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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 1 hour 4 min ago

Senate receives Raptor production report | IAI test-fires LORA | Sukhoi & MiG to merge in 2019

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 04:00

  • The USAF awarded Lockheed Martin a $104 million contract to develop, produce and field a threat simulator to train combat aircrews to recognize and deal with rapidly evolving threats, such as surface-to-air missiles. The deal will see the firm undertake the development and test of a single Advanced Radar Threat System Variant 2 (ARTS-V2) production representative system, with follow on options for a further 20 systems. Lockheed added that future sales could come from countries that plan to operate the stealthy F-35 fighter jet in coming years.

  • A report into restarting production of F-22 Raptor aircraft has been received by the US House Armed Services Committee. The USAF report was ordered by the committee last year, asking what it would take and how much it might cost to begin producing the high-tech, fifth generation aircraft again. Congress voted in 2009 to stop purchasing the F-22 after just 187 were made, hundreds less than USAF procurement needs. It is now been considered as a possible solution to filling US air power requirements, cost depending.

  • Despite an agreement with India’s Tata Advanced Systems to establish hub for future F-16 services, logistics, and plane and parts production, Lockheed Martin is moving ahead with plans to relocate its F-16 production line to its Greenville, S.C. facility. The F-16 production line, currently located in Forth Worth, is being moved from its Texas facility to make way for the F-35, with Greenville announced as the new location in March. Lockheed’s F-16 is facing off with Saab’s Gripen in India’s new fighter competition, and the Tata agreement is part of New Delhi’s ‘Make in India’ offsets requirement. When asked about a possible move from Greenville to India, Lockheed spokespersonJohn Losinger said that if selected, Indian F-16 production would start in South Carolina, adding that they don’t currently have a timeline for moving production lines east.

Middle Easy & North Africa

  • Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced the successful test-firing of its Long-Range Artillery weapon system (LORA). For the purpose of the trial, LORA was placed on board a cargo vessel and successfully attacked a ground target with a high degree of precision. The test was also part of a conclusive stage for the sale of the system to several customers, and the system is also a key focus for IAI at this week’s Paris Air Show.

  • Thales has been chosen by Airbus to supply a number of flight and mission training equipment for Kuwaiti-operated Airbus Caracal helicopters. Under the deal, Thales will provide one Reality H FFMS simulator and two flight procedures and tactical training stations to the Kuwait Air Force and National Guard as part of a contract aimed at collective training exercises to prepare pilots and crews for complex missions, such as combat search-and-rescue. The training stations provide new pilots with initial training in flight procedures, as well as tactical training for captains and crews, while the H FFMS system provides pilots with training in navigation, instrument flight, equipment failures and emergency procedures.


  • Germany has delayed a decision on a military defense package, citing that lawmakers needed more time to discuss its contents. Valued at $14.5 billion, the procurement includes orders for Corvette warships and UAVs, but Social Democrat (SPD) representatives have requested more time to discuss the deal further before signing off on the decision. Speaking on the deferment, SPD lawmaker Christine Lambrecht said that the committee were now discussing how to proceed.

  • Sukhoi and MiG are scheduled to merge into a single combat aviation structural unit of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). Starting in 2019, the UAC will switch to the format of a single company, a single corporate contour while the division will be in the format of a unit of the UAC single company. However, this does not mean that two of the world’s most iconic fighter brands will disappear from the skies any time soon, after Russia’s Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov had previously said that the brands would continue even if the companies merge.

Asia Pacific

  • Boeing has been awarded a three-year support contract for the Indian Navy’s fleet of P-8I maritime patrol aircraft. Included in the deal are the supply of field logistical representatives, engineering, planning, and material support for the 737-based airframe and other systems. The contract continues the service Boeing provides under the program’s current initial production contract, scheduled to expire in October. India currently operates a fleet of eight P-8I aircraft and Boeing are scheduled to deliver a further four from 2020.

Today’s Video

  • IAI test LORA:

Categories: News

Huntington awarded $3 billion AAS contract | F-35A flights at Luke AFB resumed | India’s Seahawk deal dropped

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 04:00

  • Huntington Ingalls has been awarded a $3 billion contract modification for the design and construction of the America-class Landing Helicopter Assault Replacement Amphibious Assault Ship. The majority of work will take place in Pascagoula, Miss., with further work to be carried out at smaller sites. Completion is expected for January 2024. The vessels will go towards the replacing the US Navy’s fleet of Wasp-class of amphibious assault ships.

  • A second generation variant of the Coyote expendable unmanned air vehicle is being developed by manufacturer Raytheon. Additions to the sonobuoy-deployable system include offering customers multiple payload and engine options and trade-offs on endurance and payload that can be made by the operations, as well as making the UAV a more cost-effective procurement. Raytheon expect to commence testing by the end of the year and is currently working on gaining export licences for the UAV, with discussions underway with the Washington on how to sell the technology overseas.

  • F-35A flights out of Luke AFB will commence today, 11 days after they had been originally canceled due to five incidents in which pilots experienced symptoms similar to hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation. While the root cause of the incidents has yet to be identified, several possible causes of concern have been ruled out. Pilots will also adhere to a temporary application of five criteria during their flights while data is gathered on the ground. They are: Avoid the altitudes in which all five physiological events occurred; Modify ground procedures to mitigate physiological risks to pilots; Expand physiological training to increase understanding between pilot and medical communities; Increase minimum levels for backup oxygen systems for each flight; and offer pilots the option of wearing sensors during flight to collect airborne human performance data.

Middle Easy & North Africa

  • Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has unveiled its Hurkus turboprop trainer aircraft internationally for the first time. The firm has sent two of its A-model aircraft to the the Paris air show, where one will take part in the flying display, while the other is in TAI’s static display representative of a future C-model light-attack variant. TAI sees clear export potential for the Hurkus, although it is not naming prospective customers. Speaking at the air show, Özcan Ertem, head of TAI’s aircraft group said: “There are a few countries looking for the Turkish air force to induct the type and start flying,” before advancing their interest any future procurements.


  • The Eurofighter consortium has announced a record year in operations of its Typhoon fighters, with further sales on the horizon. Operators of Eurofighter fleets have exceeded a combined 400,000 flight hours, including operations by RAF aircraft in Syria and supporting Baltic Air Policing commitments for NATO. The consortium also announced that its fighter will soon commence the first live firings of missile manufacturer MBDA’s Brimstone air-to-surface missile.

Asia Pacific

  • Italian firms will collaborate in India’s modernization of its Su-30MKI fleet, according to Russian officials. The announcement was made by Rosoboronexport CEO Alexander Mikheev at this week’s Paris air show, however, no details were made on what work the Italians would be assisting with. Earlier, CEO of Russian United Engine Corporation Alexander Artyukhov said that the Indian version of Su-30MKI after modernization will get the AL-41F turbofan engines designed for 4++ generation aircraft currently being installed on the Su-35 fighters.

  • Taiwan intends to ramp up production of its Wan Chien standoff weapon for use on its IDF aircraft. Production had initially been rolled back by Taipei’s previous government, but will now be reversed and increased to producing over 100 weapons. Upgrades to increase range and boost electronic countermeasures will also be added. Taiwan also test-fired two types of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) interceptors while a US PAC-2 successfully intercepted and destroyed a indigenous Tien Kung II missile.

  • A long-floundering deal to bring the Sikorsky S-70B multi-role helicopter to India has been dropped. 16 Seahawks had been ordered back in 2014 to fill a naval requirement but both sides have been dragging over the price as Sikorsky is unwilling to extend the validity of its commercial bid. The sale’s failure is likely to frustrate naval officials who are in need to fill an urgent requirement to replace 42 SeaKing helicopters bought from Westland helicopters.

Today’s Video

  • Drone footage of Iranian missiles striking Islamic State targets:

Categories: News

India Selects S-70B as Its Naval Multi Role Helicopter… No more.

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 03:55

Indian Ka-28
(click to view larger)

In September 2008, Flight International reported that India’s defence ministry has issued a tender for “advanced multirole naval helicopters” to several manufacturers around the world, including AgustaWestland, EADS and Sikorsky. The initial RFP reportedly covered 16 helicopters, with a potential expansion to 60 helicopters.

The problem, as usual, is that nothing happened for years, while critical Indian defenses were left rotting. India’s naval sphere of influence is growing, and the country purchased long-range P-8i jets to improve its territorial coverage. Unfortunately, that can’t paper over a glaring hole in India’s defenses. The Navy currently has many high-end ships without serious naval helicopter capability. Few of their Russian Ka-28s are still fit for service, and their small and aged Sea King fleet faces both technological and airframe limitations. It’s a terrible policy for a country that continues to add high-cost, high-value ships to its fleet, in a region with more and better submarines.

Finally, by the end of 2014 India indicated interest in expediting its initial naval multirole helicopter acquisition.

India’s Anti-Submarine Weakness Helicopters: Flying Low, Dying Slow

Indian Sea King
(click to view full)

As of 2014, the situation has become grave. India’s Ka-28 fleet has dwindled to just 4 operational helicopters, while a mid-life upgrade that would restore 10 to flying condition and give them modern sensors has been trying to get underway since 2008. The effective Sea King helicopter fleet has dwindled to just 16-17 upgraded machines, and all of them won’t be in flying condition all of the time. India’s Naval Air Arm also has a small number of Dhruv utility helicopters, and a somewhat larger set of very old Chetak helicopters that are only suitable for light supply and search and rescue roles, but neither is much help in sea control roles. The resulting situation is dire:

“For instance, between the six Talwar class frigates, which include the recently inducted frigates Teg, Tarkash and Trikand, only three carry a helicopter. Some other frigates don’t have even one helicopter between them. Coming to larger ships like the destroyers, one Kamov [Ka-28] helicopter is being shared between five Rajput class ships.”

These are key ships that would normally be tasked with anti-submarine duties. Without helicopters, their ability to perform those roles drops sharply. Which means that they are not fit for purpose to protect India’s carriers against Pakistani or Chinese submarines. A July 2014 report in India Today said that just 20% of available slots were filled in the Indian Navy, based on:

  • Delhi Class destroyers can carry 2 helicopters
  • Kolkata Class frigates can carry 2 helicopters
  • Shivalik, Betwa, and Godavari Class frigates can carry 2 helicopters
  • Talwar Class frigates can carry 1 helicopter
  • Offshore Patrol Vessels can carry 1 helicopter
  • Landing Ship Tank (Large) can carry 2 helicopters
  • INS Viraat aircraft carrier can carry 8 helicopters
  • INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier can carry 12 helicopters

Towed Sonar: Rolling in the Deep

Talwar Class
(click to view full)

To make things worse, the Indian Navy has been trying to import an Advanced Towed Array Sonar (ATAS) for its ships since the mid-1990s, but the Ministry of Defence has blocked it in favor of DRDO projects that went nowhere. The Nagan project was finally shut down in 2012, but DRDO just turned around and started a new ALTAS project in its place. As a result, 21 destroyers, frigates and corvettes bought since 1997 lack key sonar systems: 3 Delhi Class destroyers, 3 Kolkata Class destroyers, 6 Talwar Class frigates, 3 Brahmaputra Class frigates, 3 Shivalik Class frigates, and 4 Kamorta Class corvettes. They must depend, instead, on an Indian HUMSA passive array towed sonar with limited capabilities.

Indian MoD approval for a limited 6 ATAS buy was finally granted to an exasperated navy in 2009, but baseless complaints of wrongdoing left Atlas Elektronik’s systems in limbo, despite investigations that cleared the procurement.

That leaves India’s navy with a double ASW handicap, just as advanced submarine systems are proliferating in Pakistan and the Southeast Asian region. At the same time, the country is introducing advanced vessels like aircraft carriers and their accompanying multi-role surface ships. It’s a very poor situation, which would quickly turn disastrous if put to a military test.

Helicopters: Acquisition Programs

(click to view full)

In response, there are 2 acquisition programs underway, and 2 potential upgrade programs.

NMRH: An initial tender for 16 front-line medium naval helicopters. India wants full anti-submarine capability, and anti-surface warfare capability that includes anti-ship missiles. Required secondary roles will include search and rescue (SAR), transport, casualty evacuation, etc. The RFP included options for 44 more, which could bring the total to 60. If an American helicopter is picked, India wants a Direct Commercial Sale that lets them manage the entire procurement themselves.

The final contenders were Sikorsky’s S-70B-x and NH Industries NH90 NFH; and even though trials finished in 2011, Defense Acquisition Council clearance didn’t happen until 2014. NH Industries’ complaints about requirement waivers granted to the S-70B caused most of the delay, which had predictable results within India’s Byzantine bureaucracies. It got to the point that the Navy openly criticized NH Industries, while insisting that both helicopters met naval staff qualitative requirements. Sikorsky was generally considered to have a strong edge, and ended up winning by default after the NH90 was removed.

A follow-on program is expected in the 9 – 12.5 tonne medium to medium-heavy classes, with reported numbers that have varied over time. If the anti-ship missile requirement changes or is dropped, Sikorsky is widely expected to substitute the MH-60R/S Seahawks, whose lack of an anti-ship missile made them ineligible as an NMRH candidate. Meanwhile, NHI’s NH90 isn’t going away, Airbus could push the NH90 or the naval Super Puma, Kamov can expect to keep trying, and AgustaWestland could offer the AW101 naval helicopter – if their position with the Indian government allows them to bid.

Indian Multirole Helicopter (IMRH). A program to build a domestic 12-tonne class helicopter as a joint venture with HAL. They want a maximum speed of 275 kmh, maximum payload of 3.5 tonnes at sea level, 500 km range at sea level, and a service ceiling of 6,500 metres.

India’s pattern of behavior makes the potential for interference with any NMRH follow-on obvious; in standard style, state industry lobbying for an exclusive contract would be followed by long delays before equipment reaches the Navy. One possibility is to bring in the NMRH/follow-on contenders for this partnership. Sikorsky’s S-92, for instance, is a 12-tonne helicopter that’s already partly manufactured in India at Tata, with a strong civil record in the offshore oil & gas industry and a naval helicopter variant that’s being (slowly) developed for Canada. Airbus has the precedent of their license manufacturing agreement with Brazil for EC725s, including an unarmed naval utility variant. The disadvantage? It throttles the development of a viable private competitor to HAL.

AS565 Panther
(click to view full)

NUH: The Naval Utility Helicopter involves machines with a maximum take-off weight of 4.5 tons, as a replacement for existing HAL Cheetah and Chetak designs derived from the ancient Alouette-III. India’s Navy and Coast Guard were poised to benefit, and the 2012 RFP included 56 helicopters, 3 simulators, 28 spare engines, etc., with an option for another 28 helicopters (TL = 84). RFIs were issued in 2010 and 2011, and the RFP was issued in 2012 at an estimate of $900 million, with entry into service expected for 2016. In 2014, however, the Indian government canceled the competition and restarted it under different terms, which will require full manufacturing in India. Service by 2016 is extremely unlikely.

Coast Guard helicopters must include Search and Rescue duties as a matter of course, along with sensors for finding boats and people. Naval NUH helicopters also need to go beyond transport roles, and will be used both on shore and abord ship. India wanted the ability to carry rocket launchers, lightweight torpedoes, and depth charges on “a modern airframe design, proven fuel-efficient engines and fully-integrated advanced avionics.”

Candidates reportedly included Airbus’ popular AS565 Panther light naval helicopter, and a derivative of AgustaWestland’s AW109 LUH. As a wild card, HAL’s locally-designed Dhruv began shore-based naval utility and SAR service in Kochi in November 2013. Navy disappointment with Dhruv was a key factor in pushing NUH’s existence, but since then, HAL has been working on a naval version with some anti-submarine capability, and has already fielded an armed Rudra ALH-WSI version for India’s land forces. The Navy has been very lukewarm about the Dhruv, citing stability issues, concerns about the ability to operate from ships, a lack of naval features like folding rotors, and the helicopter’s accident rate. Still, delays to NUH create time for more advances, fixes, and lobbying. In other words, a new opportunity for HAL.

Modernized S-61
(click to view full)

Upgrade Programs include both of India’s current naval helicopter fleets.

Ka-28s. At present, India has just 4 flyable Kamov Ka-28 ASW helicopters. The other 6 Ka-28s have been mothballed for spares, while a mid-life upgrade that would restore the 10 to flying condition and give them modern sensors has been trying to get underway since 2008. Bids were finally opened in 2012, and a combination of Russia’s Kamov and Italy’s Finmeccanica won the INR 20 billion project. Contracts are set, and both the Cabinet Committee of Security and India’s CBI investigators cleared the deal, but nothing has been done.

Sea Kings. India also wants to upgrade its 17 Sea Kings with new composite main rotor blades to improve lift, and modern avionics to include a glass cockpit and automatic flight control systems. A 2008 proposal to use Israeli equipment as the upgrade package was vehemently opposed by AgustaWestland, which delayed things. That firm’s limited bidding ability in the wake of the AW101 VVIP helicopter dispute could exclude them now, leaving the door open for Israeli firms. If India needs a competition, Sikorsky’s S-61T contract for the US State Department offers another viable model. S-61 is the Sea King’s civilian designation.

NMRH/ IMRH Naval Helicopters: Contenders

Italian AW101
(click to view full)

The initial NMRH competition narrowed down to the NH90 NFH vs. the S-70B, then the S-70B alone, but subsequent buys could introduce additional options. Flight International:

“Defence ministry sources say the new aircraft will be equipped with potent anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare equipment including cruise missiles and torpedoes, and also be capable of being refuelled in flight. The type will operate from both naval vessels and land bases, they add.”

As a further wrinkle, India wants anti-ship missiles with a range of 100+ km, which is about 2-3x farther than most helicopter-launched missiles. They’re reportedly interested in Kongsberg’s stealthy Naval Strike Missile, or MBDA’s Marte-ER.

Sikorsky (winner, S-70B). The S-70 is an export designation for Sikorsky’s H-60 family, designed for international markets through options like federated avionics that can more easily accept country-specific items. Depending on the specific configuration ordered, a wide range of technologies can be included, making them anything from a basic ASW choice to a very advanced helicopter. What will an Indian S-70B naval helicopter look like?

For starters, it will carry an anti-ship missile, per Indian missile requirements. Kongsberg’s AGM-119B Penguin is the S-70B’s standard option, but doesn’t have the range India wants; switching to Kongsberg’s NSM or MBDA’s Marte-ER would require testing for aerodynamic compatibility, and additional integration work. On the flip side, the S-70B offers greater versatility, carrying up to 8 AGM-114 Hellfire short-range strike missiles for troop support ashore, or defense against fast boat swarms. DID has confirmed that qualified torpedoes include Raytheon’s MK-46, Eurotorp’s A244 Mod 3 (Singapore), and the new MK-54 torpedo (Turkey). India is already buying MK-54s for their new P-8i sea control aircraft fleet.

MH-60Rs fire Hellfire
(click to view full)

Sikorsky’s most produced naval helicopters are their MH-60R/S Seahawks. Lockheed Martin’s bid for India’s maritime patrol aircraft competition reportedly included 16 MH-60Rs (est. cost: $350-400 million), alongside 8 of its P-3 aircraft. They lost, but this MRH tender offers Sikorsky a way to get their foot in the door again, and subsequent buys may open up a broader market for their MH-60 family.

The MH-60R’s inability to be exported as a Direct Commercial Sale disqualified it from the initial NMRH competition. It also lacks an anti-ship missile of any kind. On the other hand, it carries a number of potent and attractive anti-submarine and surface warfare technologies. Sikorsky is reportedly looking to offer it for India’s follow-on buys, or it could assemble an S-70B offer that draws on some of those technologies. MH-60R submarine detection options include new processing systems for advanced sonobuoys, while the S-70B’s standard HELRAS dipping sonar is replaced by the same FLASH sonar used in the NH90-NFH. The S-70B’s standard is the AN/APS-143 radar family, which will also be used on India’s P-8i sea control jets; in contrast, the MH-60R uses the AN/APS-153, with inverse SAR mode for detecting submarine periscopes. MH-60R/S helicopters carry AGM-114 Hellfires for use against small boats and land targets, and will soon add APKWS 70mm laser-guided rockets, alongside the latest Mk.54 torpedoes. Australia has ordered some MH-60Rs to replace its S-70B-2s, and of course they’re the current and future mainstay of the US Navy’s ASW force, which ensures wide operational compatibility and future upgrades. The MH-60S is more of a naval utility helicopter, though it can also be armed with Hellfire missiles and APKWS rockets, or fitted with a limited Airborne Mine Countermeasures suite. Thailand has ordered a couple of MH-60S.

Sikorsky had a larger option, but they chose not to offer it here. Canada chose Sikorsky’s larger H-92 Superhawk as the basis for its CH-148 Cyclone naval helicopter, and full production of S-92 helicopter cabins is already outsourced to a joint venture with India’s Tata. Unfortunately, Canada’s program remains beset by delays and capability issues, including the lack of an anti-ship missile. Until its issues are fixed and the helicopter is performing in service, the MH-92 isn’t a viable export candidate anywhere. On the other hand, it could be a logical joint venture partnership offering for the proposed IMRH.


AgustaWestland/ Airbus (quasi finalist, NH90). The NH90 NFH medium naval helicopter finally entered full operational capability service in late 2013. AgustaWestland is the NH Industries consortium lead for the naval variant, but Indian politics may force another consortium member to take the lead. Note that a number of European navies have needed to upgrade and modify their ships to support the NH90 NFH, due to its size and fully-loaded weight.

The NH90 NFH can fire MBDA’s Marte Mk.2/S light anti-ship missile, and work is already underway to integrate the Marte-ER as a heavier and longer-range option. The AM39 Exocet used in Indian submarines isn’t an option, because of its effects on turbulence and the NH90’s center of gravity. Qualified torpedoes include Eurotorp’s MU90, Raytheon’s Mk.46, or BAE’s Stingray. NH90-NFH helicopters have been ordered by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Qatar.

NMRH specifications were too heavy for AgustaWestland’s Super Lynx naval helicopter, which fits a very wide range of naval vessels and is in service all around the world. Britain’s AW159 Lynx Wildcat offers even more advanced technologies. At the heavier 12 tonne end, the AW101 medium-heavy helicopter is used in both naval and search-and-rescue roles with Britain’s Royal Navy, Denmark, and Italy.

Airbus. Eurocopter is the top shareholder in the NH90 consortium, so they’re technically a participant in the NH90 bid, and they may need to step to the fore. Their own AS532/ EC725 Super Puma/Cougar also serves with a number of navies, including some customers near India, and there’s an earlier AS332F variant for ASW roles.

AgustaWestland’s entanglement in the AW101 VVIP helicopter’s legal proceedings left Airbus with a decision: push the NH90-NFH as a more popular and proven alternative with partial Airbus workshare, or push an all-Airbus design instead? The NH90’s disqualification from the initial tender seems likely to push Airbus toward a more exclusive path.

Rosoboronexport/ Kamov can play the commonality and standardization cards, because India’s Navy already uses its Ka-28s and Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters. On the other hand, it would appear to have the most limited set of upgrade options. India has delayed modernizing the handful of helicopters they have, and reports don’t indicate that they’re a contender, but Kamov is trying anyway.

Contracts & Key Events 2014 – 2016

AW101 VVIP deal blows up, affecting other competitions; Sikowrsky wins initial NMRH competition. NUH canceled and re-started as “Buy & Make India”; Dhruv ASW?

S-70B fires Penguin
(click to view full)

June 21/17: A long-floundering deal to bring the Sikorsky S-70B multi-role helicopter to India has been dropped. 16 Seahawks had been ordered back in 2014 to fill a naval requirement but both sides have been dragging over the price as Sikorsky is unwilling to extend the validity of its commercial bid. The sale’s failure is likely to frustrate naval officials who are in need to fill an urgent requirement to replace 42 SeaKing helicopters bought from Westland helicopters.

August 5/16: India’s MoD has approved $294 million to go toward a program to upgrade its ten Ka-28 anti-submarine warfare helicopters. A 42 month modernization will see state-of-the-art western weapons and sensors integrated on a fleet that currently suffers from poor serviceability. First purchased in 1980, only four Ka-28s are currently operational.

Jan 26/15: RFP for additional 123-unit NMRH purchase expected. Sikorsky’s win of the NMRH contract, to build 16 helicopters, is just weeks old, but the Indian Navy will again put out to tender the next 123 units. Sikorsky does not appear to have won much of an advantage for the larger competition in its many-years fight for the first 16 helicopters. Making things more interesting, the Indian government, under nativist political pressure, is said to be preparing the RFP as a design and price competition with the manufacturing to be done by Indian firms. A new trade group, the Confederation of India Industry’s National Committee on Aerospace (CIINCA), has been loudly insisting on future contract structures that bring manufacturing to India.

At the heart of the long and somewhat embarrassingly
mismanaged helicopter procurements in recent years has been India’s domestic helicopter manufacturer HAL, whose light, single-engine choppers have served the Indian Army – which, in recent times, has not had much love for the manufacturer. The CEO of HAL is currently the chair of CIINCA.

Dec 5/14: Sikorsky wins NMRH. India’s ministry of defense and Sikorsky both announce that the firm has won a contract for 16 S-70B Seahawk naval multirole helicopters, with an option for another 8 helos. The deal is valued at Rs. 6,000 crore (about $1B), but the two parties still have to negotiate procurement details as well as attached logistics, support, and training. Indian officials use the increasingly popular “fast tracking” qualifier to signify they intend to expedite the conclusion of this acquisition.

The US has been putting renewed energy in its courtship of India, but in this case, Sikorsky had been left competing only against possible Indian inaction for the past month.

NMRH winner


Nov 5/14: NH90 out. Sikorsky’s S-70B is now the sole bidder for India’s initial buy of 15 naval helicopters. The NH90 and S-70B both cleared the technical trials a couple of years ago, but the legal fights around the AW101 buy have resulted in a de facto ban on Finmeccanica outside of existing tenders – even though India lacks the evidence to bring a case (q.v. July 29/14). Despite the Attorney General’s opinion (q.v. Aug 7/14), the NH90-NFH has now been removed from the initial tender, leaving Sikorsky’s offering all alone.

Indian procurement laws generally prohibit contracts if there’s only 1 bidder. It remains to be seen whether the government will argue that there were more bidders (a rationale that hasn’t been effective in many similar cases where blacklisting left just 1 vendor), issue an override the law on the basis of emergency needs, or do nothing and sabotage a critical acquisition. Sources: India’s Economic Times, “Finmeccanica out, US’s Sikorsky joins Navy copter acquisition race”.

Oct 15/14: Helicopters – NUH. India’s new BJP government cancels the INR 90 billion NUH tender, and re-starts it on similar terms to the Army’s canceled RSH light helicopter contract. Instead of buying abroad and requiring industrial offsets locally, the competition would buy a foreign design that would be assembled in India by local partners.

Previous rumors (q.v. Sept 20/14) appear to have picked the wrong competition, though some news reports conflict. Note that despite the navy’s earlier unhappiness (q.v. Aug 20/12), HAL is now supplying Dhruv helicopters to the Navy for shore-based SAR and transport roles (q.v. July 20/14), and appears to be working on an ASW variant with DRDO (q.v. June 16/14). If this quote from Defense World is true, therefore, one might have legitimate cause to wonder about the NUH competition’s future:

The DAC has reportedly approved a proposal to allow HAL to manufacture 440 light utility helicopters to be supplied to the Army, Navy and Air Force. The HAL helicopter has not even been fully developed. According to unconfirmed reports, HAL is rushing to finish development of the prototype which it plans to unveil in time for the Aero India show scheduled to take place in February 2015.”

Note that HAL’s stalled LUH project is a single-engine helicopter like existing Chetaks, rather than the twin-engines demanded by NUH. Then again, the welfare of the people who have to perform night rescues in inclement weather isn’t generally a priority for state-run industry lobbyists. Sources: Defense News, “India Cancels Navy LUH Tender; Issues New Request” | Defense World, “Tender Cancellations Bring International Helicopter Procurements To A Halt In India” | India’s Economic Times, “Tender for 56 naval choppers scrapped”.

NUh canceled and restarted

Sept 20/14: Helicopters – NMRH. Indian media report rumors that the NMRH competition is about to be canceled. It would shift from foreign construction with Indian industrial offsets, to a “Buy & Make India” class of competition that requires foreign vendors to find a local partner and have that partner make the helicopters in India. That seems really odd, given recent (q.v. Aug 29/14) DAC approval for the initial NMRH buy.

A shift of that kind does two things, from the Navy’s perspective. One, it delays the project by pushing it back through the bureaucracy, and forces vendors to find a partner it can trust at that level and then re-calculate its bid. That bid is likely to be more expensive, and a shortage of local Indian capability means that manufacturing will also take longer. If confimed, the delay would certainly be measured in years. Sources: India’s Financial Express, “Anti-submarine choppers to be made in India soon”.

Sept 14/14: Helicopters – NUH. India Strategic explains some of the hurdles faced by HAL’s Dhruv, which seems to be trying to angle its way into the NUH contract, even though NUH was floated due to dissatisfaction with Dhruv (q.v. Aug 20/12):

“IAF has often expressed discomfort – and displeasure – at aircraft made/ serviced by HAL…. Its HPT-32 trainer was a poor product, and the Dhruv helicopter, made with French collaboration and parts, still does not inspire confidence, thanks to the number of crashes. There have been two crashes recently, and many IAF officers openly challenge HAL’s capability to give “perfection.” Former Air Chief NAK Browne had also said that HAL charged three times the cost for something that IAF engineers and technicians would do also more efficiently.”

The rest of the article repeatedly stresses the need for timely delivery, lest basic Indian capabilities crumble. Sources: India Strategic, “Choppers, Aircraft and Submarines: More Delays but Some Smiles”.

Aug 29/14: NMRH & ATAS. The new BJP government’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) makes a number of key moves, beginning with cancellation of the 197-helicopter LUH competition. At the same time, however, DAC’s clearances included the INR 18 billion foreign NMRH tender for 16-60 naval multi-role helicopters.

DAC also approved a INR 17.7 billion purchase of integrated Active Towed Array Sonar anti-submarine suites for 11 frontline warships: 4 destroyers and 7 frigates. There’s some confusion regarding that approval, however, and it’s hard to tell which public interpretation would be worse for Indian ASW capabilities in the medium term.

The ATAS effort had been focused on an advanced solution from Atlas Elektronik, but some reports cite a developmental ATAS from India’s DRDO research institute instead. In an era where major opponents are deploying quiet submarines that include Air-Independent Propulsion, that may not be enough to do the job. On the other hand, Ajai Shulka says that the ATAS will be Atlas Elektronik’s product, but the buy involves future warships, rather than additions to serving vessels: the Project 17A frigates that don’t even have a contract yet, and the Project 15B Bangalore variant of the new Project 15A Kolkata Class multi-role destroyers. The Bangalore Class isn’t expected to enter service before 2018, and Project 17A is in limbo. Sources: Business Standard, “Govt clears defence deals worth Rs 17,000 cr” | Defense News, “India Cancels $1 Billion Light Helicopter Tender” | Financial Express, “Make in India kicks off with defence deals” | Indian Express, “Centre scraps light utility helicopter tender, opens it to Indian players” | NDTV, “Modi Government Drops Rs 6000-Crore Foreign Chopper Plan, Wants ‘Made in India'” | Livefist, “Advantage Sikorsky As Indian MoD To Finally Open MRH Bids”.

Aug 7/14: Finmeccanica. An official legal opinion states that India can’t afford to blacklist Italy’s Finmeccanica, on strategic grounds:

“Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi has given the opinion that blacklisting Finmeccanica with its several subsidiaries, which are supplying a large number of weapon systems, radars and ammunition to the Indian armed forces, is not advisable since the ongoing CBI investigation and the subsequent trial in the VVIP helicopter case could take a decade or so to be completed…. If any Finmeccanica company has already been declared L-1 (lowest bidder) in a finalized tender process, then it should be allowed…. [but] none of the Finmeccanica firms should be allowed to participate in a new defence tender if the equipment in question could be supplied by more than one company outside the group…. There was another category of cases where some Russian defence suppliers to India had a Finmeccanica subsidiary as a sub-contractor. Rohatgi said such cases should be allowed to continue unhindered.”

He’s correct that Finmeccanica is Kamov’s sub-contractor for Ka-28 naval helicopter modernization, and is arguably in a similar position for the NH90, but that will take a formal political decision to affirm. Note also the secondary escape clause that requires more than one competitor before Finmeccanica could be banned from a tender. The NMRH competition could also go ahead under this provision, as long as India’s politicians accept that other options like AW159s, Ka-28s, AW101s, etc. don’t meet Navy requirements, and that HAL’s Dhruv ASW (q.v. July 20/14) isn’t a front-line option.

To put some specifics on Rohtagi’s opinion, a full Finmeccanica ban would cut off sources and spares for many Indian naval guns, a number of radars, the torpedoes needed by India’s new submarines, Ka-28 modernization, and other programs. The real bottom line is that it’s impossible to blacklist any major supplier, if any formal complaints take a decade to resolve. Sources: Times of India, “Finmeccanica ban can hit forces’ battle-readiness, attorney general says”.

Finmeccanica sanctions

Aug 6/14: Kamov. Russia may not be shortlisted for N-MRH, but they haven’t given up. A 2013 proposal to set up a joint venture and assemble Kamov helicopters in India still stands:

“Sources tell RIR that this proposal was discussed as recently as June when high level defence talks held in New Delhi that were led by Indian Defence Secretary R K Mathur and Rostec Chief Executive Sergey Chemezov.”

On the other hand, India’s issues with Russia tend to revolve around reliability and maintenance delays. Sources: Russia & India Report, “Kamov ready to supply seaborne helicopters to Indian Navy”.

July 29/14: Finmeccanica. Finmeccanica announces that the Italian Prosecutor has discontinued its investigations relating to India’s 2010 contract for 12 AW101 VVIP helicopters:

“The Prosecutor specifically acknowledged the non-involvement of Finmeccanica in the alleged wrongdoing, recognizing that that since 2003, Finmeccanica has implemented – and regularly updated – an organizational, management and audit model, sufficient to prevent unlawful conduct…. AgustaWestland S.p.A. and its subsidiary AgustaWestland Ltd., together with the Prosecutor, have agreed to apply for a negligible fine, whilst confirming the appropriateness of their internal control systems and specifically their non-involvement in the misconduct alleged by the Prosecutor. This decision is not in any way an admission of any wrongdoing or liability.”

Finmeccanica says that the fine isn’t an admission of guilt, but it may not be seen that way outside of Italy. On the other hand, without Italian cooperation, India’s CBI has already acknowledged that it doesn’t have enough to bring a case. There’s also an international arbitration case pending, and the firm can try to use the Italian prosecutor’s statements as a finding of fact. Sources: Finmeccanica, “Finmeccanica: Investigations into the Company relating to the AW101 helicopters contract with the Indian Ministry of Defence discontinued”.

July 28/14: Helicopters – NMRH. The investigation into India’s AW101 VVIP helicopter buy, which became a full-blown legal dispute between India and Finmeccanica in 2013, continues to stall India’s maritime helicopter buy. The introduction of a new BJP government doesn’t seem to have changed that yet:

“The Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), chaired by defence [DID: and finance] minister Arun Jaitley on July 19, deferred the decision on the MRH helicopter project while clearing other military procurement proposals. The two contenders in the competition are the European NH-90 helicopters, which have Finmeccanica as a partner, and the American Sikorsky-70B choppers.

The contract is crucial for the Navy since it was to be followed by a bigger one for 123 helicopters, with anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities as well as customized for amphibious assaults and commando operations, at a cost of over $3 billion…. While the Navy is on track to induct four to five warships every year over the next decade, it is fast running out of helicopters meant to detect, track and kill enemy submarines. The force currently has just 11 Kamov-28 [DID: 4 operational] and 17 Sea King ASW helicopters to defend its existing fleet of over 130 warships. While the Sea Kings are over 20 years old, the Kamov-28s are long overdue for a mid-life upgrade.”

The problem with waiting for the CBI investigation to conclude is that the CBI has a practice of keeping investigations going for years, with no result. They recently had to admit that they had no solid evidence in the VVIP case, though they may be hoping that recent charges against new senior officials might shake something loose. Unless they’re given a time limit, however, India’s naval posture will be crippled for years. Sources: The Times, of India, “Scam-wary govt defers decision on naval copters”.

July 20/14: Dhruv. India’s Defence Acquisition Council cleared a set of acquisitions worth Rs 21,000 crore (INR 210 billion / $3.493 billion). The largest share involves up to 56 light transport aircraft, but DAC also includes 32 HAL Dhruv helicopters, split evenly between the Navy and Coast Guard (INR 70 billion).

The Coast Guard in particular will be very happy to replace its Chetaks with Dhruvs, though they will need many more in order to become effective beyond Porbandar (q.v. July 19/14). The Navy has been less enthused about Dhruv. There has been some notion of outfitting it as an ASW helicopter for the Navy (q.v. June 16/14) but its limitations (q.v. Aug 20/12) remain. The November 2013 stand up of INAS 322 at Kochi demonstrates how the Navy is working within those limitations, by assigning Dhruvs to shore-based transport, Search and Rescue, and day/night patrol roles.

DAC project approvals also added 5 new supply vessels (INR 90 billion), 5 OPV ships (INR 20 billion), 5 fast patrol boats (INR 3.6 billion), and Search & Rescue equipment (INR 9 billion) to India’s approved list. Note what isn’t on the list: MRH helicopters. Sources: International Business Times, “What Does Indian Defence Get in Military Projects Worth [Rs] 34,260 Crore?”

Navy, CG buying more Dhruvs

July 19/14: Helicopters. India Today adds some more hard numbers behind the Indian Navy’s helicopter problem – and hence its ASW problem. they’re noted above. The article adds that:

“With a requirement of over 100 helicopters across different categories, and yet going nowhere, the navy’s predicament is clear. Said an MoD official, “The Indian Navy had to get 16 choppers as a direct replacement for Seaking 42A helicopters which came with the INS Viraat in 1987 and were decommissioned by the end of the century. Categorised as ‘Multi Role Helicopter’ acquisition, it is yet to take off even today.” Then there is the Naval Multi Role helicopter deal to replace the Chetaks which were first introduced into the Indian armed forces in the 60s, and the Naval Utility Helicopter deal. It is all hanging in balance.”

The Coast Guard has a similar problem, with under 20 ageing Chetak helicopters and 2 newer Dhruv machines all deployed solely at Porbandar, in order to keep an eye on Pakistan. The service was asked to gift 1 of its few helicopters to the Maldives, and 15 years worth of attempts to get new helicopters have come to nothing. Sources: India Today, “Exclusive: Navy, Coast Guard send SOS to Defence Ministry on helicopter crisis”.

June 16/14: Helicopters – Dhruv ASW? India is reportedly looking to outfit their locally-designed HAL Dhruv helicopter with some anti-submarine equipment from the state’s DRDO research agency:

“The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-built ALH Dhruv is undergoing trials for carrying out role of detecting hostile submarines using systems developed by the DRDO, Defence officials said…. The system was put under trial at Vishakhapatnam and would be tried further before any final decision is taken on deploying the twin-engine chopper on board the carrier, they said.”

The Dhruv is in the same size and weight class as AgustaWestland’s Lynx, but the final result of this program is likely to fall rather short of capabilities possessed by the AW159 Wildcat, or of larger machines like the NH90 NFH or MH-60R Seahawk. On the one hand, adapting an existing HAL platform circumvents India’s broken procurement system, creating a near-term solution for their astonishing weakness in this area (q.v. March 31/14). It also creates a platform that can be improved over time, which is good for India and its industry.

On the other hand, providing sub-standard protection to the flagship of one’s naval force is a terrible idea if it’s the only proposed solution. The question is whether the long-discussed foreign tender (q.v. Feb 25/14) for helicopters like the AW159 will also go forward, in order to equip platforms like India’s high-end destroyers (q.v. Oct 15/13) and add a higher tier of shipborne ASW protection for key assets. Sources: IBD Live, “Dhruv chopper likely to be deployed on-board INS Vikramaditya”.

May 16/14: ATAS. Ajai Shulka says the reason that operational safety was the reason that India’s new Vikramaditya aircraft carrier was joined by an armada of Indian warships for the last leg of its journey to Karwar. The problem is the lack of an effective towed sonar on Indian surface combatants, due to obstruction by the defense bureaucracy. Coming as it does on top of the MoD derelict performance with respect to anti-submarine helicopters, it creates a huge naval weakness that would doom India’s carriers in a shooting war.

The Indian Navy has been trying to import an Advanced Towed Array Sonar (ATAS) since the mid-1990s, but the Ministry of Defence has blocked it in favor of DRDO projects that went nowhere. The Nagan project was finally shut down in 2012, but DRDO just pulled a switch and started a new ALTAS project in its place. As a result, 21 destroyers, frigates and corvettes bought since 1997 lack key sonar systems: 3 Delhi Class destroyers, 3 Kolkata Class destroyers, 6 Talwar Class frigates, 3 Brahmaputra Class frigates, 3 Shivalik Class frigates, and 4 Kamorta Class corvettes. They must depend, instead, on an Indian HUMSA passive array towed sonar with limited capabilities.

MoD approval for a limited 6 ATAS buy was finally granted to an exasperated navy in 2009, but baseless complaints of wrongdoing left Atlas Elektronik’s systems in limbo, despite investigations that cleared the procurement. It remains to be seen whether changing control of the MoD away from the Congress Party will change anything. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “Warships in peril as defence ministry blocks sonar purchase”.

March 31/14: Helicopters – Ka-28. The Ka-28 force is in sad shape:

“The Navy is today being asked to make do with four Ka28 helicopters that have the technology of mid-80s for training pilots, doing ASW roles against modern submarines for the five Rajput Class destroyers as well as the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya,” said a source.”

The other 6 Ka-28s have been mothballed for spares, while a mid-life upgrade that would restore the 10 to flying condition and give them modern sensors has been trying to get underway since 2008. Bids were finally opened in 2012, and a combination of Russia’s Kamov and Italy’s Finmeccanica won the INR 20 billion project. Contracts are set, and both the Cabinet Committee of Security and India’s CBI investigators cleared the deal. Defence Minister Antony’s office has been sitting on that for over a month, however, while playing extreme hardball with AgustaWestland over the VVIP helicopter deal. Meanwhile, the Sea King fleet has problems of its own, and a proposal to buy up to 16 modern naval helicopters from foreign sources remains stalled. Sources: Daily Mail India, “Navy left ‘defenceless’ after being forced to ‘make do’ with outdated Soviet hardware”.

Feb 25/14: No Helicopters. India’s Ministry of Defence clears a whole series of defense projects: upgrades for 37 airbases, modernization of 5 ordnance depots, 4,000 hand-held thermal imagers for soldiers, 5,000 thermal imaging sights for tanks and infantry combat vehicles, 44,000 light-machine guns, 702 light armored multi-purpose vehicles, and 250 RAFAEL Spice IIR/GPS guided smart bombs. The deals not done?

A program to buy M777 howitzers, 56 transport aircraft to replace the ageing Avro fleet, produce 4 amphibious LPDs – and 16 naval multi-role helicopters to restore an effective anti-submarine capability. With elections looming, it will take some time before any of them are restarted. Sources: Times of India, “Decision on four key defence deals put off”.

2008 – 2013

ASW weakness exposed; NUH RFP a vote of non-confidence in Dhruv; Sea King upgrades needed.

Merlin & Type 23
(click to view full)

Oct 15/13: ASW weakness. India’s anti-submarine issues continue to surface, which is a serious weakness for a fleet air arm and for a carrier. How serious is it?

“The Navy has given an insight into how it is placed during its ongoing exercise with the Royal Navy off the Goa coast. The Royal Navy’s HMS Westminster – a type-23 frigate known for its advanced anti-submarine capability – is taking part in the exercise Konkan. The frigate is equipped with Merlin helicopters – the maritime version of triple-engine AgustaWestland EH-101 that is used extensively by the Royal Navy… The Indian Navy has pitched a Delhi class destroyer, which is a formidable platform, but it carries only one helicopter although it is capable of operating two. The only helicopter on the destroyer is Chetak, which has a limited role in search, rescue and communication. It cannot carry out advanced anti-submarine or anti-surface operation.”

That isn’t what you want defending your carrier. Sources: Daily Mail India, “Chopper shortage rattles Indian Navy during joint exercise with British fleet”.

Aug 20/12: Helicopters – NUH RFP, etc. India issues its $1 billion NUH RFP for a base of 56 twin-engine light helicopters under 4.5 tonnes, with induction slated for 2016. The helicopters will operate from shore, and aboard ships that range from OPVs to aircraft carriers.

Core NUH utility roles that current Cheetah/ Chetak fleets can’t currently handle include day/night SAR and CASEVAC roles in adverse weather, and transport duties that include underslung cargo. India also wants the NUH to replace some Westland Sea King roles, however, including anti-submarine warfare with a light torpedo or depth charge, and the ability to carry rockets and machine gun pods. Aviation Week adds that:

“A procurement manager with the Indian navy indicates that the NUH has to meld several roles into one modern new platform, after the indigenous naval ALH Dhruv failed to deliver a light, multirole shipborne platform with an ASW capability.”

India Strategic goes farther:

“The rotors have to be foldable so that the machines can be moved to their hangars in the limited space available…. Significantly, the Navy had found the HAL-made Dhruv unsuitable because of excessive vibrations in the rotors as also their large size. The air draft generated by a flying machine and its stability are crucial for landing and takeoffs from moving ships, some of which sail at around 30 knots.”

Other activities are also underway:

“The navy is also finalizing an RFP for a follow-on N-MRH to acquire 75 more helicopters as part of a fresh bid. The N-MRH will progressively replace the navy’s Westland Sea King Mk. 42B fleet…. The navy is also set to solicit bids for a long-delayed upgrade of its Sea King fleet, with original manufacturer AgustaWestland expected to compete against? Israel Aerospace Industries’ Lahav Div. In addition, the navy will shortly begin an effort to upgrade its fleet of Ka-28 Helix ASW helicopters.”

Sources: Aviation Week, “India Floats New Naval Utility Helicopter Requirement” | India Strategic, “Navy floats $ 1 billion RfP for utility Helicopters”.


Aug 17/12: Sea Kings. India’s Mk.42B Sea King utility/ASW helicopters have readiness issues, which is a problem because India has a shortage of working anti-submarine helicopters. Upgrades have been delayed, and India is considering packages from AgustaWestland and an Israeli consortium. Upgrades to the 20 or so helicopters would include new avionics, electronic warfare suites, new communication kits, and an all-new weapons suite with anti-ship and anti-submarine ordnance. Sources: SP’s Naval Forces, “Indian Navy Sea Kings upgrade process soon”.

Sept 9/08: Tender. Flight International reports on the tender:

“India’s defence ministry has issued a tender for 16 advanced multirole naval helicopters to companies including AgustaWestland, EADS and Sikorsky, with its initial requirement likely to later expand by a further 44 aircraft…. The Indian navy meanwhile plans to acquire five more Kamov Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters [DID: ordered in 2009], and is exploring the possibility of conducting mid-life upgrades to its Ka-28 and Westland Sea King transport helicopters.”

Sources: Flight Global, “India launches tender for up to 60 maritime helicopters.”

ASW Helicopter Tender

Additional Readings

Readers with corrections, comments, or information to contribute are encouraged to contact DID’s Founding Editor, Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.

Current Helicopter Force & Issues


News and Views

Categories: News

Navy eyes upping Super Hornet numbers | Lockheed close to next F-35 order | M-346FA unveiled at paris air show

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 04:00

  • It’s been revealed that the US Navy intends to acquire at least 80 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft over the next five years, running against initial plans to zero out the aircraft program beginning next year. The announcement was made by the sailing branch to the US Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee last week in a written testimony notes the “Fiscal Year 2018 President’s Budget requests $1.25 billion in [the Navy’s aircraft procurement account] for 14 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft” that will “address continuing warfighter demand for advanced tactical aircraft.” 23 aircraft will procured in 2019 for $1.95 billion, 14 in 2020 for $1.35 billion and 14 in 2021 for $1.27 billion and 15 in 2022 for $1.28 billion.

  • Ahead of its debut at this week’s Paris air show, Lockheed Martin are close to finishing the latest round of negotiations for the manufacture of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. As many as 440 jets are being negotiated under the deal and are being spread out over three tranches in a multi-year deal estimated to reach at least $37 billion. As many as 11 customer nations will receive fighters as part of the deal, including Australia, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, South Korea, Britain and the United States. The price of the F-35’s A variant is then expected to drop to $80 million by the end of 2020.

  • Raytheon is to restart the Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) production line after a $650 million dollar order from the Netherlands, South Korea, Japan and Australia. The sale calls for the delivery of a total of 280 SM-2 Block IIIA and IIIB missiles, and the sale is expected to keep the company’s Arizona production line open through 2035 as Raytheon anticipates more orders from the US and its allies as they rebuild their inventories using the modernized production line. Congress are expected to be notified of the sale in the coming days.

  • Lockheed Martin has received a $472 million US Army contract for the production of Multiple Launch Rocket System rockets. The sale includes 2,868 alternative warhead rockets, 648 unitary warhead rockets and 370 pods of reduced-range low-cost practice rocket and covers delivery under a foreign military sale to Finland, France, Germany and Singapore. Work will be conducted in Grand Prairie, Texas, and has an expected completion date of July 31, 2019.

Middle Easy & North Africa

  • A US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet has scored its first air-to-air kill, shooting down a Syrian Su-22 on Sunday. The incident occurred after reports that the Su-22 had bombed the forces of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces as they moved on Islamic State positions south of Tabqah. A statement by the US Central Command issued a statement saying the plane was downed “in collective self-defense of Coalition-partnered forces,” while a Syrian army statement initially suggested that that the US-led coalition shot down one of its planes as it conducted a combat mission against Islamic State militants. The US Super Hornet is based onboard the USS George H.W. Bush, the only US aircraft carrier operating in the region.


  • A new fighter attack version of Leonardo’s M-346 has been unveiled at the Paris air show. The updated aircraft—the M-346FA— includes the company’s Grifo multi-mode fire control radar, as well as seven pylons for external weapons loads, enabling it to carry 2,000 pounds of external weapons. Leonardo stated that the new fighter was designed to help different air forces meet their needs rapidly by building on a common base, adding that they have found international interest in the plane “specifically in the Far East and South America.”

  • Serbia could receive a new batch of MiG-29 fighters by the end of this month, according to Defense Minister Zoran Djordjevic. It had been reported in March that Belgrade would receive six MiG-29 fighter jets as well as the modernization of another four planes from Russia in a deal worth $207 million and includes the cost of fuel storage facilities, hangers to store ten planes and the complete maintenance and modernization of the planes’ missiles. The deal is being seen as good value, enabling Serbia to modernize its fleet at a much lower cost than its neighbors.

Asia Pacific

  • Japan’s ShinMaywa has said that it is willing to allow Indonesian industry to collaborate on the final assembly of the US-2 amphibian aircraft if the Indonesian government selects the aircraft as its amphibious search-and-rescue (SAR) platform. However, the firm ruled out the possibility of assembling the aircraft in Indonesia as it will not be economically feasible to do so. Instead, ShinMaywa stated that the aircraft could be delivered fully assembled with final configuration works to be done in the customer’s country, mentioning Indonesian state-owned aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia as a possible partner in the collaboration.

Today’s Video

  • AV-8B Harrier performs reverse landing on USS America:

Categories: News

Raytheon’s Standard Missile Naval Defense Family (SM-1 to SM-6)

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 03:57

SM-2 Launch, DDG-77
(click to view larger)

Variants of the SM-2 Standard missile are the USA’s primary fleet defense anti-air weapon, and serve with 13 navies worldwide. The most common variant is the RIM-66K-L/ SM-2 Standard Block IIIB, which entered service in 1998. The Standard family extends far beyond the SM-2 missile, however; several nations still use the SM-1, the SM-3 is rising to international prominence as a missile defense weapon, and the SM-6 program is on track to supplement the SM-2. These missiles are designed to be paired with the AEGIS radar and combat system, but can be employed independently by ships with older or newer radar systems.

This article covers each variant in the Standard missile family, plus several years worth of American and Foreign Military Sales requests and contracts and key events; and offers the budgetary, technical, and geopolitical background that can help put all that in context.

The Standard Missile Naval Defense Family: Missiles and Plans

60 years of SM-x
click for video

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is the technical direction agent for Standard missile. They work with the US navy, other naval customers, and Raytheon to manage ongoing technical improvements.

Within Raytheon, a long-term effort is underway toward capability-based development, and common components. As each SM-x missile advances, the expectation is that it will use components from other members of the missile family, while contributing new component and software advances that can be re-used elsewhere.

SM-1: Allied Legacy

SM-1 on launcher
(click to view full)

The SM-1 was phased out of US service in 2003, but still serves with some allied navies; most US and international orders are currently SM-2s, but many countries operating FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates and similar vintage ships still use them. The “growth space” inherent in its basic design is a big reason that the Standard missile family remains relevant to this day.

Support for foreign SM-1 missiles has transitioned from the US government to Raytheon, who leads a team of companies that provides customers with continued access to spares and repair services. The SM-1 FSS Program consists of core support (program management, asset storage, test equipment support, logistics support and tasking to demilitarize hardware no longer needed for long-term support of the SM-1 Program), intermediate level maintenance (re-certification of SM-1 Block VI, VIA, VIB missiles), depot level maintenance (repair and maintenance of, or preparation, upgrade and installation of SM-1 Block V, VI, VIA and VIB sections, assemblies, sub-assemblies, and components), MK56 Rocket Motor Regrain Program (qualification and production), test equipment support, All-Up-Round (AUR), and technical engineering services. Countries listed in SM-1 support contracts over the past few years have included: Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Egypt, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Taiwan, and Turkey.

SM-2: The Mainstay

SM-2 (top), SM-3

The RIM-66K-L/ SM-2 Standard. This is the most commonly encountered variant, and a long series of upgrades have kept it current over the years. SM-2 Block IIIA missiles have greater capability at even lower altitudes than previous SM-2 versions, a more powerful fragmentation warhead, and can use Interrupted Continuous Wave Illumination (ICWI) to improve performance against supersonic maneuvering anti-ship missiles. SM-2 Block IIIB is the most popular version at present, swapping ICWI capability for an infrared (IR) guidance mode capability developed by the Missile Homing Improvement Program (MHIP). IR guidance offers a form of backup guidance in saturation missile attacks, where the limited number of illuminators on a ship without active array radars may have to switch back and forth during the targeting process. It also helps against enemy missiles with stealth features, which can be tracked by the infrared plume created by their engines or by air friction.

These SM-2 versions are provided as medium range (50 mile) rounds that can be fired from AEGIS rail launchers, AEGIS vertical launch systems, and Tartar rail launchers. SM-2 has recently completed an upgrade that gives it improved maneuverability via improved steering, thrust-vectoring, and software. This is especially important against supersonic wave-skimming cruise missiles, which offer less than 1 minute to impact from the moment they break the horizon to become visible on a ship’s radar. Tests have also demonstrated a secondary SM-2 capability against small, fast-moving naval targets.

SM-2 Block IVA

An extended range SM-2 Block IV missile added a booster rocket; it had been developed and tested, but few Block IV missiles were bought. They were to be replaced by the SM-2 Block IVA that would add theater ballistic-missile defense capability, but SM-2 Block IVA was canceled in December 2001, with the project over 2 years behind schedule, and average unit costs more than 50% beyond original goals. It has now been revived as the Near Term Sea-Based Terminal weapon (NT-SBT) for last-phase intercepts, following a number of modifications. The May 2006 Pacific Phoenix sea trial, in which an NT-SBT successfully intercepted a Lance missile target, paved the way for production approval, and modifications for the 100 Block IV missiles in stock began in July 2007. NT-SBT is described as an interim solution aimed at the very last phase of a ballistic missile’s flight, just before impact. It will offer extended-range air defense, but its main function is to acting as a second line of defense against incoming ballistic missiles, similar to the Patriot PAC-3 on land.

Raytheon believes that updated SM-2 variants will remain in service for 20-30 years, which means they’ll need to be kept current. Replacing the US Navy’s entire SM-2 stock would be a huge undertaking, and would perpetuate another problem since the Navy already has low stockpiles of missiles for its vertical launch cells. An MoU with Canada, Germany, and The Netherlands reflects long-term foreign interest in upgrades, and these countries have contributed technical development and funding of their own to SM-2 development. Key improvements on the drawing board include combining ICWI and IR guidance capabilities, 3rd party cueing capabilities that allow it to be used “over the horizon” against low-level targets, further aerodynamic and maneuverability improvements, and the insertion of key SM-6 capabilities including reprogrammability and built in test. An SM-2 Block IIIC proposal with some of these capabilities is on the table, but is not funded yet.

SM-3: Ballistic Missile Killer

SM-3 Block IA
(click to view full)

SM-3 ABM variants, aka. RIM-161. This larger missile will be the mainstay of naval Anti Ballistic Missile defense, and can also fulfill an “outer air” role via long-range kills of bombers carrying cruise missiles. The SM-3 uses the RIM-156 (SM-2 Extended Range Block IV) test program’s airframe and propulsion/booster, then adds a third-stage rocket motor (a.k.a. Advanced Solid Axial Stage, ASAS, made by ATK), a GPS/INS guidance section (a.k.a. GAINS, GPS-Aided Inertial Navigation System), and a LEAP (Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile) kinetic warhead (i.e. a non-explosive hit-to-kill maneuvering warhead). At present, SM-3 is in naval service with the USA and Japan, may be ordered by the Netherlands for its air defense destroyers, and is set to play a key role in Europe’s land-based missile defenses from bases in Romania and Poland.

Launching ships, usually CG-47 Ticonderoga Class cruisers or Japanese Kongo Class destroyers, are updated with AEGIS LEAP Intercept (ALI) computer software and hardware (the current version under development is AEGIS BMD Block 2006/2008, Baseline 4.0.1), as well as the Long Range Surveillance and Track (LRS&T) AEGIS enhancements that will be implemented across all AEGIS ships that take the upgrade. When used in conjunction with the USA’s Co-operative Engagement Capability components, the result is a single integrated “picture” available to all CEC-equipped ships in the area – a picture that can even be used to help guide long-range anti-air missiles launched from other ships.

This SM-3/AEGIS LEAP combination plays a prominent role in near-term US and Japanese missile defense plans. These interceptors have a better record in ABM tests than their land-based counterparts to date, and their naval mobility makes them well suited for forward defense. They will also be deployed on land, under current American plans to protect Europe.

The SM-3 Block IA version provides an incremental upgrade that improves reliability and maintainability at a reduced cost. It’s finishing its build run alongside production SM-2s, in Raytheon Missile Systems’ factories in Tucson, AZ, and Camden, AR. The SM-3 kinetic warhead (KW) is built and tested at a state-of-the-art kill vehicle manufacturing facility in Tucson, AZ, and the entire upper stage including KW and third stage also is integrated in Tucson before going to Camden, AR for all up round integration. Work on SM-3 also is done in Anaheim, CA; Sacramento, CA; and Elkton, MD. Raytheon leads an integrated team that includes The Boeing Company, Aerojet, and Alliant Techsystems.

The missile was supposed to end production with FY 2009 orders, but testing problems with its successor kept orders coming until 2012. According to a June 2011 CRS report, its estimated cost per missile is about $9 million.

SM-3 Block IB has become the main variant for orders, as of Q2 FY 2011, but the subsequent FTM-16 test failure put a big dent in orders and deliveries. With Block IB and associated ship-based upgrades, the Navy gains the ability to defend against medium range missiles (MRBM, 1,000 – 3,000 km range) fielded by countries like North Korea and Iran, and some Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM, 3,000 – 5,500 km range) under development by those rogue regimes. Upgrades include an advanced 2-color infrared seeker, and a 10-thruster solid throttling divert and attitude control system (TDACS/SDACS) on the kill vehicle to give it improved capability against maneuvering ballistic missiles or warheads. Solid TDACS is a joint Raytheon/Aerojet project, but Boeing supplies some components of the kinetic warhead.

The MDA wanted to buy 472 SM-3 Block IBs by 2020, but flight test issues cut initial orders, and there were still issues to resolve as as of 2014. The FY15 budget seems to indicate a new target of just 332, at an estimated cost per missile of $12 – 15 million.

SM-3 Block II: Next-Generation

SM-3 Evolution
(click to view full)

SM-3 Block II will widen the missile body above the booster from 13.5″ to 21″, while shrinking the maneuvering fins. The resulting missile will be faster, and have longer range. That changes the kinds of targets it can take on, and changes its deployment, too. Instead of being able to defend just Israel’s tiny land mass and parts of nearby countries from a ship sailing near Crete, for instance, it becomes possible to defend most of Europe with that same ship. Instead of requiring 3 AEGIS ships to cover Japan, it becomes possible to cover most of Japan with just 1 ship. That’s a strong attraction for the Japanese, who have signed on as development partners.

The SM-3 Block IIA is the co-operative US-Japanese program. It adds the larger diameter, a more maneuverable “high-divert” kill vehicle, plus another sensor/ discrimination upgrade to help deal with harder targets, countermeasures, and decoys. It’s a joint development effort with Japan, which has exceeded both its expected 9-year development time frame, and $2.1 – 2.7 billion price tag. At the end of FY 2011, there were still technical difficulties with the 2nd and 3rd stage rocket motors, and the alternate propellant picked for the DACS thruster system may leave kill vehicle performance below program targets.

The program was rescheduled by joint agreement in September 2011, with flight tests pushed back to FY 2016. It’s currently scheduled to debut around 2018, and Japan has given the go-ahead for exports under certain conditions. Once it’s deployed, the US Navy, Japanese JMSDF, and other customers will have a weapon that can handle the near-strategic IRBM threat, and even engage some Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). Its estimated cost per missile is $20 – 24 million.

The SM-3 Block IIB NGAM: The “Next Generation Aegis Missile,” was to be an open competition, with the potential to field a new design missile that could destroy IRBMs and even ICBMs. April 2011 contracts for phase 1 concept development included Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon. The new missile was originally meant to be land-based, and set to integrate with AEGIS BMD 5.1 for debut in 2020.

The FY 2014 budget relegated it to a component R&D program, and killed the missile. Technical analysis had concluded that its launch sites in Europe couldn’t protect the USA from Iranian missiles (vid. Feb 11/13 entry). One solution would have involved expanding it from a 21″ diameter missile to a 27″ missile, and switching from solid fuel to liquid fuel, in order to boost speed for earlier intercepts. The bad news is that liquid-fueled missiles aren’t safe on board ship, and 27″ wouldn’t fit in standard strike-length Mk.41 Vertical Launch Systems, even though the North Sea was the best European location from which to defend the USA. So the program wanted land and sea deployment, but didn’t know what propellant it would use, or whether it would fit current BMD ships. On-time development was doubtful, and the development schedule for other SM-3 variants is also backlogged. The final capability will be missed, but the outcome isn’t really a surprise.

