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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 52 min 16 sec ago

US De-Links Human Rights and Arms Help as Egypt Gets Its Aid | Saab Upgrades India’s Dhruvs

3 hours 50 min ago


  • German weapon manufacturer Heckler & Koch has denied reports that its G36 rifles have been afflicted with operational problems (namely overheating), despite the German Army confirming anecdotal evidence that German soldiers had experienced the same problem on operations in Afghanistan.


Today’s Video

  • The Dhruv helicopter in action (bonus crazy-camouflage APC included)…

Categories: News

All Over Again: Egypt Looks Beyond the USA for New Arms

17 hours 1 min ago
M1: 2011 Revolution

For most of the Cold War, Egypt’s military was a Soviet client. Every war with Israel was fought with weapons that were predominantly Russian. Russian pilots, air defense troops, and other specialists even fought in combat beside their Egyptian counterparts.

All that changed with the Camp David accords. Egypt slowly flipped, as the flood of American military aid dollars soon translated into a military whose high-end equipment was predominantly American.

Now, hostility from the current US administration after the Muslim Brotherhood was removed from power in Egypt is changing the relationship again. Egypt is looking beyond the USA for equipment, and the Russians are seizing an opportunity to begin bringing Egypt back into the fold. The Egyptian military’s stocks haven’t wholly been purged of Russian equipment, either, which adds plausibility to the idea. Is Egypt about to flip again? And who else is in the mix?

Un-Dependence Still flying…

Egypt isn’t entirely dependent on the USA for weapons. The EAF’s fleet of 18 or so Mirage 2000s adds an important alternative to their 200+ F-16s, but it’s a drop in the bucket. Instead, their main alternative is an old standby: over 100 Russian MiG-21s, or their license-built Chinese J-7 counterparts.

On land, Egypt has almost 3,000 American M1 and M60 tanks, and M113-derivatives dominate their APCs and IFVs. On the other hand, Egypt also has over 1,200 Soviet tanks that have undergone upgrades to Ramses II (T-55) or RO-120 Mk.III (T-62) status, and a similarly-proportioned range of older OTR-60 family, BTR, and locally-designed Fahd APCs.

One finds this kind of pattern throughout their forces: higher-end American equipment, with a smaller set of older East-Bloc designs that remain in the force.

Still tethered

The good news is that this split makes a shift away from the USA possible. The bad news is that this isn’t the Cold War, and the Russians won’t just give everything away as military aid. Egypt can replace and refurbish some of its equipment, but a complete American military cutoff at any time during the next decade would be a serious military problem. Egypt can lessen its risks, and the government will, but it can’t remove them.

Ultimately, the question will be who pays for all this. Egypt’s ability to afford major weapons purchases is poor without outside aid, and civil stability is a bigger priority than flashy military toys. At the same time, Egypt has a limited window to find other major defense partners, and lessen its dependence on the USA before its older equipment ages into disuse.

Russia is looking to expand its influence in the Middle East, attaches no strings regarding how its weapons are used, and is also interested in economic opportunities like Egypt’s natural gas resources. That makes them a more natural geo-political partner than China, and their opportunities range from refurbishing older Soviet-era military equipment, to selling new. They’ll still want Egypt to show them the money, of course, but they’ll be flexible regarding exactly what form ‘money’ will take.

Contracts & Key Events MiG-29M2
(click to view full)

April 1/15: US caves to local security needs and pressures. The Obama Administration pledged $1.3 billion-worth of foreign military financing for Egypt, with the sale of a dozen F-16s, 125 Abrams replacement kits and 20 harpoon missiles cleared following the freezing of military exports to the country in 2013.
Sept 16/14: Contract. Alexander Fomin, the head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, says that Russia and Egypt have initialed arms contracts worth $3.5 billion.

Attacks by Islamists linked to al-Qaeda have been rising in the Sinai, which will make any helicopter buys a big priority. Unfortunately, current reports don’t include details. All Rosoboronexport’s Anatoly Isaykin will say is that their orders portfolio now stands at $38.7 billion, illustrating Russia’s slow climb back into the top tier of weapons exporters. Sources: RIA Novosti, “Russia, Egypt Initial Arms Contracts Worth 3.5 Billion” | Reuters, “Russia, Egypt seal preliminary arms deal worth $3.5 billion: agency” | Al-Ahram Weekly, “Tilt towards Russia”.


April 22/14: MiG-35s? Israel’s Channel 2 is citing official sources in Moscow and Cairo who say that Egypt will buy 24 thrust-vectoring MiG-35s, which aren’t even scheduled to begin deliveries to the Russian air force until 2016. Agreement in principle reportedly took place in February 2014, but there is no contract yet, so details are still being sorted out. As one source put it: “UAC CEO Sergei Korotkov confirmed that negotiations are ongoing but said the number of aircraft Egypt will eventually get has been changing constantly.”

MiG-35s would give Egypt a formidable aerial opponent that is far in advance of the F-16C/Ds it has received from America. Key questions include whether the MiG-29’s human interface weaknesses have been adequately fixed, and whether Egypt can keep the finicky fighters in service if it buys them. The biggest question is how Egypt will fund that buy. Egypt’s treasury is a mess, and so they’re relying on funds from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Neither of whom are happy with Russia’s actions in Syria. Sources: Times of Israel, “Russia said set to sell its top fighter jets to Egypt” | Defense Update, “Egypt interested in buying 24 MiG-35s from Russia”.

April 22/14: Apaches unblocked. The USA will continue with the sale of 10 AH-64D Apache attack helicopters to Egypt, at the request of both Israel and Egypt thanks to terrorist activity in Sinai and Gaza. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby explicitly said that they’re meant to bolster counter-terrorism operations in the Sinai.

The excuse is that US Secretary of State John Kerry will “soon certify to Congress that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States and is meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.” On the other hand, the USA won’t be certifying that Egypt is taking “steps to support a democratic transition” until the coming elections are held. Which will keep the deal for 24 F-16s on hold. Sources: Al-Monitor, “Washington loosens Egypt’s arms embargo” | NTD.TV, “US Lifts Freeze, Will Deliver Apache Choppers to Egypt” | Times of Israel, “Egypt FM heads to US as helicopter delivery okayed”.

Feb 14/14: Deal? Russia’s Vedemosti reports that Egypt and Russia have taken the next step, and signed a $3 billion weapons deal. The MiG-29s were expected, and so was an unspecified air defense component. What’s new in these reports is the inclusion of Mi-35 attack helicopters, light weapons and ammunition, and “coastal anti-ship complexes.”

Russian anti-ship missiles like the SS-N-26 Oniks would be a serious threat to any navy operating near Egypt, but their missiles also have land-strike capabilities and good range. The question is why a country facing few naval threats would see such missiles as a priority, when they already have a range of naval systems that include platforms firing French Exocet and American Harpoon missiles. Sources: RIA Novosti, “Russia, Egypt Reach Initial $3 Bln Arms Deal – Report” | Egypt Daily News, “$3 billion arms deal already initialed between Cairo and Moscow: Vedomosti” | Agence France Presse, “Russia, Egypt nearing $3bn arms deal” | International Business Times, “Egypt in $3Bn Arms Deal with Russia as Putin Backs Al-Sisi for President”.

Nov 13/13: Russia. Ruslan Pukhov, a member of the Russian Defense Ministry’s advisory board and head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, says that Egypt is seeking up to $2 billion in Russian weapons. The Russian defense and foreign ministers are flying people in to Cairo this week for 2 days of “military-technical” cooperation talks with Egyptian officials, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy confirmed the arms talks in an interview with Russia Today’s Arabic channel.

So far, reports have varied between $2-4 billion, which would need to be financed with a combination of Russian government help and aid from the Gulf States. Now that reporting is starting to involve Russian sources mentioning specific items, reports regarding the package on request from Russia include:

Fighter jets. 24 multirole MiG-29 M2 fighters, a package that could run as high as $1.7 billion. That’s a high price for MiG-29s, but Egypt would be a new user of the type. Russia would certainly be happy to see the UAC’s MiG group rack up additional orders, and follow-on buys might be cheaper. Egypt’s problem is that this would create 3 fleets (American, French, Russian) with very different weapon sets, aside from some Western/Russian overlap reported in its upgraded MiG-21s.

Air defense. The medium-range Buk M2 (SA-17, a much modernized SA-6) offers familiarity, while shorter-range Tor M2 (SA-15) and Pantsir-S1 (SA-22) systems offer command-guidance options that are already popular in the region. This isn’t the first time Egypt has reportedly discussed SA-17 and SA-15 purchases from Russia, and there are reports that Egypt already possesses 10 Buk M1 batteries and 16 Tor M1 firing units.

Anti-tank missiles. Egypt’s BGM-71D TOW missiles were assembled locally, and the Army still has a wide variety of Russian AT-2/3/5 missiles, as well as the high-end MBDA Milan II from Europe. Russia can offer very effective AT-13 Metis-M and AT-14 Konkurs missiles to supplant the TOWs at the high end, or more AT-5s if Egypt wants to fill in its low end with better gear.

Sources: Bloomberg, “Russia woos Egypt with biggest weapons deal since Cold War”.

Mirage 2000-9
(click to view full)

Nov 7/13: UAE. The UAE is looking to replace its fleet of 68 modernized Mirage 2000-9 fighters with even more modern planes: Dassault’s Rafale and BAE/EADS’ Eurofighter are reportedly their lead options. The question is what to do with their old aircraft. Dassault doesn’t seem interested in buying them back, but Egypt already flies Mirage 2000s, and the Gulf states (with the exception of Qatar) have stepped in as key Egyptian aid providers in the wake of America’s withdrawal. Buying the UAE’s Mirages would push the Egyptian fleet to 86, making it a viable high-end alternative to their F-16s.

The UAE is pushing, and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi General Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is said to have told Dassault Aviation about his talks with Egypt. Will Egypt bite?

Egypt’s biggest problem is that it will have a very hard time affording these used fighters, let alone buying enough French weapons to equip them. Their next problem will be fending off American interference, but the UAE isn’t a country the USA can afford to offend. That hasn’t necessarily stopped the Americans recently, but the UAE’s position at the Straits of Hormuz, and quiet but extensive basing for USAF aircraft, are levers that can’t really be ignored. Sources: Tactical Report, “UAE: New efforts to sell Mirage 2000-9s to Egypt” | “UAE, Egypt, Mirage 2000-9s, Dassault and US intervention”.

Additional Readings Background: Equipment

News & Views

  • Jerusalem Post oped (Nov 14/13) – Russia and Egypt. A view from Israel. “Egypt intends to take whatever it can get from both sides. The Russian reappearance in this region is entirely made-in-America and it was hardly unavoidable.” The same day, a different opinion column in the paper delivered a more negative assessment, marking “The demise of Pax Americana“.

  • DID (Nov 17/11) – Derailed Denouement in Dubai: What’s Up With the UAE’s Fighter Deal? Still no deal, but Britain Prime Minister intends to push the Eurofighter aggressively during his upcoming trip, and success in Saudi Arabia and Oman is adding weight to the idea of the Eurofighter as a common GCC platform. Once it receives new planes, the Mirage 2000-9s will be retired.

  • Kommestant (Nov. 2006) – Egyptian President Reinforces Friendship with Russia.

Categories: News

Army Copter Buyers Seek to Learn from Ground Vehicle Designers | Report: KAI Winning KF-X Contract

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 03:12

  • Raytheon was awarded a $700 million contract today in support of Norad’s Integrated Tactical Warning/Attack Assessment system, while United Launch Services was awarded a $90.3 million contract for space launch vehicles, including the services in support of Air Force and NRO systems.

  • Army helicopter chiefs are reportedly seeking to collaborate with ground vehicle manufacturers in order to develop new technologies to fight in harsh weather conditions. This will principally take the form of the DVE-M, or Degraded Visual Environment-Mitigation, program, which seeks to find ways of allowing rotor wing aircraft to fly in “brown-out” conditions.

  • The Navy replenished its AIM-9X stock today, contracting for 648 missile launchers, 40 of which will go to Australia, in a $25 million contract. These launchers – more poetically known as LAU-127s – will enable both the AIM-9X and the AIM-120 missiles to be launched from Super Hornet fighters.


  • The EU today set up a defense research group to advance the Common Security & Defence Policy, drawing together industry leaders, think tankers, academics, politicians and other experts to advance pan-European defense research and policy in the face of falling defense budgets. The advisory group is said to include the heads of Airbus, BAE Systems, Indra, Saab and MBDA.

  • Poland is seeking to acquire long-range ground vehicles, launching a tender today. Poland has previously bought German.


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

  • South Korea also awarded a $769.4 million contract to Raytheon for upgrades the country’s Patriot systems, including Radar Digital Processors and an open architecture. This builds on a $1.4 billion contract signed last year.

  • In further cooperative sentiment between India and Japan to the US-2 talks reported over the weekend, the Indian Defense Minister has “expressed his readiness to consider” acquiring Japanese Soryu-class submarines, despite reports that the Indian Navy may lease an additional Russian sub. The Japanese and Indians have previously spoken about the possibility of procuring submarines, although the possibility of leasing another Russian sub has also been in the cards for a while. Australia is also engaged in talks regarding the Soryu-class.

  • India will procure two Airbus A330 aircraft, in order to convert them into AEW&C platforms, Indian media reported Monday. The Defense Research & Development Organization (DRDO) will develop an indigenous AWACS to fit onto the new airframes. India currently operates three Israeli Phalcon systems, based on Russian airframes, alongside smaller EMB-145i platforms.

Today’s Video

  • Slow-Mo Javelin…

Categories: News

GD Gives Up on T-X Trainer | Lockheed Cleans Up on Targeting Pods | Thales & BAE Partner for Counter Mine Unmanned Vessels

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 03:07

  • General Dynamics has removed itself as prime contractor for the T-100 trainer, a contender for the T-X requirement to provide next-generation trainer jets to replace the T-38. The Air Force released the final set of requirements for the T-X only a matter of days ago and with GD now withdrawing, the ability of manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi to compete without a US prime is uncertain, especially given the high level of competition for the lucrative program.

  • Lockheed Martin was awarded a $485 million IDIQ contract Friday for advanced targeting pods, a portion of which are earmarked for FMS. The Sniper pod is operational on the F-15, F-16, F-18, B-1, B-52 and A-10 platforms. Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Canada, the UK and Belgium are previous export customers. A separate $8.9 million contract will also see Lockheed provide the Jordanian Air Force with 10 of the targeting pods, through the UK as a third party.

  • A $28.5 million contract was awarded to Boeing for twenty-five QF-16 target drones, following the delivery of the first initial rate production aircraft on 20 March. The QF-16 is a pilotless version of the F-16 fighter, with the Air Force planning to procure 126 to replace its rapidly diminishing fleet of Phantom-based QF-4 drones.

  • The Navy awarded a $51.6 million contract modification as part of the Aegis Modernization program, including Ballistic Missile Defense 4.0.2 equipment. Raytheon was also awarded a $16.7 million contract in support of the Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities of Aegis-equipped Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Ticonderoga-class cruisers. In a separate contract, Raytheon also won a $16.1 million contract to support the Ship Self Defense System for CVN-68, CVN-72 and LHD-2.


  • A joint Anglo-French mine countermeasure contract was awarded Friday to a team of French Thales and British BAE Systems. The contract will see the development of both subsurface and surface unmanned vehicles, with prototypes due for completion in 2019.


Today’s Video

  • Dual-Mode Brimstone CAS…

Categories: News

Ford-Class Carriers Kick Fixes Down Road to Stay in ‘Budget’ | Turkey’s Air Defense Competition Gets Stranger | China Playing with VTOL

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 02:20


  • In a confusing twist in the development of Turkey’s T-LORAMIDS air defense program, defense procurement officials said that the final decision on which contractor will build the system won’t be made until after the election in June. The Chinese previous stated that they had won the competition, beating out rivals Eurosam and Raytheon/Lockheed Martin. In a further complication, the Turkish officials also reportedly hinted at the possibility of allowing the discarded Russian S-400 bid back into the competition, the same system recently procured by the Chinese at $500 million each.

  • The UK announced a five-year £580 million ($860 million) support service contract with AgustaWestland today, which will see the company providing maintenance for the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 and Mk3 helicopters. Today’s contract follows from a similar £570 million contract with AgustaWestland in 2011, which covered the 2011-2016 period.


Today’s Video

The AIM-9X Sidewinder missile is tested:

Categories: News

Lightning Rod: F-35 Fighter Family Capabilities and Controversies

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 00:50
Grim Reapers F-35C
(click to view full)

The $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy.

This article will serve as DID’s central repository explaining and contrasting all 3 F-35 variants, detailing the fighter family’s core technologies and features, and laying out the core industrial framework whose “political engineering” has made the program almost impossible to kill. It will also summarize the core arguments that swirl around the fighter’s future capability, and provide useful background links regarding the program and its key technologies.

The F-35 Lightning II Fighter Family F-35 Family Variants: Door A, B, or C? F-35 AA-1
(click to view full)

The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE) Lightning jet. This table illustrates the key differences between the baseline F-35A, the Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing (STOVL) capable F-35B, and the catapult-launched F-35C naval variant:

Figure 1: F-35 Variants.

Additional explanations follow…

The F-35A CTOL F-35A, doors open
(click to view full)

The F-35A is sometimes called the CTOL (Conventional Take-Off and Landing) version. It’s the USAF’s version, and is expected to make up most of the plane’s export orders. It’s also expected to be the least expensive F-35, in part because it will have the largest production run. The USAF currently estimates its average flyaway cost after 2017 at $108.3 million, but early production models ordered in FY 2012 will cost over $150 million.

Its main difference from other versions is its wider 9g maneuverability limits, though its air-air combat flight benchmarks are only on par with the F-16. Canard equipped “4+ generation” adversaries like the Eurofighter, and thrust-vectored fighters like the F-22A, MiG-35, SU-35, etc., will still enjoy certain kinetic advantages. The F-35 hopes to mitigate them using its improved stealth to shrink detection ranges, the lack of drag from weapons in its internal bays, and its current electronic superiority.

The second major physical difference between the F-35A and the rest of the Lightning family is its internal 25mm cannon, instead of using a weapons station for a semi-stealthy and questionably accurate gun pod. The USAF removed guns from some of its planes back in the 1960s, and didn’t enjoy the resulting experiences in Vietnam. It has kept guns on all of its fighters ever since, including the stealthy F-22 and F-35. Many allies wanted the superior single-barrel 27mm Mauser BK-27 cannon, but ammunition standardization benefits trumped pure performance. Instead, the F-35 got General Dynamics’ 4-barrel GAU-22/A 25mm cannon and just 180 x 25mm rounds, good for 3 short passes at best. That compares poorly to 510 x 20mm rounds on an F-16.

The 3rd difference is that the F-35A uses a dorsal refueling receptacle that is refueled using an aerial tanker boom, instead of the probe-and-drogue method favored by the US Navy and many American allies.

The F-35A was the first variant to fly, in 2009. Officially, it’s now expected to reach Initial Operational Capability as a 12-24 plane squadron by December 2016 (Threshold), with a stretch goal of August 2016 (Objective).

GAO reports re: the F-35’s delayed software development suggest that this is extremely unlikely, however, and even a difficult late catch-up still leaves the problem of scheduling proper testing for Block 2B, the 1st instance with any combat capability. Even Block 3F’s 2018 target date for the end of the system development phase is at risk, which means that jets designated as Operationally Capable would have a wide array of deficiencies that would put them at added risk in serious combat.

The F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) F-35B: hover test
(click to view full)

The F-35B is expected to be the most expensive Lightning II fighter variant. According to US Navy documents, even planes bought after 2017 are expected to have an average flyaway cost of $135 million each. It will serve the US Marines, Royal Navy, other navies with ski-ramp equipped LHDs or small carriers, and militaries looking for an “expeditionary airplane” that can take off in short distances and land vertically. To accomplish this, the F-35B has a large fan behind the cockpit, and nozzles that go out to the wing undersides. Unlike the F-35A, it will use a retractable mid-air refueling probe, which is standard for the US Navy and for many American allies.

Those capabilities gives the plane a unique niche, but a unique niche also means unique challenges, and the responses to those challenges have changed the aircraft. In 2005, the JSF program took a 1-year delay because the design was deemed overweight by about 3,000 pounds. The program decided to reduce weight rather than run the engine hotter, because the latter choice would have sharply reduced the durability of engine components and driven life cycle costs higher. Weight cutting became a focus of various engineering teams, with especial focus on the F-35B because the weight was most critical to that design. Those efforts pushed the F-35B’s design, and changed its airframe. The F-35B gives up some range, some bomb load (it cannot carry 2,000 pound weapons internally, and the shape of its bay may make some weapons a challenge to carry), some structural strength (7g maneuvers design maximum), and the 25mm internal gun.

F-35B features
(click to view full)

The F-35B completed its Critical Design Review in October 2006, and the 2nd production F-35 was a STOVL variant. Per the revised Sept 16/10 program plan, the USMC’s VMA-332 in Yuma, AZ must have 10 F-35Bs equipped with Block IIB software, with 6 aircraft capable of austere and/or ship-based operations, and all aircraft meeting the 7g and 50-degree angle of attack specifications, in order to declare Initial Operational Capability.

Flight testing began in 2009, and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was expected by December 2012, but flight testing fell way behind thanks to a series of technical delays. By 2013, the first operational planes were fielded to the USMC at Yuma, AZ. After several slips, it’s expected to reach IOC as a 10-16 plane squadron by December 2015 (Threshold), with a stretch goal of July 2015 (Objective).

Recent discoveries of structural cracking, and GAO reports re: software development, suggest that even using the new jets for full-scale training by then could be a challenge. Limited-capability Block 2B software is the best they can hope for, and it’s already significantly behind. The F-35B’s “combat capability” at IOC may end up being flatly untrue, and its best realistic case might be as a mere paper tiger. Korean-War vintage F-9 Cougar jets would be “combat capable,” too, in the sense that they could take off, land, and fire weapons. That isn’t an adequate standard for entrusting them with the safety of an MEU in 2016.

The F-35C carrier-based fighter USN F-35C
(click to view full)

The F-35C is instantly recognizable. It features 30% more wing area than other designs, with larger tails and control surfaces, plus wingtip ailerons. These changes provide the precise slow-speed handling required for carrier approaches, and extend range a bit. The F-35C’s internal structure is strengthened to withstand the punishment dished out by the catapult launches and controlled crashes of carrier launch and recovery, an arrester hook is added to the airframe, and the fighter gets a retractable refueling probe. According to US Navy documents, average flyaway costs for F-35Cs bought after 2017 will be $125.9 million each.

The US Navy gave up the internal gun, and the aircraft will be restricted to 7.5g maneuvers. That’s only slightly lower than the existing F/A-18E Super Hornet’s 7.6g, but significantly lower than the 9g limit for Dassault’s carrier-capable Rafale-M. Tests have also highlighted issues with slow transonic acceleration.

The F-35C is expected to be the US Navy’s high-end fighter, as well as its high-end strike aircraft. This means that any performance or survivability issues will have a disproportionate effect on the US Navy’s future ability to project power around the world.

The F-35C was the last variant designed. It passed its Critical Design Review in June 2007, and the first production version was scheduled to fly in January 2009. The F-35C’s rollout did not take place until July 2009, however, and first flight didn’t take place until June 2010. After several slips, the F-35C is now expected to reach IOC as a 10-plane squadron by February 2019 (Threshold), with a stretch goal of August 2018 (Objective).

These are much more realistic dates than the other variants, given GAO reports re: software development progress, but the F-35C is expecting to hit IOC with Block 3F software, whose 2018 target date is already very much at risk. In March 2014, the USN added another layer of uncertainty with plans to stall F-35C orders for 2 years if there are further budget cuts.

Pimp My Ride: Weapons & Accessories Initial hopes – changed
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The F-35’s internal weapon bay gives it the ability to carry larger bombs and missiles, but the price is that F-35s can carry just 2 internal air-to-air weapons, instead of a maximum of 8 in the F-22A. As table above shows, development, testing, and software issues have also combined to give initial F-35 fleets a very narrow set of weapons. Indeed, the initial operational set that comes with Block III software has about the same weapon options as the single-role F-22A.

That’s expected to change, eventually. A large American order base, and a wide international client base, will provide huge incentives for manufacturers to qualify their weapons for the F-35. Norway is already developing its stealthy Joint Strike Missile for F-35 Block 4, including the ability to fit the precision attack and anti-ship missile into the plane’s internal bays. Denmark’s Terma has turned their 25mm gun pod into a multi-mission pod, which can accept a variety of sensors and equipment. MBDA has already pledged a compatible version of its long-range Meteor air-air missile at some undefined point, and Britain wants to add MBDA’s SPEAR Capability 3 medium-range strike missile to its F-35Bs as soon as possible. Lockheed Martin’s Israeli customer is already incorporating its own electronic counter-measures systems in their F-35i, and they are certain to push for a range of Israeli weapons, including the Python-5 SRAAM (Short Range Air-to-Air Missile) and various other smart bombs and missiles. Other manufacturers can be expected to follow.

The bottlenecks will be two-fold.

The 1st bottleneck is American insistence on retaining all source codes, and having Lockheed Martin perform all modifications at their reprogramming facility. Unless Lockheed produces a full development environment workaround, dealing with the growing queue of requests can easily become a problem. The firm’s new Universal Armament Interface could offer the foundation for a way forward, if they decide to take it. The other question involves conflict-of-interest issues, in which Lockheed Martin or the US government decides to use the bottleneck as a way of shutting competitors out of a potential export market. These kinds of concerns have already led to pushback in Australia, Britain, and Israel.

The 2nd bottleneck involves testing resources. The F-35 testing program has fallen significantly behind schedule, and IOCs for some versions have already slipped by 5-6 years. Test time required to qualify new equipment is going to be a very secondary priority until 2018-2019, and even the few customers buying their own Initial Operational Testing & Evaluation (IOT&E) fighters are going to need them for their assigned training roles.

F-35s: Key Features F-35 Variants
(click to view full)

Stealth. The F-35 is designed as an ‘affordable stealth’ counterpart to the F-22 Raptor air dominance fighter, one that can share “first day of the war” duties against defended targets, but can’t perform air-air or SEAD/ “Wild Weasel” missions to the same standard. The F-35 has a larger single engine instead of the Raptor’s twin thrust-vectoring F119s, removing both supercruise (sustained flight above Mach 1) and super-maneuverability options. The F-22A is also a much stealthier aircraft from all angles, and independent analysis & modeling has concluded that the F-35’s stealth will be weaker from the sides and the rear. Even so, the F-35 is a big improvement over existing ‘teen series’ fighters, and a step above Generation 4+ options like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter, Rafale, and JAS-39 Gripen.

Engine. The F-35 was set to offer interchangeable engine options. That has been an important feature for global F-16 and F-15 customers, improving costs and performance, while providing added readiness insurance for dual-engine fleets like the USAF, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc. Pratt & Whitney’s lobbying eventually forced GE & Rolls-Royce’s F136 out of the F-35 program, and made their F135-PW-100 engine the only choice for global F-35 fleets. A special F-135-PW-600 version with Rolls Royce’s LiftFan add-on, and a nozzle that can rotate to point down, will power the vertical-landing F-35B.

The US military had better hope that an engine design problem never grounds all of their fighters. While they’re at it, they should hope that both performance and maintenance contracts remain reasonable, despite the absence of any competitive alternative.

F-35’s APG-81
AESA Radar
click to play video

Sensors. The Lightning II will equipped to levels that would once have defined a high-end reconnaissance aircraft. Its advanced APG-81 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar is smaller and less powerful than the F-22A’s APG-77v1; but still offers the strong AESA advantages of simultaneous air-air and air-ground capabilities, major maintenance & availability improvements, and secure, high-bandwidth communications benefits. The F-35 also shares a “sensor fusion” design advance with the F-22, based on an even more extensive sensor set embedded all around the airframe. Both planes will be able to perform as reconnaissance aircraft, though the F-35 will have superior infrared and ground-looking sensors. Both fighters will also have the potential to act as electronic warfare aircraft, though not to the same level as the Super-Hornet’s EA-18G Growler derivative.

These sensors are connected to a lot of computing power, in order to create single-picture view that lets the pilot see everything on one big 20″ LCD screen and just fly the plane, rather than trying to push buttons, switch views, and figure it all out at 6g. As part of that sensor fusion, the F-35 will be the first plane is several decades to fly without a heads-up display. Instead, pilots will wear Elbit/Rockwell’s JHMDS helmet or BAE’s HMSS, and have all of that information projected wherever they look. JHMDS is both a strength that adds new capabilities, like the ability to look “through” the plane’s floor, and a single point-of-failure weakness.

Maintenance. The F-35 has a large number of design features that aim to simplify maintenance and keep life cycle costs down. Since operations and maintenance are usually about 65% or more of a fighter’s lifetime cost, this is one the most important and overlooked aspects of fighter selection.

Stealth aircraft have always had much higher maintenance costs, but the F-35’s designers hope that new measures can reverse that trend. Some of the plane’s stealth coatings are being baked into composite airplane parts, for instance, in the hope that customers will need fewer “Martians” (Materials Application and Repair Specialists) around to apply stealth tapes and putties before each mission. Technical innovations like self-diagnosing aircraft wiring aim to eliminate one of the toughest problems for any mechanic, and the fleet-wide ALIS information and diagnostic system is designed to shift the fleet from scheduled maintenance to maintenance only as needed.

Despite these measure, March 2012 operations and maintenance projections have the F-35 at 142% O&M cost, relative to F-16s, and subsequent reports have risen as high as 160%. It remains to be seen if the advantages of F-35 innovations manage to fulfill their promise, or if projections that they’ll be outweighed in the end by increased internal complexity, and by the proliferation of fault-prone electronics, come true. That has certainly been the general trend over the last 50 years of fighter development, with a very few notable exceptions like America’s F-16s and A-10s, and Sweden’s JAS-39 Gripen.

The F-35 Family: Controversies See me, hear me?
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The program’s biggest controversies revolve around 3 issues: effectiveness, affordability, and control. A 4th issue, noise, isn’t significant yet, but could become so.

Effectiveness: When the F-35 Lightning II is compared with the larger and more expensive F-22A, the Raptor is a much stealthier aircraft, and its stealth is more uniform. The F-35’s design is optimized for “low-observable” stealth when viewed from the front, with less stealth to radars looking at it from the sides, and less still when targeted from the rear. It also lacks the Raptor’s supercruise (sustained flight above Mach 1) and super-maneuverability thrust-vectoring options, which work with stealth to help the F-22 engage and disengage from combat at will. Lockheed Martin claims that the F-35 design is optimized for trans-sonic acceleration, but testing results question those claims, and the Raptor can cruise without afterburners at the F-35’s theoretical maximum speed. That’s important, because fuel usage skyrockets with afterburners on, limiting total supersonic time for fighters like the F-35.

These relative drawbacks have led to questions about the F-35’s ability to survive against the most modern aircraft and air defense threats, and against the evolved threats it can expect to face over a service lifetime that’s expected to stretch until 2050.

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Where the F-35 does come out ahead of the F-22 is its internal carriage space. F-35A/C variants will offer larger capacity internal bays for weapons, allowing a wider selection of stealth-preserving internal ordnance. The price is that slight bulges were added to the production F-35’s underside profile in order to accommodate that space, making them less stealthy from the side than the original X-35 designs.

