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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 25 min 47 sec ago

Bird Dogs to Africa

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 17:47
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African countries need counter-insurgency and surveillance aircraft, but they aren’t about to buy top-end gear like an AC-130. Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano turboprop trainer and light attack aircraft is about the upper end – a few African countries have purchased them, and the USA’s LAS program offers them through an intermediary. Lower-end alternatives involve widely-used and easy to maintain light planes like the Textron Cessna C-208Bs fielded by Iraq and Lebanon, AirTractor’s AT-802Us, etc. A recent Pentagon contract shows that the low-end idea is catching on.

Mauritanian A-29
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Sept 18/14: L-3 Communications Systems West in Salt Lake City, UT receives an unfinalized $31.2 million firm-fixed-price undefinitized contract to add intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to 3 Cessna 208B aircraft for the countries of Niger, Kenya and Mauritania, and provide spares and training. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 partnership capacity budgets.

C-208B ISRs can also be converted into AC-208B Combat Caravans, by adding Hellfire missiles or undertaking less-involved integration with Textron’s own gravity-dropped G-CLAW light precision weapon.

Work will be performed at Salt Lake City, UT, and Titusville, FL, with an expected completion date of Sept 30/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH manages the contract (FA8620-14-C-4020).

Categories: News

Equipping Lebanon’s… Government?

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 16:57
Lebanese armed forces

The Lebanese Army’s own web site is blunt: “The assistance received from Syria, the USA, and other friendly countries has played a basic role in bridging the gap between needs and available means.”

A number of countries are stepping up to fill those gaps, left in a military ravaged by foreign occupation, a long and losing civil war, and the presence of Hizb’Allah – a foreign-backed private army in Lebanon, with superior firepower. The battle for influence in that country is multi-polar, with countries including the USA, France, and Saudi Arabia moving to counter Syria and Iran’s proxies, and countries like Russia working with independent agendas. The USA has been supplying a wide range of equipment from ammunition to armored vehicles, and is adding tanks, mini-UAVs, and even patrol boats to that list. Belgium has worked to sell some of its own tanks and APCs, France has offered help with Lebanon’s existing French equipment; and in April 2009, Russia went so far as to offer MiG-29 fighters, for free, from its own stocks.

What capabilities would these systems bring? How are those sales going? And how is Lebanon itself changing, in the wake of both Hezbollah’s takeover and Syria’s civil war?

UAVS, Tanks, and Planes RQ-11 assembly
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The main internal threat is Hezbollah, who is currently part of a 2009 unity government that is within the orbit of Syria’s Bashar Assad, and of Iran via its Hezbollah foreign legion. Pentration of the army and its institutions is accordingly extensive, which creates hard questions about the aid’s appropriateness, and security risks surrounding systems that are turned over.

Aerovironment’s RQ-11 Raven has become extremely popular in Afghanistan, and seen extensive use in Iraq. While the hand-launched UAV is far too small to carry anything beyond cameras, and is limited to low-flying missions out to about 1-15 miles, its virtues as a readily-used, squad-portable reconnaissance system that lets troops see over the next hill, or into the next block, are well and widely appreciated.

The M60 tank is a development of the M48 Patton, and was the M1 Abrams’ predecessor in the US Army and Marines. While the M1 was developed in response to the threat of the Soviet T-72, it turned out that the M60 was the T-72′s real peer competitor, whereas the M1 proved to be a massive overmatch. Something the M1 crews appreciated during combat in Operation Desert Storm. The M60A3 was the last serving model, sporting electronic upgrades while retaining the rounded turret and 105mm gun. It still serves with a number of militaries around the world. Egypt has the largest regional M60 fleet, followed by Turkey’s “M60 Sabras” that sport significant Israeli improvements to their sighting systems and electronics, as well as a full array of explosive reactive armor.

Recent combat experience teaches that even in urban situations, when tanks enter the fray, fights usually end quickly. Tanks of the M60′s vintage, however, lack the advanced armor protection and shaped designs required to withstand hits from popular threats like RPGs and anti-tank missiles. This can be remedied to some extent by adding explosive reactive armor and other ancillary systems. In their absence, however, M60s could not be expected to last very long against even private armies like Hezbollah, which makes extensive use of anti-tank missiles. The M60A3s, and similar vintage Leopard 1A5s from Belgium, would nonetheless offer an improvement over Lebanon’s existing T-54/55 and M48A5 tanks.

Russian MiG-29
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Lebanon’s fixed-wing fighter/attack force currently consists of about 4 Hawker Hunter jets, a 1950s era subsonic design that remains an aviation classic, and an OV-10 Bronco turboprop observation and light attack plane. In contrast, the used MiG-29s offered for free by Russia are late 1980s high-performance fighters, intended as a competitor to the F-16. Early versions are mainly air interceptor aircraft, though some Soviet MiG-29As were also given nuclear strike roles. Subsequent MiG-29Cs were confined to Soviet forces, incorporating radar improvements and an enlarged spine with extra fuel and an active electronic jammer system. Neither variant is suitable for delivering precision ground attack ordnance, a capability restricted to subsequent MiG-29S upgrades and modifications.

An interesting but very logical shift occurred in early 2010, when Russia and Lebanon agreed to substitute Mi-24 “Hind” helicopter gunships for the MiG-29s. The Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s saw some air-air engagements involving Iraqi Mi-24s and Iranian AH-1J SeaCobra helicopters, but the Hind’s main use is as a ground attack platform. It fits Lebanon’s military requirements and base infrastructure far better than the MiG-29s would have, but it also introduces an interesting new capability into Lebanon’s correlation of forces.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s participation in Lebanon’s government is a triple-edged sword for the Lebanese military.

On the one hand, it makes hostilities with Lebanon’s army unlikely so long as the accord lasts. The other 2 edges, however, are sharp. One is that it gave Hezbollah free rein to re-arm and organize. Hezbollah’s agenda is set in Iran and not in Lebanon, which has set the stage for future conflicts within and beyond Lebanon. For instance, Hezbollah is currently functioning as Iran’s Condor Legion equivalent in Syria’s civil war.

The other edge is that Israeli officials have said that since Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government, acts carried out by Hezbollah would be considered to be coming from Lebanon’s government – i.e. acts of war rather than terrorism. The strong implication is that any Israeli response would encompass all of Lebanon, not just Hezbollah. So far, that has largely kept a lid on things.

Contracts and Key Events 2014

AC-208B firing
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Sept 12/14: AC-208Bs. US ambassador David Hale says the USA will send “an armed Cessna” , and also arm a Cessna it had previously provided to the Lebanese Army. they’re referring to the AC-208B conversion, which allows the Caravan to independently carry, target, and fire 2 AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missiles. It’s hardly a regional power projection tool, but it’s a fine platform for surveillance and strikes on isolated guerrilla groups.

“It is our intention to support those requests for additional aircraft, using funds generously made available to Lebanon by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…” [q.v. Dec 30/13]

That won’t use much of their $3 billion offer, and it’s a good investment for all concerned. Beyond the usual hijinks in Lebanon, the Sunni ISIS group has reached beyond Syria and Iraq into Lebanon, taking a number of Lebanese soldiers captive and beheading them. Iraq is already using AC-208Bs successfully against ISIS, and the USA is stepping up efforts to contain the group via 3rd parties since it has abandoned its own combat presence in Iraq. The Saudis also see ISIS as a threat, one that’s approaching the level offered by Iran and its legions. Sources: Lebanon Daily Star, “US arming Lebanon military to combat ISIS: Hale” | Kuwait News Agency, “US to deliver armed light Cessna aircraft to Lebanon to combat ISIL”.

2012 – 2013

8 Huey IIs; Man-portable radios

Dec 30/13: Saudi Arabia. Lebanon couldn’t help but be drawn into the Sunni-Shia proxy wars that are engulfing the Arab world. Saudi Arabia pledges $3 billion in military aid to Lebanon’s government, in a move that’s clearly designed to strengthen that government at the expense of Iran’s Hezbollah. Specific equipment isn’t specified, so we’ll see how all of this works itself out.

Here’s the Saudi dilemma, in a nutshell: what to provide? If the money is used to provide small arms, anti-tank missiles, and good training, it would probably make the biggest difference on the ground. The bad news? These items are small and portable. Hezbollah’s infiltration of the armed forces and power within the government means that many of the items in question won’t stay in government hands. On the other hand, if Saudi aid is used to provide higher-end items like armed helicopters, armored vehicles, etc., then the bad news is that $3 billion doesn’t actually deliver as much as one imagines. Especially in a military whose support systems and infrastructure are questionable. That high-end approach is also vulnerable to counter-strokes: all Hezbollah would need to do, in order to incapacitate new fleets, would be to threaten the maintenance workers in order to ensure that they do a poor job. Sources: CS Monitor, “Saudi Arabia promises record $3 billion in military aid to Lebanon”.

July 31/13: Radios. Advanced Technology Systems Co. in McLean, VA receives a $26.7 million multi-year, firm-fixed-price, foreign military sales from Lebanon for TETRA trunked radio communication systems. TETRA is an abbreviation of TErrestrial Trunked RAdio. It has been defined and approved by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and is a standard for radio communication in the same way that GSM is a mobile telephony standard. It’s often used to create networks for first responders and internal security forces, but a number of militaries around the world also use them.

Work will be performed in Lebanon. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W15P7T-13-C-D082).

May 26/13: Syria/Lebanon War. In the New Yorker, war correspondent Dexter Filkins reports:

“It’s official: the war in Syria has spread to Lebanon. In an extraordinary speech Saturday, Hassan Nasrallah, the bearded and bespectacled leader of the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, promised an all-out effort to keep the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria. “It’s our battle, and we are up to it,” Nasrallah said in a televised address. The war, he said, had entered “a completely new phase.”

This is a terrifying development; the beginning of a regional war. Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed armed group, has been fighting inside Syria for months, something I detailed in an article on the group in February. But Hezbollah was intervening in Syria covertly…. As more and more Hezbollah fighters died inside Syria, that lie could no longer be sustained. The truth is out.

On Saturday, by declaring his undying loyalty to the Assad regime, Nasrallah has signalled an escalation in Hezbollah’s involvement….”

Nov 1/12: Hueys. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX receives a $33.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for single-engine UH-1H+ Huey II helicopters and related support services. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-11-G-0011).

U.S. Army Security Assistance Command has confirmed to us that this order will be transferred to the “government” of Lebanon. The July 25/12 DSCA request was for 6, and this appears to cover that number.

July 25/12: Helicopter request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] a potential sale to Lebanon of 6 Huey II helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training, and logistical support, at an estimated cost of $63 million. Hezbollah is still in charge, albeit somewhat weakened by the civil war in Syria, which interferes with supply lines to their masters in Iran. The US DSCA claims that:

“This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by providing Lebanon with necessary mobility capabilities to maintain internal security, enforce United Nation’s Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and counter terrorist threats… The Huey II will augment Lebanon’s aging fleet of UH-1H aircraft.”

If Congress agrees enough to avoid overtly blocking the sale within 30 days, Lebanon can begin negotiations with Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, TX. Fortunately for Bell, “Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Lebanon.”

Jan 12/12: AC-208Bs. Alliant Techsystems, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $16.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for one used Caravan Cessna 208B aircraft, continued contractor logistics support, and spares with associated repair and return effort. This supports a Foreign Military Sales Program and the Lebanon Air Force Caravan Program.

The C-208B is a single-propeller plane that’s often used for flight training and light cargo duties. The Iraqi Air Force have turned them into low-cost AC-208B “Combat Caravan” surveillance and close support planes by adding a surveillance/targeting turret, accompanying internal displays, and M299 racks for Hellfire missiles on the wings. official reports indicate that the planes headed to Lebanon are Combat Caravans.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA, and is expected to be complete by Nov 16/16. The ASC/WINK/FMS at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH acts as Lebanon’s agent in this matter (FA8620-12-C-4005). See also Flight International.


AMP-145 CPB concept
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June 13/11: Takeover. The new Lebanese government names its cabinet, which Hezbollah and its supporters dominate. BBC.

Jan 19/11: Takeover. Hezbollah ousts Prime Minister Hariri and engineers a de facto coup in Lebanon. Lebanon Daily Star | Now Lebanon | Reuters | Ya Libnan.

Jan 14/11: Patrol Boats. Maritime Security Strategies, LLC in Tampa, FL received a $29 million firm-fixed price contract to construct a 42-meter coastal security craft and provide associated equipment, material, training and technical services to the Government of Lebanon. This will be the first sale of the firm’s AMP-145 multi-mission platform design, though their regional orders also include 2 60-meter Offshore Supply/Command Vessels under construction for the Iraqi Navy.

MSS’ managing partner, USN Rear Admiral (ret.) Robert Cox touts “new designs and features that deliver significant cost and performance improvements over the current industry offerings,” including fast reconfiguration. The hulls are an epoxy-resin composite, with an aluminum deck and superstructure. American shipbuilders have had mixed results with composite hulls, but they are coming into wider international use due to their weight advantages, which translates directly into greater speed, increased maneuverability and lower fuel consumption.

The Lebanese Navy’s AMP-145 incorporates ITAR compliant controls and automation, including embedded sensors in key components, and a non-militarized, passive Integrated Bridge System (IBS) from Raytheon Anschutz GmbH that manages the ship’s automation system, as well as feeds from CCTV and a FLIR thermal imaging cameras. Surface search X and S-band ARPA radars, a full package of navigation sensors, data management software, GMDSS A3, and all other electronics and safety equipment completes the IBS and Command and Surveillance package. The C2/Operations Center is fitted with a customized Situational Awareness Display which shares all charts, targets and craft movements with the Integrated Bridge System. Depictions of the craft show a 30mm cannon and mounts for 7.62mm – 12.7mm machine guns, but armament details were not provided.

Work will be performed in Tampa, FL, and is expected to be complete by January 2012, though the company has set a delivery date of end 2011. MSS will work with its primary design agent and shipbuilding partner, RiverHawk Fast Sea Frames, LLC, of Tampa, FL to design, produce and outfit the ship. The MSS/RiverHawk team is currently completing epoxy-resin composite hull construction and rigging in of the major engineering systems at VectorWorks Marine facilities in Titusville, FL. The aluminum decks and superstructure are nearing completion in RiverHawk’s Tampa yard, where they will be mated to the hull, and several South Florida sub-contractors will also play significant roles. The contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC, who manages the contract on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale client (N00024-11-C-2241).

  • Length: 43.5 meters
  • Breadth overall: 8.5 meters
  • Draft: ~ 2 meters
  • Displacement: ~ 265 metric tons
  • Crew Complement: 6 – 22
  • Speed: > 25 knots
  • Range @ 11 Knots: > 2600 nm
  • Effective Limits @ 12 Knots: Sea State 4
  • Survivability: Sea State 5
  • Endurance: 5-7 days

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has taken its marching orders and withdrawn from the government in Lebanon, setting up a minor political crisis as the country waits for a UN report that’s likely to indict Hezbollah members, as well as its foreign backers in Syria and beyond, for the Hariri assassination. See also: Maritime Security Strategies | Al-Defaiya | Al-Jazeera | Reuters | Voice of America | Israel’s Ynet News.


French SA342
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Dec 17/10: HOT missiles. Agence France Presse reports that France will give Lebanon 100 MBDA HOT anti-tank missiles to equip Lebanon’s SA342M Gazelle helicopters. A Lebanese official told AFP that: “The missiles will be delivered before the end of February and are being given with no conditions attached.”

The move has sparked concern among some American political figures. Lebanese received 12 Gazelle helicopters in mid-2007, and in January 2010, it signed an agreement to refurbish them (vid. Jan 22/10 entry).

Nov 13/10: Unblocked. The congressional hold on $100 million in military aid to Lebanon clears, as Rep. Howard Berman [D-CA] and Nita Lowey [D-NY] drop their opposition after a classified briefing and presenting results of a “thorough inter-agency review” by the Obama administration. Berman: “As a result, I am convinced that implementation of the spending plan will now have greater focus, and I am reassured as to the nature and purposes of the proposed package.” Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Resident Scholar Aram Nerguizian, whose report on U.S. military aid to Lebanon is coming out later in November 2010, has said that American aid can help the armed forces keep a lid on Lebanon, and “keeps Lebanon from escalating beyond the range of the real.” Israel, on the other hand, seemed less reassured:

“Iran’s domination of Lebanon through its proxy Hezbollah has destroyed any chance for peace, has turned Lebanon into an Iranian satellite and made Lebanon a hub for regional terror and instability”

Lifting the hold Congressional may release funds while the present “lame duck” session is still alive, until and unless future action affirmatively blocks it. Berman chairs the House Foreign Affairs committee, and Lowey heads the House Appropriations committee’s foreign operations subcommittee. They will be reduced to ranking minority members in the new Congress, however, and Berman’s likely successor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL], opposes further aid to Lebanon as well as to the Palestinian Authority. Lebanese Daily Star | Agence France Presse | Israel’s Arutz Sheva | Bloomberg | Foreign Policy Magazine | Jerusalem Post | Fox News | UAE’s The National | Reuters | Voice of America.

Aug 8/10: Blocked. The US Congress is blocking $100 million in aid to the Lebanese military, amidst concerns it is cooperating with Hezbollah. The Congressional holds come in the wake of an Aug 3 shooting of 2 Israeli officers while brush was being cleared along the northern border. One Israeli officer was killed and another seriously wounded in the firefight, which also killed at least 2 Lebanese soldiers and a journalist. There are reports that the Lebanese troops in question were using American-supplied weapons. Associated Press | Jerusalem Post | al-Manar TV (Hezbollah affiliate) | Lebanon Daily Star | Australia’s The Age/ Reuters re: clash.

June 3/10: The USA delivers $427,000 worth of weapons, body armor and bomb investigation equipment to Lebanese security officials, via a $1 million anti-terrorism assistance program for Lebanon from the U.S. State Department. UPI.

May 24/10: Rising US concern. Foreign Policy magazine’s blog The Cable documents rising concern within the Pentagon and Congress over continued military aid to Lebanon, in the wake of what they see as a blurring of the lines between the government and Hezbollah.

MI-24 Hind
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Feb 26/10: Make Hinds, not Fulcrums. NaharNet reports that Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has returned from a visit to Russia, and…

“Russian authorities agreed to substitute the 10 MiG-29 fighter jets previously mulled military aid with Mi-24 advanced military helicopters “based on the request of the Lebanese side that conducted technical and functional studies on the Russian fund for the Lebanese Air Force.”

The Mi-24 “Hind” helicopter gunship became famous during Russia’s war in Afghanistan, and it remains popular with militaries around the world. The most modern version is the Mi-35. Unlike most attack helicopters, it has secondary troop transport capabilities.

Jan 22/10: Lebanon has reportedly signed an agreement with the French company Euro Tech to revamp 13 Gazelle helicopters transferred in 2007, equipping the 10 Puma helicopters granted by the UAE, and training Lebanese helicopter pilots.

The Puma helicopters are expected to start arriving within the first half of 2010 in 2 batches of 4 and then 6 machines. Reports suggest, however, that France is hesitant to supply Lebanon with missiles for the Gazelle helicopters, for fear they would end up in Hezbollah’s hands. The Lebanese Air Force reportedly used up all of its missiles in the 2007 Nahr el-Bared battle against Fatah al-Islam terrorists. Nahar Net.


Nov 16/09: Media report that Russian military experts will be visiting Lebanon in the next few days and staying until Nov 26/09. They will be assessing the conditions at Lebanese airports and bases, assessing their ability to support MiG-29s and other equipment. A formal contract for the 10 MiG-29s is expected very shortly after their report. China’s Xinhua reports that the MiG deal is causing some trepidation in certain parts of Lebanon:

“Since then, the deal has sparked an internal debate about the necessity of obtaining these aircraft in a small country like Lebanon, which has a national army and an armed militia Hezbollah, which owns thousands of short and mid-range rockets.”

See also: Lebanese Daily Star | Naharnet Newsdesk | Il-Oubnan | China’s Xinhua.

April 9/09: Naharnet Newsdesk reports confirmation of American arms shipments to Lebanon by US State Department officials David Hale and Colin Kahl:

“Hale said the shipment includes 41 Howitzer artillery and 12 Zodiac boats. He said the Lebanese military will also be receiving in May 12 pilotless Raven aircrafts that would help the army monitor any attempt to fire rockets from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Hale said the delivery also includes one Cessna Caravan aircraft, which is expected to arrive end of April to provide air support for ground forces. A set of 20 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and the first batch of 10 M-60 tanks will also be arriving in May, according to Hale.”

April 8/09: The Pentagon’s AFPS reports on progress:

“Toward helping it fulfill that role, the United States has provided more than $410 million in military assistance to Lebanon since 2006. That support has included Humvees, trucks, M-198 howitzer artillery pieces, M-4 and M-16 rifles, body armor vests, MK-19 grenade launchers, shoulder-fired rockets, spare helicopter parts and millions of ammunition rounds.

More recently, the Defense Department has been working with the Lebanese government to expedite delivery of Cessna close-air-support aircraft with precision Hellfire missiles and [RQ-11] Raven unmanned aerial vehicle systems. The United States is also working to transfer M60 Abrams tanks to the Lebanese military from other countries in the region, Kahl said. These systems, expected to be delivered by June…”


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Dec 19/08: Defense News quotes “a senior U.S. state department official… in Beirut” saying that he U.S. plans to deliver M-60 tanks to Lebanon in spring 2009. the official stresses that the US does not see any competition with Russia or other countries, as all assistance to help the Lebanese government is welcome.

Dec 1/08: The Pentagon’s AFPS publishes “U.S. Forces Help Lebanese Military Assert Control“, which discusses American efforts to re-equip Lebanon’s army:

“The United States and Lebanon signed a military cooperation agreement in October [2008], establishing the U.S.-Lebanese Joint Military Commission to provide an official framework for the bilateral U.S.-Lebanese military relationship… “The most important [recommendation] was that the Lebanese military needed a lot of help in the military basics… They needed trucks, Humvees, parts and ammunition more than they needed high-end, expensive weaponry.” They also need training… In 2006, the United States renewed its security relationship with Lebanon, and since then has funneled more than $400 million in foreign military sales money… “Our part of that is to help build up the Lebanese armed forces so the Lebanese government can be sovereign in all its territory.”

…The United States has sent 285 Humvees to Lebanon, and another 312 will arrive by March. The United States has sent 200 trucks to the Lebanese and 41 M-198 155 mm artillery pieces. The Lebanese army also will get night-vision equipment and some tactical unmanned aerial vehicles. “Behind it is all basics – 12 million rounds of ammo, spare helicopter parts, shoulder-fired rockets,” Straub said. “We want them to play their role in controlling Lebanese territory. We also want them to deter the terrorist threat.” The United States is committed to getting Lebanon more modern tanks, and the U.S. military is working on delivering M-60A3 tanks.”

Dec 18/08: The UK’s Times reports that Russia will provide Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets, for free, under an agreement on military-technical assistance. Rosoboronexport’s Mikhail Dmitryev said that the jets would come from Russia’s existing stock, and added that Moscow was also in talks to supply Lebanon with heavy armor. The country currently operates very old T-54/55 Russian tanks.

Aug 27/08: Belgian defense minister Pierre Crem visits Lebanon to finalize an agreement to sell 43 Leopard 1A5 tanks, and 28 M113 derivative armored personnel carriers (16 AIFVs and 12 conventional), to Lebanon. RTL Info via MplL.

M113s form the backbone of Lebanese mechanized forces, thanks to significant donations from American stocks. The AIFV model adds a 25mm gun. The Leopard 1A5 is a modernized Leopard tank, roughly on par with or slightly better than the American M60A3.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

US Senate Committee Denounces Chinese Cyber Intrusions

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 16:03

  • The US Senate Armed Services Committee released a redacted report [PDF] on repeated Chinese intrusions into US military logistical systems:

“Hackers associated with the Chinese government successfully penetrated the computer systems of U.S. Transportation Command contractors at least 20 times in a single year.”

  • At an exhibition in Beijing, China is showing aerial photos of the contested Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands they say were taken with a UAV. And the Chinese are not content with challenging ownership of islands in the East China Sea, they’re also manufacturing new ones [BBC] in the South China Sea. It’s, like, “totally justifiable” [The Diplomat], showing that Chinese diplomats are serious challengers to American teenagers for the most unjustified displays of outraged entitlement.


  • Anatoly Isaykin, General Director of Russia’s state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport, said [RIA Novosti] the organization may become a shareholder in foreign companies for joint production in countries such as South Africa.

  • Russian Prime Minister Medvedev gave government backing [Moscow Times] to loans meant to finance the fulfillment of government orders by defense contractors such as MiG. We wrote that sentence and can’t make sense of it either.

Islamic State Franchising

  • The Australian government launched massive anti-terrorist raids involving 800 police personnel in Sydney and Brisbane. They arrested 15 people and charged one on allegations that he’s connected to ISIL and planned to behead a random member of the public. The Australian | ASPI video.

  • The Islamic State demonstrated its talent for video editing with the release of an ominous trailer claiming that “flames of war” are “coming soon”, implying that the US had better not deploy troops in Iraq. ISIL should be careful what they wish for, as they might well get it. As if in anticipation, a video posted by MBDA 2 days earlier shows actual combat firings of Brimstone missiles. Their dual MMW/laser seeker, small size, fast jet capability, and multiple carriage per hardpoint make it an attractive option against the kinds of targets ISIL presents. Its main competition? Laser-guided 70mm and 127mm rockets.

Unbearable Lightness of Flying

  • Mike Hixenbaugh, a reporter at the Virginian-Pilot, took a ride with Lt. Ryan Chamberlain of the Blue Angels. Here come the Gs: breathe deeply (don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t faint.) What, no Gatorade onboard? This video should put a smile on your face, while Mike will have to make amends with his lovely wife.

State of the World

  • The London-based IISS think tank released its 2014 strategic survey of world affairs. Exec summary: it’s a messy world, in case you hadn’t been paying attention. They discuss the report in the video below:

Categories: News

The Right to Bear Arms: Gunship Kits for America’s C-130s

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 15:40
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Special Operations Command’s AC-130H/U gunships can lay down withering hails of accurate fire, up to and including 105mm howitzer shells, in order to support ground troops.

The Marines also wanted heavy aircraft that could support their Leathernecks on the ground. The bad news was that the Corps could field about 45 KC-130J aerial tankers for the price of a 12-plane AC-130J squadron. Lighter options like the AC-27J “Stinger II” would probably tally similar costs, once R&D dollars were distributed among such a small fleet. Could the Marines change tack, and offer a modular weapon package that would let them arm their existing tankers as needed? Could armed KC-130Js offer limited fire support, while loitering over the battlefield and using their unique speed envelope to refuel helicopters and fast jets alike? The Harvest Hercules Airborne Weapons Kit (HAWK) program aims to do just that. It gives the USMC a far less capable convertible gunship option in Afghanistan, but the cost is about 2 orders of magnitude below a dedicated gunship fleet. Unsurprisingly, the next service to show interest in this concept was SOCOM itself.

Gunships R Us: Equipping The Hercs The US Marines: KC-130J Harvest HAWK AC-130H Specter
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The Marines’ initial Harvest HAWK plan is to field 3 kits, but the eventual plan is to have 3 roll-on/ roll-off kits per squadron. That would mean about 9 kits by 2011, and 12 kits when the last KC-130T aerial refueling squadron converts to KC-130Js after 2012. All USMC KC-130Js are expected to receive the wiring needed to carry the kits, which will be improved and refined over time.

Harvest HAWK Capability I involves a roll-on/roll-off set of surveillance displays and fire control electronics, plus “Blue Force Tracker” to keep tabs on friendly troops, and ROVER to communicate with them. Outside the cabin, a modular surveillance and targeting unit takes up the rear portion of the inboard left external fuel tank, or may simply be mounted below that tank as a surveillance turret. The sensor choice was said to involve 2 candidates. Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAQ-30 TSS, which is also used in the Marines’ AH-1Z attack helicopter and has been installed in some SOCOM AC-130s, won. L-3 Wescam’s popular MX-15 surveillance and targeting turret was the competitor, but competing against the Harvest Hawk’s integrator is not a promising position.

Harvest HAWK Capability II involves mounting an M299 missile rack for 4 AGM-114P Hellfires and/or up to 16 DAGR laser-guided 70mm rockets to the left wing, in place of the left-hand outboard aerial refueling pod. This leaves the left wing carrying the weapons and some fuel, while the right wing retains full aerial refueling capabilities. Capability IV (see below) was also moved up, and the 10-tube rear ramp “Gunslinger” system and precision weapons were effectively added to this increment.

After early testing for Capabilities I & II took place, initial orders and testing followed. Deployment to Afghanistan started in summer 2010.

M230 30mm
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Harvest HAWK Capability III involves a modular 30mm cannon linked to the fire control, which is expected to be rolled in and mounted in the troop door. Daniel Watters of The Gun Zone writes to say that the Marines’ choice of 30mm gun is interesting, and explains the tradeoffs:

“While the Mk 44 Bushmaster II [30x173mm] and M230 Chain Gun [30x113mm] are both nominally 30mm, their cartridges are very different…There is a major difference in size, power, and range. The Mk 44 Bushmaster II has already been adopted by the US Navy and USMC for other applications… The 30x173mm uses a heavier projectile with a larger explosive filling, and is fired at a higher velocity [which] should have a noticeable maximum range advantage. Perhaps it would be easier to fabricate a stable mount for the less powerful M230 than the Mk 44… M230 and its ammunition are also lighter and more compact.”

US Special Forces tried fitting 30mm cannon to their AC-130U “Spooky” gunships, but found that the gun’s accuracy level wasn’t suited to their missions. In response, they implemented a “retrograde” to their earlier 25mm and 40mm weapons. The Marines say that the 30mm cannon will suit their objectives. Time will tell, but either way, the lack of pinpoint-accurate, extreme-volume gunfire will be one of the principal differences between SOCOM’s AC-130s, and kit gunships like the KC-130Js or MC-130Ws.

Capability III has yet to even select a gun at this point, much less test and integrate one. According to US Navy NAVAIR: “…capability III [will begin] when funding becomes available.” ATK finalized a roll-on/off palletized kit for the GAU-23 cannon in mid-2012, which may help funding become available.

Viper Strike
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Capability IV originally involved adding additional Standoff Precision Guided Munitions (SOPGMs) to the Harvest HAWK, but that got moved ahead to Capability II. They’re dropped out of a 10-tube “Gunslinger” launcher that fits on the rear ramp, but their future involves a new pressurized “Derringer Door”. That 10-tube launcher switches in for the regular paratroop door, allowing Harvest HAWK planes to drop weapons without depressurizing the cabin, and/or asking those inside to don oxygen masks.

Efforts were already underway to incorporate and test Northrop Grumman’s (now MBDA’s) GBU-44 Viper Strike laser/GPS-guided weapons on the KC-130Js, and they were under consideration by SOCOM for its AC-130s. Raytheon’s small “Griffin” missiles were also added. The rocket-powered Griffin B can replace Hellfires on an M299 launcher, on 3 for 1 basis. For the C-130 fleet, however, the unpowered, gravity-dropped Griffin A seems to be the mainstay. Other weapons are likely, especially from US SOCOM. One weapon they have confirmed funding for is Textron’s cylindrical 64-pound C-LAW, whose airburst devastates soft ground targets over an area the size of a football field.

Specifics regarding additional weapon plans are thin at the moment, but other options could conceivably include 81mm or larger mortars, using General Dynamics’ RCFC GPS guidance kits; tiny missiles like the NAVAIR/DRS Spike; and spinoffs from the explosion of small precision-guided bombs entering the market: Lockheed Martin’s Scorpion, MBDA’s Saber, etc. Later Harvest HAWK phases will reportedly add stations for Hellfire laser-guided missiles on both wings, instead of just the port wing. The M299 launchers would be mounted on the outside of the plane’s outboard aerial refueling pods.

US AFSOC: MC-130W Combat Spear/ Stinger II MC-130W Combat Spear
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A similar effort is emerging from US Special Operations Command.

US Navy NAVAIR PMA-207 has been working with US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to share information on Harvest Hawk, and a US SOCOM program is now converting its MC-130W Combat Spear aircraft along Harvest Hawk lines. Similar kits could also be fielded for SOCOM’s forthcoming HC-130J Combat King II and MC-130J Combat Shadow IIs, and they may even spread beyond that.

MC-130W. In the near term, their MC-130Ws are newly-converted C-130H aircraft, with 12 delivered as combat replacements from 2006-2011. MC-130W base roles include infiltration/ exfiltration of special operations teams, aerial refueling including combat search-and-rescue support, and psychological operations. Key additions above the based C-130H include a strengthened tail to cope with low-level drops; improved avionics and navigation that integrates GPS, AN/APN-241 radar, and AN/AAQ-38 Infrared systems; a full suite of top-of-the-line threat detection and countermeasures gear; and a communication suite that includes satellite communications with data burst, making it hard for enemies to locate the plane by tracking its transmissions. A UARRSI dorsal receptacle lets any boom-equipped aerial tanker refuel it in the air, while the MC-130W can itself act as a refueler for hose-and-drogue equipped aircraft or helicopters, using its Mk 32B-902E refueling pods.

The other difference from previous AFSOC gunships involved precision ranged weapons. MC-130Ws will have a 4-rail wing-mount for laser-guided AGM-114P Hellfire missiles or 70mm laser-guided DAGR rockets, and a 10-tube “Gunslinger” system that can launch small precision-guided weapons.

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All 12 MC-130Ws will soon be converting to “Project Dragon Spear” aircraft, which add roll-on, roll-off kits featuring added sensors, communications systems, the Adaptive Carriage Environment (ACE), and weapons. Some sources refer to those as “AC-130W,” but the official USAF designation remains MC-130W.

Dragon Spear weapons will include a GAU-23 dual-feed 30mm gun with about 500 rounds, with the assembly bolted to the floor of the plane. It fires single shots or short bursts, instead of the “wall of lead” that’s associated with an AC-130H/U gunship, or the Vietnam-era C-47 “Puff the Magic Dragon” whose upgraded descendants still serve in Colombia and Indonesia.

The MC-130W represents an acquisition departure for SOCOM, who stood up its 1st Joint Acquisition Task Force in June 2009 to handle the initial MC-130W conversion and buy. The project had a minimum capability model in less than 90 days, and deployed a working aircraft within 18 months. The experience has gone well enough that SOCOM is reportedly considering using JATFs on other projects.

It has also led to a shift in mindset, wherein a government-owned “Precision Strike Package” will sit at the core of SOCOM’s new gunships.

AC-130J. Up to 32 new AC-130Js are now expected to serve alongside the 12 new AC-130W Dragon Spears, replacing existing AC-130H/Us. Initially, the AC-130Js will use roll on/off kits from the Dragon Spear project in an HC-130J airframe. Eventually, they’ll install their own “Precision Strike Package” that 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 read cargo door. It may eventually add a side-firing 105mm howitzer like existing AC-130H/Us, and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles like the Marines’ 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.

Contracts & Key Events

Unless otherwise indicated, these contracts are managed by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD.

FY 2014

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Sept 16/14: G-CLAW. Textron advertises that its G-CLAW area effect weapon, designed as a cooperative research and development agreement with US Special Operations Command’s Program Executive Office (q.v. Aug 27/12), has succeeded in a live-fire demonstration, striking within 4m of the target.

What’s especially interesting is that the final test dropped it from an altitude of 10,000 feet out of a Cessna 208B Caravan, using USSOCOM’s Common Launch Tube (CLT) dispenser. Militarized variants of the C-208B has now been provided to or ordered by several countries (Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Mauritania, Niger), which expands the weapons potential market and prospects of being proven in combat. Textron is also touting a hardpoint variant of this weapon on its Scorpion ISR/strike jet, Beechcraft’s AT-6, and UAVs. Sources: Textron Systems, “Textron Systems G-CLAWTM Precision Guided Weapon Achieves Successful Live-Fire Demonstration”.

May 22/14: AC-130 Upgrades. At the annual SOFIC conference, SOCOM’s systems acquisition manager for standoff precision-guided munitions, Erich Borgstede, says that they are just beginning to fir AGM-114 Hellfire missiles on the AC-130W/Js. They’ve also developed a laser-guided small diameter bomb [SDB-I is a 250 pound GPS-only weapon] that will be fielded this summer.

“According to slides presented at the briefing, SOCOM is also looking at the potential of using helmet mounted displays, digital map upgrades, and using mobile devices to help do mission planning in the near future.”

Those changes would also apply to their HC/MC-130 fleet. Sources: Defense News, “SOCOM soon getting more capable, deadlier Ospreys and C-130s”.

March 28/14: AC-130W support. Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV receives a sole-source $14 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for contractor logistics support of the AC-130W’s precision strike package. Contractor logistics support employees also deploy with aircraft in support of special operations Missions.

$10.9 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 O&M funds. Work will be performed at Cannon Air Force Base, NM, and is expected to be complete March 31/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center’s Special Operation Forces Contracting Division, at Robins AFB, GA manages the contract (FA8509-14-C-0001).

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 scaled 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”.

AC-130J flies

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).

The AC-130J 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. 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. This was also concerning:

“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.

FY 2013

KC-130J-HH, Kandahar
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June 4/13: AC-130J Sub-contractors. The AC-130J Ghostrider will be equipped with a configuration of QinetiQ’s enhanced LAST lightweight composite armor. Protection will depend on how much they use, and LAST’s aerial density is 37 kg/m2. Protection up to 7.62mm armor piercing is the minimum useful level, and seems to be the AC-130J’s standard. SOCOM could certainly justify higher levels, especially in critical areas, but they’d rather make the weight tradeoffs in an airplane that’s already packed with heavy gear. Jane’s adds that:

“A total of 37 AC-130J aircraft will replace AFSOC’s eight ageing AC-130H platforms, a significant increase from the 16 originally planned. It is understood that the procurement of the additional platforms will allow the 12 AC-130W Dragon Spear/Stinger II platforms currently performing gunship duties to revert back to their baseline MC-130W Combat Spear [multi-role] configuration.”

Sources: QinetiQ NA, “QinetiQ North America’s LAST Armor to Protect C-130 Aircraft” | IHS Jane’s, “New armour for AC-130J gunships”.

March 20/13: Hellfire? US SOCOM fixed-wing PEO Col. Michael Schmidt (USAF) confirms that they’re looking to add AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles to the AC-130W’s “Precision Strike Package,” using F-15 racks mounted on the AC-130W’s hard points. Money has to be found in the budget, but he’s confident that it will happen at some point.

Since the AC-130J Ghostrider will initially be fielded with the same Precision Strike Package, AC-130W integration could end up extending to the new fleet. Sources: Defense Tech, “Air Force set to arm AC-130W with Hellfire missiles”.

Dec 20/12: AC-130W Support. Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV receives a $7.9 million contract modification for “logistics support of the Precision Strike Package on the AC-130W aircraft, Stinger II Program.”

The location of the performance is Cannon Air Force Base, NM. Work is expected to be completed by Dec 31/13. The AFLCMC/WIKAA at Robins AFB, GA manages the contract (FA8509-12-C-0001, PO 0006).

FY 2012

AC-130J production begins; Griffin, G-CLAW, and GAU-23 weapons; Derringer Door introduced; MC-130W to become Dragon Spear. “Derringer Door”
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Aug 27/12: G-CLAW. Textron Defense Systems announces a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with U.S. Special Operations Command’s Program Executive Office – Fixed Wing, focused on Textron Defense Systems’ Guided Clean Area Weapon (G-CLAW). The GPS-guided cylinder will be integrated into SOPGM launch tube dispensers, and receive flight and weapon safety certifications. From there, Textron Defense Systems and USSOCOM will conduct inert and live-fire demonstrations from a tactical carrier aircraft such as the MC-130W Dragon Spear. Integration activities will culminate in an end-to-end, live-fire demonstration.

The 64-pound CLAW was actually designed as a safe sub-munition for cluster bombs, like the GPS-guided CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon. Instead of releasing hockey-puck shaped guided explosives to take out tanks, the entire tube is a weapon, whose air-burst is lethal to troops and unarmored vehicles over an area the size of a football field. A number of safety features ensure that it never becomes an unexploded ordnance hazard.

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 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.

July 9/12: MC-130W. ATK announces that a rapid prototyping effort has created a modified variant of their Mk44 Bushmaster Automatic Cannon for MC-130W Combat Spear aircraft. The 30mm gun is now officially known as the GAU-23, and uses ATK’s PGU-46/B High Explosive Incendiary (HEI) ammunition for its missions.

ATK adds that in June 2011, the U.S. Air Force announced the conversion of 12 of its MC-130W Combat Spear aircraft to the Dragon Spear configuration.

The US Marines may also be interested, now that the technology is mature (vid. Aug 17/11). The MC-130W Dragon Spear will bolt the GAU-23 in, but ATK has developed a Roll-On/Roll-Off (RO/RO) pallet and weapons mount for use on other aircraft, like the USMC’s KC-130Js.

May 2012: Naming. The MC-130W Dragon Spear is renamed the AC-130W Stinger II, while the AC-130J picks up the designation “Ghostrider”. Sources: USAF Fact Sheets.

May 14/12: Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA receives an $18.4 million firm-fixed-price contract that buys 3 Harvest HAWK sets, and pays to modify 7 KC-130Js with Harvest HAWK installations.

Work will be performed in Palmdale, CA (90%), and Marietta, GA (10%), and is expected to be complete in June 2014. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304c1. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-12-C-0094).

April 16/12: Viper Strike. MBDA announces that its GBU-44/E Viper Strike scored “multiple direct hits”, after being launched from the KC-130J’s new “Derringer Door” during developmental testing at China Lake, CA. Viper Strike also proved out its new fast attack software load, designed to improve performance against time sensitive targets.

Feb 23/12: Derringer Door. US NAVAIR announces successful testing and fielding of a Harvest HAWK “Derringer Door” pressurized launcher, which will be used instead of the “Gunslinger” system on future aircraft. The 10-round set replaces the plane’s paratrooper door, and lets the plane launch small precision-guided munitions like Griffin, without depressurizing the cabin and forcing the crew to use oxygen gear. By freeing up the cargo ramp, it also lets KC-130J Harvest HAWKs continue to perform cargo missions, while keeping the weapon launcher on board.

Like the rest of the Harvest HAWK kit, the Derringer Door system is removable.

Nov 7/11: KC-130J-HH stats. Inside the Navy reports [subscription] on Griffin usage in Afghanistan:

“Less than a year after first introducing it to the fleet, the Marine Corps has already used the Harvest Hawk… to fire 74 Hellfire and 13 Griffin missiles… while also providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, a Marine aviation official said here recently.”

FY 2011

KC-130J Harvest Hawk deployment & reports; Scorpion tested; Viper Strike precision munitions bought. KC-130J Harvest HAWK
at FOB Dwyer
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Aug 22/11: Viper Strike. Northrop Grumman announces an unspecified additional contract to deliver “multiple” GBU-44 Viper Strike GPS/laser guided mini glide bombs to the Joint Attack Munition Systems (JAMS) Project Office at Redstone Arsenal, AL. Deliveries will begin in 2011, for eventual integration onto the KC-130J Harvest Hawk. See also June 2/10 entry.

All the Viper Strike munitions on Harvest Hawk will now carry the latest software load, which greatly enhances the weapon’s effectiveness against moving targets. In recent testing at China Lake, CA, Viper Strike scored multiple hits against moving vehicles in various scenarios.

Aug 17/11: KC-130J-HH. The USMC is looking at upgrading its KC-130Js for better close-air support to address known limitations (vid. July 28/11 entry). Maj. Richard Roberts told National Defense magazine the addition of a 30mm GAU-23 cannon to Harvest Hawk is again under consideration, which if confirmed would let the program meet its Capability III milestone. The possibility of this graft was reviewed back in 2009, but the integration tech was deemed too immature back then.

According to National Defense, as of last month the 1 Harvest Hawk deployed in Afghanistan had fired 42 Hellfire and 11 Griffin missiles and identified 8 IEDs. A 2nd unit will soon be rotated in so that the 1st one can be used for training purposes.