SM-6 ERAM: Next-Generation Air Defense

SM-6 test
(click to view full)

The SM-6 Block IA ERAM is in full-rate production following a March 2013 approval, despite a rocky test history that hasn’t fully sorted itself out yet. Present plans call for 1,800 SM-6s to supplement the SM-2 missiles in the air/surface defense role against cruise missiles and aircraft. It was approved for Full Rate Production in May 2013. The SM-6 is expected to become useful for ballistic missile defense in 2015, as the Sea based Terminal (SBT) Increment 1 combines SM-6 + Aegis BMD 5.0. Fall 2015 is the expected date for Full Operational Capability, and in 2018, SBT Increment 2 will deploy the SM-6 in conjunction with Aegis BMD 5.1. Production is currently expected to end in FY 2024.

Initial versions of the SM-6 will rely heavily on existing technology, including the airframe of the SM-2 Block IV, and advanced seeker technology derived from the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). Radar improvements over the AMRAAM include a much larger and more sensitive seeker (13.5″ vs. 7″ diameter), along with redesigned antennas that boost radar power even further. Active guidance in the missile’s own radar improves anti-jam resistance, and is especially helpful during saturation attacks against ships without active array radars, because it removes some of the combat load from the ships’ limited number of targeting illuminators. Semi-active guidance using large, powerful ship radars remains very useful, however, so the missile retains that option.

CEC Concept
(click to enlarge)

The SM-6 extends and combines those advantages by allowing an “over-the-horizon” targeting mode, where it’s cued by other ships or even aircraft, then uses its own seeker for the final approach. Some of its launch platforms aren’t ready for that yet, so SM-6 ERAM missiles will be launchable in “legacy” mode like an SM-2, or in SM-6 Enhanced Mode that will add 3rd party over-the-horizon targeting and other new capabilities.

Other SM-6 improvements translate into cost performance rather than targeting performance. At present, 25-30% of SM-family missiles must be re-certified each year, a process that involves unloading and moving the missiles. Instead, customers will be able to bring portable testing equipment to a ship and press a button on the SM-6’s “All Up Round” container, whereupon it will test itself. The other big “under the hood” improvement is a design that stresses software programming rather than hardware swap-outs when conducting upgrades. This makes improving the existing missile stock via “spiral development” inserts much easier, much faster, and much cheaper.

The SM-6 program has led the way for Raytheon’s adoption of Earned Value Management as a program management approach; see Sept 5/08 entry, below. It is now in Low-Rate Initial Production. The missile received its first LRIP order in September 2009, and 1st delivery was in April 2011, even as testing continues. Testing has been rocky, as the SM-6 experienced failures in 5 of 12 intercept attempts. Even so, the USA switched all SM-2 missile orders to the SM-6 in FY 2012. Australia has formally declared their intent to order the SM-6, and they are likely to be its 1st export customer. South Korea has also expressed interest.

The Standard Missile Naval Defense Family: Programs Budgets

American budgets for the Standard family of naval air defense missiles are split. One line continues production of the SM-2, and continues development of its follow-on the SM-6 Standard Extended Range Active Missile (ERAM). The usual American annual production order for SM-2 Standard missiles is 75, but that has been dropping lately, even as production budgets rise.

The long-range SM-3, which can be used in a ballistic missile defense role, is part of a separate budget line for “AEGIS BMD,” which also includes radar improvements, ship updates, and other changes required in order to use the SM-3 to its full potential.

American budgets for SM-2/SM-6 work include:

Naval Ballistic Missile Defense is a separate program, run by the US Missile defense Agency (MDA). It involves DDG-51 destroyers and CG-47 cruisers with AEGIS BMD systems, using a combination of AEGIS BMD radar improvements, and SM-3 missiles. For full coverage of those US Navy efforts, read “Serious Dollars for AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense Modifications (BMD)“.

Across the Pacific, Japan will deploy 4 Kongo Class and 2 Atago Class AEGIS BMD destroyers of its own. Japan has purchased SM-3 Block IA missiles, but are scheduled to eventually receive the jointly-developed SM-3 Block IIA. The USA’s forthcoming DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyers may have potential ABM capability of their own via the SPY-3 radar/ SM-3 combination, if additional software is added.

SM-3 Programs: 2006-2020 Timeline

Raytheon factory
click for video

With so many versions in play, it can be challenging to keep track of the SM-3 family of missiles. This timeline covers the period from 2006 to the present, and also includes planned events out to 2020.

The Standard Missile Naval Defense Family: US Contracts & Events

SM-3, USS Hopper
(click to view larger)

Unless otherwise specified, all contracts are issued to Raytheon in Tucson, AZ, at the request of US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). Note that All Up Rounds (AURs) are missiles in storage containers that contain appropriate electronics, and can be moved from storage to loading as is. ORDALT stands for “ordnance alternation,” i.e. modifications to existing weapons.

Procurement contracts are predominantly American buys, but some foreign customers will also be found in this section due to grouped purchases.

Note that all missile tests have been moved to be part of our in-depth AEGIS BMD coverage. We will cover tests that have a direct impact on missile production, which unfortunately means greater attention to failures. The AEGIS BMD article includes a full chart of naval BMD tests, for a better sense of perspective.

FY 2016 – 2017


SM-6 firing
(click to view full)


June 19/17: Raytheon is to restart the Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) production line after a $650 million dollar order from the Netherlands, South Korea, Japan and Australia. The sale calls for the delivery of a total of 280 SM-2 Block IIIA and IIIB missiles, and the sale is expected to keep the company’s Arizona production line open through 2035 as Raytheon anticipates more orders from the US and its allies as they rebuild their inventories using the modernized production line. Congress are expected to be notified of the sale in the coming days.

April 30/17: Raytheon’s Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) is expected to be declared fully operational in the near future, after the missile was successfully put through a series of rigorous Navy testing. Four missiles were fired from surface ships using the MK 41 Vertical Launch System—deployed on Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers—at a variety of land-launched targets, including supersonic and subsonic missiles, with all four test fires successfully intercepting their targets. Furthermore, the missile has been approved for international sales to select countries as of January this year.

April 19/17: The US Navy has selected Raytheon to perform engineering and technical services for several Standard Missile variants used by the service. Valued at $113 million, work to be carried out under the agreement calls for the procurement for other government agencies and foreign military sales to undisclosed customers, as well as engineering work for the Standard Missile 2, 3 and 6. Other tasks to be carried out by Raytheon include research and development efforts, component improvement, shipboard integration and evaluation services. Scheduled to be completed by April 2022, the contract contains options that if exercised, could bring the cumulative value of the contract to $466 million.

January 26/17: Raytheon has been selected to provide SM-6 missiles and spares, to be deployed on AEGIS-equipped cruisers and destroyers. Valued at $235 million, the award comes following several testing and milestone events for the weapon that verified the weapon’s capability to intercept incoming medium-range ballistic missile attacks. This contract represents funding for the fourth year of full-rate production for the multi-mission missile and deliveries are expected to begin in 2018.

January 12/17: Raytheon’s SM-6 missile has been cleared for international export by the US DoD. At present, the missile is in use by the US Navy, providing anti-aircraft and anti-ship defenses for its fleet. First deployed in 2013, testing of different variants of the SM-6 have progressed over the last several years, the most recent in December 2016, which confirmed the missile’s ability to be used against ocean surface targets. During the trials, the SM-6 set a record for the longest range surface-to-air interceptor.

October 3/16: An SM-6 air defense missile interceptor fired from the USS Princeton has set a new distance record for an intercept during testing at the Point Mugu Test Range on September 22. Using data from a remote airborne sensor and equipped with the latest Aegis Baseline 9, the missile beat the previous long-distance intercept record held by the USS John Paul Jones’ test in January.

March 9/16: Raytheon’s recent SM-6 anti-air missile test was used to engage the decommissioned USS Reuben James, (FFG 57) made famous for its appearance in the 1990 movie The Hunt for Red October. The test was a demonstration of the Navy’s concept of “distributed lethality,” employing ships in dispersed formations to increase the offensive might of the surface force, and enabling future options for the joint force commander. The USS John Paul Jones fired the SM-6 while another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was on station as the assist ship.

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.

October 22/15: A Standard Missile-3 Block IA interceptor, fired from an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, has successfully intercepted a short-range ballistic missile. The target missile was launched from the UK’s Hebrides Range, off the northwest coast of Scotland, with the test also seeing two anti-ship missiles fired simultaneously. The ballistic missile was intercepted in space by the SM-3 fired from USS Ross (DDG-71), with USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) downing the anti-ship missile using SM-2 missiles. The Sullivans saw a SM-2 Block IIIA explode soon after launch in July, with this test the first time a ballistic missile has been intercepted in the European theater.

FY 2014 – 2015

SM-6 buy; MDA considers SM-3 IB MYP; SM-6 reached IOC.

August 5/15: The Navy has successfully demonstrated the use of a Standard Missile-6 to intercept a short-range ballistic missile. The tests, conducted off Hawaii, also included the use of a SM-2 Block IV missile against a ballistic missile and two more SM-6s against cruise missile targets. Moving from initial-rate to full-rate production in May, the Navy ordered 74 SM-6 missiles from Raytheon in June. The Navy also announced in January that the missile will be deployed on more than 35 vessels equipped with the Aegis combat weapons system.

June 4/15: Following a contract modification worth $149 million, Raytheon will manufacture 74 Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) air defense rounds for the Navy. This follows a $110 million contract in March and the transition of the SM-6 from low-rate to full-rate production last month.

May 8/15: Raytheon’s Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) has moved from low-rate to full-rate production, following the Navy’s decision in January to expand the number of ships the missile is deployed on from 5 to over 35.

May 1/15: Raytheon was awarded a $559.2 million undefinitized contract action by the Missile Defense Agency for multiple fixed-price incentive firm, firm-fixed-price and cost reimbursable contract line items. The first of these is an order for 44 Standard Missile-3 Block IB missiles.

Aug 24/14: SM-2/6 Support. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives an $8.5 million contract modification for SM-2 and SM-6 engineering and technical services. This contract combines purchases for the US Navy (84.5% / $7.2M) and Japan (15.5% / $1.3M), using a combination of FY 2014 US Navy weapons and RDT&E budgets, and Japanese funds.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (86%); Maizura, Japan (11%); Huntsville, AL (2%); and Camden, AR (1%), and is expected to be complete by July 2015. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract, and acts as Japan’s agent (N00024 13 C-5403).

Aug 14/14: SM-6 Testing. The US Navy conducts flight test “Juliet,” in which an SM-6 successfully intercepts a subsonic, low altitude target over land. That’s a tough shot, due to the radar clutter created when looking for a small object against the ground’s own moving signature. Juliet is one of 10 follow on operational test and evaluation (FOT&E) events planned for SM-6’s missile performance and demonstration. Sources: US Navy, “Standard Missile Shows Versatility With “Juliet” Flight Test”.

Aug 1/14: SM-6. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $7.5 million contract modification for a lifetime buy of obsolete SM-6 components. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 – 2014 US Navy weapons budgets; $6 million will expire on Sept 30/14.

It may be hard to believe this is needed with a new missile, but then, how many of you use 8 year old electronics? Long development times make this a common military problem, and stocking up on items that are ending or have ended production is one way to deal with it.

Work will be performed in Malaga, Spain (67%); Melville, Y (19%); Camden, AR (5%); Dallas, TX (4%); Sandy Hook, CT (2%); Los Alamitos, CA (2%); Wilmington, MA (less than 1%); and Austin, TX (less than 1%); and is expected to be complete by December 2014. US NAVSEA in Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024 13 C-5407).

June 19/14: SM-6 Testing. Raytheon touts a June 2014 series of tests, in which the Arleigh Burke Flight I destroyer USS John Paul Jones [DDG 53] successfully used SM-6 missiles against 2 tough threats. The 1st involved destroying low-flying cruise missile targets flying ‘over the horizon’ – which is to say, beyond the ship’s own radar. That’s similar to a Aug 23/13 test, and represents an important part of US Navy Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) plans, which involve the ability to cue SM-6 targets using aircraft like the E-2D AWACS or F-35C fighters, or other ships.

Separately, the destroyer used another Raytheon SM-6 to intercept a supersonic target, which simulates modern Russian and Chinese missiles. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon Missiles Make History in Long-Range, Supersonic Tests”.

June 27/14: SM-6 FRP-2. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, AZ, is being awarded a $275.4 million contract modification for FY 2014 SM-6 all-up rounds, and SM-6 and SM-2 spares and containers. All funds are committed immediately, using a mix of FY 2012 and 2014 USN weapons budgets, and FY 2014 USN O&M budgets. $14.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/14.

Numbers aren’t given, but the FY 2014 budget projected 81 missiles, a cut from the original 115. Note that the missile still has some technical issues (q.v. Jan 28/14).

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, (33.7%); Camden, AR (28%); Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (11.6%); Andover, MA (8.6%); Middletown, OH (2.7%); San Jose, CA (2.6%); Huntsville, AL (2.3%); Dallas, TX (2.1%); Anniston, AL (1.4%); Clarkston, GA (1%); San Diego, CA (1%); Warrington, PA (1%); Wichita, KS (1%); Middletown, CT (1%); Thousand Oaks, CA (1%); and Anaheim, CA (1%); work is expected to be completed by March 2017. US NAVSEA manages the contract (N00024-13-C-5407).

FY14: SM-6s

March 14/14: GAO report. The GAO releases GAO-14-248R, regarding the USA’s EPAA plans for defending Europe from ballistic missiles. They’re characterizing SM-3 Block IIA development as “on track” for EPAA Phase 3 in 2018, but SM-3 Block IB still has some issues.

MDA plans to buy 48 Block IBs as part of Phase 2’s Romania deployment from 2015, which will create a bit of an order spike. GAO doesn’t say so, but if Block IIA is late, there will be another Block IB order spike to equip the Polish site in 2018. They do reference the Block IB’s TRSM cold gas regulator issue (q.v. Jan 28/14), and say only that the failure review is still underway, with unclear effects on production.

March 5/14: +36 SM-3 IB. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a not-to-exceed $350.2 million sole-source contract modification bringing FY14 SM-3 Block IB orders to $506.2 million for 44 missiles.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, with an estimated completion date of September 2016. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-13-C-0001).

FY14: 36 SM-3-IBs

March 4/14: MDA Budget. The MDA finally releases its FY15 budget request, with information spanning from FY 2014 – 2019. The FY15 request buys AEGIS BMD 4.x upgrades for 3 ships, and installation of received BMD 4.x systems on board 5 ships, while continuing the development of versions 5.0 and 5.1. Beyond that:

“The MDA is requesting $435 million to procure 30 Aegis SM-3 Block IB missiles in FY 2015, for a total [DID: program objective, presumably] of 332 SM-3 Block IB missiles. MDA requests $68.9 million for advance procurement for four long lead items associated with the FY 2016 SM-3 Block IB missile buy to ensure timely delivery to the Combatant Commander. These items include: 1) MK 104 Dual Thrust Rocket Motor, 2) MK 72 Boosters,3) Integrated Dewar Assemblies and 4) Circuit Card assemblies.”

That’s a sharp drop from original plans for 472 missiles, but the Block IB has lost a few years of production. The number will rise again if the SM-3 Block 2A is late.

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. That chip is only present in a few Block IAs, and isn’t in Block IB. The Navy is taking corrective action.

The SM-3 Block IB went 3/3, but after a string of 5 successful flights, the TSRM cold gas regulator that was redesigned after the FTM-15 fail glitched out during FTM-21’s 2nd pulse rocket motor firing. It didn’t affect the score, because the missile in question was a pre-planned 2nd salvo shot, and the 1st missile had already destroyed the target. The Navy wants to know if there’s a common underlying root cause they haven’t quite fixed.

The SM-6 still has some issues, even though all FY13 flight tests were successful and it has reached Initial Operational Capability (q.v. Nov 28/13). Improved uplink/downlink shrouds have interior delamination issues, but they still worked and didn’t fail externally in test firings. The Navy will treat this as progress and keep monitoring it. On the other hand, a classified missile deficiency discovered during IOT&E remains a problem. The Navy is looking at several possible solutions with varying degrees of complexity, and they’re trying not to hurt the missile’s performance with the fix. A final decision is expected in Q3 FY14, but they don’t know where the funding will come from.

Full SM-6 performance won’t be achieved until The Navy can launch using other sensors (Navy Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air From the Sea/ NIFC-CA FTS) in FY15. They had good initial results from an initial LF-04 test in FY13, using the same Aegis Baseline 9 system that will be present for the 16 planned SM-6 tests en route to NIFC-CA FTS.

Jan 9/13: +8 SM-3-IB. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a not-to-exceed $156 million sole-source, unfinalized contract for 8 SM-3 Block IB missiles and AUR containers ($19.5 million per missile), under a hybrid contract structure with firm-fixed-price and cost reimbursable contract line item numbers. FY14 funds are being used. Raytheon says:

“This contract award is limited due to the continuing resolution; we anticipate the remainder of the FY14 contract to be awarded once the appropriations bill is passed.”

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ through September 2016. The US Missile Defense Agency in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-13-C-0001).

FY14: 8 SM-3-IBs

Nov 28/13: SM-6. The US Navy declares that the SM-6 has reached Initial Operational Capability, as it begins loading the new missiles into USS Kidd [DDG 100] in San Diego, CA.

SM-6 Full Rate Production was approved on May 22/13, but the Pentagon DOT&E’s Jan 28/14 report confirms that some of the deficiencies outlined in their Jan 17/13 publication still haven’t been fixed. All NAVSEA would say is that 50 SM-6 missiles have been delivered to date, and that “…test and evaluation will continue in 2013 and 2014 to validate the integrated fire control capability in an operationally realistic environment.” Sources: US NAVSEA, “Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) Achieves Initial Operational Capability”.


Nov 25/13: Support. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, AZ receives a $15.9 million contract modification for Standard Missile family engineering and technical support services. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 weapon budgets.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (82.8%); Andover, MA (12.4%); Huntsville, AL (3.8%), and Camden, AR (1%), and is expected to be complete by November 2014 (N00024-13-C-5403).

Oct 31/13: SM-3-IIA. Raytheon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have completed the SM-3 Block IIA’s Critical Design Review (CDR), and the USA and Japan have agreed on workshare arrangements that allocate development responsibility between each country. SM-3-IIA is the key new piece in EPAA Phase 3, and the successful CDR keeps it on track for flight test in 2015.

Raytheon made the announcement at the 2013 AIAA Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference in Warsaw, Poland. Sources: Raytheon, “New, Larger Standard Missile-3 Moves From Design to Testing” | Raytheon, Oct 31/13 release.

SM-3 Block IIA CDR

Oct 15/13: SM-3 IB. The MDA announces its intent to award a sole source contract worth up to $3 billion to Raytheon Missile Systems (RMS) for the production and integration of up to 216 SM-3 Block IB missiles, as a follow on to HQ0276-13-C-0001. This would amount to $13.88 million per missile, presumably including suitable spares and support costs. The agency would like to structure that as a 3-year multiyear procurement (MYP) over FY15-17, for up to 72 missiles per year. If that doesn’t receive congressional approval, they will fall back to an annual contract for FY15 with up to 2 pre-priced annual contract options.

The 72/year procurement rate is in line with the MDA’s April 2014 budget submission [PDF], though that document assumes a gross/weapon system unit cost of around $10.35 million for Block IB missiles (a dozen block IIAs raise the projected average cost/missile in FY2017). Even after adding ancillary costs like canisters and production engineering, it is not immediately clear why the MDA seems to seek a contract at costs higher than what it had budgeted so far, right when volumes would ramp up to full rate production rates, and as the missile is maturing as the main production weapon. It also appears the multi-year commitment is more a tool for the MDA to protect itself from budgeting vagaries, rather than to gain pricing leverage with its sole supplier. The fate of the 72 missiles planned for FY18 in the FYDP is not covered by the MDA’s contract intent.

Note that contrarily to some mistaken news reports, this is not yet an award, but rather a declaration of intent pending the availability of matching appropriations. HQ0276-14-R-0099 presolicitation.

FY 2013

SM-2 multinational buy; SM-6 Full Rate Production; SM-3-IA failure in FIT-01; SM-3-IB’s success in FTM-19 clears it for orders; GAO Report.

FTM-19: SM-3-IB
(click to view full)

Sept 27/13: SM-6. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, AZ, was awarded a $243.5 million contract modification for 89 Standard Missile-6 Block I All Up Rounds, spares, containers, and engineering services. This order launches full-rate production of the missile. $236.7 million is committed immediately, and will expire on Sept 30/13.

This contract is added to the Jan 31/13 long-lead items contract for $33.3 million for a FY 2013 total of $276.8 million, or about $3.1 million per missile. That sum compares very closely to Lockheed Martin’s PATRIOT PAC-3, which plays a similar role on land.

Work will be performed in Camden, AK (34.4%); Tucson, AZ (25.5%); Wolverhampton, U.K. (14.6%); Andover, MA (7.3%); Middletown, CA (5.3%); San Jose, CA (3.1%); Dallas, TX, (2.7%); Anniston, AL (1.5%); Clarkston, GA (1.3%); Huntsville, AL (1.1%); Andover, MA (1.1%); San Diego, CA (1.1%); and Warrington, PA (1.0%) and is expected to be complete by March 2016. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contract (N00024-13-C-5407). See also: Raytheon release, Sept 30/13.

FY 2013: 89 SM-6s launches Full-Rate Production

Sept 24/13: Industrial. DRS RSTA, Inc., Infrared Technologies, Huntsville, AL receives a maximum of $17.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to design, develop, and fabricate a 2-Color Focal Plane Array (FPA) for the MDA’s Advanced Technology Risk Reduction. The objective is to develop and implement a controlled dual-band, large-format, long wavelength infrared FPA manufacturing process to improve the yield for multiple lots of FPAs. If they can succeed, it would benefit a number of missile defense programs, including a very strong payoff for SM-3 Block IB and higher missiles. It would also benefit Finmeccanica’s DRS, as a premium supplier of this specialized technology.

$125,000 is committed immediately, with the rest awarded over time. Options work includes a digital FPA design, development, and fabrication effort.

All work will be performed in Dallas, TX, and Santa Barbara, CA from Sept 30/13 through Nov 30/17. This contract was competitively procured via, with 112 proposals received by the MDA in Redstone Arsenal, AL (HQ0147-13-C-0021).

Aug 6/13: +29 SM-3 IB. A $218.5 million sole-source, cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification exercises an option for 29 SM-3 Block IB all-up-round missiles and containers, using FY 2013 defense-wide acquisition funds. This raises the total value of the contract from $179.4 – $398 million, which represents the FY 2013 order.

These 2 orders are good news for the SM-3 Block IB, which faces an imminent full-rate production decision.

The Pentagon says that work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, but that’s just the guidance sections. Final assembly will take place in Raytheon’s new, state-of-the-art Redstone Missile Integration Facility in Huntsville, AL, with an expected completion date of Sept 30/16. The MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-13-C-0001, CLIN 0002). Raytheon.

Aug 6/13: +4 SM-3 IB. A $48.9 million sole-source cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification exercises an option for 4 SM-3 Block IB all-up round missiles and containers, using FY 2013 defense-wide acquisition funds. This is the add-back discussed in the July 9/13 entry, and raises the total value of its contract from $1.91 billion – to $1.958 billion.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ with an expected completion date of Sept 30/15. The MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (N00024-07-C-6119, CLIN 0026).

FY 2013: 33 SM-3-IBs

July 11/13: SM-3 IIA. A $57.2 million sole-source, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for SM-3 Block IIA upgrades and engineering support, using FY 2013 RDT&E finds. The total contract value rises from $1.537 billion to $1.594 billion.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ through Sept 30/16. The MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0005, PO 0046).

July 9/13: SM-3 IB. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a somewhat confusing modification contract, so we’ll summarize in point form:

  • $48.9 million cut, along with 4 SM-3 Block IB missiles. CLIN 0016 (q.v. March 29/11 entry) will now buy 20 SM-3-IB missiles.

  • The 4 missiles could be added back later as an option, under new Contract Line Item Nimber 0026, for the same $48.9 million. If the option is exercised, it’s expected to happen in Q4 (Summer) 2013.

  • $24 million added for “resolving technical and production transition issues,” but CLIN 0016 doesn’t change its March 2011 – December 2013 timeline.

So, the overall cut is $25 million, and the contract’s total value drops from $1.933 billion to $1.908 billion, but the new option could change that to a $24 million boost. The US MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (N00024-07-C-6119, PO 0117).

May 31/13: Support. Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, AZ, is being awarded a $75.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Standard Missile engineering and technical services. These services include research and development efforts; design, systems, and production engineering; technical services; evaluation services; component improvement services; and production proofing services for missile producibility, missile production, and shipboard integration. This contract includes options that could bring its cumulative value to $316.5 million.

$33.1 million is committed immediately, using a combination of FY 2011-2013 budget lines. Of this, $1.6 million will expire at the end of FY 2013, on Sept 30/13. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (86.8%); Andover, MA (9.4%); Huntsville, AL (1.7%); Arlington, VA (1.1%); Camden, AK (0.7%); and White Sands, NM (0.3%), and is expected to be completed by December 2017. Since the Standard Missile family is Raytheon’s, this contract was sole sourced under 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1) – only one responsible source. US Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-13-C-5403).

May 22/13: SM-6. A Pentagon Defense Acquisition Board approves full-rate production of Raytheon’s Standard Missile-6. The current configuration is the SM-6 Block I, and the team is on track to deliver the first Full-Rate Production missile in April 2015, 3 months ahead of contract. Raytheon.

SM-6 into FRP

SM-3-IB Schedule slips
(click to view full)

April 26/13: GAO Report. The GAO looks at the MDA’s full array of programs in report #GAO-13-342, “Missile Defense: Opportunity To Refocus On Strengthening Acquisition Management.” They have a lot to say about various SM-3 programs:

SM-3 Block IB: After the Sept 1/11 failure, 2012 has been a year of fixes, while Block IB production was cut and production of the previous SM-3 Block IA was extended by 55 missiles. The May and June 2012 tests went well, but MDA experienced further difficulties completing testing of a new maneuvering component, delaying the FTM-19 flight. To keep the production line going, the FY 2013 buy of Block IB missiles was split in 2, with an initial components purchase in early 2013, and the rest to be placed after the FTM-19 test.

During 2012, the SM-3 Block IB program experienced multiple issues completing TDACS qualification tests, including a test failure in October 2012 whose root cause analysis will cost $27.5 million. Completion of qualification testing ended up slipping from late 2011 to February 2013.

SM-3 Block IIA: After the SM-3 Block IIA had its Preliminary Design Review delayed by problems with 4 components (incl. the nosecone, TDACS, and 2nd & 3rd stage rocket motors), the GAO thinks MDA did the right thing by delaying the PDR by a year and adding about $296 million to extend development. The program completed the PDR successfully in March 2012, but the TDACS thrusters that aim the kill vehicle remain an issue. Program management officials say they’re applying SM-3 Block IB program lessons learned, as DACS systems are tough problems that have often challenged SM-3 variants.

SM-3 Block IIB: The missile was effectively canceled shortly after the report, and the report explains why. See SM-3 background section, above, for more.

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.

Budget totals are graphed above, and it’s also worth noting that the SM-6 missile saw multi-year production cuts. The Navy’s justification documents explain, though we suspect SM-6 production will end up stretched long beyond 2024 due to future cuts:

“SM-6 was rephased to better align with the combat systems upgrades to Destroyers and Cruisers via [Aegis] ACB-12…. Per OPNAV Direction of 11 July 2012, the Program of Record total procurement quantity for SM-6 is increased from 1200 to 1800. The estimated scheduled completion date is extended from FY19 to FY24.”

March 15/13: SM-3 IIB. Following North Korea’s 3rd nuclear test attempt, the new US Secretary of Defense announces that the USA will add 14 more ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, AK and Vandenberg AFB, CA, boosting the total number from 30 back to the 44 planned by the previous administration. At the same time, they’re re conducting Environmental Impact Studies for a potential additional GBI site in the United States.

They’re paying for this by “restructuring” the SM-3 Block 2B Next Generation Aegis Missile program, whose 2020 deployment date was never realistic (vid. April 20/12 GAO report).

Japan will continue to collaborate with the USA on the SM-3 Block 2A program, and will get a 2nd AN/TPY-2 radar on its territory. Pentagon AFPS | Full Speech Transcript | Boeing.

SM-3-IIB/ NGAM cancelled

March 11/13: Datalink. Raytheon announces that they’ve begun advanced testing of their company-funded dual-band (S/X) datalink, linking SM-3 missiles to an X-band Thales Nederland Advanced Phased Array Radar (APAR) at a shore-based Dutch facility. Dutch LCF ships have already participated in American missile defense tests as trackers, but they’d need this datalink if they wanted the full radar communication that’s needed to launch their own interceptors.

APAR active array radars are used as fire control radars by Dutch LCF and German F124 frigates, and by the new Danish Ivar Huitfeldt Class. The datalink would also help the US Navy. Their 3 new Zumwalt Class “destroyers” will use Raytheon’s SPY-3 X-band radar, but their SM-2 and SM-3 missile inventories are designed to work with SPY-1 S-band radars.

March 5/13: SM-3 support. Raytheon’s SM-3 Block IB in-service engineering support contract jumps from $594.4 million to $656.7 million, a raise of $62.3 million. Based on subsequent documents, this appears to be an early order for components etc., with the rest to follow if the next test succeeds.

They’ll work on this sole-source, cost-plus-award-fee contract through Sept 30/15, with initial funds coming from FY 2013 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation accounts. The US MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages this contract (HQ0276-11-C-0002, PO 0032).

Feb 28/13: Industrial. Raytheon announces that their new SM-6 production facility, with modern tools that include mobile robots and ultra-precise laser positioning, has delivered its 1st SM-6 all-up-round to the US Navy. See Nov 16/12 entry for more.

Feb 11/13: Block 2B – 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 missile may also need to grow from 21″ diameter to 27″, which will change which launchers it can fit into. Then there are other 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, which can work after the boost phase. Maybe Block 2B shouldn’t be land-based at all, but then how big an improvement is it over Block 2A? MDA still needs to set the future Block 2B’s 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 just 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 enhanced US-based GMD system recommended by the September 2012 NRC report (q.v.), and making Block 2B a ship-deployed missile? Without good answers regarding capability, options, and maintainability, how does the MDA 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 4/13: Support. A $14.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to repair, provide depot and intermediate level maintenance for, and recertify “Standard Missiles” or associated items. The contract covers the US Navy and Foreign Military Sales from FY 2013 – 2017.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (89%); Camden, AR (8%); Huntsville, AL (2%); and Andover, MA (1%), and is expected to be complete by September 2013. $5.6 million in funding from the FY 2013 “Operations & Maintenance, Navy” is committed immediately, and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/13. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with the “one responsible supplier” provision of 10 U.S.C. 2304 (c) (1), as implemented in FAR 6.302-1 (N00024-13-C-5402).

Jan 31/13: SM-6. A $33.3 million cost-only contract for FY 2013 long-lead items, to support SM-6 Block I production.

Work will be performed in Camden, AR (72.6%), Andover, MA (11.5%), Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (9.8%), Tucson, AZ (2%), San Carlos, CA (1.1%), San Diego, CA (0.9%), Anniston, AL (0.7%), Middletown, CT (0.6%), Joplin, MO (0.5%), and Milwaukie, OR (0.3%), and is expected to be complete by February 2015. All funding is committed immediately, via the FY 2012 “Operations and Maintenance, Navy” budget line. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with the “one responsible source” exemption in 10 U.S.C. 2304 (c) (1), as implemented in FAR 6.302-1 (N00024-13-C-5407).

Jan 17/13: SM-6 DOT&E. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The SM-6 is included, and the overall recommendation is blunt:

“SM-6 does not meet the flight reliability criteria established by USD(AT&L) for full-rate production…. Until reliability deficiencies are resolved, the Navy should consider issuing tactics that employ multiple missiles for certain targets [DID: because you can’t depend on just 1].”

The good news is that the SM-6 has demonstrated longer downrange engagement than any SM-2. Unfortunately, current Aegis SPY-1 B/D radar and combat system can’t fully test the SM-6’s capabilities, and won’t until Aegis Baseline 9 (aka. Navy Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air) From the Sea combat system enhancements in FY 2014 – 2015. Once that back-end element is delivered, however, initial trials using multiple sensors suggest that “SM-6 battlespace will be significantly expanded.”

The bad news is that the classified deficiency noted in the 2011 report is still there, and the Navy doesn’t have a fix yet. There’s also a problem with debris and the uplink/downlink antenna, which can interfere with initial guidance. The fix hasn’t been fully flight tested, and wind tunnel testing revealed new problems with the antenna sealant material and insulation bonding. Finally, there’s an anomaly with the fuse’s Mk54 Safe-Arm Device.

Jan 17/13: SM-3 DOT&E. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E).

With respect to the SM-3’s anomaly in test FTM-15, the 3rd stage rocket motor has been redesigned, and flew successfully in test FTM-18. That stage is common to SM-3 Block IA and Block IB. The program is still trying to fully understand what went wrong in FTM-16, though, and that issue also deals with the 3rd stage motor. DOT&E wants a flight test to verify the correction for FTM-16 Event 2, which didn’t end as well as FTM-15 did.

Beyond that, they recommend that the US Navy engage a medium-range target before the SM-3 Block IB’s Full-Rate Production Decision.

Dec 14/12: Support. A $12.3 million contract modification exercises options for Standard Missile engineering and technical services, including evaluations of advanced missile configurations and advanced technology efforts.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by March 2013. All funds are committed immediately, and $2.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. US Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington DC (N00024-12-C-5400).

Nov 30/12: SM-2. A $108.8 million contract modification to previously awarded contract for SM-2 production, section level components and spares, shipping containers and associated data. It lists itself as a FY 2011 award, and Raytheon confirms that it brings the total FY 2011 contract value to more than $200 million. They also confirm that the award includes 60 SM-2 missiles, while emphasizing that well over half of the contract value is for design agent services, spare sections, and test equipment.

This contract will support foreign military sales to Australia (39.8%), Korea (19.8%), Japan (17.5%), Canada (3.2%), Germany (0.4%), Taiwan (0.2%) and the Netherlands (0.1%). That only totals 81%, so about $20.7 million/ 19.0% must be for the US military, which has committed to supporting SM-2 past 2035.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (43.5%); Camden, AR (22%); Andover, MA (16.7%); Netherlands (5.3%); Anniston, AL (2.6%); San Diego, CA (2.4%); Lebanon, NH (2.1%); San Jose, CA (1.9%); Joplin, MO (1.8%); and El Segundo, CA (1.6%); and is expected to be complete by March 2014. $8.5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00024-11-C-5300). See also Raytheon.

Nov 29/12: SM-3 SDACS R&D. Aerojet-General Corp. in Sacramento, CA wins a $34.9 million contract, Aerojet to develop and test Solid Divert and Attitude Control Systems (SDACS) technologies for exoatmospheric BMD kill vehicles, which are carried by systems like the SM-3, THAAD, etc. Improved SDACS is part of the SM-3’s planned evolution, and Aerojet is just one firm receiving these awards – vid. Sept 27/12 entry.

This contract was competitively procured and the work will be performed at Rancho Cordova, CA, from December 2012 through November 2014. $3.7 million in FY 2013 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used to incrementally fund this effort. The MDA in Huntsville, AL manages the contract (HQO147-13-C-0005).

Nov 26/12: Industrial. Raytheon opens the doors of its new $75 million, 70,000 square-foot, SM-3/ SM-6 all-up-round production facility at Redstone Arsenal, AL in November 2012. Its advanced features include a fleet of 5-ton capacity laser-guided vehicles that silently move missiles around the factory, and use lasers and software to position missiles within 1/10,000 of an inch. Raytheon.

FY 2012

SM-6 production begins in earnest; SM-3 block IIA work gets big funding injection and continues with Japan; SM-6 test problems; Report examines SM-3 development.

SM-2 maintenance
(click to view full)

Sept 27/12: SM-3-IIB MDACS R&D. Alliant Techsystems (ATK) Inc. of Minneapolis, MI receives a $52.8 million award to develop and test solid divert and attitude control systems (SDACS) technologies of interest to the MDA, “for use in final-stage kill vehicles.”

ATK has produced more than 165 earlier-generation solid DACS (SDACS) for the SM-3 program, but a Dec 3/12 release confirms that the work is aimed at the new SM-3 Block IIB (NGAM). The new Modular Divert and Attitude Control System (MDACS) is designed to improve the warhead-killer’s performance.

This contract was a competitively awarded procurement, and the work will be performed at Elkton, MD from October 2012 through September 2014. The contract begins with $200,000 in FY 2012 research, development, test and evaluation funds. The US MDA in Huntsville, AL manages the contract (HQO147-12-C-0016). See also ATK.

Sept 27/12: SM-2. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $14.2 million firm-fixed-price modification for SM-2 spares.

Work will be performed in Joplin, Mo. (31.6%); Tucson, Ariz. (23.5%); Minneapolis, Minn. (18.7%); Andover, Mass. (13.8%); Stafford Springs, Conn. (6.8%); and other sites below one% (5.6%), and is expected to be completed by March 2014. Contract funds in the amount of $11,738,119 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea System Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-11-C-5300).

Sept 21/12: SM-6 test. The high-altitude JLENS radar aerostat is part of a test involving the new SM-6 naval defense missile. During the test, JLENS’ fire-control radar acquired and tracked a target that mimicked an anti-ship cruise missile, then Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) was used to pass the data on to the firing ship. The missile was fired, and used JLENS’ targeting data to move into range of its own radar, before picking up the target and destroying it. Raytheon.

Aug 30/12: +19 SM-3s. A $230.3 million sole-source cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification buys 14 SM-3 Block IA and 5 SM-3 Block IB missiles. This raises the overall contract value from $1.7 billion to $1.93 billion, and raises FY 2012 orders so far to 14 Block IA and 14 Block IB missiles.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ through Sept 30/14, using FY 2012 Defense-Wide Procurement funds. The MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages this contract (N00024-07-C-6119, PO 0102).

FY 2012: 14 SM-3-IAs, 5 SM-3-IBs

July 31/12: +9 SM-3-IB. A $77.1 million sole-source cost-plus-incentive-fee action exercises an option for 9 SM-3 Block IB AURs. This order increases the total contract value from $1.618 billion to $1.695 billion, and is funded by FY 2012 Defense Wide Procurement funds.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ from July 31/12 through July 31/13, and the MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (N00024-07-C-6119, PO 0099).

FY 2012: 9 SM-3-IBs

July 25/12: SM-3 IIA SDD Extended. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a a sole-source $925 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification, which raises the total for this FY 2010 contract from $583.4 million to $1,508.4 million. It extends and increases SM-3 Block IIA development through the Critical Design Review stage, and covers flight test support, from July 27/12 – Feb 28/17.

The SM-3 Block IIA began in 2006 as a cooperative development program with Japan, but shifts like the cancellation of the Multiple Kill Vehicle, and technical issues, have delayed the program. A restructuring plan was agreed on in September 2011, and initial flight tests won’t begin until FY 2016.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and FY 2012 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds will be used to begin funding. The MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-10-C-0005, PO 0030). Raytheon’s release adds that the missile is “on track for a 2018 deployment date,” and says that they’ve delivered “more than 130 SM-3 variants to the U.S. and Japanese navies…”

SM-3-IIA development extended

May 10/12: SM-6 LRIP-4. A $313.8 million combination fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price letter contract, for Low-Rate Initial Production of FY 2012 SM-6 Block I all-up rounds, plus special tooling and test equipment, spares, and containers. $63.4 million are committed at time of award, and the rest will be used to place orders over time.

This order is a milestone for the program. FY 2012 was intended to be the shift into SM-6 Full-Rate Production, after 3 LRIP lots. This may be LRIP Lot 4, but as the order’s size indicates, this is where the transition to SM-6 production really begins for the US Navy. Numbers aren’t given, but the figure is close enough to the FY 2012 procurement budget of $356.9 million that one can assume it orders all 89 of those missiles. To date, Australia has also committed to the missile for its Hobart Class destroyers.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (46%); Camden, AR (24%); Andover, MA (6%); Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (6%); Huntsville, AL (4%); Dallas, TX (4%); Hanahan, SC (3%); Anniston, AL (3%); San Jose, CA (2%); and Middletown, OH (2%), and is expected to complete by March 2015. This contract was not competitively procured, as Raytheon is the sole qualified producer for Standard Missile (N00024-12-C-5401). The Raytheon release doesn’t add anything.

FY 2012: 89 SM-6s

May 9/12: FTM-16E2a – Block IB success. For “FTM-16, Event 2a”, the missile was fired from the guided missile cruiser Lake Erie [CG 70] using the new AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 hardware and software, and the missile used its new 2-color infrared seeker to track and intercept the target. Overall, this is the 20th successful SM-3 intercept, but the Block IB had failed the previous FTM-16 firing test (vid. Sept 1/11). Wes Kremer, vice president of Raytheon Missile Systems’ Air and Missile Defense Systems product line, offers a quick update:

“Raytheon has delivered more than 130 SM-3 Block IAs ahead of schedule and under cos… We are on track to deliver the SM-3 Block IB to the nation by 2015 for deployment at sea and ashore.”

It’s a big moment for the missile. See: US MDA | Lockheed Martin | Raytheon.

FTM-16E2a: SM-3-IB test successful

SM-3 programs
in FY 2011
(click to view full)

April 20/12: GAO report The US GAO releases “Opportunity Exists to Strengthen Acquisitions by Reducing Concurrency.” That bland-sounding title has a lot to say about the Pentagon’s SM-3 missiles, as it reviews the events of FY 2011 and looks at each variant.

SM-3 Block IA: Production was supposed to end in 2009, but Block IB failures led to 41 FY 2010-2011 orders, and may lead to more in FY 2012. The problem with further Block IA orders is an anomaly in test FTM-15. The test still succeeded, but it was serious enough that deliveries were frozen until the problem is fixed. At the time of the GAO’s report, 12 missiles were awaiting delivery (GAO says about 10% of the operational fleet), and at least 7 missiles will need modifications.

SM-3 Block IB: The 2015 political schedule for deploying a European Missile defense is forcing a lot of the program’s overlap between development, testing & production. For instance, the program began production of SM-3 IB interceptors before resolving development issues with the kill vehicle’s TDACS propulsion. TDACS failed qualification testing in early 2010 and required a redesigned propellant moisture protection system, but the version used in the failed FTM-16E2 flight test in 2011 wasn’t the same as approved production design. TDACS is expected to complete qualification testing in 2012, barring further problems, and various issues continue to delay production. After the FTM-16 E2 test failure, FY 2011 orders were cut, and most of those missiles (18/25) are now slated for testing. Those issues aren’t fully resolved, and the Block IA’s FTM-15 test anomaly is also a problem, since the affected system is shared with the Block IB. A decision must be made on the planned FY 2012 order for 46 missiles, even though testing may need until 2013. The MDA wants to buy 472 SM-3 Block IBs by 2020.

SM-3 Block IIA USA/Japan: While this is still technically an “SM-3,” the GAO correctly points out that this 21″ diameter missile will have very little in common with the Block IB. A September 2011 program rescheduling has helped, and an issue with nosecone weight seems to be settled. At the end of FY 2011, however, there were still technical difficulties with the 2nd and 3rd stage rocket motors, and the alternate propellant picked for the new “high-divert” DACS system may offer less kill vehicle performance than hoped.

SM-3 Block IIB NGAM: Being pursued as a competitive program, with 3 design vendors and multiple technology development contracts for key technologies. The GAO is also concerned about concurrency here, as the summer 2013 product development decision will occur before the March 2015 Preliminary Design Review. They add:

“Based on the experience of other SM-3 interceptors, the program must commit to produce flight test interceptors 2 years before the March 2016 first flight. However, this timeline means the commitment to a flight test vehicle would occur a year before the SM-3 Block IIB PDR [in March 2015] has confirmed that the design is feasible and more than a year and a half before CDR has confirmed that the design is stable.”

Key progress report

March 21/12: SM-3. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $120 million contract ceiling increase for SM-3 design and engineering, in service engineering support, production engineering and obsolescence, surveillance and flight test support, and transition to production. The change increases the contract’s maximum value from $689 million to $809 million.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ through Sept 30/15. FY 2012 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used to incrementally fund this initial effort. The MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0276-11-C-0002, PO 0017, contract line item number 0003).

Jan 19/12: SDACS. Alliant Techsystems (ATK), Inc. in Minneapolis, MN receives a $13.5 million contract modification to “develop and test Solid Divert and Attitude Control Systems (SDACS) technologies of interest to the Missile Defense Agency.”

This contract represents part of the MDA’s technology development strategy to improve performance and reduce risk for BMD interceptor divert and attitude control systems, which maneuver missile kill vehicles to hit their target in space. ATK’s SDACS is associated with the SM-3 program’s LEAP(Lightweight Exo-Atomspheric Projectile) Kinetic Kill Vehicle, but similar kil vehicles are also used in the land-based THAAD (Boeing liquid DACS) and GBI/GMD (Raytheon/Aerojet EKV) programs. Depending on the technologies tested, there may be spinoff benefits.

The original contract was a competitively awarded procurement. Work will be performed at Elkton, MD, from February 2012 through December 2012, with $800,000 in FY 2012 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds as opening funding. The MDA, Huntsville, AL manages the contract (HQOI47-11-C-0003).

Jan 17/12: DOT&E & SM-6. The Pentagon releases the FY2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The SM-3 and SM-6 are included.

For the SM-3, the DOT&E report has little to say. The SM-3 Block IA system is stable, and continues to show progress. There was an anomaly in the SM-3 Block IA interceptor’s flyout during test FTM-15, but it achieved intercept. FTM-16 Event 2 saw a failure by the new SM-3 Block IB. Both incidents are still under investigation.

The SM-6 completed IOT&E flight testing in July 2011, but was assessed as not operationally effective or suitable yet. On the plus side, it showed strong range, and performed well against low-level, maneuvering, and ECM(electronic countermeasure) protected targets. On the other hand, it succeeded in only 7 of 12 intercepts, and those weren’t in an “objective operational environment.” Two missions failed due to fuze-related anomalies, 2 missions were in-flight hardware failures, and 1 was a failure of the missile navigation system.

There were 2 classified performance anomalies that DOT&E believes should have been uncovered in developmental testing, and 2 more anomalies (antenna debris, MK54 safe-arm device) that were found but not fixed, with effects on the test results. The DOT&E wants corrective action on the problems, more flight tests, and an IOT&E test plan for SM-6’s full over-the-horizon capability when Aegis Capability Baseline 12 and the NIFC-CA sensors are fielded after FY 2014.

Dec 8/11: SM-3 IB. A $35 million sole-source modification to Raytheon’s cost-plus-incentive-fee SM-3 Block IB contract, to buy materials and assemblies used in those missiles from December 2011 – May 2012. This raises the contract’s total value to $1.604 billion. The period of performance for this contract action is from December 2011 through May 2012.

FY 2011 RDT&E funds will be used to fully fund this effort. The MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (N00027-07-C-6119).

Nov 15/11: SM-3 IIA. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a sole-source, $241 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification, including options, which brings the total contract to $575.6 million. In exchange, they’ll offer engineering services and material for systems engineering, design and development support, and initial hardware fabrication for the SM-3 Block IIA missile, including redesign of the divert and attitude control system (DACS, vid. Sept 17/11 entry).

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ through March 31/12, using FY 2012 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds. The SM-3 block IIA is a collaboration with Japan, but the Pentagon notes that this is not a Foreign Military Sales acquisition. The MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0006-10-C-0005). See also Sept 8/11 entry, Raytheon release.

FY 2011

SM-3 block IIB/NGAM, phase 1 R&D contracts; Datalink could expand SM-3 to new ship classes; SM-3 block IIA work continues with Japan; SM-3 block IA production continues after all, following FTM-16’s SM-3 block IB test failure; SM-3 IA demonstrates launch on remote track in FTM-15; Multinational SM-2 contract; SM-6 LRIP-3 contract; 1st SM-6 delivery.

SM-3 seeker: target!
(click to view full)

Sept 23/11: FY11 SM-2s. A not-to-exceed $142.6 million cost-only contract for FY 2011’s SM-2 all-up-rounds (number not mentioned), section level components and spares, shipping containers, and associated data. This contract will provide 60 SM-2 Block IIIB all-up-rounds, along with components and spares. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (17.8%); and, under the Foreign Military Sales Program, the governments of Korea (32.4%), Japan (26.5%), Australia (21.9%), Germany (0.7%), Taiwan (0.5%), and Canada (0.2%). It includes options which could bring the total to $146.2 million.

Work will be performed in Andover, MA (37%); Camden, Ark. (36%); The Netherlands (7%); Anniston, AL (5%); Joplin, Mo. (4%); San Diego, CA (3%); Middleton, CT (3%); El Segundo, CA (3%); and Reisterstown, MD (2%). Work is expected to be complete by June 2013. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC (N00024-11-C-5300).

FY 2011: 60 SM-2s

Sept 17/11: SM-3-IIA delays. Mianichi Daily News reports US notification to Japan that the SM-3 Block IIA will be delayed 2 years, because the kill vehicle needs additional testing. The USA will cover the additional costs.

The original development plan involved a 9-year effort ending in 2014, with Japan paying $1.0 – 1.2 billion, and the USA $1.1 – 1.5 billion. That will now extend to 2016, with the USA looking to deploy the new missile in 2018.

SM-3-IIA program delayed

Sept 16/11: SM-3 IA order. A maximum $285.8 million unfinalized sole-source, cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to build another 23 SM-3 Block IA missiles. The award increases the total contract value from $1.269 billion to $1.555 billion, and appears to cancel the procurement shift indicated by the March 29/11 contract, which cut and seemingly ended SM-3 Block IA production. See also the Sept 1/11 entry, in which the replacement SM-3 Block IB missile failed its 1st intercept test.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ through April 30/14. $60 million in FY 2011 defense-wide procurement funds will be used to incrementally fund this effort. The MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (N00024-07-C-6119, PO 0068).

FY 2011: 23 SM-3-IAs

Sept 16/11: SM-6. Another $9.1 million fixed-price incentive-fee and firm-fixed-price contract modification for low rate initial production of FY 2011 SM-6 Block I AURs. See also the $182.3 million June 21/11 entry.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (50%); Camden, AR (23%); Boston, MA (5%); Dallas, TX (4%); Hanahan, SC (3%); Anniston, AL (2%); San Jose, CA (2%); and other areas (11%), each having less than 1%; and is expected to be complete by March 2014 (N00024-09-C-5305).

Sept 13/11: DB Datalink. Raytheon announces successful testing for their prototype dual-band datalink, allowing ships that use either Lockheed Martin SPY-1/ AEGIS or Thales Nederland’s SMART-L and/or APAR radars to employ the full range of Standard Missiles, including the SM-3.

The firm cites up to 20 eligible ships, including SPY-1/ AEGIS/ MK41 VLS operators in Norway (Fridtjof Nansen) and Spain (F100); as well as APAR/ SMART-L/ MK41 radar operators in Denmark (Iver Huitfeldt), Germany (F124 Sachsen), the Netherlands (De Zeven Provincien); and closely derived S1850 operators in France (Horizon), Italy (Horizon) and the United Kingdom (Type 45).

For discussion of the issues, the opportunity, and the ships Raytheon left out, read “Raytheon’s Datalink: A New Naval Standard for the Standard?” See also June 20-21/11 entry.

Sept 8/11: SM-3-IIA. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a sole-source $48 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification, to perform SM-3 Block IIA engineering services, design and development support, and initial hardware fabrication, including continued DACS(divert and attitude control system) development work. The award raises the total contract value from $286.5 million to $334.5 million.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ is through Oct 31/11. FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used to incrementally fund this effort, and even though the Block IIA is a joint effort with Japan, his is not a Foreign Military Sales acquisition. The MDA in Dahlgren, VA manages the contract (HQ0006-10-C-0005, PO 0017).

Sept 1/11: FTM-16E2 = SM-3-IB fail. 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 maneuver. 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.

SM-3-IB test failure

Aug 31/11: TDACS. GenCorp subsidiary Aerojet announces successful SM-3 Block 1B Throttleable Divert and Attitude Control System (TDACS) ground static testing, which is short of full qualification. Aerojet is the Standard Missile’s TDACS supplier, developing the SM-3 Block IB and Block IIA systems, and doing technology research for NGAM Block IIB. Vice President of Missile Defense, Michael Bright:

“These tests confirm the readiness of the TDACS for the upcoming [Block IB] critical flight test… We look forward to a successful flight test.”

Aug 23/11: 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 MDA 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 6/11: DSB controversy. 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 SM-3 Block IAs have a unit procurement cost of about $9 million to $10 million, that SM-3 Block IBs have an estimated unit procurement cost of about $12 million to $15 million, and that SM-3 Block IIAs have an estimated unit procurement cost of about $20 million to $24 million.”

June 21/11: SM-6 LRIP-3. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $182.3 million contract modification to previously awarded contract for FY 2011 low-rate initial production (LRIP Lot 3) of SM-6 Block I all up rounds (AUR), complete with storage and self-test container. The USA is buying 59 SM-6 Block I AURs, 35 instrumentation kits, spares and containers, and engineering/ design agent services.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (61%); Camden, AR (23%); Boston, MA (5%); Dallas, TX (4%); Hanahan, SC (3%); Anniston, AL (2%); and San Jose, CA (2%). Work is expected to be completed by June 2013 (N00024-09-C-5305). See also July 1/10 entry.

June 3/11: SM-3 IB. 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 the new AEGIS BMD 4.0.1 fire control standard 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 MDA at Dahlgren Naval Base, VA manages this contract (HQ0276-11-C-0002). See also US MDA testimony to HASC [PDF].

May 27/11: SM-3 IIB R&D. GenCorp subsidiary & rocket propulsion specialist Aerojet announces 2 contracts to develop key technologies required for the SM-3 Block IIB Next-Generation Aegis Missile.

That’s still in competition, and will be for a while, but Aerojet will work to develop improved high-performance, lightweight propulsion components for the missile’s upper stage, and also for the final Kill Vehicle’s maneuvering Divert and Attitude Controls. At this stage, however, it’s extremely preliminary stuff. They’ll identify key propulsion technologies, define and conceptualize propulsion components, and conduct limited testing to provide characterization data. Even prototyping won’t take place until the next stage.

May 26/11: SM-3 IA R&D. A $110.7 million cost-plus-award-fee modification, resulting in a new cumulative contract value of $276 million for SM-3 Block IIA engineering and development. The modification will extend contract line item number (CLIN) 0001 period of performance to from May 1/11 through Sept 30/11, the end of fiscal 2011.

FY 2011 RDT&E (research, development, test and evaluation) funds will be used for this effort with $20 million provided at time of award (HQ0276-10-C-0005, PO 0011). This announcement repeats a May 11/11 Pentagon notice.

April 26/11: SM-6 1st delivery. Raytheon announces that they’ve delivered the 1st SM-6 missile to the US Navy. Raytheon’s Air and Missile Defense Systems product line VP Frank Wyatt implies that the delivery actually took place in March, when he says that:

“Five years ago, Raytheon promised the U.S. Navy that SM-6 would be delivered in March 2011, and we delivered on that promise… and met cost expectations for system development and demonstration.”

SM-6 delivery

April 15/11: FTM-15. Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-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.

April 12/11: SM-6. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $17.7 million fixed-price incentive-fee contract modification to get ready for SM-6 production. It includes incorporation of pre-production materials and support required for FY 2011 production of “all up rounds,” i.e. missiles and smart canisters.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by June 2013. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-5305).

April 7/11: SM-3 IIB/ NGAM Phase 1. The MDA announces a trio of Phase 1 cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts to work with MDA on the Next Generation AEGIS Missile/ SM-3 Block IIB. The firms will perform concept definition and program planning, offer their competing visions for viable and affordable missile configurations, conduct trade studies, and define an executable development plan. This contract was competitively procured via publication on the Federal Business Opportunities website, and received 4 proposals. Based on previous releases, it would appear that Northrop Grumman is the odd firm out (vid. Nov 10/10 entry). Winners included:

Boeing in Chicago, IL wins a $41.2 million contract. Work will be performed in Huntsville, AL, through December 2013, and $1.4 million in FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used as incremental funding (HQ0147-11-C-0007). Boeing’s core theater missile defense offering is the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense program, run with key team members Orbital Sciences and Northrop Grumman.

Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda, MD wins a $43.3 million contract. Work will be performed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, CA, through December 2013, and $1.4 million in FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used as incremental funding (HQ0147-11-C-0008). Lockheed Martin’s core theater missile defense offering is the THAAD interceptor, and there has been talk of expanding it to a longer-range 21″ diameter weapon. Lockheed Martin’s release touts their lead roles in the AEGIS BMD 5.1 combat system and Mk.41 launcher, which will be used with the land and sea-based SM-3 Block IIBs. This contract was also announced on May 6/11; that announcement was a duplicate.

Current SM-3 incumbent Raytheon Co. in Waltham, MA wins a $42.7 million contract. Work will be performed by Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ, through December 2013, and $1.4 million in FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used as incremental funding (HQ0147-11-C-0009). See also Raytheon’s release notes that “Raytheon has delivered more than 130 SM-3s ahead of schedule and under cost as part of its contract with the Missile Defense Agency.”

SM-3 Block IIB/ NGAM, Phase 1

March 29/11: Shift to the SM-3 Block IB. The MDA takes with one hand, and gives with the other.

Contract #N00024-07-C-6119, CLIN 0004 cuts $72.3 million in funding from the SM-3 Block IA, ordering 18 missiles for $157.6 million instead of 24 missiles for $229.9 million. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and will take place from March 2011 through April 2012. This identical change was announced on March 22/11 as well. The MDA tells DID that the original plan was to go to 12 missiles, but Congress added funding for another 6 in the FY 2010 budget/supplemental rounds.

On the other hand, CLIN 0016 for the same contract pays $312.7 million to finish SM-3 Block IB development, and order 24 missiles. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and will take place from March 2011 through June 2013. FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds will be used to incrementally fund $47.8 million of this order – but the Block IB’s days as a development project are numbered. It’s about to become the main production weapon. See also Raytheon release. The GAO-12-486 report notes that this purchase of 24 Block IB missiles was later canceled.

March 3/11: SM-3 IB. The MDA announces a $75 million sole-source cost-plus-award-fee contract to Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ to support flight test mission 15 involving an SM-3 Block 1B missile, and deliver the SM-3 Block 1B missile for FTM-16. This undefinitized contract action will award contract lines items for in service engineering support and travel, and will also cover engineering development, testing, support and necessary materials.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ from February 2011 through May 2011, and $20 million in FY 2011 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) funds will be used to incrementally fund this effort (HQ0276-11-C-002).

Dec 29/10: SM-3. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $24.4 million cost-plus-award-fee modification, exercising an option to provide continued systems engineering and development of the Standard Missile-3.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ from Jan 1/11 through Jan 31/11. FY 2011 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used to obligate $5 million to provide the initial funding for this effort. The MDA manages this contract (HQ0276-08-C-0001).

Nov 29/10: The US Navy’s PEO-Integrated Warfare Systems issues a readiness and sustainment contract to BAE Systems, to establish and maintain the ship interfaces for the Standard Missile family. That includes, but is not exclusive to, the Mk41 vertical launch systems carrying the missiles. These services include systems and software engineering, systems integration, testing, and computer-aided design. The contract has a 1-year base period, with up to 4 one-year options. If all options are exercised, it will be worth $60 million. Work will be conducted at a BAE Systems Support Solutions facility in Rockville, MD, and at customer sites in Tucson, AZ and around the world.

Under the same contract, the company also works with the Navy to support Standard Missile family interfaces for Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Taiwan. BAE Systems.

Nov 22/10: Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $70 million contract modification for FY 2011 Standard Missile program engineering and technical services. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and the option will expire in January 2012 (N00024-09-C-5303).

Nov 10/10: NGAM/ SM-3 IIB. SM-3 Block IIB won’t be sole-sourced to Raytheon. Several firms have submitted proposals to the MDA under its “Next-Generation Aegis Missile” program, a.k.a. SM-3 Block IIB, which aims to provide early intercept capability against intermediate- and long-range (IRBM/ICBM) ballistic missile threats. The new missile will integrated with AEGIS BMD 5.1 equipped ships (4.0.1 is the most advanced version in current ships), and the MK 41 Vertical Launching System, both ashore and at sea.

Competitors beyond Raytheon include Boeing (GMD background), Lockheed Martin (THAAD), and Northrop Grumman (KEI). A 32-month concept definition and program planning phase will begin in 2011 to define design objectives, conduct trade studies, establish a technical baseline, and develop an executable program plan. A competitive product development phase will follow, but the SM-3 Block IIB missiles aren’t expected to be available before 2020. FedBizOpps Pre-Solicitation | Boeing | Lockheed Martin | Northrop Grumman | Brahmand.

Nov 5/10: A $34 million contract modification, exercising an option for R&D engineering and technical services to support the standard missile program. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by December 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00024-07-C-5361).

FY 2010

SM-3 block IIA work continues with Japan; Pointed debate – is SM-3 a flawed concept?; R&D for early intercept investigation re: SM-3; New Mk.125 warhead for SM-2 and SM-6 missiles; SM-6 LRIP-2 contract; SM-6 risks, cost increases; Upgraded Australian FFG-7 frigate fires SM-2; New missile production facility at Redstone Arsenal, AL.

SM-3 Block IA
from USS Decatur
(click to view full)

Sept 23/10: SM-2 spares. A $5.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for FY 2010 SM-2 common production spares. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by December 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10 (N00024-09-C-5303).

Sept 10/10: SM-1 support. A $60.5 million contract modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5341) for Standard Missile-1 (SM-1) core support, missiles, spare components and parts to Taiwan (98%) and Italy (2%). This contract modification will provide for the procurement of 1 SM-1 Block VI-B inert operational missile, 407 MK 56 regrained dual thrust rocket motors (DTRMs), and 1 option to procure an additional 3 DTRMs.

Work will be performed in Camden, AR (45%); Sacramento, CA (45%); and Tucson, AZ (10%). Work is expected to be complete by August 2013.

Sept 8/10: SM-3-IIA R&D. A $165.2 million cost-plus-award-fee with technical/schedule performance incentive contract, covering SM-3 Block IIA Preliminary Design Review efforts. This may include engineering services and material for systems engineering, design and development support, and initial hardware fabrication for the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA missile.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by March 31/11. FY 2010 RDTE(Research, development, test and evaluation) funds will be used to for this effort, with initial incremental funding of $40 million (HQ0276-10-C-0005). Raytheon release.

July 19/10: Industrial. Raytheon announces plans to build an all-up-round Standard missile production facility at the US Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL. The 70,000-square-foot facility will be for final assembly and testing of SM-3 and SM-6 missiles. Construction will begin in 2010.

