Skip directly to content

Defense Industry Daily

Subscribe to Defense Industry Daily feed
Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 35 min 32 sec ago

Administration Budget to Reverse Sequestration

7 hours 31 min ago

  • The Obama Administration is reportedly about to start pushing a suggested defense appropriation 8 percent above last year’s, an increase that by itself would roughly equal Germany’s annual defense spending. Procurement accounts would see a 15 percent increase. $51 billion would be set aside for overseas mission funding, an interesting part of the budget to watch. It has become known as a sanctuary of sorts for unrelated programs that would have been cut during sequestration which will presumably have to be unwound when those missions draw down.


  • Turkey is allowing would-be conscripts to pay a fee to absolve them of military service. The $7,500 fee is put into the Defense Industry Support Fund, which finances defense hardware purchases. Some rough estimates put expected revenues at between $1.2 billion and $1.6 billion. The same fund already raises what is thought to be more than a billion dollars per year with special sin taxes, such as levies on alcohol, gambling and tobacco.

  • Korea Aerospace Industries completed its first test flight of the amphibious Surion helicopter.


  • Russia is being accused of deploying Iskander-K cruise missiles within a couple hours drive of Estonia. The U.S. has argued that this is a bright-line violation of nuclear arms control treaties and complained previously about remotely observed testing of either this missile or one very like it.

  • The U.K.’s secretary of state for defense wrote a somewhat self-congratulatory think piece that reveals the direction he’s pushing MoD culture. “So as we work towards the next Strategic Defence and Security Review we will do so neither as victims resigned to further budget cuts; nor as fanatics opposed to any reforms at all….”

  • Slovakia is warming to Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks for what is thought to be a nine-unit procurement.


  • Orbital Sciences Corporation’s shareholders approved, as expected, the merger agreement with ATK. The deal will close within weeks.

  • Another report indicates that the Navy is pushing for the new LX(R) “cost-effective amphibious ship” to be based on the LPD-17 San Antonio class design. This has been well predicted. Meanwhile, Huntington Ingalls, is already producing infographics promoting the use of its LPD-17 platform.

  • Continuing a spate of UAV-related technology acquisitions, Raytheon bought the 50-employee firm Sensintel, which will be folded into the Missile Systems business.

Today’s Video

  • Footage from Russian television comprising a show of force – an exercise of moving an Iskander-M missile launcher to the arctic (and launch at 2:30).

Categories: News

KF-X Fighter: Korea’s Future Homegrown Jet

22 hours 4 min ago
KODEF ’11 slide
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KF-X: Program & Prospects T-50 line
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

ROK Flag

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

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

Contracts & Key Events 2014-2015

K-FX C-501: no.
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JCS picks twin-engine C-103 design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 – 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 28/13: KF-X shrunk? Aviation Week reports that KAI has responded to the KF-X’s program’s stall with a smaller, single-engine “KFX-E/ C501″ design that uses the F-35-style C103 design as a base, and proposes to reuse some systems from the FA-50. Overall weight would drop from around 11 tonnes to 9.3t (an F-16 is 8.9t), removing advance provision for an internal weapon bay, and leaving 2 underbody stations unused if a centerline fuel tank is carried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2nd program delay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KF-X specs

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

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

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


2008 – 2010

Reality check scales back specs, before indecision suspends program; Indonesia signs MoU. T-129: Quid pro quo?
(click to view full)

Dec 27/10: Yo-yo. South Korea’s Yonhap News agency reports that South Korea’s military is trying to swing KF-X back to a stealth fighter program, in the wake of North Korea’s Nov. 23 shelling on Yeonpyeong Island.

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

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

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

Now: TNI-AU F-16A
(click to view full)

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

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

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

Indonesia joins the program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Readings The KF-X Program

Related Programs

Categories: News

Surion: Eurocopter’s Korean KHP/KUH Helicopter Deal

22 hours 6 min ago
KHP/Surion rollout
(click to view full)

South Korea currently owns around 700 helicopters, but more than half are considered outdated, and they need to be replaced. December 2005 marked the endgame for a South Korean competition to produce about 245 utility transport helicopters, which would be developed and produced as a semi-indigenous program. The KHP/ Surion is in the 8-tonne class, and is designed to carry 11 troops. Industrial offsets were also important, as the program is designed to boost Korea’s ability to design and build its own rotary-wing aircraft. EADS Eurocopter was chosen as the cooperating partner.

The Korean government gave its final approval of the contract in June 2006, and the project is underway. Note that while company releases place the program’s value at $6-8 billion, the program hasn’t reached that level yet. The initial contract was for KRW 1.3 trillion ($1.3 billion), and is for research and development only. That development finished in April 2013, and the main production contract is next. It will proceed in parallel with additional contracts to develop Surion specialty versions for Korea’s federal police and Marine Corps, and all of these models will be offered for export through a joint venture with Eurocopter.

The KHP (now KUH) Program

In February 2005 the Ministry of National Defense announced that would launch a multi-billion-dollar procurement project to build utility helicopters in December 2005. A total of 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) was budgeted for this Korean Helicopter Program (KHP), including research and development expenditures.

The project is aimed at producing hundreds of “Korean Utility Helicopters” (KUH) to replace the aging UH-1H Hueys currently in service. Industrial offsets are also important considerations, as the program is designed to boost indigenous industrial manufacturing capability for rotary-wing aircraft.

Making Surion
click for video

This was a cut-down project from the original effort, which aimed to create a core platform that could have utility or attack helicopter sections built onto it, creating a pair of helicopter types with significant commonality. That original effort was not necessarily an overstretch; the US Marine Corps new UH-1Y Hueys and AH-1Z attack helicopters already embody a high-commonality approach.

The KUH/attack approach does add complexity risk, however, and South Korea ended up buying the AH-64E Apache to address their attack helicopter needs. At the lower end, KAI is developing a Light Armed Helicopter, but commonality is limited to “utilizing technology acquired through KUH development.”

Program and Industrial DAPA: KUH
click for video

The KUH programme was formally launched in 2006. As of October 2007 the KHP project began to take the name “Korean Utility Helicopter,” and its July 2009 rollout saw reports that began to refer to it as the “Surion” (suri = eagle, on = perfection).

Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) is the prime contractor. As the primary partner, EADS Eurocopter will provide technical assistance, and supply the rotor mast, transmission, and autopilot subassemblies. Eurocopter has a stake of 30% in the development phase, and 20% in the production phase.

The initial contract was worth KRW 1.3 trillion ($1.3 billion at the time), and covered research and development only. By the time development finished in 2013, it had spent just KRW 1.2 billion, despite running a bit more than a year past its deadline.

Contracts for the KRW 4.1 trillion production project will be struck separately. Full scale production was expected to begin in 2012, but development wasn’t finished until April 2013.

Initial market expectations were stated as 250 helicopters, indicating a very limited market beyond South Korea’s order. Eurocopter later revised this to 300 machines, and the business plan changed again when the partnership decided that they would offer a civilian version after 2011. This was a significant move, as the design would compete with existing Eurocopter offerings like the new 7 tonne EC 175. By 2013, expectations had grown again, to 400 civil government and military machines in South Korea alone.

In the military market, South Korea’s Yonhap News agency quoted an anonymous government source in July 2009, who said that:

“Seoul also aims to win 300 overseas orders for the KUH in the next 25 years, a government official said on condition of anonymity. That is roughly 30 percent of the projected global demand for Surion-type choppers, which are larger than the UH-1 Iroquois but smaller than the UH-60 Black Hawks.”

As of April 2013, KAI is still using those figures as its export target, even though the competitive field has become more crowded. That’s a tall order if you’re up against competitors like the AW189, Bell 525, and EC175, plus slightly larger de facto competitors like the EC Puma family, Mi-17, NH90, and Sikorsky H-60 family.

KAI’s Surion KUH Surion
(click to view full)

Some initial sources indicated that their KHP project bid would be based on the Dauphin-derived EC155/ AS 565 Panther, and the diagram initially provided in local media reports appeared to bear that out. The final design bears some similarities to the EC155 and the Puma family, but many differences.

The KUH Surion is 15m long x 2m wide x 4.5m high, with a maximum takeoff weight of 8.7 tonnes. It’s powered by 2 of GE’s popular T-700 turboshaft engines, and incorporates HUMS prognostics throughout the helicopter to provide constant monitoring and advance warning of mechanical issues. Range is reportedly around 480 km.

The cockpit and frame will be armored to handle 7.62mm strikes, while the fuel tanks will be armored up to resist 12.7mm or 14.5mm rounds. More active warning and protection systems are provided by a partnership between EADS Cassidian and South Korea’s LigNex1, and include the widely used AN/AAR-60 MILDS missile warning system.

Expected personnel capacity is 2 crew plus up to 9 fully-armed soldiers. There are some online sources that give the helicopters 4 hardpoints and weapons up to wire-guided TOW missiles, but KAI’s own materials say nothing about that, and there have been no reports of weapon trials.

Contracts & Key Events 2012 – 2013

ROK certifications; Development complete; ROK orders maritime version. Surion ATH
(click to view full)

Oct 16/13: Sub-contractors. Elbit Systems announces a follow-on contract for full production of improved ANVIS/HUD 24 Helmet Mounted Displays to equip production Surion helicopters. The initial order that made them part of the project (q.v. March 25/09) was for the system development phase, which ended in March 2013. Sources: Elbit Systems: ANVIS/HUD 24T brochure [PDF] | Oct 16/13 release.

April 16/13: Surion ATH. South Korea’s DAPA procurement agency announces a KRW 800 million (about $733 million) project to develop the ROK Marine Corps’ transport and utility helicopter, which will be a Surion variant. KAI is scheduled to complete development by the end of 2015.

The helicopters will serve on the ROKS Dokdo LHD, and the ROKN also possesses LST ships whose helicopter decks may be able to accomodate the 8-ton class machines. DAPA projects that the Surions “will help double the Korean military’s independent landing operation capability,” while offering greater range than their existing UH-1 Hueys.

KAI’s release is optimistic, forecasting a potential Korean demand of up to 400 helicopters over the 20 years for the ROK’s Army, Marine Corps, Police (vid. 2011 entry), a future MEDEVAC variant, and orders/variants for South Korea’s Coast Guard, Fire Department and Korea Forest Service. They’re also holding to their original forecast of 30% share within global segment demand of over 1,000 helicopters, even though several competitors have entered this segment since the Surion began development.

If KAI’s accompanying graphic looks realistic, that’s because they photoshopped a Surion on top of a real 2010 picture, replacing the USN SH-60F Seahawk that was actually flying over ROKS Dokdo. But they didn’t strip the picture’s metadata, which is actually kind of honest. KAI.

Surion naval utility: system development

March 28-29/13: KAI announces that the KUH/ Surion has completed its development, making South Korea the 11th country in the world to develop a helicopter. The firm says that total investments from KAI, DAPA, and the ROK Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy totaled KRW 1.2 billion (around $1.1 billion). The program involved a combination of KAI, Eurocopter, and government research bodies; and included 98 local vendors, 49 foreign partners, and 28 colleges/research institutes. Overall, about 62.5% of the KUH project budget was “localized” in Korea.

The 4 prototypes successfully completed around 2,700 hours of flight tests, and checked about 7,600 test requirements. KAI.

Surion base model development complete

Feb 21/13: Testing. The Surion finishes low-temperature testing in Alaska, USA. South Korea gets plenty of its own cold weather, but you might as well go where you’re guaranteed ultra-frigid conditions. The tests involved about 50 flights. KAI.

June 2012: Certified. South Korea bestows airworthiness and military certifications on Surion. That seems like an odd thing to do before development is complete. Even if it’s necessary to allow deliveries, certification often means that subsequent fixes are the government’s responsibility. Source: KAI.

2008 – 2011

Surion rollout and 1st flight; Police version SDD; Export JV established. KUH Surion-Police
(click to view full)

2011: Police version. KAI’s English press release is unclear, but they refer to an apparent agreement with the Korea Police Agency to develop a Surion version for them. The KNPA is a national police force under the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, and they have 10 “squadrons” of SWAT teams whose tasks include counter-terrorism and hostage rescue. Source: KAI | Shephard Media.

Police version

July 13/11: Sub-contractors. EADS Cassidian announces a “multi-million euro” contract from Korean Aircraft Industries to supply 24 of its AN/AAR-60 MILDS (Missile Launch Detection System) missile warning systems, with deliveries continuing until 2013. Each system uses about 4 passive sensors, which detect the ultraviolet radiation signature of approaching missiles. Cassidian was working with Korea’s Lig Nex1 to develop the helicopter’s overall electronic countermeasures system, and delivered 36 sensors during the development phase.

MILDS is widely used on a number of helicopter and aircraft models, and EADS’ cooperation in the Surion’s design made it an almost certain choice here.

May 3/11: KAI-EC. Korean Aerospace and Eurocopter establish the KAI-EC joint stock company, based in Seoul to export the Surion helicopter. KAI.

KAI-EC export JV

June 22/10: Official maiden flight. The official maiden test flight is conducted at KAI’s facility in Sacheon, South Chungcheong. Another 3 test helicopters will be built, and test flights will continue through September 2010. This will be followed by “mass production” beginning in March 2012, and “full-scale production” beginning in June 2012. DAPA Commissioner Byun Moo-keun reiterated the program’s core rationale during his speech:

“Despite the fact that our military ranks in seven in the world in operating the number of military helicopter, we have been relying on foreign countries in importing major technologies in developing functions and maintenance… The successful development of Surion has not only led in operating the military tactics efficiently but also formed the basis in improving our own aerospace industry technology.”

See: South Korean MND.

March 10/10: Fly! The Surion has its 30-minute 1st flight at Sacheon, including taxi, hover turns, and a stationary hover at 30 feet. KAI says the flight test program will see the helicopter flying at 140 knots and 2,000 feet by April 2010, and an official ceremony of the first flight will take place in May 2010. Defense News | Shephard Group.

1st flight

(click to view full)

Nov 2/09: Sub-contractors. Elbit Systems announces that KAI has named them as one of their top 4 Elite Suppliers for the Korean Utility Helicopter (KUH) program, during the firm’s supplier symposium. Elbit supplies the helicopter’s ANVIS/HUD Helmet Mounted Displays, Vehicle Information systems (VIS) and a Data Transfer Systems (DTS). They’re also a subcontractor to KAI for systems engineering and integration of the entire KUH avionics system.

Oct 1/09: KAH delayed. The South Korean government decides to delay its proposed Korean Attack Helicopter program, which was expected to share some 60-70% commonality with the KUH/ Surion. Flight International.

July 31/09: KAI formally unveils the first KUH helicopter, at a ceremony in the southwestern city of Saechon. Attending dignitaries include South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. The new helicopter will be called the “Surion,” and the Yonhap News report says that it sources 60% of its parts from local manufacturers, including the rotor blades and its prognostic health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS). The prototype is due to fly early in 2010, and will eventually be joined by another 3 flight test aircraft. Lee Jae-hong, head of the South Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy’s machinery, aerospace and defense industry division, adds that:

“Even though it is a military helicopter, the KUH already satisfies 96% or 2,363 of the 2,460 international operational standards for civilian helicopters.”

KAI and Eurocopter also plan to pursue civilian sales beginning in 2011, in order to improve their return on investment. Yonhap | The Korea Herald | The Korea Times | Flight International | Rotorhub.

KUH rollout

March 25/09: Sub-contractors. Flight international reports that Elbit Systems has received a contract from Korea Aerospace Industries to supply “advanced helmet-mounted display systems” for the KUH program. The initial contract covers those development aircraft due to be delivered in 2009-10, but continued cooperation could lead to follow-on orders to equip the entire KUH fleet, and possibly other Korean helicopters as well.

Elbit’s ANVIS/HUD combines day and night vision goggles with key flight symbology, allowing “head up, look-out flying at all times. It has been used by the US military since the mid-1990s, and has equipped more than 5,000 helicopters belonging to 20 countries. Integrated platforms include the H-60 series, CH-53, CH-47, CH-46, V-22, AH-1, UH-1, Super Puma, Cougar, and others. Elbit’s HeliDASH system is a higher end choice.

The KUH HMD fits somewhere in the middle. Elbit personnel describe the Korean order as “…the ANVIS-HUD24 with additional capabilities which I am not at liberty to specify.”

2005 – 2007

Eurocopter wins deal; Contract approved; MoU for joint venture; Innovative fuel bladders; Defensive suite picked. Later KHP concept
(click to view larger)

Oct 18/07: Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Eurocopter sign of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create a Joint Venture (JV) Company for the worldwide sales and marketing of the Korean Utility Helicopter (KUH). It will be in operation by 2010. With a shareholding structure of 51% for KAI and 49% ownership for Eurocopter. Eurocopter role is to provide technical assistance for the development of the helicopter as well as certain sub-assemblies, the transmission, and the autopilot. About 40 Eurocopter engineers are housed at Sacheon (Korea) with KAI.

The Eurorcopter release sets expected Korean orders at about 250 KUH helicopters, while estimating KUH production at “an order of 300 helicopters.”

Oct 15/07: Sub-contractors. EADS Defence & Security announces that it will equip the KHP helicopter with its MILDS AN/AAR-60 self-protection system. Over 5,000 AN/AAR-60 units have been produced and installed aboard a wide variety of rotary wing and wide body aircraft, often as part of a multi-spectral suite of sensors; a version for fighter aircraft is under development.

This advanced, passive imaging sensor detects and tracks the ultraviolet emissions of approaching missiles. All approaches have advantages and disadvantages. As Aramada Magazine’s “Fighting an Invisible Threat” explains, ultraviolet seekers tend to be more effective at lower and slower targets, and are less vulnerable to false acquisitions such as decoys. The sensors are also smaller, lighter and require less cooling. On the flip side, they are more vulnerable to atmospheric conditions, and tend to have poorer sensitivity and resolution than other options such as infrared.

EADS DS will provide the equipment for the development phase, but from 2008 onward the sensors will be integrated by the Korean company LIGNex1 into the KHP self-protection system.

Oct 15/07: KOIS reports that a real-size model of the KHP/KUH transport helicopter will be on display at the Seoul 2007 air show that opens in Seongnam Oct 16-21/07. This will be the first time the helicopter’s form and interior design will be unveiled publicly. The development program is now code-named “Korean Utility Helicopter (KUH),” and aims to produce a prototype in 2009 and begin mass-production in 2012. KOIS adds:

“Under the 1.3-trillion-won ($1.38 billion) program, Korea aims to produce 245 advanced transport helicopters. The DAPA also expects exports of the envisioned helicopters, each priced at around 15 billion won. The 14.7-meter helicopter can carry two gunners and nine other troops, along with two pilots.”

March 1/07: Sub-contractors. GKN Aerospace announces that they have been selected by Hanwha Corporation to supply fuel bladders for the Korean Helicopter Programme (KHP). This contract, awarded by Hanwha Corporation, has a value approaching $3.5 million and is the culmination of a lengthy collaboration. Phase 1 of the contract involves completing the development activity which will be finalized this year, followed by testing and initial production during 2008. Phase 2 commences in 2009, with preparation and first assembly activities at Hanwha’s facilities in Korea.

