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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 48 min 49 sec ago

F-22 Maintenance Improving, But Retrofits Slip | Su-24s Join MiG-29s on Grounded List | Crash Stats Grow for India’s HAL Licensed Manufactured Aircraft

Mon, 07/06/2015 - 21:38

  • AM General was handed a $372.9 million Foreign Military Sales contract on Monday to deliver Humvees to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Ukraine and Tunisia. The contract details options for up to 2,082 of the vehicles, with a scheduled completion date of 2016. Afghanistan previously ordered 808 of the vehicles in 2010, with these delivered in 2012.

  • The F-22 Raptor is reportedly improving its maintenance and servicing record through the ongoing Reliability and Maintainability Maturation Program (RAMMP). However, efforts to retrofit the Air Force’s Raptors with upgrades (through the Structural Retrofit Program) are now timetabled to slip by a year, owing to competing depot line work priorities.


  • The German Navy is reportedly planning a $626.4 million, ten-year upgrade for its fleet of eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The program will extend the in-service life of the aircraft to 2035. Portugal has also invested in P-3C upgrades, with the German aircraft set to receive new wings, care of a Lockheed Martin production line opened in 2005.

  • The Royal Air Force has received a third Airbus A400M, with the delivery delayed from earlier in the year following the crash of a Turkish-bound A400M in early May. The RAF lifted its grounding of the fleet in mid-June, with the cause of the crash currently being attributed to software installation faults. The UK has ordered twenty-two of the transport aircraft.

  • The Su-24 has become the latest Russian Air Force model to be grounded, with flights suspended following a deadly crash in the Eastern Khabarovsk region on Monday. This follows news that the MiG-29 fighter and Tu-95 heavy bomber fleets have also been grounded, also following recent crashes.

Middle East

  • An Iraqi Member of Parliament has claimed that US officials have been pushing for the country to base its F-16s in Jordan, rather than in the south of Iraq. The US has been delaying the delivery of the aircraft since November – ostensibly over security concerns – instead diverting them to Arizona for training. The country signed a deal for the warplanes in September 2011, with a follow-on order in April 2013 bringing the total number of Iraqi-bound F-16s to thirty-six.


  • An East African country has placed an order for an undisclosed number of DCD Protected Mobility Springbuck armored vehicles, with deliveries timetabled for later this year. The Nigerian Police purchased eight Springbucks in 2012.


  • Iranian media has reported that the country has officially deployed a second Ghadir long-range 3D radar system, with the system first unveiled in June last year. Iran also operates the Sepehr radar system in the country’s north-west, as well as a first Ghadir system located in the northern Semnan province. The new Ghadir system is located in near the southern city of Ahvaz and bears resemblance to the Russian Rezonans-NE system. The country has been putting significant efforts into developing a long-range early warning capability, with this latest system reportedly capable of detecting ballistic missiles at a range of 1,100km.

  • India’s Dhanush artillery guns have entered production phase following the completion of trials in April. The Ordnance Factory Board was handed a $252 million contract for the guns in May, which officials hope will plug operational gaps left as a result of messy procurement programs and the residual effects of the Bofors scandal. The Dhanush is an upgraded version of the Bofors artillery piece and is around 80% Indian-developed and manufactured.

  • After a HAL-manufactured Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer crashed in early June, the Indian aerospace company is now having its quality assurance measures examined. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is license-building 99 out of 123 Hawk AJTs, after BAE Systems manufactured the first 24 aircraft. HAL is also manufacturing SU-30MKIs, which recently earned a safety audit in response to a high crash attrition rate.

  • The Indian Air Force has been criticized for using a F-18 Hornet as part of a recruitment ad, despite the fact that the country does not operate the fighter as part of its fleet.

Today’s Video

  • Iranian media covering the unveiling of the new Ghadir radar system:

Categories: News

Marines Plug Away at F-35 Capabilities | Russia Encourages Arms Sales to Both Sides of Armenian Conflict | MiG 29s Grounded

Mon, 07/06/2015 - 04:34

  • The Marine Corps conducted its first successful live ordnance drops from a F-35B in late June, the USMC announced on Friday. The Joint Strike Fighters dropped both inert and live ordnance, which consisted of JDAM GPS-guided munitions in both GBU-12 and GBU-32 configurations. The Marine Corps decided in May to push on towards the F-35B’s Initial Operating Capability (IOC) objective timetabled for 1 July, despite the unearthing of software problems. While it appears that the 1 July objective IOC date has now been missed, the jet has until December to achieve this milestone, with the dropping of live ordnance reportedly one of the last remaining items on a checklist of required capability tests required for IOC.


  • Slovakia is buying thirty Rosomak-based armored personnel carriers from Poland over the next three years in a deal worth approximately $32 million, the Polish Prime Minister announced on Friday The armored vehicle – licensed-produced by Polish Armaments Group from Finland’s Patria – could also be equipped with a Remote Weapon Station manufactured by Slovak firm Elektrotechnicky Vyskumny a Projektovy Ustav Nova Dubnica.

  • Armenia is set to receive a $200 million loan from the Russian government to buy weapons and other hardware from Russian manufacturers. The thirteen-year, 3% loan comes after Russia handed regional rival Azerbaijan a $1 billion arms package in 2013, with Armenia and Azerbaijan locked in a frozen conflict over the Nagorny Karabakh region.

  • Russia is reportedly nearing completion testing of extended range missiles for its S-400 Triumf anti-air system, which recently was exported to China and potentially Belarus.

  • Russia has grounded its fleet of MiG-29 fighters, following the loss of a fourth aircraft of the type over the last year. The Russian Defense Ministry purchased carrier-capable MiG-29K models for naval use, with these delivered in 2013. The Russians operate approximately 200 of the aircraft, with the Russian Air Force also recently grounding its fleet of Tu-95 heavy bombers following a crash in June.

  • Russian Helicopters may restart the production of the nuclear-capable, anti submarine warfare Mil Mi-14, cancelled in 1986, following significant demand from Russia’s Black Sea and Northern Fleets.


  • Singapore’s Ministry of Defense (MINDEF) has released more information on its plans to upgrade the RSAF’s fleet of F-16C/D fighters. The upgrades will take place in phases from 2016 onward, with various capability enhancements planned. These include laser-designated JDAM munitions, air-to-air weapons, datalink capability and helmet mounted displays, as well as an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system, as per a previous DSCA request. The AESA system is thought to be the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) system. Singapore announced its intention to upgrade its F-16s in 2013, with Lockheed Martin seemingly tipped to win the upgrade contract.

  • With the launch of its first Littoral Combat Vessel on Friday, the Republic of Singapore Navy has also reportedly confirmed that it has selected the MBDA Vertical Launch Mica air defense system for the eight LCVs due for full operational delivery by 2020. The LCVs were contracted for in January 2013, with domestic firm ST Marine jointly designing the vessels with Saab Kockums AB. Singapore operates the MBDA Long Range Aster 30 air defense system both on land and aboard its Formidable-class frigates.

  • China may look to export its J-10B fighter to Pakistan, with the Pakistanis previously expressing interest in the J-10 several years ago. Manufacturer Chengdu Aerospace Corporation began mass production of the J-10B last year, which uses Russian-produced AL31FN-S3 engines. The Chinese firm is looking to develop its own turbofan engine, the Shenyang WS 10B, in order to sidestep Russian objections to international exports. Pakistan and China jointly developed the JF-17 Thunder fighter, with this recently gaining its first export customer, likely Myanmar.

  • European firm Airbus and India’s Mahindra Defence have announced plans to establish a joint venture in order to produce helicopters for the Indian military. The joint venture will act as a prime contractor in future contracts to produce the helicopters for three procurement programs, including India’s Naval Utility, Reconnaissance and Surveillance, and Naval Multi-role helicopter requirements. The two companies are currently finalizing the joint venture’s details.

Today’s Video

  • The Rosomak APC:

Categories: News

DARPA Testing Sensorized Prosthetics | Russia Not Done with Borei-Class Subs | India Scraps Yet Another Tender

Fri, 07/03/2015 - 05:46

  • The Justice Department has filed charges against a BAE Systems subsidiary over alleged overcharging through the company’s $1.6 billion contract to supply over 20,000 Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) logistics vehicles, awarded in November 2008. Oshkosh won a re-competition (2009), with the company subsequently hemorrhaging money through the production of FMTV vehicles.

  • Brazil is set to receive three C295 search and rescue aircraft from manufacturer Airbus in 2017, equipped with Israeli maritime surveillance radar and electro-optical/infrared sensors. Saudi Arabia ordered four C295s last month, with those the new W model.

  • DARPA awarded a contract to New Hampshire-based DEKA Innovative Solutions Corp. on Thursday for sensorized prosthetic limbs, as part of the Hand Proprioception & Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program. The $7 million contract also covers the manufacture of prosthetic limbs under the Revolutionizing Prosthetics Follow-On Studies (RPFS) program. The prosthetics will be used as part of a year-long trial to generate data necessary for gaining market approval and subsequently access to a larger patient pool.

  • Also on Thursday, Raytheon was awarded a $36.8 million contract for the AIM-120D missile’s System Improvement Program II- Engineering Manufacturing, Development phase, with the company set to provide software upgrades under the contract to counter “rapidly advancing threats.”


  • Fincantieri and Finmeccanica have been awarded a contract to construct a landing helicopter dock (LHD) for the Italian Navy, as part of a $6 billion multi-year shipbuilding program covering the LHD, patrol vessels and a logistics support ship. The LHD contract is taking approximately $1.2 billion of this, with the remaining $3.9 billion awarded in May for the construction of six patrol vessels and the logistics ship. The former are set to enter service between 2021 and 2025, whilst the latter is scheduled for delivery in 2019.

  • Bulgaria may buy nine F-16 fighters from Greece, with the country also reportedly negotiating with Belgium and the Netherlands – all F-16 operators – regarding a proposed sale of combat aircraft. After selecting the US fighter over the Eurofighter in 2005, the Hellenic Air Force has ordered 170 F-16s to date, with Bulgaria previously stating that the country intends to retire its Soviet aircraft currently in service and replace them with Western-designed aircraft. However this plan appears to have subsequently changed, with a contract to repair the Air Force’s MiG-29s set to be signed with Poland by the end of July.

  • Russia may continue to produce Borei-class submarines after the eight it has ordered enter service by 2020. The first boomer was delivered in 2013, with the second Borei-class nuclear sub entering operational service in April. A total of three having been delivered to date.

  • The UK’s Ministry of Defence is researching the viability of establishing a General Dynamics production line in Britain for the FRES Scout SV armored vehicle. The “economic viability review” was reportedly begun alongside the awarding of a $5.5 billion contract to GD for 589 of the vehicles in September last year and is scheduled for completion later this month ahead of the Strategic Defence & Security Review later this year.

  • Poland is currently negotiating the procurement of 7,900 assault rifles from the Lucznik-Radom arms factory. Nearly 5,500 of these will be the Beryl 5.56mm assault rifle, with 2,400 compact versions of the rifle, the so-called “mini-Beryl”. The Polish Army currently operates the Beryl, making this a sole source acquisition.


  • The Indian Navy has commissioned a training simulator for its fleet of MiG-29K carrier fighters, the second such simulator to be inducted into the service. It is thought that the two simulators comprise part of a pair of deals signed for the fighters with Russia in 2004 and 2010, with the first simulator delivered under the first of these. India will order up to 45 of the aircraft, with the Russian manufacturer expected to deliver six by the end of 2015, with another six following in 2016. The Indian Navy recently deployed some of its MiG-29Ks to its Eastern flank.

  • India is scrapping a four year old tender for new assault rifles to replace the infamously-inadequate INSAS. The four bidders – recently bankrupt Colt, Beretta, Ceska and Israel Weapon Industries have been notified of the tender withdrawal, which asked for interchangeable 5.56mm and 7.62mm barrels; something subsequently deemed technically unrealistic and overly costly. In April the Indian Home Ministry took the step of replacing 67,000 INSAS rifles with older, more reliable AK-47s.

  • Australian shipyard Austal has delivered a Cape-class patrol vessel to the Australian Border Force, the seventh of eight contracted for in August 2011. The eighth is scheduled for delivery by August, with the sixth vessel delivered in May.

Today’s Video

  • A low level F-16 over Greenland…

Categories: News

Finnish Army Buys More RBS-70 MANPADS

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 00:36
RBS-70, Australian Navy
(click to view full)

The domain of man-portable air defense missile systems (MANPADS) has 4 major competitors around the world. Saab’s RBS-70 is used by 18 countries, and Finland continues to raise its order. Sweden’s Nordic next-door neighbor uses the RBS-70 in 2 modes: as a dispersed, soldier-carried system, and as a vehicle-mounted VSHORAD(Very Short Range Air Defense) system.

A 2009 purchase will complement these dispersed, short-range RBS-70 systems with a wider air defense net based on Sentinel radars, and ground-launched AMRAAM missiles. This combination is intended to make Finland’s airspace dangerous enough to deny enemies full air dominance, while its difficult terrain and mobile land forces bleed any future invasion until it quits. If that strategy sounds improbable, recall that Finland forced Stalin’s Russia to settle for a qualified draw in the 1939 Winter War, when Hitler’s ally attacked Finland per the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

The RBS-70

Man-portable, sorta
(click to view full)

Unlike competitors such as Raytheon’s FIM-92 Stinger, MBDA’s Mistral, or KBM’s SA-18 Igla, the RBS-70 is an ‘unjammable’ laser beam-riding missile with no seeker head at the front. The RBS-70 is a bit heavy for shoulder firing, and is handled from a tripod. The system can be carried in its component parts by 3 infantry soldiers. Target acquisition includes an IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) phase, but once fired, the missile locks on and vents its propulsion exhaust through the mid-section. This allows the laser beam riding system to fit in the tail, where it is extremely difficult to jam.

Its entry adds that the RBS-70 Mk 2 uses the Linear Quadratic Method based on the Kalman Theory for missile guidance, whereupon it delivers a 1-2 punch using a shaped charge surrounded by more than 3,000 tungsten pellets.

The Bolide missile is an RBS 70 Mk 2 upgrade that is faster (Mach 2 vs Mach 1.6), with a range up to 8 km (4.8 miles), an adaptable proximity fuse that gives it full effectiveness against a wider variety of targets, and new reprogrammable electronics. The 4th generation system incorporates the BOLIDE all-target missile, BORC clip-on thermal imager, a digital IFF Interrogator, a PC-based training simulator, and an external power supply for training. These improvements reportedly allow the RBS-70 Bolide to be deployed against surface targets as well, which makes it an especially interesting choice for naval use given the proliferation of small fast attack boat threats.

In a complete air defense system configuration, up to 9 RBS-70 firing tripods can be connected to a surveillance radar like Ericsson’s Giraffe 75, enabling all C3I functions. If the missile firing positions are set 4 km apart, the resulting networked VSHORAD (Very SHOrt Range Air Defense) battery protects an area of 175 square kilometers. A number of radar options are available for the RBS-70, including automatic threat evaluation, autonomous operations, et. al.

RBS-70 Bolide, cutaway
(click to view full)

Beyond Sweden, RBS-70 sales have been made over the years to Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Indonesia, Iran, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates. All together, Saab says that more than 16,000 missiles have been produced over 4 product generations.

In the last 3-4 years, the Australians have retired their Rapier systems in favor of the RBS-70 system (SEK 600M, incl. SEK 150M for 170 new Bolide missiles). Lithuania received RBS-70 missiles as a gift from Norway to protect critical infrastructure like the Ignalina nuclear plant, while Latvia (ex-Swedish launchers, unspecified missiles for SEK 185M) and the Czech Republic (SEK 204M, 16 launchers & 200 missiles) have also purchased the RBS-70.

Beyond confirmed customers, The SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) “Register of the transfers of major conventional weapons from Sweden 1995-2005” [PDF] also lists Mexico (100 missiles, supplier uncertain in 1993) and Thailand (85, in 1996 & 2001) as having these missiles in inventory. adds Venezuela’s Air Force, and the FAV Club site claims that an RBS-70 was successfully used to shoot down an OV-10 during a 1992 coup attempt.

Contracts & Key Events

RBS-70 fired from
ASRAD-R test vehicle
(click to view full)

July 2/15: Saab has signed a $32.5 million contract with an undisclosed customer for RBS-70 Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), with these due for delivery by 2016. Previous customers include Finland and Brazil, with the latter signing a $12.2 million contract with the company last year.

Jan 27/10: Saab announces a SEK 260 million (about $35.6 million) follow-on contract for further RBS-70 deliveries to the Finnish Army. First deliveries under the new contract are scheduled for 2011. Saab Group.

Jan 7/10: Germany’s Rheinmetall Defence Electronics has commenced an arbitration process against Finland, concerning the delayed delivery of its anti-aircraft defense system to the Finnish Defence Forces. Finland’s MoD says that this is the first time that arbitration has been filed against the Finnish Defence Forces, and adds that they see the allegations as groundless. Finnish Forsvarsministeriet.

Jan 18/07: Saab Bofors Dynamics announces a SEK 600 million (about $85.4 million) contract for the RBS-70 short-range, man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) with the Finnish army, including missiles and maintenance equipment. First delivery is expected at the end of 2008, and the order secures production of the RBS-70 until 2010. Saab release.

Aug 6/02: Finland signs a contract for an unspecified number of RBS-70 MANPADS, and 18 ASRAD-R mobile systems, with a coalition that includes Saab Bofors Dynamics, Germany’s STN ATLAS (now part of Rheinmetall) and Ericsson Microwave Systems (now part of Saab Group). These systems will include the new RBS-70 BOLIDE missiles, and a new RBS-70 night sight. The ASRAD-R systems will be mounted on Unimog 5000 trucks. First deliveries were in 2004, and were completed in June 2008.

STN ATLAS was the prime contractor for the EUR 120+ million contract, of which about EUR 30 million was for Saab Bofors Dynamics’ share. Saab Group.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Korean Air Refueling: Airbus Wins

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 00:17
KAL A330-200
(click to view full)

South Korea is moving to buy 4 long-range aerial refueling tankers with secondary transport capabilities, with a budget of WON 2 billion (about $1.8 billion). That capability isn’t a huge priority on the Korean peninsula itself, but it’s very useful for international operations. It’s useful as a way of projecting regional power, as territorial disputes flare with China.

As Asian economies grow and militaries modernize, these factors have made long-range aerial refueling a growing regional priority. China, India, Pakistan and China deploy the Russian IL-78. Japan fields 4 Boeing KC-767As, and may raise that to 8 under recent plans. Similar American KC-46As will join them in the region after 2017. Elsewhere in the region, Australia (5) and Singapore (4) picked Airbus Defense & Space’s larger A330 MRTT instead, and India looks set to buy 6 at some point. What will the ROKAF do?

Contracts & Key Events JASDF KC-767 & F-15J
(click to view full)

July 2/15:South Korea has selected Airbus’ bid to supply the country’s Air Force with four refueling tankers, beating competitors Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing for the $1.07 billion program. The winning bid – the A330 MRTT – dashed Boeing’s hopes of securing its first export order for the KC-46A, which saw a strong dollar raise its bid price compared with a weakened euro for the European bid. The four tankers are scheduled for delivery in 2019.

March 13/15: South Korea opted to delay the deployment of the future acquired tankers, as the selection process is taking longer than anticipated.

Nov 23/14: The Korea Herald confirms that Boeing (KC-46A 767), Airbus (A330 MRTT), and IAI (B767 MMTT) are all competing in Korea, but there’s a hitch, as an unnamed DAPA official explains:

“We are nearing the tail end of our price negotiations. But the competitors’ proposals regarding the [industrial economic] offset agreements are yet to satisfy our targets. Thus, there may be a delay in choosing the winner…. we are trying our best now in consideration of our best national interests. We may need at least one or two more months to finish negotiations.”

Either plane type will have widespread support infrastructure, with about 1,000 planes of each type in global service. Boeing is touting the KC-46A’s NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) hardening in like of North Korean stockpiles, interoperability with the USAF, and lower operating costs for a country that may not need the A330’s extra size and range. Airbus touts a more capable A330/ KC-30B platform that will actually be ready, and is already proven in regional service. IAI touts the 767’s infrastructure and operating benefits at about half the cost of its rivals, freeing up funds for other military projects. On the flip side, IAI lacks their rivals’ easy resort to passenger airline production work for industrial offsets. Sources: Korea Herald, “Competition heats up for tanker procurement deal”.

Nov 19/14: KC-46A. The USAF publicly admits what KC-46A program watchers already know: Boeing is essentially out of schedule margin to deliver the 767-based KC-46As on time by 2017. The USAF is still describing the contract as “achievable,” but so many things have to go right that this isn’t a smart bet for outside observers. The USAF won’t really say anything else until disaster is certain, though, because the admission will make the service look bad. Airbus publicly predicted this exact outcome when the USAF overturned their A330 KC-45A in favor of Boeing’s developmental design.

South Korea wants to receive tankers no later than 2019, but any significant slippage getting the initial set of 17 delivered to the USAF and approved would begin to create delivery risks for Korea. Since testing hasn’t even begun yet, the ROKAF needs to think carefully. Sources: Reuters, “US Air Force sees challenges on Boeing KC-46 tanker program”.

June 30/14: Boeing. Boeing confirms that they’ve formally offered South Korea the KC-46A tanker being developed for the USAF, rather than the KC-767 model that’s already in service with Japan and Italy. They tout the KC-46A’s quick-conversion main deck cargo floor, but make a point of mentioning this in the face of North Korea’s WMD arsenal, and ability to target ROKAF bases with missiles:

“Unique among tankers, the KC-46 can operate in chemical, biological and nuclear conditions, features cockpit armor for protection from small arms fire, and can also operate from a large variety of smaller airfields and forward-deployed austere bases.”

Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Offers Next-Generation KC-46 Tanker in Republic of Korea Competition”.

May 21/14: Proposals are due in June 2014, and briefing sessions in Korea lead to the standard statements from the 2 main competitors. Airbus is touting the A330 MRTT’s larger fuel reserves, while Boeing touts the KC-46A’s lower cost due to volume production and its smaller size. They’re also promising that they can deliver KC-46As to Korea beginning in 2017, which is their deadline to finish the USAF’s development phase.

Other governments in the region have employed national airlines as maintenance contractors for their new fleets. In KAL’s case, they operate A330-200s, but no 767s in their Boeing-tilted fleet of 737s, 747s, and 777s. Sources: Korean Times, “Boeing, Airbus compete for Seoul’s flight tanker project”.

May 20/14: Boeing. Eric John is the new President of Boeing Korea, after a 30-year career in the US Foreign Service that included 3 tours of Korea. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Announces New Leader for Korea”.

November 2013: South Korea finalizes its tanker program at a maximum cost of WON 2 trillion ($1.8 billion). Sources: Korean Times, “Boeing, Airbus compete for Seoul’s flight tanker project”.

Oct 22/13: Industrial. Boeing announces that assembly of the 3rd KC-46A aircraft and 2nd boom are underway. They sound confident that manufacturing of the initial batch of 4 aircraft remains on track to be completed by Q3 2014.

This would be good news for their USAF client, and would also help the company make its case in South Korea, where parliament is about to review whether to proceed with a competition for 4 tankers, to be delivered in 2017-19. Sources: Boeing, Oct 22/13 release.

Aug 7/13: Requirements. Yonhap reports that South Korea may acquire 4 aerial refueling tankers by 2019. It seems to be at the discussion level rather than a firm decision. If it proceeds, Boeing’s KC-46A and Airbus Military’s A330 MRTT are seen as the logical contenders, and the 2019 date makes the KC-767 a viable possibility.

The A330’s challenge is that, unlike Australia, South Korea’s zone of action doesn’t really need the A330’s range and size. That will make the extra expense problematic. It’s also worth noting that South Korea already has significant defense relationships with Israel’s IAI. That could create an opening for IAI’s much cheaper K-767 MMTT option, which is also on offer to Singapore. Sources: Yonhap News, “Air Force to acquire 4 aerial refueling tankers by 2019″.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

E-2D Hawkeye: The Navy’s New AWACS

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 00:01
(click to view full)

Northrop Grumman’s E-2C Hawkeye is a carrier-capable “mini-AWACS” aircraft, designed to give long-range warning of incoming aerial threats. Secondary roles include strike command and control, land and maritime surveillance, search and rescue, communications relay, and even civil air traffic control during emergencies. E-2C Hawkeyes began replacing previous Hawkeye versions in 1973. They fly from USN and French carriers, from land bases in the militaries of Egypt, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan; and in a drug interdiction role for the US Naval Reserve. Over 200 Hawkeyes have been produced.

The $17.5 billion E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program aims to build 75 new aircraft with significant radar, engine, and electronics upgrades in order to deal with a world of stealthier cruise missiles, saturation attacks, and a growing need for ground surveillance as well as aerial scans. It looks a lot like the last generation E-2C Hawkeye 2000 upgrade on the outside – but inside, and even outside to some extent, it’s a whole new aircraft.

From E-2A Hawkeyes to the E-2D NGC on E-2D

The Hawkeye is based on the same airframe as the USA’s C-2 Greyhound cargo aircraft, with the obvious addition of the 24 foot diameter, frisbee-shaped, rotating radome on its back. It carries a crew of 5 – pilot, copilot, and 3 mission system operators.

The first E-2A was delivered in 1964, the first E-2B upgrade in 1969, and as noted above, the first true “second generation” E-2C Hawkeye was delivered in 1973. In 1992, an E-2C Block II update program added the AN/APS-145 and L-304 radar systems; improved Rolls Royce T56-A-427 engines; JTIDS, Link-4A, -11, and 16 datalinks; GPS capability; and various avionics, and electronics upgrades. It finished in 2001. By 2003, Hawkeyes were proving their worth over Iraq in a new capacity: close air support. Smithsonian Air & Space magazine’s July 2008 issue discusses:

“The Hawkeye, of course, wasn’t designed for close air support, but time and again during the fighting in the Gulf, ground troops advanced so rapidly that they passed beyond radio contact with the units that were supposed to coordinate close air support for them. Early on in Iraq, E-2s were pressed into a stopgap role as airborne communications relays between ground forces and the U.S. Army’s Air Support Operations Center. But because the battleground was so fluid and so many airplanes had to be re-routed so quickly, Hawkeyes were given more latitude to pair warfighters with targets. “If the Hawkeye hadn’t been there, I think the [Air Support Operations Center] would have failed,” says Lieutenant Commander Brent Trickel, an E-2 naval flight officer who served as the Navy’s only officer in the Air Support Operations Center during the first few weeks of the war.”

CEC Concept
(click to enlarge)

Technology moves quickly, however, and technology that was cutting edge in 1992 isn’t so cutting edge any more. A subsequent upgrade called the Hawkeye 2000 (HE2K) added the 8-bladed NP2000 propeller, replaced the old computer platform that was inhibiting further modernization with commercial-standard computer component upgrades; and added associated electronics, power, and maintainability modifications, including integrated satellite communications. All of these upgrades pale, however, in comparison to the effectiveness boost offered by adding Co-operative Engagement Capability (CEC). With CEC, the Hawkeye can see everything the ships in its task group can see – and vice-versa, turning the aircraft into a force multiplier to all ships in the group and even enabling ballistic missile defense roles.

Hawkeye 2000 aircraft were first deployed in 2003 aboard USS Nimitz, and additional customers have included Egypt, France, Japan & Taiwan (The UAE submitted a formal request in 2002, but later decided to put its money elsewhere).

E-2D Features
(click to view full)

The next-generation, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is planned as a major platform upgrade, rather than the incremental improvements of Hawkeye 2000. Cruise missiles are becoming stealthier, smaller targets are becoming important, and surveillance in coastal areas and overland is as important to the Navy as aerial surveillance.

The most important improvement to the E-2D AHE is the new APY-9 radar, which can detect and track smaller (or stealthier) targets, in larger numbers, and at greater ranges. It has been described as a 2-generation improvement over previous Hawkeye aircraft. Figures discussed to date involve up to 2,000 targets over 6 million cubic miles, on land and sea. The electronically scanned array offers improved in-service time and maintenance, allows simultaneous air/ground scans with extremely fast focusing on multiple targets, and features lower ‘sidelobe’ leakage, as well as other improvements. Improved clutter & interference cancellation offer significant improvement in tracking small land and sea targets, as well as better performance against electronic jamming. Additional features allow the radar to flip from 3660 degree scan, to 45 degree focused scan, to full power on one target mode against intermittent or stealthy contacts.

The E-2D’s internal equipment also gets a makeover. ESM (Electronic Support Measures) and IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) systems offer improved classification of radar contacts at longer ranges. The communications suite is modernized to include dual-band SATCOM (SATellite COMmunications), as well as improved datalinks. Engines are improved. In-flight refueling capability for longer missions on-station is part of the basic aircraft, not an option. Etc.

E-2D vs. E-2C
(click to view full)

Like any electronic system, however, the E-2D needs an improved interface in order to take advantage of its full capabilities. New mission computers and tactical workstations use commercial off-the-shelf components, providing more power to integrate incoming information into a coherent picture, and easier future upgrades. More to the point, the onscreen interface features dramatic improvements, including larger displays and advances in the front seats that allow the pilot or copilot to participate as 4th mission system operator once the aircraft is on station. The cockpit itself has also received attention, and has been fully modernized with an “all glass” (i.e. screens, not dials) system and a number of enhancements.

The end result is an aircraft that looks a lot like the E-2C Hawkeye 2000, but can scan larger areas for smaller targets; offers a new dimension in coverage by combining strong aerial, maritime, coastal, and land surveillance; can function as an integral part of missile defense efforts against both cruise and ballistic missiles; and allows operators to make better use of its capabilities.

Advances have also taken place on the manufacturing floor. When Northrop Grumman was awarded the system development and demonstration contract for the Advanced Hawkeye in 2003, the company chose to change its manufacturing approach. Engineers created a virtual design environment that integrated the engineering team in Bethpage, NY with the manufacturing team in St. Augustine, FL. They then began to re-engineer the structure, beginning with single detail parts.

In previous Hawkeye platforms, individual sheet-metal components were the basis for all structural assemblies. For the E-2D, a number of substructures were re-designed as machined components. This removes many detail parts, improves the production process, and leaves fewer potential points of failure in the finished aircraft.

E-2D Advanced Hawkeye: Program E-2D Rollout
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The US Navy remains the E-2D’s only confirmed customer at this point, but export interest has already been expressed by the UAE and by India. As of April 2011, all 5 test & pilot production E-2Ds had been delivered, and aircraft #10 had begun construction.

Initial operational capability was scheduled for 2011, and the type’s first carrier launch and landing did take place in February 2011, but testing and evaluation lags forced IOC back to October 2014.

As of 2013, an R&D program is underway to add in-flight refueling capability, but that development program will run to 2019.

Full Operational Capability is now scheduled for 2023, when a total of 75 aircraft (2 test, 3 pilot production, 70 operational) will have been delivered as the cornerstone of future US naval surveillance.

American Budgets

At present, total E-2D program cost has risen 40.6% over the original baseline figure of $14.752 billion FY 2012 dollars. The Pentagon’s April 2012 SAR (Selected Acquisition Report) placed the E-2D’s entire program cost, including R&D, production of all aircraft, internal equipment, and equipment required for initial fielding, at $20.737 billion. That works out to $276.5 million per aircraft, up from $196.7 million. Part of the reason for these high figures is that the number bought is only 75, so R&D adds a lot of money per-plane. Part of it is because AWACS aircraft of any type are expensive assets, thanks to all of the advanced radars, electronics etc. crammed into them.


Finally, part of it is because of deliberate buying decisions by Congress & the Pentagon, which eliminated a money-saving multi-year buy, and slowed production to stretch budgets, even though the program was performing well. Stretching programs out always costs more money, because every year you extend a production program is another year of fixed costs.

Annual budgets to date include:

Industrial Partners E-2D Advanced Hawkeye: Contracts & Key Events E-2D IOC flight
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Unless otherwise specified, US Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, MD manages these contracts, and Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY, is the contractor.

FY 2015

Japan picks E-2D; Initial Operational Capability

July 2/15: The E-2D Hawkeye has passed a Critical Design Review for its air refueling capability, following a successful Preliminary Design Review in September last year and a $226.7 million engineering, manufacturing and development contract in 2013.

June 2/15: Japan has requested four E-2D Advanced Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft from the US, following a decision in November to procure the aircraft along with V-22 Ospreys and Global Hawk UAVs. The Japanese already operate the E-2C version of the Hawkeye, with this potential sale worth an estimated $1.7 billion.

March 16/15 The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye prop planes are off on their first carrier deployment, five of them having been assigned to the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). In addition to having twice the observation resolution, the glass cockpit allows the co-pilot swap between flying duties and helping handle the information inflow.

Dec 1/14: Training. Rockwell Collins won a $26M contract that can reach a maximum value of $40M to upgrade the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Integrated Training System (HITS). This includes modifications to the tactics trainer, a modification to the maintenance trainer, spares, and an operational flight trainer provided by subcontractor ASI. Rockwell Collins was already the incumbent for the Hawkeye Integrated Training System for Aircrew (HITS-A) since a 2008 award, as well as the Hawkeye Integrated Training System for Maintenance (HITS-M). Previously the company was already involved in the E-2C’s training and simulation.

Japanese E-2C

Nov 21/14: Japan. Japan picks the E-2D as its lower-tier AEW&C aircraft, which will slot in below its upgraded E-767 AWACS. The Advanced Hawkeye beat a joint Itochu/Boeing bid involving the E-737, which is in service with Australia and South Korea. There had been rumors about the E-737 being part of an offset deal with Australia for Japanese submarine technology.

For Japan, the bottom line was cost. Both aircraft met Japan’s requirements, but the E-737’s extra speed and range came with extra costs, and the E-2D offers a smoother transition for all JASDF personnel who already work with the E-2C. As a bonus, the Hawkeye offers some basing advantages related to runway length, but that wasn’t mentioned in the official release. Sources: Japan MoD, “Airborne Early Warning & Control Model Selection” [rough translation from the Japanese].

Japan picks E-2D

Oct 10/14: The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye achieves Initial Operational Capability, signifying that a 5-plane Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW-125 “Tigertails”), is manned, trained, equipped and ready to start deployment preparation.

They’re currently assigned to USS Theodore Roosevelt [CVN 71], with deployment scheduled for 2015. Sources: US NAVAIR, “U.S. Navy’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft achieves Initial Operational Capability” | US Navy, “CARAEWRON One Two Five” | C4ISR & Networks, “Navy’s Advanced Hawkeye will deploy next year”.


FY 2014

$3+ billion multi-year buy; DOT&E continues to report technical issues, esp. CEC; E-2D directs JSOW glide bomb; Program production cut over medium term, despite multi-year deal. E-2D landing
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Sept 11/14: Support. A $7.2 million fixed-price-incentive-firm target contract modification for E-2D FRP Lot 2 software sustainment. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy budgets.

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL (82%); Liverpool, NY (14%); and Greenlawn, FL (4%), and is expected to be complete in March 2015 (N00019-13-C-9999).

Sept 2/14: Support. A $10.5 million fixed-price-incentive-firm target contract modification for E-2D LRIP Lot 2 product support and engineering investigations. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL (61.32%); Herndon, VA (15.66%); Syracuse, NY (10.84%); Indianapolis, IN (8.81%); Rolling Meadows, IL (2.83%); and St. Augustine, FL (0.54%), and is expected to be complete in April 2015 (N00019-13-C-9999).

Aug 28/14: Support. A $32.5 million to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive, firm target contract modification for non-recurring engineering in support of the Full Rate Production Lot 2 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Program. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy budgets.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (53.47%); Melbourne, FL (20.16%); St. Augustine, FL (9.83%); Indianapolis, Indiana (5.70%); Woodlawn Hills, CA (3.63%); Aire Sur L’Adour, France (2.48%); Menlo Park, CA (1.36%); El Segundo, CA (1.11%); Johnson City, NY (0.97%); Greenlawn, NY (0.80%); Falls Church, VA (0.31%); Marlboro, MA (0.14%); and various locations throughout the United States (0.04%), and is expected to be complete in July 2017 (N00019-13-C-999).

Aug 1/14: Japan. In December 2013, Japan introduced a new defense strategy that aims to improve air and maritime surveillance, as part of a drive to counter increasingly-aggressive Chinese moves. In response, Northrop Grumman is promoting the E-2D as a natural upgrade, since Japan already flies the E-2C. APY-9 radar manufacturer Lockheed Martin is also pushing the E-2D:

“Brad Hicks, vice president of radar programs at Lockheed’s Mission Systems and Sensors business, told the conference that the radar on the E-2D, built by his company, can detect advanced threats. He noted that 800 foreign aircraft violated Japan’s airspace last year…. The E-2D is designed to operate in concert with Lockheed’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, Hicks said.”

Japan uses the AEGIS BMD system on its Kongo and Atago Class destroyers. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman are also touting their Global Hawk family of UAVs, which includes the RQ-4B Global Hawk and a maritime MQ-4C Triton. Sources: Stars and Stripes, “Defense contractors hawk their surveillance planes in Japan”.

July 7/14: Testing. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems in Bethpage, NY receives a $52.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for material and services to perform an Equivalent Flight Hours fatigue test, which will substantiate the E-2D’s expected service life.

$7.8 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy R&D funds. Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA (68%); Melbourne, FL (30%); and Bethpage, NY (2%), and is expected to be completed in July 2019. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-14-C-0036).

June 30/14: MYP 2014-18. A $3.643 billion modification, finalizing the E-2D’s multi-year fixed-price-incentive-firm target contract for 25 planes from FY 2014 – 2018, bringing the total number of E-2Ds under contract so far to 50, but note that the original proposal to savings that qualified for a multi-year deal involved 32 planes + 7 options (q.v. April 10/13, March 4-11/14). Other contracts that fall within this ambit include:

  • $113.7 million: FRP-2 long-lead (July 2/13)

$871.8 million in FY 2014 USN aircraft budgets are committed immediately. Work will be performed in St. Augustine, FL (24.90%); Syracuse, NY (20.58%); Melbourne, FL (7.60%); El Segundo, CA (4.56%); Indianapolis, IN (4.06%); Menlo Park, CA (3.90%); Rolling Meadows, IL (2.30%) and various locations throughout the United States (32.10%); and is expected to be complete in August 2021 (N00019-13-C-9999).

The E-2D Hawkeye is slated to deploy with the first operational squadron, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125, in Fall 2014. See also NAVAIR, “U.S. Navy awards E-2D aircraft contract, saves $369 million” | NGC, “Northrop Grumman Receives $3.6 Billion Multiyear Contract for 25 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Aircraft”.

Multi-Year Buy: 25

June 26/14: Support. An $8.3 million contract to repair 51 line items used in the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye system. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed at Melbourne, FL (40.26%); Liverpool, NY (18.39%); Baltimore, MD (13.74%); Davenport, IA (6.54%); Falls Church, VA (5.56%); and 12 other various locations in the United States (15.51%). Work will complete by June 25/15. This is a non-competitive requirement in accordance with 10 U.S.C 2304(c)(1), issued by US NAVSUP Weapons System Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-12-G-034G, DO 7252).

May 29/14: CEC. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, Largo, Florida, is being awarded an $11 million contract modification. It exercises an option for 5 AN/USG-3B Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) Airborne Systems, which will be installed in E-2Ds to give them 2-way sharing of targeting quality information with other ships and aircraft. The systems need to be installed in new aircraft now, even though performance has been a problem and all parties are working on a fix (q.v. Jan 28/14).

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in St. Petersburg, FL (90%) and Largo, FL (10%), and is expected to be complete by November 2015 (N00024-12-C-5231).

April 17/14: SAR. The Pentagon releases its Dec 31/13 Selected Acquisitions Report. For the E-2D. Costs are increasing, but about 2/3 of that that is Congress & the Pentagon’s fault:

“Program costs increased $1,210.7 million (+5.9%) from $20,455.8 million to $21,666.5 million, due primarily to the net stretch-out of the procurement buy profile delaying 10 aircraft beyond the Future Years Defense Program and extending the end of production two years from FY 2021 to FY 2023 (+$759.1 million). Also, there were other increases for the addition of fighter-to-fighter backlink, data fusion, integrated fire control, net enabled weapons J11 message, navigation warfare anti-global positional system jam electronic protection, and stores performance assessment requested quality (+$341.3 million).”

We haven’t added this to the article’s program dashboard, because Pentagon figures and GAO figures aren’t an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s worthy of note, however, that when past SARs (q.v. March 30/12) are included, Congress and the Pentagon’s decisions have cost this program $2.486 billion.

Delays cost money

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The USN unveils their preliminary budget request briefings, followed by more detailed figures over time. R&D continues, with a FY 2015 focus on adding in-flight refueling, and continuing mission system software development, countermeasures against jamming etc., MIDS-JTRS integration, full-scale fatigue tests, testing and evaluation expenses. RDT&E funding will also be ramping up, rather than down, in subsequent years.

The E-2D continues to be a target for cuts. Despite a multi-year deal for 32 planes and 5 options from FY 2014 – 2018, the current budget aims to cut 7 planes from that base by ordering just 4 in FY15 (-1), 5 in FY16 (-1), 6 in FY17 (-2), 5 in FY18 (-3), and then 5 in FY19. Total cuts from FY 2015 – 2018 are $1.01 billion. Yet the Navy says that:

“The E-2D combined with the SM-6 missile, Cooperative Engagement Capability and the AEGIS combat system is a key component of Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA), enabling use of the missile at its maximum kinetic range. The E-2D will ensure the “eyes” of the nation’s sea-based strike capability remain focused on emerging threat systems.”

It’s hard to reconcile the words with the consistent actions. The missing FY15 aircraft can be seen in the Unfunded Priority List That Shall Not Be Named So, and near-term reductions might make sense on technical grounds (q.v. Jan 17/13, Jan 28/14). Cuts 3 and 4 years out tell a different story. Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] | Detailed budget documents.
March 4/14: Testing. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Liverpool, NY receives a $16.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for specialized test equipment and associated technical data packages and adapters required to perform testing of E-2D AN/APY-9 radar system LRMs (line replacement module “black boxes”).

All funds are committed immediately, using USN FY12 aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Liverpool, NY, and is expected to be complete in February 2017. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1, and is managed by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ (N68335-14-C-0145).

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 entry focuses on the USG-3B Cooperative Engagement Capability module used in E-2D naval AWACS aircraft. Bottom line: it’s worse than the USG-3 carried by its E-2C predecessors. UGS-3B is operationally suitable (maintaiable), but not operationally effective.

Key problems include misalignments that make it hard to depend on consistent object tracking between platforms (which is CEC’s core purpose). In a similar vein, the system has an issue with dual tracks for single objects that’s well above normal. There are also integration problems with the mission computer, and EM interference problems that affect the radar altimeter. The problems were persistent enough that the Navy has decoupled CEC testing from the E-2D’s own IOT&E evaluation as a new platform.

Oct 27/13: Testing. At the US Navy’s Trident Warrior 2013 demonstration, Super Hornet fighters simulated the launch of an AGM-154C-1 JSOW precision glide bomb, while the E-2D directed the imaginary weapon toward the positively identified target, and received status updates from the “weapon.” In effect, they made the E-2D itself an offensive weapon.

This mirrors a 2009 simulation involving a JSOW C-1 with a Navy P-3 Orion and USAF E-8C JSTARS battlefield surveillance aircraft. Sources: Raytheon, Oct 27/13 release.

FY 2013

Multi-Year deal for 32 + 5 options; FRP-1 orders; Development order for in-flight refueling capability; Testing has some gaps, but good enough for full production; Exports update. E-2D displays
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Sept 27/13: Refueling. A $226.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to design, develop, install, test, and document an In-flight Refueling capable E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. $8.6 million is committed immediately.

The aerodynamics of in-flight refueling for a plane like the E-2D will be a challenge for NGC engineers, but extending the aircraft’s range would be a very big payoff. USN test squadron VX-20 has been conducting limited scope test flights over the past couple of years, in order to identify potential risks. Aerial refueling would be a nice foundation for a Block II/ Increment 2 variant, and NGC has also been working on improving the Standard Automatic Flight Control System (SAFCS) to assist the pilots when refueling. New seats whose adjustments can address pilot field-of-view and crew fatigue are a minor development with a strong payoff, and NGC’s proposed formation lights certainly have their uses as well.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (64%); St. Augustine, FL (21%); Irvine, CA (3.7%); Endicott, NY (2.7%); Ronkonkoma, NY (1.6%); Bohemia, NY (1%); and various locations throughout the United States (6%), and is expected to be complete in January 2019. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-13-C-0135). See also Northrop Gruman, “Northrop Grumman Awarded $226.7 Million for E-2D Advanced Hawkeye In-Flight Refueling”.

R&D to add in-flight refueling

Sept 17/13: An $11.7 million for firm-fixed-price delivery order orders the design, development, first article, and production units for 10 pieces of support equipment unique to the E-2D (PSE); and the procurement of 29 pieces of existing PSE items. All funds are committed immediately from FY 2011 procurement budgets.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY, and is expected to be complete in March 2016. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages the contract (N68335-10-G-0021, #0009).

Aug 28/13: FRP-1. A $31.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification buys engineering support for E-2D Full Rate Production Lot 1. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (29.88%); St. Augustine, FL (24.38%); Bethpage, NY (12.64%); Greenlawn, NY (10.21%); Woodland Hills, CA (8.2%); El Segundo, CA (6.99%); Menlo Park, CA (4.5%); and various locations within the United States (3.2%); and is expected to be complete in September 2016 (N00019-12-C-0063).

July 24/13: FRP-1. A $617.1 million modification finalizes the 5-plane Full Rate Production Lot 1 advance acquisition contract into a firm-fixed-price contract. All funds are committed immediately.

Total announced contracts under FRP-1 have reached $855.8 million (q.v. Feb 1/12, April 24/13, June 4/13, June 27/13, Aug 28/13), or $171.6 million per plane.

The E-2D was cleared for FRP on Feb 8/13. Work will be performed in St. Augustine, FL (24.90%); Syracuse, NY (20.59%); Bethpage, NY (7.60%); El Segundo, CA (4.56%); Indianapolis, IN (4.6%); Menlo Park, CA (3.90%); Rolling Meadows, IL (2.3%), and approximately 200 various locations within the United States (TL 32.1%) that are individually under 5% (N00019-12-C-0063).

FRP-1: 5 E-2Ds

July 2/13: FRP-2. $113.7 million in advance contracts for FRP Lot 2 long lead materials and related support, which will cover 5 aircraft. The Pentagon announced it as a $9.3 million option, which may be true initially, and $9.3 million is committed immediately. Northrop Grumman gave the maximum figure. This award also changes the FRP-2 advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price contract.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (36.9%); Bethpage, NY (15.6%); El Segundo, CA (7.8%); Chicago, IL (7.4%); Menlo Park, CA (7.1%); Indianapolis, IN (6.8%); Cleveland, Ohio (3.3%); Aire-Sur-L’Adour, France (2.6%); Owego, NY (2.4%); Torrance, CA (2.1%); Edgewood, NY (1.7%); Falls Church, VA (1.4%); and various locations throughout the United States (4.9%); and is expected to be complete in March 2014 (N00019-13-C-9999).

NGC says that total E-2D procurement, including low-rate initial production and full-rate production aircraft, now stands at 30. The USN received its 10th E-2D in June, with another 10 in various stages of manufacture and testing. 2015 remains the expected date for Initial Operational Capability with the U.S. Navy. NGC.

June 27/13: Support. A $32.3 million delivery order to provide spares in support of FRP Lot 1’s 5 ordered E-2Ds. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (37.8%); Indianapolis, IN (23.1%); Bethpage, NY (13.7%); Woodland Hills, CA (6.7%); Greenlawn, NY (3.4%); Marlborough, Mass. (1.9%); Tustin, CA (1.8%); Rockford, IL (1.4%); Falls Church, VA (1.3%); Garden City, NY (1.1%); and other locations within the United States (7.8%), and is expected to be completed in December 2016 (N00019-10-G-0004).

June 4/13: Saved for later. On, NAVAIR announces their intent to give Northrop Grumman a Cost Plus Incentive Fee contract under a “Post Initial Operational Capability” solicitation. The E-2D’s planned IOC date is October 2014, and the contract involves adding an Installation Data Package for adding Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) Chat, Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) and Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) Accelerated Mid-Term Interoperability Improvement Program (AMIIP). That will allow retrofits of existing aircraft, and installation in production models.

Northrop Grumman will manage the set as a single entity, but each separate capability may be delivered separately and incorporated into the most appropriate E-2D DSSC software build.

June 4/13: Support. A $17.1 million contract modification for additional product, fleet, and engineering investigations support for the 5 planes in Full Rate Production Lot 1.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (81.94%); Norfolk, VA (8.98%); Syracuse, NY (3.71%); Indianapolis, IN (3.32%); and St. Augustine, FL (2.05%), and work is expected to be complete in June 2014. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 budgets (N00019-12-C-0063).

June 4/13: Support. A not-to-exceed $7.5 million delivery order for the repair of 43 line items on the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye System. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 budgets. This is a sole-source contract in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1), and is managed by NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-12-G-034G, 07192).

May 31/13: R&D. A $12.8 million delivery order modification, to conduct in-flight refueling risk reduction trade studies for the E-2D (N00019-10-G-0004).

Seems a little late for those – wasn’t that supposed to be a standard feature? We’re asking NAVAIR.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (67%); Endicott, NY (12.6%); Irvine, Calif. (10%); Bohemia, NY (3.8%); Ronkonkoma, NY (3.6%); Windsor Locks, CT (2%); St. Augustine, FL (.8%); and Stanford, CT (.2%), and is expected to be completed in September 2013. Fiscal 2013 Research, Development, Test & Evaluation, Navy contract funds in the amount of $12,808,636 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

April 24/13: Software. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a $23 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for software sustainment of Full Rate Production Lot 1 aircraft. This delivery order provides all aspects of software management support, including the update and maintenance through the life cycle support. Test reports say the E-2D has some significant software issues (vid. Jan 17/13 entry), so there’s no shortage of things to do.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (86.5%); Syracuse, NY (9.7%); Marlborough, MA (1.3%); Greenlawn, NY (1.3%), and Woodland Hills, CA (1.2%), and is expected to be complete in October 2014. FY 2011 and 2012 Aircraft Procurement funds are being used, and the entire amount is committed immediately. $14.5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13 (N00019-10-G-0004).

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

The FY 2014 request proposes a multi-year agreement (MYP) for 32 E-2Ds, plus options on another 5 from FY 2014-2018, leaving 18 planes left to buy. If the Navy exercises its MYP options in FY 2015-2016, it could bring full-rate production to a steady rate of 8 planes per year. The Navy is estimating MYP savings of $522.8 million over 5 separate annual contracts. About 30% of that is attributable to electronic components whose minimum buy quantities can’t be met under single year procurements, which makes their cost artificially high unless bought in a multi-year deal.

Note that Navy budget documents show the E-2D as a 114-plane program, a figure that must count a number of E-2C 2000 buys. A careful look at actual E-2D orders and schedules confirms that it remains a 75 plane program.

March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. The assessment notes that the Navy has stretched production out in order to “save” annual funds, but will pay $1.3 billion more in total – nearly double the March 30/12 SAR’s figure. That might be reduced a bit if the program gets a 32-38 plane multi-year buy approved for FY 2014 – 2018.

On the good news front, the E-2D remains a low-drama program, and the long-standing issue of radar reliability (vid. Jan 17/13 entry) has improved and reached the test plan requirement.

Feb 8/13: FRP. US NAVAIR says that the E-2D has been cleared for Full Rate Production by the Pentagon.

NAVAIR added that their own VX-1 Air Test and Evaluation Squadron had declared the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye “suitable and effective” in their Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) report.

FRP approved

Feb 7/13: Exports. A report in Shephard’s UV Online says that India, Malaysia, and the UAE have all been approved for E-2D exports by the US government. Which is not the same thing as saying that all 3 are negotiating contracts.

Northrop Grumman has responded to India’s RFI for a fixed-wing carrier-based AEW platform, to complement its Ka-31 heliborne AEW. The request is a bit odd, because Indian carriers won’t have catapults, but it is just an RFI. Northrop Grumman continues to promote the E-2D in India.

The UAE has issued a full RFP, after establishing an initial AEW&C capability with an interim order of Saab’s S340-AEW Erieye turboprops. The E-2D is expected to compete against an order of more Saab systems, and against Boeing’s E-737 AEW&C.

Jan 17/13: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The E-2D is included, and it has generally performed well in over 600 hours of carrier and land-based Initial Operator Testing & Evaluation (IOT&E) from February – September 2012. The aircraft demonstrated improvements over the E-2C, but a few key gaps remain.

Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) is the biggest gap. It’s supposed to create a single picture, based on inputs from other ships, planes, etc. Instead, it was creating multiple tracks for the same object, and had to be decoupled from other testing. New software loads have been added, and renewed CEC testing began in October 2012, but CEC and full Theater Air & Missile Defense (TAMD) capability won’t be fully tested now until 2015.

The radar and software combination also has a serious problem with tracks. The automated system sometimes swaps labels when tracks get too close, which can be a fatal error. This problem had shown up in previous developmental testing, but IOT&E went ahead anyway. The problem became so serious that operators must now manually label tracks. Obviously, in any stressful environment with many tracks, that’s going to fall apart. Overland reliability in all situations, and radar reliability (vid. March 30/12 entry), were also cited by DOT&E, albeit without specifics.

The final gap is maintenance and training. A maintenance training system for the E-2D won’t be delivered until July 2013, and the E-2D integrated simulator wasn’t available for IOT&E, either.

Dec 28/12: Unplanned Obsolescence. Northrop Grumman Corp., Integrated Systems, Bethpage, NY, is being awarded a $34.3 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for “obsolescent component redesign” of the E-2D’s mission computer and displays, integrated navigation and control display system, and network file system systems. Once again, we see the phenomenon of key computing components that become outdated and/or unavailable before a major US weapon system can even reach Initial Operational Capability.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (49%); Woodland Hills, CA (20%); Marlborough, MA (21%); Redwood City, CA (8%), and at various locations within the United States (2%), and is expected to be complete in December 2014. All contract funds are committed immediately, and $8.5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-10-G-0004).

FY 2012

LRIP-4 contract; FRP-1 lead-in; program evaluations. E-2 concept
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Sept 27/12: Support. A $15 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to a fixed-price-incentive-fee contract for additional E-2D system engineering and software maintenance for Production Lot 1 and 2 aircraft.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY, and is expected to be complete in May 2015. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-08-C-0027).

Sept 27/12: Spares. An $8.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order modification, to provide spares for 10 E-2D Low Rate Initial Production Lots 3 and 4 aircraft.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (51.3%); Bethpage, NY (13%); Owego, NY (7.1%); Greenlawn, NY (6.3%); Woodland Hills, CA (6.1%); West Chester, OH (4.2%); North Hollywood, CA (3.0%); Marlborough, MA (2.3%); Horsham, PA (1.6%); New Port Richey, FL (1.6%), and various other locations in the United States (3.5%); and is expected to be complete in October 2015 (N00019-10-G-0004).

April 27/12: Spares. A $31.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic order agreement for spare components of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye low rate initial production, Lots 3 and 4 – which is to say, 10 planes.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (54%); El Segundo, CA (9.6%); Bethpage, NY (5.1%); Greenlawn, NY (4.4%); Owego, NY (3.8%); West Chester, Ohio (3.4%); Woodland Hills, CA (3.2%); Irvine, CA (3.5%); Marlborough, MA (2.1%); Bayshore, NY (1.8%); Cleveland, Ohio (1.3%); Davenport, Iowa (1.3%); North Hollywood, CA (1.1%); Horsham, Pa. (0.9%); Rome, Italy (0 .7%); New Port Richey, FL (0.5%); and various other locations in the United States (3.3%). Work is expected to be completed in August 2016 (N00019-10-G-0004).

April 27/12: Electronics. A $15.3 million firm-fixed-price order to buy, store and deliver 146 E-2D avionic units under test.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (53%); Greenlawn, NY (11%); Bethpage, NY (8%); Woodland Hills, CA (7%); Marlborough, MA (5%); West Chester, Ohio (4%); Falls Church, Va. (3%); Ronkonkoma, NY (3%); Rome, Italy (3%); New Port Richey, FL (2%); and Indianapolis, Ind. (1%). Work is expected to be completed in April 2016 (N00019-10-G-0004).

March 30/12: Good GAO review. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012. The E-2D program is #13 on the list of highest cost programs to complete, at $11.3 billion. That hasn’t been because of poor program performance, though – a “should cost” analysis helped them negotiate a 4.5% reduction in its 3rd production contract. The GAO sees the E-2D’s technologies as mature, and its design and manufacturing processes as stable. Overall development costs are up 18% from the 2003 baseline to $4.53 billion, and costs are up because of buying decisions, but the remaining technical issues are pretty minor:

“[E-2D testing is done, but] Some development test points related to the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) remain to be completed… because of late deliveries from the CEC program… The E-2D program reported the current radar reliability rate is 71 hours. The radar must achieve a rate of 81 hours prior to the decision to enter full-rate production, which is scheduled for December 2012. DOD test organizations expressed some concern about whether the radar will be able to meet some reliability and performance measures… [but] initial results from a test exercise conducted in November partially addressed the performance concerns, according to an official at a DOD test organization.”

March 30/12: SAR – Congress costs. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 31/11 includes the E-2D. The short version: costs are going up because of Congress. They still plan to buy the same 75 planes, just less frugally or intelligently:

“Program costs increased $2,279.3 million (+12.4%) from $18,457.9 million to $20,737.2 million, due primarily to an affordability-driven stretch-out of the procurement buy profile (i.e., movement of 12 aircraft over multiple years) and the addition of two production lots from FY 2012 to FY 2021 (+$780.6 million). The addition of two production lots also increased other support (+$294.7 million). There were further increases due to the removal of projected savings from cancellation of the FY 2014-2018 multi-year procurement (+$651.6 million), the application of revised escalation indices (+$224.6 million), a revised estimate for In-Flight Refueling (+$208.9 million), and increases due to capability enhancements for Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) Chat, E-2D Hawkeye Integrated Fire Control Training, Long Range Tracking, and Counter Electronic Attack (+$161.2 million).”

It’s common for defense programs that are performing well to end up paying for programs that are performing poorly, by being subject to stretch-outs and/or cuts. Unfortunately, the E-2D is a good example.

SAR – how Congress adds costs

March 30/12: Support. A $22.9 million firm-fixed-price order will buy: avionics source data consisting of detailed functional description document packages; development of systems synthesis modeling reports for 34 units under test; and 392 pieces of organizational “O” level support equipment for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY, and is expected to be complete in June 2015. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages this contract (N68335-10-G-0021).

Feb 1/12: FRP-1 lead-in. A maximum $157.9 million advance acquisition contract for long lead material etc., in order to support 5 E-2Ds in FY 2013’s Full Rate Production Lot 1. FRP-1 was planned at 7 aircraft, but the eventual plan is reduced to the 5 planes covered here.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (32.6%); Bethpage, NY (15.5%); Dallas, TX (12.4%); Menlo Park, CA (9.8%); Woodland Hills, CA (6%); and various other locations within the United States (23.7%) into March 2013. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-12-C-0063).

Jan 24/12: LRIP-4 contract. A $781.5 million contract modification for 5 FY 2012/ LRIP(low rate initial production) Lot 4 E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (25.36%); Bethpage, NY (25.10%); St. Augustine, FL (19.3%); El Segundo, CA (5.34%); Indianapolis, IN (4.84%); Menlo Park, CA (4.64%); Rolling Meadows, IL (2.50%); and various locations within the United States (12.92%). Work is expected to be complete by May 2015 (N00019-10-C-0044).

LRIP-4: 5 E-2Ds

Jan 20/12: Spares. A $31.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for integrated E-2D LRIP program spares support. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY, and is expected to be complete in May 2013 (N00019-10-G-0004).

Jan 17/12: 2011 DOT&E – Radar & CEC. The Pentagon releases the FY2011 Annual Report for the Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation. The E-2D Hawkeye is included, and concerns revolve around 3 core areas: Overland radar performance; Cooperative Engagement Capability; and Reliability. For radar performance, DOT&E suggests a post-evaluation processor upgrade to boost overland performance. It adds:

“As of December 2011, 93% of CEC test points are complete. Carrier suitability testing and the initial cadre of pilots completed carrier qualification in January, August, and September 2011, to support upcoming IOT&E… Discovery of hardware and software integration discrepancies significantly delayed E-2D/CEC integration and testing in FY11… now appears CEC developmental testing will complete in 1QFY12 and is the pacing event for… IOT&E… for the E-2D… [and] for new CEC aircraft hardware (AN/USG-3B) under development by the Navy…

“The [APY-9] radar system reliability, specifically radar mean time between failures, does not currently meet established requirements of 81 hours. While low radar mean time between failures has been a concern for the last two years, it has steadily improved and was 64.3 hours as of July 2011. [Other data are based on small sample sizes, but are under reliability goals].”

FY 2011

DAB approval; LRIP 2/3; carrier and EMALS launch. 1st carrier takeoff
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Sept 27/11: EMALS launch. The EMALS test site at Lakehurst, NJ launches an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. The EMALS electro-magnetic catapult, which will outfit the new USS Gerald R. Ford and replace the old steam catapults on refitted Nimitz Class ships, has already launched an F/A-18E Super Hornet, a T-45 Goshawk jet trainer, and the Hawkeye’s C-2A Greyhound cargo cousin.

About 63 – 65 launches are planned for each aircraft type, and the 2nd phase of aircraft compatibility testing is scheduled to begin in 2012. Engineers will continue reliability testing through 2013, then perform installation, checkout, and shipboard testing, with the goal of shipboard certification in 2015.US Navy.

EMALS catapult launch

August 16/11: SDD. A $47.6 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification for maintenance and repair of components and/or systems that are unique to the E-2D, as part of the SDD program.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (63%); Greenlawn, NY (35%); and Rolling Meadows, IL (2%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012 (N00019-03-C-0057).

July 22/11: LRIP-3 Order. A $760.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to manufacture and deliver 5 LRIP Lot 3/ FY 2011 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft, including associated support connected to the delivery. This contract also provides for long lead time materials and related support for 5 LRIP Lot 4/ FY 2012 planes.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (25.36%); Bethpage, NY (25.10%); St. Augustine, FL (19.3%); El Segundo, CA (5.34%); Indianapolis, IN (4.84%); Menlo Park, CA (4.64%); Rolling Meadows, IL (2.50%); and other locations within the United States (12.92%). Work is expected to be completed by May 2015 (N00019-10-C-0044). See also April 13/11 entry.

LRIP-3: 5 E-2Ds

July 22/11: A $34 million contract modification finalizes a fixed-price-incentive-fee contract for 1 additional LRIP Lot 2/ FY 2010 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft, bringing it to $170 million, plus long-lead buys, plus Government-Furnished Equipment that’s bought separately.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (25.36%); Bethpage, NY (25.10%); St. Augustine, FL (19.3%); El Segundo, CA (5.34%); Indianapolis, IN (4.84%); Menlo Park, CA (4.64%); Rolling Meadows, IL (2.50%); and various locations throughout the United States (12.92%), and is expected to be complete in July 2013 (N00019-08-C-0027). See also July 22/10 entry.

LRIP-2: now 3 E-2Ds

April 15/11: Spares. A $6.6 million contract modification to provide spare consumables and repairables for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye LRIP Lot 2 as well as the Hawkeye Integrated Training System trainers.

Work is expected to be complete in August 2013 and will be performed in El Segundo, CA (52%); Woodland Hills, CA (27%); Marlborough, MA (16%); Syracuse, NY (4%); and Rolling Meadows, IL (1%) under contract N00019-10-G-0004.

April 14/11: DAB approval. The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye has a successful Defense Acquisition Board review. That leads to authorized funding for an additional 10 E-2Ds, via an Acquisition Decision Memorandum signed by undersecretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Dr. Ashton Carter. Subsequent conversations with NAVAIR add some clarity to this announcement:

“The Navy’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program received approval for procurement of Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 3 (4 aircraft) and Lot 4 (6 aircraft), as well as Advance Acquisition Contract (AAC) for the procurement of long-lead items to support Full Rate Production (FRP) Lot 1 (7 aircraft) [after it] met all criteria needed to continue LRIP.”

LRIP Lot 4 is 6 planes because there are 5 E-2Ds + 1 combat loss replacement requested in FY 2012. To date, Northrop Grumman has delivered 5 E-2D aircraft to the Navy, and production on the 10th aircraft recently began at Northrop Grumman’s East Coast Manufacturing and Flight Test Center in St. Augustine, FL. The aircraft is on track to enter Initial Operational Test and Evaluation later in 2011. Northrop Grumman.

DAB approval

April 13/11: LRIP-4 lead-in. A $94.6 million contract modification to finalizes a previously awarded advance acquisition contract (N00019-10-C-0044) to a fixed-price agreement. As a first step, this modification buys long-lead items for 4 LRIP (Low Rate Initial Production) Lot 4 E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes. NAVAIR tells DID that:

“The average unit recurring flyaway (URF) cost for 70 aircraft in then-year dollars is $166.1 million based on President’s Budget 2012.”

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (46.8%); Bethpage, NY (13.5%); El Segundo, CA (2.6%); Potez, France (2.4%); Edgewood, NY (1.9%); Menlo Park, CA (1.6%); Woodland Hills, CA (1.4%); Owego, NY (1.2%); St. Augustine, FL (1.2%); Marlborough, MA (1.1%); Brooklyn Heights, OH (1%); Greenlawn, NY (.6%); and various locations within the United States (24.7%). Work is expected to be complete by December 2011. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-10-C-0044).

April 5/11: Spares. A $21.3 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for both consumable and repairable E-2D spares, covering the LRIP Lot 2 buy of 3 planes, and Hawkeye Integrated Training System trainers.

Work is expected to be complete in July 2015, and will be performed in El Segundo, CA (30 %); Syracuse, NY (23 %); Woodland Hills, CA (7.6 %); Menlo Park, CA (6.4 %); Marlborough, MA (6.1 %); Bethpage, NY (3.6 %); Indianapolis, IN (3.1 %); Rolling Meadows, IL (1.6 %); St. Augustine, FL (0.75 %); and various locations throughout the United States (17.85%) under contract N00019-10-G-0004.

Feb 8/11: India. India Defence reports that:

“While briefing media personnel in Bangalore on the eve of Aero India 2011, (Retired) Commodore Gyanendra Sharma, Managing Director of Northrop Grumman India announced that the Ministry of Defence has sent a Request for Information (RFI) for E-2D Naval Airborne Early Warning aircraft to Northrop Grumman. As per details given by Mr. Sharma, Indian Navy has shown interest in procuring at least four such aircrafts… Northrop Grumman is positive that a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the same would be issued by year end.”

Feb 1/11: Carrier landing. An E-2D flown by VX-20 squadron makes the type’s 1st carrier takeoff and landing, aboard the USS Harry S. Truman [CVN 75]. Carrier suitability testing is now underway, with 99% of radar testing complete. US Navy | Northrop Grumman.

1st carrier takeoff & landing

Jan 28/11: India. Northrop Grumman announces that an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye crew work-station will be among its Aero India 2011 exhibits, adding that “India is among the very first countries for which the Advanced Hawkeye capability has been released.” Unfortunately, its carriers don’t carry the catapults required to operate it, so any E-2Ds would be based from shore.

Dec 27/10: Industrial. A $7.4 million firm-fixed-price modification to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-fee contract. It covers one time efforts associated with turning E-2D engineering drawing changes into E-2D production changes. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (71.5%), and St. Augustine, FL (28.5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012. $1,000,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-08-C-0027).

Dec 7/10: Support. A $19.6 million firm-fixed-price delivery order under the basic order agreement to provide integrated logistics support for low rate initial production E-2D aircraft. A performance based support contract is expected down the road, and this contract is expected to handle the transition period. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY, and is expected to be complete in October 2011 (N00019-10-G-0004).

FY 2010

1st delivery; SATCOM; IFF. Catapult test
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Sept 29/10: IFF. A $59.2 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract for IFF Mode 5 and Mode S upgrades. Efforts will include design, implementation, test and evaluation, verification, documentation, acceptance, and certification. Mode 5 IFF offers improved encryption, range, and civil compatibility. It also adds “lethal interrogation” as a must-respond last chance, and the ability to see individual aircraft even when they’re close together. The further addition of the civilian Mode S assigns a discrete ‘squawk’ which is unique to that aircraft. Together, they improve combat identification, and enable unrestricted flight in civilian airspace.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (63%); Greenlawn, NY (35%); and Rolling Meadows, IL (2%). Work is expected to be complete in December 2013 (N00019-03-C-0057).

Sept 29/10: Industrial. A $25 million firm-fixed-price fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification covers one-time efforts associated with E-2D engineering drawing modifications, and incorporation of open corrective actions required to produce production-ready documentation. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (67%), and St. Augustine, FL (33%), and is expected to be complete in September 2012 (N00019-08-C-0027).

Sept 15/10: SATCOM. A $9 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) to develop a dual satellite communication capability in the E-2D.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (75%); Menlo Park, CA (17%); Westminster, CO (4%); Ronkonkoma, NY (2%); and Whippany, NJ (2%); and is expected to be complete in July 2011.

July 30/10: Fleet entry. The first Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft to enter the U.S. Navy fleet is “welcomed home” in a ceremony held at Norfolk Naval Air Station, VA. The 2 pilot production aircraft bought in July 2007 remain on track for delivery in 2010, and Northrop Grumman claims that “manufacturing of four Low-Rate Initial Production aircraft also is progressing well.” Northrop Grumman.

Aug 11/10: C-2 spinoff? Flight International reports that the US Navy has commissioned a 6-month study from Northrop Grumman to look at remanufacturing C-2A Greyhound bodies using tooling and components already developed for the new E-2D Hawkeye, in order to give its 36 carrier-capable cargo planes longer service life.

The C-2As were originally designed to last for 36,000 carrier landings and 15,000 flight hours, and some have already had their center wing boxes replaced. The E-2 Hawkeye is a close derivative, and with Northrop Grumman ramping up E-2D production, refurbishing or building C-2s could become a cheaper option than buying up to 48 V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors for Navy roles that would be anchored by the same Carrier On-board Delivery function.

July 29/10: The 1st E-2D Advanced Hawkeye AWACS is delivered to the fleet at Chambers Field, Naval Station Norfolk, VA. The E-2D will go to the “Greyhawks” of Airborne Early Warning Fleet Replacement Squadron VAW-120, the “Greyhawks,” first. They will fly and operate the new plane, help set its parameters and procedures, and train pilots and Navy flight officers to fly and operate E-2Ds.

Another 2 pilot production E-2Ds are on schedule for delivery in 2010, and 4 Low Rate Initial Production planes are in various stages of manufacture. US Navy | Northrop Grumman | Virginia Pilot.

1st delivery

July 22/10: LRIP-2 partial. A $136 million unfinalized not-to-exceed contract modification for 1 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye from LRIP Lot 2 (FY 2010). This fixed-price-incentive-fee contract is only partial, as LRIP-2 is expected to include 3 planes.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (32.6%); Bethpage, NY (15.5%); Dallas, TX (12.4%); Menlo Park, CA (9.8%); Indianapolis, IN (6.3%); Woodland Hills, CA (6%); Aire-sur-l’Adour, France (2.7%); Brentwood, NY (2.6%); Owego, NY (2.6%); Greenlawn, NY (2.2%); Irvine, CA (1.7%); Marlboro, MA (1.6%); Clemmons, NC (1.6%); Windsor Locks, CT (1.2%); and various locations throughout the U.S. (1.2%). Work is expected to be complete in December 2012 (N00019-08-C-0027).

LRIP-2: 2-3 E-2Ds

March 15/10: LRIP-3 lead-in. A $94.6 million not-to-exceed advance acquisition contract for long lead materials and support associated with the manufacture and delivery of 4 LRIP Lot 3 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft in FY 2010.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (32.6%); various locations within the United States (23.7%); Bethpage, NY (15.5%); Dallas, TX (12.4%); Menlo Park, CA (9.8%); and Woodland Hills, CA (6%), and is expected to be complete in May 2011. This contract was not competitively procured, as the manufacturer is already set (N00019-10-C-0044).

March 4/10: Radar. Lockheed Martin announces a $171.8 million low-rate initial production contract from Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Bethpage, NY, for 4 AN/APY-9 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) radar systems and spare parts.

The company adds that 2 engineering-development models and 4 pre-production radar systems are currently in flight and qualification testing. Mission system and radar-related testing are currently ahead of schedule, with more than 230 radar flights over the last several months, by the Navy/ Industry integrated test team.

Dec 14/09: Sub-contractors. A $9.3 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-08-C-0027) for “non-recurring engineering in support of new supplier qualification and startup in support of E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft low-rate initial production Lot 1 and 2 aircraft.”

According to Northrop Grumman, CPI Aerostructures in Edgewood, NY is the E-2D Outer Wing Panel supplier. They replaced Vought/Schweizer, who provided the E-2C Outer Wing Panel.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (40.63%); Edgewood, NY (22.35%); St. Augustine, FL (20.86%); Aire-sur-l’Adour, France (14.17%); and various locations within the continental United States (1.99%), and is expected to be complete in January 2011.

