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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 2 hours 2 min ago

Price to Extend Life of B61 Atomic Bomb Put at $8.25B | CENTCOM Believes Iran Involved in USS Mason Attack | Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania Plan to Triple Defense Spending

Thu, 10/20/2016 - 23:58

  • A Grumman F9F-8 Cougar on the flight deck of USS Lexington Museum has been painted pink for the month October. The new paint job is in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, the retired Navy fighter won’t stay pink forever, as a special procedure — applying liquid dishwashing soap to the latex paint — keeps the pretty paint job from becoming permanent.

  • $8.25 billion has been given as the price of the life-extension program for the B61-12 atomic bomb by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The new cost estimate was completed over the summer as the agency prepared to enter the production-engineering phase of the program. The baseline cost of the program is $7.605 billion, with an additional $648 million in “funds leveraged from other NNSA programs for technology and manufacturing readiness,” according to an agency statement – money that has common applications across multiple weapon systems.

Middle East & North Africa

  • Claims have been made by the head of US Central Command (CENTCOM) that Iran may have been involved in a rocket attack on the USS Mason. Gen. Joseph Votel made the allegations saying “I do think that Iran is playing a role in some of this. They have a relationship with the Houthis, so I do suspect there is a role in that.” Recent missile launches on US vessels have come from territory held by Houthi militants in Yemen. A US-supported coalition led by Saudi Arabia is currently conducting a military campaign against the Houthis.


  • Anti-corruption agents will investigate the recently scrapped military helicopter deal between Poland and Airbus. Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz made the announcement while also criticizing Airbus for misleading the public on the amount of jobs that would have been created by the deal to buy 50 multi-purpose H225M Caracel helicopters. While Macierewicz failed to mention which particular aspect of the deal would come under the scrutiny of the anti-corruption team, he accused some opposition lawmakers of acting against the state in favoring an international corporation.

  • Norwegian F-35s grounded last month for repairs will be back in the air by November, sooner than expected. 15 F-35A Lightning II aircraft had been grounded in September due to peeling and crumbling insulation in avionics cooling lines inside the fuel tanks. The Norwegian Defense Ministry said the insulation is now being removed and extra filters installed to intercept any potential remains, although it has not yet been decided whether this fix should be regarded as temporary or permanent.

  • An IHS Markit report has revealed a planned tripling in defense spending by the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania amid fears of a Russian Crimea-style annexation of their territory. According to the report, it is expected that combined defense spending will reach $670 million by 2018 and $2.1 billion by 2020, more than double that when the countries entered NATO in 2004, and the fastest such growth in any region worldwide. After Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Latvia and Lithuania agreed to raise military spending to reach NATO’s informal target of 2 percent of GDP by 2018, something that Estonia has already achieved.

Asia Pacific

  • Rumors that talks are underway between Russia and Pakistan over the Su-35 fighter have been dismissed. Anatoly Punchuk, the deputy director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), said no such negotiations are being held despite earlier reports that Islamabad is keen to switch to Russian fighters by buying the Su-35. Other Russian-made items wanted by Pakistan include tanks and air-defense systems.

  • A ground-breaking defense deal between Japan and India is back in motion after Japan agreed to a clear price concession for 12 US-2 amphibious aircraft for the Indian Navy. A ten percent drop in unit pricing from $133 million to $113 million has finally allowed the deal to move forward after a two year delay. The deal, the first of its kind between the two countries, shows a growing cooperation between New Delhi and Tokyo as part of India’s Look East Policy meant to counter China’s influence in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean regions.

Today’s Video

Harrier GR3 XZ130 For Sale:

Categories: News

Ukraine & Poland Negotiate on Joint Helo Production | French Unveil New Frigate at Euronaval Trade Show | SK Contemplates Leasing Surveillance Sat from Israel

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 23:58

  • A report published by the Center for New American Security has recommended the Pentagon acquire a mix of high and low assets in order to counter new threats. The authors of the document suggest that the next ten years should see the fighting branches increase their number of aircraft and vessels with a focus on giving greater priority to laser weapons and electromagnetic rail guns. The trade off? The Pentagon should cancel the Ford-class aircraft carrier and America-class amphibious assault ship programs.

Middle East & North Africa

  • The fourth C-130J “Samson” tactical transporter has been delivered to Israel. Operated by the Israeli air force’s “Elephants” squadron, the aircraft has already been tested during aerial refuelling missions with a Boeing 707 tanker, and is currently testing its low-level flight capabilities using some Israeli-developed systems. Two more will be delivered by the end of the year.

  • Turkey’s procurement agency SSM is looking into tank upgrades and further UAV research to counter multiple asymmetrical security threats. A massive $1 billion tank upgrade would see Turkish operated Leopard 2 and M60 main battle tanks with work likely to be carried out by Rheinmetall’s three-partner, Turkey-based venture, RBSS and by Israeli Military Industries (IMI) respectively. Ankara has also released two requests for information (RFI) to task industry with research on two new types of drones, a multicopter type strike drone and nano drone. Contenders must obtain the RFI document from SSM by October 24 and must reply by November 9.


  • Negotiations are underway between Poland and Ukraine to launch a joint production effort of helicopters that could be used by the militaries of Central and Eastern European allies. But while Poland is currently in the midst of two increasingly complicated helicopter tenders, Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said any joint effort would most likely be on a new model “based on the industrial potential of both countries. We know that the Ukrainians make excellent engines, produced by Motor Sich.” Based in southeastern Ukraine, Motor Sich has supplied engines for a variety of Ukrainian and Russian aircraft including the Antonov An-8 and An-10, the Yakovlev Yak-40 and Yak-42, and the Mil Mi-8MT, Mi-14 and Mi-171.

  • The design for a new intermediate frigate has been unveiled by the French defense minister at the Euronaval trade show. Known as the Frégate de Taille Intermédiaire (FTI), Paris has slated $4.2 billion to go toward the production of six vessels that will replace the French Navy fleet of Lafayette-class frigates starting in 2023. An export version, dubbed and spelled “Belh@rra”, was released by shipbuilder DCNS with a large model located at the show’s entrance.


  • North Korea could have an operational Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile by next year, according to experts. John Schilling, an aerospace engineer specializing in rocket propulsion, wrote on the 38 North website that Pyongyang’s aggressive testing schedule also points to its determination to have the weapon ready in the near future. The dictatorship’s latest test this month was tested far from its Musudan-ri test facility, instead moving to a roadside near Kusong. Schilling likened the move to “taking the training wheels off the bicycle, seeing if you really have mastered something new.”

  • An agreement has been made between Russia and India to extend the range of theBrahMos cruise missile. Accords between both governments were signed during a summit of BRIC member nations in Goa last week. Work carried out will eventually see the target range of the munition double to 600 km. India was previously prohibited from undertaking such work until it became a signatory of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June.

  • With its own spy satellite program facing delays, South Korea is contemplating leasing a surveillance satellite from Israel. Seoul is already heavily reliant on intelligence data provided by the US and military officials are keen to be able to independently obtain information on North Korea’s military activities. In addition, the military plans to purchase another 90 KEPD-350K air-launched cruise missiles from Germany to add to the 170 currently en route.

Today’s Video

Israel’s C-130J Samson:

Categories: News

LM Gets $743M for 9th Batch F-35 | Germany’s MEADS Cost Almost Double $4.5B Euros Proposed | Japan to Consider Aegis or THAAD in Defense Upgrade

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 23:58

  • MQ-8C Fire Scout UAVs will be supplied with Leonardo’s 2-panel Osprey AESA radar following the dismissal of a protest by rival bidderTelephonics. Five radars will be delivered to the US Naval Air Systems Command in the first financial quarter of 2017 and will be used for integration, test and evaluation on-board the Bell Helicopter 407-derived MQ-8C, and the USN holds an option to buy a larger quantity for operational use. The radar will provide only 260-degree field of view and will come equipped with air-to-air targeting mode.

  • Contracts have been awarded to Lockheed Martin for the provision of the ninth batch F-35 Joint Strike Fighter totalling $743 million. The DoD allocation comes as negotiations for Lots 9 & 10 continue. One contract sets not-to-exceed prices for up to $385 million on a range of services for the US military’s F-35 customers, including redesign and development of components with diminishing manufacturing and material services while another $333 million is being allotted to set not-to-exceed prices for one F-35A and one F-35B on behalf of a non-US participant in the program. Another $25.4 million of the award comes from the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme to pay for “country unique requirements.”

Middle East & North Africa

  • Just over two years after the Islamic State rolled into the city of Mosul, Iraqi security and Kurdish Peshmerga forces have begun maneuvers to reclaim the city. The long awaited assault has stoked fears of a humanitarian crisis, creating more refugees from the one million civilians estimated to be still living in the city. Backed by US air power, Iraqi forces advancing on multiple fronts still remain some distance from Mosul and are expected to eventually take up positions on the edge of the city and lay siege before breaching its boundaries and directly engaging die-hard jihadists.


  • Prototypes of a new variant of the Pantsyr mobile air defense system are currently being assembled with production slated to commence in 2018. Designated as Pantsyr-SM, the updated model will boost its detection range from 40 km to 75 km while the engagement range is expected to be doubled as well to 40 km. A navalized version, the Pantsyr-M, will be fielded on the warship Admiral Nakhimov next year. The naval variant features a quad-directional static radar array, and will use both the same missiles as the land-based Pantsyr-S1/Pantsyr-SM and the future Hermes-K missile for use against small surface targets and small aircraft like helicopters.

  • A proposal submitted by MBDA and Lockheed Martin to provide the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) to Germany will cost nearly double the $4.5 billion originally estimated. Several sources have backed up the claims made by Reuters, but little reason has been given as to why the costing has jumped so suddenly. Berlin is expected to request that MBDA provide an additional detailed breakdown of the cost of the major items in the proposal while some officials have already raised the possibility of going back to negotiate with Raytheon about a new version of the current Patriot missile defense system.

  • Poland has shaken off criticisms from both Airbus and the French government by inviting the firm, alongside Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky and Italian firm Leonardo-Finmeccanica, to talks in relation to buying army helicopters worth about $254 million. The invitations come just a week after Warsaw cancelled a preliminary $3.4 billion deal with Airbus to buy 50 Caracal multi-role helicopters and the talks are being undertaken to fill an “urgent operational need declared by the armed forces of the Republic of Poland.” By declaring such an urgent need, the ministry can hold talks with a chosen contractor without the need to announce a new tender.

Asia Pacific

  • Aegis or THAAD? With the expectation that Tokyo will request additional money to fund missile defense upgrades to repel North Korean ballistic missiles, a study will be funded on whether to buy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system or Aegis Ashore. It’s believed that money will also be provided to improve their existing PAC-3 air defense system as well. However, any purchases or modernizations will take time to implement as North Korea continues with its escalation of missile tests.

Today’s Video

The Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) conducting its first airborne trap on a F/A-18E Super Hornet:

Categories: News

Serious Dollars for AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 23:50
launches SM-3
(click to view full)

The AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System seamlessly integrates the SPY-1 radar, the MK 41 Vertical Launching System for missiles, the SM-3 Standard missile, and the ship’s command and control system, in order to give ships the ability to defend against enemy ballistic missiles. Like its less-capable AEGIS counterpart, AEGIS BMD can also work with other radars on land and sea via Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). That lets it receive cues from other platforms and provide information to them, in order to create a more detailed battle picture than any one radar could produce alone.

AEGIS has become a widely-deployed top-tier air defense system, with customers in the USA, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Norway, and Spain. In a dawning age of rogue states and proliferation of mass-destruction weapons, the US Navy is being pushed toward a “shield of the nation” role as the USA’s most flexible and most numerous option for missile defense. AEGIS BMD modifications are the keystone of that effort – in the USA, and beyond.

The AEGIS Naval Ballistic Missile Defense System What Is AEGIS? AEGIS Combat Control
(click to view full)

Aegis, named after the legendary protective shield of Zeus, is deployed on over 80 serving naval ships around the globe, with many more Aegis-equipped ships planned or under contract. It’s the primary weapons control system on board American Ticonderoga Class Cruisers (CG-47) and Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers (DDG-51), as well as Japan’s Kongo & Atago Class destroyers, Korea’s KDX-III Class destroyers, Norway’s Fridtjof Nansen Class frigates, and Spain’s F-100 Alvaro de Bazan Class frigates. Australia’s Hobart Class F100 derivatives will join this set shortly.

The heart of these ships’ defensive suites is the AN/SPY-1 Radar System, a 3D air/surface search and tracking radar. This high-powered phased array radar is able to perform search, track and missile guidance functions simultaneously, with the ability to track over 100 targets at over 100 miles. Terminal guidance depends on mounted illuminators, since current SM-2 missiles are limited to semi-active radar homing.

Partial AN/SPY-1

The other key to Aegis is the Aegis combat system software, which takes input from a number of systems in order to create a unified picture of the threat environment. AEGIS equipped ships are key elements in modern carrier and battleship battle groups, providing fleet area defense and communicating an integrated air picture for more effective deployment of naval aircraft.

Most Aegis suites can be converted to missile defense, with the addition of hardware upgrades and a set of software updates. We refer to these upgraded systems as AEGIS BMD. The AN/SPY-1B radar variants that equip Ticonderoga class cruisers CG 59-73, and the AN/SPY-1D variant that equips DDG-51 destroyers and foreign Aegis ships in Japan, South Korea, and Spain, can be upgraded to support missile defense. On the other hand, the AN/SPY-1A radar on some Ticonderoga class cruisers is reportedly ineligible. The much smaller AN/SPY-1F hasn’t received a BMD upgrade design, and may or may not be capable.

Aegis was designed from the outset to operate with the Standard missile family, and both systems reach their maximum potential when deployed together. The current mainstay for air defense is the SM-2 Block IIIB. For missile defense, the longer-range SM-3 is the system’s main option, and it’s capable of exo-atmospheric kills up to 200 miles away, as ballistic missile prepare to re-enter the atmosphere. The “Burnt Frost” intercept showed that modified SM-3s were even capable of killing satellites in lower orbits.

A new variant of the SM-2 Block IV is being revived and fielded as the Near Term Sea-Based Terminal weapon (NT-SBT), for last-phase endo-atmospheric intercepts as the warhead descends toward its target. The new SM-6 will begin taking over that terminal defense role as of 2015.

As a ship combat system, Aegis can and does operate with a variety of other weapons, but Raytheon’s Standard family missiles are the only ones with ballistic missile defense capabilities.

AEGIS BMD: Versions & Capabilities SM-3 Launch –
note rocket booster

AEGIS BMD went to sea with its initial operating capability in October 2004. During at-sea tests, the system and its missiles have been successful in 25/31 interception attempts – and 80.6% success rate.

AEGIS BMD 3.0. Its Long Range Surveillance & Tracking (LRS&T) wasn’t recommended for engaging ballistic missiles, but it reportedly extended the ship’s radar tracking range to 500 km/ 300 miles. That allowed equipped vessels to support engagements by other ships. Over time this version was phased out, as AEGIS BMD ship systems were upgraded.

AEGIS BMD 3.6 Supports full engagement, and was certified for tactical deployment by the U.S. Navy and the USA’s Missile Defense Agency in September 2006. The most recent certified version as of November 2014 is AEGIS BMD 3.6.3. This system retains long range tracking, can engage enemy missiles, and adds the capability to target short-range ballistic missiles as they re-enter the atmosphere in their final stage of flight. This allows them to make full use of SM-2 Block IV variants like NT-SBT, alongside longer-range options like the SM-3. Testing has demonstrated some unplanned bonus capabilities, including the ability to launch using another system’s tracking data, and to intercept MRBMs (1,000 – 3,000 km range).

AEGIS BMD 4.x Improvements include both hardware inserts and software development. Incorporation of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Signal Processor (Aegis BSP) into the AN/SPY-1 radar helps the system detect, track and classify objects more effectively, in order to defeat more complex ballistic missile threats like decoys and multiple warheads. The Aegis BSP, which has been installed in all new Aegis destroyers beginning in 2010, is an open architecture design. BMD 4.x also adds an adjunct computing suite that will continue AEGIS BMD’s migration toward open architecture electronics, and supports the improved SM-3 Block IB missile. The 4.0.2 sub-version on a number of current ships changes the timing of SM-3 rocket pulses, as a response to the FTM-16E2 test failure.

BMD capability will be included in modernized, open architecture combat systems in Aegis cruisers and destroyers starting in 2012, and even US Navy Aegis ships that are not slated for BMD will be changing over to a full open architecture (OSA/ MOSA) system as part of ongoing upgrades to the DDG-51 and CG-47 ships. The move lets the Navy buy commercial electronics components from a much wider variety of suppliers, saving money and ensuring easier future upgrades.

AEGIS BMD 5.0. AEGIS BMD 5.0 is expected to complete the system’s open architecture shift, with a new multi-mission processor and new computing workstations and display systems. There are proposals to upgrade all American Aegis ships with AN/SPY1B/D radars to have AEGIS BMD capability, so the full OSA/MOSA migration could prove significant.

In 2015 – 2016, a BMD 5.0 CU upgrade will restore terminal phase intercept capability within the atmosphere, allowing ships to use the SM-6 as a 2nd line of defense. This upgrade is also known as Aegis Baseline 9.C1, and has already been fitted to some ships, but they haven’t tested terminal intercept capability yet.

SM-3 evolution
(click to view full)

AEGIS BMD 5.1. The next big step forward for AEGIS BMD will be a new missile, coupled with the AEGIS BMD 5.1 software. The SM-3 Block IIA will use a different design that’s 21″ in diameter, instead of 13.5″ like the Block Is. That will allow for more powerful rocket motors, and considerable increases in range. The SM-3 Block I is mostly designed for use against short and medium-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs/MRBMs), and lacks the range to defend countries like Poland or The Czech Republic from the sea.

The Block II’s range will put most of the Czech Republic and Poland within range of inshore ships, and could allow just 2 ships to offer full coverage of Japan. Its improved range and speed will add effectiveness against Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) that have ranges of 3,000 – 5,000 km, as well as some capability against full Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). It’s due in 2018.

AEGIS BMDS: The Program CEC Concept
(click to enlarge)

Tracking program spending on ship modifications is difficult to do in isolation, as Pentagon budget documents tend to treat “AEGIS BMDS” as a single category, which includes both ship upgrades and SM-3 missiles. The floating “SBX” radar deployed in the Pacific is also used in naval ballistic missile defense, but it is not an Aegis system and so does not come under AEGIS BMD budgets.

Based on Pentagon documents and outside sources, funding patterns include R&D, ship conversions, and SM-3 missile purchases. A GAO study gives totals over the years as:

FY 1995: $75 million.
FY 1996: $200.4 million.
FY 1997: $304.2 million.
FY 1998: $410 million.
FY 1999: $338.4 million.
FY 2000: $380 million.
FY 2001: $462 million.
FY 2002: $476 million.
FY 2003: $464 million.
FY 2004: $726.2 million.
FY 2005: $1.16 billion.

Beyond that:

The US MDA states that an in-service Aegis ship with no BMD capability can be given AEGIS BMD 3.6.1 capability for about $10 million to $15 million, or a AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 capability for about $53 million. An in-service ship with AEGIS BMD 3.6.1 installed can be upgraded to AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 for about $45 – $55 million more, for a total upgrade cost of $55 – $70 million if you have to do it twice.

BMD Ships & Deployment

We talked to the US Navy in order to confirm the ships, homeports, and combat system details of the fleet’s ships. As of October 2013, every ship from DDG 51 – DDG 77 will have received AEGIS BMD or have entered conversion. Conversions will continue within the fleet, and new ships under the current multi-year contract for DDG 117 – DDG 123 will all be delivered with BMD capabilities pre-installed – likely 5.0CU to start.

It has been a steady rvolution for the fleet, as it morphs toward its new “shield of the nation” role.

In March 2007, just 6 American warships had the ability to engage ballistic missiles, while another 10 were equipped with AEGIS Long Range Surveillance & Tracking version 3.0.

By July 2009, the number of fully BMD-capable ships had grown to 18, with 42 SM-3 missiles and 47 SM-2 Block IV variants available for use.

By the time CRS issued its FY 2012 report, there were 22 ships with AEGIS BMD 3.6.1, 2 with BMD 4.0.1, a store of 104 SM-3 missiles (92 Block IA and 12 Block IBs) to accompany about 100 SM-2 Block IVs.

The FY 2012 budget brought the total number of ordered BMD ship conversions to 35, and a combination of conversions, upgrades, and new-build ships will keep growing that number. From a FY 2013 CRS report:

(click to view full)

In the end, these CRS charts reinforce the belief that a significant portion of America’s destroyer and cruiser fleets will eventually receive these upgrades. Indeed, the US Navy’s FY 2015 – 2043 long-term plan will plateau between 80 – 97 BMD-capable ships.

AEGIS BMD Test History Beyond the USA JS Kongo into Pearl
(click to view full)

American ballistic missile defense ships won’t be alone on the seas. Japan has its own AEGIS BMD program, and began full installation of AEGIS BMD 3.6.1 systems in its Kongo Class Aegis destroyers in 2007. All 4 ships have now finished their installations, deployed SM-3 Block I missiles, and participated in BMD tests. The Japanese are also partnered with the USA to develop the SM-3 Block II: a larger, faster missile variant with an improved kill vehicle. This implies long-term upgrades for JMSDF combat systems to AEGIS BMD 5.1.

According to the US Congressional Research Service, other countries that the US military views as potential naval BMD operators of American equipment include the United Kingdom (Type 45 Daring Class, PAAMS/Aster-30 and possibly SM-3 too), the Netherlands (De Zeven Provincien Class, Thales BMD/SM-x), Spain (F100 Class, AEGIS BMD/SM-x), Germany (F124 Class, Thales/SM-x), Denmark (Ivar Huitfeldt Class, Thales/SM-x), South Korea (KDX-III, AEGIS/SM-6 confirmed), and Australia (Hobart Class, AEGIS/SM-6 confirmed, could add SM-3). Note that all countries listed here as potential operators could add SM-3s to Mk.41 vertical launch systems on board, as well as shorter-range SM-6 point defense BMD missiles. Infrastructure for one equals infrastructure for the other.

Aegis ships operate variants of the passive array SPY-1D radar, and one country has already taken steps. Spain already has ships equipped with AEGIS Long Range Surveillance & Tracking version 3.0, and ESPS Menendez Nunez has participated in US missile defense exercises as a tracking ship. The non-Aegis European countries mentioned here use variants of Thales’ SMART-L for long-range scans, coupled with modern active-array fire control radars. The Dutch De Zeven Provincien Class ship HNLMS Tromp has participated in US missile defense exercises as a tracking ship, sporting its Thales combat system and advanced Thales APAR/SMART-L active array radars. The Dutch are currently working to extend the class’ radar range even farther, in preparation for full BMD capabilities.

The US CRS omits France and Italy, even though they host the PAAMS combat system and BMD-capable Aster-30 missile on their 4 Horizon Class ships. France is also committed to building a national BMD system, so their omission is especially puzzling.

Contracts & Updates FY 2015 – 2016

1st BMD 5.0CU test. FTM-25 explained

October 19/16: October 19/16: Aegis or THAAD? With the expectation that Tokyo will request additional money external link to fund missile defense upgrades to repel North Korean ballistic missiles, a study will be funded on whether to buy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system or Aegis Ashore. It’s believed that money will also be provided to improve their existing PAC-3 air defense system as well. However, any purchases or modernizations will take time to implement as North Korea continues with its escalation of missile tests.

September 7/16: The US Navy will field-test the latest Aegis Baseline 9.2C alongside the first intercept test for the SM-3 Block 2A interceptor next month. A new feature added to the software build is the “engage-on-remote” capability that will allow the SM-3 missile to target a ballistic missile during data derived from another sensor such as a satellite. However October’s test will not see that feature tested.

August 22/16: The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has scheduled the testing of the SM-3 Block 2A ballistic missile defense interceptor this October. A joint development involving both the MDA and Japan, the interceptor has been previously flight tested twice by the agency without any target intercepts initially planned. October’s test will see it engage and destroy a medium-range ballistic missile target. If successful, the SM-3 will be in full-rate production in 2017.

August 18/16: Lockheed Martin has received $112 million as part of the 2016 Aegis modernization program. The US Navy contract modification covers the production of multi-mission signal processor equipment sets, ballistic missile defense 4.0.2 equipment, Aegis weapon system modernization upgrade equipment, as well as associated spares to support the fielding of Aegis modernization capabilities to the fleet. Under the program, vessels receiving the upgraded systems will experience increased computing power as well as improved detection and reaction capabilities of its radars.

August 17/16: Japanese and South Korean destroyers are to receive the latest variant of the Aegis combat system after contracts were issued by the US DoD. Two upcoming Japanese and three new Korean vessels will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 system alongside all future US Navy destroyers. Completion of the $490 million deal is expected for June 2022.

June 27/16: Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $357 million contract for Advanced Electronic Guidance and Instrumentation System (AEGIS) in-service combat systems for several nations. The contract will see the company provide computer program maintenance, annual inspection and regular overhaul execution support, in-country support, and staging. Replacement of legacy cathode ray tube character readout devices for Japan, logistics depot support for Norway unique line replaceable unit, and AEGIS implementation studies for future Foreign Military Sales (FMS) AEGIS shipbuilding programs to fulfill AEGIS lifetime support requirements of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, Republic of Korea Navy, Spanish Armada, Royal Australian Navy, and Royal Norwegian Navy. Completion is expected for November 2019.

June 2/16: Raytheon has been awarded a $365.8 million contract for the production of Aegis Weapon System AN/SPY-1D(V) Radar Transmitter Group, Missile Fire Control System MK 99 equipment, and associated engineering services. The contract combines purchases for the US Navy, South Korea, and Japan and contain options that could amount to $423 million. Completion of the contract is expected by October 2022.

May 26/16: USS John Paul Jones was used to validate the ability of the Aegis Baseline 9 to track Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) targets within the Earth’s atmosphere recently. Supported by the Navy, Missile Defense Agency, and Lockheed Martin the use of the missile destroyer marks the first demonstration of Aegis’s ability to conduct a complicated tracking exercise against an MRBM during its endo phase of flight. The development comes as targets and threats have become more advanced, with Aegis BMD evolving over the last 20 years from a tracking experiment to today’s capability in which it can detect, track and engage targets.

December 9/15: The crew of the USS John Paul Jones got quite a workout while testing the Aegis combat system during an exercise off Wake Island on October 31. They first intercepted a short range air launch target (SRALT) missile with the THAAD missile defense system. The Aegis was then tested as a C-17 then launched an extended medium range ballistic missile (EMRBM) through the debris of the first intercept. If that wasn’t enough, the crew were simultaneously engaging a BQM-74E air-breathing target with a Standard Missile-2 Block IIIA guided missile at the time. The tests were aimed at improving and enhancing the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, which is the naval component of the Missile Defense Agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System.

Nov 6/14: FTM-25. USS John Paul Jones [DDG 53] successfully engages 1 short-range ballistic missile target with an SM-3 Block IB missile, and 2 cruise missiles with a par of SM-2 Block IIIAs, in the FTM-25 Stellar Wyvern test.

DDG 53 has the Aegis 9.C1 combination, which represents the next evolutionary step. It finishes the system’s open architecture shift, adding a new multi-mission processor and new computing workstations and display systems. The upgrade’s goal is to rapidly switch between BMD and the area air defense role, allowing full use of SM-6 missiles in a terminal BMD role as well as multiple engagements like this one.

Other test participants included discriminating sensors flown on two MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles and sensor systems ashore; Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) Enterprise Sensors Lab; C2BMC Experimentation Lab; and the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex located at PMRF. Sources: US MDA, “Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System Completes Successful Intercept Flight Test” | Defense Update, “System upgrades are key in Aegis destroyer’s success defeating ballistic, cruise missile raid on the recent test”.

Oct 17/14: FTX-20. USS John Paul Jones [DDG 53] engages in the FTX-20 tracking test of a ballistic missile target, testing both the combined Aegis 9.C1 combat system (Aegis Baseline 9 with BMD 5.0 Capability Upgrade), and the ability to launch and engage based solely on tracks from remote airborne sensors.

Other test participants included the Sea-Based X-band Radar (SBX), Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) Demonstrators; Discrimination Sensor Technology (includes a UAV – likely MQ-9 – with an MTS-B optical sensor turret); Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) Enterprise Sensors Lab; C2BMC Experimentation Lab; and the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex located at PMRF. Sources: US MDA, “Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System Detects and Tracks Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Target”.

FY 2014

BMD 5.0 contracted for development, but won’t become universal; CRS highlights program cuts, GAO highlights software glitches and Euro deployments. FTM-22 test

Jan 15/15 29/14: Raytheon announced that the Navy has approved the SM-6 for additional Aegis systems, to include those Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers from the 1994-keel-laid The Sullivans (DDG-68) onward.

This appears to put to rest concerns that the Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) program wouldn’t be able to employ (see “Weapons” section) the standard family of missiles.

Sept 29/14: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives an $8.1 million contract modification for a single FY 2015 AEGIS BMD 4.0.2 ship installation, bringing the contract’s total value to date to $2.0106 billion.

Work will be performed at Moorestown, NJ, with an expected completion date of March 27/16. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001, PO 0154).

Aug 8/14: 4.1/ 5.0. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a $193.6 million contract modification for necessary material, equipment, and supplies to define, develop, integrate and test Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense 4.1 and 5.0 Capability Upgrade baselines through their respective certifications. At present 4.0.2 is the most recent fielded version. $19.5 million in FY 2014 Navy RDT&E funds is committed immediately, and the entire modification brings the contract’s cumulative face value to $2.003 billion.

Work will be performed at Moorestown, NJ, with an expected completion date of May 31/16. fiscal 2014 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $19,500,000 are being obligated at time of award. The Missile Defense Agency, Dahlgren, Virginia, is the contracting activity (HQ0276-10-C-0001, PO 0150).

July 23/14: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a $40.7 million not-to-exceed contract for 1 multi-mission signal processor equipment set, ballistic missile defense 4.0.2 equipment (the most modern fielded variant), and Aegis Weapon System upgraded equipment to support fielding Aegis modernization capabilities to the fleet. $20.3 million is committed immediately, using FY 2014 budgets.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (57.8%); Clearwater, FL (41.5%); and Owego, NY (0.7%), and is expected to be complete by March 2016. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to 10 U.S. C. 2304(c)(1), as implemented by FAR 6.302-1. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-14-C-5106).

May 27/14: Limited Upgrades. USNI reports that many existing BMD ships won’t receive an upgrade to Aegis Baseline 9, which lays a foundation for the use of missiles like the new SM-6 beyond the ship’s radar range, and for terminal ballistic missile defense:

“Out of 28 early Arleigh Burke-class DDGs (Flight I/II), 21 will not receive a full upgrade to their Aegis combat systems and instead have a midlife upgrade that will focus on the mechanical health of the ship and some will have upgrades to the ships’ anti-submarine warfare systems as part of a cost saving strategy, Naval Sea Systems Command told USNI News on Friday…. The estimated cost of the reduced upgrades is about $170 million per ship for the news systems and testing. The full upgrade costs about $270 million…. Ships without a combat system refresh at some point — usually during a midlife upgrade — only average from 17 to 19 years in the fleet, several naval experts told USNI News.”

Our chart of BMD ships has been updated accordingly. Sources: USNI, “Navy Quietly Downscales Destroyer Upgrades”.

April 8/14: CRS Report. The Congressional Research Service updates their backgrounder covering the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system. They confirm DID’s charts regarding these areas, though CRS doesn’t divide general naval BMD from the land-based European implementation.

The FY 2015 budget cuts 132 SM-3 missiles from the FY 2014 budget’s 2015-2018 buys, and it will also change the composition and makeup of the naval BMD fleet via a combination of slower upgrades, and the mothballing of 4 BMD ships. The US Navy’s FY 2015 decision to sideline its 11 newest Ticonderoga Class cruisers (CG 63 – 73) will remove 4 ships from the BMD fleet until the late 2020s, and the damaged USS Port Royal will probably never return to service. Expected returnees include CG 67 USS Shiloh (2024, BMD 4.0.1 now), CG 70 USS Lake Erie (2026, BMD 4.0.2 now) and CG 72 USS Vella Gulf (2027, BMD 3.6.1 now).

Aegis BMD 4.0 is at an advanced stage, but there are still a few things everyone would like to see. They include a test featuring remote authorized engagement with an SM-3 Block IB against a medium/intermediate-range ballistic missile target, operationally realistic testing using its improved engagement coordination with THAAD and PATRIOT missiles, and
an Aegis BMD 4.0 test featuring simultaneous BMD/cruise missile intercepts.

April 7/14: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a $13.7 million modification to contract for support of Aegis BMD Program Office advanced concepts initiatives, to identify technology for introduction into present and future Baselines/Spirals. This modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $1.789 billion, from $1.775 billion.

All funds are committed immediately, using MDA FY 2014 RDT&E budgets. Work will be performed at Moorestown, NJ, with an expected completion date of June 30/14. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001, P00138).

April 1/14: GAO Report. GAO-14-351 focuses on acquisition goals and reporting for missile defense in general. A 17 month delay in the modernized Aegis system is at a problematic point:

“Discovery of software defects continues to outpace the program’s ability to fix them; fixes may have to be implemented after software is delivered.”

March 14/14: GAO report. The GAO releases GAO-14-248R, regarding the USA’s EPAA plans for defending Europe from ballistic missiles. With respect to Aegis Ashore, they note that the Phase 2 system in Romania will be installed with an interim version of its software. The final version won’t be ready until 2017, which makes one wonder about the AEGIS BMD v5.1 software that supposed to be ready for deployment by 2018. This is a wider theme for GAO, who say that:

“A highly concurrent schedule for Aegis Ashore installations and Aegis weapon system development mean issues discovered during testing could require fixes, possibly after operational deployment. DOD believes that concurrency risk is properly balanced… flight testing will not affect technical design.”

March 4/14: MDA Budget. The MDA finally releases its FY15 budget request, with information spanning from FY 2014 – 2019. AEGIS BMD has a number of related budget lines: Aegis Ashore Phase II & III construction, BMD Aegis R&D, Land-Based SM-3 R&D, Aegis SM-3 Blk IIA R&D, Aegis Initial Spares procurement, Aegis Ashore Phase III procurement and AEGIS BMD O&M.

That’s $2.135 billion in FY15, for a diverse set of programs from missiles to ship refits to land-based installations. If BMD testing and BMD targets are added, on the grounds that most MDA testing involves AEGIS BMD systems, the FY15 total rises to $3.006 billion.

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 SM-3 Block IA went 4/5 this fiscal year, thanks to a faulty IMU chip in the FTI-01 test’s missile (q.v. Oct 25/12). That chip is only present in a few Block IAs, and isn’t in Block IB. The SM-3 Block IB went 3/3 in FY13, but after a string of 5 successful flights, the report notes an issue with the 2nd missile’s TSRM cold gas regulator during FTM-21. Overall:

“With the completion of FTM-21 and FTM-22, the IOT&E flight testing phase for Aegis BMD 4.0 and SM-3 Block IB guided missiles is nearly complete. However, the program needs to complete Flight Test Other-18 (FTX-18) and planned HWIL testing of raid engagement capability and Information Assurance testing using accredited models and simulations in the test runs-for-the-record before an assessment of effectiveness and suitability can be made. Additionally, the program needs to test Aegis-Aegis, Aegis-THAAD, and Aegis-Patriot engagement coordination; only the first of these three types of engagement coordination is planned for live-target testing before the SM-3 Block IB Full-Rate Production decision in 4QFY14.”

Oct 3/13: FTM-22. An SM-3 Block IB missile from the cruiser USS Lake Erie destroys a medium-range, separating ballistic missile target that was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. It represents the 5th successful test in a row of the SM-3-IB/ AEGIS BMD 4.0.x combination since the September 2011 failure. Sources: MDA release, Oct 4/13 | Lockheed Martin release, Oct 4/13 | Aerojet Rocketdyne release, Oct 4/13.

FY 2013

BMD 5.x development contracts; BMD 4.x installation contracts; SM-3 Block IIB is terminated after reports cast doubts on it; Glitches in FTI-01 test, but successes in 3 others. FTM-20 launch
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Sept 23/13: R&D. Lockheed Martin Mission System and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a $20 million sole-source cost-plus-award-fee contract modification. They’ll identify technology for introduction into present and future Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Baselines and upgrades. Initial funding begins with just $50,000 in RDT&E dollars.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, with an estimated completion date of June 30/14. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001, P00125).

Sept 18/13: FTM-21. USS Lake Erie [CG 70] ripple-fires 2 SM-3 Block IB missiles at a short range, separating ballistic missile target. As it happens, missile #2 isn’t needed, because the 1st one hits. The bad news is that missile #2’s TSRM cold gas regulator, which was redesigned after the FTM-15 fail, glitched out during the 2nd pulse rocket motor firing. It didn’t affect the score, but the Navy wants to know if there’s a common underlying root cause they haven’t quite fixed.

As usual, the test centers around the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. It’s the 4th consecutive success for the SM-3 Block IB since the Sept 1/11 failure. Sources: the FY 2013 Annual Report | US MDA release, Sept 18/13 | Lockheed Martin release, Sept 19/13.

Sept 10/13: FTO-1. A successful joint test of AEGIS BMD and land-based THAAD missiles from the Pacific Kwajalein Atoll/Reagan Test Site destroys 2 medium range target missiles.

The test involved full inter-operation. A land-based TPY-2 radar was positioned forward as the warning radar. It acquired the targets, and passed that onto the joint C2BMC (Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications) system. C2BMC cued DDG 74 USS Decatur, outfitted with AEGIS BMD 3.6.1 and the SM-3 Block IA missile. Decatur acquired the track, then launch and killed its target. C2BMC also passed the track to a land-based THAAD battery’s own TPY-2 radar, which provided the intercept guidance for a successful pair of THAAD missile shots. The 2nd THAAD missile was actually aimed at the SM-3’s MRBM, in case it had failed to achieve intercept, but that turned out not to be necessary this time. Sources: US MDA, Sept 10/13 release | Lockheed Martin, Sept 11/13 release | Raytheon, Sept 10/13 release.

July 1/13: 5.1 + Increment 2. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ, receives a sole-source, cost-plus-incentive-fee/cost-plus-award-fee/cost-plus-technical-schedule incentive fee contract modification worth $295 million, raising the total contract value to date to $1.73 billion. This covers system engineering and program management for BMD 5.1 software through the Critical Design Review (CDR), and SM-6 interceptor Increment 2 through Preliminary Design Review (PDR).

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ until March 2015. SM-6 Increment 2 will provide terminal-phase ballistic missile defense capability, allowing the missiles to act as a 2nd layer beneath SM-3. BMD 5.1 software and SM-6 Increment 2 are scheduled to reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) by 2018 (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

May 16/13: FTM-19. An SM-3 Block IB missile is launched from the cruiser USS Lake Erie [CG 70, BMD 4.0.2], and hits a separating, short-range ballistic missile target. This is the 3rd consecutive successful test for the SM-3 Block IB, after its September 2011 failure. Which should clear the way for the full FY 2013 missile order. Overall, this test brings the SM-3 family to 25/31 (about 80%) in ballistic missile intercept tests. US MDA | US DoD | ATK | Lockheed Martin.

April 25/13: BMD 5.0. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Moorestown, NJ receives a $69.4 million sole-source, cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to continue developing AEGIS BMD 5.0, increasing the total contract value from $1.34 billion to $1.41 billion.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, and is expected to be complete by May 31/14. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

April 10/13: FY 2014 Budget. The President releases a proposed budget at last, the latest in modern memory. The Senate and House were already working on budgets in his absence, but the Pentagon’s submission is actually important to proceedings going forward. See ongoing DID coverage. The biggest news is the SM-3 Block IIB Next-Generation Aegis Missile’s effective termination into a technology demonstration program. Its ability to defend the USA from European bases became questionable, and its timelines were never realistic. The USA will buy the originally-planned number of land-based GBI missiles instead.

March 15/13: R&D. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Moorestown, NJ receives a sole source, cost-plus-award-fee contract modification. The $24 million option supports Program Office efforts to identify technology for introduction into present and future Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Baselines/Spirals. The total contract value jumps from $1.316 billion to $1.34 billion.

The work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ through Dec 31/13. The contract has no Foreign Military Sale components, and the US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages it (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

Feb 13/13: FTM-20. CG-70 USS Lake Erie uses AEGIS BMD 4.0.2 and an SM-3 Block IA missile to hit a medium-range ballistic missile target, based on tracking data from in-orbit Space Tracking and Surveillance System-Demonstrator (STSS-D) satellites. The 4.0.2 system incorporates the changes made in the wake of the FTM-16E2 failure, and changes the timing of SM-3 rocket pulses.

Tracking from space can extend ship launch ranges, which allows one ship to cover a larger area. On the other hand, a September 2012 NRC report saw the system’s PTSS successor constellation as a waste of money, which provides very little value beyond existing satellites. They recommended that the USA should invest in upgrading the land-based GMD and its radars instead, in order to improve ICBM intercepts.

The missile target was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, as usual. The SM-3 destroyed its target, and initial indications are that all components performed as designed. MDA’s release says that FTM-20 is the 24th successful SM-3 intercept in 30 flight test attempts since intercept tests began in 2002. US MDA | US DoD | ATK | Lockheed Martin | Northrop Grumman | Raytheon.

Feb 11/13: GAO Report. GAO-13-382R: “Standard Missile-3 Block IIB Analysis of Alternatives” throws cold water on the idea that the SM-3 Block 2B can defend the USA from bases in Poland or Romania. The geometry isn’t very good, and success may require a boost-phase intercept. Those are very tricky, and have limited range, because you have to hit the enemy missile within a very short time/ distance.

Some members of the military think it’s possible, at an initial estimated budget of $130 million extra. The problem is the tradeoffs. Liquid propellants can boost speed, but are unsafe on Navy ships due to the fire risks. On the other hand, the middle of the North Sea offers much better missile intercept geometries. Maybe Block 2B shouldn’t be land-based at all, but then why replace Block 2A in such an expensive way? MDA still needs to set the future missile’s performance requirements and limits. Where should the tradeoffs be made?

This brings us to the GAO’s point about the MDA developing the SM-3 Block IIB under a framework that dispenses with a good chunk of the usual paperwork, including an Analysis of Alternatives. On reflection, this is more than a bureaucratic point driven by “records show that programs doing the paperwork usually fare better.” One of the EPAA’s key underlying assumptions is now in question, and the proposed solution must now be in question as well. Is the best solution for land-based European missile defense still SM-3 Block IIB? What are the tradeoffs vs. using a system like the NRC’s recommended GMD-I from the USA (vid. September 2012 entry), and making Block 2B a ship-deployed missile? Does Block 2B even make sense now? Without good answers regarding capability, options, and maintainability, how does the MDA decide – or pick the right winning combination among the Block 2B competitors? A full AoA could improve those answers, and hence the odds of a smart pick.

Feb 7/13: +3 destroyers. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ has its sole-source-cost-plus-incentive-fee/ cost-plus-award-fee contract limit raised by $30.2 million, in order to install AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 on 3 US Navy destroyers. This raises the overall contract from $1.286 billion to $1.316 billion.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ; Pearl Harbor, HI; San Diego, CA, and Norfolk, VA through March 15/15. Initial funding will use FY 2013 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds. The Missile Defense Agency, Dahlgren, Va., is the contracting activity (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

Oct 25/12: FTI-01. The US Army and Navy conduct a combined developmental and operational tests that involves the back-end C2BMC system, Army PATRIOT PAC-3 and THAAD missile intercepts, and Navy SM-2 and SM-3 missiles launched from USS Fitzgerald [DDG 62]. The PAC-3, THAAD, and SM-2 intercepts all work. The SM-3 Block IA intercept does not.

“The flight test began with an Extended Long Range Air Launch Target (E-LRALT) missile airdropped over the broad ocean area north of Wake Island from a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft, staged from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The AN/TPY-2 X-band radar, located with the THAAD system on Meck Island, tracked the E-LRALT and a THAAD interceptor successfully intercepted the Medium-Range Ballistic Missile. THAAD was operated by Soldiers from the 32nd AAMDC.

Another short-range ballistic missile was launched from a mobile launch platform located in the broad ocean area northeast of Kwajalein Atoll. The PATRIOT system, manned by soldiers of the 94th AAMDC, detected, tracked and successfully intercepted the target with a PAC-3 interceptor. Additionally, a second PAC-3 interceptor also intercepted a low flying cruise missile target over water.

The USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62) successfully engaged a low flying cruise missile over water. The Aegis system also tracked and launched an SM-3 Block 1A interceptor against a Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM). However, despite indication of a nominal flight of the SM-3 Block 1A interceptor, there was no indication of an intercept of the SRBM.”

Sources: US MDA, “MDA completes BMDS FTI-01 live-fire demonstrations” | Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin’s Missile Defense Systems Engage Multiple Targets During First Ever Integrated Ballistic Missile Defense System Test” | Raytheon, “U.S. Military Engages Targets With Raytheon Equipment in Largest Missile Defense Test in History”.

FTI-01: mixed results

FY 2012

BMD 4.0.1 certified; BMD 5.0 install contract Navy wants to scrap 7 cruisers, Congress wants to keep damaged CG 70; CRS report lays out BMD ship plans; European deployments to Rota planned; 2 tests go well; Key NRC report analyzes ballistic missile defense in-depth, says SM-3-IIB can’t protect USA from European bases. FY 2013 Budget fight
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Sept 28/12: Keep USS Port Royal? In the wake of Senate Appropriations Committee support, and partial agreement from the House Appropriations Committee support, the US Navy is now saying that it wants to keep USS Cowpens (CG-63), USS Anzio (CG-68), USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and USS Port Royal (CG-73) in service, instead of decommissioning them in March 2013.

USS Port Royal, which ran aground off of Hawaii in 2009 (q.v. Feb 8/09 entry), is the only BMD-capable ship in that set, and her required repairs will pose a separate problem for the Navy and for Congress. It may well be cheaper to pay $55 million and convert one of the other 3 rescued cruisers for the BMD role, than it would be to repair USS Port Royal. Naval Technology.

Sept 25/12: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $27 million contract modification to previously awarded contract for the production of 2 multi-mission signal processor equipment sets that upgrade a SPY-1D radar for BMD, 3 AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 equipment sets, and 5 Aegis Weapon System upgraded equipment sets.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (74%); Clearwater, FL (25%); and Akron, OH (1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2014. $11.8 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-11-C-5118).

Sept 14/12: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $58.1 million contract modification to produce 1 one FY 2012 multi-mission signal processor equipment set (which upgrades a SPY-1D radar for BMD), 2 AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 equipment sets, and 1 upgraded Aegis weapon system equipment set.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (74%); Clearwater, FL (25%); and Akron, OH (1%), and is expected to finish by December 2014. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington DC (N00024-11-C-5118).

September 2012: NRC report. The US National Research Council publishes “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives.” The report staff have deeply impressive backgrounds related to missile defense, and their main conclusion is that very fundamental reasons of geography and physics make boost-phase defense systems a waste of time.

This includes AEGIS BMD systems. The report explains very clearly that the window for stopping a warhead before it has enough energy to hit “defended” areas makes it difficult to impossible to position a ship in a place that allows even future SM-3 Block II missiles to hit their target. The report still believes that AEGIS BMD has a strong role to play, and will form the core defense of critical locations like Hawaii.

Aug 29/12: BMD 5.0 for 4. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $7.9 million sole source cost-plus-incentive fee/ cost-plus-award-fee contract modification. It exercises an option to install, test and check out the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Baseline 5.0 Weapon System on up to 4 Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers, raising the total contract value from $1.272 billion to $1.28 billion. These ships will enter service in FY 2013 and FY 2014.

BMD 5.0 will finish the system’s migration into the DDG Modernization Program’s Open Architecture (OA) efforts, which would allow the installation of Aegis BMD capability as a retrofit to all serving American destroyers. Firing the longer-range US/Japanese SM-3 Block IIA missile will require another upgrade, however, to AEGIS BMD 5.1.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ from Aug 29/12 through Dec 31/15. FY 2012 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds will be used, but they won’t expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

Aug 10/12: CRS Report. The US Congressional Research Service issues its latest update of “Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” [PDF]. Key issues highlighted or examined by Mr. O’Rourke include the cost of forward-deploying 4 destroyers to Spain, the FY 2013 budget’s proposal to slow the 2013-2020 ramp-up rate for BMD ships, the potential for European contributions to naval BMD, the inability to simulate China’s DF-21 ship-killing ballistic missile, SM-3 Block IIB risks, and concurrency and technical risk in the AEGIS BMD program generally.

Issues involving the SM-3 Standard missile family are covered in that FOCUS article, while European missile defense is covered in a separate DID Spotlight piece. Other key excerpts:

“As can be seen Table 4, under the FY2013 budget, there are to be 36 BMD-capable Aegis ships by FY2018 [32 converted + 4 new destroyers], or 7 less than projected under the FY2012 budget for FY2018 [37 converted + 6 new destroyers]. The proposal under the FY2013 budget to retire seven Aegis cruisers early, in FY2013 and FY2014… may explain part of the difference… Some observers have been concerned that demands for BMD-capable Aegis ships are growing faster than the number of BMD-capable Aegis ships… [in addition] The Navy projects that implementing the 30-year plan would result in a cruiser/destroyer force that remains below 90 ships every year… except FY2027, and that reaches a minimum of 78 ships… in FY2014-FY2015 and again in FY2034. The projected cruiser-destroyer shortfall is the largest projected shortfall of any ship category…”

June 27/12: FTM-18. USS Lake Erie [CG-70] with its AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 system successfully launches an SM-3 block IB missile to hit a separating ballistic missile target. This is the same configuration that will be used for the land-based Phase 2 of the USA’s European missile defense plan, and represents an important success for the SM-3 block IB after the FTM-16 failure. This firing makes the AEGIS & SM-3 combination 23/28 in intercept tests so far (82.1%), vs. 31/40 (77.5%) for all other missile defense system intercept tests.

The Aegis BMD 4.0.1 configuration and its improved signal processor were certified in March 2012. It is now operational on 2 Navy ships, with installations underway on 2 more. US MDA | Lockheed Martin | Raytheon.

May 9/12: FTM-16E2a. This test goes better than FTM-16E2 (q.v. Sept 1/11), as USS Lake Erie [CG 70] successfully fires its SM-3 Block IB missile and intercepts the target. Sources: US MDA, “Second-Generation Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System Completes Successful Intercept Flight Test”.

March 15/12: Scrapping CG 73. The US Navy proposes to scrap 7 Ticonderoga Class cruisers, in order to reduce operations and refit expenses as part of proposed budget cuts. USS Port Royal, an AEGIS BMD capable cruiser that ran aground in 2009, is scheduled for scrapping in March 2013. Information Dissemination on NAVADMIN 087/12.

Feb 16/12: DDGs to Europe. The US Navy announces the 4 Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyers which will be forward deployed to Rota, Spain in FY 2014 and 2015. See also DoD Buzz.

“The four include three from Norfolk, Va; USS Ross, USS Donald Cook, and USS Porter, and one from Mayport, Fla., USS Carney. The ships are in support of President Obama’s European Phased Adaptive Approach to enhance the security of the European region… Ross and Donald Cook will arrive in fiscal 2014 and Carney and Porter in fiscal 2015.”

FY 2011

Equipment and test event contracts; DSB reaffirms support for Aegis/SM-3 combination; CRS lays out ballooning demand, upgrade costs; GAO criticizes MDA’s baselines and cost estimates; FTM-15 test shows early launch-on-remote capability, but FTM-16 Event 2 fails. DDG-70 fires SM-3
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Sept 1/11: FTM-16E2. The first ABM test of the new SM-3 Block 1B missile does not go well, as the launch from the AEGIS BMD 4.0.1-equipped USS Lake Erie [CG-70] fails to intercept the target missile during “FTM-16, Event 2”. The US MDA is now 21/26 for SM-3 missile intercept attempts, plus one successful satellite kill.

The root cause of failure turns out to be abnormal performance in the 3rd stage, during thrust pulses for final rocket maneuvers. That stage is common to Block IA and Block IB missiles, so the program decides that the least disruptive approach is to change the ship’s Aegis BMD 4 software to control the timing between pulses. There are no further problems in the next 3 SM-3 Block IB tests. US MDA | Aviation Week pre-test | GAO report explains cause.

FTM-16E2 test failure

Aug 23/11: BMD 5.1. Raytheon Missile Systems Co. in Tucson, AZ receives a $9.8 million sole-source, cost-plus-award-fee contract modification. The CLIN 0008 option, “Future Upgrades and Engineering Support,” will help the Missile Defense Agency execute technical analysis for the Aegis BMD 5.1/SM-3 Block IIA combination, and increases the total contract value from $276.7 – $286.5 million.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ through Sept 30/16, and will be incrementally funded by FY 2011 research, development, test, and evaluation funds. Though the SM-3 Block IIA is a cooperative program with Japan, this is not a foreign military sales acquisition. The US MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0005, PO 0015).

July 29/11: Mod Kits. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $118.6 million fixed-price-incentive contract for 2 multi-mission signal processor (MMSP) equipment sets; 3 AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 equipment sets; and 5 Aegis Weapon System upgraded equipment sets, to support fleet BMD modernization. Sets will be delivered to 7 ships: the Ticonderoga Class cruisers USS Princeton [CG 59]; USS Cowpens [CG 63]; and USS Gettysburg [CG 64]; and the Arleigh Burke Class destroyers USS Arleigh Burke [DDG 51]; USS Barry [DDG 52]; USS John Paul [DDG 53]; and USS Benfold [DDG 65].

Work will be performed in Moorestown, N.J. (74%), Clearwater, FL (25%), and Akron, OH (1%), and is expected to be complete by September 2013. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC (N00024-11-C-5118).

July 6/11: In an open letter, the US Defense Science Board aims to dispel impressions that they recommended against the SM-3, which by its nature is a mid-course or terminal phase interceptor:

“The DSB concluded that the Missile Defense Agency is on the right track in developing European Phased Adapted Approach (EPAA) options, including continued evolution of the SM-3 family of missiles… The DSB also examined the potential in the EPAA context for EI [Early Intercept] in regional defense against short-range missiles before threat payloads could be deployed, and concluded that this was not a viable option because of technical constraints… The fact that this form of EI is not viable in shorter-range regional applications does not imply that either SM-3 family interceptors or the EPAA concept are flawed… MDA is on the right track in pursuing this capability for national missile defense, and examining the potential application in regional defense as a function of the range of threat missiles.”

June 23/11: CRS Report. The US Congressional Research Service releases the latest update of “Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” [PDF]. Key excerpts:

“Some observers are concerned… that demands from U.S. regional military commanders for BMD-capable Aegis ships are growing faster than the number of BMD-capable Aegis ships. They are also concerned that demands from U.S. regional military commanders for… BMD operations could strain the Navy’s ability to provide regional military commanders with Aegis ships for performing non-BMD missions… Options for Congress include, among other things, the following: accelerating the modification of Aegis ships to BMD-capable configurations, increasing procurement of new Aegis destroyers, increasing procurement of SM-3 missiles, and providing funding for integrating the SM-2 Block IV BMD interceptor missile into the 4.0.1 version of the Aegis BMD system.

…MDA states that an in-service Aegis ship with no BMD capability can be given a 3.6.1 BMD capability for about $10 million to $15 million, or a 4.0.1 BMD capability for about $53 million. MDA states that an in-service ship with a 3.6.1 BMD capability can be upgraded to a 4.0.1 BMD capability for about $45 million to $55 million.”

July 5/11: Testing. Lockheed Martin has begun testing its AEGIS ACB-12/ Baseline 9 combination (SPY-1 radar & multi-mission signal processor (MMSP)) against live aircraft in a “stressing electronic-attack environment.” The instrumented, pod-equipped Learjets are operated by firms like L-3, on behalf of the US Navy.

ACB-12 will equip both retrofitted ships and new DDG-51 destroyers. Lockheed Martin’s delivery date for Baseline 9 is November 2012, with certification about a year later. Next steps include simulations of a modern Midway-style scenario involving enemy aircraft and ballistic missiles, which have gained new urgency with reports of China’s DF-21 ballistic anti-ship missile. Jim Judd is currently Lockheed Martin’s technical director for ACB-12. Aviation Week.