July 28/11: KC-130J-HH. The USMC discusses Harvest Hawk operations, noting that the Harvest Hawk contingents don’t yet have close-air support experience, so the Marines are drawing fire-control officers from its F/A-18 Hornet fighter, AV-8B Harrier II fighter, and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter units. With respect to the aircraft’s usage:

“One Harvest HAWK flew for about 10 hours and fired its entire compliment of Hellfire missiles during combat operations in Afghanistan, March 14. An F/A-18 Hornet can only fly for an hour and thirty minutes without tanker support, according to [VMGR-252 fire control officer Capt. Thane A.] Norman. “Currently, we have a Harvest HAWK temporarily assigned to our detachment with 2nd MAW (Fwd.),” said [VMGR-252 commander Lt. Col. Charles J.] Moses. “It provides coverage for eight to 10 percent of joint tactical air requests in their area of operations, which is a significant number considering it’s only a single aircraft.”

Feb 25/11: MC-130W. Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV receives a $22.3 million contract modification for interim contract support under the Dragon Spear program, to help provide and install precision strike packages in 12 MC-130W Combat Spear aircraft. At this time, $10.4 million has been committed by the WRALC/GRUKA at Robins AFB, GA (FA8509-10-C-0013; PO0003).

Feb 8/11: MC-130W & lasers. Defense News quotes SOCOM chief Adm. Eric Olson, who says the MC-130W Dragon Spear went from concept to flying with a minimum capability in less than 90 days, and deployed in 18 months. It has already deployed to Iraq, and is now flying in Afghanistan. Defense News adds that:

“The four-star admiral also touted a system used in Afghanistan that involves an “airborne-mounted overt laser that projects a beam that illuminates a spot on the ground.” Commanders “are finding more and more uses for an illuminated spot on the ground,” he said. “It can prevent fratricide, it can cause people to muster against a target, it can have a powerful psychological effect if you are standing in the beam.” SOCOM officials are currently building tactics, techniques and procedures for the system.”

While Adm. Olson was not specific, C-130s are certainly natural platforms for that kind of system.

Feb 4/11: KC-130J-HH stats. Marines of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, Detachment A, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), are preparing to return from a 6-month deployment at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan to their home at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA. VMGR-352′s KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft performed a number of transport and aerial refueling missions, while pioneering the “Harvest HAWK” kit’s use on the front lines.

Overall VMGR-352 crews completed 7,852 sorties and reached 7,897 flight hours. They also tracked 25,190 assault support requests, 65,815 additional passengers and 23,629,371 pounds of cargo. The Harvest Hawk completed 93 sorties, flew more than 565 hours and completed 191 joint tactical airstrike requests. USMC.

Nov 23/10: KC-130J-HH Action Report. Official report of a USMC KC-130J Harvest HAWK supporting 2 squads of Marines with India Company, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines. The squads ran into an attempted ambush, and the USMC explains what happened after that:

“The Marines immediately began firing at the enemy and gained superior firepower. The fight intensified as Marines were under fire from medium-machine-gun and small-arms fire. The Marines then played their trump card, calling in 60 mm and 120 mm mortars and close air support. An UH-1 Huey and an AH-1W Super Cobra fired hundreds of rounds, and a KC-130J ‘Harvest Hawk’ fired a Hell-Fire Missile. Artillery Marines played their part as well, firing multiple GPS-guided shells. The firefight lasted about two hours and killed an estimated 8-10 enemy fighters, said 1st Lt. Stephen Cooney, the executive officer with India Company, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines.”

October 2010: KC-130J-HH deploys. The lone production KC-130J Harvest Hawk deploys to Afghanistan, with the USMC’s VMGR-352.

Harvest Hawk deploys

FY 2010

MC-130W operational; Contracts from SOCOM and USMC. MC-130W
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Sept 24/10: MC-130W. L-3 Communications TCS, Inc. in Warner Robins, GA receives a $29.4 million contract which would modify up to 4 MC-130Ws to install a precision strike package. At this time, no funds have been committed by the WR-ALC/GRUKA at Robins Air Force Base, GA (FA8509-20-C-0027).

Sept 21/10: MC-130W. L-3 Communications TCS, Inc. in Warner Robins, GA adds $15.8 million to a previous contract to install the Precision Strike package in 8 MC-130Ws. That’s on top of $45.2 million that had been committed before, raising the contract to $61 million. The WR-ALC/GRUKA at Robins Air Force Base, GA manages this contract (FA8509-09-C-0037; Action Under PZ0001).

Sept 14/10: MC-130W. Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV receives a $12.5 million contract which will provide consoles for integration onto MC-130W aircraft. At this time, all funds have been committed by the ASC/WISS at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH (FA8629-09-C-2445).

June 17/10: Scorpion drop. One of Lockheed Martin’s Scorpion precision glide-bombs is successfully flight tested in a 5,000 foot drop from a C-130. The small glide bomb uses a combination of GPS/INS and semi-active laser (SAL) guidance to hit a target 1.65 miles away, at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ. These Scorpion weapons have already been used in combat by CIA drones, but the C-130 test is new.

Scorpion was developed under the Small Smart Weapon program, which began in 2006. It’s just 21.5″ long and 4.5″ wide, with a range of up to 10 miles if it can glide from altitude. The system is modular, and the front guidance section will be switchable between a human-directed laser seeker, self-guiding imaging infrared (IIR) matched to pre-programmed target sets, or semi-autonomous millimeter wave radar. The warhead section is also a module, with multiple options. Overall weight is under 35 pounds. The weapon is carried by fitting up to 3 Scorpions on a conventional Hellfire rail, or up to 2 in a tube launcher. Lockheed Martin release | Scorpion product page | CBS News | Tactical Life | Washington Post | Comparison with Hellfire II.

June 3/10: MC-130W. Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV receives a $20.9 million contract to provide interim contractor support of MC-130W modifications to install “a precision strike package” in support of US SOCOM’s “Project Dragon Spear.” At this time, $10 million has been committed by the 580th ACSG/GFKAA at Robins Air Force Base, GA (FA8509-10-C-0013).

June 2/10: Viper Strike. Northrop Grumman announces a contract to deliver 65 SOPGM/ GBU-44 Viper Strike munitions to the Joint Attack Munition Systems (JAMS) Project Office, within the Program Executive Office Missiles and Space at Redstone Arsenal, AL. The Viper Strikes will be delivered in 2010, for integration onto the KC-130J Harvest Hawk.

April 10/10: KC-130J-HH Phase 1 Done. Harvest Hawk completes Phase 1 testing at Pax River, MD, and leaves for required maintenance and continued testing at NAVAIR’s China Lake, CA range. The Patuxent River, MD Test Team included personnel from Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons VX-20 and VX-23, Operational Test Squadron 1 VX-1, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 (VMGR-352), Lockheed Martin, the Joint Attack Munitions Systems (JAMS) project office, NAVAIR’s AIR 4.6 Human Systems department, and NAVAIR’s AIR-5.1 Integrated Systems Evaluation, Experimentation, and Test (ISEET) department.

NAVAIR says that it is working a complimentary effort to test and deploy the Standoff Precision Guided Munition (SOPGM, aka. “Viper Strike“) as a stand alone capability for Harvest HAWK, and that the first aircraft is scheduled to deploy by summer 2010 equipped with the AN/AAQ-30 TSS, AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles, and SOPGM. The 30 mm cannon, which will be mounted in the left side troop door, has been deferred to a later block upgrade. NAVAIR release.

End Harvest Hawk Phase 1

March 25/10: SOCOM Plans. Aviation Week DTI reports that U.S. Special Operations Command will base its future AC-130J gunship on the government-owned “Precision Strike Package” design used in the MC-130W. The February 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review will replace 8 AC-130H Spectre gunships with 8 new “AC?130Js,” based on the C-130J, instead of the earlier model C-130H that forms the core of the MC-130W. Another 8 AC-130Js will be added on top, giving SOCOM 17 AC-130U Spookys, 12 MC-130W Combat/Dragon Spears, and 16 AC-130Js.

SOCOM officials also hope that a modular design will let them easily add new capabilities to the fleet in future, creating what US SOCOM Deputy Acquisition Director James Geurts describes as “a family of precision strike capabilities that we can port onto different [Special Operations Forces] platforms.” The difference between SOCOM’s approach and the USMC’s Harvest Hawk will involve a greater emphasis on precision strike, instead of suppression.

Specific AC-130J requirements are still in flux, but FY 2011′s budget asks for $9.9 million in initial funding. The first serious funding is reportedly slated for FY 2012.

March 17/10: KC-130J-HH. A Harvest HAWK equipped KC-130J from USMC VMGR-352 squadron “The Raiders” arrives at NAVAIR’s Patuxent River, MD facilities from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA for testing. Source.

Jan 29/10: MC-130W. Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV receives a $32.7 million contract to provide consoles for integration onto the MC-130W “Combat Spear” aircraft. At this time, the entire amount has been committed by the 667th AESS/SYKA at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8629-09-C-2445).

Jan 13/10: MC-130W. The 27th Special Operations Wing deploys 2 MC-130W Combat Spear aircraft from the 73rd Special Operations Squadron in support of humanitarian operations in Haiti. The deployment is a reminder that these multi-role aircraft can be deployed in unarmed roles, with or without their advanced sensors and weapons.

The release does not mention specifics, but advanced thermal sensors can be used for tasks like to seeing heat sources in disaster situations, as well as pinpointing armed enemies on a battlefield. Canon AFB release | Canon AFB picture | Clovis News Journal

MC-130W deployed

Nov 17/09: MC-130W Gun. ATK announces a $20 million contract to:

“…provide 30mm PGU-46/B High Explosive Incendiary (HEI) ammunition for the ATK-produced Mk44 30mm cannon on the multi-role, MC-130W Combat Spear gunship, which will support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Contracting Office at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio awarded the contract.”

It would seem that AFSOCOM has made its 30mm gun choice. ATK will produce the ammunition at the company’s facilities in Radford, VA and Rocket Center, WVA. Deliveries will be complete in December 2010.

FY 2009

Concept definitions; Initial contracts; Testing begins. M299 on KC-130J
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Sept 30/09: KC-130J-HH. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Marietta, GA receives a $21.3 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-09-C-0053) for 2 Harvest HAWK capability I and II kits for the Marine Corps KC-130J aircraft. Work will be performed in Palmdale, CA, and is expected to be complete in December 2010. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, which is technically this very day.

Aug 29/09: KC-130J-HH. Harvest HAWK testing begins, to verify that changes to the KC-130J’s flight characteristics are either entirely absent, or known and compensated.

The retrofitted KC-130J used an AN/AAQ-30 Targeting Sight System, and a 4-weapon Hellfire II weapons rack in place of the left-hand aerial refueling pod. The right wing can still carry fuel for aerial refueling, while the left wing carries the kit. There is no discussion of a direct fire gun, but the release does add that Lockheed Martin plans to retrofit the Marine Corps’ fleet of KC-130J aircraft with the necessary wiring to carry Harvest Hawk, so that any aircraft could be quickly converted for use. USMC release.

Harvest Hawk testing begins

June 4/09: Gunslinger. An AFSOCOM pre-solicitation notice [FedBizOpps MS Word format | WIRED Danger Zone] discusses one option for mounting precision guided weapons on the MC-130Ws:

“The goal for Gunslinger is to have 10 or more Standoff Precision Guided Munitions (SOPGMs) loaded and ready to fire in rapid succession, reload in flight, and not modify the SOPGMs or their Common Launch Tube (CLT). The Gunslinger system must be interoperable with the Government’s SOPGM Battle Management System (BMS)… If only one qualified source responds the Government reserves the right to issue a sole source contract to that qualified source.

The Air Armament Center Capabilities Integration Directorate (AAC/XR) proposes to procure Gunslinger System Engineering which will include; design and ground demonstration of the Gunslinger system using a surrogate aircraft provided by the Government or a contractor provided mock up representative of the MC-130W. The design is allowed to include both permanent and removable portions. The installation as designed shall not prevent the aircraft from performing the cargo/transport mission when the removable portion is not in place. The permanent portion shall maintain cabin pressure when the removable portion is installed as well as when it is not installed. The time to install and uninstall the removable portions shall be minimized. The goal is less than five (5) minutes. The contractor shall develop an aircraft modification package with drawings and supporting data for installing the Gunslinger system and submit it to the aircraft OSS&E authority for approval to proceed with the aircraft modification.”

May 15/09: AFSOCOM’s analogues. Gannett’s Air Force times reports that Air Force Special Operations Command’s plan to buy 16 C-27Js under the Joint Cargo Aircraft program, for conversion to AC-27J Stinger II gunships, has fallen apart with the removal of Army C-27J funding in the FY 2010 budget.

In response, they’re investigating a “Plan B” that would add roll-on, roll-off kits to its MC-130W Combat Spear fleet. The MC-130W program began in 2006 to replace combat losses of the MC-130E/H Combat Talon, but it’s based on converted C-130H models, rather than new “J” version of the Hercules.

May 8/09: HH R&D. 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.

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: SOCOM PSP 360. The USAF is also interested in this concept, 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).”

Additional Readings and Sources Background: Projects & Aircraft

  • FedBizOpps solicitation (April 13/09) – Harvest Hawk modification to KC-130J Aircraft. The initial solicitation involves 3 kits, and adds “As the sole source designer, developer, and manufacturer of KC-130J aircraft, LM is uniquely qualified to meet the United States Marine Corps (USMC) summer 2009 deployment schedule.”

  • Lockheed Martin – KC-130J Super Tanker

  • USAF Fact Sheet – AC-130H/U Gunship

  • USAF Fact Sheet – AC-130W Stinger II. Formerly the MC-130W Combat Spear/ Dragon Spear. Aircraft cost lists around $150 million: $108 million for the fully equipped plane + $39 million for the PSP weapon package. The PSP lists ATK’s 30mm GAU-23/A cannon, Boeing’s GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, and Raytheon’s AGM-176 Griffin-B missile.

  • USAF Fact Sheet – AC-130J Ghost Rider. Will include a 105mm gun as well as the PSP. “The first AC-130J aircraft is scheduled to begin developmental test and evaluation in January 2014. The first squadron will be located at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., while other locations are to be determined. Initial operational capacity is expected in fiscal 2017 and the last [37th] delivery is scheduled for fiscal 2021.”

Background: Associated Equipment & Weapons


News & Views

Categories: News

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

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 20:46
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
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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
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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

NASA’s CCiCap: Can Space Taxis Help the Pentagon?

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 19:51
Boeing CST-100
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With competition coming at last to American military satellite launches, civilian developments take on new importance. A NASA program called Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) is a major source of potential funds for key players in space launch and space vehicles, which could solve a civilian problem while improving the military’s options.

With the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, American manned missions to the International Space Station have mostly involved Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, which costs about $63 million per seat. The lone exception has involved the commercial space innovator SpaceX, whose unmanned Dragon v1.0 capsule docked at the ISS in May 2012. NASA continues to pursue its own Space Launch System heavy rocket and Orion capsule for manned spaceflight, but in the mean time, its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program aims to spur development of lower-cost American options that could supplant or supplement Soyuz.

These “space taxis” will rely on heavy-lift rockets to make it into space. Their purpose isn’t military, but their configurations are very good news for the USA’s space industrial base…

Contracts & Key Events SpaceX Dragon v2

Sept 16/14: Main contracts. NASA picks Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon v2 to carry up to 7 astronauts to the International Space Station under the CCiCap program, and issues up to $6.8 billion worth of contracts. The goal is a 2017 mission to the ISS with an astronaut on board, and the awards would include options for 2-6 operational missions after test flights are done.

Boeing’s contract is worth up to $4.2 billion, and they’ll build 3 CST-100s at their Commercial Crew Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing recently completed the capsule’s Critical Design Review (CDR) and Phase 2 Spacecraft Safety Review; they say that they’re the only competitor to pass a CDR as well as complete all CCiCap milestones on time and on budget. The CST-100 is scheduled to undergo a pad-abort test in 2016 and an uncrewed flight in early 2017, leading up to the first crewed flight to the ISS in mid-2017. All flights will use Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V.

SpaceX’s contract is worth up to $2.6 billion, and builds on an existing $1.3 billion ISS resupply contract that’s already an important pillar for their company. They’ll launch their Dragon v2 atop their own Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL. Dragon v2′s launch escape system is designed provide escape capability from the time the crew enters the vehicle all the way to orbit. Part of that escape system includes 8 SuperDraco engines built into the side walls, producing up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to help carry astronauts to safety. Sources: NASA, “Boeing and SpaceX Selected to Build America’s New Crew Space Transportation System” | Boeing, “Boeing CST-100 Selected as Next American Spacecraft” | SpaceX, “NASA Selects Spacex To Be Part Of America’s Human Spaceflight Program”.

CCiCap contracts: Boeing, SpaceX

Aug 3/14: Dev Awards. NASA issues about $1 billion in development contracts under its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program. It includes design work up to the point when components, systems and subsystems could be manufactured, along with flight-worthy pressure vessels. It also includes complex tests of thrusters, launch abort system elements, software, parachutes and control systems. Overall, 7 firms entered, and 3 won, leaving at least 1 firm with a very big investment decision ahead of it. SpaceX has a slot using its own rockets, and the other 2 winning entries will use Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V EELV:

Boeing in Houston, TX. $460 million for their CST-1000 capsule. It will launch using Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V rocket, rather than Boeing’s own Delta IV. Their capsule has 19 milestones to meet en route to its complete critical design review, the most of any winning design. Even so, The company is aiming for its 1st manned test flight by 2016.

Sierra Nevada Corporation in Louisville, CO. $212.5 million for their Dream Chaser space plane, an evolution of a NASA’s former HL-20 test vehicle that’s boosted into orbit on an Atlas V. The on-board propulsion system also has a heritage: it’s derived from SNC’s hybrid rocket motor technology, which flies on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipOne & SpaceShipTwo. Dream Chaser has already been through a full system Preliminary Design Review and 1st captive carry flight, and is aiming for its 1st manned test flight by 2016.

SpaceX in Hawthorne, CA. $440 million for a manned version of the Dragon capsule that recently docked at the International Space Station. They’ll continue to use their own Falcon 9 booster, and are aiming for a 2015 test flight. They’re also promising powered crew escape ability from launch pad to orbit, and a landing system that would let the capsule touch down on land.

NASA’s 3 CCiCap winners will also be investing company funds in their projects, which will push the total investment well north of $1 billion.

These wins won’t benefit the Pentagon directly, but the fact that 2 of the winners will use the same Atlas V EELV that launches some of the USA’s military satellites will be welcome news, amidst official reports that are expressing deep concern about the American space rocket industrial base. Thanks to a new Open Launch Framework, NASA launches involving SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will also make a contribution, by moving them closer to certification for higher-risk payloads. Sources:
NASA release | Boeing release and media kit | SNC Space release | SpaceX release | Fox News, “NASA invests $1.1 billion in space shuttle replacements to launch as early as 2015″ || The United Launch Alliance (Atlas V rockets) congratulates its partners Boeing and Sierra Nevada.

CCiCap development finalists

The Outsiders: Decisions, Decisions Liberty
click for video

Beyond the winning firms, 2 other firms had investment decisions of their own to make as of August 2013. By September 2014, another firm was left pondering its options.

ATK’s Liberty system was the only other qualifying bid, but their partnership with EADS-Astrium didn’t make the final 3 for NASA funding. The partners could decide to continue with their capsule, which would launch aboard a fusion of Space shuttle booster rockets (1st stage) and Astrium’s Arianne 5 (2nd stage), with Safran’s Vulcan 2 engine as the capsule’s final propulsion. NASA has engaged with ATK in unfunded projects before, but the firms would need to either put up private funds, or find other public funding sources, such as European governments or the ESA.

Blue Origin, backed by’s founder Jeff Bezos, has a different kind of decision to make. Their craft’s chosen booster rocket is the Atlas V, and lower-cost manned access to space is their core mission, but their key question revolves around timing and ambition. Absent any injection of extra government funds, the firm can just keep to their own schedule, rather than taking on the extra risk of trying to meet all of NASA’s priorities by 2017.

Dream Chaser & Atlas V
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SNC’s Dream Chaser space plane is an evolution of a NASA’s former HL-20 test vehicle that’s boosted into orbit on an Atlas V. The on-board propulsion system also has a heritage: it’s derived from SNC’s hybrid rocket motor technology, which flies on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipOne & SpaceShipTwo. Dream Chaser has already been through a full system Preliminary Design Review and 1st captive carry flight, and was aiming for its 1st manned test flight by 2016.

After the September 2014 contract award left them out, SNC needs to make some hard decisions about whether or not to continue chasing this dream. Virgin Galactic is a great customer to have for continued technological development, but they aren’t a volume customer at this point. Meanwhile, rivals like Boeing ($4.2 billion) SpaceX ($2.6 + 1.3 billion) and Orbital Sciences ($1.9 billion) have natural funding sources from contracts to resupply the International Space Station.

Additional Readings


News & Views

  • NASA (July 20/12) – Atlas V Design Reviewed for Crewed Launches. Atlas V has launched numerous satellites and robotic missions into space for NASA, including the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover and the Juno probe to Jupiter. Human spaceflight is a step beyond that.

Categories: News

Airbus Announces Defense Slimdown, Confirms Exit from Atlas Elektronik

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 16:29

  • Airbus outlined the shape of its future defense and space business, with several subsidiaries and participations officially on the block. This includes the Atlas Elektronik joint venture with Thyssen-Krupp. The two partners are to start talks though it’s unclear whether Thyssen-Krupp wants to buy Airbus’ 49% stake. Thales had shown interest back in 2005 but was beaten by the EADS/Thyssen bid for the naval specialist.

  • According to the Financial Times Poland is about to withdraw from the Visegrad Group, a joint defense project with Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Poland reportedly doubts that the smaller members will contribute enough. The 4 members also are divided [TOL] on whether sanctions is the right response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. It seems the group may refocus [Slovak Spectator] on economic and infrastructure concerns.

Middle East

  • CNA has a report [PDF] out on the competition taking place between Gulf states as they have tried to influence events in Egypt and Syria (and also Libya). They have all been using a mix of diplomatic, financial, and media resources to advance their agenda but Qatar stands out from its neighbors in its choice of organizations it supports.

  • Agence France-Presse posted a breakdown by country of origin of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, based on data from the London-based ICSR. Germany has provided less jihadists than France or much less in relative terms than much smaller Belgium, but controversy recently flared [Deutsche Welle] in the country as a self-appointed “Shariah police was seen patrolling the streets of Wuppertal near Düsseldorf.

  • Some of the most senior generals in the US military openly advocate a more interventionist approach to ISIS than President Obama: Daily Beast.

China’s Subsidized Shipbuilding

  • Clay Maitland discusses with MaritimeTV the shipbuilding glut in China because of government subsidies, not just to shipyards but also to steel mills.

Better Safety Without Breaking the Bank

  • Today’s video shows work at the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD, to make helicopters more survivable in case of crash. They’re using energy absorption designs well known in the automotive world. They reuse components across tests to reduce costs, which certainly beats destroying a production seat worth $150K 32 times:

Categories: News

From VH-71 to VXX: the Future of US Presidential Helicopters

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 16:00
Aborted landing
(click to view full)

In January 2005, the U.S. Navy selected the US101 as the new “Marine One” baseline helicopter, for use by the President of the United States. The US101 is an American variant of AgustaWestland’s successful AW101 multi-mission medium helicopter; it beat out Sikorsky’s S-92 Superhawk, which is already in use as a government VIP transport in countries like South Korea.

That $1.7 billion victory was first endangered, and then destroyed, by ongoing changes from the White House staff. In 2008, the program’s ballooning costs and requirements got a temporary reprieve when US Navy agreed to proceed with the VH-71, despite a cost per aircraft equal or greater than the President’s Air Force One 747s. By June 2009, however, the VH-71 program had shot itself down.

Another round of competition is on the way, and back in 2009 the Pentagon said it was considering buying 2 different helicopters in the VXX follow-on program. Faced with an initial Analysis of Alternatives deemed too expensive, the OSD accepted the Navy’s revised approach in May 2012, setting things in motion for a new program of record.

The New Marine One Helicopter Programs: A Quick History VH-3D (top), VH-60N
(click to view full)

The Marine Corps currently operates 11 VH-3D Sea Kings, and 8 smaller VH-60N Black Hawk helicopters. The VH-3Ds were originally placed in service in 1974 and 1975, and the VH-60s entered service in the 1980s. They’re safe and reliable due to low and careful use, but they no longer had the growth capability to incorporate the equipment that George W. Bush’s White House believed was required in a post 9/11 environment.

The new “Marine One” helicopter, expected to be in service for up to 4 decades, was officially designated VH-71A in July 2005. The platform never made it into service. The Presidential office kept adding requirements, the Navy couldn’t or didn’t refuse, and eventually the entire project crashed. Each helicopter had become more expensive than a VC-25 “Air Force One” Boeing 747.

What Now?

When the VH-71 program was terminated, in 2009, the question was what to do with the 9 delivered machines. The President and Pentagon believed that the 5 pilot production VH-71s wouldn’t be useful, long-lived, and cost-effective enough to join the Presidential fleet, while some in Congress still believed the 5 should be fitted out and pressed into service. By September 2011, however, all 9 VH-71 airframes had all been shipped to Canada, for use as spare parts.

In its place, the US DoD plans with a revised “VXX” program that aims to field 21 operational helicopters, divided between Presidential helicopters and associated supply helicopters. In 2012 the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense agreed on a cost-effective revised Analyses of Alternatives, setting things in motion to restart a program of record that won’t be in a position to replace the current fleet until 2020 at the earliest.

The VXX RFP was issued in May 2013. During the EMD phase, the selected contractor will provide 6 test helicopters, 4 of which will transition to front-line service in HMX-1. They’ll join another 17 production helicopters: 4 from LRIP Lot 1, 5 from LRIP Lot 2, and 8 from “full-rate production”. Flight and maintenance training systems and contractor support will also be part of the contract, and the level of security around the project will be very tight.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon moved ahead with a program to refurbish the existing VH-3/VH-60 helicopter fleet, while adding 12 V-22 tilt-rotors that will carry cargo, support staff, and media members. The 1st HMX-1 V-22 was inducted in May 2013.

VH-3/ VH-60 Refurbishment VH-3D
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This section covers efforts underway to improve existing VH-3D/ VH-60N helicopters, or extend their lifespans.

The VH-3D Lift Improvement program consists of the operational level installation of 55 composite main rotor blades on all 11 VH-3Ds. Sikorsky and their partner Carson Helicopters have been working on upgrades to the VH-3D’s commercial S-61 counterpart, using a 5-blade upgrade of new composite main rotor blades, while strengthening the helicopter’s tail pylon and transmission mounts. This costs just $1.25 million per aircraft, while boosting lift capacity by 2,000 pounds (910 kg), increasing speed by 15 knots at regular power, stretching range by 15%, and doubling service life to 20,000 hours.

The Structural Enhancement Program consists of efforts to redesign the VH-3D’s cabin redesign to reduce total gross weight, replace critical aircraft structure on the VH-60N, upgrade the safety of the fuel system on the VH-3D, and perform Service Life Extensions on the VH-3D and VH-60N.

The VH-3D and VH-60N Cockpit Upgrades consists of an upgrade to LCD panels, replacing mechanical dials and gauges. The Communication Suite Upgrade consists of Demand Assigned Multiple Access Satellite Communication radio upgrade, Digital Frequency Modulation radio upgrade, High Frequency radio upgrade, the Presidential redundant secure communications upgrade, Data Transfer capability upgrade, and Crypto Modernization Upgrade.

The Obsolescence Management Program will manage impending Executive Helicopter obsolescence issues. A variety of factors will be addressed including communication, navigation, operational weight, safety, and engine upgrades to remain mission relevant. An H-3 and H-60 will be converted to TH-3D and TH-60N training helicopters, in order to reduce wear on the operational fleet. The addition of VH-22 Osprey tilt-rotors to the squadron as of May 2013 will also help in this regard, though they’re never used to carry the President.

A Sept 15/14 contract aims to refit the VH-3s with new cabin interiors and air conditioning.

Note that other contracts exist for something called “Special Progressive Aircraft Rework.” These are not upgrades, just an enhanced version of the helicopters’ Standard Depot Level Maintenance that occurs after a set number of flight hours or months, whichever comes first. It includes partial disassembly of the airframe, replacement of components, refurbishment of interior furnishings, and repainting the aircraft.

VH-71/VXX Marine One: Contracts & Events

US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, MD manages these contracts; exceptions are noted in the text below. Note that this article covers the Presidential fleet only. Ancillary planes like the Presidential squadron’s supporting VH-22 Ospreys will have milestones mentioned, but won’t receive full coverage.

FY 2014

VXX development contract; final VH-71 settlement. S-92 VIP

Sept 16/14: VH-3s. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $9.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price delivery modification for one-time efforts redesigning the VH-3D’s cabin interior and environmental control system, including VIP seats, a cabin interior kit, and special tooling. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, and is expected to be completed in August 2016. US Navy NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-14-G-0004, DO 4010).

May 7/14: VXX Contract. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $1.245 billion fixed-price-incentive-firm target contract for the Presidential Helicopter Replacement program’s Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase. The EMD Phase includes 6 VH-92 test aircraft and associated support equipment, with “mature government-defined mission systems” integrated, flight training and maintenance training devices/ simulators, and various forms of support.

$42 million is being committed immediately, using FY 2014 RDT&E funding. Work will be performed in Stratford, CT (62.22%); Owego, NY (19.38%); Coatesville, PA (14.25%); Orlando, FL (1.44%); Phoenix, AZ (.86%); Cedar Rapids, IA (.85%); Vergennes, VT (.53%); and Torrance, CA (.47%), and is expected to be complete in October 2020. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD received 1 offer (N00019-14-C-0050).

VXX EMD contract

Jan 27/14: VH-71 Termination. Inside Defense reports that Lockheed Martin and the US government finalized the end of the VH-71 helicopter program on Dec 19/13 with a final $91.1 million payout: $38.5 million for completed work and $51.6 million in termination fees. That brings the termination total to about $203 million (q.v. June 2/11).

The contract was terminated on June 2/09, and the total amount paid to Lockheed over the entire contract ends up costing the taxpayer about $2.2 billion. The biggest reason for all that waste is a President’s own office that couldn’t stop adding requirements (q.v. Dec 13/07, Jan 19/08), but enforcing Navy certification requirements on a helicopter designed to commercial aviation standards wasn’t helpful, either (q.v. March 14/08). Sources: Inside Defense, “DOD, Lockheed Settle On Final $2.3 Billion Tab For Terminated VH-71 Program”.

FY 2013

VXX RFP out; 1st V-22 joins HMX-1; 2014 budget highlights VH-3/VH-60 upgrade costs. HMX-1′s V-22
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Sept 6/13: GAO Report. The GAO releases a short report that looks at the Navy’s rationale for waiving competitive prototyping requirements for either the base VXX helicopter, or its equipment suite. That’s normally required by The Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, but prototyping can be waived with a justification to the US Comptroller General.

As VXX hit Milestone B, the US Navy had calculated that competitive prototyping would delay fielding by 16 months, and raise development costs by somewhere between FY11$ 782 million – 3.38 billion. At best, spending in the higher end of this range would save FY11$ 542 million in lifetime costs, which is a poor deal.

The helicopter justification is straightforward this time, because the program is insisting on an off-the-shelf helicopter, without huge modifications to change performance. For the mission sub-systems, most of the components are known, and prototyping wouldn’t be a big help to integration. GAO did note that this aspect of the program is likely to be challenging, and may be more challenging than the Navy thinks, but the question is whether competitive prototyping would help. GAO thought the Navy’s documentation and analytical rigor around that question was good, and accepted the Navy’s rationale. That’s good news, if the Navy wants to go ahead with just the VH-92. Sources: US GAO Report #GAO-13-826R.

Aug 2/13: VXX. Reuters quotes “Defense officials” who say that the pullout of AgustaWestland and Boeing won’t change their plans to proceed, “and said there were procedures in place to ensure competitive pricing even in cases involving a single bidder.”

These procedures include re-use of existing equipment in the new airframe, and could involve the CRH search and rescue helicopter approach of requesting more price data from Sikorsky. Sources: Reuters, “UPDATE 1-U.S. Navy defends presidential copter bid format as firms bail out”.

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July 29/13: VH-92 left. Boeing and AgustaWestland both confirm to Aviation Week that they don’t intend to bid on the VXX RFP. That leaves only Sikorsky & Lockheed Martin’s VH-92. The S-92 is widely used as a head-of-state VIP helicopter, but this probably isn’t the outcome the Navy was looking for. AgustaWestland:

“After a comprehensive analysis of the final RFP…. There are fundamental proposal evaluation issues that we believe inhibit our ability to submit a competitive offering, and that provide a significant advantage to our likely competitor…. we believe we have the best, most suitable aircraft for the President.”

Eurocopter never stepped in. Then there’s Boeing, whose response also removes Bell Helicopter:

“The Boeing Company will not submit a bid for the U.S. Navy’s VXX Presidential Helicopter program. While both the Boeing H-47 Chinook and the Bell Boeing V-22 are often used to transport military and government leaders in theaters of operation, we do not believe these aircraft would be competitive for this program as it is currently structured.”

The downwash issues on the White House lawn made those machines rather improbable from the get-go, and you can’t transport a V-22 in a C-17, unless you remove the wings. Leaving the question: now what? Sources: Aviation Week, “VXX Becomes One-Horse Race”.

May 4/13: VH-22. The 1st of 12 MV-22B Ospreys is delivered to the HMX-1 Presidential Squadron. These Ospreys will never carry the President, just cargo, support staff, and media members.

V-22 flight operations at HMX-1 technically began on April 26/13, but flights with support staff and news media representatives won’t begin until later in 2013. Sources: USMC | US NAVAIR.

V-22 joins HMX-1

May 3/13: VXX RFP. The US Navy issues their VXX RFP. Proposals for the 23 helicopters are due in 90 days with a goal to award a fixed-price incentive engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract, with production options, by mid-calendar year 2014. Proposals will be evaluated on “best value,” which means a more expensive proposal can win, and technical factors are “slightly more important” than cost. Vendors can gain an extra 10% for assessed strengths in some or all of Fully-outfitted Performance with Overall Weight Growth Margin; Transportability – C-17 Load/Unload Timeline; Cabin Reconfiguration Timeline; and Reliability. Another 5% premium can be gained by offering risk reduction benefits, for a maximum of 15%.

The government will define the mission systems, which is what crashed the program last time, and choose the interior aesthetics from among options offered by the contractor. One hopes that past lessons have been learned. They do have a cost target, which may seem low:

“The affordability target for unit recurring flyaway VXX Integrated Air Vehicle and support equipment, provided for guidance, is $41M. Unit recurring flyaway is defined as that which is associated with the “end item” (excluding GFE hardware) and is comprised of the Prime Mission Equipment including airframe, propulsion, avionics, and it is also comprised of the Software, Integration, and Systems Engineering / Program Management (SEPM) to repeat build of the end item…. The affordability target for Production Support, provided for guidance, is $12M per option year.”

The thing to remember is that most of the helicopter’s total cost will be tied up in the Government Furnished equipment. The difficult interactions happen when the amount of equipment starts forcing overall design changes to the helicopters that can’t be met by off-the-shelf technologies. Having said that, some requirements like the ability to safely land in very small landing zones, with minimal damage to the surroundings, are non-negotiable. Sources: | US NAVAIR.


May 4/13: H-92. Sikorsky reiterates that they’ll be submitting a variant of their S-92 for VXX, in partnership with Lockheed Martin. They’ll compete against Northrop Grumman and AgustaWestland (AW101), and Boeing (TBD). Sources: Sikorsky, May 4/13 release.

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.

Planning changes from FY 2013 to FY 2014 are “directly related to the reprogramming of funds to support the unplanned requirements associated with keeping the existing fleet of Presidential VH-3′s and VH-60′s [sic] safely operating beyond their originally planned service life until replaced by VXX. Requirements include obsolescence issues and safety improvements such as weight reduction efforts, and structural improvements.” Overall, life extension and modernization work on the current fleet of 11 VH-3Ds and 8 VH-60Ns amount to about $708.7 million from FY 2012-2018.

March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. The VXX program gets a short 1-page entry, which notes an April 2012 VXX analysis of alternatives (AOA) study:

“The program plans to leverage existing avionic and mission systems and it uses less stringent requirements than those developed for VH-71. In addition, the acquisition approach includes integrating a government developed communication package and mission systems…. A May 2012 Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) memo certifying the AOA study states that the analysis demonstrates that the proposed approach to avoid [requiring flight recertification of the final helicopter] is feasible for a number of options and, if adopted, offers potential for reduced cost and schedule.”

The tradeoff involves reduced requirements from the VH-71 program, and GAO says that the final Capabilities Development Document didn’t make any changes that would destroy the assumptions of the AOA study.

Nov 29/12: Program Support. Engility Corp. in Mount Laurel, NJ received a $9.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide technical and engineering support services. They’ll help with requirement specification, design, implementation, test, management, and maintenance of laboratory/information system and project/program related software in support of the MH-53 program for minehunting helicopters, the existing VH-3/60 Executive Transportation Program, the VXX program, and general Avionics System Integration.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (95%), and Lexington Park, MD (5%), and is expected to be completed in November 2013. $2.4 million is committed immediately, and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-13-C-0006).

Nov 29/12: VXX. US FBO:

“The VXX Program will conduct a Pre-solicitation Conference on 10 December 2012 at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center located at 44219 Airport Road, California, MD 20619, from 1:00p.m. to 5:00p.m. EST. The purpose of this event is to provide a brief status update of the VXX Program, inform industry of program requirements, receive industry’s feedback on the draft RFP, and provide a Question & Answer/networking opportunity.”

Nov 23/12: VXX. releases NAVAIR’s draft for the VXX competition, #N00019-12-R-0063. Once the RFP is refined and released, it will be about designing, building, testing, qualifying, and delivering 25 helicopters. The 2 VXX Engineering Development Model (EDM) machines would be delivered within 30-36 months, and 4 System Demonstration Test Article (SDTA) helicopters would be delivered within 42-52 months. They would be followed by 11 Low Rate Initial Production lots, and 8 “Full-Rate Production” lots. Each lot is actually 1 helicopter.

On the one hand, NAVAIR is trying to keep development costs down:

“Offerors will be highly encouraged to propose an existing, in-production helicopter platform from which the VXX will be derived. It is the Government’s desire to hold development to an absolute minimum on the VXX Program and focus the program effort on integration of mature subsystems on a mature platform. While minor changes to the platform to accommodate integration of subsystems are inevitable, change to major components such as drive train, rotors, engines and basic structure is highly discouraged. In keeping with this approach, the Offerors will be encouraged to not propose any design elements that contain immature technology or that might be deemed Critical Technology Elements (CTEs).”

Announced competitors Finmeccanica/Northrop Grumman (AW101) and Sikorsky/Lockheed (S-92) both fit the basic requirements. On the other hand, the VH-71/AW101 fiasco involved an in-production, C-17 transportable platform, led by a US contractor. It needed so many changes to its engine, rotors, etc. because of the program’s equipment and range requirements, which couldn’t be met by any existing helicopter. These aspects of VXX have yet to become public. A pre-solicitation conference will be held in Maryland on December 10. Sources: US, “Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program (VXX) Contract” | Aviation Today, “NAVAIR Sets Ball Rolling (Again) for Presidential Helicopter (VXX) Replacement” | Reuters, “Navy moves ahead to replace presidential helicopters”.

FY 2011 – 2012

VXX Analysis of Alternatives; VH-71s sold to Canada as spares. CH-149 Cormorant SAR
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August 2012: AoA. Navy Public Affairs Officer Capt. Cate Mueller tells DID that the revised Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) was approved back in May. The focus for the program is set on “affordability, cost control and risk reduction” which reflects adjustments asked by the Pentagon after the original AoA was deemed to set an unaffordable path.

The next step in the acquisition process is work on a Capabilities Development Document (CDD), the key deliverable of the Technology Development (TD) phase. This is expected to be submitted for approval to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) in 2013. Once that is approved, an Independent Cost Estimate (ICE) has to be made before moving to Pre-Engineering & Manufacturing Development and issuing an RFP.

All told, this puts the program at least “8 years away from when a new helicopter could replace the current fleet” according to Mueller. The Congressional Budget Office, in its July 2012 assessment of the FY 2013-2017 FYDP, assumes a replacement for Marine One will happen “in the second half of this decade.”

Feb 27/12: GAO Report. the Government Accountability Office publishes its second report on DOD’s handling of the VH-71 cancellation aftermath and VXX follow-on. (The first report was released in March 2011.) The GAO conducted a performance audit from March 2011 to February 2012 that reviewed work on the Navy’s AOA and a number of high-level Pentagon and Navy briefings.

The AOA submitted by the Navy in March 2011 was not approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) because of a lack of a cost-effective solution. At least that was OSD’s perception as it is relayed in the GAO report. The Navy apparently believed it had been faithful to DOD guidance in its analysis. OSD then provided additional guidance in December 2011. There won’t be a Milestone A, nor an official program, until that is resolved. The revised AOA is expected to be presented to OSD in March 2012.

Feb 13/12: 2013 Budget. The US Navy is asking for $61M in FY2013 for V-XX program definition.

Sept 12/11: Off to Canada. HW Farren Company announces that it has finished transporting the USA’s 9 VH-71 helicopters to Canada’s Department of National Defence, for use as spare parts to Canada’s CH-149 Cormorant fleet. The CH-149s have had readiness issues, and have been consuming spares at a rapid clip. Hence the mention that the 9 helicopters were “in care of” maintenance contract holder IMP Aerospace in Enfield, NS.

The first 4 VH-71s were broken down for transport, but the last 5 could not be disassembled, and HW Farren had to designed and fabricate special wheel cradles for them. They were loaded on a barge, transported to Baltimore, off-loaded, placed on an Atlantic Container Line Roll-On Roll-Off Vessel for transport to Halifax, then re-loaded onto barges, for transport to Canadian Forces Depot Bedford. CFAD Bedford is technically part of CFB Halifax, but the “Bedford Magazine” is its own major property occupying the entire northern shore of Bedford Basin. It houses all of the weaponry and ammunition for MARLANT vessels, and has a loading jetty and several nearby anchorages. HW Farren | CASR.

VH-71s to Canada as spares

June 2/11: Termination fees. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Owego, NY receives a $53.4 million modification to the previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee VH-71 system development and demonstration contract, which was terminated for the convenience of the government. This modification provides funding for post-termination related expenses, including, but not limited to: physical inventory of contractor acquired property; proposal preparation; security; disposition of contract inventory; subcontractor settlement costs; and termination management activities. When combined with the June 2010 contract, it raises termination expenses to $112 million.

Work will be performed in Owego, NY (36%), and at various subcontractor facilities located within the United States and in the United Kingdom and Italy (64%), and is expected to be complete no later than September 2012 (N00019-05-C-0030).

FY 2010

Teaming for VXX VH-71/ EH101 concept
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June 21/10: Termination fees. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Owego, NY receives a $58.6 million modification for termination-related expenses. The cost-plus-award-fee VH-71 System Development and Demonstration contract (N00019-05-C-0030) was terminated for the convenience of the government, but there are still some associated costs that the government must pay. This modification provides funding for post termination related expenses, including, but not limited to, the physical inventory of contractor acquired property; proposal preparation; security; disposition of contract inventory; subcontractor settlement costs; termination management activities; and applicable fees.

Work will be performed in Owego, NY (36%) and at various subcontractor facilities located within the USA, and in the United Kingdom and Italy (64%), and is expected to be complete by September 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10 (N00019-05-C-0030).

June 7/10: AW101. The EH101 is back, as Boeing teams with AgustaWestland. Finmeccanica’s subsidiary has produced several Boeing helicopters under license in England and Italy (WAH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinooks), and now Boeing will return the compliment with the AW101. The license will give Boeing full intellectual property, data and production rights, making its version of a Presidential AW101 bid a Boeing aircraft, built by Boeing personnel, at one of its U.S. facilities. Boeing says that it will respond to the current VXX RFI by the June 18/10 deadline.

This decision is likely to create several ripples. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute points out that:

“Boeing’s bid could create some embarrassing moments for both itself and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin spent years arguing that the AgustaWestland airframe was superior to the Sikorsky product it now supports… By the same token, Boeing is engaged in a bitter dispute with Airbus concerning European aircraft subsidies, and [the AW101 has received them]… As Christopher Drew noted in today’s New York Times, the government will be selecting between the same two rotorcraft in the new competition that were offered the first time around, albeit with different teams behind them. Whether the government ultimately saves any money… will depend on how it re-writes its performance specifications… the more likely outcome is that… the greater capacity of the EH101 will once again prevail.”