Dec 14/09: Support. Wyle Laboratories, Inc. in Huntsville, AL receives a $30.6 million modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity multiple award contract (N00421-03-D-0015) for continued E-2C/ E-2D/ C-2 planning, program and financial services in support of the US Navy and the governments of Egypt, France, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and Canada under the Foreign Military Sales program.

Canada does not operate any C-2 or E-2 family aircraft at this point, which makes their inclusion interesting; the other foreign military inclusions all operate versions of the E-2C. Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD, and is expected to be completed in December 2010.

Nov 30/09: CEC. A $6.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-5203) build and test AN/USG-3B Airborne Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) Systems for use on the Navy’s new E-2D Hawkeye AWACS aircraft. The AN/USG-3B will create a shared fleet defense capability for the E-2D that will reportedly include assistance with ballistic missile tracking. China’s introduction of anti-ship ballistic missiles will make that a valuable capability twice over.

Work will be performed in Largo, FL (80%); St. Petersburg, FL (19%), and Dallas, TX (1%), and is expected to be complete by June 2011.

Nov 9/09: SDD. A $15.6 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) to provide Phase I aircraft data management for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft, as part of the SDD phase.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (71.3%); Grand Rapids, MI (9.3%); Woodland Hills, CA (6%); St. Augustine, FL (5.4%); Cedar Rapids, IA (3%); Norfolk, VA (2.2%); and various other locations within the United States (2.8%), and is expected to be complete in July 2012.

Oct 16/09: Testing. Northrop Grumman announces that its Delta One test aircraft successfully completed its first land-based catapult launch tests. Both E-2D System Development and Demonstration (SDD) aircraft, Delta One and Delta Two, are currently undergoing shore-based carrier suitability testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD with the U.S. Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20).

Oct 8/09: India. The US government’s Voice of America news service reports (Text | Video) that India has ordered the E-2D:

“The latest India-U.S. defense deal is the sale of this Airborne Early Warning Air Craft, Hawkeye E-2D, developed by American arms manufacturer, Northrop Grumman. Woolf Gross, the corporate director at the company, says the reconnaissance plane has yet to be introduced in the U.S. Navy. Its sale to India, he says, is a symbol of how close India/U.S. military relations are. “So they [the Indians] could have advanced Hawkeyes in India about the same time that the U.S. Navy becomes fully operational with the same aircraft,” he explained.”

Direct discussions with Northrop Grumman representatives clarified this situation. The E-2D was recently approved for export to India, which clears the way for the USN to conduct E-2D technical briefings with India under American arms export laws. To date, however, there is no sale and no contract.

FY 2009

Operational Assessment; Milestone C; LRIP-1 contract. Interest from India. FLA flight testing
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Sept 24/09: Spares. A $23 million firm-fixed-price order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00421-05-G-0001) for spares in support of 2 E-2D Lot 1 aircraft. Spares include 2 Quick Engine Change Kits; 2 T-56-A-427A engines; 1 Rotodome; and consumables.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN (30.9%); Bethpage, NY (27.8%); Menlo Park, CA (23.9%); Springville, UT (7.5%); St. Augustine, FL (1.8%); and at various locations within the United States (8.1%), is expected to be complete in May 2013.

Sept 23/09: Spares. A $32.3 million firm-fixed-price order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00421-05-G-0001) for various spares in support of two E-2D Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 1 aircraft.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY, (41%); Bethpage, NY (15.6%); Menlo Park, CA (5.7%); Greenlawn, NY, (4.8%); Woodland Hills, CA (4.6%); Irvine, CA (3.3%); Cleveland, OH (3.2%); West Chester, OH (3.2%); Indianapolis, IN (2.9%); Freeport, NY (2%), and at various locations within the United States (13.7%), and is expected to be complete in February 2013.

Sept 13/09: India. Indian media report that the US government has cleared the E-2D for possible export to India, following the signing of End User Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) protocols in July 2009.

India is the second country after the UAE to be cleared by the US State and Defense Departments for E-2D sales, but a specific Foreign Military Sales contract would require clearances for other systems as well. The report states that initial operations would be shore-based, because even the converted 40,000t Admiral Gorshkov will lack the required catapults. India would be able to receive E-2Ds within 3 years of signing a contract. Hindustan Times.

July 31/09: SDD. Northrop Grumman Technical Services Sector in Herndon, VA received a $7 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price contract (N00421-08-C-0065), exercising an option for approximately 89,886 hours of engineering and logistics services in support of E-2C, C-2A test and E-2D System Design and Development (SDD) aircraft located at the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron TWO ZERO (VX-20) in Patuxent River, MD.

Services will include modification and preparation of the aircraft for test operations, correction of safety of flight discrepancies, quality control inspections, engineering investigations, and logistics and parts support. Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD, and is expected to be complete in July 2010.

July 7/09: Industrial. Northrop Grumman begin manufacturing its 6th E-2D Hawkeye, and the 1st Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) aircraft for operational use, with the start of keel assembly at the company’s East Coast Manufacturing and Flight Test Center in St. Augustine, FL. This work is being performed under the June 15/09 contract. NGC release.

July 1/09: Engines. A $6.4 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) to buy NP2000-3 Propellar Systems and associated spares for 3 E-2D pilot production aircraft – in other words, 6 of the Hamilton-Sundstrand propellers, plus associated spares. Northrop Grumman receives the contract because they’re the prime integrator.

Work will be performed in Windsor Locks, CT (80%, Hamilton-Sundstrand) and Bethpage, NY (20%, Northrop Grumman), and is expected to be complete in October 2010.

June 15/09: Milestone C, LRIP-1 contract. The E-2D successfully passes its Milestone C review, and a $360.5 million modification finalizes the previously awarded $20 million April 7/09 contract for 2 Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) E-2D aircraft (N00019-08-C-0027). In addition, this contract provides long lead materials and related support for the 2 FY 2010 LRIP Lot 2 aircraft. A subsequent Northrop Grumman release adds additional items, and places the contract’s total value at $432 million.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (31.27%); Syracuse, NY (23.57%), various locations within the United States (19.06%); St. Augustine, FL (16.36%); Menlo Park, CA (3.81%); Indianapolis, IN (3.76%); and Rolling Meadows, IL (2.17%), and is expected to be completed in October 2011.

Milestone C and LRIP-1: 2 E-2Ds

June 10/09: To Pax. Northrop Grumman announces that an E-2D test aircraft has flown north to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, to begin carrier suitability testing. The bulk of the testing involves catapult and arrested landing structural tests, also called ‘Shake, Rattle, and Roll Tests’, as well as aerodynamic testing for minimum acceptable approach airspeed, and establishing crosswind limits, etc. Logistics, manpower and interoperability compatibility with the carriers are also tested.

June 3/09: The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Integrated Test Team (ITT) – composed of military, civil service and industry personnel from Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, prime contractor Northrop Grumman, and other program contractors – has received the Weapons Systems Award from the 75 year old Order of Daedalians. Their award, and its Colonel Franklin C. Wolfe Memorial Trophy, are presented annually for the most outstanding weapons system development in the aerospace environment. Other recent awards for the team include recognition as a model ITT by Vice Adm. David Architzel, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition); the U.S. Navy’s VX-20 Test Team of the Quarter for Q2 2008; he 2008 James S. McDonnell Test Team of the Year from the Society of Experimental Flight Test Engineers; and the 2007 Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Test Team of the Year.

The NGC corporate release identifies the Navy’s current Advanced Hawkeye program manager, Capt. Shane Gahagan; Northrop Grumman’s Jim Culmo, as VP of Airborne Early Warning and Battle Management Command Control Programs for its Aerospace Systems sector; and Marty McCord, as Northrop Grumman’s Contractor Flight Test Director.

May 13/09: Testing. Northrop Grumman announces that the E-2D program recently reached its 1,000th hour of flight testing at Northrop Grumman’s East Coast Manufacturing and Flight Test Center. The release adds that the aircraft “continues to successfully meet, or exceed, all major program and performance milestones… E-2D pilot production continues ahead of schedule on the first three aircraft, and radar long-range detection performance is exceeding expectations.” The E-2D will fly to NAS Patuxent River later in 2009, for the carrier suitability testing phase.

April 30/09: Support. A $12.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus incentive fee contract. They will provide integrated logistics services for E-2D Pilot Production aircraft, as part of the SDD phase. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (91%) and at various locations throughout the United States (8%), and is expected to be complete in September 2011 (N00019-03-C-0057).

April 7/09: LRIP-1 lead-in. A not-to-exceed $20 million modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition contract (N00019-08-C-0027), buying long lead-time materials and support for the 2 E-2Ds that will be built under LRIP Lot 1.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (32.6%), various locations within the United States (23.7%); Bethpage, NY (15.5%); Dallas, TX (12.4%); Menlo Park, CA (9.8%); and Woodland Hills, CA (6%), and is expected to be complete in August 2011.

March 31/09: GAO report re: delays. The US GAO audit office delivers its 7th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. The E-2D is included among the 47 programs reviewed. Total program cost growth is under 10%, with just 5.8% cost growth during the R&D phase. Overall, the reports rates all 4 of the E-2D AHE’s critical technologies as mature, and the E-2D AHE design as stable. That’s an uncommon combination among similar stage programs, and the cost and schedule figures mark the E-2D as a successful acquisition program. They added that:

“In early flight testing, the program experienced problems with the high power circulators, hydraulic lines, antenna power amplifier modules, and inclement weather, which has resulted in a 4 to 6 month delay in the program’s flight testing schedule… The program is taking a series of steps to address flight testing delays [but] completing flight testing according to its original schedule may not be feasible. According to program officials, the program will experience additional delays due to budget cuts… likely that the budget cuts will impede the program’s ability to meet its planned initial operational capability date due to the reduced number of aircraft available to perform pilot and maintenance training operations to prepare for initial deployment. Program officials estimate this reduction in two aircraft will cause a 12 to 24 month delay in initial operating capability and a 20% increase in the aircraft’s unit cost.”

March 2/09: Electronics. GE Aviation Systems, LLC in Grand Rapids, MI received a $12.1 million ceiling-priced indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for aircraft recorders. The order includes 27 Crash Survivable Memory Units (CSMU) for the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors; 120 Crash Survivable Flight Information Recorder (CSFIR) Voice and Data Recorders (VADRs) for the E-2D Hawkeye AWACS plane; and 2 CSFIR Integrated Data Acquisition and Recorder Systems for T-6A trainer aircraft. In addition, this contract provides for CSFIR supply system spares; engineering and product support; CSFIR and CSMU hardware; software upgrades, repairs, and modifications for CSFIR/Structural Flight Recording Set (SFRS) common ground station software.

Work will be performed in Grand Rapids, MI, and is expected to be complete in March 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-09-D-0017).

Feb 6/09: With a new administration in place and the “economic stimulus” package pending in Congress, Northrop Grumman and local leaders step up lobbying for restoration of the FY 2009 budget’s $203.4 million cut to production procurement for the E-2D (see October 2008 entry, and related materials). Tom Vice, sector vice president for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector, says that the firm has the manufacturing capacity to accommodate up to 10 E-2Ds per year.

Program Manager Jim Culmo, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of Airborne Early Warning and Battle Management Command and Control Programs, believes that there’s a key industrial base issue. The last E-2C will be delivered in 2009, leaving the E-2D program as the sole support. As a result:

“We have major concerns about the jobs impact and here’s why. Northrop Grumman and its 280 suppliers will make their final E-2C Hawkeye deliveries this year, as well as transfer our two SD&D aircraft to Patuxent River Naval Air Station. During this critical transition to LRIP, a reduction in the number of aircraft the Navy had planned to produce has dramatic consequences. This will increase the unit cost to the Navy by approximately 20% [for the 2 aircraft ordered]. It will mean a loss of 350 jobs across our supplier base in 38 U.S. states beginning in the first quarter of 2009. This loss will erode the highly skilled workforce, particularly in the state of Florida, that has been dedicated to this program for decades… Getting these critical skills back once they are gone is going to be extremely challenging.”

There’s also a timeline issue, as delays at this juncture are expected to push back the E-2D’s Initial Operating Capability to 2012-13. Arguments are being made that this might also have an effect on foreign sales, but E-2C+ Hawkeye 2000s would be a viable offering if the timing was that critical to the buyer. See: NGC release | Florida Times-Union | Reuters | St. Augustine Record op-ed.

Nov 13/08: OA done. Northrop Grumman announces that its E-2D has completed operational assessment (OA) after more than 600 flight hours, over half involving in-flight radar testing. OA testing involves the performance of the platform in an environment that resembles actual missions. The firm had set a date for OA completion 5 years ago, and met it on schedule with 92% aircraft availability, all test objectives executed, and no major system failures. The OA report is due in December 2008, and the firm has been given a green rating on production readiness; a “Milestone C” decision on low-rate initial production is due in 2009.

NGC’s corporate release notes that the E-2D has been recognized for its program performance with numerous industry awards in 2008. They include Aviation Week’s Military Laureate Award and its Program Excellence Achievement Award; the Society of Experimental Test Pilots Leroy Grumman Award; and NAVAIR Commander’s Award for Program Management.

OA done, industry awards

October 2008: Budget cut. the FY 2009 defense budget is passed, with a cut of $165.5 million from the request for Low-Rate Initial Production Lot 1 (3 planes to 2, aircraft deferred until 2022), and $37.9 million from long lead-time item buys for FY 2010 LRIP-2, for a total of $203.4 million. The timing of the cut will delay the E-2D’s expected Initial Operational Capability by 12-18 months, to 2012-13.

Because the underlying infrastructure fixed costs don’t change, and E-2C production is ending and cannot absorb any slack, the changes caused an approximate 20% jump in cost per aircraft in FY 2009, a 12.5% jump in FY 2010, and increase other costs by lengthening total production time and incurring more fixed costs for infrastructure, labor, etc. to produce the same number of machines.

FY 2008

SDD. Pilot production. E-2D cockpit
(click to view full)

Sept 26/08: Pilot production. A $10.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus incentive fee contract for procurement of Aircraft Change Directives in support of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye (AHE) Pilot Production Aircraft, under the E-2D AHE System Development and Demonstration Program. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (71.2%); and St. Augustine, FL, (28.8%) and is expected to be completed in June 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-03-C-0057).

Sept 23/08: Support. A $6.2 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus incentive fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) covers support equipment for the 3 Lot 1 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Pilot Production Aircraft.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (69.1%); Menlo Park, CA (5.7%); New Port Richey, FL (5.3%) Islip, NY (3.2%); Dover, NJ (3.1%); Holbrook, NY (2.2%); and other various locations within the United States (11.4%), and is expected to be complete in June 2011.

Sept 22/08: Engines. A $12 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus incentive fee contract for engineering efforts associated with the manufacture and initial fitting of the Lot 1 E-2D Hawkeyes’ T-56-A-427A engines. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN (87%) and Bethpage, NY (13%), and is expected to be complete in Sept 2010 (N00019-03-C-0057).

Sept 10/08: The US Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Approves the FY 2009 Defense Appropriations Bill. Their release and summary includes “Funds procurement of 2 E-2D aircraft, a deferral of 1 aircraft.” The aircraft’s radar testing issues are cited as the reason. That approach is accepted in the final, reconciled House/Senate budget.

July 30/08: SDD. Northrop Grumman Technical Services Sector in Herndon, VA received a sole-source $6.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price contract for approximately 89,886 hours of engineering and logistics services in support of E-2C, C-2A test and E-2D System Design and Development (SDD) aircraft located at the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron TWO ZERO (VX-20) in Patuxent River, MD.

Services to be provided include modification and preparation of the aircraft for test operations, correct safety of flight discrepancies, quality control inspections, engineering investigations, and logistics and parts support. Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD and the contract will end in July 2009. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract (N00421-08-C-0065).

July 2008: Radar flight testing resumes for the E-2D, with no subsequent problems reported.

June 27/08: Pilot production engines. A $36.3 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for T-56-A-427A engines and spares in support of the 3 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Pilot Production Aircraft. For 3 aircraft, that’s 6 engines. NGC is listed as the contractor, even though they’re Rolls Royce engines, because NGC is the prime contractor and hence responsible for integration etc.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN (82%) and Bethpage, NY (18%), and is expected to be complete in September 2010 (N00019-03-C-0057).

June 25/08: Spares. A $20.5 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) covering spare parts for the 3 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Pilot Production Aircraft of Lot 1.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (52.02%); Bethpage, NY (19.49%); Woodlawn, CA (5.82%); Greenlawn, NY (5.60%); Springville, UT (2.90%); Cincinnati, OH (2.14%); Ronkonkoma, NY (2.06%); and at various locations within the United States (9.97%), and is expected to be complete in Sep. 2010.

June 24/08: Pilot production. A $9.4 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) for non-recurring engineering efforts involved in the production of required subsystems and components for the Lot 1 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Pilot production Aircraft.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (28.23%); Torrance, CA (14.47%); Dallas, TX (10.80%); Pomezia, Italy (8.74%); Cleveland, OH (8.36%); New Port Richey, FL (8.13%), Owega, NY (6.71%); Freeport, NY (3. 20%) and various locations within the USA (11.54%), and is expected to be complete in Sep. 2010.

June 4/08: Pilot production. A $9.1 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) for Electro Magnetic Interference Reduction System Process Hardware for E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Pilot Production Aircraft; 1 Lot (3 subsystems). Work will be performed in Syracuse, N.Y. (90.9%) and Bethpage, N.Y. (9.10%), and is expected to be completed in April 2010.

As noted above, “improved clutter & interference cancellation offers significant improvement in tracking small land and sea targets, as well as better performance against electronic jamming.” It’s also very helpful if an aircraft wishes to collect enemy signals while operating a powerful radar.

April 10/08: SDD. An $11.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract for one-time engineering efforts centered around replacing the E-2D’s halon system. Halon is an inert gas used to put out fires by depriving them of burnable atmosphere. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY, (87.3%) and St. Augustine, FL (12.7%) and is expected to be complete in Sept 2011 (N00019-03-C-0057).

March 2008: Radar issues. The E-2D program experiences issues as a result of the new radar’s high power requirements. The “high power circulators” that transfer power from the radar amplifiers to the rotodome antenna were initially unable to handle the power levels required by the new radar.

Design changes, and material changes that changed the insulating material in the antenna, are made. General flight testing continues throughout, but radar flight testing is suspended.

Feb 6/08: SDD. A $12 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) for recently-specified changes to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye design during the Development and Demonstration Program. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (79.6%) and St. Augustine, FL (20.4%) and is expected to be complete in June 2008.

Dec 26/07: LRIP-1 lead-in. A $50.4 million not-to-exceed advance acquisition contract for long lead material and support for 3 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye low rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 1 aircraft.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (32.6%), various locations within the United States (23.7%); Bethpage, NY (15.5%); Dallas, TX (12.4%); Menlo Park, CA (9.8%); and Woodland Hills, CA (6%), and is expected to be complete in August 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. is the contracting activity (N00019-08-C-0027).

Dec 19/07: CEC. A $22.4 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) for cooperative engagement capability developmental efforts in support of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye System Development and Demonstration Program. Work will be performed in Bethpage, N.Y., (92.6%) and St. Augustine, FL (7.4%) and is expected to be completed in July 2009.

CEC allows the Hawkeye to share both a joint battle picture and targeting data with fleet ships, other surveillance aircraft, and even land-based missile units. Like the CEC-equipped E-2C Hawkeye 2000, the E-2D will have targeting capability, and becomes a potential node for ballistic missile defense.

Dec 17/07: India. According to a report in the forthcoming issue of India Strategic defense magazine, the Indian Navy had issued an request for information for the E-2D Hawkeye to the U.S. government. The report said Washington has confirmed India’s interest and said that “as and when a formal request is received from New Delhi, the answer should be positive.” Note also DID’s February 2006 report that Northrop Grumman was working to integrate HAL into its E-2 Hawkeye AWACS program supply chain by way of sourcing aircraft assemblies and components, digitization and other related services

The Indian Navy reportedly wanted their aircraft to be capable of staying in the air for 8 hours instead of 6, and modifications such as “wet” (fuel carrying) wings and the plane’s existing aerial refueling capability are reportedly set to address this. India Today.

Nov 29/07: Testing. Delta Two, the 2nd E-2D Advanced Hawkeye development aircraft, completes its first flight from NGC’s St. Augustine, FL manufacturing and flight test center in just over 2 hours, followed by a second flight on Dec 4/07. During the flights, the team conducted a series of air vehicle tests to evaluate airplane flying qualities, engine response, and cockpit instruments. Chief test pilot Mike Holton later said in Northrop Grumman’s release that:

“Our go-forward plan is to fly another flight to check out engine air start capability, and high angle of attack flying qualities, and then we will complete the installation of the weapon system. Once the weapon system is in, we will fly approximately 200 flights to evaluate the new radar. And just like Delta One, which flew its first flight on Aug. 3, Delta Two flew just like an E-2C.”

FY 2007

Rollout, 1st flight. E-2D, 1st flight
(click to view full)

Sept 26/07: Industrial. A $14.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract for non-recurring efforts to prepare for E-2D Advanced Hawkeye production at NGC and its suppliers. Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (56.42%); Menlo Park, CA (23.25%); various locations across the United States, (11.23%); and Bethpage, NY (9.1%) and is expected to be complete in December 2008 (N00019-03-C-0057).

Sept 26/07: Training. A $10 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract for the procurement of E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Prime Mission Equipment for E-2D Trainer requirements.

Work will be performed in Marlborough, MA (39%); Woodland Hills, CA (36.7%); Owego, NY (12%); Bethpage, NY (9.7%); Baltimore, MD (1.6%); and Sylmar, CA (1%) and is expected to be complete in July 2009 (N00019-03-C-0057).

Aug 3/07: 1st Dev Flight. The first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye development aircraft, known as Delta One, completes its first flight at St. Augustine, FL. Northrop Grumman Flight Test Pilot Tom Boutin and U.S. Navy Flight Test Pilot Lt. Drew Ballinger along with Northrop Grumman Flight Test Lead Weapon Systems Operator Zyad Hajo lifted off shortly before 11 a.m. and flew for approximately 1.3 hours. NGC release.

1st flight

July 9/07: A $408 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) for 3 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye pilot production aircraft, under the SDD phase.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (26.5%); at various locations across the United States (25.88%); Syracuse, NY (23.57%); St. Augustine, FL (18.63%); and Menlo Park, CA (5.42%) and is expected to be complete in August 2010. See also Northrop Grumman release.

Pilot production: 3 E-2Ds

April 30/07: Rollout. The first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye makes its first public appearance at a rollout ceremony in St. Augustine, FL. NGC release.


April 9/07: The Pentagon’s periodic Selective Acquisition Report updates us re: cost growth in the E-2D program. Full weapons program costs increased from $15,721.5 million to $17,487.0 million (up $1.76 billion/ 11.2%), due primarily to higher Mission Electronics, general procurement, and mission systems pricing (+$653.7 million), buying fewer aircraft per year over a longer period from FY 2009-2020 (+$374.8 million), and additional pilot production funding (+$169.0 million). There were also increases for the addition of the automatic identification system, dual transit satellite communication, and in-flight refueling requirements (+$137.1 million), a revised estimate to reflect new pricing for the system development and demonstration contract (+$234.3 million), and increases in initial spares, peculiar support equipment and training, and other production support costs (+$159.1 million).

At this estimate, each E-2D aircraft will cost $233.1 million when all R&D, pilot production, equipment, and initial support funds are factored in and amortized.

SAR – baseline

Nov 13-15/06: Northrop Grumman Corporation hosts the 5th annual International Hawkeye Users Conference at its manufacturing center in St. Augustine, FL. Every year, the company brings together members of the air forces and navies of Egypt, France, Japan, Mexico, Taiwan, Singapore and the United States to share lessons-learned and to learn about new capabilities and improvements planned for the world’s E-2 fleet. The NGC release adds that “together, these nations operate over 100 E-2C Hawkeyes…”

FY 2006 and Earlier

Development; CDR. E-2D #1, Assembly
(click to view full)

July 17/06: Northrop Grumman announces that it has mated the major sub-assemblies of the first E-2D Advanced Hawkeye test aircraft into a single fuselage structure at its St. Augustine, FL manufacturing center. NGC release.

Nov 17/05: CDR. Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy announce a successful E-2D critical design review (CDR). All the team’s basic designs, including the new radar, mission computer and workstations had been improved and vetted, and Northrop Grumman can now complete production of the 2 test aircraft to fulfill the SDD phase requirements. NGC release.


July 20/05: SDD add-on. A $22.6 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) to design, develop, fabricate, assemble, integrate, furnish, manage, test and evaluate an On-Board Oxygen Generating System for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft. Work will be performed in Bethpage, N.Y. (93.8%) and Davenport, Iowa, (6.2%), and is expected to be completed in December 2012.

March 29/04: SDD add-on. A $63.7 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) exercises an option for a Propulsion System Control Monitoring and Maintenance System (PSCMMS) for the E-2 Advanced Hawkeye (AHE). Specifically, the contractor will design, develop, fabricate, assemble, integrate, furnish, manage, test, evaluate and support a PSCMMS as part of the E-2 AHE System Development and Demonstration (SD&D) effort.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN (52.61%); Bethpage, N.Y. (41.08%); Windsor Locks, CT (3.92%); and Irvine, CA (2.39%), and is expected to be completed in May 2011.

Aug 11/03: SDD contract. A $1.932 billion cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the E-2 Advanced Hawkeye (AHE) system development and demonstration (SDD) phase, which will consist of modifying two E-2 Hawkeye 2000 aircraft to the E-2 AHE configuration. The contractor will design, develop, fabricate, assemble, integrate, furnish, manage, test, evaluate and support the software, hardware and engineering associated with the SDD phase.

Work will be performed in Bethpage, N.Y. (55.39%); at various locations across the United States (20.75%); Syracuse, N.Y. (13.91%); Baltimore, MD (4.98%); Menlo Park, CA (3.22%); and El Segundo, CA (1.75%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-03-C-0057).

E-2D development

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Airbus Wins South Korea Tanker Deal | Finns Buy More MANPADS | Kuwait Buys Dozen WMD Reconnaissance Trucks

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 23:45

  • The E-2D Hawkeye has passed a Critical Design Review for its air refueling capability, following a successful Preliminary Design Review in September last year and a $226.7 million engineering, manufacturing and development contract in 2013.

  • Huntington Ingalls Inc was handed a $75 million contract Wednesday for repair support for CVN-68 and CVN-70, including work on the ships’ nuclear propulsion systems, with the contract set to run to 2017.

  • The Navy also awarded a $29.1 million contract to Harris Corp. for 138 Distributed Targeting System Full Rate Production FRP 2 and FRP 3 B-kits for the Navy’s Super Hornets and Growlers. The DTS brings together data feeds from different sensors, and adds a pre-loaded, high-resolution imagery database to overlay on top of the sensor data. The idea is to be able to fire ground attack weapons with more certainty about the target.

  • In other sensor news, Lockheed Martin’s Legion targeting pod has completed its first flight test on a F-16. The Legion Pod was unveiled in February and is designed as an affordable networked Infrared Search and Track capability for F-15 and F-16 aircraft, with the company also eyeing potential installation on B-1 and B-52 bombers.


  • Saab has signed a $32.5 million contract with an undisclosed customer for RBS-70 Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), with these due for delivery by 2016. Previous customers include Finland and Brazil, with the latter signing a $12.2 million contract with the company last year.

  • The UK’s Defence, Equipment & Support procurement agency announced on Wednesday a $234.2 million contract for the Scout SV’s cannon. The deal with CTA International (CTAI), a joint venture between the BAE Systems and France’s Nexter, will see the company supply 515 40mm Cased Telescope cannons for the British Army’s future fleet of FRES Scout SV and Warrior vehicles.

  • The Netherlands has ordered twelve Bushmaster armored vehicles from Thales Australia, with these set to bring the total number of Bushmasters operated by the country to 98. The Dutch have ordered troop-carrier variants, equipped with Remote Weapon Stations and composite armor.

Middle East North Africa

  • Kuwait has signed a contract with Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Gmbh for twelve NBC reconnaissance vehicles. The model in question is the Fuchs (Fox) 2 APC-NBC-RS, with the value of the deal undisclosed. The vehicles will be delivered starting in 2017.

  • Tunisia will receive modified Black Hawk helicopters from the US, with the four UH-60Ms being fitted out with weapons, possibly including 7.62 mm M134 Miniguns, 12.7 mm GAU-19 Gatling guns and 70 mm Hydra rocket pods, as per a DSCA request in July last year. Tunisia signed a contract for eight unmodified Black Hawks in March, with the modifications set to be undertaken through a $79.7 million modification to this contract, with a completion date set for June 2019.


  • South Korea has selected Airbus’ bid to supply the country’s Air Force with four refueling tankers, beating competitors Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing for the $1.07 billion program. The winning bid – the A330 MRTT – dashed Boeing’s hopes of securing its first export order for the KC-46A, which saw a strong dollar raise its bid price compared with a weakened euro for the European bid. The four tankers are scheduled for delivery in 2019.

  • In an additional boost for Airbus, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has ordered an additional pair of KC-30A refueling tankers from the company, to augment the five already in service. The two aircraft will be converted from Qantas airliners at a cost of $314 million and are due for delivery in 2018.

Today’s Video

  • A demonstration of the RBS-70

Categories: News

Test Pilot Report: F-35, Lunky & Slow, Can’t Beat F-16 in Dog Fight | Saab Awarded 2 Swedish Subs | Georgia Beefing Up Air Defense

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 02:51

  • In a damning report obtained by War is Boring, the F-35A was out-performed by a F-16D in a mock dogfight in January. The newer jet failed to manoeuvre fast or agile enough to defeat the older fighter, despite the F-16 flying with two external fuel tanks. The unnamed pilot listed off numerous serious problems with the fighter, including a low nose climb rate and a cramped cockpit space, as well as other manoeuvrability issues reducing the ability of the pilot to see and kill the older jet, an issue that has come up before. On Monday Lockheed Martin was handed a $19.6 million contract modification to provide requirements development and maturation efforts for the Joint Strike Fighter.

  • Also on Monday the Navy handed Boeing a $358.9 million contract to provide long-lead production materials for twenty-nine Full Rate Production P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and ASW aircraft. The twenty-nine aircraft are split between Lots II and III, with the Navy set to take nine of the former and sixteen of the latter, with the remaining four Lot III aircraft earmarked for the Royal Australian Air Force. Boeing received a $295.6 million advance acquisition contract in August 2014 for long-lead items for a dozen Full Rate Production Lot II P-8A aircraft, with funding for four of these similarly destined for the RAAF.

  • The company was also handed a $10.1 million contract to integrate the Next Generation Jamming Pod onto Navy EA-18G Growlers, as part of the program’s hardware integration Phase II. The work is expected to take seven months.

  • Austal has
">laid the keel of the fourteenth Littoral Combat Ship in Alabama, with the future ship destined to become the USS Manchester. Austal shares the construction of the LCS program with Lockheed Martin under a $3.5 billion ten-ship block buy awarded in December 2010.

  • The Army awarded a $110.4 million contract modification to BAE Systems for thirty-six M88A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift Evacuation System (HERCULES) vehicles and spares. The company previously saw a contract in 2011 for forty-eight of the vehicles.

  • Brazil is planning to buy Russian Pantsir S-1 mobile air defense systems early next year, according to Russian press reports. Brazil has been looking at acquiring Russian hardware in the run-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics, with the Brazilian Defense Ministry sending a team of negotiators to Russia in October 2013 to begin contract negotiations for Pantsir and Igla air defense systems. Previous reports placed the signing of the deal towards the beginning of 2015, with this delayed owing to a slump in the Brazilian defense procurement budget.


  • Saab landed a $1 billion contract on Tuesday for the construction of two A26 submarines, in addition to planned upgrades to the Swedish Navy’s Gotland-class subs. The two Type A26 boats will be delivered in 2018 and 2019, with the Swedish government announcing their intention to procure the subs back in March. The announcement dispels rumours in the Swedish press last week which reported that the procurement was likely to be delayed owing to cost overruns.

  • Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has reportedly appropriated a CH-47 Chinook helicopter for use by his personal palace, with the twin-rotor helicopter thought to be one of five ordered in January to complement the six contracted for in August 2011. The helicopter is capable of transporting fifty-five troops – or (seemingly) one Turkish President.

  • Georgia is reportedly buying mobile air defense systems, with a deal signed between ThalesRaytheonSystems and the country’s defense ministry earlier this month. The precise model of system the country is procuring has not been disclosed. The Franco-US company produces the GM 200 mobile surveillance and engagement radar, with a model of this appearing at the signing of the contract. Another potential system that could be included in the deal is the Crotale, with this in service with over a dozen operators worldwide.


  • Angola will begin receiving SU-30K fighters from Russia in November, with the first pair of aircraft set to be followed by an additional ten next year. The SU-30Ks are part of a package of hardware and expertise being supplied by Belarus to the African state, with the fighters formerly belonging to the Indian Air Force. Following a $1 billion contract with Rosoboronexport in 2013, the deal was subsequently renegotiated in February, with the number of fighter Angola planned to procure cut from eighteen to a dozen. The fighters have been undergoing repairs and upgrades at the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant at Baranovichi, with Russian firm Irkut reportedly carrying out the engineering work. Angola has also been investing in its aviation infrastructure, including new airports capable of housing its new fighters.


  • The first Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-27J Spartan transport aircraft was delivered on Tuesday, the first of ten aircraft ordered in May 2012 through a $1.3 billion deal with manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi. The new fleet is a replacement for the RAAF’s aged fleet of C-130H transports, which were slashed as a result of defense spending cuts.

  • Following the delivery of the Afghani Air Force’s fourth and final C-130H transport aircraft last week, the US Air Force awarded a $72.1 million IDIQ contract to Illinois-based AAR Defense Systems and Logistics for Contractor Logistics Support. The company beat one other rival bid, with the contract scheduled to run to 2020.

Today’s Video

  • The C-27J Spartan demonstrates its manoeuvrability…

Categories: News

LCS: The USA’s Littoral Combat Ships

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 00:45
Austal Team
Trimaran LCS Design
(click to enlarge)

Exploit simplicity, numbers, the pace of technology development in electronics and robotics, and fast reconfiguration. That was the US Navy’s idea for the low-end backbone of its future surface combatant fleet. Inspired by successful experiments like Denmark’s Standard Flex ships, the US Navy’s $35+ billion “Littoral Combat Ship” program was intended to create a new generation of affordable surface combatants that could operate in dangerous shallow and near-shore environments, while remaining affordable and capable throughout their lifetimes.

It hasn’t worked that way. In practice, the Navy hasn’t been able to reconcile what they wanted with the capabilities needed to perform primary naval missions, or with what could be delivered for the sums available. The LCS program has changed its fundamental acquisition plan 4 times since 2005, and canceled contracts with both competing teams during this period, without escaping any of its fundamental issues. Now, the program looks set to end early. This public-access FOCUS article offer a wealth of research material, alongside looks at the LCS program’s designs, industry teams procurement plans, military controversies, budgets and contracts.

LCS: Concept & Needs LCS-I missions
(click to view full)

Ultimately, the US Navy is trying to replace 56 vessels: 30 FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates, 14 MCM Avenger Class mine countermeasures vessels, and 12 MHC-51 Osprey Class coastal mine hunters.

The LCS requirement has been identified as part of a broader surface combatant force transformation strategy, which recognizes that many future threats are spawning in regions with shallow seas, where the ability to operate near-shore and even in rivers will be vital for mission success.

That requires the ability to counter growing “asymmetric” threats like coastal mines, quiet diesel submarines, global piracy, and terrorists on small fast attack boats. It also requires intelligence gathering and scouting, some ground combat support capabilities, and the ability to act as a local command node, sharing tactical information with other Navy aircraft, ships, submarines, and joint units.

At the same time, however, the US Navy needs ships that can act as low-end fillers in other traditional fleet roles, and operate in the presence of missile-armed enemy vessels and/or aerial threats.

Given the diversity of possible missions in the shallow-water and near-shore littoral zones, and the potential threats from forces on land, any ship designed for these tasks must be both versatile and stealthy. History also suggests that they need to be able to take a punch. Meanwhile, the reality of ships that are expected to remain in service for over 30 years gives rise to a need for electronic longevity. As the saga of the USA’s cost-effective but short-lived FFG-7 frigates proved, “future-proofing” and upgradeability for key systems, electronics, and weapons will be critical if these small surface combatants are to remain useful throughout their mechanical lives.

While a ship’s hull and design makes a number of its performance parameters difficult to change, the Americans believed they may have a solution that lets them upgrade sensors and key systems. Denmark’s Standard Flex 300 corvettes pioneered a revolutionary approach of swappable mission modules, based on ISO containers. In contrast to the traditional approach, which is to cram a wide-ranging set of bolted-in compromise equipment into fixed installations, “flex ships” can radically changes the ships’ capabilities, by swapping in a full breadth of equipment focused on a particular need.

Swappable modules also give the Navy new options over time. One option is technology-based, via spiral development that focuses on rapid insertions of new equipment. This creates a long series of slight improvements in the mission modules, and hence the ship’s capabilities. Over time, the cumulative effect can be very significant. The 2nd benefit is cost-related, since upgrades require far less work and cost to install when mission technologies evolve. The 3rd benefit is risk-related. The ability to do low-cost, spiral upgrades encourages frequent “refreshes” that remain within the existing state of the art, rather than periodic upgrade programs that must stretch what’s possible, in order to handle expected developments over the next 25 years.

LCS: Designs & Teams

There are currently 2 different LCS designs being produced and procured as part of the competition.

LCS-1 Freedom Class Monohull

Team Lockheed Martin’s LCS-1 Freedom Class offers a proven high-speed semi-planing monohull, based on Fincantieri designs that have set trans-Atlantic speed records. The design will use the firm’s COMBATSS-21 combat system as the fighting electronic heart of the ship, has shock-hardened the engine systems, and uses a combination of a steel hull and aluminum superstructure. USS Freedom has faced persistent reports of weight and stability issues, however, which required additional bolt-on buoyancy fittings at its stern.

Team Lockheed LCS
(click to view full)

The ships have a smaller flight deck than the Independence Class at 5,200 square feet, but a larger 4,680 square foot helicopter hangar. The Freedom Class’ LCS mission bay is the biggest difference – it’s under half the size, at 6,500 square feet. On the other hand, its RAM missile launcher is the 21-round Mk.49, and if the ships need weapon upgrades, export designs stemming from the Freedom Class mount full strike-length Mk.41 vertical launch cells. These can handle any vertically-launched system in the fleet, including SM-3 anti-ballistic missile interceptors, and Tomahawk long-range precision attack missiles.

Lockheed’s core team includes various Lockheed divisions, plus naval architects Gibbs & Cox of Arlington, VA; shipbuilder Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, LA; and shipbuilder Marinette Marine of Marinette, WI. Niche providers and related partnerships include:

  • Angle Incorporated
  • Argon ST (threat detection systems)
  • Blohm + Voss
  • Data Links Solutions
  • DRS Technologies
  • EADS (TRS-3D radar)
  • Fairbanks Morse (Colt-Pielstick PA6B-STC diesel engines)
  • Fincantieri (diesel generators)
  • Izar (now Navantia)
  • L-3 Communications
  • MAAG Gear AG
  • MacTaggart Scott
  • Raytheon
  • Rolls Royce (MT30 gas turbines, shaftlines, bearings, software, Kamewa waterjets)
  • Sensytech
  • Sperry
  • Terma
  • Unidynamics
  • United Defense, now BAE Systems

LCS-2 Independence Class Trimaran USS Independence
(click to view full)

The LCS-2 Independence Class offers a futuristic but practical high-speed trimaran, based on Austal designs and experience with vessels like the US Marines’ Westpac Express high-speed transport, and the Army and Navy’s TSV/HSV ships. It offers an especially large flight deck (7,300 square feet) and internal mission volume (15,200 square feet mission bay) for its size, with a 3,500 square foot helicopter hangar. The hull is aluminum, but the trimaran design offers additional stability options, and may help the ship survive side hits.

The Independence Class will carry a General Dynamics designed combat system, and standard LCS weapon fittings. The RAM defensive missile launcher sacrifices some size, but the 11-round SeaRAM is a self-contained unit with its own radar. If the LCS should require a full suite of naval weapons in future, export designs based on the this class tout “tactical-length” vertical launch cells that are limited to shorter weapons like RIM-162 ESSM and SM-2 air defense missiles, and VL-ASROC anti-submarine missiles.

Not anymore…

The initial teaming arrangement was led by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipbuilder as prime integrator, with Austal of Mobile, AL (a subsidiary of Austal Ships of Australia) as the main design partner and ship-building site. That alliance was broken by the requirements of the 2010 RFP, which demanded a 2nd builder for the designs that was unaffiliated with the first.

Austal is now the sole prime contractor for the LCS-2 Independence Class design. GD subsidiaries remain heavily involved, including General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products Division in Burlington, VT; General Dynamics Electric Boat Division in Groton, CT; General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Fairfax, VA; and General Dynamics Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. Other key participants include:

  • Boeing in Seattle, WA
  • BAE Systems in Rockville, MD
  • L3 Communications Marine Systems in Leesburg, VA
  • Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, MD
  • Maritime Applied Physics Corporation in Baltimore, MD
  • GE (LM 2500 gas turbines)
  • MTU (8000 Series diesel engines)
  • Saab (AN/SPS-77v1 Sea Giraffe AMB radar)
  • Wartsila (water jets)

LCS = Standard Equipment + Mission Packages… LCS Flight 0 Basics
(click to view full)

At 115 – 127 meters in length and 2,800 – 3,100 tons of displacement, the USA’s competing LCS ship designs are almost the size of Britain’s Type 23 frigates. They might well be classified as frigates, were it not for their shallow water design and employment. For whatever reason, high speed has also been identified as an important ship characteristic. As such, both the GD/Austal trimaran and Lockheed’s racing-derived monohull offer potential top speeds of 40-50 knots over short distances.

No matter which mission modules are loaded, the ship will carry a BAE Systems Mk.110 57mm naval gun with a firing rate of up to 220 rounds/minute, and Mk.295 ammunition that works against aerial, surface or ground threats. The ship will also carry .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine guns, plus defensive systems including automated chaff/flare dispensers and a launcher for Raytheon’s RIM-116 RAM Rolling Airframe Missile. RAM is designed to handle anti-ship missiles, aircraft, UAVs, helicopters, and even small boats, but its range of just 9 km/ 5 nm will only protect its own ship. Unlike larger missiles such as the RIM-162 ESSM, RAM systems cannot perform fleet defense.

LCS ships will also rely on their onboard MH-60 helicopters and/or MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter UAVs, plus other robotic vehicles including a variety of Unmanned Underwater Vessels (UUV) and Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV). The terms have changed over time, but the US Navy has downgraded the term “mission modules” to mean individual components plus their support equipment. Integrated packages of weapons, sensors, robotic vehicles, and manned platforms that can be switched in and out depending on the ship’s mission are now called “mission packages.” They include all task-related mission modules, onboard aircraft, and their corresponding crew detachments.

The ships’ first and most important mission package is not officially listed. It consists of a small but very cross-trained crew. LCSs were intended to operate with a core crew of 40 (now 50) sailors, plus a mission module detachment of 15 and an aviation detachment of 25. Each ship has a Blue crew and a Gold crew, which will shift to 3 crews over time that can deploy in 4-month rotations.

There are concerns that this is a design weakness, leaving the LCS crew at the edge of its capabilities to just run the ship, with insufficient on-board maintenance capabilities, and too little left over for contingencies such as boarding and search, damage control, illnesses, etc. USS Freedom’s addition of 10 more bunks before her 1st Asian deployment indicates that the US Navy may be about to concede this point, but even with 50, performance wasn’t great.

Beyond the human element, the LCS program will initially draw upon packages for Mine Warfare (MCM: 24 planned), Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW: 16 planned) and Surface Warfare (SUW: 24 planned). The LCS Mission Modules Program Office (PMS 420) packages a variety of technologies to these ends, many of which are produced by other program offices and delivered as elements of a particular mission module. Costs per module have gone down over time, but that hasn’t been from any genius in planning and fielding. Rather, it results from a high program failure rate of individual components, and their replacement in the program by less expensive items:

The following DID articles offer in-depth coverage of current and proposed Mission Packages:

LCS: Controversies & Cautions Into battle
(click to view full)

The cost and size of LCS ships are now comparable to other countries’ high-end naval frigates. As the US Navy’s primary low-end vessels in the future fleet, they will be expected to perform many of the same roles. The cargo hold’s size has created some challenges in fitting all of the required equipment into the mission modules, without compromising high-end performance at the modules’ particular tasks. Even so, LCS ships can be expected to perform the mine countermeasures role very well, and the frigates’ traditional anti-submarine role reasonably well, thanks to their helicopters, array of robots, and rapidly upgradeable systems.

Other traditional roles for frigate-sized vessels are more controversial. The biggest controversy surrounds the ships’ one severe inflexibility: their weapons fit.

Present LCS designs don’t even carry torpedo tubes, or vertical-launch systems (VLS) that could accommodate present and future attack and/or defensive missiles. Even with the Surface Warfare module installed, LCS ships will carry a very light armament set for a major naval vessel: a 57-mm Mk 110 naval gun system; RIM-116 SeaRAM short range defensive missiles; 30mm cannons that would replace very short range Griffin missile launchers if installed; 12.7mm machine guns; plus any missiles or 70mm rockets carried by its accompanying helicopters (up to 2 H-60 slots or up to 4 MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV slots).

That armament is closer to a support vessel than a naval surface combatant, and larger high-speed support designs like the JHSV would offer far more mission module space for reconfigurable specialty support ships. Naval analyst Raymond Pritchett has pithily described the current compromise as:

“…3000 ton speedboat chasers with the endurance of a Swedish corvette, the weapon payload of a German logistics ship, and the cargo hold of a small North Korean arms smuggler.”

LCS-I components
(click to view full)

The LCS weapons array also compares unfavorably with comparable-sized frigates that can perform the full array of anti-submarine, fleet air defense, and naval combat roles. The new Franco-Italian FREMM Class, or even Britain’s much older Type 23/Duke Class, outclass it considerably as multi-role ships. So do smaller corvettes like Israel’s US-built, $260 million Sa’ar 5 Eilat Class, and Sweden’s ultra-stealthy Visby Class. Even the tiny Danish Flyvefisken Class, whose swappable “flex ship” modules helped pave the way for the LCS idea, has a Mk 48 vertical launch system that can handle medium-range air defense missiles, and mounts launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

LCS’ lack of weaponry may not matter against small boats like the “Boghammers,” fielded by the Iranians during their late-1980s guerrilla warfare at sea against the US Navy in the Persian Gulf. Unfortunately, many nations field 90’+ Fast Attack Craft equipped with anti-ship missiles. Despite being 1/3 the LCS’ length and 1/5 of its displacement or less, their employment would create a threat that could attack an LCS from beyond its range of reasonable retaliation, with weapons that the LCS’ may not be able to stop or survive.

It’s telling that brochures for the International LCS versions offered by each team feature a major radar capability boost via the small SPY-1F AEGIS system or other radar upgrade, and are armed with torpedo tubes, anti-ship missiles and vertical-launch system (VLS) cells.

USS Stark, 1987
(click to view full)

Meanwhile, survivability has become an issue on 3 fronts. One is the slim margins created by a very small crew, leaving little margin for tasks like damage control if automated systems are damaged or fail. The other issues involve questions of shock/survivability testing, and of aluminum structures. The original concept for LCS was a ship whose damage resistance could save the crew, but not the ship, in the event if a significant strike. That was upgraded slightly to potentially saving the crew and the ship, but not continuing to fight while doing so. As the Exocet missile strikes on the HMS Sheffield (sank) and USS Stark (survived, barely) proved, even steel warships designed to keep fighting after a strike may find it challenging to meet their design specifications. Navy revelations that the LCS ships would not meet even Level I standards, let alone the OPNAVINST 9070.1 Level II standard of the frigates they’ll replace, has caused some consternation.

So, too, has the use of aluminum in ships exposed to hostile fire. The LCS-1 Freedom Class uses an aluminum superstructure, while the LCS-2 Independence Class is primarily an aluminum design. While both ships have had to certify to the same fire-proofing standards asked of other ships, aluminum conducts heat very well, and melts or deforms easily. If the ancillary fire-fighting systems, resistant coatings, etc. fail, or cannot handle a given situation at sea, structural integrity problems and secondary fires could become fatal concerns very quickly.

The emerging scenario in the USA is a cost for the base ships that continues to hover around $400-500 million each, plus weapons, electronics, and mission modules that bring the price per fully-equipped ship to $450-600 million, even under the proposed new fixed-price contract. That’s no longer a cheap $220 million corvette class price tag. Instead, it’s a price tag that places the USA’s LCS at the mid-to-upper end of the international market for full multi-role frigate designs. Even as overall American procurement trends make LCS ships the most common form of US naval power.

In that environment, unfavorable comparisons are inevitable. A versatile surveillance and special forces insertion ship whose flexibility doesn’t extend to the light armament that’s its weakest point, and isn’t able to deal with anything beyond token naval or air opposition, won’t meet expectations. Worse, it could cause the collapse of the Navy’s envisaged “high-low” force structure if the DDG-1000 destroyers and CG (X) cruisers are priced out of the water, and built in small numbers.

That domino has already fallen, as DDG-1000/ DD (X), production has been capped at just 3 ships, and CG (X) was canceled entirely in the FY 2011 budget. As Vice-Admiral Mustin (ret.) and Vice-Admiral Katz (ret.) put it in a 2003 USNI Proceedings article:

“Because the Navy has invested heavily in land-attack capabilities such as the Advanced Gun System and land-attack missiles in DD (X), there is no requirement for [the Littoral Combat Ship] to have this capability. Similarly, LCS does not require an antiair capability beyond self-defense because DD (X) and CG (X) will provide area air defense. Thus, if either DD (X) or CG (X) does not occur in the numbers required and on time, the Navy will face two options: leave LCS as is, and accept the risk inherent in employment of this ship in a threat environment beyond what it can handle (which is what it did with the FFG-7); or “grow” LCS to give it the necessary capabilities that originally were intended to reside off board in DD (X) and CG (X). Neither option is acceptable.”

Especially if the low end has grown to a cost level that makes it equivalent to other countries’ major surface combatants, while falling short on key capabilities that will be required in the absence of higher-end ships.

The LCS Program

In 2009, the CBO estimated LCS shipbuilding costs at around $30.2 billion, with a fleet average of 1.2 mission modules per ship (TL. 66) bought separately at about $100 million per module. As of 2012, the split had changed a bit, but the overall total was around $39 billion. This contrasts with the original hope of $22 billion total costs for 55 ships and 165 mission modules, at $400 million per ship ($220M construction + (3 x $60M) mission module options).

The US Navy’s current shipbuilding plan envisions building 32 littoral combat ships and 64 mission modules until about 2040. Technically, only 45 LCS ships would count toward Navy fleet totals. Because these ships are assumed to have a service life of 25 years, the 10 or fewer ships bought from 2036 – 2040 would be replacements for the original ships of class. Even so, that number of LCS ships is likely to make up 20% of the Navy or more. The US Navy has already sagged to under 300 ships, and unless major changes in course lie ahead for its budget or its chosen designs, the total number of ships will sink farther.

Acquisition Structure

In July 2011, the Navy created PEO LCS to oversee the program, headed by Rear Adm. James A. Murdoch. Ship construction supervision was removed from PEO Ships, while mission module supervision was removed from PEO Littoral and Mine Warfare (PEO LMW), which was dissolved. It wasn’t the first big change in the program – and may not be the last.

It’s normal for programs to change elements like numbers ordered, but not to change the entire buy strategy. The Littoral Combat Ship program has shifted its entire buy strategy several times during its short lifetime – a sorry sequence of orders, budgets not spent, contract cancellations, etc. documented in Appendix A.

The last buy strategy has lasted long enough for a multi-ship contract. After buying 4 ships and taking bids under their 2009 revised strategy, the US Navy went to Congress and asked for permission to accept both 10-ship bids, buying 20 ships for a total advertised price that was about the same as the estimates for the 15 ships they had wanted. The GAO and CBO both have doubts about those estimates, in part because the Navy is still changing the designs; but the contracts were issued at the end of December 2010. Each contractor would get 1 initial ship order, then 9 more options, with the ship purchases spread across FY 2010-2011 (1 per year for each contractor); then FY 2012-2015 inclusive (2 per year for each contractor). Cost overruns will be shared 50/50 between the government and contractor, up to a set cost cap.


By the end of FY 2013, the program is expected to be at about a quarter of total procurement, in units ordered and dollars spent.

LCS: Ship Roster Team Lockheed, Freedom Class

  • LCS 1, USS Freedom. Commissioned Nov 8/08.
  • LCS 3, USS Fort Worth. Commissioned Sept 22/12.
  • LCS 5, Milwaukee
  • LCS 7, Detroit
  • LCS 9, Little Rock
  • LCS 11, Sioux City
  • LCS 13, Wichita
  • LCS 15, Billings

Team Austal, Independence Class

  • LCS 2, USS Independence. Commissioned Jan 16/10.
  • LCS 4, USS Coronado. Commissioned April 5/14.
  • LCS 6, Jackson
  • LCS 8, Montgomery
  • LCS 10, Gabrielle Giffords
  • LCS 12, Omaha
  • LCS 14, Machester
  • LCS 16, Tulsa

LCS: Export Potential MMCS
(click to view full)

Once one steps beyond small patrol craft, growing capabilities have made frigate-sized vessels the most common naval export around the globe. With many nations confronting challenges in the world’s littorals, which include the globe’s most important shipping choke points, one would expect some interest in the Littoral Combat Ship beyond the USA. A Dec 11/06 Austal release claimed 26 potential buyers worldwide for the ship and its companion equipment, “with two near-term contenders and four others that have expressed active interest.”

There are 2 interesting aspects to LCS export bids. One is their equipment, which is radically different from the US Navy’s set.

Lockheed Martin’s international Multi-Mission Combat Ship (MMCS) version, which attracted some interest from Israel before cost issues intervened, has a variety of configurations from OPV/corvette to large frigate size. Upgraded radars range from CEAFAR active-array radars on smaller ships, to the option of Lockheed’s SPY-1F for the largest variant. Fixed weapons include torpedo tubes and 8 Harpoon missiles, though some exhibit models have used 12 Kongsberg NSMs. Concept diagrams also show between 4-48 VLS cells, some of which are full strike-length size.

General Dynamics’ trimaran adds an upgraded radar (SPY-1F in diagrams), torpedo tubes, and 16 tactical-length vertical launch (VLS) cells.Among other payloads, those cells could hold VL-ASROC anti-submarine missiles to extend anti-submarine reach, or quad-packed RIM-162 ESSM anti-air missiles for area air defense. Exhibited models have also displayed up to 16 NSM anti-ship missiles.

Turkish MEKO 200
(click to view full)

The other aspect worth noting is the Littoral Combat Ship’s failure to close any export sales over 7+ years. At present, both LCS designs have received preliminary export inquiries, but Israel and Thailand are the only cases where it has gone farther than that.

Israel did step up in July 2008, and confirmed its request for an LCS-I based on Team Lockheed’s design. Israel’s variant was very different from LCS 1 Freedom, however; it featured a fixed set of weaponry rather than full mission module spaces, and its proposed SPY-1 AEGIS or MF-STAR radar and weapons array and made it far more capable in critical roles like air defense and ship to ship warfare. As noted above, similar changes have been a common theme among international LCS offerings, but an estimated ship cost of over $700 million eventually pushed Israel to rethink its plans. That country is now pursuing cheaper options based on Blohm + Voss’ MEKO family of corvettes and frigates, or South Korean designs. The Freedom Class also lost the Thai competition.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly expressed interest in a fixed armament version of the General Dynamics/Austal design. That interest was reiterated in 2010, but they’re also evaluating Lockheed Martin’s design for the Arabian/Persian Gulf fleet. In 2011, it emerged that the Saudis might skip an LCS buy altogether, in exchange for a much more heavily-armed, versatile, and expensive option: the USA’s DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class multi-role destroyers, with ballistic missile defense capability.

Meanwhile, designs like the German MEKO family, the multi-role Franco-Italian FREMM, the modular-construction Dutch Sigma class, and even refurbished 1980s-era NATO frigates continue to find buyers around the world.

LCS: Ship Contracts & Key Events

This section covers the core LCS program. Mission Packages are discussed in-depth in “It’s All in the Package: the Littoral Combat Ship’s Mission Modules“; and the complex mine countermeasures package gets its own in-depth treatment in “LCS & MH-60S Mine Counter-Measures Continue Development“.

Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued by the USA’s Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC.

FY 2015

LCS 7 & 8 christened; New TRS-4D radar for Freedom Class after LCS 15. LCS 4 & JHSV

Feb 23/15: USS Omaha keel laid, sixth in Independence class.
Austal USA laid the keel for the USS Omaha (LCS 12), the latest and sixth littoral combat ship in the Independence class.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel appears to have shied away from making any drastic dedision with the future of the LCS, by choosing to base 20 future Small Surface Combatants… based on “modified LCS hull designs.” The use of the plural form implies that there is no down-select to just one of the 2 LCS designs. By omission, mine warfare seems out, since modular requirements are maintained solely for capabilities against surface ships and submarines.

Predictably the SSCs will have to be both more survivable and better armed, since these points are among the weaknesses most often pointed out by LCS detractors. The list of goodies to achieve that:

  • over-the-horizon surface-to-surface missiles
  • air defense sensor and weapon upgrades
  • 1 advanced electronic warfare system
  • advanced decoys
  • 1 towed array system for submarine detection and torpedo defense
  • 2 25mm guns
  • 1 armed helicopter equipped with Hellfire missiles and MK-54 torpedoes
  • 1 unmanned FireScout helicopter for surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting

The armed helicopter and rotorcraft are not new, and 25mm guns are not going to make much of a difference except against the smallest threats. The rest is getting SSCs closer to how LCS has been pitched to export prospects, and to what even smaller ships pack in foreign fleets. Beyond that, the Navy still has to pin down many specifics, discuss crew size, or explain how they will contain costs.

Sources: US Navy Moving Forward With LCS | USNI News.

July 1/15: Austal has ">laid the keel of the fourteenth Littoral Combat Ship in Alabama, with the future ship destined to become the USS Manchester. Austal shares the construction of the LCS program with Lockheed Martin under a $3.5 billion ten-ship block buy awarded in December 2010.

Nov 17/14: CSBA Paper. The non-partisan CSBA releases “Commanding the Seas: A Plan to Reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare.” Their recommendations are wide ranging, including a major shift in US Navy weapons configurations toward higher capacity medium-range air defenses. That would take place in order to free up VLS cells for long-range offensive surface attack, anti-submarine, and air-denial weapons.

The paper believes that LCS ships should be forward based abroad, given their limited range and low ability to maintain themselves at sea. Their mission packages should also be disentangled from the LCS platform, creating “independent, stand-alone capability sets that could be carried on a wide range of ships in the National Fleet.” Beyond that, the SSC/ LCS could take advantage of LCS’ higher power generation to mount anti-aircraft rail guns and/or lasers, hosting RIM-162 ESSM air defense missiles, and distributing offensive attack capabilities via their VLS cells.

The paper recommends that the Navy pick 1 existing LCS design to convert to the SSC, adding a vertical launch system and retrofitting VLS to some of the Flight 0 ships as well. The problems come down to capability and cost. At minimum, an SSC derived from the LCS would need to carry the ASW mission package full-time, and incorporate longer-range missile capabilities via a vertical launch system. The reality is that the cost is inevitably higher than the $515 million for an LCS with the ASW package, but the Navy isn’t planning for any increase as it plans for 20 SSC ships. This is so even though the FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class, which was developed in the 1980s as a similar sort of budget frigate platform, would cost $774 million in adjusted modern dollars. Conclusion? The Navy won’t get 20 SSCs, which is one more reason to retrofit VLS cells on Flight 0 LCS ships. Sources: CSBA, “Commanding the Seas: A Plan to Reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare” (incl. full PDF) | USNI, “CSBA Recommends New Course for U.S. Navy Surface Forces”.

Nov 8/14: LCS 8 christened. The US Navy christens the Independence Class LCS 8 Montgomery, in a ceremony at Austal USA’s Mobile, AL shipyard. The ship was launched in August 2014, and is making preparations for trials and delivery in late summer 2015. Austal adds that:

“Jackson (LCS 6) is preparing for sea trials in early 2015. Final assembly is well underway Austal USA’s Bay 5 on Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) and in Bay 4 on Omaha (LCS 12). Modules for Manchester (LCS 14) and Tulsa (LCS 16) are under construction in Austal USA’s Module Manufacturing Facility.”

Sources: Austal, “USS Montgomery (LCS 8) Christened: Second Independence-variant LCS christened this year”.

Oct 28/14: LCS-1 sensors. Airbus North America announces that Freedom Class ships will have a new and improved radar, beginning with LCS 17. Instead of the current TRS-3D, they’ll be equipped with the more powerful and flexible TRS-4D naval radar, a rotating version of the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) fixed panel GaN radar that equips Germany’s forthcoming F125 Class expeditionary frigates.

AESA radars offers a 2x-3x range or resolution boost compared to PESA technologies, and GaN circuits offer further improvements to a radar’s power to performance ratio. Flexibility comes from programming that can segment and shift all of its individual T/R modules in order to steer beams, offer near-simultaneous modes, actively illuminate multiple targets, etc. What it doesn’t offer yet, is the Saab Sea Giraffe AMB’s ability to backtrack incoming artillery and rocket fire to its origin point.

There’s talk of moving to a single LCS radar, and maybe even a single combat system for the entire class. The TRS-3D was seen as being a step behind the LCS-2 Independence Class’ Sea Giraffe AMB, which can also backtrack incoming artillery to its origin point. The TRS-4D counters with superior overall performance, and strengthens EADS as a contender against the USMC’s TPS-80 G/ATOR, Saab’s Sea Giraffe 4A AESA, etc. It also improves Team Lockheed’s overall radar/ combat system position, which is already strong because of its interface commonalities with Aegis. Sources: Airbus North America, “New Radars Provided by Airbus Defense and Space, Inc., to Support Improved Survivability for the Freedom Variant Littoral Combat Ships”.

Oct 18/14: LCS 7 christened. The US Navy christens and side-launches trhe Freedom Class LCS 7 Detroit, in a ceremony at Marinette Marine Shipyard, WI. We’re trying to resist the temptation to make a crack about ceremonially burning down the mission module area, but we can’t resist. On the other hand, the city of Detroit hasn’t given up. A ship could do worse.

Detroit will continue to undergo outfitting and testing at Marinette until her expected delivery to the Navy in late 2015. Sources: US Navy, “Navy Christens, Launches Future USS Detroit” | LMCO, “Lockheed Martin-Led Team Launches Future USS Detroit”.

Oct 14/14: LCS-2 Support. Austal USA, LLC in Mobile, AL receives an $8.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise an option for Core LCS-2 Independence Class Services. They’ll assess engineering and production challenges, evaluate costs and schedule risks for engineering change proposals, and keep up class baseline documentation. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy shipbuilding budgets.

Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (60%), and Pittsfield, MA (40%), and work is expected to be complete in October 2015 (N00024-11-C-2301).

Oct 12/14: 57mm gun. The US Navy has removed BAE’s Mk.110 57mm naval gun from their DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class ships. The reported reason was that the 30mm Mk.46 RWS did better against key target types like small boats than the Mk.110 or notional 76mm guns. That’s more than slightly surprising to some observers, who note that a 30mm cannon is only lethal within about a mile – but the Navy is saying that they were equally surprised. Program Manager Capt. Jim Downey is quoted saying that:

“They were significantly over-modeled on the lethality…. The results of the actual live test-fire data was that the round was not as effective as modeled…. it gets into the range of the threat – the approach of the threat, what the make-up of the threat is and how it would maneuver, how it would fire against our ship. There is a whole series of parameters that are very specific on what the threat is and how you take it out through a layer of defenses…. not what we expected to see.”

Downey categorically denies that the Mk.110’s 10+ ton weight difference was an issue, and also confirmed that his program’s findings haven’t been shared with other NAVSEA entities like PEO LCS, let alone the Coast Guard who uses the gun on some cutters. The Navy is working on creating those mechanisms, but they don’t exist yet. Defense News, “Experts Question US Navy’s Decision To Swap Out DDG 1000’s Secondary Gun”.

Oct 9/14: LCS 7. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Baltimore, MD receives a $10.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, exercising an option for LCS 7 Detroit’s post-delivery support. This is normal, and involves deferred design changes that have been identified during the construction period, before the post-delivery test and trials. $500,000 in (FY 2011?) US Navy shipbuilding budgets is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Marinette, WI (57%); Hampton, VA (14%); Moorestown, NJ (11%); San Diego, CA (11%); and Washington, DC (7%), and is expected to be complete by October 2016 (N00024-11-C-2300).

Oct 9/14: LCS 8. Austal USA in Mobile, AL receives a $10.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, exercising an option for LCS 8 Montgomery’s post-delivery support. This is normal, and involves deferred design changes that have been identified during the construction period, before the post-delivery test and trials. $500,000 in FY 2011 US Navy shipbuilding budgets is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (70%); Pittsfield, MA (20%); and San Diego, CA (10%), and is expected to be complete by October 2016 (N00024-11-C-2301).

FY 2014

Orders for ships 17-20; Congress wimps out on oversight, but then USN wants to stop at 32 ships; USN finally wakes up to the importance of “combat” with the SSC frigate idea, but is it too late? BIW wins multi-year support contract for both types; LCS 5 & 6 launched; Mayport, FL to host 6 Freedom Class ships; Poor performance on LCS 1 deployment to Singapore; Naval Strike Missile test from LCS 4; Could rail guns and lasers save the day?; LCS lifecycle costs are high; Weight margins are a huge problem for LCS, and so is under-manning. Ch-ch-changes…

Sept 25/14: GAO on lead ships. The GAO issues a report saying that the Navy technically stayed within acquisition regulations in its acceptance of the 2 lead ships, thanks to cost-reimbursement contractual clauses. But extensive use of waivers to expedite LCS 1 and LCS 2 trials and acceptance, and for a variety of short-term concerns, led to a lot of additional time and money spent later on. That discussion may seem somewhat moot a decade after the initial contract awards, but consequences are felt to this day:

“Even as of August 2014, the combat management system continued to face significant limitations, which has restricted its use during fleet operations.”

Separately, the April 17 SAR report, obtained 2 months later through the Freedom of Information Act, shows the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) for LCS 2 is now set for August 2015, followed by Initial Operational Capability (IOC) 1 month later. According to the Navy, that delay trickled down from delayed completion of the Mine Countermeasures Mission Package’s (MCM MP) own IOT&E. Despite all of the delays, the first 2 ships in the class still don’t look very capable. Sources: GAO-14-827, “Navy Complied with Regulations in Accepting Two Lead Ships, but Quality Problems Persisted after Delivery” | CRS, “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” [Aug 4/14 update, PDF] | SAR [PDF].


Sept 23/14: Weapons. The US Navy confirms a successful live fire test of Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile from USS Coronado [LCS 4], via a launcher mounted on the flight deck.

NSM is a full-range, stealthy sub-sonic missile that delivers both anti-ship and land attack capability. Its presence would instantly turn the SuW module into something other than a joke, but the Navy is noncommittal about issuing a requirement that would lead to NSM integration with the existing LCS fleet. What is certain, is that a missile of this nature will be required as part of any SSC frigate 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.”

Sept 9/14: SSeCret. A classified briefing for the House Armed Services Committee about the findings of the small surface combatant task force is postponed at the last minute, with a new date yet to be rescheduled. A Navy spokesperson tells USNI that all they’re willing to talk about at this point is their thought process. The report itself was submitted internally on July 31, but the Navy does not want to talk about its content before budget negotiations with the Pentagon. If the past is any indication, the Navy will keep Congress in the dark as long as possible. Ronald O’Rourke notes in his CRS report, about the aborted 2009-10 downselect:

“…this was the third time in the history of the LCS program that the Navy presented Congress with an important choice about the future of the LCS program late in the congressional budget-review cycle, after Congress had completed its spring budget-review hearings and some of its committee markups.”

If the Navy wants ships in this category before the end of the decade, some sort of LCS 2.0 seems a much more realistic option rather than a brand new design – short of buying an off-the-shelf design abroad. So much for Secretary Hagel’s call that “all options are on the table” – and the core reason is the US Navy’s history of added costs and slow execution for ship designs that they haven’t fielded before. Source: USNI, “HASC Cancels LCS Replacement Briefing Over Lack of Information.”

Aug 22/14: Support. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives an initial $9.8 million cost-plus-award-fee contract to provide planning yard services in support of both variants of in-service Littoral Combat Ships. Bath Iron Works will be the single planning yard, providing engineering, planning, ship configuration, material and logistics support to maintain and modernize both variants of the LCS class, managing the scheduling of all planned, continuous, and emergent maintenance, and associated maintenance periods that involve multiple private and public organizations. $6.2 million in FY 2014 US Navy O&M budgets are committed immediately, and options could bring the contract’s cumulative value to $100.4 million.

Work will be performed in Bath, ME and is expected to be complete by August 2015. This contract was competitively procured via with 3 offers received. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-14-C-4313).

Dual-class Planning Yard services

Aug 22/14: Support. CACI Technologies, Inc. in Chantilly, VA is being awarded a $25.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for professional support services in support of Program Executive Office LCS. Services include professional services in the areas of: program management and acquisition support, technical and engineering support, business and financial management support and logistics support. $15 million is committed immediately from various budgets, and this contract includes options which could bring its cumulative value to $44 million.

Work will be performed in Washington, DC (90%); Norfolk, VA (4%); San Diego, CA (2%); Panama City, FL (2%); Newport, RI (1%); and Monterey, CA (1%), and is expected to be complete by February 2015. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1) as implemented in FAR 6.302-1. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-14-C-6307).

Aug 7/14: Basing. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announces that Naval Station Mayport, FL, will be receiving 6 Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ships: LCS 9 Little Rock, LCS 11 Sioux City, LCS 13 Wichita, LCS Billings, LCS 17 Indianapolis, and LCS 19. NS Mayport, which recently lost its frigates, will pick up about 900 Sailors and support personnel. Sources: Maritime Executive, “Six Navy LCS’ Find Homeport”.

July 31/14: LCS-1 Support. Rolls Royce Marine North America in Walpole, MA receives a $9 million firm-fixed-price repair order for the repair of 1 MT-30 gas turbine engine for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Freedom variant, including re-assembly into the LCS configuration, and pass-off testing to validate performance. All funding is committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy O&M budgets.

Work will be performed in Bristol, UK and is expected to be complete by February 2016. The order was not competitively procured in accordance with 10 USC. 2304(c)(1), by US NAVSEA in Washington, DC (N00104-09-G-A755).

LCS testing plan
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July 30/14: GAO Report. The US GAO releases another LCS-related report, which looks at the program as a whole but has a greater emphasis on the class’ weight issues. Both initial ships have inadequate weight margins, and the LCS-2 Independence Class will stay that way even after the design is stabilized for LCS 6, with just 31.3 tons to spare (3,156.7 tons of 3,188.0 Naval Architectural Limit) instead of 50. The LCS-1 Freedom Class does better, with 67.3 tons to spare by LCS 5 (3,482.7 tons of 3,550.0 NAL). GAO recommends changes to contractor weight reporting, whose lack of centralized tracking has contributed to surprise weight problems.

Low margins are problematic, because they harden the 105-ton limit for mission packages, and limit or inflate the cost of weapon upgrades, extra crew, or other changes needed to make the ship relevant throughout its life. Accepting the penalty of going overweight, on the other hand, would hurt ship speed, handling, range, and service life. USS Freedom is itself overweight, and she illustrated this problem during the Singapore deployment. Her gas turbines had to remain switched off most of the time to conserve fuel, giving this “fast” ship such slow transit speeds that it was “hard for LCS to easily or efficiently get around the [7th fleet’s large Pacific] theater”.

To make matters worse, there’s already a call for extra weight. It will take another 10-20 tons, and a pervasive ship redesign, to address the under-crewed fatigue demonstrated during LCS 1’s Singapore deployment. That was present even though the crew recruited contractor technical representatives for routine ship tasks, during a peacetime operation. The Navy’s response is that they don’t intend to change the number of people on board, and they’re also compromising the ship’s mission capability in other ways:

“Navy weight estimates for increment 4 of the MCM mission package, however, do not reflect all the systems being acquired for that package. Space and weight constraints have required the Navy to modify how it intends to outfit increment 4 of the MCM mission package. Although the Navy plans to acquire all the systems planned for that increment, space and weight limitations will not allow LCS seaframes to carry all of these systems at one time. According to LCS program officials, MCM mission commanders will have either (1) the Unmanned Influence Sweep System and the unmanned surface vehicle that tows it, or (2) the minehunting Surface Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Undersea Vehicle—called Knifefish—available—but not both systems. As a result, LCS seaframes outfitted with the increment 4 MCM package may have decreased minesweeping or mine detection capability.”