Sensors are another F-35 advantage. All F-35s also boast more embedded sensors than the F-22, with an especial advantage in infrared and ground-looking sensors. Though this feature has yet to be tested in combat, the F-35’s all-aspect Distributed Aperture Sensors (EO-DAS) reportedly allows 360-degree targeting of aircraft around the F-35. If it works, the inertial guidance and datalink features of modern infrared missiles like the AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-132 ASRAAM can already take full advantage.

Which customers can live with these relative disadvantages as an acceptable trade-off, and which will be badly hurt by them? Will the F-35 be a fighter that’s unable to handle high-end scenarios, while also being far too expensive to field and operate in low-end scenarios? Even if that’s true, could countries who want one type of multi-role fighter still be best served by the F-35, as opposed to other options? That will depend, in part, on…

F-35 commonality
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Affordability: The F-35 family was designed to be much more affordable than the F-22, but a number of factors are narrowing that gap.

One is cost growth in the program. This has been documented by the GAO, and statements and reports from the US DoD are beginning to follow the same kind of “rising spiral of admissions” pattern seen in past programs.

The 2nd is loss of parts commonality between the 3 models, which the GAO has cited as falling below the level required to produce significant savings. In March 2013, the JSF PEO placed the figure at just 25-30%.

A 3rd is production policy. The US GAO in particular believes that the program’s policy of beginning production several years before testing is complete, only adds to the risks of future price hikes and operating cost shocks. It also forces a lot of expensive rework to jets that are bought before problems are found. Part of the rationale for accepting concurrency risks and costs involves…

The 4th factor: lateness. The program as a whole is about 5-7 years behind its ideal point, relative to the replacement cycle for fighters around the globe. F-35 program customers thus find themselves in the unenviable position of having to commit to a fighter that hasn’t completed testing, and doesn’t have reliable future purchase or operating costs, while buying from expensive early production batches. The program office hopes to drop the flyaway price of an F-35A to $90 million by 2020, but current Pentagon budget documents list an average production cost of $105-120 million per F-35A-C, from 2017 to the end of the program. If the plane’s cost leads to a cut in numbers, and early buyers like Canada and the Netherlands suggest that cuts could be as much as 50% of expected orders, those prices per plane will rise.

Control: This has been a big issue in the past for customers like Britain and Australia, and has now become an issue for Israel as well. Without control over software source codes, integration of new weapons and algorithms can be controlled by the whims and interests of American politicians and defense contractors. On the other hand, American officials aren’t wrong to see wider access to those fundamental building blocks as a security risk. Arrangements with Britain, Australia, and Israel appear to have finessed this issue, without removing it as a potential source of future conflict.

Noise: The F135 engine’s size and power are unprecedented in a fighter, but that has a corollary. Environmental impact studies in Florida showed that the F-35A is approximately twice as noisy as the larger, twin-engine F-15 fighter, and over 3.5 times as noisy as the F-16s they’re scheduled to replace. That has led to noise complaints from local communities in the USA and abroad, and seems likely to create a broad swathe of local political issues as customers deploy them. In some countries, it may add costs, as governments are forced to compensate or even to buy out nearby homeowners affected by the noise.

Each customer must weigh these issues above against its own defense and industrial needs, look at alternatives, and come to a decision. In-depth, updated DID articles that address some of these issues in more detail include:

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Program Structure 1st British F-35B
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Is the F-35 an industrial program for a fighter, or a fighter with an industrial program? Beyond the initial competition between Lockheed Martin’s X-35 and Boeing’s X-32, the Joint Strike Fighter was always planned as a program that would make sense using either interpretation. A wide set of consortium partners and national government investments would form an interlocking set of commitments, drawing on a wide range of global industrial expertise – and making the program very difficult for any one party to back out of or cancel.

The JSF program is ‘tiered,’ with 4 possible levels of participation based on admission levels and funding commitments for the System Design & Development (SDD) phase. All Tier 1-3 nations have also signed MoUs for the Production Phase. This is not a commitment to buy, just the phase in which production arrangements are hammered out – subject to revision, of course, if that country decides not to buy F-35s. Consortium partners and customers to date include:

  • Tier 1 Partners: The USA (majority commitment), Britain
  • Tier 2 Partners: Italy; The Netherlands
  • Tier 3 Partners: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Turkey
  • Security Cooperative Participants status: Israel (20 contracted), Singapore.
  • Exports: Japan (42 contracted), South Korea.

Italy is receiving a Lockheed-Martin Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) plant for European orders, and Fellow Tier 1 partner Britain is examining a FACO of its own for BAE. Their fellow Tier 2 partner the Netherlands will be a regional center for engine sustainment and in-depth maintenance.

Lightning II official rollout
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The first test aircraft, an F-35A model AA-1, had its formal rollout on July 7/06. The F-35’s forced redesign for weight reasons has led to F-35 AA-1 being a unique airframe used to validate design, manufacturing, assembly and test processes. A total of 23 test aircraft will be built for various purposes (15 flight, 7 non-flight, 1 radar signature), but the exact order of build for the variants involved has shifted several times.

The testing phase was originally supposed to end in 2013, but is now officially scheduled to continue until 2018. Funding for the first sets of production-model aircraft is approved, parts fabrication began in June 2007, and component assembly began later in 2007. F-35As have already been delivered to the USAF – a sore point with the US Congress’ Government Accountability Office, which notes that overlapping testing with production increases project risks and leads to extra costs. Production will continue to ramp up year-to-year, and by the time the F-35 is expected to reach Full-Rate Production, the program intends to build 240 F-35s per year.

To do that, they’ll need orders. So far, only the USA, Israel, and Japan have placed orders for production F-35s that go beyond training & test aircraft.

Delays in fielding the initial set of test aircraft, fewer than expected flights, and questions about that ambitious ramp up schedule have reportedly led the Pentagon to re-examine these schedules. Steady cuts in the rate of American purchases are also sapping ramp-up plans, and the SDD development period is now expected to last into FY 2019 or later.

Industrial Innovation F-35B JSF Cutaway
by John Batchelor
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At present, F-35 production is led by Lockheed Martin, with BAE and Northrop-Grumman playing major supporting roles, and many subcontractors below that.

BAE Systems is deriving substantial benefits from Britain’s Tier 1 partner status, and Northrop Grumman is responsible for the F-35’s important ‘center barrel’ section, where the wings attach to the fuselage, and also provides many of the aircraft’s key sensors.

F-35 main production and final assembly is currently slated to take place in Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, TX plant. To cut F-35 production cycle time, the team produces major sections of the aircraft at different feeder plants, and “mates” the assemblies at Fort Worth. This is normal in the auto industry, but it’s a departure from the usual fighter-building process.

AF-1 center barrel
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The precise tolerances required for a stealthy fighter, however, are much more exacting than even high-end autos. In order to avoid subtly mismatched seams, which become radar reflection points, parts need to fit together so precisely that some machines are compensating for the phases of the moon!

Even the best machines won’t do any good if the various components aren’t already an excellent fit. To cope, Manufacturing Business Technology reports that the JSF manufacturing team has turned to an integrated back-end IT system. It begins with 3D engineering models (Dassault Systemes CATIA CAD), and extends into production management, where the company has rolled out a manufacturing execution system to handle electronic work instructions, workflow and process modeling, serialized parts data, quality records tracking, etc. (Visiprise).

This combination has enabled greater use of techniques like automated drilling, even as other software (Siemens PLM, TeamCenter) enables product record management and electronic collaboration around designs. On the back-end, the team uses a custom system it calls Production & Inventory Optimization System (PIOS) for manufacturing resources planning and supply chain management; it began using ERP software (SAP) in January 2008 for financials, and may eventually use it to handle supply-chain functions too.

This ‘digital thread’ has been very successful for the team, with part fits showing incredible precision, and successful coordination of plants around the end schedule for key events like the Dec 18/07 F-35B rollout. The system’s ultimate goal is to cut a plane’s production cycle time from the usual 27-30 months to about 12 months, and shrink a 15-20 day cycle to just 6-8 days, from order creation to printed & matched manufacturing orders.

Additional Readings & Sources Aircraft Background

F-35: Ancillary Systems

F-35: Peer Aircraft

Note that FOCUS articles require a subscription.

Full-Stealth Peers

  • DID – F-22 Raptor: Capabilities and Controversies. In-depth coverage looks at both sides.

  • Wikipedia – Chengdu J-20. Fast air superiority fighter and AWACS/ tanker killer, fighter-bomber, or both? Seems to share the same distribution of stealth strengths & weaknesses as the F-35, but needs to make changes to achieve the same stealth levels. See also SinoDefence, which has good pictures. Unless rushed, not expected to be operational in numbers before the mid-2020s.

  • DID – PAK-FA/FGFA/T50: India, Russia Cooperate on 5th-Gen Fighter. Likely to become the Su-50. Early assessments suggest stealth around F-35 levels, with aerodynamic performance near F-22 levels. Likely to achieve an American IOC equivalent in Russia around the time the F-35 completes SDD, around 2019 – 2020.

Program Background

Note that FOCUS articles require a subscription.

F-35: Individual Country Coverage

DID is covering some country competitions individually, but not all.

Official Reports

News & Views: The Future of Stealth

News & Views: Other

Search tags: f-35base

Categories: News

F-35 Software Pushing Out Schedule – Except for Marines, Who Don’t Mind Flaws | Turkey Throws in With China with $3.4 Billion Purchase

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 00:34


  • Airbus is cutting its share in French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of the Rafale. After dropping its percentage share by 4.2% in November, Airbus announced today that it is selling a further 17.5% of the company. Airbus will still own more than a quarter of Dassault after the transaction.

  • Following the news that Turkey is reportedly set to sign a $3.4 billion air defense deal with China, the country’s Prime Minister has called for a focus on developing indigenous missile and space technologies. Turkey’s domestic defense industry is currently involved in several high-profile development programs, including the Altay tank and TF-X fighter projects.


  • Taiwanese media is reporting that Myanmar will purchase the JF-17 (AKA the FC-1 Xiaolong) from Pakistan, the love-child of China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. Myanmar has pondered the purchase for a while, previously opting for the MIG-29 over the JF-17 in 2009; this change of heart is likely a result of the difficulties involved with keeping MiG-29s in service.

Today’s Video

F-35 trials on the USS Nimitz (CVN-68):

Categories: News

AG: Marines Audit Revoked Due to Links to Slushy Accounts | UK Mulls Falkland Air Defense as Russia Pushes Bombers for Argentina

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 02:46

  • The squeaky-clean audit handed to the Marine Corps in 2013 is being revoked, with the Inspector General’s Office stating that ongoing investigations had uncovered irregularities during the FY 2014 audit, voiding the FY 2012 audit awarded in December 2013. The Treasury discovered that among the disastrously commingled chaos of its “suspense accounts,” there were unattributed Marine FY 2012 transactions. The hope appears to be to unwind those for which they have evidence, restate the figures and re-pass the audit.

  • The Air Force today announced that it will purchase one King Air KC-350 ISR aircraft and supporting equipment, having previously divested its fleet to its Special Operations Command and the Army. The KC-350 will likely be heavily modified in order to become a MC-12W Liberty ISR asset. The Air Force is still responsible for the “processing, exploitation and dissemination of information” obtained by the aircraft, with the Army due to take on this role from next year.

  • Raytheon received a contract modification today totaling $528.8 million for the production of AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, a portion of which are earmarked for Foreign Military Sales. The company recently announced that it has begun development of an extended-range variant of the missile, with tests scheduled for later this year.

  • SOCOM will purchase over 2,000 All-Terrain Vehicles in June, from Minnesota-based company Polaris Industries. The sole-source acquisition will see two models procured, both capable of being transported in the V-22, MH-47 and MH-53 transports.


  • The Netherlands looks set to receive 17 CH-47F helicopters in a $1.05 billion Foreign Military Sale from the US. The new aircraft will replace the Netherlands’s existing fleet of CH-47D variants and will complement a previous sale of CH-47Fs in 2006.

  • The UK is looking to bolster the defensive capabilities of its isolated Falkland Islands through the construction of a new air-defense system. Recent reports have stated that the Argentines are in talks with Russia to buy or lease long-range bombers, although this remains unconfirmed. However, Buenos Aires has been desperately seeking new aircraft in recent months. A decision on which contractor has won the competitive tender will occur in May 2016 and the system is estimated to enter service around 2020. Although details have yet to be finalized (or likely begun), the contract is currently estimated to be worth between £100 million ($147 million) and £250 million ($368 million) and will include a five-year support period. Whether this program will survive the post-May election Strategic Defence & Security Review (SDSR) is unclear, given that contract signing will not take place until 2016, however there has been much recent talk of the need to better equip the UK’s Armed Forces.

  • The UK’s Ministry of Defence also announced today that it will sign a 13-year logistics contract with US firm Leidos (formerly SAIC) in April, following the company’s selection as preferred bidder in February. The MoD estimates that the deal will lead to savings of £500 million ($735 million) over the lifetime of the contract.

  • Russia’s navy will receive an additional ten carrier-based MiG-29K fighters, with these following on to a delivery in November 2013.


  • BAE has signed a contract with Malaysian company SME Aerospace for the manufacture of pylons for the Hawk aircraft. The work is in support of a delivery contract for an undisclosed customer. India is a key operator of the Hawk, with Australia, Indonesia and South Africa also major operators outside BAE’s home nation of Britain.

Today’s Video

  • A Russian bomber films an intercepting RAF Typhoon:

Categories: News

The New Chinooks: Boeing’s Modern H-47 Heavy-Lift Helicopters

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 00:01
CH-47Fs take off
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DII FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record; this FOCUS Article covers the CH-47F/MH-47G Chinook helicopter programs, in the USA and abroad. These helicopters’ distinctive “flying banana” twin-rotor design stems from the brilliant work of aviation pioneer Frank Piasecki. It gives Chinooks the ability to adjust their positioning very precisely, while carrying a large airframe whose load capacity has made it the world’s most popular heavy-lift helicopter. The USA expects to be operating Chinooks in their heavy-lift role past 2030.

The CH-47F looks similar to earlier models, but offers a wide range of improvements in almost every aspect of design and performance. While the related HH-47’s $10-15 billion CSAR-X program win was terminated, delivery orders continue for CH-47Fs and for MH-47G Special Forces configuration helicopters. International orders or formal requests have also come in from Australia, Britain, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the UAE, with India and other countries expected to follow.

The New Chinooks: CH-47F, MH-47G, HH-47 CH-47F Family: Initial Improvements CH-47D Chinooks
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These new aircraft are part of the U.S. Army Cargo Helicopter Modernization Program, but they are based on a long-serving basic design. The CH-47F Chinook and MH-47G Special Ops version are the latest variants in a family of helicopters that first saw service in 1962 during the Vietnam War. New “F/G” models feature numerous upgrades over CH-47Ds (produced 1982-1994), including more powerful engines, reduced vibration, upgraded avionics and self-defense systems, and manufacturing advances designed to improve both mission performance and long term costs.

Engines & Fuel: The new CH-47F has 4,868 shaft horsepower (SHP) from each of its twin T55-GA-714A engines, improving fuel efficiency and enhancing lift performance by approximately 3,900 pounds. The new engines will enable the CH-47F to reach speeds in excess of 175 mph and transport up to 21,016 pounds. As a point of comparison, the original CH-47A’s T55-L7 engines generated 2,650 SHP each, and the CH-47D’s T55-L-712 turboshaft engines produced 3,750 SHP. This improved power will also pay dividends in high-altitude or hot environments, as all aircraft suffer performance penalties in such “hot and high” conditions.

The new Robertson Aviation Extended Range Fuel System of internal auxiliary fuel tanks gives the CH-47F a mission radius greater than 400 miles. Other airframe modifications improve the helicopter’s strategic deployability, reducing the time required for aircraft tear down and build-up by about 60% when deploying them via a C-5 Galaxy or C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport aircraft.

CAAS in MH-47: edited
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Cockpit & Avionics: The new digital cockpit design improves interoperability via the US Army’s Common Aviation Architecture System cockpit, simplifying pilot training and workload. CAAS creates a package that offers Digital Advanced Flight Control System (DAFCS) , displays and avionics. That’s enhanced with moving maps, forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and multimode radar pictures for nap-of-earth and low-level flight operations in any visibility or weather, and an advanced data transfer system to store preflight and mission data. Because this is built on the CAAS foundation, expansion, modernization, and even cross-upgrades developed for other helicopters are all thinkable.

Survivability: New survivability features include a Common Missile Warning installation, and Improved Countermeasure Dispenser Systems. The US Army’s ATIRCM contract was intended to round that out with a next-generation defensive system for active laser decoying of enemy guided missiles, and is employed on CH-47s, but turned out to be too heavy to install on the Army’s smaller helicopters. It was limited to CH-47 installations, and terminated.

If the Army’s new CIRCM program to field lighter devices reaches fruition, it will eventually become a common system for all Army machines, and replace ATIRCM via retrofits.

Manufacturing Advances CH-47F: mid-conversion
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The remanufacture process has become more extensive than the original plans, and now involves wholesale replacement of key sections. The incoming helicopter has its propulsion systems removed and sent for overhaul/replacement, and the cockpit is cut off. What’s left is the aft fuselage and cabin, which is blast stripped to bare metal, inspected, and then has appropriate sections repaired or replaced. True manufacturing splices allow full modularity with large airframe sections, which can be mixed and matched if inspection reveals a need to replace other elements.

Throughout this process, Boeing has pushed to reduce manufacturing costs and improve production efficiency by outsourcing significant sub-sections to firms like L-3 Crestview (new cabins), using lean manufacturing processes on the factory floor, and using related techniques like employee involvement teams.

The new airframe itself is built utilizing advanced manufacturing techniques where large single-piece components replace built-up sheet metal structures and aluminum honeycomb formers. Boeing spokespeople have cited 35% reductions in parts and fastener totals. Doing it this way is expected to reduce operating and support costs while improving the structural integrity of the aircraft, extending the overall useful life of each Chinook. Further structural enhancements in key locations, and advanced corrosion protection via special paints, should also improve durability and lead to longer service life.

2011 British orders have taken another step beyond, to CH-47F models with “machined monolithic” frames. CH-47F Phase II and new-build MH-47G helicopters followed suit.

Variants MH-47G, Jackal Stone 2010
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MH-47G. These Chinooks are optimized for Special Forces operations. The most obvious difference is the big aerial refueling tube at the front. Less obvious modifications include extra fuel in enlarged side fuel tanks, additional sensors for surveillance, “aircraft survivability equipment,” dual embedded Global Positioning Systems, a redundant navigator for improved accuracy and reliability, and various advanced datalinks that allow the display of Near Real Time Intelligence Data (NRTID). Almost all MH-47Gs are rebuilt from existing helicopters, but a recent contract is producing 8 new-build birds.

HH-47 CASR. This modified MH-47G successfully lifted off as the $4-10 billion CSAR-X combat search and rescue competition’s winning entry in November 2006. That model still exists, and some of its features have been incorporated at the request of other CH-47F customers like Canada and the Netherlands, but the CSAR-X program was canceled in 2009 after a series of successful GAO protests by the losing contractors. The USAF wound up buying much smaller CRH-60M Pave Hawks instead.

Planned MYP-II improvements CH-47F maintenance
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Cargo & Lift: Initial CH-47Fs don’t offer much beyond the new engines and improved construction, but Phase II/ MYP-II helicopters will have some additions that will be retrofitted back into the rest of the fleet.

The first cargo advance is called COOLS (Cargo On/Off Loading System), and consists of floor panels that flip over, to reveal loading rollers. COOLS panels are expected to begin deploying in February 2013, and their presence will have the side effect of improving floor protection against small arms fire. Chinook modernization manager Lt. Col. Joe Hoecherl explained its importance:

“Right now we have a system that is not on the aircraft. We have to bring it on. What happens now when you are flying is you take off and, if you have a change of mission, you have to go pick up pallets. You can’t push pallets on this floor as it is now. With COOLS, the rolls are going to be built into the floor, so if you have a change of mission you just flip the floor up [and roll the pallets onboard].”

The other advances in this area won’t begin with MYP-II buys, but will be introduced into the production line later, and then added as a retrofit. A new set of composite Advanced Chinook Rotor Blades (ACRB) are projected to able to add another 1,800-pounds of lift capability, thanks to their design. The blades have already gone through some wind-tunnel testing, and are slated for fielding in 2016.

Boeing is also working on an update to the CH-47F’s Improved Vibration Control system, which will be lighter and will have obsolete electronic components replaced.

Maintenance: A number of Boeing’s manufacturing advances are aimed at reducing maintenance, but more can be done. The CHPE (Cargo Platform Health Environment) program of embedded diagnostic and prognostic sensors began installation validation in May 2012, and is slated for MYP-II/ Phase II CH-47Fs. These kinds of HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring Systems) offer make basic maintenance like rotor track and balance easier, and make diagnosing wider helicopter problems and fleet trends much easier. That saves a lot of money on maintenance, and improves availability in service.

The USA’s Acquisition Plan CH-47 Assembly Line
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The US Army’s original plan was revised upward a few times from the original 452, and went as high as 533 helicopters in 2012, before coming back to the same place it began in April 2013.

The FY 2014 budget would leave the US military with 451 machines, made up of 382 CH-47Fs and 69 MH-47Gs.

Under the current plan, the Army is modernizing 206 CH-47D Chinooks to the new F-model configuration, while also buying 176 new-build CH-47F Chinooks. New build and refurbished CH-47s are being bought side by side, in order to keep more operational helicopters out of the factory lines and on the front lines.

In the wake of operational success in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Special Operations Command (SOCOM) moved to increase its MH-47G Chinook inventory to 69 machines, adding 8 new helicopters to its 61 remanufactured machines.

The CH-47F was expected to enter service in July 2007, and did receive a US Army go-ahead for full-rate production and fielding that month; it was certified as combat ready with the 101st Airborne in August 2007.

Under a multi-year contract awarded in August 2008, Boeing received 28 orders in 2009, and then began a graduated delivery rate ramp-up through successive years. Boeing submitted a proposal for a CH-47F MYP-II buy to begin in 2013, and that contract was finally signed in May 2013. Note that Foreign Military Sales are available as options under these contracts, if the countries involved want to take advantage of that.

The USAF’s CSAR-X program could have added another 141 HH-47 helicopters, but it was canceled following competitive protests. That saga is detailed in its own article set. CSAR-X was eventually canceled, though the USAF is still looking for a combat search and rescue option via its “CRH” solicitation.

Global Contracts and Key Events CH-47F & CH-47D
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Customer Orders: US Army (532 planned), US SOCOM (61 planned), Australia (7), Britain (14), Canada (15), Italy (16), the Netherlands (6/9), Turkey (6+/14), United Arab Emirates (6+/16).

Unless otherwise noted, key program events and related awards noted below are assumed to be US orders from Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL; issued to The Boeing Co. in Ridley Park, PA.

Note that contracts to Boeing are not all-inclusive, by any means. As an example, they include installation of Honeywell’s engines, but not the engines themselves, which are “Government Furnished Equipment” (GFE) bought under a separate contract. In a related vein, the purchase contract is usually accompanied by advance materials and “long lead items” contracts earlier. The actual price of a combat-ready CH-47F will be very different.

FY 2015

Canadian CH-147
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Oct 15/14: Brazil. Boeing spokesman Scott Day says that “We have had some early discussions about the Chinook with the Brazilian Army,” but said the potential order is “not a large one.”

Brazil’s military doesn’t have any helicopters as large as the CH-47F. The closest they get is AS532 Super Puma medium helicopters and their more modern iteration, the EC725 Cougar. A small number of CH-47s would be very useful for hauling heavier cargo loads into remote areas without an airstrip, and especially for recovery of other helicopters. Sources: WKZO, “Exclusive: Boeing eyes possible Chinook helicopter sale to Brazil”.

FY 2014 – 2015

(click to view full)

March 25/15: The Netherlands looks set to receive 17 CH-47F helicopters in a $1.05 billion Foreign Military Sale from the US. The new aircraft will replace the Netherlands’s existing fleet of CH-47D variants and will complement a previous sale of CH-47Fs in 2006.

Sept 29/14: new MH-47G. Boeing delivers the first new-build MH-47G to US Army Army Special Operations Aviation Command a full month ahead of schedule, as part of an 8-helicopter, $300 million program that will last through 2015.

Production improvements on the new-build models include more robust, improved monolithic machined-frames that were pioneered for the British Chinook Mk.6 (q.v. Aug 22/11), a digital flight control system, and improved air transportability. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Delivers First New-Build MH-47G Special Operations Chinook”.

Sept 26/14: Support. A 5+ year, $499.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for American H-47 helicopter support services, encompassing engineering, logistics, data analysis, technical data reproduction, supportability, and management requirements for pre-through post-production, sustainment, and fleet support of all H-47 variants.

Delivery order 0001 is exercised immediately, and the rest will be allocated as needed, with work location and funding determined for each order. The support contract runs until Dec 31/19. Bids were solicited via the internet, with 1 received (W58RGZ-14-D-0075).

5-year H-47 support contract

Sept 15/14: Upgrades. Boeing in Ridley Park, PA receives a $27.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to develop, test, and bench qualify a modified electrical system for the CH-47.

Fiscal 2014 other funds in the amount of $27,700,422 were obligated at the time of the award. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30, 2017. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-04-G-0023, 0308).

Aug 29/14: India. The new BJP government’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) makes a number of key moves, beginning with cancellation of the 197-helicopter Light Utility Helicopter competition. At the same time, however, DAC effectively cleared the purchase of 15 CH-47F Chinook and 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, by approving Boeing’s industrial offset proposals. Sources: Defense News, “India Cancels $1 Billion Light Helicopter Tender” | Financial Express, “Make in India kicks off with defence deals” | Indian Express, “Centre scraps light utility helicopter tender, opens it to Indian players” | NDTV, “Modi Government Drops Rs 6000-Crore Foreign Chopper Plan, Wants ‘Made in India'”.

July 31/14: Engines. Honeywell Aerospace International, Phoenix, Arizona, was awarded a $121.9 million initial foreign military sales contract order, on behalf of Turkey, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. Note that Morocco isn’t a CH-47F customer, but their request for 3 CH-47Ds included the uprated 714A engines.

It’s the 1st order under a new contract covering up to 440 total T55-GA-714A engines and 365 T55-GA-714A engine fielding kits. All funds for this order are committed immediately, but the wider contract will have a total potential value well north of $121 million.

Work will be performed until Dec 31/18 in Phoenix, AZ. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-14-C-0021, PO 0001).

July 29/14: 1st Phase II. Boeing delivers the first CH-47F Phase II to the U.S. Army, 1 month ahead of schedule, in a ceremony at the production facility in Ridley Township, PA. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Delivers First U.S. Army Multiyear II Configured Chinook”.

1st CH-47F Phase II

July 22/14: COOLS. A $65.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 204 Cargo On/Off Loading System (COOLS) A-Kits; 204 COOLS B-Kits; and 22 COOLS Ballistic Protection System (BPS) Kits. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 US Army budgets. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 29/19.

COOLS (Cargo On/Off Loading System) consists of floor panels that flip over to reveal loading rollers. Before the CH-47F Phase II was introduced, the loading rollers had to be installed independently. That made loading and unloading supply pallets much more difficult and tedious. In contrast, metal COOLS floors can be flipped in place in minutes, while providing extra ballistic protection as a bonus (W58RGZ-14-C-0063).

May 22/14: +1 CH-47F. Boeing in Ridley Park, PA receives a $25.9 million contract modification under the multi-year contract, exercising an option for 1 CH-47F Chinook helicopter. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Army budgets.

Note that this isn’t the full purchase price of a CH-47F, which also has Government Furnished Equipment aboard that is bought under other contracts. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/20 (W58RGZ-13-C-0002, PO 0009).

April 17/14: Support. A $43.3 million contract modification for new equipment and equipment training to Army units receiving the CH-47F. All funds are committed immediately, using Army FY 2014 budgets. Work will run until Feb 29/16, at continental United States and overseas locations (W58RGZ-13-C-0114, PO 0003).

April 9/14: An $8.9 million modification to the MYP-II contract, covering overruns for Production Lot 12 and advance buys for Lot 13. All funds are committed from FY 2011, 2012 and 2014 budgets. Estimated completion date is Dec 31/20. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (W58RGZ-13-C-0002, PO 0008).

April 3/14: Phase II. A $19 million contract modification to integrate improved drive train development, as part of the CH-47F Phase II Aircraft Component Improvement Program. All funds are committed immediately, from FY 2014 RDT&E budgets. Estimated completion date is May 29/15 (W58RGZ-04-G-0023, 0307).

March 18/14: Phase II. Boeing in Ridley Park, PA receives a $15.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee to develop and test a CH-47F Phase II Lightweight Fuel System as part of the Airframe Component Improvement Program. Work will be performed at Ridley Park, PA until March 15/17. Bids were solicited via the Web, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

strong>Dec 26/13: +28 CH-47F. Boeing in Ridley, Park, PPA receives a $617.7 million order for FY 2014 production, under the current multi-year contract (q.v. June 11-17/13): 22 remanufactured CH-47Fs, 6 new CH-47Fs, and long lead funding for remanufacturing 13 CH-47F helicopters in FY 2015. Note that the FY 2015 budget projections called for 30 remanufactured helicopters.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 other procurement funds. Work will be performed at Ridley Park, PA, and the estimated completion date for the contract is listed as Dec 31/20 (W58RGZ-14-C-0003, PO 004).

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The MH-47 gets some good news, thanks to a better armoring system:

“The Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD), contracting with The Protective Group, completed work on this project during FY13. They developed a non?permanent armor to fit under the floor of the MH-47 helicopter cabin. The goal was to maintain the same minimum level of ballistic protection as the fielded armor, with better durability and less installed weight. Locating the armor under the cabin floor panels greatly reduces the wear and increases its lifespan. The designers also developed an installation and removal system that is lightweight, requires minimal aircraft modification and manpower, and does not interfere with maintenance requirements, mission equipment, or cargo loading systems. The project demonstrated armor panel installation and removal in minutes and achieved a 34 percent reduction in weight over the currently fielded ballistic protection system.”

FY 2013

FY 2013-2017 multi-year deal; +1 MH-47G; Late Dutch deliveries finally begin; Preferred bidder in India; Prospects in Libya?; DVE system for MH-47Gs to help see in tough conditions. CH-47F got moves
(click to view full)

Sept 27/13: Libya order? The Libya Herald reports that the country is looking to buy transport helicopters, in order to reach remote communities and vastly improve border control. IHS Jane’s and Boeing both report that the Chinook is a serious contender. Despite Libya’s past as an anti-American state and Soviet client, they have a long history with the CH-47 thanks to license-built sales from Italy’s AgustaWestland. Most of their 20 Chinooks were destroyed in the civil war, with just 1 reportedly flying.

The Chinook can expect competition from options like Eurocopter’s EC725, and the most interesting question might be whether the CH-47F deal with AgustaWestland includes Libya within the June 2008 agreement’s export zone, and under what terms. The other big question is the size of Libya’s desired order. Senior Boeing manager Steve Barlage said in August that the desired order was more of a full replacement: 6 CH-47Ds and 16 CH-47Fs. Recent accounts, however, involve just 6 CH-47Ds, which could be taken from American or Canadian stocks and sold through Boeing.