The fuel bladders will be manufactured using a GKN developed, MIL spec material, which is far more flexible than current materials. This flexibility eases and speeds installation and greatly reduces the potential for damage to the bladder during the installation process. The material is also lighter than current products and, critically, offers a faster self-sealing capability in the event of damage during helicopter operations. GKN release.

Initial KUH Concept
(click to view full)

Oct 31/06: MEP solicitation. KAI release:

“For the Korean Helicopter Program (KHP) propelled by Republic of Korea Government, notice of solicitation for korean/foreign industries participation is hereby issued in the area of Mission Equipment Package (MEP) whose development efforts will be led by Agency for Defense Development and procurement activities will be led by Korea Aerospace Ind., Ltd. (KAI) or Nex1 Future Co., Ltd.”

Full solicitation [PDF].

June 2/06: Final approval. The Korean government gives its final approval of the KHP/KUH contract.


April 12/06: DAPA OK. South Korea’s DAPA (Defense Acquisition Program Administration) formalizes the decision to acquire 245 utility helicopters to be developed by Korea Aerospace Industries Limited in partnership with Eurocopter, and produced as from 2011 onwards. EADS release.

Dec 12/05: Korean Aeronautics Industries (KAI) announces that it has wrapped up KHP negotiations with the French-German manufacturer Eurocopter, as opposed to Bell Helicopter of the USA or the Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland. The Chosun Ibo reports that “The Defense Ministry will finalize its decision after consulting a committee on the KAI recommendations and investigating the potential for technology transfer.” The next day, EADS Eurocopter’s release confirmed a win on the 245 helicopter contract, adding:

“The 6-year KHP development phase will run from 2006 to 2011; In the following 10-year production phase, 245 helicopters are to be manufactured… The KHP helicopter is in the 8 metric ton class and is capable of carrying 2 pilots and 11 troops with an endurance of well over two hours. The helicopter is equipped with the very latest technological advances.

Eurocopter and KAI have agreed to set up a 50/50 subsidiary to market the export version of the KHP helicopter. Forecasts needs for this utility helicopter on the world market are set at 250 machines over 20 years.”

Development actually takes until April 2013.

Eurocopter wins KHP

Additional Readings & Sources

Categories: News

Asia As China tries to stand up a

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 04:21

  • As China tries to stand up a carrier group, thousands of novel technologies need to be adopted by the PLA Navy. One more checkbox ticked off is the refueling pods, eight years in the making, blatantly copied from the Russian UPAZ-1A, they’ve now been tested and approved for use. The “ski jump” tip of China’s first carrier allows for a shorter run at the expense of significantly limiting a fighter’s gross weight, making a fully armed fighter launchable only with a partial fuel tank.


  • A report indicates the Finnish Army is having difficulty keeping its NH90s in the air.


  • The Inspector General concluded that the Navy and Marines spent $220 million in IT services that they awarded with no or limited competition. The report, issued just before the weekend, indicated that those awards did properly follow FAR requirements.

  • A Californian firm will pay the U.S. back $2 million to settle charges that it inflated costs for remote control military aircraft.

  • Flight simulator and training firm CAE will pay $19.8 million to acquire Bombardier’s training services unit. The deal is expected to close by end of year.

Today’s Video

  • Boeing’s KC-46 program, an airliner converted to a tanker, got off the ground.

Categories: News

Bulgaria May Go Polish Route to MiG Modernization

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 03:00
(click to view full)

Like Poland, Bulgaria bought its MiG-29s back when it was a strategic buffer on the side of the Soviets. Which makes hardware upgrades a bit awkward today. Sending the old fighters off to Russia for refurbishment is awkward at a time when NATO is attempting to roust the impression of additional asset rotations through Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, where a dozen U.S. F-15s were lately exercising in Graf Ignatievo.

Poland, back in 2011, used their own state-owned Wojskowe Zaklady Lotnicze facility in Bydgoszcz to start processing 16 of its own MiG 29s, successfully swapping out avionics, mission computers, a NATO-compatible databus and hardened GPS. This wasn’t gold plating. They opted out of helmet-mounted displays, state-of-the-art counter measures and fitment for western weapons. The thinking was that if they could get one of their squadrons in the air until 2030, that would do.

So it makes perfect sense that Bulgaria would think about contracting with Poland’s WZL to refit.

Bulgaria, aside from the awkwardness and the very real threat of sending their hens to be repaired by the fox, understands the inherent problems in dealing with Russian service providers. It has also been a problematic client, with financing issues shorting many of its ambitious acquisition programs. While it is likely happenstance, the public nature of Bulgaria’s considering options (the minister of defense talked about it on national TV) could be a negotiating ploy to get a better deal with the Russians’ RSK MiG, whose maintenance contract runs out in September, or it could even be that Bulgaria is killing time until it can afford to have one or the other actually start work.

Categories: News

Germany: No Weapons to Saudi

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 06:25

  • Unlike other western nations, Germany’s public has been interested and concerned about Saudi Arabia’s record on suppressing minorities and women, as well as lending help to organizations affiliated with violent extremism. With four out of five Germans indicating that the country should disallow arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the Merkel administration announced they would do just that. Germany had about $400 million in arms sales to Saudi Arabia in 2013, and rumor had it a $2.5 billion Euro request for submarines.


  • A U.S. Naval Warfare College professor indicated that China’s anti-ship weapons are essentially succeeding in providing an umbrella of area denial against the world’s most powerful navies.

  • Australia sent over its first pilot to become trained (and, eventually, a trainer) on the F-35. The island nation is to receive 72 of the aircraft.

  • New Zealand is reportedly looking at replacing its aging C-130 heavy lift planes with C-17s.


  • Searching for ways to reassure allies – and show umbrage to a misbehaving Russia – the U.S. is making a show of looking to base equipment such as tanks in Eastern Europe. Heavy equipment could be in place by as early as the end of 2015.


  • The perennial process of the Pentagon asking for BRAC authority to realistically have a chance at needed base closures has begun, with Congress expected to, again, decline the request for fear of home district hand wringing. The European closures recently announced had the convenient feature of happening in districts where people cannot vote for congressional candidates. Some seem to read that those foreign closures give the Pentagon added moral authority to pursue a domestic closure analysis, but this relationship seems strained.

  • F-35 manufacturing is taking shape.

Today’s Video

  • Australia’s first F-35 trainee, Squadron Leader Andrew Jackson, will soon be due in Florida to start his studies. Below, is a Lockheed video describing the simulators and other tools available for the program.

Categories: News

Pentagon Commission: $25B/Year Savings to Be Had

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 04:07

The Pentagon’s Defense Business Bureau, an advisory group designed to give private sector expertise to senior leaders, announced its global analysis of DoD practices found potential savings of about $25 billion per year, to be squeezed mostly out of logistics, procurement, property management, HR, and healthcare, in that order.

The savings presume a capacity for the military to create ongoing and cumulative productivity increases – as does the private sector, generally. While the rather top-down analysis is likely to seem far fetched to military professionals, it does starkly compare behaviors in the private sector that differ, and that have resulted in vast, cumulative efficiencies.

When it comes to specifics, speaks generally about four areas of recommendations: renegotiating contracts; cutting the workforce; IT modernization and the catch-all business process re-engineering.

DoD contractors will be interested to see the nature of the target painted on their piece of budget pie. The DDB hopes to realize $9 to $18 billion in savings per year by saving 10-25 percent of contract spending. How they hope to do that? “More rigorous” negotiations; contract aggregation for economies of scale; a push for greater productivity in labor contracts; and the elimination of gold plating requirements.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work charged the DDB with producing the report back in October in an effort to gauge the scope of changes that would help modernize the whole of the defense enterprise.

The report doesn’t break too much ground in terms of tactics recommended, as previous reports have largely enumerated the various savings the DDB hopes the military will recognize.

Categories: News

Drug Smugglers Beating DHS at Drone War with

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 14:55

  • A Mexican drug operation appears to have operationalized cross-border drug smuggling with helicopter drones. One device – what appears to be a DJI SPreadwings S900 Multi-rotor System, which retails for $1,400 – fell into a Tijuana parking lot after being loaded with six pounds of meth. The wire services and newspapers are indicating that it was overloaded at that weight, but the S900 has an all-up weight of 15 pounds. The weakness of the system is a battery that lasts 18 minutes at hover, which may explain why the device fell short of the border. Interestingly, it appears to be a similar model to the one used in Quebec to deliver contraband tobacco into a prison yard. Among other agencies, the FAA might not appreciate the unlicensed commercial aviation activity; provided the local police officials report it. Homeland Security also has drones to theoretically interdict drugs, but that program costs $12,000 per flight hour, which is one reason why some people would like to take those toys away from them.


  • With U.S. Commerce Department commercial satellite image resolution limits being somewhat lifted starting in February, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is moving to exploit what is expected to be a flood of additional imagery resources with quicker update frequencies. The move shows a new willingness to look to commercial alternatives, which are proving very significantly cheaper than military-run satellite projects.

  • The Army will again delay the release of the formal RFP for a new service pistol to replace the M9 Beretta, which is widely regarded as insufficiently powerful, among other weaknesses. Beretta and the Army cooperated to head this effort off with an M9A3 revision. Army Times reports that Beretta suggested the RFP could be improved.

  • Submarine detection may be getting easier with new big data tools that can handle distributed sensors, but there are also evolving commercial technologies that might be able to be exploited to hide them better.

  • Some in Congress are concerned that an Air Force general may have attempted to illegally suppress information flowing to Congress regarding that service branch’s efforts to retire the A-10 – a widely derided decision. The Air Force’s long-running ambivalence regarding the A-10 was in part a product of the fact that the A-10’s primary mission has been in support of other service branches’s ground forces. That ambivalence has turned to contempt as zero-sum budget considerations – exacerbated by Sequestration – made the A-10 an obstacle to programs that the Air Force holds as more central missions.

  • Of the many differences that come with operating with V-22 Osprey’s, the sternum-shuddering noise is just one. Defense Industry Daily staff have been overflown by V-22s in training evolutions, and can report that there is quite a difference in noise profile, to say the least. As the Marines start training in Prescott, AZ, they are fielding numerous complaints. Said an airport operations technician taking phone calls, “People are saying their houses are shaking.”

  • The Littoral Combat Ship, it can be said, did not fare well in the recent weapons systems testing report. USNI gives a rundown of some of the more egregious failures so far. It is known that it has a bit of a glass jaw when it comes to things like armor and fighting, but it even had trouble successfully anchoring over seabeds of sand and shells.

Today’s Video

  • DJI, a recreational drone manufacturer, and likely the maker of the drug smuggling drone found in a Tijuana parking lot (see above), makes the S900 drone, which costs roughly $25 per flight hour versus the DHS drug interdiction drone program which has, so far cost about $12,000 per flight hour. DJI also, incidentally, makes YouTube videos with much better production values. Given the extra-recreational uses referred to above, the video is certainly ripe for spoofing.

Categories: News

Today’s Special: Turkey Subs

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 00:06
Preveze Class
(click to view larger)

In 2006, the Turkish SSM procurement agency issued a request for information (RFI) for 4 more diesel-electric submarines. That RFI became an RFP for 6 diesel-electric submarines with air-independent propulsion systems, to replace older boats like Turkey’s U209-based Preveze and Atilay classes.

DID covers the competition, and adds some quick background re: the Turkish Navy’s existing fleet, where its rival Greece stands, and contract developments regarding their new “Cerbe Class”. Turkey has a signed multi-billion Euro contract for HDW’s U214 subs… and are about to add a revolutionary new weapon.

Contracts and Key Events

The U214/1200 Cerbe class has an 80% industrial offset provision, with Golcuk Naval Shipyard retaining its position as the build location. STM will assist. Havelsan will be involved in customizing the combat system, while Milsoft delivers Link-11/22 datalinks, and state agency TUBITAK will offer an underwater telephony system and help by verifying submarine signatures. Koc Savuma Sistemleri provides a torpedo countermeasure system.

2010 – 2015

Contract goes into effect; Agreement for sub-launched anti-aircraft missile. U214 cutaway
(click to view full)

jan 23/15: Delay penalties. Delays in the 214TN program are causing Turkey to fine (German) Thyssen Krupp.

May 12/14: Weapons. The US DSCA announces Turkey’s formal export request for up to 48 MK 48 Mod 6 Advanced Technology All-Up-Round (MK-48 Mod 6AT AUR) Warshot Torpedoes, along with containers, fleet exercise sections, exercise fuel tanks, a surface recovery cage and tools, exercise hardware, maintenance facility upgrades, support and test equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, and other forms of US Government and contractor support.

Turkey will use the new torpedoes on their new U214/1200 Cerbe Class submarines, instead of Atlas Elektronik’s Seahake MOD 4. The DSCA says that Turkey is capable of integrating, employing, and maintaining the MK-48 Mod 6ATs, based on their experience to date with light MK-46 Mod 5A(S)W and MK-54s. They add that implementation of this proposed sale won’t require any more US Government or contractors, just occasional contractor engineering and technical services as needed.

The total estimated cost is up to $170 million, but negotiations will determine the exact price. The principal contractor will be Raytheon Company Integrated Defense Systems in Keyport, WA (MK-48); and Lockheed Martin Sippican in Marion, MA (CBASS). Sources: US DSCA #13-56, “Republic of Turkey – MK 48 TORPEDOES”.

DSCA request: Turkey MK-48 torpedoes (48)

May 13/13: Weapons. ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and Diehl Defence sign a cooperation agreement with Turkey’s Roketsan to develop and supply the submarine-launched IDAS (Interactive Defence and Attack System for Submarines) anti-aircraft missile. Roketsan will be responsible for the IDAS warhead, support testing of the Control Actuation System with some follow-on work share, and participation in system-level design activities. The Norwegian company Nammo is developing and producing the rocket motor.

IDAS builds on Diehl’s experience with the IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile, and is launched without a protective capsule using a torpedo canister. An autopilot and image-processing infrared seeker offer autonomous guidance and navigation, with a fiber-optic data link as an operator-controlled backup. Its presence on submarines like the U212A/ U214 makes life far more dangerous for sub-hunting helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft, who have never had to worry about counterattacks before. Diehl.

July 1/11: The July 2/09 submarine deal takes effect, and its value is published as EUR 2 billion (currently about $2.9 billion) in public statements by TKMS.

“The two-billion-euro order for six U-214 submarine material packages placed with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems by the Republic of Turkey has been activated with the receipt of the advance payment… ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems can now begin executing the order. The order will contribute to securing employment at [ThyssenKrupp’s] Howaldswerke Deutsche Werft, or HDW, in Kiel, as well as at many subcontractors in Germany and Turkey, for the next 10 years.”

Of course, that’s just the TKMS deal. Without a more detailed report, it’s not clear whether, and how much, of the Turkish work at the Golcuk Shipyard might be considered extra. Hurriyet reports that the 2 sides had been discussing loan conditions for the last 6 months, with an agreement finally coming in late June 2011. Defense News adds that the go-ahead means the end of modernization plans for Turkey’s older submarines.

June 30/11: Spin-off opportunity. A Turkish Ministry of Defense official tells Today’s Zaman that a deal with Indonesia for 2 U209 submarines is “very close.” If the expected deal between the two states is signed, Turkey’s Savunma Teknolojileri Muhendislik ve Ticaret A.S. (STM) would partner with HDW to build them in the Golcuk shipyard. As it happens, Turkey loses to HDW partners in South Korea, but there may be another competition before Turkish shipyards are done building the U214s. Read “Submarines for Indonesia” for full coverage.

March 26/11: Transparency. Turkish media shine a spotlight on the fact that the government has not revealed key facts of the U214 deal, such as the deal’s price, or the submarines’ technical features. The Bugun daily adds that Turkey’s Undersecretariat of the Treasury had initially objected to the high interest rate on financing deal payments, and concerns were also raised over hidden costs such as inflation predictions, and labor costs for construction in Turkey. Overall, these factors are estimated to add up to EUR 1 billion, pushing outside estimates of the deal to around EUR 3.5 billion.

Even at lower figures such as the EUR 2.19 billion allocated for financing, there is also criticism that Turkey ends up paying more than Greece did for U214 submarines. Given that Greece’s submarines reportedly had their cost inflated by bribes and extra add-ons, that should be a matter of some concern in Turkey. The German magazine Manager says that bribery is not unknown to the naval firm, and alleges that TKMS Marine’s HDW subsidiary has paid bribes related to submarine buys in Argentina (U209), Colombia (U209), and Portugal (U214), as well as Greece (U214). Today’s Zaman.

Jan 12/11: Financing. After long negotiations threatened to destroy the submarine deal, a major financing deal between German banks and the Turkish Treasury reportedly rescued the project on Dec 31/10. The Turkish Treasury announced that:

“For the financing of the production of [6] submarines in Turkey, an export credit agreement in the amount of 1.878 billion euros was signed between the Undersecretariat of the Treasury and bank consortium led by Bayerische Landesbank, and a commercial loan agreement in the amount of 309 million euros was signed between the Undersecretariat of the Treasury and a bank consortium led by WestLB London Branch on Dec. 31. The total amount of financing provided equals 2.187 billion euros.”

This finally begin to put a firm deal figure on Turkey’s submarine program, which had been estimated at EUR 2.5 billion but had no contract. The financing package is reportedly the last obstacle to a firm deal, and at current exchange, EUR 2.187 billion is about $2.886 billion. The submarines will still be built at the military-owned Golcuk Shipyard near Izmit, and the Turkish government is still reportedly hoping for an in service date “shortly after” 2015. In practice, however, negotiation delays usually translate into fielding delays of similar magnitude. In this case, fielding in late 2016 to early 2017 seems likeliest. Hurriyet Daily.

2006 – 2009

Turkish competition; HDW picked and contract signed. U-214 SSK
(click to view full)

Nov 18/09: Cost concerns. Hurriyet reports that previous accounts of the Turkish deal may have overstated the cost:

“…selected HDW over its French and Spanish rivals in the summer of 2008. At the time, the program’s expected cost was announced to be nearly 2.5 billion euros. After yearlong price and work-sharing negotiations… a final contract was signed in July.

No price was specified in the public announcements for the contract at the time, but Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review found out that the cost of the program was around 1.96 billion euros, which is nearly 500 million euros lower than the original price.”

July 2/09: Contract. The Turkish government signs a reported EUR 2.5 billion ($3.5 billion equivalent) contract to co-produce 6 of HDW’s U-214 class submarines, with HDW’s fuel cells for air independent propulsion. The submarines will be built at the military-owned Golcuk Shipyard near Izmit, and the expected delivery date for the first U-214TN submarines remains 2015.

According to Turk Net Haber, HDW will pre-assemble key structural and mechanical parts in Germany, as well as classified elements such as the fuel cells and propulsion system. All electronic and weapon systems, including sensors, communications, and data processing systems, will be designed and produced in Turkey. Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul has reportedly stated that Turkish industrial participation would be worth around 80% of the deal’s value.

The order lengthens HDW’s lead in air-independent propulsion systems. Once these submarines are fielded, there will then be 36 submarines with HDW fuel cell propulsion systems in operation world-wide. ThyssenKrupp release | Defense News | Turk Net Haber | Defense Aerospace | Reuters Germany [in German].

6 U214 submarines

Aug 26/08: Competition. The SSM begins contract negotiations with the HDW/MFI Business Partnership, for U-214 submarines with Air Independent Propulsion. Source.