July 1/10: SM-6 LRIP-2. A $65.3 million contract modification for low-rate initial production of FY 2010 SM-6 ERAM Block I all-up-rounds, instrumentation kits, design agent services, spares and containers.

Raytheon informs DID that there are actually several contracts involved, worth up to $368 million. They finalize FY 2009 (Low Rate initial Production Lot 1) work for 19 missiles under an existing letter contract, award FY 2010 (LRIP-2) production of 11 missiles plus spares pending Congressional clearance, and add an option for 59 LRIP Lot 3 missiles in FY 2010, as the firm moves to ramp up to full production in 2012. System and design engineering efforts are also part of these awards. See also May 20/10 contract for long-lead items.

Raytheon will deliver the first missiles in early 2011, with initial operational capability set for March 2011. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (50%); Camden, AR (23%); Boston, MA (5%); Dallas, TX (4%); Hanahan, SC (3%); Anniston, AL (2%); San Jose, CA (2%); and other locations (11%). Work is expected to be complete by December 2012 (N00024-09-C-5305). See also Raytheon.

FY 2010: 11-70 SM-6s

May 24/10: SM-3 R&D. A $182.6 million cost-plus-award-fee modification for Raytheon to continue systems engineering and development for new SM-3 variants.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, from May 2010 through December 2010. FY 2010 Research, development, test and evaluation funding will be used to incrementally fund this effort in the amount of $56.2 million. The MDA manages this contract (HQ0276-08-C-0001).

May 20/10: SM-6 lead-in. A $7.2 million fixed-price incentive-fee modification to a previously awarded contract, buying long-lead materials for FY 2010 production of SM-6 Block I all up rounds.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by June 30/12 (N00024-09-C-5305).

May 17/10: SM-3 dispute. The New York Times runs an article critical of the Navy’s SM-3 program. “Review Cites Flaws in U.S. Antimissile Program” alleges that the MDA’s definition of “successful intercept” is essentially fraudulent, because it does not require a direct hit on the warhead, and cites instances in 1991 where a hit on the missile still resulted in a warhead landing and detonating. They also claim that the technologies used cannot reliably pick the warhead out from simple countermeasures, from “chuffing” rockets to debris fields. Instead of 84% test intercept success, the paper argues that the figure should be 10-20%. Dr. Postol, a former Pentagon science adviser who forcefully (and correctly) criticized the performance of the Patriot system in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, is categorical:

“The system is highly fragile and brittle and will intercept warheads only by accident, if ever.”

The military does not often refer to Wile E. Coyote in public responses, but it does here. The MDA adds that the NY Times chose not to publish extremely relevant information they had been given, in order to push the paper’s version of the story. Excerpts:

“…whether it’s a unitary target or a separating target – [the impact] completely obliterates the warhead and the missile and spreads a debris field along the path of the original trajectory… pieces that… we’ve seen after and intercept, some of them have only been maybe two or three inches across. Even in the case of the satellite that we had to shoot down, there was nothing larger than a football… contrary to what Doctors Postol and Lewis said, after being hit, the – well, the interceptor does not pass through the body of the – of the target missile. That’s akin to, you know, Wile E. Coyote running through a glass or plate glass and leaving the exact outline of his body after he goes through.”

The MDA adds that Postol & Lewis made their assessment without any access to the base data that showed “the complete destruction” of the target missiles, adding that even the public photos they cite cast doubt on their claims. Tests against unitary targets where the warhead does not separate did hit what they were aimed at. MDA also contends that the tests without warheads for the first 3 tests (FM-2/3/4) using prototype interceptors were a sensible move, reducing costs for tests that aimed only to prove that missiles could be intercepted – and did. They also point out that the NY Times was told all of these things, and chose not to publish them. In terms of the overall record, and lethality tests:

“Since 2002, a total of 19 SM-3 missiles have been fired in 16 different test events resulting in 16 intercepts against threat-representative full-size and more challenging subscale unitary and full-size targets with separating warheads. In addition, a modified Aegis BMD/SM-3 system successfully destroyed a malfunctioning U.S. satellite by hitting the satellite in the right spot to negate the hazardous fuel tank… From 1991 through 2010 the MDA has conducted 66 full scale hit-to-kill lethality sled tests and 138 sub-scale hit-to-kill light gas gun tests covering all MDA interceptor types against nuclear, unitary chemical, chemical submunitions, biological bomblets and high-explosive submunition threats. Eighteen of these tests were specifically devoted to the current SM-3 kinetic warhead system.”

See: Lewis & Postol’s May 2010 Arms Control today article and PDF on MIT’s site | NY Times article | DoD roundtable audio | MDA written response | DoD Buzz | WIRED Danger Room #1 | WIRED Danger Room #2.

May 10/10: A $54.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to deliver SM-3 Block IA spares common and unique material for U.S. and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) manufacturing. The purchase will use $15 million of FY 2010 Research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) funding, and $7.9 million of FY 2010 Foreign Military Sales monies, to incrementally fund this effort in the amount of $22.9 million.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ from May 2010 through March 2011. The MDA manages this contract (N00024-07-C-6119).

May 3/10: Raytheon announces that its SM-6 ERAM missile will begin sea-launched flight testing this month. This would represent an acceleration of the program, based on the GAO’s March 30/10 report. According to Raytheon, the SM-6 is on-time and on-budget, despite the April 1/10 SAR report’s noted increases. Asked by DID about this divergence, Raytheon replied that:

“The report referenced projects costs (including government costs) to manage the program through 2019. We stand by our statement that Raytheon Missile Systems SM-6 is on schedule and on budget through five years of System Development and Demonstration.”

The firm believes that they are on track to achieve the SM-6’s Initial Operational Capability milestone in 2011, with 5 successful land-based flight tests and manufacturing now in low rate initial production.

April 9/10: A $6.5 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-5374) for 6 more SM-2 all-up-round (AUR) missiles; AN/DKT-71A telemetric data transmitting sets; 10 guidance section spares, 9 SCU spares, 36 shipping containers, 30 battery spares, 1638 Innovasic chips; and associated data.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (74%); Andover, MA (18%); Camden, AR (5%); and Farmington, NM (3%); and is expected to be complete by December 2010.

April 1/10: The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. The SM-6 program is listed, due to cost increases:

“Program costs increased $645.6 million (+10.8%) from $5,954.4 million to $6,600.0 million, due to an increase in known missile component costs and refinement of the production cost estimate (+$563.8 million), an increase to fully fund initial spares (+$225.3 million), and a stretch-out of the procurement buy profile from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2019 (+$30.6 million). These increases were partially offset by the application of revised escalation indices (-$174.4 million).”

SAR: SM-6 cost increases

March 30/10: GAO report. The US GAO audit office delivers its 8th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. The SM-3 and SM-6 missile programs both come in for comment:

“The Aegis BMD program is putting the SM-3 Block IB at risk for cost growth and schedule delays by planning to begin manufacturing in 2010 before its critical technologies have been demonstrated in a realistic environment. This risk has been deemed acceptable by the MDA… Prototypes of these four critical technologies – the throttleable divert and attitude control system [TDACS], all reflective optics, two-color seeker, and kinetic warhead advanced signal processor – have not completed developmental testing in a relevant environment. Aegis program officials told us that the integrated ground test would not be completed until late 2010. In addition, the first target intercept flight test will not occur until the second quarter of fiscal year 2011… Aegis BMD program officials… stated that the SM-3 Block IB full rate production decision is scheduled for 2012 – after several flight tests. The procurement that is mentioned in this report is for test rounds to conduct developmental and operational flight testing… may also be deployed if a security situation demands…

“The Aegis program completed the system design review for the Block IIA in fiscal year 2009 after a delay of over 5 months. The first operational test of the Block IIA is planned for the third quarter of fiscal year 2014.”

“Land-based [SM-6 ERAM] developmental flight tests against targets representing anti-ship cruise missiles were successful. However, during a developmental test in January 2009, the SM-6 missile failed to launch. Post-test failure investigation identified an issue with the tactical seeker batteries which caused mission computer failure. The contractor implemented corrective actions… in August 2009 it was retested successfully. The SM-6 has not yet been flight tested at sea. As of January 2010, the first operational flight test at sea is scheduled for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2010, following a series of… tests (DT / OT) scheduled to begin in the second quarter of fiscal year 2010… The SM-6 program is pursuing a concurrent testing and production strategy that could result in costly retrofits and schedule delays if unexpected design changes are required as a result of testing… the program has not yet flight tested the SM-6 at sea or tested one key capability – receiving in-flight updates from another Aegis ship (engage-on-remote).”

Feb 16/10: A $143.9 million modification covering FY 2010 production of SM-2 all-up-round missiles, missiles serviced under the service life extension program, section-level spares, post production spares, shipping containers, and associated data.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (74%); Andover, MA (18%); Camden, AR (5%); and Farmington, NM (3%). Work is expected to be complete by December 2012 (N00024-09-C-5301).

FY 2010: SM-2s

Feb 2/10: BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services, Inc. in Rockville, MD receives a $9.1 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract for continued design agent and technical engineering support to the Standard Missile Program’s Weapons Direction Systems. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $12.2 million.

This contract combines purchases for the US Navy (24.7%), the government of Australia (73.6%) as a Foreign Military Sales Program and the governments of Germany (0.8%) and the Netherlands (0.9%) under Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). Work will be performed in Rockville, MD (85%) and Sydney, Australia (15%), and is expected to be complete by May 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $147,157 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-10-C-5345).

Jan 14/10: Raytheon announces success in the SM-6’s 4th guided test vehicle launch, clearing the way for at-sea testing in 2010.

Jan 4/10: Warheads. GenCorp subsidiary Aerojet announces that it has been selected to provide the MK 125 warhead for SM-2 and SM-6 missiles, with deliveries beginning in 2010. Program management and manufacturing will take place at Aerojet’s modern load assembly and pack facility in Camden, AR. Aerojet VP of Tactical Programs John Myers said that:

“The competitive selection of Aerojet to provide this critical warhead is a clear indication that our efforts to cut costs have been effective, while continuing to provide high-quality and on-schedule deliveries. The MK 125 consolidates our position as Raytheon and the U. S. Navy’s major energetic systems provider for the SM-2 and SM-6 missiles, complementing our MK 104 and MK 72 propulsion programs.”

Dec 18/09: A $71.2 million modification, exercising options for engineering and technical services to support SM-2 production. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by June 2012 (N00024-09-C-5303).

Dec 8/09: SM-3-IIA extension. A $159.5 million modification under cost-plus-award-fee contract HQ0276-08-C-0001, contract line item number (CLIN) 0003, extending its performance period for an additional 10 months to Aug 31/10. Under this contract modification, Raytheon will continue the SM-3 Block IIA cooperative program’s technology development. Their work will be performed in Tucson, AZ.

At the time of award, $4.2 million is committed using the Missile Development Agency’s FY 2010 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds. The rest will be allocated over the contract period, as needed.

Nov 17/09: Early BMD intercept? Northrop Grumman announces a 3-month $4.7 million task order from the MDA, under an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity Joint National Integration Center Research and Development Contract. Under the Sept 29/09 task order, the firm will help the MDA integrate and demonstrate an early-intercept capability using existing SM-3 and GBI missiles.

The Early Intercept effort aims to address renewed focus by the U.S. Department of Defense on dealing with large raids and countermeasures. Early Intercept will demonstrate an integrated architecture of early warning sensors, including space, airborne, land and sea; regional fire control and battle manager systems; and secure communications. This integrated architecture will enable current systems to engage threats earlier in the battle space to improve protection against large raids and facilitate “shoot-look-shoot” opportunities.

Northrop Grumman will begin by assessing existing sensor and battle management systems’ ability to support missile interception in the difficult boost phase, including technology developed for programs like the now-canceled Kinetic Energy Interceptor and battle management projects. The firm will plan demonstration experiments, leading toward the design and development of an experimental, plug-and-play architecture for battle management, command and control.

Nov 5/09: Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $47.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5361) for engineering and technical services to support the Standard Missile program. This contract is for Round Design Agent engineering and technical services for the design integrity, and total systems integration of the missile round and its components. Work will be performed in Tucson and is expected to be complete by October 2010.

According to the DefenseLINK release, work under this modification includes “flowdown of top level requirements, predicting and monitoring missile performance and reliability, internal/external interfaces, interfaces with ship combat systems, test and packaging, handling, storage and transportation equipment, improving missile design, and maintaining the technical data package.”

FY 2009

SM-3s will be deployed on land, too; Multiple-Kill Vehicle contract cancellation hurts SM-3 block IIA program with Japan; Multi-national SM-2 contract for FY 2009-2010; SM-6 completes final development fight test, begins initial LRIP manufacturing; SM-2 block IV and IIA successfully beat a “Midway high-low” attack.

SM-2 Launch w. AEGIS
(click to view larger)

Sept 30/09: FY09/10 SM-2s. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $206.1 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-5301). It covers SM-2 related American and Foreign Military Sales buys, in FY 2009 and FY 2010 (options). The order is for 402 SM-2 all-up rounds, 40 AN/DKT-71A telemetric data transmitting sets (TDTS), section level spares, post production spares, shipping containers, and associated data.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (74%); Andover, MA (18%); Camden, AR (5%); and Farmington, NM (3%), and is expected to be complete by December 2011.

FY 2009: 402 SM-2s

Sept 29/09: Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $7 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5361) for R&D Level of effort engineering and technical services to support the standard missile program. This ceiling increase is to permit the continuation of several ongoing efforts which include prototype design, development integration and testing. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by December 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

While the announcement doesn’t specify, that kind of RDT&E is underway for the SM-3 Block 1B, SM-3 Block II, and SM-6 missiles.

Sept 29/09: Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $6.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-5303) for the delivery of common spares material in support of FY 2009 SM-2 program. Common spares are those items purchased or manufactured during the production of SM-2 all up rounds. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (72%) and Camden, AR (28%), and is expected to be complete by December 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Sept 17/09: EPAA = Land-based SM-3s. The Obama administration announces revised plans for its European missile defense architecture. Instead of positioning Boeing’s Ground-Based Interceptors, which could intercept even the longest-range ballistic missiles, they choose an architecture based around the SM-3. Read “BMD, in from the Sea: SM-3 Missiles Going Ashore” for full, ongoing coverage.

EPAA – land-based SM-3s

Sept 04/09: SM-6 LRIP-1. A $93.9 million fixed price incentive fee, firm fixed price contract to begin low-rate initial production of the FY 09 Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) Block I All Up Rounds (AURs). This contract provides for the procurement of 19 SM-6 Block I AURs, 20 SM-6 Block I AUR instrumentation kits, and SM-6 Block I spares and containers.

Raytheon will perform the work in Tucson, AZ (50%); Camden, AR (23%); Boston, MA (5%); Dallas, TX (4%); Hanahan, SC (3%); Anniston, AL (2%); San Jose, CA (2%); and other locations (11%), and expects to complete it by March 2012. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-09-C-5305). See also Raytheon release.

LRIP for SM-6

Aug 28/09: SM-6 test. Raytheon completes the SM-6’s final System Design & Development (SDD) phase flight test. By performing a series of pre-programmed maneuvers, the SM-6 missile was pushed to the limits of its performance, allowing the US Navy to gather simulation validation data. Technically, this is the 3rd SDD test. A “4th” test, which was not in the contract, was completed in May 2009: the Advanced Area Defense Interceptor (AADI) test, where an SM-6 was launched using a targeting cue from outside the “ship.”

Aug 18/09: SM-3 to land. In a presentation at the 2009 Space and Missile Defense Conference & Exhibition in Huntsville, AL, Raytheon announces that it is developing a land-based system SM-3 system that would work with THAAD’s Raytheon-made AN/TPY-2 long range radar, and could be ready as early as 2013.

The presentation states that this solution could provide Israel a near-term solution to counter ballistic missiles from Iran, given the deployment of TPY-2 radars in Israel by the US government. It is also reportedly under consideration for use in Europe as the missile component of planned deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic.

It’s no accident that this comes just as Boeing announces a “mobile GBI” proposal for Europe by 2015, and Lockheed Martin has gone farther by submitting a modified THAAD proposal to the MDA for consideration in the 2011 budget. Lockheed Martin has already invested privately funded R&D into a 21″ wide THAAD variant that would nearly double the Army interceptor missile’s range. Current SM-3s are 13.5″ in diameter, current THAADs are 14.5″, and the proposed SM-3 Block II being developed in partnership with Japan will also be 21″ in diameter. It would appear that a competition for the forward-deployed theater defense role may be brewing. Arutz Sheva | Reuters | Aviation Week re: shifts in doctrine | Aviation Week re: THAAD | Jerusalem Post re: Boeing’s “mobile GBI”.

Aug 4/09: MKV ripples. The Pentagon’s decision to cancel Lockheed Martin’s Multiple Kill Vehicle program has contributed to a big jump in the cost of Raytheon’s SM-3 IIA interceptor system now under development with Japan. The system is now expected to cost $3.1 billion by the time it is deployed in 2014, an increase of $700 million over earlier $2.4 billion estimates. Since the change lies entirely on the American side, the USA is expected to shoulder the extra costs. AIA SmartBrief | Aviation Week | NTI Global Security Newswire.

MKV program kill hits SM-3-IIA

Aug 4/09: Colin Clark of DOD Buzz publishes a short video interview with Raytheon VP of advanced missile defense and directed energy Mike Booen. The interview took place at the 2009 Paris Air Show, and the topic is the $50 million FY 2010 US military budget request to study land-based SM-3 deployment.

July 16/09: SDACS. Aerojet General Corporation of Rancho Cordova, CA received a modification for $5.6 million under cost-plus-fixed-fee contract #HQ0006-08-C-0006. They will design and test prototype solid propellant divert thruster components, a composite solid propellant gas generator, and case structure as part of the SM-3 Block IIA development program. Block IIA is the next generation “high divert” variant, which will combine a wider, longer-range missile with a larger diameter kill vehicle that’s more maneuverable and carries a better seeker.

Work will be performed in Rancho Cordova, CA from Ju1y 1/09 – March 29/10. So far, $3.9 million is committed using FY 2009 Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds. The MDA manages this contract (HQ0006-08-C-0006).

July 13/09: SM-3 Block IB CDR. Raytheon announces that the Standard Missile-3 Block IB program has completed its critical design review, clearing the way for a 2010 flight test and deployment.

The release also includes dates for the SM-3’s 12 successful hit to kill interceptions so far.


May 28/08: FY09 SM-2s. An $87.2 million cost-reimbursable-letter contract to buy long lead material in support of the FY 2009 production of SM-2 Block IIIB all up rounds (AURs). These long delivery lead-time materials will support buys of 50 American SM-2 Block IIIB AURs, 104 Block IIIB ORDALT missile rounds, and 69 SM-2 Block IIIA/B AURs for international customers.

Raytheon will perform the work in Andover, MA (37%); Camden, AR (36%); The Netherlands (14%); St Petersburg, FL (5%); Middleton, CN (3%); El Segundo, CA (3%); and Reisterstown, MD (2%), and expects to complete it by December 2011. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-09-C-5301).

April 27/09: SM-3 – Land, ho? Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reports that the MDA has started studying a new missile defense system capable of launching the Standard Missile-3 from the ground. See also Land-Based SM-3s for Israel?

March 24-26/09: SM-2 high/low test. During the Stellar Daggers 2009 exercise, the USS Benfold [DDG-65] fires a pair of SM-2 surface-to-air missiles against 2 very different targets. A ballistic missile target was launched from San Nicolas Island, CA, while a sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile target was launched from Point Mugu, CA.

An SM-2 Block IV NT-SBT missile intercepted and destroyed the ballistic missile warhead during the last phase of its descent, while an SM-2 Block IIIA intercepted and destroyed the anti-ship missile. This was the 3rd test of the modified SM-2 Block IV’s terminal defense capability against short range ballistic missiles. US Navy | Raytheon.

March 9/09: A $30 million modification to previously awarded contract for FY 2009 engineering and technical services to support SM-2 export customers.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ., and is expected to be complete by March 2010 (N00024-09-C-5303).

Jan 12/09: A $44.3 million modification to previously awarded contract N00024-07-C-5361 for engineering and technical services in support of Standard Missile research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) programs. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by December 2009.

According to the DefenseLINK release, work under this modification includes “flowdown of top level requirements; predicting and monitoring missile performance and reliability; internal external interfaces; interfaces with ship combat systems; interfaces with test and packaging, handling, storage and transportation equipment; improving missile design; and maintaining the technical data package.”

Nov 20/08: A $40 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract for engineering and technical services to support Standard Missile production programs. This contract includes options which would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $334.4 million if exercised.

This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (64%) and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program countries (36%). Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ; and is expected to be complete by November 2009 (N00024-09-C-5303).

FY 2008

SM-3 kills a satellite; SM-3 contracts & tests; Multi-national SM-2 contract; SM-6 processor replacement contract, 1st test firing; 100% Earned Value Management score for Raytheon.

SM-2 Block IV:
stage separation
(click to view full)

Sept 30/08: FY08 SM-2s. A $422.6 million firm-fixed-price cost plus fixed fee contract for the 419 SM-2 All-Up-Round (AUR) missiles, 96 AN/DKT-71A Telemetric Data Transmitting Sets (TDTS), section level spares, post production spares, 265 shipping containers, and associated data. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $428.7 million. This is an international purchase that combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (22.34%) and the governments of Japan (5.75%), South Korea (37.99%), Taiwan (33.91%) and the Netherlands, (0.01%).

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (74%); Andover, MA (18%); Camden, AK (5%); and Farmington, NM (3%), and is expected to be complete by December 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $9.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-08-C-5347).

FY 2008: 419 SM-2s

Sept 5/08: EVM 100%. Raytheon Missile Systems announces a 100% score on an Earned Value Management (EVM) Systems compliance review by the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Management Agency. DCMA auditors found that the firm passed all 32 guidelines, which is currently a rare level of performance among major defense firms.

Earned Value Management is a key project management methodology used by America’s Department of Defense, and the SM-6 program was one of 2-3 programs that led the way for Raytheon. Firm sources tell DID that the US Navy encouraged Raytheon not to compromise of EVM, which helped by removing potential conflicts between customer demands and the need for training. Raytheon’s upper management also made a decision to make the financial and time investments required, in order to strengthen that capability within the firm for future projects. That commitment included monthly meetings that spend a full day conducting EVM reviews, in addition to other measures described in the release.

Raytheon EVM 100%

Sept 5/08: SM-6 test. The U.S. Navy conducted its 2nd firing test of the Standard Missile-6 extended range missile, which intercepted a BQM-74 aerial target drone. The active seeker, employing the U.S. Navy’s legacy command system, autonomously acquired and engaged the target.

Note that the SM-6 fills the short range SM-2’s role; its range is extended in comparison to the SM-2, not the longer-range SM-3. Raytheon release.

July 1/08: A $13.2 million modification to a cost plus fixed fee contract for the Processor Replacement Program, Phase I. This project will replace the data processor module that’s common to both the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-air missile and SM-6, which shares its independent radar homing technologies. The problem is that the AMRAAM Data Processor (ADP) and the Input-Output application specific integrated circuits (I/O ASIC) in the guidance section electronics aren’t manufactured any more. The electronics industry has much shorter life cycles than the military does, so the USAF is looking to replace these obsolete parts and do any redesign required.

This effort supports the US military, and foreign military sales to Greece and Taiwan. All funds have already been committed (FA8675-07-C-0055, P00012).

June 23/08: SM-6, 1st test. Raytheon announces the first test of its new SM-6 missile, launched from the Navy’s Desert Ship at the White Sands Missile Range, NM. The SM-6 successfully intercepted a BQM-74 aerial drone, using its active seeker to find and target the drone on its own.

FY 2008: 419 SM-2s

June 6/08: FTM-14: SM-2-IV NT-SBT. The USA’s AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie [CG 70] uses a modified SM-2 Block IV missile to hit a short-range ballistic missile target about 100 miles WNW of Kauai, Hawaii. FTM-14 test objectives included evaluation of: the BMDS ability to intercept and kill a short range ballistic missile target with the Aegis BMD, modified with the terminal mission capability; the modified SM-2 Blk IV missile using SPY-1 cue; and system-level integration of the BMDS. FTM-14 marks the 14th overall successful intercept in 16 attempts, for the Aegis BMD program, and the 2nd successful intercept by an SM-2 Blk IV.

The SM-2 Block IV adds a rocket booster and additional guidance technologies to the SM-2, giving it anti-ballistic missile capability at shorter ranges than the SM-3, during the last phase of a missile or warhead’s descent within the atmosphere. The program was canceled in 2001, but revived as the Near Term Sea-Based Terminal weapon (NT-SBT). This test looks to keep it going. US Navy.

SM-2 Block IV NT-SBT test success

Feb 20/08: Satellite Killer. The U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga Class AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie [CG 70] has participated in a number of successful ABM tests, but today was something new. A modified SM-3 Block 1A missile fired from the cruiser destroyed a National Reconnaissance Office satellite traveling at 17,000 mph, about 247 km/ 150 miles over the Pacific Ocean. The satellite was no longer working and falling out of orbit, and contained toxic hydrazine fuel that could pose a health hazard if it hit a populated area. President George W. Bush authorized the Navy to bring down the satellite, in order to avoid that scenario, and the missile appears to have hit the fuel tank itself in a very exacting shot. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen:

“What we’ve tried to do from the beginning was be as open as possible about the intention… We are taking the shot at what we hope will be an altitude that will minimize the amount of space debris that will occur. We’ve engaged governments throughout the world to tell them what our intentions are. We have been very transparent, very open in that regard.”

Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Michael Stuart noted that:

“The amazing thing about using it in this scenario is that it required alterations to not only the tracking assets involved, but also the flight characteristics of the missile itself. The orbit of the satellite was nothing like that of a missile shot from earth and designed to return to earth.”

Perhaps, but after spending $30-60 million, it worked just fine. The capability was always obvious as a potential spin-off, but the wider acknowledgment that comes with a successful test makes this an important inflection point. See also Navy photo essay | Navy satellite impact Video [MPG] | US SecDef Gates comment | Slate looks at the modification effort | The Christian Science Monitor examines the factors driving the decision | India Daily looks at the China/Russian angle | Lexington Institute analysis.

SM-3 Satellite Killer

Feb 15/08: FY08 SM-3s. A $1.016 billion cost-plus-incentive-fee sole source contract modification to manufacture 75 SM-3 block IA missile for the United States, and 27 SM-3 Block IA missiles for Foreign Military Sales “in support of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System” (N00024-07-C-6119). That almost certainly means sales to Japan, which has successfully tested the SM-3 from JS Kongo (see Dec 17/07 entry in exports section).

The principal place of performance is Tucson, AZ, but work will also be performed in Elkton, MD by major subcontractor Alliant Techsystems, and is expected to be complete by February 2012. FY 2007 research and development and Japanese Foreign Military Sales funds will be used for the initial funding, and will expire at the end of the fiscal year. The contract modification will be incrementally funded, committing $92.8 million at the outset – $85.9M FMS funds and $6.9M FY 2007 R&D funds.

FY 2008: 102 SM-3-IAs

Nov 16/07: Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, AZ received a $25.5 million cost-plus-award-fee sole source contract modification to revise the statement of work for the manufacture of 29 SM-3 Block IA missiles (20 US, 9 Foreign Military Sales) plus one set of spare sections for the AEGIS ballistic missile defense program. See the June 6/07 DSCA request in the “Foreign Military Sales” section; the 9 are destined for Japan.

The principal place of performance is Tucson, AZ. Work will also be performed in Elkton, MD by major subcontractor Alliant Techsystems and is expected to be complete by July 2008. FY 2007 research and development funds will be used, the contract will be incrementally funded, and at award it will obligate $8.5 million. Contract funds will expire at the end of the fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC issued the contract (N00024-03-C-6111).

Nov 8/07: Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ received a $37.3 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5361) for engineering and technical services in support of Standard Missile research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) programs. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by September 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $117,743 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

FY 2007

SM-3 orders from USA & Japan; Multi-national SM-2 contract; 1st SM-2 SBT/Block IV+ delivery;

Co-operative defense
(click to view full)

Aug 27/07: SM-3 R&D. A $142 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification for engineering and technical services for the continued missile design and development, fabrication, test, and flight test support for the SM-3 as part of the Navy’s AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System program. The contract modification will be incrementally funded, and at award will obligate $48.6 million of FY 2007 research and development funds. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by December 2007 (N00024-03-C-6111).

July 20/07: FY07 SM-2s. A $201 million firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract for FY 2007 SM-2 production requirements of 190 missiles, 121 shipping containers, spares and associated data for the US (73.12%) and the Governments of Japan (22.17%); Germany (3.28%); Spain (1.10%); and Canada (0.33%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz. (83%); Andover, Mass. (14%); Camden, Ark. (2%); and Farmington, N.M. (1%), and is expected to be complete by September 2009 (N00024-06-C-5350).

FY 2007: 190 SM-2s

July 19/07: SM-2 Block IV/ SBT. Raytheon announces delivery of the first Near Term Sea-Based Terminal weapon (a modified SM-2 Block IV) to the U.S. Navy for use in defending against short-range ballistic missile threats. Raytheon, the Navy and Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab partnered to update the Standard Missile 2 Block IV weapon. The idea is to use these missiles as a near term solution and supplement “until a more capable system can be fielded.

Unlike the SM-3, SM-2 SBT is aimed at the very last phase of a ballistic missile’s flight, just before impact. It will fulfill a naval role similar to the Patriot PAC-3 on land, therefore, acting as a second line of defense against incoming missiles. Raytheon release.

SM-2-IV NT-SBT delivered

May 14/07: SM-3 lead-in. A sole source $140.7 million cost contract for long-lead material required for the manufacture and delivery of 36 Standard Missile-3 Block IA missiles to meet U.S. and Foreign Military Sales requirements in support of the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System.

Fiscal Year 2007 research and development and Foreign Military Sales funds will be used. The contract will be incrementally funded, and at award will obligate $20 million FY-07 research and development and $5 million Japan Foreign Military Sales funds. Work will be performed at Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by May 2008 (N00024-07-C-6119).

April 19/07: SM-2 upgrade. Raytheon Company and the U.S. Navy announce that they have successfully completed a major update to Standard Missile-2 (SM-2). The improvement, called a “Maneuverability Upgrade,” provides SM-2 with substantially increased performance against new, anti-ship weapons. See also the April 5/06 entry below.

The team included representatives from the U.S. Navy Standard Missile program office and Naval Weapons Station/ Seal Beach and a cross-section of manufacturing and engineering employees from Raytheon Missile Systems. Raytheon release.

SM-2 finishes major upgrade

Jan 30/07: An estimated $30.6 million cost-plus award-fee contract for engineering and technical services in support of Standard Missile Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) programs. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete in January 2008. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-07-C-5361).

Dec 7/06: SM-3. A $20.6 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification for the development and procurement of additional tooling and test equipment in support of the continued development and delivery of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IA missiles to meet U.S. and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) requirements in support of the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system. The work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by November 2007 (N00024-03-C-6111).

Nov 6/06: SM-2. An estimated $39.3 million cost-plus-award-fee modification to previously awarded contract N00024-03-C-5330, to provide additional engineering and technical services to support SM-2 production efforts for Fiscal Year 2007 U.S. requirements. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by February 2008.

FY 2006 and Earlier

SM-3 orders for USA, Japan; Boeing delivers 1st SM-3 block IA warhead; Multi-national SM-2 order; Upgraded SM-2 block IV tested.

SM-3 Launch –
note rocket booster
(click to view full)

Aug 16/06: FY06 SM-3s. A $265.9 cost-plus-award/incentive fee contract modification for 29 SM-3 Block IA missiles to be produced for the United States and Japan and for flight test support, engineering activity, system upgrades and continued cooperative research and development work with the MDA and Japan. The initial delivery order is for $168 million.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by December 2009 (N00024-03-C-6111). The Japanese order may well be related to the June 5-6, 2006 item in the Foreign Sales section, below.

FY 2006: 29 SM-3-IA

Aug 4/06: Spares. An $8 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-5350) for FY06 SM-2 Block IIIB, post-production spares, and FY04 SM-2 common production spares to support of maintenance and repair of shipboard missiles. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (83%); Andover, MA (14%); Camden, AZ (2%); and Farmington, NM (1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2008.

July 27/06: TDACS. Raytheon Company and Aerojet successfully demonstrate the capability of a solid Throttling Divert and Attitude Control System (TDACS) for the SM-3 in a ground test at Aerojet’s Sacramento, CA facility. Four of the 10 proportional TDACS pintle thrusters move the kinetic warhead sideways while the 6 other thrusters maintain the seeker’s angular alignment and view of the target. On-board electronic controls and software throttle the combustion pressure up and down to alternate between high thrust and coast periods. In addition to the improved intercept capability this gives the hit-to-kill payload, TDACS is also easier to produce, thus holding the potential for significant cost savings. Raytheon release.

June 22/06: As North Korea prepares to test-launch a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile reportedly capable of hitting the US mainland, the US & Japan successfully conducted a joint missile intercept test off of Hawaii using the USS Shiloh [CG 67] guided missile cruiser and its upgraded AEGIS radar & combat system, firing an SM-3 missile. The test was the 7th successful intercept in 8 tests during the current program.

The USS Lake Erie [CG 70], USS Paul Hamilton [DDG 60], & USS Milius [DDG 69] also participated, as did the Japanese Kongo Class destroyer JS Kirishima [DDG-174], which has installed AEGIS Long Range surveillance & Tracking 3.0 but no engagement capability. Testing also included receipt of target data on USS Shiloh from a land-based radar, as well as a second CG-47 Class cruiser that used the flight test to collect data and further the development of an upgraded SPY-1B radar with a new signal processor. See Navy News article | Lockheed Martin release.

June 8/06: Boeing has delivered the first Block 1A Standard Missile-3 Kinetic Warhead (SM-3 KW) to Raytheon. Boeing has been partnered with Raytheon on the SM-3 program since 1996, and is under subcontract to integrate and test the KW hardware. They are responsible for the KW avionics, guidance and control hardware and software, as well as the ejection subsystem. In addition to SM-3 round integration, Raytheon provides the KW infrared seeker, signal and image processor, and the integrated KW software. Boeing release.

May 26/06: SM-3 R&D. An estimated $424 million cost-plus-award fee contract modification (N00024-03-C-6111). It covers the continued systems engineering, design, development, fabrication, and testing of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IA and IB Missiles for the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense Program being conducted by the USA, with some cooperation from Japan. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by May 14, 2008. Initial funding of $96 million has been issued to support engineering services, engineering studies and technology development technical instruction efforts. See June 7, 2006 corporate release.

April 5/06: SM-2 SBT test. A Raytheon Company Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IV with control systems upgrades was successfully flight tested against a subsonic target at White Sands Missile Range, NM on Feb. 16, 2006. The SM-2 Block IV upgrade includes a new steering control section, new thrust vector actuator assembly for the boost rocket motor and a new primary missile battery as well as upgrades to the guidance and control software. The upgrade was completed as part of a value engineering project at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ, and “will result in a significant cost reduction” by making the missiles more reliable and easier to produce. Raytheon also notes that these improvements will be applied across the Standard missile family to the SM-3 and SM-6 as well.

March 27/06: SM-6. A $9 million modification to previously awarded contract N00024-04-C-5344 exercises an option for engineering and technical services to support the STANDARD missile-6 (SM-6) program. Engineering & technical services include initial performance studies, conceptual design studies, functional design, preliminary design, detailed design and development and round integration studies for potential future improvements. The Contractor shall also provide design assessments as necessary for current improvements. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (80%); Camden, AK (15%); and Andover, MA (5%), and is expected to be complete by December 2011.

launches SM-3
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Feb 27/06: Spares. A $17.8 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-5350) exercises the United States option for the procurement of the FY06 STANDARD Missile-2 BLOCK IIIB Spares. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (83%); Andover, MZ (14%); Camden, AK (2%); and Navajo Agricultural Products Industries (NAPI) in Farmington, NM (1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2008.

Feb 15/06: FY06 SM-2s. A $122.2 million modification under a previously awarded contract exercising an option for FY 2006 production of 75 Standard Missile-2 Block IIIB All-Up-Rounds (AUR), 80 SM-2 Block IIIB Service-Life Extension Program (SLEP) Retrofits, and 125 AN/DKT-71A Telemetric Data Transmitting Sets (TDTS) with installation kits. The contract modification will also provide for royalties associated with AUR and SLEP equipment. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (83%); Andover, MZ (14%); Camden, AK (2%); and Farmington, NM (1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2008 (N00024-06-C-5350).

See also the May 4 Raytheon release. Note that “all-up-rounds” include the missile, its launch container, and related equipment that allows for rapid installation of the naval missiles in vertical launch systems.

FY 2006: 75 SM-2s

Feb 15/06: A $7.9 million option under another previously awarded Raytheon contract (N00024-01-C-5306) to provide FY 2006 Depot Level Maintenance Facility work in support of Standard Missile 2 (SM-2), Guided Missile Program. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (100%), and is expected to be complete by the end of September 2006 – which is also the end of the US Defense Department’s fiscal year.

Jan 18/06: Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ received a cost-only contract modification that covers the procurement of long lead material and is estimated at $21.7 million. It will be used to build special tooling and test equipment for Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IA Missiles for the AEGIS naval Ballistic Missile Defense program. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and Camden, AR, and is expected to be complete by April 2006. This contract was not competitively awarded by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-03-C-6111).

July 20/05: FY05 SM-3s. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ received a $124.1 million cost-plus-award/ incentive-fee contract modification for the continued development and delivery of 12 Standard Missile-3 Block IA Missiles in support of the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by April 2007. This contract was not competitively awarded. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C. issued the contract (N00024-03-C-6111). DID covered this along with a number of other contracts related to ballistic missile defense.

FY 2005: 12 SM-3-IA

Sept 3/04: SM-6 SDD. Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ received a $440.1 million cost-reimbursable contract with cost and technical/schedule performance incentives for the Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) of the STANDARD Missile-6 Block I/Extended Range Active Missile (SM-6 ERAM). This includes the design, development, fabrication, assembly, integration, test and delivery of flight and non-flight assets.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (80%); Camden, NJ (15%), and Andover, MA (5%), and is expected to be complete by December 2011. Initial funding in the amount of $5 million will be provided at contract award. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-04-C-5344).


The Standard Missile Naval Defense Family: Exports & Related Key Events

AEGIS Combat Control
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Unless otherwise specified, all contracts are issued to Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ, at the request of the US Naval Sea Systems Command. See also the above section.

With respect to Japan, the USA and Japan are working together on missile defense, continuing their efforts now that Japan has announced completion of the joint technology research stage. The plan is to have SM-3 missiles as Japan’s outer ABM layer and Patriot PAC-3s as the point defense component. Cooperating partnership contracts between the USA and Japan, and international orders with a strong American component, are listed in the American section, above.

2012 – 2014


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May 26/14: South Korea. South Korean official rule out any deployment of SM-3s for now. Defense Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok:

“We’ve never considered adopting the SM-3 missiles… Among issues under consideration is how to boost our maritime-based intercepting capabilities, but we’ve not yet reviewed any details…. Intercepting a missile in the ascending stage goes beyond what our military aims at. It is also beyond our capability…. The KAMD [land-based missile defense architecture] has been under development regardless of the U.S. system, and no changes have been made in our position.”

Planned SM-6 missiles (q.v. June 11-12/13) will give the ROKN terminal BMD intercept capabilities around 2015-2016, and that seems to be enough. The national KAMD system currently includes Israeli Green Pine long-range radars, ex-German PATRIOT PAC-2 missiles, and an AMD-Cell command and control backbone. South Korea is about to to upgrade its PATRIOT batteries to PAC-3/Config 3, and add SM-6 missiles to KDX-III destroyers. They may also field Cheolmae 4 BMD-capable missiles in future, designed in collaboration with Russia. Sources: Yonhap, “Acquiring SM-3 missiles not an option for S. Korea: defense ministry”.

July 17/13: Support. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ, is being awarded a $19.1 million modification to previously awarded contract, covering exported Standard Missile 2/3/6 engineering and technical services. These services include research and development efforts; design, systems, and production engineering; technical services; evaluation services; component improvement services; and production proofing services for missile producibility, missile production, and shipboard integration for fiscal years 2013-2017.

$18.5 million is committed immediately. The total percentage of foreign orders is 100%: to Japan (28%), Australia (24%), Korea (21.5%), Germany (8.3%), Netherlands (8.3%), Taiwan (7%), Canada (1.7%), and Spain (1.2%). Japan already fields SM-3s, and Australia and South Korea have both expressed plans to adopt the SM-6 on their Aegis destroyers by 2017.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (86.8%); Andover, MA (9.4%); Huntsville, AL (1.7%); Arlington, VA (1.1%); Camden, AR (0.7%); and White Sands, NM (0.3%), and is expected to be complete by July 2014. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-13-C-5403).

June 11-12/13: South Korea. The Yonhap news agency quotes “a senior government official” who says that KDX-III destroyers will be armed with SM-6 missiles as of 2016, as part of an overarching Korea Air and Missile Defense System (KAMD) program. If true, that date implies a 2014 order. It also implies a future system upgrade for the ships, from a standard Aegis combat system to Aegis BMD 5.0.

The SM-6 will complement the ROK’s existing SM-2s. Unlike the SM-2s, the new missiles can be used for terminal point defense against ballistic missiles, while also providing long-range air defense against enemy fighters, cruise missiles, etc. KAMD would integrate the ROK’s Green Pine radar, PATRIOT missile batteries, naval missile defense assets, and other surveillance systems into a single “kill chain”, reducing Korea’s dependence on American help. They hope to have KAMD v1.0 ready by 2020. Yonhap | Global Post.


SM-3 IA, JS Kirishima
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Sept 17/11: SM-3-IIA delay. Mianichi Daily News reports US notification to Japan that the SM-3 Block IIA will be delayed 2 years, because the kill vehicle needs additional testing. The USA will cover the additional costs.

The original development plan involved a 9-year effort ending in 2014, with Japan paying $1.0 – 1.2 billion, and the USA $1.1 – 1.5 billion. That will now extend to 2016, with the USA looking to deploy the new missile in 2018. Japan had planned to deploy the SM-3 Block IIA in 2020 on its Kongo Class BMD destroyers, and the question is whether that deployment will also be delayed.

SM-3-IIA delayed

Sept 7/11: Japan. Mianichi Daily News reports that Japan’s Defense Ministry has begun launching about 15 mock missiles and collecting data, in a YEN 8.2 billion (currently about $106 million) bid to boost the accuracy of detecting and tracking missiles under the missile defense plan. The operation is expected to run until the end of March 2013.

Aug 30/11: Australia. Australia’s government approves 4 new defense projects, including the A$ 100 million SEA 4000 Phase 3.2. Note that this is not a contract yet; that will take place later, under the US State Department’s Foreign Military Sales protocols.

Australia’s DoD explains that their upgraded FFG-7 Adelaide Class use SM-2 missiles configured for Rail Launch operations. Under Phase 3.2, many will be converted to the Vertical Launch configuration, for use in Australia’s Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers and their MK41 launch systems. They’ll also be upgraded to “the latest [SM-2] version”, and DID worked to clarify further; it only involves and upgrade to the latest SM-2 Block III, rather than the BMD-capable Block IV.

The Hobart Class will eventually carry the SM-6, with active guidance and final defense capabilities against ballistic missiles, but that’s slated for the early 2020s under project SEA 1360 Phase 1.

June 20-21/11: SM-3s for the Europeans? Raytheon Missile Systems VP Ed Miyashiro is telling journalists that a number of other platforms are being looked at for NATO/European ballistic missile defense and SM-3 carriage. They include ships that already carry compatible Mk.41 vertical launch systems (VLS), like the forthcoming Danish Iver Huitfeldt Class, German-Dutch F124s, and Spanish F100 frigates; and also ships with DCNS’ rival Sylver system, like the Franco-Italian Horizon Class, and Britain’s Type 45 destroyers.

The ship types with Sylver launchers are already slated to carry MBDA’s Aster-30, which has just begun land tests against ballistic missiles. In its favor, the SM-3 can cite 3 advantages: a much longer test record, the coming SM-3 Block II’s significant performance improvements, and much cheaper BMD development costs, thanks to American and Japanese advance work. Some reports even float the possibility of SM-3 Block IIB/NGAM becoming a joint American/European project, just as the IIA is an American/Japanese project.

The fleet issue would be integration. F100 frigates are the most straightforward, with the same AN/SPY-1D radars and Mk.41 VLS as American ships. The same BMD upgrade set used in American destroyers would suffice. Dutch, German, and Danish ships also carry the MK.41 VLS, but use higher-performance Thales APAR and SMART-L radars. That requires additional integration and modification work, but all 3 classes are using a shared core system that allows a common upgrade path. The British, French, and Italian ships would be the most work. While they share a similar core air defense system, they all use different radars, while sharing key electronics and DCNS’ Sylver VLS. That means both electronics work, and physical changes to the weapons array. In the latter area, Miyashiro mentions that they’re looking into the possibility of fielding SM-3 compatible inserts in DCNS’ Sylver A70 VLS, which is the required size for the 6.6 meter SM-3. Britain’s Type 45 Daring Class uses only A50 launchers, but there is space for adding the larger A70 launchers up front. Miyashiro has reportedly said that they’re also looking at the possibility of inserting the strike-length Mk.41 VLS in that location. Aviation Week | Defense News | Later coverage: “Raytheon’s Datalink: A New Naval Standard for the Standard?

May 25/11: Japan. Media reports indicate that Japan is preparing to approve U.S. export of their jointly developed SM-3 Block IIA missiles to 3rd countries, provided each export is discussed, no transfer can occur beyond the buyers, and North Korea, Iran, or any other country under UN sanctions is ruled out. The decision will reportedly be officially communicated to the United States at a June 2011 meeting. Japan plans to begin deploying the missiles itself, beginning in 2018.

It remains to be seen if the SM-3 Block IIB missile, whose design is being competed as the Next Generation AEGIS missile program, ends up avoiding the shared technologies that require this export approval. Japan Times | Defense News | UPI.

Jan 10/11: Japan. Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reports that Japan’s government will compile criteria that would allow the United States to deploy and export SM-3 Block IIA missiles in Europe and other parts of the world, without violating the nation’s “3 principles” of not exporting weapons to communist bloc countries, countries subject to U.N. arms embargoes, or countries involved in or likely to become involved in international conflicts.

Officials from Japan’s Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Economy Trade and Industry Ministry and “other relevant government organizations” will soon start discussing how to draw up the criteria, which is expected to take about a year.

In 2004, the Koizumi government relaxed those 3 principles in order to allow joint development with the USA, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda issued a statement in December that required those exceptions to be “strictly managed.” The question is what that term will mean in practice, but one thing is clear: Japan will have the power to block SM-3 Bock II exports, and deployments, on the same technology transfer grounds that the USA has so often used with others.


JS Kirishima
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Oct 29/10: Japan JFTM-4 test. The recently upgraded JS Kirishima [DDG-174] successfully hits a separating “1,000 km class” ballistic missile target using an SM-3 Block 1A missile, in test JFTM-4 off the coast of Kauai in Hawaii. It’s the 3rd of 4 successful SM-3 test firings for the JMSDF. America’s USS Lake Erie [GC-70] cruiser and USS Russell destroyer [DDG-59] also participated in this test, tracking the target and simulating their own intercepts.

The firing follows another test earlier this month, in which JS Kirishima acquired a separating target passed from a U.S. destroyer with her own sensors, and performed a simulated engagement. Jeff Bantle, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of Surface-Sea Based Missile Defense Systems, said that “This [live fire] test completes the planned upgrade of the Japanese navy’s destroyers with the Aegis ballistic missile defense capability.” US MDA | Lockheed Martin | Raytheon (incl. video).

Oct 26/10: Japan request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Japan’s formal request to buy 13 SM-2 Block IIIB missiles, 13 AN/DKT-71A Telemeters, conversion kits, containers, spare and repair parts, support equipment, and support. The estimated cost is $33 million, and these appear to be slated for use as test missiles. The prime contractors are Raytheon Missiles Systems Company in Tucson, AZ; Raytheon Company in Camden, AR; and United Defense LP in Aberdeen, SD.

Japan has already integrated the SM-2 Block IIIB missiles into its ship combat systems, and maintains two Intermediate-Level Maintenance Depots capable of maintaining and supporting the SM-2. As such, implementation of this proposed sale will not require any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives in Japan.

DSCA: Japan SM-2-IIIB request

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

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

DSCA: Australia SM-2-IIIA request

July 29/10: SM-3 IIA exports. Cooperative weapons programs like the SM-3 Block II come with a catch: export permissions. Japan banned exports of weapons it develops in 1967, with the USA’s 1983 blanket exemption as the only exception to date. The Japan Times reports that Washington recently notified the Japanese government that it plans to begin shipping SM-3 Block 2A missiles in 2018, and asked Tokyo to start preparing to strike export deals with third countries. The US wants a response by the end of 2010.

The SM-3 Block 2 is expected to play a significant role in European missile defense, and is also likely to attract interest from countries like Australia and South Korea. Brahmand.

Feb 26/10: South Korea. A $67.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-5301), exercising the FY 2010 SM-2 production option of 46 SM-2 Block IIIA and 16 SM-2 Block IIIB missiles and associated data.

This contract combines purchases for the US Navy (2.07%), and the governments of Korea (96.15%), Taiwan (1.16%), Japan (0.19%) and Canada (0.43%) under the Foreign Military Sales program. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (74%); Andover, MA (18%); Camden, AR (5%); and Farmington, NM (3%), and is expected to be complete by December 2012.

Korea: SM-2-IIIA/Bs

Dec 18/09: Australia SM-2 test. The frigate HMAS Melbourne fires the SM-2 Block IIIA, as an enhancement from its previous SM-1 armament. Australia’s upgraded Adelaide Class frigates are slated to add this capability, and the lessons learned may allow Raytheon to offer a more standardized upgrade package for other operators of the SM-1 missile and/or FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class Australian DoD | Raytheon.


ROKS King Sejongthe Great
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May 27/09: South Korea request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] South Korea’s official request for 46 SM-2 Block IIIA missiles, 35 SM-2 Block IIIB missiles, 3 SM-2 Block IIIB Telemetry Missiles for testing, 84 SM-2 missile containers, and associated test and support equipment, spare and repair parts, training, and other forms of support. The estimated cost is $170 million.

South Korea uses the SM-2 missiles on its KDX-II (SM-2 Block IIIA) and its KDX-III AEGIS (SM-2 Block IIIB) destroyers. Read “South Korea Beefs Up Anti-Air Defenses as North Blusters” for a look at this missile request in the context of South Korea’s overall defense modernization efforts, and increased tensions with North Korea.

DSCA: Korea SM-2-IIIA/B request

May 2/09: Australia. Australia’s new defense White Paper says that the forthcoming Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyers will be equipped with SM-6 missiles and Cooperative Engagement Capability, giving them some latent terminal-phase defense capabilities against ballistic missiles. The destroyers will not have the AEGIS BMD modifications to their electronics and radar, however – at least, not at the outset.


Arrow launch
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July 16/08: SM-3 on land? Aviation Week reports that the MDA is considering a land-based variant of the SM-3, and Raytheon is examining options – largely due to specific requests from Israel.

Israel already has its own successful Arrow-2 system, and fields shorter-range Patriots. So why the sudden interest? As it happens, Israel decides later on to keep its Arrow system, but the USA thinks this is a great idea. Read “BMD, in from the Sea: SM-3 Missiles Going Ashore.”

Feb 15/08: Japan order. A $1.016 billion cost-plus-incentive-fee sole source contract modification to manufacture 75 SM-3 block IA missiles for the United States, and 27 SM-3 Block IA missiles for Foreign Military Sales “in support of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System” (N00024-07-C-6119). That almost certainly means sales to Japan, which has successfully tested the SM-3 from JS Kongo (see Dec 17/07 entry, below).

The principal place of performance is Tucson, AZ, but work will also be performed in Elkton, MD by major subcontractor Alliant Techsystems, and is expected to be complete by February 2012. FY 2007 research and development and Japanese Foreign Military Sales funds will be used for the initial funding, and will expire at the end of the fiscal year. The contract modification will be incrementally funded, committing $92.8 million at the outset – $85.9M FMS funds and $6.9M FY 2007 R&D funds.

US/Japan SM-3-IA order


JS Kongo fires SM-3
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Dec 17/07: Japan test. The JS Kongo AEGIS destroyer [DDG-173] becomes the first Japanese ship to destroy a ballistic missile, launching an SM-3 Block 1A missile 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, and the first successful ABM interception by anyone other than the US Navy. Read “Japanese Destroyer JS Kongo Intercepts Ballistic Missile” for more information, and links to news articles and reactions around the world.

Japan: 1st BMD intercept

Sept 12/07: Taiwan request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] “The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States” formal request for 144 SM-2 Block IIIA STANDARD missiles, 16 Telemetry missiles, canisters, containers, spare and repair parts, supply support, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance and other related elements of logistics support.

The prime contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Corporation in Tucson, AZ, and although “the purchaser generally requires offsets, at this time, there are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.” The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $272 million.

DSCA: Taiwan SM-2-IIIA request

Aug 24/07: Spain request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Spain’s request for 36 SM-2 Block IIIB STANDARD missiles (36 tactical missiles with warheads), 36 MK 13 MOD 0 canisters, section-level shipping containers, spare and repair parts, support equipment, training, technical assistance, and other related elements of logistics support. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $63 million. The weapons will be carried on the Spanish Navy F-100 Alvaro de Bazan Class Frigates.

DSCA: Spain SM-2-IIIB request

June 8/07: Japan request. The US DSCA announces Japan’s request for Ballistic Missile Defense upgrades to one AEGIS Weapon System (Lockheed-Martin Maritime System and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ), AEGIS BMD Vertical Launch System ORDALTs (BAE’s Mk41 modifications, Minneapolis, MN), 9 SM-3 Block IA STANDARD missiles (Raytheon in Tucson, AZ) with MK 21 Mod 2 canisters, containers, spare and repair parts, publications, documentation, supply support, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance and other related elements of logistics support. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $475 million.

The intended ship is believed to be the JMSDF destroyer JS Chokai [DDG-176], which is the last of the current Kongo Class destroyers; the 5th and 6th Improved Kongo Class ships currently under construction will reportedly have AEGIS BMD capability pre-installed.

DSCA: Japan AEGIS BMD + SM-3-IA request

May 25/07: Japan request. The US DSCA notifies Congress [PDF] of Japan’s request for 24 SM-2 Block IIIB Tactical STANDARD missiles with MK 13 MOD 0 canisters; 24 AN/DKT-71A telemeters and conversion kits; containers; spare and repair parts; supply support; U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance and other related elements of logistics support. The SM-2 missiles will be used on ships of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force fleet and the total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $40 million.

Japan has already integrated the SM-2 Block IIIB into its ship combat systems and maintains two Intermediate-Level Maintenance Depots capable of maintaining and supporting the SM-2. The missiles’ prime contractor is Raytheon Company in Tucson, AZ and the MK 13 Mod 0 canister’s prime contractor is BAE Systems of Minneapolis, MN. There are no offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale, and implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Japan.

DSCA: Japan SM-2-IIIB request

April 20/07: South Korea request. The US DSCA announces South Korea’s request for 150 SM-2 Block IIIB Tactical STANDARD missiles, 60 SM-2 Block IIIA Tactical STANDARD missiles with MK 13 Mod 0 canisters, 1 inert Block IIIB Tactical STANDARD missile, spares, intermediate-level maintenance activity section-level shipping containers, test equipment, hardware/software upgrades, test and support equipment, supply support, training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance and other related logistics support

South Korea already has these missiles in inventory, and the total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $372 million. Industrial offset agreements associated are expected as part of the contract, and will be negotiated between the South Koreans and Raytheon Systems in Tucson, AZ. See DSCA release [PDF]

DSCA: Korea SM-2-IIIA/B request

Jan 3/07: SM-1 support. A $24.9 million firm-fixed modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5341) to procure Full Service Support (FSS) requirements in support of the STANDARD Missile-1 (SM-1) Program of U.S. Allied Nations. This SM-1 FSS FY 2007 option exercise consists of MK56 Dual Thrust Rocket Motor (DTRM) Regrain production and SM-1 Block 6B Missile assembly, testing and delivery for the Governments of Spain (89.5%, see also Oct 20/06 below) and Egypt (10.5%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz. (49%), Sacramento, CA (47%) and Camden, AK (4%), and is expected to be complete by September 2009. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC issued the contract.


Spain’s F100 Frigate
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Dec 6/06: Japan. “The U.S. and Japan plan to build a joint base in the Nagasaki Prefecture for the maintenance of Standard Missile-3 interceptors, reports the UPI. According to sources in the Japanese Defense Agency, the facility would be located on a filled-in area off the coast near the U.S. Navy’s Hariojima ammunition depot in Sasebo. The U.S. and Japan would each maintain their own missiles, although the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) would be able to ask the U.S. military for technical assistance if it encountered problems, allowing it to minimize costs.” Link.

Nov 13/06: SM-1 support. A $31.9 million firm-fixed-price modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5341), exercising an option to procure Full Service Support (FSS) requirements in support of the STANDARD Missile-1 (SM-1) Program of U.S. Allied Nations. This SM-1 FSS FY 2007 option exercise consists of MK56 Dual Thrust Rocket Motor (DTRM) Regrain production and SM-1 Block VIA missile assembly, testing and delivery.

This effort combines requirements for the Governments of France (24%); Japan (16%); Turkey (16%); Bahrain (15%); Poland (12%); Italy (11%); and Chile (6%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in Camden, AK (85%) and Tucson, AZ (15%), and is expected to be complete by June 2009.

Nov 6/06: SM-2 support. An estimated $25.5 million cost-plus-award-fee modification to previously awarded contract N00024-03-C-5330, to provide additional engineering and technical services in support of the SM-2 Guided Missile Program under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS). Initial funding of $311,095 will provide services for Germany (50.3%) and Canada (49.7%). The purchase of additional services by other countries – Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Spain – has not been finalized. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by December 2007.

Oct 20/06: SM-1s for Spain. Defense Aerospace translates a release from the Spanish Council of Ministers, who have authorized the acquisition of 94 SM-1 Block 6B missiles from the US Navy for the amount of EUR 25.7 million (about $32.3 million now) to be paid from 2006-2010 inclusive. The missiles will equip Spain’s six F80 Santa Maria Class frigates, a modified variant of the USA’s Oliver Hazard Perry Class. They will be loaded into the forward section’s Mk. 13 Mod. 4 (aka. “one armed bandit”) missile launchers; each ship has a capacity of up to 32 SM-1MR Standard Missiles.

Spain: 94 SM-1-6B

June 26/06: South Korea request. The US DSCA announces South Korea’s formal request for 48 SM-2 Standard Block IIIB missiles, as well as Mk 13 Mod 0 canisters for vertical launcher systems, containers, Intermediate-Level Maintenance spares and repair parts, supply support, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance and other related elements of logistics support. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $111 million.

Korea already uses SM-2 missiles aboard some of its ships, and these SM-2 are slated for use as the primary defensive system aboard its new KDX-III AEGIS destroyers. Industrial offset agreements are expected but not yet defined. See DSCA release [PDF].

DSCA: Korea SM-2-IIIB request

DDG176 Chokai
(click to view full)

June 5-6/06: Japan requests. The US DSCA announces a pair of requests from Japan for Standard-family naval air and missile defense systems, as well as destroyer BMD upgrades. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $528 million. Raytheon, Lockheed, and BAE are the primary contractors.

The first sale for $458 million sale involves 9 longer-range SM-3 missiles plus ballistic missile defense upgrades to one AEGIS Weapon System, AEGIS BMD Vertical Launch System (VLS) alternations, and other support. The JMSDF destroyer JS Myoko [DDG-175] may be the target of the request.

The second sale is for $70 million if all options are exercised, and involves up to 44 shorter-range SM-2 Block IIIB Standard Missiles that serve as the mainstays of the Kongo Class AEGIS destroyers’ air defense, plus various forms of support. See full DID coverage.

DSCA: Japan AEGIS BMD + SM-3-IA + SM-2-IIIB request

April 6/06: SM-2 support. A $29.5 million cost-plus-award-fee modification to previously awarded contract N00024-03-C-5330. This provide for engineering and technical services in support of the Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) Guided Missile Program for foreign military sales for the countries of Taiwan (66.2%) and Korea (33.8%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by March 2007.


JS Kongou
(click to view full)

Dec 30/05: SM-2 orders. Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ received a $235.7 million firm-fixed-price contract in for the production of the FY06 Standard Missile-2 Block IIIA and Block IIIB all up rounds (AURs) AN/DKT-71A telemetric data transmitting sets (TDTS), section level spares, and shipping containers for allied nations. Note that “all-up-rounds” include the missile, its launch container, and related equipment that allows for rapid installation of the naval missiles in vertical launch systems. This contract will provide for the procurement of Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and other international customers procurements of 221 SM-2 Standard Block IIIA AURs, 64 SM-2 Block IIIB AURs, 106 TDTS’ with installation kits, 69 various FMS spare sections and 393 various FMS shipping containers. Specific countries were not specified by the US DoD DefenseLINK release.

Work on this contract will be performed in Tucson, AZ (83%), Andover, MA (14%), Camden, AR (2%), and Farmington, N.M. (1%), and work is expected to be complete by December 2008. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC is the contracting activity (N00024-06-C-5350).

285 SM-2s for Export

Nov 22/05: SM-1 support. An $8 million firm-fixed-price modification to exercise an option under previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5341) to procure Full Service Support (FSS) requirements in support of the STANDARD Missile-1 (SM-1) Program of U.S. Allied Nations. This modification supports the governments of Spain (77%); Poland (14%); Taiwan (4%); Italy (3%); Egypt (1%); and Japan (1%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in Sacramento, CA (85%); Camden, AR (10%); and Tucson, AZ (5%); and is expected to be complete by June 2008.

June 29/05: Japan request. The US DSCA announces a Government of Japan request for 9 SM-3 Block IA Standard missiles with MK 21 Mod 2 canisters, Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) upgrades to one AEGIS Radar & weapon control system, AEGIS BMD Vertical Launch System ordnance alternations (ORDALTs), containers, spare and repair parts, publications, documentation, supply support, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance and other related elements of logistics support. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $387 million.

The target of these BMD upgrades may be the destroyer JS Kongo [DDG-173], as JS Kirishima’s modifications were limited to AEGIS Long Range Scan & Track 3.0, which lacks the weapon control aspect. It is expected that the JS Kirishima will be upgraded later to include engagement as well.

These BMD modifications will provide, in concert with Japan Self Defense Forces PAC-3 Patriot missiles, the initial ballistic missile defense for mainland Japan. The principal contractors will be Lockheed-Martin Maritime System and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ (AEGIS radar) Raytheon Company Equipment Division in Andover, MA (missiles), and BAE Systems in Minneapolis, MN (canisters). DID article | DSCA release [PDF format].

