from, but rare on military machines.

The helicopter also had difficulty with the requirement that it be able to evacuate 2 critically injured patients. It can carry them, but the cabin is too cramped for medics to actually work on more than one at a time.

Testing problems

Oct 8/07: Industrial. EADS North America announces that UH-72A production reached 2 machines per month in September 2007. Both UH-72As were accepted at the newly-expanded Lakota production center in Columbus, MS. These are the 11th and 12th UH-72As received by the Army, and the 2nd and 3rd helicopters assembled in America.

FY 2007 and Earlier

“UH-145” wins; Initial deliveries: 6 MEDEVAC, 2 VIP. Dark horse no more

July 23/07: Update. EADS North America announces delivery of its 8th UH-72A Lakota to the U.S. Army ahead of schedule, completing the initial phase of orders. Unlike the 6 MEDEVAC helicopters at Ft. Irwin, these 2 UH-72As are the first configured for VIP transportation duties, and are equipped with removable seats that also enable their use in general support and airlift/logistic missions. They will be based at Ft. Eustis, VA. EADS North America will now begin delivering 34 UH-72As ordered by the contract option exercised in October 2006.

The UH-72A’s ability to hit cost projections and delivery targets may have wider implications as well. A number of representatives on Capitol Hill are seriously considering a recommendation to the military that Bell’s ARH-70A Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program be canceled, with funds redirected into integrating sensors and weapons on the UH-72 instead, and buying more of those helicopters for the ARH role.

June 19/07: 1st unit. The U.S. Army has equipped its first operational UH-72A unit – the National Training Center Air Ambulance Detachment at Ft. Irwin, California, which received its 6th Lakota helicopter less than 11 months after contract award.

The milestone followed Full Material Release (FMR) authorization from the Army’s Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM), confirming that the UH-72A and its production system are ready to support the LUH mission. According to Army program officials, FMR was granted at the initial request – a first in AMCOM history for an Army aviation system. Rotor News.

1st unit

Dec 11/06: 1st delivery. EADS North America officially handed over the first UH-72A Light Utility Helicopter during a delivery and naming ceremony in Columbus, MS. The helicopter will be named “Lakota,” after the Sioux Indian tribe, and 4 of the initial aircraft will be based in Mississippi.

EADS North America plans to deliver a second UH-72A before year-end, which will be used on missions within the United States. Another 40 UH-72As are currently in the production cycle for delivery during 2007 and 2008.

1st delivery

Nov 1/06: Ancillaries. A $170.6 million modification to a firm-fixed-price and cost-reimbursable contract for MEDEVAC B and Hoist B kits, along with student pilot and maintainer training, and a procedural training device for the Light Utility Helicopter Aircraft. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS (97%), Grand Prairie, TX (1%), and Tampa, FL (2 percent), and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2016. Bids were solicited online on July 26, 2005, and 5 bids were received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

June 30/06: UH-145 Wins! EADS breaks into the US military market, as Eurocopter’s “UH-145” (later UH-72A) beats Bell Helicopter’s 412EP, MD Helicopters’ UH-902 NOTAR, and AgustaWestland’s AW139. That victory comes with an initial order:

EADS North American Defense of Arlington, VA received a $43.1 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-level-of-effort, cost-reimbursable contract for the Light Utility Helicopter with MEDVAC B and hoist B kits, along with pilot transition and maintainer training. Work will be performed at American Eurocopter in Columbus, MS, and is expected to be complete by June 30/16. Bids were solicited July 26, 2005, and 5 bids were received by The Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-06-C-0194). For more information, call the program executive office, aviation, public affairs at (256) 842-0561.

UH-145 is LUH

Appendix A: Eurocopter – Anatomy of a Win MEDEVAC through the back

While the order is a breakthrough for Eurocopter in the military market, the firm did have US government experience to draw upon. American Eurocopter helicopters (though not necessarily the EC145) were already operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency in the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI. The EC145 itself has been deployed in a variety of roles in Europe and the USA, including medical, offshore, law enforcement and paramilitary/security uses.

While it didn’t possess the Bell 412 twin-Huey’s backward compatibility, or MDHI’s patented NOTAR system, the EC145 offered a pair of benefits that matter in combat-related situations.

One is a high-set main and tail rotor design that allows safe loading and unloading through the main side doors and rear-fuselage clamshell doors, even while the rotors are turning. That “back door” capability has a number of uses in a military context, including MEDEVAC, fast exits, and more. Only the MD-902 Explorer NOTAR matched this capability, and it did not use the EC145’s convenient clamshell arrangement.

EC145 Interior View

The second benefit is lowered noise signature. A helicopter’s external noise levels matter, as this Christian Science Monitor article about the American experiences in Afghanistan notes. Quieter helicopters are better equipped to avoid detection and targeting, and preserve the element of surprise, especially under circumstances like night missions. The EC145’s noise emissions have been a focus due to tightening civilian regulations, resulting in a profile 6.7 dB below the ICAO standards. Again, the only competitor who could match this was the MD-902, whose NOTAR design reportedly made it slightly superior.

On which topic, MD Helicopters’ acting CEO and founder and principal of the $5 billion investment firm Patriarch Partners, LLC (which owns MDHI) blasted the decision in no uncertain terms:

“Ms. Tilton said MDHI is a classic American turnaround story and did not receive the same level of consideration as its competitors. “The process was seriously flawed and perfunctory, at best. Had the military taken the time and expended the energy to conduct serious diligence and come out and kick the tires, the conclusion would have been inescapable. The simple reality is that there was no attention to substantive matters. No rational investor would commit capital absent a recent on-site review. There is absolutely no question in my mind that the MDHI bid offered by best overall product and value.”

MDHI’s NOTAR explained
(click to view full)

This may be so, but evaluations are not made public, so it’s hard to gauge such statements. It is likely that MDHI’s reorganization gave it a lower supplier stability rating than Eurocopter’s, which owns a leading share in the global civilian helicopter market. The US military has also traditionally been lukewarm at best regarding MDHI’s NOTAR (No TAil Rotor) technology, which hasn’t seen a more aggressive country adopt the design and prove it in combat.

In contrast, American Eurocopter had a strong political lobby behind it, including Sen. Trent Lott [R-MS, now retired], and may have benefited directly or indirectly from the post-Katrina focus on the state of Mississippi and the funneling of aid to that region. The winning release is even more full of politicians’ quotes than usual, a testament to the lobbying effort’s depth. Eurocopter added to that depth by fielding a very strong bid team including American military helicopter leader Sikorsky as its contractor logistics support partner, plus Westwind Technologies for special purpose helicopter systems integration and modification, and CAE USA to provide simulators. In contrast, Bell Textron largely relied on its own clout and services, AgustaWestland recruited L-3 as its key US partner, and MD Helicopters assembled an innovative team that included Dyncorp. None had the combination of political and industrial backing that Eurocopter displayed.

Additional Readings & Sources

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

News & Views

Categories: News

The USA’s NGJ Strike Jammers: Raytheon’s Mid-Band Win

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 00:19
EA-18G Growler
(click to view full)

The US Navy owns the only operational tactical jamming fighters in the world, but the AN/ALQ-99 pods they depend on use analog technologies, are hard to maintain, and have reliability issues. All-digital technologies and modern transmit/receive electronics offer huge leaps ahead in capability and availability, which is why the US military is working on a Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) replacement for the pods on its tactical strike aircraft.

The EA-18G Growler will be the NGJ’s first platform, but the flexibility of modern technologies mean that it may not be the last.

Next-Gen Jammer: The Program EA-18G systems
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The current jamming system used in the Fleet is the AN/ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System (TJS), which Northrop Grumman has modernized to the ICAP III standard. The overall system was designed in the late 1960s, and fielded with the introduction of the EA-6 Prowler in 1971.

The same pods (2 mid-band, 1 low-band) equip US Navy EA-18G Growler fighters, which began delivery to the fleet in 2008.

A 2002 Airborne Electronic Attack System of Systems Analysis of Alternatives (AEA SoS AoA) determined a compelling need to move beyond the ALQ-99’s capabilities and maintenance record. The US Navy began funding in FY 2010, and aims to develop an NGJ mid-band system for that will enter low-rate production in 2018. Fielding to the US Navy would begin in 2020. The current timeline is:

The broader aim is to develop a more cost effective AEA system with better performance against advanced threats through expanded broadband capability for greater threat coverage against a wider variety of radio frequency emitters, faster collect-analyze-jam loops, more flexibility in terms of jamming profiles that can change in flight, better precision within jamming assignments, and more interoperability.

The 1st step is to replace the mid-band ALQ-99 pods on US Navy EA-18Gs. NGJ Increment 1 would offer better mid-band jamming capabilities, where most current threats reside, at reduced operations and sustainment cost. Digital technologies offer easier upgrades, and the 1st NGJ increment also emphasizes a Modular, Open System Approach (MOSA) to the electronics, in order to lay those foundations for future improvements and deployments.

The AN/ALQ-99 low-band pod on the centerline was recently modernized, and is expected to remain in the fleet for some time, but NGJ is eventually expected to add those functions as Increment 2. Whether this will be done as a separate pod, or integrated into the existing NGJ, is undetermined. Later Increment 3 upgrades are expected to add higher band jamming capabilities, which the Navy doesn’t currently possess.

EC-130H Compass Call
(click to view full)

Future deployments may involve thinking beyond the pod. The eventual goal for the next-generation jammer involves moving beyond the EA-18, and becoming a modular set of gear that could be installed in F-35 variants, or in other aircraft. Larger planes like bombers and special mission EC-130 Hercules could certainly benefit from a modern jamming option.

So, too, could stealth fighters, who would have their cover completely blown by EA-18Gs alongside. Or by pods hanging from their wings. Configuring future NGJ options for internal carriage on stealth fighters could benefit other platforms, too, but initial estimates for F-35 integration costs were very high.

