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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 1 min 14 sec ago

F-35B’s Petite Weapons Bay a Wee Too Wee | Polish Special Forces Get 45 MRAP M-ATVs

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 04:19

  • China’s submarine fleet outnumbers that of the U.S., according to the U.S.’s deputy chief of Navy operations. Numbers aren’t everything, but Pacific based submariners will miss the days when all the Chinese boats could be shadowed.

  • The F35B’s petite weapons bay is forcing some redesigns so that the Marines (and the U.K.) can enjoy the luxury of carrying SBD-II armaments. Carrying the bombs on the outside would negate the stealth characteristics for which the U.S. has spent a great deal of money and time developing.

  • The U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) published a pair of studies along the same theme. The first pointed to major defense IT systems as being deficient in that benchmarks for cost and performance are generally not set early enough, allowing for project stall-and-sprawl. The second noted a similar set of phenomena in defense logistics. The DOD has set a policy of measuring the time between orders and deliveries, but that leaves much of the logistics chain a big black box. And, worse, the data that the DOD collects is sometimes too fudgy to reliably report actual performance, with delivery dates backfilled at later times and similar slop.

  • CORRECTION: Yesterday’s piece on the 200th anniversary of the USS Constitution’s most famous sea battle correctly pointed out that about $114,000 was appropriated by the very young U.S. Congress. One of the ship’s official historians, however, wrote in to point out that it actually cost north of $300,000 by the time the ship launched due primarily to the selection of stronger live oak versus white oak as a primary material. DID had pointed out that the ship’s initial appropriation cost about 0.03 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) at the time – and compared that to today’s most expensive ships, which cost about 0.08 percent of GDP. Comparing actual expenditures, however, the Constitution proportionately took just as much of the nation’s treasure as today’s most expensive ships.



  • A firm in Australia is making the aviation show rounds with a 3-D printed jet engine. It isn’t running, but it is impressing with its combination of different components employing different metals with different properties.

  • NDTV uncovered a couple details on the ever-longer saga of the Dassault/India negotiations for a long-negotiated Rafale deal. Getting to the sticking points, it was told that certain processes used by the Indian-mandated domestic manufacturing partner – such as manually creating carbon composite materials – were a time liability for which Dassault did not wish to be held responsible. And bringing HAL up to speed on new manufacturing technologies is a tall (and time sucking) order.

Middle East / Africa

  • The UAE continued its spending spree on defense aviation, including the announcement of a new order of two Boeing C-17s.

Today’s Video

  • Another new technology set to vastly improve design and manufacturing capacity: 3-D printing. See the Aussies’ 3-D printed jet engine…
Categories: News

Air Force: 2019 Will Come Too Soon for New Rockets | Tricare Reform Gathers Praise, Critics

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 03:45

  • In separate events, both the Army (to a defense writers’ group) and the Air Force (to a Senate panel) testified to their inability to perform their missions without budget increases.

  • The Air Force is looking nervously at its capacity to meet the congressionally-mandated deadline of 2019 to stop relying on Russian rocket engines. Air Force Secretary Deborah James told senators on Wednesday that to try to meet the deadline by 2019 would mean exchanging one monopoly franchise for another. Except, of course, it wouldn’t be controlled by Russia, a quality that of late has started to have more and more charm. It was an interesting remark given that the new monopoly in question might be that of SpaceX, the firm that has shown unprecedented speed to development. James indicated a decade was more realistic, which sounds more like the preferred timeframe of the Air Force’s long-time partner United Launch Alliance, which has a good record, but not one for sprightliness.

  • The sales climate is good for people selling anti-missile technology. Lockheed is trying to make hay with its THAAD and MEAD systems, in serious talks with Qatar, Germany and Saudi Arabia. Qatar is likely to be the first among those to purchase, having defined $6.5 billion in hardware it wishes to purchase. Now that 18 countries have been given clearance to receive information on the PAC-3 MSE, more interest is being generated in the upgraded Patriot systems.

  • One of the most expensive defense programs ever has been the Pentagon’s Tricare healthcare system. A new proposal to privatize it is meeting, as one might expect, with sharply divided opinions. Currently, the service is seen by members as somewhat poor, although a great deal. Participants pay about five percent of what civilians pay for private insurance. That amount would increase to about 15 percent of what civilians pay over 15 years, but services would be improved and expanded.


  • Russia, perhaps fearing eventual loss of its easy port access in the Mediterranean via Syria, signed a deal with Cyprus putting a legal framework into place that would make it harder for Cyprus in the future to bow to pressure to deny Russian ships port access.

  • Piaggio Aerospace’s HammerHead UAV made its first flight, again. Launched initially at the Paris air show in 2013 with a flying prototype, the first version of the final design flew for the first time just in December. Flightglobal has more details and a picture.

  • BAE Systems started delivering the CV90 to Norway. 144 will eventually be delivered, a combination of 41 new infantry fighting vehicles and refurbishing of 103 CV9030s.


  • Dassault appears desperate enough to land the Indian Rafale deal that it will take on liability for the set-aside fighters made by the indigenous HAL – a firm not known for exceptional reliability.

Middle East / Africa

  • France is reportedly to start shipping its planned sale of $3 billion worth of Saudi-purchased arms to Lebanon in April.

Today’s Video

  • One of the technologies SpaceX uses to increase the velocity of its engineering…
Categories: News

Kongsberg’s NSM/JSM Anti-Ship & Strike Missile Attempts to Fix F-35 Stealth

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 01:05
NSM test launch
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Kongsberg’s stealthy new Naval Strike Missile (Nytt SjomalsMissil), which continues its development and testing program, has already shown potential in the crowded market for long-range ship attack and shore defense weapons. NSM’s Joint Strike Missile counterpart may have even more potential, as a longer-range air-launched naval and land strike complement to Kongsberg’s popular Penguin short-range anti-ship missile.

The market for anti-ship missiles is a crowded one, and the distinction between anti-ship and precision land strike weapons is blurring fast. Aside from a bevy of Russian subsonic and supersonic offerings, naval buyers can choose Boeing’s GM-84 Harpoon, China’s YJ-82/C-802 Saccade, MBDA’s Exocet, Otomat, or Marte; IAI of Israel’s Gabriel/ANAM, Saab’s RBS15, and more. Despite an ongoing shift toward supersonic missiles, Kongsberg chose not to go that route. So, how do they expect to be competitive in a crowded market? The F-35 Lightning II may hold the key.

The F-35 is a fairly stealthy plane, so long as it is mostly unarmed. About five sixths of its armament capacity must be carried externally, effectively rendering it visible to radars. That has been one of the several good arguments as to why stealth development may have been a low bang-for-buck result. Australia announced that it was going in with Kongsberg to adapt the Joint Strike Missile to fit inside the F-35’s armament bay. We helpfully suggest that the new variant be named the JSM-III Sardine.

Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile/ Joint Strike Missile NSM: Ship-Launched NSM test flight
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The 3.96m/ 13′, 407 kg/ 900 pound, stealth-enhanced Naval Strike Missile aim to be a generation beyond the USA’s GM-84 Harpoon. A rocket booster and Microturbo TRI-40 turbojet power it to a 185+ km/ 100+ nautical mile operational range, which is at the low end of the standards for its class. Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System (GPS/INS) guidance flies these missiles toward their target, aided by terrain profile matching (TERPROM). Internal programming is designed to create an unpredictable, maneuvering flight path that makes targeting difficult. During the final attack phase, an imaging infrared (IIR) seeker with automatic target recognizer (ATR) is used to refine final approach targeting, which can reportedly include specific features on a ship. Once NSM locks on, it strikes ships or land targets with a 120 kg/ 265 pound titanium warhead and programmable fuze.

Note the lack of a traditional radar seeker head, which is part of the missile’s signature reduction. IIR makes the NSM completely passive, offering no warning from shipboard ESM systems that detect radar emissions. At the same time, its stealthy shape offers little warning from its target’s active radar sweeps. This is a missile optimized at all levels for stealth, making supersonic speed less necessary.

An in-flight data link makes the missile reprogrammable in flight, if its target disappears or a higher priority threat appears.

In order to speed deployment, Kongsberg and the Norwegian government overlapped the NSM’s development phase and its production phase, referred to as the transition phase. That phase was tied to Norway’s commitments to Navantia, with a view to scheduling the NSM’s phase-in on the 4th vessel of Norway’s new Nansen Class AEGIS frigates. That integration is now complete.

To date, NSM has also been chosen for Norway’s Skjold Class air cushion catamaran FACs, and Poland’s land-based coastal defense batteries will use it to defend the country’s narrow Baltic Sea approaches.

JSM: Air-Launched NSM/ JSM
click for video

The air-launched “Joint Strike Missile (JSM)” variant is designed to be carried and launched internally from the F-35 Lightning II fighter’s 2 internal bays (1 missile per bay), or carried on external hardpoints by any aircraft type that has integrated the weapon with its systems. This isn’t quite the same missile, though it shares many characteristics. Kongsberg changed the wings, moved the intake to the missile’s sides, and added other modifications as the missile progresses through the development phase. Size shrinks slightly to 3.7m/ 12’2″, and weight drops to 307 kg/ 677 pounds. Because it’s air launched at speed, range expands to over 280 km/ 175 miles/ 150 nautical miles, with greater range enhancements if launched from higher altitudes.

Development has completed Phase 2, including detail design and integration/ fit checks for the F-18, F/A-18 Super Hornet, and F-35A. Phase 3 will complete development and leave Kongsberg ready for production.

The JSM’s tighter profile has also made it the base for 2 future designs: a submarine-launched variant that can fit inside a 533mm torpedo tube capsule, and a vertically-launched variant that adds a booster for use from strike-length naval vertical launch cells like the Mk.41.

RNoAF F-16
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Norway is aiming for a 2020 JSM in-service date, but that may have to involve its F-16s, which have lost their Penguin missiles. F-35A Integration will begin with the fighter’s Block 4 software fit, in 2022 – 2024.

That lateness and forced switch might be a blessing in disguise. JSM would be very appealing to many F-16 customers, and Kongsberg is also hedging its bets by testing JSM on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Forced inclusion of other platforms from the outset could create early customer pickup beyond home sales, including existing F-35 prospects like Australia. Later, the prospect of stealth-enhancing internal carriage, plus out of the gate integration with the F-35 Lightning II, give the JSM a strong entry hook for committed F-35 customers like Norway, Australia, The Netherlands, et. al.

Confirmed current export targets include Australia (NSM & JSM), Canada (NSM & JSM), Italy (JSM), and the USA (NSM). A live-fire showcase at the RIMPAC 2014 exercise has the potential to add more Pacific prospects.

Kongsberg’s JSM development partner Lockheed Martin has a similar air-launched land-attack product in its AGM-158 JASSM, which has been developed into the air or sea-launched LRASM. Other competitors exist, from MBDA’s Storm Shadow/Scalp, to Taurus’ KEPD, to Boeing’s anti-ship and land attack SLAM-ER. The JSM’s biggest differentiator would be internal F-35 carriage, which is unique. The other differentiator is its F-35 integration schedule. At present, JSM’s only ranged strike competitor in F-35 Block 4 will be Raytheon’s unpowered AGM-154C-1 JSOW glide bomb.

Contracts and Key Events 2014

JSM Phase 3 contract & costs; Poland will accelerate 2nd coastal battery; Kongsberg tries to crack the US market, partners with Raytheon for OASuW; Live-fire showcase in the Pacific; Test-firing from LCS 4. F/A-18F w. JSMs
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Jan 15/15: VL-NSM Update. Kongsberg told Navy Recognition that the firm has been in consultation with Lockheed on MK 41 integration, and that the model that has been making the rounds at trade shows in the Kongsberg booth has been geared to drum up interest from potential customers, which essentially means the U.S. Navy. Lockheed’s LRASM would seemingly be a competitive offering. The jockeying comes as the aging Harpoon missile is thought to be going to be replaced with an Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Increment 2 procurement.

Oct 25/14: VL-NSM. Kongsberg is displaying a vertically-launched variant of its missile at AUSA 2014. The missile design is actually based on the air-launched JSM, whose compact form is easier to fit into vertical launch cells. A large booster motor would help restore comparable range.

Note that is just a model at the moment; call us when they test-fire one. Then again, the logo on the side also says Lockheed Martin. That firm makes the Mk.41 VLS, and is also signed up to help Kongsberg complete development and integration of the base JSM with the F-35. Sources: Navy Recognition, “Kongsberg showcased a Vertical Launch Joint Strike Missile (VL JSM) during AUSA 2014″.

LCS 4 fires NSM

Sept 23/14: USA. A live fire test of the Naval Strike Missile (q.v. July 24/14) done aboard USS Coronado [LCS 4] is successful, via a launcher mounted on the flight deck. The Navy is noncommittal about issuing a requirement that would lead to NSM integration with LCS, beyond deployment as part of any SSC derivatives. Sources: US Navy, “Navy Successfully Tests Norwegian Missile from LCS 4″ | Kongsberg, “Successful test firing of KONGSBERG’S Naval Strike Missile from US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship” | USNI, “Norwegian Missile Test On Littoral Combat Ship Successful.”

July 24/14: USA. The US Navy confirms this week that USS Coronado [LCS-4] is scheduled to test-launch the NSM at their Point Mugu, CA test range. NAVSEA says this isn’t about any specific requirement, it’s just a one-off event to test the ship’s ability to handle more advanced weapons, and “provide insights into the weapon’s stated capabilities of increased range, survivability and lethality.” This test does then take place successfully on September 23, but you have to wonder what firing a missile from a launcher put on the flight deck really demonstrates.

Amazingly, the US Navy is still wondering whether it should confine itself to weapons that work only within the ship’s unaided detection range, despite the fact that 500-ton Fast Attack Craft fielded by other countries carry full-range anti-ship missiles. It’s possible that NSM could fit into the LCS SuW mission module at some future date, with the LCS using UAVs etc. to close the kill chain at range.

On a related note, the NSM is an OASuW candidate (q.v. July 15/14) to eventually replace the sea-skimming, radar-guided RGM-84 Harpoon missiles aboard US Navy ships, and a full range anti-ship and surface attack missile will be critical to the USA’s Small Surface combatant frigate program (q.v. April 7-8/14). Since the Navy’s approach makes it hard for anything other than an adapted LCS to succeed, this test has significant long-term implications for the Independence Class. Sources: Gannett’s Navy Times, “LCS to conduct test of Norwegian missile”.

July 15/14: USA. Raytheon Company and Kongsberg Gruppen form a teaming agreement around the JSM for OASuW’s air-launched component, effectively displacing Raytheon’s JSOW-ER as a contender. The switch gives Raytheon a more advanced offering, while offering Kongsberg technical cooperation and stronger marketing clout. The 2 firms have a history of cooperation, and Kongsberg’s NASAMS remains the centerpiece of Raytheon’s mid-tier air defense offering.

They’ll still compete for OASuW’s ship-launched component, however; Raytheon has no intention of giving up on its RGM-109 Tomahawk. Sources: Kongsberg Gruppen, “Raytheon and Kongsberg team to provide air-launched Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare solutions”.

USA: OASuW partner

July 2/14: Phase 3. The Norwegian Defence Logistics Organization (NDLO) signs a NOK 1.1 billion ($178.3 million) Phase III contract with Kongsberg to complete Joint Strike Missile development, and prepare it for integration on the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). This brings total Phase III contracts to NOK 1.58 billion (q.v. Nov 29/13). Norway’s MoD adds that Australia is about to get involved:

“Australian authorities have indicated that they want to help integrate the JSM on the F-35… a more detailed agreement will be in place within the next 6-12 months.”

Sources: Norwegian MoD, “Phase 3 In the Development of JSM Underway” | Kongsberg, “KONGSBERG signs NOK 1.1 billion JSM contract with the Norwegian Armed Forces”.


May 23/14: Phase 3 & Costs. A bill in Norway’s Storting would finance JSM Phase 3 final development, but the cost has expanded by NOK 1 billion to NOK 3.7 billion (about $622 million). Overall cost increases have pushed the overall project from NOK 6 billion (about $1 billion) to NOK 8.2 billion (about $1.38 billion), and most of this 37% increase will be covered by the government. At the same time, however, Kongsberg will be investing more on their own side. They see a clear opportunity for JSM/NSM, but elements like NSM Vertical Launch System compatibility etc. will take added work if they want to capitalize.

The good news is that a recent independent evaluation confirmed that JSM has the technological maturity required at this stage of development. Phase 3’s problem is the variety of different systems, rules, control regimes and operational requirements involved in a globally exportable missile. Norway hasn’t done that since the smaller and simpler Penguin missile was developed decades ago, and integration is harder now because the missile and platforms are both more complex. So the final phase involves more testing, integration, and documentation than the firm had expected. On the bright side, Kongsberg has sold over 1,000 Penguin missiles since the 1970s, and the current Mk3 remains relevant and on the market. They’re hoping for similar success, despite an early disappointment:

“The goal has been, and remains, to bring in other F-35 partner countries to help cover the cost of integrating the JSM on the F-35. However, in spite of extensive efforts by Norwegian authorities and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, this goal has yet to be achieved. This is partly due to the financial situation in a number of partner countries and partly due to varying status of partner country decision making processes. The partner nations showing most interest in the JSM have been, and continue to be, Australia and Canada, and to some degree, Italy and the United States, all of which have expressed an operational requirement for a future airborne maritime strike capability. As a consequence, until such time as another partner joins the integration process, Norway’s cost of integrating the JSM on F-35 increases by about NOK 1.15 billion (USD 193 million).”

Norway remains committed, partly because of the potential market, and partly because it’s important to them to maintain their aerospace/ missile industrial cluster. JSM Phase 3 development is expected to finish by the end of 2017, in plenty of time for inclusion in F-35A Block 4 during 2022-2024. Or full integration with existing fighters like the Super Hornet etc. (q.v. Nov 6/13). Sources: Norwegian Ministry of Defence, “Joint Strike Missile (JSM) – A Considerably Strengthened Norwegian Threshold Against War and Conflict” | Kongsberg Defence, “The Norwegian Government today presented a bill to the Parliament to further development of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM)” | Reuters, “Cost of Kongsberg’s JSM missile rises by 37 pct”.

Phase 3, costs and opportunities

April 11/14: Poland. In light of renewed tensions from Russia, Poland intends to accelerate their purchase of a 2nd coastal defense battery of NSM:

“The third very important part of the modernization program of the Navy was the delivery in June 2013 the Coastal Missile Squadron. Achieving its full combat readiness, after the delivery of the final number of missiles Kongsberg NSM (in 2014 and 2015, it is planned shipment of 12 missiles per year), is to take place by 2015. Deputy minister Mroczek additionally informed that later this year a proceeding of acquiring a second Coastal Missile Squadron is to begin.”

Sources: Dziennik Zbrojny, “Current status of the Polish naval modernization program”.

April 9/14: Exports. Norway is beginning to promote the missile abroad in earnest. HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen will sail to the Pacific Ocean to take part in RIMPAC, where the frigate will launch an NSM at a target ship provided by the US Navy. Nothing like a concrete demonstration for the other countries to look at.

Norwegian Navy Cmdr. Tony Schei confirms that “Kongsberg sees the JSM able to fit in a Mark 41 vertical launch system,” and says that Australia and Canada are being offered this weapon for their future frigates. It would be surprising if they weren’t also targeting Britain’s future Type 26 frigates. Sources: Defense News, “Norway’s Naval Strike Missile Aims for the Pacific”.

April 7-8/14: USA. With the USA considering its options for 20 frigates as a follow-on to the Littoral Combat Ship program, and expressing a preference for modified LCS designs, Kongsberg is presenting scale models of LCS variants with NSMs at the Sea-Air-Space 2014 Exposition. The Freedom Class gets 12 NSMs in 2 recessed modules above the helicopter hangar, while the trimaran Independence Class ends up with 18 NSMs in 2 recessed launchers just behind the bridge, and a 3rd in the hull behind the naval gun.

Those loadouts would make the ships formidable surface combatants. If they control multiple UAVs for surveillance and targeting, their strike role actually starts to look like an aircraft carrier with 1-launch strike aircraft, and this configuration wouldn’t require ship radar upgrades. That could even position Kongsberg for a post-2019 Surface Warfare Module upgrade within the existing fleet, if the Navy decides that it has to upgrade to serious anti-ship capability.

From Kongsberg’s point of view, the challenge is to find footholds within the US military and position themselves as a viable replacement to Boeing’s Harpoon. The F-35 offers them a trump card, but they’ll need a warship platform to really compete. Success with LCS and/or its follow-on frigate would give them a head-start, and make them a strong contender for OASuW if the vertical launch problem can be solved. Sources: Naval Recognition, “Sea-Air-Space 2014 Show Daily News – Kongsberg NSM”.

March 26/14: USA. Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley says that the initial buy of 90 LRASM missiles from FY 2017 – 2019 is a special justification and authorization buy following DARPA development, in order to get the air-launched version onto USAF B-1 bombers (which will already have JASSM integrated) and USN F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters. US budgets actually show 110 missiles from FY 2017 – 2019. He also says that the main OASuW buy of ship and air launched missiles for anti-ship and surface strike missions will be competed.

The most important aspect of that OASuW program involves launch from ships’ Vertical Launch Cells, in order to correct a tactical deficit in USN ships that is becoming strategic. Raytheon could find itself well positioned with an upgraded xGM-109 Tomahawk, or they could widen JSOW-ER’s capabilities. Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile will almost be qualified on the F-35 by that point, but the firm will need to either add shipborne Mk.41 vertical launch system compatibility, or find another angle. Sources: Reuters, “U.S. Navy plans competition for next-generation missile”.

March 20/14: USA. Inside Defense reports that the Pentagon has rejected bids from Kongsberg (NSM/JSM) and Raytheon (JSOW-ER), and has approved Lockheed Martin’s LRASM for a major follow-on development contract to prepare it for production in FY17. Sources: Inside Defense, “DOD Expands LRASM Development, Rebuffs Alternate Bids From Raytheon, Kongsberg”.

2012 – 2013

1st naval launch; 1st live warhead strike; Australia’s plans; JSM scheduled for F-35 Block 4; Go early with F-16 and F/A-18E/F in response? Gotcha
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Nov 29/13: Bridging contract. Norway’s DLO signs a NOK 480 million ($78.4 million) JSM bridging-phase development contract with Kongsberg, in order to keep the workforce moving ahead until the Stortinget (Parliament) approves the final Phase 3 budget for development & testing.

Phase 2 included detail design and integration/ fit checks for the F-18, F/A-18 Super Hornet, and F-35A. Phase 3 will complete development and leave Kongsberg ready for production, including captive carry and live fire tests from successive platforms. Kongsberg adds that “The international F-35 user consortium, with the USA as the largest, is showing great interest in the JSM.” Source: Kongsberg, “KONGSBERG signs contract with the Norwegian Armed Forces for bridging-phase leading to phase three development of JSM”.

Bridging contract

Nov 6/13: Super Hornet. Boeing and Kongsberg take the 1st step toward integration with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter family. All they did was ensure that the weapons fit on the aircraft’s external pylons. Next, they have to conduct wind tunnel tests in early 2014. That will assess the effect of the missiles on the plane’s aerodynamics, and likely stress on the pylons. Live captive carry testing will be needed to verify their conclusions, and of course full integration with the aircraft’s electronics will be its own separate effort.

Norway doesn’t fly Super Hornets, but potential JSM partner Australia does (q.v. May 16/13), and so does the US Navy. F-35 integration won’t be ready until 2021-2022, but successful F/A-18 integration would give the JSM an early deployment option with any future Super Hornet customers. It would also provide an incentive for Australia to commit to JSM early and deploy the missiles well before 2025, by offering them a much more immediate fleet upgrade. Finally, Super Hornet integration would provide an opening to put JSM forward as an AGM-84 Harpoon missile replacement for the US Navy, if the higher-end LRASM program falls to coming budget cuts. Sources: Boeing, Nov 6/13 release.

June 4/13: Live Fire. The Norwegian Navy carries out the first live-warhead NSM trial at a range “outside Norway”, firing the missile from the Skjold Class Fast Attack Craft KNM Steil to hit a decommissioned Oslo Class frigate. The missile hits at close range, and does a reasonable amount of damage, as the accompanying photo shows. Looks like they used a pop-up and dive attack profile. See also Flight International.

May 16/13: Australia. During Parliamentary hearings by the Joint Committee On Foreign Affairs, Defence And Trade, DMO’s New Air Combat Capability program manager, Air Vice Marshal Kym Osley, discusses the JSM and Australia, in response to a question from Sen. Fawcett. With Norway’s government fully finding the missile through F-35 integration in Block 4, Australia doesn’t need to be involved in that financially, and they haven’t made any commitments to JSM yet beyond discussing requirements etc.

Australia’s near-term plan is to use the AGM-154C-1 JSOW glide bomb as their initial maritime strike weapon, first on their F/A-18F Super Hornets and next on their F-35As. They believe that the USAF and US Navy will also make JSOW part of Block 4, which is planned to finish in 2020 and release to the fleet in 2021. Software development remains very behind, but Australia hopes to have JSOW available on their F-35As by the RAAF’s own planned F-35A Full Operational Capability date, in 2023.

Beyond 2023, Australia’s JP3023 program will be looking at a new maritime strike platform for use across its navy surface combatants and air force (F/A-18F, F-35A, P-8A). The NSM/ JSM is expected to be a strong contender, but by then it’s likely to face competitors from America’s OASuW program, as well as current market offerings. Internal carriage in the F-35A would remain the JSM’s trump card, unless a new entrant can duplicate that. Hansard Australia [PDF].

April 26/13: F-35 Integration. The Norwegian government submits a formal Parliamentary request to authorize 6 F-35As for delivery in 2017, and shifts its buying approach. Read “F-35 Lightning II Wins Norway’s (Fake) Competition” for full coverage.

The government also announces that the JSM now has a firm slot for integration: F-35 Block 4. Block 3 is the final version that will emerge from development in 2018 – 2019, which means Block 4 would be ready around 2021 at the earliest. Even that date would make their missile the platform’s first long-range strike option. Norwegian MoD.

JSM integration: F-35 Block 4

Nov 30/12: JSM. Norwegian officials unveil the first completed fuselage for the new Joint Strike Missile, developed by Kongsberg for the F-35. The JSM will undergo a Critical Design Review during the summer of 2013, after which preparations will begin for its final stage of development and full F-35 integration. Norwegian MoD.

Oct 12-15/12: The Norwegian Navy announces that it has conducted successful NSM firing tests from Skjold Class Fast Attack Craft HNoMS Glimt and Fridtjof Nansen Class frigate HNoMS Roald Amundsen. The launch from HNoMS Glimt was the NSM’s 1st naval firing. Navy Recognition.

1st naval launch

June 15/12: Norwegian Defence Minister Espen Barth Eide announces that the Norwegian Government has signed its contract for the first 2 F-35A fighters, and put all of the required elements in place for JSM development and F-35 integration.

Norway actually began the Phase II JSM development contract in June 2011 (q.v.), but needed American support to integrate the missile with the fighter. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently confirmed that support, which allowed Norway to move forward. The JSM program will also feed back into the ship and land-launched NSM, by laying the groundwork for future upgrades.

The F-35 currently has no powered strike missile planned for internal or external carriage by the end of its development phase, in 2018. An early start for Kongsberg could give it a leg up for future orders. Kongsberg Defence Systems President Harald Ånnestad believes the JSM program could be worth as much as NOK 25 billion (currently $4.2 billion), and translate into 450 long-term jobs at Kongsberg alone. Norwegian MoD | Kongsberg.

May 31/12: F-35 studies. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $19.8 million fixed-price-incentive-fee (firm target) modification to the F-35’s Low Rate Initial Production Lot 4 contract, which covers Norway’s Joint Strike Missile (JSM) Risk Reduction Study. Efforts will include physical fit checks, wind tunnel tests, engineering analysis, and designing and building of an emulator and adapter to determine next steps in integrating the JSM into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (70%); Arnold AFB in Tullahoma, TN (20%); and Kongsberg, Norway (10%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-09-C-0010)


JSM Phase II. NSMs for Poland. F-35A JSF
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Dec 28/11: Poland. Kongsberg finalizes the Dec 7/10 preliminary contract with Poland, whose scope has increased along with its cost (now NOK 712/ $119.5 million). Deliveries of NSM missiles, in conjunction with a command and weapon control system similar to the firm’s NASAMS air defence system, are expected to begin in 2012, and the order will be booked as a Q4 2011 transaction.

Kongsberg adds that will be subcontracting with a large number of Polish enterprises, adding that the coastal defense network’s radar system, communications system and the trucks to carry the launch ramps are all being developed and delivered by Polish industry. Kongsberg Defence.


June 30/11: Kongsberg signs a NOK 543 million (about $100.9 million) contract with the NLDO for Phase II development of the air-launched Joint Strike Missile variant. It builds on the NOK 166 million JSM Phase I contract, signed in 2009. Kongsberg.

JSM Phase II

June 30/11: Kongsberg announces the first ever live-fire of the surface-launched NSM against a land target. It was actually a land-land firing, as the Polish Navy Coastal Squadron fired the missile from a land-based platform, to hit its land-based target over 150 km away.

Naval ships will also use the NSM, beginning with Norway’s own Skjold Class corvettes and Fridtjof Nansen Class AEGIS frigates. Deliveries for these platforms, and the Polish coastal defense batteries, are scheduled for 2011-2014.

June 16/11: Norwegian Parliamentary approval to buy 4 initial F-35A fighters, and begin JSM Phase II to equip those fighters with an internally-stowed anti-ship missile. VNN | F-16.NET | Reuters | Stortinget Prop. S110 [Nynorsk, PDF].

June 6/11: Defense Minister Grete Faremo is called in to an open Parliamentary hearing about the F-35A, but she also discusses the NSM/JSM. Translated from the Norwegian statement issued by the Forsvarsdepartementet:

“JSM: The operational level of ambition for new combat aircraft capability requires long-range anti-surface weapons by sea and land attack capability. The Joint Strike Missile – JSM – is considered to be the only weapon in development that will meet these operational requirements, and can be carried inside the F-35. The fact that the missile can be carried inside the plane is a very central point, namely, it means that the plane keeps its stealth capabilities – which is not the case if the missile is hung outside the wings in the traditional manner.

JSM Development Step 1 is completed, and to continue with the development of JSM in step 2 is crucial to provide operational capability – and it is an important signal to potential customers and it will create a necessary degree of credibility in our ongoing efforts to establish international collaboration for the integration of the missile.

There is considerable interest in the JSM from several other nations. I have taken the initiative include the establishment of a bilateral working group with U.S. to follow up there in particular. A clarification about the participation of other nations, including the United States, is essential in order to include them in the integration phase, which is expected to begin within the next 12-18 months.”

Dec 7/10: NSMs for Poland. Kongsberg Defence Systems announces a NOK 660 (about $110.4 million) million contract with the Polish Ministry of Defence, which includes Naval Strike Missiles (NSM) and support equipment. The contract is not final yet, pending approval of the related industrial offsets contract. Some of Poland’s naval ships currently operate Saab’s RBS-15 naval strike missile, but the NSM missiles appear to be destined for coastal batteries that would cover Poland’s Baltic Sea approaches.


2008 – 2009

NSM production. JSM phase I. Skjold Class
(click to view larger)

June 29/09: Kongsberg announces that:

“Today, the Kongsberg District Court served KONGSBERG a writ regarding a lawsuit being filed by the Swedish company SAAB in Poland against both the Polish Ministry of Defense and KONGSBERG. The lawsuit refers to the award of a contract which KONGSBERG signed with the Polish Ministry of Defence in December 2008 for the delivery of a coastal artillery system featuring Naval Strike Missiles (NSM). SAAB claims the contract to be declared void.”

April 27/09: Kongsberg Gruppen anounces a NOK 166 million (about $25 million) contract with the Norwegian Defence Procurement Division for the first phase in the development of the Joint Strike Missile. The contract is scheduled to run over the next 18 months.

JSM Phase I

Feb 2/09: Kongsberg announces a successful test firing of the Naval Strike Missile (NSM):

“Fired at the Pt. Mugu artillery range in the US state of California, the missile completed the planned trajectory prior to striking the target ship. During its flight, the missile conducted a large number of advanced manoeuvres that clearly place it far ahead of competing systems.”

May 25/07: Production deal. In the largest order Kongserg has landed to date, the firm signs a NOK 2.746 billion (about $466.4 million) contract with the Norwegian Armed Forces’ Logistics Organisation for serial production of the new Naval Strike Missile (NSM). This includes the transition contract for NOK 200 million (about $34 million).

This contract covers the production of NSMs for Norway’s Nansen Class AEGIS frigates, and Skjold Class catamaran-hovercraft fast attack craft. Production under this contract will run until 2014, and will ensure employment for 200 – 250 individuals in Kongsberg, as well as work for nearly 120 of their 1400 Norwegian subcontractors in Akershus, Buskerud, and Oppland counties. Tom Gerhardsen, president of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, adds in the firm’s release that the contract will also:

“…give us the references we need to sell the missile to other countries’ naval defence forces. Several countries have already indicated an interest in the NSM.”

NSM Production

2004 – 2007

Tests. Joint marketing with LockMart. NSM: Early concept

Jan 31/07: Lockheed Martin and Kongsberg sign a a joint marketing agreement for an aircraft-version of the new Naval Strike Missile (NSM), to be known as the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) and adapted for deployment on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A study for making adaptations to both the missile and the fighter craft is already in progress, funded jointly by Norway and Australia. It is expected that the adaptations will take 3 years to reach the technological maturity required for deployment on the F-35.

Jan 15/07: Kongsberg announces 2 more successful NSM test firings in California, USA, as part of the Norwegian Navy’s final approval of the development phase. The tests were conducted in the U.S. because the Americans have a test firing range that allows the missile to be tested over land and sea alike, which is essential for testing several of the missile’s functions.

Aug 2/06: Kongsberg announces a pair of successful NSM missile tests in California, on April 1/07 and July 21/06.

The test firings are part of the Norwegian Navy’s final approval of the NSM development phase. The test was conducted in the U.S. because the Americans have a test firing range that allows the missile to be tested over land and sea alike.

Dec 13/05: Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace attempts to fire an NSM missile at a testing facility in France, but the test is aborted before the missile left the launcher due to a malfunction in the launcher’s systems.

A successful test is required before the project can enter the final part of the development phase, in which the missile system’s performance and functionality will be verified against the contract specifications issued by Norway’s Armed Forces’ Logistics Organisation. Kongsberg’s release says that the missile’s schedule will be unaffected.

April 26/04: In Recommendation No. 54 to the Storting (Norway’s parliament), the Government asks for authorization to sign a contract for the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) transition phase. The contract is valued at approximately NOK 200 million.

Full implementation of the production phase will be initiated only upon formal completion of the development phase and be based on a decision by the Storting at a later date. At this point, development phase is scheduled for completion in late 2005. Kongsberg release.

NSM contract

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Equipping Lebanon’s… Government?

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 00:05
Lebanese armed forces

The Lebanese Army’s own web site is blunt: “The assistance received from Syria, the USA, and other friendly countries has played a basic role in bridging the gap between needs and available means.”

A number of countries are stepping up to fill those gaps, left in a military ravaged by foreign occupation, a long and losing civil war, and the presence of Hizb’Allah – a foreign-backed private army in Lebanon, with superior firepower. The battle for influence in that country is multi-polar, with countries including the USA, France, and Saudi Arabia moving to counter Syria and Iran’s proxies, and countries like Russia working with independent agendas. The USA has been supplying a wide range of equipment from ammunition to armored vehicles, and is adding tanks, mini-UAVs, and even patrol boats to that list. Belgium has worked to sell some of its own tanks and APCs, France has offered help with Lebanon’s existing French equipment; and in April 2009, Russia went so far as to offer MiG-29 fighters, for free, from its own stocks.

What capabilities would these systems bring? How are those sales going? And how is Lebanon itself changing, in the wake of both Hezbollah’s takeover and Syria’s civil war?

UAVS, Tanks, and Planes RQ-11 assembly
(click to view full)

The main internal threat is Hezbollah, who is currently part of a 2009 unity government that is within the orbit of Syria’s Bashar Assad, and of Iran via its Hezbollah foreign legion. Pentration of the army and its institutions is accordingly extensive, which creates hard questions about the aid’s appropriateness, and security risks surrounding systems that are turned over.

Aerovironment’s RQ-11 Raven has become extremely popular in Afghanistan, and seen extensive use in Iraq. While the hand-launched UAV is far too small to carry anything beyond cameras, and is limited to low-flying missions out to about 1-15 miles, its virtues as a readily-used, squad-portable reconnaissance system that lets troops see over the next hill, or into the next block, are well and widely appreciated.

The M60 tank is a development of the M48 Patton, and was the M1 Abrams’ predecessor in the US Army and Marines. While the M1 was developed in response to the threat of the Soviet T-72, it turned out that the M60 was the T-72’s real peer competitor, whereas the M1 proved to be a massive overmatch. Something the M1 crews appreciated during combat in Operation Desert Storm. The M60A3 was the last serving model, sporting electronic upgrades while retaining the rounded turret and 105mm gun. It still serves with a number of militaries around the world. Egypt has the largest regional M60 fleet, followed by Turkey’s “M60 Sabras” that sport significant Israeli improvements to their sighting systems and electronics, as well as a full array of explosive reactive armor.

Recent combat experience teaches that even in urban situations, when tanks enter the fray, fights usually end quickly. Tanks of the M60’s vintage, however, lack the advanced armor protection and shaped designs required to withstand hits from popular threats like RPGs and anti-tank missiles. This can be remedied to some extent by adding explosive reactive armor and other ancillary systems. In their absence, however, M60s could not be expected to last very long against even private armies like Hezbollah, which makes extensive use of anti-tank missiles. The M60A3s, and similar vintage Leopard 1A5s from Belgium, would nonetheless offer an improvement over Lebanon’s existing T-54/55 and M48A5 tanks.

Russian MiG-29
(click to view full)

Lebanon’s fixed-wing fighter/attack force currently consists of about 4 Hawker Hunter jets, a 1950s era subsonic design that remains an aviation classic, and an OV-10 Bronco turboprop observation and light attack plane. In contrast, the used MiG-29s offered for free by Russia are late 1980s high-performance fighters, intended as a competitor to the F-16. Early versions are mainly air interceptor aircraft, though some Soviet MiG-29As were also given nuclear strike roles. Subsequent MiG-29Cs were confined to Soviet forces, incorporating radar improvements and an enlarged spine with extra fuel and an active electronic jammer system. Neither variant is suitable for delivering precision ground attack ordnance, a capability restricted to subsequent MiG-29S upgrades and modifications.

An interesting but very logical shift occurred in early 2010, when Russia and Lebanon agreed to substitute Mi-24 “Hind” helicopter gunships for the MiG-29s. The Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s saw some air-air engagements involving Iraqi Mi-24s and Iranian AH-1J SeaCobra helicopters, but the Hind’s main use is as a ground attack platform. It fits Lebanon’s military requirements and base infrastructure far better than the MiG-29s would have, but it also introduces an interesting new capability into Lebanon’s correlation of forces.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s participation in Lebanon’s government is a triple-edged sword for the Lebanese military.

On the one hand, it makes hostilities with Lebanon’s army unlikely so long as the accord lasts. The other 2 edges, however, are sharp. One is that it gave Hezbollah free rein to re-arm and organize. Hezbollah’s agenda is set in Iran and not in Lebanon, which has set the stage for future conflicts within and beyond Lebanon. For instance, Hezbollah is currently functioning as Iran’s Condor Legion equivalent in Syria’s civil war.

The other edge is that Israeli officials have said that since Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government, acts carried out by Hezbollah would be considered to be coming from Lebanon’s government – i.e. acts of war rather than terrorism. The strong implication is that any Israeli response would encompass all of Lebanon, not just Hezbollah. So far, that has largely kept a lid on things.

Contracts and Key Events 2015

Feb 26/15: April set as French arms delivery commencement. France is reportedly to start shipping its planned sale of $3 billion worth of Saudi-purchased arms to Lebanon in April. The announcement appears to have taken many media organs by surprise, given the already volatile military situation in the country. Different reports ascribe various Saudi motives for the pressing of the weapons into Lebanese Army hands, ranging from expressing pique at the U.S. (UPI) – whose arms were not purchased – to a direct effort to fund a force to take on Hezbollah (MintPress). It took the French two years to get to this point of readiness. Had the Saudis sought U.S. arms, the approvals would certainly have been much longer in coming, if they ever came. That the Lebanese Army would take on Hezbollah remains unlikely, as precedent shows a long inability to deny Hezbollah anything in Lebanon the group wishes to take.


Aircraft requests as ISIS threat creeps in. IqAF Hueys

Oct 24/14: UK. After a meeting between UK Chief of the Defense Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton and Lebanese Army Commander General Jean Kahwaji. the UK sends Lebanon a $16 million donation. It includes 164 Land Rovers, 1,500 sets of body armor, a secure radio communication network, border watchtowers, and HESCO bastions that can be filled with earth to create bulletproof walls in Army positions along the frontier. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Daily Star says:

“As for the earlier $3 billion aid announced by Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdel-Aziz, it will come in the form of weapons, equipment and training to be provided by France…. [but] has not yet gone into effect with reports saying that the Kingdom first wants to receive assurances that the weapons will not benefit Hezbollah.”

That sounds like a pretty tall order, given the realities of Lebanon. Sources: Al Defaiya, “UK Delivers Military Equipment to Lebanese Army”.

Oct 8/14: France. The French defense minister says that the 3-way deal with Saudi Arabia (q.v. Dec 30/13) may finally be ready to finance over EUR 2 billion in purchases of French weapons:

“Ce projet a ete valide par la France et ce projet est valide avec les forces armees libanaises”, a-t-il declare mercredi 8 octobre, lors de la seance des questions au gouvernement. Et d’ajouter : “Tous les travaux sont termines et le president de la Republique a indique hier à Monsieur [Saad] Hariri [ancien Premier ministre et leader politique de la communaute sunnite libanaise, NDLR] que les conditions etaient desormais remplies.”

That could end up being a very substantial infusion. The question is what the government will spend it on. And who will end up controlling what they buy. Sources: France24, “Liban : conditions réunies pour livrer des armes françaises, selon Le Drian”.

Sept 17/14: Helicopter request. A little more than 2 years after asking for 6 Huey IIs (q.v. July 25/12), Lebanon requests another 18 Huey II helicopters, as well as associated spares and services, for an estimated cost of $180 million.

That’s about the same unit cost as the previous request, and comparable to a request submitted but then canceled by Iraq in 2007. Huey IIs are refurbished and upgraded UH-1Hs sold “as good as new” by Bell. The bulk of Lebanon’s current but old helicopter fleet is comprised of 23 Hueys which were used to drop bombs – a rather unusual task for rotary aircraft – on Fatah al-Islam in 2007. Source: DSCA 14-20.

DSCA request (18 Huey IIs)

AC-208B firing
(click to view full)

Sept 12/14: AC-208Bs. US ambassador David Hale says the USA will send “an armed Cessna” , and also arm a Cessna it had previously provided to the Lebanese Army. they’re referring to the AC-208B conversion, which allows the Caravan to independently carry, target, and fire 2 AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missiles. It’s hardly a regional power projection tool, but it’s a fine platform for surveillance and strikes on isolated guerrilla groups.

“The Lebanese government and army have requested additional aircraft from the United States: an armed Cessna and other light air support aircraft… It is our intention to support those requests for additional aircraft, using funds generously made available to Lebanon by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…” [q.v. Dec 30/13]

That won’t use much of their $3 billion offer, and it’s a good investment for all concerned. Beyond the usual hijinks in Lebanon, the Sunni ISIS group has reached beyond Syria and Iraq into Lebanon, taking a number of Lebanese soldiers captive and beheading them. Iraq is already using AC-208Bs successfully against ISIS, and the USA is stepping up efforts to contain the group via 3rd parties since it has abandoned its own combat presence in Iraq. The Saudis also see ISIS as a threat, one that’s approaching the level offered by Iran and its legions. Sources: Lebanon Daily Star, “US arming Lebanon military to combat ISIS: Hale” | Kuwait News Agency, “US to deliver armed light Cessna aircraft to Lebanon to combat ISIL” | Middle East Monitor, “US to deliver armed aircraft to Lebanon”.

2012 – 2013

8 Huey IIs; Man-portable radios

Dec 30/13: Saudi Arabia. Lebanon couldn’t help but be drawn into the Sunni-Shia proxy wars that are engulfing the Arab world. Saudi Arabia pledges $3 billion in military aid to Lebanon’s government, in a move that’s clearly designed to strengthen that government at the expense of Iran’s Hezbollah. Specific equipment isn’t specified, so we’ll see how all of this works itself out.

