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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 1 hour 23 min ago

Iraq Wants Hellfires – Lots and Lots of Them

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 19:07
AGM-114 Hellfires
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As Iraq’s civil war heated up, the country found itself running out of laser-guided Hellfire missiles by mid-June. That prompted emergency shipments from the USA, but it also prompted a July trial balloon about shipping Iraq several thousand Hellfire missiles. By the end of July, the State Department felt confident enough to go ahead with an official notice to Congress.

The size of the 5,000 missile authorization plus the 500 missiles in Iraq’s AH-64E request, plus the hundreds of missiles delivered prior, illustrates the scope of Iraq’s request. The question is whether the size of the request foreshadows near-term contracts and delivery for AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, which would begin using the missiles at a higher volume than their tiny fleet of AC-208B Combat Caravan prop planes.

Contracts & Key Events

AC-208B fires
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July 29/14: Request. The US DSCA announces Iraq’s official request for 5,000 AGM-114K/N/R Hellfire missiles and associated equipment, Hellfire missile conversion, blast fragmentation sleeves and installation kits, containers, transportation, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, parts, training and US government and contractor. The estimated cost is $700 million.

AGM-114Ks are the standard semi-active laser guidance Hellfire missile. AGM-114Rs are the most modern variety, with warheads that combine shaped charge and fragmentation effects for use against any target. The AGM-114N uses a thermobaric warhead that can suck the air out of a cave, collapse a building, or produce an astoundingly large blast radius out in the open. If Iraq were to cross the line from legitimate warfare and collateral damage to premeditated human rights abuses, this variant would be the most dangerous. Sources: US DSCA #14-33, “Iraq – AGM-114K/N/R Hellfire Missiles”.

DSCA request: 5,000 Hellfires and conversion kits

July 4/14: Intelligence? A weapon deficiency may not be Iraq’s biggest problem. The way they’re employing their forces makes it hard to use them effectively, and seems geared to stoking massive sectarian conflict:

“But even before the U.S. military left the country, the Iraqi government purged many of its best intelligence officers and assets because they were either Sunnis or Kurds… according to a senior intelligence official who spoke anonymously so that he could speak freely…. Michael Pregent, a former Army intelligence officer working on contract as an embedded adviser to the Iraqi security forces in 2008, obtained evidence that showed how politicized the Iraqi targeting process had become…. A confidential analysis of the [3,000 target] list by Americans in a targeting cell at the Baghdad Operations Center found that 95 percent of the targets were either Sunni men of military age, tribal leaders or other Sunnis listed simply as “the friend of a terrorist, father of a terrorist, grandfather of a terrorist,” Pregent said. No direct evidence of terrorist involvement was provided, he said.”

The Saddam approach to crushing an insurgency can work as long as you have the guns and technological superiority to pull it off. Iraq is shaky in terms of the weapons advantage, and that gets shakier if the rebels receive competent outside assistance. Can Iran help drown the Sunnis in manpower? And will the USA be able to continue supporting the Iraqi government if it plays by standard Mideast rules in a sectarian civil war? Sources: Washington Post via Stars and Stripes, “Iraq lacks ability to fly F-16s it seeks, US trainer says”.

July 2/14: Hellfires and Hesitations. The US State Department is reportedly pushing to sell 4,000 more Hellfire missiles to Iraq. That volume doesn’t make sense for a tiny fleet of AC-208B prop planes carrying 2 missiles each; it requires an AH-64E sale (q.v. Jan 27/14), which doesn’t have a contract yet. The sale would be in addition to the 500 Hellfires from that DSCA request, creating a very large reserve stockpile. One so large that unless deliveries were staggered, it could buffer the effect of any US sanctions if the Iraqi government misused its firepower against broad civilian populations.

So far, this is just an informal briefing to lawmakers. Members of the Senate and House foreign relations committees are conducting an informal review of the potential sale that could take up to 40 days, with a formal DSCA notification to come “unless lawmakers voice major reservations.” Meanwhile, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says that:

“The U.S. will need a detailed assessment on the remaining capabilities of a demoralized Iraqi army before deciding on further military support against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Gen. Martin Dempsey said…. “Will they hold? What’s their makeup? Are they still a force that represents all Iraqis?”

Intelligence capabilities are also being legitimately questioned, which are pushing the Iraqi government toward broad sectarian targeting instead of tactical strikes. Meanwhile, American AH-64 Apache helicopters have been deployed to Iraq, though the Pentagon won’t say how many. So much for “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq”. Sources: Bloomberg, “Sale of 4,000 U.S. Missiles to Iraq Is Readied” |, “Dempsey: US Must Reassess Iraq’s Ability to Fight” | Washington Post via Stars and Stripes, “Iraq lacks ability to fly F-16s it seeks, US trainer says” | The Hill, “Pentagon sends attack helicopters to Iraq” | White House June 19/14, “Remarks by the President on the Situation in Iraq”.

June 30/14: Deliveries. As the Iraqi government’s authority collapses in the north and west, US Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren says that:

“I know we’re down to having delivered all but 100 of the recent purchase of 500 [Hellfire missiles] that the Iraqis made. There were shipments within the last week…. We expect that purchase of a total of 500 Hellfires to be closed out within the coming two or three weeks.”

The Hellfire’s main platform in Iraq is currently their AC-208 fleet. Sources: Pentagon, “U.S. Continues Military Aid to Iraqi Government”.

June 21/14: Out of Hellfires. As its northern cities and Sunni areas steadily fall, Iraq has a minor but significant problem:

“The Iraqi military ran out of Hellfire missiles six days ago, and though the U.S. is rushing more missiles into the country, Iraq has only two modified Cessna aircraft to launch them in their battle against the radical Islamic militia ISIS…. The losses have left the Iraqi military with no offensive capability, and no real air force. “

Iraq hasn’t had a real combat air force since Saddam Hussein’s era, and the best estimates didn’t expect one before 2017 at the earliest. The Iraqis do have armed Russian Mi-17 helicopters that don’t use Hellfires, and French EC635 scout helicopters whose armed status is uncertain. Russia has also agreed to sell them Mi-28 attack helicopters, but there are no signs of any in service yet. ABC News, “Iraqi Military Out of Hellfires in Battle Against ISIS”.


May 30/14: Deliveries. US Security Assistance Command touts its role in delivering 300 Hellfire missiles to Iraq through the Foreign Military Sales program. The Ac-208B is the missile’s key platform.

“Upon receiving a letter of request in January, USASAC began to work closely with the Aviation and Missile Command, Joint Munitions Command, the vendor and various other organizations in order to implement an emergency case…. “USASAC had the lead from an overall program management perspective,” said Will Collins, country program manager for Iraq…. A case for 300 Hellfire missiles completed formal congressional notification Feb. 22. Within a week USASAC received a signed letter of acceptance from the government of Iraq, and on Feb. 27 USASAC began implementing the case…. providing weekly updates to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.”

It wasn’t quite enough (q.v. June 21/14). Sources: US Army, “USASAC meets request”.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Iraq Seeks Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 17:00
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In July 2008, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Iraq’s formal request to buy 24 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters that act as scouts, perform light close air support, and escort other helicopters on dangerous missions. The DSCA documents also included requests for airborne weapons – which would be a new capability for the nascent post-Saddam air force.

At the time of the requests, the IqAF relied on a small force of Russia’s popular Mi-8/17s, and a handful of refurbished Bell “Huey II” helicopters. While the Russian helicopters can be armed, their status as Iraq’s only medium utility helicopters makes them a poor fit for an ARH role. Instead, Iraq chose between 2 competitors. Bell’s 407 bears a close resemblance to the OH-58 scout helicopters used by the US Army, and the 407-derived ARH-70A won the American ARH competition before running into trouble. Boeing’s AH-6 “Little Bird” light attack helicopters are used by US Special Forces, are very effective in urban settings, and provided critical fire support during the 1991 “Blackhawk Down” incident. Iraq went on to pick Bell as its its ARH winner.

Contracts and Key Events IA-407 conversion
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Jordan and Saudi Arabia ended up choosing Boeing’s AH-6i, but Iraq’s choice was the Bell 407. The USA ended up canceling its own armed ARH-70 Arapaho, but the US Army has supervised an “Iraqi Armed 407″ variant that will carry a surveillance turret, datalinks, and weapons including .50-caliber machine guns and 2.75-inch/ 70mm rockets. Despite the presence of Hellfire missiles in Iraq’s official 2008 DSCA request, the US military’s IA-407 description omits any mention of guided missile capabilities, which are currently restricted to Iraq’s Cessna AC-208B Combat Caravans. On the other hand, a June 2011 order for turrets that include laser designation opens the door for AGM-114 Hellfire missile or laser-guided 70mm rocket capabilities.

This approach is radically different from the standard Foreign Military Sale case, where a customer picks a fully-configured system and has the contractor make some changes to it. 24 operational helicopters doesn’t seem like a lot, but the process took about 4 years from the 2009 conceptual phase, through design and testing, to final delivery in 2013. The US Army learned a lot doing it, and they intend to apply a number of lessons to the OH-58F program upgrade their own OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scouts.

2010 – 2014

Bell 407s all delivered; Support contracts; Eurocopter EC635s will also be armed scouts. T407s
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July 29/14: Support. The US DSCA announces an official export request from Iraq for a 5-year continuation of contractor logistics support for its Bell 407 (T-407 and IA-407), OH-58, and Huey II helicopters. This will include maintenance support, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, site surveys, life support costs to sustain and protect the contractors, Quality Assurance Teams, and US government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $500 million.

The principal contractor will be Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of Fort Worth, TX, and implementation will require 5 US Government and 25 contractor representatives to travel to or reside in Iraq for a period of 5 years. They’ll handle maintenance support, on-the-job maintenance training, and maintenance advice. Sources: US DSCA #14-05, “Iraq – Helicopter Sustainment Support”.

DSCA request: Support

Jan 7/14: Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX receives an $18.6 million contract modification for 6 additional months of contractor logistics support, covering the Bell 407, [UH-1 Twin] Huey, [Bell 206] Jet Ranger, and OH-58A&C helicopters in Al Taji, Iraq. Work will be performed in Iraq and Piney Flats, TN until Aug 8/14. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL acts as Iraq’s agent (W58RGZ-12-C-0030, PO 0009).

A very similar announcement with an identical contract number was issued on Dec 18/13, which referenced DSCA Foreign Military Sales case IQ-B-UDZ, and had only half of the funds committed. This looks like an amendment.

May 21/13: Delivery. The US Army delivers the 24th and last IA-407 to Iraq (8 deliveries x 3 helos per C-17), to accompany the 3 T-407 trainers. Another 3 prototype helicopters will remain at Redstone Arsenal, AL for future testing and integration work, unless the Iraqis ask for them to be equipped to operational standard and delivered. US Army.

Deliveries done

May 14/13: Support. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX receives a maximum $85.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, foreign military sales (FMS) contract for engineering and technical support services to Iraq and Taiwan. Orders will be placed as required.

Iraq operates its Bell 407s, and also has a handful of UH-1N twin-Hueys. Taiwan’s heliborne strike force currently relies on OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scouts and AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, and a dwindling stock of aging single-engine UH-1H Hueys remains the backbone of their utility helicopter fleet. It’s reasonable to assume that most of these funds will be spent in Taiwan.

US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL received 1 bid (W58RGZ-13-D-0131).

Jan 18/13: Delivery. The USA delivers 3 more Bell 407 Scout helicopters to Iraqi Army Aviation. “This marks the 6th completed delivery of Iraqi Armed 407 Scout helicopters through the Foreign Military Sales case that began in 2010.”

Based on promises to deliver all of Iraq’s helicopters in 2012, they’re running a bit behind. US Army.

April 30/12: Update. WSFA in Mongomery, AL sheds some light on Iraq’s IA-407 helicopter project. Redstone Arsenal’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) group expects to deliver the 27 armed IA-407s in 2012, joining the 3 T-407 training helicopters that arrived in December 2010.

The IA-407′s custom design was reportedly specified by Iraq, but it’s feeding back into American projects. Many members of the US Army’s OH-58 Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program (CASUP) team also worked with the FMS group, which will influence the USA’s OH-58F fleet life extension program. IA-1407 Program Manager Lt. Col. Courtney Cote says that:

“We learned a lot of lessons on how to do design, integration and qualification… on this program that are leveraged now… [in] the [USA's] OH-58F program”

April 9/12: Support. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $15.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, buying contractor logistics support for 30 Bell 407 helicopters. That 30 involves 3 T-407 training helicopters, plus a fleet that has grown to 27 IA-407 armed reconnaissance helicopters.

Work will be performed in Al Taji, Iraq, and Piney Flats, TN, with an estimated completion date of July 31/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-12-C-0030).

April 30/12: IA-407 to OH-58F. WSFA TV in Mongomery, AL sheds some light on Iraq’s IA-407 helicopter project. Many members of the US Army’s OH-58 Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program (CASUP) team also worked with Redstone Arsenal’s Foreign Military Sales group, and IA-1407 Program Manager Lt. Col. Courtney Cote says that:

“We learned a lot of lessons on how to do design, integration and qualification… on this program that are leveraged now… [in] the [USA's] OH-58F program”

June 12/11: More armed scouts. DJ Elliott’s “ISF Order of Battle” for June 2011 reports that Iraq’s EC635 helicopters will be armed scouts as well. Their configuration will be based on the SAWS collaboration between Eurocopter and South Africa’s ATE, which includes Denel’s Ingwe beam-riding anti-tank missile, plus 20mm and 12.7mm gun pods from France’s Nexter and Belgium’s FN Herstal. Read “Iraq Orders Eurocopter’s EC635s” for full details.

June 1/11: Sensors. L-3 Communications EO/IR, Inc. in Santa Rosa, CA receives a $21.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for 22 MX-15Di surveillance and targeting turrets, with laser designators, for installation on Iraqi Armed 407 helicopters. The laser designators are significant, because it means the helicopters can independently target laser-guided missiles like Hellfires, or 70mm guided rockets like APKWS, DAGR, TALON, etc.

Work will be performed in Santa Rosa, CA, and Burlington, Ontario, Canada, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL, on behalf of their Foreign Military Sale client (W58RGZ-11-C-0114).

Dec 11/10: T407 Arrival. A USAF C-17 arrives in Iraq with 3 T-407 training helicopters, which will train the 21st IqAAC Squadron to fly the Iraqi Armed 407 (IA-407). They are being reassembled and flight tested, with their official delivery ceremony in Taji scheduled for Dec 15/10.

The Iraqi Army already has 2 newly-qualified instructor pilots, who along with their USF-I advisor counterparts, will soon begin the process of developing a cadre of instructor pilots to establish a self-sustaining program. A total of 27 IA-407s are scheduled for delivery to the 21st Squadron in late 2011 and early 2012. Pentagon DVIDS.

2008 – 2009

Bell 407 beats Boeing AH-6; Contracts placed for up to 50 helicopters; US Army will handle militarization and arming. Bell 407 at work
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Sept 23/09: +3 Training. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX received a $6.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for 3 Bell 407 commercial helicopters. These helicopters will be used as the training platform for the Iraqi Armed 407 program, as described in Foreign Military Sale case E4-B-UBY.

Work is to be performed in Fort Worth, TX (55%) and Mirabel, Quebec, Canada (45%) with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/10. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received, since the Iraqis had already picked their helicopter. The U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command, CCAM-AR-B at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages this contract (W58RGZ-09-C-0249).

Contract: 3 Bell 407s

April 29/09: Base contract. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX received a $60.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for 24 Bell 407 helicopters for the country of Iraq, with an option to buy up to 26 additional helicopters. This contract will be fulfilled over the next 27 months, with an additional 13 month period of performance if the option is exercised. Work is to be performed in Alliance, TX (55%) and Mirabel, Canada (45%) with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/12. The U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL will manage the contract (W58RGZ-09-C-0160).

According to Bell Helicopter officials, this contract is for plain commercial Bell 407 airframes. The US Army is in charge of the militarization process to meet the mission requirements of the Iraqi Air Force. Bell Helicopter is prepared to assist with that process if contracted to do so. Adding options that found their way into the US Army’s ARH-70 test aircraft, such as the larger engine, different engine cowling, airframe modifications for weapons carriage and use, and array of new electronics, will be handled by the US Army as a go-between for the helicopters’ foreign customer.

Note that before the ARH-70 program was canceled, the additional equipment and integration had lifted their unit cost to about $12-14 million each.

Contract: 24-50 Bell 407s

March 25/09: EC635s. France and Iraq sign a EUR 360 million ($488 million equivalent) order for 24 EC635 helicopters.

The EC635 can be seen as the modern successor to the SA 341/342 Gazelle, which Saddam Hussein’s forces used in an armed scout and light attack role. Like its predecessor, it can be used in any of the light utility, search-and-rescue, or armed scout roles.

March 16/09: Clarification. At a DoD roundtable [PDF], Col. Lawrence Avery Jr., the US force deputy director of MNSTC-I’s security assistance office, establishes the Dec 10/08 request as an additional, follow-on request:

“…they are in the process of purchasing Bell — in — Bell 407 armed scout, which’ll be a lightly armed — lightly armed helicopter. The first deliveries will be in a couple of years from now. And they purchased 24 of those, and they have a request in, as they evaluate their budget, for potentially buying 26 more, for a total of 50. So that’s what they’re — that’s what they’re in the process of buying.

They have Mi-17s that they already own. They have Mi-17s — the 22 that were talked about earlier that are (in bounds/inbound ?) that — they’re looking at options for maybe arming some of those. So as far as, you know, what all their desirements are, I can’t really speak to that. I do know they are – the armed capabilities, I know their purchasing for helicopters is through Bell 407 armed scout program.”

ARH-70A, testing
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Dec 10/08: The US DSCA announces [PDF] an official request from Iraq, which appears to have selected a winner in its own Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter competition. Bells 407 ARH appears to have beaten Boeing’s AH-6 ARH, as Iraq asks for another squadrons’ worth (24 + 2 training/ spares):

26 Bell Armed 407 Helicopters
26 Rolls Royce 250-C-30 Engines
26 “M280″ 2.75-inch/ 70mm rocket Launchers (see below, may be a typo)
26 XM296 .50 Cal. Machine Guns with 500 Round Ammunition Box
26 M299 Hellfire Guided Missile Launchers

The estimated cost is $366 million, to be finalized in forthcoming contract negotiations. Bell recently had this model canceled as the winner of the USA’s ARH-70 Arapaho competition, after continuing development with private funds for over a year. This order would throw their helicopter a critical lifeline at a critical time, and may even suffice to give it the market foothold Bell needs. The Long War Journal has reported [PDF] that Iraq’s initial ARH buy is just the first of several, and that the IqAF intends to field up to 5 squadrons by 2015.

The request also includes test, measurement and diagnostics equipment, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, and other forms of support, which will involve contractors and military representatives in country but have not been defined yet.

Bell 407 wins: DSCA export request

Nov 2/08: Iraqi plans. A briefing [PDF transcript] from Iraqi General Nasier Abadi, Vice Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces, includes this item:

“Expansion of reconnaissance and air surveillance and with King Air aircraft. and there have been a contract with helicopter to support the aerial support. There are 24 aircraft from Bell 407, 24 aircraft from Eurocopter 635, and 24 support aircraft AT-6B and 36 jet fighters of 516.”

The EC635 is a successor to the French Gazelle helicopters used in Iraq by Saddam’s forces, and by opposing British forces as well. They can be armed, and neighboring Jordan has ordered a handful. See the linked article below that covers Iraq’s EC635 purchase.

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Oct 7/08: AH-6. Boeing appears to be using Iraq’s request as a more general template, as it announces the AH-6 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter’s addition to its product line. The AH-6 features an advanced communications package, a surveillance and targeting turret, as well as a weapon set that includes Hellfire missiles, the M260 7-rocket pod, a machine gun, and a mini-gun integrated with a sensor system.

Boeing will produce the AH-6 ARH at its Rotorcraft Systems facility in Mesa, AZ. Dave Palm, director of Boeing Rotorcraft Business Development, said that:

“Boeing has been approached by several potential customers seeking light attack and reconnaissance capabilities in a flexible rotorcraft platform… We believe this system is a perfect fit for those customers seeking long endurance, proven performance and 2,000-pound payload within an affordable helicopter.”

A number of countries use the related MD500 family in this role, arming them with TOW anti-armor missiles, rocket pods, and/or miniguns. The AH-6 ARH updates that niche, and could gain traction. If so, however, it will be at the expense of MD Helicopters, which is trying to revive its fortunes. MD Helicopters lost its opportunity to return to the military market when America’s ARH contract went to Bell’s 407, and the LUH contract went to Eurocopter’s EC145. Attempting to compete in the ARH segment against Boeing would be extremely difficult and costly. MD Helicopters would face long odds, despite a fair claim of better but less battle-proven helicopter technology. Boeing release.

July 30/08: Export request. Iraq issues its initial request, which includes both alternatives for its ARH platform, and a wide array of weapons and supplementary equipment, to match the 26 Mi-17 medium helicopters in 15th Special Ops squadron:

  • 24 Bell Armed 407 Helicopters, similar to the American ARH-70 program; or Boeing AH-6 “Little Bird” Helicopters. The AH-6 is the specialized attack version of the MH-6, designed to mount missiles, guns, and/or 7-tube rocket launchers.

  • 24 Rolls Royce 250-C-30 Engines. Actually made by its subsidiary Allison. The Allison 250 powers both the MH-6 and the commercial Bell 407, but not the ARH-70 which used Honeywell’s HTS900-2 turbine.

  • 24 of Lockheed Martin’s M299 Guided Missile Launchers. Can launch Hellfire missiles, or DAGR laser-guided 2.75″ rockets
  • 200 of Lockheed Martin’s AGM-114M Hellfire II missiles. Laser-guided, which means the helicopters will either need a sensor/targeting turret, or be forced to rely on ground troops “painting” the target with systems of their own. Standard blast/fragmentation warhead.
  • 16 M36 Hellfire Training Missiles

  • 24 “M280 2.75-inch Launchers.” This may be a typo. The usual launchers are the 7-rocket M260 or the 19-round M261. Helicopters in this class are more likely to use the M260.
  • 15,000 2.75-inch/70mm Rockets. Standard unguided rockets.

  • 24 XM296 .50 Cal. Machine Guns with 500 Round Ammunition Box
  • 24 M134 7.62mm Mini-Guns

Land Systems

  • 565 M120 120mm Mortars. General Dynamics makes most of these for the US armed forces.
  • Unspecified 120mm ammunition
  • 665 M252 81mm Mortars
  • Unspecified 81mm ammunition

Plus test measurement and diagnostics equipment, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support.

The principal contractors listed in the July 30/08 DSCA request were Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Hurst, TX or Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, WA. Iraq appears to have picked Bell’s 407, which removes Boeing from that list. U.S. Government and Contractor technical assistance will be required, but had not been fully defined when the DSCA requests were made.

US DSCA export request

The Shape of Things to Come: A View from 2008 Jordanian EC635
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The DSCA adds that:

“The proposed sale of these helicopters, missiles, and mortar systems will be used to develop new Iraqi Air Force (IAF) squadrons and/or wings, and to enhance the ability of the IAF to sustain itself in its efforts to bring stability to Iraq.”

DID reader DJ Elliott, who is the prime author of the Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle at the respected Long War Journal, believes that these helicopters are destined for Iraqi Special Operations support alongside the 26 Mi-17v5s of 15th Special Operations Squadron.

He also points to July 2008 rumors of interest in up to 50 used SA 341/342 Gazelle helicopters from France or Britain, however, which could change the wider implications of this purchase from “likely special forces support” to “the beginning of a wider push to deploy close support aviation.” An agreement for EC635 helicopters was signed in March 2009, but their planned role remains unclear.

Meanwhile, progress continues on the fixed wing front. The “jet fighters of 516″ mentioned by Iraqi General Nasier Abadi in the Nov 2/08 briefing is likely a transcript error, which meant to say F-16. Iraq has submitted an official DSCA request to buy AT-6B trainer and light attack aircraft. A similar DSCA request is also reportedly in the works for F-16s, but has not been issued as of March 2009. Official government requests indicate that the slot between the prop-driven AT-6B and the F-16 looks set to be filled by Korea’s supersonic T/A-50 Golden Eagle, which can be given decent air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities.

Postscript: The EC635s went on to become armed scouts, thanks to a collaboration with South Africa’s Denel. That gives Iraq at least 3 armed helicopter types: IA-407, EC635, and Mi-17. Iraq did eventually place orders for F-16s, but their effective use is still 5 or more years away. They never did order AT-6B COIN aircraft, but they did order Czech L-159s that could function as COIN aircraft, or as intermediate to advanced jet trainers. As of 2013, the L-159s aren’t operational yet.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

New Zealand’s New NH90 & A109E Helicopter Fleets

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 16:36
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In 2005, NH Industries’ NH90 helicopter was selected to replace the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s aging UH-1 Iroquois, which would remain in service until 2009. A firm deal was finalized in July 2006, and New Zealand will buy 9 TTH variant helicopters; Australia’s initial 12-aircraft NH90 buy may offer some points of comparison.

Delays would eventually push New Zealand’s NH90 project back, but making the decision also allowed New Zealand’s Labour Party government to move ahead with a 2nd helicopter replacement: A109E Training and Light Utility helicopters, to replace New Zealand’s ancient M.A.S.H. era Bell 47Gs. That buy happened in 2008, but its helicopters have entered service years before the NH90s. Why is that, and what drove New Zealand to make the choices it did?

New Helicopters for New Zealand HMNZS Canterbury
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New Zealand’s air force is a shadow of its former self, but the country still needs some equipment. The RNZAF considered a number of options, including a single-type fleet, but came to the conclusion that it needed 2 different helicopters.

The core problem was that any machine that could even begin to perform the operational duties New Zealand wanted, would be way too complex and dangerous to operate as a training machine. On the other hand, the cost of the helicopters that could meet its expected needs were high enough that New Zealand would need its training helicopters to supplement that small fleet on missions, including the ability to operate from ships. This pushed them to the upper end of the spectrum for light helicopters.

SH-2G, HMNZS Te Mana
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New Zealand’s 2 frigates already operate SH-2G Super Seasprites, but its new 9,000t multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury needed compatible machines. The Canterbury was built under Project Protector as part of the RNZN’s future force plans, and replaces the F-421 HMNZS Canterbury frigate which was retired in 2005. She has space for 2 helicopters on board, and could transport up to 4 via tie-downs on her flight deck.

The eventual mix New Zealand chose was 8 operational NH90 TTH medium helicopters, 5 operational A109E Power training and light helicopters, plus 1 of each as an on-hand spare parts supply.

Medium Utility Helicopter: NH90 TTH Australian NH90:
1st flight
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The NH90 helicopter purchase was the last piece of New Zealand’s NZ$ 3.3 billion Long Term Development Plan, which aims to make sure that its military can meet minimum required capability levels. A medium helicopter that would work equally well on land and in hostile salt-water environments was too useful, and the current fleet too old and dangerous, to put off the buy much longer. Weaponry was not a major focus, but versatility, carrying capacity, and all weather performance were. Compatibility with Australian equipment was a lesser factor, but the NH90 TTH model selected is also the mainstay of the future Australian Army.

New Zealand’s NH90s will be deployed from land bases, and eventually loaded on board HMNZS Canterbury along with Army troops and their Pinzgauer trucks and LAV armored personnel carriers.

The NH90 comes from a NATO requirement that created NATO’s own helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, the consortium to build the hardware. NH Industries brings together Finmaccanica’s Agusta-Westland, EADS Eurocopter’s French and German arms, and Holland’s Stork-Fokker.

The 10-tonne NH90, which first flew in 1996, uses composite materials instead of riveted metal alloy plates, which saves weight and makes corrosion much less of a problem. At the same time, electronic fly-by-wire systems save the weight of the usual strong and heavy power-boosted hydraulic control systems. This allows the helicopter to remain within the 10-tonne weight class, while being only slightly smaller than the 15-tonne EH-101. Unlike the UH-60 Blackhawk, the NH90 has a rear drop-down loading ramp that can take a small vehicle inside, or quickly load or drop off supplies. It can also carry a normal load of 12-20 troops, depending on the amount of equipment they’re hauling, to a normal maximum range of 900 km/ 560 miles using all available internal tanks. Normal load is 2.5 tonnes inside.

NATO’s arctic service requirements may have helped the NH90 win in New Zealand, whose naval patrol responsibilities include large sections of ocean near the Antarctic. The NH90′s envelope of operating conditions is much wider than the UH-1′s. Built for what NH Industries calls “extreme adverse weather” operations, it can start up and fly, land, and shut down in winds gusting up to around 110 kmh/ 68 mph without losing rotor control, and fly day and night in heavy icing conditions down to -30 degrees Celsius. This has actually proven to be a problem for the helicopter, but as of 2012, NH Industries is testing a solution.

Other modern innovations include fully integrated systems whose modularity makes them easier to update, advanced mission flight aids, and design features that make it easier to maintain and support.

New Zealand became the 12th country to confirm that it would buy the NH90 (Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Sweden). At the time, it brought NH Industries’ order book to around 400 machines.

Anyone Else? USN SH-60F Seahawk
(click to view full)

New Zealand ended up picking the NH90 because all other candidates failed to meet the requirements it had crafted. Issues for AgustaWestland’s AW139, HAL’s Dhruv, and Kamov’s Ka-29 didn’t meet all payload, stowed aircraft, and/or stretcher limits.

The nearest comparable serving helicopter to the NH90 is probably the American H-60 Blackhawk/ Seahawk, a well-proven 10-tonne helicopter that has been flying since 1979. Within its 10 tonnes of maximum takeoff weight, the UH-60 Blackhawk normally carries 11 equipped troops, with a normal maximum range of around 550 km/ 340 miles, or more with external wing-mounted tanks. Like the NH90, the UH-60 Blackhawk can also carry cargo using a hook and sling system underneath, without damaging the airframe – as often happens if a UH-1 is uses its hook and sling too often. On the other hand, the Blackhawk has less internal space than the NH90, and its metal construction makes corrosion more of an issue. It also lacks a rear ramp, relying on sliding side doors instead.

Even so, when the new UH-60M was submitted, it was deemed to meet all of New Zealand’s requirements – except the one that required an in-production machine. That left only the NH90.

The new UH-60 derived H-92 Superhawk, a heavier aircraft that incorporates many of the NH90′s innovations and has a slightly higher cargo capacity, is an even better comparison. When New Zealand made its decision, however, the S-92 was only serving as a civilian helicopter, and its military version was on the drawing board as Canada’s “CH-148 Cyclone” anti-submarine patrol helicopter, rather than a general utility version.

RNZAF planners had considered it in early stages, and they liked its lift capacity and expected acquisition cost relative to the NH90. On the other hand, the S-92′s cabin “design caused tactical concerns”, and it was seen as too developmental, with too much risk of cost and schedule issues. They crafted their eventual RFP to avoid such submissions, and Canada’s experience with its S-92 derivative has certainly validated that judgement.

Unfortunately, so has New Zealand’s experience with the NH90.

Waiting for NH NZ UH-1 Iroquois
(click to view larger)

In contrast, the first production NH90 was delivered to Italy in 2004, which made it a strong candidate for New Zealand’s 2005 decision as an “off the shelf” option. As things turned out, however, the NH90 proved itself to be a developmental machine that wasn’t quite ready. Deliveries have been very slow, and qualification with key aviation authorities in member countries has been even slower. These delays have affected New Zealand’s plans for full fielding, which have been pushed back from 2009 to 2013/14.

While New Zealand waited for the NH90s, the UH-1 Hueys were to be kept in service until at least 2009. Late NH90 deliveries ended up extending that by several more years into the 2010s, which has created its own issues. One stems from the fact that the Bell 204/205, as civilian versions of the UH-1 Iroquois are known, are so popular with industrial operators. Many ex-military machines are being recommissioned for departmental and commercial utility roles around the world, and apparently that has created some availability issues for some key components. Another involves the force’s small size, which is creating manning shortfalls as units prepare to operate the other helicopter types. Readiness for the existing UH-1 fleet has suffered accordingly.

Next Steps in NZ: The A109 T-LUH It’s Cpl. Klinger!
(click to view larger)

Replacement of the old Bell 47Gs with a new training/light utility work helicopter was the other key element of New Zealand’s helicopter modernization project. Most readers will recognize the Bell 47 Sioux as the iconic helicopter from M.A.S.H., a TV show about the Korean War. Helicopters this old won’t do the job of training pilots to fly a complex medium helicopter with digital displays, and are questionable lead-ins to New Zealand’s highly modernized SH-2G Super Seasprite anti-submarine helicopters.

That interconnection is why identifying the country’s preferred medium utility helicopter was necessary, before the training and light utility (T/LUH) helicopter buy could proceed. As noted above, the new machines also had to be capable of performing basic light utility missions like transport, rescue, and medical evacuation if needed.

NZ: A109E on board
(click to view larger)

NH90 participants EADS Eurocopter (EC135-P2T2) and Agusta (A109) both had light utility helicopters that could be seen as appropriate trainers for NH90 pilots. They were used as capability evaluation baselines by the RNZAF, and both were submitted. Other submissions included Bell (407), Eurocopter (AS350-B3 Ecureuil), and MD Helicopters (902 NOTAR). In the end, AgustaWestland’s popular A109 Power light helicopter was picked to replace the 1950s-era Bell Sioux.

The A109Es were originally scheduled for delivery from Italy in late 2010, but deliveries don’t appear to have taken place until the end of Q1 2011. They were in service by fall 2011, years ahead of the NH90s.

Contracts & Key Events 2011 – 2014

(click to view full)

July 30/14: NH90 Final delivery. Airbus Helicopters has finished retrofitting 4 NH90-TTH helicopters, bringing all 8 of New Zealand’s machines up to final configuration standard. The last 4 were delivered to that standard, but work was conducted on the first 4 at the RNZAF operational base in Ohakea, NZ, from September 2013 to the present. Sources: Shephard Rotorhub, “Retrofit of RNZAF NH90 TTH fleet complete”.

NH90s fully delivered

April 13/12: NH90 kerfuffle. In response to media reports that pick up on the OAG’s November 2011 Major Projects Report, a RNZAF response defends their choice, and seeks to reassure stakeholders that all is well:

“At the time the Major Projects Report was written, around a year ago, a number of risks were identified… In the past twelve months most of those issues have been addressed. Because our helicopters are still in production we are able to incorporate improvements prior to delivery. We began flying the helicopter here in New Zealand in February and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) has achieved all intended activities with the NH90… [in] 51.5 flying hours on the two NH90s in New Zealand… As many of the countries purchasing the NH90 are Scandinavian countries, you can imagine issues around performance in snow have been quickly resolved. A solution has been identified, tested and is just going through the final verification before being implemented to NH90s globally.”

The RNZAF is also looking into deployment options for the NH90s, since they won’t fit into the force’s C-130 Hercules planes. Indeed, the only plane that can carry them is the Russian AN-124. Those are available for lease, but flights to and from New Zealand would not be cheap. Fairfax NZ’s Stuff | RNZAF response.

March 9/12: NH90s Welcomed. Official welcoming ceremony for the NH90 in New Zealand, at Wellington Airport. The 2 available helicopters will require 12-18 months of operational test and evaluation at Ohakea. RNZAF.

2011: UH-1s. The RNZDF’s annual report [PDF] says of its UH-1 fleet that only 6 of 14 are ready for military tasks. It adds that:

“As more resources have gone to the [A109 and NH90 transitions], the effect on No. 3 Squadron has become more pronounced, manifesting as reduced aircraft availability… In particular, maintenance personnel have been lost… [which] led to the decision to contract all phase servicing to Safe Air Ltd (SAL) in Woodbourne. SAL has not been able to return the aircraft as quickly as desired, resulting in a backlog that has yet to be cleared… the flying rate has tended to ebb and flow during the year, with hours reserved prior to exercises and operations, then flown intensively to ensure all objectives were achieved… The Bell 47G Sioux was retired from basic helicopter pilot training in December 2010. Until the A109 can pick up this role, helicopter pilot training will be conducted entirely on the UH-1H Iroquois.”

Nov 15/11: NZ-OAG Report. New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee receives testimony regarding the Office of the Auditor General’s 2011 Major Project Report. The A109 gets a clean bill of health. Of the budgeted NZ$ 771.7 million for the NH90, the RNZAF has spent NZ$ 551.3 million so far, and believes the final total will be just NZ$ 690.9 million. The need to resolve outstanding discrepancies before the provisional acceptance of the first 2 aircraft in France has delayed the program, but 90% of the function and performance specifications are now on track to be delivered.

On the other hand, the report notes that New Zealand is likely have fewer spares on hand than NH Industries recommends, could have problems operating the NH90 in the snowy conditions of New Zealand winters or southern sea patrols, and faces a 2 year delay for Defence to achieve all of its contracted capabilities. Equipment that may not be ready in time for acceptance includes the External and Internal Auxiliary Fuel Tanks, the Chaff and flare dispenser, the Cargo rolling device, Bottom life raft, Fast roping and rappelling device, Ballistic protection, and the Pintle mount for a machine gun. Which would make the NH90s training helicopters with limited range and usage, and very limited search-and-rescue capabilities.

The OAG is also concerned that “NHIndustries may freeze its development of the NH90′s software before it reaches a standard that can be accepted by Defence.” The RNZAF’s response is that it won’t accept the NH90s until they’re delivered to spec, but the UH-1 fleet’s age may yet force their hand. Overall, she says that:

“I said in my commentary in the 2010 Major Project that the projects with the least delays were those bought “off the shelf”. In my view, in addition to more focus on off-the shelf items, more consideration must be given to the risks involved in buying aircraft that are “first of type”. Aircraft with proven capabilities may be better value for money and may be more quickly introduced into service.”