That has led the US Navy to focus on the EA-18G. With a 2020 fielding date expected, senior sources have indicated that it could take until the late 2020s for the US military to look at internal/F-35 integration again. That will leave the USMC’s 4 EA-6B squadrons without an in-service replacement as they retire, shifting the AEA mission entirely to the Navy. There has been some talk of using UAVs as an interim step, and jet-powered MALD-J loiter & jam decoys could be integrated with USMC fighters if the service believes that they needed an interim capability.

Then there’s the question of exports.

In 2012, Australia became the 1st American ally to select a tactical jamming fighter. Forthcoming orders will buy both 12 new EA-18 fighters, and a full set of their accompanying ALQ-99 pods and equipment. Australia will be interested in next-generation jamming pods for the same reliability and performance reasons that they interest the US Navy. Outside of co-development programs, however, clearance for export discussions usually isn’t available until Milestone C allows low-rate production.

If, indeed, the new pods are made available to Australia at all. They remain one of the USA’s closest allies, but new tactical jamming technology tends to be especially sensitive.

Next-Gen Jammer: Budgets Contracts & Key Events FY 2014 – 2016

GAO protest sustained, but Raytheon wins again.

November 16/15: Raytheon has announced its completion of the US Navy’s Preliminary Design Review for its Next Generation Jammer program. The NGJ is set to replace the ALQ-99 jamming pods on the EA-18G and it is hoped to have reached operational capabilities by 2021.

July 14/14: Testing. At Farnborough 2014, Raytheon officials say that they’re preparing to fly a prototype Next-Generation Jammer pod aboard a Gulfstream jet in September 2014. Sources: DefenseTech, “”.

April 23/14: TD Phase. Raytheon in El Segundo, CA receives a $12.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to provide additional funding for NGJ’s Technology Development Phase.

$10 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 RDT&E budgets. Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA (63%); Dallas, TX (21%); and Fort Wayne, IN (16%), and is expected to be complete in February 2016. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-13-C-0128).

April 1/14: GaN R&D. Raytheon announces that its efforts to replace conventional Silicon Carbide chip substrates with synthetic diamond have taken a step forward, thanks to the DARPA Thermal Management Technologies program’s Near Junction Thermal Transport project. Diamond offers 3-5x higher heat conductivity, allowing a 3x increase in transistor power density without frying the circuit. The NGJ will be using GaN circuits, and that kind of power boost would be a huge help.

Data was obtained using a 0.1 mm x 1.25 mm GaN on diamond HEMT, a device representing a unit cell for constructing Power Amplifier MMICs (Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuits) that serve as foundations for solid-state RF transmitters and AESA electronics. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon hits another major milestone with GaN”.

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.

NGJ’s estimated program total is FY14$ 6.336 billion, including $2.895 billion total for R&D and 9 initial pods, followed by $3.443 billion for 114 production NGJ mid-band pods. System development beyond the Technology Demonstration phase is expected to begin in Q2 2016.

Note that if the Navy gets 22 more EA-18Gs in Fy 2015, it will also have to order another 22 mid-band pods, and the same will be true for Increment 2 low-band and Increment 3 high-band pods as well.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The GAO protest has moved all of the NGJ’s milestones back, and the FY 2014 – 2015 period has $181.9 million cut from the R&D budget. See the article budget and timeline charts for revised details.

Jan 24/14: Raytheon, Again. The US Navy reaffirms Raytheon’s contract award after carrying out a new cost and technical analysis of all 3 original bids. NGJ technology development efforts resume, after a 6+ month delay to the entire program. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute writes that the NGJ mid-band pod and AMDR radar wins are a watershed for Raytheon:

“Coming as it does on the heels of Raytheon’s victory in another pivotal Navy competition to develop a next-generation air and missile defense radar, the jammer re-award seems to confirm that the company has ascended to the top tier of system integrators. Although Raytheon has a long history of innovation in military electronics and guided missiles, it traditionally has been regarded as a subcontractor rather than a top-level system integrator. Under Chairman & CEO William Swanson, though, Raytheon has moved up the technological food chain and is now beating companies once thought to be more capable in competitions to integrate complex systems.”

Sources: Defense Systems, “Raytheon back to work on Next Generation Jammer” | Forbes, “Raytheon Prevails Again In Jammer Contest” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-Raytheon to keep next-generation jammer contract -U.S. Navy”.

Raytheon re-confirmed

Dec 23/13: Flight Global reports that the US Navy is “taking corrective action by reevaluating proposals and performing and documenting a new cost/technical tradeoff analysis” of the various proposals. They could still find that Raytheon offered the best value, and uphold the contract. Otherwise, the Navy could either choose to terminate Raytheon’s contract and switch the award, or change the RFP in whatever way they deem necessary and ask for re-submission of bids. All of this is pretty much standard procedure. Sources: Flight Global, “US Navy reexamines electronic jamming contract following BAE protest”.

Nov 13/13: GAO decision: the GAO sustained portions of BAE’s protest (see July 18/13 entry), on the basis that:

“the Navy failed to reasonably evaluate technical risk in accordance with the terms of the solicitation, failed to adequately document its evaluation, and improperly credited the awardee with outdated experience. The protester raised various other protest allegations which were denied. GAO’s decision recommends that the Navy reevaluate proposals and properly document the evaluation record. At the conclusion of the reevaluation, GAO recommends that the Navy make a new source selection decision, and document its cost/technical tradeoff analysis with the rationale for the decision.

The GAO legal decision takes no position on the relative merits of these proposals, as assessments of merit are reserved for the agency. Rather, the decision is based on a review of the evaluation materials, the proposals, and the arguments raised by all of the parties during the course of the protest.”

This GAO decision was delayed by 2 weeks because of the government shutdown in October. A redacted version of the decision will be made available publicly after the interested parties have chimed in.

Protest sustained

FY 2013

Raytheon wins Technology Development phase. ELISRA on AEA Trends
click for video

Aug 20/13: GAO Report misses the forest for the trees. At the US Senate’s request, the Congressional Government Accountability Office auditors review the NGJ program for potential duplication with other Airborne Electronic Attack programs. The GAO’s core problem is simple: they’ve done their standard report, answering the question asked. Even as technology developments ensure that their framework doesn’t make much sense. It’s an auditor’s answer to a Chief Technology Officer’s problem.

GAO itself admits that there’s no duplication in the jammer’s primary air defense suppression (SEAD) role. Their concern involves “secondary” roles, like irregular warfare. The Navy’s counter-point is that these capabilities come at very low cost because their requirements aren’t driving the NGJ’s design.

Electronic systems have become very flexible, and those capabilities are now extending to jammers. NGJ’s possible secondary roles could involve an extremely wide range of collection or jamming tasks. In many cases, the cost of adding them is limited to software development, and in some cases no work is needed. EA-6B Prowlers were used to jam cell phone frequencies in Iraq, for instance, blocking remotely-detonated land mines while flying overwatch for Army convoys. The problem gets bigger when one considers that the mainstreaming of AESA radars is introducing very flexible base hardware for other systems. So the duplication will be coming from both directions, and is inherent to the systems themselves.

There is one small section on the importance of an open systems approach, but even that addresses physical transfer to other platforms, rather than developing new capabilities that are portable across platforms, having common libraries of threat systems and waveforms, etc. Nor is it involved in GAO’s 2 main recommendations, both of which involve more justifications and paperwork re: duplication.

There was probably a time when GAO could have written a report about computer hardware purchases, asking for studies to ensure that they avoided duplication of secondary tasks. With the benefit of 2013 hindsight, we can all see that as lunacy. First, it would have strangled the Personal Computing revolution, missing the operational issue of having flexible assets on hand to perform a growing number of needed tasks, and the managerial issue of using less expensive assets to free up more expensive ones. On the procurement side, it would have utterly missed the real procurement issues of compatibility and standards in networking and in software capability development, as well as the secondary issue of overall system security. Similar trends are at work in the Airborne Electronic Attack space, raising similar issues – but the GAO stuck to its explicit task, and missed them. GAO Report #GAO-13-642.

July 25/13: Stop-work. Raytheon CEO William Swanson, discloses that the US Navy has issued a stop-work order regarding the NGJ. He says that Raytheon is “comfortable” with their ability to retain the contract. Navy spokeswoman Captain Cate Mueller confirmed to Reuters that the Navy issued the order on July 18/13.

That’s standard procedure when a protest is filed, though there have been examples like the Afghan Light Air Support contract, where the relevant service cites a priority need and elects to keep the contract running during the protest period. The LAS case used a provision in the Competition in Contracting Act for that purpose, and it was upheld by a court. Reuters.

July 18/13: Protest. BAE Systems launches a bid protest against the US Navy’s NGJ award to Raytheon. The GAO must hand down a ruling by Oct 28/13.

Until then, the standard approach is to freeze contract spending until the protest is decided. Boeing’s EA-18G work, which needs to happen no matter who wins, has better odds of continuing. GAO Protest Docket | Lexington Institute | Reuters | DID: “How the US GAO’s Bid Protest Process Works and Why Defense Contractors Abuse It.”

July 17/13: EA-18G mods. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $17 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for phase I of the NGJ pod’s EA-18G hardware integration. $10 million is committed immediately. As noted earlier (q.v. July 10/12) the EA-18G will need a number of minor changes in order to work with the new pods.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be complete in October 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-G-0001, #2049).

July 8/13: TD Phase. Raytheon in El Segundo, CA wins the down-select, and walks away with a $279.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the Next Generation Jammer’s Technology Development phase, which will run to March 2015. The 22-month TD phase is the next step in bringing mature components together into testable subsystems that meet requirements, as well as developing a preliminary design for the new jamming pods. $50 million in Navy FY Research, Development, Test & Evaluation, Navy contract funds is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA (55.99%); Ft. Wayne, IN (13.36%); Dallas, TX (11.12%); Torrance, CA (9.94%); Clearfield, UT (2.72%), McKinney, TX (2.36%); Tucson, AZ (1.56%); Marion, VA (2.37%); Goleta, CA (0.02%); Forest, MS (0.18%); and Andover, MA (0.38%). This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals, and 3 offers were received by US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-13-C-0128). It was only 3 because Northrop Grumman and ITT Exelis teamed up at the end (q.v. Nov 1/12 entry).