The final argument has to do with the RFP to continue production after LCS 24. GAO recommends no approval for additional ships or even an RFP until both seaframes have deployed to “a forward overseas location” like Singapore (not scheduled for the Independence Class until 2017); completed rough water, ship shock, and total ship survivability testing; and completed initial operational test and evaluation of the SUW mission package on the Freedom variant and the MCM mission package on the Independence variant. The Navy, as usual, wants to keep production going regardless, setting continued production and savings now vs. the risk of major RFP amendments and delays, expensive refits later, or flawed ships on the front lines. Sources: GAO-14-749, “Littoral Combat Ship: Additional Testing and Improved Weight Management Needed Prior to Further Investments.”

July 26/14: Force structure. The US Navy has a problem. Its 11 remaining FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates have largely been disarmed, but they’re still underway on missions more often than many other fleet ships. When the frigates are all retired by FY 2015, the US Navy will only have 8 LCS ships, with no real anti-submarine capability beyond a helicopter, and an unproven ability to sustain existing missions like longer-term counter-drug operations or carrier escort.

CSBA analyst Cmdr. Bryan Clark (ret.) sees the US Navy falling back on cargo vessels, the Mobile Landing Platform ship, and JHSV transport catamarans to pick up some of the slack. Even so, anti-submarine work will devolve to its high-end destroyer fleet, and recent issues with sustained operations during LCS-1 Freedom’s initial trials are not encouraging. Sources: Gannett’s Navy Times, “Retiring frigates may leave some missions unfilled”.

July 24/14: Weapons. The US Navy confirms that USS Coronado [LCS-4] is scheduled to test-launch Kongsberg’s stealthy, 13-foot Naval Strike Missile (NSM) at the Point Mugu, CA test range. NAVSEA says this isn’t about any specific requirement, it’s just a one-off event to test the Independence Class’ ability to handle more advanced weapons, and “provide insights into the weapon’s stated capabilities of increased range, survivability and lethality.”

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. 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.

The Independence Class’ too-small weight margin may seem to be a problem for heavy weapons, but the “Surface Warfare” module is so vestigal that there’s plenty of weight margin in the mission package’s 105-ton weight limit. The anti-submarine module is also pretty basic, and it will be interesting to see if the class can handle an ASW/SuW fleet scout loadout.

On a related note, the NSM is a candidate to eventually replace the sea-skimming, radar-guided RGM-84 Harpoon missiles abord 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 17/14: SAC Budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee approves a $489.6 billion base FY 2015 budget, plus $59.7 billion in supplemental funding. It includes the LCS, but they aren’t pleased in the shift from 4 ships to 3, and the planned extension of block-buy pricing into FY 2016. They also note the program cut to 32 and the untested performance of the mission modules:

“Given the testing concerns raised by GAO and the Department’s current strategic pause on the LCS program, the Committee finds it prudent to also slow the procurement of LCS mission modules. Therefore, the Committee recommends a total reduction of $71,314,000 to the fiscal year 2015 budget request for LCS mission modules and related components.”

See also DID, “FY15 US Defense Budget Finally Complete with War Funding”.

Life-cycle costs
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July 8/14: GAO Report. After USS Freedom returned to San Diego from its mission in Asia, nearly every LCS stakeholder – including the operational commander of the ship in Singapore (Commander, Destroyer Squadron Seven) and each of the USS Freedom crews – produced lessons-learned summaries. Mostly, we’ve learned that the Freedom Class has some critical problems in real-world 7th Fleet operations, and that its operating costs will approach destroyers with 3x its tonnage.

Bluntly, the ship’s crew of 50 still couldn’t cope, even in peacetime, testing nothing of substance beyond RHIB boats, and with onboard defense contractor support reps drafted into jobs they weren’t supposed to be doing. Crews averaged 6 hours sleep while underway, instead of the Navy’s recommended 8.

The “good” news is that USS Freedom spent 58% of its time in port, vs. a 20% average for other fleet ships. Mechanical issues were part of that, with 55 total mission days lost that cut short 2 exercises and removed 2 planned operations. It might have been worse, but failure-prone medium-pressure air compressors were constantly monitored by sensors and replaced before they could fail.

On the costs front, the number of shore personnel to support the ship has more than tripled from 271 in the 2011 estimate to 862. An updated life-cycle cost estimate is expected in fall 2014, but GAO estimates place them at $79 million ($64M ships + $15M mission modules) per ship per year, vs. $24M for a minehunter, $54M for a frigate, and $88M for a DDG-51 Ballistic Missile Defense destroyer. Additional overseas deployment-related cost data is likely to raise LCS costs, but deployment schedules mean that we probably won’t have good data for both variants until well after 2017. Sources: GAO-14-447, “Deployment of USS Freedom Revealed Risks in Implementing Operational Concepts and Uncertain Costs” | USNI, “Document: GAO Report on USS Freedom Deployment”.

June 13/14: LCS 4. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives $11.7 million cost-plus-award-fee modification to the previously awarded order to provide engineering and management efforts in support of USS Coronado’s [LCS 4] post-shakedown availability work, to fix the last set of things from INSURV testing. The ship was commissioned on April 5/14.

$5 million in FY 2014 ship conversion budgets is committed immediately. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete by December 2014. The US Navy’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair in Bath, Maine manages the contract (N00024-13-G-2316, #0001).

May 12/14: MQ-8 MUT. USS Freedom [LCS 1] operates an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and MQ-8B Fire Scout VTUAV together off the coast of San Diego, CA for VBSS (visit, board, search & seizure) exercises. Flying them together doesn’t seem like much, but operating safely in the same space as a manned helicopter is something that needs to be worked out very thoroughly before it can be used operationally.

June 13/14: LCS 4. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives $11.7 million cost-plus-award-fee modification to the previously awarded order to provide engineering and management efforts in support of USS Coronado’s [LCS 4] post-shakedown availability work, to fix the last set of things from INSURV testing. The ship was commissioned on April 5/14.

$5 million in FY 2014 ship conversion budgets is committed immediately. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete by December 2014. The US Navy’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair in Bath, Maine manages the contract (N00024-13-G-2316, #0001).

May 12/14: MQ-8 MUT. USS Freedom [LCS 1] operates an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and MQ-8B Fire Scout VTUAV together off the coast of San Diego, CA for VBSS (visit, board, search & seizure) exercises. Flying them together doesn’t seem like much, but operating safely in the same space as a manned helicopter is something that needs to be worked out very thoroughly before it can be used operationally.

Fire Scouts can maintain longer surveillance over a target or area of interest, but these helicopter UAVs lack the total firepower and/or troop capacity of an MH-60R or MH-60S. Sources: NGC, “Northrop Grumman, US Navy Conduct Successful Simultaneous Manned, Unmanned Helicopter Flight Tests Aboard the Littoral Combat Ship”.

May 6/14: Cyber-security. US Fleet Cyber Command head Vice Admiral Jan Tighe says that the Navy is working to close the cyber-security gaps identified in the 2013 DOT&E report (q.v. Jan 28/14). The Navy has teams considering “what do they need to do to change, and/or replace” on Freedom Class (and presumably Independence Class) ships, in order to close gaps and create the communications systems needed to transmit critical data to the shore-based support facilities LCS ships are so dependent upon. Sources: Bloomberg, “Cyberdefenses for Littoral Combat Ship Getting Retooled”.

April 30/14: Politics. It looks like LCS support is well and truly slipping. The House Seapower subcommittee version of the FY 2015 defense spending bill would cut planned Navy buys from 3 ships to 2, plus advance procurement funding for 2 in FY 2016, while prioritizing submarines and aircraft carriers. Worse:

“A source familiar with the subcommittee’s deliberations noted there had been a “real effort to zero out the LCS request,” based on perceptions of a flawed program and the need to eliminate some spending.”

20+ ships into a program is a bit late for such realizations, but the reality of not enough money is beginning to force choices that Congress didn’t really have to face before. Sources: Defense News, “House markup cuts one LCS, supports 11 carriers” | Subcommittee markup [PDF] | Full committee NDAA.

April 22/14: Support. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives an unfinalized $28.7 million contract for Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class design services. This includes class baseline design services, class documentation services, class engineering studies and interim support services.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 shipbuilding and FY 2014 RDT&E budgets. Work will be performed in Bath, ME (54%); Pittsfield, MA (45%); and Mobile, AL (1%), and is expected to be complete by May 2015. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-2302).

April 17/14: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/13 Selected Acquisitions Report, which includes LCS.

“Program costs decreased $11,332.1 million (-33.4%) from $33,955.5 million to $22,623.4 million, due primarily to a quantity decrease of 20 ships from 52 to 32. The Department of Defense has determined that no new contract negotiations beyond 32 Flight 0+ LCS ships will go forward. The Navy has been directed to complete a study to support the future procurement of “a capable and lethal small surface combatant.” The Navy has also been directed to submit “alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant,” and the study should consider options for “a completely new design, existing ship designs (including LCS), and a modified LCS.” This SAR reflects the initial estimate of a 32-ship LCS program. The results of the study, to be completed in time to inform the FY 2016 President’s Budget, will determine the configuration of the ships (future flight of LCS or different small surface combatant) that will fulfill the small surface combatant requirement.”

Program cut cuts costs

April 9/14: SSCTF RFI. The US Navy issues a very non-specific Request for Information #N00024-14-R-2306, in the hopes that responses will inform its SSCTF (Small Surface Combatant Task Force). Basically, they’re looking at specifications and cost drivers for existing designs, but they don’t specify what range they’re looking in:

“The Navy is interested in the shipbuilding industry perspective on mature ship designs and concept designs that have the capability and lethality generally consistent with a small surface combatant. Systems and sub-system information will be the subject of the second RFI. The Navy is also interested in market information on system and sub-system level approaches to providing small surface combatant combat capabilities including hull, mechanical and electrical systems; weapon and sensor systems; command, control, communications, computers and intelligence networks; electronic warfare systems; signature reduction technologies; and mission module concepts for consideration in future small surface combatants including modified LCSs.”

Sources:, “Intent to Issue Requests for Information (RFI) for Market Information Pertinent to the Navy’s Future Small Surface Combatant”.

RFI for frigate replacement

April 9/14: Weapons. The US Navy confirms that they have picked the AGM-114L Hellfire Longbow radar-guided missile as the SUW Package’s initial missile. Lockheed Martin’s Hellfire wouldn’t have any more range than Raytheon’s Griffin (~3.5 nmi), but the radar seeker allows the ship’s radar to perform targeting, while allowing salvos of multiple fire-and-forget missiles against incoming swarms. In contrast, the Griffin’s laser designation must target one boat at a time, from a position that’s almost certain to have a more restricted field of view than the ship’s main radar.

Lockheed Martin says that the missile has had 3 successful test firings in vertical launch mode, and there are plans to test-fire the missile from LCS itself in 2014, using a new vertical launcher. Navy AGM-114L missiles would be drawn from existing US Army stocks, which will have shelf life expiry issues anyway. That’s one reason the Army intends to begin buying JAGM laser/radar guided Hellfire derivatives around FY 2017. Sources: DoD Buzz, “Navy Adds Hellfire Missiles to LCS” | USNI News, “Navy Axes Griffin Missile In Favor of Longbow Hellfire for LCS”.

April 7-8/14: Weapons. With the USA considering its options for 20 frigates, Finmeccanica is proposing the OTO Melara 76mm Super Rapid gun as an upgrade to existing and future LCS/ASSC ships. Already in service with 56 navies, the water-cooled gun can maintain high rates of fire, while extending naval gun range. Specialty options include GPS-guided Vulcano super long-range shells for naval fire support out to 22 nmi, or the optional STRALES system that adds a radar to the gun mount, and uses DART radar-guided shells for surface warfare and air defense. The bad news is that the US Navy isn’t sure that it will fit on the LCS-2 Independence Class’ narrow hull (q.v. CRS report, Feb 25/14).

Meanwhile, Kongsberg is presenting scale models of armed Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) at the Sea-Air-Space 2014 Exposition, fitted with their stealthy new Naval Strike Missile. The Freedom Class gets 12 NSMs in 2 recessed modules above the helicopter hangar, while the trimaran Independence Class ends up with 18 missiles in 2 recessed launchers just behind the bridge, and another 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 aircraft, and this configuration wouldn’t require ship radar upgrades. That could even position them for the post-2019 Surface Warfare Module upgrade within the existing fleet. On the other hand, a real frigate-type ship will need other weapons, which means 8 or more Mk.41 vertical launch cells that can carry VL-ASROC anti-submarine rockets, longer range air defense missiles like quad-packed RIM-162 ESSMs, etc. Unless the air defense missiles have independent guidance, like MBDA’s Sea Ceptor or Raytheon’s future ESSM Block 2, a frigate-class radar and combat system will also be necessary. Sources: DoD Buzz, “Finmeccanica Proposes 76mm Gun for LCS” | Naval Recognition, “Sea-Air-Space 2014 Show Daily News – Kongsberg NSM”.

April 5/14: LCS 4. USS Coronado is commissioned at North Island Naval Air Station, in Coronado, CA next to San Diego. This ship is 6 months late, but shows quality improvements over LCS 2. Which you’d certainly hope would be the case, compared to a first-in-class ship. Sources: UT San Diego, “USS Coronado commissioned”.

LCS 4 commissioned

April 4/14: Manning. Breaking Defense published the results of an unreleased study re: LCS 1’s Singapore deployment:

“[LCS sailors] averaged about six hours of sleep per day, 255 below the Navy’s eight-hour standard, and key personnel such as engineers got even less. That’s in spite of

  • extensive reliance on contractors both aboard and ashore, with a “rigid” schedule of monthly returns to Singapore that restricted how far from port the LCS could sail;
  • the decision to increase Freedom‘s core crew by 25 percent, from 40 to 50 — the maximum the ship can accommodate without a “significant” redesign; and
  • the 19-sailor “mission module” crew, who are supposed to operate LCS’s weapons, helicopters, and small boats, pitching in daily to help the core crew run the ship’s basic systems.

The core crew’s engineering department in particular told GAO they had no idea how they’d keep the ship going without help from the mission module’s engineers. But…. while the entire 19-sailor anti-surface module crew has skills useful in running the ship itself, the MCM crew has only four sailors who could help, and the ASW module only one. That means an LCS outfitted to hunt mines or subs would effectively be 15 to 18 sailors short – about 20 to 25 percent.”

The Navy says they’re testing engineering modifications and new approaches. But then, that’s what they’ve always said about this issue. Sources: Breaking Defense, “Sleepless In Singapore: LCS Is Undermanned & Overworked, Says GAO”.

Manning still a problem

April 2/14: Testing. Austal USA in Mobile, AL receives a $6.7 million contract modification to build a live fire test module in support of the Navy’s LCS-2 Independence variant LCS survivability testing program. It certainly took the Navy long enough to get this going.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 RDT&E budgets. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL, and is expected to be complete by March 2015. Fiscal 2013 research, development, test and evaluation funding in the amount of $6,726,406 will be obligated at the time of award and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The USN Supervisor of Shipbuilding Gulf Coast in Pascagoula, MS manages the contracts (N00024-11-C-2301). See also Austal, “Austal Awarded Contract For Survivability Testing On LCS”.

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. The LCS has 16/18 key technologies listed as mature, the 2 exceptions being LCS-1 mission bay overhead launch and retrieval system and the LCS-2 aluminum structure. Design changes include a stronger stern ramp for LCS-1 ships, and bridge wings and a 7m RHIB boat for LCS-2 ships. The report adds:

“LCS 1 completed a ten-month deployment to the western pacific in December 2013 where it operated out of Singapore. During this deployment it encountered two significant engineering issues that significantly curtailed its ability to get underway: the lubrication cooling system ruptured and the ship service diesel engine generator had reliability issues. In addition to these engineering issues, LCS 1 had a number of combat system and other material failures; including radar underperformance and the combat system unexpectedly rebooting during operations.”

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The USAF and USN unveil their preliminary budget request briefings, and slowly release numbers over the next week. LCS procurement drops from 4 ships to 3 in FY15, but then it actually rises from 2 to 3 per year in FY16, FY17, and FY18, and overall budgets rise too. That would close out Hagel’s 32-ship limit. The Navy’s presentation also shows 2 LCS ships beyond that, however, in FY19. A note indicates that this is “Pending FY16 decision.”

The obvious resolution of the Navy presentation’s discrepant data would involve an initial advanced small surface combatant award. The Pentagon’s noises about “alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, consistent with the capabilities of a frigate” have dominated outside discussions ever since Hagel’s Feb 24/15 briefing. The extent of the required changes make it difficult to understand how they could move forward under current acquisition regulations, without creating a new program. On the other hand, detailed budget documents show a Navy that intends to continue LCS as a program beyond the 32 ships. Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF].

March 10/14: FY 2014. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC issues the FY14 orders for 4 Littoral Combat Ships. Ships 17-20 will cost a total of $1.383 billion:

Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, MD receives $698.9 million for LCS 17 & 19, including basic seaframe construction, selected ship systems integration and test, and some onboard systems like engines and radars that aren’t bought under independent contracts.

All funds are committed immediately, using Navy FY14 shipbuilding budgets. Work will be performed in Marinette, WI (56%), Walpole, MA (14%), Washington, DC (12%), Oldsmar, FL (4%), Beloit, WI (3%), Moorestown, NJ (2%), Minneapolis, MN (2%), and various locations of less than 1% each (7%), and is expected to be complete by June 2018 (N00024-11-C-2300).

Austal USA in Mobile, AL receives $683.7 million for LCS 18 & 20, including basic seaframe construction, selected ship systems integration and test, and some onboard systems like engines and radars that aren’t bought under independent contracts.

All funds are committed immediately, using Navy FY14 shipbuilding budgets. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (51%), Pittsfield, MA (13%), Cincinnati, OH (4%), Baltimore, MD (2%), Burlington, VT (2%), New Orleans, LA (2%), and various locations of less than 2% each (26%), and is expected to be complete by June 2018 (N00024-11-C-2301).

FY15: 4 ships

March 10/14: LCS-FFG. Ever since Hagel’s late February announcement, his mention of a Small Surface Combatant/ frigate as a follow-on after LCS #32 has dominated discussion. Recall: “I’ve directed the Navy to consider a completely new design, existing ship designs, and a modified LCS.” His memo to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus specifies that “These assessments should consider survivability, performance, sustainment cost, materiel readiness, lethality and growth potential…”

CNO Adm. Greenert now says he will disband the LCS Council, which still seems to have work to do in terms of getting the ships ready to deploy and work with the fleet, in favor of a group that will study the Navy’s Small Surface Combatant options.

Early indications are that it won’t be much of a study. SecNav Mabus has already compared the task to successive flight/block modifications of previous ship classes, while continuing a strained relationship with the truth by dismissing license-built foreign designs as: “Well, number one, I don’t think any foreign design is up to our — our standards.” That’s patently ridiculous, and indicates either a lack of the most basic grasp of this field, or willful dishonesty. Breaking Defense is quite correct in adding that many off-the-shelf foreign designs would be far superior – though they miss Navantia’s serving 5,300t Nansen Class ASW frigate, which already comes with Lockheed’s SPY-1F radar and AEGIS combat system, and uses the Mk-41 VLS. Norway paid Navantia $480 million per ship (NOK 21 billion for 5, on June 23/00).

Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute argues that the design has to be an LCS derivative for a different reason – the Navy doesn’t have a decade to hold the competition, design a new vessel, and get it produced. That kind of wait would push the future frigate’s funding right into the buzz-saw of SSBN-X and F-35B/C buys. Which is true.

On the other hand, neither LCS model has a fully-armed derivative in even detail design form, and both LCS contenders have potential issues that will require added testing if the ships’ size grows. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman is proposing a frigate variant of the USCG’s Bertholf Class cutter. It would be interesting to compare development and certification times for a lengthened LCS with different weight distribution and new systems, vs. NGC’s model. Or vs. a close Nansen Class derivative built by Bath Iron Works. Sources: Breaking Defense, “LCS Lives! Mabus, Hamre Argue Littoral Combat Ship Will Survive Cuts” | Defense News, “CNO: Group Will Study New LCS Designs” | Forbes, “Navy Has Few Options If Littoral Combat Ship Falters”.

Feb 28/14: Support. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC exercises a pair of options to perform post-delivery planning, and implementation of deferred design changes, on the Freedom Class ship Milwaukee [LCS 5] and the Independence Class ship Jackson [LCS 6].

Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, MD receives $10.8 million for LCS 5. All funds are committed immediately, using USN FY10 shipbuilding budgets. Work will be performed in Marinette, WI (57%); Hampton, VA (14%); Moorestown, NJ (11%); San Diego, CA (11%); and Washington, DC (7%), and is expected to be complete by October 2015 (N00024-11-C-2300).

Austal USA in Mobile, A receives $7.1 million for LCS 6. All funds are committed immediately, using USN FY10 shipbuilding budgets. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (70%); Pittsfield, MA (20%); and San Diego, CA (10%) and is expected to be complete by September 2015 (N00024-11-C-2301).

Feb 25/14: CRS Report. The US Congressional Research Service revises their Background and Issues for Congress report. While the report includes useful information about the program’s history, and details some of the current problems with both seaframes, its timing means that the basis for the Pentagon’s move to stop at 32 LCS ships is a focus. CRS raises the concern that the same ‘field first, analyze missions and design next, justify in retrospect’ philosophy may be applied to the follow-on frigate. Is a frigate the best option for meeting the described need? They do admit that:

“Countering improved Chinese maritime military forces will involve procuring ships (such as destroyers and attack submarines) that are oriented toward ballistic missile defense, anti-ship cruise missile defense, countering larger surface ships, and countering submarines that are operating far from shore as well as in littoral waters.48 The LCS is not optimized for most of these missions.”

The report’s pricing for mission packages is useful; according to an Aug 26/13 Navy document, the common equipment for all sets is $14.9 million, the MCM Package is $97.7 million (TL $112.6M), the “SUW” Package is $32.6 million (TL $47.4M), the future ASW Package is $20.9 million (TL $35.8M). Given that key mission packages like ASW aren’t even close to being fielded yet, and that some aspects like waterjet propulsion are ill-suited to the ASW mission, it’s hard to see the basis for saying:

“When assessed in terms of ability to perform the LCS program’s three primary missions [Mines, Small boats, and Submarines in shallow waters], the LCS fares well in terms of weaponry and other ship features in comparisons with frigate and corvette designs operated by other navies.”

Sources: US CRS, “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress”.

Mission Module costs

Feb 24/14: Backing away? The announcement isn’t a surprise (q.v. Jan 6/14), but there’s less to Chuck Hagel’s FY 2015 pre-budget briefing on the LCS than meets the eye:

“Regarding the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, I am concerned that the Navy is relying too heavily on the LCS to achieve its long-term goals for ship numbers. Therefore, no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward. With this decision, the LCS line will continue beyond our five-year budget plan with no interruptions.

The LCS was designed to perform certain missions – such as mine sweeping and anti-submarine warfare – in a relatively permissive environment. But we need to closely examine whether the LCS has the protection and firepower to survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia Pacific. If we were to build out the LCS program to 52 ships, as previously planned, it would represent one-sixth of our future 300-ship Navy. Given continued fiscal constraints, we must direct shipbuilding resources toward platforms that can operate in every region and along the full spectrum of conflict.

Additionally, at my direction, the Navy will submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, consistent with the capabilities of a frigate. I’ve directed the Navy to consider a completely new design, existing ship designs, and a modified LCS. These proposals are due to me later this year in time to inform next year’s budget submission.”

Consideration of these questions is a decade overdue, but there’s only 1 takeaway here that really means anything: “the LCS line will continue beyond our five-year budget plan with no interruptions”. They haven’t actually terminated the program, and they can negotiate for up to 8 ships beyond the current block buy that ends in FY15, and follow-on comments from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus show that he overwhelmingly favors modifying LCS for the Small Surface Combatant. This is so despite likely issues with effective anti-submarine warfare due to waterjet noise, low damage tolerance, and comparative cost vs. proven frigates once upgrades to the radar, combat system, and weapons are added. Sources: US DoD, “Remarks By Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel FY 2015 Budget Preview Pentagon Press Briefing Room Monday, February 24, 2014″ | Bloomberg, “Hagel Expands on Reservations’ About Littoral Combat Ship”.

Semi-commitment to stop at 32, follow-on “capable small surface combatant” proposed

Feb 21/14: Support. Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, MD receives a $23.6 million contract modification for LCS fleet support.

All funds are committed immediately, using Navy FY14 O&M dollars. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA and is expected to be complete by September 2014. The USN’s Southwest Regional Maintenance Center in San Diego, CA manages the contract (N00024-12-G-4329).

Jan 23/14: Sub-contractors. L-3 Corp. Systems West, Salt Lake City, Utah, is being awarded a $17.6 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract modification for supplies and services associated with Littoral Combat Ship configurations of the Hawklink Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) Surface Terminal Equipment, and with Vortex Mini-TCDL Shipset components. While Hawklink is most closely associated with the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter, these supplies and services are in support of the Fire Scout MQ-8B/8C.

Funds will be committed as needed. Work will be performed in Salt Lake City, UT (90%), Point Mugu, CA (5%), and the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD, (5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-13-D-0001).

Jan 19/14: New deal? Defense News is reporting that the Navy and Pentagon have come to an uneasy compromise of sorts re: LCS. The program would be put on probation, but ship buys would continue to a total of 26-28, which would be until FY 2017 or so. Before any more ships could be bought, the ship would need to pass evaluation by the Pentagon’s independent DOT&E testing office, which has been critical of the ship.

This new proposal gives existing shipbuilders and supporters more time to prove that the ship can meet its base claims and specifications. It also gives them more time to lobby. A passed FY 2015 budget that stopped buys at 32 becomes hard to overturn, even though production would continue for several years, because the Navy would begin filling future budgets with other programs instead. An open-ended “we dare you to stop us later” agreement has a very different dynamic.

Note, too, that DOT&E’s mandate doesn’t include re-evaluating the ship concept, which is coming under more fire these days. All they can do is state whether the ship meets the Navy’s specifications and can perform its assigned missions, which is a different judgment than the one that Pentagon’s leadership was implicitly making. Sources: Defense News, “Navy, Pentagon battle over LCS future”.

Jan 13/14: Aviation Week looks at the LCS program, and reports that the crew size will rise to 50 core crew on both ships. That still wasn’t really enough during USS Freedom’s recent deployment (q.v. Nov 12/13). Beyond that, the article quotes Vice Adm. Thomas Copeman, commander of the Naval Surface Force and U.S. Pacific Naval Surface Force. Amazingly, the Navy has finally concluded that reducing crew sizes first, then hoping for technological innovation, is a bad approach.

Copeman adds that combat power is indeed one of LCS’ requirements, as he distinguishes between routine operations and combat operations. It may have “my complete attention,” but naval analyst Norman Polmar points out that the design process sacrificed the Navy’s flexibility regarding this defining characteristic of a warship. You can’t shoot attention at the enemy, though technological improvements may create new options in a decade or more (q.v. Jan 10/14). Polmar is also dismayed at the delays for mission modules that address long-standing naval challenges: “If the modules were something exotic, like nuclear lasers, I’d understand.” In fairness, they are trying to address standard challenges in non-standard ways.

We’ll add that combat options do exist for LCS, but retrofitting designed-out features is expensive. They’d need to cut into the decks to install a MK41 vertical launch system, then code and test major changes to the combat system so it could handle advanced weapons like the RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow. In practice, that means they’d either (a) stick to a narrow range of weapon improvements that are largely self-contained, and require minimal integration, at the possible cost of fleet commonality – vid. MBDA’s Sea Ceptor missile; (b) pick just one LCS class to have real combat capability, and make changes to it; or (c) spend more to implement radar and combat system commonality across both classes, as part of a full weapons upgrade. Sources: Aviation Week: NavWeek, “Skimming the Surface.”

Jan 6/14: To 32. A Pentagon memo from acting deputy defense secretary Christine Fox recommends that the LCS program slash total numbers by 20 ships, from 52 – 32. Looks like the Navy “won” the internal battle, which could have decided to terminate the program at just 24 (q.v. Sept 3/13). That would leave just 8 ships to be bought after the current multi-year buy contract ends in FY 2016, and options reportedly include speeding up production, or running a follow-on buy that might pick just 1 type.

Even at 32 ships, the program will have bought over 80% of its ships before the end of operational testing.

It’s important to note that this isn’t set in stone yet. The 2015 budget proposal will contain the final plan, but that document will be delayed to late February or March. Then it has to pass through Congress. Meanwhile, leaked copies of the Pentagon’s DOT&E test reports are expected to be critical of both LCS ship types, and of the Mine Counter-Measures package in particular. Sources: Bloomberg, “Pentagon Said to Order Cutting Littoral Ships by 20″ | Bloomberg, “Navy Littoral Ship Reliability in Doubt, Tester Says” | ABC2 WBAY Wisconson, “Marinette Marine Monitors Pentagon Recommendations” | Alabama,com, “Navy will reportedly cut littoral combat ship order by 20″ | U-T San Diego, “Navy’s littoral ships to be slashed?”.

Jan 16/14: The US Navy has come up with its own designation for the Sea Giraffe radar that equips LCS-2 Independence Class ships: AN/SPS-77(V)1. It’s adapted for US operations by Saab Defense and Security USA Sensor Systems in Syracuse, NY, who also handles installation, testing, and maintenance.

So far, the radar has been installed on 3 Independence Class ships, with 5 more radars in production. Sources: Saab, Jan 16/14 release.

Jan 10/14: LCS 1 & 3. Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, MD receives a maximum $13.2 million cost-plus award fee contracting modification, finalizing LCS 1 and 3 planning yard support efforts for Freedom Class LCS ships, esp. USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth. That means vendor training and crew familiarization; trainer support; availability advanced planning; long lead time material planning and procurement; material warehousing; logistics product updates; and class sustainment management.

One thing we’re noticing is that over the last couple of years, similar support contracts seem to cost more for the Freedom Class than they do for the Independence Class (q.v. Dec 23/13, March 15/13, Dec 20/12).

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 O&M budgets. Work will be performed in Washington, DC, and is expected to be complete by September 2014. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-12-G-4329, 0017).

Naval laser trials

Jan 10/14: LCS EM Weapons module? The current US Navy program manager for DDG 51 acquisition, Capt. Mark Vandroff, says that the service has begun to look at the requirements for a “DDG-51 Flight IV” destroyer, which wouldn’t begin service until the 2030s. Rail guns and lasers are part of the early conversation, and it isn’t just because they’re cool:

“Some of the thinking involves senior leaders talking about getting on the other side of the cost curve. Right now if someone shoots a missile at us, we shoot a missile back at them. The missile we shoot at them cost about as much, if not more, than the missile that got shot at us. They are burning money and we are burning money to defend ourselves…. The down side is this kind of technology does not exist today and even if it does, you have to look at what kind of maritime platform could you put it on and what that would look like. When that technology starts to get close to mature, then you will see the Navy start to figure out what it has to do in order to field that technology.”

This could be the opportunity LCS has been looking for. Converting DDG 51 ships to hybrid-electric drive would be a minimum requirement to host these weapons, but the redesign could become very expensive, and even that may not be enough. HII is touting their LPD-17 Flight II amphibious assault hull as a future air and missile defense cruiser platform,. It has enough power generation capacity, but that’s a $2.5+ billion proposition. Looking downscale, Littoral Combat Ships have plenty of onboard power, plus accessible free space for capacitors etc. Switching the 57mm forward gun for a railgun, and adding laser weapons for air and surface defense, would give an LCS with the “EM weapons” package unique Naval Fire Support and air-defense roles within the fleet. LCS-2 ships might even have enough room remaining to add other mission package capabilities. As Vandroff says, we’ll know more as the technology becomes mature. Sources:, “Future Destroyers Likely to Fire Lasers, Rail Guns”.

Dec 23/13: Support. US NAVSEA issues a pair of options for LCS core class services. Those include engineering and design services, as well as efforts to reduce LCS acquisition and lifecycle costs.

Lockheed Martin Corp. in Baltimore, MD receives a $23.3 million contract modification, with $12.1 million in FY 2013 shipbuilding funds committed immediately. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (36%), Hampton, VA (30%), Washington, DC (23%), and Marinette, WI (11%), and is expected to be complete by December 2014 (N00024-11-C-2300).

Austal USA LLC in Mobile, AL receives a $14.1 million contract modification, with $4 million in FY 2013 shipbuilding and R&D funds committed immediately. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (72%) and Pittsfield, MA (28%), and is expected to be complete by December 2014 (N00024-11-C-2301).

Dec 23/13: LCS 2 & 4. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a $7.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for LCS-2 and LCS-4 Planning Yard Services, as they prepare for in-service sustainment. These services will include: vendor training and crew familiarization; in-service engineering support; trainer support; availability advanced planning; long lead time material planning and procurement; material warehousing; logistics product updates; and class sustainment management.

$1 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 O&M funds. Work will be performed in Bath, Maine, and is expected to be completed by Dec 21/14 (N00024-12-G-4330).

Dec 18/13: LCS 5 launch. Marinette Marine christens and launches LCS 5 Milwaukee from its Marinette, WI shipyard. This is the Lockheed Martin team’s 1st ship under the 2010 block buy. Unlike LCS 6, this one slides into the river in a traditional manner. Sources: USN, “Future USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) Christened and Launched, Marks Production Milestone” | Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin-Led Team Launches Future USS Milwaukee”.

Dec 14/13: LCS 6 launch. Jackson is launched at Austal’s shipyard in Mobile, AL. This is Austal’s 1st ship under the 2010 block buy, and the 1st ship built in the shipyard’s new 59,000-square-foot Bay 5 assembly hall.

Launches have become more complex these days. Instead of just sliding down a ramp, the 1,600t assembly was lifted almost 3 feet in the air by Berard Transportation’s self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs), and moved about 400 feet onto an adjacent moored deck barge. The barge was towed a half mile down river to BAE Systems’ Southeast Shipyard for transfer to BAE’s floating Drydock Alabama. Launch happens when Alabama submerges, floating Jackson free. The ship will undergo final outfitting and activation at Austal’s shipyard.

Dec 13/13: Demands, but no teeth. The House FY 2014 defense bill has some key provisions in Section 124 re: the LCS program, and the Senate is unlikely to mess with them. It doesn’t matter, since the there are no real penalties for non-compliance.

The bill demands a review from the Pentagon’s JROC saying that they’ve looked at existing and required capabilities; think the current capabilities development document remains valid given performance, and will produce an adequate ship; and confirm that capability production documents exist for each ship type, and will exist for each mission module before operational testing begins. The odds of the JROC saying “we were wrong to give our go-ahead, this is a complete mess, LCS fails” are basically zero.

Beyond that, the bill demands a report from the CNO, and also from the Pentagon’s far more skeptical Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, within 60 days of the FY 2014 defense budget becoming law. That report will looks at the LCS’ concept of operations, which the Navy admits is sketchy now. It will also look at the ships’ ability to meet the Navy’s core strategy; compare the combat capabilities of the mission modules against the FFG-7 frigate and Osprey Class minehunting ships LCS would replace; assess LCS’ expected survivability in combat, given threats in the near-shore environment; offer an overview of test progress and plans; and look at maintenance, manning and support issues for the class, with special attention paid to failures so far.

Fine. So, what if the reports aren’t produced, or the results are negative? The GAO Report (q.v. July 22/13) recommended dropping to minimum sustaining rate production for ships, and halting module buys. So, what did the House do? Nothing. They said that FY 2014 monies couldn’t be used to buy items for LCS 25-26, until the bill’s conditions were met. For reference, FY 2014 is about ships #17-20, and the entire multi-year contract ends at #24. Sources: House FY 2014 NDAA [PDF] | Breaking Defense, “Congress Targets Littoral Combat Ship Survivability In NDAA” | USNI News, “More Littoral Combat Ship Oversight Unlikely to Affect 2015 Block Buy”.

Dec 2/13: Support. Austal USA LLC in Mobile, AL receives an $8.3 million contract modification, exercising option for Independence Class core class services. They’ll assess engineering and production challenges, and evaluate the cost and schedule risks from new efforts to reduce LCS acquisition and lifecycle costs.

All funds are committed immediately from FY 2013 shipbuilding budgets. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (60%), and Pittsfield, MA (40%), and is expected to be complete by November 2014 (N00024-11-C-2301).

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

October statements by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan may have said that the kingdom was hoping to make a major shift away from the United States, but Lockheed Martin continues to pursue discussions. The Royal Saudi Navy’s core currently consists of French Al-Riyadh (Lafayette) and Al-Madinah Class frigates at the high end, and older US-built Badr Class corvettes and Al-Sadiq Class patrol boats at the low end. Sources: Reuters, “Lockheed sees more clarity on Saudi naval buy in next months” | UAE’s The National, “Challenges in the Middle East for US defence companies“.

Nov 16/13: LCS 1. USS Freedom leaves Singapore’s Changi Naval Base, which she had been using as a logistics and maintenance hub. Those kinds of bases are key to the LCS concept, because the crew design and load-out of the ship have most maintenance and almost all repairs performed in port, with very little capability on board ship. The Navy adds that:

“Prior to getting underway, Freedom accomplished repairs to the feedback cable in the port steerable waterjet which delayed her participation in exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Brunei. All wajerjets are now functioning normally, and Freedom still expects to conduct a brief port visit in Brunei as part of the exercise.”

Since arriving in Singapore April 18, Freedom has participated in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX), 2 CARAT exercises with Malaysia and Singapore, and the multinational SECAT exercise. CARAT Brunei will undoubtedly be counted in future USN releases, even though the ship was actually prevented from taking substantive part. Sources: “USS Freedom (LCS 1) Gets Underway From Singapore For Final Time”.

Nov 12/13: Shock and Awwww. The Wall Street Journal reports that LCS 1’s maintenance problems in Singapore were a shock to Navy leadership:

“When Navy leaders were given an expedited assessment on the ship’s performance last week, they found the scope of those problems to be “a little stunning,” says Rear Adm. Tom Rowden, the Navy’s director of surface warfare.”…. In war games last year, the Freedom seemed to struggle with multiple tasks and appeared overwhelmed, says Petty Officer Manuel Navarro, a combat leader aboard the USS Sampson, a 500-foot destroyer that took part in the exercises. “From a combat perspective, from what I can see, they did horribly,” he says.”

The ships’ heavy dependence on pierside maintenance is a new concept for the Navy, and the key question is whether this is the sort of normal teething problem associated with that newness, or an illustration of a flawed concept that hasn’t been used for good reasons. The same question arises re: ship manning, which may not have been enough even with 10 extra core sailors on board.

As the Navy ponders these issues, pressure is growing to cut the LCS buy from the original plan of 55 to 32 or even 24 ships (q.v. Sept 3/13). That would probably be achieved by taking GAO’s advice, and dropping orders to the minimum sustainable level. A 32-ship program would still end very early, with last orders in 2022 or so. Sources: Wall Street Journal, “Navy Ship Plan Faces Pentagon Budget Cutters” | Newsmax, “Navy’s Problem-Plagued Ship of Future Facing Cutbacks”.

Nov 11/13: LCS 1. More problems, just before a planned naval exercise in Brunei. USS Freedom had issues with feedback in the portside steerable waterjet, which needed additional repairs. This comes shortly after the starboard steerable water-jet hydraulic system had been contaminated with seawater and required extra maintenance. Sources: Russia Today, “Glitch-ridden US advanced warship pier-side ahead of Singapore drills”.

LCS 1: CARAT Brunei

FY 2013

$1.38 billion for LCS 13-16; Program cut to 50 ships; Undersecretary Robert Work’s overview of the program is followed by 2 negative Navy reports, as capability controversies continue; GAO program report; DOT&E report on LCS issues; Keel laying for LCS 8 & 9; USS Freedom deploys to Singapore, with difficulties; New Freedom Class waterjets solve a problem – and add to one?; Export loss in Thailand. To Singapore
click for video

Sept 3/13: Ship cuts? With over $50 billion in cuts coming, the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s ALT POM reportedly proposed to end LCS buys with the current contract, at just 24 ships. The Navy is pushing to buy at least 32.

On the other hand, OSD is reportedly insisting that the Navy place a top priority on fielding the mine countermeasures (MCM) module, in light of challenges around the Strait of Hormuz and elsewhere. One would think this would have been obvious years ago. Sources: Defenseworld, “U.S. To Limit Littoral Combat Ship Purchase”.

Aug 12/13: Support. Small business qualifier Manufacturing Techniques Inc. in Kilmarnock, VA receives a $32.7 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract with cost-plus-fixed-fee completion and firm-fixed-price delivery orders. It’s a support contract involving battle management systems, Dragon Spear (SOCOM’s MC-130W aircraft), and Littoral Combat Ship programs. They’ll provide help with rapid prototype development, hardware fabrication, hardware and software for prototype or prototype pre-production units and kits.

Just $68,263 in FY 2012 funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Kilmarnock, VA, and is expected to be complete by August 2018. This was competitively procured via, with 2 offers received by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in Dahlgren, VA (N00178-13-D-1022).

Aug 12/13: LCS 2. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a $9 million cost-plus-award-fee order to provide material and labor for USS Independence’s post-shakedown availability (LCS 2 PSA Phase 2). Efforts will include program management, production supervision, temporary protection services and transportation services.

$6.9 million in FY 2012 – 2013 funding is committed immediately, and $2.3 million in FY 2013 funding will expire by Sept 30/13. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA and is expected to be complete by December 2013. The Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair in Bath, ME manages the contract (N00024-13-G-2316).

LCS & Mission modules
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July 25/13: HASC Seapower hearing. The House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces holds hearings in the wake of the GAO’s report. It makes for interesting viewing in places but that’s mostly in the prepared statements. GAO explains that they aren’t advocating cancellation, but unless Congress steps in now, they’ll find themselves unable to exercise any influence on the program. The Navy repeats the party line that everyone loves the LCS, and all problems will be fine.

The real takeaway is that the basic format for Congressional hearings is broken and next to useless if a program is in trouble. At 3-5 minutes per member present, it’s impossible to ask more than 1 substantive question, or offer the kind of consistent questioning and follow-up required to even establish key facts. That’s a perfect environment for evasive or meaningless answers, secure in the knowledge that they can’t be examined in any depth. Which is exactly what happens. Watch for yourself. Sources: HASC Seapower, Acquisition and Development Challenges Associated with the Littoral Combat Ship (Video Part 1 and Part 2) | GAO Testimony Transcript.

July 22/13: GAO Report. The US GAO releases GAO-13-530, “Significant Investments in the Littoral Combat Ship Continue Amid Substantial Unknowns about Capabilities, Use, and Cost”. The entire report is a long chronicle of the Littoral Combat Ship program’s history of falling short and of unresolved issues, side-by-side with warnings concerning a program that will have bought 24 ships, started a second multi-year contract in FY 2016, and bought 31 mission packages before full operational testing is done.

That “could lead to the Navy risking taxpayer investments of over $40 billion in 2010 dollars in systems that may not provide the expected – and yet to be fully defined – militarily useful capability.” This timing also strips outside bodies of meaningful oversight and influence, while buying equal numbers of ships even if a specific type is better for certain missions. As the GAO notes:

“…the former Under Secretary of the Navy and others have posited that the Freedom variant may be better suited to the Middle East region and the SUW mission given its maneuverability [DID: the TERN UAV’s restriction to LCS-2 would change even that advantage], while the Independence variant may be better suited to the western Pacific region and the ASW and MCM missions given its longer range and larger helicopter deck.”

This is just a small slice of the issues with the LCS program. One issue that was accepted in the original LCS vision is its need to stay close to a deployed group when in medium to high threat environments. That restriction isn’t shared by similarly-expensive ships, and creates an added burden on task groups. Nor is this the only issue:

“…since LCS has only a self-defense anti-air warfare capability, it will require protection from a [DID: likely missile defense capable] cruiser or destroyer in more advanced anti-air warfare environments, which reduces the LCS’s ability to operate independently and occupies the time of more capable surface combatants that might be better employed elsewhere”…. [There are] classified concerns with the capability or planned capability and employment of the SUW, MCM, and ASW mission packages…. Elements of the LCS business case, including its cost, the time needed to develop and field the system, and its anticipated capabilities have degraded over time. There are also significant unknowns related to key LCS operations and support concepts that could affect the cost of the program and soundness of the business case…. Some of these questions, discussed in table 5, are likely to have impacts on the ongoing LCS acquisition, including what seaframe variant should be purchased and how the ships will actually be operated and supported… .At the Milestone B decision for the seaframe program, the Navy estimated O&S costs to account for 62% of the program’s life-cycle cost estimate, or $87 billion of $124 billion in total ownership costs through fiscal year 2057.[20] The Navy’s point estimate for the LCS seaframe program total life-cycle cost estimate was at the 10% confidence level, meaning that there is a 90% chance that the costs could be different – and likely higher based on the data – than the point estimate [the spread is between $108 – 170 billion in then-year dollars].”

They recommend that Congress appropriate LCS funding under the existing contract, but with conditions attached to complete LCS technical and design studies, assess changes, and offer an analysis of what they want to change for greater commonality, before the money is freed. GAO also recommends shifting to minimum sustaining production for mission modules (now) and ships (LCS 25-), until and unless the Navy has produced a new independent cost estimate and a new validated capabilities document, and received a full rate production decision. Sources: GAO-13-530, || See also detailed report coverage re: sub-systems for LCS mission packages and the Mine Counter-Measures package in particular.

GAO study cites multiple program issues, recommends program slowdown & conditions

July 11/13: The US Navy offers its latest update on the LCS program, via its official blog. There are a number of specific details re: the doings of LCS 1-3, but overall, it boils down to: “All is well. Really.” Sources: USN Navy Live, “LCS: Latest Update”.

July 20/13: LCS 1. USS Freedom limps back into port in Singapore after an overheated diesel generator took out propulsion during a helicopter VERTREP with USNS Ceasar Chavez [T-AKE 14]. The ship’s overall power stayed on, and the supply run was completed, but it had to pull out of planned Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises with the Singaporean Navy.

Exhaust leaks in the turbochargers on 2 generators will require turbocharger replacement, and the generators will require further troubleshooting in Singapore. The ship has had similar problems before on its trip – see March 19-29/13, May 21/13 entries. Just another successful deployment. Defense News | Reuters.

LCS 1: Shutdown off Singapore

July 19/13: LCS 2. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a sole-source $7.5 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification, to provide engineering and management services in support of USS Independence’s post-shakedown availability. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 RDT&E budgets; $602,083 will expire on Sept 30/13.

Work will be performed in Bath, ME (55%), and San Diego, CA (45%), and is expected to be complete by March 2014. The USN Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair in Bath, Maine manages the contract (N00024-09-G-2301, ER09).

June 27/13: LCS 9. The official keel-laying ceremony for the future USS Little Rock is held at Marinette Marine Corp. in Marinette, WI. Lockheed Martin.

June 26/13: LCS 8. The official keel-laying ceremony for the future USS Montgomery is held at Austal’s yard in Mobile, AL. Given modern ship-building methods, 36 of the 37 modules for the ship are already under construction. Austal.

June 6/13: Naming. The Secretary of the Navy names the next 2 LCS ships.

The Freedom Class LCS 15 Billings is named after the city in Montana. The Independence Class LCS 16 Tulsa is named after the city in Oklahoma. US DoD.

May 24/13: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/12 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF].

“Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) – Program costs decreased $3,485.0 million (-9.3%) from $37,440.5 million to $33,955.5 million, due primarily to the decision to purchase 3 fewer ships resulting in a quantity decrease from 53 to 50 ships (-$2,945.7 million) and associated schedule and estimating allocations (+$150.0 million). Additional decreases were attributable to the application of new outyear escalation indices ($-1,050.6 million), realignment of LCS in the 30-year shipbuilding plan in FY 2019 to FY 2034 (-$519.8 million), and adjustments to the seaframe requirements estimate in FY 2012 to FY 2018 (-$406.3 million). These decreases were partially offset by the application of revised escalation indices (+1,216.4 million) and pricing changes for trainer and battle spare requirements (+$90.6 million).”

So, let’s see if we have this straight. Cost escalation indices during the budgeting period add over $1.2 billion, which seems to be a common theme among many SAR reports this period. Then, as soon as we leave the budgeting period, something magically changes and the program will save over $1 billion due to the same indices. That seems preposterous, and doesn’t fit any trends we’re aware of, but we’re open to a convincing explanation. If someone out there has one, we’ll print it.

SAR – Fewer ships & implausible accounting

May 22/13: User Interfaces matter. Respected Navy blog Information Dissemination takes note of a FY 2014 markup in the budget, and explains why rationalization to a single radar and combat system will likely leave both Saab and GDC4S out in the cold. From “House FY14 Mark“:

“Saab North America has a problem. They supposedly have this really great radar…. the problem is the radar is tied to the combat system on the Austal variant of the LCS, and that combat system has a fatal flaw typical of software development in government. The UI is terrible…. The surface warfare community has a user interface into the combat system that is standard across the entire AEGIS line of warships. The Freedom class version has a combat system that uses a very similar interface…. Instead of making the combat system user interface look and feel like every other combat system in the fleet at the User Interface level, the LCS-2 combat system insists their user interface is better.

….AEGIS is government owned. These folks who complain about Lockheed Martin’s monopoly in the Navy on the combat system are given chance after chance to compete, but they fail every time because no matter how good the technology is under the covers – and sometimes it is really fantastic – they lose to Lockheed Martin because they refuse to imitate the user experience of AEGIS that every sailor in the Navy is comfortable with. As an IT guy who develops enterprise systems for government, I laugh when observing a classic mistake contractors do far too often, and all I can say is these companies get exactly what they deserve when they get nothing. It isn’t the Saab North American radar. That radar might be legitimately great, but it doesn’t matter at all. The real problem is the software folks who insist their way of doing user interfaces for the US Navy is better than the way everyone in the US Navy does it. That’s just stupid!”

User Interfaces matter!

May 21/13: LCS 1. More problems push the ship pierside again in Singapore, as ship’s force inspection reveals rust on 2 of the reduction gear casings. The suggestion is that the oil has formed emulsions and lost some of its lubricating quality, as a result of maintenance that wasn’t performed quickly enough after the late April reduction gear seawater cooler failure. Sources: Information Dissemination, “Camo Gray and Never Underway”.


May 7/13: USN Report. Bloomberg gets its hands on a March 9/12 confidential draft report prepared for CNO Adm. Greenert by Rear Adm. Samuel Perez. This document is separate from USN Commander of Surface Forces Vice-Adm. Copeman’s “Vision for a 2025 Surface Fleet”, which recommended a full set of weapon for LCS (q.v. March 18/13 entry). Perez’ report is broader, but his conclusions are similar: serious gaps between ship capabilities and the missions the Navy will need LCS to execute. Key areas of concern include:

Manning: “The minimal-manning level and subsequent fatigue result in significant operational and safety impacts, with notable degradation of crew readiness, performance levels and quality of life.” USS Freedom has since added 20 more berthings for its initial deployment, bringing total crew to 100 (40 core + 25 aviation + 15 mission package + 20).

Armament: Perez shares Copeman’s reservations about the LCS’ armament, and points out that Iran alone has 67 Fast Attack Craft that carry anti-ship missiles with a range of over 5 miles. Any one of them can strike LCS ships without direct retaliation, and deliver disabling hits.

CONOPS: He also cites the lack of a clear LCS concept of operations, and notes that getting all of the right people and equipment on station to swap a mission module can take several weeks, instead of the advertised 96 hours. As a result, the concept “no longer has the tactical utility envisioned by the original designers.”

Navigation: Finally, Perez points out that the Independence Class trimaran’s width “may be a navigational challenge in narrow waterways and tight harbors,” though Bloomberg’s account doesn’t quantify that in any way.

The disturbing thing about these reports isn’t their conclusions. It’s the fact that these conclusions have been obvious for years, and have been pointed out for years, while US Navy leadership pretended that everything was fine. That’s still the Navy’s M.O., and CNO Greenert dismissed questions by saying that “study is over a year old – we’ve done a lot since then”. Which doesn’t address what they’ve done to change the conclusions of the study. In a number of critical areas, the answer is “nothing” or “not much.” Perez Report Executive Summary [PDF] | Bloomberg | The Hill | | USNI, “Perez Report: Many in LCS Program Have Forgotten Key Fundamentals”.

Perez Report

May 2/13: New waterjets for LCS-1 class. LCS 5 Miwaukee will be the first Freedom Class ship to try out a set of 4 new waterjets. The technology was developed by Rolls-Royce Naval Marine in Walpole, MA, in collaboration with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Carderock Division. The joint project under ONR’s Future Naval Capabilities program began in 2007, and the April delivery to Marinette Marine marked its successful completion. The waterjets will be made in the United States, with primary manufacturing at Rolls-Royce facilities in Walpole, MA and Pascagoula, MS.

The new 22MW Axial-Flow Waterjet Mk-1 can reportedly move nearly 500,00 gallons of seawater per minute, providing more thrust per unit than the current commercial waterjets. Researchers believe the smaller, more efficient waterjets will help the LCS avoid excessive maintenance costs and ship component damage associated with cavitation. On the other hand, Information Dissemination points out an issue:

“Waterjets are incredibly loud, as in they can be so loud that a ship with waterjets is probably going to significantly reduce the effectiveness of a bow sonar…. there is no bow mounted sonar [on LCS] and waterjets is why there never will be…. ONR is going to deliver super waterjets, which may increase the speed of LCS a knot or two, who knows. Here is the problem though – waterjets are still loud like a rock concert, and one of the primary missions of the LCS is to hunt littoral submarines.

When will this program start being about mission and stop being about features?”

Sources: USN, “New Waterjets Could Propel LCS to Greater Speeds” | Rolls Royce, Feb 21/12 release. | Information Dissemination, “More Speed!”

April 25/13: Support. CACI Technologies Inc. in Chantilly, VA receives a $20.1 million contract modification for professional support services in support of PEO LCS (Program Executive Office Littoral Combat Ships). They’ll help with program management and acquisition support, technical and engineering support, business and financial management support, and logistics support.

Work will be performed in Washington DC (89.9%); Norfolk, VA (4.2%); San Diego, CA (2.2%); Panama City, FL (1.8%); Newport, RI (1.3%); and Monterey, CA (0.6%), and is expected to be complete by October 2013. Just $362,308 are being committed immediately, and $181,334 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-13-C-6322).

April 21/13: Thailand. Lockheed Martin’s MMCS Freedom Class derivative loses the competition, as the Royal Thai Navy picks South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering. DSME won with their DW 3000H proposal, which builds on experience gained with ROKN projects like the FFX Incheon Class frigates. Bangkok Post.

Loss in Thailand

April 15/13: General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a $12.6 million contract modification, exercising Independence Class Design Services for LCS 6 and following ships. Work includes baseline design services, class documentation services, class engineering studies, cost estimating support, LCS ship transition, and a liaison role for ship construction and post delivery.

Work will be performed in Bath, Maine (52%); Pittsfield, MA (47%); and Mobile, AL (1%), and is expected to be complete by June 2014. It’s completely funded by the FY 2012 Shipbuilding and Conversion budget (N00024-09-C-2302).

April 12/13: LCS 3. As Coronado was conducting a full-power demonstration and running at high speed when insulation on the starboard diesel exhaust first smoldered, then ignited. The fire was reportedly “extinguished immediately.” All fires at sea are serious, but this one was pretty minor. The question is whether it happens again during full-speed trials. KPBS.

Minor fire

April 12/13: Naming. 2 LCS ships are among the 7 named by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who actually stuck to class naming conventions this time instead of veering into political partisanship.

The Freedom Class LCS 13 Wichita is named in honor of Kansas’ largest city, while the Independence Class LCS 14 Manchester is named for one of New Hampshire’s industrial centers. Pentagon.

April 8/13: Arming LCS. Austal VP Craig Hooper says it’s quite possible to arm the LCS-2 Independence Class with effective anti-ship weapons and vertical launch cells, which isn’t exactly a surprise since that has been in Austal brochures:

“You want Harpoon? I can give you eight to 16. You want VLS, 75mm gun? OK we can do it…. but is that the right path? If we hand over all the available margin on LCS to legacy weapons… do we risk losing the opportunity to exploit the changes that are coming in the war at sea?”

As with all things, there is a balance point. It isn’t at all obvious why a quad Harpoon launcher topside, or a 76mm gun with the ability to launch long-range shells, or an 8-cell VLS, must precludes mission module space in a class that has a lot of it. USN Director of Surface Warfare Rear Admiral Thomas Rowden doesn’t see an armament problem at all, even in the current undergunned state, saying “I’m the keeper of the keys for requirements. And I am here to tell you that LCS meets the requirements.”

A more thoughtful response comes from Bryan McGrath at ID, who notes that the last US Navy surface ship built to fire anti-ship missiles was USS Porter [DDG 78], the last Arleigh Burke Flight I destroyer. Every Flight II/IIA destroyer all the way up to DDG 116 has omitted those launchers, and every FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigate in USN service has removed theirs. Meanwhile, fleets like China’s have invested heavily in anti-ship missiles that work at longer and longer ranges, and routinely mount them on ships as small as corvettes. As DDG-51 Flight I destroyers have to retire due to age, the disparity will just get worse, and LCS is a contributor to the “out-sticked” problem rather than a solution. | Information Dissemination.

April 5/13: Review? reports that US Navy leaders plan to discuss the LCS and its fit in the future fleet at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space Symposium on April 8th. Word is that they’re considering a program review.

April 1/13: LCS 3. Lockheed Martin Mission System and Training in Baltimore, MD receives a $17 million cost-plus-award-fee order for USS Fort Worth’s post-shakedown work, including renewed post-repair trials. The ship was commissioned on Sept 22/12. This is in addition to the $12.7 million contract for post-shakedown planning (q.v. Oct 25/12).

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete by July 2013. The full amount is committed immediately, using FY 2006, 2012, and 2013 Shipbuilding and Conversion funding. The USN Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair in Bath, ME manages the contract (N00024-12-G-2317).

March 29/13: YGBKM. There’s a lot poor reporting out there on defense issues, and we don’t always call it out, but sometimes the standards are so poor that it’s necessary. Former ballet dancer Allison Barrie’s FOX News “reporting” on LCS’ Pacific arrival is in that category. Where to begin? MH-60 helicopters can’t carry heavyweight torpedoes, or key mine clearance equipment. The mine warfare module touted in the article isn’t ready, and the surface warfare mission module is only effective against motorboats. And what does “Should a battle erupt, Freedom can act as a hub to tie together sea, air and land assets” even mean?

The article paints a picture of a ship that can perform a number of specialized missions at a high level, right now – and almost none of it is true. A dash of skepticism and about 15 minutes of Google searching would have revealed the many and serious holes in this piece, especially given recent coverage in several major media outlets. Unfortunately, no-one at FOX seems to have put in the time or oversight. Falling below even the New York Times’ standards on defense issues should be a source of shame. FOX News | “Someone Help Allison Please“.

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. GAO designates 16/19 critical LCS technologies as mature, and the 3 omissions are either minor differences (Freedom Class retrieval system) or unsatisfiable any time soon. If a 30-year ABS certification somehow fails to satisfy the 20 year operational hull life requirement, the only solution seems to be “wait 20 years and ask us again in 2032.”

For the Freedom Class, GAO says that the cracking problem “occurred either in high stress areas or were due to poor workmanship.” They’ve been repaired. The ship has also had corrosion problems in the mission zone due to a poor stern door seal, and class design changes were made in response to both issues. They do seem to be finding quite a few issues in this design, but LCS 5 & 7 accomplished production readiness and integrated baseline reviews. LCS 5 is listed as 53% complete, and LCS 7 is listed as 37% complete.

Austal’s Independence Class, “will now [add] a corrosion protection system similar to [the Freedom Class] to mitigate the corrosion and will backfit it on existing hulls.” That’s an unusual item to casually omit from 1 LCS class, but whatever. LCS 4 has experienced construction delays to summer 2013, but the program office says that these issues are resolved now. LCS 6 & 8 accomplished production readiness and integrated baseline reviews: LCS 6 is listed as 49% complete, and LCS 8 is listed as 24% complete.

In October 2012, the Navy rescinded their requirement to conduct a Milestone C/ Low Rate Production LCS review. That means there will be 24 ships under contract before there’s a systematic review to support a production decision, in FY 2019.

March 19-29/13: LCS 1. USS Freedom has now had 3 power outages during the ship’s transit from Pearl Harbor, HI to Guam. This isn’t the 1st time, vid. April 23/12 entry.

On this trip, Aviation Week reports that the 10-12 minute March 16th outage may have been caused by water getting into an SSDG diesel generator’s exhaust system. March 20th saw an 11 minute outage that was also supposedly related to an SSDG problem, and March 21st was the 3rd outage. The ship eventually makes it to Guam on March 29th, and the crew was able to work through the issues themselves, but loss of power is a serious problem if it doesn’t happen at a convenient time. Aviation Week | Marianas Variety || US Navy | Guam PDN.

LCS 1 loses power

March 19/13: 30mm Mk46s. General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. in Woodbridge, VA receives a $25.7 million contract option for eight 30mm MK46 MOD 2 gun turrets, including associated spares and shore based parts. It covers 2 gun weapon systems for the LPD 17 class, and 6 more to equip LCS 5, 6, and 7. The guns are part of the “surface warfare” mission package.

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (43%); Tallahassee, FL (20%); Lima, OH (14%); Westminster, MD (11%); Sterling Heights, MI (10%); Scranton, PA (2%), and is expected to be completed by November 2014. All funding is committed immediately (N00024-10-C-5438).

March 18/13: USN Memo – Up-gun LCS. USNI reports that USN Commander of Surface Forces Vice Adm. Tom Copeman has proposed changes to the Navy’s LCS strategy. In late 2012, he reportedly submitted the classified memo “Vision for the 2025 Surface Fleet,” which calls for an “up-gunned, multimission variant” of a single LCS class going forward. Some observers have interpreted this as halving the 55 ship LCS buy, but that doesn’t necessarily follow. It’s perfectly possible to buy the same number of ships, with just 1 go-forward design.

With respect to the multi-mission requirement, both LCS classes have been promoted abroad with proper weapon fit-outs and upgraded sensors. A number of radar fit-outs would be possible, but the ship designs would have 2 important differences. Lockheed Martin’s Freedom Class has less mission module space to give, but could host strike-length Mk.41 vertical launch cells that can launch Tomahawk cruise missiles and the largest SM-x family air and missile defense hardware. Austal’s Independence Class could retain much more mission module space after installing serious weapons, but would be restricted to tactical-length cells that would still be big enough for RIM-162 ESSM air defense missiles, and for VL-ASROC anti-submarine rockets.

There is some precedent. Undersecretary Bob Work’s draft assessment of the LCS program (vid Jan 29/13) explicitly cites the old Spruance Class destroyers. Later versions added a 61-cell VLS battery and 8 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, while subtracting a dedicated ASROC launcher and keeping its pair of 5-inch guns, 2 Mk15 Phalanx 20mm CIWS defenses, and RIM-7 Sea Sparrow air defense missiles. The likely radar and combat system changes would make LCS re-configuration more substantial, but even a tiny 8-cell VLS and provision for anti-ship missiles would significantly change the LCS’ tactical capabilities. USNI | Bloomberg | Defense News.

Copeman Report

March 15/13: Support. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Baltimore, MD received a $32.8 million contract modification for Freedom Class service efforts and special studies, analyses and reviews. “Lockheed Martin will assess engineering and production challenges and evaluate the cost and schedule risks from affordability efforts to reduce LCS acquisition and lifecycle costs.”

All funds will come from US Navy FY 2012 Shipbuilding and Conversion, and are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Hampton, VA (32%); Marinette, WI (27%); Moorestown, N.J. (22%), and Washington, DC (19%), and is expected to be complete by March 2014. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-11-C-2300).

March 15/13: Support. Austal USA LLC in Mobile, AL received a $20 million contract modification for Independence Class service efforts and special studies, analyses and reviews. “Austal USA… will assess engineering and production challenges and evaluate the cost and schedule risks from affordability efforts to reduce LCS acquisition and lifecycle costs.”

All funds will come from US Navy FY 2012 Shipbuilding and Conversion, and are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (72%) and Pittsfield, MA (28%), and is expected to complete by March 2014. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-11-C-2301).

March 4/13: 2 Freedom Class. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Baltimore, MD receives $696.6 million to build 2 FY 2013 Littoral Combat Ships. Note that this doesn’t include the mission modules needed to make the ships useful, or weapons provided as government-furnished equipment.

Work will be performed in Marinette, WI (56%); Walpole, MA (14%); Washington, DC (12%); Oldsmar, FL (4%); Beloit, WI (3%); Moorestown, NJ (2%); Minneapolis, MI (2%) and various locations of less than 1% each totaling 7%, and is expected to be complete by July 2018 (N00024-11-C-2300). See also Lockheed Martin.

March 4/13: 2 Independence Class. Austal USA in Mobile, AL receives $681.7 million for 2 FY 2013 Littoral Combat Ships. Note that this doesn’t include the mission modules needed to make the ships useful, or weapons provided as government-furnished equipment.

Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (51%); Pittsfield, MA (13%); Cincinnati, Ohio (4%); Baltimore, MD (2%); Burlington, VT (2%); New Orleans, LA (2%) and various locations of less than 2% each totaling 26%. Work is expected to be complete by June 2018 (N00024-11-C-2301). See also GDLCS site.

4 LCS ships: 2 of each class

March 4/13: LCS 4. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a $12.3 million contract modification, exercising an option for post-delivery support of LCS 4, the Independence Class ship USS Coronado. Bath Iron Works will perform the planning and implementation of deferred design changes identified during the construction period, which are necessary to support Coronado’s sail-away and follow-on post-delivery test and trials.

Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (76%); Bath, ME (18%); and Pittsfield, MA (6%), and is expected to be complete by February 2014. The full amounts are committed immediately, using FY 2009 Shipbuilding and Conversion funds (N00024-09-C-2302).

March 1/13: Deployment. USS Freedom [LCS-1] leaves San Diego to deploy to Singapore and Southeast Asia for about 8 months. It’s the ship’s first regular deployment, though it has been sent on active missions in the Caribbean during its training and post-shakedown phases. USN All Hands, incl. video.

1st official operational deployment

Feb 8/13: LCS 2. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a $6.9 million cost-plus award fee contract modification. They’ll provide engineering, management, advance planning and design work to support post shakedown work on LCS 2, the first-of-class USS Independence. Efforts will include program management, advance planning, engineering, design, material kitting, liaison and scheduling (see also May 21/12’s $7 million entry).

Work will be performed in Bath, ME (90%) and Pittsfield, MA (10%), and is expected to be complete by April 2013. All funds are committed, using FY 2013 RDT&E funding. The US Navy’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair in Bath, ME manages this contract (N00024-09-G-2301).

Jan 30/13: Thai competition. IHS Jane’s reports that Thailand is talking about buying 3 Chinese Type 054 Jiangkai-II frigates from Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding, plus technology transfer to enable maintenance, repair, and overhaul and to locally produce unspecified components under licence. Thailand already operates some Chinese-built ships, and its 2 Nareusan Class frigates boast the very unusual feature of having American & European systems and weapons on board.

They see the Chinese ships as an option that could fit their total $1 billion budget, but Lockheed Martin has confirmed that they’re competing, too, with a variant of the Freedom Class LCS. Further competition can be expected from European manufacturers like TKMS (MEKO), Damen Schelde (SIGMA), and possibly DCNS (Gowind); and South Korea (FFX Incheon Class) adds a new international option in this category.

Jan 29/13: Work in progress. Undersecretary of the Navy, Robert O. Work offers a working paper draft of an in-depth report entitled “The Littoral Combat Ship: How We Got Here, and Why”. It’s soon withdrawn from the US Naval War College Site, as he works to incorporate feedback into the final edit. It is accurately characterized as

“…the most thorough, honest, and detailed forensic outline of how LCS came pierside…. one-stop-shopping for anyone who would like to know the significant decision points in the process.”

Work is an LCS supporter. His outline is honest, but his conclusions are debatable. A fuller recounting and analysis is deserving of its own separate piece. DID awaits the final report, but offers this link to this interim document in the meantime. Commander Salamander naval blog | Scribd copy of the draft.

Undersec Report draft

Jan 22/13: Industrial. Austal announces a strategic partnership with Sembcorp Marine subsidiary Sembawang Shipyard Pte. Ltd., in Singapore. “Austal and Sembawang Shipyard will together provide rapid, high quality support specifically tailored to the US Navy’s fleet of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV), both of which are expected to operate in the region.”

True, though the first example will be a Lockheed Martin ship.

Jan 17/13: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The LCS is included, and so are its Mission Modules/ Pakages. It does not paint a hopeful picture, demonstrating very serious mission package deficiencies that could and should have been addressed years ago. With respect to the ships themselves:

Freedom Class: During sea trials following post-shakedown availability, the ship developed a shaft seal leak and took 6 weeks to repair, but was graded as fit for service during special INSURV trials in May 2012. LCS 3 has made some design changes, and isn’t reporting any of the serious hull cracks found on USS Freedom. Final design isn’t expected to sail until LCS 5 Milwaukee.

Independence Class: Getting a system to combat corrosion (see Aug 12/11 and earlier), and an Impressed Current Cathodic Protection system is planned for the water jet tunnels on LCS 4. The Navy also continues to work through problems associated with the Twin Boom Extensible Crane on LCS 2. Final design isn’t expected to sail until LCS 6 Jackson.

General: LCS has problems fighting while maneuvering. “Ship operations at high speeds cause vibrations that make accurate use of the 57 mm gun very difficult.” Overall, “LCS is not expected to be survivable in that it is not expected to maintain mission capability after taking a significant hit in a hostile combat environment.” Crewing levels continue to worsen this vulnerability, while impairing capability:

“Crew size can limit the mission capabilities of the ship. Core crew size provides little flexibility to support more than one operation at a time; unplanned manning losses and corrective maintenance further exacerbate the problem. The Navy is reviewing manning levels and installing 20 additional bunks in LCS 1 for flexibility during its deployment [DID: vid. July 2/12 entry], but is not changing the final manning levels.”

LCS has been given class-specific survivability designations, rather than using the Navy’s general Level 1, Level 2, etc. LCS LVL 1 is an orderly abandon ship. LCS LVL 2 allows the ship to limp out of the area, while operating communications and small caliber weapons. LCS LVL 3 includes some remaining mission capability. The USN will conduct Total Ship Survivability Trials on LCS 3 and 4, but won’t conduct shock trials until the final LCS 5 & 6 designs sail. DOT&E | WIRED.

DOT&E 2012 report

Jan 10/13: Program update. Rear Admiral Thomas Rowden offers an update covering the LCS program and its mission modules.

USS Freedom is preparing for her Asian deployment, and LCS 3 USS Fort Worth is preparing to undergo a Post Delivery Test and Trials period. USS Independence is testing the Mine Counter-Measure module, and LCS 4 Coronado is under construction and slated for summer 2013 delivery.

On the mission module front, they’re now referred to as “mission packages.” The vestigal Surface Warfare MP is scheduled for Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in FY 2014. USS Independence [LCS 2] has demonstrated successful launch and recovery of offboard vehicles for the Mine Counter Measures MP, which is also slated for IOC in 2014. The ASW MP is working on “[i]ntegration of the launch and recovery system into the hull, and won’t reach IOC until FY 2016. USN’s Navy Live blog.

Jan 10/13: PEO support. CACI Technologies Inc. in Chantilly, VA receives a $20.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to support PEO Littoral Combat Ships. All funds are committed immediately, but $4.4 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13.

Work will be performed in Washington ,DC (89.9%); Norfolk, VA (4.2%); San Diego, CA (2.2%); Panama City, FL (1.8%); Newport, RI (1.3%); and Monterey, CA (0.6%), and is expected to be complete by April 2013. This contract was not competitively procured, per the sole-source allowances in 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1), as implemented in FAR 6.302-1 (N00024-13-C-6322).

Dec 26/12: LCS 1 fixes. Aviation Week reports that the US Navy has made a number of fixes to problems identified in their May report (q.v. April 23/12 entry), after vehemently denying that accounts of those problems were true.

Fixes include augmentation of the ship’s anti-corrosion system, complete repainting of the main machinery room and piping that had not been previously painted, non-destructive testing of piping that was then reviewed by the the American Bureau of Shipping, and changes to weld procedures and Non-Destructive Testing procedures on LCS-3 and subsequent Freedom Class ships. Fixes to the RIX air compressors don’t appear to have been effective, based on “ship sources.” They may be replaced with Sauer products. Program officials also supposedly redesigned the Isotta Fraschini ship’s service diesel engines (SSDGs) that have been causing power problems – but subsequent events indicate that it hasn’t fixed the problems. Maybe Finmeccanica shouldn’t have been given such carte blanche by Lockheed Martin to specify its own products.

Dec 26/12: Support. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives $13.5 million for planning yard services to support LCS-2 and LCS-4, the first Independence Class ships. Services will include: vendor training and crew familiarization; in-service engineering support; trainer support; availability maintenance advanced planning; long lead time material planning and procurement; material warehousing; logistics product updates; and the class sustainment management.

Work will be performed in Bath, ME, and is expected to be complete by September 2013. $9.4 million is committed immediately, and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/13 (N00024-12-G-4330).