Oct 31/11: A109 naval trial. The RNZAF announces that its new A109Es have begun aviation trials with HMNZS Canterbury, while that ship was moored dockside at Devonport Naval Base. That eliminates wave issues from the equation, and let them test landing and stowage in the hangar, followed by removal and flight.

May 13/11: A109 into Service. The Royal New Zealand Air Force holds a ceremony at Ohakea to introduce the A109 helicopter into service, and formally open the new helicopter hangar there.

Initial Operating Capability is slated for September 2011, with Full Operational Capability expected by May 2013. That will eventually include shipborne operations from HMNZS Canterbury, which was added to New Zealand’s requirements later on, because it was seen as so useful. RNZAF ceremony invite |

A109s into service

March 24/11: A109. Crates containing 2 Italian-built AgustaWestland A109 helicopters have been delivered to the RNZAF base at Ohakea. Work has started on assembling the first one, while the 2nd machine will be kept for spares. The remaining 4 A109s are expected to be delivered by September 2011.

New Zealand ordered its 8 NH90 medium helicopters before the A109s, but that program is running late, and will field operational helicopters after the A109s have begun service. The A109 delivery itself was originally scheduled for late 2010; even so, media reports describe the helos as the first new operational aircraft to go into service since the RNZAF started flying (now-retired) A-4 Skyhawk fighter bombers in 1970. New Zealand’s SH-2G Super Seasprite helicopters, which went into service in 2001, were also new-build machines – but they belong to the country’s navy, not its air force. Sunday Star Times.

2009 – 2010

NH-90 on deck
(click to view full)

June 14/10: NH90. News 3 quotes New Zealand Defence Minister Wayne Mapp of the National Party, who says that despite German reports citing issues with the NH90, he won’t be canceling New Zealand’s order.

May 20/10: Budget 2010 provides an extra NZ$ 35 million a year to fund increased costs for the New Zealand Defence Force. Defence Minister Wayne Mapp:

“New equipment such as the Protector fleet for the Navy and new helicopters for the Air Force means we have to fund sharply increased depreciation and operating costs. This extra money will help offset the depreciation burden. The current Value for Money exercise aims to reallocate funding within Defence to make the best use of this new equipment and allow it to be enhanced.”

April 25/10: UH-1 crash. One of New Zealand’s UH-1 Iroquois helicopters crashes on the way to ANZAC Day events near Wellington, killing 3 RNZAF personnel. Minister’s statement.

UH-1 crash

March 31/10: NH90. On the occasion of a visit to Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH, asks for Eurocopter’s response to BILD’s report, and receives a response from Eurocopter Vice President & NAHEMA Programme Coordination Manager Dr Clive Schley.

As a quick rundown, the answer to most of these is “contractual specifications.” Dr. Schley says the ground clearance is to specifications, as is the winch’s 270 kg load. Other customers have done fast-roping from the NH90, but Germany did not buy that ancillary equipment. The approved internal 110 kg seat load is not the maximum load, and first results of tests for stretcher loading procedures when a machine gun is installed in the door are “promising.” Trials of the NH90 MedEvac demonstrator are scheduled for Q2 2010.

March 1/10: NH90. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australia’s military is aware of the German report, but is making no commitments:

“A defence spokesman said Australia was seeking an English translation of the German Army trial report on its NH-90 helicopters. He said all matters of operational effectiveness and airworthiness were taken seriously and the German report would be reviewed in detail.”

Australia operates the same NH90 model helicopter as New Zealand, but designates it as MRH90.

Feb 23/10: NH90 deficiencies? The German Army is concerned over several deficiencies with the NH90 TTH helicopter as fielded, and says so in an official report. Germany’s Bild daily says the army has tried out 13 test helicopters, and concluded they were not fully battle-ready. Key complaints reportedly include:

  • Seats with weight capacities of just 110 kg, very low in an era where soldiers routinely carry 20-30 kg of protective gear;
  • Helicopter winch that can’t handle the needs of fast-roping commando teams or boarding parties;
  • No defensive machine gun and door-gunner, due to limited cabin space;
  • An infantry team can be carried only if team members leave their personal weapons and kit on the floor, slowing offloading; worse, there are no floor straps to secure those weapons;
  • The lack of floor straps means that heavier weapons like shoulder-fired missiles can’t be transported at all;
  • The composite floor is too prone to damage, and the rear ramp can’t support fully equipped soldiers. Note that the Bild report refers to a floor that can’t handle soldiers with dirty boots, which makes little sense. If the rear ramp can’t support the banging weight of fully-equipped troops, however, the floor may also have issues.
  • The Bild report refers to difficulties with soldiers exiting the helicopter on ground with obstacles over 16 cm tall, due to low ground clearance, which makes little sense on its face. If there’s a problem with low clearance and damage-prone composites, however, it could create problems landing the helicopters on obstacle-strewn ground. That might in turn force slower methods of exit, like hover-and-rope, but the connection isn’t intuitive.

See Bild [in German] | Defense News | UPI.

MRH90 w. 105mm Hamel
(click to view full)

November 2009: NH90. Australia conducts naval trials of its MRH-90s, which are closely derived from the NH90-TTH Army variant. New Zealand watches with interest. The month long testing regime on board the LST amphibious ship HMAS Manoora gauged the MRH90′s capabilities at sea through takeoffs, landings, munitions transfers and weight load carries.

This month, the Army also conducts “lift trials” for various vehicles and loads with the MRH90′s external sling system. The results of both tests will be of considerable interest in New Zealand. Australian DoD LST release and image gallery | Lift Trials release & gallery.

July 28/09: A109 trainer. In preparation for the arrival of the A109 training and light utility helicopters and simulator late in 2010, the A109 Virtual Interactive Procedural Trainer (VIPT) has been installed at RNZAF Base Ohakea. RNZAF.

May 9/09: NH90 1st flight. First flight of the 1st NZAF NH90 at Eurocopter in Marignane, France. A revised schedule has been agreed to, following some delay in overall NH90 qualification and certification, since the NZ variant relies upon those efforts for its own qualification and certification. Training of aircrew and maintainers is scheduled to begin in France from mid-2010, with the first helicopter available for flight training in December 2010. All 9 helicopters are scheduled for delivery by early 2012.

It didn’t turn out that way. Source.

2006 – 2008

A109 Malaysia
(click to view full)

June 25/08: NZ-OAG Report. New Zealand’s auditor General releases “Reporting the progress of defence acquisition projects“. With respect to the NH90:

“The cost approved at the Approval to Commit point ($771.7 million) was $221.7 million more than the upper limit of the estimated range at the Approval to Commence point ($550 million). Between the approval points, the date of introduction into service increased by 42 months… Since the Approval to Commit point, there have been no further changes to costs or time frames. Overall, the changes for the Medium Utility Helicopter project came from the difference between initial estimates and the more accurate costs from the tender process. The lengthy tender process also delayed the project.”

May 8/08: A109 deal. New Zealand signs a contract with AgustaWestland for 5 new operational A109 training & light utility helicopters, one helicopter set as spares, and a simulator. AgustaWestland describes the order as being worth EUR 57 million – or NZ$ 112 million at the time.

In April 2008, the Government approved a project budget of NZ$ 139.26 million, excluding GST tax. That may include some work in New Zealand outside of the firm’s contract. RNZAF | AgustaWestland.

5 A109s

Oct 30/07: A109 picked. The A109 is picked to replace the B47G Sioux training helicopter.

The A019E/LUH currently serves with the armed forces of Malaysia, South Africa, and Sweden, the US Coast Guard, and with a number of national police and border agencies around the world. The broader A109 family also serves in Albania, Argentina, Australia (Navy), Belgium (A109BA, associated with a major bribery scandal), Benin, China (licensed CA109), Chile (Carabineros), Ghana, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden, UK, and Venezuela. The A109′s Swedish configuration is the one that had attracted New Zealand’s interest.

Later NZ-OAG documents show similar capital costs, but higher operating costs for the A109 compared to the Eurocopter of MD Helicopters models. The NZDF went back to Cabinet and got approval for its preferred choice, on the grounds that its choice offered the best capability, along with deployability via the RNZAF’s C-130s.

Sept 4/06: T/LUH RFP. The NZ Ministry of Defence is authorized to issue a Request for Tender for a Training & Light Utility Helicopter fleet of up to 6 helicopters. According to the NZ-OAG, Responses to the 2005 Expression of Interest had included:

  • AgustaWestland – A109E Power
  • Bell Helicopter Textron – Bell 407
  • EADS Eurocopter – AS350-B3 Ecureuil or EC135 R2T2.
  • MD Helicopters & Boeing – MD Explorer 902, with NOTAR (NO Tail Rotor)


July 31/06: NH90 deal. NZ Defence Minister Phil Goff signs a NZ$ 771 million (about $475 million) contract with NH Industries for 8 NH90-TTH helicopters to replace the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s fleet of aging UH-1 Iroquois (“Hueys”). NH Industries’ release corrects the total to 9 helicopters, in order to ensure 8 operational machines. In the official RNZAF release, Mr Goff said:

“Compared to the Iroquois, the NH90 can carry 19 rather than 8 passengers or 12 fully equipped troops as opposed to 5. At 260 kilometres an hour cruise speed, it is more than a third faster. Its maximum range is 800 kilometres rather than 180. It can lift up to 4,000 kilograms rather than 820…

For deployments and disaster relief in the Pacific, with long range tanks the NH-90s can self-deploy. They are capable of lifting Light Operational Vehicles off the multi-role vessel in situations where there are no port facilities and landing craft cannot be used… operate for extended periods and with large loads in all weathers, day and night, with significant flexibility. For search and rescue, they have much greater reach and are better able to recover people in extreme environmental conditions.”

The first NH90 is expected to arrive in New Zealand in 2010, with all NH90s delivered by 2013. New Zealand government | ASD News.

9 NH90-TTHs

2005 and Earlier

RNZAF NH90 concept
(click to view larger)

April 5/05: NH90 picked. New Zealand officially selects the NH90 as its next troop transport helicopter, replacing the current UH-1H Iroquois (aka. Hueys). No contract has been signed yet, and final number are not confirmed. New Zealand becomes the 12th country to have chosen the NH90.

The NZ OAG would later explain that all 5 alternatives to the NH90 failed to meet requirements. Issues for the AB139, Dhruv, Ka-29, and UH-1Y included payload, stowed aircraft limits, and stretcher limits. The S-70M was considered to meet operational requirements, but was still a developmental prototype, hence not in production. That left only the NH90. NZ government (via Wayback Machine) | NHI release | EADS release | The Manawatu Standard’s Flying By The Wire (via Wayback Machine) | eDefense Online (via Wayback Machine).

Oct 13/04: MUH RFP. Cabinet authorizes the NZ Ministry of Defence to conduct a due diligence process, followed by the release of tender documentation to 3 short listed suppliers. Replies to the original 2004 Expression of Interest had included:

  • Bell Agusta – AB139, now AgustaWestland AW139, after this US partnership dissolved
  • Bell Helicopter Textron – UH-1Y Venom, Huey successor
  • India’s HAL – ALH Dhruv
  • Russia’s Kamov – Ka-29
  • NH Industries – NH90 TTH
  • Sikorsky – S-70M/ UH-60M

Source: NZ OAG.


Dec 3/03: The New Zealand Cabinet agrees to a replacement helicopter capability, with a fleet mix of training and light utility helicopters and medium utility helicopters. Source: NZ OAG.

April 2/01: Project initiation. The NZDF’s Sustainable Capability Plan had recommended a study to identify options for upgrading or replacing the UH-1s, and Cabinet gives its approval. Source: NZ OAG.

Additional Readings

Note that the New Zealand Ministry of Defence is also known as the Wanatu Kaupapa Waonga, which might be the world’s coolest name for a defense ministry. Their MoD Haka probably takes first place as well.

Program & Helicopters

Official Reports

Categories: News

Iraq Requests Missiles, Aviation Support from US

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 16:09

Veteran Care

  • US Marines and Navy veteran Montel Williams made another passionate speech about the lack of care provided by the US government to its veterans at an event [live video feed] held by Defense One today. The Veterans Affairs backlog and the government’s apathy to aggressively clear it deserve such anger.


  • Airbus’ Q2 2014 sales grew by 7% to €14.6B ($19.5B) thanks to double digit growth in the commercial sector while Defence and Space lost 4% to €2.8B ($3.7B).

  • Germany’s Left Party wants to ban [Deutche Welle] armament exports, but some of their local politicians welcome the associated jobs.

  • The US and the UK renewed [The Guardian] their Mutual Defence Agreement under which nuclear technology transfers are regimented. For background context see this post from BASIC, a British-American think tank.


  • Australia’s Department of Defence released a paper [PDF] listing the key issues for consideration in next year’s White Paper. The justification for a new whitepaper just 2 years after the one released by the previous government seems a bit thin. What’s so special about spending 2% of GDP on defense (as opposed to any other arbitrary number) and isn’t that the budget driving the strategy?

  • It’s not the first time China is sending a surveillance ship to listen in on the RIMPAC exercise, but it’s the first time they brazenly do so while being an official participant, as Andrew Erickson notes in National Interest. USPACOM Commander Admiral Locklear saw a glass half-full there, since it shows China doing what it objects to the US doing in international waters off Chinese shores.

  • Today’s video features two Stratfor analysts discussing the current anti-corruption purge in China that is deeper, longer and broader than previous such efforts in past decades:

Categories: News

GAO Frets About Tax Liability of Security Clearance Holders

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 16:41

  • The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report stating that about 83,000 DOD employees and contractors who held or were eligible for security clearances (out of a total of about 5.1 million) had unpaid federal tax debt totaling more than $730M as of June 30, 2012. Though not technically illegal, that is an obvious vulnerability.

  • The US Marines want samples from contractors bidding for its Diver Reconnaissance Vehicle (DRV) program, and while their initial intent was not to pay for these bid samples, they seem inclined to revisit their position, meaning they’d buy and keep the samples. Here’s the industry day slide deck [PPTX].

  • Strategy+Business explains how to tell whether an industry is about to be hit by “dematurity”, which aside from being an ugly neologism afflicts disruption by a thousand cuts to unsuspecting firms.

  • According to security firm Cyber Engineering Services Inc. (CyberESI), hackers presumably from China hacked into the networks of several Israeli defense firms in 2011-12. Krebs on Security.


  • The US is accusing Russia [NYT] of having violated an arms control agreement by testing a ground-launched cruise missile.

  • With new sanctions looming [RealClearPolitics], Russian president Vladimir Putin held a meeting to urge the defense ministry to develop local alternatives to any imported armament.


  • In line with its pro-business posture, India’s new government announced [Deccan Herald] it will sell 10% shares in Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL – currently 100% state-owned) and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL) and 5% in Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL).


  • Cameroon’s Security Forces rescued [Premium Times] the wife of the country’s deputy prime minister who had been abducted by Boko Haram 2 days ago, in an attack [Deutche Welle] where at least 10 people were killed.


  • The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report [PDF] finding that the Pentagon’s Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD) is far from deserving its bombastic acronym, with a high number of duplicate or incomplete data points. Two years ago the DoD’s inspector general had similarly found [PDF] that tracking of night vision devices was lacking. Note that many headlines in the media are suggesting alarmist conclusions that are completely unsupported by the report. SIGAR has found few actual missing weapons in physical inventory checks, what they are denouncing is a lack of proper book keeping.

  • Today’s video, from Lockheed Martin, provides a recap of the K-Max rotorcraft UAV deployment in Afghanistan. A real accomplishment, but with its relatively small payload it’s unclear how this could be used outside of theaters where you want to avoid road mines but have air supremacy.

Categories: News

NH90: Europe’s Medium Helicopter Contender

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 16:00
(click to view full)

The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NHIndustries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.

The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60 Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.

As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at 474 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.

The NH90 Platform(s) NH90 NFH
(click to view full)

NH Industries’ design makes extensive use of composite materials instead of riveted metal alloy plates, which makes the helicopter lighter and sharply reduces routine maintenance and corrosion issues. On the other hand, it also creates potential issues with damage repair in the field, and with durability. Germany in particular has complained that the composite body is essentially too flimsy for normal infantry use, or the carriage of heavy items. Time will tell if these issues can be fixed.

Electronic fly-by-wire systems also contribute to the lift capacity, by saving the weight of heavy power-boosted hydraulic control systems. This allows the NH90 to remain within the 10-tonne weight class, while carrying about 50% more troops or stretchers than its American UH-60 counterpart. A pair of Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 engines delivering 2,412 – 2,544 shp, GE T700-T6Es delivering 2,269 – 2,380 shp, or GE CT7-8F5s delivering up to 2,520 shp at sea level, power the aircraft. At present, RTM322-powered NH90s have been sold to Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Oman, Portugal and Sweden. Spain and Italy will use GE’s engines instead.

Removal of the C-130 air-portability requirement that constrained the H-60 family’s height let NH Industries expand the NH90′s cargo area size. Features like dual-side exits and an optional rear ramp let the 10-tonne helicopter carry light vehicles or small boats internally, drop search-and-rescue swimmers out back, load MEDEVAC stretchers, etc.

Built for what NH Industrie calls “extreme adverse weather” operations, the NH90 can start up and fly, land, and shut down in winds gusting up to around 110 km/h without losing rotor control, flying day and night in heavy icing conditions down to temperatures of -30 C/ -22 F. Normal maximum range is approximately 200 nautical miles/ 370 km, or up to 300 nm/ 555 km using internal and/or external auxiliary tanks.

NH90 cockpit
(click to view full)

Advanced avionics and other standard features round out the offering, with frequent local customization in the electronics area. Thales’ TopOwl helmet-mounted display is the model’s preferred choice in that important category, and accompanying surveillance and/or targeting turrets are standard features. An EADS Defence Electronics/Thales partnership will deliver an Electronic Warfare Suite comprising a missile approach warning system, laser warning receiver, radar warner, central processing unit, and chaff/flare dispenser. This EWS has been selected by Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, and Portugal, at minimum.

The NH90 is produced in 2 main variants: Tactical Transport Helicopter for troops (NH90 TTH), and the NATO Frigate Helicopter for naval utility and anti-submarine (NH90 NFH). The TTH variant can carry 12-20 troops (depending on equipment level), and normal load is up to 2.5 tonnes/ 5,500 pounds inside.

Equipment can be added to create the NH90 Special Operations configuration (NH90 SOF, generally based on NH90 TTH), and an optional High Cabin Version (HCV) option is available for any variant raises the cabin height from 1.58m to 1.82m, increasing cabin volume from 15 to 17.5 cubic meters. The high cabin is especially helpful for long search and rescue operations, or MEDEVAC flights where medical personnel need to be able to stand up and move freely.

Special NH90 MEDEVAC and CSAR (combat search and rescue) fit-outs are also available. The NH90 FAME MEDEVAC variant adds 2 intensive care bays for treating wounded personnel, on-board equipment, and seats for the medical team. Options for the CSAR kit include up to 3 machine guns (each side door and the tail ramp), extra ballistic protection, a rappel system, a double rescue hoist, an emergency flotation system, sand filters, an obstacle warning system, and improved self-protection electronics.

The NH90 NFH naval variant can be used as a utility helicopter like the TTH, or as an anti-submarine helicopter, depending on how they’re built. ASW helicopters will add a naval radar, a dipping sonar and sonobuoys, plus up to 2 missiles or torpedoes on side pylons.

The first NH90 series production helicopter made its maiden flight in May 2004, but the first acceptance by a customer didn’t take place until 3 NH90 TTH were accepted by Germany on Dec 13/06. Even so, Germany does not expect full operational capability until 2012, and other countries that ordered early are faced with even longer waits. Customer acceptances for the NH90 NFH naval variant were expected to begin in the second half of 2009, but actually began in mid-2010, and fully mission-ready NFH variants aren’t expected until 2012 or later.

UH-60, Iraq
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The NH90′s nearest comparable serving helicopter is probably the American H-60 Black Hawk/ Seahawk family, a 10-tonne helicopter flying since 1979 that remains America’s current and future mainstay helicopter for its Army (UH-60M) and Navy (MH-60 R/S). Within its 10 tonnes of maximum takeoff weight, the Black Hawk normally carries 11 equipped troops to a normal maximum range of around 550 km/ 330 miles. Unlike the NH90, the H-60 family has no rear ramp, which means it must fly with vehicles attached underneath via a hook and sling system that sharply cuts the helicopter’s range, maneuverability, and maximum speed.

While the H-60 family remains popular, Sikorsky has felt the pressure of the implicit comparisons. Their new UH-60 derived H-92 Superhawk, a heavier aircraft that makes heavy use of composite materials, features a rear ramp, and has a higher cargo capacity than the smaller H-60 series. It has been selected by Canada’s Navy (28 helicopters), and is in use a civilian and VIP transport helicopter.

The NH90 Production Program Base workshare
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The NH90′s NAHEMO international program organization consists of 6 countries: France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal (2001), Belgium (2007). Others may be customers, but are not full program partners.

NAHEMA (NATO Helicopter Management Agency) represents the customer. It is responsible for program monitoring and the qualification of the weapon systems. It also acts as the single contact with the prime contractor for the negotiation, attribution and execution of the primary contracts.

NHIndustries is the Eurocopter/ AgustaWestland/ Stork Fokker joint venture. It acts as the prime contractor, responsible for the design, development, industrialization and production of the NH90, including program management, order sub-contracting, marketing, sales, and support for helicopters in service worldwide. It is also the owner of the helicopter’s type certification. The NH90′s 3 main assembly lines, and their general work share items, are:

Eurocopter France in Marignane, France: Powerplant & section, rotors, electrical systems, flight controls, central avionics.

Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH in Donauworth, Germany: Central sections, fuel, communications, avionics control. Lead for TTH tactical transport, and makes nose sections until Spain’s plant reaches full production.

AgustaWestland in Cascina Costa, Italy: Tail cone and drive shaft, main gearbox, automatic flight control, hydraulics, electric system, rear ramp, rear fuselage, installation monitoring systems. They are alternates for engine installation, and the lead for NFH mission packages & installation and the construction and flight testing of the naval prototype. AgustaWestland has final assembly line responsibility for all TTH and NFH helicopters to be procured by the Italian Army and Navy, and for the Dutch and Norwegian NH90 NFH helicopters as well, for a grand total of 150 helicopters so far.

NH90 manufacture
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The Nordic countries ordered 52 NH90 helicopters with an option for 17, and Patria Oyj runs the final assembly line in Halli, Jamsa, Finland as a subcontractor to Eurocopter S.A.S. in Marignane. The Finnish assembly line is the 4th operational assembling line for the NH90, handling final assembly for all Finnish and Swedish NH90s. Per subsequent agreements, there are also assembly lines in progress or underway in Albacete, Spain (Eurocopter Espana, will manufacture nose sections for all NH90s) and Brisbane, Australia (Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace).

Stork Fokker in the Netherlands isn’t a main assembly line, but this founding partner is responsible for the tail boom, doors, flotation boxes, landing gear, and intermediate tail gearbox.

At present, NH Industries’ orders total 508, with around 40 live options available as possible future orders. The breakdown is:

Over the past year, Portugal has canceled its buy of 10 helicopters, and Germany has cut its orders by 40 machines. Spain is has decided to reduce its contract by half, to 22 helicopters. Greece’s contract for 20 is in question, too, with just 4 helicopters delivered nearly 9 years after the order was placed.

A timeline of NH90 customers and their key decisions follows:

Contracts & Key Events 2014

Qatar orders 22; Competition in India; Dutch have a problem with NH90-NFH corrosion. NH90: TTH & NFH

July 28/14: India. 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 finalists are reportedly Sikorsky’s S-70/ MH-60R, and the NH90 NFH which is led by Finmeccanica. Meanwhile, India’s Navy can only provision 20% of its capable ships with helicopters, and its anti-submarine capabilities are crumbling. For a full account, read “India Needs New Maritime/ASW Helicopters“.

June 27/14: Corrosion. The Dutch will suspend NH90 deliveries until corrosion problems are solved, after the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory found 92 corrosion issues in their NH90-NFH helicopters. That’s a somewhat surprising problem, given that the NH90′s composite construction was supposed to minimize corrosion. The problem is apparently due to combination of combining materials without isolating them, the wrong choice of materials in some cases, and other design and assembly faults. France is reported to be having similar problems, albeit on a smaller scale.

The Dutch Ministry of Defense says that they informed NHIndustries in March 2013 through the program managers at NAHEMO (NATO Helicopter Management Agency), and adds that NHI’s engineering task force has found technical solutions for around 60% of the problems. The rest are expected to be solved by September 2014, which will need to be followed by a refit and remediation program. Unsurprisingly, they want NHI to pay for that, and that remains an unsettled contract issue. Meanwhile, they’re working on a corrosion prevention program with NHI that will add some overhead, and the problem is expected to delay the overall delivery schedule by about 6 months. Sources: Dutch MvD, Full brief [PDF] and “Minister van Defensie schort afname Nederlandse NH90-helikopters op” | Aviation Week, “Corrosion Delays Dutch NH90 Acquisition”.

NFH corrosion issue

March 27/14: Qatar. The Gulf Emirate orders 22 NH90s, at a reported purchase price of around QAR 8.9 billion (about $2.446 billion). The order is for 12 NH90-TTH utility helicopters, and 10 NH90-NFH naval helicopters. It’s just one part of a $23 billion weapon shopping spree announced at DIMDEX 2014 in Doha, Qatar.

The helicopters will replace Qatar’s 12-13 old Westland Commando (Sea King) maritime utility and patrol helicopters, and at least some of its Lynx and/or Puma family helicopters. With this buy, Qatar joins their near neighbor Oman as an NH90 customer. No word yet re: their delivery schedule.

Other Qatari buys at DIMDEX included 24 attack helicopters, air defense and anti-tank missiles, fast attack boats, 2 A330 aerial refueling planes, and 3 E-737 AWACS aircraft. Sources: Al Defaiya, “Qatar Announces Big Defense Deals at DIMDEX 2014″ | Arabian Aerospace, “Qatar in $23bn arms order including Apache and NH90 helicopters” | Reuters, “Qatar buys helicopters, missiles in $23 billion arms deals”.

Qatar: 22 mixed


France orders 34 TTH; Germany cuts its contract by 40, but will fly NH90-NFH too; Spain wants to cut from 45 – 22; NH90 loses SAR Australia settles contract issues; Dutch are 1st NH90-NFH foreign deployment. German NH90 & Tiger
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Nov 29/13: Dutch. The Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) has taken delivery of the Final Operative Configuration for their NH90 NFH Mission Planning & Analysis System (MPAS), following operational feedback from more than a year of RNLN service experience. The initial version, based on AgustaWestland’s multi-helicopter SkyFlight system, was released into service in 2011. Sources: Shephard Rotorhub, “RNLN takes delivery of NH90 NFH MPAS”.

Nov 8/13: Italy. The Navy’s 5th Helicopter Sqn at Sarzana-Luni NB receives its 6th helicopter, and its 1st fully operational “Step B” NH90-NFH. The new configuration adds mission systems integration for Marte MK/2S anti-ship missiles and torpedoes, advanced satellite and encrypted communications, and radar and avionics enhancements. Italy’s first 5 NH90-NFHs will be retrofitted to this status in 2014. Sources: NH Industries, “Delivery Of The First NH90 Step B To Italian Navy”.

Aug 1/13: Belgium. Eurocopter delivers Belgium’s 1st NH90 NFH, which is also is the first one built at Eurocopter’s Donauworth, Germany facility. Its configuration is identical to the Dutch NH90-NFH, and the helicopter was delivered at the Full Operational Capability rating. Belgium becomes the sub-type’s 5th customer, after France, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway.

Training of Belgian Navy flight and maintenance crews will begin next month, and operational capability will begin in 2014 using 2 of the 4 contracted helicopters. The NH90s are replacing Belgium’s H-3 Sea Kings. EADS.

July 26/13: Spain. The Spanish government approves an extra EUR 877.33 million (about $1.165 billion) in their 2013 budget, in order to finance payments that have come due on several major weapons programs. At the same time, in order to finance investments in their troubled S-80 submarine program, and purchases of their Pizarro (ASCOD) tracked IFVs, they will look to cut other programs.

The NH90 will see the sharpest cuts, as Spain looks for a way to reduce their planned buy of 45 NH90-TTH to just 22. That has been rumored for a little while, but the decision is now confirmed. The next step will involve negotiations with NH Industries around issues like cancellation fees, potential resale, etc.

The A400M aerial transport contract doesn’t allow Spain to cancel deliveries, but the government has officially decided to take delivery of the last 13 planes in “austere” condition, with few to no options, and then sell them on the second-hand market. They also intend to sell 6 of their 24 Tiger HAD/HAD-E attack helicopters, and reduce the number of serving Leopard 2A6E tanks from 190 – 116. Sources: Defense-Aerospace | Publico [in Spanish].

Spain wants to halve their order

July 9/13: Norway loss. Norway’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security announces the finalists for their NAWSARH search and rescue helicopter competition. The program had started with the NH90-NFH as the assumed platform, with 10 options built into Norway’s initial NH90 contract, but now the NH90 is out. Sikorsky, who forced the buy into a competition, is also out.

Further negotiations will now take place with AgustaWestland (AW101) and Eurocopter (EC725). Norway aims to sign a contract by the end of 2013, and aims to phase out the last H-3 Sea King by 2020. For full coverage, see “AW101 Flies off With Norway’s SAR Helicopter Competition“.

Norway loss

June 23/13: German FAME. The German army declares its NH90 FAME MEDEVAC helicopters “operationally capable.” The Germans have 4 helicopters in Afghanistan at Mazar-e-Sharif, and Aviation Week reports that a MEDEVAC mission will use both operational helicopters in a pickup-escort arrangement, while the other 2 are held back as “technical reserve”. The German contingent’s 4 EC665 Tiger Asgard-T attack helicopters are also available as escorts, if needed. Aviation Week.

June 18/13: Industrial. Aviation Week reports that NH90 partners have been delivering around 30 per year year, but are looking to continue ramping up production to 40-50 in 2013, and 60 per year beyond that. The problem is budget crunches among participating governments, which are likely to create renegotiated and extended delivery schedules. Even at 60 per year, existing orders would keep the consortium busy for another 6 years just clearing the backlog.

Portugal continues to negotiate the cancellation of its 10-helicopter order, and Spain is reportedly looking to cut its 45-helicopter order in half, to 22. Eurocopter EVP Dominique Maudet is more optimistic about Norway, which is reportedly satisfied with its initial models and will make its SAR helicopter decision in 2014. India and Qatar have also reportedly expressed interest. Aviation Week.

May 29/13: France. La Tribune reports that France has ordered their final tranche of 34 NH90 TTH Army helicopter options from Eurocopter, in a contract that was said to approach EUR 1 billion. Defense-Aerospace points out that the order had been described as “imminent” back in January 2012. La Tribune [in French] | Defense-Aerospace | Lloyd’s.

France: 34 TTH

June 6/13: Belgium. A delay in the delivery of Belgium’s 4 NH90-NFH helicopters means that they can’t retire their fleet of aged H-3 Sea Kings on-schedule. Which means more money, and availability problems. Add Belgium to the list of unhappy customers, especially since they placed their order 6 years ago, in 2007 (q.v. June 19/07). Shephard Rotorhub.

May 9/13: Australia. Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) signs a Deed of undertaking with Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace and their industry partners to re-baseline the “MRH90″ army helicopter project’s schedule, settle a number of disputed program issues, and change some contract terms. The biggest change is free delivery of a 47th helicopter for maintenance training at the Army’s Aviation Maintenance school at Oakey, Queensland.

The MRH90 program is 3 years behind, and currently sits on the government’s notorious “Projects of Concern” list. Australian Aerospace agreed on a number of technical fixes back in 2012, and this contract aims to settle the remaining issues and get the MRH90 removed from the Projects of Concern list by the end of 2013. Meanwhile, the MRH90′s problems appear to have cost the NH90 a role as Australia’s future naval helicopter, which was awarded to Sikorsky’s MH-60R Seahawk instead (vid. June 16/11 entry). Australia DoD | Australian Aerospace | Projects of Concern.

Australia MRH90 settlement & changes

May 2/13: Italy. The Italian Army gets its 21st of 60 NH90-TTH machines, but it’s the 1st in Full Operational Configuration. Meanwhile, the Italian Army has now flown 5 Initial Operational Configuration NH90s in Afghanistan’s demanding conditions for 470 combat flight hours.

Note that Italy’s order total in DID’s table shows 70 NH90 TTH helicopters, because the Italian Navy ordered 10 of its own. NH Industries.

April 8/13: Belgium. NH Industries announces the first flight of Belgium’s NH90-NFH, part of Belgium’s 8-helicopter, evenly split order. It’s being delivered:

“…in its full operational capability standard, already known as the “Step B.” This aircraft is very close to the Dutch NH90 NFH Step B currently operationally deployed with the Royal Netherland’s [sic] Navy.”

March 15/13: German cuts. Germany and Eurocopter sign an agreement that substantially cuts its NH90-TTH and Tiger UHT buys, while adjusting their mix of helicopters and ending any hope of a naval helicopter competition.

Under the agreement, Germany’s total buy of NH90s shrinks from 122 to 82, and its purchase of Army & Air Force helicopters shrinks even further. As part of the agreement, Germany will buy 18 NH90-NFH naval helicopters, down from its original requirement of 30. This removes any potential competition for that order, and marks a reduction of 58 NH90-TTH helicopters (47.5%) for the Army and Air Force.

At the same time, Germany is cutting its order for EC665 Tiger UHT scout/attack helicopters from 80 to 57 – a cut that will require them to return 11 helicopters to Eurocopter for resale. Financial savings have not been disclosed yet. German Ministry of Defence [in German].

Germany cuts its order

Jan 21/13: Netherlands. A Dutch NH90 NFH becomes the 1st of its type to deploy abroad, embarked aboard HRMS De Ruyter for anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden. Rotorhub.

1st NFH deployment


Portugal cancels its 10 NH90s; 1st NH90 combat deployment; Norway threatens cancellation; 100th NH90 delivered – took a while. FS Aquitaine & Caiman
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Nov 28/12: Norway. NHIndustries delivers Norway’s 2nd NH90 NFH at AgustaWestland’s Tessera, Italy facility, where it was assembled. The Norwegians have been getting antsy (vid. Aug 2/12 entry), so every little bit helps. Note that delivery is not the same as “ready for operations.” NH Industries.

Sept 18/12: Belgium. Belgium’s 1st of 4 NH90 TTH helicopters begins flight testing from Eurocopter’s facility in Marignane, France. NH Industries adds that:

“The Belgian NH90 TTH is a Full Operational Capability standard helicopter. This aircraft is very close to the french [sic] NH90 Caiman TTH for which deliveries started in the end of 2011 in Full Operational Capability Standard. This commonality brings to the Belgian customer all the return of experience collected during the development of the French NH90 TTH.”

The same may not be true of Belgium’s 4 NH90 NFH naval helicopters, as that variant isn’t finished development yet. The helicopters were ordered in July 2007. NH Industries.

Aug 31/12: Deployed. Italy deploys the 1st NH90 helicopters abroad.

The 5 helicopters were airlifted into Afghanistan aboard C-17s (either NATO SAC or USAF), and the plan is to have 6 NH90s in Herat for 6 months. They will serve alongside heavier Italian CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, and A129 Mongoose attack helicopters, to help Italy cover ISAF’s large northwestern sector near Iran. NH Industries and follow-on.

1st deployment abroad

Aug 2/12: Norway out? Flight International reports that Norway, which ordered 8 NH90-NFH utility helicopters in 2001 and has received just 1 so far (vid. Nov 30/11 entry), is threatening to cancel its order and buy a different helicopter.

“Speaking last month on a tour with the coastguard in northern Norway, secretary of state for defence Roger Ingebrigtsen said: “NH90 is greatly delayed and I am very concerned about this situation. We therefore have to consider what the options are to ensure the coastguard has the helicopter capacity we depend on.”

The defence ministry adds: “If the manufacturer doesn’t manage to deliver the helicopters [to deadline] we are considering cancelling the contract… There are several helicopters on the market that are combat-proven and in use by other nations,”

If Norway canceled its entire order, it would also be canceling its 6 NH90-NFH anti-submarine helicopters. There are alternatives. Sikorsky’s comparable S-92 is already in use by other Coast Guards, and their smaller MH-60R is a proven anti-submarine helicopter. AgustaWestland’s larger AW101 has Coast Guard credentials, and its naval helicopter variant is in service with Britain and Italy. A few days later, an article in AftenPosten [in Norwegian] states that an Air Force report recommends asking a quote from Sikorsky for MH-60Rs, as a plan B in case NH Industries continues to fail. Back in 2007 their neighbor Finland settled its differences with the manufacturer for a relatively modest penalty, but that was a short delay on a smaller order.

July 3/12: Portugal out. Jane’s reports that Portugal has chosen to cancel its Puma replacement effort, and suspend its participation in the NH90 program. This means the country will abandon the monies paid to date, as well as all 10 helicopters they were to have received. Savings are estimated at EUR 420 million (about $530 million).

Portugal is also said to be renegotiating other contracts, such as its 2005 order with General Dynamics for 260 Pandur II 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carriers.

Portugal quits

June 29/12: Oman. NH Industries delivers another 2 NH90-TTH to Oman, bringing their total deliveries to 10 of 20 ordered. The contract was signed on July 24/04.

May 27/12: Flight International reports that the NH90′s orders from Greece, Portugal, and Spain are all in peril of cancellation or reduction.