June 3/11: FTM-16. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $219.5 million cost-plus-award-fee, cost-plus-incentive-fee, and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, finalizing work for the FTM-16 ballistic missile defense test. This finalizes the total contract at $294.5 million, which includes the engineering, development, testing, support and material necessary to deliver an SM-3 Block 1B missile; and to provide engineering support, production engineering and obsolescence, surveillance and flight test support, and travel during the 55-month (about 4.5 year) performance period.

FTM-16 is scheduled for late summer 2011. It will demonstrate AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 mounted in USS Lake Erie [CG 70], in conjunction with the 1st flight test of the SM-3 Block IB interceptor. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ through Sept 30/15, and about $32 million in FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds will be used. The US Missile Defense Agency at Dahlgren Naval Base, VA manages this contract (HQ0276-11-C-0002). See also US MDA testimony to HASC [PDF].

June 1/11: Support. Photon Research Associates in San Diego, CA receives a $9.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for specialized technical systems analysis services in support of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, as well as the land-based THAAD program, on behalf of the US Navy ($8 million/ 85%) and the government of Japan ($1.4 million/ 15%).

These services involve operations research support, physics analysis, test plans and procedures, test data collection analysis and test data review, test monitoring, real-time mission support, technical management support, technical reports and briefing preparations, in support of test and evaluation and systems engineering activities related to various national test ranges as required.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (70%), and the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, HI (30%). Work is expected to be complete in May 2013, and $401,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-2, by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, CA (N68936-11-C-0023).

April 15/11: FTM-15. Flight Test Standard Missile-15 fires an SM-3 Block 1A missile against an intermediate-range (officially, 1,864 – 3,418 miles) target, based on AN/TPY-2 ground-based radar data, before the USS O’Kane (DDG 77, equipped with AEGIS BMD 3.6.1) could pick the target up using its own radar. Initial indications are that all components performed as designed, and the missile recorded the 21st successful AEGIS BMD intercept in 25 tries.

The target missile was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles SW of Hawaii. The AN/TPY-2 radar, which is also used as part of the THAAD missile system, was located on Wake Island, and crewed by Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. It detected and tracked the missile, then sent trajectory information to the 613th Air and Space Operations Center’s C2BMC (Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications) system at Hickam Air Force Base, HI. That was relayed to USS O’Kane, sailing to the west of Hawaii, which launched the SM-3-1A missile about 11 minutes after target take-off. O’Kane’s own AN/SPY-1 radar eventually picked up the incoming missile itself, and controlled the missile until impact.

FTM-15 was less dramatic than the SM-3’s 2008 satellite kill, but it’s equally significant. Launch on remote track was supposed to wait for AEGIS BMD 5.1, and SM-3 Block IB was supposed to begin addressing IRBMs, with full capability only in SM-3 block II. Instead, the test also combined to extend the current system’s proven capabilities, while validating the difficult connections that make a missile defense system more than the sum of its parts, and proving out an important early warning element (STSS satellites) in the system. US MDA | Lockheed Martin | Raytheon | Lexington Institute.

Launch-on-Remote, anti-IRBMs come early

April 6/11: BMD 4.0.1. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $34.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/ cost-plus-award-fee modification with technical/schedule performance incentives. That money will be used to fund schedule and “within scope” adjustments to AEGIS BMD Baseline 4.0.1 development, and to multi-mission signal processor (MMSP) development under two separate contract line items (CLINs). Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, and runs through December 2014. FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used to fund this effort, and the US Missile Defense Agency manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

For AEGIS BMD 4.0.1, the contract funds an initial delay in the certification schedule, and an adjustment to the original test plan.

For MMSP, it covers an extension to the development schedule, to account for alignment with changes to the ACB-12 overall combat system development and integration program plan. Those changes are “attributable to a delay in delivery of government furnished equipment.”

March 31/11: Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA receives a not-to-exceed $10.4 million delivery order for a set of AEGIS BMD radar electronics upgrades. Items include a stable master oscillator (STAMO); radio frequency (RF) combiner; ordnance alteration kits; and associated spares, material and installation services. The STAMO provides a very precise and pure RF source that is amplified in the Continuous Wave Illuminator, so the Fire Control System can illuminate targets for a missile engagement. The RF Coherent Combiner modification improves the accuracy of power and phase monitoring, reducing the need for sphere tracks to assess radar performance.

Raytheon confirmed to DID that these items were AEGIS BMD related. Work will be performed in Norfolk, VA (45%); Burlington, MA (28%); and Andover, MA (27%), and is expected to be complete by August 2013 (N00024-11-G-5116, #0010).

March 24/11: GAO Report. The US GAO issues report #GAO-11-372: “Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Transparency and Accountability.” Key excerpts:

“In 2010, MDA was able to meet or exceed its delivery goals for several MDA activities, such as missile defense upgrades to Aegis ships… MDA finalized a new process in which detailed baselines were set for several missile defense systems… [but] GAO found its unit and life-cycle cost baselines had unexplained inconsistencies and documentation for six baselines had insufficient evidence to be a high-quality cost estimate… GAO makes 10 recommendations for MDA to strengthen its resource, schedule and test baselines, facilitate baseline reviews, and further improve transparency and accountability. GAO is also making a recommendation to improve MDA’s ability to carry out its test plan. In response, DOD fully concurred with 7 recommendations. It partially concurred with 3…”

FY 2010

Equipment and test event contracts; Multi-year support contract; BMD on 21 ships now; Navy panel on Aegis readiness issues. USS Lake Erie [CG 70]
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Jan 5/10: Update. Lockheed Martin provides a year-end update of AEGIS BMD progress to date. It is now installed on 21 American ships, as well as all 4 of Japan’s Kongo Class destroyers.

AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 was formally tested in June 2010, with at sea tracking exercises of medium and intermediate range targets during the last quarter of 2010. That iteration will finish AEGIS BMD’s transition an open electronic architecture during the “Advanced Capability Build 12” software and hardware upgrades, scheduled for 2012.

July 7/10: AEGIS Readiness Issues. A Gannett’s Navy Times story discusses their copy of a fleet review panel report. The panel, headed by Vice Adm. Phillip Balisle (ret.), says that:

“The SPY radar has historically been the best supported system in the surface Navy, and coincidentally supports one of the most critical Navy missions today: ballistic-missile defense. Yet SPY manpower, parts, training and performance are in decline… it can be assumed that less important systems could well be in worse material condition.”

Problems behind the rise in requests for technical assistance, and poor performance in inspection reports, include a lack of top-qualified personnel, sailors who aren’t fully trained on maintaining the radars, and a Navy bureaucracy and maintenance funding shortages that make it so difficult to order replacement parts, crews are giving up and commanders are choosing to take risks with lower performance, in order to avoid sidelining the ship. Retired Office of Naval Intelligence analyst and longtime “Combat Fleets of the World” editor A.D. Baker III, offered this summation:

“The Aegis readiness shortfall is just one of a vast number of problems related to pushing people too far and not giving them the training or funding resources to carry out their duties properly… This will significantly affect our putative BMD capability. The money is going to missile development and procurement, not to maintenance of the detection and tracking system – without which the best missiles in the world won’t be of much use.”

June 14/10: Lockheed Martin, Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $131.6 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-5101) for 4 multi-mission signal processor equipment sets, 4 ballistic missile defense 4.0.1 equipment sets, and 6 Aegis weapon system upgraded equipment sets.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (82%); Clearwater, FL (13%); and Eagan, MN (5%), and is expected to be complete by September 2013. $9.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages this contract.

April 26/10: BMD 4.0.1. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $151.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/ cost-plus-award-fee modification, exercising options to complete the development and test of the Aegis BMD Baseline 4.0.1, then install and verify it in 4 Aegis cruisers or destroyers.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ from April 2010 through Dec 31/13, and $10 million in research, development, test and evaluation funding from the FY 2010 budget will be used to get this effort underway for the US Missile Defense Agency (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

Feb 10/10: Testing. Lockheed Martin announces that the US Navy awarded the company a $160 million follow-on contract for technical and engineering support at its land-based test facility for the Aegis Ballistic Defense (BMD) System. The Combat Systems Engineering Development Site (CSEDS) in Moorestown, NJ, develops and integrates computer software for the Aegis BMD System. In addition to ongoing support for CSEDS, the new contract calls for Lockheed Martin to support, operate and maintain the Naval Systems Computing Center (NSCC) and the SPY-1A naval radar test suite located near CSEDS.

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Nov 12/09: +6 ships. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency announces the next 6 ships that will be modified for AEGIS BMD. All will be stationed on the East Coast, which currently has just 2 BMD-capable ships. Defense News.

Oct 21/09: AEGIS BMD. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a Cost-Plus-Incentive-Fee / Cost-Plus-Award-Fee contract with a total value of $1.035 billion, to serve as the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Combat System engineering agent and the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Weapon System design, development and computer program source for Aegis cruisers and destroyers.

Work is to be performed in Moorestown, NJ from Oct 1/09 through Dec 31/14. FY 2009 RDT&E funding will be used to incrementally fund this effort for $15.2 million. The Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA issued the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0001).

FY 2007 – 2009

Equipment and test event contracts; Satellite killer; Japanese score 1st foreign intercept; Pacific Blitz test failure; USS Port Royal runs aground; BMD 4.0.1 developed and installed; BMD 3.6 testing complete. USS Port Royal: Oops.
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June 23/09: BMD 4.0.1. Lockheed Martin announces that it has installed the latest BMD 4.0.1 evolution and new Aegis BSP signal processor on the cruiser USS Lake Erie [CG-70]. Over the next year, USS Lake Erie will complete a series of tests, leading up to full certification of the system upgrade by the U.S. Navy in early 2011.

BMD 4.0.1 installed

May 12/09: Mod Kit. Raytheon, Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA received a $6.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order, with delivery incentives, for one AN/SPY-1 radar transmitter multi-mission capability ordnance alteration kit, including radio frequency monitor coherent combiner, technical manual changes and installation/checkout spares.

The AN/SPY-1 radar transmitter multi-mission capability modifications are part of the Aegis modernization program along with the multi-mission capability enhancement, a commercial-off-the-shelf based multi-mission signal processor which is being developed in parallel with this procurement. The multi-mission signal processor, and these transmitter modifications, will provide the AN/SPY-1D radar system with near AN/SPY-1D (V) radar performance, augmented with full AEGIS ballistic missile defense signal processor capabilities.

Work will be performed in Norfolk, VA (67.5%); Sudbury, MA (20.5%); and Andover, MA (12%), and is expected to be complete by October 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC (N00024-06-G-5109).

Feb 8/09: Aegis, Involuntarily Ashore. The guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal [CG-73], one of just 3 cruisers with AEGIS BMD installed, runs aground off of Hawaii. The warship suffers heavy damage to the underwater bow sonar dome and to her propellers and propeller shafts, and is drydocked. Bubbleheads has a link roundup.

Port Royal runs aground

Nov 1/08: Pacific Blitz. The US Navy has 2 ships fire SM-3s at 2 incoming ballistic missiles. Only 1 of them hots its target. USS Paul Hamilton [DDG 60] fired 1st and was successful, but USS Hopper’s [DDG 70] ability to successfully detect, track and engage the target wasn’t enough to get an interception. The US Navy’s record for intercept tests is now 16 of 19. Sources: US MDA, “Navy Intercepts Ballistic Missile Target in Fleet Exercise Pacific Blitz”.

Mixed test results

Oct 21/08: BMD 3.6. Operational Testing of the Aegis BMD 3.6 System completed.

BMD 3.6 testing done

Burnt Frost

Feb 20/08: Burnt Frost. USS Lake Erie [CG 70] launches a modified SM-3 missile, aimed at a malfunctioning American reconnaissance satellite [USA-193] instead of an enemy missile. The intercept is successful, adding a new dimension to American BMD capabilities.

The 5,000 pound satellite was probably a radar satellite, but the fact that the USA had lost control shortly after launch on Dec 1/06 meant that most of its toxic hydrazine fuel was still on board. Analysis from the Joint Space Operations Command at Vandenberg AFB, CA says that the on-board hydrazine propulsion fuel was successfully and completely neutralized, with “nearly 100 percent of the debris safely burned-up during reentry within 48 hours,” and the remainder of the satellite expected to safely re-enter the atmosphere and burn up “within the next few days.” Sources: US MDA, “One-Time Mission: Operation Burnt Frost” | USAF, “Operations Group blazes new trail during Operation Burnt Frost”.

Satellite kill!

JS Kongo fires SM-3
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Dec 17/07: Japan test. Japan’s JS Kongo AEGIS destroyer [DDG-173] becomes the first ship beyond the US Navy to destroy a ballistic missile, launching an SM-3 Block 1A to successfully intercept a medium-range ballistic missile target fired from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The veteran ABM test participant USS Lake Erie [CG 70] sailed from its homeport of Pearl Harbor to participate as a secondary, using its radar to track the target.

This marks the 12th successful intercept overall for the SM-3. Read “Japanese Destroyer JS Kongo Intercepts Ballistic Missile” and “Japan’s Fleet BMD: Upgrades & UORs” for more in-depth coverage. We won’t be covering further Japanese tests beyond the article’s master chart.

Japan: 1st BMD intercept

March 10/07: Support. General Dynamics Information Technology announces a contract by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to provide support to the Missile Defense Agency’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program directorate. The contract has a total potential value of $191 million over 5 years, if all options are exercised. Under the contract, General Dynamics will provide systems engineering and program management assistance to Aegis BMD for production, fleet introduction and fleet operations and support. The company also will provide test and evaluation engineering management and safety, quality and mission assurance engineering; and support international programs including Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and cooperative development activities.

Feb 28/07: BMD 4.0.1. Lockheed Martin Maritime Sensors and Systems in Moorestown, NJ received a $979.2 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification to continue design, test, and deliver the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Block 2006/2008 (Consolidated) Weapon System capability (BMD Baseline 4.0.1). Updates will include an improved signal processor, and continue the AEGIS BMD’s migration to open architecture electronics.

Work will be performed at Moorestown, New Jersey and is expected to be complete by Dec. 2010. The contract funds will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. FY2007 research and development funds will be used. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C. is the contracting activity (N00024-03-C-6110).

Additional Readings Background: AEGIS BMD and Missile Defense

Background: Other BMD Assets

Official Reports

News & Views

Categories: News

MQ-8 Fire Scout VTUAV Program: By Land or By Sea

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 23:48
MQ-8B Fire Scout
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A helicopter UAV is very handy for naval ships, and for armies who can’t always depend on runways. The USA’s RQ/MQ-8 Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Vehicle has blazed a trail of firsts in this area, but its history is best described as “colorful.” The program was begun by the US Navy, canceled, adopted by the US Army, revived by the Navy, then canceled by the Army. Leaving it back in the hands of the US Navy. Though the Army is thinking about joining again, and the base platform is changing.

The question is, can the MQ-8 leverage its size, first-mover contract opportunity, and “good enough” performance into a secure future with the US Navy – and beyond? DID describes these new VTUAV platforms, clarifies the program’s structure and colorful history, lists all related contracts and events, and offers related research materials.

MQ-8: The Platform MQ-8B Fire Scout MQ-8B Fire Scout
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The MQ-8AB Fire Scout (see Northrop Grumman’s full 655k cutaway diagram) is based on the Schweizer 333 light commercial helicopter. Up to 3 MQ-8Bs were envisioned in a ship’s complement, if it wished to fully replace 1 H-60 Seahawk medium helicopter slot.

The 9.4-foot tall, 3,150-pound MQ-8B Fire Scout can reach speeds of up to 125 knots, and altitudes of 20,000 feet. It’s capable of continuous operations that provide coverage up to 110 nautical miles from the launch site. Flight International quotes FCS Class IV UAV program chief engineer Michael Roberts as saying that the MQ-8B’s:

“Endurance with full fuel and a baseline 55kg [120 pound] payload is more than 8h, and flight time with a 250kg payload is more than 5h, and to get more out of the engine we’ve upgraded the main rotor transmission [to be rated for 320shp continuous power, with a 5 minute emergency rating of 340shp].”

The Fire Scout’s baseline payload includes a Brite Star II chin turret with electro-optical/infrared sensors and a laser rangefinder/designator. This allows the Fire Scout to find and identify tactical targets, provide targeting data to strike platforms, track and designate targets for attack, and perform battle damage assessments. The turret could be swapped out in order to mount different sensor suites, including hyperspectral sensors, 3-D LADAR/LIDAR, etc. FLIR Systems’ Star SAFIRE III, Northrop Grumman’s Airborne Surveillance Minefield Detection System (ASTAMIDS), and Telephonics’ RDR-1700B/ ZPY-4 wide-area maritime scan radar have been qualified on the platform, and Arete’s DVS-1 COBRA beach mine detection system was expected to deploy on the MQ-8B.

At present, the Fire Scout is being modified to arm itself with up to 8 APKWS II laser-guided 70mm rockets, per an urgent US Navy request. The Pentagon has stopped production of the MQ-8B, so it remains to be seen whether they’ll invest in any more payloads after that. Odds aren’t good.

If they did, the MQ-8B Fire Scout could also carry gun pods, or small smart weapons like Raytheon’s Griffin-A short-range laser-guided mini-missiles, and Northrop Grumman’s own GBU-44 Viper Strike precision glide weapons. Even Lockheed Martin’s larger Hellfire II laser-guided missiles would be possible, but it would carry fewer of them than a full-size helicopter.

MQ-8C: Is Bigger Better? S-100, armed
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Compared to a standard medium naval helicopter. the MQ-8B is small. On the other hand, it’s substantially bigger than its European competitors. Schiebel’s S-100 Camcompter, for instance, weighs just 250 pounds empty. It can carry up to 110 pounds of payload, distributed among belly, side, and nose stations, with a maximum takeoff weight of just 440 pounds. Over 200 have been ordered by the UAE, the Russian Coast Guard, and other customers. Saab’s Skeldar V-200 is about the same size as the Camcopter.

MQ-8C test
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Instead of looking for numbers and lower-cost with a mid-tier VTUAV, however, the US Navy is pushing for larger and more expensive unmanned platforms within the Fire Scout program. The MQ-8C “Endurance Upgrade Fire Scout” is based on Bell Helicopter’s 3-ton 407 model, which serves as the base for the Iraqi Air Force’s manned IA-407 armed scout helicopters.

MQ-8C is effectively a full-sized light naval utility helicopter, with 8 hours endurance carrying a 1,250 pound payload, and a maximum underslung payload of more than 2,600 pounds. To put that in perspective, it could sling-load 10 empty Camcopters.

The MQ-8C is slated to debut with US Africa Command under an urgent operational request, with 19 purchased from FY 2012 – 2019. Uses will primarily involve Special Operations Forces, but the Navy also envisions deploying it from the Littoral Combat Ship. Fielding was slated to begin in FY 2014 – which later slipped to early FY15 – and the MQ-8C’s future is the future of the Fire Scout program. Current plans involve 96 UAVs, but that will happen only if production is restarted in FY 2020 or later.

MQ-8: The Program Navy MQ-8B CONOPS
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The Fire Scout program is managed by the Navy’s PMA-263 Unmanned Vehicles program office, under PEO Strike Warfare and Unmanned Aviation at Patuxent River, MD.

Fire Scout began as a Navy program in 2000, became an Army program instead, morphed into a joint Army/Navy program, then became a Navy-only program again in 2010. In 2009, the Navy cut their planned buy from 168 MQ-8B VTUAVs to 121, and by 2012 they had terminated MQ-8B production at just 23 machines.

The follow-on MQ-8C Endurance Upgrade is based on the larger Bell 407 airframe instead. The FY 2014 budget listed the potential for up to 179 MQ-8Cs after the cancellation of the MRMUAS program, but current US Navy plans reportedly involve around 119 total MQ-8s of both types: 23 MQ-8Bs and 96 MQ-8Cs. The program will extend beyond FY 2019, but the 17 MQ-8Cs ordered are as far as Pentagon budgets will plan right now:

In general, Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Systems Development Center in Rancho Bernardo, CA manages the contract and provides engineering services. System design work on the Fire Scout is performed at Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems Western Region Unmanned Systems Development Center in San Diego, CA; while the VTUAVs are assembled at Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, MS.

The basic MQ-8B airframe is manufactured in Elmira, NY by Schweizer Aircraft Corporation. The basic MQ-8C airframe is manufactured in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada by Bell Helicopter Textron. The MQ-8B Fire Scout Industry team includes:

MQ-8A firing Hydra
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The MQ-8B’s “economic production” rate was given as 10 per year, with capacity for up to 33 per year. While the eventual average unit cost of the MQ-8Bs was expected to be about $10 million in present dollars, low-rate production raises the cost for each VTUAV bought that way, since the same required fixed costs aren’t producing as many machines as they could.

That’s no longer a current issue with MQ-8B production effectively at zero, but this dynamic is worth keeping in mind during the MQ-8Cs order run. Years with production rates of at least 5 machines have a flyaway cost of around $16 million, but current plans show only one year like that: FY 2014.

MQ-8: Past and Future

The MQ-8’s initial history had it rising from the ashes like a phoenix. In January 2002, the US Department of Defense decided not to fund the RQ-8 program beyond initial test production. A year later, everything had changed. Northrop Grumman made significant improvements to usable power, payload capacity, and range; then drew attention to them by moving the vehicle near the Navy’s major test facility in Patuxent River, MD. By January 2003, the Navy had announced its intention to evaluate Fire Scout for possible deployment on the new Littoral Combat Ships, and funding was restored by Congress in July 2003.

Could the same thing happen again? Based on testing reports, it has no chance of happening to the MQ-8B, which was halted at 23 machines. The MQ-8C could still do well, and regain some momentum as a Special Operations/ Littoral Combat Ship platform, but it will have to overcome current US Navy plans.

The MQ-8B’s August 2003 selection as the US Army’s brigade-level Class IV Future Combat Systems UAV fared even worse than the Navy buy. The Army liked its ability to operate at low ground speeds, to operate in remote and unprepared landing zones, to move with the brigade, and to acquire and track targets in complex and urban terrain. Unfortunately, FCS Class IV was slowed by software and hardware (esp. JTRS radio) development delays. By February 2010, instead of having MQ-8Bs on the front lines, the US Army had only a couple of suggestive exercises using MQ-8 prototypes. Meanwhile, other VTUAV and UAV technologies had moved ahead. The US Army responded by dropping the Class IV UAV program, even before it dissolved Future Combat Systems as a whole. That’s why the MQ-8B’s eventual land deployment to Afghanistan happened in 2011 with the US Navy.

It’s said that the larger Fire-X/MQ-8C, based on a the same Bell 407 airframe that was once tapped to become the Army’s next armed scout helicopter, has attracted Army interest again. Time will tell if that turns into a commitment of any kind.

Other Markets Bringing it in…
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Beyond the US Navy and Army, opportunities still beckon, but Fire Scout will have to compete.

At home, December 2006 Flight International article saw the Fire Scout as a top competitor for the US Marine Corps’ 2008-2010 (now postponed) VUAS contest, in order to replace their RQ-2 Pioneer UAVs around 2015 or so. Naval deployment and weapons integration strengths should keep the MQ-8 family around as a contender for USMC interest.

The US Coast Guard has frozen development work on its planned “Eagle Eye” tilt-rotor UAV. In its absence, the Fire Scout stands a reasonable chance of being selected as an interim or future UAV provider, though the MQ-8C’s size growth could create an opening for smaller platforms that can operate from smaller ships. So far, the US Coast Guard remains very far behind the curve on UAVs, and has only begun trialing smaller options like Boeing’s catapult-launched ScanEagle.

The MQ-8 VTUAV family has yet to attract foreign orders, though the UAE and Saudi Arabia have reportedly expressed interest. Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8s are clearly aimed at customers who want larger VTUAVs that carry either weapons or cargo, and are willing to a buy a UAV whose size allows those things.

Within that segment, Kaman & Lockheed’s K-MAX is now a fielded cargo alternative with the USMC. Boeing’s troubled A160 Hummingbird offers the lure of exceptional endurance, with a payload somewhere between the MQ-8B’s and MQ-8C’s. Boeing is also working with European firms like Thales, using its more conventional MH-6 Unmanned Little Bird. Northrop Grumman’s Fire-X beat these options for the MQ-8C Fire Scout contract, but other customers will make their own choices.

Meanwhile, Fire Scout’s much smaller Schiebel S1000 Camcopter competitor has been ordered in numbers by Jordan, Russia, and the UAE. The clear trend on the international stage is for Fire Scout to face smaller and cheaper European competitors, from the Camcopter to Saab’s Skeldar, Indra’s Pelicano, etc. The Europeans see a strong market for smaller VTUAVs to operate from remote outposts, from small ships like Offshore Patrol Vessels, and from larger naval vessels that still need to carry a full-size helicopter.

Fire Scout Contracts & Key Events

Unless otherwise noted, all announced contracts were awarded to Northrop Grumman in San Diego, CA, and/or managed by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD.

FY 2015 – 2016

1st MQ-8Cs. Expecting a sunset?

October 19/16: MQ-8C Fire Scout UAVs will be supplied with Leonardo’s 2-panel Osprey AESA radar following the dismissal of a protest by rival bidderTelephonics. Five radars will be delivered to the US Naval Air Systems Command in the first financial quarter of 2017 and will be used for integration, test and evaluation on-board the Bell Helicopter 407-derived MQ-8C, and the USN holds an option to buy a larger quantity for operational use. The radar will provide only 260-degree field of view and will come equipped with air-to-air targeting mode.

September 29/16: A MQ-8B Fire Scout was used to laser designate a moving target for an AGM-114N Hellfire missile fired from an MH-60S for the first time. Conducted on September 14, the test was part of a program to use the drone as a remote designater for the helicopter to shoot moving targets . The successful Hellfire shot marks a significant milestone in the integration between Navy-manned helicopters and unmanned assets.

September 13/16: Northrop Grumman has landed a $108 million Navy contract to provide 10 MQ-8C Fire Scout drones. The unmanned system provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, target acquisition, laser designation, and battle management and can operate from any air-capable ship or land base. Delivery of the new systems will be completed by August 2019.

June 30/16: The MQ-8B deployed on board USS Coronado (LCS-4) is the first to be equipped with the new AN/ZPY-4(V)1 radar. Previously, the unmanned helicopter was fitted with the RDR-1700 maritime surveillance radar under an urgent requirement. Compared to the previous radar, the AN/ZPY-4(V)1 will increase the search area of the LCS, improving the ability to simultaneously track up to 150 targets and increase detection accuracies out to 70 nautical miles.

June 10/16: Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s new Osprey X-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar has been selected by the US Navy for mounting on its MQ-8C VTOL unmanned aerial vehicle. Consisting of three panels for 360 degree field of regard, the Osprey contains incorporated algorithms from the company’s other radar product lines such as the Seaspray maritime search radar and Vixen air-to-air radar. This now makes it possible for the MQ-8C to function with an airborne early-warning capability while operating on small ships.

April 25/16: The USMC has borrowed a number of MQ-8C Fire Scouts from the US Navy to test how they could be operated from the amphibious assault ships. It is believed that they may want a Group 4 or 5 unmanned aerial system (UAS), which are larger and have longer range and endurance, and that are capable of conducting ISR and fires missions. At present the RQ-21 Blackjack is operated from the corps ships, but that system, a smaller Group 3 system, is launched from a small catapult and recovered by hooking onto a tether, all of which limit the payloads that can be put on the aircraft.

January 14/16: The US Navy is to have Northrop Grumman provide software sustainment services for their MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopters in a contract worth $8.02 million. Northrop has been continuously advancing the capabilities of the MQ-8B since its introduction in 2006. By next year, they plan to have mine-detection sensor capabilities in coastal waters to be used in the protection of LCS class vessels.

December 2/15: Northrop Grumman has completed the three week operational assessment of the MQ-8C Fire Scout. The naval UAV took part in 11 flights, spending over 83.4 hours in the air. The MQ-8C was also tested against maritime and surveyed land targets and will begin ship based testing in the 2017 fiscal year. The Fire Scout is currently being developed for the Navy, however the program had been been adopted and dropped by both the Navy and Army in the past. With the successful tests announced, one wonders will the Army wish to jump back on board?

August 26/15: Northrop Grumman’s naval UAV the Fire Scout is completing endurance demonstrations, flitting about for 10 hours at a time.

April 16/15: The Fire Scout MQ-8C’s IOC deadline has been pushed back a year, owing principally to the limited availability of Littoral Combat Ships for testing. The first MQ-8C system was delivered to the Navy in December.

Dec 3/14: MQ-8C. Northrop Grumman announces it delivered the 1st operational MQ-8C to the US Navy. Tests are to begin this winter aboard USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) and last into the summer 2015, so operations should start a year from now if the aircraft performs as expected. Land-based tests had already taken place back in August on small sloped platforms meant to simulate at-sea take-offs and landings.

FY 2014

MQ-8C 1st flight

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”.

April 2/14: FY14 order. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., San Diego, CA, is being awarded a $43.8 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, firm-fixed-price contract modification for 5 MQ-8C VTUAV and 1 ground control station. Unless the line is restarted after FY 2020 begins, this is the last MQ-8C order. Including development and demonstration vehicles, NGC says they have been contracted for 19 MQ-8Cs.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 and 2014 US Navy aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Dallas, TX (32%); Ozark, AL (27%); Rancho Bernardo, CA (25%); Moss Point, MS (15%); and Point Mugu, CA (1%), and is expected to be complete in December 2015. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-12-C-0059). Sources: Pentagon, NGC, “Northrop Grumman to Build Five More MQ-8C Fire Scouts for the U.S. Navy”.

5 MQ-8Cs

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. With respect to the Fire Scout:

“The engineering design of the MQ-8C is complete as it is based on the MQ-8B design, which appeared to be stable before halting production. The program completed operational test and evaluation of MQ-8B in December 2013 and a Quick Reaction Assessment of MQ-8C will be completed in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2014. The program plans to conduct an acquisition strategy review in the first quarter of fiscal year 2014 that assesses overall program health, including production readiness.

….a Quick Reaction Assessment is planned for MQ-8C 3 to 4 months prior to ship deployment, which is expected to be in the first quarter of fiscal year 2015. The program is planning to test the MQ-8C at-sea in 2014 on the DDG-109 and on the Littoral Combat Ship in 2015.”

March 4-11/14: Budgets. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The MQ-8 sees a cut in buys, and in the program. While the GAO still publishes the program goal as 175, this has changed to a maximum of 119 total MQ-8Bs (23) and MQ-8Cs (96), with only 17 MQ-8Cs bought until FY 2019:

“The Navy has truncated MQ-8B procurement with the last LRIP buy in FY11. 21 of the 23 LRIP aircraft (90%) have been delivered. Once delivery is complete, the 23 aircraft will support 8 Fire Scout systems. MQ-8B airframes will continue to support maritime based ISR from FFGs, support LCS DT/OT events and LCS deployments. MQ-8B airframes will sunset through attrition…. Forty-Eight (48) systems are planned to utilize the MQ-8C air vehicle (96 air vehicles), for a total of 119 air vehicles which includes Primary Inventory, backup inventory and attrition aircraft.

….The Navy will use the MQ-8[B] system from FFGs to provide up to 1/2 orbit of support to SOF until [MQ-8Cs] are available and LCS become available through the Global Force Management Process.”

Despite the goal of 96 MQ-8Cs, FY 2015-2019 buys no VTUAVs, just ancillary equipment which includes GCS, UCARs, special payloads, shipboard TCDL [datalink] systems, and various forms of support. That means the last MQ-8C orders take place in FY 2014, and orders must wait until FY 2020 or later. Statements that key LCS systems like COBRA may move to the MH-60S fleet suggest that the MQ-8C line may not be restarted, since a stalled production line attracts little political support in times of austerity.

Big program shift

Jan 23/14: Sub-contractors. L-3 Corp. Systems West in Salt Lake City, UT receives 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.

The high definition Hawklink interface creates point-to-point Internet-equivalent connectivity between a helicopter and ships up to 100 nmi away, enabling both to publish and subscribe for information. That would allow a ship or strike group to request data from the helicopter’s sensors via its AN/SRQ-4 terminal, including sonobuoy data or real-time video, while sending other messages and data to the helicopter’s AN/ARQ-59 system. Terminals can also be configured for interoperability with several generations of CDL surface terminals deployed by the US Army, US Air Force, and American allies.

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 (N00019-13-D-0001).

November 2013: India. India Strategic magazine says that the Fire Scout will be competing with Saab’s smaller Skeldar VTAUV for a shipborne VTUAV contract:

“The Navy has plans to have at least two more squadrons of UAVs to be controlled from ships to increases the range of surveillance. There are plans to introduce rotary UAVs on ships. The contenders are the Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8 Firescout with the Telephonics RDR 1700B or General Atomics Lynx radar and Skeldar from SAAB… [error deleted here]. Notably MIL-1553 specs and [other onboard systems] are looked at by the Indian Navy’s WEESE i.e. ‘Weapons, Electronic, Electrical Systems Engineering’ Group at New Delhi which has assembled the data bus for integration in to [the destroyer] INS Delhi and other class of ships.”

This is India, so it’s entirely possible that nothing will happen for many years, but the Indian Navy is very familiar with UAVs, and has been operating land-based Searcher II and Heron UAV fleets for over a decade. India’s Coast Guard has also trialed Schiebel’s S100 Camcopter, and other competitors may yet emerge. Sources: India Strategic, “Indian Navy’s Quest to employ and equip its warships with UAVs”

Nov 15/13: MQ-8B. The Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth [LCS 3] spends Nov 5-13/13 conducting testing with the MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV in the Point Mugu Test Range, CA. Fort Worth is scheduled to deploy in 2014 with “The Mad Hatters” of HSM-35, Detachment 1. The Navy’s first “composite” Air Detachment will include both a manned SH-60R helicopter and smaller MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter UAVs. Sources: USN, “USS Fort Worth Launches First UAV, Demonstrates LCS Capability”.

Nov 14/13: +3 407s. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX receives an $8.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for 3 Bell 407 ‘analog’ helicopters. They don’t have all the equipment you’d find in even a civil 407, because most of that gets added when they’re turned into MQ-8C Fire Scouts. All funds are committed, using the Navy’s FY 2013 procurement budget.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (52%); Mirabel, Canada (46%); and Ozark, AL (2%), and is expected to be complete in June 2014. This contract wasn’t competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-14-C-0022).

Oct 31/13: 1st MQ-8C flight. A pair of flights, actually. The 1st was just a 7-minute check-out to validate the autonomous control systems, while the 2nd was a 9-minute circuit around the airfield at at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, CA.

Meanwhile, the MQ-8B is back from Afghanistan (q.v. Aug 16/13), but the platform is also in the middle of its 7th at-sea deployment on board US Navy FFG-7 frigates. A tour aboard the USS Freedom [LCS-1] is next. Sources: NGC, Oct 31/13 release.

1st MQ-8C flight

FY 2013

6 more MQ-8Cs; 1st MQ-8C delivered; MRMUAS competition canceled, which will expand Fire Scout; Just how much is the Fire Scout program expanding?; Pentagon testers say MQ-8B production stopped in 2012 – very negative review explains why. Fire-X (MQ-8C) test
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Aug 16/13: Next steps. After logging over 5,000 flight hours in Afghanistan, the Navy’s MQ-8B detachment and their contractor operators have packed up and headed home. Fire Scout program manager Capt. Patrick Smith discussed the UAV at AUVSI 2013.

Next steps for the MQ-B include a November 2013 deployment aboard USS Freedom [LCS 1], and delivery of the Telephonics ZPY-4/ RDR-1700B surface scanning radar (q.v. Dec 20/12), which has had its final delivery pushed back from June 2014 to December 2014. The larger MQ-8C now intends to begin formal Navy flight tests in October 2013, with the 1st at-sea tests involving the USS Jason Dunham [DDG 109] in 2014.

Smith adds that Navy is now looking at a total buy of 96 MQ-8B/C UAVs, which implies a total of 73 MQ-8Cs – just 40% of the number listed in the FY 2014 budget. Source: Defense News, “Fire Scout ends Afghan mission; future includes new variant, LCS work”.

Aug 6/13: Deployment. US NAVAIR praises the achievements of 4 MQ-8B Fire Scouts from HSM-46, aboard the USS Samuel B. Roberts [FFG 58] in the Mediterranean Sea. The detachment flew 333 hours in June 2013, blowing past the previous monthly record by more than 100 hours.

That figure is over 10 hours per day for the detachment, with some days featuring over 18 hours of coverage. It’s the 6th deployment of Fire Scout helicopters aboard US Navy ships. Source: US NAVAIR, “Fire Scout surpasses flight hour record aboard USS Samuel B. Roberts.”

July 19/13: MQ-8C. Northrop Grumman announces their 1st MQ-8C delivery to the US Navy “in early July,” in preparation for ground and flight testing. Source: NGC.

April 10/13: FY 2014 Budget. The President releases a proposed budget at last, the latest in modern memory. The Senate and House were already working on budgets in his absence, but the Pentagon’s submission is actually important to proceedings going forward. See ongoing DID coverage. The MQ-8 undergoes yet another big procurement shift, as the planned total jumps to 202 UAVs over the life of the program, supporting both Special Operations and the Littoral Combat Ship. The program will also include a limited number of land-based control stations, mission training devices, and engineering moves to ensure stocks of parts that are going out of production, or their replacement by new designs.

“The MQ-8 is currently deployed on FFG ships and may be deployed on alternate class of ships to support the Special Operations Forces (SOF) mission. In support of the SOF mission, aircraft were moved forward in the budget starting in FY 2012 and additional ship control stations will be procured for outfitting of the FFG/DDG and alternate class of ships such as the Joint High Speed Vessel. MQ-8 will perform land-based operations in support of the ISR Task Force and Army units…. In addition, specialty payloads and communications equipment will be procured in support of SOF ISR, ISR Task Force, shipboard requirements. Weapons Stores Management Systems are included in the aircraft cost starting in FY 2013 that support on-going RDCs.

There will be 34 MQ-8C Endurance Upgrade aircraft procured between FY12-FY18 to support an AFRICOM JEONS RDC. The increase over PB13 results from the Navy canceled Medium Range Maritime UAS program prior to Milestone A and the need to sustain the SOF 3 orbit requirement. Initial spares and repairs are needed to support the RDC operational tempo of 27,000 flight hours per year. All aircraft procured in FY12-FY18 are MQ-8C. The MQ-8 Endurance Upgrade capability will start transitioning to a Navy program of record in FY14 to support Littoral Combat Ship requirements. The Navy is evaluating the VTUAV procurement quantity requirement in light of the Endurance Upgrade capabilities and will lay in the updated procurement profile during future budgets. [This submission marks down another 145 MQ-8Cs after FY 2018.]”

March 12/13: MQ-8B. US NAVAIR states that:

“After exceeding the 8,000-flight-hour mark Friday [presumably for its entire flight career], an MQ-8B Fire Scout assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 Detachment 5 prepares to land aboard USS Robert G. Bradley for a “hot pump” and re-launch while conducting maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations in the Mediterranean Sea March 11. Fire Scouts aboard Bradley are routinely flying 17-hour days while providing 12 hours on station ISR coverage in the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility.”

March 11/13: MQ-8C. A $71.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, firm-fixed-price contract modification to deliver 6 MQ-8C VTUAVs and 7 ground control stations, using FY 2012 & 2013 Navy aircraft funds.

The company is now under contract to produce 14 MQ-8Cs, of a planned rapid acquisition program total of up to 30. Both figures include test aircraft.

Manufacturing and assembly operations are already underway for the 407-based variant, with airframe modifications being made at Bell’s facility in Ozark, AL (27%), and final assembly being completed at Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, MS (15%). Other locations include Dallas, TX (32%); Rancho Bernardo, CA (25%); and Point Mugu, CA (1%) (N00019-12-C-0059). See also Northrop Grumman.

6 more MQ-8Cs

Feb 13/13: MRMUAS. Military officials announce plans to end the Medium-Range Maritime Unmanned Aerial System program, which was going to produce a surveillance UAV with up to 8 hours endurance.

With funds tight, and the MQ-8C available as an interim solution, the potential gains from offerings like BAE/OVX’s compound ducted fan concept was deemed less important. Which leads to the question of what happens after the initial rapid buy of MQ-8Cs. sUAS News.

MRMUAS canceled

Jan 31/13: MQ-8C. Greenwich AeroGropup’s Summit Aviation delivers the MQ-8C’s 1st Faraday Cage assembly, designed to protect the UAV’s electronics from lightning, electro-magnetic interference, etc. NGC.

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 MQ-8s are included, and the news isn’t good. The overall program has stopped production at 23 MQ-8Bs, and may supplement them with 31 MQ-8C Fire-X/ Endurance Upgrade Fire Scouts (3 test + 28 Urgent Operational Requirement).

MQ-8C testing hasn’t really begun yet, but the verdict on the MQ-8B is really poor. Reliability well below program planning levels has created a “critical” shortage of spares, and produced “unacceptable values for Availability, Mean Flight Hours Between Operational Mission Failures, and Mean Flight Hours Between Unscheduled Maintenance Actions.” It’s so far below plan that the MQ-8B hasn’t had Initial Operational Test & Evaluation, and probably isn’t going to, even though MQ-8Bs are now being armed in response to an urgent Navy requirement. Its communications relay remains a problematic issue.

On the bright side, software improvements tested in 2012 now allow dual air vehicle operations, something that should transfer to the MQ-8C. Frigate deployments continue to show the value of a VTUAV system, and at the moment, there’s no sign that the MQ-8Bs will be retired. On the other hand, it would take a long string of successes to have the MQ-8 program even approach its original scope.

MQ-8B stopped, panned

Dec 20/12: Radars. A $33.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to develop, integrate, test, and deliver 9 radar systems for the MQ-8B. The Navy wants a wide-area surface search radar (vid. July 7/11 entry), which would sharply improve the UAV’s effectiveness for missions like anti-piracy, blockades, near-port monitoring, search & rescue, etc.

Northrop Grumman has confirmed to us that they’ll be using the Telephonics RDR-1700B [PDF]radar, which has been tested with the MQ-8B over the last few years (vid. Oct 19-23/09, Sept 19/08 entries), and a Jan 8/13 Telephonics release makes it clear that they’ll be using the AN/ZPY-4(V)1 upgrade, complete with moving target indicator functions and the ability to track AIS ship transponders. Subsequent reports establish the number as 12 radars, plus 3 spares.

$15.8 million is committed on award, and $11.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/13. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (70%) and Patuxent River, MD (30%), and is expected to be complete in June 2014. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 U.S.C 2304c1 (N00019-13-C-0020).

New ZPY-4 radar

Dec 20/12: Support. A $19.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for MQ-8B spares and deliveries.

All funds are committed, and $19 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (90%), and Patuxent River, MD (10%); and is expected to be completed in November 2013. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 U.S.C 2304c1 (N00019-13-C-0007).

Oct 5/12: Support. A $24.5 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for MQ-8B spare parts and supplies.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (36%), Horseheads, NY (30%); Salt Lake City, NV (11%); Sparks, NV (11%); and various other locations within the United States (12%); and is expected to be complete in April 2014 (N00019-10-G-0003).

FY 2012

USN commits to add MQ-8Cs, signs development contract; 2 quick crashes ground MQ-8B fleet; Experience highlights serious problems with MQ-8B targeting, communications relay; Ground control system completing Linux transition; MQ-8B & MH-60 testing MQ-8B, Afghanistan
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Sept 27/12: Radars. A Telephonics release touts successful completion of their “AN/ZPY-4(V) Maritime Surveillance Radar.” This release touts it as “an enhanced version of the radar designed and built for the US Navy’s MQ-8 Fire Scout.” It has been upgraded with a Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) mode, and incorporates the US Navys Ocean Surveillance Initiative (OSI) in the software. With OSI, it can receive ship Automatic Information System (AIS) transponder data, and identify compliant vessels. Subsequent releases make it clear that the USN has shifted to this radar for the Fore Scout contract.

Sept 27/12: Support. A $28.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for software sustainment and development, non-recurring engineering support, and obsolescence efforts for the MQ-8B.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (90%), and NAS Patuxent River, MD (10%); and is expected to be complete in September 2013. All contract funds will expire at the end of the fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304c1 (N00019-12-C-0126).

Sept 20/12: Personnel. US NAVAIR describes their efforts to develop in-house expertise with the MQ-8B. That’s a bit of a challenge, because the end of the Afghan deployment means that the detachment will revert back to a contractor-operated structure. The officers in charge and sailors who deployed are being moved to shipboard deployments, and the new Unmanned Helicopter Reconnaissance Squadron (HUQ-1) training squadron in Naval Air Station North Island, CA.

July 10/12: Training. Northrop Grumman opens a new UAV training facility for Fire Scout operators at at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL. It offers improved flight simulators, plus hands-on maintenance and classroom instruction. NGC.

June 6/12: Linux TCS. Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems in Dulles, VA receives a $27.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, firm-fixed-price contract to “complete Linux transition” on the MQ-8’s TCS ground control system. Linux is emerging as a key standard for American UAV ground control systems. The MQ-1/9 Predator/ Reaper’s ground stations are being migrated from Windows to Linux, and AAI’s multi-UAV OneSystem/UGCS already use the open-source computer operating system.

Work on this contract will be performed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, and is expected to be complete in February 2014. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1, and $5.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-12-C-0102). See also March 25/09 entry.

May 8/12: LRIP-5. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Sector in San Diego, CA received a $25.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, buying 3 MQ-8B Fire Scout vehicles and 1 ground control station as Low Rate Initial Production Lot 5. This appears to be the FY 2011 order.

Work will be performed in Moss Point, MS (55%), and San Diego, CA (45%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013. US Naval Air Systems Command manages the contract (N00019-07-C-0041).

LRIP-5: 3 more

April 23/12: MQ-8C contract. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in San Diego, CA gets an unfinalized, not-to-exceed $262.3 million contract to finish developing the Fire-X/ MQ-8C, based on Bell Helicopter’s 407 model. They’ll develop, manufacture, and test 2 VTUAVs, produce 6 air vehicles; and supply spare parts in support of the “VTUAV endurance upgrade rapid deployment capability effort.”

Work will be performed in Moss Point, MS (47%); San Diego, CA (46%); and Yuma, AZ (7%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014. $24.9 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1, by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-12-C-0059). See also NGC.

MQ-8C development

April 10/12: Grounded. US NAVAIR announces that they’re suspending operations of their remaining 14-UAV Fire Scout fleet, in the wake of the last 2 crashes. While the fleet is grounded, NAVAIR will be reviewing the incidents, the MQ-8B’s technical components, and their operational procedures.

Later queries to NAVAIR reveal that the grounding is over by the end of April 2012.

Since 2006, the MQ-8B Fire Scout has accumulated over 5,000 flight hours, with more than 3,000 flight hours tallied during operational deployments. US NAVAIR.


April 6/12: Crash. An MQ-8B operating in northern Afghanistan crashes, while conducting a routine surveillance mission in support of Regional Command North. Source.


March 30/12: Crash. An MQ-8B Fire Scout operating off USS Simpson [FFG-56], and returning from a maritime surveillance mission in support of Africa Partnership Station, cannot achieve UAS Common Automated Recovery System (UCARS) lock on. Operators tried multiple approaches and exhaustive troubleshooting, but couldn’t achieve UCARS lock, which meant they couldn’t risk a landing attempt on the ship. Their only option was to position it a safe distance from USS Simpson, terminate the flight, and perform a night-time recovery. Source.


March 21/12: Arming the MQ-8B. US NAVAIR announces that they are working to get the MQ-8B tested and operationally-cleared to fire laser-guided 70mm APKWS rockets, per an urgent US Navy request. The 1st of a series of tests on the newly-installed hardware began March 7/12. Even though the Fire Scouts have conducted armed Army tests before, it is the first time the US Navy will arm an unmanned aircraft. Jeremy Moore is Fire Scout weapons system integration lead, and Bill McCartney is the Fire Scout’s Air Vehicle flight test lead. McCartney:

“We had a very tight timeline to conduct trade studies and complete design reviews… Now, we are starting to execute tests, and there is little time in the schedule for repeats.”

Feb 13/12: MQ-8Bs and Cs. The USA’s FY 2013 budget documents include a section on the MQ-8B Fire Scout, which has survived cuts. The MQ-8C will also move forward:

“The MQ-8 system will support Surface Warfare, Mine Countermeasures Warfare, and Anti-Submarine Warfare mission modules while operating onboard Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The MQ-8 is currently deployed on [frigates] and will be deployed on [destroyers] to support the Special Operations Forces (SOF) mission. In support of the SOF mission, aircrafts were moved forward in the budget starting in FY 2012 and additional ship control stations will be procured for outfitting of the FFG and DDG ships… A limited number of land-based ground control stations supplement… [and] will also support depot level maintenance/ post-maintenance activities. Mission training devices will be procured and integrated into the land-based ground control stations for predeployment and proficiency training… In addition, specialty payloads and communications equipment will be procured in support of SOF ISR and ISR task force. Radar payloads and Weapons Stores Management System are included in the aircraft cost starting in FY 2013 that support on-going RDCs.

A minimum of 28 MQ-8C Endurance Upgrade aircraft are being procured between FY12-FY15 to support an AFRICOM JUONS(Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement) RDC. Initial spares and repairs have increased to support the RDC operational tempo of 27,000 flight hours per year.”

Jan 17/12: Testing report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The Fire Scout program is included, and the review is mixed. For starters:

“The Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP) approved in 2007 is outdated and does not contain a clear path to successful completion of IOT&E. The TEMP does not clearly define the objectives of near-term testing nor prioritize future upgrades…”

Initial OT&E is scheduled for March 2012, which is almost 3 years after the original June 2009 plan. DOT&E considers previous issues with poor reliability, and with excessive cautions, warnings, and advisories, to be fixed. Operations controlling 2 MQ-8B UAVs in the air, which weren’t possible before, were demonstrated in September 2011. On the other hand, issues with UAV and datalink reliability, target geo-location errors so large that the system “does not support precision attack missions”, limited available frequencies, and an unreliable communications relay suite are all listed as problems that threaten a successful IOT&E. Beyond IOT&E, the report cites issues with incomplete technical publications, spare parts support, and pre-deployment training.

Some of this can be attributed to deployment pressures. DOT&E itself says that “time spent training additional operators and maintainers, modifying air vehicles, integrating non-program of record payloads, and a requirement to provide spare parts to three operating locations, delayed the program’s efforts to address those deficiencies.” They would also like the program to get some clarity re: future plans, especially the issue of the MQ-8B vs. the MQ-8C, which has resulted in “in the lack of a coherent long-range schedule to be ready for IOT&E and field the system.”

Nov 14/11: Helico-operation. Inside the Navy reports that the USN is testing communications between manned MH-60s and unmanned MQ-8Bs, in the hopes that the two working in tandem could expand the Navy’s reach.

The US Army recently finished a test in which a Predator family UAV was controlled by an AH-64D Block III attack helicopter, which could give orders to the UAV and its payload, and receive video etc. from the MQ-1C. A similar configuration at sea could extend the MQ-8B’s controllable range, while enhancing the MH-60R’s effectiveness. Even a lesser configuration, in which MH-60R/S helicopters acted only as a communication relay, would offer benefits for the Navy.

FY 2011

MQ-8B to Afghanistan; Navy will convert Army’s 8 Fire Scouts; Fire-X picked as “MQ-8C”; Navy approves arming MQ-8Bs; COBRA mine-detection tested on MQ-8B; LCS flight tests begin; Army may be also interested in larger VTUAV. MQ-8B in Afghanistan
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Sept 29/11: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Unmanned Systems in San Diego, CA received a $7.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for MQ-B software sustainment services. They’ll include analysis of engineering change proposals; development of plans of action and milestones; laboratory facility studies and analysis; software upgrades; configuration management and quality assurance; and keeping the technical documentation up to date.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete in June 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year – which is Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-G-0003).

Sept 28/11: Afghanistan. An $18.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to extend MQ-8B intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services in Afghanistan (90%, q.v. April 8-13/11 entry), and at Patuxent River, MD (10%) until October 2012. $1.4 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-11-C-0094). On Nov 8/11, NGC’s Fire Scout operations lead, Rick Pagel says:

“We are providing a level of situational awareness many soldiers in the field have never experienced… In the first five months we surpassed 1,500 hours with over 400 flights. Since Fire Scout doesn’t require a runway, we are conveniently nearby and arrive on station quickly.”

They haven’t experienced it, but their grandfathers may have. The US Army used light propeller planes called “Grasshoppers” in a similar fashion during World War 2.

Sept 22/11: Weapons. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in San Diego, CA received a $17.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the MQ-8B’s Rapid Deployment Capability Weaponization Program. See also Aug 19/11 entry.

This contract includes the installation, engineering, manufacturing, and data development of the weapons systems, which include 12 Stores Management Systems. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (75%), and Grand Rapids, MI (25%), and is expected to be completed in March 2013. $14.8 million will expire at the end of the fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR6.302-1 (N00019-11-C-0087).

Armed MQ-8B

Aug 29/11: A $10.5 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract in support of the MQ-8B Fire Scout system. Logistic support services includes: logistics management, maintenance support, supply support, air vehicle transportation, training services, logistics management information, technical data updates, flight operations and deployment support.

Work will be performed in St. Inigoes, MD (40%), San Diego, CA (20%), and various locations outside the continental United States; and is expected to be complete in August 2012. $6.4 million will expire at the end of the fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR6.302-1 (N00019-11-C-0075).

Aug 19/11: Weaponization approved. Aviation Week reports on 2 key milestones for the program. One is the addition of the MQ-8C/ Fire-X.

The other is weapons approval for the MQ-8B, beginning with the APKWS-II laser-guided 70mm rocket that’s already cleared for use from Navy ships. Raytheon’s laser-guided short-range Griffin mini-missile is slated for a demonstration before the end of August 2011, and will be the platform’s next weapon, as opposed to Northrop Grumman’s own GBU-44 Viper Strike.

The report also adds confirmation from official sources that an MQ-8B from USS Halyburton was indeed shot down over Libya by enemy fire.

Weapon approval for MQ-8B

Fire-X: MQ-8C?
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Aug 16/11: Fire-X recommended. In the wake of a joint urgent operational need statement from Special Operations Command and the US Navy for a longer-endurance VTUAV, the office of the secretary of defense validates the requirement. The Fire Scout program office has decided to recommend the NGC/Bell 407 Fire-X design over the Lockheed/Kaman K-MAX, or Boeing’s A160T Hummingbird, but the Navy hasn’t formally accepted their recommendation yet.

The requirement is to develop the larger MQ-8C within 24 months, for deployment in 2014, with plans to acquire 28 air vehicles over 3 years. USN Fire Scout program manager Capt. Patrick Smith reportedly said at AUVSI 2011 that “Our recommendation is to go with the 407 airframe, based on the time frame limitations,” though the A160 and K-MAX have both been flying for far longer. The first unmanned Fire-X flight took place on Dec 16/10. Source.

Aug 3/11: The FFG-7 frigate USS Halyburton returns to port in Naval Station Mayport, FL with 2 MQ-8B VTUAVs on board. US NAVAIR:

“HSL-42 Det. 2 simultaneously fielded manned SH-60 and unmanned MQ-8B flight operations for airborne support of Halyburton’s transits through the Straits of Hormuz and Bab Al Mandeb. The MQ-8B operators pushed the unmanned helicopter to its operational limits, setting records for maximum altitude, range, and endurance. More than one thousand deployment flight hours were recorded, with 438 hours flown by Fire Scout.”

Aug 3/11: Army, again? Flight International covers ongoing developments among American UAV programs, including the MQ-8:

“Despite the backlog of MQ-8Bs and an apparently forthcoming order for the MQ-8C – an improved version based on a new airframe – the navy has an open tender for a replacement. The replacement is called the medium range maritime UAS (MRMUAS), and entry into service is planned for 2018-19.

The newest stumbling block in the navy’s programme is the possible inclusion of the army… After [canceling the MQ-8B and] making do with the RQ-7 Shadow, the army has re-declared its interest and is studying a joint buy with the navy… The contest is still open but several clear contenders have emerged, and first among them is Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8C… Boeing is likely to put forward the A160, and EADS has briefed the army on its own options… Requirements concerning lift capacity, endurance, range and even intended function are not yet written in stone… Both army and navy are examining possibilities for weaponisation…”

July 7/11: Defense News reports that the Pentagon is looking to shift $920 million in funding to surveillance-related projects, in order to support ongoing wars. That includes $32.6 million for 9 radar units that give the MQ-8B a wide area surface search capability, plus $1 million to:

“…develop and integrate an upgrade… [that] extends the Fire Scout’s combat radius, increases its payload, and improves on-station endurance to meet the urgent SOF (Special Operations Forces) maritime ISR requirements outlined.”

