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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 46 min 19 sec ago

UK MOD Consolidates Military Air Traffic with Billion Pound Contract

1 hour 13 min ago

  • The UK awarded a £1.5 billion contract ($2.4B) to Aquila, a joint venture set between Thales and NATS to update and sustain military air traffic management. They’re merging what used to be about 70 contracts into a single program called Marshall, whose geographical scope extends all the way down to the Falkland Islands.

Vietnam – India – China

  • India’s and Vietnam’s prime ministers met last Tuesday and defense was on their agenda. Modi had this to say on their bilateral defence cooperation, which the Times of India quipped is a joint effort to “tame the dragon”:

“India remains committed to the modernization of Vietnam’s defence and security forces. This will include expansion of our training programme, which is already very substantial, joint exercises and cooperation in defence equipment. We will quickly operationalise the 100 million dollars Line of Credit that will enable Vietnam acquire new naval vessels from India.”

  • It will be interesting to see if the vessel deal goes to a private shipyard. India is already helping Vietnam with submarine and fighter training.

  • East Asia Forum reviews Vietnam’s military strategy:

“[A]lthough Hanoi’s effort on defence may not effectively check Beijing’s massive military power, it does provide some strategic value. First, Vietnam is able to deter China much better than before. [...] Second, Hanoi’s military modernisation may serve as a bargain chip in negotiation with other powers for security cooperation.”

  • Want China Times relays an analysis from Japan Military Review [in Japanese] saying that China may buy 5,000 air-to-air missiles from Russia, on top of the 1,500 they already bought.

Wait, Drones There?

  • French authorities would really like to know who’s flying mini-UAVs of various types nearby its nuclear plants. Some of the drones where large enough to be able to carry explosives and the matter is under judicial investigation. Quartz | Le Monde [in French].

  • A Dutch graduate student at TU Delft designed a system meant to deliver cardiac defibrillators to heart attack victims by air in record time. Sounds like something militaries would want to have a look at.

Last Post in Camp Bastion

  • John Sopko, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), delivered his latest quarterly report [PDF]. He is troubled by the fact the assessment made by ISAF Joint Command of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) capabilities is now classified. Transparency and Open Government, in practice.

  • Today’s video is an invitation to pause and reflect after 13 years in Afghanistan, as UK forces just handed over Camp Bastion to locals:

Categories: News

Israeli Plans to Buy F-35s Moving Forward

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 17:48
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In an exclusive June 2006 interview, Israeli Air Force (IAF) chief procurement officer Brigadier-General Ze’ev Snir told Israeli media that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was a key part of their IAF recapitalization plans, and that Israel intended to buy over 100 of the fighters to replace their fleet of over 300 F-16s.

Since then, however, the expected cost of that purchase has more than doubled. Israel’s F-35 contract had to deal with that sticker shock, with issues like the incorporation of Israeli technologies and industrial work, and with major schedule slips in the core F-35 program. Israel was even contemplating delaying its purchase, which would have removed an important early adopter for the Lightning II. In the end, however, Israel decided to forego other fighter options, and became the first foreign buyer of operational F-35s. So, how is the “F-35i” shaping up?

F-35 for Israel: Key Issues F-16B & X-35
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The IAF currently flies 27 F-15I “Raam” Strike Eagles and 102 F-16I “Soufa” fighters as its high-end strike force. Another 72 F-15 A-D Eagle and 224 F-16 A-D Falcon models form the backbone of its force, making Israel the world’s 2nd largest F-16 operator behind the United States.

The plan was that Israel would phase out its F-16A “Netz” models in particular. A smaller number of new F-35s would first replace the Netz fighters, and then replace more advanced F-16 A-D models. That plan is underway, but it has run into severe turbulence. The F-35 will need to address those barriers as it competes with other options for future IAF dollars.


Israel’s original estimates made their F-16 replacement plan seem feasible. They pegged a 100-plane F-35A deal at around $5 billion, and Gen. Snir added that:

“The IAF would be happy to equip itself with 24 F-22s but the problem at this time is the US refusal to sell the plane, and its $200 million price tag.”

Unfortunately, Israel’s September 2008 request for its first 75 F-35s revealed an estimated $15 billion price tag – or about $200 million per plane. All in return for a fighter with poorer air-to-air performance than the F-22, and less stealth. Defense News quoted an official in the IDF General Staff as saying that:

“It’s unbelievable, first it was $40 million to $50 million, and then they [the IAF] told us $70 million to $80 million. Now, we’re looking at nearly three times that amount, and who’s to say it won’t continue to climb?”

Unless its price drops sharply, the F-35 can expect to experience continued competing against other options for each successive IAF offer. A pending gusher of oil and gas revenues from offshore fields may make the Israelis less price sensitive, but Israel’s jets aren’t just for show. If the F-35s are seen as too expensive to support the fleet size Israel needs, the IAF will look at more affordable options to supplement their F-35is.

Capability F-22A Raptor
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Israel originally wanted a different fighter, and pressed the USA for F-22EX aircraft, in order to maintain the IAF’s traditional requirement of regional air superiority. The F-33 offers far fewer weapon choices than the F-35, but it would have been available immediately, while offering better air-to-air performance and higher stealth capabilities against the most advanced air defense systems and fighter radars. Ultimately, America’s shut-down of its F-22 program removed that option.

For Israel, F-35 capability is linked to progress in its testing and integration schedule, which has slipped very badly over the last 5 years. The F-35A Block 3, which will be fielded in 2018, will arrive with a weapon set that hardly distinguishes it from an F-22, and is far inferior to the array its existing fighters already carry.

Longer term, F-35 capability is also linked to another variable: Israel’s ability to customize it, as the IAF has done to its F-15 and F-16 fleets.

Customization Spice bomb
click for video

Access to the F-35’s software source code remains a live issue for the Israelis, as it has been with the Australians [PDF], British, and others. That access is necessary when air forces want to upgrade the aircraft’s computers, and/or integrate new weapons, communications, or electronic warfare systems. Israeli planes generally undergo heavy modifications to incorporate Israeli electronics and weapons systems, and the USA has allowed the Israelis access to the F-15 and F-16’s software. Israel has since exported a number of those enhancements for F-16 and F-15 customers in Asia and Latin America.

The USA doesn’t seem willing to bend on the software code issue for anyone, and insists on routing upgrade and change requests through Lockheed Martin, with attendant costs and possible delays.

Israel has gone ahead with an initial buy anyway, while negotiating to add key items. Israeli “F-35i” fighters will include compatible communications systems and datalinks, and provisions to insert some locally-built ECM and defensive electronics.

Israel will also want to broaden the plane’s weapons array to include Israeli weapons, as a subject of future agreements. Items mentioned in reports to date include Python short-range air-to-air missiles, and dual-mode guidance Spice GPS/IIR smart bombs. Those items are still being negotiated, and Israel’s top-of-the-line strike fighter will need even more weapons than these in order to be fulfill its role.

Israel’s Leverage

Israel didn’t get everything it wanted in its initial buy, and ended up paying considerably more than it had expected. On the other hand, it did get the USA to move on the subject of ECM defensive systems as of 2010, and may succeed in getting more changes made.

On the seller’s side of the table, Israel’s buy is a respected vote of confidence that the F-35 needs. Lockheed Martin is trying to ramp up orders for the F-35 quickly, even though the aircraft are now expected to remain in testing until 2018. A large order book would allow the firm to offer early buyers much lower prices for each plane, using dollar averaging over a substantial initial batch, instead of charging $130 – $170 million for early production aircraft, and $100 million or so for the same plane 3 years later.

That wide difference in purchase costs is standard for military aircraft of all types, but the F-35 is about 5-7 years late versus its ideal market window. Worse, American budgets are already slowing orders, with over 150 planned fighters removed from the latest 5-year plan. Potential customers with air fleets that are reaching their expiry dates are reluctant to pay those high early production costs. If enough of them defect, the F-35 program as a whole could find itself in trouble. By adding an Israeli endorsement, and adding orders during a critical period for the program, Israel’s 20-plane order assumes an importance out of proportion to its size.

The final leverage point for Israel is its solid commitment to its fighter force, and known need for future upgrades. Over time, 326 F-16s have to be replaced with some something, and an early order puts the F-35 in a strong competitive position for further orders. If volume purchases from other countries can help drive costs down closer to $80 million, and new approaches can beat current estimates of high F-35 operating and maintenance costs, the F-35 could become very hard to compete against.

Beyond the F-16s, The IAF’s F-15 Eagles will also require replacement in the coming years, which will be a competition all its own. If the F-35 falters, sharply closer defense relations with Italy could turn the Eurofighter into an option, and Boeing is spending private funds to develop a stealth-enhanced F-15SE “Silent Eagle.” The F-15SE would offer longer range, twin engines for reliability, a much wider set of integrated weapons, and IAF fleet commonalities, in exchange for less stealth than the F-35. If costs are even close to equivalent, the F-35 will have a serious competitor.

Contracts and Key Events 2011 – 2014

F-35i development contract; Major sub-contract for F-35 wings; Nevatim will be the F-35’s base; Israel may want to buy other fighters to keep its fleet numbers up.

Pilot training in the USA has been pushed back from steadily as the F-35 program faltered, and is now expected to start in 2016. The 1st F-35is would arrive in Israel around 2017.

LMCO Touts the F-35
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Oct 28/14: F-35i. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $220.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for Israel’s F-35 System Development and Demonstration Phase I Increment 2. This modification includes the development and demonstration of the hardware and software for the Israel F-35A/i. $77.8 million in FMS funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed at Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in March 2019. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract on behalf of their Israeli client (N00019-12-C-0070).

F-35i SDD

Oct 27/14: LRIP-8. Lockheed Martin announces that they’ve reached an agreement in principle for the LRIP-8 contract for 43 F-35 Lightning II aircraft, including Israel’s first 2, with deliveries beginning in 2016. They don’t have a price tag, but it’s only an agreement in principle.

As of Oct 24/14, 115 F-35s have been delivered, including test aircraft. The key isn’t the aircraft, however, it’s the software required to make it an effective combat aircraft. They aren’t there yet; indeed, that effort is behind schedule. Sources: LMCO, “DOD and Lockheed Martin Announce Principle Agreement on Purchase of F-35s”.

Oct 20/14: F-35i/ ALIS. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $7.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to provide updates for the Israeli effort to develop their F-35A/i and the Autonomic Logistics Global Sustainment system, under the Foreign Military Sales program. $2.6 million is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (70%), and Fort Worth, TX (30%), and is expected to be complete in December 2017. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract on behalf of their Israeli client (N00019-02-C-3002).

April 22/13: Industrial. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) signs a 10-15 year contract with Lockheed Martin to produce F-35 wings, with deliveries to begin in 2015. Their production will reach beyond Israel, and the contract could be worth up to $2.5 billion over its lifetime.

IAI’s Lahav production line already produces F-16 and T-38 wings, but the F-35’s manufacturing methods and challenges are a few steps ahead. IAI is investing in the required advanced systems and technologies, and working with Lockheed martin to get the new line set up. IAI.

Major sub-contract: wings

Aug 28/12: F-35i. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Ft. Worth, TX receives a $206.8 million cost-reimbursement contract modification to pay for Phase I Increment 1, of Israel’s F-35i System Development and Demonstration. This modification includes the development of hardware and software, from the initial requirements development to the Preliminary Design Review (PDR). In addition, a hardware-only post PDR will continue through finalized requirements, layouts, and build to prints, including production planning data.

Note that Pentagon contract announcements are often for the 40-50% of the total expected costs, in order to get work underway. As such, previous figures of $450 million to add Israeli radio, datalink, and electronic warfare systems could still be true. Work will be performed at Fort Worth, TX (60%); Los Angeles, CA (20%); Nashua, NH (15%); and San Diego, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete in May 2016. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD will manage this effort, on behalf of its Israeli Foreign Military Sale client (N00019-12-C-0070).

July 26/12: Reuters reports that Lockheed Martin has reached a $450 million agreement to include Israeli ECM/electronic warfare systems within the F-35i. This has been a long-standing and consistent concern for Israel, who needs to adapt immediately to new threats once information is gathered.

If an agreement is signed, the Israeli F-35Is would initially be distinguished by their radio, datalink, and electronic warfare systems, which would theoretically be available to other F-35 customers as an option. “Sources familiar with the negotiations” say that the Israeli systems would be integrated beginning in 2016, and that the deal is “to be finalized in coming weeks.”

F-35i Initial SDD

F-15I, Red Flag 04
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Dec 26/11: Other options. The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel is looking for ways to bolster its fleet before the the F-35s arrive. Phased elections in Egypt, which are beginning to hand significant power to Taliban-style Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, are creating a new strategic situation. Meanwhile, the possibility of slowdowns to the F-35 program or further cost increases leaves their affordability and timeliness in question.

Beyond upgrades to existing platforms, the Israelis are reportedly considering scenarios in which American budget cuts lead to retirement of serving F-15s and F-16s, and hence the availability of used planes at a bargain price.

Dec 12/11: Other options. The Jerusalem Post reports that delays to the F-35 program appear to be pushing Israel toward further F-16C/D upgrades, and may even trigger new aircraft buys if the multi-national program’s delivery dates slip beyond 2017.

Nov 22/11: Basing. The IDF has decided to base its F-35s at Nevatim AB, in the Negev, between Be’er Sheva and Arad. Arutz Sheva | Jerusalem Post.

June 30/11: F-35i. The IAF has sent 2 servicemen to the United States to serve as the lead technical team in the development of the F-35i, and integrate Israeli technology. It’s now believed that deliveries won’t begin until 2016-2017, and the IAF is reportedly looking at 2016 as the date for pilots to go through training in the USA. Jerusalem Post.


Negotiations lead to Cabinet approval and a contract for 20 “F-35i” planes. F135 Engine Test
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Oct 14/10: Engines. To no-one’s surprise, Israel’s F-35As will fly with Pratt & Whitney engines. Israel’s early delivery schedule meant that the F135 was the only practical engine option.

There’s also a relationship angle to this buy. Unlike the USAF, Israel has remained a steadfast Pratt & Whitney (F100 engine) client for all of its F-16s, as well as its F-15 fleets. Pratt & Whitney.

Oct 7/10: Israeli Ministry of Defense Director General (Maj. Gen. Ret.) Udi Shani signs the F-35A Letter of Offer and Acceptance at a ceremony in New York, covering 20 F-35A fighters with an option for another 55. Lockheed Martin.

Sept 16-20/10: Approval. Israeli Prime Minister’s Office:

“The Ministerial Committee on Security Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has decided to approve the deal to purchase 535 [sic, they mean F-35] stealth aircraft.”

A Sept 19/10 release adds that:

“I would like to commend the staff work that was done by the security establishment and the IDF and which led to the integration of [Israeli] systems into the plane. The plane is currently being developed and will be equipped in the coming years. This is one of our answers to the changing threats around us, to maintain our attack capabilities, along with other actions to improve both our defensive and offensive abilities in the decades to come. We will hold separate discussions on these, but I think that this step, acquiring the most advanced plane in the world, more advanced than any plane in the area, is an important and significant step for the security of Israel.”

On Sept 20/10, the Knesset (Parliamentary) Finance Committee approves the purchase of 20 F-35As plus spare parts, initial maintenance and training, and simulators, for up to $2.75 billion. That approval gives the Israeli Ministry of Defense permission to make a commitment to Lockheed Martin for the purchase of the aircraft.

20-75 F-35s

Aug 30/10: Industrial. Reuters reports that Israel’s F-35 industrial work package may well include wing assemblies, which would be done by Israel Aerospace Industries. A final deal is expected by late September 2010. Reuters adds:

“An Israeli official said reciprocal purchase deals worth $4 billion had been secured for Israeli companies for their participation in the plane’s manufacture and might be increased to $5 billion although it would be conditional on Israel exercising its option to buy the additional 55 planes.”

Aug 27/10: F-35i. Aviation Week reports that Israeli F-35s will be designated F-35i. Initial cockpit interfaces will allow installation of IAF command, control, communications, computer and intelligence (C4I) systems, via a plug-and-play feature in the main computer. They will also be able to carry a 600-gallon external drop tank to boost range. The biggest weakness will be electronic warfare systems. The U.S. will not grant Israel the source code to alter threat and jamming libraries, and so Israel must rely on an arrangement by which the U.S. will “make the required software changes to meet any new threat that might emerge in the region.” If they’re willing. When they get around to it.

Other priorities whose exact future is less certain include installing Python 5 and subsequent air-air missile in the F-35’s internal bays; initial F-35As will be restricted to American AIM-9Xs externally. Israel is reportedly interested in adding a version of the Stunner radar/infrared dual-mode anti-air missile from the David’s Sling anti-missile system, and will have to make changes to Rafael’s Spice GPS/IIR guided bombs, in order to fit within the F-35’s weapon bays.

The air force reportedly plans to receive the first JSF for test flights in the U.S. in 2015, with 3 more fighters delivered by the end of the year, another 3 in 2016, and the other 13 in 2017.

Aug 24/10: The F-35A will have to make a wider case in Israel. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz believes that a decision with such great defense and economic implications, should not be left solely to the defense minister and the Israel Defense Forces. Instead, the F-35 will be considered by a forum of senior ministers. Ha’aretz.

August 15/10: Defense Minister Ehud Barak announces formal approval for purchasing the American F-35A. Reports indicate that Israel will buy 20 jets for about 2.75 billion, and add that the deal is a “closed package” with few to no Israeli modifications. The aircraft would be delivered from 2015-2017. If Israel chooses to buy more F-35s from later production blocks, they may have more Israeli systems.

Defense Ministry Director-General Udi Shani reportedly said that one of the considerations in approving the deal was an American offer of $4 billion in industrial offset contracts to Israeli defense industries. Their exact composition will be part of negotiations and future agreements with Lockheed Martin, who already has good relations with Israeli defense firms in a number of spheres. The entire deal will be funded by American military aid dollars, and still needs the Israeli cabinet’s approval before a contract can be signed and announced. Arutz Sheva | Ha’aretz | Jerusalem Post | Ynet News || Agence France Presse | Bloomberg | Reuters.

MoD F-35A approval

July 27/10: Customization. A Ha’aretz op-ed article claims that:

“And now Israel goes hat in hand pleading for a chance to be allowed to acquire the F-35 aircraft, at a price tag of $150 million each. But it’s not only the astronomical price. Israel is told that the F-35 must be taken as is – no changes or modifications to suit Israel’s specific needs, and absolutely no Israeli systems included. Take it or leave it.

Just imagine Israel’s position today had the Lavi project not been canceled…”

That claim contradicts other reports.

July 19/10: Negotiations. Reuters reports that Israel may be just “days away” from a $3 billion contract to deliver 19 F-35s. Outgoing DSCA head Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieringa is quoted saying that: “The ball is in their court… I am waiting for them to make a decision any day.”

Lockheed Martin VP for F-35 business development, Steve O’Bryan, added that the firm is close to reaching a FY 2010 LRIP-4 production agreement with the U.S. government for another 32 planes, adding that classified briefings have been given to other countries, including Greece and Belgium, and that Finland and Spain have expressed interest.

July 8/10: F-15SE. Boeing flies its stealth-enhanced F-15SE “Silent Eagle,” for the first time, demonstrating the weapon bay operation in flight. The next stage will involve firing an AIM-120 air to air missile from the recessed weapon bay, which is part of the plane’s conformal fuel tank.

Boeing executives are also quoted as saying that they expect export approval for the F-15SE, and have received interest for Korea. A Jerusalem Post report adds Israel to this list, citing several conversations between Israeli defense officials and Boeing about F-15SE capabilities, and possible interest in a cheaper Silent Eagle bridge buy that allows full Israeli customization, while the F-35A achieves greater cost certainty and lower production costs. The F-15SE could also fit South Korea’s interest in a KFX-3 development program, which would involve both Korean research and equipment, but use a foreign fighter as the base. Both South Korea (F-15K) and Israel (F-15I) already fly Strike Eagle variants, and the 2 countries have begun to cooperate in a number of advanced defense programs. This raises interesting speculation about the possibility of tripartite cooperation on the F-15SE. Boeing | Defense News | Jerusalem Post.

April 25/10: Customization. Jane’s Defense Weekly reports that earlier expectations of an F-35 contract by the end of 2010 appear to have faded. Instead, the IAF is looking at buying 18-24 F-15 or F-16 variants as a stopgap, and may even postpone its fighter replacement program and retain F-16As in its inventory instead. Leading candidates for the additional squadron, and possible follow-on buys, would be more F-16I or F-15Is, or collaboration with Boeing to develop and field the stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle.

With respect to 3rd party equipment issues, Jane’s adds that the Americans have approved the installation of Israeli electronic warfare systems, but no decision has been made concerning RAFAEL’s Python 5 short range air-air missile, or the dual GPS/IIR guidance Spice guided bomb. UPI.

March 8/10: Negotiations. With the American F-35 program facing a delay of a year or more before its variants enter operational service, and testing going very slowly, Israel is reportedly delaying its own contract signing. A contract was originally expected in March 2010, but media reports indicate that spring 2011 is more likely.

The reports also characterize issues of Israeli technology insertion as largely resolved, but adds that delivery delays and the $130 million minimum expected cost may give a leg up to Boeing’s F-15SE “Silent Eagle,” which could be offered for $100-100 million and be available in 2011 instead of 2014-2015. Jerusalem Post | Brahmand | Jane’s | UPI.

Feb 12/10: Negotiations. UPI reports that discussions between Israel and the USA concerning the F-35 are also covering the potentially contentious area of exports to Arab countries.

Traditionally, American weapons exported to Arab countries have been less sophisticated than the same weapons sold to Israel. Saudi Arabia’s F-15S Strike Eagles are an example of achieving that through downgrade, while Israel’s F-16I “Soufa” is an example of achieving that by letting the Israelis fully customize their aircraft with Israeli equipment. Option #2 is currently a sticking point of its own in negotiations, and non-NATO downgrades or Israeli upgrades in the stealth arena would each create their own issues.


Negotiations as cost and customization concerns come to the fore; Boeing unveils stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle; F-15SE unveiled
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Nov 25/09: Customization. Jon Schreiber, who heads the Pentagon’s F-35 international program, told Reuters that an Israeli version of the F-35 could include command and control systems developed in Israel, as well as the ability to carry Israeli Python 5 air-air missiles and Spice dual-mode GPS/IIR guided bombs in early model jets. Israel would also get “a relatively inexpensive path for hardware and software upgrades to add future weapons,” by which he may mean the planned reprogramming facility for the global fleet. Ha’aretz says that the boost of an Israeli endorsement has become more important to the program:

“The Americans’ willingness to soften their stance is the result of a series of meetings held by Lockheed officials and Israeli defense establishment officials three weeks ago, and also difficulties with the project, particularly concerns that orders by countries participating in the development project will be low.”

The JSF program office is still reportedly opposed to the introduction of an Israeli electronic warfare suite, but the need for fast reprogramming and tight national security regarding Israel’s knowledge of enemy signals makes that a key Israeli condition. Schreiber is quoted as saying that policy or circumstances would have to change, in order for that restriction to change. At present, the plan is for a centralized F-35 fleet signals database and electronic warfare update facility at the United States Reprogramming Laboratory in Fort Worth, TX.

Schreiber says that the United States plans to formally submit its offer and prices in January 2010. Israel must approve this no later than March 2010, and reach a deal with Lockheed on integrating the Israeli weapons and other systems by June or July 2010, in order to buy in FY 2012 and take delivery delivery in 2015. Reuters | Ha’aretz | Jerusalem Post.

Nov 24/09: Customization. Reuters reports that:

“The United States will keep to itself sensitive software code that controls Lockheed Martin Corp’s new radar-evading F-35 fighter jet… Jon Schreiber, who heads the program’s international affairs, told Reuters in an interview Monday [that] “That includes everybody,”…acknowledging this was not overly popular among the eight that have co-financed F-35 development – Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.”

Instead, the USA plans to set up a “reprogramming facility” to develop F-35-related software and distribute upgrades. The terms on which allies might use this facility, and Lockheed Martin’s ability to stall or block upgrades that might boost competing products, are not detailed. Reuters | UK’s Daily Mail | New Zealand TV | UK’s Spectator Op-Ed.

Nov 23/09: Cost. Reuters reports that order delays and reductions by several F-35 partner countries are likely to push up prices for early buyers. With respect to Britain’s F-35B orders (vid. Oct 25/09 entry), however, F-35 international program manager Jon Schreiber says:

“The only thing that they’ve told me is that they’re currently on plan – and don’t believe what you read in newspapers…”

Nov 10/09: Negotiations. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports on F-35 negotiations and the associated issues, and lays out the timetable:

“The United States is scheduled to respond next week to Israel’s express request for 25 of the jets. Jerusalem is to reach a final decision by early 2010, and there’s a good chance a deal will be signed by the middle of the year. Assuming Lockheed maintains its original production timetable the first fighters will be delivered in 2014. Two years later, Israel will have its first operational squadron of F-35s.”

Nov 4/09: Customization. Jane’s reports that Israel has decided not to integrate any Israeli equipment into its first F-35As, in order to curtail an expected price tag of over $130 million per plane. A follow-on Nov 11/09 article in Ha’aretz reports that Israeli defense firms are not at all pleased by this development:

“This time, the defense establishment skipped over this [consultation] stage and is willing to accept the American dictate that this aircraft is a closed package [technologically] and it is very difficult to make changes to it that are specific to each client,” the [industry] official said. “The air force urgently wants this aircraft and it looks like they are going to give in, which is going to result in the Israeli industry almost not participating in the largest procurement program in IDF history.”

The country is also debating the wisdom of the purchase as a whole, with the Ministry of Defence arguing for a 2-year delay in procurement. Israel’s air force has always believed in qualitative superiority over regional competitors, but the F-35A’s 2014 delivery/ 2016 in service dates would make it irrelevant to Iran’s expected hostilities. On the other hand, the funds required could buy a lot of Namer heavy IFVs and other equipment, which would be extremely valuable during the next war in Lebanon.

Lockheed Martin is trying to keep the pressure on, saying that by 2016, F-35 production slots will already be filled by other orders and may be unavailable. The question is whether this will spur Israel to begin F-35 payments on schedule in 2010, or spur them to find another aircraft.

Oct 5/09: Cost. Aviation Week reports that the proposed international consortium buy to get allies their F-35s in time, but avoid the vastly higher price tags of early-production aircraft, may have collapsed. If so, the cost repercussions are likely to affect Israel’s calculations as well:

“A plan for a five-year, eight-nation, 368-aircraft order for Joint Strike Fighters is dead, according to a senior Australian government official. According to Australian Financial Review (subscription site) Defence Management Organization chief executive Stephen Gumley has told Australia’s parliament that a lack of interest among partners, plus US procurement rules, has killed the plan. (To “cruel” something, in Australia, means approximately the same as “kibosh” – its implication is terminal.)

Gumley also told AFR that, as a result, Australia may defer its main JSF orders by two years, to 2015 (with delivery in 2017) to avoid buying high-priced low-rate initial production aircraft.”

Other reports, such as a recent Dutch KRO-Reporter TV show, quote Lockheed Martin representatives as saying that they hope to be able to offer a firm averaged price to international partners in Q1 2010.

Sept 8/09: Negotiations. The Jerusalem Post reports that the Israeli F-35 contract signing is likely to be delayed past the target of early 2010, and continues to face problems. That may delay the F-35A’s introduction past 2014:

“A continued Pentagon refusal to integrate Israeli systems into the stealth Joint Strike Fighter will likely cause delays in the arrival of the advanced fighter jet to Israel, senior defense officials and IDF officers told The Jerusalem Post… The negotiations are still ongoing and we do not even know yet what the price of the aircraft will be,” said a top officer involved in the negotiations… Israeli demands have focused on three issues – the integration of Israeli-made electronic warfare systems into the plane, the integration of Israeli communication systems and the ability to independently maintain the plane in the event of a technical or structural problem. The British have made similar requests and according to a recent report in the Daily Telegraph is also seeking independent maintenance capabilities as well as access to some of the more classified technologies.”

July 9/09: Letter of Request. The Jerusalem Post reports that the Israeli Air Force has submitted an official Letter of Request (LOR) to the Pentagon to purchase its first squadron of 25 F-35s:

“Defense officials said that… negotiations regarding the final price of the plane – estimated at around $100 million – as well as the integration of Israeli systems would continue. The LOR will be followed by the signing of a contract in the beginning of 2010. The first aircraft are scheduled to arrive in Israel in 2014…According to senior IDF officers, the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon have reached understandings on most of the major issues…”

See also: Arutz Sheva | defpro | Turkish Daily News | Al Jazeera | Pravda | China’s Xinhua.

April 19/09: F-15SE. The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel’s Air Force is reviewing Boeing’s new F-15 Silent Eagle (F-15SE, see March 17/09), as a potential alternative to Lockheed Martin’s F-35A, if export permission for a downgraded F-22 model is still refused. While the F-35’s high cost remains an issue for the Israelis, expected delivery delays to 2014 and the inability to install Israeli-made systems appear to be bigger stumbling blocks.

In contrast, the F-15SE would be available by 2011; like an F-22EX model, some additional development will be required to finalize the design. The F-15SE offers considerably more range and payload than the F-35, for less than the F-22 would cost; possibly for less than early-model F-35s would cost. Electronics and equipment flexibility would be similar to the other F-15s Israel flies, and the potential option of upgrading Israel’s 25 F-15I Strike Eagles to a similar standard offers an additional consideration.

On the flip side, the resulting aircraft would offer significantly less stealth than the F-22, and less than the F-35A as well. This would make precision strike attacks against advanced air defense systems more difficult. It would also lack the suite of integrated, embedded multi-spectral sensors, which reach their modern apotheosis on the F-35A.

April 17/09: Negotiations. Ha’aretz reports that Israel’s F-35 negotiations are still bogged down, with cost – and more so, technology transfer and control – as the key issues.

March 19/09: Negotiations. The Jerusalem Post relays word from Israel’s Ministry of Defense, who said that Israeli systems “have already been installed in the F-35… We are holding further discussions to install further systems.”

US-built models of the jet would incorporate Israeli-made data links, radios and other command and control equipment, but would reportedly exclude an Israeli-made electronic warfare suite due to the high cost of integrating the system into the plane.

March 17/09: F-15SE unveiled. Boeing unveils the F-15SE “Silent Eagle” variant. The aircraft has slightly canted vertical tails to improve aerodynamics and reduce weight, some minor radar shaping work, the addition of coatings to improve radar signature further, and a pair of conformal fuel tanks with cut-in chambers for 2 air-to-air missiles each, or air-to-ground weapons like the 500 pound JDAM and 250 pound GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The tanks would be swappable for traditional conformal tanks if desired, and weapons could also be carried externally. BAE’s DEWS electronic self-protection system would be fitted, along with Raytheon’s AN/APG-63v3 radar that will equip all Singaporean F-15s and be retrofitted to the American fleet.

The intent appears to be to offer a “budget Raptor” in the $120 million range, with a basic radar signature that’s competitive with newer fighters like the similarly-priced Eurofighter Typhoon. Advantages would include better radar signature when internal carriage is used for long combat air patrols or limited precision strikes, a superior and proven AESA radar, longer range, and more total carriage capacity if necessary. On the flip side, it would not provide the same maneuverability options as canard equipped contenders like EADS’ Eurofighter or Dassault’s Rafale. The total package would come closer to parity with the SU-30MKI/M and subsequent versions of Sukhoi’s offerings, but may or may not measure up against longer-term opponents like Sukhoi’s PAK-FA or China’s J-XX. From Boeing’s release:

“Boeing has completed a conceptual prototype of the CFT internal-carriage concept, and plans to flight-test a prototype by the first quarter of 2010, including a live missile launch. The design, development, and test of this internal carriage system are available as a collaborative project with an international aerospace partner.”

March 17/09: Negotiations. Reuters quotes Pentagon official Jon Schreiber, who heads the Joint Strike Fighter’s international program, concerning potential buys by Israel and Singapore:

“I think our system will meet [Israel's] requirements with some tweaking, and I think they’re starting to come around to that realization themselves. They have pretty tight budget constraints and we’re attempting to fit their requirements into their budget… We expect to get a revised letter of request from (Israel) within the next month or so…”

March 14-15/09: Dave Majumdar of proposes sending Israel the USA’s recently-decommissioned F-117A stealth attack aircraft, in order to meet Israel’s needs immediately and give them breathing room to buy the F-35 at a less expensive stage. That might be an interesting policy move for the USA, but it’s not in Lockheed Martin’s interest to do so. Part 1: The Problem | Part 2: The Solution.

Feb 25/09: Negotiations. Aviation Week quotes an Israeli Air Force general who says the F-35’s price is the biggest issue, industrial participation industries is 2nd, and the tiff about replacing U.S. electronic warfare systems with local products is 3rd.

The report adds that Elta is expected to provide its own AESA radar to replace the APG-81, without U.S. complaint, but the price tag of “more than $100 million” remains the biggest problem.

Feb 10/09: Customization. Aviation Week’s Ares publishes “JSF Secrets to Stay Secret“:

“After a long period of obtuse answers about whether foreign customers would be able to put their own systems in F-35 or customize the software themselves, the issue has been clarified.

“No,” says Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, program executive officers of the Joint Strike Fighter program… They are going to buy aircraft that have basically the same capability as all the others,” Davis says. “They are trying to do a requirements analyses for future missions. Those mission [refinements] would be submitted through Lockheed Martin [and other contractors]. That [customization] is doable through software. It is not doable by Israelis sticking boxes in the airplane. [Elbit and Elta being involved] is not an option…”

The Jerusalem Post notes that this is a significant departure; Israeli F-15s and F-16s have all been modified to carry Israeli electronic warfare, radars, munitions, and command and control systems. Israel believes that electronic warfare in particular must be local and flexible, in order to counter local, evolving threats in a timely way, rather than suffering on someone else’s schedule. Its weapons are another significant area of departure, and have become successful exports while offering their own form of insurance against both countermeasures and foreign diktat. In this case, however:

“…the US refused to conduct the negotiations [on these issues] with the [Israeli] MOD until an announcement that it would procure the plane had been made. The announcement was made in October in an official request to the Pentagon.

A defense industry source familiar with the negotiations between Israel and the US said that the talks were “tough” but predicted that a deal would be reached in the coming months and that Israel would finally place an official order.”

Feb 7/09: Cost. In a talk at the Brooking Institution, JSF program head USAF Maj.-Gen. Charles R. Davis has admitted that that the average cost of F-35 fighters will range from $80 – 90 million in current dollars, but IDF sources tell the Jerusalem Post that they believe the cost per aircraft will exceed $100 million, “making it very difficult for Israel to follow through with its initial intention to purchase 75 aircraft.” Jerusalem Post.

2007 – 2008

Plans for 100 F-35As; DSCA request for 25-75; Cost becomes a concern. F-35B features
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Nov 9/08: Cost. Israel remains relatively unaffected by the global financial crunch, has $3 billion per year in military aid dollars to spend within the United States, and faces growing regional threats to its existence. Lockheed Martin is seeking to finalize early orders for the F-35, in order to assure production. It seems like a natural fit. Israel is only an F-35 “security cooperation partner,” however, and its HMDS helmet-mounted display technology is its only contribution to date.

Israel traditionally incorporates an array of its technologies and weapons into American-bought fighters. A Reuters report adds that:

“A Lockheed source said seven Israeli companies had already been contracted to contribute to the [Israeli F-35] project.

On the other hand, uncertainty over the breadth of and timing that integration, questions about F-35 delivery schedules, and pricing issues are all working against contract negotiations. There are even reports that Israel is considering a renewed request for the $180 million F-22A, which could be delivered by 2011, or for additional purchases of upgraded F-16s instead.

Reuters reports that CEO Robert Stevens visited Israel in early November to lobby for an early 2009 contract, and advanced the argument that an earlier buy would translate into greater participation. The argument is also being used that Israeli investment in technology inserts would become potential export options for other F-35 customers, as was the case with the F-16. On the other hand, Defense News quoted an official in the IDF General Staff as saying that

“It’s unbelievable, first it was $40 million to $50 million, and then they [the IAF] told us $70 million to $80 million. Now, we’re looking at nearly three times that amount, and who’s to say it won’t continue to climb?”

See also: Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper | Jerusalem Post | Israel’s Globes business paper | Reuters | StrategyPage.

Nov 10/08: F-22. Flight International reports that sticker shock over the proposed $200 million per plane price of F-35As, and a need for rapid delivery, may push Israel to renew its F-22EX request with the new Obama administration. An excerpt:

“This aircraft can be delivered in two years if the deal is approved [DID: 2011, vs. 2012-14 for F-35s], and that is very important for the security of Israel,” comments one Israeli source.”

Oct 16/08: Cost. The Jerusalem Post reports that:

“According to the officials, the IDF will likely hold off signing an official contract with the US Air Force to buy the jet, also known as the F-35, until the economic situation becomes clearer… One official said it was possible that if orders dropped, the cost of the plane would increase and that as a result Israel would need to reconsider the number of planes it will buy.”

Sept 26/08: Request. the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Israel official request to buy an initial 25 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, with an option to purchase at a later date an additional 50 F-35A or F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft. The estimated cost is $15.2 billion if all options are exercised, or about $200 million per plane as the in-service cost.

While the notice states that the aircraft could contain either the Pratt and Whitney F-135 engine or General Electric/Rolls Royce’s F-136 engine, in practice, the F135’s development and testing is far ahead of its rival’s. The initial aircraft are almost certain to contain PW’s F135 engines, which raises the odds that any option purchases will also use F135s for fleet commonality.

Israeli F-35s would also be equipped with unspecified Electronic Warfare Systems; Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence/ Communication, Navigational and Identification (C4I/CNI); Flight Mission Trainer; Weapons Employment Capability, and other Subsystems, Features, and Capabilities; F-35 unique infrared flares; and External Fuel Tanks. These new aircraft would also require: Flight test instrumentation; Unique systems or sovereign requirements; Reprogramming center to add new threats to the F-35′ defensive systems; Software development/ integration; Hardware/ Software In-the-Loop Laboratory Capability. Finally, maintenance will involve F-35 Performance Based Logistics services including Autonomic Logistics Global Support System (ALGS); Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS); aircraft ferry and tanker support, support equipment, tools and test equipment, spares and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documents, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics and program support.

The prime contractors will be Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX, and either Pratt & Whitney Military Engines in East Hartford, CT (extremely likely) or General Electric Fighter Engine Team in Cincinnati, OH (very unlikely). Because these systems are so new, implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Israel involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, program management, and training over a period of 15 years. U.S. contractor representatives will be required in Israel to conduct Contractor Engineering Technical Services (CETS) and Autonomic Logistics and Global Support (ALGS) for after-aircraft delivery.

Official request

F-35A head-on
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Oct 25/07: Early delivery? Israel may begin taking deliveries of the F-35 in 2012, a couple years earlier than expected and only slightly after the USA begins receiving production aircraft of its own. The timing and technology agreements reportedly came in the wake of a Washington meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and may represent an attempt to deflect Israeli calls for an export version of the F-22A Raptor, which has more stealth and capability, and whose production line is currently scheduled to close in 2010.

Read “F-35s to Israel Early?” for full coverage.

June 21/06: Plans for 100. Israel’s globe’s Online interviews Brigadier-General Ze’ev Snir, who confirms that the IAF is looking to replace its F-16s with the F-35, at a cost estimated at at least $5 billion for 100 aircraft, or about $50 million per. That figure was always very questionable, given the F-35 program’s price increases and the additional costs associated with placing a new aircraft type in service.

The F-35 also fits into a broader modernization effort. Israel is also reportedly considering several near-term IAF procurements, including a possible buy of 6 C-130J Hercules transports plus associated support & equipment at a cost of about $500 million [requested July 2008, up to $1.9 billion], as well as a $100 million upgrade of Sikorsky CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters to extend their operational lifespan by 20 years. See full Globes Online article.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

You Can Track Your F-35s, At ALIS’ Maintenance Hub

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 16:38
Keeping track of…
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For the last 50 years, newer fighters have been sold as requiring less maintenance than their predecessors, due to technical advances. As people like Chuck Spinney and the Congressional Research Service have documented, the reverse has been true.

That decades-long defense death spiral has finally reached a point where it’s prompting musings about the collapse of American TacAir, and European countries with their small and dwindling defense budgets are also strongly affected. If the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter was to have any hope of becoming a commercial and operational success, it needed to change that operating cost dynamic. To do that, Lockheed Martin, BAE, and the international JSF team have turned to embedded HUMS (Health & Usage Monitoring System) diagnostics. Even that probably won’t be enough, absent integration with the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) – which an IEEE paper has described as “perhaps the most advanced and comprehensive set of diagnostic, prognostic, and health management capabilities yet to be applied to an aviation platform.”

What’s On ALIS’ Menu? The Problem Got to be better
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Escalating complexity in electronics, engines, wiring, etc. delivers better capabilities, but creates multiplying points of failure. Each component may be more reliable than its predecessors on an individual level, but the math ensures that they fall short together. More maintenance equals more money spent.

In addition, escalating complexity makes fixes in the field more difficult – and sometimes impossible. This shifts more maintenance to large, specialized rear-echelon depots, which in turn requires more transportation of parts, and more infrastructure. That costs money.

The rearward shift also ensures either longer turnaround times, a larger parts inventory of expensive equipment, or both. So operations & maintenance costs rise again.

To make matters worse, not only does each new generation of fighter aircraft sport a price tag that rises faster than inflation, it’s also less available for flight than its predecessors. Lower readiness magnifies the impact of the numbers cuts from higher prices, by creating a drop in operational aircraft that’s even sharper than the drop in replacement purchases.

The military’s reaction is to keep numbers up by keeping aircraft in service for much longer periods, hence the aging aircraft issue that plagues the USAF and most other air forces around the globe. New aircraft types are also expected to serve longer, of course, which drives up their initial costs coming out of the design stage. And the flat spin continues.

Enter ALIS Building the F-35
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The goal of Lockheed Martin’s ALIS is to counteract the lowering readiness curves and higher maintenance costs that consistently correlate with advancing technology in fighter jets. Ultimately, they want to change the traditional 10 man-hours maintenance per 1 hour of flight ratio. Each F-35 will constantly monitor its own systems via Health and Usage Monitoring systems (HUMS) components, and automatically relay information to ALIS.

The aircraft’s technical breakthroughs with self-reporting wiring will be especially helpful, as diagnosing and fixing electrical issues is an especially large and difficult problem with most aircraft. One that tends to escalate with age.

Once that data is collected and fed in, ALIS will provide an information infrastructure that captures, analyzes (autonomously or with human intervention), identifies, and communicates F-35 characteristics and data, providing information and decision support for every F-35 customer via a global network. That way, each national F-35 fleet benefits from the global experience of all fleets. The F-35 aircraft’s health and maintenance orders, and even the location of parts, will be generated through ALIS. To close the loop, ALIS will contain easily-updated interactive technical manuals, and track maintenance issue resolution.

ALIS integrates a variety of commercial-off-the-shelf applications, in addition to its proprietary programming. Key software contributors include the UK’s IFS Applications (supply chain management) and Trilogi (interactive technical manuals), Canada’s MXI Maintenix (aviation maintenance management), and Siebel (CRM communications, maintenance request tracking, etc.).

ALIS will also interface with the Norwegian JSF4I project, which is targeted at small and medium size defense operators who might seek to use different national systems instead of, or as a supplement to, ALIS.

All of which leads us to the most important question: will even ALIS be enough? Only time, and experience, will tell.