To date, Greece is the only one of the 3 that has received any helicopters, despite orders that began in 2001. Only 1 of Greece’s 4 delivered NH90s is even in the process of conversion to the full operational version, out of a 2003 order for up to 34 (16 TTH, 4 Special Ops variants, 14 options). Portugal has yet to accept any of its 10 TTH machines ordered in 2001, while Spain is reportedly looking to cut up to 8 helicopters from its 2006 order for 45.

March 8/12: Writedown. EADS reports its 2011 financial results, and Eurocopter results were generally good. The firm finished its 100th NH90 in 2011, but:

“A net charge of around [EUR] 115 million was booked in 2011. This mainly relates to governmental programmes [i.e. NH90 and Tiger] as well as to SHAPE [the firm's restructuring plan]. The 2010 figure included a net charge of [EUR] 120 million.”

Aviation Week adds that:

“Departing EADS CFO Hans-Peter Ring says he “cannot guarantee” that there won’t be further charges . He blames the NH90 problems on the companies’ willingness to allow too much customization, with almost every buyer having a near-bespoke configuration.”

March 8/12: France. DCNS, the French Navy, and the French DGA procurement agency successfully complete a series of deck landing trials with the new NH90 NFH (“Caiman Marine”), on board the new FREMM frigate FS Aquitaine. DCNS.

Jan 30/12: France. An official unveiling ceremony is held for the 1st French Army NH90 TTH, which will also be referred to as “Caiman” in French service, alongside the NH90 NFH utility variant. The helicopter will go to GAMSTAT in Valencia to begin its technical and operational testing. French DGA [in French].

Jan 3/12: #100. NH Industries announces delivery of the 100th NH90 variant, about 11.5 years after the initial base contract was signed.


Germany will upgrade 12 NH90s for MEDEVAC; Final Operational Configuration for NH90-TTH; French NH90 naval helicopters enter service; Problems in Australia force a diagnostic review of the program; Australia buys MH-60R naval helicopters, instead of more NH90s; Sweden buys UH-60Ms for MEDEVAC, instead of more NH90s. Australian MRH-90
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Dec 8/11: France’s “Caiman”. French NH90 NFHs operational. A ceremony marks the official entry of France’s NH90 NFH “Caiman” naval helicopters into service with Flotille 33F. So far, 5 helicopters have been delivered in utility configuration, of the 27 total. The name “Caiman” was chosen in conjunction with the French Army, who has ordered 34 NH90 TTH helicopters of its own.

The Marine Nationale’s eventual mix will be 13 utility models with a rear ramp, and 14 full anti-submarine models without the rear ramp. They’ll be based at BAN (NAS) Hyeres on the French Riviera and BAN Lanveoc in Brittany, plus 1 detached to Cherbourg in Normandy. From there, they’ll deploy aboard France’s high-end frigates: the 2 Horizon Class air defense ships, and its forthcoming Aquitaine Class FRMM multi-role ships. They may also deploy to France’s amphibious ships like the Mistral Class, but the number of NH90 NFH helicopters ordered will make that an occasional posting. Besides a door gunner, their initial armament will be MU90 Eurotorp lightweight torpedoes, with light anti-ship missiles to follow around 2021. Navy Recognition.

French “Caimans” operational

Nov 30/11: Norway. Norway holds a delivery ceremony at AgustaWestland in Verigate, Italy, for their 1st NH90 NFH naval helicopter. Their 14 NH90s will replace the Coast Guard’s AgustaWestland’s Lynx helicopters (8 NH90s), and serve as the new Nansen Class AEGIS frigates’ ASW helicopters (6 NH90s). They will be based at Bardufoss Air Station. AgustaWestland.

Nov 8/11: Germany. Reuters reports that Eurocopter and HN Industries are looking to compensate for Germany’s NH90 TTH cut by pushing the country to buy the naval NH90-NFH, to replace 21 H-3 Sea King and 22 AgustaWestland Sea Lynx helicopters. Reuters adds that the German Navy hasn’t been impressed with the NH90-NFH so far, and has concerns about its upgradeability.

Even if that’s true, Eurocopter has a card to play. Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling said that talks over the proposed contract changes would begin in mid-December 2011, with the goal of an agreement in principle by March 2012. The implication is that Eurocopter would forego some or all cancellation fees on existing EC665 Tiger UHT and NH90-TTH contracts, if Germany agreed to buy the NH90-NFH instead of competitors like Sikorsky’s MH-92/CH-148 or MH-60R/S; or AgustaWestland’s EH101 or AW159 Wildcat.

Another possibility involves agreement to fund development of a joint FTH heavy-lift helicopter with France and/or the USA, in which Eurocopter would likely partner with Boeing or Sikorsky.

Nov 8/11: NH90-TTH final configuration. NAHEMA issues the NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopter’s Final Operational Configuration certification, stating that it fully meets customer specifications. With this go-ahead, the French Army will receive their initial FOC NH90 TTH before 2011 ends, and deliveries to Italy, Belgium and Germany will begin in 2012.

The announcement also implies the start of retrofit programs, among customers who have already received early model NH90 TTHs for training use. NH Industries | EADS.

NH90 TTH FOC cert

Oct 21/11: German cuts? As German austerity measures cut further into an already weak defense budget, the government announces changes to its NH90 TTH plans. They’ll be cutting 42 NH90s from the 112 helicopter procurement plan, capping the total buy at 80. The final split between the Army and Air Force, who were going to fly slightly different versions of the TTH model, remains unclear. Also unclear: potential termination costs under the contract with NH Industries.

Eurocopter will actually be taking 2 hits. One from its share of NH90 work, another from Germany halving its buy of Tiger HAC/UHT scout/attack helicopters, to just 40. Aviation Week.

Aug 31/11: Finland. Patria announces an agreement with the Finnish Defence Forces, to design and manufacture NH90 ballistic protection plates that will protect both pilots and transported personnel. The project will be implemented during 2012-2014. Patria Oy | Rotorhub.

June 23/11: Italy. The Italian Navy formally takes delivery of its first NH90-NFH naval helicopter. they’re the 2nd NFH customer to take delivery, after the Dutch (vid. April 21/10 entry). AgustaWestland.

June 20/11: NH90 FAME MEDEVAC. Eurocopter signs an agreement with Germany to upgrade 12 German NH90-TTH helicopters to NH90 FAME (Forward Air Medical Evacuation/ MEDEVAC) configuration, using upgrade kits that can be installed in 30 minutes (vid. June 4/10 entry). NH90 FAME helicopters will be equipped with 2 intensive care stations for treating wounded personnel, along with a defibrillator, a transport ventilator, a surveillance monitor, and seats for the medical team. the helicopters are expected to enter service in July 2012.

Germany: 12 MEDEVAC upgrades

June 16/11: Australia. The MH-60R beats the NH90-NFH for Australia’s 24-helicopter, A$3+ billion (over $3.16 billion) AIR 9000, Phase 8 helicopter competition, even though Australia had switched from H-60/S-70 Army helicopters to the NH90-TTH several years ago. A combination of problems with its “MRH-90s,” slow NH90 TTH development, MH-60R naval interoperability benefits, and the MH-60R’s low-risk operational status tipped the balance. Read “MH-60R Wins Australia’s Maritime Helicopter Competition” for full coverage.

Loss in Australia

May 9/11: Sonar. Marport C-Tech Ltd. receives “a multi-million dollar contract” From SELEX Galileo to manufacture OTS-90 helicopter dipping sonar modules. The firm is a specialist in software-defined sonar, and work will be carried out at its facilities in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada.

The OTS-90 system is derived from L-3 Ocean Systems’ HELRAS(Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar), and some component units are manufactured under license by SELEX Galileo. Marport manufactures some HELRAS modules as well, which gives it links to a broad array of maritime helicopters: HELRAS-equipped SH-60 Seahawks, AW101s, and Canada’s CH-148/H-92 program; as well as NH90 NFH helicopters belonging to Italy and The Netherlands (OTS-90).

May 5/11: Netherlands. AgustaWestland announces that the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) has taken delivery of the firm’s Skyflight Mission Planning & Analysis System (MPAS) for their NH90 NFH naval helicopters, following successful completion of installation and Site Acceptance Tests.

The system will be fully operational on Dutch NH90s by the end of 2012 (vid. Dec 23/09 entry, looks like they’ll miss the Q3 2011 date for full capability), and Skyflight also serves aboard a number of other helicopter types around the world.

April 29/11: Australia. Australia completes its “full diagnostic review” of the MRH-90 program, after engine failures, transmission oil cooler fan failures and the poor availability of spares ground the fleet. To date, 13 of 46 MRH-90 helicopters have been accepted by Australia’s DoD and are being used for testing and initial crew training. They aren’t operational yet, and so far, the Army helicopters are 12 months behind schedule and the Navy helicopters, 18 months.

The review doesn’t consign the program to the infamous “Projects of Concern” list – yet. It does ask for a remediation plan, before a follow-up diagnostic review later in 2011 looks at the project again. With the Australian naval helicopter contract looming, a good follow-on review is important to Eurocopter. Australian DoD.

April 2011: Sweden. Sweden ordered its NH90s in 2001, and has received 7 helicopters, but their fleet won’t be fully operational until 2020 or later. Those delays have created a opening for Sikorsky’s H-60M, as Sweden pursues final negotiations for 15 Black Hawk helicopters to perform combat search and rescue and MEDEVAC roles in Afghanistan and beyond, beginning in 2013. The contracts will reportedly be worth $550-750 million. See full DID coverage.

Loss in Sweden

Feb 1/11: Australia. The Australian DoD makes an announcement concerning its MRH-90s:

“Mr Smith and Mr Clare also announced that a high-level comprehensive diagnostic review of the MRH-90 helicopter project would occur this month. As reported in both the Defence Annual Report and the ANAO Major Project Report released last year, the project has suffered delays of 12 months for the Navy’s helicopters and 18 months for the Army’s helicopters. Delays are due to a series of key issues, including engine failure, transmission oil cooler fan failures and the poor availability of spares… 13 MRH-90 helicopters have been accepted by Defence to date and are currently being used for testing and initial crew training. Minister Smith said that the full diagnostic review would be supported by external specialists. It will provide recommendations to Government on the actions necessary to fully implement this important project.”

The timing here is poor, as the NH90 is competing with Sikorsky’s proven MH-60R to replace Sikorsky’s S-70s as Australia’s next naval/ASW helicopter.


German complains of deficiencies made public; MEDEVAC variant unveiled; 1st NH90-NFH delivered; Naval opportunities in Germany & Australia. Dutch NH-90 NFH
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Dec 17/10: Spain. NHI announces the 1st flight of a Spanish NH90 TTH, at Eurcopter’s facilities in Marignane, France. This event marks also the first flight of a GE CT7-8F5 powered NH90, instead of the RTM322.

Spain ordered 45 of the medium utility helicopters in December 2006, with the first 2 built in France and the other 43 assembled in Albacete, Spain. The initial NH90 TTH will be transferred to Albacete in 2011 in order to complete the development flights, leading to a full qualification by the Spanish Ministry of Defence and expected induction in 2012.

Dec 16/10: France. NHI announces the maiden flight of the first French NH90 TTH medium utility helicopter for French Army Aviation (ALAT), at the Eurocopter facilities in Marignane, France. The flight follows the December 2007 order for 34 NH90 TTH machines.

Oct 23/10: Australia. The Australian reports on the Project AIR 9000, Phase 8 helicopter competition. A navy evaluation team reportedly test-flew the MH-60R in early October 2010, and wants to fly the NH90 NFH as well, even though its mission systems software won’t be ready until mid-2011, and the helicopter won’t be operational until late 2011 – well after Australia’s decision deadline.

In the end, the NH90 lost. Read “MH-60R Wins Australia’s Maritime Helicopter Competition” for full coverage.

Sept 30/10: Swedish switch. The US DSCA announces Sweden’s request to buy 15 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for combat search &and rescue & MEDEVAC duties in Afghanistan. Sweden already flies the NH90 TTH in a “high cabin” configuration that’s especially well suited to combat search and rescue and MEDEVAC operations, and Eurocopter unveiled a German NH90-TTH MEDEVAC kit on June 4/10.

Even so, the NH90′s slow delivery and certification times end up shifting the additional order to the NH90′s main competitor instead, as the contract goes through. See full DID coverage.

June 28/10: Oman. The Royal Air Force of Oman takes delivery of its first 2 NH90-TTH helicopters, out of an order of 20 that was placed on July 24/04. It will be followed in July 2010, by the acceptance process for the second batch of NH90s. These helicopters are supported by an integrated NHI/ RAFO maintenance team who will inaugurate the NH90′s GLIMS (Ground Logistic Information Management System). NH Industries.

June 14/10: New Zealand. News 3 quotes New Zealand Defence Minister Wayne Mapp of the National Party, who says that despite German reports citing issues with the NH90 (vid. Feb 23/10 and March 31/10 entries), he won’t be canceling New Zealand’s order.

June 7/10: Germany naval. Sikorsky is looking to pursue a 30-helicopter bid to replace Germany’s H-3 Sea Kings with their MH-92 Cyclone instead of the NH90 NFH, and also wants to compete for an 8-19 helicopter Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) opportunity to replace German UH-1Ds. A decision is expected in late 2010, if proposed budget cuts don’t derail the programs.

At the ILA 2010 airshow in Berlin, Sikorsky signed a Memorandum of Understanding “to explore opportunities” in aftermarket support involves their long-standing partner ZF Luftfahrttechnik GmbH (ZF Aviation Technology), while the other involves Switzerland’s RUAG, and will explore “Maintenance and Repair Operation as well as integrated logistics support and completion capabilities.” Rheinmetall and MTU are also reputed to be involved in discussions.

The Cyclone might be operational in a maritime role before the NH90 NFH, and the firm has some HH-92 CSAR design experience from its participation in the aborted American CSAR-X competition. Their bid remains something of a long shot, but Sikorsky representatives are quoted as saying that the partnerships and experience will stand them in good stead to bid the future CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter for the Franco-German HTH program. Sikorsky has reportedly secured American export approval for the Cyclone, and would conduct final assembly in Germany. Aviation Week | Flight International | Shephard Group.

June 4/10: NH90 MEDEVAC. Eurocopter unveils an NH90-TTH MEDEVAC variant for the German Army, which does not consider any of its 14 delivered NH90s operational yet. A total of 12 helicopters will be modified to this MEDEVAC configuration. The 20-month expedited buy led Eurocopter to move Final Operational Configuration (FOC) NH90 features forward, including the MG-3 machine gun parts kit and ballistic protection. Existing NH90 systems such as electronic countermeasures, TopOwl helmet-mounted display for low-altitude night flight, and secure voice communications received adaptations, and the MEDEVAC helicopters install seats for the medical team and 2 intensive care bays for treating wounded personnel.

The MEDEVAC helicopters will also have some combat search and rescue related capabilities, but Eurocopter plans to offer a separate refit kit for that role. Options for the CSAR kit include up to 3 machine guns (each side door and the tail ramp), anti-ballistic protection, a rappel system, a double rescue hoist, an emergency flotation system, sand filters, an obstacle warning system, and improved self-protection electronics. EADS Eurocopter.


May 18/10: Australia. Australia’s government announces that specialists from Turbomeca and Rolls Royce have been brought to Australia to help investigate an MRH90 engine failure that took place on April 20/10, about 30 minutes north east of Adelaide. The helicopter returned to RAAF base Edinburgh without further incident or injuries to personnel, but the incident resulted in a fleet-wide grounding.

May 14/10: Finland. Finland announces that it will retire its last 2 Mi-8 helicopters. The Finnish Army is reportedly flying 7 of its eventual 20 NH90 TTHs at Utti, and has amassed over 1,400 fleet flight hours, with deliveries from local assembly partner Patria to be completed in 2012.

Local commanders expect the NH90s to reach full operational status by 2013-14, but believes that could be moved forward to 2012 on an emergency basis, if required for an international deployment or sudden circumstances. Flight International.

April 28/10: Australia. Australia issues its formal solicitation for “AIR 9000, Phase 8″ to buy naval helicopters: either the NH90 NFH or the MH-60R, decision in 2011. Ministerial release

April 23/10: France. The French Navy receives its first NH90 NFH naval helicopter. Following operational testing and training, the helicopter is expected to enter French Navy service near the end of 2011. France has ordered 27 NH90 NFH helicopters: 13 in support configuration, and 14 in naval combat/ ASW configuration. The NH90s will embark on its modern Lafayette, Horizon, and Aquitaine Class frigates, and on its Mistral Class amphibious ships. France DGA [in French] | NH Industries.

April 21/10: Netherlands is 1st NFH delivery. AgustaWestland announces that The Royal Netherlands Navy received its 1st of 20 NH90 NFH naval helicopter during an official ceremony held at AgustaWestland’s Vergiate plant in Italy. See also Dec 23/09 entry for background.

Today’s event marks the first delivery of a naval NH90 NFH variant to any customer. AgustaWestland | NH Industries.

1st NH90 NFH delivery

March 31/10: Defects? On the occasion of a visit to Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH, [ed.: link no longer working] asks for Eurocopter’s response to BILD’s report, and receives a response from Eurocopter Vice President & NAHEMA Programme Coordination Manager Dr Clive Schley.

As a quick rundown, the answer to most of these is “contractual specifications.” Dr. Schley says the ground clearance is to specifications, as is the winch’s 270 kg load. Other customers have done fast-roping from the NH90, but Germany did not buy that ancillary equipment. The approved internal 110 kg seat load is not the maximum load, and first results of tests for stretcher loading procedures when a machine gun is installed in the door are “promising.” Trials of the NH90 MedEvac demonstrator are scheduled for Q2 2010.

March 1/10: Defects? The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australia’s military is aware of the German report, but is making no commitments:

“A defence spokesman said Australia was seeking an English translation of the German Army trial report on its NH-90 helicopters. He said all matters of operational effectiveness and airworthiness were taken seriously and the German report would be reviewed in detail.”

Australia operates the same model helicopter, but designates it as MRH90.

Feb 23/10: Defects? The German Army is concerned over several deficiencies with the NH90 TTH helicopter as fielded, and says so in an official report. Germany’s Bild daily says the army has tried out 13 test helicopters, and concluded they were not fully battle-ready. Key complaints reportedly include:

  • Seats with weight capacities of just 110 kg, very low in an era where soldiers routinely carry 20-30 kg of protective gear;
  • Helicopter winch that can’t handle the needs of fast-roping commando teams or boarding parties;
  • No defensive machine gun and door-gunner, due to limited cabin space;
  • An infantry team can be carried only if team members leave their personal weapons and kit on the floor, slowing offloading; worse, there are no floor straps to secure those weapons;
  • The lack of floor straps means that heavier weapons like shoulder-fired missiles can’t be transported at all;
  • The composite floor is too prone to damage, and the rear ramp can’t support fully equipped soldiers. Note that the Bild report refers to a floor that can’t handle soldiers with dirty boots, which makes little sense. If the rear ramp can’t support the banging weight of fully-equipped troops, however, the floor may also have issues.
  • The Bild report refers to difficulties with soldiers exiting the helicopter on ground with obstacles over 16 cm tall, due to low ground clearance, which makes little sense on its face. If there’s a problem with low clearance and damage-prone composites, however, it could create problems landing the helicopters on obstacle-strewn ground. That might in turn force slower methods of exit, like hover-and-rope, but the connection isn’t intuitive.

See Bild [in German] | Defense News | UPI.

Performance issues?

Jan 6/10: Australia. Australia’s Daily Telegraph reports that Australia’s Labor Party government has rejected a DoD request to approve a $4 billion “rapid acquisition” of 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters and related equipment. The buy would have been an emergency replacement for the long-running, ill-starred, and canceled SH-2G Super Seasprite program.

Instead, successful lobbying by Eurocopter will force a competition between Sikorsky’s MH-60R, in service with the US Navy, and the European NH90 NFH variant, which is expected to be ready for service sometime around 2011-2012.


Orders: France (22); Germany reporting defects and problems. MRH90 w. 105mm Hamel
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Dec 23/09: Netherlands. The Netherlands gets its 1st NH90-NFH naval helicopter at AgustaWestland’s Italian facility, but the machine will not be officially accepted until after a series of inspections and tests. Once accepted and formally delivered, however, the helicopters will only be suitable for crew training and basic coastal patrols.

This “meaningful operationally capable” standard is the consequence of technical issues involving weight gain, the helicopter’s maritime radar and tactical navigation, etc. In order to minimize delays and begin delivering helicopters, which was supposed to happen in mid-2009 for the Dutch, NH Industries and its customers agreed to a phased fielding program. That allows basic acceptance trials and familiarization to begin earlier, which mitigates normal post-delivery service delays, but does not provide fully operational helicopters. Per the July 10/09 entry, NHIndustries believes they can deliver NH90-NFHs that fully meet Dutch specifications by Q3 2011.Dutch MvD [in Dutch] | Aviation Week | Europe Aviation News.

November 2009: Australia. Australia conducts naval trials of its MRH90s, which are closely derived from the NH90-TTH Army variant. The month long testing regime on board the LST amphibious ship HMAS Manoora gauged the MRH90′s capabilities at sea through takeoffs, landings, munitions transfers and weight load carries.

This month, the Army also conducts “lift trials” for various vehicles and loads with the MRH90′s external sling system. Australian DoD LST release and image gallery | Lift Trials release & gallery.

Oct 23/09: Australia. The Australian reports that the country’s military chiefs have recommended the MH-60R as Australia’s next anti-submarine helicopter, citing it as a cheaper and lower risk solution compared with the NH90 NFH, with better allied interoperability. Australia would be looking to buy 24 helicopters for service by 2014, per the 2009 Defence White Paper.

In the end, the MH-60R did win. Read “MH-60R Wins Australia’s Maritime Helicopter Competition” for full coverage.

Oct 14/09: Norway. A NH90-NFH naval test helicopter lands on Norway’s North Cape Class coast guard vessel Nordkap, at Helligvaer, in Vestfjorden. Nordkap will be used as the platform for operational testing of maritime landings, including landings under Norway’s famously difficult conditions. Mother Nature didn’t disappoint, as weather during the initial trials went from fair, to southwest winds gusting up to 60 knots.

Even though Norway was one of the NH90′s early export orders in 2001, deliveries of operational Norwegian aircraft are expected to begin during the second half of 2010. The Navy will then require additional time to test and qualify the helicopters before they can see operational use. Forsvaret [in Norwegian] | NH Industries.

Aug 4/09: Defects? Germany’s Der Spiegel runs “German Army Angry over EADS Delays and Technical Glitches,” which is critical of several EADS products including the NH90. Relevant excerpt:

“The NH90 transport helicopter is also regarded as a flop by the military… The Bundeswehr had ordered 80 of the helicopters for a total of [EUR] 1.7 billion. However, the first sample aircraft only arrived at the end of 2006. Admittedly, the army is now in possession of eight of them. However, they are only 26 percent fit for service. That means that on average only two of the helicopters are ready to start at any given time.

And the helicopters cannot be deployed in the way the military had originally planned. The NH90 is supposed to accommodate 16 fully-armed soldiers. It’s not yet clear if this can be achieved. Recently a somewhat heavy passenger was told that the maximum weight per seat was 100 kilograms. However, even a slim soldier with a combat pack would easily make that weight – after all, a bullet-proof vest alone weighs around 15 kilograms.”

July 10/09: Netherlands. The Dutch MvD expects to receive their first “Meaningful Operational Capabilities” NH90 NFH naval helicopters for acceptance testing by the end of 2009. Mid-2009 was supposed to mark induction of Full Operational Capability (FOC) helicopters, but he NH90 NFH weight growth has affected some operational capabilities, and so have technical delays. Instead, NHIndustries ‘believes’ they can deliver the first FOC NH-90s by Q3 2011. MvD release [in Dutch].

The Dutch eventually take delivery of their first partially-capable NH90 helicopter on Dec 23/09.

Jan 8/09: French order. France’s DGA announces that it is picking up a EUR 600 million (about $820 million) option for 22 more NH90-TTH battlefield transport helicopters. The purchase was planned as part of France’s multi-year military budget. The NH90-TTH helicopters are scheduled for delivery from 2011 onward, and will be assembled at Eurocopter’s facility in Marignane, France.

EADs release states that to date, 25 NH90 helicopters have been delivered to customers and another 50 are under construction, out of total orders of 529. DGA [Français] | EADS.

France: 22 TTH


Germany continues developing mission planning system; RTM322 cements hold on NH90 market; Finnish reports. Italian NH90-TTH
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July 16/08: RTM322 Engine Wins. The Rolls-Royce Turbomeca partnership announces that its RTM322 engine has been selected over GE competitors to power new NH90 fleets in France (61 + 34 options), Belgium (8 + 2), and New Zealand (9).

RTM322-powered NH90s will now be flown by Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Oman, Portugal and Sweden. Spain and Italy will use GE’s engines instead.

March 11/08: Finland. Finnish Army Aviation officially takes delivery of its first NH90. The ceremony took place at Eurocopter in Marignane, France where the helicopter was assembled. Most of Finland’s subsequent helicopters will be assembled locally by Patria. NHIndustries release.

March 4/08: Finland. Suila’s NH90 program report is released to the Finnish public, and a summary is posted by the MoD. Key takeaways include a finding that both parties to the contract have been acting in good faith, that Finland received acceptable compensation of the delay in delivery, and that the choice of helicopter suits both Finland’s needs and interoperability requirements for deployments abroad.

With respect to areas for improvement, the Finnish Ministry of Defence release had an appropriate quote from the report: “The haste of the initial phase is usually a setback.” Risk assessment needs to be more fully developed, rules for communication need to be improved since this became a bottleneck at times, other areas of procurement policy also need to be streamlined, and more commonality in national aircraft certification processes needs to be developed in Europe. Ministry of Defence release | The full Suila report [PDF]

Jan 29/08: German EUA Planning System. The German BWB procurement agency has placed a EUR 40+ million 3rd tranche order with EADS Defence & Security (DS) for the EUA Operations Support System. In its final configuration, the EUA OSS will cover the entire process cycle of a helicopter squadron – from receipt of command through complete tactical and technical mission planning up to evaluation and logistics – using one single planning system. The EUA system also includes voice radio and radio data transmission with military command and control systems, as well as the ability to establish a connection with other information systems for weather, maps, aeronautical information and air-traffic monitoring, and other useful real-time updates.

The EUA is planned for deployment with the Fritzlar Army Air Corps in Spring 2008. Eventually, the system will prepare, plan and execute missions for Germany’s NH90-TTH medium transport, Tiger HAP attack, and CH-53G heavy transport helicopters. EADS release. See also May 16/06 entry.

Jan 8/08: Italy. AgustaWestland announces that the Italian Army’s Aviation Unit officially took delivery of its first NH90 TTH helicopter in “late December, 2007.”

Italian Army NH90s will be operated by Friuli Airmobile Brigade, replacing older models currently operated by the service in various utility roles. AgustaWestland will also provide a complete product support and training package through a Phased Logistic Support program, with an initial commitment of 3 years.


Orders: Belgium (10), France (12), Germany (42); Nordic RTM322 engine support agreement; GE’s CT7-8F5 to power Spain’s helos; Dutch and Finland very unhappy with lateness, but stay in the program; Sweden passes on 7 options; Norway drops 10 options, opens SAR competition. MRH90 arrives
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Dec 18/07: Australia. The first 2 Australian Defence Force MRH-90s are accepted into service during a ceremony at Australian Aerospace facilities in Brisbane.

Dec 12/07: Finnish settlement. The Finnish Ministry of Defence announces a satisfactory agreement with NH Industries re: its NH90 order, which was supposed to begin delivery in 2004 and end in 2007. An adjusted contract was signed on Dec 14/07.

Published reports vary re: the delivery schedule, but Jyrki iivonen of Finland’s MoD informs DID that it will be: 5 in 2008, 4 in 2009, and the remaining 11 in 2010-2011. The 9 helicopters delivered in 2008-2009 will not be fully operational, however, and will be used for training and development of concepts of operations. They will be upgraded to full capability by Patria in Finland during 2010-2011. This still leaves NH Industries at least 3 years late in fulfilling its commitments, so the firm will pay a penalty of just under EUR 20 million on the EUR 343 million order. Finnish Ministry of Defence | YLE News | STT | Helsingin Sanomat | Forbes re: penalty | Reuters.

Dec 12/07: Finland. In a move that may not be coincidence, Patria and NHI sign an agreement to give Patria an extended NHI Service Centre for Finland, which NHI and Patria will jointly offer to the other Nordic NH90 customers. There had already been some level of cooperation involving RTM322 engines, but this new agreement expands Patria’s capabilities considerably. In the Patria release, Executive Vice President Eukka Holkeri said:

“We are very pleased with the co-operation agreement. This agreement further strengthens the unique skills and competencies of Patria in helicopter support and repair technologies as well as represents an opportunity to gain even more in-depth knowledge of the NH90 helicopters. For Patria the agreement will bring further increased competencies and an opportunity to win a major role in the Nordic NH90 maintenance. This supports our strategy to strengthen Patria’s position as the leading helicopter maintenance provider in the Nordic countries.”

Dec 3/07: Australia ancillaries. Thales Australia announces a contract from Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace worth A$ 100M (about $88.2 million) for “MRH90″ related services helicopters under Project AIR9000 Phases 4 & 6. Thales will add the responsibility to provide aircraft equipment and spares, incl. TopOwl helmet-mounted displays with night vision capabilities, other cockpit avionics including navigation, internal secure communications, identification systems, and tactical systems for the 34 new MRH90s, bringing the total number of helicopters they’re responsible for to 46. The delivery of this equipment will be scheduled from 2008 – 2013.

As an A$ 20 million portion of that contract, Thales will also supply the Australian developed Ground Mission Management System (GMMS) to fulfill Army Aviation Training & Operation requirements. DID coverage.

Nov 30/07: More for France. France’s DGA procurement agency turns its selection of the NH90 as its next battlefield helicopter into a contract worth up to EUR 1.8 billion (currently $2.64 billion), a rate of about EUR 26.5 million (currently $38.9 million) per helicopter.

The initial buy is 12 NH90 TTH helicopters, with options for another 56, to total 68. The current plan is to exercise 22 of the options in 2008, and another 34 in 2010. Even so, the current Puma battlefield helicopter fleet won’t begin to see replacements until 2011. As one might imagine, these helicopters will be manufactured at Eurocopter France’s Marignane site. DGA release | NHI release.

France: 12 TTH

Nov 14/07: Sweden passes on options. NH Industries informs DID that Sweden has chosen not to exercise its additional 7 helicopter options, due to budgetary constraints.

Swedish options

Nov 13/07: Australia. The 1st two MRH90 helicopters arrive at the Australian Aerospace facility in Brisbane inside a leased Antonov aircraft. They are celebrated by a small ceremony at the Australian Aerospace facility involving Industry, DMO and Defence representatives.

The MRH90 aircraft will be returned to flying condition after the transit, and test flown by Australian Aerospace flight test crews in preparation for delivery to the Commonwealth. Australia’s contract calls for the first 4 NH90s to be delivered from Eurocopter in Marignane, France, with final assembly of the other 42 performed by Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace in Brisbane under the co-production agreement. Australian MoD release.

Nov 11/07: Finland. Finnish News Agency STT covers a report from national daily Helsingin Sanomat that Finalnd is looking into “Plan B” options, including buying or leasing UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters. Puolustsministerio Forsvarsministeriet spokesman Jyrki Iivonen downplayed those reports, however, stressing their interest in concluding negotiations and adding that Finland’s point of departure was that compensation for the delay had to be paid in full, but not necessarily in cash.

“We have built our own systems on the premise that it will be this specific type of aircraft… And we must also bear in mind that there is no oversupply of helicopters at the moment.” STT report | PF release.

Oct 19/07: Finland unhappy. With Finland’s initial NH90 delivery and acceptance over 2 1/2 years behind schedule, Defense Minister Jyri Hakamies appoints former Finnair CEO Keijo Suila to lead a working group that will assess their $790 million NH90 program. The 2001 Nordic Group contract was intended to replace Finland’s 4 Russian Mi-8 medium helicopters and 8 MD500 light utility helicopters with 20 NH90s that would enter service from April 2005 – October 2008, allowing a reorganized helicopter battalion to stand up in 2010. The common procurement action was directly linked to the establishment of the European Union’s Nordic Battle Group (NBG), which also driving other defense buys in the area.

Patria has assembled 3 Finnish NH90s so far, but Finland’s Military Aviation Authority is still securing supplementary technical data from NH Industries before it issues a type certification that would allow them to enter service. This process has been cited as part of Finland’s problem, but as in the Netherlands, there are also complaints that Germany and France’s demands for delivery from the delayed NH90 program are pushing out other customers. There are reports that about $30 million equivalent in compensation was offered when serious production delays made it clear that the planned 2005 delivery was impossible – and the 2 year delay at that time has only grown. NIH officials believe deliveries may begin around mid-2008.

Suila’s report is expected to be in by that time. It will focus on a detailed assessment of exactly what went wrong, and then recommend changes to future procurement processes. Depending on how things go with NH90 delivery, of course, it could also form a very handy basis for quantified compensation claims from the Finnish government. Finnish MoD | Defense News | Newsroom Finland.

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Sept 6/07: Sweden. The 1st Patria-assembled Swedish NH90-TTH High-Cabin Version (HCV) helicopter is flown to Sweden. This helicopter is Sweden’s 2nd delivery (vid. June 20/07), but it will be the first NH90 to be operated in Sweden by the Swedish Defence Forces. It will initially be used for training purposes. Patria release | NHI release | EADS release.

Aug 10/07: Netherlands. The 1st serial production NH90-NFH for the Royal Netherlands Navy performs its maiden flight at AgustaWestland’s Vergiate facility in Italy. Final Assembly of the 20 Dutch helicopters takes place at that facility, which is also responsible also for the assembly of the NH90-NFH variant for the Italian (46) and Norwegian (14) navies, and the Italian Army’s NH90-TTH (70).NHI release.

Aug 9/07: Sonar. Thales announces that its FLASH (Folding Light Acoustic System for Helicopters) SONICS have been successfully integrated into a French NH90 NFH naval helicopter, and that flight testing is going well. The first system was delivered to Agusta in July 2005 for platform integration, completing its first test flight on board the NH90 in December 2006. Additional test with the helicopter manufacturer are planned later this year and official testing is scheduled for early 2008.

The FLASH system is a low frequency sonar for helicopters, which is incorporated into the ALFS system on board American Sea Hawk helicopters, and also serves on British EH101 naval helicopters and the UAE’s Cougars. This sonar will be installed on 14 French NH90 NFHs that will be used for anti-submarine missions, while another 13 will be used primarily for naval transport missions and other roles. Norway has also picked FLASH for its NH90 NFHs. Thales release.

June 21/07: GE CT7 Engine win. GE Aviation announces that Spain’s Ministry of Defense has selected GE’s CT7-8F5 engines to power its 45 NH90 helicopters. The engine generates slightly more power than the T700s installed in Italian NH90 helicopters, and is compatible with the upper range of the Rolls Royce/ Turbomeca RTM332′s performance.

As part of the deal, GE will “implement an industrial plan that will focus on the development and diversification of the Spanish aeronautical industry.”

June 20/07: Sweden. The first delivery of the Swedish serial production NH90-TTH High Cabin Version takes place from the Marignane, France facility to the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) during the 2007 Paris Air Show. Delivery of Sweden’s Hkp 14 helicopters had originally been scheduled for “early 2005,” per the Sept 26/01 contract announcement. During this ceremony Gala Gonçalves, General Manager of NHIndustries, underlined the importance of this event since it is “the first serial NH90 transfer of ownership to an Export Customer” (i.e. outside the original French, German, Italian & Dutch consortium).

This particular helicopter will support the Swedish instructors’ training program in France until 2008. FMV release [English] | NHI release.

June 19/07: More for Germany. Germany signs a formal order for 42 additional NH90-TTH helicopters, drawn from its 54 options. German Army (Heer) Aviation will operate 30 of them, and the other 12 will be operated by the German Air Force. The 12 for the Air Force will feature the NH90′s optional rear ramp, plus provisions for armor protection and a machine gun. A total of 8 NH90-TTH from their previous order of 80 are scheduled to be in service with the German Armed Forces by the end of 2007, down from the 14 promised by Eurocopter’s president in the Dec 13/06 release.

See “Germany Exercises Option for 42 More NH90s.” By 2012, however, cuts threaten to erase the buy.

Germany: 42 TTH

June 19/07: NHIndustries signs the Belgian contract for up to 10 NH90 helicopters at the Cercle Militaire Saint-Augustin in Paris, during the Paris Air Show 2007. See “Belgium Orders up to 10 NH90s as Netherlands Complains.”

Belgium: 10 mixed

June 19/07: Nordic engine support agreement. Rolls-Royce Turbomeca signs a “Repair Co-operation Agreement” with Patria Oyj and Norwegian Air Depot Kjeller (ADK). This extends the current arrangements which cover over 110 RTM322 engines that have been built jointly by Patria and ADK, and are jointly supported by their respective facilities in Linnavuori, Finland (Patria) and Kjeller, Norway (ADK).

Initially, this additional “Repair Co-operation Agreement” covers the engines powering NH90s which form part of the Nordic Standard Helicopter Procurement Program, “but this could be extended to cover future requirements” if and when more helicopters powered by RTM322 engine are bought in the region. The engines power helicopters flown by Norway (EH101), Finland and Sweden (NH90). Patria release.

Nordic engine support

May 9/07: Oman. The first Omani NH90 takes to the air from Eurocopter’s Marignane facility. It represents the 9th country out of 14 to achieve the maiden flight of NH90 serial production aircraft after Germany, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Greece, France, Norway and Australia. NHI release | EADS release.