Nov 12/07: Competition. The Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) has confirmed 3 bidders for the Future Submarine Project. DCNS in France, HDW/MFI in Germany, and Spain’s Navantia S.A.

HDW is the current incumbent in Turkey, and their most advanced submarines are the U-212A and U-214 classes. The U-212A has been ordered by Germany (5) and Italy (2), while the U-214 has been ordered by Turkey’s rival Greece (4) and by South Korea (3).

DCNS and Navantia both make Scorpene class submarines, which have been sold to India (6), Chile (2), and Malaysia (2). That partnership has split over future models, however, with Navantia developing the larger S-80 class for Spain in cooperation with BAE (4), and DCNS developing the Marlin class for export.

March 15-16/07: Competition. Turkey’s SSM holds a bidder conference for RFP purchasers.

Feb 2/07: Competition. The Turkish SSM lists the companies who bought the New Type Submarine (AIP) Project RFP. They are:

  • Armaris (France, would become DCNS)
  • Fincantieri Cantieri Navali Italiani S.p.A. (Italy)
  • HDW/MFI (Germany)
  • Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors (USA)
  • Navantia S.A. (Spain).

Lockheed and Fincantieri are almost certainly positioning themselves as subcontractors.

Dec 28/06: Competition. The SSM’s RFP announcement raised the total from 4 to 6 submarines, and adds air-independent propulsion systems as a requirement. See release with contact information… but the fee of the RFP is EUR 10,000 (currently about $13,200). Get your Euros in by January 31, 2007, by 17:00 Ankara time.

June 23/06: Competition. DID’s “Turkey Gets Responses re: Sub Program, Delays Other RFPs” covers the firms that responded to the RFI, most of whom are subcomponent manufacturers or services providers. Within the respondent group, HDW, Armaris, and Navantia all build diesel-electric submarine classes with air-independent propulsion; Kockums and Russia’s Rosoboronexport are conspicuous by their absence.

Links add details re: both the sub RFI, and accompanying competitions for a Submarine Rescue Mother Ship (Moship) and 2 Rescue and Towing Ships.

March 2006: Competition. Defense-Aerospace relayed a Turkish SSM procurement agency RFI for 4 more diesel-electric submarines:

“In this frame, Request for Information is issued to gather administrative, financial and technical information from related Companies who may be willing to participate for the project activities. The companies who are willing to reply to the RFI may request the RFI document by sending an e-mail including their company name and detailed contact address to [colcay -at- ssm -dot-]. Then, the RFI document will be sent to the related companies by e-mail. The deadline for requesting the RFI document from SSM is May 15th, 2006 by local time 17:00.”

Appendix B: The U209 Family HDW family tree
(click to view full)


  • = Type 209 boats are often followed by a number that indicates the displacement of their version. Since these numbers have tended to grow over time, they can also help observers determine submarine modernity, but they are not an absolute guide by any means.

Appendix A: Current Incumbents, and Future Possibilities Atilay Class
(click to view full)

Haze Gray notes that Turkey currently operates 6 SSK Atilay class (Type 209-1200

  • ) diesel-electric attack submarines built between 1975-1989, and will also operate a total of 8 related Preveze class (Type 209-1400*) boats when current commitments are fully built out. The second group of 4 U209-1400s was a DM 996 million contract signed in 1998 for a slightly modified design, and is sometimes referred to as the Gur class. Golcuk Naval Shipyard has worked in cooperation with HDW on many of these submarines, and will be the local co-production partners for these “new type submarines” as well.

  • ) submarines in service, and is building 4 more SSK Papanikolis class (Type 214) diesel-electric attack submarines with air-independent propulsion.

This seemed to put HDW in a favorable position for additional orders from Turkey with its U-212 improved & U-214 Class, and the final outcome bore that out.

Other contenders included firms like France’s DCNS (Agosta class, Scorpene class, newer Marlin class under development), and Spain’s Navantia Scorpene class, newer S-80 class under development). They are always serious competitors; and firms like Kockums AB (Gotland class, and Collins class with ASC) and even their Russian neighbor’s Rubin Central Maritime Design Bureau (Project 636 Improved Kilo class) had to be seen as possibilities.

Neither HDW subsidiary Kockums AB nor the Rubin Central Maritime Design Bureau requested RFIs – though either or both could have theoretically bought an RFP and responded anyway.

The first submarine of the new class is scheduled for delivery in 2015.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

After the F-35: Would-Be F/A-XX Contractors Build Capacity, Expectations

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 18:22

It may yet be a decade or two before the U.S. has an appetite for another “generation” increment for its fighters, but Boeing and Northrop Grumman are hungry now. Northrop is
touting its new design teams dedicated to generating capabilities for the Navy and Air Forces future wish lists. The little information about their initial efforts indicate that it is oddly close to Boeing’s own requirements appetizer, which sported a flying wing design and preceded Northrop’s announcement by more than a year.

The flying wing focus may be a product of these airframes being quite similar to existing development work done for stealth fighter UAV programs, which have featured the more stealthy wing designs.

After seeing how chummy the service branches became in creating a joint strike fighter, Northrop is bowing to current service desires and employing two independent teams to ensure that both the Navy and Air Force can dream big without design compromises.

Some F/A-XX work was generated back in April 2012, when the Navy asked contractors for information about F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Growler replacements – an early indication that the F-35 was not going to be all things to all services.

One interesting feature, at least in Boeing’s theoretical offering, is that the fighter can be flown by wire – still a politically charged feature in several ways. Pilots have been skeptical of unmanned fighters, such as the UCAS-D/N-UCAS/UCLASS program. The subsequent UCLASS project has been watered down by the Navy, with its role limited to surveillance type activities it is thought in order to preserve the more kinetic jobs for manned aircraft like the F/A-XX.

Categories: News

U.S. Military Environmental Liabilities Tempered by Lax Policies of Yore

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 07:38

  • Military bases are often home to environmental disasters, and mitigation costs are significant enough today that it exerts a real and behavior-changing influence on the U.S. military. But the liabilities are not considered “strict liabilities” as federal Superfund sites are, which means generally that the military can be held liable only if it failed to abide by requirements of the day. Such was the case when a federal judge dismissed a case against the Army regarding Fort Detrick TCE pollution.


  • The Pentagon’s director of operational testing indicated that the Littoral Combat Ship’s mine detection packages fail to so far to meet the Navy’s minimum requirements. In addition to operator inexperience, the failure was chalked up in part to software and integration issues. The Navy was hoping for a green light by September 2015. He also indicated that changes announced last month to a later tranche of 20 future ships, to be built after the first 32, wouldn’t change the likelihood of loss if an LCS were to be so unfortunate as to actually get into a fight.

  • The ever-even-keeled Congressional Research Service published a report over the holidays giving the current status of China’s naval improvements, which are substantial. The quality of its ships and training increased dramatically, making a gross numbers analysis less informative. Its weaknesses remain lack of integration with other service branches, lack of experience and lack of long-range deployment sustainability.

  • The General Accountability Office found that the Office of Secretary of Defense and other very high level pentagon offices do not have a rational, iterative assessment process for determining their staffing needs and structures. The upshot: “DOD and the military services have undertaken reviews to reduce headquarters but these budget-driven efforts have not been the result of systematic determinations of personnel needs.” The GAO, an arm of Congress, made only two mentions of Sequestration, both in footnotes.

  • GE Aviation won up to $325 million in additional funds in January 2015 to work on an adaptive cycle engine under phase three of the Versatile affordable advanced turbine engines (VAATE) program that preceded ADVENT.

  • In part due to sanctions on Russia, Kalashnikov will produce the eponymous assault rifles in the U.S., according to TASS


  • Brazil hopes to reinstate a mid-air refueling capacity after having retired its KC-137s. Final contract negotiations have been delayed, with one of the 767 conversions being handled by IAI, and another two by domestic firm TAP.

Today’s Video

  • This is a three year old video of the ADVENT program. It may be revolutionary for jet engines, but it would be nice if GE could up its game in green screen production values:

Categories: News

ATP-SE: LITENING Targeting Pods Now Feature ‘Gen-5′

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 01:45
Sniper on F-16
(click to view full)

At the end of September 2010, the USAF dropped something of a bombshell. Under their $2.3 billion Advanced Targeting Pod – Sensor Enhancement (ATP-SE) contract, the service that had begun standardizing on one future surveillance and targeting pod type decided to change course, and split its buys.

This decision is a huge breakthrough for Northrop Grumman, whose LITENING pod had lost the USAF’s initial 2001 Advanced Targeting Pod competition. As a result of that competition, the USAF’s buys had shifted from LITENING to Sniper pods, and Lockheed Martin’s Sniper became the pod of choice for integration onto new USAF platforms. Since then, both of these pods have chalked up procurement wins around the world, and both manufacturers kept improving their products. That continued competition would eventually change the landscape once again.

In January 2015, Rafael announced that their upcoming upgrade that they call G-4 Advanced outside the U.S., and “G-5″ for the Americans will have air-to-air targeting capabilities.

In addition to more diverse targeting, the pods are said to feature inter-asset communications and sensor sharing capabilities – in essence some of the whiz-bang features touted in the F-35 platform that is supposed to push the F/A-18 into obsolescence.

ATP-SE: Evolution in Action British Harrier GR9,
over Afghanistan
(click to view full)

In Desert Storm, aircraft using precision weapons typically used just 2 bombs to destroy targets which would have required 9,000 bombs in World War II, and 300 in Vietnam. The targeting pods used in Desert Storm were expensive single purpose systems, however, which required multiple pods to perform various missions. The Laser Infrared Targeting and Navigating (LITENING) pod changed that in 1992, combining multiple sensors for maximum flexibility in a single pod, at comparatively low cost.

That combination made LITENING popular, and a partnership between RAFAEL and Northrop Grumman extended its reach. Between the 2 firms, LITENING was sold to customers around the world, including the US military. Other pods eventually followed in its footsteps: Raytheon’s ATFLIR became the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet’s designated pod within the US Navy, and Lockheed Martin took a big step forward when its Sniper/Pantera pod won the USAF’s 2001 competition. Then all targeting pods took a big step forward after the 9/11 attacks, as they proved their effectiveness so well that troops and air forces alike began clamoring for more. For older fighters, an advanced surveillance and targeting pod became the ultimate accessory. For newer fighter designs, targeting pods’ fast improvements and quick-change modularity have made them a standard fixture.

At the moment, core sensors on modern pods include a day camera, thermal imaging, laser rangefinding, laser designator, laser spot detection, inertial navigation, and GPS geolocation. This integrated array enables a pilot to effectively detect, recognize, identify, track and engage ground targets in day, night and under adverse weather conditions. Modern pods are so good that they’ve been used to watch individual people enter or exit a building.

(click to view full)

While the USAF was progressively standardizing on the AN/AAQ-33 Sniper, the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard continued to be steady AN/AAQ-28 LITENING AT customers, alongside the US Marines. Northrop Grumman’s approach of steady improvement gave them an opportunity to show those customers the new G4 pod they had been developing. Interest apparently spread to the USAF, as they were brought into flight testing by US Air Force Reserve Command.

With the 2001 ATP contract expiring in 2009, the USAF decided to compete the follow-on order. Work on an RFP that could result in a new competitive landscape for targeting pods began in April 2008. The USAF hasn’t discussed its motives publicly, but new technological developments were given added impetus by the acquisition reforms that surfaced in December 2008. These aimed to institutionalize more competition for ongoing contracts, and the ATP-SE framework fits that mold.

By August 2009 the USAF had issued a draft RFP, with the formal ATP-SE RFP issued in January 2010. The split order was issued in September 2010.

Note that these pods’ modular construction means that existing LITENING AT pods can be upgraded to G4/SE status, and existing Sniper ATPs can be enhanced to the SE configuration. The Air Force’s ATP-SE contract doesn’t include upgrade kits at this point, however, just complete pods. The US military appears to have chosen to buy SE configuration upgrade kits under other contracts (vid Aug 29/09, Nov 7/11 entries) instead, and could modify its ATP-SE umbrella contract if it wished.

ATP-SE: The Competitors

Raytheon’s ATFLIR is only integrated with Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and foreign options like the Damocles pod by France’s Thales suffer from the same integration limitations. That left only 2 realistic contenders for the USAF’s ATP-SE.

Lockheed Martin’s Aerial Sniper CF-18 w. Sniper
(click to view full)

Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAQ-33 Sniper ATP was designed to be a major step-change from the firm’s twin-pod LANTIRN systems, making use of a low radar signature profile and an advanced array of sensors and electronics, in order to offer longer range detection and identification. It also has an important time and money-saving feature: a sort of universal interface, which self-detects the plane type it’s on and automatically load the appropriate Operational Flight Program. It’s a simple change that saves a lot of money on testing and re-certiciation, as shown by the structure of the respective ATP-SE contracts.

Sniper ATP has also won competitions on straight performance. The British, for instance, explicitly cited the pod’s stand off detection and identification ranges as the reason they chose to equip their Harriers with Sniper pods for Afghan missions, rather than buy more of the LITENING-III pods that already equipped their Tornado and Eurofighter jets.

Key changes to the ATP-SE competition’s Sniper pods include new sensors (1k FLIR, HDTV), an evolution of the 2-way Compact Multi-Band Datalink (CMDL) that’s compatible with ROVER 3-5 per USAF requirements, and “automated capabilities” (all they’re allowed to say) to help the pilot perform ISR missions with less workload. Under the USAF’s NET-T Quick Reaction Capability contract, a point-to-multipoint data link architecture can provide an extended range “beyond line-of-sight” capability with the right positioning or infrastructure.

The USAF’s 2001 selection made Sniper a safe choice for international buys, and the LITENING pod’s Israeli origins has opened doors for Lockheed Martin in a number of Islamic countries. Sniper is currently integrated on the A-10A+/C, F-16 Block 25+ aircraft, F-15E/K/S/SG Strike Eagles, F/A-18A-D Hornets, and the B-52H and B-1B bombers. They were integrated with Harrier II GR7/9s, before Britain sold its fleet to the USMC for use as spare parts. Britain didn’t sell its Sniper pods, though, and Lockheed Martin says they’ve done some work on the Tornado GR4 (flight tests, but not operational yet), and on the Eurofighter Typhoon in cooperation with BAE.

As of June 2012, Sniper customers include the USAF (A-10C, F-15E, F-16, B-1B, B-52H), Belgium (F-16 MLU), Britain (Harrier GR7/9, all now sold to the USMC), Canada (“CF-18″ F/A-18 AM/BM), Egypt (F-16), Morocco (F-16), Norway (F-16), Oman (F-16), Pakistan (F-16), Poland (F-16), Saudi Arabia (F-15S), South Korea (F-15K, phase 2 buy from earlier LANTIRN pod contract), Singapore (F-15SG, F-16s), and Turkey (F-16).

Northrop Grumman: LITENING in a Pod LITENING III on GR4
(click to view full)

Northrop Grumman representatives informed DID that their pod will be an enhanced “LITENING SE” variant of their new LITENING G4, which has demonstrated both air-ground and air-air capabilities in testing. LITENING SE changes include an all-digital 1024 x 1024 pixel forward-looking infrared sensor (compared to the AT’s 640 x 512 pixel system); a similar 1K charge-coupled device TV sensor for daytime imaging; a Laser Target Imaging Program imaging system providing improved target recognition across a wide range of conditions; and a “plug and play” data link system that enables them to accept a variety of data links without further modifications to the pod or aircraft. Among other things, PNP-III (Plug N Play 3) is aligned with the ROVER 5 standard for 2-way transmissions with ground forces.

Northrop Grumman has sold its AN/AAQ-28 LITENING pods to a number of customers, for use on a number of different aircraft types. When looking at global coverage and customer bases, however, it’s important to note that Northrop Grumman is only 1 of 2 firms producing LITENING pods. Israel’s RAFAEL invented the LITENING, and has pursued parallel development and sales of their own LITENING I/II/III/EF models within the framework of their formal agreement with Northrop Grumman. At present, however, G4/SE technology is proprietary to Northrop Grumman, who is working on export clearances but hasn’t yet received them.

Overall, platforms known to have integrated at least one LITENING pod variant to at least the tested level include the AV-8B Harrier II, EA-6B Prowler, F-4E/F Phantom, F-5E variants, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Block 15+, F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, JAS-39 A-D Gripen, MiG-21, Sukhoi/HAL SU-30MKI, Tornado, Eurofighter Typhoon, HC-130H Hercules, and B-52H. There are also reports of Jaguar IM, Mirage 2000 (reportedly used during the 1999 Kargil War), and/or MiG-27 integration work in India; and photos of Brazilian A-1/AMX and Colombian Kfir C10 fighters with LITENING pods.

A-10 in Iraq
(click to view full)

In terms of Northrop Grumman’s sales, Israel flies a handful of older LITENING ER models on some of its F-16s. The US military’s pods are all at least LITENING AT standard, even those that began life as LITENING-IIs or LITENING ERs. They’re complemented by a handful of even more advanced LITENING G4s, and Northrop Grumman’s pods serve with the USAF, AFRC, US ANG, and USMC on A-10A/C, AV-8B, EA-6B, F-16 Block 30+, F/A-18 C/D, F-15E, and B-52H aircraft. The A-10Cs, B-52s, F-15Es, and F-16s are all slated to become compatible with the new G4s.

Northrop Grumman LITENING AT pods also serve with the Italian (AV-8B Harrier II), and Spanish (AV-8B) navies. The LITENING AT Block 2 pod, which is somewhere between the AT and G4, serves with Australia (F/A-18 Hornet HUG), Finland (F/A-18 C/D), the Netherlands (F-16 MLU), and Portugal (F-16 A/B Block 15 and F-16AM MLU). In 2012, Denmark added itself to the customer list, buying G4 pods for its F-16 MLUs.

By the time the ATP-SE contract was issued, the US military already had about 10-30 LITENING G4 pods in the field, from about 50 ordered in 2009 by the USMC/ US ANG/ USAF Reserves under existing contract vehicles (see section below). That lot of pods was slated to finish delivery in 2011, and did so.

The Israelis are notoriously tight lipped about their customers, but known sales from RAFAEL have occurred to the IAF (F-16s), as well as exports to Britain (Eurofighter, Tornado GR4), Germany (Eurofighter, Tornado IDS, possibly F-4F); and Greece (“Peace Icarus 2000″ F-4E AUPs). There have also been reports of sales to Brazil (F-5BR), Chile (F-16); Colombia (Kfir C10), India (slated for Tejas LCA, on Mirage 2000, SU-30, others), Hungary (JAS-39), Singapore (F-16), South Africa (JAS-39, via Zeiss), Sweden (JAS-39), Romania (MiG-21 Lancer), Turkey (F-16, F-4E 2020), and Venezuela (F-16), among others.

Contracts & Key Events: ATP-SE FY 2013

FRP for Litening and Sniper. Net-T, pre-flight
(click to view full)

Jan 18/13: Net-T. The USAF is testing a wireless router addition to ATP-SE pods called Net-T, which would work in the background and help troops on the ground communicate with each other. ROVER systems already allow communications with the aircraft, and Net-T works with ROVER 5 to share voice, real-time information videos, images, maps, coordinates, or any other file type, without having to resort to satellite links and their scarce bandwidth. That’s very helpful in urban environments, mountains, dense vegetation, etc., where troops have a clear path to an aircraft, but don’t have line of sight to each other.