See: Boeing | Finmeccanica [PDF] | AgustaWestland | DoD Buzz | Lexington Institute.

April 20/10: V-22? Boeing and Bell Helicopter are reportedly considering a VV-22 tilt-rotor bid for the VXX competition.

The V-22 offers significant speed and range advantages, but there’s a reason the V-22 didn’t make the finals the first time. Massive downdrafts too strong for the White House lawns didn’t fit the RFP, and a low-ceilinged cabin design didn’t fit the idea of a President walking in without stooping. Not to mention continued jitters concerning its safety, though that can cut both ways as a political statement. DoD Buzz.

April 19/10: H-92. Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin team for VXX. This day, the 2 companies also jointly submit a response to the U.S. Navy’s VXX request for information, detailing how they would design and manufacture the next Marine One. The agreement has Sikorsky as the prime contractor, offering its H-92 Superhawk medium-lift helicopter, with Lockheed Martin as the major integrator of all required electronic subsystems.

In addition to the VXX teaming agreement, the firms also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore business opportunities involving “other Sikorsky programs” beyond VXX, or their existing 38-year partnership surrounding the US Navy’s SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk naval helicopters. Sikorsky | Lockheed Martin | Aviation Week Ares.

Feb 16/10: VXX. The USA releases a 27-page RFI for new “VXX” Presidential Vertical Lift Platform(s). Interested parties are asked to provide a 5-page response by March 3/10. The responses will be used to support a new analysis of alternatives, the first step toward a formal Request for Proposal.

One change is that VXX would feature at least 2 versions of the new helicopter: an executive model for VIP transport and a passenger-cargo variant for support. Total buy for both models will track closely with VH-71 plans, at 23-28 aircraft. FedBizOpps #VXX-RFI | Defense News.


Oct 14/09: Politics. US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates sends a letter to Congress [PDF], in advance of House/Senate efforts to reconcile their defense bills into a single agreed budget. It includes the following excerpt:

“The conference bill should not provide funding for weapons that are not working or are no longer needed. To that end, the Department strongly objects to the House’s addition of $400 million to make operational five partially-completed VH-71 helicopters and appreciates that the Senate did not add funds [for the VH-71] to the President’s [budget] request. These helicopters currently have no mission equipment and would require in excess of $2 billion to complete and operate as Presidential helicopter. Even with these funds, they would not meet full operational requirements for the mission. The Department [of Defense] and the White House are conducting a requirements analysis, and the outcome of this effort should not be pre-empted. If the final bill were to include funds that continue the existing VH-71 program, or would pre-judge the plans to re-compete the Presidential helicopter program, I would recommend that the President veto the bill.”

FY 2009

VH-71 cancellation VH-71 MSB simulator
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June 2/09: It’s official: Arrivederci, VH-71. A Pentagon press release states that:

“The Navy today announced that it will terminate the VH-71 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) program contract. The announcement follows a Department of Defense (DoD) decision to cancel the existing presidential helicopter replacement program… Navy contract N00019-05-C-0030 and associated work with Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Owego (LMSI-O), Owego, N.Y., awarded Jan. 28, 2005, for the SDD of the VH-71 program, has been terminated for the convenience of the government. The under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics issued a VH-71 program acquisition decision memorandum on May 15, 2009, which directed the program be cancelled, to include both Increment 1 and Increment 2.”

VH-71 terminated

June 1/09: Arabian Aerospace quotes Sikorsky VP of Business Development Frank DiPasquale, who says that:

“We have worked very hard to establish the S-92 in a Head of State role in the Middle East and that has been a great success. The aircraft is performing that mission in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and in Saudi Arabia where the royal family is now flying in the S-92.”

May 21/09: What Next? One of the big problems with the new helicopters was the need to pack all of that communications gear, into a helicopter that can fly nearly 300km without refueling to an emergency airbase at Andrews AFB or Camp David, while remaining small enough to avoid damaging the White House lawn.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that the Pentagon is now considering a request for 2 different helicopter types: one for routine shuttle trips, and a more capable escape aircraft designed for use in emergencies. This would allow a much lower-budget fleet of standard helicopters for everyday use, and a much smaller fleet built on a larger design that didn’t have to care about the White House lawn.

May 15/09: Stop work. The VH-71 program receives a stop work order from the Pentagon. Another 225 layoffs are expected at Lockheed Martin’s Owego, NY facility before the end of the month.

The 5 production and 4 test aircraft would still be the property of the US Navy, but many have not had their advanced systems integrated yet. It will be up to the US Navy to decide what to do with the helicopters.

The US Navy said that the $85 million 2010 budget request includes money to cover termination costs, government efforts to develop options for a replacement program, and service life extensions for the current presidential helicopter fleet. Some estimates place termination costs as high as $500 million, but that figure remains to be negotiated between Lockheed Martin and the federal government. Elmira Star Gazette | Ithaca Journal | NY Times op-ed | Wall Street Journal on local impacts | WICZ Fox 40 news | bNet | The Hill magazine | Wall Street Journal on cancellation.

April 28/09: Testing. The 9th and final (4 test + 5 pilot production) VH-71 to be built under “Increment 1″ of the US Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program leaves AgustaWestland’s Yeovil, UK facility. It will be sent to the United States for completion by prime contractor Lockheed Martin. AgustaWestland release.

April 28/09: Politics. In a Reuters interview, AgustaWestland CEO Giuseppe Orsi takes issue with the Pentagon’s characterization of the VH-71 Increment 1 helicopters’ expected lifespan. Orsi says that even with the additional armor and modifications, the new VH-71 helicopters are certifiable for a minimum 10,000 flight hours of operation, or about 30 years of service in the Presidential fleet. The firm has agreed to tests with the US Navy to verify that performance.

Those tests may be important, because Orsi also backed a compromise plan being floated in Congress. It would revert to the original budget of $6.8 billion, in exchange for sticking to the VH-71 Increment 1 specifications. Note the March 17/08 entry, below, which explains that a number of original requirements were deferred from Increment 1 to improve affordability.

Since the Increment 2 specifications are not realistic or cost-effective, the question going forward must be which specifications can be cut, even if the competition is re-started. The question is whether the Increment 1 helicopters can serve for the required length of time, and are close enough to the reduced requirements, to justify continuation of the program. The alternative involves termination costs that could run to $200 million, in exchange for a renewed competition and a helicopter that offers a more exact match for the new requirements. Reuters | New York Times.

April 27/09: Layoffs. Lockheed Martin Corp. announces an initial round of 225 job cuts at its Owego, NY plant, with further layoffs expected. About 800 of the plant’s 4,000 workers are dedicated to the VH-71 program, and others have been working on an EH101 derivative for the USAF’s CSAR-X search and rescue competition. AP, via Forbes.

April 6/09: Stop. In an unusual move, American Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announces his FY 2010 budget recommendations to the President. He recommends full cancellation of the VH-71 program, on the grounds that the Increment 2 helicopters will cost more than an Air Force One 747, and “Increment One helicopters do not meet requirements and are estimated to have only a five- to 10-year useful life.”

New options for the future Presidential helicopter are to be developed for a replacement program that’s expected to begin in FY 2011.

March 5/09: Bloomberg reports that the latest estimate and 15-page report, prepared for congressional defense committees, revises the VH-71′s program cost from $11.2 billion to $13 billion – 113% above the original baseline of $6.1 billion. Based on 28 helicopters built, the allocated R&D and purchase cost would be $464.3 million per helicopter.

The report adds that instead of having the first 5 helicopters ready no earlier than September 2010, there would be a delay of 18 months (April 2012), and that the upgraded version with more sophisticated communications and the most advanced defenses would slip from December 2017 – December 2019.

The US Navy would not confirm these changes or comment, because Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has yet to provide a formal certification of cost and justification for the program to Congress, per the Nunn-McCurdy legislation’s review process. Bloomberg News | Congressional Quarterly | Washington Post | Ithaca Journal | Britain’s The Independent discusses the effect in Britain.

Costs rise again

Feb 27/09: Hacked. P2P Intelligence firm Tiversa claims that in Oct/Nov 2008, it traced a file that contains details regarding the VH-60N Presidential Helicopter’s CAAS avionics architecture, and some program financial data, on public-access peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks. On Feb 25/09, the file was found on the IP address of an Iranian computer.

The CAAS avionics architecture is slated for use in the VH-71 as well. Read “P2P Network Leaks: The VH-60N Helicopter” for full treatment of this breach, its implications, and the underlying trend at work.

Feb 23/09: Arrivederci? Disparaging comments at the White House fiscal summit by President Obama, and by his Republican Party opponent Sen. John McCain, cast doubt on the VH-71 program’s future. From The Australian’s report :

“Yesterday Mr Obama, as if playing both speaker and leader in the Westminster style, first called on Senator McCain in this version of question time.

“Thank you for doing this,” said Senator McCain, “your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One. I don’t think that there’s any more graphic demonstration of how good ideas have cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money”.

“I’ve already talked to (Secretary of Defence Robert) Gates about a thorough review of the helicopter situation,” he said.

“The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me,” he said, generating laughs before adding “of course, I’ve never had a helicopter before … maybe I’ve been deprived and I didn’t know it.”

He said it was an example of the “procurement process gone amok. And we’re going to have to fix it”.

Those comments by both men were widely reported, and triggered a drop in Finmeccanica’s share price. AgustaWestland USA chief executive Stephen C Moss stated his belief that the program will go forward, with changes, and pointed out that in 63 cases of Nunn-McCurdy cost overruns, only 2 programs have been canceled. Changes have been proposed to the VH-71, including reducing the number of helicopters, and removing some of the troublesome requirements. Other proposed changes include putting the program up for rebid, building new VH-3s with updated communications, or simply canceling the program without replacement.

In the current economic environment, more extreme solutions become more likely. Given that the existing VH-3/ VH-60 fleet is not suffering from flying hour fatigue, these comments from Obama and McCain will make the required Nunn-McCurdy justifications to Congress very problematic. See also: Washington Post | CNN Money with Moss statement | MSNBC re: Connecticut delegation’s rebid push | The Hill | AP | Helciopter Association International | Flight International | WIRED Danger Room.

Jan 29/09: Cost breach. The US Navy announces that the VH-71 program is more than 50% over budget, triggering “Nunn-McCurdy” legislative provisions and stopping work on development of the VH-71′s Increment 2 design.

Under those provisions, the Defense Department either must end the program, or certify that it is essential for national security, that the new unit costs are reasonable, that management structure can control future growth, and that no substitutes exist that provide equal or greater military capability at less cost. Reuters, via Forbes.

Nov 26/08: SDD. Another $500 million in System Development and Demonstration (SDD) funds to Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY. Work on this modification to the existing cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-05-C-0030) will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (28%); Owego, NY (26%); Yeovil, UK (20%); Cascina Costa, Italy (15%); Rolling Meadows, IL (3%); Lynn, MA (3%); Clifton, NJ (2%); Denton, TX (1%); Grand Rapids, MI (1%); and Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (1%), and is expected to be complete in December 2014.

Oct 9/08: SDD. Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY receives a $173 million modification, raising the January 2005 cost plus award fee contract (N00019-05-C-0030) for the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) of the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (28%); Owego, NY (26%); Yeovil, United Kingdom (20%); Cascina Costa, Italy (15%); Rolling Meadows, IL (3%); Lynn, MA (3%); Clifton, NJ (2%); Denton, TX (1%); Grand Rapids, MI (1%); and Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (1%), and is expected to be complete in September 2011.

FY 2008

Price inflation; pilot helo. VH-71 Demonstrator
(click to view full)

Sept 22/08: Testing. The first operational pilot production helicopter (PP-1) completes its maiden flight at AgustaWestland’s facility in Yeovil, England. Lockheed Martin release.

March 14/08: New deal. The Pentagon reaches an agreement with the White House re: the VH-71 program, and confirms that the cost of the 28 helicopter program has jumped to $11.2 billion – from $6.1 billion when the contract was signed in 2005. Increment 1 rose from $2.3 billion to $3.7 billion, and Increment 2 jumped from $4.5 billion to $7.5 billion. The price of the Increment 2 helicopters would be over $325 million each – comparable to the current Air Force One 747 fleet, even when adjusted for inflation since 1990.

The original VH-71 program planned to rely on an existing commercial helicopter and make modest modifications, but Pentagon acquisition chief John Young has now acknowledged that no existing medium-lift helicopter can meet all of the requirements crammed into VH-71 Increment 2:

“The Navy and industry team did not clearly realize the full implications of the White House requirements… These issues were further complicated by the enforcement of Navy certification requirements on a helicopter designed to commercial aviation standards.”

That’s a rather startling admission. Now, the Navy and industry teams are will complete a “substantial” redesign of the EH-101 base helicopter to meet Increment 2 requirements. The Day Paper, CT | Aviation Week | Defense News

New deal, costs rise

Feb 27/08: Testing. Test Vehicle 3 makes its initial flight in Yeovil, England marking the 4th program helicopter to enter flight test. TV-3 will be the first vehicle tested that is outfitted with mission systems, which means it will be able to validate in-flight performance data for the helicopter’s equipment, instead of relying on lab tests.

TV-3 is due to arrive at the Presidential Helicopter Support Facility here on March 17/08 and will then travel to Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY for final assembly and mission systems integration. TV-3 will join TV-1, TV-2 and TV-5, which have accumulated more than 650 total hours of flight test so far. One additional test vehicle is scheduled for flight testing and missionization after TV-3, before the initial lot of production aircraft are delivered to Patuxent River. NAVAIR release | Flight International.

Jan 19/08: VH-71 stays. Defense Technology International reports that After considering alternatives to the Lockheed Martin VH-71 presidential helicopter – including upgrading the Sikorsky H-3s – the Navy has reportedly decided to stick with the US101 aircraft and fund an additional $1 billion in modifications in “Increment 2,” on top of the program’s initial $6.1 billion price tag, on the grounds that other alternatives wouldn’t be any better.

DTI reports that White House and Navy requirements are essentially turning the helicopter into another “Air Force One” (Presidential 747), which involves hundreds of specifications not included at the program’s outset. In addition to extra electronics, the changing specifications will include structural modifications to the US101 helicopter, in order to extend its range beyond what the current airframes can deliver.

Adding hundreds of new performance requirements in mid-stride does make successful program delivery very difficult – and being on that ride has cost Lockheed Martin before, during evaluations of another modified US101 for the $10-15 billion CSAR-X combat search and rescue helicopter.

Jan 10/08: Testing. The first 2 VH-71 Increment 1 helicopters (TV-2 and TV-5) have entered the flight test phase with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. They are the first of 4 Increment 1 test aircraft; TV-3 and TV-4, will undergo additional assembly and missionization at Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY, before being transferred to NAS Patuxent River in 2008 for testing. NAVAIR release.

Jan 3/08: Cancellation? Inside Defense reports that the VH-71 program may face significant cuts:

“The fate of the VH-71 presidential helicopter program is hanging in the balance as senior defense officials privately weigh the elimination of the bulk of the program, according to sources tracking the issue inside and outside the Pentagon…”

Dec 13/07: Cancellation? Gannett’s Marine Corps Times reports that cost increases and schedule problems, “driven in part by nearly 2,000 requirement changes,” (vid. April 2007 entry) forced a meeting with the White House Military Office to discuss the program’s fate.

Rumors of cancellation began shortly after that, though the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aviation Programs later said that there “has been no decision to terminate the program… We’re continuing to look at all the options. We’ve looked at almost every conceivable option…”

Nov 14/07: Industrial. Lockheed Martin announces that its VH-71 Systems Integration Lab (SIL) is now operational at the Navy’s Presidential Helicopter Support Facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, in preparation for the arrival of the first aircraft built for the VH-71 program. The new SIL at Patuxent River will allow engineers to test VH-71 avionics and mission systems prior to installation aboard the aircraft – for instance, ensuring that the President can communicate with several government agencies simultaneously. It consists of test benches to evaluate individual subsystems currently in development. The SIL at Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY, which became operational in August 2007, includes a master systems bench full-scale functional mockup of the VH-71 cockpit and cabin that allows the Navy-Lockheed team to run mission scenarios of the final integrated systems.

Test Vehicle 2 (TV-2) is scheduled to arrive at Patuxent River in mid-November 2007 to commence a comprehensive testing program. Another 3 test vehicles are scheduled for delivery to the U.S. this winter, followed by 5 production aircraft during 2008. Capt. Don Gaddis, the U.S. Navy’s Presidential Helicopters program manager, said that:

“A Systems Integration Lab at the Presidential Helicopter Support Facility will enable the Marine Corps to test the integrated systems more quickly during the flight test phase… Having this on-site test capability is critical to meeting our requirements.”

FY 2006 – 2007

Maiden test flight, full flight. VH-71 1st flight
(click to view full)

July 3/07: Testing. The 1st VH-71 pilot production helicopter makes its maiden flight at AgustaWestland’s facility in Yeovil, UK. Before that TV2 model is delivered to the test facility in Patuxent River, MD in fall 2007 for structural testing, the aircraft will complete initial shake-down flying and embark on flight trials to test the integrated avionics systems and aircraft systems. Lockheed Martin release | GE release.

April 2007: 2,000 changes? A systems requirements review reveals that nearly 2,000 design changes will be needed to meet Pentagon requirements for the VH-71 Increment 2 model – the first model intended to offer the President full command and control capability while in flight. The changes reportedly included a new tail, transmission and rotor blades. Source.

Oct 24/06: Sub-contractors. GE Aviation officially opens its new Presidential Helicopter engine facility at the Lynn, Massachusetts, plant. The dedicated area in Lynn Product Development & Delivery will house the assembly and shipment operations of CT7-8E and CT7-8CE1 engines for the next-generation “Marine One” helicopter that will be used by the President of the United States.

Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY awarded GE a $65-million contract to provide CT7-8E and CT7-8CE1 engines for use during the system development & demonstration (SDD) phase of the Presidential Helicopter Replacement program. GE Aviation release.

June 12/06: Industrial Lockheed Martin formally opens the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter Integration Facility. The new 176,000-square-foot facility features aircraft integration hangars, program management and engineering office space, systems integration laboratories, aircraft parts storage, and maintenance and helicopter paint facilities. The complex also includes a new helicopter flight operations area. Lockheed Martin release.

October 2005: First test flight of the VH-71.

1st test flight

FY 2003-05

VXX/US101 dubbed VH-71A US101, 1st test flight
(click to view full)

July 7/05: VH-71. The next generation US presidential helicopter sheds its generic “VXX” placeholder and contractor’s “US101″ moniker and received its mission design series designator of “VH-71A.” A popular name for the VH-71A is still under consideration. NAVAIR release.

VH-71 designation

May 19/05: Politics. The House Armed Service Panel approves the FY 2006 defense appropriations bill, including the Presidential helicopter. Money for the project now is included in the House version of the Defense Appropriations bill. Congressional maneuvering had left this result in some doubt, along with about 750 jobs at the Lockheed Martin Systems Integration plant in Owego, NY. Government Executive.

April 2005: Politics. Sikorsky’s home-state Sen. Christopher Dodd [D-CT] inserts an amendment to a State Department authorization bill that would have prohibited any European companies in “countries that do business with terrorist-sponsoring states” from producing components of the US101 helicopter. The amendment was crafted to target AgustaWestland, but Lockheed Martin home-state Sen. Chuck Schumer’s [D-NY] objections to the amendment kill it. Towanda, PA Daily and Sunday Review

Jan 28/05: Winner! U.S. Navy NAVAIR selects the US101 as the new “Marine One” helicopter for the President of the United States, issuing a $1.7 billion System Design & Development (SDD) contract.

The US101 is a derivative of AgustaWestland’s 3-engine EH101. The reason for such a large contract is that the helicopter may be a tested platform, but there’s a lot of gear to position, integrate, and test, including expensive propositions like electronic interference testing. Team US101 release | Lockheed Martin release.

US101 wins, gets SDD contract

Dec 1/03: US101. The US101 Team competing to provide the president of the United States with a new Marine One helicopter fleet selects GE Aircraft Engines (GEAE) to supply American-made CT7-8E engines for the US101 Presidential helicopter. At more than 2,500 shaft horsepower, the CT7-8E is one of the newest and most powerful derivative of GEAE’s successful T700/CT7 family of helicopter engines. Lockheed Martin release.

Appendix A: VH-71 – The Plan, and the Problems Air Force One
(click to view full)

Given the immense complexity of the electronics involved, the plan was for VH-71 deliveries to involve 2 separate “increments” that separated the full electronics suite from the airframe and basic functions.

In the Increment 1 phase, 4 test aircraft and 5 pilot production VH-71 aircraft were to be delivered through 2009. Increment 1 would answer the urgent need for an air system with enhanced performance over existing VH helicopters, but would not include many of the desired technologies.

Increment 2 was supposed to see a significant increase in helicopter performance, and communications, for the operational helicopters that would remain for many years as America’s Presidential fleet.

According to the Pentagon’s Selected Acquisition Reports, these 28 VH-71 aircraft were initially expected to cost a total of of $6.145 billion, including both R&D and production. Even that worked out to about $219.5 million per helicopter, a sum that could purchase a new civilian 747 jumbo jet.

Tier one of the program’s problems began when it rushed the schedule.

The original schedule for the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program, known as VXX, had called for an initial operating capability in 2014. That schedule was accelerated by 4 years after the 9/11 attacks, even though it had taken several years to award the contract. Based on the contract schedule, the first US101 that was equipped to transport the President was expected to be available in 2009. The entire fleet of 28 US101s was scheduled for delivered to the Marine One squadron by late 2015.

Tier 2 of the program’s problems are a common refrain in US Navy acquisition programs: a long stream of requirements changes mid-process, creating technical specifications that current technologies cannot meet, with production starting long before a final design is agreed upon. In this case, however, many of the changes were driven by White House staff, not by the Navy.

By March 2008, the Pentagon confirmed a new figure of $11.2 billion, or $400 million per helicopter – comparable to a new buy of the USAF’s VC-25 “Air Force One” 747s. Their next SAR was forced to incorporate that jump, and report the VH-71 program as being in breach of American Nunn-McCurdy regulations. Those laws require cost increases of over 25% to re-justify the program to Congress. That proved to be a very difficult exercise, amidst the meltdown of the global financial system.

VXX 1.0 – Team Lockheed’s “US101″ US101 Demonstrator
(click to view full)

This competition had some unique requirements, including rotor wash and helicopter weight that had to avoid being too hard on the White House landscaping. Those requirements had reportedly washed out Bell Textron and Boeing’s V-22 tilt-rotor, which meets a number of the program’s challenging range requirements and offers speed advantages. Aside from its downwash effect on the local flora, the Osprey also had a very low-ceilinged cabin and safety questions, and was never seriously considered for presidential use. Bell Helicopter joined Lockheed’s US101 team.

In 2005, after a long competition, a modified AgustaWestland EH101 beat out Sikorsky’s smaller S-92, which already operates as a head-of-state helicopter in other countries. Team US101 lead Lockheed Martin received a $1.7 billion contract from the Navy for the VH-71 Marine One program’s systems development and demonstration phase.

Team US101 was led by Lockheed Martin as system integrator. AgustaWestlandBell, a joint venture between AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopter Textron, was the principal American subcontractor to Lockheed Martin. Despite being a subcontractor, they would have responsibility for the basic helicopter design, production build, and basic air vehicle support.

While most European EH101s use a Rolls Royce/ Turbomeca RTM322 engine, The VH-71/US101s will be powered by 3 of GE’s CT7-8E and CT7-8CE1 engines, derived from the T700 series that powers many US military helicopters. The CT7-8 delivers 2,520 shp at sea level, and subsequent models were expected to surpass that.

Other key suppliers included ITT, Northrop Grumman, Kaman Aerospace, and Palomar Products. Aircraft final assembly will be by Bell Helicopter in Amarillo, TX, with mission equipment installation and final integration by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in NY.

New engines, and a rotor downwash that wouldn’t mess the flowers, were only the beginning of the changes to the basic airframe and systems. Another key modification for the new US101 a 6-foot-tall main cabin airstair door, instead of the shorter opening on regular EH101s. Why? It makes for better TV. The taller door matches the height of the cabin, and so the President needs only a tip of the head to get into Marine One, instead of having to duck down.

The VH-71 would retain the EH101′s active control system, which cancels out rotor and transmission vibration to create an airliner-like ride. Sound-absorbing material was also installed throughout, to provide a better work environment. All this would be present in the Initial Increment 1 helicopters.

Increment 2 would add other technical features, including head-up displays in the cockpit, a more robust tail rotor design, a higher power gearbox, slightly redesigned rotor blades for better flight characteristics, and higher performance engines.

The Presidential helicopters’ most important technologies, however, involved an array of EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse, created by nuclear blasts) resistant communications systems. While VH-71 Increment 1 helicopters would have limited capabilities in this regard, the full production VH-71 Increment 2 birds were expected to feature a wide array of new capabilities, allowing the President of the United States to work while in transit, and exercise command while en route to longer-term crisis transportation. From a temporary transport with some communications capabilities, Marine One was morphing into a platform that began to resemble the USA’s “Air Force One” VC-25s/ 747s.

In VH-71 Increment 2 helicopters, the 4th aircrew member would operate an elaborate, state-of-the-art, open architecture communications suite providing secure access to the White House communications network, along with technical enhancements designed to give the President full command and control capability while in flight.

Unfortunately, advanced EMP-resistant systems of this type are expensive, proprietary, inherently bulky, and draw a lot of power when aggregated together. In a 747, that isn’t a show-stopping problem. It’s a serious engineering problem in a very confined space, however, and also creates weight issues that will bite especially hard with a less-efficient helicopter aircraft. They bite even harder if that helicopter must also have truly unusual range, something that’s rather difficult to do if it’s loaded to the gills with gear, power generators, and other weight-creating equipment.

The 1st flight of a VH-71 pilot production helicopter took place in Yeovil, England on July 3/07.

In March 2008, Pentagon acquisition chief John Young acknowledged that no existing medium-lift helicopter could meet all of the requirements crammed into VH-71 Increment 2, adding the startling admission that “The Navy and industry team did not clearly realize the full implications of the White House requirements…” Following a program reorganization, the Navy and industry teams worked to complete a “substantial” redesign of the EH-101 helicopter to meet those Increment 2 requirements. It was this redesign that drove costs so high, as the helicopter was required to carry tons of extra gear and up to 15 passengers, while flying farther than current VH-3 and VH60 helicopters.

No problem is insoluble, if enough dollars and engineering resources are applied. Projects can and will be killed, however, if those dollars and resources climb too high. In the end, that’s what happened to the US101.

Additional Readings Background: Helicopters & Program

Background: Legacy Helicopters

  • Wikipedia – VH-71 Kestrel. They were eventually sold to Canada as spare parts for the CH-149 (AW101) search and rescue fleet.

  • Lockheed Martin, via WayBack – US101. They’re now part of Sikorsky’s S-92 team.

  • Team US101, via WayBack. This was Lockheed Martin’s collaboration with AgustaWestland, for the VH-71.

  • – VH-60 Marine-1

  • – VH-3D Marine-1

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The Evolving Landscape of Indian Defense Procurement

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 20:56
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Guest article by Sebastian Sobolev and Aleksandar D. Jovovic

Some years back, global defense companies flocked to the Indian defense market in search of opportunities that could offset declining home budgets. India’s attractiveness as a market was understandable: the country was embarked on an ambitious military modernization program to mitigate perceived threats from neighboring Pakistan and to compete with China in the maritime, air and land domains.

These initiatives ballooned military procurement accounts, which grew at an annual rate of 14% between 2005 and 2010. Yet contractors soon found themselves frustrated by opaque bureaucratic procurement processes, onerous domestic offset and work share requirements, and seemingly endless delays. With the emergence of a new government, what’s ahead for India?

The Indian Market: Structure, Inertia & Movement

India has made attempts to reform its procurement processes in the past; can contractors, foreign and domestic, expect anything different this time? The real battle may center on the competitive nature of India’s domestic defense firms, with the outcomes impacting opportunities for global defense providers. If Western defense suppliers are to compete in the Indian market, they would be well-served to understand the roots of the Indian procurement process, its current trajectory, and the potential opportunities that recent reforms may create.

Development of defense industrial capacity has been a key priority for India since the Nehru administration. Investment in the sector was seen as a means of spurring economic development, providing regional employment, and avoiding dependence on either Cold War bloc. Because development of this sector was a strategic economic and security priority, it was always centrally controlled, a structure that persists today. The choice of whether to import, co-produce, or indigenously develop a defense capability is made at the political level of the executive and Defense Ministry bureaucracies. Much of the decision-making authority beyond that lies with the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), which governs the R&D and production activities of the state-controlled defense industries (DPSUs).

This structure also governs how foreign suppliers interact with indigenous industries. It imposes offset obligations, mandates technology transfer requirements, and, up until recently, it dictated which local institution a foreign supplier had to partner with on a given project. Waiving this last requirement has the potential to improve the business environment for foreign companies in India by introducing an element of competition into the indigenous industrial base. This will be particularly meaningful if India’s vibrant private sector is invited to the table.

As the initial cycle of great expectations deflated, some firms chose to shift their focus away from the Indian market entirely. Others settled in for the long haul, trading their rushed marketing campaigns for patience, and working to better understand what programs and requirements were real and enduring.

As downward budgetary pressure persists in the United States and Europe, companies continue to look abroad for growth opportunities, and the size of India’s defense budget and the scope of its modernization ambitions have again drawn attention. In the midst of this, India has experienced a transformational election, bringing to power a new and dynamic leadership armed with a strong parliamentary majority and public mandate for change.

Almost immediately, India extended its prohibitive FDI restrictions on the defense sector from 27% to 49%. Soon after, the Modi government took the radical step of decoupling the high profile corruption investigation of AgustaWestland from the firm’s ongoing support and supplier activities, as well as allowing the company to continue – with some restrictions – to place bids on upcoming rotorcraft programs. But clues on the trajectory of the defense market may be most evident in India’s domestic competitive landscape, rather than high profile developments involving foreign firms.

The Public – Private Divide IAF’s 748M Avro
(click to view full)

India’s private firms have been angling for a greater defense market share, with a few wins in areas such as shipbuilding. But even here, complex efforts such as the P-75 submarine program have been channeled to teams of foreign and Indian public sector shipyards.

The upcoming Avro transport aircraft replacement is the next test opportunity for foreign technology players and India’s private sector. However, in true statist fashion, the private sector was promised this program by decree, rather than real competition with the public sector’s HAL and others.

Other privately-owned firms have trumpeted their greater play in the defense sector. The Tata Sons conglomerate included defense in its major investment drive, while Larsen and Toubro announced a $400 million expansion in naval shipbuilding, and have set a target of growing their defense business fourfold. Mumbai-based Mahindra, which has boasted a modest defense footprint in land vehicles and naval subsystems since India’s independence, is investing in radar and aerospace production.

Shifts in favor of India’s private sector have yet to materialize, however, putting considerable onus on the new government and its implementation – rather that regulation – of the defense procurement portfolio.

Foreign providers face similar quandaries: the Avro replacement program is also illustrative in this regard. The government had admirable ambitions to source this (foreign-designed) platform competitively, but its approach to the competition bears the hallmarks of centralized control that have defined the procurement process. The government dictated the terms, limiting suppliers and imposing considerable requirements for domestic industrial participation. The result was a dearth of interest from foreign suppliers, as well as complaints from local Indian partners that the small batch of aircraft to be made in India rendered required investments uneconomical. As of this writing, they have yet to receive a bid, and the competition has been extended. Barring a sudden turnaround, the program appears to be headed for cancellation and re-competition.

Another critical airborne program has suffered similar fates in the past. India’s Light Utility Helicopter program (LUH), the replacement of the revered but dated Chetak and Cheetah fleets, has now been cancelled twice. This program could shape up to be a true competition between the private and public sectors, in each case paired with foreign partners in a “buy and make Indian” program, requiring local assembly and content. Rather than simply assign this effort to one or the other side, India’s procurement officials may create a true competition. Indeed, the public sector HAL has been positioning and developing in-house IP for some time, via its Druhv and indigenous LUH programs.

Ultimately, the driver of true competition, as well as commensurate foreign engagement, lies in the severe capacity constraints faced by India’s public sector defense industry – first and foremost by the aforementioned HAL.

Recent history does contain some bright spots for American suppliers doing business in India. Despite the loss of the $12 billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition to Dassault, Boeing has exported several high-end platforms to India, including the P-8i maritime surveillance aircraft and the forthcoming AH-64E Apache attack helicopter. Interestingly, the Apache is being sold with no expectation of co-production or technology transfer. Lockheed’s C-130 franchise has done well for itself in India, with repeat sales of its J-series Super Hercules. In this case, India’s private sector has embedded itself in the supply chain, with a Tata-Lockheed Martin JV supplying aerostructure components that include the center wing box.

Conclusion C-130J-30 departs
(click to view full)

Ultimately, the real question in India is the extent of true domestic competition for defense funding. Will the new government open the market sufficiently to allow the private sector to compete and win, resulting in greater non-public sector investment in R&D and production capabilities? The circumstances seem favorable: this government is more committed to competition, has a more instinctive understanding of for-profit industry, and harbors greater awareness of the severe capacity constraints of the traditional public sector undertakings.

It is through this prism that global industry should consider its opportunities. The desire for more indigenous development and production will continue in an avowedly nationalist government. Nevertheless, global defense firms may be able to develop deeper and more fruitful partnerships with emerging private sector defense firms in India, perhaps even leading to greater exports of Indian content – much praised, but rarely experienced to date.

While higher FDI limits, greater flexibility in domestic industrial partnerships, and recent Western successes in exporting to India’s defense market are legitimate causes for optimism for foreign suppliers, aspects of India’s procurement process are likely to shed their bureaucratic and centrally-controlled past very slowly. India’s modernization ambitions are likely to continue drawing attention from Western contractors, but success in India will remain a longer-term proposition than the conventional wisdom of years past had suggested.

Avascent is the leading strategy and management consulting firm serving clients operating in government-driven markets. Sebastian Sobolev is a Project Manager, and Aleksandar D. Jovovic is a Principal. Use these links to reveal their emails and contact them.
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Australia’s Next-Generation Submarines

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:10
Bridge to the future?
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In its 2009 White Paper, Australia’s Department of Defence and Labor Party government looked at the progress being made in ship killing surveillance-strike complexes, and at their need to defend large sea lanes, as key drivers shaping future navies. These premises are well accepted, but the White Paper’s conclusion was a surprise. It recommended a doubling of Australia’s submarine fleet to 12 boats by 2030-2040, all of which would be a new successor design that would replace the RAN’s Collins Class submarines.

The surprise, and controversy, stem from Australia’s recent experiences. The Collins Class was designed with the strong cooperation of ThyssenKrupp’s Swedish Kockums subsidiary, and built in Australia by state-owned ASC. The class has had a checkered career, including significant difficulties with its combat systems, issues with acoustic signature and propulsion, major cost growth to A$ 5+ billion, and schedule slippage. Worse still, reports indicated that the RAN can only staff 2 of its 6 submarines. High-level attention led to a report and recommendations to improve the force, but whether they will work remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the nature of Australia’s SEA 1000 future submarine project – and its eventual cost – remain unclear, with estimated costs in the A$ 36-44 billion range. This FOCUS article covers Australia’s options, decisions, and plans, as their future submarine program slowly gets underway.

Australia’s SEA 1000 Future Submarine Program Structure & Timeline

There is widespread skepticism that the Australian can handle this proposed project, especially after the failure of the Collins Class. Worse, a number of expert reports have pointed out that the next generation of submarines needs to be in the water before the Collins Class wears out. Many believe that the Collins’ original 2024 – 2031 range for safe and effective service is too generous (vid April 21/12 entry, below), which left very little time as of 2009.

Australia’s Labor government didn’t approach the problem with that level of urgency. The breadth and severity of problems with the Collins Class led to a number of reports covering failures in current submarine operations, and lessons learned. The good news is that this has given Australia a better foundation for its decisions, and improved the government’s understanding of its real needs and responsibilities. The bad news is that this approach delayed action on the May 2009 White Paper for almost 3 years. It’s likely to be 2017 before there’s a serious contract to build the new boats, and the schedule announced in May 2012 has already slipped slightly:

CIS re: ‘$40B mistake’

2012: The Government will make a decision on design and test facilities, including the Land Based Test Site, and will receive the Future Submarine Industry Skills Plan. Actual: That skills plan wasn’t publicly unveiled until May 2013.

2013: The Government will receive the results of the design, technical, and capability studies, and will make a decision on the combat systems, torpedoes, sensors and other weapons systems. Actual: The studies were received, and the combat system was decided on in May 2013, but not the other elements.

2013/2014: First Pass approval was scheduled for late 2013/early 2014. This would presumably involve a picked design. That hasn’t happened yet, and the new Liberal Party government is rethinking the entire short list.

2017: Second Pass approval is scheduled for around 2017, with construction expected to begin afterward.

These delays and replacement realities have forced to government to state that the Collins Class can operate safely and effectively to 2031 – 2038. Whether that’s true remains to be seen.

Submarine Choices S-80 cutaway, labeled
(click to view full)

Australia’s Labor government delayed making its decision, as it considered 4 broad options for the future diesel-electric fast attack submarines. By May 2013, however, it had decided to go with the riskiest 2 options for a purchase that’s supposed to be the RAN’s future centerpiece. If they get this wrong to the same degree that they botched the Collins Class, they will have crippled Australia’s future naval posture for a generation.

Off-the-Shelf. An existing design available off-the-shelf, modified only to meet Australia’s regulatory requirements. Australia looked at the AM-2000 Scorpene, U214/U216, S-80, and Soryu Class – see Appendix A for details. This option was eliminated in May 2013.

Picking this option would have ensured rapid delivery for the RAN’s strategic centerpiece. It also would cut the risk of technical failure by deploying proven systems, and offered greater cost certainty and savings. The price of this approach is that the submarine chosen might not fit Australia’s exact vision. Which leads to the question of how much that vision is worth, when the extra cost is judged by what else it could buy Australia. If the answer is “their entire future fleet of 72 F-35A stealth fighters,” decision-makers are going to stop and think carefully.

Modified. One way to get most off-the-shelf benefits is to buy existing design and make minor changes to incorporate Australia’s specific requirements, especially the RAN’s chosen combat systems and weapons. Accepting off-the-shelf choices for a new submarine class would force Australia to stock and maintain new types of torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, electronics, etc. Which could be done, but is expensive. Hence the potential attraction of a modified buy. This option was eliminated in May 2013, but it’s resurfacing under the new Liberal government.

Either Japan’s Soryu Class or TKMS’ U218SG would require some modifications along these lines. The Soryus would need to modify their combat system to be compatible with Australia’s chosen AN/BY-1G combat system and with its Mk-48 heavy torpedoes. The U218SG is less defined, but Singapore uses Finmeccanica WASS Black Shark torpedoes in its Archer Class, so unless Singapore plans to switch to torpedoes and use the American AN/BYG-1 combat system, switching the U218SG’s combat system and weapons will take similar design work.

Note that the ultra-cramped nature of a submarine’s internals means that modifying a submarine’s internal electronics is a bit more than a minor design swap-out, and carries expenses and risks of its own. The German/Singaporean U218SG and Sweden’s potential A26 would add the risks inherent to a new design. Hence Australia’s growing focus on Japan’s Soryus. There is talk that the entire set of 10 subs may now be built abroad; a weaker option would use the common approach of having 2-3 boats built in the foreign shipyard with Australian workers on site, and the rest built in Australia following that hands-on skills transfer period.

HMAS Rankin
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Evolved. An evolved design that enhances the capabilities of existing off-the-shelf designs, or of the current Collins Class design. Groups like ASPI suggest that Australia is moving toward an Evolved Collins Class design, but first, they had to remove a key roadblock noted in RAND’s December 2011 report (q.v. Dec 13/11 entry):

“One problem that hindered the Collins program was the lack of the intellectual property (IP) rights to the design of the basic platform and much of the fitted equipment. Not having the rights to Collins IP on future designs may constrain the design effort for the new submarine class that will replace the Collins. Although Kockums and the DoD reached a settlement in 2004 that provided ASC and its subcontractors access to Kockums’ IP, it still protected Kockums’ proprietary information to the point that no intellectual property from the Collins can be used in a new Australian submarine design [implied: absent negotiations & licensing].”

A May 2013 agreement with Sweden’s FMV procurement agency has settled that issue, but an Evolved Design option remains inherently risky, precisely because it’s so easy to pretend that the structural and electronic modifications to an existing class won’t really create much risk. Experiences in a range of Australian and Canadian programs show that this simply isn’t true. Both technical and cost risks can become serious problems, as demonstrated by the fact that the Collins Class was itself begun under those same auspices. Worse, ASC’s performance regarding Collins construction, and metrics far below global norms while building Australia’s new Hobart Class air defense destroyers, may be raising the risk profile so high that it destroys the Evolved option.

New. An entirely new developmental submarine, designed in Australia.

The “New Developmental Submarine” option is, of course, the riskiest option of all. It’s also by far the most expensive, as a large amount of R&D must be financed. Since export sales from Australia are deeply unlikely, any R&D expenses are simply money down the drain.

With that said, the Swedish government may have a very interesting offer to make. They have broken off talks with Germany’s TKMS following accusations of bad faith in TKMS’ management of Kockums, which designed the Collins Class. In response, they’re working to revive a Swedish submarine industry at Saab. One possible solution is to continue taking those steps toward a Swedish submarine industry, but buy Australia’s ASC as well, and design their planned A26 successor submarine as a co-development project with Australia (q.v. April 12/14 entry).

Contracts and Key Events 2014

New center-right gov’t and its supporters rethinking the program; Interest in Japan’s Soryu Class accelerates; Swedish sub turmoil could be Australia’s big opportunity; ASC may be losing its grip on sub construction. A26 concept
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Sept 15/14: Japan risks. As it becomes clear that Japan is the odds-on favorite, discussion of that choice’s particular risks is coming up. If Australia picks the Soryus, the risks it will accept include some level of opacity with respect to key technologies, like special steels for hull strength. Time will tell, but Japan is also said to be reluctant to transfer all of the boat’s key technologies to Australia. Noise reduction designs in particular transfer naturally, as part of giving Australia full local maintenance capability, but are highly sensitive.

These issues, and the complex nature of these technologies, have industrial implications. The ability to actually build the submarines at ASC would leave no middle ground regarding technology transfer. Worse, experts like Kazuhisa Ogawa and ex-submariner Toshihide Yamauchi estimate that an ASC build could double the cost to the full planned A$ 40 million. This compares rather unfavorably with TKMS’ reported bid submission, but that design promises serious performance and timeliness risks, along with the potential for unexpected costs. Pick your poisons.

Other risks are geopolitical. Hugh White is not a fan of local construction, but his questions go to the heart of the strategic risks:

“How sure can we be that within that time [of the submarines' delivery and entire service life] Japan will… be a US ally? That it will not have restored its long-standing ban on defence exports? That it will not have become a compliant neighbour of a predominant China, or on the other hand have become China’s bitter enemy? What would happen to our new submarine capability in any of these contingencies?”

Fair questions. Does Australian participation in a project of this magnitude make some of these outcomes less likely? How much less likely, and what role will other macro trends play? Someone needs to be doing this kind of analysis, and Australia’s DoD hasn’t shown great proficiency in the past. Sources: Australia’s ABC, “Soryu submarine deal: Japanese insiders warn sub program will cost more, hurt Australian jobs” | Canberra Times, “Japanese submarine option odds-on favourite”.

Sept 11/14: Germany & Sweden. The Australia Financial Review says that they’ve “confirmed that German submarine builder ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) has submitted a bid for a joint venture with Adelaide-based ASC that comes in at under $20 billion.” What they don’t say are which model of submarine the proposal used, and how cost risk for going beyond that budget would be handled. For instance, an A$ 20 billion bid with 100% escalation risk to the government is effectively an open-ended contract for any amount; vs. an A$ 20 billion contract with a 50/50 sharing arrangement for cost escalation and a $30 billion government cap, which is an A$ 20-30 billion contract. Or a straight A$ 20 billion purchase and delivery contract, which remains at A$ 20 billion unless the government changes the design or decides to negotiate for other reasons. The details matter.

Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten has been invoking World War II a lot in his opposition to a built in Japan deal, which makes a collaborative offer from the other former Axis power a mite awkward. Meanwhile, Sweden is committed to making a strong bid, if there is an open competition. Saab CEO Haakan Bushke says that they’re willing to design a 4,000t submarine for Australia, and take ASC and Royal Australian Navy engineers and technicians to work on its new A26 design. He adds:

“As of July 2, Saab completed a full takeover of Kockums which is now Saab Kockums and the Swedish Kingdom now controls the intellectual property for… [Australia's currently-serving] Collins class submarines…. If there is an open competition, Saab Kockums will be in it.”

The publicity and lobbying builds pressure toward an open tender, which would create 2 distinct policy problems for the Abbott government. One is a policy angle. The Soryu Class is a proven and built design, while TKMS and Saab’s offerings aren’t. This creates a real risk that the new submarines will be delayed (q.v. Sept 8/14), amid questions concerning the Collins Class’ costs and effective lifespan. The 2nd problem is political. Opening competition delays the contract, allowing ASC, unions and the Labor Party to spend a lot of time and effort lobbying. That raises the odds of having the contract outcome and costs dictated by political forces outside the government. Against those negatives, one must weigh the potential for really great competitive offers, which could avoid a complete breach of the Liberal Party’s pre-election commitment to building the boats at ASC. Sources: Australia Financial Review, “Germans undercut Japan on Australia’s submarines” | Australia Financial Review, “Swedes launch desperate bid for Oz submarine project” | Business Insider Australia, “Germany Joins The Race To Build Australia’s New Submarine Fleet” | Business Insider Australia, “Australia Could Get A Great Deal On Its New Submarine Fleet If Tony Abbot Wants It” | Manufacturers’ Monthly, “German company wants to build Australia’s submarines”.

Sept 8/14: Japan. News Corp. reports that the government is fast-tracking their pursuit of Soryu Class submarines, because of growing concerns about the $2+ billion cost of maintaining the Collins boats beyond 2026; some estimates put that cost at more than $2 billion. The government also seems focused on a proven solution; TKMS’ U218SG isn’t, and neither is Saab’s A26. DCNS’ Scorpene, meanwhile, lacks the size and range Australia wants. Hence Soryu, especially given Australia’s urgency:

“The Government cannot afford a submarine capability gap and every day past 2026/27 when Collins class is due to begin decommissioning, adds days of risk,” a senior defence source said.”

Controversy. A second consequence of the government’s risk and cost aversion is that ASC Pty’s performance on the Air Warfare Destroyer project may have relegated them to a service role for the future submarines. In other words, construction in Japan. ASC and the Labor Party are understandably unhappy, arguing that the industry is strategic and that the Collins Class’ reported 21,300 km range is 88% better than even the Soryus. Australia would also need to either modify the Soryus to use American torpedos, or switch as a fleet to the class’ natural weapon set of American UGM-84 Harpoon missiles and Japanese Type 89 torpedoes.

Cost. A Japanese build would be a big, big geopolitical deal, but the headline’s A$ 20 billion figure is unreliable because it’s based on a statement by Germany’s TKMS, regarding a different submarine. Another report costs a program for 10 Soryu Class boats at A$ 25 billion. Note that even A$ 25 billion is just 69% of the original A$ 36 billion projection for ASC. For perspective, this inherently optimistic build cost means that switching to Soryus leaves about enough money to cover current official costs for Australia’s 2 Canberra Class LHDs and 3 Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers. If build-out cost in Australia were to hit A$ 40 billion, which is very possible, savings from a Japanese build would pay the estimated A$ 15 billion cost of Australia’s F-35A stealth fighter program.

Politics. Does that level of cost savings negate the political blowback from cutting out ASC? It might, but there are risks. Australia is a Parliamentary system, but Abbot’s government relies on a coalition of 4 parties in the House. If the Liberal Party’s partners don’t bolt the coalition over the issue, and the plan goes forward, the question becomes whether Parliamentary maneuvering can force an issue vote in the Senate. There, the government would need 6 of 8 non-Labor and non-Green votes outside of its own coalition.

Basing. To make things even more interesting, there are also reports that Australia is considering a basing shift to HMAS Coonawarra, up near Darwin in the north. That would drastically improve deployment into theater, as the sailing difference between HMAS Coonawarra and the current submarine base in Australia’s southwest at HMAS Stirling is almost 5,000 km / 2,700 nmi. Unfortunately, HMAS Coonawara is currently just a patrol boat base, and creating a full submarine and support base would be expensive. Especially if the natural harbor isn’t super-deep. The other problem is that basing the RAN’s most strategic assets near Darwin makes it much easier to reach them with weapons like cruise missiles. A forward base near Darwin is possible for refueling and minor service, and it would basically cancel the range difference between the Collins and Soryu classes, but a full basing switch is unlikely.

Sources: News Corp., “New Japanese submarines to cost Abbott Government $20 billion” | Australia’s ABC, “Submarine policy: [Independent Sen.] Nick Xenophon urges PM to ‘end the uncertainty’ over SA project” | The Australian, “Submarine plan a threat to national security: Labor” | 7News, “Darwin submarine base ‘won’t happen’, Australian Defence Association chief Neil James says”.

July 8/14: Japan. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sign the “Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Japan Concerning the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology” at a ceremony in Canberra.

It isn’t the full security cooperation policy mooted in previous reports (q.v. May 28/14), but it’s an immediate step. As expected (q.v. April 6/14), they’re leading off with a joint Marine Hydrodynamics Project between Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and Japan’s Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI). In English, they’ll analyze propulsion and water resistance around submarine hulls – and, implicitly, torpedoes. Sources: Australian DoD, “Minister for Defence – Defence Minister David Johnston hails defence science and technology accord with Japan”.

May 28/14: Japan. Reuters reports that Japan is warming to the idea of selling submarines to Australia, but what they want in return is something Australia will need to think about:

“Japan is considering selling submarine technology to Australia – perhaps even a fleet of fully engineered, stealthy vessels, according to Japanese officials. Sources on both sides say the discussions so far have encouraged a willingness to speed up talks…. Japanese military officials and lawmakers with an interest in defense policy have signaled a willingness to consider supplying a full version of the highly regarded Soryu to Australia if certain conditions can be met. These would include concluding a framework agreement on security policy with Canberra that would lock future Australian governments into an alliance with Japan, the [Australian] officials said.”

China’s likely reaction would create diplomatic complications, and limit Australia’s future political options. On the other hand, the Japanese have the one proven design that meets Australia’s needs. Just don’t expect rapid decisions. That isn’t usually the way things are done in Japan. Sources: Reuters, “Japan & Australia consider submarine deal that could rattle China”.

April 12/14: Swedish option? The Collins Class was built around a Swedish design, News Corp Australia says that Saab and the Swedish Government have been engaged in secret talks around a joint submarine effort. That proposed approach may have the potential to cut through many of the dilemmas faced by Australia’s government, and Sweden’s as well. Here’s Australia’s problem, as explained in the SMH:

“This week the Australian Strategic Policy Institute hosted a conference billed as the “Submarine Choice” – but the arguments simply shot past each other. Nothing connected. The Navy stressed its strategic need for submarines without reference to the budget; industry obsessed about the business case without worrying about how such massive expenditure would severely unbalance the forces; while politicians agonised over the need to save jobs and save money, despite the fact these objectives stand in direct contradiction to one another. In the meantime, the bandwagon rolls remorselessly onwards.”

The reported Swedish solution would buy ASC, and embark on a fully cooperative joint design for Sweden and Australia’s next submarines. Australia would receive a design that’s explicitly built for Australia’s needs – a necessary compromise for Sweden, whose needs are different. It’s also worth noting that the Japanese Soryu Class propulsion system that has attracted so much interest from Australia’s Navy is part Swedish. From industry’s point of view, making ASC part of Saab removes any conflict of interests with a foreign firm that acts as the project lead, and creates both development jobs/skills and production work. From the politicians’ point of view, a program that includes Sweden and Australia offers the added security of shared risk, and shared acquisitions. As a starting point, Saab soon buys Kockums from TKMS, after hiring away many of its engineers. Read Saab Story: Sweden’s New Submarines for full coverage.

April 8/14: Minister for Defence Sen. David Johnston gives the speech, but says that the government is still evaluating options and has made no decisions. Since his party had campaigned on building 12 submarines in Australia, he also needs to qualify his way out by invoking his statement that “…if anything the Minister has said is based on fantasy, we’ll tell you and we’ll revisit this.” He does put industry on notice that the priority is performance rather than jobs, and adds that the priority isn’t X number of submarines, but a stable submarine capability that matches what Australia can afford and operate.

Taken as simple logical propositions, both points are extremely sensible. The government can expect to face strong lobbying from the shipyard and its associated unions, and that’s already starting, but the sheer size of the price tag involved means that the unions’ traditional allies on the left aren’t going to fight very hard alongside them. Observers are speculating that that the minister’s framework means 6-9 submarines, but no-one knows at this point. Sources: Australia DoD, “Minister for Defence – Speech – Address for the ASPI conference” | Australia DoD, “Minister for Defence – [Q&A] Transcript – ASPI Conference” | ASPI, “The Submarine Choice: ASPI’s International Conference, Canberra” | State-owned ABC, “Submarines off-the-shelf would breach promises to South Australia, says Penny Wong” | The Age, “Why do we need more submarines?” | The Australian, “Cheaper submarines ‘risk the lives of sailors’”.

April 7/14: Rethink? Looks like the stirrings of discontent earlier this year (q.v. Jan 29/14, Dec 17/13) are about to become more real. Minister for Defence Sen. David Johnston is scheduled to make a speech at ASPI on April 9/14, and there’s considerable speculation that he will change the submarine program in 3 important ways. One, he may choose to cut the program from 12 boats to 9, on both cost and operational capacity grounds. Two, he will force ASC to make a case to win the work, saying that the Navy’s strategic centerpiece “is not a job-creation program”. Third, there’s the clear implication that if the ASC case isn’t good enough, some or all of the submarines may be built abroad. As a final wrinkle, talks continue with Japan regarding their large Soryu Class boats, shortly after Japan relaxes their restrictions on exporting weapon technologies:

“When asked yesterday what aspects of the Japanese boats might be included in an Australian design, a senior government source replied: “Everything.”…pressed on whether that included buying the boats off-the-shelf from the Japanese the answer was an emphatic “yes”.”

The usual approach is to build the first few boats aboard, with some local workers sent to participate, and then begin production locally. That would create an industrial timing problem for ASC, but if the government replaces 3 submarines with a 4th Hobart Class air defense destroyer, it could enhance Australia’s naval and missile defense options while covering the industrial gap. Sources: News Australia, “Australia in talks to buy Japanese submarines to upgrade fleet” | Sydney Morning Herald, “Coalition casts doubt on plan to replace Collins Class submarines”.

April 6/14: Japan. Jane’s reports that Australia and Japan have agreed to start talks on creating a framework for defense technology co-operation, with an initial project involving joint research into marine hydrodynamics.

“An official at the Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) told IHS Jane’s said this would include the analysis of propulsion and water resistance around submarine hulls.”

The message to Jane’s also suggested that the propulsion technology that so interests in Australians was deemed too sensitive. Instead, Japan’s Technical Research and Development Institute and Australia’s DSTO would begin collaboration here. Japanese decision making processes are slow, especially in an area so likely to create tensions with China. Will they be too slow for the decisions Australia needs to begin making? Sources: IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Japan, Australia agree to joint research on submarines, hydrodynamics”.

March 6/14: Evolved Collins. It isn’t new to say that Australian politicians seem to be leaning toward an evolved Collins Class submarine, given the riskiness of designing a new boat. The political dynamics at work are more interesting:

“An evolved Collins-class has emerged as the favoured option for Australia’s next generation of submarines amid signs the much maligned existing boats will remain in service beyond 2030…. Few sources close to defence believe it will opt for a new design given the risk of having an orphan boat class. Treasurer Joe Hockey is said to be uneasy with the mooted pricetag of $36 billion. Defence Minister David Johnston has also cast doubt on whether Australia will double its fleet to 12, saying the number first mooted in the former prime minister’s 2009 white paper has never been justified.”

The report also says that decision makers are more comfortable leaving the Collins Class in service until 2030 – ironically, because they’ve been defective so often and spent so much time out of water. Sources: Australian Financial Review, “Evolved Collins favourite but timing unclear”.

Jan 20/14: Political pushback. The A$ 30-40 billion size of the future submarine project guarantees political scrutiny, but that won’t really begin until it’s a near-term project rather than just funded studies. The Sydney Morning Herald decides to start as the new center-right Liberal Party government prepares its 1st budget, and it’s coming from a right-wing source:

“Whatever one may think of [new Board member] Mirabella [q.v. Dec 17/13], she is an economic dry and does not shirk the dirty work of confronting spendthrift bureaucrats, military brass and trade unions, all of whom have treated the Australian Submarine Corporation and the Defence Materiel Organisation as a giant honey pot.

Both organisations are impervious to competence…. The idea that Australia should produce a dozen submarines in South Australia, at a projected cost of about $3 billion a vessel, is madness…. The new submarines will have a unit cost that dwarfs the Collins-class subs if built here, or roughly three times the cost of acquiring the submarines from foreign shipyards. The navy disputes this disparity but history does not.”

As many observers have noted before: please tell us how you really feel, Paul Sheehan. More seriously, this is an early sign that Abbott’s traditional allies may not be solidly behind the program as currently conceived. Meanwhile, the Labor Party is no longer in power, and hence no longer really bound to defend a program that will demand many more dollars for national defense. Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, “Future Submarine project a farce that has missed a mention”.


Combat system picked. Potential work with Japan? click to read

Dec 17/13: ASC Board. Former Liberal Party MP Sophie Mirabella, a 12-year incumbent who was the only party incumbent to lose her seat in the recent election, is appointed to ASC’s Board of Directors by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, alongside new members Peter Iancov and Paul Rizzo.

Ms. Mirabella does have qualifications as the Coalition’s Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science while they were in opposition, and is known as a strong opponent of public sector waste. It’s arguable that ASC could use both, given the scale and importance of the projects they’re handling, and will soon begin to execute. Prime Minister Abbott could certainly use a critically-minded loyalist on the inside, to avert problems or at least give him advance warning of any nasty surprises. Now he has one. Sources: Minister for Finance, “Appointment of Three New Board Members to ASC Pty Ltd” | Sydney Morning Herald, “Coalition appoints Sophie Mirabella to board of government-owned shipbuilding firm”.

May 16/13: IP deal. Australia’s government signs a deal with Sweden’s FMV procurement agency, Intellectual Property rights for submarine design and technology. As RAND’s 2011 report had noted (q.v. Dec 13/11), this was a major stumbling block for any sort of Evolved Collins design.

The agreement covers use of Collins Class submarine technology for the Future Submarine Program. It also creates a framework and principles for the negotiation of Intellectual Property rights, if Australia wants to be able to use and disclose other Swedish submarine technology for an Evolved Collins solution. Disclosure is included because there are sub-contractors et. al. who require some level of disclosure in order to work on the project. Defense Ministers Joint Communique | Australia DoD.

Swedish Intellectual Property Agreement

May 2/13: White Paper. The Labor government’s 2013 defense white paper rejects the safer and quicker options of buying or modifying an existing class from abroad. Instead, they’ll focus on options #3 & 4: an evolved design of the Collins Class, or a completely new Australian design. As part of that decision, they’re going to continue with the American AN/BYG-1 combat system as their standard. It equips every class of American nuclear submarines thanks to a combination of initial installs and systems modernizations, and a BYG-1(V)8 variant was inserted into the current Collins Class as Project SEA 1439 Phase 4A.

This is a decision that exacerbates both the performance risks so amply illustrated by the Collins Class to date, and the risks of delayed in-service date for new boats. Which is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the government has extended their estimates of how long the Collins Class can serve. Unless they want a gap where Australia loses its submarines entirely, or operates with a much-reduced force, delays and decisions to date mean that the government can’t say anything else. Whether their study’s carefully-couched conclusion is true in an operational sense is a different question.

On the topic of performance risks, even with the new Submarine Propulsion Energy Support and Integration Facility, the submarine skills plan, and government plans to improve productivity in Australian shipbuilding, the new submarine decision expands almost every possible risk facing the Australian Navy’s future strategic centerpiece. It may be that a new propulsion system can fix some of the Collins Class’ problems, but the boats’ problems over the years have stemmed from a wide variety of defects and failures, across multiple systems. There are conflicting reports regarding the extent and success of the fixes tried to date, and one can be forgiven some skepticism that the same organizations responsible for the present situation can create or insert new designs that solve all of their previous mistakes. Since the systems will be new, or at the very least not proven in operations with the boat they’re inserted into, it’s also more than possible that “unforeseen” delays will make it hard to get new boats into service before the existing fleet becomes unfit for purpose.

In exchange, of course, the government gets to promise more spending with a state-owned firm (ASC) and its sub-contractors, on behalf of a Labor Party whose political standing is shaky, a few months before an election. Future Submarine Industry Skills Plan | Australia DoD release | ASC | ASPI | ASPI Shipbuilding timeline.

2013 White Paper, Combat System picked

Feb 13/13: Japan. The New Pacific Institute reports that Japanese media are now openly discussing a Soryu Class deal with Australia, and chronicles the process so far. Bottom line: If a deal is consummated, it’s going to be a delicate process of mutual trade-offs, not a straightforward transaction:

“The article did not offer much additional detail about how the process from here is likely to unfold, although it did frame the technology transfer as part of a supposedly mutual desire to balance against Chinese naval activities. It nevertheless suggests that defense officials are still considering the plan and that the chances are good that something will come out of the process notwithstanding any domestic or international backlash. The main issue for the Japanese side likely revolves what level of information and access to provide to the Royal Australian Navy.”

The relaxation of Japan’s export laws was meant to support joint development projects like the SM-3 Block IIA, rather than a 1-way transfer of technology to a foreign shipbuilder. Japan sees submarines as a strategic technology for its own preservation, and must weigh the risk of dissemination against the potential benefits. NPI doesn’t believe that complicating China’s life is enough of an inducement all by itself. Meanwhile, Australia knows that it wants a large diesel-electric sub, and believes that Japan has a reliable propulsion system design. Cooperation that stops short of full-scale licensed submarine construction might be an option for both parties.


Initial studies budget; Is the project about pork-barrel politics, at the expense of defending Australia? Japan’s Soryu Class enters the mix; Kokoda’s shoddy study. JS Soryu
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Nov 15/12: Requirements. David Feeney, Parliamentary Secretary of Defence, speaks to the Submarine Institute of Australia Biennial Conference. He describes regional trends that could see A$ 44 billion spent by 2021 and up to 150 diesel-electric submarines operational, offers a naval “sea control” doctrine formulation straight from Sir Julian Corbett, and adds more clarity to his government’s expectations for the future submarine:

“Denial retains a place, but sea control operations ensure that Australian response options are not constrained and our freedom of action is not threatened. It is inconceivable that Australia can achieve sea control – a requirement for successful maritime power projection – without submarines.

Government is resolved that the Future Submarine will have greater range, longer endurance on patrol, and expanded capabilities (i.e. communications) as compared to the current Collins Class submarine. The Future Submarine must be able to carry different mission payloads such as uninhabited underwater vehicles (UUVs)… conduct strike operations against military targets, including an adversary’s operating bases, staging areas and critical military infrastructure.

Relative to other nations that operate diesel-electric submarines, the Future Submarine must operate across exceptionally vast distances… Asia-Pacific possesses numerous critical maritime nodes – notably the Malacca Strait, Sunda Strait, and Lombok Strait- all of which are critical to the global economy. These nodes are 2,000 or even 3,000 nm from [naval base] HMAS Stirling.”

The problem is that those requirements amount to a unique requirements set that will add massive costs to the project, along with risk that the next batch will fail like the Collins Class. Industry infrastructure is acknowledged to be shaky. Could the same money be used to buy an existing design, along with the sub tenders needed to give it all of that range and more? Or a set of submarines plus other critical sea control forces (like maritime aircraft)? Very likely. But the “made in Australia” rhetoric is all about jobs and perceived government largesse first, and defense second. Australia DoD Transcript.

Nov 14/12: Jobs justification. Jason Claire, Minister for Defence Materiel, speaks to the Submarine Institute of Australia’s 6th Biennial Conference. He begins by justifying the need for large submarines, on the grounds that they need to operate at long ranges. There are other approaches which could address this issue, but it makes for a useful uniqueness justification when he gets to the speech’s point – justifying his decision to build all of the submarines in Australia.

That approach significantly raises the risks of program failure, and of failure to replace existing boats in time. If the submarines really were a strategic priority, an approach that had the first 2-3 subs built abroad with Australian engineers on site, and the rest built locally as expertise grows, would be the obvious plan. Note, too, Claire’s use of the word “design,” indicating that despite government assurances, use of an existing submarine design isn’t getting serious consideration from this government:

“…will create thousands of jobs and work for hundreds of Australian companies. More than this it will create a new Australian industry… It will take decades to build 12 submarines, and by the time the last is built the first will need to be replaced. It’s not a short project. It will go on and on. It will create an industry that could last for a century or more. That industry should be here. That industry also has flow on benefits. It will build skills useful for other industries and technology… also build the capabilities and skills of our universities and our technical colleges… it is important we have an indigenous capability that can design, develop, build and maintain submarines.

That is not something we can or should do on our own… But we also can’t, and shouldn’t, outsource the whole task… Acquiring nuclear powered submarines… [means] outsourcing the construction, maintenance and sustainment of the submarines… built overseas, they would have to be fuelled, docked, defueled and disposed of overseas. That means tens of billions of dollars for acquisition and sustainment over decades that could be invested in Australia, spent overseas.

We have got a valley of death between the last AWD and the start of construction of the first future submarine. It’s a valley where jobs are lost and the skills we need will disappear… We need to fix this. This is the job of the Future Submarines Industry Skills Plan that I will receive next month.”

Sept 6/12: Infrastructure. Australia’s government announces that the Future Submarine Systems Centre will be based in Adelaide, South Australia. There had been some concern that the work might migrate elsewhere, but this is where Australia’s naval shipbuilding infrastructure is located.

The Systems Centre is set to formally open in 2013 as the home of the Future Submarine program, much as the AWD Centre in Adelaide has been the home of the A$ 8 billion Air Warfare Destroyer program. There are already staff working on the project, but they are based at state-owned shipbuilder ASC. Once they move, the center will be used to conduct evaluation of options, design work, program management, engineering, logistics and production planning. Over the next few years, it will grow to include hundreds of Defence personnel from Navy, the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), and defense contractors.

There has also been a steady drumbeat of criticism over Australia’s slow decision-making, and the government’s readiness to choose an industrial structure that will roughly double the program’s cost to A$ 36 billion or more, and introduce significant risk. Even as the RAN has extreme difficulties sustaining and manning its existing fleet of 6 Collins Class subs. The government is sticking to the 2009 plan of 12 new submarines to be assembled in South Australia, with the same 4 options under study, etc. The minister adds that this commitment will be reinforced as part of the 2013 Defence White Paper.

Aug 28/12: Where’s Coles Review 2? Liberal Party opposition defense critic Sen. Johnston releases a statement:

“Part 2 of the Coles Review of the Sustainment of Australia’s Collins Class Submarines was expected to be handed to the Minister in April, but in spite of the Minister declaring Collins Class sustainment was at the top of the Government’s Project of Concern List, it is still nowhere to be seen… I can see why the Defence Minister isn’t exactly pushing down Mr Coles’ door as Part 1 of his report was a damning indictment… Senator Johnston said this year alone taxpayers will spend close to $1 billion on maintenance and sustainment of the Collins Class with only one, sometimes two out of six submarines operationally ready at any one time.”

The review doesn’t arrive until mid-December 2012.

July 25 – Aug 3/12: Breakdowns & delays. After reporting a successful torpedo firing and sinking exercise during RIMPAC 2012, Australia’s DoD reveals that a leak is forcing HMAS Farncomb to return to port immediately. The Liberal Party’s shadow defence minister, David Johnston, reminds Sydney Morning Herald readers that these kinds of breakdowns are all too common, while highlighting the timing problem that could leave Australia without a viable fleet. The time for a decision, he says, is now:

“The ASPI report described the gap between when all the Collins Class have been retired and the time it would take to build a replacement as “nothing short of catastrophic”… three years “of no submarines at all”… After some prodding the Minister also declared [in May 2012, 3 years after the White Paper] a final decision on the replacement would not be made until late 2013 or 2014 – in other words, not until after the next election… all against the backdrop of our submarines being so operationally fragile that competing in exercises with allies becomes a case of going in with fingers crossed… We also have our submariners reluctantly leaving the Navy because they simply don’t get time at sea doing what they signed up to do.”

July 9/12: Japan’s Soryu? RAN Future Submarine Program head Rear-Admiral Rowan Moffitt, and DMO Chief Defence Scientist Dr. Alexander Zelinsky are traveling to Japan to look at the country’s new 4,200t Soryu (“Blue Dragon”) Class/ 16SS submarines.

Japan relaxed its ban on weapon exports somewhat in December 2011, which opens up the possibility of an Australian-built submarine derivative. On the flip side, the previous ban means that Japanese firms lack the same kind of technology transfer and off-site quality control experience that has been earned over the years by Germany’s HDW (Greece, India, South Korea, Turkey), and France’s DCNS (Brazil, India).

The Soryus have a Stirling Air Independent Propulsion system, and began service just 3 years ago. They’re also much larger than competitors like France’s 2,060t MESMA AIP equipped AM-2000 Scorpene. That makes the Soryus attractive to Australia, and some think they might have the range and capacity Australia needs. It’s worth noting that smaller submarines like Germany’s 1,830t U212As have traveled thousands of miles while submerged, and technically have a longer range than the Soryus. Still, bigger is better to some. The Japanese subs do offer a lot more space for weapons, and a similar submarine design might offer interesting opportunities for Australian-Japanese operational cooperation. Adelaide Now | Sydney Morning Herald.

May 3/12: Initial budget & plans. Australia’s Labor Party government announces a budget of another A$ 214 million for the next stage of the Future Submarine Project, and appoints Mr. David Gould as the DoD’s General Manager of Submarines, working within the DMO and reporting directly to its CEO. The initial budget will pay for detailed studies and analysis to inform the design choice, the cost/ capability tradeoffs, and the workforce skills requirements to build them in Australia. Those funds are on top of the government’s December 2011 RFI, and the contract with Babcock for a land-based propulsion testing site.

Overall, the Government announces that they’re considering 4 broad options for diesel-electric fast attack submarines, as outlined above. with respect to the studies and work conducted:

Scientific and technological studies will be conducted primarily by the Australian DoD’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

The off-the-shelf studies will be undertaken with same trio of firms who were sent the December 2011 RFI: DCNS (Scorpene), TKMS HDW (U212A/214), and Navantia (S-80). TKMS Kockums will perform the evolved design studies for the Collins Class, as they were its original designers.

An interesting 2nd look will happen within the AUSMIN framework agreed in November 2010. US technical cooperation will involve capability modeling for both off-the-shelf and evolved Collins options. Systems Performance and Analysis, and GD Electric Boat, will do that work under a US Foreign Military Sales case.

The workforce skills plan will be developed by a team be led by the DoD’s Defence Materiel Organisation CEO, Mr. Warren King, and supported by an Expert Industry Panel headed by Mr. David Mortimer, AO. The Expert Industry Panel will include representatives of the Navy; DMO; the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education; Skills Australia; unions; the CEOs of ASC, Austal, BAE Systems and Forgacs Engineering; and the Australian CEOs for local subsidiaries of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Thales, Saab Systems and BAE Systems. Australia DoD.

Budget & Studies

April 23/12: An interview with Minister for Defence Stephen Smith touches on the Collins Class’ ongoing problems, and the decisions to be taken regarding Australia’s future submarines. An excerpt:

“So there are capability issues [with the operating ranges required for Australian submarines] but no decisions have been made other than the Government ruling out a nuclear [propulsion] option… Australia does not have a nuclear industry, and if we acquired nuclear submarines that would effectively see the outsourcing to another country of our maintenance and sustainment… We remain committed to 12 submarines assembled in Australia.

“…Whether there is a gap in capability will in the end depend upon the decision that we make about the new submarine, firstly; secondly, the length of life or the life of type of the Collins Class Submarine. That is currently not known… one of the studies we have currently under way is a study trying to better define the life of type of the Collins Class Submarine… it would have been in my view wrong – indeed, irresponsible – to have leapt into a Future Submarine Project without trying to address the long-standing endemic, systemic difficulties that we’ve had with the Collins Class Submarine.”

April 21/12: Captain’s Critique. Commander James Harrap, a 20-year navy veteran, resigns from the RAN after commanding both HMAS Waller and HMAS Collins. While the boats and their crews had “serviced the navy well and achieved much,” the media obtain a copy of his overall assessment. It is stark and scathing: scrap the class.

“I don’t believe the Collins-class are sustainable in the long term and many of the expensive upgrade plans which have been proposed would be throwing good money after bad… Over the last two years, I believe these problems have become worse… Throughout my command of both Collins and Waller, full capability was never available and frequently over 50 per cent of the identified defects were awaiting stores… Collins has consistently been let down by some fundamental design flaws, leading to poor reliability and inconsistent performance. The constant stream of defects and operation control limitations makes getting to sea difficult, staying at sea harder and fighting the enemy a luxury only available once the first two have been overcome.”

The submarines’ diesel engines come in for special criticism, but they are far from his only target. His final conclusion has special relevance to Australia’s next-generation program: “I do not believe we have the capability to independently design and build our own submarines.” The Australian.

Jan 19/12: Kokoda criticized. The Kokoda Foundation releases its study “Sub Judice: Australia’s Future Submarine,” written by former ASC employee Brice Pacey. It concludes that no off-the-shelf conventional submarine can meet Australia’s requirements, and that a nuclear submarine program is unaffordable and unmanageable. Instead, it recommends “an evolution of the Collins design,” and claim that “the cost of building the submarine will be markedly less than some published estimates… there is no cost penalty for an Australian build.” These statements are from the foundation’s release; the full document itself is a for-fee publication.

While there is widespread agreement that nuclear-powered SSN fast attack boats are not a realistic option for Australia, the foundation’s other 3 conclusions draw fire. First, submarine-builder ASC’s sponsorship of the paper has led several observers to question the study’s seriousness and objectivity. The critics add that requirements themselves are arbitrary, unless the gaps involving current state-of-the-art submarines create serious mission problems, and the cost to field a 100% solution is acceptable. Given the demonstrated capabilities of submarines like the U214, they see the capability gap as too small, and the price gap as too large.

On which topic, reports indicate Kokoda estimates of just A$ 18 billion for the 12 boats, which is, indeed, significantly less than other published estimates. The history of the Collins Class, with respect to both build costs and performance, is not overly encouraging, and the credibility of this estimate has been deeply doubted. ASPI analyst Andrew Davies summed up this view with a Carl Sagan quote: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Kokoda Foundation release [PDF] | Canberra Times | Lowy Institute for International Policy.


German “Type 216″?; Learning from other submarine programs – including Australia’s. U214 cutaway
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Dec 28/11: Type 216? HDW has released details of a 4,000t “Type 216″ concept design, which appears to be targeted at Australia’s SEA 1000 future submarine program.

Australian sources have expressed concerns that the U214, and other boats investigated in the RFI, may not have the size and range to meet Australia’s specification. This may or may not be accurate, but a larger design could conceivably appeal to customers like Australia, India, and possibly Canada one day.

With doubts growing that an Australian-designed successor to the Collins class boat cannot be ready by the 2025 deadline, HDW might find some traction with a large submarine that offered 10,400 nm/ 19.240 km notional range, Air-Independent Propulsion for long underwater patrols; and the ability to launch cruise missiles, a special forces swimmer delivery vehicle, or UUVs. The flip side is that first-of-class boats can be problematic, even if the class is designed by a very experienced and skilled firm. The Greek experience with the 1st of class Papanikolis (U214) is instructive here. Canberra Times | Navy Recognition (incl. drawings).

click to read

Dec 13/11: Studies & Contenders. The Phase 1 Coles Review into the Collins Class’ difficulties is released, and goes as far as calling Australia’s approach to managing submarines “unfit for purpose.” The same day, Australia’s DoD releases RAND’s requested report of lessons learned from US, UK, and Australian submarine programs, and discusses the class options they’re investigating:

“Options for the Future Submarine range from a proven fully Military off the Shelf design through to a completely new submarine. All options are being considered, other than nuclear propulsion which the Government has ruled out… The Government has approved the release of Requests for Information to three overseas submarine designers… [to] provide a better understanding of the capabilities of off-the-shelf options.”

The list deals a blow to recent reports, as it’s made up of France’s DCNS (Scorpene), Germany’s TKMS HDW (Type 214), and Australia’s biggest shipbuilding partner, Spain’s Navantia (S-80). TKMS’ Swedish Kockums subsidiary, who worked with Australia to design the Collins Class, didn’t see its developmental A26 Class make the list.

The government isn’t stopping there. Australia’s DoD has signed a contract with Babcock Australia to study a land-based propulsion systems test facility, and the Defence Materiel Organisation has been ordered to develop a Future Submarine Industry Skills Plan, in consultation with Australia’s defense industry. Meanwhile, the Government refers to the discussions and agreement with the USA at AUSMIN 2010, regarding Australian-United States cooperation on submarine systems, which “will extend into future submarine acquisition program.” That could add one more advantage to Navantia, whose S-80 uses a number of American technologies. Australia DoD | RAND Report | Coles Review, Phase 1 [PDF].

Coles Review & RAND Report

Oct 15/11: The Labor Party government’s leader in the Senate, Chris Evans, indicates that components and possibly modules of Australia’s future submarines are expected to be built beyond South Australia, and even overseas. This is not a surprising plan, given the history of the Collins Class, but it creates political sparks. ASC, of course, is lobbying to keep everything it can in-house. The Australian | Adelaide Now.

Oct 15/11: Australian media report on the Collins Class’ annual costs, and future sub competition:

“Figures obtained by the Herald Sun, show the six Collins subs cost about $630 million a year – or $105 million each – to maintain, making them the most expensive submarines ever to put to sea… A US Navy Ohio Class nuclear attack submarine – more than three times the size of a Collins boat – costs about $50 million a year to operate.

The cost figures are revealed as Defence officials say at least two possible contenders for the navy’s new submarine fleet – the Spanish S-80 and French-Spanish Scorpene class boat – have been ruled out of the future submarine project.”

If true, one wonders what’s left. Sweden is just beginning to design a new A26 Class, and Germany’s HDW has its U214. Russian designs aren’t a realistic option. The other possibility is that Australia might seek, once again, to design its own submarine. Herald Sun | Courier Mail, incl. infographic | Australia’s Daily Telegraph.

July 25/11: The Australian reports that Australia’s DoD:

“…will seek US help with Australia’s plan to build 12 big conventional submarines to replace the navy’s six troubled Collins-class boats… After initial problems with the Collins fleet a decade ago, the US provided a state-of-the-art combat system and the latest technology to improve the subs’ propulsion systems and make them less noisy.”

July 19/11: Coles Review begins. Labor Party Defence Minister Stephen Smith admits that there are “long-term difficulties” with the Collins Class submarine fleet, and announces a full independent review led by British private sector expert John Coles. The Minister cites too many stretches where only 1-2 submarines have been available, and there are reportedly doubts that the subs’ diesel engines are robust enough to last until 2025 as planned:

“These problems are significant and highly technically complex. At times we have seen as few as one Collins Class submarine available for operations. This situation is unacceptable but will not be addressed simply by continuation of the status quo… As a consequence, the Government will conduct a review into the optimal commercial framework for the conduct of Collins Class Submarine sustainment… My ambition is that the Coles Review will do for the Collins Class Submarine what the Rizzo Report has done for our amphibious fleet capability: a clear sighted path to improve the sustainment and availability of the Collins Class Submarines… Without having confidence in our capacity to sustain our current fleet of submarines, it is very difficult to fully commence, other than through initial planning, the acquisition program for our Future Submarine. This is consistent with the absolute necessity to work very hard in the early days to get projects right and thereby avoid, reduce, and minimise project difficulties down the track.”

The Coles Review has been asked to provide an interim report by December 2011, and a final version by March 2012. The key questions are how long this will delay Australia’s future submarine program, and whether the review will include political-structural weaknesses in the program, or confine itself to procedures. Minister for Defence ASPI transcript | ASC release | Adelaide Now | Australian Broadcasting Corp. and ABC AM radio | Canberra Times | Queensland’s Courier-Mail | Sydney Morning Herald | The Australian.

May 15/11: Australia’s Kokoda Foundation releases “Under the Sea Air Gap: Australia’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Challenge. The study “attempts to identify issues surrounding Australia’s Anti Submarine Warfare capabilities that will require greater scrutiny in the period leading up to the 2014 Defence White Paper.”

Author Brice Pacey is concerned that the design for Australia’s next-generation submarines might not be complete until 2019, and the first boat might not be ready until 2030. With the Collins Class scheduled to begin retiring in the mid-2020s, that would present a problem. Australia would need to either extend the lives of a class that has not performed well or reliably, or accept a vestigial submarine fleet even as it neighbors build up their capabilities. See also Adelaide Now.

April 14/11: Australia’s ASPI think-tank releases “The once and future submarine – raising and sustaining Australia’s underwater capability.” Based on past acquisitions, beginning the future submarine program immediately would only deliver the 1st boat in 2025; further delays would create timing issues with the Collins Class’ retirement. On which subject:

“…the boats have spent so little time in the water due to maintenance and crewing problems that the hulls have not been pressure cycled anywhere near to the extent anticipated. However, a life-of-type extension for the Collins is not an especially appealing prospect for a number of reasons. To start with, the drive train in the Collins has been problematic since day one, and attempts to keep the fleet going into the late 2020s would almost certainly require work to replace the highly problematic diesel engines (which are already ‘orphans’ in the world of maritime diesels). That alone is an undertaking requiring major engineering work, not to mention a lot of money. It is a simple fact of geometry that the engines can only be removed by cutting the pressure hull. Given that less complex mid-cycle dockings are taking 100 weeks to complete (against an anticipated 52 weeks), this exercise would result in considerable downtime. It could be that every five years of additional life would come at the cost of one or two extra years out of the water and/or conducting sea trials for each boat being upgraded. This would further exacerbate the already disappointingly low availability of the fleet.”

2009 – 2010

Australia’s White Paper sets an ambitious target. Collins Class
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Jan 27/10: Australian DoD:

“There have been inaccurate reports today that the Rudd Government was reconsidering its decision to build our future submarines in Adelaide[, Australia]. These reports are false. The Rudd Government is fully committed to building our new future submarines in Adelaide.”

Jan 25/10: The Collins Class submarine HMAS Farncomb encounters a generator failure, which reduces Australia’s operational Collins Class submarine fleet to 1 boat in 6. The cost of repairs is not yet predictable, and the mechanical issue could extend beyond HMAS Farncomb.

Continuing issues with the class also lead to questions concerning the feasibility of, and proposed strategy for, Australia’s next-generation submarine program. Read “Australia’s Submarine Program in the Dock” for full coverage.

Nov 5/09: Acting Minister for Defence Greg Combet highlights the major challenges facing Australia’s next generation submarine project in a speech to the Sydney Institute. Excerpts of “From Collins to Force 2030: The Challenge of the Future Submarine“:

“…the White Paper recognises that the aim of establishing sea and air control in our primary operating environment does not entail a purely defensive or reactive approach. Rather, we must be able to conduct proactive combat operations at a distance from our shores. This demands a mix of intelligence, defensive and strike assets to ensure both deterrence and, if that were to fail, an ability to impose unacceptably high costs… Put simply, we need to be able to take warfare to an adversary’s front door. Submarines are able to stop an adversary from deploying its’ fleet by maintaining sea denial. By imposing disproportionate costs on an adversary, submarines represent an asymmetric threat well suited to Australia’s defence.

…In planning for the future submarine, we need to consider a range of engineering and production solutions, ranging from the acquisition of a Military Off The Shelf (MOTS) design, options consistent with the Kinnaird/Mortimer reforms, to a developmental solution designed indigenously… Electric Boat have a rule known as the ‘law of 1:3:8′, that is, a task that takes an hour in module construction takes 3 hours when the hull has been assembled and 8 hours when the submarine is in the water. In other words, make sure the design is mature before you start cutting steel.

…Studies have shown that 90 per cent of the discretionary decisions that affect the outcome of a project are made in the first 7 to 12 per cent of the project’s life. There are three things that we must get right… adequately define the operating concepts and requirements for the future submarine… develop a sophisticated acquisition strategy [which may include rolling production or batch buys]… understand the interaction between capability and the acquisition strategy. It is often the interaction between these two processes that leads to trouble.

One of the matters that we will need to tackle early in the project is the need to invest in and develop a sustainable industrial base that is capable of designing, constructing and maintaining 12 large submarines [which will include cooperation with US Navy facilities].”

Nov 3/09: RAND study commissioned. The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Acting Defence Minister Greg Combet, who says that the USA’s RAND Corporation will be conducting a study related to the submarine project, due in February 2010:

“(Defence) is undertaking a number of studies to identify and explore all the options to ensure we have the appropriate design capability to support our submarines throughout their life.”

See also SpaceWar article.

Oct 29/09: The Australian Strategic Policy Institute releases “Strategic Insights 48 – How to buy a submarine: Defining and building Australia’s future fleet.” ASPI projects an $A 36 billion (currently about $32.6 billion) cost to field 12 built-in-Australia diesel-electric submarines – a sum comparable to buying 12 of the USA’s most advanced SSN-774 Virginia class nuclear fast attack submarines. OIt adds:

“As described, the resultant boats are likely to be the largest, most complex and, at $3 billion each, the most expensive conventional submarines ever built. The industrial capacity and capability to produce these vessels does not exist in Australia at the moment. By the time construction commences, it will be over fifteen years since the last Collins-class submarine was launched. Hard-earned lessons from that process will need to be re-learned in many cases and the required engineering and construction skills will have to be built up to the required level… This paper, authored by Sean Costello and Andrew Davies, surveys the complexities that have to be negotiated and suggests a way ahead that makes best use of the resources available to government.”

See also Full report [PDF].

May 2/09: Australia’s 2009 Defence White Paper is released. One of its goals is a fleet of 12 non-nuclear diesel-electric submarines with Air-Independent Propulsion, capable of launching land attack cruise missiles, to be assembled in South Australia. Design to be determined. ASC is not guaranteed the contract, however, something Fitzgibbon had pledged during the election.

The subs could be upgraded versions of the existing Collins class, or a foreign partnership around a sub like Spain’s S-80, which will already be designed to launch Tomahawk missiles.

The Collins class will also receive sonar and other upgrades during their lifetime.

White Paper

Appendix A: Foreign Contenders CM-2000 Scorpene
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Once Australia decided to field new submarines, the next question was “which submarines”? Off-the-shelf designs, or a modified variant that kept the structure but used Australian combat systems and weapons, were 2 of the 4 options under consideration until May 2013.

The 4 contenders that evaluated as potential off-the-shelf or modified design buys were:

  • DCNS’ Scorpene, which has been bought by Brazil, Chile, India, and Malaysia. It includes an option to add the MESMA AIP(Air-Independent Propulsion) section, for longer underwater running time.

  • Navantia’s S-80. So far, only Spain has bought it, but it’s designed for size, range, and compatibility with American systems & weapons. Navantia is also the RAN’s biggest shipbuilding partner, with very deep experience and partnerships thanks to the Air Warfare Destroyer and LHD projects.

  • TKMS HDW’s U212A/U214, which has been sold to Germany, Greece, Italy, South Korea, and Turkey. South Korea’s world-leading shipbuilding firms can even build the design under license, which may create interesting collaboration opportunities in Australia. The class comes with AIP built-in, and has undertaken some long trips in German service. A larger 4,000t U218 design has also been discussed by TKMS, and sold to Singapore.

  • Japan’s new 4,200t Soryu Class, which is far larger than any of the European submarines. It’s also an AIP submarine, using a Stirling system from TKMS in Sweden. Japan changed some of its laws in December 2011, allowing it to export some items to vetted allies.