Given this timing, and other production issues, the likelihood of meeting the contracted delivery schedule of 20 helicopters arriving “from the end of 2008 to the end of 2010″ would appear to be remote.

Dutch NH90-NFH
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April 28/07: Netherlands. Dutch Defence State Secretary Cees van der Knaap openly expresses anger at the delayed supply of new NH90 helicopters, which has forced the Netherlands to invest EUR 6.5 million to extend the operational lives of 10 AgustaWestland Lynx helicopters as a stopgap measure. He expresses especial annoyance at France, whom he believes to be largely responsible.

The NH90 cockpits have also been a source of complaint; the Christian Democrat party (CDA) proposed to fit Dutch NH90s with American avionics, but this was quashed on regulatory grounds: it would apparently require changing aviation authority regulations. NIS News bulletin.

April 28/07: Belgium. The Belgian government’s Council of Ministers officially decides to procure up to 10 NH90 helicopters, consisting of 8 firm orders (4 TTH and 4 NFH) plus 2 optional aircraft. See “Belgium Orders up to 10 NH90s as Netherlands Complains” for more, including the associated political controversy and the NH90s’ likely deployments.

April 5/07: Finland. Patria Oyj announces that the first Patria-assembled NH90 destined for the Swedish Defence Forces has been successful in its test flights The helicopter in question is the 3rd Swedish NH90 to take off, with 2 others assembled by Eurocopter in Marignane, France. Of the remaining 16 Swedish helicopters, 14 will be assembled in Finland and 2 in France.

MRH90: first flight
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March 29/07: Australia. The first of Australia’s 46 MRH-90 helicopters conducts its maiden flight in Marignane, France. The Australian DoD release adds that: “The first 4 MRH-90 are on schedule for delivery into Australia by the end of 2007, and the first fuselage of the 42 aircraft to be assembled in Australia arrived in Brisbane on 27 March.”

Feb 1/07: Norway SAR. Norway decides to open up its search-and-rescue helicopter choice to a full competition rather than just exercising its 10 NH90 options, following political controversy and a pair of lawsuits. The existing contract’s options remain open if the NH90 should win.

Likely competitors are all larger, and include AgustaWestland’s EH101, Sikorsky’s S-92 Superhawk, and possibly Boeing’s HH-47 Chinook. See “Norway Opens Up SAR Helicopter Competition.”


Orders: Australia (34); New Zealand (9), Spain (45); German certifications. NH90 TTH, Heer
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Dec 22/06: Spain order. Spain orders 45 NH90-TTH helicopters, as part of a larger Eurocopter order. They will pay EUR 1.26 billion (about $1.66 billion) for the NH90s, to be distributed over 19 annuities from 2007-2025, and the contract comes with a technological and industrial development agreement that makes Eurocopter Espana S.A.’s new plant in Albacete, Spain the site for the assembly of Spain’s NH 90 helicopters, as well as manufacturing the front NH90 fuselage for all customers. Spain’s Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade will contribute to the funding of the program via a grant “of returnable lendings to type of interest zero,” up to EUR 990.6 million (currently about $1.3 billion), “depending on his budgetary availabilities.” See “Spain Orders Civil & Military Helicopters from Eurocopter.”

Spain: 45 TTH

Dec 20/06: Norway. The first Norwegian NH90-NFH, wearing the Customer designation NNWN #01, takes off for a successful test flight from AgustaWestland’s facility in Vergiate, Italy. NHI release.

Dec 13/06: Germany. The first 3 NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopters (TTH) are handed over to the German Army at Eurocopter’s Donauworth facility. The press release [EADS | NH Industrie] states that “The German Army is the first customer to take delivery of the NH90. The aircraft with the serial numbers TGEA02 and TGEA03 will be used for flight training at the German Army Air Corps Weapons School in Bückeburg, while serial number TGEA05 will be used to train maintenance staff…” Eurocopter President Dr. Lutz Bertling adds:

“Following a period of complex evaluation and comprehensive qualification processes we are proud to now be able to officially launch the NH90 for training purposes. Until the end of 2007, we plan to deliver 14 aircraft to Bückeburg.”

Dec 1/06: Germany. German type certification is granted, clearing the way for initial deliveries and for respective NH90-TTH national certifications by other NAHEMA and export customers. Source.

Sept 14/06: Australia. The Australian Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment based at RAAF Townsville has received parliamentary approval for A$ 20 million in new facilities for one of the key bases supporting its expanded NH90 helicopter fleet. The first NH90s are scheduled for delivery in late 2007, and the “Facilities for Troop Lift Helicopter” project combines the reconfiguration and refurbishment of a number of existing facilities and construction of some new ones. An advanced mission planning and computer-based training facility, a new Army Aviation Training Facility to provide transition training on the MRH90, a composites material workshop, and upgrades to some existing facilities for the S-70 Black Hawk fleet are all envisaged as part of this project.

(click to view full)

July 31/06: New Zealand’s order. New Zealand’s NZ$ 771 million (then about $475 million) contract for 9 NH90-TTH helicopters is signed in Wellington, NZ, after a 2-week final negotiation round up. Read “New Zealand Selects NH90, A109 Helicopters as its new Fleet“.

New Zealand: 9 TTH

June 19/06: Australia adds. Australia approves the acquisition plan for 34 more NH90-TTH helicopters plus 3 MRH90 simulators at A$2 billion (about $1.475 billion) under the Australian AIR9000 Programme. Commonality of operational, training and logistic systems and personnel played a role, as this order will be added to the first batch of 12 “MRH90s” ordered by the Australian Defence Materiel Organisation (vid. June 2/05). Final assembly will be performed by fully-owned Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace in Brisbane.

The lifetime real dollars project value for the total acquisition of all 46 aircraft is around A$ 4.2 billion. This includes an A$ 1.2 billion Australian Industry Capability package that focuses on development of the skill base required to support the MRH 90 into the future. Initial deliveries are slated for December 2007, with 3 more MRH 90 delivered in 2008 and then 7-8 per year until 2014. Deliveries of Australian Assembled helicopters will commence in December 2008. As these new helicopters are delivered, Australia’s old Sea Kings will be retired in 2010, followed by progressive replacement of the smaller S-70A-9 Black Hawks between 2011-2015. See “Australia Tightens Eurocopter Ties With A$ 2B Buy of 34 NH90s” for full coverage and ongoing updates.

Australia: 34 TTH

May 16/06: Germany EUA. EADS announces that Germany’s Federal Office of Defence Technology and Procurement (BWB) has awarded EADS Defence Electronics an additional contract portion worth approx. EUR 12 million to develop the Operations Support System (in German: Einsatzunterstutzungsanlage – EUA) for the German NH90 helicopters.

In its final configuration, the Operations Support System EUA is due to cover the entire process cycle of a helicopter squadron – from receipt of command through complete tactical and technical mission planning up to evaluation and logistics – using one single planning system. As an integral part of network-centric operations, the EUA/OSS makes it possible to connect the helicopter with its own command and control structures (C3I) via voice radio and radio data transmission, or establish a connection with specialist information systems for weather, maps, aeronautical information and air-traffic monitoring, et. al. The system can also be used for operations support of other types of aircraft, such as Tornado or A400M.

March 31/06: Germany. Qualification of the German NH90-TTH variant is completed by NATO’s NAHEMA. It is the first Qualification to a NH90 TTH Variant, an essential milestone that, through a process of delta qualification [DID: qualifying the differences rather than requalifying the whole aircraft], will lead to the Qualification of the others NH90 national Variants. The NH90 German Army TGEA Variant includes a few specific National Operational Customizations, mainly in the communications field. EADS release.

FY 2005

Orders from Australia (12); Picked by Belgium, New Zealand, Spain; German long-term training contract. NH90 NFH
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Dec 15/05: Italy. The first Italian Navy serial production NH90-NFH has a successful initial test flight. Under the NH90 program work-share, AgustaWestland will build 150 helicopters for 3 of the 4 initial NH90-NFH customers (Italy, the Netherlands and Norway), and is responsible of the overall integration of the naval mission system for all NH90-NFH variants. NHI release.

Dec 14/05: Belgium pick. Belgium becomes the 14th Country to select the NH90, though no contract is signed. “…following the proposition of the Belgian Ministry of Defence Mr. Andre Flahaut, the Council Minister authorised today the launching of the procedure for the acquisition of 10 NH90 multirole helicopters by entering into the International Programme Organisation NAHEMO.” NHI release.

Nov 21/05: Trials. Eurocopter announces the completion of high-altitude NH90 trials at the 9,191 foot/ 2,801 m high airfield at Latacunga, Ecuador. It was chosen because of its facilities, safety equipment, 3,700 m long runway, and other advantages. The 21 flights representing 20 hours 35 minutes of testing were mainly devoted to performance (hover, level flight, climb, Cat B, Cat A), engine operation (transients, one engine inoperative power), simulated autorotations, maneuverability in and out of ground effect, altitude-speed envelope, and fly-away characteristics. EADS release.

Sept 17-30/05: Trials. The NH90 undergoes French Army trials in the hands of the Gamstat (Airmobile Group of the French Army Engineering Branch), using the PT4 test aircraft with German Army markings and a team of ground mechanics from Eurocopter Deutschland. France has selected the NH90-TTH, and stated plans to order up to 68, but hasn’t yet placed a contract.

The main aims of the trials were to verify that the mission system operated as intended in an operational environment, validate the Thales TopOwl helmet-mounted display, and study work sharing between crew members. The majority of the missions took place at night to successively test the utilization of the standard ALAT night vision goggles (NVG) and then the Topowl helmet coupled to the piloting FLIR. The pilots did report that a short period of adaptation was necessary, but tests completed successfully.

The nighttime NOE flights were made in the Valence area at heights of 0-400 ft at 130-140 kts. NOE observation flights were also flown by Gazelles equipped with the Viviane sight or Mistral missiles to measure the NH90′s infrared signature. The engineering trials finished with a final 90-minute flight involving a complex scenario: after taking off at night, the NH90 performed an IFR penetration, followed by a visual NOE flight, before picking up a commando and returning to its base with its autopilot in simulated degraded mode. EADS release.

July 13/05: Finland. KH-202, the first Patria-assembled NH90 helicopter, makes its successful maiden flight in Halli, Jamsa, Finland. The main modules were supplied to Patria from NHI Partner Companies: Eurocopter France, Eurocopter Germany, Agusta Italy and Fokker the Netherlands. The splicing Phase of KH-202 was completed in October 2003, Installations during 2004 and System tests were started in January 2005. For its inaugural flight, the helicopter was piloted by Eurocopter’s flight test crew, and lasted 1 hour and 5 minutes.

This effort follows the Sept 15/04 first flight of the first Finnish NH90-TTH, which was produced in France. NHI release. As the Patria release notes:

“This first helicopter from Patria assembly line will be delivered to the Finnish Defence Forces.”

July 13/05: Greece. The first Hellenic Army NH90 takes to the air for a successful test flight at the Eurocopter Marignane facility in France. This is the 6th serial production NH90 leaving the ground, following NH90s for Germany (the first), Finland, Italy and Sweden. At the time, NHI’s release adds that:

“The delivery of the whole series of 20 Hellenic NH90 will be achieved by the beginning of 2009 as planned, by the beginning of 2011 if the 14 options are confirmed.”

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June 2/05: Australian order. Australia signs an Acquisition Contract for 12 NH90-TTH helicopters. The A$1 billion contract is signed in Canberra between the Australian Defence Materiel Organisation and Australian Aerospace, the local fully-owned subsidiary of Eurocopter. According to the Australian AIR9000 programme, the 12 NH90 ordered are identified under the designation “MRH90,” standing for “Multi Role Helicopter.” project to provide the Australian Army with 12 new troop lift helicopters and associated equipment has taken a significant step forward with the signing of a contract with Australian Aerospace, a subsidiary of Eurocopter. Defence Minister Robert Hill said in total more than $500 million worth of Australian Industry participation will arise from the project:

“The new squadron will increase Army’s troop lift capability by more than half and give the Army the ability to move more soldiers further and faster from our amphibious lift ships. In addition to providing the 12 helicopters and associated equipment, Australian Aerospace will also provide a significant element of through-life-support under a performance-based contract.”

Australia is the 11th nation to order the NH90. Australian DoD release | NHI release.

Australia: 12 TTH

May 20/05: Spain pick. Spain selects the NH90 as its next-generation troop transport helicopter, with an anticipated buy of 45 helicopters, but no contract has been signed yet. EADS release.

April 5/05: New Zealand pick. New Zealand selects the NH90 as its next troop transport helicopter, replacing the current UH-1H Iroquois (aka. Hueys). No contract has been signed yet, and final number are not confirmed. New Zealand becomes the 12th country to have chosen the NH90. See “New Zealand Selects NH90 Helicopter” for more details, and ongoing coverage.

March 18/05: Sweden. First flight of the Swedish NH90-TTH-HCV variant. The first Swedish NH90 will now stay in Marignane, France to qualify the High Cabin version and perform the integration of the Saab mission system requested by Sweden’s government. NHI release.

January 2005: German training PPF contract. The German government approves a major private-finance initiative, awarding a EUR 488 million (about $642 million) contract to Helicopter Flying Training Services GmbH (HFTS, a consortium owned equally by CAE, Eurocopter, Rheinmetall Defence Electronics and Thales) to provide training at industry-owned training centers. The consortium will design, build and operate all 3 training centers at Bückeburg, Fassberg and Holzdorf , plus 4 NH90 full-mission simulators, followed by a 14.5-year period of operational service beginning in mid-2008 and continuing through 2022. During operational service, HFTS will deliver turnkey training services to the Bundeswehr, which will pay an agreed hourly rate. Source.

Germany: training

FY 2003 – 2004

Orders from Greece (20), Oman (20); Australia picks NH90 for Army; 1st all fly-by-wire helicopter flight. Finnish 1st flight
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Sept 15/04: Finland. The 1st NH90 destined for the Finnish Armed Forces takes off for a successful maiden flight at Eurocopter’s production site and headquarter in Marignane, France. The aircraft is the first NH90 serial produced in France. EADS release.

Sept 16/04: Sub-contracts. Patria announces a EUR 30 million order from AgustaWestland subsidiary Agusta SpA for the manufacture of about 150 NH90 helicopter rear fuselages, with the first is to be delivered by the end of 2005. Patria’s Aerostructures Business Unit has been manufacturing the sponsons for the NH90 helicopter since 2003 as a single source manufacturer for the Dutch NIH partner Stork Fokker, and is responsible for an NH90 Nordic final assembly line in Jamsa, Finland. Patria release.

Aug 31/04: Australia pick. The Australian Government Prime Minister John Howard and Defence Minister Robert Hill confirmed the selection of the NH90 as a future troop transport helicopter. The intended order is 12 NH90-TTH helicopters for the Army, but no contract is signed. Sen. Hill said that “This will bolster Australia’s counter-terrorism capabilities by releasing a Black Hawk squadron to provide dedicated support to our Special Forces on the east coast.” Australian DoD release | NHI release.

Omani NH90 TTH
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July 24/04: Oman’s order. The Sultanate of Oman orders 20 NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) battlefield helicopters for the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO), to be delivered from the end of 2008 to the end of 2010. Amounts are not disclosed, but EADS adds that “The contract also foresees a comprehensive support package and services with a contractor’s field assistance on several bases, training aids and mission preparation stations.” This would tend to push the contract’s price up.

The NH90 RAFO Variant is tailored to the extreme environmental conditions of the Middle-East region, with enhanced Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM 322-01/9A engines in order to maintain performance in Oman’s hot weather and high altitudes. This specific engine version installation is scheduled to be validated in Oman in July 2007 during the “Hot Weather Campaign.” NHI release | EADS release.

Oman: 20 TTH

May 11/04: NHIndustries and its partners companies, Eurocopter, Agusta and Stork Fokker are proud to announce that the first serial NH90 helicopter to come off the Eurocopter production line in Germany, is publicly presented today at the ILA Berlin Air Show. The event comes 4 years after the official production go-ahead was given at ILA 2000. NHI release.

May 4/04: Germany. First flight of the first production NH90-TTH aircraft for the German Armed Forces. Source.

March 15/04: Sub-contracts. EADS Defence Electronics announces that it will deliver EUR 200 million worth of advanced self-protection systems to the Eurocopter Tiger and NH90 helicopter programs in Germany, France, Italy, Australia, Portugal and Finland. Deliveries will take place through to 2012.

EADS Defence Electronics in a consortium with Thales will deliver an Electronic Warfare Suite comprising a missile approach warning system and a laser warning receiver developed by EADS DE in combination with a radar warner and the central processing unit developed and integrated by Thales as well as a chaff/flare dispenser from MBDA.

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Dec 12/03: FBW FTW. The NH90 becomes the first medium-sized transport helicopter to fly with full fly-by-wire controls, with no mechanical back-up. NHI release adds that:

“On this occasion NHIndustries is very pleased to mark the concurrence with the Centennial commemoration of the first sustained controlled powered flight of the history of the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk (12-17 December 1903).”

Sikorsky’s H-92 Superhawk competitor wouldn’t duplicate that feat until December 2007; the firm’s new UH-60M Black Hawk model will also feature fly by wire.

1st fly by wire only helicopter flight

Oct 30/03: Finland. Finnish state partnership Patria Oyj (75% state/ 25% EADS) officially inaugurates its new facilities for NH90 final assembly in Halli, Jamsa, Finland, which add 2,800 square meters of additional area. The Halli facility had previously been the site for , by merging an F/A-18C with a Canadian F/A-18B section. Patria release:

“Patria has already started the final assembly in the new facilities in September 2003 and will deliver 50 NH90 helicopters during 2005-2011. The first NH90 assembled in Finland will be delivered to the Finnish Defence Forces in 2005… The Nordic countries ordered 52 NH90 helicopters with an option for 17, from NHIndustries, owned by Agusta, Eurocopter and Fokker. Patria signed contracts on helicopter and engine assembly with Eurocopter and Rolls-Royce Turbomeca in October 2001. The value of these contracts is more than EUR 40 million.

Employment effect of the NH90 final assembly at Patria is approximately 750 man-years. Eurocopter S.A.S. has subcontracted the final assembly to Patria having also technical personnel working at Patria. One of Patria’s strategic focus areas is the helicopter life cycle support in the Baltic sea area.”

Aug 29/03: Greece’s order. Greece orders 20 NH90s plus logistics support (spares et. al.), together with a corresponding industrial offset agreement involving Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI). Part of this agreement is the creation of a Composite Facility at Tanagra, to be operated by the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI), which broke ground in February 2006. An Oct 3/06 EADS release places the contract value as “close to 657 million euros.”

The 16 NH90-TTH and 4 NH90 Special Operations helicopters will be operated by Greek Army Aviation. All Hellenic NH90s can also be converted into a MEDEVAC variant, thanks to 4 role change kits included in the order. Another 14 NH90s are on option, consisting of up to 12 NH90-TTH and 2 NH90-SOF variants with “state-of-the-art Special Operation suite to enhance the capability of the user to support diverse military scenarios.” The NHI release adds that:

“First NH90 Tactical Transport will be delivered to Greece by late 2005 and the whole firm series will be completed within the year 2010 (including option).”

Greece: 20 mixed

2002 and Earlier

From initial development to 242-helicopter core partner order; Orders from Finland (20), Norway (14), Portugal (10), Sweden (18). NH90 NFH
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Nov 30/01: Norway’s order. Royal Norwegian Air Force Material Command signs the contract for up to 24 NH90 helicopters: 14 NFH helicopters (6 naval, 8 Coast Guard), with an option for another 10 to perform search-and rescue. The NHI release adds that:

“The customised configuration of the 14 Norwegian NH90 helicopters (6 ASW and 8 Coast Guard), derived from the NAHEMA NFH version, features nationalised avionics, and dedicated equipment, such as a dual rescue winch, digital map generator, survival raft, additional fuel tanks, to be easily fitted to both the Coast Guard and ASW mission… First NH90 CG helicopter will be delivered to the Norway in late 2005 and the remaining series will be completed in 2008.”

Norway: 14 mixed

Oct 19/01: Finland’s order. The Finnish Defence Minister signs a EUR 343 million contract [direct MoD answer] for 20 NH90 TTH helicopters. The NHI release adds that:

“Besides the Acquisition Contract the Finnish MOD and NHI signed the Side Agreement concerning the allocation of a NH90 final assembly line to Finland, as well as the Agreement on Industrial Participation giving Finnish defence industry the opportunity to participate in the manufacturing of parts and the assembly of purchased equipment… First NH90 TTT helicopter will be delivered to Finnish Defence Forces in late 2004, and the series will be completed at the Finnish assembly line specifically arranged in Patria Finavitec, in collaboration with NHIndustries, within the year 2008.”

Finland: 20 TTH

Sept 26/01: Sweden’s order. The Swedish procurement department (FMV) signs the contract for 18 NH90s, plus another 7 on option (subsequently declined – see Nov 14/07). In Sweden, they will be known as Hkp 14/ Type 14 helicopters. The 18 machines on firm order include 13 TTH high-cabin variant and 5 naval variants; they will be operated by the Swedish Air Force.

Of the 18 ordered NH90s, 14 are to undergo final assembly in Finland. All will be equipped with a new Tactical Mission System (TMS) developed by Saab in cooperation with NHIndustries. The NHI release adds that:

“First NH90 TTT helicopter will be delivered to Swedish Air Force early 2005, and the series will be completed within the year 2009.”

Sweden: 18 mixed

Sept 13-18/01: Nordic pick. NH90 selected by NSHP committee for Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

June 21/01: Portugal added. The Armament Directors of France, Germany, Italy, and The Netherlands and the State Secretary of Portugal sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at Le Bourget (Paris Air Show 2001) to include Portugal as 5th European Nation in the NH90 Programme. This was based on the go-ahead and the Parliamentary approval of the 5 Participating Nations.

Portugal will purchase 10 NH90 helicopters for Tactical Transport missions and will become a member of NAHEMO (NATO Helicopter Management Organisation, comprising the Steering Committee and NAHEMA, the NATO Helicopter Management Agency), the government authority which controls the programme. NHI release.

Portugal: 10 TTH

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June 30/2000: Base order. The initial EUR 6.6 billion, 298 helicopter NH90 production order is signed. This 1st batch of 298 NH90 helicopters is part of the immediate Production Investment and Production (PI/P) commitment for a 1st batch of 366 helicopters [DID: when the 98 "selected" french & German helicopters are added], within the stated eventual requirement of 595 NH90s among the 4 founders.

Under this agreement, Italy orders 60 TTH (Tactical Transport Helicopter) for the Army, 46 NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter) and 10 TTH for the Navy, and 1 TTH as an option for the Italian Air Force; France will receive 27 NFH for their naval forces; Germany receives 50 TTH + 30 options for the Army and 30 TTH +24 options for the Air Force, of which 23 are foreseen for Combat Search and Rescue missions following a dedicated further contracted development; The Netherlands will receive 20 NFH helicopters. Germany also “selects” 30 NFH but signs no contract, and France does the same for 68 TTH.

The total value of the signed contract amounts to EUR 6.6 billion, and, in addition, national industries are participating with a self financing for the 25% amount of the Production Investment. This makes the NH90 the biggest helicopter programme ever launched in Europe, by a wide margin. The release cites continuous design to cost analysis and control of the technical configuration as key reasons they were able to meet their earlier cost estimates. Production shares among the 4 founding countries will be 31.25% for France (Eurocopter), 32% for Italy (Agusta), 31.25% for Germany (Eurocopter Deutschland) and 5.5% for The Netherlands (Stork Fokker).

NHIndustries is responsible for the programme management, marketing, sales, and after sales support. The release adds that “Deliveries will start on 2003 for the Tactical Transport version,” and says that “This commercial approach, to achieve the PI/P 1st batch contract ensures the customer: World market competitive prices; Guaranteed performance backed by stiff penalties…”

If true, that last bit will eventually come back to haunt them. NHI release.

Base Order:
France 27 NFH
German 80 TTH
Italy 116 mixed
Dutch 20 NFH
Country options

June 8/2000: Go-ahead. The governments of France, Italy, Germany, and The Netherlands gave their go-ahead for the production launch of the NH90 helicopter during the ILA 2000 airshow in Berlin. During an official ceremony at ILA, a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) covering a global intention of acquiring 595 helicopters and a global commitment for the industrialisation and the production of 366 NH90 helicopters was signed by Jean-Yves Helmer, Delegation General pour l’Armement (France), State Secretary Dr. Walther Stützle (Germany), Onorevole Dott. Domenico Minniti, Sottosegretario alla Difesa (Italy) and Dr. Jan Fledderus, Directeur Generaal Materieel (The Netherlands). This will be followed by the signature of a contract for the Production Investment and the Production (PI/P) of a 1st batch of helicopters. NHI release.


Dec 22/99: The maiden flight of the 5th and last prototype of the NH90 (PT5) takes place successfully at Agusta’s facilities in Italy. NHI release.

(click to visit)

Jan 13/98: ISO 9001. NHIndustries, the Prime Contractor for the quadrinational NH90 Helicopter Programme (launched by France, Italy, Germany and The Netherlands), announces that it has just received the ISO 9001 certification by Bureau Veritas Quality International (BVQI). NHI release.

June 26/96: Trials. Following the scheduled inspection and ground test activity, the NH90 is resuming intensive flight trials. The first prototype of NH90 helicopter (PT1) logged 35 flight hours, and preliminary evaluation flights have been already performed by the Test Pilots and Flight Engineers of the Armed Forces of France, Italy and Germany. NHI release.

Dec 18/95: 1st flight. 3 years after the signature of the Design & Development Contract, the first prototype of the NH90 (PT1) was successfully flown, as scheduled, from the Eurocopter plant in Marignane, France. NHI release.

1st flight

Oct 6/95: Contract. A ECU (Euro) 58.23 million “contract for the Additional Work and National Customisation” addendum to the general Memorandum of Understanding is signed by the 4 founding nations (France, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands), NAHEMA (NATO Helicopter Management Agency), and NHIndustries.

The “Additional work” groups items that “could be commonly utilised.” They will be developed within the main contract, and include a second engine option (from GE/Alfa Romeo, to become Avio SpA), a rear ramp for the Tactical Transport version, and second missile reinforcement for installation of heavy stores up to 700kg. The “National Customisation” work includes a command post study, a cannon pod installation study, sand filter, a radiameter, a second VHF/FM for the Tactical Transport version and a sonobuoy data relay study, a Tacan and the rear ramp for the Naval version.

The activities will be carried out by the four industrial partners, Agusta S.p.A (Italy), Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH, Eurocopter France S.A. and Fokker (The Netherlands) according to the design responsibility defined in the contract. The global contract value creates a slight adjustment of the national shares in the Programme (at the time, 41.6 % for France, 28.2 % for Italy, 23.7 % for Germany, 6.5 % for The Netherlands). NHI release.

Final development contract

Sept 28/95: The first run of the NH90 “Iron Bird” Ground Test Vehicle takes place at Agusta’s Cascina Costa, Italy plant. About 300 aircraft parameters are presently installed, with the main modules, groups and components arrived from the plants of the 4 European companies sharing the development work for NHIndustries: Agusta, Eurocopter Deutschland, Eurocopter France and Fokker. All of this is necessary preparation for the first flight. NHI release:

“On a tie-down metal structure solidly attached to the ground, the NH90 upper-deck, the rear fuselage and the tail unit are installed. The whole dynamic system is the same as the one installed on the first NH90 prototype, including the two engines, the main gear box, the tail drive system, the flight controls, the main and tail rotors. The installation of the vehicle subsystems have been supported by on-site working teams of the four Partner Companies according to their System Design Responsibility and have given excellent results.”

Additional Readings & Sources

  • NH Industries – NH90 Official Site

  • Naval Technology – NH90 NFH – ASW / Transport Helicopter, Europe

  • Rolls Royce – RTM322 engine. A collaboration of Rolls Royce and Snecma subsidiary Turbomeca. Power about 85% of NH90s ordered, offering between 2,412 (01/9) – 2,544 shp (01/9A). Interestingly, it is the H-92 Superhawk’s alternate engine, and is being promoted as a drop-in upgrade to replace the GE T700s that power Sikorsky’s H-60 family.

  • GE – CT7-8 engine. The CT7-8F5 powers Spanish NH90s, with a rating of about 2,520 shp at sea level. The CT7-8 was also co-developed with Avio SpA, but is considered a commercial engine as opposed to its military T700 counterpart from which it was derived. Other CT7-8 variants power the S-92 Superhawk, and will power the VH-71 (EH101) US Presidential helicopter as well.

  • GE – T700-T6E engine. A collaboration of GE & FiatAvio. Offers 2,269 (T6E) – 2,380 (T6E1) shp at sea level. Powers Italian NH90s.

  • Training & Simulation Journal (April 30/07) – NH90 training pact draws attention. “A complex private-finance initiative involving four companies to provide NH90 helicopter training services at three locations in Germany is now in its third year and is drawing interest from other countries…”

  • DID (Oct 26/06) – F&S on Europe’s Military Helicopter Market: 2006-2015. The NH90 is seen as fitting into a market sweet spot, and a successful future is predicted.

Categories: News

AW101 Flies off With Norway’s SAR Helicopter Competition

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 15:45
NH90 NFH: Out
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In September 2001, the NH90 medium helicopter was chosen as the common helicopter for the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, serving the navies of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Norway’s share was up to 24 machines: 14 NFH naval variants (6 for Norwegian ships and 8 for the coastguard), with an option for 10 more Search & Rescue machines. The follow-on SAR contract would replace Norway’s aging Sea King helicopter fleet.

That plan triggered warnings from people in the rescue service that the mid-range NH90 lacked the range and capacity required. Some Norwegians also pointed to Denmark’s departure from the Nordic Standard Helicopter Programme, precisely because the Danes needed the larger EH101 for the SAR role. Norway certainly has a lot of territory to cover. Its own long and deep maritime economic zone over the treacherous North Sea includes shipping, fishing, and abundant oil; and the American withdrawal from Keflavik AFB Iceland is stretching Norway’s patrol zones toward that country. Sikorsky’s Norwegian agent “Aircontactgruppen” has even taken the Norwegian government to court twice, demanding an open competition for the SAR helicopter contract. In 2007, they received their wish, and in 2013, Norway revealed their pick… not the S-92, and not its NH90 competitor.

The NAWSARH Program Program Evolution & Schedule Existing SH-3
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On Feb 1/07, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice announced that Norway’s option to buy 10 SAR versions of the NH90 would be allowed to lapse. Instead, they created the NAWSARH open competition, to begin in fall 2007.

By 2008, Iceland had confirmed that it would be part of the program, but the program’s failed to hit its goal of 2011 for initial delivery. NAWSARH hadn’t even picked its finalists when Iceland backed out in September 2012, and decided to lease 2 helicopters instead.

That left only Norway, but that country’s requirements grew to more than replace Iceland’s planned buy. The SAR fleet looks set to expand from its present set of 12 “Mk.43B” (SH-3B Sea King) machines, flown by No.330 squadron.

Initial requirement: Up to 19 helicopters, with an initial buy of 11 (10 Norway, 1 Iceland), and options to buy up to 8 (6 Norway, 2 Iceland). Value was between 2-3 billion NOK (then about $320-480 million), with an expected in-service phase-in between 2011-2014.

Current requirement: Up to 22 helicopters, with an initial buy of 16 machines for EUR 1.15 billion, and options for 6 more, all for Norway. Initial delivery is expected by 2017, and full capability by 2020.

Competitors UKMCA/CHC S-92
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As it turned out, the original NH90 didn’t even make the final shortlist. Competitors beyond the NH90 included:

AW101 Merlin (Winner!) A larger, 3-engined AgustaWestland machine, whose civilian and military versions both serve in SAR roles. They were a confirmed bidder, with a local advocacy page. Military customers nearby include Britain and Denmark. The AW101′s positives included 3-engine reliability, and excellent range and carrying capacity. Potential issues included a history of low in-service rates, which extends across several militaries.

EC225 Cougar (finalist). Eurocopter’s civil EC225 Cougar is a familiar sight in Norway’s offshore oil & gas industry, and the French use its EC725 military counterpart as their Combat SAR platform. Positives include a notable civil record, an excellent local support network, rock-steady auto-hover even in extreme conditions, and good marks from pilots. Potential issues include range and cabin size, plus accidents that led to an especially ill-timed 2013 grounding of the helicopters in the North Sea. The grounding was lifted, but the damage may have been done.

S-92 Superhawk (eliminated). Sikorsky’s twin-engine H-92 Superhawk is slightly larger than the NH90. It is used by British search-and-rescue partnerships, was picked by South Korea in 2012, and is well known in the offshore oil & gas industry. About half of the type’s flying hours by 2009 had been logged in Norway, with 15 civil-owned machines in country. Positives include strong survivability features, a notable civil record, good commonality with the popular H-60 family, and an excellent local support network. Its potential issue involved questions about its engine power, and whether it could perform to the same level as the NH90. The H-92 option was represented by Norway’s Aircontactgruppen AS, who played a key role in forcing the competition open.

Not Playing CV-22 SEAL extraction
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While US NAVAIR responded to the original RFI, Boeing’s 2 options don’t appear to have been a factor in this competition. Either they did not bid, or were not pre-qualified.

Boeing’s HH-47 Chinook won a combat SAR competition in the USA before CSAR-X was canceled, and is used by American special forces. It was discussed as an early option, and certainly has the heft and capacity Norway needs. On the other hand, the HH-47 uses mostly metal construction, and may have a higher maintenance burden in a predominantly maritime environment.

US NAVAIR reportedly responded with Bell/Boeing’s V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor, which offers a unique combination of speed and range. It also has a very strong rotor downwash that can be a problem in civil rescue situations, and a long and difficult service record that includes high maintenance costs and high-profile crashes. After beginning to prove its operational capability in Afghanistan, the V-22 has reportedly drawn some interest from Canada as a possible SAR aircraft. Even so, it was always seen as an outsider in the Norwegian competition, and wound up being a non-factor.

Contracts & Key Events 2011 – 2013

NAWSARH competitors set; AW101 and EC725 are the finalists, despite civil EC225 crashes and groundings; Civil firms will provide interim SAR service; AW101 wins, receives EUR 1.15 billion contract. Canadian AW101 SAR
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July 16/14: Kongsberg Defence Systems and Finmeccanica’s AgustaWestland subsidiary sign a protocol for extending and increasing Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) co-operation. Kongsberg will become a Centre of Excellence for MRO of dynamic components in Northern Europe, including a transfer of technology for advanced test equipment that allows full functional testing of NH90 and AW101 gear boxes.

Norway operates NH90 helicopters, and will add AW101′s for the NAWSARH search and rescue contract. This EUR 20-25 million per year agreement over the next 25 years helps cover Norwegian Industrial Participation requirements. Sources: AgustaWestland, “KONGSBERG and AgustaWestland Sign Agreement for Increased Co-operation”.

Dec 19/13: Contract. The NAWSARH contract is signed for 16 AW101 helicopters plus 15-20 years of support, with another 6 helicopter options available. Norway’s AW101s will be equipped with an advanced SAR equipment package, including a 4-axis digital Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), “a multi-panel AESA surveillance radar system from Selex ES that provides 360° coverage” (presumably from the SeaSpray family), a surveillance turret, 2 rescue hoists, and a searchlight. The helicopters will be assembled in Yeovil, UK, and delivered from 2017 – 2020.

The “turnkey” support includes 15 years of technical support, spares at each of the operating bases, maintenance at the operating bases via Norway’s AIM Aviaiton, helicopter transmission services via Norway’s Kongsberg, and training services that include a full flight simulator in Norway by the end of 2016. The support contract has an optional 5-year extension period.

There’s a bit of a discrepancy between the cost reports, however. The Norwegian government cites a contract figure of NOK 6.25 billion (GBP 621.74 M/ EUR 742 M/ $1.015 B), while the UK government and AgustaWestland cite a GBP 1 billion (NOK 10.5 B/ EUR 1.15 B/ $1.632 B) deal. The difference seems to be too large to be accounted for by simply including the final 5-year support option, and AW’s wording seems to focus pretty clearly on the base deal. Sources: Norway MJPS, “Government signs search and rescue helicopter contract” | AgustaWestland, “AgustaWestland Signs Norwegian All Weather SAR Helicopter Contract For 16 AW101 Helicopters” | UKTI, “Government welcomes £1 billion AgustaWestland helicopter deal”.

NAWSARH contract

Nov 8/13: Winner! The Norwegian Government picks AgustaWestland’s AW101 for NAWSARH, and begins final negotiations for the delivery of new search and rescue helicopters:

“The Ministry of Justice and Public Security has today informed the four bidders Eurocopter, NHI, Sikorsky and AgustaWestland Ltd. that the latter is chosen as the preferred bidder for new SAR helicopters with related equipment and maintenance solutions to replace the current Sea King. The aim is that the contract following final negotiations will be concluded by the end of the year. The contract includes 16 new SAR helicopters with an option for further 6, and ensures that the Sea King will be phased out across the country by the end of 2020.”

Despite the EC725′s finalist status, ongoing crashes involving its EC225 commercial counterpart (q.v. Oct 22/12, Aug 25/13, July 22/13) cannot have been helpful to its chances. Some sources estimate that the final total for the initial 16-helicopter AW101 buy will be more than EUR 1 billion. The Norwegian government says that they expect negotiations to wrap up before 2013 ends, so we should know soon. Sources: Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security.

AW101 picked

Sept 30/13: Industrial. In the wake of the finalist announcement, Norway’s Kongsberg decided to join AgustaWestland’s NAWSARH team. Kongsberg has been maintaining the Mk.43B Sea King fleet’s rotorheads and gearboxes for the past 30 years. Under this partnership, they’d expand that role for AW101 rotorhead and gearbox maintenance and testing, including transfer of technology for advanced test equipment related to the gearbox and general helicopter maintenance.