Dec 20/12: Support. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Baltimore, MD receives a $12.1 million contract modification, exercising an option for Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship core class services. All contract funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (36%), Hampton, VA (30%), Washington, DC (23%), and Marinette, WI (11%), and is expected to be complete by December 2013 (N00024-11-C-2300).

Dec 20/12: Support. Austal USA LLC in Mobile, AL receives an $8.1 million contract modification, exercising an option for Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) core class services. They’ll assess engineering and production challenges, and evaluate the cost and schedule risks of affordability changes to reduce LCS acquisition and lifecycle costs. All contract funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (51%) and Pittsfield, MA (49%), and is expected to be complete by December 2013 (N00024-11-C-2301).

Oct 25/12: LCS 3. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Baltimore, MD receives a $12.7 million cost-plus-award-fee order to provide engineering and management services for advance planning and design to support of LCS-3 Forth Worth’s post-shakedown availability.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete by July 2013. The USN supervisor of shipbuilding, conversion, and repair in Bath, ME manages the contract (N00024-12-G-2317).

Oct 5/12: Controversy. USMC Lt. Col. John Sayen pens an LCS article for TIME’s Battleland that minces few words, while comparing LCS to specific foreign ship classes:

“The Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is not only staggeringly overpriced and chronically unreliable but – even if it were to work perfectly – cannot match the combat power of similar sized foreign warships costing only a fraction as much…. About the only threat the LCS might handle is the “swarms” of Iranian machinegun and RPG-carrying speedboats in the Persian Gulf…. When asked why the LCS has sacrificed so much for speed, Navy spokesmen tend to become vague.”

The US Navy fires back in short order, saying that:

“…the LCS was never designed to protect other ships or to support troops ashore. That’s not its job. Its job is to protect the sea base and high value naval units from swarming boats, hunt down and sink diesel submarines, and clear mines in littoral waters.”

Some of their other shots miss, but they’re right about a few things. In terms of major points, shipbuilding is to naval vessel standards, not commercial standards as Sayen claimed, a change that cost the Navy a good chunk of money on initial ships. That argument ducks the issue of lower survivability standards, however, which are a legitimate point of debate. The Navy’s contention re: superiority to 1980s-era FFG-7 frigates that have had all major weapons removed in a bit disingenuous, and it would be useful to understand the basis for their claims of superiority over much smaller and cheaper 1990s-era Osprey Class minesweepers. TIME Battleland | USN’s Navy Live blog |

Sept 28/12: Support. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Washington, DC receives an $8.5 million contract modification, finalizing the contract for Freedom Class FY 2013 engineering support services. Work includes technical library services, logistics and technical data and documentation, quality management services in preparing of test and inspection requirements, quality assurance inspection, collecting and analyzing test data, and otherwise working to standardize the class’ follow-on availability periods.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete by September 2013. All funds expire on Sept 30/12, at the end of FY 2012. The USN’s Southwest Regional Maintenance Center in San Diego, CA manages the contract (N00024-12-G-4329).

FY 2012

$1.4 billion for LCS 9-12; Freedom Class breakdowns & questions – but program looks “unstoppable”; Navy establishes LCS Council to get it ready for deployment to Singapore; LCS 10-12 named; LCS 4 launched; LCS 5 keel laid; 20 New berths for Freedom Class; Cost is #1 now. LCS 4 launch
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Sept 28/12: Support. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Washington, DC wins a $7.5 million modification, as part of finalizing the contract for Freedom Class FY 2013 engineering support services.

All funds expire on Sept 30/12, at the end of FY 2012. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to complete by September 2013. The USN’s Southwest Regional Maintenance Center in San Diego, CA manages the contract (N00024-12-G-4329).

Sept 28/12: Support. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a $7 million modification, finalizing the contract for LCS Independence Class FY 2013 engineering support services. Work includes technical library services, logistics and technical data and documentation, quality management services in preparing of test and inspection requirements, quality assurance inspection, collecting and analyzing test data, and otherwise working to standardize the class’ follow-on availability periods.

All funds expire on Sept 30/12, at the end of FY 2012. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA. The USN’s Southwest Regional Maintenance Center in San Diego, CA manages the contract (N00024-12-G-4330).

Sept 22/12: LCS 3. The Freedom Class ship USS Fort Worth is commissioned at the Port of Galveston, TX, and is officially placed in service. US Navy.

LCS 3 commissioned

Aug 22/12: LCS Council. The US Navy convenes an “LCS Council” of high-ranking officers, in order to ensure that the LCS is ready to deploy to Singapore in 2013, per its commitments, and that the USN is ready to support it properly. “Addressing the challenges identified by [preparatory USN] studies necessitates” this high-level group, in order to drive fixes in multiple places across the Navy.

It’s filled with brass: Vice Adm. Rick Hunt, director of the Navy Staff, as its chairman, and the following senior officers also on board: Vice Adm. Mark Skinner, Principal Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition; Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, commander, Naval Surface Forces; and Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, commander, Naval Sea Systems Command. The Plan of Action and Milestones are due no later than Jan 31/13. USN Memo [PDF] | POGO.

Aug 16/12: “Directional instability”. POGO and Aviation Week find documents that detail problems keeping LCS 1 on a straight course. While ships do need some directional instability to maneuver well, but “a source close to the LCS program told POGO that the directional instability affected the crew’s ability to operate the Lockheed ship.”

Worse, the problem occurred just before the Navy went to Congress, asking for permission to buy both ship types. The documents show the Navy instructing people to either not talk about this problem, or minimize it. POGO.

June 1/12: LCS to Singapore. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tells the 11th Annual Shangri-La Dialogue on security that “American littoral combat ships will be berthing in Singapore.” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey goes on to detail the specifics a couple of days later, saying that there will be 4 LCS ships committed to Singapore for 6-10 month rotations, and will make port calls throughout the region. Pentagon | Pentagon follow-on.

Singapore chosen for deployments

May 31/12: Support. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a $12.5 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification for LCS Independence Class design services. They’ll provide class baseline design services, class documentation services, class engineering studies, cost estimating support, LCS ship transition work, interim support services, and liaison for ship construction and post delivery with the class design agent for even-numbered ships from LCS 6 Jackson onward. This modification includes an option, which could bring its cumulative value of this modification to $25.1 million.

Work will be performed in Bath, ME (54%), Pittsfield, MA (45%), and Mobile, AL (1%). Work is expected to be complete by June 2014 (N00024-09-C-2302).

May 31/12: LCS 2. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Bath, ME receives a $7 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to provide engineering and management services for advance planning and design in support of LCS-2 USS Independence’s post-shakedown availability. Efforts will include program management, advance planning, engineering, design, material kitting, liaison, and scheduling.

Work will be performed in Bath, ME, and is expected to be complete by February 2013. This contract was not competitively procured by the USN’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair in Bath, ME (N00024-09-G-2301).

POGO Presentation
click for video

May 11/12: Push for GAO. House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Jackie Speier [D-CA] is leading a push to have the Congressional GAO audit office to review the LCS program. Rep. Duncan Hunter [R-CA] is also active in submitting LCS-related amendments that are critical of the Navy and its lack of disclosure. Speier says that:

“…serious flaws…. threaten the operational capabilities of the ship…. it’s disturbing that the Navy would accept a ship that fails to meet the basic requirements for a tugboat. The future of the fleet is corroding before our eyes.”

See: Maritime Executive | AOL Defense | The Hill.

April 23/12: POGO – cancel LCS-1 Class. The POGO NGO releases a series of Navy documents showing problems with the LCS-1 Freedom Class, which:

“…has been plagued by flawed designs and failed equipment since being commissioned, has at least 17 known cracks, and has repeatedly been beset by engine-related failures…. during those two outings: several vital components on the ship failed including, at some point in both trips, each of the four engines. In addition, there were shaft seal failures during the last trip,[22] which led to flooding. Additional new material… shows that the ship appears to have even more serious problems with critical ship-wide systems, including rampant corrosion and flooding….. The Navy has not been forthcoming with information about all of these problems.”

Aviation Week picks up on these allegations, and relates “extensive corrosion and manufacturing issues more recent and serious than anything the Pentagon or prime contractor Lockheed Martin has publicly acknowledged thus far,” including flaws in vital piping systems that are leaking. Their report is based on a guided tour of the ship in dry dock, as well as “sources intimately familiar with Freedom’s design, repairs and operations.” To make things worse, the ship has issues with underway speed. In moderate-severe Sea State 7 conditions, it’s no greater than 20 knots, with prohibitions against driving into head seas. Even in moderate Sea State 5 conditions, LCS 1 is restricted to 20 knots into head seas. POGO goes on to recommend that the USN adopt just 1 variant of the LCS, and further recommends canceling Lockheed Martin’s Freedom Class variant. POGO | Aviation Week | USNI Blog | Commander Salamander blog | U-T San Diego | POGO vs. the USN, side by side comparison.

Widespread issues with LCS 1

July 2/12: 20 more berths. Defense News reports that the Navy is acknowledging the obvious, and adding 20 more berths to USS Freedom. They’re not adding any more space, of course, but they will add 2 officer berths, 2 petty officer berths, and 16 enlisted berths. No decision has been made yet about USS Independence.

LCSs were intended to operate with a core crew of 40 sailors, plus a mission module detachment of 15 and an aviation detachment of 25. Each ship has a pair of 40-person crews (Blue and Gold), which will shift to 3 crews over time that can deploy in 4-month rotations. In order to use the additional berths, the manning plan also has to change.

Other LCS 1 Freedom Class upgrades will reportedly involve an Aqueous Film-Forming Foam system, improvements to stern ramp fender stanchions, removal of its retractable bitts; and more fire suppression sprinklers, tank level indicators, and pipe hangers. Those sorts of changes aren’t unusual for a ship at this stage.

May 22-24/12: Despite the PREINSURV report of May 7/12, The Special Trial takes place anyway with an overall good assessment. Because the Freedom was on the pier for repairs, its crew had spent too little time on it prior to the inspection, which explains some of the hiccups.

These repairs have addressed some problems like hull cracks (see April 11/11 entry) but other vexing issues remain unsolved since they have been spotted in 2008, such as water intrusion up the hawse pipe and through the aft stern doors. Navy Times.

May 7/12: A PRESINSURV report recommends not to proceed with a scheduled Special Trial, as they have found the crew unprepared with the inspection and unfamiliar with their ship. At least they had a positive attitude. It should be noted that a pre-inspection is supposed to find issues, in order to get all ducks in a row before the real deal. Gannett’s Navy Times | Information Dissemination has the verbatim memo.

April 8/12: Program unstoppable? The New York Times writes an article about the Littoral Combat Ship: “The Next War: Smaller Navy Ship Has a Rocky Past and Key Support.” The money paragraph:

“Analysts say an important factor driving the Navy and Congress is that the vessels the ships are meant to replace – frigates and minesweepers – are aging, and that there is little else in the pipeline. The combat ship is seen as too far along in production to be killed now. [Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA says] It’s one of those things that once the snowball goes down the hill, it just keeps rolling…. There’s no way I’m going to stop it.”

See: New York Times | DoD Buzz.

March 16/12: 4 x FY 2012 ships. The US Navy issues 2 major contracts for FY 2012 LCS ships. A $715 million contract modification to Lockheed Martin Corporation will build LCS 9 Little Rock and LCS 11 Sioux City at Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, WI. A $691.6 million contract modification to Austal USA will build LCS 10 Gabrielle Giffords and LCS 12 Omaha in Mobile, AL. Amounts are based on the competitive, LCS dual block buy contracts (vid. Dec 29/10), and factor in approved FY 2010-11 change orders to the designs. Note that these contracts cover just the base sea frames, and installation of separately-purchased “government furnished equipment” like weapons, etc. Mission modules in particular must be noted as an expensive “extra.”

At present, USS Freedom [LCS 1, Fr] is undergoing serious repairs at its homeport in San Diego, CA. USS Independence [LCS 2, In] is currently undergoing test and trials in Mayport, FL. Fort Worth [LCS 3, Fr] is under construction and planned to deliver in June 2012, and Coronado [LCS 4, In] is expected to deliver in early 2013. Milwaukee [LCS 5, Fr] and Jackson [LCS 6, In] are in the early stages of construction. Detroit [LCS 7, Fr] and Montgomery [LCS 8, In] are in pre-production stages. US Navy.

4 ships: 2 of each class

March 14/12: US NAVSEA issues a pair of contracts for a year of “special studies, analyses, review and Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class services… [to] assess engineering and production challenges and evaluate the cost and schedule risks from affordability efforts to reduce LCS acquisition and lifecycle costs.” Work will last until March 2013.

The award disparity between the Freedom (Lockheed) and Independence (Austal) classes is interesting, and calls to mind the AvWeek report that suggested the need for a fundamental redesign (Jan 30/12). Maritime Memos’ Tim Colton wonders what the heck the government is thinking with the whole award. “…[T]hese are fixed-price contracts: the contractors should be doing everything they can to reduce costs and schedule at their own expense.” Which is true, but lifecycle costs are a bigger fraction, and are entirely the Navy’s problem unless there’s a contract to address them. Of course, not picking 40+ knot speeds as a key requirement would have done a lot to reduce operating costs and boost range – but it’s too late for the Navy to do that now.

Lockheed Martin Corp in Baltimore, MD receives a $33.6 million option (N00024-11-C-2300), with work to be performed in Hampton, VA (32%); Marinette, WI (27%); Moorestown, NJ (22%); and Washington, DC (19%).

Austal USA in Mobile, AL receives a $19.7 million option (N00024-11-C-2301), with work to be performed in Mobile, AL (72%) and Pittsfield, MA (28%).

March 1/12: LCS 1. Gannett’s Navy Times:

“Barely a month after leaving dockyard hands, the Freedom, first of the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), is back [for a 6 week] dry dock in San Diego, this time to fix a broken shaft seal that caused minor flooding on board the ship [on Feb 1/12]… engineers from the Naval Sea Systems Command and Lockheed Martin… will pull the propeller shaft and examine the shaft and its seals to determine why and how the newly-installed seal broke. Repairs for the Freedom are covered under an Initial Support Plan contract with Lockheed-Martin…”

LCS 1 breakdown

Feb 15/12: LCS 11 & 12 named. US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus names the next 2 Littoral Combat Ships. He keeps politics out of this naming set, naming the Freedom Class ship LCS 11 Sioux City, and the Independence Class ship LCS 12 Omaha. US Navy | Washington Times.

Feb 10/12: LCS 10 named. US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus can’t seem to keep politics out of his ship names. He names LCS 10 after shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords [D-AZ], even though the naming convention for LCS ships has been cities. He did the same for Rep. John Murtha [D-PA] in the San Antonio Class LPDs.

Mabus’ politicized ship naming choices have drawn fire, to the point of sponsored bills and amendments that would add congressional oversight to SecNav’s traditional prerogative. Traditionally, there has been some level of politics in the process, but it has generally involved choices that had acceptance on both sides of the aisle. The Giffords naming would qualify, but coming after Mabus’ other choices, it’s raising the heat rather than dissipating it. US DoD | Austal.

Jan 30/12: Freedom Class a lemon? Aviation Week reports that after being given copies of Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN) briefings the findings of Navy and industry reports, the set of defense analysts it probed believe that the Freedom Class may need to be fundamentally redesigned.

“The analysts also call for an investigation into how the ship was accepted in such – in their view – questionable shape…”

Jan 27/12: PM removed. LCS program manager Capt. Jeffrey Riedel is reassigned out of the program by LCS Program Executive Officer Rear Adm. James Murdoch, pending an investigation into allegations of “improper conduct.” Edward Foster will serve as the acting program manager until the investigation is complete, but even if the allegations are proven false, the report says that Riedel won’t be returning. Gannett’s Navy Times.

LCS PM removed

Jan 14/12: LCS 4 launch. LCS 4 is christened Coronado, after the California city near San Diego. Note that she is not yet USS Coronado. US Navy.

Dec 19/11: Support. Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, MD receives an $11.9 million contract modification, exercising an option for core Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class services until December 2012. They’ll assess engineering, and provide baseline and configuration management services during construction, post-delivery, test and trials for the Freedom Class.

Work will be performed in Hampton, VA (20%); Virginia Beach, VA (20%); Washington, DC (15%); Marinette, WI (13%); Moorestown, NJ (12%); Baltimore, MD (10%); Manassas, VA (7%); and Arlington, VA (3%). Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, DC, is the contracting activity (N00024-11-C-2300).

Dec 19/11: Support. Austal USA in Mobile, AL receives an $11.9 million contract modification, exercising an option for core Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class services until December 2012. They’ll assess engineering, and provide baseline and configuration management services during construction, post-delivery, test and trials for the Independence Class.

Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (30%); Pittsfield, MA (30%); Malvern, PA (20%); Newport News, VA (13%); and various locations of less than 2% each, totaling 7% (N00024-11-C-2301).

Dec 19/11: LCS 3. Lockheed Martin in Baltimore, MD receives a $15.2 million contract modification, exercising an option for LCS 3 (future USS Fort Worth) post-delivery support. Lockheed Martin will perform the planning and implementation of deferred design changes that have been identified during the construction period, and are deemed necessary to support Fort Worth’s sailaway and follow-on post delivery test and trials.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (39%); Marinette, Wis. (34%); Hampton, VA (18%); and Washington, DC (9%). Work is expected to be completed by December 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, DC, is the contracting activity (N00024-09-C-2303).

Dec 16/11: Philippines deployment? Discussions continue re: deployment of LCS ships to Singapore (vid. Dec 4/10), and reports suggest that the Philippines is also involved in discussions with the USA. The moves are said to be part of a broader US strategy to “pivot” its military focus toward the Pacific, and away from Europe. Reuters.

Nov 7/11: New LCS Office. Inside the Navy reports [subscription] that PEO-LCS has created an office dedicated to introducing the new ships to the fleet. It will be responsible for coordinating logistics, training, mission package support and ship sustainment. That sort of thing has been done before elsewhere in the Navy and US Military Sealift Command, but it’s new to the LCS following the July 11/11 merger of the ship and mission module PEOs.

Nov 2/11: LCS 5 keel. Team Lockheed Martin holds the official keel-laying ceremony for LCS 5 Milwaukee, their 3rd Freedom Class ship. Lockheed Martin.

LCS induction office

Oct 24/11: LCS 3. Lockheed Martin announces that LCS 3 Fort Worth has passed builder’s trials, and returned to Marinette Marine on Lake Michigan to prepare for Navy acceptance trials.

Oct 20/11: Cost is #1. LCS PEO Rear Adm. James Murdoch tells reporters that cost is now the overriding priority for the program, which means avoiding any changes unless there’s no choice. The flip side is that all of the 2 classes’ current weaknesses end up more or less frozen as is.

The mission modules will continue to evolve. He says that the Navy is still trying to reduce the Independence Class’ [LCS-2] preparation time to employ some of its mine-clearing mission package, so it can meet the Navy requirement to clear a (classified) area in a (classified) amount of time of a (classified) number of mines. They’re also taking steps to replace the anti-submarine USVs with simpler towed sonar arrays, which can be run at speed. Aviation Week.

FY 2011

Program shifts to dual-buy; Program SAR to $37.48 billion; LCS 5-8 bought; PEO LCS created; USS Independence corrosion issues; USS Freedom cracking issues; LCS 5-9 named; Marinette opens new facility; Saudi interest?; Official reports. Named.
(click for cutaway)

Sept 20/11: Sub-contractors. Saab and its American subsidiary Saab Sensis Corp. announce the official Sea Giraffe contract from General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, who is the Independence Class’ platform system engineering agent. Saab’s Sea Giraffe has always been the planned radar for the LCS-2 Independence Class, and has been ordered for the first 2 ships; this just makes it official for all ships under the new contract.

The 3-D Sea Giraffe AMB is used for aerial scans, water surface scans, and weapon guidance. Land-based counterparts can even back-track incoming rockets and ballistic projectiles to their firing point, and Saab confirms reports that the naval radar can do so as well. Saab Sensis manages the US technical baseline for Sea Giraffe AMB. They will provide US based program management hardware and software adaptations, system integration, testing, and total life-cycle support to in support of the radars on Austal’s LCS design.

Sept 8/11: LCS 2. USS Independence [LCS-2] arrives in St. Petersburg, FL. The question is now how the Navy will use it. GAO reports contend that USS Freedom’s previous deployment may have set the whole program back, by removing the ship’s use as a test bed for LCS mission modules. DoD Buzz discusses what they think we know:

“We can presume the ship’s corrosion issues are resolved since it was given the green light to leave Naval Station Mayport, Fla., and that it’s seaworthy because it made the trip around the state, and that it’s handling flight operations now – the ship stood into Tampa Bay with an MH-60 helicopter on its flight deck…”

Aug 29/11: Exports? Aviation Week quotes Lockheed MS2 VP of littoral ship systems, Joe North, who says that over 21 countries have expressed interest in their LCS design. He’s the first to admit that interest does not always equate to a budget, and the article notes that Chinese frigate designs are becoming thinkable alternatives to buying a ship like the Freedom Class.

Aug 22/11: LCS 5 begins. Lockheed Martin announces the start of construction on LCS 5 Milwaukee, at Marinette Marine. The ship is due for delivery to the U.S. Navy in 2014, and is the 1st of 10 Freedom Class ships awarded to Lockheed Martin under the December 2010 Navy contract.

Meanwhile, LCS 3 Fort Worth remains on track for delivery in 2012.

Aug 5/11: Freedom Class changes. Aviation Week’s “U.S. Navy Studies And Improves LCS-1” describes the post-shakedown process, which includes design and procedure changes that are incorporated into the class. Previous hull cracking issues aren’t on USS Freedom’s PSA list, but magazine modifications and a mooring configuration change are.

Aug 2/11: Corrosion. Prospective Deputy SecDef Ashton Carter sends a written response to the bipartisan Senate letter of July 13/11. It says that USS Independence’s galvanic corrosion problem was a design flaw, which is being changed at a cost of $3.2 million, plus about $250,000 for each future ship of class. An Impressed Current Cathodic Protection System and “additional sacrificial protection design” will be applied to USS Independence during its Post Shakedown Availability, and on future ships of class prior to delivery. With respect to the damage:

“…the complex geometry of the water jet assemblies and tunnels made sufficient insulation of the aluminum hull from the steel water jet assembly difficult… corrosion on LCS 2 is concentrated in small areas in the water jet tunnels and water jet cone assemblies… transition area between the two.”

That doesn’t sound like “aggressive” corrosion, which raises questions. The original design approach apparently did include cathodic protection in the waterjets, alongside coatings and insulation, but it wasn’t enough, and some of the insulation wasn’t installed properly. The system was also designed to commercial principles, which emphasize regular repair of corrosion, but the Navy is looking for a more permanent fix.

With respect to the LCS program’s cost estimates, Carter says the Navy’s figures were based on actual offers received, so he decided that was the best program estimate to use. Full Carter letter [PDF] | Defense News. See also July 13/11, June 20-22/11, and June 17/11 entries.

Independence Class corrosion issue

Aug 1/11: LCS 6 begins. The Navy authorizes the first cutting of aluminum for the Independence Class ship LCS 6 Jackson at Austal’s Modular Manufacturing facility in Mobile, AL. US Navy.

July 27/11: Rep. Duncan D. Hunter [R-CA-52] and Rob Wittman [R-VA-1] ask the GAO to update its 2010 audit of the LCS program. Full Letter [PDF].

July 22/11: LCS 2. General Dynamics – Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a $10 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to provide engineering and management services for advance planning and design in support of the post shakedown availability for USS Independence [LCS 2]. While Austal is the builder and contract owner, GD-BIW began the LCS competition as their bid partner, and would likely have served as the “2nd shipyard” for the trimaran design, if the Navy had pursued that requirement.

Work will be performed in Bath, ME (72%); Pittsfield, MA (20%); and Mobile, AL (8%). Work is expected to be completed by February 2013. The Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair in Bath, Maine manages this contract (N00024-09-G-2301).

July 15/11: LCS 9 named. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announces that the next Freedom Class ship, LCS 9, will be named USS Little Rock, in honor of Arkansas’ capital city.

The previous USS Little Rock began life as a Cleveland Class light cruiser after World War II [CL-92], and was one of 6 to be converted to a Galveston Class guided missile cruiser later on [CLG/CG-4]. She was decommissioned in 1976, and now sits in Buffalo, NY as a museum ship. US Navy.

July 13/11: Corrosion. A bipartisan group of 7 U.S. Senators sends a formal letter to the Pentagon’s Ashton Carter, asking for explanations about LCS certifications that had been waived by the Navy. Waived items included survivability-related certifications, an area that’s a known weakness for the type. Senators Webb [D-VA, former Secretary of the Navy], Begich [D-AK], McCaskill [D-MO], McCain [R-AZ], Brown [R-MA], Coburn [R-OK], and Portman [R-OH] question:

  • An April 7/11 Office of the Secretary of Defense certification to move the LCS to Milestone B, while waiving several requirements, with no explanation of why.
  • The use of Navy acquisition cost estimates, instead of those from the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) group.
  • A waiver of the need to certify program tradeoffs, granted late in the program
  • How the LCS program “will ensure reliability and minimize major cost growth in operations and sustainment costs” in light of LCS-2’s corrosion issue; they also want detailed information about the problem, and a response to the Austal CEO’s public statement.

See: Full text of letter | Gannett’s Navy Times.

July 11/11: PEO LCS Created. The US Navy formally establishes Program Executive Office, Littoral Combat Ships (PEO LCS), during a ceremony at Washington Navy Yard, in order to oversee the program. Ship construction supervision is removed fro PEO Ships, while mission module supervision is removed from PEO Littoral and Mine Warfare (PEO LMW), which is dissolved.

Per predictions made in May, Rear Adm. James A. Murdoch is placed in charge of the office, which is designed to bring all elements of the troubled program together under one roof. US Navy | Information Dissemination (May 2011) was not enthusiastic.

July 5/11: US Navy:

“The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) is undergoing $1.8 million in maintenance while in dry dock at BAE Systems San Diego Ship Repair. Freedom is scheduled to undock September 19, 2011.”

The accompanying picture clearly shows the single helicopter hangar, as well as the 2 boxy stern bustles, aka. “water wings,” which added at a late stage to address the type’s reserve buoyancy issues.

June 20-22/11: Corrosion. June 20-22/11: After USS Independence corrosion reports hit Austal’s share price, a company release addresses the issue. It notes the complete lack of such problems on all of Austal’s commercial and military ships to date, and suggests that the US Navy may have failed to follow basic procedures. Note that Westpac Express is a leased vessel, maintained by Austal:

“…having built over 220 aluminum vessels for defence forces and commercial clients around the world… galvanic corrosion has not been a factor on any Austal built and fully maintained vessel, and our technical experts are eager to support any request to identify root causes… The Westpac Express… has shuttled U.S. Marines throughout the Pacific Basin continuously for ten years, with a 99.7% availability over that period.

Austal has a well-developed methodology for the management of galvanic corrosion, which it has deployed globally… If selected to provide post-delivery support for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Class Services program, it is a straight forward process for Austal engineers… deploy temporary sacrificial anodes every time the vessel is moored, and ensure that high-voltage maintenance equipment is properly grounded before use aboard ship.”

Reports that the US Navy’s temporary fix involves installing a cathodic protection system aboard USS Independence do tend to suggest several major lapses: in specifications and acceptance (US Navy), by the Design Agent (Austal), and by the contract prime (GD Bath Iron works). Information Dissemination has a different take, and thinks there are grounds for believing that Austal’s JHSV ships, which may not have a cathodic protection system either, could also be at risk:

“In the case of LCS-2, the problem was apparently accelerated by stray currents in the hull from the electrical distribution system problems the ship has been having since it was turned over to the Navy. LCS-4 doesn’t have [a cathodic protection system] either, but apparently CPS is part of the lessons learned process and was included in the fixed-price contracts for Austal versions of the LCS beginning with LCS-6. LCS-2 will have the CPS installed at the next drydock period, while Austal has said a CPS will be added to LCS-4 before the ship is turned over to the Navy. The question everyone seems to be asking is whether the JHSV could suffer the same issue… I’d be curious to know if Westpac Express has a CPS installed, or some other form of prevention is used at all.”

See: Austal release | Alabama Press-Register | Information Dissemination | WIRED Danger Room.

June 17/11: Corrosion. The US Navy has told Congressional appropriations committees that “aggressive” corrosion was found in the propulsion areas of USS Independence, which rely on Wartsila waterjets. The ship has been given temporary repairs, but permanent repairs will require dry-docking and removal of the water-jet propulsion system. The strong Australian dollar has hurt Austal’s commercial exports, so this blow to its defense business has added impetus. Bloomberg | Alabama Press-Register | Sydney Morning Herald.

Corrosion in new ships isn’t unheard of, though it’s never a good sign. Norway’s Fridtjof Nansen Class AEGIS frigates had this problem, for instance. The Independence Class runs some risks that are specific to its all-aluminum construction, however, as key subsystems with different metals create risks of galvanic corrosion. Interestingly, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) NGO notes that:

“The Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, released today, gives the Pentagon $32.1 million to address “the DoD Corrosion Prevention and Control shortfall in funding requirements.” The Pentagon estimates that funding in this area yields an estimated 57:1 return on investment by reducing the costs for repairs and replacements of corroded systems and parts.”

June 16/11: WLD-1 launch testing. The US Navy Program Executive Office for Littoral and Mine Warfare (PEO LMW) announces the successful first time launch and recovery of the WLD-1 Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV) semi-submerged USV from USS Independence [LCS 2], while underway near Panama, FL. The vehicle went through 5 successful cycles of deployment, towed operations and recovery, while also testing things like vehicle stability in the wake zone and remote operation.

In active use, the RMMV will tow the AN/AQS-20A sonar, and the entire Remote Minehunting System is scheduled for further testing in summer 2011 as part of the LCS MIW mine warfare module’s core AMCM system. This test matters to the LCS program for other reasons as well. The effectiveness of LCS rear launch and recovery systems has been a concern for both designs. US NAVSEA.

June 15/11: Saudi Arabia. Defense News reports that Saudi Arabia may be shifting their focus away from a fully armed variant of the Littoral Combat Ship, carrying the smaller AN/SPY-1F radar and AEGIS combat system. In its place, they received May 2011 briefings concerning DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers displacing about 3 times the tonnage, with ballistic missile defense capability upgrades. The cost trade-off would be about 4-6 modified LCS ships, in exchange for about 2 DDG-51 Flight IIA BMD ships.

The unspoken threat here is, of course, Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The unspoken concern is the security of a top-level defense technology, which is critical to defending the USA and its allies, in Saudi hands.

To date, the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class has never been exported per se, though their AEGIS combat system and accompanying AN/SPY-1D radars have. Another possible option for Saudi Arabia would be used US Navy DDG-51 Flight I ships, upgraded with AEGIS BMD. That would allow the Saudis to field more ships for the same money, if an agreement was reached. The costs would lie in questions about hull life and length of service, and the Flight Is’ lack of a helicopter hangar. Helicopters have been shown to be essential defenses against speedboat threats, of the kind that Iran fields in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Defense News | Information Dissemination.

June 4/11: LCS to Singapore. In a speech made at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates disclosed US plans to deploy new littoral combat ships (LCS) to Singapore. US Navy ships routinely stop in Singapore, but these would be the first US Navy ships permanently deployed there. SecDef Gates speech transcript | East Asia Forum.

June 2/11: Sub-contractors. Taber Extrusions LLC announces contracts to supply extruded aluminum products for JHSV 3 Fortitude, and LCS 6 Jackson, from its facilities in Russellville, AR and Gulfport, MS. Some structural extrusions for both ships will also be manufactured by Taber and supplied to Austal through a contract with O’Neal Steel Corp.

Taber has an 8,600 ton extrusion press with a rectangular container and billet configuration. The firm says that compared with smaller presses and round containers, their tool gives superior metal flow patterns with much tighter tolerances for flatness, straightness and twist; and better assurance of critical thickness dimensions. The resulting wide multi-void extrusions are friction stir welded into panels, and tight tolerances improve productivity while reducing downstream scrap. When finished, they make up some of the ship’s decking, superstructure and bulkheads.

April 15/11: LCS SAR. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 30/10 include the LCS program:

“Procurement and construction cost estimates for LCS have been incorporated into the SAR following approval of Milestone B (entry into Engineering and Manufacturing Development) on April 8, 2011. Previous reports were limited to development costs… Since the December 2009 SAR, development costs increased $1,080.4 million (+3.0 percent) from $36,358.4 million to $37,438.8 million, due primarily to fully funding the required planning and execution of the post-Milestone B program, to include the requirements for developmental/operational testing and live fire test and evaluation (+$822.0 million). There are also increases to complete shipboard trainers (+$189.3 million) and post delivery efforts for LCS-1 and LCS-2 (+$60.9 million).”

Costs rising

April 11/11: Cracking. DoD Buzz relays US Navy LCS program manager Capt. Jeff Riedel’s words, from a briefing at the US Navy League’s annual Sea, Air Space conference. He says it isn’t a design issue – or is it?:

“Both Lockheed and the Navy are going through their final review that should be available in the next couple of weeks… The design is adequate, how I build it is a different story… If I was able to weld it as it was designed to be welded, it wouldn’t have been an issue. The real issue was, getting access to that area to be able to do the weld… We modeled the superstructure and we found that we had areas that were high stress areas, so we would expect, potentially, a crack to occur in that high-stress area… So we instrumented the superstructure and we used that instrumentation to validate the model and in fact, we’re now using that to better the design… for LCS-3 and following we’ve gone back and changed the design so we can reduce those stress areas.”

Beginning with LCS-3, Riedel says that the spot on the ship where the crack occurred was made easier for welders to reach, allowing them to lay an extra thick weld.

March 25/11: LCS 6 & 8 named. US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announces that the Freedom Class LCS 6 will be named the USS Jackson, after Mississippi’s state capitol, and LCS 8 will be named the USS Montgomery, after Alabama’s state capitol. US DoD

March 18/11: Freedom, cracked. US NAVSEA reveals that Team Lockheed’s LCS-1 Freedom has already experienced a 6-inch outside/ 3-inch inside horizontal hull crack, located below the waterline in the steel hull, during a heavy weather ocean trial. It leaked 5 gallons an hour, and originated in a weld seam between steel plates. The ship returned to port in San Diego at 8 knots, avoiding rough seas, and the crack was patched with a cofferdam by March 12/11. NAVSEA is reviewing the class’ design, construction drawings and welding procedures.

In response to questions, NAVSEA spokesman Christopher Johnson emailed Bloomberg to add that welding “defects” also showed up as smaller cracks in the welds of USS Freedom’s aluminum superstructure during 2010 sea trials. Changes apparently already have been made in the ship’s design to correct the superstructure stress.

Discussions with people who have been involved in shipbuilding produced a range of reactions, but the fact that the larger crack was found in the steel hull, not the aluminum superstructure, is significant. Aluminum is a tricky material for ships, precisely because of its tendency to crack. One sailor recalled being able to see daylight from inside a level 2 office in the USS Newport LST (now Mexico’s ARM Papaloapan), thanks to cracks at the welds in its aluminum superstructure. Steel is supposed to be less troublesome that way. The overall tenor was that cracks typically first appear near the areas that ‘want to move’ as the ship flexes, but are overly restrained from doing so. That is said to make cracks more of a design issue, and less of a welding issue, though poor welding or poor steel quality can cause problems. One question asked was about expansion joints, which allow the middle part of the ship that gets the most bending to be able to give up those forces in the rubber expansion joint. Many older frigates have an expansion joint at the middle of the ship, for instance, and if this was eliminated in the LCS design, that would more strongly suggest a design issue. Bloomberg (note that USS Independence, referenced as having better welds, is in fact Austal’s ship) | Defense News | Fort Worth Star Telegram | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Online.

LCS 1 cracks

March 18/11: LCS 5 & 7 named. US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announces that the next 2 Freedom Class ships built by Lockheed Martin will be named the USS Milwaukee [LCS 5] and the USS Detroit [LCS 7]. LCS 3 Fort Worth is said to be about 85% complete at the moment, and on schedule for 2012 delivery. LCS 5 Milwaukee will begin construction in the summer of 2011, while LCS 7 Detroit isn’t expected to begin construction until May 2012.

The last ship named USS Detroit was a Sacramento Class fast support ship, T-AOE-4. It was decommissioned in 2005. The last ship named USS Milwaukee was T-AOR-2, a Wichita Class oiler that was decommissioned in 1994. US Navy | Alabama Press Register | Detroit Free Press | Australia’s Herald Sun (Victoria/ Melbourne) | Green Bay Press-Gazette | West Australia Business News.

March 17/11: 4 ships in FY 2011. The budget calls for 1 ship from each contractor. Note, however, that these awards don’t include the purchase of Government Furnished Equipment on board, or of the mission module needed to make the ships operational.

Lockheed Martin Corp. in Baltimore, MD receives a $376.6 million contract modification for 1 Freedom Class ship, LCS 7 Detroit. Work will be performed in Marinette, WI (56%); Walpole, MA (14%); Washington, DC (12%); Oldsmar, FL (4%); Beloit, WI (3%); Moorestown, NJ (2%); Minneapolis, MN (2%); and various locations of less than 1% each, totaling 7%. Work is expected to be complete by April 2016 (N00024-11-C-2300).

Marinette Marine Co.’s President, Richard McCreary, says the firm expects to recall all 110 laid off employees by the summer, and add about 40 employees per month in August & September 2011.

Austal USA in Mobile, AL receives a $368.6 million contract modification for 1 Independence Class ship, LCS 8. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (51%); Pittsfield, MA (13%); Cincinnati, OH (4%); Baltimore, MD (2%); Burlington, VT (2%); New Orleans, LA (2%); and various locations of less than 2% each, totaling 26%. Work is expected to be complete by October 2015 (N00024-11-C-2301). See also Austal | Lockheed Martin | Aviation Week | defpro | Philadelphia Inquirer | Upper Michigan Source.

FY 2011 order: LCS-7 & LCS-8

March 15/11: Support. Contracts to the 2 shipbuilders for Littoral Combat Ship class services, funding efforts to “assess engineering and production challenges and evaluate the cost and schedule risks from affordability efforts to reduce LCS acquisition and lifecycle costs.”

Lockheed Martin Corp. in Baltimore, MD receives $34.1 million contract modification. Work will be performed in Hampton, VA (31%); Marinette, WI (25%); Washington, DC (24%); and Moorestown, NJ (20%); and is expected to be complete by March 2012 (N00024-11-C-2300).

Austal USA in Mobile, AL receives a $19.7 million contract modification. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (83%), and Pittsfield, MA (17%); and is expected to be complete by March 2012 (N00024-11-C-2301).

March 8/11: Controversy. The Senate Armed Services Committee holds hearings regarding the Navy’s FY 2012 Navy budget and longer-term plan. SecNav Ray Mabus outlines the Navy’s view of the approved multi-year buy strategy.

“With an average cost of $440 million per ship, and with the cost reductions we have seen demonstrated on LCS 3 and 4, the Navy will save taxpayers approximately $1.9 billion in FY12-FY16. More importantly, the fact that prices were so dramatically reduced from the initial bids in 2009 will allow us to save an additional $1 billion – for a total of $2.9 billion – through the dual award of a ten-ship contract to each bidder.”

On the other hand, ranking member Sen. McCain continues to express concerns re: the LCS acquisition plan, though the multi-ship buy has been approved:

“As you probably know, I continue to think the Navy made a big mistake in going forward with a dual-source strategy on the LCS program. I believe that the true lifecycle costs of buying and sustaining both ships will be considerably more than what the Navy told us. I do not believe it is wise for Congress to authorize what amounts to a ‘bulk buy’ on a program without proving that its key aspects will work as intended and that its sustainability costs are reasonable. In the case of LCS, the Navy could not tell Congress what its plans are for the two different combat systems for the two designs; and, the combined capability of the mission packages with the sea-frames, which gives the ships combat power, remains unproven. I am concerned that the costs of operating and sustaining both variants will eventually require moving to a single combat system or going to a common propulsion and mechanical system. If that is where affordability concerns drive the Navy, why are we buying two versions of this ship?”

See: SASC Hearings record | Sen. Levin (chair) floor statement | Sen. McCain floor statement.

March 7/11: Industrial. Fincantieri subsidiary Marinette Marine Corporation breaks ground for a new panel-line fabrication building to support construction of the U.S. Navy’s Freedom-class LCS. It will use more automation, improve raw material storage, and cut the distance ship modules have to travel during construction. It’s part of a 5-year, $100 million modernization plan by the shipyard’s new parent company, and builds on 2009 improvements that included higher-capacity overhead cranes, plasma-cutting tables and pipe-bending machines.

In addition to this groundbreaking, Marinette Marine also marked the opening of its professional center and the completion of a project to expand its main indoor ship construction building. This expansion project nearly doubles the building’s size, creating enough space to house 2 complete LCS hulls and parts for 2 additional ships. The firm’s counterpart, Austal, has also been investing in major facility improvements at its Gulf Coast shipyard. Marinette Marine [PDF] | Lockheed Martin.

Feb 1/11: Sub-contractors. EADS North America announces a contract from Lockheed Martin to supply its TRS-3D radar for up to 10 Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ships through 2015. Under the terms of its contract, EADS North America will deliver the 1st radar unit to Lockheed Martin for installation in 2012.

Within the US armed forces, the TRS-3D also serves aboard the Coast Guard’s new frigate-sized National Security Cutters. Austal’s Independence Class trimarans use Saab’s Sea Giraffe AMB radar instead.

Jan 17/10: Sub-contractors. Fairbanks Morse announces a contract from Lockheed Martin for 2 of its 17,000 bhp Colt-Pielstick 16-cylinder PA6B STC diesel engines, to power the Freedom Class LCS 5 ordered in December 2010. The engines will be manufactured and tested at the company’s facility in Beloit, WI, in accordance with American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) Naval Vessel Rules.

Price is not disclosed. If the entire set of 10 ships is ordered, the firm would provide 20 diesel engines.

It may be presumed that Austal is busy working on contracts with its engine suppliers as well: GE (LM2500 turbines) and MTU (800 series diesel).

Jan 17/10: Sub-contractors. Rolls Royce Marine announces an immediate contract from Lockheed Martin for 2 more of its 36MW MT30 gas turbines, as part of a larger contract to equip up to 10 Freedom Class ships.

The MT30 is derived from the firm’s Trent engines that outfit large passenger jets. In the US Navy, the MT30 also serves on the forthcoming fleet of 3 DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyers. Each LCS-1 Freedom Class ship takes 2 turbines, so the total order would be 20 if all 10 Freedom Class ships are ordered. Price is not disclosed, and the release adds that:

“In addition to gas turbines and waterjets, a significant range of Rolls-Royce equipment is specified in the Lockheed Martin design, including shaftlines, bearings and propulsion system software.”

They have not been trouble-free, however: see esp. Sept 29/10 entry.

Build ’em both!
(click to view full)

Dec 30/10: Dual Buy. Now that the provisional spending authority is approved along with the Navy’s revised dual-buy plan, the Navy issues 2010-2015 block buy contracts to Austal and to Lockheed Martin. The contract includes options for up to 9 additional vessels in the following 5 years, plus post delivery support, additional crew and shore support, special studies, class services, class standard equipment support, economic order quantity equipment. These contracts were competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities website, with 2 offers received.

Freedom class monohulls: Lockheed Martin Corp. in Baltimore, MD receives a fixed-price-incentive contract (vid. Dec 8/10 entry) for $491.6 million: $436.9 million for a Freedom class ship, and $54.7 million for technical data package, core class services, provisioned items orders, ordering, a not-to-exceed line item for non-recurring engineering, and data items. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year, except FY 2010 RDT&E funds.

Fincantieri’s Marinette Marine Corporation will build the ships, and naval architect Gibbs & Cox will provide engineering and design support. Work will be performed in Marinette, WI (56%); Walpole, MA (14%); Washington, DC (12%); Oldsmar, FL (4%); Beloit, WI (3%); Moorestown, NJ (2%); Minneapolis, MI (2%); and various locations of less than 1 percent (7%). Work is expected to be complete by August 2015.

If all 10 Freedom class ships are bought, the given cumulative value is $4.07 billion. If the Navy exercises options according to the previous procurement approach instead, and looks in 2012 for a 2nd source to build 5 more ships, the contract could rise to $4.571 billion, including selected ship systems equipment for a 2nd source builder and selected ship system integration and test for a 2nd source (N00024-11-C-2300).

Independence class trimarans: Austal USA, LLC in Mobile, AL receives a fixed-price-incentive contract (vid. Dec 8/10 entry) for $465.5 million: $432.1 million to build an Independence class LCS, plus $33.4 million for technical data package, core class services, provisioned items orders, ordering, a not-to-exceed line item for non-recurring engineering, and data items. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year, except FY 2010 RDT&E funds.

This brings Austal’s total order book to A$ 1.3 billion; the same shipyard is also building the US Navy’s JHSV fast-transport catamarans. Austal is beginning LCS-related preparation work beyond its investments to date, including a $140 million facility expansion and workforce development program over the next 12 months, which will more than double Austal’s workforce to 3,800 employees. Construction of the first LCS vessel will begin in early 2012, and it’s currently scheduled for delivery by June 2015. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (50%); Pittsfield, MA (17%); Cincinnati, OH (3%); Baltimore, MD (2%); Burlington, VT (2%); New Orleans, LA (2%); and various locations of less than 2 percent each (24%).

If all 10 Independence class ships are bought, the given cumulative value is $3.786 billion. If the Navy exercises options according to the previous procurement approach instead, and looks in 2012 for a 2nd source to build 5 more ships, including selected ship systems equipment for a 2nd source and selected ship system integration and test for a 2nd source, the contract could rise to $4.386 billion (N00024-11-C-2301).

Note that these prices do not reflect the additional cost of Government Furnished Equipment, including all weapons, mission modules, etc. Those additional costs can be expected to be comfortably over $100 million per ship. See also US Navy | Austal | Lockheed Martin | Defense Tech.

Dual buy contract for up to 20 ships

Dec 22/10: Budgets. The US Senate passes H.R. 6523, the House’s Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011. Having passed in identical form in both the House and Senate, it was introduced to the President to be signed on Dec 29/10. US Senate [PDF]. See also Aviation Week debate coverage | Sen. McCain’s [R-AZ] floor statement, against inclusion of the LCS.

Dec 21/10: Budgets. The US house of Representatives’ “lame duck” session of outgoing Congresspeople passes a new continuing resolution proposed by Senate Democrats to keep the government running through early 2011. The only arms-program-specific language in the legislation says that: “Subject to the availability of appropriations, the Secretary of the Navy may award a contract or contracts for up to 20 Littoral Combat Ships”.

On the other hand, the funding will not extend through the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30/11, as the incoming House and Senate will have full opportunity to pass their own budget. Gannett’s Navy Times.

Dec 14/10: GAO Report. The US Senate Armed Services Committee holds hearings regarding the proposed LCS program change. Reuters | See esp. the US GAO testimony: “Defense Acquisitions: Realizing Savings under Different Littoral Combat Ship Acquisition Strategies Depends on Successful Management of Risks,” which generally echoes their Dec 8/10 report.

Dec 13/10: Competition. Lockheed Martin and Austal extend their bid price offers to Dec 30/11, to allow extra time to finalize contracts at current prices. That’s necessary for 2 reasons. One is the funding uncertainty and turmoil created by continuing resolutions, as the 112th Congress tries to clean up the budgetless mess left by the last Congress. The other, related issue is that the latest LCS acquisition plan hasn’t been approved by Congress yet. Ranking Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] continues to oppose approval of that new acquisition plan, pending clarity on combat effectiveness and long-term costs. Green Bay Press Gazette.

Dec 10/10: CBO Report. The US Congressional Budget Office releases its report on the proposed program change: “Cost Implications of the Navy’s Plans for Acquiring Littoral Combat Ships” [PDF]. The CBO often has different cost estimates than the US Navy – and CBO’s higher estimates have a history of being right. In this case, however, they acknowledge that they’re handicapped by not seeing the shipyard bids.

They see the central issues as twofold. One is future operating and maintenance costs, which the GAO has also flagged as a serious issue. Maintaining 2 types is both a plus and a minus. That could really help the fleet if one design performs better, and right bow, data is limited. n the other hand, it also means additional spares, maintenance and training infrastructure, which may have to be duplicated on both coasts depending on deployment plans.

The other issue is the hardwired central combat systems, which are said to cost about $70 million per ship. They’re a topic of special attention in the report, as they’re different for the 2 ship designs. On the other hand, aligning them to allow common upgrades and maintenance would result in high retrofit costs down the road. Some estimates place the cost between $910 million – $1.8 billion. See also subsequent coverage of the combat system issue by Aviation Week | Gannett’s Navy Times.

Dec 8/10: GAO report on buy strategy. The US GAO releases its report – “Navy’s Proposed Dual Award Acquisition Strategy for the Littoral Combat Ship Program.” They still see the program as risky, and the risks are inherent in the design, concept, and execution, not the procurement strategy. The Navy doesn’t really understand operating and maintenance costs for the designs yet, which creates a big budget risk, though building both ships may hedge against the risks that one design turns out to be poor in this or other areas. Most significantly, the GAO points to a chronic and serious problem that has destroyed cost estimates for previous ship classes:

“In an effort to address technical issues on the first two ships, the Navy has implemented design changes for… LCS 3 and LCS 4… [that are] not yet complete. These changes are significant and have affected the configuration of several major ship systems including propulsion, communications, electrical, and navigation. In addition, launch, handling, and recovery systems for both designs are still being refined… contract modifications will need to be negotiated and priced. According to the Navy, it estimates funding requirements for these change orders to total 5 percent for all future follow-on ships produced… In addition, Navy officials stated that the seaframe solicitation includes a provision that agreed to design changes are “not to exceed” $12 million – a feature that Navy officials state will bound government cost risk due to design changes. Pending full identification and resolution of deficiencies affecting the lead ships, the Navy’s ability to stay within its budgeted limits remains to be seen.”

While the US Navy says that designs for LCS 3 & 4 are stable as built, the GAO points out that this is because key changes have been deferred until post-delivery. As testing reveals other issues, the amount of deferred work for follow-on ships “can reasonably be expected to grow.” See also Bloomberg.

Dec 6/10: LCS-2. USS Independence (LCS 2) arrives at BAE Systems Ship Repair in Norfolk, VA to begin its first industrial post-delivery availability. During the availability, the ship will complete the installation of needed components not installed during construction. US Navy.

Dec 4/10: LCS 3 launched. The 2nd Freedom-class LCS, USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), is launched at the Marinette Marine shipyard, on the Menominee River. Lockheed Martin | Argon ST [PDF].

Nov 4/10: LCS Plan #5. The US Navy looks over the bids, and applies to Congress to change the procurement strategy one more time. The bids appear to be low enough that the Navy thinks it can order 20 ships total (10 from each builder), and bulk up the fleet sooner, for the amount it had budgeted to field 15 ships using a 10 + 5 split.

Congress must take action to authorize the proposed 2 block buys by mid-December 2010, or the Navy is likely to end up with its default approach of awarding one 10-ship contract. US Navy | Aviation Week | James Hasik | Reuters.

5th plan the charm?

Oct 26/10: Saudi Arabia. Lockheed Martin MS2 President Orlando Carvalho confirms that his company has supplied price and availability information on its version of the littoral combat ship (LCS) to Saudi Arabia, which is looking to buy 8 modern frigate-sized warships. Lockheed is proposing a very different LCS, configured as a frigate equipped with AN/SPY-1F radars, an AEGIS combat system, and set equipment instead of mission modules.

It remains understood the Saudi authorities are waiting to see which LCS version the U.S. Navy chooses, but the ship’s capabilities might be well suited to the Arabian/Persian Gulf’s shallow waters. At Euronaval 2010, a French official reportedly said that France is hoping to sell between 4-6 FREMM frigates for the Saudis’ western (Red Sea and Indian Ocean) fleet, while the LCS was seen as likely for the eastern (Gulf) fleet. Defense News | Shephard Group | Tactical Report.

Oct 14/10: CRS Report. The Congressional Research Service issues its updated report: “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress” [PDF]. It offers details concerning the program’s history and current plans. Key issues examined include:

  • Whether Congress had adequate time to review the latest procurement strategy in 2010
  • Whether the Navy’s new plan gives it enough time to really evaluate how the initial ships of class perform
  • Whether the price-focused RFP properly balances sticker price against life-cycle operation and support (O&S) costs and ship capability
  • What happens if the Navy picks a winner, and the winner can’t deliver to cost?
  • How does the Navy plan to evolve the winning ship’s combat system to a configuration that has greater commonality with one or more existing Navy surface ship combat systems?
  • What are the Navy’s longer-term plans regarding the 2 “orphan” ships from the LCS class that isn’t picked?
  • What potential alternatives are there to the Navy’s new acquisition strategy? CRS cites block buys of both types, Profit Related to Offer bidding, and having the Navy buy the combat system separately.
  • In light of the cost growth, is the LCS program still cost-effective? What is the LCS sea frame unit procurement cost above which the Navy would no longer consider the LCS program cost-effective?

Other concerns include survivability, and CRS quotes the December 2009 report from the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation:

“LCS was designated by the Navy as a Level I survivability combatant ship, but neither design is expected to achieve the degree of shock hardening as required by the CDD [Capabilities Development Document]… Only a few selected subsystems will be shock hardened… Accordingly, the full, traditional rigor of Navy-mandated ship shock trials is not achievable, due to the damage that would be sustained by the ship… The LCS LFT&E [Live Fire Test and Evaluation] program has been hampered by the Navy’s lack of credible modeling and simulation tools for assessing the vulnerabilities of ships constructed to primarily commercial standards (American Bureau of Shipping Naval Vessel Rules and High Speed Naval Craft Code), particularly aluminum and non-traditional hull forms. Legacy LFT&E models were not developed for these non-traditional factors, nor have they been accredited for such use. These knowledge gaps undermine the credibility of the modeling and simulation, and increase the amount of surrogate testing required for an adequate LFT&E program. The LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment as evidenced by the limited shock hardened design and results of full scale testing of representative hull structures completed in December 2006.”

See the US Naval Institute blog’s take on the report as well, with a particular focus on survivability and the lessons of littoral naval combat. One excerpt from the full report discusses an important procedural point:

“The Navy had earlier planned to make the down select decision and award the contract to build the 10 LCSs sometime this past summer, but the decision was delayed and reportedly will now occur within 90 days of September 15 – the date by which the two industry teams were told by the Navy to submit new proposal revisions. On this basis, it would appear that the decision could be announced as late as December 14. On October 12, 2010, it was reported that a Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) review meeting on the LCS program that was scheduled for October 29 has been postponed to a later date that has not been set. The Navy states that it cannot announce its down select decision and award a contract to the winner until after the DAB meeting occurs.”

FY 2010

RFP released, but decision delayed; Clarity on LCS 3-4 costs; LCS “not survivable in a hostile combat environment”; LCS concept fails in Persian Gulf war game; USS Freedom [LCS 1] deploys with US Coast Guard aboard; USS Independence [LCS 2] commissioned; LCS 1’s MT30 engine problems; Austal/GD team splits; Official reports. MT30 turbine
(click to view full)

Sept 29/10: MT30 improvements. Rolls-Royce Naval Marine, Inc. in Walpole, MA received a $9.8 million cost-plus fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for “engineering and technical services on the Rolls-Royce gas turbine engine product improvement program. This contract is being awarded to research potential improvements to Rolls Royce gas turbine engines. Delivery Order 0001 will be issued on the same day of contract award with initial contract funding in the amount of $800,000.”

Work will be performed in Walpole, MA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete by September 2015. $800,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, which is Sept 30/10. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division, Ship Systems Engineering Station in Philadelphia, PA (N65540-09-D-0016).

DID has not tied this contract directly to the LCS program yet, but a search through US Navy ship types didn’t reveal any ships using Rolls Royce gas turbines, except LCS 1.

Sept 23/10: MT30 problems. Gannett’s Navy Times reports that USS Freedom [LCS 1] shut down its gas turbine engines on Sept 12/10, while operating off southern California. The Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines had “high vibration indications” in the starboard engine, and the ship returned to port using its diesel engines. Subsequent examination showed that turbine blading had broken off, damaging the turbine.

Lockheed Martin’s monohull design uses MT30 engines, instead of GE’s less powerful LM2500 which is used in the Austal trimarans, and in most current US Navy surface combatants. The US Navy will conduct USS Freedom’s engine changeout in Port Hueneme, CA, which is seen as being similar to the likely locations in which a deployed LCS would have to do this sort of operation. The Navy has scheduled a week’s time for the complete procedure.

LCS-1 engine issues

Sept 15/10: Bids in. Final bids for the latest incarnation of the Littoral Combat Ship contract are in from Lockheed Martin and Austal USA. Lockheed Martin | Defense News.

Sept 14/10: Politics. The Senate defense appropriations subcommittee votes to fund just 1 Littoral Combat Ship in FY 2011, instead of 2. That’s a long way from being the final word on the matter, but chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye [D-HI] reportedly says that:

“…two ships funded in 2010 have not yet been contracted. Under the new plan, the Navy would seek to award four ships to a single contractor in the coming year. There is virtually no way that the winning contractor would be able to begin construction of four ships in 2011.” Funding for one ship in 2011 “is more than adequate,” he said. And it saves $615 million.”

See: Gannett’s Navy Times | Information Dissemination.

Sept 14/10: Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia may be interested in the LCS as part of its rumored $60 billion weapons package. Despite previous focus on Austal’s trimaran design, a Washington Post report says that:

“The official said the Saudis continue to have internal discussions about those purchases and are watching to see the outcome of a competition to build a new Littoral Combat Ship.”

Sept 9/10: LCS a Lemon? In a piece called “Red Flags Everywhere,” influential naval blog Information Dissemination, which has generally been mildly supportive of the program, says:

“There isn’t just one thing wrong with the Littoral Combat Ship program – every thing is wrong with this program. There are so many red flags waiving frantically in the face of Congress, the Navy, and any casual observer in regards to the Littoral Combat Ship I feel like I am standing roadside in Beijing during a Party propaganda parade… The Littoral Combat Ship has traded survivability, armor, endurance, weapon payloads, cost efficiency, and reduced operational capabilities across the board for the advantage of speed. What is this advantage of speed that makes the trade off worth it? What is 40 knots giving the Navy’s new small combatant that 28 knots can’t?”

The piece comes in response to a generally supportive Lexington Institute piece:

“More recently, the Navy seemed to have the LCS program under control… Understanding the importance of the LCS, the Navy responded to initial problems with the basic ships or sea frames with the necessary attention, expertise and resources. The same effort must now be devoted to the development of working mission packages. This also includes developing the desired unmanned systems, particularly for subsurface operations.”

Sept 1/10: War Game Fail. Defense Tech reports:

“A recent Pentagon war game that ran the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship through simulated combat in the Gulf didn’t unfold quite as expected, according to participants… The war game featured the trouble-making Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps navy… Seeing their small boat swarm shot-up, the Iranians dispatched a bunch of small, air-breathing submarines to attack the LCS flotilla. The LCSs were forced to steam down to Diego Garcia to switch out the surface warfare modules with the anti-submarine warfare packages. That scenario repeated itself every time the Iranians changed up their attack and wrong-footed the LCS flotilla [due to the long change-out times].”

Designing the mission modules to be swappable by helicopter, and having medium-lift helicopters in the Navy with higher lift capacity then the planned H-60 models, might alleviate that problem. Neither approach has been taken.

LCS fails in war game

Aug 31/10: GAO Report. US GAO report #GAO-10-523 on the LCS program sees problems. “Defense Acquisitions: Navy’s Ability to Overcome Challenges Facing the Littoral Combat Ship Will Determine Eventual Capabilities.” Key excerpts:

“The Navy plans to invest over $25 billion through fiscal year 2035 to acquire LCS. However, recurring cost growth and schedule delays have jeopardized the Navy’s ability to deliver promised LCS capabilities… technical issues with the first two seaframes have yet to be fully resolved… Challenges developing mission packages have delayed the timely fielding of promised capabilities, limiting the ships’ utility to the fleet during initial deployments… Key mine countermeasures and surface warfare systems encountered problems in operational and other testing that delayed their fielding…”

With respect to the ships themselves:

“The Navy has required LCS seaframes to meet Level 1 survivability standards. Ships built to Level 1 are expected to operate in the least severe environment, away from the area where a carrier group is operating or the general war-at-sea region… Current ships in the fleet built to the Level 1 standard include material support ships, mine-warfare vessels, and patrol combatants.”

“…In our work on shipbuilding best practices, we found that achieving design stability before start of fabrication is a key step… Addressing [LCS 1 and 2] technical issues has required the Navy to implement design changes at the same time LCS 3 and LCS 4 are being built… Our analysis of the procurement section of the LCS total ownership cost baseline found the estimate lacks several characteristics essential to a high-quality cost estimate.”

See also the LCS Ancillaries: Mission Module & Weapon Contracts & Key Events section for additional excerpts related to those areas, and “MH-60S Airborne Mine Counter-Measures Continues Development” for in-depth reports on the mine warfare mission module components. See also: Aviation Week | Information Dissemination on the larger cultural issues this report speaks to.

Aug 29/10: LCS 3s. DoD Buzz reports that “Lockheed Martin, with just a five-week head start, has completed 60 percent of LCS 3, compared to Austal, whose LCS 4 is only 26 percent complete.” Why is that? It’s partly because Lockheed Martin reused work done on the original LCS 3 contract, which was canceled mid-stride. Lockheed Martin MS2 business development director Paul Lemmo:

“Lemmo also pointed out that Lockheed Martin has kept parts and materials left over from the previously terminated LCS-3. The Navy originally terminated Lockheed Martin’s second LCS in April 2007… [but] the company decided to continue manufacturing about 50 to 55 systems all the way to their completion… “Those systems have been in storage either at the manufacturer or at some of our facilities and they will be brought to bear on the ship,” [Lemmo] said. “The value of that material is about at least half of the total value of the material on the ship. Half the material needed for Fort Worth was already purchased. Generically a lot of it is long-lead propulsion machinery–the engine, the gas turbines, diesels, gears, water jets, shafting, those kinds of things…what was on order.”

See: DoD Buzz | Defense Daily.

Aug 23/10: Selection delayed. The US Navy delays its final selection for the new Littoral Combat Ship contract. The decision appears to have been pushed back to Dec 30/10, but the exact date in unclear. Defense News.

April 12/10: Competition. Lockheed Martin announces that its industry team has submitted its proposal for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) fiscal year 2010-2014 contract to the U.S. Navy today. The Navy will award the winning team a fixed-price incentive fee contract to provide up to 10 ships with combat systems, as well as combat systems for 5 additional ships, to be built at a second shipyard.

April 1/10: LCS SAR. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. One of the changes involves the Littoral Combat Ship, while another involves an ancillary system and is covered in that section. For the LCS “seaframe” itself:

“Program costs [DID: for the initial development effort] increased $883.9 million (+31.0%) from $2,848.6 million to $3,732.5 million, due to additional development and support for the mission package test program, seaframe testing, and crew training (+$241.5 million). There were also increases for the procurement of additional mission packages (+$183.6 million), a revised estimate for development, planning, and execution of Flight 0 and Flight 0+ (+$157.2 million), a revised estimate for seaframe pricing due to cost growth (+$131.5 million), changes to mission module development and phasing (+$77.8 million), additional funding for a technical data package (+$59.8 million), and the re-phasing of work due to a change in the schedule for Flight 0 (+$44.8 million).”

Cost increases

March 31/10: LCS 2. Aviation Week Ares describes the current state of USS Independence [LCS 2]. At this point, its captain says that she’s still in the pre-tactical risk mitigation stage. The crew is becoming familiar with the ship, and performing basic tasks like air defense testing, fast acceleration and deceleration, putting fast boats in the water while at sea, etc.

March 30/10: GAO Report. The US GAO issues report #GAO-10-388SP, its 2010 Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs.

With respect to the Littoral Combat Ship, the report places the program far below the desired level of technology and manufacturing knowledge for a program at this stage. Compared to its 2004 baseline, which was itself about 150% of original cost-per unit estimates, LCS R&D costs have increased by 169.2% of baseline. Procurement cost for the initial capability ships is up by a stunning 505.3%, total program cost for initial fielding has risen 285.9%, and acquisition cycle time rose 139% over the original baseline. The report also flags LCS weight increases that have led to LCS 1 stability issues due to a higher center of gravity, and mission modules that are only partially capable.

Mission Module findings are detailed in the Ancillaries section, but the key takeaway is that they’re not ready for effective service yet – and the ship’s chosen missile armament could become a serious problem.

March 22/10: Support. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Baltimore, MD receives a $14.1 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-2303) to provide engineering, program, and technical support for LCS class ships. This includes class baseline design services, class configuration management services, class documentation services, ship interim support, ship systems development, and other technical and engineering analyses.

Work will be performed in Norfolk, VA (41%), Moorestown, NJ (16%), Baltimore, MD (15%), Marinette, WI (14%), Washington, DC (8%), Arlington, VA (6%), and is expected to be complete by December 2010.

March 20/10: Costs. Inside the Navy:

“The Navy does not ask competing Littoral Combat Ship builders Austal USA and Lockheed Martin to arrive at an exact dollar figure for how much each bidder’s ship will cost over its lifespan in the current request for proposals for what will be the winning LCS design, sources told Inside the Navy last week. Yet, the sea service wants the competitors to “qualitatively: explain how they will manage “total ownership costs” in the future…”

March 16/10: Cracking. Reuters reports on a recent US Navy SBIR research solicitation, aimed at more quickly and cheaply diagnosing cracking in aluminum ship structures. From US Navy SBIR N10A-T041: “Fracture Evaluation and Design Tool for Welded Aluminum Ship Structures Subjected to Impulsive Dynamic Loading” :

“A new analysis tool combined with an experimental validation protocol is needed to accurately characterize the dynamic response and fracture behavior of welded aluminum ship structures subjected to extreme loading events. The goal of this effort is to develop an explicit dynamic failure prediction toolkit for fracture assessment of welded thin-walled aluminum structures. To efficiently characterize a large size ship structure, innovative modeling techniques using fractured shell elements are needed along with a mesh independent crack insertion and propagation capability. In addition to innovative crack simulation in a shell structure, advanced constitutive models have to be implemented in the toolkit to capture the rate dependence and anisotropy in strength, plastic flow and ductility. Developing and demonstrating novel damage simulation and fracture prediction methods has significant potential impact on design and operation of current and future Navy welded aluminum, ship structural systems.”

US Navy Commander Victor Chen reiterated the Navy’s confidence in the JHSV and LCS ships; the JHSV catamaran is aluminum construction, as is the LCS-2 Independence Class, and the LCS-1 Freedom Class uses an aluminum superstructure on a steel hull. He adds that:

“We already have a level of confidence in how to work with aluminum. The Office of Naval Research is trying to expand the knowledge base and build on what we already know.”

March 16/10: Drug busts. On her initial deployment to the Caribbean, the US Navy highlights USS Freedom’s [LCS 1] conduct of drug busts. The fast boats were intercepted with help from Freedom’s embarked MH-60S helicopter – a capability that is not unique to the LCS, by any means. Aviation Week Ares.

March 13/10: Industrial. New Fincantieri subsidiary Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, WI breaks ground on an expansion that will nearly double the size of its main indoor ship construction building. The expansion will provide enough indoor space to simultaneously house 2 complete LCS hulls and parts for 2 additional ships. It will also allow greater use of more efficient modular construction processes. The expansion is part of parent company Fincantieri’s 5-year, $100 million plan to modernize its U.S. shipbuilding operations and support the LCS program. Green Bay Gazette | MarineLog.

March 4/10: Austal & GD break up. Defense News reports that shipbuilding partners Austal USA and General Dynamics have agreed to revoke their teaming arrangement on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program: “We are now acting as prime going forward on the LCS program,” Austal president Joseph Rella told Defense News March 4.

The positions partner General Dynamics to bid on the 2nd set of 5 ships under the current procurement plan, if the LCS-2 Independence trimaran design wins. Competing with a rival prime bid is unrealistic for General Dynamics at this point, given the investments that would be required in aluminum-related manufacturing facilities and techniques. General Dynamics has confirmed that it does not intend to bid on the initial 10-ship competition, though the firms will continue their joint relationship when building the Coronado [LCS 4]. GD Advanced Information Systems will continue beyond that as an Austal team partner, and subcontractor for systems integration.

Austal & GD end partnership

LCS 1 & LHD 6
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March 3/10: CSBA Report. The USA’s non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment puts out a paper: “Littoral Combat Ship: An Examination of its Possible Concepts of Operation” [PDF]. While the report is generally positive about the LCS, and even offers several operational scenarios that use the ship’s capabilities, it does raise a few issues. Crew size is one, but the other relate to the standard trio of speed, armament, and sustainability:

“The disadvantage is that speed requires great power. By choosing speed the Navy has consciously chosen to accept lower carrying capacity and endurance. The impact on endurance is illustrated by the fact LCS’s cruising range of around 4,000 nautical miles (nm) at 20kts reduces to 1,500 nm at 45kts. This compares to an endurance of around 12,000 nm at 9kts for the US Coast Guard’s Legend- class National Security Cutter. Consequently, any mission that requires extensive use of speed will significantly limit the ship’s unrefueled time on station. Restrictions on payload and fuel capacity (including aviation fuel) mean that the LCS will require considerable logistical support for the provisioning of fuel, ammunition, perishable foods and other consumables. The Navy will almost certainly need to give greater thought to how the LCS can be supported when operating at distance from base areas.

…While taking due account of the fact that none of these nations operate carriers or long-range strike forces, the ability of the LCS to defend itself when compared to similar ships designed to undertake similar tasks appears to be limited, especially against air attack, regardless of which mission package is carried… The ship currently lacks a torpedo detection capability. The Navy is now taking urgent steps to rectify this worrisome omission… consideration needs to be given to providing a “mother ship” or tender in support able to resupply not only fuel but also other consumables, such as ammunition, perishables and spare parts, and provide medical treatment and workshop facilities. The LCS is designed to be self-sustaining for between fourteen and twenty-one days but in circumstances when it is operating at high speed this could conceivably drop to as little as four days. Workshop access may be particularly important because, as part of the drive to restrict crew size, much of the maintenance generally conducted by a ship’s crew has, in the case of the LCS, been transferred ashore.”

…NWDC laid equal stress on “frequently conducted” or “continuous” missions including SOF support, maritime interception operations/ SLOC(Sea Lines of Communication) patrol, and logistics. It pointed out that in the 29-year period prior to 1999, 60 percent of all naval missions were of this type… The implication of these statements is that the primary use of the LCS is increasingly considered to be as a naval constabulary vessel (which all naval vessels are to a degree) that is also able to undertake most naval diplomacy tasks and selected missions at the middle and lower ends of naval war fighting.”

Note that many of the scenarios to illustrate the ships’ usefulness depend on sustained high-speed operations, against the backdrop of a US Navy that is already short on oilers. Another involves escorts through the Persian Gulf, against fast attack craft armed with anti-ship missiles whose range the LCS cannot match, and whose strikes the LCS is ill-equipped to survive.

March 3/10: Fuel & Range. Inside the Navy publishes data about the relative fuel efficiency of the 2 LCS contenders (Source). There’s a significant difference, with implications for both operating costs and range, but the Navy proposes to treat them as equivalent, vid. Feb 25/10 entry:

“The General Dynamics variant of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) uses less fuel per hour during higher rates of speed than the Lockheed Martin vessel, according to a Navy document. The one-page LCS Consumption Curves shows that both ships use about the same amount of fuel, or barrels, per hour between zero and 16 knots. At five knots, the General Dynamics aluminum trimaran uses 3.2 barrels per hour versus 3.9 for Lockheed Martin’s semi-planing monohull [DID: +21%]. At 14 knots, the General Dynamics ship uses 11.3 barrels per hour while the Lockheed Martin ship uses 12.7 [DID: +12.4%]. At 16 knots, the Lockheed Martin ship uses 18.4 barrels per hour while the General Dynamics ship uses 15.5 [DID: +18.7%], according to the document. At 30 knots, the General Dynamics trimaran burns through 62.7 barrels per hour, while the Lockheed Martin monohull uses 102.9 barrels per hour [DID: +64.1%] … At 40 knots, the Lockheed Martin ship burns through 138 barrels per hour while the General Dynamics ship uses 105.7 barrels per hour [DID: + 30.5%].”

The LCS-1 Freedom Class’ weight issues could change these figures, especially when fully loaded. The LCS-2 Independence Class also has greater fuel capacity.

Feb 25/10: Competition. US Sen. Sessions [R-AL] questions criteria for Littoral Combat Ship RFP, pointing out the RFP’s cost as sole determinant approach, despite capability differences. The Navy responds that they consider both ships to be equivalent, and says that the ships will spend a low percentage of their time at high speeds. | YouTube video | Gannett’s Navy Times article.

Feb 19/10: LCS 3. Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Kim Martinez says that the Fort Worth [LCS 3] “is being assessed to preclude the same tank design,” and may be modified to avoid the need for USS Freedom’s bolt-on rear “water wings.” Gannett’s Navy Times blog Scoop Deck adds:

“Neither LockMart nor the Navy will say the original LCS 1 design included too little reserve buoyancy, but Martinez stressed that Freedom “meets all the Navy’s requirements, including for reserve buoyancy.” So does that mean the Navy discovered problems with its own requirements after accepting delivery of the Freedom? “That’s a question best answered by the Navy,” Martinez said.”