Additional Readings

Official Reports

Other News & Reports

Potential Contenders

Regional Developments

& DID – Submarines for Indonesia. South Korean built, reportedly modified Chang Bogo Class U209s.

Categories: News

US, China Ramp Up Response to Worsening Ebola Epidemic

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 15:10

  • The US is going to send [White House] about 3,000 military personnel to Liberia and neighboring countries in order to coordinate international efforts to contain an Ebola outburst [CDC] that has been getting worse [CBC News] in the past few days. Just hours earlier Médecins Sans Frontières had issued an alarming call to action (video), describing the situation as “overwhelming”, with high infection rates among medical staff sent to help.

  • China is also increasing the number of doctors it is sending to Sierra Leone. How the Chinese respond to the epidemic may reveal [Quartz] the true mettle of their appetite for investment [The Economist] on the continent [Deborah Brautigam].

  • According to Scientific American there’s enough to worry about without speculating about the virus going airborne.

What Russia Wants, And What They Get

  • Status of the truce in Ukraine: still shaky. That’s despite a vote [Kyiv Post] in Ukraine’s parliament that pretty much capitulates [Bloomberg View] to the separatists’ demands.

  • Dmitry Gorenburg from Harvard University: Countering Color Revolutions: Russia’s New Security Strategy and its Implications for U.S. Policy.

  • Russia & India Report makes the case that sanctions are “hastening the world without the West.” It appears overblown in places, and the BRICS have serious economic weaknesses that make a full dollar replacement play absurd in the near future. But the points about sanctions being a soft-power move that decays with each use and creates most of its costs in the far future, are directionally correct.

  • True, China’s central bank called for [FT] a new reserve currency more than 5 years ago, Russia would gladly undermine the US dollar, and the Europeans are not happy about large fines levied on their banks by the US, but so far nothing competes [Bloomberg] with the depth and liquidity offered by the American currency.


  • It would be easy to forget Afghanistan with everything else that’s going on. The Taliban claimed responsibility [CNN] for killing 2 American and 1 Polish ISAF personnel with a suicide car bomb.

Middle East & Africa

  • Foreign Policy explains that defeating ISIL is a tall order given deep-seated distrust among Iraq’s Sunnis of the government in Baghdad, after years of brutality and inefficiency. And so far the Islamic State seems to be cutting checks on time. Thus David Siegel of Duke University argues [The Hill] that defeating ISIL goes beyond military forces and involves “hearts and minds.” That phrase of course rings a bell [DTIC search].

  • Australia seems more willing than most to deploy troops to Iraq, with 600 ADF personnel and 8 Super Hornets to be prepositioned in the UAE.

  • France’s 1st reconnaissance Rafale flights over Iraq took off from Al Dhafra [Libération, in French] in the UAE [The Local] yesterday (MINDEF video).

  • Meanwhile neighboring Qatar is the host of the Al Udeid air base where the US has a significant air command center [NYT]. But Qatar is an odd partner [AP] for the West as it is suspected to have backed ISIL (though they deny having done so) and has openly supported the Muslim Brotherhood, damaging ties with other GCC members in the process. Qatar is also rejecting accusations [AFP] that is is meddling in Libya. With so much smoke there must be fire underneath.

  • Speaking of which, Libya is sinking further into a failed state, with a government in exile and airstrikes from various sources: LA Times | Reuters | Al Jazeera video below:

Categories: News

Hydra, Awakened: Guided Air-Ground Rockets

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 18:57
(click to view larger)

Sen. Leahy’s [D-VT] worked in the mid-2000s to keep the Hydra 70mm rocket family alive through special appropriations, just in time for the Hydras’ potential on the battlefield to rise again. The key was the addition of low-cost precision guidance, which would expand the number of precision weapons carried by helicopters, aircraft, and even UAVs.

Over the last few years, the US Army’s 2nd attempt at an APKWS 70mm guided rocket had a near-death experience, before righting the program with Navy funding. Meanwhile, private development efforts are introducing new competitors into the precision-guided rocket space: Lockheed Martin, Thales TDA, and a raft of international partnerships involving major defense firms and partners in Korea, the UAE, Canada/Norway, and Israel. This DID FOCUS article covers the most prominent competitors within the guided rocket trend. Their products will sit between full anti-armor missiles like Hellfire, TOW, and Brimstone, and an emerging class of ultra-small precision attack weapons like Northrop Grumman’s Viper Strike, Raytheon’s Griffin, etc.

APKWS II: “To be, or not to be…” APKWS
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APKWS II “Hellfire Jr.” Hydra Rockets Enter SDD Phase” is DID’s FOCUS article for the APKWS II program, noting updates and developments related to the BAE/ General Dynamics/ Northrop Grumman partnership and its project.

APKWS II’s seeker has a much narrower “cone” than Lockheed Martin’s DAGR competitor (+/- 4 degrees, vs. +/- 15 degrees), and BAE’s APKWS II system found itself “zeroed out” in the FY 2008 budget appropriations. Despite the emergence of privately funded competitors and allied partnerships, The US Navy elected to stick with APKWS-II, and stepped in as the main funding source in 2008. That move secured BAE’s place in the market, and ensured its integration with US Navy jets, helicopters, and UAVs. It has since spread to other platforms as well. See the full article for full coverage and current details.

Lockheed Martin: Is this a DAGR I see before me…? DAGR concept
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Leveraging existing Hellfire and Joint Common Missile technology, the semi-active DAGR guided rockets offer functionality comparable to the popular Hellfire missile, including lock-on-before-launch, lock-on-after-launch, target location handoff, enhanced built-in test, programmable laser coding, and flexible fly-out modes. DAGR rockets’ +/- 15 deg sighting cone offers a wider field of view than competitors. They can also be launched from any platform that currently supports the Hellfire weapon system, removing many requirements for additional integration, training, or infrastructure.

Lockheed Martin says that DAGR has customers, but will not name them.

March 19/14: Testing done. Lockheed Martin completes all 16 US Army Air Worthiness Release (AWR) live firing flight tests from AH-64D helicopters at Eglin AFB, FL. Each guided rocket flew between 1.5 – 5.1 km, and all hit the target within 1m of the laser spot. Lockheed Martin has also completed 30 System Qualification testing flights to validate the missile and rail-mounted canister.

DAGR has been now launched from the AH-64D Apache, AH-6 Little Bird, and OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters; and from a ground-based Hellfire/DAGR pedestal launcher mounted on a JLTV vehicle. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin’s DAGR Missile Scores A Perfect 16 of 16 In Flight Tests for U.S. Army”.

May 8/12: Tests. Lockheed Martin touts a set of 4 successful DAGR tests from an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ, all of which hit within 1 meter of the laser spot. A truck moving at 25 km/h was hit from 3.5 km was hit using lock-on before launch, and the other tests included a lock-on after launch shot, a 5 km strike, and a launch from 5 degrees offset.

This makes over 30 test flights so far, from AH-64D Apache, AH-6 Little Bird and OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters.

June 20/10: Customers. Lockheed Martin tells Battlespace magazine that its DAGR system has 2 initial customers, and will enter low-rate initial production “early next year.”

Jan 8/09: DAGR succeeds in its first live warhead launch, and penetrates the side of the target vehicle before exploding. Lockheed Martin says that the weapon is now 12 for 12 in tests.

Feb 28/08: Testing. Lockheed Martin announces 3 successful tests (2 guided flight, 1 multi-purpose sled) of the DAGR semi-active laser guidance kit for 2.75-inch/70mm rockets. The tests were designed to demonstrate the system’s accuracy, wide sighting capability, and delayed fuzing mode. Lockheed reports that DAGR is now 6-for-6 in control vehicle and guided test vehicle flights, which began in February 2006.

DAGRs & Hellfires
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Sept 17/07: Land-based? Flight International reports that a land-based version of DAGR could be deployed to Iraq soon. Randy Thomas, business development manager for DAGR, told them that the US Army wants to network DAGR rockets and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles with a network of tower-based sensors (very likely the RAID towers) at army bases in Iraq. The system would be used as a surveillance and suppress/ instant reply option against enemy mortar teams. Lockheed is also pushing for DAGR integration onto helicopters and UAVs.

If they succeed in these efforts, Lockheed Martin could wind up losing the formal competition, but winning the procurement competition by pre-empting their rival’s R&D cycle with a working solution whose initial deployment sidesteps the original competition. That doesn’t happen very often in US military procurement, which is another reason the “Guided Hydroids” competition is worth following closely.

Sept 11/07: Unveiled. Lockheed formally unveils the DAGR as a finished, for-sale at Britain’s DSEi defense show. The rockets can be fired from existing M299 and M310 Hellfire launchers, with 4-packs of DAGRs mounted to each Hellfire missile rail. As the maker of the Hellfire missile and launcher, they are uniquely positioned to offer this level of integration.

This clears the way for DAGR rockets to be employed immediately on larger unmanned aerial vehicles like the MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper, MC-1C Sky Warrior, and MQ-8B Fire Scout; on AH-1 Cobra, AH-64 Apache, H-60 Seahawk, OH-58 Kiowa, and Eurocopter Tiger helicopters; and on the ARH-70A Armed Reconnaissance helicopter if and when it is delivered.

That kind of flexibility also positions Lockheed Martin for any situation in which APKWS II is shut down and turned into a “fly-off” competition, because of the extra flexibility their launcher options create.

DAGR formally unveiled

March 7/07: DAGR. Lockheed may have lost the APKWS II competition, but it didn’t give up. The DAGR (70mm Direct Attack Guided Rocket, not to be confused with DAGR hand-held GPS locators) completed development with company funding. Lockheed especially touts its wider boresight/ off-axis capability, which allows it to launch within a wider “flight cone” and still find its way to the target.

February 2007 flight tests demonstrated objective maneuverability capability for minimum range engagements. The DAGR rocket supports launch from unmanned aerial vehicle platforms; later in 2007, Lockheed Martin will complete a full test flight matrix for unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters, as well as perform platform launch. See Lockheed Martin release.

LOGIR: “…the heavenly-harnessed team/ Begins his golden progress in the east…” LOGIR/LCITS
(click for video)

From NAVAIR weapons development’s “Arming the Fleet” publication:

“The LOGIR project began in 2000 and is still under way. Its primary objective is to significantly improve the warfighter’s ability to address moving and fixed targets with an emphasis on moving targets. LOGIR allows the warfighter to designate the target using the existing targeting FLIR. Once designated, the pilot can fire the rocket and leave the area. LOGIR will use the FLIR(Forward-Looking Infa-Red) targeting data to fly to the target, and acquire and track the target to weapon impact.”

Using FLIR/ Imaging Infrared enables 1 platform with LOGIR rockets to simultaneously engage many small naval targets at once across a wide (90 degree plus) sighting cone, instead of having to use individual laser designation. That makes it a better weapon against threats like small boat swarms, though it does increase the price a bit.

Until May 2011, LOGIR was formally part of the Office of Naval Research’s Future Naval Capabilities Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker (LCITS) program, as executed by NAVAIR Code 4.7′s Emergent Weapons Concepts Division. Test GR #3 officially shifted the LOGIR project from LCITS into the Medusa JCTD (Joint Capability Technology Demonstration) phase, but the USN’s MH-60 helicopters are likely to carry BAE’s APKWS rockets instead. As of November 2011, LCITS has been fired from shore, and from an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, including tests against moving targets. It’s still looking for its first order.

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Nov 3/11: Land-based. Twin test-firings of LCITS by the US ONR:

“In the Nov. 3 test, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division engineers used a shore-based launcher to fire two LCITS rockets, one inert and the other with an explosive warhead. Using inertial guidance, they flew to a point where the infrared terminal guidance system took over. Onboard imaging infrared seekers identified their intended targets among five maneuvering small boats. The rockets adjusted trajectories to intercept and eliminate two of the boats.”

May 11/11: The US Office of Naval Research provides an update on the LCITS/LOGIR program, and touts its capabilities against small boats. Outside observers wonder what other applications might be found for the seeker. ONR | The Register.

May 1/10: Testing. LOGIR completes its concept demonstration phase with a successful launch from an AH-1W helicopter and a direct hit on a moving fast boat, at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) in Point Mugu, CA. NAWCWD Weapons and Energetics Department Precision Guidance Office head Howard McCauley says the test marks LOGIR’s technology as being mature enough to transition into a Navy program of record.

Until this test, LOGIR was part of the Office of Naval Research’s Future Naval Capabilities Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker (LCITS) program, as executed by NAVAIR Code 4.7′s Emergent Weapons Concepts Division. Test GR #3 officially shifted the LOGIR project from LCITS into the Medusa Joint Capability Technology Demonstration phase. A Military Utility Assessment will be conducted during Medusa, to further LOGIR along the path to a buy decision and fleet introduction. US NAVAIR.

March 2/07: MoU. Korea and the United States have agreed to cooperate in developing guided air-launched rockets, signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for “LOGIR” (Low-Cost Guided Imaging Rocket) development. The budget for this project is reportedly more than $60 million.

“The LOGIR project is a main joint project for weapons development between South Korea and the U.S.,” said Park Young-wook, director of South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration’s (ROK DAPA) technology acquirement department. A ROK DAPA official added that “Korea will bear only several million won and the U.S. will be responsible for the rest amount… The allies will cooperate in development of running gear, guidance system, and detector on the base of LOGIR.” See KOIS report | report.

Sources indicate that LOGIR involves a Hydra 70 2.75-in. rocket with an inertial + infrared guidance kit added to the front. The kit consists of a low-cost uncooled imaging infrared focal plane array that can match a target profile with a pre-programmed (or transmitted) “image” in its memory, a low-cost micro electro-mechanical inertial measurement unit to track current and relative position and get the rocket near its target, a control actuation system for maneuvering, and computer electronics to tie it all together.

LOGIR won’t be quite as effective against mobile targets as a more expensive system that might use ongoing laser designation or millimeter-wave seekers. Instead, it offers fire-and-forget capability, works well against the relatively stationary targets that still make up a large percentage of precision attack missions (a building, a parked vehicle, an enemy machine-gun position, etc.), and has good enough effectiveness against moving targets to offer advantages against swarming tactics.

Raytheon and the UAE’s TALON: “Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie…” TALON

On May 7/08, a new competitor entered the fray. Hussain I. Al Hammadi, Emirates Advanced Investments’ chief executive officer:

“The Laser Guided Rocket project with Raytheon is a very important defense industry initiative for the United Arab Emirates… that will provide future benefits for the armed forces of both our countries. It is designed to destroy targets ranging from tactical armored vehicles to high-speed naval craft and will provide a very affordable precision weapon for attack helicopters.”

Raytheon Missile Systems’ Laser Guided Rocket program manager Richard Janik touted TALON as a zero-development cost APKWS-II alternative, but the US Navy stepped in and adopted BAE’s design in August 2008. After successful TALON testing from 2009 – 2011, the UAE placed a laser-guided rocket order with Turkey’s Roketsan for Cirit rockets in February 2013. Even so, Raytheon hasn’t given up. They’ve achieved full US Army air certification release for the AH-64D/E Apache attack helicopter, acquired OEM certification from MD Helicopters for their MD 530G armed aerial scout, and tested naval options. In 2014, that persistence was rewarded with a contract from the UAE – which may include deployment on ground vehicles.

MD-530G tests

Sept 15/14: UAE. Raytheon announces a $117 million sub-contract from the UAE Tawazun for TALON Laser Guided Rockets, as a follow-on to a 2013 contract given to Tawazun by the Armed Forces General Headquarters of the United Arab Emirates. Raytheon will maintain full integration of the TALON system into the UAE Armed Forces to include logistics, training and warranty support.

Tawazun also seems to have a partnership with, and UAE orders for, Roketsan of Turkey’s Cirit laser-guided weapons (q.v. CIRIT, Feb 19/13). Tawazun was not able to respond to queries by press time.

Raytheon/EAI’s TALON rockets are qualified on AH-64D attack helicopters, and Raytheon says that they’re also exploring options to integrate it onto some of Tawazun’s locally-designed NIMR armored patrol vehicles. Over 1,500 NIMRs have been ordered by the UAE in various configurations, and others have been exported to neighboring countries like Libya, etc.

UAE orders TALON

July 31/14: Testing. Raytheon announces that a partnership with MD Helicopters has led to MD’s OEM certification of TALON on their new MD 530G armed aerial scout helicopter, an armed derivative of their MD 530F. Laser designation is provided by the L-3 WECAM MX-10D turret. The rockets themselves are carried on either a 7-shot M260 pod, or FN Herstal’s 3-shot Rocket Machine Gun Pod that pairs them with a 12.7mm gun and 250 rounds.

Integration and testing reportedly took just a few months, ending with a series of 4 test-firings under different mission profiles at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ. TALON LGR is currently the only OEM-certified guided rocket or missile for this platform. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon fires four TALON Laser-Guided Rockets from MD 530G helicopter”.

May 4/14: AH-64. Raytheon announces that they’ve completed TALON’s US Army certification process for air worthiness release on the AH-64D/E Apache attack helicopter. That clears the way for TALON’s employment from American or foreign Apache helicopters using standard M260/261 rocket launchers. The firm says that no hardware or software modifications are required to the helicopter or launcher. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon, US Army certify TALON Laser-Guided Rocket on Apache helicopter”.

AH-64 certified

Jan 15/14: Naval testing. Raytheon hasn’t given up on TALON, and is touting it for naval use. They tout a successful land firing from a standard 7-rocket LAU-68 launcher mounted on L-3′s Advanced Remote Weapon Station. The full ARWS includes day/night cameras and a laser designator, and weighs about 500 pounds with the rockets equipped. That’s good, because as Raytheon puts it:

TALON test-firing
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“It requires only a target queue to engage on-mount target tracking and can be integrated on ships ranging in size from riverine to major surface combatants.”

There’s definitely a niche for that kind of close-in precision attack weapon at sea, in a low-cost solution. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon, L-3 demonstrate new ship protection system”.

Nov 15/11: Testing. Raytheon announces that its partnership with Emirates Advanced Investments (EAI) Group has completed a TALON operational demonstration, going 3-for-3 from a UAE AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter against stationary and moving targets. This marks the final step leading to production of TALON LGRs in the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates.

Sept 13/11: Testing. Raytheon announces a successful finish to additional testing of production configuration TALON rockets on the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter. The AH-64D is the UAE’s main attack helicopter, though it will soon be joined by UH-60M Black Hawks fitted with Level 3 Battlehawk kits. TALON test firings included hovering and moving platforms, at engagement ranges between 1.2 km/ 0.74 miles to 6.0 km/ 3.7 miles. Raytheon believes the rocket is now ready to begin full-rate production.

April 16/10: Testing. Raytheon and Emirates Advanced Investments (EAI) announce the end of 4 ground-based guided flight tests of the TALON Laser-Guided Rocket, after the rounds were “preconditioned” at extreme temperatures to test their reliability. The tests pave the way for TALON LGR airborne testing, including a series of live firings from the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter. Raytheon release.

Dec 22/09: Testing. The U.S. Army fires 2 TALON Laser-Guided Rocket guided test vehicle rounds from an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, and hit targets at 3,500 meters (2.17 miles). The Raytheon release adds that “this exceeded accuracy requirements for the Department of Defense’s Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II program. In September, the U.S. Army clearly stated the need for a guided munition capable of being launched from the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior…”

Oct 8/08: Testing. Raytheon announces the completion of tests for the Laser Guided Rocket in Buffalo, NY’s Calspan Transonic Wind Tunnel. It’s the first testing step in a 24-month development and qualification program, providing simulations and data that will help with autopilot design.

May 7/08: Joint development. Raytheon Company and Emirates Advanced Investments of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates announce a cooperative development agreement for a semi-active laser-guided 70 mm/ 2.75-inch rocket.

The agreement represents a full transfer of technology to the United Arab Emirates; subject to approval of the respective companies’ governments, Raytheon Missile Systems and Emirates Advanced Investments will produce the laser guided rocket for national and international customers. The agreement details a complete development and qualification program and provides for a follow-on proposal to supply a commercial off-the-shelf laser guided rocket for military customers in the United Arab Emirates, United States and other countries. Initially, the laser guided rocket will be qualified on a single United Arab Emirates’ platform, with later integration onto additional platforms. Raytheon

Development agreement

Other Entries: “Come unto these yellow sands…”

Moore’s Law continue to produce more powerful computer processors, and parallel developments in other technologies are driving down the cost of laser and infrared detectors. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that eventually, most unguided rockets will introduce guidance options over the next decade. Here are a few of the other contenders.

Turkey: Roketsan’s CIRIT CIRIT from AH-1W
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Turkey’s relationship with both Israel and the USA continues to deteriorate under the Islamist AKP party, removing the option of buying Elbit’s GATR. At the same time, the government is undertaking wide-ranging military modernization that emphasizes local design and production, while working to export local defense products and services to surrounding states. Cirit is one of their early success stories. It’s intended to have a range of 8 km, with a reduced-smoke motor, and a tri-mode (fragmentation/ HEAT/ incendiary) warhead. The goal is a weapon that can be fired from standard M- and LAU- rocket launchers, as well as a 2-shot MIL-STD-1760 launcher developed by Roketsan. Customers to date include Turkey and the UAE.


May 22/14: Germany. Roketsan signs a Memorandum of Understanding with MBDA Deutschland. They’ll be offering Roketsan’s Cirit 70mm rocket as a solution for Germany’s EC665 Tiger UHT scout/attack helicopter fleet, with MBDA responsible for integration.

They’ll face competition that includes Elbit’s GATR. BAE’s APKWS-II and Raytheon’s TALON are also available, but local industrial partners will be needed. Sources: MBDA, “MBDA Deutschland GmbH in partnership with Roketsan” | Andalou Agency, “Turkish contractor signs deal with German weapons maker”.

May 5/14: UAE. Roketsan and Tawazun deliver the first 2,000 of 10,000 Cirit laser-guided rockets to the UAE, which reportedly intends to integrate them with ground vehicles as well as helicopters. The UAE’s AH-64D fleet is an obvious option, but the country is also arming its UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters. Sources: Turkey’s Daily Sabah, “Turkey Delivers First Huge Batch Of Cirit Missiles to UAE”.

Feb 19/13: UAE. At IDEX 2013, the UAE announces an AED 720 million (about $196 million) deal with Tawazun to supply laser-guided rockets to the UAE military, through a partnership with Roketsan.

That’s a very curious announcement. The UAE has its own Talon system, developed by the local firm EAI in collaboration with Raytheon. UAE The National.

UAE buys 10,000

July 10/12: Turkey. Hurriyet says deliveries have begun:

“Turkey’s missile maker Roketsan has delivered 100 laser-guided 70 mm rocket systems to the Turkish military, a defense source has told the Hürriyet Daily News.”


March 27/12: Turkey’s SSM procurement agency has unveiled their new 5-year strategic plan, with timetables for key acquisitions. CIRIT is to be integrated with the T129 by the end of 2013, with deliveries beginning. Hurriyet Daily News

Sept 12/11: Goodrich Corporation announces its 1st production order from Turkey’s Roketsan Missiles Industries Inc., for its miniaturized, MEMS-reliant SiIMU02® inertial measurement unit (IMU). The production order follows successful customization and qualification of SiIMU02 package for CIRIT in 2011. The IMUs will be produced at Goodrich’s facility in Plymouth, UK.

May 12/11: Eurocopter EC635. Roketsan signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Eurocopter to integrate its Cirit on the EC635 light utility and scout helicopter, and run a test program. The EC635 has been ordered by Jordan, Iraq, and Switzerland, and those first 2 countries are certainly promising markets for Turkey.

Meanwhile, Roketsan President Huseyin Baysak touts Cirit’s envisaged 8km range as a differentiator, and videos show early tests from an AH-1 Cobra helicopter. They’ll also need to work with AgustaWestland, whose T129 will by Turkey’s next attack helicopter. Sources: Dogan News Agency, “Roketsan signs memorandum of understanding with Eurocopter at IDEF’11″ | News.Az, “Turkey launches guided rocket system” | YouTube, “Roketsan Cirit 2.75″ Laser Seeking Rocket”.

Sept 23/10: Jane’s covers Roketsan’s display of its Cirit 70mm rockets and UMTAS/ OMTAS anti-tank missiles at AAD 2010. The 2.75in Cirit is now being qualified and will enter production “later this year.”

June 1/08: Australia. Roketsan Chairman R.Lt. General Mr. Ismail Ozalp sits down for an interview that covers the breadth of his company’s activities, from cooperation on programs like Stinger and ESSM to ground-launched rocket sales, missile devlopment, and Cirit. On which subject, “…we are also negotiating about the 2.75” Semi-Active Laser Guided Missile systems with Australia.”

Australia operates the EC665 Tiger ARH scout/ attack helicopter, and could also find a use for Cirit aboard its current (S-70B) and future naval helicopters. As of 2014, the idea hasn’t gone anywhere. Sources: Defence Turkey, “ROKETSAN: Turkish Defence Industry’s growing power”.

CRV7-PG CRV7s from Harrier
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Defense Review cites the Magellan Aerospace/Kongsberg Defence & Aerorspace (KDA) CRV7-Precision Guided (CRV7-PG) 70mm rocket (2.75″ rocket). The UK/Canadian firm Magellan has produced excellent 70mm CRV7 rockets for quite some time. They are providing the rocket technology. Kongsberg is handling the guidance system, which is derived from its work on the Penguin anti-ship missile and Naval Strike Missile (NSM).

This CADSI (Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries)
profile states that seeker options include semi-active radar, laser guidance, GPS, and anti-radiation; if so, the CRV-7PG would offer precision-strike 70mm rocket options for many existing fighter aircraft, as well as helicopters and UAVs. The development partnership was announced on June 15/06, at Eurosatory 2006.

GATR-L (Guided Advanced Tactical Rocket – Laser). ATK on GATR
click for video

On July 9/08, Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd. and American ammunition and rocketry expert Alliant Techsystems (ATK) announced a teaming agreement to develop the 70mm GATR-L for use on “fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) platforms.”

GATR uses the same semi-active laser seeker as the Laser JDAM bomb, and employs a digitally-fuzed, fully-qualified M282 multi-purpose penetrating warhead. It can be fired using lock-on before or after launch, as well as autonomous or remote laser designation. The warhead is programmed from the cockpit for either point detonation, or delayed fuzing against hardened targets. ATK promotes GATR as having a firing envelope that’s “50 percent greater than [the weakest] currently-fielded laser-guided rockets.” The system can be deployed against targets at ranges from 1.5 km – over 8 km.

2014: Germany. Diehl Defence is cooperating with Elbit to offer a variant of GATR for Germany’s EC665 Tiger UHT scout and attack helicopters. they’re calling it GILA, for Guided Intelligent Light Armament. Diehl would be responsible for production of the guidance and control section, final assembly of the guided rocket, all simulation software, and helicopter integration and logistics. Sources: Diehl Defence, “Air-to-surface precision weapon for TIGER helicopter”.

May 22/13: SOCOM DAC. ATK announces a $3.2 million Defense Acquisition Challenge (DAC) contract to provide a low-cost, light-weight, precision guided missile for evaluation by U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). They’ll use their MH-60L/M helicopters as the operational evaluation platform.

ATK is submitting GATR and their Precision Guided Rocket Launcher (PGRL), which is available in 3, 7, and 19-tube variants. The PGRL works with current analog and digital fire control systems, and can provide digital stores management for weapons loaded into it. ATK.

June 24/10: Defense Review reports that ATK has teamed up with Northrop Grumman to market GATR-L in conjunction with NGC’s VENOM surveillance and targeting system, which can be mounted on ground vehicles.

That’s a nice fit for the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference 2010 venue, though the VENOM/GATR combination is also touted as working with manned and unmanned aircraft.

June 1/09: Successful flight tests in Israel. They include a test from a helicopter using lock-on before launch, in order to engage an off boresight target outside the rocket’s normal seeker cone, at a range of about 3 km. The tests validated flight worthiness, safe separation launch, and autonomous laser designated guided flight. ATK release.

Oct 6/08: Successful GATR-L flight tests at White Sands, NM, fired from an M261 launcher at ranges out to 6 km. Military Aerospace & Electronics report.

SYROCOT (Systeme de Roquette A Corrections de Trajectoire)

France is interested in this project, based on the ubiquitous SNEB 68mm rocket. Thales subsidiary TDA, who makes the SNEB, has experimented with both laser-guided and GPS-guided rockets, and plans to market a 70mm version of SYROCOT. News of this project has been absent for some time, however.

Oct 8/08: Thales announces the first successful test-firing of its laser-guided SYROCOT, in cooperation with France’s DGA procurement agency.


Russia’s AMETEX began touting its ‘Ugroza’ (Menace) guided air-ground guided rocket systems at MAKS 1999. Ugroza can reportedly be fitted to the 57mm S-5, 80mm S-8, and 122mm S-13 rockets, adding the suffix “Kor” to their designation.

Bigger Boom: 127mm Zuni rocket options F/A-18C fires Zuni
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A Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) project in response to a US Marine Corps request to retrofit its 127mm Zuni rockets for semi-active laser guidance, allowing aircraft to fire them from existing 4-rocket LAU-10 pods with no modifications required. That program is included in the 2007 Marine Aviation plan.

NAWCWD developed the WGU-58/B guidance system in cooperation with European missile giant MBDA. Other industry partners include Elbit Systems of America in Fort Worth TX; General Dynamics in Healdsburg CA; and Honeywell in Minneapolis MN.

Oct 6/09: MBDA announces the successful demonstration of its own Semi-Active Laser-Guided Zuni rocket at the US Navy’s China Lake test facilities, this time against a moving target.

June 22/09: MBDA Incorporated announces the successful demonstration of a Semi-Active Laser Guided 5-inch Zuni rocket at a static target, at the US Navy’s China Lake, CA test facilities.

Additional Readings & Sources Background: Rockets & Competitors

News & Views

Categories: News

Hydra-70 Rockets: From Cutbacks to the Future of Warfare

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 18:23
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Hydra-70 is a family of unguided rockets offering a variety of warhead configurations, from smoke and illumination rounds, to flechettes (hundreds of anti-personnel darts), submunition carriers, and unitary warheads up to 317 pounds. These versatile and relatively inexpensive rockets can be fired from a variety of aircraft, from attack helicopters to jet fighters to light helicopters. Hydra-70s have seen use in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they are arguably the world’s most widely used helicopter-launched weapon system. Magellan’s 70mm CRV-7 rockets and Thales’ 68mm SNEB system are its main Western competitors, while countries using Russian equipment have a variety of choices that begin with the 57mm S-5 family, extending through the 80mm S-8 family, and continuing up to the 266mm S-25.

While 70mm Hydra rockets are low cost weapons, and easy to carry in numbers, they’re not very accurate. This makes them problematic choices for urban warfare if limitations exist on the use of force, and sharply limits their value to platforms like UAVs. The US Army intended to scale back production of the rocket system in 2003, but Congress, led by Senator Leahy [D-VT], reversed the decision with a $900 million contract. Production continues to this day, even as technology developments promise to make Hydra rockets a multi-headed battlefield threat once again.

Leahy’s Leverage AV-8s fire Hydras
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Leahy [D-VT] is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and of its Defense Subcommittee, which handles the Senate’s work in writing the annual Defense Department budget bill – a bill that includes the Army’s budget. As a result, funds for FY 2005 through 2009 will be allocated to continuing Hydra production. The $900 million contract, which calls for the production and servicing of the widely used Hydra-70 rocket, is set to run until March of 2011.

Part of the rationale for scaling back Hydra production had been the increased importance of precision strike weapons, especially in urban conflicts and against the sort of targets that often present themselves in the Global War on Terror.

In the end, however, Leahy may wind up being right on the merits, as well as being right there for his district, thanks the rapid arrival of precision strike rockets in the global defense market.

Hydra Rockets: Contracts FY 2010 – 2014

New multi-year deal; New flechette rocket. Hydra family
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Unless otherwise indicated, General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GD-ATP) is the contractor producing the Hydra-70 family, and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command Contracting Center in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contracts.

Sept 15/14: Multi-year buy. General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GD-OTS) in Williston, VT wins a $58 million firm-fixed-price contract, with options, for Hydra-70 rocket buys from FY 2014 through FY 2018. It includes rockets, warheads, motors and containers, and all funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Williston, VT (71%), and Camden, AR (29%), with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/20. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with 2 received (W31P4Q-14-C-0154).

FY 2014 – 2018 contract

Sept 11/13: An $18.7 million modification to a firm-fixed-price, multi-year contract exercises an option “to reduce hardware unit price for the Hydra rockets, motors and practice warheads in accordance with contract terms and conditions”. Presumably, this unit price reduction involves additional industrial infrastructure, and the business case made sense.

Work will be performed in Williston, VT and Camden, AK, with funding from FY 2012 through 2014 “other authorizations” budgets (W31P4Q-10-C-0190, PO 0147).

Aug 17/13: FY 2013. General Dynamics announces a $67.5 million contract modification for Hydra-70 air-to-ground rockets, with deliveries expected to be complete by the end of 2015. This contract is a modification to a previously awarded contract, and the firm says that its cumulative value has risen from $991 million to “more than $1 billion.” We do wonder about that math. Sources: Pentagon | General Dynamics, Aug 17/13 release.

June 15/11: FY 2011. A $286 million cost-plus contract, as the FY 2011 option exercise for Hydra-70 production. Work will be performed in Burlington, VT, and Camden, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/15. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W31P4Q-11-C-0190… we think they meant W31P4Q-10-C-0190).

April 28/11: Sub-contractors. ATK announces an $80 million order from General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products for production of the Hydra Mk66 rocket motor’s MK90 propellant grain.

ATK manufactures the MK90 propellant grain using a unique rolling method and extrusion process, which aims to assure a low-cost solution that’s still safe and dependable. The grain incorporates a minimum smoke, double-base, low-signature formulation, and is used in all Hydra 70 rockets.

July 6/10: FY 2010. A $136.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for FY 2010 production of HYDRA-70 rockets. Work will be performed in Burlington, VT (71%), and Camden, AR (29%), with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/15. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W31P4Q-10-C-0190).

GD ATP representatives have confirmed to DID that this award is cumulative with the May 2010 announcement. As the contract number indicates, this is the successor to the 2005-2009 deal. The Huntsville Times reports that the June 30/10 signing date behind this announcement marked the beginning of a new 4-year, $991.7 million production contract with General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products. It adds:

“The Army’s requirements for Hydra-70 rockets can vary annually. “We bought 399,904 items in FY ’10, which is $278 million (the fiscal 2010 procurement),” Brad Schroer, the Hydra-70 production lead in JAMS Project Office, said. “Items are all up rounds, warhead and motors.”

May 24/10: FY 2010. A $139 million firm-fixed-price contract to support US Army, Air Force and Navy requirements for FY 2010 production of HYDRA-70 rockets. Work will be performed in Burlington, VT, with an estimated completion date of Oct 31/12. One sole-source bid was solicited, with one bid received (W31P4Q-10-C-0190).

FY 2010 – 2014 multi-year deal

Jan 7/10: US Navy NAVAIR announces a new Hydra warhead: The Mk 149 MOD 0 flechette warhead, which packs a load of deadly darts that will shred through light cover and vegetation. Stocks of older warheads dated from the Vietnam era, were nearly gone, and were becoming unreliable, so engineers from PMA-242, the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Indian Head division, and General Dynamics got together to create a new warhead. The individual flechettes are about 3 times the size of the older ones, and have grown to about the size of a 5.56mm bullet. This gives them better penetrating power, while retaining flechettes’ wider area coverage compared to high explosive rockets. The flechettes themselves are just pieces of metal, which removes concerns about future hazards or chemical contamination after they’re fired.

The new Mk 149 MOD 0 rockets will be used by the US Marines’ AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, and by its UH-1N/Y Huey utility helicopters in theater. They’re seen as a likely weapon of choice against troops in the open or like targets, and PMA-242 Program Manager Capt. Brian Corey says that “Reports from Afghanistan indicate that the new warhead is a major improvement over the previous version and right on the mark for today’s fight.” US Navy NAVAIR.

New flechette warhead

FY 2005 – 2009

Multi-year contract. UAVs, too: MQ-8A
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May 1/09: FY 2009. GD-ATP announces a $150 million order to produce Hydra-70 rockets, warheads and motors, under the 5-year contract signed in 2005. Deliveries are expected to begin in September 2010.

System engineering and program management will be performed at General Dynamics’ Burlington Technology Center in Vermont. Final assembly and component sub-assembly will occur at the company’s Camden, AK, facility, which has produced the Hydra-70 rocket for more than 12 years. This is the last year in the multi-year buy, and the firm has stopped releasing totals, but the reported number as of FY 2007′s buy, plus the last 2 years, would total around $820 million of the $900 million limit.

March 24/08: FY 2008. GD-ATP announces that the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command has awarded them a $166.4 million contract for Hydra-70 rockets, as part of part of the 5-year contract signed in 2005.

April 10/07: FY 2007. GD-ATP announces 2 orders totaling $149 million for the production of 2.75-inch Hydra-70 rockets. The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL ordered the rockets as part of a multi-year contract. According to the firm, orders to date under this contract now total $502 million.

System engineering and program management will be performed at General Dynamics’ Burlington Technology Center in Vermont. Final assembly and component sub-assembly will occur at General Dynamics’ Camden, AR facility.

April 4/06: FY 2006. GD-ATP announces a $165 million delivery order from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL for 2.75-inch Hydra-70 rockets, motors and warheads. System engineering and program management will be performed by existing employees at General Dynamics’ Burlington Technology Center in Vermont (70%). Final assembly and component sub-assembly will occur at General Dynamics’ Camden, AR facility (30%). This order is part of a 5-year requirements contract awarded in April 2005, and brings its total awarded value to date to $336 million.

June 23/05: General Dynamics announces a $17.8 million delivery order from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL for Hydra-70 rockets and warheads. This is an order under the multi-year deal, and orders to date under this contract total $154 million.

System engineering and program management will be performed at General Dynamics’ Burlington Technology Center in Vermont. Final assembly and component sub-assembly will occur at General Dynamics’ Camden, AR facility.

May 26/05: GD-ATP announces a $129 million delivery order from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL for Hydra-70 rockets and warheads. This order was awarded under the 5-year requirements contract, which now has a stated potential value of $900 million.

System engineering and program management will be performed at General Dynamics’ Burlington Technology Center in Vermont. Final assembly and component sub-assembly will occur at General Dynamics’ Camden, AR facility.

May 5/05: General Dynamics announces a 5-year indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contract with an estimated value of $900 million from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL for the production of 2.75-inch Hydra-70 rockets, motors and warheads. Later reports place the contract signing date at April 28/05.

System engineering and program management will be performed at General Dynamics’ Burlington Technology Center in Vermont. Final assembly and component sub-assembly will occur at General Dynamics’ Camden, AR facility.

2005 – 2009 multi-year buy

Hydra Precision: APKWS etc. APKWS
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After some false starts, postponements for budgetary reasons, and disappointing test results, the US Army has finally entered the selection and system design/development (SDD) phase for the APKWS II (Advanced Precision-Kill Weapons System).

APKWS aims to turn unguided rockets into precision weapons by adding relatively inexpensive laser seekers and guidance systems to Hydra-70 rockets and rocket motors. The result, dubbed “Hellfire Jr.” by some, could arguably turn precision Hydra variants into the air-launched weapon of choice for the US Army and many other militaries, while greatly multiplying the number of platforms with precision-kill capabilities.

If APKWS meets its goals, these rockets have the potential to vastly increase the number of precision weapons carried by helicopters, aircraft, and even UAVs. Precision Hydra weapons also have the capacity for high-explosive and even thermobaric warheads that can kill personnel, destroy most armored personnel carriers and lighter vehicles, and even collapse buildings if the Marines’ SMAW experiences in Fallujah are any indication.

The ability to vastly expand the varieties of aircraft, helicopters, and UAVs carrying precision weapons and the number of weapons per platform, all in a package that is good enough for most targets and offers both more warhead flexibility and reduced collateral damage, is a pretty significant combination. The more expensive Hellfire IIs would then be reserved for attacks on tanks, strikes on larger or more heavily fortified structures, and longer-range “sniping” in high-threat situations.

Designation Systems notes that the APKWS program actually began in 1996, when a guided development of the Hydra-70 also known as LCPK (Low Cost Precision Kill) was selected. The idea was that it would use the MK 66 rocket motor with a new warhead/guidance section assembly, and would therefore be instantly compatible with all existing 70 mm rocket launchers in the U.S. inventory. Fielding was planned for 2001-2002, but significant delays due to lack of funding ended up postponing this date several times. In September 2002, the APKWS program was expanded to cover all unguided rockets of the Hydra 70 family.

General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (ATP) awarded BAE Systems a $26.7 million contract for the development and demonstration of the Block 1 guidance section back on April 10, 2003. Unfortunately, the US Army eventually canceled the General Dynamics guided APKWS program in April 2005 because of poor test results.

Hence the label APKWS II for the restarted competition, which offered the competitors more freedom by reducing the number of requirements. Broadly speaking, APKWS II narrowed the focus to the specified performance criteria with a system based on the Hydra-70.

On September 29, 2005, BAE Systems announced it would bid on APKWS II as a prime contractor, along with Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics. They joined other consortia already in the APKWS II competition, led by Lockheed and Raytheon.

In the end, BAE’s team won. Funding for the APKWS II was zeroed out of the FY 2008 budget, but the Navy stepped in with funding, and the program continues.

Hydras & Hellfires
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The future of Hydra rockets as a precision weapon is even more certain, thanks to the efforts of BAE’s competitors. Lockheed Martin’s DAGR was fully developed with private funds, and is 100% compatible with all Hellfire missile platforms and launchers. A 4-pack of DAGR missiles can be fitted to any Hellfire launcher missile slot, without modification.

Beyond Lockheed, the guided rocket field is growing quickly, with programs involving the USA and South Korea (70mm LOGIR, uses IIR), Raytheon and the UAE (70mm), Israel’s Elbit and ATK (70mm GATR-L), Canada and Norway (70mm CRV-7-PG, based on CRV-7 rocket and with several guidance options), France (68mm, SNEB-based), Russia (‘Ugroza’, options from 57mm – 122mm), and more.

Additional Readings:

Categories: News

Germany to Send Missiles to Kurds While France Patrols Iraqi Airspace

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 15:28

  • A few allies are saying [US Today] they’ll join the US in its efforts against the Islamic State, though there are many reasons [AP] why Middle Eastern countries may offer little more than lip service.

  • Iran seems more motivated [BBC video] than Sunni Arabs, but they declined to attend an international meeting taking place today in Paris to conjure a global response to ISIL.

  • Germany stands out [Defense News] as the most eager among European armament donors to Kurdish fighters.

  • An unnamed official from the Syrian National Coalition denied [The Hill] a report from AFP that ISIL had reached a truce agreement with other rebel forces near Damascus in Syria.


Indian Navel Gazing Exports

  • India’s DRDO listed 15 weapon systems for export [Hindustan Times], but through a typical Indian process focused on what they already have. Starting with likely customers and their needs instead would help them make good choices about which products deserve more resources.

Aircraft for Africa

  • Russia inked a deal to sell Mi-171Sh and Mi-35 helicopters to Nigeria according to RIA Novosti (which used a MiG-35 picture for illustration – hey it sounds almost the same).

  • Satellite photos [Chris Biggers] show MIG-29s and Su-25s at Chad’s N’Djamena airbase. Chad ran into an arms export problem with Switzerland last decade. This is the long-term result.

US DoD/Contractors

  • The Government Accountability Office points out that DoD doesn’t have a plan in place to manage its sprawling real estate of 557,000 facilities worth more than $800B.

  • The Nation asks who’s paying pro-war pundits. Some of the affiliations noted in the article are thin, and the Institute for the Study of War is winning its column inches (including here at DID) on pure real-time quality, but the point about disclosing personal business affiliations is a valid one. It may not always be practical in a 1-minute verbal segment, but it can and should be done somewhere on a news organization’s site. Many former high ranking officials quoted by the media are currently on the board of defense contractors.