Libya has vast potential oil riches, but the country is in somewhat poor shape, and oil production has plunged sharply to under 100,000 barrels per day in the wake of strikes and disorder at key terminals. At the same time, US government financing to backstop arms deals is limited. There are ways to square that circle, including an export order from AgustaWestland that leverages Italian export credits, but it’s all up to Libya. Sources: Libya Herald, “Military considers $700 million Chinook helicopter deal” | Defense News, “US Firms Eye Late Entry Into Libyan Defense Market” | SKy News Australia, “Libya oil production slumps over strike”.

Sept 27/13: +7 MH-47G. A $78.2 million firm-fixed-price contract finalizes an order for 7 new-build MH-47G helicopters, which is the total for that type under the recent multi-year contract (q.v. June 11-17/13).

Even as bare airframes, this amount seems a bit low (q.v. Dec 11/12). The final cost of each ready-to operate MH-47G is, of course, considerably higher. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA. One bid was solicited and 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023, 0275503).

Sept 27/13: MH-47 DVE. The Technical Applications Contracting Office in Fort Eustis, VA issues 3 contracts to develop and field “the degraded visual environments (DVE) system.” DVE will “integrate information from [MH-47E/G and MH-60K/L/M helicopter] sensors,” in order to help aircrews perm their missions through rain, fog, sand brownouts, etc. Dust-driven brownouts are an especially prevalent killer in many operating theaters, and the advanced sensors already on board US SOCOM’s helicopters offer an interesting option for cutting through the clutter. See also: US Army, “Army acquiring ‘brown-out’ assistance for helos” for additional context regarding this area in general. This area is being pursued by a number of US military programs, and by a number of private companies.

The 60-month SOCOM DVE contracts were awarded from 5 offers received in response to the solicitation, and they will run until Aug 31/17. Winners include:

Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, IA wins a maximum $22.4 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost reimbursement contract, with $1.3 million in FY 2013 research, development, test and evaluation funds committed immediately for task order 0001 (H92241-13-D-0008).

Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV receives a maximum $22.6 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee DVE contract, with $624,013 in FY 2013 research, development, test and evaluation funds committed immediately for task order 0001 (H92241-13-D-0010).

Boeing in Philadelphia, PA wins a maximum $23 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee DVE contract, with $2.1 million in FY 2013 research, development, test and evaluation funds committed immediately for task order 0001 (H92241-13-D-0011).

July 18/13: Support. A maximum $39.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for helicopter support and personnel training services, aimed at units receiving the CH-47F. FY 2013 procurement funds are being used, and 1 bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-13-C-0114).

June 24/13: Italy. The Italian Army’s 1st ICH-47F Chinook performs its 15-minute maiden flight at AgustaWestland’s Vergiate plant in Italy. Under the joint agreement, AW makes the drive systems, handles system integration for Italy’s unique requirements, and performs final assembly. They also have the same kind of wider export permission in their region that they enjoyed with the CH-47C.

Italy ordered up to 20 ICH-47Fs (16 + 4 options – q.v. May 13/09), to replace the 1st Regiment’s 40 CH-47Cs that entered service in 1973. Delivery of this 1st helicopter is scheduled for early 2014, with final deliveries in 2017. AgustaWestland | Read “Italy Buying CH-47F Helicopters” for more.

June 11-17/13: MYP. A $3.414 billion firm-fixed-price, multi-year contract for remanufactured and new-build CH-47F cargo helicopters, with $1.317 billion of FY 2011-2013 funds committed immediately. Boeing announces it as a contract for 177 helicopters from FY 2013 – 2017, which could rise to 215. If it does rise that high, the Pentagon announces the contract maximum as $4.984 billion. Boeing is touting up to $800 million of savings vs. single-year buys, plus a $130 million investment they’ve already made to modernize the Chinook factory in Pennsylvania.

The Pentagon adds that a portion of the initial contract involves foreign military sales for Turkey and the UAE. The USA’s FY 2013 budget submission involved just 155 helicopters and $373 million in savings, for a total of $3.363 billion. That indicates another 22 helicopters in this base order, but Turkey and the UAE together have just 16 helicopters left in their DSCA requests (8 each), so the numbers don’t add immediately.

As of this date, there were 241 CH-47Fs in the Army and National Guard, with 15 units operating them and a 16th being equipped. CH-47F units have logged more than 86,000 combat hours in Afghanistan, maintaining an operational readiness rate of over 80%, compared to equally new technology like the V-22 tilt-rotor whose readiness rate is 70% or less. Boeing cites a final Army target of 464 CH-47Fs, including 24 to replace helicopters that have been lost, but that’s at variance with FY 2014 Pentagon budget documents (W58RGZ-13-C-0002). Boeing.

Multi-Year Contract:
177 – 215 helicopters

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

The FY 2013 program plan was 533 helicopters: 237 New Build + 226 remanufactured. The FY 2014 program plan cuts that by 20 remanufactured helicopters (to 207) and 61 new-build helicopters (to 176), but the interesting thing about the cuts is that they mostly take place after 2017. The reason is the multi-year buy proposal, which runs from FY 2013 – 2017. There is a cut of $527 million in the FY 2017 budget projection, and if you look closely, it’s mostly from the total removal of new-build funding that year. The exact impact of these cuts on the entire program’s cost isn’t clear yet, and will have to await a Pentagon Selected Acquisitions Report (SAR).

March 21/13: Improved rotor. A $17.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for Advanced Chinook Rotor Blade (ACRB) design and engineering services. This blade is slated to be added part-way through CH-47F Block II production, with fielding in 2016. If it performs to spec, it will add another 1,800-pounds of lift capability, and could be retrofitted to the rest of the fleet. See also Aug 4/12 entry.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of March 18/17 (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Dec 11/12: +1 MH-47G. A $34.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to buy 1 MH-47G special operations variant Chinook helicopter. There’s a fair bit of separate equipment that also goes into these, so our standard warning about prices is magnified in this case.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Oct 31/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Dec 5/12: India. The Indian government officially announces that Boeing’s CH-47F is its preferred bidder. In India, an “L1″ bidder is the one that offers the lowest cost, after all adjustments have been made to the proposal. Depending on the competition, price adjustments could be made as a result of industrial benefits plans, maintenance figures, etc.:

“In the proposal initiated by Indian Air Force (IAF) for procurement of 15 Heavy Lift Helicopters, M/s Boeing with Chinook Helicopter has emerged as the L1 Vendor. The cost of the Contract would depend upon outcome of the Contract negotiation with the L1 Vendor, which has not yet concluded.

The Field Evaluation Trials for these Helicopters conducted by the Indian Air Force have found them to be compliant with all the stated Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (ASQRs). Divulging further details in this regard may not be in the interest of National security.”

Nov 28/12: Canada. Canada’s DND provides an update re: its 15-helicopter “CH-147″ project. They say that the project is currently on-budget for its C$ 2.3 billion procurement phase, and on schedule. The add that Boeing is also on track to meet its target of $1.25 billion in industrial offset commitments. The RCAF currently has 2 CH-47Fs flying, and will continue to fly test missions in 2013.

The first CH-147 is scheduled to arrive on schedule at a new CFB Petawawa, ON facility in June 2013. Helicopters will be delivered at a rate of approximately one aircraft per month, with all aircraft being delivered over a 12-month period, reaching Initial Operational Capability in 2014, as planned. Canada DND.

Nov 19/12: Sub-contractors. Canadian landing gear specialist Heroux-Devtek Inc. in Longeuil, PQ receives a multi-year contract from Boeing to manufacture the landing gear for all US Army CH-47F helicopters bought under MYP-II. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in the first half of 2014 and run into 2019. Current MYP-II contract expectations will involve 155 helicopters, but this sub-contract also includes options for up to 150 additional landing gear sets to 2019. America isn’t likely to order another 150 CH-47Fs, but foreign buyers might, and MYP-II lets them benefit from the same bulk-order prices negotiated by the US government.

Heroux-Devtek is already an incumbent landing gear supplier for the CH-47F, thanks to the Sept 24/09 MoU that let them bid to supply all H-47F aircraft delivered to customers outside the United States. In September 2012, they received a license to fabricate replacement parts, and to carry out repair and overhaul services, for the landing gear of all Chinook variants. This agreement completes the trifecta. Heroux-Devtek release [PDF].

Oct 28/12: India. The Ministry of Defence has reportedly designated Boeing’s bid to supply 15 CH-47Fs as the “L-1″ (lowest adjusted bid) in Russia’s heavy-lift helicopter competition. If a contract is finalized, the CH-47F will have beaten Russia’s larger and more powerful Mi-26T2, which already serves in India’s armed forces. Both types have proven themselves in Afghanistan, and commercial Mi-26 helicopters have been hired to airlift crashed CH-47Ds back to base.

One key difference? The CH-47F may have just half of the Mi-26’s takeoff weight, but it can be transported in India’s new fleet of C-17A Globemaster heavy-lift jets. That will give an Indian CH-47F fleet a much greater deployment reach. Times of India.

Oct 8/12: Netherlands. The Dutch Armed Forces receives their first 2 CH-47F-NLs, growing their CH-47 fleet to 13 (11 Ds, 2 Fs). The delivery is significantly later than the original date of 2009.

For training purposes, the Luchtmachthanden has stationed 3 training CH-47Ds in Fort Hood, TX. They’ve also set up local training at the School of the Air-Ground Cooperation in Schaarsbergen, including a 10m fixed drop to practice ropedowns. Dutch MvD [in Dutch].

Oct 5/12: Support. Boeing announces a 5-year, $185 million Performance-Based Logistics (PBL) contract to manage production, overhaul and distribution of the Army’s supply of Chinook helicopter rotor blades. This includes older CH-47D models, as well as the CH-47F. Boeing now has performance-based support contracts within the AH-64 Apache, V-22 Osprey, and international CH-47 programs. They add that:

“Boeing has been collaborating with U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command for several years on ways to improve the tooling used to produce and repair Chinook rotor blades. The company also has increased the efficiency and capacity of its Chinook supply chain through the use of improved asset management and forecasting tools, an enhanced supplier network and a public-private partnership with the Corpus Christi Army Depot.”

Oct 5/12: HUMS. An $8.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for CH-47F cargo-platform health environment (CPHE) field demonstration kits. Boeing confirms that these embedded HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring Systems) will track wear and performance for specific mechanical components and areas. The contract supports initial CPHE fielding, and this aircraft monitoring system is part of the Multi Year II suite of improvements to the CH-47F.

The initial fielding contract, however, is issued under an older agreement. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 28/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Oct 4/12: IVCS. A $17.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to qualify Improved Vibration Control Systems for use on the CH-47. Boeing says that IVCS replaces the existing system, reducing weight and issues with part obsolescence. It is not part of the Multi Year II suite of improvements to the CH-47F.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Sept 28/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Oct 2/12: COOLS. A $13 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for “cargo on/off loading systems.” Boeing confirms that this contract is for the new Cargo On/Off Loading System (COOLS), which provides a convertible roller/ flat floor surface for the CH-47F, and incidentally improves bullet protection in the floor. COOLS will be installed in all MYP-II Chinooks, and will be retrofitted into all existing F-model Chinooks.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Jan 31/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

FY 2012

FY 2012 buys; FY 2013-17 plans; 2nd multi-year US deal for improved CH-47Fs?; Australian & UAE contracts; Survivability. CH-47F, FOB Bastion
(click to view full)

Sept 25/12: Support. A $12.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for CH-47F maintenance. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Sept 11/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Aug 16/12: 50th Anniversary. Boeing marks the 50th anniversary of delivering the first H-47 Chinook military helicopter, making it Boeing’s longest continuously running production program. The company has delivered more than 1,200 Chinooks to 18 operators around the world, and more than 800 still in operation today.

The production line near Philadelphia is about to see the end of a $130 million renovation that will help Boeing increase Chinook production rates without breaking the bank. Boeing says that they are scheduled to deliver nearly 60 Chinooks this year. They have a proposal for a multi-year American buy, and a backlog of foreign orders.

Aug 14/12: Australia/ UAE. An $81.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification of an existing contract for “CH-47F aircraft in support of foreign military sales.” Boeing explains to DID that this converts the existing Bridge Contract for CH-47F Foreign Military Sales (vid. Jan 5/12), formally converting the (now 14) helicopters from a Multi Year I to a Multi Year II configuration with the added floor loading systems, etc. It also establishes firm delivery dates for Australia and the United Arab Emirates. The total contract value is now $451.1 million.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of June 15/15. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0010).

Australia & UAE

Aug 14/12: Improved Rotor. A $37.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for engineering services in support of the Advanced Chinook’s rotor blade tooling. Advanced Chinook incorporates a number of modifications to the base CH-47F, and the new rotor blade design is one of the most important ones.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/15. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Aug 7/12: AVMS. Boeing announces that it will embark on Phase II of its Adaptive Vehicle Management System (AVMS), an advanced flight control system that’s designed to improve maneuverability and performance. It achieves these goals by adapting the flight controls to the aircraft’s flight condition, environment and even computed pilot intent.

The $18 million U.S. Army contract is a joint development project between Boeing and the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) and will encompass more than 100 hours of flight test time. In Phase II, the team will fly the AVMS system on the modified Boeing H-6 helicopter used in Phase I, as well as on the larger Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter and CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter.

May 16/12: MH-47G. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $17 million firm-fixed-price and cost-no-fee contract for MH-47G helicopter infrared exhaust suppressors, including systems components, initial fielding spares and spare parts.

Work location will be determined with each task order, until May 10/17. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Fort Eustis, VA (W91215-12-D-0001).

April 9/12: A $26.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for “services in support of the Chinook cargo helicopter advance procurement, long lead items.” Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

April 4/12: US Army Plans. US Army CH-47 F-model project manager Lt. Col. Brad Killen states that the Army plans to have a “pure” fleet of 440 F-model Chinooks by 2018, thanks to a combination of CH-47F buys and upgrades. So far, the Army has accepted 169 CH-47Fs, and its long history of upgrades still includes the first CH-47A ever delivered. About 50 years later, it’s serving in Afghanistan, as a CH-47D.

Lt. Col. Killen has a colleague, thanks to the Army’s recent move to install a Lt. Col. Joe Hoecherl as the special program manager for CH-47F modernization. Key initiatives includes the new composite rotor blade, slated for flight testing in summer 2015; the COOLS Cargo On/Off Loading System of flippable rotors, which will begin fielding in February 2013; and the CHPE Cargo Platform Health Environment of embedded diagnostic and prognostic sensors, which begins installation validation in May 2012. US Army.

Feb 13/12: FY 2013 budget. The US Army request is $1,462.3 million for 44 CH-47Fs. $1,159.4 million will fund 19 new-build and 19 remanufactured/Service Life Extension Program helicopters, while another $231.3 million buys 6 Overseas Contingency CH-47Fs to replace combat losses. The accompanying document says that:

“Protection of the CH-47 is a major part of the Army’s continued focus on aviation and maintaining an effective Aviation Modernization program, specifically modernization of the Army Rotary Wing fleet. The Department requests funding for procurement of 25 new F-model aircraft while remanufacturing 19 more. Also, funding will be used for further improvements and upgrades, including a loading system to enable rapid reconfiguration from cargo to passenger missions. Funding in FY 2013 is $1.2 billion and totals $5.7 billion from FY 2013 – FY 2017.”

Feb 13/12: +32 CH-47F. A $676 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy 32 CH-47F new build helicopter airframes, plus installation of GFE equipment like engines, etc. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Feb 13/12: A $21.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, covering initial production fielding support for each new equipment training site equipped with the CH-47 cargo helicopter.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of April 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-11-C-0093).

Feb 13/12: Cargo upgrade. A $13.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to manufacture and test 5 Cargo On-and-Off Loading System prototypes. As noted above, this is a proposed modification to the existing CH-47F.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Feb 28/14. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Jan 17/12: DOT&E on Survivability. The Pentagon releases the FY2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The CH-47 is cited as a system performing well on all measures, but there were some interesting notes about survivability:

“Rotorcraft Sponson RPG Vulnerability. This project is demonstrating methods of suppressing fires resulting from RPG impacts to sponson fuel tanks [DID: those bulges on the lower sides] – with emphasis on occupant survivability. For several U.S. rotorcraft, fuel tanks are contained in sponsons that are adjacent to the main cabin. Current data indicates that the U.S. aircraft are being shot with RPGs and sponsons should be protected.

…Combat Incident Emerging Threat Investigation. This project is addressing a recent combat incident in Afghanistan that raised concerns about a potential new threat to helicopters. In this incident, a CH-47 helicopter was damaged in a manner uncharacteristic of any previous incident. JCAT requested JLF Air support by providing threat-target characterization data for their incident investigation. Results from two shots completed against a surrogate airframe were provided to JCAT. The initial results from these tests allowed JCAT to understand the engagement conditions and subsequent damage with confidence, increasing the value of information provided to operational commanders.”

Jan 5/12: Australia & UAE. A $370 million firm-fixed-price contract to “provide for the services in support of the bridge requirement for new CH-47 F model aircraft to support foreign military sales.” The English translation, based on responses to our inquiries, is that Australia and the UAE are buying 13 CH-47Fs (7 of 7 Australia, 6 of 16 UAE) under the US Army’s contract, in order to benefit from its volume pricing. The 14th helicopter will be bought by the US Army.

As always, this is buying base airframes, plus integration of GFE. Even so, CH-47F customers like Britain and Canada, who ordered heavily customized versions, can’t take advantage of this approach. Neither can Italy, who will produce the machines in-country under an agreement between Boeing and AgustaWestland.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by the US Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL, on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale clients (W58RGZ-12-C-0010). See also Dec 3/09 entry, “Australia Ordering CH-47F Chinooks“, and Boeing’s release.

CH-47Fs: 7 Australia, 6 UAE, & 1 USA

Jan 5/12: A $218.7 million firm-fixed-price contract. Clarifications revealed that the FY 2012 order will produce the last 12 refurbished CH-47F (converted from CH-47D) airframes under the current multi-year contract, as well as installation of equipment like engines etc. that are bought by the government under separate contracts. Boeing submitted an offer for a follow-on multi-year CH-47F contract in November 2011 (vid. Nov 4/11, Oct 12/11), and expects that if their offer is accepted, it would happen around January 2013.

Note that final contract dates are not the same as final delivery dates, so the 1st multi-year program will still be building machines during any follow-on contract’s initial couple of years. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Nov 4/11: MYP-II offer. Boeing has tabled its 2nd multi-year buy offer to the US government, for another 155 CH-47F family helicopters, as the end comes into view for its first $4.3 billion, multi-year contract for 191 helicopters.

Boeing CH-47Fs currently equip 8 U.S. Army units, and 6 of those units have completed deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army is in the process of training and equipping the 9th unit. Boeing.

Oct 12/11: MYP-II = CH-47F+. Boeing is preparing its next multi-year buy offer to the US government for 155 more CH-47 family helicopters, which would end the program of record.

Procurement wouldn’t start until 2013, and the new machines would include a number of changes including flip-over cargo rollers on the floor. They’re also developing a new rotor blade to give the helicopter about 2,000 more pounds of lift, without hurting forward flight performance. The new rotor is headed for a Critical Design Review in January 2012, but probably won’t deliver in time to begin the next buy. Defense News.

FY 2011

FY 2011 buys; British & Turkish buys; Dutch 1st flight; New sensor turrets; Canada’s Auditor-General is very critical. CH-47F, Ft. Campbell
(click to view full)

Sept 14/11: A $6.75 million firm-fixed-price contract modification “to support the CH-47F Chinook helicopter renew aircraft.” Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/15. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Aug 22/11: UK contract. The UK MoD signs a GBP 1 billion ($1.64 billion) contract with Boeing for 14 new “CH-47 Mk6″ Chinook helicopters, plus associated support for the first 5 years.

Boeing confirmed that these are new-build helicopters, which use the same T55-GA-714A engines that are installed on the F model, and being retrofitted to existing RAF Chinooks. The CH-47F is also known for its use of large, single-piece components, and the UK advisory touts a “new, machined monolithic airframe.” That appears to be a CH-47F base, but extensive changes and additions include UK-specific avionics, communication and navigation equipment; forward-looking infrared surveillance turrets; a rescue hoist; and defensive systems against guided missiles. Canada made similar changes to the “CH-147s” it bought.

The RAF will receive the 1st Mk6 aircraft for initial trials and testing in 2013, to enter service in May 2014. By early 2015, 3 CH-47 Mk6 helicopters are slated to be ready for operational deployment, and delivery of all 14 helicopters is expected to finish by the end of 2015. The RAF intends to have all 14 operational by early 2017, bringing their total Chinook fleet to 60 (barring further losses). UK MoD | Boeing.

Britain: 14 “CH-47 Mk6″

Aug 14/11: Turkey. As expected, Turkey’s DSCA request (vid. Dec 8/09, June 6/11) shrunk by 66% and turned into an initial order for 6 CH-47Fs, with 5 going to the Army, and 1 to their Special Forces Command. An unnamed procurement official was reported as saying the contract was signed last month for about $400 million. Delivery is scheduled to take place between 2013 – 2014. The country didn’t have heavy-lift helicopters yet, so this is a notable step forward for them. Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkey: 6 CH-47F

Aug 11/11: MH-47G. An $8.4 million firm-fixed-price contract to buy Digital Automatic Flight Control Systems for the Special Operations MH-47G. They’re actually manufactured by BAE.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 1/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the US Army Aviation and Missile Command, Contracting Center in Fort Eustis, VA (W91215-11-D-0001).

Aug 4/11: MH-47G. Raytheon in McKinney, TX receives a $21 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for 8-15 AN/ZSQ-2v1 Assault and 0-5 AN/ZSQ-2v2 Attack Electro-Optical Sensor Systems. The FBO solicitation specified only MH-47Gs, but the DefenseLINK release referred to US SOCOM’s MH-47G Chinook and MH-60M Black Hawk helicopters at Fort Campbell, KY.

Work will be performed primarily in McKinney, TX and is expected to be completed by Aug 2/13. A $15.6 million Delivery order 0001 was issued on Aug 2/11. This is a sole-source contract under the authority of FAR 6.302-1 (H92241-11-D-0006). See also

The ZSQ-2 electro-optical turrets share a number of sub-systems in common with similar Raytheon products that equip aircraft like the MQ-9 Reaper, MH-60R Seahawk, etc., as Raytheon seeks to take things one step further with a Common Sensor Payload design for the US Army. The ZSQ-2s have begun receiving upgrades with 3rd generation FLIR night vision systems.

June 29/11: +8 CH-47F. A $174.1 million firm-fixed-price contract, covering the 4th year (FY 2011) of the current CH-47F multiyear contract, and exercising the Production Lot IX option for 8 new-build CH-47Fs.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

June 6/11: Turkey. Turkey’s DSCA request (vid. Dec 3/09) may be close to a contract, but for fewer helicopters. Hurriyet Daily News quotes an unnamed “senior procurement official,” who says that a $300 million deal for 6 of the 14 notified CH-47Fs is close to finalization, with deliveries to begin in 2013. The official added that “After the helicopters begin to arrive, we plan to make some modifications on them according to suit our specific needs.”

Contract negotiations among the SSM, the U.S. government and Boeing were launched in 2010. The deal is reportedly for 6 Army helicopters because of financial constraints, leaving the remaining 8 as a future option.

May 10/11: Training. A $23.7 million firm-fixed-price contract covers initial production fielding support for each new equipment training site equipped with the CH-47F.

Boeing describes it a bit differently, as Initial Production Fielding Support modifications on 49 CH-47F Chinook helicopters at Boeing’s Millville, NJ Modification Center, which opened in 2010. After the Chinooks are delivered from the production line in Philadelphia to the Army, they are flown to Millville, where Boeing structural and electrical employees make specialized avionics and airframe modifications to support new Army requirements. The contract will also support 2 New Equipment Training teams, who help train US Army Chinook units in the USA and abroad on the upgrades.

The US Army lists the estimated completion date as April 30/13, while Boeing says that the current contract period extends the current work of modifying Chinook aircraft at the Boeing Millville facility from May 2011 through April 2012. Both could be right; DoD announcements may not include option periods, and may cover only part of the contract’s total possible funds (W58RGZ-11-C-0093). See also Boeing release.

March 30/11: +25 CH-47F. A $528.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 25 nCH-47F Chinooks, as the FY 2011 new-build order. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

March 3/11: ECM. Boeing receives a $13.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F infrared suppressor systems modification B-kits. The idea is make the helicopter’s hot engine exhaust gasses less of a clear target for heat-seeking missiles. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of May 31/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Feb 16/11: Engines. Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, AZ received a $43.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 50 T55-GA-714A engines and 30 T55-GA-714A engine fielding kits. Work will be performed in Phoenix, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-04-C-0061).

Dec 28/10: +11 CH-47F. A $242 million firm-fixed-price contract for 11 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, as the FY 2011 remanufactured order. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Dec 28/10: Support. A $10 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for training, equipping, sustaining, and other support and services for the CH-47F Chinook program. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of April 30/11. One bid was solicited with one bid was received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Dec 8/10: Dutch 1st flight. 1st flight of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) CH-47F (NL) Chinook heavy-lift helicopter. The new version is scheduled to complete its flight test program in August 2011, after approximately 100 flight hours. There are 2 aircraft in flight test as of January 2011, of the order for 6. The CH-47F-NLs will join an existing fleet of 11 CH-47Ds, as the Dutch become the 1st international customer to field an F model variant.

The new Dutch Chinooks are equipped with self-protection systems, engine air particle separators, a forward-looking infrared system, and fast rope positions, which will be used to support Special Forces operations. Boeing | DID’s full CH-47F (NL) coverage.

Dec 3/10: A $50.7 million firm-fixed-price contract commits funding for CH-47F production Lot 10 long lead time items. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Nov 3/10: Improvements. Boeing continues to work on CH-47F/MH-47G improvements. They include a redesigned rotor blade, improved engine controls for the “fat tank” MH-47Gs, and an integrated cargo roller system for the CH-47Fs. These features could be part of a new configuration set that will be finalized in June 2011. Deliveries would start in 2014, under what Boeing hopes will be a new multi-year contract.

The new blade was derived from the canceled RAH-66 Comanche scout/attack helicopter, and has a swept dihedral-anhedral blade tip, using 3 airfoil sections instead of 2. It’s designed to add 2,000 pounds of lift, without hindering forward-flight performance. Wind tunnel testing is done, and the next step is making full-size blades for dynamic and fatigue testing, followed by 2014 flight tests. Aviation Week.

Oct 28/10: Canadian criticism. Canada’s Office of the Auditor General (OAG) releases their 2010 Fall report. Canada’s CH-147 program rates a very negative verdict. Most important, they contend that the procurement process itself was unfair, and that DND kept senior decision makers in the dark about major changes to the project and its costs.

Read “On The Verge: Canada’s $4B+ Program for Medium-Heavy Transport Helicopters” for the full details, including links to background materials.

Oct 13/10: +2 CH-47F. A $43.5 million firm-fixed-price contract, exercising the option for 2 CH-47F new Chinook cargo helicopters. The order is technically placed on Sept 30/10, the last day of FY 2010. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Oct 13/10: Support. A $12 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, covering 57,700 hours of CH-47F engineering services support, to include integration of engineering change proposals, product improvement, and other modifications to the CH-47F cargo helicopter. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/12. U.S. Army Contracting Command, CCAM-CH-A in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

FY 2010

FY 2010 buys; Requests & plans from Australia, Britain, Turkey, UAE; 100th CH-47F delivered. MH-47G, 2010 exercise
(click to view full)

Aug 6/10: Support. A $5.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order modification for 27,310 hours of engineering services support of “CH-47F unique items identification candidates, non-recurring engineering.” Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Jan 31/12. One bid was solicited with one bid relieved (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

DID asked about this, and the Army eventually explained that Boeing will be evaluating parts to determine where and how to permanently mark items over $5,000, or serially tracked items, with machine readable code per the Pentagon’s Item Unique Identification (IUID) mandate.

July 30/10: The 10th Mountain Division becomes the 6th US Army unit to field the CH-47F. It’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade’s 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion has equipped its B Company at Fort Drum, NY, which will begin advanced mission training including simulated assault, troop-transport and cargo-movement exercises, and high mountain operations. Boeing.

July 22/10: #100. The 100th CH-47F rolls out of the Boeing facility near Philadelphia, PA, during a ceremony commemorating the milestone and the Army’s acceptance of the helicopter. More than 2,500 Boeing employees gathered inside the flight deck hangar to join in the commemoration. US Army | Boeing.

100th CH-47F

April 16/10: Support. A pair of cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts for engineering services, worth a combined $38.2 million for 183,993 hours. Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. In both cases, just 1 bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

The first contract exercises a $30.2 million option for 145,480 hours, while the second exercises an $8 million option for 38,513 hours.

Feb 25/10: Australia. The Australian Government gives second pass approval to “Project AIR 9000 Phase 5C” for 7 CH-47Fs, at a budget of AUD $755 million. This approves the plan’s details, but is not itself a contract. Australia expects to field the first 2 helicopters in 2014, with all 7 expected by 2017. The ministerial statement makes it clear that the 7 CH-47Fs would replace 5th Aviation Regiment, C squadron’s existing 6 CH-47Ds, would also be based in Townsville, and would be expected to serve until 2040.

Per the recommendations of past commissions like Australia’s famous Kinnaird Review, Senator Faulkner said the new aircraft will be procured and maintained in the same broad configuration as the United States Army CH-47Fs. Australia also promised to consider joining the USA’s Chinook Product Improvement Program as a way to keep those configurations aligned, “when information on this program is of second pass quality.” Having said all that, however, “The new Australian Chinooks will also receive some additional ADF-specific equipment to meet certain operational and safety requirements.”

CH-47F taking off
click to play video

Dec 16/09: FY 2009. A $704.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 21 new build aircraft and 14 remanufactured CH-47s. This is the 3rd year of a multi-year contract for CH-47Fs, and work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Dec 15/09: UK plans. Gordon Brown’s Labour Party government and the British Ministry of Defence announce plans to buy 10 new CH-47 Chinook helicopters for delivery in 2012-2013, with the intent to buy another 12 Chinooks later. The Chinooks will replace the planned Future Medium Helicopter competition to field a successor for Britain’s 34 AS330 Puma HC1s, and 46 H-3 Sea Kings. This is not a formal contract yet, and it is likely but not certain that the new helicopters will be CH-47Fs with British adaptations.

Dec 8/09: Turkey request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Turkey’s official request for up to 14 CH-47F Chinook Helicopters, as well as 32 T55-GA-714A Turbine engines (28 fitted + 4 spares), 28 AN/ARC-201E Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS), 14 AN/APR-39A(V)1 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, and the required special tools and test equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, site survey, personnel training and training equipment, ferry services, and U.S. Government and contractor support services.

A DSCA request is not a sale; if the sale is not blocked in Congress by Dec 22/09, and a contract is concluded later, the estimated cost of the complete package could be up to $1.2 billion.

The prime contractor will be the Boeing Company in Ridley Park, PA. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale, and even though these will be Turkey’s first heavy-lift helicopters, this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Turkey. DSCA announcement [PDF] | Defense News with Turkish reaction.