Here’s the Saudi dilemma, in a nutshell: what to provide? If the money is used to provide small arms, anti-tank missiles, and good training, it would probably make the biggest difference on the ground. The bad news? These items are small and portable. Hezbollah’s infiltration of the armed forces and power within the government means that many of the items in question won’t stay in government hands. On the other hand, if Saudi aid is used to provide higher-end items like armed helicopters, armored vehicles, etc., then the bad news is that $3 billion doesn’t actually deliver as much as one imagines. Especially in a military whose support systems and infrastructure are questionable. That high-end approach is also vulnerable to counter-strokes: all Hezbollah would need to do, in order to incapacitate new fleets, would be to threaten the maintenance workers in order to ensure that they do a poor job. Sources: CS Monitor, “Saudi Arabia promises record $3 billion in military aid to Lebanon”.

July 31/13: Radios. Advanced Technology Systems Co. in McLean, VA receives a $26.7 million multi-year, firm-fixed-price, foreign military sales from Lebanon for TETRA trunked radio communication systems. TETRA is an abbreviation of TErrestrial Trunked RAdio. It has been defined and approved by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and is a standard for radio communication in the same way that GSM is a mobile telephony standard. It’s often used to create networks for first responders and internal security forces, but a number of militaries around the world also use them.

Work will be performed in Lebanon. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W15P7T-13-C-D082).

May 26/13: Syria/Lebanon War. In the New Yorker, war correspondent Dexter Filkins reports:

“It’s official: the war in Syria has spread to Lebanon. In an extraordinary speech Saturday, Hassan Nasrallah, the bearded and bespectacled leader of the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, promised an all-out effort to keep the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria. “It’s our battle, and we are up to it,” Nasrallah said in a televised address. The war, he said, had entered “a completely new phase.”

This is a terrifying development; the beginning of a regional war. Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed armed group, has been fighting inside Syria for months, something I detailed in an article on the group in February. But Hezbollah was intervening in Syria covertly…. As more and more Hezbollah fighters died inside Syria, that lie could no longer be sustained. The truth is out.

On Saturday, by declaring his undying loyalty to the Assad regime, Nasrallah has signalled an escalation in Hezbollah’s involvement…”

Nov 1/12: Hueys. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX receives a $33.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for single-engine UH-1H+ Huey II helicopters and related support services. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-11-G-0011).

U.S. Army Security Assistance Command has confirmed to us that this order will be transferred to the “government” of Lebanon. The July 25/12 DSCA request was for 6, and this appears to cover that number.

July 25/12: Helicopter request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] a potential sale to Lebanon of 6 Huey II helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training, and logistical support, at an estimated cost of $63 million. Hezbollah is still in charge, albeit somewhat weakened by the civil war in Syria, which interferes with supply lines to their masters in Iran. The US DSCA claims that:

“This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by providing Lebanon with necessary mobility capabilities to maintain internal security, enforce United Nation’s Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and counter terrorist threats… The Huey II will augment Lebanon’s aging fleet of UH-1H aircraft.”

If Congress agrees enough to avoid overtly blocking the sale within 30 days, Lebanon can begin negotiations with Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, TX. Fortunately for Bell, “Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Lebanon.”

Jan 12/12: AC-208Bs. Alliant Techsystems, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $16.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for one used Caravan Cessna 208B aircraft, continued contractor logistics support, and spares with associated repair and return effort. This supports a Foreign Military Sales Program and the Lebanon Air Force Caravan Program.

The C-208B is a single-propeller plane that’s often used for flight training and light cargo duties. The Iraqi Air Force have turned them into low-cost AC-208B “Combat Caravan” surveillance and close support planes by adding a surveillance/targeting turret, accompanying internal displays, and M299 racks for Hellfire missiles on the wings. official reports indicate that the planes headed to Lebanon are Combat Caravans.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA, and is expected to be complete by Nov 16/16. The ASC/WINK/FMS at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH acts as Lebanon’s agent in this matter (FA8620-12-C-4005). See also Flight International.


AMP-145 CPB concept
(click to view larger)

June 13/11: Takeover. The new Lebanese government names its cabinet, which Hezbollah and its supporters dominate. BBC.

Jan 19/11: Takeover. Hezbollah ousts Prime Minister Hariri and engineers a de facto coup in Lebanon. Lebanon Daily Star | Now Lebanon | Reuters | Ya Libnan.

Jan 14/11: Patrol Boats. Maritime Security Strategies, LLC in Tampa, FL received a $29 million firm-fixed price contract to construct a 42-meter coastal security craft and provide associated equipment, material, training and technical services to the Government of Lebanon. This will be the first sale of the firm’s AMP-145 multi-mission platform design, though their regional orders also include 2 60-meter Offshore Supply/Command Vessels under construction for the Iraqi Navy.

MSS’ managing partner, USN Rear Admiral (ret.) Robert Cox touts “new designs and features that deliver significant cost and performance improvements over the current industry offerings,” including fast reconfiguration. The hulls are an epoxy-resin composite, with an aluminum deck and superstructure. American shipbuilders have had mixed results with composite hulls, but they are coming into wider international use due to their weight advantages, which translates directly into greater speed, increased maneuverability and lower fuel consumption.

The Lebanese Navy’s AMP-145 incorporates ITAR compliant controls and automation, including embedded sensors in key components, and a non-militarized, passive Integrated Bridge System (IBS) from Raytheon Anschutz GmbH that manages the ship’s automation system, as well as feeds from CCTV and a FLIR thermal imaging cameras. Surface search X and S-band ARPA radars, a full package of navigation sensors, data management software, GMDSS A3, and all other electronics and safety equipment completes the IBS and Command and Surveillance package. The C2/Operations Center is fitted with a customized Situational Awareness Display which shares all charts, targets and craft movements with the Integrated Bridge System. Depictions of the craft show a 30mm cannon and mounts for 7.62mm – 12.7mm machine guns, but armament details were not provided.

Work will be performed in Tampa, FL, and is expected to be complete by January 2012, though the company has set a delivery date of end 2011. MSS will work with its primary design agent and shipbuilding partner, RiverHawk Fast Sea Frames, LLC, of Tampa, FL to design, produce and outfit the ship. The MSS/RiverHawk team is currently completing epoxy-resin composite hull construction and rigging in of the major engineering systems at VectorWorks Marine facilities in Titusville, FL. The aluminum decks and superstructure are nearing completion in RiverHawk’s Tampa yard, where they will be mated to the hull, and several South Florida sub-contractors will also play significant roles. The contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC, who manages the contract on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale client (N00024-11-C-2241).

  • Length: 43.5 meters
  • Breadth overall: 8.5 meters
  • Draft: ~ 2 meters
  • Displacement: ~ 265 metric tons
  • Crew Complement: 6 – 22
  • Speed: > 25 knots
  • Range @ 11 Knots: > 2600 nm
  • Effective Limits @ 12 Knots: Sea State 4
  • Survivability: Sea State 5
  • Endurance: 5-7 days

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has taken its marching orders and withdrawn from the government in Lebanon, setting up a minor political crisis as the country waits for a UN report that’s likely to indict Hezbollah members, as well as its foreign backers in Syria and beyond, for the Hariri assassination. See also: Maritime Security Strategies | Al-Defaiya | Al-Jazeera | Reuters | Voice of America | Israel’s Ynet News.


French SA342
(click to view full)

Dec 17/10: HOT missiles. Agence France Presse reports that France will give Lebanon 100 MBDA HOT anti-tank missiles to equip Lebanon’s SA342M Gazelle helicopters. A Lebanese official told AFP that: “The missiles will be delivered before the end of February and are being given with no conditions attached.”

The move has sparked concern among some American political figures. Lebanese received 12 Gazelle helicopters in mid-2007, and in January 2010, it signed an agreement to refurbish them (vid. Jan 22/10 entry).

Nov 13/10: Unblocked. The congressional hold on $100 million in military aid to Lebanon clears, as Rep. Howard Berman [D-CA] and Nita Lowey [D-NY] drop their opposition after a classified briefing and presenting results of a “thorough inter-agency review” by the Obama administration. Berman: “As a result, I am convinced that implementation of the spending plan will now have greater focus, and I am reassured as to the nature and purposes of the proposed package.” Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Resident Scholar Aram Nerguizian, whose report on U.S. military aid to Lebanon is coming out later in November 2010, has said that American aid can help the armed forces keep a lid on Lebanon, and “keeps Lebanon from escalating beyond the range of the real.” Israel, on the other hand, seemed less reassured:

“Iran’s domination of Lebanon through its proxy Hezbollah has destroyed any chance for peace, has turned Lebanon into an Iranian satellite and made Lebanon a hub for regional terror and instability”

Lifting the hold Congressional may release funds while the present “lame duck” session is still alive, until and unless future action affirmatively blocks it. Berman chairs the House Foreign Affairs committee, and Lowey heads the House Appropriations committee’s foreign operations subcommittee. They will be reduced to ranking minority members in the new Congress, however, and Berman’s likely successor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL], opposes further aid to Lebanon as well as to the Palestinian Authority. Lebanese Daily Star | Agence France Presse | Israel’s Arutz Sheva | Bloomberg | Foreign Policy Magazine | Jerusalem Post | Fox News | UAE’s The National | Reuters | Voice of America.

Aug 8/10: Blocked. The US Congress is blocking $100 million in aid to the Lebanese military, amidst concerns it is cooperating with Hezbollah. The Congressional holds come in the wake of an Aug 3 shooting of 2 Israeli officers while brush was being cleared along the northern border. One Israeli officer was killed and another seriously wounded in the firefight, which also killed at least 2 Lebanese soldiers and a journalist. There are reports that the Lebanese troops in question were using American-supplied weapons. Associated Press | Jerusalem Post | al-Manar TV (Hezbollah affiliate) | Lebanon Daily Star | Australia’s The Age/ Reuters re: clash.

June 3/10: The USA delivers $427,000 worth of weapons, body armor and bomb investigation equipment to Lebanese security officials, via a $1 million anti-terrorism assistance program for Lebanon from the U.S. State Department. UPI.

May 24/10: Rising US concern. Foreign Policy magazine’s blog The Cable documents rising concern within the Pentagon and Congress over continued military aid to Lebanon, in the wake of what they see as a blurring of the lines between the government and Hezbollah.

MI-24 Hind
(click to view full)

Feb 26/10: Make Hinds, not Fulcrums. NaharNet reports that Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has returned from a visit to Russia, and…

“Russian authorities agreed to substitute the 10 MiG-29 fighter jets previously mulled military aid with Mi-24 advanced military helicopters “based on the request of the Lebanese side that conducted technical and functional studies on the Russian fund for the Lebanese Air Force.”

The Mi-24 “Hind” helicopter gunship became famous during Russia’s war in Afghanistan, and it remains popular with militaries around the world. The most modern version is the Mi-35. Unlike most attack helicopters, it has secondary troop transport capabilities.

Jan 22/10: Lebanon has reportedly signed an agreement with the French company Euro Tech to revamp 13 Gazelle helicopters transferred in 2007, equipping the 10 Puma helicopters granted by the UAE, and training Lebanese helicopter pilots.

The Puma helicopters are expected to start arriving within the first half of 2010 in 2 batches of 4 and then 6 machines. Reports suggest, however, that France is hesitant to supply Lebanon with missiles for the Gazelle helicopters, for fear they would end up in Hezbollah’s hands. The Lebanese Air Force reportedly used up all of its missiles in the 2007 Nahr el-Bared battle against Fatah al-Islam terrorists. Nahar Net.


Nov 16/09: Media report that Russian military experts will be visiting Lebanon in the next few days and staying until Nov 26/09. They will be assessing the conditions at Lebanese airports and bases, assessing their ability to support MiG-29s and other equipment. A formal contract for the 10 MiG-29s is expected very shortly after their report. China’s Xinhua reports that the MiG deal is causing some trepidation in certain parts of Lebanon:

“Since then, the deal has sparked an internal debate about the necessity of obtaining these aircraft in a small country like Lebanon, which has a national army and an armed militia Hezbollah, which owns thousands of short and mid-range rockets.”

See also: Lebanese Daily Star | Naharnet Newsdesk | Il-Oubnan | China’s Xinhua.

April 9/09: Naharnet Newsdesk reports confirmation of American arms shipments to Lebanon by US State Department officials David Hale and Colin Kahl:

“Hale said the shipment includes 41 Howitzer artillery and 12 Zodiac boats. He said the Lebanese military will also be receiving in May 12 pilotless Raven aircrafts that would help the army monitor any attempt to fire rockets from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Hale said the delivery also includes one Cessna Caravan aircraft, which is expected to arrive end of April to provide air support for ground forces. A set of 20 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and the first batch of 10 M-60 tanks will also be arriving in May, according to Hale.”

April 8/09: The Pentagon’s AFPS reports on progress:

“Toward helping it fulfill that role, the United States has provided more than $410 million in military assistance to Lebanon since 2006. That support has included Humvees, trucks, M-198 howitzer artillery pieces, M-4 and M-16 rifles, body armor vests, MK-19 grenade launchers, shoulder-fired rockets, spare helicopter parts and millions of ammunition rounds.

More recently, the Defense Department has been working with the Lebanese government to expedite delivery of Cessna close-air-support aircraft with precision Hellfire missiles and [RQ-11] Raven unmanned aerial vehicle systems. The United States is also working to transfer M60 Abrams tanks to the Lebanese military from other countries in the region, Kahl said. These systems, expected to be delivered by June…”


(click to view full)

Dec 19/08: Defense News quotes “a senior U.S. state department official… in Beirut” saying that he U.S. plans to deliver M-60 tanks to Lebanon in spring 2009. the official stresses that the US does not see any competition with Russia or other countries, as all assistance to help the Lebanese government is welcome.

Dec 1/08: The Pentagon’s AFPS publishes “U.S. Forces Help Lebanese Military Assert Control“, which discusses American efforts to re-equip Lebanon’s army:

“The United States and Lebanon signed a military cooperation agreement in October [2008], establishing the U.S.-Lebanese Joint Military Commission to provide an official framework for the bilateral U.S.-Lebanese military relationship… “The most important [recommendation] was that the Lebanese military needed a lot of help in the military basics… They needed trucks, Humvees, parts and ammunition more than they needed high-end, expensive weaponry.” They also need training… In 2006, the United States renewed its security relationship with Lebanon, and since then has funneled more than $400 million in foreign military sales money… “Our part of that is to help build up the Lebanese armed forces so the Lebanese government can be sovereign in all its territory.”

…The United States has sent 285 Humvees to Lebanon, and another 312 will arrive by March. The United States has sent 200 trucks to the Lebanese and 41 M-198 155 mm artillery pieces. The Lebanese army also will get night-vision equipment and some tactical unmanned aerial vehicles. “Behind it is all basics – 12 million rounds of ammo, spare helicopter parts, shoulder-fired rockets,” Straub said. “We want them to play their role in controlling Lebanese territory. We also want them to deter the terrorist threat.” The United States is committed to getting Lebanon more modern tanks, and the U.S. military is working on delivering M-60A3 tanks.”

Dec 18/08: The UK’s Times reports that Russia will provide Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets, for free, under an agreement on military-technical assistance. Rosoboronexport’s Mikhail Dmitryev said that the jets would come from Russia’s existing stock, and added that Moscow was also in talks to supply Lebanon with heavy armor. The country currently operates very old T-54/55 Russian tanks.

Aug 27/08: Belgian defense minister Pierre Crem visits Lebanon to finalize an agreement to sell 43 Leopard 1A5 tanks, and 28 M113 derivative armored personnel carriers (16 AIFVs and 12 conventional), to Lebanon. RTL Info via MplL.

M113s form the backbone of Lebanese mechanized forces, thanks to significant donations from American stocks. The AIFV model adds a 25mm gun. The Leopard 1A5 is a modernized Leopard tank, roughly on par with or slightly better than the American M60A3.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

The USA’s America Class NAAS: Carrier Air + Amphibious Assault

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 00:04
LHA-R/NAAS Concept
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Modern U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ships project power and maintain presence by serving as the cornerstone of the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) / Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). LHA/LHD are a key element of the Seapower 21 doctrine pillars of Sea Strike and Sea Basing, transporting, launching, and landing elements of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) via a combination of LCAC hovercraft, amphibious transports and vehicles, helicopters, and aircraft.

Designed to project power and maintain presence, LHA-Replacement (LHA-R, aka. LH-X, and now the New Amphibious Assault Ship or NAAS) large deck amphibious assault ships were slated to replace the US Navy’s 6 LHA-1 Tarawa Class vessels. They are based on the more modern LHD Wasp Class design, with the LHD’s landing craft and well deck removed in favor of more planes and hangar space. While its LHA/LHD predecessors were amphibious assault ships with a secondary aviation element, it’s fair to describe the America Class as escort carriers with a secondary amphibious assault role.

The NAAS Program LHA-R concept
(click to view: large!)

The LHA-R program may have been in the works since PMS-377 was put in charge in November 2000, but it took several years to get underway as a major spending program.

LHA 6 America, the lead LHA-R vessel, was planned for delivery to the U.S. Navy in October 2013, though when that date came and went, sea trials had yet to take place. It and should be in service by 2015. The ultimate question is how many ships of class will be built. Support for the limited NAAS buy of 2 ships is already set, and LHA 7 Tripoli is due for delivery in June 2018. The question is the 3rd ship, and any ships after that.

The FY13-18 FYDP does feature a 3rd “LHA-R” ship in FY 2017, pushed back a year from the original plan. In April 2009, Gannett’s Navy Times revealed that the Marines were having second thoughts about the well deck removal, and the limitations this created for the total force. Altering ship plans for LHA 6 or LHA 7 would have been too expensive, but “LHA 8’s” planned cost, and these previous statements by the Navy and Marines, suggest that this ship will have a well deck. Low amounts allocated for LHA 8 design also indicate that any well-deck equipped ship is likely to be a fairly close derivation of an existing design. So, too, does the math inherent in the ships’ volume and internal layout limits. In other words, LHA 8 looks set to be a slightly updated variant of the all-electric LHD 8 Makin Island design. In effect, it would become “LHD 9″. This return of the well deck is later confirmed as the “Flight 1″ configuration.

The ship’s timeline at the end of the FYDP makes it vulnerable to further budget cuts, and so does the higher price of a well deck equipped vessel. The FYDP has set aside $4.4 billion, compared to the Navy’s 2012 estimates of $3.2 – $3.3 billion per ship for the America Class. Time will tell whether the 3rd New Amphibious Assault Ship survives.

Note that even at that lower price, America Class ships already far exceed the cost of smaller LHDs like France’s 21,500t helicopter-only Mistral Class LHD (EUR 325M/ $485M), though the American ships are designed to naval survivability levels, and feature far more advanced defenses and launch capabilities.

A better comparison may be Australia’s 27,500t, jet-capable Canberra Class LHDs (AUD$ 1.6 billion/ USD$ 1.4 billion per), or Italy’s 27,100t Cavour Class escort carrier, which combines F-35B launch capability with housing for troops, and vehicle ramps for heavy vehicles stored inside (about EUR 1.5 billion/ $1.975 billion). Measured on a per-ton basis, their cost is not all that far off. The tactical tradeoff is that larger ships like the America Class gain new fighter spots and storage capacity faster than they grow in tonnage. On the flip side, they offer less survivability and mission flexibility than 2 Cavour Class ships might enjoy.

The LHA-R Ships: 21st Century Escort Carriers LHD Wasp Class
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LHA-R/NAAS design modifications aimed to optimize aviation operations and support activities. The end product is essentially a revival of the World War 2 escort carrier concept, with integrated berthing, cargo, and light vehicle spaces for Marines.

At 844 feet long and 106 feet wide, LHA-R ships will be almost 80 feet longer than USS Wasp and 10 feet wider, since they don’t have to fit through the Panama Canal. As a result, these ships will weigh in at 45,594 long tons fully loaded, rather than LHD 8’s 41,649t full load. The Navy prefers not to call their America Class ships carriers, but will admit that they’re an “aviation centric” design. In plain English, they’re really CVL/CVE aircraft carriers with crew space for 1,204, that can also berth up to 1,686 Marines, with a possible surge to 1,800 people for short periods of time. These NAAS ships will rely on a mix of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft for most of their tasks, from close air support, to transport, to helicopter coverage.

Protection comes in 3 layers, from the medium-range Evolved SeaSparrow launchers, to the short-range RAM missile system, to close-in defenses that range from radar-guided Mk.15 Phalanx 20mm gatling guns to a range of decoy systems. Few small carriers have defenses this comprehensive, and some full-size carriers in Britain and India will also fall short by comparison. Even so, advances in modern cruise missiles makes the Navy doubt LHA-R’s survivability against a determined multi-missile swarm.

DID uses the term “escort carriers” due to their relative size compared to America’s 95,000t+ nuclear-powered supercarriers, and also due to the size of their aerial complement, which is reduced by the ship’s amphibious mission. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the America Class’ overall displacement is larger than France’s 43,000t FS Charles De Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, or the American World War 2 Essex Class carriers’ 36,380t.

Like the Tarawa and Wasp classes, NAAS ships will have a flat flight deck, without a “ski ramp” on the front. With a ski ramp, V/STOL (Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing) fighters like the Harrier, STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) fighters like the F-35B, UAVs, or tilt-rotor aircraft can all take off with larger loads, while using less fuel. On the other hand, a fully flat deck increases the number of deck locations available for landing or parking aircraft.

The US Navy thought hard about this choice. During the Analysis of Alternatives phase, they considered a 69,000 ton “Dual Tram Line” option with an LHD 8 sized well deck for hovercraft, an angled flight deck like an aircraft carrier’s, and a ski ramp that allows aircraft to take off with heavier loads. Existing F-35B-capable platforms that already use the ski ramp approach include Britain’s new 65,000t Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, Italy’s new 27,100t Cavour Class aircraft carrier/LHD, and Navantia’s 27,500t BPE / Canberra Class LHDs. The Navy eventually chose to pursue a design based on LHD 8 Makin Island instead, as the path of least risk and best cost containment. For good or ill, they also decided against adding a ski ramp.

Eliminating the ramp did give them a couple more “spot factors.” A ship’s possible aircraft combinations are calculated by totaling “spot factors” (SF), and amphibious ships use the CH-46E Sea Knight’s space requirements as their base (1.0). The aged Sea Knights are being phased out, however, and will not be part of the America Class’ 58.0 Spot Factor air wings. Instead, these air wings are expected to include MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors (2.22 SF), CH-53E/K heavy transport helicopters (2.68/?), MH-60R/S multi-role utility helicopters (1.0), UH-1Y troop transport helicopters (0.94), and AH-1Z attack helicopters (0.92); and/or 6-23 fixed wing F-35B Lightning II STOVL fighters (2.0).

These new aircraft, and the MV-22 in particular, drove many of the ship’s key requirements. When one compares the “standard” complements of the LHA-R vs. the existing LHD Wasp Class, the result is about a 45% increase in required “spot factors,” for the same number of airframes: [1]

  • 12 MV-22 vs. 12 CH-46 (+14.64 SF)
  • 2 MH-60S vs. 2 UH-1 for SAR (+0.14 SF)
  • 4 CH-35K vs. 4 CH-53E (assumed even)
  • 3 UH-1Y vs. 3 UH-1N (+0.03 SF)
  • 4 AH-1Z vs. 4 AH-1W (+0.36 SF)
  • 6 F-35B vs. 6 AV-8B (+2.82 SF)

In single-role carrier configuration, America Class ships will embark 2 MH-60S helicopters for Search And Rescue, and take on 20 F-35B fighters plus all of the required spares, extra weapons, etc. Even so, the F-35B will have just 2 landing spots that can handle the heat from its engine: #7 and #9.

Floor footage wasn’t the only thing affected by the class’ escort carrier configuration. High-bay enlargement of the maintenance hangar in 2 areas was required in order to accommodate USMC MV-22s or AFSOC CV-22s, which can’t be brought in for full servicing on current LHA Tarawa and LHD Wasp Class ships.

A final aviation advantage comes from the addition of fuel tanks, in place of the ballast tanks used by the Tarawa and Wasp classes to offset the weight of a filled well deck. That more than doubles available JP-5 aviation fuel, from 600,000 gallons to a full 1.3 million gallons.

The Well Deck Issue LHA 3 launches LCAC
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There’s a cost to these changes.

While it’s called an amphibious assault ship, the America class lacks those ship types’ characteristic feature: a floodable well deck for launching landing craft. The US Navy and Marines initially decided that there were enough other ships in the fleet with well decks, and contended that the use of LHA/LHD ships to transport and land heavy vehicles tends to be rare anyway. They eventually changed their minds, and “LHA 8″ may now include a well deck, but LHA 6 America and LHA 7 Tripoli will be built without.

Removal of the traditional well deck offers some advantages. For starters, it provides America Class Flight 0 ships with an extended hangar deck and aviation support spaces. It also lowers LHA/CVL America Class maintenance costs. In exchange, the America Class can’t launch and land medium-heavy vehicles like the USMC’s AAV7 amphibious armored personnel carriers, their future amphibious APCs; or LCAC hovercraft that can carry vehicles like M1 tanks, LAVs, and mine resistant MRAP-type vehicles ashore.

Lift-on/ Lift-off cranes, which could have mitigated this shortfall by transferring cargo to other ships, are also absent from the design. If LHA-R Flight 0 ships decide to carry heavier vehicles, or require faster offload given the 14,000+ pound empty weight of even very light mine-resistant vehicles, their sole options will be their CH-53K heavy-lift helicopters, or offloading by ramp onto a port’s docks.

Power and Influence: Secondary Ship Features Naval LM2500
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Propulsion and power is the same hybrid system as LHD 8, which is a plus for the Navy. It involves 2 GE LM2500+ gas turbines, each rated at 35,290 shaft horsepower at U.S. Navy standard day conditions (100 degrees F), and a pair of 5,000 hp auxiliary propulsion motors. The hybrid propulsion system enables the ship’s propellers to be driven either by the gas turbines or by electric motors, which are powered from the ship service electrical system. This allows the ship to operate in a more fuel efficient mode throughout its speed range, while being able to generate far more electricity to power onboard electronics, etc.

Finally, the new class resembles its LHA/LHD predecessors in that will be able to operate as the flagship for a full expeditionary strike group. Its enhanced and reconfigurable command and control complex will be based on the US Navy’s directive to use open architecture electronics whenever possible, in order to lower costs and make future upgrades easier.

A hospital facility complements these advanced command and aviation capabilities when assisting in humanitarian operations, and serves the amphibious combat force. It’s about 67% smaller than USS Makin Island’s [LHD 8], as a result of expanding the hangar bay.

LHA-R: Contracts & Key Events launch timelapse

Unless otherwise specified, all contracts are awarded by the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in Washington, DC, to Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (now Huntington Ingalls, Inc.) in Pascagoula, MS. The company’s Ingalls operations in Pascagoula, MS is where the USA’s current fleet of Tarawa Class LHA and Wasp Class LHD amphibious ships were all built.

FY 2015

Feb 25/15: Navy to pit two yards against each other in duopolistic design competition for LHA-8, new oilers and LX(R) dock landing ship. Mindful of the trend of shipyards to consolidate to the point where there is barely the opportunity for real competition, the Navy is deliberately packaging three very different major defense acquisition programs together and selecting two shipyards to bid for each, with the explicit expectation that each will be rewarded at least one. General Dynamics NASSCO and Huntington Ingalls Industries will compete for the redesign of the LHA-8 (which sorely needs its well deck back now that Marines vehicles have plumped up); the T-AO(X) fleet oiler and the LX(R) dock landing ship replacement.

“Each shipyard will be awarded one detail design and construction contract for LHA 8 or one DD&C for T-AO(X) ships 1-6,” said a Navy representative. “This approach balances the Navy’s commitment to maintaining a viable shipbuilding industrial base while aggressively pursuing competition.” The arbitrary connection of three disparate programs and the automatic win that could go to a loser seems reminiscent of a kindergarten awards ceremony, but at least the creation and maintenance of this duopoly appears to be deliberate. It may shed light on the decision-making process as it happens for the Ingalls/BIW duopoly on the Arleigh Burke contracts and the ancient Newport News/Electric Boat rivalry for submarine work.

FY 2013-2014

LHA 6 nearing completion. LHA 8 will have a well deck. America sea trials

Oct 11/14: LHA 6 Commissioned. The ship is formally commissioned at Pier 30/32 during San Francisco Fleet Week.

She is the 4th ship to bear that name, with predecessors that include a schooner, a World War I transport [ID-3006], and a conventionally-powered aircraft carrier [CV 66, 1965-1996]. Sources: US Navy, Full video and “USS America Joins the Fleet”.

USS America

Aug 26/14: Visits, F-35B Prep. LHA 6 America is visiting around South America on its way to San Francisco, with 4 MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotors, 3 H-60 Seahawk helicopters, and a special purpose MAGTF (Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force) on board. The ship hasn’t even been commissioned yet, and they’re treating the visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Peru as a training cruise.

After PCU America’s commissioning and shakedown, a Post-Shakedown Availability visit to the shipyard expects to install modifications that will let the ship safely use F-35B fighters. To achieve that, intercostal structural additions will be inserted underneath flight deck landing spots numbers 7 and 9, in order to deal with the heat produced by the F-35B’s F135-PW-600 LiftFan engine. Those changes are currently being tested on the USS Wasp [LHD 8]. Sources: Defense Tech, “USS America Tours South America, Prepares for JSF”.

July 11/14: LHA 6. LHA 6 America leaves the Ingalls Shipbuilding division at Pascagoula, MS, sailing to the West Coast in preparation for her Oct 11/14 commissioning in San Francisco, CA. Sources: HII, “Ingalls Shipbuilding’s Amphibious Assault Ship America (LHA 6) Sails Away”.

June 20/14: LHA 7 keel. The official keel-laying ceremony for LHA 7 Tripoli takes places at HII’s Pascagoula, MS shipyard. Sources: HII, “Ingalls Shipbuilding Authenticates Keel of Amphibious Assault Ship Tripoli (LHA 7)”.

June 13/14: LHA 8. General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, CA receives a $23.5 million contract modification for early industry involvement in the LHA 8/ LHA(R) Flight 1 affordability design phase. LHA 8 is supposed to put the well deck back, pushing the design much closer to USS Makin Island [LHD-8]. Unfortunately, the ship has seen estimates as high as $4.4 billion. If the designers can reduce that figure, the ship’s odds of surviving coming budget battles will improve.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 RDT&E budgets. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA and is expected to be complete by May 2015. US NAVSEA in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-13-C-2401). See also HII, “Ingalls Shipbuilding Awarded $23.5 Million LHA 8 Affordability Contract”.

LHA 8 initial design

April 10/14: LHA 6 Delivery. HII’s Ingalls shipyard delivers the LHA 6 America to the US Navy in Pascagoula, MS. Commissioning is set for late 2014. Sources: US Navy, “Navy Accepts Delivery of the future USS America” | HII, “Ingalls Shipbuilding Delivers Amphibious Assault Ship America (LHA 6)”.

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. The report cites a high degree of rework on LHA 6, and the fact that they began construction with the design just 65% complete may have something to do with that. That has raised costs, and helped make the ship’s delivery 19 months late. Another $42.4 million will be spent on rework of the ship’s deck to cope with the F-35B’s exhaust and downwash (q.v. Jan 17/12). GAO adds that:

“Although not considered critical technologies, the program has identified an additional six key subsystems necessary to achieve capabilities. Five of these subsystems are mature. The sixth, the [GPS-guided] Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, is still in development, but LHA 6 can use backup aviation control systems to meet requirements. There are no new critical technologies expected for LHA 7 or LHA 8, but requirements for LHA 8 are still in development.”

Beyond the new deck design, design changes to LHA 7 will include a new firefighting system; and updates to the radar and the command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence systems. One hopes that key survivability upgrades (q.v. Jan 28/14) are also on this list. Design changes to LHA 8 will add a well deck that can accommodate 2 landing craft, and they’re considering designs that would allow compartments to be reconfigured in low-risk areas, in order to meet changing mission needs with less rework.

Jan 31/14: INSURV. LHA 6 America completes Navy acceptance trials off the coast of Pascagoula, MS. The Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) evaluated all of the ship’s major systems, including combat, propulsion, communications, navigation, mission systems and aviation capabilities. It passed with no major deficiencies, which is a real achievement for a first-of-class ship. Delivery is planned for spring 2014. Sources: US NAVSEA, “LHA 6 Completes Acceptance Trials” | HII, “Video Release — Ingalls Shipbuilding’s Amphibious Ship America (LHA 6) Sails the Gulf of Mexico for Successful Acceptance Trials”.

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The America Class is included, and some of its deficiencies aren’t really about the ship – but others are.

It has been known for some time that the SSDS combat system needs continued improvement, and test aboard Nimitz Class supercarriers indicate that some modern cruise missile attacks will overwhelm existing defenses. The technical term is “Probability of Raid Annihilation”, and LHA-R isn’t likely to meet the goal the Navy set (q.v. Jan 17/12). Some of that is traceable to the design, however:

“LFT&E analysis completed so far identified potential problems in susceptibility and vulnerability that would likely result in the LHA-6 being unable to maintain or recover mission capability following a hit by certain threat weapons, the details of which are classified. The Navy’s required updated analysis is behind schedule jeopardizing planning for follow-on ship survivability improvements…. In particular, some fluid systems need additional isolation valves, sensors, and remote operators to allow rapid identification and isolation of damage and reconfiguration for restoration of the mission capability they support. Additionally, the egress from some of the troop and crew berthing spaces may result in crew causalities and delay damage control actions. The Navy has plans to incorporate some corrective actions for follow-on ships.”

Nov 7-9/13: Builder trials for PCU America are conducted in the Gulf of Mexico. If all goes well she is to be delivered to the Navy in March 2014. LHA 6, the 4th ship named USS America, will join the Pacific Fleet and have San Diego, CA as its homeport. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is scheduled for September 2016. Sources: HII, Nov 14/13 release | US Navy PEO Ships, Nov 7/13 release | DefenseTech: First America-class Amphib Nears Completion.

June 2013: LHA 8. The Navy plans to complete the Preliminary Design of LHA 8 during FY13, finalize its Capability Development Document (CDD) and Concepts of Operations (CONOPS), and get started on contract design. The Senate Armed Services Committee is somewhat skeptical and recommends the addition of $20 million to the LHA-8 (i.e. flight 1) development budget because “[r]epeated Navy shipbuilding programs have shown that failing to complete a ship’s design before starting construction inevitably leads to cost growth and schedule delays.” Senate NDAA FY 2014 report 113-044 | PE 64567N budget justification [PDF].

April 2013: The FY14 President Budget still sets the order of a 3rd LHA ship to FY2017 as of the latest FYDP. The delivery of LHA 6 is however delayed by 6 months. Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mark Ferguson had testified before the Senate Committee on Armed Services in February that this delay was one of the consequences of starting FY13 under a continuing resolution (CR) preventing the start of new programs.

Schedule as of April 2014

November 2012: The Navy conducts an operational assessment of LHA 6, though they don’t release any results publicly.

Oct 20/12: The US Navy christens Pre-Commissioning Unit America [LHA 6] at HII’s shipyard in Pascagoula, MS. USN.

FY 2012

LHA 7 main contract, named “Tripoli”; LHA 6 launch; DOT&E report highlight survivability fears against modern missiles. LHA 6 berthed
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June 5/12: LHA 6 launch. HII launches LHA 6 America at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, MS. Instead of sliding down a ramp, the ship just floated free of a drydock – but first, the 29,000 ton proto-ship became one of the largest objects moved across land when it was translated to the drydock. HII.

LHA 6 launch

May 31/12: LHA 7 main contract. A $2.381 billion fixed-price incentive contract modification, covering LHA 7 Tripoli’s detail design and construction, and installation (but not the purchase) of Government Furnished Equipment bought under separate contracts. Work will also include crew familiarization, technical manuals, and engineering and post-delivery industrial services.

Work will be performed in Pascagoula, MS (92.5%); Charlottesville, VA (2.4%); Beloit, WI (1.5%); Ocean Springs, MS (1.4%); Santa Fe Springs, CA (1.2%); and Brunswick, GA (1%), and is expected to be complete by June 2018 (N00024-10-C-2229). See also US Navy.


May 4/12: LHA 7 Tripoli. The Secretary of the Navy picks USS Tripoli as LHA 7’s future name. This isn’t a reference to recent events, but to the USMC’s early battles against the Barbary Pirates, immortalized in the Marines’ battle hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…”

Appropriately enough, the 1st USS Tripoli was CVE-64, a World War 2 escort carrier that served in the Atlantic theater. The 2nd USS Tripoli was LPH-10, a helicopter carrier that served in Vietnam. US Navy.

April 4/12: A $50.3 million contract modification for additional long lead time material in support of LHA 7. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, MS, and is expected to complete by May 2013 (N00024-10-C-2229).

Feb 13/12: FY13 PB. The President’s budget request for FY2013 sets the contract award date for LHA 7 to May 2012, with construction to start in April 2013, and expected delivery in March 2018. A more expensive LHA 8 ship has also been added in FY 2017.

Feb 6/12: LHA 7 lead-in. A $9 million contract modification for additional LHA 7 long lead time materials. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, MS and is expected to be complete by May 2013 (N00024-10-C-2229).

Jan 26/12: LHA 7 delayed. Preliminary FY 2013 budget materials discuss coming shifts in Pentagon priorities, as the defense department moves to make future cuts. The America Class is involved:

“To ensure sufficient resources to protect these strategic priorities, we will reduce the number of ships by slowing the pace of building new ships and by accelerating the retirement of some existing ships. These include… Slipping a large deck amphibious ship (LHA) by 1 year.”

See: Pentagon release | “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices” [PDF]

Jan 17/12: DOT&E report. The Pentagon releases the FY2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The America Class is included, even though they haven’t conducted testing yet. Some of the ship’s systems have been tested elsewhere, however, and their problems affect the ship. At the same time, some aspects of the design itself are being questioned, and so is ship survivability.

The good news is that LHA 6 will likely meet its Key Performance Parameters for vehicular stowage space, F-35B capacity, vertical take-off and landing spots, cargo space, and troop accommodations; but it will have much less hospital capacity than other American LHA/LHDs. DOT&E wonders if it will be enough.

The bad news is that LHA 6’s 12,000 pound limit for the vehicle ramp from the hangar deck to the flight deck, is a serious problem. Since the America Class has no well deck and no crane, everything must be airlifted ashore. There’s no point in having a ramp that can support 70-ton tanks and 24-ton LAVs, but even an up-armored HMMWV would stress the ramp as currently designed. Worse, blast-resistant MRAP or JLTV vehicles that could be airlifted off by a CH-53K, and would be necessary for many operations, couldn’t be carried on the ship. Those limitations are magnified by DOT&E’s statement that the USN and USMC haven’t yet produced a concept of operations or concept of employment that accounts for the America Class’ lack of a well deck, or that takes advantage of its enhanced aviation capability. On which note:

“Jet blast from the F-35Bs is expected to produce unsafe forces on flight deck personnel up to 75 feet from the short take-off line. MV-22 operations produce heat levels that might damage the flight deck and overwhelm the environmental controls in the spaces immediately below the flight deck.”

A full survivability assessment report is due in FY12, but DOT&E is concerned that:

“Due to long-standing and previously identified legacy sensor limitations, LHA-6 may be vulnerable to certain airborne threat flight profiles. Based on combat systems testing on other platforms, it is unlikely that LHA-6’s Ship Self-Defense System Mk 2-based combat system (including Nulka, SLQ-32, and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile) will meet the ship’s Probability of Raid Annihilation requirement against anti-ship cruise missiles.”

This is true, but worth deeper analysis. Part of the problem is that there’s only so much weaponry one puts on ships like this. Its armament is actually substantially stronger than foreign LHDs like the Mistral or Juan Carlos/Canberra Classes, and matches up evenly against the Italian Cavour Class light carrier and amphibious support vessel. If advances in enemy weapons create a problem, other ships will have to compensate, or the cost of each NAAS ship would become very high indeed.

In this case, however, DOT&E is citing performance shortfalls against certain threat types by the ship’s component weapons: RIM-162 ESSM, RIM-116 RAM, Nulka, SLQ-32, and the ship’s radars. The radar shortfalls are a known issue, but unless the USN opted for a foreign radar design, there’s no reasonably-priced radar option that would fix them. As for the weapons, they are a real problem for the fleet, but extraneous to this one program. The long term solution is for their capabilities to improve, or the Navy to adjust its tactics to address their weaknesses, if it can.

FY 2010 – 2011

LHA 7 added to program, and lead-in buys begin; Any LHA 8 will have a well deck. LHA 7 concept
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Aug 1/11: RAM. A $7.4 million contract modification for 3 refurbished and upgraded rolling airframe missile MK 49 Mod 3 Guided Missile Launch Systems with associated hardware, for use on LHA 7 (2 systems) and LCS 5 (Detroit, Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship, 1 system).

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by March 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00024-11-C-5448).

April 15/11: SAR to 2 ships. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 30/10 includes the America Class under significant cost increases, for an obvious reason:

“LHA 6 – Program costs increased $3,458.9 million (+102.7%) from $3,367.9 million to $6,826.8 million, due primarily to the addition of one ship from one to two ships.”

March 31/11: LHA lead-in. A not-to-exceed $28.7 million contract modification for the procurement of additional long lead time material in support of “the LHA replacement flight 0 amphibious assault ship.” That could describe LHA 6 America, or LHA 7; timelines suggest that it probably means LHA 7.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (79.9%), and Pascagoula, MS (20.1%), and is expected to be complete by March 2014 (N00024-10-C-2229).

Oct 28/10: A $48.1 million contract modification for additional planning and advanced engineering services in support of LHA 7. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, MS, and is expected to be complete by May 2012 (N00024-10-C-2229). See also Northrop Grumman.

June 30/10: LHA 7 lead-in. A not-to-exceed $175.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for LHA 7 long-lead time material, planning, and advance engineering services. The as-yet unnamed LHA 7 will be an LHA-R Flight 0 ship just like America [LHA 6], which is now 25% complete. Long lead time materials include items like main reduction gears, which must be complete and ready to go very early in the build stage. With all contract options exercised, this contract could reach $193 million.

Work will be performed in Brunswick, GA (24.4%); locations yet to be determined (24.2%); Pascagoula, MS (23.1%); Los Angeles, CA (17.3%); York, PN (9.3%); and Brampton, Canada (1.7%), and is expected to be complete by March 2014. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-10-C-2229). See also Northrop Grumman release.

March 30/10: GAO. The US GAO audit office delivers its 8th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. With respect to LHA-R, it says:

“The LHA 6 began construction in December 2008 with mature technologies, but [only 65%]… of its design complete… Approximately 45 percent of the LHA 6 design is based on the LHD 8. The Navy conducted two production readiness reviews to assess the shipbuilder’s readiness to commence full construction. In addition, as of September 2009, the program office had conducted unit readiness reviews for 141 of the ship’s 216 assembly units. The LHA 6 is likely to experience further cost growth because postdelivery rework of the ship’s deck may be necessary to cope with the intense, hot downwash of the Joint Strike Fighter… The Navy is planning to conduct aircraft tests on the LHD 1 during the fall of 2010, and will then determine whether the LHA 6 [and other ships that will operate it] need to modify their flight decks. The program office does not expect the Navy to finalize a solution for the LHA 6 prior to ship delivery…”

March 22/10: Gannett’s Navy Times:

“More than two years before the amphibious assault ship America enters the fleet, Marine officials have already drawn up early plans for a version of the ship that includes a major component America is missing – a well deck. The “LHA 8 concept,” as it was called in a presentation Monday by Marine Corps Combat Development Command, would combine new aviation features the Marines want in the America class with a traditional big-deck capacity for landing craft and green gear… the Navy’s most recent shipbuilding program includes no plans for such a ship… Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said it would be prohibitively expensive to alter the designs for America or the follow-on LHA 7, so they’ll be built as planned.”

FY 2008 – 2009

LHA 6 keel laid; America Class. RIM-116 RAM Launch

Aug 28/09: Well deck rethink? Information Dissemination reports that the Marines may be rethinking the removal of this class’ well decks:

“When the Marines decided to remove the well deck on the LHA (R) for USS America (LHA 6), it was a decision to move towards specialization. No surprise then that this year the Marines testified in front of Congress that the well deck will be added to future LHA (R)s as soon as possible, because just the removal of the well deck turned the LHA (R) into too much of a specialization for the Marines to overcome shortcomings in necessary sealift throughput.”

July 17/09: LHA 6 keel laid. Northrop Grumman Corporation holds the keel authentication ceremony for LHA 6 at the company’s Pascagoula facility.

Per Navy and maritime tradition, ship sponsor Lynne Pace had her initials welded onto a ceremonial steel plate noting the ship’s keel had been “truly and fairly laid.” Ms. Pace is the wife of retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, the first US Marine to Chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff. NGC release.