Raytheon makes the EA-18G’s AN/APG-79 AESA radar, which could be recruited to become part of the jamming array, and also makes the planes’ AN/ALR-67(V)3 radar warning receivers that are integrated with its radar-killing AGM-88 HARM missiles. Even some of the jamming hardware on the ALQ-99 is Raytheon’s. Off-board, the firm’s jet-powered ADM-160 MALD-J jammer decoys will be carried on Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and could be carried on EA-18Gs if the inboard pylons weren’t needed for fuel. The TD contract will provide Raytheon will opportunities to integrate and leverage all of these components, and more.

If all goes well, flight tests on the EA-18G will take place in the follow-on Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase, which is expected to last 4 1/2 years. Low-Rate Initial Production would start in 2018 under current plans, and the Navy intends to begin fielding the new pods in 2020. US NAVAIR | Raytheon | Defense Tech | Nextgov.

Raytheon wins Technology Development phase contract

June 3/13: ITT. ITT Exelis announces the end of the 33-month NGJ Technology Maturation phase, adding that “technologies that were effectively demonstrated in a laboratory environment include advanced receiver controlled jamming, digital radio frequency memory and mid-band aperture. The Exelis team also proved the effectiveness of its power generation and control systems.”

Throughout the technology maturation phase, work was performed at Exelis facilities in Clifton, NJ, and Amityville and Bohemia, NY. See also Jan 25/12 and Dec 19/11 entries. ITT.

FY 2012

Added TM contracts for all 4 vendors; Program shifted later, removes F-35 from near-term plans; New pods will be sub-sonic; Testing & demonstrations; ITT breaks up with Boeing, adds Northrop Grumman. NGC’s NGJ
click for video

Nov 1/12: New Team. NGJ competitors Northrop Grumman Corporation and ITT Exelis announce that they are joining forces for the Next Generation Jammer Technology Development phase bid. ITT had been teamed with Boeing, but that team broke apart by mutual agreement at the end of the Technology Maturation phase (q.v. April 16/12 entry). NGC.

July 27/12: NGC. Northrop Grumman announces successful completion of the NGJ Technology Maturation phase. Their work included mission and operational analysis and trades, preliminary design of the pod and Ram Air Turbine, many hours of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis, multiple design refinements, construction of the prototype pod, and wind tunnel verification.

Their efforts then went a step farther, and included in-flight demonstrations of their prototype pod and prime power generation (PPG) system, using a Calspan Gulfstream III business jet from Niagara Falls International Airport, NY. The flights validated the pod’s aerodynamic performance, as well as the ram air turbine’s ability generate the vast amounts of power needed to meet the Navy’s requirements. The firm says that all test objectives were successfully met, and that the demonstrated power generation performance exceeded initial estimates.

The firm adds that they received a $24.7 million contract to further advance the critical technology development elements of its Next Generation Jammer solution and mature the concept demonstrator design. If one assumes that this is a refined total for the April 30/12 contract, rather than an additional award, the firm’s announced NGJ contract total would rise to $72.7 million. NGC.

July 10/12: TD RFP. US NAVAIR releases the solicitation for NGJ’s Technology Development Phase, which aims to commit up to $288 million from FY 2013 through 2015. The TD phase will include: (1) Technology Readiness Assessments to confirm Technology Readiness Level 6 (prototype demonstration in an operational environment) status for critical Increment 1 technologies; (2) System Designs to a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) to establish the functional and allocated baselines for Increment 1; and (3) Refining technical trade space including those to improve affordability, system efficiency, and host platform compatibility.

The EA-18Gs used for testing may need some modifications, in order to make proper use of the new gear. NAVAIR acknowledges possibilities that include improved fiber networks and switches on board; plus modifications to NGC’s ALQ-218 onboard tactical jamming receiver, mission computer and stores management system, digital memory devices, mission planning software, and specialized jamming equipment including the EIBU, EAU, and Jammer Technique Library.

The US military eventually intends to buy Engineering Development Model (EDM) shipsets at an average of $23.6 million each from 2015 – 2019, and 9 Low Rate Initial Production Lot 1 shipsets at an average of $24.0 million each that will be ordered in 2018.

Tech Development RFP

May 11/12: No F-35. Flight Global talks to Captain John Green, the USN program manager for airborne electronic attack. NAVAIR moved away from their original desire for a single pod, and acknowledged that the initial EA-18G deployment will be a 2-pod solution, focused on the mid-band range where most of the threats are. The USN has a relatively new low-band jammer, whose planned upgrades can keep it relevant. Ultimately, NGJ will add high-band jamming capability, and probably low-band as well.

The technology base will involve an Active Electronically Scanned Array, as expected, and will also use new Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductor chips rather than the standard Gallium Arsenide (GaAs). Green touts “at least” a 10x performance jump for these purposes, based on “very, very good numbers” seen in tests to date.

Planned F-35 integration costs also showed very high numbers, and those costs have led the Navy to focus on the EA-18G. Green says that focus could remain until the end of the 2020s.

The other important piece of information is that the Navy has dropped supersonic carriage requirements. The performance (read: fuel and range) penalty was too great, which means the Next-Generation Jammer will probably be limited to the same Mach 0.95 as the previous ALQ-99 pods. Heavy range penalties mean that strike aircraft don’t spend a lot of time at supersonic speeds, and the Navy doesn’t have any planes that can supercruise, but the limit will still have tactical implications for strike packages with EA-18G escorts. Flight Global.

F-35 postponed, No supersonic carriage for pods

April 30/12: TM extensions. The other 3 NGJ contractors receive 1-year extensions to their Next-Generation Jammer Technology Maturation contracts from US NAVAIR, following on the heels of Raytheon’s March 21/12 extension. Work will continue until April 2013, and contracts include:

$20.6 million to BAE Systems Information and Electronic Systems Integration, Inc. in Nashua, NH. Work will be performed in Nashua, NH (39%); Melbourne, FL (25%); Cincinnati, OH (14%); Lansdale, PA (14%); and Baltimore, MD (8%). BAE’s announced NGJ contract total is now $68.2 million (N00019-10-C-0070).

$20.2 million to ITT Corp. in Clifton, NJ. Work will be performed in Clifton, NJ (59%); Amityville, NY (21.8%); Bohemia, NY (11%); Irvine, CA (4.9%); and Langley, VA (3.3%). ITT’s announced NGJ contract total is now $68.4 million (N00019-10-C-0071). See also ITT release.

$20.2 million to Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems – Eastern Region in Bethpage, NY. Work will be performed in Linthicum, MD (55%) and Bethpage, NY (45%). NGC’s announced NGJ contract total is now $68.2 million (N00019-10-C-0072).

April 16/12: Breakup. ITT Exelis announces that their alliance with Boeing will end when the Technology Maturation phase does:

“This amendment was made based on recent acquisition changes and streamlining of the NGJ program. The Exelis-Boeing NGJ team has concluded that to best serve the U.S. Navy’s overall electronic attack capability objectives, Exelis will continue to focus on developing technologies critical to the NGJ program. Boeing will concentrate its efforts on integration of the jammer on the EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft.”

ITT Exelis ends up joining forces with fellow competitor Northrop Grumman for the TD Phase bid, while Boeing removes itself from contention.

March 21/12: TM extension. Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems in Goleta, CA receives a $21.3 million modification to their NGJ Technology Maturation contract (q.v. July 13/10 entry). It extends work for 1 year, to April 2013.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA (30%); Goleta, CA (25%); Dallas, TX (25%); Fort Wayne, IN (15%); and Andover, MA (5%). Raytheon’s announced NGJ contract total is now $68.8 million (N00019-10-C-0073).

Feb 13/12: Program shift. The USA’s FY 2013 budget documents include materials re: NGJ, which transitioned to a Block approach for development, and changed their Acquisition Strategy. OPNAV rephased program funding in POM 13, resulting in the following schedule changes:

  • Milestone A moved from 2nd QTR 2012 to 3rd QTR 2013
  • Technology Development (Block 1) contract award moved from 3rd QTR 2012 to 3rd QTR 2013
  • Test and Evaluation Master Plan moved from 1st QTR 2014 to 3rd QTR 2014
  • Technology Development (Block 2) was added in 2nd QTR 2015
  • Milestone B (Block 1) moved from 1st QTR 2015 to 3rd QTR 2015
  • EMD (Block 1) Award moved from 1st QTR 2015 to 3rd QTR 2015
  • Integrated Testing start moved from 1st QTR 2016 to 3rd QTR 2016
  • Milestone B (Block 2) added in 1st QTR 2017
  • EMD (Block 2) added in 2nd QTR 2017
  • First EDM Delivery moved from 4th QTR 2016 to 4th QTR 2017
  • Technology Development (Block 3) was added in 4th QTR 2017
  • Milestone C moved from 4th QTR 2017 to 2nd QTR 2018.

It’s still very early days, and some shifts are to be expected at this point.

Jan 25/12: ITT. The ITT Exelis/ Boeing team touts successful testing of critical NGJ array transmitter components. Tests included Digital Beam-Forming for broadband electronically steerable antenna arrays, performance of the Gallium-Nitride based Mid-Band and High-Band Power Amplifiers, and the required packaging and cooling. Just like the computer on your desk, more power = more cooling, or improved design that keeps the electronics cool in other ways. ITT Exelis.