DSCA: Japan AEGIS BMD + SM-3-IA request

June 6/05: Japan request. The U.S. Defense Department notified Congress of a proposed sale to Japan of Raytheon’s SM-2 Block IIIB surface-to-air missiles. The sale includes 40 SM-2 Block IIIB missiles with MK 13 MOD 0 canisters; 24 SM-2 Block IIIB Telemetry Standard missiles with MK 13 MOD 0 canisters, and associated equipment. It would be worth up to $104 million if all options are exercised, with contracts going to Raytheon and United Defense LP.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security and Cooperation Agency said Japan requested the missiles for use on ships of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force fleet and said it would enhance Japan’s defense of critical sea-lanes. Reuters: U.S. Moves To Sell Japan SM-2 Missiles

DSCA: Japan SM-2-IIIB request

May 31/05: Australia request. The government of Australia has requested a possible sale of up to 175 SM-2 Block IIIA Standard anti-air missiles, up to 30 Telemetry missiles, up to 2 SM-2 Block IIIA inert operational missiles, canisters, containers, spare and repair parts; plus supply support, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, US government and contractor technical assistance, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $315 million, and the principal contractors will be Raytheon (Tucson, AZ) and General Dynamics (Scottsdale, AZ). There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

The Royal Australian Navy already has SM-1 Standard missiles in its inventory, and intends to use the improved SM-2 missiles on its FFG 7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates for self-defense against air and cruise-missile threats. DSCA release [PDF format].

DSCA: Australia SM-2-IIIA request

May 13/05: SM-1 support. Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ is being awarded an $11.2 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide Full Service Support (FSS) for the Standard Missile-1 (SM-1) program of U.S. Allied Nations. This contract combines purchases for the countries of Egypt (43%), Taiwan (26%); Spain (10%); Japan (6%); Turkey (6%); France (3%); Italy (3%); Bahrain (1%); Netherlands (1%); and Poland (1%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

This contract was not competitively procured. Work will be performed in Sacramento, CA (67%) and Tucson, AZ (33%), and the contract will expire before the end of September 2006 (N00024-05-C-5341).

March 23/05: SM-2 orders. A $266 million firm-fixed-price modification for production of the FY 2005 SM-2 missile order to equip the U.S. Navy and the navies of Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Taiwan, Canada, and Korea respectively. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (56%), Andover, MA (23%), Camden, AR (20%), and Farmington, NM (1%), and is expected to be completed by December 2007. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC, issued the contract (N00024-04-C-5342).

U.S. Navy orders include agreed quantities of Block IIIA All-Up-Rounds (AUR), Block IIIB AUR, Block IIIB ORDALT kits, AN/DKT-71A Telemetric Data Transmitting Sets (TDTS), and section level spares.

The contract also includes procurement for other navies under the Foreign Military Sales Program: 99 SM-2 Block IIIA AUR, 64 SM-2 Block IIIB AUR, 51 AN/DKT-71A TDTS with Installation Kits, 25 various foreign military sales spare sections and 161 shipping missile containers.

FY 2005 SM-2s

March 22/05: SM-2 support. A $29.6 cost-plus-award-fee modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-03-C-5330) to provide engineering and technical services in support of the Standard Missile-2 Guided Missile Program for Foreign Military Sales (FMS). This modification satisfies the requirements of the following FMS customers: Germany (16.5%); Japan (16.67%); Korea (16.67%); the Netherlands (16.67%); Spain (16.67%); and Canada (16.67%). Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be completed by December 2005.

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Categories: News

MDA requirement for ICBM-downing UAV | Gripen E makes maiden flight | China demands THAAD inspection in South Korea

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 04:00

  • Raytheon has received a $83 million contract modification for the procurement of full-rate production of 180 AIM-9X Block II air-to-air missiles. The US Navy award will see the firm will supply missiles to the Navy, USAF, Romania, Poland, Indonesia, Romania and Belgium. Also included in the modification is the procurement of 19 captive air-training missiles for the Air Force and Navy, along with 50 missiles containers for the US military and foreign governments. The USMC will receive three special training missiles for its Harrier jump jet program, and a wide spectrum of spare parts and support systems will be delivered to the Navy, Air Force, and Poland. Work will primarily be completed at Raytheon’s facilities in Tuscon, Ariz., and Andover, Mass., and is scheduled for completion in March 2020.

  • The US Missile Defense Agency has released a requirement for the procurement of a laser-armed UAV capable of intercepting and downing intercontinental ballistic missiles. Stipulations made by the MDA Advanced Technology Directorate has said it needs a high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle with sufficient payload capacity to carry a high-energy laser. It would be designed to intercept ICBMs during their boost phase. It has not ruled out a manned platform as well. Other specifications listed include a flight altitude of at least 63,000 feet, the endurance to stay on station for at least 36 hours after a transit of 1,900 miles, and a cruising speed of up to Mach .46 while patrolling its station.

Middle Easy & North Africa

  • Houthi rebels launched an attack on a UAE vessel carrying medical supplies off the coast of Yemen. The vessel, which was leaving the Yemeni port of al-Mokha when the attack occurred, suffered no damage but one crew member was treated for injuries. Al-Mokha was captured by the Saudi-led coalition from the Houthis earlier this year after heavy fighting. It lies close to the Bab al-Mandab shipping lane through which much of the world’s oil passes.


  • Saab’s latest Gripen E variant has successfully completed its maiden flight. The forty minute flight saw the fighter cover functions such as basic avionics and retracting and extending the landing gear, and is the first model of three pre-production planes authorized by the Swedish government. 60 models currently on order with the Swedish military while Brazil has ordered 36 Gripen E and Gripen F two-seater aircraft, and Saab expects to export the aircraft to other countries.

  • Embraer has commenced a 40-day international sales tour with its KC-390 tanker/transport plane, first stopping in Sweden before debuting the aircraft at the upcoming Paris air show. The company will first perform some demonstration flights for the Swedish military, as the company looks to sell the aircraft to Stockholm as a potential future replacement for its Lockheed Martin C-130H tactical transports. After Paris, the aircraft will stop off at a number of undisclosed European locations before making its way to New Zealand, where the aircraft is being looked at as a potential transport and maritime patrol platform, before returning to Brazil via stops in southeast Asia and north Africa.

  • Bell Helicopters is considering a plan to manufacture AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters in Romania within the next 4-5 years. News of the deal comes almost twenty years after a previous attempt to assemble the AH-1 in the country fell through. The announcement follows Bells’ signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Romanian company IAR-Ghimbav Brasov Group last November that would see the local firm cover possible maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of the AH-1Z should it be procured by Bucharest. While Romania has yet to launch a formal tender for their replacement, Bell is just one of several manufacturers, including Airbus, who are positioning themselves for an anticipated requirement.

Asia Pacific

  • China has demanded that it be allowed to conduct on-site inspections of the US THAAD battery deployed to South Korea. An anonymous source said that Beijing is making the demand via various channels and the purpose of the inspection is to determine if the AN/TPY-2 radar used on the system can spy on Chinese activities. The radar can utilize a “forward-based mode” capable of detecting targets 1,800 km away as well as a “terminal mode” that can track missiles from 600 to 800 km away, and while Washington maintains that the THAAD located in South Korea is set to the terminal mode, China is looking to verify this for itself.

  • The Malaysian Royal Air Force has released a video showing the test-firing of a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb from a modified Su-30MSM fighter aircraft. The platform was tested in November 2016 at the Air Force’s weapons testing range. Made by Lockheed Martin, the 500-pound GBU has already been integrated on Kuala Lumpur’s eight Boeing F/A-18D Hornet aircraft, and have been used operationally against Filipino insurgents who invaded the north Borneo province of Sabah in 2013.

Today’s Video

  • RMAF SU-30MSM drops GBU-12:

Categories: News

Embraer’s Multinational KC-390 Tactical Air Transport Program

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 03:57

KC-390 refuels AMXs
(click to view full)

Global competition in the 20-ton air transport segment continues to intensify, with Brazil’s launch of its KC-390 program. Embraer figures reportedly place the global C-130 replacement market at around 700 aircraft. In response, it will develop a jet-powered rival to compete with Lockheed Martin’s C-130J, the larger Airbus A400M, Russia’s AN-12 and its Chinese copy the Yun-8/9, and the bi-national Irkut/HAL MRTA project. Smaller aircraft like the EADS-CASA C-295M, and Alenia’s C-27J, represent indirect competition.

Embraer is extending its efforts and markets by crafting a jet-powered medium transport with a cargo capacity of around 23 tons, that can be refueled in the air, and can provide refueling services to other aircraft by adding dedicated pods. The KC-390 has now become a multinational program, and may be shaping up as the C-130’s most formidable future competitor. A tie-up with Boeing underscores the seriousness of Embraer’s effort, which is now a production program…

The KC-390: Program

KC-390 schedule, 2010
(click to view full)

Brazil’s aerospace industry has made impressive global gains in the civilian business and regional jet segments, and in the military market for primary trainer and counterinsurgency aircraft. Slumping civilian demand recently led to layoffs, but rising Brazilian defense budgets give the government a lever to inject funds into the company, while completing a strategic project that has been under consideration for a couple of years.

Overall, Embraer reportedly bases its business case on a break-even point of 120 orders, or about 1/7th of the tactical transport market outside of China, Russia, Ukraine and the USA.

The initial Brazilian contract covered R&D, and called for 3 development aircraft, with a 28 plane production order to follow. Brazil has held to that, which will allow the KC-390 to restore an existing FAB shortfall and replace the Brazilian Air Force’s 21 C-130E/H and 2 KC-130H Hercules planes. The FAB flew 10 aged DHC-5 Buffalo tactical transports for many years, but had to replace them recently with C295s from Airbus Military. The C295s are very useful for smaller cargo loads, but they have limits as tactical airlifters, so the added KC-390s will fully restore the FAB’s status quo ante.

To date, possible orders stand at 60, including Brazil’s confirmed 28, plus possible orders from Argentina (6), Chile (6), Colombia (12), the Czech Republic (2), and Portugal (6). South Africa’s cancellation of its A400M order may create another opportunity, and Brazil’s F-X-2 fighter competition may lead to even more European orders. Sweden promised to consider the KC-390 to replace its recently-upgraded C-130s with the KC-390 if the JAS-39 Gripen won, and so it will probably become Sweden’s next airlifter at some point.

Embarer’s boast that it has 32 Letters of Intent from various countries indicate that this customer list could grow quickly. Note, however, that there aren’t any formal contracts yet for these export orders. Until prospective orders turn into firm contracts, relying on any numerical commitments is premature.

Meanwhile, development continues on an aggressive schedule. The first prototypes are expected to fly by the end of 2014, with acceptance by Brazil’s air force beginning in 2016.

The aircraft design itself will belong to the Brazilian government, with Embraer as the lead technical and industrial partner. All talks to join the program will be conducted at a government-to-government level, and the process of adding “risk sharing” partners will be a top-down process that results in directives handed down to Embraer.

Note that this kind of arrangement can create program risks, and obstacles to an aggressive schedule, if the partners selected by the Brazilian government fail to perform on an industrial level. Joint Definition Phase partnerships & commitments to date include:

The KC-390: Aircraft

Initial dimensions
(click to view full)

The C-390 was originally supposed to be a militarized ERJ-190 jet that competed in a unique niche between EADS-CASA’s C-295M and Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules, with Brazil’s postal service as its launch customer. The more the engineers worked, the more it diverged from that idea, until it assumed it present T-tailed, high-winged, hump-backed form as a full military aircraft and C-130 competitor.

Compared to a stretched C-130J-30, the renamed KC-390’s cargo compartment is now 17.75m long (vs. 16.9m) and 3.45m wide (vs 3.12m); 2.9m high forward of the wing (vs 2.74m) and 3.2m aft of the wing. The KC-390’s wings were lengthened to 35.03m during the configuration phase, in order to allow helicopter refueling at speeds around 120 kt. With the right engines, the Force Aerea Braziliera (FAB) has confirmed that each aircraft will carry up to 80 troops, or a 23.0 tonne/ 25+ ton total cargo load. That surpasses initial expectations of 19t, and places it slightly above competitors like Lockheed Martin’s C-130J (21.8t).

The airplane will incorporate a modern, night-vision compatible Pro Line Fusion avionics system, including 2 Head-Up Displays (HUD), and will use fly-by-wire technologies instead of all-mechanical control systems.

KC-390 range
(click to view full)

The most unusual feature in current mockups may be a movable pressure bulkhead that retracts into the roof and descends to seal the cargo cabin. While it shortens the cabin from 17.75m to to 12.78m when deployed, it could allow high altitude airdrops from the space behind, without depressurizing the entire cabin. In order to improve airdrop accuracy, the KC-390 will use Computed Air Release Point (CARP) technology integrated with the fly-by-wire system.

As the aircraft grew, its thrust requirement grew beyond the 27,000 pound class. Embraer eventually picked the International Aero Engines joint venture’s V2500-E5, which can supply up to 31,330 pounds of thrust. It beat GE/Safran’s CFM56-5B, which competes with IAE to power many Airbus narrowbody passenger jets.

A complete self-protection system will also be fitted, and Elbit’s AEL has been announced as the key supplier. Other firms may also become involved in supplying warning elements and decoys, to integrate with AEL’s SPS controller and DIRCM.

Contracts and Key Events 2014 – 2017

Core production contract from Brazil and significant funds released; KC-390 Rollout; 32 Letters of Intent?; Argentina finally ready to produce parts.

Embraer re: KC-390

June 19/17: Embraer has commenced a 40-day international sales tour with its KC-390 tanker/transport plane, first stopping in Sweden before debuting the aircraft at the upcoming Paris air show. The company will first perform some demonstration flights for the Swedish military, as the company looks to sell the aircraft to Stockholm as a potential future replacement for its Lockheed Martin C-130H tactical transports. After Paris, the aircraft will stop off at a number of undisclosed European locations before making its way to New Zealand, where the aircraft is being looked at as a potential transport and maritime patrol platform, before returning to Brazil via stops in southeast Asia and north Africa.

June 12/17: The Portuguese government has commenced talks with aerospace manufacturer Embraer for the delivery of at least five KC-390 military transports. Discussions over configuration, price and delivery schedule are expected to be completed within the next three months and will include options for Lisbon to purchase an additional aircraft. Also included in the deal is a full flight simulator, spares, and other support services. Portugal has been one of five tentative buyers for the KC-390, but a 2015 air force modernisation programme for its six Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft, looked to put the new acquisition in possible doubt.

April 17/17: Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has won a $378 million contract to supply parts for Embraer’s E2 and KC-390 programs. Under the agreement, which is scheduled to last until 2033, KAI will supply wing bottom panels for the E-190 E2 and E-195 E2 regional jets, and panels for both top and bottom of the KC-390 tactical airlifter. Separately, the firm announced that it has completed delivery of all 20 KT-1P basic trainer aircraft ordered by the Peruvian air force.

March 12/17: The Portuguese government is considering the procurement of Embraer KC-390 transport aircraft as a replacement for their fleet of C-130s. While no formal order is in place as of yet, the plan is to acquire up to six KC-390s to progressively replace the C-130 to conduct troop and cargo transport, firefighting, and air-to-air refuelling missions in the Portuguese Air Force. Several Portuguese companies, including OGMA-Indústria Aeronáutica de Portugal (partially owned by Embraer), Embraer Metálicas, Embraer Compósitos, and CEiiA, are participants in Embraer’s KC-390 program.

February 22/17: Embraer has announced that their KC-390 tanker transport aircraft has completed its first dry refueling contact. The milestone test was conducted by a Brazilian Air Force F-5 Tiger which successfully plugged into both refueling hoses on one of the KC-390 prototypes during a sortie near Santa Cruz airbase, Rio de Janeiro, on Feb. 19. Embraer is currently assembling the first product model of the aircraft and believes the aircraft could be a good fit for air arms in the Middle East because of its multi-role capability. The company plans to bring the aircraft back to the Middle East next summer after it has been displayed at the Paris Airshow.

July 19/16: Following its debut at the Farnborough Air Show last week, Embraer’s KC-390 tanker/transport aircraft is to embark on a worldwide demonstration tour. The specifics of the tour stop offs have not been revealed, although interested parties include the Czech Republic and three stops in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Brazilian Air Force will induct the KC-390 in 2018.

May 3/16: Embraer’s second and final test aircraft of its KC-390 program has made its maiden flight test with the company optimistic that it’s sale of 32 of the transport-tankers to Brazil will continue. Brazil, the aircraft’s only confirmed purchaser, is in the midst of political turmoil caused by a mass corruption scandal and slow economy. Further more, a decrease in government spending resulted in payments to Embraer ceasing for several months in 2015, denying the program $300 million in unpaid bills. Both parties have, however, now come to an agreement to continue payments and pay off the balance over the next four years.

April 19/16: Germany’s Rheinmetall has been selected by Embraer to provide a training system for its new KC-390 transport aircraft. The deal is expected to exceed $112 million, and will see the company provide a full suite of training equipment over a 10-15 year period. Drawing upon its experience in providing the cargo hold simulator for the Airbus A400M, Rheinmetall’s scope will include training for cargo handling, procedures and maintenance, plus flight and mission training.

April 11/16: A decision on the replacement of Portugal’s C-130 fleet is expected to be made soon, with Embraer’s latest KC-390 a likely option. The comments were made by defense minister, Azeredo Lopes, after a visit to the Brazilian company’s two Portuguese plants in Evora, where parts for the heavy-lifter are manufactured. Lopes added that despite recent NATO standard modernizations to the C-130 fleet, the planes only had about ten years left before retirement. If Embraer get the go ahead, they will provide up to six KC-390s to Portugal.

April 1/16: Embraer has announced that their KC-390 cargo aircraft is now back on schedule, after delays last year ran the risk of affecting potential customers. A direct challenge to Lockheed Martin’s Hercules, the KC-390 promises capabilities to fly higher, fuller, and faster, at a lower price than its competitor. Customers for the Brazillian airlifter include 28 contracts to deliver the KC-390 to Brazil, and 32 “letters of intention” with other countries, including South American neighbors Chile, Argentina and Portugal.

October 29/15: Embraer’s KC-390 transport aircraft has resumed flight testing following an eight-month break, forced on the program by a falling Brazilian Real and slow payments to the company by the Brazilian Defense Ministry. The aircraft’s schedule has been pushed back, with the company signing an agreement in late July to extend the KC-390’s entry into service from late 2016 to 2018.

Aug 3/15: Brazilian flagship firm Embraer has been hit heavily by a falling real and defense sector cuts, downsizing its 2015 revenue forecast by $300 million. The delivery of first KC-390 transport aircraft to the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) has been pushed back by eighteen months, to the first half of 2018. Certification is now scheduled for the latter half of 2017, with the tactical transport/tanker registering its first test flight in February.

Oct 21/14: Rollout. Embraer rolls out the 1st of 2 KC-390 testing prototypes during a ceremony at its Gaviao Peixoto plant. The event was attended by the Brazilian Minister of Defense, the Commander of the Brazilian Air Force,, and delegations and representatives from more than 30 countries. Looks like the statements about widespread Letters of Intent (q.v. May 21/14) were on the money, though even this turnout is just 30 of the claimed 32.

Next steps: initial systems evaluations before the 1st engine run, then ground vibration tests and the other planned ground tests en route to 1st flight. Sources: Embraer, “Embraer rolls out KC-390 military airlift”.


Oct 1/14: Brazil’s COPAC has approved $1.926 billion for Embraer to buy materials and begin production of 28 KC-390s (q.v. May 21/14, part of a BRL 7.2B / $3.26B deal), with funds released according to the physical and financial schedule of the contract, effective until 2026. COPAC chair Air Brigadier Jose Augusto Crepaldi Affonso says there will be enough resources over time to produce the batch of 28 aircraft plus ground support equipment, initial logistics and pilot and mechanic training. On the other hand, he also says that some potential shortfalls are being worked out:

“Quanto aos valores que estavam contingenciados (cerca de R$ 500 milhoes segundo o Valor apurou), o brigadeiro da Copac disse que todo o orcamento previsto para 2014 foi liberado, mas que ainda ha carencias de recursos. Ele ressaltou, no entanto, que o projeto continua com andamento normal, buscando as solucoes necessarias em coordenacao com os orgaos do governo.”

Sources: Brazilian Government, “Extrato De Inexigibilidade De Licitacao Nº 1/2014 Nº Processo: 67701.003019/2014-95.” | defesanet, “KC-390 – Recebera U$ 1,9 Bi”.

Oct 4/14: Argentina. It took a lot of work and investment, but Fabrica Argentina de Aviones, which was forcibly nationalized in 2009, has finally made good on the 2011 MoU and opened a production line for KC-390 parts. They’ll make wing spoilers, flap fairings, nose landing gear doors, a tail cone, and the ramp door. Their journey shows why partner readiness cannot just be assumed in extended supply chains.

The former Lockheed Martin facility had a lot of work to do after 2011, but the 10-year agreement led the state to allocate over $35 million dollars to upgrade the Cordoba factory, which has added 180 direct jobs. It has tripled its capacity in composite materials, added advanced machining centers, and brought in equipment for forming, processing and heat treating primary aluminum parts. That was accompanied by about 80,000 hours of training and AS9100 certification, which triggered improvements to production processes and non-destructive testing. Sources: defesanet, “KC-390 – FAdeA Inaugura Linha de Producao de Componentes”.

Aug 18/14: Embraer personnel from the KC-390’s interior outfitting, test, and training groups have been participating in Brazilian operations, from the recent Campo Grande exercise to C-130 operations in Antarctica. Some design changes have dropped out of the Antarctic operations in particular, which the Swedes will certainly appreciate once they become customers. The FAB release also implied that interior placement of wiring and outlets had changed, in order to accommodate medical equipment.

Continued refinement is commendable, but shouldn’t these efforts and changes take place before design finalization (q.v. March 11-22/13)? Sources: Brazil FAB, “Embraer participa de exercicio da FAB para aperfeicoar nova aeronave”.

May 21/14: Brazil. Embraer signs the core BRL 7.2 billion ($3.263 billion) KC-390 series production contract for 28 planes, plus spare parts and maintenance. They also hold the opening ceremony for the 30 million square meter KC-390 production line, with President Dilma Rousseff in attendance.

The KC-390 program directly employs about 1,500 workers, which will expand with more orders. Embraer Defense & Security President Jackson Schneider adds that they have 32 Letters of Intent signed with other countries, which goes far beyond announced candidates. The challenge now involves converting some of them into orders, and the opening of the production line starts that clock running in earnest.

Embraer will formally enter Brazil’s contract on its books within 90 days, when the complementary documentation goes into effect. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2016. Sources: Ministerio da Defensa, “Com presenca da presidenta da Republica, FAB assina contrato de compra do aviao brasileiro KC-390” | Embraer, “Embraer opens final assembly hangar for the KC-390, in Gaviao Peixoto, SP, Brazil” | Brazil Poder Aero, “Com Dilma, Embraer inaugura ‘linha de montagem’ do KC-390”.

Brazil orders 28

May 20/14: Engines. International Aero Engines AG announces that they’ve shipped all 6 prototype V2500-E5 powerplants for Embraer’s new KC-390, which are rated for 31,330 pounds of thrust. They’ll be used in KC-390 flight tests, set to begin in 2014, and civil certification for the E5 engine is expected in Q3 2014.

The engines are assembled at UTC Pratt & Whitney’s Engine Center in Middletown, CT, then shipped to UTC Aerospace Systems – Aerostructures in Foley, AL to install the nacelles, thrust reversers and engine build-up equipment. The first 3 were delivered to Embraer ahead of schedule earlier in 2014, and the remaining 3 instrumented powerplants were shipped earlier in May 2014. Sources: IAE, “V2500-E5 Engines Shipped to Embraer”.


Agreement with Boeing; CDR; Embraer & forecasters on the addressable market; Opportunity in Sweden, just not immediately; KC-390 officially ready for sale.

KC-390 concept
(click to view full)

Nov 19/13: Sub-contractors. BAE Systems announces that they’ve finalized an industrial cooperation contract with the Brazilian Air Force, as part of an agreement to provide the flight control system and active side sticks for Embraer’s KC-390. BAE General Manager of Commercial Aircraft Solutions and Dr. Ehtisham Siddiqui says that it involves “…software development training and maintenance, repair, and overhaul services for the KC-390 flight control system that will be performed in Brazil. BAE Systems has also proposed performing some final assembly work for its KC-390 products in the country.” Sources: BAE, “Brazilian Air Force Receives More Than Just Flight Controls for KC-390”.

Dec 18/13: Sweden. A somewhat unexpected announcement by the Ministerio da Defesa confirms that Brazil has picked Saab’s Gripen-NG as their preferred bidder, and expects to buy 36 planes for $4.5 billion. That’s currently just an estimate, as negotiations need to sort themselves out, including financing and industrial offset arrangements. A final contract and financial arrangements are expected in December 2014, and deliveries are expected to begin 4 years later.

Sweden is now almost certain to fly the KC-390 after its 8-plane C-130H2 Hercules fleet retires (q.v. Oct 4/09), but in-depth upgrades performed from 2006 – 2009 mean that they won’t be needing new transports any time within the next few years. One obvious alternative involves replacing existing Swedish Saab 105/ SK60 trainers with the Super Tucano. That needs to happen around 2017, and Saab’s recent tie-up with Boeing to produce a supersonic jet trainer for the USAF’s T-X doesn’t change that. The SK60 jet is used in a basic-intermediate trainer role, and the Flygvapnet’s 18 serving JAS-39D Gripens won’t be upgraded to Gripen NG status. That would give them the option to use Gripen-Ds for use as lead-in fighter trainers to the JAS-39E, while still needing to replace the SK60s.

The coming year of Gripen NG negotiations will involve the Swedish government, and the agreement’s provisions could tip the scales on Swedish acquisition plans as well. Read “F-X2: Brazil Picks Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen-NG over Rafale, Super Hornet” for full coverage.

Aug 22/13: Turkey. Turkey and Brazil are forming a number of working groups on defense cooperation. Their release specifically mentions that the aeronautics working group will be studying the assembly of Turkish helicopters in Brazil. The T129 is the only candidate that fits. Note that Brazil already fields a handful of Russian Mi-35M attack helicopters, with a limited secondary capability as transports. On the other hand, they could definitely use more armed helicopters, and local production appeals to them.

The flip side is that Turkey would be studying the assembly of Brazilian aircraft in Turkey. Embraer offers the Super Tucano, a number of military aircraft based on their ERJ 145 regional jetliner, and the KC-390 medium transport. Turkey is committed to buy 10 A400M medium transports, but they have 32 C160 and C-130 medium transports to replace, so a future KC-390 buy is possible. Other possibilities are more restricted, as Turkey already has projects or orders in those categories: KAI’s KT-1 for training, Boeing’s E-737 AWACS for aerial surveillance, and Airbus ATR-72s and CN-235s for maritime patrol. Sources: Brazil MdD [in Portuguese].

June 18/13: Boeing agreement. Embraer and Boeing sign an agreement to market the KC-390 in limited international venues, building on the June 26/12 MoU. Boeing will be the lead for KC-390 sales, sustainment and training opportunities in the USA, UK and “select Middle East markets.”

The UK has committed its defense airlift budgets to a combination of C-130Js, A400Ms, and C-17s, so their inclusion doesn’t mean much. The USA is also an unlikely customer, as Lockheed Martin has a hard lock on the medium tactical airlifter segment. Absent some angle on civil sales, US SOCOM is about the only (remote) possibility. The Middle East offers a more promising market, with interest already expressed by Boeing’s C-17 customer in the UAE, but it will depend on which countries are within the agreement’s scope.

The biggest effect will probably be felt elsewhere, as one more positive factor in Boeing’s competition to supply its F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as Brazil’s new F-X-2 fighter. Boeing | Embraer.

May 29/13: Sub-contractors. Curtiss-Wright Controls, Inc. announces a new 5-year agreement from Embraer to harmonize flight test data-gathering equipment and database structures across the firm. The KC-390 is the 1st platform, using an Acra KAM-500 system with 46 chassis and 14 network switches.

This initial contract is $4 million, within an overall agreement whose lifetime value could rise to $30 million. Shipments of data acquisition units began in Q4 2012, and will continue in line with Embraer’s flight test programs.

April 9-13/13: For Sale. Embraer Defense & Security uses the LAAD 2013 expo to officially announce that the KC-390 is finalized and available for sale on the global market, with a 23-ton capacity and a maximum cruising speed of 465 knots (860 km/h). Engineering drawings are being released to suppliers, and Embraer maintains its promise to hold its 1st flight by the end of 2014.

Hopes of landing the plane’s 1st sale at LAAD were dashed. Embraer | Flight International.

April 3/13: KC-390’s origins. Defense News interviews Embraer CEO Luis Aguilar, which provides an interesting insight into the plane’s origins:

“When we thought about this airplane, it was the first time we looked at the international market also, not just the Brazilian requirements…. We looked at the market and then came back to the Brazilian Air Force to talk with them about what they think about their cargo airplanes for the future. They said they were probably going to replace with more C-130s, and we started talking and showed them we were able to develop something in a very feasible way. It took two years working together to launch and sign the contract. It was a much more sophisticated process. We are on schedule, and I think we have a great chance to sell abroad.”

April 2/13: Forecasts. Flight International takes a closer look at Embraer’s evolution, from its 2012 dependence on major aviation projects for 75% of its defense revenue, to a projected figure of just 58% by 2020. Domestic security and surveillance offerings are expected to grow in relative importance over that time, thanks to experience and products developed under Brazil’s $400 million SISFRON project, its 50/10/40 Haripa UAV partnership with Avibras and Elbit Systems, etc.

There are rumors that the LAAD 2013 expo will see Brazil announce the initial production order for 28 planes, but the larger question is how many orders Embraer can expect over the longer term. Rebecca Edwards of Forecast International says Embraer hopes to convert all of their MoUs into 60 firm orders by the end of 2013, and sees potential for production of 98 KC-390s by 2021, and up to 234 by 2027. The Teal Goup, on the other hand, sees most of the KC-390’s target market locked up in the USA, and only 25 planes built by 2021. Given a break-even production run of 120, Embraer has to hope that FI’s prediction is closer to their 2021 reality. For Teal, the key to the KC-390’s success is a price point in the $50 million range, but that won’t be easy:

“One factor which could drive up prices is that the Brazilian government has mandated the use of as many local suppliers as possible, depriving programme managers of the ability to choose the best components at the lowest possible cost, [Teal’s] Aboulafia says. Local subsystems tend to cost more than their international counterparts because of economies of scale and development costs. “It’s not a killer, it’s just something that hobbles designers, especially when they’re trying to keep costs down,” he says.”

Teal sees the KC-390 as more of a straight cargo plane than the C-130, with higher load capacity, modern features like fly-by-wire, and a faster cruising speed. The C-130’s use of turboprops is better for avoiding foreign object damage from unimproved landing strips and for low altitude operation, which makes them better suited to roles like special forces support. Flight International.

March 11-22/13: CDR. The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and Embraer Defense & Security successfully conduct the KC-390’s Critical Design Review (CDR) at Embraer’s facilities in Sao Jose dos Campos.

The aerodynamic and structural configurations are now set, along with the architecture and systems installations. The next step is to begin building the prototypes. Embraer.


Feb 1/03: Forecasts. Aviation Week talks to Embraer about its schedule and forecasts. The firm forecasts a total market for 700 medium tactical transport aircraft over 10 years, worth more than $50 billion. The grounds for this number is that there are currently more than 2,000 older airlifters, mainly Lockheed Martin C-130s and Russian Antonovs, that will need replacing within 10 years. Which is true, but many are in countries like the USA. The KC-390 is competing well elsewhere, however, and it seems that summer 2013 will begin the big push for contracts:

“The [Critical Design Review] is to be completed by this quarter. “[By June] we will be ready to go to market with terms and conditions and a final configuration,” says [Embraer DS CEO] Luiz Carlos Aguilar…. following the April 2012 signing of a memorandum of understanding with Boeing…. “We will partner with them in some specific countries,” he says. “We are still discussing that, and will announce a commercial agreement in a few months.” Meanwhile, a “sharing process” is under way with Boeing engineers visiting Embraer, and vice versa.”


Limited Boeing partnership; Sub-contractors picked; Possibilities in Canada & Indonesia?

KC-390 concept
(click to view full)

Nov 15/12: Canada? The Ottawa Citizen’s David Pugliese writes:

“The recent industry day on the Canadian Forces fixed wing search and rescue (FWSAR) project brought a new player into the mix. Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embaer was invited to attend.”

The KC-390’s faster cruising speed would give it advantages in a SAR/special forces role, and Embraer might be tempted to offer Canada a deal, in order to secure a high-end market endorsement. The bad news for Embraer is that they’re seen as a major competitor by Canadian aerospace firms, and especially by Bombardier. FWSAR’s rear ramp requirement caused Bombardier to bow out of the recent Industry Day. The political optics of shutting out Quebec’s flagship firm Bombardier, while giving the contract to their biggest competitor, make a KC-390 victory almost impossible to imagine.

Sept 26/12: Sub-contractors. Embraer picks 2 Brazilian companies to provide KC-390 components. Aerotron in Itajuba, Minas Gerais, will provide ballistics protection for the entire aircraft. LH Colus, from Sao Jose dos Campos, Sao Paulo, will provide seats and stretchers. Embraer.

Aug 13/12: Indonesia. Aviation Week reports that Indonesia is considering the KC-390. They’re already a customer for Embraer’s armed EMB-314 Super Tucano turboprop, but at the same time, earlier C-130 Hercules versions already serve with Indonesia’s TNU-AI. With respect to Indonesia’s choices:

“Asked if the Brazilians have been pitching the KC-390 to Indonesia, [Air Marshal Eris Herryanto] replied: “Yes. Prior to meeting you, we were shown a mockup today [Aug. 7] of the KC-390.” He says Indonesia needs a lot of military transports and wants to strengthen its capability to carry out disaster-relief operations.”

The other option for Indonesia, given its vast spaces, is to solve its issues with a larger number of smaller transports, like the Airbus Military CN-235s and C295s that IAe already manufactures. Indeed, industrial considerations are likely to play a significant role in any Indonesian buy, for reasons that go beyond the country’s procurement culture of corruption and bribes. A bill is being introduced to standardize required defense industrial offsets for equipment bought abroad, and it’s likely to raise the bar when it passes. Indonesia didn’t get its desired co-production deal from Embraer for the EMB-314 turboprops, but the KC-390 is also a different opportunity case. Within the Southeast Asia region, Australia (C-130J), India (C-130J, Irkut MTA), and (Malaysia A400M) are already committed to other medium transports. Bangladesh can’t afford much more than modernization of its aged C-130Es, and Myanmar doesn’t offer much potential. That leaves Vietnam, whose Russian and Indian relationships make a future MTA buy more likely, or C-130 customer Pakistan. This constellation means that some sort of regional sales arrangement for the KC-390 would be much more of a low-risk, good payoff venture for Embraer, as opposed to the medium risk, low to negative payoff option represented by Embraer/IAe co-production and marketing.

June 26/12: Boeing steps in. Boeing and Embraer announce an agreement to share some specific technical knowledge regarding the KC-390, and to evaluate markets where they may join their sales efforts for medium-lift military transports. It’s part of a broader agreement signed in April 2012, and its immediate significance is limited. On the other hand, it has the potential to turn Boeing into a medium transport rival to C-130 maker Lockheed Martin, while extending Embraer’s marketing reach to match Lockheed Martin and Airbus. Embraer Defense & Security CEO Luiz Carlos Aguiar:

“Boeing has extensive experience in military transport and air refueling aircraft, as well as deep knowledge of potential markets for the KC-390, especially those which were not considered in our original marketing plan.”

That’s the sort of thing that could change the KC-390’s global prospects, but it’s still too early to tell. Boeing | Embraer.

May 8/12: Sub-contractors. Thales announces a contract by Embraer Defence and Security to provide their civil-certified High Performance Inertial Reference System (HPIRS) as the KC-390’s Inertial Navigation System/ GPS navigation system.

May 7/12: Sub-contractors. United Technologies’ Goodrich Corp. is picked to provide more KC-390 components. Their SmartProbe air data system eliminates pneumatic lines, ice detectors, and they’ll also be supplying windshield ice protection controllers, and fuel gauges that include built-in-test capabilities. Initial hardware deliveries from Goodrich’s Sensors and Integrated Systems teams in Minnesota and Vermont are expected to begin in 2013. Goodrich.

April 18/12: Sub-contractors. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. announces that Embraer is continuing their decades-long partnership by equipping the KC-390 with Goodyear military aviation tires.

Jan 19/12: Sub-contractors. Embraer adds the KC-390’s Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) to Hamilton Sundstrand’s responsibilities.

APUs are small gas turbine engines that provide electric power, instead of propulsion. They’re used most often on the ground, providing electricity, compressed air, and/or shaft power for main engine start, air conditioning, electric power and other aircraft systems. They can also provide backup electric power during in-flight operation. The KC-390’s APU is derived from a commercial unit, adapted to military specifications. Hamilton Sundstrand.

Jan 18/12: Sub-contractors. Embraer picks Safran Group subsidiary Sagem DS to supply the KC-390’s Horizontal Stabilizer Trim System. It uses electric actuators, instead of hydraulic systems. Development work will be carried out at Sagem’s R&D center in Massy, near Paris. Sagem DS.


Sub-contractors picked; Civil C-390 confirmed; Portuguese subsidies; Design changes.

KC-390 concept
(click to view full)

Dec 14/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer picks United Technologies Corp. subsidiary Hamilton Sundstrand in Windsor Locks, CT to supply the KC-390’s Electric Power Generating System. The system will be based on the firm’s 90 kVA integrated drive generator, which is currently used in a variety of military and commercial applications. Hamilton Sundstrand.

Dec 14/11: Sub-contractors. Portugal takes another step. Embraer Defense and Security signs a partnership contract with OGMA Industria Aeronautica de Portugal and Empresa de Engenharia Aeronautica, for the KC-390 program. Reports indicate that EEA and the Centre for Excellence and Innovation in the Automotive Industry (CEIIA) will do engineering work for 3 unspecified segments of the jet. The segments designed and tested in Portugal will then be manufactured by OGMA, along with a central fuselage section.

The industrial contract follows Portugal’s Sept 10/10 Declaration of Intent to replace its 6 C-130H/C-130H-30 transports with 6 KC-390s. That purchase contract is the next step. Note that state-owned OGMA was privatized in 2003, and its ownership structure is now 45.5% Embraer, 19.5% EADS, and 35% government. Embraer | Macau Hub | Portugal Daily View | See also Flight International follow-up | Flight International on 2003’s A400M backout.

Nov 10/11: Portugal. Diario da Republica announces that Embraer is expected to receive up to EUR 87 million from Portugal’s National Strategic Benchmark Framework (QREN), or other public funding sources, in order to establish the necessary industrial infrastructure for KC-390 work. Macau Hub.

Oct 25/11: Sub-contractors. Elbit Systems wins an initial order worth $25 million. They’ll supply the KC-390’s pilot Head-Up Display, the Self-protection suite to coordinate warning systems and decoy/jammer defenses, and the DIRCM jammer for use against infrared guided missiles. All equipment will be provided through their Brazilian subsidiary, AEL, which also supplies the KC-390’s mission computer. Elbit Systems | Embraer.

Oct 19/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer and the Brazilian Air Force hold a workshop, to encourage more Brazilian companies to bid as suppliers of KC-390 parts, components, systems and services. The Nationalization Index of the aircraft, as calculated according to the criteria of the Brazilian Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES), is currently estimated at 60%.

Embraer notes that the NI can’t realistically rise above 70%, since there is no Brazilian manufacturer for the engines. It’s also realistic to expect downward pressure on that Brazilian “nationalization” from foreign workshare, which will be required as part of export efforts. At the same time, the KC-390 is part of an industrial strategy for Brazil, whose government will want to see a wider group of Brazilian firms involved. Around 80 Brazilian companies participated in the workshop. Embraer.

Sept 29/11: Sub-contractors. Safran Group’s Hispano-Suiza gets the award to supply the KC-390’s Emergency Electric Power Generator System (EEPGS). The EEPGS deploys in dire emergency situations, and uses the guaranteed existence of airflow to create power and keep key on-board systems running. It includes a Ram Air Turbine (RAT), RAT electric generator and generator control unit, and a deployment/ restow mechanism.

Sept 8/11: Sub-contractors. Cobham is picked to put the ‘K’ in “KC-390,” and supply its wing-mounted Aerial Refuelling Pods. That’s followed by an order with an initial contract value over of US$60 million. Cobham is a leading global supplier of such systems, which equip Airbus’ A330 MRTT, as well as the new Boeing KC-46A. Embraer | Cobham plc [PDF]

Sept 8/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer Defense and Security picks Italy’s SELEX Galileo to supply their T-20 Gabbiano Tactical Radar.

The T-20’s solid state amplifier technology is designed for better Mean Time Between Failures, reduced energy consumption, and smaller size relative to previous generation technologies. What’s even more important to Brazil is the fact that it’s usually carried on UAVs and surveillance aircraft, and can perform basic land and sea surveillance, in addition to navigation functions. Embraer | SELEX Galileo [PDF] | Gabbiano Family product sheet [PDF].

Sept 8/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer picks Elbit’s Brazilian subsidiary AEL Sietemas to supply the KC-390’s mission computer. AEL has worked with Embraer to supply mission computers and full avionics systems for most Brazilian combat aircraft, and losing the KC-390’s avionics suite competition to Rockwell Collins was a disappointment. This award gets them back into the program. AEL [in Portuguese]

July 26/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer Defense and Security chooses BAE Systems to provide some flight control electronics hardware, embedded software, system design and integration support. BAE has a history of producing fly-by-wire systems, and the firm will supply flight control computers and actuator control electronics for the KC-390. The system will be developed in Rochester, United Kingdom; and Johnson City, New York, USA. Embraer.

July 26/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer chooses Goodrich Corp. to provide the electro-hydrostatic actuators (EHA), electro-backup hydrostatic actuators (EBHA), actuator electronics, and electrical controls for the KC-390’s primary flight control system. Goodrich will develop and deliver the system through the joint efforts of its businesses Actuation Systems and Engine Control & Electrical Power Systems, as well as the Goodrich Electronic Systems Center. Embraer.

July 25/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer chooses International Aero Engines AG’s V2500-5 engine for the KC-390. Engineering work on this military variant of their V2500 engine has already started at IAE’s shareholder companies, and 1st deliveries of powerplants for prototype aircraft are scheduled to begin in 2013, with flight tests to start in 2014. Production engines are anticipated for 2015, with entry into service projected for later that year. Deliveries are anticipated to last at least through 2030. Embraer | IAE.

June 22/11: Civil C-390. Embraer confirms plans to launch a stretched C-390 for the civil cargo market, adding a section ahead of the wing for a cargo door, and a section behind for balance and space. If launched, it will compete with offerings like civil Hercules aircraft, cargo conversions of passenger narrowbody planes like the 737, a possible commercial version of Kawasaki’s similar C-2, etc.

This is not an unexpected move, vid. the Feb 18/09 entry, and also the need for 120 orders to break even (q.v. April 5/11 entry). On the other hand, crossovers in this area are less common than you’d think, because the key traits of military and civil cargo planes don’t quite line up. Civil operators want low-cost operation, and generally transport predictable palletized loads. Military operators want performance for operations like fast ingress/egress, short runways, and loads that place a lot of weight on smaller sections of the plane. That often leads to higher-cost tradeoffs like more powerful engines that consume more fuel, highly strengthened floors that add more weight, and airframes optimized for lift rather than super-efficient cruise. The steady progression of the KC-390 design away from a standard Embraer ERJ 190 airframe is a classic example of those tradeoffs at work.

Embraer officials are nonetheless predicting 200-250 C-390 orders, from the plane’s projected launch in 2018 to 2030 or so. If they can sell even half that number, the military program will become more competitive as costs and prices drop, and Embraer will do extremely well financially. They do have a slight advantage in that their original intended C-390 customer, Brazil’s postal service, is almost certain to be their launch customer. Beyond that, their target market is likely to be with operators serving sectors like resource industries, who can use them to haul medium loads into remote locations. See Flight International.

Note that by the mid-2020s, their most significant competitor may not be an airplane at all.

June 21/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer Defense and Security announces that Esterline Control Systems in Sylmar, CA, USA will supply the KC-390’s autothrottle system. Modern aircraft have a significant computer control element. The autothrottle system’s 2 throttles and integrated controls calculate and transmit thrust demands from aircrew controls or autopilot functions, to the Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) electronics running the engines. Embraer.

June 16/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer Defense and Security announces that Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse SAS in Toulouse, France will provide the KC-390’s environmental and cabin pressure control systems. The firm has a long-standing civil relationship with Embraer in this area, and the KC-390’s system will feature an integrated control architecture along with the pneumatic and mechanical components. Embraer.

May 5/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer picks Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line Fusion avionics system for the KC-390 cockpit, which will feed into 5 high-resolution 15″ LCD displays. It will include:

– An Integrated Flight Information Systems (IFIS) with electronic charts and enhanced maps;
– Advanced Flight Management Systems (FMS) with Wide Area Augmentation System that supports Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance approaches; (WAAS/LPV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP) capabilities
– Advanced graphical flight planning capability; and
– An Information Management System (IMS) to manage databases and facilitate wireless interaction with ground systems.

Rockwell’s system already complies with the most recent CNS/ATM requirements for flight in international civilian airspace, and the Pro Line fusion cockpit will give KC-390s commonality with the systems on some of Embraer’s Legacy business jets. Because it’s a commercial system, it also sidesteps any American ITAR legal restrictions on future aircraft sales. The loser is IAI/EAE, whose proposal (vid. Jan 5/11 entry) failed to win. Embraer | Rockwell Collins | Flight International.

April 13/11: Sub-contractors. At the LAAD Defense and Security conference in Rio de Janeiro, Embraer Defense and Security signs contracts with the Czech Republic’s Aero Vodochody and Fabrica Argentina de Aviones to join the KC-390’s Joint Definition Phase, and produce parts for the program. Their acceptance is another step toward the commitments each government has made to buy the production aircraft.

Aero Vodochody will supply the rear fuselage II section, crew and parachutist doors, emergency door and hatches, cargo ramp and fixed leading edge for the prototypes, and for the future serial production aircraft. Embraer.

FAdeA will manufacture the spoilers (plates on the top surface of a wing for controlling wing lift), doors for the nose landing gear, ramp door, flap fairings, tail cone, and electronic cabinet. Embraer.

Embraer adds that “The program is running on schedule. Production of the first prototype is expected to start in 2013, followed by the first flight in 2014.”

April 6/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer publicly designates its subsidiary ELEB Equipamentos Ltda. of in São José dos Campo, Brazil to develop and produce the KC-390’s landing gear.

April 5/11: Break-even = 120. A Flight International report places the KC-390’s break-even point at 120 aircraft sold, about double the current commitments if all parties follow through.

That’s about 17.1% of the expected available tactical airlifter market, which Embraer reportedly places at of 700 or so replacement aircraft outside of China, Russia, and the USA. On its face, that seems a somewhat challenging but achievable total, given that other key buyers like India (MRTA with Russia) are also no-go markets. Contemplation of how many customers that entails at various purchase numbers, however, makes one wonder if their 700 aircraft figure has become too optimistic. A long future of austerity budgets due to the welfare state’s fiscal explosions may restrict remaining sales opportunities in “advanced” markets, to the point that even an expected uptick in rising regions like Asia and parts of Africa can’t compensate. Even a smaller overall market wouldn’t make Embraer’s success impossible, but it would change the relative ratio of required wins against powerful competitors.

Break-Even = 120

March 22/11: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica subsidiary DRS Training & Control Systems in Fort Walton Beach, FL gets an undisclosed contract from Embraer S.A. to design, develop, test, produce, and support the KC-390 Cargo Handling and Aerial Delivery System (CHS/ADS).

The KC-390 CHS/ADS is one of the 5 major aircraft subsystems, used for loading both palletized cargo and rolling stock onboard, and for rolling out cargo on paradrops. CHS/ADS includes an electrical pallet locking system, an electronic load master control subsystem with DO178 level A software certification, retractable guide-rails, invertible cargo rollers, tie-down devices, and other floor panel components. DRS Technologies.

Feb 25/11: Sub-contractors. Embraer has frozen the configuration of its KC-390 tanker/transport, and plans to begin the joint definition phase in May 2011, once final decisions are made on major sub-contractors. Aviation Week describes a full scale mockup at Embraer’s plant in Sao Jose do Campos.

Recent KC-390 changes include longer wings (now 35.06 m), to enable slower 120 kt flight for helicopter refueling with the hose-and-drogue pods. Some customers are reportedly interested in a refueling boom as well, and Embraer is looking into this but doesn’t have a design it likes yet. The most unusual feature may be a movable pressure bulkhead that retracts into the roof and descends to seal the cargo cabin. While it shortens the cabin to 12.78m, it would allow high altitude airdrops from the space behind, without depressurizing the entire cabin.

Jan 5/11: Flight International reports that IAI and Synergy’s EAE joint venture is offering cockpit avionics and aircraft self-protection systems for the KC-390, under a 2009 cooperation pact.

IAI already has a presence in Brazil, supplying radars and maintenance services, and rumors of electronic intelligence or airborne early warning system KC-390 variants would play to IAI strengths. It’s worth remembering, however that both Embraer (ERJ-145 based R-99A) and IAI (Gulfstream G550 based CAEW) already have established AWACS offerings based on efficient, long endurance business jets. This makes the business case for an E-390 AWACS offering problematic for both parties.


Letters of Intent from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Portugal; UAE may be interested; Infrastructure in Portugal.

Looking beyond.

Nov 23/10: Portugal. Embraer begins the 1st phase of its new EUR 48 million, 330,000-square-foot (30,660-square-meter) facility in Evora, Portugal, dedicated to manufacturing complex airframe structures and components in composite materials. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2011, though production phase wouldn’t start until 2013. A 2nd phase will focus on metallic airframe structures.

Evora lies in the Alentejo region, 130 km east of Lisbon. Recently, the city developed an aerospace sector by creating a 9.4 million-square-foot (873,290-square-meter) aerospace industrial park, located near the municipal airfield. Embraer was the first investor. Ramos Catarino S.A. in Febres, Portugal is handling the excavation work, foundations and infrastructures. Construction was spurred by a wider strategy, but If Portugal goes ahead with a KC-390 buy, these facilities will already be in place for industrial offset work, and their construction costs may also count. Embraer.

Oct 29/10: Argentina intent. Embraer announces that:

“As a result of the conversations held between the Brazilian and the Argentine Defense Ministries, the ministers Nelson Jobim and Nilda Garre signed, this week, a Declaration of Intent regarding the South American neighbor’s participation in the development program of the KC-390 military transport jet. The agreement marks the beginning of negotiations for the involvement of Fábrica Argentina de Aviões “Brig. San Martín” S.A. – FAdeA in the manufacture of the new airplane, as well as the future acquisition of six KC-390 aircraft by the Argentine government.”

FAdeA was Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina during its privatized period, but is now state-owned again. The firm has collaborated with Embraer on a twin-prop regional airliner (the canceled CBA 123) and refurbished C-130s, but it also has a long history of aircraft development. Its best-known product is probably the IA-58 Pucara counter-insurgency aircraft, and they are currently developing an IA-73 basic jet trainer to go with their IA-63 Pampa advanced jet trainer. Flight International.

Argentina intent: 6

Sept 21/10: UAE. Reports indicate that Brazil and the UAE are negotiating an an umbrella agreement for military cooperation, with sales of Super Tucano trainer/light attack turboprops and KC-390 transports as key building blocks. Brazilian defense minister Nelson Jobim told reporters that Brazil would present the UAE with a draft agreement within 2 weeks, and hopes the deal could be signed within 2 months of a mutual draft.

The UAE would be a very significant customer. It has modernized its transport capabilities with a major C-17 buy, but negotiations to complement its 6 C-17As with 12 C-130J-30 Super Hercules planes have been bogged down for 18 months. A switch to the KC-390, and participation in its development, would attract considerable notice in global military circles, and offer a bridge to further middle eastern sales. Abu Dhabi’s The National.

Sept 13/10: Sub-contractors. The Brazilian and Czech Ministries of Defence sign an agreement for Aero Vodochody a.s. to cooperate with Embraer in developing and building the KC-390. The firm has considerable experience in aerostructure manufacturing, and the Czech defense ministry believes they could end up manufacturing the KC-390’s rear fuselage, doors, and wing leading edges

Specific terms are expected to be signed by the end of 2010, and the Czech Republic is reportedly looking to buy up to 2 KC-390s as a complement to their C-295M fleet. Aero Vodochody | Aviation Week | Flight International.

Czechs join – up to 2?

Sept 10/10: Portugal intent. Portuguese defense minister Augusto Santos Silva, signs a Declaration of Intent to join the KC-390 development program, and begin negotiations to finalize the terms and buy up to 6 planes.

The 6 KC-390s would replace the current fleet of 6 PoAF C-130H/C-130H-30 Hercules turboprops. Embraer | Reuters | In Portuguese: Portugal’s MDP | EFE | O Globo.

Portugal intent: up to 6

Sept 1/10: Colombia intent. Colombian defense minister Rodrigo Rivera announces that the country is negotiating to join the KC-390 partnership, and have signed a Declaration of Intent. They are reportedly interested in buying up to 12 planes to replace their existing fleet of 7 C-130B/H Hercules aircraft, and possibly other models in the FAC’s inventory. In return, they would join as industrial partners, via Colombian Aeronautics Industry Corp. The FAC is familiar with Brazilian aircraft, flying EMB 312 Tucanos, EMB 314 Super Tucanos, and a pair of EMB 110 Banderiante twin-turboprop light passenger/ transport planes.

The DoI was signed along with a broader set of agreements between Colombia and Brazil, covering economics, technology, environment and security. Marco Aurelio Garcia, a special adviser on Brazil’s international affairs, reportedly reaffirmed that the conflict with FARC’s narco-guerillas was solely Colombia’s internal issue, and Brazil would become involved only if Colombia requested it. That declaration is an obstacle to efforts by FARC and its backers in countries like Venezuela, who wish to pressure Colombia by internationalizing the conflict. Aviation Week | Defense News | defpro | Flight International | China’s Xinhua || In Spanish: La Republica | Terra Colombia | Vanguardia Liberal || DID: Colombia’s Defense Modernization

Colombia intent: up to 12


Aug 24/10: Chile intent. Embraer publicly announces an signed Declaration of Intention from Chile to join the KC-390 program. That allows Chile’s Empresa Nacional de Aeronautica (ENAER) to join discussions about participating in its development, and acting as a supplier to the KC-390 and other programs. Embraer’s Phenom 100/300 and Legacy 450/500 business jets have been mentioned in that context. The DoI also begins negotiations with Chile’s FACh to buy up to 6 planes.

Chile has been discussing the purchase of 3 Airbus A400Ms for over 5 years now, but had not come to any agreement. It seems likely that any KC-390 purchase would supplant that buy. ENAER has been supplying structures for Embraer’s 50-seat ERJ 145 regional jet since the 1990s, and Chile’s FACh already flies 12 of Embraer’s EMB-314 Super Tucanos. Embraer | Defense News | Mercopress. In Spanish: Diario Financiero | EFE. In Portuguese: O Globo | ANSA Latina | DCI.

Chile intent: up to 6

July 21/10: Brazil to buy 28. At the Farnborough 2010 show, Embraer and the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) announced the FAB’s intent to buy 28 KC-390s, and reveals additional details about the design.

The preliminary studies phase is done now, including wind tunnel tests, and aerodynamic, structural, and systems designs are all frozen. First flight is expected in 2014 and entry into service expected at the end of 2015. Embraer.

Brazil intent: 28

May 31/10: Brazil’s FAB offers an update, in the wake of their initial Workshop on KC-390 Offsets, held with 16 foreign firms at the Technology Park of Sao Jose dos Campos (SP), on May 25-26/10. Brazil’s Department of Aerospace Science and Technology (DCTA) organized and promoted the workshop.

Some of the KC-390’s equipment, from engines to instrumentation, will come from outside Brazil. Those firms will be required to offer industrial offsets to Brazilian firms, as the price of their participation in the project. Offsets could include production contracts for the KC-390 or other sales, or a range of activities from staff training, technology transfer, joint development of systems and supply of machine tools, etc.

The FAB adds that according to studies made by Embraer, there is a potential market of 700 aircraft in this class over the next 10 years. That may be so. Embraer will have to beat plenty of competitors, in order to secure its share of those orders. Brazil’s FAB [in Portuguese].

2007 – 2009

Development contract; Program will be international; Links to Brazil’s potential fighter buy.

KC-390 sign-on
(click to view full)

Oct 4/09: F-X2 & KC-390 linked? Brazil’s FAB confirms that revised bids are in from all 3 short-listed fighter contenders, and Saab’s offer clearly has significant support from the Swedish government.

Gripen International’s revised bid offers a wide range of elements, including: Full involvement in the Gripen NG development program; Complete technology transfer and national autonomy through joint development; Independence in choice of weapons and systems integration; Production in Brazil of up to 80% Gripen NG airframes, via a full Gripen NG assembly line; and Full maintenance capability in Brazil for the Gripen NG’s F414 engine. That last offer would largely remove the threat of future American interference, and it would be interesting to see how Gripen International proposes to achieve it. Gripen International touts “significantly lower acquisition, support and operating costs” for its plane, and all this would be backed by a firm proposal for full long-term financing from the government’s Swedish Export Credit Corporation.

The additional offers are equally significant. Brazil will have the sales lead for Gripen NG in Latin America, with joint opportunities elsewhere. Saab would join the KC-390 program as a development and marketing partner, and Sweden will evaluate the KC-390 for its long term tactical air transport needs, as a future replacement for its recently-upgraded but aging C-130 Hercules aircraft. Saab also proposes to replace Sweden’s aged fleet of about 42 SK60/ Saab 105 jet trainers with Embraer’s Super Tucano, but it received a SKr 130 million ($18.8 million) deal in September 2009 to upgrade the planes’ cockpit systems, and current Swedish plans would see the SK60s continue in service until mid-2017. FAB release [in Portuguese] | Gripen International release.

Sept 5/09: France. Brazil’s Ministerio Da Defesa announces that Brazil has secured French cooperation to develop Embraer’s KC-390 medium transport. Other reports indicate that France is set to buy 10-12 of the aircraft when they’re introduced. This would give the Armee de l’Air a small fleet that would offset the risks of late A400M delivery, provide a second source of immediate relief for the ancient C-160 Transall fleet, and offer a lower-capacity option that could either be used as a transport supplement, or converted to specialty roles.

The KC-390 announcement is part of an incipient deal for France’s Rafale fighters, and French technology transfer across a broad range of projects was reportedly the critical factor in the deal. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva described the Rafale buy as “definitively consolidating a strategic partnership we started in 2005.” Brazil will now produce helicopters (EC725), submarines (nuclear-powered and diesel-electric), transport aircraft (KC-390) and possibly fighters (Rafale) in cooperation with France, under a broad strategic partnership in the defense arena. MDD announcement [Portuguese] | Agence France Presse | France24 | CS Monitor | Reuters.

June 15/09: International. Aviation Week reports that Brazil is in talks with other countries to make the KC-390 an international program. Embraer’s EVP for defense and government programs, Orlando Jose Ferreira Neto, expects that foreign partners could be added as early as the end of 2009. He adds that it will be a top-down government process, with accompanying directives handed down to Embraer.

The article adds that Embraer’s choice of its 27,000 pound thrust class engine will also be made in the next 24 months. Safran has reportedly said they will bid one of their GE partnership’s CFM engines. Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce are also obvious contenders.

May 1/09: South Africa. South Africa’s Engineering News reports interest among South African industry, but the country is already committed to buying 8-14 of Airbus’ larger A400M transport. Some of the skills involved in that order would definitely transfer, but a South African KC-390 order would be fiscally difficult. Excerpt:

“In February, Denel Saab Aerostructures (DSA) CEO Lana Kinley told Engineering News Online that “we are very interested in having Embraer as a customer, and in being a risk-sharing partner on the C-390″. DSA sister company Denel Dynamics is already involved in a partnership with the FAB to develop the A-Darter air-to-air missile.”

April 14/09: Development contract. At the 7th Latin America Aero and Defence (LAAD) trade fair in Rio de Janeiro, Embraer announces a contract from the Brazilian government to develop the KC-390. Figures are not disclosed, but the project’s scope is reported in other venues as around $1.4 – 1.5 billion over 7 years, with the aim of manufacturing 23 planes for Brazil, and inducting the first operational aircraft in 2015.

Embraer Defence VP Orlando Ferreira Neto tells Aviation Week that the program will help Embraer toward the goal of increasing its defense business to 20% of revenues, from 8% in 2008. As noted below, Colombia has expressed interest in a partnership. South Africa’s Engineering News reports that South Africa’s Denel Saab Aerostructures may also be interested in part

Categories: News

Snakes and Rotors: The H-1 Helicopter Program

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 03:55

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

(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 – 2017



June 19/17: Bell Helicopters is considering a plan to manufacture AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters in Romania within the next 4-5 years. News of the deal comes almost twenty years after a previous attempt to assemble the AH-1 in the country fell through. The announcement follows Bells’ signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Romanian company IAR-Ghimbav Brasov Group last November that would see the local firm cover possible maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of the AH-1Z should it be procured by Bucharest. While Romania has yet to launch a formal tender for their replacement, Bell is just one of several manufacturers, including Airbus, who are positioning themselves for an anticipated requirement.

April 9/17: Bell Helicopters is scheduled to deliver the first three of 12 AH-1Zs to Pakistan this summer, with the remainder to be delivered next year after being handed over to the US government. Approval for the deal was granted by Washington last April. The sale comes as the company expects the signing of a second export order for the H-1 series UH-1Y Venom utility and AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters in the coming months.

March 2/17: After a few months of delay, the USAF may soon re-release a request for proposals for the replacement of the UH-1 Huey helicopter fleet. The delay originated after a number of manufacturers told the service their off-the-shelf solutions would not meet all of the proposed requirements, with only the Sikorsky HH-60U Black Hawk fitting the earlier requirements. Speaking on the matter, USAF chief Gen David Goldfein said that the “delay in the UH-1 replacement is actually based on the dialogue we’re having with industry and what they’re saying they can produce based on our RFP.” “We want to make sure when the RFP hits the streets it’s right,” he added. Alongside the Black Hawk, Boeing and Leonardo are looking to offer a militarized version of the Italian firm’s commercial AW139 helicopter. An attempt at providing a media flight for the MH-139, however, had to be cancelled following the malfunction of one of its modular avionics units.

February 10/17: Bell Helicopters will provide long-lead items and components for the US Navy’s AH-1Z aircraft. valued at $49 million, the agreement covers 27 Lot 15 AH-1Z Vipers operated by the USMC, and work is expected to be completed by March 2018. According to manufacturer Bell, the AH-1Z is the only helicopter in the world to feature air-to-air missile attack capabilities.