Contracts & Key Events FY 2014

DOT&E verdict: not ready for prime time and nothing is stable; USMC: buggy system may need human overrides; ALIS vs. Christine? Say “aaaah…”
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Oct 28/14: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $391.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to provide recurring sustainment support for delivered F-35 Lightning II systems – including, but not limited to: ground maintenance activities; action request resolution; depot activation activities; ALIS operations and maintenance; reliability, maintainability and health management implementation and support; supply chain management; and activities to provide and support pilot and maintainer initial training for the USAF, USMC, US Navy, and international partners. $360.3 million in FY 2014 and 2015 budgets is committed immediately, using budgets from the American services and international partners.

Work will be performed at Fort Worth, TX (35%); El Segundo, CA (25%); Warton, United Kingdom (20%); Orlando, FL (10%); Nashua, NH (5%); and Baltimore, MD (5%), and is expected to be complete by Nov 30/15. This contract was not competitively procured by US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD, according to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-15-C-0031).

Oct 20/14: ALIS Israel. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $7.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to provide updates for the Israeli effort to develop their F-35A/i and the Autonomic Logistics Global Sustainment system, under the Foreign Military Sales program. $2.6 million is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (70%), and Fort Worth, TX (30%), and is expected to be complete in December 2017. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract on behalf of their Israeli client (N00019-02-C-3002).

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish.

“Three of the program’s critical technologies are nearing maturity while one is immature. The program has made progress addressing technical risks including the helmet mounted display, which is needed for the aircraft to fully perform its missions, and the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), which is critical to the operations and sustainment of the fleet. The program recently chose to end development of an alternate helmet due to progress made on the original helmet design and work on development of a newer generation helmet. ALIS integration and testing continues with the next, more capable version expected to be delivered in 2014.”

March 28/14: ALIS v2 SDD. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $52.1 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to develop ALIS Standard Operating Unit Version 2 (SOUv2) phase 3. Phase 3 includes integration of the SOUv2 with both the ALIS sustainment system, and the F-35 jet.

$37.8 million is committed immediately from FY 2013 USAF and FY 2014 USN/USMC budgets, with $9.1 expiring on Sept 30/14. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (70%) and Fort Worth, TX (30%), and is expected to be complete in August 2015. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-02-C-3002).

ALIS v2 development

Feb 25/14: Human override. ALIS is featured in the CBS News TV show “60 Minutes,” which focuses on the fact that ALIS can’t be overridden when it does dumb things. For instance, grounding functioning aircraft thanks to a faulty part database, against the recommendations of the pilots and maintainers.

Machine diagnostics can sometimes catch things that all the human miss. They also make mistakes, and the law of large numbers already makes sure that there will be more mistakes than fortuitous discoveries. When a system isn’t performing well (q.v. Jan 28/14), higher odds of making a mistake times number of opportunities for error can and will make a system impossible to rely on. Senior officials like program manager Gen. Bogdan and USMC Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle are doing what should have been done from the outset, and publicly committing to a system that can be overridden “in a measured way.” Which is to say, false groundings and Action Request issues will remain higher than they could be, but lower than the machine alone would dictate. Sources: Defense Tech, “Let Humans Override F-35 ‘ALIS’ Computer: Bogdan”.

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The short version is that there’s a huge need for ALIS. Fully 25-30% of F-35 downtime involves waiting for Action Request responses, due to “inadequate technical data in the field.” That problem is expected to worsen over the next 2 years, but ALIS is “immature and behind schedule,” with “shortfalls in functionality and data quality integrity.”

Before F-35 Block 2B software can begin operational utility evaluation, they must correct deficiencies in ALIS 1.0.3, finish development of ALIS 2.0, and integrate the propulsion module in ALIS 2.0.1, which is required for Marine Corps Initial Operational Capability (IOC). Unfortunately, v1.0.3 still has 3/4 critical Category I deficiencies unfixed from v1.0.2, and “diagnostic system performance has failed to meet basic functional requirements, including fault detection, fault isolation, and false alarm rates.” Meanwhile, the program has discontinued the development of all enhanced diagnostics for the remainder of SDD – which is to say, until 2020. In the field, ALIS is being avoided by using manual workarounds, built-in tests, and contractor support personnel, “for more accurate diagnostics of system faults.”

It’s hard to move forward with software when you’re still fixing fundamental flaws. Especially if you also have to make the Squadron Operating Unit (SOU) a smaller and lighter “SOU V2″ at the same time, as “a critical delivery item for meeting Service IOC dates” and support F-35 Block 2B, 3i, and 3F planes.

To sum up: The hardware isn’t stable. The existing code/feature base isn’t stable. And it’s necessary to add a lot of new capabilities on top of that. Nothing is stable, which is a very, very serious problem in technical development.

To cope with this, the F-35 Program Office has divided the SOU V2 development into 3 increments. SOU V2 and ALIS 2.0.1 are needed to begin testing at Edwards in January 2015. That’s already a challenging timeline, and if it slips so do Initial Operating Capability dates that already border on the fanciful.

Subsequent increments have no current funding plan. ALIS Increment 2 would provide sub-squadron reporting capabilities, and inter-squadron unit connectivity. ALIS Increment 3 would add decentralized maintenance capability, without connectivity to the main SOU.

Dec 4/13: Bogdan update. Program Executive Officer Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan gives an update on the F-35 program at WBR’s 2013 Defense Logistics conference. He readily acknowledges that software remains the program’s number 1 risk, with an even larger number of lines of code around the aircraft – about 12 million – than within it (about 9 million, though a Product Support Manager later tells us that the total has grown towards 26 million lines of code). ALIS is a significant part of that mix, and is one of the many moving parts still very much in “catch up mode.”

Bogdan says Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney have not yet “earned the right” to be the product support integrators on the program, and he’d like to keep competition “everywhere we can” and as much as possible. To that effect, we asked Lt Gal Bogdan his thoughts on how ALIS’ delays could affect the government’s ability to compete F-35 support, and there’s the issue of operating ALIS itself. Part of the root problem is that ALIS had not initially been developed with the same rigor as the software running the jet itself, brushed aside as “just a logistics system.” It has been moved under the main software development team to hopefully improve coding standards.

Another sticking point we inquired about is data rights, which Bogdan said nobody asked about until about 18 months ago. He thinks the government should own the data rights as much as possible, and wants to fight hard to secure them, but admitted that these discussions with Lockheed Martin, involving lawyers on both sides, are “nowhere near done.” Bogdan had made a similar statement at another conference in March 2013, so 8 months later the timeframe for these support-related competitions remains rather fuzzy, somewhere within the next 24 months. On the administration of ALIS itself, the use of organic and/or contractor staff is still under consideration, but for Bogdan the idea that you’d “need a bunch of contractors” on base paid to be watching computers “doesn’t pass the giggle test.” Opportunity for a public/private partnership under title 10?

Bogdan sounded much more confident on the overall production schedule and how little impact the slippage of a few fighter orders from the Marines or US Air Force should have on the big picture – if the international customers stick to their own buying schedules that is. Incidentally, Lockheed Martin was sued by Command Technology Inc. over (lack of) access to F-16 technical manuals in digital format, so one may expect the prime contractor not to readily open systems that are critical to maintenance, and maintenance competition, unless they really have to.

The Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office at the Pentagon reportedly had a cost review scheduled for the fall 2013, though that office has no director since Christine Fox’ departure in June 2013, and any public news have yet to emerge from that review. With her appointment as acting deputy defense secretary, these issues may rise to a higher profile. Ms. Fox had indicated in her testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in May 2011 that software integration was one of two key drivers behind the increase in development cost and schedule, which she said her office had been pointing out while underestimating the magnitude of the impact. Smart people try to avoid making the same mistake twice.

FY 2011 – 2013

Report from OUE testing; F-35 projected O&M cost not coming down. Getting there?
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March 20/13: Australia. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives an unfinalized, not-to-exceed $9.8 million modification for Australian-specific non-recurring support activities. It includes ALIS equipment and sustainment and logistics support, and will be bought under the LRIP Lot 6 contract. $4.9 million is committed immediately.

Australia was set to buy 2 F-35As for IOT&E preparation under LRIP Lot 6. The timing of their follow-on buy of 12 F-35As may be uncertain, but this contract seems to indicate that they’ll buy the 2 IOT&E jets.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (35%); El Segundo, CA (25%); Warton, United Kingdom (20%); Orlando, FL (10%); Nashua, NH (5%); and Baltimore, MD (5%), and is expected to be complete in January 2019. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-C-0083).

March 6/13: DOT&E OUE. The NGO POGO gets its hands on a copy of the Pentagon’s Operational Utility Evaluation for initial F-35A training, dated Feb 15/13. With respect to ALIS, the OUE notes that it lacks a backup power supply, which can create unsafe temperatures for the system if there’s a base power outage or generator failure in hot conditions. This has already happened in thunderstorms. Beyond that, “continuity of operations plans are not written and procedures for off-site storage of back-up data are not in place.” The lack of back-up data is inconvenient and a loss, but the former would seriously impair operations. Full Report [PDF]

Nov 16/12: Hacked. Reuters reports that ALIS is at 94% of final capability, but a changing computing landscape has bitten it. A Navy “Red Team” hacked into the ALIS system. ALIS reportedly includes both classified and unclassified data streams, and the 2001 specifications didn’t require separating them to prevent intrusions. That was reportedly all the Navy team needed, and this kind of failure to plan for computer attacks doesn’t reflect especially well on all concerned.

Lockheed Martin was surprised by the result, but say that they’ve developed a “fairly straightforward fix” that didn’t involve major adjustments. The bad news? The political exercise of choosing F-35 suppliers in nearly every U.S. state, and beyond the USA, increases general exposure to cyber attacks.

The latest version of ALIS has been in use at Edwards AFB, CA for several months. It’s also scheduled for use by the Marines at Yuma, CA this year, and by Nellis AFB, NV when Lockheed delivers 4 F-35s for testing within the next month or 2. Meanwhile, The Pentagon is looking to compete ALIS operation, and F-35 maintenance, beyond Lockheed Martin, in an attempt to drive down rising Operations & Maintenance cost projections. Reuters.


Nov 14/12: During an industry day dedicated do ALIS an overview [PPTX] of the system’s purpose, capabilities, infrastructure, and administration needs is released.

April 3/12: F-35 schedule & costs. Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman takes a deep look into the Pentagon’s latest Selected Acquisition Reports, which was released on March 30/12. Excerpts:

“Another three-year slip to initial operational test and evaluation, the culmination of system development and demonstration, which now is due to be complete in 2019 – the target date is February but the threshold date is October… it appears that the main culprit is software and hardware, mainly in terms of… sensor fusion and emission control – that take place in the fighter’s main processor banks… In what follows, I’m going to use average procurement unit cost (APUC)… recurring flyaway is the lowest cost, but neither the US nor anyone else can put an aircraft on the ramp for that money. And all numbers are base-2012… The APUC for the F-35A in 2013-14 is $184-$188 million, versus $177m (2009 dollars) for the last F-22s. And that is at a much higher production rate.”

Most ominously for the F-35’s future cost structure:

“Although the basis of the numbers has been changed, the SAR still compares the F-35A with the F-16, and shows that the estimated CPFH [DID: Cost Per Flight Hour] for the F-35A has gone from 1.22 F-16s in the 2010 SAR to 1.42 today – versus 0.8 F-16s, which was being claimed a few years ago. Where is that operations and support money going to come from?”

SAR: dates slip, O&M rises

Sept 16/10: LRIP-4. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $424.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee advance acquisition contract modification, for sustainment activities in support of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s LRIP Lot IV production. Sustainment activities will include autonomic logistics information system (ALIS) operations and support, block upgrade and concurrency modification planning, site activation, training systems, and support equipment.

This modification combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($62.0M/ 15%), U.S. Air Force ($135.7M/ 31%), U.S. Marine Corps ($194.5/ 46%), and international partners ($32.2M/ 8%). The work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (35%); El Segundo, CA (25%); Warton, United Kingdom (20%); Orlando, FL (10%); Nashua, NH (5%); and Baltimore, MD (5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-09-C-0010).

FY 2001 – 2010

ALIS development contracts, and support inclusions; Norway going its own way.

July 2/09: LRIP-3. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $441.9 million modification, finalizing the previously awarded Joint Strike Fighter LRIP Lot 3 advance acquisition contract (N00019-08-C-0028, see also March 25/09 and June 2/09) to a cost-plus-incentive-fee/award-fee contract.

This modification adds performance based logistics support and hardware to support the ordered aircraft: 7 USAF F-35As, 1 Dutch F-35As, 7 U.S. Marine Corps F-35B STOVL, and 2 United Kingdom (UK) F-35Bs. It also includes material necessary to support activation of JSF bases; 2 Aircraft Systems Maintenance Trainers; 1 Weapons Loader Trainer; 2 Full Mission Simulators; 1 USMC and 1 UK Deployable Mission Rehearsal Trainer; 16 LM-STAR avionics test stations; hardware and software for the Integrated Training Center; Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) shipboard certification and deployment for American aircraft carriers; ALIS depot trade study; and associated technical and financial data.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (42%); Fort Worth, TX (37%); El Segundo, CA (9%); Nashua, NH (2%); Baltimore, MD (1.5%); Cleveland, OH (1.2%); Rolling Meadows, IL (1.1%), San Diego, CA (1%), Warton, United Kingdom, (4%); and Cheltenham, United Kingdom (1.2%); and is expected to be complete in December 2011. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity.

Dec 4/07: ALIS. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Ft. Worth, TX receives a $38.5 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract to provide for the design, development, integration and testing the Joint Strike Fighter autonomic logistics information system (ALIS) central point of entry system.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (67%) and Fort Worth, TX (33%), and is expected to be complete in October 2013. The Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, MD issued the contract (N00019-02-C-3002).

April 30/07: The ALIS system is formally switched on during a ceremony at Lockheed Martin, and will begin receiving data from the test planes. By aviation program standards, it’s an extremely early introduction for this sort of application.

Formal switch-on

Nov 9/06: The JSF4I (Joint Strike Fighter International Information Interchange Initiative) consortium is led by Det Norske Veritas (DNV), with CORENA Norge AS, Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace, and Jotne EPM Technology as equal partners. The NOK 24.3 million (about ) contract from the Norwegian government is aimed at small and medium size defence operators who might seek to use different national systems instead of, or as a supplement to, Lockheed Martin’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) maintenance hub for the F-35 fleet. Lockheed Martin is a participant as well, contributing $800,000 and helping to ensure interoperability.

The Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation’s terms of reference were that the JSF4I solution must be based on the international standards ISO 10303-239 (PLCS) and ASD/AIA S1000D for exchange of information between systems. The CORENA release covers a contract to support JSF4I’s exchange of product support information between the F-35 prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, and the national defense organizations who will be operating the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft.

Norway’s parallel JSF4I

Oct 26/01: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives an $18.98 billion cost-plus-award-fee contract for the Joint Strike Fighter Air System Engineering and Manufacturing Development Program. “The principal objectives of this phase are to develop an affordable family of strike aircraft and an autonomic logistics support [ALIS] and training system.”

This family of strike aircraft consists of 3 variants: F-35A conventional takeoff and landing, F-35C aircraft carrier suitable, and F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing. Under this contract, the contractor will be required to develop and verify a production-ready system design that addresses the needs of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and the United Kingdom. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (66%); El Segundo, CA (NGC, 20%); and Warton/Samlesbury, United Kingdom (BAE, 14%), and is expected to be complete in April 2012. This contract was competitively procured through a limited competition; 2 offers were received (Boeing’s X-32 was the other). The Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, MD issued the contract (N00019-02-C-3002).

Additional Readings

DID would like to thank by John Batchelor for permission to use his F-35B schematic in our article.

tag: ALISmaintenance, f-35alis, f-22perhour

Categories: News

Moving Target: Raytheon’s GBU-53 Small Diameter Bomb II

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 16:07
GBU-53/B, aka. SDB-II
(click to view full)

The 250 pound GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb gives American fighters the ability to carry more high-precision GPS-guided glide bombs, without sacrificing punching power against fortified targets. The initial award to Boeing was controversial, and the Darlene Druyun corruption scandal ultimately forced a re-compete of the Increment II development program. Whereas the initial GBU-39 SDB-I offered GPS-guided accuracy in a small and streamlined package, the goal of the GBU-53 SDB-II competition was a bomb that could hit moving targets in any weather, using a combination of guidance modes.

For the SDB-II competition, Boeing found itself allied with Lockheed Martin, its key opponent for the initial SDB-I contract. Its main competitor this time was Raytheon, whose SDB-II bid team found itself sharing its tri-mode seeker technology with a separate Boeing team, as they compete together for the tri-service JAGM missile award against… Lockheed Martin. So, is Raytheon’s win of the SDB-II competition also good news for its main competitor? It’s certainly good news for Raytheon, who wins a program that could be worth over $5 billion.

Raytheon’s GBU-53 Small Diameter Bomb SDB-II: cutaway
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Raytheon’s GBU-53/B SDB-II is 7″ in diameter around the tri-mode (laser, IIR, radar) seeker, with a clamshell protective door that comes off when the bomb is dropped. A GPS receiver adds a 4th targeting mode. The bomb tapers to about 6″ diameter beyond the pop-out wings, and is about 69.5″ long. The wings remain swept back when deployed, and are about 66″ across with a 5 degree anhedral slope. The bomb weighs about 200 pounds, and all of these dimensions are important when trying to ensure that the US Marines’ F-35B, with its cut-down internal weapon bays, can still carry 4 of them per bay.

The US Navy is developing a Joint Miniature Munitions BRU to address internal F-35 carriage, and SDB-II also fits on BRU-61 external bomb racks. No word yet on whether the JMM BRU will also fit in the USAF’s F-22A, which is also slated to deploy this weapon.

Range is expected to be up to 40 nautical miles when launched at altitude, thanks to a high lift-to-drag ratio in the design. Since SDB-II is an unpowered glide bomb, its actual range will always depend on launching altitude and circumstances. An F-22A would be able to extend that range significantly by launching at supercruise speeds of Mach 1.5, for instance, as long as the bomb proves safe and stable at those launch speeds.

SDB-II’s Attack Modes: Seekers & Sequences SDB-Is on F-15E
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Once a target is picked by the pilot, initial communication and GPS coordinates are transmitted between the aircraft and the SDB-II bomb using the Universal Armament Interface (UAI) messaging protocol, which was designed to make integration of new weapons easier. The post-launch datalink will be Rockwell Collins’ TacNet, a 2-way, dual band link that enters the network quickly using encrypted UHF radio frequencies from the ground or secure Link-16 from the launching aircraft, and provides both weapon and target status to the shooter. TacNet’s datalink software is programmable if other frequencies/waveforms need to added in future, and Raytheon cites a message speed of 38 messages per minute as further evidence of the system’s ability to keep pace with future needs. Link-16 makes the weapon part of a much larger system, and gives SDB-II the ability to be dropped by one platform and then targeted or re-targeted by another. The bomb can also be sent an abort command, if necessary. If the link is lost, the bomb will continue with its mission, using its own on-board seekers.

Raytheon’s SDB-II contender uses a close precursor of the tri-mode seeker technology featured in the joint Raytheon/Boeing bid for the JAGM missile, which adds some refinements. The SDB-II uses jam-resistant GPS/INS targeting like Boeing’s GBU-39 SDB-I, but its added seeker features 3 modes of operation: semi-active laser, millimeter-wave radar, and uncooled imaging infrared. By combining these 3 modes, the GBU-53 can have excellent performance against a variety of target types, under any weather conditions, while making it much more difficult to use countermeasures or decoys successfully:

GBU-53 uses IIR/MMW
click for video

Semi-active laser guidance. This is standard for a wide range of missiles and rockets, and offers the best on-target accuracy and assurance, especially in urban environments. Its flip side is problematic performance through heavy fog, sandstorms, etc. That’s where GPS/INS guidance to a specified coordinate, and the next 2 fire-and-forget modes, come in.

Millimeter wave radar will operate through any weather. It’s especially good at distinguishing metal targets and noting movement, and is used in weapons like AGM-114 Hellfire Longbow missiles to give them “fire and forget” capability. These days, most people probably hear the term and think of airport scanners.

Imaging infrared (IIR) This was adapted from the much larger AGM-154 JSOW glide bomb, and uses high-resolution thermal scans to create a target picture. It also helps with target identification, and offers better performance against some kinds of targets like humans. By using an uncooled IIR seeker, the bomb lowers both its cost and its maintenance requirements. The uncooled seeker also allows snap-attacks against targets that present themselves quickly, since the it doesn’t need any time to cool down before it begins to work.

GBU-53 uses laser
click for video

Once launched, the SDB-II relies on a sophisticated package of internal computing and algorithms that are designed to get the most out of its tri-mode sensors, and make the process of launch and targeting as simple and flexible as possible for the pilot. The GPS/INS system or datalink messages guide the bomb toward the target during the initial search phase, while the tri-mode seeker gathers initial data. A revisit phase combines information from all of its sensor modes to classify targets. That’s especially useful because the SDB-II can be told to prioritize certain types of targets, for example by distinguishing between tracked and wheeled vehicles, or by giving laser “painted” targets priority.

SDB-II warhead test
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Different targets require different warhead types, which is why the GBU-53 contains a warhead from General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems that delivers shaped charge, blast and fragmentation effects all at once. A scored blast and fragmentation warhead makes it deadly against buildings and people as well.

This warhead was actually redesigned mid-way through the development phase, as the USAF added a requirement to destroy main battle tanks. That initial hardship became a positive experience, as the redesign actually ended up shrinking Team Raytheon’s bomb’s size, and improving its manufacturing costs.

SDB-II: The Program

As of 2013, the Boeing SDB-I/ GBU-39 Small Diameter Bob program was finished production at 12,300 weapons, and 2,000 BRU-61 bomb racks. Another 350 specialized Focused Lethality Munitions use carbon fiber bodies to deliver more near-field blast and less collateral damage; their last order was in FY 2012. Going forward, SDB-II is expected to be the default buy.

The overall program target for SDB-II is about 17,000 weapons over about 11 years: 12,000 bombs for the USAF, and 5,000 for the US Navy. Initial fielding will take place on USAF F-15E Strike Eagles, and F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, even though the USMC and US Navy’s F-35B/C Block 4s are technically the program’s 2nd “threshold aircraft. Software development issues are likely to push F-35 fielding to 2022 or later in practice. Planned candidates for future fielding include F-16, F-22A, and F-35A multi-role fighters; B-52, B-1B, and stealth B-2A bombers; and MQ-9 Reaper drones.

Special Operations Command is even considering it for their AC-130 gunships, though they aren’t an official “objective” platform just yet. SDB-II was also supposed to equip the USAF’s A-10C close support planes, but the Pentagon is battling Congress to cancel the program.

The GBU-53 may also feature integration with other fighters, if the bombs are sold abroad. Raytheon isn’t in discussions with any foreign buyers yet, and doesn’t foresee the US government releasing the weapon for export discussions and sales before Low-Rate Initial Production begins in late 2014.

SDB-II schedule, 2010
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The SDB II Program is currently a $450.8 million Fixed Price Incentive Firm-type Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract. F-15E integration is being accomplished by Boeing in St. Louis, MO through the F-15 Development Systems Program Office using Air Force SDB II funding. The F-35B and F-35C aircraft integration contract will be awarded to Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter JPO using Department of the Navy SDB II funding.

Elements of the SDB-II design have been tested, but putting the entire weapon together with its carrying aircraft and declaring the combination ready for fielding is still a development effort. Although many military development efforts are “cost-plus” (contractor’s costs plus an agreed percentage), the US military issued the SDB-II EMD Phase development contract as a fixed-price contract with incentives. The targeted flyaway cost per unit during Full Rate Production was $FY05 62-81k, but that doesn’t include amortized development costs; just the bomb, container, and shipping. Current Pentagon documents indicate that $FY19 100-125k per unit is likely.

Right now, the key challenge is making it through the development process successfully. The program is progressing well, but in FY 2011 it hit a funding shortfall from Congress that has crimped its progress. Past and projected budgets include:

Raytheon’s Industrial Approach

Before it won the SDB-II development contract in 2010, Raytheon had secured firm-fixed price quotes in for 90% of required materials from its suppliers, and conducted detailed planning for whole program that includes reservations for setbacks and project margins. These are necessary steps for any fixed-price development program, but this is a good illustration of the fact that it’s often the work done before contracts are signed that determines a program’s fate.

In terms of the industrial team, Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ will be the final assembly center, with key items and assemblies coming in from several supply-chain partners:

  • General Dynamics OTS: Fuze and dual-mode shaped charge blast/fragmentation warhead.
  • Klune Industries: Overbody.
  • Rockwell Collins: TacNet dual-band (Link-16, UHF), 2-way datalink.
  • Raytheon Dene at NAPI, NM: Aft section.
  • Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ: Tri-mode seeker.
  • The program also uses Goodrich and Cobham to make the bomb’s deployment mechanisms, and Celestica will be manufacturing circuit cards.

Raytheon executives said that they took a somewhat different supply-chain approach to the SDB-II, picking suppliers early and then working directly with them to improve productivity at every step. While Raytheon prototyped their final assembly line, and began using lean production techniques to reduce the amount of “touch labor” and improve productivity, they brought in suppliers to do the same thing. For instance, Celestica engineers were embedded with the team, in order to run their own producibility tools on circuit card designs and refine them to improve yield and costs. Rockwell Collins, who makes the datalink, did the same thing. This is not uncommon in general manufacturing, but defense manufacturing has traditionally been more stovepiped.

Within Raytheon itself, another key industrial choice involved the uncooled infrared seeker. As noted above, uncooled infrared has lower performance than cooled infrared designs, in exchange for snap-attack capability, better reliability, and lower production and maintenance costs. If Raytheon wanted to use this aproach, they would have to begin early, and take a risk. Their engineers worked to adapt the IIR seeker in their 2,000 pound AGM-154 JSOW as a starting point, and they did eventually produce a version that fit SDB-II, was cheaper to manufacture, and more than met government requirements.

Raytheon’s initial team during development will be about 300, but this is expected to drop below 50 for production phase – in part because Raytheon has already used lean techniques, and focused from the beginning on creating a design that was simpler to manufacture.

Minimum Sustaining Rate for production is just 30 weapons/ month, with normal production at 117 and maximum surge production rising to 250/ month. Projected American buys through FY 2019 never top 140/month, which should leave plenty of room for export orders.

Contracts and Key Events FY 2012 – 2014

Cheaper than expected – but F-35 lateness could endanger that; F-35 is biggest risk; Phase 1 testing done; GAO Report. The biggest risk
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Oct 28/14: JMM. Raytheon Technical Services LLC in Indianapolis, IN a sole-source $35 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for F-35 integration of the Joint Miniature Munitions Bomb Rack Unit (JMM BRU), including integration and life cycle technical support throughout the technology development and engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD); and EMD F-15 flight test and production phases.

Work will be performed at Indianapolis, IN and is expected to be complete by Aug 31/21. USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8672-15-D-0054).

June 26/14: Testing. Raytheon and the USAF have concluded a series of SDB-II GTV flight tests using the IIR/MMW seeker, culminating in direct hits on stationary land targets. Those can be harder to hit than moving targets, which naturally stand out more against fixed object ground clutter.

The GTVs are full GBU-53 rounds, but with telemetery in place of the warhead. Raytheon says that there have been other Guided Test Vehicle shots between October 2013 and this announcement, including moving target shots, as part of the testing program. Live-fire shots with full warheads are expected in August or September 2014. Sources: Raytheon, “Small Diameter Bomb II nears end of development phase”.

April 16/14: Exports. The Pentagon releases is next set of Selected Acquisition Reports, which includes a reference to exports:

“SDB II is a Defense Exportability Features (DEF) pilot program and meetings were held on January 15, 2014 with the DEF Program Office, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), Office of the Director, International Cooperation and Raytheon Missile Systems (RMS). The Program Office is working with RMS to incorporate a Phase II approach for implementing design changes to support exportability requirements. The Program Office briefed the Tri-Service Committee on January 16, 2014 and a favorable decision memorandum was received on February 4, 2014.”

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. Our program dashboard has been updated accordingly. SDB-II still has good looking cost figures and a stable design, with 11/12 sub-system (all but the seeker) passing qualification testing. Bad news? There are a couple of flaws that need to be fixed, and its schedule is out of margin.

The System Verification Review has slipped 7 months to August 2014, due in part to 2 test failures (cover stuck on seeker, navigation error). They’ve also found a leak in the warhead case, and seeker encoders that died under vibration testing. The seeker encoders have a fix ready by the time the GAO report closed, but not the case leak. Meanwhile, the program resumed testing again in October 2013, and the 3 tests since went well. They need 11 total successful flight tests to pass Milestone C into low-rate production, including 2 live fire events. It amounts to 7 successful flight tests remaining over 5 months.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget/ R&D. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The “flyaway” cost per SDB-II is expected to hover around $242,000 in FY 2014, but costs are expected to drop to around $125,000 by FY 2018. Totals are reflected in the chart above. The reports also call attention to the development of an new internal bomb rack for the Navy, which is considered to be part of the program’s overall R&D:

“The Joint Miniature Munitions Bomb Rack Unit (JMM BRU) is an Air Force (AF) led ACAT III program. It is required for the Department of the Navy’s (DoN) carriage of the SDB II weapon in the internal bay of the F-35B and F-35C…. The BRU-61/A, currently in production in the AF, does not meet the needs to operate with SDB II within the F-35 internal bay in the DoN environment. The JMM BRU, designated BRU-61A/A, fills the capability gap….”

No US Navy buy totals are given in the detailed budget justifications, but the Budget Briefing contains the expected figures for FY 2017 – 2019; which indicates that the USN will be buying SDB-II at the USAF’s flyaway cost. This USAF budget justification excerpt is also relevant:

“As a result of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) (F-35) programs restructure, SDB II integration was moved from the JSF Operational Flight Plan (OFP) Block 3 to Block 4. IOC is FY2020.”

The program office hasn’t officially changed the date, in other words. F-35 OFP Block 3F operating software might be ready by 2020, but the Norwegians have been told to plan for 2022 – 2024 as the window for actual fielding of F-35s with operational Block 4 software, and hence Kongsberg’s new JSM anti-ship missile.

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The SDB-II is included in passing:

“This project addresses the inaccuracies in engineering models to predict sympathetic detonation of solid rocket propellant when subjected to non?reactive fragments and shaped charge threats. The Air Force 780th Test Squadron tested the ability of the small diameter bomb [DID: SDB-II in the labeled picture] warhead to detonate 122 mm rocket motors. The test results were compared with predictions from Sandia National Laboratories’ Combined Hydro and Radiation Transport Diffusion Hydrocode by Applied Research Associates. Analysis is ongoing, and is expected to enable further development of concepts and methodologies for enhanced vulnerability, lethality, and survivability in the area of insensitive munitions and non-reactive materials.”

Oct 29/13: Testing resumes. Raytheon announces that the USAF has concluded its series of test flights with the SDB-II GTV, using the bomb’s Imaging Infrared and Milimeter-Wave Radar guidance and culminating in “direct hits on targets moving at operationally representative speeds.” Next? System Verification Review and a Milestone C decision, which is behind schedule.

This is actually the 1st set of tests following a 6-month testing moratorium, which was prompted by seeker cover and navigation failures in previous tests. The firm says that the USAF has invested over $700 million in the program so far. Sources: Raytheon, Oct 29/13 release.

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. Overall, SDB-II is a stable design with maturing technologies. It successfully completed a test in its most difficult Immediate Attack sub-mode, but another test failed when the front sensor’s protective dome cover refused to come off.

They’re working on that urgently, as more delays to the Milestone C/ LRIP (Low-Rate Initial Production) decision risk re-negotiation of the Pentagon’s LRIP-1 through LRIP-5 production contract years. If so, it would raise costs that had come in substantially under budget. Meanwhile, Raytheon will build 50 GTV bombs for testing and live fire before beginning Low-Rate Initial Production, which is expected to involve a whopping 40% of planned GBU-53 lifetime orders (math says about 6,800 bombs).

Unfortunately, SDB-II/ GBU-53 has been affected by the F-35’s lateness, which has forced postponement of SDB-II’s Full Rate Production decision by another 2 years, to 2020. The GPS-only SDB-I will now integrated with the F-35 2 years ahead of the SDB-II, and so will other weapons with more sensitive thermal and vibration requirements. That will help the Pentagon discover whether the F-35s conform to their design documents, or whether weapon changes will be required in several weapon types including the GBU-53. Meanwhile, SDB-II will deploy aboard the F-15E.

Jan 22/13: Testing. Raytheon touts a successful fit check of the GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II in the F-35A, with 4 GBU-53s loaded alongside an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. Essentially, the 4 SDB-IIs replace one 2,000 pound JDAM.

The weapons seemed to have adequate space, though flight testing will be needed to be sure. The F-35B will be a more challenging test, because its internal bay is smaller.

July 17/12: Testing. An F-15E Strike Eagle flying over White Sands Missile Range, NM launches a GBU-53/B, which successfully engages and hits a moving target using its tri-mode seeker’s IIR and radar sensors. Raytheon.

March 30/12: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012, which include the GBU-53. Overall, the GAO sees good progress, with 97% of design drawings releasable by the 2011 Critical Design Review, and serious efforts to achieve manufacturing maturity before production. As with any early stage EMD program, however, risks remain. The biggest may be Congressional management of weapons procurement:

“A postdesign review identified several risks related to weapon effectiveness verification, target classification, seeker reliability, and JSF [F-35B/C Block 4] integration. The program office is working to address each of these risks… However, the program’s biggest risk – integration with the JSF – will not be resolved until after [low-rate initial] production begins… The SDB II program office is managing a $53 million funding shortfall in fiscal year 2011, which could have programmatic and contractual implications. The SDB II contract is an incrementally funded, fixed-price incentive contract, and program officials stated that the funding shortfall could mean that the next part of the work will have to be deferred or the contract will need to be renegotiated or terminated.”

March 30/12: SAR shows success. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 31/11 includes the SDB-II, and validates many of Raytheon’s releases:

“Small Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II) – Program costs decreased $994.1 million (-19.1%) from $5,206.6 million to $4,212.5 million, due primarily to a decrease in the estimate to reflect actual contract pricing (-$994.3 million).”

That’s 23.6% less than the baseline estimate, a very impressive achievement for any weapons program.

Good contract

Nov 16/11: Testing. Raytheon says that things are going very well for the SDB-II’s warhead, and the entire program is on cost and ahead of schedule:

“After building the test warheads on the production line, engineers put the warheads through an accelerated conditioning regime equivalent to 500 flight hours and 20 years of aging in a bunker, followed by live detonation testing… [It] performed at twice what was required…”

Nov 8/11: Industrial. Raytheon announces that its engineers have used design changes and other improvement approaches to cut the time for building SDB-II uncooled tri-mode seekers almost in half, from more than 75 hours to 40 hours. This is part of Raytheon’s efforts to meet their promised prices.

FY 2010 – 2011

Raytheon wins; Program baseline set; Early industrial work & tests. SDB-II test pod
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Aug 16/11: Industrial. Raytheon announces that they’ve built their 5th GBU-53 tri-mode seeker in its new automated factory, which is dedicated to tri-mode seekers. That specialization may be helpful to other programs as well. Tom White, Raytheon’s SDB II program director, says that:

“Building integrated tri-mode seekers is much more complicated than just putting together three unrelated sensors, and our fifth build proves Raytheon is the only company with the technical expertise to manufacture [them]… We’re meeting predicted component build times, and as we continue to mature the program, we will find other efficiencies and cost savings we will pass on to the customer.”

Aug 8/11: Testing. Raytheon says that a series of laboratory tests on the SDB-II’s tri-mode seeker “demonstrated that it exceeds anticipated performance parameters.” Good job.

July 28/11: Support. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a maximum $70 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide Small Diameter Bomb II technical support. The AAC/EBMK at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages the contracts (FA8672-11-D-0107).

April 4/11: CDR. Raytheon announces that the SDB II program completed a USAF critical design review (CDR), clearing the way for the weapon to begin captive flight testing later in 2011.


Nov 15/10: SAR Baseline. The Pentagon releases its Selected Acquisition Report for the September 2010 reporting period. With respect to SDB-II, the total expected program cost is listed as $5.21 billion, if it continues through planned production:

“This was the initial SAR following Milestone B approval authorizing the program to enter the engineering manufacturing and development (EMD) phase in August 2010. The EMD phase contract was awarded to Raytheon Missile Systems for $450.8 million. [The gating decision for] Low Rate Initial Production (Milestone C) is planned for August 2013.”

Program baseline

Nov 2/10: Sub-contractors. Rockwell Collins announces what Raytheon had already confirmed: its TacNet datalink will be part of the GBU-53.

Rockwell Collins’ TacNet data link system is a small form factor, dual-channel, 2 waveform terminal that enables in-flight target updates, retargeting, weapon handover coordination, bomb hit assessments and better cooperation with other networked platforms.

Aug 9/10: Contract. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $450.8 million contract to cover the GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II program’s engineering and manufacturing development phase. Delivery is expected to begin in 2013, with a required availability date in late 2014.

At first, the SDB-II will be integrated on the USAF’s F-15E Strike Eagles, the US Marines’ F-35B, and the US Navy’s F-35C aircraft. The F-35Bs should just be entering service by 2013, but the F-35Cs aren’t expected to enter service until after SDB-II deliveries begin. Raytheon Missile Systems president says that their design “fully meets the load-out requirements for all versions of the fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s internal weapon bays.” SDB-II integration is also expected to extend to other USAF and US Navy aircraft and UAVs over time. At this time, $23.5 million has been committed by the Miniature Munitions AAC/EBMK at Eglin AFB, FL (FA8672-10-C-0002).

During the fly-off’s technical demonstration program, Raytheon had to prove that its compact tri-mode seeker could seamlessly transition between guidance modes, and demonstrate claimed performance and reliability. Raytheon says that their GBU/53-B seeker flew 26 missions in 21 days, without a single hardware failure. Raytheon.

Raytheon wins EMD Phase

FY 2009 and Earlier

Protest derails; New early-phase awards; Big design changes. SDB-I: separated.
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2008: Design shifts. Mid way through the 38-month risk reduction program, Team Raytheon is faced with challenges on 2 fronts. One challenge was the need to carry 8 SDB-II bombs in the cut-down internal bomb bay of the F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) fighter. That meant the weapon had to become shorter, always a challenge when space is at a premium. The second challenge came from the USAF, which wanted a weapon that could disable main battle tanks. That meant the blast & fragmentation warhead the team had begun with wasn’t going to work.

In response, GD OTS started work on an innovative ‘multi-effects’ warhead. It would use a shaped charge plasma jet to kill tanks, and a scored case design improved fragmentation effects to the point that USAF engineers reportedly dubbed it “the shredder.” Meanwhile, seeker electronics had to be repackaged in a way that provided a clear path for the plasma jet. As it happens, the warhead and seeker changes allowed the bomb to become shorter, and the seeker changes made it easier and cheaper to manufacture. Raytheon would go on to win the competition. Aviation Week.

April 17/06: Contracts. The Headquarters Air-To-Ground Munitions Systems Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, FL awards 2 cost-plus fixed-fee R&D contracts under the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) Increment II, 42-month Risk Reduction Phase. The purpose of the Risk Reduction phase is to define and validate a system concept that meets the performance requirements outlined in the SDB II System Performance Specification. Successful tests with modified JDAM recently, and weapons like Israel’s Spice GPS/INS/EO “scene-matching” bombs, strongly indicate that success is possible. Solicitations began December 2005, negotiations were complete in March 2006, and work will be complete in October 2009. The 2 winners will be competing for selection in 42 months as the prime contractor for the SDB II program, which has a potential value of $1.3-1.7 billion.

Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, MO receives a $145.8 million contract (FA8681-06-C-0151). This is actually a Boeing/Lockheed venture as of October 2005; prime contractor Boeing will supply the weapon and data link system, while principal supplier Lockheed Martin provides the multi-mode seeker that lets it hit moving targets. That leaves Boeing’s original Small Diameter Bomb partner, Northrop-Grumman, out in the cold.

Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ received its own $145.8 million contract (FA8681-06-C-0152), and is competing on its own.

Risk Reduction Phase

Feb 18/05: GAO protest. The Congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustains Lockheed Martin’s protest. It finds that Darlene Druyun had played a role in the bid process that led to changes in the bomb’s technical requirements, and the deletion of related evaluation criteria. The GAO recommends a re-opened competitive procurement for the program’s $1.7 billion second phase, which had previously been awarded to Boeing and Northrop-Grumman along with SDB-I.

In September 2005, the USAF decided to re-open the Small Diameter Bomb Increment II competition. Increment II was originally awarded to Boeing and Northrop-Grumman as part of the overall SDB award.

Protest sustained

Additional Readings

DID thanks Raytheon Missile Systems, including SDB-II Deputy Program Director Murali Krishnan and Jeff White of Air Warfare Systems, for their assistance. Any errors are our own damn fault.

Categories: News

Spain Announces Procurement Revival But Reportedly Faces Poor Jet Readiness

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 15:50

  • After years of belt-tightening by postponing procurement programs, Spain’s Defense State Secretary Pedro Argüelles (a former Boeing executive), announced a €10B investment plan that includes F-110 frigates and 8×8 infantry vehicles, writes La Semana [in Spanish]. Spain’s economy is starting to recover from a deep-seated post-bubble crisis, but that comes at the cost of painful adjustments [The Telegraph].

  • A Spanish news website reports that according to anonymous sources within the Spanish Air Force, only 6 of the 39 Eurofighters are fully ready to fly. This will bring Schadenfreude to their German peers. El Confidencial Digital [in Spanish] | The Local.

Euro Pooling

  • American, Czech and Slovak air defence units tested last week their interoperability in sharing air space information. While this involved ground-based radars and missiles, it’s also a crucial proof of concept for proposals to integrate the Czech and Slovak fighter fleets in a joint defense concept.

  • It didn’t take long to Russia to test [The Local] Germany’s Eurofighter deployment in Estonia set up last month [Estonian World] to support the Baltic Air Policing mission.

  • EU members Belgium, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, as well as Norway, agreed to start [EDA] work on future Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) capabilities called MMCM-NG (New Generation) in a spurt of creativity.

Aussie SAR

  • Cobham has won a 12-year, A$ 700 million contract [PDF] to provide 4 modified Bombardier Challenger 604 jets for search and rescue (SAR) services. Australia’s SAR territory is a jaw-dropping 52.8 million km2, over 1/10 of the earth’s surface. A number of different bodies are involved in related activities, but the AMSA SAR contract is separate from Cobham’s multi-year CoastWatch border patrol contract as a matter of both focus and geography.

J-31 Prototype

  • According to the PLA’s China Military Online, a prototyope of the J-31 stealth fighter will be shown at the Zhuhai airshow next month. China Defense Blog and Alert 5 have purported pictures of test flights made ahead of the show.

Helicopters! Hum the Soundtrack of Your Choice

  • Today’s video was shot earlier this month by the US Marines at Final Exercise 3 (FINEX-3) near Yuma, AZ, with their CH-53E Super Stallions:

Categories: News

Japan Orders Upgrades for its 4 E-767 AWACS

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 15:23
Japanese E-767
(click to view full)

In May 2006, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Japan of four sets of Airborne Early Warning (AEW) and Command, Control and Communications (C3) mission equipment/Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) Group A and B kits, plus spares and services to ensure complete AWACS mission equipment supportability, for subsequent installation and checkout in 4 previously procured E-767 Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft.

Boeing delivered the 4 AWACS E-767s to Japan between 1998-1999; they have been in service since 2000.