Oct 20/08: LM2500. GE’s LM2500+ gas turbines will power the USS America, which surprises no-one. The same engine was used on LHD-8, and its use in LHA 6 was expected from the outset. Northrop Grumman’s formal selection merely makes it official.

The LHA 6 ship’s mechanical-electric propulsion system will consist of 2 LM2500+ gas turbines, each rated at 35,290 shaft horsepower at U.S. Navy standard day conditions (100 degrees F), and a pair of 5,000 hp auxiliary propulsion motors. The hybrid propulsion system enables the ship’s propellers to be driven either by the gas turbines or by the electric motors, which are powered from the ship service electrical system. This allows the ship to operate in a more fuel efficient mode throughout its speed range, and also gives it more electrical capacity to power sensors and onboard equipment. MarineLog.

June 27/08: America Class. US Navy Secretary Donald Winter announces that LHA 6 would be named USS America when it is brought into service, a move that also names the ship class.

The new America would be the 4th ship in US Navy service to bear the name; the last such ship was CV 66, the Kitty Hawk Class aircraft carrier commissioned in 1965, decommissioned in 1996, and sunk as an 2005 experiment using explosives, torpedoes and naval gunfire. US Navy | Gannett’s Navy Times.

Class named

March 20/08: LHA 6. Northrop Grumman’s Sperry Marine business unit has been selected to supply the Machinery Control System (MCS) for LHA 6, under a contract valued at approximately $47.6 million. The contract work includes hardware, software, design, engineering, logistics, training, testing and shipboard integration support. It also includes an option for continuing logistics support of the MCS and its land-based test facility through the end of the LHA 6 ship guaranty period. The work will be performed at Northrop Grumman’s Sperry Marine facility in Charlottesville, VA and at the Pascagoula shipyard.

The MCS for LHA 6 will be a completely integrated network for monitoring and controlling the ship’s main propulsion plant and auxiliary systems, and will include more than 50 data acquisition units located around the ship, 25 operating consoles, 10 electric plant and propulsion plant controllers, and multiple redundant local-area network switches. It is based on a similar system being supplied by Sperry Marine for Makin Island [LHD 8], which has the same gas turbine propulsion plant, zonal electrical distribution and electric auxiliary systems. NGC release.

Jan 30/08: SSDS. Raytheon Co. Integrated Defense Systems in San Diego, CA received a $17.3 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-5105) for FY 2008 production of 4 “Ship Self Defense System (SSDS) MK 2 Tactical Ship Sets. SSDS will form the core of the ships’ self-defense capabilities, tying together, coordinating, and even automating the sensors, weapons, and decisions involved from detection, to engagement, to kill against anti-ship missiles etc. Raytheon will also conduct a special study to define engineering changes to the SSDS MK 2 product baseline in support of the LHA 6 Combat System configuration.

Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI, and is expected to be complete by Oct. 2009. This contract was not competitively procured.

FY 2007 and Earlier

LHA 6 initial milestones. F-35B vertical landing
(click to view full)

June 1/07: LHA 6 order. A $2.4 billion fixed-price incentive modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-2221) for the detail design and construction of the LHA 6 Amphibious Assault Ship. The LHA 6 LHA-R Class will replace the LHA 1 Tarawa. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, MS (95%) and New Orleans, LA (5%), and is expected to be complete by August 2012.

Philip Teel, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman’s Ship Systems sector, is quoted in Northrop Grumman’s release:

“This contract award reinforces the U.S. Navy’s confidence that we have recovered from the effects of Hurricane Katrina and are capable of meeting the warfighters’ needs in a timely and cost effective manner.”


June 15/06: LHA 6 lead-in. A $20.4 million modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-2221) to exercise a cost-plus-fixed-fee option for special studies and procurement of additional long lead-time material, in support of LHA 6 ship construction. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, MS and is expected to be complete by December 2006.

Feb 13/06: A $93.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification under a previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-2221) exercises options to initiate engineering and detail design for the LHA-R Flight 0 Amphibious Assault Ship, and procure additional long lead time material in support of ship construction. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, MS and is expected to be complete by December 2006.

July 15/05: LHA 6 lead-in. A $109.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for advanced planning, long lead time materials, systems engineering, and special studies for the first LHA-R Flight 0 Amphibious Assault Ship. Work on this contract will be performed at t Work is expected to be complete by December 2006. The contract was awarded on a sole-source basis (N00024-05-C-2221). The total contract value, if all options are exercised, will be $264 million.

Aug 6/04: LHA 6 lead-in. FY 2005 Defense Appropriations Act includes $150 million for Advance Procurement related to LHA-R Flight 0

Aug 5/04: LHA-R CDD formally entered into JCIDS review process

June 17/04: Feasibility Design completed; results briefed to ASN (RD&A)

April 30/04: Required Capabilities Letter for LHA(R) Flight 0 issued by ASN (RD&A), CNO and CMC

Jan 23/04: ASN (RD&A) formally asks for additional cost vs. capability studies

September 2002: Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Report re: possible range of ship designs completed

July 20/01: MS A Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM)

March 5/01: Mission Need Statement (MNS)

Nov 20/2000: NAVSEA’s PMS377 designated as LHA-R Program Managers


fn1. Spot factor figures, MV-22 maintenance, and fuel capabilities given in US PEO-Ships briefing presentation to the NDIA. [return to article]

Additional Readings Background: The America Class

Background: Ship Ancillaries

Background: Aircraft

News & Views

Categories: News

Boeing May Have V-22 Export Customer | USS Constitution Bicentennial Upshot: First U.S. Frigates Were Smart Procurement

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 00:02

  • Boeing told National Defense Magazine that they may have their first V-22 export client shortly; this coming just a day after reports of South Korea kicking the Osprey’s tires.

  • The Air Force appears to have conceded that it is unlikely to kill off the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office, as it has tried to do over the past few years. It slated $6.5 million (a third of what was apportioned by Congress for 2015) to ORS. The office, responsible for spotting new needs and figuring out how to acquire assets to serve them, has been threatened with absorption into the glacially-paced Space and Missile Systems Center.

  • The Government Accountability Office wrote a 55-page report (PDF) on its study that found that the Department of Defense should streamline its decision-making processes.

  • The Navy is celebrating the USS Constitution’s victories over King George III’s England, this being the 200th anniversary of the sea battles that saw the nascent U.S. Navy finally secure a victory. The Constitution, a 44-gun rated frigate that usually bore a complement of 54 guns, is the world’s oldest commissioned warship still afloat (and a great tour if one is ever visiting Boston). In honor of the 200th anniversary of the victories over the HMS Cyane and the HMS Levant, DID presents a budget comparison. It cost about $114,000 to build “Old Ironsides,” which was launched in 1797, and was an active warship for almost 100 years. Her last armed mission was to patrol for slavers off the West African coast in 1855. On a gross domestic product basis of comparison, factoring for inflation, the Constitution cost a mere 0.03 percent of the country’s GDP. Capital ship purchases today generally cost closer to 0.08 percent of GDP, and they would be very fortunate to last half of a century.

  • Orbital ATK will produce new parts for the AAR-47 missile warning system under a $30 million contract. The AAR-47 has been fielded for the past 28 years.


  • F-35Bs will begin raised ramp takeoff testing this week, emulating the “ski jump” structures that are featured on several allied aircraft carriers. The ramps placed at the end of the carrier runways allow for shorter take-offs, but at the expense of payload capacity, as the sudden loft is apt to break the fighter under a full load. Italy and the U.K. both have carriers with ski jumps.


  • India will attempt to accelerate its domestic aircraft carrier shipbuilding plans in light of the imminent retirement of the Viraat (formerly the U.K.’s Hermes). A new carrier built in India will be called the Vishal, a common Indian name extending back to the emperor of the Mahabharata era and founder of the city of Vishalapura. Propulsion systems, aircraft and other major design considerations are still in study phases. The first domestically built carrier, the Vikrant, will likely not reach operational capacity until 2018, a couple years after the loss of the Viraat.

  • An analysis conducted by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies gives a range of likely North Korean nuclear advances the world can anticipate between now and 2020. The mid-case scenario indicates dozens of nuclear weapons of both plutonium and uranium cores with megaton ranges of 15-20. The Institute is also skeptical of the common belief that North Korea has been unable to make a weapon small enough to fit on a ballistic missile.

Middle East / Africa

  • Iraq is purchasing Husky 2G route clearance vehicles from South Africa’s DCD Protected Mobility.

  • Iran says it has managed to upgrade radars on some of its Shah-era F-14s, presumably to better see the highway to the danger zone.

Today’s Video

  • The battle that made the USS Constitution beloved (and thereby saved it from being scrapped multiple times) happened 200 years ago. Here is the ship firing one of its 24-pounder canons this past September…
Categories: News

Australia’s Troubled E-7A “Wedgetail” AWACS Program

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 00:01
E-7A Wedgetail
over New South Wales
(click to view full)

The island continent of Australia faces a number of unique security challenges that stem from its geography. The continent may be separated from its neighbors by large expanses of ocean, but it also resides within a potential arc of instability, and has a number of important offshore resource sites to protect. Full awareness of what is going on around them, and the ability to push that awareness well offshore, are critical security requirements.

“Project Wedgetail” had 3 finalists, and the winner was a new variant of Boeing’s 737-700, fitted with an MESA (multirole electronically scanned array) radar from Northrop Grumman. That radar exchanges the traditional AWACS rotating dome for the E-7A’s “top hat” stationary antenna. That design, and the project as a whole, have run into severe turbulence, creating problems for Boeing earnings, the ADF, and other export orders for the type. DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This one covers contracts, events, and key milestones within Australia’s E-7A program, from inception to the current day.

Project Wedgetail: Program and Participants The Competition E-7A Cutaway
(click to view full)

In 1997 Australia’s AIR 5077 Project aimed to field a next generation aircraft that could monitor the airspace and even the waters around Australia. They named their AWACS project “Wedgetail,” in honor of their native eagle.

Rather than picking the larger E-767, as the Japanese had done, they wanted to be able to buy a larger number of smaller and less expensive aircraft within their allotted budget. A set of small Initial Design Activity contracts were issued to 3 shortlisted firms in 1997, followed by bid submissions in early 1999 and selection of a preferred bidder.

MESA radar

In 2000, a Boeing/Northrop Grumman team beat 2 competing offers.

Raytheon’s offer involved the Israeli Elta Phalcon stationary active-array radar, mounted on an Airbus A310 widebody airframe. The Phalcon system is currently mounted on Israel and Singapore’s Gulfstream G550 jets, Chilean 707s, and India’s Russian-built IL-76s.

Lockheed Martin’s offer involved C-130J-30s fitted with rotating radomes derived from the E-2C Hawkeye carrier-launched AWACS. The C-130J-30 is used by the ADF as a transport aircraft, and the E-2C is in wide use by the USA, Egypt, France, Mexico, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Boeing’s 737-700 offered Australia a very successful, in-production commercial aircraft that could maintain consistent high-subsonic speeds. That gave it a coverage advantage over the C-130J, but not the A310. Its accompanying Northrop Grumman MESA radar was seen as the newest technology choice, however, which could deliver the best performance if it lived up to its claims. That seems to have given the 737 an edge over Raytheon’s Airbus offer – but it also led to a lot of problems with a developmental radar that wasn’t truly ready.

Program & Industrial Team KC-135 & E-7
(click to view full)

The initial contract wasn’t signed until December 2000, and the price quoted at the time was A$ 3 billion. DoD releases issued after Australia exercised 2 of its options for additional planes have used a figure of A$ 3.45 billion. ANAO’s 2012-13 report places the figure at A$ 3.83 billion, including factors like monetary inflation and currency exchange.

The real turbulence began in 2006, when a project that was held up as a model of acquisition reform, and reported as on time and on budget, suddenly “found” itself way behind schedule and over cost. This has led to widespread unhappiness in Australia.

The first 2 E-7A aircraft were supposed to be delivered in November 2006, and enter service in 2007. Full Operational Capability was originally scheduled for December 2008. Bottom line? Australia’s E-7As will be about 5 years behind schedule. Initial aircraft were delivered without key electronics, and began limited service and training over Australia at the end of 2009. The 1st aircraft in a ‘final’ configuration, which would still fall short in high-end war fighting scenarios, eventually arrived in May 2012. Initial Operational Capability and final acceptance actually began in November 2012, and Final Operational Capability isn’t expected until June 2015.

Boeing was also unhappy, as the A$ 3.45 billion contracts were structured in a way that shifted risk to the contractor. That has forced the firm to take hundreds of millions of dollars in write-offs. A 1999 Boeing release set out team responsibilities:

  • Boeing (737-700, systems integrator)
  • Boeing Australia (systems engineering and airplane modification support, product support, ground support segments)
  • Northrop Grumman (MESA 360-degree steerable beam radar).
  • BAE Australia (ESM signal detection, electronic warfare self-protection subsystem, operational mission simulator and mission support segment, AEW&C support facility)
  • Qantas Airlines (maintenance support)

Contracts & Key Events 2015

Feb 25/15: Real-world results.An RAAF officer spoke to media about the two real-world taskings the Wedgetail pulled: the marshaling of disparate aircraft in the search for Malaysia Airlines MH370 and in recent operations against ISIS. Wing Commander Paul Carpenter said the reliability rate was 90 percent or higher. He also said that since the platform is based on the Boeing 737, when it operated away from Australia, it benefited from high availability of the 737 support chain.


Support contract gets 5-year extension. Flares test
(click to view full)

March 17/14: Support. A 5-year, A$ 901 million support contract extension (q.v. July 29/13) to Boeing Defence Australia will help No.2 Sqn in Williamtown with program management, supply-chain management, engineering, and maintenance services until at least 2019. Deeper E-7A aircraft maintenance support and training services will also continue under this deal, but only to 2016. Australia’s DoD intends to open them up to competition after that, and Boeing will have to win again to keep that work.

The extension features 48% Australian content: A$ 433 million is being spent in Australia, including A$ 275 million in Newcastle, A$ 80 million Brisbane and Ipswich and $78 million in Adelaide.

The contract’s scope covers all 6 E-7A Wedgetail aircraft, a full flight simulator, an operational mission simulator, a software development and test laboratory, and maintenance facilities. The contract could be extended via annual extensions based on performance metrics, and Boeing’s key contract partners remain BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman. Sources: DoD, “Minister applauds $901 million Wedgetail sustainment contract” | Boeing Australia, “Boeing Signs Contract to Continue Support for Australia’s Wedgetail Program”.

2011 – 2013

All E-7s delivered, planes are flying in exercises; IOC reached, but not Full Operational Capability; Changes in Boeing’s relationship with Australia’s DMO; Boeing Australia takes over support; ANAO report. COPE NORTH 2012
(click to view full)

Dec 17/13: ANAO Report. Australia’s National Audit Office releases their 2012-13 Major Projects Report. AIR 5077 Phase 3 Wedgetail is one of the projects whose completion has slipped the most in the last year, adding a 20 month delay to make Final Operational Capability 78 months (6.5 years) late, in June 2015. That helped contribute to an A$ 91.4 million underspend in the past year. The program has spent A$ 3,452.5 million of A$ 3,843.7 budgeted, but it also has been adversely affected by inflation (A$ 1,111.1 million) and exchange variation (A$ 108.8 million) over that period. While Wedgetail was removed from the Projects of Concern list at Materiel Release 3 / Initial Operational Capability in November 2012:

“The performance shortfalls and technical difficulties are adversely affecting the transition into operational service and sustainment…. due to problems with sub?system integration, hardware availability, radar and electronic support measures maturity and aircraft modification.”

Final acceptance of the Mission Support Segment, Operational Mission Simulator, and Airborne Early Warning and Control Support Facility took place in December 2012, but Final Materiel Release has been delayed until December 2014, when Boeing is scheduled to finish remediation work.

Ongoing work with Boeing and Northrop Grumman has helped change minds at Australia’s DMO, and they now believe that they will fix almost all of the performance shortfalls through the settlement with Boeing. Radar performance in the clear has been “substantially remediated,” performance in clutter expected to see “substantial improvement” by December 2013, and a number of shortfalls in Electronic Support Measures (ESM), Electronic Warfare Self Protection (EWSP), communications datalinks/ data forwarding, and residual integrated system performance are getting better. Work also continues on system stability.

July 29/13: Support. Boeing Defence Australia Australian industry receives A$ 140 million to take on the E-7A Wedgetail support contract from Boeing USA (q.v. Jan 19/10). They’ll provide engineering, maintenance, spare parts and training support to Number 2 Squadron at RAAF Williamtown NSW, until the contract ends in 2015. Australian DMO | Australian DoD | Boeing.

Support passes to Boeing Australia

Dec 19/12: ANAO Report. The ANAO releases their 2010-2011 Major Projects Report. With respect to the E-7 program, ANAO says that successive software builds delivered to Australia’s fleet have improved integrated system performance. Unfortunately, other issues remain:

“….a radar remediation program was established. This program includes a radar collaborative research and development program. A contract for the collaborative program was signed on 21 June 2010. The program has been very successful and consequently the period of performance has been extended to the end of 2012. Radar performance in the clear has been recovered to very close to specification and substantial improvement in performance in clutter is anticipated by mid 2013. Further technical challenges in the development of the Communications, ESM, Electronic Warfare Self Protection (EWSP) and ground support systems are still being encountered…”

Dec 12/12: No concern. The Australian government officially removes the Wedgetail program from DoD’s “Projects of Concern” list. Australia DoD.

Off “Projects of Concern” list

Nov 19/12: IOC. Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare announces that the Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) Wedgetail aircraft has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC). For Australia, IOC is the minimum standard required to operate the fleet, including the readiness of a platform’s support infrastructure. Since 2011, the E-7A fleet has participated in Exercise Bersama Lima in Malaysia, Exercise Cope North Guam, Exercise Bersama Shield, the Red Flag multinational meet in Alaska, and most recently Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012.

The announcement also marks final acceptance. ANAO attributes the delays in aircraft final acceptance to delays in completing the large volume of formal documentation required. Australia’s DoD has no word on when to expect Full Operational Capability. Australia DoD.

May 31/12: Final delivery. The Australian government announces that Boeing has delivered the 6th and final E-7A Wedgetail aircraft, which is now based with the rest of No. 2 Squadron at RAAFB Williamtown.

This is the very 1st E-7 delivered to Australia in ‘final’ configuration. There has, as yet, been no announcement regarding acceptance of the “final” configuration Wedgetail. In response to queries, Australia’s DoD said that Initial Operating Capability is expected by the end of 2012, adding that “Boeing plans to offer all six aircraft for final acceptance in the third quarter of 2012.”

Deliveries end

May 10/12: Exercise. Australia completes Exercise Bersama Shield 2012 with Malaysia, which included RAAF E-7A Wedgetail, AP-3C Orion, B300 King Air and F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, along with the frigate HMAS Ballarat and submarine HMAS Collins.

Feb 14/12: Exercise. Australia deploys 6 of its F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters, and 1 E-7A Wedgetail plane, and 3000 RAAF personnel to Guam for exercise COPE NORTH 2012. They will join the USAF’s B-52 bombers, F-15Cs, F-16s, F-16CJs and KC-135, and Japan’s F-15Js, F-2s and E-2Cs. More than 1,000 military personnel from around the world are expected to participate.

It’s the Wedgetail’s 2nd foreign deployment, but the plane is still operating in the very limited initial configuration.

Dec 20/11: ANAO Major Projects Report. The report lists the aircraft’s current schedule, and adds that:

“The Wedgetail test aircraft participated in the Canadian exercise, Trident Fury, during May 2011. The flights showed varying success, with some radar fixes flown showing excellent results. However, there were still issues with system stability, consistency and repeatability which undermined overall mission system utility. Electronic Support Measures (ESM) remains the most significant concern and schedule risk. Reliability, maintainability and supportability are the key ESM issues that have been highlighted during recent testing. The resolution of these ESM issues will be a primary driver of Final Acceptance.”

ESM systems are used to detect radar and other emitters, and backtrack them to their location. The report also says that “some radar deficiencies will remain at final delivery.”

December 2011: E-7 Increment 2. Upgrades are done on all 4 initial E-7A aircraft, bringing them to the 2nd increment of their initial configuration. Source: ANAO.

Nov 1/11: Exercise. An E-7A Wedgetail participates in the type’s 1st foreign deployment, at the Bersama Lima 2011 exercises with Malaysia. The RAAF shares the RAAFB Butterworth base in Malaysia with the RMAF, as part of a regional defense accord.

An Australian E-7A had participated in RIMPAC 2010, but Australia’s DoD confirms that the Hawaiian exercise was conducted by Boeing crew and maintainers, as part of the development program. Australia DoD.

July 2011: Manage Different. The Australian DMO’s bulletin magazine [PDF] covers the changed relationship between the DMO and Boeing, within the Wedgetail project. In early 2010, DMO/RRAF staff worked separately from Boeing, with security doors preventing access. DMO Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Rebecca Sharp:

“It was a real case of us versus them and these attitudes were deep seated,” she said. “The DMO staff felt as if the contractor was just in it for the money while the Boeing staff felt as though they were being used.”

Changes began amidst the program’s difficulties, beginning with co-locating in the same building, followed by joint mapping of business processes and value streams (Engineering, Operations, Maintenance, Supply Chain, HR/Training), and the application of LEAN business principles. The contract itself has reversed to outsource all Systems Project Office functions to Boeing, unless the fixed-fee contract explicitly says that they belong to the DMO or RAAF.

These changes have led to others. A co-located finance team shares project financial data for the 1st time in the DMO’s history. A common AEWCSPO Storyboard displays metrics related to cost, downtime, and capabilities. A Joint Integration Group (JIG) of representatives from Boeing, DMO, and the RAAF, meets on a weekly basis to share problems, ideas and issues. The JIG can also make operational decisions, instead of directing everything up to management level and creating endless delays. Similar groups exist higher up the food chain, but the JIG allows them to focus on strategy and future planning. The DMO says that these measures are saving money as well as time, while creating fundamental changes in the parties’ relationships.

Jan 28/11: Boeing losses. Flight International reports that Boeing’s Q4 and year-end 2010 earnings statement includes a new charge against earnings for its E-7A program, valued at $136 million. It covers “additional software development and testing required for acceptance of the Wedgetail aircraft” as well as “resolution of issues associated with the test program” for the Turkish air force’s similar “Peace Eagle” 737 AEW&C program.

It’s not clear whether these revelations mean more delays in store. Boeing release [PDF] | Conference Call | Flight International.

2009 – 2010

5-year support contract; FAA certification; Interoperability proven with ScanEagle UAVs; Still lots of issues, and Australia’s initial acceptance of 2 E-7s is conditional. (click to view full)

May 5/10: Acceptance. The first 2 Wedgetail aircraft are formally accepted by Minister for Defence Material and Science Greg Combet, during a ceremony at RAAF Base Williamtown in Newcastle, Australia. The RAAF will now work with Boeing to train personnel in operating the aircraft over the next 12 months. Combet acknowledges that the program will remain on Australia’s “projects of concern” list, noting performance shortcomings in his speech:

“In particular, I look forward to the delivery of the Electronic Support Measures and Electronic Warfare Self Protection Subsystems and improvements in both radar performance and integrated system performance over time… the MESA radar will be subject to a collaborative research and development program to examine potential improvements. This could provide real improvements in the radar and develop the radar expertise of Australian industry. As part of this, the Government is pleased to see the work being done to provide CEA Technologies, an innovative Australian Radar company, with opportunities to play a major role in supporting the Radar Subsystem in service.”

See: Australian DoD | Transcript of acceptance speech | The Australian | Sydney Morning Herald.

Acceptance – with reservations

Feb 2/10: Support. Thales Australia announces a 5-year agreement with Boeing Defence Australia to provide through-life maintenance and engineering support for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Wedgetail program’s Operational Flight Trainer (OFT). Price was not disclosed.

Developed by Thales in Australia and the UK, the Wedgetail OFT offers flight performance, air-to-air refuelling, flight deck and pilot tactical training capabilities. It’s customized to reflect unique characteristics of the Wedgetail AEW&C system, including controls for the communication, aerial refueling, and Electronic Warfare Self Protection systems. This OFT will be the sole Wedgetail pilot training device for the RAAF. The OFT was awarded the highest level of Australian flight simulator accreditation in June 2008, and allows the RAAF to graduate Wedgetail pilots with 100% of their type conversion training completed on the simulator. The term is called ‘zero flight time pilot training’, which is actually something of a misnomer because they will have a number of flying hours in other aircraft first.

Jan 19/10: Support. Boeing signs a 5-year, USD $600 million (A$ 800 million) In-Service Support contract from Australia’s Defence Materiel Organisation, for Project Wedgetail’s 6 aircraft. Under the performance-based logistics (PBL) contract, Boeing will provide acquisition, program management, integration and engineering services, with specified rewards for meeting or exceeding contract benchmarks.

Boeing Defence Australia will support the program with engineering, maintenance and training services and supply chain management. Subcontractor Northrop Grumman will support the aircrafts’ Multirole Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar. Boeing claims that the contract is expected to create more than 100 jobs in Newcastle, Australia, while providing continued and new employment for more than 100 personnel in Queensland, Australia. Boeing release | Australian DoD ceremony transcript and release.

5-year support contract

Airworthiness test
(click to view full)

Dec 14/09: Testing. As part of planned tests for Australia’s Project Vigilare NC3S (Network Centric Command and Control System) the system completes its first data transmission with an RAAF Wedgetail aircraft. The Vigilare system installed at the RAAF’s Northern Regional Operations Centre in Northern Territory, Australia, successfully sent Link 16 transmissions to an airborne Wedgetail aircraft performing training missions over Australia’s east coast. Other platforms planned for this network include Australia’s F/A-18 Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, its future P-8A Poseidon sea control aircraft, and its future Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers.

Developed by Boeing Defence Australia, Project Vigilare NC3S will combine data from land, sea, air and space platforms, sensors and data links, in order to help the ADF provide tactical and strategic surveillance across wide geographic regions, and perform battlespace-management operations as needed. Boeing release.

Nov 26/09: Delivery. Delivery of the first 2 Wedgetail aircraft to RAAFB Williamstown, in Australia, follows a commercial settlement with Boeing. As a result of this agreement, Boeing is making these 2 aircraft available to the RAAF for familiarization training, while it continues to work on the program. Australian Aviation writes that:

“The initial delivery denotes that the aircraft have been provided by Boeing to the RAAF for training purposes, but will not be formally handed over to their new owner until March 2010. Despite wearing their ADF serial numbers – A30-001 and A30-004 – the aircraft will remain on Boeing’s books and the US civil register until that time, and Boeing must provide a pilot in command and a flight test engineer on all RAAF training flights until the official handover.”

The aircraft also lack key electronics, but can be used along with the Williamstown AEW&C Support Centre’s Wedgetail Operational Flight Trainer, Operational Mission Simulator, and Mission Support System, in order to allow the RAAF to begin familiarization training for flight, mission and maintenance crews. Australian DoD | Boeing | The Australian | Newcastle Herald | News Australia | Australian Aviation | Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Nov 9/09: Testing. Boeing confirms that it successfully completed tests of the Counter Measures Dispenser System (CMDS) for Project Wedgetail in September and October 2009. Tests were held off the Washington coast and over Puget Sound, over 19 flights that dispensed more than 500 units of chaff and flares.

Testing of BAE Systems’ CMDS system is just one step toward verification of the Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft’s overall Electronic Warfare Self-Protection (EWSP) capability, which will include LAIRCM defensive systems as well as chaff. See also Aviation Week.

Nov 6/09: Update. Australian Defence Magazine reports that late December 2009, Wedgetail aircraft will begin service over Australia in a training and domestic surveillance role. They will be limited to those uses, because the first 2 E-7As will not have operational electronic counter-measures systems that would allow their use in conflict zones. A total of 5 aircraft have received the basic Wedgetail conversion at this time, and the other 4 fully-equipped aircraft (plus 2 initial deliveries, for 6 total) are expected by the end of 2010. The report adds that:

“One of the final approval tests with the aircraft is expected in Seattle in early November [2009] when ECM tests firing flare and chaff are completed… We understand negotiations about the status and capability of the Wedgetail aircraft, and particularly the performance of their Northrop Grumman MESA radar have been underway for some time between Boeing, Northrop Grumman and the Defence Department.”

July 13/09: Radar issues. The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Air Vice Marshal Chris Deeble, who says that the first 2 Wedgetails are on target for delivery by Nov 30/09, and are now ready to be used for training and initial operations. He also says, however, that ironing out key issues with the plane’s radar could take a couple more years, and the report details those issues:

“The key remaining radar problems relate to its clutter performance – the ability to detect targets such as low-flying aircraft against a ground or water backdrop in certain circumstances – side lobes – extraneous radar signals which could create false images – and stability, where some combinations of operator commands cause mission computers to halt temporarily or even lock up.”

Boeing is scheduled to deliver 4 Wedgetails in full configuration between March and September 2010, after which the first 2 aircraft will also be upgraded to full specification. Depending on how quickly the radar and software issues sort themselves out, further upgrades may become necessary.

May 19/09: Testing. The Australian reports that the Wedgetail project has performed well in a series of tests and technical reviews:

“Senior defence and industry sources say the Wedgetail, a modified Boeing 737-700 aircraft with a specially developed phased array radar, performed well in flight tests over the Northern Territory a fortnight ago.

Ten days ago, a Wedgetail aircraft flying out of Canberra with senior defence officials on board also performed satisfactorily, with its radar detecting RAAF F/A-18 fighters from Williamtown air base, near Newcastle.

The aerial trials of the high-tech airborne air defence system followed a lengthy series of laboratory tests earlier this year on the performance of the Wedgetail’s radar by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory.

The Lincoln Laboratory assessment found there were no fundamental performance problems with the state-of-the art phased array radar that would place the Wedgetail project in jeopardy.”

May 19/09: Certification. The RAAF’s Wedgetail aircraft receive US FAA supplemental type certification. The certification is supplemental because it’s an amendment to the existing civil certification for the 737-700IGW (increased gross weight). International certifications are required in order to fly in civil airspace. The Australian | Aviation Week.

FAA certification

March 16/09: Testing. Boeing’s two-fer. Australia’s Project JP129 failure has created an opening for Boeing’s ScanEagle UAV, but its flagship “Wedgetail” E-7A AWACS faces questions. Boeing responded by linking 2 birds with one datalink: a live demonstration in which a not-yet-delivered Wedgetail aircraft flying over Washington State, USA, controlled and received sensor data from 3 ScanEagle UAVs.

The 3 ScanEagles were launched from Boeing’s Boardman Test Facility in eastern Oregon, approximately 120 miles/ 190 km away from the airborne Wedgetail. Using the company’s UAS battle-management software, airborne operators issued NATO-standard sensor and air-vehicle commands via a UHF satellite communication link and ground-station relay. Operators tasked the UAVs with area search, reconnaissance, point surveillance and targeting, while the UAVs sent back real-time video imagery of ground targets.

Boeing will conduct a follow-on demonstration for the Australian government in early May 2009 at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales. A Wedgetail will take control of ScanEagles operated by Boeing Defence Australia personnel at Woomera Test Facility in South Australia, approximately 1,080 miles/ 1,730 km from Williamtown.

Feb 27/09: Training. Australia’s Project Wedgetail AEW&C program accepts an operational flight trainer (OFT) from Boeing, as the first segment of the Wedgetail program to be delivered to Australia. The simulator was installed at the Wedgetail AEW&C Support Center at RAAF base Williamtown.

The motion-based flight simulator was designed, built and installed by Thales, and managed under a subcontract by Boeing Defence Australia. The OFT is customized to account for the Australian aircrafts’ unique characteristics, including controls for the communication, aerial-refueling and Electronic Warfare Self Protection systems. Prior to delivery, the OFT passed a series of certification tests and was awarded the highest “zero flight time status” accreditation, allowing experienced pilots to train using an accredited simulator instead of an actual aircraft.

RAAF pilots have used the OFT since October 2007, in order to familiarize themselves with the Wedgetail AEW&C flight deck and to develop training scenarios. It will now be used for full pilot training. Boeing.

Feb 25/09: Update. Aviation Week reports comments by that Wedgetail project manager Air Vice Marshal Chris Deeble to an Australian parliamentary committee. While the initial jet is scheduled for delivery in November 2009 with limited performance, Australia expects the other 5 jets to be delivered to the full specification:

“We have made no concessions to Boeing… Neither have they sought any concessions to a reduction in the performance.” But he adds that not all program risks have been mitigated.”

Feb 13/09: Testing. The Australian publishes a follow-on story, which covers the MIT Lincoln Lab’s testing of the E-7A’s MESA radar:

“The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory is undertaking the review, assisted by a small team from Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation… Senior defence sources say the problems with the radar go beyond simple target identification and software integration issues to the basic performance and geometry of the system, which sits on top of the 737’s fuselage.

The Lincoln Laboratory assessment is due to be completed by the end of March and will be followed by flight testing over northern Australia in May… Subject to further tests later this year, Boeing expects to deliver an initial 737 aircraft to the RAAF for training tasks in November with the first two planes achieving full capability by March next year.”

Jan 21-28/09: Testing. Boeing conducts successful functional airworthiness flights of 2 Project Wedgetail 737-700s from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base Amberley.

The flight followed major aircraft modifications performed by Boeing Defence Australia at Amberley, including the installation and checkout of an advanced Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) antenna, ventral fins and mission system equipment.

The two aircraft will be painted with RAAF markings over the next few weeks. Boeing will finish installing mission system equipment on both aircraft, and conduct a series of ground checkouts later in 2009. Boeing release.

Jan 7-10/09: Testing. Boeing and the USAF conduct the first aerial refuelings involving a 737-based aircraft, as part of Project Wedgetail. The fights were conducted at Edwards AFB in California, and involved a USAF KC-10 tanker on Dec 7/08 and a USAF KC-135 on Dec 10/08. Boeing release.

2007 – 2008

Multiple delays announced, as Boeing begins taking substantial write-offs. Wedgetai over Sydney
(click to view full)

Nov 20/08: Delays. Announcements are made that the Wedgetail Project will have its delivery date pushed back yet again, with the first aircraft not expected until late 2009, initial operating capability waiting until 2011, and full operating capability waiting until 2012. Even those dates are not firm, however, as they depend on Boeing’s ability to solve major technical issues.

The Australian quotes Australia’s Defence Procurement Secretary Greg Combet, who said the project was on the government’s “Projects of Concern” watchlist but that there were no plans to cancel it:

“Just last week there was a summit held in Canberra where we discussed how we are going to move things forward. I am pleased to say progress was made in those discussions but there is much more work to be done yet. This probably the project that keeps me awake the most at night.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s Courier News reports that:

“Senior military officers have admitted the prime contractor, US giant Boeing, and its sub-contractors have no idea how to fix the main problem – an unworkable radar system… Air Vice-Marshal Deeble qualified his [2011-2012] timetable by saying it depended on solving the technical issues with the MESA radar built by US firm Northrop Grumman… In a desperate bid for answers, the Defence Materiel Organisation has contracted the world-leading independent radar house MIT Lincoln Lab to investigate. “That will be important for us to understand the baseline performance and any path forward for remediation of any shortfall of the radar,” Air Vice-Marshal Deeble told the Senate.”

Sources. The Age: Nov 20 report || The Australian: Nov 21 report | Nov 24 report || Courier-Mail.

Jan 22/08: Testing. The first Wedgetail aircraft modified by Boeing Australia Ltd (aircraft #3 in the program) takes off on a successful functional check flight to verify the airworthiness of the aircraft’s systems and structures. Boeing Australia release | Boeing release with photo.

June 6/07: Testing. Boeing begins flight testing under Project Wedgetail. During an initial 4-hour flight from Boeing Field in Seattle, WA, the crew conducted a series of functional tests as part of a program to measure the mission system’s impact on the aircraft’s power generation capability and environmental controls, such as the liquid and air cooling systems. Boeing release | Gizmag.

March 20/07: Testing. Boeing announces that communications, navigation, mission computing, radar and electronic warfare self protection subsystems has been completed aboard a 737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft for Australia’s Project Wedgetail. Functional checkout of the AEW&C system with the aircraft is scheduled for the end of April 2007, and FAA certification and qualification testing are scheduled for summer 2007. Boeing’s release promises delivery of the first 2 Wedgetail aircraft in March 2009, and the remaining 4 aircraft by mid-2009.

Boeing conducted tests aboard the aircraft and at its System Integration Lab in Kent, WA, using a variety of simulations. “The tests demonstrated that the systems worked separately and together, and that they were compatible with the aircraft,” said Ross Dessert, Boeing Wedgetail program manager at the time.

Feb 2/07: Delays. The Australian reports that the Wedgetail early-warning aircraft project has been delayed again, pushing back the expected acceptance date to 2009 and contributing to another $US 274 million fourth quarter write-off by Boeing. Initial operation capability is now expected in 2010. The report adds that:

“Most importantly, it has had problems getting the revolutionary phased array radar — a Northrop Grumman system forming the centrepiece of the new planes — to work properly. The problems have already resulted in a $US496 million write-off in Boeing’s second-quarter results last year and prompted a comprehensive review of the program… But it says it has worked with suppliers to move significant resources to the program and is now confident it can meet its revised timetable as well as the RAAF’s operational requirements.”

2005 – 2006

Sudden flip from “everything’s great and on schedule” to “we’re going to be delayed, and we don’t know how badly.” E-7A Wedgetail
(click to view full)

June 29/06: Delays. Australia’s Minister for Defence Dr. Brendan Nelson, announces that the Wedgetail project has fallen behind schedule:

“During our talks, Boeing CEO Jim Albaugh confirmed the Wedgetail project has slipped behind schedule. Until recently, Boeing was advising that this project had been running well and achieving significant success for one of such complexity… The extent of the delay will be determined by intense project reviews over the next two months… The contract between the ADF and Boeing does include a provision for liquidated damages. The government is reserving its contractual rights in this regard.”

June 29/06: Boeing tells its investors that it will recognize charges related to delays on the Project Wedgetail and the similar Turkish “Peace Eagle” project, when it announces second-quarter 2006 results July 26.

“Boeing expects to record a charge of between $300 million and $500 million pre-tax due to delays related to its Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) program for Australia and Turkey… Delivery of the first two Wedgetail aircraft and that effort’s flight test schedule have been delayed up to 18 months because of development and integration issues with certain hardware and software components. Boeing now plans to deliver all six Wedgetail aircraft by the end of 2008 and is developing the Peace Eagle schedule with its Turkish customer.”

March 09/06: Testing. Boeing and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems have completed ground testing of the Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar aboard a 737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft for Australia’s Project Wedgetail, clearing it for flight testing at full power. Boeing also integrated the radar and Identification Friend or Foe system, allowing for simultaneous operation and more efficient targeting and data collection. Jack Delange, 737 AEW&C integration and test manager:

“The testing demonstrated the radar would not interfere with the aircraft’s avionics and engines and is compatible with the mission system hardware and software.”

Boeing’s release adds that: “Australia has purchased six 737 AEW&C aircraft. The first two will be delivered for initial operational capability in July 2007. The remaining aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by 2008.”

Jan 16/06: Testing. Australia’s DoD announces that a Wedgetail aircraft has successfully conducted a ‘world first’ 360 degree scanning with a fixed airborne phased array radar.

Defence Minister Robert Hill says the airborne test of the radar, carried out by the combined Boeing and Defence Materiel Organisation AEW&C project team based in the USA, lasted more than 3 hours and operated trouble-free.

Jan 16/06: First delivery of a 737-700 aircraft to Boeing Australia for modifications, as it arrives at RAAF Amberley. Australian DoD | Space Mart.

Sept 01/05: Boeing announces the first in-flight test of the Northrop Grumman MESA radar aboard a 737 airborne early warning and control aircraft for Australia’s Project Wedgetail. The 6-hour flight test over Washington state followed 3 weeks of ground testing of the radar in Victorville, CA. The ground testing verified the compatibility of the radar with other aircraft systems while operating and scanning through 360 degrees.

The firm is still promising delivery of the first 2 aircraft in 2006. Jack DeLange, 737 AEW&C integration and test manager:

“The mission was flawless… All of the first radar flight test objectives were achieved.”

July 05/05: Testing. Boeing announces successful completion of the air performance and flight handling test program for Australia’s first Wedgetail 737 aircraft.

March 17/05: Boeing and BAE Systems Australia Limited, today signed a world teaming agreement to capture similar business with their 737 AEW&C platform. Boeing release.

March 15/05: A Boeing 737 Wedgetail aircraft lands in Canberra, Australia, as part of Boeing’s participation in the Australian International Airshow at Avalon in Victoria. In the DoD release, Senator Hill says

“In the four years since project signature, it is still on schedule and on budget.”

2003 – 2004

Order for 2 more; Program HQ opened. E-7A Wedgetail
over New South Wales
(click to view full)

Nov 23/04: Boeing announces installation of the MESA radar assembly on a 2nd 737-700 for Australia’s Project Wedgetail. The Northrop Grumman-built MESA antenna is 35.5 feet long and weighs more than 3 tons.

June 3/04: Australia formally commits to the purchase of 2 additional Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft in a special signing ceremony at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley. DoD release:

“The $3.4 billion AEW&C project, which is on budget and ahead of schedule, will equip the RAAF with a fleet of six Wedgetail aircraft and provide a state-of-the-art air and maritime surveillance capability. Four of the six aircraft will be modified in Australia. The first of these is scheduled to arrive at RAAF Amberley late next year, with the final Wedgetail due for completion in early 2008.

Australian industry involvement in Project Wedgetail is already worth more than $A 400 million. Completion of the four aircraft in Australia will increase that Australian industry involvement by $80 million. Strategic industry development activity worth an additional $99 million has also been included with the purchase of the extra two aircraft. “The Wedgetail project will create around 170 new jobs in South East Queensland – most based at Amberley,” Senator Hill said.”

May 21/04: Australia’s DoD announces the first flight of the Royal Australian Air Force’s new “Wedgetail” Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft, at Boeing Field in Seattle in the United States.

May 12/04: Boeing announces that Australia has exercised options to purchase 2 of its 3 optional Project Wedgetail aircraft, raising its total order to 6 fully-equipped planes. The options are valued at approximately $180 million, as the original contract had included 6 AEW&C systems. Boeing’s release adds that:

“Delivery of the first two 737 AEW&C aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force is scheduled for 2006. The other four aircraft will be delivered by 2008.”

1st flight;
2 more E-7As =
6 TL.

March 5/04: Infrastructure. Australia’s DoD:

“Defence Minister Robert Hill today opened the new headquarters for Australia’s $3.27 billion Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) Wedgetail aircraft. The headquarters at Williamtown near Newcastle is also the official new home of Air Force’s re-formed No 2 Squadron, who will fly the AEW&C Wedgetail when it becomes operational.”

The current DoD schedule has the first Wedgetail flight in Seattle in May 2004, and the first 2 aircraft being officially handed over to the RAAF in November 2006. Sen. Hill:

“The headquarters is the first tangible delivery for the project, which has been leading the way for reform in Defence Materiel Organisation projects… In the three years since project signature, it is still ahead of schedule and on budget.

The opening of the headquarters today also marks the beginning of long-term relationship with the Hunter region. It is the first stage of a $149 million redevelopment of the RAAF base, which includes hangars and parking areas for the AEW&C Wedgetail and improvements to the runways and taxiways. The construction program has created about 255 jobs on the base and more indirect jobs related to the prefabrication, supply and distribution of material for the project in the region.”

Nov 03/03: Testing. Australian DoD and Boeing announcements re: successful installation and testing of the power distribution system on the first 737-AEW&C platform, ahead of schedule. The first airworthiness flight of the aircraft is scheduled for spring 2004. Defence Minister Robert Hill:

“Australia’s new AEW&C aircraft remain under budget and on track to entering into service in 2007, providing us with a key air and maritime surveillance capability.”

Oct 21/03: Boeing installs the Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array antenna on the first 737-700 for Project Wedgetail.

May 19/03: Component CDR. The Australian DoD announces a successful critical design review (CDR) for BAE Systems Australia’s Electronic Warfare Self Protection and Electronic Support Measures Subsystems.

2001 – 2002

Project reviews for key technologies that are still in development. Manufacturing line
(click to view full)

Nov 8/02: “Defence Minister Robert Hill today welcomed the completion of the first Radar and Identification Friend or Foe antenna for Australia’s new Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.” DoD release.

Oct 31/02: Boeing photo release:

“The first Australian Wedgetail aircraft was rolled out Oct. 31 during a ceremony at the Boeing plant in Renton, Wash. The 737-700 will be transformed into a platform for an Airborne Early Warning & Control System, or AEW&C. Modifications to the aircraft begin in 2003. Project Wedgetail is named after Australia’s native eagle.”