If AgustaWestland wins the contract, Kongsberg expects to expand their helicopter activities to around NOK 150 – 200 million ($25 – $33.3 million) in annual revenues, securing about 50 jobs for around 30 years. The capabilities would also position Kongsberg for more work on Norway’s 14-helicopter NH90 NFH fleet, whose main source of support is AgustaWestland. Sources: Airforce Technology, “Kongsberg and AgustaWestland join forces for Norway’s NAWSARH contract”.

Sept 24/13: EC225. Eurocopter teams with CAE to create an approved EC225 “Level D” helicopter training center in Norway, including a CAE 3000 Series flight and mission simulator. Eurocopter would own the center, which would have strong civilian applications for the North Sea oil industry. They haven’t forgotten NAWSARH, however:

“The center’s new EC225 simulator will provide an unprecedented level of realism for pilot mission training – including flight profiles for the offshore oil and gas sector, search and rescue (SAR) operations and other complex scenarios for which simulation training is ideally suited. The EC-225 simulator will be equipped with a CAE Tropos-6000 visual system and a Eurocopter original simulation package.”

Sources: Eurocopter Sept 24/13 release.

Aug 25/13: EC225. An EC225 crash near Shetland kills 4 people, prompting the oil industry’s Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) to ground several models – again (q.v. Oct 22/12, July 22/13). Under the directive:

“…all models of the Super Puma series including: AS332 L, L1, L2 and EC225 should be grounded for “all Super Puma commercial passenger flights to and from offshore oil and gas installations within the UK… [except] search and rescue helicopters for emergency response.”

Sources: BBC, “Shetland helicopter crash: All UK Super Pumas grounded”.

EC225 Crash

July 22/13: EC225. EC225 helicopters will begin flying in key countries without the restrictions that have hobbled them – including Norwegian interdicts against flights over water. Eurocopter release:

“The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulatory authority validated on July 10 these safety measures, which were developed by Eurocopter after an extensive investigation into the main gear box shaft failures of two EC225 helicopters in the North Sea in 2012. EASA’s validation was followed by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority’s lifting of operational restrictions on the same day, with the Civil Aviation Authority of Norway taking the step on July 19. This allows the full return to service of EC225s worldwide.

Also validated by EASA are Eurocopter modifications to the EC225′s main gear box emergency lubrication system that ensure its full performance throughout the flight envelope.”

July 9/13: Finalists. Norway’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security announces the finalists. The NH90 is out. Sikorsky, who forced a competition against the NH90, is also out. Further negotiations will now take place with AgustaWestland (AW101) and Eurocopter (EC725). Norway aims to sign a contract by the end of 2013, and phase out the last H-3 Sea King by 2020.

The EC 725 may seem like a surprising finalist, given its civilian EC225 counterpart’s well-publicized woes. The military versions have been able to remain flying throughout, and have been used by the French in Afghanistan. Norway MJPS.

Norwegian finalists

Sept 18/12: Icelandic freeze. Iceland leaves the NAWSARH project. The working relationship with Norway was good, but they decide on a less expensive option:

“Icelandic authorities have decided to end the co-operation on purchase of rescue helicopters as a consequence of great restrictions on public expenditures in Iceland. New rescue helicopters involve large investment requirements which the Icelandic government cannot guarantee in the coming years. Icelandic authorities will instead enter into a leasing agreement for two helicopters…”

Iceland out

March 2/13: EC225. AIN says the EC225′s flight restrictions since the Oct 22/12 accident are really hurting the offshore oil industry, in which Norway is a major player:

“Eurocopter anticipates that a solution to the main gearbox problem that has grounded the North Sea fleet of EC225s will be available next month. Offshore operators, especially those in the North Sea, have seen major disruption of their activities…. While Eurocopter engineers have found the root cause and developed a fix for false alarms with the main-gearbox emergency lubrication system, sleuthing the shaft cracks has been trickier…. Norwegian and UK authorities continue to prohibit flights over water…. after the British and Norwegian authorities decided to ground EC225s used for overwater flights, other countries followed suit. According to Olivier Claeys, an aviation expert at oil company Total, operators (as opposed to aviation authorities, Bristow officials noted) suspended EC225 flights worldwide. EC225s serving Total oil platforms in Angola, for example, are grounded.”

Not exactly a great advertisement for a SAR competitor that will need to undertake long flights in dangerous conditions. Sources: AIN, “Operators feel impact of EC225 grounding”.

Feb 15/12: Competitors pre-qualified. The Norwegian MoJPS announces that AgustaWestland (AW101), Eurocopter (EC725 military variant of the EC225), NH Industries (NH90) and Sikorsky (H-92) have all been pre-qualified as the competitors for the NAWSARH joint RFP.

“The work to finalize the tender documentation is ongoing. The tentative plan is that the tender documents will be submitted to the Prequalified Candidates early April 2012. It is expected to have the first helicopters delivered during 2016 and Sea King phased out within the end of 2020.”

See also NH Industries.

Feb 2/12: NAWSARH leadership changes. Project leader Kjell Jacob Johannessen steps back from the project, after his son’s position changes within a potential NAWSARH supplier. Deputy project leader Rune Haver will temporary be acting project leader. Norway MoJPS.

Oct 22/12: EC225. An EC225 LP helicopter belonging to CHC Scotia ditches in the North Sea, 32 miles SW of Shetland. It was en route to the West Phoenix oil drilling rig. A 360 degree crack was eventually found on the bevel gear vertical shaft, which kocked out the main gearbox lubrication system. The backup system was actually working correctly, but the displays said that those had also failed, so the pilots ditched the helicopter in the sea.

All of the people on board survived and were rescued. In the wake of the crash, major North Sea operators CHC Helicopter, Bond Offshore Helicopters, and Bristow Helicopters decide to ground all AS 332 and EC225 Super Puma helicopters. This would eventually be backed up by official prohibitions in Britain and Norway, and similar flight suspensions by other operators. Sources: NDT Hub, “Accident investigation finds similar faults on Super Pumas”.

EC225 crash

Oct 24/11: NAWSARH pre-qualification. Norway announces a pre-qualification process for bidders on its NAWSARH join project with Iceland. At the same time, Iceland’s Rikiskaup (State Trading Centre) publishes their procurement process on behalf of the Icelandic Ministry of Interior. The initial buy would be 11 helicopters (10 Norway, 1 Iceland), with options for 8 more (6 Norway, 2 Iceland).

The documents are submitted to the EU’s TED procurement portal. Norway | Iceland | Prequalification documents.

March 3/11: Civil SAR interim. Norway’s MoJPS will be relying on civil Search And Rescue helicopter services from 2014-2020, in order to provide these critical services until the NAWSARH helicopters are ready. But they won’t be buying them:

“The acquisition of backup capacity from a civil SAR- helicopter service provider based on the whitepaper St.prp. 80 S (2010-2011) will be performed by the Norwegian armed forces, thus have no directly link to the NAWSARH project.”

Interim SAR plans

2007 – 2010

Competition opened up; Evolution into NAWSARH program. EC225-SAR, Norway
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Oct 19-20/10: NAWSARH’s 3rd Industry Day. Agenda | Opening speech.

Industry Day #4 happens on June 20/11, and #5 happens on Nov 10/11.

Oct 14/10: Steep requirements. The Norwegian government clarifies further:

“In practice, this means that the future helicopters must have the capacity to fly between 220 Nm and 270 Nm in two hours and pick up 20 people… It is also worth noting that the above has been expressed as a minimum ambition, and if the range of the relevant helicopter candidates is greater than the minimum requirement, this will be weighted accordingly in the further work… As a point of interest: today’s Sea Kings are able to reach 53 Nm out from the straight baseline and pick up 20 persons in distress.

…To the best of our knowledge, there are no other countries that have equivalent or higher ambitions for their rescue helicopter service than the one currently presented by the government, especially taking into consideration the 24 hour on-site duty arrangement. The Ministry of Justice will continue the work with the acquisition process and does not have any preference for particular helicopter candidates.”

Sept 27/10: Delay and Requirements. The Norwegian government has pushed its timelines back, and now hopes to field new search and rescue helicopters by 2020:

“The government’s objective is to have capacity to begin rescue of 20 people in distress within a range of 150 nautical miles directly out from the straight baseline within two hours. In addition, they must be able to assist two people at the far perimeter of the Norwegian search and rescue region… The acquisition process is being continued. It is based on the recommended multi-mission concept consisting of a uniform fleet of 15 to 20 large helicopters (weighing 10-20 tonnes)… The future rescue helicopters will also continue the mission of the current helicopters, such as air ambulance (Medevac) and other services vital to society… The concept has been reviewed by HolteProsjekt AS and Econ Analyse AS as part of the external quality assurance. The total life cycle costs for the new helicopter fleet from procurement until 2050, is estimated to be in the region of NOK 29 – 39 billion [DID: $4.8 - 6.5 billion].”

See also the concept study “Forstudie for ny the rescue helicopter capacity (Pre-study of new rescue helicopter capacity),” prepared by the Rescue department in the Ministry of Justice, and the External quality assurance report.

June 23-24/08: Industry Day 2. NAWSARH holds its 2nd Industry Day. Agenda | Opening speech [PDF].

May 7/09: Candidates? A Teknisk Ukeblad article [in Norwegian] lists the NAWSARH competitors as the NH90, AgustaWestland’s AW101, Eurocopter’s EC725 Cougar, Sikorsky’s H-92 Superhawk, and Bell/Boeing’s V-22 Osprey.

Sept 3/08: Iceland, too. Delegations from Norway and Iceland meet in Reykjavik, Iceland, and decide that the Norwegian-Icelandic cooperation on acquiring rescue helicopters will continue. This cooperation is based on the Nov 30/07 agreement on new rescue helicopters, signed by Iceland’s Minister of Justice Bjørn Bjarnason and Norway’s Minister of Justice Knut Storberget. Norwegian Ministry of Justice.

Iceland added to NAWSARH

Feb 13/08: NAWSARH RFI. Norway’s Ministry of Justice releases the NAWSARH RFI.

May 16/07: Terje Moland Pedersen, the State secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and the Police announces that they will conduct a seminar for interested vendors at the Paris Airshow on June 18/07. The Ministry of Justice and the Police (MoJ) is responsible for the acquisition program. Quote:

“It is of vital importance that the acquisition program lead to multi engine, long range, wide capacity all weather SAR helicopters suitable for operation over the Norwegian waters in harsh weather condition and in the Norwegian topography with high mountains and low temperatures. It is equally important that these helicopters are equipped with state of the art search and rescue equipment and built to the latest safety standards. The program plan has targeted the implementation phase to be 2011 – 2014.”

Those interested in actual details and requirements will have to be in Paris.

Feb 22/07: Iceland, too? The Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Police announces that the NAWSARH project (Norwegian All Weather Search and Rescue Helicopter) project could become a joint acquisition. Iceland can no longer rely on American helicopters, now that the USA has abandoned Keflavik AB, and is reportedly looking for 3 new all-weather helicopters of its own, pushing a joint buy to 13-15 machines. The project is expecting to release an RFP in 2009. Ice News.

Feb 1/07: Competition opened. The Norwegian Ministry of Justice announces [Norwegian] that Norway won’t use its option to buy 10 SAR versions of the NH90, contradicting repeated assurances to date that the NH90 would be their SAR choice.

Instead, they are announcing that an open competition is set to be held between potential suppliers in fall 2007. The contract has a value of between 2-3 billion NOK (currently about $320-480 million), with an expected in-service phase-in between 2011-2014.

Norway opens SAR to competition

Additional Readings Helicopters

NAWSARH: Background and News Key Documents

Related News

Related Reports & Briefings

Categories: News

India Needs New Maritime/ASW Helicopters

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 19:52
Indian Ka-28
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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 is happening, while critical Indian defenses rot. “India’s Navy Holding Maritime Patrol Aircraft Competition” describes India’s growing naval sphere of influence, and the subsequent purchase of long-range P-8i jets to improve India’s territorial coverage. Unfortunately, that can’t paper over a glaring hole in India’s defenses. The Indian 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…

India’s Anti-Submarine Weakness Indian Sea King
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As of 2014, the situation has become grave:

“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 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

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.

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.

Naval Helicopters: Picking the Contenders Italian AW101
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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.”

Each manufacturer had more than one helicopter that could fit this description, but the competition seemed to be narrowing to the NH90 NFH vs. the MH-60R/S.

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. Reports don’t indicate that they’re a contender, and India has delayed modernizing the handful of helicopters they have.


AgustaWestland (finalist, NH90). The firm had several models it could offer, but 2014 reports place the NH90 as their offering. AgustaWestland is the NHIndustries consortium lead for the NH90 NFH medium naval helicopter. Note that a number of European navies have needed to upgrade and modify their ships to support the NH90, due to its size and fully-loaded weight. On the other hand, the NH90 will eventually get an ANL anti-ship missile, something its MH-60R rival doesn’t have.

If India had been willing to accept a smaller helicopter that more easily fits on all kinds of ships, their Super Lynx naval helicopter fits a very wide range of naval vessels, and are in service all around the world. Britain’s AW159 Lynx Wildcat offers even more advanced technologies. At the high end, the AW101 medium-heavy helicopter is used in both naval and search-and-rescue roles, but the AW101 even bigger than the NH90. Naval ASW variants serve with Britain’s Royal Navy, and with Italy.

Airbus. Eurocopter is the top shareholder in the NH90 consortium, so it’s technically a participant in the NH90 bid. Their own AS532/ EC725 Super Puma/Cougar also serves with a number of navies, including some customers near India, and there’s an AS332F variant for ASW. They’re medium helicopters.

MH-60Rs fire Hellfire
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Sikorsky (finalist, S-70). The S-70 is an export designation for Sikorsky’s H-60 family. India’s neighbor Thailand has already ordered the new MH-60S naval utility helicopter, and its counterpart the MH-60R would add potent anti-submarine and surface warfare capabilities, while sharing significant commonality with the MH-60S. The MH-60 family’s biggest competitive weakness is its lack of an anti-ship missile, though both types can carry AGM-114 Hellfires for use against small boats and land targets. They’ll soon add APKWS 70mm laser-guided rockets, giving them even more precision support weapons.

Australia has ordered some MH-60Rs, and of course they’re the current and future mainstay of the US Navy. 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 them a second shot.

As a third option, Canada had chosen Sikorsky’s larger H-92 Superhawk as the basis for its CH-148 Cyclone naval helicopter. Unfortunately, that project remains beset by delays and some capability issues. Until those are fixed and the helicopter is performing in service, an MH-92 offering would have been a big risk for Sikorsky.

Contracts & Key Events AW101 VVIP
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July 28/14: Delayed again. The investigation into India’s AW101 VVIP helicopter buy, which became a full-blown legal dispute between India and Finmeccanica as of 2013, continues the 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 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: Druhv. 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 Druhv 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 Druhvs, though they will need many more in order to become effective beyond Porbandar (q.v. July 19/14). There has been some notion of outfitting the Druhv as an ASW helicopter for the Navy, but the Druhv variant in current service would be more of a replacement for the Navy’s aged Chetak utility helicopters. Approval is not a contract, so we will have to await a contract announcement to know more.

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. Sources: International Business Times, “What Does Indian Defence Get in Military Projects Worth [Rs] 34,260 Crore?”

July 19/14: ASW weakness. 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: 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: ASW weakness. 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”.

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 armoured 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”.

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 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, 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

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Categories: News

C-130s for the Philippines

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 17:54
PAF C-130H
(click to view full)

The Philippine Air Force has devolved in many ways since the 1980s, but China’s ongoing pressure is finally focusing high-level attention on the need to rebuild it. A country of islands means an especial premium or sea and air transport, but the country’s aerial transport fleet has declined especially badly. At the high end, it has crashed from a high of 18 C-130 medium transports to just 3 aged C-130B and L-382 (converted civil C-130H) aircraft. Poor storage and practices mean that only 3 other PAF airframes can even hope for refurbishment now, and the country is also looking to buy second-hand C-130s from the United States.

(click to view full)

July 24/14: C-130Ts. The US DSCA announces the Philippines official request for 2 ex-USMC C-130T Hercules medium tactical transports, 10 T56-16 engines (8 installed and 2 spares), 3 years of sustainment and support, modification equipment and labor costs, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, aircraft ferry support, personnel training and training equipment, and other US Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is $61 million.

“Contractor requirements are still being researched, and will be fulfilled through open competition. Should USG representatives or contractor support in-country be required in support of the case, length of time in-country will be minimized to the maximum practical extent. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.”

C-130Ts are US NAVAIR’s designation for planes the USAF would classify as C-130H models, with some changes. the Navy bought 20, and the type reached Initial Operating Capability in 1991. They, and their dual-role KC-130T counterparts, are being replaced by new KC-130J transport/ tankers. Sources: US DSCA #14-24, “Government of the Philippines – C-130T Aircraft”.

Nov 27/13: Will buy 2. Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin says that they’ll buy 2 used C-130s from the USA:

“He said the current C-130s are overused given the scale of the operations in Visayas–particularly Leyte and Samar–the region that was battered by Yolanda and a 7.2 magnitude quake in October. The secretary said buying brand-new planes is not a priority at this time because the country cannot afford the tag price…. The Air Force is down to three functioning C-130 from a high of 18. It will cost around P500 million [DID $ ] to fix the non-functioning planes.”

Sources: “Philippines to buy 2 used C-130s”

June 10/13: Fleet to 9? The Philippine blog MaxDefense says that the country could have as many as 9 C-130s again by 2015:

“For those who passed by the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, you may have seen three parked C-130s on the apron. These three aircraft are currently not operational, and are the only units found by PAF and Lockheed Martin specialists as acceptable for re-commissioning after extensive refurbishment and repair… According to MaxDefense sources, these 3 units (2 C-130B and an L-100 civilian version) will undergo in-house refurbishing and repair similar to what was done last year to C-130B tail no. 3633. It will be done by the PAF’s 410th Maintenance Wing…. Information given to MaxDefense regarding these 3 C-130s is not yet final though…. According to MaxDefense sources, the DND and PAF are in talks with the US government to get at least 3 units of “H” models from US EDA stocks.”

Sources: MaxDefense, “More C-130 Hercules transport planes for the PAF staring 2014″.

Aug 10/12: 1 operational. PH Defense Today is still on top of key RFPs, and places them in the context of the fleet’s current condition. When this RFP is done, the country’s fleet will rise to 3 C-130s in service:

“An unidentified Philippine Air Force C-130 is due to undergo its 24th Year Scheduled Maintenance Program (SMP). On August 1, 2012, the PAF Bids and Awards Committee invited suppliers to bid for tools and equipment related to the SMP on PhilGEPS…. as of writing, the Air Force only had one operational Hercules: #4726, making it the logical object of this effort.

Two other PAF C-130s are undergoing maintenance programs. The long suffering #4704, which had been the AFP’s lone operational C-130 for years, is currently in the United States for a protracted repair effort. The second, #3633, is nearing the end of its maintenance cycle at the 410th maintenance wing…. The text of the bid invitation appears below…”

Sources: PH Defense Today, “Another PAF C-130 due to undergo Scheduled Maintenance Program (SMP)”.

Jan 6/12: PH Defense Today pulls some official data to illustrate a problem:

“The 305th Contracting Office of the AFP Procurement Service currently has P7,928,421.13 [DID: about $181,000] worth of bid invitations on PhilGEPS that dramatically illustrate the challenges that AFP logisticians face. Instead of establishing service support agreements with aircraft suppliers, the service is inviting potential suppliers to 18 individual bids for C-130 components. These appear in the table below…”

Sources: PH Defense Today, “The PAF’s piecemeal acquisitions”.

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Categories: News

C-17s for India: 10 Aircraft by 2015

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 16:38
IAF’s 1st C-17
(click to view full)

In November 2009, reports surfaced that India was negotiating to buy 10 C-17A Globemaster III heavy transports for its air force. A Defense News article added that:

“The C-17′s advantages include its easier handling (compared with the IL-76) and ability to operate from short and rough airstrips, added the sources… The Indian military needs to do three things: augment its ability to quickly lift larger numbers of troops as it views possible threats on its border with China; strengthen its presence on the Pakistani border; and fight terrorism and low-intensity warfare, said a senior Defence Ministry official. India needs to triple its lift capacity, said the official.”

Contracts and Key Events 2013 – 2104

1st deliveries. IAF C-17A
(click to view full)

New jets with 77.5 tonnes of lift capacity, instead of the IL-76′s 50 tonnes, will help India get there. The government was serious enough to file a formal DSCA request in April 2010, worth up to $5.8 billion. Now, that has taken the next steps, and become the largest-ever foreign sale of C-17s – with the potential to grow further.

July 28/14: #6 delivered. India’s newest C-17 will touch down at Hindon AFS with an unusual cargo already on board: a restored T-6G Harvard plane that was used by IAF to train its rookie pilots in the 1950s and 1960s. The T-6G will go into the IAF Vintage Flight Squadron, alongside an existing De Havilland Tiger Moth that also had its restoration work completed by M/s Reflight Airworks in the UK. The wingless T-6G was loaded into the aircraft when it touched down in the UK from Long Beach. It will arrive in India via Abu Dhabi. Sources: Times of India, “Strategic airlift and nostalgia headed for Delhi, in one package”.

Nov 26/13: #5 delivered. The plane actually took off from Long Beach, CA on Nov 22/13 for its flight to Hindon AFS. Sources: Boeing India, “Boeing delivers Indian Air Force’s 5th C-17 airlifter”.

Oct 19/13: #4 delivered. India’s 4th C-17 takes off from Long Beach for India, with a 5th delivery still scheduled later this year. Source: Boeing Oct 24/13 release.

Aug 20/13: #3 delivered. India’s 3rd C-17 takes off for India, and the company remains on track to deliver #4 and 5 in 2013. Sources: Boeing Aug 22/13 release.

July 22/13: #2 delivered. Boeing delivers India’s 2nd C-17 at a ceremony in Long Beach, CA. With the flight tests at Edwards AFB out of the way, this one will “immediately enter service”.

The IAF’s first C-17 began flying missions as soon as it arrived at Hindon AFS, including a delivery to India’s strategic Adnan & Nicobar Islands near the Strait of Malacca’s western entrance. Sources: Boeing July 22/13 release.

June 11-17/13: #1 Arrives. The Indian Air Force flies its 1st Boeing C-17 Globemaster III to India today, after completion of a flight test program at Edwards Air Force Base in Palmdale, CA. Boeing is on track to deliver 4 more C-17s to the IAF in 2013, and 5 in 2014.

The plane arrives at Hindon AFS on July 17/13. Sources: Boeing July 11/13 release | New Indian Express, “IAF receives its C-17 Globemaster-III heavy-lift aircraft.”

1st delivery

Jan 22/13: “Delivery”. Boeing delivers India’s 1st C-17. “Delivers” isn’t like buying a car and driving it off the lot. In cases like this, where it’s a new type of plane for a customer, it usually means that the plane goes to flight testing. The IAF’s C-17 will be flight tested at Edwards AFB, CA. Once testing is done to India’s satisfaction, the Indian government can hold a formal acceptance ceremony for the aircraft. This may or may not be timed to coincide with the plane’s arrival in India.

Boeing will deliver 5 C-17As per year to India: 4 more in 2013, then the final 5 in 2014. Sources: Boeing Jan 22/13 release.

2011 – 2012

Cabinet approval; program budget; Boeing contract. C-17, waiting
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Sept 24/12: Infrastructure. Boeing in Huntington Beach, CA receives a $21.7 million firm-fixed-price contract to build C-17 bed-down infrastructure in India, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/14. The plane isn’t likely to fit into facilities for smaller aircraft.

One bid was solicited, with one bid received. The US Army Corps of Engineers at Elmendorf AFB, AK manages the contract on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale client in India (W911KB-12-C-0010).

July 31/12: 1st major join. Boeing workers in Long Beach join the forward, center and aft fuselages, and the wing assembly, of India’s first C-17 Globemaster III. The “major join” ceremony is a minor program milestone, complete with ceremonial rivets. Boeing.

Feb 2/12: Contract. Boeing in Long Beach, CA receives a $1.78 billion firm-fixed-price contract for 10 C-17s, as a Foreign Military Sales requirement for the Indian Air Force. Work will be performed in Long Beach, CA, and is expected to be complete by July 28/14. The ASC/WLMK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH acts as India’s FMS agent (FA8614-06-D-2006, DO 0009).

The wide difference between Antony’s Dec 12/11 statement and this contract is a good reminder that the purchase contract doesn’t cover everything. As one example, India can expect to pay another $380 million or so for the 40 F117 engines that will equip these planes. They will be installed under this contract, but are not bought under it. Other “Government Furnished Equipment” from both India and the USA also factors into the total program cost, as do initial support contracts in many cases. Based on USAF total costs, Antony’s $4+ billion figure also includes support contracts – a Sept 27/11 C-17 support contract totaled up to $469 million, for an undisclosed period.

Boeing contract

Dec 12/11: Budget. Indian defense minister Antony answers a Parliamentary question, and confirms key details about India’s first 10 C-17s:

“Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) have been signed with the Government of the United States (USG) for the procurement of ten C-17 Globemaster aircraft as well as six C-130J aircraft along with associated equipment for the Indian Air Force (IAF) The estimated cost of the procurement of the C-17 aircraft is US $ 4.116 billion… The cost at which the aircraft is being supplied to India is commensurate with the cost at which C-17 aircraft is supplied to the United States Air Force and its allies. All ten C-17 aircraft and their associated equipment are expected to be delivered to the IAF between June 2013 and June 2015.”

Program budget

Dec 8/11: Engines. A $37.8 million fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for 4 F117-PW-100 FMS install engines, and associated data for the C-17 aircraft.

FMS means a Foreign Military Sale airlifter, and potential contracts for 1 more C-17A currently exist with Australia and Kuwait. Australia’s DSCA request was published on Nov 15/11, and it’s in the group (with NATO, Japan & New Zealand) for a reduced 15-day DSCA notification period, so it could be them. At the same time, Pratt & Whitney’s Dec 19/11 release describes a contract to “produce the first four F117-PW-100 engines that will power the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III for the Indian Air Force. The engines will be delivered in second quarter of 2012.”

Note the consistent figure of around $37-38 million “extra” for engines, above and beyond the contract price to Boeing for each plane. Work will be performed in East Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by June 4/12 (FA8626-07-D-2073, no DO given).

Sept 27/11: A not-to-exceed $469 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, covering India’s initial entry into the C-17 Globemaster III Sustainment Partnership Program’s “virtual fleet” (FA8614-04-C-2004, PO 0436).

June 15/11: Deal signed. Boeing and India sign the deal for 10 C-17s, to be delivered during 2013-2014. India will also join the Globemaster Sustainment Partnership. On Boeing’s part, it will invest 30% of the $4.1 billion contract in Indian civilian and military industries. The Letter of Offer and Acceptance is reported to specifically include the build-out of a high-altitude engine test facility and trisonic wind tunnel facility at India’s DRDO. Rumors place those projects’ cost at $500 million, but the long-term value to Indian research may be higher.

Reports continue to circulate, complete with high-level quotes, that India’s eventual order may reach 16-18 C-17As. Boeing release | Boeing India page || Deccan Herald | domain-b | India’s Economic Times | Times of India | Seattle Post-Intelligencer || Flight International | Oman Tribune.

10 C-17s + GSP support

June 7/11: India’s Cabinet Committee on Security has reportedly approved a $4.1 billion buy of 10 C-17As. Details regarding possible options clauses remain sketchy, and this is not a contract yet, but it is an important milestone. A Letter of Acceptance to the US government is expected to be issued this month, after which a final date for the signing of the contract will be set. Deliveries of the aircraft are expected to start 24 months after that official signing. Boeing Military Aircraft President Chris Chadwick is quoted as saying that:

“The [$1+ billion] offsets package relating to the deal has already been approved. Plus, the IAF has to go through numerous government gateways before a final seal of approval can be given. Defence deals of this magnitude do take some time to close, and I expect them to take a decision by mid-2011.”

See: Economic Times of India | Indian Express | The Hindu | Zee News | US-India Business Council | Long Beach Press-Telegram | Los Angeles Times || Agence France Presse.

Cabinet approval

May 18/11: 15-17 planes? In “India’s consolation prize to US,” The Times of India reports that India may be moving toward a larger C-17 order faster than previously planned, as a partial effort to offset the fallout from having American fighters shut out of the M-MRCA competition. A larger buy would also give Indian regular and special forces a lot more mobility, in an era where trends are pushing India to find become more involved in conflicts beyond its near borders. Reports are consistent with November 2010 dispatches, speaking of another 5-7 C-17s on top of the 10 being negotiated. That could push the total deal value from around $4.1 billion to almost $7 billion.

The pending orders for C-17s and M777 ultra-light howitzers would be pursued as government-to-government Foreign Military Sales, in part because that helps the Indian government sidestep its own unworkable procurement processes. The Times of India reports that:

“Work on increasing the C-17 order is already underway. Among the security agencies set to acquire the massive military aircraft is Aviation Research Centre, the external intelligence agency RAW’s aviation arm. Given its capability to airdrop over 100 commandos, C-17s would also be acquired for improving Special Forces capabilities outside of the military, sources said.”

April 13/11: IANS reports on the current state of the C-17 pursuit, following an interview with Boeing Military Aircraft president Christopher M. Chadwick:

“Chadwick also dismissed rumours about India being upset with the $5.8 billion that the US has cited for the 10 C-17 Globemaster heavylift cargo planes for its air force… “There has been no direct request to us about the pricing (of C-17s). I think what we offered is very fair and allows us to meet the requirement of airplane capability and lifecycle costs. So we are waiting to see what they (Indian government) have to say. I think we are pretty close to signing the contract,” Chadwick said. He said their price for the 10 C-17s was “fair and transparent” and noted that the company’s offset commitment plan had been approved already.”

2009 -2010

C-17 request. IAF IL-76MD
(click to view full)

Nov 9/10: More? India Defence cites Indian media reports quoting IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik:

“After we have evaluated the performance of the 10 C-17s, we will take a decision on whether to order another six.”

Nov 6/10: During Obama’s trip to India, an initial agreement is signed for 10 C-17s, with further details to be worked out. A White house statement says that:

“The Boeing Company and the Indian Air Force have reached preliminary agreement on the purchase of 10 C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft, and are now in the process of finalizing the details of the sale. Once all have been delivered, the Indian Air Force will be the owner and operator of the largest fleet of C-17s outside of the United States. Boeing, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, is the aircraft manufacturer. Boeing reports that each C-17 supports 650 suppliers across 44 U.S. states and that this order will support Boeing’s C-17 production facility in Long Beach, California, for an entire year. This transaction is valued at approximately $4.1 billion, all of which is U.S. export content, supporting an estimated 22,160 jobs.”

Boeing emphasizes that it has not yet sealed the order with a legal contract. See: Bloomberg | UK Financial Times Beyond BRICs blog | Hindu Business Line | Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) | NDTV | Sify | WSJ India Real Time blog.

Interim agreement

Oct 19/10: Competing reports surface regarding India’s C-17 buy. India’s Economic Times says a $5+ billion deal for C-17s will be signed in advance of Barack Obama’s visit to India in November 2010. The second layer of speculation has to do with electronics, since India hasn’t signed the USA’s Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), or the Basic Exchange and Co-operation Agreement for geo-spatial co-operation – and reportedly doesn’t intend to.

The alternative would be to create a C-17i with avionics and communications systems from Israel instead, or from France’s Thales. The latter could even be borrowed from commercial aircraft systems, but any substitution will incur both equipment integration and testing costs, and international civil/military certification testing and costs. Economic Times of India | “An EUM Bellwether? India/US Arms Deals Face Crunch Over Conditions.”

April 26/10: The US DSCA announces [PDF] India’s official request to buy 10 C-17A strategic transport aircraft, along with 45 (40 installed and 5 spare) F117-PW-100 engines, 10 of ATK’s AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning Systems, 10 of BAE systems’ AN/ALE-47 Counter-Measures Dispensing Systems, along with pyrotechnics, flares, and other explosives; plus spare and repairs parts, any modifications desired by India, repair and return services, warranty, aircraft ferry and refueling for delivery, crew armor, mission planning system software, communication equipment and support, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require up to 20 U.S. Government and 20 contractor representatives for annual program management and technical reviews in India or the U.S. for 1 week per review, over approximately 6 years. The estimated cost is $5.8 billion, a far more reasonable figure than earlier estimates, and in line with past sales to Australia and Canada. The US Embassy in New Delhi reminds onlookers that, as always:

“…this [DSCA figure] represents the highest possible estimate for the sale, and includes all potential services offered. The actual cost will be based on Indian Air Force requirements and has yet to be negotiated.”

The principal contractors will be The Boeing Company in Long Beach, CA, and Pratt & Whitney Military Engines in East Hartford, CT. Additional subcontractors may be involved, depending on the contract. At this time, there are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale – an unusual circumstance in India, though Boeing’s in-country work is growing of its own accord. U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer said that the sale “will likely include significant job creation in both countries.” See also US Embassy, New Delhi | India’s Financial Express | India Today.

C-17 request

March 10/10: Indian Minister of Defence A.K. Antony confirms to Parliament that India plans to buy C-17 Globemaster III transports on a government-to-government basis:

“The proposal to procure C-17 Globemaster II aircraft from the US Government to meet the strategic airlift requirement of Indian Air Force was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council on October 19, 2009. The Letter of Request was issued to the United States Government on January 01, 2010.”

Jan 7/10: Boeing announces that the U.S. government has received a Letter of Request from India’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Indian Air Force regarding the potential acquisition of 10 C-17 Globemaster IIIs. The C-17 has been to India, and conducted demonstration flights in February 2009 at Aero India in Bangalore.

If the buy proceeds as a Foreign Military Sale, the next step is a US State Department approval and announcement of the sale via the DSCA, complete with estimated costs. Some countries, like Qatar and Canada, have chosen to buy their C-17s as a less public, and less restrictive, Direct Commercial Sale instead, reserving the FMS request and DSCA announcements for the aircraft’s defensive systems and Global Sustainment Partnership support arrangements.

Nov 5/09: Defense News reports that India is negotiating to buy 10 C-17A Globemaster III heavy transports for its air force, and claims that a $1.7 billion deal is likely to be finalized “by early 2010.” The problem is, a $1.7 billion budget might buy India 5 operational C-17s, but it’s very difficult to see how it could buy 10.

The article correctly notes that C-17 costs would be about 300% of the Russian IL-76, which India already operates as transport, aerial refueling (IL-78), and AWACS (IL-76/A-50 Phalcon) aircraft. Purchases by countries like Jordan indicate that a stretched IL-76MF with westernized avionics would sell in the $50-75 million range, and the aircraft does have some rough field capability. In contrast, the C-17′s price tends to hover near a modern 747′s, at around $200-250 million.

Australia spent about $1.4 billion, and Canada about $1.6 billion, to buy and induct 4 C-17As into their respective air forces; the USA, who does not have the extra expenses that accompany any new fleet aircraft type, is set to spend $2.5 billion for 10 C-17s in the Senate’s FY 2010 defense budget.

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Categories: News

Fighting Goes On in Gaza, Tripoli

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 14:37

  • After a brief lull fighting continued in Gaza: USA Today | WaPo.

  • The US evacuated its embassy in Tripoli as fighting in Libya’s capital has been worsening. DoD | Daily Beast | NYT.

  • Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, compares the situation in the Middle East to Europe’s 17th century Thirty Years’ War. There are limits to that analogy, but this, as then, indeed looks like a protracted conflict with a mix of religious and political causes. Will it eventually be resolved with something akin to the era-defining Peace of Westphalia?

The Beating Will Continue…

  • Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said during last week’s quarterly conference call that he won’t retire despite turning 65 next month and that “the employees will still be cowering.” The SPEEA trade union thanked him for his refreshing honesty with this poster [PDF].

Until Morale Improves

  • Elana Broitman who replaced Brett Lambert less than 6 months ago as the Pentagon’s industrial policy chief resigned for the usual family reasons. Her replacement is not known yet.

Mercantilism vs. Independence

  • Yuriko Koike, who had a short stint as Japan’s defense minister in 2007, offers a good summary of the conundrum facing countries with booming exports to China:

“In both Germany and South Korea, economic strength seems to have produced an illusion of policy independence that is opening a chasm between the two countries and their allies – a chasm that revelations of US spying, on Merkel in particular, have deepened. Germany and South Korea, however, will gain little, and risk much, if they downgrade their alliance ties in favor of commercially motivated, if unofficial, neutrality. Whatever short-term benefits they receive will be more than offset by their strategic vulnerabilities vis-à-vis Russia and China.”

Pondering Naval Lethality; Indian Development

  • The Hudson Institute held an event on the future of surface warfare lethality last Friday. These issues are coming to the fore in the US because of increasing concerns for emerging threats from East Asia to the Middle East. Video.

  • The CSIS think tank argues in today’s video that India could develop a new “arc of industry” in its northwestern states for a mix of political and economic reasons, with infrastructure work underway from Delhi to Mumbai (with help from Japan).