December 28/16: AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopters operated by the US Navy will receive Target Sight Systems provided by Lockheed Martin. Valued at $150 million, the deal also includes production orders for the government of Pakistan under the foreign military sales program. Options included in the contract could raise the value to $284 million. The Target Sight System is a large-aperture mid-wave forward-looking infrared sensor designed to identify and designate targets at maximum weapon range, increasing the Cobra operator’s survivability and lethality.

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
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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.

(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


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


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
(click to view full)

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

Kratos to unveil Valkyrie & Mako UAVs in Paris | Qatar complete F-15 deal despite tensions | Open bids for Altay serial production

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 04:00

  • Kratos Defense & Security Solutions will unveil, for the first time, its XQ-222 Valkyrie and UTAP-22 Mako unmanned aerial systems at the Paris airshow. Both UAS aircraft are designed to act as the robotic wingman of fighter pilots, are highly maneuverable, stealthy, able to fly at near supersonic speeds, and can carry and deploy weapons or surveillance systems. The company said that the Mako is already operational and is scheduled to undergo further testing with manned aircraft starting from this month, while the Valkyrie’s first flight is slated for next Spring.

  • Northrop Grumman has announced that it has successfully tested its new modular panel-based sensor array during flight testing in April. The system is a multi-function radar that features an open architecture system, allowing it to be easily reprogrammed with different software packages, and can include third-party systems based on mission requirements. The test also saw successful use of its ground moving target indicator and synthetic aperture radar modes, which give operators the ability to detect and track large numbers of ground vehicles over a wide area, and high resolution radar imagery to map the flight path of the plane and provide topographical and mapping information, respectively.

Middle Easy & North Africa

  • Despite a spat with its Arab neighbors amid claims they were funding terrorism, Qatar has completed negotiations with Boeing to move ahead with a purchase of 36 F-15QA fighter aircraft. Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah was in Washington to sign the $12 billion Foreign Military Sale agreement with his counterpart Jim Mattis, and could be extended to cover a total of 72 planes at a cost of approximately $21 billion. The move may confuse Washington’s allies in the region, after President Trump has initially sent a series of tweets that appeared to take credit for and praise the decision when Saudi Arabia and several Arab countries cut off ties with Qatar. “The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” Trump said in a speech at the White House last week. “We ask Qatar, and other nations in the region to do more and do it faster.

  • Turkey has decided to ditch its sole-source negotiations with manufacturer Otokar for the serial production of the Altay tank, instead favoring to start an open bid for the same contract. Four prototypes were built by Otokar for developmental tests— successfully completed earlier this year—and clauses within the developmental allowed the firm, without competition, to make an offer for the serial production contract. However, Turkish procurement officials familiar with the Altay program, said that Otokar’s best and final offer failed to qualify for a single-source serial production contract. New bids are expected to be solicited by the end of the year, with FNSS and BMC expected to join Otokar in the new competition.

  • The US military has moved its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from Jordan near the US-Coalition training base at At Tarif in southern Syria, in an effort to deter pro-regime forces that have been operating in and near the zone while moving their own artillery into the area. While troops at At Tarif are primarily there to support the fight against ISIS, tensions and conflict have been rising with pro-regime forces in the area, with a F-15E downing an Iranian-made drone, and air strikes against pro-regime militia positions near the base. A truck-mounted system which can fire missiles as far as 300 kilometers, HIMARS has already been used from positions in northern Iraq, where it has joined conventional artillery in a push by the Syrian Democratic Forces against Islamic State militants.


  • Saab is hoping to start negotiations to sell Gripen fighter to the Bulgarian government after this summer. While Sofia has yet to approach the firm over the acquisition, the plane was deemed by the previous caretaker government of Boiko Borissov as the best option out of three to replace its ageing Soviet-made MiG-29s, which continue to run up huge bills in overhaul and maintenance costs. Magnus Lewis-Olsson, Saab’s president for Market Area Europe, described the Gripen as the only modern fighter in the competition, adding that any expert would know that no other aircraft was more Nato-compatible than the Gripen. He added that Saab would be able to deliver four aircraft within 18 months from the signing of the contract.

  • Work has started on a new long-range interceptor by MiG Corporation. The new aircraft is being designed to replace the MiG-31 and the company hopes that a new plane will be ready by the time the next prospective modernization of the MiG-31 is announced by the Russian government. MiG’s general director, Ilya Tarasenko, also confirmed that the company has reached the prototype stage of its UAV development program, adding that the company is working on “light UAVs, capable of performing reconnaissance missions, conducting electronic warfare, and striking at enemy targets.”

Asia Pacific

  • Airbus is close to completing talks with the Indian government to deliver 56 C295W transport aircraft to the Indian Air Force. Partnering with local firm Tata Advanced Systems, the contract is expected to cost $1.8 billion with 16 aircraft supplied from abroad while the remainder will be assembled in India. The deal comes as New Delhi looks to replace its current transport fleet of Avro aircraft after an earlier plan to develop the Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) under a joint venture between Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was grounded after disagreements over design.

Today’s Video

Categories: News

Boeing drops MSA and RAMIS amid corp restructure | LRPF enters testing phase | Ukrainian industry courts world ambassadors

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 04:00

  • Poor sales and a lack of interest in both the Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) and Reconfigurable Airborne Multi-Intelligence System (RAMIS) has resulted in Boeing dropping both platforms from its portfolio. The firm said that despite marketing the Bombardier Challenger 605 business jet-based MSA to potential operators around the world, no sales had materialized and was thus being withdrawn and shelved. The RAMIS—based on the King Air 350— has been discontinued since late 2014. Boeing’s MSA had been billed as a cheap yet capable option for those operators who had a requirement to conduct most major maritime patrol missions, however, was not equipped with any offensive anti-submarine or anti-surface warfare weaponry.

  • From July, Boeing will restructure its defense, space and security (BDS) division, which will see the division broken into smaller units as well the trimming of some 50 executive positions. It’s BDS division, which accounted for nearly a third of the company’s total revenue in 2016, will now be divided into seven units, instead of the present five, with all units reporting to BDS Chief Executive Leanne Caret. Executive positions cut are part of efforts to limit a layer of bureaucratic management and marks at least the third major reorganization since Caret took the executive helm in 2016.

  • US Navy aircraft carriers, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), will be the first vessels to carry the MQ-25A Stingray, the service’s upcoming unmanned aerial refueling tanker. Both carriers will receive upgrades to include the control stations and data links needed to control the tanker, and while no date for the upgrades have been set, it is believed that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson intends to accelerate the deployment of the Stingray and get it on carrier decks as early as 2019. News of the first carriers set for the MQ-25A introduction comes as the Navy decided to reprogram $26.7 million for control systems and data link installation the MQ-25A will need to operate from an aircraft carrier, taking that money from the USS George Washington (CVN-73) during its four-year midlife refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

  • Raytheon has been awarded a $116 million contract to enter the maturation and risk-reduction phase of the Long Range Precision Fires program. The US Army contract will go towards funding a series of tests of all missile components to ensure readiness for construction, with live-fire tests of the weapon, by the end of 2019. The LRPF will supplement existing M270 MLRS and HIMARS battlefield missile and rocket systems, and can also be adapted as an anti-ship weapon due to its modular design.

Middle East & North Africa

  • The Trump administration is to forge ahead with a planned delivery of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. Ordered in 2015, the sale of of precision-guided munitions to Riyadh had been suspended by the Obama administration in December because of concerns over civilian casualties in Yemen, where a Saudi-led Arab coalition is fighting Houthi rebels supported by Iran. That is no longer the case. The announcement comes as Congress voted 53 to 47 to narrowly defeat legislation that sought to block about $500 million of a separate $110 billion arms deal arranged with Saudi during Trump’s first foreign trip in May.


  • German arms exports dropped by 16% in 2016, according to government documents seen by German newspapers. The Handelsblatt newspaper listed approved arms sales valued at $2.72 billion during the first four months of the year, down compared to $3.72 billion in thesame period of 2016, and added that 53.6% of German exports in 2016 went to countries that are not in the European Union, NATO or otherwise allied with Germany, bolstered significantly by the sale of a frigate to Algeria that had been approved in 2012. “Overall, the arms export policy remains restrictive and transparent,” the report said.

  • Ukrainian officials have pitched its defense industry to 16 diplomats from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific region, in an effort to boost exports and modernization work. State-owned Ukroboronprom Director General for Development Artur Kheruvymov pitched its industry as an ex-Soviet nation that is capable of developing and producing the latest defense systems while also modernizing older Soviet gear and provide after-sales service to customers. Products being offered include unmanned aerial vehicles, communications gear and a variety of weapons.

Asia Pacific

  • The Bangladesh Air Force has announced the purchase of five Mi-171Sh helicopters from Russian manufacturer Rosoboronexport. A ceremony to mark the sale took place at the air force’s headquarters on Monday, with Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operation & Training) Air Vice Marshal M Naim Hassan Ageev and Dmitry, Deputy Chief of Section, Joint Stock Company “Rosoboronexport” putting their names on the contracts. The deal is part of the government move to modernise Bangladesh Air Force.

Today’s Video

  • First fire of the Tor-M2 air defense system:

Categories: News

Navy increases APKWS orders | Boeing to provide Apaches to UK | Dassault to break ground on Indian components facility

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 04:00

  • BAE Systems will provide Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) upgrade kits to the US Navy. The $181 million deal is funded under a recently announced indefinite delivery / indefinite quantity contract and will allow BAE to keep up with increased demand for APKWS rockets instead of more expensive laser-guided munitions such as the Hellfire missile. The APKWS mid-body guidance kit transforms standard unguided Hydra 70 (2.75-inch) rockets into highly accurate precision munitions by easily screwing into place between the warhead and the motor. Export customers can purchase the technology through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.

  • Lockheed Martin has won a $59 million USAF contract modification to provide fuselage trainers for systems used on the KC-10J. The firm will provide trainers modified from C-10 fuselages designed to represent the functions and appearance of the KC-130J tanker aircraft, and will allow for training on exterior and interior preflight and post-flight inspections and loading operations. Work will be conducted in Tulsa, Okla., and Marietta, Ga, with a completion date scheduled for December 31, 2021.

Middle Easy & North Africa

  • Elbit Systems is planning to make the debut of its SkyStriker loitering munitions system at this year’s Paris air show. The system is able to locate, acquire and attack targets with high precision, with an operator using its electro-optical/infrared seeker to identify threats. The company added that the SkyStriker can engage targets from a variety of angles, while an operator will be able to abort a strike as little as 2s prior to impact, before re-engaging other authorised threats or returning to a recovery point. The air vehicle lands using a parachute and airbag.


  • Switzerland has approved funds for the initial stages of its F/A-18C/D fighter successor program. $10 million has been allocated in order to cover preparatory studies, testing and other pre-acquisition costs, with a decision to be made by the end of 2020. Additional funds for the full procurement should be in place by 2022, with deliveries to commence in 2025. Bern is also planning to undertake a life extension program for its current fleet of 30 Hornets, which will bring their active service life to 2030.

  • Boeing has been awarded a $411 million modification to an existing contract to provide 38 Apache attack helicopters to the UK. Also included in the deal are three crew trainers for the Apache’s latest Longbow variant of the aircraft, as well as spares for both systems. Work will be completed in Mesa, Ariz., and is estimated to be completed by Feb 28, 2023.

Asia Pacific

  • Russian aerospace manufacturer Sukhoi has plans to build a spare parts factory in Indonesia as part of a deal to sell Su-35 fighter aircraft to the country. Indonesia’s Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu made the announcement, adding that the deal will benefit Jakarta as the factory can manufacture parts that can then be sold to neighboring governments—Malaysia operates the Su-30MKM—who operate Sukhoi aircraft. Negotiations between Russia and Indonesia over a deal for ten Su-35 aircraft are still ongoing.

  • A crashed North Korean drone found in South Korea is believed to have been spying on the US THAAD system prior to its crash. The drone, mounted with a camera, was found last week in a forest near the border between the two Koreas, where ten photos of the THAAD were found. North Korea has about 300 unmanned aerial vehicles of different types including one designed for reconnaissance as well as combat drones, the UnitedNations said in a report last year.

  • Dassault and Indian partner Reliance Defense & Aerospace will break ground next month on a components facility for Rafale fighter aircraft. Construction of the facility comes as part of ‘Make in India’ commitments stipulated in September’s $8.8 billion Rafale fighter jet deal. Dassault are also currently training the first group of Indian engineers at its facilities in France, and the Indian facility is expected to be operational and producing components by the first quarter of 2018.

Today’s Video

  • Japan’s first F-35 makes its maiden flight:

Categories: News

APKWS II: Laser-Guided Hydra Rockets in Production At Last

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 03:50

Hydras & Hellfires
(click to view full)

The versatile Hydra 70mm rocket family is primed for a new lease on life, thanks to widespread programs aimed at converting these ubiquitous rockets into cheap laser-guided precision weapons. Conversion benefits include cost, use on both helicopters and fighters, more precision weapons per platform, low collateral damage, and the activation of large weapon stockpiles that couldn’t be used under strict rules of engagement.

Firms all over the world have grasped this opportunity, which explains why strong competition has emerged from all points of the compass. America’s “Advanced Precision-Kill Weapon System (APKWS)” is one of those efforts, but the road from obvious premise to working weapon has been slow. After numerous delays and false starts since its inception in 1996, an “APKWS-II” program finally entered System Design and Development (SDD) in 2006. In 2010, it entered low-rate production, and it was fielded to the front lines in 2012. That date will still put APKWS on the cutting edge of battlefield technology, as a leading player in a larger trend toward guided air-to-ground rockets.

The USA’s APKWS Programs

(click to view full)

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and BAE Systems were all battling for the APKWS program, which could pick up large US and international orders, and remain in production for a long time. BAE Systems’ team won in April 2006, but Lockheed Martin and Raytheon both proceeded with independent efforts to develop their own products. Meanwhile, the Army’s APKWS budget request was “zeroed” out in FY 2008.

Fortunately for BAE and General Dynamics, the US Navy kept them in the game. In November 2008, they formally picked up the APKWS-II System Design & Development (SDD) contract, and kept it going. SDD finished in November 2009, and evaluations wrapped up in January 2010. APKWS-II was approved through Milestone C in April 2010, and initial production orders followed in July 2010. A February 2011 JCTD contract will add APKWS to fixed-wing fighters: the USMC’s AV-8B Harriers, and the USAF’s A-10C Thunderbolt close air support planes. By January 2012, the 1st fixed-wing test firing had added the AT-6C turboprop light attack plane to this list, and showed clear potential for broader fielding. The US military fielded APKWS in March 2012, beginning with US Marine Corps UH-1 utility and AH-1 attack helicopters. The 1st Full Rate Production order was placed at the end of July 2012.

APKWS: Concept and Weapon

(click to view full)

The BAE and General Dynamics team offered an unusual approach to APKWS-II, in order to solve the problems inherent in launching several guided rockets at once. Instead of adding a guidance unit to the rocket’s nose, where it could be damaged or confused by the flames, corrosive soot, overpressure etc. created by nearby rocket firings, they opted for a mid-body guidance approach. BAE’s Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS) uses fiber-optic connections to a set of optical sensors, distributed within the rocket’s pop-out fins.

Since the fins are folded and sealed during firing, their seekers are protected. The technical challenge after that, is making sure that the pop-out fins don’t flex or vibrate a lot in flight. The use of distributed sensors can compensate for some movement, but too much movement would create accuracy problems for the DASALS optical bench.

The entire guidance section screws in between the warhead section and the rocket motor section, and can be added in the field. Since the seeker is a semi-active laser, rather than a beam-rider, APKWS can be directed by laser sources beyond its launcher, so long as they have the correct laser modulation code. This is a standard approach for laser guided missiles, but some competitors still use beam-riding guidance. Thales’ low-end LMM missile, for instance, will begin as a beam rider. Most other competitors, however, will use semi-active laser or imaging infrared seekers.

By 2019, APKWS will be able to use the new 13.7 pound M822 tri-mode penetrating/ blast/ incendiary warhead, which can punch through 40″ of reinforced concrete or 1″ of steel, while creating over 1,500 fragments and a 2,000F degree zirconium burn. Instead of just 1 AGM-65 Maverick per hardpoint, or 3 MBDA Brimstone missiles, certified aircraft would have 7 anti-armor weapons that can defeat many armored personnel carriers, and all lesser vehicles.

Compatible Platforms

F/A-18C fires Hydras
(click to view full)

APKWS has been qualified for use aboard USMC UH-1Y Venom utility and AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, and from Bell’s militarized 407GT scout helicopter. The next targets are the US Navy’s MH-60S utility helicopter (2014) and MH-60R anti-submarine & strike helicopter (2015), and the USMC’s AH-1Z attack helicopter (2015), using a digital LAU-61G/A 19-rocket pod.

Successful tests have been conducted from an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter, and Australia has tested APKWS from its EC665 Tiger ARH scout/attack helicopter, while using Forges de Zeebrugge’s FZ90 rocket instead. No modifications were required, and that combination could also be in service by 2015.

APKWS Fixed-Wing is actually a different rocket, because it has to survive and perform through the freezing temperatures of high-altitude flight, as well as the high turbulence produced by high speed aircraft. That means a cartridge activated device to force open the control canards during high speed launches, and a modified guidance control system for the rocket.

On the fixed-wing front, successful APKWS-FW tests have been conducted from AT-6 turboprops, and from A-10C Thunderbolt II, AV-8B Harrier II, and F-16 jets. The US Navy plans to certify it aboard USMC F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters in 2017-2018.

Why APKWS? Combat Advantages

Click for video

A 70mm rocket’s size and warhead are good enough for most military targets, offering both reduced collateral damage compared to larger missiles, and greater warhead flexibility. Precision rockets can carry infantry-killing flechettes, dispersed bomblets, small unitary warheads, and more. Adding thermobaric warheads creates a system that can kill personnel, destroy most armored personnel carriers and lighter vehicles; and even collapse buildings, if the Marines’ SMAW experiences in Fallujah are any indication. All without incurring the high-end price of full anti-armor missiles like the TOW RF, Hellfire, etc.

Using 70mm rockets also benefits the platforms carrying them to the battlefield. Laser-guided rockets would expand the range of aircraft, helicopters, and UAVs carrying precision weapons, as well as increasing the number of precision weapons each platform carries. The future of warfare may even see small rocket pods mounted on some ground vehicles, if recent experiments with Boeing’s Humvee-mounted Avenger system are any indication. That would conserve valuable missile rounds by eliminating easy targets like UAVs, provide a second type of guidance threat against incoming helicopters and aircraft, and create the option of using the system in ground combat against infantry positions or vehicles.

Each of those changes, individually, is a significant increase in combat power. All of those changes together would make US Army precision fires nearly ubiquitous on the battlefield, alongside weapons fired from UAVs, and guided ground-launched rockets, mortars, and artillery shells. When coupled with persistent surveillance concepts like Task Force ODIN, it nudges the Army and USAF toward a more equal footing of “federated airpower” in counterinsurgency fights. In full-scale battles like the 1991 Desert Storm, it can turn NATO’s long-standing “assault breaker” doctrine of tactical decapitation into routine procedure, as enemies showing leadership behaviors are quickly targeted from the air or ground, and eliminated.

Beyond the USA, laser guided 70mm rockets open up a large market for counterinsurgency weapons. Many countries operate older fixed wing planes as their primary strike force, but haven’t been able to afford the expensive conversions and weapons that precision attack requires. With guided rockets, that goal is suddenly within reach. Rocket pods are a universal weapon option, almost all countries have existing stocks of unguided rockets, and targeting can even be done by troops on the ground. This setup can work with very basic aircraft integration, so the technical and cost requirements aren’t difficult. What’s difficult, is the training and coordination required to make close air support effective. Which may not stop eager customers.

Contracts and Key Developments

APKWS is designed as a screw-in insert to existing 70mm rockets, so it’s bought as mid-body “guidance sections.” BAE Systems Information and Electronics in Nashua, NH is the official prime contractor, though they’re partnered with General Dynamics. US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, MD manages the contracts.

FY 2014 – 2017

Orders: USA, Jordan; Testing on AH-64D; US Navy begins program for MH-60R/S; Australia wants APKWS for EC665 Tiger and MH-60RS.

APKWS numbers

June 14/17: BAE Systems will provide Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) upgrade kits to the US Navy. The $181 million deal is funded under a recently announced indefinite delivery / indefinite quantity contract and will allow BAE to keep up with increased demand for APKWS rockets instead of more expensive laser-guided munitions such as the Hellfire missile. The APKWS mid-body guidance kit transforms standard unguided Hydra 70 (2.75-inch) rockets into highly accurate precision munitions by easily screwing into place between the warhead and the motor. Export customers can purchase the technology through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.

October 27/16: BAE has received a maximum value $600 million deal to provide Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guided munitions. Aimed at speeding the delivery of the rockets to the US military and its allies, the contract involves a three-year, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract with an initial award of more than $130 million. Export customers of the APKWS include Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon.

June 10/16: The USAF has acquired the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guided rockets for its A-10s and F-16s operating in Afghanistan and Iraq under an urgent field requirement. To fulfill the urgent need, the service will acquire its initial supply of rockets out of the current Navy inventory. The BAE-developed guidance kit was first tested on the AV-8B Harrier, F-16 and A-10 during flight demonstrations in May 2013, the company said. It is already widely used on Navy and Marine Corps helicopters such as the Bell AH-1Z Viper, and was acquired last year by the Army for the Boeing AH-64 Apache gunship. The addition of the kits will allow current “Hydra” rockets to act as a precision-guided munition capable of destroying soft targets like hostile boats, vehicles, and exposed enemy combatants instead of using more expensive guided bombs and missiles.

April 1/16: The US Navy has delivered the first fixed-wing aircraft variant of the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS), to be attached to AV-8B Harriers and operated by the Marine Attack Squadron (VMA). Initially integrated onto MH-60S, MH-60R, and AH-1Z helicopters, the new design just took seven months to be incorporated onto the Harrier. The new capability will quickly provide the AV-8B with a low-cost, low-collateral damage, high-precision weapon in support of combat operations.

December 2/15: Jordan is the first nation to receive shipments of the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS). 110 units of the system were requested by the Jordanian government back in 2014 and will be equipped on CN-235 gunships allowing for greater flexibility and precision engagement. The US has received 13 requests for the system to be sold and buyers will include Iraq, the Netherlands and Tunisia. Since the deployment of the system on the US Navy’s MH-60 Seahawk and Marine Corps UH/AH-1 light attack helicopters in 2007, APKWS has been fired more than 100 times, boasting a success rate of 94%.

September 23/15: MBDA and BAE Systems have agreed to a marketing partnership for the latter’s advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS) in an aim to flag the system to European customers. MBDA will lead the marketing charge for the APKWS in Europe, with the system developed by BAE Systems’ US subsidiary. The system bolts onto unguided 70mm rockets to transform them into a low-cost laser-guided weapon, which has been integrated with several platforms in the US inventory, including the Cobra and Huey helicopters, Apache AH-64D and A-10.

Nov 12/14: The US DSCA announces the Shi’ite government of Iraq’s official export request for up to 2,000 APKWS rockets, weapon and test support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, transportation, and other forms of US government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $97 million.

Iraq’s most likely platform for these rockets is its IA-407 armed scout helicopters, which are qualified for 70mm rockets and can also carry Hellfire missiles. Its AC-208B Combat Caravan prop planes might need additional integration, but their current tiny load of just 2 Hellfire missiles has been an operational problem. Adding laser-guided rockets would greatly improve their combat effectiveness.

The principal contractor will be BAE Systems in Nashua, NH. The proposed sale will involve multiple trips to Iraq involving U.S. government and contractor representatives for approximately 3 years for program management, program and technical reviews, training, maintenance support, and site surveys. Sources: US DSCA #14-35, “Iraq – Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS)”.

DSCA request: Iraq (2,000)

Nov 3/14: USMC Plan. The USMC’s Aviation Plan to 2030 deals with weapons as well. The AH-1Z attack helicopter will be added to the AH-1W in 2015, which will also see integration on the MH-60R naval ASW helicopter. So far, use in the field on AH-1W, MH-60S, and UH-1Y helicopters is going reasonably well:

“APKWS II has been operationally successful, generating a direct hit rate of nearly 90% during contingency operations.”

By 2019, APKWS will be able to use the 13.7 pound M822 tri-mode penetrating/ blast/ incendiary warhead. Instead of just 1 AGM-65 Maverick per hardpoint, the Hornet fleet will have 7 anti-armor weapons that can defeat many armored personnel carriers, and all lesser vehicles. Sources: USMC, Marine Aviation Plan 2015 [PDF].

Oct 13/14: Australia. APKWS is about to get its 2nd export customer, as Australia finishes testing APKWS-II aboard its EC665 Tiger ARH scout/attack helicopters. August 2014 trials at Woomera were conducted by Airbus subsidiary Australian Aerospace’s Operational Support Group, and saw APKWS go 7-for-7 in tests while mounted on a new 70mm rocket: Forges de Zeebrugge’s FZ90.

BAE director of precision guidance solutions David Harrold touts the no-modifications use of APKWS on the FZ90 as a testament to the mid-body design’s versatility, but Australia has a 2nd reason to prefer APKWS. BAE’s system will be integrated on American MH-60R Seahawk naval helicopters, and Australia bought that type off the shelf as their future naval helicopter. Once the US Navy is done developing and testing its MH-60R upgrade, Australia can adopt it at very low cost. The tests pave the way for Australia to place an order, then field the laser-guided rockets on its Tiger and Seahawk helicopters beginning in 2015. Sources: BAE Systems, “Laser-Guided Rocket Successfully Demonstrates Precision Strike Capability for Australian Defence Forces”.

Sept 30/14: MH-60. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Owego, NY receives $6.9 million for integration of APKWS Digital Rocket Launcher capabilities into MH-60R and MH-60S avionics software. $2.6 million in FY 2014 Navy RDT&E budgets is committed immediately.

APKWS will give equipped MH-60S and MH-60R helicopters 7 guided weapons per hardpoint, instead of 4 Hellfires. The rockets don’t pack the same punch as a Hellfire against larger naval targets or main battle tanks, but against small boat swarms and most targets ashore, there are no degrees of dead.

Work will be performed in Owego, NY (95%), and Patuxent River, MD (5%), and is expected to be complete in July 2016. Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-14-G-0019, DO 4007).

AC-235 concept
(click to view full)

May 7/14: Jordan. Jordan has formally signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance via the US Navy for BAE’s APKWS-II laser-guided 70mm rocket, which will be deployed on the kingdom’s CN-235 light gunships. This marks the guided rocket’s 1st export sale.

APKWS rockets give the gunships an intermediate option between the 30mm gun, and heavier AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missiles. A 70mm rocket is perfectly adequate for most counter-insurgency situations, is less expensive than a Hellfire, and can be carried in a pod that holds 7 guided rockets on the hardpoint instead of 2 Hellfires. Sources: BAE, “Kingdom of Jordan to Purchase BAE Systems’ Precision Rockets to Strengthen Military”.

Jordan is 1st export sale

March 28/14: FRP-3. A $37.4 million firm-fixed-price contract buys 1,372 APKWS-II WGU-59/B Guidance Sections, the Navy shipping and storage container; and supporting technical and program documentation. That makes 4,758 kits ordered so far.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY14 USN & USMC ammunition budgets. Work will be performed in Nashua, NH (70%); and Austin, TX (30%), and is expected to be complete in September 2015. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-14-C-0044).

FRP-3 order

Dec 18/13: MH-60R/S: H-60 Program Manager Capt. James Glass discusses programs to arm the MH-60S naval utility and MH-60R strike and ASW helicopters with APKWS rockets.

The MH-60S is slated to integrate APKWS by March 2014, using a new 19-rocket LAU-61G/A launcher. and is about to begin test-firing the same M197 3-barrel 20mm gatling gun used on Cobra attack helicopters.

The MH-60R is slated to integrate APKWS by March 2015, by which time the LAU-61G/A launcher should have full mixed-rocket capabilities. Sources,, “Navy Arms MH-60S Helicopter with Gatling Gun” | US Navy, “NSWC IHEODTD Supports Digital Rocket Launcher Early Operational Capability”.

Oct 22/13: Testing. BAE announces that the US Army has finished 8 successful tests from an AH-64D Apache. Shots were fired at up to 150 knots, from as far as 5 kilometers from the target, at altitudes between 300 and 1,500 feets. This earns it an an Airworthiness Qualification, which allows existing AH-64D customers to order APKWS.

BAE director of precision guidance solutions David Harrold had an interesting addendu,m, when he noted that “…the final shot from the Apache hit within inches of the laser spot – despite the rocket and warhead being visibly scorched from two adjacent firings”. No doubt that was part of BAE’s motivation for using mid-body guidance sensors, which are inherently protected from such effects. Sources: BAE, “Laser-Guided Rocket Successfully Qualified to Support Apache Crews”.

FY 2011 – 2013

Fixed-wing, Apache tests. IOC; combat deployment. FRP-2.

APKWS loading, AT-6C
(click to view full)

Sept 27/13: Testing. CENTCOM releases a Military Utility Assessment (MUA) confirming that the APKWS FW fixed-wing variant has met its performance targets in test shots from the USAF’s A-10C Thunderbolt IIs and F-16s, and the USMC’s AV-8B Harrier II V/STOL fighters. The rocket has also been tested from AT-6 turboprops, but that work took place under the Light Air Support program.

APKWS FW is actually a different rocket, because it has to survive and perform through the freezing temperatures of high-altitude flight, as well as the high turbulence of high speed aircraft. That means a different guidance control system for the rocket, and a redesigned deployment mechanism for the 7-rocket pod. Sources: US NAVAIR, “Rocket safe for fixed wing aircraft, ends demonstration phase”.

April 2/13: Testing. Eglin AFB announces successful tests of the APKWS laser-guided 70mm rocket from an A-10C, marking the 2nd test from a fixed-wing aircraft (a Beechcraft AT-6B was the 1st). For the final A-10C test sortie, 2 APKWS rockets were fired at a surface target at altitudes of 10,000 and 15,000 feet. The first rocket hit within inches, and the 15,000 foot shot hit within 2 meters despite a 70-knot headwind.

The USAF used a US Navy rocket launcher, because the guidance section adds 18″ to the Hydra rocket. If the USAF continues to move forward with APKWS on the A-10C and F-16, they’ll buy the Navy’s modified launchers to replace their 7-rocket LAU-131s. The US Navy is preparing to qualify APKWS on the MQ-8C VTUAV, USMC AV-8B Harrier II V/STOL jets, and F/A-18 family fighters. Pentagon DVIDS.

March 4/13: Bell 407 qualified. BAE Systems announces that APKWS is now qualified on Bell Helicopters 407GT, after a 7-shot test at Yuma, AZ. The Bell 407 joins that firm’s AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters, and Beechcraft’s AT-6B light attack turboprop, as qualified APKWS platforms. Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter UAV is expected to follow shortly.

BAE Precision Guidance Solutions director David Harrold says that the qualification “is significant because [the 407GT] is Bell Helicopter’s first commercially qualified, armed helicopter…” It’s also significant because the US Navy is about to introduce its MQ-8C UAV based on the 407, and Iraq has already fielded armed Bell 407s. The MQ-8C combines a Bell 407 airframe with Fire Scout electronics.

Nov 27/12: FRP-2. A $41.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 1,476 APKWS-II WGU-59/B Guidance Sections, shipping and storage containers, and support technical data. That makes 3,386 production kits ordered so far.

Work will be performed in Nashua, NH (70%), and Austin, TX (30%), and is expected to be complete in September 2014. All contract funds are committed (N00019-12-C-0006).

FRP-2 order

July 31/12: FRP begins with FY 2012 order. A $28.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 985 APKWS-II WGU-59/B guidance sections, Navy shipping and storage containers; and support technical data. That makes 1,910 production APKWS kits ordered so far.

Work will be performed in Nashua, NH (70%), and Austin, TX (30%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013. 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-0006). A subsequent BAE release confirms that this is the beginning of Full Rate Production, and confirms that APKWS is available for foreign military sales.”

Full-rate production &
Export ready

April 17/12: APKWS to Afghanistan. BAE announces that APKWS was cleared for fielding by Marine Corps HQ, and shipped to Afghanistan in March 2012. The cite over 100 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.

The rockets will initially be deployed on USMC AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, and UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters.

The Program’s Manager Navy Captain Brian Corey said that Initial Operating Capability (IOC) had been declared on March 27. The Navy is working to integrate the weapon on MQ-8 Fire Scouts by 2013. US NAVAIR | BAE Systems.

IOC & combat deployment

January 2012: 1st Fixed-Wing Shots. APKWS is fired from a HawkerBeechcraft AT-6C turboprop light attack plane at Eglin AFB, its 1st fixed-wing shots. BAE says they’re still working to upgrade APKWS so it can handle high-speed, high-g firings from fighter jets, per the Feb 10/11 JCTD contract.

The AT-6C shots were step 1, and involved 2 rockets: an unguided round as a demonstration of safety and basic operation, followed by a guided shot from 3 miles that “successfully hit within inches of the center.” As an added demonstration, BAE Systems personnel added the APKWS mid-bodies and assembled the rockets on site. Time from beginning of assembly to flight and the successful shot was 3 hours.

The shots will help both BAE and HawkerBeechcraft, whose setback in the 20-plane American LAS competition was mitigated by an initial sale of 6 “weapons capable” T-6C+ to Mexico. Mexico has used existing Pilatus trainers against domestic insurgencies before. The T-6C family’s proven ability to fire laser-guided rockets makes the new planes more valuable to Mexico, and to other potential customers. BAE | HawkerBeechcraft | Aviation Week.

1st fixed-wing shot

Sept 9-13/11: New warhead. USMC UH-1Y helicopters successfully fire 6 APKWS-II rockets at targets 1.5km – 5 km away (3 miles maximum) on the range at China Lake, CA. The tests are part of APKWS’ low-rate initial production phase, and mark the 1st time that the new, safer Mk152 warhead has been fired from any air vehicle.

New warhead

APWKS-II fielding is still set for 2012. BAE Systems.

Feb 10/11: Fighter JCTD. BAE Systems in Nashua, NH receives a $19.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for development of the fixed wing APKWS-II for deployment on USMC AV-8B Harriers and USAF/ANG A-10C aircraft, as a joint capability technology demonstration.

American fast jets must currently rely on aging AGM-65 Maverick missiles for laser-guided strikes. An update and production relaunch is underway, but a full-size Maverick missile can be overkill. Using laser-guided 70mm rockets instead would sharply increase the number of laser precision strike weapons on board, using cheaper weapons. It’s not a perfect substitute, but it would be an excellent complement.

Work will be performed in Nashua, NH, and is expected to be complete in May 2013. $7.5 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, by US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-11-C-0033).

APKWS for fighters, too

Jan 3/11: LRIP-2 order. BAE Systems Information and Electronics in Nashua, NH receives a $17.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for the 2nd Low Rate Initial Production Lot (LRIP-II) of 600 APKWS II guidance sections for the US Navy, including shipping and storage containers.

Work will be performed in Nashua, N.H., and is expected to be completed in November 2012. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD manages the contract, which is presumably issued under N00019-10-C-0019.

FY 2008 – 2010

SDD. Milestone C.

APKWS concept
(click to view full)

July 30/10: LRIP-1 order. BAE Systems Information and Electronics in Nashua, NH receives a $15.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for the first Low Rate Initial Production Lot (LRIP-I) of 325 APKWS II guidance sections for the US Navy, including shipping and storage containers. The contract will also fund integration with the Marines’ new UH-1Y utility helicopter, technical and training manual updates, and support equipment and support test equipment.

Work will be performed in Nashua, NH, and is expected to be complete in October 2012. This contract was not competitively procured by US NAVAIR, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-10-C-0019). BAE Systems.

April 9/10: Milestone C, LRIP OKed. The US Navy has approved low-rate production of the APKWS after the weapons system passed its Milestone C. The USMC plans to initially deploy APKWS on its AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters. The Navy decision follows successful testing of the weapons system from the AH-1W helicopter in January (see Jan 11-18/10 entry). BAE Systems release

Milestone C

Jan 11-18/10 The USMC completes APKWS’ operational assessment, scoring 8 direct hits from AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters in live-warhead trials over 2 weeks. The final step in the APKWS development program is system qualification for the environments in which it might be employed, transported, and stored. That testing is expected to be finalized in time to allow the Navy to complete a production decision within the next 60 days, leading to low-rate initial production if the decision is positive. BAE Systems release.

Jan 4/10: Fixed-Wing JCTD. US FedBizOpps announces, in solicitation #N00019-10-C-0028:

“Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) intends to award a sole source contract to BAE Systems, Nashua, NH for the FY10-12 development of the Fixed Wing (FW) Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) II for AV-8B and A-10 platforms to support a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD). It is anticipated that the resultant contract shall be Cost-Plus Incentive Fee type for the development of FW APKWS II weapons that show operational utility upon integration with AV-8B and A-10 platforms. Fifty (50) FW APKWS II plus FW APKWS II tests units (quantities TBD) including Navy Shipping and Storage Containers (NSSC) are to be delivered for technical demonstrations and operational assessments.”

The AV-8B is a USMC aircraft, while A-10s are operated by US Air National Guard and some USAF units.

Jan 4/10: In the combined synopsis/solicitation #N00421-10-T-0042, US FedBizOpps announces an RFQ on a firm fixed-price, sole-source basis with Summit Instruments, Inc., for APKWS-related electronics. Summit makes accelerometers and inertial measurement systems, which can be used to help precision weapons establish their position, just as a simpler set of accelerometer + software in an iPod Nano can tell you how far you’ve jogged today.

CLIN 0001 – Quantity 5 each, Repackage 65210E to fit in 2.75″ diameter rocket body and add 2GB memory… Award is expected 04 Jan 2010.

Nov 23-27/09: SDD done. During the final phase of SDD testing, 4 APKWS rockets fired from a U.S. Marine Corps AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter hit laser-designated moving and stationary targets under a variety of operational scenarios while the rockets were fired at varying altitudes and airspeeds. Each shot strikes well within the required distance from the laser spot.

Navy and BAE Systems representatives confirm that APKWS has undertaken 28 guided flights over the last 7 years. The weapons are known to have hit their targets 22 times since September 2002, and most of those firings (12) have been from USMC AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters. In the latest test series, there have been no APKWS issues.

The rockets are approaching Milestone C decision that approves a system’s performance, durability, safety, and successful integration with specified systems, and allows Low Rate Initial Production to begin. The US Navy will begin Operational Assessment of APKWS in January 2010, with 8 live fire events. In the next 12 to 14 months, the Navy expects to shoot approximately 90 weapons in combined developmental and operational testing, on the road to the program goal of Initial Operational Capability in 2011. BAE Systems.

Nov 13/09: BAE Systems announces that APKWS has entered its final phase of testing, intended to confirm both production readiness and reliable accuracy. According to BAE, APKWS has hit its targets 18 times since September 2002 in ground and air-launched shots, including a recent firing from a USMC AH-1 attack helicopter against a stationary target. That test firing initiated a sequence of more than 20 firings that will comprise the program’s final test phase, to be completed by the end of 2009.

BAE Systems and the Navy are preparing for Navy demonstration test flights and full government qualification testing, with a goal of production in 2010.

APKWS from Cobra
(click to view larger)

Nov 4/08: BAE Systems announces that the APKWS contract has been transferred from the U.S. Army to the Department of the Navy.

Development funding will also be used for testing and qualification of APKWS for use on the Marine Corps’ AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter, and BAE Systems’ Nashua facility plans to begin producing the rockets at the end of 2009.

July 15/08: BAE Systems announces that the Department of the Navy will assume the $45.7 million APKWS development contract with BAE Systems to complete demonstrations of the system. The Navy is expected to assume that contract by end of August 2008, and the contractor team plans to begin APKWS production in 2009.

April 9/08: Saved by the Navy. Congress approves the APKWS-II Reprogramming Request. In combination with the President’s Budget Request for FY09 (submitted to Congress the first week of February), the Reprogramming approval makes APKWS-II’s development phase a fully-funded program. This development represents a major breakthrough for the BAE/GD offering, which now looks as if it will survive long enough to reach the competitive market.

Whether their APKWS-II can continue its success, and win volume orders against a growing set of rival systems from Lockheed Martin, ATK, Raytheon, et. al., remains to be seen at this point. As noted below, the US Navy is also funding a LOGIR program with Korean cooperation. It’s also a guided 70mm rocket, but it uses Imaging Infrared instead of laser seekers. That makes it especially effective against swarm attacks by enemies like small boats, as there’s no need for ongoing guidance.

Saved by the Navy

FY 2005 – 2007

BAE win. Emerging competitors.

APKWS on target
(click to view full)

Sept 19/07: Testing. BAE Systems shoots 2 guided APKWS rockets from a U.S. Marine Corps Cobra helicopter at NAS China Lake, marking the weapon’s first flights from an aircraft. Following the launches, both APKWS rockets were guided by a laser designator to a ground target. The first rocket was guided to the target by a ground-based laser designator. The pilot guided the second rocket to the target using laser designation equipment onboard the helicopter. Both rockets struck the target board well within accuracy requirements established by the Army and Marine Corps.

The flights, held in partnership with the U.S. Navy program office, were designed to confirm the APKWS rocket’s compatibility with the Cobra’s carriage and launch systems, and to demonstrate that APKWS can be launched from the platform without requiring aircraft integration or modifications. The tests also proved again the weapon’s ability to acquire, track, and hit a laser-designated target. BAE Systems North America release.

BAE informs DID that the US Navy and USMC continue to pursue funding of APKWS-II within the FY 2008 appropriations process, with the goal of completing SDD and entering Milestone C in the second quarter of CY 2009. Meanwhile, development continues using FY 2007 funds.

April 11/07: BAE Systems’ APKWS II successfully completes environmental tests. They verified protection from sand, dust, vibration, ice, and other environmental hazards likely to be found in combat situations. Locating the weapon’s Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS) within the rocket’s mid-body, with wings and optics sealed within the guidance section, certainly helps. In addition, a fully assembled 35-pound rocket dropped directly on its nose from a height of 3 feet sustained no damage to the guidance section. BAE Systems release.

March 19/07: Zeroed? BAE Systems informs DID that APKWS II funding has been zeroed out in the FY 2008 budget request, and they are putting the program on hold. Congressional reinstatement is always possible – but if it fails BAE may face an uphill battle getting its product to market, given the advance of competitors like Lockheed Martin’s DAGR and the US-Korean LOGIR.

DAGR launch test
(click to view full)

March 7/07: Competitor – DAGR. Lockheed Martin may have lost, but it didn’t give up. While “Hellfire Jr.” is an apt description of the class as a whole, it’s especially apt in this case. The DAGR (70mm Direct Attack Guided Rocket, not to be confused with DAGR hand-held GPS locators) completed development with private company funding, leveraging existing Hellfire and Joint Common Missile technology to create semi-active guided rockets that offer a wider aiming cone and full Hellfire functionality. Indeed, they can be launched from any platform that currently supports the Hellfire missile, removing any requirements for additional training or infrastructure.

The DAGR rocket was formally unveiled as complete and for sale on Sept 11/07, at Britain’s DESi defense exhibition, and remains a strong competitor in the USA and beyond. See “Guided Hydra Rockets: Program Halts & New Entries” for more information and updates re: competitive programs from Lockheed Martin, Korea, Raytheon, ATK, et. al.

March 2/07: USN Competitor – LOGIR. Korea and the United States have agreed to cooperate in developing guided air-launched rockets, signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for “LOGIR” (Low-Cost Guided Imaging Rocket) development. The budget for this project is reportedly more than $60 million. See “Guided Hydra Rockets: Program Halts & New Entries” for more information and updates.

(click to view larger)

April 27/06: The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command (AMCOM) awards a 3-year, $45.7 million contract to BAE Systems in Nashua, NH for the system development and demonstration of the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) II. The contract includes priced options for qualification of the system and 2 years of Low Rate Initial Production that could begin as early as 2007. The total program, if all options are exercised, will be $96.1 million.

Interestingly, BAE Systems uses a mid-body guidance approach. The guidance component is its Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS), which is also used in the Army’s Precision Guided Mortar Munitions Program. BAE Systems is partnered with General Dynamics (who makes the Hydra rockets) and Northrop Grumman, and is reported to be on track to provide the first production baseline units for evaluation prior to the Critical Design Review in July 2006. See also BAE North America release.

DID’s focus article for the Hydra-70 rocket family goes into more detail re: the past history of the APKWS effort, including its cancellation and replacement by the APKWS II competition.

BAE wins SDD

Sept 29/05: BAE Systems announces [BAE North America release | different BAE Systems release] 2 successful flight tests at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Their 70mm rockets scored direct hits on laser-designated stationary and moving targets.

BAE also announced that it will bid on APKWS II as a prime contractor, along with Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics. They join other consortia already in the APKWS II competition, led by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Additional Readings

Readers with corrections, comments, or information to contribute are encouraged to contact DID’s Founding Editor, Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.

Categories: News

Turkey inducts UMTAS into service | Saudi shopping list revealed | France invited to Eurofighter successor program

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 04:00

  • Austral is currently conducting final outfitting of the ninth Expeditionary Fast Transport (EFT) for the US Navy. The Spearhead-class vessel left an Austral shipyard earlier this month in Mobile, Alabama before moving to Bismark for final work. They feature a flight deck and an off-load ramp which allow quick access ports and quays. Littoral operations are made easier by the inclusion of 15-foot shallow draft, ability to interface with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and ease of access to austere and deteriorated piers.

Middle Easy & North Africa

  • Turkey’s armed forces has officially inducted Rokesan’s UMTAS infrared guided anti-tank missile into service. OMTAS is a semi-active laser-homing ATGM with a range of 500-8,000 m that Ankara will use as the main weapon of the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T129 attack helicopter, with Roketsan hoping to sell additional launchers and missiles to the Air Force and Navy as well. The system has also been tested on TAI’s Hürkus-C close air support and counterinsurgency attack aircraft and is being marketed for export to several governments including Pakistan.

  • A White House document seen by media sources has fleshed out the Trump administration’s $110 billion-worth of arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Much touted by Trump after his first international tour as US President, experts had denounced the successful deals as speculative that still needed to be negotiated and cleared by Congress. Now, the shopping list that accounts for those billion and billions has emerged with items including seven THAAD missile defense batteries, over 100,000 air-to-ground munitions and billions of dollars’ worth of new aircraft. Also included are new vessels, artillery, land and fighting vehicles, helicopters Patriot system sustainment services, as well as two satellite communications & Space Based Early Warning Systems. See the full list and price breakdowns here.


  • The head of Airbus has called on the French government to join German and Spanish efforts on a proposed new fighter to succeed the Eurofighter Typhoon. “I really hope that France will be involved,” says Fernando Alonso, speaking to reporters on 9 June at the company’s media day. “We have to do this in Europe. There’s no place to do two or three different systems.” While Paris had initially stayed out of the Eurofighter program—instead favoring to work with Dassault on the Rafale—there has been much talk of further integrated European defense research and procurement among EU members, and with the UK gearing up to leave the EU, France is being seen as a potential replacement partner in such joint programs. Last year, Germany and Spain partnered to draw up requirements for the New Generation Weapon System (NGWS), a proposed new fighter that would be developed under the Future Combat Air System effort, which includes other elements of air warfare technology, including unmanned air vehicles (UAV) and space-based capabilities.

  • Finland has extended the service of an existing 2013 Foreign Military Sales agreement with the US for spare parts and support for F-18 Hornet aircraft. Valued at $97.1 million, the amendment covers software maintenance, spare parts for the aircraft, equipment, repair, transport and training services from 2018 to 2020. Additional information on the deal was not revealed.

  • Saab has signed a framework agreement to provide maintenance and support of submarines and submarine rescue systems operated by the Swedish military. The deal will cover the period of 2017-2019 at an initial cost of $9.7 million. “The framework agreement encompasses maintaining and providing high operational availability of the Swedish Armed Forces submarines and submarine rescue systems by configuration management, maintenance, engineering support, and modifications,” Saab said in a press release.

Asia Pacific

  • It’s been reported that South Korean artillery has been delivered to Pakistan, where the government there is believed to be trailing the weapons. A Hanwha Corporation KH179 155 mm towed howitzer and two Hanwha Corporation 40 mm auto grenade launchers (AGL) arrived in January and is one of several rival self-propelled howitzers (SPH) that has been tested by Islamabad over the years, and while no active competition is underway, it’s believed that Pakistan could spend as much as $844 million on SPH by 2024. If there is an active requirement, Hanwha will compete with Daudsons Armoury (DSA), which had displayed its own SPH during Pakistan’s biennial defence exhibition, IDEAS 2016.

  • The Indian army will send a squadron of weaponized Dhruv helicopters to its border with China as part of moves to strengthen its deployments along its eastern borders. As many as ten helicopters will arrive in the town of Likabali, Assam provence, over the next three months. Weapons found on the helicopter include a turret gun in its nose area, air-to-air missiles, 70 mm rockets and 20 mm turret guns, while newer models come equipped with anti-tank guided missiles, infrared jammers and obstacle avoidance systems.

Today’s Video

  • Roketsan’s OMTAS:

Categories: News

Turkey Finally Lands Its Attack Helicopters

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 03:20

(click to view full)

Turkey has been looking to modernize its attack helicopter fleet since the mid-1990s, but the process has mostly served as an object lesson in how not to buy defense equipment. This competition faced many difficulties; after numerous snafus, technology transfer and production issues, and canceled competitions, all 3 invited American manufacturers had abandoned the competition entirely.

Even the “final” round seemed imperiled, following reports of the Turkish military’s deep dissatisfaction with the choices. Nevertheless, the competition survived long enough to pick a winner, and signed contracts with AgustaWestland. But Turkey didn’t just buy helicopters. They bought the A129 model – lock, stock, and rotor.

T129 Program Snapshot: Feb. 2014

T129 Prototypes
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The contract for 51 T129B ATAK helicopters (+41 options) was signed on Sept 7/07, with Turkey and TAI acquiring all design and future production rights for their derivative of AgustaWestland’s A129i scout/attack helicopter. The total value isn’t clear, but AgustaWestland placed its own share at around EUR 1.2 billion. Deterioration of Turkey’s existing attack helicopter fleet, coupled with pressure from Kurdish insurgents, forced an emergency purchase of 9 “Early Delivery Helicopter” configuration T129As on Nov 8/10.

The T129 was scheduled for official delivery and acceptance in 2013, complete with Roketsan’s Cirit laser-guided 70mm rockets, but that hasn’t happened yet. Cirit rocket deliveries have begun, and a January 2014 statement by Turkey’s defense minister said that Turkey’s UMTAS anti-tank missile had also completed qualification trials, so that isn’t what’s holding up the program. The Turkish SSM’s program page states that: “Currently, qualification phase is in progress and production of 6(six) helicopters has been completed.”

ATAK is an attack helicopter, but it’s smaller and lighter than classic competitors like Russia’s Mi-28 or the USA’s AH-64 Apache. Other competitors include Bell’s AH-1Z Viper, Denel of South Africa’s AH-2 Rooivalk, Eurocopter’s EC665 Tiger, and Russian Mi-35M /Ka-52 offerings. The T129 has started flying in foreign air shows, and is being marketed abroad, but doesn’t have any wins or contracts yet beyond Turkey.

Program and Finalists Beginning With An Own Goal in Mind

Rooivalk & Gripen
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At present, Turkey’s attack helicopter fleet is made of its 6 remaining AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, and about 20-23 earlier model AH-1 Cobras. The earlier model Cobras lack some useful modern capabilities. Worse, low numbers and age-related availability issues are straining the fleet’s capacity, making operations in Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdish regions more difficult.

The new AH-1Z had come out on top in a previous Turkish competition, but 4 years of negotiations with Bell Helicopter to jointly produce the AH-1Z Super Cobra failed in 2004. Major price differences and licensing demands sank the deal.

The Turkish SSM responded by opening a fresh international competition in February 2005, but did so in a way that magnified the problems again rather than solving them. They were immediately confronted by serious objections from global manufacturers, which forced the SSM to change the RFP in May 2005. Even then, Bell Helicopter and Boeing looked at Turkish demands, and dropped out.

Defense Minister Gonul made the Turkish perspective clear long ago when he noted that “the goal is to co-produce the helicopters, not to buy them off the shelf.” The Houston Chronicle reported that bidding rules also included full access to the aircraft’s specific software codes, and a written guarantee from the provider’s government that there would be no political obstacles to Turkish exports of the licensed helicopters.

T129: The Program

A129 pair
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In July 2006, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul announced that Turkey would continue talks with Denel of South Africa (AH-2A Rooivalk) and Agusta Aerospace of Italy (A129 International) for Turkey’s Land Forces Command’s Tactical Reconnaissance & Attack Helicopter (ATAK) Project. The Franco-German EADS Eurocopter (Tiger) and Kamov of Russia (Ka-50-2 Erdogan, with IAI) were eliminated.

Neither of the finalists had been exported before, and at the time, they were competing for co-production of 30 helicopters and options for 20 more. That projected $1.6 billion contract was still well short of the 91 attack helicopters originally called for when the program began, but it was progress. In the end, Turkey found a way to bridge the gap. A contract was signed in September 2007 for 51 “T129 ATAK” helicopters from AgustaWestland, plus another 41 on option under the same terms. Some of those options were exercised in 2010, when Turkey ordered 9 “Early Delivery Helicopter” T129s to reinforce its dwindling attack helicopter fleet.

The T129A EDH carries the nose-mounted 20mm cannon turret with 500 rounds, and 4 pylons for unguided rockets. The T129B version will add Roketsan’s MIZRAK (formerly UMTAS) missiles and CIRIT 70 mm Laser Guided Rockets, and Raytheon’s FIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles.

Turkish Aerospace Industries is the T129’s prime contractor. Aselsan and AgustaWestland will be the subcontractors, under a collaboration agreement in which TAI shares ownership of intellectual property rights for the new A129 configuration with AgustaWestland. TAI will also become the sole source for the production of the whole fuselage, including final assembly and flight operations, and will be responsible for marketing the “T-129 attack helicopters” to the world.

As of February 2014, initial inquiries have reportedly been received from Azerbaijan, Jordan, and Pakistan. There are less conclusive reports that Malaysia may be interested. Confirmed export losses include a public competition in South Korea, won by Boeing’s AH-64E Apache Guardian.

T129: The Winner

A129-I improvements
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The A129 Mangusta (trans. “Mongoose”) entered service with the Italian Army in 1989; AgustaWestland offered it as a base for the Franco-German Tiger partnership, but cooperation was declined in favor of a Franco-German R&D program. The current Italian service inventory is 60 machines, 15 of which are the more modern A129 International/AW129 standard with uprated engines (LHTEC replaced earlier Rolls Royce Gem) and rotors (5-bladed vs. 4), plus new weapons, avionics, and defensive systems. The other 45 Italian A129 CBT helicopters received rotor, transmission, weapon, defensive, and electronics upgrades under a multi-year contract signed in 2002.

This A129 family is notable for their low frontal profile, and offer a good mix of surveillance, gun and missile capabilities. A mast-mounted sight offers the potential for further improvements, but the type had not been successful in export competitions before the 2007 Turkish order. The A129 has seen service with Italian forces in Afghanistan, Angola, Macedonia, Somalia, and Iraq.

Like the A129I, the Turkish T129s are powered by 2 Rolls Royce/ Honeywell LHTEC CTS800-4A turboshafts, each generating 1,361 shp. They can drive the helicopter to speeds of 269 kph/ 145 kts, and allow hover out of ground effect to 10,000 feet. Endurance is about 3 hours, with a maximum range of 561 km/ 303 nm.

The Turkish ASELFLIR 300T will replace the AW129’s Honeywell surveillance and targeting systems. The helicopter always has its 3-barreled 20mm chin turret, and certified weapons for its 4 side pylons include its 12.7mm machine gun pods, 70mm unguided Hydra and guided Cirit rockets, anti-tank missiles (TOW, Spike-ER, Hellfire), and Air-to-Air Missiles (Stinger, Mistral). Turkey is also working to develop and then certify its own IIR-guided UMTAS anti-tank missile for the T129.

Contracts & Key Events 2013 – 2017

Possible interest in Brazil, Pakistan; Loss in South Korea.

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June 13/17: Turkey’s armed forces has officially inducted Rokesan’s UMTAS infrared guided anti-tank missile into service. OMTAS is a semi-active laser-homing ATGM with a range of 500-8,000 m that Ankara will use as the main weapon of the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T129 attack helicopter, with Roketsan hoping to sell additional launchers and missiles to the Air Force and Navy as well. The system has also been tested on TAI’s Hürkus-C close air support and counterinsurgency attack aircraft and is being marketed for export to several governments including Pakistan.

May 2/17: Havelsan has announced that it will showcase its simulator system developed for the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T-129 ATAK attack helicopter at this month’s International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF) in Istanbul. Developed to match with real-world conditions as closely as possible, the system employs the use of satellite images, 3D models, environmental challenges and technical malfunctions, and comprises of two simulator systems which allows trainee pilots to separately learn how to use the T-129’s flight and avionics systems, followed by its weapon systems. This dual system is believed to acclimate pilots to the T-129 as well as prepare them for potential challenges.

February 15/17: Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) has awarded TUSA? Engine Industries (TEI) a contract to develop and manufacture a new indigenous turboshaft engine. The engine will be used in Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) new clean-sheet T-625 utility helicopter, as well as the TAI T-129 ATAK attack helicopter and TAI Hürku? turboprop-powered trainer and light combat aircraft. At present, Ankara depends on foreign turboshaft designs, such as the General Electric T700, which require them to secure licenses and approval for exports.

June 8/16: The newly appointed defense minister of Turkey, Fikri Isik and his Pakistani counterpart met to discuss increasing bilateral defense ties. Among last Friday’s discussions was the potential sale of Turkish developed T129 attack helicopters. Other potential deals include the purchase by Turkey of the Pakistani-made Super Mushshak basic trainer aircraft.

April 23/14: Delivery. Turkey formally delivers the first 9 T129 basic configuration models (q.v. Nov 8/10) to the Turkish armed forces.

It’s Turkey’s National Sovereignty Day and Children’s Day, when children take seats in Parliament and symbolically govern the country for a day. Erm… perhaps delivering these toys the day after might be wise? Just a suggestion. Sources: TAI, “Ulusal Egemenlik Bayrami’nda Egemen Urunumuz T129 ATAK’i Teslim Ettik…” | AgustaWestland, “Turkish Armed Forces Takes Delivery of T129 ATAK Helicopter”.

T129 basic models delivered

Feb 18/14: Industrial. Turkey’s SSM procurement agency announces the launch of a Rotor Technology Center (DKTM) to perform R&D, and train Turkish personnel in this area of aerospace technology.

It’s part of a June 2013 contract with TAI to create the country’s first indigenous helicopter, a 5-tonne twin-engine replacement for Turkey’s existing UH-1 Huey fleet. Even so, its scope ensures that it will affect the T129 platform going forward. Sources: Hurriyet Daily News, “Turkey gears up efforts for indigenous rotor production”.

Jan 29/14: Budget. Turkey’s 2014 defense budget projects a 7% increase, and Defence Turkey reports on aspects related to the T129:

“National Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz explained that within the scope of Attack Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter Project /T129, out of 13 Early Delivery Helicopters (EDH) that are to be purchased within the context of urgent need, 4 of them were completely produced and stated that their acceptance procedure continued…. Yilmaz mentioned that final qualification phase of the missiles developed as one of the main ammunitions of T-129 helicopter within the scope of Long-Range Antitank Missile Project was reached and added that being the modern tanks’ nightmare around the World with its armour piercing cap, UMTAS would contribute greatly to TSK’s firepower.”

Sources: Defence Turkey, “Turkey’s Defence Budget of 2014”.

Jan 16/14: Marketing. The T129 has begun showing up at air shows and performing flight demonstrations. The Bahrain International Air Show 2014 (BIAS) featured a flight demonstration, with a clear focus on the Mideast market. Arab states remain somewhat wary of Turkey, and many of them (Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE) have opted for the heavier AH-64 Apache instead, but opportunities remain. Bahrain, for example, operates older AI-1E/P Cobras, and GCC states Qatar and Oman don’t have any dedicated scout/attack helicopters in their force. These shows also reach beyond the Middle East, drawing interest and attendance from potential customers like Pakistan (q.v. Sept 16/13) and Malaysia (q.v. July 30/13). Sources: TAI, “TAI’s T129 ATAK Helicopter Performs Flight Demonstration at BIAS 2014”.

Sept 16/13: Pakistan. Pakistan is running short on AH-1Fs, in part because the money to maintain them has been funneled into various private pockets. A long-term improvement in corruption is unlikely under current leadership, and the Pakistani economy is weak, but the country needs attack helicopters.

Pakistan reportedly expressed interest in the T129 several years ago (q.v. Oct 1/09), but those talks have reportedly gained force. Any breakthrough would involve a Memorandum of Understanding, which would allow Pakistani officials and PAC engineers to discuss the mechanics and logistics of joint production.

Part of those mechanics may involve export clearance from the USA, as the T129’s LHTEC 800 engines are a joint product of Rolls Royce and Honeywell. The USA could use delays or even refusal as an underhanded tactic, and they do have a record of behaving this way in other competitions. On the other hand, angering both Turkey and Pakistan might be a higher diplomatic price than they’re prepared to pay, just to push Bell Helicopter’s AH-1Z. Rather than using export denial, the USA may have a better lever via military aid financing, which could be used to buy made-in-America AH-1Zs, but not T129s. If Turkey can offer good financing terms of its own, on the other hand, local anti-American sentiment and Turkey’s perceived political reliability may offer them some levers, too. Sources: Pakistan’s The National, “Pak-Turkish pact on combat copters on cards” | Defense News, “Turkey Pushes T-129 Gunships for Pakistan, but US Could Scupper Deal” | iHLS, “Turkey Angers the U.S. by Offering Helicopters to Pakistan”.

Aug 22/13: Brazil. Turkey and Brazil are forming a number of working groups on defense cooperation. Their release specifically mentions that the aeronautics working group will be studying the assembly of Turkish helicopters in Brazil. The T129 is the only candidate that fits. Note that Brazil already fields a handful of Russian Mi-35M attack helicopters, with a limited secondary capability as transports. On the other hand, they could definitely use more armed helicopters, and local production appeals. AgustaWestland just expanded its Brazilian facilities in Sao Paulo, with enough space to add a production line.