See also the Australian DoD Nov 1/02 release, which adds that:

“Defence Minister Robert Hill today saw the first airframe for Australia’s new [A$] 3.45 billion airborne early warning and control aircraft fleet – fresh off the production line at Boeing’s Military Flight Centre in Seattle, United States… With the first air frame ready for modification we expect our first Wedgetail aircraft to fly before the end of the year – around six months ahead of schedule – with the first two aircraft of the fleet expected to be in service in 2007,” Senator Hill said.”


July 12/02: Component PDR. Boeing announces a successful preliminary design review for Project Wedgetail’s airborne mission system. The review was conducted on schedule — one year after the start of the System Acquisition contract. It includes a general review of the airborne mission system design against the requirements established by the Commonwealth of Australia. It shows how the radar, communications, mission computing , electronic warfare self protection, navigation, and aircraft subsystems integrate together.

Group Capt. Lindsay Ward, leader of the Australian Defence Resident Project team:

“The airborne mission segment is the most complex and highly integrated single element in the overall AEW&C System we are buying from Boeing. The review therefore represented the culmination of a huge amount of work… Under our partnering approach with the contractor team headed by Boeing, the program has a solid track record of facing up to and resolving issues so that we can keep forging ahead while still meeting required capability outcomes. This review was no exception.”

Boeing’s release adds that it expects to deliver the first two aircraft to the Commonwealth of Australia in 2006.

April 23/02: Component CDR. Boeing announces a successful critical design review (CDR) for Project Wedgetail’s MESA radar and identification friend or foe subsystems.

“The review was completed on schedule and confirmed that the detailed design developed by Boeing S&C teammate Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems is producible, supportable, maintainable and will yield the required performance characteristics… Boeing and Northrop Grumman also examined the interfaces between the design elements of the radar and between the radar subsystem and the other aircraft and mission system elements to make sure the radar/identification, friend or foe (IFF) subsystem will function properly within the entire airborne mission system.”

Nov 26/01: Component PDR. Boeing announces a successful preliminary design review (PDR) for the mission computing subsystem hardware in Project Wedgetail. It included a review of the hardware elements of the mission computing subsystem against the requirements assigned to that hardware. BAE Systems, New York is the Boeing subcontractor providing the mission computing hardware.

The hardware includes the mission computers, the mission system operator consoles and a tactical display in the cockpit. The mission computing subsystem processes and integrates basic data provided by various mission system sensors; analyzes and presents it to the operators as an integrated situation display of the battlespace environment; and provides them with controls of the sensors and communications suite.

Sept 19/01: Component PDR. Boeing announces a successful preliminary design review (PDR) of the radar and identification friend or foe (IFF) systems for Australia’s Project Wedgetail, on schedule and within budget.

The PDR includes a general review of the radar/IFF design against the Wedgetail radar subsystem requirements established by the Commonwealth of Australia. It is the first major design milestone in the development of this system.

2000 and Earlier

From approval, to initial competition, to the initial award for 4 Boeing jets. MESA radar assembly
(click to view full)

Dec 20/2000: Boeing signs a contract with the Commonwealth of Australia for the development and acquisition of Project Wedgetail. The contract is worth A$ 3 billion according to the DoD release (about $2.04 billion). Defence Minister Moore:

“The AEW&C system is a strategically important capability that will make a major contribution to Australia’s air combat capability, significantly multiplying the combat power of the upgraded F/A-18 fleet. The system will improve command and control, and the capacity for air defence of surface ships. It also will enhance Australia’s strike capability.

“Importantly it will also provide support to Coastwatch activities, as it will be capable of covering four million square kilometres during a single 10 hour mission – that’s the equivalent of Darwin to Perth and back again.”

The contract involves 4 of its 737-700 systems, 6 AEW&C systems, and an option for up to 3 more aircraft at set prices. Initial training and support will also be part of the packagem and the in-service date for the first 2 aircraft is set for 2007. Note that in-service dates usually come some months after the delivery date, due to testing etc. Australian DoD | Boeing release.

Team Boeing wins Wedgetail contract

Aug 21/2000: Delays. Australia’s Minister for Defence John Moore announces that the Federal Government had decided to defer consideration of the Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) project to establish whether it fits into the balance of the ADF’s required capabilities in the context of the forthcoming Defence White Paper.

That White Paper is released on Dec 6/2000. It will be out of date in less than a year.

July 21/99: Boeing picked. Boeing announces that its team has been selected as the preferred tenderer for Australia’s Project Wedgetail.

Jan 27/99: A Boeing-led team, including Northrop Grumman, British Aerospace Australia and Boeing Australia Limited, submits its response to a Request for Tender for Australia’s Project Wedgetail. It details the team’s solution to meet the AEW&C requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), including 7 of its 737 AEW&C systems, plus ground support segments for flight and mission crew training, mission support and system modification support.

“Source selection is expected by mid-1999… Australia’s AEW&C acquisition strategy that began a year ago with an Initial Design Activity (IDA) contract. During that period, the Boeing team and Australia worked together to develop an approved functional requirements baseline and then developed detailed subsystem design requirements.”

Boeing’s release also sets out team responsibilities:

  • Boeing (737-700, systems integrator)
  • Boeing Australia (systems engineering and airplane modification support, product support, ground support segments)
  • Northrop Grumman (MESA 360-degree steerable beam radar).
  • BAE Australia (ESM signal detection, electronic warfare self-protect subsystem, operational mission simulator and mission support segment, AEW&C support facility)
  • Qantas Airlines (maintenance support)

Dec 3/97: Australia’s DoD awards 3 Initial Design Activity contracts by the Australian Defence Force for the Project Wedgetail airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) system. The contracts are valued at A$ 8.5 million (about $6.5 million) each:

  • Boeing is offering Northrop Grumman’s MESA active-array radar atop its 737-700 jet.

  • Raytheon Systems Company is offering the Israeli Elta Phalcon radar mounted on an Airbus A310 widebody airframe.

  • Lockheed Martin is offering a mechanically steered UHF radar from Northrop Grumman that was derived from the E-2C Hawkeye, mounted on a C-130J-30 Hercules airframe.

Boeing’s release states that:

“Managing Director of Boeing Australia Limited, David Gray, said that the contract is worth $6.5 million and during the next year, Boeing will work “closely with the ADF on developing a design solution that meet its AEW&C requirements.”… A production contract is expected to be awarded in 1999 and the Royal Australian Air Force plans to enter the AEW&C capability into service in 2002.”

Wedgetail initial design contracts

Dec 2/97: Australian Minister for Defence Ian McLachlan announces government approval for acquisition of an AEW&C capability. The announcement was included in the Minister’s statement on Australia’s new strategic policy.

Australia approves AEW&C program

Feb 19/97: Boeing announces that it is offering its Next-Generation 737-700 aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force as an Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system platform. Australia has named the project “Wedgetail” in honor of its native eagle.

Oct 14/96: Australia’s Minister for Defence, Mr. Ian McLachlan announces the short-list of potential prime contractors: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon E-Systems are selected after evaluation of responses to a world-wide Invitation to Register Interest in the AEW&C Project.

“Although two of the companies, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, have recently announced an intention to team for this project, both have asked to be considered separately until their teaming arrangements have been finalised.”

IRI produces shortlist

Additional Readings The Aircraft

News & Views

Categories: News

NH90s to Be Allowed to Fly Again | South Korea May Shop for V-22s

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 04:01
Middle East / Africa


  • Germany is to allow its problematical NH90s back into the air after the most recent fire incident. It has a protocol solution that involves adding steps to takeoff that would allow a pilot to anticipate imminent flames. A longer-term solution is still in the works.


  • South Korea may be considering buying into the V-22 Osprey program, with consideration being given to the need to protect islands against a foe that tends to pop up in unexpected places.

  • The Australians have started training on the MQ9B in the U.S.

  • India is reportedly close to flight testing its Rustom-2 large UAV.


  • Oshkosh Defense announced a new version of its ambulance variant of its M-ATV. The first ambulance version appeared in 2010.

  • The Navy successfully tested the Trident II D5 ballistic missile, the 155th successful test for the program since 1989.

  • Enstrom Helicopter conducted the first flight of its new trainer the TH180.

  • Northrop Grumman launched a command-and-control-center-in-a-box it calls the Citadel Enterprise Battle Command System that boasts of integrated allied air and air defense information streams.

  • FedBid is apparently off the no-buy list, at least for the U.S. Air Force, now that an administrative agreement has been put in place and FedBid’s founder has been removed from management.

Today’s Video

  • The 2010 Oshkosh M-ATV ambulance version put through its paces…
Categories: News

Oshkosh’s M-ATV

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 00:04
Oshkosh M-ATV
(click to view full)

“The Government plans to acquire an MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). The M-ATV is a lighter, off-road, and more maneuverable vehicle that incorporates current MRAP level [bullet and mine blast] protection. The M-ATV will require effectiveness in an off-road mission profile. The vehicle will include EFP (Explosively Formed Projectile land mine) and RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade panzerfaust) protection (integral or removable kit). The M-ATV will maximize both protection levels and off-road mobility & maneuverability attributes, and must balance the effects of size and weight while attempting to achieve the stated requirements.”
  — US government FedBizOpps, November 2008

Oshkosh Defense’s M-ATV candidate secured a long-denied MRAP win, and the firm continues to remain ahead of production targets. The initial plan expected to spend up to $3.3 billion to order 5,244 M-ATVs for the US Army (2,598), Marine Corps (1,565), Special Operations Command (643), US Air Force (280) and the Navy (65), plus 93 test vehicles. FY 2010 budgets and subsequent purchases have pushed this total even higher, and orders now stand at over 8,800 for the USA, plus another 800 for the UAE.

MRAP ATV: Requirements and Contenders BAE USCS M-ATV
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Monthly delivery rates of up to 1,000 vehicles were part of the solicitation; when combined with requirements around classified data and regulatory compliance, the only reasonable contenders were firms that already produced MRAPs, trucks, or tactical vehicles for American forces: BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Force Protection, Navistar, and Oshkosh.

M-ATV vehicles will hold 4 passengers, including the driver, and a gunner. That seems very similar to the MRAP Category I vehicles, and it is. On the other hand, a WIRED Danger Room story noted:

“As Captain Charles O’Neill, commander of B Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, told me, a few of the MRAPs had “gone into the wadi” – i.e., rolled over – during operations in Helmand. “The MRAP is an outstanding vehicle for force protection,” he said. “It would do great on paved roads. However, here in southern Helmand province, the roads don’t facilitate the MRAP necessarily that well.”

One option has involved refitting existing MRAP vehicles. Over 1,300 of Force Protection’s Cougars will receive Oshkosh TAK-4 independent suspensions, which are already in use on the Marines’ MTVR trucks, in order to improve their all-terrain handling. Other MRAP types are also receiving similar suspension refits from Oshkosh or from Arvin-Meritor.

LRAS3 in Fallujah
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The other response was the M-ATV competition, which aims to field a vehicle with an (empty equipped) curb weight under 25,000 pounds, and the protection and mobility characteristics described above. That’s still considerably heavier than a Hummer; the ubiquitous M1114 maxes out at 12,000 pounds with its add-on armor, and the top of M-ATV’s range is similar to a number of MRAP Category I contenders’ curb weights. Its mission is small unit combat operations in highly restricted, rural, mountainous and/or urban environments.

M-ATVs will be used for mounted patrols, reconnaissance, security, convoy protection, communications, command and control and combat service support. To that end, it will be qualified for fit out with a variety of equipment, from LRAS3 surveillance and targeting systems, to accompanying ROVER IV systems for working with UAV video feeds and TacAir support, to TOW ITAS anti-armor missiles, to CREW frequency jammers as land-mine protection, to Boomerang or Doubleshot anti-sniper systems, to CROWS II remote weapons systems, as required.

M-ATV Contenders BAE GTS M-ATV
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A number of firms competed. Dave Hansen of JPO MRAP says that the initial competition involved about 10 candidates, which was narrowed down during source selection. Some known candidates include:

BAE’s Global Tactical Systems division submitted a model that is based on their Caiman Light MRAP, which in turn is based on the Army’s standard FMTV medium trucks. GTS M-ATV includes a number of changes, most notably a smaller crew compartment and a lengthened “nose” to provide better balance.

BAE U.S. Combat Systems’ M-ATV looked somewhat like its Valanx JLTV entry, but has greater protection levels, with a smaller and more protected crew capsule that was purpose-built to M-ATV requirements. The Arvin-Meritor suspension, the drive train, and the power train are shared with their Valanx, as is the 6 liter V8 engine. The firm has continued Valanx development, and submitted it for the JLTV competition.

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Force Protection teamed with General Dynamics to submit their Cheetah vehicle, which had been in development since 2005. The Cheetah has been evaluated by the US Marines, and had a curb weight of just 14,000 pounds when introduced. Subsequent variants have reportedly passed sponsored Army testing to MRAP I survivability levels, and has undergone initial mobility and durability testing at the Nevada Automotive Test Center. The Cheetah was a new addition for Force Dynamics, which had previously been confined to producing the Cougar vehicles that did so much to spark the MRAP program.

Force Dynamics, LLC added Raytheon to their team, in order to provide a comprehensive command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system (C4ISR) plug-and-play ready architecture for the M-ATV Cheetah, using the C4ISR Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF). It would allow plug-and-play integration of a wide range of Army electronics, while also improving the vehicles’ monitoring capabilities. Cheetah failed to win the M-ATV spot, and was discontinued shortly thereafter. In 2011, Force Protection was bought by General Dynamics Land Systems.

Husky TSV at DVD 2009
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General Dynamics Land Systems attempted to field a variant of the RG-31. This vehicle, offered in partnership with BAE and the Canadian government, had been ordered by American units before the MRAP program began, received additional MRAP orders, and reportedly earned good reviews for its Afghan performance. GDLS initial 2 M-ATV prototypes were not accepted for testing, however leaving General Dynamics with its Force Dynamics partnership as its only M-ATV option. It eventually bought Force Protection in 2011.

Navistar led the original MRAP competition, and submitted an M-ATV design based on the MXT/Husky design that won one of Britain’s OUVS orders for future Tactical Support Vehicles. Their derived M-ATV prototype used a specially-designed, light-weight armor. That advantage is compounded by a smaller base that allows them to weigh significantly less than its MaxxPro Dash MRAP, while using the same MaxxForce D 6.0 liter V8 engine.

Navistar would be able to support its M-ATV units in theater through its existing dealer and parts and support network, which includes locations in Afghanistan. They didn’t win the M-ATV competition, but they have received orders for more of their MaxxPro Dash vehicles since M-ATV began.

MTVR + PS armor
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Oshkosh Defense won, but they had far less success to build on. In the MRAP competition, its PVI partnership entry for MRAP Category I failed testing, while its Bushmaster partnership with Thales for MRAP Category II received no orders, despite a successful record of front line service with Australian and Dutch forces. Its JLTV entry with Northrop Grumman was not among the initial round’s 3 picks, even as BAE participated in 2 of the winning entries, General Dynamics in one, and Navistar in one. A GAO protest failed to change that outcome, despite an attractive price for their entry. It had been a surprising series of setbacks for the firm that produces and supports the US Army’s FHTV heavy truck fleet, and the US Marines’ MTVR medium and LVSR heavy trucks.

Northrop Grumman was not a partner for M-ATV, but Oshkosh did leverage its long-standing relationship with Plasan Sasa of Israel to develop an armoring approach that could meet full MRAP protection levels. Plasan Sasa had up-armored Oshkosh’s MTVR trucks for the Marines, and was also Navistar’s armoring partner for the successful MaxxPro MRAP family.

Oshkosh’s M-ATV and Variants M-ATV Ambulance
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At present, the winning entry is known only as the “Oshkosh M-ATV”. It has an empty “curb weight” of 25,000 pounds, and a Gross Vehicle Weight of 32,500 pounds, including the M-ATV objective maximum of 4,000 pounds of payload. A 2011 JROC decision allowed the curb weight to rise to 32,000 pounds, in order to handle improved underbody protection and other armor.

Oshkosh’s design bore many visual similarities to their JLTV TD Phase entry, but without the high-end systems like a hybrid drive, which would have required further development. The core of the vehicle is the US Marines’ MTVR medium truck chassis, and its TAK-4 suspension. TAK-4 is being used to refit Cougar MRAPs, and already exceeds M-ATV’s off road specifications by offering a 70% off road mobility profile (M-ATV specs: 50%), with more than 16 inches of independent wheel travel. An Oshkosh representative told DID that “generally speaking [TAK-4] will increase the speed of the vehicle by 1.5 – 2.5 times over the speed of the same vehicle with a straight axle suspension, without sacrificing ride quality.” The vehicle’s C7 engine is also broadly common to other vehicles, and was used in more than 18,000 vehicles fielded in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time of the award.

M-ATV’s Super Multi-Hit Armor Technology (SMART) armor is used in theater by NATO, and has since been augmented by “Underbody Improvement Kits” to improve mine protection.

Oshkosh has also created 3 variant M-ATV designs, apart from its base platform.

The M-ATV utility variant adds a flatbed to the basic M-ATV, and is suitable for light cargo duties in dangerous areas that need a lot of off-road travel.

The M-ATV tactical ambulance variant was unveiled in February 2010. It maintains the M-ATV’s TAK-4 independent suspension systems, 16″ of independent wheel travel with a 2-channel central tire-inflation system with 4 terrain settings. It uses a 370hp engine, with an Allison 3500 SP transmission, and seats 3 crew members plus 2 litters or 4 ambulatory patients. Feedback from the military led to a side-by-side litter layout.

The SOF M-ATV variant is designed for special forces. It features a modified cargo deck, intended to accept swap-ins of specialized equipment, with the rear storage accessible through an armored cargo access hatch in the passenger capsule. Reconnaissance equipment is likely to be a least one such specialized package. It will also have a larger front windscreens for better visibility. DOT&E testing has criticized its rear visibility, acceleration, and restricted internal space, and declared it “not operationally suitable” beyond standard transport and area reconnaissance missions. Fixes can be expected for the fleet of 421.

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Beyond M-ATV, JLTV beckons.

By winning the M-ATV competition, Oshkosh has secured 3 valuable prizes. One is significant representation in the USA’s MRAP-type buys, with its attendant near-term cash flow. The second prize is a success story in the tactical vehicle category, something Oshkosh has not been known for in the past. The 3rd prize stems from the other 2, and involves the JLTV competition that will follow M-ATV to replace a sizeable portion of the USA’s Hummer fleet. Since JLTV is designed as an open competition at each stage, the Oshkosh/Northrop Grumman team’s loss in round 1 just forces Oshkosh to spend its own development dollars if it wants to remain in the race. By securing the M-ATV tactical vehicle design win and attendant production funding, those improvements and investments became much easier to make.

That’s exactly what happened, as Oshkosh leveraged its win into a smaller L-ATV design that it submitted for JLTV’s Engineering & Manufacturing Development Phase.

Contracts and Key Events M-ATV on the right,
HMMWV at left
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Under the M-ATV program, each competitor submitted 2 vehicles for initial testing, and some received a 2nd order for 3 more test vehicles. That was followed by a sole source contract, which could escalate to 10,000 vehicles. So far, US contracts for vehicle production alone have involved $4.47 billion for 8,800 vehicles.

Unless otherwise noted, Oshkosh Corp. in Oshkosh, WI is the contractor, taking orders from the U.S. Army Tank and Automotive Command Contracting Command in Warren, MI.

FY 2013 – 2015 SOF M-ATV
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Feb 24/15: UAE. Oshkosh Defense announced an ambulance version of its M-ATV.

Sept 26/14: UAE. The US DSCA announces the United Arab Emirates’ official export request for the refurbishment and modification of 4,569 used Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles:

  • 729 Navistar MaxxPro Base
  • 283 MaxxPro MRAP Expedient Armor Program (MEAP) without armor
  • 264 MaxxPro Base/MEAP capsules without armor
  • 29 MaxxPro Long Wheel Base (LWB)
  • 1,085 MaxxPro LWB chassis
  • 970 MaxxPro Plus
  • 15 MaxxPro MRVs (MRAP Recovery Vehicles)
  • 1,150 BAE Caiman Multi-Terrain Vehicles “without armor,” which are based on the FMTV truck chassis. Note that the V-hull is not “armor,” it’s an intrinsic part of the vehicle.
  • 44 Oshkosh M-ATVs; they would be added to the UAE’s existing orders for 800 (q.v. July 19/12).
  • Plus Underbody Improvement Kits, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, Field Service Representatives’ support, and other US Government and contractor support.

They’re being sold as Excess Defense Articles (EDA) from US Army stock, pursuant to section 21 of the Arms Export Control Act, as amended. Notification for the sale from stock of the MRAP vehicles referenced above has been provided separately, pursuant to the requirements of section 7016 of the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, and section 516 of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. The estimated cost is up to $2.5 billion, which isn’t all that far from the cost of buying new.

To date, the UAE’s biggest patrol vehicle fleets have been its own Nimr design (1,700 total), which has also been exported within the region. Its Oshkosh M-ATV fleet (750) was second. This request would completely change the force’s configuration by adding 3,375 MaxxPros and 1,150 Caimans, giving the UAE a patrol vehicle fleet that is overwhelmingly protected against mines as well as weapons of urban unrest.

The principal contractors will be Navistar Defense in Lisle, IL (MaxxPro); BAE Systems in Sealy, TX (Caiman); and Oshkosh Defense in Oshkosh, WI (M-ATV). If the sales are concluded, implementation will require multiple trips to the UAE involving “many” US Government and contractor representatives for 3+ years to provide program support and training. Sources: US DSCA #14-26, “UAE – Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles”.

DSCA request: UAE (44 more M-ATVs of 4,569 MRAP vehicles)

Jan 7/13: Support. A $10.8 million contract for M-ATV field service representatives in Afghanistan, which runs until April 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W56HZV-12-C-0281).

Dec 20/12: SOCOM. A $7.8 million firm-fixed-price contract buys Underbody Improvement Kits for M-ATV Special Operations Vehicles. Work will be performed in Afghanistan, with an estimated completion date of Dec 17/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W56HZV-12-C-0281).

FY 2012 M-ATV Utility
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July 19/12: UAE. Oshkosh announces that its Defense segment has been awarded a contract from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for 750 M-ATVs. The order’s value wasn’t revealed until February 2013, when it was reported as AED 1.4 billion (about $381 million).

This is the country’s 2nd buy, building on an initial June 16/11 order for 50 vehicles. Deliveries are expected to begin between January – August 2013. Oshkosh | Gulfnews.

750 for UAE

May 29/12: Support. A $7 million firm-fixed-price contract to install M-ATV underbody improvement kits for the Special Operations variant. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W56HZV-12-C-0281).

April 25/12: Support. A $16.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for M-ATV support services in Afghanistan, Japan, Germany, and Oshkosh, WI, until Dec 31/12. Five bids were solicited, with 5 bids received for the original solicitation by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

April 9/12: Support. A $25.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, for M-ATV support services. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. Five bids were solicited, with 5 bids received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Feb 28/12: Upgrades. A $30.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for SOF M-ATV underbody improvement kits. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of Aug 15/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Feb 22/12: Industrial. Oshkosh Defense announces the 3,900th Oshkosh MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) Underbody Improvement Kit (UIK) installed in theater, in less than 7 months.

The MRAP JPO established 10 UIK installation sites in Afghanistan, while Oshkosh designed the lean process flow and specified, procured, packaged and delivered the tooling required to support the installations. So far, 3,500 installed kits were achieved using the MRAP JPO’s universal workforce and Oshkosh technicians, and were applied in-theater without the need for welding or major fabrication. Another 400 M-ATV UIKs have been installed by U.S. military technicians in Afghanistan, and Oshkosh delivered more than 500 new M-ATVs with factory-installed UIKs, making a grand total of 4,400 equipped vehicles.

Beyond the M-ATV, The U.S. Army has ordered more than 400 UIKs, also known as C-Kit armor, for the Oshkosh Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) A4, and Oshkosh is developing a UIK for the Army’s FMTV medium trucks as well. Oshkosh Defense.

Jan 17/12: DOT&E on SOF M-ATV. The Pentagon releases the FY 2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The M-ATV is included, with special attention to the 421 ordered Special Operations SOF M-ATVs. On the good news side, the underbody blast kits are doing their job, and the JROC(Joint Requirements Oversight Council) approved an increase in M-ATV base weight to 32,000 pounds, in order to accommodate them. As for the SOF M-ATV, it was deemed survivable and operationally effective for Convoy Escort, Protected Detail, and Area Reconnaissance transport missions.

On the flip side, DOT&E criticized the reliability and field of view of their CROWS-II remote-controlled machine gun, and said the SOF M-ATV’s size and noise level made tactical surprise difficult. They went on to add that:

“The SOF M-ATV is not operationally effective for conduct of the unique SOF combat missions of Direct Action, Urban Patrol, and Special Reconnaissance… The vehicle does not provide responsive acceleration to maneuver over terrain and react to changing tactical situations. The vehicle provides poor visibility to SOF operators seated in the rear of vehicle to observe their surroundings and respond to threats… During the IOT&E, the SOF riding in the vehicle experienced leg cramps and fatigue caused by the uncomfortable seats after 30 minutes. The SOF crew had difficulty moving in the vehicle to transition from seated positions to fighting position. One-half of the SOF operators complained of nausea… Weapon and CROWS II failures degraded the vehicle’s reliability and should be fixed. These problems should have been resolved prior to the IOT&E.”

Thumbs-down for SOCOM variant

Jan 5/12: Support. A $24.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for M-ATV related services. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of Jan 9/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Dec 23/11: Q-Net. A $10.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 465 M-ATV Rocket Propelled Grenade Net Delta kits. Similar orders have been placed to BAE, but the kits are actually QinetiQ’s Q-Net, ordered through the vehicle’s prime contractors.

Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of April 29/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Nov 10/11: Mufflers. A $9.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 8,011 M-ATV muffler kits. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of April 29/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Oct 3/11: JLTV. The latest Army-Marine Corps JLTV solicitation favors existing designs over new, and may lead to the program’s demise in favor of recapitalized and modified HMMWVs.

An opportunity for Oshkosh? The JLTV’s $250,000 target cost means the firm would have to drive down costs very sharply, compared to the M-ATV’s standard purchase cost near $500,000. The question is whether their new L-ATV might give them another option, and if so, whether Oshkosh wants to offer it.

By reducing expected JLTV production to just 20,000 vehicles over 8 years (3 LRIP, 5 full-rate), it becomes more difficult for firms to recover costs for new designs. On the other hand, demands to hand over technical data rights, and a plan to re-compete the production contract for the winning vehicle after several years, make it unattractive for firms to place a valuable existing design at risk. US Army TACOM Page | | Lexington Institute.

FY 2011 M-ATV
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Sept 13/11: Oshkosh unveils its smaller “L-ATV” protected patrol vehicle, which it describes as fully compliant with all JLTV program specifications. The firm was eliminated from the technical demonstrator contract phase, but the next phase will be re-opened to outside bidders. Oshkosh did the expected thing, and leveraged its M-ATV win to fund development of a JLTV variant.

The L-ATV will feature the improved TAK-4i independent suspension, which “uses a proprietary technology to deliver 20 inches of independent wheel travel – 25 percent more wheel travel than any vehicle in the U.S. military’s fleets.” It can also raise or lower the vehicle, ensuring transportability in ships and aircraft, while still offering enough height for all-terrain mobility and mine blast protection.

L-ATV derivative

Aug 2/11: Support. Oshkosh in Oshkosh, WI receives a $34.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for “services in support of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle.” Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Announced contract totals for M-ATV ancillary items and services currently total just under $2 billion, though a large percentage of that involves protective bolt-on equipment.

July 20/11: Support. A $20.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for 75 technicians, who will work for a year to will work to install underbody improvement kits on M-ATVs in Oshkosh, WI. The contract is expected to run to Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

July 6/11: UAE. A $27.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification will buy 50 M-ATVs, to include basic issue items and kits, in support of a Foreign Military Sale transaction to the United Arab Emirates. This is the M-ATV’s first substantial export order. The UAE does have troops on the ground in Afghanistan, so it’s possible that the vehicles will be put to immediate use there, where they can make use of the USA’s logistics and support system.

Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

50 for UAE

June 29/11: +400. A $218.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 400 M-ATVs with the underbody improvement kits pre-installed. That’s about $546,500 per vehicle, plus communication systems, weapons, etc. which are extra.

Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of June 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. by U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

June 20/11: Upgrades. A $226.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for 5,131 M-ATV underbody improvement kits. So far, orders cover 8,011 of those kits. The M-ATV is very well regarded by troops in theater, but the fleet-wide scale of these refits suggests a weakness which the US Army is rushing to close.

Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of June 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZH-09-D-0111).

June 2/11: Sub-contractors. Skydex Technologies, Inc. in Centennial, CO announces “…multiple contracts valued at over a million dollars with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to provide its blast mitigating Convoy Deck product for the M-ATV vehicle. The purchase orders will allow DLA to have prepositioned replacement decking for 1,000 vehicles in service in Afghanistan.”

Think of 2 sheets of bubble wrap, facing each other, using advanced plastics, and varying layout, spacing, or materials to achieve the shock cushioning effect required. That’s the concept behind their patented SKYDEX, which has been shown to significantly reduce blast-related injuries by absorbing much of the initial shock that the blast wave transmits through the floor. SKYDEX has been installed on RG-31, Cougar, and M-ATV MRAPs, and on Stryker Double-V-Hull APCs.

May 25/11: +177. A $97.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 177 M-ATVs, with underbody improvement kits pre-installed. The total contract could actually rise to $111.4 million, and it was listed as Delivery Order #10 in the May 24/11 version of this announcement.

Work will be performed in McConnelsburg, PA; Milwaukee, WI; and Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of Jan 31/11. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by U.S. Army TACOM LCMC in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

May 25/11: Support. A $19.8 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for special tooling and subject matter experts. They’ll perform installation, and provide installation training, associated with M-ATV underbody improvement kits. The Pentagon has ordered thousands of them kits, but ordering them and installing them are 2 different things.

Work will be performed in Afghanistan, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. U.S. Army TACOM LCMC in Warren, MI solicited 5 bids, with five bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

April 4/11: Support. A $31.4 million firm-fixed-price indefinite delivery / indefinite quantity contract for 94 field services representatives for 12 months, in support of the M-ATV. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited with five bids received. The U.S. Army TACOM LCMC, Warren, MI solicited 5 bids for the original contract, with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Feb 21/11: MMV variant. Oshkosh Defense unveils an M-ATV 2.5 utility cargo variant called the Multi-Mission Vehicle, equipped with storage for Raytheon’s BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile systems.

Feb 9/11: Upgrades. A $101.9 million firm-fixed-price indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for 2,080 M-ATV underbody improvement kits – about $36,400 per kit. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, Wis., with an estimated completion date of May 3/12. One bid were solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-09-D-0111, corrected April 6/11 ).

Jan 31/11: Industrial. Oshkosh Defense announces that they’re opening a larger California Regional Logistics Center Temecula facility is scheduled to open in February 2011, and will provide vehicle operator and maintenance training to Marines and Navy Seabees. The old facility was mostly used for Navy and USMC training on the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV), Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) medium truck, and Logistics Vehicle System Replacement (LVSR) heavy truck.

Jan 19/11: Support. A $22.6 million firm-fixed-price indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for 972 man-months of M-ATV support. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited with 5 bids received for the original contract (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Dec 29/10: Upgrades. An $80 million firm-fixed-price indefinite delivery/indefinite quality contract for 800 M-ATV underbody improvement kits. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of April 29/12. Five bids were solicited with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0001).

Dec 13/10: Support. A $30 million firm-fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for 133 Special Operations Command (SOCOM) spares kits for M-ATVs, including 41 authorized stockage list kits; 33 prescribed load list kits; 42 battle damage and repair kits; and 17 deprocessing spares kits. The contract will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, and will run until May 31/12, but deliveries of the spare parts are scheduled to run from March – June 2011. (W56HZV-09-D-0111). See also Oshkosh release.

Dec 3/10: +250 Ambulance. A $255 million firm-fixed-price contract for 250 M-ATV Ambulances, including 246 production vehicles and 4 test vehicles, as well as ancillary and related items. This is the 1st contract for M-ATV Ambulance variants, which will serve alongside the current fleets of 4×4 MaxxPro CAT I, and 6×6 RG-33 HAGA CAT II blast-resistant ambulances.

Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited with five bids received for the original competition (W56HZV-09-D-0111). See also Oshkosh release.


Dec 3/10: +46 SOCOM. A $28 million firm-fixed-price contract for 46 M-ATV Special Operations Command (SOCOM) variants with their SOCOM-specific enhancements. See also June 1/10 entry.

Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12, but vehicle deliveries are scheduled to take place in May 2011. Five bids were solicited with 5 bids received for the original competition (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

FY 2010 Promo clip
click to play video

Sept 9/10: Turret fix. BAE Systems Survivability Systems, LLC in Fairfield, OH receives an $11.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1,113 improved turret drive system/internal drive gears for the M-ATV. BAE makes a lot of land vehicle turrets, but the weight of their protection makes them hard to turn manually, especially if the vehicle is going uphill. A mechanical assist goes a long way in those circumstances.

Estimated completion date is Dec 27/11, with work to be performed at Fairfield, OH. One bid was solicited and one bid was received (W56HZV-10-C-0365).

Aug 31/10: Support. A maximum $14.2 million firm-fixed-price, sole-source contract for M-ATV sustainment spares to the US Army. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response and the contract will run to June 24/11. The Defense Logistics Agency Land in Warren, MI (SPRDL1-10-C-0173).

Aug 24/10: CRS Report. The US congressional Research Service releases the latest version [PDF] of its report “Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected (MRAP) Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress. Excerpts:

“As of June 28, 2010, more than 8,500 MRAPs had reportedly been shipped to Afghanistan, with over 3,500 of those being the newer M-ATVs. The Army has recently said that it will begin development of yet another MRAP version – the “Ultra-Lite MRAP” – which raises questions about possible vehicle redundancies. The Marines, although voicing support for the M-ATV program, have retrofitted a number of MRAPs with new suspension systems and reportedly are satisfied with the results. This apparent success calls into question not only if the Marines need all of the M-ATVs allocated to them by DOD but also if the Marines’ retrofitted suspension system might be a more cost-effective alternative for the other services… Among potential issues for congressional consideration are the status of almost 5,000 MRAPS in Afghanistan that are reportedly not being used because of their size and weight.”

In terms of overall budgets:

“Through FY2010, Congress appropriated $34.95 billion for all versions of the MRAP. In March 2010, DOD reprogrammed an additional $3.9 billion from the Overseas Contingency Operations fund to MRAP procurement. Congress approved an additional $1.2 billion for MRAP procurement, included in the FY2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-212). The full FY2011 DOD budget request of $3.4 billion for the MRAP Vehicle Fund has been authorized by the House (H.R. 5136).”

Aug 17/10: DoD Buzz reports that the US Army’s latest Tactical Vehicle Strategy looks like bad news for the JLTV, with small buys spaced over time to equip deployed units. Bottom line?

“Here’s the basic plan. Overall, the Army will shrink its fleet of HUMVEEs, MRAPs and medium trucks to 244,000 by 2025 from its current 260,000. How? The service will rid itself of 4,000 of the hardest to maintain and most beat up MRAPS by 2025. It will scrap the 28,000-strong M35 fleet and replace it with new FMTVs for a fleet total of 76,000. That will mean a total reduction of 4,000 trucks. The HUMVEE fleet will shrink the most, going from 101,000 to 35,000 by 2025. But there appears to be one big hole in the Army plan. It does not project how many Joint Light Tactical Wheeled Vehicles it will be. The strategy’s answer: TBD.”

The JLTV competes for a niche similar enough to the M-ATV’s that its loss could be the M-ATV’s gain. See the full Army Tactical Vehicle Strategy [PDF].

Aug 13/10: EFP kits. A $40.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 292 explosively formed penetrator M-ATV protection kits. EFP land mines use a shaped charge to instantly forge a metal penetrator jet that is fired into the side or bottom of a passing vehicle.

Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. US Army TACOM, AMSCC-TAC-ADCA in Warren, MI solicited 5 bids, with 5 bids received in the original program (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Aug 13/10: Support. An $18 million firm-fixed-price contract for 59 field service representatives for 708 months, to be located in Afghanistan and locations in the contiguous U.S. to support the M-ATV. Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. US Army TACOM, AMSCC-TAC-ADCA in Warren, MI solicited 5 bids, with 5 bids received in the original program (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

August 1/10: Combat report. Voice of America reports that the troops like the M-ATV a lot, but adds that some of its design features create maintenance issues:

“Staff Sergeant Richard Green, an 82nd Airborne Division mechanic, found this out first-hand when he accidentally damaged his unit’s first M-ATV. “There’s a nut on the inside of the oil pan. The bolt came out. But the nut was not welded corectly to the oil pan, so the nut fell off. The bolt comes out and there was no way to hold the oil in the pan. So we had to take the engine pack out and replace it,” he said… The Pentagon transports them by air in order to meet the high demand, adding a 10-percent premium to the vehicle’s cost… On a 747 freighter, there are just centimeters of clearance between the M-ATVs and the plane’s sides. In combat, the frontline soldiers don’t care about the M-ATV’s logistical burden. They only care that it’s safer and better-protected than other vehicles.”

July 2/10: C4ISR/Power kits. An $8.75 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1,750 kits (Command, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance suite and battery upgrade/silent watch) for Operation Enduring Freedom upgrades on the M-ATV. The silent watch kits allow M-ATV crews to run the vehicle’s advanced sensors and other electronics, without having to run the engine all the time in order to handle the current. That makes less noise, which is a big tactical improvement. It also saves fuel, in an environment where it costs $7 in fuel just to haul $1 worth of fuel to the front lines.

Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, Wis., with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. TACOM solicited 5 bids, with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111). See also Feb 19/10 entry.

June 1/10: +421 SOCOM. A $66.9 million firm-fixed-price contract, covering 22 engineering change proposal modifications to incorporate into 421 M-ATVs. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited for the original contract, with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

It turns out that these changes will produce a 4th M-ATV variant, for US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). To date, SOCOM’s blast-resistant fleet has involved BAE’s RG-31s and RG-33s, and the RG-33s are being upgraded with Oshkosh’s TAK-4 independent suspension system.

The M-ATV SOCOM variant features a modified cargo deck, intended to accept swap-ins of specialized equipment, with the rear storage accessible through an armored cargo access hatch in the passenger capsule. These vehicles will also have a larger front windscreens for increased visibility. The M-ATV SOCOM will be cut in on Oshkosh manufacturing lines in August 2010, and are scheduled to be delivered between September and November 2010. See also Oshkosh release.


June 1/10: Check-6. A trio of contracts worth about $46.6 million, covering the purchase and installation of 3,137 Check-6 rear view sensor systems to the M-ATV. Note that Check-6 is a BAE Systems product. In all cases, the estimated completion date is May 31/12. Five bids were solicited for the original contract, with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

A $20.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1,400 systems. Work will performed in Oshkosh, WI.

A $15.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1,039 systems. Work will performed in Oshkosh, WI.

A $10.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 698 systems. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, WI (50%), and McConnellsburg, PA (50%).

May 20/10: RPG kits. A $72.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1,460 M-ATV protection kits, designed to defend against the basic rocket propelled grenade anti-tank weapons. It also includes spares: 45 M-ATV prescribed loads lists and 8 deprocessing spares sets. Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited for the original contract, with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

May 20/10: EFP kits. A $68.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for 509 explosively formed penetrator protection kits, and 12 months of an M-ATV field service representative in the continental U.S. EFPs are specially-shaped mines that are best thought of as an instant, one-shot cannon attack. The shaped charge creates a metal dart when it explodes, and fires it into the side or bottom of a vehicle.

Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

May 19/10: RPG kits. $93.2 million in firm-fixed-price contract orders for another 2,401 M-ATV protection kits, designed to defend against the basic rocket propelled grenade anti-tank weapons that are common in Afghanistan.

The day’s announcements divide the purchase into a $21.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for another 554 kits, and $71.7 million for another 1,847 kits. Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. TACOM, CCTA-ADCA in Warren, MI solicited 5 bids, with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

April 27/10: Support. Oshkosh Defense announces a pair of awards for more than $19 million from the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC), to provide in-theater support for MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV) in Afghanistan. See the $9.3 million April 9/10 award for 29 Field Service Representatives; this announcement implies a similar 2nd award, as it describes “an additional 60 Oshkosh field service representatives (FSR) that will provide support in Afghanistan through May 2011.” See also Oshkosh Defense release.

April 21/10: NIKed. The US Army announces M-ATV related technology experiments, as part of its Brigade Combat Team Modernization Increment 1 fielding program:

“The U.S. Army has outfitted a handful of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, more commonly referred to as MRAP, vehicles with Network Integration Kits designed to give the bomb-defeating vehicles the ability to share real-time information such as sensor data from robots and UAVs while on-the-move in combat… To date, five M-ATVs, and six MRAPs have been outfitted with NIKs, Army officials said; The MRAPs with NIKs will deploy to Afghanistan with the first unit equipped with Increment 1 technologies… The NIKs, now being built onto MRAPs and M-ATVs at Fort Bliss, Texas, are engineered with technology that can receive and distribute data, voice, video and images across the force using multiple high bandwidth waveforms; they consist of software-programmable Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) such as the Ground Mobile Radios (GMR), a”dual-enclave” Integrated Computer System (ICS) built to handle classified and unclassified information, and a Blue Force Tracking display screen. The software and operating systems are connected through use of a middle ware called System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE)… The networked MRAPs and M-ATVs will particpate in a large scale test later this year.”

NIK/ IBCT tests

April 20/10: CROWDS prep. An $11.1 million “firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of 1,037 Remote Weapon System / Crew Remote Operated Weapons System final production configuration for the Mine Resistant Ambush All Terrain Vehicle.”

What this actually means is that they’re paying Oshkosh Defense to set their M-ATV patrol vehicles up so that everything is in place to accept a CROWS remotely-operated gun system: power, electronic interlinks, structural support, etc. The CROWS systems themselves are provided independently, as Government-Furnished Equipment. US Army TACOM in Warren, MI says that 5 bids were solicited, with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111). See also Oshkosh Defense release.

April 14/10: RPG kits. A $68.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1,770 rocket propelled grenade protection kits. Oshkosh will install these kits on the production lines, and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) will install the kits on previously delivered vehicles. Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited with 5 bids received by US Army TACOM, CCTA-ADCA in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111). See also Oshkosh Defense release.

April 9/10: Support. A $9.3 million firm-fixed-price contract covers 29 field service representatives and 348 person-months of M-ATV services to support Afghan operations. Work will be complete in May 31/12. Five bids were solicited with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Check 6
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March 26/10: RPG kits. A $41.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1,080 rocket propelled grenade protection kits. Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited with 5 bids received by US Army TACOM, AMSCC-ASCA in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

March 26/10: Check 6. BAE Systems announces a $45 million multi-year contract to provide Oshkosh with Check-6 rear-view camera lights to equip 2,399 M-ATVs. See Dec 29/09 entry for the original contract.

March 22/10: Canada. Oshkosh Defense and General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada announce that they’ll offer Oshkosh’s blast-resistant M-ATV for Canada’s 500-600 vehicle TAPV competition, and Oshkosh’s Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) trucks in Canada’s Medium Support Vehicle System (MSVS-SMP) truck program. Both vehicle types use Oshkosh’s proprietary TAK-4 independent suspension system, for off-road mobility. This consortium is considered to be a leading contender, in part because of GDLS’ existing armored vehicle plant in London, ON.

Oshkosh will serve as the prime contractor for both programs. General Dynamics Land Systems Canada will provide systems integration and testing support for the vehicles, as well as the complete spectrum of in-country sustainment support. Oshkosh uses Valley Associates to provide marketing and business development in Canada, which is why the vehicles display in the Valley Associates booth during CANSEC 2010 in June. Oshkosh | CANSEC announcement | Defence Watch.

UPDATE: Oshkosh lost to a heavier variant of Textron’s M1117.

March 10/10: CROWS prep. Oshkosh Corp. in Oshkosh, WI receives a $10.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1,401 M-ATV RWS kits that will let the vehicles support CROWS remote weapon systems. CROWS systems pack advanced sensors and machine guns, and can be controlled from inside the vehicle using a joystick and screen.

Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. TACOM, CCTA-ADCA in Warren, MI solicited 5 bids, with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111). See also Oshkosh Defense release.

March 5/10: Support. Oshkosh Defense announces 3 awards valued at more than $35 million in total for M-ATV upgrades and in-theater support.