Categories: News

Armed & Versatile: Sikorsky’s ‘Battlehawk’ Helicopters

Sun, 07/27/2014 - 19:37
(click to view larger)

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

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

Battlehawk, and Sikorsky’s Level 1-3 Kits MH-60Rs fire Hellfire
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Armed H-60 helicopters are not new. Naval Seahawks can be armed with a variety of weapons including Mk54 torpedoes, Penguin anti-ship missiles, and Hellfire anti-armor missiles. On land, US Special Operations have been arming their MH-60s to various levels, and Colombia’s S-70 “Arpia III” helicopters can mount rockets and forward-firing gun pods. Even a US Army UH-60L model has provision for Hellfire missiles, but the US Army has elected not to add the necessary equipment to make that an operational capability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Israeli Tests, & the UAE Israeli Lvl-3 demonstrator
(click to view larger)

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

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

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

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

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

Contracts and Key Events

div class=”imageleft”> Part-converted UH-60M
(click to view full)

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

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

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

  • 15 Wescam MX-15Di or Brite Star II day/night surveillance turrets and Laser Designators
  • 24 M134 7.62mm Machine Guns
  • 24 GAU-19 .50 cal Machine Guns
  • Integration of Precision Guided Rocket System capability to permit launch of laser-guided variants of 2.75 rockets
  • 24 M261 Hydra-70 Rocket Pods
  • 9,100 2.75 Hydra Rockets
  • 20 M299 4-missile Hellfire launch systems
  • 100 AGM-114R Hellfire Missiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A 2nd AED 65 million (about $17.7 million) deal with Sikorsky will train Black Hawk pilots and technicians. Defense News | Janes.

Battlehawk contract

Dec 29/09: UAE. Sikorsky in Stratford, CT receives a $171 million firm-fixed-price contract to produce 14 UH-60M helicopters, plus conversion to the UAE’s unique configuration. Work is to be performed in Stratford, CT, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12 (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).

Sikorsky has confirmed that these are not full Battlehawk helicopters, just the exercise of an option that will raise the UAE’s total UH-60M fleet to 40 machines. Battlehawk kits will be a separate contract. See also Oct 11/11, Dec 30/11 entries.

14 UH-60Ms

Sept 9/08: UAE. the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces the United Arab Emirates’ formal request to buy additional UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, plus weaponization kits and weapons/ Those kits would turn some UH-60Ms into multi-role attack helicopters that could transport troops, or operate in a light attack role alongside the UAE’s existing fleet of AH-64 Apache heavy attack helicopters.

The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) formal request includes:

  • 14 more UH-60M helicopters with engines. When added to the previous order for 26, this option would bring the country’s UH-60M fleet to 40.
  • 6 T700-GE-701D spare engines
  • 14 AN/ALQ-144Av3 Infrared (IR) Countermeasure Sets
  • 14 AN/APR-39Av4 Radar Signal Detecting Sets
  • 14 AAR-57v3 Common Missile Warning Systems
  • 14 AN/AVR-2B Laser Warning Sets

The request also states that the UAE is also looking to “weaponize” 23 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, and is interested in the following additional weapons.

  • 30 M299 Hellfire launchers, each of which can hold 4 Hellfire missiles, or up to 16 DAGR laser-guided rockets, or any combination thereof. The UAE already operates these on its AH-64 fleet.

  • 390 AGM-114N Hellfire II missiles. The AGM-114N is the “Augmented Metal Charge” (thermobaric/ fuel-air) version of the laser-guided Hellfire II. Its devastating explosions can kill or suffocate enemies in caves, collapse buildings, or do significant damage to enemies in an open blast area.

  • 8 Hellfire training missiles.

  • 23,916 MK-66 Mod 4 2.75″/ 70mm Rocket Systems in the following configuration: 1,000 M229 High Explosive Point Detonate, 540 M255A1 Flechette (anti-personnel darts), 1,152 M264 RP Smoke, 528 M274 Smoke Signature, 495 M278 Flare, 720 M274 Infrared Flare, 20,016 HA23 Practice rockets. The UAE’s TALON program with Raytheon is creating a bolt-on laser-guidance option for 70mm rockets like this.

  • 22 of General Dynamics’ GAU-19 3-barrel, .50 caliber/ 12.7 mm externally-powered gatling gun systems.

  • 93 of Dillon Aero’s M-134 6-barrel, 7.62mm ‘mini-gun’ gatling guns.

  • Spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, ground support, communications equipment, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services, aircraft survivability equipment, tools and test equipment, and other related elements of logistics support.

The estimated cost of these items is $774 million. While the various sub-systems and weapons are made by a number of manufacturers, the principal contractors will be: Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation of Stratford, CT and General Electric of Lynn, MA (engines). The USE does have an active industrial offsets program, and will be requesting them in negotiations with the contractors involved.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 6-8 Contractor Field Service representatives to the United Arab Emirates for approximately 2 years after initial fielding, to assist in the delivery and deployment of the helicopters.

DSCA request: 14 UH-60Ms and armed kits

Additional Readings & Sources

DID would like to thank Sikorsky’s Ray Burke (Battlehawk Program Manager), Mike Ambrose (VP – International Military), and Matt Rodgers (Black Hawk program Marketing Manager) for their assistance and clarifications regarding the firm’s Armed Black Hawk programs.

  • Sikorsky – BattleHawk(TM)

  • Global Security – AH-60L / S-70 Battle Hawk.

  • Sikorsky (Dec 14/09) – Armed BLACK HAWK Demonstrator Completes Test Program. This is the Israeli demonstrator program.

  • Jerusalem Post (Aug 30/09) – IAF testing new Black Hawk models [dead link]. Israel may be set to join Colombia and the UAE in this concept, though no commitment has been made: “The arming of the Black Hawk is being done jointly by the IAF, Sikorsky and several local defense contractors. One of the helicopters has already successfully test-fired an air-to-surface missile. The helicopter has also been equipped with a rapid-fire cannon that sits under the aircraft’s belly.”

Categories: News

Listening Sticks: US Navy Sonobuoy Contracts

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 16:04
P-8A: Sonobuoy drop
(click to view full)

Sonobuoys are used to detect and identify moving underwater objects by either listening for the sounds produced by propellers and machinery (passive detection), or by bouncing a sonar “ping” off the surface of a submarine (active detection). They usually float, or have at least some part of them that does. Specialized sonobuoys can also detect electric fields, magnetic anomalies, and bioluminescence (light emitted by microscopic organisms disturbed by a passing submarine); as well as measuring environmental parameters like water temperature versus depth, air temperature, barometric pressure, and wave height.

Sonobuoys are generally dropped from aircraft or helicopters that are equipped with a means to launch them, and electronic equipment to receive and process data sent by the sonobuoy. They can also be launched from ships. This entry will discuss some of the new sonobuoys in use, and cover related contracts.

Sonobuoy Types Sonobuoys

Sonobuoys are classified by size (A, B, C, etc.), type, and model. Most U.S.-manufactured sonobuoys are A-size (about 4 7/8″ x 36″). Some countries have moved to half-size, or A/2, as a preferred configuration.

In the broadest sense, sonobuoys fall into 2 type categories. Active sonobuoys emit pings or otherwise create an effect that will bounce off of underwater objects like submarines. Passive sonobuoys simply sit and listen to sound emissions, or sense other telltale signs they’ve been programmed to monitor. Models include:

AN/SSQ-36B: A passive bathythermograph sonobuoy, which is a fancy way of saying “ocean thermometer”. Water tends to distribute itself in coherent layers with different temperature ranges, and that in turn affects sonar and acoustic ranging. Knowing the local “temperature geography” is an excellent idea before launching any other sonobuoys. This buoy survives for about 12 minutes, taking readings down to about 2,625 ft/ 800 m at a descent rate of about 5 feet per second, with an accuracy to about a degree Fahrenheit. The data is transmitted to the launch aircraft by an RF transmitter at 1/4 watt, over 1 of 99 selectable channels, for processing and display. The AN/SSQ-36B Bathythermograph can be air launched at air speeds up to 370 knots, and at altitudes up to 30,000 ft. Air descent is controlled and stabilized by a parachute.

AN/SSQ-53F DIFAR (“Pointer”): The latest generation passive sonobuoy for the US Navy and several allies, replacing both the AN/SSQ-57 and the AN/SSQ-53. Combines the functionality of a calibrated omni sensor with that of the AN/SSQ-53E DIFAR (Directed Frequency Analysis and Ranging), and adds on board embedded Digital Sound Processors. The DSPs improve acoustic detection performance, and permit all AN/SSQ-53F sonobuoys to be calibrated to a common sensitivity levels. Additional flexibility is achieved through the use of Command Function Select (CFS), which allows various operating parameters to be modified after the sonobuoy has been dropped.

AN/SSQ-62E (“Cadillac”): The current generation of the DICASS (Directional Command-Activated Sonobuoy System) family of active sonobuoys. This is an active sonobuoy.

The AN/SSQ-62 is composed of 2 main sections. The surface unit receives commands from the controlling aircraft via a UHF receiver, and sends target information to the aircraft, via a VHF transmitter. The subsurface unit transmits sonar pulses in the ocean upon command from the aircraft, and receives sonar target echoes for transmission to the aircraft. The sonobuoy will accept command signals only after a decoder identifies the correct address code; commands can include mid-depth or deep depth selection, sonar ping, and scuttle (naval term for self-destruction).

The key advantage of the AN/SSQ-62E is that it permits each sonobuoy to transmit on any of 4 acoustic channels and their respective RF channels. Optional thermal battery technology allows DICASS sonobuoys to be shipped and stored in a relatively unrestricted manner with an extended shelf life, as this battery does not degrade significantly with time. AN/SSQ62E is in large scale production, and has been bought by customers that include the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and Spain.

AN/SSQ-101 IEER: Part of the Improved Extended Echo Ranging (IEER) system. IEER was developed in for large-area search capability against small submarines operating in littoral waters, and uses explosive charges to generate noise. The system combines a new sensor, the AN/SSQ-101 Air Deployed Active Receiver (ADAR) sonobuoy, with improved software in the P-3C Orion Anti-surface Warfare Improvement aircraft. The ADAR sonobuoy employs a multi-element planar hydrophone array to improve detection in shallow littoral waters. When coupled with the P-3C’s powerful USQ-78A acoustic post-processor, it improves the US military’s ability to perform the difficult task of finding quiet submarines amidst the clutter and confusing echoes of shallow littoral waters.

AN/SSQ-125: MAC. Also part of the Improved Extended Echo Ranging (IEER) system, but with a different mode of operation. It will also be part of the P-8′s new Multi-static Active Coherent approach. This NATO “A” size sonobuoy is capable of generating a variety of waveforms upon command, including low-frequency coherent tones which can propagate for long distances. Echoes can be detected by multiple receiver sonobuoys, which nullifies a submarine’s standard profile-minimizing head-on maneuver, and the tone’s coherence allows doppler shift equations to calculate the contact’s speed and heading. GPS receivers in source and receiver sonobuoys can sharpen targeting further, which is very useful in conjunction with high-altitude, GPS-guided torpedo kits like HAASW.

Before it’s deployed, the AN/SSQ-125′s RF channel can be programmed to any of the standard sonobuoy operating channels. At any time after deployment, it can be commanded via CFS to change its operating parameters or depth (deeper only), generate a ping, or scuttle itself. It’s designed to work with the AN/SSQ-53F, AN/SSQ-77C and AN/SSQ-101 (ADAR) sonobuoys.

Competing Payloads? Turais launch concept
(click to view full)

One interesting ancillary trend involves the concept of launching other things from sonobuoy tubes – such as UAVs or UUVs.

Piasecki Aircraft has been demonstrating its WBBL “Turais” UAV, under a Phase II US Navy SBIR contract. Turais deploys with a drag parachute just like a sonobuoy, but then pops out tail fins, rotates its wings into position, and fires up a turbojet engine. It has a 200 pound payload capacity, an expected 6 hour endurance, and was successful in its initial flight demonstration on Jan 5/10.

Projects of that sort will not be covered in this article, but we include it to remind our readers that rising surveillance needs of all kinds are leading to some non-standard, category-crossing solutions.

Contracts & Key Events

ERAPSCO is joint venture between Florida’s Sparton Corporation and Indiana’s Ultra Electronics. Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, IN.

Note that the sonobuoys described here are also sold to foreign governments. This article does not cover those sales, unless they are explicitly intertwined with a US Navy sale.

FY 2014

Multi-year buy; Sentinel USV begins an important new category. Sentinel USVs
(click to view full)

July 16/14: Multi-year buy. ERAPSCO in Columbia City, IN receives a 5+ year, $166 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for up to 141,263 AN/SSQ Series sonobuoys, and 5,000 MK-84 Signal Underwater Sound devices. All funds are technically committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy budgets.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (51.7%), and Columbia City, IN (48.3%), and is expected to be completed in October 2019. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals and 1 offer was received. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-14-D-0025).

Multi-year buy

April 8/14: New option – Sentinel. Instead of sonobuoys, Ultra Electronics and Liquid Robotics are developing a persistent Sentinel robot that combines some of USSI’s sonobuoy technologies with the principles behind Liquid Robotics wave-powered, ultra long endurance Wave Glider robots.

“The sensor/software suite is designed to acoustically detect, track and form contact reports on waterborne targets that are transmitted to a command and control node on shore, ship or aircraft platform. Contact reports will contain spatial information that allows for data fusion with other sensor sources to achieve an affordable common operational picture that will provide the user maximum situational awareness. Applications for this product are vast and include area surveillance, perimeter trip wire notification, marine mammal monitoring and data collection, environmental data collection and defense and military mission capability sets.”

This isn’t an exact sonobuoy competitor, because the network of Sentinels will move very slowly. If you’re trying to scan ahead in uncovered waters, or pinpoint a fleeting contact, sonobuoys will still be the way. On the other hand, good planning may remove some of the need for sonobuoys at key waypoints or chokepoints. It’s also the thin edge of a trend that will require new kinds of compatibility from sonobuoys and naval mission systems alike. Sources: USSI, “Ultra Electronics USSI And Liquid Robotics Announce The Development Of Long Duration, Maritime Security Solution”.

FY 2012 – 2013

Sonobuoy orders of various types; Torpedo compatibility. Loading a P-3C
(click to view full)

Aug 5/13: SSQ-53. ERAPSCO in Columbia City, IN receives a $7.2 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract, exercising an option to buy 9,400 AN/SSQ-53F Sonobuoys for the US Navy. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Columbia City, IN (50%) and DeLeon Springs, FL (50%), and is expected to be complete in April 2015. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., manages the contract (N00421-11-C-0030).

Feb 8/13: HAASW. ERAPSCO Inc. in Columbia City, IN receives a $7.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification for engineering and manufacturing development services in support of the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare system. This is actually an Increment 2 upgrade to the new P-8A sea control aircraft. It makes drops more accurate by using a GPS-based algorithm; receives, processes, and stores in-buoy GPS data received from AN/SSQ-53, AN/SSQ-62, and AN/SSQ-101B sonobuoys; and will remotely send commands, and receive and process data from the AN/SSQ-101B’s digital datalink.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (52%) and Columbia City, IN (48%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014. $890,000 in FY 2013 Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation, Navy contract funds are committed immediately. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00421-11-D-0029). See also Military Aerospace.

Dec 11/12: SSQ-125. ERAPSCO in Columbia City, IN receives a $17.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for the procurement of 2,999 AN/SSQ-125 MAC active IEER sonobuoys.

Work will be performed in De Leon Springs, FL (55%) and Columbia City, IN (45%) and is expected to be completed in March 2015. All contract funds are committed, and will be managed by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-12-C-0049).

Dec 4/12: 53F/ 62E. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN receives a $71.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 76,000 AN/SSQ-53F passive and 7,500 AN/SSQ-62E active US Navy sonobouys.

Work will be performed in Columbia City, IN (59%) and DeLeon Springs, FL (41%), and is expected to be completed in January 2015. All contract funds are committed. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00421-11-C-0030).

Nov 15/12: SSQ-101A. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN receives a $9.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 1,800 AN/SSQ-101A ADAR IEER sonobuoys.

Work will be performed in Columbia City, IN (53%) and DeLeon Springs, FL (47%), and is expected to be complete in November 2014. All contract funds are committed, but $414,645 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00421-12-C-0047).

June 11/12: SSQ-125. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN receives a sole-source $25.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 4,628 AN/SSQ-125 MAC IEER sonobuoys.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (53%), and Columbia City, IN (47%), and is expected to be complete in June 2014. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to the FAR 6.302-1 (N00421-12-C-0049).

April 26/12: SSQ-101A. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN receives a sole-source $10.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 2,006 AN/SSQ-101A sonobuoys.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, Fla. (53%), and Columbia City, Ind. (47%), and is expected to be completed in April 2014. Contract funds in the amount of $257,421 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00421-12-C-0047).

Mar 29/12: 36B/53F/62B. Sparton Corporation announces ERAPSCO subcontracts worth $24.9 Million: $18.1 million for SSQ-53F passive, $4.7 million for SSQ-62E active, and $2.1 million for SSQ-36B bathythermograph sonobuoys. Production is expected to be completed by January 2014.

March 13/12: SSQ-53F. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN receives a $13 million modification firm-fixed-price, performance-based contract modification, exercising a US Navy option for 17,000 AN/SSQ-53F passive sonobuoys. This brings total US Navy expenditures on all sonobuoys since the beginning of 2006 to around $510 million.

Work will be performed in Columbia City, IN (53%), and DeLeon Springs, FL (47%), and is expected to be complete in January 2014. $811,296 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00421-11-C-0030).

Jan 27/12: SSQ-53F. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN receives a $38.4 million firm-fixed-price, performance based contract modification, exercising options for 50,430 AN/SSQ-53F DIFAR passive sonobuoys for the US Navy (49,990/ $38.1M/ 99.1%) and Taiwan (440/ $335,283/ 0.9$%).

Work will be performed in Columbia City, IN (53%), and DeLeon Springs, FL (47%), and is expected to be complete in January 2014 (N00421-11-C-0030).

Nov 7/11: 36B/62F. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN receives a $15.6 million firm-fixed-price, performance-based contract modification, exercising options for 3,544 AN/SSQ-36B bathythermograph sonobuoys and 8,588 AN/SSQ-62E DICASS active sonobuoys. The U.S. Navy is ordering 3,500 AN/SSQ-36s and 8,500 AN/SSQ-62s ($15.5 million/ 98.9%), while Taiwan is ordering 44 AN/SSQ-36s and 88 AN/SSQ-62s for training support ($164,745; 1.1%).

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (53%), and Columbia City, IN (47%), and is expected to be complete in April 2014. $57,219 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00421-11-C-0030).

FY 2009 – 2011

Various sonobuoy orders; Market review; On SH-60F helicopter
(click to view full)

April 8/11: 36B/53F/62B. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN received a $55.5 million firm-fixed-price, performance-based contract for 65,230 items: 3,211 AN/SSQ-36B bathythermograph sonobuoys; 51,733 AN/SSQ-53F DIFAR passive sonobuoys; and 10,286 AN/SSQ-62E DICASS active sonobuoys.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (53%), and Columbia City, IN (47%), and is expected to be complete in April 2014. $546,096 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 This contract was competitively procured via electronic request for proposals, with 3 firms solicited and 1 offer received by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-11-C-0030).

Nov 29/10: R&D. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN received a $33.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to provide ongoing sonobuoy R&D and engineering services for the next 5 years.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (51%), and Columbia City, IN (49%), and is expected to be complete in November 2015. $244,419 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured (N00421-11-D-0029).

Nov 2/10: SSQ-101A. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN received a $26.8 million option for 4,999 AN/SSQ-101A sonobuoys, under a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (61%), and Columbia City, IN (39%), and is expected to be complete in November 2012. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00421-10-D-0010). See also Sparton release.

Sept 28/10: R&D. Sparton Electronics Florida, Inc. in DeLeon Springs, FL receives an $11.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for research and development, and production engineering services in support of sonobuoy technology upgrades.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL, and is expected to be complete in September 2015. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00421-10-D-0024). See also Sparton release [PDF].

Sept 27/10: SSQ-125. ERAPSCO in Columbia City, IN receives a $5.8 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for up to 1,000 AN/SSQ-125 production representative sonobuoys.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (52%); and Columbia City, IN (48%) and is expected to be complete in August 2012. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00421-09-C-0073). See also Sparton press release [PDF].

May 6/10: Sparton Corporation in Schaumburg, IL announces a $28 million subcontract from ERAPSCO, to manufacture 33,604 total AN/SSQ-53F, AN/SSQ-62E, and AN/SSQ-36B sonobuoys or the US Navy.

These sonobuoys will be manufactured at Sparton’s DeLeon Springs, FL, facility and production is expected to be complete by September 2011.

March 31/10: Sparton Corp. in Schaumburg, IL announces a $14.5 million subcontract from ERAPSCO to make sub-components for the AN/SSQ-101A (Q-101A) Air Deployable Active Receiver (ADAR) sonobuoys. Production will be finished by the end of 2011.

March 25/10: 36B/53F/62B. ERAPSCO, Inc. in Columbia City, IN receives a $60 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for up to 70,294 sonobuoys.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (52%), and Columbia City, IN (48%), and is expected to be complete in March 2012. $192,293 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured by a limited source Lowest Price Technically Acceptable competition, with 3 firms solicited and 1 offer received by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-10-D-0011). Production will include:

  • 7,096 AN/SSQ-36B sonobuoys
  • 48,749 AN/SSQ-53F sonobuoys
  • 14,449 AN/SSQ-62E sonobuoys

March 3/10: SSQ-101A. ERAPSCO in Columbia City, IN received a $34 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for 7,500 AN/SSQ-101A sonobuoys.

Work will be performed in De Leon Springs, FL (61%), and Columbia City, IN (39%), and is expected to be complete in March 2012. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to the FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD issued this contract (N00421-10-D-0010).

Oct 2/09: Market. According to Forecast International’s annual review of the market for airborne anti-submarine warfare (ASW) sensors, the next 10 years will see production of more than 199,000 systems valued at $6.1 billion. Sonobuoys are benefiting from faster processors that improve filtering, and low-cost datalinks that make information sharing easier. They will have a large share of this segment – by volume, anyway:

“Sonobuoys still represent 99.4 percent of the airborne ASW market, with the sale of 198,046 units projected over the next 10 years. Yet, in terms of value of production, these units represent only $212.35 million, or 3.50 percent of the market. The average cost of the units in this category is about $1,000, stressing the very low-cost/high-volume aspect of this segment.”

Sales of radar sets optimized for periscope and snort detection, and electronic support measures (ESM) equipment designed to localize radar and communications transmissions from submarines and dipping sonars, are expected to make up the lion’s share of this segment by value. Raytheon ($1.9 billion, 31.5%), Telephonics ($559 million, 9.22%) and L3 ($300 million, 4.95%) are expected to lead the sales race, but the field as a whole has just 8 major participants.

June 22/09: Sparton. Sparton Electronics announces a $19.3 million subcontract to help manufacture sonobuoys for the United States Navy, as part of the ERAPSCO joint venture. Sparton will produce subassemblies for more than 7,320 AN/SSQ-101A sonobuoys, with on-board digital signal processing and a Sparton Digital Compass for bearing determination.

Production and testing will be performed at Sparton’s DeLeon Springs, FL facility and is expected to be complete in May 2011. Sparton release.

Recent months have not been smooth for Sparton. In March 2009, declining fortunes set in motion the closure of plants in London, Ontario, Canada and in Jackson, MI, while significant changes were made within the executive team. April 2009 even saw a threatened NYSE de-listing, because the firm’s market capitalization had fallen below a $75 million average over a 30-day trading period. June 2009 developments allowed Sparton to continue trading, but only because the NYSE dropped its limit to $50 million. June 2009 also saw an extension of Sparton’s credit facility from National City Bank.

Feb 9/09: 36B/53F/62B. Two contracts worth a total of $68.8 million are issued, with purchases split between the vendors in amounts related to their offer prices, covering sonobuoys for the US Navy (4,150 AN/SSQ-36B; 61,697 AN/SSQ-53F; and 17,880 AN/SSQ-62E) and Pakistan (45 AN/SSQ-36B, 350 AN/SSQ-53F, 50 AN/SSQ-62E).

They are detailed below.

Feb 9/09: 36B/53F/62B. Undersea Sensor Systems, Inc., in Columbia City, IN receive a $34.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 3 types of sonobuoys. They will deliver 4,195 AN/SSQ-36B sonobuoys, split between the U.S. Navy (4,150) and the Government of Pakistan (45); along with another 30,454 AN/SSQ-53F sonobuoys split between the U.S. Navy (30,104), and the Government of Pakistan (350). A 3rd set of 8,302 AN/SSQ-62E sonobuoys will be purchased exclusively for the U.S. Navy. Overall, this contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($34.5 million, 99.25%) and for the Government of Pakistan ($259,880, 0.75%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

Work will be performed in Columbia City, IN (90%) and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (10%) and is expected to be complete in February 2011. This contract was competitively procured by electronic request for proposals, and 2 offers were received. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00421-09-C-0040).

Feb 9/09: 53F/62E.Sparton Electronics in DeLeon Springs, FL received a $34.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 2 types of sonobuoys. They will deliver 31,593 AN/SSQ-53F sonobuoys to the U.S. Navy, and another 9,578 AN/SSQ-62E sonobuoys will be split between the U.S. Navy (9,528) and the Government of Pakistan (50). Overall, this contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($34 million, 99.74%), and for the Government of Pakistan ($86,555, 0.26%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL, and is expected to be completed in February 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $251,010 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured by electronic request for proposals, and two offers were received by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-09-C-0039).

FY 2006 – 2008

Various sonobuoy orders; Sonobuoy R&D.

Aug 18/08: SSQ-101. ERAPSCO in Columbia City, IN received an $11.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for AN/SSQ-101 sonobuoys and associated data. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $17.2 million. Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL (66%) and Columbia City, IN (34%), and is expected to be complete by August 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, IN (N00164-08-C-GP03).

June 5/08: Sonotube-launched UAVs. Small business qualifier Lite Machines Corp. in West Lafayette, IN won a not-to-exceed $10.5 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for a Phase III Small Business Technology Transfer Program contract under Topic N04-T004, entitled “Sonobuoy Tube Launched UAV.” Phase III SBIR projects are the last stage before commercialization.

Lite Machines will provide services and materials for engineering tasks, including research and development, and prototype and testing of their rotary wing UAV. Work will be performed in West Lafayette, IN and is expected to be complete in June 2013. Contract funds in the amount of $796,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured using the STTR Program Solicitation under Topic N042-T004, and 41 offers were received by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ (N68335-08-D-0010).

Feb 8/08: SSQ-125. The Us Navy issues FBO solicitation #N00421-08-R-0044: Develop and Procure the AN/SSQ-125 Sonobuoy:

“AN/SSQ-125 sonobuoys as the coherent source sonobuoy for the Air Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) multi-static acoustic program – Advanced Extended Echo Ranging (AEER). AEER is an airborne ASW detection system being developed to provide large-area, subsurface search and detection capability. AEER will be employed in the U.S. Navy P-3C aircraft. The sonobuoy shall be capable of being deployed from all platforms capable of launching “A” sized sonobuoys. This effort will include design, development, fabrication, and testing of an “A” sized air-launched, disposable (expendable) sonobuoy. The development will include testing, certification, and qualifications to meet the technical and safety operational requirements. A quantity of sonobuoys will be manufactured for lot testing to meet the sonobuoy reliability requirements.

ERAPSCO is the only known responsible source that can provide the required products and services which includes a required delivery of 100 EDM units 3 to 5 months after contract award. The estimated award date is February 2009.”

Feb 7/08: SSQ-62E. Undersea Sensor Systems Inc. in Columbia City, IN won a $9.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of AN/SSQ-62E sonobuoys. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $18.9 million.

Work will be performed in Columbia City, IN and is expected to be complete by February 2010. This contract was competitively procured through Government-wide Points of Entry, Navy Electronic Commerce On-line, and Federal Business Opportunities websites, with 2 contractors solicited and 2 offers received by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, IN (N00164-08-C-GP02).

Jan 24/08: SSQ-53F. Undersea Sensor Systems Incorporated in Columbia City, IN won a $13.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for AN/SSQ-53F Sonobuoys from the United States Navy. This contract includes options which could bring its cumulative value to $20.5 million.

Work will be performed in Columbia City, Ind., and is expected to be completed by Feb. 2010. This contract was sort of competitively procured, with 1 proposal solicited and 2 offers received via Government-wide Points of Entry, Navy Electronic Commerce On-line, and Federal Business Opportunities websites (N00164-08-C-GP08).

Aug 31/07: R&D. Undersea Sensor Systems Inc. in Columbia City, IN won a maximum $6.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for up to 51,340 hours of research and development technical services. They will help resolve technical and engineering issues associated with the design, construction, and use of sonobuoys, and their results will provide data for Government engineers and program management personnel to use in evaluating the technical and economic benefits of potential improvements to various sonobuoy types.

Work will be performed in Columbia City, IN and is expected to be complete by May 2011. The contract was competitively procured and advertised via the Internet, with 2 firms solicited and 2 offers received by The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane IN (N00164-07-D-6781)

April 13/07: SSQ-101. ERAPSCO in Columbia City, IN received an $11.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for AN/SSQ-101 sonobuoys and associated data. Work will be performed in Columbia City, IN. (50%) and DeLeon Springs, FL (50%), and is expected to be complete by April 2009. The contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane IN (N00164-07-C-6788).

Jan 23/07: SSQ-53F. Undersea Sensor Systems Inc. in Columbia City, IN received a $19 million firm-fixed-price contract for passive AN/SSQ-53F sonobuoys and associated data. This contract includes options, which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $30.3 million.

Work will be performed in Columbia City, IN, and is expected to be completed by February 2009. This contract was competitively procured with 2 proposals solicited and 2 offers received by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, Crane, IN (N00164-07-C-6785).

Jan 23/07: SSQ-53F. Sparton Electronics in DeLeon Springs, FlL received a $13.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for AN/SSQ-53F sonobuoys and associated data. This contract includes options, which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $19.6 million.

Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL and is expected to be completed by February 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured with 2 proposals solicited and 2 offers received by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, Crane, IN (N00164-07-C-6793).

Feb 6/06: SSQ-53F. Sparton Electronics in DeLeon Springs, FL received a $20 million firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract (N00164-05-C-6760) for procurement of passive AN/SSQ-53F DIFAR sonobuoys [PDF format] and associated data. Work will be performed in DeLeon Springs, FL and is expected to be complete by February 2008.

Feb 6/06: SSQ-53F. Undersea Sensor Systems Inc. in Columbia City, IN received a $14.2 million firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract (N00164-05-C-6769) for procurement of passive AN/SSQ-53F DIFAR sonobuoys and associated data.

That firm, which is a subsidiary of Ultra Electronics Holdings PLC, was also awarded an $8 million firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract (N00164-05-C-6770) for procurement of active AN/SSQ-62E sonobuoys [PDF format] and associated data. Work on both contract modifications will be performed in Columbia City, IN and is expected to be completed by February 2008.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Big Hairy Issues Still Unresolved by US Congress, Days before Recess

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 13:30

  • Negotiations between US House and Senate lawmakers failed yesterday to lead to an agreement on a bill meant to fix the Veteran Affairs’ egregious and urgent problems.

  • The State department also reminds Congress that issuing more visas for Afghan interpreters – also a pressing life-or-death issue – is also on their plate. That’s a week from summer recess.


  • The Ukrainian National Security Council says 325 troops died and 1,232 were wounded since operations against pro-Russian rebels started in mid-April.

  • The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is looking for bids to provide turnkey UAV services in Ukraine.

Africa / Europe

  • From the American CSIS think tank, a report [CSIS] on a topic you’ll be hearing more and more about in years to come:

“When one thinks of the relationship between Europe and Africa today, two images that come to mind are of French military forces intervening in the Sahel region and Libyan immigrants attempting to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa on unnavigable vessels. While increased instability in Africa and migration from Africa to Europe are important dynamics, perhaps an even more profound driver of today’s evolving European-African relationship is the dramatically shifting demographic picture in both continents.”


  • Thousands of commercial flights are being delayed or cancelled in China where massive drills started for the summer. As good a reminder as any that China remains a military dictatorship.

New Tech for New Warfare

  • Israel’s Rafael is working on Iron Beam, a tactical missile defense laser system meant to lower per-use costs. Based on the potential cost exchange of using missiles, this makes sense. It’s probably not that far off for cheap GPS to be added to rockets of the type Hamas uses. The only reason Iron Dome isn’t ruinously expensive is its silence if the missile won’t hit a protected area. Take that high miss ratio away, and the lasers had better be ready.

  • In the meantime the Pentagon, with support from the Senate, wants $225M in emergency funding for Iron Dome.

  • Today’s video continues coverage from the latest Aspen Institute event, with a panel on the future of warfare. Dawn Meyerriecks, who joined the CIA last year, talked about the commoditization of technology that used to be exclusive to intelligence services:

Categories: News

AMDR: Raytheon is Building the USN’s Next Dual-Band Radar

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:20
AMDR testbed
(click to view full)

The US Navy’s Dual-Band Radar that equips its forthcoming 14,500t Zumwalt class“destroyers” and Gerald R. Ford class super-carriers replaces several different radars with a single back-end. Merging Raytheon’s X-band SPY-3 with Lockheed Martin’s S-band VSR allows fewer radar antennas, faster response time, faster adaptation to new situations, one-step upgrades to the radar suite as a whole, and better utilization of the ship’s power, electronics, and bandwidth.

Rather than using the existing Dual-Band Radar design in new ships, however, the “Air and Missile Defense Radar” (AMDR) aimed to fulfill future CG (X)/ DG-51 Flight III cruiser needs through a new competition. It could end up being a big deal for the winning radar manufacturer, and for the fleet. If, and only if, the technical, power, and weight challenges can be mastered at an affordable price.

AMDR: The Program DDG-77 USS O’Kane
(click to view full)

Faced with a growing array of advanced threats, the US Navy confronted a need for more dual-band naval radars among its top-end surface warships. Both CG (X) and FSC were proposed for cancellation in the FY 2011 defense budget, but the “Air and Missile Defense Radar” (AMDR) is expected to continue as the radar centerpiece for their true successor: the DDG-51 Flight III Arleigh Burke Class.

Rather than extending or modifying the existing Dual Band Radar combination used on its DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class, aimed to fulfill these need through a re-opened competition. The resulting AMDR radar will have 3 components:

  • The AMDR-S radar will provide wide-area volume search, tracking, Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) discrimination, and missile communications. While top-tier air and missile defense vessels are “blue water” ships by nature, critical naval chokepoints and war scenarios don’t always give commanders a choice. As such AMDR requirements also call for defense against very low observable/very low flyer (VLO/VLF) threats in heavy land, sea, and rain clutter, where S-band has some advantages.

  • The AMDR-X radar will provide horizon search, precision tracing, missile communications, and final illumination guidance to targets. It will be available in AMDR sets 13 onward. The first 12 ship sets will use an upgraded version of Northrop Grumman’s in-service SPQ-9B radar instead.

  • The back-end Radar Suite Controller (RSC) will perform all coordination, ensuring that the radars work well together.

Design goals explicitly involve hardware and software modularity, future technology, insertion, and open architectures. The limitations of the DDG-51 ship design forced some flexibility all by itself, and the initial specification added that it’s “designed to be scalable to accommodate current and future mission requirements for multiple platforms.”

The 1st DDG 51 Flight III destroyer will be part of the FY 2013 – 2017 multi-year award, beginning with long-lead materials ordered in FY 2015, and built as the 2nd ship ordered in FY 2016 (DDG 123). By the end of the multi-year contract, which was issued in May 2013, the USN can contract for 3 AMDR/Flt III vessels with 14′ diameter AMDR-S radar faceplates, and integrated control involving the smaller rotating AN/SPQ-9B+ X-band radar. If AMDR-S isn’t ready, or other issues arise, the Navy could decide to delay the FLight III changes to FY 2017, or even to move them outside the contract. Even if orders begin on time, Flight III buys are expected to continue trough 2022, and possibly through 2031.

Budget documents to date are all for Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation:

AMDR: Opportunities and Challenges DDG-1000 w. DBR
(click to view full)

The demand for adjustable size is the key to AMDR’s larger opportunity. If the adjustments can be taken far enough, it could give the Navy an opportunity to add or retrofit AMDR to some of its 60+ serving Arleigh Burke Class ships, DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyers, or later carriers of the CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford Class.

On the smaller end, it’s very nice to have AMDR capabilities available in a common core system for a wider range of vessels. More ships mounting AMDR would reduce fleet-wide maintenance & training investments. It would also mean that each AMDR hardware or software improvement becomes available improve many more ships throughout the fleet.

At the larger end of the scale, it’s good news because the US Navy has determined that it needs a 20′+ diameter AMDR-S radar, in order to completely fulfill expected future ballistic missile defense and air defense needs. AMDR offers them the opportunity to find a suitable ship based on a known and understood core system.

The bad news is that any retrofit, or even installation in new “DDG-51 Flight III” variants, will be more complicated than it appears.

The visible face of a naval radar is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of its weight and space comes from its need for 2 things: power, and cooling. More powerful radars usually need more power to drive them, which can tax the limited 7.5 MW capacity an older ship like the DDG-51 Flight I/II/IIAs. More power also means more cooling much of the time. Power storage, power conversion, and cooling require weight and space. All of which are usually in short supply on a warship. Even if that space exists, the additional equipment and antennas must be installed without unduly affecting the ship’s balance and center of gravity, and hence its seakeeping abilities.

AEGIS operations
(click to view full)

In 2009, the US Congressional Research Services’ “Navy DDG-1000 and DDG-51 Destroyer Programs: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress” report update (#RL32109) explained the potential impact:

“Multiple industry sources have briefed CRS on their proposals for modifying the DDG-51 design to include an active-array radar with greater capability than the SPY-1. If the DDG-51 hull is not lengthened, then modifying the DDG-51 design to include an improved radar would require removing the 5-inch gun to make space and weight available for additional equipment needed to support operations with the improved radar. Lengthening the hull might provide enough additional space and weight capacity to permit the 5-inch gun to be retained.75 Supporting equipment to be installed would include an additional electrical generator and additional cooling equipment.76 The best location for the generator might be in one of the ship’s two helicopter hangar spots, which would reduce the ship’s helicopter hangar capacity from two helicopters to one.”