This high priority developmental test began in October 2012 with the A-10Cs, F-16s, and F-15Es of the 40th Flight Test Squadron, along with some visiting B-1 bombers. Beyond testing key metrics like effective distances, bandwidth, etc., they wanted to be sure Net-T wouldn’t interfere with the LITENING and Sniper pods’ other functions: day/night surveillance, laser illumination and tracking, automatic target searching and tracking, and automated target reconnaissance. Fortunately, once the frequencies and data rates are configured, it’s just a 1-button push for the pilot to initiate transmit-in-Net-T mode.

The goal is to send the testing report to the USAF’s Precision Attack Systems Program Office at Wright Patterson AFB, OH by February 2013, to be followed by operational testing with the 53rd Wing – and hopefully by fielding on ATP-SEs in February 2014. Eglin AFB.

Jan 16/13: Sniper. Lockheed Martin announces USAF approval to begin full-rate production of the Sniper-SE. At this point, Sniper-SE remains the only ATP-SE pod that’s integrated and operational on the F-15E Strike Eagle, and B-1 and B-52 bombers.

Sniper FRP

Nov 12/12: LITENING. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces a $71.5 million order from the USAF to begin full-rate production of LITENING SE advanced targeting pods and spares, under the ATP-SE program.


FY 2010 – 2012

ATP-SE award. Litening G4 for F-16s. LITENING modularity
(click to view full)

Feb 13/12: LITENING. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces 2 follow-on Low Rate Initial Production delivery orders totaling a combined $66 million, to provide additional LITENING SEs. The orders were made under the Sept 30/10 contract.

Oct 24/11: LITENING. Northrop Grumman announces that the US Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) has recommended full fielding for LITENING G4 Advanced Targeting Pods on its F-16 C/D Block 25/30/32 aircraft, after a successful operational utility evaluation (OUE).

This is one of the plane sets mentioned in Northrop Grumman’s Sept 30/10 order, which included funds for testing and OUE. The pods, on the other hand, stem from the Oct 1/09 award noted in the “ATP-SE Lead Ins” section.

During the September 2010 – May 2011 OUE, LITENING G4 pods flew 530 sorties and accumulated more than 825 flight hours. According to the fielding recommendation issued by AATC to Air Combat Command:

“LITENING G4 provides a significant improvement in F-16 Block 30 mission area execution over baseline targeting pods. The addition of a short wave infrared sensor provides a unique capability to capture images in shadows where FLIR(Forward Looking InfraRed) or CCD [regular cameras] were ineffective.”

G4 OK for F-16s

Oct 18/10: LITENING. At a special event attended by senior members of Israel’s defense establishment, customers, and representatives of foreign militaries and airforces, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. marked the sale of the 1,000th Litening Pod, including all partner sales. The event also included RAFAEL business partners Northrop Grumman from the USA, British firm Ultra Electronics, and Germany’s ZEISS.

According to Northrop Grumman sources, by early October 2010 they had total orders for 611 pods, and had delivered 523.

The RAFAEL release adds that “Litening pods have been procured by 26 countries. Litening pods have compiled, totally, more than a million flight hours.” Note that if all countries listed above as possible LITENING customers are included, it only adds up to 22. DID is certain of Northrop Grumman’s sales, but not of RAFAEL’s.

Sniper production
(click to view full)

Sept 30/10: Lockheed Martin Corp. in Orlando, FL (FA8626-10-D-2133) and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Meadows, IL (FA8626-10-D-2132) will split a $2.3 billion contract to provide new advanced targeting pods and associated support equipment, spares and product support. At this time, $23.7 million has been committed to Northrop, and $23.5 million has been committed to Lockheed Martin, in order to provide test pods for the government. The ASC/WNQK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages this contracts.

Lockheed Martin later announces that the USAF has picked its Sniper ATP as the winner of the 60% share of its Advanced Targeting Pod-Sensor Enhancement (ATP-SE) competition.

Under the terms of this contract, Lockheed Martin says that the Government has options to buy up to 670 pods through 2017, with Lockheed Martin’s share of the program totaling more than $1 billion. Asked which platforms were covered in testing, Lockheed Martin personnel said that no additional per-platform testing was needed, just general performance testing.

(click to view full)

Northrop Grumman later announces that if the government exercises all of their options, the firm’s LITENING SE would pick up approximately $920 million in orders for up to 670 pods through 2017. The USAF’s initial order encompasses flight testing of the targeting systems on Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve F-16 Blocks 25/30/32, USAF F-16 Blocks 40/50, and A-10C aircraft, and the firm says this represents potential orders for as many as 250 targeting pods plus spares, training and logistics support. If the USAF wants to add additional platforms qualified for LITENING-SE, additional testing contracts will be required.

Northrop Grumman representatives tell DID that they can produce about 8-9 LITENING pods per month at the moment, but production is expected to rise to 12+ per month if budgets and orders under ATP-SE require it. They expect ATP-SE Production Lots 1 & 2 to finish delivery by early 2012.

ATP-SE award

Contracts & Key Events: ATP-SE Lead-Ins FY 2011 – 2012 VANG LITENING G4
(click to view full) May 14/12: Northrop Grumman announces a $103 million delivery order from US Naval Air Systems Command, to equip the USMC’s aircraft with LITENING G4 pods. They’ll also provide G4 upgrade kits and spares to the US Air National Guard, to bring their earlier-model LITENING pods to the G4 configuration.

Northrop Grumman says that they’ve delivered more than 200 LITENING G4 systems so far, adding that all of its LITENING pods put together have achieved over 1.5 million flight hours.

March 13/12: LITENING G4 #100. Northrop Grumman announces the delivery of the 100th LITENING G4 targeting pod to meet a combination of USAF Lot 1/2 and US Marine Corps Lot 2/3/4 LITENING G4 production contracts. USAF Lot 2 will include the first LITENING-SEs.

Feb 6/12: LITENING G4 in combat. Northrop Grumman announces that its LITENING G4 has embarked on its first combat deployment, aboard US Air National Guard A-10Cs, and F-16C/D Block 30 aircraft. The pods will be used in Afghanistan.

Dec 5/11: LITENING. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Rolling Meadows, IL receives a $690.1 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive-firm, cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-incentive-firm, time-and-materials LITENING Targeting Pod System post-production support contract, which will run until Sept 18/18. It will:

“…address supply requirements centered on hardware and software upgrades and associated host platform integration, initial spares, technical manual and technical orders, repair data, studies, spares recapitalization and support for the standup of organic depot repair requirements for the sustainment of the legacy LITENING pod fleet.”

Queries to Northrop Grumman and the USAF established that this contract doesn’t cover support for LITENING-SE pods as the USAF takes delivery. It covers existing LITENING AT/G4 stocks, including integration and certification of the new LITENING G4s with US ANG F-16C/D Block 30-50s, USAF active duty F-16C/D Block 40-50s, F-15E Strike Eagles, the A-10C close-support plane, and the B-52H heavy bomber. The USAF also confirmed that the contract may fund upgrades of existing pods to the LITENING-SE standard. This was a sole-source acquisition by the ASC/WNQK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8626-12-D-2137). See also Northrop Grumman’s mid-March 2012 release.

LITENING support & upgrades

Nov 7/11: Sniper. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL receives an $841.5 million firm-fixed-price post-production support contract for Sniper targeting pods. Work will include “sensor enhancement on hardware and software upgrades and associated host platform integration, initial spares, technical manual and technical orders, repair data, studies and spares recapitalization, and support the standup of organic depot repair requirements…” The ASC/WNQK at Wright Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (FA8626-12-D-2138), and when queried, they had this to say:

“The contract will include a five-year base ordering period [to 2016] and two, one-year options [which could extend it to 2018]. This new effort will provide for hardware, software, and associated updates for 375 Sniper targeting pods delivered to Combat Air Forces (CAF) under a prior contract. Updates may include Sniper pod upgrades to the Sniper advanced targeting pod-sensor enhanced (ATP-SE) standard.”

See also Lockheed Martin’s March 2012 release.

Sniper support & upgrades

Oct 19/11: LITENING G4. Northrop Grumman finishes delivering the 1st Lot of 50 LITENING G4s, under the 2009, $227.8 million US ANG contract. Production Lot 2 will begin production of the USAF’s LITENING-SEs, and the USMC’s ordered G4s. Northrop Grumman.

FY 2004 – 2010 ATFLIR on F/A-18F
(click to view full)

Sept 13/10: Sniper. Lockheed Martin announces a $13 million contract to upgrade the Sniper ATP’s existing data link with an enhanced digital Compact Multi-band Data Link (CMDL), improving secure digital transmission of high definition imagery and metadata at extended ranges. CMDL communicates seamlessly with the fielded ROVER family of ground stations, including ROVER 5.

Lockheed’s final ATP-SE Sniper offering will build on this work, and this CMDL upgrade follows the S3.5 software upgrade of U.S. Air Force and coalition Sniper pods operational on F-16 Block 30/40/50, A-10C, F-15E and B-1 aircraft. The S3.5 added emerging aircraft interfaces to Sniper ATP and provides new capabilities in air-to-air and air-to-surface tracking and designation, selectable ground-stabilized fragmentation circles, unpowered built-in-test data download capability, and video data link metadata and symbology enhancements.

March 10/10: LITENING G4. Northrop Grumman announces that it successfully demonstrated its LITENING pod on the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet at the US Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, CA, during a 1.5 hour flight under operationally representative conditions. DID has confirmed from a reliable source that the pod was a LITENING G4.

To this point, the Super Hornet has only been fielded with Raytheon’s ATFLIR surveillance and targeting pods; even LITENING customer Australia picked ATFLIR for its F-18F Super Hornets.

Super Hornet test

Oct 1/09: LITENING G4. Northrop Grumman announces a $153 million contract from the USAF to provide LITENING G4 targeting and sensor systems and related equipment. Under the terms of the agreement, Northrop Grumman will deliver LITENING G4 targeting and sensor pods to the active U.S. Air Force, as well as kits for the Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard to upgrade existing LITENING AT pods to the G4 configuration, and additional data links for the Air National Guard and active U.S. Air Force.

This contract modification under an existing agreement marks the first updates of existing Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and Air National Guard (ANG) LITENING pods to the G4 configuration, and the first sale to the USAF.

This order turned out to be a big deal, because it was part of the process of re-introducing competition to the USAF. The LITENING G4 sold here also forms the baseline for the company’s USAF Advanced Targeting Pod – Sensor Enhancement product.


Aug 29/10: Expeditionary/ TopLITE. Northrop Grumman Systems in Rolling Meadows, IL receives a $98.7 million ceiling-priced indefinite-delivery/ indefinite quantity contract for the procurement of Expeditionary Litening Pods (LPODs), upgrades to existing pods, and integration of LPODs into AV-8B Harriers (domestic and allied), F/A-18 Hornets (domestic and FMS), EA-6B Prowlers, C-130 Hercules, and Air Force platforms, including related parts and services. In addition, this contract provides for associated engineering and technical support and technical data.

Work will be performed in Rolling Meadows, IL, and is expected to be complete in June 2011. $16.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-09-D-0025).

They’re “Expeditionary” G4s because this is the US Marines and Navy contract, which is separate from USAF orders. With respect to the C-130, LITENING has been integrated on a US Coast Guard C-130 as a demo, but nothing ever came of it. The USMC contract is related to a program called Toplite, a surveillance oriented version of LITENING that’s similar to RAFAEL’s RecceLITE. Northrop Grumman sees this as an opportunity to explore integration on lower-g aircraft by separating the turret out, and moving the backing electronics out of a pod configuration and inside the plane.


Feb 12/04: Sniper Adapter. Lockheed Martin announces a contract to integrate the Sniper XR targeting pod on the A-10 aircraft in support of the A-10 Precision Engagement (PE) Program. The contract award follows a successful demonstration of the Sniper system during the A/OA-10 Precision Engagement upgrade program’s critical design review.

Some existing A-10s do fly with targeting pods, but they’re earlier models of Northrop Grumman’s LITENING pod. The USAF picked Sniper as its future targeting pod in 2001, and the current contract will ensure that Sniper pods work seamlessly with the A-10’s upgraded stores management systems, pilot displays, weapon targeting, etc.

As part of the integration effort, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control will develop the Pilot Vehicle Interface (PVI), pod Operational Flight Program (OFP) software, and pod interface adapter hardware for the A-10. Upon completion of this effort, the Sniper XR pod will self-detect and automatically load the appropriate Operational Flight Program when installed on either the A-10, F-16 or F-15E airframes. That work would pay dividends for a long time, by ensuring that new versions of the Sniper pod would remain compatible with certified jets. Otherwise, that certification takes months, and costs a lot of money (vid. ATP-SE award).

Additional Readings

Categories: News

The ADVENT of a Better Jet Engine?

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 00:58
PW F119: Power!
(click to view full)

The Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology (ADVENT) program aims “to develop and demonstrate inlet, engine, exhaust nozzle, and integrated thermal management technologies that enable optimized propulsion system performance over a broad range of altitude and flight velocity.” That sounds boring, but what if we put it like this:

ADVENT aims to produce a revolution in jet engine design. Imagine the jet equivalent of a car engine that could give you Formula One performance or sub-compact mileage as required. ADVENT-equipped aircraft would have extra-long range, but be able to switch quickly to high-speed power maneuvers and still be comparatively efficient. The new engine design will use adaptive fan blades and engine cores to generate high thrust when needed, and optimize fuel efficiency when cruising or loitering, in order to combine the best characteristics of high-performance and fuel-efficient jet engines.

That certainly sounds much more exciting. Now, ADVENT also sounds very real – because the program is under way, with over $600 million in contracts to 4 different vendors… and 2 big losers.

Update: GE Aviation won up to $325 million in additional funds in January 2015 to work on an adaptive cycle engine under phase three of the Versatile affordable advanced turbine engines (VAATE) program that preceded ADVENT.


GE90: Efficient!
(click to view full)

Project ADVENT is a actually the flagship effort under the Versatile, Affordable Advanced Turbine Engines Program, or VAATE. Managed by the Propulsion Directorate, VAATE’s goal is to increase turbine engine affordability tenfold while improving performance.

The VAATE program, structured around 4 focus areas, emphasizes specific themes important to achieving the affordability goal. The Durability Focus Area aims to develop, design, and test protocols to prevent component failure, increase life, enhance reparability, and perhaps improve performance. The Versatile Core Focus Area, will develop technologies for a multi-use, 4000-hour, maintenance-friendly engine core (compressor, combustor, and turbine). The third area, the Intelligent Engine Focus Area, will develop and integrate technologies that provide durable, adaptive, damage-tolerant engine health and life management features. Finally, engine-airframe integration technologies are key in attaining the significant cost and weight reductions required in order to achieve the VAATE tenfold goal.

The smaller Highly Efficient Embedded Turbine Engine (HEETE) program is a parallel and related effort, aiming to prove that a “quantum leap” in high-pressure compressor systems is possible. If that 3-year project proves successful, the AFRL would seek to integrate HEETE’s more advanced compressor systems into VAATE, incorporating these advances into the new engine cores developed under the ADVENT project.

The DefenseLNIK contract announcements states that:

“The ADVENT program will demonstrate integration technologies to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4-5 and engine technologies to TRL-6 in a large thrust class, with emphasis on multi-design point demonstration of significant advancements in thrust, fuel efficiency, development cost, production cost and maintenance cost characteristics over baseline engines.”

Technology Readiness Level 4-5 means lab tests where basic technological components are integrated to establish that the pieces will work together (TRL 4), with reasonably realistic supporting elements so that the technology can be tested in a simulated environment (TRL 5). Examples include ‘high fidelity’ laboratory integration of components. TRL 6 is a major step up, and involves a working prototype that can be tested in a relevant environment.

As for “significant advancements in… development cost, production cost and maintenance cost characteristics,” that will probably happen, but not in the way the USAF was thinking. Barring significant successes on ADVENT’s other fronts, variable engines are likely to be more complex to develop, may see higher production costs due to material requirements for higher temperature tolerances, and may also involve higher maintenance costs if the result is more moving parts. On the flip side, greater engine standardization might be possible, which may provide some maintenance savings.

VAATE seeks to transcend all of these limitations, but research programs rarely hit all of their goals. Even if all of the negative predictions above held true, however, an ADVENT-type engine would definitely save money on operating costs, while offering higher performance. This would still be worth the extra purchase investment for many airlines, and for some power generation applications as well. Those are considerable benefits all by themselves, and the Air Force’s need for extra power in life-or-death situations would make them the most obvious customer of all.

Contracts & Key Events

Smart Engines
(click to view full)

Unless otherwise specified, the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contracts.

Oct 18/09: Rolls-Royce North American Technologies, Inc. announces its selection to proceed with Phase II of ADVENT development. Next steps will include the integration of a variety of advanced technologies, component testing and development of a technology demonstrator core and engine. See also: Britain’s Times.

Oct 1/07: The AFRL rejected bids by United Technologies subsidiary Pratt & Whitney and by Honeywell to win the so-called Highly Efficient Embedded Turbine Engine (HEETE) contracts, one month after P&W was the sole losing bidder for the AFRL’s Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology (ADVENT) program. Flight International explains the implications:

“P&W’s loss of both ADVENT and HEETE means it must devote internal research and development funds to keep pace with its rivals after production of its latest generation fighter engine – the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s F135 – runs its course… The HEETE project is necessary because the commercial technology stops short of the military’s requirements for next-generation compressor systems, with the contract aiming to prove that a “quantum leap” in high-pressure compressor systems is possible. If the three-year project proves successful, the AFRL would seek to integrate HEETE’s more advanced compressor systems into the new engine cores developed under the ADVENT project.”

Sept 27/07: Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Sector of El Segundo, CA received an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for $40 million. The objective of the ADVENT program is to develop and demonstrate inlet, engine, exhaust nozzle, and integrated thermal management technologies that enable optimized propulsion system performance over a broad range of altitude and flight velocity.

The ADVENT program will demonstrate integration technologies to TRL 4-5 [components tested] and engine technologies to TRL-6 [prototype] in a large thrust class (25,000 lbs.) with emphasis on multi-design point demonstration of significant advancements in thrust, fuel efficiency, development cost, production cost and maintenance cost characteristics over baseline engines. At this time $1,000 has been obligated (FA8650-07-D-2800).

Sept 25/07: The US Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded a total of $35.6 million in cost-share contracts to Rolls Royce-North American Technologies Inc., and General Electric Co. to begin developing a game-changing class of engines, known as Highly Efficient Embedded Turbine Engines (HEETE). Rolls Royce will be receiving $19.6 million in its portion of the contracts while General Electric will receive $16 million. Rolls Royce and GE will conduct high-pressure and high-temperature rig tests on the compression systems that are critical to the HEETE concept. Development work will be conducted at Rolls Royce’s Liberty Works facilities in Indianapolis, IN; and at General Electric’s Evendale, OH, facility. Rolls Royce release.