AWACS RSIP Comes to the E-767 JASDF E-767
(click to view full)

The E-767 AWACS (Airborne early Warning And Control System) aircraft entered service in 1999, which is young for an aircraft, but very old indeed for a computer. Physically, it offers 50% more floor space, and nearly twice the volume, of the 707-based E-3 AWACS in service with other countries. While this volume is put to good use by the JASDF, improvements to key systems as are necessary as technology marches inexorably forward.

RSIP increases the AWACS aircraft’s radar sensitivity, allowing it to detect and track smaller targets. It also improves the radar’s electronic counter-countermeasures, upgrades the existing computer with a new high-reliability multi-processor, and rewrites the software to improve the interface and facilitate future maintenance and enhancements.

E-767 interior
(click to view full)

The kit is built principally by Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, MD under a subcontract to Boeing. It consists of a new radar computer, a radar control maintenance panel, and software upgrades to the radar and mission system programs. RSIP kits have been installed on the American, British, NATO and French 707-based E-3 AWACS fleets; as of December 2006, Northrop Grumman has completed delivery of 60 RSIP radar systems to the U.S. Air Force, United Kingdom, NATO, and France.

A follow-on program begun in 2013 rounded out those improvements by improving the core mission computer and cryptography, adding the most up-to-date Identification Friend-or-Foe systems, and upgrading the Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system that detects and geo-locates radars and communications emitters.

Contracts & Key Events 2013 – 2014

Japanese E-767
(click to view full)

Oct 28/14: Boeing Defense Space and Security division in Kent, WA receives a maximum $25.6 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee to design and produce the E-767’s new mission control unit for 4 E-767 aircraft and 3 ground support facilities. It will include mission computing, electronic support easures, traffic alert and collision avoidance system, interrogator friend or foe transponder and next generation IFF, automatic identification system, and data link upgrades.

Work will be performed at Kent, WA and is expected to be completed by Feb 28/15. USAF Life Cycle Management Center in Hanscom AFB, MA (FA8730-15-C-0003).

March 11/14: Boeing Defense, Space and Security in Kent, WA receives a $10.8 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract modification for trade studies and analysis related to Japan’s DMS 3.X AWACS mission computing upgrade. Work will include requirements planning, and buying enough mission computing hardware to keep the planes going until their scheduled retirement. Good idea – it’s probably best not to be buying that stuff on the Chinese grey market.

The contract falls under Japan’s basic AWACS modernization and sustainment contract, and work will be performed at Kent, WA, and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2014. USAF Life Cycle Management Center/HBSK at Hanscom AFB, MA manages the contract on behalf of Japan (F19628-01-D-0016, #0097 mod 001).

Sept 26/13: The US DSCA announces Japan’s official export request to upgraded its 4-plane E-767 AWACS fleet’s command and control capability. The Mission Computing Upgrade (MCU) would include 4 Electronic Support Measure (ESM) Systems for registering and locating enemy radar and communication emitters, 8 AN/UPX-40 Next Generation Identify Friend or Foe (NGIFF) systems, 8 AN/APX-119 IFF Transponders, and 4 KIV-77 Cryptographic Computers. It also includes various kinds of support equipment, plus US Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $950 million.

This upgrade would make Japan’s AWACS fleet more compatible with the USAF’s E-3G Block 40/45 fleet baseline. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, WA is the principal contractor, and implementation of this proposed sale would require multiple installation, testing, technical reviews/support, and training trips to Japan over a period of 8 years. Source: US DSCA, Sept 26/13.

DSCA: Computing/ ESM/ IFF upgrades

2006 – 2012

JASDF flybys

April 6/11: Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a $35.7 million fixed-price contract modification to perform the upgrades to 4 Japanese E-767 AWACS aircraft.

Work will be performed at Kent, WA. The Aerial Air Surveillance Systems Division at Hanscom AFB, MA manages the contract (F19628-01-D-0016).

Dec 17/10: Boeing in Seattle, WA receives an $88 million contract to buy the RSIP and mission navigation system upgrade installation and checkout for the JASDF’s 4 E-767s. At this time, $47 million has been committed by the ESC/HBSKI at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale customer (F19628-01-D-0016; Delivery Order 0072).

Nov 30/10: The US DSCA announces [PDF] a formal request from Japan to buy installation and checkout for both the 4 E-767 Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) extended Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Group A and B kits it has purchased, and their accompanying enhanced command, control and communications (C3). The request also includes transportation of the E-767s to/from Japan, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support.

The estimated cost is $119 million. The prime contractor will be Boeing in Seattle, WA. There are no known offset agreements proposed, and implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government and contractor representatives to Japan.

DSCA: install & test

July 23/10: Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, WA received a $6 million contract for mission navigation systems upgrades to the JASDF’s 4 E-767s. At this time, all funds have been committed. The ESC/HBSKI at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA manages this contract (F19628-01-D-0016; Delivery Order 0065).

Aug 8/07: Boeing Co. in Kent, WA receives an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contract modification for $110.2 million to exercise a software option for Japan’s E-767 AWACS Radar System Improvement Program (J-RSIP). At this time, $6.6 million has been obligated. This work will be complete in January 2009. The Airborne Early Warning & Control Systems Group at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA issued the contract (F19628-01-D-0016-0050/Mod #05).

Dec 18/06: Northrop Grumman Corporation received a contract from The Boeing Company to provide 4 Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) kits for Japan’s E-767 fleet, spares and repair parts, support equipment, technical publications and documentation, services and other related program elements to ensure complete AWACS mission equipment supportability. A follow-on installation and check-out contract is planned to begin in 2010.

The total value could be as high as $73 million if the additional option is exercised. See Northrop Grumman release.

Nov 15/06: Boeing announces a $108 million Radar System Improvement Program (RSIP) contract for Japan’s AWACS fleet. Boeing is the original supplier of the E-767.

May 2/06: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Japan’s request for E-767 C3/RSIP upgrades. The Foreign Military Sale was contracted through the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA, and also includes spare and repair parts, support equipment and technical documentation. Installation of the kits will occur during a follow-on contract. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale, and implementation does not require the assignment of any U.S. Government and contractor representatives to Japan.

The announcement placed the total purchase value as high as $147 million if all options are exercised, but subsequent developments seem to have pushed that total higher.

DSCA: radar upgrades

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Canada, Australia Contract for Heron UAVs

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 18:42
Heron 1, Canada
(click to view full)

Israel Aerospace Industries’ Heron is a large MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAV in the MQ-1 Predator’s Class. It is primarily used as a surveillance UAV over land and sea, and can be equipped with a number of modular radar, sensor, and even electronic intelligence packages. The 2006 war in Lebanon also demonstrated that they could be armed, if necessary. Herons are known to serve with Israel (Heron 1 and Heron TP), India, Turkey, and in France as the EAGLE/ Harfang variant. They have also been used successfully by US SOUTHCOM as drug interdiction aircraft; a leasing deal with El Salvador is reportedly pending, and Brazil is also showing interest.

Canada has a long-term JUSTAS program that includes UAVs in this class, and the Heron will fill the Phase 1 near-term MALE UAV requirements – but the longer-term procurement choices remains in limbo. Meanwhile, the Heron UAV was leased to serve the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, under an August 2008 arrangement. In 2009, Australia added itself as a second customer.

Contracts & Key Events ADF Heron, in-theater
(click to view full)

The Canadian contract involved 4 Heron systems, providing 550 hours of surveillance per month. The Ardea partnership that supplies and operates these UAVs for Canada and Australia parallels Britain’s interim lease of Hermes 450 UAVs from the UTaCS consortium of Thales UK and Elbit Systems. The Heron lease involves Elbit’s Israeli rival IAI, and Canadian surveillance & aerospace firm MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA).

Oct 28/14: Australia. The ADF decides that they want to keep 2 Herons in Australia for 6 years, at an estimated cost of A$ 120 million. One Heron already operates as a trainer at the Woomera test range in restricted military airspace, and a 2nd will now return to Australia. They’ll be accompanied by portable ground control stations, renovations to facilities at RAAF Base Amberley, and an extended contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. for maintenance work and training. The contract extension with MDA will be funded from within the existing RAAF budget.

Australia wants to keep UAV capabilities on tap, while improving their understanding of advanced UAVs in advance of their planned MQ-4C Triton buy. Meanwhile, the Herons can play a part in integrating UAVs into civilian airspace, responding to national disasters as appropriate, keeping an eye on Australia’s borders, or protecting other ADF deployments. Operations will be expanded over time from Woomera to other military and civilian airfields, as required. Sources: Australia DoD, “Heron to be retained to keep Australia’s unmanned aerial capability”.

Australia keeping Herons

July 9/14: Australia. Australia has been asked by ISAF to extend their Heron detachment’s presence in Kandahar to the end of 2014; which is to say, another 6 months. Sources: Australian Aviation, “RAAF Heron mission to Afghanistan extended”.

Dec 11/13: Australia. Australia contracts with MDA to maintain Heron-1 surveillance for the Australian Defence Force from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan until the middle of 2014. Sources: MDA, “MDA continues surveillance service for Australian Defence Force”.

Australia extension

Sept 6/12: Australia. MDA announces 2 contract amendments with the Commonwealth of Australia. One extends MDA’s Heron-1 UAV service for the Australian Defence Forces for another 2 years. The 2nd covers a 3-month “assessment activity that will provide critical information in support of Australia’s efforts in Afghanistan.”

MDA says that the combined contract value of these 2 amendments is over C$ 100 million (about the same in US dollars). Sources: “MDA extends surveillance service for Australian Defence Force”.

2-year extension

July 11/11: Australian extension. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) extends its contract for MDA’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capabilities. Under this extension, MDA will provide a 3rd year of UAV surveillance operations for the ADF’s deployed forces in Afghanistan, from January through December 2012. Terms are not disclosed. Australian DoD | MDA.

March 23/11: MDA, Inc. announces contract amendments “in the multi-million dollar range” to provide additional hours of UAV surveillance for Australia in Afghanistan, and begin UAV flying training of ADF personnel in Australia.

Australia extensions

Nov 9/10: Sub-contractors. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is operating its Herons with Sentient’s Kestrel Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI). Kestrel detects any small movements in the field-of-view and alerts operators, who may not have the target in their field of view at the time, or may have their attention on another area.

Sentient is based in Melbourne, Australia, and their Kestrel Land MTI was developed as a part of the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation’s Capability and Technology Demonstrator Program. Kestrel MTI is also deployed on Australia’s ScanEagle UAVs. Sentient release | Australian Aviation | Shephard Group

Nov 1-2/10: MDA suspends, then resumes flights of Australia’s Heron UAVs. The move was a precautionary measure, pending advice from IAI, after a Sept 28/10 crash in which the landing gear in the nose failed to deploy. Australia DoD.

Sept 3/10: Crash 2. Australia’s Daily Telegraph reports that the RAAF has crashed 2 Heron UAVs – 1 in July, while training in Canada, and another in June at Kandahar. The Australian government has tried to keep the crashes quiet, but some costs are clear enough to report.

UAVs are cheaper, and offer longer endurance, but they do have a higher accident and loss rates than manned aircraft.


June 4/10: Crash. A Heron UAV operated by the RAAF crashes short of the airfield at Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. Replacing the sensor suite cost $1,094,810.38, while the UAV damage assessment bill from Canadian operator MDA was $110,000. Airframe repair costs are reportedly outside of those verified charges. Australia’s Daily Telegraph.


May 18/10: Canadian extension. MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. announces a contract amendment with Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), exercising the 1st 6-month option to extend Heron operations in Afghanistan for the Canadian Forces Afghanistan. The extension will last through June 2011, and Canada is scheduled to leave Afghanistan in July 2011.

Canada extension

Jan 13/10: Australia. Australia’s first leased Heron-1 UAV has begun initial operations in Afghanistan under Under Project Nankeen. Australian DoD | DoD photos | Flight International.

Heron Unpacking
(click to view full)

Dec 10/09: Australia. The first Heron UAV is delivered for use by Australia. Its designation number will be A45-262, and operations are expected to begin in early 2010. Australian Aviation | SatNews Daily.

Sept 7/09: Australia’s contract. Australia’s government will lease Heron UAVs and support from MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., for use in Afghanistan. The surveillance solution will be operational in early 2010 for a period of 1 year, with options for an additional 2 years. Australia already leases smaller ScanEagle UAVs from Boeing, in a similar arrangement.

For the Herons, the Australian Defence Force has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Forces, and Australian personnel trained in Canada have already been absorbed within the Canadian Heron UAV Detachment at Kandahar airfield, conducting combat operations in support of ISAF’s Afghan mission. Australian Ministerial release | MDA release.


July 2009: Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Army personnel undertake Heron UAV training in Canada. Source.

MDA Heron-1
(click to view full)

Aug 7/08: Canada’s Heron contract. MDA announces the “Project Noctua” Canadian contract, adding that its surveillance solution will be operational in Afghanistan before February 2009. The initial C$ 95 million (then about $90 million) UAV operations and training contract will keep the Herons in service until early 2011, with a C$ 35 million option for an additional 3rd year. MDA release.


July 10/08: MDA and IAI are promoting the Heron UAVs as a cheaper option for search-and rescue (SAR) and related surveillance tasks over Canada’s boreal forests and northern regions. An exercise in Suffield, Alberta involves the Heron UAV finding the wreckage of a ‘crashed’ Cessna, and coordinating the ‘rescue’ of Canadian MP Art Hangar. The Canadian Civil Air Search and Rescue Association attended and commented approvingly, and the Discovery Channel filmed the exercise. MDA release | Red Deer Advocate story, PDFs.

Aug 29/07: Sperwer’s procurement problems. The Montreal Gazette reports that Canada’s Department of National Defense, and its counterparts in Public Works Canada, are putting troops in danger by failing to act on problems with Canada’s UAVs in Afghanistan:

“The use of Sperwer unmanned aerial vehicles, known as UAVs, in Kandahar is being hindered by extremely hot temperatures, the aircraft’s limited endurance as well as serviceability issues, military officers said privately. Those limitations also have resulted in gaps in surveillance during recent firefights in the Kandahar area, putting soldiers at risk… But the firm handling the Sperwer contract, Rheinmetall Canada, says it’s been standing by for months with low-cost improvements… [but] has yet to hear back from the Defence Department… the company has produced a new launcher for the Sperwer that will increase its endurance by 50 per cent… [and] can be delivered in 15 days… the company also informed the Defence Department months ago it has a more powerful engine that also will significantly increase its endurance.”

Additional Readings

  • IAI – Heron.

  • Israeli Weapons – Heron.

  • MDA’s site for its UAV services.

  • NATO Joint Air Power Competence Center magazine (Edition #13, April 14/11) – Full magazine [PDF]. 2 articles of note: “Impact of a Combat Air Wing – Canadian Air Power in ISAF” and “Project Noctua: A Model for Enhancing NATO UAV Capability.”

Categories: News

France’s Future SSNs: The Barracuda Class

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 17:32
SSN Barracuda cutaway
(click to view full)

In December 2006, France’s Defence Ministry awarded a contract for nuclear-propelled fast attack submarines to state-owned warship builder DCN and nuclear energy group Areva-TA. The contract’s total value could be as high as EUR 8.6 billion, and it is set up as an initial EUR 1.0-1.4 billion contract (reports vary), followed by 6 options (tranches conditionnelles) to cover development expenses, the production of more submarines, and through-life support during their first years of operational service.

All ships wear out over time, and the repeated squeezing and relaxing experienced by submarine hulls make their replacement times less negotiable. The USA began introducing their new-generation NSSN Virginia Class fast attack boats in 2004, and Britain’s problem-plagued SSN Astute Class followed in 2010. Now, it’s France’s turn to renew its SSN fleet, as DCNS works to supply 6 Barracuda Class submarines between 2016-2027.

The Barracuda SSN Program

The program’s total value was initially set at EUR 7.9 billion (then $11.13 billion), but has since risen to EUR 8.6 billion ($12.32 billion in 2011). The contract was set up as an initial EUR 1.0-1.4 billion contract (reports vary), followed by 6 options (tranches conditionnelles) to cover production of the other boats, development, and support during their first years of operational service. Subsequent orders have not revealed costs per boat, however, just inferences about creeping overall program costs.

The first Barracuda Class submarine is still expected to enter service in 2017, with the other 4 following every two years (2019, 2021, 2023, 2025) and then the 6th and last boat due to be commissioned in 2026-2027.

Within the DCNS/Areva TA programme consortium, DCNS will act as the submarine prime contractor, including responsibilities as overall architect, platform and propulsion system prime contractor, systems integrator, nuclear safety studies coordinator and through-life support prime contractor. The Barracuda Class will be built at DCNS’ Cherbourg shipyard.

Areva TA will act as prime contractor for the nuclear powerplant, and NucAreva will take around 15% of the contract’s value. The nuclear propulsion unit, derived from that developed for the “Le Terrible” SSBN nuclear missile submarine, will be supplied by Areva TA under the prime contractorship of the French atomic energy commission (CEA). Other contractors include:

  • Colfax-Imo Pompes (oil pumps & fluid handling)
  • EADS Astrium (life support)
  • GE Oil & Gas subsidiary Thermodyn (turbo-generators and propulsion turbines)
  • Sagem subsidiary Safran (surface detection system – radar & optronic masts)

Per the planned dates above, the team has yet to launch a submarine, let alone deliver one. Submarines under construction or on order include:

  • Suffren
  • Duguay-Trouin
  • Tourville

Other named submarines of class include:

  • Duquesne
  • Dupetit-Thouars
  • De Grasse

Replacing the Rubis: The Barracuda Class SSN Rubis Class SSN
(click to view full)

The Barracuda program will meet the French Navy’s operational mission needs by providing replacements for its 6 current-generation nuclear attack submarines. Displacing 5,100-5,300 tonnes submerged, at 99m long and 8.8m in diameter, the new Barracuda Class will be about twice as large as the Rubis Amethyste Class boats they will replace. Indeed, they are roughly the same size as the Royal Navy’s existing SSN Trafalgar Class boats. They are designed to remain smaller than the USA’s new 7,300t Virginia Class SSNs, however, or the new and slightly larger British Astute Class SSNs.

Despite their relatively modest size, the Barracudas will have sharp teeth. A set of 4 x 533mm launch tubes will be able to fire its stored armament of up to 20 heavy weapons, in whatever combination of new short range F21/Artemis heavyweight torpedoes, medium-range SM39 Exocet anti-ship missiles, A3SM (Mica) anti-aircraft missiles, and stealthy long range MdCN Scalp Naval cruise missiles is on hand. The class will also be able to accommodate mines or carry 12 commandos, whose equipment can be carried in a mobile pod attached aft of the sail. One key unanswered question will be the type’s ability to launch and retrieve UUV robots, beyond options that can be launched and recovered via torpedo tube.


A diving depth of over 350 meters (about 1,150 feet) and a top speed of over 25 knots are both forecast by DCNS. The Barracuda Class’ regular crew level will be 60, and the boats will be designed for operational cruises of up to 70 days, in contrast to the current Rubis Amethyste Class’ 45 days.

As a final advantage, Barracuda’s K15-based nuclear propulsion is designed to offer 2 substantial advantages over existing French boats. The first advantage is that instead of requiring refueling once every 7 years, the new design will extend its time between RCOHs (refuelling and complex overhauls) to 10 years. This translates into higher at-sea availability over the life of each ship. The USA’s Virginia Class, whose reactors aren’t forecast to need refueling over the boat’s expected 30-year life, are significantly ahead in this respect. Nevertheless, the Barracuda’s propulsion will have a second advantage that Virginia Class boats won’t share: it plans to use same nuclear fuel that powers French civilian nuclear power stations. Given France’s significant use of nuclear power, this commonality is expected to drive fuel costs down sharply.

SMX Ocean: A Conventional Export Derivative SMX Ocean

At EuroNaval 2014, DCNS unveiled their 4,750t SMX Ocean diesel-electric attack submarine concept. It’s much closer to operational reality than past concepts, as it’s based on the basic Barracuda layout, masts, and combat system.

Switching out the nuclear reactor does create a bit more space, even with 2nd generation fuel cell technology added to give the submarine submerged endurance of 3 weeks. A cable-and-collar “saddle” system can be added for deployment and retrieval of UUVs from a mid-body chamber, and a detachable mobile pod aft of the sail can carry a special forces swimmer delivery vehicle. Behind the UUV bay, a 6-shooter for vertically-launched cruise missiles like MBDA’s MdCN/ Scalp Naval is complemented by internal frontal space for 28 weapons in any combination of heavyweight torpedoes, Exocet anti-ship missiles, A3SM anti-aircraft missiles, or mine packages. Items like the Vipere tethered communications and surveillance buoy round out the package.

Sub advances

The submarine is touted as a complement for carrier battle groups, but the truth is that their speed requirements tend to stretch the SMX Ocean’s capabilities, which top out at 20 knots and lose efficiency well before that. It would fare rather better as a companion to slower amphibious assault groups, but its real markets may be more specific.

Australia is looking for a long-range fleet of modern submarines, and their push to negotiate directly with the Japanese for the 4,000t+ Soryu Class may be forced toward competitive bids for political reasons. Meanwhile, India has just approved a “Project 75i” program to add 6 locally-built submarines beyond their forthcoming Scorpene fleet. A relationship extension based around Barracuda hulls would build on already-proven industrial relationships and training, and allow for excellent weapons commonality with the Scorpene fleet. It would also complement both the scope of India’s maritime interests, and local work fielding and refining their own nuclear submarine design.

Contracts & Key Events 2011 – 2014

Order for submarine #3; Cruise missile test; Progress reports; 4,750t conventional derivative. SSN Barracuda concept
(click to view full)

Oct 28/14: SSK Ocean. DCNS unveils its 4,750t SMX Ocean concept design at EuroNaval 2014. This diesel-electric attack submarine design is much closer to reality than past SMX concepts, because it’s based on the basic Barracuda layout, masts, and combat system. Meanwhile, shifts in the global market toward the Pacific and Indian oceans are tilting requirements in favor of larger conventional submarines, with more range and endurance. See above for details. Sources: DCNS, “DCNS unveils SMX-Ocean, a new blue-water SSK with expanded capabilities”.

Nov 6/12: #3: The DCNS Cherbourg centre has completed the 1st pressure hull ring (Ring #7) for the Tourville, France’s 3rd Barracuda Class SSN. The milestone comes almost 1 month ahead of schedule. DCNS.

Dec 19/11: #2. DCNS mates hull sections 12 & 13 for Duguay-Trouin, the 2nd Barracuda Class submarine, using butt-welds along their entire circumference. A new controlled-atmosphere technology cut 15% from weld time, while improving quality, allowing the 30t sections to be welded in less than 2 months.

These hull sections will house the ops room, including the boat’s main command, navigation and operations systems. Of Duguay-Trouin’s 21 hull rings, 2 have been completed and joined, 10 have been completed, and 8 are under construction. Hull ring mating work will continue until early 2013. defpro.

June 28/11: #3 ordered. The DGA formally orders the 3rd Barracuda class submarine and its nuclear reactor from DCNS and AREVA. This is the Tourville.

Costs are not described in releases or subsequent reports, though the total program cost now lists at EUR 8.6 billion. Hull assemblies for the Suffren and Duguay-Trouin continue at Cherbourg. French DGA [in French] | DCNS.

3rd SSN ordered

June 8/11: Weapons. The DGA holds a test launch of the SCALP Naval / MdCN (Missile de Croisière Naval) at its Ile du Levant missile test center in the Mediterranean, using an underwater platform simulating the launch conditions on the future Barracuda SSN. The change from water to air, and subsequent launch/flight, is one of the most difficult and important steps for any such missile. When fully operational, the Storm Shadow’s MdCN cousin is expected to offer a stealthy sub-sonic strike missile with long reach: over 1,000 km/ 540 nautical miles.

When combined with a successful 2010 vertical-launch test from an above-water platform, MBDA believes that its SCALP/MdCN program is now synchronized with the planned entry into service of the FREMM frigate (2014) and Barracuda submarine (2017) platforms. French DGA [in French, incl. test video] | MBDA.

March 18/11: #2. DCNS announces that the 1st hull section of the 2nd boat of class has left the prefabrication hall at Cherbourg on schedule. Duguay-Trouin’s aft section #7 is just 1 of about 20 hull sections and 4 “interface points.” The 40t hull section is made of steel alloy, and measures about 9 meters in diameter by 4 meters. It will sit immediately behind the nuclear reactor compartment, and will eventually contain the submarine’s electrical distribution plant.

DCNS adds that construction of the 1st-in-class Suffren in also on schedule in Cherbourg, with the first equipment integration phases set to begin in the next few months.

2007 – 2010

Development & orders for 2 submarines; Sub-contractors picked. Scalp Naval

Oct 27/09: Colfax Corp. announces that its Colfax-Imo Pompes Business Unit in France will provide oil pumps and other fluid-handling systems for France’s Barracuda class nuclear submarines. They will deliver the first pumping systems to DCNS in late 2010 – early 2011. Colfax will continue to provide service, training, parts and documentation for its systems during the service life of the vessels. Daniel Joslin, managing director of Colfax’s business in Tours, France:

“Submarines need to operate as quietly as possible to avoid detection, and the French Navy accordingly specified its pumps should produce low noise levels and vibrations… Our Colfax Defense Centre of Excellence in Tours [DID: one of 3, located in Tours, Mumbai, and Warren, MA] has the staff and equipment capable of meeting those demanding requirements to ensure the pumps provide years of quiet, reliable service.”

June 26/09: #2 ordered. The French DGA procurement agency orders the 2nd Barracuda class boat Duguay-Trouin from DCNS and Areva-TA. At present, the DGA is forecasting EUR 7.9 billion for the total Barracuda program, and 2028 as the program’s finish date.

The same day saw assembly of the lead boat, Suffren, begin, with the welding of the first 2 aft hull sections. DGA release [in French].

2nd SSN ordered

April 3/08: Sub-contractors. What does the International Space Station have in common with a nuclear submarine? Both are enclosed environments that must provide breathable air, which includes removing carbon dioxide as well as replacing used oxygen. Both also have very tight space limitations, and power limitations as well since the life support systems must be the last system to fail.

EADS Astrium in Friedrichshafen, Germany developed a binding carbon dioxide (CO2) regenerative process for the International Space Station’s European Columbus lab module, which was docked on Feb 10/08. Now DCNS in Cherbourg, France has ended a 4-year competition among established naval firms by awarding the life support contract to… the space firm EADS Astrium. EADS release.

Jan 25/08: Sub-contractors. GE Oil & Gas announces that their Thermodyn subsidiary in Le Creusot has been selected to provide the turbo-generators and propulsion turbines for the French Navy’s 6 new Barracuda Class nuclear fast attack submarines. The DCNS award continues Termodyn’s history if supplying such systems for France’s nuclear submarines, and for the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier as well.

The contract covers 2 turbo-generators and 1 propulsion turbine for the first-of-class FNS Suffren, which is scheduled to enter service in 2016, as well as for each of the other 5 boats ordered under optional contracts. GE’s propulsion turbine drives the propeller, and supplies the required mechanical power to the submarine when at top speed. The 2 turbo-generator-rectifiers supply electric power to the propulsion and auxiliary systems, keeping the sub’s electronics powered and allowing quieter slower speed movement. GE’s project partner Jeumont Electric is supplying the generator-rectifier equipment for the turbo-generators, and this first set of turbo-generators and propulsion turbine is scheduled for delivery between October 2010 – February 2011.

As noted above, Areva TA is the prime contractor for the shipboard nuclear power plant, which powers Thermodyn’s systems and thus the submarine. A submarine’s need for stealth means that these Thermodyn condensing-type turbines are highly customized to fit a submarine’s small space, while ensuring very low noise and vibration levels. The Le Creusot facility even operates a special anechoic chamber to test the equipment’s noise levels prior to delivery. GE also will provide assistance in the packaging of its equipment within the propulsion main frame, and in site tests. GE release.

Sept 6/07: Sub-contractors. SAFRAN Group subsidiary Sagem Defense Securite has won a competitively-bid contract from DCNS as prime contractor for the surface detection system (DAS) on France’s future Barracuda class nuclear submarines. The surface detection system for Barracuda class submarines comprises a radar mast and two optronic masts, which integrate a passive electromagnetic detection sensor. The optronic sensors of the system will provide day/night surveillance, detection, tracking and sighting functions.

A value was not announced, but the contract does includes a firm order for the first submarine in the series (FNS Suffren), as well as conditional orders for following vessels. Sagem will deliver the first system to DCNS in 2010. Sagem Defense Securite release.

June 1/07: Named. The ships of the Barracuda Class has been officially named by the French Ministry of Defence. The first-of-class will be the Suffren. It will be followed by the Duguay-Troin, Dupetit-Thouars, Duquesne, Tourville and finally the De Grasse.

Construction will begin in the summer of 2007. French Navy release [en Francais].


Dec 22/07: Development. DCN announces the contract for the new nuclear-powered attack submarines of the Barracuda Class. The contract’s total value could be as high as EUR 8.6 billion, and it is set up as an initial EUR 1.0-1.4 billion contract (reports vary), followed by 6 options (tranches conditionnelles) to cover development expenses, the production of more submarines, and through-life support during their first years of operational service. Sources: DCN, “Barracuda contract awarded” | Associated Press, “France awards submarine deal to DCN, Areva”.

Core Contract

Additional Readings & Sources

Categories: News

Light Naval Strike: MBDA’s Sea Venom / ANL Missile

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 17:02
ANL on NH90
(click to view full)

Britain needs to replace the old Sea Skua missiles carried by its Lynx naval helicopters. France could use a lighter missile than the 655 kg AM39 Exocet – one that could be carried by a wider range of helicopters, and offer a different attack profile. The answer to both needs may lie in a notional 110 kg missile under development by MBDA, as part of a broad 2006 “Team Complex Weapons” arrangement with the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

The tough part was getting Britain and France to come together and agree on the development framework for the Sea Venom / Anti-Navire Leger (ANL) / Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon – Heavy (FASGW-H) missile. Britain needs a strike missile to equip its new AW159 Wildcats, but France can already mount longer-range AM39 Exocets on its Super Puma helicopters, and didn’t feel a huge sense of urgency about its new NH90-NFH medium helicopters or AS565 Panther light naval helicopters. It took until 2013, but development is now underway.

Sea Venom / ANL / FASGW-H: The Missile MBDA video
click for video

The program’s goal is a 110 kg missile with a 30 kg warhead, one capable of sinking or disabling Fast Attack Craft (FAC) in the 50t – 500t ton range, and damaging corvettes or frigates. The choice of guidance modes should also allow it to be used for precision attack more generally. Boost and sustain rocket motors are both compliant with naval safety requirements, and steps have been taken to ease integration by minimizing changes to shipborne handling equipment, magazines, etc. that currently handle the Sea Skua and AS.15TT missiles.

The Sea Venom / ANL (Anti-Navire Leger) missile will rely on inertial navigation + Imaging Infrared (IIR) guidance, creating a fire-and-forget weapon that won’t alert its targets by broadcasting a radar signal. A radar altimeter looks down, to keep the missile skimming just above the waves and make it harder for defensive radars to pick up. ANL can be fired in either Lock-on Before Launch or Lock-on After Launch modes, and a bi-directional datalink allows updates and retargeting in flight.

As a comparative illustration, the semi-active radar homing AS.15 and Sea Skua aren’t fire and forget, while the Exocet’s active radar guidance will trigger a ship’s ESM defensive electronics.

Range isn’t given, but given its size, the ANL’s range is very likely to be shorter than the Exocet’s 70 km/ 38 nm. It’s said to be longer than the Sea Skua’s 25 km/ 13.5 nm, which represents the rough minimum in order to keep the launching helicopter beyond the reach of short range air defenses expected on FAC, corvette, and light frigate opponents.

Development will be led by European missile giant MBDA, who has branches on both sides of the English Channel and is owned by BAE, EADS, and Finmeccanica. They’re also the manufacturer of larger helicopter-launched anti-ship missiles like the AM39 Exocet and Marte Mk2, and shorter-range missiles like the FASGW-L/ LMM and laser-guided 127mm Zuni rockets.

Britain had been planning to replace its Sea Skua missiles by 2012 – 2014, but that won’t be possible. At best, there will be testing in late 2017 – early 2018. France’s timeline was more leisurely, aiming only to equip its NH90-NFH helicopters by 2020. Those timelines will force Britain to either extend the service life of its Lynx Mk8 helicopters and Sea Skua missiles, or do without a helicopter anti-ship capability until the new Sea Venom missile is ready for use from its new AW159 Wildcats.

Malaysian Sea Skua
click for video

Exports aren’t a major focus yet, but Sea Venom will be the standard strike missile option aboard future AW159 maritime helicopters, and will compete for every NH90-NFH naval helicopter customer. Customers for its predecessor missiles offer another opportunity. Saudi Arabia was the only AS.15TT export customer, but Sea Skua has been exported for helicopter and shipborne use to Brazil, Germany, India, Kuwait, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Korea, and Turkey.

Sea Venom’s competitors include MBDA’s own Marte Mk2/S, which will compete for NH90 orders, and Kongsberg’s popular Penguin missile. China’s TL-6 also sits in this category, but isn’t likely to compete because its integrated helicopters are unlikely to overlap.

Contracts & Key Events 2013 – 2014

Final Development contract; MoU with France and the UK; France puts ANL in their 5-year budget; UK faces a 3-year missile gap. Panther launch concept
(click to view full)

Oct 28/14: Sub-contractors. Sagem DS announces a contract with their long-standing partner MBDA to develop and produce the ANL/ Sea Venom’s imaging infrared seeker. Sagem has picked Britain’s Selex ES Ltd. as a subordinate participant.

Sagem’s IIR seeker is based on uncooled detectors, based on work done for the FELIN infantry modernization and MMP anti-tank missile program. The missile will also have the ability to send back images to the helicopter’s cockpit. That will give Sea Venom a man over the loop (MOTL) firing mode that could change the assigned target during the missile’s flight, or choose a precise impact point. Sagem DS, “Sagem seeker chosen for MBDA’s new light antiship missile”.

July 17/14: Weapons. AgustaWestland signs a EUR 113 million (about GBP 89.3M / $153.1M) contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to integrate, test, and install ANL anti-ship missile and LMM light strike missile system compatibility onto 28 Royal Navy AW159 Wildcat HMA2 helicopters.

Note that the UK MoD has also signed a EUR 60.2 million contract with LMM missile maker Thales regarding broader integration of their missile onto the Wildcat fleet. Sources: Finmeccanica, “Finmeccanica – AgustaWestland signed a contract worth EUR 113 million with the UK Ministry of Defence”.

March 27/14: Development. MBDA receives the missile’s Anglo-French contract, a GBP 500 million / EUR 602 million / $830 million award to finish development. It will be managed by the UK DE&S (Defence Equipment & Support) on behalf of the French and UK ministries, as part of MBDA’s Team Complex Weapons Portfolio in Britain. This is the follow-on to the Sept 10/09 Joint Assessment Phase.

Work will take place at the Joint Project Office in Bristol, at MBDA in Lostock near Manchester, and at Stevenage. This makes 4 joint missile projects between the 2 countries: ANL AshM, Aster SAM, Meteor BVR AAM, and Storm Shadow cruise missile. Sources: UK MoD, “Multi-million-pound investment in Royal Navy missiles” | French DGA, “Le programme franco-britannique de missile anti navire leger (ANL) est lance” | MBDA, “MBDA to Develop FASGW(H)/ANL, Next Generation Anglo-French Anti-Ship Missile”.

Development contract

Feb 13/14: NAO Report. Britain’s National Audit Office releases their 2013 Major Projects Report, as well as their review of Britain’s 2013-2023 Equipment Plan. They place the value of the FASGW-H project’s Demonstration & Manufacture phase at GBP 452 million, and mention that:

“There have also been instances where project teams have relied too heavily on its industry partners, owing to resourcing problems. For example, the Department’s Scrutiny Team assessed in January 2012 that the teams responsible for implementing the heavy variant of the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon appeared to have entirely relied on its industry partners to plan the weapon’s integration on to Wildcat and it was not evident they had the necessary skills and staff required to successfully manage the integration. While funding is in place, the team has had difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff. The project team is currently conducting a review of staffing requirements to deliver this project.”

Jan 31/14: MoU. Britain and France were expected to sign a EUR 500 million Memorandum of Understanding to build FASGW-H, among other products of a head-of-state summit. They did sign an MoU confirming joint FASGW-H orders, but unlike other items in the agreement, there was no financial figure associated with it.

Meanwhile, French sources express quiet reservations about the difficulty of securing program cooperation with British political counterparts who are already in campaign mode for 2015, and express reservations regarding British austerity measures and their potential effects on joint programs and endeavors. Sources: The Independent, “Britain to set up controversial drone development partnership with France” | UK MoD, “UK and France agree closer defence co-operation” | Defense Update, “UK, France to Invest £120 million in a Joint UCAV Study” | IHS Jane’s, “France and the UK sign defence co-operation agreements” | Le Monde, “La defense au coeur du sommet franco-britannique”.

British – French MoU

Nov 27/13: France go-ahead. French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announces the end of “The End of History” in France’s Assemblée Nationale, and follows by heralding the launch of FASGW(H) and other defense programs. The 2014 – 2019 budget still needs to be approved, but the minister refers to development beginning by the end of 2013:

“D’ici la fin de 2013, pourront ainsi être engagés le missile moyenne portée MMP, qui prendra la succession des missiles MILAN, essentiel à la fois pour l’armée de terre et notre industrie missilière ; les travaux du nouveau standard du Rafale, améliorant ses capacités, avec entre autres l’intégration du missile Météor et d’un POD de désignation laser de nouvelle génération ; le missile anti navires léger ANL, que nous mènerons en coopération avec nos partenaires britanniques ; les nouveaux radars du programme SCCOA, conduit par Thalès, pour protéger le territoire national ; ou encore les bateaux multi-missions, lesB2M, destinés à l’outre-mer… Autant de contrats qui seront lancés, conformément au calendrier prévu.”

The delays will still present difficulties for Britain, which is very unlikely to get the missile in time to replace Sea Skuas by 2015. If 2018 is a more realistic date, Britain will need to either abandon the capability until ANL is ready, or extend the service life of its Lynx Mk8 fleet and Sea Skua missiles. Sources: Ministère de la Défense: “Allocution devant l’Assemblee nationale a l’occasion de l’examen du projet de loi de programmation militaire” | Naval Recognition, “French Minister of Defense Confirms Launch of ANL FASGW(H) anti-ship missile program”.

April 29/13: France. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian offered the 1st official confirmation of France’s intent to develop the ANL missile with Britain, during a speech at the Ecole Militaire staff college. On the other hand, his confirmation isn’t exactly laced with urgency.

He talks about including the anti-ship missile in France’s planning, but Britain needs the program to start very soon, in order to be ready by 2015. Otherwise, Britain’s AW159 Wildcat will find itself handicapped in the global export market. Where it competes against machines from Eurocopter, which is partly owned by the French state. The French Navy already has Super Puma helicopters equipped with Exocets, and are reportedly comfortable with ANL delivery after 2020.

Estimates for the Demonstration & Manufacture phase are around EUR 500 million ($655 million/ GBP 422 million), with another EUR 150 million or so to add it to French NH90-NFH and AS565 Panther naval helicopters and conduct all of the required trials. A bilateral high-level working group is expected to thrash out the details by summer 2013. A 50/50 split is expected for the base funding, but negotiations are underway, and the competing timelines give France added leverage. On the other hand, a failure could damage the broader 2010 Lancaster House cooperation agreement between Britain and France. Defense News.

Jan 10/13: NAO Report. Britain’s National Audit Office releases their 2012 Major Projects Report. With respect to FASGW-H:

“There will now be at least a 19-month gap between the existing [Sea Skua] capability leaving service and the new missile being available. The Department may extend the life of the existing missile to mitigate the gap…. Interim Main Gate 3 was the third of the submissions and concerned approval for the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) Demonstration and Manufacture Phase. The Business Case was presented to Equipment Capability Secretariat on 9 January 2012 and was considered by the Investment Approvals Committee on 18 January. On 31 January, Director General Finance approved the case, with a caveat that negotiations should be concluded with France before 31 March 2012. Bi?laterals continued, but by 28 March [2012] when Chief Secretary to the Treasury (CST) wrote to the MoD, discussions had not been concluded and as such Chief Secretary to the Treasury approved the case, subject to receiving French national approval.”

2009 – 2012

Joint Assessment Phase, Initial Team CW set doesn’t include FASGW-H. Early concept
(click to view full)

Sept 16/10: MBDA offers a progress report for the Joint Assessment Phase. Short version: they’ve got a final system design, and proven the technical maturity of key sub-systems.

Trials have included high speed wind tunnels using a representative scale model, gas gun firings to validate the warhead design, rocket motor firings “in various thermal environments”; and trials of the seeker, radar altimeter, data link terminal, and missile antenna. What they need now, is a contract for the Demonstration & Manufacture phase. MBDA.

March 29/10: Team CW. MBDA and the UK MoD sign a GBP 330 million interim Portfolio Management Agreement (PMA-I) contract, as the 1st step in a “Team Complex Weapons” partnering arrangement that could be worth up to GBP 4 billion over the next 10 years.

FASGW-H is a bit of a sideshow, as they aren’t As part of PMA-I directly. Its Assessment Phase will continue as part of the meta-program, while the PMA-I contract focuses on the Demonstration and Manufacturing phases for the ground-fired Fire Shadow Loitering Munition, and air-launched Selective Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR Capability 2, Block 1). It also funds Assessment Phases for SPEAR Capability 3 to equip the F-35, and the naval CAMM/ Future Local Area Air Defence System (FLAADS). EADS.

Team Complex Weapons PMA-I

Sept 10/09: Assessment phase. MBDA welcomes the announcement by the United Kingdom and France of a Joint Assessment Phase, funding initial development work on “a common solution for the next generation of a European helicopter anti-surface weapon.” They’re referring to FASGW(H) / ANL. MBDA.

Assessment Phase

Additional Readings

Background: Missiles

  • MBDA – FASGW(H)/ANL. Slated for Lynx Wildcat, NH90-NFH, and AS565-SB Panther helicopters.

  • MBDA – MARTE MK2/S. ANL competitor, uses active radar guidance. Integrated aboard NH90-NFH and AW101 helicopters.

  • Designation Systems – Kongsberg AGM-119 Penguin. ANL competitor, uses INS/IIR guidance. Integrated aboard Lynx, H-60 Seahawk, and SH-2G Super Seasprite helicopters.

Background: Helicopters

News & Views

Categories: News

Russian, US 2014 Armament Exports

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 15:45

  • US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) reached $31.2B in FY14 (i.e. ending Sept. 30), and with additional exports handled through other mechanisms, total sales announced by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) reached $34.2B. That’s slightly above the previous year though back in FY12 Saudi Arabia alone accounted for close to $30B in foreign sales.

  • Russia has sold $9.8B in military equipement for the first 10 months of the year, according to RIA Novosti quoting the deputy director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation. At that pace they will probably end up behind last year’s $15.7B.

F-35 Agreement

  • Lockheed Martin announced they had reached an “agreement in principle” for LRIP 8 procurement of 43 F-35s: 29 US aircraft including 19 F-35As, 6 F-35Bs and 4 F-35Cs, the first 2 F-35As for Israel, the first 4 F-35As for Japan, 2 F-35As for Norway, 2 F-35As for Italy, and 4 F-35Bs for the UK.

Naval Developments

  • The US Navy is struggling [Virginian Pilot] to keep up with its maintenance and deployment schedule.