They include 2 awards totaling more than 6,400 M-ATV Self Protection Adaptive Roller Kits (SPARKS) upgraded interface brackets. The brackets allow soldiers to attach advance mine rollers to the vehicles. The US government has requested changes to SPARKS, and the new brackets will allow the upgraded systems to be fitted on M-ATVs. Upgrade kits will be shipped to the Defense Distribution Depot Red River in Texarkana, TX, in June 2010. The government will then ship the brackets to receiving units in theater for installation.

Those installations will be supported by an expanded roster of field service representatives (FSR) in-theater. A 3rd contract will place 18 additional Oshkosh in Afghanistan, and 6 in Iraq, at bases that require them. U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) manages these contracts.

Feb 24/10: Oshkosh unveils 2 new M-ATV variants at the AUSA 2010 convention: an ambulance variant, and a utility variant designed to haul cargo. Oshkosh release

Feb 23/10: +1,460. A $640 million contract for 1,460 M-ATVs. Oshkosh says it has received awards valued at more than $4.74 bilion for 8,079 M-ATVs, as well as spare parts kits and aftermarket in-theater support.

Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI with an estimated completion date of May 2012. Five bids were solicited with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Israel’s Plasan secured a $170 million subcontract from Oshkosh to supply vehicle protection kits for the 1,460 M-ATVs, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports. The subcontract brings to 5,000 the number of vehicles Plasan has armored for the Americans since June 2009, for total revenues of $586 million. All told, Plasan has sold $940 million worth of armor kits to the U.S. military, for 8,079 vehicles. Oshkosh release | Ha’aretz report.

Feb 19/10: C4ISR/Power Retrofits. A $52.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1,451 retrofit kits for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite and battery upgrade/silent watch. Oshkosh says the total potential order is more than 2,090 upgrade kits, which will include communications hardware, jammer systems, tracking technology, driver vision enhancement for safer operation at night, and the aforementioned “silent watch” capability.

The latter item points to an ongoing issue with advanced long range day/night sensors in overwatch roles, and modern communications gear. They often consume so much power that engines have to be kept running, just to power all of the electronics. That’s fuel-expensive, in a theater where it takes $7 in fuel to deliver $1 worth to the front lines. It also tends to remove tactical surprise in key situations, especially in already-difficult urban terrain.

Work is to be performed in Ishkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicted with 5 bids received by TACOM in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111). Oshkosh release.

Feb 5/10: EFP kits. A $84.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for the partial exercise of the option for 627 M-ATV explosively formed penetrator (EFP) kits. The Oshkosh-supplied kits will include EFP armor to protect against those shaped-charge land mines, base door armor, and a door-assist mechanism.

Delivery of the kits is expected to begin in April 2010, and be complete by the end of August 2010. The add-on armor kits will include EFP armor, base door armor and a door-assist mechanism.

Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. 5 bids were solicited with 5 bids received (W56HZV-09-D-0111). Oshkosh Defense release

Jan 25/10: Support. Oshkosh announces 2 delivery orders valued at $325.7 million from the U.S. Army TACOM LCMC to supply spare parts and repair kits for the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). Deliveries are expected to begin in August 2010, and to be complete by the end of January 2011. DefenseLINK breaks down the orders as:

A $258.2 million firm-fixed-price contract to exercise the option for 90 lots of authorized stockage list kits, 90 lots of prescribed load list kits, 23 each deprocessing spare kits, and 132 lots battle damage repair kits for the M-ATV. Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI (50%) and McConnellsburg, PA, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited with 5 bids received by TACOM, CCTA-ADC-A in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

A $67.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for a partial exercise of an option: 2 lots of authorized stockage list kits, 2 lots of prescribed load list kits, and 65 lots of battle damage repair kits for the M-ATV. Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI (50%) and McConnellsburg, PA, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited with 5 bids received by TACOM, CCTA-ADC-A in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

To date, Oshkosh says it has received awards valued at more than $3.9 billion to deliver 6,619 M-ATVs, as well as spare kits and aftermarket in-theater support.

Jan 21/10: Support. Oshkosh announces 4 awards from the US Defense Logistics Agency, valued at $89 million, for its M-ATVs and FHTV heavy trucks.

Oshkosh will supply M-ATV spare parts, including engines, transmissions, transfer cases and alternators. Work under the orders is expected to be completed by October 2010. Oshkosh is providing the M-ATV’s spare parts to the DLA to be used as in-the-field replacements after the original vehicle parts have been consumed. These parts will ship without delay, to help maintain readiness rates in theater. Discussions with Oshkosh representatives indicate that the M-ATV orders are worth about $50 million.

Jan 6/10: Radios. Harris Corp.’s RF Communications Division in Rochester, NY received orders totaling $119 million to supply Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS)-approved Falcon III AN/PRC-152-C handheld radios with the RF-5980-SA001 vehicle amplifier adapters for the Mine Resistent Ambush Protected (MRAP) all-terrain vehicle (M-ATV).

Separate contracts for items like these help illustrate what is meant by the term “government furnished equipment.” The AN/PRC-152 [PDF] provides M-ATV users with multiband Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) and Demand Assigned Multiple Access (DAMA) satellite communications interoperability in the 30-512 MHz frequency bands. It is just one aspect of the communication suite that equips each M-ATV.

Jan 6/10: Delivery options. At a Pentagon press conference, Press Secretary Geoff Morrell provides an update regarding the M-ATV program. He says that higher-capacity sealift options aren’t being considered for getting M-ATVs that currently sit in the USA into Afghanistan (via Karachi or Gwadar, Pakistan, then overland), even though the drawdown from Iraq and surge to Afghanistan are straining available transport capacity:

“We are at now, as of January the 5th – and I want to double-check these – we were at 239 [M-ATVs] delivered, 164 fielded, 12 awaiting transport. And then there are obviously many more vehicles than that that have been produced. And as they vie for space for airlift and absorption in Afghanistan, they are being used, many of them, for training purposes domestically.

But we are now, as we are in the midst of this surge, going to be dealing with this herculean effort of trying to get not just 30,000 additional forces over to Afghanistan, but getting all their equipment as well. So this is going to be a real — a real test of our TRANSCOM [Transportation Command] folks, as well as CENTCOM. And they have a priority list based, you know, in terms of space available, what has the top priority to flow in at what time.

I can tell you this. It’s our goal that come this spring, we’ll be sending over about 500 a month.

Q. So when would sealift begin? Is it this —

MR. MORRELL: I couldn’t – no, I don’t think we would do – I don’t think we’re at the point where we’d do sealift, but we can check on that for you.”

Afghan winter delivery
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Dec 29/09: Check-6 install. Oshkosh Corp. in Oshkosh, WI receives a $33.9 million firm-fixed-price contract. This contract is for a change order modification for 2,277 Check-6 rear view sensor systems, to be fitted to M-ATV vehicles (q.v. March 26/10, Dec 29/09 entries). BAE’s Check-6 tail-light duplicates a feature found in some civilian cars, which uses a rear camera to show the rear of the vehicle and objects behind it on a screen. Unlike civilian camera-screen combinations, however, Check-6 tail lights are derived from BAE Systems’ expertise with weapon sights. They work in infrared as well as visible light, making them useful for noticing people as well as obstacles, and improving awareness in darkness, sandstorms, and other difficult situations. They install as a complete tail-light assembly, and require no drilling or welding.

Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI (50%), and McConnellsburg, PA (50%), with an estimated contract completion date of May 31/12. Work is actually expected to begin in March 2010, and be complete in May 2010. Five bids were solicited, with 5 bids received by TACOM, AMSCC-TAC-ADCA in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111). See also Oct 2/09 entry, plus Oshkosh release | “Check 6! Now a Possibility for Vehicles, Too.”

Dec 28/09: Sub-contractors. Ceradyne in Costa Mesa, CA announces that it received a multi-million dollar blanket purchase order from Plasan Sasa Ltd. in Israel for the production of armor components for the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). Ceradyne plans to produce these parts in its expanded armor assembly plant in Irvine, CA for delivery to prime contractor Oshkosh to assemble the components and deliver the M-ATV to the government.

All manufacturing procedures for these M-ATV components have been approved, and Ceradyne production commenced this month. It is anticipated that production and delivery will continue throughout 2010.

Dec 24/09: Support. Oshkosh receives a maximum $22.2 million total set-aside, sole-source, undefinitized delivery-order contract for M-ATV sustainment spare parts. The date of performance completion is Oct 2/10. The Defense Logistics Agency in Warren, MI manages the contract (W56HZV-09-D-0111-VD01).

Dec 24/09: EFP kits. Oshkosh Defense announces an order from the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Life Cycle Management Command (TACOM LCMC) to supply “more than 170″ M-ATV explosively formed penetrator (EFP) armoring kits through April 2010, and 800 rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) kits through May 2010.

Uncharacteristically, Oshkosh’s release comes in advance of the Dec 29/09 Pentagon DefenseLINK announcement, which cites a $54.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for 800 RPG armoring kits and 172 EFP kits as “the partial exercise of an option.” It offers May 31/12 as the formal end of contract date. Five bids were solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army TACOM’s AMSCC-TAC-ADCA in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111). Oshkosh Defense is teamed with Plasan North America to provide the M-ATV’s armoring solutions.

The US military, and its contractors, will not discuss details regarding these kits. EFPs are a form of land mine that uses the explosion to form a slug from its copper lining, creating what is in effect an impromptu tank sabot shell that fires into the victim vehicle. Rocket Propelled Grenades like the ubiquitous RPG-7 are bazooka-like anti-tank rockets with a shaped charge warhead. The RPG threat are usually addressed by “cage armor” slats like BAE’s LROD, which are not 100% effective, or by Explosive Reactive Armor tile sets that are shaped to fit the vehicle. Less conventional approaches like Tarian cloth armoring are also beginning to emerge.

Dec 22/09: Industrial. Oshkosh announces that it has reached the production rate of 1,000 M-ATV vehicles per month, ahead of schedule. The milestone was reached on Dec 18/09, and Oshkosh reached the milestone by using production capacity at existing manufacturing facilities in Oshkosh, WI and McConnellsburg, PA. Production will continue at this rate of 1,000+ vehicles per month through May 2010, when all current orders would be filled.

Dec 10/09: +400. A $175.4 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract exercises an option on Delivery Order #0003, and buys another 400 M-ATV vehicles and associated basic items. Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI (50%), and McConnellsburg, PA (50%), with a formal contract completion date of May 31/12. The original contract solicited 5 bids, and received 5 (W56HZV-09-D-0111). This is the option mentioned in the Nov 11/09 entry.

To date, Oshkosh has received 6 awards valued at about $3.33 billion; when a contract for 25 test vehicles is included, they will deliver a total of 6,644 M-ATVs. The company has ramped up production to achieve 1,000 vehicles per month in December 2009, and this new award will extend production into May 2010. See also Oshkosh release.

Nov 30/09: #1,000. Oshkosh hands the 1,000th MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) over to the U.S. Armed Forces, at a ceremony in Oshkosh, WI. Marine Corps Systems Command’s commander Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, and the MRAP Joint Program Office’ M-ATV product manager Lt. Col. Coll Haddon, were the keynote speakers. Oshkosh release.

1,000 delivered

Nov 19/09: Training. The way Army vehicles must be driven, and where they must be driven, means that the ability to get out of a vehicle quickly matters almost as much as what the vehicle can do for while you’re in it. Oshkosh Defense announces received a $5.6 million firm-fixed-price contract from the U.S. Army for the procurement of 26 “egress trainer cabin modules” for the Oshkosh M-ATV, and initial spare parts for a stateside training and certification standard program.

The modules are simulators that can train soldiers to get out of an M-ATV vehicle, even if it is flipped or in otherwise abnormal situations. a shift in Army thinking has encouraged M-ATV training to take place stateside versus in theater. The M-ATV cabin modules will be manufactured at the company’s facilities in McConnellsburg, PA.

Nov 19/09: Industrial. Oshkosh meets the November M-ATV production requirement ahead of schedule, marking the 5th consecutive month. Oshkosh says that it will continue to increase production to meet December’s requirement of 1,000 vehicles, with output remaining at that high level through April 2010.

Nov 11/09: +1,000. Oshkosh announces an additional $438 million, 1,000 vehicle order from the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Life Cycle Management Command (TACOM LCMC). This is the 5th award Oshkosh has received to supply M-ATVs, and brings total orders to 6,219 vehicles and more than $3.2 billion. An option for 400 more M-ATVs and Basic Items of Issue is also included in this delivery order, which would bring the production total to 6,619.

Nov 11th is the Veteran’s Day holiday, so the Pentagon doesn’t announce the firm-fixed-price contract until Nov 12/09. Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited in the original contract, with 5 bids received by the U.S. Army TACOM Contracting Center AMSTA-TAC-ATBC in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111).

Nov 11/09: Sub-contractors. BAE Systems announces a “multi-million dollar” sub-contract from Plasan North America to provide M-ATV armoring kit components. Work on the contract will begin this month at BAE Systems’ production facilities in Fairfield, OH. Tony Russell, president of BAE Systems’ Security & Survivability business, said:

“The partnership between BAE Systems and Plasan represents the first of what we believe will be many collaborative efforts between our two companies.”

Nov 10/09: Industrial. Oshkosh announces that it beat October 2009’s M-ATV delivery schedule of 385 vehicles, producing more than 435 vehicles during that month. This marks the 4th consecutive month Oshkosh has beaten the schedule, as it ramps up toward a planned production rate of 1,000 vehicles per month.

Oct 28/09: 2010 budget. President Obama signs the FY 2010 defense budget. That budget includes $6.656 billion in funding for MRAP vehicles, $1.2 billion above the Pentagon’s original request. Significant chunks of that funding will be devoted to M-ATV purchases. White House | House-
Senate Conference Report summary [PDF] & tables [PDF] | Pentagon AFPS article.

Oct 27/09: Support. Oshkosh announces 2 M-ATV contracts valued at more than $28 million. They include a $16 million contract from the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for spare parts, and a $12 million contract from rom the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Life Cycle Management Command (TACOM LCMC) for field service representatives (FSR) to support the M-ATV program in-theater through September 2010.

Oshkosh expects to complete production of the current M-ATV contract for 5,219 vehicles in March 2010.

Kandahar: M-ATV arrives
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Oct 22/09: An initial 8 M-ATVs arrive in Kandahar by aerial transport. These vehicles will be used to train drivers and mechanics from units selected to receive M-ATVs.

Note that earlier Pentagon announcements indicated M-ATVs in theater at the end of September, whereas this release places the initial use date into late October and tags it as a training set. One possibility is that the initial shipments were Special Forces vehicles. Another is that this announcement refers only to one Afghan sector, and that eastern sectors may have received the vehicles first. Pentagon DVIDS.

Oct 12/09: Australia. Oshkosh announces that it will be submitting its M-ATV and Sandcat vehicles for Australia’s PMV-L component of Overlander. Their partners in these 2 proposals are Plasan SASA, Ltd., who supplies the armoring solutions for both vehicles and developed the Sandcat/ Caracal; and local Oshkosh division JLG Australia, who will assist in manufacturing the vehicles and handle through-life support.

Australia has also indicated that they will be continuing onto the next phase of the American JLTV competition, which does not presently include these Oshkosh vehicles. This is for the made-in-Asutralia option.

UPDATE: Oshkosh lost to Thales Australia’s Hawkei as the made-in-Australia contender.

Oct 9/09: +923. Oshkosh Corp. in Oshkosh, WI receives a $408.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for procurement of another 923 MRAP All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATVs) and aftermarket parts package that includes basic issue items. This brings total announced M-ATV orders to $2.76 billion for the full expected amount of 5,244 vehicles – a total that includes unannounced government orders for 25 test vehicles.

Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion date of May 31/12. The company plans to ramp production up to 1,000 vehicles per month in December 2009, and continue at that level through at least March 2010. Five bids were solicited for the original contract, with 5 bids received by TACOM, AMSCC-TAC-ADCA in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111). See also: Oshkosh release.

Oct 5/09: Sub-contractors. SCHOTT DiamondView Armor Products LLC exhibits its DiamondView transparent armor window technology at AUSA. The DiamondView windows were selected for Oshkosh’s M-ATVs, and use a transparent glass-ceramic combination. It is hoped that DiamondView windows will be able to reduce lifecycle costs normally associated with windows delaminating, discoloring or peeling. The firm has been a defense industry supplier for 40 years, and currently holds world records for producing the world’s thinnest piece of glass (0.025mm, for medical technology and electronics), and the world’s largest piece of glass (8m tall, for astronomy).

In order to fill the Oshkosh contract, SCHOTT DAP has ramped up manufacturing at both its Boothwyn, PA and Vincennes, IN production facilities. The Vincennes/ now County facility currently processes and finishes glass-ceramic cooktops and flat glass for the home appliance industry, but the firm will invest $7.2 million over the next few years to add the transparent armor line. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered SCHOTT North America up to $2.32 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $50,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans, and the city of Vincennes will consider additional property tax abatement at the request of the Knox County Development Corporation. Hiring is underway, and the company expects to add more than 200 employees at peak production. SCHOTT DiamondView release | SCHOTT Vincennes release.

Oct 2/09: Check-6. Oshkosh announces a $33 million award from the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Life Cycle Management Command (TACOM LCMC) to supply a rear mounted, infrared-enabled camera system on more than 2,200 MRAP All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV).

The camera system has been deployed on other MRAPs. It integrates with existing vehicle video displays to provide a 40-degree vertical and 54-degree horizontal field of view. The system uses an infrared camera core in an LED-equipped tailgate assembly, and provides visibility through dust, obscurants and incremental weather in day and night operations. We all know drivers who could use one of these; on a battlefield they can save your life, as well as your vehicle bumper.

Oct 2/09: Industrial. A release from the Marines says that M-ATV vehicles have started to flow from Oshkosh to US Navy Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center (SSC) Atlantic. Oshkosh delivers the base vehicle, but modern military vehicles have a wide array of electronics and equipment to install, from jammers, to radios and other communications devices, to weapons like RWS turrets. The cost adds up, and so does the time required to install everything. According to M-ATV Joint Program Executive Officer, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, they’re using lessons learned from the MRAP program to speed up delivery to the front lines – something that became a problem early in the MRAP program:

“We were able to feed back to Oshkosh specific bracketry, racks and cabling so all that can be installed in the vehicle during manufacture; which means we dont have to do it at SPAWAR. The goal was to push as much of that work that was getting done at SPAWAR, particularly the touch labor, upstream into the manufacturing process. Because we knew it going into this, we were able to include it into the design. That clearly is one of the lessons learned from Baseline MRAP that will speed the process at Charleston.”

Oct 1/09: Industrial. Oshkosh announces that they have exceeded M-ATV delivery requirements for the 3rd consecutive month. The September 2009 production target of 100 vehicles was met on Sept 22/09.

FY 2009 Oshkosh M-ATV
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Sept 29/09: The Pentagon announces that the first Oshkosh M-ATVs have been deployed to Afghanistan.


Sept 14/09: +352. Oshkosh Corp. in Oshkosh, WI receives a $189.1 million firm-fixed-price IDIQ contract for another 352 MRAP All Terrain Vehicles, and aftermarket parts packages that include Basic Issue items (35 LLO), Authorized Stockage (14 LO), Prescribed Load (14 LO), and Battle Damage and Repairs (14 LO). This brings total announced M-ATV orders to $2.31 billion for 4,296 vehicles.

Work is to be performed in Oshkosh, WI, with an estimated completion of May 31/12. Five bids were solicited, with 5 bids received by TACOM, AMSCC-TAC-ADCA in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-D-0111). See also Oshkosh release.

July 31/09: +1,700. Oshkosh Corp. in Oshkosh, WI receives another M-ATV order. The $1.064 billion firm-fixed-price contract modification exercises an option for another 1,700 M-ATVs, Field Service Representative Support, and associated parts support packages to include Authorized Stockage Lists (ASL), Prescribed Load List (PLL), Reprocessing Spares, Battle Damage Repair parts (BDR) and Basic Issue Items (BII).

This order raises its total to $2.12 billion for 3,924 vehicles. They also announce that Oshkosh has exceeded the July 2009 delivery schedule of 45 M-ATVs by delivering 46.

Vehicles will be provided to the US Marine Corps, Army, Special Operations Command and US military testing. Vehicles and parts support packages will be fielded to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Field Service Representatives will be providing support in Kuwait and Afghanistan.

Work is to be performed in McConnellsburg, PA, with an estimated completion date of July 31, 2010. U.S. Army TACOM LCMC in Warren, MI manages this contract (W56HZV-09-D-0111, delivery order #0002, modification 02).

June 30/09: +2,244. Oshkosh Corporation. in Oshkosh, WI receives a $1.056 billion firm-fixed price delivery order (W56HZV-09-D-0111, #002) for of 2,244 MRAP All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATVs), Basic Issue Items, Field Service Representative Support, Equipment, Engineering, Authorized Stocking List Parts Packages and Prescribed Load List parts packages. The US Army Tank Automotive Command in Warren, MI manages this contract.

Stars and Stripes reports that the first M-ATV vehicles will be fielded to Afghanistan beginning in October 2009. The challenge will be getting them there. US Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, head of Marine Corps Systems Command:

“We are flowing additional forces into Afghanistan right now, Army brigade combat teams as well as Marines units, and so the air bridge into Afghanistan is completely full.”

While the military sorts out its transport options, Oshkosh Chairman & CEO Robert G. Bohn issued an unequivocal statement, and an implicit offer to other firms:

“Due to the urgent need of our Armed Forces for a survivable and highly mobile vehicle, our Corporations number one priority is meeting the Department’s accelerated delivery schedule of the Oshkosh M-ATV. Oshkosh Corporation will put whatever resources are necessary to meet or exceed the government’s delivery schedule. While we believe we can meet or exceed the government’s current delivery requirements, we intend to enter into discussions with other manufacturers [emphasis DID’s] to determine if they can assist in the production of the Oshkosh M-ATV.

…our full-service aftermarket support network will be available with replacement parts, technical support, and repair or refurbishment services.”

Oshkosh Corporation is expected to eventually produce up to 1,000 vehicles a month, and plans to reach that monthly mark by December 2009. Efforts began even before the contract award. Oshkosh Defense President Andy Hove was quoted in Oshosh’s release, saying that firm had already begun daily production of Oshkosh M-ATVs on their flexible manufacturing line, a few weeks prior to the decision, after making “significant” investments in materials. Subsequent discussions with Oshkosh clarified that unusual step, and the thinking behind it. Andy Hove:

“As I said, our top priority is the delivery these vehicles to the Soldiers and Marines who need them. But we also knew that there would be a market for our offering should it not have been selected. Additionally, the early M-ATV production was a part of our pre-award production and engineering investments. We felt it was crucial to do what we could, in advance of a possible award, to ensure these vehicles would be delivered to the warfighters in Afghanistan as soon as possible. We also had conducted more than 7,500 miles of independent testing of our vehicle, separate from the government’s evaluation of our production-representative vehicles.”

See also: US Marine Corps | Oshkosh release | DoD Buzz | Stars and Stripes | UPI | York Daily Record.

M-ATV base contract

June 30/09: Navistar and Force Protection both announce their disappointment at their M-ATV loss, while reiterating their firms’ strong points for investors.

June 2/09: The Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council approves a plan for 5,244 M-ATVs to the US Army (2,598), Marine Corps (1,565), Special Operations Command (643), US Air Force (280) and the Navy (65). An additional 93 vehicles would be set aside for testing. Source.

May 15/09: USMC Commandant General James T. Conway speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank. An excerpt [PDF]:

“We are seeing an increasing sophistication on the part of the IED [land mines]… We are looking at an MRAP ha has greater off road capability because you do not have the road network hat you have in Iraq. You become fairly predictable, fairly easy to plot if you’re always going to be on those roads. Our MRAPs, and we have about 2,000 of them plus in the Marine Corps, don’t do that well off road. Now the favorite vehicle in Afghanistan today is the seven-ton truck, the MTVR. In an innovative fashion, our engineers and our people at Quantico said, let’s put the suspension of the MTVR on our CAT-1 MRAPs and see how it does. Well, it did pretty well… Now, when we went to blow it up it did not perform do well because we created additional space and surface area underneath the vehicle. We have now blown it up three times. The third time looked pretty good… We will have it in the hands of our troops potentially by mid-summer. It will cut cost. For the long-term utility of our CAT-I [4×4] MRAPs, which is mostly what we own… we have a much more multi-capable vehicle for the long term.

We are not divorcing ourselves from the MATV program at this point… We are going to follow both with interest, and we will see where we want to park our monies and our effort as both these vehicles continue to mature.”

May 4/09: The Force Dynamics partnership announces their delivery of 3 additional production M-ATV Cheetah vehicles to the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test and Evaluation Center.

The release adds that Force Dynamics, LLC and Raytheon have agreed to provide a comprehensive command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system (C4ISR) plug-and-play ready architecture for the M-ATV Cheetah, using the C4ISR Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF). It provides immediate access to services including sophisticated radio switching, networked video, navigation systems, Blue Force Tracking, Counter-Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RCIED) Electronic Warfare, and weapons systems.

Under the original MRAP program, vehicles required extensive modifications, integration, and testing to fully integrate various C4SIR configurations. This new architecture is designed to make that process much simpler.

The system is also designed to assist with remote monitoring of integrated vehicle and C4ISR systems via one monitoring platform, to offer complete systems status in real time. Remote data transfer, monitoring of platform usage, and capture of failure information are all part of that element, and each M-ATV Cheetah is registered in Raytheon’s Force Logistics System II, which is electronically integrated to the DoD’s current force support systems.

May 1/09: BAE Systems’ entries pass initial testing, as it receives a follow-on contract for 3 more GTS M-ATVs and 3 more USCS M-ATV test vehicles of each type. Other firms that have passed testing and received orders for 3 more vehicles include Force Protection’s Cheetah, Navistar’s Husky, and Oshkosh’s entry.

April 2/09: Navistar Defense, LLC is in discussions with the government over a technicality in the evaluation of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) program. Navistar was required to formalize its request for a review of the evaluation within a certain period of time, and wants its vehicle to be considered for M-ATV. Navistar release.

March 11/09: A Bloomberg report quotes General Dynamics spokesman Ken Yamashita, who said that their M-ATV offer, based on its RG-31 partnership with BAE, “was not accepted… He didn’t say why, and Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said she couldn’t comment.”

That failure still leaves GDLS in contention, via the Force Dynamics partnership’s Cheetah vehicle.

March 6/09: Oshkosh Defense announces a $1 million contract with the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) for government purchase of the 2 production-ready Oshkosh M-ATVs that were delivered on Feb. 23rd. This contract award is one of the required phases in the U.S. military’s evaluation of M-ATV submissions, and is awarded after the delivered vehicles are certified to meet the government’s initial design requirements.

All other M-ATV candidates also receive these awards, with 1 exception – General Dynamics (see March 11/09).

Feb 23/09: M-ATV candidate vehicles are due from vendors for 2 months of testing and evaluation. Several of them announce deliveries on this day: BAE Systems, Force Protection ($1 million contract), Navistar, and Oshkosh.

Feb 19/09: An Oshkosh release claims that its M-ATV team can produce the military’s most probable delivery order of 2,080 M-ATVs “within months of an awarded contract.” The Oshkosh team says that it is able to produce several hundred to 1,000 M-ATVs on a monthly basis, and Oshkosh Defense President John Stoddart adds that:

“Oshkosh’s warm production lines coupled with our mature M-ATV design allow us to ramp up production of this vehicle without impacting our current military programs.”

Of course, the same is true for competitors like BAE and Navistar, both of whom have MRAP production lines that are closing out, and substantial military truck production lines that continue to run.

Jan 15/09: Force Protection, Inc. and General Dynamics Land Systems Inc.’s Force Dynamics, LLC joint venture has focused on delivering Cougar MRAP vehicles, but Force Protection’s Cheetah vehicle had been excluded – until now. The joint venture announces that it has submitted the Cheetah for the U.S. Army’s MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) solicitation.

The Cheetah began development in 2005 has completed Force Protection-sponsored blast testing at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD, and initial mobility and durability testing at the Nevada Automotive Test Center. It has undergone a range of enhancements since it was first developed, including the addition of independent suspension. Force Protection is commencing low-rate production at Force Protection’s Ladson, SC plant.

Jan 9/09: Oshkosh Corporation submits its M-ATV proposal, based on the combat-proven Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) medium truck chassis. The firm has produced about 10,000 of these trucks for the US Marine Corps, which have been deployed all over the world. Oshkosh release.

Nov 14/08: The US government issues a pre-solitication notice for a subsidiary competition called M-ATV, essentially an “MRAP Lite” bridge buy to the JLTV. FBO pre-solicitation #W56HZV-09-R-0115 states a buy that begins an an expected order of just 2,080 vehicles, but could reach up to 10,000.

M-ATV’s top weight is just 12.5 tons empty, which is heavier than a Hummer or JLTV, but lighter than an MRAP. Even so, the RFP still demands significant protection against both conventional and EFP land mines. A draft issued on Nov 25/08 stated that M-ATV would receive the same top-priority DX production rating employed by the original MRAP program, adding that the first vehicles are expected to be fielded in the fall of 2009.

M-ATV pre-solicitation

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Israel Gets Fire Sale Deal on F-35s, Upping Numbers | Germany to Lithuania: No Tanks for You

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 03:12
Middle East / Africa

  • Israel will order another 14 F-35s for $110 million a piece, including logistical support, training, parts and maintenance, which appears to be a much better price than the U.S. itself has been able to manage. The 14 fighters will join an earlier order of 19 jets. An option to acquire 17 more has been secured, bringing the total to 50, which has been Israel’s goal in fielding two squadrons of 25 fighters each.


  • Germany has rejected a request for Boxer tanks from Lithuania, according to Die Welt (German). The paper cited concerns for Germany’s own preparedness (recently called into question with “rapid reaction” troops found to be operating without rifle barrels during a NATO exercise.)

  • The Eurofighter Typhoon will get the latest Brimstone 2 surface attack missiles in a $228 million deal with Eurofighter Jagdflugzeung GmbH to integrate the missiles as has been done with the British Tornados in Afghanistan.

  • The recently announced approval of UH-60M exports to Slovakia may be for naught, as Slovokia is reportedly balking at the price. Likely unrelated to that, news reports appear to be erroneously tagging the entire buy’s cost as a cost-per-helicopter.

  • Russia has begun construction on two new stealth corvettes.


  • Now that the U.S. has agreed to allow UAV exports, the Philippines is seriously considering the various U.S. options, likely for an unarmed reconnaissance version.

  • In addition to the known 6-submarine procurement sought by India for a domestically-produced undersea platform, seven new stealth frigates are to be produced, Four at the will be produced in Mumbai at Mazagon Docks, with the other three being built in Kokata. This, on top of three recently completed.


  • Raytheon announced its newest AMRAAM-ER air-to-air missile will have extended range and more maneuverability. It plans tests before the year is out.

  • The chief of Lockheed’s Skunkworks, Rob Weiss, has been unapologetic and fairly vocal in the past week regarding U.S. military aviation needs, acting as the source of several news stories; generally indicating that new programs are needed, and that those programs need to be done large. The comments have come after the latest Administration budget was released, causing some military officials to make noise about being more cost conscious, such as lowering new trainer requirements and discussing the taboo of possibly ignoring stealth in the F/A-XX program. That Weiss’s comments keep rolling in indicates that neither Lockheed nor the Air Force has been proactive in asking Weiss to pursue a lower key approach. The latest: an insistence that a new spy plane program is needed to supplant both the U-2 and the Global Hawk that was supposed to – at least at one point – replace it.

  • DynCorp has , warning shareholders of lower revenues, losing contracts, and now laying off almost 400 employees due to a long-term aviation maintenance contract loss.

  • The recent deployment of a dozen A-10s to Germany is now being characterized as a response to several potential threats, ranging from Russia’s recent belligerence and the growing ISIS threat.

  • Austal USA laid the keel for the USS Omaha (LCS 12), the latest and sixth littoral combat ship in the Independence class.

  • Lockheed Martin announced it has tweaked the Fury UAV to have longer endurance.

Today’s Video

  • With two new Russian stealth corvettes under construction (see above), here is the
shipyard’s promotional video showing their most interesting features…
Categories: News

PAK-FA/FGFA/T50: Russia Pressing on with T-50, India or No

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 00:45
PAK-FA at MAKS-2011
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Russia wants a “5th generation” fighter that keeps it competitive with American offerings, and builds on previous aerial and industrial success. India wants to maintain technical superiority over its rivals, and grow its aerospace industry’s capabilities. They hope to work together, and succeed. Will they? And what does “success” mean, exactly?

So far, preliminary cooperation agreements have been signed between Sukhoi/United Aircraft Corporation, for a platform based on Sukhoi’s T50/PAK-FA design. This DID FOCUS article consolidates specific releases and coverage to date, and adds analysis of the program’s current state and future hurdles.

The PAK-FA/ FGFA Sukhoi’s “T50″ Movable LEX
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The plane behind the project has taken on several names. The T50 may eventually become the SU-50, but for now it’s referred to as PAK-FA. The aircraft project is also known as FGFA (India: Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft), and PMF (Russia: Prospective Multirole Fighter). Key characteristics include:

Shaping: Some observers have tried to characterize the T50 as a copy. That’s a mistake. The PAK-FA’s first flight revealed a distinctively Russian stealth-driven configuration, which borrows from previous Sukhoi designs and priorities. The prototype has some clear stealth-limiting features, from fit quality, to features like Sukhoi’s standard spherical InfraRed Scan & Track (IRST) system mounted near the cockpit. Those may change in the production aircraft; meanwhile, a smaller tail, clear stealth shaping, and internal weapons carriage all indicate a strong push toward a stealthier plane.

The PAK-FA’s air intakes are set back from the leading edge root extensions (LERX), and one interesting wrinkle involves movable LERX shapes that come forward from the wings to join the aircraft body. This “PChN/ Movable LEX” feature apparently allows some of the maneuverability bonuses normally associated with canards on planes like the SU-30SM, SU-34, etc., but in a much lower profile design.

RT feature

Engines: Reports concerning the fighter’s initial engines vary. Some sources contend that the engines used in its test flight are 5th generation engines, but most of them report that it is borrowing from the SU-35 program for now, until more advanced engines designed specifically for the plane can be fielded. Both descriptions could be correct. The SU-35S reportedly uses a heavily-upgraded and more reliable version of NPO Saturn’s AL-31F, named the Saturn 117S. It is said to offer over 30,000 pounds of thrust, with full 360 degree thrust vectoring, and is believed to equip initial PAK-FA fighters. The longer-term question is whether incremental 117S upgrades will let the aircraft reach its required “5th generation” performance levels, or whether the AL-41F project, which aims to use a new and improved engine core, will be able to replace the 117S in future.

Weapons: Russian reports cite carriage of 8 missile suspension points inside the fuselage, to match the F-22. While the Raptor has 2 body bays (with space-saving AVEL launchers) and 2 smaller side bays, the Russian plane is big enough to have 4 body bays and 2 side bays. Air-to-air weapons will certainly include the improved AA-11 (RVV-MD SRAAM) and AA-12 (RVV-SD MRAAM), but RIA Novosti adds that it has the ability to carry 2 ultra long range AAMs, presumably the 200-400 km Novator K-100-1. These “AWACS killers” are also intended for use on the SU-35, and their size may force the PAK-FA to carry them externally.

To date, the T50’s ground-attack weapon capabilities remain something of a mystery.

PAK-FA prototype
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Sensors: The PAK-FA’s advanced Tikhomirov AESA radar is still undergoing testing on other platforms, and its readiness could be important to the project. As is true of all 4+ generation Russian designs, the radar will be supplemented by an IRST that looks for the heat produced by engines and air friction. This allows long-range, no warning missile attacks, and offsets enemy advantages from radar stealth.

Another approach to offset enemy radar stealth involves L-band radars in the wing’s leading edges, to help the plane find other X-band optimized stealth fighters. The plane’s SH121 radar complex will reportedly add another 3 small X-band AESA radars around the front and sides of the aircraft, in order to provide full radar coverage. Harmonizing these features with stealth, and ensuring that they don’t become a maintenance nightmare, will be another important technical challenge for the new fighter.

The fighter’s biggest technical challenge will involve harmonizing all of these sensors into a single view for the pilot. Russia and India aren’t short on programming talent, but pilot ergonomics has been a long-standing weakness in Russian fighters, as western pilots found when they began flying East German MiG-29s. Good sensor fusion is a technically challenging task, especially if the goal is a system that can accommodate upgrades without ruinous expense. The talent is there, but both Russia and India have mixed histories trying to manage those kinds of military efforts.

Other Electronics: Sukhoi’s releases emphasize an advanced datalink that allows PAK-FA aircraft to share situational awareness, much like NATO’s “Link 16″ standard. As the USAF has discovered, however, having other platforms share information with stealth aircraft, while retaining “low probability of intercept” to avoid giving the stealth aircraft’s positions away, is difficult. Russia and India will need to resolve that issue, or accept the operational limitations of a unique but incompatible datalink.

Test flight
click for video

All of these characteristics show a convergence of Russian design with leading-edge technologies. Russian 4+ generation fighter designs have always placed a premium on super-maneuverability, and so does the T50. Russian AESA radars are becoming service-ready, and the T50 looks set to be a key platform for their use. Engine improvements may even allow Mach 1+ supercruise if the T50’s weight can be kept down, and if Saturn can deliver on promised operational performance – but both of those “ifs” remain to be proven.

Once it becomes operational, this plane is expected to get the designation SU-50. The big question right now is how close it is to reaching that goal.

Development Timelines, Risks, & Differences of Opinion Defined Design? A Disagreement From YF-22 to F-22
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As of February 2014, 5 PAK-FA prototypes are flying, and 2 more are in ground test roles, which is short of the 8 that were expected to be available by the end of 2013. The “T3″ prototype was the first to have the full avionics and radar suite, including the AESA radar. The plane is reportedly preparing for full operational trials in 2015, and VVS fielding in 2016-2017, but the history of stealth fighters justifies some caution about those dates.

In 2009, former Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. chairman Ashok Baweja took that caution several steps further, saying that that the current PAK-FA prototype and tests were only “proof of concept” level work. The Russians had already approved the design in 2008, so they clearly didn;t see things that way, but America’s F-22 program history made Baweja’s thesis plausible. The YF-22 prototype made quite a few modifications en route to its F-22A designation, over a period lasting several years. The Russian design has changed since 2009, including visible reinforcements to indicate a need for redesign in the wings and other areas. On the other hand, external design changes haven’t been much in evidence, and they continue to move forward with more advanced tests.

India’s low level of expertise designing advanced fighters, and the advanced nature of Russia’s project before India joined, both point toward a final FGFA design that’s much closer to the planes Russia is already flying.

Russian & Indian Timelines PAK-FA Mach flow
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Differences of opinion re: the fighters’ readiness also express themselves in each side’s proposed timelines. Russia is focused on 2015-2016 production and 2017-2018 fielding, though senior officials acknowledge that full serial production won’t begin until 2020 – 2024.

Indian officials have pushed a timeline that’s up to 4-5 years longer, in order to develop many of the FGFA’s systems and make a long list of changes. As the cumulative cost and risk of their chosen course become apparent, however, they’re reducing their demands. A 2012 interview with Air Chief Marshal Browne suggests that India’s FGFAs will hew much more closely to Russia’s design, beginning with the current single-seat configuration instead of a new 2-seat layout. About 100 HAL engineers are already working on the project from a facility in Bangalore, and another contingent has moved to Russia to work in the Sukhoi design bureau.

That’s all well and good, but it’s 2014, and the joint R&D contract between Russian and India remains unsigned. Plenty of time remains for meddling, as India was expecting to receive prototypes in 2015, 2017, and 2018. India would still have to fund their own national program of FGFA (SU-50KI?) customization for the Indian air force by a joint team of Russian and Indian engineers. The difference is described as “mission hardware and software,” though it would be surprising if Indian bureaucrats’ fetish for “indigenization” was forced to stop there. Each prototype will be slightly different, creating an incentive for the military and political figures to press for additional changes and alternations.

If India’s FGFA R&D program can get underway in 2014, and if it progresses without major delays, a 2018 prototype would finalize the base configuration, and Indian development could end in 2019. Whereupon series manufacturing would begin at HAL in 2022.

Note the number of “ifs” required to meet even that target. Which will also have to contend with HAL’s known high-tech production industrial issues (vid. LCA Tejas & M-MRCA programs). They’ll need to be solved by the time FGFA production begins, because its manufacturing techniques are likely to be a step beyond anything HAL has attempted to date.

So much for the original plan of IAF service by 2017. If current dates hold true, India wouldn’t see operational serving FGFA fighters until 2025 at the earliest. At the same time, India’s planned FGFA buy is shrinking, from over 200 to around 144.

In a project of this nature, it’s par for the course for Russia and India to both end up being too optimistic in their initial schedules. There’s still more than enough room for that dynamic to happen within the revised schedules, as the project works through configuration, testing, and production issues. The history of modern fighters suggests that software could prove to be particularly troublesome.

Contracts & Key Events 2015

Sukhoi insists it will meet new 2016 production deadlines. Airshow demo

Feb 2/15: Agreement on production split. The Hindu reports that the main sticking point (who produces what) is settled between the Russians and the Indians. Up to now, the Indians were producing only 13 percent of the fighter, and none of the interesting technology bits. The agreed-upon split hasn’t been made public.

Feb 2/15: On (new) schedule. Originally slated for 2015 production, the PAK-FA, now being called the T-50 in press materials, is to be produced in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in 2016, according to company officials. There is no mention of an export market. India had already cut its order from 200 fighters to 144, but bureaucrats have also pushed back certification to 2019, after which production could be authorized. Complaints by the Indian Air Force in early 2014 may indicate some buyer’s remorse.


Negotiations with India turn tense, remain in limbo as Russia moves ahead; Better stealth than the F-22?

Oct 21/14: Sub-contractors. Russia’s Radio Electronic Technologies concern has provided the 1st batch of Himalayas internal electronic warfare systems for the new jet.

The Himalayas EW system was developed by RET’s Kaluga Scientific Research and Radio Technology Institute, and is manufactured at its Signal Radioplant in Stavropol. Sources: Defense World, “Russian T-50 Aircraft Gets Himalayas EW System”.

Sept 15/14: Negotiation. The Russians and Indians are saying different things to Defense News. “A “Russian diplomat in India” tells them they they “have finally sorted out all sticky issues that have been holding back an agreement,” adding that India’s workshare was eventually expected to increase from 13-18% to 40%. India’s MoD refused to confirm this, “especially those [issues] related to workshare between the two countries”.

We’ve seen enough programs involving India to be skeptics, even when Indian officials will confirm such stories. The magazine’s sources say that India and Russia will sign a final agreement on the program the end of 2014. Take that as the metric, and believe it when you see it. Sources: Defense News, “Indo-Russian Jet Program Finally Moves Forward”.

Aug 30/14: Tension. India isn’t pleased with the lack of response to its questions concerning the recent PAK-FA engine fire (q.v. June 10/14), NPO Saturn AL-41FI jet engine performance, Byelka AESA radar performance, the lack of permission for its pilots to fly the jet in Russia, and HAL’s low workshare. India’s lack of a firm development agreement is the 1-sentence argument for much of this situation, except for the engine fire question and HAL’s workshare.

HAL’s workshare has reportedly dropped from 25% to just 13%: tires, the VOR-DME basic navigation avionics, coolant for the radar, a laser designation pod and the head-up display. This list appears to justify analysis that HAL simply doesn’t yet have the capability to be a full partner in such a sophisticated aircraft, and may also be a function iof Indian dithering as Russia simply goes ahead and makes final decisions about the PAK-FA’s development..

Within HAL’s workshare, the Laser Designation pod itself is unlikely to come from India, but may be produced under license. Israel’s RAFAEL LITENING pods equip many Indian aircraft, including the SU-30MKI, but Eastern European and American pressure on Israel makes SU-50 integration tough to contemplate. Thales’ Damocles pod, which already equips Malaysia’s Su-30MKMs and would equip Indian Rafales, would be a more logical choice.

The real challenge here is twofold. One is the M-MRCA program, whose $10 billion cost growth really shrinks the overall room for PGF funding within India’s budgets. The related challenge is time, and “IAF sources told IHS Jane’s that this deadline [to begin Indian production in 2020 – 2021] would be missed by several years.” Sources: Daily Mail India, “India-Russia jet deal hits turbulence over ‘technical worries’ ” | IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, “Indian Air Force unhappy at progress of PAK-FA fifth-gen fighter”.

Aug 4/14: Negotiations. Still no firm production agreement re: the PAK-FA/ FGFA/ PMF, following the end of the initial engineering development contract in 2013. Russian sources continue to make hopeful noises, but at this point, it means very little until there’s a firm contract in place. Sources: Itar-Tass, “Sukhoi to sign another contract with India on FGFA”.