Dec 19/11: ITT. ITT Exelis and Boeing tout successful wind tunnel testing of a full-scale pod model at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. In addition to generating figures for drag, the tests also ensure that airflow projections for the proposed ram air power turbine check out. ITT Exelis.

Dec 13/11: Raytheon. Raytheon touts successful tests of a critical power generation subsystem within their jammer design, during a series of sea and altitude level wind tunnel tests at Arnold AFB in Tullahoma, TN. The tests involved full power generation, transient load switching and effective thermal control of the unit in operationally relevant environmental conditions. Raytheon.

FY 2009 – 2011

Initial concept development & Technology Maturation contracts; BAE allies with Cobham, ITT with Boeing. EA-6B: “Magnum!”
(click to view full)

July 13/10: TM Phase 2. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD issues additional Technology Maturation contracts to all 4 firms. All use a cost-plus-fixed-fee structure, which is common for R&D. The added funds will take the initial concepts to the next stage as concept demonstrators, and also refine some of the critical technologies that the contractors are proposing to use. High-power jamming demands lots of electrical power, so power generation will be an important technical challenge. The contracts will run until April 2012:

BAE Systems Information and Electronic Systems Integration, Inc. in Nashua, NH receives $41.7 million. Work will be performed in Nashua, NH (32%); Cincinnati, OH (27%); Lansdale, PA (25%); and Melbourne, FL (16%). BAE’s release says that their bid also involves Cobham (q.v. Feb 22/10), GE Aviation (whose technology currently generates all of the F/A-18E/F’s electrical power), and the radio mavens at Harris Corporation (N00019-10-C-0070).

ITT Integrated Electronic Warfare Systems in Clifton, NJ receives $42.5 million. Work will be performed in Clifton, NJ (44%); St. Louis, MO (38%); and North Amityville, NY (18%). They’re partnered with EA-18G manufacturer Boeing (N00019-10-C-0071).

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems – Eastern Region in Bethpage, NY receives $42 million. Work will be performed in Linthicum, MD (60%); Bethpage, NY (34%); Rockledge, FL (5%); and Mojave, CA (1%). NGC’s release adds that the Technology Development phase is expected to start in 2011, but the actual date turns out to be mid-2013 (N00019-10-C-0072).

Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems in Goleta, CA receives $42 million. Work will be performed in Goleta, CA (25%); El Segundo, CA (25%); Dallas, TX (25%); Fort Wayne, IN (10%); Indianapolis, IN (7%); Torrance, CA (5%); Fairfax, VA (2%); and Anacortes, WA (1%). See also Raytheon release (N00019-10-C-0073).

Technology Maturation phase contracts

Feb 22/10: BAE. BAE Systems and Cobham form a strategic alliance on their proposal for the U.S. Navy’s NGJ. Cobham has worked with the existing ALQ-99 pods, an area where BAE didn’t have any traction. Cobham also brings about 20 years of experience in providing high-power broadband transmitter sub-systems and electronic warfare microwave electronics to the US Navy. BAE Systems.

Nov 6/09: NGC. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces that they’ve submitted their proposal for the Technology Maturation phase in the U.S. Navy’s competition to develop and field the NGJ.

Jan 16/09: TM contracts. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD issues 4 firm-fixed-price Technology Maturation contracts for Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) research, to developing innovative system-level solution concepts (as opposed to component level technologies). The 4 winners were:

BAE Systems in Nashua, NH gets $5.9 million. BAE is the mission systems integrator for the EC-130H Compass Call jamming aircraft, provides the electronic warfare suites for the F-22 and F-35, cooperates with ITT on the IDECM aircraft protection system, and also makes individual countermeasures units (N00019-09-C-0013).

ITT Corp. in Clifton, NJ gets $5.7 million. ITT makes the full AIDEWS and IDECM electronic protection suites for aircraft, ground-based jammers, and the EA-18G’s INCANS system. INCANS lets pilots use their jammers without blanking their own ability to communicate, something that’s a problem on the EA-6B (N00019-09-C-0082).

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY gets $6 million. Northrop Grumman has been involved in Electronic Attack for a while – the EA-6A Prowler was a Grumman aircraft modified by the company. NGC is responsible for the latest ICAP III variants of the ALQ-99 jamming pod on EA-6Bs and EA-18Gs, and has deep AESA radar experience (N00019-09-C-0084). NGC release.

Raytheon Co. in Goleta, CA gets $5.5 million. Raytheon already makes full aircraft self-protection systems like ACES, as well as individual self-protection electronics, and has deep AESA radar experience (N00019-09-C-0085).

Work is expected to be complete in July 2009. These contracts were solicited under an electronic Broad Agency Announcement, and 4 offers were received. See also Flight Global.

NGJ Concept development contracts

Additional Readings Next-Generation Jammer

Related Technologies

Official Reports

News & Views

Categories: News

India & Israel’s Barak-8 SAM Development Project(s)

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 00:18
Barak-8 concept
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Over a development timeline measured in decades, India’s indigenous “Akash” and “Trishul” programs for surface to air missiles have failed to inspire full confidence. Trishul was eventually canceled entirely. Akash had a a long, difficult development period, but seems to have found customer acceptance and a solid niche in the rugged terrain of the northeast. India still needed longer-range advanced SAMs to equip its navy and army, however, and decided to try to duplicate the success of the partnership model that had fielded the excellent Indo-Russian PJ-10 BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.

In February 2006, therefore, Israel and India signed a joint development agreement to create a new Barak-NG medium shipborne air defense missile, as an evolution of the Barak-1 system in service with both navies. In July 2007 the counterpart MR-SAM project began moving forward, aiming to develop a medium range SAM for use with India’s land forces. Both missiles would now be called Barak-8. In between, “India to Buy Israeli “SPYDER” Mobile Air Defense System” covered India’s move to begin buying mobile, short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems for its army, based on the Python and Derby air-to-air missiles in service with its air force and naval aircraft. These projects offer India a way forward to address its critical air defense weaknesses, and upgrade “protection of vital and strategic ground assets and area air defence.” This DID FOCUS article will cover the Barak-8 and closely related programs in India, Israel, and beyond.

The Barak, and Barak-8 Genesis: Barak-1 Barak Components
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Barak is a supersonic, vertically-launched short range air defense system, with an operational range of about 10 km/ 6 miles. That pushes it past the standard ranges of shoulder-launched options with naval counterparts, like the MBDA Mistral/SIMBAD or Saab Boofors’ RBS-70, but short of other small vertical launch options like the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow. Its closest western competitors on the international market are probably Raytheon’s horizontally-fired Amero-German RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and MBDA’s flexible Crotale VT-1/NG. Key attributes include a compact 8-cell vertical launching system that weighs just 1,700 kg, coupled with an equally compact 1,300 kg fire control system. This makes it easier to install in small ships, and to retrofit into older vessels.

Barak-1 reportedly in service with at Israel, Chile, India, Singapore, and Venezuela.

Barak launch
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India bought over $300 million worth of these missiles as a substitute for the indigenous but long-delayed Trishul (“Trident”) missile project, and Barak systems now equip India’s lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat, all 6 Project 16/16A Godavari/ Brahmaputra Class 3,850t frigates, 2 of 6 Rajput Class 4,974t destroyers, and the 3 new 6,200t Shivalik Class frigates. Current missile stocks aren’t adequate to cover that, and readiness requires regular training launches against live targets. Barak-1 missiles are also supposed to be part of upgrades to India’s 3 Delhi Class 6,200t destroyers, in order to remove the hole created by the Russian SA-N-7C ‘Gollum’ air defense missile system’s limited firing arc.

Barak-1 missiles are also supposed to be part of upgrades to India’s 3 Delhi Class 6,200t destroyers, in order to fix the SA-N-7C ‘Gollum’ air defense missile’s limited firing arc. The missile’s fast response time, effectiveness against missile threats, and compact size are considerable assets, but they are currently offset somewhat by its short range.

Next-Gen: Barak-8 Barak 8 display
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The Navy’s Barak-NG/ LR-SAM project aimed to give India’s naval defenses a much longer reach, with the intention of eventually making it India’s primary naval SAM. The project was later renamed Barak 8, and aims to deliver 60-70 km/ up to 42 mile range, thanks to a dual-pulse solid rocket motor whose second “pulse” fires as the missile approaches its target. This ensures that the missile isn’t just coasting in the final stages, giving it more than one chance at a fast, maneuvering target.

The missile’s most important feature may be its active seeker. Instead of forcing its ship or land-based radar to “paint”/illuminate its target at all times, the Barak 8 can be left alone once it is close to its target. This is an excellent approach for dealing with saturation attacks using older ship radars, which can track many targets but illuminate just a few. It’s also very useful for land-based systems, which will survive longer against enemy anti-radar missiles (ARMs) if they can turn themselves on and off to confuse enemy seekers, without worrying that they will lose all of their effectiveness.

That kind of performance vaults the Barak 8 past widespread options like the RIM-162 ESSM, or entries like VL-MICA on land. Though the Barak-8 may compete globally with those systems, a better comparison would be naval missiles like Raytheon’s SM-2 Block IIIA and MBDA’s Aster-15, or land-based options like the Patriot. The Barak 8’s active seeker would even give it a performance advantage over the SM-2, and corresponds more closely to the SM-6 currently in development.

The naval Barak-8 reportedly maintains its principle of using compact launchers and systems. Its ancillary capabilities will always depend on the radar and combat system aboard its ship.

One wild card is the Barak’s potential use in a point defense role against ballistic missiles, a role that can be played by some of its more advanced competitors on land or sea. This capability is implied in the land-based system’s name, but hasn’t been discussed publicly, or validated in publicly announced tests.

The land-based Barak 8 Air and Missile Defense (AMD) system includes several components:

  • RAFAEL supplies the Barak-8 interceptor missile, which remains vertically launched.