  • MBDA is offering an integrated package for small patrol ships: the Sea Ranger system lets customers mix-and-match 1-4 weapon stations with Mistral/ Simbad-RC for short-range air defense, Brimstone 2 for short-range surface attack, and the Marte Mk.2/S light anti-ship missile for medium-range punch.

  • Rafael introduced [Defense Update] C-Dome at the Euronaval tradeshow, a navalized Iron Dome C-RAM system.


  • After Sunday’s elections it appears Ukraine’s new parliament will lean pro-European [FT].

  • Russia will recognize [BBC] a rebel vote in Donetsk and Luhansk scheduled on Nov. 2, whether the Kiev government likes it or not.

  • Today’s video comes from CSIS, an American think tank, on Russia’s war, Ukraine’s history, and the West’s options:

Categories: News

Hobart Class Ships: Aussie Anti-Air Umbrella

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 16:30
F100 visits Sydney
(click to view full)

Under the SEA 4000 Air Warfare Destroyer program, Australia plans to replace its retired air defense destroyers with modern ships that can provide significantly better protection from air attack, integrate with the US Navy and other coalition partners, offer long-range air warfare defense for Royal Australian Navy task groups, and help provide a coordinated air picture for fighter and surveillance aircraft. Despite their name and focus, the ships are multi-role designs, with a “sea control” mission that includes area air defense, advanced anti-submarine operations, and the ability to fight other ships.

The Royal Australian Navy took a pair of giant steps in June 2007, when it selected winning designs for its keystone naval programs: Canberra Class LHD amphibious operations vessels, and Hobart Class “air warfare destroyers.” Spain’s Navantia made an A$ 11 billion clean sweep, winning both the A$ 3 billion Canberra Class LHD and the A$ 8 billion Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyer contracts. The new AWD ships were scheduled to begin entering service with the Royal Australian Navy in 2013, but that date has now slipped to 2016 or so. A 2014 ANAO report examines why – and the answers aren’t pretty…

SEA 4000: The Program SEA 4000

The AWD is needed because Australia’s Adelaide Class (heavily upgraded FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class) frigates have limited air defense capabilities, and would be hard-pressed to survive against modern anti-ship missiles. All 4 remaining ships are set to retire by June 2019. Planned upgrades to Australia’s 6 ANZAC frigates will deliver a big leap ahead in their capabilities, but they still won’t be suitable for protecting an entire task force by themselves in high threat areas. Nor will they have the potential to grow into ballistic missile defense roles, which are acquiring new urgency in the 21st century. Hence SEA 4000.

In 2001, the SEA 4000 entry in the Defence Capability Plan 2001–2010 contained an initial cost estimate of A$ 3.5 – $4.5 billion. By June 2007, the SEA 4000 cost analysis for a 3-ship, F100 based program was A$ 7.207 billion (A$ 7.929 billion as of December 2013, with inflation and foreign exchange).

That jump was alarming. On the other hand, it’s less expensive than blindly accepting lowball estimates, then having to make ship changes part-way through the build stage. It’s also less disruptive than having to find billions of extra dollars after long-term navy plans are set. Those kinds of surprises are normal in places like the USA, but Australia has undertaken some major defense reforms intended to surface problems, and their likely costs, before the build contracts are placed. That has partly paid off, with a current 2014 estimate of A$ 8.455 billion – just a 6.6% increase over the June 2007 figure.

Unfortunately, the most 2014 ANAO report looked at EVMS data, and concluded that “…major corrective actions were necessary to restore confidence in the AWD build program’s [current] cost and [v2.0] schedule estimates.” See the full timeline below:

There was a contractual option for a 4th ship, but it was declined by the government. See Appendix B for more details concerning the SEA 4000 project’s phasing and timelines.

SEA 4000: The Process

The Problem: The Australian Treasury’s June 2007 Second Pass submission to government estimated an extra A$ 1 billion in costs associated with building the AWDs in Australia, representing an effective rate of assistance of over 30% for naval shipbuilding. Reader will note that this doesn’t square with overall project costs, but shipbuilding usually isn’t even the majority of a warship’s cost.

SEA 4000 Solution: In order to minimize these cost premiums, the AWD was meant to be the product of several competitions, not just one. Rather than taking the conventional approach of securing a prime contractor and having them do the integration and deliver the ship, the Australian government broke up the process into a series of contracts, with each subsequent decision building on the previous ones.

Australia calls the proposed acquisition strategy a “Design Driven” approach, where it contracts separately for design and construction. A designer is contracted to produce a ship design to meet specified requirements, and that design was competed among several shipbuilders offering their platforms as a base, plus one contracted ship design based on the American DDG-51. A winner is chosen, and then a shipbuilder is contracted to build that design.

In theory, the potential contracting strengths of the “Design Driven” strategy include:

  • The potential to design to a budget;
  • Greater assurance that the final product will meet the user expectations;
  • Maximized competition in equipment supply and construction;
  • More standardization across future shipbuilding projects by having the government instead of the contractor set the key standards;
  • Maintain a long-term relationship to ensure that through life support considerations are taken into account up front, and vet this before making a design choice.

Navantia’s modified F100 Alvaro de Bazan Class AEGIS frigate won the competition, beating Blohm + Voss’ F124 frigate, and an “Evolved Design” based on the larger American DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyer. See Appendix A for more details concerning that competition, and the offered platforms.

Unfortunately, the most 2014 ANAO report concluded that these process improvements were only a start. They looked at EVMS data, and concluded that:

“Defence and its industry advisers underestimated the risks associated with incorporating the design changes to Navantia’s F-104 design, exporting that design to Australia, and adapting the designer’s build strategy and processes to accommodate a distributed build at shipyards that lacked recent experience in warship building.”

These conclusions have implications beyond the Hobart Class. Australia is planning a SEA 5000 program to field anti-submarine frigates, as well as an A$ 40 billion program to field up to 12 new-build submarines. Both will try to learn from the SEA 4000 program’s efforts, successes, and shortfalls.

Australia’s Hobart Class AWD 2007 AWD Concept
(click to view full)

Australia’s 7,000t destroyers are based strongly on Spain’s 5,800t F-104 Mendez Nunez AEGIS “frigate”, with some features from the subsequent 6,390t F-105 Cristobal Colon. They also have a few unique Australian features like bow thrusters, a different helicopter hangar and recovery system, and interoperability changes to the combat system.

Australia’s approach to picking their AWD design actually began with a decision about the radar and combat system they wanted. America’s SPY-1/ SPS-62/ SPQ-9B radars weren’t as modern as the European LCF’s APAR/ SMART-L systems, but they have a very strong foothold in the Pacific Rim, and the back-end AEGIS combat system is a well-proven offering that creates interoperability with advanced ships throughout the region. Australia made AEGIS their choice, and a mature trump card called Co-operative Engagement Capability (CEC) even offers them the ability to fire at targets they cannot see, using an American ship’s target cue.

While the Hobart Class isn’t built with Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capabilities, it has a proven path. Once new SM-6 missiles arrive in the early 2020s, the ships will be able to intercept ballistic missiles in their last stage of flight, much like the USA’s land-based PATRIOT missiles.

Efforts beyond that will require ship upgrades, and purchases of larger SM-3 missiles that can intercept enemy missiles outside the atmosphere. The US Navy is busy upgrading most of its DDG-51 AEGIS destroyer fleet, paying about $60 million per ship to do so. Similar upgrades have been applied to Japan’s 4 Kongo Class AEGIS destroyers, and their 2 newer Atago Class derivatives are following suit. Korea’s cruiser-size KDX-III AEGIS destroyers face a missile-armed North Korea, and may yet see upgrades of their own. If all parties have also adopted CEC technology, the result will be a powerful pool of fully interoperable, top-tier air defense ships around the Pacific Rim. The following chart offers some comparative perspective:

The USA’s AMDR program offers another potential upgrade. It will use the same X-band AN/SPQ-9 carried by the Hobart Class as a secondary radar, linked to a main AMDR S-band system that uses modern active array radar technologies. The Hobart Class’ onboard power generation is already superior to America’s larger destroyers, and the USA is spending significant R&D funds to overcome important weight and cooling challenges. If they succeed, Hobart Class upgrades could become feasible by the late 2020s.

Other potential upgrades, involving the ship’s weapons, are presented in the Additional Readings sections at the end of the article.

SEA 4000: Industrial

AWD Project management is performed by the Air Warfare Destroyer Project Office, located in Canberra, Australia. The Alliance contract is based on a cost-plus incentive-fee arrangement, under which they receive monthly payments of Direct Project Costs, and incentive fees based on their cost performance relative to a Target Cost Estimate. If there are cost overruns, AWD Alliance members share reductions in their incentive fees.

The AWD Alliance includes ASC Pty Ltd. in Adelaide as the lead Australian shipbuilder, and Raytheon Australia as the combat system integrator. Input comes from an Integrated Product Team (IPT) drawn from the Defence Materiel Organisation, DSTO and the Royal Australian Navy. BAE Australia (formerly Tenix) in Melbourne and Forgacs in Newcastle are the major shipbuilding sub-contractors within the program.

Each destroyer is comprised of 32 ship section “blocks”, which are outfitted with relevant equipment at their home shipyard before they are joined together at ASC’s facility. Key industrial participants, and their contributions, include:

Alliance CEO Rod Equd has said that “there is no way in which the traditional Defence contracting model would have coped [with the project],” but the risk-sharing dimension didn’t make sense for Navantia. Their project share was supposed to be just A$ 300 million, and if the firms picked by Australia’s government didn’t perform, they weren’t about to pay penalties. DMO ended up signing separate contracts with the AWD Alliance and with Navantia, introducing a disconnect that ended up haunting the program.

SEA 4000: Contracts & Key Events Building AWD

Unless otherwise specified, US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contracts, on behalf of their Foreign Military Sale client.


Program restructured, again, as delays & costs escalate; ANAO in-depth review; Brisbane’s keel laid. The problem
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Oct 27/14: Costs. The ANAO’s initial estimate that the AWD program would exceed the current budget by A$ 302 million, and cautioned that estimates could worsen. they have, and the difference is reportedly closer to A$ 800 million.

“An announcement is now believed to be imminent on the future structure of the AWD program and of ASC… believed likely to involve ramped-up technical support from Spanish ship designer Navantia, on whose modified F-104 platform the Hobart class is based, and the assumption by BAE Systems of managerial responsibility for the overall program.”

Sources: Australian Defence Magazine, “AWD’s $800 million blowout”.

June 19/14: Legal. Australia’s government needs good consultants and a solid legal team to implement their proposed restructuring of the SEA 4000 program’s contracts and organization (q.v. June 14/14). They held a tender, and the investment bank Greenhill & Co Australia Pty Ltd. won the job as commercial advisers. Ashurst Australia will serve as the government’s legal advisers. Sources: Australia DoD, “Minister for Finance and Minister for Defence – Advisers appointed for Air Warfare Destroyer Program Reform Strategy”.

June 6/14: Productivity. During a press conference to announce a new supply ship program, and initial funding for the SEA 5000 future frigate, the Hobart Class comes up again twice. First, the initial Future Frigate investigation involves mounting the CEAFAR/ CEAMOUNT radar, Saab 9LV Mk3E combat system, and RIM-162 ESSM air defense missiles in the Hobart’s hull. Second, Minister Johnston is asked by a reporter about the Labor Party comments “when they say it’s a ‘fake Air Warfare Destroyer emergency’.” Sen. Jonston replies:

“Well let me deal with the emergency question. The international benchmark is 60 man-hours per tonne, we set the benchmark for that program at 80 man-hours per tonne, currently it is running at 150 man-hours per tonne, now if that’s a fake emergency – well I just think that is the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard. Getting back on track is essential to the future of naval shipbuilding, we want to get the program back up because it is potentially a very, very strong program. Never forget that when we went into East Timor we had to have the assistance of firstly a British and then a United States air warfare destroyer.”

While the base F105 Cristobal Colon frigate design is a multi-role frigate with anti-submarine capabilities, that isn’t its primary role, the way it is for Norway’s derivative but smaller Fridtjof Nansen Class. On the other hand, one of the Hobart Class’ big problems has involved issues with translating Navantia’s designs into production (q.v. March 6/14), and the AWD program is still facing serious issues. If those issues can be solved, Australia’s government could argue that it’s best to use a design whose production has finally been worked out, if it’s going to be built in Australia. Sources: Australian DoD, “Minister for Defence – Transcript – Naval shipbuilding announcement, CEA Technologies, Canberra”.

June 4/14: Restructuring. Australia’s new Liberal Party government announces another AWD program restructuring, “dealing with a range of unresolved structural and systemic issues that have remained unaddressed for too long.” The short form of their conclusions?:

“Now the main problems with the project as we have inherited it is that there were problems with the initial program plan, there were problems with inadequate government oversight, there were problems with the alliance structure which seemed incapable to manage issues if and as they arose and there were also problems with the performance and capabilities of ASC and major subcontractors.”

The overall project is 21 months behind, with Hobart delayed to 2016, and delivery of the 3rd ship shifted to March 2019. Defense minister Johnston reminds reporters that this is the program’s 3rd remediation cycle, and patience seems a bit thin. That’s understandable, given the program’s huge size and how alarmingly far along it is. In the wake of former US Secretary of the Navy Don Winter’s report (q.v. Nov 18/13), and an ANAO review (q.v. March 6/14), SEA 4000 is now on Australia’s “Projects of Concern” list. In addition:

“…the reform strategy that Professor Winter has recommended to the Government will seek to improve ship building productivity at the Air Warfare Destroyer Ship Builder ASC and its sub-contractors. It will include the urgent insertion of an experienced ship building management team into ASC [emphasis ours] and after we have been able to augment ship building capacity, we will seek to pursue the reallocation of blocks between ship yards to ensure that the program is sustainable and that productivity levels are maximised…. There are obviously some serious complexities involved in giving effect to the recommendations… which is why we will immediately engage relevant commercial and legal advisers to assist us through that process. We will have some further announcements to make in terms of the practical implementation of this reform strategy in July this year.”

Defense minister Johnston certainly sounds serious, and then he delivers a 2nd major shot across ASC’s bow. Submarines may be considered to be a top-tier strategic industrial capability, but:

“Now we’ve got potentially another 8 future frigates that we would like to build in Australia, but I am sending a very clear message out today. If we can’t fix this, that is something that will certainly be in jeopardy, because I don’t believe the Government will support an enterprise that cannot deliver productively.”

The next step is a lot of complex negotiations, especially given the legal issues around existing contracts. The government is saying that these negotiations are why they won’t release Winters’ full report now. Sources: Australia DoD, “Minister for Finance and Minister for Defence – Joint Media Release – Putting the Air Warfare Destroyer program back on track” | “Minister for Defence – Air Warfare Destroyer added to Projects of Concern list” | “Minister for Finance and Minister for Defence – Joint Press Conference – Review of the Air Warfare Destroyer program”.

Program restructuring

March 6/14: ANAO Report. Australia’s ANAO releases a 302 page report that chronicles the AWD program and its issues, and makes recommendations. The key takeaway is that ANAO has almost no confidence in the A$ 302 overrun estimate provided by the AWD Alliance in November 2013, citing issues with process control and EVMS measurements of shipyard productivity – 1.0, as of September 2010, vs. 0.62 as of November 2013. Why?

“As at November 2013, the Alliance was experiencing a range of difficulties that have cost and schedule implications. Longstanding issues with the maturity of detailed design documentation were ongoing, resulting in significant rework, major construction problems had re-emerged at subcontractor level, and shipbuilding productivity remained well below expectations…. There has been an average of 2.75 revisions per drawing (as at March 2013), and revised drawings were still being provided in late 2013. This process has led to costly and out-of-sequence rework in cases where construction work already undertaken no longer matched the design…. detailed design immaturity and construction performance issues were ongoing in late 2013, and continue to pose a [serious] risk to the program’s cost and schedule.”

Forgacs’ ANAO audit reply adds that some remedial measures, like the November 2010 reallocation of ship blocks from BAE, just ended up breaking execution limits at their firm and spreading the problem. It’s important to remember that none of the Australian firms picked had built a major surface combatant in recent memory, and Forgacs warns of a possible repeat: “…the time line for the tender evaluation process of the next major Defence project to prevent a gap in work is dangerously close.” On which note, Australia’s DoD’s reply adds insight into SEA 4000’s issues, while providing a textbook example of a phenomenon known as The Planning Fallacy:

“Defence did consider these issues throughout Phases 1 and 2 of the AWD project and made sizeable investments in the shipbuilding industry in studying existing and evolved designs, and comparing these to contemporary projects of similar scale and scope in Australia and overseas. The estimated cost and schedule for the shipbuilding element exceeded all other contemporary examples…. on present estimates, the shipbuilding delay is anticipated to be at least 49 weeks (or 18 per cent) longer than the period required for the original F100 design and build….. Defence considers the amount of design change was not excessive for a design of the complexity of the AWD, nor was the level of design change unpredicted at Government approval.63 The real issue around these changes was in the immaturity of the processes to manage the design change challenge with the designer and the block subcontractors.”

Sources: ANAO, “Air Warfare Destroyer Program” | NineMSN, “Warship project heading for cost blowout”.

ANAO Audit Report

Nansen Class: S-5000?
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Feb 3/14: Keel-laying. ASC in Adelaide holds a ceremony for destroyer #2 Brisbane. There are a number of questions swirling around reports of large cost overruns, the inquiry the government announced last year, etc. The Minister’s response:

“The project overall won’t have an overrun until we have finished the project, if there is one. Now, things come and go with ships – with labour there is a whole lot of flexibility in the program, there is a lot of contingency. We won’t know the final figure until the last boat is in the water…. I can confirm that the contingency has not been spent already…. I am working on the inquiry as we stand here now, and there may be an announcement on that in the near future…. I don’t believe it is government policy for a 4th Air Warfare Destroyer at this time because we have a White Paper coming. Those issues are very important to inform the White Paper and there is a possibility that this hull can be used for the SEA 5000 [DID: future ASW frigate] programme but we are a long way from finalising that. So, let’s just not try and speculate too much before we put everything together in a White Paper…”

With respect to his statement that the base (F100 class) hull could be used as the basis for Australia’s SEA 5000 anti-submarine warfare frigates, it’s worth remembering that shipbuilding is a minority of a ship’s cost, with onboard equipment and weapons making up the majority. With that said, 7,000t is quite large for an anti-submarine frigate. Even with significant equipment cost reductions, Australia would be very hard pressed to build 8 ships. Navantia has a more likely option in the scaled-down Fridtjof Nansen Class AEGIS frigates it built for Norway. The 5,130t ships combine an anti-submarine focus with a smaller AN/SPY-1F radar, AEGIS combat system, and solid mid-range air defenses. Costs in 2000 were about $326 million per ship. Sources: Australia MoD “Minister for Defence – Transcript – Keel-laying ceremony for Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) HMAS Brisbane, Techport Australia, Adelaide” and “Minister for Defence – Transcript – Doorstop at Keel-laying ceremony for Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) HMAS Brisbane, Techport Australia, Adelaide”.

Brisbane keel laid; Same hull for SEA 5000?

2012 – 2013

Hobart’s keel laid; Australia to wait until 2017-2018 for next-gen EW systems; Labor Government stretches AWD project timeline to keep busy until submarine contracts begin – then dithers on its submarine choices; New Liberal government promises a program review after AWD is 17.2% over budget for the past year. ASC ceremony
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Dec 17/13: ANAO Report. Australia’s National Audit Office releases their 2012-13 Major Projects Report. There’s a lot of coverage in the Australian press about overspends during the past year, including reports describing potential billion-dollar bailouts of the program. The overspend is real, but the ANAO says nothing about billion-dollar cost increases. Here’s how the actual numbers break out.

According to ANAO, the total program budget, including indexing for inflation and exchange rate factors, works out to A$ 7,869.2 million as of June 2013. That hasn’t moved much in real terms since the program began. ANAO does say that about 59.2% of the program’s budget has been spent as of June 2013, leaving about A$ 3.3 billion to go, with only 46-49% of the project complete. That isn’t unusual for long efforts like shipbuilding, which order a lot of equipment up front. Indeed, the Canberra Class LHD are in the same spend/completion boat. ANAO lists the AWD project’s maturity at about 75%, even as they warn “the 2012–13 MPR continues to highlight inconsistencies within [DMO's] application of Project Maturity, reducing the level of reliability of [their] maturity assessments.”

Financially, the SEA 4000 program went over budget by A$ 106.4 million in the past year (A$ 723 million instead of A$ 618.6 million, a 17.3% overrun), due to “Participants exceeding budget for labour, materials and subcontracts, as well as [DID: a miniscule] indexation shortfall.” Even if all remaining spending as of June 2013 faced a 17.3% hike, that adds up to about A$ 570 million extra – which would place the entire project just 6.7% over budget. For whatever it’s worth “DMO considers, as at the reporting date, there is sufficient budget remaining for the project to complete against the agreed scope.” ANAO does acknowledge that the budget for (American) Engineering and Technical Assistance probably isn’t sufficient, but that’s not generally a major cost driver. The one interesting technical note is that:

“Electronic Warfare Radar – Electronic Attack sub-system procurement has been deferred as current technology does not meet the contract and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) requirements. The budget has been preserved to support second generation technology being fielded in the AWD. It is expected that the capability will be available in the 2017-18 timeframe.”

If local efforts fail, there’s always the option of switching to the USN’s forthcoming SEWIP Block 2. Sources: ANAO, 2012-13 Major Projects Report | Australian Broadcasting Corp., “Air Warfare Destroyer project hit by budget blowouts of $10 million per month” | The Australian “Fears of $1bn bailout as destroyer project leaks $10m a month”.

Nov 18/13: Review coming. After the AWD Alliance reports that a full baseline review forecasts a A$ 302 million overspend beyond the approved budget, Australia’s government announces:

“Since coming into Government… detailed briefings from key stakeholders associated with the Air Warfare Destroyer program [show] ….part of the legacy of unresolved issues which we have inherited from Labor…. [The Ministry for Finance of Ministry for Defence] are committed to establishing an independent review into the Air Warfare Destroyer program. We will provide further details of this review when we finalise the terms of reference in early 2014.”

Source: Australia DoD, “Minister for Finance and Minister for Defence – Coalition committed to the efficient delivery of the Air Warfare Destroyer programme” | ANAO report No.22 2013–14.

July 11/13: Infrastructure. The Australian government announces that Baulderstone Pty Ltd. will be appointed to manage an A$ 170.2 million project to build new and refurbished LHD and Air Warfare Destroyer berthing and support facilities in Sydney. The firm has a long history managing large construction projects, including the iconic Sydney Opera House.

The award is split, with A$ 60.3 million allocated to the Canberra Class LHDs and $109.9 million for the Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers. Baulderstone will manage the build-out of berthing infrastructure, permanent maintenance, and systems support facilities for the new ships at Garden Island, and nearby training facilities at Randwick Barracks and HMAS Watson. Construction is expected to begin in late July 2013, with completion scheduled for late 2015. Australia DoD.

July 2/13: Hobart. The final keel block, which happens to be the 18th of 31 total ship blocks, of the Hobart was lifted into place in Adelaide. That block is used for flotation and stabilization. Work on the hull should be consolidated by early 2014. DoD | The Advertiser (with timelapse video}.

April 19/13: Weapons. Raytheon announces that they’ve delivered the 2nd Phalanx Block 1B CIWS system for last-ditch, close-in defense on board the future HMAS Brisbane. The first Phalanx 1B was delivered for Hobart in late 2012, and Sydney’s system will be delivered and installed in 2014.

April 2/13: Sub-contractors. MG Engineering loads Hobart’s 22m mast on a barge, and floats it up the Port River to Techport Australia. See also July 4/12 entry. Adelaide Now.

Jan 17-20/13: Industrial. BAE ships its 8th and 9th keel blocks to ASC, who accepts them. This completes all of BAE’s blocks for Hobart and Brisbane. Block 415 is a 117t hull block, while Block 111 is a 112t keel block.

BAE’s release emphasizes their focus on securing future work, which has been in jeopardy ever since the yard’s high-profile workmanship problems in 2010. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the release spends time discussing improved processes for work planning, welding quality, dimensional control, and inspection and acceptance. BAE Systems.

Oct 30/12: Torpedoes. Australia’s government announces that Hobart’s triple-tube Mk32 MOD 9 torpedo launchers successfully completed testing in June 2012, and Brisbane’s launchers successfully completed their own test with an MU90 torpedo mockup.

Sept 6/12: Delays. The Australian government announces a re-baselining of the AWD construction schedule. Nothing’s wrong, but the government’s delayed commitment to the future submarine program means that the AWD program will end before any submarine program begins. That would create a sudden loss of jobs and skilled workers, so after consultation with Australian industry, the time between each delivery is being extended to 18 months.

That’s certainly an easier schedule to meet, and offers more project leeway, but it also means that Australia’s ability to protect its naval forces will suffer. The opposition Liberal Party’s shadow defence minister, highlights this problem, even as Sen. Johnston dismisses the industrial rationale. The AWD delays, he says, are entirely driven by recent heavy cuts to the defense budget, and the delays are just a way to take money out of the project.

The re-baselined schedule changes the delivery dates to March 2016 for D39 Hobart, September 2017 for D41 Brisbane, and March 2019 for D42 Sydney. The program is currently valued at A$ 8 billion. Australian government | Liberal Party Opposition.

Project delays

Sept 6/12: Keel-laying. The official keel-laying for AWD01 Hobart at Techport Australia in Adelaide moves the project into the Consolidation phase. BAE Systems has delivered all 7 of its Hobart blocks to AWD Shipbuilder ASC in Adelaide, and Forgacs is expected to deliver all 7 of its blocks before the end of 2012. Hobart’s hull is due for completion on the hardstand within 15 months, but delivery won’t take place until 2016. AWD Alliance.

Hobart keel laid

July 4/12: Sub-contractors. The Australian government awards an A$ 3.25 million contract to MG Engineering in Adelaide. Over the next 2 years, the firm will build 25 tonne, 22 meter long central masts for all 3 Air Warfare Destroyers.

The masts have to be built in 6 sections, joined together on a jig, then transported by barge to Techport. MG engineering will hire another 10 staff to do this work, raising their total to 40 people. AWD Alliance.

July 4/12: AEGIS. The first 2 radar faces for Hobart’s AN/SPY-1D (V) phased array radar arrive in Australia. Each SPY-1D radar has 3 “faces” to offer radar coverage all around the ship. Australian DoD.


Major reallocation of shipyard work arrangements away from BAE, to Forgacs; Australia picks MH-60R to serve on AWDs. MH-60R Seahawk
click for video

Oct 18/11: Sub-contractors. The Australian government awards Hunter subsidiary Forgacs another 2 AWD blocks (1 each for Hobart and Brisbane), worth around $80 million. This brings their total to 40, up from 29 when the project started.

The work will create about 150 more jobs, and Forgacs will open another shipyard line at Carrington, which currently employs 50 people. Another 450 are working on the AWD at Tomago. Work has already begun on all 14 Hobart blocks, and 2/13 Brisbane blocks. The new hires will bring Forgacs to its envisioned maximum of 650 people working on AWD, across both shipyards. Australian DoD.

Aug 12-15/11: BAE Systems ships the first Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) block to the ASC facility at Osborne in South Australia. This first block weighs around 180 tonnes, and is 18 x 16 x 5 meters. In light of past problems at the Williamstown shipyard, BAE Systems Director of Maritime, Harry Bradford, tried to reassure by saying that:

“We are now at a stage where we have the right people and the right skills to meet the challenges this project will bring. As an international shipbuilder BAE Systems also has the added advantage of global reachback and can draw on our experiences in other markets.”

Aug 6/11: Guns delivered. The AWD Alliance announces the arrival of 6 RAFAEL Typhoon Mark 25 Mod 2 guns, which will equip 3 Hobart Class destroyers at a cost of around A$ 15 million. These 25mm, stabilized guns are operated from within the ship using a joystick and screen, with imagery provided by the Typhoons advanced Toplite day/night optics. Each AWD will be equipped with 2 Typhoon guns, located on the Port and Starboard Bridge wings of each ship.

The guns will be stored in a secure Adelaide warehouse until they are installed on HMAS Hobart, Brisbane and Sydney during construction.

July 27/11: Guns delivered. The AWD Alliance has taken delivery of the Hobart Class’ 3 Mk.54 MOD 4 gun mounts, which include the 127/62 mm gun, turret, and associated below-decks systems for handling ammunition. The BAE Systems gun mounts were manufactured in the United States, per the Sept 17/08 contract, and are valued at A$ 80 million (conversion rose from USD $63.5 – $88 million in the interim). They will be placed into a controlled storage facility in Adelaide, until they are installed in their respective ships. Australian MoD.

June 16/11: MH-60R wins. Australia picks Sikorsky’s MH-60R naval helicopter over the NH90 NFH; it will equip the Hobart Class.

Helicopter picked

May 27-31/11: Shipbuilding issues. BAE Australia doesn’t react officially, but reports begin to surface in the Australian press that suggest problems with the AWD Alliance as the root cause, via poor quality drawings and incorrect specifications. The claim is that more than 2,400 faults have been discovered in the data, said to include wrong dimensions for the hull shapes, inconsistent assembly instructions, missing measurements, and faulty welding guides. It has reached the point that BAE has rejected the ASC’s design pack for Brisbane, the 2nd ship of class. The ASC has rejected BAE’s criticism, and refused to agree to BAE’s request for an improved design package.

There’s also controversy over reports that the Gillard government was warned of these problems in February 2011, and was very slow to act.

The Australian government eventually fires back. While they agree that there have been thousands of technical queries, and that lead shipbuilder ASC and BAE are in dispute over the designs, they note that the other 2 contractors, and Navantia haven’t had the same problems. DMO chief executive Dr Stephen Gumley tells an Australian Senate committee that experts will look into the drawings issue, but adds that BAE may have taken on more work than it had skilled personnel to handle, and did not inform the DMO about problems in a timely way. The state of AWD industrial team relations seems poor, at best. The Australian, re: drawings dispute, re: Government notice | Adelaide Now re: DMO testimony.

May 26/11: Shipbuilding issues. Australia’s government announces that they will change the allocation of work on the SEA 4000 AWD project. Even after reallocating 3 ship blocks away from the Melbourne BAE Systems shipyard to Forgacs in Newcastle (vid. April 1/11 entry), it remains stretched due to AWD and LHD commitments. As a result:

“The advice of the AWD Alliance is that if no action is taken to relieve the pressure on the Melbourne BAE Systems shipyard the first ship would be two years late, approximately 25 per cent over schedule… [our proposed changes] will reduce the delay of the completion of Ship 1 by up to 12 months, and of all three AWDs by up to 12 months.”

Note that this still means a year’s delay for Hobart. After consultation with Australia’s DoD, we are able to provide the following modified work summary for the 93 blocks involved in all 3 ships:

  • Navantia: 8 blocks… 3 sonar block assemblies, 5 reallocated blocks for Brisbane (expected cost: A$ 40 million)
  • ASC: 25 blocks… 9 Hobart, 8 for Brisbane & Sydney.
  • BAE: 7 blocks… 7 Hobart.
  • Forgacs: 38 blocks… 12 Hobart, 13 for Brisbane & Sydney.

BAE will complete the structural steel and initial outfitting work on the 7 Hobart blocks in its yard. Up to 13 BAE blocks (6 construction, 7 blast/ paint/ advanced outfitting) from Hobart & Brisbane to be reallocated “among the 3 Australian shipyards,” but this is likely to mean ASC & Forgacs in practice. A decision on BAE blocks for Sydney (implicitly: 2) will be made later in the AWD project.

BAE will, however, keep all 14 ship blocks for the 2 Canberra Class amphibious ships’ superstructure and integration work. Royal Australian Navy | Australia DoD | The Australian.

Major work reallocation

May 15/11: Infrastructure. ASC in Adelaide invites the public to its shipyard from 12noon -3:00pm, to tour progress on the construction of Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers (AWD). The event is jointly hosted with the AWD Alliance, and is the 1st time ASC’s shipyard has ever been open to the public.

This week also marked the start of blast and paint work at a new A$ 8 million facility at ASC’s Shipyard to paint steel blocks under construction. ASC.

April 27/11: AEGIS. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives an $18.3 million not-to-exceed contract modification for command team trainer efforts to build the Aegis Weapon System baseline for Australia’s Hobart Class. The firm will provide necessary combat systems engineering, computer program development, ship integration and test, logistics technical services, technical manuals and staging support.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (89%); Clearwater, FL (9%); and Adelaide, Australia (2%). Work is expected to be complete by December 2014 (N00024-10-C-5125, FMS case AT-P-LCQ).

April 1/11: Shipbuilding issues. Lead yard ASC hands Forgacs in Newcastle, Australia a new A$ 40 million contract from ASC for another 3 hull blocks, as a result of problems with work at BAE systems (formerly Tenix) in Victoria, Australia.

The contracts comes on top of Forgacs’ original A$ 150 million contract, and the firm is set to employ an extra 70 workers, but they’re having trouble recruiting enough skilled tradespeople at the Tomago shipyard. They’ve already gone from about 15 people at Tomago to around 300, and adding the additional boilermakers, welders, riggers, dogmen and scaffolders is proving to be a challenge. Australia Broadcasting Corp.


Picks: EW/ESM, STACOM; Problems with BAE’s work; DSCA request: SM-2 air defense missiles. Spain’s F101, 2005
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Dec 20/10: AWD Alliance. The Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance officially appoints acting CEO Mr. Rod Equid, BE (Electrical), M.Sc Engg (Aerosystems) as its new CEO. Before his step up to acting CEO in April 2010, he had been the alliance’s General Manager Business. His previous background includes 15 years as a RAAF engineer officer, 5 years as a senior Defence public servant, and nearly 14 years with Raytheon Australia.

“Mr Equid said hull construction is in the start-up phase on the way to peak production. Block production is currently underway in three shipyards, ASC in Adelaide, BAE Systems in Melbourne and Forgacs in Newcastle. “The combat system production is well advanced, combat system integration is on track and the AWD Alliance has signed contracts for nearly all major equipment and material,” Mr Equid said.”

Oct 27/10: Shipbuilding issues. The Australian reports that ASC has asked shipping experts from Lloyd’s Register Asia to visit BAE’s Williamstown shipyards, in order to “ensure the blocks are being built to internationally recognised standards.”

“ASC is believed to have asked Lloyd’s to become involved about four weeks ago when it became aware of the gravity of the keel bungle. The Lloyd’s advisers are likely to visit the shipyards once a week for at least the next six months to help oversee the construction. Spokespeople from ASC and Lloyd’s declined to comment yesterday.”

Oct 26/10: Keel Issues. Australian media report that Hobart’s 200t, 20m x 17m central keel block was built to inaccurate dimensions, as a result of faulty welding, and inadequate quality control at BAE Systems Australia’s (formerly Tenix) Williamstown shipyard. The AWD Alliance confirmed the problems, and said 2 other hull blocks were saved from distortion when the issue was identified and production processes were changed. The Australian reports that:

“One AWD source, who asked not to be named, said: “This is not a small problem – this is a major headache for us. This will have a ripple effect on the whole project because that hull block is critical, and if that block is delayed, then a raft of other things also get delayed.”

Beyond the obvious compatibility problems with other ship blocks, the keel block is arguably the most important part of the ship, supporting the heaviest machinery, and playing a large role in the ship’s long-term durability. AWD Alliance CEO Rod Equid said that he believes the problem has been fixed, without offering many details, and adds that the program has been 4 months ahead of schedule until recently. That buffer may help cushion the blow, but he would not commit to a revised timing figure. The Australian | Sydney Morning Herald | China’s Xinhua | The Age (incl. video) re: effects on other programs. See also The Australian’s update on current progress, “Destroyer program on full throttle .”

Shipbuilding problems at BAE

Oct 26/10: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Australia’s formal request to buy 17 Warhead Compatible Telemetry missiles used in missile tests, including AN/DKT-71 Telemeters and assembly kits, spare and repair parts, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, and support. The estimated cost is $46 million. The prime contractors are Raytheon Missiles Systems Company in Tucson, AZ; and Raytheon Company in Camden, AR.

The proposed sale of SM-2 Block IIIB STANDARD missiles will be used for anti-air warfare test firings during Combat Systems Ship Qualification Trials for the Royal Australian Navy’s 3 new Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers, currently under construction. Australia, which has already integrated the SM-2 Block IIIA, will have no difficulty absorbing these missiles into its armed forces. Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Australia.

SM-2 request

Oct 8/10: We’re hiring! The AWD Alliance announces a national recruitment drive to fill up to 60 vacancies in skilled positions.

The current focus on hull fabrication is leading to a demand for more welders at all three shipyards, as well as sheet metal workers, stores and warehouse positions, schedulers, procurement specialists and business analysts, pipe fitters, and boilermakers. In total, the 3 shipyards will also employ about 200 apprentices.

The Combat System team is moving to the management and test phase, creating demand for production engineers, integrated logistics support (ILS), systems engineers, and operations managers.

Sept 17/10: AEGIS. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $197.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, contract with performance incentives, for post-Critical Design Review (CDR) Aegis Combat Systems Engineering to finalize and implement the Aegis Weapon System baseline for the Government of Australia. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $211.4 million.

Naval Sea Systems Command contract N00024-09-C-5104 supported these efforts through Aegis Combat System Critical Design Review, but a new contract is needed for post-CDR efforts. Work will include the necessary combat systems engineering, computer program development, ship integration and test, logistics technical services, technical manuals and staging support.

The AWD AWS baseline will be derived from a technology refreshed variant of the U.S. Navy’s AWS Baseline 7, Phase I.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (86%), and Adelaide, Australia (14%), and is expected to be complete by December 2014. There’s only one Aegis supplier, so this contract was not competitively procured (N00024-10-C-5125 for FMS case AT-P-LCQ.

June 16/10: Block transport. The AWD Alliance signs a A$ 25 million contract with Toll North Pty Ltd. The firm will make 23 trips of a barge towed by a tug boat, in order to move 66 destroyer hull blocks by sea from BAE Systems in Newcastle (15 trips) and Forgacs in Melbourne (8 trips), to ASC in Adelaide. Each destroyer is composed of 31 hull blocks, which are assembled at the AWD Alliance’s Techport site in Adelaide.

Minister Combet adds that the SEA 4000 project is currently on track to deliver HMAS Hobart in December 2014. HMAS Brisbane is scheduled for delivery in March 2016, and HMAS Sydney in June 2017. Australia DoD.

May 20/10: SATCOM. Australia’s Labor Party Minister for Defence Materiel and Science, Greg Combet, announces that the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Alliance has selected Thales Australia Ltd. as the preferred supplier for satellite communications (SATCOM) equipment for the Hobart Class destroyers.

The AWD system incorporates SATCOM equipment from leading suppliers including ViaSat, SITEP and Thrane & Thrane. Under the A$ 9 million contract, Thales Australia will design and build the equipment at its Garden Island facility in Sydney, before installing the equipment on the AWDs at Techport Australia in Adelaide. Australian DoD.

SATCOM picks

April 23/10: AWD Alliance. CEO John Gallacher retires as chief executive of ASC Shipbuilding and the Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance, returning to Western Australia after 5 years as the head of the company. Adelaide Now.

April 15/10: Update. Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Alliance CEO John Gallacher offers some updates, as the AWD Alliance holds a formal ceremony to launch the project’s construction phase:

“At ASC in Adelaide work is well advanced on two blocks including decking and superstructure components a total of 35 metres long and weighing a total of more than 200 tonnes.

At BAE Williamstown, Victoria work is underway on building the four main ‘keel’ blocks that, when consolidated at ASC, will be 69 metres long and weigh a total of 450 tonnes; and

At FORGACS Newcastle, New South Wales work is underway on three central blocks, including super structure, with a total length of 36 metres and weighing a total of more than 200 tonnes… At the three shipyards some 500 people are now working directly on building the blocks with the total workforce on the project of 1000.”

AWD Alliance | Adelaide Now

April 14/10: EW/ESM. The AWD Alliance announces ITT-EDO Reconnaissance Surveillance Systems (RSS) as the preferred supplier of the Hobart Class’ electronic warfare capability, which will detect and classifying radars, produce countermeasure transmissions, and intercept communication signals. The EW component will be integrated with the AEGIS combat system, and ITT/EDO is joined by Australia’s Jenkins Engineering Defence Systems and Avalon Systems.

The AWD Alliance will now enter into contract negotiations that are expected to be complete by mid-2010.

EW/ESM picks

April 1/10: Radars. Northrop Grumman Systems, Inc. in Garden City, N.Y., is being awarded a $41.5 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-10-C-5343) for the delivery of AN/SPQ-9B radar sets and combat interface kits for use on U.S. Navy ships. Work will be performed in Melville, NY (91.2%); Norwalk, CT (5.5%); and Baltimore, MD (3.3%), and is expected to be complete by April 2011. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages this contract.

A subsequent corporate release confirms that this purchase covers 6 radar shipsets, including the 3rd radar of a 3-system order for the Royal Australian Navy’s Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers; and 3 antenna groups. The follow-on order is part of a five-year $281.5 million contract awarded in October 2009. See also May 5/08, July 9/08, and Oct 30/09 entries in this FOCUS article, as well as the free-to-view article: “NGC Contracted for USN/RAN SPQ-9B Radars & Support

March 10/10: Infrastructure. The AWD announces contracts worth more than A$ 4 million for the fit-out of the new Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Systems Centre at Techport Australia, Adelaide, South Australia. The new AWD headquarters will have a 5 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia, and will accommodate 300 staff including personnel from the Commonwealth, ASC, Raytheon Australia, Navantia, Bath Iron Works, Lockheed Martin and the US Navy. Move-in is expected later in 2010.

Member firm ASC signed a contract with the ISSI property services group, for infrastructure, equipment and services in the Systems Centre. This includes work stations; custom joinery; electrical, mechanical, hydraulic and fire protection services; graphics and interior design; equipment; and project management.

Member firm Raytheon Australia signed a contract with Synergy for work audio visual systems (including interactive whiteboards, LCD screens, projectors and audio systems), video conference systems and a voice telephony system. Many of the audio-visual items will be provided by Adelaide’s Leedall Presentation Systems.

Woods Bagot, designers of the fit-out, will provide expert consultancy services to the AWD Alliance. More than 1,300 pieces of loose furniture have been ordered from 6 Adelaide office furniture suppliers, including Living Edge and Schiavello.


4th ship declined; Ships will have GPS-guided RGM-86 Harpoon Block IIs and SM-6 air defense missiles; FORGACS to work on several ship blocks; Other sub-contracts; Project updates. RGM-84 Harpoon launch
(click to view full)

Dec 8/09: Harpoon Block II. Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet provides an update regarding the AWD program, and notes both Lockheed Martin’s “pull the plug” ceremony, and an A$ 20 million (currently $18.3 million) contract with Boeing for the Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System.

Its accompanying missiles, expected to be RGM-84 Harpoon Block IIs with dual radar/GPS guidance “…will allow our three Air Warfare Destroyers to engage surface and land targets at ranges well beyond the horizon.”

Dec 1/09: Testing. Lockheed Martin hosts a “pull-the-plug” ceremony at its Moorestown, NJ facility, marking the end of acceptance tests for the 1st Australian AEGIS system. The AWD-1 system is now ready for installation on Hobart, it will now be packed and shipped to ASC Shipyard in Adelaide, South Australia. The ship is still scheduled for delivery as HMAS Hobart in 2014. Lockheed Martin.