HEETE is a technology development program that pursues high temperature, high pressure ratio compressor technologies and their related thermal management features. While HEETE is currently focused on an advanced compressor demonstration, the goal is to define the next generation engine architecture for subsonic missions. This also involves active flow control inlets and exhausts, with a focus on 20,000-35,000 pound thrust class. There were also losers. Flight International adds:

“The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) announced on 25 September awarding contracts to General Electric and Rolls-Royce… However, the AFRL rejected bids by Pratt and Honeywell to win the so-called Highly Efficient Embedded Turbine Engine (HEETE) contracts.”

Sept 21/07:Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company-Fort Worth of Fort Worth, TX received an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost-reimbursement contract for $40 million (maximum) for the ADVENT program. The emphasis will be on multi-design point demonstration of significant advancements in thrust, fuel efficiency, development cost, production cost and maintenance cost characteristics over baseline engines. It covers demonstration of integration technologies to TRL 4-5 and engine technologies to TRL-6 in a large thrust class (25,000 lbs.). At this time $1,000 has been obligated (FA8650-07-D2798).

Aug 27/07: General Electric Aircraft Engines in Cincinnati, OH received a cost-sharing ADVENT contract for $231.2 million. At this time, $129,140 has been obligated. Solicitations began in March 2007, negotiations were completed in August 2007, and work will be complete in September 2012 (FA8650-07-C-2802).

The AFRL explained to DID that this award was originally announced at the same time as the Rolls Royce award, on Aug 15/07. In reality, however, it hadn’t been finalized yet. Hence the repeat announcement. We’ve revised the date accordingly.

Aug 15/07: Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN received a cost-sharing ADVENT contract for $296.3 million. At this time, $98,770 has been obligated. Solicitations began in March 2007, negotiations were completed in August 2007, and work will be complete in September 2012 (FA8650-07-C-2803). Rolls Royce release.

Additional Readings & Sources

Categories: News

GAO: Careful with Your FedBizOpps Searches

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 17:17

  • The Government Accountability Office, fielding a protest by a would-be contractor who couldn’t find a solicitation due to a certain field not having been filled out in the FedBizOpps database, sided with the Veterans Administration in holding that it is the vendors responsibility to use all search mechanisms at their disposal. The case turned on whether or not the VA should have filled out which states would be the “place of performance.” The upshot: FedBizOpps and other databases are unlikely to be allowed to be used as additional surface area from which protests can be launched.


  • Even as U.S. procurement Tsar Frank Kendall’s press is still wet regarding his trip to India to shore up defense procurement relationships with the subcontinent, Russia is parading – literally – their relationship with India, featuring the BrahMos self-propelled missile launcher. With India’s administration turnover, the two powers are again wooing the not-terribly-aligned nation as though the world were divided into two spheres of power. Unlike the more symbolic efforts of the U.S., the Russians’ have been substantive.

Some People & Some Robots
(click to see clearly)

  • In addition to updating and replenishing major defense systems, Russia is taking pains to express to the world that it is putting resources into new defense tech.

  • Iran is again signaling its intent to maintain force projection capabilities with its navy. Somalian pirate patrols have been a handy mission for justifying and exercising its warships.

  • Iraq has been successful in securing a commitment for nine Mirage 2000 fighters from the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is also reported to be procuring a couple dozen Super Tucanos for Iraq in a deal that is not quite settled. The Iraqi administration has been passing that hat of late, with Canada and others trying to contribute to the stability of the ISIS-fighting country.


  • As the FAA realizes it is sitting below a bursting dam of civilian drone demand – fueled by the twin inexorable trends of severe price reductions in hobbyist camera drones and vast improvements in the simplicity of operations – it is attempting to turn to local law enforcement to help it patrol the unpatrollable. Meanwhile, defense contract drone manufacturers salivate.

Today’s Video

  • With the Super Tucano line in the news, here is a U.S.-assisted downing of an alleged drug trafficker’s plane in Columbia with video of an A-27 Super Tucano firing on a light plane:

Categories: News

US Navy’s Got CASS: Electronic Consolidated Automated Support System Completes CDR

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 04:00
Latest update: Critical Design Review, milestone schedule. Looking a little dated
(click to view full)

In March 2010 the Navy awarded an $83 million contract for e-CASS development, production and testing. The AN/USM-636(V) Consolidated Automated Support System (CASS) is the US Navy’s standard automatic test equipment family. It provides intermediate, depot and factory level support, both ashore and afloat, for testing all Navy electronics, from aircraft to ships and submarines.

CASS has been around since 1990, and it’s time for an upgrade. The Navy is planning to replace the existing 5 CASS mainframe systems with the next-generation electronic CASS (e-CASS) system. US Naval aviation currently uses 713 CASS stations for testing of aircraft electronics. CASS is also used at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and in 9 foreign countries. As of early 2012 events appear to proceed according to plan.

In January 2015, Lockheed delivered the first automated testing station to be installed on the U.S. Navy’s carriers.

Central CASSting

The new e-CASS system will replace the following 5 CASS mainframe systems:

  • Hybrid – The CASS Hybrid station provides the core test capability for general purpose electronics, computers, instruments, and flight controls.

  • Radio Frequency (RF) – The CASS RF station provides Hybrid station test capability plus electronic countermeasure, electronic counter-countermeasures, and electronic warfare support measures; and fire control, navigation, tracking, and surveillance radar, and radar altimeter support capability.

  • High Power – The CASS High Power station provides RF station capability plus the capability to test high power radar systems, such as the APG-65 and APG-73.

  • Communications/Navigation/Interrogation (CNI) – The CASS CNI station provides RF station capability plus communication, navigation, interrogation, and spread spectrum system support capability.

  • Electro-Optic (EO) – The CASS EO station provides Hybrid station test capability plus support capability for forward looking infrared, lasers/ designators, laser range finders, and visual systems.

In addition to these systems, the Navy uses a mobile CASS variety called the Reconfigurable Transportable CASS (RTCASS), supplied by Boeing. RTCASS provides a man-portable CASS configuration using COTS hardware and software to meet USMC V-22 and H-1 support requirements as well as to replace mainframe CASS stations at USMC fixed wing aircraft (EA-6B, F/A-18 and AV-8B) support sites.

In addition to Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Northrop Grumman supplies CASS electro-optic subsystem and DRS Technologies provides CASS high-power subsystems.

The next-generation eCASS will be procured as 1 core system, and 5 different eCASS mission equipment kits (MEK), which are RF test subsystems. The eCASS core system and different combinations of eCASS MEKs allow eCASS to perform the 5 legacy CASS missions (above) and a new eCASS depot mission.

Contracts and Key Events March 7/12: Naval Air Systems Command announces that eCASS completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) on January 25 at Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics’ office in Orlando, FL. The next step is Low Rate Initial Production later this year, with a Full Rate Production decision planned for 2014. Initial Operating Capability is planned for 2016 with full operational capability following by 2018.

RDT&E spending on eCASS has been in the $20M-$30M/year range for FY2010-12. This should decrease to about $6.5M-$8.5M/year for the next 4 fiscal years. The program is currently an Acquisition Category IVM managed by NAVAIR’s PMA-260. A good overview of what they have been up to can be found in this December 2011 presentation [PDF].

May 26/11: Preliminary design review (PDR) completed.

Dec 02/10: Integrated Baseline Review (IBR) completed.

Oct 29/10: Schedule Risk Assessment (SRA) completed.

April 29/10: Textron’s AAI Corp. announces that it has won a contract from Lockheed Martin to design and build the radio frequency (RF) components for the electronic Consolidated Automated Support System (eCASS). The maximum value of the contract is $43 million, with immediate funding of $2 million. AAI is Lockheed Martin’s principal subcontractor on the program.

Under this contract, AAI has agreed to design and build 49 RF test subsystems known as mission equipment kits (MEKs) for Lockheed Martin’s eCASS test stations, which will be utilized by the Navy to test critical systems – including weapons, avionics and navigation – on its aircraft fleet. In addition, AAI has agreed to provide 2 depot MEKs.

March 18/10: Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training and Support, Orlando, FL won an $83.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to design, develop, fabricate, integrate, and test the electronic Consolidated Automated Support System (e-CASS). In addition, the contract provides for the procurement of 14 engineering development models during the system design and development phase of the contract.

Lockheed Martin will perform the work in Orlando, FL (61%); Hunt Valley, MD (26%); North Reading, MA (12%); and Reston, VA (1%), and expects to complete the work in March 2015. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals, with 3 offers were received by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ (N68335-10-C-0225). Lockheed Martin release

May 21/09: Boeing’s subsidiary McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, MO received a $32.4 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-03-C-0055) to manufacture, test, and deliver 23 reconfigurable transportable consolidated automated support systems (RTCASS) for the US Navy (21) and the US Air Force (2). In addition, this modification provides for 12 self-maintenance and test/calibration interface devices for the Navy (10) and the Air Force (2).

Boeing will perform the work in North Reading, MA (60%) and St. Louis, MO (40%), and expects to complete it in September 2010. This contract combines purchases for the Navy ($29.5 million) and the U.S. Air Force ($2.9 million). The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract.

Sept 18/09: Boeing announces that it received a $31.9 million contract from the US Navy for the design and production of the Reconfigurable Transportable Consolidated Automated Support System (RTCASS) to support existing CASS weapons system test program sets. This contract has a total potential value of more than $200 million over a 7-year period.

Under the contract, Boeing will act as prime systems integrator, perform systems engineering, design and develop the test program sets transportability tools and station run time software, and perform the logistics, training, and technical publications functions. Team members include Systems & Electronics and Teradyne.

Jan 19/01: Lockheed Martin, under a contract modification worth approximately $63 million over 3 years, announces that it will provide 40 CASS stations to the US Navy. Equipment to be provided includes 20 Hybrid and 20 RF stations as well as various ancillary equipment and station maintenance. This is a modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed price contract issued by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD.

April 18/00: Lockheed Martin announces that it reached an agreement with the US Navy worth an estimated $142 million to support logistics operations for its CASS assets. The consolidated support pool agreement with Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and the Naval Inventory Control Point (NAVICP) combines resources maintained under separate support contracts to reduce inventory, decrease sustainment costs and improve the speed of repairs.

The agreement provides incentive payments to Lockheed Martin tied to improved reliability of repairable components for the CASS stations. The work will be performed in Orlando, FL through 2007.

March 1/00: Lockheed Martin announces that it was awarded a contract for continued production of CASS, the Navy’s standard avionics testing system. With options, the contract is worth up to $287 million. Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will provide CASS stations in production lots 10 to 13 through 2005.

Additional Readings

US Navy – Consolidated Automated Support System | The CASS Family OTPS sustainment process [PDF].

AMDO Association – CASS in the Fleet: An Update

IEEE – Modernizing a DoD ATS family – part II

Northrop Grumman – Electro-Optical Subsystem

DRS Technologies – High-Power Avionics Test System [PDF]

DID (May 25/09) – $32.4M to Boeing for Aircraft Electronics Test Equipment

FedBizOpps (March 15/09) – eCASS

US Navy (January 2002) – Navy Training System Plan for the AN/USM-636(V) Consolidated Automated Support System [PDF]

Categories: News

Russia Headed Back to 1970 with Strategic Nuke Strategy

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 17:58

  • Russian development of a new cruise missile and submarine forays into NATO waters have elicited complaints from Washington Russia has violated a key arms control agreement (the INF Treaty), and could cause the U.S. to redeploy cruise missiles in Europe. Russia has been feeding concerns with the re-introduction of nuclear missile trains and a new export cruise missile that can fit hidden in a shipping container.


  • War Is Boring doesn’t buy the Russian chest beating regarding their increased naval activity, principally because they too are facing major ship retirement trends.

  • Russia ended, as expected, the program where the U.S. helped arrange and fund the dismantling of Russian nuclear weapons and sub reactors. Assurances that the work will continue have been met with skepticism.

  • A poll conducted by French newspaper La Tribune shows a good majority of the French support the sale of two expeditionary warfare ships to Russia. The two ships’ delivery has been famously delayed due to the optics of appearing to support Russia’s capacity to conduct operations such as its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. For their part, the poll respondents’ reasons for support appear to be more about domestic jobs than geopolitical considerations.

  • Friction between Turkey and western allies continues as the NATO member denies access to air bases for targeting ISIS. Turkey deems the U.S. and other western nations’ tolerance of Syria’s Assad an egregious misalignment of priorities.

  • Poland is to acquire three new submarines, although the timeframe is slipping. A key consideration in vendor selection is the independence that would be granted to Poland in the use of ballistic missiles provided. France has already publicly stated it wouldn’t put any restrictions on Poland if it were to select the DCNS-built Scorpène submarines.

  • Meanwhile, Saab and Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards Group are looking to work together to meet expected international market needs for submarine replacements.

Today’s Video

  • Russia’s largest – and somewhat impractical – nuclear test from 1961: the Tsar Bomba:

Categories: News

Marine APCs: Peregrinations of the EFV to ACV to MPC to ACV 1.1

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 06:36
AAAV/ EFV, swim mode
(click to view full)

The US Marine Corps’ AAVP7 Amtracs have been their primary ship to shore amphibious armored personnel carrier for a long time; the AAV7A1 was initially fielded in 1972, and underwent a major service life extension program and product improvement program from 1983-1993. The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was the USMC’s plan to replace the aging AMTRACS (lit. AMphibious TRACtorS), which saw extensive service deep inland during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The personnel version of the new EFVs would carry a crew of 3, plus a reinforced rifle squad of 17 combat-loaded Marines. A high-tech weapons station would provide firepower, via a stabilized ATK 30mm MK 44 Bushmaster cannon with advanced sights to replace the AAV’s unstabilized .50 caliber machine gun. A command variant would carry an array of communications and computer systems and staff personnel. The EFV remained the U.S. Marine Corps’ top land acquisition priority, even as its price tag and development issues cut its buy sharply. Push finally came to shove in 2010, however, as the USMC realized that it simply couldn’t afford the vehicle, or its performance.

That begat a new program called the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), designed to be a more realistic version of the EFV. A Marines version designed for only light water use was called the MPC, which was iced in June 2013. That program was resurrected under increased capabilities pressures as the APC 1.1, which had its coming out party during an industry day in July 2014. A draft RFP was released in November, with hopes that a final RFP would be issued in spring 2015.

$105.7 million was requested for ACV 1.1 research, testing and evaluation.

The APC 1.1 has been examined by the Congressional Research Service, producing this report, which – in a nutshell – says that the program has a few issues, the primary one being the strategic lack of “connectors” allowing equipment onshore. Current options (LCAC, JHSV and LCU 1600) are relatively unprotected.

Amtracs Replacement, Take 1: The EFV Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle: Capabilities & CONOPS The New: EFV Features
(click to view full)

The EFV was expected to come in 2 main variants: EFV-P infantry fighting vehicles, and EFV-C command vehicles. Even after the program’s demise, its characteristics and associated Concept of Operations remain relevant. They were developed in response to what the Marines think they need, and early 2011 indications suggest that the service’s view hasn’t changed all that much.

The EFV-P personnel carriers have a stabilized turret[1] with advanced TV, laser and thermal imaging optics for accurate fire under all conditions out to 2 km (1.2 miles). Primary firepower is provided by an ATK 30mm MK 44 Bushmaster cannon and 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, with a maximum elevation of 45 degrees (high elevation is useful in urban warfare) and maximum depression of -10 degrees (useful for enfilade fire). The Bushmaster cannon will use HEIT(High-Explosive Incendiary Tracer) rounds with a super-fast fuse for maximum shrapnel, and MPLD (Multi-Purpose Low Drag) tungsten-tipped rounds against harder targets. The MPLDs offer an advantage over current 25mm rounds because they penetrate before exploding, instead of just pock-marking the walls of fortified bunkers and buildings.

Rounds are selectable on the fly, and Col. Brogan of the EFV program office has said that the cannon would defeat any vehicle short of a main battle tank up to 2 km away. The EFV program has also completed foreign comparative testing for programmable fuse rounds similar to those slated for the XM307 machine gun, and those rounds were found to be more lethal. The goal was to qualify them as an additional standard ammunition choice.

The current AAV7 Amtracs, in contrast, offer only low-light vision optics, in a non-stabilized manned turret, firing a .50 caliber machine gun and a 40mm GMG grenade launcher. Some Amtracs have added thermal sights, but other vehicles are sporting far more advanced manned turrets – and these days, unmanned RWS systems as well.

Additional firepower comes from the EFV’s onboard Marines, which is meant to include a full reinforced Marine rifle squad of 17 (13 Marines + 4 additional or specialists, including Javelin anti-tank teams) in addition to the vehicle’s crew of 3. The AAV7 listed a capacity of 22 and a crew of 3, but in practice its limit was also a combat-loaded reinforced rifle squad. The AAV7’s original design parameters even included an M151 Jeep or trailer, or 2 supply pallets from an LKA ship, as holdovers from its role as a mere LVT (Landing Vehicle, Tracked) before USMC doctrine began emphasizing its role as an armored personnel carrier. The EFV dispenses with that.

EFV: Command variant
(click to view full)

A command EFV-C variant carries an array of communications and computer systems and staff personnel. Indeed, all EFVs were slated to carry an array of communications equipment and electronics including GPS/INS navigation systems and C2PC (Command and Control, Personal Computer). C2PC is similar to the Army’s “Blue Force Tracker,” showing an overlay of friendly units and detected enemies on a common map. The two systems aren’t interoperable yet, though things are moving that way. C2PC is used in the US Army at brigade level and information can be shared through that command structure.

Electronics and salt water don’t exactly mix, however, so the EFV program has had to take precautions. All electronics must be fully sealed, all cables have shielding & protection, and design efforts were made to remove voids and enclosures where salt might become trapped. On the outside, a series of enviro-friendly coatings were used that avoided the use of carcinogenic hexavalent chrome, and areas where dissimilar metals are mated need barriers to prevent electricity-producing galvanic reactions. If that sounds more complex and exensive than standard IFVs, well, it is.

The Old: AAVP7, ashore
(click to view full)

Beyond the difference in these variants, however, all EFVs had broad similarities in a number of areas.

The EFV was designed to have positive buoyancy, and the program office has confirmed that the vehicle will float when at rest. Waterjet propulsion gives an amphibious speed of more than 20 knots – 3 times that of the AAV7. An underwater explosion survivability requirement is incorporated, and EFVs are also meant to move at high speed up to Sea State 3, and transition/low speed up to Sea State 5 (up to 8 ft. waves). This sea state capability would match the older AAV7s, and this level of unassisted armored landing capability in high sea states is reportedly unique to the AAV7 among present-day vehicles.

Those EFV water speed and sea state requirements have driven a number of design decisions, however, raising the vehicles’ cost and increasing its vulnerabilities. For instance, the need for hydroplaning at speed forces a flat bottom, which limits the hull’s potential protection against IEDs and other land mines. It also leads to an engine bigger than a 70-ton M1 tank’s, as well as very high vibration levels in transit that aren’t very friendly to onboard equipment.

Once on land, keeping up with the USMC’s M1 Abrams tanks imposes land speed requirements that must also be addressed. EFV top speed after landing will be about 45 miles per hour, which is comparable to the land speed of a modernized AAV7 RAM/RS, and enables the vehicles to keep up with a USMC’s M1 Abrams tank’s cruising speed. An engine almost twice as powerful as the ones in the 70-ton M1 tanks they’ll be accompanying certainly helps. Maintenance and readiness are meant to be similar to vehicles like the M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley, though they never even got close to that goal before the program was terminated.