June 21/11: Shot down. NATO loses communication with the USS Halyburton’s MQ-8 Fire Scout, during a reconnaissance and targeting mission over western Libya, near Zlitan. It was delivering intelligence data from about 5,000-7,000 feet, with no sign of malfunction before its crash. Libya claims to have shot it down, which turns out to be true. Aviation Week | IEEE | RTT News.

Shot down over Libya

June 14/11: US NAVAIR discusses the MQ-8B Fire Scout’s Afghan deployment:

“Fire Scout’s initial flight in theater took place May 2. Only 19 days later, PMA-266 Detachment Alpha established initial operational capability during its first tasked mission from the [ISAF] Regional Command North area of responsibility… Cmdr. Brian Stephens, Officer in Charge (OIC) for PMA-266 Detachment Alpha. “In less than one month, we have flown more than 200 flight hours and completed more than 80 sorties and we are on track to fly 300 hours per month.” PMA-266 Detachment Alpha is a government owned/contractor operated deployment. The detachment includes a military OIC and assistant OIC, [5] Navy intelligence analysts, and 21 Northrop Grumman contractors…”

May 16/11: Convert 8. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Unmanned Systems in San Diego, CA receives a $42 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, to convert 8 Army Fire Scouts to the Navy configuration. A logical move, since the Army has abandoned the program.

Work will be performed in Moss Point, LA (71%), and San Diego, CA (29%), and is expected to be complete in February 2013 (N00019-07-C-0041).

Conversion: 8 Army to Navy

April 8-13/11: To Afghanistan. The Navy ships 3 MQ-8B Fire Scouts and 2 ground control stations to northern Afghanistan for about a year, to support Army and coalition forces. It will be operated by a team of U.S. Navy sailors and Northrop Grumman employees. Pensacola News Journal | Satnews Daily | StrategyPage.

Combat deployment

Feb 25/11: The MQ-8B Fire Scout marks a new single-day flight record of 18 hours – but that’s a single aircraft in a series of flights over 24 hours, not a single 18-hour flight. These were operational flights, though, from the frigate USS Halyburton [FFG 40], while on anti-piracy missions in the Indian Ocean with the 5th Fleet.

Northrop Grumman’s release adds that in late January 2011, operators from the Halyburton located a disabled boat using Fire Scout’s Brite Star II sensor.

November 13-24/10: LCS. The MQ-8B Fire Scout flies dynamic interface (DI) testing flights from the U.S. Navy’s littoral combat ship, USS Freedom [LCS-1], off the coast of southern California. DI testing is designed to verify that Fire Scout control systems have been properly integrated on the ship. It includes a series of shipboard takeoffs and landings from various approaches, subjecting the system to various wind directions and ship speeds.

As of February 2011, this marks the 4th ship and the 3rd ship class that has flown the Fire Scout. Previous flight operations have been conducted from the Austin class amphibious ship USS Nashville [LPD-13], and the Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates USS McInerney [FFG-8, now Pakistan’s PNS Alamgir] and USS Halyburton [FFG-40]. Additional DI testing will be conducted on the first-of-class USS Independence [LCS-2] by 2012. Northrop Grumman.

Oct 13/10: Sensors. The Navy successfully conducts the 1st flight test of the Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) Block I system at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ, on board the MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical take-off unmanned aerial vehicle. The tests were successful.

The AN/DVS-1 COBRA system is designed to detect minefields and obstacles to prepare for amphibious assaults in the beach zone and inland areas. The COBRA Block I system will enter low-rate initial production under a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase III contract, with the first production unit scheduled for delivery to the fleet in FY 2012. US Navy.

FY 2010

Army FCS dies, and so does its MQ-8B plan; 1st Navy deployment; 1st ever UAV drug bust; Navy wants more MQ-8Bs; Navy considering larger VTUAV; MQ-8B autonomous cargo drop; MQ-8B a bit too autonomous over Washington; NGC begins private “Fire-X” project; Program cost increases; UAE & Saudi interest Corrosion check
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Aug 2/10: Going rogue. An MQ-8B based at Webster Field, VA loses communication 75 minutes into a routine operational evaluation test flight, then flies about 23 miles NNW at 17,000 feet, into the National Capital Region’s restricted airspace. The FAA was notified, and the MQ-8B program suspended while the fault is investigated. The problem appears to have been a software fault, and the program expects to resume testing in September 2010. Southern Maryland Newspapers Online’s Aug 27/10 article adds that:

“The Navy is seeking to give the Fire Scout program a 50 percent budget boost as part of an 89-page “omnibus reprogramming request” submitted to Congress last month. The Navy Times, which obtained a copy of the funding request, reports that the Navy is seeking to shift $13 million to the program to finish operational testing aboard the frigate Halyburton.”

See also: Engadget.

Going rogue

July 14/10: UAE. Northrop Grumman announces the end of Fire Scout desert trials in the United Arab Emirates. Tests lasted for 10 days in early July 2010, and included numerous takeoffs and landings in hot, windy and sandy conditions in temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius (122F), and at altitudes up to 3,000 meters (9,842 feet). The Fire Scout mission demonstrations also included “non-line-of-sight” operations, and its sensors’ ability to gather and transmit high fidelity video imagery. See also Oct 21/09 entry.

June 30/10: +3. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Sector in San Diego, CA received a maximum $38.3 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for 3 Low Rate Initial Production MQ-8Bs.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete in October 2012 (N00019-07-C-0041).

LRIP: 3 more

June 4/10: Rust never sleeps. US Navy Fleet Readiness Center East begins a new role as one of the Navy’s depot repair points for the MQ-8B, accepting 2 VTUAVs for maintenance and a corrosion assessment. That assessment has already resulted in an improved finish to the main rotor head, and is expected to recommend other modifications before they return to the fleet in mid-June 2010.

The Navy currently plans to field 121 Fire Scouts, and currently has 7: 1 trainer, 2 at Northrup Grumman for development work, and 4 serving in the Navy. US NAVAIR.

May 14/10: Rust never sleeps. Civilian artisans from Fleet Readiness Center East perform maintenance and corrosion assessments on 2 MQ-8B Fire Scouts at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC. Corrosion resistance is a key design feature of any naval aircraft, and experience often teaches things that design didn’t anticipate. Hence the in-depth post-deployment checks. US Navy.

May 4/10: Fire-X. Northrop Grumman announces a private development partnership with Bell Helicopter Textron to turn Bell’s 407 helicopter into a medium-range “Fire-X” VTUAV, using Fire Scout’s systems, for a US Navy medium VTUAV competition expected to begin in 2011. When questioned by DID, Northrop Grumman representatives said that:

“We plan to conduct that demo at the Yuma Proving Grounds… We consider Fire Scout and Fire-X to bemembers of the same portfolio of unmanned systems… We have not been notified of any changes on the MQ-8B Fire Scout program of record.”

Requirements creep does happen, however, and if so, a formal change to a program of record is generally the last step, rather than the first. The firms are moving ahead on a fast track, and Fire-X’s first flight is expected by the end of CY 2010. The Bell 407 was the initial basis for the USA’s ARH-70 Arapaho armed reconnaissance helicopter before that program was canceled, and is the base for Iraq’s ongoing ARH program. Fire-X will carry ISR sensors, offer cargo capabilities, and is expected to provide weapons integration as well. Control will be via the Navy’s Tactical Control Station, the U.S. Army’s One System ground control station, or other standards-based systems. Northrop Grumman | The DEW Line.

April 30/10: Medium VTUAV? The US Navy’s OPNAV Assessment Division (N81), with technical support from NAVAIR, NAVSEA and SPAWAR, issues a solicitation that seems to raise the bar for VTUAVs deploying on Navy warships, introducing competition to an arena once owned by the MQ-8B Fire Scout.

The FBO solicitation “Persistent Ship Based UAS RFI” calls for a UAV that can operate from standard Navy ships by 2016-2020, providing mission radius from 300-1,000 nautical miles, on-station endurance of at least 8 hours for a single UAV and up to 72 hours for multiple UAVs, and an operating ceiling of 15,000 – 25,000 feet. Its payload capacity of 600-1,000 pounds must support basic day/night surveillance, including still & full motion video with target quality resolution of small vehicles and personnel, laser designation and range finding (LD/RF), communications interception, and wide area radar. They’d like it to be able to carry weapons, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) for ground surveillance, or Electronics Intelligence (ELINT) and Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) packages.

The solicitation is a open RFI, but those characteristics are well beyond the MQ-8B’s maximums. An improved Bell Textron Eagle-Eye VTUAV might qualify… and so would existing specs for Boeing’s A160T Hummingbird Warrior.

Medium VTUAV RFI, Fire-X begins

April 15/10: The MQ-8B returns from its first operational naval deployment, a 6-month SOUTHCOM cruise in the eastern Pacific Ocean aboard the Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigate USS McInerney [FFG 8]. US Navy.

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April 3/10: USS McInerney [FFG 8] becomes the first ship to make a drug bust using a VTUAV. The ship’s Fire Scout was on a post-maintenance check flight, when the operators spotted suspected narcotics smugglers. The US Navy release says that:

“The Mission Payload Operator completed testing and received permission to pursue. Over the course of three hours, Fire Scout monitored the go-fast with McInerney. With its state-of-the-art optics and extremely small profile, Fire Scout was able to maintain an unprecedented covert posture while feeding real-time video back to McInerney.

Fire Scout proceeded to capture video of the “go-fast” meeting with a fishing vessel for what appeared to be a refueling/logistics transfer. McInerney and its embarked USCG LEDET moved in and seized approximately 60 kilos of cocaine and caused the suspected traffickers to jettison another approximately 200 kilos of narcotics.”

April 1/10: Post-Army SAR. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. The Fire Scout makes the list – and the reason is a slowed production schedule, forcing the Navy to pay the program’s fixed costs over a longer period of time:

“VTUAV (Vertical Takeoff and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle) – Program costs increased $466.5 million (+21.6%) from $2,158.3 million to $2,624.8 million, due primarily to an increase in air vehicle unit cost resulting from extending procurement at the minimum sustaining rate (+$279.6 million) and the stretch-out of the ground control station and air vehicle procurement profiles from fiscal 2010 to beyond fiscal 2015 (+$164.9 million). There were also increases for initial spares due to component cost increases (+$54.4 million), for integration costs to support an additional ship class (+$35.9 million), and for overseas contingency operations funds to purchase equipment for land-based operations (+$13.4 million). These increases were partially offset by a decrease in other support costs (-$29.3 million) and the application of revised escalation indices (-$49.9 million).”

SAR – Army out

Feb 23/10: Army cancels. Northrop Grumman responds to DID’s queries on the subject, and confirms that the Army’s MQ-8B has been canceled:

“Yes, the Army did cancel the Class IV MQ-8B Fire Scout UAS, their only Vertical Unmanned Aerial System (VUAS) program of record in January, 2010. Obviously, we’re disappointed… In the meantime, we had a very successful demonstration of Fire Scout at the Army’s Expeditionary Warrior Experiment, Ft Benning, Ga. from mid Jan to mid Feb (just days after the Army cancelled the program officially). It was a great opportunity to show soldiers all the things that Fire Scout can do. In addition to its RSTA missions (which the opposition forces at AEWE hated because it revealed their every move), we also demonstrated cargo resupply for small units, comms relay (provided assured comms to all participants in AEWE) and deployment of other unmanned ground systems and unattended ground sensors… We believe that over the long term that the Army wants and needs a vertical unmanned aerial system to support its mission requirements. We continue to have discussions with them…”

The Army probably does need a VTUAV, and MQ-8B will remain an up-to-date platform thanks to development for the US Navy. The Fire Scout may end up taking a short break before receiving an Army order, or this change could open the door to new competitors. Boeing’s A160T Hummingbird VTUAV’s unique rotor technology gives it a larger payload and much longer operating time. This has sparked interest from American Special Forces, and the US Marines. Lockheed Martin and Kaman are competing against the A160T for a USMC resupply contract, and their K-MAX unmanned helicopter could also become a future Army contender if it wins.

Army cancels

Feb 25/10: AEWE Robotic synergy. Northrop Grumman discusses the MQ-8B’s performance in the recent Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) exercise at Fort Benning, GA. Going beyond previous missions for reconnaissance surveillance target acquisition (RSTA), communications relay, and cargo pod resupply, Fire Scout also demonstrated broader autonomous capabilities, and interoperability with ground robots.

In its most unusual mission, the Fire Scout flew to a named area of interest, surveyed the area to ensure it was clear, and landed autonomously within its pre-planned landing point. When the UAV’s on-board skid sensors detected contact with the ground, a command was sent to release a Dargon Runner robot. The UAV then took off and loitered at a higher altitude to observe and provide a communications relay for the robot’s controller. NGC release | NGC video [Windows Media].

Feb 15/10: Unmanned re-supply. Northrop Grumman announces it demonstrated the resupply capability of its MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned air vehicle (VTUAV). The company conducted the demonstration at the US Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) being held in February 2010 at Fort Benning, GA.

For the AEWE mission, Fire Scout had 2 ruggedized containers attached to external pylons. Fire Scout flew autonomously from take-off to the cargo drop to landing. Fire Scout is equipped with a payload interface unit, which allows it to release the cargo pod without the presence of a soldier. Fire Scout’s skid sensors detected contact with the ground. Upon touchdown, the autonomous mission was preplanned for release of the cargo pod, and the aircraft took off again. The VTUAV also used its electro-optical/ infrared optical payload during the mission to practice reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition techniques.

Feb 10/10: GAO Report. The US GAO issues #GAO-10-493T as it testifies before the House Armed Services Committee: “Opportunities for the Army to Position Its Ground Force Modernization Efforts for Success.” An excerpt:

“Although the details are not yet complete, the Army took several actions through the end of calendar year 2009. It stopped all development work on the FCS manned ground vehicles – including the non-line of sight cannon – in the summer of 2009 and recently terminated development of the Class IV unmanned aerial vehicle and the countermine and transport variants of the Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment [MULE] unmanned ground vehicle. For the time being, the Army is continuing selected development work under the existing FCS development contract, primarily residual FCS system and network development.”

Dec 1/09: USCG still thinking. Aviation Week reports that the US Coast Guard is still considering its UAV options in the wake of the Eagle Eye tilt-rotor’s cancelaton:

“As part of its ongoing analysis, the service has participated in numerous exercises with other platforms… including Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird, an AeroVironment vehicle and ScanEagle tested on board a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship.

Land-based tests of Fire Scout can “only go so far . . . The next step is to figure out how to get it onboard ship,” says Posage. Over the next few weeks, notional plans are being mapped out for just such a test. In a recent call with reporters, Adm. Ron Rabago, Coast Guard acquisitions chief, said the service hopes “to do a cutter-based test in Fiscal 2010.”

Nov 24/09: LRIP-1 delivered. Northrop Grumman announces that it has completed the first year of Fire Scout Low-Rate Initial Production, with the delivery of all 3 MQ-8B Fire Scouts to the U.S. Navy.

At present, 2 of the 3 Fire Scouts are deployed aboard the USS McInerney for a scheduled operational deployment to complete a Fire Scout Military Utility Assessment (MUA), with a US Coast Guard liaison on board. Prior to the current deployment, Fire Scouts have been aboard the USS McInerney 4 times since December 2008, completing 110 ship takeoffs and landings and 45 landings with the harpoon grid, accumulating over 47 hours of flight time.

Oct 19-23/09: Sensors. A company-owned MQ-8B Fire Scout equipped with a Telephonics’ radar and FLIR surveillance turret performs demonstrations for the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center, under a sub-contract awarded in September 2009 by ABS Group. The test took place in the Chesapeake Bay, and were conducted from the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, MD. Following the maritime sensor demonstration, the Coast Guard participated in a multiple day virtual exercise at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Development Center in Rancho Bernardo, CA. NGC release.

Oct 21/09: UAE & Saudi Arabia. Abu Dhabi paper The National reports significant interest in the Fire Scout in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Gulf nations reportedly see the VTUAV’s capabilities as being very useful in the shallow waters of the Persian/Arabian Gulf and Red Sea, with additional potential for surveillance of critical infrastructure. The report adds that:

“Northrop, which has been developing unmanned systems since the 1940s, puts the potential worldwide market for the Fire Scout at more than 2,000 over the next five years, with more than half coming from international sales… If the UAE decides to purchase the Fire Scout, it would join smaller unmanned systems in its fleet.

The Government has spent the past decade researching the new technology, and has purchased small unmanned surveillance helicopters from Schiebel of Germany and CybAero of Sweden. In 2007, it created its own UAV investment company, now called Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments Company.”

Oct 5/09: 1st deployment. An MQ-8B Fire Scout deploys aboard the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate USS McInerney [FFG-8] after over 600 hours of flight testing, with 110 take-off and landings from the frigate. USS McInerney will work with the US Navy’s 4th Fleet on a counter-narcotics deployment in the Caribbean and Latin America, using the Fire Scout in its missions and refining Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures. The move is also a form of live Operational Evaluation for the Fire Scout. US Navy NAVAIR.

1st deployment

FY 2009

Slow orders continue; Army testing of UAV and ground control. RQ-8A: Tow me, launch me.
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Sept 21-25/09: GCS. MQ-8B #P7 completes flight tests at Yuma Proving Ground, CA under the command and control of a new ground control station (GCS). Flight activities will continue at Yuma, in preparation for the Army’s Expeditionary Warrior Experiment at Fort Benning, GA.

Northrop Grumman’s new GCS is compatible with NATO’s STANAG 4586, which means that its Vehicle Specific Module can interface with any STANAG 4586 compatible Core Unmanned Control System (CUCS) module such as that used in the Army’s Universal/One System GCS. The Fire Scout’s GCS contains a Tactical Common Data Link for primary command and control and sensor data downlink, plus multiple radios for voice and secondary command and control. The equipment is hosted on commercial personal computers inside, and the GCS intercommunication system is digital, with an external wireless system for other crew members. Mission planning is accomplished with the Army standard Aviation Mission Planning System. Northrop Grumman | NGC video [Windows Media].

Aug 11/09: Northrop Grumman announces that MQ-8B number P7, a land-based version, successfully completes its RSTA(reconnaissance surveillance and target acquisition) / ISR(intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) demonstration at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ.

This RSTA/ISR demonstration was conducted with the use of a high-magnification electro-optical, infrared (EO/IR) payload, which includes a long range laser designator and rangefinder (LR/LD). Full motion video was relayed down to ground operators in real time over a Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL). After an autonomous launch, Fire Scout demonstrated its ability to find, fix, and track hostile forces during a real-time operational scenario in complex terrain at night.

June 30/09: Northrop Grumman announces that MQ-8B number P7 has successfully completed first flight operations at Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ. Unlike current Navy-configured Fire Scouts, P7 was built in an operational land-based configuration for the US Army.

P7 is the first MQ-8B to fly without flight test instrumentation normally installed for developmental flights, and is supported by P6, the first company owned Fire Scout. P7’s capability demonstrations will continue throughout summer 2009, with missions in support of land-based operations as a priority.

April 6/09: Sensors. FLIR Systems, Inc announces a $4.1 million Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) delivery order from Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8 project for FLIR’s BRITE Star II surveillance and targeting turrets. Work will be performed at FLIR’s facilities in Wilsonville, OR. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2009, and conclude in 2010.

March 25/09: TCS. Raytheon in Falls Church, VA received a $16.5 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus award fee, cost plus incentive fee contract (N00019-98-C-0190) to provide additional funds for the development of the MQ-8’s Tactical Control System Block 2, Version 4 software. TCS is an unmanned aircraft system control that can simultaneously control multiple unmanned aircraft and payloads. The TCS system has been confirmed by the NATO STANAG (Standardization Agreement) Committee as being STANAG-4586 conformed, and is currently the only unmanned system command and control software owned by the U.S. government.

TCS uses a Linux-based operating system, and this contract extension will add key capabilities, including upgrade software to control radars and a universal hand control. The contract will also provide support to TCS integration and testing leading to operational evaluation on the MQ-8B Fire Scout program this summer. Work will be performed in Falls Church, VA (82%), Dahlgren, VA (10%), and San Pedro, CA (8%), and is expected to be complete in March 2010. See also: Raytheon release.

Jan 23/09: +3. A $40 million not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded firm fixed price contract (N00019-07-C-0041) for 3 Low Rate Initial Production RQ-8Bs, including electro-optical surveillance payloads and support. In addition to the UAVs, Northrop Grumman will supply 3 Ground Control Stations, 3 Light Harpoon Grids, 3 UCARS (UAV common automatic recovery systems), and 6 Portable Electronic Display devices.

This is the last of is the last of 3 planned low-rate initial production (LRIP) buys, before OpEval and an expected decision on full rate production. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete in March 2011. See also Northrop Grumman release.

LRIP: 3 more

FY 2008

Navy MQ-8B moves beyond LCS, will get radar; USCG opportunity? RQ-8A & LPD-13
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Sept 19/08: Sensors. One of Northrop Grumman’s company-owned MQ-8Bs uses a non-developmental (i.e. not yet part of the program) Telephonics RDR-1700B search, surveillance, tracking and imaging radar system to search for, detect, and track multiple targets during a test surveillance mission. at the Yuma Proving Ground, AZ.

See also March 19/08 entry. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate a maritime search radar capability, and this flight was the first of several radar demonstrations that will eventually include an over-water search trial. NGC release.

Aug 20/08: Sensors. FLIR Systems, Inc. announces that they have completed the initial flight test of their BRITE Star II sensor and targeting turret on Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8B.

March 25/08: Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ won a $17.3 million cost contract for “applied research and advanced technology demonstration of an advanced Multi-Mode Sensor Suite to support [VTUAV] intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting missions in the littoral combat environment.”

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete in September 2012. This contract was competitively procured under a Broad Agency Announcement; 5 offers were received by the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA (N68936-08-C-0034).

March 19/08: Sensors. The Navy has decided to commit funds in 2009 to develop a radar capability on Fire Scout, a gap that had been one of the US Coast Guard’s objections to buying it. Demonstrations have been conducted in 2003 using a Predator’s Lynx SAR on an RQ-8A alongside an electro-optical/infrared system.

A similar demonstration will now take place using a non-developmental Telephonics RDR-1700B maritime surveillance and imaging radar on an MQ-8B Fire Scout owned by Northrop Grumman. Radar integration and installation will take place at Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Systems Development Centers in San Diego, CA and in Moss Point, MS. Demonstration flights will be conducted at Webster Field; Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD; or Yuma Proving Ground, AZ. NGC release.

March 3/08: USCG Opportunity? After receiving the service’s formal “Deepwater alternatives analysis” in February 2008, US Coast Guard Chief Acquisition Officer Rear Adm. Gary Blore forwards recommendations to Coast Guard senior leadership in a formal decision memorandum. Commandant Adm. Thad Allen is expected to approve Blore’s decision in the near future.

The report reportedly recommends that the Coast Guard adapt the Navy’s MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter UAV for its new Bertholf Class National Security Cutters, and the Coast Guard has asked for $3 million in its FY 2009 budget to study UAVs that might replace the suspended Eagle eye tilt-rotor project. The service doesn’t anticipate deployment before 2014, however, on the ground that no current design meets its needs yet. Rear Adm. Blore notes that the Fire Scout does not yet have a surface-search radar package, for instance, and says that it can’t be deployed out of sight of its carrying ship. Inside the Navy’s March 10/08 report [PDF] | Gannett’s Navy Times report | Aero News report

Feb 20/08: Northrop Grumman announces that the US Navy will move to integrate the Fire Scout into another “air capable ship” besides the Littoral Combat Ships. Landing isn’t the issue; it’s a question of testing the interface, integrating the data management, and looking at maintenance and supportability. The Navy and Northrop Grumman are working together to define and develop a roll-on/roll-off Fire Scout ship deployment package that would make expanding the number of compatible ships much easier.

According to the current schedule, the Navy will conduct Technical Evaluation on the Fire Scout on the designated ship in the fall 2008 and OpEval in the summer 2009. The Fire Scout will reach Initial Operating Capability soon after OpEval in 2009. No details are given re: ship type, but the Navy’s DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers and GC-47 Ticonderoga Class cruisers are natural choices, and both are undergoing modernization programs that may ease integration. LCS Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) efforts are still planned for FY 2011. NGC release.

Dec 21/07: +3. A $15 million modification to a previously awarded (Sept 14/07?), unfinalized contract action for 3 Low Rate Initial Production Fire Scout VTUAV air vehicles, including support. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete in July 2009 (N00019-07-C-0041).

LRIP: 3 MQ-8Bs

Dec 15/07: The first MQ-8B flight test with expected shipboard equipment takes place at the Webster Field annex of Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, MD. The Test and Training Control Segment replicates the containerized consoles and other equipment being integrated into Littoral Combat Ships, and integrates the latest B2V4 Tactical Control Segment (TCS) software designed and produced by Raytheon’s Intelligence and Information Systems business. Block 2, Version 4 incorporates provisions for both the baseline FLIR Systems BRITE Star II electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) payload, and the Northrop Grumman COBRA multi-spectral mine detection payload. Additional payloads will be integrated into the air vehicle and control segment in the future, via a standardized interface.

The current phase of flight test for the VTUAV program covers operations with the new control segment and land based shipboard recovery system testing using UCARS (UAV Common Automatic Recovery System) in preparation for the sea trials in 2009. The next major phase of flight test in early 2008 will include operations with EO/IR payloads using the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) data link. NGC’s Jan 7/08 release.

FY 2007

Milestone C allows low-rate production; Army MQ-8B testing begins; 1st Navy MQ-8B flies. Approach.
(click to view full)

Sept 14/07: A $7.1 million modification to a previously awarded undefinitized contract action for supplies and additional long-lead production items in support of Fire Scout low-rate production. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete in March 2009 (N00019-07-C-0041).

Sept 10/07: C-130 loading. A cooperative effort between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and Northrop Grumman Corporation demonstrates joint service interoperability, and certifies the MQ-8B for transport in C-130 airlifters (2 per C-130).

As part of an ongoing Navy Fire Scout contract, a Navy MQ-8B was transported from Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, MS to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD facility in the American northeast for flight test operations. The Navy is continuing Fire Scout developmental testing at nearby Webster Field in St. Inigoes, Md. As part of the effort, a US Army MQ-8B was also loaded into the US Marine Corps KC-130T airlifter, to demonstrate that a tandem load was possible.

The transport then unloaded the Army Fire Scout, and took Navy, Marine Corps, U.S. Department of Defense and Northrop Grumman personnel aboard who are associated with the development of procedures, test plans, and equipment required for air transport of the MQ-8B. NGC release.

May 31/07: Milestone C. The U.S. Department of Defense has announced that the MQ-8B Fire Scout has reached Milestone C, signifying the beginning of its low-rate initial production (LRIP) phase. The Fire Scout is the first unmanned aircraft system (UAS) within the U.S. Navy and the third UAS of all U.S. military branches to reach Milestone C. The Fire Scout program remains on track to conduct payload flights in fall 2007 and enter initial operational evaluation, and then achieve initial operational capability in 2008 as planned. Northrop Grumman release.

Milestone C

May 22/07: Army. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces a successful engine run of the first U.S. Army Class IV UAV MQ-8B Fire Scout Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), its proposed division-level UAV in its Future Combat Systems (FCS) mega-project.

The engine run marks completion of final assembly of the initial manufacturing phase of the first Army Fire Scout. The FCS Fire Scout has now completed the initial assembly process and “will await delivery of mission avionics and sensors (see note above, re: delays).” The event took place at NGC’s Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, MS. Northrop Grumman release.

December 2006: Navy. The U.S. Navy’s MQ-8B Fire Scout made its first flight in December 2006 at the Webster Field annex of Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Inigoes, MD. See this US Navy release for test details.

1st Navy MQ-8B flight

Dec 14/06: +2. A $16.2 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-award-fee contract for 2 MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Vehicles (VTUAV) including Concept of Operations support. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA and is expected to be complete in October 2008. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-00-C-0277).

The Navy now has (7+2=) 9 Fire Scouts on contract with Northrop Grumman.

This award will assist the Navy in refining the Fire Scout concept of operations, including operational test and evaluation as well as some spiral development preparations and test of future payloads. Northrop Grumman will work closely with the Navy to refine the system description, including core capabilities, and anticipated deployment and employment for the VTUAV system and other aviation assets aboard the Littoral Combat Ship. Operational requirements may include real-time video imagery collection, intelligence gathering, communications-relay capability, precision targeting and battle damage assessment. See Northrop Grumman Feb 6/07 release.

2 MQ-8Bs

FY 2005 – 2006

1st autonomous landing on board ship; RQ-8B becomes MQ-8B; Push to finish development. Touchdown.
(click to view full)

July 28/06: A $135.8 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-award-fee contract for continued development and testing of the RQ-8B Fire Scout. The award specifies the remaining portion of the work to complete the program’s systems development and demonstration (SDD) phase through 2008. A total of 9 Navy MQ-8B Fire Scouts are planned under the VTUAV SDD contract.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (81%); Moss Point, MS (7%); Horsehead, NY (6%); Wilsonville, OR (4%); and Wayne, NJ (2%) and is expected to be complete in August 2008. It’s issued under a cost-share, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-00-C-0277).

Development extended

March 20/06: A $29.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract for the continued development and testing of the RQ-8 Fire Scout vertical takeoff unmanned air vehicle (VTUAV). Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (85%) and Elmira, NY (15%), and is expected to be completed in June 2006. It’s issued under a cost-share, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-00-C-0277).

Jan 17/06: 1st sea landing. A RQ-8A Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) System lands on USS Nashville [LPD-13], completing the platform’s first autonomous landing aboard a Navy vessel at sea.

1st autonomous at-sea landing

Dec 15/05: $8.3 million modification adds funds for shipboard testing of the RQ-8 Fire Scout, including shipboard installation and flight testing on the wave-piercing catamaran High Speed Vessel USS Swift.

Dec 8/05: TCDL. Spinoff from the Oct 7/05 award. Northrop Grumman gives Cubic of San Diego an $11 million subcontract to supply the its high-speed data link, plus air and ground data terminals, to serve as the wireless connection between the Fire Scout and control stations aboard Littoral Combat Ships.

Fire Scout is scheduled to be operational in 2008, so the data link will be integrated into the Fire Scout beginning in March 2007, with a testing period to follow. The RQ-8B Fire Scout is the first Defense Department UAV to incorporate Cubic’s tactical common data link (TCDL). Cubic has about 5,950 employees and annual sales of $722 million. Washington Technology

Oct 7/05: $5.8 million modification for the design, manufacture and test of a shipboard compatible control station for the Fire Scout VTUAV so it can operate from the USA’s new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). Work on this contract will be performed in Owego, NY (65%) and San Diego, CA (35%) and is expected to be complete in June 2006 (N00019-00-C-0190).

July 22/05: The RQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned air vehicle (UAV) successfully fires 2 test rockets at Arizona’s Yuma Proving Grounds, marking the first successful live weapons fire from an autonomous unmanned helicopter. NGC release.

June 30/05: +2. $15.2 million modification to buy 2 MQ-8B Fire Scout Unmanned Air Vehicles, including 2 associated payloads and non-recurring engineering services. It’s issued under a cost-share, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-00-C-0277).

2 MQ-8s

June 30/05: RQ-8 to MQ-8B. The upgraded, new model Fire Scout is formally redesignated from RQ-8B to MQ-8B per a letter from HQ USAF/XPPE. The switch designates a shift from a pure reconnaissance platform to one with multi-mission capability that includes attack roles.

MQ-8 now

April 5/05: $11.7 million modification or the procurement of Fire Scout Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) hardware for the U.S. Army in support of the Future Combat System as its Class IV brigade-level UAV. Hardware to be procured includes 8 each airframes, identify friend or foe transponders, and radar altimeters and 16 each global positioning systems/inertial navigation systems, antennas; pressure transducers; and precision differents. It’s issued under a cost-share, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-00-C-0277).

FY 2000 – 2004

Initial contract; Program sidelined, then restarted. General Dynamics Team
Trimaran LCS Design
(click to enlarge)

March 26/04: TCS. Raytheon Co. in Falls Church, VA received a $36.8 million not-to-exceed, cost-plus-award-fee/ incentive-fee modification for tactical control system (TCS) software to support the Navy Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) integration onto the littoral combat ship. It will also provide the TCS engineering and test support for the Fire Scout system to achieve initial operational capability. Work will be performed in Falls Church, VA (56%); Dahlgren, VA (30%); San Pedro, CA (10%); and State College, PA (4%), and is expected to be complete in March 2008. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract (N00019-00-C-0277).

March 2/04: A $49 million ceiling-priced undefinitized modification for the continued development and testing of the Fire Scout Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) System, including the procurement of two engineering and manufacturing, development RQ-8B Fire Scout UAVs. It’s issued under a cost-share, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-00-C-0277).

2 RQ-8s

May 1/01: +1. A $14.2 million modification exercises an option for one (1) Fire Scout Vertical Take-Off and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) System, its associated support equipment, data, and initial training. It’s issued under a cost-share, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-00-C-0277).


Feb 9/2000: EMD/SDD? A $93.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, award-fee contract for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) program (N00019-00-C-0277).

EMD Phase

Additional Readings & Sources Background: Fire Scout

Related Platforms

VTUAV Alternatives

News & Views

Categories: News

Israel Sells Heron UAVs to India, Sets Record

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 23:48
Latest updates: 3rd squadron stands up in the south. Indian Heron UAV
(click to view larger)

In November 2005, media reports claimed that India was set to purchase some 50 Heron MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAVs from Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) in a deal worth $220 million. They would be put to use carrying out reconnaissance missions on India’s mountainous borders with China and Pakistan, and along India’s long coastal waters. India was said to have been close to sealing the deal in 2004, but it was postponed due to the change in governments in New Delhi.

The Heron’s performance during the December 2004 tsunami apparently clinched the deal. Its performance since, and Chinese aggression on the Indian border, has green-lighted a follow-on contract.

The Herons

Heron, multi-sensor
(click to view full)

India already had about 12 Heron-1 drones before the 2005 sale, and they played a crucial part in search and rescue operations following the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004. IAI Searcher tactical UAVs and and their high-end Heron UAV counterparts were used to locate trapped survivors and missing bodies near the Andaman and Nicobar islands, relaying clear live feed photographs while in flight, and allowing immediate response as soon as survivors or victims were identified on screen.

The Heron UAV is reportedly capable of flying for over 24 hours at a time at altitudes around 32,000 feet. IAI lists flight time as >40 hours, and says that it has demonstrated 52 hours of continuous flight. It has a maximum range of about 3,000 km and can carry a maximum payload weighing 250 kg/ 550 lbs. As a large MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAV, it’s built to carry multiple payloads at a time for a variety of missions. Choices include electro-optical and thermal surveillance equipment, SAR radars for ground surveillance, maritime patrol radars and sensors, signals and other intelligence collection antennas and equipment, laser designators, and even radio relays.

India doesn’t discuss its UAV payloads, but reports have its Searcher IIs equipped with the standard day/night surveillance turret, while the Herons are similar to Israel’s maritime patrol configuration, with an Elta Systems radar and a stabilized Tamam surveillance and targeting turret.

A subsequent Heron-2 or Heron-TP variant is larger, with a bigger 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop to power it. Typical mission payload rises to 1,000 kg, which can be carried to around 45,000 feet, and the UAV has a maximum flight time of over 36 hours in favorable conditions.

India and Israel are not alone in being impressed by the Heron’s capabilities. As of 2011, leased Herons or Heron variants are operating in Afghanistan on behalf of the Australian, Canadian, French, and German armed forces; and have participated in demonstrations involving US SOUTHCOM and its Latin American partners. Subsequent years have also seen confirmed or rumored export sales to Brazil’s federal police, Ecuador’s navy, Singapore’s armed forces, and Turkey.

Contracts & Key Events

Israeli Heron-TP
(click to view full)

October 19/16: Having joined the Missile Technology Control Regime this summer, India is forging ahead with plans to purchase Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron TP UAV. While Israel is not a member of the regime, which aims to restrict the proliferation of missile technology, it has agreed to export its strategic weapon systems only to member countries. While New Delhi has operated the Heron 1 and smaller Israeli UAVs, the Heron TP UAV has a 40h endurance, maximum take-off weight of 5,300kg (11,685lb), and carries a typical mission payload of 1,000kg.

September 14/15 The Indian government has approved the purchase of ten armed UAVs from Israel Aerospace Industries, following a fast-tracking of the program by the Modi administration. The $400 million acquisition will see ten IAI Heron TP drones join other Israeli designs operated by the Indian Air Force, with Harpy loitering munitions, Searcher ISR aircraft and unarmed Heron-1 aircraft already seeing service. The country is also pursuing an indigenous UAV development program known as the Rustom 2. India has been the world’s largest importer of drones over the last thirty years, with IAI officials reportedly in talks with the Indian Defence Ministry over a possible joint production of the new UAVs. India is also planning to allocate significant funds to train increasing numbers of operators to use its expanding UAV fleet.

May 5/15: With 22.5% of all UAV imports over the 1985-2014 period, India has topped the list of unmanned aerial systems importers. The principle beneficiary of India’s UAV spending has been Israel, particularly the IAI Heron and Searcher variants.

Dec 29/13: +15. India’s Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reportedly approved an INR 12 billion (about $300 million) budget to buy another 15 Heron UAVs and associated equipment from Israel, and upgrade the existing fleet for improved communications.

The move would give India 40+ Herons, which is a respectable fleet. India’s massive border length, and the number of neighbors it needs to keep an eye on, mean that it really needs more than this. The new UAVs are reportedly slated for the Chinese and Pakistan borders, whereas the existing 3 squadrons seem to be more focused on India’s eastern and western seaboards. Sources: Times of India, “Govt clears proposal for buying 15 UAVs from Israel” | Israel’s Arutz Sheva, “India to Buy 15 Drones from Israel” | (Anti-India) Kashmir News Service, “Indian govt clears proposal for buying 15 Israeli UAVs”.

Sept 8/13: Shift east. India shifts some of its Heron UAVs to the 4,057 km Line of Actual Control between India and China. The Searcher Mk.II UAVs suffer from endurance restrictions and high altitude performance shortfalls, so the IAF wants to replace them all with Herons in that area. As the UK’s Daily Mail reports:

“Though unrelated, this development comes just a day after the furore over the contents of a report filed by Shyam Saran, chairperson of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), indicating a loss of almost 640 sq km of Indian territory in eastern Ladakh to China…. the army will soon issue a formal communication about the [UAV] proposal, which came directly from the ground formations posted along the LAC…”

Sources: UK Daily Mail, “India sends Heron drones to LAC to boost surveillance efforts”.

April 11/12: 3rd Squadron. India’s Navy commissions a 3rd UAV squadron of IAI Searcher tactical UAVs and IAI Heron long-endurance UAVs, in order to step-up surveillance in the Gulf of Mannar, Palk Strait and Palk Bay. INAS 344 will be operated from INS Parundu, the naval air station in Uchipuli, Tamil Nadu, in southern India. It will be controlled by Eastern Naval Command

INAS 344 joins the western INAS 343 naval UAV squadron in Porbandar, Gujarat and the original INAS 342 eastern squadron at Kochi in Kerala. sUAS News.

March 31/11: Flight International:

“India’s navy has operational requirements for additional unmanned air vehicles made by Israel Aerospace Industries, sources say, with these to potentially include improved Heron or Heron-TP systems carrying maritime sensor payloads. Evaluations using some systems have already been carried out, they add.”

Jan 21/11: 2nd Squadron. The Indian Navy stands up INAS 343 (the “Frontier Formidables”) at Porbandar, Gujarat, near the Pakistani border. Gujarat has the longest coastline of any Indian state.

This is India’s 2nd Heron/Searcher UAV squadron; INAS 342 has been operational since 2006. Flight International | India Defence | MarineBuzz.

Aug 2/09: Reports that the deal has been approved:

“The Indian Army is going in for two more “troops” (six to eight birds each) of advanced Heron UAVs from Israel for Rs 1,118 crore [DID: then about $230 million], after getting the nod from the Defence Acquisitions Council headed by defence minister A. K. Antony.”

Times of India | SatNews.

India: 12-16 Herons


Nov 4/05: Reports of the sale. In analyzing the Heron sale, Stratfor notes that:

“The purchase will allow India to better protect its long borders and to pave the way for the planned 2007 acquisition of Israeli Phalcon radar — all while seeking to convince Pakistan that the security balance between the two countries will not shift further in New Delhi’s favor. Pakistan, however, is unlikely to be placated, and will endeavor to counter the Indian acquisition… Despite the negative resonance this deal will have in Islamabad, the Herons will strengthen New Delhi’s ability to deny access to jihadists crossing into India from Pakistan by enhancing India’s border surveillance capabilities.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Daily Times newspaper has sources who claim that the Indian Army is also making inquiries about the Hunter UAV, a smaller IAI aircraft that is also in service with the US Army. RQ-5A Hunter UAVs have logged substantial flight time in Iraq, and demonstrated their ability to drop small precision munitions like the Viper Strike. Pakistan’s Daily Times | India Defence | Stratfor

Additional Readings:

  • IAI – Heron Family. Range for the Heron-1 is given as 350 km, but since the drone flies at well over 100 km/h, and can stay up for far, far more than just 3.5 hours, that makes no sense. A 24 hour flight at 125 km/h is 3,000 km, the figure used in this article.

  • Defense Update – Heron TP (Eitan)

  • IAI – Searcher Mk.III

News & Views

Categories: News

Sikorsky Hits Big Milestone in Black Hawk Deliveries | Russia-India Agreement May Bring S-400 to India | Bell Heli Teaming with Fuji Heavy Ind on Japan’s AH-X Program

Mon, 10/17/2016 - 23:58

  • Radar signal management technology made by a Taiwanese company will be used in Lockheed Martin’s latest MIM-104F (PAC-3) air defense missile system upgrade. Developed by the state-owned National Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, the technology is also found in the indigenous Sky Bow III air defense system. So far, it has made $25.3 million in international orders.

  • Sikorsky has just delivered its 1000th H-60M Black Hawk helicopter to the US Army in a ceremony that saw the deliveries of the 792nd UH-60M and the 208th HH-60M. A Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the company delivered the first UH-60M to the service in 2007 and the first HH-60M Medevac helicopter in 2008. The “Mike” model helicopters represent the Army’s third standard baseline H-60 Black Hawk aircraft version in the program’s 38-year production history.

Middle East & North Africa

  • US-made radar systems have been cleared for sale to the government of Kuwait by the US State Department. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon will compete for the $194 million contract which will see the winner provide six short-range radars and a long-range radar system with primary and secondary surveillance radar arrays, upgrades to existing systems, friend-or-foe identification and related support. The radar systems provide situational awareness for security forces in Kuwait to detect and interdict fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft along the country’s borders.


  • South African company Ultimate Unmanned has launched its new Viper 1000C UAV with aims to market the drone across Africa and the Middle East. Based on the Stemme motor glider, the company plans to lease the Viper for a variety of missions including surveillance, border patrol, anti-piracy, pipeline monitoring, counter-terrorism, mapping, anti-smuggling, and wildlife monitoring. Ultimate Unmanned said the aircraft can be used for both civilian and military missions but the company is planning a dedicated Viper 1000M military version and is also studying rotary wing UAVs.


  • Thales’ new-generation TALIOS laser targeting pod has successfully completed a more than two-hour first flight on a Rafale fighter. Development of the pod has been carried out as part of a major development program for French Air Force and Navy Rafales. The company reported remarkable performances in pointing and telemetry from the pod with the system collecting high-quality images taken using the “day” channel. Adjustment and performance measurement tests with the pod and fighter will continue throughout 2017.

Asia Pacific

  • An agreement between the leaders of Russia and India has paved the way for negotiations to bring the S-400 Triumph air-defense system to India. The state-run manufacturer of the system ROSTEC stated contracts could be prepared and signed by early 2017 with delivery of the system to commence in 2020. With the S-400 system currently being rolled out across Russia as well as being spotted in Syria, the agreement with New Delhi points to a willingness by Moscow to deepen strategic ties with one of its biggest buyers.

  • Bell Helicopters is keen to sell its AH-1Z attack helicopter as a solution to Japan’s AH-X program. As part of preparations the company has teamed with engineers from Fuji Heavy Industries on modification work to the helicopter aimed at improving transmission performance. If selected, between 60-70 of the Bell 412EPI-based helicopters would be produced locally in Fuji with the first slated to deliver in 2022. Civilian variants would also be produced in Fuji in an effort to help the production line attain scale.

  • An undisclosed number of Taurus KEPD 350K cruise missiles were formally handed over to the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) last week. The German-made munitions have been integrated for use on Korean F-15K fighters and are an enhanced version of the Taurus KEPD 350 fielded by Germany and Spain on their Panavia Tornado, Boeing EF-18 Hornet, and Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft respectively. The Korean missiles are also equipped with new Rockwell Collins GPS receivers that come with a Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) to prevent jamming.

Today’s Video

Taiwan’s MQ-9 clone:

Categories: News

Snakes and Rotors: The H-1 Helicopter Program

Mon, 10/17/2016 - 23:48
UH-1Y and AH-1Z
by Neville Dawson

The US Marines’ helicopter force is aging at all levels, from banana-shaped CH-46 Sea Knight transports that are far older than their pilots, to the 1980s-era UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters that make up the Corps’ helicopter assault force. While the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey program has staggered along for almost 2 decades under accidents, technical delays, and cost issues, replacement of the USMC’s backbone helicopter assets has languished. Given the high-demand scenarios inherent in the current war, other efforts are clearly required.

Enter the H-1 program, the USMC’s plan to remanufacture older helicopters into new and improved UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopters. The new versions would discard the signature 2-bladed rotors for modern 4-bladed improvements, redo the aircraft’s electronics, and add improved engines and weapons to offer a new level of performance. It seemed simple, but hasn’t quite worked out that way. The H-1 program has encountered its share of delays and issues, but the program survived its review, and continued on into production and deployment.

DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article covers the H-1 helicopter programs’ rationales and changes, the upgrades involved in each model, program developments and annual budgets, the full timeline of contracts and key program developments, and related research sources.

The H-1 Helicopters TopOwl
(click to view full)

For pilots, both H-1 helicopters will incorporate a newly designed “Integrated Avionics System” cockpit designed by Northrop Grumman, including dual mission computers, GPS navigation, moving map displays, and other modern aids. Pilot workload will be improved further by using Thales’ TopOwl helmet-mounted display systems (HMDS), to offer flight and targeting data no matter where the pilot looks.

FLIR Systems’ BRITE Star NTIS will handle targeting and surveillance on the UH-1Y Venom. The UH-1Y is currently slated to use only machine guns and 70mm rockets, but a March 2012 decision has added laser-guided APKWS rockets to its arsenal.

The AH-1Z Viper will use the more advanced Lockheed Martin/ Wescam/ Kollsman AN/AAQ-30, which is fully integrated into the AH-1Z fire control system and TopOwl HMD. It provides range and optical line-of-sight data for all weapons, even AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. TSS features a large-aperture, 3rd-generation staring mid-wave FLIR derived from Lockheed’s fighter-borne Sniper targeting pod; a 640 x 512 day/night TV with automatic video tracker and continuous zoom from high magnification to wide field of view; a laser spot tracker; an on-gimbal inertial measurement unit (IMU) for accurate line-of-sight pointing and geolocation of targets; coupled with a Kollsman laser designator/rangefinder with an eyesafe mode. The AAQ-30’s wide Field-of-View (FoV) optics also provide a secondary navigation capability when light levels are low, and night vision goggles are ineffective. All of this is packed into a stabilized L-3 Wescam turret.

Overall, the AH-1Z Viper will have a wider array of weapons to choose from, and it will become the Navy’s initial platform for the dual-mode radar/laser guided JAGM missile if the weapon makes it into production.

Neither helicopter uses extensive armoring for protection, as is the case with the AH-64 Apache, for instance. Instead, efforts like infrared-reducing paint and exhausts, design for low profiles, and some protection to key systems like energy-absorbing landing gear, self-sealing fuel systems and a fuel vapor inerting system are used. Troops riding in the UH-1Y will especially appreciate the energy attenuating seats that reduce the effects of G-forces in the event of a crash, or hard landing; in the UH-1N, they just had to sit on the floor and receive the full shock. Both helicopters will also rely on a common set of advanced defensive systems:

  • ATK’s AN/AAR-47 missile approach warning system – will become JATAS
  • BAE’s AN/ALQ-144 infrared (IR) jammer and AN/ALE-47 decoy dispensing system, serves as central ECM hub
  • Northrop Grumman’s AN/APR-39A(V)2 radar warning receiver
  • UT Goodrich’s AN/AVR-2A laser warning receiver
  • A Directed InfraRed CounterMeasures (DIRCM) system of some kind may be added to the AH-1Z in particular

UH-1Y & AH-1Z: Performance Issues AH-1Z, testing
(click to view full)

Some issues do remain with the helicopters. One is that the 2 engines provide almost 3,660 shp, but the aircraft’s transmission is flat-rated for 2,350 shp. That doesn’t matter as much at altitude or in very hot weather, or above 180 knots airspeed where drag becomes the limiting factor, so it was deemed acceptable.

For the AH-1Z, potential issues include a lack of robust armor – a characteristic it shares with earlier AH-1 models, but not with the Army’s heavily armored AH-64 gunship. The exception is the flight controls and some engine sections, which can withstand cannon fire up to 23mm. This is more of a design choice than a manufacturing flaw, but it does affect the helicopter’s usage.

A second AH-1Z design issue involves communications. Statements by H-1 upgrade program manager USMC Col. Harry Hewson seem to indicate that the older AH-1Ws will initially be more advanced in this area. The AH-1Zs will have secure voice communications only, while the upgraded AH-1W includes the tactical video data link (TVDL) that can broadcast sensor data to a ground controller with a ROVER system, or receive video from other helicopters or Marine aircraft with LITENING pods. As of 2014, a full-motion video project is in the works for the AH-1Z, but hasn’t been fielded yet.

On the manufacturing side, as of December 2010, several rotor components were falling far short of the original 10,000 hour reliability goal. Unfortunately, efforts to redesign the rotor head’s cuff and yoke weren’t going to provide enough improvement to justify the costs. NAVAIR says that current efforts involve improved tooling design and manufacturing processes for the existing design.

The H-1 Upgrade Program UH-1N, Iraq
(click to view full)

It seemed fairly straightforward: update a pair of old USMC standbys in the UH-1N and AH-1W, creating a transport (UH-1Y Venom) and attack helicopter (AH-1Z Viper) backbone with maximum commonality, and minimum risk.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

The H-1 program is designed to resolve existing safety issues in both aircraft, reduce life-cycle costs, significantly enhance combat capability, and achieve 85% commonality between the 2 versions. Bell Helicopter believes this commonality can save up to $3 billion in operating and support costs over a 30-year lifespan, and the stated goal is airframes that will last through 10,000 flight hours of service life. Common components include the tail boom, engines, drive train, rotor blade, software controls, avionics, and displays.

Many of these helicopters will be remanufactured from the Marines’ old UH-1N Hueys and its AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters. Major modifications include a new 4-blade rotor system with semi-automatic blade fold, new composite main and four-bladed tail rotor, upgraded drive system and landing gear, and pylon structural modifications. The AH-1Z attach helicopter will also have 2,500 pounds of fuel instead of 1,900 (AH-1W), to extend strike range to over 170 miles. GE’s T700-401C engine will power both helicopters, giving them improved maneuverability, speed and range, and payload when compared to their UH-1N and AH-1W predecessors. The UH-1Y is touted as having 50% better range, a faster maximum speed, and 25% greater payload than its UH-1N predecessor. The AH-1Z is touted as almost doubling effective strike range over the AH-1W, or doubling weapons load carried to the same ranges. Maintainability is also being addressed, using embedded diagnostics that can provide warning of maintenance needs or impending faults.

H-1 Upgrade: Force Size & Structure Shifts AH-1W, hard left
(click to view full)

The H-1 program has required substantial changes to both cost and schedule 4 times now, while addressing numerous technical issues. The UH-1Y/ AH-1Z upgrades program was originally structured as a remanufacturing effort, converting 180 AH-1W Super Cobras to AH-1Z Vipers, and 100 UH-1N Hueys to UH-1Y Venoms.

It didn’t stay that way.

The initial changes were prompted by 2 factors: effort and time.

The idea of remanufacturing the helicopters didn’t look so great once the true scope and expense of the work involved became clear. Worse, it involved taking each UH-1N Huey out of service for 2 whole years, in the face of ongoing demand from the front lines.

The program tried putting new UH-1Y nose sections into production earlier, and establishing a rotating pool of government-furnished equipment so a UH-1N doesn’t have to be taken out of service until a corresponding UH-1Y Venom is delivered. After the 1st 10 UH-1Y remanufactures, however, the rest were switched to new-build machines.

The next big change was the USMC’s Program Objective Memorandum for 2010, which raised the future fleet to 123 UH-1Ys and 226 AH-1Zs (58 new-build + 168 remanufactured), as part of a plan to grow the Marines by about 20,000 troops. Under this plan, the 58 new-build AH-1Zs would be delivered first, in order to maintain overall fleet availability by keeping existing AH-1Ws in service. Once the overall fleet had grown, AH-1Ws could be taken from the front lines and shifted into the remanufacturing program.

Subsequent shifts have pared back the number of AH-1Zs, and drastically reducing the number of remanufactured AH-1Zs, while increasing the number of UH-1Y Venoms. The legacy model is a USMC squadron of 18 AH-1Ws and 9 UH-1Ns, but the future will involve 15 AH-1Zs and 12 UH-1Ys in each squadron.

So, why the extra Venoms?

The UH-1Y’s extra power proved to be extremely useful in hot and high-altitude conditions, and the planned addition of guided 70mm rockets like APKWS and LOGIR would give them an attack punch comparable to previous AH-1 Cobras. The UH-1Y’s performance in Afghanistan using APKWS guided 70mm rockets has only reinforced these opinions.

The other question is, why did remanufactured AH-1Ws decline so sharply?

Heavy wartime use has increased the wear on existing AH-1Ws, which created a shortage of flyable attack helicopters, and made remanufacturing them more expensive. By FY 2013, cost estimates for new AH-1Z cabins offered an option that was now cheaper over the machines’ service life, while avoiding a critical USMC shortage by leaving AH-1Ws in the fleet.

H-1 Program: Budgets & Industrial Partners

Note that these years do not always correspond fully to Production Lot orders, though they can be used as a general guide. Since American supplemental funding bills are typically passed closer to mid-year, and not in conjunction with the baseline defense spending bills, aircraft appropriated under OCO/supplemental funding as war replacements are sometimes bought with the following year’s contract.

For instance, in 2009, the 11 baseline UH-1Ys, 5 baseline AH-1Zs, and 4 supplemental UH-1Ys were bought as Lot 6 (20 helicopters); but the program office didn’t have priced options for additional AH-1Zs negotiated for Lot 6. That’s why FY 2009’s 4 supplemental AH-1Zs were bought as part of Production Lot 7.

In FY 2010, those 4 Lot 7 supplemental AH-1Zs were added to FY 2010’s 18 UH-1Ys, 5 AH-1Zs, and 2 OCO funded new-build AH-1Zs, growing Lot 7 to 29 helicopters. The “29” total adds the 4 machines from FY 2009, but also omits the FY 2010 supplemental bill’s 1 UH-1Y and 1 AH-1Z. They’re part of Lot 8, because their bill’s timing prevented them from being added to Lot 7. And so it goes…

H-1 Upgrade Program industrial partners include:

Program Problems UH-1Y & AH-1W,
in Afghanistan
(click to view full)

The original idea of remanufacturing existing helicopters, and adding some new performance enhancements, seemed like a low-risk program. Events have a vote, however, and the actual program has been much more challenging than expected.

In May 2005, the Navy warned Bell that the H-1 program was in serious jeopardy. The Texas-based company was described as failing to meet Navy needs, and the memo reserved the option of killing the program. It demanded “fundamental changes” in Bell Helicopter’s management processes as well as its production processes. Recertification in Earned Value Management, used to track program performance, was high on the list of “to-dos.”

Ultimately, changes were made – including some executive changes at the highest levels of Bell Helicopter Textron.