Oct 30/09: Radar. A $26.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 4 AN/SPQ-9B radar sets combines purchases for the US Navy (56%) and the government of Australia (44%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. They will deliver 2 horizon search AN/SPQ-9B radar sets to each customer, including above and below deck hardware, and combat interface kits.

This contract includes options which would bring the duration to 5 years, and the cumulative value of this contract to $281.5 million. Those options encompass U.S. Nimitz Class aircraft carriers, Ticonderoga Class cruisers and amphibious assault ships; as well as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Bertholf Class National Security Cutters and the Australian Navy’s Hobart Class.

Northrop Grumman will perform the work in Melville, NY (91.2%); Norwalk, CT (5.5%); Baltimore, MD (3.3%), and expects to complete it by April 2011. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC, is the contracting activity (N00024-10-C-5343). See also NGC release.

Oct 30/09: Radar. A $7.9 million cost- plus-fixed fee contract for continued design agent and technical engineering support to AN/SPQ-9B radars during installation, integration, testing, and refurbishment. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value to $39.3 million. It combines purchases for the US Navy (71.8%) and the government of Australia (28.2%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

Work will be performed in Melville, NY (96.9%); Baltimore, MD (2.4%); Norwalk, CT (0.7%), and is expected to be completed by October 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C. (N00024-10-C-5341).

Oct 20/09: Update. The Rudd government’s Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet, provides some updates regarding the program and recently-awarded contracts.

  • ASC in Adelaide has begun work on the “pilot block”, one of its 27 assigned 200-tonne ship sections.
  • Similar fabrication of blocks will begin at BAE’s facilities in Williamstown, Victoria in November 2009.
  • Similar fabrication of blocks will begin at The FORGACS Group’s facilities in Newcastle, NSW in December 2009.
  • South Australia’s Ferrocut has successfully tested its steel plate cutting capabilities.
  • The AWD Alliance signed an A$ 12 million (about EUR 7.4 million) contract with Eurotorp to provide 3 shipsets of torpedo launch systems.

The AWD Alliance also signed 6 contracts worth approximately A$ 18 million (about $16.7 million) with Australian companies:

  • Scientific Management Associates has won a contract initially worth A$ 13 million to supply a range of integrated logistic support services to the project.
  • Ottoway Engineering in Adelaide, has won a contract potentially worth up to $3.7 million.
  • United Fasteners, Priority Engineering Services, Century Products and Whyalla Fabrications have also won work on the AWD project to provide a range of materials and services.

Aug 20/09: Sub-contractors. The Australian government announces a pair of AWD contracts worth about A$ 39 million.

Taylor Bros Slipway and Engineering in Tasmania won a tendered contract worth “more than $25 million” to deliver parts for sailor accommodation, including cabin and sanitary modules, on-board furniture and galley, pantry and scullery equipment. This contract will create 20 new jobs.

The AWD Alliance has also signed a contract to provide Australia’s biggest crane, which will help with construction of ship “blocks” weighing up to 250 tonnes. Manitowoc Crane Group Australia will supply the 900+ tonne capacity crane under an A$ 14 million contract. Minister’s announcement | AWD Alliance.

Aug 13/09: Testing. The AEGIS Weapon System destined for HMAS Hobart begins a 4 month testing program at Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Production Test Center. The center replicates a ship’s superstructure, and allows for initial integration of the SPY-1D(V) radar, illuminators, all computing hardware, and the cabling that will be used in the final ship installation. Once testing is complete, the system will be shipped to ASC Shipyard in Adelaide, Australia for installation. Lockheed Martin release.

June 30/09: AEGIS. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ received a $44.9 million cost-plus award/ fixed-fee contract for combat systems engineering to support the government of Australia’s Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Program. Under Foreign Military Sales Program – Case AT-P-LCQ, LM MS2 will support efforts through AEGIS Combat System critical design review (CDR).

LM MS2 will provide the necessary combat systems engineering, computer program development, ship integration and test logistics technical services, NSCC/CSEDS equipment, and staging support to design and build an AEGIS Weapon System (AWS) baseline for the program, derived from a technology refreshed variant of the US Navy’s AEGIS baseline 7 Phase I.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (97%) and Australia (3%), and is expected to be complete by June 2010. This contract was not competitively procured, under the authority of 10 U.S.C. (c)(4), International Agreement. As such, this procurement was not synopsized in Federal Business Opportunities (N00024-09-C-5104).

June 29/09: ASC, on behalf of the AWD Alliance, announces contracts with BAE Systems Australia Defence in Victoria (formerly Tenix) and The FORGACS Group in New South Wales. They will build 66 (70%) of the 200 tonne Australian ship “blocks” used in the 3 Hobart class ships. The combined work is valued at A$ 450 million, and will create about 450 direct jobs, with the majority of the work going to BAE Systems’ shipyard in Williamstown. Construction of the first blocks will begin later in 2009.

The Alliance had previously identified NQEA in Queensland as a preferred supplier (q.v. May 9/09 entry), but the firm later advised the Alliance that it was seeking to restructure its business, and needed more time to meet its financial obligations. This led the AWD Alliance to decide that it would negotiate with both short-listed bidders, and BAE was able to beat NQEA by demonstrating that it could meet the project’s requirements. FORGACS, who had been listed as a preferred supplier on May 9/09, remained one.

Shipbuilding block contracts

May 11/09: ASIST. Curtiss-Wright Corporation announces a “multi-million dollar contract” from ASC AWD Shipbuilder Pty. Ltd. to supply Aircraft Ship Integrated Secure and Traverse (ASIST) helicopter handling systems and modular lightweight tracks for 3 Hobart class ships. The contract contains an option for a 4th shipset of equipment, with a potential award in 2009. The total contract value, including all follow-on options, is expected to be in excess of $15 million.

Curtiss-Wright Flow Control will perform the work at its facility in Ontario, Canada, with initial deliveries scheduled to begin in late 2009.

The ASIST system is a state-of-the-art deck handling solution for shipboard helicopter operations that allows all deck handling operations to be accomplished without the need for personnel on the flight deck. The ASIST system uses advanced positioning data and displays inside the helicopter to help achieve safe helicopter handling in all operational weather and sea conditions. The system will initially operate with the Australian Navy legacy S-70B helicopters, and will be compatible with future helicopter designs.

May 9/09: The Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Alliance selects the FORGACS group in Newcastle, and NQEA Australia Pty Ltd in Cairns, as the preferred suppliers to build most of the Australian ship “blocks” for the Hobart class.

The contracts could be worth up to A$ 450 million, and will see 66 blocks (70%) built at these 2 sites, with the remaining 27 blocks (30%) built at ASC’s facility in Osborne, South Australia. When complete, the blocks will be transported by ship or barge to the ASC facility in Osborne, where block erection and integration with the ship will occur. On average the blocks measure 18m x 12m x 7m, and weigh up to 200 tonnes.

Shipbuilding picks

May 2/09: SM-6. Australia’s new defense White Paper says that the forthcoming Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyers will be equipped with new SM-6 missiles and Cooperative Engagement Capability. A 4th Hobart class destroyer is noted as a possible future buy, but this is unlikely.

Their equipment set will give the Hobart class wide anti-air warfare reach, and even some latent terminal phase ballistic missile defense capabilities. As a matter of policy, however, the Rudd Labor Party government disavows national missile defense systems. The Hobart class ships will not be ordered with the AEGIS BMD modifications that would give them full missile defense capabilities, but another government could retrofit those changes later on, much as the USA has done with some of the US Navy’s DDG-51 class destroyers and CG-47 class cruisers. See “Australia’s 2009 Defense White Paper” for full coverage.

White Paper tabs SM-6

March 30/09: AEGIS. Lockheed Martin announces that 4 antennas destined for HMAS Hobart were recently installed in the firm’s Aegis Production Test Center. Testing on the first Air Warfare Destroyer Aegis shipset will begin in early May 2009, and complete in November 2009. When testing concludes, the
entire AEGIS System will be shipped to ASC Shipyard in Adelaide, Australia, for installation.

March 6/09: Engines. India’s Business Times reports that an overzealous US State Department bureaucrat appears to have created a 3-4 month delay in the Project 17 program, after ordering GE to stop work on the LM2500 turbines it was supplying for India’s Shivalik Class frigates. The given reason? A 3-4 month internal State Department review of American relationships with other countries. The article reports that “GE has been told to stop work even with close US allies like the UK and Australia.”

As the Feb 25/09 entry notes, GE’s LM2500s also power the Hobart Class. Read “US State Dept. Throws A Wrench Into Exports, Allied Shipbuilding” for more.

Feb 25/09: Engines. As expected, GE Marine reports that it will supply ASC Shipbuilding in Adelaide, Australia, with 6 LM2500 gas turbines to power the Royal Australian Navy’s 3 Hobart Class ships. The engines will be mounted in a CODAG (Combined Diesel And Gas) propulsion system, and dual-turbine sets are scheduled for delivery in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

The LM2500 gas turbines for the AWD program will be manufactured at GE’s Evendale, OH facility, while the base and enclosure assemblies will be manufactured by Thales Australia Ltd. in Bendigo, Australia. As DID has reported, that Thales partnership already manufactures all of the LM2500 bases and enclosures for the United States Navy, and for international customers who select the U.S. Navy-configured propulsion module. Maritime Executive.

Engines picked

Feb 15/09: Adelaide newspaper The Advertiser reports that the current draft of Australia’s Defence White Paper will recommend against building a 4th Hobart Class destroyer, and also includes plans to mothball 1-2 of the RAN’s Collins Class submarines. When asked for comment, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon refused to discuss any recommendations until the White Paper’s recommendations could be approved and released.

Those submarines are currently inactive anyway, due to recruitment difficulties that have left the RAN short on submarine crews. A decision to build only 3 Hobart Class destroyers has larger industrial implications, however, because the 4th ship was expected to form a bridge of work to the next-generation submarine that would replace the Adelaide-built Collins Class. That project may be headed for big political trouble of its own, however, which would force some very difficult industrial decisions by the Australian government.


DSCA requests: AEGIS for 4th ship, CEC & SPQ-9B for other ships; Key sub-contractors picked for sonar, passive surveillance; Naval guns contract. Mk.45 MOD 4 Naval Gun

Dec 2/08: Sub-contracts. The Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Alliance announces contracts for 3 more component sets within the Hobart class ships, totaling about USD$ 20 million.

$10 million will go to SAFRAN Group’s Sagem Defense Securite Australasia for its VAMPIR NG (Veille Air-Mer Panoramique Infrarouge Nouvelle Generation/ New Generation Infrared Panoramic Air-Sea Surveillance) infrared surveillance systems. VAMPIR NG offers high-resolution panoramic images in visible light and/or infrared, providing short range surveillance and warning of incoming UAVs, fast boats, or even missiles – without creating traceable radar emissions. It calls on state-of-the-art image processing technology, and deploys 3rd-generation gyrostabilized infrared sensors for maximum efficiency. VAMPIR NG will be integrated with the ships’ combat system, and an also be used as a helicopter landing aid. It is already present on Australia’s upgraded ANZAC-ASMD Class frigates, and had been chosen for the Canberra class LHDs, giving it a huge advantage in this selection process. Sagem’s VAMPIR NG data sheet [PDF].

$5 million will go to Terma A/S of Lystrp, Denmark for the ships’ Counter Measure Launcher system, which fires decoys in automated sequences that are designed to confuse inbound anti-ship missiles and acoustic-homing torpedoes. The system includes 4 deck mounted MK-137 130 mm decoy launchers, a launch control computer, and a launcher interface unit. The system will support both passive and active decoys, and is prepared for further DL-6T upgrade if required. The system can be operated from the dedicated control units, or via the Australian Tactical Interface (ATI). Terma decoy systems equip Australia’s upgraded Adelaide Class frigates, the USA’s Littoral combat Ships, and vessels of the Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, and Romanian navies. Terma release.

$3 million will go to L-3 Communications Nautronix Limited in Fremantle, Australia for the ships’ Navigation Radar, Voyage Data Recorder, and Automatic Identification System. The ships will use L-3 X-Band Navigation Radar, the DEBEG 4300 Voyage Data Recorder, and Protec-S AIS. L-3 SAM Electronics of Germany and L-3 Communications Aviation Recorders Division of the USA will act as sub-contractors.

These follow contracts earlier this year for the Australian Tactical Interface Phase One (A$ 4 million), sonar (A$ 85 million) and the MK 45 5-inch gun (A$ 80 million). Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement Greg Combet adds that further contracts worth a total value of more than A$ 100 million are also likely to be signed by the end of the year. The Alliance intends to complete a number of purchases by the end of the year, including the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile launcher and control system, the Very Short Range Defence capability, torpedo launch system and tubes, and satellite communications antennas. AWD Alliance | Australian DoD.

Sept 17/08: Guns. The Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance announces an A$ 80 million (about $63.5 million) contract to BAE Systems to provide the 3 Mark 45 Guns for the Hobart Class ships. As noted earlier, Raytheon will act as the weapon and systems integrator.

The 5-inch/ 127mm Mk45 currently serves on the RAN’s ANZAC frigates, Spain’s F100 frigates, and American Arleigh Burke Class destroyers, among others; the most current version in the Mk45 MOD4.

At this point in time, the AWD Alliance has now let contracts or identified preferred suppliers for the delivery of equipment worth more than $1.1 billion, including the core AEGIS radars and combat system, sonar systems, and guns. The AWD Alliance will make a decision in early 2009 on contracts to build ship modules or ‘blocks,’ which will eventually be integrated at the ASC facility in Adelaide. The total value of those upcoming contracts is estimated to be around A$ 400 million. AWD Alliance release | Minister’s announcement | BAE Systems release


Sept 15/08: AWD Alliance. Australia’s Minister for Defence announces his appointment Mr Michael Roche as the new Chair of the Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance Principals’ Council. Other members include Dr Stephen Gumley, CEO of the DoD’s Defence Materiel Organisation; Vice Admiral Matt Tripovich of the RAN; Mr John Prescott, Chairman of ASC Pty Ltd; and Mr Dan Smith, President of Raytheon Company.

Mr Roche is a former Under Secretary for Defence Materiel in the Department of Defence and, before that Deputy CEO of the Australian Customs Service with responsibilities for Border Control, Intelligence, Information and Communications Technology and Internal Affairs.

“I have discussed the Air Warfare Destroyer project with Mr Roche, and made it clear that I expect him to closely monitor the progress of the project and the AWD Alliance… to ensure that it is kept on track.”

Sept 10/08: 4th ship? The Liberal Party of Australia, now Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Australia, issues a public call for Australia to build a 4th Hobart Class destroyer:

“If Mr Rudd wants a naval build-up, he should immediately order a fourth air warfare destroyer. The contract option for a fourth AWD expires in October but we have heard no word from the Government on that option being extended. “

The release follows a Sept 9/08 speech by Labor Party Prime Minister Rudd at Australia’s Returned Veteran and Services League’s national congress.

Aug 8/08: Sonar. The British firm Ultra Electronics has its sonar picked for the Australian AWD program, following a rigorous tender process. The firm supplies the bow-mounted sonar for Britain’s Type 45 anti-air destroyers, and has committed to undertake more than 50% of its AWD sonar systems work in Australia. The Australian DoD releases hints that its Surface Ship Torpedo Defence system may also be part of the contract.

Other Requests for Tender will follow for work on the ships’ hull blocks, as well as work on other elements of the ships’ combat systems. AWD Alliance release | Australian DoD | Sydney Morning Herald.

Sonar picked

July 29/08: AEGIS. Lockheed Martin announces that it has completed production of 2 of the 4 SPY-1D-V radar arrays for Australia’s first Hobart-class Air Warfare Destroyer. These updated S-band radars perform a number of tasks including long-range volume search, fire control-quality tracking and ballistic missile defense. They will be paired with the new Aegis Open Architecture (OA) combat system.

July 9/08: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Australia’s official request for the AEGIS Combat System and select combat system and communication components for its “Air Warfare Destroyers,” plus Communication and information distribution systems, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, personnel training and training equipment, support and test equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, and other related elements of logistics support.

The estimated cost is $700 million, and implementation will require 3 contractor representatives in Australia for approximately 6 months during the equipment installations, test and checkout of the AEGIS Combat System. In addition, Australia is requesting:

  • 1 MK 41 Vertical Launch System (32 cells)
  • 1 AN/SPQ-9B Horizon Search Radar
  • 1 Cooperative Engagement Capability System
  • 1 Naval Fire Control System
  • 1 Multi-Functional Information Distribution System (MIDS, i.e. Link 16 capability)
  • AN/SLQ-25A Nixie Countermeasure Suite
  • MK160 Gun Computer System with MK 20 Electro-Optical Sight
  • AIMS MK XII Identification Friend or Foe (IFF)

The principal contractors will be:

  • Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ; Eagan, MN; and Baltimore, MD
  • Raytheon Systems Company in St. Petersburg, FL and Sudbury, MA
  • Northrop Grumman Corporation Melville, NY

This request appears to cover Australia’s option for a 4th ship, which is later declined.

AEGIS request – 4th ship

May 5/08: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Australia’s formal request for ancillary components and services to equip its 3 ordered ships.

These include 3 AN/SPQ-9B Horizon Search Radars, 3 Cooperative Engagement Capability Systems, 3 Naval Fire Control Systems, 3 Multi-Functional Information Distribution Systems, the MK160 Gun Computer System that directs the ship’s naval gun, AIMS MK XII Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), and AN/SLQ-25A Nixie torpedo countermeasure suites and decoys. The request also includes unspecified communication and information distribution systems, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, personnel training and training equipment, support and test equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, and other related elements of support.

The estimated cost is up to $450 million, but exact costs will depend on contract negotiations. The principal contractors will be: Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensor in Moorestown, NJ and Eagan, MN; Raytheon Systems Company in St. Petersburg, FL; and Northrop Grumman Corporation in Melville, NY.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 3 contractor representatives in Australia for approximately 3 months during the preparation, equipment installations, and equipment test and checkout of the Cooperative Engagement Capability systems and the AN/SPQ-9B radar.

Ancillary systems request

March 7/08: Infrastructure. Construction on the $100 million upgrade of ASC’s Osborne shipyard begins with the explosive demolition of an outdated amenities building, and a traditional soil-turning next to Techport Australia’s Common User Facility.

See June 27/07 entry; the upgrade will include state-of-the-art AWD production facilities, new office accommodation for 400 employees and a wharf support building with office space and workshops. ASC release.

Jan 31/08: Training. ASC announces that it will be offering a number of its employees spaces in a new Master of Project Management program, to be delivered through the University of South Australia and funded by the Australian Defence Materiel Organisation’s “Skilling Australias Defence Industry” (SADI) program. Courses will take place at the South Australian Government’s new Maritime Skills Centre, which is part of the Techport Australia precinct at Osborne where the Hobart Class will be built.


Main AWD contract to AWD Alliance; Main “Australianization” contract for Raytheon; Infrastructure approval and contracts for shipyard; Other contracts continue; Government changes; 4th ship? AN/SPY-1 emitter

November 2007: New government. Australia’s general election results in a change of government. Howard’s Liberal Party is eclipsed by Rudd’s Labor Party. Dr. Brendan Nelson becomes the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Oct 4/07: 4th ship? In a “doorstop interview,” Minister for Defence Dr. Brendan Nelson discusses the option for a 4th AWD ship, and hints that it may be a pre-election announcement:

“More than 3,000 Australians will get jobs from this. More than 1,000 contractors throughout Australia will be undertaking work to help build the ships. More than $4 billion of that will be invested directly in Australia… Well I certainly am disposed to seeing a fourth destroyer being built. Obviously we have kept the option open. We will need to make that decision before the end of next year. But we’d be talking about [A$] 1.5 billion, which is a lot of money… We’ve kept the option open… the decision as to whether we do have a fourth Air Warfare Destroyer… does not have to be made until the end of next year, because Raytheon, which [inaudible] Aegis combat system, which is the fighting part of the ship, will have a production line going until then.”

Raytheon Australia is the overall electronic systems integrator on the Hobart Class, which includes integrating the AEGIS system. Properly speaking, however, Lockheed Martin makes the AEGIS radar & combat system. The USA is reaching the end of DDG-51 class production, and has no other ships under construction that will carry AEGIS systems. They are also producing AEGIS systems for South Korea’s KDX-III destroyers, Spain’s F100 frigates, Norway’s Nansen Class frigates, and any future Japanese Kongo Class destroyers, though the volume of these orders is not large.

AWD Concept
(click to view full)

Oct 4/07: Raytheon announces that AWD Mission Systems Integrator Raytheon Australia has signed a contract to “Australianize” the Hobart Class combat system around the AEGIS core. The contract covers the design, development and procurement of the “Australianized” combat system, and is valued at US$ 1.2 billion (A$ 1.4 billion). Raytheon release.

Oct 4/07: Main contract. Minister for Defence Dr. Brendan Nelson announces the signing of the final contracts to build 3 “Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs)” for the Royal Australian Navy.

The principal contract signed was the 3-way Alliance Based Target Incentive Agreement between the Defence Materiel Organisation, Navantia’s Australian partner ASC AWD Shipbuilder Pty Ltd, and mission systems integrator Raytheon Australia Pty Ltd. This contract does not include the AEGIS Combat System, which is a separate agreement between the Australian and United States Governments. The Platform System Design contract between Australia and Navantia S.A. was also signed this day.

Teams from the Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance will be touring Australia in late October-early November 2007 to promote project opportunities to Australian industry, with 2 teams from the Alliance visiting Canberra and Cairns (22 October), Newcastle and Wollongong (23 October), Sydney and Launceston (24 October), Brisbane (25 October), Melbourne (26 October), Adelaide (30 October) and Perth (2 November). More details will be announced on the AWD Alliance website.

3 AWDs ordered

June 27/07: Infrastructure. ASC Ltd Pty announces that it has awarded its first major AWD contract for construction of the Program’s A$ 100 million shipyard. Work will include the development of dedicated AWD production facilities, new office accommodation for 400 employees, a wharf support building with office space and workshops, and a significant upgrade to existing facilities. South Australian firm Hansen Yuncken has been selected to design and construct the shipyard.

These facilities will be located adjacent to Techport Australia’s Common User Facility in Osborne. ASC will work in an alliance with Hansen Yuncken to develop the infrastructure master plan, design and manage the entire construction. Final designs are scheduled to be completed in September 2007, with construction to commence in October 2007 and be completed by October 2009. Upon satisfactory completion of the design phase, Hansen Yuncken will again be contracted to perform the associated shipyard construction.

John Gallacher, Chief Executive Officer of ASC Shipbuilding, said development of the shipyard held unique challenges not often found in local construction programs:

“Our shipyard production facilities and infrastructure will need to be capable of handling and transporting ship components weighing up to 1,200 tonnes each – this is no common development project.”

June 20/07: Phase 2 ends. The Australian DoD announces the winner of its AWD design competition: Navantia’s F100 Class frigates. This ends Phase 2 of the SEA 4000 program, and moves it ahead to the Build phase. Since entering service with the Spanish Navy, Alvaro de Bazan Class frigates have worked alongside the US Navy as the first foreign AEGIS-equipped ship to be fully integrated into a USN Carrier Strike Group, been deployed as the flagship of NATO’s Maritime Group Standing Reaction Force, and even participated in a US anti-ballistic missile test [vid. June 22/07 entry].

The government’s release adds that Australian Industry will deliver products and services worth around:

“…[55% of the A$ 6.6 billion AWD Program] over the next 15 years, which will be followed by high value through life support contracts into the middle of the century. While Adelaide based ASC will conduct the final assembly of the AWDs, around 70 per cent of the ship modules will be built at other shipbuilding sites around Australia, potentially including sites in Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. The AWD Programme will eventually employ around 3,000 Australians in a variety of engineering and related fields working for a range of companies and suppliers throughout Australia.”

Australian DoD release | Australian DoD prepared Q&A [PDF format] | ASC release || Australian DoD briefing in Audio-only [MP3, 8.1MB] and Video [Windows Media, 20.1 MB].

Navantia design wins

June 13/07: AEGIS. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products in Burlington, VT received an $8 million firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5103) for production, assembly and testing of 8 sets of AEGIS MK 82 Mod 0 Guided Missile Directors and MK 200 Mod 0 Director Controllers, major components of the AEGIS Weapons Systems. This modification supports the governments of Australia (75%, 6 sets for AWD) and Spain (25%, 2 sets for F105) under the Foreign Military Sales program. Work will be performed in Burlington, VT and is expected to be completed by February 2013.

The MK82 mounts the antenna assembly on an elevation-over-train pedestal and provides space stabilization for the AN/SPY-1 radar’s line of sight (LOS). The assembly is capable of motion on two axes, train and elevation (parallel to and normal to the base plane of the director), and is unmanned with start, stop and reset controls remotely located. The director, which is not limited in train or traverse positioning, supplies train and elevation position data and radar LOS rates in traverse and elevation for use by the fire control system computer.

May 30/07: Infrastructure. Defence Minister the Hon Dr Brendan Nelson and South Australian Deputy Premier Kevin Foley gave the official green light to construction of the Maritime Skills Centre. The $6 million purpose-built facility will support the Air Warfare Destroyer Alliance as a centre of excellence in maritime construction training. The Maritime Skills Centre will be located adjacent to ASC Shipbuilding at Techport Australia. Construction will commence in the June-July 2007 and conclude in February 2008, in readiness for the AWD Alliance to commence training at the facility from March 2008.

Techport Australia will not only build the state-of-the-art AWDs but also attract other shipbuilding and repair opportunities. Their investment includes:

  • Common user shipbuilding facilities, including wharf, transfer system and Australia’s largest shiplift
  • More than 35 hectares for suppliers to establish operations, and
  • The future home of the high tech AWD Systems Centre – headquarters for the AWD program.

“Where capacity permits, the Skills Centre will also be able to be used for training to benefit wider industry,” Mr Foley said. The South Australian Government has invested over $20 million in workforce development programs to support the skill growth required by modern shipbuilding, and is investing over $250 million to develop Techport Australia as a world-class shipbuilding precinct at Osborne, with approximately $60 million worth of contracts awarded to date. These developments are part of the South Australian state government’s plan to double the contribution of the defense industry to their economy, and increase defense industry employment to 28,000 people by 2013. Official Australian DoD announcement.

March 28/07: AEGIS. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury MA received a $184.9 million firm-fixed-price definitization modification for production of 4 AEGIS Transmitter Groups. AWS is the primary anti-air warfare defensive weapons system onboard surface ship combatants. The transmitter group is part of the AN/SPY-1D radar; 3 of the transmitter groups are for the Commonwealth of Australia’s Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyer shipbuilding program, with one designated for the Government of Spain’s next Alvaro de Bazan Class frigate, designated F105. The so-called “definitized” contract reflects the fully negotiated firm-fixed-price, and includes an increase in funding over the original $72 million contract awarded June 26/06.

Under this Foreign Military Sales contract, Raytheon IDS will manufacture, integrate and test AN/SPY-1 D(V) system transmitters and MK99 Fire Control Systems for the AWD program and F105. Each ship will mount 3 SPY-1 transmitter plates, and 2 MK99 illuminators. Work is expected to be complete by April 2010, and will be performed at Raytheon IDS’ Surveillance and Sensors Center in Sudbury, MA; the Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, MA; and the Maritime Mission Center in Portsmouth, RI. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-06-C-5118). See also Raytheon’s April 24/07 release.

AEGIS Combat Control
(click to view full)

March 27/07: AEGIS. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ received a $260.4 million fixed-price incentive modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-5120) for production of 4 AEGIS Weapon Systems (AWS).

This contract modification specifies AWS Long Lead Material requirements, and modifies a June 30/06 award of $85 million for Australia’s AWD long lead material items. It combines support of the Commonwealth of Australia (75%) and the Government of Spain (25%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, and is expected to be complete by February 2013.

The heart of the AWS is Lockheed Martin’s AN/SPY-1D Radar System, a 3-dimensional, air/surface search and tracking radar; there is also a software combat system component. The 4 will be next-generation Aegis Weapon Systems – among the first to include 100% commercial off-the-shelf hardware and a fully open architecture computing environment. Lockheed Martin will synchronize production of the systems for Australia and Spain with the U.S. Navy’s AEGIS modernization program, which calls for delivery of the first fully open architecture Aegis Weapon System to the USS Bunker Hill [GC 52, Ticonderoga Class cruiser] in 2008.

March 13/07: MK-41. Lockheed Martin Corp. Maritime System and Sensors – Marine Systems in Baltimore, MD received a $16.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-98-C-5363) to provide MK 41 Baseline VII Vertical Launching System launcher ship sets for 3 Royal Australian Navy Air Warfare Destroyer Class (Project SEA 4000) ships and Spain’s new F100 Alvaro de Bazan Class frigate [F105, unnnamed at present] under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program.

The modification combines purchases for the governments of Australia (73%) and Spain (27%), and includes the labor associated with production of installation and checkout (INCO) spares, INCO special tools and test equipment, onboard repair parts and other ancillary equipment. Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD and is expected to be completed by December 2009.

Jan 30/07: MK-41. Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, MD received a $5.6 million cost-plus-award-fee modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-5453). It exercises options for technical engineering services in support of MK 41 Vertical Launching System Integration for the Governments of Spain (60%); Australia (37%); Germany (2%); and Korea (1%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (80%) and Ventura, CA (20%), and is expected to be complete by October 2008.

Jan 11/07: AEGIS. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products in Burlington, VT received a not to exceed $9.9 million firm-fixed-price letter contract for long lead material items to support assembly and testing of the AEGIS MK 82 Mod 0 Guided Missile Directors and MK 200 Mod 0 Director Controllers in support of Australian Foreign Military Sales case AT-P-LCQ for the amount of $3.7 million (75%) and Spanish Foreign Military Sales case SP-P-LGB for the amount of $1,237,500 (25%). The actual AEGIS equipment being assembled and tested will be installed at a later date aboard the Australian Air Warfare Destroyer and the Spanish F100 Frigate Class F105. Work will be performed in Burlington, VT, and is expected to be complete by January 2009. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-07-C-5103).

The MK82 mounts the antenna assembly on an elevation-over-train pedestal and provides space stabilization for the radar line of sight (LOS). The assembly is capable of motion on two axes, train and elevation (parallel to and normal to the base plane of the director), and is unmanned with start, stop and reset controls remotely located. The director, which is not limited in train or traverse positioning, supplies train and elevation position data and radar LOS rates in traverse and elevation for use by the fire control system computer.


DSCA modified to AEGIS & Mk.41 VLS systems; Contracts begin for AEGIS, Mk.41; Gibbs & Cox release evolved design. MK 41 VLS
(click to view full)

Nov 9/06: MK-41. Lockheed Martin Maritime System and Sensors/ Littoral Ships and Systems in Baltimore, MD received a $60.7 million firm-fixed-price modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-98-C-5363) for procurement of 4 MK 41, MOD 15 Baseline VII, Vertical Launcher Ship (VLS) Sets. This work is taking place on behalf the Governments of Australia (73.2%) and Spain (26.8%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

Lockheed will also provide launcher support equipment and the associated labor for establishing material requisitions, program scheduling requirements, and establishment of purchase orders with suppliers and performance of necessary business and production operations. Work will be performed in Baltimore, MD (52.7%), Minneapolis, MN (22%), Aberdeen, SD (8%), Aiken, SC (7%), Ft. Totten, ND (5.2%), and East Elmhurst, NY (5.1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2008.

August 3/06: Gibbs & Cox release their 7,370t “Evolved” design for the Air Warfare Destroyer. Overall, it’s about mid-way between Spain’s 5,800t F100 Alvaro de Bazan Class, and the USA’s 9,000t DDG-51 Arleigh Burkes; and slightly smaller than Britain’s 8,000t Type 45 Daring Class anti-air warfare desroyers. Gibbs & Cox is part of the Evolved AWD Team working at the newly-opened AWD Systems Centre in Adelaide; it also includes ship builder ASC Shipbuilder Pty Ltd, weapons integrator Raytheon Australia, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation. Their Evolved design will now compete with an ‘Australianized’ version of the Spanish F100, and a selection will be made at Second Pass Approval in 2007. See DID coverage.

Evolved design released

July 14/06: AEGIS. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announces [PDF format] a formal request from the Government of Australia to buy up to 3 AEGIS Mk7 Weapon Systems; and up to 3 MK 41 Vertical Launch System Baseline VII ship sets (24 modules each). Together, the AEGIS radar and weapon-control system plus the Mk 41 vertical launchers will contain and direct most of the Australian Air Warfare Destroyer’s firepower. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1 billion.

The order would also include U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, personnel training and training equipment, support and test equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, launch system software development and maintenance and other related elements of logistics support. There are no known offset agreements proposed, and implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 3 contractor representatives in Australia for approximately 36 months during the preparation, equipment installations, and equipment test and checkout of the MK 41 Vertical Launch Systems on the ships.

The principal contractors will be Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ & Eagan, MN (AEGIS lead contractor); Raytheon’s Equipment Division in Andover, MA (hardware and spares); and General Dynamics Armament Systems in Burlington, VA. Note that this umbrella announcement includes many subsequent contract awards covered by this article, which are the piecemeal implementation of the framework described here.

AEGIS & Mk.41 request

July 12/06: AEGIS. Raytheon announces a $72.8 million U.S. Navy contract for the advanced procurement of radar equipment for the Royal Australian Navy’s Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD). Under the contract, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) will provide system transmitters, associated hardware and spares for AN/SPY-1D(V) radar for the first three Australian ships. Work will be performed at IDS’ Surveillance and Sensors Center in Sudbury, MA the Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, MA and the Maritime Mission Center in Portsmouth, RI.

June 30/06: AEGIS. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, Moorestown, NJ receives an $85.3 million fixed-price letter contract for long-lead material items and critical work center efforts to support the production of 3 AEGIS Weapon Systems (AWS) for the Commonwealth of Australia’s Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Shipbuilding Program. The AWS comprises the core command and control system, the phased array radar, and missile launch system. See March 27/07 entry for the final cost figure.

Award of this contract is designed to eliminate the risk and increased costs associated with a break in production, and minimize the risk of delay in the 2013 delivery date for the first Air Warfare Destroyer. This award is for Australia (100%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. $64.6 million will be obligated at time of award. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, and is expected to be complete by March 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington DC (N00024-06-C-5120).

June 26/06: AEGIS. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA receives a $72.8 million firm-fixed-price letter contract for long-lead material items and Critical Work Center efforts in support of SPY-1D (V) AEGIS Weapon Systems (AWS) Transmitter Group production for the Government of Australia (GOA) Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Program. This contract supports the GOA under the Foreign Military Sales program. Long lead-time items will, at a future date, be used by contractor to manufacture key components of the AWS for Australia’s $6 billion AWD shipbuilding project.

Work will be performed in Andover, MA (80%), and Sudbury, MA (20%), and is expected to be complete by February 2009. The contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-06-C-5118). See also May 23/05 DSCA announcement, and also the March 28/07 entry, which represents the final figure for this work.

2004 – 2005

Picks: Lockheed’s AEGIS radar/combat system, Raytheon as combat integrator; Navantia for existing design option; Gibbs & Cox for evolved design; ASC to build. DSCA AEGIS Mk.7 request. Early DoD concept
(click to expand)

October 11/05: Infrastructure. South Australia will be home to the new headquarters of the Air Warfare Destroyer project, creating up to 200 additional jobs there, as well as generating specialized design work for contractors throughout Australia. Australian DoD announcement.

Aug 16/05: Evolved. The Australian government chooses Gibbs & Cox as the preferred designer for the AWD Evolved Design, which will be based on the USA’s DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers. This concludes Phase 1C of the SEA 4000 project. See DID coverage.

May 31/05: The Australian government chooses ASC Shipbuilder Pty Ltd as the AWD’s preferred shipbuilder, and announces that the 3 destroyers will be built at ASC’s shipyards in Adelaide, South Australia. This will shift the Australian shipbuilding industry away from its current center in Melbourne, Victoria to some extent. The government has now granted first pass approval, and provides ASC with AUS $455 million (USD $343 million) toward the next phase of the SEA 4000 project.

See “ASC Wins Australian Shipbuilding Contract with $455M First Pass Funding,” which also notes that ASC is to be privatized and that this award will drive up the asking price.

ASC to build.

May 23/05: The US DSCA announces [PDF format] Australia’s request for 3 MK 7 AEGIS Weapons Systems, support equipment, testing, computer programs and maintenance support, ship integration, spare and repair parts, supply support, publications and technical data, training, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related elements of logistics support.

The intended purchase is part of the Air Warfare Destroyer program, and the total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $350 million. Contractors would include:

  • Lockheed-Martin Maritime System and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ
  • Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Eagan, MN
  • Raytheon Company, Equipment Division Andover, MA
  • General Dynamics, Armament Systems Burlington, VT

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of up to 3 U.S. Government and contractor representatives to Australia.

AEGIS request

May 2005: Existing. The Spanish firm Navantia is chosen as the preferred designer for the AWD Existing Design. It will be based on a version of the 5,800t F100 Alvaro de Bazan Class AEGIS frigate, with Australian systems replacing some of the original equipment.

April 21/05: Raytheon Australia Pty Ltd. is chosen as the prime integrator for the ship’s combat systems, beating rivals BAE Systems and Saab to become the Project Combat System-System Engineer. As part of the contract, Raytheon receives a $15 million contract to undertake studies on Combat System Integration and Risk Reduction.

Raytheon Australia is a Canberra-based company that employs over 1,000 people in six different locations, and is one of the largest defence electronic companies in Australia. Raytheon has also performed mission systems integration in Australia for the Collins Class Submarines Replacement Combat System (based on its systems for the USA’s new SSN-774 Virginia Class), and Electronic Warfare Training Services for the Australian Defence Force, as well as defensive systems integration for the U.S. Navy’s new LPD-17 San Antonio Class amphibious ships; and the U.S. Navy’s next-generation DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyers and CVN-21 Class super-carriers.

Raytheon for combat systems

Dec 23/04: Bids to Build Air Warfare Destroyers Announced. Proposals were received from ASC Shipbuilding, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems and Tenix Defence. At this stage, Australia’s DoD is evaluating the 3 ship designer proposals from Blohm +Voss, Gibbs &Cox, and Izar; and responses from BAE Systems, Raytheon Australia and Saab Systems for the Combat System-System Engineer.

Aug 11/04: Phase 1B done. Following analysis by the Defence Science Technology Organisation and support from the US Navy, Australia’s Department of Defence recommends Lockheed Martin’s AEGIS as the best system for its air warfare combat needs based on cost, capability, risk and schedule. Australia’s DoD Defence will now undertake a combat system integration and risk reduction study to:

  • Refine detailed aspects of the version of the AEGIS system to be acquired;
  • Explore the use of Australian designed phased array fire control technology; and
  • Examine options for integrating Australian components and sub-systems into the AEGIS combat system.

At the time, ship construction and equipping costs are estimated at A$ 4.5 – $6 billion.See Australian DoD release. This decision concludes Phase 1B of the SEA 4000 project.

F124 out, AEGIS picked

Appendix A: The SEA 4000 Design Competition Sachsen Class
(click to view full)

The biggest influence on the SEA 4000 program sits below the surface, in more ways than one.

The difficult Collins Class submarine project delivered some of the world’s most advanced conventional submarines – and something extra, besides. The submarines were late, significantly over budget, and are still receiving electronic refits to replace the original combat systems. In response, the Australian Government’s Defence Procurement (Kinnaird) Review strongly recommended spending more money and time on up front design activities, in order to reduce overall project risk. This would be more expensive in the short term, with the hope of making large overruns or schedule issues less likely later on.

That philosophy was implemented in the SEA 4000 program, which moved from a 3-platform shortlist, to detailed design of 2 different options, to the final selection. After a long campaign, the somewhat surprising winner was an ‘Australianized’ F100 AEGIS frigate.

One of the contenders was ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems’ F124 Sachsen Class air defense frigate, currently one of the world’s few operational ship classes with an X-band Active Phased Array naval radar. Its thousands of electronically-focused emitters offer improved performance and phenomenal multitasking ability, giving it exceptional capabilities against a sudden saturation missile attack with supersonic cruise missiles. This design was eliminated from the shortlist, however, by Australia’s stated requirement for the AEGIS naval air defense system. While AEGIS’ AN/SPY-1D is a previous generation passive phased array radar, the AEGIS combat system software and the potential for cooperative engagement capability proved decisive.

That left an “Existing Design” based on Spain’s in-service F100 Alvaro de Bazan Class AEGIS frigates, which would compete against a larger “Evolved Design” option from naval architects Gibbs & Cox. The latter would be a new ship design, albeit based on the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class AEGIS destroyers they had designed for the US Navy.

AWD Evolved Design
(click to view full)

The first images of the Evolved Design for Australia’s Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) project were unveiled on August 3/06 by Minister of Defence Brendan Nelson at the opening of the new AWD Systems Centre in Adelaide. At 7,370t/8,100t full load, they would have been much closer in size to the 8,300t full load DDG-51 Flight I ships than the 9,200t tons full load Flight IIA ships, with 64 vertical launch missile cells (vs. 90-96 cells for DDG-51 variants), 2 Phalanx close-in defense weapons, 2 helicopter hangars, extended range, and good future growth capabilities. As an additional basis for comparison, Britain’s forthcoming Type 45 Daring Class anti-air warfare destroyers reportedly weigh in at 8,000t full load.

The F100 frigates, in contrast, are smaller ships, weighing in at only 5,800t. This places it somewhere between the boundaries of in-service destroyers and frigates, a boundary that has become fuzzier due to evolving designs, and European reluctance to label ships as destroyers. Regardless, the size difference requires sacrifices in armament and growth capability. Key differences between the contenders included 64 VLS missile cells for the Evolved Design vs. 48 for the F100 frigates, 2 Phalanx-type close-in defense weapons instead of 1 for the F100s, and a hangar for 2 naval helicopters instead of 1. In Australia’s case, it will be the MH-60R.

Australian government Q&A sessions immediately after the selection, however, said that in their opinion, the overall operational capability, maximum speed, range and endurance were all “very similar.” Their evaluation was that the 2 designs had “basically the same” surface warfare, undersea warfare, communications, and electronic warfare capabilities, and both also shared a growth path to ballistic missile defense (via the AEGIS BMD system), and strategic land strike capability (via Mk 41 vertical launchers that can accommodate BGM-109 Tomahawk Cruise missiles). In exchange for the Evolved Design’s size advantages, detailed analysis by the AWD Alliance showed that the Evolved Design would cost A$ 1 billion more over 3 ships, offer less certainty regarding schedule and cost, and deliver the first ship at least 4 years later.

Spain’s F100 Frigate
(click to view full)

Others had seen this coming earlier. Back in April 2007, Forecast International cited internal sources to say that Navantia had won, and said:

“Common wisdom has often suggested that the Navantia bid was simply a stalking horse for Gibbs and Cox… the information we were receiving from Australia from the start of the project was consistently that the F100 was the preferred candidate and that the Gibbs and Cox design was a back-up in case the F100 class hit serious problems on its trials. This did not happen, the Alvaro de Bazan proved to be a great success and this eliminated the DDG-51 derivatives last hope of winning this contract.

It may well be that the appointment of Gibbs and Cox as preferred designer in 2005 was not a sign of preference for their design but the group’s last chance to make its case.

A key handicap for Gibbs and Cox was that its proposed warship existed only in its preliminary design phase, increasing the technical risk for a local builder. Australia’s experiences with new and untried designs has been disappointing…”

They also said:

“Although supporters of the Gibbs and Cox-designed DDG-51 derivative promoted the greater weapons carrying capacity of their design, including 64 rather than 48 vertical launch tubes and two rather than one helicopters, the advantages of the F100 were so strong that a debate between supporters of the two designs was a complete wipeout according to one senior Australian defense source.