Feb 16/10: Freedom Class change. Gannett’s Navy Times’ blog “Scoop Deck” notes an interesting change to USS Freedom [LCS 1]:

“There is one big change, however: In a yard period late last year, Freedom acquired two large oblong metal boxes on its transom, on either side of the stern gate its crew uses to launch and recover boats. The sailors call these “buoyancy tanks,” although they look almost like a baby’s water wings for the pool… Do water wings added after the fact mean the Freedom – and Lockheed Martin’s design for the LCS 1-class – suffered from too little reserve buoyancy? “I can’t really talk much more about that,” [Gold Crew skipper, Commander Randy] Garner said.”

Feb 2/10: GAO Report. The US Congress’ GAO submits official report GAO-10-257: “Littoral Combat Ship: Actions Needed to Improve Operating Cost Estimates and Mitigate Risks in Implementing New Concepts.” Key excerpts:

“GAO’s analysis of the Navy’s 2009 estimates showed that the [LCS] operating and support costs for seaframes and mission packages could total $84 billion (in constant fiscal year 2009 dollars) through about 2050 [divided $64.1B seaframes, $20.8B packages]. However, the Navy did not follow some best practices for developing an estimate… The costs to operate and support a weapon system can total 70 percent of a system’s costs… With a decision pending in 2010 on which seaframe to buy for the remainder of the program, decision makers could lack critical information to assess the full costs of the alternatives. The Navy has made progress in developing operational concepts for LCS, but faces risks in implementing its new concepts for personnel, training, and maintenance that are necessitated by the small crew size… an average of 484 days of training is required before reporting to a [LCS] crew, significantly more than for comparable positions on other surface ships. Moreover, the Navy’s maintenance concept relies heavily on distance support, with little maintenance performed on ship. The Navy acknowledges that there are risks in implementing its new concepts… If the Navy cannot implement its concepts as envisioned, it may face operational limitations, have to reengineer its operational concepts, or have to alter the ship design. Many of the concepts will remain unproven until 2013 or later, when the Navy will have committed to building almost half the class… Navy officials from two divisions within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations – the Surface Warfare Division and the Assessments Division – said they were unaware of any analysis supporting the total planned quantities for either the surface warfare package or its maritime security module. Also, Navy officials said that the Navy has not performed a force structure analysis on the antisubmarine package because the contents are under development.”

GAO’s core recommendation, among several:

“To improve decision making, we are recommending that the Navy conduct a risk assessment and consider the results before committing to buy LCS ships in order to link procurement with evidence that the Navy is progressing in its ability to implement its new operational concepts.”

Jan 27/10: RFP. The US Navy releases the revised Littoral Combat Ship RFP. See Sept 16/09 and Jan 11/10 entries; the winner will receive contracts for 10 ships over the next 5 years, and another competition will be held in 2012 for a 2nd shipyard. The 2nd shipyard will build 5 ships of the same design over 3 years, but can’t be associated with the winning shipyard. FedBizOpps Solicitation #N0002410R2301:

“For the requirements synopsized herein, the LCS team members are the only sources, with the requisite knowledge of LCS design, construction, systems, and extensive knowledge of, and experience with, mission module interface requirements to efficiently and effectively construct these additional follow-on ships within the required construction period, and perform the associated services. The requirement contemplated is for up to ten (10) ships with two (2) ships in Fiscal Year 2010 and for two (2) ships per year in Fiscal Years 2011 through 2014; up to five (5) additional Select Ship Systems to be provide to a Second Source in FY12; integration of up to five (5) sets of Select Ship Systems for a Second Source in FY12. The contract will be awarded through a limited competition pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1), only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements. Companies interested in subcontracting opportunities should contact the LCS teams directly.”

The RfP lists 3 primary bid items (basic seaframe/ ship; combat & non-combat equipment; and the systems to handle the integration and testing. Technical and management factors in order of preference are: affordability and production approach; management; technical data package adequacy, and rights in technical data and computer software; design change impact; past performance; and life-cycle cost reduction initiatives. Navy statements strongly indicate, however, that this will almost exclusively be a cost-driven competition. Defense News | Gannett’s Navy Times.

Revised RFP issued

Jan 20/10: No LVL 1 Survivability. Reuters offers conclusions from the Pentagon’s director of Operational Test and Evaluation. They include the failure of either design to meet Level I survivability criteria except among some sub-sections, and that neither ship could be expected to “be survivable in a hostile combat environment.”

Lockheed Martin’s Freedom Class monohulls had problems in early air target tracking tests, which revealed deficiencies in the TRS-3D radar’s power supply and reliability, and serious problems with the combat system. The report added that the ship could face stability problems when fully loaded. Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Jen Allen claims that stability is no longer a problem for this class, and Reuters reports that the Navy plans to install external tanks to effectively lengthen the ship’s stern, and increase its buoyancy.

General Dynamics/ Austal’s Independence Class trimaran had its builders trials delayed due to reported leaks at the gas turbine shaft seals, and more testing identified deficiencies in the main propulsion diesel engines. Reuters

Jan 16/10: LCS 2. The trimaran USS Independence [LCS 2] is commissioned. Austal | Gannett’s Navy Times.

USS Independence

Jan 11/10: Partnership break-up? Defense News reports that General Dynamics and Austal are set to break up their LCS partnership, which has GD Bath Iron Works as the prime contractor but most of the structural shipbuilding work done by Austal in Mobile, AL. Under the new procurement rules, the US Navy will require a second-supplier shipyard for the winning design, that can’t be associated with the primary builder. Before they take any final actions, however, the GD/Austal team is waiting to see the Navy’s latest RFP, which is a bit behind schedule but is still expected in January 2010.

General Dynamics had reportedly seen Bath Iron Works as the logical shipbuilding facility to take on shipbuilding work if their team’s trimaran design won, but there is some speculation that this may shift to T-AKE shipbuilder GD NASSCO in California, instead.

LCS 2 christening
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Dec 18/09: LCS 2 delivered. The General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship Team delivers Independence [LCS 2] to the US Navy. USN Commanding Officer Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair Captain Dean Krestos officially accepted custody of Independence in Mobile, AL, where the ship will remain before its commissioning as USS Independence on Jan 16/10. That date will mark the first time a US Navy ship has been commissioned in Mobile since 1945. The ship will then prepare for its next set of trials, in the summer of 2010. US Navy | GD release.

Dec 17/09: LCS 4 keel. A brief keel laying ceremony is held in Mobile at Austal USA’s Assembly Bay 4 to record completion of the first major construction milestone for Coronado [LCS 4]. As one might expect, the centerpiece of the ceremony was the ship’s keel module, a large outfitted section of the aluminum center hull. GD release.

Dec 12/09: Coast Guard on USS Freedom. Gannett’s Navy Times reports that USS Freedom [LCS 1] will have US Coast Guard VBSS teams on board when it ventures into the Caribbean:

“The littoral combat ship Freedom is to take aboard a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment for part of its trial deployment early next year, Navy officials said, with the Coasties substituting for part of the Navy boarding team added to the LCS crew. Freedom is taking 20 sailors in two visit, board, search and seizure teams…”

Dec 3/09: Order clarity. The US Navy finally releases the cost data for recent Littoral Combat Ship contracts. Note that the cost of a fully-outfitted ship would add about $100 million for the installed mission module, in addition to other “government furnished equipment”. As such, actual costs to field operational ships are likely to end up above $600 million:

“As a result of the Navy’s change in acquisition strategy for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, the Navy can now release the pricing… The total value of the LCS 3 contract, awarded to Lockheed Martin Corporation on March 23, was $470,854,144 which includes ship construction, non-recurring construction and additional engineering effort, configuration management services, additional crew and shore support, special studies and post delivery support.

The total value of the LCS 4 contract, awarded to General Dynamics – Bath Iron Works on May 1, was $433,686,769 which includes ship construction, non-recurring construction and additional engineering effort, configuration management services, additional crew and shore support, special studies and post delivery support.

The contract values do not include government costs which include government furnished equipment, change orders, and program management support costs. The contract values do not include the cost of continuation work and material used from the terminated original contract options for LCS 3 and 4. The value of the continuation work and material from the terminated LCS 3 was $78 million for Lockheed Martin Corporation and $114 million from the terminated LCS 4 for General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works.”

FY 2009 costs

Nov 13-21/09: LCS 1. USS Freedom [LCS 1] also conducts independent ship deployment training and certification at sea, operating with ships from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower [CVN 69] Carrier Strike Group during their Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX). That was part of the Maritime Security Surge certification for the ship’s Gold Crew, which will deploy aboard Freedom in early 2010 to U.S. Southern Command.

Nov 19/09: Testing. The US Navy announces that LCS 2 Independence has successfully completed acceptance trials, after completing a series of graded in-port and underway demonstrations for the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV).

Acceptance trials are the last significant milestone before delivery of the ship to the Navy. Ship delivery is expected to occur with the ship’s commissioning as USS Independence on Jan 16/09 in Mobile, AL.

Oct 18/09: Testing. LCS 2 Independence successfully completes builder’s trials in the Gulf of Mexico. The trials included more than 50 demonstration events in preparation for final inspection by the Navy, including stable flight deck performance and ship control in Beaufort Sea State 5 conditions, sustained speeds of 44 knots, tests of the ship’s open architecture OPEN CI electronic backbone, and detection and engagement of a simulated cruise missile fire by an small jet aircraft. Austal release | GD release | Gannett’s Navy Times.

Oct 14/09: USS Freedom to deploy. The Navy announces the decision to deploy the USS Freedom [LCS 1] in early 2010 to the Southern Command and Pacific Command areas ahead of her originally scheduled 2012 maiden deployment (see also June 9/09 entry). says that:

“In evaluating options for deploying the Freedom earlier than originally scheduled, the Navy took into consideration several key factors including combat systems testing, shakedown of the ship systems and overseas sustainment with a new concept of operations and crew training. To facilitate the early deployment, the Navy adjusted the Freedom testing schedule, prioritized testing events needed for deployment and deferred others not required for the missions envisioned during this deployment.”

FY 2009

Another program shift; LCS 3 & 4 ordered, again, but we won’t tell you how much; LCS 4 named; LCS 2 launched; Naval Fire Support module? LCS 2, builder’s trials
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Sept 16/09: LCS Plan #4. The Pentagon reiterates its commitment to 55 LCS ships, but changes the LCS program’s acquisition structure, again. There will be no Phase II for the FY 2009 buy. Instead, selection of the final design would occur in FY 2010, before operational trials of both ships could take place. Both industry teams would submit proposals under a new solicitation. The winner would receive a 10-ship contract running from FY 2010-2014, and provide the combat systems for their 10 ships, plus 5 more. They would also deliver a technical data package, allowing the Navy to open a “build to print” competition for a second builder of the chosen design, beginning in FY 2012. That “build to print” order would be for up to 5 more ships.

This timeline would not give the Navy enough time to fully evaluate the ships relative merits before it makes its selection, essentially removing the entire rationale for building 2 types of Flight 0 ships. It would also leave the ships’ overall operational utility an open question.

Colton Company’s Maritime Memos adds that the envisioned structure may face challenges, depending on which design wins. It sees Team Lockheed’s steel hull as biddable to Northrop Grumman Pascagoula, GD Bath Iron Works, and GD NASSCO, plus VT Halter Marine; and possibly Todd, Bollinger in a break-away bid, or anyone who buys Bender in liquidation. The GD Bath Iron Works/Austal aluminum-hull design requires a more specialized set of skills, however, and those ships are too wide to be built on the Great Lakes and shipped out through the seaway. Colton believes a shipbuilder would have to invest in a new yard, or partner with an established aluminum boatbuilder, such as Swiftships or megayacht builder, such as Trinity Yachts. Colton adds:

“In essence, there might not be any credible competition for a second-source contract. Since almost everyone now agrees that the Austal design is clearly superior to the Marinette design, this could give the Navy a new problem.”

It could certainly give the Austal/GD team a new problem. US DoD | The Hill magazine | Alabama Press-Register | Associated Press | Reuters | Information Dissemination op-ed: “The LCS is Still a Mess.”

Acquisition plan #4

July 30/09: Politics. At the House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee’s “Hearing on Efforts to Improve Shipbuilding Effectiveness,” Chair Gene Taylor [D-MS] states in his opening remarks that:

“The LCS program is still a disaster, there is no way to sugar coat it, the program is still a disaster. Those first vessels were constructed in the most inefficient manner possible, just like my house construction analogy, and now we are being told by both the contractors that the cost of these ships really is in excess of a half a billion dollars. I am not sure the Congress is willing to go forward with that program unless significant progress is made on cost control, and I do mean significant.

With the challenges being faced by all the Services in trying to reset from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the Navy cannot count on additional funding for ship construction. We all need to figure how to rebuild our Fleet with the procurement dollars available. To do that all costs must come under control. Hard decisions need to be made. Soon.”

June 15/09: Inside the Navy, Vol. 22, No. 23:

“The House Armed Services seapower and expeditionary forces subcommittee has proposed to restructure the congressionally mandated $460 million cost cap for the Littoral Combat Ship to solely include the price of each vessel [DID: and not its weapons, radars, and “mission equipment”], but if shipbuilders cannot meet the cost cap, lawmakers would require the Navy to rebid the ship.”

June 10/09: Testing. Austal announces “light off” of LCS 2 Independence’s 4 propulsion engines: 2 GE LM2500 22,000kW gas turbines, and 2 MTU 20V 8000 M71 9,100kW diesels. The light off followed fuel loading and testing of all 4 generators.

Activation and testing of the combat and other systems onboard Independence is continuing at Austal’s US facility in Mobile, AL. The beginning of sea trials is expected within a few weeks.

June 9/09: The Military Officers’ Association of America’s “Inside the Headquarters” blog says that the US Navy is thinking of deploying the LCS early:

“According to a source at Lockheed Martin, the Navy wants the USS Freedom (LCS 1) to deploy soon and well ahead of schedule. Apparently the chief of naval operations himself, Adm. Gary Roughead, has called for the move. Currently, the Freedom is not scheduled to deploy until 2012.”

The Somali coast would be the most likely destination. Efforts to move endangered weapons programs to the front lines, in order to secure a program’s future, have a long history in the US military.

June 9/09: Support. Alion Science and Technology Corp. in Washington, DC received an $8.6 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-09-F-B008) for support to the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program office. This will include program planning and management, business and financial management planning and execution, systems engineering, test and evaluation engineering, life cycle engineering and support, logistics and operation support, configuration and data management engineering, and combat systems development.

Work will be performed in Washington, DC, and is expected to be complete by September 2009.

June 1/09: Costs. Gannett’s Navy Times reports that based on FY 2010 budget justification documents, the price to build, outfit and deliver Team Lockheed’s USS Freedom [LCS 1] now is $637 million, up from last year’s estimate of $631 million. The price tag for the GD/Austal ship Independence [LCS 2], however, rose from $636 million to $704 million. Most of the cost growth on the LCS 2 is listed under Basic Construction Cost.

LCS 1, builder’s trials
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May 22/09: Testing. The USS Freedom wasn’t able to perform a number of key Navy acceptance tests on Lake Michigan, where she was built. A 2nd round of INSURV testing was required, and the US Navy PEO Ships release states that:

“There were no major safety issues or operational restrictions determined during the trial, although the ship must complete a number of scheduled system certifications before it can conduct unrestricted operations.”

INSURV inspectors noted that since the August 2008 lake trials, the ship has made improvements to its propulsion plant, machinery control system, communication systems, and information systems. The new salt water tests allowed inspectors to check the ship’s cathodic protection, degaussing, and reverse osmosis system. Ocean conditions let them test surveillance and identification systems at a sufficient distance from land without border issues. And stepping out of a lake used for drinking water let them demonstrate the ship’s fire suppression and waste discharge systems. Other major systems and features demonstrated for INSURV this time included aviation support, small boat launch handling and recovery, fin stabilizers, in addition to the full-power run.

May 15/09: LCS for NFS? Aviation Week reports that US Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway is working with his Navy counterpart, Adm. Gary Roughead, to expand the concept of using the LCS as a naval fire support option for Marine landings.

Conway is quoted as discussing “a box of rockets” as the Marnes’ preferred option, which would seem to indicate the LCS surface warfare module’s planned NLOS-LS/NETFIRES “missile in a box” system. On the other hand, the report adds that:

“The services are still examining storage and elevator capacity aboard LCS, and Conway said “we don’t have [the] box we need.”

May 1/09: LCS 4.US Navy Sinks LCS-4 Construction” chronicled the crash of the original program’s acquisition plan, and cancellation of the 2nd ships from each manufacturing team. Now, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME has received a FY 2009 contract to build the USS Coronado [LCS 4]. The contract includes construction, class design services, configuration management services, additional crew and shore support, special studies and post delivery support. Phase II could involve up to 3 more LCS Flight 0+ Class ships.

What the US Navy will not do, is reveal those terms of Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics’ contracts, even though the original excuse that the Navy was in negotiations with General Dynamics for its part of the 2-phase buy no longer applies. The Navy simply says that “the award amount is considered source selection information (see FAR 2.101 and 3.104) and will not be made public at this time.” The LCS program’s cost overruns have been significant contributors to the program’s political troubles, and it certainly is convenient not to have to discuss that any more. One source of inference is that the award represents the 2nd half of the 2-vessel, $1.02 billion FY 2009 budget appropriation for the LCS program, but past LCS contracts and budgets have had little predictive value with respect to final outlays.

Austal had remained optimistic regarding the LCS program, but recently laid off 62 employees in Mobile, AL, due to slower work in the commercial ferry sector. There is no word yet on whether they will be rehired as a result of this contract. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (50%); Bath, ME (17%); Pittsfield, MA (14%); California, MD (1%); Baltimore, MD (1%); Leesburg, VA (1%); Burlington, VT (1%); Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (2%); and various locations of less than 1% each totaling 13%. Work is expected to be complete by June 2012 (N00024-09-C-2302).

Meanwhile, sea trials of Austal’s first LCS, the 127m Independence [LCS 2], are scheduled for mid-2009, with delivery expected later in the year. Austal | General Dynamics | Mobile, AL Press-Register | Mobile, AL Press-Register re: layoffs.

LCS 4 ordered, again

April 6/09: Budgets. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announces his FY 2010 budget recommendations, which include 3 LCS ships. Despite issues with the program, and concern about the ship’s combat capabilities, Gates reiterates the goal of eventually buying 55 of these $500+ million specialty support ships. The announcement bolstered confidence at Austal, which had been watching the budget deliberations closely.

March 23/09: LCS 3. US NAVSEA awards Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Baltimore, MD an undisclosed sum for “LCS FY09 Flight 0+ ship construction, class design services, configuration management services, additional crew and shore support, special studies and post delivery support.”

The Navy cancelled Lockheed Martin’s original LCS-3 contract in 2007, but new negotiations reportedly arrived at an acceptable arrangement for a fixed-price contract with incentives. The Fort Worth’s [LCS-3] price tag is reported to be in the $500 million range, which would represent a price drop relative to LCS-1.

NAVSEA is still negotiating with General Dynamics for LCS-4, so the award amount is classified source selection information under Federal Acquisition Regulations 2.101 and 3.104. Under the Navy’s FY 09/10 strategy (see Oct 17/08 entry), the Navy will attempt to buy 2 LCS ships in FY 2009, with option for up to 3 ships in 2010. Earlier acquisition strategies had focused on FY 2010 as the down-select date; that is still possible, but the Navy reportedly has the option of choosing another split for the FY 2010 buy.

Work will be performed in Marinette, WI (63%); Moorestown, NJ (12%); Washington, DC (11%); Clearwater, FL (4%); Baltimore, MD (4%); Arlington, VA (3%); Brunswick, GA (2%); and Eagan, MN (1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2012 (N00024-09-C-2303). See also: Reuters report.

LCS 3 ordered, again

March 12/09: LCS 4 named. US Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter announces that LCS 4 will be named USS Coronado. A 4th LCS ship had not been ordered yet when the announcement was made, though some funds had been allocated in the FY 2009 budget for 2 ships. The Navy’s release has a picture of the GD/Austal trimaran design next to the announcement, but the announcement does not confirm that type as LCS 4.

Coronado, near San Diego, CA is home to Naval Air Base North Island (NASNI) and Naval Amphibious Base (NAB), Coronado, and has been home to the Navy since 1917. Coronado hosts 2 aircraft carriers, the west coast’s major SEAL special forces facility, and over 120 tenant commands between the 2 bases. US Navy.

March 11/09: Politics. Bill Sweetman of Aviation Week reports that one logical corollary of a “build to [blue]print” approach is that foreign shipyards might become eligible to compete for LCS construction:

“[Taylor] also noted to the conference that he’s visited other shipyards – Hyundai in Korea, Maersk in Finland – and concluded that “our yards have to get up to their [DID: highly automated] standards.” So if LCS goes to open bidding, would those shipyards be eligible to bid? “Traditionally the House has preferred to build our weapons domestically,” Taylor said, “but we’ve had a hard time getting it past Senator McCain. If I had my way I’d limit it to American shipbuilders. But I often don’t get my way.”

That statement can fairly be described as cryptic. Sweetman’s conjecture re: foreign construction is unlikely, for a variety of political reasons. Government funding for shipyard improvements, meanwhile, did not appear in the “stimulus” bill, and would be most likely to be funneled to the larger military shipyards if it was granted.

March 10/09: Politics. MarineLog reports that the Littoral Combat Ship program receives another bi-partisan rough ride at the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces. Chairman Gene Taylor [D-MS]:

“When I look at the plan from just two years ago, we should by now have at least 4 ships delivered, 3 more nearing completion from a fiscal year 2008 authorization, 6 under contract from a fiscal year 2009 authorization, and today we should be discussing the authorization of 6 more ships for fiscal year 2010. That would be a total of 19 ships. So instead of having 13 delivered or under contract with another 6 in this year’s budget, we have one ship delivered that will likely tip the scales well above two and a half times the original estimate and one ship that might finish this summer, with similar if not higher cost growth… Everyone should understand that the current situation of these vessels costing in excess of a half billion dollars cannot continue… There are too many other needs and too little resources to pour money into the program that was designed to be affordable.”

With respect to Taylor’s desire for a “build to print” approach, the answer appears to be that the government owns the rights to the ship’s physical design, but integration of all the sub-systems like the radar, Mk110 naval gun etc. is another matter. Rep. Todd Akin [R-MO] was critical of the Navy’s acquisition strategy, from the repeated changes over the last 2 years to the current strategy’s sustainability:

“We cannot reasonably expect the industry teams to make the investments in facilities and designs for affordability we demand, if we cannot articulate what we want to buy. Further, we cannot reasonably expect the taxpayers to continue to fund ships that we cannot definitively say we want… We need to be very cautious about increasing capacity for which the Navy lacks the volume to support… We must ensure that we are not creating two additional shipyards that rely on a sole customer for support. The strategy for building LCS at mid-tier yards was explicitly to avoid this phenomenon, since these yards had commercial work. Now, we hear that these yards may have turned away commercial work and are considering capital investments with the intent of constructing LCS only.”

See: MarineLog | Information Dissemination.

March 6/09: New LCS 3 named. US Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announces 6 that the LCS 3 will be named USS Fort Worth. A 3rd LCS ship had not been ordered yet when the announcement was made, though some funds had been allocated in the FY 2009 budget for 2 ships.

The Navy says that the announcement continues the practice of naming the agile LCS vessels after American midsized cities, small towns and communities. Fort Worth, TX, near Dallas, is an especially important hub of aerospace manufacturing, but a number of other defense-related activities go on there. US Navy.

March 2/09: Industrial. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Baltimore, MD received a modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-03-C-2311) for “LCS program continuation efforts necessary to preserve production capability at its industry team shipyard facility.” Work is expected to be complete by April 2009, and will be performed in Marinette, WI (56%); Moorestown, NJ (13%); Clearwater, FL (11%); Brunswick, GA (10%); Washington, DC (8%) and Baltimore, MD (2%) under contract (N00024-03-C-2311).

Lockheed Martin has already delivered USS Freedom [LCS 1] to the Navy, and the Navy’s prior cancellation of LCS 3 has left that shipyard with a work gap. General Dynamics and Austal, meanwhile, continue to build LCS 2 Independence at their Gulf Coast shipyard. This award must be at least $5 million, or the Navy would not have announced it at all, but no figure was given. With respect to this award, the US Navy cites this justification for its lack of transparency:

“As this award represents efforts integrally related to Phase I of a competitive two-phased acquisition approach to procure FY09/FY10 LCS, with Phase II including potential award of up to three additional LCS Flight 0+ Class ships, the award amount is considered source selection information (see FAR 2.101 and 3.104) and will not be made public at this time.”

That translates as “we’re still negotiating with Lockheed Martin and with General Dynamics for fixed-price awards, and are appropriating these funds to buy advance materials and avoid layoffs at Marinette.”

Feb 24/09: Politics. Senators McCain and Levin, who have authored legislation to reform the US military’s procurement system, single out the LCS program in their comments. CNN:

“Levin said the ships are “way beyond” their projected construction time of two years, and the program has grown from a cost per ship of about $220 million to more than $500 million, according to a November report from the Congressional Research Service. “We can’t have a ship that’s a small ship that’s supposed to be built in two years run completely out of control to double or triple or quadruple its original cost estimates,” McCain said.”

Jan 28/09: LCS 2. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME received a $37.75 million basic ordering agreement for Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) of the USS Independence [LCS-2]. Work will include the ship’s PSA efforts, testing, and materials, from program management to advance planning, engineering, material kitting, liaison, scheduling and participation in PSA planning conferences and design reviews, preparation of documentation as required by the Contract Data Requirement List, and required fixes.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (53%); Norfolk, VA (24%); and Mobile, AL (23%), and is expected to be complete by December 2012. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-09-G-2301).

Dec 29/08: NVR cert. The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) in Houston, TX is a congressionally recognized agent of the government, and certification to set standards is one of their services. They receive a $55 million cost no fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinitely-quantity contract to provide for ship classification and classification-related services using Naval Vessel Rules (NVR), which form the core of the certification process for surface ships bought by US NAVSEA.

New construction contracts require the ships to be designed and constructed in accordance with ABS Rules for Building and Classing Naval Vessels, and other referenced ABS Rules and Guides as necessary to comply with the designated class notations. Readers of this brief will recall that the switch to NVR rules during LCS construction was one of the key factors that inflated the costs of the first ships, and raised costs across the board for the class. On the other hand, ships built to NVR standards can be expected to survive damage better than comparable non-NVR ships.

Approximately 46% of ABS’ services will be performed in support of new DDG ships in Bath, ME (GD-BIW); Pascagoula, MS; and Gulf Port, MS (NG-SS) and approximately 46% in support of future LCS new construction ships in locations to be determined. The remaining 8% of services will be performed in Norfolk, VA; San Diego, CA; and various worldwide points as specified in task orders to be issued. Work is expected to be completed by December 2013. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in Washington, DC (N00024-09-D-4208)

Dec 17/08: Weight. Information Dissemination relays an Inside the Navy report hat covers ongoing platform issues in “LCS Weight Issue Revisited“. From Inside the Navy:

“In October, Navy spokesman Lt. Clay Doss confirmed that initial tests by the Navy were showing the vessel to be six percent overweight, but maintained that it was not cause for concern… “There’s stuff on board that I don’t think we need,” Gabrielson said. “There’s some pretty big things on board that I think we could live without.”

Nov 8/08: LCS 1. LCS 1 Freedom is commissioned during a 10 a.m. EST ceremony at Veterans Park in Milwaukee, WI. Upon completion of the ceremony, she becomes USS Freedom. US Navy PEO Ships advance notice | USS Freedom Comissioning Committee.

USS Freedom

Oct 31/08: Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Baltimore, MD received a $37.5 million Basic Ordering Agreement for Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) on the Littoral Combat Ship, USS Freedom [LCS-1]. The orders to be issued will encompass services include, but are not limited to program management, advance planning, engineering, material kitting, liaison, scheduling and participation in PSA planning conferences and design reviews, and preparation of documentation as required by the Contract Data Requirement List. The orders will also encompass material and labor to perform the PSA for LCS 1, all testing, including post repair trials required to verify the accuracy and completion of all shipyard industrial work, non-standard equipment when approved, and technical manuals for non-standard equipment.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (53%) and Norfolk, VA (47%), and is expected to be completed by January 2011. 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, D.C. (N00024-09-G-2300).

Oct 24/08: The Freedom [LCS 1] sails away from the Marinette Marine Corp. shipyard in Marinette, WI, en route to Duluth, MN for a four-day port visit beginning Oct. 27. This will be the first leg in the ship’s voyage of commissioning and transit to Norfolk, VA, where she will undergo fleet testing and evaluation away from the Great Lakes’ ice buildups. Maritime Reporter and Engineering News.

Oct 17/08: LCS Plan #3. The NY Times’ International Herald Tribune reports that the U.S. Navy has canceled plans to buy a 3rd new combat ship in FY 2008 from either Lockheed Martin Corp. or General Dynamics Corp., citing budget shortfalls. The article adds that:

“The Navy now plans to award one ship to each contractor under the fiscal 2009 budget, and hold a competition for another three vessels with funding in fiscal 2010 to keep competitive pressure between the two companies. Each of the 2009 contracts will come with options for future ships. However, the Navy said it will evaluate pricing of the fiscal 2010 ships before making a decision, and envisions awarding two ships to a winning contractor and one ship to a losing bidder, the same as its original plan.”

Acquisition plan #3

Oct 4/08: LCS 2 christened. The Austal/General Dynamics ship LCS 2 Independence is christened in a ceremony at Austal’s Mobile, AL shipyard. US Navy PEO Ships release | Austal release.

FY 2008

No ships this year; LCS 2 launched; LCS-4 canceled; Cost growth continues; Israeli request. Team GD LCS Concept
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September 2008: The US Navy has the appropriated funds to build an additional LCS ship, but decides not to issue that contract. Source.

No FY 2008 ship

Sept 30/08: Infrastructure. R. A. Burch Construction Co., Inc. in Ramona, CA received $6.5 million for a firm-fixed-price task order under a previously award multiple award construction contract. They will be responsible for upgrading Building 57 for the new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) squadron administrative headquarters at Naval Base San Diego. The task order also contains one option, which if exercised would increase cumulative task order value to $8.7 million.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete by April 2010. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, and 3 proposals were received for this task order by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest in San Diego, CA (N62473-08-D-8607, #0005).

Sept 18/08: LCS 1 delivered. The Lockheed Martin-led LCS team delivers LCS 1 Freedom to the U.S. Navy. The delivery milestone marks the Navy’s preliminary acceptance of LCS 1.

Sept 4/08: CSBA Cool to LCS Concept. WIRED Danger Room’s post “Navy Already Shifting Away from Shallow Waters?” forwards an analysis by Bob Work, naval analyst at the respected, nonpartisan CSBA think tank in Washington. He sees the same pressures that turned the Navy against the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyer program impinging on the future of the Littoral Combat Ship:

“The maritime area over which a strong coastal power can now influence with multidimensional, combined-arms naval reconnaissance-strike complexes is expanding. The combination of space-based sensors, over-the-horizon radars, maritime [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance], patrol and strike aircraft, nuclear and [Air-Independent Propulsion] submarines armed with wake-homing torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles, and now anti-ship ballistic missiles, poses severe threats to any surface ship. Under these circumstances, the Navy has to improve its ability to fight from range, in the open ocean.”

July 31/08: CRS report. In testimony before the US House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Expeditionary Forces subcommittee, Dr. Eric Labs of the Congressional Budget Office discusses the LCS program to date [PDF]:

“The Navy’s 2009 shipbuilding plan envisions building 55 littoral combat ships between 2005 and 2019. Because those ships are assumed to have a service life of 25 years, the Navy would need to begin procuring their replacements in 2032… The Navy expects to buy 64 mission modules for the 55-ship program.

…Originally, each sea frame was expected to cost about $260 million (in 2009 dollars, or $220 million in 2005 dollars). The Navy’s 2009 budget would allow the purchase of 18 LCSs during the 2009-2013 period, at an average cost of about $450 million per sea frame. That is 11 fewer than the 2008 plan envisioned… In the 2009 budget, the Navy estimates the cost of LCS-1 at $631 million and LCS-2 at $636 million… using the lead ship of the FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate as an analogy… The first FFG-7 cost about $670 million to build (in 2009 dollars), or about $250 million per thousand tons, including combat systems. Applying that metric to the LCS program suggests that the lead ships would cost about $600 million apiece, including the cost of one mission module… CBO estimates that the first two LCSs could cost about $700 million each, including outfitting and postdelivery costs… As of April 27, 2008, LCS-1 was 87% complete and LCS-2 was 72% complete. So, additional cost growth is possible…”

July 30/08: What happened to LCS? Naval Technology’s article “Littoral Combat Ship Runs Aground” offers a look at the program workings and assumptions that have led the program to its current state. In brief, it states that:

“Distilling the story yields the following guide to botching development projects in five steps […];

1. Make the goal as difficult as possible
2. Impose a management style ideally suited for commoditised products
3. When sourcing, be penny-wise and pound-foolish
4. Design and build simultaneously
5. When you’re in a hole, keep digging

[…] Perhaps the moral of the LCS story is this: the US can produce better ships, or produce ships better – but it can’t do both at the same time.”

July 28/08: Testing. LCS 1 Freedom begins builder’s trials on Lake Michigan. US Navy release | Reuters Aug 12/08 follow-up.

July 15/08: Israel request. The contracts with Lockheed Martin et. al. could be worth up to $1.9 billion for 4 ships, and would be the first LCS export sale. The design will be very different from the American Freedom Class LCS, however; mission modules will be replaced with vertical launch systems and fixed weapons, and the ship will sport an AEGIS radar system.

The Israelis eventually decide that the costs are prohibitive, and begin looking elsewhere. As of 2013, they still don’t have a contract for new ships, though they are upgrading the Sa’ar 5 Eilat Class to a Sa’ar 5.5 configuration in the meantime. See “A Littoral Combat Frigate For Israel” for details.

Israel request

April 28/08: LCS 2 launched. Austal USA’s Mobile, AL shipyard launches LCS 2 Independence. The ship will be moored alongside the Austal USA facility for activation and testing of combat and other onboard systems is completed. Sea trials are expected to commence in late 2008. Austal release.

April 7/08: LCS SAR. Cost growth for the LCS program lands it on the Pentagon’s Selected Acquisition Reports for this period:

“Program costs increased $909.7 million (+46.9 percent) from $1,938.9 million to $2,848.6 million, due primarily to a revised estimate in Seaframe pricing that reflects substantial cost growth and post delivery work (+$496.1 million) and a revised estimate for Mission Module development and phasing due to maturation of the definition of the Mission Modules (+$271.2 million). Costs also increased due to a lengthening of the Flight 0 schedule to incorporate additional effort (+$71.3 million), a revised estimate for program development of Flight 0 and Flight 0+ planning and execution (+$42.3 million), and additional scope for Mission Module development (+$40.7 million).”

Costs rising

March 14/08: Controversy. The odds don’t look good for the US Navy’s FY 2009 request of 2 Littoral Combat Ships. The house Armed Services Committee’s Seapower & Expeditionary Forces subcommittee took testimony regarding that request, and the LCS request came under fire from both sides of the aisle. See “US Navy’s 313-Ship Plan Under Fire in Congress” for full links etc. Chairman Rep. Gene Taylor [D-MS], a strong proponent of more naval shipbuilding:

“So, instead of being asked to fund programs that are building ships on time and at projected cost, we are asked to fund programs which are not… [the LCS] will go into the textbooks to train future acquisition officials how not to run a program. The LCS will be at least twice as expensive as advertised, it has taken twice as long to build the lead ships, neither vessel has been underway on its own power, and the Navy cancelled two contract options last year, which were already funded, because of cost overruns.

Yet this year we are asked to authorize two more ships – why? What has changed between then and now that indicates that this program is in any way ready to build more ships? We have been told the answer to this question is that there is an ’emergent need’ for these ships in the fleet. If that is true why did the Navy cancel two of the ships? At some point we must stop throwing money at this program until the Navy can prove that at least one of the ships can get to sea and do its mission.”

Ranking minority member Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD] was equally skeptical:

“And how much risk are we buying down if we procure two more Littoral Combat Ships, the year after we cancelled two, and the year in which the Navy plans to conduct an operational evaluation and possible downselect of LCS-1 and 2? Even if there is no downselect, the Navy has stated that there will be design changes made to the Flight One ships. So the two we buy now will be different than the remaining 50. Is that worth it, if those funds could keep a stable program like LPD-17 alive?”

Feb 4/08: Costs. FY 2009 budget documents released by the Navy give the expected final cost for its LCS-1 and LCS-2 ships: $631 million and $636 million, respectively. First-of-class ships usually cost more – but recall that prescient July 24/07 estimate of $630 million from the Congressional Budget Office.

Nov 1/07: LCS-4. The US Navy cancels construction of LCS-4 by the General Dynamics/Austal team, leaving its LCS acquisition strategy adrift amidst deep proposed funding cuts from Congress in the FY 2008 budget. There was also the minor problem of a second contractor who refused to accept a “deal” that let the Navy make any number of design changes, while the contractor was solely responsible for costs, and would pay for overruns above the proposed fixed-price contract.

The Navy eventually decides to revise its entire approach, and use planned FY 2007-2008 procurement funds to get LCS 1 & 2 built, rather than buying additional ships.

LCS-4 order canceled

Oct 11/07: Israel. Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that the Israeli Navy “has launched a second study regarding the potential acquisition of the United States Navy’s (USN’s) Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) focused on Lockheed Martin’s semi-planing monohull design known as LCS-I (Israel). “That design appears to be the most suitable for our needs,” a senior IN source told Jane’s…”

See “An LCS For Israel?” for full coverage.

FY 2007

LCS-3 cancelled, LCS-4 ordered but iffy over cost growth; LCS Program Manager dismissed; LCS 2 inspection issues; ALCOA weight reduction work; Official reports. GD: Helicopter space
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Sept 27/07: Sub-contractors. Small business qualifier ALCOA Inc. in Alcoa Center, PA received an $8.3 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee completion contract to provide engineering services in support of the re-design of existing aluminum structures to improve performance and survivability of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) via weight reduction of selected assemblies or components. Work will be performed in Alcoa Center, PA (84%); Johnstown, PA (11%); Columbus, OH (3%); and various shipyards (2%), and is expected to be complete in September 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $3.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, West Bethesda, Md., is the contracting activity (N00167-07-D-0010).

This contract will fund the Alcoa Collaborative Design Approach (ACDA), a phased program approach in which the following tasks will be applied to the LCS: selection of candidate assemblies and components; development of conceptual designs and down selection of design concepts; evaluation of design concepts and final selection; development and evaluation of prototypes; and ship integration. The components for improvement may include hull sections, doors/hatches, load floors, foundations, large apertures or similar structures.

Alcoa has considerable expertise in this area, having worked closely with Lockheed Martin on a very similar effort re: the F-35B Lightning II STOVL fighter.

Still, one wonders why, exactly, this has become a priority for the LCS program? The Dec 17/08 entry suggests that weight reduction was the goal.

Sept 24/07: LCS 2 issues. Newhouse News Service reports that “Navy inspectors have documented numerous problems with construction of a next-generation vessel known as the littoral combat ship, or LCS, according to government records obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act.” They are referring specifically to the General Dynamics/ Austal ships, and proceed to detail these issues in “Navy Inspectors Find Numerous Problems With Ship Project.”

Some of these items are “normal” issues that inspectors exist to catch, others are less so. Note, especially the time frames of the issues raised, as many date from 2006 and predate subsequent reports.

Sept 21/07: LCS 4? Gannett’s Navy Times reports that the US Navy and General Dynamics are expected to meet next week to discuss the LCS program:

“GD spokesman Kendall Pease confirmed the Navy had asked for the meeting but provided no further details, other than to say a specific date had not been set. Other sources, however, said the meeting was to discuss slowing construction on LCS 4, the second ship GD is building at its Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala.”

The Navy was forced to reimburse Team Lockheed for a number of expenses after canceling LCS-3, and they are reportedly trying to restructure the deal with the GD/Austal team to avoid paying those costs in the event that LCS-4 is canceled. If the parties cannot agree, the Navy could always choose to cancel LCS-4 on those grounds, and pay the minor reimbursement fees that would be involved at this early stage. The downside is that a second cancellation decision would leave the entire LCS program in tatters, either turning it into a 1-ship each “sail off” competition, or throwing the entire program back to the drawing board.

Aug 8/07: Cost growth. US Navy acquisition chief Dolores Etter said in an interview with Reuters that General Dynamics is about 54% done with its first ship [LCS-2], which is due to be delivered in mid-2008. She also stated that “We … continue to see challenges with the program and with each platform, specifically with the propulsion system on LCS-1 and systems integration on LCS-2.”

With respect to the GD/Austal team’s effort to rein in costs, she said that “We do have points at which our concern will go up. You can’t predict what will happen, but things are moving forward in a good direction” in terms of the firm’s efforts to rein in costs.

Meanwhile, Reuters adds that US Navy officials have asked lawmakers to approve a 55% increase in a cost cap for the 5th and 6th LCS ships, to $460 million. They also said costs for the first Lockheed ship and GD’s LCS-2 could be up to 75% higher than expected. Reuters article: “US Navy sees progress on General Dynamics LCS ship.”

July 24/07: CBO Report. In a statement before the US House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces, Congressional Budget Office representatives testify that [PDF format]:

“Experience had suggested that cost growth was likely to occur in the LCS program. In particular, historical cost-weight relationships – using the lead ship of the Oliver Hazard Perry class of frigates (FFG-7) as an analogy – indicated that the Navy’s original cost target for the LCS was optimistic. The first FFG-7, including its combat systems, cost a total of about $650 million (in 2008 dollars) to build, or about $235 million per thousand tons. Applying that per-ton estimate to the LCS program suggests that the lead ships would cost about $575 million apiece, including the cost of one mission module (to make them comparable to the FFG-7). In this case, looking at cost-weight relationships produced an estimate less than the apparent cost of the first two LCSs but substantially greater than the Navy’s original estimate.

As of this writing, the Navy has not publicly released an estimate for the LCS program that incorporates the most recent cost growth, other than its request to raise the cost caps for the fifth and sixth ships. CBO estimates that with that growth included, the first two LCSs would cost about $630 million each, excluding mission modules but including outfitting, postdelivery, and various nonrecurring costs associated with the first ships of the class. As the program advances, with a settled design and higher annual rates of production, the average cost per ship is likely to decline. Excluding mission modules, the 55 LCSs in the Navy’s plan would cost an average of $450 million each, CBO estimates.”

DID background: The FFG-7 frigates are still widely touted as a successful example of cost containment. The Oliver Hazard Perry Class met their budget and performance targets and served successfully. The USS Stark even survived a hit from an Iraqi Exocet missile while patrolling the Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war. The ships paid a price in lower capability and lack of space for capability growth, however, and many were sold to other countries or retired early because upgrading them was too difficult. That experience was one of the inspirations for the LCS’ open-architecture, mission modules approach.

Mach 14/07: LCS 3 canceled. Full DID coverage, as Navy Cancels Team Lockheed’s LCS 3, warns General Dynamics. The Navy explains that they couldn’t reach agreement on a new contract. Lockheed Martin expressed “disappointment,” and says: “We believe that our proposal was fully consistent with the Secretary’s stated desire to bring the benefits of increased competition to shipbuilding while holding the Navy’s industrial partners accountable for cost performance within their control”. Note especially those last 3 words, given the role played by Navy specification shifts in that cost growth.

LCS-3 contract canceled

Mach 14/07: LCS program plan #2. Based on a comprehensive two-month review of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) acquisition program, Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announced that he is prepared to lift a previously issued stop work order for construction of Lockheed Martin’s LCS 3 – under a renegotiated contract.

The new decision will also affect the General Dynamics/ Austal team. Under the restructured Littoral Combat Ship program plan, the Navy will recommend deferral of FY 2007 LCS procurement, and use those funds to complete the construction of LCS 1-4 by the Lockheed and General Dynamics teams. This effectively cancels an expected order for the 5th and 6th ships.

This is part of a wider package of efforts aimed at controlling program costs… before those costs raise comparisons, questions, and dilemmas that begin to control the program. For full coverage, see “Cost Growth Leads to Stop-Work on Team Lockheed LCS-3 Construction (updated)“.

Revised acquisition plan

Feb 28/07: Costs. Reports surface that the General Dynamics/ Austal LCS design is also expected to face cost overruns, although the scope of the increases is not yet clear. Navy acquisition chief Delores Etter had said the first General Dynamics LCS ship would cost $350 million or more, but Lt. Cmdr. John Schofield, Etter’s spokesman, said in an e-mail that:

“Etter mistakenly characterized the cost of LCS 2 to be $350 million or more. The estimated cost range of LCS 1 is $350 million-$375 million, as previously testified. That estimate is based on the best information to date. There is insufficient information to know precisely the final cost range of LCS 2… Although we anticipate some cost growth, it is premature to discuss specific numbers as they are unavailable at this time.”

Etter described Team Lockheed’s LCS-1 Freedom as 75-80% complete, and the GD/Austal team’s LCS-2 Independence as about 33% complete. Reuters report | Defense News report (March 20/07).

Jan 29/07: Personnel. Capt. Donald Babcock, the Navy’s LCS program manager, is relieved of his duties by Rear Adm. Charles Hamilton – who is also being reassigned.

LCS PM dismissed

Jan 12/07: Stop Work on LCS 3. “The Navy issued a stop work order Jan. 12 to Lockheed Martin Corp. Maritime Systems & Sensors unit, Moorestown, N.J., for the construction of the third Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). This stop work order will take effect immediately, and is for a period of 90 days. The stop work order was issued because of significant cost increases currently being experienced with the construction of LCS-1 and LCS-3, under construction by Lockheed Martin…”

The US Navy says they are “working closely with the contractor to identify the root cause of the costs growth… [and] reviewing the overall acquisition strategy for the LCS program…” At this point, the GD/Austal team’s trimaran design and build-out of LCS 2&4 are unaffected. See full DID coverage with all updates, not to mention the Lexington institute’s predictive December 2006 report “Modularity, the Littoral Combat Ship and the Future of The United States Navy.

Dec 8/06: LCS 4 order. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a $208.1 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/ award-fee modification under previously awarded contract N00024-03-C-2310, exercising an option for construction of the 4th Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the second by the GD-Austal team. Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (55%); Pittsfield, MA (24%); and Bath, ME (21%), and is expected to be complete by August 2009.

The associated General Dynamics release trumpets its trimaran design as having “one of the largest usable payload volumes per ton of ship displacement of any U.S. Navy surface combatant afloat,” and notes its ability to carry even the CH-53 medium-heavy transport helicopter if the mission requires it.

Austal’s associated release discusses potential US Navy plans that could include an extended buy of the Flight 0 version ships, and adds that its workforce in Mobile is slated to grow to 1,200 by the end of 2007.

LCS 4 ordered

Oct 17/06: The FY 2007 defense budget is signed. LCS funding is not cut, but remains at $520.67 million

FY 2002 – 2006

Preliminary work with Norway’s Skjold, Lockheed’s Sea SLICE; Preliminary design contracts to 3; Down-select to 2 contenders; LCS 1 ordered & launched; Freedom Class named; LCS 2 ordered & keel laid; Independence Class named. LCS 1 Freedom christening
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Sept 23/06: LCS 1 launch. The US Navy christens and launches LCS 1 Freedom, the nation’s first littoral combat ship, at the Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin. The ship will continue to undergo outfitting and testing at Marinette Marine; it will be commissioned in 2007 and eventually homeported in San Diego, CA. The ship’s sponsor is Birgit Smith, wife of the late Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith.

July 26/06: CRS report. The US Congressional Research Service releases its report “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS): Background and Issues for Congress.” Meanwhile, as negotiations in Congress go forward, The House-reported version of the FY2007 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 5631) recommends approval of this request. The Senate reported version recommends a 2-ship cut by funding just one LCS in FY 2007, and rescinding funding for 1 of the 3 LCSs procured in FY 2006.

June 26/06: LCS 3. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $197.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/ award-fee modification under a previously awarded contract, exercising an option for construction of one Flight 0 monohull Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Work will be performed in Lockport, LA (63%); Moorestown, NJ (36%); and Arlington, VA (1%), and is expected to be complete by January 2009. See corporate release.

LCS 3 order

April 13/06: Israel. Israel is considering Lockheed’s Littoral Combat Ship design. Specifically, they’re considering Lockheed’s monohull design as a potential replacement for their Saar Class corvettes and missile boats. A funded initial study is underway to assess feasibility, and integration with Israeli systems and weapons is critical.

April 4/06: Independence Class. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter has named LCS 2, the first Flight 0 ship of the General Dynamics/Austal trimaran design. She will be the USS Independence. This Navy release notes the backgrounds of other ships who have borne that name. It’s all part of a speech on the future of Navy shipbuilding.

LCS-2 Independence Class

Jan 19/06: LCS 2 keel. GD/Austal Lays Keel for LCS 2. Austal USA hosts a traditional US Navy keel-laying ceremony to signify the start of construction on the first Flight 0 General Dynamics/Austal LCS trimaran. The keel laying follows on the heels of the official November 17, 2005 opening of Austal USA’s ship construction facility in Mobile, AL. See also General Dynamics team lead press release.

Dec 2/05: The U.S. Navy announced that USS Freedom [LCS 1] will be homeported at Naval Station San Diego, CA when it enters service. The ship is expected to be delivered to the Navy in December 2006, and arrive in San Diego in early 2007. See US Navy release.

Oct 7/05: LCS 2. The 1st GD-Austal Flight 0 LCS gets the go-ahead, as General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME received a $223.3 million cost-plus-award-fee/ incentive-fee modification to exercise an option under contract N00024-03-C-2310 for detail design and construction of one Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

Work will be performed in Mobile, AL (50%) – note that this represents Austal’s component, and is the company’s largest-ever individual contract. Work will also be performed in Pittsfield, MA (33%); Bath, ME (15%); and Baltimore, MD (2%), and is expected to be complete by October 2007. This award is one of the potential options described in the May 27/04 contract award.

LCS 2 order

Skjold Class
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June 2/05: LCS 1 keel. Lockheed Lays Keel for LCS 1, USS Freedom. This is the first Flight 0 ship of Team Lockheed’s design, and the ceremony was attended by numerous dignitaries. This event is related the Dec 15, 2004 shipbuilding contract, of course.

May 9/05: Freedom Class. Secretary of the Navy Gordon England has named LCS 1, the first Flight 0 ship of Team Lockheed’s design. She will be the USS Freedom. See DefenseLINK release.

LCS-1 Freedom Class

April 11/05: Bath Iron Works prepares for construction. Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME receives a $16 million cost-plus-fixed-fee option to previously awarded contract N00024-03-C-2310 for the advance procurement of required Long Lead Material for the first “Flight Zero” models of General Dynamics’ trimaran Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) design. The contract award for Long Lead Material includes a description of the items to be procured, the supplier, the required ordering date, supplier lead-time, in-yard need date and a breakout by month of the dollar amounts required. Work is expected to be complete in September 2005.

Dec 15/04: LCS 1 ordered. Lockheed Martin Corp. Maritime Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ received a $188.2 million cost-plus award-fee/ incentive-fee option to contract N00024-03-C-2311 for detail design and construction of the first Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (38%); Marinette, WI (57%); and Arlington, VA (5%), and is expected to be complete by December 2006. This is one of the potential options described in the May 27, 2004 contract award. US Navy.

LCS 1 order

June 6/04: LCS 1 design. Lockheed unveils latest version of its LCS design.

May 27/04: Downselect and Initial Contracts. Lockheed Martin Corp. Maritime Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ, and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME received cost-plus-award-fee contract modifications to previously awarded contracts for final system design, with options for detail design and construction of up to 2 Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).

Lockheed Martin receives a $46.5 million contract modification for a 7-month final system design, which could go as high as $423.4 million if options for detail design and construction of up to two LCS Flight 0 ships are exercized. Work on the final system design is expected to be complete by December 2004. See corporate release for further details re: Team Lockheed’s design & objectives.

General Dynamics receives a $78.8 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to N00024-03-C-2310 for a 16-month final system design. The award could go as high as $536 million if options for detail design and construction of up to two LCS Flight 0 ships are exercised ($536,020,688 including all options). Work on the final system design is expected to be complete by September 2005. Corporate release for further information re: the GD team’s design goals.

Raytheon’s team is eliminated.

Final system design finalist contracts

Visby Corvette
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July 17/03: Preliminary Designs. The following 3 companies out of 6 offers won firm-fixed-price contracts for Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ship Preliminary Design:

General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, ME (N00024-03-C-2310 – $8.9 million)

Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems, Surface Systems in Washington, DC (N00024-03-C-2311 – $10 million)

Raytheon Company Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, RI (N00024-03-C-2312 – $10 million).

Each contractor will perform a preliminary design effort to refine its proposed Littoral Combat Ship concept. Work is expected to be complete in February 2004. The 3 losing teams include Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Gibbs and Cox (who would join the Lockheed team), John J McMullen Associates, and Textron Systems Marine & Land Operations.

The biggest surprise is the absence of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, who was working from an already-proven littoral corvette design by Sweden’s Kockums AB, and its German parent Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft AG. Kockums designed and is building Sweden’s Visby Class littoral warfare corvettes, and Northrop Grumman planned to use the stealthy carbon fiber mono-hull as the baseline for its LCS program.

Preliminary design contracts

May 21/03: Lockheed Martin holds an Industry Day to solicit potential members for its LCS team. Its base design concept is then known as “Sea Blade.”

March 4/03: Lockheed lays foundation for LCS team. Lockheed Martin, naval architects Gibbs & Cox, Bollinger Shipyards and shipbuilders Marinette Marine formally partner on the LCS program. The Lockheed release contains details of their respective areas of responsibility and past work.

September 2002: Skjold. US Navy finishes studying Norway’s Skjold (“Shield”) Class air cushion catamaran littoral fast patrol boats. The ship completed a 13-month deployment in the USA, allowing the US Navy to study the Skjold class concept and shape thinking about the LCS idea. The ship participated in a series of naval exercises and a number of tests with US Navy research establishments NAVSEA and the Office of Naval Research.

March 25/02: Sea SLICE. Lockheed’s Sea SLICE X-vessel participates in naval exercise. The vessel participated as a littoral warfare combatant, and tested a number of weapons including the 35mm “Millenium Gun,” NETFIRES missiles, and a simulated torpedo strike. The Lockheed release contains more information about Sea SLICE and the tested weapons, as does this Sea SLICE profile.

Appendix A: LCS’ Yo-Yoing Budgets & Program Structures LCS 1, final construction
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In July 2011, the Navy created PEO LCS to oversee the program, headed by Rear Adm. James A. Murdoch. Ship construction supervision was removed for PEO Ships, while mission module supervision was removed from PEO Littoral and Mine Warfare (PEO LMW), which was dissolved. It wasn’t the first big change in the program – and may not be the last. Indeed, in August 2012 the Chief of Naval Operations added a council tasked to come up with a plan.

It is normal for programs to change elements like numbers ordered, but not to change the entire buy strategy. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the LCS program has done. Several times.

Early plans for much cheaper ships would have built them from 2005 – 2019, but the extent of the program’s timeline and budgetary issues can be inferred from the current production timeline: 2011-2040.

How the US Navy arrived at that plan is a very tangled, but very instructive, story of goals not met, budgets changed or not spent, and an acquisition plan that has now been changed several times.

The LCS program’s budget mess has reflected their yo-yoing underlying program structure. LCS budgets are not even suitable for inclusion as a table, because the program’s structure has changed repeatedly. For several of those years, program turmoil was so great that it prevented budgeted funds from being spent. As such, each year’s budget can only be understood in light of the program’s shifting plans.

Plan #1: 13 ships. Under the original vision, Team Lockheed and the General Dynamics/Austal consortium would each produce a number of fully operational, competing Flight 0 ships. The idea was that experience with these ships is the best teacher and evaluator, ensuring that the Navy selects the right winning team for the overall program. It would also begin an immediate expansion of the US Navy’s falling numbers, since all of the Flight 0 ships would be available after the testing phase was complete. The design approach for the winning team’s second generation Flight 1 LCS ships would be flexible, and was envisioned as changing somewhat in light of the experience gained with the Flight 0 designs. Initially, 4 Flight 0 ships and 9 Flight 1 ships were contemplated, along with a purchase of various mission modules.

In FY 2005, Congress approved the Navy’s plan to fund the construction of the first 2 competing LCS sea frames, funded LCS-1, required LCS-2 to be built to a different design when funded in FY 2006, and added other basic stipulations.

The FY 2006 budget was $1.054 billion ($470.3M procurement, $584.1M RDT&E). The Navy had initially asked for LCS-2, but shipbuilding supporters in Congress funded LCS 2-4. As the program progressed, however, new Navy shipbuilding standards, and other shifts in specifications, caused LCS ship prices to rise sharply. As ship costs doubled, and then continued to rise, political scrutiny grew. In response, legislators inserted an adjusted $220 million cost cap on LCS 5-6, and made that buy and any others contingent on Navy certification of a stable LCS design.

Plan #1a: The FY 2007 budget was $926.6 million ($597.2M for ships & mission modules, $329.4M RDT&E). Congress funded LCS-5 and LCS-6. Austal’s Dec 11/06 press release even implied that more early-build ships might enter US Navy plans:

“Recent Navy reports have speculated on an expanded acquisition strategy, from 4 to a possible 17, for the Flight 0 fleet of LCSs that also includes an alternate monohull ship design. Commenting in September, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development, and Acquisition), Dr Delores Etter, told Reuters, ‘The U.S. Navy hopes to finalize its acquisition strategy for a new class of shore-hugging combat ships by mid-December [2006].’ “

Plan #2: Bailing out. In March 2007, however, the US Navy canceled Team Lockheed’s LCS-3 due to cost growth. In November 2007 (technically, FY 2008), the General Dynamics/ Austal LCS-4 joined it. A Navy policy of requesting fixed-price contracts, coupled with specifications and designs they could keep changing at will, created a gap too large for negotiations to bridge. Contracts for LCS 5 & 6 were never issued.

Under the Navy’s revised approach, planned FY 2007-2008 procurements would be channeled into getting LCS 1 & 2 built, rather than buying additional ships. Instead of buying 3 more LCS ships in 2008, and then ramping up to 6 ships per year in 2009 – 2012, amended procurement plans proposed to buy 1 ship in 2008 and 2 ships in 2009. Under that Plan B, the 2 consortia would compete for orders, with 2 ships contracted to the winning builder and 1 for the loser. A down-select to 1 design would take place in 2010.

The FY 2008 request was set at $1.208 billion ($990.8M for 3 ships + 2 mission modules, $217.5M RDT&E); but the Navy’s cancelations and revised procurement strategy led to $337.1 million in funding for a single LCS – a contract the Navy never issued. Meanwhile, Congress had raised the per-ship cost cap to $460 million, and required fixed-price-type contracts for LCS ships bought from here on.

Where to now?
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Plan #3: Fog of war. The FY 2009 request was $920 million, for 2 LCS ships. The final 2009 defense bill increased that funding to $1 billion. Once again, however, the Navy’s LCS procurement plan changed. Now, it planned to buy 2 LCS ships in 2009, with an option for Phase II that could involve up to 3 more LCS Flight 0+ Class ships on the same terms in 2010. Those Phase II ships would likely be split between the contractors, but could be issued for just 1 design.

Congress added some relief by delaying the implementation of the LCS cost cap to FY2010, but contract negotiations must have been interesting. Neither manufacturing team had demonstrated the ability to deliver an LCS ship for $500 million, and the Navy was insisting on fixed-price contracts that transfer all risk to the shipbuilders. Both contracts (LCS-3 and LCS-4) were eventually signed in 2009, but the Navy decided that their terms needed to be kept secret.

That seems likely leave just 2 Flight 0 LCS ships in the water before the revised LCS program was supposed to pick one final design. Or not. Under terms that remained unclear.

Additional reports added even more uncertainty. First came reports that that final selection might even feature a design competition that would be separate from the build competition, which means the ship’s design team may not be the final builders. That kind of competition is called “build to print,” in which the government buys the blueprints and then contracts for construction separately. Of course, handing a new ship design to a firm that hasn’t built it before carries cost-inflation risks of its own. The question is whether the potential threat of switching suppliers creates enough added incentives to keep costs down, in order to justify the increased time, overhead, and added program risk inherent in running 2 serial competitions instead of 1.

The FY 2010 budget requested $1.877 billion ($1.38 billion for 3 more ships, $136.7M for mission modules, plus $360.5M RDT&E which includes $75.5 million to cover cost growth on LCS 1-2). The program ended up with $1.579 billion: $1,157 million for all procurement of 2 ships and mission modules, and $422.0 million for RDT&E.

Plan #4: 10 + 5. In September 2009, while the House and Senate were working on reconciling their FY 2010 defense bills, another major change to the program’s structure was announced. There would be no Phase II for the FY 2009 buy. Instead, selection of the final design would occur in FY 2010, before operational trials of both ships could take place. Both industry teams would submit proposals under a new solicitation. The winner would receive a 10-ship contract running from FY 2010-2014, and provide the combat systems for their 10 ships, plus 5 more. They would also deliver a technical data package, allowing the Navy to open a “build to print” competition for a second builder of the chosen design, beginning in FY 2012. That “build to print” order would be for up to 5 more ships.

Assuming that this program would remain intact, the FY 2011 request was for $1.819 billion with RDT&E would be $226.3 million, while $1.592 billion for procurement would fund 2 ships ($1.2 billion), advance orders for FY 2012-14 major hull and propulsion components ($280 million), and mission modules (remainder, about $112 million).

Plan #5: Dual-build 20. Naturally, the proposed procurement approach changed again. Upon examining the bids, the US Navy went to Congress and asked for permission to accept both 10-ship bids, buying 20 ships for an advertised price that was about the same as the estimates for the 15 they had wanted. The GAO and CBO both have doubts about those estimates, in part because the Navy is still changing the designs; but the contracts are underway. For better or for worse, the Navy finally has an approach that is actually buying ships.

The Navy’s FY 2011-15 plan called for 17 ships total in a 2, 3, 4, 4, and 4 sequence, though that may rise to 20 ships. The Navy’s longer-range shipbuilding plans would buy 3 LCS hulls per year from FY 2016-19, dropping to 2 per year from FY 2020-24, then dropping again to a 1-2-1-2 pattern for FY 2025-33. The program would finish up at 2 per year from FY 2034-40.

Because these ships are assumed to have a service life of 25 years, the 10 ships bought from 2036 – 2040 would be replacements for the original ships of class.

Unless, of course, the entire acquisition plan changes again. The graph below shows how estimates of the total program cost have fluctuated as the Navy changed its procurement structure, again and again:

FY12 Forecast: US Navy Comptroller
No such data released in May 2009 document

The projected costs and cost/unit, include outfitting and post delivery costs, which explains why they’re above the widely-used Total Obligational Authority (TOA) numbers. At more than $1.3 billion over the life of the program, these extra costs are hardly pocket change

Additional Readings & Sources

Readers with corrections, comments, or information to contribute are encouraged to contact DID’s Founding Editor, Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.

The Littoral Combat Ships: Basic Program & Ship Background


LCS 1 Freedom Class Monohull & Major Unique Items


LCS 2 Independence Class Trimaran & Major Unique Items


LCS Exports

  • GDLCS – Multi-Mission Combatant. See also their more detailed international variant brochure [PDF], dating from when they were teamed up with Austal.

  • Lockheed Martin – Multi-Mission Combat Ship. LCS for export, but with real weapons and an improved radar. Comes in varying sizes: 85m (corvette), 118m (light frigate, like LCS), and 150m (full frigate). See also their older LCS-Israel brochure [PDF, 4.27 MB], offering a design that removes the Mk110 gun while adding a 30mm gun system like the Typhoon, Harpoon missiles, Barak anti-air missiles, and strike-length Mk41 vertical launch cells.

  • DID Spotlight – A Littoral Combat Frigate for Israel? The Israelis wanted a very different approach. No mission modules. Full fleet defense capabilities, including vertical launch cells and a SPY-1F AEGIS radar. Anti-ship missiles, and torpedo tubes. Problem was, the ship was too expensive for them.

  • Aviation Week Ares (Oct 18/08) – Lockheed Martin Pushes Export LCS. With a long list of offered and potential changes to armament, layout, and even propulsion. Market demand in the rest of the world appears to be delivering some design verdicts.


Official Reports


LCS Program: Analysis


LCS Ancillaries & Auxilliaries

Related American and International Programs

News & Views


Categories: News

More Gripin’ About Alleged Gripen Corrupt Deals | South Korea to Make Tanker Award | Kiwis Replace Mercedes and Unimog with Rheinmetall

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 02:41


  • European defense giants Saab and BAE Systems may become embroiled in fresh corruption allegations, with the Swedish press reportedly unearthing fresh UK Serious Fraud Office documents relating to the sale of 26 Gripen fighters to South Africa in 1999, as well as a separate deal for Hawk trainers. The lucrative sale saw allegations up to and including the bribery of former South African President Jacob Zuma, just one of a set of BAE-related bribery allegations. The new documents reportedly show that the company paid out approximately $1.58 billion in bribes to secure the Gripen and Hawk deals, with Saab kept in the loop regarding the illicit payments.

  • The Italian Air Force will receive a Predator UAV trainer, to develop its Predator A and Predator B/MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators. The trainer will be provided by General Atomics and CAE and is scheduled to enter service in 2017. Italy requested four of the UAVs back in August 2008, placing an order for an additional pair in November 2009. The Predator B recently passed an internal critical design review, with this inching the aircraft closer to certification for entry into European airspace.

Middle East


  • The South Korean National Defense Acquisition Program Committee will announce the winner of the country’s $1.25 billion aerial tanker competition on Tuesday. The competitors come from Europe, Israel and the US, offering the Airbus A330 MRTT, Israel Aerospace Industries B767 MMTT and Boeing KC-46A respectively. The latter has been touting the KC-46A’s lower lifecycle cost ahead of the decision. The competition to supply four tankers was delayed last year owing to the three firms’ positions on offset arrangements complicating the negotiation process.

  • Thailand has reportedly opted to buy Chinese submarines, with the bid for three submarines representing the best value for money offer received. The $1.1 billion contract also saw interest from Russia, France and Sweden, with the proposal set to go to the country’s cabinet in July. Thailand has come close to acquiring subs before, including former German Type 206A diesel-power boats in 2011. The Chinese have also thrown in a significant level of technology transfer, with the deal indicative of deepening political ties between Beijing and Bankok, especially since the coup d’etat in May last year.

  • As per previous reports, Myanmar may be looking to buy the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17 Thunder fighter, according to Chinese media. These reports after Pakistani media reported last week that Sri Lanka was the fighter’s first undisclosed export customer, with this subsequently played down by the Sri Lankan Air Force. Myanmar has a history of buying Chinese hardware, including MiG-29 fighters and the K-8 jet trainer.

  • India will test Beyond Visual Range missiles on the LCA Tejas this July, following a schedule slip from May. The indigenously-developed aircraft has recently seen Israeli Python-5 and Russian R-73 Archer air-to-air missiles integrated, as well as the Russian Gsh-23 cannon. The Derby BVR missile has also been integrated but has yet to be test-fired. With the Tejas’s Final Operating Clearance scheduled for December, the program is still waiting for a refueling probe and nose radome, both provided by foreign suppliers.

  • The New Zealnad Defence Force (NZDF) has taken delivery of the final medium heavy operational vehicle contracted for in May 2013. The $113 million deal saw Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles Australia supply the NZDF with 194 of the logistics vehicles to replace an aging fleet of Mercedes and Unimog trucks.

Today’s Video

  • An AV-8B flight cam…

Categories: News

Brazil to Refinance Gripen Deal It’s Investigating | Czech Republic Goes Shopping | India Plugs MiG Hole with SU-30s; Eschews Gripens

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 03:49

  • With Naval Air Station Lemoore set to become the backbone of the Navy’s future strike capability, the Navy awarded a contract Friday for the construction of infrastructure to support the base’s fleet of F-35Cs. The $20.2 million task order covers the construction of new buildings to house JSF simulators, as well as classrooms and briefing rooms. NAS Lemoore beat out NAS El Centro last fall to become the Pacific Fleet’s F-35 base, with Strike Fighter Squadron 101 (VFA 101), the F-35C replacement squadron, set to relocate to the base in early 2017.

  • The Navy announced on Friday that the US Southern Command is hiring a Maryland-based firm, Airtec Inc. to perform intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance flights for the US Southern Command, using a contractor-owned Bombardier ISR aircraft fitted out with government equipment. The work will principally take place in Colombia, where there has previously been a substantial use of private firms for intelligence-gathering activities, including the suspected targeting of narcotraffickers. The $80.7 million contract modification is scheduled to run to September 2018. The company previously supplied an ISR aircraft to Southern Command to test the FALCON-I foliage-penetrating radar, including the operation of a Forward Operating Location (FOL) in Bogotá, as well as pilots, analysts and operators.

  • Brazil is reportedly looking to restructure its financing with Gripen-manufacturer Saab, a result of austerity-driven budget constraints and cuts to the amount of borrowed cash the country is taking from Sweden’s Export Credit Corporation to fund the fighter. Brazilian prosecutors announced their intention in April to investigate the $5.4 billion deal signed with Saab last year, after the Gripen beat out competitors Boeing and Dassault.

  • Following the awarding of a development contract to Huntington Ingall in April, the Navy awarded a $13 million contract modification to General Dynamics Friday for preliminary design work on the LX(R) Amphibious Ship Replacement Program.

  • Also on Friday, the Navy handed a $72.1 million IDIQ contract for P-8A Poseidon ultra high-frequency antenna interface units and very/ultra high-frequency units and their associated communication tray assemblies for Lots 6, 7 and 8 in support of the Navy and Australia. This follows a contract in May for aircraft direction finders, radio tuner panels and high frequency radio shipsets for the P-8, with this latest contract set to run to 2018.


  • The Royal Navy’s future carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, saw its propulsion system powered up for the first time at the back-end of last week. Powered by two Rolls-Royce Marine 36MW MT30 gas turbine alternators and four diesel engines, the total power reaches approximately 110 megawatts. The carrier will be equipped with F-35B fighters, with a joint US-UK team testing the jet on a replica of the Elizabeth-class carrier’s ski-jump last week.

  • The Czech Republic is reportedly planning to spend significantly on defense procurement this year, including armored personnel carriers and personal weapons. The country recently began talks with Israel’s Elta systems regarding a potential $240 million 3D radar system to complement two existing systems and bolster the country’s borders.


  • Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) cleared hot weather trials on Friday, following cold weather trials earlier this year. Production is scheduled for the end of this year, on the condition that the helicopter achieves Initial Operating Clearance. The Indian Army and Air Force have placed significant orders for the chopper, 114 and 65 respectively, with its maiden flight taking place in March 2010.

  • The Indian Air Force is planning to stand-down three squadrons of MiG-21 and MiG-27s, as the operational gap becomes plugged by a new squadron of more advanced SU-30s. In total, 54 of the Soviet-era aircraft will be phased out, with parts cannibalized to keep other aircraft flying. Sweden’s Saab has previously offered its Gripen single-engine fighter as a replacement for the IAF’s MiG-21s; however this has not been met with much enthusiasm by the Indian Defense Ministry.

  • Australia has selected a team of firms as preferred bidder to provide the Australian Defence Force with an improved battlefield communications network under the Defence Ministry’s 2072 Phase 2B program. The $702 million program sees Boeing and Harris’ Australian subsidiaries team with local firm G H Varley as preferred bidder, with deployable computer networks being supplied by Thales. The program has an IOC planned for 2017, with FOC scheduled for three years afterwards.

Today’s Video

  • The HAL Light Combat Helicopter…

Categories: News

Britain’s CVF Future Carriers: the Queen Elizabeth Class

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 01:00
RN CVF Concept
(click to view full)

Britain’s 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) announced a big leap forward for the Royal Navy: plans to replace the current set of 3 Invincible Class 22,000t escort carriers with 2 larger, more capable Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) ships that could operate a more powerful force. These new carriers would be joint-service platforms, operating F-35B aircraft, plus helicopters and UAVs from all 3 services. Roles could include ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance), force projection and logistics support, close air support, anti-submarine/ anti-surface naval warfare, and land attack.

The scale of the CVF effort relative to Britain’s past experiences means that the program structure is rather complex. It has passed through several stages already, and is being run and conducted within an industrial alliance framework. There is also a parallel international framework, involving cooperation with France on its PA2 carrier as a derivative of the CVF design. This DID FOCUS article covers that structure and framework, ongoing developments, and the ships themselves as they move slowly through construction, and eventual fielding.

Salve, Regina: The Queen Elizabeth Class CVF, De Gaulle, Invincible
(click to add Nimitz)

The winning ACA “Design Delta” was fitted with a ski-jump to operate short take off and vertical landing aircraft like the F-35B STOVL Joint Strike Fighter. The design is being touted as able to accommodate catapults and arrester gear to fly conventional carrier aircraft, but by 2012 it became clear that the cost would be nearly GBP 2 billion for just 1 carrier conversion. The ski jumps were retained.