DSCA request: Turkey (14 CH-47F)

Dec 3/09: UAE request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces the United Arab Emirates official request to buy CH-47Fs and associated systems. The estimated cost is $2 billion, the prime contractor will be Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in St. Louis, MO, and the DSCA release [PDF] adds an interesting note:

“The proposed sale will provide the United Arab Emirates the capability to transport equipment and troops in the region, as well as to support U.S. and NATO airlift requirements in Afghanistan.”[emphasis DID’s]

Though it is not discussed much, the UAE does have troops in Afghanistan, serving as part of ISAF. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 4 contractor representatives in the UAE for a period of 1 year, with an option for 2 additional years. During helicopter delivery, 1 additional U.S. government and 4 contractor representatives will be required for 1 week for quality assurance. Specific items requested include:

  • 16 CH-47F Chinook helicopters
  • 38 T55-GA-714A Turbine engines (32 quipped, 6 spares)
  • 20 AN/APX-118 Identification Friend or Foe Transponders
  • 20 AN/ARC-220 (RT-1749) Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS) with Electronic counter-countermeasures
  • 40 AN/ARC-231 (RT-1808A) Receiver / Transmitters
  • 18 AN/APR-39A(V)1 Radar Signal Detecting Sets with Mission Data Sets
  • Plus flight and radar signal simulators, support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, site survey, construction and facilities, and U.S. Government and contractor support.

Note that a DSCA request is not a contract, which must be signed after the 30-day Congressional blocking period has expired. The UAE also has some additional challenges these days, owing to $60 billion dollar debt default issues in Dubai. The UAE’s central government in Abu Dhabi is limiting its willingness to guarantee that debt, however.

DSCA request: UAE (16 CH-47F)

Dec 3/09: Support. Boeing in Ridley Park, PA receives a $21 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for interim contract support Phase II. Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/10. One bid was solicited with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command’s Aviation & Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Nov 9/09: UK. Defense News reports that Britain is planning to cancel its Future Medium Helicopter competition, and order Boeing Chinooks instead. The proposed move is part of a Ministry of Defence helicopter strategy called “Vision 2020,” which still requires approval by government ministers.

Oct 28/09: Dutch. Luchtvaartnieuws reports [dead link, in Dutch] that the 6 initial Dutch CH-47Fs will be delayed to the end of 2010, due in part to software issues. They were originally scheduled to arrive by early 2010.

The practical consequence? If the Dutch decide not to stay in Afghanistan past 2011, their CH-47Fs may not be deployed there.

Oct 19/09: Sub-contractors. VT Group US, a unit of UK-based VT Group, announces a 5-year, $29.1 million contract to provide logistics analyses and support for the Army’s fleet of CH-47D/F Chinook cargo helicopters.

Under the terms of the contract, VT Group’s Technical Services Division will provide CH-47D/F logistics fleet management, sustainment, CH-47F product manager, foreign military sales, and sustainment support related to all CH-47 cargo helicopters in the Army’s fleet. This includes logistic support to be performed for the CH-47D/F programs, subsystems, product improvements, and the Army’s modernization plan for the CH-47s.

FY 2009

FY 2009 orders; Italian buy; Australian request.

Sept 24/09: Sub-contractors. Canadian landing gear specialist Heroux-Devtek Inc. in Longeuil, PQ signs a 4-year Memorandum of Understanding with Boeing. It makes them eligible to provide landing gear for all H-47F aircraft scheduled to be delivered to export customers over the firm’s FY 2012-2016 period. Héroux-Devtek may also be considered for an intellectual property license to service variants in the worldwide fleet of over 1,000 Chinook helicopters, and the firm is especially interested in that aftermarket services opportunity.

This MOU follows the Canadian government’s Aug 10/09 announcement to order 15 new “CH-147″ Medium to Heavy Lift Helicopters, and supports Boeing’s Industrial & Regional Benefits commitment for the MHLH program. Heroux-Devtek release [PDF].

Sept 17/09: Turkey. Turkey is moving closer to a CH-47F contract, and its SSM procurement agency has reportedly added 4 Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR)/ Special Operations versions to its desired buy, raising the total to 14. Flight International reports that a letter of request has now been issued, and a contract signature is expected by mid-2010 via the USA’s Foreign Military Sales mechanism.

Sept 14/09: +6 MH-47G. A $17.8 million firm-fixed-price contract involving 6 MH-47G Recap, Lot 7 Recap Aircraft. Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of May 30/10 (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

As the price might suggest, this is not the full remanufacturing cost. Boeing representatives confirmed that it will be used to refurbish rotor blades, transmissions, and other re-used parts as part of the overall remanufacturing process.

Aug 3/09: +5 CH-47F. A $108.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F multiyear contract option for 5 new-build CH-47s, as part of FY 2009/ Production lot 7. Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

July 1/09: Australia. Shephard Group reports that Australia may not place a contract order for new CH-47Fs until 2012, and doesn’t expect to field them before 2016-2018. In the interim, Australia hopes to issue maintenance support tenders for its 6 existing CH-47Ds.

The original acquisition plan, approved by the Liberal Party government, would have bought 3 new-build CH-47Fs, and remanufactured existing CH-47Ds to CH-47F configuration. The new Defence Capability Plan, issued this day, revises the timeline.

May 13/09: Italian order. Italy’s ARMAEREO procurement agency signs a EUR 900 million ($1.23 billion equivalent) contract to buy 16 CH-47F heavy-lift helicopters for the Italian Army, with an option for 4 more. Read “Italy Buying CH-47F Helicopters” for more details, and updates.

Italy: 16 CH-47Fs

April 23/09: Australia request. The USA’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Australia’s official request to buy 7 CH-47F Chinook helicopters with 14 T55-GA-714A Turbine engines, 7 Dillon Aero M134D 7.62mm Miniguns, 16 AN/ARC-201D Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radios (SINCGARS), 7 Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below Blue Force Trackers (FBCB2/BFT), 2 spare T-55-GA-714A Turbine engines, plus mission equipment, communication and navigation equipment, ground support equipment, spare and repair parts, special tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, and support.

The estimated cost is $560 million, but a DSCA request is not a contract. See “Australia Ordering CH-47F Chinooks” for further details and updates.

DSCA request: Australia (7 CH-47F)

April 23/09: +7 CH-47F. A $142 million firm-fixed-price contract for 7 new-build CH-47Fs in FY 2009, adding helicopters to the existing multi-year contract (see Aug 27/08) under production Lot 7 (see Dec 24/08). Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited and one bid received.

Note that the 5-year contract includes options for up to 24 additional helicopters over its lifetime, in addition to agreed yearly production figures. This order brings Lot 7 production to 38 helicopters: 23 new-build CH-47Fs, and 15 remanufactured CH-47Fs (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

April 13/09: Boeing announces that a 4th U.S. Army unit has fielded the CH-47F Chinook: Company B of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Feb 26/09: Delivery. Boeing announces delivery of the first CH-47F Chinook manufactured under the 5-year U.S. Army contract awarded in August 2008. The helicopter will be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC, the 4th unit scheduled to be equipped under the Army’s ongoing Chinook modernization program.

1st MYP CH-47F

Dec 24/08: +31 CH-47F. A $620.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 31 Lot 7 production CH-47Fs, built under the 2nd year of the multi-year contract announced on Aug 27/08. This FY 2008 / Year 2 order includes 16 new-build CH-47Fs, 15 remanufactured CH-47Fs, plus Lot 8 long lead time items.

These contracts also include integration of “government furnished equipment” like engines, electronics, and defensive systems, but the equipment itself is bought under separate contracts. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/13. One bid was solicited and one bid received by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-08-C-0098).

Dec 19/08: +6 MH-47G. A $114 million firm-fixed price contract for a modification that finalizes both long lead items for, and the procurement or remanufacture of, 6 Special Forces MH-47E aircraft to the MH-47G configuration.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA and Middletown, DE and is expected to be complete by May 30/11. One bid was solicited on May 8/08 by the Aviation Integration Directorate at Aviation and Missile Command, Fort Eustis, VA (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Dec 15/08: Support. A $12.7 million cost plus fixed price contract for CH-47F Interim Contractor Support. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/09. One bid was solicited and one bid was received (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Nov 18/08: Boeing announces that its CH-47F Chinook helicopter has been fielded by Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, TX. This is the 3rd U.S. Army unit to field the CH-47F since the aircraft was certified combat-ready in July 2007.

Nov 14/08: Sub-contractors. Eaton Corp. announces that it will receive new work from Boeing Company, as part of the CH-47F multi-year contract. Specific terms were not disclosed, but Eaton will supply a hydraulic system engine pump, motor pump and control box and the hydraulic control valves; fluid conveyance system hoses, tubes and fittings; lubrication system components and the helicopter’s engines health debris monitoring components.

FY 2008

USA’s Multi-Year Buy; Canadian buy; Italian partnership; CAAS cockpit ready; Sabotage. CH-47F, Ft. Hood
(click to view full)

Aug 27/08: MYP-I. Boeing announces a 5-year, $4.3 billion U.S. Army contract for 181 CH-47F Chinooks, and 10 additional Chinooks under FY 2008 supplemental funding. There are also options in the award for an additional 24 helicopters over the course of the contract, which would bring the total to 215.

The DefenseLINK release describes an initial $722.7 million payment on the firm-fixed-price multiyear contract (W58RGZ-08-C-0098), which runs until Sept 30/13. It comprises 109 CH-47F new-build aircraft, 72 CH-47F remanufactured aircraft, and priced options for 34 CH-47F new build aircraft (10 FY08 + 24 options).

Boeing claims the multi-year award creates production security for the Boeing Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Township, PA, and for its sub-contractors in over 45 states. They also claim a cost savings of more than $449 million for the U.S. Army. To date, Boeing has delivered 48 CH-47F helicopters to the U.S. Army, training and equipping two units, with a 3rd unit scheduled to stand up in August 2008. The helicopters are currently undergoing its first deployment to Iraq. Boeing release.

MYP Contract

July 16/08: Italian partnership. Boeing and Finmeccanica SpA subsidiary AgustaWestland sign an agreement that defines the terms for the joint manufacture of new CH-47F Chinook helicopters to replace earlier models used by the Italian Army. Orders are expected to follow, and not just from Italy. The agreement also includes a licensing arrangement that lets AgustaWestland to market, sell and produce the Boeing CH-47F Chinook to the United Kingdom, other European countries, and “several countries in the Mediterranean region.”

AgustaWestland has been Boeing’s European partner for other versions of the CH-47, and this new agreement continues and extends that relationship. As prime contractor for the Italian CH-47F, AgustaWestland will be responsible for design and systems integration, and for aircraft delivery to the Italian Army. Boeing Rotorcraft Systems will build the fuselage in Ridley Park, PA. Boeing release | AgustaWestland release.

Italian partnership

May 13/08: Sabotage. During QA inspections, a pair of newly assembled Chinook helicopters at the Boeing plant south of Philadelphia are found to have severed wires in them, and a propeller part (washer) where one didn’t belong. The incident was subsequently determined to be deliberate sabotage, and the production line was closed for 2 days. Digital Journal, “Two Chinook Helicopters Sabotaged At Boeing Plant” | Boeing release May 15 |, “Probe at Boeing plant shoddy workmanship or sabotage”.


May 6/08: Engines. Honeywell International of Phoenix, AZ received a maximum $48.9 million, Firm-Fixed price Indefinite Delivery/ Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for Engine and Maintenance Support for the T55-GA-714A Engines and Components used on the MH-47G Helicopters. Work will primarily be performed at Greer, SC and is expected to be completed by Dec 31/12. This contract was awarded as a sole source, to the firm that makes the engines (H92241-08-D-0006).

April 7/08: Canada contract. Canada’s Ministry of Public Works and Government Services announces a March 2008 sole-source RFP to Boeing for 16 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, plus 20 years of associated in-service support (ISS), with an extension option for the life expectancy of the aircraft.

These helicopters use CH-47Fs as their base, but include so many modifications that they’re almost a different helicopter. That ends up costing the Canadians. See the June 28/06 entry for details, and read “On The Verge: Canada’s $4.7B Program for Medium-Heavy Transport Helicopters” for full coverage. Canada is also looking to buy 6 CH-47D helicopters for delivery before February 2009. They end up being used in Afghanistan in order to meet Parliament’s requirements for continuing the mission, and could be upgraded after the CH-47Fs arrive.

Canada: 16 “CH-147″

Feb 1/08: FY 2008. A “large firm-fixed price contract [for 10] CH-47F new build production helicopters” is announced on DefenseLINK. DID is later able to confirm the figure: $280.5 million. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited on Dec 31/03, and 1 bid was received by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-04-C-0012).

A Feb 27/08 Boeing release corrects the number 11 helicopters, and adds that this award brings the number of new CH-47F Chinooks on contract to 59. Aircraft deliveries under this award will begin in 2011.

11 CH-47Fs

Oct 8/07: CAAS. Rockwell Collins announces that its Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) in the Boeing CH-47F cockpit has been declared operationally ready for deployment by the U.S. Army. The CAAS upgrades/suites were delivered on time, and on budget.

Initially developed for US Special Operations Forces’ MH-47 and MH-60 helicopter fleets, Rockwell Collins’ CAAS solution was subsequently incorporated into the UH-60M, MH-60T, VH-60N Presidential helicopter, ARH-70A, and the CH-53E and CH-53K.

CH-47F CAAS ready

FY 2006 – 2007

US orders; 1st production rollout; CH-47F declared combat-ready; HH-47’s CSAR-X crash begins; Europe’s notional HLR; Requests & plans in Canada, Italy, Netherlands. CH-47F, Ft. Irwin
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Sept 14/07: +1. A $25.5 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract (W58RGZ-04-C-0012) for a CH-47F New Build Production Helicopter. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/12. This was a sole source contract initiated on Dec 31/03 by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL.

1 CH-47F

Sept 4/07: Europe. Defense Aerospace reports that the Franco-Germany Heavy Lift Helicopter (HTL/FTH) program may not involve full development of a new design, and says that 3 helicopters are being evaluated in the initial phase: the Boeing CH-47F Chinook, the Sikorsky CH-53K project, and Mil’s Mi-26T. See DID’s in-depth coverage of this program, its emerging requirements, and the contenders. That “growth version” of the CH-47F would appear to be necessary if Boeing wants to be a serious competitor.

Aug 17/07: Jane’s International Defence Review reports that: “Boeing is looking to enhance the workhorse helicopter to improve range and payload. Director of Boeing H-47 programmes Jack Dougherty said in a presentation to reporters at Fort Campbell that the company continues to fund research into the possibility of a “growth Chinook” beyond the CH-47F.”

Aug 14/07: Combat-ready. The CH-47F Chinook helicopter has been certified combat-ready by the U.S. Army and 13 have been fielded to the first operational unit: the 101st Airborne Division’s Bravo Company (“Varsity”), 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, based at Ft. Campbell, KY. Boeing release.

Combat ready

July 16/07: Boeing announces U.S. Army authorization for full-rate production and fielding of the new CH-47F Chinook helicopter, following operational testing at Fort Campbell, KY, in April 2007. Boeing will now move forward with First Unit Fielding in July 2007. Boeing release.


July 8/07: CH-47F new. A $76.5 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F new build production helicopters. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2012. This was a sole source contract initiated on Dec. 31, 2003 (W58RGZ-04-C-0012).

CH-47F new-build

July 5/07: MH-47G. Boeing Co. in Ridley Park, PA receives a delivery order amount of $52.7 million as part of a $147.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for remanufacture of H-47 aircraft to the MH-47G configuration.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (98.3%), and Middletown, DE (1.7%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 30, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on June 28, 2006 by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, Fort Eustis, VA (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

July 5/07: MH-47G. Boeing Co. in Ridley Park, PA receives a delivery order amount of $6.5 million as part of a $112.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for remanufacture of H-47 Aircraft to the MH-47G configuration, and an option for additional aircraft.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (98.3%), and Middletown, DE (1.7%), and is expected to be complete by May 31, 2010. This was a sole source contract initiated on April 11, 2007 by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Fort Eustis, VA (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

MH-47G rebuilds

June 18/07: Testing. Boeing announces that the CH-47F Chinook helicopter has successfully completed U.S. Army operational testing at Ft. Campbell, KY. Testing was completed ahead of schedule by Bravo Company (Varsity), 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); the tests simulated numerous mission scenarios, including air assault, combat re-supply and transport operations, over more than 60 flight test hours. Boeing release.

CH-47F testing done

April 5/07: Italy. Boeing Corp. says it expects that Italy will buy 16-20 CH-47Fs, through a joint production agreement with Italian conglomerate Finmecccanica SpA. The deal has reportedly been in the works for a while, and Boeing said it expects the orders around 2008-2009.

Boeing spokesman Joseph LaMarca says that the expected Italian purchase will be a direct commercial sale, with AgustaWestland as the prime contractor and Boeing as the lead subcontractor. In 2006, the 2 companies signed a new memorandum of understanding that lays out an industrial agreement for further Italian Chinook production. World Aeronautical Press Agency.

March 3/07: MH-47G. A delivery order amount of $48.2 million as part of a $69.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for long lead items used to remanufacture Chinooks to the MH-47G US Special Forces configuration. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (98.3%), and Middletown, DE (1.7%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 30, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on Jun. 28, 2006 by the U.S. Army Aviation Integration Directorate in Fort Eustis, VA (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Feb 27/06: CSAR-X hits turbulence, eventually crashes. The US Government Accountability Office upholds protests by Sikorsky & Lockheed Martin. It orders the USAF to re-bid the CSAR-X contract, and cancel Boeing’s HH-47 contract if another firm is deemed to have the better bid. This kicks off an acrimonious process featuring revisions to the RFP, public criticism by the contractors involved, and a second round of protests. It eventually leads to Air Force cancellation of the entire CSAR-X program.

CSAR-X begins its crash

Feb 19/07: Testing. The first production CH-47F has moved into Operational Testing at Ft. Campbell, KY after completing acceptance and developmental flight testing in December 2006. This phase, which ends in April 2007, includes more than 60 flight test hours that simulate a wide range of mission scenarios. Flight tests will be conducted by Bravo Company, 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Boeing release.

Dec 22/06: CH-47F rebuilds. The full delivery order amount of $650.3 million is received as part of a firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F remanufacture. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2009. This was a sole source contract initiated on July 28, 2005 (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).

Dec 22/06: New CH-47Fs. A $406.4 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for the CH-47F new build helicopters. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2012. This was a sole source contract initiated on July 28, 2005 (W58RGZ-04-C-0012).

Dec 22/06 – Boeing addendum: A Jan 3/06 press release from Boeing puts the total value of these contracts at $1.5 billion, and describes the order as production contracts for 16 new-build CH-47Fs and 9 remanufactured CH-47Fs valued at $624 million, plus options for 22 additional new-build CH-47Fs and 19 remanufactured CH-47Fs valued at more than $920 million. Presumably, the $406.4 million announcement represents the 19 remanufactured aircraft, with an $515 million option still outstanding for the 22 new-build CH-47Fs. Aircraft deliveries will begin in early 2008.

25 CH-47Fs, options for 41

Nov 9/06: CSAR-X. Boeing announces that it has won the $10 billion CSAR-X combat search-and-rescue competition with its HH-47 variant. The contract calls for 145 aircraft: 4 test platforms, and 141 production helicopters. It’s eventually canceled. See DID’s FOCUS Article.

CSAR-X “win”

Nov 7/06: New CH-47Fs. A $163.3 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for CH-47F New Build Production Helicopters. Based on past order totals and contract values, this will buy the US Army about 8 CH-47Fs.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, and is expected to be complete by Dec. 29, 2009. This was a sole source contract initiated on Dec. 31, 2003 (W58RGZ-04-C-0012).

First flight
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Oct 23/06: The first production CH-47F Chinook helicopter successfully completes its first flight from the Boeing Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Park, PA.

1st CH-47F flight

Sept 27/06: Dutch request. US DSCA notifies Congress of the Netherlands’ request for up to 9 new CH-47F helicopters along with 18 of Honeywell’s T55-L-714A turbine engines and 18 Common Architecture Avionics System (CAAS) cockpits. The latter set will be used as spares, and will also help upgrade 11 of its existing CH-47D Chinook Cargo Helicopters to CH-47F configuration. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $652 million, and principal contractors in this sale will also include Honeywell, Incorporated of Phoenix, AZ.

In February 2007, a contract is issued for only 6 new-build CH-47F (NL) helicopters, without the CAAS cockpits. DID details the new helicopters, and explains what’s going on.

Dutch request 9, buy 6

June 28/06: Canada. Canada announces an estimated $4.7 billion project to acquire a fleet of 16 medium-to heavy-lift helicopters. The announcement is made as an Advance Contract Award Notice (ACAN), which permits the Government to identify an intended contract award winner (in this case, the Boeing CH-47F Chinook) and then buy that choice unless an offer deemed to be better is received from industry within 30 days. See complete DID coverage in “On The Verge: Canada’s $4.7B Program for Medium-Heavy Transport Helicopters“, including the links to the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and some potential timing issues for the CH-47F.

June 15/06: The first production CH-47F Chinook helicopter is unveiled to the U.S. Army during a rollout ceremony in Ridley Park, PA. See Boeing release.

CH-47F rollout

April 18/06: A $7.5 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for long lead parts for the CH-47 Helicopter. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA and is expected to be complete by Nov. 30, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on April 1, 2005 (W58RGZ-04-C-0012).

Awards under contract # W58RGZ-04-C-0012 have also included:

  • Feb 16/06: $24.4M for undefined new-build CH-47F
  • Aug 30/05: $53.4M for 2 new-build CH-47F
  • May 10/05: 186.2M for undefined new-build CH-47F
  • Dec 23/04: $243.0M for 10 new-build CH-47F
  • Dec 05/03: $151.5M for 7 new-build CH-47F

See Appendix A for more details.

Appendix A: Reconciling Previous Contracts and Numbers Helping hand
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The problem DID ran into was difficulty reconciling announced contracts with corporate releases and also getting a firmer set of numbers, in order to get a more complete picture. A January 12, 2005 Boeing press release, for instance, noted that Boeing had signed a $549 million contract on Dec. 21, 2004 with the U.S. Army for 17 new-build CH-47F Chinook helicopters. This included seven aircraft authorized in December 2003 as part of the FY ’03 supplemental defense appropriation bill, and 10 aircraft approved in the current fiscal year defense budget (which ended Oct 2005, by which point the contract announcements had risen to $634.1M).

Fortunately, Boeing CH-47 Program Manager Ken Eland bails us out with an excellent explanation. Photos and links added…

“Chinook contract history is complex, because it involves both undefinitized contract actions (UCAs), which you may consider initial contract agreements, that lay out approximate monetary values for statements of work, and the full contract awards, subject to a large number of terms and conditions that specify in very minute detail costs for each step we undertake in the production process, starting with procurement of components and systems.

On December 5, 2003, Boeing and the Army agreed on an undefinitized contract action for $151.5 million to cover initial costs for development and production of seven new-build CH-47Fs. The funding for this action came from a supplemental appropriation. The purpose of the UCA was to energize the program quickly, given the availability of funds. The appropriation was not the final contract value, but an authorization value for the contract we would sign the following year.

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We signed the full contract in December of 2004, with a definitized value of $306.4 million.

We also signed a contract in December of 2004 for $243 million for ten new-build CH-47Fs. We had, in other words, booked 17 brand new CH-47Fs to add to the Army’s existing Chinook fleet, all of which we are modernizing under the Cargo Helicopter Modernization Program that we initiated in 2003, with first deliveries for Production Lot 1 in 2004. That program is slated to continue until about 2019 under the current production and delivery schedule. The 17 new CH-47Fs are the first installment of 55 currently authorized to increase the Army’s Chinook fleet.

To effectuate this change, we modified the previous definitized contract, increasing its value to $549 million ($243 million + $306.4 million).

On May 10, 2005, we agreed to a contract action for $186.2 million for “Renew” CH-47Fs. These aircraft are inducted CH-47Ds that are remanufactured into CH-47Fs. We have termed these aircraft with new fuselages “Renew” rather than remanufactured, to distinguish from those with modernized rather than new fuselages. Production Lot 3 involves 8 CH-47Fs, all of which will utilize new structures. All aircraft in Production Lots 1 and 2 used reconditioned fuselages, and were MH-47G Special Operation Chinooks, except the first one, a CH-47F.

In August 2005, we also added $53.4 million in another undefinitized contract agreement for two more CH-47Fs. This amount was a not-to-exceed (NTE) value, and we later definitized the actual value at $48.6 million for two new CH-47Fs. A modification was also included for additional configuration items to the CH-47F baseline valued at $19M. This increased the value of the New Build contract to $616.6M ($549M + $48.6M + $19M)

We also were awarded a $298.1 million contract for the Cargo Helicopter Modernization Program for Production Lot 4, consisting of 15 renewed CH-47Fs. This amount will cover recapitalization of aircraft systems and any over and above costs we incur for unplanned modernization work that may occur due to the condition of the inducted aircraft.

This month, February 2006, we added another $24.4 million contract for one additional new-build CH-47F.

So, our current contract status is as follows:

  • We have a contract in place for 20 new build CH-47Fs with a total value of $640 million that also includes nonrecurring costs associated with development. ($549 million + $48.6 million + $19M + $24.4 million, rounded to take into account other minor contract modifications).

  • Our Cargo Helicopter Modernization Program involves renewed CH-47Fs for Production Lots #3 (8 aircraft) and #4 (15 aircraft) totaling 23 aircraft with a contract value of $484 million.

  • Lots 1 and 2 already have been delivered. As noted, all except one CH-47F, the initial delivery in Lot 1, have been MH-47G Special Operations Chinooks. FYI, we delivered 22 G models in those two lots.

  • Deliveries of the 17 new-build [DID: CH-47F] Chinooks will begin in September 2006 and continue through the end of 2008.”

N.B. The contracts for Lot 1 and Lot 2 related to CH-47F model are not included in this article. The values discussed here only reflected models starting with Lot 3, and the initial New Build contract.

Additional Readings Background: Helicopters

National CH-47F Family Variants

News & Views

Categories: News

Missile Deals | Anti-Nuke Congressmen Eye $100 Billion Patch of Budget | 1 More HC-130J Ordered

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 14:03

  • BAE Systems won a $383 million sole-source contract Monday for the support of multiple weapons platforms, while Raytheon was awarded a $109.6 million procurement contract for Standard Missile-6 and Standard Missile-2 full-rate production requirements and spares.

  • Two companies have been awarded separate contracts for the development of interoperable C4I systems. SAIC was awarded a $83.8 million contract, while the Lafayette Group was awarded a parallel $92.7 million contract. The two companies will be able to compete for task orders over a five-year period.

  • Northrop Grumman was awarded a $18.1 million contract for the WSN-7 navigation system, with completion estimated for the end of 2021.

  • The Air Force is adding one HC-130J to its original 2012 contract, at a cost of $72.7 million.

  • A software problem with the Air Force’s GPS IIF system – operated by Lockheed Martin – had gone unnoticed since 2013, with the contractor currently working to put a solution in place.

  • Two congressional Democrats are trying to < href="">cut $ 100 billion from the US’s nuclear weapons budget over the next ten years, including removing the F-35’s nuclear capability and delaying the development of the Air Force’s new bomber.


  • On the same day that Sputnik reported that serial production of the PAK FA/T-50 fifth-generation fighter will take place next year – as per previous coverage – TASS ran an article stating that the Russian Defense Ministry may reduce the number of aircraft it plans to procure, instead opting to favor the SU-30 (recently offered as an alternative to the Rafale in the MMRCA competition, should the deal fall through) and SU-35 models.

  • The Russian Air Force is also set to receive 146 Ka-52 helicopters by 2020, with 15 of these reportedly due for delivery this year. 32 helicopters of the same design were previously ordered for service with the Russian Navy’s Vladivostock-Class LHDs in August last year, according to Janes. It is unclear whether these form part of the 146 figure reported today. In other Russian helicopter news, 16 Mi-171s will be delivered to Peru this year, following a $528 million contract for 24 of the helicopters signed in late 2013. The first eight of these were delivered in 2014.

  • The UK opened a collaborative hub for research, development and strategy today in an effort to stimulate growth in the UK defense sector and maintain exportability in the face of global competition. Formed as a result of the Defence Growth Partnership, the Defence Solutions Centre will be based in BAE’s home town of Farnborough, England and see industry members working together with the Ministry of Defence to develop solutions for “international customers.”

  • The UK’s Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) also awarded Airbus a £1.4 million ($2.1 million) contract for a cyber protection study today, including the development of a virtual cyber operations center.

  • The delivery of two more Turkish A400Ms is delayed, according to officials. Although exactly how delayed remains to be seen, the program is not unaccustomed to falling behind schedule. Turkey signed a contract for ten of the aircraft in 2003 and has previously come into conflict with manufacturer Airbus over slipping deadlines.


Today’s Video

  • Super Hornets and GoPros…

Categories: News

The C-130J: New Hercules & Old Bottlenecks

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 00:10
RAAF C-130J-30, flares
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The C-130 Hercules remains one of the longest-running aerospace manufacturing programs of all time. Since 1956, over 40 models and variants have served as the tactical airlift backbone for over 50 nations. The C-130J looks similar, but the number of changes almost makes it a new aircraft. Those changes also created issues; the program has been the focus of a great deal of controversy in America – and even of a full program restructuring in 2006. Some early concerns from critics were put to rest when the C-130J demonstrated in-theater performance on the front lines that was a major improvement over its C-130E/H predecessors. A valid follow-on question might be: does it break the bottleneck limitations that have hobbled a number of multi-billion dollar US Army vehicle development programs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maximum allowable cargo payload rises by a ton over the C-130J, from 42,000 pounds to 44,000 pounds/ 19,958 kg); the 36,000 pound maximum normal C-130J-30 payload is 2,000 pounds higher than the C-130J, but 500 pounds lower than the C-130H’s 36,500 pounds. Even so, the extra space comes in handy. C-130J-30s can carry 33% more pallets of equipment or supplies, 39% more combat troops, 31% more paratroopers, or 44% more aeromedical evacuation litters than previous unstretched Hercules versions. The stretched C-130J-30 also shares the C-130J’s ability to use much more of its theoretical cargo capacity in hot or high altitude environments than previous C-130 versions.

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

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

C-130J Variants

As one might imagine, Special Forces variants are undergoing the most change, but the platform’s versatility is also pushing Lockheed Martin toward an advanced naval variant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SC-130J Sea Herc

SC-130J MPRA. A proposed maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, created by moving a number of P-3 Orion systems onto and into the C-130J. A Magnetic Anomaly Detector boom is installed in the tail for submarine detection, along with a sonobuoy storage pallet and 2 rotary launchers in the rear interior. A day/night surveillance turret goes under the nose, a 360 maritime radar is mounted under the fuselage, and ESM electronics for pinpointing and geolocating radars, communications, etc. are mounted via on wingtip pods and fore and aft fuselage points. A set of roll-in console modules would contain the necessary electronics and screens to manage it all.

Countries that wanted to go beyond surveillance would push further development to add wing hardpoints for torpedoes and missiles, and/or a weapons bay and torpedo racks in the front fuselage.