The flip side is that Turkey would be studying the assembly of Brazilian aircraft in Turkey. Embraer offers the Super Tucano, a number of military aircraft based on their ERJ 145 regional jetliner, and the KC-390 medium transport. Turkey is committed to buy 10 A400M medium transports, but they have 32 C160 and C-130 medium transports to replace, so a future KC-390 buy is possible. Other possibilities are more restricted, as Turkey already has projects or orders in those categories: KAI’s KT-1 for training, Boeing’s E-737 AWACS for aerial surveillance, and Airbus ATR-72s and CN-235s for maritime patrol. Sources: Brazil MdD [in Portuguese] | AgustaWestland Aug 14/13 release.

July 30/13: Malaysia. Malaysia hasn’t made a fighter decision as planned, and may even be backing away from a new fighter order altogether. During a press conference with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Malaysia’s Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak referred to a recent incursion in Sabah, Borneo by Philippine terrorists. He was quoted in the Malaysia Star:

“We have other hardware being considered, including the attack helicopter, and weapons of that nature. We are looking at some of the requirements, not just the multi-role combat aircraft…”

April 17/13: South Korea loss. South Korea announces that the AH-64E Apache Guardian has beaten the AH-1Z Viper and T129 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 ROK’s existing AH-1S fleet, and a September 2012 DSCA export request was already approved. The T129 would have been a reciprocal deal with a major arms export customer (vid. Aug 9/10, but Turkey has also bought South Korea trainers, tanks & artillery). 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 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. Sources: Korea Herald, “Seoul to purchase 36 Apache helicopters” | Reuters, “South Korea to buy $1.6 billion worth of Boeing helicopters”.

Loss in South Korea

2010 – 2012

9 “basic” T129s as interim buy; AH-1Ws as interim buy; TopOwl picked as HMD; Prototype crash; Competing in South Korea.

A129 International
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Dec 11/12: South Korea. The ROK government’s decision to delay their attack helicopter decision until after the Dec 19/12 elections is seen as a positive development for the T129. Its problem is that the country’s military is widely believed to prefer the AH-64 Apache. If true, TAI’s challenge is to find other decision centers within the government who might be swayed toward their product. Turkish Daily.

July 10/12: Weapons. Hurriyet says that deliveries of Turkey’s 70mm laser-guided Cirit rocket have begun. The Cirit is expected to be an important part of the T129s arsenal:

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

May 2012: South Korea. The T129 is shortlisted alongside Bell Helicopter’s AH-1Z Viper and Boeing’s AH-64D Apache Block III for South Korea’s attack helicopter competition. A decision is expected by October 2012. Source.

March 27/12: Turkey’s SSM procurement agency has unveiled their new 5-year strategic plan, with timetables for key acquisitions. The plan commits to begin delivery of the T129 ATAK by 2013, and CIRIT laser-guided 70mm rockets for the ATAKs by 2016. Hurriyet Daily News.

Oct 31/11: AH-1W stopgap. With Turkey’s fleet of serviceable AH-1F/W 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 base configuration T129s 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 to build UH-1Y Venom armed utility and AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters. 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. See also Oct 26/09.

DSCA request: 3 AH-1W Super Cobras

Nov 8/10: AgustaWestland announces a EUR 150 million contract for 9 “basic configuration”/ “partially armed” T129 combat helicopters, plus spare parts. The releases do not say, but it’s reasonable to expect only base AW129 capabilities, without provisions for new Turkish weapons like UMTAS. The stopgap attack helicopters will be assembled by Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI) and delivered by mid 2012, one year earlier than the 51 T129s already on order.

AgustaWestland says that the T129 program remains on schedule with both the System Requirements Review and Preliminary Design Review completed in 2009. The Critical Design Review will be completed shortly. Prototypes are being assembled in both Italy and Turkey, and they expect to start the flight test program in January 2011. AgustaWestland | Hurriyet Daily News.

Emergency buy: 9 T129 “basic configuration”

Aug 9/10: Korean Quid Pro Quo? DAPA aircraft programs director Maj. Gen. Choi Cha-kyu says that Turkey is actively considering a partner role in the K-FX fighter program as their indigenous fighter design project. Turkey would bear the same 20% project share as Indonesia if they come on board, with South Korea responsible for 60%. There are reports that in return, Turkey wants South Korea to pick the T129 ATAK helicopter as their future AH-X heavy attack helicopter.

Turkey eventually seemed to go their own way on their indigenous future fighter, and T129 lost South Korea’s attack helicopter competition. Korea Times | Hurriyet.

June 16/10: A129 interim. Turkey has launched “urgent” talks with AgustaWestland for 9 A129 Mangusta attack helicopters, as a stopgap measure to keep their attack helicopter fleet viable until 2014, when the first T129s are supposed to become available. The parties are expected to meet over the next few weeks to negotiate a price and delivery schedule, but reports say that the Turks are looking for deliveries within the next 2 years.

The Kurdish separatist PKK has stepped up attacks on Turkish targets this spring, and the military is finding existing resources inadequate. With Israeli heavy UAV options in question, attack helicopters become a very important military options in the mountainous terrain of Kurdistan and Iraq. Unfortunately, Turkey’s byzantine and bare-knuckled procurement process has delayed their efforts, leading to the current gap. See also Oct 26/09 entry.

Similar delays continue to hold up Turkey’s Utility Helicopter replacement program, which is a competition between AgustaWestland (TUHP 149) and Sikorsky (S-70i). Hurriyet | Defense News.

April 14/10: TopOwl for HMD. Turkey’s SSM procurement agency picks Thales as its helmet mounted display system partner. Their TopOwl HMDS already equips the US Marines’ new UH-1Y Venom utility and AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, Eurocopter’s Tiger scout/attack helicopter, and the NH90 medium utility helicopter. Like TopOwl, Turkey’s derivative Helmet Integrated Cueing System (HICS) will incorporate latest-generation image intensifier tubes for tactical night flight; plus a wide-field (40°) binocular cueing system visor that will display flight and targeting data, symbology, and images from other sensors.

More precisely, Turkey picked state-owned Aselsan, who then picked Thales. Thales’ main competitor is Israel’s Elbit Systems, whose offerings range from the comparable JEDEYE to the less sophisticated ANVIS/HUD and IHADDS for AH-64 Apaches. Thales Group’s release quotes Aselsan Director of Airborne and Naval Programmes Metin Sancar:

“After a competitive process with the major suppliers of helmet mounted sights for helicopters, Aselsan was selected in partnership with Thales… more than 700 [TopOwl] units have been delivered to date. Turkish pilots who evaluated the system in flight were impressed by the comfort of the helmet system and fully appreciated the benefits of visor projection technology, and this played a role in the procurement decision.”

March 19/10: Turkey’s T129 prototype crash-lands near Verbania in Italy. The 2 Italian pilots were injured, but their condition is not life-threatening. In a statement, TAI says that: “The accident is not expected to affect the ATAK program’s development timetable.” Defense News.


2006 – 2009

Competition finally ends, with T129 as the winner; 1st flight; Interest from Jordan & Pakistan; Turkey needs a stopgap.

AH-1W firing TOW
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Oct 26/09: Interim AH-1Ws. Turkey reportedly has just 6 of its original 12 AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters in service, to accompany an estimated 23 earlier-model AH-1F Cobras. An interim attack helicopter buy was deemed necessary until the T129s are operational. A Sunday Zaman report quotes US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey, who said that the USA has agreed to sell Turkey an unannounced number of AH-1W attack helicopters from the US Marines’ inventory. It adds that:

“Early this year Turkey sought the purchase of about 10 Cobra helicopters estimated to cost about $1.5 billion from the US to meet its stop-gap measures in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Upon the US decision to sell an unidentified number of Cobras to Turkey, Sunday’s Zaman learned that Turkey has abandoned talks with Russia on the purchase of several Mi-28 helicopters.”

Oct 1/09: Export interest & Dates. Flight International reports that Jordan and Pakistan have both asked about the T129.

Within the program, AgustaWestland’s CEO says the T129 is on time and on cost. Turkey Unique Configuration prototype kits are scheduled for delivery to TAI in April and August 2010 for assembly and trials. Critical Design Reviews are scheduled for spring 2010, and handover to Turkey is scheduled for fall 2013. Sources: Flight International, “ATAK team outlines progress of Turkey’s T129 project, after first flight success”.

Sept 28/09: 1st flight. AgustaWestland announces the maiden flight of the T129 P1 prototype, during an official ceremony held at AgustaWestland facilities in Vergiate, Italy.

1st flight

June 1/09: Arabian Aerospace points out the secondary commercial benefits of AgustaWestland’s deal with Turkey:

“AgustaWestland’s opening of a regional business headquarters in Turkey in 2008 signified its intention to increase its presence in the Middle East market. The Ankara base is seen as an ideal platform to build on the company’s growing share of the market in Turkey and will also manage the Tactical Reconnaissance and Attack (ATAK) programme… Elsewhere, the AW139 is enjoying success in the region.”

June 24/08: Formal effect. The agreement between AgustaWestland and TAI formally comes into effect. The program is expected to last for 114 months (9.5 years), and the 1st “T129” attack helicopter will be delivered to Turkey in June 2013. Other international orders may follow, if TAI can win them. AgustaWestland release:

“AgustaWestland is pleased to announce that the contracts of the Turkish Attack and Reconnaissance Helicopter (ATAK) Program have become effective and the program has officially started at the ceremony held at the facilities of the Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI) today… having the right to use and administer the intellectual property of the T129 ATAK Helicopter, TAI shall be the sole source for its work share under the ATAK program for all potential future worldwide sales of the T129 ATAK Helicopter. The Collaboration Agreement also provides TAI with the right to sell and market the T129 ATAK Helicopter worldwide.”

Sept 7/07: The Turkish SSM procurement agency announces the signing of industrial arrangements contracts with AgustaWestland:

“Within the framework of ATAK Program as per Defence Industry Executive Committee Decree dated 30th of March 2007, Contracts between SSM, TUSAS (TAI), AGUSTAWESTLAND and ASELSAN have been signed on 7th of September, 2007. Official signature ceremony will be held soon.”

Some unresolved questions remained, but both were cleared up by the Sept 17/07 TAI release. Defense-Aerospace reports that Turkey will take over the entire A129 Mangusta program, and transfer the production line to Turkish Aerospace Industries’ facility outside Ankara. This was confirmed.

The second question concerns the number of helicopters, which has now been resolved. Previous reports in the Turkish press gave figures of 30 helicopters + 20 optional, a far cry from the 91 originally desired. Finmeccanica’s Sept 11/07 announcement [PDF], set the number at 51 A129 helicopters, with an estimated value for AgustaWestland of around EUR 1.2 billion, and no mention of options. TAI’s Sept 17/07 release, however, clearly notes the deal’s structure of 51 helicopters + 41 options, for a total of 92.

T129 contract: 51 + 41 options

March 30/07: A129 picked. Finmeccanica subsidiary AgustaWestland anounces:

“The Turkish Executive Committee has announced today that it is to start contract negotiations with AgustaWestland, in partnership with Turkish Aviation Industry (TAI), for the Tactical Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopter – ATAK Project – for the Turkish Land Forces Command. The estimated value of this programme to AgustaWestland is in excess of 1.2 billion EURO based on the requirement for 51 A129 helicopters.” [DID: then about $1.6 billion]

“…The AgustaWestland proposal includes significant industrial benefits for Turkey. Several leading Turkish aerospace companies, such as TAI and Aselsan, will be involved in the programme. Final assembly, delivery and acceptance of the aircraft will also take place in Turkey. The A129 is a multi-role combat helicopter designed for day/night and adverse weather combat operations. The A129, powered by two LHTEC T800 turboshaft engines, has a state-of-the-art cockpit…”

Note that the release merely announces the beginning of negotiations. While “preferred source” negotiations usually have a strong record of success, this is the exact stage in the process where previous acquisition attempts have failed. The Turkish News quoted an industry source some time ago, who reminded onlookers that:

“Our procurement history is full of illusions of victory… When a bidder wins a contract it thinks the game is over. It may not be so.”

Dec 2/06: Turkish Daily News reports that the competition is stalled, and will either be formally canceled or simply frozen into immobility:

“Under pressure from the end-user, procurement authorities will likely cancel the existing competition, defense officials admit. “None of the short-listed solutions fully satisfies the end-user,” said one official. “We may renew the competition, or go for an off-the-shelf purchase. That’s unknown for the moment…”

“Turkey’s top governmental panel that oversees procurement decisions will convene on Dec. 12 to discuss the attack helicopter program along with others, most notably a decision to opt for the U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter F-35 fighter aircraft… The attack helicopter program will be discussed, probably with no full agreement. “There may or may not be an official announcement for the cancellation of the current bidding process,” a procurement official familiar with the program said. “But in any case it would not be realistic to expect any progress, with the military deeply dissatisfied over the existing bids.” The Defense Industry Executive Committee is chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and includes Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, Chief of General Staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanıt and head of the [SSM] procurement office… Murad Bayar.”

Appendix A: “I Coulda Been A Contenda…”

Ka-50 “Black Shark”
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Boeing (AH-64 Apache), Bell Textron (AH-1Z Viper, who won the previous Turkish competition in 2004 until the deal fell through), and Sikorsky (S-70 Strikehawk variant of the Black Hawk utility helicopter in service with the Turkish Armed Forces) were uninterested in the production arrangement described above, and could not offer such guarantees under US export control arrangements; as such, none of them bid this round by the Dec. 5, 2005 bidding deadline.

EADS Eurocopter’s Tiger and Kamov/IAI’s KA-50/KA-52 were reportedly eliminated when the Turkish government chose the two lowest-cost bidders.

AH-2A Rooivalk
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The Denel Rooivalk (trans. “Red Hawk,” or more properly “Kestrel”) is a heavier attack helicopter, with fewer integrated weapons systems than the A129. One of its key features is that it has been designed to operate in very basic surroundings for prolonged periods without sophisticated support. At present, the only Rooivalks produced since the helicopter’s inauguration in 1999 have been 12 machines for the South African Defense Forces. The Malaysian Defence Force supposedly has plans to acquire Rooivalk helicopters “when funding is available,” and South Africa’s Port Elizabeth Herald quotes analysts who believe that a win in Turkey might also tip Pakistan toward the platform.

Middle Eastern Newsline offers a further report that South Africa has outlined plans to co-produce a range of platforms in Turkey as part of a defense partnership based on Ankara’s attack helicopter program. They said South Africa has offered one of the most generous offset deals as part of its offer of the Rooivalk attack helicopter to the Turkish Army. “Under the offer, Turkey and South Africa would create a strategic defense partnership that would rapidly develop out defense industries,” a Turkish official said.

On the flip side, the Turkish Daily News reported that Eurocopter who supplies the Rooivalk’s engines and some spare parts, has said that it would not guarantee a supply line for Turkey if Ankara chose the Rooivalk.

Note that both Agusta and Denel propose moving their production lines to Turkey.

Eurocopter Tiger HAC

The shortlist was something of a surprise to many observers; at the time, the Turkish Daily News reports that it may even lead to friction between the government and the military. Turkey’s military, which has a large political role as the de facto guarantor of Kemal Attaturk’s secularist vision, was reportedly split between the Eurocopter Tiger and Boeing Apache. The paper further noted that Land Forces Commander Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, the most critical military figure concerning the attack helicopter program and possibly the next Chief of Staff, was not present at the meeting.

Appendix B: Additional Readings & Sources

Readers with corrections or information to contribute are encouraged to Contact us. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so. Thanks to reader Keith Campbell for his added precision in the translation of “Rooivalk”.

Background: ATAK Program

Background: Ancillary Systems

News & Views

Categories: News

Eurofighter’s Future: Tranche 3, and Beyond

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 03:19

Italian Eurofighters
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The multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon has been described as the aerodynamic apotheosis of lessons learned from the twin engine “teen series” fighters that began with the F-14 and F-15, continued with the emergence of the F/A-18 Hornet, and extended through to the most recent F/A-18 Super Hornet variants. Aerodynamically, it’s a half generation ahead of all of these examples, and planned evolutions will place the Eurofighter near or beyond parity in electronic systems and weapons.

The 1998 production agreement among its 4 member countries involved 620 aircraft, built with progressively improved capabilities over 3 contract “tranches”. By the end of Tranche 2, however, welfare state programs and debt burdens had made it difficult to afford the 236 fighters remaining in the 4-nation Eurofighter agreement. A 2009 compromise was found in the EUR 9 billion “Tranche 3A” buy, and the program has renewed its efforts to secure serious export sales. Their success will affect the platform’s production line in the near term, and its modernization plans beyond that.

Eurofighter: Design & Evolution

Eurofighter, Spain
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The Eurofighter program emerged out of a long and conflicting set of multinational efforts to design a new European fighter. By 1983, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain had coalesced around the Future European Fighter Aircraft (FEFA) program. That partnership lasted only until 1985, as differences with France over carrier compatibility, weight limits, and French insistence on the lead industrial role, ended their partnership. Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain established Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH in 1986 to manage the Eurofighter project, while France went its own way and developed their Rafale fighter.

Both projects went on to develop clipped delta, canard-equipped twin-engine fighters, whose “radar shaping” designs significantly lowered their radar signature compared to earlier fighters like the Mirage F1, Tornado, or F/A-18A-D Hornet. Even so, it would be a misnomer to call these European jets stealth aircraft. The standard term is a “4+ generation” fighter, distinguishing them from “5th generation” aircraft like the American F-22A Raptor and Indo-Russian PAK-FA.

While the Rafale’s development emphasized weapon load and multi-role capabilities, squeezed budgets and ample fleets of strike aircraft led Eurofighter’s partner nations to focus on the air superiority role. An excellent aerodynamic design, very good thrust-to-weight ratio, and fast slew-and-point capability was fused with a very integrated set of electronic sensor and defensive systems, including a pilot-friendly cockpit design that offered the first use of voice commands in a fighter. This made Eurofighter’s Typhoon very capable in its chosen aerial role, able to compete with or best serving opponents short of the American F-22A.

Typhoons even proved capable of armed supercruise during 2011 Libyan operations, but this was only possible with low-drag “4 + 2” air-to-air missile configurations, at high altitudes, to Mach 1.2.

B-2, ICU
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For air-to-air combat, the Eurofighter currently relies on long range detection using its mechanically-scanned, phased array ECR-90 CAPTOR radar and PIRATE IRST(Infra-Red Search & Track) system, coupled with a good array of advanced air-to-air weapons. Non-British Eurofighters will also have a 27mm Mauser cannon on board, considered by many observers to be the best fighter cannon on the market.

On defense, the Typhoon’s Praetorian (formerly EuroDASS) self-protection suite is designed for 360 degree coverage, with high automation. The Defensive Aids Computer (DAC) controls a package that includes Towed Radar Decoys, a Missile Approach Warner (MAW), wingtip ECM pods, and a Countermeasures Dispensing System (CMDS). They are integrated with each other, and with the Eurofighter’s radar and IRST.

Unfortunately for the consortium, this aerial combat strength ended up being the flip side of their biggest weakness. Initial “Tranche 1” machines were severely hobbled on the export market by their poor ground attack capabilities, a serious weakness in a world of multi-role fighters. When combined with the plane’s $100+ million cost, the result has been a slew of lost export competitions. Dassault’s Rafale, which had gaps of its own, could not capitalize on that failing, and is still looking for its first export win. Embarrassingly, the Eurofighter has usually lost to modernized, multi-role versions of the very F-16s and F-15s it was meant to supplant. That, in turn, has affected both prices and the pace of upgrades.

A list of current weapons may help snap the plane’s evolution into clearer focus:

As the list above notes, the Tranche 2 fighters that began delivery to member countries in 2008 have added precision ground attack capabilities under programs like P1E, but still fall well short of the full capabilities and weapon arrays offered by competitors like the American F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-15E Strike Eagle. Their lack of a helmet-mounted display (HMD) compounded this issue, preventing the Typhoon from taking full advantage of its new air-to-air missiles, and detracting from their ground attack capabilities. A BAE “Striker” HMSS Helmet-Mounted Display is in low-rate production now, but it didn’t become operational until 2011.

Tranche 3 Eurofighters will reportedly be based on the Tranche 2 standard, with provisions for dorsal conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) that can extend range while creating minimal drag. The other big change involves upgraded power systems and electronics that can more easily support future growth and upgrades. The weapon bus can handle fiber optic cabling, onboard computing is upgraded, and a high speed data network improves sharing with weapons or other platforms. The most important upgrade remains a CAPTOR “E-Scan” Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to replace the ECR-90. Industry is developing it for a 2015 delivery date, but there doesn’t seem to be a contract framework in place. The lack of an AESA radar leaves the Eurofighter a generation behind its American counterparts in radar technology, and until it catches up, it’s likely to suffer in export competitions.

F-35A Lightning II
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Even as these upgrades are being discussed, however, the Eurofighter’s export window as a leading-edge fighter choice is closing. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is aerodynamically inferior, but it offers a stealth fighter with a tested AESA radar, a wider array of sensors, and sensor fusion at an even higher level. By the end of this decade, 5th generation projects like the Russo-Indian PAK-FA will also become viable choices for some export targets.

Successful upgrades can keep the Eurofighter Typhoon competitive, even in that environment, if its production line lasts long enough. The key word will be “competitive.” As an example, see this comparison of the Eurofighter vs. Saab’s single-engine contemporary, the 4+ generation JAS-39 Gripen. Saab already has a development contract for an ES-05 Raven AESA radar, and is significantly ahead in weapons integration:

Eurofighter: What’s Next? A Weak Core

Eurofighter 2020
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Tranche 3 aircraft are expected to deliver a few important new capabilities, including an AESA radar and Conformal Fuel Tanks. At present, however, only Tranche 3 Eurofighters are designed to add CFTs. The biggest question at present is whether Tranche 3A aircraft will be the only CFT-capable Typhoons. The status of core countries’ Tranche 3B orders is very unclear, but Britain and Germany have already firmly ruled out further buys, and it appears likely that Tranche 3A will be the last production order from the original member countries.

In 2011, Eurofighter’s CEO placed the end of production at 2015, barring a major export win like India or Japan, or a Tranche 3B purchase from the consortium partners. By 2014, that date had been revised to 2017/18, but 2015 still marks the point that parts of the supply chain will begin to stop.

This will leave core countries with smaller fleets, for 2 reasons. One is limited orders. The other is Typhoon fleets that won’t serve in parallel. UK Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy has said that he expects the RAF to operate on the basis of a Typhoon fleet of 120 aircraft. By the time the last jets of the 3A tranche come into service, between 2015 and 2020, the first batch of Tranche 1 Typhoons would be approaching the end of their life. This is likely to be true in other partner countries as well. A 2009 Der Spiegel article illustrates some of the issues in Germany, for instance:

“The German air force didn’t get the first jets until July 2006. It now has 38 Eurofighters. But 14 of them have been sent back for repairs. Some of them still suffer instrument failure during flights. Of the six single-seat aircraft at the Neuburg air base only four are fit for service on average. That’s just enough to provide day and night cover for Germany’s airspace. The defense ministry recently admitted to budget committee members that the approved sum of [EUR] 14.7 billion would only be enough to pay for 143 Eurofighters. Parliament would have to approve an additional [EUR] 3 billion if the air force was to get the planned 180 aircraft…”

Upgrade Lifeline?

IPA7 tests KEPD-350s
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At the same time, remaining aircraft in these existing fleets offer strong opportunities for piecemeal upgrades, from moves to give Tranche 1 planes precision ground attack capabilities, to helmet-mounted sights, AESA radar retrofits, and even thrust-vectoring engines to create super-maneuverability. Conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) could also become possible, if Eurofighter devises an appropriate upgrade process. It would be logical to make that part of a life-extension structural refit, which would help existing customers keep expensive investments in service for longer. Key export order competitors like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-15 Strike Eagle, F-35 Lightning II, JAS-39 Gripen, Rafale, and Russian SU-30MKx/SU-35 already field every one of these capabilities – but none currently field all of them.

Weapon upgrades are absolutely expected. Expansion of the Typhoon’s ground attack weapon choices is an ongoing process. MBDA’s medium-range stealthy Storm Shadow cruise missile is in testing for full integration by 2015, reportedly thanks to Saudi Arabia and Oman. Taurus’ similar KEPD 350 will undergo partial testing at the same time. Saudi Arabia also reportedly wants to add the French Damocles surveillance and targeting pod, which makes sense because the Israeli LITENING-III runs up against their boycott.

Storm Shadow
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In the air, 2017 is expected to mark full integration of the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile.

Over the medium term, planned weapons reportedly include Diehl’s medium-range PILUM and HOSBO glide bombs, short-range MBDA Brimstone light strike missiles, and possibly their longer-range SPEAR-3 successors. Raytheon’s AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles have been discussed, and they would fix a critical deficiency for an important mission. So, too, would anti-ship missiles, which all of its competitors already carry. None of these items come with a schedule, however.

National budgets will play a role in the pace of these upgrades, as they have throughout the Eurofighter’s history. The question, for current and future customers, is timing. Until integration is done, the absence of key capabilities like long-range precision strike and anti-radar missiles will continue to hobble the Typhoon’s positioning as a fully multi-role aircraft.

What has changed now is the consortium’s seriousness about winning exports, along with a dawning understanding that most of these upgrades are now basic requirements for serious players. The question is whether this understanding came too late.

Exports Required

Eurofighter Display
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Export wins will be necessary in order to finance the full range of timely improvements, and keep the line open past 2017/18. An August 30/09 Financial Mail article reported that Eurofighter GmbH was hoping for sales of 300 Eurofighter Typhoon to 10 export countries by 2020, but that will be very challenging.

The Eurofighter’s cost of $100-140 million each is already creating tough sledding against F-35 stealth fighters whose production quantities will eventually create prices in the $100 million range, and F/A-18 Super Hornets or JAS-39E/F Gripens that can be sold for around $60-70 million. With existing operators interested in selling some of their aircraft, even an export win or 2 may not change the Eurofighter’s overall production numbers.

The Tranche 3A release from Eurofighter cited active export campaigns in Switzerland, India, Japan, Romania, Greece, and Turkey, while “exploring possible opportunities” in South Korea, Bulgaria, Croatia, et. al. Romania (F-16s) and Turkey (F-35A) never went ahead with a real competition. Subsequent losses in Brazil (JAS-39E/F Gripen), India (Rafale, unfinalized), Japan (F-35A), South Korea (F-35A), Switzerland (JAS-39E Gripen, canceled by referendum), and the UAE (TBD, q.v. Dec 19/13 entry) have hurt.

Greece, which canceled an order for 30-60 Eurofighters in 2005, and bought F-16s instead, still had plans for an additional next-generation fighter buy to counter Turkey’s planned purchase of 100 F-35As. With Greek finances in tatters, however, don’t hold your breath.

After that, Eurofighter’s options narrow sharply. On the bright side, the Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar all have fighter competitions in progress, and successful sales to Saudi Arabia and Oman help the Typhoon’s chances within the Gulf Cooperation Council.

With Japan and South Korea out, the once-promising Asian market has few options left for Eurofighter. A MiG-29N replacement competition in Malaysia has run into trouble due to finances, and they are exploring leasing deals. That will be a tough win for Eurofighter. In Europe, Eastern European countries like Bulgaria and Croatia would normally be problematic sales due to the Eurofighter’s costs, but Germany is pushing hard, and offering umbrella maintenance agreements and training packages. Even if they succeed, however, the end result is just a handful of sales.

Typhoon at Sea?

Naval variant, cutaway
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India was pitched with very explicit offers to have their needs and investments drive the Typhoon’s future enhancements, and significant roles for Indian industry. At Aero India 2011, Eurofighter and BAE even unveiled an initial internally-funded design for a navalized Eurofighter than can operate from aircraft carriers. In a direct nod to potential Indian sales, they touted the plane as being able to take off from “ski jump” carriers without catapults – a design that describes all of India’s current and planned carriers, as well as the initial design for Britain’s own Queen Elizabeth Class. Eurofighter GmbH describes the goal as 95% commonality with land-based aircraft, and required changes as “limited… include a new, stronger landing gear, a modified arrestor hook and localised strengthening on some fuselage sections near the landing gear, as well as updates the EJ200 engines,” which could include thrust-vectoring as well as structural reinforcement.

It didn’t help. India picked the French Rafale, which already has a carrier-capable version, as their future M-MRCA medium fighter. The Indian Navy is currently flying MiG-29Ks as its naval fighters, and plans to add Indian-designed LCA Naval light jets.

Britain could have been a long-shot backup option, but they’re planning to use the F-35B from future carriers, which won’t be fitted with steam catapults and arrester wires after all.

Brazil might have been a future option, on the assumption that they will replace their aircraft carrier at some point. Unfortunately for Eurofighter, Brazil picked Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen as their future air force fighter, and Saab also has plans for a naval variant.

That leaves a carrier-capable Eurofighter variant without a plausible future customer.

Eurofighter: Industrial Structure & Orders

IPA7 over Manching
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Technically, the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) is the customer for the Eurofighter project. Eurofighter GmbH is the contractor, with joint ownership by all of the key industrial partners: BAE Systems, EADS, and Finmeccanica. Overall, Eurofighter GmbH cites a total of 100,000 supported jobs in 400 companies across Europe.

Aircraft production work shares were designed to correspond to the number of aircraft ordered under the 1998 Umbrella Contract:

  • 37.5% UK (232). BAE Systems: Front fuselage including foreplanes, canopy, dorsal spine, tail fin, inboard flaperons, rear fuselage section.

  • 30.0% Germany (180) EADS Deutschland: Main center fuselage. Airbus spinout Premium AEROTEC is the main sub-contractor.

  • 19.5% Italy (121). Alenia Aeronautica: Left wing, outboard flaperons, rear fuselage sections

  • 13.0% Spain (87). EADS CASA: Right wing, leading edge slats

The Eurofighter’s 2 EJ200 turbofans deliver 20,000 pounds thrust each in reheat mode, and are manufactured by the EUROJET partnership of Avio (Italy), ITP (Spain), MTU Aero Engines (Germany) and Rolls-Royce (UK).

The Euroradar consortium supplies the ECR-90 CAPTOR radar, and is developing the “E-Scan” AESA successor for introduction by 2015. It is led by Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems in Edinburgh, UK (formerly BAE Systems Avionics), and also includes EADS and Spain’s Indra.

The Eurofighter contract was designed to protect the fairness of each participants’ agreed manufacturing work shares, by making it very expensive to back out of committed orders. On the other hand, European defense spending continues to decline due to pressure from welfare state commitments and debt burdens, even as European military operational deployments and their costs have increased. Hence the fractious contract negotiations around Tranche 3, and also the investigation of foreign sell-offs by the member countries.

In June 2009, the partners took a diplomatic way out, splitting Tranche 3 into 2 parts. At the end of July 2009, the 4 partner nations placed a EUR 9 billion Tranche 3A order, which will keep production going for several more years. The table below summarizes the Eurofighter’s evolving production plans, from the original 1985 plan to the 1998 agreement, and then planned and actual orders for each production tranche.

Note that 24 of Britain’s Tranche 2 aircraft have been diverted to Saudi Arabia, in order to satisfy Saudi demands for early delivery. In response, Britain ordered 24 more Tranche 3 aircraft as replacements. In practice, this means that Britain has ordered only 16 of its originally planned 88 Tranche 3 Eurofighters – and high-level statements indicate that Tranche 3A agreement absolves Britain of the need to place any further Eurofighter orders. Other reports explain the gap by claiming that the other 48 British Tranche 3 aircraft will go to Saudi Arabia, meaning that all of Saudi Arabia’s 72 planes will have been siphoned off from British orders.

Maintenance contracts to keep the fleets in service involve a small core of multi-national contracts for key systems and general service, followed by a number of national umbrella contracts to address other areas, and then a set of national maintenance agreements that are less comprehensive. See the chart below for tracking of the main support contracts currently underway:

Contracts & Key Events

New dawn, or twilight?
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DID coverage focuses on purchases related to consortium aircraft buys under Tranche 3, platform improvement efforts, international opportunities, and sales. See the “Additional Readings” section for coverage of the comprehensive support contracts for the various countries, and of the Saudi and Austrian export deals.

2014 – 2017

Germany confirms no Tranche 3B, but how much will they have to pay?; German maintenance costs an issue; Eurofighter needs new orders, soon.

with Brimstones

June 13/17: The head of Airbus has called on the French government to join German and Spanish efforts on a proposed new fighter to succeed the Eurofighter Typhoon. “I really hope that France will be involved,” says Fernando Alonso, speaking to reporters on 9 June at the company’s media day. “We have to do this in Europe. There’s no place to do two or three different systems.” While Paris had initially stayed out of the Eurofighter program—instead favoring to work with Dassault on the Rafale—there has been much talk of further integrated European defense research and procurement among EU members, and with the UK gearing up to leave the EU, France is being seen as a potential replacement partner in such joint programs. Last year, Germany and Spain partnered to draw up requirements for the New Generation Weapon System (NGWS), a proposed new fighter that would be developed under the Future Combat Air System effort, which includes other elements of air warfare technology, including unmanned air vehicles (UAV) and space-based capabilities.

May 16/17: BAE Systems has rolled out the lead example of its Eurofighter Typhoons destined for delivery to Oman later this year. Muscat’s Typhoon order, signed in December 2012, is for nine single-seat aircraft and three two-seat examples to support training activities. A ceremony to mark the occasion was hosted at the firm’s final assembly in Lancashire, UK, with the Typhoon joined by Oman’s first new-generation Hawk advanced jet trainer, of which eight Mk 166 examples are on order by the Gulf sultanate.

April 13/17: Italian manufacturer Leonardo has handed over its 500th operational Eurofighter Typhoon to the Italian Air Force. Marking the occasion was a ceremony at the firm’s Turin facility and saw attendance from various military and security industry representatives, including leaders from Leonardo, NETMA, and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug. Speaking at the event, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug CEO Volker Paltzo stated that the “500-strong Eurofighter Typhoon fleet represents one of the largest and most capable fighter fleets in the western hemisphere, and will be the backbone of European airpower for decades to come.” European armed forces have been operating the Typhoon since 2003, when the first completed jet was delivered to Britain’s Royal Air Force. The service received their 100th plane in September 2006 while Germany’s air force accepted the delivery of the 400th jet in 2013.

March 15/17: The British Royal Air Forces and BAE Systems have completed a series of trials as part of the Phase 3 Enhancement package that the company is developing for the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft under the Centurian program. RAF pilots in conjunction with support from BAE’s engineers flew over 40 flights with the aircraft which set out to test its high precision MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface weapon. Each flight carried two launchers; each containing three Brimstone missiles alongside four AMRAAM, two ASRAAM, and two Paveway IV laser-guided bombs. The Centurian program aims to upgrade the Typhoon to sufficient multi-role standards in order to effectively replace the Tornado GR4 currently in service, by 2018.

March 5/17: Opposition parties in the Austrian parliament have agreed to the setting up of an inquiry into the 2003 purchase of Eurofighter jets. The parliamentary inquiry formally announced on Friday by the Greens and far-right Freedom Party (FPO) comes just a week after Austrian prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium, based on a complaint by the defense ministry. This is the second parliamentary inquiry in relation to the deal. The first, in 2006, sought to find reasons to cancel the contract but only resulted in the order being scaled back while the new investigation will examine the terms of that settlement and seek to claim back any monies it finds to have been wrongly paid out.

February 20/17: Northrop Grumman and the British RAF have successfully demonstrated communication system interoperability between an F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon jets. The test was carried out during an MoD-funded two week trial, called Babel Fish III, and saw a Lockheed Martin F-35B communicate with a Typhoon fighter by translating its Multifunction Advanced Data Link messages into a Link 16 format. It was the first time a non-U.S. 5th- and 4th-generation aircraft shared MADL-delivered data. Northrop claimed that the test integrated its Freedom 550 technology into the F-35’s Airborne Gateway, which translates information from various sources to enhance situational awareness and interoperability.

February 17/17: After four years of investigation, Austria has filed a lawsuit against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium over alleged deception and fraud linked to the 2003 purchase of Eurofighter jets. The investigation into the $2.1 billion deal by the Defense Ministry found that the defense groups gave misleading information on the purchase price, deliverability, and equipment of the jets, and are seeking damages that could amount to $1.17 billion. Vienna’s purchase of 15 fighters has faced scrutiny since the outset of the deal, with allegations that money was pocketed by politicians, civil servants, and others via brokers for side deals accompanying the purchase.

January 18/17: Eurofighter will provide a five-year support deal for four NATO countries operating the Typhoon fighter. Two contracts were signed between NETMA, the NATO Eurofighter & Tornado Management Organization on behalf of core Eurofighter nations, and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH on behalf of aircraft makers Airbus Defense and Space, BAE Systems and Leonardo. The deals cover the sustainment of engineering capabilities and program management, and for logistics, repairs, and the provision of spare parts for the Eurofighter fleet.

October 24/16: Eurofighter Typhoons recently ordered by Kuwait will be fitted with Lockheed Martin’s Sniper advanced targeting pods. Under a contract with the Aircraft division of Leonardo-Finmeccanica, a member of the Eurofighter consortium, Lockheed Martin will supply 18 pods for Kuwaiti Typhoons, plus integration and logistics support. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2017.

October 10/16: Efforts to market the Eurofighter Typhoon to Belgium will be lead by BAE Systems, as Brussels shops for its aging F-16 fleet’s replacement. As part of the bid, BAE has spoken to more than 100 Belgian companies in the defense, aerospace, and space sectors. Other fighters included in the mix are Lockheed Martin’s F-35, Boeing’s F/A-18, Dassault’s Rafale, and Saab’s Gripen.

October 6/16: A lack of orders alongside a complex production process has seen production of the Eurofighter Typhoon suspended and potentially removed from the German market, at least until 2018. A joint European offering, the Typhoon receives components manufactured at four plants in Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain, which makes the production very complicated and expensive. It’s believed that Spain may soon follow in suspending production but production lines are likely to remain open in Italy and the UK. This is due to orders arranged between Italy and Kuwait as well as UK ambitions to shift Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia.

July 15/16: A UK operated Eurofighter Typhoon has commenced flight testing of the E-scan radar following successful ground trials on the aircraft. The trials are designed to ensure the radar and weapons system reach the required capability in time for first deliveries to the Kuwait Air Force, which became the aircraft’s eighth customer earlier this year. Development of the new radar underpins the Typhoon’s current and future capability evolution.

July 7/16: A Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon has dropped the GBU-48 dual-mode GPS and laser guided bomb for the first time. Testing took place in the Gulf of Cadiz in support of the Air Force´s Arms and Experimentation Logistical Centre (CLAEX) between June 20-24. According to the service, the event marks a significant increase for the C-16’s air-to-ground capabilities allowing the fighters to carry out simultaneous offensives against several ground targets.

June 23/16: Eurofighter is to target fresh export sales of the Typhoon fighter as the consortium announced deliveries of 47 of the multi-role aircraft in the 12 months running up to May. A backlog of 106 deliveries now remain, with orders from Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the UK. Targets for the fighter include campaigns with Indonesia and Malaysia, several European nations and a watchful eye is being kept on the ongoing situation in Canada.

May 10/16: With the company currently rolling out its Leonardo re-brand, Finmeccanica has reported a strong financial first quarter thanks to its recent $9.1 billion Eurofighter deal with Kuwait. However, a drop in helicopter sales is negatively affecting the company. Helicopter orders dropped a massive €964 million in the first quarter from €1.35 billion last year to €384 million, which managers are attributing to turmoil in the oil and gas sector, resulting in companies buying fewer helicopters to access oil rigs.

April 8/16: Kuwait is to become the launch customer of the Eurofighter Typhoon’s Captor-E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The country will be the first to flight test the new technology upon delivery of its long awaited order for 28 of the multi-role fighters. Finmeccanica, who has taken the lead on the Kuwait sale has said that the Typhoons that will be delivered to Kuwait will be the most advanced configuration of the type, and will include the company’s Praetorian defensive aids suite and Pirate infrared search and track system.

April 6/16: Kuwait’s delayed Eurofighter deal was eventually signed on Tuesday. The 28 jets making their way to the Gulf state will be the largest order of the jet for Italian Eurofighter partner Finmeccanica, who spearheaded the deal. The fighters will also come with a new electronically scanned radar designed by the European EuroRADAR consortium and specifically developed for the Eurofighter. Kuwait will be the first to have such radars installed on their jets as the four Eurofighter launch partners, Germany, Spain, Italy, and UK have yet to adopt the radar.

March 3/16: Finmeccanica can breath a sign of relief as Kuwait’s parliament approved a draft law to allow for a $500 million down payment on its future Eurofighter deal. The purchase of 28 jets at a total cost of $8.7 billion had been hanging in the balance since a memorandum of understanding was signed in September. A final was expected to be signed in January, but issues over final cost and training requirements had been put under scrutiny. The delay had stoked fears that the deal could be cancelled, causing a 6 percent tumble in the Italian manufacturers’ shares in early February.

February 23/16: Oman’s ordered Eurofighter Typhoon’s move one step closer to delivery according to Eurofighter partner BAE Systems. Final assembly has begun at BAE’s Warton site in Lancashire, UK with 12 to be delivered to the Royal Oman Air Force in 2017. The sale will also include eight Hawk 166 advanced jet trainers. Exports of the joint European Typhoon have been on the increase, with Italian partner Alenia Aermacchi and the Italian government leading the charge for the sale of 28 of the fighters to Kuwait.

February 15/16: Following the delays in finalizing Kuwait’s Eurofighter fighter deal, Kuwaiti Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Sheikh Khaled Jarrah Al-Sabah has said that contracts will be signed this week. Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti will visit Kuwait after both ministers discussed issues surrounding the deal during wider NATO talks over tackling the Islamic State in Brussels. With the deal originally planned to be finalized by the end of January, procedural delays over cost and training had put in doubt a deal being concluded any time soon.

February 3/16: Last weekend’s expected signing of a deal for Kuwait to purchase twenty-eight Eurofighter jets has been put off. Italian Ministry of Defense officials cited “procedural” delays on Kuwait’s behalf, and that no clear date had been set. It had been expected that the deal would close quickly after some initial delays over pilot training had pushed an agreement into 2016. News of the deal came as Kuwait’s initial plan to purchase F-18 Super Hornets from Boeing was scrapped after their frustration over congressional delays in gaining approval for the sale. The loss of the sale to the Eurofighter has put into question the security of some jobs at Boeing’s St. Louis plant. The plant specializes in the manufacture of the Super Hornet, and were set to start production of the $3 billion deal before the change.

January 28/16: After delays in gaining approval from the US to buy new F-18 Super Hornets, Kuwait instead looks set to sign contracts for twenty-eight Eurofighter Typhoon jets to replace their older F-18s. An official in the Italian Ministry of Defense said minister Roberta Pinotti would visit Kuwait on Sunday to sign papers finalizing the deal estimated to be worth $8.7 billion. Talks had been ongoing since November with issues over pilot training delaying the deal, but should be completed within eighteen months. The switch in allegiance will no doubt annoy manufacturer Boeing, and may see renewed frustrations over the lengthy congressional approval process for foreign military sales.

December 14/15: Kuwait’s purchase of 28 Eurofighter jets from Finmeccanica is set to experience further delays, as contracts may not be signed until 2016. The CEO of Finmeccanica expressed concerns last week, saying that he did not expect a sale to be agreed upon before December 25. The $9 billion purchase has been delayed repeatedly since a memorandum of agreement was signed in September. Reasons for the delay have apparently arisen due to disagreements over pilot training and the dispatching of specialized personnel. On December 1, the Kuwaiti government requested parliament to release a supplementary budget of $20.4 billion to fund military weapon purchases over the next ten years.

November 30/15: A $9 billion Eurofighter sale to Kuwait has been delayed. Italian defense company Finmeccanica announced that problems with pilot training and the dispatching of specialized personnel has resulted in the deal being postponed until mid-December. An initial memorandum of agreement for 28 fighters was signed in September and it was hoped contracts would have been signed by November. Kuwait is one of several Gulf nations currently driving to acquire high-tech aircraft and weaponry to protect themselves from neighbouring Iran as well as internal threats in the region.

November 13/15: BAE Systems is slowing Eurofighter production in order to sustain production lines out past 2018, in addition to cutting jobs on the fighter’s UK production line. The decision reflects the company’s orderbook, covering production orders which conclude in 2018 and an expected uptick in production as a result of an order for 28 Eurofighters by Kuwait, following an agreement between the Italian and Kuwaiti governments earlier this year; however a finalized deal has yet to materialize.

October 19/15: In further bad news for the German Eurofighter program, a malfunction with the aircraft’s external fuel tank grounded [German] the fleet from flying with the additional fuel pod attached, reducing the ability of the fighters to operate at longer distances. One of the German contingent of Eurofighters deployed to the Baltic region saw one of its fuel tanks fall off last week, leading to the grounding. This follows news earlier this week that the German government has temporarily suspended deliveries of new Eurofighters, citing manufacturing defects. German press also reports [German] that the EUR1 billion ($1.27 billion) contract to develop the CAPTOR-E radar system for the fighter, signed in November 2014, is now delayed by five months, as well as being above budget.

October 14/15: Germany’s Defence Ministry has halted deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters following the discovery of a technical fault with the Airbus-manufactured jets. The technical problem is thought centered around the connection between the aircraft’s vertical stabiliser and the fuselage. This is the second time quality control measures for the European fighter have caused problems, with manufacturing defects in September 2014 [German] also leading to a suspension of deliveries. In both cases BAE Systems was the consortium member responsible for manufacture of the defective parts; however this latest problem is not thought to pose any immediate flight safety issues for operators of the aircraft.

September 14/15: Kuwait is buying 28 Eurofighters through the Italian government, following an order for a dozen of the aircraft in December 2012. The order is the first in three years for the multinational Eurofighter, with the Eurofighter consortium’s partner company Alenia Aermacchi reportedly having led the marketing campaign in the Gulf state. Oman similarly ordered twelve of the multi-role fighters in December 2012, with the aircraft already in operation with six national air forces.

Dec 12/14: Weapons. BAE announces that the 1st Brimstone trial onto a Typhoon was completed, following a June 19/14 award to study integration between the missile and the aircraft. The firm says that “6 Brimstone missiles were fitted to the aircraft, each wing carrying a launcher with three missiles. Training missiles were used for the purposes of the trial and demonstrated that the weapon can be fitted to the aircraft.” Of course that’s not the toughest part in such an endeavor, and full integration is not expected before 2018.

November 2014: Weapons. The 1st release of a Storm Shadow cruise missile was performed successfully by the Italian IPA2 test aircraft, following initial tests in August. Now that inert drop tests and store release trials were performed, Phase 3 will involve environmental data gathering, followed by additional flights to assess handling qualities.

BAE Systems was also able to test the installation of a Storm Shadow onto a RAF Typhoon. Source: Eurofighter.

Captor-E concept
(click to view full)

Nov 19/14: Sensors. NATO’s Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) finally signs a EUR 1 billion/ GBP 800 million / $1.273 billion contract with Eurofighter Jadgflugzeug GmbH to finish and integrate Euroradar’s Captor E-Scan movable AESA radar (q.v. March 22/12, July 30/12, Nov 15/13, Oct 17/14), whose absence is currently a big disadvantage compared to every other top-tier fighter on the market. This deal was supposed to be done by the end of 2012, and the delay has been costly, but better late than never.

Captor-E is touted as having an unspecified “very large” antenna size that’s expected to be comparable to F-15s (APG-82v1) and F-22As (APG-77). That means more raw power for performance, and more T/R modules available for specialized functions; though materials, build quality, and the number of the T/R modules will all modify final performance statistics. Instead of using a fixed mounting like American fighters and the French Rafale, Eurofighter’s Captor-E will be mounted on a movable plate for an extremely Wide Field of Regard (WFoR). The current contract release appears to have expanded the touted FoR from about 120 to 200 degrees, thanks to the combination of mechanical movement and electronic beam steering. Eurofighter sees that capability as very useful for fire-and-evade dogfighting maneuvers that use the Eurofighter’s speed and maneuverability to their fullest, without breaking the launching fighter’s radar lock. The tradeoff is paid in poorer reliability and higher maintenance costs, compared to a fixed AESA array.

The contract value for Finmeccanica alone will be EUR 400 million, as the leader of the Euroradar consortium. Finmeccanica-Selex ES will produce the new radar at its facilities in Edinburgh, UK and Nerviano (Milan), Italy while Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi’s Turin, Italy site will be responsible for the navigation systems during the integration phase. Airbus DS in Germany, and Spain’s Indra, round out the consortium. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter And NETMA Sign One Billion Euro Radar Contract” | UK MoD, “€1 billion contract to develop cutting-edge radar for Typhoon” | Airbus Group, “New radar ensures superiority of the Eurofighter” | Finmeccanica Selex ES, “€1 billion contract signed between the Eurofighter consortium and the inter-governmental agency NETMA” | Defense News, “Action Pending on AESA Radar for Typhoon”.


Flying low…
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Oct 17/14: P1E. BAE Systems announces that deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon Phase 1 Enhancement upgrades have created 17 P1Eb standard aircraft in service with the RAF. A further 18 are to be delivered by April 1/15, under a EUR 1.2 billion program that will eventually convert all 67 Tranche 2 Typhoons in RAF service; BAE offers a useful summary of key features.

Now that the UK has completed testing and undertaken initial fielding, the upgrade package will also become a proven installation option for other Eurofighter Tranche 2 customers, beginning in 2015. Meanwhile, future P2E and P3E upgrades are being planned, but the biggest wild card and competitive disadvantage remains:

“Eurofighter is still waiting for the partner nations to sign a production contract for the introduction of the Captor-E [AESA radar]…. A program source confirmed that the signing of the deal had slipped to the end of 2014, and “the staffing process within some partner nations is taking more time than originally planned.” “Germany is still sorting out some details,” a second source said.”

Sources: BAE Systems, “Royal Air force now flying their most advanced fighter jets ever” | Defense News, “British RAF Now Flying Improved Typhoon Aircraft”.

Sept 30/14: Defects. Germany suspends their remaining 32 Eurofighter deliveries, pending resolution of a manufacturing defect and negotiations re: what to do about it. They also sharply cut the estimated number of safe flying hours in each of their 108 delivered Eurofighters to just 1,500, and Austria and Britain are apparently taking similar measures. The timing is terrible, coming on the heels of revelations that budget cuts have forced the German armed forces into deep disrepair, with most of its key equipment unready for war.

BAE Systems and Britain’s RAF reportedly discovered that some of the rivet holes in the rear fuselage of the jet were drilled in ways that could introduce splinters and cracks into the rear fuselage, giving it less ability to resist wear and tear. That section is built by BAE, and tests are underway to get a more precise estimate of the effect on the fighter’s safe lifespan.

Meanwhile, the problem isn’t an immediate safety issue, and the Luftwaffe won’t hit even this low hours limit until 2018, so the planes aren’t grounded. Exports to Oman and Saudi Arabia are expected to continue.

Note that 1,500 flight hours is a ridiculously short life span, even for fighter jets whose forecasts in a capable military amount to just 150-300 hours per plane per year. Base figures of 5,000 – 8,000 are expected, with deep repair and refurbishment extending some airframes to around 10,000. The original official limit of 3,000 hours was itself just half of the Eurofighter Typhoon’s 6,000 hour design life, with the expectation that hard flight data would extend the official limit as experience offered greater certainty. It’s a very German approach, but the introduction of a big uncertainty is pushing estimates the other way for now. Sources: German Bundeswehr, “Eurofighter: Flugbetrieb der Luftwaffe aktuell nicht von industrieller Flugstundenreduzierung betroffen” | Der Spiegel, “Desolate Bundeswehr-Ausrustung: Hersteller warnt vor Mangeln am “Eurofighter” | Defense-Aerospace, “Eurofighter: Air Force Flight Operations Currently Not Affected By Flight Hours Reduction” | Agence France Presse, “Germany ‘erring on side of safety’ regarding Eurofighter defect” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-Manufacturing flaw halts some Eurofighter deliveries” | Reuters, “Austria says Eurofighter has part problem” | SwissInfo, “Austria says Eurofighter has part problem, some deliveries halted” | Russia Today, “Eurofighter hull hitch: Germany halves fighter flying hours” || Der Spiegel, “Marodes Material: Bundeswehr erfullt Nato-Anforderungen derzeit nicht” (re: massive disrepair in armed forces) | Deutsche Welle, “Bundeswehr struggles with faulty defense equipment”.

Manufacturing defect could shrink fighter lifespan

Aug 5/14: Weapons. Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi has confirmed that the 1st phase of tests for Storm Shadow long-range cruise missile integration (q.v. July 26/13, Nov 20/13) is complete.

They add that the fighter will be able to carry 2 Storm Shadows and up to 8 air-to-air missiles. That’s a good load for fighting your way in and out, which is useful to customers like Saudi Arabia and Oman who are paying for the work. The ability to add drop-tanks would be another valuable load-out, extending the Storm Shadow’s reach. Countries like Britain would find that exceedingly useful, but weight and aerodynamics make this combination a more challenging load-out. Perhaps Tranche 3 upgrades and Conformal Fuel Tanks (q.v. May 13/14) can offer this capability in a more elegant way. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Success For Italian Eurofighter Storm Shadow Trials”.

July 16/14: HMD. BAE unveils its Striker II Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD), which builds on the original Striker system flying with Eurofighter and Gripen fleets.

The new system removes the need for night vision goggles, integrating a center-mounted ISIE-11 sensor based on Intevac Photonics’ patented electron bombarded active pixel sensor (EBAPS) advanced imaging sensor technology. The result is brighter and lighter than standard HMD/NVG combinations. the system is fully digital, and new hybrid opto-inertial technology is designed to reduce jitter and other syncing issues as the HMD tries to stay aligned with the pilot’s head movement and display its symbology. Sources: BAE Systems, “BAE Systems Unveils Digital Striker II Helmet-Mounted Display System with Superior Tracking, Night Vision Capabilities”.

June 19/14: Weapons. BAE announces an initial GBP 5 million study contract from the British Ministry of Defence, to conduct initial integration studies for the dual-mode radar/laser guided Brimstone 2 short-range light strike missile. Brimstone is already operational on Britain’s Tornado GR4 strike fighters, and this is an expected development that will improve the Typhoon’s capabilities for close air support against land targets and swarming motorboats.

Initial wind tunnel tests are already underway at Warton, Lancashire, and the study also intends to explore a common launcher for future derivatives like the 75+ km SPEAR 3 light strike missile. The target date for Brimstone 2 integration is 2018. Sources: BAE, “UK Study Contract Awarded to integrate Brimstone 2 onto Typhoon”.

June 10/14: Crash. A Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon crashed just before landing at Moron de la Frontera AB, killing the pilot. The pilot was an experienced flyer with 600 flight hours in the type, and the cause is under investigation.

It’s the first Spanish Air Force plane to go down, though a consortium prototype and a Saudi Eurofighter have crashed in Spain within the last decade. Sources: The Local – Spain, “Eurofighter jet exploded shortly after 2pm shortly after take-off for a routine practice mission” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-Eurofighter jet crashes at Spanish base, killing pilot” | UK Daily Mail, “Eurofighter jet crashes just short of southern Spain airbase runway killing pilot”.

Spanish crash

June 9/14: Weapons. The Eurofighter’s weak weapons array has come back to bite it again, this time in Malaysia and Qatar. In “response” to this demand for “maritime attack capabilities,” which all of its competitors already possess in full:

“Peter Maute, the head of combat aircraft sales at Airbus Defence, said the Boeing Harpoon and MBDA’s Marte and Sea Brimstone missiles were being considered as possibilities…. work on the weapons was done by Eurofighter in its development simulator but that full integration would have to await a customer. Qatar and Malaysia are known to have stipulated a maritime-strike capability for their next purchase of combat jets.”

One hears “discussion,” study” and “plan” a lot, with respect to key Typhoon capabilities. In a competitive market, that doesn’t substitute for action. If you await a customer, you’ll be watching them buy something else: F-16s with Penguin Mk3s, F-15s with SLAM-ERs, JAS-39 Gripens with RBS-15s, Rafales with Exocets, Russian jets with Kh-31/ Kh-35s, or Super Hornets with Harpoon and SLAM-ER anti-ship and land strike missiles. It’s also doubtful that most customers would consider the short-range Brimstone missiles to be a “maritime attack capability,” unless one confines potential targets to small boats. Sources: Defense News, “Eurofighter Studying Missiles To Give Typhoon Maritime Attack Capability”.

May 21/14: P1Eb. Eurofighter GmbH formally unveils the Phase 1 Enhancements B package in Berlin at the ILA 2014 airshow. It’s essentially the EP2 capabilities (q.v. Oct 30/13) of enhancements to the existing radar for Meteor missile compatibility, DASS defensive system improvements, MIDS/Link-16 interoperability updates, as well as Flight Control System (FCS) and the Utility Control System (UCS) improvements. Plus Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which weren’t announced in EP2 because payments are coming from outside the core group. Storm Shadows should be integrated by 2015, but full Meteor long-range air-to-air missile integration isn’t scheduled until 2017.

The FCS/UCS upgrades will inprove compatibility with future civil airspace requirements, and also allow the pilot to switch seamlessly between air-to-air and air-to-ground modes.

Overall, there’s less here than meets the eye. The Eurofighter’s aerial performance is very good, and they have a reputation for implementing very good pilot interfaces. With the exception of Meteor, however, comparable or better capabilities are already fielded in competitive aircraft like the F-15. This is more of a partial catch-up than a paradigm shift in anything. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter Unveils ‘Paradigm Shift’ In Capability At Berlin Air Show”.

May 13/14: CFTs. BAE Systems has begun wind tunnel tests for conformal fuel tank designs, based on a “geometrically perfect 1/12th scale model” of the Tranche 3. The CFTs are created using additive manufacturing, then attached and removed for the tests.

CFTs are one of the big changes inherent in the Tranche 3 aircraft, which will form a small portion of the core partners’ Typhoon fleets. Removing drag-creating fuel tanks from underwing hardpoints is a big plus, but a great deal depends on good design. Boeing and Northrop Grumman managed to craft CFTs that added 3,500 pounds of fuel to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, while creating nearly zero drag at sub-sonic speeds. Even those CFTs impose a trans-sonic penalty, which will be an issue for Super Hornets, but the Eurofighter has such a good power to weight ratio that a minor trans-sonic penalty won’t matter. Sources: BAE, “British Engineers test new configuration of fighter jets in high speed wind tunnel”.

April 30/14: Germany – Costs. Germany’s Bundesrechnunghof (Federal Court of Auditors) publishes a supplementary annex to its 2013 report, and the Eurofighter is one of their subjects. The press release goes over known ground by saying that the EUR 11.5 billion budget will buy just 140 planes, instead of 180. What’s new is an acknowledgement that Eurofighter maintenance costs continue to increase, driven by added need for support and spares, and that life-cycle costs are expected to be roughly double the 1997 estimate of EUR 30 billion.

2011 and 2012 reportedly had the Eurofighter fleet consuming about 1/3 of the air force’s maintenance budgets, even though the fleet was smaller than planned and didn’t reach its maximum flight hours. By 2020, the fleet is expected to rise from 86 to 140, and flight hours would roughly triple to 28,400 per year. A comparative graph in the full report shows the rising operating & maintenance costs from the F-4F Phantom, to the Tornado fleet, to the Eurofighter fleet. The United States has seen similar trends as it fielded each new generation of fighters, but the Tornado is known to be a maintenance problem, and the Eurofighter still graphs significantly above it.

The Bundesrechnunghof adds that even Germany’s Ministry of Defence doesn’t seem to know the full cost, and explains the Ministry’s rationalizations for not knowing. Other countries seem to manage such things, somehow. Perhaps the Germans could visit those countries and find out. Sources: German FCA, 2014 Pressemitteilung 04 – Bemerkungen 2013, weitere Prüfungsergebnisse [Press release] | “2013 Bemerkungen – Weitere Prufungsergebnisse – Nr. 09 “Kostentransparenz beim EUROFIGHTER herstellen” [Eurofighter summary, incl. link to full report] | Langfassung der Bemerkung Nr. 09 [Full report, PDF].

German costs

Feb 27/14: Pessimism, or Realism? Airbus CEO Tom Enders doesn’t sound very sunny about Eurofighter’s future:

“Enders said he’s also “not very optimistic” about securing further deals for the Eurofighter combat jet…. “We do hope we can still score one or two other successes in exports,” he said. “But we also have to prepare for a scenario — due to lack of export orders plus cancellations from others — that we’ll have to ramp down production of this otherwise very impressive aircraft sooner rather than later.”

Sooner would be an end of production in 2017, which means that preparations within the supply chain would begin sometime in 2015. Sources: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Airbus CEO Says Turkish Delay in Taking A400M Threatens Ramp-Up”.

Feb 25/14: Germany. The Handelsblatt business daily says that Airbus is demanding EUR 800 – 900 million in compensation for Germany’s Tranche 3B cancellation. Britain finessed its absence from Tranche 3B by substituting Saudi jets, which were bought under a direct government-to-government deal with Britain, but the other partners aren’t able to do that.

That’s a steep price. Negotiations are expected, but even if Germany ends up paying in full per their original contract, it will still be a small percentage of what they would have paid to buy 37 new Typhoons. Obvious options involve some shifting of payments into R&D or upgrade work, or a refundable “export loan” whose repayment depends on reaching a certain number of fighter exports.

The larger question for Eurofighter GmbH is whether financially fragile Italy and Spain take the same approach as Germany, or stand by their Tranche 3B orders. Sources: Sky News Australia, “Airbus ‘wants money’ for scrapped jets” | Frankfurter Allgemeine Wirtschaft, “Airbus will Entschadigung fur abbestellte Eurofighter”.

Feb 20/14: Germany. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen removes 2 senior procurement officials: Stephane Beemelmans and Detlef Selhausen. Part of the issue involves Eurofighters, specifically, a EUR 55 million euro (~$75 million) settlement to Germany’s MTU in lieu of EUR 340 million for Eurofighter Tranche 3B engine work. Not bad, but Bundestag budget committee approval is required for contracts over EUR 25 million, and the payment was authorized without that. Relationships with these individuals were already tense, so that was the end of the road. Sources: Defense News, “Germany Plans Procurement Overhaul After Program Missteps” | Der Spiegel, “Rustungsprojekt “Eurofighter”: Verteidigungsministerium gab Millionensumme ohne Bundestagsvotum frei” | Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “Wie von der Leyen aufräumen will”.

Feb 19/14: Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia finalizes their contract for 72 fighters, agreeing on price escalation terms to upgrade the fighters bought under the Salaam program toward Tranche 3 standard (q.v. Feb 21/13, Aug 1/13, Dec 19/13). BAE was very involved in the process, but because the underlying agreement is actually with the British government, the amendment must also be negotiated between the governments involved.

BAE had continued Eurofighter deliveries during the long negotiations, which meant rising amounts of cash committed without booking any profits. Clearing this issue up frees BAE to deploy its cash reserves more freely, while also removing a source of uncertainty for potential Gulf Cooperation Council customers.