Once the new ships of the Queen Elizabeth Class are complete, Britain will possess a full-size carrier for the first time in several decades. These CVFs are slightly larger than the USA’s 50,000t America Class escort carriers, and France’s 43,000 tonne nuclear CVN Charles de Gaulle Class, and 3 times larger than the UK’s previous 22,000 tonne CVS Invincible Class. The CVF designs may not compare to the USA’s 90-100,000 tonne Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Class supercarriers, but fielding them will restore options and capabilities that the Royal Navy hasn’t had in decades.

BAE Concept – lost
(click to view full)

When fielded, the CVF design will be the largest ships in the world to use electric rather than mechanical propulsion drives. In addition to serving combat ships’ ever-hungrier electrical needs, and providing efficiency benefits, this all-electric approach improves survivability by decoupling placement of the turbines and generators from the propellers’ mechanical drive.

There is some irony in this choice of gas propulsion over nuclear power. The last ship named HMS Queen Elizabeth was one of the triggers for the British government’s 1914 acquisition of a controlling interest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Co. That interest, in turn, served a a key catalyst to develop the Middle East’s oil and gas reserves.

Thales Concept, 2003
(click to view full)

True to the Royal Navy’s recent history, the new carriers will be launched with vestigial self-defense capabilities, and upgraded later. BAE’s Artisan 3D radar will provide short to medium-range 3-D air surveillance out to 200 km, surface gun fire support tracking, air traffic control, and secondary navigation/surface surveillance. Its sensitivity reportedly extends to Mach 3 objects with tennis-balls size radar cross-sections. Thales’ S1850M D-band radar, which also equips Britain’s Type 45 anti-air destroyers and Franco-Italian Horizon Class anti-air frigates, will provide long-range air surveillance and volume search.

The Future Air Wing F-35B Lightning II
(click to view full)

The new carriers will have 2 core components in the air wing, and 2 important ancillaries.

F-35B fighters. The class will embark 12 – 36 of the new F-35B Lightning II Short Take Off, Vertical Landing fighters, depending on the fleet’s given mission. A full fighter complement would be 36, plus 4 AEW helicopters.

The F-35B STOVL was re-instated after a short-lived switch to the F-35C carrier variant in 2010 – 2012, sacrificing range, maneuvering limits, and internal payload. In exchange, the supersonic jets will be able to take off without catapults, and land without arresting wires. Britain’s F-35Bs will differ slightly from the USMC’s, with extra software to allow low-speed Ship-borne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL) if a loaded plane is trying to land on a hot day. Those conditions sap lift, and the plane is too close to its weight limits to return with stores and significant fuel in a straight vertical drop. Britain’s carriers will also have corresponding modifications for those contingencies, including markings on their decks, and lighting set up to guide the pilots whether they land vertically or using SRVL.

Initial F-35B Block 3 load-outs will be limited, involving 2 AIM-132 ASRAAM or AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, and 2 Paveway-IV laser/GPS guided 500 pound bombs. British additions will eventually include up to 6 of MBDA’s Spear 3s, an adaptation of the Brimstone light strike missile with a 75 km strike range. The Ministry told a Parliamentary committee on May 20/13 that they also expected to deploy the long-range MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile from inside the F-35B’s weapon bay, but that weapon doesn’t have a scheduled integration date yet. Given current F-35 program schedules out to Block 4, the RAF is unlikely to see Meteor in F-35s before the mid 2020s.

The ships were also slated to operate some Harrier GR9 V/STOL (Vertical or Short Take-Off and Landing) fighters from their decks until about 2018, due to the F-35B’s expected lateness. Instead, the 2010 SDSR retired the British Harrier force almost immediately, while delaying the new carriers’ in-service date.

Mk.7 ASaC
(click to view full)

AW101 AEW Helicopters. These AW101 Merlin Mk2 derivatives will scan the air to provide wide-area surveillance against enemy aircraft and missiles, and are critical to the carrier group’s survivability in medium high-threat situations. A carrier will typically embark 4 machines from the 8-machine fleet, leaving the rest for training and maintenance rotations. Existing British machines will be used, essentially removing them from their current roles; specifications do call for a 24 hour role change, but their Sea King predecessors have proven so valuable in naval and overland roles that reversion is unlikely. Costs are expected to range between GBP 230 – 500 million for system integration and manufacture.

(click to view full)

The “Crowsnest” program will replace the Royal Navy’s 13 Sea King Mk7 ASaC helicopters, which will all retire by 2016, leaving a gap of about 6-7 years before coverage is restored. Crowsnest’s Assessment Phase 3 is in 2014, with a planned main gate approval in 2017. By 2020, the Royal Navy expects to have modified 4 helicopters, with radar trials beginning and 2 helicopters available for emergency deployment. Full Operational Capability and carrier deployment isn’t expected until late 2022 or 2023.

Lockheed Martin and Thales will compete as Mission System providers, but there are 4 radar types under consideration. One is the same Thales Searchwater 2000 radar/ ASaC as the Sea King, mounted on a rail system with the same inflatable Kevlar dome. The 2nd is Northrop Grumman’s Vigilance pod, carrying a modified version of the F-35’s APG-81. Option #3 will be from IAI Elta, whose Phalcon AEW system is in service on a number of platforms. Option #4 will come from Finmeccanica’s Selex ES. Italian carriers also use an AW101 AEW helicopter, with a Selex Heliborne Early Warning 748 surveillance radar mounted in an enlarged under-fuselage radome.

Apache, ahoy!
(click to view full)

Other Helicopters. Beyond the F-35Bs and AEW helicopters, the Queen Elizabeth Class will be able to deploy regular helicopters as required for missions, by trading embarked F-35Bs for helicopter space. Normal mission load outs are expected to include around 6 AW101 Merlin helicopters, which will handle transport and/or anti-submarine roles. They will actually be the 1st aircraft qualified on the new carriers.

Beyond the Merlins, Britain has already operated a number of different helicopter types from its previous carriers, including WAH-64D/ AH Mk.1 Apache attack helicopters which were used over Libya. The Royal Navy also cites Britain’s huge twin-rotor Chinook helicopters as an option, and AW159 Wildcats will be serving with the Army and Navy by the time the carrier is in service. The ship’s loadout could easily add a range of types.

UAVs. Britain doesn’t currently have a requirement for carrier-launched UAVs, but the requirement can be expected to arise early in the carriers’ service, and a 2013 speech by the First Sea Lord explicitly raised this possibility. If and when Britain moves in this direction, the USA’s ongoing experiments integrating advanced UAVs like the X-47B into their carrier operations will be helpful. The difference is that Britain won’t be able to use UCAVs that depend on catapults and arrester wires for launch and recovery.

The CVF Carrier Program HMS Ark Royal
(click to view full)

The original design competition for the CVF was won by Thales Group UK in January 2003, with delivery intended for 2014 and 2016. By the time the 2010 SDSR was published, however, it became clear that this renewed and improved carrier capability would only be delivered around 2021. The SDSR also planned to mothball the Queen Elizabeth immediately, while converting Prince of Wales for catapults and arresting gear.

The Navy still plans to mothball 1 carrier, but the 2 ships will remain identical, foregoing “cats and traps” after studies showed that the single-ship conversion cost would be close to GBP 2 billion. A decision on whether to activate both ships, or to retain the 2nd ship in ready reserve unless the 1st is out of service, will be made in the 2015 SDSR.

Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for Britain’s new aircraft carrier is now expected in 2020. That capability includes the ship built and tested, with F-35B fighters qualified, AW101 Merlin Mk.2 helicopters qualified, and an emergency AW101 AEW capability of 2 untested helicopters. Further delays to the ship or to the F-35B could push that IOC date back.

Full Operational Capability, with a fully-functional AEW contingent, and all aspects of the ship ready for deployment to high-threat areas, isn’t expected until 2022.

Meanwhile, events since 2011 have left Britain with no fixed-wing aircraft carrier capability. HMS Ark Royal was decommissioned early in March 2011, and then scrapped. The Fleet Air Arm’s Harrier IIs were retired early, and then sold to the USMC in November 2011. Only HMS Illustrious remains. She will serve in the role of helicopter carrier until 2014, whereupon the flat-deck helicopter carrier HMS Ocean is scheduled to re-emerge from maintenance, and Britain’s last carrier is scheduled to retire.

Program Team: The Aircraft Carrier Alliance Assembly required
click for video

The original design competition for the CVF was won by Thales Group UK in January 2003, but Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced that BAE Systems would operate as prime contractor. These two companies formed the “Aircraft Carrier Alliance” (ACA), along with the UK Ministry of Defence. Formal agreement of the alliance principles took until Spring 2004. Thales UK will be responsible for system design of the platform, power and propulsion; they will also lead the team responsible for ensuring the ship’s readiness to operate aircraft.

In February 2005 Halliburton subsidiary KBR UK Ltd was selected as the “physical integrator” to manage the overall project. Britain’s ACA membership expanded again in December 2005 to include naval architects FBM Babcock Marine, and shipbuilders and ship support specialists VT Group, plc (since bought by BAE), even as the ACA’s “Delta” design was formally announced as the baseline by the Ministry of Defence.

That’s the British corporate alliance. At the same time, a Power and Propulsion Sub-Alliance has been put in place, to handle all elements of the ship’s generating, electrical, and mechanical propulsion and stabilization systems. It comprises Thales UK (ACA representative), plus Rolls Royce (MT30 engines), GE (was Converteam: induction motors) and L3 Communications.

International Team: Et Vous, France? PA2 Concept
(click to view full)

On the international level, there’s a co-operation agreement in place with France, whereby France’s larger PA2 carrier would have been based on the CVF design, to be executed by DCN-Thales. The two countries made a number of compromises in the final CVF base design, as well as some modifications to France’s larger 74,000t design. Under the agreement, France agreed to pay one third of the demonstration phase costs of the common base line design, in addition to staged payments of GBP 100 million in recognition of the investment the UK has already made.

In the end, France decided that it couldn’t afford to build and equip a new carrier, and PA2 was terminated in 2012. That shift may have played a role in Britain’s 2012 decision to have 2 identical British carriers available for use, ensuring 100% carrier availability rather than 65%.

On To Production How it’s built
click for video

Design work on the Queen Elizabeth Class is centered in Bristol, England and in 2 new design offices in Portsmouth, England and Glasgow, Scotland. As of August 2010, 6 shipyards across the UK were involved: Govan and Rosyth in Scotland, Portsmouth and Devonport in the south, and Newcastle and Birkenhead in the north.

Construction of British CVF carriers will be carried out in sections, and then the sections will be fitted together. Construction and assembly of the ships in yards owned by members of the new expanded Alliance, though BAE’s November 2009 buyout of its partner VT group has shifted ownership of several yards along the way. Present arrangements include:

Early CVF Workshare
(click to view full)

Final Assembly: BAE Shipbuilding’s Rosyth facility in Scotland, where they have invested in a new “Goliath” crane with 1,000t lift capacity.

Lower Block 1 (bow): Babcock’s Appledore and Rosyth facilities. Under a revised build strategy agreed in 2006, Babcock Appledore on Britain’s SW coast was given LB01, and also CB05/6.

Lower block 2: BAES Portsmouth facility.

Lower blocks 3 and 4 (stern): BAES Govan, on the Clyde near Glasgow. Block 3 used to be slated for the BAES Barrow facility, but submarine work was keeping that facility too busy. Barrow will continue to provide engineering support, as needed.

Lower Block 5 (stern): BAES Portsmouth.

Center Blocks: Cammell Laird is building CB02 and CB04. CB03 is being built by A&P Tyne. Babcock Marine in Appledore is building CB05 and CB 06.

Sponsons (the overhanging upper hull structure): Babcock Marine in Appledore. Babcock is also conducting CAD-based modelling, design and development work.

The 2 superstructure Islands: BAES Portsmouth now builds the rear island UB14, and BAES Govan was made responsible for UB07.

It was expected that substantial elements of the ship structure would be competed, and sub-contracting competition within the ‘superstructure blocks’ would be maximized. The above distribution is based on changes reflected in April 2012 ACA data, which is shown below along with installation schedules, key locations, and shipping routes:

CVF Workshare and Geography, 2012

See full-size graphic, 771k.

The CVF Program: Contracts and Key Events 2014 – 2015

NAO Report; Carrier to enter service without AEW; HMS Queen Elizabeth. CVF ops concept
click for video

June 29/15: The Royal Navy’s future carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, saw its propulsion system powered up for the first time at the back-end of last week. Powered by two Rolls-Royce Marine 36MW MT30 gas turbine alternators and four diesel engines, the total power reaches approximately 110 megawatts. The carrier will be equipped with F-35B fighters, with a joint US-UK team testing the jet on a replica of the Elizabeth-class carrier’s ski-jump last week.

Nov 3/14: F-35 integration. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, TX receives a $50 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification, to provide “operational and engineering support required to integrate the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter operations with the Queen Elizabeth Class carrier…” $10.8 million in UK dollars are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Samlesbury, UK (64%); Fort Worth, TX (26%); and Orlando, FL (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2017. US Navy NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages this FMS contract as Britain’s agent (N00019-02-C-3002).

Sept 10/14: AEW. Thales is readying its upgraded Searchwater 2000 radar for installation on the future AW101 “Crowsnest” Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) helicopters. Updating the radar, control console, software, and mission system to “drive out obsolescence” has the side effect of greatly expanding the radar’s back-end processing power, and they’re trying to update to corresponding software and mission system to take full advantage. The remaining uncertainty involves whether to keep the existing inflatable radar dome design, or switch to a solid pod with a different mounting – like Team Lockheed’s competing Vigilance system.

Thales says that their upgraded system manages to exceed competition standards in several areas, and they hope to fly the test airframe they’re integrating at Yeovil by mid-November 2014. They also believe that they’ll need less than the allotted 30 flight hours to prove out their solution, and that the ability to simply modify existing ASaC systems means they could deliver this solution well before 2018. If so, HMS Queen Elizabeth could begin service with an AEW system that’s tested to initial or even full operational capability, instead of having to wait until 2022 for FOC (q.v. Feb 3/14). It remains to be seen whether the Vigilance team will offer the same thing when Crowsnest program bids come in by the end of January 2015. A decision is expected by early spring 2015. Sources: Flight Global, “Thales nears flight tests for Royal Navy Crowsnest bid”.

July 4/14: #1 naming. HMS Queen Elizabeth is formally named by Queen Elisabeth, on American Independence Day. Instead of champagne, however, the ceremony breaks a bottle of Islay single-malt whiskey across the ship’s bow. Construction is still underway, even though the ship has been floated out of dock. Sea trials won’t get underway until 2017, and flight trials with F-35Bs won’t begin until 2018. Prince of Wales will follow, but to what end? At the ceremony, Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond says that the UK will be considering capability, cost, and trade-off issues when assessing whether to bring both of its new aircraft carriers into service, instead of mothballing one. With that said, he added that:

“I believe that we will find that … the relatively small amount that it will cost us annually to operate the two carriers will be a very good use of defence budget money, but that is a decision for the SDSR 2015.”

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas continued to push for both at the ceremony, describing the difference as “…not just twice the [capability]… a completely changed capability, because we would always have one carrier available to go to sea at any given time.”

Sharp-eyed readers will note the different name spellings – the ship is named after the current monarch’s predecessor, whose forces beat the Spanish Armada. Sources: UK MoD, “HMS Queen Elizabeth is named” | BBC, “HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier naming ceremony” | IHS Jane’s, “UK defence secretary outlines considerations in the case for a second carrier”.

HMS Queen Elizabeth

Feb 13/14: NAO Report. Britain’s National Audit Office releases their 2013 Major Projects Report. For starters, the CVF program is responsible for 106% of major program cost growth last year, based on the revised costs of the new deal:

“Today’s report shows that, in the last year, there was a net increase in costs of £708 million in respect of the 11 projects included in the review. The main contribution to this was a £754 million increase in the cost of carriers. This increase was due to a number of factors including delay to the schedule, immaturity of the design, underestimation of the cost of labour and materials and the Department’s decision in 2012 to revert back to the short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the latter adding £120 million. In addition to the £754 million, the Department estimates that the write-off from this decision will be £55 million.”

That GBP 55 million write-off isn’t part of the GBP 754 million cost increase, and is actually a drop from the original GBP 77 million estimate. Overall, the program has spent GBP 3.321 billion so far – almost the original approved budget of GBP 3.541 billion, but just 54.4% of the current GBP 6.102 billion projection.

Looking through the big hits to this budget, we find a 2009 Financial Planning Round decision (674 million), cost savings predicted but never realized (543 million), inflation in various forms (350 million), cost of stretching the build schedule (261 million), and over 17,000 change requests as the design matured (150 million).

From a timeline perspective, Initial Operating Capability (IOC) with basic ship safety has shifted from April – October 2017. Tier 2 with basic warfighting capability is now predicted for December 2017. The main risks at the moment seem to involve external items, such as the ship’s F-35B and AW101 AEW aircraft, the cost and schedule risk of providing 2 fully serviced Portsmouth berths and associated infrastructure, and the design and readiness of an in-service support solution. Work on designing that support solution is expected to begin in Q1 2014.

Feb 3/14: AEW. The UK MoD announces that savings from renegotiating the main carrier contract (q.v. Nov 6/13) are being channeled to accelerate the Crowsnest airborne surveillance and control program to ensure that it’s operational by 2019. Defence Secretary Hammond says this is being done “so that we will have the full operating capability available when the aircraft carriers go into service.” As part of this move, Merlin mission system integrator Lockheed Martin is receiving “a UK 24 million contract to run a competition to design, develop and demonstrate Crowsnest.” It’s actually a continuation of previous work, and the UK will pick a radar system from either Thales/AgustaWestland or Lockheed/ Northrop Grumman (q.v. July 24-30/13).

The Sea King Mk.7 ASaCs are retiring in 2016, along with all other Royal Navy Sea Kings. “Crowsnest” isn’t even slated for a Main Gate spending decision until 2017, with initial deliveries for testing in 2019. The planned date for CVF Initial Operational Capability was 2020, but its pair of Crowsnest AEW helicopters would be an emergency deployment that wasn’t fully untested. Full Operational Capability, with a fully-functional AEW contingent, and all aspects of the ship ready for deployment to high-threat areas, wasn’t expected until 2022. The MoD has conveniently avoided any kind of revised schedule in its announcement, so it’s difficult to tell whether this simply means that the 2020 carrier IOC will include AEW helicopters with more testing under their belts, or whether he’s promising FOC for the carrier as a whole by 2020. This issue has been a source of concern for Parliament’s Defence Committee (q.v. Sept 19/12, Sept 3/13), who can be expected to pry further into the details. Sources: Hansard, Feb 3/14 | UK MoD, “New surveillance system for Royal Navy aircraft carriers”.


CVF “adaptability” was a GBP 100M mirage; Government considering 2 operational carriers; BAE looking to renegotiate the contract. CVF cutaway
(click to view full)

Nov 11/13: #1. The fitting of the 130t ski ramp is the final stage in Queen Elizabeth’s construction. Sources: Royal Navy, “Queen Elizabeth closes ‘a pivotal chapter’ with construction of her hull completed ” | Afloat, “UK’s Biggest Jigsaw Finally Completed: Aircraft-Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth”.

Nov 6/13: Sea Change. BAE and the UK government agree on a big restructuring of military shipbuilding. The new agreement will replace the Terms of Business Agreement (ToBA) that restructured the sector (q.v. May 20/08, Oct 29/09), as a condition of the carrier contracts. This is just an agreement in principle, so far, but its outlines included:

  • Changes to the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier contract that “accommodate programme changes and activities previously excluded from the contract,” and move risk share to a 50/50 arrangement beyond the GBP 6.2 billion target cost, up to a loss of all BAE profits.

  • The original agreement had made BAE responsible for financing slack shipbuilding periods, but that would hardly be fair if government delays to the Type 26 are the reason why. Rather than paying termination and industrial costs to keep the shipyard idle, the UK government is ordering 3 Ocean Class OPV vessels, for delivery by 2017. The River Class OPVs HMS Tyne, Severn and Mersey will probably be retired at the same time. The difference between the 2 classes? The larger Ocean Class adds a flight deck that can handle AW101 Merlin helicopters.

  • Finally, the Ministry will chip in to pay for extra costs involved in shrinking the shipbuilding sector by 1,775 people and 1 shipbuilding facility. BAE determined that Glasgow, Scotland is the best place to invest in shipbuilding capacity. That’s a chancy business giving Scotland’s independence referendum, but the plan is to invest in Glasgow facilities, and shift Portsmouth to a naval and combat systems service & development center before the end of 2014. That will cost 940 jobs in Portsmouth, but the government is also investing GBP 100 million there to base the 2 carriers. Glasgow shipyards will take over Prince of Wales’ Lower Block 05 and Upper Blocks 07 and 14; and they will also build the Type 26 frigates. There will still be a reduction of 835 people across Glasgow, Filton, and Rosyth.

Sources: BAE Systems, “UK Naval sector restructuring” | Royal Navy, “New ships for Royal Navy secure UK shipbuilding skills”.

Major shipbuilding restructuring

Nov 4/13: Costs. British media report that negotiations on a revised carrier contract are at an advanced stage, but not done. Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is expected to announce a GBP 800 million cost hike, pushing total costs to around GBP 6.2 billion. They were originally forecast at GBP 3.5 billion when the program began in 2007.

The new contract reportedly aims to split any cost increases beyond $6.2 billion 50/50 between the government and BAE. Sources: British Forces News, “Costs for carriers ‘to top £6 billion'” | The Telegraph, “Carrier cost ‘could rise even higher than £6.2 billion'”.

Costs to GBP 6.2+ billion

Oct 10/13: BAE tells investors that it’s negotiating with the UK Government over “potential amendments” to the aircraft carrier contracts. The government is reportedly trying to force BAE to take more responsibility for any further cost increases, in a project that has risen from GBP 3.6 billion to GBP 5.3 billion. With construction at such an advanced stage, that isn’t an unreasonable request, but what if the government wants further design changes? How much is already paid for within the supply chain, and how much can realistically be changed? Answering those questions, and negotiating answers, takes time.

BAE is also reportedly expressing concerns about the sharp dropoff of work at Portsmouth, Govan and Scotstoun when the carrier project ends. Britain’s Defence Industrial Plans had hoped to ensure steady work, but the actual rhythm of programs and orders hasn’t kept pace, and it will at least 2016 before Type 26 frigate production starts up. Sources: BAE Systems Oct 10/13: “Interim Management Statement for period from 1 July 2013 to 9 October 2013″ | Bloomberg, “BAE Systems Renegotiating U.K. Aircraft Carrier Contract Terms” | Daily Mail, “US shutdown and Saudi contract wrangles threaten BAE”.

Oct 2/13: Let’s play 2! British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond tells a Conservative Party meeting that he’ll recommend keeping both carriers in service, but for that to mean anything, his party would have to win the next election. Technically, they could conduct the 2015 SDSR before the mandatory May 2015 election, but that would mean nothing if they lost. What he does say, is this:

“I think having put the money we have into building the carriers, for the sake of about GBP 70 million per year being able to operate the second carrier looks like a snip. But it does mean we have to stop doing something else. If we spend an extra GBP 70 million a year to be able to operate 2 carriers, which gives us a guaranteed one permanently available to go to sea, if we do that we will have to stop doing something else. All these things are about choices and priorities….”

Sources: BFBS British Forces News, “Hammond: ‘Second UK carrier worth using'”

Sept 10/13: Innovation. First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas delivers a speech to industry at Britain’s DSEI 2013 exhibition. The CVF program features prominently, both as a window into the Navy’s view of the program, and his challenges re: next steps. Some excerpts – see Additional Readings for the full speech link:

“And – last but certainly by no means least – we await expectantly the rebirth of the United Kingdom’s carrier capability. We look forward to the launch event for HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH next summer, which will be a real moment of national awakening. Why? Because she will be the first of two ‘big deck’ aircraft carriers capable of delivering a full spectrum of diplomatic, political and military options. Instruments of national power – symbols of national authority on the world stage – national icons. The Navy ‘back in business’.

Apache helicopters operate successfully from HMS Ocean off the Libyan coast back in 2011. An obvious blueprint for the future. Aboard Queen Elizabeth, they will be tiny. Unless, of course, a couple of squadrons embark. And why not? I challenge the Army to think that way. And these platforms are universal adaptors. Because our international partners can plug in as well. An obvious example would be the US Marine Corps operating their Joint Strike Fighters off our new carriers…. In July we saw pictures in the press of the first unmanned aircraft landing on a US aircraft carrier, USS George HW Bush, off the coast of Virginia. I am sometimes asked whether the absence of cats and traps precludes such options for us? I really think not, and I challenge industry to find ways to offer the Royal Navy better options from the Queen Elizabeth Class in the near future.”

Sept 10/13: Sensors. BAE’s Artisan 3D radar has begun integration trials at BAE’s old Somerton Aerodrome facility. Those trials involve providing tracks and radar video to initial versions of the QEC combat management system, while working with the QEC IFF system.

The Type 997 Artisan 3D radar will equip the new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, as well as retrofitted Type 23 Duke Class frigates and the new Type 26 frigates. On the carriers, it will be used for air surveillance, target identification, and even air traffic control. Detection range is reportedly up to 200 km, and it’s designed to track more than 900 targets at once. Sensitivity is reportedly in the range of tennis-ball sized objects traveling at up to Mach 3, which sounds odd until you remember than stealthy missiles may have a radar cross section that in that range. Source: BAE Systems release, Sept 10/13.

Sept 3/13: PAC Report. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee takes another look at the Carrier Strike program, including the AW101 Crowsnet AEW helicopter program. The core problem in the committee is that the members have now heard the Ministry say, several times, that they had a handle on things given their best information. Which then turned out not to be true. Their findings and recommendations mostly revolve around wanting correct information, and credible time and cost baselines. The tone can be inferred from these excerpts:

“The Department has a history of making poor decisions, based on inadequate information…. Carrier Strike remains a high risk programme…. Despite assurances from the Department, we are not convinced…. significant technical issues, costs and delivery dates for the aircraft are not resolved. There are also significant cost risks associated with in-service contracts for maintenance which have yet to be resolved…. We are also concerned that, according to current plans, the early warning radar system essential for protecting the carrier will not be available for operation until 2022, two years after the first carrier and aircraft are delivered and initially operated. And the MOD does not yet have the funding to replace the shipping needed to support the new carrier.

….Although the Department employs some 400 people on this programme, it may not have the right procurement skills to manage the risks in delivering Carrier Strike effectively…. We are concerned that the Department’s staff are wasting their time with bureaucracy and duplicated effort in having to make detailed checks on the operations of contractors, raising a question as to the quality of the contracting process.”

Sources: House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, “Carrier Strike: the 2012 reversion decision (HTML)

July 24-30/13: AEW. As part of its GBP 750 million MSCP contract to upgrade the Royal Navy’s Merlin HM1 fleet, Lockheed Martin is overseeing an initial GBP 3 million investigation into “Crowsnest” AEW integration with its “Vigilance” mission suite. That contract was awarded in 2012, and the 18-month assessment phase has just begun. It should be done by the end of 2014.

Eventually, 10 helicopter will receive refits. Option 1 is a Lockheed Martin/ Northrop Grumman radar pod (q.v. Nov 18/11, Feb 14/12) based on the SABR F-16 AESA radar. Option 2 is Thales / AgustaWestland’s ASaC proposal (q.v. July 4/10) that would just move the Sea Kings’ Searchwater 2000 equipment over to the AW101s, upgrade the radars, and install them in a retractable rear ramp housing. The Vigilance team is touting advanced technology and portability, the ASaC team focuses on low costs and fast turnaround. Sources: Flight Global, “Royal Navy works to add more capability to Merlin fleet” and “Thales cites affordability and speed for Crowsnest bid”.

July 24/13: AW101. The Royal Navy confirms 2 interesting things about its new carriers: the 1st qualified aircraft aboard, and the Merlin helicopter’s role beyond AEW. From “Royal Navy captures preview Of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s future role”:

“The two giant aircraft carriers will operate multiple aircraft, but the Merlin will be the first to be cleared for operational use, ahead of the F35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter…. Merlin helicopters will operate in the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Airborne Early Warning (AEW) roles, as well as providing force protection and conducting other roles, including evacuating medical emergencies and the all-important collection of mail.”

May 20/13: Hearings. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee holds hearings related to carrier strike programs. Key witnesses include UK MoD Permanent Secretary Jon Thompson, Chief of Defence Materiel Bernard Gray, and Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff Air Marshal Stephen Hillier, who is now overseeing the F-35 program. Key factual points inlcude:

  • Contractors will still make a profit on carrier construction until costs hit GBP 7.74 billion – GBP 2.5 billion over the GBP 5.24 billion target cost. (That target is, in itself, significantly higher than the original GBP 3.x billion). The UK MoD is trying to renegotiate the contract to create more shared contractor risk, as an incentive to find savings. The contractors are less enthused.
  • All parties agree that the GBP 500 – 800 million estimate for catapult/arrester carrier conversion was poor work, with key items like inflation, VAT tax (which applies to Foreign Military Sales from the USA), and other basic figures left out.
  • They’re still trying to get a handle on the extra costs of their vacillation between the F-35C and F-35B; current estimates are down to GBP 74 million, but they won’t know until 2014.
  • A modification to MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile will allow it to fit in the F-35’s weapons bay.
  • SRVL rolling F-35B landings will require unique deck markings, added F-35 aircraft software, and lighting on board ship.
  • The Royal Navy will still mothball its 2nd carrier, with reconsideration planned for the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
  • There are 399 MoD staff working on Carrier Strike, including the CVF, F-35, and Crowsnest programs: 250 are Military, 118 Civil Service and 31 Contractors.

Sources: House of Commons, “Oral Evidence Taken before the Committee of Public Accounts on Monday 20 May 2013.”

Feb 6/13: CV01. About 70 weeks after steel was first cut in Portsmouth, Queen Elizabeth’s 680t Forward Island and bridge set sail on a barge from the dock hall on HM Naval Base Portsmouth, all painted by specialists from Pyeroy, and ready for final assembly in Rosyth. BAE Systems.

Feb 5/13: Not Adaptable. The House of Commons Defence Committee says that Britain’s shift from the F-35B STOVL to the F-35C and back cost the country GBP 100 million. Most of that money was spent on budgets related to Britain’s new carriers, and the committee faults the government for rushed work on the October 2010 SDSR.

That is quite a lot of money to waste, and it’s true that after the Conservative/ Lib-Dem coalition took power, there was a strong push to get the SDSR out the door in a short period of time. These kinds of decisions are very complex, and the committee faults the Ministry for going along with this recommendation, without really understanding the changes involved.

The Ministry’s defense is that their CVF/ Queen Elizabeth Class carriers had been touted as “future proof”, able to include catapults if that became necessary during the ships’ lifetimes. That proposition was put to the test early, thanks to the F-35C switch. The Ministry’s retrospective conclusion is blunt, and discomfiting on its own terms:

“I think the fundamental misunderstanding that many of us had was that these carriers would be relatively easy to convert and had been designed for conversion and for adaptability. That is what we were told. It was not true. They were not. They were physically big enough to accommodate conversion, but it came at a higher price than was apparent at the time when the decision was taken… It is not my belief that they were genuinely designed for conversion, or that the contract allowed them to be designed for conversion.”

One wonders, then, why they were touted that way. UK Commons Defence Committee Acquisitions Report | Flight International.

Britain’s F-35 switching costs

Jan 25/13: Engines. Rolls-Royce announces that they’ve installed the 1st of 2 MT30 gas turbines into Queen Elizabeth.

The MT30s are derived from the Trent 800 that powers 777 planes. They’re installed as part of a Gas Turbine Alternator (GTA) which also includes an alternator and gas turbine enclosure, weighing 120t in total. Each turbine produces 36 MW/ 50,000 hp, and together they produce 66% of the carrier’s 109 MW maximum power. Diesels will produce the rest.


GBP 1.8b for refit? No, thanks – back to F-35B; Flight deck redesign will also go for naught; Field both ships now?; AEW gap at initial fielding. CVF sense of scale
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Dec 28/12: CVF01. Queen Elizabeth’s 30,000t forward section is skidded 17m backwards, to join up with the 11,000t hull section LB04. The bow section had already been lifted onto the ship Dec 13/12, and blocks CB04a/b were lifted Dec 17/12. At this point, most of the ship’s hull is in place. ACA Flickr | ACA Blog.

Oct 23/12: Infrastructure RFP. The Royal Navy is inviting bidders to pre-qualify for a GBP 60 million contract to add berthing spaces for the Queen Elizabeth Class. The project will include includes dredging the existing channel to make it deeper and wider, and adding a new electrical substation located near the refurbished jetty and docking space. Construction Enquirer.

Oct 16/12: CVF01. The 11,000-tonne Lower Block 04 (LB04) is rolled out of BAE’s Govan facility. It houses 2 main engine rooms, a hospital complex, a dentist, the galley, and accommodations including 242 berths. It was loaded onto a huge sea-going barge for its 5-day, 600-mile journey to Rosyth, where the carrier sections will be assembled.

LB04 is the carrier’s largest single piece, and Prime Minister Cameron takes the opportunity to show up for an “inspection” photo op. BAE | BBC | UK MoD.

Oct 2/12: Crewing. The first 8 sailors join Queen Elizabeth in Rosyth, led by Captain Simon Petitt. Royal Navy.

Sept 19/12: PDC Report. The Parliamentary Defence Committee publishes its report on Maritime Surveillance, which parenthetically includes Airborne Early Warning for the fleet.

Right now, Sea King Mk7 ASaC helicopters perform this role, but they will be taken out of service in 2016. The problem is that the Crowsnest project to field their replacement is in limbo while the Ministry tries to reconcile its future budget plans, and may not field anything before 2020 given plans for a “lengthy” project assessment phase. We aren’t quite sure why this requirement needs a lot of assessment time, but any delays beyond 2020 would put carrier fielding at risk. Meanwhile, there would be no successor to the Mk7s for use on overland or littoral surveillance missions. UK Parliament | Defense News.

Initial AEW gap looms

July 4/12: CVF 01. Assembly Cycle B has now officially begun, as massive Super Block 03 (SB03) has been moved 90 metres north to meet Lower Block 02 (LB02), which measures “only” 60m x 38m x 21m.

Assembly Cycle A saw the assembly of Super Block 03, comprising the mid-hull section (LB03) and 4 sections making up Centre Block 03 (CB03), plus associated sponsons. This finished in May 2012, and outfitting of the 9 major upper blocks integrated with LB03, including cabling, mechanical pipe systems, ventilation, and fittings and equipment, is scheduled to complete later in 2012.

During Assembly Cycle B, Babcock will integrate LB02 with Lower Block 01 (the forward sections from the keel up to the flight deck, including the bulbous bow), previously built by Babcock at its Appledore shipyard in Devon, and Super Block 03 (SB03) already assembled in the dock. Assembly Cycle B will continue until spring 2013.

Assembly Cycle C will then see assembly of the remaining blocks, including the stern sections and island structures, with the hull fully assembled by 2014. Babcock.

June 6/12: Back to 2? Portsmouth’s The News reports that the government is considering keeping both carriers in service, now that they’re the same configuration again.

” ‘Planning assumptions are that both carriers will now enter service,’ a defence source told The News… to be confirmed in the next defence review in 2015, is being welcomed by the navy as it will offer the UK a continuous, year-round carrier capability. It could also secure hundreds of jobs at BAE Systems in Portsmouth due to double the repair and maintenance work.”

May 24/12: Melting decks. After the Daily Mirror brings up the issue of F-35B exhaust and how it affects carrier decks, the UK MoD responds by saying that the extra cost of paint was seen as manageable, in comparison to full carrier modifications. It’s actually about more than just paint, as the deck coatings make a difference to carrier operations if they’re melted off.

The USA is developing a new deck coating to try and withstand the F-35B’s higher temperatures, compared to the Harrier’s less powerful 4-nozzle Pegasus engine. The MoD is at least correct that this change would be less expensive than an EMALS catapult fit, which carries technical risks of its own. Daily Mirror | UK MoD.

May 10/12: Back to F-35B. Britain’s government confirms long-standing rumors that it would abandon the F-35C and its associated catapult modifications to 1 carrier, returning to the ski-jump deck and F-35B STOVL variant. That will mean reversions and changes to the carriers’ evolved design and lighting, some of which were described in the Jan 25/12 entry. Aircraft are less affected. The UK had already ordered and paid for an F-35B test plane, before the switch to the F-35C. Those flights will now continue, and F-35B flight trials are scheduled to begin from a British carrier in 2018.

A DSTL report has explained some of the capabilities Britain would lose by abandoning the F-35C (vid. April 20/12 entry), but the government justifies their decision by saying that the F-35C’s improved capabilities would come at too steep a cost. Staying with the F-35C, they say, would delay Britain’s return to carrier capability from 2020 – 2023 or later, cost nearly GBP 2 billion to modify 1 of their 2 carriers, and leave the Royal Navy with no carrier capability if their converted ship needs maintenance. In contrast, the F-35B gives Britain the option of taking its 2nd CVF carrier out of strategic reserve, and using it during long refit or maintenance dockings for their primary ship.

The F-35C would also have offered compatibility with American and French nuclear-powered carriers, but the government sidestepped that by saying that the F-35B provides commonality with the US Marines and Italy. UK MoD.

Back to F-35B

April 20/12: F-35B vs. C. A UK DSTL document marked “Secret – UK eyes only” looks at the larger trade-offs between the F-35C and F-35B:

“The Daily Telegraph has seen a… document setting out secret contingency planning for future military operations… The highly-classified report shows that planners have grave doubts about the [F-35B’s] capabilities… the MoD will have to spend an extra £2.4 billion buying 136 aircraft compared with 97 [F-35Cs]… The reduced range means the jump jet can spend less time over its target than the conventional jet. For a target 300 nautical miles away from the aircraft carrier, the jump-jet can spend only 20 minutes over its target before turning back, compared with 80 minutes for the conventional jet.”

That GBP 2.4 billion compares well to the GBP 1.8 – 2 billion cost to add an electromagnetic catapult to a CVF ship. Daily Telegraph | Defense Update.

March 12/12: Conversion – GBP 1.8 billion? The Telegraph reports that:

“Estimates for adapting HMS Prince of Wales so that it can be used by the Joint Strike Fighter are understood have risen from £500 million to £1.8 billion.”

That may be an unaffordable price, and force a shift back to F-35B jets. Fortunately for Britain, the F-35B has been taken off of its program probation already. Unfortunately for Britain, the sale of its recently-upgraded Harrier force to the USMC, at a bargain-basement price, for use as spares, will look especially bad if there’s a switch back to a STOBAR carrier design. The government’s response will likely be to cite Harrier operating & maintenance costs as too high to sustain.

March 1/12: Conversion. Labour Party shadow defense minister Jim Murphy sends a letter to British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, asking if the government is considering abandoning the F-35C decision made in the October 2010 SDSR, and reverting to the F-35B. The letter telegraphs the growing pressure created by cost estimates of the carrier refit, as well as the costs of the F-35, which is now expected to exceed the GBP 57 million (about $90 million) budgeted per plane.

The UK MoD reiterates its commitment to a carrier strike force, and says they’re reviewing all programs before the 2012-13 budget is announced, around Easter. The Guardian | The Telegraph | Defense News.

Feb 22/12: UK Rafales? French DGA head Lauren Collet-Billon tells a press conference that the extent of carrier cooperation with Britain will depend on Britain’s final plans and choices. With respect to fighter jets, Defense Aerospace quotes him saying that the F-35:

“…is an ambitious program, and like all ambitious programs it faces a number of challenges… If one day we have to lend Rafale Ms to the Royal Navy, why not? Personally, I’d find that very pleasing.”

January 2012: CVF 02. British Commander-in-Chief Fleet Admiral George Zambellas officially cuts the first chunk of steel for Prince of Wales Lower Block 02, at BAE System’s facility in Portsmouth. Overall production on HMS Prince of Wales began in Glasgow in May 2011, however, when steel was cut on Lower Block 03 at BAE’s Govan yard.

Prtsmouth is also building Queen Elizabeth’s Lower Block 02, Lower Block 05 stern section, and forward island. BAE Systems.

Jan 25/12: Deck & lighting redesign. BAE Systems’ simulator at Warton, UK is being used to refine landing procedures for the proposed F-35C, and is helping to redesign the flight deck’s array of lighting systems, deck markings, and arrester gear. BAE’s simulator has been programmed to use the F-35 and the CVF layout, but the pilots are US Navy F-18 pilots.

ACA’s Pete Symonds says that the flight deck is being redesigned, and the new design has reached “level 2 maturity.” It will use the American landing light system as its base, but must move other gear for a “land and stop” sequence instead of the F-35B’s “stop and land”. Meanwhile, the JCA Team’s Wing Commander Willy Hackett is focused on the GPS-aided JPALS landing system, combined with new symbology in the helmet-mounted display. UK MoD.


Parliamentary report; Babcock’s highly mechanized weapons handling system (HMWHS); ECDIS picked; QE Lower Block 03 moved; FS De Gaulle into maintenance. Take me to the river…
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Nov 29/11: PAC report. Britain’s House of Commons Public Accounts Committee publishes its 56th report of Session 2010-12, “Providing the UK’s Carrier Strike Capability,” on the basis of evidence from the Ministry of Defence. The committee notes that costs have increased since inception from GBP 3.65 billion to receive 2 carriers in 2016 and 2018, flying F-35B STOVL fighters, with all-year availability of carrier assets. They now sit at over GBP 6 billion, for 1 operational carrier, flying heavier F-35C fighters, but with no carrier capability until 2020, and reduced availability. Some excerpts from the statement and report:

“The decision was taken on proper policy grounds, not on the basis that the UK was locked into contracts which would have cost more to break than to maintain… So far the Aircraft Carrier Alliance has delivered 98 per cent of the work originally planned and the project achieved 48 of the 53 target milestones in 2010-11 on time. In cost terms, the project is currently forecast by the Alliance to cost [GBP] 5.461 billion, [GBP] 219 million higher than the contracted Targeted Cost, with a planning trajectory to meet the Target Cost.[21]… The cost of up to [GBP] 1.2 billion for conversion of the operational carrier remains an estimate and the Department does not expect to have a better understanding of costs for 18 months… the Department is exposed to the price the US Navy will pay for their [EMALS] systems.[28] Furthermore whilst the USA is building a system with four catapults the UK requires a system with only two catapults… The conversion of the carriers to using catapults and arrestor gear will push back the in-service date by two years to 2020 and sortie rates will not reach the maximum full operating capability until 2031.[31] When the carrier is introduced it will be able to operate at sea for only 150 to 200 days a year, compared with the original plan to provide carrier capability for 435 days a year using two carriers.”

On the procurement end, the committee adds that:

“There is no one person responsible for delivering the Carrier Strike project below the Accounting Officer. The Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) has a co-ordinating role, rather than real budgetary and implementation authority. This Committee has consistently identified the Department’s weak SRO role as a systemic problem.”

The committee is chaired by opposition MP Lady Margaret Hodge [Lab. – Barking]. PAC release | Full PAC Report | Wales Online.

Nov 1/11: Fire. A piece of welding equipment catches fire in a compartment on Deck 8 of what seems to have been Lower Block 03, forcing about 40 firefighters to show up. Fife Constabulary said no-one was injured in the fire, which was traced to an extractor fan, and appears to have been just a minor incident. BBC | Daily Record | Dumferline Press | Fife Today | UKPA.

July 29/11: CVF 01. BAE Systems moves the 8,000t Lower Block 03 mid section of HMS Queen Elizabeth out the company’s shipbuilding hall at Govan. The block is then loaded onto 1 of the 2 biggest sea-going barges in the world in preparation for her 600 mile journey to Rosyth, where the aircraft carrier will be assembled. ACA.

July 18/11: DeGaulle gone. France withdraws FS Charles de Gaulle from Libyan operations, as the ship prepares for maintenance in the fall. Once it enters maintenance, neither Britain nor France will have an operational aircraft carrier. Despite pledges of cooperation in this area, in order to offset the absence of CVF carriers (vid. Nov 2/10), they may need to get used to this. The French carrier will be undergoing a full reactor refueling around 2015, which will remove her from service for well over a year. Reuters.

May 26/11: CVF 02. Ceremonial 1st steel cutting for Prince of Wales, the 2nd CVF carrier, at BAE’s Glasgow shipyard. UK MoD | ACA.

Prince of Wales begins.

April 28/11: GBP 7 billion? A BBC report states that:

“The firms building the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers say the cost has risen by at least £1bn and possibly almost £2bn, the BBC has learned. This could push the final cost of HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales to about £7bn – from the agreed £5.2bn.”

A corresponding blog post points out that even GBP 5.2 billion for the 2 ships is up from the GBP 3.9 billion budget announced when the contract was signed in July 2008, and says that the Ministry believes the project can be brought in for GBP 6 billion if just one carrier is modified with catapults. Other analysts, and the shipbuilders themselves, seem to be less sanguine. In response to the BBC report, the UK MoD would only say that:

“Final costs are yet to be agreed and detailed work is ongoing. We expect to take firm decisions in late 2012.”

March 29/11: Sub-contracts. BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies Ltd. issues a contract to Northrop Grumman’s Sperry Marine to build, install, and test Integrated Navigation Bridge Systems (INBS) with an electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS-N). Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine has already completed the initial design phase of the contract, including change requests, and is currently designing a Navigation Lights, Shapes and Sounds (NLSS) under an option in the production contract. Deliveries are scheduled to be complete in 2018, and Terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

The Queen Elizabeth Class’ INBS/ ECDIS-N (UK) system is based on Sperry Marine’s VisionMaster FT offering, and the multi-function workstations will include navigation planning, electronic charts, and radar displays, as well as a comprehensive set of software, and tie-ins to the carriers’ sensors. The system fully meets UK MoD specifications, NATO standards STANAG 7170 and STANAG 4564, and International Electrotechnical Commission standards IEC 62288 and IEC 61174. Northrop Grumman.

Feb 13/11: CVF 01. BAE Systems’ Govan yard near Glasgow moves 2 giant sections of the Queen Elizabeth’s hull together for the first time. A team of 20 employees moved the 1,221 tonne block over 100 meters in just 1 hour, to line up with the rest of the block and form Lower Block 03 (mid section of the hull up to the hangar deck). Workers will now continue to outfit the block, which on completion will weigh over 9,300 tonnes and stand over 23 metres tall, 63 metres long and 40 metres wide. The structure is already so big that it fills an entire hall at Govan and now extends beyond the doors onto the yard.

Lower Block 03 will be shipped to Rosyth in the latter part of 2011, and work also continues at other yards. BAE Systems is building the largest and most complex section (main stern) at Rosyth on the Clyde, and work is well underway at Portsmouth to build the forward and lower stern sections of the hull, as well as the pole mast. Integration and testing of the ships’ complex mission system is underway at the Company’s Maritime Integration and Support Centre, while another team of BAE Systems engineers on the Isle of Wight tests the advanced communication systems. The Company is set to begin work on the 2 island structures, which house the bridge and traffic control facilities, towards the end of 2011. BAE Systems.

Jan 17/11: CVF 01. Shipyard workers in Portsmouth are beginning the 2nd major phase of construction – building the massive stern section of HMS Queen Elizabeth. The BBC report also identifies HMS Prince of Wales as the ship that will be placed in reserve. BBC.

Jan 14/11: HMWHS. Babcock’s highly mechanized weapons handling system (HMWHS) for the new carriers has successfully completed factory acceptance testing. The HMWHS and its 56 track-mounted “moles” move palletized munitions around the deep magazine and weapon preparation areas, and to a series of weapons lifts that connect the magazines, hangar, weapons preparation area, and flight deck.

Because space on board is always at such a premium, it’s a very complex machinery set designed to get the very most out of all available space – even if that makes retrieving specific items something like solving a Rubik’s Cube. It’s a maritime application of shore-based commercial warehousing processes using automated systems with all-electric controls, and as one might guess, there’s a notable software component as well. Babcok’s release discusses a number of the system’s unique features.


2010 SDS mothballs a carrier, switches to F-35C; Sub-contracts; QE bow ships; UK-French cooperation pledges; Parliamentary report pegs cost at GBP 5.25 billion; Lord Hesketh’s criticisms and resignation. Enter the F-35C…
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Dec 15/10: Britain’s Harrier fleet is officially retired. The Guardian | Mercopress.

Harriers retired

Nov 22/10: Parliament reports. Britain’s Parliamentary Treasury Committee reports on defense purchasing policy in general, with special attention to the Queen Elizabeth Class. Some excerpts:

“These carriers will cost around [GBP] 5 billion.[96] Only one will be operational, while the other will be placed at ‘extended readiness’.[97] The operational carrier will now have catapult and arrestor gear installed… It became clear that it wasn’t possible to get out of the contract. It would have been possible to have done alternatives. It would have been possible not to have built the carriers and to have built other ships instead. But that would have been less good value for money, and in the end, the judgment was that the carrier strike force was part of the long-term strategic needs; that, looking 10 to 20 years ahead, this was something that would be part of the adaptable posture that we have adopted and, therefore, that we would go ahead with building the carriers. But there were alternatives and those were considered but they were thought, in the end, to be less good from a strategic military perspective and less good from a value-for-money perspective…

If both carriers were completed the stated cost would be [GBP] 5.25 bn. If the Prince of Wales was cancelled, BAE said the direct cost would be [GBP] 4.86 bn, plus an additional [GBP] 690 million of consequential costs. The letter also warned that the loss of a second carrier would precipitate the closure of at least one BAE Systems shipyard, and 2,500 job losses in BAE Systems in Scotland and the South East, as well as several thousand in the wider supply chain. The Chancellor told us that this was “of all the problems we faced, probably the greatest.”[108]… It is argued that the aircraft carrier contract was unbreakable not just for legal reasons, but also because it was inextricably linked to the strategic need to maintain a stable supply of work for the sole warship-producing supplier in the UK… The Treasury should draw on the lessons from the contract to analyse all future Ministry of Defence procurement to ensure that value for money is being obtained, particularly when little competition exists in the market.”

Revised costs

Nov 10/10: Conversion. London’s Telegraph newspaper reports that:

“Babcock, part of the BAE Systems-led consortium building the two carriers, estimates adding the equipment will cost [GBP 600-800 million] per ship, potentially taking the total bill for the vessels to almost [GBP 7 billion for both]. At present, the Government plans to add the extra equipment to only one carrier… Babcock’s chief executive, Peter Rogers, said installing the catapult equipment and switching to the so-called carrier variant of the F35… will allow the Ministry of Defence to greatly reduce the number of aircraft it has to buy and cut the cost of the planes by 25[%] over their life-span, according to last month’s Strategic Defence & Security Review.”

Nov 8/10: Lord Hesketh. Babcock International Group PLC Deputy Chairman Lord Hesketh resigns “with immediate effect,” after the firm issues a statement that: “Babcock dissociates itself from these personal comments [to the Telegraph newspaper], which do not in any respect reflect the views of the company.”

Hesketh has held his position as nonexecutive deputy chairman of Babcock since 1996 and has been a nonexecutive director since 1993. BBC | Defence Management | Daily Mail | The Independent | The Scotsman | Dow Jones.

Nov 8/10: Lord Hesketh. Babcock Deputy Chairman Lord Hesketh tells London’s Telegraph newspaper that:

“Britain could afford to run both ships – and put aircraft on them from the start – were it not for the “vested interest” of BAE Systems, the prime contractor. “We are paying twice as much as we should to get half the capability,”… said the [GBP] 5.2 billion project was a “Loony Tunes” operation that was “about to turn into a classic British disaster”… the F35 will not be ready until 2020, and plans for a jump-jet version have been scrapped – meaning an electric catapult to launch the aircraft will have to be developed at extra cost. Lord Hesketh said a far quicker and cheaper solution was to adapt the RAF’s existing Typhoons for work at sea. But he said this was less remunerative for BAE than buying dozens of new F35s.”

The bit about “an electric catapult” was also interesting.

Nov 2/10: UK & France. The “UK-France Summit 2010 Declaration on Defence and Security Co-operation” has this to say:

“9. Aircraft carriers. The UK has decided to install catapults and arresting gear to its future operational aircraft carrier. This will create opportunities for UK and French aircraft to operate off carriers from both countries. Building primarily on maritime task group co-operation around the French carrier Charles de Gaulle, the UK and France will aim to have, by the early 2020s, the ability to deploy a UK-French integrated carrier strike group incorporating assets owned by both countries. This will ensure that the Royal Navy and the French Navy will work in the closest co-ordination over the next generation.”

In the immediate term, concerns focus on the FS Charles de Gaulle’s readiness; she is currently held in port while problems with her propulsion are resolved. Over the longer term, expressed concerns center around how to share a carrier when national aims often diverge, sometimes strenuously. The more distant worry is that the combination of carrier-sharing and insufficient escort ships make the 2010 SDSR an initial step toward dismantling the Royal Navy, in favor of an EU fleet.

UK/ France Summit

Oct 29/10: Conversion. In an interview with BBC Scotland during a visit to the Govan shipyard, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said that estimates for the addition of catapults to the Queen Elizabeth Class ranged “upwards from GBP 500m,” with studies on going to pick a catapult system and determine likely costs.

Meanwhile, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Peter Luff confirmed that the government had not yet been decided whether one or both carriers would be converted, what type of catapult system to use, procurement approach, or delivery dates. What is fairly certain is that delivery dates will be delayed. Defence Management.

Oct 27/10: Share? As Britain and France prepare to sign a military cooperation treaty, French defense minister Hervé Morin is already discussing the possibility of sharing a carrier:

“Beyond joint exercises, we are in favor of sharing the accompanying of aircraft carriers… I’ve [also] asked our military command to consider the feasibility of stationing British aircraft on our aircraft carrier and vice versa,” Morin said. “We’re looking into other areas such as refueling planes.”

With an in-service date of 2020, however, the Queen Elizabeth Class is unlikely to be ready before the FS Charles de Gaulle needs its long overhaul, making it unlikely to solve the problem of how France can maintain a carrier force during their own carrier’s long drydocking. See: The Telegraph | UPI | Turkey’s Today’s Zaman.

Oct 18/10: Britain’s new government releases its 2010 Strategic Defense and Strategy Review [PDF]. Canceling a carrier would have made no financial sense, but the CVF program will change in several important ways.

First, the carriers will now install catapult gear, delaying in-service dates from 2016 to 2020. This will ensure that the carriers are interoperable with all allies, meaning French and American naval aircraft.

Second, the carriers will embark only F-35s, because the Harrier GR7/9 fleet is about to be retired, leaving the UK with no fixed-wing naval aviation from 2011-2020.

The F-35 chosen will be the F-35C carrier variant, instead of the F-35B that sacrifices range and payload for short takeoff/ vertical landing capability. Since the new carriers won’t enter service until 2020, the F-35C’s late availability won’t be an issue. The other thing that will change are the numbers bought. The report explicitly says the UK intends to reduce its F-35 buy, and also says that:

“We cannot now foresee circumstances in which the UK would require the scale of strike capability previously planned. We are unlikely to face adversaries in large-scale air combat. We are far more likely to engage in precision operations, which may need to overcome sophisticated air defence capabilities. The single carrier will therefore routinely have 12 fast jets embarked for operations while retaining the capacity to deploy up to the 36 previously planned, providing combat and intelligence capability much greater than the existing Harriers. It will be able to carry a wide range of helicopters, including up to 12 Chinook or Merlin transports and eight Apache attack helicopters. The precise mix of aircraft will depend on the mission…”

Finally, one of the carriers (probably the Prince of Wales) will be mothballed into “extended readiness” as soon as it’s delivered, and may be sold at some future date. The cuts have created concern in Britain that it will be unable to defend the Falklands from 2011-2020.

ADDENDUM: The Harrier fleet was taken out of service in December 2010, just a few years after major refits to GR9 status, and sold to the US Marines in 2011 as low-cost spare parts. The carrier Ark Royal was also retired around the end of 2010 per the SDSR, about 2 years sooner than planned. Her sister ship HMS Illustrious had just received a modernization refit, so she was left to operate as a helicopter and command ship, alongside Britain’s LPH helicopter carrier HMS Ocean. HMS Illustrious will now phase out in 2014 instead of 2015. See also Daily Express.

2010 SDSR cuts carrier, switches planes

Sept 8/10: SDSR. BAE Systems CEO Ian King said that the UK Defence Ministry had asked his company to examine options, including canceling the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. The ministry is conducting a comprehensive review of defense capabilities, the 1st review since 1998.

In response to a query by Labour lawmaker Thomas Docherty, UK Defence Minister Peter Luff said that equipment subcontracts worth a total of GBP 1.25 billion have already been awarded to build the 2 Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. In a parliamentary written answer to Docherty, Luff also said work is under way at 6 shipyards: Appledore, Birkenhead, Govan, Portsmouth, Rosyth and Tyne. “To rip up these contracts worth millions at this stage would not only be financial madness, but political suicide and I hope the coalition government sees sense,” Docherty, whose district includes Babcock International Group’s Rosyth dockyard, told the BBC.

Aug 9/10: Sensors. Ultra Electronics Command and Control systems announces a contract from the UK’s Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA). They’ll supply electro-optical systems based on the Series 2500, which will be used for general area surveillance and as a Glide Path Camera. Both systems will distribute their results as digital video, and this contract covers initial supply, installation, commissioning, and trials support.

The Series 2500 is already in service on the Type 45 Destroyer’s Electro Optical Gun Control System, and is also in service abroad with the navies of Australia, Brunei and Romania. A Design Services contract was awarded in 2008. and the resulting EO surveillance system is configured as dual EO Director (EOD) system integrated into the carrier’s Mission System. The Glide Path Camera is a single EO Director system that monitors the position, attitude and status of recovering aircraft on their landing approach.

Aug 8/10: Conversion. Jane’s reports [subscription req’d] that: “An unprecedented number of UK Royal Navy (RN) Harrier pilots have begun training for catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) carrier operations in the United States…”

Aug 1/10: SDSR. With Britain’s strategic review in progress, leaks and speculation are flying hard and fast, in an effort to influence the debate going on behind closed doors. The Sunday Times reports [JPEG] that one of the options under consideration is cancellation of Britain’s participation in the F-35 program, and purchase of F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft instead. Expected savings are set at GBP 10 billion – but there would also be costs to modify Britain’s carriers for catapult operations.

July 30/10: SDSR. The Observer reports that: “one of Britain’s new GBP 2bn aircraft carriers could be sold off under cost-cutting plans being considered by the Ministry of Defence. India has lodged a firm expression of interest…” The Guardian | London Evening Standard.

July 26/10: Sub-contractors. Construction of the flight deck’s steel plates begins at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, the final shipyard in the program to begin construction. Under their GBP 44 million contract, they will make 2 of the steel sections that make up the carrier’s flight deck. Their combined 7,500 tonne weight exceeds most serving destroyers. UK MoD.

April 13/10: Sub-contractors. Rolls Royce announces completion of Queen Elizabeth’s 1st propeller, and the successful testing of the vessel’s first MT30 gas turbine in Bristol, UK.

The 33t, 5-bladed Kamewa Adjustable Bolted Propeller is manufactured from nickel aluminium bronze, and will deliver 50,000 horsepower when connected to the ship’s propulsion system. Each carrier will have 2 propellers, and the 1st has now completed acceptance tests at the Rolls-Royce facility in Kristinehamn, Sweden.

April 1/10: CVF 01. Queen Elizabeth’s 2 bow sections are complete, and ready to set sail from Babcock’s Appledore shipyard in Devon. They will make a 6 day journey by barge to Rosyth in Scotland, where the ships will be assembled.

The two sections will make up the bow of the ship. The bulbous bow is 30.3 meters long, and weighs 293 tonnes; the upper bow is 29.1 meters long, and weighs 141 tonnes. “bulbous bows” have become popular in recent years, as they increase speed, fuel efficiency and stability by making the ship more hydrodynamic.

  • /changeNav/6568">Royal Navy.

  • Jan 14/10: Sub-contractors. The UK’s Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) awards 5 more sub-contracts, worth a total of GBP 333 million (about $540 million). According to the UK MoD, this brings the total value of sub-contracts awarded so far to almost GBP 1.1 billion. Winners and tasks include:

    Imtech Marine and Offshore Ltd in Billingham, Teesside, and Portsmouth receives GBP 120 million for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems.

    The Pyeroy/ Cape joint venture Ship Support Services Ltd based near Rosyth, Scotland receives GBP 105 million for paint and scaffolding during the build process.

    Henry Abrams in Glasgow receives GBP 85 million to transport sections of the ship from the yards across the UK to Rosyth for final assembly.

    Tyco in Manchester wins GBP 15 million for fixed fire fighting systems.

    AEI Cables in Birtley, County Durham, receives GBP 8 million for much of the 2,500km of cabling to be installed in the ships. UK Ministry of Defence.

    Jan 12/10: SDSR. Reports that the UK is considering cuts to the aircraft carrier program, and especially to its buy of carrier-capable F-35B Lightning II jets, persist. The Guardian.


    BAE buys BVT partner; Barrow too busy; CVF 01 begins; Modeling the islands; Sub-contracts, incl. S1850M radar; Political rumblings; Prince of Wales to become helicopter carrier?; India interested? CVF concept:
    leaving Portsmouth
    (click to view full)

    Dec 18/09: Sub-contractors. South Tyneside’s Shields Gazette reports that a GBP 55 million contract to A&P Tyne in Hebburn continues at full pace, cutting steel for a carriers’ center section. Yard managing director Stewart Boak says that:

    “So far as the yard is concerned, we are full steam ahead on the contract, whatever political rumours fly around about what will happen to the project after the General Election. We started working on the contract in July and have between 70 and 75 people from our core workforce involved with the main centre block for the carriers. Next March, we will ramp up the work when the contract enters a new phase and would expect to increase the number of people on the project to about 150 workers.”

    Nov 16/09: India. Amidst rumors of major British defense budget cuts, The Guardian reports that India has expressed formal interest in the CVF/Queen Elizabeth class carrier program. The UK MoD is desperately looking for long-term budget savings, but canceling either of its full-size carriers at this point would be rival the cost of finishing them:

    “According to senior defence sources, Whitehall officials are examining the feasibility of selling one of the carriers. It is understood they are planning to put forward the option as part of the government’s strategic defence review, which will start early next year… “Selling a carrier is one very serious option,” a defence source said this weekend, although the government is a long way from committing to any sale. It could take between six and 12 months to reach a decision, he added.”

    Each Queen Elizabeth carrier costs about $3.5 billion, and the negotiating difference around the Admiral Gorshkov is currently around $2.2+ billion. The question is whether India would be able to buy one of the CVF carriers for less than the UK paid, in order to offer the Treasury monies that it could not otherwise obtain from the CVF program. If a refund could be forthcoming from the Russians, and a deal done with the British, investing the Vikramaditya’s $3 billion could net India a completely new ship rather than an old and refurbished one, with double the Gorshkov’s aerial complement. Key questions include whether those deals could be secured, and whether India is prepared to wait until 2016 for the British carrier, as opposed to 2013 (and sliding…) for Gorshkov.

    Nov 3/09: Defence Management reports that:

    “Both the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales aircraft carriers will be able to carry the joint strike fighter (JSF) according to defence equipment and support minister Quentin Davies.”

    The question is what number of F-35B aircraft will be available for carrier use, and whether there will be enough to equip more than 1 operational carrier with a full fighter complement. Davies adds that “neither has there been any change in our JSF programme,” which could be true in an official sense even if future plans are still being debated. Time will tell.

    Oct 29/09: BAE Buyout. BAE buys out VT’s 45% share of BVT Surface Fleet Ltd. for GBP 346 million in cash, under the put option in their joint venture provisions. The new firm will be renamed BAE Surface Ships Ltd. VT Group Chief Executive Paul Lester comments:

    “This marks the completion of our transition to a pure support services company and we are well positioned to grow the business both organically and through acquisition, using the resources from the sale of our shareholding in BVT.”

    The financial details begin with a base buyout from BAE Systems of around GBP 380 million. Then VT Group will pay about 0.8 million of notional interest, 12.2 million for pensions liabilities, and 22 million in dividend repayments. While this nets GBP 345 million if calculated, all figures are rounded, and VT Group says the result is GBP 346 million net; DID accepts that figure.

    VT Group then injects another GBP 43 million of capital into the divested BVT Surface Fleet, to cover cost over-runs on the export contracts for Oman’s and Trinidad’s patrol boats, and pays 4.7 million to settle up various inter-company balances. The net is now GBP 298.3 million.

    When the joint venture was announced, BAE Systems acquired a 50% holding in acquisition in Flagship Training Ltd. Per VT’s Group’s future focus as a “pure support company,” it’s buying BAE Systems’ 50% of Flagship Training for GBP 70.2 million (65 million of deferred consideration and 5.2 million of notional interest, held currently as debt). That leaves GBP 228.1 million as the net total for the transaction if calculated. See: BAE Systems | VT Group.

    BAE buyout of BVT JV

    Oct 25/09: SDSR. Just 2 days after a Liverpool flypast celebrating 100 years of British naval aviation, the UK’s Times reports that the Royal Navy has agreed to turn Prince of Wales into a helicopter carrier, slash its planned buy of 150 F-35Bs to about 50, and save about GBP 8.2 billion from its long term defense budget. Since contracts have already been signed for both carriers, reneging would be expensive. The Times report says that:

    “The decision to have only one new aircraft carrier will cut the number of JSFs to be flown by RAF squadrons from 138 to about 50, saving [GBP] 7.6 billion. At current prices, the aircraft will cost close to [GBP] 90m each [DID: about $150 million], but this could rise to more than [GBP] 100m. Using the Prince of Wales as a commando ship will save a further [GBP] 600m, the amount that would have been needed to replace the amphibious landing ship Ocean [link DID’s], which is due to go out of service in 2018. The decision to cut the number of JSF aircraft has been agreed by senior navy and air force commanders in discussions preparing for the strategic defence review.

    …A senior Royal Navy officer said: “We always knew that the real cost of the carrier project is the JSF fleet to go on them. It would cost us at least [GBP] 12 billion if we bought all the aircraft we originally asked for. We are waking up to the fact that all those planes are unaffordable. More than half of the [GBP] 5 billion contracts to build the two new carriers have been contracted, so it is too late to get out of building the ships. This way at least we are covered when Ocean goes out of service.”

    Changing a ship’s internal plan part-way through construction is also very expensive. What’s more likely to happen is that the 2 carriers will share a single F-35B air wing, and the land-based role will be filled exclusively by about 120 Eurofighters. Britain would have 1 carrier active at any time, with the other available about 50%-60% of the time to embark a combination of EH101 Merlin/Transports, AW159 Lynx Wildcats, AH-64D Mk.1 Apaches, and possibly even CH-47 Chinook helicopters for other missions. More F-35s could always be bought in future if it was thought to be necessary, though that’s considered to be unlikely. See also: Aviation Week | Information Dissemination.

    Oct 19/09: Sub-contractors. Rolls Royce begins deliveries under its CVF contracts, shipping the 1st pair of Neptune stabilizing fins from Dunfermline, Scotland to the BVT Surface Fleet shipyard in Govan, where they will be incorporated into a hull section that’s currently under construction.

    The stabilizing fins are retractable, and can be extended from their housing in the ship’s hull, pivoting as necessary in order to stabilize the vessel when sailing through rough seas. The passenger cruise ship boom has helped refine this technology, but it also has military uses during various carrier operations such as the loading weaponry, refueling, or takeoff and landing. (q.v. Oct 6/08 entry)

    Sept 20/09: Cancellation costs? A Financial Mail article places cancellation penalties on the existing GBP 960 million or so worth of contracts at about GBP 400 million, with another GBP 500 million in contracts to be placed over the next 9 months. Severance and layoff payments would also be required for the project’s 7,000 or so direct workers, and the total estimated cost according to unnamed “defence experts” could be as high as GBP 2 billion in funds spent to no result.

    Sept 16/09: The Times reports that the CVF program may be headed for a renewed fight under a new Conservative Party government, if that party wins the forthcoming election:

    “George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, said in a speech on the economy that he would hold a Budget within weeks of a victory. Afterwards, he was asked to identify specific savings that an incoming Conservative government might make. In comments that surprised and dismayed his own colleagues, he cited the [GBP] 20 billion Eurofighter/Typhoon project, the [GBP] 4 billion project to build two aircraft carriers and the [GBP] 2.7 billion order for 25 A400 transport aircraft as areas ripe for cuts. Later, however, he admitted that he did not know what penalties might have to be paid out under break clauses if the contracts were scrapped.

    …Mr Osborne’s intervention appeared to surprise senior colleagues, including Liam Fox, the Shadow Defence Secretary. The Conservatives have said in the past that such decisions should be taken as part of a strategic defence review.”

    Sept 7/09: Sub-contractors. Another GBP 52 million (about $86.2 million) in contracts for CVF components. The sub-contracts include GBP 16 million to Score Marine Ltd. in Peterhead for 12,000 valves; GBP 15 million to Babcock Strachan and Henshaw in Bristol for an integrated waste management system; GBP 3 million to McGeoch Technology Ltd. in Birmingham for ship lighting and lighting distribution panels; plus “several other smaller contracts.” UK MoD.

    HRH Princess Royal
    (click to view full)

    July 7/09: CVF 01. Her Highness the Princess Royal (Princess Anne) officially presses the button to fire up the laser cutter at BVT’s Govan shipyard, and begin steel-cutting for the new Queen Elizabeth carrier. The UK MoD release adds that:

    “While the hull construction is just beginning, the project has moved on apace since the manufacture contract was signed in July last year, with [GBP] 700m worth of sub-contracts placed for the equipment and furnishings.”

    The BBC, meanwhile, covers the continuing debate over the Queen Elizabeth class, as the government of the day announces a “root and branch” review of British defense policy.

    Queen Elizabeth begins

    May 21/09: On the islands. The UK MoD explains work underway to model the CVF’s “island” structures and electronics, using computer modeling and a test structure built on the Isle of Wight. The work at BAE Systems Insyte’s Cowes electromagnetic environment facility is part of BAE’s GBP 275 million contract to design and supply a fully-integrated mission system. That system will includes about 1,400 different pieces of equipment: 1,740 km of fiber-optic cable, over 100 grouped antennas of various types, a complete I.T. infrastructure, complete air traffic control infrastructure, complete communications infrastructure, plus the various radars, self-defense systems, and other electronics.

    Placing all of that equipment in the 2 “islands” is a challenge, and so is ensuring that all the electronic emitters won’t interfere with one another. Trying to do all that after the ship is built can lead to expensive re-work and delays. Hence the use of computer modeling, followed by the GBP 600,000 test structure on the Isle of Wight, which allows incremental work and testing to proceed before this part of the ship is built and fitted. BAE Systems’ Steve Dowdell sums up their philosophy, which mirrors modern approaches to software development:

    “We need to integrate early, little and often. The earlier you integrate the more time you have to fix problems, not six months before the end of the programme. Little and often means we can apply bits of kit incrementally – that’s our mantra.”

    Mach 23/09: Sub-contractors. The UK MoD announces GBP 83 million ($120 million equivalent) in additional CVF contracts. The Aircraft Carrier Alliance has now placed sub-contracts for almost 40% of the total value of the base materials and equipment required to build both ships.

    Recent contracts will sustain over 400 jobs, and include:

    • GBP 57 million to Ticon Ltd UK in Glasgow (350 jobs). Their insulations will prevent the transfer of noise and heat, while providing force protection;
    • GBP 25 million from Thales UK in Crawley, West Sussex (50 jobs). Their communications systems will cover both onboard IP networks for data and voice, and fleet-wide UHF/VHF;
    • GBP 1m to Ormandy Group in Bradford, West Yorkshire (?? jobs) to treat and supply hot and cold fresh water to the accommodation spaces within the ships.

    See: UK MoD | Royal Navy.

    March 2/09: Sub-contractors. The Alliance Management Board of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) approves a revision to the CVF build strategy. That revision is described above, and includes a shift away from BAE’s facility in Barrow, which is too busy with submarine work.

    The ACA has also announced further shipbuilding orders worth up to GBP 150 million to UK shipyards. A&P Tyne in Tyneside, and Cammell Laird in Merseyside, have both been named as preferred bidders for the ship’s large central Upper Blocks. A regional breakdown of contracts issued to date was provided with the ACA release.

    Feb 11/09: Radar. Thales Nederland announces a contract with BAE Systems for a pair of S1850M Long Range Volume Search active array radars, a modified version of Thales SMART-L. S1850M radars are produced by Thales and BAE Insyte.

    The first radar system is scheduled to be delivered during 2011, and the second radar system in 2013. The scope includes minor enhancements to the S1850 design that serves on Britain’s Type 45 anti-air destroyers, in order to meet the specific needs of aircraft carrier operations.