Bradley reactive armor

On the protection front, the EFV has done what it could within its specifications, but it will not reach the level of the US Army’s Bradley or similar IFVs.

Measures have been taken to make EFV detection harder, including moving thermal giveaways to the rear, reducing telltale dust via side skirts, etc. NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection is also included. For direct protection when maneuver or concealment become impossible, its LIBA SURMAX silicon ceramic composite armor is expected to provide protection from 14.5mm rounds and 155mm shell fragments. The previous AAV7’s base was 12.7mm/.50 cal weapons and 105mm fragments, though add-on armor could raise that to the same 14.5/155mm levels. The LIBA SURMAX armor adds high resilience under multiple hits from armor piercing projectiles, easy field repair, and lightness to the protection equation.

Having met that “same as” standard, the EFV program does not officially plan to include armor-up kits of its own. Reactive armor like that fitted to M2/M3 Bradleys, M113s, etc. for defense against higher-caliber autocannon and/or RPG rockets was not initially planned for the EFV; the Marines believed the its weight and hydrodynamic issues would destroy the EFV’s amphibious capabilities, and had no initial plans for “add-on ashore” kits. Nor was the “cage” slat armor fitted to Army Strykers etc. under consideration as RPG protection, for the same reasons. Some minor casualty reduction would have been provided by improved fire suppression, and by spall linings that narrow the ‘casualty cone’ of a rocket’s blast fragments in the hull from the 90-110 degree spray of the AAV7 Amtracs, to 10 degrees or so.

In response to pressure from Congress, ideas have now been floated re: removable applique armor, but no official decision was taken.

Over the longer term, the EFV had reserved computing power, a card slot, and memory to integrate “active protection systems” like the RAFAEL/General Dynamics “Trophy” being fielded in Israel, or the Raytheon APS system contracted before the Army’s FCS ground vehicle family was canceled. The EFV program office never formally evaluated any of these systems, however, as no funding or requirements were provided to do it.

Cougar 6×6, IEDed
- the crew lived.
(click to view full)

EFV protection varies against the IED land mines that have already destroyed several Amtracs in Iraq. The EFV’s flat bottom remains a hazard when facing mines. Detonations underneath will remain a challenge, however, because the need for hydrodynamic lift forces a flat bottom design – and the same design that catches the full force of the water to provide lift, will also catch the full force of a mine blast. Given the amphibious distance and speed requirements, however, the EFV program office noted that blast-deflecting V-hulls were not an option. Shock-absorbing seats that reduce spinal injuries were the best they could do, given the specifications.

On the other hand, its low side skirts offer very better protection from side blasts than current Amtracs, especially since the SURMAX armor is good at absorbing “dynamic deflection.” The front is helped by the presence of the extensible plate for water travel, while the back features armor levels comparable to the sides.

This last vulnerability, to the #1 in-theater killer from America’s last 2 major wars, attracted sharp political scrutiny, and was a factor in pressure to cancel the program.

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle: The Case in Favor EFV exit
(click to view full)

Given these uncertainties, the increasing use of AAV7 Amtracs as armored personnel carriers deep inland, and the trends toward urban warfare and IED threats, the EFV has attracted some criticism. We begin with the USMC’s case for the EFV – and since the follow-on ACV seems to share similar underlying requirements, possibly the future ACV as well.

The biggest underlying requirement concerns the Navy, not the Marines. The Marines contend that advances in anti-ship missiles and surveillance, and the spiraling cost of US Navy’s designs for amphibious ships, made protecting those ships via long-distance launch a critical requirement. Rather than buying extra hovercraft or LCUs, the Navy and Marines wanted these waterborne abilities to be part of the vehicles themselves, so that amphibious assaults could introduce armor support very quickly. The EFV’s high-speed, long-distance swim capabilities, which have so influenced its design and execution, were seen as the best option for meeting that goal, while maximizing tactical flexibility in both Small Wars and high-intensity conflicts.

That speed has 2 major tactical rationales. One is protection. The other is flexibility. Col. Brogan of the EFV Program Office noted in our June 2006 interview that the “over the horizon” launch capability (about 25 miles out to sea) requirement of 25-mile swim capability in an hour. requirement was handed down in order to give friendly forces 2 opportunities to take down enemy missiles before they could hit the Navy’s amphibious ships, assuming AEGIS-equipped ships on station plus Cooperative Engagement Capability on the Navy’s amphibious assault vessels.

Staying afloat
(click to view full)

To illustrate the implications of flexibility, imagine a release point 15 miles offshore. At 25 mph swim speed, Pythagoras tells us that a 40 mile long stretch of coastline is at risk within an hour, complicating the defender’s options. The EFV’s speed, shared software and communications means that the vehicles can modify and share plans while still in the water; instead of having to look for a 1 km wide beach where they can all land in a wave, they can come ashore in dispersed fashion to re-form nearby, or exit in column through places as narrow as a boat ramp. Faced with this array of options, the defending commander must either disperse and hence weaken his defenses, try to anticipate the vehicles’ exact moves and risk being wrong, or accept the initial landing and plan to deal with the beach-head via counterattack.

Once on land, keeping up with the USMC’s M1 Abrams tanks in particular impose land speed requirements that must be addressed, even as the situations the US Marines face sometimes require far more protection than lighter vehicles like the BvS-10 can provide. The U.S. Marines must be able to operate in a wide variety of situations and environments, contend the EFV’s advocates, and their breadth of amphibious capabilities define them. With the EFV, the USMC argues, firepower, detection and flexibility are much improved over the AAV7, while amphibious and tracked mobility are maintained or improved. This combination makes the EFV an important tool that’s required in order to maintain the Corps’ full capability set.

The EFV’s amphibious capability remains tactically useful inland, however, reducing dependence on destroyable and easily-targeted bridges. As long as the opposite bank has a shallow enough slope for the EFVs to climb out within a few miles, EFVs can swim up rivers and cross water obstacles. Of course, accompanying USMC M1 Abrams tanks would not have this option. A Marine commander with a mixed vehicle set could split his forces, possibly assigning Javelin infantry teams, amphibious LAV-ATs with TOWs, Cobra helicopters, etc. for anti-tank punch. He could also use the EFVs in security operations as a bridgehead and guard force, until engineers could bring the tanks across.

Col. Brogan added that the USMC could always elect to put fewer than 17 Marines in an EFV depending on the mission, and noted that other vehicles in inventory from armored HMMWV jeeps and MTVR trucks, to LAV-25 wheeled APCs, to V-hulled RG-31 and Cougar vehicles, are available for commanders where lack of numbers or niche capabilities make the EFV an inferior mission choice.

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle: The Case Against RAF CH-47 w. BvS10,
(click to view full)

Critics note the EFV’s number of Marines carried and cost, contending that the USMC is simply building a very expensive, casualty-maximizing IED land mine/RPG trap, whose required protection levels against mines and incoming fire were sacrificed to the requirement for improved water speed. Despite this water speed, they won’t be useful as fire support in the littorals, either, leaving that mission largely unaddressed. EFVs will be tied to heavier and less flexible forces because they cannot handle enemy tanks or IEDs independently, and they will be too vulnerable in the urban warfare scenarios that will be common features of future conflicts.

Options to improve these capabilities, they say, will only turn a very expensive system that has demonstrated serious reliability problems, into an extremely expensive system that is even less reliable, and requires more support than before.

Other Marine forces like the British and Dutch, they note, are relying instead on smaller amphibious vehicles like the BvS-10 Viking. These vehicles are also fully amphibious, but trade less water speed and slightly less protection for more vehicles per dollar, fewer soldiers per vehicle to minimize casualties, and ground footprints that can cross all terrains and won’t set off pressure mines. When trying to keep the Navy ships safe, they argue, why not opt for systems like these that offer heliborne air mobility, giving the Marines even greater operational speed and over-the-horizon reach, and offering naval defenses even more shots at enemy missiles? Systems like the BvS10 would be equally useful in “small wars,” where their heliborne insertion and all-terrain capabilities would give the Marines new options against lightly-armed but very mobile enemies.

K21 KNIFV concept
(click to view full)

Alternatively, the Marines could buy a more conventional IFV with some amphibious capabilities, and depend on extra hovercraft, vessels like the proposed and landing ships to get them ashore. South Korea produced the K-21 KNIFV for about $3.5 million each, with better firepower and protection options than the EFV, at a cost of carrying only 9 crew and reducing water speed to 4-5 mph in low sea states.

Once built, those extra hovercraft and LCUs could even find new roles in the world’s littoral regions. Armed with rockets, bolt-on RWS turrets, or even rolled-on armored vehicles, they would have new life as impromptu littoral and riverine patrol craft, policing terrain that the US military sees as high threat while keeping larger ships out of the picture. LCT-As were used this way in World War 2 landings, and LCU/LCMs with low gunwales have mounted M48A3, M67A2, and M60A1 tanks in Vietnam and Grenada.

These options, say the critics, plus other vehicles in the Marines’ current force mix, are more likely to be appropriate in more of the situations that US Marines are likely to face going forward. They’re also far easier to buy in numbers when the EFV isn’t sucking the budgetary oxygen out of the room, a situation that tends to turn arguments that could be made as “both/and” into something of an “either/or” rhetorical proposition.

The arguments continue; indeed, they are likely to gain in intensity and strength as the USMC works to define the EFV’s successor.

Amtracs Replacement, Take 2: After the EFV

The USMC’s EFV replacement strategy rests on 3 pillars. DARPA may have added a 4th option, but like all DARPA projects, it will have to overcome significant technical hurdles in order to become even a potential production program.

Replace Me: ACV Amphibious Combat Vehicle EFV: electronics inside
(click to view full)

The USMC hopes it can keep its Amphibious Combat Vehicle to $10-12 million per vehicle, compared to $16.8 million for the EFV. Even so, that’s still far above other Marines forces around the world. The expected schedule was an ACV technical demonstration vehicle by the end of FY 2012, and a fully operational demonstration vehicle done by the end of 2013 or 2014. Re-use of some EFV systems might help meet those deadlines, but reliability issues make that a riskier strategy than it might otherwise be. A competition between contractors will give several of them 3-4 years to build their offerings, followed by a chosen ACV around 2020.

The USMC acknowledges that their desired schedule is aggressive, which often creates testing surprises, delays, and rising costs. Their acquisition strategy isn’t set in stone, but they seem to be leaning on multi-way competition and a drive-off to offset those risks, even as that format also complies with recent defense acquisition reform directives. They’d better hope it works, because $10 million was touted for the EFV part-way through the program – and another episode of ballooning costs and delays will cripple the Marines for a generation. Even if it does work, and costs are within budget, a $10-12 million per vehicle program would be a prime target for cuts if rising interest rates cause the USA to hit a fiscal wall.

More ominously, Kurt Koch, the combat vehicle capabilities integration officer for Fires and Maneuvers Integration Division, says “the ACV will be operationally mobile in the water, capable of ship-to-objective maneuver from over the horizon.” That’s the same requirement that doomed the EFV to be a super-expensive water taxi, that wouldn’t protect its crew against cannon fire, rockets, or the #1 killer in recent wars: land mine attacks.

Extend Me: the AAV7 SLEP AAV7s, Somalia
(click to view full)

Until the ACV is ready, the Amtracs will soldier on. The AAV Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) aims to add better protection, a modern power-train, and higher capacity suspension components. Another gap in the current force is the current turret, which is unstabilized, and can’t be fired accurately on the move. Costs and scope are still under evaluation, but the goal is to run the AAV7 SLEP program from 2012-2021.

With the ACV not even slated to begin production until 2020, and even the MPC not slated to make a difference until 2018-2020, the AAV7 SLEP becomes critical to the corps. During the next decade, any serious problems in the Amtracs fleet could leave the US Marines in a difficult position indeed.

If AAV7 Amtracs had to be built new, the last AAV7 Amtracs were produced for Brazil in the 1990s. The cost range in those-year dollars was $2.2 – 2.5 million per vehicle. Without factoring in production restart costs (or any capability upgrades for the modern battlefield), that figure translates into about $3.5 million per vehicle in today’s dollars.

Complement Me: The MPC Marine Personnel Carrier MPC concept
(click to view larger)

The wheeled Marine Personnel Carrier program is really a replacement for the LAV fleet, and has always been seen as a separate budgeted item. The EFV program’s failure doesn’t change that, but it does mean that MPCs may end up performing some EFV roles. They may end up in a bigger substitution role if the ACV also sinks, or the USA’s slow-motion fiscal wreck starts hitting the interest rate wall, and drastic cuts follow. If so, tactical changes will follow, because MPCs won’t be designed to come ashore through surf, even in low-medium sea states.

MPCs are expected to cost up to $4.5 million each, with a buy decision in 2013 and Initial Operational Capability in 2018. Declared MPC competitors already include BAE Systems/ Iveco with their SUPERAV), and Lockheed Martin/Patria with their Patria AMV. The current incumbent, General Dynamics, won’t be sitting out. They’re expected t bid their Piranha-III, or similar vehicles.


DARPA’s FANG. The Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation ground vehicle projects aims to develop a new heavy, amphibious infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) “with functional requirements intended to mirror the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle.”

That’s unusual. The approach is even more interesting, and unusual: “The contractor will stage a series of FANG challenges, prize-based design competitions for progressively more complex vehicle subsystems, culminating in the design of a full IFV.” DARPA has had good luck with competitions before, but they generally involve more than 1 vendor.

EFV: Contracts & Key Events

Unless otherwise indicated, all EFV program contracts are issued by US Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA to General Dynamics Amphibious Systems (GDAMS) in Woodbridge, VA.

FY 2012

DARPA’s FANG. June 22/12: Industrial. The USMC won’t be moving a $16 million hull manufacturing line out of Lima, OH and over to Georgia just yet. The Army’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center is run by General Dynamics, and the Marines will delay their decision until they compile a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed $19 million move ($6 million move + $13 million to restore the JSMC capability). It’s all part of a larger process:

“Following the Defense Department’s cancellation of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle Program, the Marine Corps began reviewing the future use of all EFV-associated equipment procured as part of that program. The JSMC was set to build the fighting vehicle, but now is using the hull machining equipment on other combat vehicles [DID: incl. Israeli Namer heavy APCs].”

June 19/12: Plan E – I’m the FANG. Ricardo, Inc. in Belleville, MI received a $9.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. This 12-month base period may be followed by 2 successive 12-month options, which could increase its value to $27.6 million. It will fund a research and development effort entitled “FANG (Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation) Ground Vehicle,” which aims to develop a new heavy, amphibious infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) “with functional requirements intended to mirror the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle.”

That’s unusual. The approach is even more interesting, and unusual: “The contractor will stage a series of FANG challenges, prize-based design competitions for progressively more complex vehicle subsystems, culminating in the design of a full IFV.” DARPA has had good luck with competitions before, but they generally involve more than 1 vendor.

Work will be performed in Belleville, MI (70.75%); Nashville, TN (13.38%); Atlanta, GA (9.26%); Brighton, MI (3.16%); San Antonio, TX (1.24%); and Troy, MI (2.21%). Work can run to June 17/15, with all options exercised. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency manages the contract (HR0011-12-C-0074).

FY 2011

EFV canceled. What now? Beached.
(click to view full)

June 10/11: Aviation Week reports that the USMC is looking to cut its analysis of alternatives (AOA) for the EFV replacement from 18 months to 9, or even 6 months. Areas of interest include “habitability” inside the vehicle, added features like an artificial horizon, and reaching out to shipbuilders for a better hull design.

The good news is that the USMC is reaching to a logical and related industry for help. The bad news is that an appetite for more and more based on notional requirements, rather than cost-driven limits that may force rethinks of what one can expect, is what sank EFV in the first place. Further bad news? The USMC say they need 38 amphibious ships, and might make do with 33, but will get 29. That will push them toward a long-swimming IFV design, as a way of compensating at sea. The question is whether that will create fatal vulnerabilities on land, or whether the shipbuilding sector can offer an EFV idea that squares the circle.

March 22/11: Plans B, C & D. The USMC outlines the 3 different vehicle programs that will replace the responsibilities the EFV would have held: AAV7 life extension from 2012-2021, wheeled Marine Personnel Carrier in service from 2018, and an Amphibious Combat Vehicle EFV replacement entering production by 2020. See above for more details.

Jan 12/10: Inside Defense reports that the US Marine Corps will pursue 3 contracts, in the wake of the EFV’s cancellation.

The first, required response involves life extension for the existing AAVP7 Amtracs fleet. The 2nd response will be to accelerate the LAV-II replacement Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC) program. Like its predecessor, MPC is required to have some amphibious capability, albeit less than the Amtracs. The 3rd response is the direct EFV replacment, currently known as the New Amphibious Vehicle (NAV) program.

Jan 6/11: Canceled. As part of a plan detailing $150 billion in service cuts and cost savings over the next 5 years, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces the cancellation of the USMC’s Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV):

“This program is of great interest to the Marine community so I would like to explain the reasons… Meeting [its conflicting requirements] demands has… led to significant technology problems, development delays, and cost increases… already consumed more than $3 billion to develop and will cost another $12 billion to build – all for a fleet with the capacity to put 4,000 troops ashore. If fully executed, the EFV – which costs far more to operate and maintain than its predecessor – would essentially swallow the entire Marine vehicle budget and most of its total procurement budget for the foreseeable future… recent analysis by the Navy and Marine Corps suggests that the most plausible scenarios requiring power projection from the sea could be handled through a mix of existing air and sea systems employed in new ways along with new vehicles… the mounting cost of acquiring this specialized capability must be judged against other priorities and needs.

Let me be clear. This decision does not call into question the Marine’s amphibious assault mission. We will budget the funds necessary to develop a more affordable and sustainable amphibious tractor to provide the Marines a ship-to-shore capability into the future. The budget will also propose funds to upgrade the existing amphibious vehicle fleet with new engines, electronics, and armaments to ensure that the Marines will be able to conduct ship-to-shore missions until the next generation of systems is brought on line.”

Responding to the announcement, USMC Commandant Gen. James Amos said that:

“Despite the critical amphibious and warfighting capability the EFV represents, the program is simply not affordable given likely Marine Corps procurement budgets. The procurement and operations/maintenance costs of this vehicle are onerous. After examining multiple options to preserve the EFV, I concluded that none of the options meets what we consider reasonable affordability criteria. As a result, I decided to pursue a more affordable vehicle… Shortly, we will issue a special notice to industry requesting information relative to supporting our required amphibious capabilities.”

Finally, the Deteroit Free Press submits a note worth remembering when other program cancellations are discussed:

“Peter Keating, vice president of communications with General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, told the Free Press on Thursday morning that the elimination of the EFV would cost Michigan 5,444 direct jobs and 5,281 indirect jobs, according to a economic study the defense contractor had done last year. The Free Press contacted one of the experts who did the study – David Louscher, a former political science professor at the University of Akron, who said those numbers represented so-called “man years” over the course of the 14-year life of the program. In other words, each of those jobs equated to roughly a full time job for one year, or 766 over the course of the program.”