  • The battle management, command, control, communication and intelligence center (BMC4I) is produced by the MBT Division of IAI’s Missiles, Systems, and Space Group; it offers both stand alone operation for a single fire unit, and joint task force coordination (JTC).

  • IAI ELTA Systems Ltd. supplies the Land-Based Multi-Function Surveillance, Track & Guidance Radar (LB-MF-STAR), a rotating S-band digital Active Electronic Steering Array (AESA) Radar System that can deliver an accurate, high quality arena situation picture, and extract low radar cross section targets like stealthy cruise missiles, even in the toughest environmental conditions. The naval MF-STAR is expected to be part of Israel’s next-generation missile frigates.

In Israel, the Barak-8 is slated to equip its next-generation frigates, and may find its way to other roles. India expects to field the missiles on land and sea.

Beyond those 2 countries, export prospects beckon for a missile that may offer a value-priced naval alternative to Raytheon’s Standard-2 and MBDA’s Aster-15. According to Defense News, the Barak-8 project features funding from American military aid dollars, as well as Indian cooperation and private/governmental funding in Israel. An Israeli source, on the other hand, has told DID that the USA has no claim on the Barak-8’s intellectual property. DID has been unable to verify he exact situation; but if the USA has no IP or significant American-made components in the Barak AMD system, it would have implications for both procurement funding sources and export policy.

India’s Barak Programs The Navy: LR-SAM Engagement profile
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India has 2 different programs that could use the new longer-range Barak missile. The naval Barak-NG, or LR-SAM deal, was the first. Signed in 2006, it’s worth INR 26.06 billion (about $591 million at then-conversion) as of December 2009.

India’s Navy has decided as a matter of policy that it will only mount medium-long range surface-to-air missile systems on future warships, as opposed to depending on short range systems that might protect a ship, but don’t offer layered defense for the rest of the fleet. This was an early sign of its transition to a more of a “blue water” navy that can reach into high-threat areas, and a logical complement to India’s establishment of a serious carrier force beginning with INS Vikramaditya (ex Admiral Gorshkov).

Hence the 2006 Barak-NG naval agreement, which gives India an upgraded version of a familiar system, extends India’s technological capabilities, fosters economic ties and integration at sub-component levels, and helps the Israelis build a new system that meets some of their own emerging requirements. The new system would reportedly have a range of 50-60 km.

Making that happen required some loosening of bureaucratic constraints on India’s defense industry. Based on projections of need and the high cost of air defense systems, India’s Ministry of Defence began initiatives under which Indian state-owned agencies can forge joint co-development and co-production ventures with foreign companies. The rationale is that under these partnerships, much of the underlying technology will remain in India. Israel has risen to become one of India’s largest defense industry partners, and may be on its way to surpassing Russia as India’s largest partner.

That rise, India’s previous positive experiences with Barak, and the opportunity to help develop new technologies instead of buying them, all led India toward Israel for its next-generation naval SAM partnership.

Israel Aerospace Industries will be the key partner, and will contribute most of the applicable technology, just as Russia did for the BrahMos by offering its SS-N-26 Oniks missile as the base platform. 2011 Barak-8 materials show Indian firms contributing the dual-pulse rocket motor, associated motor arming/safing mechanisms, and the pneumatic actuation system. On the other hand, India Defence reports that IAI and its Israeli partners have agreed to transfer all relevant technologies and manufacturing capabilities to India.

The LR-SAM project is now slated for completion by December 2015, which would be about a decade from its 2005 project approval to fielding. Israel will be ahead of that schedule, as they began steps to field Barak-8 in their navy in mid-2013.

Land-Based: MR-SAM SA-3
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The Barak-8’s follow-on project involves a land-based system, intended to replace old Russian systems. Most reports place MR-SAM’s desired capabilities at 70 km/ 42 mile range effective range, with 360 degree coverage, plus the ability to engage multiple targets simultaneously. As The Times of India put it, in 2007:

“The project is crucial because, as highlighted by TOI earlier, there are still “many gaping holes” in India’s radar network and the armed forces only have near-obsolete air defence units like Russian Pechora [DID: upgraded SA-3], OSA-AK [DID: SA-8B, scheduled for interim upgrades], and Igla [DID: SA-16 shoulder-fired] missile systems.

Sources peg the MR-SAM project as an extension of the ongoing DRDO-Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) project, launched in January 2006 at a cost of $480 million, to develop a supersonic 60-km Barak-NG (new-generation) missile defence system for Navy.”

India Defence and the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz also reported that MR-SAM would be an extension of work done on the Barak-NG deal, and this seems to be the general consensus.

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The DRDO Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will be the ‘prime developer’ for the MR-SAM project, which will reportedly have a Rs 2,300 crore (INR 23 billion, about $445 million at signing in 2009) indigenous component within an estimated Rs 10,075 crore (INR 100.75 billion, about $1.95 billion at signing) total. The 4-5 year project aims to provide India’s military with 9 advanced air defense squadrons, each with 2 MR-SAM firing units. Each MR-SAM unit, in turn, would consist of a command and control center, an acquisition radar, a guidance radar, and 3 launchers with 8 missiles each.

MR-SAM’s total would therefore be 10 C2 centers, 18 acquisition radars, 18 guidance radars, and 54 launchers, armed with 432 ready-to-fire missiles. Some reports have placed total missile orders as high as 2,000, which would add a significant reserve stockpile to replenish missiles in any conflict.

Indian sources estimated a 4-year, $300 million System Design & Development phase to develop unique system elements, and produce an initial tranche of the land-based missiles. As of its approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security in July 2007, MR-SAM surpassed the BrahMos project in size, and may be the largest joint defense development project ever undertaken between India and any other country.

The MR-SAM project reportedly has a “probable date of completion” by August 2016, which would be around 7 years from its 2009 approval.

Contracts & Key Events 2014 – 2015

In service in Israel; DRDO challenges; Successful intercept test. Empty
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November 16/15: India’s Barak-8 will be test-fired between now and the end of the year after it was announced that preparations are being made on board the INS Kolkata for the test which the Navy hope to have installed on all future warships and retrofitted on its current Kolkata class destroyers.

Mar 2/15: Indian interest renewed for MRSAM. Defense News reports that an Indian Defence Ministry official confirmed that the medium-range (MRSAM) variant is a go for joint development with Israel, with an initial expected order of $1.5 billion. Rafale and IAI would work with Indian firms Bharat Dynamics Tata Power SED and Larsen & Toubro.

Nov 10/14: Testing. A successful test of the Barak-8 “Air & Missile Defense System” acquires an incoming target drone using the system’s radar, fired the missile to an interception zone, and had the missile successfully acquire and kill the target using its own seeker. Indian officials were there, including DRDO chief Dr. Avinash Chander, and Israeli and Indian releases both pronounced their satisfaction with all aspects of test performance.

The Israelis already have the missile deployed, so they’re happy. What the releases didn’t say, is whether DRDO’s rocket booster was used in the test (Aug 14/14). It’s likely that they did, and the next step is warship trials for India. DRDO hopes to begin deliveries by the end of 2015. Sources: IAI, “IAI Successfully Tested the Barak-8 Air & Missile Defense System” | India MoD, “Successful Flight Testing of LR SAM Missile”.

Aug 14/14: INS Kolkata. Media reports indicate that India’s new 7,500t air defense destroyer INS Kolkata, which is set to be commissioned on Aug 16/14, will be armed with Barak-1 missiles until the Barak-8s arrive. The article doesn’t explain whether the vertical launchers are compatible, or whether the Barak-1 has been integrated yet with the IAI Elta MF-STAR active array radar that equips the new destroyer class. With respect to the Barak-8s:

“The missile is ready, but [DRDO’s] boosters to propel the missile [upon launch]… have failed.”

Hence the importance of the forthcoming tests, if DRDO can get its rocket boosters to Israel (q.v. Aug 11/14). Meanwhile, India is likely to have 3 Kolkata Class destroyers ready to go by the time they’re done testing the Indian LR-SAM. They’ll need to do something in the interim. Sources: oneindia News, “INS Kolkata, the Biggest Naval Destroyer, is the weakest link in Defence”.

Aug 11/14: Force majeure. India’s Business Standard explains how the recent battles in the Gaza Strip are affecting the LR-SAM program, which was already 2 years late:

“The DRDO confirms that the rockets, filled with highly combustible propellant, were despatched [sic] on a commercial airline, Korean Air, for trials in Israel. After the rocket motors reached Seoul – Korean Air’s global hub, from where they were to be routed onwards to Tel Aviv – the launch of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza on July 8 caused Korean Air to cancel all flights to Tel Aviv…. Consequently, a crucial and secret sub-system of the world’s most advanced anti-missile defence system has been languishing in a Korean Air warehouse in Seoul.”

Actually, the cancellation came on July 20/14, after Hamas rockets struck near the airport. Note that Iron Dome is programmed to ignore rockets that don’t threaten its priority areas, and many airlines have already reassessed the situation and resumed flights. Korean Air, on the other hand, won’t begin flights to Tel Aviv again until Aug 28/14. India’s DRDO is “monitoring the situation,” and could choose to request help from India’s Air Force, whose IL-76 heavy jet transports could pick up and deliver the missiles.

Once the Premier Explosives Ltd. rocket motors are delivered, they will be integrated with the IAI-built front section, and then undergo full homing trials at an Israeli range. After that, warship trials will begin, and DRDO hopes to begin deliveries by the end of 2015. By then, 3 new Project 15A Kolkata Class destroyers, and the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, will all be waiting to receive their primary air defense weapons. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “Indian missiles languish in South Korea due to Gaza conflict” | Israel’s Globes, “Korean Air cancels all Israel flights until August 28”.

May 13/14: Israel. A Sa’ar 5 Eilat Class corvette has already been outfitted with IAI Elta’s MF-STAR S-Band AESA radar, and Barak-8 air defense missiles. The other 2 are set to follow.