    Jan 16/09: Sub-contractors. The Royal Navy announces another GBP 90 million ($131.5 million equivalent) in contracts for long lead time items, which need to be available during the early phases of the construction process. These orders include:

    • GBP 50 million covering steelwork for bow sections of the 2 carriers, to be carried out at Babcock’s Appledore Shipyard in Devon. Early steelwork for HMS Queen Elizabeth commenced in December 2008. This contract will sustain some 150 jobs at peak production;
    • GBP 3.4 million in galley in kitchen equipment from Kempsafe Ltd in Southampton;
    • GBP 23 million for modular cabins and “wet spaces,” plus another GBP 4.4 million in furniture, from McGill Services Ltd. This will sustain about 40 jobs at peak production in Billingham, County Durham;
    • GBP 1.3 million in windows from Tex Special Projects Ltd in Ipswich;
    • GBP 3.9 million in doors and hatches from McGeoch Marine Ltd in Inchinnan, Renfrewshire; and
    • GBP 4 million in aircraft electrical supplies equipment from Ultra Electronics PMES in Rugeley, Staffs.

    See: UK MoD | Royal Navy.


    Program go-ahead for main build; Program delayed 1-2 years; Sub-contracts, including propulsion. CVF Alliance “Delta”
    (click to view full)

    Dec 11/08: CVF Delayed. The UK MoD confirms that they are delaying the CVF program:

    “We have concluded that there is scope for bringing more closely into line the introduction of the Joint Combat Aircraft and the Aircraft Carrier. This is likely to mean delaying the In Service Date of the new carriers by 1-2 years. We are in close consultation with the Aircraft Carrier Alliance on how this might best be done. Construction is already under way and will continue, the programme will still provide stability for the core shipyard workforce, including 10,000 UK jobs.”

    The F-35 program’s decision to extend its testing phase into mid-2014 did create a potential schedule issue for CVF, even though the F-35B is expected to reach operational status before that date. Liam Fox, the opposition Conservative Party’s shadow for the defense portfolio, was quoted in a Bloomberg News report as saying that:

    “The aircraft-carrier announcement is the government finally owning up to industry and the public that they so dragged out the process that there was never any realistic prospect of them meeting the 2014 and 2016 in-service dates… This questions whether the government is really committed to the carrier program.”

    See also: The Register (op-ed).

    Nov 29/08: CVF Delayed. The expected major construction contract for the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers is late, amidst consistent reports of defense spending cuts over the next 5 years, and an economic downturn. That lateness has prompted rumors of threats to the CVF project – rumors that are currently being denied by people in the Royal Navy, industry, and government.

    The Scotsman’s report quotes Commodore Mike Mansergh and Alan Johnston, the chief executive of the BVT Surface Fleet joint venture. The Telegraph quotes assurances by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Comments indicate that a deal is likely to be finalized by March 2009 – though that deal may involve later construction and delivery dates, in order to stretch procurement funds. The Scotsman | The Telegraph.

    Oct 6/08: Sub-contractors. The latest GBP 235 million (about $415 million) set of CVF contracts will deliver the carriers’ gas turbines, generators, motors, power distribution equipment, platform management systems, propellers, shafts, steering gear, rudders and stabilizers. A sub-alliance arrangement will manage this contract, and handle overall responsibility for this aspect of the ship; it is led by Thales UK, with participation from Rolls Royce (turbines, propellers, steering and stabilizers, low voltage systems), GE (formerly Converteam: electric conversion, high voltage systems), and L-3 (platform management system).

    The COmbined Diesel And Gas (CODAG) system will be supplied by Rolls Royce in Fife, Scotland, UK and Converteam in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. The company’s overall share of this latest contract set is GBP 96 million, and includes a pair of 35MW MT30 turbines. Rolls Royce’s Dalgety Bay facilty will benefit from a GBP 13 million contract to provide rudders and stabilisers which steer the ship and keep it level, while the facility in Rugby will provide the generators that will be coupled to the CODAG system. In all, each ship will be capable of generating some 109 MW, and feeding it to the Advanced Induction Motor (AIM) propulsion and/or the ship’s systems.

    Power conversion specialists Converteam will provide the electric equipment which controls and monitors the power for the propulsion system and motors, under a GBP 26 million contract. This involves making medium-voltage (11kV) switchboards, VDM25000 solid state variable speed drive controllers, electric converters, and filters. The system will be based upon the one Converteam is helping to build for the Royal Navy’s new Type 45 air defense destroyers. Converteam spun off from ALSTOM; with the completion of a second leveraged buyout [PDF] on Sept 30/08, the GBP 2 billion firm is now held by Barclays Private Equity France (33.3%), new stakeholder LBO France (33.3%), and by the Management and the employees (33.3%). Rolls Royce release | Thales UK alliance release | Converteam alliance release [PDF] | The Royal Navy and UK MoD release; does not detail the remaining GBP 111 million in contracts to the sub-alliance.

    Sept 1/08: Sub-contractors. The UK MoD announces a series of contracts for various systems within its Queen Elizabeth Class carriers. Investments in this set total GBP 51 million (about $93 million). Firms were not specified, but items bought include:

    • GBP 34 million to manufacture and install Highly Mechanised Weapons Handling Systems for the two ships. It will automate and track the movement of large quantities of munitions on board the carriers. Its goal is to let the new carriers function with the same weapon handling crew size as the current Invincible class carriers, which are about 1/3 their size.
    • GBP 8 million to supply air uptake and downtake systems for both ships.
    • GBP 5 million to development and supply Air Traffic Control software.
    • GBP 3 million for Whole-ship Pump Integration, including pumps and associated systems engineering.
    • GBP 1+ million for Emergency Diesel Generators.

    May 20/08: CVF. The UK MoD announces that it has given the go-ahead to the CVF project, and expects industry players to follow suit with the promised joint venture firm shipbuilding consolidation, so work can begin on the 2 carriers. Reports indicate that BAE Systems and VT Group hope to finalize joint venture plans by mid-June 2008. UK MoD | BAE Systems | Thales | VT Group | Agence France Presse | Bloomberg | The Guardian | North-West Evening Mail | Times Online | The Scotsman predicts up to 800 new jobs in the Rossyth yard | Forbes re: JV | Telegraph re: JV

    CVF go-ahead

    May 18/08: Sharing a carrier with the French? The Times of London reports on talks that may lead to the building of just 2 CVF type carriers, instead of 2 Queen Elizabeth Class ships and the French PA2.

    The “bilateral carrier group interoperability initiative” was proposed by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, at his March 2008 summit with Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The idea is that either navy could borrow an aircraft carrier from the other if their own was unavailable as a result of a breakdown or refit, and there was agreement on the military mission and objectives. That latter requirement is what makes any arrangement of this kind so unlikely. British MoD officials reportedly dismissed the talks as “aspirational” and insisted there were “no current plans” to share carriers with the French.

    May 17/08: The Times of London reports:

    “General Sir Timothy Granville-Chapman, the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, has written confidentially to all one-star and two-star officers in the Ministry of Defence -equivalent to brigadier and major-general – asking for their views about the need for a next-generation carrier strike force… There is increasing speculation that the RAF’s Super Lynx helicopter project and the third phase of the Eurofighter/ Typhoon programme may have to be scrapped [if the program goes ahead].”

    April 4/08: Sub-contractors. Thales UK places a GBP 13 million (about $26 million) contract on behalf of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance for aircraft lifts and their associated motors and hydraulic machinery. Each of the carriers will have 2 tennis-court sized lifts (about 400 square meters), which use established technologies to lift 70 tonnes each from hangar to flight deck in 60 seconds. They are used to move aircraft, helicopters, and heavy equipment to the flightline, and the installed weight of the 2 lifts on each ship will be around 500 tonnes/ 600 tons. MacTaggart Scott employs 245 workers at its Loanhead site in Midlothian.

    CVF long-lead item contracts announced to date include those for the flightline elevators, diesel generators, steel, Identification Friend or Foe electronics, flying control rooms, landing aids, navigation and bridge systems, infrastructure works at Rosyth dockyard to allow for the assembly of the ships, a fiber optic cable plant, a reverse osmosis plant and the aviation fuel system. UK MoD.

    April 1/08: The Telegraph reports that cost-saving proposals worth an estimated GBP 100 million have been made by BAE Systems and VT to the UK Defence ministry, in an attempt to head off further delays to the proposed GBP 3.9 billion contract for 2 CVF aircraft carriers.

    March 31/08: Value-Added Tax is widespread concept in Europe, and in Canada as well as the Goods & Services Tax. The concept resembles a sales tax, but levied at each stage of the production or services process. The topic is relevant to Britain’s new aircraft carriers because Britain’s VAT is applied to ships built by multiple companies, but not to those built by only one.

    BAE Systems has been lobbying for a prime contractor role on the carriers, and the proposed merger with VT’s shipbuilding assets into Shipco gives them a vehicle that could end up saving as much as GBP 700 million in VAT taxes over the project’s lifetime. The House of Commons Defence Committee is concerned, however, fearing that a shift to a prime contractor approach could lead to the same kinds of cost overruns and schedule issues seen on the Nimrod patrol aircraft and Astute Class fast-attack submarines. The Times report.

    March 4/08: Sub-contractors. Britain buys about GBP 73 million (about $140 million) in early production items for its CVF carriers.

    Corus has won a GBP 65 million contract to supply 80,000 tonnes of steel to the Royal Navy for its 2 new aircraft carriers, against international competition. Most of the steel will be manufactured at sites in Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, Dalzell, near Motherwell and Skinningrove in Teesside. Dent Steel Services (Yorkshire) Ltd. will be providing warehousing, as well as shot-blasting and painting services. Over 90% of CVF steel tonnage will be produced in the UK, with some smaller quantities being produced in Europe.

    Other long-lead items bought include blown fiber optic cable (GBP 3 million, Brand-Rex Limited in Glenrothes, Scotland and Alfred-McAlpine IT Services), reverse osmosis equipment to produce over 500 tonnes of fresh water per day (GBP 1 million, Salt Separation Services in Rochdale, Lancashire), and aviation fuel systems equipment (GBP 4 million, Aviation Fuel Systems Equipment in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire). UK MoD release | BBC report.

    2005 – 2007

    Main build contract; CVF/PA2 agreement; Final design contract. CVF concept: top view
    (click to view full)

    Dec 11/07: Sub-contractors. Defense Aerospace has a copy of a UK MoD release that’s curiously lost from the MoD site, noting that contracts totaling GBP 28 million (about $57 million) have been placed for equipment related to the CVF carriers. DID adds to these reports using other sources as well:

    8 diesel engines and electricity generators – 4 per ship – at a cost of about GBP 18.5 million. The contract went to Wartsila Defence SAS, based in Nantes France, with the engines to be manufactured in Trieste, Italy. Power output for each ship will be about 100 MW (40 engines, 60 alternators) and the weight of a ship set is about 800 tonnes. The size of the ships means that the exhausts for some of these diesels are 130 metres long. Accordingly, the diesel generators are located deep in the hull and have to be fitted very early. This is a loss for Rolls Royce, whose 36MW MT-30 was seen as the main competition.

    The first ship set of diesel generators will be delivered in 2009, with the equipment for the second ship following in 2011. The alternators, which transform the diesel’s power into electricity, are built at Converteam, in Rugby, Warwikshire, UK. See MarineLink.

    INBS – Detailed design of a new and innovative fully Integrated Navigation and Bridge System, initially worth in excess of GBP million. Northrop Grumman’s Sperry Marine business unit will deliver a system based on Sperry Marine’s VisionMaster FT. The system uses an advanced network architecture that will provide the ship’s watch team with a seamless integration of radar and chart functionality that will bring together all of the ships’ navigation sensors and systems into a modern, efficient, ergonomic bridge. Sperry Marine is headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA with a major engineering and support office in New Malden, UK where this work will be performed. See NGC release.

    Flyco (Flying Control) rooms at a cost of circa GBP 1 million. The contract went to Tex Special projects of Ipswich, Suffolk, UK.

    Advanced visual landing aids, to guide fighters and helicopters on to the deck. This GBP 7.5 million contract was issued to Aeronautical and General Instruments Ltd of Poole, Dorset, UK.

    Nov 19/07: CVF & PA2. DCNS announces that French (DCNS and Aker Yards) and British (BAE Systems, VT Shipbuilding, Thales Naval and Babcock Support Services) corporations have signed an agreement that lays down the general provisions for co-operation for the development, manufacture and in-service support of the PA2 and CVF carriers. One aspect of the agreement is that the teams will study the feasibility of making all equipment requests joint acquisitions, in order to maintain commonality and drive down costs.

    Key caveat: France’s PA2 hasn’t yet been approved for construction.

    Sept 22/07: Industrial. Viasys UK announces that its Material Advantage software system has been selected by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance to provide the backbone of its procurement and contracts management functions.

    The ACA will use Material Advantage to provide a central hub for procurement, contracts, materials control and document control, while interfacing with many other ACA systems and applications in use at Alliance member sites. A Viasys project team has been deployed at the ACA project office in Filton, Bristol to ensure that delivery of the system meets the ACA requirements and timescales, and provide on-going support. Viasys release.

    July 25/07: BAE Systems plc announces that it has entered into a legally binding Framework Agreement with VT Group plc (‘VT’) to establish a joint venture (JV), which will be the UK’s premier provider of surface warships and through-life support. This is part of the sector rationalization pushed by the UK ministry of Defence as a precondition for its CVF carrier program. See full DID article.

    BVT JV

    July 25/07: Production Order. Orders for two new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers are confirmed by Defence Secretary Des Browne, who said the GBP 3.8 billion (about $7.8 billion) contract would lead to the construction of the largest vessels ever sailed by the Royal Navy.

    The settlement of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) for defense paved the way for the new ships, and breaks down into an annual budget of GBP 34 billion in 2008/9, GBP 35.3 billion in 2009/10 and GBP 36.9 billion in 2010/11. MoD release | UK MoD: “First Sea Lord welcomes aircraft carrier decision” (incl. video) | BAE release | BBC report.

    Build contract

    Jan 16/07: France. Mer et Marine updates the status of the French PA2/CVF program, and excerpts are translated by Defense-Aerospace.

    Meanwhile, the French are working to get US clearance for a steam catapult system to incorporate into their carrier (the British plan to deploy the F-35B which uses a take-off ramp and vertical landing instead). On the British side, the British government wants its shipbuilding industry to begin restructuring in accordance with the Defence Industrial Strategy before it awards the future aircraft carrier (CVF) contract. British yards shipyards are visiting French facilities, and looking to benefit from their improvement – and the French have offered to help, for a price. The quid pro quo is that British shipyards adopt French production standards and methods, and that the British agreed to design changes that accommodate French requirements (provision for larger ammunition storage holds, special secure storage areas the French can use for nuclear weapons, etc.) There is some thought that adoption of identical standards could lead to the building of common sections for the three carriers, but that hasn’t gone past the discussion stage at this point.

    May 5/06: Design. Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson announces a series of contracts totalling GBP 143 million ($263.5 million at current conversion) to continue to refine and develop CVF design. These contracts cover all aspects of the ship and ship equipment including hull, structure, mission systems, the planned all-electrical power and propulsion system, and the involvement of shipyard and industry design teams in this work. Contract winners included alliance team members KBR, Thales UK, VT Group, Babcock, BAE Systems Naval Ships and BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies. See MoD release.

    April 13/06: The MoD and its five Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) partners – BAE Systems, KBR, Thales UK, VT Group and Babcock – signed an Alliance agreement that will take the project through the current demonstration phase. It establishes the Alliance management arrangements, relationships and behaviors with reference to the UK’s Defence Industrial Strategy.

    The Alliance’s structure consists of a senior Alliance Board, chaired by Chief of Defence Procurement with CEOs of the participant companies, overseeing the strategy with the project’s direction the responsibility of a sub-ordinate Alliance Management Board, chaired by the MOD’s team leader with representatives of each of the participant companies. Reporting to the AMB is an Alliance Management Team delivering the outputs, drawing on staff from all the participant companies, and headed by a Chief Executive, an MOD civil servant seconded from Industry. See MoD release.

    ACA agreement

    March 6/06: UK & France Reach Agreement on CVF Carrier Development. Including R&D cost-sharing to the tune of GBP 100 million. The agreement was formalized on March 6/06 at an informal meetings of EU Defence Ministers in Innsbruck, Austria.

    A Common Baseline Design was later agreed upon, which the governments hope will bring savings in design costs, procurement and possibly support. The program is not fully collaborative in that France will also make its own modifications, its role is limited to exercising ‘influence’ rather than executive authority over the project, and there shall be no delays waiting for French decisions.

    Jan 14/06: France Steaming Ahead on PA2/CVF Carrier Project with a EUR 20 million contract to develop a “modified CVF” design for France. The CVF design includes room for catapults, and France will install steam catapults for use with its Rafale-M fighters, E-2C Hawkeye 2000s, et. al. Other modifications will also be made by DCN/Thales.

    CVF/PA2 agreement

    Dec 21/05: Parliament reports. UK Defence Committee Continues Questions RE: CVF, F-35. This Parliamentary report examines both the CVF and F-35 JSF program in detail. The row over the JSF and technology transfer, aka. ‘sovereign capability’ also continues and is debated.

    Dec 12/05: British Defence Secretary John Reid announces a series of major developments that effectively ended the exploratory phases, launched the program, and set out the program’s roadmap. He also announces GBP 300 million to develop the design of the ships to the point at which manufacturing can begin.

    Program launch

    CVF: Ancillary Contracts and Events

    This section involves items that are being developed as separate projects from CVF (as opposed to items bought off the shelf), or involves equipment and infrastructure that relates to the carriers but will not be fitted to them.

    2013 – 2014

    Crowsnest AEW competition. AW101 ASaC
    (click to view full)

    Feb 3/14: AEW. The UK MoD announces that savings from renegotiating the main carrier contract (q.v. Nov 6/13) are being channeled to accelerate the Crowsnest airborne surveillance and control program to ensure that it’s operational by 2019. Defence Secretary Hammond says this is being done “so that we will have the full operating capability available when the aircraft carriers go into service.” As part of this move, Merlin mission system integrator Lockheed Martin is receiving “a UK 24 million contract to run a competition to design, develop and demonstrate Crowsnest.” It’s actually a continuation of previous work, and the UK will pick a radar system from either Thales/AgustaWestland or Lockheed/ Northrop Grumman (q.v. July 24-30/13).

    The Sea King Mk.7 ASaCs are retiring in 2016, along with all other Royal Navy Sea Kings. “Crowsnest” isn’t even slated for a Main Gate spending decision until 2017, with initial deliveries for testing in 2019. The planned date for CVF Initial Operational Capability was 2020, but its pair of Crowsnest AEW helicopters would be an emergency deployment that wasn’t fully untested. Full Operational Capability, with a fully-functional AEW contingent, and all aspects of the ship ready for deployment to high-threat areas, wasn’t expected until 2022. The MoD has conveniently avoided any kind of revised schedule in its announcement, so it’s difficult to tell whether this simply means that the 2020 carrier IOC will include AEW helicopters with more testing under their belts, or whether he’s promising FOC for the carrier as a whole by 2020. This issue has been a source of concern for Parliament’s Defence Committee (q.v. Sept 19/12, Sept 3/13), who can be expected to pry further into the details. Sources: Hansard, Feb 3/14 | UK MoD, “New surveillance system for Royal Navy aircraft carriers”.

    July 24-30/13: AEW. As part of its GBP 750 million MSCP contract to upgrade the Royal Navy’s Merlin HM1 fleet, Lockheed Martin is overseeing an initial GBP 3 million investigation into “Crowsnest” AEW integration with its “Vigilance” mission suite. That contract was awarded in 2012, and the 18-month assessment phase has just begun. It should be done by the end of 2014.

    Eventually, 10 helicopter will receive refits. Option 1 is a Lockheed Martin/ Northrop Grumman radar pod (q.v. Nov 18/11, Feb 14/12) based on the SABR F-16 AESA radar. Option 2 is Thales / AgustaWestland’s ASaC proposal (q.v. July 4/10) that would just move the Sea Kings’ Searchwater 2000 equipment over to the AW101s, upgrade the radars, and install them in a retractable rear ramp housing. The Vigilance team is touting advanced technology and portability, the ASaC team focuses on low costs and fast turnaround. Sources: Flight Global, “Royal Navy works to add more capability to Merlin fleet” and “Thales cites affordability and speed for Crowsnest bid”.

    2010 – 2012

    EMALS Components
    (click to view full)

    Feb 14/12: AEW. AIN offer more detail re: the Lockheed & Northrop Grumman Vigilance pod solution for airborne early warning. With the Nimrod fleet gone, the potential for commonality between Navy helicopters and fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft is a key point being stressed by its backers. From “Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Offer Airborne Vigilance At Lower Cost”:

    “The [Windows-based] software and hardware (including operator consoles) from this upgrade project form a key part of the Vigilance proposal. They process and display the data from the radar and other sensors mounted in self-contained pods that have their own environmental control system and anti-vibration mountings.

    The radar is a minimal adaptation of Northrop Grumman’s fighter-size APG-80/81 series. A gimbal will be added to provide a 180-degree field of view. Two pods fitted either side of a Merlin, H-60 or similar-size helicopter would provide hemispheric coverage. On a C-130, the pods would be mounted under the outer wings. The CN-235 is another potential fixed-wing platform…. The pod weighs just over 600 pounds and requires 25 kW of power.”

    Dec 21/11: EMALS/AAG. General Atomics in San Diego, CA receives $17.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to provide engineering support for the development of EMALS and Advanced Arresting Gear configurations for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier Program. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete in June 2012. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-11-C-0057).

    Nov 18/11: AEW. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have adapted the SABR AESA fighter radar into a Vigilance pod that can be carried on AW101 Merlin Mk2 naval helicopters, other medium-plus rotary platforms, and even on RAF transport aircraft.

    That offers an interesting competitive option against AW/Thales AW101 ASaC, and might even offer a way ahead to first supplement, and then replace, the RAF’s big 707-based E-3D AWACS jets. Could more + cheaper + networked end up offering improved performance, as well as survivability benefits? AIN Online.

    Nov 15/11: EMALS/AAG. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Britain’s official request for Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System/Advanced Arresting Gear (EMALS/AAG) long lead sub-assemblies. EMALS long-lead items include the Energy Storage System, Power Conditioning System, and Launch Control System. AAG long-lead items include Power Conditioning, Energy Absorption Subsystems, Shock Absorbers, and Drive Fairleads. The request would also cover Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, software support, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support.

    The estimated cost is up to $200 million, and the prime contractor will be General Atomics in Rancho Bernardo, CA. This is still just a potential sale, but the nature and specificity of the request strongly suggests that Britain has decided to abandon its own electro-magnetic catapult research. Now that EMALS is launching real aircraft, they can certainly reduce technical uncertainties and costs by buying it to equip one of their forthcoming Queen Elizabeth Class carriers.

    Oct 12/11: NLSS. Northrop Grumman’s Sperry Marine unit signs a full production contract with the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, for the Queen Elizabeth Class’ Navigation Lights Shapes and Sounds (NLSS) signaling system. This confirms the end of the NLSS design phase, and deliveries will begin in 2012.

    The system has been designed by Northrop Grumman together with its technology partner Oxley Developments, and includes an innovative set of 47 night-vision friendly LED navigation and signal lights, plus control of ships’ audible signaling equipment. International regulation and signaling requirements are met using pre-programmed commands from touch screen workstations, with full status and diagnostics built in. Northrop Grumman is already delivering the carrier’s Integrated Navigation Bridge System, Inertial Navigation System, Navigation Data Distribution System and the Warship Electronic Chart Display and Information System (WECDIS). NGC.

    Sept 21/11: Goliath. The Rosyth shipyard’s Goliath crane (see Jan 30/09 entry) begins operation at Rosyth. The first major lift comes later that week, as the 1st section of the 8,000-tonne, 2-deck center block is lifted onto the 8,000t, 7-deck-high Lower Block 03. UK MoD.

    Goliath Crane ships
    (click to view full)

    March 7/11: Goliath. The required ‘Goliath’ crane heads into Rosyth, Scotland after a 14,000 nm journey from Shanghai’s Zhenhua Port Machinery, carried aboard a specialist crane transport ship. The crane is being delivered with the girder and upper sections of the legs already assembled. It will be erected to its full height on the ship over a 6-week period, before being winched from ship to shore directly onto the crane rails. After that, it will take another 4 months to erect, test and commission the crane. Final handover is expected in the summer of 2011, ensuring that it will be ready for use by September 2011. See also Jan 30/09 entry. UK MoD.

    Oct 18/10: SDSR = F-35C, EMALS. Britain’s new government releases its 2010 Strategic Defense and Strategy Review [PDF]. As noted above, Britain decides to install catapults on 1 carrier, and switch to the F-35C.

    July 20/10: EMALS. Jane’s reports that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is funding development of an electromagnetic catapult system for the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, in case the F-35B STOVL is abandoned. Rather than go through the involved process of joining America’s EMALS program, however, they appear to have contracted with Converteam, who was already developing an electro-magnetic launch systems for UAVs under an April 2006 EMKIT (Electro Magnetic Kinetic Integrated Technology) contract.

    The GBP 650,000 (about $1 million) EMCAT contract was reportedly awarded in July 2009, as a follow-on effort to continue the design, development and demonstration of high-power electrical systems for its EMCAT (electro-magnetic catapult) system. In October 2009, a smaller-scale demonstration of both controlled acceleration and braking was performed using electromagnetic linear motors. This could lead to the same core systems being used for launch and recovery. New Low Voltage linear motors with reduced end effect coils were delivered in early 2010, paving the way for the design of medium voltage linear motors which will help Converteam scale up their design. Jane’s Naval Intelligence | Converteam project page.

    July 19/10: ARTISAN. The CVF’s ARTISAN 3D radar has begun tracking trials, mounted on a full-size mockup of the CVF superstructure, built on the Isle of Wight. The radar will perform air traffic management, surveillance, target tracking with clutter discrimination, back-up navigation and Identification Friend or Foe capabilities on the CVFs, British Type 23 frigates, and amphibious ships such as HMS Ocean, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark.

    The radar recently finished its Customer Critical Design Review, and the 1st full system is due at the Land Based Test Facility at Portsdown in 2011. The first ship fitted with the replacement radar system is likely to be a Type 23 frigate, as HMs Queen Elizabeth won’t receive her radar until final assembly in Rosyth. BAE Systems.

    July 14/10: AEW. AgustaWestland and Thales sign an agreement to offer a new airborne early warning option for Britain’s new carriers: an AW101 Merlin Helicopter with Thales’ Cerberus mission system and Searchwater 2000 radar. H-3 Sea King ASaC (Airborne Surveillance and Control) Mk7 helicopters currently perform this role using the same Cerberus/Searchwater 2000 combination, but they’re scheduled for retirement in 2016. Since the Merlin helicopter has already cemented its place as the British Navy’s future medium helicopter, this collaboration locks itself down as the lowest risk replacement option. AgustaWestland.

    Jan 30/09: Infrastructure. The UK MoD reports on changes underway at the Rosyth dockyard, in order to accommodate the new carriers. The Firth of Forth yard’s No 1 dock was originally built in 1916. Babcock Marine is managing work to increase the dock’s capacity; and to widen the entrance from 38m to 42m in order to allow the ship blocks in, then let the completed carriers out. A coffer dam is also being built, in order to create a dry working environment.

    A GBP 15 million 120-metre “Goliath” span crane from Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery was due to arrive in August 2010, but arrived in May 2011 instead. The crane will straddle the dock, with a total 1,000t capacity from 3 hooks, including 500t from the central, lower trolley and hook. It. Nearly 90 reinforced concrete bored pile foundations are being socketed 3m into the underlying rock on the eastern side of the dock, with further piles driven up to 7m into rock on the western side.

    Up to 150 staff from BAM Nuttall are doing the engineering in a GBP 35m contract with Babcock on behalf of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, with workers from around 50 other sub-contractors also on site.

    2006 – 2009

    ARTISAN 3D on Duke Class
    (click to view full)

    Jan 12/09: F-35. Reports of a US Navy NAVAIR study surface in the USA. “Joint Programs TOC (Total Ownership Cost) Affordability reportedly says that:

    “…the cost to operate and support the F-35 [for the USA, all variants] will be $442 billion or more depending on additional costs for integration on ships and currently unforeseen development costs. This estimate is in FY 2002 program baseline dollars; the current dollar cost will be significantly higher. The production and development costs are cited, by the JET II, to be $217 and $46 billion respectively (2002 $), thereby making total program ownership cost to be $704 billion, or more, in 2002 dollars… the cost to operate the existing (larger) fleet of F-18A-Ds and AV-??8s. Cost per flight hour of the combined F-18A-D and AV-8 fleets is estimated to be about $19,000 per hour; F-35B/C cost per flight hour is estimated to be about $31,000…”

    This American debate is also significant to Britain’s financial questions, as it ponders the future of its carrier force. The navalized F-35B’s more complex LiftFan STOVL system and swiveling afterburner nozzle could make it even more expensive to operate than its naval F-35C counterpart. While F-35 operating costs will be difficult to estimate until the testing program is much farther ahead, the NAVAIR study is in line with several decades of acquisition history; newer, more advanced jets consistently cost more to operate than preceding generations. The F-35 is attempting to reverse this trend using smart wiring, embedded prognostics, fleet maintenance systems like ALIS, design for maintainability, and other innovations. Can Lockheed Martin break this very long and consistent cycle? DoD Buzz | ELP Defens(c)e, incl. chart.

    Nov 27/08: F-35B. The Register reports concerns that the F-35B may be unable to meet critical performance criteria for carrier operation. In order to be capable of combat air patrols at an acceptable cost, the carrier’s fighters needs to be able to take off fully armed, fly a patrol, and then land back on the ship without having to dump its missiles beforehand. The F-35B has had issues with its vertical fan system, and tests have yet to begin. Britain’s concerns are reportedly serious enough that they are investigating “Shipboard Rolling Vertical Landings” (SRVL), where jets would add some lift by moving forward slowly as they landed.

    If Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) efforts with Britain’s 3 F-35Bs fail, however, the impacts will be far-reaching. Assuming that the carrier program survives, the first consequence would be an aircraft switch. The article quotes General O’Donoghue’s recent Parliamentary Defence Committee testimony as saying that a navalized Eurofighter is not being looked at, but the F-35C carrier variant “must be an option” if the F-35B STOVL cannot meet Britain’s needs.

    The problem is that any move away from the F-35B requires the addition of aircraft catapults on the ship. A nuclear carrier produces great quantities of steam, but the CVF’s CODAG powerplant does not. Retrofitting steam catapults to CVF’s design increases its build and operating costs, and may require an increase in size to match France’s PA2.

    The alternative is an EMALS Electro-Magnetic catapult, which is still in the R&D stage as a critical technology for the USA’s new CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford Class super-carriers. If it could be produced and fielded in time, it would leverage the Queen Elizabeth Class’ all-electric power infrastructure, while requiring less space and less maintenance than today’s steam catapults.

    Aug 4/08: ARTISAN. BAE Systems announces a GBP 100 million contract (about $195 million) to develop the ARTISAN 3D (Advanced Radar Target Indication Situational Awareness and Navigation) radar, for deployment on a variety of ships including the Queen Elizabeth Class. Between 2011-2015, it will also be refitted to Britain’s Type 23 “Duke Class” frigates, the amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, and the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean. BAE Systems, QinetiQ and Roke Manor Research will form the Artisan 3D team.

    Artisan will be a medium range radar used for “volume search”, which means it can quickly scan large areas and pass potential targets to the ship’s fire control radar. It will also have secondary navigation functions, and is being designed to operate effectively in the clutter produced by near-shore littoral environments. BAE has confirmed with DID that Artisan will use a passive phased array design. UK MoD release | BAE release.

    Feb 11/08: Infrastructure. Babcock Engineering Services signs a GBP 35 million contract with Glasgow-based subcontractors Edmund Nuttall Limited. The contract covers key modifications to the dock, and the widening of the direct entrance. The rest of the planned GBP 50 million (about $100 million) upgrade will be spent on the ‘Goliath’ crane (which will be the UK’s largest) and hauling gear.

    The majority of the work at Rosyth will be carried out by Edmund Nuttall Limited in Scotland and the rest by their own subcontractors; the firm is part of the Royal BAM Group Dutch civil engineering and construction company. UK MoD release.

    F-35B JSF Cutaway
    by John Batchelor
    (click to view full)

    June 27/06: F-35B. A $115.8 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract for integration of the British version of the joint strike fighter (F-35B JSF STOVL) with its CVF future carrier project, under the JSF systems development and demonstration effort. Work will be performed in Warton, United Kingdom (57%), Fort Worth, TX (35%), Orlando, FL (5%), and El Segundo, CA (3%), and is expected to be complete in October 2013. The contract modification was issued by US NAVAIR to Lockheed Martin in Ft. Worth, TX.

    March 23/06: F-35B. British JSF Prospects Looking Up covers the developments, controversies, and prospects surrounding Britain’s potential F-35B Joint Strike Fighter buy, which is expected to serve as the mainstay of its carrier fleet.

    Jan 24/06: F-35B. The UK has been looking for an alternate fighter option, in case differences over the F-35 JSF program prove too great. According to The Financial Mail, the French Minister of Defense made a verbal offer on this day during talks in London, to let the UK buy “up to 150″ carrier-capable Rafale-M jets. This would appear to give the UK its desired “Plan B” for CVF aircraft, esp. given French cooperation in the CVF’s design and potentially its build-out.

    Jan 13/06: Training. GBP 100M to BAE for Surface Warship Combat Sims. The idea is to have the crews know how to operate the ship’s combat and command systems before they are taken aboard.

    Appendix A: CVF Program Management Stealth Trimaran – lost
    (click to view full)

    When the production contract was issued in July 2007, delivery of the CVF carriers was expected in 2014 and 2016. That has now slipped, but the project’s industrial philosophy remains. As British Defence Secretary John Reid noted:

    “This project is a key to the Defence Industrial Strategy and marks the end to the ‘boom and bust’ industrial cycle. The introduction of a managed and steady work stream will allow industry to plan efficiently and to retain the highly skilled workforce that has contributed to the fine tradition of shipbuilding in this country. In addition, this project will sustain and create some 10,000 UK jobs around the country.”

    Given this focus, and the project’s size, it should hardly be surprising that the program is the focus of a number of cutting-edge procurement practices. For instance, CVF is one of the flagship programs for the implementation of SMART acquisition. This includes, for example, a greater willingness to identify, evaluate and implement effective trade-offs between system performance, whole-life costs and time; the adoption of incremental acquisition for areas like the combat system; the use of the off the shelf equipment and commercial standards where appropriate; and a continued close and more open working relationship with industry.

    The CVF Integrated Project Team (IPT) has also been in the forefront of the roll out of Earned Value Management assessment techniques, resulting in the receipt of a Chairman’s Award for Innovation from BAE Systems. The IPT pioneered the Continuous Assessment process that took account of a number of criteria falling into 2 broad categories: those relating to the contractor’s performance in keeping to project schedules and establishing a relationship with the MoD; and those relating to the actual output and results of the work being undertaken by the contractors. Finally, the CVF IPT was one of the first organizations anywhere in the world to gain ISO9001/2000 Quality Assurance certification in March 2001.

    The Initial Roadmap

    Many of these initiatives were put in place during the program’s earliest phases. On Dec 12/05, British Defence Secretary John Reid announced a series of major developments that effectively ended the exploratory phases, launched the program, and set out the program’s initial roadmap:

    • Naval architects FBM Babcock Marine, and shipbuilders and ship support specialists VT Group, plc joined the ACA, even as the “Delta” design was formally announced as the baseline by the Ministry of Defence.

    • GBP 300 million would be spent to develop the design of the ships to the point at which manufacturing can begin. Commitment to some long-lead items for the ships was also made. The Demonstration Phase was delivered under 6 works contracts – a separate works contract for each alliance partner (2 x BAE Systems (Naval Ships and Insyte), Thales, KBR, VT, Babcock). The Works Contracts covered the budget, payment arrangements, work scope, fit to requirements, and construction timetable. The Alliance Agreement defined the arrangements for gainshare, management and establishing relationships/behaviors for the Demonstration Phase, with an over arching alliance agreement signed by all the parties on April 13/06.

    • Main Gate approval was split into two incremental steps. Dec 12/05 marked the end the MoD’s assessment phase. Following the Demonstration Phase, a ‘Red Team’ assessment led by Sir John Parker, and an Independent Financial Review by Deloitte plus Jacobs and Rand, the second step of main gate approval was given in July 2007. Costs were pegged at GBP 3.8 billion for 2 ships, and in-service dates were initially pegged at 2014 and 2016.

    • Per Britain’s Defence Industrial Strategy, the government looked for a merger to create a single supplier of surface fleet ships and support. BAE Systems and VT Group eventually created BVT Surface Fleet for that purpose in July 2007, and the first CVF production contracts followed. By November 2009, however, BAE had bought out its partner, creating a more direct single supplier.

    • The British government has also announced their intent to explore performance-based all-encompassing in-service support contracts for the new carriers and the existing carriers through to their out of service dates. This is in line with their broad-based “Future Contracting for Availability” initiative, which is part of their Defence Industrial Strategy.

    Approvals and contracts for the Demonstration Phase continued through to October 2007. Subsequent contracts have involved production items. As noted above, the production phase is being managed by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, in cooperation with the Power and Propulsion Sub Alliance.

    Additional Readings & Sources

    DID thanks reader Roderick Louis for his tips and research.

    Background: CVF Program

    Background: Ships

    Related Ships

    Background: Ancillary Technologies

    Background: Air Wing

    Official Reports

    News & Views

    Categories: News

    GAO: Air Force A-10 Abandonment Divorced from Financial Reality | DoD Refiguring Satellite Control | Russia Receiving New SU-34 Fullbacks

    Fri, 06/26/2015 - 03:26

    • Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work has announced his intention to stand-up a joint intelligence-military operations center for satellites, allowing all intelligence and military satellites to be controlled from a single location. Work is likely hoping that the co-location will enable the development of joint doctrine and closer operational liaison, with this new station designed as a back-up to the existing Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The center is scheduled to come online within six months, indicating that the announcement has likely been a long time coming.

    • The Government Accountability Office slammed the Air Force’s body of evidence and cost projections used to make the case for retiring the A-10. A report published on Thursday claims that the Air Force did not fully quantify the economic argument for favoring more advanced multi-role aircraft over the time-tested A-10. Manufacturer Boeing recently floated the idea of selling refurbished US A-10s to international customers.

    • Booz Allen Hamilton has emerged as prime contractor for the Air Force’s $7.9 billion NETCENTS-2 program, following the awarding of an IDIQ contract to twenty-one firms in May. The contract is set to run for a minimum of three years, with four one-year options.

    • Huntington Ingalls Industries delivered the submarine John Warner (SSN-785) to the Navy on Thursday, with this marking the twelfth Virginia-class sub to be delivered. The boat’s keel was laid in March 2013 and the sub was christened in September last year; the five-year, $17 billion deal will build ten Virginia-class Block IV fast attack submarines for the US Navy Navy, with production split between HII and General Dynamics Electric Boat, with the latter designated as the design authority. Commanders recently pushed for an increase in firepower for the Virginia-class. Commissioning for the newly-delivered boat is set for August.

    • The Air Force awarded a $5 billion IDIQ contract on Thursday for the Air Force Contract Augmentation Program (AFCAP IV), a rapid contingency contracting tool. This contract will see eight firms provide a range of base support and logistical support, running to 2021.

    • Also on Thursday, the Navy awarded a $237.8 million delivery order for spares in support of the Lot 9 low rate initial production of the F-35.


    • Polish helicopter manufacturer PZL-widnik is challenging the government’s decision in April to select the Airbus H225M Caracal over its own AW149 and Sikorsky’s S-70i Black Hawk and S-70B Seahawk for the country’s tri-service helicopter requirement. The company – a subsidiary of AgustaWestland since 2010 – is questioning the competition’s evaluation criteria, as well as the infringement of Polish offset law.

    • Russian aerospace firm Sukhoi delivered an undisclosed number of SU-34 long range strike fighters to the Russian Air Force this week, according to Russian press reports. The manufacturer delivered thirty-two of the aircraft in December 2013 following a low rate initial production contract, with full rate production announced in 2011. Sukhoi announced a contract in March 2012 for ninety-two SU-34s, scheduled for delivery by 2020.


    • The first of twelve Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50 fighter aircraft sold to the Philippines through a government-to-government deal with South Korea in 2013 has successfully completed its first test flight, with the first deliveries expected by December, when the Philippines will receive its first two FA-50s ahead of schedule. The full dozen should be delivered by 2017, with the Korean fighter/trainers a strategic interim as the Philippines looks ahead to acquiring more capable multi-role aircraft.

    • In related news, KAI has signed two contracts totaling $1.4 billion with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology (KEIT) to advance the Light Civil Helicopter/Armed Helicopter (LCH/LAH) requirement. KAI partnered with Airbus in March to sell the helicopters globally.

    • Afghanistan has received its fourth C-130 transporter, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, to complement the three aircraft delivered between 2013 and 2014. The gifting of the four C-130Js was decided in January 2013 by then-US Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox.

    Today’s Video

    • A-10 takeoff…

    Categories: News

    Korea’s T-50 Family of Trainers/Fighters

    Fri, 06/26/2015 - 00:00
    T-50 Golden Eagle
    (click to view full)

    South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle family offers the global marketplace a set of high-end supersonic trainer and lightweight fighter aircraft. They’re hitting the international market at a good time: just as many of the world’s jet training fleets are reaching ages of 30 years or more, and high-end fighters are pricing themselves out of reach for many countries.

    Most recently, Thailand is increasing its defense budget and the speed of its procurement process to, among other things, procure a replacement for its aging L-39. The T-50 is one of three candidates.

    The ROK’s defense industry is advancing on all fronts these days. Its shipbuilding industry, one of the world’s busiest, is beginning to turn out its own LHDs, and even high-end KDX-III AEGIS destroyers. On the armored vehicle front, Korea’s XK2 tank and K9/K10 self propelled howitzer are beginning to win export orders, and its XK-21/KNIFV amphibious infantry fighting vehicle may not be too far behind. All fill key market niches, promising performance at a comparatively inexpensive price. Now its aerospace industry is in flight abroad with the KT-1 turboprop basic trainer, complemented by the T-50 jet trainer, TA-50 LIFT advanced trainer & attack variant, and FA-50 lightweight fighter.

    The TA-50 and FA-50 are especially attractive as lightweight export fighters, and the ROKAF’s own F-5E/F Tiger II and F-4 Phantom fighters are more than due for replacement. The key question for the platform is whether it can find corresponding export sales.

    T/F/A-50: The Planes T-50, 3-view
    (click to view full)

    The T-50 was developed by Korea Aerospace Industries, Ltd., with cooperation and global marketing support from Lockheed Martin. Both firms were aware that many training aircraft fleets are aging, even as higher-performance fighters demand trainer aircraft that can keep up. The Korean government needed a fleet of trainers, and saw an opportunity to give their aerospace sector a strong boost in the process. Total investment in the T-50’s RDT&E program amounted to more than $2 billion: 70% from the Korean government, 17% from KAI, and 13% from Lockheed Martin.

    With a length of 43 feet and a wingspan of 30 feet, the 2-seat T-50 is about 4 feet shorter than the F-16; overall, it’s only about 80% of the F-16’s size. The relative size of the control surfaces and tails are larger, however, to improve handling characteristics at lower speeds and make the aircraft easier to land. Larger landing gear is also fitted, to absorb harder landings, which is to be expected from student pilots. Its form’s resemblances to Lockheed Martin’s F-16 are suggestive, and include the blended mid-set wing, complete with leading-edge root extensions and rear ‘shelf’ fairings ending in F-16-style split airbrakes. The air intake layout on the sides is somewhat similar to the F/A-18 Hornet or Northrop’s excellent but ill-fated F-20A Tigershark, and the aircraft is powered by the same engine: GE’s popular, reliable and fuel-efficient F404, with slight improvements over the F404-GE-402 to enhance single-engine redundancy and reliability.

    The T-50 trainer carries a basic navigation / attack system, which gives it some multi-role capability. The aircraft can carry Sidewinder missiles on the wingtips, as well as fuel, rockets, or qualified bombs on its 5 underwing and center pylons. The center pylon and 2 inner underwing pylons are “wet,” and can accommodate 150 gallon fuel drop tanks.

    The T-50 family’s empty weight is 14,000 pounds, and maximum takeoff gross weight is 27,700 pounds. The plane’s F404-GE-102 engine produces 17,700 pounds of thrust at afterburner. Maximum rate of climb is 39,000 feet per minute; and the maximum speed is Mach 1.5. Service ceiling is 48,500 feet, the design load factor is 8gs, and the trainer airframe is designed for up to 10,000-hour service life (8,344 hours for the A-50).

    T-50 cockpit
    (click to view full)

    Still, the plane is designed to be a trainer, with better rear visibility than a 2-seat F-16. An “active stick” ensures that stick movements in the front or rear are transmitted to the stick in the other seat, to improve monitoring and learning. Embedded training features, in-flight recording and post-mission debriefing capability are all built in. The standard tools of a modern fighter pilot’s trade are likewise present: “glass cockpit” of digital screens, HUD (Head Up Displays), HOTAS (Hands On Stick And Throttle) control systems to keep everything at the pilot’s fingertips, triple-redundant electrical system, fly-by-wire, advanced radio and navigation systems including INS/GPS, and a Martin-Baker zero-zero ejection seat. The seat back angle is 17 degrees – similar to the seat angles of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the F/A-22.

    Per the standards for modern trainers, the aircraft is part of a larger, integrated training system that includes simulators, computer-based training, cockpit and maintenance trainers, and a training management system.

    Maintenance has also received careful thought. The new trainer’s airframe will require no mandatory depot maintenance, and the aircraft boasts a “single-tier design” with some 250 access panels, allowing technicians to get at any major system. Extensive self-diagnostics are expected to help keep maintenance costs down.

    All in all, the T-50 may remind some people of the F-16 that was originally designed by the 1970s “Fighter Mafia,” who were busy breaking every big-jet, multi-role, high-priced rule the USAF had cultivated for over a decade. The T-50’s 0.65:1 thrust/weight ratio ensures that it’s no F-16. Even so, more than 25 years after the F-16 entered service, the T-50 family retains one more comparison point: a similar price point in absolute dollars. Its $20-30 million cost places it firmly on the high end of the modern trainer market, but its supersonic performance and fighter versatility could still make the T-50 family very popular indeed.

    Key market competitors include the subsonic BAE Hawk, Aermacchi’s now-supersonic M346, and its Russian twin the Yak-130.

    T-50 Variants Black Eagles
    (click to view full)

    At present, 3 variants of the T-50 are planned, beyond the basic T-50 trainer aircraft.

    T-50B aerobatic variant. It has replaced ancient A-37 Dragonflys in South Korea’s “Black Eagles” national aerobatic team. This makes South Korea 1 of just 4 countries whose aerobatic teams fly locally designed and manufactured supersonic aircraft. Their Black Eagles perform in this category alongside the USA’s Thunderbirds (F-16) and Blue Angels (F/A-18), Russia’s Swifts (MiG-29) and Knights (SU-27), and China’s 1st Aerobatic Team (J-10s).

    TA-50 lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT). Offers weapons training and usage, eliminating weapon training hours in more expensive jets, and allowing operational employment. TA-50s add an internal 3-barreled M61 20mm cannon, and can carry AIM-9 Sidewinder air-air missiles, AGM-65 Maverick short-range strike missiles, rocket pods, Mk80 family bombs, and SUU-20 practice bomb carriers. The TA-50 has full avionics including stores management, and the IAI/ LIG Nex1 version of the ELM-2032 multi-mode radar is an option. Some reports add Lockheed Martin’s AN/APG-67v4 multi-mode radar as an alternative option, derived from the radar that equipped Northrop’s F-20 Tigershark.

    Other reports have mentioned that the TA-50 has provisions for radar warning receivers and specialty pods, if customers wish to add them, but this isn’t confirmed. That would seem like a better fit with the FA-50, as a complete low-end light fighter that’s able to add precision strike bombs and other weapons to its arsenal.

    KAI’s FA-50
    (click to view full)

    FA-50 lightweight fighter. A slightly more expensive variant that’s fully fitted for the lightweight fighter and light attack roles, with a secondary role as a lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) if necessary. It is beginning to gain good traction in the international marketplace.

    Weapons are slated to include the same lightweight 3-barreled M61 20mm gun and weapon set as the TA-50. The ELM-2032 radar is a big step forward, and the plane’s electronic architecture reportedly adds the ability to integrate GPS-guided weapons like JDAM bombs, WCMD/SFW cluster bombs, and eventually JSOW glide bombs. A targeting and surveillance pod, AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, and other advanced weapons will likely follow, as the ROKAF and other customers look to diversify their roles.

    KAI on FA-50

    There is a small catch. The FA-50 is a joint KAI/ Lockheed Martin project, and the associated co-operation agreements reportedly included a number of restrictive terms. One is that Lockheed Martin won’t transfer aircraft source code to other nations, leaving Lockheed as the sole integrator for key capabilities. A 2nd provision is that the T-50’s capabilities cannot exceed Korea’s F-16s. A 3rd provision reportedly banned South Korea from integrating T-50 variants with non-U.S. technology that the United States doesn’t have.

    Provisions 2 and 3 had a big influence on the plane’s radar options. Instead of SELEX Galileo UK’s Vixen 500E AESA, the first FA-50s will use a cooperatively produced version of IAI’s popular ELM-2032 multi-mode radar, via LiG Nex1 and SamsungThales. The radar will be tied to additional datalinks like Link-16, radar warning receivers, and a MIL-STD-1760 databus. FA-50s will also be able to carry additional electronic countermeasures equipment, and specialty pods like LITENING or Sniper ATP for targeting, surveillance, etc.

    SamsungThales and LiG Nex1 may be enough “laundering” for ELM-2032 radar exports to Islamic countries. Reports re: Iraq’s sale say nothing about a substitution, and any radar switch would require a full integration project. Lockheed Martin’s AN/APG-67v4 radar, developed for the F-20, would be an obvious alternative, and Selex ES’ Grifo is a popular global choice for light fighters. A longer-term possibility involves a step up to more advanced AESA radars, which are already making inroads into the medium end of the fighter market. An imminent program to upgrade the ROKAF’s KF-16s with AESA radars could offer KAI a way up. Once the ROKAF adds Raytheon’s RACR AESA radars to its F-16s, the FA-50 could add the same radar without violating the FA-50’s MoU restrictions. The need for Lockheed Martin’s agreement to integrate an American AESA radar would be the only remaining obstacle.

    T/F/A-50: The Program T-50 cutaway, KAI

    Click here for full graphic, from KAI [1500 x 696, 454k].

    Home Customer: 142 ROKAF: 50 T-50, 10 T-50B, 22 TA-50, 60 FA-50.
    Export Customers: Indonesia (16 T-50i), Iraq (24 FA-50), Philippines (12 FA-50).
    Prospects: Botswana, Chile, Peru, Thailand, Brunei, UAE (~48), USA (up to 350).
    Losses: Israel (M-346), Poland (M-346), Singapore (M-346), UAE (M-346 picked 2009, but still no contract).

    Arirang report

    KAI is the T-50’s prime contractor, and is responsible for the design of the fuselage and tail unit, final assembly of the aircraft, and design of the accompanying training systems. The mid-mounted variable camber wings are manufactured by Lockheed Martin, who is also responsible for the avionics and fly-by-wire flight control system, and provides technical consulting.

    The production line at Saechon is designed for a 1.5-aircraft-per-month production capability with a single shift, but the assembly process can produce up to 2.5 aircraft per month by simply adding another shift if orders increase. Man Sik Park, director of the T-50 management team at Sacheon, adds that “Getting more customers than our line can currently handle is no problem because we can increase the production rate further with additional tools and assembly jigs.”

    KAI’s TA-50

    The ROKAF already has production orders for 102 of KAI’s aircraft: 50 T-50 trainers, 22 TA-50 LIFT/ light fighters (with an option for another 22), 10 T-50B aerobatic aircraft that replaced the Black Eagles’ A-37 Dragonflys, and 60 FA-50s to replace the RoKAF’s F-5 Tiger II and F-4 Phantom fighters.

    Outside South Korea, Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems and KAI have created the T-50 International Company (TFIC) to pursue export markets. Indonesia (16 TA-50 “T-50i”), Iraq (24 FA-50 “T-50IQ”), and the Philippines (12 FA-50) have signed contracts. Botswana and Chile have both reportedly expressed interest, as well as Brunei. The UAE has yet to sign its trainer deal for 48 planes, and wants an armed variant that doesn’t exist for its chosen M-346, so KAI may yet be able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, as they did in Iraq. The USA is TFIC’s biggest target, however, thanks to the 300-plane T-X program to replace the USAF’s supersonic T-38 trainers.

    The FA-50 in particular will offer performance that competes favorably with peers like the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17, and India’s Tejas LCA. All 3 of these jets are likely to find themselves dueling for the niche once occupied by a pair of 1960s-1970s era competitors – Russia’s MiG-21s, and Northrop’s amazingly popular F-5, which still flies with the ROKAF. Both aircraft types are still flying in many air forces, and both are reaching the end of their lifespans. Hence the market opportunity. The difference is that unlike its Chinese and Indian competitors, the F/T/A-50 family’s secondary trainer role makes it attractive to 1st and 2nd world air forces as well.

    Contracts & Key Events 2015

    Feb 4/15: Peru.The Peru tender for about $1 billion of fighters is the next target for South Korea. The decision is supposed to happen in the second half of the year. Other expected competitors include firms from Russia, Italy and China.


    Philippine contract for 12 FA-50s; Export prospects; Indonesian deliveries done; Does the ROKAF need stopgap rental fighters? FA-50 & AGM-65G

    June 26/15: The first of twelve Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50 fighter aircraft sold to the Philippines through a government-to-government deal with South Korea in 2013 has successfully completed its first test flight, with the first deliveries expected by December, when the Philippines will receive its first two FA-50s ahead of schedule. The full dozen should be delivered by 2017, with the Korean fighter/trainers a strategic interim as the Philippines looks ahead to acquiring more capable multi-role aircraft.

    Dec 14/14: Philippines. Filipino President Benigno Aquino says that the first 2 of 12 FA-50s ordered back in March are on track to be received by his country sometime in 2015, with the remaining 10 to follow by 2017. That’s a couple years later than they were aiming for when the negotiations started, but the order took about 2 years to materialize. Source: Manila Standard: “First 2 Korean jets to arrive next year”.

    Dec 12/14: Brunei? Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah gave a smiling thumb up aboard an FA-50 on display at the Gimhae airport. According to South Korea’s Yonhap agency, this may be more than a photo op as an envoy from Brunei visited the headquarters of KAI in Sacheon last month. Source: Yonhap: “S. Korea’s FA-50 jet to be displayed at Busan airport”.

    Oct 10/14: Weapons. The FA-50 fires an AGM-65G Maverick short-range strike missile for the first time, hitting a retired ship moored 7 km away in the East Sea (Sea of Japan). The Maverick actually has an outside range of around 20+ km, but that wasn’t what they were testing here. Sources: Chosun Ilbo, “FA-50 Fighter Jets Hit Target with Guided Missile” | Joong Ang Daily, “Air Force successfully test fires guided missile.”

    July 17/14: USA The USAF experiences a flight in a ROKAF TA-50, as part of their due diligence for the coming T-X advanced trainer competition. Major-to-be Lee Seong-wook and Lieutenant Lee Kwang-won from the 16th fighter wing put the American team in the backseat of their TA-50s for 4 sorties.

    The American due diligence team also visited South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), 16th Fighter Wing and Logistics Command, and the 16th fighter wing’s operation and maintenance. Sources: ROK MND, “Korean Trainer Aircraft TA-50 shows its excellence”.

    March 28/14: Philippines. The Philippines signs the P18.9 billion contract for 12 FA-50 jets, paid for from the P85 billion initial fund under the Revised Modernization Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. That’s currently $420.9 million, which is close to the $422 million at which the government starts paying the exchange risk. Let’s hope they’re hedged. The moves will give the Philippines a fighter force again, with 2 jets arriving for training and IOT&E 18 months after the Letter of Credit is “opened,” another 2 a year after that, and the last 8 by 2017. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had an interesting way of describing the negotiations:

    “In the Philippines we have an old saying that goes like this, “Pagkahaba-haba man ng prusisyon, sa simbahan din ang tuloy. Literally, this translates to no matter how long the procession is, it still ends up in the church. What we went through these past months even years is akin to a procession: slow, tedious and full of challenges. And like a procession we knew where our destination was and why we’re doing it.”

    That last sentence becomes especially interesting, in light of PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Okol’s comments to GMA News. He said “kung anong ibbiigay sa atin ngayon, we make do what is given,” while adding that the FA-50s are “a step in the right direction.” The PAF ultimately wants more advanced fighters, with full multi-role capabilities. They may find their FA-50s growing into precisely that, as the ROKAF adds more advanced weapons. Otherwise, they’ll need to be able to afford what they want. Sources: KAI, “KAI won a contract to export 12 FA-50s to the Phil” | GMA News, “PAF wants more sophisticated fighter planes, but will make do with FA-50″ | Philippine Daily Inquirer, “PH acquires P23.7B-worth of fighter jets, helicopters” | The Philipiine Star, “2 contracts for purchase of fighter jets signed today” | Rappler, “PH Air Force a joke no more, gets fighter jets” | Arirang, “Korean government to sell 12 FA-50 fighter jets to Philippines”.

    Philippines: 12 FA-50s

    March 28/14: Exports. A post on KAI’s official blog announces the Philippine sale, and confirms that “KAI is eyeing to further exporting the T-50 variant aircraft to the U.S.A., Botswana, the U.A.E., Thailand and Peru.” Chile no longer gets a mention, but they still have a need. Sources: KAI, “KAI won a contract to export 12 FA-50s to the Phil” | KAI Fly Together Blog.

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

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

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

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

    Feb 21/14: Philippines. News reports say that the 2 sides have reached agreement, with a formal contract signing to follow in March 2014. It’s reportedly a $422 million deal for 12 FA-50s, denominated in US dollars, with the Philippine government taking the exchange risk that total costs won’t climb much above P18.9 billion. They’ve also decided to reduce spare parts purchases by $500,000, which is almost always a false economy that hurts aircraft availability. In exchange, KAI accepted a much lower down payment of 15% per Philippine law (q.v. Dec 26/13), and will take risks regarding the cost of some equipment furnished through the USA.

    The first 2 FA-50s will be delivered by September 2015. Sources: Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Deal to buy 12 fighters jets from South Korea reached” | Rappler, “PH completes negotiations for 12 fighter jets” | Yonhap, “FA-50 sales to Philippines make headway, deal possible as early as March: source” | The Malay Mail, “Philippines to buy 12 South Korean fighters for US$422m”.

    Indonesian T-50i
    (click to view full)

    Feb 13/14: Indonesia. KAI has completed the delivery of all 16 T-50i jets, via a series of ferry flights between September 2013 and January 2013. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono hosts a commemoration ceremony celebrating the T-50i’s deployment at Halim Perdanakusumah Airport in Jakarta. Sources: KAI release [in Korean] | The Korea Herald, “S. Korea completes delivery of 16 T-50 trainers to Indonesia”.

    Indonesian deliveries done


    ROKAF follow-on FA-50 buy, takes 1st FA-50 delivery; Iraq buys 24 FA-50s; Philippines pick FA-50; Loss in Poland; FA-50 potential in Indonesia; Opportunity in Taiwan? TA-50 drops tank
    (click to view full)

    Dec 26/13: Philippines. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin says that they’ve recommended an exemption from laws that limit government contracts to 15% payment before goods are delivered, in order to allow KAI’s requested 52% down payment for FA-50 fighters. Ultimately, it will be President Aquino’s decision.

    Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez had more good news concerning negotiations, saying that: “We have settled the turnaround time issue. We are discussing the payment scheme” (q.v. Dec 2/13). It sounds like they’ll end up pretty close to KAI’s request payment schedule, but Velez still wouldn’t place any kind of timeline on negotiations. The issue is that any delays beyond this point are going to change the in-service date for the country’s air force, and the planned 2015 time frame is already a bit late, given Chinese pressure. Sources: The Philippine Star, “DND seeks release of funds to buy Korean fighter jets”.

    Dec 20/13: Poland. Poland’s MON picks the M-346 as its next jet trainer. The package includes 8 planes + 4 options, along with simulators and other training systems, spares, and technical support.

    Even though the M-346 was the only finalist without certified dual-role capability, Alenia (PZL 1.167 billion / $377.1 million) was the only contender to submit an offer within the MON’s PZL 1.2 billion budget. BAE’s Hawk T2 LIFT (PZL 1.754 billion/ $566 million) and KAI/Lockheed’s T-50 (PZL 1.802 billion/ $582 million) did not fit, and consideration of lifetime costs wasn’t enough to save them from disqualification. Read full coverage at: “Poland’s New Advanced Jet Trainer: M-346 Wins“.

    Loss in Poland

    Dec 12/13: FA-50. Iraq signs a $1.1 billion deal to buy 24 T-50IQ light fighters, which Korean news agencies cite as an FA-50 variant. The price works out to about $46 million per plane, but it necessarily includes added costs like initial training infrastructure. If the Iraqis have learned anything from their other programs, it will also include a solid initial supply of spare parts. KAI expects a 25-year, $1 billion T-50IQ support deal to follow shortly.

    These “T-50IQs” will apparently serve double duty: as the IqAF’s advanced jet trainers once pilots graduate from T-6B turboprops, and as a backup fighter force. The deal is a big save for KAI, as Iraqi interest in the TA-50 armed trainer had apparently waned in favor of the Czech L-159T. Increased instability in the region may have helped revive their interest, as it will take more than the IqAF’s 36 ordered F-16IQs to provide even reasonable airspace control. A supersonic “F-16 lite” provides Iraq with better air defense, though it may come at the cost of some counterinsurgency strike performance relative to the L-159. KAI is quoted giving a delivery window of 2015 – 2016, while Reuters cites April 2016 – 2017.

    Note that the Yonhap article has a key error. The plane exported to Indonesia, Peru & Turkey is KAI’s KO-1/KT-1 turboprop trainer and counterinsurgency aircraft, not the T-50 family. The T-50 family has been exported to Indonesia, and the Philippines is negotiating. KAI hopes that the breakthrough in Iraq may trigger interest elsewhere in the Middle East. Perhaps it will re-open the UAE’s 48-plane armed trainer pick, which has been stalled since 2009. Sources: KAI, “KAI has signed the contract with Iraq for exporting T-50 supersonic advanced jet trainer & light attack” | Korea Times, “Korea exports 24 attack jets to Iraq” | Reuters, “S.Korea’s KAI sells fighter jets worth $1.1 billion to Iraq” | Yonhap, “S. Korea to export 24 FA-50 light attackers to Iraq”.

    Iraq: 24 FA-50s

    Dec 2/13: Philippines. As China places growing pressure on the Philippines and Korea alike over territorial claims, TA-50/ FA-50 negotiations drag on and actual fielding of useful jets is farther and farther away. The issues seem to be substantive, however, rather than bureaucratic. South Korea wants a 52% down payment of PHP 9.8 billion ($224.25 million). The budgeted funds involved 15% down, which is apparently tied to government contracting laws rather than a different self-evaluation of customer risk. The 2nd issue reportedly concerns delivery times for spares under the support contract. South Korea wants a much longer delivery time.

    Philippine Defense Undersecretary for Finance Fernando Manalo says that they’re preparing a “firm position” for submission to KAI, who have to decide whether they’ll accept it. If not, however, the Philippines’ alternatives are sparse. India’s Tejas isn’t ready, and the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17 is out of the question. They could take on the risk of old, high flight hours, early-block F-16s from the USA. Or, they could seek to buy refurbished Israeli Kfir C10s for less money, if Israel is willing cross China by selling them. Meanwhile, they’ll remain helpless against Chinese aerial provocations. Sources: Rapler, “‘Major issues’ with South Korea delay PH fighter jets”.

    Nov 13/13: Taiwan? Submarines remain high on Taiwan’s agenda, but they aren’t the only items. The ROCAF plans to go outside the USA entirely for its new jet trainer, but replacements for the AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chung have been canceled before. The last AT-3 was delivered in 1990, but South Korea’s T-50 family is reportedly quite tempting.

    Taiwan needs to grow its fighter fleet, and a TA-50 sale would also provide Taiwan with a local interceptor and light attack jet. China has been antagonizing South Korea lately, and a TA-50 sale would certainly provide a diplomatically painful riposte. Sources: Defense News, “Taiwan Still Hungry for More US Arms”.

    Oct 28/13: KF-X shrunk? Aviation Week reports that KAI has responded to the KF-X’s program’s stall with a smaller, single-engine “KFX-E/ C501″ design that uses the F-35-style C103 design as a base, and proposes to reuse some systems from the FA-50. South Korea’s subsequent decision to short-circuit a competition in favor of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A fighter means that the T-50 partner is also committed to helping with KF-X, and efforts to move the delivery date earlier will add impetus to plans that reuse existing technologies. Read “KF-X Fighter: Pushing Paper, or Peer Program?” for full coverage.

    Oct 22/13: Poland. President Park Geun-hye and President Bronislaw Komorowski signed a cooperation pact in Seoul, spanning issues from defense to trade and energy. President Park pitched T-50 trainers as well as submarines. Her counterpart sounded somewhat noncommittal, as the AJT competition remains open at least until early 2014.

    Oct 17-21/13: Philippines. For her first state visit at home since her election, President Park received Filipino President Benigno S. Aquino III to discuss several bilateral agreements, including defense cooperation. The phrasing of her official statement implies that a contract for FA-50 aircraft has not been signed yet, but a Memorandum of Understanding has. So much for a deal signed by July (q.v. Jan 30/13).

    The MoU request is confirmed at 12 jets, backed by a budget set aside of close to PHP 19 billion (about $440.5 million). After the official visit, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported that China had pressured South Korea not to sell the planes. This was officially denied by the South Korean government, but confirmed by anonymous government officials. China and the Philippines have unresolved territorial disputes in the South China Sea, in that section the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea. Sources: ROK President | Chosun Ilbo.

    Sept 10/13: Indonesia. The first 2 T-50i jets take off from Sacheon airfield in Korea, en route to Indonesia. Their trip will take it to Gaishung, Taiwan; Cebu, Philippines; and Spinggan, Indonesia; before arriving at its future home base of Ishuwahyudi, Indonesia. Source: ROK MND | KAI release, Sept 10/13.

    June 28/13: T-50i cert. The T-50i receives its military type certificate through the South Korean Government’s airworthiness authority committee, which is chaired by the DAPA defense procurement agency’s bureau of analysis and evaluation, MACA (Military Airworthiness Certification Authority).

    KAI adds that 6 pilots from the Indonesian Air Force have been training since February 2013 with the T-50 and TA-50, accompanied by Indonesian ground maintenance crews. T-50i deliveries are expected to begin in September 2013, with all 16 delivered within the first half of 2014. Source: KAI release, June 28/13.

    T-50i military type cert

    Aug 20/13: FA-50. KAI delivers the 1st FA-50 fighter to the ROKAF, with another 60 due for delivery by 2016 to replace about 120 Vietnam-era F-5E/F Tiger II fighters. KAI sees a bright future in Asia, where IHS projects that defense budgets will increase beyond by 35% from 2013 – 2021.

    Park Jeong-soo and other KAI officials say they aim to sell about 1,000 T-50 family planes by 2040 or so, but even factoring in Asian growth, their success or failure in the USA’s 300 plane T-X requirement will play a huge role in whether or not they achieve it. Source: Reuters, “South Korea targets growing Asian defence market with fighter jets”

    TA-50 delivered

    June 19/13: Indonesia. KAI representatives at the 50th Paris Air Show tell Flight Global that Indonesia will receive its full complement of 16 T-50i jet trainers (q.v. May 25/11) between September 2013 – February 2014. They’re also pursuing a deal for 12 FA-50 light fighters, which would replace the TNI-AU’s F-5s. Flight Global.

    May 7/13: FA-50s. KAI borrows the people who seem to write most of the technical manuals for consumer electronics, in order to describe the 1.1 trillion won (about $1.02 billion) ROKAF contract for full rate production of the FA-50. Based on our translation of their English translation, KAI seems to be saying that follow-on FA-50s will begin arriving in August 2013, and that production will continue into 2016. This timeline fits previous reports, and implies that KAI has been doing advance production work.

    KAI’s writers wouldn’t be faithful to the spirit of those technical manuals if they didn’t leave out important information, so they made sure to leave out the number of planes bought. The ROKAF ordered 20 FA-50s in December 2011, and was slated to order another 40-110 as the follow-on. Given the contract funding, and expected costs, it appears that the ROKAF has ordered another 40 FA-50s, at around $25.5 million per plane. Subsequent reports confirm it.

    You’re denying yourself one of life’s guilty pleasures if you don’t read the original KAI release in all its glory. See also: UPI.

    ROKAF: 40 FA-50s

    March 6/13: Philippines. The Zamboanga City Times reports that the country’s Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) has only just given the go-ahead to draw up a Terms of Reference document, in advance of a government-to-government deal for 12 FA-50 fighters.

    The document will define what has to be achieved; stakeholders, roles and responsibilities; resource, financial and quality plans; work breakdown structure and schedule; and success factors/risks. That isn’t a small job, yet the official line is that the TOR will be done and negotiations held by the end of 2013, which aircraft flying within about 2 years – or about a decade after they retired the F-5s in 2005. It’s possible, but both of those dates seem optimistic at best.

    Jan 30/13: Philippines. Agence France Presse reports that the Philippines is headed into negotiations with KAI in February 2013, and expects to have a deal by July. Their jets won’t arrive until 2015.

    The big question is, which jets they will be? AFP and Flight International report that they’ll be FA-50 fighter variants, rather than the TA-50 armed trainers. If the PAF technical team mentioned in the Oct 29/12 entry came back with unsatisfactory answers about the TA-50, KAI’s FA-50 is the logical next option. Close parsing of the public statements made by Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez don’t provide direct confirmation. FA-50s will be more expensive, however, making TA-50s a potential fallback option in negotiations. Nothing is final yet, and we’ll only know the answer when the deal is done.

    Postscript: Manila Channel wins the award for media confusion, by posting a graphic of Russia’s developmental T50 stealth fighter in their story. Uh, guys, these aren’t the fighter jets you’re looking for. Chosun Ilbo | Manila Channel | Manila’s Sun Star | Bloomberg | Flight International.


    ROKAF orders 1st FA-50s; Philippines picks TA-50? KAI privatization fails. T-50 line
    (click to view full)

    October 2012: FA-50. The FA-50 gets South Korean type certification. Source.

    Oct 29/12: Philippines. The Philippine Star says that a PAF technical team is investigating whether the TA-50 can deliver “medium range missiles”, and the quality of its radar system. If the country decides to remain on course for a competition, these questions will become more important.

    Radars are important to surveillance as well as air superiority, and the Philippines needs both. South Korea has a partnership with IAI for its EL/M-2032 radar, which includes surface scan capabilities, on the FA-50; will the Philippines pay for that? Beyond the radar, the term “medium range missile” is very ambiguous. TA-50s can deliver AGM-65 Maverick short-range strike missiles or AIM-9 Sidewinder short range air-to-air missiles, but they would require additional integration to deliver a medium range anti-ship weapon like an American AGM-154C JSOW glide bomb, an anti-ship missile like the AGM-84 Harpoon, or a medium-range air-to-air missile like the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

    Oct 28/12: Philippines. The Philippine Star reports that their buy is becoming a competition again:

    “The Philippine Air Force (PAF)’s planned acquisition of lead-in fighter jets from South Korea or any friendly state may take longer than expected after it was decided that the multi-billion peso defense procurement will be bid out instead of the government entering into a government-to-government deal.”

    That changes Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s June announcement of a TA-50 buy from South Korea, with deliveries expected to begin in 2013. Philippine media report that the offer of 12 jets would include a soft loan of $560 million from South Korea’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund, disbursed through the Export-Import Bank of Korea.

    Aug 31/12: KAI Privatization fails. Korean Air Lines Co. is the only bidder to register by the extended deadline, but rules governing sales by government entities require at least 2 bids.

    Korean Air generated 3.3% of revenue making plane parts in 2011, and has tried to buy into KAI before. Beyond stepped up Korean orders for T-50 jets and Surion helicopters, KAI is also makes civil and military parts for Boeing, and is building a new plant to make Airbus A320 wing components under a $1.2 billion deal signed in March 2012. Bloomberg.


    Aug 6/12: KAI privatization crashing. The government wants to privatize KAI, but finding a bidder has been difficult, and it looks like they’re about to fail on the Aug 16/12 deadline.

    The government and its Korea Finance Corporation (KoFC) wanted to sell 41.75% of KAI via a publicly opened bid, which includes 11.4% of KoFC’s 26.41%, and shares owned by Samsung Techwin (10%), Hyundai Motor (10%), Doosan (10%), and KDB Bank (0.34%). The bid terms require at least 2 competing bidders, but as the JoongAng Daily explains, all of the major South Korean firms who could afford such a bid have other priorities. The asking price is also perceived to be high, and the market is reinforcing that by driving down KAI’s share price in anticipation of a failure to privatize it. Now political opposition to privatization is also growing, which could be the final nail in the coffin.