The financial benefits resulting from the selection of the F100 are so great that they will go a long way towards funding (some estimates are that they will almost completely accommodate) a fourth Air Warfare Destroyer. The Australian Cabinet’s National Security Committee will consider an option to buy a fourth F100 destroyer when it makes a final decision on a go-ahead for the project in June.”

Those hopes proved to be unfounded, but the comments remain illustrative of the thinking behind Australia’s decision.

Appendix B: SEA 4000 Program Phase Organization

SEA 4000 is managed as a period of preliminary studies, plus 4 distinct phases. These phases are; Phase 1 (Project Definition), Phase 2 (Design), Phase 3 (Build) and Phase 4 (Test and Acceptance).

Phase 0: Preliminary Design Studies

Phase 0 was used to conduct a series of higher order studies leading to the Preliminary Capability Options Document (PCOD).

Phase 1: Project Definition

The aim of the Project Definition Phase is to quantify performance, schedule, cost and risks for capability options. Ran July 2002 to late 2005. Key outcomes were development of detailed operational requirements specifications; whole-of-ship, costed concept designs; decision on combat system architecture and selection of alliance industry participants. Total cost about A$ 43 million.

Once selected, the shipbuilding entity would be engaged in later stages of Phase 1 to assist the Commonwealth with the assessment of other responses and to prepare for the later construction phases.

Phase 1 is further broken down into four sub-phases which are described below:

Phase 1A: Non Design Related Studies. Involves the development of the Capability Definition Documents (CDD), including the Operational Concept Document (OCD), the Function and Performance Specification (FPS) and the Test Concept Document (TCD);

Phase 1B: Combat System Design Studies. involves the development of combat system architecture options, including risk reduction work. In April 2005, Raytheon Australia Pty Ltd. was chosen as the prime integrator for the ship’s combat systems, beating rivals BAE systems and Saab systems to become the Project Combat System-System Engineer. This made them part of the AWD Alliance with the DMO.

Phase 1C – Whole of Ship Design Studies . involves the identification of whole-of-ship concept options for presentation to Government. Whole-of-ship options will be developed through the consideration of an Existing Design currently in-service with another navy and through an Evolved Design Study.

Shipbbuilder candidates included ASC Shipbuilder (who had built the new Collins Class submarines for the RAN), Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, and Tenix Defence (who had built the joint Australia/ New Zealand Anzac Class frigate). ASC was unanimously chosen in May 2005 by the selection board, and joined the AWD Alliance with Raytheon and Australia’s DMO procurement agency.

Navantia was selected as the Existing Design partner in May 2005. Gibbs & Cox was chosen to undertake the Evolved Design in August 2005.

Phase 1D: Combat System Integration and Risk Reduction Study – A follow-on from Phase 1B. Overall, the combat system design team comprises Defence (DMO, Capability Development and DSTO), the US Navy and their AEGIS Combat System Engineering Agent, as well as the Australian AWDCSSE. Phase 1D produced detailed information about combat system design options to support First Pass Approval, and moved the design forward towards the joint ADO-USN Combat System Design Review (SDR).

To that end, Raytheon designed integration processes and strategies for the non-AEGIS elements of the Combat System, and developed complete ship and integrated support systems with the Platform Systems Designers (Navantia, and Gibbs & Cox, Inc.) and the Shipbuilder (ASC AWD Shipbuilder Pty Ltd).

Phase 2 – Design

The aim of the Design Phase was to develop Acquisition Business Cases for Government consideration at Second Pass for the Evolved Design and Existing Design capability options. The approved budget was A$ 455 million.

This phase began in mid-2005 and finished with Government approval of the Navantia design as their final choice in June 2007.

Phase 3 – Build

This phase has now begun, and will finish with delivery of the final ship. The aim of the Build Phase is to deliver AWD ships and shore support facilities from the contract design data produced in Phase 2.

The ships will be consolidated at ASC’s shipyard in Adelaide, with major hull “blocks” built in other shipyards around Australia. Australian industry will also design and build various sub-systems and equipment for the AWD’s combat system, which will lay the foundations for long-term support. The government’s release adds that Australian Industry will deliver products and services worth around:

“…[55% of the A$ 6.6 billion AWD Program] over the next 15 years, which will be followed by high value through life support contracts into the middle of the century. While Adelaide based ASC will conduct the final assembly of the AWDs, around 70 per cent of the ship modules will be built at other shipbuilding sites around Australia, potentially including sites in Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. The AWD Programme will eventually employ around 3,000 Australians in a variety of engineering and related fields working for a range of companies and suppliers throughout Australia.”

The shipbuilding, electronics and engineering industries will engage more than 1,500 shipbuilding jobs in South Australia, and another 1,500 jobs will be created throughout Australia with the outsourcing of approximately 70% of hull block and module fabrication. The ships will require the assembly of approximately 500,000 components. About 1,000 suppliers will be required to complete the shipbuilding task, which will take more than 3 million man-hours to complete each ship.

The first of these Air Warfare Destroyers was supposed to see delivery in December 2014, but deliveries will now take place between March 2016 – March 2019. A March 2014 ANAO report suggests that this schedule, and the program’s budget, may need to be changed again soon.

Phase 4 -Test and Acceptance

This phase will begin in parallel with the build phase, culminating with the operational release of the third ship once the government has verified that the ships satisfy operational requirements, including supportability. The Phase 4 deliverable is the ships and shore facilities being formally accepted into naval service.

Full Operational Release of the lead ship was scheduled for 2015, with subsequent ships accepted in 2016 and 2017. March 2017 is now pegged as the 1st ship’s Initial Operational Capability date, with Final Materiel Release slated for September 2019, and Final Operational Capability in March 2020. If the ship delivery dates change again, these dates will change, too.

Additional Readings & Sources The Program

Companion Ships

  • DID – Australia’s Canberra Class LHDs. These 2 amphibious assault ships could fly F-35Bs, but Australia’s current plans only call for helicopters. The most valuable naval asset the AWDs will escort.

  • DID – Australia and USA Collaborating on New Small-Ship Radars. They won’t serve on the Hobarts, but the smaller active-array CEAFAR/CEAMOUNT radars are a generation ahead of the SPY-1/SPQ-9B combination. They’ll give Australia’s 6 upgraded ANZAC-ASMD frigates some impressive radar capabilities of their own.

  • DID – Australia’s Hazard(ous) Frigate Upgrade. Their FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class ships were a nightmare to upgrade. To be replaced by the Hobart Class. This 4-ship fleet is the tier below the ANZACs, and will only serve until 2019.

Background: The Hobart Class

Background: AWD’s Ancillaries

Background: Potential Upgrades

  • DID – Serious Dollars for AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD). If Australia wants full-fledged ballistic missile defense capabilities, this is the path they’ll have to follow. Japan has already done so.

  • DID – AMDR: Raytheon is Building the USN’s Next Dual-Band Radar. Possible mid-life upgrade option, if R&D can keep weight and size within bounds for refits.

  • DID – LRASM Missiles: Reaching for a Long-Range Punch. Could be fired from the Hobart Class’ strike-length Mk.41 VLS, if the ships also receive an upgrade to add control systems for the Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile. Would take up a VLS slot, but offers a stealthy missile with triple the range (926 km/ 500 nmi) of the current RGM-84 Harpoon. The USN is scheduled to begin operating it around 2020.

  • DID – Tomahawk’s Chops: xGM-109 Block IV Cruise Missiles. Would add long-range land attack to the Hobart Class, and upgrades in progress would give the 1,666 km / 900 nmi missile the ability to hit moving targets. American destroyers carry these missiles.

  • DID – New Frontiers for Raytheon’s Excalibur GPS Guided Shells. They’re working on a GPS/laser guided N5 variant that can be fired by 127mm naval guns. Australia’s Army already uses Excalibur 155mm shells, and adding this naval variant would create a 40 km/ 21.6 nmi kill zone around the ship for small boats and other medium-speed maneuvering targets.

  • BAE Systems – Standard Guided Projectile [PDF]. Would convert the Hobart Class’ 127mm gun into a long-range GPS-guided weapon for tasks like naval fire support, with a reach of 100 km/ 54+ nmi instead of the gun’s base 22 km / 12 nmi. It’s based on LRLAP projectile work done for the 155mm AGS guns on the USA’s forthcoming Zumwalt Class battlecruisers, and their LRLAP partner Lockheed Martin is developing its own rocket-boosted 5″ LRLAP variant.

News & Views

Categories: News

Elections in Brasil, Indonesia: Little Change Ahead For Defense?

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 16:10

  • Indonesia’s new president Joko Widodo introduced [WSJ] what appears to be a business-friendly cabinet on balance, though political patronage remains [Sidney Morning Herald] part of the equation. Former army Chief of Staff Ryamizard Ryacudu is the new defense minister.

  • Dilma Rousseff was reelected [BBC] as Brazil’s president with 51.6% of the vote, despite a lackluster first term. The business community seems to doubt she’ll be a better leader this time around on economic matters. If Brazil’s economy continues its slump, and in the absence of major external threats, more ambitious defense programs may be kept on the back-burner.


  • More readiness problems are reported in Germany. This time it’s their NH90 helos that are falling short: The Local | Die Welt [in German].

Macro Trend: Oil Price Sensitivity

  • Oil prices have dropped precipitously in past weeks. Sober Look explains how Saudi Arabia can play this out, while the Economist looks at who’s benefiting and who’s losing. The lowdown:

“Saudi Arabia can survive low prices because, when oil was $100 a barrel, it saved more of the windfall than it spent. The biggest losers are countries that didn’t. Notable among these are three vitriolic critics of America: Venezuela, Iran and Russia.”


Categories: News

Spike Served: India’s New ATGM

Sun, 10/26/2014 - 20:15
Spike firing
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India has been looking for a modern anti-tank/ infantry strike missile to take the place of MBDA Milan missiles that have been produced under license by Bharat Dynamics. The finalists in this competition were the American fire-and-forget Javelin, and Israel’s Spike with its combination of wire guided or fire-and-forget modes. As of October 2014, Spike appears to have won, despite offers from the USA to involve India in developing the next version of Javelin.

The Spike Family Spike family

The Spike infantry system consists of a missile in its cannister, a tripod, a Command Launch Unit that contains the optics and firing system, and a battery. It can go from “off” to firing in less than 30 seconds, as the operator lays the cross hairs on the aim point using either the 10x day sight, or the clip-on thermal imaging night sight.

Fire-and-forget targeting uses the imaging infrared (IIR) seeker, but there’s also an optional fully guided mode, using a fiber optic wire that spools out from the rear. They can be combined via “fire and forget plus,” which locks a target before launch but can be used to change targets or abort after launch. The missile flies in a lofted trajectory, hitting the target in a terminal dive and detonating a tandem high-explosive warhead that can defeat explosive reactive armor. The lofted trajectory also allows the missile to hit targets that are behind earthen walls, or otherwise not directly visible in line of sight. Reloading takes less than 15 seconds.

Spike-MR/ Gill is designed as an infantry-only weapon, and weighs 26 kg/ 57.2 pounds when fully assembled (13.3 kg missile in cannister, 5 kg CLU, 4 kg Thermal Sight, 1 kg missile, 2.8 kg tripod). Its effective range is 2.5 km. Spike-LR is a vehicle and infantry weapon that uses common systems, and extends effective range to 4 km. Vehicle variants include launch mountings and a control console, and Spike has been integrated into missile-capable Remote Weapons Systems.

Beyond these infantry weapons, Spike-ER is a larger missile that equips a number of helicopter types, and reaches out to 8 km. A special helicopter and vehicle-mounted variant called Spike-NLOS extends range to 25 km, and relies heavily on “fire and forget plus” via optical guidance. Neither appears to be on India’s acquisition radar just yet, but once Indian firms are license-building Spike family weapons, the government can always sign subsequent agreements to broaden its scope.

Contracts & Key Events Spike components
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Oct 24/14: Spike picked. India’s top-level Defence Acquisition Council clears INR 900 billion in acquisitions. New submarines are the biggest, but there’s also clearance for up to INR 32 billion to buy and license-build about 300 Spike family launcher systems and 8,000 missiles.

Other DAC clearances include INR 530 billion for 6 submarines; 2 SDV underwater commando delivery vehicles; INR 20 billion to have the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board build about 360 more BMP-2 tracked IFVs under license; and INR 18.5 billion for 12 more license-built Do-228NG short-range transport and maritime surveillance aircraft from HAL. Sources: NDTV, “6 Made-in-India Submarines for Navy for 53,000 Crores” | IANS, “Defence ministry clears Israeli anti-tank missile, six submarines”.

DAC Approval: Spike wins

Nov 11/13: DAC delays. Indian defense minister AK Antony and the Defence Acquisition Council give Javelin an opening in India, by delaying any decision on INR 150 billion project to equip India with 321 Spike family launchers and 8,356 of RAFAEL’s Spike-MR missiles.

Raytheon had received the Indian Army’s 2010 RFP, but only RAFAEL responded. Europe’s MBDA, Russia’s Rosoboronexport, Raytheon, and General Dynamics reportedly balked at India’s technology-transfer requirements, and did not bid. The Lockheed/ Raytheon Javelin needs the competition to be withdrawn and replaced by another RFP that it can enter, at which point India’s own state-run firms might choose to offer a version of their problem-plagued Nag missile. DAC’s non-decision leaves the entire situation very unclear.

Even if RAFAEL does win, Javelin is expected to remain a viable competitor for subsequent infantry buys. Sources: Times of India, “Antony defers decision on critical but controversial missile deals with Israel” | Defense News, “India Again Considers Buying Israeli-made ATGM” | Defense News, “India Pursues Indigenous ATGM Amid Javelin Talks” | Times of India, “Scam-wary Army calls off Israeli missile deal” (March 2013).

Nov 29/12: Competition. The Times of India reports that Israel’s Spike-MR missile may be about to elbow Javelin aside, because the Israelis are willing to transfer enough technology to allow production in India.

The Ministry eventually wants to equip all 356 of its infantry battalions with an estimated 2,000 launchers and 24,000 missiles, produced by state-owned Bharat Dynamics. The Army reportedly wants to complete the induction of these anti-tank guided missiles by the end of the 12th Plan (2017).

Sept 23/12: Javelin issues. India remains interested in the Lockheed/Raytheon Javelin. Their soldiers fired some in 2009 joint exercises with American troops, and Defence Minister AK Antony said in August 2010 that a Letter of Request would be sent. So, why has no DSCA request been approved? India’s PTI explains that conditions regarding the secrecy of certain components are holding up an agreement. This isn’t the first time transfer of technology and proprietary designs have had an impact on US-Indian sales, and it won’t be the last. Raytheon will say only that:

“The Javelin JV stands ready to respond to all requests of the Indian government relating to the evaluation and procurement of the combat-proven missile while ensuring it adheres to a US and Indian governments’ agreement.”

If Javelin continues to hit roadblocks, Israel’s RAFAEL awaits with its popular Spike family.

March 25/11: RFP exclusion. Spike MR was the only bidder in India’s international tender, in part of because of language requiring an “active-passive fire-and-forget guidance system,” which only Spike meets. Most other missiles are either active/ passive guidance that requires crosshairs on target (GBM-71 TOW, AT-14 Kornet, MBDA Milan-ER), or fire and forget (FGM-148 Javelin). Defense Update writes:

“The Indian Army plans to install the missiles on infantry combat vehicles currently carrying locally produced AT-5 or Milan missiles.

The Indian Ministry of Defense plans to order 321 launchers, and 8,356 missiles, plus 15 training simulators in a multi-phase arms package worth over one billion US$. Two options are currently on the table – the U.S. Javelin and the Israeli Spike MR.”

Reports are currently conflicting. Defense Update suggests that both programs are proceeding in parallel channels, and at some point either the RFP (Spike MR) or a government-to-government deal (Javelin) will win out. The challenge for RAFAEL is that India has rules discouraging awards to competitions that wind up with just 1 compliant vendor, so a waiver will be needed. For Javelin, the issue is technology transfer. Sources: Defense Update, “Spike or Javelin? India Still Undecided on a Billion Dollar Missile Buy”.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Flexible G/ATORs: The USMC’s Multi-Mission AESA Ground Radars

Sun, 10/26/2014 - 19:12
G/ATOR diorama
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The US military’s long run of unquestioned air superiority has led to shortcuts in mobile land-based air defenses, and the US Marines are no exception. A December 2005 release from Sen. Schumer’s office [D-NY] said that:

“Current radar performance does not meet operational forces requirements… consequences could potentially allow opposing forces to gain air and ground superiority in future operational areas.”

One of the programs in the works to address this gap is the AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR mobile radar system. It’s actually the result of fusing 2 programs: the Multi-Role Radar System (MRRS), and Ground Weapons Locator Radar (GWLR) requirements. When the last G/ATOR software upgrade becomes operational, it will replace and consolidate numerous legacy radars, including the AN/TPS-63 air surveillance, AN/MPQ-62 force control, AN/TPS-73 air traffic control, AN/UPS-3 air defense, and AN/TPQ-36/37 artillery tracking & locating radar systems.

The G/ATOR System NGC on G/ATOR
click to play video

G/ATOR systems were supposed to be transportable in C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft, and by MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors (underslung), CH-53 heavy helicopters (underslung or internal), or CH-47 heavy lift helicopters (underslung or internal). That’s still sort of true.

The radars themselves were originally slated be mounted on HMMWV jeeps, which would have fit all of these requirements. Issues with weight and protection eventually pushed the Marines to abandon the system’s 3-jeep model, and to make the radar itself a towable trailer.

My ride’s here…
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The system can still be carried in a single C-130, and consists of: (1) a Radar Equipment Group trailer, (2) a Power Equipment Group 60kW generator in an ISO container, and (3) a Communication Equipment Group mounted on a HMMWV. The PEG container will usually be mounted on an MTVR truck, which will also tow the REG trailer. The USMC will also have the option of leaving the truck behind, and airlifting the radar trailer, power container, and C2 HMMWV in 3 separate CH-53 helicopter or MV-22 tilt-rotor loads.

Flexible Fielding: G/ATOR Increments Incoming…
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The AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR is intended to be a software-based radar. This idea has become common for radios, and many fighter radars offer a number of different modes (air scan, ground looking SAR maps, etc.) via software. The idea for G/ATOR is similar: common hardware that can switch in the field from air traffic control, to aerial volume search and targeting, to artillery counterfire tracking. Northrop Grumman says that some specific switches would require a radar shutdown and restart as the new software is loaded.

This kind of flexibility also lets the USMC field the radar, then add new capabilities via 3 blocks of upgrades:

Initial Increment I/ Block 1 – in testing. supports 2 distinct mission areas: Short range air defense, and air surveillance in tactical air operations centers (TAOC), including baseline IFF (identification, friend or foe). It replaces the AN/UPS-3, AN/MPQ-62, and AN/TPS-63 radar systems. G/ATOR program manager Capt. Lee Bond (USN, ret.) explains one of the advantages it offers:

“There are threats out there today – like small hovering UAVs – that were not envisioned when our legacy radars were developed and fielded a generation ago. So the performance of our legacy radars against those emergent threats on the modern battlefield is spotty at best. The smaller and slower the target gets and the lower to the ground it flies, the trickier it is for the traditional radar to find it. G/ATOR absolutely wipes out those limitations and gives you complete situational awareness of everything in the sky.”

Increment I engineering will allow growth to accommodate all following increments without equipment re-design, and will provide an open architecture that makes it easier to upgrade the computers, computer programs, and firmware in all subsequent increments. Its development phase was supposed to end at the end of April, 2012, but Milestone C approval didn’t come until January 2014.

Increment II/ Block 2 – development underway. will address the Marine Expeditionary Force counter fire/targeting missions, adding ground counter-battery and target acquisition against enemy mortars, rockets, or artillery. It replaces the AN/TPQ-46 radar system.

The baseline requirements remain, and the Marines have added program R&D funding to investigate the potential for additional capabilities within this area.

Increment III – planning only. This set of improvements will actually come after IV. It adds tactical enhancements for the air mission, including Mode 5/S identification friend or foe (IFF), decoy/electronic counter-counter measures capabilities, electronic protection equipment and software, sensor netting, an advanced radar environmental simulator (RES), and a logistics integrated data environment (IDE, a computer system for managing and monitoring fleet health, spares supply, maintenance instructions, etc.). “Non-cooperative target recognition” capabilities are very useful for identifying enemies, and they’re even more useful if a Marine Corps Hornet’s IFF system has a problem on the way back in.

There’s no firm timeline for Increment III yet, and its components could change. Future plans involve sensor netting and integration with the USMC’s shoulder-fired Stinger air defense missiles, or their successors.

Increment IV/ Block 4 – RFI out. will add an air traffic control (ATC) capability, which is extremely useful in disaster relief situations like Haiti. IFF Mode 5/S capability has also been moved here. The baseline requirements remain, and the Marines have added program funding to investigate the potential for additional capabilities in this area.

Development will come before Increment III. Existing radars and software for this task are already well-understood, so this was seen as a safer step with a quick payoff. 2015 is the target for development to begin, with late 2018 or 2019 the target for entering service. It will replace the AN/TPS-73 radar system.

The G/ATOR Program

At present, the Marine Corps’ Approved Acquisition Objective is a total of 45 G/ATOR systems, about a 30% drop from the 2005 baseline of 64 systems. The Marines had wanted 81 systems before G/ATOR became a formal program.

G/ATOR began in 2007, and has left the System Design and Development (SDD/EMD) Phase to begin low-rate production. Formal government developmental testing (DT) is underway. Initial DT1B1, DT1B2, and DT1B3 phases have been completed at Wallops Island, VA, and Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ.

Tactically, the TPS-80 G/ATOR will fit below the USMC’s existing AN/TPS-59 long-range radars, offering less range, but finer detail within its scan radius. An evolved version may even replace the USMC’s longer-range radars, under the joint service 3DELRR (“3-dealer”) program, though the initial 2014 award went to a Raytheon offering before GAO challenges were filed.

G/ATOR TPS-80: Technology Challenges Now: TPS-63
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Once all of these increments are implemented, AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR will use its active electronically scanned array (AESA) technology to provide aircraft detection, tracking, and engagement; cruise-missile detection and engagement; ground-weapon location; and military air-traffic control – all in one package.

Radars are all about time & energy management. That has traditionally involved electronic hardware, but these days it relies more on software: marshaling and directing the energies required, placing them high or low as needed, emitting signals at precise times to shape them. The electronics and software must collect and analyze the results, in order to create the right kind of “complete” picture. G/ATOR’s various tasks have very different, even contradictory time/energy requirements. Fulfilling those tasks would require a radar that offered new levels of flexibility.

Both the Marines and Northrop Grumman acknowledged the challenges up front. It has been treated as a technologically difficult program since its inception in 2007.

Making G/ATOR thinkable APG-81 test mount
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A trio of technology developments made G/ATOR thinkable.

The 1st was a growing trend toward active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, which are composed of thousands of individual solid state transmit/receive modules that can operate individually or in assigned groups. In addition to the flexibility they offer, AESA radars have smaller sidelobes beyond the main beam focus, which helps to reduce false alarms for applications like counterfire targeting.

The 2nd trend is the growing dominance of software over hardware, especially in controlling and interpreting information from AESA-type radars. Northrop Grumman already had experience implementing different modes in its AESA fighter radars, including a project to turn them into high-bandwidth communications relays.

In G/ATOR’s case, the connection was very direct. Northrop Grumman personnel have confirmed that the F-35 fighter’s AN/APG-81 radar technologies were adapted for use in G/ATOR, and that it will use the APG-81 facility and production line.

The 3rd trend is Moore’s Law, which makes an exponentially-increasing level of computing power available to control radar systems and analyze their returns.

These advances make G/ATOR thinkable, but actually developing it requires very advanced engineering expertise. This is especially true when the radar in question will face the kinds of ground environments and general unpleasantness associated with the US Marines, as opposed to clean air force maintenance hangars and navy decks.

Northrop Grumman’s management made a decision that the benefits of a successful program justified a significant corporate commitment, and gave the program access to top talent within the firm. Now, all they had to do was execute.

Execution, Without Dying The new G/ATOR
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Every program encounters engineering and financial challenges, and G/ATOR has been no exception.

Creating a radar that can do all of these things, while taking Marine Corps level abuse, required new engineering. To offer just a few examples:

Weight. The ability to take Marine Corps level abuse also requires survivability. Which meant extra weight. The program’s shift away from 3 unarmored and integrated HMMWVs to a “MTVR truck + trailer + HMMWV” configuration cost the development team about a year for re-design, refining, and approval.

Temperature. G/ATOR is designed to operate in ambient temperatures of -40 to +55 degrees Centigrade, and must keep its electronics at a common temperature to avoid data errors. Instead of using heavy 2-stage cooling systems, however, the radar uses forced circulation from fans blowing ambient uncooled air through the array. As a side-benefit, that made the radar lighter.

Scope. These basic design challenges were exacerbated by scope increases, as potential flexibility became thinkable and then real. This is exciting, because new capabilities create additional growth opportunities, and new potential uses. On the other hand, it’s also taxing to a design team already challenged by the core project.

Upgradeability. Then there’s the double-edged sword that is Moore’s Law of geometrically expanding processor chip power.

If a chip is obsolete in 5 years, and may not be produced at all in 10, but the radar must last 30 years, what is one to do? One option is to switch to a processor with 100% more growth capacity early in the project. Given Moore’s Law, that only buys you about 5 more years, maybe 10 at the most. The US military’s growing insistence on open systems architectures and modularity (OSA/ MOSA) will help make future swap-ins easier, but OSA/MOSA implementations are not created equal. Engineering design quality is the difference, which takes time.

Gallium Nitride. Quality engineering also opens new doors, because base technology matters. Thinning air for the generator’s carburetor currently pushes the TPS-80’s PEG below its full 60 kW power output at altitude. Back in 2007, the US military was near the beginning of its efforts to use Gallium Nitride (GaN) as a more efficient semiconductor material. More efficiency equals better performance, so the promise was clear, but the development risks weren’t. In response, the program stuck with conventional Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) electronics, but conducted studies and planned for a switch down the road.

Those studies showed that GaN circuits could draw just 50 kW for full radar power, allowing full effectiveness at 10,000 feet or beyond. Higher altitude naturally improves a radar’s field of view, and is a defining feature in places like Afghanistan, so the tactical impact is significant.

By 2012, research had made considerable advances thanks to investments by DARPA, the US Army, the USAF, and defense firms. The USMC kept its promise to set aside funds for the GaN switch, and USAF development dollars from the 3DELRR program built on good engineering and early planning to help complete the shift. In late FY 2013, the G/ATOR program office began the technology switch from to GaN.

Not cheap.
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Finally, there’s the financial end.

On the bad news front, the deliberate devaluation of the US dollar pushed a huge rise in gold’s American dollar price from 2007, which has backed off somewhat for now. Gold’s rise has been the subject of many reports, but few link that to gold’s industrial use in the kinds of high-fidelity connectors needed by a radar’s advanced electronics.

On the good news front, G/ATOR has made enough progress that it’s attracting interest in early deployment. That can be dangerous to a program, because the system will still have gaps, which can be exploited by politicians as an excuse to remove funding. The G/ATOR team has had to think hard about this, and one of their conclusions was that they could leverage Urgent Operational Requirements to finish the production program 3 years early. Faster replacement means less money spent maintaining earlier radars, which aren’t in ideal shape. It would also cut 3 years of variable costs out of production.

The current trend is to stretch defense programs out into costlier timelines, in order to save a bit of money each year. Events get a vote, however, and it remains to be seen whether G/ATOR manages to buck the general trend.

G/ATOR TPS-80: Industrial Partners

Industrial partners for the G/ATOR TPS-80 program include:

  • Northrop Grumman (prime contractor)
  • Caterpillar Logistics in Morton, IL.
  • CEA Technologies, Inc. in Canberra, Australia (radar expertise, also involved in the CEAFAR/CEAMount project for Australia).
  • Curtiss Wright.
  • Moog Industries.
  • Saab-Sensis Corporation in Syracuse, NY.
  • Stanley/Techrizon in Lawton, OK. Formerly Telos.

G/ATOR: Beyond the Marines 3DELRR

G/ATOR began with the Marines, but its team doesn’t expect it to stay there.

When their Highly Expeditionary Long-Range Surveillance Radar program fell victim to budget constraints, the Marines joined the USAF’s 3DELRR air and ballistic missile defense program. In a 2012 interview, G/ATOR program manager Capt. Lee Bond said that G/ATOR’s scope would provide 85% of 3DELRR’s specifications, with the additional capabilities from increments II & IV thrown in for free. He believes that using G/ATOR as a base could cut 2 years from development time, and lower costs by 20% due to economies of scale. Northrop Grumman has openly stated their intent to pursue this path.

Bond also believes that G/ATOR would exceed the expected specifications for the US Army’s coming Multi-Mission Radar solicitation, depending on how the Army defines “simultaneous” multi-mission capability.

Northrop Grumman remains interested in future naval applications, which could lead to scaled G/ATOR technologies equipping smaller ships like the USA’s Littoral Combat Ships, or being incorporated into emerging multi-band radar naval arrays like AMDR. Northrop Grumman will say only that they’re looking at naval applications, and a November 2013 ONR study will look at replacing many of the US Navy’s older air surveillance radars with a G/ATOR derivative.

Then, there are foreign buys. The USA isn’t the only country worried about finding a very different set of targets on modern battlefields, or needing high-performance artillery-tracking radars for deployments abroad. Budget cuts in some countries make multi-mission radars attractive, and Northrop Grumman’s experience has been that ground-based radar exports have been worth 2.0x – 2.5x the value of American orders.

Official expressions of interest aren’t possible until a new system is cleared for those discussions, but Northrop Grumman says that they’ve receive a number of unofficial expressions of interest. Once G/ATOR passes Milestone C and can move into Low-Rate Initial Production, the USMC will be freer to respond to official inquiries from foreign governments. That happened in January 2014.

TPQ-53 on truck
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Northrop Grumman’s competitors haven’t been idle, of course. Lockheed Martin is busy introducing its new AN/TPQ-53 counter-battery radar, while Raytheon has its MPQ-64 Improved Sentinel series of air defense radars. Abroad, Saab’s Giraffe series of land and sea radars already fuses air surveillance and counter-battery targeting, and their Giraffe 4A is designed as a next-generation capability with the same capabilities as G/ATOR Block 2. All of these radars can also take advantage of new technologies, and some variants offer features within G/ATOR’s proposed set.

On the other hand, the TPS-53 grew out of an Army RFP that optimized its architecture for the counter-battery mission, making future additions and changes more difficult. The MPQ-64 Sentinel is a widely-used air defense radar, but its parameters re: range, elevation angle, power, etc. create their own limitations. Both competitors are likely to see continued improvement, but G/ATOR’s level of back-end integration remains unique, and its architecture is likely to give it rate-of-improvement advantages per dollar spent. To date, the TPS-80 G/ATOR remains the only Pentagon JROC-approved program that has funded integration of all of these capabilities into 1 system.

Contracts & Key Events

Unless otherwise noted, US Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA issues all contracts to Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems unit in Linthicum Heights, MD.

FY 2014 – 2015

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Oct 23/14: A $207.3 million contract modification for 4 G/ATOR low-rate initial production systems, including operating spares, contractor engineering services and support, developmental and operational test support, and transition to production. $175.6 million is committed immediately, using FY 2013 and 2014 USMC RDT&E and Procurement funds; $94.7 million will expire on Sept 30/15.

Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, Maryland (55%); East Syracuse, NY (24%); Stafford Springs, CT (5%); San Diego, CA (5%); Big Lake, MN (3%); Londonderry, NH (2%); High Point, North Carolina (2%); Wallingford Center, CT (2%); Camarillo, CA (1%); and Woodbridge, IL (1%), and is expected to be complete by October 2017 (M67854-07-C-2072).

4 LRIP radars

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. Our program dashboard has been updated accordingly. G/ATOR technologies are mature and its design is stable and demonstrated, but its production processes are not yet mature. Fortunately, the performance-boosting GaN technology for the T/R modules is maturing on schedule. Unfortunately, G/ATOR has a number of issues with system startup, random crashes, operator control console freezes, and an unstable command and control interface (q.v. Jan 28/14). In response:

“The G/ATOR program office has put together a plan to incorporate software fixes to correct system start up and prevent crashes. Some hardware alterations may be required. The program office plans to increase and improve system performance by upgrading the software integration lab to support accelerated testing and conducting field testing with users every six months to demonstrate reliability growth and operational relevance….

The program is authorized to procure 57 G/ATOR systems; however, only 45 were funded in the fiscal year 2014 President’s budget. According to the program office, the 12 unfunded G/ATOR systems will require funding by fiscal year 2016 in order to meet initial operational capability…. In addition, the concurrent development and production of G/ATOR may be adversely affected by personnel shortages caused, in part, by the impending retirement of highly experienced acquisition workforce staff.”

January 2014: Milestone C approval is given to the AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR Block 1 radar, which allows low-rate initial production contracts to begin. Sources: GAO-13-294SP, “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” (q.v. March 31/14).

Milestone C

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). G/ATOR is included, and it seems to be having serious software issues, creating MTBOMF of 42.8 hours in the Field User Evaluation instead of the 500 hour goal:

“G/ATOR reliability-related software deficiencies have continued and have kept the radar from meeting its Mean Time Between Operational Mission Failure (MTBOMF) requirements. After allowing additional time for the software to further mature prior to the program’s Milestone C decision (scheduled for 1QFY14), the program added a fourth developmental test period to assess improvement…. it remains unclear if G/ATOR will meet key reliability metrics by the start of IOT&E (scheduled for 3QFY17)….

500 hours MTBOMF cannot be realistically achieved within the context of the current G/ATOR test schedule through IOT&E…. The program has not yet finalized an acceptable reliability growth strategy, has not completed an adequate test design for the IOT&E…. Over 80 percent of the Block 1 and Block 2 procurement is planned with GaN radar modules, yet it remains unclear if adequate production representative versions of the system will be available in time for IOT&E.”

Dec 4/13: Testing. Northrop Grumman announces that G/ATOR tests at MCAS Yuma have been successful, including support for 2 Weapons and Tactics Instruction (WTI) events. The firm says that the TPS-80 “detected and tracked targets that other systems at the exercise were not able to”, extracting targets from heavy clutter backgrounds and exceeding its objective-level (best case) availability requirements.

We’ll have to wait until early in 2014 to read the DOT&E’s report, but it sounds like the program is headed to Milestone C and Low-Rate Initial Production. Sources: Northrop Grumman, Dec 4/13 release.

Nov 6/13: Saltwater G/ATOR? Northrop Grumman announces an 18-month, $6 million study to explore replacement options for the US Navy’s AN/SPS-48 (all carriers, LHA/LHD amphibious air support, and LPD-17 amphibious ships) and AN/SPS-49 (all carriers, FFG-7 frigates, CG-47 cruisers, LHD amphibious air support, LSD-41/49 amphibious ships) air surveillance radars.

The Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) Study’s terms of reference would modify an existing radar to act in this capacity, and Northrop Grumman states that they’ll be using their AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR. Existing FFG-7 frigates are too old and limited to be good upgrade candidates, and the CG-47 cruisers and LSD ships are currently in the middle of major modernizations. With that said, the pace of major ship maintenance periods still leaves the USN with a number of options if they decide that this is a good idea. EASR is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research under its Integrated Topside program. Sources: NGC, Nov 6/13 release.

FY 2010 – 2013

System development extended; Testing begins; Increment II begins. G/ATOR REG
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Sept 11/13: GaN. A $10.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification will raise the EMD Phase cost ceiling, in order to fund G/ATOR’s transition to Gallium Nitride electronics. GaN improves the radar’s performance, which allows the Marines to either push it harder or throttle back the generator. Fueling generators adds to both logistics burdens and operational risk, and even with full fuel, G/ATOR was falling short at higher altitudes that sap its generator’s power. GaN electronics offers full performance at just 50 kW, instead of the generator’s sea-level limit of 60 kW. Since higher altitude equals a wider field of view, the difference matters on the battlefield.

The G/ATOR program has always known about this difference, but it chose to wait until the underlying electronics were more proven, and the industrial infrastructure made it a low-risk switch. Time has delivered both changes, and development financing from the 3DELRR program (q.v. Aug 26/13) appears to have bridged the last technical gaps within the TPS-80 design.

Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/14. This contract wasn’t competitively procured, as it’s within the scope of the current contract and its changes clause (M67854-07-C-2072, PO 0115).

GaN transition

Aug 26/13: 3DELRR. Northrop Grumman announces that they completed their 3DELRR radar demonstration back in July. They refer to it as “The U.S. Air Force system variant of the Department of Defense AN/TPS-80 radar…” but unlike the USMC’s current G/ATORs, this S-band radar uses Gallium Nitride transmit/receive modules. That technology is in the USMC’s plans, and the development work may pay off for the Marines, just as all the work on the USMC’s TPS-80 G/ATOR would offer dividends to the USAF.

As one might expect, given their design’s lineage, Northrop Grumman also touts “successful system ambient air cooling under extremely hot operating conditions,” as well as the radar’s well-developed system self-test and calibration capabilities. Sources: Northrop Grumman Aug 26/13 release.

June 28/13: More SDD. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Linthicum Heights, MD receives a $24.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, firm-fixed-price contract modification that increases the G/ATOR EMD phase’s estimated ceiling cost.

These price hikes parcel out as $21.1 million for development using FY 2013 funds, with $13.6 million committed immediately. EMD work will be performed Linthicum Heights, MD (88%); Yuma, AZ (10%); and Syracuse, NY (2%), and is expected to be complete by April 25/14.

The added $3.4 million for extra production engineering support uses FY 2012 funds, with all funds committed immediately. Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD (81%), and Syracuse, NY (19%), and is expected to be complete by Feb 16/14.

This brings announced EMD contracts to around $533.7 million, but the GAO’s August 2012 figures already had G/ATOR development spending pegged at $539.5 million of a planned $893.1 million. The gap is easily explained, as announcements only cover contracts above a certain threshold. Note that the original baseline for G/ATOR development was $364.3 million in $FY13 (M67854-07-C-2072).

May 24/13: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/12 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF]. The news isn’t good for the G/ATOR program, which is shrinking sharply, again, even as the number of Marines has risen. G/ATOR numbers have now shrunk by about 30% since the program’s inception:

“Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) – Program costs decreased $912.1 million (-27.4%) from $3,325.9 million to $2,413.8 million, due primarily to a decrease in quantity of 12 systems from 57 to 45 systems (-$464.0 million) and associated estimating allocation (+$0.9 million) and a revised cost estimate for anticipated production efficiencies associated with funded design investments (-$447.0 million). Other decreases were attributable to a reduction in support costs (-$52.2 million) and initial spares requirements (-$12.9 million) resulting from investment in efficiencies and economic order discounts. These decreases were partially offset by increases to the cost estimates for investments in the production efficiency initiative (+$33.3 million) and technology refresh assumptions and associated potential future change orders (+$18.8 million), and the application of revised escalation indices (+$27.5 million).”

SAR – another radar cut

April 15/13: Budget. The FY14 request submitted by the Navy barely changes from the previous year’s budget, at $78.2 million. FY16 also remains stable, but FY15 and FY17 are lower by $19 million and $26 million respectively. Air Defense/Air Radar AD/SR Capability System Demonstration (DT)(1B) and Operational Assessment (OA) are extended by 2 quarters, while LRIP and Milestone C both slip by 1 quarter. Milestones further out in the plan (IOT&E, IOC, FRP decision) are supposed to be unaffected by these changes earlier in the schedule. US Navy PE 0204460M [PDF].

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. G/ATOR appears for the 1st time, and the overall report is good.

GAO acknowledges that performance requirements for G/ATOR have grown from 5 key performance parameters in 2005, to 16 in 2012. Program officials describe this as a “clarification,” but there’s no question that KPP expansion creates more development work. This explains some, but not all, of the program 145% RDT&E jump since the 2005 baseline. Overall program cost is up 101.2%, to $3.034 billion as of June 2012, despite a drop from 64 to 57 radars.

On the bright side, things have been much more stable since the program was re-baselined in January 2010. All 6 critical TPS-80 technologies are approaching full maturity, with 100% of design drawings released, using GaAS (Gallium Arsenide) electronics. The GAO gives no specific timeline for incorporation of better GaN (Gallium Nitride) electronics, but does say the program could save as much as $500 million from the change, while reducing weight and power demand.

Dec 21/12: More SDD. An $8.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to increase G/ATOR’s estimated EMD (same as SDD) phase cost ceiling, in light of an expected cost overrun. $2.1 million is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD (75%) and Syracuse, NY (11%); Wallop’s Island, VA (11%) and Yuma, AZ (3%); and is expected to be complete April 25/14 (M67854-07-C-2072).

July 26/12: Testing. Northrop Grumman Corporation’s initial AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR Increment 1 system has been delivered to Surface Combat Systems Center (SCSC) Wallops Island in Eastern Virginia for G/ATOR’s 1st and 2nd phases of developmental testing. Yuma, AZ will host the 3rd and final DT phase, and operational assessment. NGC.

June 6/12: Increment II. The USMC is asking Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector in Linthicum Heights, MD to begin developing G/ATOR’s Increment II Ground Weapons Locating Radar (GWLR) software, which will track incoming shells and rockets back to their point of origin. The amount of the contract has yet to be negotiated. Military Aerospace & Electronics.

Dec 7/11: More SDD. A $32.3 million contract modification for the continuation of GATOR Increment I, to support the changes made to the risk reduction change order.

Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD (95%), and Syracuse, NY (5%), and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/13. This contract modification was not competitively procured, as the contract effort is within the scope of the current contract and is entered into pursuant to the changes clause (M67854-07-C-2072).

Nov 17/11: Northrop Grumman Corporation announces that its 1st Ground Based Radar Conference drew more than 90 attendees over 3 days, representing 10 nations. Besides the G/ATOR system, Northrop Grumman also sells AN/TPS-78 and AN/TPS-703 solid-state tactical mobile radar systems; and the Highly Adaptable Multi-Mission Radar (HAMMR) AESA radar for on-the-move, 360 degree coverage.

Feb 7/11: Testing. Northrop Grumman announces that they’ve integrated all subsystems of the AN/TPS-80 Ground / Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) system. This 1st complete system is currently undergoing system-level integration, performance, and live target testing at the company’s Electronic Systems sector engineering and manufacturing complex, located next to Baltimore’s Washington International Marshall Airport.

As noted above, G/ATOR’s subsystems include the Radar Equipment Group (REG, AESA antenna and all associated control and processing electronics) mounted on a lightweight tactical trailer, the Communications Equipment Group (CEG) and the Power Equipment Group (PEG).

1st complete G/ATOR I

Feb 4/11: More SDD. A $38.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification, extending the GATOR Increment I development program. It will support the agreed-upon expansions to the original integrated performance baseline, and extend the contract’s period through April 30/12.

Work will be performed in a contractor facility at Linthicum Heights, MD (85%); and by Northrop Grumman’s subcontractor, Sensis Corp., located in Syracuse, NY (15%). Work is expected to be complete in April 2012 (M67854-07-C-2072).

April 5/10: Testing. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces the next system test phase.

This phase will use a fully populated G/ATOR array, complete with all transmit/receive modules, radiating elements, prime power and distribution, RF manifold, and associated control and processing electronics. This newest series of tests includes detailed verification that the G/ATOR’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) hardware will support all of the system’s multi-mission capabilities, and demonstration of all required AESA functions including beam generation, steering and control, performance at full rated power, operating bandwidth and automated array calibration techniques.