See: Gates’ full speech | a href=”″>Full Gates speech and Gates/Mullen Q&A transcript | Pentagon release | USMC statement || Defense Update | WIRED Danger Room | || Cato Institute | Lexington Institute || Atlanta Journal Constitution | The Atlantic | Bloomberg | Detroit Free Press | The Hill | NY Times | Politico | Stars and Stripes || Agence France Presse | BBC | Reuters | UK’s Telegraph | China’s Xinhua.

EFV Canceled

Nov 16/10: No Plan B. WIRED Danger Room says there is no Plan B for the EFV, which means the vehicle had better pass its tests by February 2011:

“After years of delays and cost overruns, Senate appropriators voted in September to put the $24-million-per-tank EFV program out to pasture if it can’t pass its final round of tests. The chairmen of the White House deficit commission marked it for termination in their cost-cutting proposal last week. At this point, the swimming tank is a pinata for defense reformers… But a September study from the Government Accountability Office [DID: sctually. the Congressional Research Service] found few alternatives to the swimming tank (.PDF). Either the Marines could continue to use their decades-old Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or they can modify their planned Marine Personnel Carrier for ship-to-shore operations. (One option for the carrier, GAO writes, is the Italian Supernav 8×8 tank, “a 24-ton vehicle that can carry 13 Marines and their equipment and can travel up to 500 miles nonstop on land and 40 miles on water.”) But the carrier won’t be ready until 2015 as it is.”

FY 2010

EFV may be canceled; GAO & CSBA dubious about the EFV.

Sept 17/10: Inside Defense reports that: “The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee has provided funding to cancel the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program in its mark of the fiscal year 2011 defense budget.”

Sept 9/10: Carley Corp. in Orlando, FL wins a $35.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price contract to produce the EFV training system for USMC accession training, as well as for training fleet and reserve forces. The contract contains options that could boost it to $36 million. The training system will include several sub-systems: training courseware on a Learning Management System, simulators, devices, mockups, and training aids.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, and is expected to be complete by September 2015. This contract was a 100% small business set-aside posted in the Navy Electronic Commerce Office, with 3 offers received (M67854-10-C-0036).

Aug 24/10: Testimony. USMC Commandant Gen. James Conway defends the EFV capability, while distancing himself a bit from the current program. Defense Tech quotes him:

“It is not the platform it’s the capability… It’s not necessarily the EFV made by General Dynamics that goes 25 knots, its the capability that we need to be wed to… if that program were canceled outright we would still be looking to come up with that capability.”

He said the new batch of eight EFVs provided by General Dynamics for extensive testing are more reliable than the original prototypes and the Marines hope they’ll show marked improvement. “It has been a beleaguered program,” Conway said today at a Pentagon presser. “We are looking at affordability of the program in the out years… we have to ask ourselves are 573 (EFVs) affordable.”

Aug 19/10: Testing. The SDD-2 version of the EFV is undergoing testing at Camp Pendleton, CA, whose Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch (AVTB) at Camp Del Mar is well suited to the task. The team has also tested the EFV at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, and DoD facilities in Alaska and Hawaii. The AVTB is staffed by 53 Marines and 25 civilians who are currently conducting testing on 8 EFVs manufactured in Lima, OH.

The USMC release says that to date, more than 400 engineering design improvements have been implemented since AVTB became involved with testing the first EFV prototype in 2003. One is a “whale-tail” exhaust system that disperses heat down and outward from the vehicle, instead of straight upward. USMC.

July 9/10: Defense Tech reports:

“Yesterday at a reporter’s roundtable, House Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Ike Skelton said he expects SecDef Robert Gates and his merry band of program killers in OSD will try to terminate the Marine Corps armored amphibian, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). Skelton said he’s pretty agnostic on the EFV and that the HASC would give the Marines time to conduct further tests on the vehicle.”

See also Aviation Week | Reuters.

July 2/10: GAO still dubious. GAO Report #GAO-10-758R’s title understates its tone: “Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) Program Faces Cost, Schedule and Performance Risks” was provided to Rep. Norman D. Dicks [D-WA], n his role as Chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee. Some excerpts:

“In 2006 we reviewed the EFV program to determine how it was performing… and reported that the program faced significant risks… In 2006 and 2007, the EFV business case broke down… The program was restructured in June 2007.” [With respect to SDD-2], Reliability growth approach and other performance issues present significant challenges and risks, [the] nature of development, test, and procurement schedules add unnecessary risk… Costs could increase due to concurrency, redesign effort, and final procurement quantity… [and the program’s] history of cost growth, schedule slips and performance failures and the current challenges (including changing threats) raise the question of whether the business case for the EFV program (in terms of cost, schedule, and performance) is still sound.”

The rest of their review is quite detailed and specific. It cites serious ongoing issues with capacity and weight, reliability, and maintainability, and sees the overlapping schedule for testing and early production as especially worthy of concern. See also Eric Palmer of DoD Watch.

May 4/10: Roll-out, Take 2. The USMC rolls out the SDD-2 EFV prototype at a ceremony, and continues to press their case for the vehicle amidst rumors of its cancellation at what turned into a mini pep rally for the vehicle and its supporters. Taking direct aim at some of the concerns raised recently by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Marines may not need the EFV or that the vehicle could prove too costly, program and Marine Corps officials said the vehicle is exactly what they need to conduct operations from the sea. The EFV is meant to serve as a vehicle bridge for Marines, carrying them from Navy ships through the surf and sand and miles deep into enemy terrain. Program officials extolled the vehicle’s prowess and promise at a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps here, with the museum’s unique skyline sculpture in the background and a newly minted prototype EFV in the foreground.”>Aviation Week Ares.

May 3/10: Gates’ grumps. US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates delivers a speech at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space Convention, in National Harbor, MD. It’s widely seen as casting doubt on the future of the EFV. Excerpts:

“The more relevant gap we risk creating is one between capabilities we are pursuing and those that are actually needed in the real world of tomorrow… Two major examples come to mind. First, what kind of new platform is needed to get large numbers of troops from ship to shore under fire – in other words, the capability provided by the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. No doubt, it was a real strategic asset during the first Gulf War to have a flotilla of Marines waiting off Kuwait City – forcing Saddam’s army to keep one eye on the Saudi border, and one eye on the coast. But we have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious landing again – especially as advances in anti-ship systems keep pushing the potential launch point further from shore. On a more basic level, in the 21st century, what kind of amphibious capability do we really need to deal with the most likely scenarios, and then how much?

…And that bring me to the third and final issue: the budget… it is important to remember that, as the wars recede, money will be required to reset the Army and Marine Corps, which have borne the brunt of the conflicts. And there will continue to be long-term – and inviolable – costs associated with taking care of our troops and their families. In other words, I do not foresee any significant increases in top-line of the shipbuilding budget beyond current assumptions. At the end of the day, we have to ask whether the nation can really afford [the current force structure and platforms].”

March 30/10: GAO – what’s next? The US GAO audit office delivers its 8th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. With respect to the EFV, it cites a 132% jump in the program’s R&D budget from December 2000 – August 2009, a 45% rise in the procurement budget, and a 42.1% drop in planned orders. When you actually crunch those numbers, that means a 249.8% rise in per-vehicle procurement costs. With respect to the program’s structure:

“The EFV’s design will continue to evolve into low- rate initial production… until 2014 as it executes its reliability growth and testing strategy. The program is addressing 180 design actions raised during its critical design review in December 2008 and plans to incorporate many of them into seven new prototypes currently under construction… An operational assessment is scheduled for April 2011. At that time, the program expects to demonstrate on average at least 16 hours of operation between operational mission failures, which will keep the EFV on the reliability path needed to reach its minimum requirement of 43.5 hours. Additional testing and design revisions are scheduled to continue through the fourth lot of low-rate production, and the program will commit to all four low-rate production lots before conducting initial operational test and evaluation to validate the performance and reliability of the EFV.

…the program will introduce new friction-welding processes during low-rate production that are expected to increase the strength of the hull and reduce weight… The Marine Corps recently formalized the IED requirement for the EFV, but did not make it a key performance parameter… If the NBC system were removed, warfighters would still be protected using mission-oriented protective suits, which they currently use on the AAV-7 legacy platform. No decision has been made on this proposal, but it is being held as an option for later in the program.”

Feb 2010: USMC Commandant Gen. James Conway tells the House Armed Services Committee that the EFV performed “about the same” as a 6-wheeled, Category 2 MRAP blast-resistant vehicle in blast tests. A single EFV prototype was subjected to 4 blasts, including 2 that simulated land mines, without its additional armor kit installed.

What the reports don’t say is whether the blasts were set to the side, where the EFV’s protection is strong, or underbody blasts, where the EFV is expected to be weak. Caveat governor. Defense News | Gannett’s Marine Corps Times.

Dec 2/09: EG&G Technical Services, Inc. in Dumfries, VA receives a $5.7 million task order for EFV support services. “Technical support under this effort includes the support services to advance the use of technology to improve system performance and operations, achieve design-to-unit production cost objectives, and to define mature production and manufacturing processes.”

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA, and is expected to be complete in December 2010 (M67854-02-A-9011, #0087).

Dec 1/09: EG&G in Dumfries, VA receives a $5.2 million for task order for EFV support services to US Marine Corps Systems Command’s PM Advanced Amphibious Assault (PM AAA). “Technical support under this effort includes the support services to advance the use of technology to improve system performance and operations, achieve design-to-unit production cost objectives, and to define mature production and manufacturing processes.”

Work will be performed in Quantico, VA, and is expected to be complete in December 2009 (M67854-02-A-9011, #0070).

Dec 1/09: CSBA ix-nay. The non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) issues a study that recommends cancelling the EFV in favor of an armored vehicle with beter land capabilities and less focus on independent water travel, which would be provided by hovercraft.

It also recommends scaling back MV-22 buys, in favor of a mix of MV-22s and more standard, less expensive helicopters. Aviation Week Ares.

FY 2008 – 2009

SDD program gets a full re-boot; Mine protection issues raised. EFV, testing
(click to view full)

May 15/09: The EFV team conducts more EFV tests at the Potomac River training area just off the Quantico, VA. Work includes water maneuvering tests and a gunnery test of it 30mm Mk44 and 7.62mm M240 guns, and is taking place before field testing begins. USMC.

Aug 1/08: General Dynamics Land Systems, operating through its division General Dynamics Amphibious Systems in Woodbridge, VA receives a $766.8 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract that amounts to a reboot of the program. GDLS will redo the EFV, and produce 8 System Development and Demonstration 2 (SDD-2) Eprototypes. In addition, the contractor will modify existing EFV prototypes, procure preliminary spares and repair parts, order long lead materials for the SDD-2 prototypes, and conduct systems engineering, studies and analysis, logistics support and test support.

Work will be performed in VA (55%), IN (10%), MI (9%), Germany (9%), OH (4%), and various other states (13%), and is expected to be completed in September 2012. This contract was not competitively awarded. The Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA (M67854-08-C-0003). See also Defense News.

SDD re-boot

Jan 18/08: General Dynamics Amphibious Systems in Woodbridge, VA received an $12 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-05-C-0072) for the advanced procurement of long lead materials for Systems Development and Demonstration 2 phase of the EFV program.

Work will be performed in Michigan (37%), Indiana (20%), Arizona (13%), Maryland (5%), Louisiana (3%), Florida (2%), Mississippi (2%), New Jersey (2%), New York (2%), Ohio (2%), and Germany (12%), and is expected to be completed by November 2009.

Jan 17/08: General Dynamics Amphibious Systems (GDAMS) in Woodbridge, VA received a $19.5 million modification under a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for the spares material under the systems development and demonstration phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program.

Work is expected to be completed by September 2008, and will be performed in Woodbridge, Va., (24.654%); Indianapolis, IN (18.727%); Muskegon, MI (11.437%); Salisbury, MD (3.234%); Spokane, WA (2.669%); Anniston, AL (2.625%); Lapeer, MI (2.612%); Tallahassee, FL (2.581%); Broomfield, CO (2.368%); Slidell, LA (2.045%); Houghton, MI (1.994%); Tuscon, AZ (1.772%); Springfield, VA (1.647%); Black Mountain, NC. (1.619%); Minneapolis, MN (1.345%); Duluth, GA (1.241%); San Diego, CA (1.223%); Tempe, AZ (1.123%); Plainview, NY (1.12%); Ottawa, Canada (1.875%); Freidrichshafen, Germany (0.988%); Calgary, Canada (0.144%); and several other locations within the United States, each with %ages lower than 1% (totaling 10.957%). The contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Jan 9/08: The US House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Expeditionary Forces subcommittee is casting a skeptical bipartisan eye on the EFV program. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD, ranking subcommittee minority member] spoke to Inside the Navy after speaking at a conference in Arlington, VA. According to information released by his office, he and subcommittee chair Gene Taylor [D-MS] have ‘a lot of serious questions’ about the idea for additional applique armor to help remedy the EFV’s poor resistance to mines. The idea itself was spawned in reaction to the subcommittee’s pointed questions re: the EFV and its lack of resistance to IED land mines. Congressman Bartlett:

“…they would get a really thin, strong Marine who could scoot underneath that thing, because there’s only about 18 inches of ground clearance, and he would bolt on an applique of some special aluminum which would now protect them… the enemy has to be very cooperative and not shoot them while they’re affixing the armor applique, and that the Marines have to find hard terrain free of mines to do this re-jiggering [the USMC] told us that they would know that the beach wasn’t mined. I said, ‘If you can know the beach was not mined, how come our people in Iraq can’t figure out whether the road is mined or not’?”

Oct 22/07: A $10 million contract modification to previously awarded contract M67854-01-C-0001 to develop an alternative drivetrain subsystem preliminary design for the continuation of Systems Development and Demonstration phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. Work will be performed in Augsburg, Germany (81%), Friedrichshafen, Germany (1%) and Woodbridge, VA (18%) and is expected to be complete by April 2008.

FY 2007

Program problems push the government toward competing the EFV going-forward; Revised costs & budgets as price climbs. Pushing hard
(click to view full)

Aug 22/07: The Pentagon releases its Selected Acquisition Reports for the June 2007 reporting period, and the EFV program is listed:

“The SAR was submitted to report schedules slips of approximately two years since the December 2006 SAR. In February 2007, the program experienced a critical Nunn-McCurdy unit cost breach due primarily to system reliability challenges and a quantity reduction. The department certified a revised program to Congress in June 2007. Program costs increased $4,069.4 million (+34.2 percent) from $11,902.7 million to $15,972.1 million.”

DID’s follow-on article “Costing the Marines’ EFV” explains what’s going on, delving into current and past program cost growth, why it happened, and what it means for the price per vehicle. The short answer is that each EFV will cost $16-21 million.

$21 million per?!?

Aug 15/07: A $15.5 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for System Integration Laboratory Hardware, during the SDD phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (45%); Tallahassee, FL (30%); Lima, OH (20%); and Scranton, PA (5%). Work is expected to be complete by September 2008.

On the beach
(click to view full)

Aug 1/07: In reply to the July 12/07 Jane’s article, the EFV program office had this to say to DID:

“We plan to compete future contracts for certain EFV program efforts, where feasible, to increase performance or reduce program costs. However, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) has been the sole EFV vehicle designer and developer since 1996 and as a result, the main design development and production efforts are planned as sole source to GDLS because no other firm can perform the requirements of development and production without substantial duplication of cost and additional, unacceptable delays to the EFV program.

GDLS has taken positive action to demonstrate their commitment to the EFV program and improve the probability of success in meeting EFV program requirements. GDLS implemented a major reorganization in early 2007 to transfer technical expertise to the EFV program and to align Director-level technical positions with their parent company, GDLS in Sterling Heights, MI.

In Jan 07, GDLS transferred their best Systems Engineer from GDLS to Woodbridge, VA to be the Director of Systems Engineering for the EFV program. In addition, they created a Director of Programs position and appointed a senior GDLS employee with proven success on numerous Defense programs to the position. GD then aligned key EFV positions with their corporate organization to provide corporate expertise and continuity across Defense programs. This included instituting a direct reporting relationship for the EFV SE Director to the GDLS Senior Director for SE and for the EFV Technical Director to the GDLS Senior Vice-President for Engineering Design & Development (ED&D).”

July 31/07: A $6.2 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001). It covers sustaining program management, as well as technical and engineering support for the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) Drive train components, during the extended Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the EFV program. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN and work is expected to be completed by September 2008.

July 17/07: A $10.6 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for the sustaining equipment manufacturing, technical, and engineering efforts in support of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) engine, during the extended Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the of the EFV program.

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (12%) and Friedrichshafen, Germany (88%) and is expected to be complete by September 2008.

July 12/07: Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that the USMC will consider alternative designs for the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) and plans to compete out future components of the $2.3 billion EFV contract currently solely held by General Dynamics. “The news follows continued scrutiny of the programme by the US Congress, which has sharply questioned the EFV’s flat-bottomed design, cost over-runs and production problems.”

Rep. Gene Taylor [D-MS], Chair of the House Armed Services Seapower & Expeditionary Forces subcommittee, is reportedly seeking legal opinions re: ownership of the vehicle design, in order to determine whether the EFV project could be turned over to another firm if Congress’ patience snaps.

June 8/07: A $5.7 million modification to previously awarded contract M67854-01-C-0001 for the redesign of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, using an alternate architecture in place of Spraycool technology, during the Systems Development and Demonstration phase. SprayCool will be kept for the more computing-intensive EFV-C command variant, but is being designed out of the infantry carrier vehicle in favor of a more modular architecture. This is bad news for SprayCool Corp., who touted their liquid cooling system for electronics in a success story release:

“In 2000, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), being developed at that time as the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV), was experiencing significant difficulties in their command and control electronics suite due to overheating. Moreover, the program office realized that this problem would only get worse as their C4I roadmap called for more electronics, increasing the number of software programs, and numerous technology insertions of faster processors to transfer the required data.

By chance the program manager for the Command Variant of the EFV saw a SprayCool Technology demonstration and consulted with SprayCool. Using a Small Business Innovative Research contract and funding from DARPA, SprayCool built a prototype multi-processor unit, called the Command and Control Server (CCS). This prototype solved the overheating conditions and has evolved into the heart of the EFV’s electronic suite where it links ten operating stations with information from the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, Command and Control Operations (C2PC for situational awareness), Intelligence Operations System, and other C4I SR (command, control, communications, and computers intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems.

In developing the Multi-Processor Unit (MPU) for the Marine Corps, SprayCool won the Department of Defense Value Engineering Award for 2003 by enabling Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) technology insertions, saving the Marines over $350 million dollars over a thirty year life span.”

Work on finding a replacement cooling approach will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (34.2%), Spokane, WA (20.7%), Colorado Springs, CO (14.6%), Tallahassee, FL (11.5%), Calgary, Canada (9.5percent), Ottawa, Canada (4.2%), Los Angeles, CA (2.1%), Salisbury, MD (2.0%) and Sterling Heights, MI (1.2%) and is expected to be complete by September 2008. Contract funds in the amount of $3.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

May 2/07: House Appropriation Committee chair Henry Waxman submits formal requests to Secretary of Defense Gates and to General Dynamics Land Systems President David K. Heebner. He requests a long list of reports, assessments, and other documentation related to the EFV, by May 18/07, while citing several reports the program’s ongoing difficulties. House Appropriations Committee | Full Letter to DoD [PDF] | Full letter to General Dynamics Land Systems [PDF].