June 10/14: Fire. A commission will be investigating:

“Today after the regular test flight of the T-50 aircraft at the airfield of the M.M.Gromov Flight Research Institute in Zhukovsky near Moscow, while the plane was landing, a smoke above the right air intake was observed, then a local fire broke out. The fire was quickly extinguished. The plane is to be repaired…. This incident will not affect the timing of the T-50 test program.”

The Moscow Times suggested that the damage might leave the plane out of action for a little while, as people reportedly: “…saw smoke and flame billow out of the front of the engine and [it] caused visible damage to the exterior of the aircraft.” Sounds like an engine issue. Maybe one day, we’ll know. Sources: Sukhoi, “Sukhoi’s message over the incident with the T-50 aircraft” | Moscow Times, “Russian Advanced Prototype Fighter Jet Erupts into Flames on Landing”.


Feb 21/14: Production version. Sukhoi announces that their production version will not be waiting until 2016, while the current set of 4 flying and 2 ground prototypes continue their work at Zhukovsky. In fact:

“Today the flight model of the prospective 5th — generation fighter aircraft (PAK-FA, T-50) arrived to the 929th Chkalov State Flight Test Centre’s airfield in Akhtubinsk for State Joint Tests…. The PAK FA tests program included aero-dynamic features evaluation, tests of stability and controllability and of dynamic strength, function check of on-board equipment and aircraft systems. Optical locator system as well as active electronically scanned array radar was tested on the aircraft with positive results obtained. Air refueling mode was tested. Supermaneuverability tests of the aircraft are under way. Aircraft systems are being tested on the test stands, ground experimental works continue.”

It’s still possible for hardware or software problems to make the delivery of 60 combat-capable aircraft an impossible goal by 2020, and Russian reports aren’t going to involve public accountability or discussion of test results. Even so, the Akhtubinsk arrival is embarrassing timing for War Is Boring’s same-day report. Sources: Sukhoi, “T-50-2 fighter aircraft made the flight to Akhtubinsk” | Russia & India Report, “Russian Air Force receives first FGFA T-50 fighter for tests”.

Feb 21/14: No mystery. “Russia’s New Air Force Is a Mystery” wonders why Russia is buying SU-30MK2s, SU-30SMs and SU-35s, in addition to the future PAK-FA. It turns out that the answer is extremely simple: industrial priorities that bought up aircraft the Chinese stopped buying, took advantage of successful advanced SU-30MKx export developments, and aim to provide the SU-35 with a home country order base for potential exports. That sort of thing happens all the time, everywhere. The article ends up stinging itself with this quote re: the PAK-FA:

“The T-50’s schedule has stretched farther and farther to the right. Originally planned for handover to the air force’s Akhtubinsk flight test center for evaluation in 2014, recent announcements suggest this might now slip until the second half of 2016. This would derail plans to declare initial operational capability, and the start of full-scale production, at the end of 2016.

The best-case scenario would have seen 60 production T-50s delivered between 2016 and 2020, but this now seems a distant hope. As a result, the air force is badly in need of supplementary equipment.”

The 1st PAK-FA arrives in Akhtubinsk for testing that same day. Sources: War Is Boring, “Russia’s New Air Force Is a Mystery”.

Feb 7/14: Timelines. Russia and India are still negotiating the FGFA R&D contract, but India’s Chief of the Air Staff and Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar (A K) Browne tells the Press Trust of India that the 1st FGFA prototype will arrive in India this year, for testing at Ojhar AB, located NE of Mumbai. One imagines that he’s speaking on the basis of a draft R&D contract that would have Indian scientists and test pilots in Russia until the R&D phase is scheduled to end in 2019.

2022 is now given as the planned in-service date, as India slip farther and farther from the original plan of having these planes in service by 2017. That 2017 date was always a pipe dream, and even present dates depend on very large financial decisions being made very soon by an unpopular government, or by its electoral successor. It’s more realistic to assume that the draft R&D agreement won’t actually become a signed contract and disbursed funds until 2015 or later, with attendant effects on India’s schedule.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to develop the plane,m but even they are several years from serious fielding. Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) First Deputy Director Alexander Fomin is quoted as saying that testing and manufacturing ramp-ups will require: “At least… [6-10 years] before we build a sample of the fifth generation fighter plane and being its serial production.” Sources: Itar-Tass, “Russia fulfils FGFA obligations with India – Alexander Kadakin”.

Jan 21/14: India. India’s Air Force is directly criticizing the stealth fighter program, according to the minutes of a Dec 24/13 meeting chaired by secretary of defence production Gokul Chandra Pati:

“Business Standard has reviewed the minutes of that meeting. The IAF’s three top objections to the FGFA were: (a) The Russians are reluctant to share critical design information with India; (b) The fighter’s current AL-41F1 engines are inadequate, being mere upgrades of the Sukhoi-30MKI’s AL-31 engines; and (c) It is too expensive. With India paying $6 billion to co-develop the FGFA, “a large percentage of IAF’s capital budget will be locked up.”

On January 15, the IAF renewed the attack in New Delhi, at a MoD meeting to review progress on the FGFA. The IAF’s deputy chief of air staff (DCAS), its top procurement official, declared the FGFA’s engine was unreliable, its radar inadequate, its stealth features badly engineered, India’s work share too low, and that the fighter’s price would be exorbitant by the time it enters service.

Top MoD sources suspect the IAF is undermining the FGFA to free up finances for buying 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for an estimated $18 billion, an acquisition that has run into financial headwinds because of budgetary constraints….”

Perhaps if India hadn’t structured its MMRCA competition to completely ignore the costs of the competing aircraft, this wouldn’t be happening. But they did, and it is. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “Russia can’t deliver on Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft: IAF”.

Jan 16/14: T-50 trolling. Rosoboronexport’s parent firm Rostec decides to troll the aviation world, with claims that the PAK-FA will have better stealth than the American F-22 Raptor:

“The average [radar cross section value] for the T-50 fighter is between 0.1 and 1 square meter…. the T-50 is now ahead of not only all other fighters of the Russian Army, but also foreign models. For example, the visibility of the American fifth-generation F-22 fighter is 0.3-0.4 square meters, according to PAK FA chief designer Alexander Davidenko.”

This means almost nothing. First, the Russian PAK-FA range includes values that are a closer match for the Eurofighter than the F-22. Second, Davidenko couldn’t know the F-22’s real production values without access to American flight test data, and there are rumors that it’s smaller than 0.3 m2. The third issue is production. Davidenko’s claims for the PAK-FA back existing assessments that it’s a legitimate stealth aircraft design, but production work affects final values for any plane. If it’s shoddy and alignment is poor, for instance, a design with RCS of 0.1 m2 could easily hit 1.0 m2 in reality. Russia is known for many things, including excellent and robust fighter designs, but precision work? Not so much. A real comparison would require test data from production aircraft (q.v. Nov 12/12 caveats), including different values from various angles, and their different success levels against different radar bands. That isn’t on offer for either plane.

Other points in the release are more informative, if true. Rostec says that composite materials are just 25% of the fighter’s weight, but cover 70% of its surface. A new power system design from Rostec’s Aviation Equipment provides double the amount of electrical power offered by previous Russian systems. We hope they have better luck than Boeing has, but that power will be needed by Radioelectronic Technologies’ new avionics and related systems. With respect to the plane’s biggest current deficit, UEC has an initial-model of the next-generation AL-41F1 thrust-vectoring engines installed in a prototype now, and Rostec is feeding general expectations that the AL-41 will give the new fighter supercruise capability. Sources: Rostec, “The T-50 Fighter will feature even greater stealth capabilities” | Air & Cosmos, “Le T-50 russe serait plus furtif que le F-22″.


Test flights, incl. the new 5th prototype; Negotiations and tensions with India. T50, incoming
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Oct 28/13: #5. Sukhoi flies the 5th T50 prototype at its Y.A.Gagarin KnAAZ aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Once it finishes local flight tests, the aircraft will join the program flight tests at Zhukovsky, near Moscow.

Sukhoi pegs the number of flights to date at “more than 450″, with another 2 planes are involved in ground tests as a complex ground stand and static testing platform, respectively. Sources: Sukhoi release, Oct 28/13.

Oct 21/13: Indian complaints. Aviation Week reports that India is dissatisfied with their development workshare, in a project they came op late and close to lockdown on their partner’s side, and for which they have only recently managed to produce anything resembling their specifications (q.v. April 10/13):

“We have a major opportunity in the FGFA program,” Indian air force (IAF) Deputy Chief Air Marshal S. Sukumar says. However, “at the moment [the 15% development share] is not very much in favor of Indian development. We are flagging it through the government. It should be much more focused towards indigenous development capability.”

The problem is that 4 Russian T50 prototypes have performed about 450 test flights since January 2010, and the VVS plans to begin inducting the fighter in 2015-2016. Even if they’re a year late, it doesn’t leave much room for development. That would have required fast decisions to begin the contract early, when the design was still in need of refinement.

India’s desires and its modus operandi are in conflict once again, and the question is whether the dichotomy will become a stumbling block in negotiations for the final $11 billion system development contract. At this point, the only way to square that circle would be to increase the number of differences between the Russian and Indian fighters, or to involve India in developing the “Block 10″ next iteration of a fighter whose core technologies are already a big stretch for Indian firms. Either approach would drive up overall costs for the contract under negotiation (q.v. July 15/13), and add substantial risk to India’s plans to begin manufacturing at HAL in 2022 – itself a problematic proposition, given HAL’s record. Sources: Aviation Week, “India Concerned About Fifth-Gen Fighter Work Share With Russia”.

Oct 18/13: Aircraft issues. An article in The Aviationist looks at issues with the PAK-FA, which don’t get the same exposure as western projects with their public oversight. Piotr Butowski of the Polish Magazyn Lotnictwo notes that:

“…the plane still suffers from the strict g-limits…. The plane underwent a modernization in the Sukhoi facility on the Polikarpov Street in Moscow Dec. 2012 and May 2013. The airframe was reinforced according to the flight tests and static tests that were already carried out; many new [metal strip] overlays can be seen on the airplane’s surface.”

Problems and modifications aren’t abnormal. The 1st PAK-FA prototype has structural cracks in 2011, and the 2nd had an engine flameout cancel its public MAKES 2011 air show performance. Sources: The Aviationist, “Russia’s most advanced fighter jet’s troublesome childhood”.

July 15/13: India Delays. The FGFA project’s parameters may be set (q.v. April 10/13), but there’s a problem with the R&D deal, which was pegged at $11 billion equivalent. The Times of India:

“Defence ministry sources said the inking of the final design and R&D contract for the stealth fighter has been hit by a huge delay, with Russia also jacking up costs for the futuristic project. “It’s very unlikely the FGFA final design contract will be concluded in the 2013-2014 fiscal,” said a source. “The timeframes will now have to be revised. MoD has established a committee of specialists and finance officials to verify the rise in costs. An internal contract negotiation committee is also in progress…”

Russia isn’t going to wait, and will continue development of their version while they wait for India’s signature. Operational testing is slated to begin in 2014. If FGFA negotiations stretch into 2015, the net effect will be to severely delay India’s variant, even as the base Russian design becomes more and more firmly set.

April 25/13: VVS flight. The Russian air force’s (VVS) Chkalov Flight Test Center begins flying the PAK-FA prototypes, with a 2-hour flight from the M.M. Gromov Flight Research Institute in Zhukovsky (Moscow region).

At present, Sukhoi has 4 flying test planes, which are mostly flown by company test pilots, and 2 ground test planes. Sukhoi.

April 10/13: India. Sukhoi announces that the parameters for their joint FGFA project with India are set:

“The contract to develop a sketch and technical project of the Russian-Indian perspective multi-functional 5th-generation fighter (PMI/FGFA) was completed. The fighter design was fully developed. The both parties have agreed upon on the amount and division of work during the research and development (R&D) stage. A contract for the R&D is being prepared. It is to be signed this year.”

March 1/13: Plans & Schedule. High-level Russian and Indian sources offer a bit more clarity concerning dates, but they seem to be at odds regarding electronics.

Russian VVS commander Gen. Victor Bondarev expects weapons release trials to begin in 2013, as the number of aircraft rises from 4 – 8. If tests go well, the fighter could enter series production in late 2015 or early 2016. Based on past fighter programs, that may be a bit optimistic.

Meanwhile, IAF chief of staff Air Marshall N.A.K. Browne is expecting to sign the big design & development contract for the FGFA in 2013. They’ll receive 3 developmental prototypes in India in 2015, 2017 and then 2018, rather than the wider 2014-2019 window reported earlier. That SDD version would apparently be fully common between Russia and India, making Pogosyan (vid. Feb 7/13) correct to that point. India would then fund, as a separate project, FGFA (SU-50KI?) customization for the Indian air force by a joint team of Russian and Indian engineers. The difference is described as “mission hardware and software,” though it would be surprising if Indian bureaucrats’ fetish for “indigenization” was forced to stop there. Series manufacturing would begin at HAL in 2022.

If true, it means that India wouldn’t see operational serving FGFA fighters until 2025 at the earliest, and that’s only if HAL’s known industrial issues with high-tech production are fully solved by 2022. AIN.

Feb 7/13: Avionics. At Aero India 2013, Obedinnoe Avaitstroitel’noi Corporatsii (United Aircraft Corp.) President Mikhail Pogosyan says that the new fighter will “have a single set of on-board equipment [cockpit avionics],” as a requirement of the Indian Air Force. He adds that India’s fighters will also share the Russian single-seat configuration.

Both of those statements would represent major changes from India. India’s initial plans involved a 2-seat variant that would follow the example of programs like the SU-30MKI, and create a unique cockpit avionics set that used equipment from Indian companies and foreign vendors. If Pogosyan is correct, India has backtracked toward a standard type configuration, and joint funding of upgrades. UPI.


India’s timeline keeps falling back, as it cuts plans to 144 jets; No SU-50 for ROKAF; Prototype #4 flies; AESA radar testing begins. #T2 lands
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Dec 12/12: #4 flies. The 4th prototype takes flight at the snowy Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO). UAC.

Nov 12/12: RCS guess. Airpower Australia uses public-domain photos coupled with the Physical Optics (PO) method for predicting the Radar Cross Section of complex targets on Russia’s T50, using VisCam View software to produce a PolyChromatic Spherical Representation (PCSR). Without flight test data, it’s still a guess, but it’s a kind of guess that Moore’s Law has made available outside of large intelligence agencies.

Their guess? It won’t match the F-22, or even China’s J-20, but if they introduce a rectangular faceted design to the engine nozzles and add radar absorbent coatings, they might beat the F-35. Sources: Airpower Australia, “A Preliminary Assessment of Specular Radar Cross Section Performance in the Sukhoi T-50 Prototype” | WIRED Danger Room, “Russia’s Stealth Fighter Could Match U.S. Jets, Analyst Says”.

Oct 9/12: During an interview with India Strategic, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne confirms that HAL has committed $6 billion to joint development. Plans have changed, and India’s 144 planned FGFAs will all be single seaters, now, hewing much more closely to the Russian baseline. In the same vein as India’s SU-30 MKIs, however, they’ll have some avionics and integration differences. According to the ACM Browne:

“… the first prototype is likely to be delivered to India in 2014 followed by two more in 2017 and 2019. The series production then “will only be ordered based on the final configuration and performance of the third prototype.”

See: India Strategic | IANS.

Aug 19/12: Even later to India. Reports now indicate that the 1st FGFA prototype flight tests should start in India in 2014, with deliveries to the Indian Air Force by 2022, a full ten years from now. This would be the start of a $30+ billion, 250 plane program over the next decade, at roughly $100 million each.

Closer to the present, Russia and India are reportedly finalizing the research and development phase at $11+ billion, split evenly between the two parties. Business Standard | AviationWeek.

Aug 8/12: Radar. Sukhoi announces that they’ve begun flight tests of the PAK-FA’s Tikhomirov “active phased array radar system” in both air-to-air and air-to-surface test modes. Initial trials toward flight refueling also take place this month. Sukhoi | The DEW Line | RIA Novosti.

May 14/12: Late to India. India is already backtracking on service dates for its FGFA variant of Sukhoi’s T50, bringing them closer to predictions made by outside observers years ago. M M Pallam Raju has moved the plane’s certification and production start date from 2017 back to 2019. Close examination shows that 2020 or beyond is more likely.

India’s Business Standard also highlights a number of areas that aren’t settled, where ongoing specifications changes and/or technical problems may end up delaying the fighter and send India’s costs skyrocketing. India reportedly wants 40-45 design changes to the current PAK-FA, including its own avionics and a “360 degrees” AESA radar. That last requirement is likely to involve AESA “cheek fairings” that need to maintain aircraft stealth levels, a tailcone radar, and the internal computing and software required to fuse all of those radars into a single picture. They also want at least 2,000 hours of certification flying, and possible configuration changes in light of tests. India now expects their fighters to prepare for service no earlier than 2019, and if the IAF fields a 2-seat version, it’s likely to take even longer. All of India’s changes add 3 types of risk.

One is technical risk. India’s history is littered with overly ambitious projects that India’s Ministry of Defense and associated state-run agencies approved, but could not execute. The cutting-edge nature of the FGFA project magnifies those risks, even with Sukhoi’s assistance.

The 2nd risk is cost risk. Sukhoi’s help, and the associated design, production, and testing of new FGFA equipment, won’t come for free. The more changes India makes, the more the project will cost them. Russia isn’t going to pick up the tab for changes to a design their air force has already approved, and even the “Tactical Technical Agreement” that specified Indian changes isn’t going to mean much if costs become a problem. Russia has forcibly renegotiated critical defense contracts with India several times, and won’t hesitate to do so again.

The 3rd risk is schedule risk. Since Russia is focused on fielding the current single-seat configuration in its current form, while India is focused on major configuration changes and is still debating a 2-seat variant, both of those timelines could turn out to be true. Russia could wind up fielding SU-50 squadrons several years before India even finishes development. India’s Business Standard.

Jan 29/12: Korea: No PAK-FA. The Korea Times quotes a DAPA spokesman, who confirms the potential F-X-III competitors:

“No Russian firm submitted an application to attend the program’s explanatory session, which was a prerequisite to participate, by the Friday registration deadline,” a spokesman of DAPA said. He noted that a representative from Swedish company Saab, which has been searching for additional export orders for its Gripen multirole fighters, successfully filed an application for the mandatory session along with Boeing, Lockheed Martine [sic] and EADS.”

This means that the Indo-Russian PAK-FA will not be part of the $7+ billion competition, despite reports (vid. July 20/11) that it was intending to participate, just as Russian disinterest kept the SU-35 out of F-X-2.


Prototypes #2 & 3 fly; Testing flameout; South Korean opportunity? PAK-FA: takeoff!
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Dec 22/11: #3 flies. First flight of the 3rd PAK-FA prototype from Sukhoi’s KNAAPO aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Sukhoi.

Sept 6/11: Exports? Russia & India Report highlights an analysis by Russia’s unofficial Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade (CAWAT), which takes a look at potential buyers of the PAK-FA’s export version. They see a potential for 274-388 export units beyond India or states that spun out of the Soviet Union, like Kazakhstan et. al. Their projections for possible buyers, and their projected purchasing periods, include:

  • Algeria (2025-2030)
  • Argentina (2035-2040)
  • Brazil (2030-2035)
  • Venezuela (2027-2032)
  • Vietnam (2030-2035)
  • Indonesia (2028-2032)
  • Iran (subject to lifting of the arms embargo, 2035-2040)
  • Kazakhstan (2025-2035)
  • China (“subject to certain conditions”, 2025-2035)
  • Malaysia (2035-2040)
  • Syria (2025-2030)

Aug 24/11: Flameout. Flight International conveys NPO Saturn general director Ilya Federo’s explanation of the MAKS 2011 failure:

“The motor did not fail – in fact, it was put by erroneous control input into a wrong mode that caused the surge. This is not an engine failure, but the wrong data input caused by a malfunctioning sensor feeding data to the flight control system. After what had happened the motor was checked [and] the malfunctioning sensor was replaced by a good one. Today, there is no issue with this engine.”

Aug 22/11: Flameout. After performing a basic fly-over with the PAK FA, Sukhoi intended to close Russia’s MAKS 2011 air show with a bang – and did, sort of. The pilot of its second prototype PAK-FA/T50-2 was forced to abort his take-off run, and the planned flying routine, after 2 bursts of flame erupted from the right engine.

The show’s organizers compounded the embarrassment by promising that the 1st prototype would fly instead – but it was not on site, and is believed to be in maintenance following its Aug 17/11 demonstration. Flameout: Flight International (incl. flame burst picture) | India’s Open magazine | China’s Xinhua || Appearance: Moscow Times | Pravda | RIA Novosti | Voice of Russia | Reuters | UPI | WSJ Emerging Europe blog | op-ed – Right-wing Heritage Foundation, USA.

July 20/11: PAK-FA for South Korea? As South Korea’s DAPA eases the criteria to try and foster more competition, DAPA’s Col. Wi Jong-seong says that “Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi expressed its intent to compete in the fighter jet procurement project early this year.” The report quotes him as saying that Sukhoi’s T50 PAK-FA will be up against Boeing’s stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, and EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon. Assuming we don’t have an F-X-2 repeat, where all competitors but one drop out.

At this point, FX-III is being touted as a 60 jet buy of high-end fighters, with a budget of 8.29 trillion won ($7.86 billion). Eurofighter reportedly offered a better deal than the F-15K in F-X-2, but lost. The firm recently proposed to phase in Korean assembly for Phase III, with the 1st 10 made in Europe, the next 24 using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea. Korea Times.

March 3/11: #2 flies. Russia’s 2nd PAK-FA fighter prototype successfully completes its 1st test flight in Russia’s Far East region of Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Note that China’s Xinhua cites local reports dated Feb 23/11, but Sukhoi’s release pegs the date at March 3/11.

UAC’s Mikhail Pogosyan adds that they expect to have a fleet of 3 test aircraft by year end, and says the existing jets have now made 40 flights since last January to test the model’s aero-dynamic characteristics and electronics. Beyond that, Pogosyan tells Russian media that the Indian Air Force will “acquire 50 single-seater fighters of the Russian version” before their 2-seat FGFA is developed. If true, it would go a long way toward ensuring that India meets its 2017 induction target. On the Russian end, plans are to purchase the first batch with existing engines, buying the first 10 aircraft after 2012 and then 60 after 2016. Russia’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies director Ruslan Pukhov predicts that Vietnam will be the 2nd export customer for the fighter. Sukhoi | Russia’s Pravda | China’s Xinhua.

Feb 9/11: With Aero India 2011 underway, Sukhoi offers some additional details regarding the December 2010 agreement with India:

“This is the first of a series of documents governing the obligations of the parties at different stages of the program. The PMF project includes the design and development of a next-generation fighter, which will have such advanced features as stealth, supersonic cruise speed, high maneuverability, highly integrated set of avionics, an advanced warning system about the situation, the internal deployment of weapons and the possibility of a centralized reporting and electronic warfare system. The fighter is being developed on the basis of the Russian perspective aviation complex (PAK FA) according to stringent technical requirements of the Indian side. The further development of the program envisages design and development of a two-place version of the aircraft and integration of an advanced engine with increased thrust. The two sides are supposed to cooperate in joint marketing of the complex in other countries.”

Feb 9/11: India. Indian defence minister AK Antony reiterates their target of a 2017 induction for the FGFA. India’s defense procurement history suggests that they’re unlikely to make it. Time will tell. Sukhoi.


1st flight; Russian air force plans; Contract with India. Sukhoi PAK-FA: 1st flight
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Dec 20/10: Contract. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reportedly signs a set of defense and nuclear agreements in India, including the FGFA development contract. Details remain sketchy. Bloomberg | BBC.

Dec 16/10: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Chairman Ashok Nayak tells Russia’s RIA Novosti that Russia and India have agreed on key features of the design contract for their joint fifth-generation fighter project. The cost of preliminary design is estimated at $295 million, with work expected to be complete within 18 months. The partnership will develop both a single-seat and a twin-seat version of the aircraft by 2016, focusing on the single-seat version in the initial stages of development.

Nayak said the contract could be signed by the representatives of India’s HAL and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) during a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to India on December 20-22. RIA Novosti.

Development contract

Nov 30/10: The right-wing American Heritage Foundation think tank releases an analysis of the Russia program and its implications: “What Russia’s Stealth Fighter Developments Mean for America“.

July 23/10: Testing. Sukhoi’s KnAAPO issues a release saying that:

“Sukhoi Company has completed the preliminary on-land and in-flight activities which involved all 3 engineering prototypes of the Frontline Aviation Advanced Airborne Complex (PAK FA)… These prototypes were used for testbed strength tests, on-land optimization of fuel systems and other work towards flight trials. The flying prototype has made 16 flights… enables execution of a complete program of flight trials… Vladimir Popovkin, the Russian Defense Minister First Deputy, in his interview to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper estimated the Russian Air Force’s demand for the 5th-generation fighters at 50 to 100 units. It is planned to complete all tests of the PAK FA airframe in 2011-2012, and to sign a contract in 2013 for a pilot lot of ten aircraft for testing the model’s entire weapons suite.”

July 13/10: Russia. RIA Novosti quotes senior Russian figures. Russian Air Force chief Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin confirms the expected delivery dates of over 60 planes, which they hope to begin in 2015-16, but equipped with older, “non-fifth” generation engines from existing SU-30 family planes.

“Deputy Defense Minister for Arms Procurement Vladimir Popovkin said the Defense Ministry would purchase the first 6 to 10 aircraft after 2012, based on the outcome of initial tests… The prime minister said 30 billion rubles (around $1 billion) had already been spent on the project and another 30 billion would be required to complete it, after which the engine, weaponry and other components would be upgraded.”

April 2010: Testing. The 1st flying prototype of the fighter, and the avionics testbed used for systems optimization before flight trials, are delivered to the flying test center of the OKB Sukhoi Experimental Design Bureau in Zhukovsky, near Moscow. On April 29/10, the flying prototype begins preliminary tests. Source.

March 29/10: Welcome to the new world of intelligence, where a pair of YouTube videos appear to provide insights into PAK-FA technologies. Veteran aviation journalist Bill Sweetman reports that:

“…the video highlights a new honeycomb core material designed for high temperatures. It also states that the T-50 will have no fewer than five radar arrays: the 1500-module forward active electronically scanned array (AESA), two side-facing X-band sub-arrays and two “decimetric” (L-band) arrays in the leading-edge root extensions. It also states that the goal is to fight the F-22 by closing within visual range. Another new video shows a novel inlet radar blocker… It uses flexible vanes with a rotating ring at the rear end: in the “stealth regime” it provides extensive blockage, but it clears the airflow when it doesn’t matter or you need full speed or power.”

Late March 2010: Testing. Acceptance trials of the flying prototype are fully completed. Source.

March 16/10: Russia. In “The future of the Russian Air Force: 10 years on“, RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik discusses planned buys and pending recapitalization of the Russian Air Force over the next decade:

“According to various media reports, the Ministry wants to buy at least 1,500 aircraft, including 350 new warplanes, by 2020. The fleet would include 70% new equipment at that point, said Air Force Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Alexander Zelin… The Defense Ministry has now signed contracts for the purchase of 32 Su-34 Fullback advanced fighter-bombers to be delivered by 2013, 48 Su-35 Flanker-E fighters by 2015, 12 Su-27SM Flanker-B Mod. 1 fighters by 2011, 4 Su-30M2 Flanker-C planes by 2011 and 12 Su-25UBM Frogfoot combat trainers. This year, the Defense Ministry intends to sign a contract for the delivery of 26 MiG-29K Fulcrum-D fighters by 2015. Additional contracts for the delivery of at least 80 Su-34s and 24-48 Su-35s are expected to be signed. In all, the Russian Air Force is to receive 240-260 new aircraft of these types. It is hard to say much about the specifications of another 100-110 aircraft, due to be manufactured primarily after 2015. They will probably include 25-30 MiG-35 fighters, another 12-16 Su-30 combat trainers for Su-35 squadrons and 40-60 Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA (Advanced Frontline Aviation Aircraft System) fifth-generation fighters…”

Feb 12/10: Testing. The PAK-FA prototype reportedly makes its 2nd flight at Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Times Now | RT .

Feb 6/10: Some aviation watchers ask “How long has the PAK-FA or T50 been flying?” They believe that the first prototype may have flown before January 2010, and that there may be more than 1 prototype, based on differences in available photos.

Jan 29/10: Fly! The first prototype PAK-FA fighter lifts off from KNAAPO’s Komsomolsk-on-Amur facility for a 47 minute flight, piloted by Sukhoi test-pilot Sergey Bogdan. Sukhoi says that the plane met all expectations. Sukhoi JSC release | NPO Saturn release [in Russian] | Russia 1 TV video | Pravda | RIA Novosti | Times of India | Aviation Week | Defense News | Agence France Presse | BBC | Canadian Press | Washington Post | China’s Xinhua | Aviaiton Week’s Bill Sweetman: Preliminary Analysis.

1st PAK-FA flight

Jan 6/10: India’s Business Standard covers the workshare and capability issues that have must be addressed before production contracts and arrangements can be finalized. The project is currently expected to have development costs of $8-10 billion, and Russia and Sukhoi have already made substantial investments.

The crux of the negotiations revolves around HAL’s designated development workshare, and the areas it will be applied to. On the other side of the table, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation is wary of India’s lack of design credentials, coupled with the cutting-edge nature of this project. HAL is intent on a 25% share, to include the mission computer and critical software (building on Indian SU-30MKI work), navigation systems, cockpit displays, counter-measures dispensing (CMD) systems, composites expertise and production to complement Russia’s titanium expertise, and modifying Sukhoi’s single-seat design into a twin-seat fighter for the IAF. HAL’s Chairman Ashok Baweja seems to have a different view of the fighter’s design state, referring to existing prototypes as “proof of concept” items rather than nearly final designs.

Once the 2 sides come to a firm agreement on issues of design and funding, UAC and HAL will sign a General Contract, and set up a joint venture to design and build the aircraft. That has not happened yet, while Sukhoi has continued to push forward with general design, and has produced a prototype aircraft. Business Standard describes India’s workshare as “almost finalised,” but as we’ve seen with other Indian procurements, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Jan 3/10: Rollout. Reports surface that the first prototype of Russia’s PAK-FA aircraft has rolled out on the runway at KNAAPO’s plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, but did not fly. The test pilot reportedly switched on the engines and made 2 runs on the airstrip, while testing the brakes.

Russia’s vice premier Sergei Ivanov had promised that tests would commence in December 2009-January 2010, and the Russian Air Force reportedly plans to induct the fighter beginning from 2015. DNA India.

2008 – 2009

Russia – India MoU signed; Russia approves their version’s design; Exports could be a challenge. PAK-FA: early concept
(click to view larger)

Oct 9/09: India. The Indian Ministry of Defence issues a release regarding the 9th meeting of the Russia-India Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation on Oct 14-15/09:

“Among the major new projects which will be high in priorities of the Indian agenda for bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries, will be projects for joint design and development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and of the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA). The co-development and co-production of the FGFA with Sukhoi Design Bureau Russia has been progressing, with several rounds of discussion already completed to finalize the technical requirements. During discussions in the meeting of the Commission, Shri Antony would highlight New Delhi’s interest in ensuring that the development phase of the FGFA is completed by 2016, as originally anticipated and that induction of the aircraft into the IAF can start by 2017.”

See also: Times of India.

Aug 28/09: Radar. Tikhomirov’s NIIP reportedly exhibits models of the PAK-FA’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. Tikhomirov reportedly says the AESA antenna entered bench testing in November 2008, and was mated with the radar’s other blocks for an initial integration test “this summer,” with a 2nd radar produced by mid-2010 for integration with the operational prototype aircraft.

The Milaz report adds that Sukhoi will complete 5 prototypes for initial testing, including 2 to be dedicated for ground test activities. Initial trials are scheduled for completion in 2011-12, with the company expecting to produce an initial batch of aircraft for operational trials by 2015.

April 16/09: Exports? Forecast International offers a cautionary market assessment of the FGFA:

“…with the PAKFA program under increasing tension and the West’s major aerospace firms seeking to shore up additional orders for soon to be closed fourth-generation aircraft production lines, Russia faces the prospect of declining presence in the world’s most high sought after arms markets… Faced with the considerable research & development costs associated with developing a new, advanced fighter platform, Russia is seeking to both distribute costs and ensure that a viable export market will exist… Sukhoi, is reported to have already invested as much as $115 million in company capital…

Several factors are working against the Rosoboronexport’s attempts replicate the international cost/production-sharing development model implemented for the F-35, which is expected to become the dominant fighter in the fifth-generation market… the unproven status of the PAKFA… its timeline for delivery its far behind its western competitors. Deliveries of the PAKFA are not anticipated to begin until 2017. Finally, as production of the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35 ramp up, the western aerospace firms currently producing advanced variants of fourth-generation aircraft are likely to push hard to gain additional order to extend production lines.”

Aug 8/09: RIA Novosti quotes the chief of the Russian Air Force, Alexander Zelin, from the MAKS-2009 arms show. Zelin says there are problems with the PAK-FA’s proposed new engines, and:

“For the time being the aircraft will use Saturn engines. There are problems, I admit, but research is continuing.”

Dec 29/08: MoU. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) sign the deal to jointly develop and produce a 5th generation fighter aircraft. HAL Chairman Ashok K Baweja:

“We (HAL and UAC) are moving forward as per schedule. We (have) just done the general contract yesterday. I went to Delhi and signed the general contract.”

According to reports, Russia and India will simultaneously develop 2 versions of the aircraft: a 2-seat version for India, and a single seat version for the Russian Air Force. India Defence.

India – Russia MoU

Sept 29/08: India Today magazine reports that the Russian and Indian designs for the FGFA project will differ somewhat, while efforts continue to define India’s participation in a project that has reportedly already had its design frozen by Sukhoi. HAL Chairman Ashok Baweja is quoted as saying that the Indian aircraft will be a 2-seat aircraft, which changes some aspects of design and has an especial impact on stealth unless carefully managed. Bajewa added that both stealth and supercruise capabilities were expected for the aircraft, adding that both sides were closer to a real agreement defining India’s participation, almost a year after the original cooperation memo was signed. India’s capabilities in composite materials manufacturing was mentioned as a possible basis for industrial participation.

Meanwhile, Russia’s the United Aircraft Corporation President Alexey Fedorov says that the single-seat T50 is set to fly in Russia in 2009 as planned; Bajewa adds that it will be powered by an ALF-31 FP engine.

The most interesting quote was Indian Air Vice Marshal Kak’s, who noted that the opportunity to gain from being part of the design process was gone, and added that “…if we have missed out on the design phase, we have to analyse the cost-benefits of acquiring only super cruise and stealth technology for $10 billion.”

A fair question. One likely to be asked in the political realm as well, when the time comes to finalize the agreement. Which leads to the corollary questions: How important each aspect is to the IAF? And where, if anywhere, might enough of these performance benefits be acquired at less cost?

Summer 2008: Design approval. The fighter’s initial design is approved in Russia, and the prototype blueprints are delivered to the KNAAPO aircraft building company based in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Source.

Russia approves design

April 3/08: RIA Novosti reports that Russia plans to begin flight tests of a new fifth-generation fighter based on Sukhoi’s PAK FA project in 2009.

Feb 28/08: HAL explains some of the timelines facing the FGFA program. HAL Chairman Ashok Baweja explains the process, which is also the set of implicit points of failure where the project can become stalled or canceled:

“We have only signed an Inter-governmental Agreement which agrees to cooperate in developing the FGFA. Now from that will flow the project report, general contract, the structure of the company that will be set up, and where the funding will come from. An aircraft design, development, certification, the complete entity with its power plant, systems, weapons, trials, is a process which takes 15 years to be completed.”

2004 – 2007

India signs key agreement, but it isn’t finalized. India’s SU-30 MKIs
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Nov 6/07: India. Issues and rifts may be developing between India and Russia over the FGFA contract, which still lacks key signatories. Defense News reports that key difference include the design’s level of finalization (India wants more input and hasn’t finalized requirements, Russia says the design is final), India’s monetary share (HAL says $2 billion, agreement suggests $5-6 billion), and other issues. The Defense News report does claim that Sukhoi’s secret PAK-FA/ I-21/ T50 design has been selected as the foundation.

The first prototype of the aircraft is reportedly projected to be test-flown by 2015, but the number of aircraft to be built remains among the unsettled issues, and the 2 state-owned firms (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. & Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau) have not signed any agreements yet.

All of these things are solvable by negotiations, of course, but that means the partnership is still effectively in negotiations, rather than a final deal.

Oct 18/07: India and Russia sign an Intergovernmental Agreement for joint development and joint production of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). The agreement was signed in Moscow, Russia at the conclusion of the 7th Meeting of the India- Russia Intergovernmental Commission for Military and Technical Cooperation.

India’s Defence Minister Mr. AK Antony and his Russian counterpart Mr. Anatoly Serdyukov also signed a Protocol which envisages a ‘new strategic relationship’ based on greater interaction at various operational levels. The two countries have agreed to strengthen and expand relations in all areas, especially in the areas of more frequent joint exercises and greater R&D cooperation. Talks with Russia to extend the 2000 Military Cooperation Agreement beyond 2010 have now begun, and Antony also expressed hope that the two countries would soon sign an Intergovernmental Agreement on co-development and co-production of Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MRTA). The India MoD release adds:

“The Defence Minister described the Agreement on FGFA as a ‘major landmark’ and said that the Indo-Russian relationship is on a trajectory to reach new heights. He Mr. Antony expressed satisfaction at the outcome of discussions on other important projects e.g., supply and licensed production of T-90 tanks, SU-30 MKI aircraft and other strategic issues. He admitted that there has been a delay in the delivery of the repaired and refurbished aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov along with supply of deck-based fighter aircraft MiG-29K and said it was decided that some more studies by technical groups would be done to go through the details. He appreciated the efforts made by the Russian side to resolve issues relating to life cycle support of equipment of Russian origin.”

Inter-Governmental Agreement

Aug 29/07: India. India’s MoD issues a familiar release, in response to renewed questions:

“Co-development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft has been identified as an important area of cooperation between the Indian and Russian Government. Technical discussions to work out the details are in progress. Efforts are on for finalizing the draft Inter Governmental Agreement in this regard. This information was given by the Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh in a written reply to Shri Gurudas Dasgupta and Shri CK Chandrappan in Lok Sabha today.”

March 1/07: India.Advanced Combat Aircraft” release from India’s Minister of State for Defence Production Shri Rao Inderjit Singh:

“The co-development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft has been identified as an important area of cooperation between the Indian and Russian governments. Technical discussions to work out the details are in progress. Efforts are on for negotiations and finalization of the draft Inter-Governmental Agreement in this regard.”

Dec 10/04: The new fighter’s exterior design is approved. Source.

Appendix A: “Fifth Generation”? MiG 1.44 MFI
(click to view full)

Russia’s SU-27/30 Flanker family fighters were invented in the 1980s and 1990s, and attempted to incorporate the lessons from America’s 4th generation “teen series” fighters (F-14, F-15, F-16, F/A-18) into their designs. They were successful, and India’s Air Force may now be flying the world’s second best air superiority fighter in the SU-30MKI. The MKI, and European designs like the Eurofighter, Rafale, and JAS-39 Gripen, are typically referred to as “4+ generation” aircraft.

The term “fifth generation” fighter is part marketing hype, and partly based in reality. There are no objective criteria for this designation, and very few examples, which means it’s mostly applied based on when the development of a front-line, advanced fighter begins. There are a few general constants on the American side: some level of stealth, and internal weapon carriage to maintain it; arrays of embedded sensors within the airframe’s structure, rather than as bolt-ons; and sensor fusion into single displays. On the other hand, level of application varies for each category, and key capabilities like super-maneuverability and supercruise (Mach 1+ without using fuel-guzzling afterburners) have not been constants.

F-22, bays open
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The USA’s “5th generation” F-22A Raptor offers full stealth, supermaneuverability, an advanced AESA radar, huge computing power that creates a single “sensor fusion” picture from the plane’s array of embedded sensors and datalinks, and the ability to “supercruise” above Mach 1 instead of just making short supersonic dashes. It is operated by the USAF, and just over 190 aircraft will constitute America’s entire fleet. America has refused to export it, despite interest from very close allies.

To a lesser extent, there’s also the cheaper F-35 Lightning II, with some stealth, a smaller AESA radar, sensor fusion, and even more computing power and sensors embedded around the aircraft. It lacks supercruise or super-maneuverability, and will be produced for domestic use and export in Air Force, Marines/STOVL, and Navy variants.

Russia’s MiG 1.44 (if indeed it was a real project?) and/or “I-21″ type aircraft were early attempts to keep up with the Americans, but lack of funds suspended both efforts.

The obvious solution was a foreign partner, but Europe had limited funds, and had invested in its own 4+ generation projects: Dassault’s Rafale, EADS’ Eurofighter, and Sweden’s Gripen. India, on the other hand, has a long-standing defense relationship with Russia, and the funds to pursue advanced projects. From their point of view, a joint development agreement is one way to restrict Russian cooperation with China along similar lines. See Vijiander K Thakur’s “Understanding IAF interest in the MiG fifth generation fighter” for more background.

Until similar aspects of the Russian design became clear, however, it was impossible to know exactly what Russia and India meant by “5th generation.” Some of those ambiguities were resolved when Russia unveiled its T50 demonstrators.

Appendix B: DID Analysis – Under Pressure (2008) The competition?
(click to view full)

If there’s one watchword to use for this deal, it’s “pressure.” Russia has been putting pressure on India lately to remain a customer, by giving China export rights to jet engines that will power Pakistan’s new fighters, and by working to evict India from its base in Tajikistan. Verbiage concerning deepened strategic cooperation needs to be seen in this light.

The second kind of pressure at work here is the fiscal variety. With the Navy also demanding funds for new ships, submarines and aircraft as India’s geostrategy shifts toward securing the Indian Ocean sea lanes, any additional fighters will face an extremely tight fiscal environment over the next decade and more.

India already faces cost pressures given limited defense budget and pressing need to refurbish its existing fleet, modernize its fighters via the MRCA competition, and bring the Tejas LCA on line to replace its MiG-21s. Not to mention adding new platforms to patrol India’s vital sea lanes, fulfill naval fighter needs, upgrade its transport aircraft fleet, and extend the IAF’s reach. Meanwhile, India’s SU-30MKIs remain one of the best 4th generation aircraft in the world, with a comfortable edge over regional rivals, good growth prospects, and superiority over most current and planned US aircraft as well.

SU-30MK2s, China
(click to view full)

Then there’s pressure in future, as the strategic agreement lays the foundations for something of a dilemma down the road. There are no real guarantees when dealing with Russia, only its interests of the moment and the logic of cash. Any fighter whose R&D is partly underwritten by India can easily be sold to China later on if relations turn sour, or if India does not buy enough aircraft to make exclusivity worthwhile from Russia’s point of view. One might think that this would be counterbalanced somewhat by Russian wariness about giving a potential rival its best technology, but past experience shows that even this will be for sale. China’s real military budget is about 4-5 times India’s according to most credible estimates, and is likely to remain so.

Given the amount of Russian equipment in India’s military, and the limitations of defense budgets in a democracy that prevent a massive “throw-out and re-equip” exercise, India’s options for retaliation would be very limited.

India faces high hurdles to retaining future exclusivity – and is handing a potent lever to Russia for future “negotiations” involving Russian armaments.

Additional Readings Background: PAK-FA

  • Global Security – PAK FA [Perspektivnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsyi].

  • Air Power Australia (Feb 15/10) – Assessing the Sukhoi PAK-FA. “While the failure to account for the imminent arrival of this design in United States TACAIR force structure planning qualifies the PAK-FA as a “known capability surprise”, the important advances in PAK-FA aerodynamic, kinematic and low observables design also qualify it as a “surprising capability surprise”.

  • Wikipedia – Sukhoi PAK FA. Wikipedia is a useful source for concept aircraft, because it tends to aggregate the various sources. This article is a good example. Note that all articles concerning this aircraft must be regarded as very provisional.

  • Warfare.RU, via WayBack – PAK-FA Sukhoi T-50. As of 2011. The “T-50″ is an internal designation; the operational aircraft will be SU-##.

  • RIA Novosti, via WayBack – FACTBOX: Russia’s fifth-generation fighter T-50 (PAK FA). As of 2012.

  • NPO Saturn – 117S. The engine that equips the Su-35, and early T50 models. For its successor, see Aircraft Engines of the 5th Generation [in Russian].