  • Reporting about suicide within the military often suffers from poor statistical framing. But regardless of whether soldiers take their own lives more than civilians, they are part of an institution which can provide help. That’s the topic of today’s video through the experience of a sailor on CVN-71 and his chain of command:

Categories: News

$5b in US Army Intelligence Support Contracts, 2014-2019

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 20:32

Army Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir, VA issues up to $5.04 billion worth of indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contracts for global intelligence support services. Each contractor will compete for task orders, and receive a minimum guarantee of just $5,000. Funding and work location will be determined with each order, and will run from Sept 11/14 to Sept 11/19. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with 17 received and 11 winners:

  • BAE Systems Information Solutions, Inc. in McLean, VA (W91W4-14-D-0001)
  • Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. in McLean, VA (W911W4-14-D-0002)
  • CACI Technologies, Inc. in Manassas, VA (W911(W4-14-D-0003)
  • DynCorp International LLC in McLean, VA (W911W4-14-D-0004)
  • Invertix Corp. in McLean, VA (W911W4-14-D-0005)
  • Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland (W911W4-14-D-0006)
  • ManTech Mission, Cyber and Technology Solutions Inc. in Falls Church, VA (W911W4-14-D-0007)
  • Northrop Grumman Cyber Solutions Division Inc. in Chantilly, VA (W911W4-14-D-0008)
  • Six3 Intelligence Solutions Inc. in McLean, VA (W911W4-14-D-0009)
  • Sotera Defense Solutions, Inc. in Herndon, VA (W911W4-14-D-0010)
  • SRA International Inc. in Fairfax, VA (W911W4-14-D-0011)

Categories: News

The Saudis’ American Shopping Spree: F-15s, Helicopters & More

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 16:40
F-15S & weapons
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In October 2010, talks that Saudi Arabia was negotiating a $30-60 billion arms package with the USA were made official with a full multi-billion request that included 84 F-15 Strike Eagles to replace the Kingdom’s Tornado strike aircraft and/or F-15A-D fighters, upgrades for another 70 planes, about 132 UH-60 Black Hawk utility and AH-64 attack helicopters, and armaments to equip them.

This article looks at those requests, their tie-ins, the issues that are part of these potential deals, and related follow-on requests. As is often the case with DSCA announcements, years can pass between the requests and the signed contracts, but these contracts have started to roll in, alongside other significant buys.

Quick Sales Summary

US Foreign Military Sale requests are required to be fairly public, beginning with US Department of State DSCA announcements. Even so, some contract disclosures and clarification can require the permission of the customer, and Saudi Arabia’s preference is not to give that. As such, items whose orders have not been publicly announced may be farther along in the process than the above chart indicates.

The Saudis are upgrading their air and missile defenses using American equipment, but that effort is covered in-depth in a separate article that looks at the entire Gulf Co-operation Council’s air and ballistic missile defense improvements.

Note that this dashboard does not cover American contracts that began before 2010, such as Saudi Arabia’s drive to upgrade its M1 tanks, or various Saudi Arabia National Guard sales initiated before the big October 2010 request. It also omits sales to Saudi Arabia from outside the USA, such as S-2000 AWACS aircraft from Sweden, advanced Eurofighter Typhoon fighters from Britain, etc.

Contracts & Key Events 2014

Boeing on AH-6i

SANG becomes 1st AH-6i armed scout helicopter customer, with an initial buy of 24.

Sept 10/14: F-15S EW. BAE Systems, Nashua, New Hampshire, has been awarded a $7.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for a DEWS ECM engineering change proposal, on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s F-15SAs. DEWS links various sensors that track threats to its fighter, and coordinates defensive flares, chaff, etc. The main DEWS contract was announced on April 2/12, at $366.5 million for 70 systems, as part of the RSAF’s F-15S conversions.

Work will be performed at Nashua, NH, and is expected to be complete by Nov 30/18. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition, managed by the USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Robins AFB, GA on behalf of their Saudi client (FA8540-12-C-0013 PO 0008).

Sept 8/14: Support. Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean, VA receives a $43.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for services to support the Royal Saudi Land Forces: consulting, intensive management, logistics support, and contracting support within the United States. In addition, an office will be established in Saudi Arabia for local purchasing and local hires to sustain the fleet of M1A2S Abrams tanks purchased and sustained through the foreign military sales program.

Work will be performed in Saudi Arabia with an estimated completion date of Sept 8/17. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with 1 received by US Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W91CRB-14-C-0048).

April 29/14: SANG AH-6i. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $234.7 million unfinalized contract covering 24 AH-6i armed scout helicopters, the initial spares package, and ground support equipment for Saudi Arabia. $115 million is committed immediately.

IHS Jane’s confirms that this is the AH-6i’s 1st sale, as Jordan has yet to make good on its Letter of Intent. The AH-6i Letter of Agreement for 36 machines was reportedly signed on Feb 13/12, but phases, numbers, and prices remained to be negotiated. This purchase appears to clarify comments from Lynn Tilton of MD Helicopters that the type’s initial order would be for 24, with more to follow. Beyond Saudi Arabia, Boeing is reportedly targeting AH-1 Cobra operators. Many of whom received daylight-capable surplus American aircraft at a discount, and they may not be able to afford a full replacement like the AH-1Z or AH-64E.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/16. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract on behalf of their Saudi FMS client (W58RGZ-14-C-0082). See also IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Boeing awarded AH-6i contract for Saudi Arabia” | Aviation Week Farnborough, “Boeing Readies Saudi AH-6i, Eyes More Customers”.

24 AH-6i armed scout helicopters

Aug 19/14: SANG UH-60Ms. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $30.3 million contract modification for 12 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, on behalf of the Saudi Arabian National Guard. All funds are committed immediately. This appears to be an initial award, with a follow-on to come that will modify the helicopters for Saudi use (q.v. March 25/13, Dec 20/13), and bring total SANG UH-60M sales to 24 of 72 requested machines.

The estimated completion date is Aug 31/17. Work will be performed in Jupiter, FL and Stratford, CT. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the order on behalf of its Saudi client (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0072).

April 23/14: TOW me. Raytheon announces:

“An international customer signed an agreement with the U.S. Government for a foreign military sale (FMS) of tube-launched, optically tracked, wireless-guided (TOW) missiles to be supplied by Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) in a deal valued at approximately $750 million.

Raytheon plans to deliver nearly 14,000 TOW missiles to the customer over a three-year period beginning in 2015. A resulting order is expected to be executed by the U.S. government with Raytheon in the coming weeks.”

Do they mention the customer? No, they don’t. Are there any other customers with pending orders for “nearly 14,000 TOW missiles” (q.v. Dec 5/13)? No, there aren’t. The only question is whether this includes only the SANG, whose DSCA request involved 13,935 TOW missiles, or stands as a joint buy that also includes the Royal Saudi Land Forces. Sources: Raytheon, “International customer signs agreement with USG valued at $750 million for Raytheon’s TOW missiles”.

~14,000 TOW missiles

April 11/14: F-15SA. Boeing in St. Louis. MO receives a $9.9 million unfinalized contract modification for Royal Saudi Air Force F-15SA Training. The contract had an initial face value of $75.6 million, which brings the total to 84.5 million. The increase covers new activities within the contract’s original scope, including training in the USA, and maintenance and aircrew and academic training outside the USA.

Work will be performed until Aug 5/19 in St. Louis, MO; and at King Khalid Air Base near Khamis Mushayt, Saudi Arabia. The USAF 338th Security Assistance Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio in Randolph AFB, TX manages the contract on behalf of their Saudi client (FA3002-13-D-0012, PO 0005).

March 13/14: AH-64. Longbow LLC in Orlando, FL receives a $25.5 million FMS contract modification via the Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command for initial spares, peculiar ground support equipment, integrated logistics support, management, and production line spares. Longbow, LLC makes the fire control radar used with the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.

All funds were committed immediately. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL until June 30/16. The US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-06-C-0134, PO 0045).

Feb 10/14: Hellfires. Hellfire Systems, LLC in Orlando, FL receives a $157.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for FY 2014 Hellfire II missile production requirements that include foreign military sales to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Indonesia. The Saudis are buying Hellfire missiles for their AH-64 and AH-6i helicopters.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 – 2014 budgets. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/16. US Army Contracting Command – Redstone Arsenal (Missile) at Redstone, AL manages the contract, and acts an an FMS agent for other countries (W31P4Q-11-C-2042, PO 0068).

Hellfire missiles

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Feb 14/14: LAVs. The Canadian government announces a huge contract, and lets slip that it’s from Saudi Arabia in the footnotes. Mr. Fast led trade missions to the Saudi kingdom in 2012 and 2013, so he has cause to be pleased, but he may have missed the nuance that Saudi Arabia is generally reticent about its military buys. Even if it is a tremendously timely order for GDLS Canada, which will keep the plant and its supply chain open as US Stryker (LAV-III) purchases wind to a close:

“The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, and Danny Deep, Vice President, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, announced today a historic multi-billion dollar contract win for vehicles and associated equipment, training and support services. The announcement was made in London, Ontario, where the light armoured vehicles will be designed and manufactured and which will become the epicentre of a cross-Canada supply chain directly benefiting more than 500 local Canadian firms. This 14-year contract will create and sustain more than 3,000 jobs each year in Canada, with southern Ontario accounting for approximately 40 percent of the supply base.”

To clear up any confusion about jurisdictions: The contractor is General Dynamics Land Systems, which is an American firm subject to US government export laws and approval requirements. At the same time, the state-run Canadian Commercial Corp. handles all exports from Canadian firms, even if they’re subsidiaries like GDLS-Canada.

There’s no official corporate release yet, but General Dynamics has described the deal to reporters as $10 billion, which could rise to $13 billion if all options are exercised. That’s far bigger than Oct 4/07 and June 13/11 DSCA requests for new vehicles (total: about $1 billion) can account for. Nor do purchases for the Saudi Arabian National Guard make up much of the difference. GDLS-Canada announced a $2.2 billion deal on Nov 24/09 for 724 LAV-II 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carriers, in 10 different variants, which exactly matched a July 20/06 Saudi DSCA request.

The Saudis already had a substantial fleet of LAV vehicles in their military branches. It seems very likely that a support contract covering all Saudi LAV fleets going forward is a big part of this deal, along with all LAVs requested to date and perhaps more. It is possible for the Saudis to order vehicles as a Direct Commercial Sale, which still requires approvals but doesn’t require the same announcements, and would make the Saudis fully responsible for managing the buy. Sources: Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, “Largest Advanced Manufacturing Export Win in Canada’s History” | Reuters, “General Dynamics Canada wins Saudi deal worth up to $13 billion”.

Huge LAV order, plus over a decade of support

Feb 5/14: LAV-AT SWORD. Raytheon in McKinney, TX receives a $16.3 million firm-fixed-price, foreign military sales contract for 22 modified improved target acquisition systems for the Royal Saudi Land Forces SWORD program, and 3 for the Saudi Arabian National Guard. A seemingly-related solicitation describes SWORD as:


LAV-ATs use under-armor TOW missiles, and improving them with ITAS modified for those vehicles delivers a lot of bang for the buck. Bids were solicited via the Web, with 1 received. Work will be performed in McKinney, TX, and the estimated completion date is June 30/15. Work will be managed by US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI as the Saudis’ agent (W56HZV-14-C-0066).


1st F-15SA flight and official rollout; Significant contracts for WCMD cluster bombs & JTE trainers; Slew of AH-64E helicopter contracts; Export requests for a new array of precision strike weapons, Full naval C4I systems, Mk.V Patrol Boats, thousands of TOW missiles; Boeing & Sikorsky team of up for long-term Saudi support. TOW Launch
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Dec 20/13: SANG UH-60Ms. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $105.3 million contract modification to contract “to modify 8 UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters to a General Service Configuration in Support of the Saudi Arabian National Guard.” The contract number indicates that these machines are purchases under the MYP-8 multi-year deal, which explicitly allows other countries to take advantage of American volume pricing. Essentially, they’re buying 8 UH-60Ms as an initial order under the Oct 20/10 DSCA request to export up to 72 machines.

One bid was solicited with one received. Work will be performed in West Palm Beach, FL and in Saudi Arabia. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as the Saudis’ agent (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0089).

8 UH-60Ms: initial order

Dec 19/13: F-15SA. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL receives a maximum $8.8 million firm-fixed-price modification on an existing RSAF contract for AN/AAQ-33 Sniper surveillance & targeting pods (q.v. April 2/12). They’ll provide configuration support for compact multiband data link software and firmware on the RSAF’s F-15SAs, and handle various other support tasks involving the Sniper ATP.

Work will be performed at Orlando, FL, and is expected to be complete by November 2016. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WNKCB at Robins AFB, GA acts as the Saudis’ agent (FA8540-12-C-0012, PO 0004).

Dec 17/13: F-15 Sensors. Goodrich Corp. (now United Technologies’ Aerospace Systems) in Westford, MA has been awarded an $183 million firm-fixed-price unfinalized action within the Royal Saudi Air Force DB110 Reconnaissance System program. This modification changes the requirements to include in-country setup and installation, ground stations, and a pod survey study being produced under the basic contract, issued on April 13/12 for $183 million (see also May 31/12).

Work will be performed at Westford, MA, and is expected to be complete by July 23/21, which is a year ahead of the April 2012 announcement. It appears as if they’ve kept the price stable, but adjusted some terms. DID is investigating. A July 10/12 Goodrich release cited the Saudi order as 10 dual-band reconnaissance pods per the Oct 20/10 DSCA request, 5 ground stations, and “extensive training and logistics support.” The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WINK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH acts as the Saudis’ agent (FA8620-12-C-4020, PO 0013).

Dec 5/13: TOW missiles. The US DSCA announces Saudi Arabia’s official request for export clearance to buy 1,750 portable TOW anti-armor missiles for the Royal Saudi Land Forces. The request includes up to 1,000 BGM-71E TOW-2A missiles with a nose spike to help defeat advanced armor and fortifications, 7 TOW-2A test missiles, 750 BGM-71F TOW-2B Aero missiles with longer range (>4 km) and a top attack mode, and 7 TOW-2B test missiles. they’re also requesting containers, spare and repair parts, support equipment, tools and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment,and other US government and contractor support.

The estimated cost is up to $170 million, but the Saudis will need to negotiate a contract with prime contractor Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ. Saudi Arabia already operates TOW missiles, and they won’t need any additional personnel in country. The Saudi National Guard also submitted a request for TOW missiles today, but it was far larger at over 13,000 missiles and up to $900 million. Sources: US DSCA, 13-52.

DSCA request: TOW missiles

Nov 27/13: F-15SA. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $15.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for “disorientation recovery function capability on the F-15SA aircraft”. In English, if the plane is behaving in a way that suggests the pilot has lost control via G-force blackout or other causes, and isn’t receiving ongoing input from the pilot, an autopilot is engaged to right the aircraft. As they say, the ground always has a PK of 1.0.

$2.4 million is committed immediately. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO and will be complete by Feb 2/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH acts as Saudi Arabia’s managing agent (FA8634-12-C-2651, PO 0021).

Nov 20/13: Navy. The Royal Saudi Navy’s core currently consists of French Al-Riyadh (Lafayette) and Al-Madinah Class frigates at the high end, and older US-built Badr Class corvettes and Al-Sadiq Class patrol boats at the low end. The Saudi Naval Expansion Program II will shape the Kingdom’s next set of buys, and discussions have ranged from American LCS frigates, to full-size DDG-51 Aegis destroyers capable of ballistic missile defense. They could turn to options like Spain’s Navantia (F100 family), if they wish to buy Aegis ships from a source other than the USA. The Saudis are also evaluating France’s new FREMM frigates, which could offer missile defense capabilities of their own, and share some commonalities with their existing Al-Riyadh Class.

October statements by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan may have said that the kingdom was hoping to make a major shift away from the United States, but at this point, they can’t really do that for their C4I systems. The Saudis’ installed and committed C4I base is one reason. In addition, the US Navy is still the pre-eminent force they need to cooperate with in the Gulf, so they need C4I interoperability. Ships are another matter. Sources: Reuters, “Lockheed sees more clarity on Saudi naval buy in next months” | UAE’s The National, “Challenges in the Middle East for US defence companies“.

click for video

Nov 19/13: Navy C4I. The US DSCA announces an official Foreign Military Sale export request from Saudi Arabia for C4I system upgrades and maintenance, aimed specifically at Saudi Arabia’s naval forces, at a cost of up to $1.1 billion. “The RSNF will use the upgraded C4I system to provide situational awareness of naval activity in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea…. and keep pace with the rapid advances in C4I technology to remain a viable U.S. coalition partner in the region.” The request includes:

  • Global Command and Control Systems – Joint (GCCS-J). A November 2012 announcement from Raytheon referred to a $600 million Direct Commercial Sale contract for a “national, strategic C4I system, providing capabilities for joint service coordination.” GCCS-J is what the US military uses for that purpose, and the US military has service-specific variants of it. Saudi Arabia has effectively financed other countries’ upgrades before, and a big contract could help DISA implement some of the GCCS-J changes it wants. Starting with moving GCCS-J off of SPARC-chip computers and onto Intel chip computers. DISA also wants to migrate the software from Windows into plug-ins for the Agile Client framework (Java NetBeans, NASA’s WorldWind, plus VMWare’s Gemfire), while migrating web client capabilities into the Joint Command and Control Common User Interface (JC2CUI, uses the Ozone Widget Framework). If the Saudis help to develop a system with 1 or more of these migrations, the impact will be felt by the US military.

  • Air Defense System Interrogator (Ultra Electronics’ ADSI), which provides tactical data link forwarding, and interfaces between a very large set of tactical data links, radar interfaces, and electronic intelligence interfaces.

  • Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS) and follow-on systems. Looks like there will be a CENTRIXS-SA soon, enabling text and web communication with the US Navy and other CENTRIXS-equipped nations like Britain.

  • 109 Link–16 Multifunction Information Distribution System Low Volume Terminals (MIDS-LVT)
  • Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) hardware.

  • Commercial Satellite Communications (SATCOM).
  • Commercial High Frequency (HF) and Ultra High Frequency/ Very High Frequency (UHF/VHF) Radios, including HF Voice and Data, HF Sub-Net Relay (SNR), Commercial HF Internet Protocol (IP)/SNR.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) gear.
  • Plus communications support equipment, information technology upgrades, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and US Government and contractor support.

There will be no principal contractors involved with this proposed sale. Acquisition and integration of all systems will be managed by the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Weapons Command (SPAWAR), and implementation will require the assignment of 14 U.S. Government and contractor representatives to Saudi Arabia for 10 years to support network design, acquisition, implementation, installation, and integration efforts. Sources: DSCA 13-44.

DSCA: Full naval C4I backbone

Oct 15/13: Weapons. The US DSCA announces Saudi Arabia’s formal export request for a variety of weapons that will equip its F-15SA fighters. Note that this list is in addition to the weapons mentioned in the main October 2010 request, and could be worth up to $6.8 billion in total:

  • 400 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles, which add GPS to the missile’s radar targeting. They can be used against land targets as well as ships.
  • 40 Harpoon CATM.
  • 20 ATM-84L Harpoon Exercise Missiles.

  • 650 AGM-84H SLAM-ER cruise missiles. This Harpoon variant adds IIR terminal guidance to GPS navigation, and extended-range wings that let it hit land and sea targets 250 km away. South Korea’s F-15Ks already deploy it. The US Navy uses its AGM-88K successor, which they consider to be their most accurate strike weapon. The Saudis already deploy MBDA’s stealthy, long-range Storm Shadow cruise missile from their Tornados, so they may be less impressed, but SLAM-ER will definitely add punch to the F-15 fleet.
  • 40 CATM-84H Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), with seekers but no motor.
  • 20 ATM-84H SLAM-ER Telemetry Missiles for test shots.
  • 4 Dummy Air Training Missiles. Sometimes you just need similar weight & form factor.
  • 60 AWW-13 Data Link pods. Pilots can receive text, data, and photos from various sources, and can also use it to communicate with the SLAM-ER in mid-flight.

  • 973 AGM-154C Joint Stand Off Weapons (JSOW). This stealthy 2,000 pound glide bomb uses GPS for navigation and IIR guidance for terminal guidance.
  • 10 JSOW CATM.

  • 1,000 GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bombs (SDB). These 250 pound JDAM variants can be carried 4 to a rack. GPS guidance and pop-out wings give them decent range and accuracy, and their design makes them more effective against hard targets than their weight would suggest.
  • 36 SDB Captive Flight and Load Build trainers.

  • Containers, mission planning, integration support and testing, munitions storage security and training, weapon operational flight program software development, transportation, tools and test equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support.

The principal contractors will be Boeing in St. Louis, MO (Harpoon, SLAM-ER, SDB); Raytheon in Indianapolis, IN; and Raytheon in Tucson, AZ (JSOW). If contracts are negotiated, they’ll need to negotiate the addition of approximately 2-4 additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Saudi Arabia. Sources: US DSCA 13-49, Oct 15/13.

DSCA: Precision strike weapons request

Oct 15/13: Support. The US DSCA announces Saudi Arabia’s export request for 3 years of support services to its Ministry of Defense from the US Military Training Mission (USMTM) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They’re responsible for identifying, planning, and executing US security cooperation training and advisory support. The estimated cost is up to $90 million, no contractors are involved, and no additional personnel will be needed. Sources: US DSCA 13-53, Oct 15/13.

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).

2 KC-130Js

Sept 26/13: Industrial. Boeing’s Al Salam Aircraft Corp. joint venture in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia receives a $33.1 million firm-fixed-price contract related to the F-15S to F-15SA upgrade program. The contract is all about getting the company ready to carry out the demanding Phase II program, and includes setting up the facility, developing manufacturing plans and schedules, and readying automated performance reporting tools.

During Phase I of this upgrade, 2 F-15S fighters will be converted to F-15SA status at the Boeing facility in St. Louis, MO. Following successful completion of the initial phase, production will resume under Phase II at Alsalam, to complete the remaining 68 aircraft.

The firm has experience with F-15s, and has been providing Programmed Depot Maintenance to the Saudi F-15C/D/S fleet since 2002. The initial phase is expected to be complete by Dec. 31/15, with overall contract completion on Dec 31/19. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WWKA at Robins AFB, GA, acts as the Saudi FMS agent (FA8505-13-C-0014). See also: Alsalam Aircraft Corp History | Video.

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Sept 9/13: JTE. Northrop Grumman Amherst Systems in Buffalo, NY received a $219.1 million firm-fixed and cost-type contract from Saudi Arabia for its Joint Threat Emitter (JTE). They’ll supply 1st article and production units, associated drawings, retrofit kits, provisioning, and software. $44 million is committed immediately.

This contract was a competitive acquisition, with 2 offers received by the Saudis’ agent: the USAF Life Cycle Management Center/PZZK at Hill Air Force Base, UT.

The JTE is a mobile multi-radar system that radiates at realistic power levels, reacting to attempted jamming, employing IFF technologies, and tracking pilots’ reactions to its own efforts. It can simulate Anti-Aircraft Artillery radar systems, and Surface-to-Air missiles up to modern high-end threats. The goal is to train combat aircrews to defeat or avoid integrated air defense systems (FA8210-13-C-0001). Sources: Pentagon | NGC, Joint Threat Emitter (JTE) | USAF, “Joint Threat Emitter transmits signals for attack training”.

Aug 23/13: Support. The US DSCA announces an official Saudi request to continue support and services for Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) aircraft, engines and weapons, to include contractor technical services, logistics support, maintenance support, spares, equipment repair, expendables, support and test equipment, communication support, precision measuring equipment, personnel training and training equipment, technical support, exercises, deployments and other forms of Government and contractor support.

The estimated cost is $1.2 billion, but the time period isn’t clear. There is no prime contractor, and no new deployment of support personnel required.

DSCA request: Aircraft support

Aug 20/13: WCMD. Textron Defense Systems in Wilmington, MA receives a $640.8 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for 1,300 “cluster bomb units.” The Oct 20/10 DSCA request was much more specific – these are GPS-guided “CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons.” They spew out BLU-108 rods, whose attached tuna-can shaped smart sub-munitions can target tanks and vehicles before blowing a formed projectile through their roofs. The Saudis haven’t agreed to the Convention on Cluster Munitions; indeed, its only Mideast parties are Lebanon and Iraq, and it has very few adherents in Asia.

The 2010 request was buried within the larger $30 billion F-15SA purchase, but the Saudis also placed a June 13/11 request for another 404 of them. If that contract is signed, it could add another $355 million to Textron’s balance sheet.

Work will be performed at Wilmington, MA, and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2015. This contract involves foreign military sales (FMS) for Saudi Arabia. FMS funds in the amount of $410,218,248 are being obligated at time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/OO-ALC/EBHKA, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (FA8213-12-C-0064, PZ 00001).

July 18/13: Rockets. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products Inc. in Williston, VT receives a $67.5 million firm-fixed-price, option-filled, foreign-military-sales contract order from Saudi Arabia for 70mm Hydra rockets, warheads and related parts. The rockets are most frequently used on helicopters, and can also be used on qualified fixed-wing aircraft, if the right launcher is added. The addition of guidance sections like APKWS, DAGR, etc. can even turn them into laser-guided precision weapons.

Work will be performed in Camden, AR, and the US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as the Saudis’ agent (W31P4Q-10-C-0190, PO 0136). The cumulative total face value of this contract is $1.025 billion, but previous orders have been on behalf of the US military.

July 17/13: F-15SA. Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO receives a maximum $75.6 million firm-fixed-price and cost-reimbursable contract, in order to update Saudi training and reflect the F-15SA’s new features. Elements like fly-by-wire are significant changes, to give just one of several examples. That means updated courseware, revised initial training for new pilots, and differences training for RSAF pilots moving over from other F-15 models.

Work will be performed until July 19/19 in St. Louis, MO, and King Khalid Air Base in Khamis Mushayt, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is a sole-source acquisition, using FY 2011 international funding. Under Foreign Military Sale rules, the customer is the USAF’s Security Assistance Training Squadron. More specifically, Saudi Arabia’s agent is the Air Education and Training Command Contracting Squadron/LGCI (International Contracting Flight) at Randolph AFB, TX (FA3002-13-D-0012).

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July 10/13: Patrol Boats. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s formal export request for 30 Mark V patrol boats, 32 foredeck-mounted 27mm guns, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, and US government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $1.2 billion, but exact prices for the boats and support will depend on contract negotiations with the principal contractor, who hasn’t been picked yet, though USMI is a potential builder. Implementation of this proposed sale will require an additional 3-4 U.S. Government and contractor representatives to Saudi Arabia over a period of 7 years, to provide support and warranty work during delivery of the boats.

The Mark Vs are best known for their use by SEAL teams in the USA (Mk.V SOC), and have been used to launch and recover small UAVs. They are also used independently of the SEAL teams by the US Navy. Buying them creates a fast-moving armed force that can protect critical infrastructure in the Arabian/ Persian Gulf, and has the on-board guns to destroy Iranian “Boghammer” fast boats in a clash. They can also be used in efforts like Saudi operations around Yemen, which made significant but under-reported use of naval interdiction.

The DSCA says that this purchase represents an upgrade and modernization over the RSNF’s existing small patrol boat fleet. Note that the RSN’s 9 Al Sadiq Class boats, built in the early 1980s by Peterson, offer about 10x the Mk.V’s displacement, and include weapons like anti-ship missiles. They don’t sound like the boats the Mk.Vs will replace.

DSCA request: Mk.V Patrol Boats

July 2/13: AH-64E. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $15.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification as part of its AH-64E purchases. The customer is confirmed as Saudi Arabia, with a cumulative total face value of $50.6 million for this one contract. US Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as the Saudi agent (W58RGZ-12-C-0113, PO 0004).

July 2/13: AH-64 support. Boeing in Mesa, AZ received a $109.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification “for services in support of the Royal Saudi Land Force Aviation Command.” The exact uses for these funds are unclear, as the RSLF operates 12 older AH-64D Apache helicopters, while also buying new AH-64Es. The contract itself, however, seems to be associated with new AH-64Es.

The Pentagon gives a cumulative total face value of $394.9 million for this one contract. US Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as the Saudi agent (W58RGZ-12-C-0089, PO 0006).

June 20/13: Boeing-Sikorsky. With the Saudi government tipping sharply toward a very American helicopter fleet, Boeing (AH-6i, AH-64D/E) and Sikorsky (UH-60) have formed the Boeing Sikorsky International Services (BSIS) 50/50 joint venture to compete for Saudi support, maintenance & repair services. For Saudi helicopters bought under the huge Oct 20/10 announcements, those contracts will be passed through the US government as part of its Foreign Military Sales process.

Both firms have strong roots in the kingdom, and both are already performing maintenance service for the Saudis’ small AH-64 and UH-60 fleets. Boeing also supports research and community projects, and is involved in partnerships that address Saudi educational goals as well as industrial development. Sikorsky began later, in the early 1990s, and has been involved in a pair of Saudi upgrade programs as well as standard support work.

The Saudis have been willing to outsource their extensive maintenance and support contracts to 3rd parties, but firms like BAE have also demonstrated that original manufacturer’s with compelling offerings can capture a very profitable aftermarket business. BSIS makes it that much harder for outsiders to win, and strengthens the firms’ negotiating positions. Boeing | Sikorsky.

June 7/13: AH-64E. Longbow LLC in Orlando, FL receives a $39 million firm-fixed-price, foreign-military-sales (FMS) contract modification from Saudi Arabia, buying AH-64 mast mounted assemblies; the fire control radars that go inside them; and related support equipment.

The Pentagon says that the cumulative total face value of this contract is $333.3 million, but it’s a FY 2006 contract that far predates Saudi AH-64E buys, and involves just part of the helicopter.

Based on DID’s tracking of announced contracts, the Saudis have committed $339 million to their AH-64E buy so far, using several contracts. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract on behalf of its Saudi client (W58RGZ-06-C-0134, PO 0042).

May 22/13: AH-64E. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $69.2 million firm-fixed-price, foreign-military-sales contract modification for Saudi Arabia’s Apache Block III aircraft and associated parts and services. The US Army reports the total cumulative value of this contract so far as $259.4 million; when other known Saudi contracts are added, contract value to date is somewhere between $296-300 million. Given Saudi AH-64E export requests for up to 60 helicopters, and known helicopter prices, this is just a drop in the bucket.

US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract on behalf of its Saudi client (W58RGZ-12-C-0089, PO 0008).

May 22/13: AH-64E. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $14.3 million firm-fixed-price, foreign-military-sales contract modification for Saudi Arabia’s Apache Block III aircraft and associated parts and services. The US Army reports the total cumulative value of this contract so far as $35.2 million. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract on behalf of its Saudi client (W58RGZ-12-C-0113, PO 0003).

May 8/13: AH-64E. Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives a $26.1 million firm-fixed-price, foreign military sales (FMS) contract modification covering AH-64E training and support in Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon says that the cumulative total face value of this contract is now $216.2 million, which almost exactly matches the announced $216.5 million total of all contracts with this designation – many of which were unattributed. The Army seems to be using specific contracts for specific export customers (W58RGZ-12-C-0089, PO 0007).

April 30/12: F-15SA Rollout. Boeing formally rolls out the 1st F-15SA fighter, in a St. Louis ceremony. Boeing.

March 25/13: Saudi. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $49 million firm-fixed-price contract. This modification will provide engineering and configuration services to 4 utility helicopters for Saudi Arabia. The contract number indicates a MYP-8 purchase, and the amount indicates that there’s an accompanying base helicopter order still to come. There are ways that could be done outside the purview of standard contract announcements.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-12-C-0008).

Saudi Arabia: 4 UH-60Ms?

March 14/13: F-15SA, subtraction edition. The Pentagon announces the removal of $456.2 million from the $4 billion contract to develop and test F-15S to F-15SA conversion kits, install 4 initial kits, and produce 68. The revised not-to-exceed amount is now $3.544 billion.

Schedules and other elements are unaffected – see Nov 2/12 entry for the full listing (FA8505-12-C-0001, PO 0004).

F-15SA: 1st flight
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Feb 20/13: 1st flight. The F-15SA’s maiden flight takes place at Boeing’s St. Louis, MO facilities, and goes as planned. The F-15SA flight test program will include 3instrumented F-15SAs operating from Boeing facilities in St. Louis, MO and Palmdale, CA.

The Saudi F-15SA is the first F-15 model with full fly-by-wire controls, something that was standard on F-16s decades ago. That change makes flight testing more important than it might be for another F-15E variant like Korea’s F-15K, or Singapore’s F-15SG. Which may also explain why 1st delivery will take place about 2 years after 1st flight, in 2015. Deliveries are expected to finish in 2019. USAF.

F-15SA first flight

Jan 3/13: Saudi? Boeing in Mesa, AZ receives an $18.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification “to procure Apache Block III Aircraft in support of Foreign Military Sales.” We asked for further details to clarify which customer, but neither Boeing nor the US military will provide those any longer, except through Freedom of Information Act requests. AH-64 Foreign Military Sales seem to have different contracts for each country, however, and a subsequent announcement that pegs Saudi Arabia as the customer also offers totals that match the totals for this contract number.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of April 30/13. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0089).


F-15SA fighter contract; F-15S upgrade kits and sensors bought; AIM-9X sidewinder missiles bought; AH-64E attack helicopter buys begin; MD-530F light utility helicopters bought; AH-6i armed scout helicopters bought. F-15S: right this way
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Dec 31/12: F-15 Upgrades. Lockheed Martin in Akron, OH receives a $253.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for the F-15SA modernization program.

Work will be performed in Akron, OH, and is expected to be complete by June 2020. The AFLCMC/WNSK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH manages the contract on behalf of their Saudi Foreign Military Sale client (FA8621-12-R-6256).

Dec 28/12: F-15 support. PKL Services Inc. in Poway, CA receives a $95 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for F-15C/D/S maintenance & upgrade training at King Khalid Air Base in Khamis Mushayt and King Abdul Aziz Air Base in Dhahran.

Work is expected to be complete by Jan 1/15. The AETC CONS/LGCI at Randolph AFB, TX manages the contract on behalf of their Saudi Foreign Military Sale client (FA3002-13-D-0003).

Saudi C-130
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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.

Request: 20 C-130J-30s & 5 KC-130Js

Nov 2/12: F-15 upgrades. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $4 billion firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-reimbursable-no-fee contract for 68 F-15S to F-15SA conversion kits, Country Standard Time Compliance Technical Order (CSTCTO) development, CSTCTO integration and testing, fabrication of trial kits to support validation and verification activities, and the procurement and installation of 4 base stand-up kits.

This is the same listing as the June 26/12 entry, and the current announcement appeared to be the finalized version – until a March 14/13 announcement cut the total to $3.544 billion for the same work.

Note that this amount doesn’t reflect the full cost of the 72 upgrades. As one can see below, the conversion kits are accompanied by a wide variety of modern sensors, and other equipment from vendors beyond Boeing. That equipment is included in the fighter upgrade program, and installed / integrated under this contract, but it isn’t bought under this contract.

Work is expected to be completed by Dec 31/19. The AFLCMC/WWKA at Robins Air Force Base, GA manages this Foreign Military Sale on behalf of its Saudi Arabian client (FA8505-12-C-0001, PO 0002). See also Arabian Aerospace.

68 F-15S to F-15SA conversions

Aug 6/12: RSAF support.The US DSCA announces Saudi Arabia’s request to buy continued support and services for the Royal Saudi Air Force’s aircraft, engines and weapons; publications and technical documentation; airlift and aerial refueling; support equipment; spare and repair parts; repair and return; personnel training and training equipment; and other forms of US government and contractor support. To sum up: “Saudi Arabia needs this follow on support… in order to sustain the combat and operational readiness of its existing aircraft fleet.”

The estimated cost is $850 million. This appears to be a government-to-government agreement, so that limit is probably reasonably accurate. There is no prime contractor, and all the U.S. Government personnel or contractors required are already in Saudi Arabia.

RSAF Support request

July 13/12: MD-530Fs. MD Helicopter in Mesa, AZ receives a $40.7 million firm-fixed-price contract, to buy MD 530F helicopters and related equipment for Saudi Arabia’s National Guard. This is the type’s 2nd military order, after Afghanistan ordered it as a training & utility platform, so the buy is significant to the company.

Saudi Arabia’s Oct 20/10 DSCA request had mentioned 12 MD-530Fs, which are designed to operate in the thinner air created by hot and/or high-altitude conditions. These helicopters are often used in policing and light utility roles, but they can be armed with light weapons. The SANG’s forthcoming AH-6is (vid. Feb 13/12 entry) are more explicitly designed for the Armed Reconnaissance role.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ with an estimated completion date of July 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL, on behalf of its Saudi Foreign Military Sale client (W58RGZ-12-C-0105).

MD-530F helicopter buy

June 26/12: F-15 upgrades. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $1.837 billion firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-reimbursable-no-fee contract for 68 F-15S to F-15SA conversion kits, Country Standard Time Compliance Technical Order (CSTCTO) development, CSTCTO integration and testing, fabrication of trial kits to support validation and verification activities, and the procurement and installation of 4 base stand-up kits. This is a Foreign Military Sales requirement for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and subsequent announcements show that it’s meant to get work underway at about 45% funding.

Work is to be complete by Dec 31/13. The Warner-Robins air Logistics Center at Robins Air Force Base, GA manages the contract (FA8505-12-C-0001).

May 31/12: F-15 Sensors. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives an $18.4 million addition to a firm-fixed-price contract, to pay for the “urgent requirement for limited integration of the DB-110 Reconnaissance Pod System” on 8 RSAF F-15S aircraft. The April 13/12 contract will add pods to the upgraded F-15SAs, but this urgent contract will improve Saudi Strike Eagles immediately. Those DB-110 pods would certainly help the F-15S Strike Eagles at Khamis Mushayt keep an eye on Yemen, for instance.

Work is to be complete by July 2013. The ASC/WWQ at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract on behalf of their Saudi Foreign Military Sale client (FA8634-12-C-2651, PO 0004).

May 18/12: F-15S/SA. S7K Aerospace, LLC in Saint Ignatius, MT receives a $10 million firm-fixed-price/ cost-reimbursable-no-fee contract for 3rd party logistics repair and return management services, to support RSAF F-15s.

Work will be performed from Saint Ignatius, MT, and the contract runs until May 19/13. The Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center/GRMK at Robins AFB, GA manages the contract (FA8505-12-D-0002, PO 0002).

May 6/12: AH-64E? A $171.8 million firm-fixed-price contract “for the procurement of Apache Block III aircraft and related services in support of Foreign Military Sales.” The Pentagon does not mention which country, but AH-64 Foreign Military Sales seem to have different contracts for each country. A subsequent announcement that pegs Saudi Arabia as the customer also offers totals that match the totals for this contract number.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/14. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as Taiwan’s agent (W58RGZ-12-C-0089).

AH-64E contracts begin?

April 13/12: F-15SAs, Recon. Recent United Technologies’ acquisition Goodrich Corp. in Westford, ME received an $183 million firm-fixed-price unfinalized letter contract for DB-110 pods, support equipment, and contractor logistic support “for the Foreign Military Sales F-15 Modernization Program.”

No official confirmation yet, but the Saudis have the current FMS F-15 modernization program. Their Oct 20/10 DSCA request included 10 DB-110 Reconnaissance Pods, and a July 10/12 Goodrich release cites a new-customer order from Saudi Arabia for 10 dual-band reconnaissance pods from its Westford, MA facility; 5 fixed, transportable and mobile ground stations from its Malvern, UK facility; and “extensive training and logistics support.”

Work will be performed in Westford, ME, and is expected to be complete by July 31/22. The ASC/WINK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, is acting as the agent for this contract (FA8620-12-C-4020).

April 9/12: F-15SA C2. Rockwell Collins, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, IA receives a $14.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 168 RT-1851A-C / ARC receiver-transmitters (including royalty fees) for the government of Saudi Arabia under the Foreign Military Sales program. Note that the ARC-210 radio system uses 2 RT-1851s, whose Bandwidth Efficient Advanced Modulation (BEAM) Line of sight technology enables higher data rates.

AN/ARC-210 Talon radios can handle both voice and data, and can include jam-resistant and SATCOM modules. They are used by a number of platforms, including the F-15. Since 168 of these R-Ts would equip 84 aircraft, this order seems to be destined for Saudi Arabia’s new-build F-15SAs.

Work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is expected to be completed in December 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-09-C-0069).

March 30/12: AIM-9X. A $97.1 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive-firm target contract modification, buying AIM-9X Sidewinder short range air-to-air missiles for South Korea and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi order is $85.3 million, or 87.85% of the total, for 120 AIM-9X Block II All Up Round tactical missiles in containers; 42 more containers; and 33 Block II captive air training missiles with no motor or warhead.

April 2/12: F-15S Sensors. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL receives a $410.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 95 sniper advanced targeting pod and spares; 35 compact multiband data links; 70 infrared search and track (IRST) systems and spares; 75 IRST pylons; and data, in support of the Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S to F-15SA conversion. The F-15S already uses LANTIRN, and both of these systems offer considerable improvements over that existing gear. The 2 systems can even be combined, via a single underbody pylon that contains the Tiger Eyes and mounts the Sniper pod.

Lockheed Martin’s Sniper pod offers pilots advanced day/night ground surveillance and laser or GPS targeting. The version offered is not clear; the most recent variant is the USAF’s new Sniper-SE.

Lockheed Martin’s Tiger Eyes IRST is also a long-range surveillance tool, but one focused on heat emissions from aircraft. That gives fighters a non-radar surveillance option, which is useful on a tactical level and offers options against stealth aircraft. As a side benefit, Tiger Eyes provides classic LANTIRN capabilities like terrain following, and all-weather navigation. Work is to be completed by Nov 31/17. The Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB, GA manages this contract on behalf of its Saudi FMS client (FA8540-12-C-0012).

April 2/12: F-15S EW. BAE Systems in Nashua, NH received a $366.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 70 Digital Electronic Warfare Systems (DEWS) and Common Missile Warning Systems (CMWS) and spares; 3 DEWS/CMWS test stations and associated spares; and data. This effort is in support of the Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S to F-15SA conversion, and will improve the planes’ ability to be aware of and counter enemy radar threats. DEWS was picked by Boeing in 2008, as its future F-15 EW offering.

Work will be performed in Nashua, NH Work is to be complete by Nov 31/18. The Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB, GA manages this contract on behalf of its Saudi FMS client (FA8540-12-C-0013). See also BAE release.

March 8/12: F-15SA contract. Following the December 2011 $29.4B LOA, this is a $11.4B firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, time-and-materials procurement contract for 84 new planes, as well as some related development work. This is a subset of what the LOA covers, since there are also retrofits on 70 existing planes, weapons and support services in the overall package.

Work will be done at El Segundo, CA, Ocala, FL., and Cedar Rapids, IO, with an expected completion date set to October 2020. ASC/WWQ, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH manages the contract (FA8634-12-C-2651) on behalf of the Kingdom.

F-15SA contract

Feb 13/12: SANG AH-6is. Boeing representatives tell reporters that Saudi Arabia signed a Letter of Agreement for 36 AH-6i light scout and attack helicopters “a few weeks ago.” The AH-6i were part of the Oct 20/10 DSCA request for its National Guard, and the next step involves negotiations on price and delivery schedules. If those are completed, it isn’t clear whether Saudi Arabia would be the type’s 1st customer. A Rotor & Wing report says that:

“Tilton can also see further military riches on the horizon as Boeing pushes the AH-6i into the world market as a mini-Apache “with attitude.” There is a first order of 24 aircraft with more to follow.”

The other country that has been publicly associated with the AH-6i is Jordan, who reportedly signed a Letter of Intent in 2010. The actual contract takes until 2014, and it makes the SANG the type’s 1st customer. Sources: Rotor & Wing, “A Modern Love Affair: Lynn Tilton and U.S. Army” | Defense News, “Saudi Arabia, Boeing Strike Deal for 36 AH-6i”.

Jan 5/12: SANG AH-64s. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL received a $66.6 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. The award will provide for the procurement of AH-64D Apache M-TDAS/PNVS (“Arrowhead“) systems and spares for the Saudi Arabia National Guard. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, with an estimated completion date of March 31/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL as the Saudi’s FMS agent (W58RGZ-11-C-0120).