The MF-STAR, or “Adir,” has been bought by India for its new Project 15A Kolkata Class destroyers. They are also expected to employ the Barak-8. Sources: The Jerusalem Post, “The Israel Navy is quietly enhancing its capabilities for precision, long-range missiles”.

2010 – 2013

Barak-8 development & testing continues; Azerbaijan sale?; Akash missile expands Indian footprint; Indian RFI for immediate MR-SAM option. Barak-8 concept
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Dec 23/13: DAC OK. AK Antony and the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) clear the Indian Navy’s intent to buy 262 more Barak-1 missiles, in order to replenish their fast-dwindling stocks. The paper adds:

“The naval LR-SAM, approved in December 2005, is now slated for completion by December 2015. The MR-SAM project, sanctioned in February 2009, in turn, has a “probable date of completion” by August 2016.”

Read “Indian Naval Air Defenses: Another Avoidable Crisis” for full coverage.

Dec 17/13: Update. India’s Ministry of Defense provides updates regarding a number of DRDO projects, including LR-SAM. The development program’s original delivery target was May 2011, but the Probable Date of Completion is now December 2015: 4 1/2 years late, and well after it becomes fully operational in Israel. Sources: India MoD, “DRDO Projects”.

Nov 14/13: Stall. India’s LR-SAM and MR-SAM projects are stalled, even as Israel moves to deploy the Barak-8 at sea. The Barak-8 was supposed to be delivered for LR-SAM by 2012, and is supposed to go to the IAF as MR-SAM by 2017. Unfortunately, drawings for components aren’t enough to let Indian firms produce them properly, and:

“Frankly speaking, right now, not much is going on in the joint venture due to various issues between the two sides. Expecting Israel to share its technology with India is unfair. But such things should have been clarified before the joint venture was entered into,” said an official…. DRDO officials are also attributing the delay to a complicated and long procedure involving shuttling between India and Israel for various stages of development of a system etc… [DRDO] also reportedly found itself helpless on problems in propulsion system and other related issues while a significant number of parts or systems are yet to be tested following a delay in manufacturing.”

So, to sum up: contract terms that didn’t provide clear mechanisms to enable Indian production from the baseline they’re actually at, Indian DRDO bureaucracy sitting in the way of development and not delivering on key items, and manufacturing issues that have created Indian testing delays. While Israel fields the missile. DRDO Director General Avinash Chander wouldn’t comment on LR-SAM, which is already late, but he said MR-SAM remained on schedule for 2017. Sources: Times of India, “India-Israel joint venture to manufacture missiles fails to take off”.

July 31/13: Israeli installation. India may give the Barak-8 LR-SAM’s date of probable completion as 2015, but Israel intends to have the missile installed on its 3 Sa’ar 5 Eilat Class corvettes before the end of 2013.

The move is reportedly being made in response to Syria’s deployment of SS-N-26/ P-800 Yakhont supersonic anti-ship missiles, with a range of up to 180 miles. Some of the missiles reportedly survived a major Israeli strike, and Hezbollah’s leading role in the Syrian Civil War sharpens concerns about a transfer to Iran’s 21st-century Condor Legion. Incoming supersonic missiles will compress the Barak-8’s range, but its 60-70 km base range remains a large improvement over the Barak-1’s base 10-12 km. Arming the Eilat Class with the navy’s first wide-area air defense technology is a good backup move while Israel looks to determine the true state of Syria’s P-800 missiles, and if necessary, to target them for a final strike. Israel HaYom | UPI | China’s Xinhua.

Israel deploying Barak-8

March 18/13: An India MoD release offers a list of late DRDO projects, along with a voluminous list of excuses. Credit of some kind is due for not using “the dog ate our blueprints,” but every other issue one normally expects in projects of this nature can be found. LR-SAM is one of the listed projects, and its Probable Date of Completion has slipped from May 2011 to December 2015.

Dec 18/12: LR-SAM. India’s MoD offers quick year-end reviews for a number of key programs. With respect to LR-SAM, it says that:

“Control and Navigation Tests (CNT) for LRSAM, a joint development Programme between DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI), to develop an Advanced Naval Air Defence System for Indian Navy) were conducted on 16th and 18th July 2012. All Planned mission objectives were fully met in both the tests. The missiles showed good navigation and control performance. DRDO is the Prime Development Agency and IAI the design authority for supply, installation and final acceptance.”

Development was pegged at 5 years under the original 2006 LR-SAM deal, so they’re late. MR-SAM isn’t mentioned, but LR-SAM missile tests are also effectively MR-SAM missile tests.

Dec 5/12: LR-SAM MoU. Israel Aerospace Industries and India’s state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd. sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU), concerning their cooperation on future LR-SAM ship-defence system projects.

IAI already has a number of arrangements in place with Indian firms. Under this MoU, BEL will function as the Lead Integrator, ultimately taking over DRDO’s role once the missile is developed, and will produce major sub-systems. IAI will continue to act as the system’s Design Authority, and to produce sub-systems as a main sub-contractor of BEL. IAI.

Feb 26/12: Azerbaijan. Israel and Azerbaijan sign a government to government deal for a range of military equipment, including UAVs and “missile defense systems.”

The Caspian Sea’s gas and oil resources are increasing tensions in the region, and Russia’s recent hostility with Georgia has also roiled the waters. From 2008 to the present, SIRPI’s database confirms that Israel has become a significant supplier of military equipment to Azerbaijan, including artillery, UAVs, and anti-tank and anti-ship missiles. Russia and Ukraine are even more significant suppliers, transferring attack helicopters, artillery, missiles, armored vehicles – and long-range S-300 air defense missile systems.

Subsequent reports from SIRPI indicate that this $1.6 billion deal may contain up to 75 Barak-8 missiles, and an EL/M-2080 Green Pine long-range radar. That diversity of long-range systems would complicate planning for an attacker, and offers some insurance. Israel may even get more than just money from this. Depending on that Green Pine radar’s positioning, it should be able to see a long way into Iran’s airspace. Ha’aretz | News.Az.

Azeri deal?

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June 3/11: Industrial. Livefist shows an India DRDO presentation that helps break down technology responsibilities within the Barak-8. Indian firms will contribute the pneumatic actuator, dual-pulse rocket motor, and motor arming/safing technologies.

April 13/11: MR-SAM gap-filler RFI. IANS reports that India’s MoD has issued a request for information (RFI) from global and domestic missile manufacturers, asking them if they could supply the medium range air defense missile within a short time-frame to the Indian Air Force (IAF), for defense of vital installations. Submitted systems must be capable of all-weather, all-terrain, day/night operation with a 3.5 km altitude ceiling, and able to engage multiple targets that include a range of aerial enemies.

The RFI is ahead of a tender for the purchase of medium-range surface-to-air (MRSAM) missiles, and the emergency buy would reportedly be over and above the 18 MR-SAM units that India is buying from Israel in the 2009 deal. The near-term timeline would appear to disqualify the Barak-8, preventing tri-service acceptance. Obvious Air Force contenders would include India’s own Akash, and offerings from MBDA (VL-MICA), Kongsberg/Raytheon (SLAMRAAM/NASAMS, possibly Patriot PAC-3 as well), Russia (TOR-M2E, SA-20/S-300 PMU2 possible), and IAI/RAFAEL (Spyder MR-SAM variant, complementing the SR-SAM variant India has already ordered).

Akash SAM exhibit
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Aug 9/10: Defence Minister Shri AK Antony updates the status of various missile programs, in a Parliamentary reply to Shri SB Wankhede and Shri AP Shivaji. Trishul and Akash aren’t mentioned at all; the former presumably owing to its cancellation, the latter because it may no longer be a development program. LR-SAM’s ballistic flight trials was undertaken in May 2010. MR-SAM’s preliminary design has been carried out, along with “pre-tender briefing to all prospective vendors.”

Feb 2/10: Akash up, opportunity down. India increases its Akash SAM buy to 1,000, and will deploy them in the rugged terrain of the northeast as SA-3 replacements. The INR 42.79 billion (about $925 million) contract will buy 6 squadrons of Akash medium-range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) from state-run Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL). This 750 missile order follows an INR 12.21 billion (about $250 million) order for 2 initial squadrons with 250 missiles total, back in January 2009.

Delivery under this order is expected between 2012-2015, stabilizing Akash as a shorter-range complement to the MR-SAM and affirming the IAF’s confidence. That confidence doesn’t endanger the MR-SAM project, but it removes the expansion possibilities that would have been created by full cancellation, or a limited 2-squadron Akash program. The Hindu | Indian Express | Times of India | Times Now | Bloomberg | India’s Business Times.

2006 – 2009

LR-SAM and MR-SAM deals signed; Budgets; Competition by the back door? VL-MICA test
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Dec 14/09: Confirmed. Defence Minister Shri AK Antony offers a program update, in a written Parliamentary reply to Shri Asaduddin Owaisi:

“Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO) has undertaken joint development of missiles, Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LRSAM) for Indian navy and Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) for Indian Air Force with M/s Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), Israel. The cost of project for LRSAM is Rs. 2606.02 crore and cost of project for MRSAM is Rs. 10075 crore. Both the missiles being developed are comparable in performance and cost to missiles available in their class in the world market.”

Given conversion rates at contract time, that means $1.95 billion for MR-SAM, and $560.8 million for LR-SAM.

Indian deals & budgets

Nov 9/09: MR-SAM. Reports surface again that Israel and India have signed a deal for the Barak-8 missile system, which appears to be the Army’s MR-SAM project. Indian reports quote an Israel official, who says that India signed a $1.1 billion contract in April 2009, with delivery expected by 2017.

Islamabad’s The Daily Mail claim that the deal is $1.4 billion, and involves 2,000 Barak-8 missiles for land and naval forces. India has significant industrial offset laws, and The Daily Mail reports that IAI will make offsetting purchases from Tata equal to 33% of the contract. These would almost certainly include Tata trucks for the land-based Barak-8 AMD, as well as purchases and partnerships involving Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. (TASL), whose collaboration may also include the development, licensed manufacture, or operation of UAVs, radars, electronic warfare systems and homeland security systems.