A May 31/06 Defense Acquisition Board process made the decision to proceed with the program. The UH-1Y and AH-1Z began Phase II of their Operational Evaluation (OpEval) in February 2008, and a full rate production decision was expected in August 2008.

After the management and process issues were sorted out, the UH-1Y did very well. Its Initial Operational Capability (IOC) came a month early, in August 2008, and it received a full production go-ahead in September 2008.

The AH-1Z has fared less well, thanks in part to issues surrounding the AAQ-30 surveillance and targeting system, and the TopOwl helmet-mounted display. Other issues included rocket gas ingestion by the engines, and problems with mission software. IOC for the AH-1Z was pushed back from FY 2008 to FY 2011, but the program is moving toward completion.

Contracts and Key Events

Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued by US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, MD to Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX.

FY 2015 – 2016

October 18/16: Bell Helicopters is keen to sell its AH-1Z attack helicopter as a solution to Japan’s AH-X program. As part of preparations the company has teamed with engineers from Fuji Heavy Industries on modification work to the helicopter aimed at improving transmission performance. If selected, between 60-70 of the Bell 412EPI-based helicopters would be produced locally in Fuji with the first slated to deliver in 2022. Civilian variants would also be produced in Fuji in an effort to help the production line attain scale.

April 22/16: Protests have arisen by some US lawmakers against the USAF’s UH-1N Huey helicopter replacement program. The helicopters, which protect US supplies of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), are to be replaced via a sole-source contract due to a new urgency felt by air force brass in fielding the capability favoring Sikorsky’s UH-60 Black Hawk. This in turn has caused a group in Congress to rail back who now want a fair and open competition for the Huey’s replacement.

March 15/16: The US Navy has awarded Bell Helicopters a $461 million contract to supply the force with 12 Lot 13 UH-1Y and 16 Lot 13 AH-1Z helicopters. The contract includes the provision of 16 auxiliary fuel kits. Completion of the sale is expected by February 2019 as part of the Navy’s H-1 upgrade program. Bell Helicopters has also signed a teaming agreement with BAE Systems Australia to offer the AH-1Z as a potential replacement for the Australian Army’s Tiger fleet.

August 19/15: The H-1 helicopter fleet of both the Navy and Pakistan will receive a boost through a $85.5 million contract to develop weapons systems for the aircraft as part of its system configuration set (SCS). The SCS intends to create prototypes for emerging operational requirements, with the majority of this contract covering acquisitions for the US Navy, with the contract set to run to 2020.

FY 2014

UH-1Y from LHD 4
(click to view full)

Sept 5/14: A $41.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 3 UH-1Y flight training devices (aka. simulators), 1 AH-1Z flight training device, aircraft and/or trainer driven revisions, aircraft common operational equipment, provisioned device spares, associated technical data required for operational and maintenance support, and 3 months of initial operation evaluation period for each flight training device. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 Navy reserve and FY 2014 aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed at Broken Arrow, OK (46%); Fort Worth, TX (33%); St. Louis, MO (15%); and Austin, TX (6%), and is expected to be complete in June 2018. The contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302.1 by the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL (N61340-14-C-1000).

Aug 4/14: UH-1Ns. The USMC plans to retire the last of its 205 UH-1N Huey helicopters in September 2015. Of that total, 10 were upgraded to UH-1Ys. Another 5 upgraded HH-1Ns will continue to serve at MCAS Yuma, AZ, but they will retire in 2015. Sources: Navy League Seapower, “Marine Corps to Retire UH-1N Helicopters in September; HH-1Ns in 2015”.

June 20/14: Support. A $44.7 million modification, finalizing a previously awarded contract to a cost-plus-fixed-fee price contract to repair various parts for the UH-1Y and AH-1Z Upgrade Helicopters. FY 2014 US Navy budgets will be drawn on as needed.

Work will be performed in Hurst, TX, and work is expected to be complete by January 2017. No funds will be obligated at the time of award and contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was a non-competitive requirement in accordance with 10 USC. 2304 (c)(1), managed by NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-14-D-015N).

May 29/14: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman Guidance and Electronics Co. in Woodland Hills, CA receives a $25 million delivery order for 119 H-1 upgrade tech refresh mission computers. Those have been broken out into a separate purchase by the US Navy, as a way to improve costs. $10.9 million in US Navy FY 2013 – 2014 aircraft budgets is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Woodland Hills, CA (79%); Salt Lake City, UT (13%); and Baltimore, MD (8%); it is expected to be complete in October 2017 (N00019-11-G-0016, DO 0002).

May 16/14: Lot 11. A $337.8 million contract modification finalizes the Lot 11 order for 12 new UH-1Ys and 12 new AH-1Zs, creating a fixed-price-incentive contract for the helicopters and a firm-fixed-price contract for the auxiliary fuel kits. See also May 28/13, which brings the total announced award to $388.4 million – but note that this contract adjusts the previous ratio from 15 UH-1Ys and 10 AH0-1Zs.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 & 2014 US Navy aircraft budgets, which makes sense. The final FY 2014 budget has cut buys to a base of 11 UH-1Ys and 10 AH-1Zs, and recall that annual contracts also tend to include supplemental funding purchases from the previous fiscal year. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%) and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be completed in June 2017 (N00019-13-C-0023).

Lot 11 order

April 7/14: HMD. Thales Defense & Security Inc. in Clarksburg, MD received a $38.5 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for Optimized Top Owl (OTO) Helmet Mounted Sight and Display (HMSD) Sustainment Capability services. They’re replicating the facility, labor, materials, parts, test and tooling equipment from Bordeaux, France to the United States.

$1.8 million in FY 2014 Navy budgets is committed immediately. Work will be performed in Clarksburg, MD, and is expected to be complete in April 2019. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by NAWCAD in Lakehurst, NJ (N68335-14-D-0014).

March 28/14: Lot 12. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX receives a $59.7 million contract modification, buying long-lead items for Lot 12’s 15 new-build UH-1Ys and 11 new-build AH-1Zs.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%) and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in September 2015 (N00019-13-C-0023).

March 28/14: Support. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX receives exercises an $11.4 million firm-fixed-price contract option for H-1 upgrade program systems engineering and program management support.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 USN aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX, and is expected to be complete in December 2014 (N00019-12-C-0009).

March 4-11/14: Budgets. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The numbers are featured in the charts above, and the detailed documents add this:

“FY 2015 Airframe cost increases account for prime contractor’s new Business System Modernization (BSM) accounting structure and increased internal research and development investment, Pension Protection Act pension harmonization and higher medical forecasts, and continued effects of large business base decline. Due to airframe cost increases and USMC priorities, the program… added one year of production. Compared to President’s Budget 2014, unit cost growth is a result of deferred aircraft to FY 2020…. electronics previously harvested from UH-1N and AH-1W aircraft at no-cost were procured new, at cost, for all future lots beginning in FY 2013…: CD-45/ALE-47(V) Chaff/Flare Programmer, ICS Boxes, MT-6711 TACAN Mount, RT-1798 TACAN Receiver, APR39 System, CP-1975/AAR-47(V)2 Central Processor, SU-211/AAR-47(V)2 Optical Sensor, AS-2728 Antennas AT-741B/A Antennas, EGIs, CV-20 Digital Converters. GFE Electronics increase in FY 2014 due to Mission Computer being provided as GFE instead of CFE.

All new engines are factored into the budget formulation for FY 2014 through the FYDP. The program prefers to procure new T-700-401C engines for higher maintainability and reliability, increased time on wing, and ultimately lower life-cycle costs. Refurbished T-700-401C engines are procured as budget constraints warrant and the H-60 B/F sundown schedule permits. An additional determining factor for refurb engine procurement is the repair (refurb) contract ceiling for H-1 with General Electric Engine Services (GEES), currently at sixteen engines per year. Due to funding constraints as a result of sequestration, program reductions, and airframe costs, 16 UH-1Y refurbished engines were procured in FY 2013.”

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 H-1 upgrade program is included, and as of July 2013, Bell Helicopter has delivered 79/160 UH-1Ys and 32/189 AH-1Zs.

The big issue with the H-1s is software, and to a lesser extent support. The SCS 6.0 software has a critical flaw: if it detects a failure in any electronic warfare component, whether real or a “false positive”, the helicopter loses the entire EW display for all threat detection systems. That cost 2 of 23 missions during testing. This problem was detected during developmental testing, but DOT&E blandly says that “the operational implications of this loss of electronic warfare situational awareness were not apparent until operational testing.” Really?

They’re testing SCS 7.0, which hopes to correct this problem, and DOT&E concludes that “H-1 Upgrades units remain survivable against small arms and automatic weapons fire (up to 12.7 mm) and legacy Man-Portable Air Defense Systems.”

Meanwhile, they note that the test helicopters had problems with readiness rates because of long waits for repair parts. Tail and rotor systems were an especial problem, in part because operational units quite properly have priority. What they don’t say is whether the level of problems encountered are an indicator of larger issues.

Jan 22/14: Support. A $13.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for repair/overhaul work on 5 high priority UH-1Y/AH-1Z items.

$6.7 million in FY 2014 USN funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX, and the contract runs until January 2017. US Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA manages the contract (N00383-14-D-015N, DO 0001).

Dec 19/13: Avionics. Northrop Grumman Guidance and Electronic in Woodland Hills, CA receives a $10.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for low rate initial production of 45 improved (“technical refresh”) AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters mission computers, which are now being bought direct (q.v. Dec 29/11 entry).

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 USN aircraft procurement budgets, and will expire of Sept 30/14. Work will be performed in Woodland Hills, CA, and is expected to be complete in October 2015. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA (N68936-14-C-0020).

Dec 17/13: Sensors. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL receives a $34 million firm-fixed-price contract for the AH-1Z’s AN/AAQ-30(A) Target Sight Systems (TSS) and data. Based on past contracts, that’s about 12.

$31.2 million is committed immediately, using USN FY 2013 and 2014 aircraft procurement budgets. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (80%), and Ocala, FL (20%), and is expected to be complete by May 2016. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with 10 U.SC 2304(c)(1), as set forth in FAR 6.302-1(b)(1)(ii). The US Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN manages the contract (N00164-14-C-JQ65).

FY 2013

Orders; Loss in South Korea; Losing helicopters at program’s end? AH-1Z, fully armed
(click to view full)

Sept 27/13: Training. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., Hurst, TX receives a $23.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to perform baseline configuration upgrades for 1 AH-1Z Full Flight Simulator, 1 UH-1Y Full Flight Simulator, and 1 UH-1Y Flight Training Device. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Broken Arrow, OK (49%); Fort Worth, TX (35%) and St. Louis, MO (16%), and the larger contract runs until March 2017. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Orlando, FL manages this contract (N61340-12-C-0030).

Aug 27/13: Sensors. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL received a $34 million firm-fixed-price contract for the AH-1Z’s AN/AAQ-30 Target Sight Systems (TSS). All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (80%), and Ocala, FL (20%), and is expected to complete by November 2015. The US Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN manages the contract (N00164-13-D-JQ43).

Aug 26/13: Sensors. FLIR Systems Inc. in Wilsonville, OR receives a 5-year sole-source $136.6 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for BRITE Star Block II Systems (UH-1Y and MQ-8C), BRITE Star II’s class I engineering change proposal, plus BRITE Star I upgrades, cables, technical data, depot repairs, and engineering services. $4.2 million is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Wilsonville, OR, and is expected to be complete by August 2018. The work was sole-sourced on the basis of FAR 6.302-1, “only one responsible source…” provision. The Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN manages the contract (N00164-13-D-JQ08).

July 15/13: Support. A $17.9 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to add US Navy depot level maintenance infrastructure. Bell Helicopter will develop, test, and deliver 1 H-1 main rotor gearbox test stand, and 1 H-1 tail rotor/intermediate gearbox test stand. The contract includes logistics support, maintenance efforts, follow-on support, and associated data. This is unsexy, but experience in countries like Pakistan demonstrates that unless this infrastructure is in place and in use, helicopters will remain in place and not in use.

Work will be performed in Hurst, TX using FY 2011 procurement funds, and is expected to be complete in March 2017. All funds expire at the end of FY 2013, on Sept 30/13. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ (N68335-13-C-0302).

June 18/13: Lot 10. A $38.8 million option order for 2 more new-build AH-1Z Vipers in Lot 10, whose main order was Dec 12/12. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 procurement budgets. This brings that lot’s totals to 15 UH-1Ys and 12 AH-1Zs, with 1 AH-1Z option remaining.

Note that this doesn’t provide the full cost of 2 Vipers, and the USN places average flyaway costs for Lot 10 H-1 machines at over $26 million each. The difference will be made up via previous long-lead buys, and/or additional awards. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%) and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in September 2013 (N00019-12-C-0009).

June 18/13: Weapons. US NAVAIR touts the work of their PMA-242’s Crew Served Weapons Integration team, who redesigned the UH-1Y’s weapon mount to improve maximum elevation. That’s useful if you’re on or near the ground, being fired on from hills. In effect, the UH-1Y door gunner’s field of fire is now on par with the UH-1N in terms of overall range, azimuth and elevation.

Testing began in May 2013, and will continue at Pax River, MD for another 6 months or so. The USMC expects to deploy the new mounts to Afghanistan by the end of 2013. US NAVAIR.

May 28/13: Lot 11. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $50.6 million advance acquisition contract modification for long-lead parts and components required for 25 Production Lot 11 helicopters: 15 UH-1Ys and 10 AH-1Zs, all new-build. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%) and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in September 2014 (N00019-13-C-0023).

April 17/13: South Korea loss. South Korea announces that the AH-64E Apache Guardian has beaten the AH-1Z Viper and T-129 ATAK helicopters for a 1.8 trillion won ($1.6 billion), 36-machine order. The attack helicopter decision had been due in October 2012, but was put on hold until after the elections. The ROK hopes to have the helicopters between 2016 and 2018.

The AH-1Z would have represented continuity with the existing AH-1S fleet, and a DSCA export request was already approved (vid. Sept 25/12). The Italo-Turkish T-129 would have been a reciprocal deal with a major arms export customer. A DAPA official is quoted as saying that the AH-64E’s superior target acquisition capability, power, and weapons load gave it the edge, and so South Korea will begin the acquisition process. The weapons load issue is debatable, but the Apache is certainly much more heavily armored than its counterparts, and its combination of modernized optics and MMW radar or UAV control does give it an edge in target acquisition. Korea Herald | Reuters.

Loss in South Korea

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

The H-1 program is cut slightly from 26 total helicopters to 25 this year, as part of a longer-term set of slight reductions that will stretch out the program. FY 2014 drops from 26 – 25, FY 2015 drops from 27 – 26, FY 2016 drops from 31 – 27, and FY 2017 drops from 30 – 28. An order of 30 helicopters in FY 2018 leaves just 30 more to close out the program.

The key will be where reductions are focused. The AH-1Z is behind due to delays, so these and other cuts at the end of the program will force the Marines to decide whether they want fewer attack helicopters in the future force, as they contemplate adjustments to the production split. Especially if future budget pressures cut these planned numbers again. The alternative is to stretch production into later years, but that will raise total costs because the fixed costs come due for more years of work.

April 1/13: Lot 11 long-lead. A $13 million advance acquisition contract to provide long-lead parts and components required for Production Lot 11’s 15 UH-1Ys and 10 AH-1Zs. All are new-build helicopters – Lot 9 held the last remanufactured helicopters.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%) and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in September 2014. All funds are committed immediately, using the FY 2013 Aircraft Procurement, Navy budget line. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-13-C-0023).

Jan 16/13: Milestone. Bell Helicopter delivers the 100th H-1 upgrade helicopter to the US Marine Corps.

Bell Helicopter has since confirmed that it was a UH-1Y. Bell Helicopter | Fort Worth Star-Telegram Sky Talk.


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 H-1 program is only included in passing, but it’s an interesting reference:

“The U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate led a project to manufacture complex, curved ceramic armor for placement at strategic locations on aircraft, improving survivability with minimal weight impact. These installations protect flight-critical aircraft components that when damaged would lead to catastrophic aircraft loss. Due to their complexity, these structurally integrated panels required development of several cutting-edge material and processing technologies. Two implementations were demonstrated: the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior engine bay door and the AH-1Z Cobra helicopter flight control linkage bell-crank.”

Dec 27/12: Lot 10. A $418.9 million contract related to the FY 2012 order: 15 UH-1Y helicopters and 10 AH-1Zs. All helicopters will be new-build, and there are options for another 3 AH-1Zs. Two of those options were exercised on June 18/13, to make 12 AH-1Zs ordered.

The actual wording is “for the procurement of long lead parts and components required for the manufacture of…”, but NAVAIR has confirmed that this is the main Lot 10 order, covering FY 2013 helicopters for the most part. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%) and Amarillo, TX (40%) and is expected to be complete in March 2016. All contract funds are committed immediately (N00019-12-C-0009).

Lot 10 order

Dec 20/12: Support. A $15.3 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee advance acquisition contract modification. Bell Helicopter will provide H-1 Upgrade Program systems engineering and program management services.

Work will be performed in Hurst, TX and is expected to be complete in December 2013. All contract funds are committed immediately (N00019-12-C-0009).

Dec 20/12: Support. A $12.3 million to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to support of the H-1 Upgrade effort. Work will include logistics management support, technical material for maintenance planning, design interface, supply/material support; support of support equipment/technical data, distribution and inventory management/packaging; handling, storage and transportation; logistics management information; supportability analysis and technical manuals.

All contract funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in December 2013 (N00019-11-C-0023).

Nov 20/12: HUMS. Simmonds Precision Products Inc. (dba Goodrich Sensors and Integrated Systems in Vergennes, VT) receives a $6.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract, exercising an option for 28 integrated AH-1Z/UH-1Y mechanical diagnostic and health usage monitoring system kits.

This would appear to cover FY 2013 production: 13 AH-1Zs and 15 UH-1Ys. HUMS systems are undervalued by causal observers, but they pay for themselves very, very quickly via more cost-effective maintenance and higher in-service rates.

Work will be performed in Vergennes, VT, and is expected to be complete in May 2014. All contract funds are committed. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-12-F-4003).

Nov 6/12: Mission Computers. Northrop Grumman Guidance and Electronics Co., Inc. in Woodland Hills, CA receives a $9.3 million firm-fixed-price modification for 54 GEN II mission computers and trays, per the new buying arrangements (vid. Dec 29/11 entry). They’ll be used in Production Lot 10, which is mostly FY 2013 buys.

Work will be performed in Salt Lake City, UT, and is expected to be complete in January 2015. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-11-G-0016).

Oct 16/12: Lot 9. A $391.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification. As we saw on July 25/11, the Pentagon’s turgid language involving “definitization… to provide long lead parts” means that it’s the main Production Lot 9 (mostly FY 2012) buy, which is added to the previous contracts for long lead time components. US NAVAIR places the total Lot 9 contract at $447.8 million, plus any separately bought “government furnished equipment” like the T700 engines, mission computers (vid. Dec 29/11 entry), weapons and mounts, defensive systems, etc. Those “extras” add up.

The contract covers 15 new UH-1Ys (all new) and 10 AH-1Zs (3 remanufactured, 7 new). According to NAVAIR, Lot 9 will be the final production lot that will include remanufactured AH-1Z aircraft.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas (60%) and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be completed in July 2015 (N00019-11-C-0023).

Lot 9 order

FY 2012

Orders; AH-1Z competes in South Korea; AH-1Z maiden operational deployment; AH-1W swap to Turkey; UH-1Ys using precision rockets. UH-1Y & AH-1Z
(click to view full)

Sept 25/12: South Korea. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] South Korea’s request to buy up to 36 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support. The cost would be up to $2.6 billion, but this isn’t a contract. It doesn’t even mean that the AH-1Z is the ROK’s choice. South Korea is conducting a competition to replace its attack helicopters, and the DSCA request will make sure that everything the ROK wants is available if the AH-1Z is picked.

They appear to have picked the AH-1Z as the American contender, even though the AH-64D Apache Block III’s fuselage is made locally by KAI. That still leaves 2 more strong contenders. EADS Eurocopter is already producing Surion medium helicopters under a Korean Joint Venture, and is offering their EC665 Tiger attack helicopter. It’s in service with France, Germany, Spain, and Australia. The other contender is AgustaWestland/TAI’s T129, which is now a joint Italian/Turkish venture. Turkey is South Korea’s biggest defense export customer by far, and a loss could ruffle some important feathers. As for the AH-1Z, the DSCA request includes:

  • 36 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters
  • 84 T-700-GE-401C Engines (72 installed and 12 spares)
  • Integrated missile launchers
  • 288 AGM-114K3 Hellfire laser-guided strike missiles
  • 72 AIM-9M-8 Sidewinder air-air missiles. The missile’s range and performance are superior to weapons carried on other helicopters.
  • AN/AAQ-30 Target Sighting Systems (TSS)
  • APX-123 Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) Mode-4
  • Electronic warfare systems: AN/ALQ-136 Radar Frequency Jammers, AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning System, AN/ALQ-144 Infrared Jammer, AN/ALE-47 Chaff and Flare Decoy Dispenser
  • Communication and support equipment, spare engine containers, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, and other US government and contractor support.

The prime contractors will be Bell-Textron Corporation in Amarillo, TX (helicopter), and General Electric in Lynn, MA (engines), though many of the ancillary items will come from firms like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, BAE, et. al. Implementation will require multiple trips to Korea involving U.S. Government or contractor representatives on a temporary basis for program and technical support, and management oversight.

South Korea request

Sept 25/12: Training. A $44.7 million firm-fixed-price contract to buy 2 UH-1Y Flight Training Devices (simulators) for the US Marine Corps. In addition, this contract provides for the baseline configuration upgrade to create an AH-1Z FTD from the previous AH-1W simulator.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (46%); Broken Arrow, OK (32.4%); St. Louis, MO (16.2%); and Austin, TX (5.4%), and is expected to be complete in March 2015. $19.8 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304c1 by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL (N61340-12-C-0030).

April 3/12: Buy direct. US NAVAIR has made a slight acquisition shift, and is now ordering mission computers for the UH-1Y and AH-1Z directly from Northrop Grumman, instead of through prime contractor Bell Helicopter. Under the initial $8.9 million contract, Northrop Grumman will provide Gen II mission computers to the U.S. Marine Corps Light Attack Helicopter Program (PMA-276) directly, reducing the item’s price.

The dual mission computers are the heart of Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Avionics System (IAS) that powers the helicopters’ glass cockpits. Northrop Grumman.

Mission computers direct

March 2012: Laser-guided rockets. The APKWS laser-guided 70mm rocket is cleared for fielding by Marine Corps HQ, and shipped to Afghanistan. The rockets will initially be deployed in existing rocket launchers on USMC AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, and UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters. It will be the UH-1Ys first precision-guided weapon, dramatically increasing its firepower.

BAE cites cite over 100 APKWS firings since 2007, with a 94% success rate, and an average distance from the center of laser spot to the impact point of less than one meter. US NAVAIR | BAE Systems.

Feb 13/12: FY 2013 request. The Pentagon releases its budget. FY 2013 would see it spend up to $851.5 million to buy 15 new-build UH-1Ys, and 13 AH-1Zs (4 remanufactured, 8 new, 1 new combat loss replacement). Over the longer term, the H-1 Upgrades program also escapes budget cuts.

Feb 13/12: A $56.75 million advance acquisition contract to provide long lead parts and components required for the manufacture of H-1 upgrade Lot 10 UH-1Y (15) and AH-1Z (13) helicopters. As noted above, correspondences aren’t exact, but these are mostly FY 2013 helicopters.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%), and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in September 2013. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-12-C-0009).

Dec 28/11: A $20.4 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, exercising an option for H-1 upgrade program logistics management support; distribution and inventory management/packaging, handling, storage & transportation; logistics management information; technical material for maintenance planning; design interface; supply/material support; technical data, support of support equipment; technical data; supportability analysis; technical manuals and logistics/technical liaison support.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (96%) and Afghanistan (4%) and is expected to be complete in December 2012 (N00019-10-C-0035).

Dec 27/11: Northrop Grumman Guidance and Electronics Co., Inc. in Woodland Hills, CA received an $8.9 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for 52 GEN II mission computers, which will be used in H-1 upgrade production Lot 9 (mostly FY 2012). Work will be performed in Woodland, CA, and is expected to be complete in January 2014 (N00019-11-G-0016).

Dec 13/11: Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX received a $13.9 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for systems engineering and program management work related to AH-1Z and UH-1Y production aircraft. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and will run to December 2012 (N00019-11-C-0023).

Dec 8/11: An $85.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for design, development, studies, and implementation of upgrades to existing H-1 software and ancillary hardware, and/or improved functionality and electronics obsolescence management. Since the H-1 upgrades are designed to use the same cockpit electronics, investments in upgrades can benefit the whole fleet. As noted above, Northrop Grumman in the main sub-contractor for all cockpit systems.

Work will be performed in Woodland Hills, CA (70%); Hurst, TX (25%); and China Lake, CA (5%), and will run to December 2014. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304c1. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, CA manages this contract (N68936-12-D-0003).

Dec 5/11: Lockheed Martin announces a pair of AN/AAQ-30 TSS spares and AH-1Z program support contracts from the US Naval Surface Warfare Center. Their release distinguishes these $30.6 million in support contracts for the AH-1Z’s surveillance and targeting turrets, from the TSS production contracts in March 2008, June 2010, and September 2011.

Nov 14/11: When USS Makin Island sailed on her maiden deployment, she sailed with the 1st operational deployment of AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters. The 4 AH-1s and 3 UH-1Ys function as a detachment of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 (HMLA-367). NGC put out the release, to tout the common “Integrated Avionics System” cockpits that equip both helicopters.

AH-1Z deployment

Oct 31/11: Turkish swap. With Turkey’s fleet of serviceable AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters dwindling, demands from the Army for helicopters to use against the Marxist Kurdish PKK in Turkey and Iraq, and no arrival of even its emergency configuration T129 attack helicopters before mid-2012, Turkey launches an official request [PDF] for 3 AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters from US Marine Corps stocks. They’ll also get 7 T700-GE-401 engines (6 installed/ 1 spare), plus inspections and modifications, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, and U.S. Government and contractor support.

The estimated cost is $111 million, and all sale proceeds will be reprogrammed into the USMC’s H-1 helicopter upgrade program. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of approximately 5 contractor representatives to Turkey for a period of up to 90 days, for differences training between U.S. and Turkish AH-1Ws helicopters.

FY 2011

Orders; AH-1Z achieves IOC, bull Full Operational Capability not until 2020; AH-1Z approved for Full-Rate Production; AH-1Z export strategy. UH-1Y, Afghanistan
(click to view full)

Sept 27/11: Sensors. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL receives a $16.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 6 spare AN/AAQ-30 surveillance and targeting turrets for the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (90%), Ocala, FL (10%), and is expected to be complete by December 2014. This contract was not competitively procured by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, IN (N00164-11-G-JQ97).

Sept 22/11: Rotor redesign. A $10 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to develop the H-1 cuff and yoke redesign, but not mass-produce it yet. These important parts of the rotor were falling well short of their expected service life, and this delivery order will include initiating the design-build-buy activities; part/drawing release; support analysis for detailed design, preparation, execution, and follow up for preliminary design review; process development for yoke full-scale process and drive system center; complete tooling conceptual designs and initiate tooling preliminary design; structural qualification; and flight test plans requirements.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in May 2013 (N00019-11-G-0003). See also March 2/11 entry.

Aug 30/11: Sensors. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL receives a $50 million firm-fixed-price contract for 18 of the AH-1Z’s AN/AAQ-30 target sight systems (TSS). The DefenseLINK release identifies them as being specifically for the AH-1Z program; they are also found on armed C-130s operated by the USMC and US SOCOM.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (90%) and Ocala, FL (10%), and is expected to be complete by August 2014. The contract was not competitively procured, in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2304c1 and FAR 6.203-1b-1-ii. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, IN manages the contract (N00164-11-C-JQ77).

Aug 25/11: Innovation. USMC Sgt. Zachary Lucas gets a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and a $5,000 check for inventing the “Lucas Seat” that’s now standard issue on UH-1Ys.

The helicopter’s 3 seats in the center were getting in the way of employing the door guns and tending the packs, so Lucas designed a 2-man bed seat while serving in Afghanistan, in 2009. It passed through some iterations on its way to becoming a Corps-wide issue, and the current configuration allows for a 3-man bench seat or a single seat.

Lucas’ peers are currently developing a hold-down map rack to install in the center area between pilots and the crew, making it easier for the crew to read them while the helicopter is in flight. Pentagon DVIDS.

The Lucas Seat

July 25/11: A $550 million firm-fixed-price modification that lists itself as being “for long lead materials and components associated with” the manufacture and delivery of 35 helicopters: 19 UH-1Y Lot 8 new-build, 8 AH-1Z remanufactured, and 6 AH-1Z Lot 8 new-build helicopters.

In reality, this modification is the “production definitization” of the Lot 8 Advance Acquisition Contract. In English: It’s the main Lot 8/ FY 2011 contract. Now, why couldn’t they just say that? See Feb 5/10 entry for the accompanying partial long lead-time items contract, of $50.4 million. That makes $600.4 million so far for 35 helicopters, not including items like key electronics, sensors, etc. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%), and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in February 2014 (N00019-10-C-0015).

FY 2011 order

June 6/11: FY 2012 lead-in. A $7.2 million contract modification to buy Lot 9 long-lead items for the USMC’s H-1 Upgrades Program. Per notes above, Lot 9 mostly involves FY 2012 purchases. See also March 14/11.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%), and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in September 2012 (N00019-11-C-0023).

March 16/11: Sub-contractors. Simmonds Precision Products, Inc., dba Goodrich Corp. in Vergennes, VT receives a $7.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 30 integrated mechanical diagnostic and health usage monitoring system (IMD/HUMS) units for FY 2011 “Lot 8 production upgrade aircraft”: 19 UH-1Ys and 8 AH-1Zs). Work will be performed in Vergennes, VT, and is expected to be completed in November 2012. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-11-F-4002).

IMD/HUMS contracts aren’t very big by themselves, but their long term impact on a fleet’s readiness and operating costs is quite significant. They shift maintenance away from programmed formulas toward less expensive at-need practices, and are instrumental in tracing faults and spurring useful upgrades. As data accumulates, HUMS can even be used to make proactive predictions.

March 14/11: FY 2012 lead-in. A $48.4 million advance acquisition contract to provide long lead parts and components required for 26 Lot 9 (FY 2012) UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters for the Marine Corps: 15 UH-1Y build new aircraft; 4 AH-1Z remanufactured aircraft; and 7 AH-1Z new-build aircraft. That’s not quite in sync with the stated FY 2012 budget request (18 new UH-1Y, 2 AH-1Z remanufactured, 5 AH-1Z new-build incl. 1 supplemental), but as noted above, supplemental/OCO helicopters can end up under contract in the next year.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%), and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in September 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-11-C-0023).

March 9/11: US NAVAIR announces that the AH-1Z Cobra achieved Initial Operating Capability ahead of [the new] schedule in February 2011, and will deploy to Afghanistan later in 2011.

U.S. Marine Corps Light and Attack Helicopters program manager, Col. Harry Hewson, reiterates the current program target of 131 remanufactured AH-1Zs from existing AH-1W helicopters, and 58 new AH-1Zs. Full operational capability, defined as when all AH-1Z maintenance and repair support, test equipment, and spares are in place to support active component force primary aircraft authorization, isn’t expected until 2020.

AH-1Z IOC, but FOC will be late

March 2/11: Rotor redesign. A $12.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee order to support the AH-1Z and UH-1Y’s cuff and yoke redesign. The reason for this contract is that several rotor components are falling far short of the original 10,000 hour reliability goal. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in June 2013 (N00019-11-G-0003).

Feb 15/11: Engines. General Electric Engine Services, Inc. in Cincinnati, OH receives a $13.8 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification to repair 15 T700-GE-401 engines and 36 T700-GE-401C engines for the AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters. The -401C engines equip all UH-1Ys and new-build AH-1Zs, and may eventually be retrofitted to the remanufactured AH-1Zs; see Sept 15/09 entry for more details.

Work will be performed in Winfield, KS, and is expected to be completed in February 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $4,349,904 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, n Sept 30/11 (N00421-09-D-0008).

Jan 14/11: Exports? Aviation Week says the AH-1Z is slated to deploy to Afghanistan in November 2011, and adds some insight on the export front:

“[Vice president of military business development at Bell, Richard] Linhart says Bell intends to underbid the current Apache model and Eurocopter Tiger HAD, which is being fielded in France and Spain. However, with the near-term focus on adding volume to the USMC fleet, production slots are not likely to emerge for foreign customers until 2012 at the earliest.”

There have been unconfirmed rumors, not reported by Aviation Week or other publications, that the AH-1Z was offered to Iraq, which held out for AH-64D Apaches but was refused.

Dec 30/10: Support. A $22 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to exercise an option for logistics products and services in support of H-1 helicopter upgrade program. Services include logistics management support, technical material for maintenance planning, design interface, supply/material support, technical data, distribution and inventory management/packaging, handling, storage and transportation, logistics management information, supportability analysis, technical manuals, and logistics support/technical liaison support.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (96%), and Afghanistan (4%), and is expected to be complete in December 2011 (N00019-10-C-0035).

Dec 28/10: Infrastructure. A $13.5 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, exercising an option for system engineering, and program management overseeing H-1 helicopters upgrade program production. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in December 2011 (N00019-10-C-0035).

Nov 28/10: The AH-1Z is approved for full rate production, as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics, Dr. Ashton B. Carter issues a milestone III acquisition decision memorandum.

NAVAIR’s release reiterates that: “A total of 189 new and remanufactured AH-1Z helicopters are anticipated, with deliveries expected to be complete by the end of 2021.”


FY 2010

Orders; AH-1Z passes testing; GAO program review cites woes, progress; Manufacturing expansion. AH-1Z: Hellfire test
(click to view full)

Sept 24/10: AH-1Z OpEval. The US Navy’s Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force, notifies NAVAIR’s H-1 Upgrades program office that the AH-1Z was found to be “operationally effective and suitable” during Operational Evaluation, and have been recommended for fleet introduction. Operational effectiveness means it can perform its missions. Operational suitability refers to the platform’s reliability and the service’s ability to support it.

That designation clears an important delay for the program, and NAVAIR adds that:

“A total of 189 new and remanufactured AH-1Z helicopters are anticipated, with deliveries expected to be complete by the end of 2021… The evaluation report noted that the AH-1Z fire control and additional weapons delivery modes allowed for improved weapons delivery accuracy, reduced pilot workload, and enhanced employment flexibility compared with the AH-1W. The H-1 Upgrade Program offers 84 percent “identicality” of parts shared between the AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters.”

AH-1Z passed OpEval

Sept 13/10: Sub-contractors. L-3 Platform Integration Crestview Aerospace in Crestview, FL announces [PDF] a follow-on contract from Bell Helicopter Textron to produce another 38 UH-1Y cabin assemblies between 2010 – 2013.

Under the preceding contract, L-3 Crestview Aerospace has delivered 35 cabin assemblies to Bell, with 5 remaining under contract.

June 16/10: Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX is being awarded a $546 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Production Lot 7 UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters for the US Marine Corps: 18 new UH-1Ys, 9 remanufactured AH-1Zs; and 2 new AH-1Zs.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%), and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in July 2013. This competition was decided long since, so the contract was not competitively procured (N00019-10-C-0035).

FY 2010 order

April 20/10: Sensors. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL receives a $44.4 million firm-fixed-price supply contract for 18 AN/AAQ-30 thermal sight system (TSS) and associated data, for use on AH-1Z helicopters. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (90%), and Ocala, FL (10%), and is expected to be completed by October 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, IN manages the contract (N00164-10-C-JQ84). Lockheed Martin release

This is a follow-on order to the initial 16 system order placed March 28/08. The first production system was delivered on June 30/08, and see also the Sept 28/09 long-lead contract. Delivery of all systems contracted under Lot 6 and 7 low-rate initial production will be complete in 2011. Lockheed Martin’s TSS has had integration problems with Thales’ TopOwl helmet-mounted sight, but the Marines are hoping that their fixes will prevail during 2010 Operational Evaluations. If OpEval goes well, a contract for full-rate production of 226 total units is expected in fall 2010.

March 30/10: GAO Report. The US GAO audit office delivers its 8th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. Overall, the H-1 upgrade program has risen in both costs and quantity since the October 1996 baseline. As of December 2008, program R&D had risen from the $680.2 million baseline to almost $1.84 billion (170% growth), while total program cost has risen from $3.54 billion to about $11.52 billion. Part of that involves an original target of 284 helicopters jumping to 353 (+24.3%), but part of it involves issues that pushed procurement costs up by 239.2%, to $9.69 billion, and have delayed the program. GAO summarizes:

“In December 2008, the Navy reported a unit cost increase of 19 percent over the program’s then current baseline, breaching the significant cost growth threshold. Program officials stated this breach was due to growth in the cost of material, labor, government furnished equipment, and nonrecurring engineering. This breach followed four previous major restructuring efforts. The program’s new acquisition program baseline delays completion of operational testing for the AH-1Z by 28 months from March 2008 to July 2010 and establishes a new full-rate production decision review for the AH-1Z, which is planned for October 2010. The revised baseline also accounts for an almost 25 percent increase in planned procurement quantities from 280 to 349 aircraft (123 UH-1Ys and 226 AH-1Zs) to support the Marine Corps’ growth plans.”

In terms of program progress, the UH-1Y is already in full-rate production and operating on the front lines, and is demonstrating “3x normal operating rates” versus older Hueys, along with better ability to cope with the performance-draining effects of hot and/or high altitude conditions. AH-1Z risk reduction testing is complete, and the AH-1Z Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) begins in spring 2010. The Navy says that “[p]reviously noted deficiencies with Target Sight System, rocket gas ingestion, helmet mounted sight system, and mission software have been corrected and will be formally assessed” in that OpEval.

Overall, “supplier base issues” have slowed production, and advance funding for long-lead items is expected to help resolve prior supply issues. At present, the GAO is concerned that Bell Helicopter has yet to demonstrate the 28 helicopters per year pace called for in the FY 2010 budget, and revised program baseline. On the other hand, 52 UH-1Y and 21 AH-1Z aircraft were on contract as of December 2009, with LRIP phase deliveries happening in accordance with the production ramp-up plan, and the last 13 helicopter deliveries coming ahead of schedule.

Feb 5/10: FY 2011 lead-in. An undefinitized advance acquisition contract with an estimated value of $50.4 million for long lead materials and components associated with the manufacture and delivery of 18 Lot 8 UH-1Y build new aircraft, 8 Lot 8 AH-1Z remanufactured aircraft, and 1 Lot 8 AH-1Z build new aircraft. Work will be performed in Fort Worth (60%) and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in January 2014 (N00019-10-C-0015).

Dec 11/09: Support. A not-to-exceed ceiling-price $14.8 million contract for repair coverage for 8 “items required to support the H-1 aircraft.” Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in December 2010. This contract was a sole source, with manufacturer Bell Helicopter deemed the “sole source responsible and responsive offeror.” The Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA manages the contract.

Oct 23/09: Industrial. A ceremony in Amarillo, TX marks breaks ground for a new 137,000 square foot H-1 Hangar at Bell’s Military Aircraft Assembly and Delivery Center. The hangar is slated to be complete in October 2010, and will be capable of housing up to 10 UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters at a time as the H-1 program’s annual production numbers grow.

Amarillo is also home for the final assembly of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, following its selection 11 years ago by Bell. Since then, public/ private partnerships between the city, Amarillo College, the Amarillo Economic Development Center and Bell have worked to provide both the infrastructure required, and a trained and capable workforce. Bell’s delivery goals for 2010 are 28 V-22 and 20 H-1 aircraft.Textron release.

FY 2009

Orders; 1st production AAQ-30 TSS delivered; Problem parts; Program change to more rebuilds. AN/AAQ-30 TSS
(click to view full)

Sept 28/09: Sensors. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, FL is being awarded a $11.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for long lead time components for 8 of the AH-1Z’s target sight systems (TSS). Long lead material includes the gimbal assembly and laser designator, and the advance orders are used to reduce TSS production delivery time.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, and is expected to be complete by May 2011. Since the AN/AAQ-30 TSS has already been selected, this contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane IN (N00164-09-C-JQ82).

Sept 15/09: Engines. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX received a $35.8 million cost-plus fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement to provide Phase 2 non-recurring engineering for the AH-1Z new-build helicopter airframe, and to develop an engineering change proposal related for incorporating the T700-401C engine.

The -401C engine is present in all new-build AH-1Zs, but at present it is not inserted into remanufactured helicopters, which use refurbished T700-401 engines from the existing AH-1Ws. At some point in the future, as funding allows, NAVAIR says that the Marines also plan to retrofit any remanufactured AH-1Zs that still have older engines with T700-401Cs. This ECP paves the way for that future change as well.

Work will be performed in Ft. Worth, TX (50%) and Amarillo, TX (50%), and is expected to be complete in April 2013. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-06-G-0001).

Aug 3/09: Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX received a $6.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement to provide 3D modeling in support of the AH-1Z new-build new program, including associated technical data for the Marine Corps.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and is expected to be complete in February 2010. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09 (N00019-05-G-0001).

June 30/09: Sensors. Lockheed Martin delivers its first AAQ-30 Target Sight System (TSS) production unit, at a ceremony held at its Orlando, FL, facility. USMC Col. Harry Hewson of PMA-276 is present. Production of the 16 systems ordered under the March 28/08 contract will take place at Lockheed Martin’s facilities in Ocala and Orlando, FL, and will be complete in 2010. Lockheed Martin release.

June 25/09: The US Senate Armed Services Committee issues Report 111-035. An excerpt concerns the UH-1Y/AH-1Z program:

“Fiscal year 2010 would be the first year of buying new AH-1Zs. Operational testing for the UH-1Y has been completed, which resulted in a positive Milestone B decision in September 2008. Operational testing for the AH-1Z has been delayed, mainly due to issues surrounding the targeting sight system. The program office now predicts that operational testing for the AH-1Z configuration will not be completed until late in fiscal year 2010. Also since last year, the Secretary of the Navy notified Congress that the Service Acquisition Executive had determined the program had breached the significant cost growth threshold of 15 percent, compared to the baseline average procurement unit cost.

The committee recommends a decrease of $282.9 million to keep the UH-1Y/AH-1Z program at the same level of effort as fiscal year 2009.”

In the end, it makes no difference. Section 211 of the S.1390 budget bill, which passes in the Senate on July 23/09, restores this funding.

June 15/09: Bad parts. Aviation Week reports that

“[USMC Lt. Gen. George J.] Trautman is also monitoring problems with recently delivered UH-1N and AH-1Z aircraft delivered to the Navy/Marine Corps from Bell. Bad parts from a subvendor caused problems with the transmission in these aircraft. Fixes are underway, and by mid-July, these helicopters will be back in service, he says.

The USMC is also planning to deploy the new Hueys to the Afghan theater later this year. Operational testing of the AH-1Z is expected to finish next year, Trautman says.”

April 22/09: Testing. The US Air Force discusses cooperative efforts with the Marine Corps to figure out exactly how to load the UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper into the C-5 Galaxy transport:

“…the Marines have been working with Air Force representatives for three months to find the best method of transporting their helicopters to the fight. According to John Buchanan, 60th APS cargo operations manager, they tried to use a C-17 Globemaster III first but found they had to strip too many parts off the helicopter. So the next logical step was to test the C-5 capability.”

These helicopters’ 4-bladed rotor doesn’t fully fold, which makes even the C-5 has been a challenge. At one point in the loading process, clearance for the UH-1Y helicopter is down to 3 inches.

April 7/09: Support. A not-to-exceed $14.6 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus fixed fee contract (N00019-06-C-0086) for H-1 Upgrade logistics products and services, including: logistic management support, technical material for maintenance planning, design interface, supply /material support, support of support equipment, technical data, distribution and inventory management/packaging, handling, storage & transportation, configuration management, supportability analysis, aircraft acceptance discrepancies, and contractor logistics support/technical liaison.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and is expected to be complete in May 2010.

April 6/09: Industrial. A $9.25 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to buy production rate tooling for the H-1 program. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (70%) and Amarillo, TX (30%), and is expected to be complete in December 2011. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-09-C-0023).

March 26/09: A $288.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for the FY 2009 (Lot 6) buy of 11 UH-1Y and 5 AH-1Z helicopters and associated technical data for the U.S. Marine Corps. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%) and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in October 2011. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-09-C-0023). Bell Helicopter’s release adds:

“Bell is now on contract to produce a total of 65 upgraded H-1 aircraft for the Marines: 17 AH-1Z attack aircraft and 48 UH-1Y utility aircraft. So far, the company has delivered 23 upgraded H-1 helicopters: six AH-1Zs and 17 UH-1Ys.”

FY 2009 order

Jan 13/09: Sub-contractors. A Northrop Grumman release touts the role of its Integrated Avionics System (IAS), and the company’s efforts in preparing the UH-1Y Huey helicopters for initial deployment early in 2009 with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Dec 18/08: Support. A $10.5 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-06-G-0001). It covers Systems Engineering and Program Management (SE/PM) for Lot 6 production under the H-1 Upgrade program.

Work will be performed in Hurst, TX (79%); Amarillo, TX (15%); and New Bern, NC (6%), and is expected to be complete in December 2009.

Nov 12/08: Support. A $12.8 million modification to a previously awarded firm fixed price contract (N00019-06-C-0086) to prepare, validate and deliver revisions to organizational, intermediate and depot level technical manuals in digital format. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in May 2010. All funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Oct 27/08: More rebuilt AH-1Zs. Inside Defense reports that:

“The H-1 helicopter program has nearly cut in half the number of Marine Corps AH-1Z attack helicopters it plans to build from scratch in order to avoid a breach of the Nunn-McCurdy Act, which requires that the Pentagon notify Congress when a program exceeds certain cost thresholds, the program office acknowledged last week…”

Oct 7-16/08: The new Bell UH-1Y is tested as part of the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) integration exercise, flying from USS Boxer [LHD 4]. US Navy.

FY 2008

Orders; Marines want a larger program; UH-1Y reaches IOC; Why AH-1Z slipped. UH-1Y on LHD 4
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Sept 30/08: A $210.2 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract . NAVAIR is exercising its contract option to make the FY 2008 purchase of 11 UH-1Y scout/utility helicopters, and 4 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (60%) and Amarillo, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in January 2011 (N00019-06-C-0086).

FY 2008 order

Sept 29/08: FLIR systems receives a contract from the US Navy and Marines for 116 AN/AAQ-22E Brite Star II surveillance and targeting turrets, 25 upgrades from AAQ-22D to AAQ-22E status, and non-warranty repair and support for their BRITE STAR turret stocks. Purchases for the UH-1Y are included within this order.

Aug 22/08: More H-1s. Flight International reports that September 2008 will see the US Navy propose adding 69 aircraft to the Bell Helicopter H-1 upgrade program, despite a recent setback during an operational evaluation of the AH-1Z. Expanding from 280 to 349 helicopters (226 AH-1Zs and 123 UH-1Ys) would parallel the overall expansion of the US Marine Corps to 202,000 personnel. NAVAIR’s proposal will look to increase existing yearly orders, as well as adding to the back-end of the production schedule.

The combined proposal to restructure the program, again, will be presented for final approval on Sept 17/10 to John Young, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Aug 18/08: The US DoD releases its latest Selected Acquisition Reports, and the H-1 program is included. The source of the AH-1Z program’s delays becomes a bit clearer:

“This SAR was submitted to report schedule delays of six months or more since the prior report. Specifically, the Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) Phase I Complete (AH-1Z) slipped two years from May 2008 to May 2010 due to unresolved Critical Operational Issues related to the AH-1Z weapons employment. There were no cost changes reported.”

SAR – delays explained

Aug 15/08: Lt. Gen. George Trautman declares that the UH-1Y has reached the official “Initial Operational Capability” milestone, in a ceremony at Marine Corps Headquarters in Quantico, VA. This helicopter’s IOC was supposed to come in September 2008; it appears to be a bit early. NAVAIR release.

The 6 pilots, 6 crew chiefs, and 3 UH-1Ys of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron HMLAT-303 have been training with the aircraft for over a year, They have now reported to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in preparation for deployment, which is scheduled for January 2009 aboard the USS Boxer [LHD 4].


Aug 11/08: Inside Defense reports that:

“Bell Helicopter-Textron is expecting a delay in deliveries of UH-1Y utility helicopters due to a slippage in deliveries of cabins by a subcontractor, a company spokesman told Inside the Navy.”

Aug 1/08: Support. A $12.6 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-06-C-0086) for H-1 Upgrade logistics products and services. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas, and is expected to be complete in May 2009.

This modification includes logistic management support, technical material for maintenance planning, design interface, supply /material support, support of support equipment, technical data, distribution and inventory management/packaging, handling, storage & transportation, configuration management, supportability analysis, aircraft acceptance discrepancies, and contractor logistics support/technical liaison.

Aug 1/08: Support. A $6.5 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-06-C-0086) for non-recurring engineering necessary to build, install and test of the combining Gearbox Test Stand in support of the H-1 Upgrades Aircraft. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and is expected to be complete in June 2011.

July 11/08: Rotor redesign. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX received a $9.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-06-G-0001) for the H-1 program. The delivery order covers one-time engineering services to improve the new main rotor gearbox’s ability to “run dry”, i.e. without lubrication. This makes the aircraft more likely to survive if, for example, enemy gunfire severs key connections and leaves the main rotor gearbox without its usual lubrication.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and is expected to be complete in December 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $5.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

April 22/08: More H-1s? reports that the initiative to expand the Corps by about 20,000 Marines may also grow the H-1 program from 100 UH-1Ys to 123, and 180 AH-1Zs to 226. The USMC has submitted their 2010 Program Objective Memorandum, which forecasts the service’s budget request for 2010, but that submission has not been approved yet by DoD officials.

The additional helicopters would also avert a potential shortage of AH-1 attack helicopters, by ordering the new-build helicopters first. This would enable the Marines to withdraw existing AH-1W Super Cobras from service for the 2-year overhaul program, without affecting the number of available machines.

March 28/08: Sensors. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL receives a $50 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for 16 AN/AAQ-30 Thermal Sight Systems (TSS) for the USMC’s AH-1Z Viper helicopter. Major subcontractors include L3 Communications/Wescam of Ontario Canada (turret assembly) and Elbit subsidiary Kollsman, Inc. of Merrimack, NH (Common Laser Designator Range Finder).

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (86%); Ocala, FL (9%); and Santa Barbara, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete by October 2010. Bids were solicited via the Federal Business Opportunities and Navy Electronic Commerce Online websites, and 1 offer was received by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN (N00164-08-C-JQ24).

Feb 22/08: More H-1s? A Bell Helicopter release claims that:

“While the current contract calls 100 Yankees and 180 Zulus, the Marines have indicated a desire to increase the number of aircraft they will purchase in their total force plan.”

Feb 12/08: Phase II OpEval. The UH-1Y and AH-1Z begin Phase II of their Operational Evaluation (OpEval). A full rate production decision is expected in August 2008. Source.

Feb 11/08: A not-to-exceed $19.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for 2 non-recurring engineering (NRE) efforts associated with the manufacture of a minimum of 40 build new AH-1Z aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and is expected to be complete in November 2009.

The first portion of the NRE effort includes tool design and loft for producing the tool proof cabin and other tool proof parts, and initiates manufacturing engineering and production planning. The second NRE effort will be issued to integrate and qualify the T700-401C engine for use in the new-build AH-1Z aircraft (N00019-06-G-0001).

Jan 3/08: FY 2008 lead-in. A $60 million not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for long-lead, time-critical parts in support of the Fiscal Year 2008 Lot V procurement of 11 UH-1Y Venom utility and 4 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters.

Work will be performed in Hurst, Texas (80%) and Amarillo, Texas (20%), and is expected to be complete in July 2010 (N00019-06-C-0086).

Oct 1/07: Training. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Hurst, TX received awarded a $16.7 million fixed-price-incentive fee modification to a previously awarded firm fixed price contract for an AH-1Z Full Flight Simulator (FFS).

Work will be performed in Broken Arrow, OK (75%) and Hurst, TX (25%) and is expected to be complete in January 2010. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL issued the contract (N00019-06-C-0086).

FY 2007

Orders. UH-1Y, armed
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Sept 26/07: Spares. Bell Helicopter Textron in Hurst, TX received $5.6 million for ceiling priced order #GB4A under a previously awarded contract for spare components for the H-1 aircraft. Work will be performed in Hurst, Texas is expected to be complete December 2009. One company was solicited for this non-competitive requirement by the Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA (W58RGZ-06-G-0003).

Sept 21/07: Spares. A $32.1 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-06-C-0086) for procurement of initial spares in support of the fiscal year 2007 Lot IV aircraft – 9 UH-1Y and 2 AH-1Z aircraft (see July 27/07). Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and is expected to be complete in April 2010.

July 27/07: A $162.3 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive fee contract (N00019-06-C-0086), exercising an option for the FY 2007 Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot IV procurement of 9 “Venom” UH-1Ys and 2 “Viper” AH-1Z aircraft.

Work will be performed in Hurst, TX (80%) and Amarillo, TX (20%), and is expected to be complete in October 2009.

FY 2007 order

July 6/07: Training. A $12.5 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-06-C-0086) for the procurement of phases II and III of the Composite Maintenance Trainers (CMTs) effort, to include 2 UH-1Y trainers and 2 AH-1Z trainers. The CMTs will be based at Camp Pendleton, CA, and will be used to train personnel on the repair and maintenance of the H-1 Upgrades Aircraft. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX and is expected to be complete in August 2012.

Jan 30/07: Support. An $11.7 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-06-C-0086), exercising an option for systems engineering and program management support for the UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft for Calendar Year 2007. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX (80%) and Amarillo, TX (20%), and is expected to be complete in December 2007.

FY 2005 – 2006

Orders. UH-1Y ropedown
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Aug 11/06: Spares. A $31.7 million ceiling priced modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for the FY 2006 lot III procurement of initial spare parts in support of the UH-1Y aircraft.

Work will be performed in Hurst, TX and is expected to be completed in December 2008 (N00019-06-C-0086).

July 20/06: Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX received a $137.4 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive fee contract for the fiscal year 2006 low rate initial production (LRIP) lot III procurement of 7 UH-1Y aircraft, 1 UH-1Y full flight simulator, and 4 composite maintenance trainers (Phase I) under the H-1 upgrade program.

Work will be performed in Hurst, TX (80%), and Amarillo, TX (20%), and is expected to be complete in September 2008. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-06-C-0086).

FY 2006 order

May 2006: AH-1Z OpEval I. The AH-1Z, equipped with an AAQ-30 surveillance and targeting system, enters Operational Evaluation. Source.

Jan 31/06: Support. A $7.1 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0001), exercising an option for the logistics support, initial spares, build-to-print package, initial operational test and evaluation period, and helmet support for FY 2006 Flight Test Devices for the AH-1Z and UH-1Y Program.

Work will be performed in Camp Pendleton, CA (76%); Tulsa, OK (13%); and Fort Worth, TX (11%), and is expected to be complete in January 2007.

June 3/05: Spares. A $17.6 million not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0001) for initial spare parts in support of FY 2005 Lot II UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft. Work will be performed in Amarillo, TX and is expected to be complete in September 2007.

May 26/05: An estimated $7.7 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0001) for the procurement of the non-recurring effort required to replace the remanufactured UH-1N or HH-1N structural parts with new structural parts used to manufacture a UH-1Y helicopter. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in December 2006.

April 4/05: A $104.2 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0001) for the H-1 upgrade program. The funds exercise an option for FY 2005 low rate initial production lot II procurement of 3 AH-1Z and 4 UH-1Y aircraft.

Work on this particular contract will be performed in Amarillo, TX and is expected to be complete in December 2007.

FY 2005 order

Feb 23/05: IAS. A $165.4 million cost-plus-award-fee contract for the development of Integrated Avionics Suite (IAS) software upgrades in support of the H-1 helicopter upgrade program. In addition, this contract provides for incorporation of the software upgrades into existing AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters and UH-1N transport helicopters, to convert them to AH-1Zs and UH-1Ys, respectively.

Work will be performed in Woodland Hills, CA (70%); Hurst, TX (25%), and China Lake, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete in February 2010.