The firm describes the settlement as “broadly consistent with the Group’s prior trading outlook for 2013.” That outlook (q.v. Dec 19/13) estimated a 6-7 pence earnings per share drop without any agreement, or about GBP 250 million (~ $410 million) maximum, based on total shares revealed in a recent transaction. That’s on top of the original GBP 4.43 billion pounds/ $7.4 billion. Sources: BAE Systems, “Agreement on Salam Price Escalation” and “Feb 20/14 Transaction in Own Shares” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-BAE Systems agrees pricing on Saudi Eurofighter deal”.

Saudi finalization

Feb 19/14: Germany. News reports are describing a German decision to cancel 37 Eurofighters, based on Deputy Defense Minister Stephane Beemelmans’ testimony before their the parliamentary defense committee. That isn’t quite true.

What it means is that Germany doesn’t intend to pay for a Tranche 3B, which would have included 37 fighters to finish their agreed purchases. A Tranche 3B offer was reportedly extended to the core countries by Eurofighter on June 9/10, but Europe’s financial woes have left the core partners uninterested. Indeed, Germany ended their plans for a Tranche 3B order back in 2011 (q.v. Oct 21/11). 2014 was supposed to be a year of decision for the core countries, but with Germany and Britain on the sidelines, Spain or Italy become that much more difficult to convince.

The wording of the July 31/09 Tranche 3A agreement, and of the broader Eurofighter partnership agreements, determine how much the decision costs Germany in cancellation fees. Britain found a way to disclaim any Tranche 3B buy the moment the Tranche 3A contract was signed, but they appear to have done so by shifting Saudi exports under their own account, which avoids any penalties.

Unless Eurofighter GmbH finds additional orders somewhere, the production line will begin shifting toward upgrades and maintenance only in 2015 (q.v. Jan 25/11). Sources: Reuters, “Germany cancels delivery of last 37 Eurofighter jets: source” | Handelsblatt, “Deutschland bestellt 37 Eurofighter wieder ab”.

Feb 9/14: Italy. The center-left Democratic Party is reportedly preparing a policy document that would cut F-35 buys from the current reduced plan for 90 F-35A/Bs to around 45 planes, while trying to make Italy invest in Eurofighter’s Tranche 3B buy.

Significant reductions in planned buys by Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, etc. will all hit Italy’s own F-35 Final Assembly and Check-Out plant. Part of the party’s push despite this incentive is ideological, reflecting a bias that’s in favor of European defense programs and less friendly toward the USA. Part of it reflects a level of general uneasiness with F-35 costs, capabilities, and delivery dates. Sources: Defense News, “Italian Lawmakers Consider New Cuts to JSF Purchase”.

Jan 15/14: Testing. Test flights with the KEPD 350 cruise missile begin from at Manching Military Air Systems Center, north of Munich. They’re technically part of the Storm Shadow integration program, thought the KPED 350 won’t be fully integrated, and will include flutter tests, air data system large store interference assessment and aerodynamic data gathering. Sources: Eurofighter, “Eurofighter Typhoon: Flight tests with Taurus KEPD 350 missile started”.


Saudis abandon local assembly; Competitions in Denmark, South Korea; Problems in Germany?; Testing begins for Storm Shadow & KEPD 350 missiles; Tranche 3 flies; 400th delivered; New CEO has a big job ahead.

Saudi Eurofighters
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Dec 19/13: Low Rents of Arabia. A BAE investors release suggests that the UAE “have advised that they have elected not to proceed with [Eurofighter] proposals at this time,” and adds that negotiations with the Saudis over Tranche 3 upgrades to their Al-Yamamah buy of 72 planes may be deadlocked.

The UAE’s decision is a very big blow to the Eurofighter’s future in the Gulf. A UAE buy offered the prospect of sustaining production for several years beyond 2018 by making Eurofighter the GCC’s de facto standard fighter, just as key competitions in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar were coming up. If the UAE goes back to the Rafale instead, their fellow Mirage 2000 operator Qatar becomes a much harder target for Eurofighter, and the standardization momentum that was bringing unlikely customers like Bahrain to the table evaporates.

The British government tried to use diplomacy on Eurofighter’s behalf, but they may have done more damage than good. None of the Gulf Cooperation Council were pleased with Britain’s failure to support the Syrian rebels. They were even less pleased when Britain’s government pushed hard for an Iranian nuclear deal that most of them regard as both catastrophically stupid and directly threatening. In contrast, France has played a leading role in pushing the Syrian issue, and was a very public dissenter regarding the Iranian deal. Sources: BAE, “BAE Systems – Status of prospective business in the UAE and Salam pricing discussions” | The Telegraph, “Blow for Britain and BAE Systems as UAE rules out Eurofighter deal” | The Telegraph, “David Cameron’s Typhoon debacle a sign of Britain’s declining Arabian influence”.

UAE loss

Dec 9/13: Tranche 3. British Single Seat aircraft #116 conducts the 1st Eurofighter Tranche 3 flight, with pilot Nat Makepeace at the controls. The biggest differences from earlier versions include a structure that can mount dorsal conformal fuel tanks; and a modified nose with a new internal structure, power, cooling and electronics for the future E-Scan AESA radar.

Another development aircraft has been modified to take an E-Scan development radar for testing purposes. It’s currently being prepared at Warton, UK, ahead of its coming 1st flight. Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3 Takes to the Skies” | BAE Systems, “Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3 Takes to the Skies”.

1st Tranche 3 flight

Dec 4/13: #400. The 400th Eurofighter Typhoon has been delivered. The single-seat fighter in question was handed over to the German Air Force at Cassidian’s Military Air Systems Center, located in Manching, Southern Germany. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter Typhoon Marks Delivery of 400th Aircraft”.


Nov 27/13: Testing. Flight tests of the Storm Shadow missile (q.v. Nov 20/13) begin from Alenia Aermacchi’s Flight Test Centre at Decimomannu Air Base, in Sardinia, Italy. Sources: Eurofighter, “Eurofighter Typhoon: Flight tests with Storm Shadow missile started”.

Nov 22/13: Industrial. BAE and Finmeccanica’s Selex ES announce a teaming agreement to provide Electronic Warfare Operational Support (EWOS) for future Eurofighter Typhoon customers, “and the Eurofighter Typhoon core programme where appropriate.”

Electronic warfare is often a pretty “black box”, as-is affair, but its importance makes it something that customers want to be able to modify for local threats and local needs. Technology has made that ideal easier, as software-defined digital systems are fielded. The flip side is that full export customer access to key items like threat libraries and operational modes creates a greater attack surface area for the core countries’ enemies to steal secrets. Under this agreement, the partners pledge to provide willing customers with a “sovereign” EWOS capability. That word is usually associated with full ability to maintain and modify a system, but absent further details, use of the word alone isn’t something to rely on.

Selex ES SVP Electronic Warfare, Chris Bushell, adds that the partners have “agreed to also look at non-Typhoon EW support solutions where there is mutual benefit to doing so.” Sources: BAE, “Boosting Eurofighter Typhoon Electronic Warfare Support”.

Nov 20/13: Weapons. At the Dubai Air Show, Eurofighter GmbH commits to full integration of the stealthy, medium range GPS/IIR guided Storm Shadow cruise missile by 2015. Storm Shadows are already used by Eurofighter customers in Britain, Italy, and Saudi Arabia (q.v. July 26/13). Ground tests are complete, and flight tests will begin using the IPA2 test aircraft upgraded to the P1E equipment standard.

The similar KEPD 350 missile in service with Germany and Spain won’t be fully qualified, but it will be flight tested at the same time on the IPA7 test aircraft. That will cut time and costs if a customer decides to spend the money and pay for full integration. Sources: Eurofighter, “Flight tests for Storm Shadow and Taurus stand-off precision missiles announced”.

Nov 15/13: CAPTOR-E AESA. The Eurofighter’s new AESA radar has finished its 4-nation program review at Cassidian’s site in Ulm, Germany, with antenna, repositioner, and Antenna Power Supply and Control Unit results that meet the theoretical design.

Next, the antenna sub-system will go to Selex Edinburgh for integration and test with receiver and processor. Final integration of the Captor-E radar into Eurofighter test plane IPA5 is planned in springtime 2014. Source: EADS Cassidian, Nov 15/13 release.

Nov 12/13: Bahrain. Flight International quotes Col. Salah Al-Mansoor from the Royal Bahraini Air Force’s planning headquarters, who says that Bahrain will be upgrading its 21-plane F-16 fleet to roughly F-16V status from 2014-2018, under a deal whose initial outline is already agreed with Lockheed Martin. Bahrain would represent the 3rd such F-16 upgrade, after Taiwan and South Korea. Major upgrades under the Common Capability Integration Program will reportedly include an AESA radar (NGC APG-80 or SABR, or Raytheon RACR), new cockpit displays, the Link-16/MIDS datalink, software upgrades, and Lockheed’s AN/AAQ-33 Sniper surveillance and targeting pod. Al-Mansoor also mentions GPS-guided JDAMs, an upgrade to AIM-9X short range air-to-air missiles, and “the D-model version of Raytheon’s AIM-120 AMRAAM”. That last is unlikely; the AIM-120D isn’t approved for export, and is still working toward Initial Operational Capability in the USA.

Col. Al-Mansoor says that the kingdom is considering a follow-on order of new F-16s, adding that “We must analyse and determine the cost of the future force structure.” The RBAF’s 16 F-5E/F fighters need replacement, and a winner is expected to be announced in January 2014 at the Bahrain international air show. BAE’s Eurofighter remains the front-runner, but the same outlay that would buy just 12 Eurofighters would net Bahrain around 20-22 F-16E/F Block 60s or similar F-16V equivalents, with all of these upgrades already baked in.

Questions remain. Can Bahrain buy new F-16s and Eurofighters, given the need to aid countries like Egypt and pacify its own restive population? Is the F-16 CCIP + Eurofighters their best Plan B, or could they decide to operate an all-F-16 future fleet of upgraded and new fighters, offering lower short and long-term force structure costs, and commonalities with the nearby UAE? Finally, what about Gulf monarchs’ growing wariness concerning US intentions and support? How will that play into Bahrain’s decisions? Flight International, “Bahrain to launch F-16 upgrade in 2014”.

Nov 4/13: Tranche 3. The 1st Tranche 3 Typhoon (BS116), has successfully completed engine ground runs at Warton, UK, from green screen checks through Stage C checks of the engine’s integration with all onboard systems. 1st flight is expected to take place before the end of 2013 – and does, in December. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, Nov 4/13 release.

Oct 30/13: EP2. The NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) signs a development contract with Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH for Evolution Package 2. It includes enhancements to the existing radar, DASS defensive system, and MIDS/Link-16 system, as well as Flight Control System (FCS) and the Utility Control System (UCS) improvements to inprove compatibility with future civil airspace requirements. MBDA’s Storm Shadow cruise missile isn’t mentioned (q.v. July 26/13).

Development is supposed to be done by the end of 2015. Earlier reports (q.v. July 30/12) suggested that the radar enhancements may involve a new AESA system, but current sources indicate that EP2 this just adds Meteor missile capability to the existing Captor-M radar (q.v. June 18/13). Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, Oct 30/13 | AIN, “Eurofighter Signs New Contract, Describes AESA Radar Status”.

EP2 development

Oct 28/13: P1E. The Eurofighter Typhoon Phase 1 Enhancements (P1E) program has finished flight testing in Manching, Germany and Getafe, Spain, and will be ready for installation and retrofit on existing Tranche 2 aircraft by the end of 2013.

P1E implements full Air-to-Surface capability, with full integration of a Laser Designator Pod (RAFAEL LITENING III), full smart bomb integration (Paveway laser-guided, and dual-mode Paveway IV/ EGBU-16 GPS and laser), Helmet Mounted Sight System upgrades for ground attack use, Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe, improved Radios and Direct Voice Input, Digital integration of Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (full IRIS-T integration with HMSS for high off-boresight shots, and allowing future AIM-9X integration), and an updated MIDS/Link-16 Datalink for wider interoperability. All of these enhancements will come factory-installed in Tranche 3 aircraft. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, Oct 28/13 | Aviation Week, “Partners Chart Course For Eurofighter Typhoon Enhancements”.

Tranche 2 P1E upgrades approved

Aug 19-20/13: South Korea. Conflicting messaging from DAPA and contractors give a somewhat muddled picture, but the upshot is that Eurofighter was disqualified on a questionable technicality, and the F-35 for budgetary reasons, apparently leaving the F-15SE as the de facto winner. That was reversed in late September, when South Korea’s government decided to cancel the competition and start over. In effect, they’ve signaled that it isn’t really a competition, they want the F-35. Which is confirmed in November, when the F-35 is picked as a sole-source winner. Read “South Korea’s Reboots F-X Multi-Role Fighter Buy, Wants 5th Gen” for full coverage.

Loss in Korea

Aug 7/13: Bahrain. BAE Systems says that Bahrain “has expressed an interest in Typhoon and the British government are leading very early discussions”. That’s new, and the motivation is interesting.

Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa reportedly told British Prime Minister David Cameron that they were interested in buying Eurofighter jets to “create a cohesive defence system between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)” nations. Saudi Arabia is the linchpin of the GCC, and Oman is a respected member. This is a clear dividend from their purchases, and the king’s comment may also be good news for prospective sales in the UAE (40-60 jets), Kuwait, and Qatar. At the same time, every one of these sales is expected to be hotly contested, with competition in place or expected from Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Lockheed Martin’s F-16E/F, and Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen. Reuters.

Aug 1/13: Saudi Arabia. BAE’s 2013 Half-Year Results says that deliveries have resumed, with the Saudi fleet up to 28 fighters, construction beginning on new facilities, and pilot training in-country progressing:

“Four Typhoon aircraft were delivered in the first half, adding to the initial phase of 24 Typhoon aircraft deliveries between 2009 and the end of 2011…. A [GBP] 0.3bn contract was signed in March for the construction of airfield facilities at King Fahd Air Base in Saudi Arabia. Discussions on the provision of maintenance and upgrade facilities in-Kingdom, and further capability enhancement of the Typhoon aircraft remain ongoing. Under an order received at the end of 2012 to deliver training to the RSAF, the first graduation ceremony of cadets from the King Faisal Air Academy was held in May [2013].”

With respect to finalizing terms for Tranche 3 upgrades, BAE’s accompanying presentation cites “good progress,” and says “Significant trading bias to second half anticipated.” Translation: we expect a deal before the end of the year. That will need to be taken care of before BAE can talk about further sales, though they do cite a “KSA B2” opportunity as one of their top prospects. Half-Year Results statement [PDF] and presentation [PDF] | Daily Mail.

July 26/13: Storm Shadow. AIN reports that key Tornado upgrades may end up being funded by Saudi Arabia and Oman. RAF assistant chief of the air staff AVM Ed Stringer says that “Storm Shadow will be on the Typhoon sooner than you think.” From “Middle East Customers Funding Eurofighter Upgrades”:

“…further indication that some key upgrades to the combat jet are being funded by Saudi Arabia and possibly Oman. The four original partner nations have proved reluctant to collectively fund in the near term enhancements… such as integration of the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile. The four partners have also so far failed to approve full development of the Captor-E AESA radar by the Euroradar consortium…. “Other Typhoon customers are involved [in providing] funding profile,” [RAF Air Vice Marshal Ed Stringer] added…. During a briefing at the IDEX show in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, a BAE Systems official said that the Storm Shadow would enter flight-test on the Typhoon this year because this is a requirement of the Royal Saudi Air Force.”

The RSAF already uses Storm Shadow missiles on their Tornado strike fighters.

July 7/13: Germany. Der Spiegel takes a strafing run at the Eurofighter program in Germany, pointing out both its budget overruns, and citing recent documents that discuss safety and quality issues with the planes. Germany and the other Eurofighter partners are expected to make their Tranche 3B decisions sometime in 2014, so the articles feed into a live political debate as an election approaches.

On the budgetary front, the Bundestag approved EUR 14.7 billion for 180 fighters, but Der Spiegel says that EUR 14.5 billion has already been spent on just 108 machines. The current Bundeswehr estimate is reportedly EUR 16.8 billion for 143 fighters (Tranche 1 through 3A) by 2018. That would average out to EUR 117.5 million/ $157 million per plane.

The 2nd issue involves quality control problems. On Oct 1/08, the military did not extend the Manching, Bavaria plant’s license to remain a Bundeswehr aviation site. Aircraft were still accepted after more detailed inspections, but that could leave the government liable in the event of a crash on German soil. Later, on April 18/13, an auditor from the Bundesamt fur Ausrustung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr (BAAINBw) in Koblenz cited the ejection seats as a fleet-wide problem area. Der Spiegel alleges that German quality control and inspections have suffered as a result of austerity measures and military “reforms,” but it isn’t the first time this has been publicly cited as an issue. In August 2010, an RSAF Lt. Col. and member of the Saudi Royal family was killed in a 2-seat Typhoon crash near Moron, Spain, when his parachute separated from the harness. His Spanish counterpart ejected safely. The accident led the RAF to modify its fleet’s ejection seat harnesses. Der Spiegel re: budgets [in German] | Der Spiegel re: reliability [in German] | Reuters.

Program problems

July 5/13: South Korea. DAPA suspends bidding on its fighter competition, after none of the entries (Eurofighter, F-15SE, F-35A) could meet South Korea’s industrial demands, and performance specifications, and budget limits. Something clearly has to be rethought, if South Korea wants those fighters. If they don’t drop the number bought, then either the budget must be increased, or cost-adding elements like industrial offsets need to be revised, or the performance specifications need to be relaxed and new competitors contemplated. Yonhap | Yonhap follow-on.

July 2/13: P1E Weapons. BAE announces that they have finished initial Paveway IV GPS/laser guided bomb trials with a Eurofighter, as part of the Phase 1 Enhancement Programme that will give Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 2 planes independent precision strike capabilities. Other elements of the program include the LITENING laser designation & surveillance pod, and EGBU-16 Enhanced Paveway laser/GPS guided bomb. BAE Systems.

June 20/13: Qatar. AFP says that the Middle Eastern Emirate intends to launch its RFP for 24-36 fighters “soon.” They own a fleet of Mirage 2000-5s, which recently flew to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.

French President Hollande will visit Doha for high-level economic talks on June 22, and France has close ties with the Emirate, but the Qataris aren’t waiting around. They reportedly spent time in May 2013 evaluating the Eurofighter Tornado with the RAF, and will soon host a Eurofighter team in-country for flight trials. Boeing also remains in the mix. Agence France Presse.

June 19/13: Industrial. New Eurofighter GmbH CEO and former Airbus Military head Alberto Gutierrez seems to understand what his firm needs to do. Now, can he do it? He tells Reuters:

“In this market, where we are, there is competition and we have to keep on going, finding out whatever improvement is available to catch up, to make the product cheaper and a way of getting into decisions leaner and faster…”

All true. The problem is, he has just admitted that his plane is behind competitors in key areas, too expensive, and hobbled by an industrial structure that doesn’t foster either lean costs or fast action. Fixing even 1 of those problems is a serious challenge. Fixing all 3 in time to land new orders, before the plane goes out of production, while keeping governments from derailing improvement plans, starts edging toward “Mission: Impossible” territory.

June 18/13: Weapons. Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH signs a full weapon system integration contract with the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) for MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile. This will reportedly include 2-way datalink integration, which will offer parity with the JAS-39 Gripen and an advantage over the Dassault Rafale.

Germany became the last of the 6 core Meteor partners (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden) to sign a contract for missile stocks, on May 31/13. The NETMA contract completes the other coverage loop, and means that MBDA now has contracts to integrate its missile onto all 3 originally-envisaged platforms: the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen.

BAE had done some preliminary work (q.v. June 20/11, July 11/12) in Britain, which led to an unguided test firing (Dec 6/12). That was an excellent set of 1st steps to cut integration time for everyone, but that isn’t the same as full integration. Further design and test work on the missile system will continue at Alenia Aermacchi, BAE Systems, and EADS Cassidian… which doesn’t seem like a very efficient way to conduct things.

What the releases don’t say is when integration will be complete. Eurofighter GmbH has now confirmed the date as 2017. That’s about 3 years later than Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen (2014), and later than original Eurofighter forecasts of mid-2015, and but a year earlier than the French Rafale (2018). Eurofighter | MBDA | UK MoD | Aviation Week.

Full Meteor air-air missile integration contract

June 7/13: Engine. EUROJET Turbo GmbH celebrates the delivery of its 1000th EJ200 production engine, of over 1,500 orders places so far. This one was assembled at ITP for Spain, and the firm touts 789 engines in service so far on operational Eurofighter Typhoons. To date, the engines have accumulated over 390,000 flying hours. Eurojet [MS Word] | Eurofighter.

1,000th EJ200

May 23/13: South Korea. EADS Cassidian reportedly announces that they would invest $2 billion in the K-FX fighter development project, and help market the plane internationally, if the Eurofighter is chosen for F-X-3. Investments would include a maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility that could extend to the KF-X, and an aerospace software center.

It isn’t a bad idea for EADS. Barring multiple orders from new sources, it’s very unlikely that the Eurofighter will still be in production by 2022. Upgrades and maintenance will continue for some time, but the C-203 KF-X design could offer EADS a new option to sell, with a fundamental design that can improve toward stealth fighter status. The question is whether South Korea wants to go forward. Yonhap News.

April 5/13: South Korea. An un-named military official tells the government’s Yonhap News Agency that after 2 years of discussions and negotiations with DAPA, EADS has changed its industrial offer. Instead of having the first 10 made in Europe, the next 24 made using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea, EADS has offered to build just 12 in Europe, with the other 48 Tranche 3 planes at KAI in South Korea.

The news report is imprecise, leaving the question of structural manufacturing vs. kit assembly unaddressed. It also fails to address how EADS can promote the idea of 20,000 South Korean aerospace jobs for a 5-year period, when the company also says that building the Typhoon for the much larger orders of the core country participants created just 10,000 jobs in Europe. On its face, the statement seems less than plausible, but it does point to the likelihood of significant structural manufacturing in Korea. Yonhap.

April 4/13: South Korea. The ROKAF has picked Taurus’ KEPD 350 long range cruise missile for their future fighter force. They’ll have to pay extra to integrate it with their F-16s and F-15Ks. The proposed F-15SE Silent Eagle is different enough that it will probably require added testing, so Eurofighter may garner a slight advantage from German & Spanish plans to add the KEPD 350 to Eurofighter by 2015. Read “Korea’s F-X Multi-Role Fighter Buys: Phases 2 & 3” for full coverage.

March 26/13: Tranche 3. The Tranche 3 Instrumented Production Aircraft 8 test plane has joined all major structural pieces, and moves on to the next production station on the final assembly line in Manching. Work is now focused on hydraulics, defensive aids, test flight instrumentation, and electrical systems with over 110 km of complex special cabling.

IPA8 will play an important role testing and integrating new features like the AESA radar, new weapons, etc. EADS Cassidian.

March 13/13: Denmark. The Danes pick up their fighter competition as promised, following their announced hiatus in April 2010. Invited bidders include the same set of Lockheed Martin (F-35A), Boeing (Super Hornet), and Saab (JAS-39E/F) – plus EADS (Eurofighter), who had withdrawn from the Danish competition in 2007. The goal of a 2014 F-16 replacement decision has been moved a bit farther back, and now involves a recommendation by the end of 2014, and a selection by June 2015.

The Flyvevabnet are reported to have 30 operational F-16s, with 15 more in reserve, out of an original order of 58. Past statements indicate that they’re looking to buy around 25 fighters as replacements, but there are reports of a range from 24-32, depending on price. Danish Forsvarsministeriet [in Danish] | Eurofighter GmbH | Saab | JSF Nieuws.

Feb 21/13: Saudi Arabia. BAE’s end of year investor presentation [PDF] discusses changes in Saudi Arabia, including a contract amendment that formally abandons Saudi plans for a final assembly line in-country. That insistence had been holding up deliveries, and the remaining 48 aircraft will begin arriving in 2013. Meanwhile, work to “expand the multi-role capabilities” of Saudi Typhoons continues, as do negotiations to continue expanding those capabilities toward Tranche 3 levels.

Pricing remains an issue several years after the contract, and the next stage of support contracts is also in long negotiations:

“Under the Saudi British Defence Co-operation Programme (SBDCP), orders totalling £3.4bn were awarded for support through to 2016, including the provision of manpower, logistics and training to the RSAF…. The initial three-year Typhoon support contract finished at the end of June and two subsequent six-month extensions have been secured. Discussions continue with the customer on the next five years of support. Discussions on Typhoon price escalation with the Saudi Arabian government remain ongoing. Negotiations are also ongoing for the provision of maintenance and upgrade facilities in-Kingdom, and further capability enhancement of the aircraft.”

Feb 11/13: DACT distilled. A veteran Eurofighter test pilot doesn’t see the logic behind Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Flynn’s recent claim that an F-35 will beat any 4+ generation aircraft, including the Eurofighter Typhoon:

“The F-35 thrust to weight ratio is way lower [than Eurofighter] and its energy-manoeuvrability diagrams match those of the F/A-18…. starting from medium altitude and above, there is no story with a similarly loaded Typhoon…. [F-35] Transonic acceleration is… better than in an F/A-18 or F-16, but mainly due to its low drag characteristics than to its powerplant. That means that immediately after the transonic regime, the F-35 would stop accelerating and struggle forever to reach a non operationally suitable Mach 1.6…. The Typhoon will continue to accelerate supersonic with an impressive steady pull, giving more range to its BVR (Beyond Visual Range) armament…. Angle-of-attack is remarkably high in the F-35, as it is for all the twin tailed aircraft, but of course it can not be exploited in the supersonic regime, where the limiting load factor is achieved at low values…. Excessive energy bleeding rates would operationally limit the F-35 well before its ultimate AoA is reached.”

Both Britain and Italy will eventually find out for sure, as they will soon have both types in service. Italy will be the best test, as its F-35As are more capable dogfighters than Britain’s F-35Bs. About 2 months earlier, the Aviationist had canvassed Italian pilots, who fly both the F-16 and the Eurofighter, for their opinion concerning those 2 platforms:

“During more or less a decade of service with the Italian Air Force, the F-16 has been extensively used to train Typhoon pilots in WVR engagements. According to the Italian pilots, the F-16 matches the F-2000 under 10,000 feet. But above FL100 the Typhoon becomes quite difficult to beat since its superior aerodynamics give the Eurofighter can out maneuver the Viper at every engagement.”

Sources: The Aviationist, “No way an F-35 will ever match a Typhoon fighter jet in aerial combat” Eurofighter test pilot says” | and “How does the F-16 perform against its adversaries in dogfight?

vs. F-35 & F-16


EUR 2 billion support deal; Oman buys 12; India loss.

Eurofighter & Paveways
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Dec 21/12: Oman. It isn’t Christmas over there, but the RAFO is getting a present anyway. The Sultanate signs a GBP 2.5 billion (about $4.057 billion) deal with Britain for 12 Eurofighters, and 8 Hawk LIFT advanced trainers. This makes them the Eurofighter Typhoon’s 3rd export customer, a status they share with their neighbor Saudi Arabia. The deal includes in-service support, and deliveries are expected to begin in 2017.

See “Oman’s Air Force Upgrades: From Jaguars to F-16s & Eurofighters” for full coverage.

Oman buys 12

Dec 6/12: Weapons. 1st firing of MBDA’s Meteor long range air-air missile from a Eurofighter Typhoon. It’s part of Britain’s Future Enhancements Flight Test Programme, and builds on BAE’s unpowered trials to verify safe separation. The flight trials were conducted with integrated support from QinetiQ and MBDA. BAE | Eurofighter.

Nov 29/12: UK Updates. BAE Systems has finished upgrading 43 RAF Eurofighters under the Retrofit 2 program, which began as its own effort but was subsumed into the wider Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) contract. Their Tranche 1 Block 5 standard installs the PIRATE forward looking infra-red (FLIR) system, improves air-to-air capability; and adds precision strike by using a combination of Paveway II family laser-guided bombs, and RAFAEL’s LITENING-III surveillance and laser designator pod. Eurofighter GmbH.

Nov 6/12: UAE. British Prime Minister David Cameron issues a joint communique with the UAE. The 2 countries will improve their defense ties, with specific commitments that include:

“Deepen our defence ties by; continuing the development of our joint plans for the security of the UAE and wider Gulf region; increasing our joint exercises and training; and by investing in the British military presence in the UAE.

Establish a defence industrial partnership that involves close collaboration around Typhoon and a number of new technologies.”

The Eurofighter is competing with France’s Rafale for a 60-plane buy, and these sorts of agreements are normal under the circumstances. It’s also normal for specific defense deals to depend on the customer’s final choice, though the joint communique includes economic relations beyond defense. UK PM | Reuters.

Nov 6/12: Flight costs. From Britain’s House of Commons:

Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average hourly cost was of flying the Typhoon fighter (a) with and (b) without fuel costs. [126215]

Mr Dunne [holding answer 1 November 2012]: The standard marginal flying hour cost for a Typhoon is £3,875, including the cost of fuel. Excluding fuel costs the figure reduces to approximately £2,670.”

Even GBP 3,875 (about $6,200) is considerably cheaper than published American fighter costs per flight hour. The comparable F-15 Eagle family is generally quoted as being in the $17,000 – $30,500 range. The difference has less to do with the respective machines, and more to do with differing approaches to calculating those costs, especially in one’s choice of what to include. A standard calculation method would be informative, but it doesn’t exist.

RAF flight costs

click for video

Oct 16/12: HMD. Eurofighter GmbH touts the new “Head Equipment Assembly (HEA), developed by BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems, [which] comprises the aircrew helmet and all the sub-system elements needed to display a real world overlaid picture on the helmet visor.” The accompanying video has a Typhoon pilot explaining why this is so powerful, and expressing his belief that it’s impossible to beat an enemy if they have a system like this and you don’t. “Once you’ve had this helmet on, you don’t ever want to be without it.”

All well and good, but American fighters have had these capabilities for almost a decade now. A fact that they have used to their advantage in international competitions against the Typhoon, and against other fighters like the French Rafale that lack an accompanying HMD.

Why HMDs matter

July 2012: Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Defense releases its “Defense of Japan 2012” White Paper. Among other things, it explains exactly why the F-35 won. All 3 contenders fulfilled all mandatory requirements, but the F-35 was rated as the overall winner based on the 2nd stage evaluation of capability, industrial participation, cost, and support.

Part of the problem is that Japan simply accepted Lockheed Martin’s paper performance and cost promises at face value, in the absence of data. Even then, the Typhoon was seen as the most fuel-efficient plane, and its bid had the best industrial benefits for Japan. On the other hand, EADS and BAE had trouble meeting Japan’s purchase cost targets while giving Japanese firms all of that work, and picking EADS/BAE would have meant deviating from Japan’s strongly American industrial links and equipment infrastructure. The Eurofighter Typhoon also had a compatibility problem with the JASDF’s KC-767 aerial tankers, who don’t carry hose-and-drogue refueling pods. KC-767 retrofits would have been required, driving up the program’s expense. Read “Japan’s Next Fighters, From F-X Competition to F-35 Buys” for full coverage.

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July 30/12: Eurofighter vs. F-22. Combat Aircraft leaks some results from the 2012 Red Flag exercises. WIRED Danger Room:

“In mid-June… [8] Typhoons arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska for an American-led Red Flag exercise involving more than 100 aircraft from Germany, the U.S. Air Force and Army, NATO, Japan, Australia and Poland. Eight times during the two-week war game, individual German Typhoons flew against single F-22s… The results were a surprise to the Germans and presumably the Americans, too. “We were evenly matched,” Maj. Marc Gruene told Combat Aircraft’s Jamie Hunter. The key, Gruene said, is to get as close as possible to the F-22 … and stay there. “As soon as you get to the [close-in] merge … the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22,” Gruene said.”

That’s interesting, and an impressive testament to the Eurofighter’s design and ergonomics. On the other hand, let’s acknowledge that it isn’t exactly easy to “get to the merge” against an opponent who is invisible to your radar at range, moving up to 50% faster than you are, and able to see you just fine on their own radar.

vs. F-22

July 30/12: AESA. NETMA(NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency) has reportedly issued an RFP to Eurofighter GmbH for the development of an E-Scan Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar. Eurofighter CEO, Enzo Casolini says the 2015 target remains, per announcements in June 2011:

“The timescale is to answer the RFP by October this year and to have an agreement with the nations by the end of the year. The target is to have a contract by the middle of next year and to have an E-Scan entering into service by 2015.”

See: Arabian Aerospace.

July 11/12: Weapons. BAE describes cockpit assessment trials for the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile. They took pilots from “each of the Eurofighter nations,” and put them through a range of scenarios in a modified simulator. That led to a series of recommendations for the final cockpit design.

On the one hand, getting the user interface really right pays big dividends in combat. On the other hand, the fact they’re doing these exercises a good indication of how early they are in the process. It also points to how much more is involved in this sort of thing, beyond just hanging a new missile on a pylon. BAE Systems.

July 10/12: Gulf opportunities. Reports from Farnborough shed some light on potential Eurofighter Typhoon sales to Oman, Qatar, and the UAE.

Dassault has been sounding quite confident about the Rafale’s ultimate prospects in the UAE, but BAE Systems’ business development director Alan Garwood told Reuters that he believed the UAE’s interest is “real and genuine,” adding that they “could tell by the questions they were asking us that they were serious.” BAE is still working with the British government to put together a package for 60 planes. With the loss in India, and the near-certain demise of Tranche 3B, the UAE represents the fighter’s largest near-term opportunity. Oman is a higher-odds opportunity, and Garwood said that:

“We’ll start formal negotiations [for 12 jets] with Oman towards the end of August [2012] I would imagine. The two governments have targeted it for completion this year and we want it done this year as well… I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do that.”

With respect to Qatar, he would say only that: “We are talking to the Qataris quite a bit.” That’s normal in a competition like this, which is reported to include Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Lockheed’s F-35A Lightning II, and Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen. Reuters | WSJ’s The Source blog.

July 9/12: Upgrades at last? At the opening of the Farnborough defense exhibition, British Prime Minister David Cameron discusses the Eurofighter’s future:

“Typhoon’s growth potential is huge and the four partner nations, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK have agreed the next steps required to further exploit this. The integration of the METEOR missile, an Electronically Scanned Radar, enhancements of the Defensive Aids System, further development of the air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities and integration of new weapons.”

With Tranche 3B fading away, and India out as a big export win, upgrades like these are the only way to keep part of the manufacturing base going for much longer, and are also its best hope for landing significant export orders. The question is when some of these upgrade “agreements” will become signed contracts with actual dollars behind them. Read “Eurofighter’s Upgrades: Enough? In Time?” for more.

March 30/12: “Contract 1”. Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH signs a major 5-year contract with NATO’s Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA), to support the fleet of Typhoon jets across the 4 Eurofighter core nations: Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. The overall contract total is not disclosed, but is estimated to be around EUR 2 billion (currently $2.66 billion).

BAE estimates its share of the total at GBP 446 million (about EUR 533 million). Finmeccanica estimates its share of the total at “more than EUR 500 million.” EADS declined to give figures.

“Contract 1” replaces previous Integrated Logistics Support (PC1-11) contracts and a number of sustainment contracts, covering items like day-to-day support, studies, and customer queries and investigations. It also includes continued development, testing, and upgrade work on the fighters’ systems. Replaced contracts will morph into Contract 1 over a period of time, but they will not include any of the major support contracts announced by various member countries in 2009. Eurofighter GmbH | BAE | Finmeccanica | Defense News.

“Contract 1” for support

March 30/12: #321. A Finmeccanica release notes that so far, the consortium has delivered 321 Eurofighter Typhoons to customer nations.

March 22/12: AESA – just a sim. EADS Cassidian touts the benefits of an “E-Scan” AESA radar for the Eurofighter, and touts its operation of the largest assembly line in Europe for the individual transmit/ receive modules that make up those radars.

The German BWB’s 2-year study, using IABG GmbH’s MILSIM (man-in-the-loop simulator), is nice enough. What it isn’t, is a development and production contract. American F-15 Strike Eagles, F-16s, and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets are offered with AESA radars right now. France’s Dassault just received the 1st RBE2-AA AESA radar for its Rafale production line. Saab is well underway developing its own ES-05 Raven AESA radar for the JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, which will join the Eurofighter’s notional AESA design in using a pivoting plate approach. They’re doing so in conjunction with Finmeccanica’s SELEX Galileo, the current leader of the Euroradar consortium. Unless the Eurofighter consortium and its governments get moving soon, their fighter will begin to find itself at a severe disadvantage in international competitions.

Jan 31/12: India loss. Dassault’s Rafale is picked as the “L-1” lowest bidder for India’s 126-aircraft M-MRCA deal, even after the complex life-cycle cost and industrial calculations are thrown in. Some reports place its cost as $5 million lower per plane. Next steps include the negotiation of a contract, in parallel with parliamentary approval and budgeting.

Until a contract is actually signed, however, India’s procurement history reminds us that even a “close” deal is just 1 step above a vague intention. The contract may take a while. Even the French government sees a deal as only an 80% probability within 6-9 months. The budgeting is likely to be even trickier. The IAF’s exclusion of cost considerations in picking its finalists means that the only question now is: how far over the stated budget will a full Rafale buy go? Some reports place the deal’s cost at around $15 billion – an increase of up to 50% from previous estimates. If economic downturns or squeezed defense budgets make those outlays a big enough issue, early enough in the process, it could have the effect of re-opening the competition. British PM David Cameron has expressed an intent to change India’s mind, and both Saab and Boeing are still positioned within India, in order to be ready for a renewed opportunity.

Eurofighter’s problem is that it’s hard to see how it might succeed in a competition that was re-opened for financial reasons. Dassault | President Sarkozy [in French] | Economic Times of India, see also their timeline | Indian Express | Rediff (thanks for using our descriptions, sans attribution) | Times of India || Aviation Week | BBC | UK’s The Guardian | Reuters report and expert roundup.

India loss


HMD at last; Tranche 3 sub-system contracts; German cuts to 3B plans; Competitions in Bulgaria, India, Japan (loss), South Korea, UAE; Opportunities in Indonesia & Turkey?; AESA by 2015?; Paveway IV and EGBU-16 bomb tests; PILUM glide bomb; Naval Eurofighter; Negative British NAO report; 100,000 flying hours.

Eurofighter over Dubai
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Dec 20/11: Japan loss. Japan’s Ministry of Defense announces that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II has won the F-X competitive bid process for 42 planes, beating the Eurofighter and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet International. As F-4 replacements, the F-35As will have an air defense role, but Japan does have a large cadre of dedicated F-15Js to perform that mission. Conclusion? Their undeclared role is as strike fighters.

Note that there’s still an F-XX program in the future, aimed at replacing Japan’s F-15Js. Numbers as high as 100+ planes have been floated, but that will depend on both economic straits, and local geopolitical threats. Read “Japan’s Next Fighters, From F-X Competition to F-35 Buys” for full coverage.

Japan loss

Nov 16/11: UAE. The UAE is either engaged in the mother of all hardball negotiations, or the potential Rafale sale is crashing. Critical comments at the highest levels are accompanying the invite to Eurofighter, strengthening the belief that the Typhoon is more than just a stalking horse to lower the French bid.

The question is, how big is the opportunity? Reports have surfaced that the UAE may be about to cut its planned new jet order, regardless of its choice, and buy more of its unique F-16E/F Block 60s. Read “Derailed Denouement in Dubai: What’s Up With the UAE’s Fighter Deal?” for a snapshot.

Nov 13/11: UAE. Flight International reports that the UAE must have liked their October briefings re: Eurofighter’s capabilities, because they’ve asked Eurofighter GmbH for an RFP bid to replace their current fleet of Mirage 2000-9s. The UAE has been in negotiations to buy Rafale planes for several years now, but hasn’t been able to clinch a deal.

It’s hard to tell if the UAE is just looking to add pressure and get a better price from Dassault, or if their interest is serious. One sign that they might be serious is the fact that they’ve also received classified technical briefings regarding the F-15E Strike Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet, but haven’t asked for RFP bids from the Americans. Flight International believes that this may be a prelude to consideration of the stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle or F/A-18 Super Hornet International for the UAE’s planned 2018-2025 fighter modernization. The obvious 3rd contender there is Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

Nov 12/11: Eurofighter GmbH touts their Dubai flying display, complete with a graphic showing their impressive flight plan.

They also tout a range of technologies that they hadn’t advertised much before, including thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, an AESA radar, and MBDA’s Marte anti-ship missile. The release appears to blur the line between concepts/plans, and field-ready equipment.

Oct 21/11: Germany & Tranche 3B. Germany announces further defense cuts, which include a proviso that their Eurofighter orders will end at Tranche 3A, instead of adding another 37 planes in a Tranche 3B.

With Britain also saying that Tranche 3Ais the end, and the governments of Spain and Italy under severe financial strain, it appears less and less likely that there will be a Tranche 3B. The question is how to escape termination costs. Negotiations can be expected, but one option is to count future exports as re-sales of scheduled orders from existing partner countries. Aviation Week.

Aug 18/11: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica’s SELEX Galileo contracts with BAE Systems Manufacturing at Hillend in Fife, in GBP 20+ million procurement and electronic manufacturing services contract related to Tranche 3A’s Captor radars. Work at the Hillend facility will run from 2011-2013.

BAE’s release adds that the facility has won over GBP 165 million in Captor and Typhoon DASS orders, over the last 12 years.

July 20/11: South Korea. As South Korea’s DAPA eases the criteria to try and foster more competition, DAPA’s Col. Wi Jong-seong says that “Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi expressed its intent to compete in the fighter jet procurement project early this year.” The report quotes him as saying that Sukhoi’s T-50 PAK-FA will be up against Boeing’s stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Assuming we don’t have an FX-II competition repeat, where all competitors but one drop out.

At this point, FX-III is being touted as a 60 jet buy of high-end fighters, with a budget of 8.29 trillion won ($7.86 billion). Eurofighter reportedly offered a better deal than the F-15K in F-X-2, but lost. The firm recently proposed to phase in Korean assembly for Phase III, with the 1st 10 made in Europe, the next 24 using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea. Korea Times.

June 27/11: Weapons. Diehl BGT and Israel’s RAFAEL unveil a new weapon for Eurofighter at the 2011 Paris Air Show. The PILUM long-range glide bomb concept has a range variously reported as 100-160 km/ 62 – 99.5 miles, but it’s a developmental weapon, so exact figures remain to be proven. PILUM uses RAFAEL Spice’s combination of GPS/INS and imaging infrared guidance, within Diehl’s HOSBO modular glide bomb system. HOSBO is a steamlined glide bomb that can carry a modular payload, including warheads of various sizes and types, even warheads designed to disrupt electronics. This JSOW Block III competitor will be able to attack defended targets, vehicles, ships, or even smaller targets. It will be integrated on Germany’s Tornado and Eurofighter aircraft. Will the Saudis, who fly both types, want any? Diehl BGT release | Jerusalem Post.

June 24/11: HMD. A Reuters report offers an update on progress with the Eurofighter’s BAE “Striker”/ HMSS helmet-mounted displays. HMDs are now considered a standard feature for fighter jets, as they’re required in order to take full advantage of new short range air-to-air missiles, and boost ground attack capabilities.

British RAF pilots tested the first helmets in summer 2010. So far, about 50 total helmets have been delivered to Italy, Germany, Spain and UK, at a delivery rate of about 8 per month, but none are being used over Libya. They’re expected to become operational in the RAF by the end of 2011.

June 22/11: AESA. After a year of preliminary industry funding, Eurofighter GmbH and Euroradar agree to continue development, and announce 2015 as the target date for entry into service of a Typhoon with the new “E-Scan” AESA radar. A later date wasn’t really feasible, given the delivery schedules involved in critical competitions like India’s M-MRCA. Indeed, even a 2015 date could be a disadvantage as the Eurofighter competes with France’s Rafale, which has begun testing its own RBE2-AA. The firm does say that:

“The new AESA array, larger than the ones available to our competitors thanks to the Typhoon’s voluminous radome, will be fitted on a repositioner that will provide a wider field of regard when compared to those installed or scheduled for introduction on other fighters. The new radar will offer customers the freedom to retrofit their existing Typhoons when required.”

E-Scan AESA date announced

June 20/11: Weapons. Eurofighter IPA1 has completed the first of a series of Meteor missile trials, beginning with safe separation across the flight envelope on the Aberporth range in Britain. Eurofighter GmbH.

May 17/11: Leadership. EADS Cassidian Spain has appointed 56 year old Luis Hernández Vozmediano as their new Head of the Eurofighter program. He has spent virtually his entire professional career at EADS, and has been heavily involved in Britain’s A330 Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA), and the related American KC-X pursuit. Eurofighter GmbH.

May 11/11: Turkey. Eurofighter has courted Turkey for a long time, despite Turkey’s political & industrial commitment to the F-35 program. Hurriyet reports growing interest in a fighter split-buy, to reduce dependence on the USA.

Naturally, Italy’s government is pushing Turkey to solve that problem by joining the Eurofighter consortium. Turkey might also pick a hi-low approach, and join South Korea and Indonesia in KF-X instead. The real wild card? Turkey’s current account deficit is hitting levels that worry some observers. High levels have been predictors of Turkish economic crises in the past.

April 27/11: India. Fulfilling long-standing rumors that it had gained a leading position in India’s M-MRCA future fighter competition, Eurofighter is confirmed as one of 2 finalists, alongside Dassault’s Rafale. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition” for full coverage.

April 2011: Weapons. EADS Cassidian Spain achieves the first 1,000 pound EGBU-16 Enhanced Paveway II precision guided munition release. The EGBU-16 is the selected dual mode bomb for Germany, Spain and Italy, whereas the locally-developed Paveway IV is the dual mode choice for the UK. Eurofighter GmbH.

March 7/11: Weapons. The first ever Eurofighter release of a Paveway IV dual guidance bomb takes place from development aircraft IPA6, in an hour long test flight over the Aberporth Range in Wales. BAE Systems | Eurofighter GmbH, incl photo.

March 10/11: Indonesia? The Times reports that more of Britain’s fighters could be leaving the force, if Indonesia’s interest in up to 24 Typhoons pans out. That could be politically challenging, though. Britain has led the way into attacks on Libya for bombing its civilians, but Indonesia has used its BAE Hawk light attack jets against its own insurgencies, and in East Timor. That triggered a defense export ban 12 years ago. Indonesia continues to operate a large fleet of Hawk jets, but it has since filled its high end air superiority slot with a handful of Sukhoi’s SU-27/30 Flanker family fighters – a cheaper choice with similar capabilities.

The UK MoD says it has “no current plans” to export Typhoons to Indonesia, but that means little to nothing when the statement is carefully parsed. If Indonesia really is interested in adding Typhoons, one option might be to re-export 24 RAF Tranche 1 aircraft that haven’t been given precision ground attack modifications. The Times [subscription-only] | Agence France Presse | The Guardian | UPI.

March 2/11: Britain’s reluctance to invest in additional Typhoon fighters is partly explained by the findings of an NAO report, which notes that:

“The cost of the Typhoon project has risen substantially. Despite the MOD’s now buying 72 fewer aircraft (down from 232 to 160, a reduction of 30 per cent), the forecast development and production cost has risen by 20 per cent to [GBP] 20.2 billion. This is a 75 per cent increase in the unit cost of each aircraft. The cost of supporting each aircraft has also risen by a third above that originally expected. The MOD now estimates that, by the time the aircraft leaves service, some [GBP] 37 billion will have been spent.”

There are concerns that the report might affect the jet’s chances in India. Meanwhile, a report in The Register highlights the importance of paying attention to Tranche buy totals, in an atmosphere of declining budgets. Note that the retirement of the RAF’s Tranche 1 jets will happen long before they reach their service life design limits, raising the possibility of resale:

“Probably the most dismal figure we are given is that the RAF will actually put into service just 107 Typhoons. At the moment it has received 70: the last of the 160 planes ordered by the UK will be delivered in 2015. But, we are told, “by 2019” all the Tranche 1 jets (which were still being delivered to the RAF at the start of 2008) will be “retired” – that is, thrown away. We’ll pay for 160 jets (actually we’ll pay for 232), but we’ll only ever get a fleet of 107.”

UK NAO report

March 2/11: During high level visits, British officials continue to press the case for the Eurofighter as Japan’s future F-X fighter, over offerings from Boeing (F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or F-15SE Silent Eagle) or Lockheed Martin (F-35A/B/C). One interesting wrinkle is that reconnaissance capabilities could become an important requirement, a move that would give the F-35 family an edge. BAE et. al. are fighting an uphill fight, but they’re not alone: in January 2011, the European Business Council in Japan launched a defense and security committee to promote defense-related business cooperation. Asahi Shimbun | Japan Times | L.A. Times.

Naval concept
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Feb 21/11: Aero India 2011 sees Eurofighter and BAE unveil an interesting wrinkle: an initial design for a navalized Eurofighter than can operate from aircraft carriers, based on an internally-funded set of studies and simulations. In a direct nod to potential Indian sales, they tout the plane as being able to take off from “ski jump” carriers without catapults – a design that describes all of India’s current and planned carriers, as well as the initial design for Britain’s own Queen Elizabeth Class.

Eurofighter GmbH describes the goal as 95% commonality with land-based aircraft, and required changes as “limited… include a new, stronger landing gear, a modified arrestor hook and localised strengthening on some fuselage sections near the landing gear, as well as updates the EJ200 engines,” which could include thrust-vectoring in flight.

India is currently planning to use MiG-29Ks as its naval fighters, but it’s currently the type’s only customer, and the Typhoon is seen as a leading contender in its M-MRCA competition for land based aircraft. Britain is planning to use the F-35C from its future carrier, but further cost increases or delays for the multinational program could open an opportunity for a jet type that the RAF already flies. Eurofighter GmbH.

Naval concept unveiled

Feb 4/11: Bulgaria RFI. Bulgaria issues another fighter replacement RFI, soliciting information from Boeing (F/A-18E/F), Dassault (Rafale, Mirage 2000), EADS (Eurofighter), Lockheed Martin (F-16), and Saab (JAS-39 Gripen) re: 8 new and/or second-hand fighter jets, to replace its existing fleet of 12 MiG-21s.

Bulgaria issued a similar RFI in 2006, for 20 jets, but the global economic crash, and Bulgaria’s own issues in trying to pay for past defense purchases, forced a hold. The Defense Ministry has taken pains to emphasize that this is just an exploratory request, and is not the start of a purchase tender. Nevertheless, November 2010 saw the formation of a National Steering Committee and an Integrated Project Team, to draft preliminary fighter replacement operational, technical, and tactical requirements. That followed October 2010 remarks by Bulgaria’s Defense Minister Anyu Angelov, who discussed spending BGN 1 billion (around $725 million) for the purchase of an uncertain number of new fighter jets to replace its MiG-21s, while modernizing its fleet of 16 MiG-29A air superiority jets. Sofia News Agency.

Feb 3/11: Upgrades. The first Spanish single-seat instrumented production aircraft version 4 (IPA4) completes 500 hours of flight at the EADS Cassidian Spain facility at Getafe, near Madrid. After a functional upgrade from its original Tranche 1 air superiority standard to Tranche 2, this aircraft is testing new technology including a Link-16 MIDS system, as well as integration trials and the launching of precision air-to-ground weapons.

The UK has already upgraded a number of its Eurofighters along similar lines, and added advanced LITENING targeting pods. Eurofighter GmbH believes that this Spanish IPA4 platform may serve as a model for the possible upgrade of the Tranche 1 fleets currently in service with Eurofighter customer nations. That’s the good news. The bad news is that an upgrade program of this type may also be seen as an alternative to ordering the final Tranche 3B set of Eurofighters. Eurofighter GmbH.

Jan 28/11: Sub-contractors. Premium AEROTEC’s Varel, Germany plant has successfully started assembling structural components for the Eurofighter. EADS Cassidian announces that Varel’s first 3/2b Eurofighter fuselage section, a 3m section that mates with the wings, has been delivered to the Augsburg plant, where the entire fuselage center section will be assembled.

Premium AEROTEC is a spin-off of the former Airbus sites in Nordenham and Varel and the former EADS site in Augsburg. It began operations on Jan 1/09, and in addition to various Airbus passenger aircraft components, it manufactures the fuselage center section for all Eurofighter aircraft, including the 4 program partners (United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Germany) and export customers Austria and Saudi Arabia. This makes Premium AEROTEC GmbH, with over 6,000 employees and 2009 revenues of EUR 1.1 billion, the largest supplier of structures for the Eurofighter. The company has production plants in Augsburg, Bremen, Nordenham and Varel in Germany; and in Ghimbav, Brasov County, Romania. Premium AEROTEC | EADS Cassidian.

Jan 25/11: Eurofighter GmbH’s CEO sees 2011 as a pivotal year, in order to avoid the end of production in 2015. India’s M-MRCA competition, and hopes of a Tranche 3B from its consortium countries, are the key underpinnings.

Britain has been very clear that there will be no Tranche 3B buy there, and the austerity programs underway (voluntarily or otherwise) in Germany, Italy, and Spain make a Tranche 3B buy extremely unlikely.

100k milestone @ Moron
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Jan 25/11: Eurofighter GmbH announces that the multinational operational fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons in service since the second half of 2003 achieved 100,000 flying hours in January 2011.

As aircraft are delivered and air forces declared their Typhoons to be operational, usage has accelerated. The first 5,000 flying hours was achieved by November 2005, and 10,000 hours was reached in August 2006. May 2007 included the 20,000 hour milestone, and by August 2008 the Typhoon had surpassed 50,000 hours. According to the firm, global operational fleets currently have more than 260 aircraft in service, with 6 squadrons in the UK (4 in Coningsby, 1 in Leuchars and 1 in Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands); 4 squadrons in Italy (2 in Grosseto and 2 in Gioia del Colle); 3 squadrons in Germany (Laage, Neuburg and Nörvenich), as well as 1 each in Spain, Austria and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

At present, all 148 Tranche 1 aircraft have been delivered, and Tranche 2 production is in full swing.

100,000 fleet flight hours

Jan 4/11: HMD. BAE announces that its “Helmet Mounted Symbology System” (HMSS) is scheduled to enter service with the RAF in 2011, giving Britain’s Eurofighters the same helmet mounted sighting capability already enjoyed by pilots of competing aircraft, via systems like the Israeli/American JHMCS.

The HMSS does add some advanced wrinkles. A Eurofighter pilot can now look at multiple targets, lock-on to them, and prioritize them by voice-command. This will work even for targets over the shoulder, or targets picked up by the radar but located underneath the aircraft.

HMD at last

2009 – 2010

EUR 9 billion Tranche 3A deal; Tranche 3A sub-system contracts; Tranche 3B offer on table; Private work toward a “CAPTOR-E” AESA radar.

(click to view full)

Oct 5/10: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo announces a EUR 242 million (about $333.5 million) contract for 88 Captor-M mechanically scanned phased array radars, as part of the Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3A buy. Deliveries would begin in 2012.

The CAPTOR-M is the Eurofighter’ standard radar. Contracts are in progress to develop and field new CAPTOR-E Active Electronically Scanned Array radars for future buys or retrofits, vid. the July 20/10 entry. SELEX Galileo [PDF] | Defense News.

Sept 7/10: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo announces [PDF] a EUR 400 million sub-contract from BAE Systems, to supply Tranche 3A fighters with the Praetorian Defensive Aids Sub System (DASS), delivered to the same standard as the Tranche 2 fighters. SELEX Galileo leads the EuroDASS Consortium of Elettronica, Indra Sistemas, EADS and SELEX Galileo, which shares the production of more than 20 major Line Replaceable Items (LRIs) that make up the system. First deliveries are expected in mid-2012.

The Praetorian DASS includes Electronic Support Measures (ESM) to find hostile radars, active Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) to confuse them, and Missile Approach Warning (MAW) systems, tied into an array of defensive subsystems that include chaff, flares, and towed decoy options.

Aug 19/10: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman announces a contract from EADS Military Air Systems business unit to deliver 88 inertial measurement units (IMU) for Tranche 3A of the Eurofighter Typhoon. The IMU system is the sole sensor which measures the motion of the aircraft and continuously provides motion data to the flight control computer. In a secondary function, the IMU provides backup navigation data.

The IMUs, which provide motion data for the aircraft, will be built by the company’s German navigation systems subsidiary, Northrop Grumman LITEF, which also provided IMUs for Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 of the aircraft. More than 400 Northrop Grumman LITEF IMUs have been delivered and are already in service on Eurofighters in Germany, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Austria and Saudi Arabia

July 20/10: AESA. Eurofighter GmbH and Euroradar announce that they have begun full scale development of an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to serve in the Eurofighter, with a target in-service date of 2015. The Eurofighter/Euroradar groups have been conducting preliminary AESA development and flight testing since 2007, and Selex Galileo is already working towards integrating an AESA array with the UK’s Eurofighter (vid. Feb 19/10 entry).

Full-scale development of a CAPTOR AESA successor is a new step that could become a factor in Tranche 3B discussions, or later 3A upgrades. Still, SELEX Galileo CEO Steve Mogford says move represents a standalone offer, and is not linked to the proposed Tranche 3B production phase. The Euroradar consortium has reportedly proposed retaining as much “back-end” CAPTOR equipment as possible, as part of delivering the proposed E-Captor AESA system. The consortium also plans to make CAPTOR-E a mechanically scanned AESA radar, rather than mounting it in a fixed position as American fighters have done. This will expand the AESA radar’s slightly narrower cone, and also make it easier for the aircraft to use “launch and break away” tactics against aerial opponents that are beyond visual range. Eurofighter GmbH | Flight International | Microwave Journal.

June 9/10: Tranche 3B offer. At the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, Reuters relays word from a Eurofighter GmbH spokesman that it has submitted a Tranche 3B offer to the partner nations for 124 more Eurofighters, finishing the planned Tranche 3. Defense industry sources at the Berlin Air Show said the offer was around EUR 10 billion.

To date, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain have so far taken delivery of a combined 222 Eurofighter Typhoons, out of 473 ordered. Eurofighter says a production decision is needed within a year, in order to avoid the beginning of a supplier shutdown and a production gap. The member countries will face a choice between declining defense budgets, versus the likely need to pay some cancellation costs if there is no Tranche 3B.

Feb 19/10: Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo announces [PDF] a GBP 19 million contract from Britain’s defense ministry to install a first of type, multi-function, wide field of regard AESA radar on a British Eurofighter as a technology demonstration program.

The AESA TDP will focus on Day/Night All Weather targeting, high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), air to air targeting, and communications. It’s designed to raise the technology readiness levels of the enabling hardware, de-risk the capability and demonstrate maturity of concept. Following ground and antenna range testing, the radar is planned to fly on a Royal Air Force Typhoon around 2013.

Future weapons array?
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July 31/09: NETMA (NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency), Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH and EUROJET Turbo GmbH signed the Tranche 3A contract, a EUR 9 billion (about $12.96 billion) order for 112 aircraft and 241 EJ200 engines (224 engines to equip 112 planes, plus 17 spares). This new contract also sets the baseline for subsequent support contracts.

BAE cites a work value of GBP 2 billion (EUR 2.35 billion), Finmeccanica cites EUR 3 billion worth of work from Tranche 3A, divided between subsidiaries in Italy (EUR 1.6 billion) and the UK (EUR 1.4 billion). Rolls Royce values its 37% share in the EUROJET order at GBP 300 million (EUR 352 million). The EJ200 includes advanced integrated Health Monitoring, and is already supported by availability-based contracting terms. Eurofighter GmbH | UK MoD | BAE Systems | EADS | Finmeccanica | Rolls Royce | BBC | Deutsche Welle | Financial Times | Hamburg Local | Reuters says last buy for Britain | London Telegraph | Times Online | UPI Asia.

Tranche 3A

Additional Readings

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tag: typhoonfocus, eurofighterfocus

Categories: News

Canada pulls out of Super Hornet procurement | S-300VM delivered to Egypt | BAE conducts Advanced Hawk maiden flight

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 04:00

  • Canada has decided to pull back from its plan to procure 18 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters as an interim replacement for its CF-18 successor program. Instead, the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau has unveiled a new defense plan which calls for 88 new fighters for the Royal Canadian Air Force – an increase from the previous government’s plan to purchase 65 jets – and to recapitalise the Lockheed Martin CP-140 Aurora anti-submarine warfare and surveillance fleet. The news comes amid a row between the Canadian government, Boeing, and Bombardier, after the US company accused Bombardier of “dumping” its CSeries jet onto the US market.

Middle Easy & North Africa

  • It’s been announced that Egypt has received delivery of the S-300VM air defense system, after pictures were released of the system’s vehicles and missile canisters being unloaded at the port of Alexandria. The export version of the S-300, the system is equipped with 9M82M and 9M83M missiles, providing an engagement range of up to 200 km and maximum altitude of 25,000 m. The $1 billion purchase is part of a wider $3.5 billion package agreed with Russia in 2015, and includes 50 Mikoyan MiG-29M/M2 and Kamov Ka-52K attack helicopters.

  • Heron TP UAVs leased to the German military by Airbus will be operated from an Israeli air base. It is also believed that German crew will be trained at the site. Deliveries of Heron TP systems for use by the German military will commence late next year and will go towards supporting international operations involving German personnel prior to the availability of a European-developed medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV from around 2025. The deal has been initially held up after a protest by General Atomics.

  • Rafael will showcase its new Spike LR II missile at this month’s Paris Air Show, adding that deliveries to customers will start in late 2018. Capable of carrying either a tandem high-explosive anti-tank warhead or a multi-purpose blast warhead, the new missile also features a new electro-optical/infrared seeker with smart target tracker capabilities. It can be launched from any current Spike launcher.


  • Leonardo has unveiled” a compact version of its BriteCloud decoy system for fast jets after successful testing on Danish F-16s. Known as BriteCloud 218, the system is 2-by-1-by-8 inches and is compatible using the standard-size flare decoy cartridge, such as the F-16 and F-15. Leonardo fitted the cartridge directly into a RDAF F-16’s standard flare dispenser with no integration work required. During the test, the aircraft dispensed the BriteCloud 218 in response to being locked-onto by a real radar-guided surface to air missile targeting system. The company said that once launched, “it creates powerful electronic emissions that create a ‘false target’ and draw enemy missiles away from the real aircraft.”

  • Insitu will provide three of its Integrator UAV to the Netherlands as part of Dutch military plans to replace their ScanEagle UAVs. The Integrator is a multi-mission small UAV that carries custom payloads for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It is the baseline aircraft for the RQ-21A Blackjack, a program of record with the US Navy and Marine Corps that entered full-rate production last year. Each has a 40-pound payload capacity and delivers line-of-sight communications for as much as 55 nautical miles. Delivery will take place next year.

  • BAE’s Advanced Hawk trainer has completed its first test-flight at the company’s Warton, Lancashire, UK site. The test aimed to assess a series of enhancements developed which could equip new-build examples or be added as upgrades to in-service aircraft. Upgrades to cockpit include a large area display and the integration of BAE’s LiteHUD head-up display, and a new wing that increases performance and the capacity for an increased range of offensive weapons and defensive measures. The aircraft will now undergo a series of flights to collect test data on the new key capability enhancements.