See also March 26/09 entry. Reuters | domain-b | PressTV | The Daily Mail, Pakistan.

Nov 8/09: Outlook India, from Jerusalem:

“As India and Israel move to deepen their military ties, Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor arrived here on a key visit where he is scheduled to hold talks with top military officials.

General Kapoor will hold discussions with senior defence officials as ‘part of regular ongoing exchanges’ to tighten bilateral defence ties. The three-day visit will also allay fears that the CBI enquiry into controversial [original naval Barak-1] missile deal may disrupt the robust defence ties between the two countries.”

See also: UPI report.

June 10/09: MR-SAM contract? Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announces that it has recently signed a contract to “develop and supply the land-based Barak 8 Air and Missile Defense (AMD) System to a foreign customer.” The customer is not named. See also March 26/09 entry.

May 12/09: Barak-8. Israel Aerospace Industries unveils a full-scale mockup of the Barak 8 surface to air missile (SAM) for the first time at Singapore’s IMDEX 2009 maritime defense show. Barak 8 is co-developed for use by India, and also destined to equip Israel’s next missile frigates. It appears to be an active-homing missile, too, an ability that current American SM-2 missiles lack, but which the SM-6 under development will have. Aviation Week Ares:

“Key features of the 70 km-range Barak 8 missile are an active radar seeker and a dual-pulse solid rocket motor. The first motor pulse propels the weapon through most of its trajectory while the second fires as the missile approaches its target, giving it the energy necessary to defeat evasive action or random weaving. The active seeker means that the missile is autonomous in the endgame, leaving the ship’s radar free to track [DID: illuminate, actually – many passive radars can track hundreds of targets, but illuminate just a couple at a time for targeting] other targets. The missile launcher comprises an eight-round module, three or more of which could make up a typical system.”

Barak-8: early details

March 30/09: MR-SAM corruption? An Indian media story carried by DNA alleges that a senior Indian Air Force officer was instrumental in reducing India’s buy of the DRDO’s long Akash missile project from 8 squadrons to 2, and is now doing work related to MR-SAM for Israeli firms following his retirement from service:

“Without naming the officer, Defence Research & Development Organisation chief M Natarajan told a press conference in Bangalore during the Aero India show last month that the officer had slashed his predecessor’s commitment to induct eight squadrons of Akash missiles. The officer had brought the figure down to just two squadrons. Akash has a range of 27km, while MRSAM has a range of about 70km.

A source in the defence ministry confirmed that even for the induction of these two Akash squadrons, the IAF put a condition that the DRDO must first agree to the MRSAM project… “[He] killed Akash, blackmailed us to agree to MRSAM, and is now working for them openly.”

These arrangements could reflect corruption, as they did in the USAF’s Darleen Druyun/ Boeing scandal. Or, they could reflect a bureaucratic strong-arm tactic, executed by a customer that saw a large difference in key performance statistics, and accepted the inevitability of some Akash buys but sought to minimize them.

March 26/09: MR-SAM. Adnkronos International relays an Asian Age report that India has reached a $1.9 billion equivalent deal to develop MR-SAM. India’s Ministry of Defence has not confirmed the deal, but

“…sources in the department of defence research and development (DRDO) said it was likely to go ahead. The joint development of the 70-kilometre MR-SAM missile project would be carried out by India’s DRDO and the Israeli Aircraft Industries [sic].”

Subsequent reports lend considerable credence to the belief that MR-SAM was signed at this time, though the exact amounts vary. A December 2009 Parliamentary answer adds some clarity, and places the overall effort at INR 100.75 billion (about $1.95 billion), but contracts to Israeli companies within that effort probably aren’t the full budgeted amount. Reports also cite up to 2,000 missiles ordered, and offsetting purchases from Tata equal to 33% of the contract. These offsets would almost certainly include Tata trucks for the land-based Barak-8 AMD system, as well as purchases and partnerships involving Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. (TASL), whose collaboration may also include the development, licensed manufacture, or operation of UAVs, radars, electronic warfare systems and homeland security systems.

See also Nov 9/09, June 10/09 entries.

MR-SAM Deal (probable)

Feb 24/09: MR-SAM. A domain-b article quotes senior DRDO scientist Dr Prahlad, re: the MR-SAM project:

“We may take around 12 years but the requirement of the services is that they want it (MR-SAM) fast. The only way to make it four to five years is to partner with a country which has already developed some of the hardware. If they have got some hardware and we have got some knowledge, we can do it in 4-5 years…” Dr Prahalad added that [DRDO’s Akash] did not fit the bill for the MR-SAM project as its range was only 30 km, while the services had posited teh [sic] requirement for a missile system with a range of 70 km.”

Feb 10/09: Politics. Top Left Front leaders, Prakash Karat (General Secretary, Communist Party of India – Marxist) and A B Bardhan (General Secretary, Communist Party of India) send a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Opposing the MR-SAM contract to Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), asking the government not to “subvert” india’s indigenous missile effort, which it characterizes as “superior.” The letter also cites the bribery allegations against IAI (see Oct 13/08 entry). Press Trust of India.

Jan 20/09: SR-SAM – Revenge of DRDO? India Defence reports that neither MBDA nor India’s state-run DRDO have given up on their “SR-SAM” short range air defense proposal. Rumors peg it as a combination of DRDO’s Trishul and MBDA’s VL-MICA system, though Trishul’s failure and VL-MICA’s technologies mean that claims regarding Trishul technology are likely to be about saving face as much as anything else.

The “Maitri” LLQRM proposal’s positioning would be directly competitive with RAFAEL’s SPYDER, and VL-MICA is deployable as a mobile system. That could affect SPYDER’s future expansion within the Indian military, and might even affect its prospects if program problems crop up. MICA’s capabilities mean that SR-SAM/Maitri would also be directly competitive with India’s indigenous Akash, and might even impinge on the proposed medium range MR-SAM deal.

Nov 9/08: MR-SAM Cleared. An India Times article clarifies, noting that the current UPA government has cleared the MR-SAM development project to go ahead, despite the political/legal storm around the navy’s original Barak missile deal.

Oct 13/08: Investigation. Reports from India indicate that the government has effectively downgraded IAI and RAFAEL’s status as vendors, suspending additional Barak missile purchases, and adding additional high-level approval steps for any new or existing deal involving either company. The moves are a response to ongoing CBI investigations, involving allegations that bribery was used to secure the original Barak ship defense missile deal in 1999-2000. Read “India Downgrades Vendor Status of IAI and RAFAEL” for more.

Aug 22/07: In a written Parliamentary response, Defence Minister Shri AK Antony offers a program update:

“The government has not decided on a joint venture with Israel for the production of missiles. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has earlier entered into a contract with M/s. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israel to jointly develop a Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LRSAM) system for the Indian and Israeli Navy in January 2006.”

July 13/07: MR-SAM. The MR-SAM project may be about to take the naval Barak-NG deal to a new level. If reports are correct, this Rs 10,000 crore (almost $2.5 billion) deal would see a longer range version of the Barak enter service as India’s medium-range land-based surface-air-missile system. Ha’aretz | Indian Express | The Times of India.

Jan 3/07: LR-SAM value. A report from the Israeli government places the Barak naval deal at $450 million.

Feb 2/06: LR-SAM. Reports surface that India and Israel have finalized their biggest defense development agreement: The state-owned Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) in Hyderabad, and Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) reportedly signed a pact on Jan 27/06 for the joint development and production of a long-range version of the Barak (Heb. “Lightning”) air defense system.

A senior scientist of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) reportedly said that the 50/50 shared program had an estimated cost of about $350 million over the next 5 years, but a December 2009 Parliamentary answer costed India’s contribution effort at INR 20.06 billion (about $591 million). The agreement does say that additional funding will be infused by both parties as needed.

Under this agreement, the DRDO and IAI will develop 6 long-range Barak systems for India’s new Russian warships There are also reports that Barak and the Barak-8 missiles will be used as phased replacements for the aging Russian OSA-M and Volna RZ-31 missiles still in operation with the Navy. Indian Navy personnel reportedly pointed to the inherent advantage of the Barak family’s digital systems over the analog computers that guide the Russian missiles.

Procurement by Israel’s navy could follow, and India’s Army and Air Force also have projected requirements for medium-long range air defense systems. Express India | The Tribune of India | Defense News.

LR-SAM Development

Additional Readings & Sources Background: Barak Missile Family

Background: Related Equipment

  • DID – Indian Naval Air Defenses: Another Avoidable Crisis. Involves political issues and stalls that have driven India’s Barak-1 missile inventory to dangerously low levels, in the wake of unproven allegations of kickbacks in 2001. LR-SAM and MR-SAM were actively protected from any fallout, and the case was eventually dropped.

  • IAI Elta – ELM-2248 MF-STAR: MULTI-FUNCTION Surveillance and Threat Alert Radar. Accompanies the Barak-1 on some Indian ships, and likely upgrade/ new fit for Israeli ships. Up to 4 fixed active array S-band tiles, with each tile containing 16 GaN T/R modules, and multiple digital beamforming capability. A typical 3×3 m array weighs approximately 1,500 kg, and total weight below decks is about 900 kg for onboard equipment in 2 processing and 4 power supply cabinets. Liquid cooling is used.

  • Defense Update – EL/M-2248 MF-STAR Naval Multi-Mission Radar

  • Wikipedia – SA-3. The S-125 Pechora used by India is a variant. See also this DID Spotlight article, which explains how a Serbian SA-3 battery survived NATO’s aerial attacks and shot down an F-117 stealth fighter in 1999.

  • – SA-8 GECKO / 9K33 Osa. Short-range system, used by India. Will be replaced by Israel’s SPYDER system.