IAS development

Dec 29/04: Avionics. A $35.3 million ceiling-priced modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for the development of the Generation II Mission Computer for the AH-1Z and UH-1Y aircraft under the H-1 Upgrade Program. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and is expected to be complete in September 2010 (N00019-04-C-0001).

Dec 8/04: Support. A $23.6 million modification to a previously awarded firm fixed price contract (N00019-04-C-0001) for the FY 2005 procurement of acquisition logistics support for Lot I and II Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) AH-1Z and UH-1Y aircraft. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX and is expected to be completed in October 2007.

FY 1999 – 2004

Orders; AH-1Z Prototype rollout; Lockheed Martin’s TSS surveillance and targeting system picked for AH-1Z. N.B. incomplete. H-1s on LHD 5
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July 20/04: SDD. A $15.9 million estimated value modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award/incentive fee contract (N00019-96-C-0128) for the non-recurring development of a turned exhaust system for the AH-1Z helicopter. The turned exhaust system deflects exhaust gasses up into the rotor blades for dispersal, minimizing the helicopter’s infrared signature to enemy missiles etc.

Work will be performed in Amarillo, TX (53%) and Fort Worth, TX (47%), and is expected to be complete in March 2006. The Naval Air Systems Command issued the contract.

April 2/04: Spares. A $14.25 million delivery order under previously awarded basic ordering agreement (DAAH23-02-G-0008) for various spare items to support the low rate initial production (LRIP) for the H-1 upgrades program. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX and is expected to be complete by December 2006. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Inventory Control Point is the contracting activity (Order GB1C).

March 22/04: Support. A $13.1 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0001) for the FY 2004 procurement of acquisition logistics support for Lot I and II Low Rate Initial Production AH-1Z and UH-1Y aircraft. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and is expected to be complete in October 2007.

March 5/04: Training. A $45.5 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0001) for the design, development, manufacture, and installation of 1 AH-1Z and 1 UH-1Y flight training device. Work will be performed in Arrow, OK (60%), and Fort Worth, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in November 2006.

Dec 29/03: Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Fort Worth, TX received a $183.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for the low rate initial production of 3 Super Cobra helicopters (AH-1Z) and 6 Huey helicopters (UH-1Y).

Work will be performed in Amarillo, TX (53%), and Fort Worth, TX (47%), and is expected to be complete in January 2007. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-04-C-0001).

FY 2004 order

Aug 15/01: Sensors. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control delivers its first Hawkeye eXtended Range (XR) Target Sight System (TSS) to Bell Helicopter during a brief ceremony in Orlando, FL. Lockheed Martin’s release adds that the Hawkeye TSS will be installed on an AH-1Z Cobra helicopter in early 2002. The first flight test of the TSS on an AH-1Z took place in August 2002.

Nov 20/2000: The rollout ceremony for the AH-1Z is held at Bell Helicopter Plant 6 in Arlington, TX. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control conducts public flight demonstrations of its Hawkeye Target Sight System (TSS, would become AAQ-30) at the Lockheed Martin release:

“Prospective customers from Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Greece, and Slovenia were given an opportunity for in-flight “hands-on” operation of the system that Lockheed Martin had installed on a Bell Model 222 helicopter. A real-time video downlink was also displayed.”

AH-1Z rollout

July 1998: Sensors. Bell Helicopter awards Lockheed Martin a $7.8 million Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract for the [AAQ-30] TSS targeting and surveillance system. This would be followed by additional contracts covering Engineering Change Proposals. Lockheed Martin reportedly fabricates the whole nose section of the AH-1Z. Source.

Additional Readings & Sources

Thanks to Neville Dawson for the lead photograph, which is used with permission.

Helicopters & Ancillaries

News & Views

Categories: News

Armed & Versatile: Sikorsky’s ‘Battlehawk’ Helicopters

Mon, 10/17/2016 - 23:48
(click to view larger)

The UH-60M Black Hawk is currently the most advanced UH-60/S-70 model, whose variants are in service with the US Army and over 20 other countries around the world. To date, UH-60M customers include the USA, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, plus a request from Egypt. Unlike global competitors such as Russia’s Mi-8/17 series, however, the UH-60’s operational armament is generally limited to door guns. That may be about to change, thanks to a UAE initiative.

Colombia currently flies the armed S-70 “Arpia III”, and Sikorsky has worked on armed “AH-60” versions as an offering in some foreign competitions, but efforts to sell the concept in Australia and elsewhere were less successful. Nevertheless, Sikorsky executives see considerable potential for multi-role helicopters and conversion kits, in an era of global insurgencies, tight budgets, and limited helicopter numbers. Now, the UAE has become their launch customer. What is Sikorsky’s Battlehawk, and what are their plans?

The Battlehawk Concept and Sikorsky’s Kits MH-60Rs fire Hellfire
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Armed H-60 helicopters are not new. Naval Seahawks can be armed with a variety of weapons including Mk54 torpedoes, Penguin anti-ship missiles, and Hellfire anti-armor missiles. On land, US Special Operations have been arming their MH-60s to various levels, and Colombia’s S-70 “Arpia III” helicopters can mount rockets and forward-firing gun pods. Even a US Army UH-60L model has provision for Hellfire missiles, but the US Army has elected not to add the necessary equipment to make that an operational capability.

Australia was offered an “AH-60” for its armed reconnaissance helicopter competition, but chose the dedicated Eurocopter Tiger ARH instead. Nevertheless, Sikorsky believes that tight budgets will push existing and future customers toward multi-role helicopters. Colombia’s success led to Sikorsky’s announcement of its Battlehawk program at the 2006 Farnborough international air show, and interest from Israel and the UAE led to a refined 3-level set of kits. A mature Battlehawk program could give Sikorsky an important export edge over rivals like the European NH90 TTH, and offer feature parity with Russia’s popular Mi-17.

Technically, “Battlehawk” is a Sikorsky trademark, referring to a new-build UH-60M helicopter with a full weapons kit. The company’s larger goal is actually a set of kits that can be retrofitted to existing aircraft, or incorporated into newer models to take advantage of more advanced features. In most cases, the cost of conversion will be higher for older helicopters, because a larger number of systems must be upgraded. This can be offset somewhat by upgrading them to a lower level, to reduce the number of modifications needed.

Sikorsky’s initiative really took off with the UAE’s February 2011 order, and Sikorsky representatives say that this kit will be available for export to other customers. The firm is happy to talk to new partners, but integration of new capabilities and specific weapons will occur on a customer by customer basis, and the choices made by those initial customers will help to define the initial kits offered.

Battlehawk: 3 Kits Colombian Arpia
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Level 1 Kits already exist, in Colombia’s UH-60L/ S-70 Arpia models. They were fitted with surveillance turrets under the nose, and added stub wings to mount fixed weapons like gatling guns or unguided rockets, but these helicopters have no guided weapon capabilities. This is the cheapest kit conversion, and the most proven. The helicopter retains its full cabin capacity, and may retain its full soldier load, depending on the weight of the weapons fitted and ammunition carried.

Level 2 Kits would add guided weapons, including optical and laser guided anti-armor missiles like TOW, Spike, and Hellfire, and emerging laser-guided rockets. The baseline under consideration in 2009 would mount 12.7mm/.50 caliber gatling guns on the inboard pylon pair, and either missiles or a 19-rocket launcher on the outboard pylons. This will include laser-guided missiles and rockets, and combat optics are upgraded accordingly; the baseline configuration’s AN/AAQ-22E BRITE Star II turret or L-3 WESCAM MX-15Di include laser targeting, as well as surveillance. The armed kit be integrated with the helicopter’s flight and weapons management systems, which will link to a day/night capable helmet-mounted display.

A helicopter with this kit retains its full cabin capacity for 11 soldiers, but its ability to carry that many on a specific mission will depend on the weight of the weapons it’s fitted with. Owners may also choose to devote some of its space and weight limits to mounted and/or in-cabin ammunition and weapons, extra fuel on board, 2 door gunners with 7.62mm gatling miniguns, etc. As equipment is added, troop carrying capacity will decline.

Battlehawk Level 3

Level 3 Kits would add all Level 2 features, plus a gun turret on its underside for 180 degree firepower. The Israelis tested a French 20mm turret from Nexter, which has been developed to equip a number of helicopter types around the world. Unlike other conversions, the Level 3 kit does eat into the helicopter’s forward cabin space, reducing the number of soldiers it can carry.

Over time, Sikorsky personnel expect that the options available under the 3 weapon kits will grow. As a simple example, special operations helicopters can add fuel tanks to extend the helicopter’s range or staying power. As of December 2009, however, Sikorsky representatives said that “wet pylon” capabilities weren’t part of their program. Other options will likely present themselves, as customers show interest.

The Israeli Tests, & the UAE Israeli Lvl-3 demonstrator
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The Israeli Air Force has already conducted a number of tests, under a program that lasted from November 2007 – December 2009. Sikorsky participated in conjunction with Israeli manufacturers Elbit Systems and RAFAEL, and France’s Nexter. Testing used an Israeli Air Force (IAF) S-70A-55 Black Hawk helicopter, modified with Elbit’s weapon management system and ANVIS-HUD helmet mounted display, Elbit/ATK GATR-L laser-guided 70mm rockets, RAFAEL Spike-ER optical anti-armor missiles, and Nexter’s 20mm belly turret. The gun was a particular testing concern due to its required airframe modifications and potential for vibration issues, but it proved accurate and reportedly placed little stress on the airframe.

Sikorsky has marketing agreements with Elbit and Rafael for joint marketing of this demonstrator configuration, which could give the concept a boost in Israel, South America, and some countries in Europe and Asia, where those Israeli firms have developed solid relationships. The Israeli efforts were proof of concept and flight tests rather than an official integration program, however, and do not represent formal qualification of the weapons involved. Once a customer signs on, therefore, Sikorsky would need to include and charge for production qualification, full weapon qualification, full avionics integration, and reliability and component life testing.

The United Arab Emirates’ formal 2008 Foreign Military Sale request made them the expected launch customer for the UH-60M Armed Blackhawk mission kit, and that finally came to pass in 2011.

Sikorsky can leverage previous structural and electronics work from the Israeli demonstrations, and the UAE can replace Israeli equipment with alternatives like Cirit laser-guided rockets, sensors and helmet-mounted sights from other manufacturers, etc. Their DSCA request lays out an initial equipment set that appears to correspond to the Level 2 kit – but note that the Level 3 kit’s Nexter 20mm gun comes from France, and would not be subject to US DSCA disclosure if the UAE wanted it at any time.

The UAE has taken on pioneering roles in the past by paying for R&D programs like its Mirage 2000v5 and F-16 E/F Block 60 jet fighters, and earned millions of dollars in licensing revenues when Dassault exported the Mirage 2000-5 design to other countries. While Sikorsky representatives would not talk publicly about this dimension, they did note that the UAE’s fully-qualified kit would be available for export on the global market. A similar sort of royalty agreement with the UAE should be expected.

Contracts and Key Events Part-converted UH-60M
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October 18/16: Sikorsky has just delivered its 1000th H-60M Black Hawk helicopter to the US Army in a ceremony that saw the deliveries of the 792nd UH-60M and the 208th HH-60M. A Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the company delivered the first UH-60M to the service in 2007 and the first HH-60M Medevac helicopter in 2008. The “Mike” model helicopters represent the Army’s third standard baseline H-60 Black Hawk aircraft version in the program’s 38-year production history.

March 10/16: The US Army has ordered 35 UH-60M helicopters from Lockheed Martin’s subsidiary Sikorsky. Completion of the $387.2 million contract is expected for the end of December 2016, with work being carried out in Stratford, Connecticut. The award adds to a number of modification contracts for extra helicopters as the Army looks to increase its late-model helicopters for missions like armed reconnaissance and troop transport, medical evacuations, and search and rescue.

September 17/15: Sikorsky was handed a $22.6 million Foreign Military Sales contract modification to produce two UH-60M helicopters for the Mexican Navy, following a DSCA request in March for three of the helicopters. The original request application was for five Blackhawks, with a host of other intelligence, mission planning and communications systems as well as spares. In December 2014 the company was similarly awarded a $56.4 million modification to produce five UH-60Ms for Mexico, following two orders in September 2014 for 8 and 18 UH-60Ms, worth $93.2 million and $203.6 million respectively. The four orders are all scheduled to deliver the helicopters in May and June 2016.

July 24/14: Tunisia. The US DSCA announces Tunisia’s official request for 12 UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters, complete with Level 2 Battlehawk kits that allow them to be used as attack helicopters. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT; and GE in Lynn, MA are the core contractors, but the overall request includes:

  • 12 UH-60Ms in standard US configuration
  • 30 T700-GE-701D Engines (24 installed and 6 spares)

  • 30 AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Goggles
  • 26 Embedded Global Positioning Systems/Inertial Navigation Systems
  • 30 MXF-4027 Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency radios
  • 15 AN/APX-117 IFF Transponders
  • 15 AN/ARC-220 radios
  • 15 Very High Frequency/Digitally Selective Calling radios
  • 15 ARN-147 VOR/ILS, 15 AN/ARN-153 Tactical Air Navigation Systems
  • 6 Aviation Mission Planning Systems
  • 1 Aviation Ground Power Unit

  • 15 Wescam MX-15Di or Brite Star II day/night surveillance turrets with laser designators
  • 24 M134 7.62mm Machine Guns
  • 24 GAU-19 .50 cal Machine Guns
  • Integration of Precision Guided Rocket System capability to permit launch of laser-guided variants of 2.75 rockets
  • 24 M261 Hydra-70 Rocket Pods
  • 9,100 2.75″/ 70mm Hydra Rockets. Laser guidance would come as a bolt-on kit from BAE (APKWS), Lockheed (DAGR), Raytheon (TALON), Rojetsan (Cirit), et. al.
  • 20 M299 4-missile Hellfire launch systems
  • 100 AGM-114R Hellfire Missiles

  • 15 AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems
  • 15 AN/APR-39A(V)4s Radar Warning Receivers
  • 15 AN/AVR-2B(V)1s Laser Warning Systems

  • Plus aircraft warranty, ammunition, air worthiness support, site surveys, facility construction, spare and repair parts, support equipment, communication equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, tool and test equipment, and other US Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $700 million, or about $58.3 million per helicopter with weapons and support.

Implementation of this proposed sale may require the assignment of 3 U.S. Government and 5 contractor representatives in Tunisia to support the delivery and training for 2-5 years. Sources: US DSCA #14-23, “Tunisia – UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters”.

DSCA request: Tunisia UH-60M Battlehawks (12)

Dec 30/11: Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives an $81.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, “to convert UH-60M aircraft to the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces unique configuration.”

Discussions with Sikorsky representatives reveal that this add-on contract finalizes both the recent 14-helicopter order, and the original 26-helicopter order. Of the UAE’s contracted helicopters, 30 have been delivered so far, including all of the 14 helicopters ordered in 2009. Remaining conversions to the UAE’s base UH-60M configuration actually involve a few helicopters from the original order for 26 UH-60Ms. The contract for armed helicopter kits and qualification continues as a separate effort.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the UAE’s Foreign Military Sale contract agent, US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).

Oct 11/11: UAE. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $38.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, as a follow-on to its Dec 29/09 contract to buy 14 UH-60Ms. Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages this contract (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).

As noted earlier, this is not a confirmed Battlehawk contract. It will be up to the UAE to decide which of its 40 UH-60M helicopters to modify with the kits, though new-build machines may be seen as an easier option.

Feb 21/11: UAE. At IDEX 2011, the UAE announces an AED 993.5 million (about $270.5 million) order from Sikorsky, through the Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies Company, to upgrade 23 UH-60Ms with Battlehawk kits. This makes the UAE Battlehawk’s launch customer. The bulk of the work will be undertaken by the AMMROC maintenance, overhaul and repair joint venture between Sikorsky and Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies.

Sikorsky representatives later said that the number announced at IDEX isn’t necessarily their number. They did confirm that this Direct Commercial Sale contract includes the additional development and qualification work, for a kit that they believe will be among the most sophisticated helicopter weapons capabilities in the world. The first helicopters with their fully-qualified kits aren’t expected before 2014.

A 2nd AED 65 million (about $17.7 million) deal with Sikorsky will train Black Hawk pilots and technicians. Defense News | Janes.

UAE: Battlehawk contract

Dec 29/09: UAE. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $171 million firm-fixed-price contract to produce 14 UH-60M helicopters, plus conversion to the UAE’s unique configuration. Work is to be performed in Stratford, CT, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12 (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).

Sikorsky has confirmed that these are not full Battlehawk helicopters, just the exercise of an option that will raise the UAE’s total UH-60M fleet to 40 machines. Battlehawk kits will be a separate contract. See also Oct 11/11, Dec 30/11 entries.

UAE: 14 UH-60Ms

Sept 9/08: UAE. the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces the United Arab Emirates’ formal request to buy additional UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, plus weaponization kits and weapons/ Those kits would turn some UH-60Ms into multi-role attack helicopters that could transport troops, or operate in a light attack role alongside the UAE’s existing fleet of AH-64 Apache heavy attack helicopters.

The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) formal request includes:

  • 14 more UH-60M helicopters with engines. When added to the previous order for 26, this option would bring the country’s UH-60M fleet to 40.
  • 6 T700-GE-701D spare engines
  • 14 AN/ALQ-144Av3 Infrared (IR) Countermeasure Sets
  • 14 AN/APR-39Av4 Radar Signal Detecting Sets
  • 14 AAR-57v3 Common Missile Warning Systems
  • 14 AN/AVR-2B Laser Warning Sets

The request also states that the UAE is also looking to “weaponize” 23 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, and is interested in the following additional weapons.

  • 30 M299 Hellfire launchers, each of which can hold 4 Hellfire missiles, or up to 16 DAGR laser-guided rockets, or any combination thereof. The UAE already operates these on its AH-64 fleet.

  • 390 AGM-114N Hellfire II missiles. The AGM-114N is the “Augmented Metal Charge” (thermobaric/ fuel-air) version of the laser-guided Hellfire II. Its devastating explosions can kill or suffocate enemies in caves, collapse buildings, or do significant damage to enemies in an open blast area.

  • 8 Hellfire training missiles.

  • 23,916 MK-66 Mod 4 2.75″/ 70mm Rocket Systems in the following configuration: 1,000 M229 High Explosive Point Detonate, 540 M255A1 Flechette (anti-personnel darts), 1,152 M264 RP Smoke, 528 M274 Smoke Signature, 495 M278 Flare, 720 M274 Infrared Flare, 20,016 HA23 Practice rockets. The UAE’s TALON program with Raytheon is creating a bolt-on laser-guidance option for 70mm rockets like this.

  • 22 of General Dynamics’ GAU-19 3-barrel, .50 caliber/ 12.7 mm externally-powered gatling gun systems.

  • 93 of Dillon Aero’s M-134 6-barrel, 7.62mm ‘mini-gun’ gatling guns.

  • Spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, ground support, communications equipment, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services, aircraft survivability equipment, tools and test equipment, and other related elements of logistics support.

The estimated cost of these items is $774 million. While the various sub-systems and weapons are made by a number of manufacturers, the principal contractors will be: Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation of Stratford, CT and General Electric of Lynn, MA (engines). The USE does have an active industrial offsets program, and will be requesting them in negotiations with the contractors involved.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 6-8 Contractor Field Service representatives to the United Arab Emirates for approximately 2 years after initial fielding, to assist in the delivery and deployment of the helicopters.

DSCA request: UAE (14 UH-60Ms and armed kits)

Additional Readings & Sources

DID would like to thank Sikorsky’s Ray Burke (Battlehawk Program Manager), Mike Ambrose (VP – International Military), and Matt Rodgers (Black Hawk program Marketing Manager) for their assistance and clarifications regarding the firm’s Armed Black Hawk programs.

Key Weapons & Systems

  • FLIR Systems – BRITE Star. A day/night surveillance and targeting turret. Used in Level 2+ options. Level 1 Arpia-III S-70s appear to be using FLIR’s STAR Safire HD instead.

  • DID – US Hellfire Missile Orders, FY 2011-2014. Includes a breakdown of the different Hellfire variants. The AGM-114R is the most recent.

  • DID – Hydra, Awakened: Guided Air-Ground Rockets. Most are laser-guided, via bolt-on additions to standard 70mm rockets. Options include BAE’s APKWS-II, Elbit & ATK’s GATR, Kongberg & MDA’s CRV-7PG, Lockheed’s DAGR, Raytheon’s TALON, and Roketsan’s CIRIT.

  • L-3 WESCAM – MX-15D. The “D” suffix indicates laser designation capability for laser-guided weapons. Used in Level 2+ options.

  • RAFAEL – SPIKE Family of multi-purpose, tactical missiles. Dual IIR/ fiber optic visual command guidance; SPIKE-ER used on Israel’s Level 3 demonstrator.

  • Nexter – Their THL 20 is a 20mm cannon turret designed to equip light helicopters.

News & Views

  • Sikorsky (Dec 14/09) – Armed BLACK HAWK Demonstrator Completes Test Program. This is the Israeli demonstrator program.

  • Jerusalem Post (Aug 30/09) – IAF testing new Black Hawk models [dead link]. Israel may be set to join Colombia and the UAE in this concept, though no commitment has been made: “The arming of the Black Hawk is being done jointly by the IAF, Sikorsky and several local defense contractors. One of the helicopters has already successfully test-fired an air-to-surface missile. The helicopter has also been equipped with a rapid-fire cannon that sits under the aircraft’s belly.”

Categories: News

US Army’s LRPF Program May Get Anti-Ship | Japan & China Battle for Influence in East Africa | Australia Hedging Their Bets on JSF Program

Sun, 10/16/2016 - 23:58

  • The US Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) program could come with an anti-ship capability. While the requirement wasn’t initially included in the missile’s spec, service brass have called for ship-killing capability in general terms. Furthermore, the weapon’s range will still be under 500 kilometers to comply with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty. Contractor Raytheon has deemed the subtle requirement as entirely doable.

Middle East & North Africa

  • Militants from the Islamic State have used booby-trapped UAVs to attack forces fighting the jihadists in Iraq. The drone, rigged with explosives, attacked north of the IS-held city of Mosul and left two Kurdish fighters dead and two French soldiers fighting for their lives. Media reports said the drone was shot down and it only exploded when the soldiers approached it. Few units have the equipment to dispose of such threats effectively.


  • Plans are underway for Japan to increase their presence in East Africa by the expansion of their military base in Djibouti. Additional land will be leased to accommodate the expansion and there is also the possibility of Japanese C-130s joining a contingent of currently deployed P-3 surveillance aircraft. Earlier this year, Tokyo announced that $40 billion extra would be added to ongoing investments in African infrastructure, education, and healthcare projects. Meanwhile, China has pledged $60 billion in similar programs as the East Asian rivals battle for influence and resources on the continent.

  • A number of USAF F-16s and KC-130s have been deployed to the Horn of Africa in anticipation of potential violence in South Sudan against American interests. The request was made by the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, the US counterterrorism hub in the region. In July, AFRICOM dispatched about 50 combat-equipped troops at the order of President Barack Obama to protect US diplomatic personnel amid widespread violence and civil unrest in South Sudan.


  • Bulgaria’s Ministry of Defense has altered the criteria of their fighter acquisition program, lessening the importance of an aircraft’s lifespan to just 5% of the evaluation. The previous weightage of 25% was seen to favor Saab’s Gripen but this advantage has now shifted to second-hand F-16s. Bulgaria had wanted to buy used F-16s from Portugal but the plan was abandoned following the collapse of the government of Boykko Borissov in 2013.

Asia Pacific

  • A recommendation has been made by Australia’s Senate committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade that its defense department implement a “hedging strategy” against any delay with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program by 2019. While the committee stated that it had received evidence criticizing the F-35 and calls for participation to be scrapped, its members judged the F-35 as “the only aircraft able to meet Australia’s strategic needs for the foreseeable future.” The Australian Strategic Policy Institute told the committee the most sensible hedge would be procuring additional F/A-18F Super Hornets.

  • Lockheed Martin has offered to collaborate with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) on jointly developing a new fighter for Japan. LM President Marillyn Hewson made the disclosure saying the company will participate in a second round of Request For Information by Japan’s Ministry of Defense next year. Set to be the replacement for Tokyo’s current fleet of F-2s, other potential collaborators who have responded to the initial RFI include Boeing.

  • Basler Turbo Conversions of the USA have offered their BT-64 gunship to the Philippines as a replacement for their Rockwell OV-10 Broncos. A twin-turboprop conversion of the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, the BT-67 has been fitted with updated systems such as digital avionics, a night-vision goggle-compatible cockpit, weather radar, and a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor. Other PAF requirements filled by the aircraft include running transport, surveillance, aero medical evacuation, and maritime patrol missions.

Today’s Video

Taiwan’s anti-drone research:

Categories: News

Bulgaria Reviewing Options for MiG Modernization

Sun, 10/16/2016 - 23:53
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

Bulgaria has also been looking to replace its MiG-21s, and has shortlisted three offers out of fifteen received, according to Air Recognition. Pakistan also wants to offer its own JF-17, manufactured with China.


October 17/16: Bulgaria’s Ministry of Defense has altered the criteria of their fighter acquisition program, lessening the importance of an aircraft’s lifespan to just 5% of the evaluation. The previous weightage of 25% was seen to favor Saab’s Gripen but this advantage has now shifted to second-hand F-16s. Bulgaria had wanted to buy used F-16s from Portugal but the plan was abandoned following the collapse of the government of Boykko Borissov in 2013.

April 18/16: April 18/16: The US Navy has awarded BAE Systems a $22 million contract external link to produce Archerfish mine neutralizers. Flown on board the MH-60S, Archerfish is a remotely-controlled underwater vehicle equipped with an explosive warhead to destroy sea mines. Deliveries of the systems are expected to begin in September 2017. The contract also includes further options which, if exercised by the DoD, could bring the total value to over $55.3 million.

January 27/16: Bulgaria will acquire new fighters to replace its older Soviet-era MiG-25s by 2019. The procurement will see Sofia purchase retired F-16s, the Gripen or the Eurofighter Typhoon as it moves away from its reliance on older Russian technology. The country’s 2004 joining with NATO saw them vow to have their MiGs retired and purchase eight new fighters by 2016. The last three of their MiG-25s were retired last December and an announcement on their replacement is expected by March of this year.

Categories: News

Lockheed & Mitsubishi’s F-2 Fighter may be replaced with ATD-X (X-2)

Sun, 10/16/2016 - 23:45

Mitsubisihi F-2s
(click to view full)

Japan already produces F-15J Eagle aircraft under license from Boeing, and in 1987 they selected Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jet as the basis for a “local” design that would replace its 1970s era F-1s. The aim was to produce a less expensive fighter that would complement its F-15s, provide a bridge for key aerospace technology transfers, and give Japan’s aerospace industry experience with cutting-edge manufacturing and component technologies.

The F-2’s increased range is very useful to Japan, given their need to cover large land and maritime areas. Nevertheless, a combination of design decisions and meddling from Washington ensured that these fighters ended up costing almost as much as a twin-engine F-15J Eagle, without delivering the same performance. As a result, production ended early, and the 2011 tsunami made Japan’s fleet even smaller. The remaining fleet will continue to receive upgrades, in order to keep them combat capable for many years to come.

Japan’s F-2 Program F-2: The Aircraft

MHI’s F-1 w. ASMs
(click to view full)

Japan’s Mitsubishi F-1 heralded the revival of Japanese fighter design, but it was never really a front-line air combat fighter. Rather, it was derived from a trainer, and given secondary strike capabilities.

Japan’s F-2 aimed to take the next step, and become a full front-line fighter. While it looks like the F-16 from which it was derived, it’s noticeably bigger. Changes include a 17″ longer fuselage, larger horizontal tails, 25% more wing area, more internal fuel storage, and 2 more weapon store stations than the F-16.

F-2A vs. F-16C
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The aircraft is powered by GE’s uprated F110-129 engine generating 17,000 pounds of thrust, or 29,600 pounds with afterburners on. The centerline and inner-wing hardpoints are “wet,” and can carry drop tanks with up to 4,400kg of fuel for long range combat air patrols.

Mitsubishi Electric supplies a locally-designed X-band J/APG-1 AESA fire control radar, and a J/ARG-1 AESA datalink transmitter. Weapons carried include the AIM-9L Sidewinder and MHI AAM-3 short range air-air missiles, license-built AIM-7F/M Sparrow medium range air-air missiles (built until 2010), MHI’s Type 89 ASM-1 and ASM-2 anti-ship missiles, rocket launchers, and bombs that can include GPS-guided JDAM weapons.

Upgrades are underway.

Mitsubishi’s AAM-4B active-seeker medium range air-to-air missile is being added, along with a radar upgrade to APG-2 status. Together, they’ll give the F-2 the ability to attack multiple aerial opponents from medium range. They’ll also allow the fighters to fire and leave, if desired, instead of having to close into visual range while providing a radar lock for the AIM-7 Sparrow.

F-2: The Program

F-2A & F-4J Kai
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As noted above, the point of the F-2 program was to produce a cheaper fighter to complement its F-15s, provide a bridge for key aerospace technology transfers, and give Japan’s aerospace industry experience with cutting-edge manufacturing and component technologies. Unfortunately, the US Congress proved to be a significant program obstacle, raising many questions about technology transfer issues. That delayed the program by at least 2 years, and the resulting changes led to a better but more expensive design.

In the end, the F-2 delivered on its techno-industrial promises. Mitsubishi’s heavy use of graphite epoxy and co-cured composite technology for the wings encountered some teething problems, but proved to be a leading-edge use of a technology that provides weight savings, improved range, and some stealth benefits. This technology was then transferred back to America, as part of the program’s industrial partnership.

2003 Guam exercise
(click for video)

On the flip side, the ambitious goal of developing a fighter that used so many new technologies exacted a price. At a reported $108 million per plane in 2004 dollars, the F-2 is as expensive as the F-15s it seeks to supplement. Unfortunately, its overall performance, smaller radar size, and single engine make it a less capable aircraft. As a result, a program originally intended to field 130 fighters ceased production at 94.

At least 18 F-2s were damaged in the 2011 tsunami, leaving a reduced fleet. That fleet will continue to receive upgrades, including upgrades to their Japanese radars, improved missiles, avionics improvements, and other required upgrades over time. Japan is also moving to try and rehabilitate and upgrade up to 13 of the 18 damaged planes.

Upgraded F-2s will continue flying alongside Japan’s F-15Js, and Japan’s next-generation F-35A fighters. With the JASDF’s F-4J and RF-4J Kai(zen) Phantom IIs slated for retirement, and China bent on aggressive moves in and around Japan, every fighter will count.

F-2: Industrial Partnerships

The government of Japan has overall F-2 program responsibility, and funds the program. Under the agreement, Japan is responsible for producing approximately 60% of the aircraft and the other 40% is produced in the USA. The Japanese defense ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute is also involved in designing ongoing upgrades, in collaboration with program partner firms.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is the prime contractor and has design responsibility for portions of the airframe and avionics, the digital flight controls, the active phased array radar, and certain support equipment. MHI is also responsible for overall systems integration, and all components are assembled by at their Komaki South Plant near Nagoya, Japan. MHI delivered the first production aircraft to the Ministry of Defense in September 2000.

Composite wing
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Key Japanese subcontractors include Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI). FHI is responsible for developing the aircraft nose cone, the composite upper skin for the wing, and the horizontal and vertical tail assemblies. KHI is responsible for the center fuselage. The aircraft’s fly by wire system is a co-development with Japan Aviation Electric and Honeywell. Ishikawajima Harima Heavy Industries (IHI), another Japanese participant, produces the F110-GE-129 engines under license to General Electric of the United States.

Lockheed Martin provides about 40% of the overall fighter: all the aft fuselages, wing leading-edge flaps and stores management systems; 80% of all left-hand wing boxes; and other avionics and avionics support equipment. They also support MHI and the JASDF as they incorporate new weapons like Boeing’s Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), and aid in other support activities. Lockheed Martin components are shipped to MHI’s Komaki-South facility, where they are assembled with other components by MHI to form the F-2.

Contracts & Key Events 2011 – 2016

Tsunami destroys 18 F-2s; Upgrade plan & budgets; Some damaged F-2s to be restored.

F-2 with AA-3s
(click to view full)

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is the prime contractor for the F-2. Lockheed Martin is the major subcontractor under the terms of their partnership.

October 17/16: Lockheed Martin has offered to collaborate with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) on jointly developing a new fighter for Japan. LM President Marillyn Hewson made the disclosure saying the company will participate in a second round of Request For Information by Japan’s Ministry of Defense next year. Set to be the replacement for Tokyo’s current fleet of F-2s, other potential collaborators who have responded to the initial RFI include Boeing.

July 29/16: Plans for October? Mitsubishi’s X-2 stealth demonstrator is to go on public display at Gifu Air Base, Japan, on October 30. This will be one of the first times regular punters can get up close and personal with the new jet following its maiden flight in April. For those rushing to check those dates, authorities have advised to leave the cars at home and come via rail.

July 21/16: Industry partners already lining up for the Japanese F-3 program include US giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The new program is set to replace the existing F-2 fighter with a next generation stealth fighter based on the X-2 Shinshin experimental aircraft. With the F-3 planned for 2027, any partners taken into the development program stand to earn from a $20 billion project.

April 28/16: After numerous delays in its maiden flight which occurred last week amid much excitement from manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), the X-2 stealth demonstrator will have a year long test campaign involving around 50 flights. With the maiden flight described as “ordinary” by Hirofumi Doi, manager of Japan’s Future Fighter Program at the defence ministry’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA), future testing will help ATLA gather data on advanced fighter technologies such as stealth, thrust vectoring, data links, and other areas. Depending on this data, flight testing of the X-2 could easily be extended, leading the way for a potentially busy period for the demonstrator.

April 25/16: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has announced the successful maiden flight of its X-2 stealth demonstrator. The test flight now makes Japan the world’s fourth nation to test-fly a stealth aircraft. After performing a number of basic maneuvers, the X-2 left Nagoya Airport and landed at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Gifu Air Base. In development since 2009, the X-2 program has seen MHI cooperate with 220 domestic companies alongside Japan’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) to develop the necessary technologies.

April 14/16: Mitsubishi’s X-2 stealth demonstrator has moved one step closer to its first flight after a series of taxi and runway tests since January. The aircraft has now moved into the Vr stage whereby the aircraft accelerated to rotation speed, and the pilot pulled the nose wheel off the ground. Testing took place at the Nagoya Airfield on April 9, and precedes the plane’s maiden flight, expected by the end of the month.

April 13/16: The first flight of Mitsubishi’s X-2 (formally ATD-X) stealth demonstrator is expected to take place toward the end of this month. Initially scheduled for February, the maiden flight was pushed back by the developers out of caution, but the jet has been spotted undertaking runway and taxiing tests over the last number of weeks. The X-2 is being developed to lay the basis for a Japanese made replacement of Mitsubishi’s F-2, due to be retired in 2028.

March 24/16: The Japanese government has opened talks with western fighter manufacturers such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, over their participation in helping to build the country’s next F-3 series of fighter jets. Talks come as the Mitsubishi developed ATD-X experimental stealth aircraft prepares for its first test flights within the next few days. The indigenous ATD-X would be part of any attempt by Japan to develop their own F-3 fighter, with analysts expecting such a program to cost at least $40 billion. While this may prove too costly, Japan is anxious to continue developing its stealth technologies as it tries not to fall behind regional rival China.

March 8/16: Mitsubishi’s X-2 has been performing well in taxi tests according to Japan’s Acquisition Technology and Logistics Agency (ATLA). The agency was happy with the progress it was making, saying they were “proceeding with tests, performing very careful maintenance, and making some minor adjustments.” However, the agency hasn’t commented on the jet’s future flying schedule, or how many test flights will take place in 2016. The maiden flight had been originally planned for February.

February 12/16: The Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin was recently photographed while out for its first taxi test at Nagoya airport. After its unveiling to the public just last month, a maiden flight for the stealth demonstrator, formally known as the ATD-X, is just weeks away, bar any upcoming technical problems. The Shinshin, which means “spirit of the heart,” is Japan’s first foray into developing experimental stealth technologies and will form the basis for its fifth generation F-3 fighters planned for 2027.

January 29/16: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has unveiled to the press their latest ATD-X stealth fighter prototype at their plant in Komaki. The fifth generation stealth fighter was developed alongside Defense Ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) with the aim of seeing if an indigenously produced stealth fighter could be developed in Japan along with researching the technologies required. With its first test flight due this year, full scale production could be under way as early as 2018. The new jet will replace the aging Mitsubishi F-2 and F-15, while complementing its F-35 acquisition as Japan looks to take more responsibility over defending it’s territory and population.

December 29/15: Mitsubishi’s ATD-X stealth fighter is to make its maiden flight in February 2016 according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. The indigenous fighter is set to complete taxiing and ground trials in late January prior to the voyage. The demonstrator model is Japan’s first attempt at developing an entirely domestically produced stealth fighter, but has been suffering from delays. It is hoped that the ATD-X program will eventually lead to their own F-3 fighter to be produced by 2027.

December 7/15: Japan has made plans to test its very own fifth generation stealth jet, making it only the fourth country in the world to do so. The maiden flight of the ATD-X will take place in the first quarter of 2016 and aims to replace the current F-2 fighters in service. The development program is the most expensive in Japan’s history, costing $324 million. Japan’s announcement comes at a time when President Abe is modernizing the Japanese Self-Defence Force and new laws to send Japanese troops abroad. The re-militarization has received much chagrin from neighbours China and South Korea as well as domestic protests against Japan’s resurgent ultra-nationalism.

Dec 19/13: Lockheed Martin announces that they’ve delivered the first F-2 aft and leading edge flaps as part of a “restoration plan to replenish Japan’s F-2 fleet,” in cooperation with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).

Discussions with Lockheed Martin confirmed that Japan will try to repair and refurbish up to 13 of the 18 fighters damaged in the 2011 tsunami. With initial F-35 price soaring over $120 million per plane, this is a much cheaper way to try and increase the JASDF fleet. If it works, of course. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin Supports Japanese F-2 Restoration Program”.

Dec 12/13: Budget. Japan’s 5-year military budget features a slight increase, with political cover provided by an aggressive new Chinese “Air Defense Identification Zone” that includes Japanese territory. Japanese moves will include shifting a 2nd squadron of F-15Js to Naha Air Base in Okinawa, but they’ll need to cover the territory that the shifted F-15s are leaving.

They’re also moving to begin some F-15 and F-2 upgrades, beginning with trials for some features. F-15 improvements top out at YEN 17.58 billion, while F-2 upgrades could total up to YEN 24.3 billion (about $240 million). That includes 30 sets of APG-2 radars (YEN 9.4 billion), 12 “fuselage upgrades” (YEN 3.8 billion), adding JDAM capability to 4 planes as an initial step (YEN 4.4 billion), and an integration & testing trial with an unspecified targeting pod, which could become a mass upgrade (YEN 6.7 billion). Sources: Japan MoD, “Defense Programs and Budget of Japan: Overview of FY2014 Budget Request” and “Defense of Japan 2013” annual white paper in Additional Readings | Asahi Shimbun, “A lot of new equipment purchases in latest 5-year defense plan” | Taiwan’s Want China Times, “Japan increases defense budget in wake of ADIZ controversy”.

Feb 25/12: Radar & Missile upgrades. Aviation Week reports that Japan is planning to spend YEN 36 billion (about $468 million) to upgrade about 60 F-2 fighters with the Mitsubishi Electric Corp. AAM-4B missile, and improve their J/APG-1 fire control radar to a new APG-2 standard.

The AAM-4B will be the same size as the AIM-7 Sparrow missile, but it will have an AESA radar seeker head, in order to allow active homing and lock-on after launch. These abilities allow the launching fighter to leave the area or shift attention to other targets, instead of having to remain vulnerable while homing in on the target until impact. A reported 20% range improvement over the AIM-7M Sparrow, and a 40% improvement in autonomous guidance distance over the AIM-120B AMRAAM, would really improve the F-2’s overall air-to-air performance. Japan might get similar improvements from buying the latest AIM-120C7 AMRAAM, though it’s hard to tell. What’s certain is that they wouldn’t get the same design and production experience.

The J/APG-2 involves J/APG-1 upgrades. Despite AESA technology’s natural advantages, Aviation Week points out that the APG-1 is not seen as a top of the line radar. It was an early AESA example, and many features were limited to “best we could do at the time” technologies. Upgrades seem to revolve around improvements to radiated power and signal processing. All the JASDF will say, is that the APG-2 and AAM-4B will give F-2As a new ability to engage multiple targets from medium range.

The new systems were developed by the Japanese defense ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute with considerable help from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (missile integration) and Mitsubishi Electric (radar upgrades). Sources: Aviation Week, “Japan’s Air-to-Air Upgrades”

Fleet upgrades

April 20/11: Tsunami aftermath. Japan seems willing to try and repair some of the 18 Matsushima F-2s damaged in the tsunami, though they’re concerned that with the final F-2 delivery scheduled for this autumn, a parts shortage is a real possibility.

Repairs and parts production could keep the production line busy longer than expected. Still, as Kyle Mizokami points out, inundation with seawater can’t be good for the planes’ electronics and structures. New Pacific Institute | Sankei Shimbun [in Japanese].

(click for video)

March 12/11: Tsunami! With nuclear plants in danger of full meltdown, and thousands dead in the wake of a 1-2 punch from an 8.9 earthquake and its tsunami, losing 18 F-2 fighters is a minor cost in the overall scheme of things. Still, Japan’s low military spending levels, and its need to finance reconstruction, mean that the JASDF has taken a significant hit. IAF News:

“The Sendai airport authority in Miyagi Prefecture said the airport’s runways were submerged by tidal waves. The Air Self-Defense Force’s Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi was inundated with seawater, damaging 18 F-2 fighters and a number of other aircraft possibly permanently, the Defense Ministry said.”

Strategy Page points out that the 21st Fighter Training Squadron at Matsushima was also the site of most F-2 pilot training. Flight International (incl. photos/ video) | Liveleak video | IAF News | Strategy Page.

Tsunami takes out 18 F-2s

2002 – 2010

Confirmed contracts for 49, as total F-2 orders rise to 94.

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April 8/08: +8. Lockheed Martin announces the 12th and final contract from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), valued at approximately $250 million. Lockheed Martin will manufacture all of the aft fuselages, wing leading-edge flaps and stores management systems; 80% of all left-hand wing boxes; and other avionics and avionics support equipment, for 8 additional F-2 production aircraft.

This award brings the total aircraft under contract to 94, which is the total that the Japan Government has authorized for production. Lockheed Martin is also working with MHI to define appropriate post-production support arrangements. Lockheed Martin release.

March 31/07: +5. Lockheed Martin receives a $150 million contract from MHI to manufacture components for 5 additional F-2 production aircraft. Lockheed Martin release.

March 31/06: +5. Lockheed Martin receives a contract from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) valued at over $145 million to manufacture components for 5 additional F-2 production aircraft. This is the 10th annual contract for F2 production, bringing the total aircraft under contract to 81. At this point, more than 60 F-2 fighters are in service in Japan. Lockheed Martin release.

March 31/05: +5. Lockheed Martin receives a contract from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) valued at over $125 million to manufacture components for 5 additional F-2 production aircraft. This new award brings the total aircraft under contract to 76. Lockheed Martin release.

March 31/04: +6. Lockheed Martin receives a contract from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) valued at over $130 million to manufacture components for 6 additional F-2 production aircraft. This new award brings the total aircraft under contract to 71. Lockheed Martin release.

April 27/03: Industrial. Lockheed Martin announces a new 3-year labor agreement with District Lodge 776 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the largest union at its Fort Worth, TX aircraft manufacturing facility. The new contract will allow the union members to report to work as usual on Monday, April 28/03, and resume their production of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, major portions of the F/A-22 Raptor, and components for Japan’s F-2 fighter, among other projects.

March 31/03: +8. Lockheed Martin receives a contract from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) valued at $160 million to manufacture components for 8 additional F-2 production aircraft. This new award brings the total aircraft under contract to 65, with 36 total F-2s delivered by the end of the month. Lockheed Martin release.

March 29/02: +12. Lockheed Martin receives a contract from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) valued at over $200 million to manufacture components for 12 additional F-2 production aircraft. This new award is the 6th annual contract under the MHI-LMCO partnership, and brings the total aircraft under contract to 57; by the end this month, 28 F-2s had been delivered to the JDA. Lockheed Martin release.

1995 – 2001

From prototype delivery to 1st deployment.

F-2 fighter

October 2001: Deployment. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force deploys the first F-2 to Misawa AB in northern Japan. Source.


April 20/2000: Industrial. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company’s military aircraft design and production facility in Fort Worth, TX is awarded the coveted Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing. Named after internationally acclaimed industrialist Shigeo Shingo of Japan, the Shingo is sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of manufacturing.

Lockheed Martin ‘s release says that they are the largest single company, and the first aerospace prime contractor, ever to receive the award. It adds that they earned the award for several outstanding achievements, including substantial progress in implementing lean manufacturing principles in the production of the F-16, F-22 and Japan F-2 fighter aircraft. Other award criteria included the company’s successful partnering with customers and suppliers, application of innovative product development, et. al. Lockheed Martin release.

February 24/98: Industrial. Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems has implemented an automated control process to streamline its procedures for documenting non-conforming material in the factory that produces the F-16 and major components for the F-22 and F-2 fighters. The change is one aspect of a lean manufacturing and quality improvement initiative that began in 1992.

Under the new process, 7 steps are streamlined into 4. The Quality Assurance Inspector enters the Quality Assurance Report (QAR) QAR directly into the PAAC data management system via computer. It is then reviewed by personnel who enter the QAR disposition into the system, which automatically performs transactions and creates rework or repair orders based on disposition. A laser printed paper QAR copy is routed with parts and then sent to the Quality Assurance Inspector who closes the QAR.

The old process took between 20 to 30 days to complete. With the automated system, up to 10 days can be cut from the cycle. By 2001, by 2001, Lockheed projects project net cumulative savings of over $1 million from this system, plus significant cycle time improvements and lower QAR rates. The automated process has already been successfully implemented in the F-22 program, and is scheduled to be implemented in the F-2 program by the end of February 1998. It will be fully implemented in the F-16 program by the end of 1998, and will be applied to future programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter. Lockheed Martin release.

October 1995: 1st flight. First flight of F-2 prototype aircraft.

March 1995: Delivery. Delivery of the first prototype F-2 aircraft.

Additional Readings Background: F-2 Fighter & Program

News & Views

Categories: News

Opposition to Arms Sales to SA Continues | Pentagon Orders Navy to Launch Missiles at Houthi Targets | Poland Plans to Make Up for Failed Airbus Deal

Thu, 10/13/2016 - 23:58

  • Pressure has continued from US lawmakers opposed to continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Rep. Ted Lieu of California urged the Pentagon to suspend cooperation with a Saudi-led coalition conducting airstrikes in Yemen, saying in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry released on Wednesday that civilian casualties from the strikes “appear to be the result of war crimes.” A funeral struck by Saudi missiles last weekend killed 140 mourners and Lieu is requesting that US arms sales to Riyadh be suspended until a White House review is completed.

  • The Peruvian Ministry of Defense has received a number of R-312AT helicopter radio systems from JSC Rosoboronexport, subsidiary of Russia’s Rostec State Corporation. Delivery of the systems comes as part of an offset deal in connection with 24 Mi-171Sh helicopters and is expected to save Lima over $12.5 million. Rosboronexport have also promised to allocate $1 million for the building of a helicopter training center for Peru if eight offset projects agreed to are implemented.

Middle East & North Africa

  • In response to missile attacks on US and allied vessels off the coast of Yemen, the Pentagon has ordered the US Navy to launch missile attacks at targets operated by Houthi rebels. On October 13, the USS Nitze fired three BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar sites in Yemen which were believed to have been active during previous attacks and attempted attacks on vessels. A defense official said the radar sites were in remote areas where there was little risk of civilian casualties. The Houthis meanwhile, reiterated their denial that they were responsible for the attack on US warship the USS Mason.


  • As a way of saying sorry for the ditched Caracel military helicopter deal, Poland is to offer France alternative investment projects, according to the Polish Prime Minister. The previous Polish administration had agreed to buy 50 Airbus utility helicopters in April 2015 for $3.5 billion as part of efforts to modernize their military forces at a time of tensions with neighbor Russia. Beata Szydlo told Polish media that the French foreign minister will be presented with “cooperation proposals, when it comes to investment of another type, or a purchase of other equipment” when they make a visit to Warsaw, which is planned for the near future.

  • Proposals for new tanks and aircraft have been submitted by the Italian armed forces for parliamentary approval. On October 11, the defense commission of the lower house of the Italian parliament began debating plans by the Italian military to buy the Centauro II tank and an updated version of its A-129 Mangusta helicopter. While once nothing more than a rubber stamp for military acquisitions, the parliament’s defense commission was given greater influence over defense spending due to legislation passed in 2012. They have until November 8 to offer an opinion on the purchases.

Asia Pacific

  • In order to curry favor with the Indian government, Saab will share their Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar with Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology with India they if they select the Gripen fighter. The list of sweeteners also includes the previous offer of co-developing India’s indigenously manufactured fighter aircraft Tejas MK1A by setting up a production line in India under the “Make in India” scheme. Company officials said that both the LCA and the Gripen are of similar class and also share the same General Electric engine citing commonality in maintenance and operation.

  • Boeing has revealed some of the potential upgrades offered to Japan’s F-15Js. The company’s defense head in Japan announced that AESA radars, a new mission computer, a new electronic warfare suite, conformal fuel tanks, and additional missiles would all be included as part of any deal. A model on display at Boeing’s stand at this week’s Japan Aerospace show depicts an F-15 loaded with 16 Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles: double the load now available.

  • Kawasaki Heavy Industries are confident that they can poach customers away from Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon aircraft in favor of their own P-1. The company said that customers looking to move away from their older P-1 Orions see a number of advantages in the Japanese anti-submarine warfare plane over its American counterpart. One advantage touted over the P-8A is the P-1’s four turbofan engines, as a single engine failure will not result in the termination of the mission and allows the plane to operate at lower altitudes.

Today’s Video

USS Nitze Targeting Yemeni Radar Sites with Tomahawks:

Categories: News

Japan to Replace RF-4EJs with F-15Js + SAR Pods

Thu, 10/13/2016 - 23:55
RF-4EJ, heading out…
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Once upon a time, nations produced dedicated reconnaissance aircraft variants of front like fighters, or even dedicated reconnaissance fighter designs. These usually involved airframe modifications to place bulky camera equipment in the aircraft’s nose and/or centerline, and the sacrifice of guns and some stores stations. Anyone who has ever watched the movie “Terminator” and marveled at the bulky devices that used to be called “portable music players” will understand why this sort of thing isn’t necessary any more. Small pods like the RecceLITE, SHARP, LITENING et. al. can be fitted to any fighter, instantly turning it into a reconnaissance and/or targeting platform.

The JASDF(Japanese Air Self Defence Force) 501 Hikotai at Hyakuri AB flies the Japanese contingent of 27 RF-4EJs. Some were originally RF-4E reconnaissance planes, while others are converted F-4EJ fighters. They are scheduled to be decommissioned soon, and to replace them…

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Lockheed Martin will work with a number of Japanese firms to create external synthetic aperture radar (SAR) pods that will attach to the belly of Japan’s front-line F-15J Eagles, a Mitsubishi-built F-15C variant. The SAR will be Lockheed Martin’s.

Most reconnaissance and targeting pods are electro-optical, but SAR systems can peer through clouds and darkness to create photo-quality images. They have been used to generate images for a diverse range of military and science applications including: earth resources monitoring, agricultural and land use, ocean spill monitoring, polar ice assessment, intelligence acquisition, battlefield reconnaissance and weapon delivery.

Small SAR systems can even be found these days on some UAVs, like the Thales/Elbit Watchkeeper. The system equipping Japan’s F-15Js is likely to be significantly larger, which would improve its range and viewing capabilities.

Once integrated onto the aircraft, the radar will receive, process and disseminate critical targeting information in real-time. The system utilizes a solid-state digital system to record imagery, an airborne data-link to electronically relay information to ground stations, and the SAR to accurately locate targets day or night, and in any type of weather. Lockheed Martin release.

Lockheed Martin is currently marketing podded SAR systems in several additional countries, specifically for the F-16 and F-4, and have produced SAR systems on the F-4s for more than 30 years. Lockheed’s SAR systems have also flown on F/A-18s, the (now retired, except by Iran) F-14s, and South Korea’s modified Hawker 800 business jets.


October 14/16: Boeing has revealed some of the potential upgrades offered to Japan’s F-15Js. The company’s defense head in Japan announced that AESA radars, a new mission computer, a new electronic warfare suite, conformal fuel tanks, and additional missiles would all be included as part of any deal. A model on display at Boeing’s stand at this week’s Japan Aerospace show depicts an F-15 loaded with 16 Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles: double the load now available.

Categories: News

Tomahawk’s Chops: xGM-109 Block IV Cruise Missiles

Thu, 10/13/2016 - 23:45
  • GM-109 Block-IV Cutaway.gif" class="lazy" data-original="" src="/images/icons/ui/loading.gif" />
  • Block IV Cutaway
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    Block IV Tomahawk is the current generation of the Tomahawk family of cruise missiles. The BGM-109 Tomahawk family began life in the 1980s as sub-sonic, low-flying nuclear strike weapons, before being developed into long-range RGM/UGM-109 conventional attack missiles. They’re most frequently launched from submarines and surface ships, and have been the US Navy’s preferred option for initial air strikes in Iraq, Libya, et. al. Britain has also bought Tomahawk missiles, and launches them exclusively from submarines.

    Block IV is the latest variant. It adds innovative technologies that improve combat flexibility, while dramatically reducing the costs to buy, operate, and support these missiles. That’s why the Block IV program, under US Navy PMA-280, has been one of the USA’s defense acquisition success stories over the last decade.

    xGM-109: Missile & Launcher Types TLAM operation
    (click for video)

    Tomahawk missiles have become the US Navy’s major land strike missile. The USA has bought more than 4,000 over the years, and March 2011 saw the 2,000th GM-109 Tomahawk fired in combat, from USS Barry [DDG 52]. The missile typically flies at 50 – 100 feet above ground using terrain-following radar, and navigates to its targets using a combination of GPS/INS, computer matching of the land’s radar-mapped contours to the missile’s internal maps (TERCOM), and final matching of the target scene (DSMAC). Once on target the missile can fly a direct horizontal attack mode, trigger preprogrammed detonation above the target, or use a pop-up and dive maneuver. CEP is often described as being about 10 meters.

    There are 3 fielded variants.

    The xGM-109C/D Block III missiles will serve in the US Navy until FY 2020, and can be fitted with either a 1,000 pound unitary conventional warhead (xGM-109C), or a conventional submunitions warhead with hundreds of smaller bomblets (xGM-109D). The Tomahawk Block III has a 750 nautical mile range. Unfortunately, mission planning requires 80 hours of work.

    The xGM-109E Tomahawk Block IV achieved Initial Operating Capability in 2004, and current Pentagon plans will end purchases in 2015. Block IV reportedly increases missile range to 900 nautical miles, but it only uses the unitary warhead. Mission planning has been cut from 80 hours to just 1 hour, which makes a big difference to combat usage. The missile also has a 2-way UHF SATCOM datalink that allows the missile to be redirected in flight, or commanded to loiter over an area and wait for instructions from a Fleet HQ’s Maritime Operations Center.

    Submarine Launch 109 UGM-109 launch
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    Submarine-launched UGM-109 missiles are more expensive than their ship launched RGM-109 VLS counterparts, because the submarines’ launch mechanism is more involved and more strenuous. UGM-109 “all-up-round” storage and interface canisters come in 2 types: CLS and TTL. CLS canisters launch UGM-109s from vertical launch tubes installed on many of America’s Los Angeles Class (SSN 719 on), all Virginia Class, and all SSGN Ohio Class submarines. TTL canisters are used to launch Tomahawk missiles from a submarine’s torpedo tubes, which is Britain’s preferred method.

    In both cases, a Tomahawk launches “wet”, unlike most anti-ship missiles. The canister remains in the vertical-launch or torpedo tube, while the missile is ejected. Once the UGM-109 has reached a safe distance from the submarine, its rocket booster ignites underwater to power it airborne. That booster falls away just before the missile ignites its jet engine. If the submarine needs to “clear the tube” for torpedoes, anti-ships missiles, mines, UUVs, etc., TTL canisters can be ejected into the sea after launch, as a separate evolution. In contrast, CLS vertical-launch canisters are only removed portside, when the submarine comes into base for servicing and reloading.