Asia Pacific

  • The Australian government has begun testing and evaluation of two rival armored vehicles as part of its LAND 400 Phase 2 program. Rheinmetall’s Boxer CRV and the BAE Systems Australia’s Patria AMV35 are currently undergoing a year-long assessment as a risk mitigation activity, which aims to help Canberra in the final selection of a vehicle. Text-generation combat reconnaissance vehicle procurement will eventually see 225 vehicles purchased by the Australian military for a total purchase price of more than $3 billion.

Today’s Video

  • The GAIC FTC-2000 advanced jet trainer:

Categories: News

Israel Sells Heron UAVs to India, Sets Record

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 03:58
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)

June 9/17: Heron TP UAVs leased to the German military by Airbus will be operated from an Israeli air base. It is also believed that German crew will be trained at the site. Deliveries of Heron TP systems for use by the German military will commence late next year and will go towards supporting international operations involving German personnel prior to the availability of a European-developed medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV from around 2025. The deal has been initially held up after a protest by General Atomics.

June 2/17: A German court has ruled against US weapons manufacturer General Atomics after the firm posted a legal challenge against Germany’s plans to lease armed drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). GA, along with Switzerland’s RUAG lost out to provide the Predator B UAV to the German military after Berlin chose to lease the Heron TP UAV in a deal estimated to be worth $652 million. On taking the deal to court, GA stated that they did so “to ensure that this procurement is conducted as a fair and open competition; thereby ensuring that the German Ministry of Defense procures the most technologically superior and cost efficient solution.” Berlin’s decision to lease Herons instead of buying Predators comes as an interim measure until the EU has developed its own drone. Germany, France, Italy and Spain plan to jointly develop a drone by 2025.

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

Hawks Fly Away With India’s Jet Trainer v2 Competition

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 03:57

IAF Hawk Mk.132
(click to view full)

The induction of advanced jet trainers into India’s Air Force has been a long and difficult process. After a number of false starts, and indigenous efforts like HAL’s Ajeet that didn’t quite live up to expectations, a 20-year procurement process came to an end in 2004, when India selected BAE’s Hawk as its future advanced jet trainer. The 66-plane order was worth about $1.2 billion, and included options for another 40 aircraft. The first 24 Hawk Mk.132 AJTs have already been delivered by BAE; the other 42 are being license-built by Hindustan Aeronautics, Ltd. in India, who have been behind on the delivery schedule.

Those difficulties had consequences. In March 2009, the Press Trust of India reported that India’s Air Force had elected not to pick up the Hawk’s follow-on option. In and of itself, that wasn’t unusual. What was unusual, was a follow-on competition for advanced jet trainers that was thrown open to international firms, via a February 2009 RFP. In the end, BAE’s Hawk won again, adding the Indian Navy to its customer list. Is a 3rd, aerobatic win in the cards?

Contracts & Key Events 2017

Aerobatic tender finally re-isssued – with a new point about accountability in the Ministry; Government can’t afford to blacklist Rolls Royce; Why so many flight accidents?

IAF Hawks
(click to view full)

June 9/17: BAE’s Advanced Hawk trainer has completed its first test-flight at the company’s Warton, Lancashire, UK site. The test aimed to assess a series of enhancements developed which could equip new-build examples or be added as upgrades to in-service aircraft. Upgrades to cockpit include a large area display and the integration of BAE’s LiteHUD head-up display, and a new wing that increases performance and the capacity for an increased range of offensive weapons and defensive measures. The aircraft will now undergo a series of flights to collect test data on the new key capability enhancements.

January 31/17: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has completed their first swap out of foreign-made equipment on their Hawk MK132 advanced trainer aircraft. Designated as Hawk-i, the jet had imported mission computer and data transfer units upgraded with Indian-made components and includes additional capabilities such as digital map generation. Other additions include a secured voice communication and data link capability by integration of Softnet Radio.

2012 – 2016

Aerobatic tender finally re-isssued – with a new point about accountability in the Ministry; Government can’t afford to blacklist Rolls Royce; Why so many flight accidents?

June 15/16: BAE Systems is currently working on a new Hawk jet trainer demonstrator for India. Changes to the 42 year old aircraft include wing improvements and modifications expected to improve its aerodynamic performance. The Advanced Hawk, which is sometimes referred to as the Combat Hawk, is being offered to the Indians to expand the size of their training fleet, as well as give them a light attack capability with precision-guided munitions.

February 24/16: BAE Systems and India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) are considering establishing a joint venture to co-produce variants of the Hawk trainer, upgrade the Jaguar aircraft, and establish an operations base in India focusing on logistics and producing spare parts. Both aircraft are already produced under license by HAL and further cooperation could lead to a more hands on development in improving maneuver performance with laser designation, precision smart weapons, and state-of-the-art synthetic training to create a more advanced trainer aircraft.

October 26/15: The Indian Air Force is reportedly buying twenty Hawk Mk132 Advanced Jet Trainers for the service’s Surya Kiran aerobatics team. The deal is thought to value over $500 million, with the new aircraft coming equipped with smoke pods and decorative livery.

Oct 10/14: Aerobatic. India’s MoD has issued a fresh tender for 20 Hawk AJTs, in order to replace the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team’s aged HJT-16s. This has been delayed for quite some time (q.v. May 6/12, Sept 14/12) – but in a very big change for India, the behavior is being called out, with consequences promised:

“The original file related to the tender had gone missing and the process had to be restarted by the Government…. The defence ministry has taken a serious view of the lapses on part of the officials handling the file and an inquiry has been ordered, officials said. Disciplinary proceedings would be initiated against officials who are found responsible for the lapses…”

Seems there’s a new Sheriff in town. Sources: India’s Economic Times, “Defence Ministry issues fresh tender for 20 Hawk aircraft”.

Aug 3/14: Engines. In December 2013, Rolls Royce admitted that it had paid GBP 1.85 million in commissions to a middleman, which is against Indian regulations. But the government can’t blacklist them, because their engines power Indian patrol vessels, Jaguar fighters, Sea Harrier jump-jets, Avro light transports, Embraer Legacy VVIP jets, C-130Js, Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJTs), Kiran mark-II trainers, and Sea King helicopters. So… no.

The Ministry of Defence has given Rolls Royce permission to pursue deals while the CBI’s investigation plays out. Sources: The Times of India, “Govt not to blacklist Rolls Royce for ‘operational’ reasons”.

Nov 6/13: Navy. Formal induction of the new Hawk trainers by the Indian Navy, at INS Dega in Vishakhapatnam. Sources: The Economic Times, “Indian Navy inducts HAL’s Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers”.

Navy delivery

Sept 23/13: Navy delivery. The Indian Navy receives its 1st of 17 ordered Hawk Mk.132 trainers. Meanwhile, the contract for 20 aerobatic aircraft (q.v. Sept 14/12) hasn’t been finalized yet. BAE’s Guy Griffiths:

“We have also submitted our response to HAL’s Request for Proposal for a potential order to supply products and services for the manufacture of 20 additional Hawk aircraft to the IAF, and are now looking forward to partnering with HAL in providing the Indian Air Force’s display team this fantastic aircraft.”

Feb 4/13: Training. BAE Systems and Elbit Systems will extend their teaming agreement, in response to a formal request from the IAF. They’ll develop the next set of improvements to the IAF’s Virtual Training System to simulate advanced radar, electronic warfare, countermeasures, and weapons within the Hawk Mk.132.

That allows pilots to conduct advanced combat training in the air, using simulated scenarios, in less expensive trainer jets instead of front-line fighters. BAE Systems | Elbit’s Embedded Virtual Avionics page.

Sept 14/12: Aerobatic. No, there’s no done deal yet. BAE announces that:

“We have received a Request for Proposal (RFP) from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for a potential order to supply products and services for the manufacture of 20 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft. The aircraft, to be built by HAL in Bengaluru, will fulfill the Indian Air Force’s requirement for its prestigious aerobatic team.”

A 20-plane order would bring India’s Hawk fleet to 143, making them the world’s 3rd largest Hawk operator behind the US Navy and Britain. The Surya Kiran Aerobatics Team (SKAT) disbanded in 2011, due to a shortage of working HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mk.2 jet trainers in the air force. If reconstituted with Hawk Mk.132s, they would become the 2nd 9-Hawk formation team in the world, after the RAF’s Red Arrows. There are also reports that the team may receive a new title, possibly going back to their “Thunderbolts” moniker when they operated the excellent Hawker Hunter. BAE | Livefist.

June 11/12: Why so many crashes? India’s IDSA raises an interesting issue for the IAF:

“The IAF still has one of the highest accident rates in the world. This translates into a loss of between half and one complete squadron of aircraft per year apart from aircrew losses due to injuries or fatalities. Earlier, this high accident rate was attributed to the lack of an Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT), which forms the link between trainer aircraft and fast jet fighters. However, IAF aircrew have been training on the British Aerospace Hawk AJT for at least five years now. Yet, the accident rate does not reflect a major reduction in spite of the Hawk being in service and in use… That the induction of the AJT has not reduced the accident rate significantly indicates that the problem lies elsewhere. The IAF may consider sanctioning an external audit of its functioning to identify the cause(s) of this slow attrition.”

May 6/12: Aerobatic? The Times of India reports that India has bought another 20 Hawk AJTs, for the Surya Kiran (SKAT) aerobatics team. The Hawks would replace the 1980s-era HJT-16 Kiran jets currently in use:

“After first ordering 66 twin-seat Hawks in March 2004 and then another 57 in July 2010, at a combined overall project cost running into Rs 16,000 crore, India has now ordered another 20 AJTs… At present, IAF has inducted over 60 Hawks. The overall AJT project, with 24 supplied directly by BAE Systems and 122 to be licensed manufactured by HAL in India, will cost well over Rs 20,000 crore by the time it’s completed in 2016-2017.”

The report turns out to be premature, but the general direction is correct.

2010 – 2011


Hawk manufacturing,
BAE Warton, UK
(click to view full)

Dec 12/11: BAE spares & support. BAE Systems announces a GBP 59 million (currently $92 million) contract for IAF Hawk AJT spares and ground support equipment, adding that “This brings the total value of Hawk related contracts won in India to more than [GBP] 600 million in the last 18 months” – vid. also coverage below.

The Hawk Mk 132 is manufactured in India under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, with materials, parts and support services provided by BAE Systems.

Feb 9/11: Support. GE Aviation Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) announce a 30-year contract that covers licenses to carry out repairs and overhaul of various GE avionics, instruments and hydraulic products for India’s Hawk Mk. 132. As part of the license agreement, GE will develop, supply and commission the test equipment and supply technical data. The agreement also includes training, technical support, post design services for one year, and spares services.

This license will provide in-house repair and overhaul capabilities to HAL for GE Aviation products, cutting the turn-around-time for the repairs. HAL will build its maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities at its Bangalore (hydraulics) and Korwa (avionics) facilities. GE

GE license

July 28/10: Hawk, again. BAE Systems announces a new GBP 500 million (about $773 million) order to supply India with another 57 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft, to be built under licence in India for the Indian Air Force (40) and Indian Navy (17). The aircraft will be manufactured at HAL’s facilities in Bangalore, and BAE Systems will provide specialist engineering services, the raw materials and equipment necessary for airframe production, and the support package for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.

Rolls-Royce also confirms a finalized contract for Adour Mk871 engines to power the 57 Hawk AJT trainers. The Rolls-Royce engine contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is worth up to GBP 200 million (about $310 million), and the engines will be assembled in Bangalore, India, in partnership with HAL. That partnership began with the licensed production of engines in 1956, and in March 2010 the 2 firms announced their International Aerospace Manufacturing Private Ltd. joint venture.

IAF/ Navy: 57 Hawks

July 23/10: India’s air force hasn’t made any moves yet, but its navy reportedly has, via a reported Rs 3,042 crore (about $643 million/ GBP 414 million) deal with BAE Systems for 17 new Hawk trainers. The jets will reportedly be delivered from HAL’s Hawk production line, though it isn’t yet clear whether the naval training Hawks will involve final assembly or full manufacturing. Hawk variants are already used for advanced naval aviation training, vid. the US Navy’s Adour F405 powered T-45 Goshawk.

Some sources say that the deal is part of a 57 plane, Rs 9,400 crore (about $2 billion/ GBP 1.3 billion) combined follow-on purchase by the IAF and navy, to be announced during British Prime Minister David Cameron’s upcoming visit to India. Note that the total value of the deal from India’s perspective would include HAL, so those figures may differ from the total deal value to BAE and Rolls Royce.

The Indian Navy is currently training its pilots at the Indian Air Force academy, but it expects to induct the new trainers from 2013, and will set up a parallel training academy for pilots as they prepare to fly its MiG-27K and Tejas Naval fighters. Economic Times of India | Indian Express | Times of India | BBC | The Guardian | Bloomberg.

Yak-130: Next?
(click to view full)

April 26/10: A London Times article covering Iraq’s trainer aircraft competition mentions that:

“India is set to order another 60 Hawks in addition to the 66 it has already booked. That deal could be announced within weeks.”

April 22/10: Hawk delays. In response to a Parliamentary inquiry by Rajya Sabha representative Smt Mohsina Kidwa, Minister of State for Defence Shri MM Pallam Raju continues to blame BAE Systems for HAL’s late delivery of Hawk AJT jet trainers, and also claims that IAF training is not being compromised:

“Delivery of 42 (Hawk-AJT) aircraft was scheduled from 2007-2008 to 2010-2011 in a phased manner. Three aircraft were to be built from semi-knocked down (SKD) kits, three from completely knocked down (CKD) kits and 36 from raw material phase. The CKD and SKD kits were assembled on schedule. When production in raw material phase was taken up, it was found that the equipment supplied by the OEM had various shortcomings. The assembly jigs that were supplied did not meet the requirements, there was mismatch in the kits/components supplied, there were defects in major assemblies like the wing spar etc. These problems took time to overcome and hence affected the production schedule at HAL.

HAL has manufactured 12 aircraft till now, three in the year 2008-2009 and nine in the year 2009-2010, including the first aircraft from raw material phase. The Air Force is not facing any acute shortage of trained pilots and the delay in delivery schedule of AJTs by HAL is not affecting the Air Force. Indian Air Force is meeting its requirement by utilizing the existing resources for training of pilots.”

When asked by DID to respond, BAE Systems had this comment:

“The BAE Systems Hawk AJT is performing well in the service of the IAF and delivering excellent training to future frontline pilots and superior serviceabilty. BAE Systems is confident in its performance on the Hawk contract and has made it clear to HAL it is willing to assist them in any aspect of their Hawk contract. We would be happy to also discuss this with MoD and address any concerns.”

That places India’s current Hawk Mk.132 fleet at 36 aircraft: 24 delivered direct from BAE, 6 built from kits, and 6 HAL-built planes.



Alenia’s M-346
(click to view full)

Nov 5/09: All HAL now. BAE announces that it has delivered the 24th and final BAE-assembled Hawk AJT to India. It’s actually a bit of a technicality, because HT001 was the first IAF Hawk to be built, and served for 3 years as a UK flight test platform, instructor training program, and proving ground for integrating new components into the IAF Hawk fleet.

The first IAF Hawk delivery took place in November 2007, and other than this final development aircraft, deliveries of the other 23 to India were completed in 2008. The Hawk fleet is based at Air Force Station Bidar, located lightly NW of Hyderabad in Karnataka state (formerly Mysore), south central India.

Meanwhile, the international follow-on competition continues.

Last all-BAE Hawk

Oct 2/09: An Indian Express report says that India is urgently seeking up to 180 trainer aircraft to replace or augment its trainer fleet at all levels, in the wake of problems with the lower-tier HPT-32 fleet and contract issues with its upper-tier Hawk AJT program.

The report adds that a plan to buy 40 additional Hawk AJTs has hit a roadblock, due to differences over price between BAE and the IAF.

Oct 1/09: Basic trainer problems. Plans to phase out India’s grounded HPT-32 basic trainer fleet will intensify India’s needs for trainer aircraft at all levels. Indian Express quotes Air Chief Marshal P V Naik:

“The IAF lost two experienced instructors in a fatal crash of HPT-32 this year. We have ordered an inquiry and a study on the aircraft, as we have had a lot of problems since their induction in 1984. We hope to use it only till 2013-14″…

Sept 2/09: Training choking. India’s Business Standard:

“The Indian Air Force (IAF) is desperately short of aircraft for training its flight cadets. With the entire fleet of basic trainers – the HPT-32 Deepak – grounded after a series of crashes, advanced training is suffering equally due to unexpected delays in the manufacture of the Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT) in India… According to the contracted schedule, the first 15 Hawks should have already been built in Bangalore. Instead, only five have been completed.”

Now Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) Chairman Ashok Nayak, under sharp attack for the delays, blames BAE Systems for supplying key tools and frames for the wrong version of the Hawk trainers. He adds that that resolution has been slow because the BAE Systems team stationed at the Hawk assembly line has to refer back to the UK for decisions. Meanwhile, items like the aircrafts’ windscreens must be shipped to the UK and back for quality certification, adding more delays. India’s Business Standard adds that:

“Guy Douglas, BAE Systems’ spokesperson in India, strongly refutes HAL’s version. In an emailed response, he states “BAE Systems does not accept that the programme delays being experienced by HAL, on their contract with the government of India, are materially down to BAE Systems. BAE Systems has completed all hardware deliveries to support the licence-build programme. BAE Systems has repeatedly made clear that it stands ready to assist HAL, should they require it. In this respect, a number of proposals have been made by BAE Systems to HAL and we await their response.”

In summary: HAL claims that BAE has made mistakes, and has a corporate structure that is not addressing issues very well. BAE responds that HAL’s own bureaucracy and failure to respond in timely ways is the core problem. One of them could be right, or both could. At present, however, HAL is the only viable game in town for technology transfer and the manufacture of advanced jet aircraft in India. Under those circumstances, they’re likely to build any follow-on AJT order, whether or not the contract goes to BAE Systems.

AERO L-159T, L-159A
(click to view full)

March 17/09: Follow-on competition. The Press Trust of India reports that supply delays to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which is supposed to assemble a number of the Hawks in India, have resulted in an international competition for India’s follow-on order of up to 57 Lead-In Fighter Trainers.

The RFP was reportedly sent to the Czech Republic’s Aero Vodochody (L-159), Italy’s Alenia (M-346), BAE (Hawk, but it would be a more advanced variant), Korea’s KAI (T-50s), and Russia (either the YAK-130 variant of the M346 joint project, or the MiG AT). PTI News | Indian Express | Flight International.

Round 2 is a competition

Additional Readings

Categories: News

SpaceX to launch X-37B spaceplane in August | Spain eyes F-35 for AF and Navy | China unveils export version of trainer

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 04:00

  • Raytheon has bee awarded at $12.5 million modification to an existing contract for the Phalanx Close-in Weapons System (CIWS). Under the terms of the deal, the company will deliver Phalanx CIWS hardware kits to the US Navy that are intended to upgrade the Phalanx weapons system to the latest approved configuration. Work will be performed at El Segundo, Calif. And Louisville, Ky, and the program is expected to be completed by March 2019.

  • Elbit Systems of America has been sub-contracted by Lockheed Martin to develop a cockpit display replacement unit for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter under a program, called Technology Refresh 3, Panoramic Cockpit Display Unit. While the cost of the contract was not given, a company statement said that the value of the award was not in a material amount. Details on contract length were also omitted. Elbit already provides power amplifiers, structures and sustainment work for the F-35 and, together with Rockwell Collins, it also provides the F-35 Helmet Mounted Display System, through their joint venture Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems.

  • SpaceX will launch the USAF’s next X-37B miniature spaceplane mission in August—the company’s first for the service— after four previous X-37B missions have already been undertaken by United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rockets—a joint venture by Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Unlike most USAF launch contracts, which are awarded some two years before the flight, this recent award was only announced on Tuesday, two months before lift-off. SpaceX’s first publicly disclosed launch contract for the Air Force was awarded last year for a next-generation Global Positioning System satellite flight in 2018. A second GPS launch contract was awarded in March. The contracts are valued at $83million and $96.5 million, respectively.

Middle Easy & North Africa

  • A diplomatic spat between Qatar and several Arab neighbors could have knock on effects for Doha’s planned purchase of 72 F-15QA muliti-role fighters from Boeing. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the UAE, as well as he recognised government of Saudi-backed Yemen, all cancelled flights to and cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, citing that it had been supporting and funding terrorist activities in the region and was in league with regional rival Iran—charges Qatar denies. However, US President Donald Trump has thrown his weight behind the move, tweeting on Tuesday that they [Saudi and Gulf allies] “said they would take a hard line on funding … extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”, arguing that his visit to Saudi Arabia was “already paying off.” Qatar was finally cleared to move ahead with its $21.1 billion F-15 procurement last November, and although the deal has yet to be finalized, it was billed as extending Boeing’s struggling F-15 production line into the 2020s.


  • French FREMM frigates have been integrated with MdCN naval cruise missiles from MBDA. This new deep strike capability was added to the vessels in February, with all six equipped with two A70 eight-cell vertical-launch silos for a total of 16 MdCN missiles. The MdCN is based on the Scalp EG (Storm Shadow in the UK) air-launched cruise missile now in service with Mirage 2000 and Rafale combat aircraft deployed by the French Air Force and Rafale Marine aircraft.

  • The Spanish Air Force and Navy are looking into the procurement of F-35s in order to replace the services’ EF-18s and AV-8B Harrier aircraft. For the Navy, its Harrier jets will have to be phased out over the next decade—leaving the Armada’s sole aircraft carrier without a fixed-wing replacement—and is looking at acquiring 15 F-35Bs to fill its capability gap. But in order to make the procurement worthwhile financially, Madrid may also look at adding addition F-35A aircraft to its air Force fleet instead of addition Eurofighters.

Asia Pacific

  • Officials from Russia and Indonesia have finalized contracts for the delivery of Su-35 fighters. Negotiations over the draft Su-35 contract had begun in March and it is expected that the deal will be signed by both parties later this year. While further details on the sale have yet to be revealed, earlier reports said that the planned contract envisages the sale of 10 Su-35 jets to Jakarta, which could be paid for in part by Indonesia’s natural rubber and palm oil reserves.

  • China has unveiled its FTC-2000 pilot trainer/fighter aircraft ahead of testing in Sudan. The aircraft is developed by the Guizhou Aviation Industry Corporation under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, and operates as the main advanced trainer used by the PLA Air Force and the PLA Navy. Both the domestic and export variants are powered by the indigenously-built WP-13 turbojet engine, with the export version featuring various avionics systems, navigation guidance systems or external stores tailored for overseas client’s demand for multiple missions.

Today’s Video

  • Kim Jong-un oversees Korean People’s Army Air Force combat flight contest:

Categories: News

Russia’s Su-35 Super-Flanker: Mystery Fighter No More

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 03:57

SU-35 flight test, 2009
(click to view full)

The Russian Su-35 was something of a mystery for many years. Pictures from Russian firms showed different fighter jets carrying that label, even as the aircraft remained a prospective design and research project, rather an active program of record.

Revelations after 2007 began to provide answers. This article explains the sources of the widespread confusion regarding the Su-35’s layout and key characteristics, reviews what is now known about the platform, and tracks its development. Those developments are likely to have broad consequences. The aircraft now has a home customer in the Russian Air Force, and the Su-35 is being positioned to replace most Su-30MK variants as Russia’s fighter export of choice within the coming decade. Will its succession bid succeed?

Which Sukhoi? The SU-35 Platform

SU-35 ?
(click to view full)

As one of our readers noted, DID’s articles from 2005-2007 seem to describe 2 different SU-35s. One was a mid-life modernized SU-27 Flanker, but there’s also a much more re-engineered “SU-35” variant with canards, thrust vectoring, etc. which has been confused with (and possibly redesignated between) the SU-37. So… what do we mean by “SU-35”?

Until very recently, only KnAAPO had listed the SU-35 as a product on its site; Sukhoi now does so as well, but Irkut does not. If this seems confusing, it’s because Sukhoi subcontracts production to affiliate firms – IAIA (Irkut) and KnAAPO (Komsomolosk un Amur). Each has their own intellectual property, and their own interests. In addition, the designation “SU-35” has been used in several different contexts over the years. It has been referred to, and even photographed, in ways that referred to both mid-life Flanker upgrades, and canard-equipped next-generation aircraft. KnAAPO’s site added the confusion by showing SU-35 pictures on its type page and gallery that display the aircraft both with and without canard foreplanes.

The current “SU-35”, which has been definitively described by Sukhoi, appears to be something of a compromise between the upgrade and full redesign visions. Reader assistance, and sources from Sukhoi and various media, offer an outline of its key systems and characteristics.

SU-35 flight, 2008
(click to view full)

“…(known as Su-35BM by some sources- ie. T-10BM to the original Su-27s internal T-10S designation). Differences and features largely speak for themselves in the video, but a short summary follows as related in various other sources follows:

1 – N035 Irbis-E PESA (Passive Electronically Scanned Array) Radar, a follow-on to the Bars-M.
2 – No canards
3 – Rear-looking self-defense radar in shorter tail sting
4 – AL-37FU/ 117S thrust-vectoring turbofan engines rated at 142-147kN
5 – Extended high-lift devices with large flaperon occupying the full trailing edge of the wing
6 – L175M Khibiny-M electronic-warfare self-defense system
7 – Reduced-area empennage
8 – Larger Air Intakes
9 – New and lighter systems, including quadruple digital fly-by-wire flight-control system.
10- New man-machine interface with fully-glass cockpit with two large LCD screens and helmet mounted display.”

Movable nozzles
(click to view full)

Sukhoi says that the fighter’s structures have been reinforced because of the increased takeoff and landing weight of the aircraft, and the front bearing has 2 wheels for the same reason. Performance is touted as 1,400 km/h (Mach 1.14) at sea-level, and 2,400 km/h (Mach 2.26) at altitude, with a ceiling up to 10 km/ 60,000 feet. Sukhoi has not touted loaded supercruise (Mach 1+, with weapons and without afterburners), which is likely to require improved engines. Thrust vectoring adds new dimensions of maneuverability, however, once pilots understand when to use it and when to avoid it.

The SU-35S will also depend on its sensors. It couples an electronically-scanned array radar with a 2-step electro-hydraulic drive unit, which creates a maximum radar beam deflection angle of 120 degrees. The NIIP Tikhomirov Irbis-E passive phased-array can reportedly detect and tracks up to 30 air targets, simultaneously engaging up to 8. It can also reportedly detect, choose and track up to 4 ground targets, and engage 2. Detection ranges of over 400 km/ 240 miles have been reported for airborne targets, which are the easiest, but resolutions are unspecified. Detecting a 747 passenger jet at 400 km is much easier than detecting a JAS-39 Gripen lightweight fighter, and information about the radar’s resolution would be needed before its real capabilities would be clear.

Full stealth jets like the F-22A Raptor, of course, create drastic reductions in radar detection range that make them a special case. In an emerging age of stealth fighters, therefore, the 80+ km detection range of the SU-35S’ IRST (infra-red search and track) system is very significant.

The SU-30 family has never been especially stealthy, and their overall airframe design limits what one can accomplish in this area. Nevertheless, Sukhoi cites an unspecified amount of “reduced reflectance” for the SU-35 in the X-band, which is a popular choice for modern radars, and in the angle range of plus or minus 60 degrees. Further improvements were made during testing by adding radar-absorbent materials, and removing or modifying protruding sensors that create radar reflection points.

The reported service life of the new aircraft is 6,000 flight hours, with a planned operational life of 30 years. The claimed service life of NPO Saturn 117S thrust-vectoring engines is 4,000 hours. Time will tell.

SU-35: Export Prospects

Flanker customers
(click to view full)

The SU27/30 Flanker family was designed and built after American had completed its “teen series” (F-14/15/16/18) fighters, and uses lessons from those designs as well as Russia’s own approaches. The result was a very extensible design that boasted impressive performance, and quickly became the global fighter reference point among global military planners. Exports followed, and Flanker variants quickly surpassed the MiG-29 as Russia’s most popular export fighter.

The SU-35 aims to build on that legacy, as a final bridge to the 5th generation PAK-FA. Three key changes to Sukhoi’s circumstances may make a similar level of export success much more difficult.

1. A globalized market.

When it was first introduced, the S-27 family was the main global competitor to any western offerings, and was sold to countries whose ties and access to western technologies were weak. An array of SU-27s were gifted to breakaway Soviet satellites by virtue of being located on their territory, but India and China were its real anchor export customers. Now, SU-35 exports can expect to compete on 2 fronts. On the one hand, a less balkanized global market means that it must compete globally with western offerings that include upgraded American “teen series” fighters; and matured 4+ generation European designs that include Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen, France’s Rafale, and EADS’ Eurofighter. On the other end, it will be competing with Chinese offerings, including the J-11 that Russia correctly accuses China of copying/deriving from the SU-27, the smaller and less expensive 4+ generation J-10, and even the joint Chinese/Pakistani JF-17.

Chinese J-10
(click to view full) 2. The China factor

China has a large inventory of SU-30MKKs, but it’s less than they contracted to produce. They’re also pressing ahead with their own J-11B, which substitutes Chinese electronics, radars, and engines in an SU-27 family airframe. Russia is very upset by this theft of its intellectual property, which has reportedly hindered sales of its carrier-capable SU-33 variant into the Chinese market.

The J-11 has run into some problems, in particular China’s inability to copy Russian engine performance. That has made exports to China thinkable again for some Russian officials, but the J-11 experience remains a barrier to further Chinese sales on both sides of the table. A preliminary agreement has reportedly been signed to negotiate a 24 plane sale, but it’s controversial. China’s questionable status among the roster of future SU-35 customers, and its certain presence as an export competitor, both create more difficult dynamics for SU-35 export success.

(click to view larger) 3. Other decisions by key markets.

With Eastern European countries no longer buying Russian equipment, the Flanker family’s key export markets likely closed, and key emerging markets that have decided to go in different directions, the SU-35’s export potential is likely to be much more limited than its predecessors.

India has fielded, and continues to field, the SU-30MKI, a design that includes locally-built electronics, canard foreplanes, and full thrust vectoring. Malaysia has ordered a less customized SU-30MKM variant that uses Russian and French technologies instead. Both of these designs are highly capable, and comparable to the SU-35. India in particular is unlikely to upgrade, as it continues to produce the SU-30MKI and expects to do so for several more years. That removes a major potential market, and this design is even filtering back into Russian orders, as the SU-30SM.

On a similar note, Algeria and Venezuela are inducting less advanced SU-30MK2 and MKAs, which means that future spending is likely to focus on other military areas.

Elsewhere, South Korea has opted for American F-15Ks instead of the SU-35 or European fighters for its F-X buy, and their next competition has skipped the SU-35 to invite the next-generation PAK-FA/ future SU-50. Saudi Arabia, which has become more receptive to purchases from Russia, bought Eurofighters as the future of their air force. Brazil, which could have significantly expanded Russia’s Latin American penetration, did not shortlist the SU-35 for the final round of its F-X2 future fighter competition.

The Middle East offers limited opportunities for Russian fighters these days, with some potential among long-standing clients in Libya, Syria, and possibly Iran, but competition from France’s Rafale in particular must be expected in Libya, in the wake of Gadhaffi’s ouster. Assuming that Libya buys any high-end fighters at all over the next decade. The SU-35 could be useful to other countries in the Middle East, but most are already committed to other suppliers. Success is possible, and it would be important to the platform, but any win would require a breakthrough.

The newly oil-rich countries around Africa’s Gulf of Guinea offer easier opportunities, but sales will face competition from China, as well as from the west.

Emerging South Asian markets like Indonesia and Vietnam also offer promise, and are less inclined to buy either Chinese or western fighters, but initial orders from that quarter have involved earlier-generation SU-27/30s, and future orders are likely to be limited.

Overall, the numbers add up far less favorably for the SU-35 than they did for its earlier cousins.

SU-35: Contracts and Key Events 2014-2017

Opportunities: Indonesia; Why is Russia buying Su-30SMs and Su-35s?

“The UFO” at Paris

June 8/17: Officials from Russia and Indonesia have finalized contracts for the delivery of Su-35 fighters. Negotiations over the draft Su-35 contract had begun in March and it is expected that the deal will be signed by both parties later this year. While further details on the sale have yet to be revealed, earlier reports said that the planned contract envisages the sale of 10 Su-35 jets to Jakarta, which could be paid for in part by Indonesia’s natural rubber and palm oil reserves.

April 23/17: The UAE is in discussions with the Russian government over the potential sale of “several dozen” Su-35 fighters. The announcement was made by Russian trade minister Denis Manturov as Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces held bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last Thursday. Until now, the Gulf Emirate has only purchased French, UK, and US jets. But, flush with petrodollars, it has become the third-largest importer of arms and has been dubbed “little Sparta” by US Defense Secretary General James Mattis due to their participation in the ongoing Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, and their establishment of naval bases off the east coast of Africa.

January 13/17: The Chinese Air Force has taken delivery of its first four Su-35 fighters. Beijing has ordered 24 models in total following a negotiation process that has dragged on for several years. Chinese brass have commented that Moscow was eager to complete the deal due to concerns about the rolling out of the People’s Liberation Air Force’s new Chengdu J-20 fighter. The J-20 made its debut last year, although much of its capabilities have yet to be demonstrated publicly, and it is believed to have already entered low-rate production.

December 16/16: Efforts to secure a deal to bring Su-35s to Indonesia are still ongoing. Jakarta has been in negotiations to purchase eight of the Super Flanker for some time, looking to secure a good price on the replacement of its F-5E/F Tiger IIs. Minister of Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu stated that he hoped that Indonesia’s status as a loyal Russian arms buyer, would see favorable treatment in price offers.

Today’s Video

November 2/16: An official with Indonesia’s defense ministry has confirmed that Jakarta is still in negotiations to purchase either nine or ten Su-35 fighters. Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu had expressed his country’s interest in the fighter in May but any concrete deal has yet to materialize. While Russian and Indonesian officials haggle over pricing, it’s believed that Western companies such as Lockheed Martin and Saab are trying to wrest such a big ticket deal away from Russian manufacturer Sukhoi. Indonesia boasts one of the world’s fastest growing defense budgets with expectations that the archipelago will spend more than $20 billion on procurement between 2016 and 2025.

October 21/16: 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.

September 16/16: It’s been revealed that China will be taking delivery of four Su-35 fighters by the end of 2016. The disclosure was made by the Governor of Khabarovsk Territory Vyacheslav Shport during the opening of a production plant. Some experts mark the Su-35 as a potential rival for the F-15, Eurofighter, and Rafale fighters.

September 7/16: Progress has been made in talks between Pakistan and Russia over the purchase of the Su-35 fighters. Pakistani Ambassador to Russia Qazi Khalilullah called the talks “fruitful” adding that Islamabad “is considering different options of deepening cooperation with Russia.”

June 10/16: The Indonesian ambassador to Russia, Mohamad Wahid Supriyadi, has told Russian media that his country’s talks with Moscow over the purchase of eight Su-35 multi-role fighters is drawing to a close. With the main negotiations over, the deal now complete, the talks have now moved to discuss the matter of transferring technology from Russia to Indonesia. Indonesian laws require that any military pronouncements are supplemented by the transfer of technology, something Supriyadi claims has not been an issue for the Russians.

May 23/16: Rumors that Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s trip to meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin would involve discussions over an acquisition of Su-35 fighters have been dismissed by the Indonesian Foreign Minister. Retno Marsudi denied that any discussions over the fighter took place, with defense talks revolving around increased security cooperation, including information exchanges as well as technology transfer related to the purchase of weaponry.

May 5/16: Inking of contracts between Indonesia and Russia for eight Su-35 fighters is to occur at the end of the month. Indonesia’s Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu made the announcement on Tuesday, saying the signing will coincide with the visit to Russia of President Joko Widodo from May 19-20 during the Russia-ASEAN Summit. Jakarta’s new signing follows on the purchase of 24 Su-27/30 aircraft as part of its drive to modernize its fleet.

April 1/16: A request has been made by Algeria to test the Su-35 as a number of countries have expressed interest in the fighter. This adds a new dimension to the negotiations surrounding the purchase of Su-32 bombers which started last November, expected to cost between $500-600 million. After the Algerian Air Force’s testing of the Su-35, it’s expected they would purchase at least ten of the fighters, which would come with a price tag of around $900 million.

March 11/16: Indonesia will not see delivery of their first Su-35 before 2018. Large scale orders for both domestic and foreign exports has created a production backlog. The Russian military will receive 50 of the multi-purpose fighters, while China has ordered 24. With Jakarta expecting ten of their own, manufacturer Sukhoi said that Indonesia could expect their first two jets in 2018 in a best case scenario. When they eventually are delivered, the planes will go toward replacing the aging F-5 Tiger fleet.

March 7/16: Indonesian President Joko Widodo has approved the purchase of between eight and ten Su-35 fighters. A finalized price and deal will be confirmed during Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu’s visit to Moscow next month, and could cost between $400-700 million depending on the final number and additional options. The planes will go toward replacing the air force’s obsolete F-5 fleet which has been in service for 30 years.

February 22/16: Speculation surrounding Indonesia’s fighter modernization have been put to rest. Jakarta looks set to sign a contract for around a dozen Su-35s to replace its aging Northrop F-5 fighters, and supplement a fleet of 16 Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighters that form the backbone of its air force. Russian officials from the plane’s manufacturer United Aircraft Corporation refused to comment on the sale at last week’s Singapore Air Show, but it’s been reported that some of the components for the Su-35 could be made indigenously by Indonesian firms. Contracts for the deal could be ready and signed within a month’s time.

February 11/16: A deal to buy Su-35S Super Flankers will be signed by Indonesia’s defense minister next month when he visits Moscow. General Ryamizard Ryacudu said they would buy ten of the aircraft after it was initially reported that Jakarta would look to buy 16 to replace their fleet of fleet of Northrop F-5Es. His visit to Russia will also include discussions over pilot training and knowledge transfers as well as talks on increasing cooperation in defense, drug trafficking and counter terrorism.

January 18/16: China will receive its first batch of Su-35 fighters by the fourth quarter of this year with completion due in the next three years. It’s unknown how many will be delivered in 2016, but twenty-four fighters have been ordered in total at a cost of $2 billion. Beijing is the first foreign customer of the latest multi-role jet, although there have been fears that the purchase is only being made in order to reverse engineer key technologies for China’s own indigenous fighters.

January 13/16: United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) is to supply fifty more of their Su-35 fighters to the Russian Army. When delivered, this will bring the number of the jets in operation by the Russians to ninety-eight. The deal is estimated to be worth between $787-800 million. UAC subsidiary Sukhoi, who manufactures the jets, looks to have a busy 2016 ahead as the order from the defense ministry adds to a recent agreement to export twelve Su-32 bombers to Algeria.

November 30/15: The Chinese ministry of defense has confirmed the the $2 billion purchase of Su-35 fighters from Russia. China’s plan to also purchase the S-400 missile defense system is also going ahead smoothly according to Colonel Wu Qian and will generate another $3 billion in revenue for Russia. While arms sales between China and Russia are nothing new, the sale of Russia’s most developed military technologies to China represents a policy shift within the Kremlin primarily brought on by financial necessity.

Indonesia has announced that it will order 12 Su-35 fighters following the the $2 billion sale of the aircraft to China last week. The fighters will replace the 16 F-5 Tigers which have been in service since 1980. The Su-35 saw competition from the Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper. The Indonesian Air Force also operate the Su-30 in its fleet and already have an existing maintenance system that will be compatible with the new Su-35.

November 25/15: Russia is to install communications systems for China as part of the $2 billion sale of Su-35 fighters. The deal includes the delivery and installation of the NKVS-27 communications system which will begin in 2016. The delivery of the 24 fighters will follow in 2017. It has been speculated that the Chinese may attempt to reverse engineer and copy the design of the aircraft as it did Su-27SK and could include the communications system. The NKVS-27 is designed to ensure information interaction between CPs and crews of any aircraft. Interaction may be by means of conversations through voice communications radio networks as well as data exchange through data exchange radio networks.

November 20/15: China has signed a substantial contract with Russia to purchase 24 Sukhoi Su-35 fighters in a deal that is said to be worth $2 billion. The agreement comes shortly after speculation that a number of countries were interested in purchasing the advanced fighters, including Pakistan, Indonesia and UAE, during the Dubai Air Show. This comes at an important time for Russia who have been suffering economically from falling oil prices and frosty trade relations with western nations and Ukraine. Arms sales have been one constant in this rather bleak financial outlook as the Kremlin looks to find new buyers for its military technologies.

Following China and their inking of contracts for the Sukhoi Su-35 fighters, the Indonesian ambassador to Russia has announced that they too are interested in making a purchase. Ambassador Djauhari Oratmangun told news agency RIA Novosti that a delegation will be sent from Russia to Jakarta to discuss contracts for the purchase of a number of the aircraft. No further details about the deal are known but seem to be part of a plan to increase trade between the two in 2016 by $5 billion.

November 9/15: The United Arab Emirates is engaged in talks with Russia over a potential acquisition of Su-35s, according to Ria Novosti. The discussions are taking place at the Dubai Air Show, with Pakistan also thought to be considering an acquisition of the type, and China and Indonesia also possible export customers for the Su-35.

September 11/15: Pakistan and Russia are reportedly in talks over the supply of Su-35 fighters and Mi-35M helicopters, according to both Pakistani and Russian press reports Thursday. The sale of Mil Mi-35M helicopters was also reported in August, with it unclear whether current negotiations are a continuation of this previous contract or a new one entirely. The two countries signed a bilateral military cooperation agreement last November, with the fourth-generation Sukhoi Su-35 also eyeing potential export customers in China and Indonesia.

Oct 10/14: Delivery. Another batch delivery from Sukhoi, SU-35 and SU-30M2 fighters for Russia’s VVF, handed over at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aviation plant.

Note that the SU-30M2 is the “standard” SU-30, as opposed to Irkut’s SU-30SM which is based on the canard-winged SU-30MKM. Sources: Sukhoi, “Sukhoi handed over a batch of Su-35 and Su-30M2 aircraft to the Ministry of Defense”.

Oct 7/14: Indonesia. Indonesian Military Commander General Moeldoko tells Republika Online that they’re leaning toward the Su-35 as their F-5 replacement, with the JAS-39 in 2nd place and the F-16 a distant 3rd:

“Menurut dia, jet tempur buatan negeri Paman Sam itu sudah tidak layak pakai lantaran teknologinya sudah ketinggalan zaman…. “Untuk udara, ada pengajuan penggantian F-5. Sukhoi Su-35 menjadi pilihan pertama, Saab JAS 39 Gripen pilihan kedua, dan pesawat F-16 pilihan ketiga,”…”

This isn’t the end, because negotiations, budgets and other considerations will still come into play. If that pick does stand, it would keep the Flanker family as the backbone of the TNI-AU, but the fleet would also be fragmented among 3+ types with partial commonality at best: 5 Su27SKM, 11 Su-30 (2 MKs, 9 MK2s), and 16 Su-35SK. The Su-27SKM and Su-30MK fighters will retire first, which will simplify matters, but that’s unlikely to happen before 2025 or so. Sources: ROL, “Helikopter Apache dan Sukhoi Su-35 Segera Perkuat TNI”.

Feb 21/14: No mystery. “Russia’s New Air Force Is a Mystery” wonders why Russia is buying SU-30MK2s, SU-30SMs and SU-35s, in addition to the future PAK-FA. It turns out that the answer is extremely simple: industrial priorities that bought up aircraft the Chinese stopped buying, took advantage of successful advanced SU-30MKx export developments, and aim to provide the SU-35 with a home country order base for potential exports. That sort of thing happens all the time, everywhere. The article ends up stinging itself with this quote re: the PAK-FA:

“The T-50’s schedule has stretched farther and farther to the right. Originally planned for handover to the air force’s Akhtubinsk flight test center for evaluation in 2014, recent announcements suggest this might now slip until the second half of 2016. This would derail plans to declare initial operational capability, and the start of full-scale production, at the end of 2016.

The best-case scenario would have seen 60 production T-50s delivered between 2016 and 2020, but this now seems a distant hope. As a result, the air force is badly in need of supplementary equipment.”

The 1st PAK-FA/ T-50 arrives in Akhtubinsk for testing that same day, but even if the new stealth fighters arrive on time, Russia will still need more warplanes to replace its aging force. Sources: War Is Boring, “Russia’s New Air Force Is a Mystery”.

Jan 7/14: Indonesia. Indonesia wants to replace its 11 remaining F-5E/F Tiger II light fighters with 16 modern aircraft. Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro confirmed that they “have received proposals from several jet fighter manufacturers,” and are evaluating them. Indonesian Military Commander General Moeldoko added that the TNI-AU has studied the SU-35, F-16, F-15, and JAS-39 Gripen.

Moeldoko wants the requisition plan included in Indonesia’s Strategic Plan II for the 2015 – 2020, but the air force’s choice will also depend on available funds. The F-15 is significantly more expensive than other options, and if the air force wants 16 fighters, the state of Indonesia’s economy will influence what they can buy.

There are always extraneous considerations in Indonesia. Still, if commonality matters, the F-16 is the only fighter currently in Indonesia’s inventory. The F-15 and JAS-39 are used by its neighbors, and have Asian support networks in place. Picking the SU-35 seems odd, as it would leave Indonesia vulnerable to becoming the 1st export customer, while worsening the fragmentation within an already-split Flanker fleet. Still, the existing SU-30MK fleet is a known quantity, which means the SU-35 is the only variant would require study for a full consideration of their options. Sources: Antara News, “Defense Ministry looking to replace aging F-5 tiger fighter aircraft”.

2011 – 2013

Russia buys SU-30SMs; Russian plans to 2020; Final SU-35S model flies; Libya derailment; China impasse unblocks, but still no deal.

Russian SU-35
(click to view larger)

May 20/13: Brazil. RIA Novosti quotes Rosoboronexport’s SITDEF exhibition lead Sergey Ladigin, who says they’ve offered to deliver Su-35 fighters and Pantsir S1 air defense systems to Brazil outside the framework of a tender, and says the offer is being considered.

Brazil wants the Pantsir short-range air defense gun/missile systems, but the SU-35 failed to make the shortlist in 2009. On the other hand, if you don’t ask, you’ll never get. So Russia’s is throwing in the SU-35 offer, and Ladigin said in Lima that they were “ready to transfer 100% of manufacturing technologies,” as well as some technologies from their T50 (future SU-50?) stealth fighter.

It doesn’t help. In December 2013, Brazil picks Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen. Russian Aviation.

March 26/13: China. Media reports say that a deal has been signed for 24 SU-35 fighters, and 4 advanced Amur/Lada Class submarines, during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia.

Defence News claims that “During a recent visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow from Friday to Sunday, no discussions took place regarding “military-technical cooperation” issues, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported Monday.” Our Russian isn’t very good, but the Google Translate version simply quotes the CCTV report of a deal, while saying that there were no problems regarding military-technical cooperation issues. Defense News also quotes outside observers within Russia; readers will have to make up their own minds. ITAR-Tass [in Russian] | CCTV [in Chinese] | South China Morning Post | Defense News | International Business Times.

March 7/13: China confirmed. China and Russia have apparently signed an intergovernmental agreement, as the 1st step toward a contract for 24 SU-35s. Reports credibly place the agreement date as January 2013, but contract negotiations could take a while.

A trickle of reports from November 2012 to February claimed that Russia and China had a preliminary agreement in place, which would let them negotiate a deal for varying numbers of SU-35s. Russia’s Interfax confirmed the existence and date of that agreement in February 2013, but didn’t specify numbers. Now, a March 8/13 article in The Hindu confirms that talks involve 24 planes, a climbdown from Russia’s initial insistence on 48.

The Russians are said to have more confidence that China can’t copy their engines, and are also said to need SU-35 orders. Russia has placed an initial contract, but a deal with Libya fell by the wayside when its regime did, Venezuela has pulled back, and even Russia’s VVS is ordering follow-on buys of SU-30SMs instead. On the other side, there’s speculation that SU-35’s improved AL-117S engine could be “of interest” for China’s J-20 stealth plane. If so, it would be a setback to India on 2 fronts: breaking an old pattern by selling China a more modern fighter than India’s SU-30MKIs, and strengthening a competitor to the Indo-Russian PAK-FA stealth fighter project. South China Morning Post | Defense News | Voice of Russia | The Hindu.

China agreement to negotiate

April 17/12: China. RIA Novosti quotes Russian state-controlled arms exporter Rosoboronexport said on Tuesday, who says that the 18+ month long negotiations to sell Su-35s to China have been put on hold. The Chinese only wanted to buy a few, and the Russians weren’t interested in selling them a few templates for Chinese copying efforts.

Rosoboronexport deputy chief Viktor Komardin characterized Russia as wanting “a large consignment to make [the deal] economically viable.” Translation: China would have to buy large numbers of SU-35s, under a contract with strict and enforceable cancellation penalties. See also Nov 16/10 entry.

March 30/12: Russia plans. Russian Air Force commander Gen. Alexander Zelin discusses their aircraft acquisition plans under Russia’s Weapons Program 2011-2020. Those plans include about 100 SU-35 and SU-30SM fighters put together, and their conflation could be a worrying sign. The VVS also expects to field 60 Sukhoi PAKFA (T-50) stealth fighters by 2020, and intends to buy 140 SU-34 long range strike fighters.

The SU-35’s future may ride on how many of the 70 remaining VVS orders before 2020 request it, instead of more SU-30SMs. AIN Online. See also March 16/10 entry.

March 23/12: Russian setback. Russia’s own VVS moves to buy 30 SU-30SM fighters, for delivery by 2015. These planes are a version of the canard-winged, thrust-vectoring SU-30MKI/M variant that was developed for India, and has since been exported to Algeria and Malaysia. Which raises the question: why didn’t Russia buy 30 more SU-35S fighters? A RIA Novosti article offers one explanation:

“Irkut has been churning out these planes for 10 years thanks to its completely streamlined production method. This means that its products are of high quality, relatively cheap… and will be supplied on time.

It is one thing if, in order to make 30 aircraft, you have to breathe life into an idling plant, to fine-tune (or develop anew) your technological method, buy additional equipment, and – still worse – hire personnel. But it’s quite another if you have been manufacturing standardized aircraft for years and years and can easily divert your workforce to produce an “improved” modification for your own country’s Air Force… This approach (buying quickly and on the cheap what can be produced immediately) has been growing in popularity in the Russian military.”

There is a contract for 48 SU-35s, but the production rate doesn’t appear to be very advanced yet. If Bogdanov’s analysis is correct, the SU-35 could have a problem. It would mean that more SU-30SMs become a very attractive near-term choice for the next few years, as Russia’s rearmament program kicks into gear. Farther down the road, the T-50 PAK-FA stealth fighter (likely to become the SU-50), will be a priority after 2016 or so. In that scenario, the SU-35 could find itself starved of budgetary oxygen at home, followed by avoidance abroad in favor of the SU-30MKx models that have already been exported to Algeria, India, and Malaysia.

Sept 19/11: Testing. Sukhoi says that its SU-35 fighters have carried out more than 300 test flights at the 929th State Flight Test Center (GLITS), and offers a number of data points regarding the aircraft.

“The maximum ground-level speed is 1,400 km/h, speed at altitude – 2400 km/h, the ceiling – 18 thousand meters. The detection range of targets in the “air-to-air” mode is over 400 km. This is significantly higher than that of the combat aircraft currently in service. The onboard OLS (optical locator station) can detect and track multiple targets at ranges exceeding 80 km… a new phased antenna array radar with a long aerial target detection range and with an increased number of simultaneously tracked and engaged targets (30 aerial targets tracked and 8 targets engaged plus the tracking of 4 and engagement of 2 ground targets)… The radar signature of the fighter has been reduced by several times as compared to that of the fourth-generation aircraft by coating the cockpit with electro-conducting compounds, applying radio absorption coats and reducing the number of protruding sensors. The service life of the aircraft is 6,000 hours flight hours… The assigned service life of vectored thrust engines is 4,000 hours.”

May 3/11: Final SU-35S model. Sukhoi begins flight tests for its final series production version SU-35S model. Among other things, it marks the program’s recovery from the April 26/09 accident. Sukhoi [in Russian] | Russia’s RIA Novosti | China’s Xinhua | DefenceWeb | Flight International.

Feb 27/11: Libya. Russia’s Interfax news agency says that a recent UN embargo on arms sales to Libya, in the wake of the regime’s military attacks on demonstrators, could cost Russia $4 billion:

“The already-signed arms deals between Moscow and Tripoli amount to $2 billion, while deals for another $1.8 billion are in the final stage of readiness. In January 2010 the two sides agreed on supply of Russia’s small arms, six operational trainers Yak-130 and some armored vehicles for total of $US 1.3 billion. Libya has been supposed to become the first country to get Su-35 fighter jets, the contract to buy 15 jets for $800 million is fully accorded and ready to be signed. Tripoli also expressed interest in buying 10 Ka-52 Alligator assault helicopters, two advanced long range S-300PMU2 Favorit air defense missile system and about 40 short range Panzir C1 air defense complexes for a total over $1 billion. The Libyan military has also discussed possible supply of modern tanks, multiple rocket launcher systems, high speed missile boats etc.”

If the civil war drags on long enough, don’t be surprised to see a number of these potential sales revived, even as other counter-insurgency related equipment steps to the fore. Russia could wind up finds ways to skirt UN sanctions and support its client, something that has been an issue before with countries like Sudan. China could do the same, and has a long history of supporting civil war factions without regard to human suffering or disposition, in exchange for medium-long term resource deals. Russia Today | AFP.

2009 – 2010

Russia orders 48; KnAAPO gets financing; Crash delays program; Opportunities in China, Libya.

Ready for takeoff
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December 16/16: Beijing received an early Christmas present this year with the advanced delivery of four Sukhoi Su-35 fighters from Russia. Initially expected for delivery in 2017, the shipment process was expedited to send the first batch before the new year. Signed last November, the $2 billion deal will see Russia provide China with 24 Su-35s alongside ground equipment and spare engines.

Nov 16/10: China. At Airshow China 2010 in Zhuhai, Rosoboronexport Deputy General Director Alexander Mikheyev tells RIA Novosti that Russia is ready to hold talks with China on selling SU-35 fighter aircraft to the Chinese air force. That’s a bit of a surprise, given China’s consistent record of buying, copying, and then competing with Russian technologies – see “The China Factor,” above. On the other hand, Mikheyev also told RIA Novosti that:

“We have made progress in an understanding of [illegal production of Russian arms in China]. Moreover, all the documents concerning the protection of intellectual property have been signed… China does not refuse to discuss these issues, which are primarily a concern for Russia.”

It would be darkly amusing to many in western defense organizations to have Russia fleeced in arms-related agreements, by a country that follows their own pattern of offering paper guarantees, while doing something else.

Sept 20/10: Financing for KnAAPO. Sukhoi Holding Company the Yuri Gagarin Aviation Industrial Concern (KnAAPO) in , Komsomolsk-na-Amure strikes a financing agreement with Sberbank, the Savings Bank of Russia. The agreement will allow the firm to invest in producing the Russian Air Force’s SU-35S orders. Brahmand | Frontier India.

July 23/10: Update. Aviation Week reports from Farnborough 2010. Sukhoi CEO Mikhail Pogosyan says that the Russian air force is still set to take delivery of its first Su-35S by the end of 2010, and the firm issues its own release with test results.

Preliminary testing of Su-35 has now been concluded with 270 flights and 350 flight hours, using 2 rather than 3 aircraft after a fire destroyed one of the prototypes (vid. April 26/09). The NIIP Tikhomirov Irbis passive phased-array radar was also a focus of testing, and moves were made to reduce radar signature by adding radar-absorbent materials and removing protruding sensors. They add:

“Tripoli will likely be the launch export customer [for the SU-35S]. Alexander Mikheev, deputy head of Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned arms export agency, confirmed at Farnborough that the contract for delivery of undisclosed number of aircraft to Libya, one of the traditional recipients of Soviet armaments, is expected to be signed this year. The first export production slots are available from 2012.”

March 16/10: Russian plans. In “The future of the Russian Air Force: 10 years on“, RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik discusses planned buys and pending recapitalization of the Russian Air Force over the next decade:

“According to various media reports, the Ministry wants to buy at least 1,500 aircraft, including 350 new warplanes, by 2020. The fleet would include 70% new equipment at that point, said Air Force Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Alexander Zelin… The Defense Ministry has now signed contracts for the purchase of 32 Su-34 Fullback advanced fighter-bombers to be delivered by 2013, 48 Su-35 Flanker-E fighters by 2015, 12 Su-27SM Flanker-B Mod. 1 fighters by 2011, 4 Su-30M2 Flanker-C planes by 2011 and 12 Su-25UBM Frogfoot combat trainers. This year, the Defense Ministry intends to sign a contract for the delivery of 26 MiG-29K Fulcrum-D fighters by 2015. Additional contracts for the delivery of at least 80 Su-34s and 24-48 Su-35s are expected to be signed. In all, the Russian Air Force is to receive 240-260 new aircraft of these types. It is hard to say much about the specifications of another 100-110 aircraft, due to be manufactured primarily after 2015. They will probably include 25-30 MiG-35 fighters, another 12-16 Su-30 combat trainers for Su-35 squadrons and 40-60 Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA (Advanced Frontline Aviation Aircraft System) fifth-generation fighters…”

Nov 17/09: Sukhoi announces that it has begun work on Russia’s SU-35S contract.

Nov 15/09: Libya. Interfax quotes Rosoboronexport’s special missions director and Dubai Airshow delegation chief Mikhail Zavaly:

“Libya wants to buy our aircrafts, including Sukhoi fighter jets and Ilyushin Il-76 military airlifters,” Zavaly told Interfax on Sunday. The talks deal with the technical details of the planes offered to Libya, he said. After technical arrangements are approved, “the Russian side will make commercial proposals to Libya,” Zavaly said.”

Oct 19/09: Libya. Russia’s Interfax media agency reports that Libya plans to buy 12-15 Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighters, another 4 Su-30s as an immediate interim order, and 6 Yakovlev Yak-130 trainer and light attack aircraft aircraft. Reports indicate that a contract could be signed with state arms export agency Rosoboronexport by the end of 2009, or early 2010.

Libya has also been in talks with France to buy its Rafale fighters since late 2007. A Sukhoi deal is likely to end the Rafale’s near-term chances in Libya. UPI report.

Aug 18/09: Russia orders 48. The Russian government signs the SU-35’s inaugural production contract at the Russian MAKS 2009 air show. The Russian Defense Ministry has reportedly signed a contract with Sukhoi to deliver 48 SU-35s by 2015, plus an interim buy of 12 single-seat SU-27SM and 4 dual-seat SU-30M2 multirole fighters by 2011.

RIA Novosti cites “open sources” that estimate the flyaway cost an SU-35 at about $65 million. This contract should be larger, since it’s a new type that must carry the additional costs of training spares stocks, etc. Statements place the contract’s value at “over 80 billion” roubles, where RUB 80 billion is currently about $2.51 billion. The contract follows on the heels of RUB 3.2 billion (about $100 million) in capital injected into Sukhoi, and Vnesheconombank head Vladimir Dmitriyev said the national development bank would grant Sukhoi a 3.5 billion-ruble (about $109 million) loan to start SU-35 production. ITAR-TASS | ITAR-TASS re: loans, contract value | RIA Novosti | RIA Novosti’s Russia Today | domain-b | Flight International.

April 26/09: Crash. An Su-35 burst into flames and exploded before take-off at the Komsomolosk-na-Amure Aviation Production Association (KNAAPO) Dzemgi flight test aerodrome. Yevgeniy Frolov, one Sukhoi’s most experienced pilots, managed to eject safely before the aircraft exploded. The crash may jeopardize the SU-35’s expected appearance over Russia’s May Day festivities, and will delay testing. To make matters worse, this 2nd operational aircraft was carrying a new NIIP Irbis-E radar set, which will require some effort to replace. The Weekly Standard adds:

“Su-35 programme representatives told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the crash was the fault of one of the NPO Saturn 117S engine’s PMC units and not a failure of a fuel pump, as had been previously reported. “One of the engine’s control systems failed and the engine was working at only 93 per cent power,” said the representative.”

March 23/09: Flight #100. KNAAPO announces that the Su-35 has made its 100th flight, during which they conducted final tests of the flight control system. Flight tests began Feb 18/08, and in the second quarter of 2009 another test aircraft is expected to join the current 2-plane fleet.

The firm expects to bring the number of flights up to 150-160 on 3 fighters, allowing them to finish static tests and start the super-maneuverability mode testing with the plane’s thrust-vectoring engines. First deliveries to Russian and foreign customers are still scheduled for 2011.

2007 – 2008

Maiden flight; Eliminated in Brazil.

SU-35 early concept
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Oct 2/08: 2nd test plane. Sukhoi says they have started flight tests of the second SU-35 production fighter. “The addition of the second aircraft to the testing program will speed up its completion and ensure the beginning of deliveries to our customers in 2011.”

Since its demonstration flight on July 7/08, the first production aircraft has made over 40 more test flights. RIA Novosti.

Oct 1/08: Brazil loss. Brazil has decided on its 3 finalists: Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, and Saab/BAE’s JAS-39 Gripen.

EADS Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin’s F-16BR, and Sukhoi’s SU-35 all failed to make the cut. Brazilian FAB release [Portuguese] | Reuters | Boeing release | Gripen International release.

July 9/08: A Sukhoi release says that it has presented the newest SU-35 multi-role to the “Flight Scientific Research Institute named after Gromov in Zhukovsky near Moscow,” where earlier test flights have taken place.

It adds that the SU-35 is one of the priority programs of the new United Aviation Corporation (UAC), resulting from the government’s consolidation of Russia’s aerospace industry, and notes that Russia’s 5th generation PAK-FA fighter project will not be fielded before 2015-2017. In contrast, batch production and deliveries of the SU-35 are promised between 2010-2011. Moscow News | Russian release (English version not yet on web).

March 6/08: Maiden flight. Russia test flies SU-35. The first Su-35 prototype made its maiden flight on Feb 18/08, and 2 more aircraft are being prepared for similar tests at an aircraft manufacturing plant in Russia’s Far East. The company expects the jet to enter service with Russia’s military in 2-3 years. RIA Novosti.

Sept 4/07: Clarity? A subsequent Flight International article may begin to offer clarity re: the platform. It states categorically that the SU-35-1 design, unveiled at Russia’s MAKS 2007 air show, is a single-seat aircraft without canard foreplanes, but with a lighter airframe than the SU-27, enlarged fan and engine inlets, 2 NPO Saturn/Ufa MPO Item 117S engines that reportedly offer thrust vectoring and supercruise performance in clean layout, 2t more fuel, modernized electronics at all levels, a Tikhomirov NIIP Irbis (updated N-011M Bars) passive electronically scanned array radar, 6,000 hour airframe life, and 4,000 hour engine life.

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