C-130J operator Britain is Lockheed Martin’s biggest SC-130J target, and the plane’s flexibility could appeal to others who see the value in fleet commonality and good mid-range performance, with easier upgradeability than standard MPAs. The downside is that the C-130J is designed for short-field performance first, and efficient cruising operation second. That will make it expensive to operate compared to smaller twin-engine competitors, which are typically derived from commercial light cargo and passenger aircraft. The Airbus ATR-72 MPA is an example of a larger competitor that also follows this pattern; ATRs have won significant share in the mid-range regional airline market on the strength of their operating efficiency.

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

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

The existence of clip-on kits and proven specialty variants may have to sell it, instead. Especially if the C-130NG also fails to resolve the biggest limitation in today’s medium tactical transport field…

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

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

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


Since FY 2006, American C-130J orders have continued, and the aircraft has continued to expand its export successes as well. C-130J aircraft are now flown and/or under contract by the USAF and Air National Guard, US Marines, and US Coast Guard; and by Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Italy, Iraq, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Tunisia. DSCA requests that have yet to become publicly-announced contracts include Mexico (2012), Libya (2013), and Brunei (2014).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2015

Requests: Brunei. Kuwaiti KC-130J
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March 24/15: The Air Force is adding one HC-130J to its original 2012 contract, at a cost of $72.7 million.

Oct 7/14: The US DSCA announces Brunei’s export request for 1 C-130J aircraft, 6 AE2100D3 turboprop engines (4 installed and 2 spares), Government Furnished Equipment, communication equipment, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of US Government and contractor support.

The C-130J would become Brunei’s largest aircraft, far bigger than its 3 ordered CN-235MPA maritime patrol planes. why does such a tiny country need it? Not to haul the Sultan’s famous fleet of over 300 top-end cars, but:

“This proposed sale of a C-130J to Brunei will provide a critical capability to assist in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief missions. The aircraft will enable Brunei to provide aid and assistance in greater capacities to regional allies and partners in need. The aircraft will also provide the ability to execute maritime patrol missions and contribute to search and rescue missions in the region.”

The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin-Aerospace in Marietta, GA, and the estimated cost is up to $343 million. That’s over 5x the standard flyaway price for a C-130J, a huge differential given that the notice that no additional contractors will be needed in Brunei. Perhaps they plan to perform long-term support elsewhere; it’s hard to think of another explanation if the notice’s facts are correct. Sources: US DSCA #14-37, “Brunei – C-130J Aircraft”.

DSCA request: Brunei (1 C-130J)

FY 2014

Orders: USA (7 SOCOM etc.), Saudi Arabia (2 KC-130J), India (6 C-130J-30), Israel (2 C-130J-30), Civil (10 LM-100J); Long-term engines supply contract; Indian crash; ROKAF deliveries done; AC-130J flies; DOT&E testing report. C-130J at work
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Sept 29/14: Engines. GE Aviation Systems (actually Dowty Propellers) in Sterling, VA receives a sole-source $20.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 42 C-130J propellers (P/N 69703900) and spare parts. All funds are committed immediately using FY 2012-2014 USAF aircraft budgets, and funds from Foreign Military Sales – but the announcement doesn’t identify the foreign customers.

Work will be performed at Gloucester, UK and is expected to be complete by May 31/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract (SPE4A1-14-G-0009-RJ03).

Sept 29/14: Software. A $6.6 million contract modification to integrate system and Mission Computer (MC) software changes into SOCOM’s HC/MC-130J Increment 2 aircraft. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 USAF RDT&E budgets.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by March 31/17. Fiscal 2013 research, development, test and evaluation and procurement funds in the amount of $6,568,120 are being obligated at the time of award (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0277).

Sept 26/14: +7. A $413.2 million finalization for 1 HC-130J and 6 MV-130J aircraft, subsuming previous advance procurement funding into full production efforts. That works out to $59 million per aircraft, plus the cost of government-furnished equipment for these special forces planes. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 & 2013 USAF aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by Nov 30/15 (FA8625-11-C-6597, PO 0239).

USA: HC-130J & 6 MC-130Js

Sept 26/14: Sensors. Raytheon in McKinney, TX receives an $18.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 12 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems (AN/AAS-54) and spare parts for the Air Force C-130 program. Short version: it’s for Special Forces HC/MC-130s. Long version: the AAS-54 combines long-range day and night cameras for high-altitude target acquisition, and adds tracking, range-finding, and laser designation for all tri-service and NATO laser-guided munitions. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 & 2013 USAF aircraft budgets; $7.7 million will expire on Sept 30/14.

Work will be performed in McKinney, TX, and is expected to be complete by September 2016. The US Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana manages the contract (N00164-12-G-JQ66).

Aug 6/14: FY15 long-lead. A $116.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy long lead parts for 14 FY 2015 C-130Js. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 USAF advance procurement budgets.

Work will be performed at Marietta, GA, and is expected to be complete by June 30/15. The USAF Nuclear Weapons Center/WLNNC at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8625-14-C-6450, PO 0001).

July 23/14: Counter-fighter. Defensive tactics against enemy fighters isn’t the first thing you normally associate with a C-130, but a pair of 317th Airlift Group C-130Js had to do just that en route to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, TX. The exercise demonstrated C-130J capabilities that will be used during the multinational fighter meet at Red Flag-Alaska.

Here’s how it worked: The loadmasters sat high in the flight decks of their aircraft, looking through a bubbled window in the ceiling. They communicated to the pilots, who reacted and maneuvered to delay the fighter pilot’s ability to locate and lock on the C-130Js. 39th AS assistant director of operations for tactics Maj. Aaron Webb described the tactics as “pretty effective,” adding that a casual observer “doesn’t expect a 130,000-pound cargo plane to be able to maneuver as nimbly as the J-model does.” Sources: USAF, “Dyess C-130Js successfully evade F-16″.

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

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

India: 6 C-130J-30

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

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

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

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

Civil: 10 LM-100Js

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

Korea deliveries done

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multi-year engine contract

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). Their focus is on US SOCOM’s variants: HC-130J/MC-130J Combat King II CSAR/ Commando II transports, and AC-130J “Ghostrider” gunships. The USAF intends to field 37 HC-130J Combat King IIs developed to Increment 2 capability, 57 MC-130J Commando IIs developed to Increment 3 capability, and 37 AC-130J Ghostrider gunships that will be converted from MC-103Js (TL: 94 MC-130Js produced).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel: 4th C-130J-30

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

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

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

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

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

Saudi Arabia: 2 KC-130J

FY 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iraqi C-130J-30s all delivered

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

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

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

Multi-year buy proposed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2012 main buy

FY 2012

Israel buys #3/9; USCG buys 3; Senior Scout SIGINT kit; India’s follow-on request for 6 more; Mexican request; C-130XJ, C-130NG, and SC-130J “Sea Hercules” concepts unveiled; AC-130J gunship appears. Norwegian C-130J
(click to view full)

Sept 28/12: A $218 million contract modification to buy 3 more US Coast Guard HC-130J Long Range Surveillance aircraft, which will bring the USCG fleet to 9, and add 2 more roll-on mission suites. The 3rd plane will get its mission equipment from a future contract, scheduled for FY 2013. By 2016, the Coast Guard plans to accept these aircraft and base them at Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii.

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

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

3 USCG HC-130Js

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work will be performed in Cherry Point, NC, and is expected to be complete in February 2013. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-D-0020).

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

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

Aug 28/12: Sea Hercules? Defense News reports that Lockheed Martin is working on an SC-130J Sea Hercules modification. It’s designed as a $150 million alternative, to be developed in 3 stages. Stage 1 will involve roll-on/ bolt-on radar and electro-optical sensors, and accompanying processing workstations. Stage 2 would add wing-mounted surface attack weapons, along with upgraded workstations and weapon control systems. Stage 3 would be a full anti-submarine conversion, including sonobuoys, a magnetic anomaly detector boom, extra fuel pods, and 2 added bays for 6 Harpoon missiles.

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

Lockheed Martin will have no shortage of competitors around the world. Established competitors include EADS’ CN-235 Persuader, C-295 MPA, ATR-42 MP, and ATR-72 ASW turboprops; and Embraer’s P-99 MP jet. On the development front, Boeing is starting to look at options beyond its P-8A Poseidon, because their customers are saying that they don’t need its full versatility, and find its $200 million price tag prohibitive. Bombardier’s Challenger 600 seems to be the target platform. There’s also some talk in Britain of adding maritime patrol capabilities to its Sentinel R1 ground surveillance jets, based on Bombardier’s Challenger. Saab has options are in development based on the Saab 2000 regional turboprop and Piaggio P-180 executive turboprop, and Russia has a unique offering in development based on its Beriev Be-200 amphibious aircraft.

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

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

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

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

AC-130J begins

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

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

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

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

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

Canada: all delivered

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

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

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

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

MC-130J becomes “Commando II”

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


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

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

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

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

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

Israel: 1 C-130J-30

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSCA request: India C-130J (6)

FY 2011

Israel buys #2; MATS II training contract; Block 7.0 software contract; Australian software innovation; Oman’s request; Crashworthy seating; What India left out. Deliveries: 1st SOCOM HC-130J & MC-130J, Qatar’s 4; India’s induction. MC-130J enhancements
(click for video)

Sept 29/11: 1st MC-130J delivered. Lockheed Martin delivers the 1st of 20 MC-130J Combat Shadow IIs to United States Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), at Cannon Air Force Base, NM. Delivery had been scheduled for August.

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

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

Qatar – full delivery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel: 1 C-130J-30

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

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

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

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

MC-130J rollout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Korea: 4 C-130J-30

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

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

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

DSCA request: Oman support & defensive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oman: 2 C-130J

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

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

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

Italy support

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

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

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

Canada engine support

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

Norway: all delivered

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

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

DSCA request: Oman support & training

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

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

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

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

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

Kuwait: 3 KC-130J

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

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

Israel: 1 C-130J-30

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

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

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

HC-130J rollout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAR – more C-130Js

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

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

Tunisia: 2 C-130J-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada support

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iraq: 2 C-130J-30

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

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

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

DSCA request: Kuwait KC-130J (8)

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

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

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

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

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

Oman: 1 C-130J-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iraq: 4 C-130J-30

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

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

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

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

Australia support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also the related June 13/08 entry.

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

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

Qatar: 4 C-130J-30

FY 2008

Canada orders 17; India orders 6; HC/MC-130J special forces configurations unveiled, get initial US orders; Qatar orders 4; Italian 3-year support deal; Israel request; Iraq request; 1st US Coast Guard C-130J delivered; As US SAR points to program growth, Lockheed confident C-130J will make it. USMC KC-130J
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Aug 14/08: Sub-contractors. Rockwell Collins Aerospace and Electronics, Inc. in Portland, OR received a $7.2 (in total ceiling amount) firm-fixed-price, Basic Order Agreement (BOA) for spares, repairs, and engineering services and support of HGS-3000 heads-up display system for the C-130J aircraft sustainment program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HC/MC-130J design unveiled

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

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

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

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

…Quantity changes are estimated based on the original SAR baseline cost-quantity relationship. Cost changes since the original baseline are separately categorized as schedule, engineering, or estimating “allocations.” The total impact of a quantity change is the identified “quantity” change plus all associated “allocations.”

SAR – more C-130Js

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

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

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

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

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

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

USCG 1st missionized HC-130J LRSM

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

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

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

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

India: 6 C-130J-30

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

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

Canada: 17 C-130J-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italy support

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

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

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

FY 2007

US contract restructured; US JCA competition loss; Canada win; India request; Norway request. Deliveries: Denmark’s 4th & last. C-130J-30
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Aug 3/07: +5. Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems in Marietta, GA received a firm-fixed-price contract modification for $322 million. This contract modification is an unfinalized contract for 5 more C-130J aircraft under the US Congress’ FY 2007 Global War on Terrorism supplemental funding. At this time, $161 million has been obligated. Work will be complete in December 2010 (FA8625-06-C-6456/P00021). Note that this figure has not yet been added to the budgetary totals above.

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

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

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

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

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

Denmark – all 4 delivered

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

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

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

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

See full DID coverage of India’s buy.

DSCA request: India C-130J (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US restructuring

FY 2006 and earlier

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

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

International upgrades agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US JCA loss

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

British support

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

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

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

1 million engine flight hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

USAF acceptance

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


Additional Readings & Sources

News & Related Developments

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

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

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

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

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


Special Forces

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

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

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

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

Categories: News

Navy Hedges to Keep F-18 Line Open | IMI to Be Taken Private | India’s First Scorpene Floats

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 02:37

  • As expected, the Navy included twelve Super Hornets and eight F-35s as part of list of “unfunded priorities” prepared for Congress, according to Reuters. With the manufacturing line of the F/A-18 likely to remain open past the previously-anticipated 2017 cut-off, following a recently-released study.

  • Navy commanders are pushing for improved firepower for the the Virginia-class submarines through the addition of four vertical launch tubes, representing a 76% increase in strike capability.

  • A five-year $430 million contract was announced Friday for robotic surgical systems and associated equipment. A $29 million IDIQ professional services contract was also announced in support of the Navy’s Public Private Venture Program.

  • Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point is set to receive $183 million in new construction projects, principally to facilitate the introduction of the F-35 and improved facilities for UAVs. Media reports have also outlined plans for a new $1 billion campus for the US Navy.

  • The Army deployed the Patriot system to Poland for a week-long exercise, as part of the US’s hand-holding effort with NATO allies (Operation Atlantic Resolve).

  • The Royal Canadian Air Force established a strategy for its future aircraft simulators over the next decade, with the procurement of flight trainers and simulators at the forefront of this, including a networked common synthetic environment.


  • Turkish military and political leaders have agreed to accelerate the country’s meandering TF-X indigenous fighter program, after previous affirmations of their intention to continue with the project. Bids were solicited for the fighter’s engine in June of last year and an RFI for preliminary designs was released earlier this week by the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM). The project seeks to replace the Turkish Air Force’s fleet of F-16s by 2030 with an entirely new model of fifth-generation fighter.

Middle East

  • The privatization of Israel Military Industries will definitely take place by the end of the year, according to the head of Israel’s Government Companies Authority. Up to 90% equity is being offered to foreign investors, with the sale slated for finalization by December. IMI produce the Merkava MBT and the Namer APC.


  • India’s first Scorpene-class submarine – currently under construction in Mumbai – is reportedly afloat after several months of dry-dock construction. The first of six boats, this is a sign of progress for the much-delayed and costly program, although the induction of the first boat is now significantly behind schedule.

Today’s Video

  • DARPA’s smart bullets:

Categories: News

Virginia Pivot: The USA’s Multi-Year Block IV Sub Deal

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 00:30
Virginia Block I-II
(click to view full)

A 5-year, $17 billion deal will build 10 Virginia Class Block IV fast attack submarines for the US Navy, bringing production to 2 boats per year at long last. The USA’s nuclear submarine fleet gives it unmatched flexibility, but it’s confronted with rising submarine numbers in China and around the Pacific, even as its Los Angeles Class submarines are beginning to exit the fleet. Aircraft carriers may dominate in peacetime, but as anti-ship missiles gain longer reach and greater lethality, and sensors improve, some analysts are coming to see submarines as the key to wartime naval power…

The Submarines and the Contract Block IV? Block III bow
(click to view full)

The US Navy has taken delivery of 10 of the 7,800t Virginia Class submarines since 2004 (SSN 774 – 783), with 8 more currently under construction. They’re derived from the lessons of the SSN-21 Seawolf Class, an extremely advanced submarine whose expense per boat ended production at 3. The Virginias achieved excellent flexibility and a reputation for extreme quietness, but changes have continued since the first boat, as the US Navy tried to drive costs down.

Block III submarines (SSN 784 – 791) took a big step forward by replacing the 12 vertical launch tubes with a more flexible “6-shooter” approach, and swapping a water-backed, horseshoe-shaped LAB sonar array for the existing air-backed spherical array.

The Block IV is the next increment, and so far, few details have been released. PEO Submarines Rear Admiral David Johnson has said that the new design would reduce the submarine’s lifetime number of major maintenance visits from 4 to 3, raising full-length deployments during their lifetimes from 14 to 15.

Beyond that, a number of improvements have been discussed over the years, from stretched versions to a new composite sail with space for more special forces. Other clues to possible future changes come from the Pentagon’s FY 2013 DOT&E report, which seem to stress special warfare and arctic operations.

For special operations, the Navy modified the SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Auxiliary Life Support System (ALSS) to handle increased air pressure, allowing longer missions. Unfortunately, the Virginia Class needs to upgrade its air supply system before it can support those pressures. This is an important mission in the present environment, which makes this shortcoming a good Block IV improvement candidate if it can be done at reasonable cost.

In the Arctic, the Virginia Class needs better methods of removing carbon dioxide and hydrogen waste gas, insulation improvements to avoid “excessive condensation” that can interfere with electronics, and a hardened sail that can handle the same ice thicknesses as Improved Los Angeles Class and Seawolf Class SSNs. This isn’t a crisis yet. In the short term, it’s easy to just bias Virginia Class deployments toward locations like the Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Indian Oceans, leaving the Los Angeles and Seawolf boats to spend more time up north. As Virginia Class submarines become a larger and larger share of the US Navy’s submarine force, however, those kinds of gaps will begin to matter more. It’s be up to the US Navy to decide when that day comes.

The Contract Co-production
(click to view full)

March 23/15:
Navy officers are pushing for improved firepower for the Virginia-class submarines through the addition of four vertical launch tubes, representing a 76% increase in strike capability.

April 28/14: General Dynamics Electric Boat Corp. in Groton, CT received the $17.646 billion fixed-price incentive multi-year contract, which runs from FY 2014 – 2018 to order submarines 792 – 801. HII Newport News, VA will remain as the sub-contractor, and options for on-board repair parts in support of each submarine could bring the cumulative value to $17.828 billion. SSN 801, the last boat under this contract, is scheduled for delivery in 2023.

Work on this contract will be performed in Newport News, VA (24%); Groton, CT (18%); Quonset Point, RI (16%); Sunnyvale, CA (8%); Cheswick, PA (1.7%); Annapolis, MA (1.2%), and various sites throughout the United States (31.1%). Work is expected to be complete by August 2024.

This contract was procured sole source from Electric Boat Corp., pursuant to 10 United States Code 2304 (c)(1) and Federal Acquisition Regulation 6.302-1. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-12-C-2115). See also GD, “General Dynamics Awarded $18 Billion by U.S. Navy for 10 Virginia-Class Submarines” | Reuters, “General Dynamics, Huntington win huge U.S. Navy contract”.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

F-35 Program Squeezes Rocks, Saves Some | China: Turkey to Buy its Anti-Air

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 02:18

The Pentagon lowered the forecast procurement cost of the F-35 program by 2 percent today – that’s $7.5 billion in savings over a roughly $400 billion program. The fighters are slated now to cost a mere $159.2 million per copy, if the military does indeed purchase 2,457 of them.

In the midst of the hubbub about what will or won’t fit inside an F-35, program leads stated that the aircraft may receive a pod-mounted cyber-attack capability, according to industry reports. Whether this developmental capability is cyber in the sense of using computer networks to attack targets – or whether it is merely an EW system – remains unclear. One reason the military has been concerned about what fits into the F-35’s petite weapons bay is because the weapons affixed to pylons on the outside tend to ruin the stealth capabilities that explain much of the difference between a $20 million F-18 and a $200 million F-35.

Two US bases are likely to remain open following the withdrawal of thousands of US troops later this year. The bases – in Jalalabad and Kandahar – will remain operational principally to support the Afghan Air Force (in Kandahar) and stem the flow of Taliban fighters from Pakistan (Jalalabad).

In contract news, two power companies – TransGen Energy and New Generation Power – were jointly awarded a $7 billion DoD contract today for power purchase agreement task orders until 2023. Bell Helicopter Textron was also awarded a $32.5 million contract for rotary wing blades in a sole-source acquisition.


Turkey will receive China’s HQ-9/FD-2000 air defense system, according to a statement by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense today. The other two bidders in the T-LORAMIDS competition –Raytheon/Lockheed Martin’s Patriot system and the Eurosam consortium’s Aster-30 system – are likely to be very displeased, particularly given the calls by North Atlantic Treaty Organization members to discount the Chinese offering on the basis of integration issues and multiple deadline extensions.

The Russian Navy is to receive upgraded submarines, with a flurry of reports from TASS today. Ten existing Project 971 and Project 949A boats are to be upgraded by 2020, with new “fifth-generation” subs under development for manufacture and deployment post-2020. It is unclear whether these upgraded models will form the “new” fifth generation subs or an entirely new design will be developed. Additionally, a fifth Yasen-class is to be laid-down today, according to the same Russian media source.

The European Defence Agency (EDA) and the EU’s Athena mechanism have signed an agreement to facilitate easier defense infrastructure procurement and stimulate cooperation between the two organizations.


Singapore is reportedly close to signing a contract with Lockheed Martin to upgrade its F-16s, after a cancelled deal with BAE in November. The country initially confirmed its intention to upgrade the fleet in September 2013. Also today, the US Air Force announced that it has budgeted $25 million for radar upgrades for its own F-16s.

India’s Defense Research & Development Organization is to undergo a restructuring, including the creation of seven Technology Domain groups and a commercial arm, likely to be akin to the UK Ministry of Defence’s infamous Defence Equipment & Support entity.

Malaysian company Airod has proposed an upgrade schedule for the country’s Mig-29s, to raise the ten aircraft to the “Mig-29NM” standard. The main attraction would be the potential 30% increase in operational range, as well as improved commonality with the Malaysian Air Force’s fleet of Su-30MKM fighters.

Today’s Video

A BAE-developed 32MJ rail gun is test-fired for the US Navy:

Categories: News

The Expected Air Force Trainer Solicitation Is Out | New JFK to Get New Enterprise’s Radar

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 04:27

  • The Air Force released a solicitation of questions and responses from industry for its Advanced Pilot Training Family of Systems program. More commonly referred to as the T-X, the program has garnered much attention from the likes of Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Saab, as well as General Dynamics and Alenia Aermacchi. The Air Force recently lowered the requirements for the new trainer aircraft, following the original notice in June 2012.

  • In more Air Force news, reports have indicated that a draft RFP is to be released next month, seeking to pursue a US-designed rocket engine. Currently reliant on Russian RD-180 for its Atlas 5 rockets, maintaining a sovereign capability in these engines is of a high political priority for the Air Force, particularly given that reports last year highlighted certain companies were making a quick buck marking up imports of these engines.

  • A major review has been launched by the Pentagon to assess the current state of play of missile defense systems, capabilities and programs, seeking to update a previous review from 2011. The Patriot is likely to come under scrutiny, as well as the THAAD system. In related news, Raytheon was awarded a $212.6 million contract modification today, for Patriot engineering services for the 2015 calendar year.

  • Raytheon was also awarded a $91.6 million modification for 250 Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammer missiles.

  • The USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) will be fitted with a different radar than the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), with the new Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar being brought into the US carrier fleet one ship ahead of original plans. The new Enterprise (CVN-80) was originally to have been the first to sport the EASR; thus the name. The Navy has stated this change will result in a $180 million savings for the program, which had anticipated a later upgrade to the new JFK.

  • Argentina is in talks with the Chinese regarding the potential sale of 24 JF-17 fighter aircraft. The Argentines are also discussing bids from the Spanish (with the Mirage F-1) and Israel (with the Kfir Block 60). This is the latest twist in Argentina’s search for new aircraft.


  • Sweden is to get two new subs. The new A26s have seen drama down-under. Swedes were likely looking forward to some post Cold War decades where they didn’t have to throw billions of Krona into the sea just to see out meddlesome Russian submarines. The deal is set to amount to $948 million.

  • The Dutch are seeking to develop two counter-IED research and development labs, aiming to have these deployable to theater within five days when complete. The cost is estimated at approximately $10.6 million.


  • Malaysia is set to receive a comparable financial package as Egypt for Rafales. This is to reportedly include a ten-year loan from the French government as the main facilitating factor for the procurement.

  • India will receive its first upgraded Mirage 2000 fighters, most likely the two which were in France awaiting certification as of September 2014.

  • Following a failed test earlier in the week, the Indian Air Force successfully test-launched its Astra air-to-air missile today, building on another successful test last year.

  • Airbus will join with South Korean firm Huneed Technologies to produce an early-warning system for the Surion helicopter. The cooperative deal signed today will see Huneed produce components for the Airbus Missile Launch Detection System.

  • Russia began delivering missiles for Malaysia’s fleet of Su-30MKM fighters Sputnik reported today.

Today’s Video

Driverless Trucks…

Categories: News

Singapore’s Steps: Modernizing the RSAF’s F-16 Fleet

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 00:29
(click to view full)

In September 2013, Singapore confirmed its much-anticipated intent to upgrade its F-16C/Ds with improved radars and other changes. By January 2014, that was a published DSCA request. There’s no firm timeline just yet, but the proposal is part of wider-ranging military improvements underway in Singapore. It’s also seen as an early example to many other F-16 operators around the world, who respect Singapore’s as a discerning buyer and may wish to do the same thing.

That decision is expected to launch at least 2 fierce competitions. One will be between Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems. The other will be between Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

RSAF: The Bigger Picture F-5S on highway
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After the 2004 sale to Thailand of the RSAF’s initial handful of F-16A/B fighters, the RSAF became an all Block 52 force, built with fighters accepted between 1998 – 2004. Their planes aren’t entirely standard set. The long dorsal spine on many F-16Ds holds extra electronic countermeasures, and the planes reportedly carry a number of Israeli systems within, including DASH-III helmet mounted displays.

Singapore has about 14 F-16C/Ds based in the USA for training, and another 48 F-16C/Ds in Singapore at Changi AB and Tengah AB. Current plans indicate an intent to upgrade up to 60 planes at about $40.5 million per plane.

Basing will also change. In the near future, they plan to expand Changi and Tengah and consolidate around both facilities, while closing Paya Lebar AB. Paya Lebar’s F-15SGs, upgraded F-5S interceptors, and C-130 transports will go elsewhere, though the 40 or so F-5s are due for phase out in the near future.

RSAF F-16D-52
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There is some question as to whether the F-5s will be replaced, though a March 2013 announcement that Singapore would buy more F-15SGs seems to indicate at least partial near-term replacement. The rest of that question hinges on Singapore’s timeline for acquiring F-35s. If they’re bought soon, they’ll grow the fleet, effectively replacing the F-5S with some F-16C/Ds. If Singapore postpones their F-35 buy, they will pay less per plane, and the F-35s will become de facto replacements for the F-16+ fleet as they age out. Upgrading the F-16s might suggest to some that Singapore intends to delay the F-35s, especially since they recently elected to expand their F-15SG fleet instead of making an expected announcement about 12 F-35Bs. In his September 2013 statement, Minister for Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen would say only that Singapore continues to evaluate the F-35’s suitability “in meeting our long-term security needs to further modernise our fighter fleet and replace our older aircraft.”

Other Changes Aster-30
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Singapore’s consolidation into just 2 main air bases adds operational risk to their future fleet, but protection is also being improved. Beyond Singapore’s confirmed F-16 upgrades and new F-15SGs, new IAI Gulfstream G550 CAEW jets have improved their advance airborne warning.

On the ground, new mobile Spyder air defense systems from RAFAEL offer a more modern, longer-range complement to the legacy Rapier systems from Britain. At the top tier, MBDA’s long-range Aster-30 missiles will soon replace Raytheon’s MIM-23 I-Hawks on land, offering Singapore the ability to intercept short range ballistic missiles as well as aircraft, cruise missiles, etc. Singapore’s Formidable Class frigates already use a combination of Aster-15 and Aster-30 missiles, so the land-based Aster-30 buy will draw on an existing support network.

None of Singapore’s immediate neighbors can match this array, and Singapore’s qualitative advantage is large enough that it’s very unlikely anyone would test it. The city-state is extremely serious about its defense, with a long history of strong spending in this area. That well-known commitment, and the visibility of its strategic position, ensures that Singapore’s defense choices get attention far beyond their immediate neighborhood.

The Competitions RACR
click for video

Singapore has a number of options with respect to their F-16s.

Contractor. First of all, Lockheed Martin and BAE can be expected to compete hard for the upgrade work. Lockheed Martin is the manufacturer, but Britain has picked up significant F-16 upgrade wins in the USA and around the world.

AESA. Then there’s the radar question. The new radars will use advanced AESA technology, improving range/ discrimination by 2x – 3x, offering entirely new modes of operation, and sharply reducing maintenance costs.

click for video

Lockheed Martin recently announced that Northrop Grumman’s SABR radar would be the cornerstone of its F-16V offering, which was unveiled at the 2012 Singapore air show. The F-16V can be bought as an upgrade, or as new fighters. Modernized American and Taiwanese F-16s will also use SABR.

On the other hand, South Korea picked Raytheon’s RACR radar for their advanced F-16 upgrade, and Singapore already flies with related Raytheon AN/APG-63v3 AESA radars in its 20 new F-15SGs. If Singapore also picks RACR for its F-16s, in order to take advantage of common software and radar mode development, it will give Raytheon a significant and much-needed boost in the global F-16 refit competition.

There’s also the non-US option of using the Israeli ELM-2052 AESA, but the US reportedly took protectionist measures and threatened to cut off F-16 support if Israel introduced that radar to its own F-16s. Export to Singapore seems unlikely.

Contracts & Key Events RSAF F-16D-52
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March 19/15: Lockheed tipped to win. Singapore is reportedly close to signing a contract with Lockheed Martin to upgrade its F-16s, after a cancelled deal with BAE in November. The country initially confirmed its intention to upgrade the fleet in September 2013.

Feb 10/14: Boeing? Boeing DSS VP for business development and strategy Chris Raymond says that Boeing would be interested in bidding, if Singapore were to open their F-16 upgrade program to competition. Boeing is an unlikely competitor, given their thin record servicing and enhancing global F-15 fleets. Raymond cites their experience with the QF-16 conversion, and with other fighter and aircraft upgrades. They could also leverage an existing relationship with the RSAF, supporting their F-15SG fighters and AH-64D Apache helicopters.

Lockheed Martin has indicated that NGC’s SABR radar is their preferred choice for upgrades, and for new-build F-16Vs. BAE is tied to Raytheon’s RACR via their South Korean experience. Boeing doesn’t have an official allegiance, but their in-production fighters both carry Raytheon AESA radars, and there’s a RACR variant for F/A-18A-D upgrades. Sources: Aviation Week, “Boeing Could Bid On Singapore F-16s”.

Jan 14/14: DSCA. The US DSCA details Singapore’s official request to upgrade 60 F-16C/D+ Block 52 fighters to something like the F-16V standard, at a cost of up to $2.43 billion ($40.5 million per plane). That’s about 2/3 the cost of buying similar F-16E/F Block 60 aircraft new off of the production line.

Upgrades would include:

  • 70 Active Electronically Scanned Array Radars (AESA). Note that no pick is being made here between Raytheon’s RACR (South Korea) or Northrop Grumman’s SABR (Taiwan, US ANG).
  • 70 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS)
  • 70 LN-260 Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems (GPS/INS)
  • 70 APX-125 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Combined Interrogator Transponders
  • 1 AIS Interface Test Adapters for software updates
  • 1 Classified Computer Program Identification Numbers (CPINs)
  • Site surveys and construction. Note that Singapore is busy consolidating its air bases after removing Paya Lebar.
  • Also included: flight test of the new configuration; aircraft ferry services with aerial refueling support; a Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS); Modular Mission Computers, a software maintenance facility, cockpit multifunction displays, radios, secure communications, video recorders; maintenance, repair and return, aircraft and ground support equipment, spare and repair parts, tool and test equipment; engine support equipment, publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of US Government and contractor support.