    Tomahawk: The 2019 Evolution LRASM-A Concept
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    There was a plan to develop a successor to the retired xGM-109B ship-killer by 2015, as an interim capability for the US Navy’s Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) program. That was shelved in the FY 2014 budget, as the Navy opted to drop the interim capability. Instead, they’re moving ahead with OASuW’s main xGM-84 Harpoon missile replacement program for air and sea launch. The LRASM derivative of Lockheed Martin’s subsonic but stealthy AGM-158B JASSM-ER is the initial air-launched missile, but there will be competition for air and naval missiles beyond FY 2019.

    Raytheon has partnered with Norway’s Kongsberg to offer the stealthy, and accurate JSM for the air-launched OASuW, and their entry has the unique ability to fit inside the F-35C’s weapon bays. They could also offer Kongsberg’s NSM counterpart in the naval realm, but that would leave Tomahawk in the cold. Or would it?

    The key to the next set of Tomahawk improvements is actually a warranty. The missile has a 15-year warranty and a 30-year service life, so 2019 will begin a recertification cycle for the fleet that could last until 2030. Threats continue to evolve, so why not add some missile upgrades while they’re back in the shop anyway? The US Navy already has a specifications sheet of possible improvements, and they’ve done a number of capability studies.

    Raytheon is investing almost $40 million of its own funds in parallel, and they’re still talking to the Navy about that final package, which will break down into 3 broad categories.

    MI concept

    Anti-Access/ Area Denial Communications Suite. Saddam Hussein had a sophisticated anti-aircraft system, but he didn’t have the kind of high-end jamming and emissions triangulation capabilities expected of future opponents. The challenge is twofold: keep the enemy from cutting off your communications, and keep your communications from alerting the enemy.

    One option that has been mentioned in public involves adding a Line Of Sight datalink capability. The flip side of that move would involve training and tactics changes that push missile control farther down the command chain. That may be necessary, but is the US Navy comfortable doing that? There’s more to these A2/AD-CS discussions than just picking technologies.

    Autonomy. The Tomahawk is already an autonomous weapon, in the sense that it can be fired at pre-planned fixed targets and left alone. To remain relevant, it needs to add dynamic terminal autonomy: the ability to acquire targets on its own and hit them, even if the target is moving or has moved. It would also be useful to expand the missile’s navigation autonomy, by offering backups for hardened SASSM M-code GPS.

    Both kinds of upgrades are being contemplated. Early tests that aren’t autonomous involve Rapid In-flight Target Update, which allows units that have a lock on a target to transmit rapid final scene updates for the missile’s DSMAC guidance. This is still done via Fleet HQ as Standard Operational Procedure, but that’s enough to hit moving targets in some circumstances. Ships would become vulnerable to Tomahawk strikes if the targeting platform can survive their defenses, and the same is true for land-based air defense systems that can repeatedly move to new fixed locations.

    Raytheon and the Navy are looking for more, with a focus on mature technologies to cut down program risk. An ESM system for noticing and geolocating emissions has already begun testing. Raytheon personnel stress its quality, to the point that Navigation via Signals of Opportunity (NAVSOP) might be possible as a backup to GPS. During the attack run, ESM can allow the Tomahawk to home in on an active enemy ship or air defense radars, or even on other intercepted signals. That begins to add autonomous moving target capability, and the firm plans to take the next step by flight testing a dual-mode ESM/ active radar seeker system before the end of 2014. Finally, passive visual spectrum (camera or imaging infrared) guidance has also become popular for long-range strike missiles, because it doesn’t give the missile’s location away by creating electro-magnetic emissions. Raytheon has confirmed that CCD/IIR upgrades are also under consideration for Tomahawk, but stressed that no final decisions have been made about a future guidance package.

    Core Strengthening. All of these capabilities are great, but they demand more computer processing power, more memory, more onboard power, etc. The missile’s core will need redesigns, in order to keep up.

    Raytheon had to develop a Multi-Function Modular Processor to handle those computing needs. Other efforts will look to add new technology, like the Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System (JMEWS) warhead to allow mid-flight reprogramming, and improve performance against reinforced targets like bunkers. Still other attempts will take advantage of existing upgrades. As an example of the latter, Block III introduced the ability to throttle the missile’s Williams F107-WR-402 turbofan, and Raytheon has been expanding its usefulness over time. It’s a capability that’s obviously handy for adjusting the missile’s time of arrival, or extending range, but the firm has recently been testing a “high speed dash” mode. It’s still subsonic, but it represents some impressive flying that close to the ground.

    The Missing Link Saab S340-AEW
    (click to view full)

    Even after all of these upgrades, the Tomahawk is still a 1970s design that relies on low altitude to hide from radar. That isn’t really subject to change, even though downward-looking radars are proliferating on small AWACS planes and aerostat blimps, and radars in modern ships and air defense systems are taking big steps forward.

    All of the Tomahawk’s proposed technologies are well and good, and they will expand the missile’s usefulness substantially. Adding them to thousands of existing missiles is very cost effective, and makes a great deal of sense. As budget crunches force the Navy to re-examine every aspect of their programs, however, the Navy will have to make decisions about the cost, capability profile, and limitations of every weapon in their arsenal. Raytheon is trying to position Tomahawk as best they can, but the final decisions will lie elsewhere.

    Contracts & Key Events 45 min. documentary
    (click for video)

    Unless stated otherwise, US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contracts to Raytheon in Tucson, AZ. In general, these contracts aren’t competitively procured, pursuant to the “only 1 responsible supplier” exemption in 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1).

    Key subcontractors include Lockheed Martin in Valley Forge, PA (Weapon Control System element), QinetiQ North America in San Jose, CA (Command and Control element), and Boeing Inc. in St. Louis, MO (Command and Control element).

    FY 2016

    October 14/16: In response to missile attacks on US and allied vessels off the coast of Yemen, the Pentagon has ordered the US Navy to launch missile attacks at targets operated by Houthi rebels. On October 13, the USS Nitze fired three BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar sites in Yemen which were believed to have been active during previous attacks and attempted attacks on vessels. A defense official said the radar sites were in remote areas where there was little risk of civilian casualties. The Houthis meanwhile, reiterated their denial that they were responsible for the attack on US warship the USS Mason.

    May 26/16: An op-ed piece published last week, suggesting the US should supply AGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles to Japan has received a rebuttal from Chinese researchers. Experts from the China Institute of International Studies stated that while the idea of supplying the missile to Tokyo was not new, it would pose a threat to other countries in East Asia. The warning most likely comes following efforts started last year by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pursue changing the country’s post-WW2 constitution to allow it to re-arm and expand its forces.

    May 18/16: Robert Crumplar suggests in USNI News that Washington considers exporting the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile to Japan to act as a “responsive deterrent option.” The suggestion comes as Japan looks to deter potential aggression from North Korea, as well as dealing against a larger Chinese military. If the sale were to go ahead, it would follow a precedent for providing Tomahawk to allies that was established nearly 20 years ago when the United Kingdom acquired 65 missiles.

    April 21/16: Testing of a submarine-launched UGM-109 Tomahawk was terminated by the US Navy after the inert cruise missile crashed 50 minutes after its launch in southern Florida. The Navy was conducting a routine flight test, which was coordinated by the Navy’s Tomahawk Weapon System program at the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Maryland. Causes of the missile crash are currently being investigated by Navy officials.

    February 5/16: The Pentagon is to invest in the development of Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles which will be capable of hitting moving vessels. $2 billion has been requested for the purchase of 4,000 Tomahawk missiles with manufacturer Raytheon. Raytheon has invested in a multi-modal seeker that would allow the missiles to hit moving targets so that missiles may be adapted from land missiles into anti-ship missiles. A further $2.9 billion will also be made available for the purchase of 650 SM-6 interceptors as well, to advance them to become anti-ship missiles for the first time. This will allow the SM-6 to operate in an offensive capability instead of operating solely as an anti-ballistic weapon.

    January 19/16: Tomahawk cruise missiles could get a lot more destructive if a new development program is successful. Researchers from Energetic Materials Research and Engineering have been successfully utilizing residual fuel left inside a missile during impact and turning it into a fuel-air explosive that can contribute to the blast created by the missile’s warhead. At present the team are looking to find the best way to implode the fuel tank to generate a cloud of fuel that will mix with surrounding air to ignite into an intense, high-temperature explosion. If successful, the add on to the missile could increase the Tomahawks payload without any need to change the dynamics of the warhead.

    January 15/16: Testing of a new sensor on the Tomahawk missile has been successful. Raytheon owned T-39 test aircraft carried out a number trials over a three week period engaging moving targets on land and at sea. The development of the sensor was part of company funded, independent R&D looking to enhance the current Tomahawk long-range precision strike/land attack role. Since 2005, Raytheon has been investing in increasing the missile’s seeker capabilities and effectiveness in varying environments.

    October 7/15: Raytheon has demonstrated how a Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile can be used to assess battlefield damage, loiter and then attack a target following analysis of the data it provided to operators. The test demonstrated how the missile could be launched from one location, travel to a second area of operations and communicate via a UHF SATCOM link with a third location half-way around the world, before striking a target. The Block IV Tomahawk demonstrated flexible mission planning capabilities in flight during previous testing in August, with this latest round of testing also demonstrating that multiple missiles could be coordinated from a single control point.

    FY 2015

    August 6/15: Raytheon’s Block IV Tomahawk cruise missile demonstrated mission planning capability during flight tests announced on Wednesday. The upgraded software allowed planners to adapt the missile’s mission profile on the fly, with this new capability now set to be rolled-out across the fleet of Tomahawks in service. The Block IV missile demonstrated similar capabilities in March 2014, when the missile received information in-flight and re-targeted itself to strike a moving vehicle.

    Oct 11/14: American A2/AD. Rep. Randy Forces [R-VA-4] sends a letter to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Odierno on the eve of the AUSA conference, pushing for the Army to set up a modern version of its Coastal Artillery: long-range, land-based anti-ship missiles that would be forward-based in friendly countries to endanger Chinese vessels and shipping. Missiles like LRASM and the longer-ranged but less stealthy AGM-109 Tomahawk are obvious candidates for this sort of thing, significantly outranging competitors like Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile or Boeing’s SLAM-ER. The RAND study that Forbes refers to actually posited using shorter-range missiles like NSM, but its maps also showed the number of deployment sites required for effective coverage.

    The idea would be a nice turnabout on China’s Anti-Access, Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy, and a Philippine deployment would produce a very tangible benefit all by itself, at low cost. On the other hand, Rep. Forbes probably underestimates the difficulty of getting many countries beyond the Philippines to accept an inherently provocative deployment whose use is technically beyond their control. Recent American waffling around the world suggests an even less palatable conclusion: the penalty for saying yes would be immediate, without any assurance that the weapons would actually be used to help the accepting country if push came to shove.

    Contrast with the Russian approach. They just sell SS-N-26 shore batteries to interested countries, helping customers to create the same barrier under their own control, without the offsetting political challenges. India’s derivative PJ-10 BrahMos missile may also wind up being used this way, if India can get its act together on the export front. Sources: RAND, “Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific” | Breaking Defense, “Army Should Build Ship-Killer Missiles: Rep. Randy Forbes”.

    FY 2014

    Final dive
    (click to view full)

    Sept 24/14: Orders. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $251.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 231 Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round missiles for the U.S. Navy (211: 147 vertical launch systems and 64 capsule launch systems / $224.5 million/ 89.4%) and the United Kingdom (20 torpedo tube launch systems / $26.7 million/ 10.6% – q.v. July 1/14 DSCA request). All funds are committed immediately, using foreign funds and FY 2013 & 2014 US Navy weapon budgets.

    Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (32%); Camden, AR (11%); Ogden, UT (8%); Anniston, AL (4%); Minneapolis, MN (4%); Glenrothes, Scotland (4%); Ft. Wayne, IN (4%); Spanish Fork, UT (3%); Ontario, CA (3%); Vergennes, VT (3%); El Segundo, CA (2%); Berryville, AR (2%); Westminster, CO (2%); Middletown, CT (2%); Walled Lake, MI (2%); Huntsville, AL (1%); Dallas, TX (1%); Farmington, NM (0.2%); and various locations inside and outside the continental United States (11.8%); work is expected to be complete in August 2016.

    This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 by US Navy NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-14-C-0075).

    US/UK order

    July 31/14: Raytheon in Tucson, AZ, receives an $8.7 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification for Tomahawk Depot Missile maintenance, including inventory management for the US Navy and the United Kingdom, and direct fleet support for resolving technical issues with forward deployed, in-theater weapons.

    Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (60%); Camden, AR (36%); and various other continental United States locations (4%); and is expected to be complete in March 2015. Funds will be obligated on individual delivery orders as they are issued by US Navy NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-13-D-0002).

    Sept 9/14: Testing. Raytheon touts a recent pair of live warhead test firings from the USS Hampton [SSN 767: UGM-109] and USS Lake Champlain [CG 57: AGM-109], demonstrating “enhanced flex retargeting” and improved flight performance. Sources: Raytheon, “Tomahawk enhancements showcased in back-to-back flight tests”.

    July 17/14: Political. The Senate Appropriations Committee approves a $489.6 billion base FY 2015 budget, plus $59.7 billion in supplemental funding. If they get their way, xGM-109 Tomahawk Block IV production would continue at full rate, with $82 million in extra funding. It has been set to end with a 100 missiles, but the added funds would drive it toward the standard annual buy of 180-200.

    The budget still has to be voted on in the whole Senate, then reconciled in committee with the House of Representatives’ defense budget, then signed into law by the President. Sources: DID, “FY15 US Defense Budget Finally Complete with War Funding”.

    July 1/14: UK request. The US DSCA announces Britain’s formal request for up to 65 UGM-109 Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round missiles plus containers, engineering support, test equipment, operational flight test support, communications equipment, technical assistance, personnel training/equipment, spare and repair parts, and other support. The estimated cost is up to $140 million. DSCA adds that:

    “The UK needs these missiles to replenish those expended in support of coalition operations.”

    Which is to say, over Libya. The principal contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Company in Tucson, AZ, and Britain doesn’t need any more contractors on site from Raytheon or from the US government. Sources: US DSCA #14-30, “United Kingdom – Tomahawk Block IV Torpedo Launched Land-Attack Missiles”.

    DSCA request: UK (140)

    April 28/14: Testing. Raytheon announces a successful captive-carry test flight, using a small T-39 Saberliner business jet fitted with their passive ESM seeker. The jet flew at subsonic speed and at varying altitudes, while the “passive seeker and multi-function processor successfully received numerous electronic signals from tactical targets in a complex, high density electromagnetic environment.”

    This test brings the Raytheon-funded multi-mission processor to Technology Readiness Level 6. The next step for the company-funded effort is an active seeker test, which will combine the processor with ESM and active radar. That combination would likely form the core of future Tomahawk upgrades. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon tests new guidance system for Tomahawk cruise missile”.

    April 17/14: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/13 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF]. It makes early termination official, and explains the savings:

    “Program costs decreased $1,832.1 million (25.8%) from $7,109.0 million to $5,276.9 million, due primarily to a decrease of 1,161 TACTOM missiles from 4,951 to 3,790 (-$1,249.2 million) and associated schedule, engineering, and estimating allocations

    • (-$586.2 million).”

    Note that SecNav Mabus’ comments regarding 4,000 GM-109s in stock (q.v. April 13/14) appear to have been in error. Many have been used over the years.


    April 13/14: Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus sees an inventory of 4,000 Tomahawks that “will carry us through any eventuality that we can foresee,” but Raytheon wants to avoid shutting down their line and cutting the chain to more than 100 suppliers in 24 states. Their lobbying is helped by the fact that the USA’s byzantine procurement and budgeting processes add some strategic risk. News that the Navy was even thinking of a next-generation replacement reportedly came as a surprise to Raytheon in January 2014. Which means that it’s entirely imaginable to have a 20 year wait between the last Tomahawk delivery, and a comparable new operational missile.

    On the other hand, every defense production line shuts down eventually, and a dollar spent on Tomahawks can’t buy new ships, fighters, air defense missiles, etc. Rather than waging a frontal assault that tries to keep missile orders coming, Raytheon is reportedly looking to accelerate the combined xGM-109 recertification/ upgrade process by a few years, so it picks up where Tomahawk production leaves off. Raytheon senior program manager Chris Sprinkle says that Raytheon has invested $30 million of their own funds in R&D for upgrades, and plans to invest another $8 million or so. Sources: Arizona Daily Star, “Proposed halt of Tomahawk missile buys raises concerns at Raytheon”.

    March 4/14: FY15 Budget. The Navy unveils a preliminary budget request briefing. It doesn’t break down individual programs into dollars, but it does offer planned purchase numbers for the Navy’s biggest programs from FY 2014 – 2019.

    The plan confirms 196 Tactical Tomahawk missiles in FY 2014, and proposes to end production with 100 missiles ordered in FY 2015. Source: US Dept. of the Navy, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF].

    Feb 19/14: Datalink test. A Tomahawk Block IV missile is launched from the USS Sterett [DDG 104] on a loitering fire test:

    “… [the missile] flew a preprogrammed route while receiving updates from a simulated maritime operations center and from advanced off-board sensors updating the missile’s target location. Throughout the flight, the missile maintained communications with all the command and control assets and provided updates on its location before hitting the target.”

    Raytheon told DID that this is the first of many tests involving “off-board sensors”, though 2014 will also see a number of flight tests using new on-board ESM and radar sensors. Many will be captive-carry tests, using one of the US Navy’s T-39 Sabreliner modified business jets. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon, U.S. Navy test Tomahawk Block IV’s latest communications upgrades”.

    Feb 14/14: Upgrades. Tomahawk program manager Capt. Joe Mauser tells Defense Tech that they’re working on a new Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System (JMEWS) warhead for the Block IV, in order to improve performance against reinforced targets like bunkers.

    At the same time, Raytheon is working on a new active & passive dual seeker (q.v. Oct 7/13). Raytheon has been elbowed aside from the OASuW program, which is currently owned by Lockheed Martin’s stealthy LRASM-B. A low-cost upgrade that accomplishes some of OASuW’s goals offers Raytheon the opportunity to get some funds, keep their missile relevant for years to come, and position themselves as a weaker Plan B if further budget cuts remove their competitor. Sources: DefenseTech, “Navy Wants Its Tomahawks to Bust More Bunkers”.

    Jan 14/14: #3,000. Raytheon announces that they’ve delivered the 3,000th Tomahawk Block IV missile, as part of FY 2012’s FRP-9 production contract. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon delivers 3000th Tomahawk Block IV to US Navy”.


    Oct 7/13: ESM multi-mode. Raytheon announces a successful field test of a new multi-mode seeker technology that would add an advanced Electronic Support Measure (ESM) antenna and processor to the Block IV Tomahawk missile. Raytheon told DID that the system is based on the firm’s own technology, rather than being a direct offshoot of the attempt to add AARGM technology to the Tomahawk (q.v. April 27/12).

    Raytheon is correct that the current Tomahawk is an open architecture ‘truck’ capable of integrating new payloads and sensors, and an ESM seeker is a helpful addition to recent improvements like the 2-way datalink. ESM would turn the missile into a radar and communications killer that could deal directly with enemy air defenses, and could begin to engage some kinds of moving targets. The challenge is that the missile still needs to survive long enough to hit its target, and the Tomahawk’s low-level flight isn’t enough to protect it from the kind of advanced air defenses that would make you want to use unmanned ESM missiles. Its best use case might be against enemy ships. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon demonstrates new seeker technology for Tomahawk Block IV missile”.

    FY 2012 – 2013

    (click to view full)

    April 17/13: UK. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Britain’s request to import follow-on support and keep their UGM-109 Tomahawk Weapon Systems (TWS) ready for use. Work can include missile modifications, maintenance, spare and repair parts, system and test equipment, engineering support, communications equipment, technical assistance, personnel training/equipment, and other related elements of logistics support.

    The estimated cost is up to $170 million, but actual costs will be negotiated in a series of contracts. The principal contractors will be Raytheon Missile Systems Company in Tucson, AZ; Lockheed Martin in Manassas, VA, Valley Forge, PA, and Marlton, NJ; Boeing in St. Louis, MO; BAE North America in San Diego, CA; COMGLOBAL in San Jose, CA; and SAIC in Springfield, VA and Patuxent River, MD. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 1 U.S. Government and 2 contractor representatives to the United Kingdom for the duration of this case.

    DSCA: UK support request

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

    News for the Tomahawk program is mixed. The OASuW Harpoon replacement program canceled plans for an interim solution based on the xGM-109 family, even as it plans to award Technology Development contracts in FY 2013. Raytheon will need to consider its competitive options carefully, as OASuW could grow to be a huge opportunity.

    Within the existing Tomahawk program, yearly budgets are rising even though the number of missiles per year remains constant at 196. This is pushing flyaway cost for new missiles from $956,000 in FY 2013 to about $1.2 million. The extra funds are going to 2 areas: obsolescence replacement/ diminishing manufacturing sources, and restoration of planned missile improvements. The former category includes such key components as the Williams turbojet engine and the satellite datalink, and is important enough that FY 2011 – 2011 contract savings are being applied to address it. Improvements will begin with missile communications that will work even in jamming-rich or otherwise hostile environments.

    March 11/13: UK. A $6.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 4 torpedo tube launched (TTL) Tomahawk Block IV all-up-round missiles for the government of the United Kingdom under the Foreign Military Sales Program. All funds are committed immediately.

    Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (32.6%); Camden, AR (13%); Ogden, UT (10.5%); Dallas, TX (3.5%); Minneapolis, Minn. (3.3%); Glenrothes, Scotland (3.3%); Spanish Fork, UT (3.1%); El Segundo, CA (3%); Walled Lake, MI (2.6%); Anniston, AL (2.5%); Ft. Wayne, IN (2.3%); Ontario, Canada (2.2%); Vergennes, VT (2.1%); Berryville, AR (1.8%); Westminster, CO (1.6%); Largo, FL (1.5%); Middletown, CT (1.3%); Huntsville, AL (1.2%); Clearwater, FL (0.8%); Moorpark, CA (0.8%); El Monte, CA (0.6%); Salt Lake City, UT (0.6%); Farmington, NM (0.2%); and various continental U.S. (CONUS) and outside CONUS locations (5.6%); and is expected to be completed in February 2015 (N00019-12-C-2000).

    4 for Britain

    March 7/13: Support. A $12.8 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for services in support of Tomahawk missile depot maintenance, including direct fleet support for resolving technical issues with forward deployed, in-theater weapons and inventory management for the US Navy and the United Kingdom.

    Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (70%); Camden, AR (24%); Commerce Township, MI (4%); Indianapolis, IN (1%); and various other continental U.S. (CONUS) and outside CONUS locations (1%) until February 2014. $2.4 million is committed immediately, of which $2.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-13-D-0002).

    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 Tomahawk gets high marks. It continues to meet its standards, and remains operationally effective and suitable (maintainable).

    The one thing Pentagon OT&E would like to see is restored flight testing of the Block III model, until it goes out of service in FY 2020.

    Dec 18/12: CCLS. A $45 million firm-fixed-price contract modification from the USN for 120 Tomahawk Block IV Composite Capsule Launching Systems (CCLS), which are used to launch UGM-109s from vertical submarine tubes. All contract funds are committed immediately.

    Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (24.61%); Lincoln, NB (23.17%); Camden, AR (12.48%); Rocket Center, WVA (10.3%); Carpentersville, IL (8.74%); Joplin, MO (6.63%); Hopkinton, MA (4.76%); Huntsville, AR (4.37%); Alamitos, CA (2.05%); Torrance, CA (1.47%); Downers Grove, IL (0.75%); and Brooksville, FL (0.67%), and is expected to be complete in July 2015 (N00019-12-C-2000).

    Dec 17/12: 252 missiles. A $254.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising a US Navy option for 252 Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round (AUR) missiles: 132 RGM-109s designed to launch from strike-length Mk.41 cells on surface ships, and 120 UGM-109 CLS missiles that are fired from different vertical launch tubes installed on American submarines.

    Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (32%); Camden, AR (11%); Ogden, UT (8%); Anniston, AL (4%); Minneapolis, MN (4%); Ft. Wayne, IN (4%); Glenrothes, Scotland (4%); Dallas, TX (4%); Spanish Fork, UT (3%); Vergennes, VT (3%); Walled Lake, MI (2%); Berryville, AR (2%); El Segundo, CA (2%); Westminster, CO (2%); Middletown, CT (2%); Huntsville, AL (1%); Farmington, NM (0.2%); and various locations in the continental United States and outside the continental United States (11.8%); and is expected to be completed in August 2015. See also Raytheon.

    FY 2013: 252

    Sept 3/12: OASuW. Aviation Week offers a look into the Tomahawk’s potential future. In June 2012, the US Navy announced a sole-source contract to Raytheon to develop the interim Offensive Anti-Surface Weapon (OASuW) by modifying a Tomahawk Block IV missiles with new sensors and data links. The missile is expected to enter service by 2015… but it’s likely to face competition from Lockheed Martin’s LRASM-A, among others.

    Full OASuW Technology Development awards are expected to begin in FY 2013, after a Q2 Milestone A decision. The technical Development phase runs from FY 2013 – FY 2017, to an expected total of $557.2 million. Initial Operational Capability is currently set for 2024.

    July 12/12: CCLS. A $45.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, buying 123 Tomahawk Block IV Composite Capsule Launching Systems (CCLS) for the US Navy.

    Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (24.61%); Lincoln, NB (23.17%); Camden, AR (12.48%); Rocket Center, WVA (10.3%); Carpentersville, IL (8.74%); Joplin, MO (6.63%); Hopkinton, MA (4.76%); Huntsville, AR (4.37%); Alamitos, CA (2.05%); Torrance, CA (1.47%); Downers Grove, IL (0.75%); and Brooksville, FL (0.67%), and is expected to be complete in July 2014 (N00019-12-C-2000).

    June 7/12: 361 missiles. A $337.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 361 Tomahawk Block IV All-Up-Round missiles for the Navy. This includes 238 RGM-109E missiles that are launched from strike-length Mk.41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells on surface ships, and 123 UGM-109E missiles that are launched from submarines equipped with the Capsule Launch System (CLS).

    Raytheon’s release says that the buy includes replenishment of weapons used during Operation ODYSSEY DAWN in Libya, as well as the FY 2012 buy.

    Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (32%); Camden, AR (11%); Ogden, UT (8%); Anniston, AL (4%); Minneapolis, MN (4%); Fort Wayne, IN (4%); Glenrothes, Scotland, UK (4%); Dallas, TX (4%); Spanish Fork, UT (3%); Vergennes, VT (3%); Walled Lake, MI (2%); Berryville, AR (2%); El Segundo, CA (2%); Westminster, CO (2%); Middletown, CT (2%); Huntsville, AL (1%); Farmington, NM (0.2%); and various locations inside and outside the continental United States (11.8%), and is expected to be complete in August 2014 (N00019-12-C-2000).

    FY 2012 + Libya replacement: 361

    April 27/12: New sensors?

    “The Naval Air Systems Command intends to negotiate and award a sole source order under Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) N00019-11-G-0014, pricing arrangement cost-plus-fixed-fee, for engineering services necessary to support a study to assess the possibility of integrating, onto the Block IV Tomahawk weapon, Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) technologies.”

    The AGM-88E AARGM uses GPS to navigate to the target’s vicinity, then finds targets that are moving or have moved using a combination of emission-locating ESM and an active millimeter wave radar seeker. AARGM is meant to destroy enemy air defense systems, but a system for a missile of this size would also be able to target enemies like ships. ATK received a $452,000 contract on Aug 22/12.

    xGM-109E Block IV TLAMs: A Program Success Story Fly.
    (click to view full)

    Block IV missiles offer a number of improvements over previous versions: the missile’s purchase cost drops by almost half, to about $750,000, while lowering its future maintenance costs, and upgrading its capabilities.

    Capt. Bob Novak, who was the Tomahawk All-Up-Round (PMA-280) program manager until August 2005, began leading the Tomahawk AUR program team in 2002 during a critical time in the development of the Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile. Under his leadership the program awarded the Navy’s first-ever weapons multi-year contract, and was estimated to have reduced the cost per missile from Block III to Block IV by almost 50%, saving $1 billion over planned lifetime costs while upgrading the missile’s capabilities. While reducing the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk’s purchase costs, improved design and manufacturing also reduced maintenance/ recertification requirements from once every 8 years for Block III missiles to once every 15 years.

    PMA-280 was honored with several prominent awards, including the Secretary of Defense Value Engineering Award, the Daedalian Award, and the Ed Heinemann Award.

    (click to view full)

    One important new capability that Block IV Tomahawk brings to the US Navy’s Sea Strike doctrine is derived from the missile’s 2-way satellite data link, which enables the missile to respond to changing battlefield conditions. The strike controller can “flex” the missile in flight to preprogrammed alternate targets, redirect it to a new target, or even have it loiter over the battlefield awaiting a more critical target. Block IV Tomahawks can also transmit battle damage indication imagery and missile health and status messages via the satellite data link, allowing firing platforms to execute missions in real time.

    Global Positioning System-only missions are also possible in addition to the missile’s previous terrain-mapping guidance mode, thanks to an improved anti-jam GPS receiver for enhanced mission performance.

    The majority of Tomahawk cruise missiles are currently launched by Navy surface vessels, such as the Ticonderoga Class (CG-47) cruisers and Arleigh Burke Class (DDG-51) destroyers. The later series of Improved Los Angeles Class (SSN-688I) and the newest Virginia Class (SSN-744) attack submarines are also armed with 12 dedicated Tomahawk launch tubes, while earlier Los Angeles boats and the newest Seawolf Class (SSN-21) have to sacrifice some of their stored torpedoes to carry and launch Tomahawks through their torpedo tubes. But the USA’s premier Tomahawk carrier vehicle in future will be the Ohio Class SSGN stealth strike subs, with launch capacity for an astounding 154 Tactical Tomahawks each.

    Additional Readings & Sources

    DID would like to thank Raytheon Tomahawk Program Director Roy Donelson, and Growth Program Manager Chris Sprinkle, for their assistance with this article. Any mistakes are our own damn fault. Readers with corrections or information to contribute are encouraged to contact editor Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.

    Weapon & Program Background

    News & Views

    • DID – LRASM Missiles: Reaching for a Long-Range Punch. Covers the USN’s OASuW program, whose sea-launched component has already affected the Tomahawk program. The current plan is based around air and sea-launched adaptations of Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158B JASSM-ER.

    • FAS Strategic Security Blog (March 18/13) – US Navy Instruction Confirms Retirement of Nuclear Tomahawk Cruise Missile. The xGM-109B Tomahawk Block II.

    • Defense Daily (Nov 29/07) – Navy Seeks New Uses For Tomahawks. Covers a number of program developments, including the potential for thermobaric warheads.

    • Naval Air Station Patuxent River Tester Magazine (April 12/07) – Submarine-launched Tomahawk IV flight test a success

    • Naval Air Station Patuxent River Tester Magazine (Dec 14/06) – Tomahawk IV in West Coast Test. “The test successfully demonstrated the Tomahawk Strike Network. The Tomahawk Strike Network (TSN) is a unique aspect of the Block IV system. Utilized in this test, TSN is a communications network that provides secure connectivity among all of the participants in a strike plan. Those participants include the Block IV missile(s), the strike controller, and the missile controller. Messages are generated, sent, and received inside the network, and are monitored by a channel controller. TSN allows the strike controller to retarget the missile in flight, monitor the health and status of the missile in flight, and collect images along the route.”

    • Naval Air Station Patuxent River Tester Magazine (Aug 10/05) – Tomahawk program marks historic milestone. Capt. Rick McQueen became the 1st program manager for the newly formed Tomahawk Weapons System Program Office (PMA-280), as the Navy’s All-Up-Round (PMA-280) and Cruise Missile Weapons Systems (PMA-282) groups merged.

    • Naval Air Station Patuxent River Tester Magazine (Oct 7/04) – New Tomahawk ready for warfighter. Block IV was accepted by the USN on Sept 29/04.

    Categories: News

    LCA Tejas: An Indian Fighter – With Foreign Help

    Thu, 10/13/2016 - 23:40
    Tejas LCA
    (click to view full)

    India’s Light Combat Aircraft program is meant to boost its aviation industry, but it must also solve a pressing military problem. The IAF’s fighter strength has been declining as the MiG-21s that form the bulk of its fleet are lost in crashes, or retired due to age and wear. Most of India’s other Cold War vintage aircraft face similar problems.

    In response, some MiG-21s have been modernized to MiG-21 ‘Bison’ configuration, and other current fighter types are undergoing modernization programs of their own. The IAF’s hope is that they can maintain an adequate force until the multi-billion dollar 126+ plane MMRCA competition delivers replacements, and more SU-30MKIs arrive from HAL. Which still leaves India without an affordable fighter solution. MMRCA can replace some of India’s mid-range fighters, but what about the MiG-21s? The MiG-21 Bison program adds years of life to those airframes, but even so, they’re likely to be gone by 2020.

    That’s why India’s own Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project is so important to the IAF’s future prospects. It’s also why India’s rigid domestic-only policies are gradually being relaxed, in order to field an operational and competitive aircraft. Even with that help, the program’s delays are a growing problem for the IAF. Meanwhile, the west’s near-abandonment of the global lightweight fighter market opens a global opportunity, if India can seize it with a compelling and timely product.

    LCA Tejas: India’s Lightweight Fighter Tejas, side view
    (click to view full)

    Within India’s force structure, the LCA is largely expected to replace its 400 or so MiG-21 aircraft with a more versatile and capable performer. The MiGs are being retired as age claims them, and even India’s 125 or so upgraded MiG-21 ‘Bisons’ are only scheduled to remain in service until 2018. The LCA’s overall performance is expected to be somewhat similar to India’s Mirage 2000s, with lower top speed but more modern electronics.

    The Tejas LCA design uses a tailless compound delta plan that’s designed to be unstable, but controllable over an 8g / -3.5g flight range thanks to advanced flight software and quadruplex fly-by-wire technology. Composites are used heavily in order to to save weight, and proper placement can also lower the plane’s radar profile. Japan’s F-16-derived F-2 fighters also made heavy use of composite technologies, but Japanese issues with delamination and cracking required repairs and changes. ADA has conducted Static and fatigue strength studies on finite element models, and aeroservoelastic studies have been performed on the Tejas design; nevertheless, only full testing and actual service will reveal how it fares. So far, composites haven’t become a public problem for the aircraft.

    Unfortunately, reports indicate that the lack of early pilot input has compromised several aspects of the design, while a failure to consider maintenance up front has made key components difficult to reach. Barring published comparisons from experienced pilots or evaluating countries, it’s very difficult to pin down the extent or seriousness of these issues, but Tejas has certainly spent a very long time in testing.

    The following sub-sections go into more detail about the fighter’s equipment rationales, and that equipment’s specific capabilities. The above list seems straightforward, but getting there has been anything but.


    The plane’s avionics architecture is configured around a 3 bus, distributed MIL-STD-1553B system, using a 32-bit Mission Computer (MC) and software written in Ada. A “glass cockpit” of colour Active Matrix Liquid Crystal Displays (AMLCDs) provides the pilot with information, and is supplemented by Elbit’s DASH helmet-mounted display for commonality with other IAF aircraft.

    The Mk.II is slated to use a more advanced glass cockpit with better computing and graphics processors behind it, full-duplex cross-Switched Ethernet (AFDX) based back up avionics, and digital maps. Elsewhere on the plane, a Universal Pylon Interface Computer (UPIC) will replace the Pylon Interface Boxes.

    Radar Love: Weapons & Fire Control Radar Failure & Replacement EL/M-2032
    (click to view full)

    The Tejas project’s original radar, like its original engine choice, very nearly sank the project. The state-run Aeronautical Development Agency had originally intended to use Ericsson Microwave Systems’ PS-05/A radar, until they changed their mind and decided to develop their own. India’s Multi Mode Radar (MMR) program was started in June 1991, with a “Probable Date of Completion” of 6.5 years. More than 15 years later, development was still plodding away as a joint effort between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Hyderabad, India’s Electronics and Radar Development Laboratory in Bangalore, and the Centre for Airborne Studies. Even worse, test results for the radar were poor.

    By August 2007, over 16 years into the project, even India’s MoD finally had to admit that the MMR faced serious problems. Radar co-development has now been initiated with Israel’s IAI Elta, with the EL/M-2032 as the radar base and interim solution. The EL/M-2032 multi-mode radar was originally developed for Israel’s Lavi fighter, and already equips India’s Sea Harrier fleet and Jaguar IM strike aircraft, and is popular around the world. M-2032s can be found on some F-16s in Israel and elsewhere, Kfir C10s flown by some Latin American customers, Chile’s upgraded F-5s, Romania’s MiG-21 Lancer upgrades, and South Korea’s FA-50 lightweight fighter. The radar features modular hardware design, with software control and flexible avionic interfaces, and a TWT coherent transmitter with a low-sidelobe planar antenna. The M-2032 functions in several air-to-air modes, as well as the air-to-ground, air-to-sea, ground-mapping in RBS, DBM, SAR with moving target tracking, and terrain avoidance modes.

    Detection and classification ranges will vary depending on the aperture size. A radar adapted to fit in an F-5’s narrow nose will have lower performance than one that fits into a larger F-16. The Tejas’ dimensions suggest that performance may be near the radar’s claimed 80 nautical mile maximums for detection of fighter-sized objects.

    There have been reports that the Tejas Mk.II and operational LCA Naval will fly with IAI’s EL/M-2052 AESA radar instead. That change would roughly double performance, while drastically reducing radar maintenance costs. These reports are unconfirmed, however, and other accounts cite American pressure to prevent Israeli AESA radar exports.

    Other Sensors & Defensive LITENING pod

    RAFAEL’s LITENING advanced surveillance and targeting pod will give Tejas long-range looks at ground targets, independent laser designation capability, and (rumored) fleet commonality with India’s Jaguars, MiG-27s, Mirage 2000s, and SU-30MKIs. The Mk.II will reportedly be adapted for a more advanced variant of the LITENING pod, but that means the pods would have to be bought and given to the Tejas fleet, rather than the SU-30MKI fleet for example.

    The defensive system will be designed in India. Late testing means that it won’t be fully effective in the Mk.I aircraft, which must depend on an external Israel Aerospace Elta ELL/8-2222 jamming pod. The Mk.II is supposed to have a fully effective system of warning receivers, automated decoy dispensing, etc. In advanced western aircraft, these systems can even feed geolocation data from pinpointed threats into the plane’s targeting computers. Time will tell whether the Mk.II also has those capabilities.

    Weapons LCA Tejas, armed
    (click to view full)

    Unsurprisingly, RAFAEL’s Derby radar-guided fire-and-forget missile will serve as the Tejas’ initial medium range air-air armament. It lacks the range and datalink of Raytheon’s AMRAAM or Russia’s R-77/AA-12, but in practice, positive identification requirements have kept most aerial fights within Derby range. Derby reportedly has good seeker cone coverage, which improves performance. It has already been integrated with the EL/M-2032 on India’s own Sea Harriers, and equips the country’s new SPYDER mobile anti-aircraft missile systems. If India’s own Astra MRAAM continues to progress, it will be integrated later.

    For shorter-range engagements, Derby will be complemented by TMC’s infrared-guided Vympel R-73/AA-11 “Archer,” giving Tejas partial weapon commonality with India’s large MiG fleets. The R-73 is known for its exceptional maneuverability and a “wide boresight” seeker cone, a combination that inaugurated the era of 4th generation missiles. There’s even a rear-facing version, which offers enemies a nasty surprise. The jets will also carry RAFAEL’s Python 4/5, which can face forward and still hit targets behind their fighter.

    Tejas planes are expected to carry a range of ground attack weapons, from ordinary bombs and unguided Russian S-8 80mm rockets, to precision munitions. Tests for unspecified laser-guided bombs and cluster bombs are expected, though they’re expected to be Russian KAB-1500L and RBK-500 weapons, along with Russian Kh-31/35/59 anti-ship and precision strike missiles. Specifications don’t mention a MIL-STD-1760 electrical interface with carriage stores, which is very helpful when integrating GPS-guided munitions. Time will tell, but the Tejas Mk.I’s initial weapons don’t include GPS guidance.

    Engines & Alternatives F414-GE-400 engine
    (click to see in sections)

    With its radar issue solved by a foreign partnership, the fighter’s indigenous Kaveri engine (vid. Appendix B) was left as the project’s biggest unresolved issue. That was resolved with a stopgap, followed by a competition to field a working engine; even so, India’s DRDO continues to pour dollars and time into Kaveri development.

    The removal of American arms trade sanctions allowed smooth incorporation of a slightly modified F404-GE-IN20 turbofan in initial Tejas Mk.I production models. Over the longer term, an international competition for the Tejas Mk.II’s engines had 2 shortlisted competitors, 1 unofficial competitor, and 1 winner in GE’s F414.

    The winner: F414. GE’s F414 is that company’s more advanced alternative to the F404 family that equips the Tejas Mk.I; it currently equips Saab’s JAS-39NG Gripen and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet family. India’s F414-GE-INS6 engines will include the same single-engine FADEC modifications as the Gripen’s F414Gs, and may include some components of the F414-EPE research program for enhanced thrust. Standard F414 engines can reportedly produce up to 22,000 pounds of thrust on afterburners.

    GE has been remarkably coy about its thrust in normal operation, but the figures it supplied to India were obviously good enough to beat Eurojet’s EJ200, which reportedly revised its bid too close to the deadline to change its fortunes.

    Slow fade: Kaveri. This was supposed to be the fighter’s main engine, but India couldn’t develop a world-leading jet engine from a base of no experience. Kaveri was sidelined in 2008 by GE’s F404, in order to allow flight testing to go forward. DRDO finally admitted defeat in 2013 and stopped advocating Kaveri for the Tejas, after around 6 fruitless years of negotiations with French engine maker Snecma. A global re-tender for assistance was proposed, but late 2014 saw DRDO finally admit the obvious and file the paperwork to end the program.

    In the Navy… Naval LCA 2011 briefing
    click for video

    Indian officials were interested in an improved engine for 2 reasons. One is simply better performance, thanks to an improved thrust:weight ratio. Another is the need for additional thrust, in order to operate the Tejas successfully as a naval aircraft.

    India will induct the 40,000t INS Vikramaditya in 2013, after extensive modifications to Russia’s former Admiral Gorshkov carrier. The navy is also proceeding with construction of 2 more 35,000t “air defence ship” Vikrant Class carriers, designed in collaboration with Fincantieri and built in India. Orders have been signed for 46 Russian MiG-29Ks, but India also wants to operate navalized LCA fighters from their decks.

    These fighters are actually being designed in a trainer variant first, which will then be converted into a naval fighter. Key changes to the Naval LCA include:

    • Dropped nose, for better visibility in high angle-of-attack (nose pointed up) landings.
    • Leading edge vortex controls that can extend from the edges of the main wing. They help the aircraft safely sink faster to land in smaller spaces, and can also improve takeoff response.
    • Arrester hook to catch landing wires.
    • Strengthened spine and related systems, to absorb the high impact of carrier landings (7.1 m/s descent vs. 3m/s for IAF).
    • Longer, strengthened undercarriage. That actually ended up being a bit overdesigned.
    • Powered nose wheel steering for better maneuverability on deck.
    • Fuel dump system that can shed 1,000 kg of fuel from the fighter’s wing tanks, in case of an emergency just after take-off. Fuel weighs a lot, and that added weight can imperil attempted emergency landings.

    Naval LCA rollout
    (click to view full)

    The other change will be the engine. India’s military and designers believe that the naval Mk.I derivative, powered by the same F404-GE-IN20 engine in the IAF variant, can be used for training and testing. At the same time, they believe that only the a Tejas Mk.II derivative with its more powerful F414-GE-INS6 engine will be capable of loaded carrier operations from the Vikrant Class’ “ski jump” ramp, in just 200m of takeoff space.

    The naval Tejas program began in 2003. Variant paper designs were produced, and an initial order placed in 2009 began turning those designs into prototypes. April 2012 saw the 1st flight of NP-1, and a 2012 decision gave the go-ahead for initial production of 8 planes. The naval variant is expected to receive a different designation than “Tejas.”

    LCA Tejas: Program, Prospects, and Future The Program India’s LCA Programs
    (click to view full)

    The Tejas Light Combat Aircraft program began in 1983, and is currently in Full-Scale Engineering Development (FSED) Phase-II, under which India’s DRDO was trying to deliver production fighters to the IAF by December 2010. Initial Operational Clearance wasn’t granted until January 2011, and then only with significant waivers. Limited Series Production aircraft in final configuration have arrived, but IOC wasn’t declared until November 2013, and even that was done under pressure from the ministry. The plane’s core self-protection systems were only installed in October 2013, most weapons haven’t been tested yet, and neither has aerial refueling. The ministry is pushing for Final Operational Clearance as a day/night, all-weather platform, and the official induction of a Tejas squadron at Sulur Air Base in Tamil Nadu near Sri Lanka, by the end of 2014. It isn’t clear that the fighter can actually achieve those performance goals in time.

    So far, 40 Tejas Mk.I fighters have been ordered. Current plans call for another 100 aircraft (mostly Mk.II) for the air force, and up to 60 naval variants for the Navy.

    When it was originally approved in 1983, the Tejas program’s cost was set at Rs 560 crore (5.6 billion rupees). The cost had risen to over 3,300 crore by the late 1980s, and has continued to rise since. The Times of India places the 2011 program total at 17,269 crore/ $3.77 billion for all variants. As shown above, subsequent reports show continued cost increases.

    LCA Tejas Mk.II: Delhi, we have a problem… MiG-21bis: Hanging on
    (click to view full)

    The first test-flight of the improved and re-engined Tejas Mark-II is currently scheduled for December 2014, with production beginning in June 2016. Unfortunately for the air force, those markers are looking less and less likely, and switching in a new engine adds design and testing changes that will complicate matters. Engineers must rebalance the aircraft’s weight, adjust fuel capacity for changed consumption rates, etc. It’s already known that the LCA will need to add 0.5m in length to fit the F414, and its air intakes offer inadequate airflow and will have to be redesigned.

    One also expects that an LCA Mk.II will add newer technologies in some areas, and there are reports that India intends to upgrade from IAI’s ELM-2032 phased-array radar to the ELM-2052 AESA. India’s avionics industry also continues to advance, leading to potential component swaps and re-testing. Finally, Tejas Mk.I has placed many key components in inaccessible places. Unless significant redesigns are forthcoming in Mk.II, maintenance costs will be high, and readiness will be low.

    Redesign processes usually takes several years, even in a best-case scenario. China’s shift to a Russian RD-33 engine for its J-10 fighter was the centerpiece of a redesign that took more than a decade. Sweden’s JAS-39 Gripen made a similar shift from Volvo’s F404-derived RM12 in the JAS-39 A-D models, to GE’s F414 for its new JAS-39E/F, over a few years. There was a standing offer to have Saab adopt a significant role in Mk.2 development, with strong support from DRDO, but that offer remains in limbo.

    Major delays to Tejas Mk.I production mean that activity probably won’t end until 2018. The delays will buy time for Mk.II testing, at the cost of IAF readiness and force strength. If the Mk.II also runs into testing problems, the LCA program will face a hard choice: produce more than 40 Tejas Mk.Is, or buy Mk.IIs before testing is done, with the accompanying risk of expensive rework and fielding delays.

    Meanwhile, India’s MiG-21 fleet continues to age out.

    Industrial Team

    The Tejas industrial team is weighted toward government participation, which is one of the reasons for its long development cycle. Instead of buying finished and tested equipment from abroad, new designs had to be invented by government research agencies, then tested by themselves until they were ready, followed by integration testing with other elements. These choices were driven by India’s desire for long-term self-sufficiency in many aircraft sub-systems, in order to reduce their dependence of foreign suppliers.

    There have also been a wide variety of sub-contracts to Indian firms for Tier 3 or Tier 4 participation to supply tooling, testing equipment, software development, or sub-assemblies. They are not covered in our list.

    In late 2013, HAL told India’s Business Standard that it aimed to roll out the first 2 Tejas IOC fighters by March 2014, and deliver 8 more by the end of 2014. The next step after that will be to enhance to production line to 16 fighters per year, a task that might prove challenging without outside aid (q.v. Dec 9/12). That would leave 10 Tejas Mk.I IOC fighters to be built in 2015, whereupon HAL would be able to begin production of 20 Tejas Mk.I Full Operational Capability variants.

    Required FOC upgrades to the IOC fleet, and initial naval production orders, will also compete for production space. An early 2013 interview with ADA director Shri PS Subramanyam saw 2018 as a realistic date for Mk.I production to end.

    Tejas Prospects: Think Globally, Begin Locally Tejas: 2 views
    (click to view full)

    Exports are important to fighter programs. The added buys keep production lines open at no cost to the home country, and drop prices per plane. A combination of profits and paid-for modifications would help keep the design current, allowing the plane to add new technology and remain relevant. On the industrial front, if ADA can move the plane from the current 55% Indian content to around 80% without creating more problems, it would help to insulate prices from currency exchange swings.

    The Tejas Light Combat Aircraft’s exact per-plane flyaway price point isn’t known yet, but the goal is an inexpensive fighter in the $20-25 million range, with performance that compares well to early model F-16s and Mirage 2000s. Historically, the low end of the market is where the largest volume of global fighter buys have taken place. In recent years, however, pressure from home-country buyers has pushed the West into a niche of high-end platforms like the F-15, F-35, Eurofighter, and Rafale. Some mid-tier options exist, like new F-16s, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, and JAS-39 Gripens, but even those are fairly pricey for emerging economies. As regional tensions rise, it remains to be seen whether the last decade has seen a permanent shift toward mid-level and high-end platforms, or whether traditional buying patterns will reassert themselves through emerging economies.

    Long-term Tejas competitors in the $20 – 40 million range include the market for second-hand F-16s, the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17, and Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle family of supersonic trainers and light fighters. RAC MiG has received enough work from India and others to retain the MiG-29M family as a viable platform in this bracket; Russia’s chosen pricing approach will determine whether the thrust-vectoring MiG-35 multi-role fighter also becomes a competitor.

    click for video

    India’s growing geopolitical influence, and the ability to price toward this bracket’s low end, offers the Tejas decent prospects, even in this crowded field. HAL’s problem is that the Tejas must first achieve success in India.

    Delays have taken their toll. Bangalore-based Aeronautics Development Agency (MoD ADA) chief R K Ramanathan promised a 2010 in-service date, while touting a reduction from over 30,000 components to around 7,000. Even that was a late milestone, fully 27 years after the program began, but it didn’t come close to happening. Plans to field 40-48 interim aircraft in the first 2 operational air force squadrons won’t take place until 2015 (32 years), and the final “Tejas Mk.II” version will be very hard-pressed to become operational before 2018 (35 years).

    A lot can change in 35 years. Official plans still call for 100+ fighters, but the IAF has embarked on a wide set of upgrade and purchase commitments for existing MiG-29s and Mirage 2000s, the new mid-tier MMRCA fighter, and a high-end FGFA stealth fighter joint venture with Russia.

    Meanwhile, the IAF is now taking something of a “wait and see” approach to a longer term commitment, until the final aircraft is delivered with working systems and the “Tejas Mark II” design has shown what it can do. One the one hand, the project’s long development period, and DRDO’s past performance on defense projects, tend to justify that wait-and-see approach. On the other hand, the project can easily run into danger without adequate military and political backing. On Feb 6/06, The Telegraph in Calcutta reported that:

    “Though air headquarters has not said so in public, it is weighing whether it should commit funds because it is anticipating a resource crunch for the big ticket purchases of multi-role combat aircraft – that could cost the exchequer more than $5 billion over 10 years – and other equipment that it has projected as an immediate need.”

    The rumored growth of the MRCA foreign fighter program to 170-200 aircraft, naval plans for 32 more ships in the next 10-15 years, submarine construction imperatives, and other planned capital purchases do indeed have the potential to squeeze the Tejas. The reality of limited funds and budget cuts began to hit home in 2013, and another global economic slowdown will press India into harder choices still. Confidence in the Tejas, or the lack of it, will influence India’s choices.

    So will other negotiations. India’s choices mean that the MMRCA program will deliver fewer aircraft at a flyaway price tag of $100+ million each. That makes $25-35 million Tejas LCA fighters look more attractive, in order to plus up numbers. Just as long as the LCA can in fact be produced to that cost level, be delivered in time to replace the MiG-21s, and perform at an adequate level.

    Unfortunately, every one of those variables is currently in question.

    At present, the worst-case scenario for the Tejas program is truncated production at about 40 operational aircraft, which would doom exports. In that scenario, Tejas Mk.I is built, but other expenditures grab priority. The plane’s role is then divided among upgraded MiG-29UPGs, new naval MiG-29Ks, upgraded Mirage 2000s, and possibly even Hawk Mk.132 trainers that are armed in a backup role.

    The generally accepted goal for Tejas is 5 IAF squadrons plus 2 Navy squadrons, or about 140-150 planes. Even that is a relatively short production run at full capacity, which is the rate India must use in order to field new lightweight fighters in time.

    The best-case scenario would involve full production for the IAF that raises planned order totals beyond 120, a serving STOBAR (Short Take Off via ramps, But Assisted Recovery via arrester gear and wires) naval variant in service by 2020, and export successes that drive up production totals and help finance future upgrades.

    Contracts and Key Events 2014-2016

    ADA Tejas video

    October 14/16: In order to curry favor with the Indian government, Saab will share their Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar with Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology with India they if they select the Gripen fighter. The list of sweeteners also includes the previous offer of co-developing India’s indigenously manufactured fighter aircraft Tejas MK1A by setting up a production line in India under the “Make in India” scheme. Company officials said that both the LCA and the Gripen are of similar class and also share the same General Electric engine citing commonality in maintenance and operation.

    May 19/16: Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha became the first chief to fly the indigenous HAL Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas fighter in a short sortie on Tuesday. Raha’s flight came during a visit to meet team LCA in Bengalaru which involved the inauguration of the Tejas’ painting hanger. The only other top IAF officer to have flown the LCA was Deputy chief of Air Staff Air Marshal SBP Sinha, in September 2014.

    May 12/16: Ski-jump tests of a naval version of India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) have been successful. The tests involved the aircraft taking off under 200 meters with the aid of a ski-jump while carrying two R-73 air-to-air missiles. Next up for the two prototype LCAs will involve touch-and-go testing on a simulated deck at the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) in Goa. The navalized versions will be added to the INS Vikrant aircraft carrier after it is commissioned in 2018.

    February 9/16: Another milestone was made last Friday for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas fighter. The Indian jet successfully test fired a Derby Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) for the first time in a non-intercept mode, as part of a series of weapons trials needed to gain Final Operational Clearance (FOC). The trials will also see the Close Combat Missile (CCM) Python-5 missile tested. The Tejas’ weapons system will also include Paveway and Griffin Laser Guided Bombs (LBGs), the Russian made R-73 missile and Gsh-23 gun.

    January 13/16: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is making final preparations for their HAL Tejas lightweight fighter debut at the Bahrain Air Show next week. With plans to impress the experts and pick up a few potential customers along the way, HAL’s display apparently “significantly surpasses any aerobatics display the fighter has presented earlier”. The company plans to have gained final operating clearance (FOC) by mid-2016, and has also annouced that it is to test fire the Rafael Derby beyond-visual-range missile (BVRAAM) in March. The Israeli made missile has been bought as a stopgap arrangement as India grapples to make BVR missile Astra, which is still in development, operational.

    October 27/15: India has offered Sri Lanka the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft as an alternative to the JF-17 Thunder, co-developed by China and Pakistan. Previous reports in June by the Pakistani press indicated that the Sri Lankans had signed for an undisclosed number of JF-17s, with this subsequently denied by the Sri Lankan Air Force which stated that it was still evaluating possible fighter options. However, Sri Lankan and Pakistani officials are due to meet in November to discuss the possible acquisition of the JF-17, with India likely looking to export the problematic Tejas LCA in an attempt to undermine strategic rival Pakistan.