This is one of several ancillary contracts supporting reports that Saudi Arabia has signed a deal to buy AH-64D Longbow Block III helicopters. That deal wasn’t announced publicly, so it isn’t clear if other services may be covered. Beyond the SANG’s interest in buying 36 Apache Longbow Block IIIs, the Royal Guard wanted 10, and the regular Army wanted to add 24 Block IIIs to its existing fleet of 12 Block IIs. See the Oct 20/10 DSCA request for more.


F-15SA LoA signed; LAV armed vehicle request & contract; WCMD smart bomb request; AH-64s bought? AH-64D Longbow
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Dec 24/11: F-15SA LoA. Saudi Arabia signs a $29.4 billion Letter of Acceptance to buy 85 new F-15SA Strike Eagle fighters, upgrade 70 existing F-15S Strike Eagles, purchase all of the accompanying weapons named in the fighters’ Oct 20/10 DSCA request, and pay for support work and 10 years of training. Much of the Saudi training in the F-15SA will occur alongside U.S. forces, and approximately 5,500 Saudi personnel are expected to be trained through 2019. They expect upgrades of the F-15S to the F-15SA configuration to start rolling out in 2014, and 1st delivery of new-build F-15SAs in early 2015.

The additional work is expected to keep Boeing’s F-15 line open until at least 2017 or so, along with 600 suppliers in 44 states. Big winners include Raytheon (radar, many weapons), and GE Aircraft Engines. While the State Department briefing would not answer the question of which engine the fighters would use, the DSCA request was clear: GE’s F110-GE-129 IPE. It will also create work in Saudi Arabia, as some of the F-15S upgrade work, and some structural sub-assembly fabrication, will be handled through the Alsalam Aircraft Company.

An Aviation Week report adds that Saudi Arabia had previously signed a Letter of Agreement for the 36 AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters it requested on Oct 20/11. That would make 2 components worth over half of the $60 billion mega-deal under contract, plus a major upgrade of the kingdom’s PATRIOT missile system on the side, in the space of just over a year beyond the DSCA announcement. Boeing | US White House | US State Dept. Briefing | Aviation Week | BBC | Bloomberg | Defense News | St. Louis Today | Flight International DEW Line.

F-15SA LoA

Dec 20/11: LAVs. GDLS SVP for international operations, Dr. Sridhar Sridharan, announces that U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command has awarded a $126 million contract modification for 73 more Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) “for a Foreign Military Sale (FMS).” The release adds that: “With this latest contract modification, the original contract, announced on January 4, 2011, is now valued at USD$264 million for 155 LAVs.”

Vehicles provided under this contract will be the 300hp, 8×8 LAV II, with a base gross vehicle weight of up to 32,000 pounds/ 14,500 kg. The vehicles will be produced in 6 different variants, which matches all numbers and information from the June 13/11 DSCA request.

Since the LAVs are made in London, ON, Canada, the contract was signed through the Canadian Commercial Corporation, the Canadian government’s Crown Agency for military exports.

LAV contract

Nov 10/11: Aviation Week’s Robert Wall writes that some observers are beginning to doubt whether the huge 2010 arms request will become a deal in time. Boeing has already spent money to avoid an F-15 production gap, and that’s the portion of the deal with the greatest need for a signed contract.

It would not be the first time a Saudi DSCA request has failed to become a signed deal, but the size and scope creates its own financing issues, even as it raises expectations and scrutiny. Unfortunately, at this point, all he can say is that uncertainty exists, not why it exists, or how deep it is.

Sept 19/11: Artillery. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Saudi Arabia’s formal request for up to $886 million of equipment to augment the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s existing light artillery capabilities. The Royal Saudi Land Forces already have towed 155mm and 105mm howitzers and support vehicles and systems, but the 105mm M119A2 and lightweight 155mm M777A2 would be an upgrade over the Royal Saudi Land Forces’ existing M102 105mm guns. The Saudis are also looking to buy C3 systems, artillery locating radars, and Humvees as part of this buy.

Artillery request

Sept 7/11: AH-64s. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL receives a $15.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, buying M-TADS/PVNS “Arrowhead” surveillance and targeting turrets for Saudi Arabia’s AH-64D helicopters. This could be an upgrade to existing helicopters, or part of the new aircraft order.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received, by U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-06-C-0169).

June 13/11: LAVs. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s formal request to buy up to 73 LAV wheeled armored vehicles, plus additional equipment. The force within Saudi Arabia requesting them is not named, unlike other DSCA releases. Saudi Arabia’s National Guard also requested 82 LAVs on the same day, but this is separate request, implying a separate customer within Saudi Arabia. LAVs haven’t traditionally been part of the RSLF’s American-equipped divisions, but an Oct 4/07 DSCA request [PDF] for 126 LAVs and other vehicles confirmed that Saudi Arabia has been thinking along these lines:

“The Light Armored Vehicle is the primary combat vehicle of the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG). This proposed procurement by the Royal Saudi land forces will promote interoperability between the SANG and Ministry of Defense and Aviation.”

Absent any other matching DSCA requests since 2001, it’s possible that the release’s noted Jan 4/11 contract for 82 LAVs was a partial fulfillment of that 2007 request – but its exact match remains unclear. The 2011 DSCA request also repeats a justification from that notice:

“The proposed sale of Light Armored Vehicles will provide a highly mobile, light combat vehicle capability enabling Saudi Arabia to rapidly identify, engage, and defeat perimeter security threats and readily employ counter- and anti-terrorism measures. The vehicles will enhance the stability and security operations for boundaries and territorial areas encompassing the Arabian Peninsula.”

This sale is worth up to $263 million, but that will depend on the contract details, if one is negotiated after the 30-day blocking period expires in Congress. Requested items include:

  • 14 standard LAV wheeled armored personnel carriers
  • 23 LAV-25s, with 25mm cannon turrets
  • 20 LAV-ATs, whose pop-up turrets carry BGM-71 TOW missiles
  • 4 LAV-A Ambulances
  • 3 LAV-R Recovery Vehicles, which can tow or winch other vehicles out of trouble
  • 9 LAV-C2 Command and Control Vehicles

Vehicle accessories

  • Driver vision enhancers
  • Sight bore optical sets
  • Improved Thermal Sight Systems (ITSS) and Modified Improved TOW Acquisition Systems (MITAS), where applicable
  • Defense Advanced Global Positioning System Receivers
  • M257 Smoke Grenade Launchers
  • AN/USQ-159 Camouflage Net Sets

Other Accessories

  • 155 AN/PVS-7B night vision goggles
  • M2A2 Aiming Circles, compasses, plotting boards, reeling machines, telescopes
  • switchboards, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, and U.S. Government and contractor support.

The prime contractors will be General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, Michigan (LAVs) and Raytheon in Tucson, AZ (LAV-AT weapons etc.). Implementation of this proposed sale may require the assignment of approximately 5 additional U.S. Government and 10 contractor representatives through at least 2014. The requirement for support personnel in-country suggests that they’re going to a branch that does not already employ LAVs. Possibilities include the Royal Guard, or use by Army Military Police/ Air Force/ Navy forces in a rapid response security role.

LAV request

BLU-108 submunition

June 13/11: Bombs. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s formal request to buy up to 404 GPS-guided CBU-105D/B WCMD Sensor Fuzed Weapons, 28 CBU-105 Integration test assets, containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, and U.S. Government and contractor support. The prime contractor will be Textron Systems Corporation of Wilmington, MA, and the estimated cost is up to $355 million. Implementation of this proposed sale will require annual trips to Saudi Arabia involving up to 2 U.S. Government and 3 Textron representatives for technical reviews/support, and program management for a period of approximately 2 years.

WCMD is a GPS-guidance tail kit for cluster bombs, similar to JDAM, and bombs equipped with them take on new designations. The base CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon bomb body contains BLU-108 submunition cylinders, each of which carries explosive projectiles that look like cans of tuna. If their millimeter-wave sensor detects sizable objects below after release from the bomb body, a shaped charge fires, forming a metal slug that drives down through armor. If the projectiles don’t find a target, 3 safety modes will deactivate them. That’s why DSCA can say “After arming, the CBU-105D/B Sensor Fuzed Weapon will not result in more than one percent unexploded ordnance across the range of intended operational environments.” Other countries in the region already use WCMDs, including Oman. DSCA adds that:

“Saudi Arabia intends to use Sensor Fused Weapons to modernize its armed forces and enhance its capability to defeat a wide range of defensive threats, to include: strongpoints, bunkers, and dug-in facilities; armored and semi-armored vehicles; personnel; and certain maritime threats… The agreement applicable to the transfer or the CBU-105D/B and the CBU-105 integration test assets will contain an agreement of the Government of Saudi Arabia that the cluster munitions and cluster munitions technology will be used only against clearly defined military targets and will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.”

The target list is interesting, since CBU-105s, unlike some of their WCMD cousins, are not primarily anti-personnel weapons – unless the target is riding in a truck or something. It could certainly be a deadly way of taking out a small truck convoy of AQAP types, and might be equally effective against some fast boat swarms. See also the Oct 20/10 DSCA request, for 1,300 CBU-105/Bs.

WCMD bomb request

March 18/11: Amidst an environment of widespread unrest in the Arab world, including the invited intervention of Saudi troops to quell protests in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah returns from 3 months of medical treatment, and announces nearly $100 billion in spending. Even with the ability to pump more oil, Saudi finances have limitations, and a program worth over 20% of 2010 GDP, or 56% of the state’s FY 2010 budget, can hardly help but impact military spending plans.

The initiative includes 60,000 more military and security jobs to beef up the Interior Ministry, a large number of promotions for soldiers and officers, boost in salaries for all public sector workers including the military; and an announcement of massive social benefits for the populace at large, including unemployment payments, better health care and improved housing services. The Saudi private sector is reportedly less than happy about its exclusion from pay raises… but then, if the government could offer them pay raises, would it really be the private sector? Arab News | Zawya. Political concept: “rentier state.”

March 14/11: Link-16. The new Link-16 capability for Saudi Arabia’s F-15 fleets is a significant development, but it comes with a corresponding need for training. Tactical Communications Group, LLC announces that it has deployed a Link-16 Ground Support System (GSS) at 4 Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) airbases, to provide a training and simulation environment for Live, Virtual, and Constructive training in the RSAF F-15 fleet’s growing Link-16 capabilities.

TCG, LLC installed the units and trained on-site RSAF Personnel to provide live operations and training, under a USAF NETCENTS held by General Dynamics Information Technology. The firm describes it as “the first of several Foreign Military Sales (FMS) awards for the U.S. Government’s data link Ground Support System (GSS) which teams General Dynamics Information Technology and TCG’s GSS.”


Ship buys considered. Austal’s LCS

(click to enlarge)

Oct 26/10: LCS. Lockheed Martin MS2 President Orlando Carvalho confirms that his company has supplied price and availability information on its version of the littoral combat ship (LCS) to Saudi Arabia, which is looking to buy 8 modern frigate-sized warships. Lockheed is proposing an LCS equipped with AN/SPY-1F radars, an AEGIS combat system, and set equipment instead of mission modules.

It remains understood the Saudi authorities are waiting to see which LCS version the U.S. Navy chooses, but the ship’s capabilities might be well suited to the Arabian/Persian Gulf’s shallow waters. At Euronaval 2010, a French official reportedly said that France is hoping to sell between 4-6 FREMM frigates for the Saudis’ western (Red Sea and Indian Ocean) fleet, while the LCS was seen as likely for the eastern (Gulf) fleet. Defense News | Shephard Group | Tactical Report.

Oct 20/10: DSCA Mega-Request. The potential Saudi deals are announced as 4 separate Foreign Military Sales cases, one for each military service branch looking to receive equipment. As usual, this is a step required under US law, not a set of contracts. If Congress does not vote to block these sales within 30 days, the Saudis can begin negotiations for some or all of the items below. As we’ve seen with past notifications, those negotiations can take a long time as the Saudis look to fit each item into their own budgetary planning and foreign policy diplomacy.

Each DSCA request is linked where it’s detailed. Other sources and reactions include: Bloomberg | LA Times | Washington Post | Voice of America || Saudi Arabia’s Arab News | Al-Jazeera | Jerusalem Post || Agence France Presse | Malaysia Star | Reuters | Straits Times | China’s Xinhua || Defense News.

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Oct 20/10: Air Force. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s formal request for 84 new “F-15SA” fighters, upgrades for the RSAF’s 70 existing F-15S fighters to full F-15SA configuration, an array of advanced weapons to equip them, and long-term support that explicitly includes infrastructure and construction. The estimated cost is up to $29.432 billion.

Overall, the fighters appear to be very close to Singapore’s new F-15SGs, which are currently the most advanced Strike Eagles in the world. The DSCA does not detail the support personnel required, but it does spend time on the rationale for this sale, since this is the one that’s going to create any controversies in Congress:

“For the past twenty years the F-15 has been a cornerstone of the relationship between the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and the RSAF. The procurement of the F-15SA, the conversion of the F-15S fleet to a common configuration, and the CONUS (CONtinental US) training contingent will provide interoperability, sustained professional contacts, and common ground for training and support well into the 21st century.

The F-15SA will help deter potential aggressors by increasing Saudi’s tactical air force capability to defend KSA against regional threats. The CONUS-based contingent would improve interoperability between the USAF and the RSAF. This approach will meet Saudi’s self-defense requirements and continue to foster the long-term military-to-military relationship between the United States and the KSA. Saudi Arabia, which currently has the F-15 in its inventory, will have no difficulty absorbing the F-15SA aircraft into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this service will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

  • 84 F-15 SA Strike Eagle fighters

  • 193 F-110-GE-129 Improved Performance Engines. Saudi Arabia is shifting firmly toward the GE F110 for its future fleet, and away from Pratt & Whitney’s original F100. Each fighter requires 2 engines.

  • 170 AN/APG-63v3 Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar (AESA) radar sets, which would equip all F-15S fighters as well. Answers a big pre-deal question. The USA is developing an APG-82v1 derivative to retrofit its own F-15E Strike Eagles, but the APG-63v3 is the most advanced exported radar for F-15s.

  • 100 M61 Vulcan Cannons. The F-15′s 20mm gatling gun.

  • 300 AIM-9X Sidewinder short range, infrared air-to-air missiles. AIM-9X is the most advanced version, and Saudi Arabia already has them.
  • 25 Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM-9X). Seeker, no warhead or motor – used for training.
  • 25 Special Air Training Missiles (NATM-9X). Fully live, but telemetry instead of a warhead.

  • 500 AIM-120C/7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM). The C7 is the most advanced exportable version, and Saudi Arabia already has them.
  • 25 AIM-120 CATMs. Seeker, no warhead or motor – used for training.

  • 1,000 of Lockheed Martin’s 500 pound Dual Mode Laser/Global Positioning System (GPS) Guided Munitions (DMLGB).
  • 1,000 of Lockheed Martin’s 2,000 pound DMLGBs
  • 1,100 GBU-24 Paveway-III 2,000 pound Laser Guided Bombs, with penetrator warheads for use against hardened targets.

  • 1,000 GBU-31Bv3 2,000 pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) GPS/INS guided bombs.

  • 1,300 CBU-105D/B Sensor Fuzed Weapons (SFW)/Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD). These are GPS-guided cluster bombs that can destroy both troops and tanks. DID has a better name for them.
  • 50 inert training CBU-105s

  • 1,000 MK-82 500 pound General Purpose Bombs. These can be converted by using precision kits like Paveway, DMLGB, and JDAM.
  • 6,000 MK-82 500 pound Inert Training Bombs
  • 2,000 MK-84 2,000 pound General Purpose Bombs. These can be converted by using precision kits like Paveway, DMLGB, and JDAM.
  • 2,000 MK-84 2,000 pound Inert Training Bombs

  • 200,000 20mm Cartridges
  • 400,000 20mm Target Practice Cartridges

  • 400 AGM-84 Block II Harpoon missiles. The Block II has a GPS guidance mode, and can attack land targets as well as ships.

  • 600 AGM-88B HARM missiles. Used to destroy enemy radar sites.

  • 100 Link-16 MIDS/LVTs and spares. Link 16 offers all participating aircraft and ground platforms to share what they see and where they are, creating a common view of who’s where.

  • 169 AN/AAS-42 Infrared Search and Track (IRST) Systems. IRST allows pilots to look for enemy aircraft using their infrared signatures, but because it’s passive, the target can’t detect the scan the way it can detect radar emissions.

  • 158 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper advanced surveillance and targeting pods.

  • 193 LANTIRN Navigation Pods (3rd Generation-Tiger Eye). Largely succeeded by the Sniper ATP, but Saudi F-15S aircraft use the twin-pod LANTIRN, and the navigation pod’s features are not copied in the Sniper.

  • 10 of Goodrich’s DB-110 Reconnaissance Pods.

  • 40 of L-3′s Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receivers (ROVER). Allows equipped fighters to share more information with ground forces, and get targeting information from them.

  • 80 Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation Pods. Used for combat training; transmits the position, velocity, etc. of the attached fighter to the central coordinators.

  • The DSCA specified both 338 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS) and 462 JHMCS Helmets. JHMCS is a helmet-mounted sight that performs the same functions as a Head-Up Display for key information, weapons targeting, etc., but moves with the pilot’s head.

  • 462 of ITT’s AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Goggles (NVGS).

  • 169 Digital Electronic Warfare Systems (DEWS) for self-defense.

Saudi F-15

Under the contract, Saudi Arabia will take a step beyond existing modernizations of its F-15S fleet, and upgrade all 70 F-15S Strike Eagles to the F-15SA configuration.

The existing F-15 A-D Eagle fleet of air superiority fighters will remain unaffected. In addition, Saudi Arabia may order:

  • Provision for US-based fighter training operations for a contingent of 12 F-15SA fighters, leaving 72 in Saudi Arabia.
  • Construction, refurbishments, and infrastructure improvements of several support facilities for the F-15SA in-Kingdom and/or CONUS(CONtinental US) operations.
  • RR-188 Chaff
  • MJU-7/10 Flares
  • Training munitions
  • Cartridge Actuated Devices/Propellant Actuated Devices
  • Plus communication security, site surveys, trainers, simulators, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of U.S. government and contractor support.

The prime contractors aren’t mentioned, but:

  • Boeing (F-15, JHMCS, Harpoon, JDAM)
  • GE (F110 engines)
  • Lockheed Martin (DMLGB, LANTIRN, Sniper, IRST)
  • Raytheon (AN/APG-63v3 radar, AIM-9X, AMRAAM, Paveway III, HARM)
  • General Dynamics OTP (Basic bombs, Cannons, Ammunition)

Would form a partial list.

F-15S/SA request

AH-64 Apache
with Arrowhead sensor
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Oct 20/10: The Saudi Royal Guard – see DSCA announcement [PDF]. The Royal Guard is pretty much what it sounds like: a force made up of troops whose tribes and members are considered most loyal to the King. They’re about to get AH-64 Block III Apaches, if this US DSCA announcement of the Saudis’ formal request leads to a contract. That contract could be worth up to $2.223 billion, when all services and support are included.

If a contract is signed, the Royal Guard may need up to 35 U.S. Government and 150 contractor representatives in Saudi Arabia, beyond the existing 250 U.S. Government personnel and 630 contractor representatives in Saudi Arabia supporting the modernization program. Also, this program will require multiple trips to Saudi Arabia involving U.S. government and contractor personnel to participate in annual, technical reviews, training, and one-week Program Reviews in Saudi Arabia.

This would be a high priority contract, within the constellation of Saudi Requests. The Royal Guard would receive:

Night Vision Sensors. M-TADS/PVNS, also known as the AH-64D’s “Arrowhead” turret.
  • 14 30mm Automatic Weapons. The Apaches use ATK’s M230 chain gun
  • 7 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars with Radar Electronics Unit. The Apache Longbow’s mast mounted radar.
  • 7 AN/APR-48A Radar Frequency Interferometer

  • 640 AGM-114R Hellfire II Missiles. The -114R is the most modern version, with a triple-threat blast, armor defeating, and fragmentation warhead.

  • 2,000 2.75″/ 70mm Laser Guided Rockets. It will be interesting to see which rockets they buy – they might be the big kickoff sale for Lockheed Martin’s DAGR, but the Raytheon/UAE LOGIR is also available, as is BAE/GD’s APKWS-II.

  • 13 of Northrop Grumman’s AN/APR-39 Radar Signal Detecting Sets
  • 13 of Goodrich’s AN/AVR-2B Laser Warning Sets
  • 13 of BAE’s AAR-57v3/5 Common Missile Warning Systems
  • 26 Improved Countermeasures Dispensers

  • 26 Improved Helmet Display Sight Systems. IHDSS is the Apaches helmet-mounted sight.
  • 14 AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Goggles

  • 307 Combat Survivor Evader Locators (CSEL). Radios used by pilots, especially if they’re shot down.

  • 6 Aircraft Ground Power Units.
  • 1 BS-1 Enhanced Terminal Voice Switch
  • 1 Fixed-Base Precision Approach Radar
  • 1 Digital Airport Surveillance Radar
  • 1 DoD Advanced Automation Service
  • 1 Digital Voice Recording System
  • Also included are trainers, simulators, generators, training munitions, design and construction, transportation, tools and test equipment, ground and air based SATCOM and line of sight communication equipment, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems, GPS/INS, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, and U.S. Government and contractor support services. The Saudis usually require a lot of support from contractors, in part because it’s an opportunity for royal family members to take a cut.

The prime contractors will be:

  • Boeing in Mesa, AZ (AH-64D, CSEL)
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, FL (Arrowhead, Hellfire IIs, launchers)
  • Lockheed Martin Millimeter Technology in Owego, NY (Longbow system)
  • Longbow LLC in Orlando, FL. A Lockheed/Northrop-Grumman joint venture (Longbow system)
  • General Electric Company in Cincinnati, OH (engines)

A number of other items above will be provided by sub-contractors.

Saudi Royal Guard

DAGRs & Hellfires
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Oct 20/10: Army Apaches. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s formal request to grow its 12-helicopter AH-64 Apache attack helicopter fleet, adding 24 of the most modern AH-64D Block III variant, plus extensive support that may include construction activities, for a total cost of up to $3.33 billion.

The Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF) “will use the AH-64D for its national security and to protect its borders and vital installations. This sale also will increase the RSLF’s APACHE sustainability and interoperability with the U.S. Army, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and other coalition forces. Saudi Arabia will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces.”

Perhaps that’s because implementation of this proposed sale may another 35 U.S. Government and 130 contractor representatives in Saudi Arabia, beyond the existing contingent of 250 U.S. Government personnel and 630 contractor representatives supporting the Saudis’ modernization program. Also, this program will require multiple trips involving U.S. government and contractor personnel to participate in annual, technical reviews, training, and one-week Program Reviews in Saudi Arabia.

The RSLF would buy:

Night Vision Sensors. M-TADS/PVNS, also known as the AH-64D’s “Arrowhead” turret.

Also included are trainers, simulators, generators, training munitions, design and construction, transportation, tools and test equipment, ground and air based SATCOM and line of sight communication equipment, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems, GPS/INS, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, and U.S. Government and contractor support services. The Saudis usually require a lot of support from contractors, in part because it’s an opportunity for royal family members to take a cut.

The prime contractors will be:

  • Boeing in Mesa, AZ (AH-64D, CSEL)
  • General Electric Company in Cincinnati, OH (engines)
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, FL (Arrowhead, Hellfire IIs, launchers)
  • Lockheed Martin Millimeter Technology in Owego, NY (Longbow system)
  • Longbow LLC in Orlando, FL. A Lockheed/Northrop-Grumman joint venture (Longbow system)

A number of other items above will be provided by sub-contractors.

RSLF AH-64D attack helicopters

Boeing’s AH-6 ARH
(click to view full)

Oct 20/10: Saudi National Guard. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Saudi Arabia’s formal request to buy helicopters, long-term support, and possibly even base construction, worth up to $25.6 billion.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require approximately 900 contractor representatives and 30 U.S. Government personnel on a full time basis in Saudi Arabia, for a period of 15 years. Also, this program will require multiple trips to Saudi Arabia involving U.S. government and contractor personnel to participate in annual technical reviews, training, and one-week Program Reviews in Saudi Arabia.

Items requested include:

  • 36 Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow Block III attack helicopters. This is the latest version, and Saudi Arabia could become its first confirmed export customer.

  • 72 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters. The most current variant. Saudi neighbors Bahrain and the UAE have already ordered them.

  • 36 Boeing AH-6i Light Attack Helicopters. A different branch of the same family tree that gave birth to the MD 530F. Nearby Jordan signed a Letter of Intent for the AH-6i in May 2010.

  • 12 MD Helicopters MD-530F helicopters. Often used by law enforcement as an excellent light utility helicopter, though some countries operate militarized light attack variants. The 530F variant has longer rotor blades and other enhancements, so it performs better in the thinner air of hot or high altitude conditions. It doesn’t use MD’s patented NOTAR system.

  • 243 T700-GE-701D turboshaft engines. The UH-60M and the AH-64D both use 2 engines for each helicopter.

  • 40 Modernized Targeting Acquisition and Designation Systems/Pilot
Night Vision Sensors. M-TADS/PVNS, also known as the AH-64D’s “Arrowhead” turret.

  • 20 AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars with Radar Electronics Unit. The Apache Longbow’s mast mounted radar.
  • 20 AN/APR-48A Radar Frequency Interferometer

  • 40 Wescam MX-15Di (AN/AAQ-35) Sight/Targeting Sensors. Likely for the AH-6is.

  • 52 30mm Automatic Weapons. AH-64D Apaches use ATK’s M230 chain gun.

  • 40 GAU-19/A 12.7mm (.50 caliber) Gatling Guns. Can be used as door guns, or pylon-mounted on helicopters. Popular light helicopter weapon.

  • 168 M240H Machine Guns. FN Herstal USA’s 7.62mm helicopter door guns, not used on Apaches.

  • 421 M310 A1 Modernized Launchers. For Hellfire missiles.
  • 158 M299 Hellfire Longbow Missile Launchers
  • 2,592 AGM-114R Hellfire Missiles. The -114R is the most modern version, with a triple-threat blast, armor defeating, and fragmentation warhead.

  • 171 of Northrop Grumman’s AN/APR-39 Radar Signal Detecting Sets
  • 171 of Goodrich’s AN/AVR-2B Laser Warning Sets
  • 171 of BAE’s AAR-57v3/5 Common Missile Warning Systems
  • 318 Improved Countermeasures Dispensers

  • 108 of EFW’s Improved Helmet Display Sight Systems. IHADSS is used by the Apache. The number involved indicates that they may have been picked for the AH-6is as well.

  • 300 AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Goggles.

  • 1,229 AN/PRQ-7 Combat Survivor Evader Locators (CSEL). Radios used by pilots, especially if they’re shot down.

  • 18 Aircraft Ground Power Units.
  • 4 BS-1 Enhanced Terminal Voice Switches
  • 4 Digital Airport Surveillance Radars
  • 4 Fixed-Base Precision Approach Radar
  • 4 DoD Advanced Automation Service
  • 4 Digital Voice Recording System
  • Also included are trainers, simulators, generators, munitions, design and construction, transportation, wheeled vehicles and organization equipment, tools and test equipment, communication equipment, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems, GPS/INS, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, and U.S. Government and contractor support services. The Saudis usually require a lot of support from contractors, in part because it’s an opportunity for royal family members to take a cut.

UH-60M Test flight
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The DSCA specifies the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) as the AH-64D recipient, but is less clear about the other helicopters. The implicit message is that they’re part of the same FMS case to the same military entity, and the SANG could certainly make good use of the UH-60Ms, AH-6is, and MD 530Fs for “the defense of vital installations and will provide close air support for the Saudi military ground forces.” The DSCA adds that this sale will improve the SANG’s “Apache sustainability and interoperability with the U.S. Army, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and other coalition forces.” Saudi Arabia already operates some AH-64s and UH-60s, and the DSCA believes they will have no difficulty absorbing all of these helicopters into their armed forces. Given the level of contractor support included, that’s no surprise.

The prime contractors will be:

  • Boeing in Mesa, AZ (AH-64D, AH-6i, CSEL)
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, FL (Arrowhead, Hellfire IIs, launchers)
  • Lockheed Martin Millimeter Technology in Owego, NY (Longbow system)
  • Longbow LLC in Orlando, FL. A Lockheed/Northrop-Grumman joint venture (Longbow system)
  • Sikorsky Aircraft West in Palm Beach, FL (UH-60M)
  • MD Helicopters in Mesa AZ (MD 530F)
  • General Electric Company in Cincinnati, OH (engines)
  • ITT Aerospace/Communications in Fort Wayne, IN (night vision)

A number of other items above will be provided by sub-contractors.

Saudi National Guard request


Sept 14/10: LCS for Saudi Navy? Saudi Arabia may be interested in the Littoral Combat Ship as part of its rumored $60 billion weapons package. Saudi Arabia has focused on the General Dynamics/ Austal trimaran design before, but a Washington Post report says that:

“The official said the Saudis continue to have internal discussions about those purchases and are watching to see the outcome of a competition to build a new Littoral Combat Ship.”

Aug 14/10: The Wall Street Journal reports that adding UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters, plus other equipment, to Saudi Arabia’s arms shopping list could push the eventual deal set as high as $60 billion. WSJ [subscription] | Bloomberg | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Israel’s Arutz Sheva | Jerusalem Post.

Aug 8/10: The Wall Street Journal reports that the US and Saudi Arabia are pursuing a $30 billion weapons deal, which could include up to 84 F-15 Strike Eagles. An order that size would keep the production line open for about 4 more years:

“After a round of talks in Washington late last month between Mr. Barak and top U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Israeli officials said they felt more comfortable about how the F-15s would be equipped. The U.S. argued to Mr. Barak that the proposed sale would strengthen moderates in the Gulf, ultimately bolstering Israel’s security. U.S. officials say the F-15s in the package will be “very capable” aircraft, comparable to the F-15s flown by South Korea and Singapore, which are among Asia’s most advanced militaries, said a senior U.S. defense official.”

See: WSJ [subscription] | Agence France Presse | Newsweek | St Louis Today.

Appendix A: Rumors, Questions & Competitors

Before the sales were finalized, a number of questions and political crosscurrents swirled around Saudi Arabia’s rumored and potential choices, as well as its alternatives if the USA balked.

Wings of Eagles – Which F-15s? F-15SG, armed
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Before October 2010, Saudi Arabia’s F-15 sale was the least clear aspect of the proposed deal. It was fairly clear that the Kingdom wanted F-15s. The question was what configuration of F-15, with what equipment, to replace which platforms.

The Panavia consortium’s swing-wing Tornado was designed for low level strike missions during the Cold War, and the Saudi fleet continues to receive upgrades. Their lifespan is finite, however, and replacements are reportedly being considered as a way of enhancing Saudi Arabia’s perceived and actual capabilities. Iran looms as a threat, and Saudi military operations near the Yemeni border have apparently led to requests for more advanced aircraft with better precision attack capabilities, to be delivered sooner rather than later.

Saudi Arabia currently operates about 87-96 strike-optimized Tornado IDS, and Scramble places them within 7, 66, 75 & 83 Squadrons, based at Dhahran on the east coast. A 2006 upgrade contract was intended to keep them in service to about 2020. The Tornado is notorious for its heavy maintenance requirements. On the other hand, that is not necessarily a disadvantage in a society where foreign subcontractors perform that work, and the contracts themselves are seen as lucrative opportunities for the Saudi elite.

The Kingdom also operates 153 F-15s: about 82 F-15 C/D air superiority fighters that may also be targeted for replacement, and 70 (of an original 72) newer F-15S Strike Eagles bought in 1999. The Saudi F-15S is an F-15E Strike Eagle variant with downgraded avionics, and a simplified Hughes APG-70 radar without computerized radar mapping refinements. Subsequent upgrades are adding higher-thrust GE F110 engines, Link-16 compatible datalinks, and Lockheed Martin’s Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods with excellent long-range surveillance capabilities, laser rangefinding and designation, and targeting geolocation capabilities.

F-15SE unveiled
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The F-15 Strike Eagle is a stable weapons system that provides excellent versatility in both air superiority and ground attack roles, with very good range for a fighter if conformal tanks are used. All Strike Eagles are not created equal, however, which makes quotes like F-15s that are “comparable to the F-15s flown by South Korea and Singapore” very ambiguous. There were at least 3 possible options:

F-15SG equivalent. Singapore currently flies the world’s most advanced operational F-15s, with GE F110 engines, integrated Infrared Search and Track capabilities, and an APG-63v3 AESA radar whose capabilities far outstrip the mechanically-scanned APG-70. Detailed mapping down to surveillance of man-sized targets, simultaneous air-air and air-ground modes, better range, and maintenance free operation would all offer significant advances over anything the Saudis or even the Israelis currently field. American F-15Es are being retrofitted with an advanced variant of this radar, the AN/APG-82v1. The resulting aircraft would be markedly better than the F-15S or Israel’s F-15I, but a step below the F-35As that Israel has approved for delivery in 2015-2017.

This is the path suggested by the F-15SA’s listed equipment, with the reported inclusion of BAE’s integrated DEWS (Digital Electronic Warfare System). Like the Singaporean fighters, F-15SAs will carry advanced Sniper ground surveillance and targeting pods, alongside Tiger Eyes IRST thermal imaging systems that offer long-range passive air-to-air targeting. A set of Goodrich’s popular DB-110 reconnaissance pods will round out the fighter fleet’s core capabilities. For F-15SAs derived from upgraded F-15S fighters, their internal electronics and mission computers may need another upgrade, and some structural life extension work may also be part of the program. Those details aren’t yet clear.

F-15SE Silent Eagle (No). Boeing is financing initial development of this stealth-enhanced Strike Eagle with internal weapon carriage options and fully digital fly-by wire, and was known to be looking for a launch customer and partner. A sale to Saudi Arabia would hardly be the first time that an advanced Western fighter reached production status thanks to a middle eastern order, though the USA’s experience with Iran and the F-14 offers a cautionary note. Boeing’s future F-15 program manager Brad Jones has previously commented that it’s not a question of how much stealth can be added to an airframe like the F-15 or F/A-18, but how much would be permitted for export to a given country.

The USA’s sensitivity concerning stealth technology, quiet concerns about Saudi Arabia’s long-term stability, and Israeli unease about an enemy with stealth capabilities, made this a tough and unlikely sale. The Saudis didn’t want, or didn’t get, this option.

F-15S+ equivalent (No). This option would essentially field new-build counterparts to Saudi Arabia’s upgraded F-15S fleet, with Link-16 capability, Sniper targeting pods, and F110 engines. The key difference would be the radar. The APG-70 is out of production, but there are reports that USA would like to offer the AN/APG-63v1, chosen by South Korea for its F-15Ks. The APG-63v1 has a fully digital back end, but uses a mechanically-scanned array like the APG-70′s up front. Its performance would be an improvement on the APG-70, while its back end reportedly gives operators the option of adding an AESA front end at a later date.

This might have offered a graceful way to finesse the issue of AESA capability with the Saudis – if the Saudis were inclined to accept it. They weren’t. In the end, they got their way.

The other controversy concerned weapons.

U.S. officials have said that said weapons systems deemed “not conducive to regional stability,” or likely to create serious issues with Israel or with Congress, are being excluded. That includes long-range, precision-guided “standoff systems” like cruise missiles. America has reportedly refused to provide the most advanced long-range strike missiles for the Saudis’ new F-15s, which would eliminate options like Lockheed Martin’s stealthy AGM-158 JASSM, or Boeing’s AGM-84K SLAM-ER anti-ship and land attack missile that will serve with South Korea’s F-15Ks.

The Saudis still got their share of precision weapons. Their request proceeded with GPS-guided JDAM bombs, and even dual laser/GPS guidance DMLGBs. Unlike existing RSAF Paveway laser-guided bombs, they are not affected by conditions like sandstorms, adding important short-range precision-strike against targets the F-15s can overfly. CBU-105 cluster bombs add another GPS-guided weapon that can decimate armored vehicles, and AGM-88 HARM missiles will make life very difficult for enemy radars. The Saudis even got AGM-84 Harpoon Block II missiles, with dual GPS and radar guidance and the ability to attack land or maritime targets over 100 miles away.

The Harpoon isn’t a stealthy weapon like Lockheed’s JASSM or MBDA’s Storm Shadow cruise missiles, and offers less range. The Saudis can live with that, since the RSAF’s Tornado fleet is receiving stealthy, long-range MBDA Storm Shadow missiles from Europe, and its advanced Eurofighters will eventually be Storm Shadow qualified as well. The Harpoon gives their F-15SA’s an acceptable medium range land strike capability, whose effectiveness against maritime targets fills an existing gap.

What’s the Buzz – Helicopters AH-64D Blocks
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The helicopter buy is interesting, because 2006 and 2007-2009 reports had the Saudis modernizing their force with 130-150 French Eurocopter or Russian Mi-family helicopters, respectively. The French deal has been in limbo for a very long time, and the Russian deal has never been confirmed.

Initial reports concerning the prospective American deal revolved around 2 types: the UH-60/S-70 Black Hawk, and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. Both types are already in Saudi service.

Bell Helicopter’s 212 and 412 twin-Hueys, and single-engine 205 Hueys, currently form the biggest fraction of Saudi Arabia’s helicopter fleet. The RSAF also fields about 30 UH-60/S-70 Black Hawk helicopters, and seems interested in adding more. On the attack front, the Saudis field 12 AH-64A Apache helicopters, and a 2008 DSCA request involved another 12 AH-64D Apache Longbow Block IIs, but there has been no subsequent contract announcement.

Early reports correctly placed the potential UH-60 buy at around 72 machines, which would instantly make the Black Hawk the backbone of the Saudi helicopter fleet. Those reports did not specify which type, but earlier reports concerning a Eurocopter deal involved naval helicopters, which could result in a mixed UH-60/MH-60 deal.

The 1st question involves what type of Black Hawk the Saudis will want, for use on land. Gulf Cooperation Council neighbors Bahrain and the UAE have both ordered the latest UH-60M Black Hawks. Keeping up with the neighbors is an important tradition in the region, and the volume buying terms in the USA’s multi-year contracts are likely to make UH-60Ms the Saudis’ most attractive land option.

In the end, the official request specified UH-60Ms. What other possibilities were there?

(click to view full)

The MH-60S Seahawk naval utility helicopters, which has already been exported to Thailand, is the most likely naval helicopter buy. The MH-60S is already designated for search and rescue roles in the US Navy. Armed with Hellfire missiles and/or light gatling guns, they could decimate the fast patrol boats that Iran prefers, or provide capable patrols to help enforce actions like the quiet Saudi naval blockade around Yemen. If fitted with the AMCM system set, they become a potent force against the mines that Iran has used in the past to disrupt Gulf shipping. Those 4 roles (utility/ SAR/ scout-attack/ MIW) cover most of the Saudis’ naval needs, but if they are determined to counter Iranian submarines as well, a purchase of MH-60R anti-submarine helicopters was also possible. Fortunately for the Saudis, the USA’s umbrella MYP-VII helicopter contract also covers production of the MH-60R/S.

The 3rd question revolves around whether the Saudis wish to arm their UH-60s as additional battlefield support, using the “Battlehawk” kits under development by Sikorsky. The UAE had been expected to serve as the lead customer for the UH-60M Battlehawk Level 2/3 kits, which add precision-guided missiles and a 20mm cannon to the standard utility model, but a Saudi order could easily place them in that role instead. The DSCA requests leave that topic unclear.

They may not need the option, anyway.

The Wall Street Journal gave a figure of 60 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters in its more recent reports, which would grow the Saudi fleet to 72. In the end, the actual figure turned out to be 70 total, spread across the Royal Guard, Army, and National Guard. Most orders these days are for AH-64D Apache Block IIs or Block II upgrades, but it was always possible that the Saudi order would focus on the more advanced AH-64D Block III, becoming the type’s first export sale. It did, and they might.

Upgrades of the existing 12 Apaches to the same configuration would be an expected complementary sale, but is not mentioned.

AH-6i, 1st flight
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The other attack enhancement for Saudi forces came in the form of additional light helicopters.

Boeing has developed the AH-6i light attack and scout helicopter, as a thoroughly updated form of the AH-6J Little Bird used so successfully to support trapped US Special Operations forces in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Saudis may buy up to 36 of them, giving them a potent armed scout and urban warfare option. Of course, you’d have to fly them the way the “Night Stalkers” do, which is a pretty tall order.

The other unheralded addition was 12 of MD Helicopters MD-530F helicopters. MD has descended in a long and convoluted line from the same Hughes OH-6 Cayuse/ “Loach” helicopters that led to the AH-6i. Corporate shifts and sales have left MD Helicopters in a weakened market position, and attempts in the past few years to re-enter the military market hadn’t gone so well for them. The MD-530 is often used by law enforcement as an excellent light utility helicopter, though some countries like South Korea still operate militarized light attack relatives as a holdover from previous era military sales, and Boeing used it the MD-530F as the basis for its Unmanned Little Bird demonstrator. A successful sale to Saudi Arabia could offer MD Helicopters a useful market opening, and burnish its military and parapublic credentials.

Foreign Affairs: Considerations and Competitors Spanish Tiger HAD
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The Saudis have long-standing relationships with America and its defense firms. That relationship frayed in the wake of 9/11, as 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudis, and the kingdom’s global financial support for Wahabbi preachers of jihad became a sore point. Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and its proxy wars to gain armed influence in the region, have helped paper over those wounds by putting the Saudis back on the front lines against a common foe. Saudi Arabia’s own internal struggles with al-Qaeda have also represented a form of progress for its American relationships.

In a world where people often buy arms from you because they want you to be their friend, and a region where shiny new equipment is often meant as a message to neighbors, these political winds bode well for American arms sales to the desert kingdom.

The Americans aren’t the Saudis’ only options, however. Nor is support for Saudi Arabia America’s only regional consideration. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell responded to the Wall Street journal by saying that “Israel is not the only one with security concerns in the region, and we have responsibilities to other allies as well.” Which is a lot more diplomatic than: “Well, their Gulf neighbors are also a bit uneasy, and frankly, we wonder who’s going to be in charge there 10 years from now.”

Saudi choices are most clearly represented in its helicopter buys. If it chose not to buy 72 UH-60/MH-60s transports, 60 AH-64D attack helicopters, 36 AH-6i light scouts, and 12 MD-530F light utility helicopters (180 total), it could just as easily buy 120 Mi-17s with cargo and weapon capabilities, and 30 Mi-35 attack helicopters from Russia (150 total). Or turn to France for 54 NH90 TTH troop transports, 10 NH90 NFH naval helicopters, 32 AS 550 Fennec light scouts, 20 AS 532-A2 Cougar CSAR helicopters, 4 AS 565 Panther naval CSAR helicopters, and 12 Tiger attack helicopters (132 total).

Relations with France are somewhat cool at the moment, and Russia’s enabling role in Iran’s nuclear program may be an obstacle to improved Saudi relations, but it’s certain that either country would be delighted to sell the Saudis whatever they ask for. A Russian relationship would also offer the Saudis interesting political diversification, giving Saudi Arabia both a new lever with the Russians, and assured access to an friendly country who sells weapons with no strings attached.

Rafale F3 w. AASMs
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Likewise, a crashed deal for more American F-15s could have lead the Saudis to turn to the French for the Rafale, a versatile fighter with less range than the F-15, but more advanced features and weapons. An AESA radar is currently under development for the jet. In a similar situation, the neighboring UAE chose French diversification to co-develop the Mirage 2000v9 variant for service alongside its American F-16s. Since the Americans would not sell them long range strike weapons for their F-16s, they armed the Mirages with long range, stealthy “Black Shaheen” derivatives of MBDA’s Storm Shadow cruise missile, which has already been approved for Saudi Arabia’s Tornado IDS fleet. France’s GPS-guided, rocket-propelled AASM glide bombs would also be available to customers buying French aircraft.

Adding French Rafale fighter jets would force the Saudis to support a whole new set of equipment, and to buy a different set of aircraft weapons all the way down to fighter cannon ammunition. Since most support costs are outsourced by the Saudis no matter what they buy, and dealing with many kinds of equipment for similar roles has never been a consideration with the Saudis before, those issues aren’t likely to present significant obstacles. On the flip side, the Rafale currently has issues with precision attack missions, owing to delayed integration of its Damocles targeting pod. In the end this gap, and the lack of an AESA radar, might have made the Saudis more eager to do an F-15 deal for military as well as political reasons.