They also want a set of test weapons:

  • 3 AIM-9X Block II Captive Air Training Missiles. Singapore already fields AIM-9X on its F-15SGs.
  • 3 TGM-65G Maverick Missiles for testing and integration. GM-65K is the latest standard.
  • 4 GBU-50 Guided Bomb Units (GBU) for testing and integration (2,000 pound laser-guided bunker-buster)
  • 5 GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions for testing and integration (500 pound GPS)
  • 3 CBU-105 (D-4)/B Sensor Fused Weapons for testing and integration (GPS anti-armor cluster bomb)
  • 4 GBU-49 Enhanced Paveways for testing and integration (500 pound GPS/laser)
  • 2 DSU-38 Laser Seekers for testing and integration
  • 6 GBU-12 Paveway II, Guidance Control Units (used in 500 pound laser-guided)

Contractors aren’t mentioned specifically, implying that they’re still to be chosen by Singapore. In terms of overall priorities, Minister for Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen said recently that the F-16 fleet’s condition and prospective upgrades meant that they were in “no particular hurry” to make an F-35 decision, though it’s a “serious consideration.” Sources: DSCA #13-67 | Defense News, “US: Singapore To Buy Upgrade For Its F-16 Fighter Jets”.

DSCA request: F-16 upgrades

Sept 16/13: Singapore’s Minister for Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen’s Parliamentary reply confirms that Singapore has picked MBDA’s Aster-30 as its upper-tier air defense system on land, and will upgrade their F-16s. The planes will be refitted with new electronics and systems, and the RSAF also plans to extend their service lives. Sources: Singapore MINDEF, “Reply by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen to Parliamentary Question on Relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base”.

Additional Readings

News & Views

Categories: News

Black Hawks to Mexico, Tunisia, Maybe Slovakia | Pentagon Stands Up Talk Shop on Electronic Warfare | Turkey Opens Electronic Warfare Manufactory

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 02:58

  • The DSCA notified Congress of the potential sale of three Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks to Mexico, in a deal potentially worth $110 million. That there are only three Black Hawks in the deal is surprising, as the application appears to have gone in with five requested. Slovakia is also poised to receive nine of the same model.

  • In related Black Hawk news, Sikorsky saw a $93.3 million contract modification today for eight “Green” UH-60M helicopters for the Tunisian government.

  • In F-35/paint news, the Air Force and Texas Research Institute have developed a new, particularly resistant, coating for combat aircraft, which will reportedly be capable of saving the Lightening II program about $14 million in life cycle cost savings. Every little bit helps in a program slated to cost approximately $1.5 trillion.

  • The Pentagon has set up a panel to assess Electronic Warfare requirements across the U.S.’s entire spectrum of military capabilities.


  • Turkish defense manufacturer Aselsan today announced the opening of a $167 million radar and Electronic Warfare manufacturing plant. The company recently contributed sensors to Turkey’s new ATR-72 maritime patrol planes.

  • The Netherlands has been experimenting. The Royal Netherland Air Forces has been using “modifications and operational techniques” to convert their fleet of AH-64 Apache helicopters from their traditional ground-attack and CAS roles to a more ISTAR-oriented platform. Details of exactly what these special changes are remain to be seen.

  • Russia will upgrade ten Tu-95MS bombers over 2015-2016, following the upgrade of eight last year. The Russian Air Force’s fleet of Tu-95s is set to reach 43 by the end of this year.

  • Austria is set to upgrade its fleet of Pandur APCs with a new remote weapon station, with plans outlining the Austrian Ministry of Defense’s intention to field twelve of the upgraded vehicles by August of this year. The modernization contract is reported to amount to €23 million.

  • The UK Ministry of Defence announced that it intends to reposition one of its five Skynet 5 communications satellites. The satellite – manufactured by Airbus – is to be repositioned above the eastern Asia-Pacific region.

Middle East

  • Harris Corp is to supply software-defined tactical radios to an undisclosed Middle East customer in a $47 million deal announced today. Harris sells most of its hardware in the Middle east to Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and UAE. The firm has received five other major radio orders from the Middle East in the past two years totaling $225 million, none of them attributed to a specific nation.


  • India’s M-MRCA fighter saga remained ambiguous today, with the Indian Defense Ministry confirming that no ‘final decision’ has been made in ongoing negotiations, despite French and Indian Defense Ministers having met last month in an attempt to break the deadlock. The Rafale’s selection in 2012 has since seen significant gridlock, with the latest major sticking point being the workshare between Dassault and HAL.

  • In other Indian aerospace news, the Defense Research & Development organization is reportedly seeking to procure a supersonic aircraft to act as a Flying Test Bed for the testing of airborne systems. The move is likely to be a result of testing demands stemming from the M-MRCA program, as well as the future fifth-generation fighter currently under development with Russian fighter house Sukhoi. As yet, a tender has not been released.

  • Pakistan is reportedly interested in procuring Russian Mi-35 helicopters, with this model also having seen export success in Brazil and Azerbaijan.

  • A Japanese Ground Self Defense Force ScanEagle UAV reportedly was destroyed in a previously-undisclosed crash in November last year. The Japanese Defense Ministry is currently investigating the crash, having grounded the fleet of four ScanEagles immediately following the crash.

Today’s Video

  • A Lancer bomber refuels above Iraq, showing off a new sensor…
Categories: News

GA Sells Gray Eagle UAVs, Service to Army at $7 Million a Pop | KAI Signs Airbus for Delivery of Previously Won Helicopter Tender | UK Puma MK2s in Afghanistan

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 03:27

  • The Army awarded General Atomics a contract for 19 Gray Eagle UAVs, as part of a $132m contract which also included SATCOM terminals and support.

  • The Babcock & Wilcox Company received contract work totalling $169m for naval reactor fuel and materials, with B&W having restructured their government operations last year.

  • Defense hawks and fiscal hardballers continue to clash over defense spending.


  • Airbus Helicopters and Korean Aerospace Industries penned a partnership deal to produce new civil and armed helicopters for South Korea. The two parties won a significant helicopter program contract in 2005. KAI beat Korean Air in July 2014 for the role of lead designer of the helicopters. The development budget was expected to be $884 million.

  • In another major win for the Airbus Group, the Airbus Defence and Space company won a contract to build three SIGINT satellites for the French military.

  • The Royal Air Force saw the first deployment of new Puma Mk2 helicopters to Afghanistan, three weeks after achieving Initial Operating Capability.


  • Malaysia received the first of four Airbus A400 transport aircraft, with this being the first export customer for the model.

  • China became the world’s third-largest arms exporter, according to figures published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. This amounted to a 143% increase in sales over the last five years.

Today’s Video

  • The aforementioned Puma conducts low-level flying…
Categories: News

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

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 02:00
A400M rollout, Seville
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

A400M: Tech Specs and Issues Airbus on A400M

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

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

A400M cockpit
(click to view full)

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

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

A400M: Industrial Team

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

Contracts & Key Events 2014-2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK’s 1st

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

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

Final assembly

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

A400M: Short take-off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


France accepts 1st production A400M, but long-term fleet size in question; Spain will sell 13 A400Ms, bringing the second-hand pool to 26 now; French initial support agreement; UK long-term training contract; LAIRCM for UK A400Ms, but no refueling pods. French A400M
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Dec 11/13: Germany. The German defense ministry says that they expect their 1st A400M in November 2014 as planned, but it will not have the full military capabilities ordered. That will require retrofits after delivery, and they’re only expected to be complete by mid-2015. Sources: Reuters, ”
Germany may get full-spec A400M airlifter later than planned”.

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

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

Joint training: France & Germany

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

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

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

The Big Ceremony
click for video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

France accepts 1st A400M

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full EASA Type certification

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK training facilities

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

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

Initial support: France

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A400M Atlas

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

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

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

Senat report: MCO

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

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

No Farnborough flight

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Europrop settlement & certification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cold weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

New contract

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

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

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

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

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

See EADS | Defense News.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also OCCAR pictures and video of the flight demonstration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

1st flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Africa cancels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senat report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2008 and earlier

Airbus Military suspends production over contract dispute; Project delays and cost overruns confirmed. A400M asembly
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Nov 14/08: $$$. EADS releases its Q3 2008 results, which include considerable discussion of the A400M. Key excerpts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Production suspended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A400M Rollout

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appendix A – The A400M Program: Dilemmas & a Deal The Dilemmas A350XWB
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Former EADS CEO Louis Gallois has been quoted as saying all expected profits from the initial 180 orders are already invested, adding that the A400M is “a heavy lossmaker” which was creating problems for EADS’ financial performance. He reportedly added in his September 2008 letter that the present position was “untenable”, unless a deal is agreed that “keeps everyone happy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Deal A400M for loadmasters
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Under that deal, EADS ended up funding EUR 4.2 billion of the EUR 6.2 billion cost overrun to that point. That meant another EUR 1.8 billion write-down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Readings Background: A400M Program

News and Views

Categories: News

ER/MP Gray Eagle: Enhanced MQ-1C Predators for the Army

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 00:40
ER/MP, armed
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Its initial battles were fought within the Pentagon, but the US Army’s high-end UAV has made its transition to the battlefield.

The ER/MP program was part of the US Army’s reinvestment of dollars from the canceled RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program, and directly supports the Army’s Aviation Modernization Plan. The US Air Force saw this Predator derivative as a threat and tried to destroy it, but the program survived the first big “Key West” battle of the 21st century. Now, the MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” is in production as the US Army’s high-end UAV. As CENTCOM’s wars end, however, the Gray Eagle may find that staying in the fleet is as hard as getting there.

This FOCUS article offers a program history, key statistics and budget figures, and ongoing coverage of the program’s contracts and milestones.

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle, and its Band of Brothers Predator landing
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With General Atomics MQ-1A/B Predators, MQ-1C Gray Eagles, and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs all headed for the skies above the conflict zone, our readers have asked us to help them tell the difference. It’s clear that all 3 share a design philosophy, but their capabilities diverge in important ways.

View from the Air

The MQ-1 Predator is 27 feet long, with a 55 foot wingspan. Its maximum gross takeoff weight is 2,300 pounds, and it can carry 625 pounds of fuel, 450 pounds of internal payload (sensors), and another 300 pounds on its wings for up to 2 AGM-114 Hellfire anti-armor missiles or equivalent loads. Its service ceiling is 25,000 feet, which can keep it well above the 10,000-15,000 ft ceiling above which most guns are ineffective. The piston engine is a Rotax 914 turbo that runs on aviation fuel, and pushes the Predator at a slow speed of 120 KTAS. It’s controlled by UHF/VHF radio signals, and is designed to be flown by a pilot – without automated takeoff and landing.

The USAF also had an MQ-1B Block X/ YMQ-1C project underway, to develop a Predator system that would run on heavy fuel and carry up to 4 Hellfires. That project, and questions of cross-service compatibility, died when the USAF stopped buying MQ-1 Predators, and shifted its focus to the larger MQ-9 Reaper instead.

MQ-9 w. Paveways
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The MQ-9 Reaper, once called “Predator B,” is somewhat similar to the Predator. Until you look at the tail. Or its size. Or its weapons. It’s called “Reaper” for a reason – while it packs the same surveillance gear, it is much more of a hunter-killer design than its counterparts. The Reaper is 36 feet long, with a 66 foot wingspan. Its maximum gross takeoff weight is a whopping 10,500 pounds, carrying up to 4,000 pounds of fuel, 850 pounds of internal/ sensor payload, and another 3,000 pounds on its wings. The MQ-9 has 6 pylons, which can carry GPS-guided JDAM family bombs and other MIL STD 1760 compatible weapons, Paveway laser-guided bombs, Sidewinder missiles for air-air self defense, and AIM-114P Hellfire missiles or laser-guided Hydra rockets. With that arsenal the Reaper becomes the equivalent of a close air support fighter with less situational awareness, less speed and less survivability if seen – but much, much longer on-station time than its manned counterparts.

MQ-1 vs. MQ-9
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The Reaper’s service ceiling is 50,000 feet unless it’s fully loaded, but even the lower altitudes it usually flies at make a lurking MQ-9 very difficult to find from the ground, and the ability to drop GPS and laser-guided bombs makes high-altitude precision strikes fperfectly plausible. The engine is a Honeywell TPE 331-10T, which pushes it along at a rather speedier clip of 240 KTAS. Not exactly an F-16, or even an A-10, but the extra speed does get it to the problem area more quickly when a call comes in from the troops.

Several MQ-9 variants exist. An extended range variant adds fuel tanks, and lengthens the wingspan to 88 feet. US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) also flies the MQ-9 Reaper, and has its own MQ-1 Predator program, too. Both UAVs are referred to as Medium Altitude Long Endurance Tactical (MALET) platforms. If SOCOM has to bring the MALET to hammer a target down, or soften it up, they fly in enhanced variants with improved video transmission, infrared modifications, signals intelligence payloads, and “delivery of low collateral damage weapons.” The latter presumably includes precision mini-missile options like Raytheon’s Griffin, and precision glide bombs like Northrop Grumman’s GBU-44 Viper Strike and Lockheed Martin’s Scorpion, all of which allow a single Hellfire rail or weapon station to carry multiple weapons.

General Atomics’ Mariner maritime surveillance UAV and FAA-certified high-altitude Altair research UAV are both derived from the MQ-9 Reaper. So, too, is NASA’s Ikhana.

The Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle

The MQ-1C Sky Warrior/ Gray Eagle looks a lot like the Predator, but it’s a little bit bigger, can carry more weapons, and has an engine that can run on the same “heavy fuel” that fills up the Army’s land vehicles. The initial engine was Thielert’s 160hp Centurion, but the firm filed for insolvency after substantive revelations of accounting fraud (q.v. May 17/08), and in July 2013, its commercial assets were bought by China’s AVIC. Gray Eagles will continue to fly with existing stocks of the Thielert engine, but new UAVs will fly with Lycoming’s 250hp DEL-120.

Maximum operating altitude is 29,000 feet, at a speed of up to 135 knots. The sensor turret payload was initially Raytheon’s AN/DAS-2, but has shifted to the final “Army Common Sensor Payload” AN/AAS-53 variant. The Army also added a communications relay, and has been working to give the UAV “sense and avoid” capabilities for safety in crowded airspace.

An Improved Gray Eagle variant was introduced in July 2013, and this type has flown a 45 hour mission in unarmed configuration. It includes the new Lycoming DEL-120 engine, and a heavier airframe thanks to a deep belly design that raises internal fuel load from 575 pounds to 850 pounds. A 500-pound wet centerline hard point can be used to push the UAV’s fuel total to 1,350 pounds. The new MQ-1C IGE also has a maximum 540-pound internal payload capacity, compared to the MQ-1 Block 1’s 400 pounds. The end result is a maximum takeoff weight that rises from 3,600 pounds to 4,200 pounds.

Sensors and Add-Ons ZPY-1 STARLite
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Beyond its standard equipment, the US Army is also developing and qualifying new payloads for the MQ-1C fleet, thanks to efforts by Product Manager RUS (Robotic and Unmanned Sensors) and PM-ARES (Airborne Reconnaissance and Exploitation Systems).

AN/AAS-53 CSP+. Raytheon’s base Common Sensor Payload (CSP) is being upgraded, and CSP High Definition (HD) is planned for production cut-in in FY 2013. It adds high-definition Full Motion Video (FMV) in both the Electro-optical and Mid-wave IR spectrums. A retrofit plan will begin in FY 2014 to convert all MQ-1Cs to CSP HD. The Army sees CSP Target Location Accuracy (TLA) as the final upgrade, upgrading targeting accuracy to allow timely use of GPs-guided bombs and missiles. All Gray Eagles will eventually be equipped with CSP TLA.

AN/ZPY-1 STARLite-ER. Northrop Grumman’s Small Tactical Radar – Lightweight (STARLite) Synthetic Aperture Radar/ Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI) is a lightweight, high performance, all weather radar that can track small moving ground targets, down to small car size, even in bad weather. It cross-cues with the UAV’s cameras, and enhancements have been approved to extend its range, and detect man-sized targets. STARLite ER (Extended Range) has been cut into production since FY 2011, and began fielding and retrofitting in FY 2012. The Army plans to buy 1 STARLite ER system per UAV.

Sense and Avoid. Ground Based Sense and Avoid (GBSAA) is a system designed to be aware of other aircraft, especially in civil airspace, and help avoid collisions with the MQ-1C. The Phase 2, Block 0 system will provide the operator with an air traffic display, color-coded to reflect the highest-priority potential conflicts. The Block 1 system will add recommended maneuvers to avoid crashing into others. That isn’t the full sense-and-avoid you’d see on a commercial jet, but by 2015 it will let the Army fly the UAVs from Fort Hood, TX; Fort Riley, KS; Fort Stewart, GA; Fort Campbell, KY; and Fort Bragg, NC, through Class D military airspace, to nearby test ranges without a manned chase plane. As the acronym suggests, making this work requires certain equipment in place on the ground at those locations.

Traveler Pod. BAE’s pods are designed to find and eavesdrop on electronic emitters, identify them (enemy radio communications? radar? etc.), then offer aerial precision geolocation (APG) and copying. SIGINT/ELINT pods and equipment can already be installed in larger UAVs like the USAF’s RQ-4 Global Hawks, and aboard light surveillance planes like the Beechcraft King Air MC-12Ws. The challenge is to shrink them and their supporting systems within the MQ-1C’s weight and size limits.

NERO pod. Provides electronic jamming that can prevent remote detonation of land mines, giving the UAV a very useful convoy overwatch role. It can also disrupt enemy communications. Raytheon’s NERO is adapted from the CAESAR pod that equips manned C-12 (Beechcraft King Air) turboprops. Initial deliveries took place in 2013.

The Army’s ER/MP Program Prep for flight
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The Gray Eagle began in August 2005, as “Team Warrior” won a $214.4 million contract to develop the Extended Range/ Multi Purpose Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System (ER/MP UAS). The Army wanted its ER/MP UAV to fill both surveillance and attack roles. General Atomics’ Sky Warrior, derived from their famous MQ-1 Predator, beat the Hunter II system offered by Northrop Grumman, Aurora Flight Systems, and IAI.

That was just the first step along the US Army’s $5 billion road to fielding a true Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, armed UAV, modified from the USAF’s famous MQ-1 Predator. Its position got a boost when a 2007 program restructuring short-circuited the Future Combat Systems Class III UAV competition, in favor of ER/MP. That decision has held, and the UAVs are now operated by the US Army and by SOCOM’s “Night Stalkers” regiment.

The Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of GA-ASI’s multi-year ER/MP contract began with 17 MQ-1C UAVs, and 7 One System Ground Control Stations (OSGCS). Those pre-production Block 0 Gray Eagles began flying on the front lines, in Quick Reaction Component (QRC-1, 1R, and 2) deployments which began in December 2009. QRC drones are unarmed, and lack other key capabilities. Even so, the Army has been very enthusiastic about their performance.

As of 2013, the current plan reorganized its 152 planned buys to equip 10 active duty divisions, 2 special operation units, 2 aerial exploitation units, and the National Training Center. Gray Eagle companies are equipped with 9 UAVs and 5 Ground Control Stations each. Only deployed units get the extra 3 aircraft, drawn from stateside units, to bring their division up to 12 MQ-1Cs. Gray Eagle companies fit within each division’s Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), following a model initiated in March 2012 at the 1st Infantry Division. Once the division’s UAVs are broken down, each CAB would end up with 4 Gray Eagles, 8 smaller RQ-7B Shadows, and 35 mini-UAVs.

A few years after the ER/MP program began, General Atomics-ASI’s Steve May was already saying that “The Army is now as large a customer for us as the Air Force.” At the time, the firm saw a potential market for as many as 540 “Sky Warrior” UAVs – 45 sets of 12 UAVs each for each brigade, plus accompanying ground stations and crews. The Army’s production program grew five-fold, but it’s still only about 30% of that maximum prediction, and remains far behind the USAF.


As the MQ-1C transitioned into production, Pentagon documents began breaking the program out from its USAF counterparts. The total program, including both the initial development contract and follow-on production, looks like it will be worth almost $5 billion. Budgets from 2004-2017 include:

There’s also a manpower equation for the Army, which affects ongoing operating costs. Those aren’t found in these budgets, but they make up well over half of a program’s actual lifetime cost. Fully automated take-off and landing (ATLS) systems are becoming more common among UAVs, and the MQ-1C’s ATLS is an important difference from the USAF’s MQ-1 Predators, which have all flight operations handled by pilots. While the initial batch of Gray Eagle UAVs will be flown by Army aviators, the Army plans to assign future MQ-1Cs to non-pilot warrant officers with UAV training. That’s a less expensive proposition, in terms of both salary and training costs. It’s also less expensive in terms of lost UAVs, as ATLS seems to lead to fewer crashes.

Key MQ-1C industrial partners include:

Contracts & Key Events FY 2014 – 2015

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March 17/15: 19 More.The Army awarded General Atomics a contract for 19 Gray Eagle UAVs, as part of a $132m contract which also included SATCOM terminals and support.

April 23/14: Sensors. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Linthicum Heights, MD receives a $40.7 million firm-fixed-price multi-year contract to provide up to 94 STARLite ground-looking SAR/GMTI radar systems. A system consists of 1 Aviation (A-Kit) and 1 B-Kit.

All funds are committed immediately, using mostly FY 2013 funds and some FY 2014 funds. Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights MD, and the estimated completion date is April 22/17. One bid was solicited and 1 received by the US Army Contracting Command in Aberdeen, MD (W15P7T-14-C-C005).

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. The MQ-1C is a stable design, but:

“Program officials said they are considering a change to the aircraft tail, which would be costly and require retrofitting the entire fleet. The program is also developing a new ground control station which will not undergo operational testing until May 2015. In addition, a production readiness review conducted in support of the program’s full-rate production decision identified several high risk supplier base issues that pose uncertainty for the program’s cost and schedule.”

Supplier issues include the new engine, “…and the Defense Contract Management Agency are also tracking other risk items related to multiple suppliers’ financial concerns as well as quality control….” Program officials say that have mitigation strategies are in place if something goes wrong.

Finally, the Ground Control System has been criticized in past evaluations. The Army is moving to new hardware and software, with follow-on testing planned in May 2015. If it goes well, the Army would begin deploying the new GCS to new and fielded units.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. FY 2015 is the last year of Gray Eagle production: 19 UAVs, 19 Satellite Airborne Data Terminals (SADT), Government Furnished Equipment (GFE), Ground Based Sense and Avoid (GBSAA) Block 1 software, and site preparation and fielding for 2 locations. Payloads and Universal Ground Control Station systems will still be bought for a few more years.

For R&D, the Army continues development and integration of changes to the the Universal Ground Control Station, the GBSAA system as an alternate means of FAA compliance in properly-equipped civil airspace, and a signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability.

Nov 19/13: SOCOM. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (“Night Stalkers”) receives the 1st of E-Company’s 12 MQ-1C Gray Eagles. Sources: The Aviationist, “Legendary U.S. Army Special Operations Force gets MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones”.

SOCOM’s 160th SOAR

Dec 13/13: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical in Poway, CA receives an $110.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for continuing MQ-1C support and spares services until Dec 15/14.

$8 million in FY 2014 operations and maintenance funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Afghanistan and Poway, CA. One bid was solicited with one received by the US Army Contracting Command (Aviation) in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-14-C-0008).

Oct 22/13: Engine. During AUSA 2013, General Atomics confirms to DID that the US Army will use its existing inventory of Thielert Centurion heavy fuel engines to keep the current Gray Eagle fleet running for now, rather than doing wholesale retrofits. One presumes that retrofits would follow if Centurion stocks or part inventories drop too low.

Oct 22/13: Testing. GA-ASI uses their own funds to conduct a 45-hour MQ-1C Improved Gray Eagle flight, in reconnaissance-only configuration. They also confirm that new Gray Eagle IGEs will be built with Lycoming’s 205hp DEL-120 heavy fuel engine, replacing the discontinued Thielert Centurion (q.v. July 26/13).

A 2nd demonstration, which is planned for later in 2013, will feature an MQ-1C IGE with a wing-mounted external payload and weapons. Source: GA-ASI, Oct 22/13 release.

FY 2013

Annual order; NERO jamming pods delivered; What now for the USA drone fleets?; The pilot issue; FRP decision. MQ-1C: what now?
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Sept 26/13: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives an $86.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to finalize FY 2013 Gray Eagle performance-based logistics product support. The contract covers both newer, armed Block 1s program and the initial few Block 0/ Quick Reaction Capability drones.

Work is performed from Poway, CA. The contract was solicited via the web with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command – Redstone Arsenal (Aviation), Redstone Arsenal, AL, is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-12-C-007, PO 0032).

Sept 24/13: Djibooted. The small but strategically critical African state of Djibouti has forced the US military to move its drones out of Camp Lemonnier, which serves as Africa Command’s main base. Their problem? Lemonnier’s runway is too close to the international airport, and 5 Predator drone crashes since 2011 have left the locals unwilling to continue done flights.

The Pentagon has moved its drone operations to a more remote base, and the Gray Eagle’s automatic landing equipment makes it rather less crash-prone than USAF Predators and Reapers. At the same time, it’s an issue that the Army’s fleet will also face. Operations over a war zone are one thing. ISR support operations to aid friendly countries that have national and international air traffic moving through their space are a totally different kettle of fish. Sources: Washington Post, “U.S. moves drone fleet from Camp Lemonnier to ease Djibouti’s safety concerns” | VOA, “US Military Relocates Drone Fleet From Djibouti Base”.

Sept 25/13: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway, CA receives a sole-source $70.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to conduct MQ-1C Gray Eagle 4.3.2 software development and depot repair of related spares.

Work will be funded from FY 2012 and 2013 R&D funds. US Army Contracting Command – Aviation in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-13-C-0136).

Sept 25/13: STARLite radar. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Linthicum Heights, MD receives an $85.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, multi-year, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quality contract to provide STARLite system support, including the SAR/GMTI features. Performance location and funding will be determined with each order. See the “Sensors and Add-Ons” section for full details re: the ZPY-1 STARLite.

This contract was a sole-source acquisition, but its duration isn’t clear. US Army Contracting Command – Aviation in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W15P7T-13-D-C118).

Sept 25/13: General Atomics announces that the Gray Eagle fleet has reached 20,000 successful launch and recoveries using their Automatic Takeoff and Landing System (ATLS). They hit the 10,000 milestone in June 2012.

ATLS has been deployed at 8 sites worldwide, including 3 overseas, with 4 additional sites planned by January 2015. Source: GA-ASI, Oct 23/13 release.

Sept 13/13: FY 2013. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives a sole-source $199.7 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide FY 2013 MQ-1C Gray Eagle production (19 UAVs), and “FY 2012 hardware backfill requirements.” General Atomics confirmed that the overall contract involves 19 UAVs, plus ground control equipment, automatic landing systems, SATCOM and data terminals, spares, and mobile maintenance facilities.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA. US Army Contracting Command, Aviation at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-13-C-0109).

Aug 25/13: Help Wanted. The USAF has a pilot recruitment problem for drones, driven by lower recognition and a true perception that promotions are less likely in that service. The US Army has an easier time of things, because they tap enlisted and non-commissioned soldiers to fly their UAVs: 15W Operator and 15E Repairer are enlisted soldiers positions, and 150U technician positions involve a warrant officer. Here’s the USAF’s math:

The USA has 61 round-the-clock UAV Combat Air Patrols, and plans to increase that to 65 by 2015. That increase is now suspect. If it’s maintained, the Pentagon’s April 2012 “Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability” says the USAF will require, at minimum, 579 more MQ-1/9 UAV pilots from December 2011 – 2015. In 2012, the 40 USAF training slots attracted just 12 volunteers, and training attrition rates are 3x higher than they are for regular pilots. Unlike the USAF’s manned aircraft training slots, only 33 RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) training slots were filled (around 82%), triggered in part by the correct perception that those who succeed will have less successful careers. Based on present rates, 13% fewer RPA pilots have become majors, compared to their peers.

Army schadenfreude aside, the Pentagon’s April 2012 report did say that the Army needed to add 820 more MQ-1C Gray Eagle positions between December 2011 – 2015. They can’t neglect this area, either. Sources: Stars & Stripes, “Unmanned now undermanned: Air Force struggles to fill pilot slots for drones” | See Additional Readings section for full Pentagon report.

Aug 22/13: Training. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives a maximum $30.5 million cost-plus-incentive fee, option eligible, multi-year contract for 1 MQ-1C Gray Eagle Composite Maintenance System Trainer (CMST) suite of equipment, plus Interim Contractor Support at Fort Huachuca, AZ. US Army Contracting Command Aviation at? Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-13-C-0127).

Aug 16/13: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway, CA receives an $11.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, option-eligible, non-multi-year, contract modification.

The award exercises an option for additional MQ-1C engineering services, and the announcement’s confusing language is “$11,423,474.37 with a cumulative maximum value of $156,370,264″. We’ve added all awards under this contract, and so far, announced awards total $81.9 million. But General Atomics clarifies that (since Sept 2009) “we have received contracts that value $156.4 million for Gray Eagle engineering services, including the $11.4 million contract that was just announced.”

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, using FY 2013 “other funding.” One bid was solicited, and 1 receives by US Army Contracting Command (Aviation) in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-09-C-0136, PO 0094).

July 26/13: MQ-1 IGE. A successful first flight of the Improved Gray Eagle (IGE) derivative of the MQ-1C Block 1, at GS-ASI’s Adelanto, CA facility.

IGE is designed for increased endurance, thanks to its “improved Heavy Fuel Engine” and deep belly fuselage with over 50% more capacity. In the field, that translates into up to 23 more hours aloft on reconnaissance missions. Overall payload capacity also improves by 50%, with an upgraded centerline wet hardpoint that can mount a 500 pound external fuel tank or a 360 degree sensor payload. General Atomics also cites the “potential of incorporating lightning protection, damage tolerance, and Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) features.” Source: General Atomics, July 26/13 release.

Improved Gray Eagle introduced, flies

July 23/13: Engine out. State-owned Aviation Industry Corp. of China buys Thielert’s commercial assets out of insolvency, and folding them into its Continental Motors division. In order to get approval for the sale from the German government, however, the firm has to divest its military business. They elect to close it, leaving the MQ-1C Gray Eagle and Turkey’s Anka UAV without an engine. Sources: Bloomberg, “AVIC Buys Thielert to Shift Company to Planes From Drones” | Reuters, “China’s AVIC to buy German aircraft engine maker Thielert”.

Thielert to China

June 14/13: FRP. The Defense Acquisition Board approved Gray Eagle for Full Rate Production (FRP), which will lead to the purchase of an additional 49 aircraft over FY13-15. Because of the current budget constraints, the FY13 buy was reduced from 19 to 15. FY14 is planned for an additional 19, with a final 15 units in FY15.