April 30/07: A $43.8 million contract modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for spares and material for the continuation of Systems Development and Demonstration phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program.

Work will be performed in Germany (38.61%); Michigan (13.38%); Indiana (7.56%); Virginia (6.04%); Colorado (5.37%); Florida (4.61%); California (4.2%); Canada (4.26%); Maryland (3.94%); Washington (3.72%); Arizona (2.52%); North Carolina (2.49%); Louisiana (2.21%); New York (0.27%); South Carolina (0.24%); Massachusetts (0.20%); Missouri (0.19%); Minnesota (0.16%); and Pennsylvania (0.02%); and is expected to be complete by September 2007.

March 19/07: A $144 million modification to previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (M67854-01-C-0001) on Mar. 16, 2007, for design for reliability efforts for the continuation of Systems Development and Demonstration phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. In other words, this money will be used to address the reliability issues covered in “The US Marines’ EFV Program: Current State Report, November 2006“,” in order to get the EFV to a point where it’s ready for low-rate production.

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (40%), Indianapolis, Ind., (24%), Sterling Heights, MI (10%), Friedrichshafen, Germany, (10%), and various other states (16%), and is expected to be complete by September 2008.

FY 2006 and Earlier

Initial EFV SDD contract, and add-ons. Waterjets on!
(click to view full)

May 25/06: An $18.8 million cost-reimbursable modification under a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for the continuation of Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program. Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (50%); Aberdeen, MD (25%); and Camp Pendleton, CA (25%).

April 3/06: A $44.4 million cost-reimbursable addition modification under previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for the continuation of Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program. GDAMS will provide all required materials, services, personnel and facilities to complete the design and development of the EFV, perform studies and analyses, manufacture and test all SDD prototypes, prepare for production, initiate logistics support of the EFV, and successfully complete the SDD phase.

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (38%); Camp Pendleton, CA (22%); Sterling Heights, MI (21%); Aberdeen, MD (9%), and undetermined location(s) (10%), and is expected to be complete by September 2009.

July 22/05: A $42.9 million cost-reimbursable addition to a previously awarded contract (N67854-01-C-0001) to extend the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle’s systems development and demonstration (SDD) phase. Full-up system live fire testing will be included. General Dynamics will provide all required materials, services, personnel and facilities to complete the design and development of the EFV, perform studies and analyses, manufacture and test all SDD prototypes, prepare for production, initiate logistics support of the EFV, and successfully complete the SDD phase.

Work will be performed in Virginia (21.22%); Indiana (12.47%); Germany (10.47%); Michigan (8.87%); North Carolina (6.81%); California (5.31%); Ohio (5.21%); Washington (5.20%); Maryland (4.38%); Minnesota (4.38%); Colorado (2.95%); Canada (2.53%); Illinois (2.37%); Arizona (1.07%); New York (0.87%); Alabama (0.54%); Florida (0.48%); Georgia (0.14%); Texas (0.13%); and undetermined (4.61%). Work is expected to be completed by September 2009.

Nov 1/04: A $136 million cost-reimbursable addition modification under previously awarded contract M67854-01-C-0001 for the continuation of system development and demonstration (SDD) phase of the expeditionary fighting vehicle (EFV) program. GDAMS will provide all required materials, services, personnel and facilities to complete the design and development of the EFV, perform studies and analyses, manufacture and test all SDD prototypes, prepare for production, initiate logistics support of the EFV, and successfully complete the SDD phase.

This contract was not competitively procured. Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (59.02%); Indianapolis, IN (10.43%); Lima, OH (1.94%); Liberty Lake, WA (1.64%); Sterling Heights, MI (1.46%); Scranton, PA (1.38%); Linthicum, MD (1.20%); Tempe, AZ (1.18%); Arlington, VA (0.78%); Pittsfield, MA (0.69%); San Diego, CA (0.55%); Tallahassee, FL (0.53%); Frederick, MD (0.43%); El Centro, CA (0.37%); Muskegon, MI (0.02%);and Freidrichshafen, Germany (15.61%); Ottawa, Canada (1.82%); and Calgary, Canada (0.95%). Work is expected to be complete by September 2008.

EFV on land
(click to view full)

Feb 10/03: $15.9 million under a previously awarded cost-reimbursable contract (M67854-01-C-0001), exercising an option for the Live Fire Test Vehicle and initial spares for the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV).

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, Va. (30.9%); Indianapolis, Ind. (6.4%); Freidrichshafen, Germany (5.8%); Muskegon, Mich. (4.6%); Tempe, Ariz. (4.6%); Tallahassee, Fla. (4.1%); Scranton, Pa. (4.1%); Lima, Ohio (3.1%); Slidell, La. (2.2%); Lapeer, Mich. (2.2%); Boulder, Colo. (1.9%); Hebron, Ohio (1.9%); McKinney, Texas (1.9%); Boca Raton, Fla. (1.4%); Ottawa, Canada (1.3%); Jacksonville, Mich. (1.3%); Imperial Valley, Calif. (1.2%); East Aurora, N.Y. (1.1%); Tuscon, Ariz. (0.9%); Frederick, Md. (0.8%); Wayne, N.J. (0.8%); Calgary, Canada, (0.8%); Anniston, Ala. (0.7%); Clarkston, Wash. (0.6%); San Diego, Calif. (0.4%); Westbury, N.Y. (0.4%); Marlboro, Md. (0.2%); Sterling Heights, Mich. (0.1%); and all other states (14.3%). Work is expected to be completed by June 2005.

July 3/01: A $712 million cost-reimbursable contract for the systems development and demonstration (SDD) (formerly engineering and manufacturing development) phase of the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) as part of the SDD phase. Under this procurement, two different types of vehicles will be developed and demonstrated, the Personnel variant (AAAV (P)) and the Command and Control variant (AAAV (C )). The AAAV is a replacement system for the current AAV7A1 that was fielded in 1972, underwent a major service life extension program and product improvement program from 1983 to 1993 and will be over 30 years old when the AAAV is fielded.

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, Va. (57.4%); Freidrichshafen, Germany (5.1%); Indianapolis, Ind. (5.1%); Tallahassee, Fla. (3.1%); Calgary, Canada (2.2%); Tempe, Ariz. (2.0%); Sterling Heights, Mich. (1.9%); Scranton, Pa. (1.9%); Muskegon, Mich. (1.8%); Lima, Ohio (1.7%); Imperial Valley, Calif. (1.5%); Clarkston, Wash. (1.4%); Boulder, Colo. (1.0%); Frederick, Md. (0.7%); Anniston, Ala. (0.5%); Upper Marlboro, Md. (0.5%); Arlington, Va. (0.5%); Lapeer, Mich. (0.5%); Reston, Va. (0.5%); Springfield, Va. (0.5%); East Aurora, N.Y. (0.4%); Ottawa, Canada (0.4%); McKinney, Texas (0.4%); Hebron, Ohio (0.4%); Tucson, Ariz. (0.2%); San Diego, Calif. (0.3%); Acton, Mass. (0.3%); Ottawa, Canada (0.2%); Boca Raton, Fla. (0.2%); Bettendorf, Iowa (0.2%); Chicago, Ill. (0.2%); Israel (0.2%); Wayne, N.J. (0.2%); and all other states (6.4%) and is expected to be completed in September 2006. This contract was not competitively procured (M67854-01-C-0001).

SDD contract

April 5/01: General Dynamics Land Systems, Woodbridge, VA, under their subsidiary General Dynamics Amphibious Systems, is being awarded a $6 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for long-lead material for the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) as part of the systems development and demonstration phase. The work will be performed in Woodbridge, Va. (40%), Lima, Ohio (20%), Tallahassee, Fla. (15%), Muskegon, Mich. (10%), Scranton, Pa. (10%), and Imperial Valley, Calif. (5%) and is expected to be completed by June 2001 (M67854-01-C-0001).


fn1. Remote Weapons Systems turrets like the RCWS-30 equipping the Czech Army’s river-amphibious Pandur II APC fleet were considered at the program’s outset, but they had not developed to their present capability levels. In addition, Col. Brogan noted that Remote Weapons Systems made crew nausea issues worse during amphibious testing. Money has not been allocated for current studies, the design is well advanced, and the EFV office has no plans to recommend reconsideration.

fn2. The GAO estimates $12.3 million per vehicle. See GAO report item in the “Additional Readings & Sources” section for deeper background.

Appendix A: Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle – The Program Previous timeline
(click to view full)

The US Marines originally hoped to replace 1,322 AAV7s with 1,013 EFVs: 935 EFV-P Personnel Variants, and 78 EFV-C Command Variants. Initial Operating Capability (IOC) was supposed to happen in 2010, and was defined as a platoon of 13 EFV-P and 1 EFV-C vehicle, ready for Marine Expeditionary Unit deployment workups, including the associated support and sustainment package. Plus a 2nd EFV platoon delivered and in New Equipment Training. Plus a 3rd EFV platoon in production. Full Rate Production was scheduled for the FY 2011-2020 period. Full Operational Capability (FOC) was scheduled for FY 2020.

It eventually became clear that 2010 wouldn’t even see the end of testing, and IOC was a long way away at FY 2017 or so, if everything went well. Even Low-Rate Initial Production wasn’t expected until FY 2013 – assuming that testing didn’t reveal additional problems, and the program survived that long. Which it did not.

The EFV nevertheless remained the Corps’ top land combat priority, right up until its cancellation by the Marine Corps – with a very hard push from the Pentagon. EFV budgets in recent years have included:

FY 2005: $291.7 million ($239.2M R&D, $52.5M procurement)
FY 2006: 272.7 million ($243.9M R&D, $28.8M procurement)
FY 2007: $348.7 million (all shifted to RDT&E following testing issues and cuts)
FY 2008 req.: $288.2M RDTE (Research, Development, Testing, & Evaluation)
FY 2009: $256.0M RDT&E
FY 2010: $292.2M RDT&E
FY 2011 request: $242.8M RDT&E, but the program was shut down.

The danger signs began when the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review resulted in a significant cut to the USMC’s EFV plans, as the service considered their total package of ground vehicles, and the schedule has foundered in the wake of serious performance and reliability problems. In contrast, blast-resistant wheeled patrol vehicles appears to have made large gains within the envisioned force mix, per the MRAP program etc.

Muddy ground
(click to view full)

Then, there were the EFV’s costs.

In 2000, the EFV program was expected to cost about $7.3 billion, including $1.6 billion for research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E). By 2006, that figure had risen to $12.5 billion, including $2.5 billion for RDT&E. At 1,013 EFVs, the final cost per vehicle had grown to $10.1 million[2] – but even this figure was true if, and only if, all planned vehicles were bought. By August 2009, the program’s estimated cost was $14.29 billion, including $3.74 billion in RDT&E; and this 14 billion dollar figure was so despite a 42.1% cut in the expected order, to just 593 EFVs. Overall, the cost per vehicle has risen almost 250% from its December 2000 baseline.

In a 2006 discussion, the program office estimated that a cutback to 573 vehicles could increase costs by up to $2 million per vehicle, to $12-13 million. Other reports have placed the cost as high as $17 million average.

Why is this? Much of it is a factor of the vehicle’s requirements. A 20 knot plus water speed, with that much carrying capacity, plus even a questionable level of protection on land, is a contradictory set of imperatives that creates a very expensive vehicle. Some of the cost jump a product of the vehicle’s rising complexity, as it gets redesigned. Some of it is also self-inflicted, and stems from cuts in the program.

Buying fewer vehicles means that the R&D is paid for and vehicles are bought earlier in the production learning curve, when the cost higher. If fewer vehicles are also bought over the same time frame, then fixed costs per vehicle increase for that reason as well. The EFV program office’s preliminary analysis showed that a reduction to 800 vehicles would raise the final average cost per vehicle by at least $1 million.

Of course, costs that rise during the R&D/SDD phase tend to lead to more production reductions, and the whole scenario can spiral very quickly. In an attempt to avoid that spiral, the EFV Program Office tried a number of improved project management techniques and procurement innovations. It was hoped that these efforts would help keep the program on its current schedule, and they did help. What they can never do, is fix a fundamental requirements set problem if one exists, or completely remove the unexpected surprises from a difficult technical journey.

Sunset battle
(click to view full)

In the end, however, the biggest killer was issues with EFV performance, as detailed in test results and GAO reports.

Full up EFV System Level Lethality testing began with an Operational Assessment between January-September 2006. Milestone C approval was expected to be followed by low-rate initial production (LRIP) vehicles in FY 2007 – 2008 for use during Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E). Unfortunately, the assessment revealed some serious issues with performance, capacity, and reliability.

LRIP production was delayed while the program was restructured, and the problems were not confined to just one sub-system, or just a few. In the end, the vehicle kept its basic outline, but got a major makeover that is still in progress.

The first step was a Design For Reliability phase, followed by what is in effect a do-over of the Systems Design & Development phase (SDD-2). Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) was delayed from 2008 until FY 2013 or so. Initial Operational Capability, meanwhile, was pushed from the original 2010 to 2016-2017 at the earliest.

As risky as that was, the US GAO cited an additional risk of overlap. EFV testing wasn’t supposed to be done until the end of FY 2014, but LRIP would start before that’s done. With up to 96 vehicles planned under the 4 LRIP production lots, problems discovered in late testing could become very expensive retrofits very quickly.

This schedule, and the growing risk of EFV program cancellation,made it clear that further upgrades and/or life-extension programs may be required for the AAV7 Amtracs fleet, in order to keep the heavily-used vehicles available to the Marines until replacements do arrive. During that interim, any serious problems in the Amtracs fleet could leave the US Marines in a difficult position indeed.

Appendix B: Additional Readings & Sources EFV Data

Official Reports

Other Readings

Categories: News

Russia Upping Capacity to ‘Ukraine’ Neighbors

Mon, 01/19/2015 - 16:42

  • The Commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, Lt Gen Ben Hodges, is quoted as revealing the analysis that Russia currently can’t threaten more than one Ukraine-level conflict at once without significant pre-mobilization that would warn a victim country and allies, but that within a few years – assuming current procurement policies continuing – Russia could conduct three such operations simultaneously. The statement came during a Russia Study Day conducted in Germany among various military russophiles.


  • Navy officials continue to promulgate their new-found advocacy for having more ships and putting weapons – if not armor – on all of them.

  • The U.S. Air Force is starting integration training with combinations of F-22 and F-35 pilots.

  • U.S. A-10 Warthog aircraft were reportedly targeted by ISIS forces using SA-7 Grail (Strela-2) missiles. The U.S. destroyed 5,000 of those missiles when they were found in Libya, although another 15,000 were reportedly missing in the confusion of the revolution. Syria also has them in their inventory.


  • The U.S. has been trying to find ways to collaborate with India on defense procurement, with many potential offsets proscribed by tough U.S. export regulations. But by picking several relatively widespread technologies, such as those used in the RQ-11B mini-UAV, Frank Kendall, the U.S.’s key man on defense acquisition, was visiting India trying to jumpstart some projects.

  • The formidable Russian-Indian anti-ship missile BrahMos isn’t invincible, according to a rough capabilities analysis.

Today’s Video

  • Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff explains why the Navy will become more important over time and points out that its shrinking surface forces (down to 288 vessels, a number not seen since 1916) do not appear consistent with the increasing need (see 13:30). The key question about how the Navy could increase its share of the pie comes at 26:45. The answer appears to be more LCS:

Categories: News

Canadians Unhappy with Defense Procurement, Looking at F-35 Alternative

Mon, 01/19/2015 - 15:33
F-35 AA-1
(click to view full)

Liberal versus Conservative politics are dominating the coverage of Canadian self examination of their defense procurement process. Conservatives came to power criticizing a broken and opaque process run by the Liberals, and now the Liberals are enjoying throwing similar barbs at the majority party. But in the fray, several interesting analyses have surfaced that the defense establishment is taking seriously.

The Harper government insists that a defense procurement overhaul conducted last year has yet to toll, and that patience is needed to prove that things have improved. By far, the largest effect is exerted by the major fighter and ship programs, which evolve in year and decade timescales.

As to the actual content of the report, much blame is placed at the cutting of procurement staff levels, which have been halved over the past 20 years. Also unpopular among the procurement officials are rafts of the new reporting requirements – reportedly up by about 50 percent – that are part of the Harper governments reforms.

Separately, the objectives of major defense procurement projects have also been called into question. Because the F-35 has greatest advantage in the objective of overpowering a state with top anti-air resources, Canadian officials are now questioning whether this is something relevant to Canada, especially in the face of a lopsided price disadvantage versus other fighters. Reportedly, the only other fighter contending still against the F-35 is Boeing’s Super Hornet. This analysis, a product of the 2012 decision to delay what was to be a $45 billion purchase of F-35s, did not draw a conclusive recommendation, although it did note that the likelihood of requiring a mission profile uniquely suited to the F-35 was low.

The F-35 program has been controversial in Canada, even more so than in other countries, complete with alleged plots to conduct secret initial procurement of four fighters to be delivered in 2015, with a commitment for 9 more two years later. Internal pressures led the Harper administration to develop a more explicit offset seeking program, called the Value Proposition Guide, as in show-us-what-industrial-value-we-can-bank domestically.

Categories: News

DoD: Keep Both U-2 and Global Hawk

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 15:11

  • Having vacillated back and forth, the Pentagon will reportedly now ask for both its cake and to eat it too in the 2016 budget, reversing the decision to mothball the U-2 spy plane program, but also to start research and design work (about $150 million over three years) on a replacement. The Office of Secretary of Defense ordered the Air Force to pursue both avenues, and is funding it with a topline service increase. The RQ-4B Global Hawk UAV from Northrop Grumman has been locked in paper combat with the Lockheed Martin U-2. Home scorekeepers will remember that the Air Force rather suddenly asked for permission to kill the Block 30 Global Hawk – the one with U-2-like capabilities – three years ago. Lobbying resurrected it and reversed the momentum between the two camps, until now.


  • As part of its effort to institute cost reforms, the U.S. Air Force will weaken requirements for its T-X trainer procurement program, the replacement for the T-38 jet trainers. Also on the requirements chopping block are the space-based infrared system (SIBRS), multi-domain adaptable processing system (MAPS), and the long-range standoff weapon.

  • General John Campbell who runs the Resolute Support mission, said in an interview with Army Times that his intelligence assets are concentrating on evidence that ISIS is recruiting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


  • Israel is pulling the trigger on a $117 million C4I revamp led by Elbit Systems.

  • Belgium is surveying options to replace its F-16s. Thought to be on the list is the F-35, the F/A-18, Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen.


  • A Frost & Sullivan report on the naval platform markets reportedly predicts slow growth maintained by several conflict areas and an increased swagger from China, coupled with an increasing supply situation as Japan’s military export reticence recedes and China increases its production capacity for export.

Today’s Video

  • It is axiomatic that a pilot and crew grow to love an air platform, no matter the warts. Most times, at least. But now fans of obsolete systems have access to cheap and easy 3-D video rendering. Couple that with a half-hearted lobbying effort of Facebook, and even a 1957 airframe can appear to have new life:

Categories: News