Testing of this array is taking place at the company’s antenna test facility in Norwalk, CT; in 2009, a prototype partial G/ATOR array was tested at the same facility, and expanded testing on that prototype radar array continues at NGC’s engineering and manufacturing complex in Baltimore. Once the 2nd, full array completes testing, it will be integrated with the other G/ATOR components for the next levels: full systems-level integration testing, and subsequent environmental testing.

January 2010: G/ATOR program is re-baselined due to cost and requirements growth. Source: GAO.


Dec 29/09: More SDD. A $35.5 million contract modification increases the estimated cost ceiling and target cost of CLIN0001, finalizing change orders to the configuration the G/ATOR’s new up-armored MTVR carrier trucks. It also covers the modification and implementation of the upgraded UPX-40 as the identification-friend-or-foe system, and a change of the IFF system from government furnished property to contractor-acquired government property.

Approximately 80% of the work will be performed by Northrop Grumman in Linthicum Heights, MD, and approximately 20% will be performed by Northrop Grumman’s subcontractor, Sensis Corp. in Syracuse, NY. The contract modification was not competitively procured, as the contract cost increase is within scope of the current contract and is entered into pursuant to the changes clause (M67854-07-C-2072).

Dec 10/09: Program support. General Dynamics Information Technology in Fairfax, VA received a $5.8 million task order under a firm-fixed-price contract. They’ll provide on-going technical, managerial and logistics support for Program Executive Office – Land Systems, Program Manager Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR).

Emerging development efforts include engineering, architecture and logistical analysis of G/ATOR. Support requirements include supporting the G/ATOR Milestone C processes, and engineering and technical reviews (since Milestone B is complete). Additional support requirements include development and maintenance of programmatic information to be displayed in a G/ATOR Program Operations Center, information security, admin support, information assurance, joint interoperability, family of system definition/development and business analysis to define investment strategies, contract administration, planning programming and budgeting planning, logistics support, equipment specialist, earned value management system, program management plan support and cost/risk assessments. Due to in-sourcing, cost proposal and analysis efforts will not be required.

Support requirements include for the contractor to conduct/complete the logistics assessment of the manpower, personnel and training requirements and facilities analysis needed to support G/ATOR, the development of Manpower Training Integrated project team, to use as input and/or the development of the Manpower Personnel and Training plan. Work will be performed in Quantico, VA, and the contract will end in December 2010. The Marine Corps System Command in Quantico, VA manages the contract (M67854-02-A-9014, #0042).

Nov 16/09: More SDD. A $44.5 million modification under previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract. It increases the estimated cost ceiling for the G/ATOR’s SDD phase, target cost, and target cost plus target fee of contract line item number 0001 by $17.5 million to reflect “undefinitized change orders for the UPX40,” which is an identification friend-or-foe (IFF) system. Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD (75%), and Syracuse, NY (25%), and is expected to be complete on Sept 15/11. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

That alternation also confirms a change in G/ATOR’s intended towing vehicle, from Humvee jeeps to up-armored MTVR medium trucks. Experiences in Iraq caused the Marines to re-think their intended use of Humvees, and their MTVR trucks with TAK-4 suspension for all-terrain mobility were the natural next step up. The change would improve the radar’s mobility and survivability, at the cost of added weight and limited helicopter portability. The radar module itself will remain helicopter-portable, but its accompanying vehicle will not be – unless the USMC decides to mount G/ATOR on a modified M-ATV MRAP, or future vehicles like the JLTV Category C.

Another contract modification increases the estimated cost ceiling, target cost and target cost plus target fee of contract line item number 0001 by an additional $27 million, to reflect the estimated cost increase associated with the 9-month schedule extension (M67854-07-C-2072).

New vehicle platform

Oct 6/09: More SDD. A $14 million modification under a previously awarded contract to increase the estimated cost ceiling for G/ATOR system development and demonstration to reflect its anticipated cost overrun. The contract modification was not competitively procured, as the cost overrun is within scope of the current contract, and is entered into pursuant to the changes clause. Discussions with US MARSYSCOM indicate that this increase is cumulative with the March 2009 ceiling increase.

Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD (75%) and Syracuse, NY (25%), and is expected to be complete in September 2011. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (M67854-07-C-2072).

Oct 5/09: Testing. Northrop Grumman announces that a prototype G/ATOR partial array antenna has completed successful testing at a company antenna test range in Norwalk, CT. The partial array is now being integrated with additional radar subsystems for follow-on testing at Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector headquarters in Baltimore, MD. Meanwhile, a 2nd G/ATOR AESA is scheduled for testing at the Norwalk, CT test facility later in 2009.

The G/ATOR AESA array can be thought of as “networked mini-radars,” so meeting all test objectives with a partial array that includes transmit/receive functionality, hardware and software communications, array tuning, and calibration techniques gives Northrop Grumman a high degree of confidence that the first fully populated array (currently under integration/test) will likewise be a success. Northrop Grumman representatives told DID that some test objectives were exceeded, and all were met. They added that their goal was, and is, to field a test radar that is as close to Full Rate Production versions as possible, using the same people and processes.

FY 2006 – 2009

SDD re-award, after initial award canceled; Additional funds and cost overruns, incl. early finding for interaction design. G/ATOR concept
(click to view full)

March 3/09: More SDD. A maximum $40.5 million contract modification reflect the anticipated cost overrun associated with completion of the G/ATOR’s SDD phase. The contract modification was not competitively procured, as the cost overrun is designated as being within the scope of the current contract.

Northrop Grumman estimated an additional $36 million to complete the SDD phase, of which the Government is immediately funding $16.8 million to support contract requirements for completing the Critical Design Review (CDR) scheduled from March to mid-April 2009. In addition, the contract modification increases the contract value by $4.5 million for engineering services and support over the life of the contract through June 2012. Those engineering services will be requested on an as-needed basis, and the Government has begun by requesting $238,695.

Work will be performed by Northrop Grumman Corp., in Linthicum Heights, MD (69%), and by Northrop Grumman’s subcontract, Sensis in Syracuse, NY (31%). Of the total funds obligated with this contract modification so far, $120,215 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (M67854-07-C-2072, P00024).

Dec 19/08: Sub-contractors. A $6.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract for Human Systems Integration (HSI) work, to be completed by June 2012. Work will be performed by Northrop Grumman Corporation in Linthicum Heights, MD (69%), and by their subcontractor Sensis, in Syracuse, NY (31%). The modification was not competitively procured, sine it’s classified as an engineering change within scope of the current contract (M67854-07-C-2072):

“The contractor shall develop and implement a plan to effectively apply HSI principles during G/ATOR design, production and integration. The contractor shall ensure Human Factors Engineering, Manpower, Personnel, Training, System Safety, Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health (ESOH), and Personnel Survivability requirements are incorporated into the layout, design, and arrangement of equipment having an operator or maintainer interface.”

As technology companies in Silicon Valley and beyond are beginning to realize, serious interaction design generally needs to begin earlier in the process. This is an improvement over the frequent practice of saving HSI for last, when it’s very difficult to change anything no matter what the findings show.

June 26/08: PDR. Northrop Grumman announces that G/ATOR has completed its 3 1/2 day Preliminary Design Review (PDR) at Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Electronic Systems sector headquarters, granting approval to proceed to critical design. The PDR involved an extensive U.S. government review and subsequent approval of the G/ATOR system and subsystem design for both hardware and software, including a program management review of cost and schedule.

The PDR was attended by more than 70 Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and other Department of Defense officials and civilian subject matter experts. NGC release.


June 17/08: More SDD. A $28.2 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to extend the schedule by 8 1/2 months and increase the level of effort for G/ATOR system development and demonstration.

At this time, no additional funds are being committed, but the option is there if additional support and engineering effort is needed. Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD (75%) and East Syracuse, NY (25%) and is expected to be complete December 2016 if all options are exercised (M67854-07-C-2072).

March 10/08: Sub-contractors. Curtiss-Wright Corporation announces a contract from Northrop Grumman to provide their new VPX boards and subsystems, high density digital signal processing products and optimized software tools.. The result will be a rugged air-flow-through radar processing subsystem using open architecture-based standards and software.

The initial $4.3 million contract is for development, which is expected to be complete in 2010. This subsystem will be designed and manufactured at Curtiss-Wright’s motion control facility in San Diego, CA, and will include products from its Leesburg, VA and Ottawa, Canada locations. The production phase of the G/ATOR program will be executed as an option under the current contract, and is planned to start in 2010.

Feb 27/08: No fries, chips. A $10.7 million modification to previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for design and development of a new Serial Rapid I/O processor for the G/ATOR. Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD (75%) and East Syracuse, NY (25%), and is expected to be complete March 2011 (M67854-07-C-2072).

Sept 6/07: SRR. Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) successfully reviewed and agreed upon 768 G/ATOR contractual design requirements during the recent System Requirements Review (SRR) held at Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector headquarters in Baltimore, MD. NGC release.

March 30/07: Northrop Grumman wins again, with a $256.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for System Development and Demonstration of the USMC’s Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR), Increment I. The contract includes a Radar Environmental Simulator (RES); alternative generator; the G/ATOR Technical Data Package; Model Driven Architecture Models; interim contractor logistics support; and performance based logistics; Other direct costs and travel; and engineering services and support.

The Pentagon DefenseLINK’s announcement also cites production of 2 G/ATOR Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) systems, and 13 full-rate production (FRP) G/ATOR systems. Northrop Grumman’s release cites 2 LRIP and 15 FRP systems. A 2012 change revised that to just 8 LRIP systems.

Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD (75%) and East Syracuse, NY (25%) and is expected to be complete in March 2016, if all options are exercised. This contract is a result of a full and open competition solicitation available to industry via the Navy Electronic Commerce Office, with 5 offers received (M67854-07-C-2072).

Main System Development

Sept 16/05: Initial SDD. A $7.95 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) Increment I system development and demonstration. Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD (75%) and East Syracuse, NY (25%) and is expected to be complete September 2009. The award is a result of a full and open competition solicitation that was available via the Internet, with 5 offers received (M67854-05-C-2000).

Northrop Grumman’s Sept 22/05 release estimated the total value of the contract at $125 million over 4 years and 4 system capability increments. It doesn’t matter, because the award is protested, and the Navy decides to re-compete it.

Canceled SDD

Additional Readings & Sources Background: AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR

DID thanks the personnel of Northrop Grumman for multiple interviews over the life of this article.


News & Views


Related Systems

  • DID – USA Developing New 3DELRR Long-Range Ground Radar. Northrop Grumman believes that a scaled-up version of G/ATOR would fit, but lost to Raytheon before submitting a GAO challenge.

  • Northrop Grumman – AN/APG-81 AESA Radar. Its technical design contributed to Northrop Grumman’s G/ATOR solution.

  • DID – TPQ-53 Counterfire Radars: Incoming…. Originally developed to track incoming artillery and rockets, and locate their source. It stemmed from a 2002 research effort whose scope was similar to G/ATOR’s, and the Army is now talking about extending the Lockheed Martin radar’s capabilities to include air defense. Other extensions may follow.

  • Saab – Giraffe 4X. Truck-mounted AESA radar for air defense and counterfire missions.

  • ThalesRaytheon – AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel. Integrated into NASAMS/ SL-AMRAAM air defense systems, but they’ve developed an additional C-RAM counterfire mode.

  • US Marine Corps (July 3/07) – New radar system brings the fight back to terrorists. They’re talking about the 150 lb. Lightweight Counter-Mortar Radar deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Its convenient, tactically-useful size means that it may continue to exist alongside the vehicle-mounted G/ATOR Increment III, despite have some function overlap.

  • DID (July 20/06) – Germany Orders New AESA Battlefield Radars. Cover the German BUR system, which will be mounted on blast-resistant Dingo 2 vehicles.

Categories: News

Kongsberg’s New NSM/JSM Anti-Ship & Strike Missile

Sun, 10/26/2014 - 16:05
NSM test launch
(click to view full)

Kongsberg’s stealthy new Naval Strike Missile (Nytt SjomalsMissil), which continues its development and testing program, has already shown potential in the crowded market for long-range ship attack and shore defense weapons. NSM’s Joint Strike Missile counterpart may have even more potential, as a longer-range air-launched naval and land strike complement to Kongsberg’s popular Penguin short-range anti-ship missile.

The market for anti-ship missiles is a crowded one, and the distinction between anti-ship and precision land strike weapons is blurring fast. Aside from a bevy of Russian subsonic and supersonic offerings, naval buyers can choose Boeing’s GM-84 Harpoon, China’s YJ-82/C-802 Saccade, MBDA’s Exocet, Otomat, or Marte; IAI of Israel’s Gabriel/ANAM, Saab’s RBS15, and more. Despite an ongoing shift toward supersonic missiles, Kongsberg chose not to go that route. So, how do they expect to be competitive in a crowded market? The F-35 Lightning II may hold the key.

Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile/ Joint Strike Missile NSM: Ship-Launched NSM test flight
(click to view full)

The 3.96m/ 13′, 407 kg/ 900 pound, stealth-enhanced Naval Strike Missile aim to be a generation beyond the USA’s GM-84 Harpoon. A rocket booster and Microturbo TRI-40 turbojet power it to a 185+ km/ 100+ nautical mile operational range, which is at the low end of the standards for its class. Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System (GPS/INS) guidance flies these missiles toward their target, aided by terrain profile matching (TERPROM). Internal programming is designed to create an unpredictable, maneuvering flight path that makes targeting difficult. During the final attack phase, an imaging infrared (IIR) seeker with automatic target recognizer (ATR) is used to refine final approach targeting, which can reportedly include specific features on a ship. Once NSM locks on, it strikes ships or land targets with a 120 kg/ 265 pound titanium warhead and programmable fuze.

Note the lack of a traditional radar seeker head, which is part of the missile’s signature reduction. IIR makes the NSM completely passive, offering no warning from shipboard ESM systems that detect radar emissions. At the same time, its stealthy shape offers little warning from its target’s active radar sweeps. This is a missile optimized at all levels for stealth, making supersonic speed less necessary.

An in-flight data link makes the missile reprogrammable in flight, if its target disappears or a higher priority threat appears.

In order to speed deployment, Kongsberg and the Norwegian government overlapped the NSM’s development phase and its production phase, referred to as the transition phase. That phase was tied to Norway’s commitments to Navantia, with a view to scheduling the NSM’s phase-in on the 4th vessel of Norway’s new Nansen Class AEGIS frigates. That integration is now complete.

To date, NSM has also been chosen for Norway’s Skjold Class air cushion catamaran FACs, and Poland’s land-based coastal defense batteries will use it to defend the country’s narrow Baltic Sea approaches.

JSM: Air-Launched NSM/ JSM
click for video

The air-launched “Joint Strike Missile (JSM)” variant is designed to be carried and launched internally from the F-35 Lightning II fighter’s 2 internal bays (1 missile per bay), or carried on external hardpoints by any aircraft type that has integrated the weapon with its systems. This isn’t quite the same missile, though it shares many characteristics. Kongsberg changed the wings, moved the intake to the missile’s sides, and added other modifications as the missile progresses through the development phase. Size shrinks slightly to 3.7m/ 12’2″, and weight drops to 307 kg/ 677 pounds. Because it’s air launched at speed, range expands to over 280 km/ 175 miles/ 150 nautical miles, with greater range enhancements if launched from higher altitudes.

Development has completed Phase 2, including detail design and integration/ fit checks for the F-18, F/A-18 Super Hornet, and F-35A. Phase 3 will complete development and leave Kongsberg ready for production.

The JSM’s tighter profile has also made it the base for 2 future designs: a submarine-launched variant that can fit inside a 533mm torpedo tube capsule, and a vertically-launched variant that adds a booster for use from strike-length naval vertical launch cells like the Mk.41.

RNoAF F-16
(click to view full)

Norway is aiming for a 2020 JSM in-service date, but that may have to involve its F-16s, which have lost their Penguin missiles. F-35A Integration will begin with the fighter’s Block 4 software fit, in 2022 – 2024.

That lateness and forced switch might be a blessing in disguise. JSM would be very appealing to many F-16 customers, and Kongsberg is also hedging its bets by testing JSM on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Forced inclusion of other platforms from the outset could create early customer pickup beyond home sales, including existing F-35 prospects like Australia. Later, the prospect of stealth-enhancing internal carriage, plus out of the gate integration with the F-35 Lightning II, give the JSM a strong entry hook for committed F-35 customers like Norway, Australia, The Netherlands, et. al.

Confirmed current export targets include Australia (NSM & JSM), Canada (NSM & JSM), Italy (JSM), and the USA (NSM). A live-fire showcase at the RIMPAC 2014 exercise has the potential to add more Pacific prospects.

Kongsberg’s JSM development partner Lockheed Martin has a similar air-launched land-attack product in its AGM-158 JASSM, which has been developed into the air or sea-launched LRASM. Other competitors exist, from MBDA’s Storm Shadow/Scalp, to Taurus’ KEPD, to Boeing’s anti-ship and land attack SLAM-ER. The JSM’s biggest differentiator would be internal F-35 carriage, which is unique. The other differentiator is its F-35 integration schedule. At present, JSM’s only ranged strike competitor in F-35 Block 4 will be Raytheon’s unpowered AGM-154C-1 JSOW glide bomb.

Contracts and Key Events 2014

JSM Phase 3 contract & costs; Poland will accelerate 2nd coastal battery; Kongsberg tries to crack the US market, partners with Raytheon for OASuW; Live-fire showcase in the Pacific; Test-firing from LCS 4. F/A-18F w. JSMs
(click to view full)

Oct 25/14: VL-NSM. Kongsberg is displaying a vertically-launched variant of its missile at AUSA 2014. The missile design is actually based on the air-launched JSM, whose compact form is easier to fit into vertical launch cells. A large booster motor would help restore comparable range.

Note that is just a model at the moment; call us when they test-fire one. Then again, the logo on the side also says Lockheed Martin. That firm makes the Mk.41 VLS, and is also signed up to help Kongsberg complete development and integration of the base JSM with the F-35. Sources: Navy Recognition, “Kongsberg showcased a Vertical Launch Joint Strike Missile (VL JSM) during AUSA 2014″.

LCS 4 fires NSM

Sept 23/14: USA. A live fire test of the Naval Strike Missile (q.v. July 24/14) done aboard USS Coronado [LCS 4] is successful, via a launcher mounted on the flight deck. The Navy is noncommittal about issuing a requirement that would lead to NSM integration with LCS, beyond deployment as part of any SSC derivatives. Sources: US Navy, “Navy Successfully Tests Norwegian Missile from LCS 4″ | Kongsberg, “Successful test firing of KONGSBERG’S Naval Strike Missile from US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship” | USNI, “Norwegian Missile Test On Littoral Combat Ship Successful.”

July 24/14: USA. The US Navy confirms this week that USS Coronado [LCS-4] is scheduled to test-launch the NSM at their Point Mugu, CA test range. NAVSEA says this isn’t about any specific requirement, it’s just a one-off event to test the ship’s ability to handle more advanced weapons, and “provide insights into the weapon’s stated capabilities of increased range, survivability and lethality.” This test does then take place successfully on September 23, but you have to wonder what firing a missile from a launcher put on the flight deck really demonstrates.

Amazingly, the US Navy is still wondering whether it should confine itself to weapons that work only within the ship’s unaided detection range, despite the fact that 500-ton Fast Attack Craft fielded by other countries carry full-range anti-ship missiles. It’s possible that NSM could fit into the LCS SuW mission module at some future date, with the LCS using UAVs etc. to close the kill chain at range.

On a related note, the NSM is an OASuW candidate (q.v. July 15/14) to eventually replace the sea-skimming, radar-guided RGM-84 Harpoon missiles aboard US Navy ships, and a full range anti-ship and surface attack missile will be critical to the USA’s Small Surface combatant frigate program (q.v. April 7-8/14). Since the Navy’s approach makes it hard for anything other than an adapted LCS to succeed, this test has significant long-term implications for the Independence Class. Sources: Gannett’s Navy Times, “LCS to conduct test of Norwegian missile”.

July 15/14: USA. Raytheon Company and Kongsberg Gruppen form a teaming agreement around the JSM for OASuW’s air-launched component, effectively displacing Raytheon’s JSOW-ER as a contender. The switch gives Raytheon a more advanced offering, while offering Kongsberg technical cooperation and stronger marketing clout. The 2 firms have a history of cooperation, and Kongsberg’s NASAMS remains the centerpiece of Raytheon’s mid-tier air defense offering.

They’ll still compete for OASuW’s ship-launched component, however; Raytheon has no intention of giving up on its RGM-109 Tomahawk. Sources: Kongsberg Gruppen, “Raytheon and Kongsberg team to provide air-launched Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare solutions”.

USA: OASuW partner

July 2/14: Phase 3. The Norwegian Defence Logistics Organization (NDLO) signs a NOK 1.1 billion ($178.3 million) Phase III contract with Kongsberg to complete Joint Strike Missile development, and prepare it for integration on the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). This brings total Phase III contracts to NOK 1.58 billion (q.v. Nov 29/13). Norway’s MoD adds that Australia is about to get involved:

“Australian authorities have indicated that they want to help integrate the JSM on the F-35… a more detailed agreement will be in place within the next 6-12 months.”

Sources: Norwegian MoD, “Phase 3 In the Development of JSM Underway” | Kongsberg, “KONGSBERG signs NOK 1.1 billion JSM contract with the Norwegian Armed Forces”.


May 23/14: Phase 3 & Costs. A bill in Norway’s Storting would finance JSM Phase 3 final development, but the cost has expanded by NOK 1 billion to NOK 3.7 billion (about $622 million). Overall cost increases have pushed the overall project from NOK 6 billion (about $1 billion) to NOK 8.2 billion (about $1.38 billion), and most of this 37% increase will be covered by the government. At the same time, however, Kongsberg will be investing more on their own side. They see a clear opportunity for JSM/NSM, but elements like NSM Vertical Launch System compatibility etc. will take added work if they want to capitalize.

The good news is that a recent independent evaluation confirmed that JSM has the technological maturity required at this stage of development. Phase 3’s problem is the variety of different systems, rules, control regimes and operational requirements involved in a globally exportable missile. Norway hasn’t done that since the smaller and simpler Penguin missile was developed decades ago, and integration is harder now because the missile and platforms are both more complex. So the final phase involves more testing, integration, and documentation than the firm had expected. On the bright side, Kongsberg has sold over 1,000 Penguin missiles since the 1970s, and the current Mk3 remains relevant and on the market. They’re hoping for similar success, despite an early disappointment:

“The goal has been, and remains, to bring in other F-35 partner countries to help cover the cost of integrating the JSM on the F-35. However, in spite of extensive efforts by Norwegian authorities and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, this goal has yet to be achieved. This is partly due to the financial situation in a number of partner countries and partly due to varying status of partner country decision making processes. The partner nations showing most interest in the JSM have been, and continue to be, Australia and Canada, and to some degree, Italy and the United States, all of which have expressed an operational requirement for a future airborne maritime strike capability. As a consequence, until such time as another partner joins the integration process, Norway’s cost of integrating the JSM on F-35 increases by about NOK 1.15 billion (USD 193 million).”

Norway remains committed, partly because of the potential market, and partly because it’s important to them to maintain their aerospace/ missile industrial cluster. JSM Phase 3 development is expected to finish by the end of 2017, in plenty of time for inclusion in F-35A Block 4 during 2022-2024. Or full integration with existing fighters like the Super Hornet etc. (q.v. Nov 6/13). Sources: Norwegian Ministry of Defence, “Joint Strike Missile (JSM) – A Considerably Strengthened Norwegian Threshold Against War and Conflict” | Kongsberg Defence, “The Norwegian Government today presented a bill to the Parliament to further development of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM)” | Reuters, “Cost of Kongsberg’s JSM missile rises by 37 pct”.

Phase 3, costs and opportunities

April 11/14: Poland. In light of renewed tensions from Russia, Poland intends to accelerate their purchase of a 2nd coastal defense battery of NSM:

“The third very important part of the modernization program of the Navy was the delivery in June 2013 the Coastal Missile Squadron. Achieving its full combat readiness, after the delivery of the final number of missiles Kongsberg NSM (in 2014 and 2015, it is planned shipment of 12 missiles per year), is to take place by 2015. Deputy minister Mroczek additionally informed that later this year a proceeding of acquiring a second Coastal Missile Squadron is to begin.”

Sources: Dziennik Zbrojny, “Current status of the Polish naval modernization program”.

April 9/14: Exports. Norway is beginning to promote the missile abroad in earnest. HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen will sail to the Pacific Ocean to take part in RIMPAC, where the frigate will launch an NSM at a target ship provided by the US Navy. Nothing like a concrete demonstration for the other countries to look at.

Norwegian Navy Cmdr. Tony Schei confirms that “Kongsberg sees the JSM able to fit in a Mark 41 vertical launch system,” and says that Australia and Canada are being offered this weapon for their future frigates. It would be surprising if they weren’t also targeting Britain’s future Type 26 frigates. Sources: Defense News, “Norway’s Naval Strike Missile Aims for the Pacific”.

April 7-8/14: USA. With the USA considering its options for 20 frigates as a follow-on to the Littoral Combat Ship program, and expressing a preference for modified LCS designs, Kongsberg is presenting scale models of LCS variants with NSMs at the Sea-Air-Space 2014 Exposition. The Freedom Class gets 12 NSMs in 2 recessed modules above the helicopter hangar, while the trimaran Independence Class ends up with 18 NSMs in 2 recessed launchers just behind the bridge, and a 3rd in the hull behind the naval gun.

Those loadouts would make the ships formidable surface combatants. If they control multiple UAVs for surveillance and targeting, their strike role actually starts to look like an aircraft carrier with 1-launch strike aircraft, and this configuration wouldn’t require ship radar upgrades. That could even position Kongsberg for a post-2019 Surface Warfare Module upgrade within the existing fleet, if the Navy decides that it has to upgrade to serious anti-ship capability.

From Kongsberg’s point of view, the challenge is to find footholds within the US military and position themselves as a viable replacement to Boeing’s Harpoon. The F-35 offers them a trump card, but they’ll need a warship platform to really compete. Success with LCS and/or its follow-on frigate would give them a head-start, and make them a strong contender for OASuW if the vertical launch problem can be solved. Sources: Naval Recognition, “Sea-Air-Space 2014 Show Daily News – Kongsberg NSM”.

March 26/14: USA. Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley says that the initial buy of 90 LRASM missiles from FY 2017 – 2019 is a special justification and authorization buy following DARPA development, in order to get the air-launched version onto USAF B-1 bombers (which will already have JASSM integrated) and USN F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters. US budgets actually show 110 missiles from FY 2017 – 2019. He also says that the main OASuW buy of ship and air launched missiles for anti-ship and surface strike missions will be competed.

The most important aspect of that OASuW program involves launch from ships’ Vertical Launch Cells, in order to correct a tactical deficit in USN ships that is becoming strategic. Raytheon could find itself well positioned with an upgraded xGM-109 Tomahawk, or they could widen JSOW-ER’s capabilities. Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile will almost be qualified on the F-35 by that point, but the firm will need to either add shipborne Mk.41 vertical launch system compatibility, or find another angle. Sources: Reuters, “U.S. Navy plans competition for next-generation missile”.

March 20/14: USA. Inside Defense reports that the Pentagon has rejected bids from Kongsberg (NSM/JSM) and Raytheon (JSOW-ER), and has approved Lockheed Martin’s LRASM for a major follow-on development contract to prepare it for production in FY17. Sources: Inside Defense, “DOD Expands LRASM Development, Rebuffs Alternate Bids From Raytheon, Kongsberg”.

2012 – 2013

1st naval launch; 1st live warhead strike; Australia’s plans; JSM scheduled for F-35 Block 4; Go early with F-16 and F/A-18E/F in response? Gotcha
(click to view full)

Nov 29/13: Bridging contract. Norway’s DLO signs a NOK 480 million ($78.4 million) JSM bridging-phase development contract with Kongsberg, in order to keep the workforce moving ahead until the Stortinget (Parliament) approves the final Phase 3 budget for development & testing.

Phase 2 included detail design and integration/ fit checks for the F-18, F/A-18 Super Hornet, and F-35A. Phase 3 will complete development and leave Kongsberg ready for production, including captive carry and live fire tests from successive platforms. Kongsberg adds that “The international F-35 user consortium, with the USA as the largest, is showing great interest in the JSM.” Source: Kongsberg, “KONGSBERG signs contract with the Norwegian Armed Forces for bridging-phase leading to phase three development of JSM”.

Bridging contract

Nov 6/13: Super Hornet. Boeing and Kongsberg take the 1st step toward integration with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter family. All they did was ensure that the weapons fit on the aircraft’s external pylons. Next, they have to conduct wind tunnel tests in early 2014. That will assess the effect of the missiles on the plane’s aerodynamics, and likely stress on the pylons. Live captive carry testing will be needed to verify their conclusions, and of course full integration with the aircraft’s electronics will be its own separate effort.

Norway doesn’t fly Super Hornets, but potential JSM partner Australia does (q.v. May 16/13), and so does the US Navy. F-35 integration won’t be ready until 2021-2022, but successful F/A-18 integration would give the JSM an early deployment option with any future Super Hornet customers. It would also provide an incentive for Australia to commit to JSM early and deploy the missiles well before 2025, by offering them a much more immediate fleet upgrade. Finally, Super Hornet integration would provide an opening to put JSM forward as an AGM-84 Harpoon missile replacement for the US Navy, if the higher-end LRASM program falls to coming budget cuts. Sources: Boeing, Nov 6/13 release.

June 4/13: Live Fire. The Norwegian Navy carries out the first live-warhead NSM trial at a range “outside Norway”, firing the missile from the Skjold Class Fast Attack Craft KNM Steil to hit a decommissioned Oslo Class frigate. The missile hits at close range, and does a reasonable amount of damage, as the accompanying photo shows. Looks like they used a pop-up and dive attack profile. See also Flight International.

May 16/13: Australia. During Parliamentary hearings by the Joint Committee On Foreign Affairs, Defence And Trade, DMO’s New Air Combat Capability program manager, Air Vice Marshal Kym Osley, discusses the JSM and Australia, in response to a question from Sen. Fawcett. With Norway’s government fully finding the missile through F-35 integration in Block 4, Australia doesn’t need to be involved in that financially, and they haven’t made any commitments to JSM yet beyond discussing requirements etc.

Australia’s near-term plan is to use the AGM-154C-1 JSOW glide bomb as their initial maritime strike weapon, first on their F/A-18F Super Hornets and next on their F-35As. They believe that the USAF and US Navy will also make JSOW part of Block 4, which is planned to finish in 2020 and release to the fleet in 2021. Software development remains very behind, but Australia hopes to have JSOW available on their F-35As by the RAAF’s own planned F-35A Full Operational Capability date, in 2023.

Beyond 2023, Australia’s JP3023 program will be looking at a new maritime strike platform for use across its navy surface combatants and air force (F/A-18F, F-35A, P-8A). The NSM/ JSM is expected to be a strong contender, but by then it’s likely to face competitors from America’s OASuW program, as well as current market offerings. Internal carriage in the F-35A would remain the JSM’s trump card, unless a new entrant can duplicate that. Hansard Australia [PDF].

April 26/13: F-35 Integration. The Norwegian government submits a formal Parliamentary request to authorize 6 F-35As for delivery in 2017, and shifts its buying approach. Read “F-35 Lightning II Wins Norway’s (Fake) Competition” for full coverage.

The government also announces that the JSM now has a firm slot for integration: F-35 Block 4. Block 3 is the final version that will emerge from development in 2018 – 2019, which means Block 4 would be ready around 2021 at the earliest. Even that date would make their missile the platform’s first long-range strike option. Norwegian MoD.

JSM integration: F-35 Block 4

Nov 30/12: JSM. Norwegian officials unveil the first completed fuselage for the new Joint Strike Missile, developed by Kongsberg for the F-35. The JSM will undergo a Critical Design Review during the summer of 2013, after which preparations will begin for its final stage of development and full F-35 integration. Norwegian MoD.

Oct 12-15/12: The Norwegian Navy announces that it has conducted successful NSM firing tests from Skjold Class Fast Attack Craft HNoMS Glimt and Fridtjof Nansen Class frigate HNoMS Roald Amundsen. The launch from HNoMS Glimt was the NSM’s 1st naval firing. Navy Recognition.

1st naval launch

June 15/12: Norwegian Defence Minister Espen Barth Eide announces that the Norwegian Government has signed its contract for the first 2 F-35A fighters, and put all of the required elements in place for JSM development and F-35 integration.

Norway actually began the Phase II JSM development contract in June 2011 (q.v.), but needed American support to integrate the missile with the fighter. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently confirmed that support, which allowed Norway to move forward. The JSM program will also feed back into the ship and land-launched NSM, by laying the groundwork for future upgrades.

The F-35 currently has no powered strike missile planned for internal or external carriage by the end of its development phase, in 2018. An early start for Kongsberg could give it a leg up for future orders. Kongsberg Defence Systems President Harald Ånnestad believes the JSM program could be worth as much as NOK 25 billion (currently $4.2 billion), and translate into 450 long-term jobs at Kongsberg alone. Norwegian MoD | Kongsberg.

May 31/12: F-35 studies. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $19.8 million fixed-price-incentive-fee (firm target) modification to the F-35’s Low Rate Initial Production Lot 4 contract, which covers Norway’s Joint Strike Missile (JSM) Risk Reduction Study. Efforts will include physical fit checks, wind tunnel tests, engineering analysis, and designing and building of an emulator and adapter to determine next steps in integrating the JSM into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (70%); Arnold AFB in Tullahoma, TN (20%); and Kongsberg, Norway (10%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-09-C-0010)


JSM Phase II. NSMs for Poland. F-35A JSF
(click to view full)

Dec 28/11: Poland. Kongsberg finalizes the Dec 7/10 preliminary contract with Poland, whose scope has increased along with its cost (now NOK 712/ $119.5 million). Deliveries of NSM missiles, in conjunction with a command and weapon control system similar to the firm’s NASAMS air defence system, are expected to begin in 2012, and the order will be booked as a Q4 2011 transaction.

Kongsberg adds that will be subcontracting with a large number of Polish enterprises, adding that the coastal defense network’s radar system, communications system and the trucks to carry the launch ramps are all being developed and delivered by Polish industry. Kongsberg Defence.


June 30/11: Kongsberg signs a NOK 543 million (about $100.9 million) contract with the NLDO for Phase II development of the air-launched Joint Strike Missile variant. It builds on the NOK 166 million JSM Phase I contract, signed in 2009. Kongsberg.

JSM Phase II

June 30/11: Kongsberg announces the first ever live-fire of the surface-launched NSM against a land target. It was actually a land-land firing, as the Polish Navy Coastal Squadron fired the missile from a land-based platform, to hit its land-based target over 150 km away.

Naval ships will also use the NSM, beginning with Norway’s own Skjold Class corvettes and Fridtjof Nansen Class AEGIS frigates. Deliveries for these platforms, and the Polish coastal defense batteries, are scheduled for 2011-2014.

June 16/11: Norwegian Parliamentary approval to buy 4 initial F-35A fighters, and begin JSM Phase II to equip those fighters with an internally-stowed anti-ship missile. VNN | F-16.NET | Reuters | Stortinget Prop. S110 [Nynorsk, PDF].

June 6/11: Defense Minister Grete Faremo is called in to an open Parliamentary hearing about the F-35A, but she also discusses the NSM/JSM. Translated from the Norwegian statement issued by the Forsvarsdepartementet:

“JSM: The operational level of ambition for new combat aircraft capability requires long-range anti-surface weapons by sea and land attack capability. The Joint Strike Missile – JSM – is considered to be the only weapon in development that will meet these operational requirements, and can be carried inside the F-35. The fact that the missile can be carried inside the plane is a very central point, namely, it means that the plane keeps its stealth capabilities – which is not the case if the missile is hung outside the wings in the traditional manner.

JSM Development Step 1 is completed, and to continue with the development of JSM in step 2 is crucial to provide operational capability – and it is an important signal to potential customers and it will create a necessary degree of credibility in our ongoing efforts to establish international collaboration for the integration of the missile.

There is considerable interest in the JSM from several other nations. I have taken the initiative include the establishment of a bilateral working group with U.S. to follow up there in particular. A clarification about the participation of other nations, including the United States, is essential in order to include them in the integration phase, which is expected to begin within the next 12-18 months.”

Dec 7/10: NSMs for Poland. Kongsberg Defence Systems announces a NOK 660 (about $110.4 million) million contract with the Polish Ministry of Defence, which includes Naval Strike Missiles (NSM) and support equipment. The contract is not final yet, pending approval of the related industrial offsets contract. Some of Poland’s naval ships currently operate Saab’s RBS-15 naval strike missile, but the NSM missiles appear to be destined for coastal batteries that would cover Poland’s Baltic Sea approaches.


2008 – 2009

NSM production. JSM phase I. Skjold Class
(click to view larger)

June 29/09: Kongsberg announces that:

“Today, the Kongsberg District Court served KONGSBERG a writ regarding a lawsuit being filed by the Swedish company SAAB in Poland against both the Polish Ministry of Defense and KONGSBERG. The lawsuit refers to the award of a contract which KONGSBERG signed with the Polish Ministry of Defence in December 2008 for the delivery of a coastal artillery system featuring Naval Strike Missiles (NSM). SAAB claims the contract to be declared void.”

April 27/09: Kongsberg Gruppen anounces a NOK 166 million (about $25 million) contract with the Norwegian Defence Procurement Division for the first phase in the development of the Joint Strike Missile. The contract is scheduled to run over the next 18 months.

JSM Phase I

Feb 2/09: Kongsberg announces a successful test firing of the Naval Strike Missile (NSM):

“Fired at the Pt. Mugu artillery range in the US state of California, the missile completed the planned trajectory prior to striking the target ship. During its flight, the missile conducted a large number of advanced manoeuvres that clearly place it far ahead of competing systems.”

May 25/07: Production deal. In the largest order Kongserg has landed to date, the firm signs a NOK 2.746 billion (about $466.4 million) contract with the Norwegian Armed Forces’ Logistics Organisation for serial production of the new Naval Strike Missile (NSM). This includes the transition contract for NOK 200 million (about $34 million).

This contract covers the production of NSMs for Norway’s Nansen Class AEGIS frigates, and Skjold Class catamaran-hovercraft fast attack craft. Production under this contract will run until 2014, and will ensure employment for 200 – 250 individuals in Kongsberg, as well as work for nearly 120 of their 1400 Norwegian subcontractors in Akershus, Buskerud, and Oppland counties. Tom Gerhardsen, president of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, adds in the firm’s release that the contract will also:

“…give us the references we need to sell the missile to other countries’ naval defence forces. Several countries have already indicated an interest in the NSM.”

NSM Production

2004 – 2007

Tests. Joint marketing with LockMart. NSM: Early concept

Jan 31/07: Lockheed Martin and Kongsberg sign a a joint marketing agreement for an aircraft-version of the new Naval Strike Missile (NSM), to be known as the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) and adapted for deployment on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A study for making adaptations to both the missile and the fighter craft is already in progress, funded jointly by Norway and Australia. It is expected that the adaptations will take 3 years to reach the technological maturity required for deployment on the F-35.

Jan 15/07: Kongsberg announces 2 more successful NSM test firings in California, USA, as part of the Norwegian Navy’s final approval of the development phase. The tests were conducted in the U.S. because the Americans have a test firing range that allows the missile to be tested over land and sea alike, which is essential for testing several of the missile’s functions.

Aug 2/06: Kongsberg announces a pair of successful NSM missile tests in California, on April 1/07 and July 21/06.

The test firings are part of the Norwegian Navy’s final approval of the NSM development phase. The test was conducted in the U.S. because the Americans have a test firing range that allows the missile to be tested over land and sea alike.

Dec 13/05: Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace attempts to fire an NSM missile at a testing facility in France, but the test is aborted before the missile left the launcher due to a malfunction in the launcher’s systems.

A successful test is required before the project can enter the final part of the development phase, in which the missile system’s performance and functionality will be verified against the contract specifications issued by Norway’s Armed Forces’ Logistics Organisation. Kongsberg’s release says that the missile’s schedule will be unaffected.

April 26/04: In Recommendation No. 54 to the Storting (Norway’s parliament), the Government asks for authorization to sign a contract for the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) transition phase. The contract is valued at approximately NOK 200 million.

Full implementation of the production phase will be initiated only upon formal completion of the development phase and be based on a decision by the Storting at a later date. At this point, development phase is scheduled for completion in late 2005. Kongsberg release.

NSM contract

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Poland Poised for Realistic but Low Profile Posture?

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 16:19

  • Poland has adopted [Defence24] a new national security strategy, which explicitly recognizes “a risk of local and regional conflicts in direct vicinity of Poland.” The Economist profiles Ewa Kopacz, Poland’s prime minister since last month, as a pragmatic leader likely to play it safe rather than use a confrontational tone in her dealings with Russia.

  • Reuters has shown pictures of charred tanks in Eastern Ukraine which several analysts thought had to be Russian.

  • Slovakia will purchase 2 C-27J transport aircraft, reports the Slovak Spectator.

Future US Subs

  • The US Navy is starting [USNI] early design work for the next generation of submarines meant to succeed the Virginia class in the 2030s.

Middle East

Categories: News

If Necessary, Alone: The Shield of Poland

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 18:38

In the wake of events in Georgia and Crimea, Poland has emerged as NATO’s key eastern bastion. The Tarcza Polski (Shield of Poland) aims to give it an advanced air defense system to match.

Poland’s military rise has been slow, but steady. Smart economic policies have created growth, and a willingness to finance national defense is slowly improving their equipment. Combat deployments abroad to Iraq and Afghanistan have both sharpened training, and highlighted areas that still need fixing. Missile proliferation in the Middle East, American fecklessness, and a rearming Russia have all led Poland to the conclusion that they can no longer depend on old Soviet-era air defense equipment. They need their own advanced national air defense system, which can benefit from allied contributions without being dependent on them.

Tarcza Polski’s 3 Air Defense Tiers

The Shield of Poland is envisaged as a 3-tier system.

Tier 1: Local Thunder POPRAD/ GROM
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The lowest tier involves shoulder-fired Grom/Piorun missiles. Poland’s Grom (“Thunder”) is reportedly the product of some unauthorized “borrowing” from Russia’s SA-18, with local Polish changes and improvements. Grom/Piorun missiles can also be fielded as additions to fixed, radar-aided 23mm guns (Pilica system), or integrated on truck-mounted quad launchers (Poprad system). Both will be part of Tarcza Polski.

Grom missiles have already claimed a number of Russian aircraft, when used by Georgian armed forces during the 2008 conflict.

The Piorun is an enhanced version of Grom, with a new proximity fuze and warhead.

Tier 2: NAREW Air Defense NASAMS-II
(click to view full)

The next tier is known as the NAREW program. It involves up to 11 batteries of “short range” conventional air defense missiles, without anti-ballistic missile capabilities. While the top-tier systems have garnered the most attention and focus, and will be implemented first as a high-performance deterrent, NAREW’s ability to counter aircraft and cruise missiles at an affordable cost may make it Poland’s most critical purchase.

Competitors reportedly include Diehl (IRIS-T SL), MBDA-Bumar (VL-MICA), Israel’s RAFAEL (SPYDER & Iron Dome); and Raytheon (NASAMS). MBDA-Lockheed’s MEADS system was dealt out after Poland failed to shortlist it for the top-tier WISLA system, but Diehl’s IRIS-T remains.