RSAF Eurofighter
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A less drastic option could simply have involved a doubling of the RSAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon order, something that was reportedly discussed. The Wall Street Journal add reports from Saudi officials that a desire to avoid dependence on American permissions was partially behind the 2007 BAE deal for 72 Eurofighters, which have become the kingdom’s top-end air superiority fighters. Long-range MBDA Meteor air-air missiles, and an AESA radar, are both slated as future upgrades for global Eurofighter customers.

Typhoons slated for more of a strike role would still use the existing set of IRIS-T and AMRAAM air-air weapons common to the existing Typhoon and/or F-15 fleets, while options like the Taurus KEPD 350 long range cruise missile, Storm Shadow cruise missile, Brimstone anti-armor missile, and possibly even Raytheon UK’s dual-guidance laser/GPS Paveway IV bombs would all be available to replace equipment types the USA does not have, or might decline to sell. Lockheed Martin’s Sniper ATP surveillance and targeting pod would require an integration program, however, as the Saudis cannot use the RAFAEL/Northrop Grumman LITENING pod currently qualified on the type. On the support side, the Saudis already have a complete set of support agreements with BAE, who is building a maintenance & training facility in Saudi Arabia.

A more esoteric option could have involved taking a cue from Algeria and Malaysia, by buying Russian SU-30MKA/M variants. These fighters compare very favorably to American F-15s, with better aeronautical performance, similar versatility, and similarly impressive range. They even come with French avionics and targeting pods. That option was far less likely for the Saudis, however, because the Russians are known for offering poor support capabilities, and Saudi Arabia needs partners with the structures and experience to handle most of their support needs.

Additional Readings & Sources

Readers with corrections or information to contribute are encouraged to contact editor Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.

Key Equipment: Platforms

Key Equipment: Weapons & Ancillaries

News & Views

Categories: News

UK’s Eurofighters Fly To Availability-Based Contracting

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 16:20
New dawn?
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Implementation of Britain’s “future contracting for availability” approach of paying for machines in service, rather than parts and hours, generally involves a phased set of contracts and agreements. As each party’s understanding the risks and demands grow, the contract’s complexity and comprehensiveness grow as well, and the framework moves closer and closer to the desired goal of a full availability contract. “Britain Hammers Out Through-Life Support Framework for Tornado Fleet” described how this approach works on the ground, and talked about some of the keys to success. “UK’s “Contracting for Availability” Adds Hawks, Looks Ahead” mentioned the MoD’s March 2007 Long Term Partnering Agreement Foundation Contract with BAE Systems, which aims to place all British military aircraft under this kind of framework.

In late 2007, the UK’s Eurofighter Typhoon fleet entered Quick Reaction Alert service with the RAF, and began flying with new ground-attack capabilities. In step with its growing operational responsibilities, the UK MoD began moving toward an availability contracting maintenance model. A 5-year contract signed in March 2009 accelerated that shift, and the Typhoon Availability Service has begun operations. Recent reports have raised the question: how successful has it been?

Contracts & Key Events 2013 – 2014

Typhoon fires ASRAAM
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Sept 8/14: Sub-contractors. General Dynamics UK receives an order from BAE Systems to upgrade 60 Control and Video Interface (CVI) units in the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 fleet. The new units will significantly improve recording times and picture quality, and increase commonality with Tranche 2 and Tranche 3 machines.

The Enhanced CVI development program began in 2012, and achieved a Final Design Declaration of Performance by December 2013. Deliveries are beginning in September 2014, with a production rate of 10 units per month. They should be done shipping by the end of February 2015. Sources: GD UK, “General Dynamics UK to deliver upgrades to Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft”.

Jan 28/14: Red Flag. Eurofighter Typhoons from 6 Squadron in Leuchars join Tornado GR4s from RAF Marham and an E-3 Sentry command and control aircraft from RAF Waddington for the multinational Exercise Red Flag at Nellis AFB, NV, USA. Deployments like this are important for their maintenance role as well as their pilot training role, because they help the RAF refine expeditionary support needs and determine what must be taken along. The answers to those questions then affect maintenance procedures, schedules, and supplies. Sources: RAF, “Typhoons Hit Nevada”.

Jan 27/14: TAS Extended. BAE and the MoD agree to a 12-month, GBP 100 million (about $165 million) extension of the Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) base contract. Sources: BAE Systems, “12 Month Contract Awarded To Support RAF Typhoons”.

TAS extension

Sept 30/13: Aerial refueling. Looks like the delays have been taken care of. The UK MoD gave Voyager clearance to begin air-to-air refuelling (AAR) operations with Typhoon in late May 2013, with a formal Release to Service (RTS) on Aug 15/13. “Voyager and Typhoon have now completed more than 350 contacts, offloading 840 tonnes of fuel to the end of this month [Sept].” Sources: AirTanker, “Voyager and Typhoon complete more than 350 contacts”.

June 26/13: Procedure change. After studying data from the various availability-based Typhoon maintenance contracts, the RAF agrees to change the maintenance program so the jets receive a full servicing after every 500 flying hours, instead of the current 400 hours. The key question was whether this would compromise safety. The analysis came back “no.” The change is estimated to save GBP 100 million over the fleet’s lifetime, while leaving more fighters on the flight line instead of in the shop. BAE Systems.

2010 – 2012

BAE Warton
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Dec 29/12: Tranche 1, Block 5. BAE Systems has finished upgrading 43 RAF Eurofighters under the Retrofit 2 program, which began as its own effort but was subsumed into the wider Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) contract. Their Tranche 1 Block 5 standard installs the PIRATE forward looking infra-red (FLIR) system, improves air-to-air capability; and adds precision strike by using a combination of Paveway II family laser-guided bombs, and RAFAEL’s LITENING-III surveillance and laser designator pod. Eurofighter GmbH.

Nov 6/12: Flight costs. From Britain’s House of Commons:

Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average hourly cost was of flying the Typhoon fighter (a) with and (b) without fuel costs. [126215]

Mr Dunne [holding answer 1 November 2012]: The standard marginal flying hour cost for a Typhoon is £3,875, including the cost of fuel. Excluding fuel costs the figure reduces to approximately £2,670.”

Even GBP 3,875 (about $6,200) is considerably cheaper than published American fighter costs per flight hour. The comparable F-15 Eagle family is generally quoted as being in the $17,000 – $19,500 range. The difference has less to do with the respective machines, and more to do with differing approaches to calculating those costs, especially in one’s choice of what to include. A standard calculation method would be informative, but it doesn’t exist.

Dec 6/11: Aerial refueling issues. The British Forces Broadcasting Service reports that:

“The first A330 Voyager [aerial refueling plane] had been due to be handed over in October, but isn’t now expected at its new home of Brize Norton until the New Year. The private company that will operate the aircraft says it is down to the availability of Typhoon fast jets for air-to-air refuelling tests.”

The RAF Typhoon fleet’s base availability rate been a subject of some controversy lately. This problem could also stem from the need to have Typhoons in the air for Libyan operations and home patrol missions, which would leave few planes available for other missions. It’s hard to tell from the information given.

Dec 4-5/11: Availability issues. Availability is reportedly an issue for Britain’s Typhoons. The Sunday Express reports that:

“…the number of Typhoons in Britain’s Forward Fleet, used to protect our skies, varies from month to month between about 40 and 50 aircraft. Yet at times so many are undergoing repairs that fewer than 20 are available. The RAF has had to scrap three… for spare parts… it is the fighters’ computers that are most frequently “liberated” to keep other jets in the air. Tim Ripley, defence analyst for IHS Jane’s, said problems had come to a head because of the Libya campaign… Earlier this year a critical report by MPs on the cross-party Public Accounts Committee revealed only eight pilots had been given sufficient ground attack training because of the lack of aircraft.”

Britain’s Ministry of Defence fires back on their blog. They don’t give contrary figures, which would offer a fully credible rebuttal. What they do say, is that:

“[Reports that half the fleet is grounded are] not true. We regularly carry out routine maintenance programmes… but that does not mean they are undergoing ‘repairs’… The RAF has not ‘scrapped’ any Typhoon aircraft for spares and we do not routinely take aircraft off flying duties to remove spare parts… It is standard practice to use parts from across the whole fleet… This only affects a few aircraft in maintenance and ensures we have the operational aircraft we require.”

Availability issues

EJ200s in Eurofighter
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Jan 14/10: Britain’s Ministry of Defence signs a 10-year, GBP 865 million (about $1.41 billion) contract with Rolls-Royce, to service engines for Britain’s Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. The fleet’s EJ200 engines were excluded from the initial TAS contract that was signed in March 2009, and the MoD says that this agreement will help to sustain up to 3,000 highly skilled direct and indirect jobs.

Under the terms of the contract, which runs until 2019, Rolls-Royce will provide the RAF with a guaranteed level of availability for its EJ200 engines. Rolls-Royce will manage all aspects of EJ200 engine support, including the provision of replacement engines to meet customer demands, technical support on-base, and higher-level support. Rolls-Royce support operations are centerd at the Typhoon Propulsion Support Facility at RAF Coningsby, where the RAF’s Typhoon squadrons are based. From there, a team comprising both Rolls-Royce and RAF personnel manages the engine support for aircraft operations in the field, and also carries out some engine repairs. This will be augmented in 2010 by a 2nd Main Operating Base at RAF Leuchars, where Rolls-Royce will also have a support team. If engine repairs become necessary, most are undertaken at the Rolls-Royce facilities at Ansty, near Coventry, and in the Rolls-Royce Operations Centre in Bristol.

The Eurofighter’s 2 EJ200 turbofans deliver 20,000 pounds thrust each in reheat mode, and are manufactured by the EUROJET partnership of Avio (Italy), ITP (Spain), MTU Aero Engines (Germany) and Rolls-Royce (UK). Rolls Royce | UK Press Association | Reuters.

10-year engine services contract

2006 – 2009

RAF Typhoons
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Dec 4/09: QinetiQ. QinetiQ announces a 3-year, GBP 37 million (about $61 million) follow-on contract from the UK’s Defence Equipment & Support Operation (MoD’s DESO) to continue its advisory support for the Typhoon program. The original GBP 52.5 million contract was signed with the Typhoon Project Team in August 2006. QinetiQ employees and resources to involved withe are located at sites across the UK including MoD Boscombe Down, BAE Systems Warton, Farnborough, Malvern, Bristol, and a number of the MoD ranges.

This award is separate from the larger availability-based contract, and does not directly involve maintenance, but its conclusions and recommendations will have a bearing on the execution of the Typhoon Availability Service contract. It covers independent Release to Service (RTS) safety recommendations; airworthiness and safety clearance; the technical review of Verification, Qualification and Certification (VQ&C) evidence; program risk reduction and recovery support activities; future capability/ decision support; crew protection and performance studies; mission system software support; and technical and business support.

In October 2009, QinetiQ came in for very harsh criticism from the Haddon-Cave review for their performance of similar duties related to the UK’s Nimrod aircraft fleet, in the wake of Nimrod #XV230″s mid-air self-destruction over Afghanistan.

Nov 17/09: Italy. The sincerest form of flattery. Italy’s new 5-year, EUR 600+ million Integrated Supply Chain Management Service (ISCMS) contract for its Eurofighter fleet borrows from the British TAS model.

Oct 15/09: DASS. BAE Systems announces a 5.5 year performance-based contract worth more than GBP 400 million (currently about $654 million), to support the radars and defensive aids sub systems (DASS) on the core partner nations’ Eurofighter fleets (Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK). The contract contains a number of performance-based incentives, and follows closely on the heels of a full availability-based contract for Saudi Arabia’s Eurofighter fleet.

While these are separate contracts, the Saudi effort borrows from and goes beyond the British approach, and the CAPTOR/DASS support contract will extend BAE Systems’ availability-based responsibilities for RAF Typhoons.

DASS support contract

Sept 30/09: The opening of the Typhoon Support Centre and the Typhoon Maintenance Facility at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, marks the official start of the Typhoon Availability Service (TAS). UK MoD | BAE’s release says that:

“Currently over 270 BAE Systems’ employees work on the TAS contract across RAF Coningsby and the BAE Systems’ sites at Samlesbury and Warton in Lancashire. This will grow to 500 over the course of the five year contract.”

TAS begins

March 4/09: The UK MoD and BAE agree to a 5-year, GBP 450 million (currently $633 million) Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) contract, after 18 months of intense work by a joint BAE Systems/UK MOD team. Engine work is currently excluded from these arrangements.

Overall management of TAS will be conducted jointly at RAF Coningsby by senior representatives of the MOD and BAE Systems. At present, over 200 BAE Systems employees work on Eurofighter support across RAF Coningsby and the BAE Systems sites of Samlesbury and Warton. This will grow to 500 by the end of 2009.

TAS will initially be a 5-year contract, but a longer 10-year contract is expected to follow that will draw on the lessons learned and experience gained in the initial period. UK MoD | RAF | BAE Systems.

Typhoon Availability Service

Nov 26/07: Initial contract. BAE Systems announces a GBP 11.6 million (about $24 million) contract to provide a guaranteed repair service for a few Eurofighter Typhoon components, including the nose radome, windscreen assembly, and canopy assembly. This particular contract, which runs through to the end of 2014, will see a progressive transfer of risk from the customer to BAE Systems with an incentive to reduce through life repair costs. It is just the 1st in a series of 4 partnered support contracts, which are valued at approximately GBP 227 million and will eventually cover over 1,500 items from 26 aircraft systems.

Work will be performed by a joint team of RAF and BAE Systems employees based at RAF Coningsby. BAE Systems will manage the activity, with RAF technicians undertaking the repair actions. Direct first line forward engineering support to the flying squadrons will continue to be provided by RAF personnel. BAE Systems release.

Sept 11/07: Initial contract. BAE Systems and Britain’s Defence Equipment and Support (DES) organization took another step, signing a GBP 10.9 million ($22.5 million), 2-year “learning phase” contract that will deliver a 50% increase in on-aircraft maintenance and upgrade capability at RAF base Coningsby, and establish an initial BAE Systems maintenance presence on the RAF site. Under the contract, the Typhoon Maintenance and Upgrade (TMU) facility at RAF Coningsby, will be jointly managed and manned by BAE Systems and the RAF, bringing together the 84 RAF personnel currently employed on Typhoon maintenance with an additional 36 BAE Systems personnel on site, and a further 5 providing support from Warton. This kind of on-site cooperation was cited in DID’s Tornado ATTAC coverage as a crucial step in the process.

The new arrangements aim to minimize aircraft down-time by conducting scheduled maintenance at the same time as ongoing aircraft upgrades. The Typhoon contract builds on the proven principles of the Harrier ‘Joint Upgrade and Maintenance Programme’ and the Tornado ‘Combined Maintenance Upgrade’ contracts, which have shown that combining maintenance and upgrade functions is an important money-saver that also improves operational availability percentages. The goal in this case is to ensure that the Typhoon front line force is able to continue its build up without any backlog of scheduled maintenance.

BAE System’s release states that the goal is to replace this learning phase contract with “an availability service from 2009.”

Nov 15/06: Initial contract. BAE Systems and the UK Ministry of Defence signed a GBP 5.4 million (about $7 million then) Typhoon Whole Aircraft Scheduled Maintenance and Upgrade (WAMSU) contract at BAE Systems’ Warton site, which builds the aircraft. It will combine scheduled maintenance of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters with the upgrade program already underway at Warton, leaving 6 more aircraft available for front line duties. The program will eventually bringing 43 ‘Tranche 1′ Eurofighters up to the common standard. Tranche 1 Eurofighters generally have no precision ground attack capability, but the RAF plans to modify its aircraft to accommodate the LITENING targeting pod.

The Whole Aircraft Scheduled Maintenance and Upgrade program, named WASMU for ease, represents the first contractual step of the Typhoon Partnered Support program. Under WASMU, a program of primary maintenance activities at 400 flying hours will be carried out at the same time as the ongoing upgrade tasks. Following completion of definition work on the 800 flying hour maintenance package, a follow-on contract for the extension to WASMU through to 2012 is planned. In BAE’s corporate release, Typhoon weapon system capability director Martin Taylor said that:

“Through this contract, BAE Systems will become an integral part of the RAF support process. Although based at Warton, this activity will operate as an extension to the support operations at RAF Coningsby, the Typhoon main operating base. This contract represents a significant step in our journey towards a comprehensive availability service.”

Additional Readings

Categories: News

China Touts Missile Defense with Live Test as Turkey Continues Comparison Shopping

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 15:03

  • State-owned CCTV ran a program/infomercial on China’s FD2000 air defense system, showing a recent live test in north China. The system is meant for exports and the demonstration’s purpose seems to be to convince Turkey. But the Turks have expressed concerns about technology and production sharing more than performance. France seems to have an edge but the US is not giving up [Reuters].

  • A recent tradeshow was a showcase for [IHS] China’s various UAV and robot prototypes of various shapes and purposes. Backed mostly by pictures, it’s uncertain how far along these systems really are.

  • The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on the limits of stealth posed by Russian air-defense detection:

“Russia’s National Air Defence troops (PVO Strany) are a formidable force with advanced equipment and elaborate tactics. Their unofficial motto remains ‘Don’t fly, don’t let others fly’. Given Russia’s export sales of air-defence hardware, it is likely that Western air forces and those of their allies will continue to face not only Russian-made systems, but Russian tactics as well. Indeed, Russia actively exports its own expertise and operational concepts in air defence along with its armaments.

  • One week into a fragile truce in Ukraine, Russia has kept [CNN] a strong military presence on both sides of the border. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is now openly focusing [Kyiv Post] on non-military solutions to the crisis.

Getting a Good Grip

  • Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and AI at the University of Birmingham in England, introduced [ITV News] Boris, a robot that learns to apply different grips to grasp various objects. The idea is to give robots enough flexibility that they can work alongside humans outside the confines of very predictable, scripted environments like factories.

Middle East

  • Anthony H. Cordesman from the CSIS think tank caveats his support for President Obama’s strategy against ISIL by listing a number of risks that may undermine it. Last but not least, self-inflicted wounds for lack of decisiveness.

  • Another problem: a rather weak coalition [Foreign Policy] with tepid Arab support [NYT].

  • The UK started delivering weapons and ammo to Kurdish forces in Erbil, Iraq. Video below:

Categories: News

Sikorsky’s $8.5-11.7B “Multi-Year 8″ H-60 Helicopter Contract

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 18:40
US Army HH-60Ms
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In July 2012, the US military signed another huge contract with Sikorsky. With production of the Army’s HH/UH-60M, and the Navy’s MH-60S and MH-60R helicopters, all in full swing, there’s no question about the need for future orders. In that environment, multi-year contracts allow efficiencies in purchasing, and security of staffing, throughout Sikorsky’s supply chain. These new helicopter types are also available to Foreign Military Sales class customers, under the American contract’s advantageous pricing and terms. The UH-60M, MH-60S and MH-60R models have already inked export deals, and official requests indicate that more deals are in the pipeline.

The new multi-year 2013-2017 contract could be worth up to $11.7 billion, and follows a 5-year, multi-service “MYP-VII” contract in December 2007. Like its predecessor, it covers UH-60M Black Hawk troop transport and light cargo helicopters, Army HH-60M SAR (Search And Rescue) / MEDEVAC (MEDical EVACuation) helicopters, and the US Navy’s MH-60S and MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

MYP-VIII: Contract in Context USN Heli Plan
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The US Army plans to order 956 UH-60M and 419 MEDEVAC HH-60M Black Hawks through 2026, a total of 1,375 H-60M models. By then, the US Army’s total H-60 Black Hawk fleet, including upgraded UH-60As and UH-60Ls, is expected to reach more than 2,100 helicopters. US Navy production will end much sooner, and beyond about 2018 the only Seahawks built will be for export.

MYP-VIII’s base award covers 653 helicopters from FY 2013 – 2017: 234 UH-60M and 120 HH-60M Black Hawks, 193 MH-60R/S Seahawks, plus 106 helicopters for Foreign Military Sales. Like its predecessor, The 5-year agreement also allows the Army and Navy to order as many as 263 more helicopters within the same contractual terms, either for the USA or for export sales. If exercised, the optional purchases could push the contract value from $8.5 billion to a maximum of $11.7 billion.

Note that this MYP-VIII contract is a price framework agreement, rather than a firm schedule. Orders are planned 5 years in advance at the Pentagon, but annual budgets can and do increase or decrease those numbers. Actual production orders will be determined year-by-year over the life of the program, based on American budgets and foreign orders. Under the terms of the contract, Sikorsky will provide helicopters, technical publications, and changes/upgrades within set terms, while its field service representatives provide technical guidance and on-site training.

The need for replacement is certainly clear. According to FY 2011 budget documents, the USA’s oldest UH-60As are now over 30 years old, and the average age of the UH-60A fleet is 23 years. New UH-60Ms have an 18 month lead time from order to delivery, while the more advanced HH-60M for SAR/ MEDEVAC duties has a 24 month lead time.

In the Navy, the helicopters being replaced by the MH-60S armed utility & mine-warfare helicopter, and by the MH-60R strike and anti-submarine helicopter, date from the Reagan years – or earlier. The MH-60S/Rs are replacing the US Navy’s remaining SH-60B/F Seahawks, HH-60 CSAR(Combat Search and Rescue), CH-46D Sea Knights, and HH-1N Huey SAR helicopters.

The minimum production rate to sustain the H-60 line is 18 helicopters per year, while the maximum is listed in FY 2011 US Army budget documents as 150 per year. American orders are large but don’t push that limit, leaving plenty of room for export production.

Contracts & Key Events UH-60M
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Unless otherwise specified, all order are placed by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL to Sikorsky in Stratford, CT.

Note that a contract for helicopters is not the same thing as a contract for flying, ready-to use helicopters. Many contracts omit key “Government Furnished Equipment” items like engines, sensors, etc., which make the cost of a ready-to-use helicopter higher than the base contract. Sikorsky does sometimes buy items that are usually GFE when filling some Foreign Military Sales contracts. There are still some questions about FMS inclusions within MYP-VIII, and some buys whose structure is unclear. Australia’s Letter of Offer and Acceptance for the MH-60R, for instance, was signed in June 2011, and some contracts have begun. DID will attempt to resolve those questions and details going forward.

Finally, the naval MH-60R strike and MH-60S Seahawk utility/ specialty helicopters have a large array of unique features, and a central place within the USN. We will cover purchases under MYP-8 here, but full details regarding the helicopters, their foreign sakes opportunities, and all of their related contracts can be found in “MH-60R/S: The USA’s New Naval Workhorse Helicopters.”

FY 2014

Orders: US Army, Saudi Arabia; Requests: Austria, Mexico; Unmanned UH-60MU tested; US Navy wants to cancel MH-60R buy without destroying MYP-8 – can they? UH-60M, Ft. Bragg
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Sept 9/14: Brazil. The US DSCA formally announces Brazil’s export request for 3 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, equipped for search and rescue. Brazil already has the Army 4th squadron and Air Force 7/8 “Harpia” air group at Manaus, whose H-60L and S-70 Black Hawks/ Pave Hawks perform a SAR/ counter-narcotics role, and are well-equipped for disaster response. These would be Brazil’s first UH-60Ms.

The full request involves 3 UH-60Ms, 8 T-700-GE-701C engines (6 installed and 2 spares), 12 M-134D 7.62mm gatling guns, 8 H765GU Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems, spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, and other US government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $145 million.

The principal contractors will be United Technologies’ Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, CT; GE Engines in Lynn, MA; and Dillon Aero Systems in Mesa, AZ. Implementation of this proposed sale may require the assignment of 1 contractor representative to Brazil for up to 3 years to support fielding, maintenance, and personnel training of this new helicopter type for Brazil. Sources: DSCA #14-36, “Brazil – UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters”.

DSCA request: Brazil (3)

June 24/14: Mexico. The US DSCA formally announces Mexico’s export request for 5 UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters in standard US government configuration with designated unique equipment and Government Furnished Equipment (GFE), 13 T700-GE-701D Engines (10 installed and 3 spares), 12 Embedded Global Positioning Systems/Inertial Navigation Systems (10 installed and 2 spares), 10 M134 7.62mm gatling guns, 5 Star SAFIRE III day/night surveillance turrets, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems, AN/ARC-210 RT-8100 series radios, 1 Aviation Mission Planning System, and 1 Aviation Ground Power Unit. Also included are aircraft warranty, air worthiness support, facility construction, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, site surveys, tool and test equipment, and other forms of US Government and contractor technical and logistics support. The estimated cost is up to $225 million.

Mexico has previously ordered 9 UH-60Ms, with 6 going to Mexico’s federal police, and 3 to the Armada for use in land-based operations. These 5 would bring the Mexican Navy’s fleet to 8:

“Mexico intends to use these defense articles and services to modernize its armed forces and expand its existing naval/maritime support in its efforts to combat drug trafficking organizations.”

“Mexico intends to use these defense articles and services to modernize its armed forces and expand its existing naval/maritime support in its efforts to combat drug trafficking organizations.”

The principal contractors will be Sikorsky Aircraft Company in Stratford, CT; and General Electric Aircraft Company (GEAC) in Lynn, MA. Implementation of this proposed sale may require the assignment of 3 more US Government and 5 more contractor representatives in country, as full-time delivery and training support for approximately 2 years. Sources: DSCA #14-25, “Mexico – UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters”.

DSCA request: Mexico (5)

Aug 19/14: UH-60M. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $30.3 million contract modification for 12 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, on behalf of the Saudi Arabian National Guard. All funds are committed immediately. This appears to be an initial award, with a follow-on to come that will modify the helicopters for Saudi use (q.v. March 25/13, Dec 20/13), and bring total announced SANG UH-60M sales to 24 of 72 requested (US DSCA, Oct 20/10) machines.

The estimated completion date is Aug 31/17. Work will be performed in Jupiter, FL and Stratford, CT. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the order on behalf of its Saudi client (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0072).

July 24/14: Tunisia. The US DSCA announces Tunisia’s official request for 12 UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters, complete with Battlehawk kits that allow them to be used as attack helicopters. these helicopters will include surveillance turrets with laser designators, laser-guided 70mm rocket capability, Hellfire missiles, various defensive and communications systems, and associated support that may include an infrastructure build-out. The estimated cost is up to $700 million, or about $58.3 million per helicopter with weapons and support. Sources: DID, “Armed & Versatile: Sikorsky’s ‘Battlehawk’ Helicopters” for full coverage | US DSCA #14-23, “Tunisia – UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters”.

DSCA request: Tunisia (12 + Battlehawk kits)

May 20/14: +13. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a $143.4 million contract modification for 13 Army UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 “other procurement” budgets. Work will be performed in Stratford, CT with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/15 (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0146).

13 UH-60M

May 29/14: A $24 million contract modification to “realign the funding between the fiscal 2014 advance procurement funds and the planned aircraft production funds for fiscal 2015, with no change to the UH-60 or HH-60 contract price.” All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Stratford, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/15. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0163).

April 22/14: MYP-8. Lockheed Martin ups the pressure on the US Navy, by reminding everyone that they also have a multi-year contract that involves termination fees. CFO Bruce Tanner says that work had already begun on cockpits, radars, and other equipment for the MH-60Rs. He recommends buying them and selling them to allies:

“That would probably be a better deal for the taxpayer than paying close to 100 percent and not getting anything for it…. The cost to terminate partially built helicopters is pretty significant relative to the cost to actually finish those helicopters.”

Sources: Reuters, “Lockheed says costly for Pentagon if it cancels MH-60 helicopters”.

Apr 21/14: Mexico. The US DSCA announces Mexico’s formal request for up to 18 UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters and associated equipment, at an estimated cost of up to $680 million. The order could also include up to:

  • 40 T700-GE-701D Engines (36 installed and 4 spares)
  • 42 Embedded Global Positioning Systems/Inertial Navigation Systems (36 installed and 6 spares)
  • 36 M134 7.62mm Machine Guns
  • 5 Aviation Mission Planning Systems
  • 18 AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Goggles
  • 1 Aviation Ground Power Unit
  • Communication security equipment including AN/ARC-210 RT-8100 series radios and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems
  • Plus aircraft warranty, air worthiness support, facility construction, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, site surveys, tool and test equipment, and other forms of US Government and contractor support.

The principal contractors will be Sikorsky in Stratford, CT; and GE in Lynn, MA. If congress doesn’t block the sale, and Mexico negotiated a contract, implementation may require the assignment of an additional 3 US Government and 5 contractor representatives, who would be in country full-time for 2 years to support delivery and training. Sources: DSCA #14-10, “Mexico – UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters”.

DSCA: Mexico request (18)

April 15/14: MYP-8. The Pentagon is trying to find ways not to break their MYP-8 multi-year contract with Sikorsky, given the likely effects on the Army’s Black Hawk fleet. Defense News goes a step further, and reports that Sikorsky officials are saying that any cancellation of the Navy buy would cancel the entire contract, destroying multi-year procurement for the US Army. Sources: Defense News, “DoD Looking for Ways Not To Break MH-60R Helicopter Deal”.

Apr 11/14: Unmanned UH-60M. Sikorsky successfully demonstrates autonomous hover and flight operations, using a UH-60MU from the US Army Utility Helicopters Project Office (UH PO). The project is called MURAL (Manned/Unmanned Resupply Aerial Lifter), and uses technology from Sikorsky’s July 2013 Matrix research program and an advanced Ground Control Station (GCS).

Sikorsky began this work in 2007, but they only signed MURAL’s CRADA (Cooperative Research & Development Agreement) with the US Army Aviation Development Directorate (ADD) in 2013. Sikorsky has also been flying its own SARA (Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft) helicopter since July 26/13. The long-term goal is to avoid conceding the unmanned helicopter resupply market to Lockheed Martin’s K-MAX, the MQ-8C Fire Scout, etc. Making their core H-60 helicopters “optionally manned” is a strong competitive position, if they can pull it off. Sources: Sikorsky, “Optionally Piloted Black Hawk Demonstrator Helicopter Takes Successful First Flight”.

April 9/14: MYP-8. Sikorsky director of maritime programs Tim Healy points out that the US Navy’s proposed cancellation of 29 helicopters within the current multi-year deal has consequences. One involves the likelihood of higher prices for US Army Blackhawks, which are still being purchased. The other is more basic:

“This is not a legal issue. This is a confidence issue…. If multiyear contracts are negotiated and then not followed through … industry is back to making year-to-year calculations and investments because you never know when the next year’s contract is going to be canceled.”

That would be the rational approach, but industry enters into these contracts in order to reduce the odds of program cutbacks and cancellation in an irrational political environment. In other words, the contracts are primarily political acts. Our take: cancellation will dent industry’s credence in these contracts, but won’t make much difference. Companies will still rush to sign them, until and unless they see a behavior pattern that destroys their belief in this strategy. Sources: Reuters, “U.S. Navy move to ‘break’ multiyear deal worries industry-Sikorsky”.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The USAF and USN unveil their preliminary budget request briefings, but it takes another week to release detailed documents. FY 2015 orders are unaffected: 8 MH-60S will end production for the US Navy, and 29 MH-60R helicopters will be bought as planned. On the other hand, the planned FY 2016 close-out order for 29 MH-60R helicopters is gone.

The cut is linked to the planned removal of 1 carrier air wing (to 10) and cap in the number of LCS ships at 32. The problem is twofold. One, the air wing would have to be put back if the Navy does decide to fund USS George Washington’s mid-life RCOH in FY 2016. Two, the 20 subsequent LCS buys are supposed to be replaced by ships with frigate-like capabilities, and those ships will need ASW helicopters. Navy officials said that advance procurement funds for FY 2016 were still present in the FY 2015 budget, and the Navy could reverse course. They’re under a multi-year procurement deal, so unless there’s a resale of some kind that’s allowed within the terms, you’d have to think that the penalty fees for cancellations would be high. Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] | Defense News, “US Navy Budget Plan: Major Questions Abound”.

Jan 9/14: USN FY 2014. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $549.9 million contract modification, funding the base airframes and some integration for 18 MH-60S and 19 MH-60R helicopters, plus advance procurement for years 4 & 5 of the multi-year deal; and associated sustaining engineering, program management, systems engineering, and other support.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, and will be complete by Dec 31/15 (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0126).

USN 2014: 18 MH-60S, 19 MH-60R

Dec 23/13: FY14 Army. A $724 million contract modification buys the initial set for program year 3: 33 UH-60M helicopters, 24 HH-60M helicopters, plus the associated associated program management, systems engineering, provisioning, technical publications, and integrated logistics support. Funding to buy long-lead material for the next year is also normal, but this modification includes long-lead funding for years 4 & 5 as termination liability. All funds are committed immediately, using US Army FY 2014 other procurement budgets.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, and the contract runs until June 30/15 (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0127).

33 UH-60M + 24 HH-60M

Dec 20/13: Saudi Arabia. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $105.3 million contract modification to contract “to modify 8 UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters to a General Service Configuration in Support of the Saudi Arabian National Guard.” The contract number indicates that these machines are purchases under the MYP-8 multi-year deal. Essentially, they’re buying 8 UH-60Ms as an initial order under the Oct 20/10 DSCA request to export up to 72 machines.

One bid was solicited with one received. Work will be performed in West Palm Beach, FL and in Saudi Arabia. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as the Saudis’ agent (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0089).

Saudi Arabia: 8 UH-60Ms

Dec 5/13: Austria. The US DSCA announces Austria’s formal export request for 3 UH-60Ms and associated equipment, worth up to $137 million. The principal contractor will be Sikorsky in Stratford, CT, with engines from General Electric in Lynn, MA. Austria already has 9 earlier model S-70A-42 aircraft in its inventory. The full request includes:

  • 3 standard UH-60Ms with designated unique equipment and Government Furnished Equipment (GFE)
  • 7 T700-GE-701D Engines (6 installed and 1 spare)
  • 8 Embedded Global Positioning Systems with Inertial Navigation
  • 8 AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Goggles
  • Communications gear including AN/VRC-92 SINCGARS, AN/ARC-201D, AN/ARC-210, AN/ARC-220, and AN/ARC-231 radios.
  • 3 Aviation Survivability Equipment (ASE)
  • 3 Aviation Mission Planning Systems
  • 1 Transportable Black Hawk Operations Simulator (TBOS)
  • 1 Aviation Ground Power Unit
  • Plus Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems, aircraft warranty, airworthiness support, tool and test equipment, spare and repair parts, site surveys, facility construction, support equipment, communication equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other US Government and contractor support.

Austria won’t need any additional foreign support personnel in country. Sources: DSCA 13-69.

DSCA: Austria request (3)

FY 2013

MYP-8 signed; USAF and US Army exercise options. MH-60S
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Sept 27/13: Support. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a 3-year, $84 million cost-plus-fixed-fee indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for support services. They’ll provide incidental H-60 Black Hawk materials for foreign military sales and other government agency customers. Note that the award isn’t restricted to H-60M helicopters.

Funding and performance locations will be determined with each order. The contract was solicited via the Web, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command – Redstone Arsenal (Aviation), Redstone Arsenal, AL, is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-13-D-0177).

Sept 27/13: MH-60M 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).

Aug 21/13: No CVLSP. The US Air Force cut their planned UH-1 Huey replacement program from the FY 2013 budget. Now they’re planning to refurbish their existing UH-1N fleet for another 10 years of service in securing nuclear launch sites, and ferrying people around Washington. The Hueys will add night vision compatible cockpit lighting, crash worthy seats, a helicopter terrain awareness warning system, and traffic collision avoidance. The USAF will also pick up about 26 used UH-1Ns from the US Marines, and have begun with 3 helicopters already.

Even the 10 year horizon isn’t fixed, and the service could choose to keep the helicopters running longer. Bottom line: replacement with H-60s is a long way away, unless a Huey crashes with a prominent member of an appropriations committee on board. Defense News, “USAF Planning Decade-Long Huey Extension”.

June 13/13: Army FY13. Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, CT receives a $244.9 million firm-fixed-price modification to by an unspecified number of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, using FY 2013 procurement funds.

It would appear that the $804.4 million Nov 16/12 buy didn’t fully fund FY 2013′s plan for 71 helicopters, which makes sense given Pentagon cost estimates of around $18 million per machine. $1,049.3 million / 71 = $14.8 million per, which is closer to the mark given the price of added engines, avionics, etc. (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0077).

May 8/13: Thailand. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT an $11.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, to buy 1 UH-60M base helicopter and related equipment for Thailand. The cumulative total face value of this multi-year contract is now $4.819 billion. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract on behalf of their FMS client (W58RGZ-12-C-0008, PO 0055).

Thailand: 1 UH-60M

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

The UH-60M/ HH-60M budget line is interesting, because it plans for 64 more buys than the base multi-year deal. Instead of 318 helicopters over FY 2012 – 2016, the total becomes 382. The framework is obviously able to handle those planned options, and MYP-8 overall has a top limit of 916 helicopters for the US Army, US Navy and foreign customers.

March 25/13: Saudi. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $49 million firm-fixed-price contract. This modification will provide engineering and configuration services to 4 utility helicopters for Saudi Arabia. The contract number indicates a MYP-8 purchase, and the amount indicates that there’s a base helicopter order still to come. There are ways that could be done outside the purview of standard contract announcements.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-12-C-0008).

Saudi Arabia: 4 UH-60Ms?

Dec 11/12: +37 Navy. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a $563.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, which funds the Navy’s 2nd Program Year of the MYP-8 multi-year program. Sikorsky tells us that Year 2 buys 18 MH-60S Production Lot 15 helicopters for delivery in 2013-2014, and 19 MH-60R Production Lot 11 Helicopters for delivery in 2014. The contract also covers sustaining engineering, and the usual set of advance materials for the next production lots.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0008).

Nov 16/12: +71 Army. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT received an $804.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification. Sikorsky confirms that this fully funds Year 2 of MYP-8: 47 UH-60M and 24 HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, plus associated engineering, program management, provisioning, technical publications, and support.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT with an estimated completion date of June 30/14. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0008).

FY 2012 MH-60R
(click to view full)

Sept 25/12: +22 Army. A $242.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy UH-60M Plus-Up Helicopters, which are over and above the yearly baseline buys under MYP-8. Sikorsky confirms that the contract covers 22 helicopters, but doesn’t include support.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT and will run until Sept 16/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0008).

Sept 25/12: +18 USAF. A $203.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, which Sikorsky confirms will buy 18 UH-60M helicopters for the USAF. This appears to be part of the USAF’s Operational Loss Replacement (OLR) program for their HH-60H Pave Hawk combat search and rescue fleet.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0008).

Sept 18/12: UH-60 CPTD. Sikorsky announced the award of a Combat Tempered Platform Demonstration (CTPD) contract from the U.S. Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD). This program will builds upon previous work by Sikorsky Innovations to develop key technologies including: a zero-vibration system, adaptive flight control laws, advanced fire management, a durable main rotor, a more damage tolerant airframe, and better “full-spectrum crashworthiness.” Asked about the program, Sikorsky said that:

“We currently have nothing slated for the next two block upgrades that come from the Combat Tempered Platform Demonstration program. We are testing how components play together.”

Sikorsky Innovations will have more than 15 partnering companies, including Lord Corporation, Phyre Technologies, and Firetrace Aerospace.

July 18/12: #500. Sikorsky delivers the 500th H-60M helicopter since production began in December 2007, which divides up as 400 UH-60Ms (incl. 73 exported) and 100 HH-60M MEDEVAC helicopters. Most of those deliveries which were made under the MYP-VII contract, which ended this month.

Sikorsky adds that the US Army plans to order 956 UH-60M and 419 HH-60M aircraft through 2026, a total of 1,375 H-60M models. By then, the Army’s total H-60 Black Hawk fleet, including upgraded UH-60As and UH-60Ls, is expected to reach more than 2,100 helicopters. Sikorsky.

UH-60M #500

July 11/12: MYP-8. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a firm-fixed-price umbrella contract to buy and provide initial support for up to 916 UH/HH/MH-60 Helicopters for the US Army and US Navy, with Foreign Military Sales options. The Pentagon announces the initial total as $2.828 billion, but Sikorsky puts the base contract’s total value at $8.5 billion. Sikorsky also breaks up the MYP-8 contract into an $8.5 billion base for 653 helicopters, plus options for up to 263 more that could push the contract as high as $11.7 billion. Interestingly, Sikorsky adds that:

“To reach the full baseline value of $8.5 billion, the services are ordering aircraft in the base agreement to be sold via the U.S. Government’s Foreign Military Sales program. These aircraft include Foreign Military Sale (FMS) UH-60M aircraft for several allied countries and MH-60R SEAHAWK anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare helicopters for the Royal Australian Navy… BLACK HAWK and SEAHAWK aircraft deliveries under the new contract will begin this month.”

Those totals compare to $7.4 billion for 537 helicopters in MYP-7, plus 263 additional options that Sikorsky said could push the contract to $11.6 billion for 800 helicopters. Orders ended up falling well short of that total, but the options were there.

Recent DSCA requests indicate that interest in Sikorsky’s helicopters is rising, so MYP-8 looks set to produce more machines. Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, but the helicopters themselves are made on 4 separate production lines located in West Palm Beach, FL, and in its Stratford, CT final assembly facility. The contract is announced by the Pentagon as running until Sept 30/16 (end of FY 2016). Sikorsky, on the other hand, cites December 2017 as the end date. Subsequent Pentagon documents continue to insist on FY 2012 – 2016, even though MYP-7 technically ended on Dec 31/12.

The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-12-C-0008). Since only Sikorsky can make those helicopters, it isn’t surprising that only 1 firm responded. See also Sikorsky.

MYP-VIII Framework

Feb 13/12: The USA’s FY 2013 budget documents include a proposal for the next multi-year deal. Helicopters bought will be in basically the same configuration as MYP-VII machines, and overall savings vs. single year buys add up to $850.3 million:

“This proposed Multiyear Procurement (MYP) covers the purchase of 318 UH-60M/HH-60M BLACK HAWK aircraft and 193 Navy MH-60 helicopter airframes in FY 2012 through FY 2016 under a single, five year fixed price type contract. The MYP strategy is structured to achieve $850.3 Million (TY$) in cost savings over the five year period with $502.9M realized in the Army Aircraft Procurement Appropriation and $347.4M in the Navy Aircraft Procurement Appropriation. This proposed Joint Service multiyear contract for the procurement of Army UH-60M/HH-60M aircraft and Navy MH-60R/S aircraft follows a currently executing (FY 2007 through FY 2011) Joint Service MYP between the Army, Navy, and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation for H-60 helicopters. The UH-60M/HH-60M,MH-60S, and MH-60R aircraft .being procured on the proposed multiyear contract are essentially the same configuration as those being procured on the current FY07-11 multiyear contract. The MYP will include a Variation in Quantity Clause allowing for minor fluctuation of aircraft quantity and provide baseline pricing for potential Foreign Military Sales. The U.S. Army and Navy met SECDEF certification requirements on March 1, 2011.”

Additional Readings

Tags: myp-viii, myp-8

Categories: News

US Air Strikes May Be Extended to Syria While Ground Action Will Have to Come from Locals

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 16:15

  • President Obama announced that air strikes against ISIL will be expanded to Syria, hopefully but not necessarily with Congressional support. Video | Transcript.

  • Conrad Crane from the US Army War College makes plenty of interesting observations [War on the Rocks] about the “long war”, 13 years into it.

US Biz Dev

  • USNAVAIR and NAWCAD are organizing an industry day [FBO] in Solomons, MD to present their long term acquisition forecast.

  • Here’s the briefing [PDF] delivered by the USAF to contractors who attended a recent industry day on LINK 16 improvements for Guard and Reserve Block 25/30/32 F-16s. The funding decision should be made next month with an RFP coming in April next year and a contract award by November 2015.

  • The Pentagon’s FY14 OCO reprogramming request [PDF] asks for more money for 21 AH-64E helos and 550 Hellfire missiles among other procurement increases, offset by reduced services spending from the Army.


  • As recent polls seem to indicate that the Scots may indeed elect to quit the United Kingdom, this brings headaches to BAE Systems and its Royal Navy shipbuilding contracts.

  • President Putin is consolidating control of Russia’s defense apparatus, with the setup of a Military-Industrial Commission answering directly to him.

Mending the Soul and Body

  • Today’s video, from British Force News, explains the work done by HorseBack UK, a nonprofit set up 5 years ago in their physical and mental recovery by working with horses:

Categories: News