News and Views

Categories: News

India’s Project 17-A Stealth Frigates

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 00:33
FFG Talwar Class
(click to view full)

In July 2006, “India Orders 3 More Krivak III/Talwar Class Frigates” noted that the Talwar/Krivak Class were better described as modern multi-role designs, given the presence of contemporary classes with far better stealth features. The follow-on Project 17/ Shivalik class program offered improvements in that area, with 3 ships ordered and the possibility of more too follow.

In December 2006, India Defence reported that India was looking to acquire up to 7 more frigates with stealth improvements, plus some level of joint development and technology transfer. The Request for Information (RFI) was reportedly issued to about 12 international firms, mostly in Europe and Russia. These “Project 17A” ships could be worth up to 45,000 crore (INR 450 billion, about $9.23 billion as of June 2009), according to a recently-approved budget. Further reports appear to be confirming 100% construction in India, however, even as they clarify an extended timeline for design and delivery…

  • Project 17-A [updated]
  • Contracts and Key Events [updated]
  • Additional Readings

Project 17-A

RSS Formidable and
INS Brahmaputra
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Though Project 17 was approved in 1997, delivery of the first Shivalik class ship was only expected in 2009, thanks to construction delays and other hold-ups. In the end, it took until April 2010, and continued to encounter delays into 2011.

The overall Project 17 program envisages a total of 12 ships, and the 7 Project 17-A ships would be part of that plan. The question is how different they might be. India Defense characterizes this P-17A project as the next generation ships beyond the ongoing Project 17 Shivalik Class multi-role stealth frigates. Ship “signature reduction” levels are expected to rise to fully modern standards, similar to Singapore’s new Formidable Class frigates from France (a Lafayette Class derivative).

Beyond that, political battles, India’s culture of semi-transparency, and the nature of this procurement process have left 3 key areas of uncertainty.

One is dollars. The proposed P-17A acquisition has had different figures floated. Early figures mentioned Rs 30,000 crore (300 billion Indian rupees, then about $6.7 billion), with expected costs of Rs 4,000 crore (then about $892 million) per ship. March 2009 reports give figures of Rs 17,000 crore, or about $3.3 billion at that time. By June 2009, however, reports of DAC approval mentioned Rs 45,000 crore, or about $9.23 billion total and $1.3 billion per ship. As a basis of comparison, India’s July 2006 order for 3 more Talwar Class frigates amounted to Rs 5,114 crore, or between $400-550 million per ship.

The 2nd area of uncertainty involves ship design. By soliciting tenders from so many foreign firms, and insisting on improved stealth requirements, India is implicitly creating the option of having Project 17-A ships use a very different base design than the Project 17 Shivalik class frigates. That question will not be resolved until a foreign shipbuilding partner is chosen and ratified, and possibly not even then.

The 3rd area of uncertainty revolves around the program’s industrial arrangements, though current reports indicate that a resolution is close. Typical Indian contracts involve some number of ships built by the manufacturer, and others built at Indian shipyards like Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) in Mumbai, or Garden Reach Shipyard Engineers (GRSE) in Kolkata. On the other hand, in 2006 Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta specifically referred to force modernization problems stemming from both constraints on defense budgets, and Indian shipyards’ record of slow delivery. He added that:

“It is not necessary that we will take this route [of using MDL or Garden Reach], adding that the other Indian shipyards may step up warship production to meet the projected force levels.”

That multi-shipyard option would disappear, and new complications would be introduced, if these ships use modular construction. That approach would involve a series of 300-tonne ship “blocks” that are fully equipped, and must fit together so precisely that pipes, wiring, and other components all align exactly when they’re joined. MDL and GRSE are the only shipyards with the depth of experience to pull that off – but neither has ever used modular construction.

Which leads to India’s final option: build some of these ships at foreign shipyards, as the government is doing with its July 2006 “Improved Krivak class” frigate order. The Navy would prefer to have MDL and/or GRSE workers learn by working at a foreign shipyard with experience in modular construction, then bring those important skills back to India to build additional ships. The alternative would involve trying to learn a completely new shipbuilding method, while trying to build important Navy ships, and having the Navy foot the bill for any mistakes.

Based on past history, and the experience of other countries, India’s Director of Naval Design Rear Adm. Badhwar is clever to be cautious. Mistakes using the new modular method would be extremely expensive to fix. The level of rework required could easily turn the Indian shipyards’ purported 100% cost advantage into a deficit, while creating project delays that would extend for months – and might even be measured in years.

Despite these risks, it appears that India’s government intends to move forward with a dual-build strategy at MDL at GRSE, using modular construction, without any work or co-build efforts performed in foreign shipyards.

Contracts and Key Events

Dual build

Feb 23/15: Blast from the past; 7 frigates back in the budget cards. Four of the new stealth frigates will be produced in Mumbai at Mazagon Docks, with the other three being built in Kokata. This, on top of three recently completed.

Aug 11/11: Could India be interested in Britain’s developmental Type 26 frigate? Their current and planned frigate projects are all Russian designs, but India’s Project 17-A, and Britain’s budget squeeze, might create an opening. Pitches to Brazil and India are showing a common theme: invitations to be part of the ship’s design phase.

“BAE Systems has described to Business Standard how Whitehall envisages the designing and building of the GCS. The countries that eventually form the consortium would join heads to frame broadly common specifications for the warship. Presently, the GCS is planned as a flexi-role frigate. This means each vessel could be optimised for any one of the three traditional frigate roles: anti-submarine, air defence or general-purpose. To cater for these different roles and the different requirements of participating countries, the basic GCS design would have 80 per cent commonality in design and components, with 20 per cent remaining flexible.”

See: India’s Business Standard | Think Defence.

July 27/09: India’s Business Standard reports that shipbuilders MDL and GRSE have prevailed over the Indian Navy’s objections, and will divide Project 17A between them with no foreign construction. GRSE Chairman and Managing Director Rear Admiral KC Sekhar promises that GRSE will have a fully equipped modular yard with a 250-ton Goliath crane by mid-2011. The report adds:

“Each Shivalik class frigate of Project 17 was priced at Rs 2,600 crore, and the navy plans to insist on the same price for Project 17A… But Defence Minister AK Antony stepped in to order entirely indigenous production… Explaining the time-line, Admiral Sekhar said, “The MoD has informally told us that MDL and GRSE will build Project 17A; we are awaiting [formal sanction]. Once the navy finalises the size and design of the new frigate, we will decide our build strategy and costing. Then, hopefully, by the end of 2009, the MoD will issue a Request for Proposals (RfP); GRSE and MDL will submit separate quotes; and then the MoD will place a formal order on the shipyards. Construction should start by end-2011.”

June 19/09: India’s political Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) clears India’s largest ever indigenous defense contract: about Rs 45,000 crore (currently $9.29 billion) to manufacture 7 Project 17A frigates. The DAC reportedly made one major change, however, insisting that all 7 warships must be manufactured in India by the Mazagon Dock Ltd. in Mumbai (MDL), and by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) in Kolkata. Work will be divided between the 2 shipyards, making P17A India’s first dual-shipyard contract.

The DAC has essentially placed a bet that the modular construction approach will be successful without foreign shipyard training during construction of the first 2 ships of class, or that the budget increase to Rs 45,000 crore will cover any unpleasant contingencies. Time will tell whether that proves to be an expensive decision. Indian Express.

March 27/09: French shipbuilder DCNS’ board approves a 3-party design consultancy with Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) of Kolkata, and the I.T. engineers of Infotech Enterprises. The consultancy will design ships for global clients, including back office work for DCNS itself. As India’s Business Standard reports:

“But the first design job that the JV is shooting for is Project 17-A, [which] needs a design partner… because all seven frigates will be built using an advanced manufacturing process – modular shipbuilding… Each 300-ton block is built separately, complete with all the piping, electrical wiring and fitments that would be a part of the ship. These must precisely connect… This is the expertise that DCNS is hoping to sell as the foreign design partner for Project 17-A.”

indian shipbuilders GRSE and MDL are lobbying to have the frigates built entirely in India, and have joined forces to that end. The result may be India’s first dual-shipyard naval contract. Meanwhile, the firms are investing in the equipment required for modular construction, including large covered workshops with sliding roofs for module lift-out, and a 300-tonne, 138m span Goliath crane from Italy’s Fagioli and McNally Bharat Engineering.

March 27/09: India’s Business Standard reports that the crore 17,000 ($ equivalent) Project 17-A contract is stalled due a dispute between India’s Navy, and its 2 major shipyards. The Navy is insisting that the first 2 ships be built in a European shipyard, even if it doubles those ships’ bid cost.

Why? Because these ships will use modular construction based on 300-tonne “blocks” that are fully equipped, and must fit together so precisely that pipes, wiring, and other components all align. Neither Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) in Mumbai, nor Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) in Kolkata, has ever used this method. The Navy would prefer to have their workers learn by working at a shipyard with experience in this approach, before bringing the skills back to India. Rear Admiral MK Badhwar, India’s Director of Naval Design:

“This will also make the vendor demonstrate ‘buildability.’ He must demonstrate that his design can be actually built into a warship, using modular construction, in four years. That will create a demonstrated benchmark for GRSE and MDL; otherwise, if there are delays later, our shipyards could argue that the foreign yard too would have taken a long period to build each frigate.”

March 6/09: India’s Business Times reports that an overzealous US State Department bureaucrat appears to have created a serious delay in the related Project 17 program, after ordering GE to stop work on the program. Unlike the Krivak III Class, Shivalik Class ships use 2 American LM2500 turbines in place of Russian designs.

If India is lucky, the delay will be only 2 months. If the State Department’s actions cause India to miss sea trials due to the monsoon season, the delay could be many months longer. In the end, all the State Department may succeed in doing is jeopardizing the chances of other American companies under consideration for Indian defense buys. Read “US State Dept. Throws A Wrench Into Exports, Allied Shipbuilding” for more.

Dec 24/07: India Defence relays a story which suggests that state-run arms export agency Rosoboronexport may be negotiating with Indian authorities for the construction of a fresh lot of 3 “stealth frigates.”

From the reports, it would appear that negotiations are for an order over and above the follow-on order for 3 Talwar Class frigates – either more Project 17 Shivalik Class ships, or the initial Project 17A contract. As with all such reports concerning India, however, a wait-and-see attitude is advised.

December 2006: India issues an RFI for “stealth frigates.” They are looking to acquire up to 7 ships under “Project 17A”, along with some level of joint development and technology transfer.

These ships could be modified “Project 17″ Shivalik Class frigates, which are an enlarged and enhanced design derived from the Kirvak IIIs. On the other hand, the RFI was issued to a number of foreign shipbuilders, raising the possibility that Project 17A ships could use an entirely different base platform.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Russia Halting Torpedo Production Due to Loss of Ukraine Facilities | Lockheed Joins Raytheon for JSTARS Competition

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 00:15

  • Russia has stopped torpedo production because of a reliance on a Ukrainian manufacturer. Deputy Prim Minister Dmitry Rogozin admitted (Polish) as much. Rogozin is putting the task to a Caspian Sea manufactory in Dagdizel to start producing the parts, but experts consulted seem to think this could still take two years, including tests.

  • German ground force resources are reported (German) to be so poor that they had to resort to using painted broomsticks instead of guns during a NATO exercise in 2014. These same soldiers belong to the presumably on-call NATO rapid reaction force and are supposed to be the troops deployed before others.

  • Slovakia may soon get the nine UH-60M Black Hawk’s they’ve been negotiating, as the State Department approved the potential sale. The deal is estimated at $450 million. In the beginning of the month, Sikorsky had noted that the Eastern European militaries were all interested in U.S. helicopters at once, now that their Russian hardware appears to have increased risks with potentially unfriendly manufacturer support.


  • Back in 2012, Russia ordered 39 Ilyushin IL-76s that are scheduled to be delivered by 2020. Now they’ve now ordered an unspecified number of IL-76 MD-90As to keep the lines running from 2020 to 2025. Russia and Ilyushin have been eager to attract export business from India and China for the 76s. Now the lines will be kept open, giving more time for the money and politics to align.

Middle East / Africa

  • Ghana has been talking for several months about a purchase from Brazil for five (at first six) Super Tucanos. Confirmation came on 18 February from President John Dramani Mahama, indicating that five Super Tucanos will be purchased, along with the Z-9s and other equipment.


  • Lockheed is teaming with Raytheon in its bid for the JSTARS replacement program, bringing its active array sensor technology to the competition. Other competitors include Boeing, and incumbent Northrop Grumman. The JSTARS replacement program was pushed back a year to 2023 with the Administration’s initial budget announced a couple weeks ago.

  • Raytheon got approval to export its Gallium Nitride Active Electronically Scanned Array to partner nations. The AESA radars are a core component of Patriot missile batteries.

Today’s Video

  • Another day, another sortie of Russian nuclear bombers skimming along shipping channels. This time, the TU-95 Bear had on board a videographer who then forwarded the video to a military TV network, which then, of course, wound up on YouTube. You will see French and British fighters escorting the Bear. This is not from today’s interception.

Categories: News

F-35 Mission Software Needs Some Debugging, Cost-Cutting Process Working Around the Edges

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 07:00

The F-35 needs some code rewrites before it can be released as initially combat ready, according to the head of Lockheed’s aeronautics division. The radar tracking parts of the mission systems software had problems, but the Lockheed executive said the problem was manageable before the July date. That said, when asked by Reuters if it could mean another delay, he said a decision could be expected in weeks whether a separate update would be required. On the good news side of the ledger, Lockheed indicated it was on track to save about one quarter of one percent of the cost per F-35 via improved manufacturing techniques. They hope to bring costs down a total of one percent of the cost with the next low rate initial production contract (LRIP 9). Lockheed expressed the ambition of lowering the incremental cost per fighter with engines to $80 million by 2019. Those figures do not count weapons and other systems that can cost more than the fighter, nor do they include the overhead costs of program development.


  • The U.K. released photos via Twitter showing Pantsir-1/SA-22 anti-aircraft systems rolling through rebel-controlled Ukraine. The SA-22 was never fielded by Ukraine and almost certainly came compliments of the Russian government. The Foreign Office calling out Russia via Twitter may indicate that the alternative to diplomacy isn’t force after all. To do harm to Zhou Enlai’s famous quotation: “All social media is a continuation of diplomacy by other means.”


  • North Korea reportedly made its first flight test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The country reputedly has as many as 70 submarines, although most are merely mini-subs, capable of providing guerrilla ingress.

Middle East

  • Iran, too, is announcing its new submarine – a 1,300-ton 60-meter boat made in-country – will have cruise missile launching capacity. Iran currently runs three Russian Kilo-class subs, none of which could be adapted to launch missiles. They had previously built the capacity into surface ships.


  • The new strategic bomber program, an RFP for which is expected in the spring, is expected to cost about half a billion dollars per copy. Key industry players already have broad requirements documents, which have not yet been made public. It is expected they should be stealthy, although there is debate on that requirement with the future F/A-XX fighter. Some in the Air Force worry that stealth is enormously expensive and a transient benefit with advancing detection technologies. But the chief of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, the primary purveyor of stealth technology today, thinks that is hogwash. There may also be a requirement for the bomber to be flown by wire. The Air Force has an abiding ambivalence on having its main airframes go unmanned, and that can be seen with Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson last month indicating it isn’t a requirement now, but may become one later.

  • The Government Accountability Office chastened the Defense Health Agency for not having mechanisms in place to find or prevent improper medical payments for the DHA’s TRICARE system. The Medicare system, famous for having been loose with payment controls, has better systems.

  • Lockheed Martin’s CEO Marillyn Hewsonnoted that they saw a fifth of their revenue come from non-U.S. sources in 2014 and hope and expect that to reach a quarter of revenues in the next few years. The backlog of orders is already more than 25 percent international.

  • DARPA, at it again, is hiring designers and comic book illustrators among others to address novel cyber defense issues. Currently, defenders do not have good visual interfaces allowing them to see attacks, nor do they often have a vocabulary of pre-tested methods for addressing many types of attacks. This CS Monitor report shows their journey, slated to cost $125 million over four years.

  • Lockheed felt need to announce publicly that it too has a “clean sheet” option in the competition to provide 350 replacements for the T-50 trainer. With Northrop bragging about it throwing out old designs in the past weeks, Lockheed noted that while it is offering a T-50 variant along with Korea’s KAI, it also started a clean sheet process in 2010 at the Skunk Works, but that this is not its preference. Lockheed’s Rob Weiss said that a clean sheet project would not be “in alignment with what the Air Force has said they’d like to do,” indicating that it would likely be more expensive and carry much higher risk. Mr. Weiss may not have had much opportunity to meet Air Force personnel. Northrop Grumman will eschew the BAE Hawk training system for a completely new design. That puts them up against a Boeing/Saab effort, also with a new design; the Lockheed/KAI push for a T-50 and T-100- based model; General Dynamic’s use of the M-346 of Alenia Aermacchi and a Textron Airland effort using their Scorpion. In Mid-January the Air Force did brag a bit about their lowering the T-X requirements for cost reasons in an effort to show their flinty bonafides.

Today’s Video

  • Iran’s domestic submarine ambitions grow. Their 1,300-ton sub (above) is in part possible due to their scrappy development of domestic capacity, as is shown in the Iran state TV item from a couple years ago, upon the launching of a domestically-refit Kilo-class boat…

Categories: News

The USA’s M4 Carbine Controversies

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 06:14
An M4 – or is it?
(click to view full)

The 5.56mm M-16 has been the USA’s primary battle rifle since the Vietnam war, undergoing changes into progressive versions like the M16A4 widely fielded by the US Marine Corps, “Commando” carbine versions, etc. The M4 Carbine is the latest member of the M16 family, offering a shorter weapon more suited to close-quarters battle, or to units who would find a full-length rifle too bulky.

In 2006 an Army solicitation for competitive procurement of 5.56mm carbine designs was withdrawn, once sole-source incumbent Colt dropped its prices. The DoD’s Inspector General weighed in with a critical report, but the Army dissented, defending its practices as a sound negotiating approach that saved the taxpayers money. As it turns out, there’s a sequel. A major sequel that has only grown bigger with time.

The M4/M16 family is both praised and criticized for its current performance in the field. In recent years, the M4 finished dead last in a sandstorm reliability test, against 3 competitors that include a convertible M4 variant. Worse, the 4th place M4 had over 3.5x more jams than the 3rd place finisher. Was that a blip in M4 buys, or a breaking point? The Army moved forward with an “Individual Carbine” competition, but as the results started to show the M4 again lagging – even with ammunition changed to a round specially formulated to make the M4 shine – the Army abruptly stopped the process once again, stating that the performance superiority of the competing gun was not better to a degree making it worthwhile. The Army stated after the tests that only a result that was twice as good as the existing gun’s performance would signify an actionable performance difference.

More recently, the Marines have considered adding
various after-market upgrades to the platform in order to increase accuracy, learning from the private sector and competitive shooting circuit what appears to be providing the best bang.

The M4 Carbine M203 on M4 Carbine
(click to view full)

It seemed like a routine request. Order more M4 carbines for US forces in the FY 2007 supplemental, FY 2008 budget, and FY 2008 supplemental funding bills. It has turned into anything but a routine exercise, however – with serving soldiers, journalists, and Senators casting a very critical eye on the effort and the rifle, and demanding open competition. With requests amounting to $375 million for weapons and $150 million in accessories, they say, the Army’s proposal amounts to an effort to replace the M16 as the USA’s primary battle rifle – using specifications that are around 15 years old, without a competition, and without considering whether better 5.56 mm alternatives might be available off the shelf.

The M4 offers a collapsible buttstock, flat-top upper receiver assembly, a U-shaped handle-rear sight assembly that could be removed, and assortment of mounting rails for easy customization with a variety of sight, flashlight, grenade launchers, shotgun attachments, etc. It achieves approximately 85% commonality with the M16, and has become a popular weapon. It has a reputation for lightness, customizability, and, compared to its most frequent rival the AK-47, a reputation for accuracy as well. The carbine’s reputation for fast-point close-quarters fire remains its most prominent feature, however. After Action Reviews done by the Marines after the early phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom revealed that urban warfare scenarios made employment of the M16A2 difficult in some situations; Marines were picking up short AK-47s with folding butt-stocks, or scrounging pistols for use inside buildings.

Like its predecessor the M16, the M4 also has a reputation as an excellent weapon – if you can maintain it. Failure to maintain the weapon meticulously can lead to jams, especially in sandy or dusty environments. Kalashnikovs may not have a reputation for accuracy, or lightness – but they do have a well-earned reputation for being able to take amazing amounts of abuse, without maintenance, and still fire reliably. The Israeli “Galil” applied these lessons in 5.56mm caliber, and earned a similar reputation. Colt’s M16 and M4 have never done so.

The original order for the M4 Carbine in the mid-1990s was a small-scale order, for a specifically requested derivative of the Army’s primary battle rifle, to equip units who would otherwise have relied on less accurate 9mm submachine guns. As such, its direct development and sole-source contract status raised little fuss. Subsequent contracts also raised little scrutiny.

So, what changed?

1. Extended combat in dusty, sandy environments that highlighted the weapon’s weak points as well as its comparative strengths, leading to escalating volumes of complaints;
2. The emergence of alternatives that preserve those strengths, while addressing those weak points;
3. The scale of the current request for funding.

Nobody Loves Me but My Mother – and She Could Be Jivin’ Too… XM29 OICW Prototype
(click to view full)

There have been sporadic attempts to field more modern weapons during its tenure, including the unwieldy 20-or-so pound, 2 barrel, “someone watched Predator too many times” XM-29 OICW, and more recently the aborted contract for the G36-derived XM-8 weapon family from Heckler & Koch. Still, the M4’s designers could never sing B.B. King’s famous tune.

The M16/M4 family has achieved a great deal of success, and garnered many positive reviews for its features and performance. Even its critics acknowledge that it has many positive attributes. The M4 has also attracted criticism – and at least 1 comprehensive fix.

According to briefing documents obtained by Gannett’s Army Times magazine:

“USMC officials said the M4 malfunctioned three times more often than the M16A4 during an assessment conducted in late summer 2002 for Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, VA. Malfunctions were broken down into several categories, including “magazine,” “failure to chamber,” “failure to fire,” “failure to extract” and “worn or broken part,” according to the briefing documents. During the comparison, the M4 failed 186 times across those categories over the course of 69,000 rounds fired. The M16A4 failed 61 times during the testing.

The Army conducted a more recent reliability test between October 2005 and April 2006, which included 10 new M16s and 10 new M4s… On average, the new M16s and M4s fired approximately 5,000 rounds between stoppages, according to an Army official who asked that his name not be released.”

In a subsequent letter to the magazine, M4 manufacturer Colt argued that the US Army had disagreed with the USMC study, then added that the Army and Colt had worked to make modifications thereafter in order to address problems found.

Gannett’s Army Times magazine also obtained a copy of Project Manager Soldier’s Weapons Assessment Team’s July 31, 2003, report:

“The executive summary said that M16s and M4s “functioned reliably” in the combat zone as long as “soldiers conducted daily operator maintenance and applied a light coat of lubricant.”

Soldiers had their own comments, however, which were also included in the report and relayed in the magazine article. 3rd ID soldier:

“I know it fires very well and accurate [when] clean. But sometimes it needs to fire dirty well too.”

25th Infantry Division soldier:

“The M4 Weapon in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan was quick to malfunction when a little sand got in the weapon. Trying to keep it clean, sand free was impossible while on patrols or firefights.”

82nd Airborne Division soldier:

“The M4 is overall an excellent weapon, however the flaw of its sensitivity to dirt and powder residue needs to be corrected. True to fact, cleaning will help. Daily assigned tasks, and nonregular hours in tactical situations do not always warrant the necessary time required for effective cleaning.”

75th Ranger Regiment member, SOCOM:

“Even with the dust cover closed and magazine in the well, sand gets all inside; on and around the bolt. It still fires, but after a while the sand works its way all through the gun and jams start.”

The 507th Maintenance Company, ambushed outside Nasariyah in 2003 during the opening days of the ground invasion of Iraq, might concur with all of the above. The post-incident report released by the US Army had this to say:

“Dusty, desert conditions do require vigilance in weapons maintenance… However, it is imperative to remember that at the time of the attack, the 507th had spent more than two days on the move, with little rest and time to conduct vehicle repair and recovery operations.”

Even without those extenuating circumstances, however, there have been problems. A December 2006 survey, conducted on behalf of the Army by CNA Corp., conducted over 2,600 interviews with Soldiers returning from combat duty. The M4 received a number of strong requests from M-16 users, who liked its smaller profile. Among M4 users, however, 19% of said they experienced stoppages in combat – and almost 20% of those said they were “unable to engage the target with that weapon during a significant portion of or the entire firefight after performing immediate or remedial action to clear the stoppage.” The report adds that “Those who attached accessories to their weapon were more likely to experience stoppages, regardless of how the accessories were attached [including via official means like rail mounts].” Since “accessories” can include items like night sights, flashlights, etc., their use is not expected to go away any time soon.

US Army Ranger Capt. Nate Self, whose M4 jammed into uselessness during a 2002 firefight after their MH-47 Chinook was shot down in Afghanistan’s Shah-i-kot Mountains, offers another case. He won a Silver Star that day – with another soldier’s gun – and his comments in the Army Times article appear to agree that there is a problem with the current M4 design and specifications.

(click to view full)

SOCOM appears to agree as well. While US Special Operations Command is moving ahead on their own SCAR rifle program with FN Herstal, they’re also significant users of the M4 Carbine’s SOPMOD version. By the time Capt. Self was fighting of al-Qaeda/Taliban enemies in Afghanistan with a broken weapon, Dellta Force had already turned to Heckler & Koch for a fix that would preserve the M4 but remove its problems. One of which is heat build-up and gas from its operating mechanism that dries out some lubricants, and helps open the way for sand damage.

In response, H&K replaced Colt’s “gas-tube” system with a short-stroke piston system that eliminates carbon blow-back into the chamber, and also reduces the heat problem created by the super-hot gases used to cycle the M4. Other changes were made to the magazine, barrel, etc. The final product was an M4 with a new upper receiver and magazine, plus H&K’s 4-rail system of standard “Picatinny Rails” on the top, bottom, and both sides for easy addition of anything a Special Operator might require.

HK416, labeled
(click to view full)

In exhaustive tests with the help of Delta Force, the upgraded weapon was subjected to mud and dust without maintenance, and fired day after day. Despite this treatment, the rifle showed problems in only 1 of 15,000 rounds – fully 3 times the reliability shown by the M4 in US Army studies. The H&K 416 was declared ready in 2004.

A rifle with everything they loved about the M4, and the fire-no-matter-what toughness of the Kalashnikov, was exactly what the Deltas ordered. SOCOM bought the first 500 weapons right off the assembly line, and its units have been using the weapon in combat ever since. Other Western Special Forces units who liked the M4 Carbine have also purchased HK416s, though H&K declines to name specific countries. US Major Chaz Bowser, who has played a leading role in SOSOCM’s SCAR rifle design program:

HK416: Desert Testing
(click to view full)

“One thing I valued about being the weapons developer for Special Operations is that I could go to Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere with whatever weapons I wanted to carry. As soon as the H&K 416 was available, it got stuffed into my kit bag and, through test after test, it became my primary carry weapon as a long gun. I had already gotten the data from folks carrying it before me and had determined that it would be foolish to risk my life with a lesser system.”

Actually, they don’t even have to buy the whole gun. Christian Lowe of reports that:

“In a routine acquisition notice March 23 [2007], a U.S. Special Forces battalion based in Okinawa announced that it is buying 84 upper receiver assemblies for the HK416 to modify their M4 carbines… According to the solicitation for the new upper receiver assemblies, the 416 “allows Soldiers to replace the existing M4 upper receiver with an HK proprietary gas system that does not introduce propellant gases and the associated carbon fouling back into the weapon’s interior. This reduces operator cleaning time, and increases the reliability of the M4 Carbine, particularly in an environment in which sand and dust are prevalent.”

But the US Army won’t consider even this partial replacement option. The Army position was reiterated in a release on April 2/07:

“The M4 Carbine is the Army’s primary individual combat rifle for Infantry, Ranger, and Special Operations forces. Since its introduction in 1991, the M4 carbine has proven its worth on the battlefield because it is accurate, easy to shoot and maintain. The M4’s collapsible stock and shortened barrel make it ideal for Soldiers operating in vehicles or within the confines associated with urban terrain. The M4 has been improved numerous times and employs the most current technology available on any rifle/carbine in general use today.

The M4 is the highest-rated weapon by Soldiers in combat, according to the Directorate of Combat Development, Ft. Benning, Ga. In December 2006, the Center for Naval Analysis conducted a “Soldiers’ Perspective on Small Arms in Combat” survey. Their poll of over 2,600 Soldiers reported overwhelming satisfaction with the M4. The survey included serviceability and usefulness in completing assigned missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The Cry for Competition: How Much Is That HK In the Window? HK416s
(click to view full)

The HK416 isn’t the only alternative out there by any means – but it has been a catalytic alternative. In an analogous situation, limited USMC deployment of mine-resistant vehicles like Force Protection’s Cougar and Buffalo in Iraq, and the contrast between v-hulled casualties and Hummer casualties, led to a cascade that now looks set to remove the Hummer from a front-line combat role. The technology to deal with insurgencies that used land-mines has been proven for over 30 years – but awareness of that fact didn’t rise within the US military and among its political overseers until an obvious counter-example was fielded. One that demonstrated proven alternatives to the limited options people had previous been shown. Likewise, the use of the high-commonality HK416 has served to sharpen awareness that the M4 might not be the best option on offer for US forces.

Couple that with a major buy that looks set to re-equip large sections of the US military with a new battle rifle, and the question “what if we can do better?” starts to take on real resonance. The Army’s $375 million sole-source carbine procurement, on the basis of specifications that have not been changed to reflect these realities, is starting to raise hackles – and attract a wide spectrum of opponents.

Gannett’s Army Times quoted former Army vice chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane (ret.), who tried at the end of his tenure to update the USA’s infantry rifle with the XM-8 project, as saying:

“We are not saying the [M4 and M16 are] bad,” said “The issue for me is do our soldiers have the best rifle in their hands… The fact of the matter is that technology changes every 10 or 15 years and we should be changing with it. And that has not been our case. We have been sitting on this thing for far too long.”

An aide to Sen. Tom Coburn [R-OK] agreed, and added that the substantial price reduction created by the mere threat of an open competition in 2006 was evidence that Colt had been using its sole-source status to overcharge the government. The Senator has sent a formal letter to the Secretary of the Army requesting an open competition in order to ensure both the best deal, and the best off-the shelf rifle that incorporates modern improvements. The winner could well be Colt, said Coburn’s aide – but they should have to prove it, and earn it. “This is supposed to be a battle rifle.” He said. “We’re supposed to have a rifle that just doesn’t jam.” Impossible, of course – but one that jams far less often, and requires far less maintenance to avoid jams, while offering all of the M4’s compactness and add-on ease… that would represent a significant step forward.

Ironically, even Colt may have a better system ready to go. In a letter to Army Times magazine, Colt COO James R. Battaglini (US Marine Corps Maj. Gen., ret.) said:

“The gas piston system in the H&K 416 is not a new system. Rifles were being designed with these systems in the 1920’s. Colt proposed a piston operated weapon to the Army in the early 1960’s. Today Colt Defense has the ability and expertise to manufacture in great numbers piston system carbines of exceptional quality should the U.S. military services initiate a combat requirement for this type of weapon”

Unfortunately, fighting the Army for improvements is no easy task. Colt CEO William Keys, who is also a retired USMC General, explained out to Army Times that Colt has to build what the US Army asks for, to the Army’s exact specifications:

“If we have a change that we think would help the gun, we go to the Army… which is not an easy process, by the way. We spent 20 years trying to get [an extractor] spring changed. They just said ‘well, this works good enough.’ “

Sen. Coburn’s letter to Secretary of the Army Peter Green took a dim view of this entire situation:

“I am concerned about the Army’s plans to procure nearly a half a million new rifles outside the any competitive procurement process… There is nothing more important to a soldier than their rifle, and there is simply no excuse for not providing our soldiers with the best weapon – not just a weapon that is “good enough”… In the years following the Army’s requirements document [DID: for the M4 in the early 1990s], a number of manufacturers have researched, tested, and fielded weapons which, by all accounts, appear to provide significantly improved reliability. To fail to allow a free and open competition of these operational weapons is unacceptable… I believe the Army needs to rapidly revise its rifle and carbine requirements. Free and open competition will give our troops the best rifle in the world…”

The positions were, and are, clear. The US Army says the M4 isn’t broken, and adds that an Army-wide fix would cost $1 billion. Critics contend that these costs may be exaggerated given some of the potential solutions, and add that an army already planning to spend $525 million to re-equip the force with M4s has a moral and financial imperative to see if a better rifle exists. Meanwhile, calls about the M16/M4 had been coming in from Oklahoma, and other Senators and representatives had also been hearing from constituents on this matter.

By 2007, a second letter from the Senate was likely if the Army dug in its heels – and that letter would have had far more signatures at the bottom. In the end, however, legislative tactics forced the Army’s hand. The issue finally came to a head when Sen. Coburn [R-OK] exercised his ability as a Senator to block nomination of the proposed new Secretary of the Army, until the US Army relented and agreed to testing at the Army’s Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland. Secretary Geren was confirmed shortly thereafter, in July 2007.

The tests were conducted. The M4 finished last. The Army declared that performance to be acceptable. By 2010, however, there were noises about an “Individual Carbine Competition”, which became a full solicitation. A number of firms are lining up to provide new designs for the Army’s next-generation carbine, including Colt. Some of them even offer alternate caliber options that could make a real difference to lethality at range, a serious need in environments like Afghanistan. By August 2011, known competitors and designs included:

Smith & Wesson was also reported to be entering the competition, but eventually decided not to take part.

The bigger question is whether this competition, like the ones before it, will ultimately prove to be an expensive mirage. As of April 2013, in the words of the old magic 8-ball, “signs point to yes.” Though one could also use “outlook not so good.”

Any Last Words? G36s: Norwegian
Telemark battalion
by Torgeir Haugaard
(click to view full)

Sgt. Charles Perales of Fort Bragg, NC had this to say in a letter reprinted by Defense News:

“My unit – B Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment – was deployed to Afghanistan from April 2005 to March 2006. While there, we were attached to Special Forces at Camp Tillman on the Afghan border… I saw first-hand what happens when your weapon jams up because of the harsh environments we have to call home there. An 18B weapons sergeant was shot in the face due directly to his weapon jamming. I just can’t believe that after things like this happen, the Army is still buying more M4s.

Why not rotate them like we used to before the war? All rapid-deploying units used to get the new M4, the support units would get the excess M16s and so on. I’m not saying they need to outfit the whole Army with a new weapon, but why not start phasing it in? …Soldiers’ lives are on the line. Why is it a hassle to make an improvement that could save lives?

The M4 isn’t a bad weapon; it just needs improvements. It’s about time people stop fighting to keep things the same and start moving toward a better weapon system.”

The last word will be left to SOCOM’s Major Chaz Bowser:

“We buy new laptop computers every few years across the gamut, so couldn’t we do the same with our single most important piece of military equipment? … Waiting for a leap-ahead technology based on a kinetic energy weapon platform is a waste of time and money, so we need to look at what is out there now… What the Army needs is a weapon that is now ready for prime-time and not a developmental system… The requirement comes from the field, not from an office in some garrison activity, not from some consultant and definitely not from a vendor.

Let’s do this quickly without all the bureaucracy typically associated with change. Find someone in our ranks who can make a decision – who hasn’t floated a retirement resume with a gun company – and make the decision now. Just look how fast we were all issued the ‘highly coveted’ black beret or the digital uniform. Find that recipe card, change out the word ‘Velcro’ with ‘battle rifle’ and that may be a start to finding a solution [DID: which, he acknowledges, could be Colt’s M4 if that’s what the competition shows]. Our men and women deserve much better than we are giving them, and shame on us.”

Updates: The Tests, Reactions, and Subsequent Developments FY 2012 – 2013

Army looks to cancel Individual Carbine; USMC won’t join IC; Smith & Wesson out – will sell their innovations to law enforcement and civilians. Remington ACR
(click for video)

June 14/13: The Army excuses their decision to cancel the Individual Carbie competition by saying that none of the candidates met their criteria of 3,592 mean rounds between stoppages, using the new M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. As a point of comparison, the original requirement for the M4 was 600.

The Army’s PEO Soldier says that SOCOM’s M4A1 achieved 1,691 MRBS, but refuses to release the results of the trials and provide a basis for relative comparison.

May 2/13: reports that the Individual Carbine’s Phase II firing tests are done, but the US Army is about to cancel the Individual Carbine competition, and direct its tiny $49.6 million in FY 2014 to other things. The original plan involved 3 Phase III contracts, and soldier user tests that would include a total of 800,000 rounds fired.

Overall, the budget for new carbines is $300 million through 2018, and the decision on how to proceed reportedly rests with Secretary of the Army John McHugh. This paragraph sums it up best:

“Gun makers involved in the competition said they have heard nothing from the Army about Phase III of the competition. Competitors didn’t want to be named in this story but said they would not be surprised if the effort was canceled because they never believed the Army was serious about replacing the M4 family.”

March 19/13: Inspector General. In testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Pentagon’s Inspector General says they’ll audit the Individual Carbine program, as “DoD may not have an established need for this weapon nor developed performance requirements… such as accuracy, reliability, and lethality”.

Aside from the presumptuousness in the wake of incidents like Wanat, they’re also absolutely wrong on a factual level – the IC competition has had those standards for 3 years now. Source.

Aug 1/12: Political. Sen. Tom Coburn [R-OK] delivers a floor speech about the M4 and the Army’s failure to replace it. He reminds the Senate about the dust testing in which the M4 came in last, and points out that the average rifle age is 26 years, compared to 12 years in Germany, or 8 years for US Special Forces. The Army has been able to rush MRAP competitions for much more expensive equipment, but:

…secretary of Army Guerin… assured me that we would have a new competition for a new rifle for our troops. That was 2007. Here we are, six years later, and the army is now telling us we’re going to have a new competition in 2014… Because the guys that are responsible for making the decision on purchasing the rifles are not the guys that are out there on the line. Because if they were, we would have already had this competition…

On July 13, 2008, in the battle of Winot [sic] in Afghanistan, 200 Taliban troops attacked the U.S. troops at a remote outpost in Eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban were able to break through our lines… Believe it or not, do you know what killed most of us? Our own rifles. Practically every one of our dead was found with his m-16 torn down next to him where he had been trying to fix it. That’s occurring now. Except it’s not getting any press.

…You know, a lot of people do a lot of things for our country, but nobody does for our country what the soldier on the frontline does – nobody. Mr. secretary of the Army. This is a moral question. Get the rifle competition going. Members of congress, members of the senate who are on the armed services committee don’t allow this to continue to happen.

Nov 17/11: USMC sticking with M16A4 & M27 IAR. reports that the USMC has considered the HK416-derived M27 IAR as a future individual weapon, but decided to stick with improvements to the M16A4 rifle for that role.

It also means that the Marines won’t be adopting the winner of the Army’s Individual Carbine competition, which lowers the odds of having IC turn into a contract for a new weapon. HK might still walk away a winner in the USMC, though. The M27 IARs are being evaluated as future substitutes for FN’s M249 5.56mm light machine gun, and have been fielded to Afghanistan in a combat trial.

Nov 10/11: Smith & Wesson out. Military Times’ Gear Scout reports that Smith & Wesson won’t be competing in the Individual Carbine:

“I talked to David Holt, S&W’s VP of Military Programs who confirmed [the M&P4] was S&W’s entry into the U.S. Army’s individual carbine competition. He explained the company’s decision not to compete in the Army’s search for a new carbine… cited the program’s long acquisition timeline as one of the factors that made it difficult for Smith and Wesson to assume the risk of joining the carbine fray… They’ve put a lot of hours into the project and are very proud of the reliability improvement’s [sic] they’ve made over the M4 design. So, the carbine will likely end up for sale on the commercial LE/Gov market…”

FY 2009 – 2011

M4s and M249s fail at the Battle of Wanat; Key “Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer” report leads to caliber questions; SOCOM cancels FN’s 5.56mm SCAR-L; US Army going through the competition motions, slowly, and giving mixed signals. B.E.A.R. in detail
click for video

Aug 8/11: ADCOR. covers ADCOR’s announced interest in the IC competition, and its B.E.A.R. design. It’s a gas piston system with some clever features for keeping dust out, a free floating barrel, an adjustable cyclical rate, faster and simpler cleaning, and a “forward charging handle” that lets the soldier clear a jammed weapon with their off hand (also present in Remington’s ACR). | ADCOR page.

June 21/11: Data Rights Issue. Daniel E. Watters of The Gun Zone explains how the Army got here, the deal with Colt, and the difficulty they’ll have getting a new weapon in the Individual Carbine competition. Read “Colt M4 Data Rights & The Individual Carbine Competition.”

June 14/11: M4. releases Presolicitation W56HZV-10-R-0593, covering 70,000 – 100,000 M4 and M4A1 carbines over 5 years. The Government expects to order 25-30% in each of years 1 and 2, and 13-17% in each of years 3 through 5. They’re certainly serious about the M4, if not about its replacement.

The contractor(s) winning the best value competition will also be required to provide ancillary equipment as specified by the contract, and will be paid only for produced items, not for setup and manufacturing costs. Bidding is restricted to firms in the U.S. & its territories, and the carbines will be produced in accordance with the M4/M4A1 Technical Data Package (TDP) and the license agreement between the U.S. Government and Colt Defense, LLC. That TDP is restricted/ export controlled, and requires submission of a Non-Disclosure Agreement. The TDPs will not be available until an NDA is submitted, and an solicitation is issued. Read “Colt M4 Data Rights & The Individual Carbine Competition” for an analysis of how the Army reached this point, and what it could mean in practice.

June 14/11: Competition. Defense Procurement news reports that the US Army still has a 2-track strategy (vid. March 10/10 entry). One is the IC competition. The other involves competing the M4 design, now that the Army and not Colt owns the data rights. Colt has reportedly reacted to the announced Army plans by ramping up their lobbying efforts, so Congress can pressure the Army to keep the program with them.

May 25/11: Lobbying. An Associated Press article lays out the hired lobbyists and political backers for some of the Individual Carbine contenders, while discussing possible offerings. See also Fox News‘ coverage. Contenders, and their lobbyists, include:

CM901 multicaliber rifle (5.56mm – 7.62mm)
Roger Smith, a former deputy assistant Navy secretary @ $120,000 a year
Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D-CT, Appropriations]. Rep. John Larson [D-CT], Sen. Joe Liberman [I-CT, retiring].

FN Herstal:
SCAR-L 5.56mm.
American Business Development Group @ $120,000/ year.
Sen. Lindsey Graham [R-SC, SASC], Joe Wilson [R-SC, HASC].

HK416 5.56mm.
Parted ways with Greenberg Traurig in 2009, and with Mark Barnes and Associates in early 2010. No replacement mentioned.

Adaptive Combat Rifle multi-caliber (5.56mm or 6.8mm).
$500,000 over last 2 years to Winborn Solutions, and Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough
Sen. Chuck Schumer [D-NY]

Smith & Wesson:
(M&P4, will not be entering the competition)
Greenberg Traurig @ $360,000/ year

April 18/11: Competition. In published responses to questions from industry over Draft RFP W15QKN-11-R-F003, the US Army has laid out a schedule for its “Individual Carbine”. The RFP is expected in May 2011, with Phase 1 evaluations from July to October 2011, and Phase 2 evaluations extending to July 2012. The contracts, if any, would be awarded in October 2012, followed by even more evaluations of the remaining contenders, lasting until March 2013.

While there is no caliber or mechanical type requirement, the Army may not choose to do anything, in the end. It is openly espousing a “dual path” strategy to upgrade existing M4s, even as it launches this competition. Given a long past history of declaring that new designs don’t offer enough benefits over existing M4s to justify a purchase, outside observers can be forgiven any skepticism they may have over the Army’s determination to field anything else when all is said and done. PROCNET Q&A responses | PEO Soldier | Gannett’s Army Times | Aviation Week Ares.

Jan 31/11: Competition. The US Army issues Draft RFP W15QKN-11-R-F003 for an “Individual Carbine.” In practice, the solicitation announces an Industry Day on March 30/11, and offerors are directed to NOT submit proposals at this time. Interested parties are advised that only firms within the Small Arms Industry will be granted admittance at the Doubletree Hotel Washington DC – Crystal City, and that ITAR export control procedures are in effect.

Col. Doug Tamilio, the service’s project manager for soldier weapons, reportedly said in a statement that “We’re challenging industry to develop the next-generation carbine and we’re looking forward to the results.” On the other hand, there have been previous industry days (vid. 2008), and other next-generation carbines have been shelved in the past, on the nebulous ground of not being enough of an improvement over the M4. FedBizOpps | Wall St. Journal.