MBDA’s VL-MICA. This variant of their medium range air-to-air missile is still looking for a truck-mounted land order, though it has been picked for a few naval vessels. The Platoon Command Post and 3D radar are complemented by missiles that come in infrared and radar guided versions. That makes the system quite dangerous, even if its radars are shut down to protect them from enemy detection.

MEADS / IRIS-T. This consortium was led by Lockheed Martin and MEADS, creating a top-tier BMD system that can also mount Diehl’s IRIS-T. Aircraft and cruise missile missiles could be engaged with either MEADS’ PAC-3 MSE or IRIS-T, depending on distance, priority, etc. This dual role made MEADS’ bid something of an all-or-nothing affair. When Poland decided that MEADS was too risky to become a WISLA finalist, it effectively killed the system as a NAREW option, though buy-in from Germany and Italy could change its fate.

IRIS-T SL spun out as an independent bid, offering and a vertically-launched variant of the infrared-guided air-to-air missile, complete with an enhanced rocket motor, an aerodynamic hood for extended range, a data link, and an autonomous GPS/INS navigation system. That’s paired with an Australian CEAFAR AESA radar, Rheinmetall Air Defence’s Oerlikon Skymaster battle management system, and Terma’s BMD-Flex command, control and communication system.


RAFAEL’s SPYDER. Israel’s system uses a pair of Python-5 IIR-guided and derivative Derby radar-guided missiles to the same effect as the different MICA variants, cued by a combination of radar and optical sensors. The truck-mounted system comes in SR (4 missiles) and MR (8 missiles with range-extending boosters) options. One interesting question is whether SPYDER-MR could also mount the Stunner missile from David’s Sling, creating a mobile BMD option. There’s already a base for Polish-Israeli cooperation, as Peru’s new air defenses are a combination of Poprad and SPYDER-SR systems, via a partnership between Poland’s Bumar (Poprad), RAFAEL (SPYDER system), and Northrop Grumman (long-range TPS-78 radar). It will be interesting to see if that arrangement rebounds back to Poland. SPYDER has been publicly exported to Georgia, India, Peru, and Singapore.

Raytheon’s NASAMS-II. This system seems to hold the high ground, if NAREW is considered on its own. Its flexible open-architecture command and control could place it at the center of Poland’s tactical air defenses, and Raytheon is working with WZU SA in Grudziadz to re-use Poland’s tracked Soviet-era SA-6 launchers as part of the system. Fokker would provide the launcher canisters, and Thales-Nederland the radar. Missile variety (IRIS-T, AIM-9X Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM, and longer-range RIM-162 ESSM), and commonality with existing Polish Air Force missile stocks (AIM-9X and AIM-120) help create a powerful edge. NATO and related NASAMS customers include Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain; it has also been exported elsewhere.

Tier 3: The WISLA Air/BMD Tier SAMP/T Aster-30
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The top tier is the WISLA program, which will have priority. In this “medium range” competition, up to 8 batteries will act as both long-range air defense, and point defense against short to medium range ballistic missiles. The only reason WISLA isn’t classed as long range is the expected 300+ km reach of land-based SM-3 Block IIA missiles, once the USA’s Aegis Ashore complex goes live at Redzikowo in 2018.

Competitors reportedly include MBDA-Lockheed (MEADS), MBDA-Thales-Bumar (SAMP/T Mamba using Aster-30), Israel’s SIBAT export agency (David’s Sling/ “Stunner”), and Raytheon (PATRIOT). All have killed ballistic missiles in live-fire tests, and all offer different advantages and disadvantages.

MEADS concept
(click to view full)

MEADS. Advantages: European partnership, Advanced unified solution. Disadvantages: Risk. Lost its American customer due to the cost of integrating it with back-end command systems. The PAC-3 MSE missile is migrating to PATRIOT batteries, however, and MEADS’ advanced radars may do likewise eventually. Meanwhile, MEADS program partners Germany and Italy are looking at the possibility of financing the full system into production themselves, and Polish participation would really help. That’s good news in terms of industrial development opportunities, but it also adds real risks. Lockheed Martin and MBDA’s MEADS is a step up from PATRIOT in all respects, and its ability to launch Diehl’s short-range IR-guided IRIS-T SL missiles as a supplement adds to its appeal over PATRIOT.

The catch is that Poland would have to accept project risk, cost risk, and coalition risk in exchange. They chose not to, but there are reports that MEADS’ PAC-3 MSE missile could be an option as part of Raytheon’s bid.

PATRIOT explained
(click to view full)

PATRIOT (Finalist). Advantages: No-risk choice. Disadvantages: Performance. Raytheon offers the most widely deployed and proven option, with zero development risk, a set path to integration with American and NATO back-end systems, full compatibility with American units already on Polish soil, and a massive global installed base that guarantees long-term upgrades and support. Raytheon IDS VP Sanjay Kapoor has added that that Polish systems would include the “PAC-3 MSE missile and recent technological enhancements introduced into the Patriot radar and command and control…”

On the flip side, PATRIOT currently has the least powerful radar in this group, and there is some concern that even with the PAC-3 MSE, future Russian aircraft and weapons will begin to outpace its capabilities. In response, Raytheon is offering Poland a variant of the TPQ-65 with 360-degree rotating coverage, an all-new antenna, and a new IFF system built in cooperation with Poland’s Bumar. RAFAEL’s Stunner missile is also an option, as an optional “Low Cost Interceptor”. Beyond that, Raytheon’s TPY-2 could also help even up the radar equation quickly, if it’s offered as part of the overall Wisla bid. It’s already being exported to the UAE as part of their land-based THAAD BMD system, and a TPY-2 is currently operating on NATO’s behalf in Turkey.

SAMP/T Mamba (Finalist). Advantages: European partnership, Range. Disadvantages: Cost, French diplomacy. MBDA’s SAMP/T uses an advanced Arabel radar, and an Aster-30 missile with longer proven reach than Poland’s other WISLA options. The SAMP/T system already serves with France and Italy, and France is implementing its own national BMD system within NATO’s ALTBMD. That makes it a ready model if Poland wants a European system. On the industrial front, MBDA has already secured key partnerships.

All of these considerations make SAMP/T a strong contender in Poland, if Mamba’s cost and France’s snake-eyes diplomacy don’t destroy its chances. America’s relationship with Poland had been damaged before the Ukrainian crisis, but France’s continued willingness to sell Russia amphibious assault ships after Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine is an odd case of “anything vous can do, nous can do meilleur”. Still, senior members of the Polish government have been recorded saying that American security guarantees are worthless. In that context, EuroSAM’s status as a finalist becomes less surprising.

DS intercept test
(click to view full)

Stunner/ David’s Sling. Advantages: Cost. Disadvantages: Initial capabilities. This system is just completing development in Israel, where it will replace existing MIM-23 Hawk and MIM-104 PATRIOT batteries. Its Stunner missile said to be significantly less expensive than Lockheed Martin’s PATRIOT PAC-3, and the firm has even worked with Raytheon to tout a PAAC-4 system that would use Stunner on top of Raytheon’s PATRIOT Config-3 core system. Unfortunately, Stunner’s initial release won’t have key capabilities like cruise missile/ UAV interception, or the ability to hit maneuvering ballistic targets. Israel’s SIBAT tends to be closed-mouthed about its offerings, but it does have the leeway to offer Poland other advanced equipment like the Green Pine long-range radar used in Israel, South Korea, and India.

We thought that “the Israeli firm could have a tough climb here,” and pressure from the USA was the final nail. The Israeli firm was not a finalist, but the Stunner missile survives as a PAAC-4 option within Raytheon’s official bid.

Contracts & Key Events 2013 – 2014

Budget plan set and WISLA finalists confirmed; Israel reportedly out – but Raytheon brings them back in; NAREW timeline & shortlist; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine speeds up plans, somewhat. Raytheon, MSPO 2013

Oct 23/14: NAREW. Col. Adam Duda of Poland’s Armament Inspectorate outlines their candidates and timelines for the NAREW medium-range air defense system. The technical dialogue will begin in November 2014, for completion in Q1 2015. They believe that Poland can continue to provide all of its own command and control systems, but basic tactical and technical assumptions, and feasibility studies, will continue until the end of 2015. The winning system would be picked in 2016. Poland is only looking at complete system packages, and announced candidates include:

“Kongsberg NASAMS, MBDA Mica VL, Israeli Spyder and Iron Dome systems and the German IRIS-T. [Duda] claimed though that “other solutions” may also be taken into account during the proceedings.”

Note the addition of Iron Dome and the absence of MEADS, which was eliminated from WISLA. Germany and Italy are still deciding whether to invest in it independently, however, and the door seems open if those decisions change the landscape. Meanwhile, IRIS-T SL survived as an independent bid, offering and a vertically-launched variant of the infrared-guided air-to-air missile, complete with an enhanced rocket motor, an aerodynamic hood for extended range, a data link, and an autonomous GPS/INS navigation system. That’s paired with an Australian CEAFAR AESA radar, Rheinmetall Air Defence’s Oerlikon Skymaster battle management system, and Terma’s BMD-Flex command, control and communication system. Sources: Defence24, “Poland to Begin Short Range Air Defence System Procurement in 2016″.

June 30/14: WISLA Finalists. Poland’s MON announces the Wisla program’s finalists: Raytheon’s ‘PATRIOT with options’ offer, and EuroSAM’s SAMP/T Mamba system that uses the Aster-30.

Poland won’t become part of the MEADS program, nor will it buy Israel’s David’s Sling. The 2-stage technical dialogue led Poland to conclude that they required an operational system that is deployed by NATO countries. Once those requirements were set, MEADS and David’s Sling failed to qualify. Sources: Poland MON, “Kolejny etap realizacji programu Wisla zakonczony” | Raytheon, “Poland invites Raytheon to participate in final phase of WISLA competition”.


June 12/14: Raytheon. Raytheon Company and Bumar Elektronika announce a partnership to design and develop a modernized Patriot Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) antenna that can upgrade previous ground systems. Meanwhile, Raytheon has begun laying out its broader vision for WISLA.

The IFF system will be used as part of an “advanced Patriot 360 degree radar.” Raytheon says that it would be based on the current AN/APG-65 with the new Radar Digital Processor, but it would carry an all-new antenna, and rotate for full hemispheric coverage. The result would also be an attractive upgrade for customers whose emplaced PATRIOTs are currently limited to a 120 degree field of regard. It would also bring Raytheon closer to parity with Lockheed’s MEADS, which substitutes three 360-degree radars (2 X-band MFCR, 1 UHF-band VSR) in place of the PATRIOT system’s single G-band MPQ-53 (PAC-2) or MPQ-65 (PAC-3).

A new open-architecture, NATO-compatible Common Command and Control (CC2) system would be a joint Raytheon-Polish development, incorporating PATRIOT fire control software, but allowing the integration of options like NASAMS and other systems. CC2’s design, development, and testing would be done in partnership with Polish industry, with the final product produced in Poland.

Missile choice would be up to Poland. Raytheon makes PAC-2 GEM missiles, while Lockheed Martin makes PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE missiles. To flank their rival at the high end, Raytheon is offering a “new advanced Low Cost Interceptor (LCI)” option. This refers to Raytheon’s PAAC-4 offering, which can add RAFAEL’s Stunner missiles from the competing David’s Sling air defense/ ABM system. If previous reports are true (q.v. May 14/14), Raytheon has effectively recruited their Israeli competitor into their team. The final LCI missile solution would be based on Polish requirements, and it’s worth noting that Raytheon is also RAFAEL’s partner for the famous Iron Dome counter-rocket system. Sources: Direct discussions | Raytheon, “Poland’s Bumar Elektronika and Raytheon Partner to Develop New Patriot IFF Antenna”.

May 14/14: No Israel in WISLA. The USA has reportedly used export clearance to block Israel’s David’s Sling system from WISLA consideration. Israel’s silence concerning Russia’s ongoing annexation of eastern Ukraine hasn’t helped them in Poland, either. France is one-upping the Israelis with their continued willingness to sell Russia amphibious assault helicopter carriers, but they seem committed, even though a SAMP/T win in Poland would earn around 5x what Russia is paying for the Vladivostoks. Which leaves a strong likelihood that WISLA will be American-made. Reuters:

“As compensation, the manufacturer of the Israeli David’s Sling missile defense system may get a role in a future U.S.-led arms sale to Warsaw, the [Israeli] official, who has been briefed on the competition, told Reuters on condition of anonymity…. The involvement of U.S. technologies gives Washington an effective veto over export of the system, which the Israeli defense official said had been quietly wielded in this case. “There has been pressure,” he said, without elaborating. “We cannot sell everything we want to.””

At the same time, Lockheed Martin’s Marty Coyne told Reuters that the US government had “supported the MEADS bid by giving Lockheed permission to offer producing its baseline PAC-3 missiles in Poland, and to help Polish industry set up production of its own long-range missile.” If the winner is MEADS, that would mean either a PAC-3 downgrade within the more advanced MEADS system, or full local production of the PAC-3 MSE, which is the USA most advanced air defense missile. Sources: Reuters, “Exclusive: Israel’s David’s Sling will not win Polish missile tender – official”.

March 20/14: Polish Deputy Defence Minister Czeslaw Mroczek tells Reuters that Polish priorities are changing. With respect to the Shield of Poland:

“By the end of this year we want to already have chosen an offer. That is the acceleration by several months, compared to our original plans, that we are talking about…. To a certain extent, the decision on accelerating this process is the result of a review commissioned by the prime minister and the defence minister because of the situation in Ukraine.”

The full system is still slated to be ready by 2022, and could cost up to $13 billion. The WISLA medium range system is reportedly going to be Phase 1. Sources: Reuters, “Poland speeds up missile defense plan amid Ukraine crisis”.

March 17/14: MEADS. With Russia in the middle of invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea, Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute writes that:

“Both [China and Russia] field ballistic missiles and airborne weapons that would present a challenge to Patriot in its current form, and the outlook is for such weapons to become more capable…. in an unusual move, the Obama Administration late last week gave prime contractor Lockheed Martin permission to offer the Medium Extended Air Defense System to Warsaw for use in the Polish Shield. The Poles have known about MEADS for some time, because two other European NATO nations – Germany and Italy – provided 42% of the money needed to develop it. A Polish delegation showed up for November tests in which a MEADS prototype demonstrated its ability to intercept a drone and a ballistic missile approaching from opposite directions.”

Meanwhile, Warsaw Business Journal confirms just 4 finalists: SAMP/T (MBDA & Thales), MEADS (MBDA & Lockheed Martin), Raytheon (PATRIOT), and the Israeli government (David’s Sling). Sources: Forbes Magazine, “Ukraine Crisis: Poland’s Air Defenses Become A Pressing Concern For Washington” | Warsaw Business Journal, “Four in the running for medium range air defense system”.

Feb 11/14: WISLA. Poland’s Ministry of National Defense announced the start of Phase 2 of WISLA’s technical dialogue. Stage 2 aims to identify the areas of potential technical and industrial cooperation, the transfer of knowledge, technology, and production, and the intellectual property rights available.

Raytheon says that they are 1 of 5 shortlisted parties, and recently signed a Letter of Intent with Poland’s Polski Holding Obronny sp.z o.o. (PHO) to explore cooperation. Their WISLA offering is based on PATRIOT, and Raytheon and PHO are hosting a Partnering Conference on March 18-19/14 at the Hilton Hotel in Warsaw, Poland. Sources: Raytheon, “Poland invites Raytheon to participate in round two of WISLA technical dialogues”.

Nov 26/13: Defense News offers an update on Polish plans:

“Poland plans to modernize its anti-aircraft and anti-missile system by 2022 by adding short- and middle-range missiles. The program is estimated to be worth as much as 26.4 billion zloty (US $8.4 billion), according to figures obtained by local daily Gazeta Wyborcza, which makes it the country’s largest armament program.”

Poland reportedly had 14 firms interested in WISLA, including Boeing, Israel’s SIBAT export agency, MBDA (incl. a consortium led by Poland’s Bumar), and Raytheon. Some of the interested firms would have to be sub-contractors, or supply just part of a system: Turkey’s Aselsan, Northrop Grumman, Selex, Spain’s Indra and Sener, and Thales.

Lockheed Martin is notably absent, but MEADS is being offered through MBDA as a 2nd bid, alongside their SAMP/T offer through Bumar. Lockheed Martin would remain an active MEADS participant, and remaining development funds are estimated at $400 – 600 million. Germany and Italy and considering “a transition to European development work” by the end of 2014, and have invited Poland to join them. Sources: Defense News, “Building the Shield” | NTI Global Security Newswire, “Poland Eyes Up to $8.4 Billion in Air and Missile Defense Costs”.

Sept 18/13: Budgets. Poland’s government introduces a 10-year military modernization law that lays out a comprehensive modernization program. Once enacted, it will remove the problem of unspent modernization funds having to be returned each year, and prevent attempts to shift the money to other purposes. The catch? Poland’s “Law on the reform and technical modernization of Polish Armed Forces” includes a guarantee that every year, Poland will spend 1.95% of GDP on defense. The good news is that this sets a solid minimum. The bad news is that it also sets an effective maximum, so successful financing of these programs will depend on the long-term state of Poland’s economy.

“Among the priorities defined by the President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk in November 2011, written in “Technical Modernization Plan for 2013-2022″ the following key operational programs are listed:

1. Air defence system – among other things the following items will be procured under this program:
– air defence medium-range missile systems WISLA;
– air defence short-range missile systems NAREW;
– self-propelled air defence missile systems POPRAD;
– mobile air defence missile system GROM/PIORUN;
– air defence short-range artillery-missile systems PILICA [DID: ZU-23-2 with 2 Grom missiles];
– mobile three-coordinates radio stations SOLA/BYSTRA.”

Sources: Polish MON, “Money for new military equipment guaranteed”.

2007 – 2012

Poland burned by USA, resolves to field their own system as well. Aegis Ashore
(click to view full)

Aug 6/12: Poland fixing its “mistake”. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski states that Poland is prepared to create its own anti-aircraft and missile defense system as part of a NATO shield, at a cost of $3-6 billion. With respect to the USA’s defensive plan, which Poland hasn’t rejected:

“Our mistake was that by accepting the American offer of a shield we failed to take into account the political risk associated with a change of president. We paid a high political price. We do not want to make the same mistake again.”

The missile and air defense system proposed by the Polish president would target all short and some medium range missiles, just like the initial 2 stages of the EPAA. The system would be part of the emerging NATO Missile Defense shield, but beyond that, details regarding radars, weapons, etc. would have to be fleshed out in subsequent contracts. Germany and France were specifically mentioned as potential partners, and MBDA’s naval PAAMS system and Aster-30 missiles have already been converted to a land equivalent of their own. Their SAMP/T is the logical competitor if Poland wants to buy a non-American system. Its weakness is that it wouldn’t be able to grow into a counter against IRBM or ICBM missiles, but that could make it a very good complement to an American system that can. Relations with Israel are close, but David’s Sling is a joint development with Raytheon, and past American behavior has involved use its weapon export rules against potential competitors. Polskie Radio | Forbes | German Marshall Fund of the United States | Russia’s RIA Novosti | UK’s The Telegraph | UPI | WSJ Emerging Europe.

Sept 20/10: Budgets. Defense Minister Bogdan Klich announces that the 2011 military budget will grow 7.1% after 2010’s austerity measures, to PZL 27.25 billion ($8.79 billion). A national air and missile defense system will likely need its own separate approval, and:

“Anticipating the tender announcement, all likely bidders presented their offers from Sept. 6 to 9 at the International Defense Industry Exhibition MSPO in Kielce…. included a proposal based on the short-range VL Mica and medium-range Aster-30 missiles from European missile maker MBDA integrated with radars and Grom missiles from Poland’s Bumar Group; Norway’s Kongsberg and Raytheon’s joint bid comprising Patriot and NASAMS II systems; and Israeli Rafael and Raytheon with the Spider and Stunner interceptors.”

Sources: Defense News, “Poland’s Defense Budget Rises, With Emphasis on Modernization”.

December 2009: Status of Forces agreement between Poland and the USA paves the way for emplacement of US Army PATRIOT missile batteries in the country.

Sept 17/09: “Smart” Diplomacy. President Obama calls Polish Prime Minister Tusk to tell him, without any prior consultation, that the USA is changing their plans.

While the military rationale for cheaper, more proven missiles that can handle multi-missile raids is solid, calling the diplomatic handling incompetent would be kind. After announcing a “reset” in relations with Russia, the USA tells Poland that a different system will be delayed from 2011 until 2018. While trying to convince people that it isn’t a cave-in to Russian demands. As a final capper, the call from Obama comes on the anniversary of Russia’s attack on Poland at the start of WWII. Read “SM-3 BMD, in from the Sea: EPAA & Aegis Ashore” for full coverage of the revised EPAA plans.

Switch to EPAA

July 1/09: MBDA. The firm takes its existing Polish agreements (q.v. Sept 3/07) a step further, and signs a framework agreement:

“This agreement will see MBDA and BUMAR jointly involved in a project to modernise Poland’s ground based air defences. Long term co-operation will permit significant exchanges of technology between the two partners and the optimisation of investments already made. In this respect the new system will draw on elements of MBDA’s short-range VL MICA and medium-range Aster 30 missiles with other major subsystems such as the radars and the command and control systems developed by PIT (the Warsaw-based telecommunications research institute – Przemyslowy Instytut Telekomunikacji) and RADWAR (one of several companies within the BUMAR group which is Poland’s largest defence equipment manufacturer).”

Sources: MBDA, “MBDA and BUMAR sign framework agreement for the future Polish air defence system” | Microwave Journal, “MBDA and BUMAR Sign Polish Air Defense Agreement.”

Aug 20/08: BMD OK. Poland acceptes the G.W. Bush administration’s missile defense program, which promises to complete a base in Poland by 2011. The proposal had been the subject of vigorous debate, but Russia’s invasion of Georgia helps firm up Polish resolve.


Sept 3/07: MBDA. The firm signs initial Polish partnership deals:

“The agreement, signed in the presence of Polish Vice-Prime Minister Przeyslaw Dosiewski and Polish Secretary of State for Defence Marek Zajakala, is aimed at future cooperation to meet the Polish Armed Forces’ long term ground based air defence requirements.

Under the agreement MBDA, along with Przemyslowy Instytut Telekomunikacji (PIT) and RADWAR (part of BUMAR, Poland’s largest defence equipment manufacturer) will have the common aim of providing the Polish Armed Forces with the range of Polish made weapon systems that will be needed to meet the country’s national anti-air defence requirements as well as its NATO and European commitments over the next 20 years.”

Sources: MBDA, “MBDA signs cooperative air defence agreement with Polish”.

Additional Readings

Readers with corrections, comments, or information to contribute are encouraged to contact DID’s Founding Editor, Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.

General Background

WISLA Contenders

NAREW Contenders

News & Views

Categories: News

General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman: Flattish Revenue but Growing Order Book

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 15:20

  • General Dynamics had basically flat Q3 2014 revenue, with total sales of $7.7B, masking a 13% drop in information systems balanced by growth of about 7% in aerospace, combat systems, and marine systems. Their total backlog reached $74.4B and has been robustly growing throughout the year, though most of that growth is unfunded.

  • Like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman’s Q3 sales dropped by 2% YoY to $5.9B. However their total backlog grew by 8% to $38.5B thanks to $9B in new awards (a 150% book-to-bill ratio) led by the E-2D Hawkeye.

  • Boeing’s Q3 sales [PDF] grew by 7.7% to $23.8B, again thanks to commercial aircraft as Defense, Space and Security’s revenue slightly declined by $100M to $7.9B, with book-to-bill barely above 50%.

  • For perspective, Apple’s free cash flow for the same quarter was $9.3B, more than what defense primes pull in *revenue*, an an order of magnitude more than their free cash flow.

  • The US Air Force released a draft RFP [FBO] for the development and production of its Advanced Radar Threat System Variant 2 (ARTS-V2), a “pre-Milestone B Program to develop and field a high fidelity threat emitter for live aircrew training for anti-access/area denial environments.” They will hold an industry day on Nov. 19 at Hill AFB, UT.

  • Intelsat was awarded a contract by the USAF to study the commercialization of its Satellite Control Network which could help lower costs.

Israeli Programs

  • Elbit announced an $85 million contract for “an F-5 aircraft avionics upgrade program and… electro-optic and communications systems” over 3 years. Jane’s rules out previous upgrade customers Singapore and Thailand, but Thailand’s F-5T upgrades were a late 1980s deal, and Singapore’s F-5S variant achieved FOC in 1999. We wouldn’t rule either of them out.

  • The Gatestone Institute, a think tank with neoconservative instincts, argues that fatalities have decreased while Hamas fired more rockets at Israel, ergo Iron Dome works.


  • Sweden continues to hunt [National Post] an elusive, putative Russian sub, while Estonia says [AP] a Russian Ilyushin-20 surveillance aircraft crossed into its airspace on Tuesday, leading to the usual scrambling and intercepting dance [Reuters]. Support among Swedish political parties for increased defense spending may be rising [The Economist].


  • A Chinese national who tried to fraudulently obtain technology from U.S. companies in 2003-06 was sentenced [FBI] to 15 Months in prison. Will he get a medal for effort when he returns home, or punishment for getting caught?

  • New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence released a report [PDF] on how to optimise industry involvement in the local defence sector. Defense spending is now two-thirds local, but that’s out of a small NZD 800M total (about $626M). And while operating expenditure is 80% local, 70% of capital expenditure is sourced abroad.

Developing Fast but Safe Rockets

  • Today’s video from Los Alamos National Lab shows their work testing a new rocket design which tries to combine high-energy fuel and a motor design meant to provide safe performance:

Categories: News

Two to Tango? Argentina Looking for New Warplanes

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 15:01
Kfir C2
(click to view full)

Argentina’s air force is having a hard time maintaining its core Nesher/”Finger” fighters, even as the Kirchner regime seeks to take control of the Falkland Islands and their potential offshore oil reserves. That led Argentina to search for new fighter options, as the most reliable way of projecting power to likely exploration zones. Britain’s defenses are also much more run down than they were in the 1980s, and their complete lack of a carrier force leaves ongoing protection of the islands’ surrounding economic zones to just 2-4 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters, an offshore patrol vessel, and part of a regular navy ship rotation.

Argentina’s window of opportunity will close when Britain’s advanced carrier force enters service in 2020, which has added urgency on both sides as Argentina tries to make a deal. Can Argentina find its partner?

Forces Around the Falklands: Situation Report British Breakdown Gone.

The islands’ inhabitants voted overwhelmingly to remain part of Britain during the referendum. Unfortunately, Britain has lost more than just its carrier force in the intervening years since the Falklands War. The Vulcan bombers and Victor tankers that staged ultra-long range bombing raids are long gone. The Harriers bought after the war ended, and modernized for use in Afghanistan, were retired. So were the Tornado F3 aircraft that were bought in the 1980s for long-range combat air patrols. The Royal Navy’s number of serious surface combatants has sunk to just 19, only 1 of which patrols the South Atlantic and West Africa at any given time. Worse, it has readiness issues with its attack submarines.

All this creates a window of opportunity for Argentina – one that will slam shut decisively around 2020, once Britain’s new 65,000t HMS Queen Elizabeth and its F-35B fighters steam into service.

RAF C-17
(click to view full)

Until then, an Argentinian force with modern jets and enough anti-ship missiles could conceivably open the door for a repeat invasion, by making recapture too risky and difficult. First, however, they’d have to take the island. Britain has extended and considerably reinforced the Mount Pleasant airfield with radars, air defenses, and a rotating infantry battalion. The addition of long-range C-17 heavy jet transports to the RAF makes fast long-range troop & vehicle reinforcement possible, forcing any invader to capture, destroy, or interdict the airfield in order to succeed. Meanwhile, the mere threat of nuclear submarines will continue to keep Argentina’s surface navy, such as it is, out of the picture as always.

That’s why harassment and access denial attempts are far more likely, as Argentina continues to attempt intimidation of any oil & gas companies that will be working in the Falklands’ Economic Exclusion Zone. That sort of gambit is harder to thwart, requiring the British to commit more forces and incur more expense than they would like.

If Britain wants to protect the Falklands this time, the rag-tag state of Argentina’s military is its biggest asset. Their goal is too keep Argentina from acquiring the tools they need to create even a moderately effective anti-access zone. If Argentina gets any new fighters at all, Britain’s goal becomes much harder and more expensive.

Argentina’s Efforts FAA Super Etendards

Argentina’s Super Etendard fighters, which were used to launch Exocet missiles in the 1980s and still serve, come from France. Its Mirage III/ V/ “Nesher” fighters were originally bought second-hand from Israel and Peru, but they have deteriorated badly. Its A-4R “Fightinghawk” Skyhawk models were sold to Argentina by the USA, and what’s left of those deliveries make up the bulk of their jet fleet.

Despite steadily-worsening relations with Britain under the Obama administration, the USA is not about to sell Argentina jet fighters. British diplomacy has already worked to delay Argentina’s proposed Super Etendard modernization, and also scuttled a reported deal to buy 16 second-hand Mirage F-1M fighters from Spain.

Cheetahs & Gripens
(click to view full)

That leaves Argentina’s original source for the Neshers. Israel doesn’t have any of those left, but they do have their own Kfir design that made structural changes to the Nesher blueprints, added a more powerful American J-79 turbojet, and received progressive modifications to its radar, electronics, and weapons. Those upgrades continued even after the Kfirs were retired from Israeli service in the late 1990s, on behalf of customers like Colombia, Ecuador, and Sri Lanka. Kfir C.10/ Block 60s carry modern radars and electronics on par with F-16 Block 40/50s, and have the ability to use beyond visual range aerial weapons, advanced short range AAMs, and a variety of precision strike weapons. Their combat radius is a bit short, and it would take a brave Kfir pilot to face a Eurofighter Typhoon in single combat. Even so, they’re capable fighters with aerial refueling capability, which makes them well suited to intimidation and presence patrols. Negotiations for a sale are in an advanced stage.

The good news for Britain, such as it is, is that Argentina still has to hang weapons on any fighters they buy. The FAA must either stick with their existing set of old equipment and forego most of the new fighter’s potential, or buy new weapons from the USA or Israel. Any new weapon sales would be a double escalation, making those sales less likely. The most dangerous Kfir-related sale, of Gabriel 3 anti-ship missiles, would make Britain an outright enemy of Israel’s. That won’t happen. The question is whether Britain can pressure Israel to block the Kfir fighter sale in toto – or have it blocked by the Americans, who control the J-79 engines.

If the Israeli sale falls through for some reason, South Africa has already sold similar Cheetah fighters to Ecuador and Chile. Enough were produced to sell 18 more to Argentina, but the best airframes have presumably been taken already. Cheetahs are powered by French Snecma Atar 9K50 engines, instead of the Kfir’s American J-79. That removes a key American veto, but it also means that South Africa would need some level of French cooperation. Given French delays and demurrals around refurbishing Argentina’s French Super Etendards, that cooperation could become problematic.

Chile’s decommissioned Mirage 50 Pantera fighters are similar to the Cheetahs, but Chile isn’t interested in selling any to Argentina.

JF-17 – note C802!
(click to view full)

If those options fail, Argentina faces a shrinking set of choices.

South Korea’s TA-50 and FA-50 light fighters would be more expensive than the proposed Israeli deal, which already strains Argentina’s finances. They also use American F404 engines, requiring US export approval, and can’t mount anti-ship missiles yet.

Swedish JAS-39 Gripen fighters are the subject of talks with Brazil, but they use American F414 engines and British Martin-Baker ejection seats.

The only sources free of American or European influence are Russia and China.

Chinese F-8s “Finback-Bs” would be a very cheap used option, presenting no serious threat, but good for harassment patrols and shows of force at range. The question is whether they could be kept in the air. The JF-17 Thunder from China and Pakistan would be a more advanced option and a definite threat, thanks to its ability to carry C802 subsonic and CM-400AKG supersonic anti-ship missiles. Argentina has expressed interest in the JF-17, and has held discussions directly with China.

Russia is the other potential source. They may have used or used/new-build MiG-29S+ multi-role planes to offer, if Putin wants to stick a finger in Britain’s eye for sanctions over the annexation of Crimea. The problem with the MiGs is that even with the extra fuel tanks in recent variants, the fighters have poor range. That makes them less useful to Argentina. SU-30 family planes have plenty of range, but they’re more expensive, and may be out of Argentina’s reach unless Russia really wants to make a point by offering subsidies.

Contracts & Key Events Kfir, improved

Oct 22/14: Gripen NG. During the Embraer KC-390 medium jet transport’s rollout, Argentina and Brazil sign a formal “Alianca Estrategica em Industria Aeronautica.” Argentina is already making parts for the KC-390, and they need a larger partner for a number of other reasons. The FAB’s releases add that Argentina is also thinking of buying JAS-39E/F Gripens from Embraer. The company will assemble at least 36 of the advanced Swedish fighters under the pending F-X2 program, and will receive regional export rights:

“El Gobierno nacional decidio iniciar una negociacion con la administracion de Dilma Rousseff para la adquisicion de 24 aviones Saab Gripen dentro del programa denominado FX 2…”

That could get interesting, because the Gripen has systems from the USA and Britain in it. You might be able to replace electronics, but ejection seats and engines are a bit tougher. Sources: FAB NOTIMP, “Argentina quiere comprar 24 cazas supersonicos”.

March 23/14: Kfir. A high-level Argentine delegation has reportedly visited Israel to finalize the sale of 18 Kfir jets. Most sources mention the “Block 60″ version, which is very similar to the Kfir C10 that has been sold to Ecuador and Colombia, and reports also mention the EL/M-2032 radar. Once again, however, this is a proposed deal that comes despite issues with Argentina. Ha’aretz:

“…Kirchner government made [a deal] last year with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Buenos Aires Jewish community building that killed 85 people and is widely believed to have been carried out by Hezbollah with Iranian backing.”

That may cause controversy in Israel, and British pressure can be expected as well. On the other hand, Israel was less than pleased by Britain’s recent role in ending sanctions against Iran for its nuclear weapons program. A fighter sale to Argentina would certainly be one way to attach significant consequences to Britain’s actions, without the anti-ship capabilities that would mark a huge escalation. The British do have one big lever left, however: the Kfirs’ J79 turbojets need American approval for re-export. America needs British support regarding Russia right now, so despite past snubs, the Obama administration will find it inconvenient to alienate Britain further.

Finally, note that Ha’aretz is wrong about Kfirs being sold to South Africa. Israeli expertise was likely transferred, but they are not interchangeable in a fleet – Cheetahs use different engines than the Kfirs, and South Africa did modify its Mirages locally. Is basic fact-checking and editorial oversight too much to ask? Sources: Ha’aretz, “Argentina buying 30-year-old Israeli fighter jets” | LU22 Radio Tandil, “Avanzan las negociaciones para la compra de aviones Kfirs Block 60 a Israel”.

March 10/14: Super Etendard. Argentina’s efforts to upgrade 10 of its 11 remaining Super Etendard fighters have hit a bit of a snag in France:

“The Argentine Navy still wants 10 SEM kits for its Super Etendards, but has to date received no indication from France as to how or when this order might be filled.

Moreover, military relations between the two states have cooled due to a deal last year between France and the UK that could create roadblocks to France’s selling the kits, and an updated version of the Exocet missile, to Argentina…”

Sources: IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Argentine Super Etendard modernisation hits major snags”.

Colombian Kfirs
(click to view full)

Jan 23/14: Kfir. Argentina has reportedly opened discussions with Israel about selling up to 18 refurbished Kfir fighters. The proposed deal is reportedly worth about $500 million, with 6 jets to be refurbished in Israel. Another 12 would be shipped to Argentina along with modernization kits, for local assembly under Israeli supervision.

“Brazilian journalist Roberto Lopes, who specializes in defense issues was the first to reveal that Israel/Argentina deal negotiations caused concern in the government of PM David Cameron and allegedly representatives from the UK Defense ministry asked their Israel counterparts “for a detailed description of the electronic systems and avionics” of the 18 Kfir…. London fears the aircraft could be used to track and intimidate vessels involved in the Falklands oil and gas industry development…. Lopes also reveals that “the issue is being monitored since the end of 2013 by Brazil’s Itamaraty (foreign ministry) and defense ministry”.”

IAI’s offer had reportedly been made earlier, but the proposal was reportedly pursued only after Spain declined to pursue the Mirage F1 deal any further. Sources: MercoPress, “Argentina after Israeli fighter planes; concern in London and Brasilia, says defense expert”.

Jan 2/14: Mirage F1. Argentine sources tell IHS Jane’s that the Spanish Mirage deal has stalled and could be cancelled.

“Local media reports indicated that the Argentine Air Force (FAA) has begun analysing other options, including second-hand Dassault Mirage 2000s from France or Brazil, but appears to be leaning towards an Israeli offer of 18 IAI Lahav Kfir Block 60 multi-role fighters for USD500 million, with a possible delivery date some 15 months after a contract signature.”

While Spain’s economic situation made then receptive to Argentina’s request, could lose much more if relations with Britain become problematic. Sources: IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Argentine Mirage F1 buy reportedly stalls”.

Oct 6/13: Kfir. IAI and even the Israeli Air Force begin to talk about the new “Block 60″ Kfir variant, which is based on Colombia’s refitted C10 aircraft:

“The Kfir Block 60 offers a robust and versatile Mach 2+ multi-role jet fighter, carrying 5.5 tons payloads on nine hard-points under the wings and fuselage. The weaponry is enhanced to include Python 5 and Derby. Kfir Block 60 has also completed the integration of RAFAEL Spice autonomous guided weapon, (second platform offering that capability, after the F-16). Conforming to NATO standards, Kfir Block 60 supports Link-16 datalink protocol. The aircraft has combat radius of 1,000 km (540 nm) unrefueled. With refueling the aircraft can fly to a range of 1,100 nm.”

Whether or not Israeli Kfir C2s could carry Gabriel Mk.III anti-ship missiles, Argentina doesn’t have any, and any sale by Israel would have serious diplomatic repercussions. Refurbished Kfirs are reportedly restored to 8,000 safe flight-hours hours under warranty, meaning the plane can easily serve for 20-30 years. “Sources: Defense Update, “At 40 Years of age, Kfir Turns into a “Networked Fighter”” | Israeli Air Force, “Roaring Back”.

Spanish F1M
(click to view full)

Oct 1/13: Mirage F1. After several months of advance reports, Argentina has reportedly come to an agreement with Spain to buy 16 used Mirage F1s. Iraq’s F1EQ-5 jets were modified to carry the Exocet anti-ship missile, but they required modifications. Spain upgraded their F1Cs to F1Ms, but it isn’t clear whether their planes ever added Exocet capability.

The deal is something of a surprise, given the Argentine government’s 2012 seizure of Spanish oil major Repsol’s majority stake in Argentina’s national YPF oil company. Respol’s international legal claim is for $10 billion, but the Spanish government is facing depression-level economic conditions, and has few other options to sell those planes. Sources: MercoPress, “Argentina buys 16 Mirage F 1 from Spain; half have air-refuelling capacity” | UPI, “Argentina goes for second-hand jets for air force”.

Aug 5/13: Mirage F1. Spain is reportedly working on a deal with Spain for its recently-decommissioned Mirage F1 fighters, which have been replaced in Spain’s service by the Eurofighter:

“The only real hard news and from Spanish defence media, is that Spain is effectively decommissioning the last eight Mirage F 1 –which have been on service for 35 years–, to be replaced by the Eurofighter, and is looking for buyers and among the countries named are Argentina, Egypt and Ecuador…. The Argentine air force currently has an estimated 25 Mirage 5 and Mirage III with over thirty years in service…. However according to Argentine sources the aircraft are virtually out of use because of lack of spares and an adequate maintenance.”

Depending on how one counts, it has been more like 22 years of service since their deep modernization to F1M status. The RAF won’t give an on-the-record response, but British newspapers are told by unnamed sources that “If the Argentines start playing games and escalate the tension we will see more RAF aircraft being deployed to the Falklands.” That would help prevent a takeover, but unless Britain adds a lot of fighters, it may not quite stop intimidation flights against energy companies working in the Falklands EEZ. MercoPress, “Falklands and the Mirages: playing with the Islanders worst memories” | Daily Express, “Jet fighter threat to the Falkland Islands” | Daily Mirror, “Falklands alert as Argentina strikes £145 million deal for 20 Mirage warplanes” | Israel’s Globes, “IAI selling upgraded Kfir jets for $20m”.

June 27/13: JF-17. Argentina is reportedly in talks with China concerning the FC-1/ JF-17 fighter, a joint project with Pakistan whose performance lies somewhere between a Mirage F1 and an F-16. It can use radar-guided air-to-air missiles, but its most important asset is the CASIC CM-400AKG supersonic anti-ship missile, with a range that’s longer than France’s sub-sonic Exocets. Its is also shown at air shows like Farnborough with China’s C802 sub-sonic anti-ship missile, which is very similar to the American Harpoon.

“Speaking at the Paris Air Show in mid-June, officials from Fabrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA) told IHS Jane’s that the company has had multiple discussions with Chinese officials over co-producing the fighter in Argentina. Although the FC-1/JF-17 is already jointly built with Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, FAdeA officials stressed that they are dealing solely with the Chinese…. While discussions are said to be far from over, if realised they will open up a wide panoply of Chinese weapon systems to Argentina…”

Sources: IHS Jane’s Missiles & Rockets, “Fighter talks may afford Argentina advanced Chinese missile systems”.

Additional Readings

Up above, DID asked of Ha’aretz, “Is basic fact-checking and editorial oversight too much to ask?” Sometimes, that comes back to bite. Thanks to readers who wrote in to us about local defensive measures and options in the Falklands that we had not covered. We had good discussions, but the plain fact is that some of the omissions were important items. They have been added to the article, with our thanks – and our apologies.

Background: Aircraft

News & Views

Categories: News

Lockheed Sees Slight Revenue Decreases Continuing Into 2015

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 17:36

  • Lockheed Martin reported Q3 2014 sales down 2% to $11.1B, a trend that they expect will continue through next year. That was reflected in all segments but Space Systems. At $76.5B, total backlog is $6.1B below where it was at the end of 2013, most of that decline being found in aeronautics. Yet they’ve delivered just 18 aircraft this quarter.

  • We’re about to wrap up our readership survey. Your input is avidly read, deeply appreciated, and informs how our plans to improve our content and service.


  • BAE Systems is to acquire SilverSky [Telegraph], a cloud security software vendor, for $232M.

  • Finmeccanica’s Selex ES has completed the acquisition of electronic warfare specialists Tactical Technologies Inc. (TTI) in Ottawa, Canada. They believe that its Tactical Engagement Simulation Software (TESS) will help them enhance operational support for their entire EW line.



  • CybAero applied for a new export license to China after it got rejected by ISP (the Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls). They had announced an order from Chinese customs back in March.

  • Airbus is trying to create a certification path for its commercial Atlante UAV, which is designed to survey pipelines and such. That will be a real boon to European militaries, by giving them some idea of what UAV certification might cost, and what will be necessary. Uncertainty in that sphere has already killed Germany’s Q-4 Euro-Hawk program.

RAZAR, For the Ultimate Shave

  • The USA’s Sandia National Labs introduces the Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles (RAZAR) scope, which zooms in on a target you’ve acquired at the push of a button, without forcing the wielder away from the scope. Yes, this tech is coming to other optics – maybe even your future cell phone camera.


  • Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, wants to run a lean and efficient office, reports the NYT.

  • The London-based IISS reviews security in and around Afghanistan in today’s video (which is an audio stream really):

Categories: News