  • Bharat-Rakshak – Trishul SAM. Short-range naval and land SAM. Was eventually canceled, by which time the Barak-1 was in place as a substitute, and performing above Trishul’s potential.

  • GlobalSecurity – Trishul (Trident) air-defense missile. Clips a lot from Indian press releases, take with a grain of salt. Does describe some of the program’s difficulties, but only goes to about 2003.

News & Views

Categories: News

Light Air Transports for Ghana

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 00:20
C295, delivered
(click to view full)

In September 2009, a US DSCA request for 4 C-27J aircraft plus ancillaries and support, at a price of up to $680 million, sparked considerable controversy in Ghana. As we noted at the time, a DSCA request is not a contract. It’s a legal notice under American export laws, and if Congress does not block the sale within 30 days, negotiations may begin.

Ghana is a West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea. Its parliament was chosen to host President Obama’s 2009 Africa speech, and the DSCA describes the country and the sale as “…a U.S. Government partner which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and democracy in Africa.” As of 2011, however, Ghana is not listed or cited among the C-27J’s buyers or operators. On the other hand, it has become a confirmed buyer of Airbus Military’s rival C-295.

Ghana Needs Transports Ghana
(click to view full)

Ghana is looking to supplement or replace its 3 aged Fokker F27 transports, whose production line closed in 1987. Note, also, that Ghana’s Air Force uses its assets in a number of quasi-civil roles as well, some of which would be well suited to the C-27J’s capabilities. The DSCA cited their need to “deploy troops to protect its borders against turmoil spreading from neighboring countries,” adding that light transports “will enhance Ghana’s ability to participate in peacekeeping operations by increasing its cargo, material, and troop transport, maritime patrol, tactical operations, and medical evacuation capabilities.”

Alenia Aeronautica’s C-27J Spartan won the USA’s Joint Cargo Aircraft competition, via a partnership with L-3 Communications Integrated Systems of Greenville, TX. L-3 was slated as the prime contractor for Ghana’s C-27J sale, hence the DSCA request, but much of the manufacturing would have taken place in Italy, with final assembly at at Cecil Commerce Center in Jacksonville, FL.

In the end, however, Ghana appears to have bought its transports from a vendor that wasn’t subject to disclosure rules.

Contracts and Key Events C-27J Spartan:
no victory here
(click to view full)

November 13/15: Ghana has acquired a third C-295 from Airbus, following delivery of the first two aircraft also referred to as the C-27J Spartan. The country received the first aircraft in November 2011, the second following in April 2012, with the country’s president John Dramani announcing in November last year that the government would acquire a third C-295.

Nov 21/11: Ghana’s 1st C295 transport arrives. The 2nd plane is scheduled for delivery by the end of Q1 2012. Airbus Military.

Aug 4/11: Airbus Military announces that:

“The Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Ghana has signed a contract with Airbus Military for the acquisition of two C295 aircraft… to be delivered from the beginning of 2012. His Excellency Minister of Defence Lt Gen. JH Smith, said the C295 will enable the Air Force to move troops and other security agencies across the country and within the West African sub-region. The aircraft will also be used for medical evacuation, paratrooping, training and humanitarian operations including assistance to organizations such as National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and the peace mission of the United Nations. The Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Ghana is a new Airbus Military customer.”

Queries to Alenia North America have confirmed that Ghana is not currently a C-27J customer. Conveniently, there is no requirement to publicly report the Ghana contract’s potential value, and no details were forthcoming from Airbus. American military export laws have been used to void the sale of C-295/C235MPA planes to Venezuela, but sales of these planes have never required full DSCA disclosure as a Foreign Military Sale request.

Sept 17-18/09: A controversy erupts in Ghana, as government spokespeople characterize the DID report as false. Unfortunately, the US DSCA is an official source, and subsequent reports from Ghana confirm the country’s interest. From Ghana’s Daily Guide: “Ayariga Exposed over Mills Jet“:

“While Mahama Ayariga, Presidential Spokesperson, and Samuel Okudzeto, a deputy Information Minister, aggressively denied the media reports about the Spartan aircraft government intends to purchase, Defence Minister Major-General (Rtd) Joseph Henry Smith, deputy Chief of Staff Alex Segbefia and Chief of Defence Staff General Peter Augustine Blay, said there were indeed efforts to purchase the planes, and that President Mills had been personally informed of developments so far.”

Ayariga’s statements were first carried by Peace FM, whose report includes an audio recording of their interview with Ayariga. Read “Ayariga: Gov’t Has Not Ordered Any Jet.”

C-27J Spartan
(click to view larger)

Sept 9/09: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announces [PDF] Ghana’s official request for 4 C-27J light tactical transports, to be delivered with 10 Rolls Royce AE-2100 engines (8 + 2 spares), 4 of BAE’s AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing Systems, 4 AN/ARC-210 VHF/UHF Multimode Integrated Communication Systems without COMSEC (COMmunications SECurity; encryption), 4 of Raytheon’s AN/APX-119 Identification Friend or Foe Digital Transponders with mode 1,2,3a, 3c; plus commercial GPS navigation, a VIP module and observation windows, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support.

The estimated cost is $680 million, but a DSCA request is not a contract. If Congress does not block the sale within 30 days, negotiations may begin. L-3 would be the prime contractor, and implementation of this proposed sale will require up to 14 U.S. government and contractor representatives to participate in bi-annual Program Management Reviews (PMR) in Ghana and the USA.

While $680 million may seem like a large sum for 4 aircraft, it’s worthwhile to recall 2 key facts. One is that this is not a contract, and the actual price in any negotiated contract can be very different. The other consideration to keep in mind is that in many cases, the training, spares, and support elements of a contract for new aircraft will be at least as important as delivery of the aircraft themselves. The base price to buy a plane off the production line is one thing. The full price to induct a new plane type, stockpile the spares needed to keep the fleet running smoothly, train military personnel to fly and maintain the aircraft, and purchase future support from a contractor is always a higher number when all is said and done. Countries or airlines that focus on the aircraft buy and skimp on the rest often end up with shiny new planes that aren’t ready to fly very often. If they’re lucky enough to avoid accidents.

If and when a contract’s amount and terms are negotiated and made public, it will provide more visibility into the components, and value, of a C-27 deal.

Categories: News

Russia Agrees to Upgrade Iran’s Mi-17s | Italy Expands Finmecannica/Fincantieri Order to $5.8B | Ultra-thin Chinese Composite Absorbs Microwaves

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 00:20

  • The USMC is hoping that foreign production orders will cover a gap in V-22 Osprey production between 2017 and 2020, with a planned multi-year buy appearing insufficient to keep the Boeing production line healthy until a newer variant is introduced. By bringing in orders from international partners, the per-unit price of future multi-year buys could be reduced by around 10%. Countries such as Japan, South Korea and Israel could be precisely the type of orders the Marines are hoping for. The latter of which could receive the aircraft as part of a US military aid package currently under negotiation.

  • The Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program could be ready for fielding by 2025, if reports by Bell and Lockheed Martin are to be believed. The V-280 Valor design – based on the technology of the V-22 Osprey – is slated for flight testing in 2017. The fuselage of the first aircraft was unveiled in September, with the team insisting that the V-280 can achieve Initial Operating Capability by 2025.

Middle East North Africa

  • Russia has reportedly signed an agreement with Iran’s Helicopter Support and Renewal Company (PANHA) to upgrade the latter’s Mi-17 helicopter maintenance and overhaul facility. Announced at the Dubai Air Show, the news comes on the heels of reports slating delivery of S-300 air defense systems to Iran in March 2016 after Vladimir Putin’s decision in April to lift a freeze on the system’s sale to the country.


  • BAE Systems is slowing Eurofighter production in order to sustain production lines out past 2018, in addition to cutting jobs on the fighter’s UK production line. The decision reflects the company’s orderbook, covering production orders which conclude in 2018 and an expected uptick in production as a result of an order for 28 Eurofighters by Kuwait, following an agreement between the Italian and Kuwaiti governments earlier this year; however a finalized deal has yet to materialize.

  • Italy has reportedly added a seventh multi-mission Offshore Patrol Vessel (Pattugliatori Polivalenti d’Altura or PPA) to its order from Finmeccanica and Fincantieri, administered through the European multinational procurement agency OCCAR. The original order in May which also included a logistics support vessel and a Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) vessel has now risen to a $5.8 billion package, with shipbuilder Fincantieri receiving two-thirds of this. The additional vessel is one of four options to the original, six-ship contract.

  • Poland has signed a contract with local firm Rosomak for heavy recovery vehicles. The $50 million deal covers delivery of 27 8×8 vehicles equipped with cranes and other equipment, intended to be used in support of Rosomak Armored Personnel Carriers and other hardware. The company teamed with Cargotec and Scania Power Polska to win the competitive tender.


  • Ghana has acquired a third C-295 from Airbus, following delivery of the first two aircraft also referred to as the C-27J Spartan. The country received the first aircraft in November 2011, the second following in April 2012, with the country’s president John Dramani announcing in November last year that the government would acquire a third C-295.

Asia Pacific

  • India has received the last of 75 Pilatus PC-7 MkII turboprop trainers for use by the Indian Air Force. The $1 billion order in May 2012 followed a spate of IAF crashes involving the HPT-32 aircraft the Swiss design replaced. The Indian Air Force requires an intermediate trainer to fill the gap between the PC-7 and the IAF’s advanced jet fighters, particularly since development of the HJT-36 Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd was halted in July.

  • Chinese developers have created a new stealth composite material capable of nullifying microwave synthetic aperture radar systems, publishing their technology in an academic journal. The new material is thought capable of absorbing a significant percentage of a radar signal’s energy, despite being only 0.4mm thick, making it capable of application to ships, vehicles and aircraft.

Today’s Video

Categories: News