Deputy Program Manager Jeff Crabb tells DID that the program was also moved from the ACAT 1D down to the ACAT 1C level, meaning the Army is now the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA), as opposed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This makes sense since close to 70 aircraft have already been delivered after 3 LRIP lots, out of a planned total of 152. Of these, 4 have been lost in combat so far.

The program’s next milestone is Follow-on Operational Test & Evaluation (FOT&E) in early 2015, mostly around the universal ground control station (GCS) which involves both hardware and software components.


May 14/13: NERO EW pod. Raytheon announces that they’ve delivered the first 2 Networked Electronic Warfare, Remotely Operated (NERO) pods, as part of a contract awarded by US NAVSEA-Crane in 2012 for use on the US Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

NERO is an airborne electronic attack system capable of jamming enemy communications systems, including remote detonators for land mines. It’s derived from the Army’s Communications Electronic Attack with Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CEASAR) program, which is mounted on MC-12W King Air manned turboprops. Moving to the Gray Eagle doubles or triples flight time, at a similar or lower operating cost. Raytheon.

May 7/13: Support. GA-ASI in Poway, CA receives a $110.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for MQ-1C support and fleet sustainment, driving the contract’s total cumulative face value to $354.7 million.

Work will be performed in Afghanistan, using FY 2013 Operations and Maintenance funds, and other Procurement fund. The US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-12-C-0075, PO 0032).

April 10/13: FY 2014 Budget. The President releases a proposed budget at last, the latest in modern memory. The Senate and House were already working on budgets in his absence, but the Pentagon’s submission is actually important to proceedings going forward. See ongoing DID coverage. For the Gray Eagle, the budget requests $627.1 million, of which just $10.9 million is RDT&E. That’s a cut of about $151.8 million from previous plans, and when combined with 2015 plans it cuts the program by $337.8 million. They’re still ordering the same number of UAVs, though.

The FY 2014 request covers continued development of the Universal Ground Control Station, a Ground Based Sense-and-Avoid system for flights at several US based locations (vid Aug 10/12 entry), 15 UAVs, 8 AN/ZPY-1 STARLite ER radars, 8 AN/AAS-53 Common Sensor Payload surveillance & targeting turrets, 16 Tactical SIGINT (TSP for signals interceptions) payloads, and 3 modular platoon sets of equipment.

April 2/13: What now? Defense News aptly summarizes the key question facing the USA’s large drones:

“On the one hand, the work in Mali shows that the signature weapon of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is outlasting that conflict. On the other, the detachment is a tiny fraction of the Predator/Reaper fleet – and just where are the rest of them going to go?”

With flights below 60,000 feet heavily restricted within the USA, there aren’t that many options stateside, and most of the MQ-9 fleet’s $8,000 per flight hour operations are funded by wartime OCO appropriations. AFRICOM may have the best combination of circumstances abroad, thanks to growing trouble in the Gulf of Guinea to the West, as well as the Indian Ocean to the East. Even a massive increase in surveillance can’t absorb all of the UAVs, and the $6,000 per flight hour manned MC-12s are a natural competitor.

FY 2012

Attack helicopter control MQ-1C in flight; Operational Testing & Evaluation; Approval sought to extend LRIP buys; Predator GCS virus won’t affect Army; SIGINT pod. Gray Eagle in Iraq
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Unless otherwise specified, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL issues the contracts to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) in Poway, CA.

Oct 2/12: Support. A $102.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for services to support the Gray Eagle UAS.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of May 7/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0075).

Oct 2/12: Engine retrofits. A $10.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to retrofit MQ-1C Block 0 UAVs with an alternate heavy fuel engine.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of Sept 26/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0001).

Aug 27/12: A $25.9 million fixed-price-incentive contract modification will add “a platoon set of ground equipment.” Note that for these UAVs, a “platoon” is 12 MQ-1Cs.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of June 30/15. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0057).

Aug 27/12: An $11 million fixed-price-incentive contract modification, to buy more universal ground data terminals. Work will be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of April 30/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-11-C-0099).

Aug 10/12: Civil airspace. The U.S. Army has validated the design and functionality of a Phase 2 ground-based sense and avoid (GBSAA, see above) radar system that will support training flights of MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs in unrestricted airspace, beginning in 2014.

The baseline GBSAA system was demonstrated in June 2012 at Dugway Proving Ground’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) testbed, and the Army’s UAS Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center. The 2-week demonstration covered several “vignettes” involving live RQ-7 Shadow and RQ-5 Hunter UAVs as well as simulated UAVs and intruder aircraft. The testing also replicated the airspace over other military installations and used live and recorded air traffic data from Salt Lake City, UT and Boston’s Logan airports. AIN Online.

July 18/12: A $19 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for MQ-1C contractor logistics support. Work will be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of July 15/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-11-C-0001).

July 11/12: A $411 million fixed-price-incentive contract for Gray Eagle systems, initial spares, and additional hardware. Work will be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of March 31/15. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with one bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0057).

Looks like they got that authorization to continue Low-Rate initial Production.

July 2/12: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives an $8.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for MQ-1C Gray Eagle engineering support.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-09-C-0136).

June 27/12: Reliability & report. The US Army has some good news, and some bad news.

The bad news is that Gray Eagles are flying at about 80% availability rates after 24,000 combat flight hours, instead of their target 90%. The problems are mostly traceable to software issues that arise when new sensors are added.

The good news? The program is under budget. The UAVs have added weapons, ground-looking radars, and communication relays to their payload. The Army likes them a lot, and thinks they’re making a big difference, so they’ve decided to focus on expanding Gray Eagle capabilities for now, rather than trying to reach 90% availability rates. Right now, there are a pair of platoon-size 4-UAV QRC units in Afghanistan, and the “Fox 227″ full-size company of 12.

May 29/12: IOT&E funds. An $8.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification supplies incremental funding to support MQ-1C operational test and evaluation. The program’s IOT&E was moved back from October 2011, and is now expected in August 2012 (a milestone that was indeed met at that date).

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

May 10/12: A $141.8 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, for services in support of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of May 7/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0075).

April 4/12: Plans. The US Army discusses its plans for the MQ-1C, which includes the addition of a new Synthetic Aperture Radar with Ground Moving Target Indicator, and the development of a Universal Ground Control Station, or UGS that can show video feeds from Gray Eagle, Shadow and Hunter UAS on a single system.

A full company of 12 Gray Eagle UAS have now deployed as part of a full-spectrum Combat Aviation Brigade, and a Pentagon Defense Acquisition Board meeting is planned for mid-May 2012, to approve another Low Rate Initial Production buy. Initial Operational Test & Evaluation is scheduled for summer 2012.

March 30/12: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012. With respect to the MQ-1C, it mentions that the Army will be modifying the UAV’s tail rudder and elevator, and the GAO is now satisfied with the automatic take-off and landing system’s technical maturity:

“However, the tactical common data link is still not fully mature… its air data relay capability has been deferred until fiscal year 2012. The March 2011 accident involving an MQ-1C in testing has delayed several key program events… The Army now plans to start [IOT&E] operational testing in August 2012 [instead of October 2011, and a]… full-rate production decision was postponed from August 2012 to March 2013. The Army has already awarded two low-rate production contracts in 2010 and 2011 for 55 aircraft. To avoid a break in production, the Army is planning to seek approval to award a third low-rate contract for 29 aircraft in May 2012. Based on the current program schedule, the Army will procure more than half of the total planned aircraft before the system’s operational effectiveness and suitability is fully tested…”

Jan 26/12: Preliminary FY 2013 budget materials discuss coming shifts in Pentagon priorities, as the defense department moves to make future cuts. The USAF will get fewer MQ-9 Reapers, but the Army’s MQ-1C is protected:

“Unmanned Air Systems – fund enough trained personnel, infrastructure, and platforms to sustain 65 USAF MQ-1/9 combat air patrols (CAPs) with a surge capacity of 85; the Predator aircraft was retained longer than previously planned, allowing us to slow the buy of the Reaper aircraft and gain some savings; we also protected funding for the Army’s unmanned air system, Gray Eagle.”

See: Pentagon release | “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices” [PDF]

Jan 17/12: A $30.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to support the MQ-1C Gray Eagle Quick Reaction Capability drones in theater. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of May 7/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153).

Jan 5/12: SIGINT Pods. BAE Systems in Nashua, NH receives a $12.3 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for T-Pod SIGINT Systems. on the MQ-1C Unmanned Aircraft System. A December 2011 expression of interest stated that the US Army was looking for up to 5 tested and calibrated Traveler Pods within 4 months for integration work on the MQ-1C, and within 6 months for deployment. The pods are designed to find and eavesdrop on electronic emitters, identify them (enemy radio communications? radar? etc.), then offer aerial precision geolocation (APG) and copying. Pods and equipment can already be installed in larger UAVs like the USAF’s RQ-4 Global Hawks, and aboard light surveillance planes like the Beechcraft King Air MC-12Ws. The challenge is to shrink them and their supporting systems so that it falls within the MQ-1C’s weight and size limits.

Work will be performed in Nashua, NH, with an estimated completion date of Dec 27/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W15P7T-12-C-C009). See also

Jan 5/12: A $20.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to pay for operational test and evaluation. It does not specify further, but the contract is the MQ-1C’s.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Dec 30/11: A $12 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Warrior A/Block 0 support services. These are the Quick Reaction Capability drones. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, until Dec 17/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0001).

Dec 23/11: An $18 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract. “The award will provide for the modification of an existing contract to allow for incremental funding of previous change order”; it does not specify further, but the contract is the MQ-1C’s. Work will be performed in Poway, CA; Hunt Valley, MD; Salt Lake City, UT; and Lake Forest, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited, with 1 received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Nov 10/11: A $15.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee and cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification, to support the MQ-1C QRC contingents. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Jan 7/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153).

Nov 9/11: An AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopter fitted with the Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA) atop its mast has controlled the payload and flight of an MQ-1C Grey Eagle UAV, while both are in flight. This marks the 1st time an unmanned vehicle has been controlled from the cockpit of an Apache helicopter.

Lockheed Martin says that the test program proved the UTA’s design, adding that: “All goals of this phase of UTA testing were completed with 100 percent success.”

Oct 17/11: A $30.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for additional MQ-1C engineering services. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Aug 30/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0136).

Oct 7/11: Hacked. WIRED Danger Room reports that a “keylogger” virus has infected the USAF’s MQ-1A/B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper fleets:

“The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say… “We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”

Unlike the USAF, the Army’s philosophy is to operate its MQ-1C Gray Eagles in-theater. The virus doesn’t compromise Army UAVs, therefore, but it may indicate a similar vulnerability point in the Army’s network.

Oct 5/11: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives an $84.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. The award will provide for the logistics and hardware services in support of Gray Eagle First Unit Equipped system hardware.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of March 27/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-11-C-0143).

Oct 5/11: An $8.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract will fund RESET efforts for the Warrior A/Warrior Block 0 Unmanned Aircraft Systems. RESET is a program for worn vehicles and aircraft, involving tear-down and comprehensive inspections, followed by replacement of any worn parts, and restoration to “like new” condition. The question is whether these initially-fielded “Quick Reaction Capability” UAVs will be upgraded to full operational MQ-1C Block 1 status, complete with weapons.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of June 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-11-C-0001).

FY 2011

MQ-1C program ramp-up; USAF accepts last MQ-1B Predator; TRACER foliage-penetrating radar; Iraq quick reaction deployment discussed. QRC-1 sunrise, Taji
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May 20/11: An $8.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, that buys additional spare hardware under the MQ-1C Gray Eagle’s logistics support contract. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Jan 18/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153).

May 10/11: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives an $9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract May 6/11. The award will provide for MQ-1C Universal Ground Control Station integration.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of June 30/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-09-C-0136).

April 25/11: An $8.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, providing incremental funding to cover an extension of the ER/MP system development and design contract. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received by U.S. Army AMCOM Contracting Center in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

April 12/11: +26. $173.5 million of a $354 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract, for MQ-1C Gray Eagle low rate initial production. Queries to GA-ASI indicate that the contract covers 2 Gray Eagle systems: 26 UAVs (12 aircraft per system, plus 2 spares for losses), 15 of AAI’s OneSystem Ground Control Systems, L-3 Communications’ Satellite Communications equipment, and other peripheral equipment to support the systems.

GA-ASI says that part of this contract is for FY 2010 buys, and part is FY 2011. Work will be performed at Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of April 30/14. One bid was solicited and one received (W58RGZ-11-C-0099).

March 7/11: A $64.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for MQ-1C Gray Eagle product support, logistical support and sustainment operations.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA; Adelanto, CA; Palmdale, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; and Hunt Valley, MD, with an estimated completion date of Nov 7/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153).

March 3/11: The USAF accepts delivery of its 268th and last Predator UAV, an MQ-1B, at General Atomics’ Gray Butte Aeronautical Systems’ Flight Ops Facility. The delivery leaves the US Army as the only customer for MQ-1 Predator UAVs, unless the RQ-1 Predator XP variant finds some export customers.

Col. James Beissner, Air Combat Command’s Chief Irregular Warfare Division, accepted the aircraft. Aeronautical Systems Center’s Chief of Medium Altitude UAS Division, Col. Christopher Coombs, cites fleet totals of over 900,000 hours since its 1st flight in July 1994, with mission capable rates over 90%. What he does not mention is a high accident rate, which accompanies UAVs without auto-takeoff and landing capabilities. The Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle does not suffer from the same officer pilot bias as the USAF, and has adopted these technologies. Wright Patterson AFB | General Atomics.


March 2/11: +30. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives an announced $335.5 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract for MQ-1C Gray Eagle systems. In-depth discussions with General Atomics place the order in its full context, which is somewhat complex.

In February 2010, General Atomics says the US Army placed a not-to-exceed $399 million contract, but did not appropriate any money. Their first step was the $195.5 million 49% funding contract in the May 19/10 entry. According to the firm, this award funds the remaining contract with another $115.1 million, to make a total of $310.6 million. This will include the LRIP Lot 1 order for 2 systems (24 UAVs + 2 attrition), plus the FY 2009 supplemental funding of 8 UAVs, and a sizable quantity of plus-up air, ground and communication equipment.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56RGZ-10-C-0068).

Feb 14/11: Budget request. The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 budget request, which includes breakout information concerning the MQ-1C Gray Eagle program. The FY 2012 request is $805.8 million for 36 systems, which includes $137 million in RDT&E(Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation) funds.

Jan 18/11: Program ramp-up. A US Army release quotes Tim Owings, deputy project manager for Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems:

“We’re going to accelerate Gray Eagle yet again. We’re accelerating from two systems per year to three systems per year, which will result in seventeen systems being procured by FY 2014… Defense Acquisition Board in February of this year is expected to confirm the addition of two more Low Rate Initial Production Gray Eagle systems – each consisting of 12 air vehicles, five ground control stations and five additional attrition vehicles… The Army has already deployed two Gray Eagle “Quick Reaction Capabilities.” One QRC is now flying with Army Soldiers in Iraq and another is with U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan”

Nov 28/10: Iraq T&P work. A posting from the 1st Infantry Division discusses [Pentagon DVIDS | US Army] some of the work that goes into the Gray Eagle’s Quick Reaction Capability 1-Replacement 1 (QRC-1/R1) deployment in Iraq, which is working to pioneer Gray Eagle tactics, techniques and procedures before the UAVs are deployed throughout the Army. Some excerpts:

“The QRC1-R1 operators are working with aviators from the brigade’s Apache battalion to integrate their mission… The unit has flown nearly 7,000 accident free hours, more than 350 combat missions, produced over 16,000 surveillance-type images, and maintained a systems operational readiness rate of about 93 percent [in its first 6 months].

“…One of the biggest things we try to do is educate other units about our capabilities,” said [unit commander Capt. Michael] Goodwin. “A lot of units have the ability to use our assets, but they don’t know what we can do.” One of the most useful tools the unit offers ground troops is education on a portable system known as the OSRVT, or One Station Remote Viewing Terminal. “We’re finding that a lot of units have the OSRVT, but don’t know what it does for them,” said Goodwin. “Our company helps train the ground guys on the system, on how to access our feeds and use our aircraft to support them.” …The unit is working to prepare the aircraft to carry hellfire missiles, and is scheduled to conduct a live test of the missiles in Iraq this January.

Sgt. Brent Randal, a Gray Eagle operator deployed with QRC1-R1 and a native of Las Vegas, Nev., said that one of the aircraft’s best features is its new Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. Mounted underneath the Gray Eagle’s nose, the SAR can compare high resolution images of a location taken at different times to determine whether objects have been removed from or placed at a scene… The Gray Eagle can also help ground troops communicate with their headquarters over long distances. The success of [Predator drones he flew for Task Force ODIN] helped pave the way for the Army’s acquisition of the Gray Eagle, said [former scout Staff Sgt. Raymond] Ballance.”

Nov 19/10: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives a $31.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, providing incremental funding to cover an extension of the ER/MP system development and design contract. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/10. One bid was solicited with one bid received by U.S. Army AMCOM Contracting Center in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Announced System Development & Demonstration contracts covered here, not including any UAV buys or any support contracts, now stand at $253.4 million.

Nov 8/10: STARLite radar. Northrop Grumman announces a contract for 40 more AN/ZPY-1 STARLite synthetic aperture ground-looking radars, bringing announced orders to 73. These lightweight radars include Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) capabilities, and will equip the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs,. Under the terms of the contract option, deliveries to the Army’s Product Manager Robotic & Unmanned Sensors Program Management Office will begin in March, 2011 and conclude in March, 2012.

Pat Newby, vice president of Weapons and Sensors for Northrop Grumman’s Land and Self Protection Systems Division. “STARLite completed all first article and government testing requirements, which led to this award. These systems are ready now for immediate deployment.” See Feb 11/10, Apr 28/08 entries for more.

Oct 27/10: TRACER radar. Lockheed Martin’s tree-penetrating Tactical Reconnaissance and Counter-Concealment-Enabled Radar (TRACER) flies for the 1st time aboard NASA’s Ikhana MQ-9, because the Army Gray Eagle MQ-1C fleet that will eventually host the external unpressurized TRACER pods are all busy on operations.

TRACER is a dual-band synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), designed to detect vehicles, buildings and other man-made objects that are buried, camouflaged or concealed under trees and other foliage. The flight tests on Ikhana focused on the radar’s performance in the harsh environment of the unpressurized pod, as the TRACER system will eventually be installed on a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft. Lockheed Martin.

FY 2010

ER/MP becomes “Gray Eagle”; Army hits 1 million total UAV hours; USAF bows out of Predator buys, ending UAV War; MQ-1C arming approved; Hellfire missile tests; 1st STARLite radars delivered. MQ-1C test flight
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In 2010, the Army officially changed the planned number of production MQ-1C Gray Eagle Block I+ systems from 13 company-sized units of 12 aircraft, to 31 independent “UAS Platoons” with 4 MQ-1Cs each, plus Standard Equipment Package (SEP), and Ground Equipment. The main production program would also buy 21 UAVs to replace those lost, and 7 training UAVs, for a total of 152.

Oct 4/10: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in Poway, CA receives a $5.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for ER/MP engineering and integration support, integrated logistics support, and program management. It was actually issued at the end of FY 2009.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/11. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received by the US Army at Redstone Arsenal (W58RGZ-09-C-0136, PO 0018).

Sept 10/10: A $7.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for ER/MP Quick Reaction Capability contractor logistics support replenishment sustainment spares. Work is to be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of June 6/12. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153).

Aug 24/10: The ER/MP’s new name is confirmed during a US Army UAS panel discussion at AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America. US Army UAS US Army Project Manager Col. Gregory Gonzalez says that using both ER/MP and SkyWarrior had created name recognition issues, and the USAF had approved the name. US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Capabilities Manager Col. Robert Sova adds:

“That’s ‘Grey Eagle’ as ‘G-R-E-Y’… The naming nomenclature, of course, is usually after an Indian chief or Indian tribe and I would suggest that you look up ‘Grey Eagle,’ because there is a good history of that particular Indian chief and his lineage with the army and special operations. So it is not only a cool’ name, it has substance and meaning behind it.”

We’re not the only ones scratching our heads about this reference, which is probably a mistake that stems from believing too many things on the Internet. Though we do like Shephard Group | this Chief Gray Eagle.


May 24/10: A $38.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification that pays for new contractor logistics support; a transition to performance-based logistics for the Quick Reaction Capability 1 (see December 2009 entry), QRC-1R, and QRC-2 UAVs; and a UAS training base in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Work is to be performed in Adelanto, CA (34%); Hunt Valley, MD (24%); Poway, CA (18%); Palmdale, CA (17%); and Salt Lake City, UT (7%). The estimated completion date is May 19/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153, #P00011).

May 19/10: +26. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA received a $195.5 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract for MQ-1C supplemental hardware and low-rate initial production. Work is to be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-10-C-0068).

General Atomics tells us that this is for the first half (49%) of the LRIP Lot 1 contract, and covers 2 full Sky Warrior systems (24 UAVs) and FY 2009 supplemental hardware (2 attrition UAVs). The rest of the funding is expected in a few months, and could drive this contract set to about $399 million for 34 Sky Warrior aircraft, 16 of AAI’s One System Ground Control Stations, L-3 Communications West’s airborne and ground Tactical Control Data Link (TCDL) equipment, and various other items to include automatic landing systems, spares, and ground support equipment. Beginning in December 2011, the company is scheduled to deliver over 2 MQ-1C aircraft a month through the end of 2012.

This award comes at the same time that the U.S. Army is celebrating the achievement of 1,000,000 flight hours for its entire unmanned aircraft systems fleet, of which GA-ASI Sky Warrior Alpha and Sky Warrior UAS have logged 145,000 flight hours. See also July 8/10 release.

May 7/10: Lynx radar. General Atomics announces that its Lynx Block 30 Synthetic Aperture Radar with Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI) has achieved over 1,000 collective mission hours on their 4 Sky Warrior Block 1 UAVs in Iraq. The radar has a broad area GMTI scanning mode for detecting moving vehicles in front and to either side, can cue the camera payload to things it “sees” by using the CLAW payload control software, and features very fast Coherent Change Detection (CCD) algorithms.

The US Army’s Quick Reaction Capability-1 (QRC-1) deployment began in December 2009. A second group of 4 Lynx Block 30 radars is scheduled to begin Limited User Testing with the Army later in May 2010, in support of this summer’s planned QRC-2 deployment. In addition to supporting QRC-1 operations with the Lynx radar, GA-ASI is providing full Contractor Logistics Support (CLS), including radar operation, image analysis, and maintenance support.

May 7/10: A $5.8 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for continued performance of the ER/MP’s SDD phase. Work is to be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/10. One bid was solicited with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command, AMCOM Constructing Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

May 6/10: A $15.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, exercising an option in support of the ER/MP production readiness test asset. Work is to be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of April 09/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command, AMCOM Constructing Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-09-C-0151). Asked about this contract, General Atomics spokespeople said that:

“…this is not the other half of the [April 22/10] PRTA contract, this is an additional amount for spares and ground support equipment.”

On other topics, they add that the ER/MP’s name change from General Atomics’ Sky Warrior designation to the US Army’s Gray Eagle designation is not official – yet.

April 29/10: 1,000,000 UAV hours. The US Army announces that April 2010 saw the 1,000,000th flight hour for its UAV fleets. That’s a dramatic change from the handful of Army RQ-7 Shadow and RQ-5 Hunter systems in 2001, to roughly 1,000 UAVs by 2010 that are logging up to 25,000 of UAV flight hours per month. It has taken 13 years to put together the first 100,000 hours, followed by 8.5 years to add the next 900,000. About 88% of these flight hours are from time in combat.

The Army now operates 6 MQ-5 Hunter systems that have recently been armed, 87 RQ-7 Shadow UAS systems that are likely to become armed MQ-7 variants son, 9 MQ-1C ER/MP variants, 1,300 Raven mini-UAV systems and 16 RQ-18 gMAV systems. Each system includes several UAVs, plus launch platforms if needed and associated ground control station and communications equipment. Tim Owings, deputy program manager, Army UAS:

“Ninety-five percent of what the Army has in its inventory today did not even exist at the beginning of the war… A lot of people liken Vietnam to a helicopter war – I liken these two wars as the unmanned systems wars because these are the wars where these systems hit the central axis of the way we fight and became part and parcel to the way the Army prosecutes wars… It has been absolutely amazing, no matter how many we have built there has always been a need for more.”??

A Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) of 4 unarmed MQ-1C Block 0s were deployed to Iraq in 2009 – and another ERMP QRC is slated for Afghanistan later in 2010, armed with Hellfire missiles. The idea of the QRC is to field technologies in service of the ongoing war effort as they are available while simultaneously developing a system as a program of record.

April 22/10: +4. A $17 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to finalize a contract for ER/MP production readiness test assets. Work is to be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0151). In response to a query, General Atomics tells DID that the contract includes:

“…4 Sky Warrior ER/MP aircraft, 2 ER/MP One System GCS, TCDL/GDT, SGDT, TALS, etc.). The [equipment is] to be used for the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) phase that follows SDD.”

The other $23.4 million part of this contract, plus the May 6/10 contract, leaves the final price at $55.6 million for systems and support.

MQ-1C Sky Warrior
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March 30/10: GAO report. The US GAO audit office delivers its 8th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. With respect to the ER/MP:

“…a Secretary of Defense memorandum to field the capability as soon as possible… affected the program in several ways. According to program officials, it extended system development and demonstration by about 2 years and delayed the award of the low-rate initial production contract by over 1 year. In accordance with the Secretary’s direction, the Army fielded one “Quick Reaction Capability” system in 2009 and plans to field another in 2010. These systems lack the full capabilities planned.”

“…All four critical technologies are now mature and have been demonstrated on the final version of the unmanned air system… The ER/MP is expected to enter low-rate initial production in early 2010 with all its manufacturing processes demonstrated in a production representative environment… the program was approved in February 2010 for low-rate initial production, and they now anticipate changes in cost, quantity, and schedule. However, official, detailed information was not available in time for inclusion in this report… the Air Force has determined it will no longer acquire the MQ-1C Predator. The Army now anticipates a DOD acquisition memorandum closing the [DoD’s earlier] direction to combine the programs.”

Feb 19/10: General Atomics Aeronautical System in Poway, CA receives a $36.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, covering in-theater support for ERMP Alpha and Block 0 UAVs for the Iraqi and Afghan theaters of war. The contract will run until Nov 15/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-10-C-0044).

Feb 18/10: Tests, and Milestone C. The US Army announces that the ER/MP has successfully completed a series of tests with the HELLFIRE II UAS missile variant, whose 360-degree targeting ability, allowing UAVs that lack a helicopter’s instant maneuverability to put missiles on target faster. Testing began on Nov 22/09, and took place at Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, CA, following cooperation from General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems, Inc.’s Software Integration Laboratory, the company’s El Mirage Flight Test Facility in El Mirage, CA, and Edwards Air Force Base, CA..

The tests began with dry runs and an inert test missile, followed by a successful “cold” pass using a live missile to verify lock-on, followed by “hot pass” firing. November and December involved testing in various conditions, from varying altitudes, against stationary or moving targets. Tests recorded 9 successful shots, which helped pave the way for the UAV’s February 2010 Milestone C approval.

Feb 13/10: The US military issues a FedBizOpps notice as it conducts market research seeking sources to provide in-theatre logistical support, to include field service representatives and maintainers to support sustainment of the AN/DAS-2 payload and the AN/AAS-53 sensor and target designation turrets. The usual winner in these cases is the contractor, especially when, as in this case, “The government does not own the technical data package for these payloads.”

The AN/DAS-2 equipped initial SkyWarriors. The day/night sensing and targeting turret contains a continuous zoom day camera, a thermal imager, a visible imager, a laser designator, and an eye-safe laser rangefinder, all packaged within a stabilized gimbal. The AN/AAS-53 “is planned to replace the AN/DAS-2 beginning in fourth quarter 2009.” FBO solicitation.

Feb 11/10: STARLite, express. Northrop Grumman announces the recent delivery of the first 2 production AN/ZPY-1 STARLite radars for the US Army’s ER/MP, under a compressed 18-month schedule. The STARLite radar is a 65 pound synthetic aperture radar (SAR) with ground moving target indicator (GMTI) capabilities. In SAR mode, the radar provides images along the aircraft’s flight path or along a path independent of the flight path. It can also provide a high-resolution image of a specific area on the ground. In the GMTI mode, the radar provides moving target locations overlaid on a digital map. It can see through battlefield obscurants at all times of day, and in all weather. It also has software that connects with the Army One Common Ground Station.

Northrop Grumman is working under a $78.5 million contract with the Army’s Robotics and Unmanned Sensors Product Office at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD, to provide a total of 33 STARLite radar systems by April 2011.

Feb 2/10: Milestone C. The Army’s ER/MP passes its Milestone C review, following success during the UAV’s Operational Assessment test phase, and a positive verdict regarding production readiness. The decision allows Low Rate Initial Production to begin. Tim Owings, the US Army Deputy Project Manager for Army UAS, states that Milestone C authorizes 2 complete systems of 24 total UAVs plus ground control and related equipment, plus 8 UAVs for training and war-loss replacement. US Army.


Feb 1/10: The Pentagon releases its FY 2011 budget requests. For the ER/MP program, Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation would jump 45% to $123.2 million. Purchases would jump about 5% to $506.3 million for 29 UAVs, including 3 UAVs under OCO/war funding purchases.

Dec 11/09: Arming begins. Aviation Week reports that the Army is beginning to arm its MQ-1Cs as its pushes toward a “Milestone C” production decision. Tests at China Lake, CA began with 2 Hellfire shots in late November, and will continue until Dec 18/09.

“The soon to be re-designated Gray Eagle UAV, currently called the extended range/multi-purpose (ERMP) unmanned aircraft system by the Army, is being rushed into service with newly-formed quick reaction capability (QRC) units in Iraq and Afghanistan… the initial QRC-1 unit is now deployed in Iraq with four unarmed aircraft… The current weapons tests… form part of preparations to arm QRC-2 aircraft which will be deployed to Afghanistan in July [2010].”

Army UAS project manager Col. Gregory Gonzalez confirmed to Aviation Week that QRC-2 will have the first real weaponized MQ-1C system.

Oct 27/09: The DEW Line highlights a Raytheon Program Manager job ad that discusses possible improvements to the MQ-1C fleet:

“[Raytheon] has proposed a significant upgrade program to the baseline CSP configuration to include High Definition (HD) EO/IR capability and Target Location Accuracy (TLA) enhancements. This position is the program manager (PM) of the CSP TLA/HD (approx $30M) development program. The selected individual will be responsible for managing all aspects of the development program including start up, gate reviews, customer reviews, customer daily interface, supplier management, build of 6 integration and test systems, quality testing and flight testing. It is anticipated the CSP TLA/HD development program will result in retrofit of up to 100 baseline CSP systems and this position would manage the follow-on retrofit business. The TLA/HD upgrade program will be run in parallel with the CSP IDIQ base program and will require integration and leveraging with the on-going CSP production program.”

Oct 9/09: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in Poway, CA receives on Sept 30/09 a $16.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee engineering services contract, to support product improvements and new technology insertions into the ER/MP UAS.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 29/12. Bids were solicited online, with 1 bid received. U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command Contraction Center, Redstone Arsenal, AL, is the contacting activity (W58RGZ-09-C-0136).