An October 2008 report from the right-wing Heritage Foundation draws on other sources to note that weight shifts can also create issues:

“…SPY-1E [active array] radar could affect the stability of the upgraded Arleigh Burkes because the radar’s phased-array panels weigh more than the panels of the earlier SPY-1 radar, which it will replace. While the SPY-1E’s weight is concentrated more in the panels, freeing more space below deck,[78] this greater weight would be added to the ship’s superstructure. Combined with the DDG-51′s relatively narrow hull width and short length, this could cause stability problems, particularly when sailing in rough weather.”

Obviously, those kinds of trades are less than ideal, but they may be necessary. Whether, how many, and which trades end being necessary, depends on the precise technical details of Raytheon’s offering, and of expected ship changes in Flight III.

AMDR: The Contenders Raytheon Raytheon on AMDR
click for video

Raytheon won. They went into AMDR with a lot of experience. First of all, they developed both the existing Dual-Band Radar’s Radar Suite Controller, and the accompanying SPY-3 X-band radars that are mounted on DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class battlecruisers and CVN-78 Ford Class supercarriers. The dual X/S band system that will equip the Cobra Judy (USNS Observation Island) Replacement vessel used to track missile launches and tests around the world also comes from Raytheon.

Phased array radars for wide-area air and ballistic missile defense are another strong point. Raytheon builds the AN/TPY-2 X-band radar used by the land-based THAAD missile system, the 280 foot high X-band array on the floating SBX missile defense radar, and the large land-based ballistic missile Upgraded Early Warning Systems like the AN/FPS-108 Cobra Dane and AN/FPS-115 PAVE PAWS. On the S-band side, the firm builds the S-band transmitters for Lockheed’s SPY-1 radar on board existing American destroyers and cruisers. Unsurprisingly, Raytheon personnel who talked to us said that:

“…leveraging concepts, hardware, algorithms and software from our family of radars provides a level of effectiveness, reliability and affordability to our proposed AMDR solution… The challenge for all the competitors will be to deliver a modular design. The requirements demand that the design be scalable without significant redesign… A high power active radar system requires significant space not only for the arrays themselves but also for the power and cooling equipment needed to support its operation. Finding space for additional generators and HVAC plants can be quite challenging for a backfit application. That is why power efficiency is a premium for these systems.”

Lockheed Martin – lost Lockheed’s AMDR-S
click for video

Lockheed Martin stepped into the competition with several strengths to draw on. Their AN/SPY-1 S-band radar is the main radar used by the US Navy’s current high-end ships: DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers, and CG-47 Ticonderoga class cruisers. Lockheed Martin also makes the AEGIS combat systems that equips these ships, and supplies the advanced VSR S-band radar used in the new Dual Band Radar installations on board Ford class carriers. This strong S-band experience, and status as the supplier of the combat system that any DDG-51 fitting would have to integrate with, gave them leverage at multiple points. Some observers publicly wondered if they had so much leverage that the competition would become a mirage, especially since the US Navy insisted on keeping AEGIS as the combat system.

Nor were they devoid of X-band or ballistic missile defense experience. Their L-Band AN/TPS-59 long range radar has been used in missile intercept tests, and is the only long range 3D Radar in the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. It’s related to the AN/TPS-117, which is in widespread service with over 16 countries. Then, too, the firm’s MEADS air defense technology demonstrator’s MFCR radar will integrate an active array dual-band set of X-band and UHF modules, via a common processor for data and signal processing.

It was a strong array of advantages. In the end, however, it wasn’t enough.

Northrop Grumman – lost NGC on AMDR
click for video

Northrop Grumman was a less obvious contender, despite its leadership position in advanced AESA active array radars for use on aircraft of all types and sizes. They’ve also developed unique software-driven land-based systems like the US Marines’ new Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR), which is specifically architected to switch between a wide range of radar performance modes and requirements.

It’s important to note that Northrop Grumman has shipboard radar experience. They’re the prime contractor for the AN/SPQ-9B track-while-scan X-band radar that’s guaranteed to be part of the initial AMDR set, and SPQ-9A/B radars already equip America’s Ticonderoga Class cruisers, Nimitz Class aircraft carriers, America Class escort carriers, Wasp Class LHD amphibs, and San Antonio Class LPD amphibs. AN/SPQ-9Bs can also be found on Australia’s Hobart Class Aegis air warfare destroyers.

On a less visible note, the firm has been working under several CRAD research programs from 2005 to the present, targeted at technology demonstrations, system risk reduction, and new integration techniques for advanced S-band shipboard radars. Finally, the firm has a partnership with Australia’s CEA Technologies, which is developing an advanced AESA X-band (CEAMOUNT) and S-band (CEAFAR) radar set that equips Australia’s upgraded ANZAC class frigates.

What did this team see as important? Beyond an open architecture approach, it was all about the SWaP:

“The ability to scale up to a potential future cruiser or down to a DDG-51 variant is fundamental to the Northrop Grumman radar architecture. Size, weight and power (SWaP) of the radar system are the key drivers… Minimizing the radar impact is key to an affordable surface combatant solution. We are focused on not just the radar technology, but to minimize the ship impact while allowing for scalable growth in the future. We are working closely with various elements in the Navy to address the ship impact of large AESA radars on the entire ship.”

AMDR: Contracts and Key Events FY 2014

Raytheon wins EMD phase. AMDR engagement
click for video

July 23/14: Testing. Raytheon announces that their AMDR radar has completed its hardware Preliminary Design Review and Integrated Baseline Review. They look at the capabilities of the system, removal of technology risks so far, and the inherent innovation and flexibility of the design.

Successful completion keeps the program on schedule so far, but remember that this schedule has changed due to challenge delays, and that ship integration issues will present their own hurdle. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon completes key Air & Missile Defense Radar reviews”.

April 17/14: SAR. The Pentagon releases its Dec 31/13 Selected Acquisitions Report. AMDR enters the SAR with a baseline total program cost estimate of $5.8327 billion, based on 22 radars.

SAR baseline

April 8/14: CRS Report. The latest iteration of “Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress” offers a greater focus on the DDG-51 Flight III destroyers, which includes AMDR. Note that CRS reports aren’t made public directly, so it took until May 2014 for public copies to appear.

One big issue for AMDR is capability. The 14′ design expected on Flight III destroyers meets the US Navy’s minimum expectations for missile and air defense roles, but there’s some question whether it will be enough. CRS’ report includes the concept of a dedicated radar ship to augment task groups in high-risk areas. The other option?

“Building the Flight III DDG-51 to a lengthened configuration could make room for additional power-generation and cooling equipment, additional vertical launch system (VLS) missile tubes, and larger growth margins. It might also permit a redesign of the deckhouse to support a larger and more capable version of the AMDR than the 14-foot diameter version currently planned for the Flight III DDG-51. Building the Flight III DDG-51 to a lengthened configuration would increase its development cost and its unit procurement cost.”

There’s also some concern about AMDR’s timeline, and whether the 1st AMDR-S can be fully ready in time to support a ship ordered in FY 2016. AMDR-S entered system development 6 months late due to protests, and software development to integrate both the new S-band radar and the X-band SPQ-9B+ remains a concern (q.v. March 28/13). Ship power generation and cooling could also be an issue, depending on the final design. The good news? Because the Flight III is structured as an optional ECP change within a multi-year contract, the Navy can choose to delay issuing the ECP, shifting the start of Flight III procurement and AMDR orders to FY 2017 or later.

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

“AMDR entered system development in October of 2013 with all four of its critical technologies approaching full maturity. This was 6 months later than planned, leading to a delay in many of the program’s future events…. Additionally, the delays might also hinder timely delivery of necessary information related to AMDR’s parameters, such as power, cooling, and space requirements needed for ongoing and planned design studies related to [DDG-51 destroyer] Flight III development.”

Despite this, the program is still promising delivery in time for a 2019 fit onto DDG 123. GAO describes AMDR’s components as almost mature, including 2 key technologies. With that said, they’re unhappy that AMDR proceeded to EMD development without fully mature technologies demonstrated in an operational environment, so the program would have a better idea of the required form, fit, and changes to its host ship. AMDR also didn’t complete a Preliminary Design Review before EMD, either, though they did have the competition and evaluations:

“All four of the AMDR’s critical technologies are approaching full maturity and were demonstrated using a [small scale] 1000-element radar array…. two technologies previously identified as the most challenging — digital-beam-forming and transmit-receive modules, have been demonstrated in a relevant environment…. digital-beam-forming is necessary for AMDR’s simultaneous air and ballistic missile defense mission. The AMDR’s transmit-receive modules… use gallium nitride [GaN] technology instead of the legacy gallium arsenide technology for potential efficiency gains. The other two critical technologies are related to software and digital receivers and exciters. Officials stated that software development will require a significant effort. A series of software builds are expected to deliver approximately 1 million lines of code and are designed to apply open system approaches to commercial, off-the-shelf hardware. Integrating the X-band radar will require further software development.”

Feb 25/14: Sub-contractors. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems announces an contract to continue their AMDR-related with Raytheon. The sub-contract could be worth up to $250.1 million over 10 years, and builds on previous GD-AIS efforts involving AMDR-S Digital Receivers/Exciter (DREX) and Digital Beam Forming (DBF) subsystems. Sources: GD, “General Dynamics Awarded $250 Million Contract to Support U.S. Navy’s Air and Missile Defense Radar Program”.

Jan 10/14: Protest dropped. Defense News:

“Lockheed Martin protested the Navy’s award of the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) contract because we believed the merits of our offering were not properly considered during the evaluation process,” spokesman Keith Little said Jan. 10. “While we believe that we put forward an industry-leading solution, after receiving additional information we have determined it’s in the best interest of the Navy and Lockheed Martin to withdraw our protest.”

The move still leaves Lockheed Martin in charge of the Aegis combat system. Raytheon, who had been responsible for delivering SPY-1 radar transmitters to Lockheed, is now responsible for the entire AMDR S-band radar and dual-band controller, while Northrop Grumman’s AN/SPQ-9B acts as the initial X-band radar. Sources: Defense News, “Lockheed Drops AMDR Protest”.

Oct 22/13: Protest. Lockheed Martin filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), arguing that they “submitted a technically compliant solution at a very affordable price. We do not believe the merits of our offering were properly considered during the evaluation process.” Lawmakers from New Jersey, where Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors is located, had sent a letter to the Navy Secretary a few days ago criticizing the award to Raytheon. The Navy subsequently issues a stop-work order, while the GAO has until the end of January 2014 to give its verdict.

Oct 10/13: EMD. Raytheon Company announces that they’ve won, receiving a $385.7 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the AMDR-S and Radar Suite Controller’s (RSC) Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase.

The base $157 million contract begins with design work leading to Preliminary Design Review, and will finish with system acceptance of the AMDR-S and RSC engineering development models at the end of testing. AMDR-S is the large S-band radar, while the RSC provides S- and X-band radar resource management, coordination, and an interface to Lockheed Martin’s Aegis combat system. The full contract would produce initial ship sets that will work with Northrop Grumman’s AN/SPQ-9B as their X-band counterpart.

This contract also includes options for low-rate initial production systems, which could bring the cumulative value to $1.6 billion. These options would be exercised after a successful Milestone C decision, which the Pentagon plans to make in FY 2017. Sources: Raytheon, Oct 10/13 release.

Raytheon wins EMD contract

Oct 18/13: CBO Report. The Congressional Budget Office publishes “An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2014 Shipbuilding Plan“. With respect to AMDR:

“Adding the AMDR [to the DDG-51 design] so that it could operate effectively would require increasing the amount of electrical power and cooling available on a Flight III. With those changes and associated increases in the ship’s displacement, a DDG-51 Flight III destroyer would cost about $300 million, or about 20 percent, more than a new Flight IIA destroyer, CBO estimates. Thus, the average cost per ship [for Flight III DDG-51s] would be $1.9 billion…. Most of the decrease for the Flight III can be attributed to updated information on the cost of incorporating the AMDR into the Flight III configuration. The cost of the AMDR itself, according to the Navy, has declined steadily through the development program, and the Department of Defense’s Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office concurs in the reduced estimate…. Considerable uncertainty remains in the DDG-51 Flight III program, however.”

FY 2013

Major program shifts. LMCO’s AMDR concept
(click to view full)

June 3/13: NAVSEA Clarifications. NAVSEA replies to some of our program questions, and clarifies the program’s structure. They clarifiy the GAO’s wording concerning “AMDR initially using an upgraded SPQ-9B radar,” by saying that the initial SPQ-9Bs will be off-the-shelf models, acquired under a separate program. SPQ-9A/B radars already equip America’s Ticonderoga Class cruisers, Nimitz Class aircraft carriers, America Class escort carriers, Wasp Class LHD amphibs, and San Antonio Class LPD amphibs.

The SPQ-9B will still be integrated with AMDR-S, but there are some differences in implementation between it and AMDR-X, hence the additional software required. The result will effectively create DDG-51 FLight III and Flight IIIA ships, as the Navy has no plans to backfit AMDR-X to Flight III ships that get the SPQ-9B.

The remaining question is when a winner will be picked. The GAO said (q.v. March 28/13) that an EMD winner and development award was expected in March 2013, and we’re past that. All NAVSEA would say is that the AMDR program office is still conducting evaluations. They also said that AMDR-X’s acquisition strategy isn’t set yet, which leaves the door open to a divided radar contract.

May 8/13: The US Senate Armed Forces Seapower subcommittee hears testimony [PDF] regarding US Navy shipbuilding programs. An excerpt:

“The Navy is proceeding with the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) program to meet the growing ballistic missile threat by greatly improving radar sensitivity and longer range detection for engagement of increasingly complex threats. This scalable radar is on track for installation on DDG 51 Flight III ships to support joint battle space threat awareness and defense, including BMD, area air defense, and ship self defense. The AMDR radar suite will be capable of providing simultaneous surveillance and engagement support for long range BMD and area air defense. The Navy intends to introduce AMDR on DDG 51 Flight III in Fiscal Year 2016.”

GAO documents have referred to AMDR’s introduction in FY 2019, but procurement buys will begin in FY 2016.

April 26/13: Real Competition? Aviation Week reports on the AMDR program. Beyond the materials in the GAO’s report, discussions with the US Navy offer cause for concern. They quote AMDR program manager Capt. Doug Small as saying that AMDR will be just an evolution of Aegis, providing better performance for “only slight more” weight, power, and coolant demands, and “a fraction of the resources needed to run all of dual-band radar (DBR) or even existing Aegis SPY radars to conduct similar missions.”

The SPY-3/ SPY-4 DBR comparison seems like a pretty big stretch, given that they haven’t picked their AMDR radar yet, much less tested it. Article author Michael Fabey’s concerns, on the other hand, lie in another area:

“….the Navy will have to take great pains to ensure the competitiveness of the AMDR program. The service can ill afford to have this effort be seen as just an extension of the “Aegis Mafia,” often seen as… the automatic property of Lockheed, the combat system’s creator and prime contractor throughout the decades.”

It’s a real dilemma. Commonality with an existing combat system makes cross-fleet upgrades much easier, while lowering overall maintenance and upgrade costs. In Aegis’ case it also leverages work that has been and will be done on Ballistic Missile Defense modes. On the other hand, Aegis’ existing inter-dependencies with Lockheed’s own SPY-1 design are a stumbling block. Can the Navy really deliver AMDR on budget, while swapping in an S-band radar from another company? If they say yes and it’s not actually doable, AMDR will flounder and may fail. If the Navy decides that they can’t risk it, then the whole AMDR-S competition was a waste of time.

An AMDR-S award to Raytheon might still be thinkable if the Navy goes with the lesser standard of fleet combat system commonality, using the Raytheon combat system that drives the 3-ship DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class, and leveraging Raytheon’s combat system and controller work integrating the CVN-78 Ford Class carriers’ Dual-Band Radar.

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.

“Missile integration with AMDR-S radar for DDG 51 Flight III ships will include requirements review/updates and analysis, verification; technical documentation, design review and working group SME support, missile/radar integration, missile test hardware procurement, risk assessment, safety, test and evaluation planning, analysis, data collection. Deliverables include interface specs and engineering documents to support AMDR PDRs HW&SW (FY13) and CDRs HW&SW (FY14); EDM testing (FY15), interface specs and engineering documents to support AMDR/ACBNext for DDG 51 Flight III E3 Testing, Analysis and Reports. Missile variants: ESSM Block I; SM-2 Blk IIIB MU2, SM-6 Block I (Current Aegis Configuration).”

Meanwhile, the Cooperative Engagement Capability program plans to spend 2013 working on interfaces that will let it work with AMDR. The Standard and ESSM programs will have related items on their plate, and Flight III destroyers will gain an interesting benefit from a discontinued carrier program. The AN/SPS-74(V) CVN Periscope Detection Radar program was canceled on Dec 17/12, with FY 2012 – 2013 funding directed to develop the algorithms and interface for the AN/SPQ-9B Radar instead.

March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. Its AMDR section gives a program cost of $6.57 billion total to develop & buy 22 radars. As one might imagine when comparing to last year’s report (q.v. March 30/12), the program’s $9.24 billion cost drop heralds some major shifts in the program.

Instead of using AMDR-X radars, the first 12 AMDR systems will use Northrop Grumman’s existing SPQ-9B radar as their X-band component. According to the Navy, the SPQ-9B radar fits better within the Flight III DDG 51′s sea frame, and “expected power and cooling.” That’s no surprise, given that the “Spook-9″ is already set to operate beside the S-band SPY-1D radar on Australia’s smaller Hobart Class destroyers. The bad news is that additional software work will be required to integrate a 2nd radar (SPQ-9B) with the new active S-band radar. AMDR was already on the hook for about 1 million lines of developed code, and software development has bent quite a few DoD project schedules.

The Navy will also have to compromise on radar performance in several areas. The Navy has now settled on a forced scale-down from the 20-foot aperture needed to meet their AMDR specifications, to a 14-foot aperture that’s the largest they can safely fit in the DDG-51 design. On the X-band front, SPQ-9B will eventually be replaced by a new X-band design for the last 10 units (13 – 22), but until AMDR-X arrives, the system won’t perform as well in X-band against the most advanced threats.

Major program shifts

Nov 26/12: NGC. Northrop Grumman announces that their AMDR technology demonstration contract is done. The firm says that they achieved both contract objectives: demonstrating that the critical technology is mature, and advancing the design of the tactical system. Northrop Grumman also successfully completed far field range testing of the AMDR-TD prototype, which reportedly met performance goals and radiated at top power for all waveforms.

FY 2011 – 2012

Functional reviews from contenders. RFP proposals in. NGC’s AMDR-TD
(click to view full)

Sept 10/12: NGC. Northrop Grumman announces that its AMDR prototype has successfully completed initial range testing. Near Field Range testing validated the AMDR’s digital beam forming performance, tuning techniques, and reliability. Subsequent Far Field Range testing at Northrop Grumman’s radar test site in Baltimore, MD included successful full-power operational demonstrations.

July 31/12: RFP Proposals in. Lockheed Martin announces that it has submitted its “AMDR-S” proposal. Northrop Grumman and Raytheon both confirmed to DID that they also submitted proposals. Lockheed Martin.

April 2/12: NGC. Northrop Grumman announces that they’ve successfully finished AMDR’s System Functional Review (SFR) in late December 2011, and Test Readiness Review (TRR) “several weeks later”. SFR is a multi-disciplined technical review conducted to ensure that the system under review is technically mature enough to proceed into preliminary design. TRR assesses the readiness of the system for testing configuration items.

During the SFR, Northrop Grumman demonstrated digital beamforming and advanced tactical software modes, using its pathfinder early testing radar with a prototype radar suite controller to successfully detect and track airborne targets.

March 30/12: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2011. AMDR is scheduled to enter system development in October 2012, and the current program envisions $15.837 billion to develop and field 24 radar sets on DDG-51 Flight III destroyers.

Program officials believe that digital beamforming in a radar of AMDR’s size will be the most significant technical challenge, and will likely take the longest time to mature. Unfortunately, that technology is necessary for AMDR’s simultaneous air and ballistic missile defense mission. Meanwhile, a 14-foot version of AMDR-S is the largest radar they can safely fit within the DDG-51 destroyer’s deckhouse, even though it would take a 20-foot diameter aperture to fully meet all of the Navy’s specifications. The Navy is still discussing the precise size for AMDR-S in Flight III ships, and the design is supposed to be scalable up or down in size to fit on smaller or larger ships.

Nov 16/11: Power problem. Jane’s Navy International is reporting that DDG-51 flight III destroyers with the new AMDR radar and hybrid propulsion drives could cost $3-4 billion each.

If that is true, it’s about the same cost as a DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class ship, in return for less performance, more vulnerability, and less future upgrade space. AMDR isn’t a final design yet, so it’s still worthwhile to ask what it could cost to give the Flight IIIs’ radar and combat systems ballistic missile defense capabilities – R&D for the function doesn’t go away when it’s rolled into a separate program. Indeed, if the Flight III cost estimate is true, it raises the question of why that would be a worthwhile use of funds, and re-opens the issue of whether continuing DDG-1000 production and upgrades might make more sense. DoD Buzz.

Sept 19/11: Raytheon. Raytheon touts the performance of its Gallium Nitride AMDR T/R modules, which demonstrated no degradation after more than 1,000 hours of testing. Raytheon is developing a technology demonstrator for the system’s S-band radar and radar suite controller, and says that their testing figures exceed Navy requirements.

June 12/11: Growth problems? Aviation Week reports that AMDR’s key platform may be hitting growth problems. Power, cooling, and weight distribution have always been seen as the most likely stumbling blocks to fitting AMDR on the DDG-51 hull, and:

“As the possible requirements and expectations continue to grow for the proposed DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyers, so is the concern among defense analysts and contractors that the U.S. Navy may once again be trying to pack too much into one ship… And yet it is the need to field [AMDR] that is driving some of the additional requirements for the Flight IIIs… “Sometimes we get caught up in the glamour of the high technology,” Huntington Ingalls Industries CEO Mike Petters says. “The radars get bounced around. They get changed. Their missions get changed. The technology changes. The challenge is if you let the radars drive the ships, you might not get any ships built.”

June 7/11: Raytheon. Raytheon announces that it has conducted a system requirements review (SRR) for AMDR Phase II beginning May 17/11. Their release does not describe it as successful, offering only the less categorical claim that the “Navy’s feedback throughout the review was favorable,” and pointing out that the firm “matured its design ahead of schedule, surpassing customer expectations.” DID asked Raytheon about this. They said the review was successful, but they wanted to different phrasing for a change.

Raytheon is currently developing a technology demonstrator for AMDR’s S-band radar and radar suite controller, and the firm demonstrated hardware from that pilot array during the review. The SRR also included Raytheon’s understanding of AMDR’s requirements, how its design and architecture meets those requirements, and Raytheon’s its analysis of those requirements, including cost and performance trade studies. A System Functional Review will be held later in 2011.

June 1/11: AMDR Issues. An Aviation Week article looks at AMDR, and adds some cost estimates and perspective on the program.

“AMDR is the brass ring for Navy radar programs… Capt. Doug Small, program officer for Naval Sea Systems Command (Navsea), [says that] “We’re working hard to balance a tough set of requirements for this radar with its costs… BMD (Ballistic Missile Defense) targets drive radar sensitivity. There’s no substitute for having detect-and-track [capability] at a long distance… [But] To do simultaneous air defense [and BMD], you have to spend less time doing air defense. It’s a radar resource issue… [Fortunately,] The ability to create multiple beams digitally [digital beamforming] means you spend less time doing certain other functions.” “

The article adds that Lockheed Martin demonstrated S-band digital phased-array antenna beam forming during recent NAVSEA tests of the Advanced Radar Technology Integrated System Test-bed, which combines multifunction S-band active phased-array radars. It’s a joint U.S.-U.K. radar effort spearheaded by Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems, and Lockheed Martin’s VP naval radar programs, Brad Hicks, says the technology is now ready to enter full engineering development.

May 19/11: Raytheon. Raytheon announces that it has produced the first group of S-band transmit/receive (T/R) modules for the U.S. Navy’s AMDR program.

FY 2009 – 2010

Initial studies, tech development contracts. CG-49: USS Vincennes
(click to view full)

Sept 30/10: US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC solicits bids via the Federal Business Opportunities website, receives 3 offers, and issues 3 technology development contracts for the AMDR S-band radar and its radar suite controller (RSC). AMDR-S will provide volume search, tracking, ballistic missile defense discrimination and missile communications. The RSC will perform all coordination actions to ensure that both radars work together. This approach dovetails with the Pentagon’s focus on competitive prototypes, as a way of reducing long-term risks of failed development and cost overruns.

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA received a $112.3 million fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract. Work will be performed in Sudbury, MA (81%), Fairfax, VA (18.3%), and New York, NY (0.7%), and is expected to be complete by September 2012 (N00024-10-C-5340). See also Raytheon.

Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $119.2 million fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (86.2%); Clearwater, FL (5.5%); Fairfax, VA (3.5%); New Brighton, MN (2.5%); Clearfield, UT (1.3%); and Huntsville, AL (1%), and is expected to be complete by September 2012 (N00024-10-C-5358). See also Lockheed Martin.

Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Linthicum Heights, MD receives a $120 million fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract. This contract is incrementally funded, with $38.4 million placed on the contract at the time of award. Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD (99.4%), and Arvonia, VA (0.6%), and is expected to be complete by September 2012 (N00024-10-C-5359). See also Northrop Grumman.

Tech development contracts

Aug 10/10: An opinion from the Information Dissemination article Happy Thoughts and DDG-1000:

“I love Chris, and I don’t think anyone in the Navy deserved their star more than Jim Syring… but this Navy Times article is just a bit too much happy half-the-story for me. Here is how half the story gets told… The real reason the Navy is dropping the VSR on DDG-1000 is because the Navy intends to put… AMDR on the DDG-1000… because the timeline works out. The thing is the Navy can’t actually say this because there is no official AMDR program yet and the DDG-1000 isn’t supposed to be a ballistic missile defense ship – remember? This story in Navy Times is what it is because when it comes to US Navy shipbuilding, the Navy under CNO Roughead is never completely honest with the American people about what the Navy is doing. Sorry if the truth hurts.”

June 2/10: DDG 1000 loses DBR. As expected, the Pentagon this week certifies that the DDG-1000 destroyer program is vital to national security, and must not be terminated, despite R&D loaded per-ship cost increases that put it over Nunn-McCurdy’s legislated limit. There will be at least one important change, however: the S-band SPY-4 Volume Search Radar will be deleted from the DDG-1000′s DBR.

Performance has met expectations, but cost increases reportedly forced the Navy into a cost/benefit decision. The Navy would not release numbers, but reports indicate possible savings of $100-200 million for each of the planned 3 ships. The X-band SPY-3 has reportedly exceeded technical expectations, and will receive upgrades to give it better volume search capability. The move will save weight and space by removing SPY-4 aperture, power, and cooling systems, and may create an opportunity for Raytheon’s SPY-3 to be upgraded for ballistic missile defense – or replaced by the winner of the BMD-capable AMDR dual-band radar competition.

The full DBR will be retained on the USS Gerald R. Ford [CVN 78] aircraft carrier, as the SPY-4 replaces 2 air search radars and will be the primary air traffic control radar. No decision has been made for CVN 79 onward, however, and AMDR’s potential scalability may make it attractive there as well. Gannett’s Navy Times | US DoD.

No DBR on DDG-1000

Feb 26/10: CRS Report. The US Congressional Research Service lays out what remains of AMDR’s opportunity, in an updated report. From “Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress” :

“The Navy’s FY2011 budget submission calls for procuring two DDG-51s in FY2011 and six more in FY2012-FY2015. The two DDG-51s that the Navy wants to procure in FY2011 received $577.2 million in FY2010 advance procurement funding. The Navy’s proposed FY2011 budget requests another $2,922.2 million in procurement funding for the two ships, so as to complete their estimated combined procurement cost of $3,499.2 million. The Navy’s proposed FY2011 budget also requests $48.0 million in advance procurement funding for the one DDG-51 that the Navy wants to procure in FY2012, and $186.3 million in procurement funding for DDG-1000 program-completion costs. The Navy’s FY2011 budget also proposes terminating the Navy’s planned CG (X) cruiser program as unaffordable. Rather than starting to procure CG (X)s around FY2017, as the Navy had previously envisaged, the Navy is proposing to build an improved version of the DDG-51, called the Flight III version, starting in FY2016. Navy plans thus call for procuring the current version of the DDG-51, called the Flight IIA version, in FY2010-FY2015, followed by procurement of Flight III DDG-51s starting in FY2016. Navy plans appear to call for procuring Flight III DDG- 51s through at least FY2022, and perhaps until FY2031. Flight III DDG-51s are to carry a smaller version of the new Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) that was to be carried by the CG (X). The Navy’s proposed FY2011 budget requests $228.4 million in research and development funding for the AMDR. Detailed design work on the Flight III DDG-51 reportedly is to begin in FY2012 or FY2013.”

June 26/09: The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC issues 3 firm fixed-price contracts, covering initial concept studies for the (AMDR) S-band and Radar Suite Controller (RSC) only. Deliverables will include the S-band and radar suite controller conceptual design, systems engineering studies and analyses, and a technology development plan. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities and Navy Electronic Commerce Online websites, with 3 offers received.

Northrop Grumman receives a $10 million contract. Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD, and is expected to be complete by December 2009 (N00024-09-C-5398). See also NGC’s July 28/09 release.

Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ, receives a $10 million contract. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ, and is expected to be complete by December 2009 (N00024-09-C-5312). See also Lockheed Martin’s July 14/09 release.

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA receives a $9.9 million contract. Work will be performed in Sudbury, MA (94%); Fairfax, VA (4%); Bath, ME (3%); Andover, MA (3%); Tewksbury, MA (3%); and East Syracuse, NY (2%), and is expected to be complete by December 2009 (N00024-09-C-5313). See also Raytheon’s Aug 3/09 release.

Initial studies contracts

Additional Readings Background: AMDR

Background: Related Systems

Official Reports

News & Views

Categories: News

Oman’s Air Force Upgrades: From Jaguars to F-16s & Eurofighters

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:00
RAFO F-16Cs w. CFTs
(click to view full)

Oman is located on the eastern Arabian peninsula next to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and across from Persia. It remains a very strategic country, controlling the Strait of Hormuz’ western bank, and providing an overwatch position for both the entrance to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean near Africa. The Royal Air Force of Oman (al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Sultanat Oman) currently flies 12 F-16 Block 50 fighters: 8 F-16Cs and 4 F-16Ds, whose delivery began in 2005. They complement the RAFO’s 18 Jaguar strike aircraft.

Sultan Qaboos’ air force is looking to replace its aging Jaguars, and made inquiries about buying 4+ generation fighters like Eurofighters or even JAS-39 Gripens for this purpose. A formal DSCA request in August 2010 for 18 more F-16s raised the possibility of a different approach, and quickly became a firm contract. Then BAE received an RFP for its Eurofighter, which also turned into a contract. With these buys, plus a handful of new jet trainers, the RAFO’s fighter modernization looks to be complete.

The Sultanate of Oman History & Geopolitics The Persian Gulf
(click to view full)

Oman (pron. Uman) is located on the eastern Arabian peninsula next to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and across from Persia. It has historically been a multi-ethnic society, and its combination of a bleak interior and near-coast mountains have served as a formidable barrier for would-be conquerors. The moderate Omani Ibadi form of Islam has been one result. An outward looking focus, and long history of trade, also followed.

In the 1640s, an alliance between the Al-Yaribi tribe and Britain defeated the Portuguese, who had controlled Muscat. Afterward, it led to an Omani empire stretching to Zanzibar and beyond, and across the strait as far east as the port of Gwadur (now Pakistan’s Gwadar). The end of the slave trade collapsed that empire, but Oman found a new resource: geography.

Even in its collapsed state, Oman still controlled the western Musandam Peninsula of the Strait of Hormuz, and lay across the Persian Gulf’s sea approaches. Britain, once an ally, became more of a full guarantor. The critical telegraph cable from Britain to India landed in Oman. Which is how British troops with the misfortune of manning the utterly desolate Jazirat al Maqlab island, “around the bend” of the Musandam, gave the English language a new slang phrase for madness.

Relations with Britain have remained close through the windfalls of the Middle East’s oil and gas bonanza. Oman’s traditional protector was instrumental in defeating a significant Marxist campaign from 1965-1976, in a relatively unheralded campaign that still offers interesting lessons in multinational counterinsurgency.

Sultan Qaboos’ country remains strategically important, and official political and military relations with America and Britain are close. The Strait of Hormuz remains important to Oman’s military preparations, but the nation has also played a quietly useful role in counter-piracy activities around the western Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa. The RAFO’s forthcoming C-295 MPA maritime patrol planes will help them extend that role, replacing the aged Seavan fleet.

Iran is regarded very warily, but without overt hostility. Unofficially, Oman’s location makes it the embarkation point for many of the smuggled foreign civilian trade goods, foodstuffs, etc. that make up Iran’s internal black market.

The Royal Air Force of Oman French Jaguar
(click to view full)

The al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Sultanat Oman (RAFO) currently has 3 full fighter squadrons. RAFO 10 squadron finished its conversion from Jaguar strike aircraft to F-16C/D Block 50/52+ fighters in 2006, but 8 sq and 20 sq continue to operate the old Jaguars, as this extreme low-level flight video shows. The fighters are all formally based at Thumrayt in the southwest, near the border with Yemen and away from the entrance to the Gulf. With that said, they have been known to operate from Seeb air base in the northeast, near the capital of Muscat.

Masirah air base on Oman’s central coast houses RAFO 6 squadron’s mixed set of single-seat Hawk 203 light fighter/ advanced trainer fleet and 2-seat Hawk 103 jet trainers. The base also hosts RAFO 1 squadron’s Super Mushshak primary trainers and Pilatus PC-9M basic trainer aircraft, alongside some of Oman’s Super Lynx Mk.120 search-and-rescue helicopters.

RAFO Hawks
click for video

Once the 8 new Hawks arrive at Masirah, the 4 old Hawk Mk.103 trainers will be phased out in favor of the more advanced Hawk Mk.128 LIFT. The RAFO’s 11 single-seat Hawk 203 fighters are currently used as advanced trainers, and the new Mk.128s could easily replace them, too. On the other hand the Hawk 203s’ APG-66H radars and weapons array give them a dual-role value that could prompt Oman to keep them in service.

Oman has begun building the new Adam air base about 100 miles SW of Muscat. It’s within Oman’s interior, and shielded from the Gulf approaches by a spine of mountains that would become natural sites for air defenses. It’s an excellently protected location that would still allow strong air patrols along Oman’s north and the Straits, and it is widely believed that at least some of the Jaguars’ successor aircraft will be housed there.

In December 2012 the Sultanate upgraded its trainer fleet with new Hawks, and bought 12 Eurofighter Typhoons to accompany their F-16 Falcons. The Typhoons will become the country’s high-end air superiority fighters, with a secondary strike role behind the more versatile Falcons. Oman joins their neighbor Saudi Arabia as local Eurofighter operators, and this new regional buy could strengthen the plane’s odds in fellow Gulf Cooperation Council countries the UAE and Qatar.

The December 2011 and December 2012 contracts will give the RAFO a future combat force of 12 Eurofighters and 24 F-16 Block 50s (18 F-16Cs, 6 F-16Ds). Another 6 F-16s are available on option, if the RAFO wants to add to that total.

Contracts & Key Events 2013 – 2014

RAFO F-16s
(click to view full)

July 22/14: F-16 Delivery. Oman’s first 4 F-16 Block 50s from the new production batch of 12 take off from NAS Fort Worth to Oman. Lockheed Martin Code One Magazine, “Oman Delivery”.

1st arrivals

April 3/14: F-16 delivery. The RAFO accepts the 1st F-16 from its recent order, an F-16C Block 50, at a ceremony in Fort Worthm TX. The plane will ferry to Oman later in 2014. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Oman Air Force Continues F-16 Legacy” | Arabian Aerospace, “Oman accepts first F-16 from second order”.

Feb 17/13: F-16 Support. BAE Systems announces a $23 million contract to provide F-16 support equipment, test systems, and spares to the government of Oman. BAE will develop and deliver these items from its Fort Worth, Texas facility by early 2014.

The F-16 isn’t a BAE product, but they deliver similar equipment and services to more than 24 countries worldwide. They’re also carving out a role in F-16 electronic upgrades, with customers in South Korea, Turkey, and the US Air National Guard. Oman’s F-16s only began arriving in 2005, but if they’re interested in upgrading later on, BAE’s position supporting Oman’s F-16 and Eurofighter fleets should make them a very strong competitor.


Eurofighter & Hawk trainer contract; F-16 weapons & ancillaries ordered; F-16 weapons request. Saudi Eurofighters
(click to view full)

Dec 21/12: Eurofighters. 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 new Hawk Mk.128 LIFTs (Lead-In Fighter Trainers) will replace 4 old Hawk Mk.103 trainers with 8 jets whose modern displays, capabilities, and built-in simulation offer pilots a more faithful bridge to the RAFO’s advanced F-16s and Eurofighters. The new Hawk buy also gives them trainer commonality with the Saudis.

The deal includes in-service support, and deliveries are expected to begin in 2017. UK MoD | BAE | Eurofighter GmbH | Arabian Aerospace | The Telegraph.