    Aug 2/12: Philippines pick. The Philippines DND’s undersecretary for finance, munitions, installations and materiel, Fernando Manalo, makes the country’s choice official: KAI’s T-50s. Chinese bullying in the West Philippine Sea around Scarborough Shoal played a significant role in pushing them toward a more capable fighter, which would remove the M-346 from contention. Meanwhile, used F-16s were seen as too expensive to operate, with little airframe life left.

    The problem is that without an approved modernization budget, the armed forces can’t sign a contract. If the country does sign a contract by the end of 2012, they want 2 of the Golden Eagles to be delivered immediately, so that their pilots will be trained by the time the other 10 arrive in 2015. Manilla Bulletin | Manilla Standard Today.

    June 20/12: Philippine buy? ABS-CBN news of the Philippines quotes Philippine air force officials as saying they will buy 12 TA-50s, in order to restore the air force’s ability to police Philippine airspace.

    That ability was lost when the country retired its remaining F-5 aircraft in 2005, and the USA no longer bases fighters at Clark AB or USNB Subic Bay. Chinese violations of Philippine airspace and claimed maritime zones have been creating a lot of tension, and the country has been looking at its options for a couple of years now. Their efforts have involved requests for 12 used American F-16s, as well as examination of KAI’s TA-50 and Alenia’s M-346 Master. The M-346 doesn’t have an armed version yet, and the USA hasn’t issued a formal DSCA clearance yet. That leaves the TA-50 as its only approved option that can be bought right now.

    The TA-50 deal is reportedly worth around 25 billion pesos (about $590 million), with a contract expected by the end of 2012. All 12 fighter jets are expected to be delivered by the end of 2013. If so, the Philippines would join its neighbor Indonesia as a TA-50 customer.

    A 2nd contract for 6 fixed-wing aircraft is expected to replace the country’s OV-10 Bronco counter-insurgency planes, and designs from the USA (likely the AT-6B), Brazil (Super Tucano), and Korea (likely the KT-1) are expected to compete. Given the TA-50’s 2-seat design and ability to use laser-guided weapons, another possibility would be to add options to any TA-50 contract, and use it in both roles. This would be less effective for counter-insurgency, or as an intermediate trainer, but contribute more to airspace policing and defense. It depends where the country’s priorities lie at the time, and external events are unstable enough to change them. Philippines’ ABS-CBN | ABS-CBN re: 2nd buy | South Korea’s Yonhap.

    May 16/12: Philippines. Philippine President Benigno Aquino says that his government had asked to buy second-hand F-16s from the USA, but is concerned that maintenance costs on these aging aircraft could end up being too high. This was the problem that forced the country to mothball its F-5 force in 2005, but it seems there is good news. From the AFP report:

    “We do have an alternative, and – this is a surprise – it seems we have the capacity to buy brand-new, but not from America… These are manufactured by another progressive country that I won’t name at this point.”

    Feb 17/12: US T-X delayed. The USAF confirms that it won’t make a T-X selection until 2016, and doesn’t expect initial operational capability for its new trainers until 2020. Until then, they will continue to use 2-seat F-16Ds to bridge the gap from T-38 trainers, to the F-22A and F-35. Flight International.

    Feb 16/12: Israel. The T-50 loses to Alenia’s M-346, as the preferred bidder to stock IAI & Elbit’s TOR public-private joint training venture. Governmental approval is required, and a contract award for 30 planes is expected later in 2012. If the expected billion-dollar contract is signed, deliveries would be expected to begin in the middle of 2014. In return, Italy is rumored to have pledged to buy an equivalent amount of equipment from Israel: IAI’s CAEW 550 AEW&C jets, and a new jointly-developed reconnaissance satellite.

    Those contracts were signed in July 2012. Until now, South Korea has been buying a lot of defense gear from Israel. The question is whether that will continue. Read “Trainer Jets for Israel: From the Skyhawk, to the Master” for full coverage.

    Israel loss

    Feb 11/12: International training. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quotes an unidentified defense ministry source who said that Portugal has become the preferred partner for a WON 300 billion (about $267 million) T-50 International Military Flight Training Center Consortium (IMFACC). A Memorandum of Understanding might be reached as early as March 2012.

    If Portugal wins, they will have beaten potential sites in the USA, Australia, the Philippines and Spain. IMFACC will be a training center for international customers like Indonesia, as well as South Korean pilots who need to be free of flight time restrictions in their own, crowded country. Portugal has large over-water territories to facilitate flight training, and offers a more central location than Australia or the Philippines.

    Feb 7/12: FA-50 radars? IAI reveals a $150 million order from an unnamed customer for its EL/M-2032 fighter radar, from an unnamed customer. A Globes report places the customer within Asia, and the timing is one of several factors that suggests a South Korean order.

    Read “IAI’s $150M EL/M-2032 Radar Contract Mystery” for full coverage. It includes a survey of potential Asian customers, and the other likely candidate for this order.

    Feb 3/12: US T-X. Asia One reports that recent announcements of US budget cuts are expected to affect the T-50, as the USA’s cornerstone T-X program looks set to be delayed:

    “The US is by far the largest market for KAI, which hopes to sell at least 350 units to it. But it has deferred its decision on whether to acquire new trainer jets or develop them on its own, or turn their old fighters into trainer aircraft. The so-called T-X project is expected to be further delayed given the US defence cuts. Experts have estimated that the global demand for trainer jets and light fighters over the next three decades will amount to around 3,300 units. KAI aims to export around 1,000 units during that period.”


    FA-50 order; Indonesia is T-50’s 1st export customer; TA-50 rollout; Polish do-over; Israeli competition; KAI IPO. FA-50 prototype
    (click to view full)

    Dec 28/11: FA-50. Korea Aerospace Industries signs a 20-plane, $600 million FA-50 production contract with DAPA, bringing total T-50 family orders to 102 planes. This is a follow-on to the December 2008 development contract, which produced 4 prototype and test aircraft. Deliveries to the ROKAF are expected to begin in 2014.

    South Korean orders could eventually swell to over 100 FA-50s, as the ROKAF seeks to replace its F-5E/Fs. This could also help in competitions like Poland’s, by broadening KAI’s in-production T-50 family technology options. KAI | Flight International.

    ROKAF: 20 FA-50s

    Nov 22/11: AESA for KF-16s? Raytheon declares that it is “responding to the Republic of Korea’s official launch of the F-16 radar upgrade competition with the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar system (RACR).” RACR is designed as a drop-in AESA radar for F-16 fighters, and is based on the technologies in the AN/APG-79 radar that equips US Navy Super Hornets.

    No word yet on other competitors, but any KF-16 AESA upgrade could break a technology logjam for the FA-50 as well.

    Oct 28/11: Poland. Poland steps back from its existing trainer & light fighter RFP, and says it will re-do the competition. They seem to have been surprised at the cost of meeting their previous specifications, and will opt for a trainer with lower combat capabilities in the next round. That means the new jets won’t really be able to replace their SU-22s, but it also means that, in the words of deputy defense minister Marcin Idzik, Poland won’t “be the sole country to acquire such an [aircraft as we had requested].” This implies that even the TA-50, which looked to have good odds of winning the bid, was insufficient.

    The new RFP is expected in spring 2012. Read “Poland Seeks Advanced Jet Trainers/ Light Fighters” for full coverage.

    Oct 10/11: Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports that KAI has formally partnered with Lockheed Martin in its bid to sell T-50 trainers to Israel, citing the advantage of being able to use American military aid funds. That possibility has been a live option since September, but this makes it official.

    In Israel, KAI is once again competing against Alenia’s M-346 Master. Italy has reportedly made an interesting barter offer, and the 2 countries built close ties under Prime Minister Berlusconi. Israel’s final choice will be a significant geopolitical decision – read “Trainer Jets for Israel: Skyhawk Scandal Leads to End of an Era” for a full explanation, and ongoing coverage.

    Sept 15/11: US FACO? The Korea Herald reports that Lockheed Martin is setting up a T-50 final assembly and check-out (FACO) plant in the USA. That makes perfect sense as it competes for the USA’s pending T-X trainer competition, and it also affects Israel’s buy. If the T-50 series can be considered an American product, that means Israel could buy it with American foreign aid dollars. The M-346 is unlikely to be able to offer that, which would give the Korean jet a significant edge.

    The existing T-50 Golden Eagle contract reportedly states that KAI takes 70% percent of the production work, while Lockheed takes the rest. The firms would not address speculation that this ratio might be adjusted for the US T-X and /or Israeli competitions.

    June 2011: Iraq. Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that the Iraqis may have made an oil-for-aircraft deal to buy Korean T-50 family jet trainers, some of which could also serve as effective light fighters. If so, this indicates serious budget issues, and makes the reported deal for Aero Vodochody L159T jet trainers questionable. Will the L-159’s potential Iraq deal become yet another canceled Czech?

    As of Jan 5/12, however, no public announcement had been made regarding either platform.

    May 26/11: KAI IPO. If KAI seemed to jump the gun on the Indonesia announcement, there may be a clear motive. The Korea Exchange has just approved an IPO for the firm to go public, which is expected to raise around $525 million in cash for the firm. Announcing the sale just ahead of that approval is permissible, and has the effect of boosting the expected asking price. Woori Investment & Securities, and Hyundai Securities, will manage the deal. Reuters | Wall St. Journal.


    T-50: takeoff
    (click to view full)

    May 25/11: Indonesia win. Well, that was fast. KAI executive VP Enes Park is quoted as saying that the Indonesian Defense Ministry signed a $400 million deal for 16 jets – or $25 million per plane, which is not the deep discount deal touted earlier. Aviation Week says that the contract reportedly involves a T-50 with a gun and weapon pylons (i.e. TA-50), though the actual designation is T-50I.

    The planes will replace about 10 Hawk Mk.53 subsonic trainers, and may also supplement or replace the TNI-AU’s 5-6 remaining F-5E/F fighters. Read “Indonesia Looking for Trainer/Attack Aircraft” for full coverage.

    May 20/11: Indonesia win? In the wake of an ROK-Indonesian agreement to expand economic and industrial cooperation via a joint secretariat, and reports that KAI has been designated as Indonesia’s preferred trainer jet bidder, Indonesia’s Amir Sambodo suggests that Indonesia might buy 16 T-50 family jets, in exchange for 4 or more additional CN-235 aircraft bought from Indonesia’s Dirgantara. Read “Indonesia Looking for Trainer/Attack Aircraft” for full coverage.

    April 12/11: Indonesia. The Indonesian government sends a letter to KAI, designating the South Korean firm as the preferred bidder to replace Indonesia’s BAE Systems Hawk 53s. Source.

    Indonesia is 1st export win: 16 “T-50i” TA-50s.

    Feb 24/11: UAE stall. Flight International reports that M346 negotiations between the UAE and Alenia Aermacchi have stopped, with no word on when they might resume. Having said that:

    “The door appears to remain closed to KAI and the T-50, with officials from the South Korean company agreeing. “Obviously, we would love to get back into the competition and offer the T-50. But we have not had any discussions with the UAE officials about the T-50 since they picked the M-346, and we are not expecting that to change any time soon,” says a KAI official.”

    That quote would seem to contradict recent reports by UPI and Defense News, which said that the UAE had re-opened talks.

    Jan 24/11: TA-50 rollout. South Korea rolls out the first production TA-50 variant, with light attack capabilities. The TA-50s will mostly be used to train new military pilots on air-to-air and air-to-surface missions before they deploy to KF-16s or F-15Ks, but they can also perform combat missions themselves as secondary air patrol or ground attack assets, and could be asked to do that in the event of a war.

    South Korean media report that TA-50 deliveries will continue until 2012, to be followed by full F/A-50 fighters from 2013 onward. KAI | Korea Herald | idomin [in Korean, picture]



    50th T-50 delivery; SFW bombs for FA-50s; Singapore loss; Iraq stall. Alenia’s M346
    (click to view full)

    Oct 25/10: Iraq Czeched? Prague Monitor and Iraq Business report that the Czech Republic might sell up to 25 used Aero L-159s to Iraq. Iraq has been holding a competition for 24 jet trainers between Korea’s T-50, the UK’s Hawk, and Italy’s M-346.

    If the L-159 has become a focus, rather than just a competitor, it’s likely that the price of new jet trainers was too high, given other pressing needs – and that Iraq is now looking at value over newness. Time will tell.

    Sept 28/10: Singapore loss. Rumors of a loss in Singapore are confirmed, via a EUR 250 million contract to supply Singapore with 12 M-346 trainers and related systems. The win comes via Alenia’s global marketing agreement with Boeing, who already supplies Singapore’s new F-15SG fighters. Read “Finmeccanica’s M-346 AJT: Who’s the Master Now?” for full coverage.

    Singapore loss

    Sept 2/10: Poland RFP. Poland’s Ministry of Defense (MON) issues its jet trainer RFP for 16 planes, plus support, related training systems like simulators; and initial training for 6 instructors, 6 pilots, and 50 ground crew. 1.45 billion zlotys (about $467 million) has been budgeted, and the T-50 is a contender.

    Aug 9/10: Indonesia finalists. Air Forces Monthly reports that Indonesia’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration has narrowed its 16 plane advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft shortlist to the Czech Aero L-159B, South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle, and Russia’s Yak-130.

    That leaves both Alenia’s M346 Master and China’s JL-9/FTC-2000 out in the cold. Interestingly, the common denominator for the 2 eliminated types is poor secondary ground attack capabilities.

    July 1/10: Singapore loss? Defense News reports that Singapore’s government has selected Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 as the preferred bidder in its $1.3 billion competition for 48 advanced jet trainers. Aermacchi teamed up with Singapore’s ST Aero to compete against the KAI-Lockheed team, with Boeing providing the ground-based training system to support the M-346.

    Singapore’s MINDEF has not made its decision public, and neither KAI, nor Aermacchi, nor South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) procurement and export agency could confirm the tip. The report adds that the UAE’s M346 deal remains in limbo over a side deal to develop UAVs together, which may give the T-50 an opening. Singapore’s loss in particular is a sharp blow to the platform, however, and may set other events in motion – including privatization:

    “The state-owned Korea Development Bank (KDB) announced in April 2009 that it would sell its 30.5 percent stake in KAI, which has three other major local shareholders – Samsung Techwin, Doosan Infracore and Hyundai Motors, each with a 20.54 percent stake. But KDB temporarily withdrew from its decision in the face of opposition from KAI’s labor union, which argued that the privatization effort could hurt overseas sales of the T-50… Earlier this year, a KoFC(Korea Finance Corp.) official said, “If KAI fails to sell the T-50 to Singapore, discussions of the KAI privatization would certainly be resurfaced. Our position will be re-established after that.”

    See also the official SAF cyberpioneer’s articles covering the BAE Hawk, Alenia M346, and KAI T-50.

    May 12/10: #50. The ROKAF holds a ceremony to celebrate the delivery of the 50th T-50 jet, which completes the RKAF’s orders for that variant.

    The Korea Herald reports that the T-50 project had cost WON 2.2 trillion ($1.9 billion) on the T-50 project as of 1997, with training beginning in April 2007. The jet has been used to train 190 pilots so far. KAI | Korea Herald.

    Last ROKAF T-50

    April 6/10: SFW for FA-50s. Textron Defense System announces that the ROKAF will integrate their Sensor Fuzed Weapon (SFW) smart cluster bombs on the FA-50 light combat aircraft. Through a foreign military sale led by the Eglin Air Force Base Air Armament Center and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration of South Korea, Textron Defense Systems expects to begin providing inert integration rounds starting in 2010.


    ROKAF’s Black Eagles switch; UAE loss; IAI EL/M-2032 radar & Elisra ECM for FA-50; M61 20mm gun contract. Black Eagles T-50B
    (click to view full)

    Oct 29/09: AESA offered. Flight International reports that Raytheon officials are touting their RACR model AESA radar for the F/A-50 at the 2009 Seoul air show. Northrop Grumman’s similar SABR radar, which has been designed to compete with RACR in the F-16 retrofit market, is another possibility. Buying an American radar would step around the provisions that F/A-50 source code may not be shared with other countries; whether it would also overcome the agreements’ other obstacles remains to be seen.

    Sept 23/09: EL/M2-2032 radar deal. Israel Aerospace Industries announces a $280 million pair of contracts with South Korea, one of which covers EL/M-2032 radars for the TA-50 and FA-50 fighters. The fighter radar will be co-produced by IAI ELTA and South Korea’s LIG Nex1.

    The other order reportedly involves Israel’s Oren Yarok (“Green Pine”) long-range air defense and missile tracking radar. Earlier discussions had revolved around figures of about $215 million for 2 Green Pine radar systems, and current reports offer a figure of $200 million for an undisclosed number of systems. The low number of TA-50 and F/A-50 fighter orders at this early stage of their development, and the EL/M-2032 fighter radar’s low R&D needs given its mature state, makes those figures plausible in the absence of a detailed breakout between the 2 contracts. Globes adds that IAI’s usual contract policies involve a down payment of 25-35%, suggesting that it will record $70-98 million revenue from these contracts in its consolidated financial report for 2009.

    The release and follow-on reports do not mention South Korea’s KF-16s, which are also slated for a radar upgrade. IAI release | Globes business | Agence France Presse | Flight International.

    M-2032 radar deal

    Sept 21/09: Israel. Flight International reports that Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 Master and the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 have emerged as the leading candidates to replace the Israeli Cheyl Ha’avir’s TA-4 Skyhawk advanced jet trainers. See also full DID coverage: “Israel’s Skyhawk Scandal Leads to End of an Era.”

    Aug 2/09: Israel. As reports of Israeli radar cooperation to equip KAI’s TA-50 and FA-50s swirl around the media, Israel has sent a formal delegation to evaluate and test-fly the T-50 as a potential replacement for its Skyhawks. This is the first time in 40 years that Israel is considering purchasing a fighter jet not made either locally, or in the United States.

    Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that other candidates include the T-45 Hawk variant, and Alenia’s M-346. Media reports currently cite the T-50 family as the front-runners for the 20-30 plane Lead-In Fighter Trainer order. Read “Trainer Jets for Israel: Skyhawk Scandal Leads to End of an Era” for ongoing coverage.

    July 23/09: IAI radar. The Korea Times reports that South Korea’s LIG Nex1 will sign a deal with Israel’s IAI Elta Systems on Sept 3/09. That deal will involve the first phase of development for an indigenous radar based on the EL/M-2032 passive phased array radar, to equip TA-50 and F/A-50 aircraft. The radar’s back end ends up being a SamsungThales project.

    An official from the ROK’s DAPA procurement agency told the Times that the radar is expected to be built by the end of 2010, and enter service in 2011. In the mid- to long-term, sources told The Kora Times that the domestically-built radar is likely to be installed on upgraded KF-16 fighters. The Times adds that the effort may even lead to Korean development of an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar under future agreements with IAI Elta, who has also developed the EL/M-2052 AESA.

    The South Korean Air Force is buying 50 T-50 trainers, 22 TA-50s with secondary attack capabilities, and 10 T-50Bs modified for aerobatics; and is expected to add 60 F/A-50 light fighters by 2012 to replace its F-5 Tiger and F-4 Phantom fighters.

    April 30/09: Black Eagles switch. The ROKAF’s Black Eagles acrobatic flight display team retired its Cessna A-37 Dragonflys after the 2009 Seoul Air Show. The ROKAF announces that they will re-debut with a fleet of 8 T-50B Golden Eagles at Seoul’s international air show in October 2009. Note that the final Black Eagle paint scheme ended up being different than the initial scheme depicted in the photo, above.

    This will make the Black Eagles one of the few air force aerobatic teams to use locally designed and manufactured supersonic aircraft, alongside the USA’s Thunderbirds (F-16) and Blue Angels (F/A-18), Russia’s Swifts (MiG-29) and Knights (SU-27), and China’s 1st Aerobatic Team (J-10s). Defense News.

    Black Eagles fly T-50B

    March 15/09: UAE post-mortem. The Korea Times cites an upcoming $500 million competition in Singapore between the Aermacchi M346 and KAI’s T-50, while delving into some of the reasons behind the recent UAE loss:

    “The government’s role is much bigger than it appears in this kind of competition,” [the military analyst] said. “And what the Korean government did in the UAE is, to be frank, far from [adequate].” Italy, which had developed close ties with Middle Eastern countries over the years, rolled out marketing promotions there with pledges of large industrial cooperation projects, including construction of an F-1 racing track… [in contrast] None of the Korean projects have been delivered to Abu Dhabi through a ministerial channel.

    When National Assembly Speaker Rep. Kim Hyeong-o visited the UAE in January, he heard from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, that the preferred bidder will be “decided upon industrial cooperation offered, as well as the trainer jet quality.” He remarked that the country hadn’t heard anything from Seoul for nine months… To make matters worse, Seoul didn’t even take the opportunity of a last chance from Abu Dhabi, after the Korean delegation failed to make it to February’s International Defense Exhibition & Conference held there, where UAE was awaiting a new offer.”

    March 12/09: Price problem? The Korea Times publishes an article that wonders if the T-50’s supersonic speed has created a price handicap:

    “Although the UAE acknowledged the T-50 has remarkably high quality, the country apparently put more value on cooperative projects in the aerospace industry that the Italian side pledged,” the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a statement, which also pointed out a disadvantage in price. A T-50 jet’s flyaway cost is set at 20 billion won to 25 billion won ($13.5 – $16.9 million), while the M-346 costs 18 billion won to 20 billion won.” [$12.15 – $13.5 million]

    DID’s take? Advanced jet training does focus on in-air operation, take-off and landing, and blind flying, with secondary weapons training opportunities. Within those constraints, the price of supersonic flight may not be seen as worthwhile. What the capability does, is give the T-50 family a full secondary fighter role that goes beyond the traditional “secondary light ground attack” role for trainers. The ultimate question for the market to answer is how much it values that capability, in an era of shrinking defense budgets that create stronger demands for multi-role platforms, as well as closer attention to costs.

    Feb 25/09: UAE setback. At IDEX 2009, the UAE announces that it has begun negotiations for 48 M-346 aircraft from Finmeccanica’s Aermacchi. If the EUR 1 billion deal is finalized, the T/A-50 will have lost this export competition.

    Feb 24/09: Iraq. Iraq officially requests T-50 jets, even as Iraq and the ROK sign economic agreements to develop oil fields near Basra, and open Iraqi public infrastructure contracts to South Korean firms. For full details and updates, read “T/A-50 Golden Eagles for Iraq?

    Feb 11/09: Elisra ECM for FA-50. Flight International reports that Israel’s Elisra will supply the F/A-50’s electronic warfare and self-protection equipment, under an initial contract worth $7 million for the initial 4 prototypes. The equipment will be supplied over the next 2 years, and “Elisra sources indicate that the selected EW system will include radar warning receivers and chaff and flare dispensers.”

    This contract involves the adaptation of proven systems, rather than a new design. The joint Elbit systems (70%)/ IAI (30%) venture Elisra already makes the self-protection systems that equip many of the IAF’s F-16s.

    Jan 15/09: Iraq. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and the World Tribune both file reports concerning Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi’s ongoing visit to South Korea, which included inspection and a test flight of the T-50. South Korea sent a 3,600-strong contingent to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil in September 2004 as part of the U.S.-led forces, and a total of 18,000 South Korean troops served in rotation around northern Iraq until 2008.

    DJ Elliott of the Long War Journal says that the T/A-50 was suggested in fall 2007 to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense by MNSTC-I’s Coalition Air Force Transition Team. Iraq’s pending trainer aircraft purchase appears to be Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6 Texan II, but a jet trainer is required as an interim step between the T-6 and more advanced planes like the F-16s Iraq is requesting. If Iraq begins with T/A-50s, however, they would also become the new IqAF’s first jet fighters, and give Iraq qualitative parity with many of the fighters currently flown by its semi-hostile neighbors Syria and Iran.

    Read “T/A-50 Golden Eagles for Iraq?” for more.

    Jan 12/09: M61. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products announces a contract by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for up to 82 of its 3-barreled M61 20mm cannons that will equip the TA-50 and FA-50 variants. Price was not disclosed, but deliveries will begin in October 2010. By May 2013, there are enough orders to account for all guns.

    Manufacturing will be performed at General Dynamics’ Saco, ME, facility, and the program will be managed by General Dynamics’ Burlington, VT facility. S&T Dynamics, LTD of South Korea is the designated Korean Industry Partner (KIP) for the program, and they will produce the ammunition containers under a subcontract arrangement with General Dynamics.

    Jan 8/09: Poland. The Korea Times reports that Vice Defense Minister Kim Jong-cheon will visit Poland later from Jan 19-23, and that his agenda includes a push for the T-50 trainer. The jets may have very stiff competition, however, as Finland is re-selling its used BAE Hawk trainers.

    The report also confirms that competitions are still active in Singapore (12-16 jets, up to $500 million) and the UAE (35-40, $1+ billion, subsequently lost to M346).


    FA-50 development contract; Radar complications. EL/M-2032
    (click to view full)

    Dec 30/08: FA-50 development. South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) signs a WON 400 billion (about $317 million) contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to develop 4 prototypes of the F/A-50 light attack jet by 2012.

    Full production of about 60 aircraft is scheduled to begin in 2013, at which point the F/A-50s will begin replacing 1960s era A-37 dragonfly attack jets, F-5E/F Tiger II light fighters, and F-4 Phantom II fighters as the ROKAF’s low-end fighters. The Korean buy could extend to 150 aircraft, and its capabilities and price point make exports likely.

    That potential was one of the reasons the F/A-50 project has been delayed. The F/A-50 is a joint KAI/ Lockheed martin project, and the agreement includes a number of provisions related to American weapons export policies, and to corporate interests at Lockheed Martin. One stipulation was that Lockheed would not transfer aircraft source code to other nations. Another was that the T-50’s capabilities could not exceed Korea’s F-16s. A 3rd provision banned South Korea from integrating T-50 variants with non-U.S. technology that the United States doesn’t have.

    Korea originally wanted to equip the F/A-50 with the lightweight Vixen-500E AESA(Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar developed by U.K. firm Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems, but that would have violated all 3 of the above provisions. Lockheed Martin pushed for its AN/APG-67v4 radar, which equips the T/A-50 LIFT. Instead, the Koreans chose the proven EL/M-2032 mechanically scanned radar from Israel’s IAI Elta Systems. That radar serves on some Israeli F-16s and also equips a range of other aircraft around the world that include F-16s, F-4 Phantoms, F-5 Tigers, MiG-21s, Kfirs and other Mirage variants, India’s Sea Harriers, and India’s forthcoming Tejas lightweight fighter. Korea Times.

    FA-50 development

    Dec 10/08: After more than 40 years of service, Israel is finally looking to replace its versatile A-4 Skyhawk fleet. KAI’s T-50 family is reportedly one of the 4 contenders. Read “Israel’s Skyhawk Scandal Leads to End of an Era“.

    Aug 28/08: An upgraded F/A-50 lightweight fighter counterpart would be a logical replacement for South Korea’s vintage F-5E/F and F-4 fighter fleet, and may also prove attractive as a global export. Flight International reports that the design is almost complete, but program approval for additional South Korean F/A-50s is being held up by 2 key issues.

    One is the desire for an AESA radar, which would sharply improve the little fighter’s capabilities while lowering maintenance costs. Both Northrop Grumman (SABR) and Raytheon (RACR) have designed new AESA radars for F-16 refits, and the nature of AESA radars allows them to be resized very flexibly. The bad news is that negotiations with the US government haven’t been able to secure US authorization for AESA radar exports to South Korea. This forces the Koreans to go ahead with a more conventional but limited radar like the AN/APG-67v4, or put the F/A-50 on hold until AESA approval is granted. If it would be granted to a project that’s likely to compete with made-in-USA F-16s on the global export market.

    The other issue is Lockheed Martin’s participation. Lockheed helped develop the T-50, and has the fighter development and advanced weapon integration experience that KAI lacks. On the other hand, its involvement raises costs. KAI is reportedly pushing for this partnership, but the government must conclude that the benefits would be worth those extra costs. Likely arguments to that end include lower project/financial risk, improved export prospects, and greater likelihood of American technology export approvals.

    2006 – 2007

    ROKAF orders 50 more; 1st T-50 delivery; Lockheed Martin MoU; UAE opportunity. T-50, underside
    (click to view full)

    Nov 1/07: UAE. Reports claim that Aermacchi’s M-346 and KAI’s T/A-50 are the finalists in the UAE competition, with Britain’s Hawk LIFT eliminated by BAE’s own admission. Flight International report. A Korea Times report pegs the UAE’s purchase total at 35-40, rather than 60. Time will tell.

    They also add a market prediction from KAI officials that expect T-50 variants will secure about 30% of the 3,300 aircraft global trainer market within 25 years – about 1,100 aircraft.

    Oct 26/07: KOIS reports that Korea’s commerce and industry minister Kim Young-ju is headed to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the T-50 is competing against the BAE Hawk Mk128 LIFT and Aermacchi’s M-346 for an estimated 60-plane, $1+ billion order. The UAE is expected to choose its next generation trainer jet by early November 2007. See “Korea’s commerce, industry minister pitches T-50 jet to UAE.”

    Oct 15/07: On the eve of the Seoul 2007 Air Show, KOIS reports that the T-50 is poised to pick up orders in the United Arab Emirates (60 jets), Greece (30), and Singapore (40). “Korea is expected to sign the deals with the three nations this month or next month,” said Yoon Cha-young, executive director of the Korea Aerospace Industries Association.

    Dec 13/06: 2nd ROKAF order. The Government of South Korea has signed a contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for “approximately 50″ additional T-50 and TA-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainers. The new aircraft will be used for advanced jet training and lead-in fighter training. All the aircraft will be delivered from KAI’s production facility in Sacheon, South Korea.

    Subsequent reports from South Korean media mail this order down at 57 planes: 25 more T-50s, 22 TA-50s, and 10 T-50Bs to replace the Black Eagles’ aerobatic planes. Lockheed Martin release.

    ROKAF #2: 57 planes

    Nov 16/06: Lockheed MoU. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin sign a memorandum of understanding today to expand their strategic relationship. Ralph Heath, president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, in the Lockheed Martin release:

    “First, the memorandum is a recommitment to continue our efforts in marketing the T-50 Golden Eagle to international customers. Additionally, we will seek ways to collaborate on future opportunities in Korea, the United States and the international marketplace. We value the important, long-standing relationship we have with KAI.”

    “First, the memorandum is a recommitment to continue our efforts in marketing the T-50 Golden Eagle to international customers” said Ralph Heath, president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “Additionally, we will seek ways to collaborate on future opportunities in Korea, the United States and the international marketplace. We value the important, long-standing relationship we have with KAI.”

    Hae Joo Chung, KAI president:

    “This new agreement means that our two companies will look to cooperate in the areas of aircraft modification and upgrades, as well as the future fighter requirements for the Korean government. The new business sector of Performance Based Logistics Support provides an important opportunity for cooperation with Lockheed Martin in Korea and with international customers.”

    Lockheed MoU

    July 17/06: Lockheed Martin release: “Last month program officials announced the opening of a new marketing office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. This facility gives KAI greater proximity to potential customers in the Middle East and Europe and allows the Korean-based company an opportunity to grow its business-base.”

    Jan 4/06: 1st delivery. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) delivers its first 2 production T-50 advanced jet trainer aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF). Designated KAI-1 and KAI-2, these aircraft are the first deliveries to a customer since the award of the production contract just 24 months ago. In addition to these 2 aircraft, KAI will deliver another 8 aircraft to the ROKAF in 2006, and 1 per month afterward. Lockheed Martin release.

    1st deliveries

    2005 and Earlier

    Testing milestones. T-50: KAI-1
    (click to view full)

    Feb 11/05: The supersonic T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer has attained several significant technical milestones, including reaching maximum load factors (8g), maximum operating speed (Mach 1.3, design limit Mach 1.5), beginning stores separation testing (fuel tank jettison), and completing its second lifetime (lifetime = 8,334 flight hours) of structural durability testing. Lockheed Martin release.

    Oct 26/04 – Jan 6/05: The T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer successfully completes aerial gunfire testing. A total of 10 test flights were conducted under a variety of flight conditions, including 3 supersonic flights. Testing included operation of the gun and ammo handling system, plus measurement of vibration levels and adequacy of the gun bay gas purging capability.

    The tests used the 3rd Full Scale Development aircraft, the first in the A-50 lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) configuration. The gun is a lighter weight, internally mounted 3-barrel version of General Dynamics’ standard 6-barrel M61 used by many fighters. It has a rate of fire of 3,000 rounds per minute, and the ammo system holds 205 rounds of ammunition. The gun will be used for both ground strafing and aerial gunnery training. Lockheed Martin release.

    Feb 7/04: As part of the aircraft’s external stores testing, the first flight with external fuel tanks occurs. The 150-U.S. gallon, jettisonable fuel tanks are built by Sargent Fletcher of El Monte, CA. A single tank extends mission duration and range about 15-20%, and the three-tank configuration extends them by about 40%.

    These external stores tests aim to verify the T-50 aircraft’s stability and control, flutter and handling qualities when loaded with fuel tanks, weapons, and other stores. Later flights will verify performance, store functionality and interfaces, and store separation. Approximately 280 sorties utilizing all 4 of the T-50 flight test aircraft are planned for external stores testing with external fuel tanks installed, and external stores flight testing will continue until the end of Full-Scale Development. The ROKAF is conducting the flight testing from Sacheon Air Base, South Korea. Lockheed Martin.

    March 15/04: Lockheed Martin announces that the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has begun engine air start flight testing of the T-50’s F404-GE-102 jet engine. Air start testing involves intentionally shutting down the engine in flight and restarting it, in order to verify the air start envelope and procedures. This effort is expected to include 15 flight tests over a 7-month period.

    Dec 19/03: 1st orders. KAI receives a production contract from South Korea’s DAPA for 25 T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic advanced jet trainers. The undisclosed contract covers the aircraft, alternate mission equipment, integrated support, and production start-up costs. The aircraft will be built at KAI’s modern aircraft production facilities at Sacheon, South Korea, with Lockheed Martin as the principal subcontractor. The first production T-50 will be delivered in late 2005. Lockheed Martin adds that:

    “The Korean government had earlier approved plans to purchase about 100 aircraft, half in the basic T-50 configuration and half in the T-50 Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) version. The T-50 LIFT version is designated the A-50 by the ROKAF and includes a multimode radar, an internal 20 mm cannon and… weapons… The 25 aircraft in the initial contract to KAI are all in the basic T-50 configuration. The remaining aircraft in the approved plan will be purchased in a follow-on contract.”

    ROKAF order: 25 T-50s.

    Nov 3/03: T-50 Flight testing with captive AIM-9 air-to-air missiles is initiated. Source.

    July 29/03: F/A-50? Flight International reports that KAI has begun a study for a possible fighter version of the T-50, even as it finalizes production plans with Lockheed Martin in preparation for an expected order for the first 24 T-50s next month.

    April 28/03: The T-50 Golden Eagle completes its 100th test flight, and reaches a speed of Mach 1.2 on the same day.

    On April 25th, the airframe durability vehicle completed one lifetime of testing, equivalent to 8,334 flight hours, at the Agency for Defense Development testing laboratory in Taejon, South Korea. Testing continues on a second lifetime, which is expected to be complete in April 2004. Lockheed Martin.

    Feb 19/03: Supersonic. The T-50 achieves supersonic flight for the first time. The milestone flight was accomplished on the No. 1 flight-test aircraft during the 60-minute flight from the air base at Sachon, South Korea. The top speed achieved was Mach 1.05 at an altitude of 40,000 feet. Full afterburner on the General Electric F404-GE-102 engine was used to accelerate to the target speed, then minimum afterburner was used to sustain the speed. Approximately one minute was spent in the supersonic regime.

    “The aircraft accelerated through the Mach smoothly and quickly,” said Major Choong Hwan Lee, Republic of Korea Air Force test pilot for the flight. “I observed no adverse flight or handling characteristics. I was able to hold the target speed of Mach 1.05 with plenty of excess power available, so I have no doubt this aircraft will be able to achieve its maximum design Mach of Mach 1.5.” Lockheed Martin release.


    Nov 25/02: The T-50 Golden Eagle advanced supersonic trainer reaches its stated operational ceiling of 40,000 feet during a test flight. All systems operate normally.

    The actual maximum service ceiling for the T-50 is estimated to be 48,500 feet, the altitude where rate of climb is limited to 100 feet per minute at maximum power (full afterburner). Lockheed Martin.

    Nov 8/02: The 2nd T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer successfully completes its 47-minute flight from KAI’s facility at Sachon, South Korea. Lockheed Martin.

    Additional Readings The T-50 Family

    Competitors & Market

    Competitions Covered

    Categories: News

    India Finally Receiving Kilo-Class Refit from Recalcitrant Russians | French & Saudis Sign Bevy of Deals | US Gets Lots of Advice on Financing Nukes

    Thu, 06/25/2015 - 01:17

    • Modernizing the US’s nuclear arsenal, including delivery systems, would remain affordable despite a thirty-year price tag of around $1 trillion, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The cost of the improvements would peak in 2027 according to the forecast analysis, at $26 billion, before falling to current levels of $17 billion by 2039; never exceeding 5% of the projected DoD budget. Obama proposed a ten-year nuclear modernization plan back in 2010, with another think tank recently recommending that the US should invest in more small nuclear bombs.

    • The Air Force announced a significant investment Wednesday, handing Lockheed Martin a $480 million IDIQ contract to research follow-on options for the C-130J fleet. This capability enhancement contract is set to run to 2030.

    • The Air Force also announced a $100 million IDIQ contract Wednesday, awarded to Rolls-Royce American Technologies Inc. for Phase III of the Versatile Affordable Advanced Turbine Engines (VAATE) program. The company was selected to proceed with Phase II of the program in October 2009, with GE Aviation awarded an additional $325 million in funds in January 2015 to work on an adaptive cycle engine under Phase II. Rolls-Royce American Technologies beat out thirty-three other competitors for this latest contract, which is scheduled for completion in 2023.


    • A US-UK team have successfully tested the F-35B’s short take-off capabilities from a replica carrier ski-jump, the British Ministry of Defence announced Wednesday. The testing is currently in its first iteration, with these tests designed to reduce risk before the JSF is launched from the deck of an actual carrier. The new Elizabeth-class carriers under construction for the Royal Navy will feature a ski-jump, in contract to the new Gerald Ford-class carriers which will feature electromagnetic catapults.

    • On a more depressing note for the UK’s Ministry of Defence, a report entitled Defence Acquisition for the Twenty-First Century authored by a number of high-ranking British officials and analysts has criticized the MoD’s spending priorities, calling them out of line with the country’s defense budget constraints and evolving strategic objectives.

    • French and Saudi officials met in Paris on Wednesday, signing ten contracts worth $12 billion. Among broader bilateral talks between French Prime Minister Francois Hollande and a delegation of Saudi officials, including the defense minister Prince Mohamed bin Salman, the topics under discussion included joint work on twenty projects. The Saudis recently funded the transfer of French-manufactured arms to Lebanon, including Milan anti-tank missiles, following the signing of an agreement in November 2014.

    • Included in these deals are twenty-three Airbus H145 helicopters in a deal thought to be worth $500 million. Airbus is set to deliver two of the helicopters to the German Army by the end of the year, with other possible deals including patrol vessels for the Gulf state, build by DCNS.

    • The French defense procurement agency DGA is reportedly set to receive a heavily modified Fokker 100 airframe intended for use as a systems testbed for the Rafale fighter. The majority of these new systems will transition from flight tests on the Fokker to a Dassault Mirage 2000 before onto the Rafale, with initial flight tests scheduled for early next year.

    • Belarus has been supplied with Chinese Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, developed jointly between the two countries following a 2013 agreement. Under this development, the system has been designated as the Polonez system, equipped with Chinese A200 rockets.

    • Egypt will induct two Ambassador-class fast missile vessels into its Navy within coming weeks, after these were delivered last week. The US-mentored program covers four fast attack boats, with two already in service since May 2014. The $1.1 billion program dates from 2005 and was not hindered by international criticism of Egypt’s human rights record, with Lockheed Martin and VT Halter Marine winning subcontracts back in 2005 for design work on the vessels, with the latter constructing the four vessels following a production contract in 2008.


    Today’s Video

    • A F-35 refuels from a Stratotanker…

    Categories: News

    Work: China Challenging Air Superiority | Germany Getting First Puma Deliveries | Army Invents Term, Then Conducts Manned Unmanned Exercise

    Wed, 06/24/2015 - 04:56

    • The Army has successfully conducted Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) involving an AH-64 Apache and a MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAV. The Gray Eagle was used to designate a target for the Apache, with the latter then firing a Hellfire missile using data from the UAV. The test has allowed the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade to certify the Fort Stewart complex for live Hellfire tests, an important tool as access to training ranges in Afghanistan and Iraq has diminished.

    • In related news, the Army awarded a $121.4 million contract to General Atomics on Tuesday for nineteen MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs, with these set for delivery by 2018. This follows a comparable contract in March, also for nineteen Gray Eagles, with that contract valued at $133 million. The company was also awarded a $84.8 million contract in May for performance-based logistics to support the UAV.

    • Boeing has delivered the final C-17 Globemaster III aircrew training simulator to the Air Force, with this the twenty-eighth simulator. L-3 is also a major contributor to the Air Force’s C-17 training, winning a $1 billion service contract in 2010.

    • The Air Force has published a draft program schedule and requirements list for a Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD) and cuing system to fit out the F-22 Raptor, with a provisional entry date given of 2020. A four-year development and testing period has been pencilled-in to start in 2017. Sequestration curtailed previous development on an earlier system, with the HMD a requirement for the Raptor program since 2007.


    • With Germany selecting the transatlantic MEADS air defense system over Raytheon’s Patriot in Germany’s TVLS competition earlier this month, European missile house MBDA has emerged as prime contractor for the program. The MEADS International company is comprised of Lockheed Martin, MBDA Italia and MBDA Deutschland, with the US government funding 58% of the development work for the system and the remainder split between the governments of Germany and Italy (25% and 17% respectively). The precise work share arrangements have not yet been finalized, with other possible customers including the Netherlands and Italy.

    • The German Army has received its first production Puma Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) from Projekt System & Management GmbH, with the model passing verification trials earlier this year and approval given in May. The German defense ministry signed a contract for 405 of the IFVs in July 2009, with the first batch used for the verification trials, taking place across a variety of environments.

    • Re-branded firm Kalashnikov has unveiled a new Remote Weapon Station (RWS) at the Army 2015 forum in Russia. The RWS – referred to as the Modul Boyevoy Distantsionno Upravlyaemiy – has the option of operating two machine gun variants (7.62mm and 12.7mm) and two grenade launchers (30mm and 40mm) and a marketed target acquisition range of 2.5km. An export customer has been reportedly found in a North African country. Kalashnikov has also marketed a new 9mm pistol at the forum, known as the PL-14.

    • Russia is fitting out its MIG-31 interceptors with a special inertial navigation system designed for Arctic conditions, capable of operating independently of satellite feeds and capable of coping with low temperatures. Russia has deployed its MIGs to the region earlier this year, amid increasing competition over control of the resource-rich region. The MIG-31 is reportedly timetabled to remain in Russia service until 2026.

    • South Africa will likely require more Inshore and Offshore Patrol Vessels than it is currently scheduled to field in order to meet operational demands, according to analysis by a former government official. Under the country’s Project Biro acquisition of six new patrol vessels, domestic shipyards would construct three new IPVs and three OPVs; – defense analyst Helmoed Romer Heitman argues however that the South African Navy requires four OPVs, suggesting further that existing vessels should be re-roled to fit the IPV requirement, instead of the procurement of new ships.

    • Algeria is reportedly interested [Russian] in acquiring the Russian-manufactured Ka-52 Alligator scout/attack helicopter, with demonstrations planned for this summer. The Ka-52 has reportedly secured an export order to an undisclosed customer, with this announced at the Paris Air Show last week; – whether this is Algeria remains to be seen.


    • China is challenging US air superiority, according to Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work. The Pentagon’s COO, Work’s speech at the China Aerospace Studies Institute earlier this week highlighted how China’s defense technology base is rapidly approaching parity with the US, undermining US conventional deterrence in the process. He called for more rapid innovation, including the leveraging of commercial competition and technologies, citing the Air Force’ Rapid Capabilities Office as a model to build into other services. The launch of a Long Range Research and Development Planning Program, which calls for an updated offset strategy, is one way that the Defense Department is trying to catalyze technological development. Work’s comments come after China reportedly test-launched a hypersonic glide vehicle earlier this month. Chinese and US military officials have however been showing signs of increasing cooperation, signing a dialogue agreement earlier this month.

    Today’s Video

    • A Rosoboronexport promotional video for the Ka-52, featuring an Abrams MBT as a would-be target…

    Categories: News

    F-35 Fleet Displacing Older Fighters into Secondary Market | MoD Eager for New Radios | Raytheon Working New Jammer Project

    Tue, 06/23/2015 - 02:20

    • The British Ministry of Defence is looking to develop a replacement for the problematic Bowman radio system. The MoD has invited academics and industry to suggest new solutions to land and littoral communications, with the project known as Morpheus. The hope is that innovative solutions will be borne from the open discussion and collaboration, with this likely to form the basis of the MoD’s procurement strategy for the UK Armed Forces’ new communications system over the next three decades.

    • Israel has offered upgraded F-16A/Bs to Croatia, as a replacement for the country’s MIG-21s. The fighters would be in the upgraded ACE (Avionics Capability Enhancement) configuration, with the Israeli Air Force planning to drawn down the number of F-16A/Bs it operates as the F-35 comes into service over coming years. Croatia announced in April its intention to replace its Soviet-era MIGs, with the Israeli bid thought to be one of three Western models under consideration. A decision is expected next year, with other possible competitors including Saab’s Gripen and Dassault’s Mirage 2000.

    • Russia is reportedly set to begin construction of the Lider-class destroyer in 2019, with this possibly including the use of a Chinese-developed nuclear propulsion system. The new ship has a reported displacement of 17,500 tons and a length of 200 meters. The country is also intending to construct an additional aircraft carrier from 2025, to augment the one carrier already in service with the Russian Navy.

    • The Swedish planned procurement of Saab Kockums A26 submarines may be delayed owing to inflating cost forecasts, according to Swedish press reports. The government announced its intention to acquire the boats in March, allocating $1 billion for the acquisition of two A26 submarines, alongside upgrades to the Swedish Navy’s Gotland-class subs.

    • In other submarine news, Russia is intending to upgrade ten nuclear subs, bringing in new weapons and ship systems. The Oscar and Akula-class submarines will undergo work at Zvezdochka Shipyard facilities in Severodvinsk and the Primorskiy Krai region.


    • Lockheed Martin received a $870 million modification Monday to support the worldwide operations of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, bringing the value of the contract to $2.1 billion. The modification covers continued engineering, development, test, integration, fielding and on-site operations and sustainment support for the C2, battle management and communications systems that form the BMDS.

    • Raytheon was also handed a $13.1 million contract to further develop the Next-Generation Jammer. The contract covers software and hardware security design, with the company receiving a $12.6 million contract for the NGJ’s Technology Development phase in April last year. Initial low rate production is slated for 2018, with fielding expected two years afterwards.


    • Australia has requested AGM-88 Anti-Radiation missiles from the US, with the State Department approving the acquisition at the back-end of last week. The $69 million deal will cover a variety of high-speed anti-radiation, advanced anti-radiation and training/telemetry missiles, as well as auxiliary equipment and engineering, technical and logistic support. Orbital ATK Defense Electronics Systems will be the prime contractor, with the AGM-88E achieving Full Rate Production Lot 3 in April last year.

    • Pakistani media has reported that Sri Lanka is the first international customer for the JF-17 fighter, jointly developed by Pakistan and China. At the Paris Air Show last week, the JF-17’s sales and marketing lead PAF Air Commodore Khalid Mahmood told press that a contract had been agreed with an undisclosed Asian customer. These reports have been played-down by the Sri Lankan Air Force, who claim that although the aircraft is under consideration, a decision on whether it will be procured has not yet been taken.

    • The Indian Navy is pressing the country’s government to relax the partial blacklisting of Italian firm Finmeccanica in order to access torpedoes from subsidiary Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel. A corruption scandal barred the company from supplying the Indian defense ministry, as long as the country could meet its requirements from other companies. WASS beat out Atlas Elektronik Gmbh in a competition to supply the Indian Navy with new torpedoes, with this competition taking place before the blacklisting. The new Scorpene submarines coming into service with the Indian Navy require torpedoes as an operational necessity, and as such the service is pressing the defense ministry to suspend the blacklisting in order to access WASS’ Black Shark torpedoes.

    • European defense giant Airbus’s Australian subsidiary Airbus Group Australia Pacific has bought Air New Zealand subsidiary Safe Air, a maintenance and repair company with experience servicing Royal New Zealand Air Force assets. Safe Air was awarded a $85 million contract in 2007 to service RNZAF aircraft, with this set to run to next year.

    Today’s Video

    • JF-17 cockpit view during the Paris Air Show…

    Categories: News

    Saab Story: Sweden’s New A26 Submarines

    Tue, 06/23/2015 - 00:10
    A26 SOF concept
    (click to view full)

    Submarines remain the ultimate maritime insurance policy, which is why so many countries treat the ability to build or design them as a strategic capability. Sweden is trying to recover from a disastrous pair of assumptions in the early 21st century, and preserve both their industrial capabilities and their country’s defenses.

    The narrow, shallow Baltic seas present their own special challenges, but Swedish designs have proven themselves very capable. In order to field their next-generation design, however, Sweden may have to do something unusual: partner with other countries…

    Sweden’s New Submarine A26 concept
    (click to view full)

    The A26 was originally envisioned as a 62m boat with about 1,800t displacement when surfaced, and more when fully submerged. It would be designed to excel in littoral operations, while remaining a capable ocean-going vessel. As a point of comparison, that size is a bit larger than the German U212A/214, and about the same as the Scorpene AM-2000 AIP, all of which are ocean-going boats.

    Kockums A26 design also included a 6m x 1.5m Multimission Portal flexible payload lock system, in addition to its twin pairs of conventional 533mm and 400mm torpedo tubes. Envisaged weapons include torpedoes and mines, but not anti-ship missiles.

    The lock system makes it easy for commandos to enter and exit the boat, and is large enough to allow the launch and retrieval of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles. UUVs are expected to play a larger role in future submarine warfare. They can already provide advance surveying and sensing capabilities, and their modification toward a combat role is a certainty. This will likely begin with coordinated decoying tactics, but UUVs are expected to graduate to active combat capabilities before the A26 leaves service.

    Background: AIP

    The A26 will be equipped with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) supplement to its diesel-electric systems, which is intended to allow it to remain underwater for up to 18 days at relatively slow speeds before its AIP fuel is exhausted. That avoids the need to surface and suck air for diesel combustion to recharge its batteries, a vulnerable time that was the absolute bane of submarine operations until the USA introduced nuclear-powered boats. The A26’s AIP system will be Kockums’ Stirling, which also equips Sweden’s 3 Gotland and 2 Sodermanland Class submarines, Singapore’s Archer Class Sodermanlund variant, and Japan’s Soryu Class.

    To date, Swedish submarines have been renowned for their quietness. HMS Gotland performed well enough in Mediterranean naval exercises to earn an invitation and eventual 2-year lease from the USA, which brought the boat and crew to San Diego to help train its forces against an advanced diesel-electric boat. In return, the Swedes got a nice payment, outstanding training for their own crews, and a record of torpedo “kills” against US Navy submarines and carriers in exercises.

    That reputation for stealth was dented somewhat by Australia’s much-enlarged 3,400t (submerged) Collins Class boats, which were designed by Kockums based on the 1,150t Vastergotland Class and built in Australia. For various reasons, the AIP-less Collins Class are known to be rather noisier than they ought to be. The topic remains relevant because Australia may become a partner in the A26 program. If they do, they will demand a larger design with greater range, longer endurance, and probably missile-firing capability. Saab, in turn, will need to avoid a repeat of whatever happened to the Collins design.

    Poland, which has become alarmed by recent Russian military operations to annex parts of Georgia and Ukraine, is another potential partner. They are looking to lease or buy 2 submarines by the early 2020s, with a 3rd to come by 2030.

    Contracts & Key Events 2014

    Sweden destroys Kockums, contracts with Saab to finalize the A26 design; Australia a potential A26 partner. A26 concept
    (click to view full)

    June 23/15: The Swedish planned procurement of Saab Kockums A26 submarines may be delayed owing to inflating cost forecasts, according to Swedish press reports. The government announced its intention to acquire the boats in March, allocating $1 billion for the acquisition of two A26 submarines, alongside upgrades to the Swedish Navy’s Gotland-class subs.

    Nov 8/14: Australia. Saab CEO Hakan Bushke will be unveiling Saab’s offer to Australia at the Submarine Institute of Australia’s centenary conference, but Australia’s government confirms that it has already received the unsolicited bid. At this point, all the report will say is that:

    “It includes a lower price than its competitors and a smooth flow of Japanese submarine [propulsion] technology from the Soryu Class boat, because Sweden is a partner in the Japanese project. There will also be substantial technology transfer and industrial offsets for Australia, including jobs in Adelaide during the build phase.”

    Sources: News Corp., “Australian jobs promise as Sweden’s Saab Group bids for Navy’s $20 billion plus submarine project”.

    Sept 11/14: Australia. Sweden wasn’t part of the Australian government’s initial submarine evaluations, because Kockums was still trapped and suppressed within TKMS. That has changed. Saab CEO Hakan Bushke says that they’re willing to design a 4,000t submarine for Australia, and take ASC and Royal Australian Navy engineers and technicians to work on its new A26 design. Bushke:

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

    The question is whether there will be an open competition. Australia’s government has been handed a program that’s already badly behind, and an existing Collins Class fleet whose cost-effective and performance-effective lifecycle is being questioned. Japan’s Soryu Class is already designed, built, and in service, unlike its German and Swedish competitors. Meanwhile, state-owned ASC has lost this government’s confidence as a shipbuilder, and delays in awarding a contract make it harder to reduce ASC’s role. Sources: Australia Financial Review, “Swedes launch desperate bid for Oz submarine project” | Business Insider Australia, “Germany Joins The Race To Build Australia’s New Submarine Fleet” | Business Insider Australia, “Australia Could Get A Great Deal On Its New Submarine Fleet If Tony Abbot Wants It”.

    Visby Corvette
    (click to view full)

    June 29/14: Sold! Saab finalizes the deal with ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions AG to buy its former Kockums subsidiary. Dagens Industri had speculated on Friday that it would cost about SEK 500 million, but the final price tag was just SEK 340 million ($50.5 million) on 2013 sales of SEK 1.7 billion (2011/2012: SEK 1.9 billion) and income from operations of approximately SEK 34 million (2011/2012: SEK 13 million).

    Existing funds will be used to finance Saab’s acquisition, which still has to be approved ThyssenKrupp Group’s board, German authorities, and the Swedish Competition Authority. These approvals are expected during July 2014.

    In a way, this acquisition closes a long loop. The original 1999 acquisition of Kockums by HDW was an all-shares transaction, which saw Celsius AB give up Kockums in exchange for 25% of HDW, with an option to exit the business for a lump sum. After Saab acquired almost all of Celsius in 2000, they opted to be paid the lump sum and exit. Celsius had also owned 49% of Australia Submarine corp. (ASC), but the Australian government used its leverage over the larger merger to help them nationalize ASC in 2000, instead of completing its transfer to HDW. Now, there is talk of Saab buying ASC alongside Kockums. Sources: Thyssen Krupp, “ThyssenKrupp and Saab agree on sale of Swedish shipyard activities ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AB (formerly Kockums)” | The Local – Sweden, “Saab completes Kockums shipyard deal” || Background: Cision 1999-09-22, “Celsius: Kockums Naval Systems and HDW merge” | Saab Group 2000-02-25, “Saab has acquired 99 percent of the shares in Celsius” | The Australian, “Subs divide: tale of two companies”.

    Saab buys Kockums

    June 26/14: Saab would like to remind everyone that a “a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding” (q.v. April 14/14) is exactly that:

    “The discussions are at a final stage but still ongoing…. Saab has chosen to clarify the status of these discussions due to information published in the media.”

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt one’s negotiating position when many of Kockums’ engineers are already hired away, and the government has seized key plans and physical equipment where it has a share of the intellectual property. Sources: Saab Group, “Saab still in ongoing talks concerning an acquisition of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AB”.

    June 10/14: Netherlands. The Netherlands has determined that an overhaul of its locally-designed Walrus Class submarines doesn’t make financial or operational sense, after a 20-25 year service life. They need new boats, but can’t afford to replace all 4, and their submarine industry died after Chinese pressure killed a sale to Taiwan. The solution? Present an initial plan this year, and go Dutch:

    “As a result of the current budget constraints, the Dutch MoD is looking for an international partner to increase economy of scale and reduce costs of ownership in a new submarine programme. ‘We are open to discuss the whole spectrum from training to logistics,’ [CO Submarine Services Capt. Hugo] Ammerlaan said. While the MoD is currently exploring a variety of options it sees Norway as a potential partner for co-developing and building submarines.”

    That’s an interesting assessment. Norway isn’t a strong design/build partner, though Kongsberg’s combat system is often used in German U-boats, and well proven. Really making this work probably requires at least one more major partner, be it French (Scorpene), German/Italian/Korean (U2xx), or Swedish (A26). Spain’s S-80 was part of the Sept 11/12 RFI, but its severe weight issues have derailed development and made it a very unlikely candidate. Sources: Shephard Maritime Security, “UDT: Dutch MoD advances submarine replacement”.

    June 9/14: Sweden. Saab announces SEK 467 million (about $70.2 million) in orders from the Swedish FMV. They’ll produce construction and production plans for the next generation submarines, and a mid-life update of 2 Gotland Class AIP submarines. This implies that Sweden has gone back to its original plan of upgrading only HMS Gotland and HMS Halland (q.v. Oct 5/12), instead of upgrading HMS Uppland as well per some April 2014 reports.

    This contract includes the completion of systems design for the new subs, and “detail construction” for the Gotland Class upgrades over 2014-2015. The work will be carried out in Sweden, and conducted within Saab’s business area Security and Defence Solutions.

    In addition, FMV and Saab have signed a long term Letter of Intent to support Sweden’s submarine force. The Letter of Intent extends from 2015-2024 and comprises support, development, design and production of submarines and other underwater systems. If all options are exercised and new boats are built, the LoI could be worth approximately SEK 11.2 billion (about $1.683 billion at current conversion). Guess it’s time to hire away the rest of TKMS’ local Kockums engineers. Sources: FMV, “FMV bestaller undervattensverksamhet” | Saab Group, “Saab receives orders from FMV and has signed a Letter of Intent regarding underwater systems”.

    Sweden orders renewed sub design, Gotland upgrades

    April 14/14: Saab to buy Kockums. Saab AB and ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions AG sign a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding concerning the sale of the Swedish shipyard ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AB (formerly named Kockums), including its Malmo, Karlskrona, and Musko operations, to Saab AB.

    “Both parties agree that during the negotiations phase, the integrity and the operating ability of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AB must be safeguarded. The transaction will be subject to regulatory approval. The negotiations between Saab AB and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AB are at an early stage and more information will follow.”

    There’s a major backstory here. Sweden’s FMV effectively raided TKMS’ offices in Malmo “to take sensitive technological equipment,” but FMV says that since “…it was a transfer of defence material, belonging to FMV, all information regarding the transfer is classified as secret”. It’s generally believed that they came and took the A26 submarine’s plans, as well as a complete Stirling Air-Independent Propulsion system, which are technically owned by the Swedish state. A country that believes time is of the essence, and doesn’t want what it perceives as a hostile corporation to have leverage from holding state materials, might be inclined to move swiftly. The very fact that this happened speaks to how badly relations between Sweden and TKMS have deteriorated. Sources: Saab, “Saab and ThyssenKrupp have signed a MoU on an acquisition of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems” | Radio Sweden, “Defence authority leaves empty-handed after Kockums raid” | The Local – Sweden, “‘Baffling’ Swedish raid on German sub makers” | The Local, “Swedes ‘took engine’ in German sub site raid”.

    Saab buying Kockums

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

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

    The reported Swedish solution would buy ASC, and embark on a fully cooperative joint design for Sweden and Australia’s next submarines. Australia would receive a design that’s explicitly built for Australia’s needs – a necessary compromise for Sweden, whose needs are different. It’s also worth noting that the Japanese Soryu Class propulsion system which is attracting so much interest from Australia’s Navy is part Swedish. From industry’s point of view, making ASC part of Saab removes any conflict of interests with a foreign firm that acts as the project lead, creating both development jobs/skills, and production work. From the politicians’ point of view, a program that includes Sweden and Australia offers the added security of shared risk, and shared acquisitions.

    Sweden is looking to re-establish an independent submarine industry (q.v. March 26/14), and their challenge will be buying enough talent, building an equivalent production workforce, and designing the new sub within Sweden’s budgets. Australia offers Sweden a development partner, and a workforce with good experience. Poland has also been mentioned by some sources as a possible team member. Sources: News Corp., “Swedish firm Saab bids to design new Royal Australian Navy submarines” | Sydney Morning Herald, “Swedish-Australian submarines could fit defence needs”.

    March 26/14: Sweden. Sweden is looking at ways to restore its indigenous submarine-building capability, and Saab is involved:

    “Defence and security company Saab is currently working on the order from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) regarding a study on a consolidated underwater strategy. Commenting the article by Karin Enström, Swedish Minister for Defence, in the Swedish business daily Dagens Industri, Saab would like to clarify that no further order has been placed.

    As previously announced, defence and security company Saab, received a contract from FMV at the end of February 2014. The order was to conduct a study on a consolidated underwater strategy. This study is now being carried out within the business area Security and Defence Solutions.”

    Sweden’s problem is that they allowed ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems to buy Kockums, Sweden’s submarine builder and the Collins Class’ designer. TKMS promised to keep Kockums as an independent firm, but the reality is that they’ve blocked Kockums’ efforts to export their submarines to existing customer like Singapore, in favor of a new German U216 design. This suggests that the acquisition may have had more to do with removing a competitor, but Sweden is a neutral country that is disinclined to depend on others. Sweden’s government has pulled out of talks with TKMS concerning their next-generatin A26 submarine, and is turning to Saab, who is hiring Kockums engineers and trying to become a sub-builder. Sources: Saab, “Comment on statement regarding the Swedish stand on the underwater domain from the the Minister for Defence”.

    2010 – 2013

    Initial A26 design contract; Approval for more, but no deal; Contract to design Gotland Class upgrades establishes time window; Poland becomes a potential opportunity; TKMS engages in Kockums-blocking. U216 concept
    (click to view full)

    Dec 2/13: Kockums-Blockers. Singapore’s new submarine buy unwittingly becomes the catalyst for a seismic shift in Sweden’s submarine industry. The city-state is an existing Kockums customer, with 2 advanced Archer (ex-Vastergotland Class) boats in service, but TKMS prevented Kockums from bidding to replace them. Instead, the German company offered a new “U218SG” model, which is what Singapore bought. Specifications remain hazy for now, but it’s believed to be a modified version of the 4,000t Type 216 that HDW has been touting at shows.

    The deal created a crisis in Sweden. When Kockums AB was sold to ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems in 2004, Sweden’s belief was that (a) they weren’t really under external threat any more, and (b) that the merger would allow Sweden’s submarine industry and expertise to remain, with a larger pool of investment and skills behind them. Both premises were drastically wrong. Beginning in 2008, Russia’s invasion of Georgia began making it clear that it intended to use the weapons it was rearming itself with. Meanwhile, the global submarine export market’s size, and consistent insistence by customers on local construction, meant that there wasn’t enough room for TKMS to maintain both Germany’s HDW and Sweden’s Kockums to compete against the Russians and French. Unsurprisingly, the German company chose the larger and more popular German submarine division.

    Sweden’s negotiations with TKMS had remained deadlocked since 2010, and now they were faced with a clear message that their national submarine capabilities would be lost within TKMS. They decided to act, and everything since has followed. Sources: Singapore MINDEF, “MINDEF Signs Contract to Acquire Two Submarines” | TKMS, “ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems receives major submarine order from Singapore” | Defense Update, “Singapore’s Type-218SG – Forerunner of a new Submarine Class?” | Senang Diri, “Republic of Singapore Navy Type 218SG submarine buy caps 18-year journey in underwater warfare”.

    Singapore sinks Swedish smugness

    Nov 15/13: Poland. Alarmed by recent Russian aggression, and eager to replace its 2 Russian Kilo Class submarines as its primary insurance policy in the Baltic, Poland announces that they’re looking for 3 new submarines. Translated:

    “The Polish Navy, according to the approved Technical Modernisation Programme 2013-2022, is expected to receive three new submarines. Two will go to its facilities by 2022 – a third by 2030.”

    The general expectation was that Poland would lease a pair of German U214 submarines, and eventually buy them. A May 27/14 “Letter of Intention” to increase co-operation between the 2 countries’ navies included a “submarine operating authority,” after all. By late November, Poland wasn’t going ahead with any such deal just yet, though reports indicated that they might water down their requirements so that the U212A submarines could fit them. By March 2014, Swedish media were beginning to report that Poland could become a Swedish partner in the new A26 design. Sources: Polish MON, “Okrety podwodne – rozmawiajmy o faktach” | The Local – Germany, “Poland gives thumbs down to German subs” | SvD Naringsliv, “Sverige tar tillbaka ubatarna”.

    May 16/13: IP deal. Australia’s government signs a deal with Sweden’s FMV procurement agency, covering Intellectual Property rights for submarine design and technology. As RAND’s 2011 report had noted (q.v. Dec 13/11), this was a major stumbling block for any sort of Evolved Collins design, since the original is based on a scaled-up version of Kockums submarine technology and designs.

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

    Swedish Intellectual Property Agreement

    Gotland Class

    Oct 5/12: Gotlands. Kockums CIO John Ahlmarks says that they’ve received an order from Sweden worth several hundred million kronor to modernize 2 of Sweden’s 3 Gotland Class submarines. Some changes are apparently driven by new environmental regulations. Others are related to keeping the boats in service from their launch in the mid-1990s to 2025-2030. That will give Sweden enough time to replace the Gotland Class with a follow-on order, after replacing the 2 Sodermanlund Class boats with 2 A26s in the early 2020s.

    The physical upgrades will cover HMS Gotland and HMS Halland, and are expected to take place from 2014 – 2017. HMS Uppland will be left as is for budgetary reasons. Sources: NyTeknik, “Kockums far stor ubatsorder”.

    June 16/10: Sweden. The Swedish Parliament votes in favor of allowing the government to procure 2 new submarines during 2010, per the proposed spring budget presented earlier this year by the government. Of course, the FMV and Kockums must come to an agreement, but the company says that they’ve started to prepare by hiring new employees. Sources: Kockums AB, “Swedish Parliament votes in favor of procuring new submarines”.

    Feb 25/10: Sweden. Kockums AB, which is part of Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), has signed a contract with Sweden’s FMV for the next-generation A26 submarine’s design phase.

    The A26 is envisioned as a 62m boat with about 1,800t displacement at surface, and more when fully submerged. It will be designed for mainly littoral operations, but that size is also suitable for ocean-going capabilities, especially when equipped with Kockums’ Stirling AIP system. Kockums A26 design includes a new innovative flexible payload, with a 6m x 1.5m Multimission Portal flexible payload lock system in addition to its conventional 533mm and 400mm torpedo tubes. Sources: Kockums AB, “Kockums receives overall design order for next-generation submarine”.

    A26 design contract

    Additional Readings Background: A26

    Background: Other Submarines

    News & Views

    • Naval Technology (Feb 19/14) – Sink or swim: Sweden’s new A-26 next-gen submarine in doubt.

    • Wall St. Journal (March 23/14) – Dispute Threatens ThyssenKrupp’s Submarine Business.

    • SvD Naringsliv (March 18/14) – Sverige tar tillbaka ubåtarna. Mentions Australia and Poland as potential collaborators on a Swedish submarine design.

    • Defense News (March 2/14) – Saab Maneuvers To Buy Swedish Submarine Maker. Following a late February decision by Sweden’s FMV to give Saab a $3.87 million contract. The point? To study Saab’s ability to produce Sweden’s next-generation submarine, instead of Kockums.

    • Sverige Radio (Feb 27/14) – Osäker framtid för Kockum. “Uncertain future for Kockum”.

    • The Local – Germany (Nov 29/13) – Poland gives thumbs down to German subs. “…but sources have told The Local that on the back of a landmark naval deal between the two countries, Poland is likely to lease two subs anyway.” Over the longer term, could Poland become a partner?

    • Polish MON (Nov 15/13) – Okrety podwodne – rozmawiajmy o faktach. Excerpt Trans.: “The Polish Navy, according to the approved Technical Modernisation Programme 2013-2022, is expected to receive three new submarines. Two will go to its facilities by 2022 – a third by 2030.”

    Categories: News

    Adir Who? Israel’s F-35i Stealth Fighters

    Tue, 06/23/2015 - 00:05
    (click to view full)

    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 Adir” shaping up?

    F-35 for Israel: Key Issues F-16B & X-35
    (click to view full)

    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 turbulence at every step. The F-35i “Adir” will need to address those issues 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
    (click to view full)

    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 Adir” 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.

    IAF pilot training in the USA has been pushed back steadily as the F-35 program faltered, and is now expected to start in 2016. The 1st F-35A would arrive in Israel around 2017, and modifications toward F-35i Adir standards would follow soon thereafter.

    LMCO Touts the F-35
    click for video

    Nov 18/14: Politics.

    Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz says that the 25-31 plane deal now has majority opposition, and will probably be cut in a compromise solution. In addition:

    “Steinitz declined to go into detail about the closed-door discussions, but he cited misgivings about whether the F-35’s range, payload and manoeuvrability would suit Israel’s needs.”

    If true, that creates some interesting longer-term questions. Meanwhile, Reuters quote an unnamed “Israeli defence official” re: a staggered plan of 13 F-35s now, then another 18 in 2017 to make 31. Once Israel figures out an acceptable compromise, the next challenge is that terms for the Citibank loan guarantees to pay for the F-35 buy were due to expire on Nov 15/14. That could force renegotiation, if an extension hasn’t already been secured. Sources: Jewish PRess, “Will Israel Reduce F-35 Order From US?” | Reuters, “Israel may halve second order of F-35 fighters: minister”.

    Nov 6/14: Industrial. IAI Lahav formally opens its production line for F-35 wings, which has been operating since September 2014. Initial deliveries under the current contract for 20 wings will begin around May 2015, with ongoing production of about 4 wings per month. A wider Memorandum of Understanding could expand IAI’s eventual production totals as high as 811 wings, worth about $2.5 billion.

    “The wings will be attached to the F-35A stealth fighters, some of which will enter the service of the IAF during 2017 and be upgraded with Israeli systems to become the F-35I (“Adir” in Hebrew). Therefore, it is not unreasonable to believe that some of the wings will return to Israel.”

    Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have worked with IAI before, as a supplier of wings for F-16 fighters and T-38 super sonic lead-in fighter trainers. The firm was also a producer of its own unique fighter aircraft designs until 1987, and continues to upgrade its Kfir design to this day. Even so, F-35 wing production has required “tens of millions of dollars” in investment from IAI, given the advanced materials and extreme fit tolerances involved. Sources: Israel IAF, “F-35 Wings Production Line Inaugurated” | IAI, “IAI Began Serial Production of the F-35 Fighter Wings”.

    Nov 2-5/14: Politics. Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon is recommending the cancellation of several deals with the USA, including 6 MV-22 tilt-rotors, more KC-135 aerial tankers, radar-killing missiles, and radar upgrades for Israel’s F-15s – but the potential purchase of more F-35s (q.v. Oct 28/14) has survived.

    After a Nov 5/14 meeting of high-level ministers, however, the $3+ billion F-35i’s prospects are in some doubt as well. Opponents reportedly include Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, retired IAF General and Agricultural Minister Yair Shamir, former defense minister Moshe Arens, and IDF ground commanders.

    Recent fighting in Gaza, and developments in Lebanon and Syria, are pushing the critics to recommend buys of precision weapons, UAVs, and ground forces equipment instead. The weak protection of Israeli M113s has come in for particular criticism, and hundreds of modern armored vehicles could be bought for the same $3+ billion. Sources: Defense News, “Israeli Brass Urge MoD To Stick With V-22 Deal” | Times of Israel, “Ya’alon said to cancel aircraft purchase from US” | Times of Israel, “Ministers may look to shoot down F-35 jet deal”.

    Oct 28/14: 2nd tranche? Reuters reports that Israel is looking to buy a 2nd lot of 25 more F-35s for about $3+ billion, with delivery beginning in 2019.

    That timeline would force an order no later than 2017, and Israel might expand its order to 31 planes if Lockheed Martin can make good progress on promises to bring the plane’s flyaway cost down to $80 million by 2018. The approval process is still underway within the Israeli government. Sources: Reuters, “UPDATE 1-Israel to buy 25 more F-35 Lockheed stealth fighters -sources.”

    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: F-35i ECM. Reuters reports that Lockheed Martin has changed their minds and 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
    (click to view full)

    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
    (click to view full)

    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 | Globes | 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
    (click to view full)

    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</