FY 2008 – 2009

1st mission in-theater; GAO decision blasts GA-ASI; Insolvency & fraud scandal for engine-maker Thielert; UAV Wars. MQ-1C, Block 0
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August 2009: QRC-1 deploys. Deployment of Sky Warrior Block 1 (ER/MP program version), as the Quick Reaction Capability-1 (QRC-1). Feedback from the field will be incorporated into the QRC-2 deployment as software and hardware upgrades, and tactical changes. Source.

March 2/09: +8. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in San Diego, CA received a $35 million cost plus incentive fee, definitization of a letter contract to acquire 8 ERMP Quick Reaction Capability UAVs, and associated support equipment. This acquisition is directed by the Joint Chief of Staff to accommodate a surge of UAVs in theater.

Work is to be performed at San Diego, CA (46%); Adelanto, CA (14%); Palmdale, CA (8%); Salt Lake City, UT (18%); and Hunt Valley, MD (14%), with an estimated completion date of Jan 15/10. One bid was solicited and one bid received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Feb 5/09: No SAR. Jane’s Defence Weekly [site] reports that:

“The US Army is suspending a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) requirement for Warrior unmanned aerial systems (UASs) in order to… speed the Warrior’s deployment to theatre, where intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets are in great demand.”

USAF MQ-1A/Bs currently carry the AN/APY-8 Lynx ground-looking synthetic aperture radar, which gives them the ability to notice certain kinds of objects more prominently, and to see through some obscurants like low clouds, smoke, etc. On Feb 5/09, General Atomics tested a Lynx II dual-beam variant, with a Space Time Adaptive Processing (STAP) upgrade developed in cooperation with BAE Systems. The modifications cancel the main beam’s GMTI (ground moving target indicator) clutter, which helps the radar detect slow-moving objects more accurately and at longer ranges.

Sept 18/08: General Atomics Aeronautical System in San Diego, CA received a $37.2 million cost plus incentive fee price contract for incremental funding for systems development and demonstration (including integration of the Hellfire Missile) for the ER/MP. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, Adelanto, CA, Palmdale, CA, Salt Lake City, UT, Hunt Valley, MD, and Huntsville, AL, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/09. One hundred and twenty bids were solicited and 3 bids were received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Aug 19/08: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, CA received a $7.9 million cost plus fixed fee contract to acquire 3 ERMP Block 0 Unmanned Aircraft in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA with an estimated completion date of March 31/10. One bid was solicited and one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0208).

Aug 8/08: GA-ASI issues. A US GAO decision denies Lockheed Martin’s bid protest over the BAMS maritime surveillance UAV contract – and cites ongoing performance issues with its key partner General Atomics as the reason. The GAO summary for Bid Protest B-400135 states that:

“Agency reasonably determined, in procurement for unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft, that awardee [DID: Northrop Grumman] had significant advantage over protester [DID: Lockheed Martin] with respect to past performance where: protester’s subcontractor [DID: General Atomics], responsible for approximately 50 percent of contract effort, had recent past performance history of being unable to resolve staffing and resource issues, resulting in adverse cost and schedule performance on very relevant contracts for unmanned aircraft; record did not demonstrate that protester’s subcontractor had implemented systemic improvement that resulted in improved performance; [in contrast] operating division of the awardee also had performance problems on very relevant contracts for unmanned aircraft, many had been addressed through systemic improvement; and overall performance of awardee’s team on most evaluated contract efforts was rated better than satisfactory, while the overall performance of protester’s team on 11 of 26 contract efforts was only marginal.”

The BAMS bid in question has been based on General Atomics’ Mariner, a variant of its larger MQ-9 UAV. The GAO decision then goes on to discuss these issues in more detail, including this passage:

“In contrast, however, GA-ASI’s contract performance was a matter of great concern to the agency. Specifically, while recognizing that GA-ASI had demonstrated a willingness and ability to respond on short notice to evolving Global War on Terror (GWOT) warfighter requirements, the SSEB found that GA-ASI’s performance demonstrated: inadequate staffing, resulting in performance problems on SDD contracts for the MQ-9 Reaper (a second-generation, Predator B model) and the MQ-1C Extended Range/Multipurpose (ER/MP) UAS (a second-generation Predator model); unfavorable schedule performance on four of seven relevant GA-ASI contracts, including very relevant contracts for the MQ-9 Reaper, UAS ground control stations, MQ-1C ER/MP, I-GNAT Extended Range UAS (a version of the Predator with some differences for the Army), and MQ-1 baseline Predator; poor performance in meeting technical quality requirements on three of seven GA-ASI contracts, including contracts for the MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-1C ER/MP, and I-GNAT Extended Range UAS; and workload exceeded the firm’s capacity on five of seven GA-ASI contracts, including contracts for the MQ-9 Reaper, UAS ground control stations, MQ-1C ER/MP, I-GNAT Extended Range UAS, and MQ?1/MQ-9 maintenance support. In summary, the SSEB found the overall performance of GA-ASI on its very relevant contracts for the MQ-9 Reaper (most delivery orders), UAS ground control stations, MQ-1C ER/MP, and I-GNAT Extended Range UAS to be marginal.”

June 12/08: 1st mission. General Atomics announces that 2 MQ-1C Block 0 UAvs are now operational in Iraq. The first mission for WY-201 occurred on April 18/08 and lasted 10.5 hours. MQ-1C #WY-202 was deployed at the end of April.


May 17/08: Thielert scandal. Thielert Engines insolvency administrator Dr. Bruno M. Kubler discusses the current situation in a release, including some revelations with implications for customers like General Atomics. The statement notes that attempts are being made to keep Thielert as a an operating concern, with some flexibility shown by creditors and Frank Thielert may not be CEO, but he remains the personal holder of key permits and therefore remains involved. Meanwhile:

  • German insolvency law does not permit the assumption of warranties or guarantees free of charge for products and services supplied prior to the declaration of insolvency. Parts supplied after insolvency can be warrantied, but the firm is in no position to do so. Dr. Kubler hopes that aircraft manufacturers will step in.

  • Higher prices will be charged for engines and spares.

  • Payment in advance is now required, but assurances are made re: delivery once payment is made.

  • The firm’s #1 customer, Diamond Aircraft, has pushed for concessions and preferential deals with Thielert, using both private negotiations and public tactics. Relations are deteriorating, but the firms are still negotiating.

April 28/08: STARLite radar. Northrop Grumman announces that its STARLite has been selected by the U.S. Army Communication-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command to equip ER/MP UAVs. The initial $42 million contract will finalize development, and deliver 10 radars.

The ground looking SAR/GMTI (Sythetic Aperture Radar with Ground Moving Target Indicator) fills the niche that General Atomics’ own AN/APY-8 Lynx radar occupies on USAF MQ-1A/B Predators.

April 16/08: +8. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, CA receives $38.5 million cost-plus incentive fee contract for the acquisition of 8 ER/MP quick reaction capability unmanned aircraft vehicles and assorted support equipment.

Work will be performed primarily in San Diego, CA and is expected to be complete on May 15/09. One bid was solicited on March 17/08 (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

April 10/08: Thielert insolvency. SkyWarrior engine maker Thielert issues a release concerning their “urgent liquidity crisis.” The act is not an isolated incident, but rather a culmination of trends that include formal charges of accounting fraud and falsification of documents.

It is followed by a declaration of insolvency in May 2008.

March 31/08: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. flies the first Sky Warrior Block 1 UAV from the company’s El Mirage Flight Operations Facility in Adelanto, CA. GA-ASI release.

March 3/08: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, CA received an $18.7 million cost-plus incentive fee contract that provides incremental funding for system development and demonstration of the ER/MP UAV. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA; Adelanto, CA; Palmdale, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Hunt Valley, MD; and Huntsville, AL; and is expected to be complete by Aug 31/09. There were 120 bids solicited on Sept 1/04, and 3 bids were received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Feb 14/08: Raytheon announces 2 U.S. Army orders totaling $17.2 million for 18 common sensor payloads, as system design and development continues. The article does not give details that would confirm the Nov 7/07 entry as one of those contracts, but it is possible. The firm states that they’ve delivered 10 AN/DAS-2 sensors so far.

Nov 7/07: Raytheon Co. in McKinney, TX received a delivery order amount of $11 million as part of an $800 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for common sensors for the ARH-70A helicopter and the MQ-1C Sky Warrior ER/MP UAV. Work will be performed in McKinney, TX and is expected to be complete by Oct. 31, 2016. Bids were solicited via the World Wide Web on April 24, 2007, and 5 bids were received by the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command in Fort Monmouth, NJ (W15P7T-08-D-S602).

Raytheon’s release adds that the program calls for design and development, testing and air vehicle integration of a variant of Raytheon’s Multi-spectral Targeting System, in a project could be worth up to $1.2 billion for 875 units, if all options are exercised. See also Raytheon Feature | Common Sensor Platform product page. Raytheon’s CSP completes its Predator family trifecta; it also supplies the AN/DAS-1 system that equips MQ-1 Predator UAVs, and the AN/AAS-52 on MQ-9 Reapers. With respect to deliveries to the Sky Warrior program thus far:

“The company has delivered 10 AN/DAS-2 electro-optical/ infrared/ laser designator sensors under a system design and development contract let in May 2005. At the beginning of this year, the Army ordered seven more systems under a low rate production option.”

Oct 19/07: General Atomics Aeronautical System in San Diego, CA received a $20.8 million increment as part of a $231.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for system development and demonstration for the ER/MP UAV Vehicle, including integration of the Hellfire Missile.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (43%), Adelanto, CA (14%), Palmdale, CA (8%), Salt Lake City, UT (18%), Hunt Valley, MD (14%), and Huntsville, AL (3%), and is expected to be complete by Aug 31/09. There were 120 bids solicited on Sept. 1, 2004, and 3 bids were received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Oct 1-17/07: UAV Wars. DID talks to the US Army about the SkyWarrior program. Going forward, the USAF will manage the program according to jointly agreed requirements, but each service will maintain its own budget for the UAVs it wants.

A common version will be selected and approved by late 2008, but no decision has been reached re: which version will predominate: the MQ-1B Block X/MQ-1C with 4 missile pylons and a heavy fuel engine that can burn diesel, or the existing MQ-1 that burns aviation fuel and has 2 missile pylons.

Oct 1/07: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, CA received a $27.5 million modification to a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for contractor logistics support for the Sky Warrior Block 0 Unmanned Aircraft System.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (80%); Hunt Valley, MD (10%); and Salt Lake City, UT (10%); and is expected to be complete by Sept. 27, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on Sept. 14, 2007 (DAAH01-03-C-0124).

FY 2005 – 2007

UAV Wars between US Army & USAF; Army Future Combat System changes improve ER/MP’s opportunity; 1st ER/MP flight; ER/MP development contract issued. MQ-1C Sky Warrior
(click to view full)

Sept 28/07: UAV Wars. In its Daily Report for this date, the Air Force Association’s Air Force Magazine Online discusses the UAV executive agency issue:

“Defending the recent Pentagon decision not to give the Air Force executive agency over medium- to high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles, Army Secretary Pete Geren told defense reporters Thursday that the Army’s modernization goals don’t fit with an executive agent approach. “The need for control with UAVs fits close to the individual soldier,” Geren said. Part of the Army’s Future Combat Systems program is to empower soldiers and give them greater control over assets such as UAVs. He noted that Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley have met on the issue recently to work out disagreements. “Some of the disagreements have arisen because these issues have not been tackled at a high enough level,” Geren said. While sympathetic to the Air Force’s perspective, he noted that an executive agent approach that’s advocated by some would make sense if we were fighting a conventional war. “It’s a different debate when you’re talking about the kind of fight we are in today,” Geren declared.”

See also’s article re: the decision fallout.

Sept 13/07: UAV Wars. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England rejects Air Force efforts to become the executive agent for all medium- and high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles, over objections from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. In his memo, England directed the Pentagon’s acquisition office to create a task force on UAV issues to “enhance operations, enable interdependencies, and streamline acquisition” of the drones. He also directed Pentagon officials to take other steps to foster cross-service collaboration on the UAV programs.

The Predator and SkyWarrior programs, however, have been merged. The exact meaning of that move remains to be seen – either to standardize the Predator on a similar SkyWarrior/MQ-1C version, or eliminate the Warrior variant and use existing MQ-1As. GovExec | The Hill.

Aug 22/07: A $5.15 million increment as part of a $215.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for system development and demonstration for the ER/MP UAV. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (43%), Adelanto, CA (14%), Palmdale, CA (8%), Salt Lake City, UT (18%), Hunt Valley, MD (14%), and Huntsville, AL (3%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2009. There were 120 bids solicited on Sept. 1, 2004, and 3 bids were received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

According to DID’s calculations based on DefenseLINK public announcements, about $167 million of the $215.4 million ER/MP program’s contracts have been issued as of this increment.

Aug 6/07: +2 YMQ-1C. General Atomics in San Diego, CA received a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for $7.3 million to provide 2 Pre-Production YMQ-1C Block X aircraft. General Atomics has confirmed to DID that these are USAF versions of the Army Sky Warrior. See the May 7/07 entry and Appendix A for details; this award should be seen in the context of the USAF’s effort to take over UAV authority.

At this time, total funds have been obligated. Solicitations began in April 2006, negotiations were completed in July 2007, and work will be complete in January 2009 (FA8620-05-G-3028-0018).

July 5/07: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, CA received a $14.7 million increment as part of a $215.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for system development and demonstration for the ER/MP Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (43%), Adelanto, CA (14%), Palmdale, CA (8%), Salt Lake City, UT (18%), Hunt Valley, MD (14%), and Huntsville, AL (3%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2009. There were 120 bids solicited on Sept. 1, 2004, and 3 bids were received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

June 27/07: UAV Wars. Air Force Times report: With the question of whether there should be an executive agency in charge of medium- and high-altitude UAVs still hanging in the air, U.S. deputy defense secretary Gordon England wrote in a letter earlier in June to Army and Air Force leaders asking the services to collaborate on procuring and operating the Predator and Warrior UAVs. Army and Air Force officials were asked to submit briefings to England by the end of June 2007.

June 6/07: The first ER/MP Sky Warrior aircraft flew successfully from General Atomics’ El Mirage Flight Operations Facility in Adelanto, CA. The company-owned Block 0 aircraft completed all stated objectives for its maiden flight. General Atomics release.


May 17/07: UAV Wars. The Congressional Government Accountability Office releases report #GAO-07-578, “Greater Synergies Possible for DOD’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Systems,” which explicitly discusses the possible merger of Warrior & Predator programs. It mentions that “The Air Force and the Army are currently working to identify program synergies in a three-phased approach:

  • First, the Air Force will acquire and test two of the more modern Warrior airframes.

  • Second, the two services will compare their requirements for ground control stations and automated takeoff and landing.

  • Finally, the Army and Air Force plan to compare concepts of operation and training requirements for additional synergies.”

May 10/07: The JROC directs the USAF to flesh out its executive agency plan. No firm deadline is set, and no firm decision is taken.

May 7/07: “Predator Block X”. General Atomics in San Diego, CA received a $10.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract from the USAF’s Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH. This contract action will provide a series of required tasks to design, fabricate, integrate, and test the Predator MQ-1B Block X aircraft which will utilize a Heavy Full Engine (HFE), will support a 3,200 lbs gross take-off weight, and will carry 4 Hellfire missiles (2 on each wing). The Predator MQ-1B Block X shall leverage off technology from the existing Predator B (MQ-9) program, the Army’s ER/MP program, and on-going GA-ASI internal research and development efforts. At this time, total funds have been obligated. Solicitations began June 2006 and negotiations were complete April 2007 (FA8620-05-G-3028-0016).

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the ability to operate the engine on “heavy” fuels like diesel, and to carry 4 Hellfire missiles instead of 2, constitute the two biggest differences between the USAF’s MQ-1 Predator and the Army’s Warrior UAV. This award should be seen in the context of the USAF’s effort to take over UAV authority, vid. Appendix A.

May 7/07: UAV Wars. Officials with the DoD’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) meet with Army and Air Force officials to discuss proposals to put all such UAVs under a single executive agency. See Appendix A for more background.

April 6/07: General Atomics Aeronautical System in San Diego, CA received a $5.3 million modification to a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for ERMP Block 0 UAVs. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (65%), Adelanto, CA (5%), Palmdale, CA (5%), and Salt Lake City, UT (25%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on June 21, 2006 (W58RGZ-06-C-0208).

March 5/07: UAV Wars. US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley’s circulates a memo, proposing to name his service as the Pentagon executive agent for UAVs. See Appendix A for more background.

Feb 14/07: 4 more. General Atomics Aeronautical System in San Diego, CA received an $11.7 million modification to a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for acquisition of 4 ERMP Block 0 UAVs, associated support equipment, and initial spares. This appears to be the initial installment on the test aircraft.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (65%), Adelanto, CA (5%), Palmdale, CA (5%), and Salt Lake City, UT (25%), and is expected to be complete by Dec. 18, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on June 21, 2006 (W58RGZ-06-C-0208).

Jan 9/07: FCS changes. The US Army restructures its $160+ billion Future Combat Systems program, and “delays”/ eliminates its Class II and Class III UAVs. The Warrior ERMP is expected to be one of the existing systems filling the Class III brigade-level gap.

Dec 22/06: General Atomics Aeronautical System, San Diego, CA was received a $63.1 million increment as part of “a $215.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for System Development and Demonstration for the Extended Range / Multi-Purpose Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.”

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (43%), Adelanto, CA (14%), Palmdale, CA (8%), Salt Lake City, UT (18%), Hunt Valley, MD (14%), and Huntsville, AL (3%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2009. There were 120 bids solicited on Sept. 1, 2004, and 3 bids were received by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

March 13/06: DID – Warrior UAV Program Underway. $67 million increment received for the Warrior program, as part of a “$214.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for System Development and Demonstration for the Extended Range / Multi-Purpose Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Oct 6/05: DID – AAI Takes Another UAV Ground Control Project. A $30 million subcontract for the Warrior UAV’s ground control.

Aug 8/05: Winner! General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in San Diego, CA has won a $214.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for research, development, test and evaluation of the Extended Range Multi Purpose Unmanned Aerial Vehicle system (ERMP UAV).

One hundred twenty bids were solicited on Sept 1/04, and 3 bids were received. Work will be performed at facilities in 6 locations: San Diego, Adelanto and Palmdale, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Hunt Valley, MD; and Huntsville, AL, and is estimated to be complete by Aug. 31, 2009. The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL issued the contract (W58RGZ-05-C-0069). The Army’s public affairs office can be reached at (256) 955-9174.


Appendix A: US Army et. al. vs. USAF Over UAVs US Army Air Corps

Faced with an aerial tanker fleet that’s 50+ years old, front line fighters under flight restrictions due to age and fatigue, and heavy strain on transport aircraft resources, the USAF has been making strenuous efforts to take over the UAV domain. At the moment, UAVs are bought by individual services: Army, Navy, USAF, Marines. The Army in particular has been using UAVs for reconnaissance and persistent fire support, as in-house assets that involve less organizational friction to deploy, and can be prioritized for purchase according to the needs of soldiers on the ground.

The USAF had asked for authority over all American UAVs before, but this was refused. The Pentagon’s JROC(Joint Requirements Oversight Committee) determined that an executive agent was not necessary. Instead, they created the Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center of Excellence at Creech Air Force Base, NV to share operational tips; and the Joint Unmanned Aerial Systems Materiel Review Board in order to work out best practices for materiel. There is also a US Army UAV Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, AL.

The end of the argument? No, because of the organizational and budgetary threat that non-USAF UAVs represent.

Viper Strike
(click to view larger)

One measure of the potential threat can be inferred from usage figures. As of September 2007, MQ-1 Predator UAVs had reached 300,000 flight hours since inception around 2001, of which 80% were combat flight. Fully 1/3 of those flight hours were accumulated in the previous 12 months, and total fleet flying hours had risen to 10,000 hours/month. On Nov 9/07, Jane’s International Defense Review reported that by the end of the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2007, US Army UAVs had flown a total of 295,181 hours in Iraq, nearly 18% of the total hours flown by the army aviation fleet.

Well below a Predator’s size threshold, US Army RQ-7 Shadow battalion-level UAVs are racking up 8,000 flight hours per month in Iraq (almost equal to the Predators’ recent totals), accompanied by US Army RQ-5 Hunter aircraft that sit somewhere between a Predator and Shadow in size and are accumulating their own flight time. Smaller UAVs like the popular RQ-11 Raven, meanwhile, are racking up their own significant totals, with shorter flight times offset by much larger numbers in the field to produce 300,000 flight hours in 2007 alone. The Army reached 1 million UAV flight hours for its fleet of RQ-5 Hunter, RQ-7 Shadow, RQ-11 Raven, RQ-18 gMAV, and MQ-1C ER/MP UAVs in April 2010, and is adding to that at 25,000 hours per month.

The RQ-5 Hunters have been tested with Viper Strike mini-bombs, and the Shadows may be eligible as well if the Army wishes. Shadows will certainly be eligible for NAVAIR’s 5-6 pound Spike missile project (scheduled for an autumn 2007 UAV test), and all UAVs can provide targeting for M30 GPS-guided MLRS rockets, long-range ATACMS MLRS missiles, or the 155mm Excalibur artillery shells entering service in Q3 2007. Larger UAVs like the Sky Warrior add Hellfire II missiles, the 250 lb. Small Diameter Bombs, and 250 – 500 lb. GPS-guided JDAMs or laser-guided Paveway bombs to the mix.

With these fire support assets on the airframe or on call, most close air support functions encountered in counterinsurgency missions can be covered.

Manned fighters offer their own advantages: anti-air capabilities, a payload capacity several times a UAV’s, greatly improved panoramic visibility, no need for potentially vulnerable or limited-bandwidth long-range communications in order to fly, better intimidation presence via fast flyovers, and better survivability/ fewer crashes. In counterinsurgency scenarios, however, air threats are minimal to nonexistent, fighters are usually loaded with just a couple of weapons; and except for the A-10 or dedicated COIN (COunter-INsurgency) turboprops, the planes are moving so quickly that they must rely on targeting pods with the same narrow field of view as a UAV pilot’s. That still leaves intimidation and survivability advantages, but your average jet fighter is extremely expensive to buy, has a 7,000 – 10,000 hour airframe life, costs many multiples of dollars per flight hour to operate, and offers an on-station time that is usually less than half that of a Predator class MALE UAV.

Specialty close-support aircraft like the USA’s A-10, gunships like the AC-130s, and even COIN turboprops offer combinations of affordability and/or compelling advantages that keep them competitive in counterinsurgency scenarios. Can the same be said for the USAF’s F-16s, F-15… or its future F-35 Lightning II and F-22A Raptor fighters? In their January 2007 article “UAVs With Bite,” Air Force Magazine notes that:

“The Air Force now has provisional plans to buy some 170 Predator MQ-1s by 2010 and acquire 50 to 70 MQ-9s by around 2012, for a total of 220 or more of the combat-capable drones. At present, the service plans on retiring a comparable number of F-16s over the same period.”

MQ-1 Predator:
circling to kill?
(click to view full)

This calculus is why some observers saw the UAV fight as the “Key West Agreement” fight for the 21st century, with the outcome determining the future organizational backbone and role of the USAF – and other services besides.

Hence the USAF’s persistence. The USAF’s return foray in March 2007 involved a move to take over acquisition authority for all UAVs designed to operate at “medium or high altitudes.” Battalion-level UAVs like the RQ-7 Shadow 200 might or might not escape, but even so the maneuver would neatly strip away virtually all armed UAVs, and hence the bureaucratic threat of Army UAVs evolving toward the USAF’s close air support role. Besides, with the USAF re-organizing its ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) assets into their own dedicated function, they can always come back for the rest later under a “unified ISR” claim, once a large portion of UAV acquisition and prioritization are already under their control.

The ER/MP Warrior program is obviously a front-line target in this fight, given its derivation from the MQ-1 Predator UAVs the USAF had already bought in quantity, before switching future orders to the larger MQ-9 Reaper.

Three broad-brush outcomes were possible:

# The US Army and USAF retain separate control of their UAVs, and continue to work out standards et. al. through the established joint centers of excellence; Warrior program unaffected.
# The USAF does NOT acquire executive authority over UAVs, but there is consolidation between the US Army and USAF MQ-1 variants/programs to a common version. This is the current state. The Warrior program survives only if it becomes that common version.
# The USAF acquires executive authority over “medium to high altitude” UAVs. The ER/MP Warrior UAV program is almost certainly canceled, future USMC programs are under threat, and the Navy will have to fight to maintain control of its own programs.

In the end, the answer was solution #1, with a twist. The USAF also switched its future UAV production plans from the Predator to the MQ-9 Reaper, whose high altitude performance and 3,000 pound ordnance load give it dramatically different capabilities.

There’s obviously a larger debate going on here. The Kasserine Pass disaster in World War 2, where commanders in quiet sectors refused to turn over their aircraft to units under fire, provided the impetus for today’s TacAir system, which puts airmen in charge of managing and allocating air assets in response to the needs of the ground commander. At some level, the USAF arguments hark back to that concept, and to the 1948 “Key West Accords,” which ended up turning Army Aviation into a helicopter force. There’s also a procurement angle, as noted during coverage of USAF Chief of Staff Moseley’s testimony on this issue before Congress:

“Without an executive agency, the services will likely continue their separate design and procurement efforts, and the DOD will have forfeited the considerable savings it could have realized. Additionally, DOD will have lost an opportunity to create and harness the interservice synergies that would result from building upon — rather than duplicating — each service’s strengths, General Moseley said.”

On the other hand, the US Army hasn’t always felt well served by the USAF’s procurement priorities, which many feel have tended to emphasize high-end USAF assets at the expense of some key roles (forward observation, light transport, close support) needed by troops on the ground. That fact that UAVs serve in a couple of the roles that have previously received short shrift doesn’t make the Army feel any better. They also worry that a service run by fighter jocks is likely to steer unmanned systems away from anything that might intrude on their established roles, or call high-ticket platforms into question. The last 40 years of organizational and political theory tends to support that worry.

Tim Owings, deputy project manager for the Army’s unmanned aircraft systems:

“From our perspective, consistently what has come out of theater is the need for our commanders to have direct control and ownership of the UAV application. That has played out in every theater that we have been in.”

In 2010, director of the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Timothy Muchmore brought the issue into sharp relief, when he was quoted as saying that:

“The air power provided by our sister services has dominated the third dimension, but the Army is unable to leverage that third dimension… We’ve had two combat outposts overrun by superior forces [during the past year]. Those are losses that we consider unacceptable, because we couldn’t see what was going on around the outposts.”

Anyone who has worked in a large organization can see the shape of the bureaucratic battle here. On one side, you have the staff department, preaching the benefits and savings of centralization and standards, and urging central control over the function. Some of those benefits may be real. Some of the “joint” and “team” rhetoric may also be real. But the real issue is control. On the other hand, you have the front-line business unit managers who want resources that are dedicated to their needs – and under their clear authority, in order to ensure required accountability and service levels. Some of that may be required. Still, the key is not so much the promised dedication as the control that guarantees it. Throw in a central department that has sometimes placed business unit needs lower on the priority scale than their own long term plans, add a dash of politics, and stir.

The US Navy, with a long history of running its own aviation programs, and the qualifying UCAS-D unmanned strike aircraft and BAMS maritime reconnaissance UAV programs underway, will not be watching idly. Nor will the US Marines, who also operate integrated aircraft and have UAV plans of their own.

There’s always a proper balance point in any organization, and points beyond which either central control or local control of key functions can become dysfunctional. The thing is, there’s no set recipe. It’s different in each organization, and depends on the situation, past institutional performance, and (legitimately) on the personalities involved at the time.

Where is that balance point for the US military and UAVs? Because there’s a larger issue a-wing beyond the ER/MP program – and this time, getting the answer right really is a matter of life and death.

  • = DID is aware that the US Army Air Corps no longer exists.


fn1. A communication from General Atomics to DID referred to the platform as the “MC-1C”, a designation DID subsequently used in the article. Andreas Parsch of the fine site Designation Systems asked some questions about that, and the investigation revealed that it had been a typo. DID has corrected the article accordingly. Danke schön, Andreas.

Appendix B: Who Controls the UAVs? Readings & Primers

“Predator-series aircraft have amassed over a half-million flight hours and will soon complete 50,000 total missions, with 85-percent of that time spent in combat… Predator-series aircraft are now flying over 20,000 hours a month supporting U.S. coalition forces in combat and homeland security requirements… In the past year alone, monthly flight hours have doubled. Over 300 Predator-series aircraft have been produced to date”

  • DID (Aug 29/08) – UAMS Experiment Brings Deconfliction Closer for Smaller UAVs. If efforts like UAMS succeed, the argument for single-service UAV control suffers a major blow.

  • US Army (July 3/08) – Leaders discuss new joint unmanned aerial operations. “Army and Air Force leaders met Monday to discuss developing a new joint unmanned aerial system concept of operations…”

  • NY Times (June 22/08) - At Odds With Air Force, Army Adds Its Own Aviation Unit. Project ODIN includes both manned C-12s and UAVs like SkyWarrior. “The work of the new aviation battalion was initially kept secret, but Army officials involved in its planning say it has been exceptionally active, using remotely piloted surveillance aircraft to call in Apache helicopter strikes with missiles and heavy machine gun fire that have killed more than 3,000 adversaries in the last year and led to the capture of almost 150 insurgent leaders.” See also…

  • CASR (June 22/08) – Counterinsurgency Legacy – US Army Aviation Supports its Own: US Air Force turns out to be too Tardy to be Tactically Useful. Excerpts and background the NYT article. The US Army is reportedly seeking money to raise a similar unit in Afghanistan by late 2008/early 2009.

  • (March 18/08) – Army Embarks on Ambitious UAV Program. Discusses key tactical and operational differences between the Army and USAF’s use of UAVs.

  • US Air Force Association, Air Force Magazine (October 2007) – The Big Squeeze. Describes steps the USAF is taking to improve its ISR capabilities, the challenges, and some of the platforms involved. As recapitalization of major assets is pushed back, UAV/UAS options will grow in popularity.

  • Lexington Institute (Sept 5/07) – Army Plans For Reconnaissance Drones Misuse A Vital Asset. Loren Thompson’s analysis explains the drivers at both ends of the UAV controversy without really addressing the implications of each, and without securing some underlying assumptions re: employment. Both sets of drivers and assumptions may even be true as written, and the question then becomes one of priorities:

bq. “Only 34 of the 1,200 drones U.S. forces are using in Southwest Asia can operate beyond the line of sight of ground controllers, so sometimes the wait for access to that handful of planes can be quite lengthy… Under the Army plan, if five divisions were deployed in Iraq (as is presently the case), their combined inventory of 60 Predators would be able to keep 12-15 aloft at any given time. In contrast, the approach used by the Air Force can keep nearly three times as many drones in the air because the availability of the fleet is not tied to rotation patterns and concentrating all the drones at a few sites permits maintenance efficiencies.”

Additional Readings

Thanks to DID correspondent Trent Telenko for his assistance.

Background: Gray Eagle UAVs & Related Tech

Background: Sensors and Ancillaries

Official Reports

News & Views

Categories: News