Contract: 12 Eurofighters + 8 Hawks

Dec 12/12: Weapons. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Oman’s request for weapons to equip its existing and ordered F-16s. Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Oman involving “many” U.S. Government or contractor representatives over a period of up to or over 15 years for program and technical support and training. The request includes:

  • 27 AIM-120-C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM)
  • 162 GBU-12 PAVEWAY II 500-pound Laser Guided Bombs
  • 162 FMU-152 bomb fuzes
  • 150 BLU-111B/B 500-pound Conical Fin General Purpose Bombs (Freefall Tail)
  • 60 BLU-111B/B 500-pound Retarded Fin General Purpose Bombs (Ballute Tail)
  • 32 CBU-105 GPS-guided Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers (WCMD)
  • 20mm projectiles and training munitions
  • Aerial Gunnery Target System (AGTS-36)
  • Plus flares, chaff, containers, impulse cartridges, weapon support equipment and components, repair and return, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, site survey, and other US government and contractor support.

Equipment notes: The AIM-120-C7 is the most advanced model of AMRAAM the USA will export. BLU-111 bombs are loaded with a less sensitive explosive filler, but otherwise perform as normal Mk.82 bombs. WCMDs are cluster bombs that target and destroy armored vehicles, after their GPS guidance gets the sub-munitions into seeker range. The principal contractors will be:

  • Raytheon Company in Waltham, MA (AMRAAM, Paveway)
  • Textron Defense Systems in Wilmington, MA (WCMD)
  • General Dynamics in Falls Church, VA (Bombs)
  • McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, OK

The estimated cost is up to $117 million, but exact costs will be determined by any negotiated contracts.

DSCA weapons request

Oct 12/12: Retrofit. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX receives a $94.7 million firm-fixed-price contract “for retrofit of 12 F-16 C/D Block 60 multi-role fighter aircraft” for the government of Oman. This is a typo: Block 60s are F-16 E/Fs, flown only by the UAE. Looks like Oman is moving to bring all of its F-16 Block 50 planes to a common configuration.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete by May 16/16. The AFLCMC/WWMK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract on behalf of its Foreign Military Sales client (FA8615-13-C-6048).

July 13/12: DB-110 pods. Goodrich Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems in Westford, MA receives a $34.3 million firm-fixed-price and cost-reimbursable contract for 4 DB-110 reconnaissance pod systems, for use on Oman’s F-16 Block 50s. Their Aug 13/10 DSCA request had included 4 pods, which reportedly represents a switch from BAE’s F-9120 advanced airborne reconnaissance systems (AARS).

Goodrich’s exportable derivative of the U-2 spy plane’s SYERS cameras offer 3 separate optical fields of view, and the pod is a very popular choice for the F-16. Local customers include Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Saudi Arabia (F-15S), and the UAE. The DB-110 can be operated autonomously on F-16s, controlled by the pod’s reconnaissance management system while imagery is viewed on the cockpit video display. Work on this contract is to be complete by December 2016. The ASC/WINK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages the contract on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale client.

July 10/12: Sniper pods. Lockheed Martin announces a $23 million contract from the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) to provide more Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods for their F-16 fleet, and upgrade and support the RAFO’s existing Sniper pods to modernize their sensors and electronics.

Oman’s initial F-16 targeting pod request involved Lockheed Martin’s LANTIRN (vid. Oct 4/01 entry). They ended up buying the more advanced PANTERA (now Sniper) pod, and were announced as a PANTERA customer as far back as 2005. The Aug 13/10 DSCA request (q.v.) included up to 18 more Sniper pods, to accompany up to 18 fighters. Oman has bought just 12 more F-16s so far, and if it also orders fewer Sniper pods, it can buy more later, up to its approved limit.

July 10/12: Eurofighter. Reports from Farnborough shed some light on potential Eurofighter Typhoon sales to Oman, Qatar, and the UAE. BAE Systems’ business development director Alan Garwood told Reuters that:

“We’ll start formal negotiations [for 12 jets] with Oman towards the end of August [2012] I would imagine. The two governments [in Britain and Oman] 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.”

Time will tell. Reuters | WSJ’s The Source blog.

June 13/12: Missiles. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Oman’s formal request for 55 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder All-Up-Round Missiles, 6 spare AIM-9X Block II Tactical Guidance Units, 36 inert AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM) for exercises, 4 spare AIM-9X Block II CATM Guidance Units, 1 Dummy Air Training Missile for loading practice, plus containers, weapon support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, and other US government & contractor support.

Oman will negotiate with Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ is the prime contractor, and the estimated cost is up to $86 million. Implementation of this proposed sale would require multiple trips to Oman involving U.S. Government or contractor representatives for program and technical support, and management oversight.

The DSCA states that Oman is buying the missiles to modernize its F-16 fleet. The AIM-9X Block II will offer Omani pilots a more maneuverable short-range air-to-air missile with better infrared sensors, a wider seeker angle, and a 2-way datalink that lets pilots launch it against targets behind them. Aircraft generally require some modifications to fully integrate this all-digital missile; fortunately, a tested solution exists for the F-16. That isn’t true for the Eurofighter, however, which maxes out at the AIM-9M. If Oman buys Eurofighters too, they would need to either pay to integrate the AIM-9X on a new platform, or buy similarly-advanced ASRAAM or IRIS-T weapons for use with its new fleet. Or, they could equip the new Eurofighter fleet with existing AIM-9M missiles, removing most of the Eurofighter’s comparative close-combat air superiority over AIM-9X equipped RAFO F-16s.

AIM-9X missile request

April 25/12: F-16 ECM. ITT Corp. (now ITT Exelis) in Clifton, NJ wins a $47.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 15 AN/ALQ-211v4 AIDEWS(airborne integrated defensive electronic warfare) electronic countermeasures suites, and 2 sets of antenna couplers for support production. AIDEWS beat Raytheon’s ACES system for the contract, and the v4 designation indicates that it will be mounted internally.

The AIDEWS systems are being bought for new RAFO F-16 C/Ds, and work will be performed in Clifton, NJ until Dec 31/14. The Warner Robins Air Logistics Cente at Robins AFB, GA manages the contract (FA8540-12-C-0014).

March 14/12: F-16 Radars. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Linthicum Heights, MD receives an $87.8 million dollar firm-fixed-price Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program contract, to provide 43 AN/APG-68v9 radar systems to the Republic of Iraq (22), the Royal Air Force of Oman (15), and the Royal Thai Air Force (6).

The AN/APG-68v9 is the standard radar for new F-16C/D aircraft. Northrop Grumman cites a 33% increase in air-to-air detection range over earlier versions, plus ground-looking synthetic aperture radar with mapping and 2-foot point target response. They also claim that the radar’s reduced weight, power, and cooling help contribute to 25%-45% lower support costs, though their baseline comparison for those costs isn’t clear.

In Oman’s case, the radars would equip its 12 ordered F-16s, and provide 3 spares. Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights, MD, and is expected to be complete by March 3/15. The ASC/WWMK at Wright Patterson AFB, OH manages this contract (FA8615-12-C-6047).

Jan 23/12: Eurofighter Typhoon RFP. Dow Jones reports that:

“BAE Systems PLC (BA.LN) shares rose Monday after the government of Oman requested a more detailed proposal from the defense giant for the Eurofighter Typhoon… The Omani government issued a “Request For Proposal” to BAE Systems, the prime bidder on behalf of the Eurofighter consortium… BAE Systems will now start more detailed talks for the supply and support of the Typhoon fighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force of Oman, which could lead to a final order for 12 Typhoon aircraft, a company spokeswoman said. “This news underpins the long-standing defence and security relationship between Oman and the United Kingdom and between the armed forces in Oman and BAE Systems, a major supplier of equipment and services to the sultanate,”… BAE declined to comment on the potential value of the deal as negotiations will now include likely talks about the level of in-service support and potential investment in the country, known as offset.”

Eurofighter Typhoon RFP

2010 – 2011

2nd F-16 request, and a contract for 12 more. Eurofighter seems to have an edge. RAFO F-16D Block 50
(click to view full)

Dec 14/11: + 12 F-16s. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $600 million dollar firm-fixed-price, time-and-material and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide the government of Oman with 12 more F-16C/D Block 50s, which will give the RAFO a total of 24: 18 F-16Cs, and 6 F-16Ds. The contract also covers support equipment; technical orders; and integrated logistics support – but not expensive items like GE’s F110 engines, Northrop Grumman’s APG-68v9 radar, etc., which must be bought and supported separately.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX until Nov 30/16. This was a sole-source acquisition, and is being managed by the ASC/WWMK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH on behalf of their Foreign Military Sale client (FA8615-12-C-6011).

The Aug 13/10 DSCA request covered up to 18 fighters, and Oman could still order the other 6 if it chooses. When coupled with Iraq’s order of 18 F-16IQ Block 52s and ongoing requests for more, and a rumored UAE buy of more F-16E/F Block 60s, Middle Eastern sales appear to be taking a lead role in extending the F-16 production line past 2013.

F-16 order #2

Aug 13/10: Both? Jane’s reports that Oman is likely to buy both new F-16s and the Eurofighter, a move that would significantly expand the RAFO’s overall fighter strength.

Aug 3/10: F-16. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Oman’s formal request to upgrade its existing F-16 fleet, and buy 18 F-16 Block 50/52 aircraft and associated equipment, parts, training and support for an estimated cost of up to $3.5 billion. Items requested include:

  • 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 50/52 aircraft
  • 20 Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 or GE F110-GE-129 Increased Performance Engines (current RAFO F-16s use F110s)
  • 24 Northrop Grumman AN/APG-68v9 radar sets
  • 20 General Dynamics ATP M61 20mm Vulcan Cannons
  • Conformal fuel tanks (CFT), number unspecified
  • 36 LAU-129/A Common Rail Launchers
  • 36 LAU-117 MAVERICK missile launchers
  • Cartridge Actuated Devices/Propellant Actuated Devices (CAD/PAD), number unspecified
  • 22 AN/ARC-238 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems with HAVE QUICK I/II
  • 22 ITT AN/ALQ-211 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suites (AIDEWS) or Raytheon’s Advanced Countermeasures Electronic Systems (ACES) with the ALQ-187 electronic warfare system and ALR-93 radar warning receiver
  • 22 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing Systems (CMDS)
  • 18 Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER surveillance and targeting pods, “or similarly capable system”
  • 4 Goodrich DB-110 Reconnaissance Pods (RECCE)
  • 40 VSI/Boeing Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems
  • Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) Systems with Mode IV
  • 34 Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Embedded-GPS/Inertial Navigation Systems (INS)
  • 35 of Raytheon’s ALE-50 Towed Decoys
  • Ground based flight simulator
  • Existing fleet upgrades and modification kits
  • Site survey and construction.
  • Support equipment
  • Tanker support and ferry services
  • Repair and return, spares and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support

The numbers of some of these items suggest their use as general fleet upgrades, as opposed to merely being equipment that comes with the new fighters. The number of JHMCS helmets, for instance, is almost certainly a fleet-wide buy. The principal contractors could include:

  • BAE Advanced Systems Greenlawn, NY
  • Boeing Company Seattle, WA
  • Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in St Louis, MO; Long Beach, CA; and San Diego, CA
  • Raytheon Company in Lexington, MA and Goleta, CA
  • Raytheon Missile Systems Tucson, AZ
  • Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX
  • Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, TX
  • Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training and Support in Fort Worth, TX
  • Northrop-Grumman Electro-Optical Systems in Garland, TX
  • Northrop-Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, MD
  • Pratt & Whitney United Technology Company in East Hartford, CT
  • General Electric Aircraft Engines in Cincinnati, OH
  • Goodrich ISR Systems in Danbury, CT
  • L3 Communications Arlington, TX
  • ITT Defense Electronics and Services in McLean, VA
  • Symetrics Industries in Melbourne, FL

Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Oman involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, program management, and training over a period of 15 years.

Note that DSCA requests are not contracts, simply a necessary stage for clearance to buy items designated as military equipment under US laws. Oman eventually did buy some of these F-16s, but at this point, a DSCA request could mean a number of things, from mere contender status, to F-16s picked over other options like Eurofighter, to a parallel procurement program (which is what it turned out to be).

F-16 request #2

April 2/10: Eurofighter. Britain’s BBC News reports that the Sultan of Oman has confirmed the country’s intention to buy the Eurofighter. What’s new is the official source of the confirmation.

This is not an order, and neither numbers nor costs were mentioned in the report. With Eurofighter Tranche 3A already ordered as Britain’s final Eurofighter purchase, the question of whether Oman’s order would be filled by redirected British aircraft also remains unresolved. Britain cut its Tranche 3 order for full capability aircraft from 88 to just 40, but looming budget issues could still force the country to give up some of its existing and ordered planes. A full defense review is expected in 2010-2011.

2001 – 2009

Initial F-16 request, order & deliveres. European contenders for Jaguar replacement. Eurofighter w. Paveway IIs
(click to view full)

May 10/09: Eurofighter. The Financial Mail reports that BAE Systems is close to winning an order worth up to GBP 1.6 billion to sell some 24 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft to Oman. The aircraft are expected to be relayed through Britain, redirecting part of that country’s Tranche 3 order for 88 aircraft.

Feb 10/09: Rafale, en garde! France enters the fray with an offer to sell Oman Dassault’s Rafale fighter instead. The offer was reportedly made by visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a meeting and dinner on Tuesday with Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Report.

Nov 13/08: Eurofighter. Britain’s Financial Times reports that BAE Systems is in direct talks with the Omani government to sell them up to 24 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. The deal’s rumored value is GBP 1.4 billion (then about $2.08 billion), which is slightly low but not wildly out of line with past Eurofighter purchases. That move would complete the RAFO’s fighter recapitalization, offering it an air fleet that could operate within the Gulf Cooperation Council alongside Bahraini and UAE F-16s, and forthcoming Saudi Eurofighters, while remaining relevant and competitive for many years to come. Financial Times | Agence France Presse.

April 21/06: Lockheed Martin announces that it has delivered its 4,300th F-16 fighter. It’s one of the 12 Block 50 aircraft bought by Oman.

Aug 4/05: Lockheed Martin holds a ceremony at its Fort Worth, TX facility to deliver the first F-16 aircraft to the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO). This F-16D was accepted by the U.S. government (as the agent for Oman in the FMS process) on July 19/05, one month ahead of schedule.

The first single-seat F-16C version will fly in August 2005, and be accepted in September 2005. These 2 aircraft will be ferried to Oman in mid-October to support the 35th National Day celebrations on Nov 18/05, Sultan Qaboos’ birthday. The remainder of the aircraft will be ferried to Oman during 2006.

1st F-16 delivered

May 2002: F-16 order. The Sultanate of Oman signs an agreement with the U.S. government to purchase 12 Advanced Block 50 F-16s in the Peace A’sama A’safiya (Clear Skies) Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The agreement includes 8 single-seat F-16Cs and 4 two-seat F-16Ds, powered by the General Electric F110-GE-129 engine. These jets are slated to complement, not replace, Oman’s Jaguars.

Oman will become the 5th Arab nation (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, UAE) and the 3rd member of the Gulf Cooperation Council to acquire the F-16.

F-16 order

Oct 4/01: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Oman’s official request to buy up to 12 F-16C/D Block 50+ aircraft. Their purchase would also include:

  • 14 of either Pratt & Whitney’s F100-PW-229 or GE’s F110-GE-129 engine [DID: 12 + 2 spares, GE was picked]
  • APG-68vXM FMS radars
  • 14 LANTIRN Targeting Pods, FMS variant [DID: This was later changed to the more advanced PANTERA/Sniper pod]
  • 14 LANTIRN Navigation Pods with Terrain Following Radar (TFR)
  • 50 AIM-120C Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM)
  • 10 AMRAAM training missiles
  • 100 AIM-9M-8/9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles
  • 10 Sidewinder training missiles
  • 80 AGM-65D/G Maverick short-range strike missiles
  • 10 Maverick training missiles
  • 20 AGM-84D Harpoon anti-ship missiles
  • 100 Enhanced-GBU-10 Paveway II laser guided kits for 2,000 pound bombs
  • 100 Enhanced-GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided kits for 500 pound bombs
  • 80 GPS-guided GBU-31/32 Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs
  • LANTIRN Night Vision Goggle compatible cockpits
  • Plus Associated support equipment, software development/integration, modification kits, spares and repair parts, flight test instrumentation, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other US Government and contractor support.

The estimated cost is up to $1.12 billion, and the prime contractor will be Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems of Fort Worth, TX. If a contract is signed, implementation will require about 5 U.S. Government representatives in Oman for approximately 2 years, to assist in the delivery, acceptance, and deployment of the aircraft. There will also be 5 U.S. Government and 3 contractor representatives visiting for 1-week intervals, twice annually, for program management and technical reviews.

F-16 & weapons request

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Australia Ordering CH-47F Chinooks

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:00
Australian CH-47D:
Afghanistan, 2006
(click to view full)

In December 2005, Australia decided to upgrade its CH-47D Chinook fleet, in preparation for use on the front lines. Afghanistan’s high altitudes and sometimes-scorching temperatures reduce rotor lift. That made the Chinooks a far better choice than upgrading the ADF’s S-70 Black Hawk helicopters, whose reduced carrying capacity would limit their tactical uses. Those CH-47D Chinooks have gone on to play an important role in Afghanistan, amidst a general shortage of useful helicopters. Now, Australia seems determined to supplement its older CH-47D fleet with new and improved CH-47F models, which feature more modern electronics, uprated engines, and numerous other improvements.

The question was when the DSCA request would become an actual contract. That question has just been answered.

Contracts and Key Events Kandahar pickup
(click to view full)

July 18/14: Infrastructure. Australia’s government announces Parliamentary approval of a $54.8 million project for facilities at RAAFB Townsville, which will support the introduction and sustainment of the incoming 7 CH-47F Chinooks, and corresponding replacement of 6 CH-47Ds there.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2014 and be complete by mid 2017, supporting about 50 full-time jobs over the life of the project. Sources: Australia DoD, “Parliamentry Secretary to the Minister for Defence – Multi-million dollar Defence investment in Townsville”.

Jan 5/12: Contract. Boeing Co. in Ridley Park, PA receives a $370 million firm-fixed-price contract to “provide for the services in support of the bridge requirement for new CH-47 F model aircraft to support foreign military sales.” The English translation, based on responses to our inquiries, is that Australia and the UAE are buying 14 CH-47Fs (7/7 RAAF, 7/16 UAE) under the US Army contract, in order to benefit from its volume pricing.

Other CH-47F customers like Britain and Canada, who ordered heavily customized versions, can’t take advantage of that. Neither can Italy, who will produce the machines in-country under an agreement between Boeing and AgustaWestland.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by the US Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL, on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale clients (W58RGZ-12-C-0010).

Australia: 7

May 20/10: Agency contract. Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) signs a contract with the US Army Security Assistance Command, at the Australian Embassy in Washington. The AUD$ 513.5 million (about $470 million) contract will buy 7 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, 2 Simulators, and associated spares. The first 2 aircraft are planned to enter service in 2014, with all 7 in service by 2017.

With respect to standardization, the helicopters will be delivered in American configuration. Greg Combet, the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, says that:

“Australian industry will have the opportunity to incorporate the Australian specific enhancements and to support the new helicopters as part of through-life support arrangements.”

Feb 25/10: Approved. The Australian Government gives second pass approval to “Project AIR 9000 Phase 5C” for 7 CH-47Fs, at a budget of AUD $755 million. This approves the plan’s details, but is not itself a contract. Australia expects to field the first 2 helicopters in 2014, with all 7 expected by 2017. The ministerial statement makes it clear that the 7 CH-47Fs would replace 5th Aviation Regiment, C squadron’s existing 6 CH-47Ds, would also be based in Townsville, and would be expected to serve until 2040.

Per the recommendations of past commissions like Australia’s famous Kinnaird Review, Senator Faulkner said the new aircraft will be procured and maintained in the same broad configuration as the United States Army CH-47Fs. Australia also promised to consider joining the USA’s Chinook Product Improvement Program as a way to keep those configurations aligned, “when information on this program is of second pass quality.” Having said all that, however, “The new Australian Chinooks will also receive some additional ADF-specific equipment to meet certain operational and safety requirements.”

2nd pass approval

July 1/09: Delay. Shephard Group reports that Australia may not place a contract order for the new CH-47Fs until 2012, and doesn’t expect to field them before 2016-2018. In the interim, Australia hopes to issue maintenance support tenders for its 6 existing CH-47Ds.

The original acquisition plan, approved by the Liberal Party government, would have bought 3 new-build CH-47Fs, and remanufactured existing CH-47Ds to CH-47F configuration. The new Defence Capability Plan, issued this day, revises the timeline and is silent on the balance between new and remanufactured aircraft.

April 13/09: Request. The USA’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Australia’s official request for 7 CH-47F CHINOOK Helicopters with 14 (2 per aircraft) T55-GA-714A Turbine engines, 7 Dillon Aero M134D 7.62mm Miniguns, 16 AN/ARC-201D Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radios (SINCGARS), 7 Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below Blue Force Trackers (FBCB2/BFT), 2 spare T-55-GA-714A Turbine engines, plus mission equipment, communication and navigation equipment, ground support equipment, spare and repair parts, special tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, and support. The estimated cost is $560 million, but a DSCA request is not a contract.

The prime contractors will be: Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in St. Louis, MO (helicopters); Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, IA (engines); and ITT in Fort Wayne, IN (radios). Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 2 contractor representatives to Australia for approximately 3 years, with about 6 U.S. Government personnel participating in program management and/or technical reviews in-country for 1-2 week intervals annually.

DSCA request: 7 CH-47Fs

Categories: News

Fighting Continues in Ukraine While MH17 Has Elusive Consequences for Russia

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 15:45

  • 2 Ukrainian Su-25 close support jets were downed by pro-Russian rebels yesterday. Given their flight profiles, MANPADS are a likely culprit. Artillery and rocket fire has also been reported in several places, including from Russia according to the (pro-Kiev) Kyiv Post.

  • The EU’s foreign ministers met to discuss sanctions against Russia but the Netherlands are stalling as their prime minister wants to recover the bodies of those who died aboard flight MH17 before assigning blame.

  • Echoing concerns voiced in Germany, MPs from the UK’s House of Commons want the executive’s arms exports policies under greater scrutiny and parliamentary control. They just released a report [PDF] on this topic. Russia’s RIA Novosti takes their now usual approach by taunting Western powers with their own contradictions: UK Continues Exporting Arms to Russia Despite Call for New Sanctions.

  • RIA Novosti also notes that Russia will continue to supply space rocket engines to the US… as long as these are lucrative contracts. Well done, Komrade Kapitalist! Russia is also quick to remind France of its contractual obligations, as President Hollande said he may reconsider authorizing the delivery of the 2nd Mistral ship.

  • Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from the Telegraph ties Europe’s lack of nerve for sanctions to the Euro zone’s lasting economic slump. So far it is hard not to conclude that Vladimir Putin is going to get away with murder.

More Q2 2014 Results

  • Northrop Grumman reported quarterly sales down 4% to $6B. Aerospace and Information Systems declined most, at -4% and -8% respectively. Total backlog at the end of the period was $35.6B (62% funded), $1.5B less than 6 months ago.


  • The Economist reviews the efforts of President François Hollande to reorganize France’s presence across Africa, following in the steps of his mentor François Mitterrand and predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy. France is haunted by the memory of the Rwandan massacre 20 years ago, and would like to preempt terrorist threats at the root. The big missing piece: sustained funding that backs up policy.

Belly Flop to the Pacific

  • US Army Chief of Staff Gen Odierno spoke at the Aspen Institute to discuss the role of his service to meet current global threats. During the Q&A part at the end he put the emphasis on the word “rebalance” to answer a question about the formerly-known-as pivot to the Pacific. He’s happy with how things have been going for his own service but thinks proper allocation of aircraft carriers between the Middle East and the Pacific is a more touchy issue. Video below:

Categories: News

Heat Vision: US Teen Series Fighters Getting IRST

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 16:31
(click to view full)

F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet Block IIs fighters are beginning to enter service with the US Navy and Australia, carrying significantly improved AN/APG-79 AESA radars and other electronic upgrades. Recent years have seen another spreading improvement within global fighter fleets, however: Infra-Red Search & Track (IRST) systems that provide long range thermal imaging against air and ground targets. Most of these deployments have been on Russian (MiG-29 family, SU-30 family) and European (Eurofighter, Rafale, Gripen NG) fighters, or special American exports (UAE’s F-16E/F Block 60 Desert Falcons, Korea & Singapore’s F-15K/SG Strike Eagles).

That absence puts American fighters behind an important curve. This IRST approach can defeat radar stealth in some instances, by focusing on engine exhaust, or on the friction of the aircraft as it powers through the atmosphere. As F-14 pilots will recall, long range electro-optics also offer positive identification, conferring the ability to use a plane’s aerial missiles at their full ranges. Best of all, IRST offers a passive way to locate and target enemy aircraft, without triggering the target’s radar warning receivers. When coupled with medium-range IR missiles like some Russian AA-10 variants, France’s MICA-IR, or even future versions of AMRAAM NCADE, an IRST system offers a fighter both an extra set of medium-range eyes, and a stealthy air-to-air combat weapon. Programs are underway to give some American “teen series” fighters this capability, albeit in a somewhat unusual way…

Tanks for the View: The IRST + Fuel Solution F/A-18F w. tanks
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Retrofits into existing aircraft can be tricky, but in July 2007, Boeing’s RFI selection process and tapped Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control division in Orlando, FL to supply up IRST systems for F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet Block II aircraft. That began as a Systems Development and Demonstration effort, but the program received Milestone B approval in July 2011, and the EMD contract followed in August 2011. The first production deliveries of up to F/A-18 E/F IRST systems were expected in 2012, with initial operational capability expected in 2013.

Lockheed Martin’s IRST is described as “the next generation of the F-14D AN/AAS-42 IRST that accumulated over 200,000 flight hours aboard U.S. aircraft carriers.” The question for Boeing was where to put it.

IRST tank
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Instead of modifying the Super Hornet’s airframe’s structure or wiring, the partners will be taking an unusual route: modifying a 480 gallon centerline fuel tank to carry 330 gallons of fuel + the IRST system. The drawback to this approach is that a centerline tank with IRST needs to stay on the airplane in combat, compromising its aerodynamic performance and radar signature.

On the bright side, this approach will allow refits to existing Super Hornets, and indeed to all “teen series” fighters in the US arsenal, once software integration is performed to tie the IRST into each new plane type’s “multisource integration algorithms.” IRST tracking data must be correlated with other sensors like the fighter’s radar, radar warning receivers, etc., in order to make its surveillance and targeting simple enough to be useful to the pilot. MSIA integration ensures this.

Industrial partners in this effort are:

  • Boeing IDS (lead contractor)
  • Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (SpectIR IRST sensor)
  • General Electric (F/A-18 fuel tank with the sensor housing)
  • Meggitt Defense Systems Inc. (IRST unit’s cooling sub-assembly)

IRST Future: A SpectIR for all Teens? IRST pod on F-15C
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A similar approach was suggested for the USAF’s F-15C/D fleet, but it would have been a full centerline pod, rather than a fuel tank with additional capabilities. The two firms already had a history of cooperation on the F-15. Boeing has already installed Lockheed Martin’s Tiger Eyes system, which includes an IRST as part of its suite, on in Korean F-15K and RSAF F-15SG Strike Eagles.

The Pentagon’s FY 2012 budget proposed to end funding for the F-15 program, but Lockheed Martin and Boeing continued to develop “SpectIR” as an option that “will be transportable across a wide range of platforms.” The FY 2013 Presidential Budget for 2013 shows the USAF F-15C SpectIR program picking back up again in FY 2015, and the Air National Guard has its own options. Because IRST is an open ANG requirement for Homeland Defense, the US ANG can just use National Guard & Reserve Equipment Appropriation (NGREA) funds to buy a system, once it’s ready.

Lockheed Martin has privately funded the SpectIR dedicated IRST pod, and is conducting tests to demonstrate its readiness. They see the market extending well beyond F-15 fleets. Integration work for the team will obviously be easier on Boeing and Lockheed Martin “teen series” fighters like the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18. Nevertheless, other platforms around the world would be eligible, if manufacturers or customers wanted to fund integration.

As an interesting aside, there are reports that the USAF’s targeting pods chosen under the new ATP-SE contracts may provide a lesser form of air-to-air IRST capability, alongside the ground surveillance and attack functions.

Contracts and Key Events 2011 – 2014

Super Hornet pod receives EMD contract, begins test flights; USAF backs away from F-15C SpectIR pod, but Lockheed Martin doesn’t. F/A-18F w. IRST
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July 16/14: R&D. posts a USAF pre-solicitation for improved IRST technology:

“This is a Request for Information (RFI) for the Air Force to determine the feasibility of developing a next generation airborne long range offensive IRST that is a staring system based on combinations of innovative optical design, high dynamic range IR large format focal plane array (FPA) technology and advanced processing methods. This exploratory concept is in contrast to current implementations using scanned and smaller format arrays…. Advancements in large format two-dimensional FPAs offer potential advantages in clutter rejection, more frequent updates, longer integration times and multi-frame detection techniques. It is expected that by exploiting these advantages an IRST can be developed that supports long range detection and tracking of targets in cluttered environments with a low false alarm rate over a large field-of-view (FOV).”

Note that this solicitation isn’t specifically aimed at this program; indeed, the focus on large format arrays seems aimed at transferring the equivalent of space-based technologies to larger airborne fleets. With that said, it illustrates an important advantage of the podded approach. Technology advances do filter down, and one of the compensating advantages against a pod’s extra drag is that they offer the most inexpensive swap-out options as new technologies become available. The question is whether technology improvements would boost existing podded IRSTs, or just improve onboard options for ground surveillance & targeting pods lite LITENING and Sniper from partial to full IRST capabilities. Sources: US, “Infrared Search and Track Technologies, Solicitation Number: RFI-RQKS-2014-0001″.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. This interesting tidbit came from the US Navy’s detailed RDT&E justifications for PE 0204136N:

“Delays in the schedule for IRST are due to technical challenges with the Fuel Tank which led to additional flight test requirements.”

Feb 18/14: Testing. US Navy flight testing of Boeing’s IRST pod has progressed to Boeing’s Super Hornet, and the pod made its 1st test flight on an F/A-18F at Edwards AFB, CA on Feb 11/14. Sources: US NAVAIR, “You can run, but you can’t hide” | Boeing, “U.S. Navy Tests Infrared Search and Track on Boeing Super Hornet”

April 15/13: F-18. Flight tests have begun for the Super Hornet’s IRST, attached to the nose of a Beechcraft King Air. The advantage of that arrangement is that you can bring a few engineers and their gear along for the ride. Boeing’s Test & Evaluation group sees themselves as a rapid prototyping shop, so that kind of arrangement suits them just fine. Boeing feature.

Feb 24/12: F-15. Lockheed Martin announces that its “SpectIR” IRST pod successfully acquired, tracked and provided a weapons-grade firing cue during a recent Air National Guard (ANG) flight test. It’s part of a privately-funded Lockheed Martin effort, and the US Air National Guard retains an open requirement for IRST capabilities in its fleet.

The transportable pod format used for the F-15 doesn’t have a fuel tank included, and Lockheed Martin is aiming for “plug-and-play use for the F-15, F-16 and other platforms.”

Nov 10/11: Meggitt Defense Systems Inc. announces that it has won approval to move into the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the Super Hornet IRST’s environmental control unit.

Aug 19/11: EMD contract. Boeing in St. Louis, MO receives a $135 million cost-plus-incentive-fee, firm-fixed-price engineering, manufacturing, and development contract, to complete development of the IRST pod and make it ready for production. Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (57%); Orlando, FL (35%); Santa Ana, CA (4%); and Irvine, CA (4%), and is expected to be complete in September 2015.

This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1: “Only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements.” US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-11-C-0036). See also Boeing | Lockheed Martin.

EMD contract

July 21/11: Milestone B. The U.S. Navy’s F/A-18E/F IRST program achieves Milestone B approval to proceed into the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase. Boeing | Lockheed Martin.

Milestone B

March 15/11: USAF backs off. An Aviation Week report confirmsthe end of the USAF’s F-15C/D IRST program, saving $34.9 million in FY 2012, and $345 million for the total program from development to production and fielding. One interesting passage noted the different services’ takes on the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet program:

“Air Force officials cite “technical challenges” with the F-15 version as their rationale. However, they also say that a version of the IRST designed for the Navy is “behind schedule.” Navy officials, however, say that the effort is proceeding as planned. “The Navy’s F/A-18 IRST program is meeting program cost and schedule requirements,” says Marcia Hart-Wise, a spokeswoman for the service’s Super Hornet program.”

The USAF’s decision may also be prompted in part by revelations that the LITENING G4-SE surveillance and targeting pod has been found to have air-to-air capabilities in testing. Targeting pod sensors will continue to advance, and if they’re already able serve dual-duty as basic IRST systems, they could be seen as a medium-term solution.

Feb 14/11: The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 budget request, and accompanying documents seem to indicate the end of the USAF’s F-15 IRST retrofit program. See Budget Overview [PDF].

2007 – 2010

Super Hornet development contracts; System for F-15C. SU-30K w. IRST

April 28/10: F-15. Lockheed Martin announces a contract from the Boeing Company to continue developing system requirements for a USAF F-15C IRST. The single-seat F-15C Eagle is the USAF’s air superiority model. Company representatives tell DID that this effort will be similar to the Super Hornet’s concept, and will use some common components like the receiver, processor, and IMU(Inertial Measurement Unit, for positioning) but it will be a dedicated centerline pod instead of a converted fuel tank.

Lockheed Martin already has an active IRST production line, and their built-in “Tiger Eyes” system equips some foreign F-15s like Singapore’s F-15SG Strike Eagles.

Nov 16/09: Revisions. Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO receives a not-to-exceed $28 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order, in order to incorporate a revised specification and statement of work for the Super Hornet’s IRST development effort (N00019-05-G-0026).

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (50%); St. Louis, MO (40%); Santa Ana, CA (5%); and Irvine, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete in September 2010. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.

Initial development revised

May 18/09: Lockheed Martin announces a $4 million contract from Boeing for the technology development phase of the F/A-18E/F IRST program. The contract follows a 2-year pre-system design and development program, in which Lockheed Martin was down-selected as the sole source provider (see July 2/07 entry).

The corporate release adds that Lockheed Martin is the only U.S. company with an active IRST production line, and notes that the system “is readily adaptable to a wide range of installation options on various platforms.”

March 11/09: Boeing announces that its IRST tank system has successfully completed a series of 6 flight tests at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, and 4 at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, CA. The system successfully demonstrated transfer alignment, long-range target detection, and the ability to operate in a fuel tank.

For the Super Hornet platform, they also tested the IRST’s integration into the plane’s “multisource integration algorithms.” That lets the Super Hornet’s systems correlate IRST tracking data with other sensors like its radar, radar warning receivers, etc., in order to produce a single picture of the battlespace around it. IRST systems need that kind of integration to be effective, and it’s work that may have to be done anew for each new aircraft type that is fitted with this system.

Dec 10/08: Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO received an $12 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-05-G-0026) for research and development services in support of the Technology Development phase of an IRST system for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (50%) and Orlando, FL (50%), and is expected to be complete in October 2009. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued the contract.

Initial development

July 2/07: Lockheed Martin picked. Boeing chooses Lockheed Martin as its IRST partner, and the firms invest more than $10 million of their own money on a risk reduction demonstration, with U.S. Navy participation. They expect to receive a US Navy IRST development contract in the summer of 2008, with a total value of over $500 million through the development and production phases of the program. Boeing release.

Additional Readings

Tag: IRSTpod, IRSTtank, f-18irst, f-15IRST

Categories: News

FY2014 “Use It Or Lose It” Season Opening at the Pentagon

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 16:01

  • The US Department of Defense now expects to spend $26B more in procurement and research/development by the end of the current fiscal year (Sept. 30) than outlined in recent budget documents. Up until April their contracting was significantly below last year though things picked up in June. The final 2 months of the fiscal year traditionally see an uptick in federal spending. DoD is now even more likely to spend everything they’ve got in light of Senate appropriators going after unspent funds from prior years.

Q2 Earnings

  • Lockheed Martin’s Q2 2014 sales decreased by 1% to $11.3B. Aeronautics posted a nice 13% growth rate thanks to the F-35, Missile Systems sales were flat, but the other divisions lost ground from a year ago.

  • United Technologies reported Q2 2014 revenue up 7% to $17.2B thanks to solid growth at UTC Aerospace Systems and Sikorsky. New order growth on the other hand slowed down.

  • Rockwell Collins’ Q3 FY14 sales grew by 12% to $1.26B thanks to the addition of ARINC to their topline. Government sales on the other hand declined by 6% to $535M.

Middle East

  • Given the increase in ISIS attacks in and around Baghdad, the Institute for the Study of War expects the insurgents to mount a larger offensive within days. With the central government under such direct pressure, the Kurds have been taking control of oil fields with increasing de facto autonomy.


  • India’s Defence Acquisition Council cleared a set of acquisitions worth Rs 21,000 crore (INR 210 billion / $3.493 billion). DID covers the big light transport buy today; DAC also includes 32 HAL Druhv helicopters for the Navy and Coast Guard (INR 70 billion), 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).

Feeling Safer Already

  • Computer forensic analyst Jonathan Zdziarski released a presentation [PDF] on July 18 that listed potential back doors and attack points because of undocumented services running on iOS mobile devices that he thought had no use for end users, developers or support staff. Apple subsequently posted a short explanation about what they call “diagnostic capabilities”, but Zdziarski is not convinced.

So You Thought LCS Was Threatened

Categories: News