    October 8/15: The Indian government’s recent decision to procure seven squadrons of the heavily-criticized indigenous Tejas Mk.1A was pushed on the Indian Air Force by the Modi administration, according to a report by Reuters on Wednesday. The Indian Air Force had reportedly requested 44 additional Rafale fighters on top of the 36 announced in April turned down by the government, instead the Modi government pushed the Tejas on the IAF despite concern over the aircraft’s performance.

    October 1/15: India will induct seven squadrons (112 to 126 aircraft) of Tejas Mk.I-A light combat aircraft, despite the aircraft’s Final Operating Clearance delayed in July until next year. Despite improvements to the heavily-criticized original indigenous Tejas Mk.I design, the Mk.I-A still has a fair share of problems, including issues with the aircraft’s radar and weapon payload. The fighters are slated for delivery from next year and are intended to provide the Indian Air Force with a much-needed air defense capability.

    July 22/15: In a characteristic set-back, India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) will see its Final Operating Clearance delayed until next year. The schedule has slipped consistently for the indigenous fighter, with FOC previously pushed back to December this year. The Indian Defense Ministry has blamed the delays on late delivery of components from foreign manufacturers; however the program also came under severe criticism from the Indian government’s principal oversight body in May, with the aircraft’s performance in question after over three decades of development. The new FOC for the aircraft is now reported to be timetabled for March 2016.

    May 11/15: India’s indigenously-developed Tejas Mk I light combat aircraft has come under serious criticism from the country’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), with 53 deficiencies cited in a recent report. A major concern is the lack of defensive countermeasure capability, with the jet reportedly failing to meet Indian Air Force (IAF) survivability standards. The LCA achieved initial operating clearance in December 2013, with the project severely delayed from its original scheduled induction date of 1994. The CAG report to Parliament also highlighted how the IAF will likely be forced to induct the aircraft without a trainer variant available for pilot training, with a repair and overhaul facility also yet to be established at manufacturer HAL’s facilities, a requirement previously set out by the IAF.

    Nov 18/14: Kaveri. The DRDO is doing something unusual: submitting documents to cancel a major research project, after INR 21.06 billion has been spent by the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) in Bangalore. The request to end the GTX-35VS Kaveri program must now be approved by the Ministry of Finance, and receive clearance from the top-level Cabinet Committee on Security. Which also helps explain why so few projects are canceled, but the biggest change required still involves the DRDO’s mentality. Director-General (Aero) Dr. K. Tamilmani indicates that elections do have consequences:

    “These are part of the bold stand being taken by DRDO. Whereever we have found bottlenecks for long time, with no realistic solutions, it’s better to move on. It is an honest stand we are taking…. If you are fit to run only for 50 km, why attempt 100 km? DRDO has realized its mistakes of the past and we have no hesitation in taking some bold steps.”

    It is an honest stand, and DRDO can take it without giving up on India’s strategic industrial policy to become more self-sufficient in jet engine technologies. The project delays created by Kaveri remain a total waste, but the research itself can be harvested. DRDO intends to press on with jet engine research, and it’s possible to undertake projects that are militarily useful but much less ambitious. INR 3 billion has reportedly been earmarked for such work, and DRDO wants to make progress is 12 identified technical areas. Sources: OneIndia, “OneIndia Exclusive: DRDO to abandon indigenous fighter jet engine Kaveri project”.

    All Kaveri research to end

    Oct 4/14: Industrial. Defense News quotes an unnamed source, who says that the Indian government has been talking to major private sector industrial players about setting up a full production line for up to 250 Tejas Mk.2s. That would certainly justify the investment.

    If carried out, that move would sidestep HAL’s production difficulties (q.v. Dec 9/12) by partly or wholly removing Tejas from HAL’s purview, create a full competitor to HAL in the aerospace sector, and turn the winner into India’s 1st major private sector defense firm. It would also double planned Tejas Mk.2/naval buys, based on past reports (q.v. Jan 11/14).

    Since it seems apparent that the Indian government would have to fund a new production line for HAL anyway, funding the line elsewhere and reaping the benefits of diversification and competition is a logical policy option. Especially since the resulting competitor would also be a potential source for programs like India’s light transport competition, which stalled out because the private sector can’t afford to set up a full production facility for just 40 planes.

    The challenge is that setting up a production line for modern combat jets isn’t simple, and major problems could really mess with already chancy schedules for Tejas Mk.2 and the planned naval variant. One obvious way to reduce this risk would be to bring in a foreign firm like Boeing, Saab, Dassault, et. al. to help set up the plant, and assist with management for the first few years. If done in conjunction with Mk.2 design assistance (q.v. June 17/14), the Tejas program as a whole could get a substantial boost.

    Tata Group, Mahindra & Mahindra and Larsen and Toubro have been mentioned, and L&T Heavy Engineering President Madhukar Vinayak Kotwal has confirmed that discussions are taking place, but that’s all he is prepared to say. Watch this space. Sources: Defense News, “India Offers To Spend $12B To Break Monopoly”.

    Aug 17/14: Industrial. HAL and DRDO’s ADA are trying to encourage more small and mid-size manufacturers to make parts for the aircraft:

    “They aim to raise the LCA’s indigenous content to 80 per cent in three years, up from the present 50 to 55 per cent…. HAL Chairman R.K. Tyagi told them that starting 2015–16, “we aim to roll out 16 LCAs every year, [increasing] from the initial target of eight a year”.

    Currently, 168 of the 344 LCA components are made in the country.

    A key defence scientist involved in the programme said HAL and ADA would help manufacturers to pick up at least 10 more simple components and offer the use of government-owned manufacturing and test facilities.”

    If they can do that while maintaining quality, and pick manufacturers who are capable of further innovation, they would make future upgrades easier. More local content would also reduce cost shifts based on currency exchange rates, and create a wider base for future programs like the Su-50/FGFA. The bad news? This policy falls into the “simple, but not easy” category. Sources: The Hindu, “A few small production pushes for LCA”.

    June 17/14: Saab for Mk.2? As M-MRCA negotiations to buy advanced Rafale fighters stall, and projected costs rise sharply, Saab remains in position with a different offer. Instead of touting their superior JAS-39E/F Gripen, they’ve proposed to take a 51% share of a joint venture company, then leverage their expertise to create the LCA Mk.2. DRDO chief Dr V K Saraswat was enthusiastic, and they issued an RFI in 2012 and an RFP in 2013.

    It isn’t a crazy idea. The Indo-Russian BrahMos missile has been very successful using a similar structure, and a 51% share plus freedom from Indian government strictures would remove many of the program’s decision-making and organizational issues. Saab is the only aircraft major with single-engine fighter conversion experience from the F404 to the F414 engine, so tasks like stretching the fuselage 0.5m, changing the air intakes, etc. have already been thought through in another context. Their Gripen has also achieved low operating costs, in part due to maintenance-friendly design. That’s another Tejas weakness, thanks to very maintenance-unfriendly placement of key components.

    Since LCA Mk.2 is also expected as a carrier fighter, success already matters to India. they need to complete development successfully. From the IAF’s perspective, replacing M-MRCA with Tejas Mk.2 would simplify their future high-medium-low mix by avoiding a 2nd fighter in the same class as the SU-30MKI, while allowing them to field more squadrons. The flip side is that their high-end capability becomes irretrievably Russian-dependent: SU-30MKIs now, and FGFA/SU-50s later. For Saab, a JV would give them a major new niche in the global marketplace, providing a low-end fighter in a class below the Gripen and its Western competitors.

    The catch? Incoming DRDO chief Dr Avinash Chander is more focused on developing the Mk.2 alone, and believed that any foreign partnership would require a global tender. In India, that would take years. Re-opening the opportunity would depend on a failure of M-MRCA negotiations, and continued failure to field Tejas, pushing the new BJP government to take a second look at all of its options. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “Rafale contract elusive, Eurofighter and Saab remain hopeful”.

    Feb 12/14: Costs. India’s MoD releases another set of official cost figures for the program, leaving out the Kaveri engine but adding a “Phase-III” development period. LCA development costs have now risen from an original INR 71.16 billion to INR 140.33 billion (+97.2%), or INR 168.72 billion (+137.1%) if one properly counts the Kaveri engine. Expected production line investments would push those figures even higher. India’s MoD was savvy enough to compare development costs to Saab’s more advanced Gripen NG:

    “Developmental cost of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas is Rs.7965.56 Crore ($1.09 Billion) including building of 15 aircraft and creation of infrastructure for production of 08 aircraft per annum. This compares with the developmental cost of JAS 39 NG Grippen is $1.80 Billion for developing 5 Proto Vehicles.”

    That’s actually just the current predicted cost of the IAF’s MK.I/II development, minus the Kaveri engine, and arguably without creating infrastructure that could actually deliver 8 aircraft per year. The Gripen NG figure would need to be checked carefully, to see what it included and excluded. Even so, the simple act of making the comparison shows a greater sense of external awareness than we’re used to seeing from India’s MoD. Source: India MoD/ PIB, “Developmental Cost of LCA Project”.

    Feb 10/14: A written reply from Minister of State for Defence Shri Jitendra Singh to Lok Sabha parliamentarians triggers stories about the IAF raising their planned LCA buys from 200 to 300. Unfortunately for the media reporting that story, it rests entirely on an error of logic. Here’s the exact quote, which can’t be linked anymore thanks to MoD web site changes:

    “The MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircrafts of the IAF have already been upgraded and currently equip 14 combat squadrons. These aircraft, however, are planned for being phased out over the next few years and will be replaced by the LCA. Steps have been initiated for upgradation of other fighter aircrafts like MiG-29, Jaguar, Mirage-2000; transport aircraft like AN-32 and Mi-17/Mi-17 IV helicopters.”

    What this statement does not say is that the replacement will happen on an equal basis. It’s perfectly possible to replace existing squadrons with fewer squadrons and fewer planes, if one is so inclined. The Americans have been doing so for decades, and they’re hardly alone. So far, firm IAF commitments involve 126 LCA Tejas planes: 6 squadrons of 21 planes each, with only 96 (16 x 6) as front-line fighters. Each squadron also has 3 rotation aircraft to cover maintenance absences or loss replacement, and 2 twin-seat trainers, to make 21. Beyond those 2 Tejas Mk.I squadrons and 4 Tejas Mk.II squadrons, we’ll have to see. Sources: India MoD, “Modernisation of IAF” | India’s Business Standard, “IAF will buy 14 Tejas squadrons, lowering costs”

    Jan 12/14: Budgets. India’s defense budget will drop by INR 78 billion in 2013-14, after a drop of INR 100 billion in 2012-13. A more sluggish economy, and a weakened ruling Congress Party that’s trying to shore up its electoral base, are the issues. At the same time, India is negotiating the MMRCA deal for 126 Rafales, the FGFA deal with Russia for their future high-end stealth fighter, the Project 75i submarine buy that’s becoming an emergency, and attack and heavy-lift helicopter buys with Boeing. They also want to add to their fleet of P-8i long-range maritime patrol planes, buy AWACS early warning jets as a priority, and improve their aerial tanker fleet as a priority. Among other priorities.

    That explains why the MoD asked for INR 400 billion more, instead of 78 billion less. Unless this gap changes, future Tejas production will find itself caught in an environment where everything can’t be funded, but big air force commitments have already been made. Sources: Times of India, “Despite budget cut, defence ministry continues with modernization drive”.

    Jan 11/14: Pricing. Sources tell India’s Business Standard that HAL has quoted the Ministry a price of INR 1.62 billion (about $26.5 million) per plane for the first 20 Tejas Mk.I fighters. The Ministry wants to know why its 40% higher than the INR 1.165 billion quoted in 2006, and HAL has a good answer. One, inflation over the past 8 years takes a toll. Two, 45% of the plane’s cost involves imported parts, and the Indian rupee is sinking. Three, Tejas is still about half the $45.8 million price of a Mirage 2000 upgrade ({EUR 1.4 billion is now INR 118.3 billion + INR 2.02 billion to HAL}/ 49 jets = INR 2.8 billion or $45.8 million per), and those upgrades are even more dependent on currency rates.

    HAL sees eventual purchases of 40 Mk.Is, 84 Mk.IIs, 11 naval trainers, and 46 naval variants (TL: 181), and recent government declaration have used 200 aircraft as a possible figure. Now that Tejas is on surer ground, and the opportunity is clearer, HAL is trying to control costs using longer-term commitments of its own. Step one reportedly involves Long Time Business Agreements (LTBAs) of 3-5 years and 40-50 aircraft sets with key sub-contractors, including clauses that let it vary annual production rates to some extent, a feature also seen in many of the US military’s multi-year purchase agreements. Long lead time components have been identified, and industrial improvements are underway. Practices like having 5-axis CNC machines on hand, and using computerized drilling of 8,000 holes or so in the composite wing skin, are more or less assumed in North America. They’re a step forward for HAL, which needs that kind of long-term investment in its industrial capacity.

    Will that investment, and higher production, improve costs enough? Pakistan’s JF-17, which has already delivered 50 planes, is reportedly priced around $23-24 million per plane. If the Tejas Mk.II comes in around $30 million in current dollars, pointing to composite construction and supposedly better avionics isn’t going to cut it in export competitions as a reason for the 25% price difference. An AESA radar might, depending on what Pakistan does for the coming JF-17 Block II, and how much it costs. Sources: Business Standard, “HAL pegs price of Tejas fighter at Rs 162 crore”.


    GE F414 engine contract; No Kaveris for Tejas fleet; AESA radar?; Why the multi-year delay for self-protection EW?; IOC at last, but is the plane ready? LCA Naval
    (click to view full)

    Dec 20/13: IOC-2. the LCA program achieves Initial Operational Clearance II. This is closer to the F-35’s IOC than traditional American IOC designations: limited capabilities with some initial weapons, and more testing required, but regular air force pilots can now fly it. Sources: Economic Times of India, “Indigenous fighter aircraft LCA-Tejas gets Initial Operational Clearance”.

    Dec 19/13: What’s next? Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification Director-General Dr K Tamil Mani explains what’s next for Tejas, whose remaining testing and certification needs show the IOC-2 designation’s limits. The fighter needs to pass 6 milestones in the next 15 months, on the way to G=Final Operational Clearance. They include:

    • Integrating the Russian GSH 23mm gun, which also requires certifying the surrounding LRU electronics boxes for much higher vibration levels.
    • Integration of additional weapons, incl. Python 4/5 short-range air-to-air missiles and Derby medium range air-to-air missiles.
    • Integrating Cobham’s air refueling probe.
    • Increasing sustained Angle of Attack parameters from 22 – 24 degrees.
    • Improved braking system with higher heat tolerance. They might even need to add fans, as they did for some of their MiGs.
    • Change the nosecone from composite materials to a quartz-based material, in order to remove the current 45-50 km limit on the radar and bring it to its design level of 80+ km.

    Sources: Indian Express, “Tejas Needs to Cross 6 Milestones in 15 Months”.

    Dec 18/13: IOC process. India’s Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) explains what IOC-2 certification involved to the Indian Express. The bureaucracy takes credit for the plane’s accident-free history, of course, and proudly notes their “concurrent participation in all development activities,” without discussing Tejas’ developmental delays.

    The did have a lot to do between the incomplete Initial Operational Clearance on Dec 10/11, and IOC-2 about 2 years later. Full integration and testing of IAI’s ELM-2032 radar, testing of stores integration and release, flight envelope expansion from 17 degrees Angle of Attack to 22 degrees. Maximum flight parameters are now 6gs maneuvering, with a maximum speed of Mac 1.4 and a service ceiling to 50,000 feet. Safety-related work included safe emergency jettisoning of all stores, engine relight, wake penetration, night flying and all weather clearance. Sources: Indian Express, “Clearing Flight Test Parameters was a Challenge, Says Airworthiness Centre”.

    Dec 17/13: Updates. India’s MoD summarizes the state of the LCA program. The key takeaways? As on Nov 30/13, they’ve conducted 2,415 flight tests using 15 Tejas Aircraft. A lot of reviews are riding herd on the program, which can add urgency or slow down actual work, depending on how that’s handled. Structurally, the Phased Development Approach has been changed to Concurrent Development Approach, which adds development risk but can cut time if it works, and Quick Reaction Teams have been formed to address design and production issues as they arise.

    IOC-2 is still expected on Dec 20/13, but another release makes it clear that the Mk.II project continues to slip. The Probable Date of Completion for LCA Phase-II full-scale engineering design work is now December 2015: 9 months later than the previous March 2015 goal, and 7 years later than the original plan. Sources: India MoD, “LCA project” and DRDO projects“.

    Dec 17/13: MiG-21 update. India’s MoD summarizes the state of the IAF’s MiG-21 fleet. The MiG-21FLs are retired now, but the answer shows that the remaining MiGs may have to serve longer than intended:

    “254 MiG-21 aircraft are still in service with the Indian Air Force. During the last ten years (2003-2004 to 2012-2013) and the current year (upto 30.11.2013), a total of 38 MiG-21 aircraft have crashed.

    Phasing out of aircraft and their replacement with new generation aircraft depends upon national security / strategic objectives and operational requirements of the defence forces and are reviewed by the Government from time to time. This is a continuous process.”

    On Dec 12/13, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne confirmed that the LCA Tejas would replace the MiG-21 in the IAF fleet. That may appear to have been obvious, but official confirmation indicates a greater degree of confidence in the program. Sources: India MoD, “MIG-21 Aircraft” | Indian Express, “Tejas to Officially Replace MiG-21 FL”.

    Dec 9/13: Defence Minister A K Antony is scheduled to give the Tejas its Initial Operational Certificate (IOC) on Dec 20/13, which would allow Tejas to be flown by regular IAF personnel outside of the test pilot community. Note that IOC doesn’t include key performance parameters like qualification with many of the fighter’s weapons, basic self-protection systems, air-to-air refueling, or finalization of the Tejas Mk.I’s design. Those will have to wait for Final Operation Clearance (FOC), and an increasingly-impatient defense minister has reportedly ordered DRDO to ensure that FOC takes place before 2014 ends.

    The first Tejas squadron of 18-20 fighters will be built to IOC standard, and based at Sulur AB in Tamil Nadu, near Sri Lanka. They should be able to handle the minimal threats from that quarter, and one hopes that reported problems (q.v. April 21/13) were either untrue, or have been fixed.

    On the industrial front, HAL has told India’s Business Standard that it aims to roll out the first 2 Tejas IOC fighters by March 2014, and deliver 8 more by the end of 2014. The next step after that will be to enhance to production line to 16 fighters per year, a task that might prove challenging without outside aid (q.v. Dec 9/12). That would leave 10 Tejas Mk.I IOC fighters to be built in 2015, whereupon HAL would be able to begin production of 20 Tejas Mk.I FOC variants. Required FOC upgrades to the IOC fleet, and initial naval production orders, could probably keep HAL at a minimum activity level through 2017; but an early 2013 interview with ADA director Shri PS Subramanyam saw 2018 as a more realistic date for Mk.I production to end. That might actually be helpful. If Tejas Mk.II isn’t ready to begin production by time Mk.I is done, India will have an industrial problem on its hands. Sources: Business Standard, “Tejas LCA sprints towards IAF’s frontline squadron” | AeroMag Asia, Jan-Feb 2013 issue.

    Dec 7/13: Testing. The LCA’s 1st firing of an AA-11 short range air-to-air missile is successful, as the missile hits a target that was towed by a drone. The demonstration was conducted off the coast of Goa, in the Arabian Sea. Sources: The Hindu Business Line, “Light combat aircraft Tejas fires missile on target”.

    Dec 7/13: MiG-21FL retires. After 50 years of service, the IAF is about to phase out its MiG-21FL variant, which is prepping to fly its last sortie on Dec 11/ 13 over Kalaikunda AFS in Bengal. Other MiG-21 variants will remain in service, and current expectations will extend the most modern MiG-21 Bison variants to at least 2018. Sources: The Calcutta Telegraph, “Supersonic jet set for last sortie”.

    Aug 7/13: Costs. A Parliamentary reply to Shri S. Thangavelu in Rajya Sabha sets out the costs for each phase of the Tejas program in slightly more detail. Our chart above has been amended to reflect the current figures.

    India is still in Full Scale Engineering Development Phase II, which aims to build 3 prototypes and 8 Limited Series Production (LSP) aircraft, and establish infrastructure for producing 8 aircraft per year. LSP-8 made its maiden flight on March 31/13, but reports to date suggest that meeting the infrastructure goal will require a significant increase in development costs (q.v. Dec 9/12). India MoD.

    BEL on EW, 2011
    click for video

    Oct 16/13: Why no EW? The DRDO has finally fitted a Tejas fighter (PV-1) with electronic warfare/ self-protection systems, and intends to begin flight tests in November and December. Why has this key development been delayed for 5 years? Believe it or not, they thought it was more important to preserve the plane’s flight safety record:

    “For almost eight years, a section of the aeronautical community has been resisting its fitment, anxious that the add-ons may cause a first crash…. They have been very keen on securing the operational clearance, initial as well as final from the Indian Air Force, even if the LCA did not have the electronic system…. no one wished to risk an add-on on the LCA that had not been tried. The idea was to defend the ‘zero crash’ record. This was made known sometimes explicitly to engineers and scientists working on the electronic systems, who, however, had been pressing for very long that the systems ought to be fitted and trials conducted to be able to fine-tune them.”

    Unfortunately, PV-1 hasn’t been flying recently, so they may end up introducing risk that way. Tejas Mk.Is will have an Israeli IAI Elta jamming pod available as an external store, with the full RWJ system slated for the Mk.II. Sources: Deccan Herald, “Finally, Tejas gets electronic warfare systems”.

    DRDO’s problems, in a nutshell

    June 1/13: Excuses. DRDO chief V K Saraswat tries to deflect criticism of Tejas’ continuing delays, by citing the effects of sanctions that ended 13 years ago. Lack of cooperation and foreign help might explain why Tejas was slow to develop from the early 1980s to 2000. It doesn’t explain why DRDO didn’t follow professional practice by working with experienced pilots and the IAF, which created a multitude of poor design decisions that required years of delay to produce only partial fixes. Or the reason DRDO has wasted so much time with engine and radar choices that were obviously inadequate, all well after sanctions had ended. Or why, 13 years after sanctions had ended, Tejas isn’t ready for service yet, while Pakistan’s JF-17 equips 3 squadrons.

    Weak excuses do not inspire future confidence. Brahmand Defence & Aerospace.

    April 21/13: Tejas a lemon? The Sunday Standard reports that the Tejas is much farther away from viability than anyone is admitting, and says that DRDO’s notional stealth AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft) has been put on hold until the LCA project can be made to work. A stealth FGFA/SU-50 is already in co-development with Russia, so AMCA’s value is unclear anyway. With respect to the Tejas LCA, the Sunday Standard’s unnamed sources say:

    “The plane cannot fly on its own. It needs a lifeline in the form of support and monitoring of its systems from the ground by technicians…. The common man thinks the plane is doing fine, its engine sounds great and the manoeuvres are perfect. But those flying and weapons firing displays are done with ground monitoring and support. The plane is still not ready to flying on its own”…. the sources noted that LCA was grounded for three months between September and December 2012 following problems with its landing gear. “Normally, a combat plane is ready for its next sortie following a 30-minute [servicing]. In the case of LCA, after a single sortie of about an hour or so, it needs three days of servicing before it can go for its next sortie,” they said.”

    These revelations come against a backdrop of pressure from India’s defense minister Antony and India’s government to buy designed-in-India items unless there’s no other choice. He’s selling changes to India’s Defence Procurement Policy as an anti-corruption effort – but what do you call spending billions of dollars on politically-allied state organizations, who don’t deliver on the critical defense projects assigned to them, and never pay any serious penalties for it? Their competitors in China and Pakistan are consistently faster and often better – while doing a better job developing their industries. See also India PIB.

    March 20/13: More delays. A Parliamentary reply confirms the obvious, formally extending the scheduled end of the LCA’s Phase 2 Full Scale Engineering Development from December 2012 to March 2015.

    The IAF has ordered 20 fighters in “Initial Operational Clearance” (January 2011) status, and another 20 in “Full Operational Clearance” (i.e. combat-ready) configuration. Full Operational Clearance is now expected in December 2014. PTI, via Zee News | India MoD.

    Feb 6/13: AESA Radar? At Aero India 2013, Defense Update files a report that adds the short-range Python 5 air-to-air missile to the Tejas’ list of integrated weapons, alongside the Russian R-73/AA-11. It adds:

    “The LCA will also carry the EL/M-2052 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar developed by IAI Elta. Originally, the EL/M-2032 was selected but the new 2052 now available with a more compact antenna is best designed to fit the nose cones of LCA and Jaguar, offering enhanced capabilities for both fighters.”

    If the Defense Update report is true, it would roughly double the Mk.II fighter’s radar performance, and sharply lower its maintenance costs. DID has been unable to confirm this report, and there have been previous reports (q.v. Jan 14/11 entry) that said M-2052 sales for the Tejas Mk.II had been barred by American pressure. Indeed, the Americans managed to pressure the Israelis not to install the M-2052 in their own F-16i fighters.

    Feb 5/13: On the eve of Aero India 2013, Indian defense minister AK Antony tells DRDO that:

    “I am happy for your achievements of DRDO but not fully happy. Delay in delivery is a real problem… Try to speed up your process and reduce time for research, development and production. [DRDO is getting ready for a 2nd initial clearance for Tejas, but] I am impatient for the Final Operational Clearance (FOC)….. Antony also expressed his disappointment over reported lack of cohesion between the aircraft development agencies under DRDO and aircraft maker HAL.”

    In India, FOC means “ready for combat operations”, which is closer to the US military’s idea of “Initial Operational Capability.” The Pioneer.

    Jan 20/13: F414 deal. India Strategic quotes DRDO Director General V.K. Saraswat, who says that India’s government has finalized the terms of GE’s F414 contract, including the difficult issues surrounding Indian production. That process took over 2 years, as the engine was picked in September 2010.

    The deal is reportedly a Rs 3,000 crore (about $560 million) contract for 99 of the Tejas Mk.II’s F414-GE-INS6 engines, with an option to buy another 100 at fixed terms. IANS via Silicon India | Times of India.

    F414 engine deal finalized

    Jan 4/13: Kaveri. India’s Business Standard reports that India’s Ministry of Defence has failed in its 6 years of sole-source negotiations with Snecma, and will try a global tender to secure cooperation in developing the Kaveri engine. The engine’s development has hit a technical dead-end, and cannot incorporate key alloys, single-crystal blades, and other manufacturing and design technologies without foreign help. The DRDO’s GTRE department has also conceded defeat with respect to the LCA, according to its chief Dr. C.P. Ramnarayanan:

    “We were planning to re-engine first 40 Tejas fighters with the Kaveri. But now they will continue to fly with the F-404 engine.”

    DRDO swill use Kaveri for its UCAV, and still holds out hope that a redesigned Kaveri can power a locally designed AMCA twin-engined medium fighter. To power AMCA, the engine would need to improve afterburner performance of about 15,825 pounds thrust. That means foreign help, but DRDO has made global solicitations before, and had no takers beyond Snecma.


    Cert & program delays; Naval prototype flies; Kaveri for UCAV; Shaping up HAL – which clearly needs it. IUSAV: News report
    (click for video)

    Dec 26/12: Kaveri. India wants to develop a long-range, jet-powered armed drone, powered by a modified Kaveri engine (vid. March 21/12 entry). These are commonly called UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles), but India refers to their project as IUSAV (Indian Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle). Note that most of the video and pictures in the video are of other countries’ efforts, since India is at a very early stage.

    Now DRDO’s GTRE has asked the Ministry for another Rs 595 crore (about $93 million), covering a 48-month program to develop 2 prototypes of a modified Kaveri engine with no afterburner. This includes removing the base design flaws detecting during 2010-11 testing in Russia, ground testing in Bangalore, and confirmatory tests in Russia at the Gromov Flight Research Institute. The program would be capped by flight testing of the 2 no-afterburner prototypes in LCA prototype PV-1.

    This idea actually makes sense. The Missile Technology Control Regime makes it problematic for countries to sell India a USAV jet engine, since a cruise missile is also an armed unmanned aircraft. On the Indian side, the Kaveri engine has the most problems adding enough thrust in afterburner, but “dry” statistics of 11,060 pounds thrust are close to the project’s goal of 11,500. Dropping the afterburner sheds engine weight, which has been an issue for Kaveri, and UCAV engines to date don’t have afterburners anyway. Other countries’ UCAV designs have all been sub-sonic drones that rely on stealth or low-threat environments to survive. Business Standard.

    UCAV: a good use for Kaveri

    Dec 12/12: Naval LCA. India’s Navy is upset by the fact that only 1 naval LCA has been built, and need aircraft to train with. Media reports say they’re about to issue a an Rs 1,000 crore (about $185 million) RFP to produce the first 8 Limited Series Production Tejas naval fighters, which would include both single-seat test aircraft and 2-seat trainers. This would turn the Feb 27/12 approval into a contract after negotiations with HAL, and work is expected to begin in 2013. Whether HAL’s production capacity can handle it (vid. Dec 9/12) is another question.

    Business Standard reports the Indian military’s current belief that the navalized Tejas Mk.I can be used for training, and the state-owned ADA is touting a 1st representative takeoff by mid-2013 and a 1st representative landing by the end of 2013. At the same time, they believe that only the Tejas Mk.II will be capable of loaded carrier operations, using just 200m of space and a “ski-jump” ramp. The design has also turned out to be harder than expected. Commodore CD Balaji, who directs the Naval LCA project at ADA told India’s Business Standard that:

    “In the paper design it looked feasible [to convert the IAF’s Tejas], similar to what Eurofighter proposed for a navalised Typhoon; or what Gripen proposed for the Sea Gripen [DID: both of which are higher end designs, with better base performance]. But when we started the detailed design and the actual build… we realised the benefits of what Dassault had done with the Rafale. They designed and built the naval variant first, the Rafale Marine. The air force Rafale is just a subset of Rafale Marine. That is the easiest path.”

    Dec 9/12: Industrial fail, more $. India’s Business Standard offers a scathing portrait of incompetence at HAL, which has been unable to set up and operate a production line for the LCA, even though many of its projects involve assembling foreign designs on production lines in India. On the other hand, see the March 24/11 entry, where HAL executives point out that it doesn’t make much sense to establish a full modern production line for a program that has only featured limited production orders and an uncertain future.

    As a result, Tejas fighters built to date have been custom-built limited-production and prototype aircraft. The immediate consequence is that the Ministry of Defence has to budget another Rs 1,500 crore (about $277 million) to try and set up a modern production line. Air Marshal (ret.) Pranab K Barbora:

    “HAL’s assembly line expertise is outdated by at least three decades. They have done nothing to upgrade their technology. Setting up a modern assembly line for the Tejas is far beyond HAL’s capabilities.”

    The paper points out that HAL’s new CEO RK Tyagi has “no experience in aeronautical development or manufacture,” and openly doubts the government ADA’s program manager, P. Subramanyam. He promises that HAL will build 20 Tejas Mk.I fighters in 2.5 – 3 years, with production of the next 20 in just over 2 more years, by 2018. That might be possible if an experienced foreign manufacturer is contracted quickly to help set up production, and the MoD is reportedly studying that idea. By itself, however, HAL hasn’t been able to build even 2 Tejas fighters per year over a prolonged reference period, and India has no operational squadrons. Meanwhile, Pakistan has already fielded almost 3 squadrons of their JF-17 Thunder fighter, which began its design cycle after Tejas.

    Note that the Business Standard’s figure of INR 155.470 billion (Rs 14,047 + 1,500 crore) for the entire LCA Tejas program is almost exactly double the Indian government’s official March 2012 figures. The math indicates that they’re probably including the Kaveri engine. DID considers the 2 programs to be separate, and pegs unofficial total Tejas development costs at INR 131.015 billion (Rs 13,101.5 crore, currently about $2.15 billion), including current and forecast costs for the naval variant, and the expected Rs 1500 crore for production line help. With Kaveri included, our figures rise to INR 144.405 billion, and are probably slightly behind actual Kaveri spending. Business Standard.

    HAL: Industrial fail

    Dec 3/12: Kaveri. India’s state-owned Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) aims to integrate the Kaveri powerplant with a Tejas fighter operated by India’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), with the aim of flying it by the end of 2013. Whether it can perform to standard won’t change DRDO’s advocacy, but it may matter to the IAF. As of May 14/12 (q.v.), India’s Minister of Defence said that it couldn’t meet India’s 90kN/ 20,200 pound thrust requirement.

    A March 21/12 answer to Parliament (q.v.) pegged the Kaveri’s development cost at INR 28.39 billion ($520 million), nearly 10 times greater than the original INR 3.83 billion. Flight International.

    Aug. – Nov. 2012: Testing halted. The Tejas encounters a DASH of trouble, as India discovers that the top of the pilot’s DASH-III integrated helmet display can end up above the top of the Martin-Baker ejection seat. That’s a serious problem, because it means the helmet could hit the canopy as the seat rockets out of the cockpit, killing the ejecting pilot. India had to halt testing for 3 1/2 months before the problem was fixed. Their response was to modify the seat, and to provide a backup mechanism that they calculate will blow the canopy off before the pilot’s head can hit it. They had better be right.

    DRDO chief V. K. Saraswat has confirmed to India’s Business Standard that the fixes are done, adding that ADA used the down time to make other modifications as a result of flight test feedback. Even so, a string of setbacks has shifted Tejas’ Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) from a re-baselined end-2010 to mid-2013 – if nothing else goes seriously wrong. Final Operational Clearance (FOC) for combat operations was scheduled for end-2012, and now looks unlikely until 2014-2015.

    To the west, Pakistan has already inducted 3 squadrons of its comparable JF-17 fighters, whose joint development with China began 16 years after Tejas. India’s Business Standard.

    A DASH of trouble

    Oct 18/12: Lessons Learned. Air Commodore Muthanna’s “Challenges In Design To Deployment: Critical Lessons From the D&D of LCA” [PDF] has some interesting bits in it. The Commodore believes that the fighter deserves to enter service. Unfortunately, Indian officials and firms didn’t involve aviators in the initial design process, either by teaming with the IAF or by the widespread practice of embedding aviators in the design teams. The IAF had to get involved after the 2006 contract, and a lot of the time and cost slippage from then until now has involved RFAs aimed at fixing deficiencies that should have been addressed in design. Beyond that, he cites serious issues in management, manufacturing, and training:

    “A fundamental challenge has been the structure of the Indian higher defense management. Broadly speaking, there are three verticals within the Indian Ministry of Defense that steer this program…. In this totally State funded and State managed program, interdepartmental oversight has been lacking. It is necessary that a single political entity take charge….

    ….[Transitioning from design to manufacture,] the necessity to convert frozen design drawings into production drawings…. [is] an elaborate process…. Other shortcomings are; inability to meet manufacturing tolerances; non availability of correct jigs, fixtures and tooling to mee t DAL requirements; non availability of suitable calibrating equipment; and, lack of trained manpower.

    ….With the flight simulators, however, it was a strange story. While the ASR did envisage the requirement of a simulator before deployment, no such development was undertaken…. there would be no representative flight simulator available for use by the customer aircrew. The situation will be aggravated by the non availability of a trainer variant of the aircraft in the required time frame.”

    Lessons learned report

    May 14/12: Kaveri. Minister of Defence Shri A K Antony replies to Shri Bal Kumar Patel in Lok Sabha. No, DRDO still has no time frame to fully develop its Kaveri engine. Antony reiterates that the engine does not meet requirements for the Tejas, but will be used in UAVs and marine applications. A technology demonstrator may fly in a Tejas Mk.I fighter around 2015. The operative word here is “may”.

    April 27/12: Naval LCA. NP-1, the 1st Tejas naval prototype, has its maiden flight. The plane is piloted by chief test pilot of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) national flight test centre (NFTC) Commodore TA Maolankar and co-piloted by the centre’s flight test engineer, Wing Commander Maltesh Prabhu. NP-2 will be the single-seat naval variant. Zee News.

    Naval variant flies

    March 21/12: Costs. Defence minister Antony answers a Parliamentary question, and provides cost and schedule slips for the LCA Tejas, LCA Naval, and Kaveri engine. Those are reproduced above along with other information. Antony also discusses what’s being done about these slips, which amounts to more oversight and monitoring. That won’t cure a system whose main problem is a lack of accountability or consequences for the state-run development agencies, and whose secondary problem is the system’s own red tape. On the other hand, the answer makes it sound like the government is doing something. Antony adds that:

    “Tacit knowledge acquired by the DRDO scientists during this project will also be applied for further aerospace technology. Kaveri spin-off engine can be used as propulsion system for Indian Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle (USAV).”

    Readers may note that he is not referring to the LCA Tejas program as a destination for Kaveri, despite DRDO’s wishes in the matter. See also Indian government PIB | Flight International.

    March 14/12: Goal – 6 squadrons. Indian minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju tels the Rajya Sabha upper chamber that the IAF plans to induct 6 LCA squadrons over the next decade or so, including 4 squadrons of Tejas Mk.II fighters. Given current schedules, past performance, and the extent of the redesign and testing involved, India may be lucky to induct any Mk.II fighters by 2022. Deccan Herald.

    March 11/12: Naval LCA. India’s Sunday Guardian reports that India’s Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) has refused flight certification for the Naval LCA, until the new landing gear’s weight is reduced, and its wing leading-edge vortex controls are redesigned. The US Navy and EADS are reportedly being consulted to help fix the problems.

    CEMILAC’s decision will add further delays to a program that is already late, and effectively ends hopes for a March 2012 flight. The naval variant’s initial flight was initially slated to happen by the end of 2010, following a July 2010 roll-out. As of Sept 26/11, it had managed only an Engine Ground Run.

    March 10/12: Testing. While Tejas continues to make test flights, and has been granted initial certification, final certification and full production continues to face delays, and will not come until late 2013 or even 2014 now.

    New test aircraft LSP-7 had a maiden flight, without a chase plane, “to test many indigenously-developed instruments,” as well as the M-2032 radar and DASH helmet. It’s close enough to the final standard that it will be one of the planes offered for IAF user-evaluation trials, but the final-configuration LSP-8 won’t be ready until later in 2012. LSP-8 will be the version presented to CEMILAC for full certification and flight clearance, a necessary step before full production can begin for the two 20-plane orders. The Hindu.

    Feb 29/12: HAL, shape up. India’s MoD explains that changes are coming to HAL, and cites the Tejas program as one reason behind the push:

    “The Defence Minister Shri AK Antony today asked the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to realign its business processes for strategic alliances and joint ventures, as also, to step up R&D efforts to remain globally competitive… Keeping in mind the mammoth role that the HAL would assume in the coming years in the aerospace industry and the challenges that it would face, the government has set up an expert group under the chairmanship of Shri BK Chaturvedi, Member, Planning Commission to suggest measures to strengthen and restructure HAL… the Group will suggest how best the spin offs from HAL order book can be earnest to ensure better involvement of the private industry in the defence sector. It will also suggest measures to enhance the synergies between HAL, the private defence sector and the civilian industry.

    “Taking part in the discussion the Members of Parliament appreciated the role played by HAL in the defence arena of the country over the years. They, however, pointed out certain shortcomings such as the delay in the induction of the Light Combat Aircraft in the Indian Air Force, delay in the development of Kaveri Engine, delay in phasing out of Mig-21 aircraft and lack of an aggressive strategy to export HAL products.”

    See also March 24/11 entry, The Pioneer | Flight International | IN FOCUS: India advances air force modernisation.

    Feb 27/12: Naval LCA. The Indian Ministry of Defence’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has sanctioned the building of 8 Naval LCA aircraft by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), and reportedly allocated the necessary funds for a contract. That does not mean a contract has been signed yet.

    The 8 planes will be built as a mix of single-seat test fighters and twin-seat trainers, and would begin to add production fighters on top of the ordered fleet of 6 test aircraft. The first flight is announced for sometime in March, though talks last year of a maiden flight in July did not pan out. Business Standard.


    Tejas initial clearance; RAFAEL Derby picked as MRAAM; Kaveri engine still alive but in limbo; HAL pushed to outsource. IOC flight
    (click to view video)

    Dec 21/11: Kaveri. In response to Parliamentary questions, Defence Minister Antony explains the Kaveri engine’s current development status:

    “So far 9 prototypes of Kaveri engines and 4 prototypes of Kabini (Core) engines have been developed. Total 2050 hours of testing have been conducted on various Kaveri and Kabini engines at ground and altitude conditions for various requirements including performance, operability, endurance, environmental, etc. Two major milestones viz. successful completion of Official Altitude Testing (OAT) and completion of first block of flights of Kaveri engine in Flying Test Bed (FTB) has demonstrated the technological capability and maturity of this indigenous effort. Kaveri engine prototype (K9) was integrated with IL-76 aircraft at Gromov Flight Research Institute (GFRI), Russia and flight tests have been successfully carried out up to 12 km maximum forward altitude and a maximum forward speed of 0.7 Mach No. Twenty seven flights for 55 hours duration have been completed on IL-76. Critical subsystems and its associated knowledge know-how and know-why has been acquired in association with Indian public & private sector industries, including certification methodologies.”

    Nov 23/11: Kaveri. In response to Parliamentary questions, Defence Minister Antony says that nothing has changed with respect to the Kaveri engine’s successor. He doesn’t put it like that, but that’s the reality. India MoD.

    Aug 8/11: Kaveri. In response to questions, the Indian MoD clarifies the status of the Kaveri engine project. There is no signed co-operation agreement with SNECMA, but the Air Force has reviewed the draft technical specification and approved it.

    “The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has made no agreement with a French firm to develop the Kaveria aero engine to be used for the Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas. However, DRDO is negotiating with M/s Snecma, France for co-development and co-production of Kaveri aero engine for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas MK-II. The project proposal will be put up for Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approval after the completion of price negotiation… IAF has further suggested that the engine design should have minimal impact on the LCA Tejas airframe for future retrofitment.”

    If it succeeds, India’s Tejas fleet would have an alternative engine option, much like the popular F-16. Several countries fly F-16s, and even F-15s, with 2 different types of engine (PW F100 or GE F101) in their fleet, as insurance that keeps their air force flying even if an engine type develops problems. First, however, an agreement must be signed. Then, the development project must succeed at a reasonable cost.

    July 20/11: Naval LCA. The naval Tejas will probably get a different name. Meanwhile, an F404-IN20-powered naval variant is undergoing ground integration tests at HAL’s Bangalore facility, followed by engine runs and ground runs in the coming weeks. A 1st flight within 3 months is considered optimistic.

    Meanwhile, India’s ADA has asked the US Navy to help it define carrier suitability plans, and the US Navy is assisting. Flight International.

    May 23/11: Testing & Weapons. Aviation Week reports that the Tejas Mk.I is due to undergo a 2nd phase of night trials. Aircraft LSP-5 reportedly made 6 night flights in April 2011, which tested avionics, the instrument landing system, and integration involving the IAI ELTA multimode radar, Elbit’s DASH helmet-mounted display, and RAFAEL’s LITENING pod. The push to finish night operations clearance will also include items waived for the IAF’s initial clearance (vid. Jan 10/11 entry) – waivers that the service does not intend to grant again.

    The next 16 months will see assessments of Tejas’ angle of attack, g-forces and sustained turn rate, with limited series production aircraft #6 arriving to help speed things along. It will also see a greater focus on weapons integratiopn tests – so far, only R-73/AA-11 Archer short-range air-to-air missiles and standard bombs have been tested. Still to go: Laser-guided bombs, cluster bombs, and Russian 80mm S-8 rocket pods. RAFAEL’s Derby medium-range air-to-air missile isn’t set to test until mid-2012, and the IAF also expects Russian Kh-31/35/39 anti-ship and precision strike missiles as part of the Tejas Mk.I’s intended configuration.

    March 24/11: Industrial. India’s Business Standard reports that the Indian DRDO is pushing HAL to outsource some Tejas production or set up joint ventures, in order to meet required delivery schedules and keep the IAF’s fighter fleet at acceptable numbers. The current line can reportedly produce just 8 planes per year, and a high-level HAL team has reportedly toured Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Eurofighter GmbH facilities.

    A request of this nature from the DRDO is nothing short of revolutionary. HAL has 2 serious problems, however, which make such a different approach thinkable for India’s bureaucrats. One is low real orders for Tejas. As one HAL executive put it: “…how much money could we have realistically invested in a production line?… So far, future Tejas orders of 100-120 more fighters are only plans.” The other problem is the load level on the state-owned firm’s Aircraft R&D Centre, which is is simultaneously trying to develop the Tejas Mark II; the Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT); the Sukhoi-HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA); and the Irkut-HAL Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MRTA). The firm is also developing Dhruv helicopter variants, including a light attack helicopter. That’s a tremendous amount of competition for attention and resources, and HAL will face more strains if/when each project becomes a production demand.

    Other likely candidates for partnerships wold have to include France’s Dassault Aviation, Sweden’s Saab, and Israel Aerospace Industries, as well as BAE and Northrop Grumman. The latter 3 firms have considerable experience as fighter program sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman is looking to sell its E-2D AWACS and Global Hawk UAVs to India; while IAI supplies a range of equipment to India already, and has industrial partnerships in place. So, too, does BAE, who is already working with HAL to produce its Hawk advanced trainer jets in India.

    Feb 14/11: Tejas runs the Derby. Indian Aeronautical Development Agency director P.S. Subramanya says they have picked RAFAEL’s Derby as the Tejas’ initial beyond visual range air combat missile. He expects a contract by March 2011, with delivery expected in the second half of 2012, in time for the final phase of Tejas Mk.I testing.

    Derby has range limitations, and was accepted on India’s Sea Harrier fleet despite not meeting the program’s original range goals. It also lacks a datalink. On the other hand, it offers a fire-and-forget weapon that’s already in India’s inventory, and integrated with Tejas’ EL/M-2032 radar, possessing what’s reported to be a wide boresight cone. It’s also true that given the need to avoid fratricide and positively identify targeted aircraft, most aerial engagements have taken place within Derby’s range, and future conflicts involving India are expected to feature that same limitation.

    Long-term plans were to deploy the locally developed Astra missile as the Tejas BVRAAM, but in 2010 India decided to use a foreign missile and get Tejas into operational service. If Astra succeeds, it can always be integrated later. Meanwhile, Tejas gets ordnance commonality with India’s Sea Harriers, which also carry the EL/M-2032 radar, and with India’s SPYDER anti-aircraft systems. Defense Update | Livemint | RAFAEL on Derby | ACIG on Derby.

    RAFAEL Derby BVRAAM picked

    Feb 3/11: Kaveri. DRDO hasn’t given up trying to force the issue with its long-delayed Kaveri engine. After proposing it as a naval turbine, the newest gambit is to specify it for a proposed twin-engine Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (A-MCA), which would be developed by 2020 and operational by 2025. The proposal is an aircraft somewhat comparable to America’s F-35 – not an encouraging comparison, given that plane’s development costs.

    Government acceptance of that plan would buy the engine project another decade, but the question is whether the A-MCA project is even realistic. India’s M-MRCA medium fighter competition hopes to field an advanced 4+ generation plane by 2015, but deliveries will take years, and real operational capability isn’t likely until 2016 or later. Meanwhile, the 2020-2025 time frame is also the expected window for India’s FGFA 5th generation collaboration with Sukhoi. Both are very big budget programs, even as India looks to field a much larger Navy to counter Chinese ambitions in the Indian Ocean basin, and faces a growing need for expensive ballistic and cruise missile defenses. In that environment, MCA could easily find itself fighting hard to avoid becoming yet another sidelined Indian technology demonstrator project.

    DRDO also hopes to muscle the Kaveri v2 engine into the Tejas. They want the Indian government to swap the engines in when the initial 40 GE F404 equipped Tejas Mk.Is come in for their scheduled overhauls, during the 2015-2020 time period. Flight International | The Hindu | UPI.

    Jan 31/11: Kaveri. Livemint reports that India’s DRDO expects to close price negotiations for a Kaveri joint venture (JV) with France’s Snecma by the end of February 2011, following over 2 decades and INR 28.8 billion spent on the project in India. DRDO declined to reveal the estimated cost of the Snecma-GTRE project, which reportedly aims to produce a viable competitor to the GE F414 that powers the F/A-18 Super Hornet family, Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen NG, and will almost certainly power the Tejas Mk.II.

    Reports suggest that Snecma will bring in critical technology for the hot engine core, which is key to the 38% thrust gain sought over existing Kaveri models, while DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) will work on the “cold” sections around it. GTRE would be left with complete know-how and intellectual property rights for the engine,which will also need to become lighter.

    Jan 10/11: Tejas IOC. The Tejas LCA is given Initial Operational Clearance by the Indian Air Force, marking their first induction of an Indian designed and built front line fighter. It has been a long road. The Hindustan Times reports that: “The government has so far pumped Rs 14,428 crore into the LCA programme which was pegged at Rs 560 crore when conceived in 1983.” The program cost was set at over 3,300 crore by the late 1980s, and has continued to rise. At today’s exchange rates, the INR 144.28 billion figure translates into about $3.15 billion. The Times of India places the program total even higher, at 17,269 crore/ $3.77 billion for all variants.

    Note that India’s IOC designation is not the same as Initial Operational Capability for America’s military, which represents a combat-ready unit. India doesn’t have that yet, and Tejas receives this designation without all of its advertised capabilities, such as air-air engagements using radar-guided missiles. Indeed, subsequent reports reveal that key criteria for even minimal operations were waived, including wake penetration tests, lightning clearances, and some basic all-weather and day/night items. What India’s IOC does, is allow regular IAF pilots to begin flying it.

    Indian Air Force chief P.V. Naik says that Final Operational Clearance for induction and formation of a Tejas squadron isn’t expected until 2013 or 2014, an event that will take place at Sulur Air Base in Tamil Nadu. The first test flight of the Tejas Mark-II version is currently scheduled for December 2014, with production beginning in June 2016. Indian Government | Economic Times of India | The Hindu | Hindustan Times | IBNLive | LiveMint | New Delhi TV | Sify | Times of India | Times of India op-ed || BBC.

    Tejas IOC

    Jan 14/11: Radar. domain-b reports that American pressure has forced Israel to bar exports of its EL/M-2052 AESA radar to India. The radar was reportedly intended to replace the EL/M-2032 on the Tejas Mk.II aircraft, where it would sharply improve radar performance and sharply lower maintenance costs (q.v. Oct 3/08, Dec 4/09 entries).

    Israel wanted to install the radar in its own F-16s and F-15s, but the Americans moved to strangle a potential competitor by telling the Israelis that installing the M-2052 would cut off all manufacturer support for its fighters. On the export front, the USA can use ITAR restrictions to block technologies developed with American assistance, and forced Israel to implement a set of military export controls that add up to unofficial American review. Israel has reportedly sold a limited number of M-2052s to 1 undisclosed customer, but use in the Tejas Mk.II would represent the radar’s 1st major sale anywhere.


    GE’s F414 engine for Tejas Mk.2/Naval; 1st Naval LCA prototype rolled out. EJ200s in Eurofighter
    (click to view full)

    Nov 21/10: Cost. The Times of India places the cost of India’s Tejas program at 17,269 crore, or over $3.7 billion. The report adds:

    “Latest figures also show each of the first 40 Tejas fighters will cost around Rs 150 crore [DID: about $33 million], over and above the huge developmental cost… Tejas, incidentally, has clocked around 1,420 flights with 10 prototypes till date. Its FSED (full-scale engineering development) Phase-I till March 2004 cost Rs 2,188 crore [DID: 1 crore = 10 million rupees]. The Phase-II, to be completed by December 2012, will cost another Rs 5,778 crore. To add to that, there is fabrication of two Tejas Mark-II, with alternate engines, to be completed by Dec 2018 for Rs 2,432 crore, along with development of indigenous technologies for Rs 396 crore. Naval Tejas FSED Phase-I, in turn, is to be completed by Dec 2014 for Rs 1,715 crore, with Phase-II slated for completion by December 2018 for another Rs 1,921 crore.

    Tejas will, of course, also be powered by American GE engines, with its indigenous Kaveri engine floundering despite Rs 2,839 crore being spent on its development since 1989. Towards this, India recently finalised a $822-million deal for 99 GE F-414 engines.”

    These figures are later shown to fall short of government figures. India’s goal of a $20-25 million fighter at full rate production may still be achievable, but it will bear close watching. It is very normal for the first production sets of a fighter to cost far more than fighters at full-rate production, with figures of double or even triple the price common for aircraft with very long production runs.

    Nov 6/10: F414. During President Obama’s visit, the White House provides further details regarding the F414 engine order, which it places at 107 engines:

    “…Upon finalizing the contract, General Electric’s facility in Lynn, Massachusetts, and other sites across the United States will be positioned to export almost one billion dollars in high technology aerospace products. This transaction is tentatively valued at approximately $822 million, all of which is U.S. export content, supporting an estimated 4,440 jobs.”

    This is strictly true, since any contract with GE would be 100% export content, but the deal itself may still contain provisos for technology transfer and related contracts in India. UK Financial Times Beyond BRICs blog | Hindu Business Line | Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) | NDTV | Sify | WSJ India Real Time blog.

    Nov 3/10: At the end of the India-UK “Indra Dhanush 2010” exercise, Indian Air Chief Marshal P V Naik tells the media that LCA Mark-I will be inducted into operational squadrons by the middle of 2011, while the LCA Tejas Mark-II should be operational in the next 2-3 years, as “the process of selection of engine for LCA Mark-II is nearing completion.” It doesn’t happen that way.Deccan Herald.

    Nov 1/10: Testing. Aviation Week reports that LSP-5, the 11th test jet and 1st final configuration Tejas Mk I aircraft, is readying for flight trials as the ADA tries to meer a Dec 27/10 deadline for release-to-service certification. Changes include internal cockpit lighting for night flying, a revised internal communication set similar to HAL’s Druhv helicopter, and National Aerospace Laboratories’ auto-pilot mode. Aviation week adds that:

    “If the delivery schedules are met, then the Indian Air Force will have LSP-7 and LSP-8 for user evaluation trials by March 2011. LSP-6 will be a test vehicle for high angle of attack. The Tejas squadron is expected to be in Bengaluru by mid-2011 and the first two series production aircraft (SP-1, SP-2) also should be ready by then.”

    Oct 25-28/10: Engine II. Report, and denial. After NewsX’s Vishal Thapar broadcasts a reports that a Eurojet consultant has been expelled from India for illegally obtaining information on GE’s bid, trying to substitute a new Eurojet bid by offering a monetary inducement, and then planting media reports that Eurojet was ahead on price. Thapar also claims that this is why the Indian MoD took the unusual step of announcing GE as its low-cost bidder, before a contract was signed.

    The follow-on effects could be very severe if true, making it very difficult for India to pick the Eurofighter as its M-MRCA medium fighter. Eurojet’s communication agency subsequently issues the following denial. See Milplex | India Defence:

    “Eurojet Turbo GmbH categorically denies unfounded allegations made in the NewsX report titled ” India expels arms dealer”, authored by Vishal Thapar and released on 23 October 2010. The report lacks any factual base and is a work of fiction.”

    Oct 1/10: Engine II – F414. India’s Business Standard may want a word with its sources. GE announces that its F414 engine has been picked to power the Tejas Mk.II fighter. India’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) will order 99 jet engines, with GE Aviation supplying the initial batch of F414-GE-INS6, engines and the rest manufactured in India under transfer of technology arrangements. When questioned by DID, GE sources confirmed that this is not a contract yet, merely preferred bidder status.

    The selection of GE’s F414 deepens a relationship that has supplied 41 earlier model GE F404 engines so far, in order to power initial Tejas LCA Mk.I fighters and LCA Naval prototypes. GE describes the F414-GE-INS6 as “the highest-thrust F414 model,” without offering specifics, but is has been working on an F414 Enhanced Performance Engine. The INS6 will add single-engine safety features in its digital controls, something GE also installed in the F414 variant powering one M-MRCA candidate, the JAS-39 Gripen NG.

    F414 engine picked for Tejas Mk.2

    Sept 20/10: Engine II. India’s Business Standard reports that the European EJ200 engine may have the edge in the competition to supply the Tejas Mk.II fleet’s powerplants:

    “Informed sources have told Business Standard that when the bids were opened last week, European consortium Eurojet bid $666 million for 99 EJ200 engines, against US rival General Electric, which quoted $822 million.”

    Both engines have been ruled technically suitable, so the lower priced bid will win, but the bidding process isn’t 100% final yet. The paper also quotes Air Vice Marshall Kapil Kak (ret.) of the Indian Air Force’s Centre for Air Power Studies, who draws the obvious conclusion:

    “It is as clear as daylight. Selecting the EJ200 for the Tejas would boost the Eurofighter’s prospects in the MMRCA contest. Its engines, which form about 15-20 per cent of the cost of a modern fighter, would be already manufactured in India for the Tejas [after the 1st 10 were built abroad]. For the same reason, rejecting the GE F-414 would diminish the chances of the two fighters [F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and JAS-39NG/IN] that fly with that engine.”

    Aug 25/10: Kaveri. Defence Minister Shri AK Antony updates progress in the Kaveri engine in a written reply to Shri N Balaganga of India’s Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament). It’s phrased in terms of what DRDO is doing as development and testing continues, and gives various reasons why the engine is so late. It does not mention that the IAF isn’t interested, except to note at the end that “LCAs are, meanwhile, as decided by user, being fitted with imported engines.” Unlike some Indian programs, the Kaveri program has managed to spend most of its yearly budgets; over the last 3 years, these expenditures have been:

    2007-2008: INR 1,525.1 million
    2008-2009: INR 1,535.4 million
    2009-2010: INR 1,220.6 million

    As of Aug 25/10, INR 100 million = $2.15 million, so INR 1.2206 billion = $26.05 million.

    July 6/10: Naval LCA. NP1, the first naval Tejas prototype, is rolled out. HAL will build NP1 and NP2 for testing, which will take place at a new facility in Goa. The naval variant adds a tailhook, strengthened undercarriage, leading-edge vortex controllers to slow down landings, auto-throttles, and a fuel dump system.

    Naval LCA rollout

    May 5/10: Engine II. GE describes 3 of the programs underway to improve its F414 engine. The most relevant is probably the F414 EPE (Enhanced Performance Engine), which has a new fan to increase airflow, and aims to increase thrust by 20%. It’s explicitly “targeted for potential international customers,” which includes India’s Tejas Mk.2.

    The US Navy wants the F414 EDE (Enhanced Durability Engine), which uses an advanced high pressure turbine and 6-stage high pressure compressor (HPC) that offers a 2-3X hot-section durability gain, and reduced fuel consumption. F414 EDE forms the base of the EPE engine, but the gains will not be the same in both engines, owing to other design differences.

    Crowded India may also appreciate the retrofittable F414 noise reduction kit project, with serrated edges where each “lobe” penetrates into or out of the primary airflow and generates a secondary flow, reducing jet noise by 2-3-decibels. The USN has identified funding for a program to mature the technology and prepare it for incorporation in the USN F414 engine fleet, with work scheduled to continue through 2011. GE Aviation.

    Feb 3/10: Engine II. Eurojet says it will share single-crystal engine blade technologies with India if Eurofighter wins MMRCA, or the EJ200 engine is selected for the LCA Tejas Mk2.

    Eurojet’s EJ200 equips the Eurofighter Typhoon. The EJ200 weighs about 2,200 pounds and produces 13,500 pounds of thrust in normal operation, or 20,000 pounds with afterburners. There were even rumors of a thrust-vectoring version, to improve Tejas maneuverability, but the engine lost the Tejas MK.II competition, then the Eurofighter was edged out by France’s Rafale in India’s M-MRCA finals.

    Feb 2/10: Indian defence minister AK Antony watches flight demonstrations by twin-seat (PV-5), and single-seat (LCP-2) Tejas test aircraft, and declares: “Serious doubts were raised about Tejas… Now I can proudly say we will fly our own fighters.” He states Cabinet Committee of Security approval to add Rs 8,000 crore (about $1.73 billion) to the 27-year program for continued air force and naval development, and development of a new engine for the Mk.2, and expresses confidence in final operational clearance for the Mk.1 version by end of 2012. Antony also agreed that the government is in talks with parties abroad for the development of that Mk.2 engine, but would not be more specific.

    The Indian Air Force has already ordered 20 LCAs, and has reportedly expressed interest in ordering another 20 aircraft. Meanwhile, the Navy is building 2-seat trainer (NP1) and a single-seat fighter (NP2) prototypes, with NP1 nearing completion of equipping after the structural assembly. NP1 is scheduled to roll out by April 2010, followed by a hoped-for first flight in June 2010. The single-seat NP2 is scheduled for its first flight by June 2011. India’s Business Standard | The Hindu | Indian Express | Times of India | Agence France Presse | The Asian Age.


    First 6 LCA Naval ordered; Tejas Angle of Attack flight issues; US red tape trips Lockheed Martin; Engine competition to equip Tejas Mk.II. Tejas test
    (click to view full)

    Dec 31/09: Kaveri. The Hindu reports that India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been given government permission to accept an offer from France’s Snecma to ‘partner’ with the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) to jointly develop a new version of the Kaveri jet engine. Senior GTRE officials tell The Hindu that talks could begin early in 2010. When that might result in a signed contract is anyone’s guess.

    This article’s Dec 26/08 entry covers the verdict of a senior Indian committee, which had recommended against the DRDO-Snecma collaboration. The Hindu highlights the Matheswaran team’s criticism that using Snecma’s fully developed ‘Eco’ engine core would not create sufficient transfer or control of technology, but reports:

    “Snecma, which indicated that an engine run of at least 250 is required to make their offer economically viable, agrees that an existing core would be at the heart… will take at least five years before the first production engine comes out. Snecma chairman and chief executive officer Philippe Petitcolin told The Hindu: “Yes we first stated a 15-year period to hand over the design technology, but now we have indicated that the technology can be given as fast as the Indians can assimilate it.”

    Note that the article does not indicate commitment to use the “Kaveri II” engine for any particular purpose, or offer a likely timeline. Rather, the emphasis seems to be on continuing to develop India’s industrial capabilities, rather than fielding an operational engine. StrategyPage places the cost of that collaboration at $200 million, but this must be an estimate, as no firm deal has been negotiated. See also Sri Lanka Guardian. See also Aug 20/08 entry.

    Dec 14/09: Kaveri. In a written Parliamentary reply, Defence Minister Shri AK Antony responds to Shri Gajanan D Babar:

    “The proposal on the Kaveri-Snecma engine joint venture for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas is under consideration of the Government. Request for Proposal (RFP) for procuring 99 engines have been sent to two short-listed engine manufacturers, namely GE F414 from General Electric Aviation, USA and EJ200 from Eurojet Germany. The engine houses have responded to the RFP. Both Commercial and technical responses have been received for procurement of 99 engines along with Transfer of Technology.”

    Dec 7/09: A Parliamentary response from defense minister Antony offers details regarding the initial Tejas Mk.1 contract:

    “A contract for procurement of 20 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) in Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) configuration, along with associated role equipment, reserve engines, engine support package, engine test bed and computer based training (CBT) package from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was signed in March 2006. The total contract cost is Rs. 2701.70 crores.” [currently about $580 million]

    Dec 4/09: Radar – AESA? DRDO’s Bangalore-based Electronics & Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) reportedly invites global bids to become the development partner for a Tejas active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. This would presumably replace the IAI Elta EL/M-2032 derivative that will requip Tejas Mk.1 fighters.

    The Active Array Antenna Unit (AAAU) would be supplied by the development partner. Responsibilities would include “detailed design, development and realisation” of the antenna panel (main antenna, guard antenna and sidelobe cancellation antenna), transmit/receive modules/groups, the RF distribution network (RF manifold/combiners and RF interface), antenna/beam control chain (T/R control and T/R group control), and array calibration/BITE among other areas. Livefist.

    Nov 26/09: Testing. Tejas PV-5, a 2-seat trainer version, makes its maiden flight. The Deccan Herald says that commonalities between the 2-seat trainer and Tejas naval version will help that sub-program as well, but it will take hundreds of flights over a year or more before the trainer version can be qualified for use by IAF, as a key step in pilot training and induction of the single-seat fighter into IAF operational service.

    Sept 28/09: US red tape. India’s Business Standard reports that Lockheed Martin was selected in June 2009 as a consultant for developing the Naval version of the Tejas. Lockheed Martin has no serving carrier-borne fighters, but they’re developing the F-35B STOVL and F-35C Lightning II for use from carriers.

    Unfortunately, delays in US government approval has led DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Agency to recommend that another consultant be chosen instead; Dassault (Rafale) and EADS (no carrier-borne aircraft) were recommended as alternatives,and EADS was eventually picked. Lockheed Martin is still fighting to get through the red tape and salvage the contract, and may continue trying until V K Saraswat, India’s Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, makes a decision.

    This has happened before, and recently. Boeing was the front-runner for a similar role with respect to the main (IAF) version, and would be a logical consultant for any naval version – but the Indian MoD awarded EADS that contract in early 2009, after the US government failed to grant Boeing a Technical Assistance Agreement clearance in time.

    Sept 21/09: Naval LCA. India’s Business Standard reports that the Tejas Mk.II is attracting funding from India’s Navy, who believes that a modified, EJ-200/F414 equipped Tejas would have the power required to operate from its future aircraft carriers in STOBAR (Short TakeOff But Assisted Recovery) mode:

    “Business Standard has learnt that the navy has okayed the placement of an order for six Naval LCAs. At an approximate cost of Rs 150 crore per aircraft, that will provide a Rs 900 crore infusion into the Naval LCA programme.”

    At today’s rates, Rs 900 crore = $187.8 million. Naval LCA fighters would operate from India’s 30,000t-35000t Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), which is being built at Cochin Shipyard with assistance from Italy’s Fincantieri, and is expected to join the fleet by 2014. That creates a potential timing issue, as the Tejas Mk.II’s engine selection and ordering process isn’t supposed to produce new engines before 2013-14. Aeronautical Development Agency director P S Subramaniam told Business Standard that they would fly the modified Naval Tejas airframe with the current GE-404 engine, to test its flight characteristics and structural strength. The new INS Hansa in Goa, with its land-based carrier deck outline and equipment, will be extremely helpful in that regard. If those tests go well, a naval Tejas variant would not operate from a carrier until the new engines were delivered and installed. See also: India Defence

    India: 6 Naval LCA.

    Aug 4/09: Engine II. Flight International reports that the Eurojet consortium has done tests regarding the EJ200’s fit into the Tejas’ space, and believes itself to be in a strong position for the expected 99-engine order to equip the Tejas Mk.II. The RFP response date is Oct 12/09.

    Aug 3/09: Kaveri. India’s DRDO is attempting to resurrect the Kaveri engine project, but the IAF’s lack of enthusiasm is pointed. MoD release:

    “Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has offered to co-develop and co-produce 90 kN thrust class of upgraded Kaveri engine with M/s Snecma, France to meet the operational requirement of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas with 48 months from the date of project inception… The proposal for co-development was considered by Indian Air Force. Indian Air Force has suggested a proven engine that is already in production and flight worthy for meeting immediate requirement. Request for Proposal (RFP) has been issued to reputed engine manufacturers.”

    A separate MoD release gives December 2012 as the target date for the LCA Tejas Mk.I’s “final Operational Clearance,” adding that project oversight currently involves a high level review by the Chief of Air Staff once per quarter, and by the Deputy Chief of Air Staff once per month.

    March 4/09: Testing. India Defense reports that a multi-agency team is carrying out 2-weeks of Phase 2 weapon testing for the LCA Tejas. The focus is on safe separation, aerodynamic interference data, and complex weapon release algorithms in different modes of release. Note that the tests still involve aerodynamics, rather than full weapons system integration.

    Feb 25/09: Government of India:

    “A contract for 20 indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has been signed. One IAF squadron is expected to be equipped with this aircraft in 2010-11. Government is not planning to set up a hi-tech facility at Nagpur costing about Rs. 300 crores [3 billion rupees, or about $60 million] for indigenizing components of these aircrafts. Product support including spare parts will be supplied by the vendor as per the terms of the contract that will be concluded.”

    Feb 17/09: Engine II. Flight International reports that the Eurojet engine consortium may be about to change the competitive field for the expected RFP to equip LCA Tejas MkII aircraft. The firm has been working on a thrust-vectoring model of its engine, and the magazine reports that it will be offered to meet India’s expected RFP for up to 150 engines.

    The Eurofighter is also an MMRCA medium fighter competitor, and twin wins for Eurojet could offer India important commonality benefits, even as they justified an in-country production line. Thrust vectoring would also offer the Tejas a level of maneuverability and performance that could be a difference-maker in combat, and on the international market. The Eurofighter is considered a long shot to win the MMRCA competition, however, and timelines could become an issue. Flight tests of a thrust vectoring EJ200 engine are not expected to begin for another 2 years.

    Feb 6/09: Engine II. The Press Trust of India quotes Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) Director P Subrahmanyam, who says that India’s state-run DRDO is still looking for partners to develop the indigenous Kaveri engine. That hasn’t stopped the Ministry of Defence’s ADA from preparing a competition to equip the LCA Mark II version from 2014 onward, after the initial aircraft are fielded with F404-IN-20 engines:

    “We are looking to procure either the GE-414 from US or European consortium Eurojet’s EJ 200 to fly with the LCA Mk II version [after going through offers from various global manufacturers]. Request for Proposals (RFP) is just about to go out and very soon it would be floated.”

    Eurojet’s EJ200 equips the Eurofighter Typhoon, while GE’s F414 equips Saab’s JAS-39NG Gripen and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet family. All 3 of these fighters are competitors in India’s MMRCA, which aims to buy at least 126 medium multi-role fighters to fill the gap between Tejas LCAs and India’s top-tier SU-30MKIs.

    The article appears to indicate that India would be looking to switch production to the new engines, after low-rate initial production equips the first 2 IAF squadrons with 48 aircraft. In practice, required engineering changes and aircraft testing make such an early switch unlikely.

    Jan 29/09: AoA issues. Indopia reports that India’s DRDO/ADA and HAL are proposing a $20 million collaboration with EADS to assist with flight trials, and help to increase the fighter’s flight envelope. Performance at high “angles of attack,” in which a fighter’s nose and wings are tilted at steep angles, will reportedly be the focus for EADS efforts.

    At any aircraft’s critical angle of attack, the wing is no longer able to support the weight of the aircraft, causing a tail slide that generally worsens the problem and can lead to an aerodynamic stall. Different aircraft have different critical angles of attack, and design changes can lead to an expanded range for safe, sustained flight maneuvers. In some cases, such as India’s Sukhoi 30MKIs with their modern triplane configuration, the design’s flight envelope can become so large that maneuvers like the near 90 degree “Cobra” become safe and routine.

    Jan 23/09: Testing. The Tejas LCA completes its 1,000th test flight since the first 18-minute flight by Technology Demonstrator-1 on 04 Jan 4/01. Frontier India | The Hindu | The Times of India.

    Flight #1,000


    Why Kaveri was a failure, demonstrated; Kaveri for naval ships? Inverted flypast
    (click to view full)

    Dec 26/08: Kaveri. The Hindu reports that a committee set up by the IAF in September 2008 has recommended against Snecma’s offer (see Aug 20/08 entry). The report says that the result would not be a co-designed, co-developed engine, but rather a license production arrangement. The group recommends continued development of the Kaveri engine and its core technologies instead, despite the failures to date.

    These conclusions are less surprising when one examines the committee’s composition. Air Vice Marshal M. Matheswaran chaired the group, which included representatives from India’s state-run Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification, and IAF officers posted at ADA, the National Flight Test Centre and the Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment. All are state-run groups that have been involved in the Kaveri’s ongoing development, and have strong incentives to protect that turf.

    Dec 13/08: Testing. A Tejas fighter prototype lands at Leh air base in the high-altitude Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, at an altitude of 10,600 fee. Leh is one of the highest airfields in the world, with a temperature variation ranging from 5 to -20 C/ 41 to -4F. .

    That was the whole point, of course: perform cold weather testing, while making an assessment of the aircraft’s performance in high-altitude conditions, without the confounding influence and additional challenge of high temperatures. India Defence

    Oct 3/08: Radar. The Hindu newspaper relays news from ADA Programme Director P.S. Subramaniam that the Israeli Elta “EL/M-2052” radar has already undergone tests on the flight test bed and ground rig in Israel, and “airworthy units” are expected to arrive early next week.

    There had been some unconfirmed mentions of EL/M-2052s in connection with the Tejas, and it’s possible that ADA is beginning tests related to the Mk.II. It’s more likely that the radars are IAI Eltas M-2032, instead of Elta’s AESA option. The Elta M-2032 multi-mode radar already serves on India’s Sea Harriers and some Jaguars, and was picked as an “interim option” until India’s indigenous radar program performs to the required standard. Because the indigenous radar has failed to perform to standard, the ADA has reportedly been running weaponization tests on the Tejas using a weapon delivery pod, and has been forced to keep critical tests on hold. Past experience suggests that the Tejas’ radar will remain an import.

    Aug 20/08: Kaveri & Snecma. The Wall Street Journal’s partner has an article that more or less sums up the Kaveri project in a nutshell, and also the DRDO: “In aircraft engine development, you cannot set a timeline.” The article interviews T. Mohana Rao, director of India’s state-run Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE). Rao explains why the Kaveri engine is effectively dead as a fighter aircraft engine, leaving GE’s popular F404-GE-IN20 variant to power the Tejas for at least the next 4 years.

    Rao quotes the Kaveri’s performance at 11,000 lbs./ 5,000 kg dry thrust at sea level, and 16,500 lbs./ 7,500 kg thrust on afterburners. That’s about 1,000 lbs./ 400 kg short of specifications. The engine is also overweight by 330 lbs./ 150 kg, and has yet to perform long-endurance tests to assess its durability.

    The GTRE cannot promise any date for successful delivery, and so political approval was granted to form a partnership with a foreign engine firm on a risk-sharing basis. Russia’s NPO Saturn and France’s Snecma responded, while GE, Rolls-Royce, and Pratt and Whitney declined. After almost 2 1/2 years, the GTRE chose France’s Snecma, but there’s no contract yet. industrial issues need to be settled, and the government requires consultation with the Indian Air Force before any contract and requirements are signed.

    Snecma’s proposal involves an engine core (compressor, combustor and high-pressure turbine) called Eco. Snecma would have a workshare of 45%, and GTRE’s would be 55%, with nearly 85% of the manufacturing within India. Snecma says the aircraft could be certified for fitting in the Tejas within 4 years. Assuming that project remains on time, of course. The policy question is whether this outcome was predictable from the outset. As the Live Mint article notes:

    “Nearly 20 years after it promised an indigenous engine to power India’s light combat aircraft Tejas, the… country’s sole aero engine design house, is now seeking outside help…”

    Aug 13/08: Kaveri KMGT. The DRDO’s GTRE in Bangalore believes it may have found a use for the Kaveri engine, in naval vessels. Using the core of the Kaveri engine, plus a low-pressure compressor and turbine, the engine would become a gas-fired 12 MW propulsion unit in warships up the he Rajput Class, or find uses as on-shore electricity generators. A Kaveri Marine Gas Turbine (KMGT) has been transported to naval dock yard at Vishakapatnam, and installed on to the marine gas turbine test bed there. Yahoo! India | RF Design.

    The Rajput Class “destroyers” are modified Russian Kashin-II Class ships, though their top weight of just under 5,000 tons would mark them as large frigates in many navies.

    Aug 3/08: Kaveri – And Replacements? The Wall Street Journal’s partner reports that France’s Snecma will partner with India’s DRDO to develop a new engine, sidelining the Kaveri project.

    “GTRE has spent nearly Rs1,900 crore of the Rs2,800 crore that was sanctioned since an engine project Kaveri, named after the river in southern India, began in 1989… Vincent Chappard, a Snecma spokesman in France, said he could not immediately confirm the development.”

    While the IAF waits for Snecma’s efforts, reports also suggest that the DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Agency has invited both General Electric and Eurojet Turbo GmbH, a European engine consortium, to bid for higher-powered interim engines. GE offers the F414, and the Eurojet 2000 already has higher thrust, but the engines will have to fit the Tejas’ design – or vice-versa. These engines would be slated for Tejas aircraft produced beyond the initial 48 plane order, but before any indigenous engine is certified. WSJ partner Live Mint | domain-b

    March 4/08: Radar. There are reports that Europe’s EADS has offered to co-develop an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar with India, for installation on board the Tejas fighters. Work is currently underway on an AESA radar to equip EADS’ Eurofighter, which is a long shot in India’s 126-190 aircraft MMRCA fighter competition.

    The nature of AESA radars makes it possible to scale them up or down while retaining high commonality with larger versions, the main difference being changes to radar power and hence overall performance. Northrop Grumman whose AN/APG-77 AESA radar equips America’s F-22, recently introduced its AESA Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) at Singapore’s February 2007 air show. It’s designed to equip existing F-16 fighters with no modifications required, and is advertised as being scalable to other platforms.

    A win for EADS in this area offers to solve a problem for India, while creating a commonality hook for the Eurofighter – or at worst, a supplier diversification option for India that adds external funding to help EADS catch up in this key technology area.

    March 3/08: Indian Defence Minister Shri A K Antony responds to a Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) question by saying that the Tejas flight test program is:

    “…progressing as per the schedule. So far, 829 flight tests have been completed. Efforts are being made to accelerate the flight tests… Presently, no need is felt for strategic partner. To complete the project at the earliest, a top level review is being conducted by the Chief of Air Staff once in every quarter and review by the Deputy Chief of Air Staff once in every month. So far, Rs. 4806.312 cr [DID: 48.063 billion rupees, or about $1.19 billion at current conversion] have been spent on development of various versions of Light Combat Aircraft.”

    2006 – 2008

    1st 20 production Tejas ordered; IAI to substitute for MMR radar failure; F404 engines ordered; AA-11 fired; Naval Tejas contemplated. AA-11/R-73 Archer
    (click to view full)

    Oct 25/07: Testing. The Tejas fires a missile for the first time: Vympel’s short-range, IR guided AA-11/R-73 Archer air-to-air missile. Test aircraft PV-1 fired the missile at 7 km altitude and 0.6 Mach within the naval air range off the coast of Goa, marking the beginning of weaponization as a prelude to initial operational clearance (IOC) phase of the Tejas program.

    The main objectives of test firing were to validate safe separation of the missile, the effect of missile plume on the engine’s air-intake and on composite structures, the workings of the stores-management displays and software, and quality assessment. India DoD release | Times of India.

    While the beginning of weaponization is a significant event, the state of the fighter’s indigenous radar development means that the critical weaponization event for the Tejas LCA will be its first successful test-firing of a radar-guided missile.

    Aug 13/07: Radar – IAI. Defence Minister Shri AK Antony states the obvious in a written reply to Shri Sugrib Singh and others in Lok Sabha, but adds new information concerning foreign cooperation:

    “There has been a time and cost overrun in the said project. The project to develop two MMR systems for ground testing was sanctioned at a cost of Rs.62.27 crore. This activity was completed in 2004 at a cost of Rs.105 crore.

    Yes, but see poor testing results in the April 8/06 and May 1/06 entries, below. He does not mention them, but effectively concedes the point by adding that:

    A co-development activity of MMR has been initiated for Limited Series Production and Series Production with M/s ELTA Systems Ltd, Israel, which has experience in developing similar types of radars. To expedite the project, close monitoring of activity at the highest level of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) management has been put in place.”

    See also India Defence follow-on | Flight International.

    IAI Elta radar agreement

    April 26/07: Testing. The 1st of the Limited Series Production Tejas jets (LSP-1), makes its successful maiden flight at HAL airport in Bangalore, reaching an altitude of 11 km/ 6.6 miles and a speed of Mach 1.1 during the 47 minute flight.

    According to the Indian government release, LSP-1 marks the beginning of series production of Tejas for induction into the Air Force.

    1st production flight

    March 1/07: India’s Defence Minister Shri AK Antony offers an update re: the Tejas LCA:

    “Five Tejas are currently being flight tested for Initial Operational Clearance by the Indian Air Force pilots posted at National Test Centre of Aeronautical Development Agency, Ministry of Defence. So far 629 flights accumulating 334 hours have been completed. Twenty aircraft have been ordered by the Indian Air Force as the first lot.”

    Feb 7/07: F404. HAL ordered an additional 24 F404-GE-IN20 afterburning engines in a $100+ million contract, in order to power the first operational squadron of Tejas fighters for the Indian Air Force.

    This buy follows a 2004 purchase of 17 F404-GE-IN20 engines, in order to power a limited series of operational production aircraft and naval prototypes.

    F404 engine order #2

    Jan 25/07: India tries to throw a large monkey wrench into Pakistan’s rival JF-17 project. They almost succeed.

    Nov 22/06: Reuters India: “Pakistan set to get eight JF-17 fighter jets next year.” Anxieties are becoming more acute as Pakistan readies its JF-17 fighter developed in conjunction with China and Russia, and prepares to induct them into service in 2007-2008. The JF-17 is a sub-$20 million fighter designed to replace F-7P (MiG-21+) and Mirage 3/5 aircraft in Pakistan’s fleet, and is a comparable peer for the LCA Tejas.

    Sept 19/06: India set to induct 28 LCA Tejas aircraft by 2007. They would have GE F404 engines rather than the Kaveri, says former project director Dr. Kota Harinarayana. As it turns out, India has 0 inducted aircraft, 5 years after that stated date.

    May 2/06: India Defence reports that the Indian Navy may be interested in a Tejas LCA version of its own.

    May 1/06: Radar. More bad news for the radar project. The Vijay Times also notes that that the performance of several radar modes being tested still “fell short of expectations,” and may force acquisition of American or Israeli radars (likely APG-68 or Elta’s EL/M-2032) as an interim measure.

    April 8/06: Radar. The Sunday Telegraph reports that the Tejas’ radar, which was also set up as an indigenous project after foreign options like the JAS-39 Gripen’s fine PS05 radar were refused, could only perform at the most basic levels, putting tests on hold:

    “According to the IAF, which proposes to buy 220 of the planes when they are ready, the radar is now “marooned in uncertainty”… While two basic radar modes have been tested, the other modes have failed, throwing up serious questions about the system’s fundamentals.

    In written replies to queries sent by The Indian Express, DRDO chief M Natarajan said: “Because of the complexity of technologies involved (in the radar project) and the extent of testing to be done, help of specialists in the field may be sought to complete the task… When Natarajan was asked why there was uncertainty over the radar so long after development began, he said: “The radar is under development by HAL and not at LRDE (the DRDO’s lab).” This, even when the signal processor built by the DRDO is the very heart of the radar.

    Security analyst K Subrahmanyam has earlier called the dogged refusal to entertain foreign help by the DRDO as reflective of the organisation’s bad project management.”

    March 2006: Order #1. India signs a contract with HAL for 20 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) in “Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) configuration,” along with associated role equipment, reserve engines, engine support package, engine test bed and computer based training (CBT) package.

    The total contract cost is INR 27.017 billion. Source.

    India: 20 LCA

    February 2006: Kaveri. Jane’s claims that SNECMA won the contract to assist India in developing the Kaveri.

    Appendix A: DID Analysis & Op/Ed (2006) More exportable Kaveri

    The complexities inherent in designing a new fighter from scratch are formidable, even for a lightweight fighter like the Tejas. As Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar (Retd) notes, India’s industry had significant experience deficits going into this project, which have delayed the project significantly, and raised costs. The insistence on pushing the envelope with a new fighter design, a new engine, and a new radar all at once has had consequences. In the long run, those consequences will lead to a smaller IAF, and could be set to create major force gaps if MiG-21 lifespans can’t be extended long enough.

    As experts like Richard D. Fisher have noted, Chinese projects tend to quickly hand off significant components to others and confine the kinds of domestic expertise required. The J-10 has been an example, and the massive changes required when Israeli and Western cooperation ended made the project incredibly challenging. Only a Chinese decision to outsource major components like the engines to the Russians kept the project from failing completely.

    As the J-10 shows, delays remain possible, even with extensive foreign cooperation. It’s also true that every new jet engine type can expect teething issues when it is first installed. This may explain why even Sweden, with their long history of indigenous fighter development, chose the less risky approach of adopting the proven GE F404 & F414 engines for the JAS-39 Gripen. They made minor modifications as required in conjunction with the manufacturer, then concentrated their design efforts elsewhere.

    All the more reason, then, to bring in foreign partners for components like the engine etc., and minimize the complexities faced by India’s indigenous teams in its state-run organizations.

    Sainis and Joseph’s examination of the benefits to Indian industry from the LCA program demonstrate that most industrial benefits would have been retained had India taken this route. So, too, would the project’s timelines, which have suffered instead as India’s fighter fleet dwindles.

    In India’s case, these added complexities can also spill over onto the export front. If potential Tejas export customers aren’t offered a common, fully tested international engine like the GE F404, with a broad network of support and leverage across multiple aircraft types, risk calculations will get in the way of some sales. When deciding on their buy, potential customers will have to evaluate the Kaveri engine’s prospects for future spares, upgrades and support, available contractors with relevant skills in maintaining them, etc. This tends to make potential buyers more cautious, and is likely to reduce Kaveri’s odds when competing against options like the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17, which uses a modified version of the engine that equips many MiG-29s around the world.

    As the French have found with the Rafale, lack of exports for a limited production indigenous fighter equals rising maintenance and upgrade burdens that hit right in the home budget, and make it that much harder for the design to keep up with contemporary threats over its lifetime. Which in turn affect export prospects in a vicious circle.

    Will India’s decision to proceed with the Kaveri engine offer short-term customization benefits, at the expense of long-term pain? Or can HAL maintain the Tejas airframe design, and field a lightweight fighter that offers its customers a choice of engines?

    Appendix B: The Kaveri Saga – Keystone, or Killer? Kaveri prototype
    (click to view full)

    The GTRE GTX-35VS Kaveri was envisioned as a variable cycle flat-rated engine, in which the thrust drop is compensated by increased turbine entry temperature at the spool. The variable cycle flat-rated engine would be controlled by a Kaveri full authority digital control unit (KADECU/ FADEC). The goal was a powerplant with slightly more thrust than GE’s F404 engines, whose characteristics were uniquely suited to India’s hot and humid environments.

    India’s frequent goal of “100% made in India content” has derailed a number of its weapon projects over the last few decades, but foreign decisions also played an important role in the Kaveri project’s genesis. In 1998, India’s nuclear tests prompted the US to place sanctions on military exports, including GE’s F404 turbofans and Lockheed Martin’s assistance in developing the Tejas’ flight control system. In response, India began its program to develop an indigenous engine. As the Rediff’s Feb 5/06 report notes:

    “DRDO scientists had kept the development of the Kaveri engine under wraps, exuding confidence that India had developed the technological edge to develop its own aircraft engine, so far confined to handful of developed countries.”

    The prospect of ending that dependence is a powerful lure, but some of the reasons for that small club are technical. Modern jet engines are far more complex than even Vietnam-era engines like the GE J79 that equipped the F-4 Phantom. Producing a working, reliable engine that can operate at these high pressures and thrust ratings isn’t easy, and weaking and troubleshooting a new and unproven jet engine always involves a great deal of work and expense. The Kaveri engine’s climate performance targets added even more challenges to an already-full plate. That proved difficult for the program when the program’s entire context changed.

    Eventually, the USA lifted its weapons export restrictions on India. In contrast, the natural barriers to developing an advanced engine from scratch, in a country with no past experience doing so, to technical specifications more challenging than current market mainstays, were not lifted so easily. The complexities inherent in this challenge belied DRDO’s apparent confidence, forcing India to bring in turbine experts from Snecma in France and from US firms like Pratt and Whitney.

    In the end, the Indian DRDO was finally forced to look for a foreign technology partner, and issue an RFP. Even then, acceptance of program realities was slow in coming. In the initial stages, DRDO secretary M Natarajan referred to it as an effort to “add value and look for a partner to stand guarantee,” and stated that any partners would have to work to India’s terms. A committee in which IAF experts would be included would evaluate the bids to decide on:

    “…how much to take and from whom… But Kaveri is and would remain an Indian project… We have gone this way to shorten time for making the engine airborne, as we don’t wont to delay the LCA induction schedule.”

    GE F404

    Those goals did not prove to be compatible.

    US engine manufacturer General Electric, who supplies the F404 jet engines that power initial Tejas models, seemed unenthralled with those proposed terms. They declined to respond to the RFP for foreign assistance. Eventually, India’s state agencies were forced to concede that they could not develop an engine with the required specifications, and that seeking foreign help to improve the basic design was also unlikely to produce a design that met the required specifications.

    With no engine in production as late-stage aircraft testing began, and none forthcoming in the forseeable future, India’s drive to develop an indigenous “Kaveri” jet engine had become a key roadblock for the Tejas program in India – and very possibly, beyond India as well.

    In contrast to the Kaveri, F404 family engines are already proven in a number of aircraft around the world including Saab’s 4th generation JAS-39 Gripen lightweight fighter, the F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter, models A-D of the F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft in service around the world, South Korea’s T/A-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer & light attack aircraft, and Singapore’s soon to be retired A-4SU Super Skyhawk attack jets. Kaveris equipped with F404/F414 engines would present a lower risk profile to potential export customers, due to the engines’ long-proven performance, GE’s global support network, and the number on engines in operation around the world.

    Kaveri would offer none of these important benefits, in exchange for one offsetting feature: foreign sales would not require US military export approval for the engines.

    India has not been a major weapons exporter, so export realities didn’t carry a lot of weight. On the other hand, the technical and timeline difficulties experienced by the main Tejas program created a potential natiional defense crisis that could not be ignored. By August 2008, the Kaveri program had effectively been sidelined, in order to get the Tejas into service within an acceptable time frame and preserve India’s operational fighter strength. While political changes may resurrect the Kaveri program as a political exercise, the Tejas program’s technical procurement path has been moving in the other direction.

    This kind of vague drift away from an indigenous option is common in India’s procurement history. It usually ends with off-the-shelf “interim” buys becoming permanent; and an indigenous program that’s either shelved, or bought in very low numbers alongside a much larger foreign purchase of similar equipment.

    GE’s F404-IN20 will be the Tejas’ initial powerplant, to be followed by the F414-GE-INS6, which beat the Eurojet EJ200 as the Tejas Mk.II’s planned engine.

    Even so, DRDO continued to fund and back its long-delayed project. By January 2013, they had abandoned negotiations with France’s Snecma to create a Kaveri 2.0 version using key Snecma engine technologies, and resolved to try yet another global tender. A Kaveri without an afterburner would power a notional UCAV strike drone, and DRDO specified a pair of Kaveri engines for a proposed “Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft” project.

    These pursuits would have kept the Kaveri development project consuming defense funds for another decade. In May 2014, however, Narendra Modi’s BJP Party scored a crushing landslide victory, and vowed to shake up the way government was run. DRDO felt the change, shifted their prioritization methods, and decided in November 2014 that the Kaveri program should be abandoned entirely.

    \Additional Readings & Sources Background: LCA Tejas

    Background: Ancillary Technologies & Weapons

    Background: Tejas Mk.II Technologies

    Official Reports

    News & Views

    Categories: News

    ROK AF to Visit US Pitching KAI-LM T-50A | USS Nimitz Gets Hard-kill Anti-torpedo System | Norway Request 12 More F-35A Fighters

    Wed, 10/12/2016 - 23:58

    • The chief of the Republic of Korea Air Force is to visit the US next month to help promote the T-50A bid by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin. Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo is scheduled to meet his US counterparts during the trip. Washington is expected to begin its selection process for 350 advanced jet trainers next year which could reach $20 billion in value.

    • USS Nimitz became the fifth nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to have a hard-kill anti-torpedo defense system installed on board. Designed to destroy an incoming torpedo by collision, the Surface Ship Torpedo Defense (SSTD) System consists of the Torpedo Warning System, an automated control station and a Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo (CAT). The system was developed by Pennsylvania State University’s Applied Research Lab.

    • POSCO Daewoo of South Korea has been contracted to provide a landing platform dock and multirole corvette vessels to the Brazilian Navy in a deal worth $1 billion. The firm will also modernize the Arsenal de Marinha do Rio de Janeiro shipyard and the ships will be constructed in partnership with domestic shipyards. In order to hunt deals in the region, POSCO Daewoo has operated offices out of the city of Sao Paulo since 1980.

    Middle East & North Africa

    • The Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen has claimed to have shot down a Houthi rebel ballistic missile headed toward Khamees Mushait city in the kingdom’s southwest on Tuesday night. After destroying the missile, Saudi forces attacked the missile’s launch site. It’s believed that that target of the strike was Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal Military Camp located about 40 km (25 miles) north of the Yemeni border.

    • Germany’s cabinet has approved the deployment of additional troops to Turkey to help operate NATO surveillance aircraft. The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft will be used for reconnaissance in support of air strikes against IS targets. Berlin already has 500 personnel fighting IS with six Tornado surveillance aircraft and a refueling plane located at Turkey’s Incirlik air base.

    • Turkish and Russian rapprochement continues with Ankara re-inviting a previously disqualified Russian bidder to its first long-range air and anti-missile defense system acquisition. China Precision Manufacturing Import-Export Corp (CPMIEC) had been originally tapped to provide their air defense architecture in a deal worth $3.44 billion before being ditching by Turkey following pressure from NATO allies. Since then, an indigenous effort has commenced to develop a system alongside parallel talks with US and European bidders.


    • Twelve additional F-35A fighters have been requested by the Norwegian government. The proposal, if approved, would raise the total number of authorized F-35A purchases to 40 aircraft allowing Norway to participate in a proposed “block buy” for the F-35’s US and international partners. Unlike a multi-year procurement, a block buy does not lock the US or international partners into firm orders, but it gives Lockheed’s supply chain a long-term view of likely demand.

    Asia Pacific

    • Australian Armidale-class patrol boats are to receive mid-life upgrades from firm Austal Australia. This month will see the commencement of work on the hull remediation, corrective maintenance and configuration changes of up to seven vessels at Austal’s shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia. Austal is currently providing in-service support to the Australian Border Force’s fleet of eight company-built Cape-class patrol boats and has been contracted to provide in-service support for 19 Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement vessels, which enter service from late next year.

    Today’s Video

    North Korea’s Latest Missile Launch:

    Categories: News

    Australia’s Coastwatch: A Public-Private Model for Coast Guards and CBP

    Wed, 10/12/2016 - 23:48
    Keeping watch
    (click to view full)

    Australia’s long coast is also its border, and they’ve taken an innovative approach to the problem. Unlike, say, the US Coast Guard, Australia has semi-privatized the coastal patrol function, placing contractors under the Customs service. Once intruders are detected, these contractors can then call on pre-arranged support from civil authorities and/or the Royal Australian Navy and Air Force. Contracted services of this nature are becoming more common around the world, but Australia was really breaking new ground when they began Coastwatch on such a large scale in 1995.

    Coastwatch was re-competed, and in 2006, Cobham’s subsidiary Surveillance Australia Pty Ltd retained the contract through the A$ 1+ billion next phase, called Project Sentinel. The new contract under Australia’s CMS04 (Civil Maritime Surveillance 04) program has expanded the fleet and addressed some concerns, but there are still areas where Australia lags a bit behind the leading edge. Even so, Coastwatch remain a touchstone program for countries considering a similar path.

    Australia’s Coastwatch RAAF AP-3C Orion
    (click to view full)

    Australia has a 38,000 km coastline and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 16 million square kilometres, and faces an increasing level of incursions. Illegal fishing and asylum-seekers who set themselves adrift to take advantage of Australia’s refugee laws (if they survive). As it became clear that its northern approaches held other resources beyond fish, the area’s sovereignty and safety acquired a high priority.

    By 2005, the Coastwatch division of the Australian Customs Service contracted for the use of 15 fixed-wing aircraft and 2 helicopters from civil providers, and set annual availability quotas from Customs and Navy patrol vessels (about 1,800 hours) and RAAF AP-3C Orions (about 250 hours) under Operation Cranberry.

    Except for contracted AP-3C availabilities from the RAAF, aerial surveillance is carried out by civilian operators. Indeed, the program is the world’s largest aerial civil maritime surveillance operation. It involves 170 personnel, flying 20,000 hours per year from 4 four permanent bases (Broome, Darwin, Horn Island and Cairns) around Australia’s northern coast. As of 2006, the Surveillance Australia fixed-wing aircraft roster included:

    • 5 Dash-8 Q200 MPA aircraft fitted with Immarsat communications, SeaVue surveillance radar, infra-red sensors and daylight TV camera for long-range offshore surveillance.

    • 3 Cessna Reims F406 turboprop aircraft fitted with surveillance radar and night vision systems for inshore surveillance.

    • 6 Pilatus Britten-Norman BN2B Islander aircraft, fitted for the Visual Surveillance role.

    • 1 Shrike AC500 Aero Commander, fitted for the Visual Surveillance Role.

    As noted above, these contracted assets work hand-in-hand with civil and military authorities to thwart drug runners, people smugglers and illegal fishing. While the surveillance is carried out under the auspices of Customs, several agencies rely on the intelligence gathered, including the Australian Federal Police, Quarantine and Inspection Service, Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade and Fisheries.

    The New Fleet Coastwatch Q200
    (click to view full)

    Under the new 2006 Project Sentinel contract, Cobham companies will provide, operate and maintain an updated fleet of Dash-8 aircraft through to the year 2021, starting in January 2008. The new service based on Bombardier Dash-8 aircraft will double the fleet to provide all-weather, day and night electronic surveillance of Australia’s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone.

    The new fleet will change to 10 Dash 8 planes: 6 Q200 aircraft, plus 4 longer-range and larger Q300 aircraft. During the modification program, the Q300s were equipped with additional fuel tanks in the fuselage, providing an additional 4,000 lbs. of fuel capacity in addition to their standard long-range tanks. The Project Sentinel Dash 8 MSAs are equipped with the latest versions of Raytheon’s SeaVue radar, L-3 Wescam’s MX-15 EO system and a new SIM system based on Galileo Avionica’s “ATOS.” SIM will automatically capture and integrate surveillance information from these surveillance aircraft, and transmit in near real time between other aircraft and the National Surveillance Centre.

    The Islanders and Aero Commanders were slated for retirement per CMS04’s “all electronic surveillance” guidelines, and the Cessnas may have been retired as well.

    Project Sentinel will also operate some helicopters, in order to patrol key areas. Australia’s Customs and Border Patrol has contracted at least 1 Bell 412EP, 1 Eurocopter AS350B3, and 1 Eurocopter EC145 for these roles.

    Improving the Fleet Mariner UAV Trial
    (click to view full)

    Australia’s border patrol authorities have been stretched by a flood of illegal fishing vessels, particularly from Indonesia. The influx has led to calls for the establishment of a state-based Coastguard in Western Australia. Meanwhile, more than 8,000 boats have been detected, resulting in at least 200 arrests. Fisheries officers have also expressed concern that the sophisticated radars used by Coastwatch aircraft and patrol vessels have difficulty picking up the small wooden boats used by Indonesian fishermen.

    In order to keep Coastwatch capabilities up to date, the successful bidder will be required to improve detection capabilities over the life of the contract. Contenders had also been asked by Justice Minister Chris Ellison to use new technologies such as UAVs, advances in satellite imagery and new-generation radar to improve the reliability and range of Australia’s civil maritime border protection effort.

    In 2006, Australia’s Ministry of Defence trialed pilotless spy planes to patrol vital North West Shelf oil and gas reserves off Western Australia. The General Atomics MQ-9 Mariner UAV was used, given the high-altitude, jet powered RQ-4B Global Hawk’s high cost and high demand. As a bonus, the Mariner uses the same SeaVue radar as Australia’s Dash 8s, which allows for good comparisons.

    Australia is still debating its maritime UAV needs, and withdrew from the US Navy’s MQ-4C BAMS program in 2009. The withdrawal removes a potential shared asset, which could have helped supplement Coastwatch just as the manned AP-3C fleet does today. Meanwhile, in the trial’s aftermath there has been no movement on contracted UAV services like Mariner, or even Boeing’s smaller ScanEagle, to improve Coastwatch.

    Contracts & Key Events 2007 – 2016

    AS350 B3
    (click to view full)

    October 13/16: Australian Armidale-class patrol boats are to receive mid-life upgrades from firm Austal Australia. This month will see the commencement of work on the hull remediation, corrective maintenance and configuration changes of up to seven vessels at Austal’s shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia. Austal is currently providing in-service support to the Australian Border Force’s fleet of eight company-built Cape-class patrol boats and has been contracted to provide in-service support for 19 Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement vessels, which enter service from late next year.

    Oct 29/12: Extension. Cobham has reached a GBP 105 million/ A$ 163 million agreement with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, to extend their existing Sentinel aerial maritime surveillance contract by 2 years. This extension secures the contract until the end of 2021. Cobham plc [PDF].

    Oct 1/10: SATCOM certified. Cobham SATCOM announces that their SB800 SwiftBroadband (SBB) System has been certified on CoastWatch’s Bombardier Dash-8 aircraft. With the SB800, Immarsat’s satellite network can be used to transfer the aircraft’s video and other sensor data to a land base for fast analysis.

    The SB800 system works with the Immarsat constellation, and consists of an HGA-7001 antenna, SDU-7320 dual-channel satellite data unit, DAU-7060 Diplexer/Low noise amplifier and HPA-7450 High power amplifier. Cobham touts it as the most compact dual channel, class 6 SBB system available on the market. Cobham plc [PDF]

    July 3/07: Helicopters. A new Australian Helicopters Pty Ltd Eurocopter AS350B3 Ecureuil arrives, and will replace a Bell Longranger IV in the Torres Strait per the Aug 29/05 contract.

    Australian Helicopters Pty Ltd has been operating the Coastwatch helicopter surveillance and response service in the Torres Strait since 1995. They’ll operate the AS350 alongside a Bell 412 twin-engine helicopter, which has been upgraded with new surveillance and communications equipment to provide enhanced capabilities. Australia CBP.

    Feb 1/07: SIMS, Helicopters. Australia’s CBP welcomes the first upgraded Dash 8 202 aircraft into service under the Sentinel program, complete with improved surveillance technology.

    They also announce that Italy’s Galileo Avionica has won the opportunity to supply the new Surveillance Information Management System for the Dash 8s. SIM will automatically capture and integrate surveillance information from surveillance aircraft, and transmit in near real time between other aircraft and the National Surveillance Centre. The first aircraft will be fitted in October 2008, and the rest will be upgraded over time.

    Finally, a new Rapid Response Helicopter service will be based in Gove which brings a new capability to detect and respond to landings or abandoned vessels, and combat illegal foreign fishing in Australia’s north and offshore regions. Helicopters (Australia) will operate a new EC145 twin-engine helicopter from April 2008, but provide a BK-117-B2 helicopter as an interim solution from May 2007 – April 2008. Australia CBP.

    SIM & Helicopter contracts

    2004 – 2006

    MQ-9 trials
    (click to view full)

    May-September 2006: MQ-9 UAV. Australia’s government announces a September 2006 trial across Australia’s North West Shelf region, using a General Atomics MQ-9 Mariner Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and an Armidale Class patrol boat. Australian DoD release | Spacewar | DSTO mini-site.

    May 2006: Australia’s 2006-07 budget proposal includes a number of measures to improve the protection of Australia’s northern borders, including an additional A$ 20.2 million to enable Customs to increase maritime surveillance flights over Australia’s northern approaches by 2,200 hours, and another A$ 338.9 million spread over numerous government agencies to combat illegal foreign fishing. See “Australia to Beef Up Northern Border Protection“.

    March 6/06: Q300 order. Bombardier announces a $53 million order for 3 Dash 8 Q300 aircraft, from National Air Support of Adelaide, Australia.

    In addition to the 3 new Q300 aircraft acquired from Bombardier, NAS will also purchase and convert 2 Dash 8s (1 Q200 and 1 Q300) from the existing fleet of sister company National Jet Systems. All 5 aircraft will then be delivered to Field Aviation Co. at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada for conversion to maritime patrol.

    Dash-8 Q300 MPA Interior
    (click to view full)

    March 3/06: Contract. Cobham plc signs the CoastWatch contract with the government of Australia. It’s a 12-year, A$ 1 billion deal.

    To fulfill the CMS04 contract’s new requirement for “all electronic surveillance” from January 2008, Cobham notes that the fleet will be augmented to 10 Bombardier Dash-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA): 5 upgraded Q200s, and 5 new Q300s, which are larger and offer longer range. Over time, the fleet will migrate toward this single fixed-wing type as other planes are retired. Each Dash-8 aircraft will be capable of searching an area of more than 110,000 km2 per flight, and the planes will operate from existing bases in Broome, Darwin, Horn Island and Cairns. Cobham plc.

    Project Sentinel

    Dec 7/05: Preferred bidder. Cobham is named as the Preferred Bidder for the 12-year, A$ 1bn Australian Coastwatch contract, beating Raytheon Australia. This isn’t a contract yet, but it means that negotiations with Cobham will be exclusive. Cobham plc | The Australian.

    Aug 29/05: Helicopters. Australian Customs extends their relationship with Australian Helicopters Pty Ltd (AHPL), to provide another 12 years of helicopter surveillance and response service in the Torres Strait region. The new agreement is worth more than A$ 100 million over 12 years, and is also referred to as the Service B portion of the Civil Maritime Surveillance (CMS04) contract.

    AHPL has been operating the Coastwatch helicopter surveillance and response service in the Torres Strait since 1995, with the current contract due to expire in June 2007. The new contract would begin in July 2007, and includes 1 new helicopter to replace the Bell Longranger IV in current service. Australian CBP.

    CMS04 for helicopters

    July 29/04: Extension. Cobham plc and the Australian government announce that the Coastwatch Civil Maritime Aerial Surveillance Contract held by their subsidiary, Surveillance Australia, will be extended to June 30/07 in an A$ 125 million deal. Surveillance Australia will re-compete the program beyond 2007.

    CoastWatch has been operating since 1995, and Surveillance Australia’s fleet includes 5 Bombardier Dash 8 Q200 long range surveillance aircraft, 3 Cessna Reims F406 medium range surveillance aircraft, 6 twin-engine Britten-Norman Islanders, and 1 twin-engine Shrike aircraft. Cobham plc.

    Additional Readings and Sources Coastwatch Australia

    Coastwatch Platforms

    Additional Readings and Sources: Related

    Categories: News

    Gen Dyn IT Will Provide Mission Support to USSOCOM | IAI’s BirdEye 650D Gets Increased Endurance | Airbus Strikes Back; Campaign Costs Leave a Bitter Taste

    Tue, 10/11/2016 - 23:58

    • The USAF has tasked Boeing with selecting a supplier for a $198 million upgrade of the F-15C/D which will allow the fighter to detect at long range the heat generated by an aircraft engine. After selecting the infrared search and track (IRST) sensor supplier, Boeing will be tasked with integrating the pod with the F-15’s other systems, including the Raytheon-supplied active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. By delegating such work, the USAF avoids giving losing bidders a chance to protest Boeing’s decision to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

    • General Dynamics Information Technology reports they are to provide a range of mission support services to the US Special Operations Command. The multiple-award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity USSOCOM contract has a maximum ceiling value of $900 million over a five-year period. Under the deal, USSOCOM forces and their staffs will be provided with technical and management functions across the globe, including engineering and technical services for major weapon systems, program technical assistance, support systems requirements, production decision-making, and program controls assistance.

    Middle East & North Africa

    • Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has increased the endurance of their BirdEye 650D UAV to over 15 hours. Regarded as the most sophisticated of IAI’s family of small tactical UAVs, the newest version has been designed for use by tactical-level infantry units, but with a “stretched envelope” for increased performance. This increased endurance coupled with the variety of plug-and-play payloads, makes it suitable for civil, as well as military applications.


    • Two AugustaWestland AW101 VIP helicopters have been handed over by the Nigerian government to their air force. The move comes during a round of cost cutting measures in an effort to reduce expenditures which has also seen two VIP jets put up for sale. Nigeria’s AW101s were originally two of 12 destined for the Indian Air Force, but diverted to Nigeria after the contract with India was cancelled over bribery and corruption allegations.


    • Airbus struck back at the Polish government yesterday following the dropping of a multi-billion Caracel helicopter deal. In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Aerospace giant accused the government of shifting the goalposts as Airbus competed with US and Italian rivals, and attempting to contravene European Union regulations. Speaking in a separate email, Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders said “never have we been treated by any government customer the way this government has treated us.” Industry sources estimate Airbus’ cost of running the helicopter sales campaign at several tens of millions of euros.

    • An initial batch of twelve CV9035 infantry fighting vehicles have been delivered to Estonia from the Netherlands. In late 2014, Estonia signed a $125 million deal for the provision of of 44 used Dutch CV9035NL IFVs and six Leopard 1 tank-based support vehicles. All the vehicles, which will be delivered by 2018, are to undergo maintenance and repairs before arriving in Estonia, the Estonian Ministry of Defense said. Norway will also supply 37 IFV CV90, which will be rebuilt as armored support vehicles, to Estonia next year.

    Asia Pacific

    • Dassault Mirage F1 fighters operated by the Iranian Air Force have successfully had their on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS) refurbished for the first time. The work was carried out by the Overhaul Center of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF). In 2014, Tehran announced that its defense ministry had domestically produced a cruise missile system for its Mirage fleet.

    • Japan’s military and aerospace industry will use this week’s Japan International Aerospace Exhibition to push the case to develop a highly advanced, and costly, stealth fighter jet. Dubbed the F-3, the program could cost Tokyo as much $40 billion to develop depending on specifications. Options open to the government include developing the costly fighter or opting for a more cost effective conventional fighter. In March, Japan’s Ministry of Defence issued a request for information (RFI) to gauge interest among foreign aerospace companies for jointly developing the F-3, which would operate alongside Lockheed Martin’s new F-35s and older F-15s.

    Today’s Video

    IAI’s Bird-Eye 650D:

    Categories: News

    Get a Glimpse Into Yak-152 Production | France Annoyed Over Poland’s Dissing Airbus Deal | Philippines Ready to Buy Russian Mil Helicopters

    Mon, 10/10/2016 - 23:58

    • Honeywell is working on improving the T55 turboshaft engine found on the CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Aimed at increasing its power efficiency by 25%, work has begun on developing a new improved compressor that would increase the T55’s engine power – from 4,700shp (3,500kW) to 6,000shp – and reduce fuel usage by 8%. The research coincides with Boeing’s Block 2 upgrade on the helicopter, which aims to increase its lost pay-load capability.

    Middle East & North Africa

    • The USS Mason, a US Navy guided missile destroyer, was targeted and attacked by missiles launched from Houthi rebel-controlled territory off the coast of Yemen. Both missiles launched during a one hour attack failed to reach the vessel instead falling short into the Red Sea. The incident comes just a week after a UAE vessel was hit by a Houthi anti-ship missile and the weekend bombing of a funeral by Saudi warplanes.

    • Six German Tornado fighters, grounded last week over safety concerns, have returned to combating militants from the Islamic State. Issues with the planes were discovered last Thursday which involved loose screws that could not be properly tightened in some key cockpit equipment. The six jets are being used for surveillance flights out of Incirlik air base in Turkey near the Syrian border


    • The Dutch government has said it will continue their peace mission in Mali in 2017 but will withdraw their helicopter contingent at the start of the year. As a result, the UN will be left struggling to find replacement aircraft. Potential supplier Canada has yet to commit and Germany, who has 570 soldiers stationed in Mali, are concerned that they may have to fill the gap.


    • For those wanting a glimpse into the production of the Yak-152 then look no further. Russian journalist Felix Kondyor was given access to a small corner at Irkutsk where the trainer is being assembled.

    • France has reacted angrily to Poland dropping a multi-billion helicopter deal with Airbus, warning that it would review defense cooperation with its NATO ally and cancelling a presidential visit to Warsaw. Winning support as a populist, right-wing, eurosceptics, the ruling Law & Justice party (PiS) said they would rather see the deal awarded to a company that could build the helicopters locally. Polish media reports that Warsaw has already begun negotiations with Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky, manufacturer of locally-produced Black Hawk helicopters that could be purchased by the Polish army as soon as this year.

    Asia Pacific

    • South Korea is looking to add two more Boeing 737 AEW&C aircraft to their current fleet of four in order to boost operational capabilities. The increased number will also allow Seoul to use the aircraft as a deterrent against North Korea. However any acquisition will take time with a ministry source saying it could take up to five years for the necessary budget needed to start the project.

    • Sources within the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department told reporters that the government is set to buy two military helicopters from Russia. Valued between $12 and $17 million, likely models being sought are the Mi-17 or the Mi-24. The same source added that Russia is willing to give deep discounts for the rotor-craft and offer extended payment schemes.

    Today’s Video

    Royal Air Force Eurofighters during exercises in Malaysia:

    Categories: News