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June 25/10: FN SCAR. reports that SOCOM has decided to cancel further 5.56mm SCAR-L Mk.16 rifle purchases on cost and efficiency grounds, and will probably recall the 850 fielded weapons, rather than continue to support them. SOCOM will be adding to their stock of 750 7.62mm SCAR-H Mk.17 riles, however, and will field an extended SCAR-H Mk.20 with sharpshooter enhancements.

SOCOM cancels 5.56mm SCAR-L

March 10/10: Competition. In testimony before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces, senior Army officers state that [PDF]:

“We are currently taking a dual approach to improve the current weapon, the M4, as we move forward with a new carbine requirement. The Project Manager (PM) released a market survey in January 2010, seeking the best industry has to offer for improvements to the current M4. The PM expects to release an RFP soon to compete the upgrade program. Additionally, the Army will conduct a full and open competition to address a new requirement for an individual carbine. Once the Joint Requirements Oversight Council approves the new requirement, the PM will initiate the competition with the release of an RFP for comments from industry. This is the first step in conducting the competition. The Army is working with the other Services in these programs to ensure their requirements are included in our process and they are always invited to participate in the programs’ development and production.”

Jan 12/10: HK. Heckler & Kock announces that they will begin producing civilian variants of the HK416 and the 7.62mm HK417 in a new HK manufacturing facility in Newington, New Hampshire. It’s co-located within an existing 70,000 square foot facility, and would create an American manufacturing base from which to offer military HK416s as well. EVP Wayne Weber of Heckler & Koch USA:

“It is our intention for all U.S. made HK products to equal the quality and reliability of the products made in Germany… By establishing American-based manufacturing, we can compliment our German production and ensure that HK can be more competitive in the U.S. and comply with government contracts requiring U.S. manufacturing. HK products made in the USA will be fully compliant with federal solicitations giving preference to domestically produced products.”

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Nov 30/09: Report. US Army TRADOC releases a paper by Major Thomas P. Ehrhart of the Command and General Staff College titled “Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan: Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer” [PDF]. It points out that American forces are routinely engaged in Afghan firefights beyond 300 meters, where their weapons are less effective than their opponents. Excerpts:

“Comments from returning non-commissioned officers and officers reveal that about [50%] of engagements occur past 300 meters. The enemy tactics are to engage United States forces from high ground with medium and heavy weapons, often including mortars, knowing that we are restricted by our equipment limitations and the inability of our overburdened soldiers to maneuver at elevations exceeding 6000 feet. Current equipment, training, and doctrine are optimized for engagements under 300 meters and on level terrain.

There are several ways to extend the lethality of the infantry. A more effective 5.56-mm bullet can be designed which provides enhanced terminal performance out to 500 meters. A better option to increase incapacitation is to adopt a larger caliber cartridge, which will function using components of the M16/M4. The 2006 study by the Joint Service Wound Ballistics – Integrated Product Team discovered that the ideal caliber seems to be between 6.5 and 7-mm. This was also the general conclusion of all military ballistics studies since the end of World War I.

The reorganization of the infantry squad in 1960 eliminated the M1D sniper rifle and resulted in the loss of the precision mid-range capability of the infantry squad… All 5.56-mm weapons are most effective when employed within 200 meters due to velocity limitations. Once contact is made, the fight is limited to machine gunners, mortars and designated marksmen. In the table of organization for a light infantry company8 only the six -M240B 7.62-mm machine guns, two- 60-mm mortars and nine designated marksman armed with either 7.62-mm M14 rifles or accurized 5.56-mm M16A4’s rifles are able to effectively engage the enemy. These weapons systems represent 19 percent of the company’s firepower. This means that 81 percent of the company has little effect on the fight. This is unacceptable.”

Reclaiming the Infantry Half-Kilometer

Oct 12/09: Field. The Associated Press reports that M4 carbine and M249 SAW light machine gun failures contributed to the debacle at Wanat, Afghanistan, in which an American outpost was overrun by the Taliban, and to another situation at nearby Kamdesh. An excerpt:

“[Douglas Cubbison of the Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, KS] study is based on an earlier Army investigation and interviews with Soldiers who survived the attack at Wanat… The Soldiers said their weapons were meticulously cared for and routinely inspected by commanders. But still the weapons had breakdowns… Cubbison acknowledges the high rates of fire during the two-hour battle may have led to the failures. But he says numerous problems occurred relatively early in the engagement.”

Defense Tech adds that:

“Basically, the most damning conclusions are compiled in the recommendations section of the report. There are a few instanced specified in the report of an M4 fouling, and one where the M4 fouled and the Soldier picked up a SAW and that was jammed up as well… Staff Sergeant Phillips poured out fire, as recalled by another Engineer Specialist loading for him, [SSG Phillips] went through three rifles using them until they jammed.”

Debacle at Wanat

FY 2007 – 2008

Army holds test – M4 last by far. M4, EDT-III
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Sept 17/08: Competition.’s Christian Lowe reports that that the Army issued a solicitation to industry in August 2008, asking companies to submit proposals that would demonstrate “…improvements in individual weapon performance in the areas of accuracy and dispersion… reliability and durability in all environments, modularity and terminal performance.”

The intervening years have seen a number of new carbine designs hit the market, as well as a number of “personal defense weapons” that attempt to deliver carbine-class firepower in a weapon only slightly larger than a pistol. Most use calibers other than 5.56mm or 9mm, however, which has prevented their adoption for use by pilots, vehicle crew, and other specialists who need an extremely compact weapon. The Army solicitation also asks for ideas on a “subcompact” variant that would fit in this category.

The article quoted Richard Audette, project manager for Soldier weapons at the US Army’s Picatinny Arsenal. The Army is currently working on its carbine requirements document, and is trying to write it in a way that does not exclude other calibers:

“We’re at the point now where we’re going to go out and compete… We’re looking for anyone that has a world-class carbine… We’re interested in any new technologies out there… We want to know about everything that’s out there, regardless of caliber… If you’ve got a 6.8 [mm caliber weapon], we’re interested in that and seeing what that brings to the table.”

What the Army will insist upon, however, is production capacity. Colt can churn out 10,000 M4s per month, and in June 2009 the M4s blueprints will no longer be a Colt exclusive. Experience with ongoing M16 orders suggests that this will expand production capacity, and drive down prices. In contrast, manufacturers of weapons in promising new calibers like 6.8mm have not received large military orders to ramp up their production capacity to the same levels. Producibility is certainly a valid concern. It must be part of any fair and reasonable competition. It can also be abused to become a back door method of ratifying existing decisions, while adopting the veneer of competition. Which will it be in this case? Only time will tell.

July 11/08: Demonstration. reports that about 30 legislative aides signed up to attend a July 11 demonstration at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Congressional and industry sources report that the event feature the standard 5.56mm M4 carbine, plus the FN SCAR Mk17 7.62mm (SCAR MK16 is the 5.56mm version that was tested by the Army), – and a modified “M4-style MURG (Modified Upper Receiver Group)” rifle capable of firing a new 6.8mm special purpose cartridge round, among others. Attendees included FN-USA, HK, LWRC who offers receiver group switchouts like HK’s and adds a 6.8mm version, Barrett (REC-7 6.8mm), and Bushmaster. All reportedly avoided commercial sales pitches, and stuck to facts and demonstrations.

Complaints persist from troops on the front lines regarding the current 5.56mm round/riling combination’s lethality. The ballistic characteristics of calibers around 6.8mm have yet to feature a breakthrough military purchase in the face of 5.56mm standardization, but these calibers are gaining growing recognition for their balance of size (can be used with M16 magazines), light weight, and knock-down power.

Participants reportedly had the opportunity to observe the effects of different caliber rounds in translucent ballistic jelly, which simulates human tissue, and to fire the weapons involved. Sens. James Coburn [R-OK] and Ken Salazar [D-CO] remain very active in this area, but the number of participants suggests that their efforts may be gaining traction in spite the Army. | American Mohist.

Late December 2007: Test results. DID obtains some exact results from the Army’s testing. The Army has now done 3 dust tests. In the late 2006/Jan 2007 report “Baseline Reliability and Dust Assessment for the M4, M16, and M249,” the M4 jammed 9,836 times – 1 jam every 6 rounds. In a May 2007 “Extreme Dust Test II”, with no competitors, the M4 had 1 jam every 88 rounds, using heavy lubrication. In the November 2007 “Extreme Dust Test III”, as DID has discussed, the competing rifles were subject to significantly more maintenance and lubrication than elite American forces like Delta used in their weapon selection process, or indeed in HK’s own field testing of its HK416s prior to shipment.

We’ll begin with the Army’s overall results, from its own release:

“Even with extreme dust test III’s 98.6 percent success rate there was a total of 863 class 1 and 2 weapon/magazine stoppages with 19 class 3 stoppages. During extreme dust test II conducted during the summer, there were 296 total class 1 and 2 stoppages and 11 class 3 stoppages.

A class 1 stoppage is one a Soldier can clear within 10 seconds; a class 2 stoppage is one a Soldier can clear, but requires more than 10 seconds; and, class 3 is a stoppage that requires an armorer to clear.”

DID will simply point out that 10 seconds can be a rather fatally long time when people are shooting at you, and at your friends. So, what happens when the Extreme Dust Test III stoppages are broken out by weapon?

The M4 Carbine is the Army’s existing weapon.

  • 882 jams, 1 jam every 68 rounds, again using heavy lubrication. In addition all 10 of the M4 barrels needed to be replaced, and a number of their parts were replaced during the test. None of the cold hammer forged HK416 and XM-8 barrels needed replacement.

The HK416 is a modified M4 carbine, which can be and has been converted from existing rifles. Used by US Special Forces.

  • 233 jams, 1 jam every 257 rounds, 3.77x more reliable than the M4.

FN SCAR is US special Forces’ new weapon, designed by SOSOCM. It just went into production in late 2007.

  • 226 jams, 1 jam every 265 rounds, 3.85x more reliable than the M4

XM-8 is a developmental rifle. It’s an advanced version of HK’s G36, a rifle in wide use by many NATO armies. The US Army cancelled the XM-8 weapons family 2 years ago.

  • 127 jams, I jam every 472 rounds, 6.95x more reliable than the M4.

The failure of M4 barrels at 6,000 rounds confirms SOCOM objections that date back to the Feb 23/01 report “M4A1 5.56mm Carbine and Related Systems Deficiencies and Solutions,” which ended up concluding that “M4A1 Carbine… does not meet the requirements of SOF.” The barrel replacement also increases the rifle’s life cycle costs when compared with the 10,000 round advertised barrel life, as additional barrels are sold to the Army for $240 each. A longer, heavier M16 barrel, which is a competed production weapon, cost $100 by comparison. While the dust test is indeed an extreme test, the 10,000 round requirement is under “all conditions” – not just ideal conditions.

Dec 18/07: The US Army publishes “M-4 Carbine Has High Soldier Confidence Despite Test.” Not exactly a headline to inspire confidence, as the Army acknowledges that the M4 Carbine finished last among the 4 contenders – but amazingly, asserts that the rifle is just fine and shows no interest in buying even the HK416’s parts swap-out into the existing M4:

“After being exposed to the heavy dusting, 10 of each weapon fired 6,000 rounds apiece. They were fired in 50 120-round cycles. Each was then wiped and re-lubricated at the 600 round mark. After 1,200 rounds were fired from each weapon, they were fully cleaned and re-lubricated… “While the M-4 finished fourth out of four, 98 percent of all the rounds fired from it went off down range as they were supposed to do,” Brig. Gen. [Mark] Brown [commander of Program Executive Office Soldier and the Natick Soldier Systems Center] said. “However, the three other candidates did perform better at about a 99 percent rate or better, which is a mathematically statistically significant difference, but not an operationally statistical difference.”… The Army has put an option on an existing contract for 64,450 M4s, according to the general.”

“A mathematically statistically significant difference, but not an operationally statistical difference.” Statistically, 99% is a 100% improvement over 98%. Operationally, I jam every 68 rounds is almost one jam for every 2 30-round magazines. Whereas one jam in 257 rounds would only happen about once in 8 30-round magazines. Readers are left to contemplate the operational significance of those probabilities in a sustained, serious firefight.

4-Rifle test: M4 finishes dead last

June 29/07: Testing. A document circulated on Capitol Hill asking for testing includes these excerpts:

“The Army has claimed “83% reported confidence that the M4 will not suffer major breakage or failure that necessitates repair before further use” – A soldier should be 100% confident that his weapon will not break the next time he fires it… Since the M16 was introduced in Vietnam the answer has always been “It’s the soldiers’ fault”… The Special Operations Command has the most proficient soldiers in the world, they shoot the most and they operate in the most difficult environments – In 2001 SOCOM was highly critical of the reliability of the M4, and they chose to adopt a new weapon – the SCAR. Our Tier 1 units – like Delta Force, and Seal Team 6 have all abandoned the M4 for other weapons that is [sic] significantly more reliable.”

M4 Carbine Contracts Announced to Date M4 carbine, firing
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The following contracts concern the M4 Carbine and its variants directly; other than spare parts or magazines, all other related contracts for accessories etc. were excluded. We also excluded M16 contracts that did not also include M4s.

No announced DefenseLINK contracts have fit these criteria since February 2009, though some sole-source orders may be found in other venues. The June 14/11 presolicitation may lead to additional announced orders.

March 6/14: US Army Contracting Command at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ awards $16.3 million in contracts as a firm-fixed-price, multi-year contract for M4 rifle bolts under the M4 product improvement program. Each request will be competed between Colt Defense LLC in West Hartford, CT (W15QKN-14-D-0027) and FN Manufacturing LLC in Columbia, SC (W15QKN-14-D-0026), though 6 bids were received. The contract runs until Feb 28/18.

Jan 7/13: Colt Defense LLC in West Hartford, CT receives $14 million firm-fixed-price contract for the M4 Product Improvement Program replacement barrel and front sight assembly. Work location will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of Dec 30/16. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 6 bids received by the US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-13-D-0040).

Dec 19/12: From, amended solicitation #W15QKN-13-R-0039, originally issued Nov 27/12:

“…requirement for up to a total of 350,000 Replacement Bolts used in the conversion of the M4 Carbine to the M4A1 Carbine. To meet continuous requirements for FY13 through FY17, the United States Government intends to award one or more four-year IDIQ contracts with Firm Fixed Price (FFP) orders based on Other Than Full and Open competition… Competition for this requirement shall be other than full and open, and limited to the United States and its territories, island possessions and protectorates, in accordance with the license agreement between the US Government and Colt Defense LLC, limiting distribution of the Technical Data Package (TDP). The authority to limit competition is in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1), as implemented by FAR 6.302-1(a)(2)(ii)(A), only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements. FAR 6.302-1(a)(2) applies when supplies or services required by the agency are available from only one responsible source, or for DoD, NASA and the Coast Guard, from only one or a limited number of responsible sources, and no other type of supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements.

The maximum contract ceiling price for the total anticipated contract award is $21,350,000.00. The maximum quantity of units is

350,000. The anticipated award date for this action is 3rd Quarter of Fiscal Year 2013.”

Nov 16/12: The GAO dismisses Colt’s protest.

Oct 9/12: Colt protests again. For the 2nd time in 5 months, Colt lodges a protest of the US Army’s efforts to upgrade its M4 carbines to M4A1s. This protest is aimed at the amended Sept 21/12 solicitation.

July 24/12: Colt Protests, Wins. The US Government Accountability Office’s ruling forces the US Army to rework the original M4A1 upgrade competition that Remington had won (q.v. April 25/12 entry), so vendors in the competitive range could re-submit. Colt protested both Remington Defense’s win, and the miscalculation of royalties Colt would receive.

More than 6,000 soldiers in the 101st Airborne have already received the rifles, but the Army will need to resolve these protests if it wishes to begin installing conversion kits in summer 2013. The M4A1 includes a heavier barrel, a full automatic trigger assembly, and ambidextrous fire controls. A free-float forward rail, which improves accuracy is widely available on civilian guns, might receive a contract by the end of 2014. What’s conspicuous by its absence is a more reliable firing system. Col. Scott Armstrong of PM Soldier Weapons:

“There were 11 [vendors] that competed in that; they went through nearly a year of testing…. None of the offerers completed the first phase or outperformed the current bolt and bolt carrier group on the M4A1 configuration. Areas that the competitors really fell short in were reliability, durability as well as high temperature and low temperature conditions. The M4A1 bolt outperformed [the competition] in all of those areas.”

See: GAO ruling |

April 25/12: M4s from Remington. Remington Arms Company, LLC in Ilion, NY receives an $83.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for 24,000 M4A1 carbines. Remington is positioned for any future carbine competition, if there is one, with the ACR. Meanwhile, its “R4″ seems to have found a production niche, now that Colt no longer owns all rights. This is the 1st non-Colt M4 contract, and Remington beat 5 other bids – presumably including Colt.

Work will be performed in Ilion, NY until April 12/17. U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI manages the contract (W56HZV-12-D-0056).

Oct 5/11: GTD, Inc. in Lola, MT, received an $8.6 million firm-fixed-price indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for M4/M4A1 Carbine Trigger Components. Work will be performed in Lola, MT, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/16. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 4 bids received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-11-D-0207).

June 14/11: RFP. releases Presolicitation W56HZV-10-R-0593, covering 70,000 – 100,000 M4 and M4A1 carbines over 5 years. The Government expects to order 25-30% in each of years 1 and 2, and 13-17% in each of years 3 through 5.

The contractor(s) winning the best value competition will also be required to provide ancillary equipment as specified by the contract, and will be paid only for produced items, not for setup and manufacturing costs. Bidding is restricted to firms in the U.S. & its territories, and the carbines will be produced in accordance with the M4/M4A1 Technical Data Package (TDP) and the license agreement between the U.S. Government and Colt Defense, LLC. That TDP is restricted/ export controlled, and requires submission of a Non-Disclosure Agreement. The TDPs will not be available until an NDA is submitted, and an solicitation is issued. Read “Colt M4 Data Rights & The Individual Carbine Competition” for an analysis of how the Army reached this point, and what it could mean in practice.

Feb 2/09: Colt Defense LLC in Hartford, CT received a $9.5 million firm-fixed-price 5-year Requirements contract for 18,000 Barrel & Front Assemblies; 13,600 Hand Guards; 7,100 Heavy Barrel Assemblies; 22,000 Receivers and Cartridges; and 200,000 Extractor Spring Assemblies. Work is to be performed at Hartford, CT with an estimated completion date of Sept 28/12. US Army Tank and Automotive Command Rock Island in Rock Island, IL manages this contract (DAAE20-03-D-0191).

April 17/07: Small business qualifier Colt Defense LLC in Hartford, CT, was awarded on April 6, 2007, the full delivery order amount of $50.8 million as part of a firm-fixed-price contract for M4 and M4A1 carbines. Work will be performed in Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by July 30, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on Feb. 16, 2007 by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Rock Island, IL (W52H09-04-D-0086). See also July 26/06.

Jan 22/07: Small business qualifier Colt Defense LLC in Hartford, CT received a delivery order amount of $5.6 million as part of a $24.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for Unique Spare Parts for the M4 and M4A1 Carbine. Work will be performed in Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by May 30, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on April 5, 2004. The U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, Rock Island, Ill., is the contracting activity (DAAE20-03-D-0191).

Sept 26/06: Small business qualifier Colt Defense LLC in Hartford, CT received a maximum $10 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for M4A1 machine guns. The M4A1 Carbine and variants will be utilized with the family of carbines that are currently in the U.S. Military arsenal. The M4A1 Carbine will come in four basic versions, which consist of longer and shorter versions of the M4A1 Carbine. Work will be performed in Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by September 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $278,300, will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, Indiana (N00164-06-D-4805).

July 26/06: Small business qualifier Colt Defense LLC in Hartford, CT received a delivery-order amount of $53.8 million as part of a $242.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for procurement of M4/M4A1 carbines. Work will be performed at Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on June 30, 2006. The Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, Rock Island, Ill., is the contracting activity (W52H09-04-D-0086).

Jan 13/06: Small business qualifier Center Industries Inc. in Wichita, KS received a $7,712,600 modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for aluminum magazines for the M16 rifle/M4 carbine. Work will be performed in Wichita, KS and is expected to be complete by Oct. 31, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on Dec. 30, 2005 by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Rock Island, IL (DAAE20-02-F-0022).

April 1/05: FN Manufacturing Inc. in Columbia, SC received a delivery order amount of $6.7 million as part of a $29.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for M16A4 rifle and M4 carbine. Work will be performed in Columbia, SC, and is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2008. There were 2 bids solicited on Dec. 20, 2004, and 2 bids were received by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Rock Island, IL (W52H09-05-D-0080).

FN Manufacturing LLC writes in to say that they have won “the vast majority of M16A2, A3 and A4 contracts as well as spare parts contracts for these systems since 1989″ through “full and open competition.” Having said that: “…never was FN Manufacturing LLC, or any other small arms manufacturer, awarded M4 contracts. The M4 cannot be competed and always has been awarded sole source to Colt because of licensing rights restricting full and open competition until 2009.”

Aug 30/04: Small business qualifier Colt Defense LLC in Hartford, CT received a delivery order amount of $0 as part of a $123 million firm-fixed-price contract for 124,803 weapons in either M4 carbine or M4A1 carbine configurations. Work will be performed in West Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on Oct. 14, 2003 by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Rock Island, IL (W52H09-04-D-0086).

Jan 15/04: Small business qualifier Colt Defense LLC in Hartford, CT received Jan. 13, 2004, a delivery order amount of $4,029,095 as part of an $8,058,190 firm-fixed-price contract for M4 unique spare and repair parts. Work will be performed in Hartford, CT, and is expected to be complete by Jan. 30, 2009. This was a sole source contract initiated on Sept. 18, 2003 by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Rock Island, IL (DAAE20-03-D-0191).

July 31/02: Colt’s Manufacturing Company Inc. in Hartford, CT received an $18.5 million undefinitized contracting action for 25,764 M4 carbines and 300 M4A1 carbines, in support of the U. S. Air Force, U. S. Army, and foreign military sales countries on July 30, 2002. Work will be performed in West Hartford, CT, and is to be complete by Sep. 30, 2004. This was a sole source contract initiated on June 6, 2002 by the U.S. Army Tank and Automotive Command in Rock Island, IL (DAAE20-02-C-0115).

Sept 19/96: Small business qualifier Colt’s Manufacturing Company Inc. in Hartford, CT received a $5.5 million firm fixed price contract, with a potential value of $.5 million if all options are exercised, for 9,861 M4 Carbines, 5.56mm and 716 M4A1 Carbines. Work will be performed in Hartford, CT and is expected to be complete by April 30, 1998. This is a sole source contract initiated on September 6, 1996 by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive & Armaments Command in Rock Island, IL (DAAE20-96-C-0391).

Appendix A: Testing, Testing – Fairly? XM-8 Family
(click to view full)

The promised tests included the M4 and 3 other rifles: the M4-based HK416, the FNH USA-designed Mk16 SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle (best known as FN SCAR-L), and the H&K XM8 carbine. Unlike the M4, the HK416, XM8, and FN-SCAR all use gas-piston operating systems to achieve automatic fire. The XM8 family is an very updated version of the popular G36 in use with many NATO militaries; it was slated to be the M4’s replacement, but that RFP was suspended by the Army in July 2005 and then canceled in October 2005. The FN-SCAR is a “live” program, and July 2007 marked the beginning of Special Operations Command’s operational tests of the FN-SCAR 5.56mm Mk16 and the 7.62mm Mk17, which could become its future mainstays. reported that the US Army sand tests will include 10 samples of each weapon through which engineers will fire 6,000 rounds. Each weapon and loaded magazine will be exposed to “extreme dust” for 30 minutes then test fired with 120 rounds. Each weapon will be wiped down and lubricated every 600 rounds, with a full cleaning every 1,200 rounds. The firing, collection of data and analysis of data is expected to take approximately 5 months.

FN SCAR w. Grip Pod
(click to view full)

One’s first reaction upon seeing the proposed testing regimen was to compare it very unfavorably with the regimen Delta Force put the HK416 through, firing it day after day without maintenance for thousands of rounds. Or even the testing HK itself uses for its HK416s. Indeed, it seems on its face to be a test designed to minimize the very weaknesses in the M4 incumbent that have triggered this controversy. Those who believe the cycle is reasonable cite 300 rounds as the soldier’s 1-day load, and say that under sand storm conditions, a once a day wipedown is the bare minimum for any weapon. Every 600 rounds is thus a safety factor of 2 against the worst possible conditions. Of course, sandstorms have a way of lasting more than one day, and when they do – as in the initial portion of Operation Iraqi Freedom – even vehicle interiors may feature a fine particulate haze.

Within its chosen regimen, there were 3 key ways the Army could choose to bias the test. One was the size of the particulate in the dust chamber – which can be made large in relative terms to lower the number of problems with fouling and jams. The biggest problems in theater are with the very fine particulates. This is especially relevant given the October 2004 report prepared by the Desert Research Institute for the US military. “Geochemical and Physical Characteristics of Iraqi Dust and Soil Samples” [PDF, 2.9 MB] stated that:

“…current chamber test methodology misrepresents real-world conditions. The character of the soils and dust collected from areas of military activity in Iraq is greatly different from the material used in current weapons testing procedures. Current procedures employ laboratory generated dust that is 99.7% silicon dioxide (i.e. quartz), contains no salt or reactive chemicals, and contains coarser particle sizes than most of the Iraq samples. Use of this material cannot simulate conditions in Iraq that have contributed to the weapons failures.”

The next item to watch was whether the rifles used were randomly chosen, or cherry picked and then pre-maintained to perform at an unusual reliability level vs. a field weapon. A third way of gaming the testing system could involve the level of lubrication used. One source noted that the first dust test new M4s had 9,836 jams in 60,000 rounds – almost one jam every 6 rounds. The Army kept working on the test until they figured out a “generous lubrication” approach that used far more than the manufacturer recommended, but lowered jams to 1 in 88 rounds. A fair test must match the manufacturer’s manual for each weapon, or use the same lubrication for each weapon based on the minimum recommended among all test weapons.

Additional Readings Background: Weapons & Key Trends

News & Views

Categories: News

Germans and Canadians Swap Tanks in Logistical Ballet | U.S. Army Delivers Counter-Mortar Radar to Ukraine

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 03:24

In a clever game of resource swapping, Germany is now receiving 20 Leopard 2A7 main battle tanks in return for having lent a number of Leopard 2 A6M tanks to Canada for its immediate needs in the Afghanistan deployment. Canada, as promised, procured 20 Leopards from the Dutch and paid for their refurbishment. Germany took the opportunity to have Krauss-Maffei Wegmann upgrade them to the A7 variant on its own dime. The first were delivered in December.


  • Dassault is reportedly in the final stages of negotiations to sell 36 Rafale fighters to Qatar. The deal was first hinted back in March of 2014. The primary alternative is reported to be Boeing’s F-15.

  • U.S. Army trainers were in Yavoriv, Ukraine training soldiers how to use two lightweight counter-mortar radars. The radars backtrack the path of incoming mortars to provide targeting information. The radars are part of a $118 million equipment previously made to Ukraine.


  • If India falters in its acquisition of the Dassault Rafales, the number two official at Rosoboronexport helpfully noted that they stood ready to deliver any number of Su-30MKIs (Flanker-Hs) if given the word.


  • We have already seen both the U.S. and China put 3-D printers on ships in an effort to afford inventory flexibility – essentially making parts on the fly. Taking the idea a step further, DARPA and MIT are helping the navy install a “Fab Lab” at a major Navy training port in order to bring the skills needed for fully exploiting high tech fabrication equipment on ships.

  • DARPA is indicating progress in its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, designed to provide a capacity to launch a 100-pound payload into orbit for less than $1 million. Phase 1 is complete, with three different concepts proving viability. Among them, Boeing won the contract to push Phase 2, which includes diverse elements such as mission planning software and a novel single-liquid propellant. It has an ambitious schedule. First flight is slated for late 2015 and first orbital test in 2016.

  • Under pressure after having said “no” a few times recently, the Obama Administration announced Tuesday that it will allow the sale of armed drones to allies – but on a case-by-case basis. This isn’t terribly new, as the U.S. has already exported drones to several of its closest allies. A key concern as has been compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime signed by 34 countries in 1987, which forbids exports of technology that could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction – then defined as a vehicle with roughly a half ton of payload capacity that can get it to a target 186 miles downrange. The State Department said that sales would likely be subject to restrictions and monitoring.

  • Apparently not satisfied with just one Buck Rogers gun moving onto its ships, with the soon to be deployed rail gun, the U.S. Navy awarded Boeing a $29.5 million contract to figure out how to keep laser weapons aimed to a single point on potentially distant and moving targets. Lasers rapidly lose their effectiveness if their impact is not kept on a single point.

  • TACOM Lifecycle Management Command awarded General Dynamics $49.7 million to upgrade M1A1 Abrams to M1A2 variants. This is an exercising of an option off of the original 2008 contract.

  • General Atomics, recently denied permission to export its Reapers to another country, may be mollified by the $279 million order it just won from the Air Force for more Reapers.

  • The U.S. Marines is authorizing the use of Glock 19s. This may appear to be big news – as the services like to keep their personal service arms choices cloistered in decades-long, inscrutable decision processes, but these guns are to go to special operations forces, which have long short-circuited those procurement processes.

Today’s Video

  • With South Korean subs in the news, here is a tourists-eye view of the captured North Korean mini-sub that was wrecked on South Korea’s rocky shores in 1996, fomenting a 7-week running battle with the occupants, all but one of which were killed…

Categories: News

South Korea to Order 5 More U-214 AIP Submarines to Bridge to Indigenous Boats

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 00:01
Sohn Won-Yil & Nimitz
(click to view full)

The German Type 214 was selected by Korea over the French/Spanish Scorpene Class that has been ordered by Chile, India, and Malaysia. Some would argue that U-214s are the most advanced diesel-electric submarines on the market, with an increased diving depth of over 400 meters, an optimized hull and propeller design, ultra-modern internal systems, and an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system that lets the diesel submarine stay submerged for long periods without needing to surface and snorkel air.

South Korea ordered its first 3 KSS-II/ Type 214 boats in 2000, which were assembled by Hyundai Heavy Industries. The Batch 2 order will add 6 more of the 65m, 1,700t boats, effectively doubling the ROKN’s number of modern submarines. The latest development is a $16 million order for Saab electronic systems for the 2nd batch of 214 submarines.

DAPA has selected Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering to build the first boat from Batch 2, and expects to send out another set of tenders for the 5th U-214 boat in 2009.

The KSS-II Batch 2 submarines will include some improvements. HDW’s existing AIP system uses Siemens PEM fuel cells which produce 120 kW per module, and give the submarine an underwater endurance of 2 weeks. This second batch of the Sohn Won-il Class will reportedly improve on that system.

On the other hand, Korean newspapers have been reporting high noise levels in previous ships of class, due to propeller shaft problems. Time will tell if Batch 2 submarines manage to fix that issue.

These U214 submarines will join the 3 existing U-209 Chang Bo-go Class boats from the ROKN’s KSS-I program, which were transferred from the German Navy between 1992-1994. The first 2 KSS-II boats of the 1,980 ton U-214 Sohn Won-il Class, SS 072 Sohn Won-il and SS 073 Jeong Ji, were delivered to the ROK Navy in December 2007 and 2008. The 3rd boat, SS 075 An Jung-geun, was delivered in December 2009.

A 1 trillion won KSS-III program is also planned, wherein South Korea would design and manufacture an indigenous 3,000 ton submarine with an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system to supplement its diesels, and Korean submarine combat systems and land attack cruise missiles. The submarines were originally slated for a 2020 introduction, but in May 2009 they were moved back to 2022.

Contracts & Key Events U-214 Cutaway
(click to view full)

Feb 18/15:
Korea stood up an independent submarine command to strengthen deterrent against the North and “neighbors,” a new component of its operational plan.

The command is based at Jinhae Naval Base, in South Gyeongsang, managing its fleet of 13 boats.

The South Korean Navy said it will commission five more U214s by 2019. It hopes to then begin work on nine domestically-built 3,000-ton submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles.

May 18/11: The Korea Herald quotes Rep. Song Young-sun of the minority Future Hope Alliance, who says that the ROKN’s 3 U214 submarines were all suspended from operations in 2010 and early 2011, after bolts used to attach their upper bridges and decks came loose during operations. A total of 20 bolts came loose from SS 072 Sohn Won-il on 6 occasions between 2006-2009. From 2009-2010, SS 073 Jeong Ji had broken or loosened bolts on 6 occasions, and SS 075 Ahn Jung-geun had 3 occasions.

The problem was traced back to a local subcontractor, whose bolts were not up to HDW’s specified strength. When stronger bolts didn’t stop the problem, U214 designer HDW was called in, and fixed the problem between June 2010 – February 2011.

July 21/10: HDW selects Thales and Samsung Thales to provide X-band Satcom Terminals for their 6 KSS-II Batch 2 submarines. The delivered system is issued from Thales’s DIVESAT technology, and belongs to Thales’ 2nd generation of submarine terminals. It is available in 2 versions, one fitted with a 40 cm antenna and one fitted with a 75 cm antenna, each capable of high-bandwidth voice/data operation at X, Ku, Ka or EHF frequency bands. Thales.

Dec 29/09: Saab in Stockholm, Sweden, announced that it is working with South Korean defense firm LIG Nex1 to supply naval electronic support measure (ESM) systems for the South Korean Navy’s 2nd batch of U-214 submarines. The ESM order value is approximately 11 million euro ($16 million).

ESM systems detect emissions in the electro-magnetic frequency, typically but not exclusively radar signals, and locate the source of the emissions. LIG Nex1 will produce Saab’s ESM system for delivery to Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), who will insert the equipment into the 2nd batch of U-214 submarines for the South Korean Navy.

Sept 7/09: Atlas Electronik announces “the largest single order in its company history,” but does not provide cost details for a contract from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AG subsidiary HDW (Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH). Atlas will equip all 6 of Korea’s U-214 submarines with its ISUS 90-61 combat systems, as part of HDW’s contract to deliver 6 “material packages” to South Korea. ISUS 90 integrates all sensors and command and control functions, including data from the submarines’ sonar systems, external datalinks like Link-11, attack periscope; and the optronic mast, which includes ESM systems for detecting hostile electro-magnetic emissions, and global positioning system sensors.

The contract includes stipulations for extensive teamwork with the Korean industry, which is being pushed by the South Korean government to develop expertise in combat systems as part of a larger national naval industry strategy.

The first batch involved 3 boats and was contracted in 2000, and Atlas remains a member of the team for the 6 boat Batch 2 order. Following a recent buy-out, Atlas is now a joint venture of ThyssenKrupp and EADS.

Jan 8/08: HDW’s parent firm ThyssenKrupp announces that South Korea’s DAPA procurement agency has signed a contract for contract for 6 “material packages” used to build Class 214 submarines. These packages consist of unassembled submarine parts and partial assemblies, which are integrated in the purchasing country to “manufacture” the item in question. ThyssenKrupp refuses all comment regarding costs.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

UH-72 Lakota Light Helicopter Lands Airbus in US Defense Market

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 00:00
(click to view full)

DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This is DID’s FOCUS Article regarding the US Army’s Light Utility Helicopter program, covering the program and its objectives, the winning bid team and industrial arrangements, and contracts.

The US Army’s LUH program will finish as a 325 helicopter acquisition program that will be worth about $2.3 billion when all is said and done. It aimed to replace existing UH-1 Hueys and OH-58 Kiowa utility variants in non-combat roles, freeing up larger and more expensive UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for front-line duty. In June 2006, a variant of Eurocopter’s EC145 beat AgustaWestland’s AB139, Bell-Textron’s 412EP Twin Huey, and MD Helicopters’ 902 Explorer NOTAR (No Tail Rotor) design. The win marked EADS’ 1st serious military win in the American market, and their “UH-145″ became the “UH-72A Lakota” at an official December 2006 naming ceremony.

Eurocopter has continued to field new mission kits and deliver helicopters from its Mississippi production line, while trying to build on their LUH breakthrough. A training helicopter win will keep the line going for a couple more years…

The LUH Program: Objectives & Background RAH-66 Comanche
(click to view full)

The LUH program spun out of the canceled $9 billion AH-66 Comanche stealth scout/attack helicopter, as one of the US Army’s cheaper reinvestment and recapitalization options. LUH helicopters are intended to replace Vietnam era UH-1H Hueys and OH-58A/C Kiowa aircraft in the U.S. Army and National Guard. Note that the US Marine Corps will continue to fly the modernized UH-1Y Venom, and the civilian para-military DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is likely to retain many of its OH-58s and may pick some up from Army surplus.

The US Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters, meanwhile, will be replaced by 368 militarized Bell 407s between FY 2006-2013 under the $2.2 billion Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) program, the first of the AH-66 spinoffs. These efforts are part of the Army Aviation Modernization Program, along with programs like the Warrior UAV and hopefully the Joint Cargo Aircraft to replace the Army’s C-123 Sherpa light transport planes.

UH-60 Blackhawk

The intent was to acquire a Commercial-Off-the-Shelf (COTS)/ Non-Developmental Item (NDI) aircraft that is Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) Type Standard Certified, and produce approximately 322 new LUH helicopters between 2006-2015. They will fill the niche missions in which the Army’s standard UH-60 Black Hawk’s size, capability, and operating expenses may be unnecessary, performing a wide range of general support missions in the United States and overseas. Transport of personnel and supplies, disaster relief operations, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, drug interdiction, and homeland security will all be likely tasks.

In 2006, therefore, while the rest of EADS was targeted for divestment and beginning to face bottom line issues, Eurocopter continued to fly. Fresh off of major wins with Korea’s KHP development program ($1.3 billion) and Australia’s NH90 order ($1.5 bilion), Eurocopter racked up the biggest win of all in June: its EC145 would serve as the USA’s future Light Utility Helicopter, replacing existing UH-1s and OH-58s in a 322 helicopter, $3+ billion program between 2006-2015. Losing entries included Team MD Helicopters’ 902 Explorer NOTAR (No Tail Rotor) design, Bell-Textron’s 412EP Twin Huey, and Team AgustaWestland’s AB139. See DID coverage of the 4 competing teams.


The US military subsequently raised the planned number of UH-72 LUH helicopters to 345, but shifts near the end of the program cut the final number to 325, and aimed to place the last orders in FY 2014. In 2015, however, Airbus was picked for a 100-helicopter contract as the US Army Aviation Center of Excellence’s prime training helicopter. Budgets over the life of the program included:

The LUH Winner: Eurocopter’s EC145/ UH-72A EC145 w. hoist
(click to view full)

The UH-72A Lakota is a militarized version of the Eurocopter EC145, which in turn is a new and thoroughly modified version of the famous BK 117-C1. It was given its Lakota designation in keeping with the Army’s tradition of naming rotary-wing aircraft after native American Indian tribes. Requests for the naming originate with the tribes themselves, and their history and traditions must be aligned with the helicopter’s characteristics and uses in US Army service.

The Lakota is outfitted with an advanced avionics suite that includes a “glass” (digital screen) cockpit for flight and navigation instrument display. Its civilian version is already FAA Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) certified, and safety features include redundant hydraulic and electrical systems. An array of radios allows communication with civilian first responders, as well as military channels.

The aft cabin, including baggage area, is 50.77 ft2, at 4.59 x 11.23 feet. That cabin can be switched between a 6-seat (3-3) arrangement, or 2-3 seats plus 2 MEDEVAC stretcher rails. If a medic needs to work on a patient in the air, operational capacity drops to 1 stretcher. A high-set main and tail rotor design allow safe loading and unloading through the main side doors and rear-fuselage clamshell doors, even while the rotors are turning.

Those turning rotors are relatively quiet, for a helicopter. That was true of the old BK-117, is true of the EC145, and remains true for its military counterpart. Quietness makes helicopters easier to operate in civilian airspace, and provides front-line advantages if UH-72 variants are ever deployed that way.

UH-72A S&S
(click to view full)

So far, the US military’s UH-72As have stuck to their original intent, and are used for service away from the front lines. They’ve been used most often for medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions, search and rescue, border patrols along the U.S./Mexican border, and VIP transport. They’ve also found niche roles in missile testing, and in general aviation support and combat flight training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany; the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Ft. Polk, LA; and the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, CA. Special missions have included disaster response following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and oil spill monitoring and response flights along the U.S. Gulf Coast after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

They’ve also remained true to their initial affordability promises. Deliveries have been on time and on-budget, and in 2012, US Army project manager for utility helicopters, Col. Thomas Todd, said that the UH-72A is cheaper to operate than its predecessors were. He cited a readiness rate of over 90%, which is excellent even for such a young fleet, and a parts cost that’s 30-40% less than UH-1 and OH-58 legacy helicopters. That parts cost is especially good news. The history of modern military programs has usually involved lower availability rates, and higher maintenance costs, than the equipment it replaces. Since operating and maintenance costs are a majority of any platform’s real costs over time, lowering those costs makes a big cumulative difference to the Army’s future budgets.

UH-72A Lakota Variants UH-72A S&S
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Overall, 7 UH-72A variants exist, but several of them are really kits that can be rolled on and off of the base helicopter.

MEDEVAC/Search and Rescue. This mission “B-kit” includes the external rescue hoist, 2 stretchers, plus associated medical equipment and systems. Two medics are positioned in rear-facing seats behind the pilot and co-pilot.

Missile Test LUH. This variant operates in the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll, Pacific Ocean. The Kwajalein helicopters are painted in high visibility orange, and come with skid-mounted floats, integrated life rafts, and jettisonable cockpit doors.

UH-72A Security & Support (S&S) Battalion. This 3rd kit is more extensive. It includes an external hoist, a forward centerline-mounted camera system which can track targets at up to 9 miles away using electro-optical and infrared sensors, a laser pointer, a 30 million candlepower searchlight, an operator console, cockpit and cabin touch-screen displays with moving maps that can navigate to streets as well as military coordinates, a video management system, a digital video recorder and data downlink system, and additional avionics and communications equipment that can be synced with first responders on the ground. The US Army National Guard plans to buy at least 100 UH-72A S&S helicopters: 17 retrofitted and 83 new build.

Training. Current proposals would replace existing US Army TH-67 (Bell 206) and OH-58 training helicopter fleets with the UH-72A, allowing those existing types to completely retire from US Army service.

Airbus is also trying to interest the Navy in using the UH-72 as a replacement for its aging TH-57 Sea Ranger (Bell 206) helicopter trainer fleet. The helicopters would add Garmin G1000H avionics, and be fitted with student, instructor, and observer seats.

VIP transport. This adds more and nicer seats, for a total of 3 rear-facing seats located behind the cockpit, 2 forward-facing seats just aft of the helicopter’s side doors, and 3 seats behind them.

2 more kits are left deliberately undefined, except to say that they are “associated with training missions that teach soldiers how to fight aircraft and recognize friend or foe on the battle space.”

US Navy. The 7th variant was produced for a different customer, the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD. Their variant is exactly what you would expect: it trains test pilots from the U.S. military and allied countries. Navy H-72A modifications include jettisonable cockpit doors, a cockpit voice and flight data recorder, a main rotor blade folding kit, and an air traffic advisory system.

AAS-72X+ concept
(click to view full)

The platform’s next frontier was supposed to involve a step beyond kits, into a fully armed version.

In 2009, EADS North America moved to build on their success. With Bell’s ARH-70 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter canceled due to cost overruns, EADS announced a partnership with Lockheed Martin to offer an EC645/AAS-72X variant for the US Army’ Armed Aerial Scout competition. After initial tests, they decided to favor performance over full commonality, and used the EC145-T2 as the base for their armed scout. The AAS-72X+ adds uprated Arriel 2E engines and the Helionix avionics suite, and switches to an enclosed Fenestron tail rotor instead of the UH-72A’s twin-tail high configuration.

Lockheed Martin is in charge of mission systems and weapons, and the team’s bid will push the advantages of having a similar base type for armed scout, training, and support roles. The problem is that the USA decided to do away with their scout helicopter fleet altogether, so any sales will have to be exports.

LUH Industrial Arrangements

UH-72A program management is located in Huntsville, Alabama and led by the EADS North America Defense business unit of EADS North America. Production takes place at American Eurocopter’s Columbus, Mississippi facility, which received a major expansion to accommodate the Light Utility Helicopter program.

The production line is a version of Eurocopter’s EC145 multi-mission helicopter line in Donauworth, Germany. The initial UH-145s were actually built on Eurocopter’s existing EC145 production line in Germany, and shipped to Columbus, MS for final assembly and completion. Even before the contract was formally awarded, the first UH-145 helicopters were already under assembly, and components had been allocated for the manufacture of 7 more UH-145s. It was a gutsy move, but once the contract was won, it helped American Eurocopter deliver its first 8 machines to the US government on budget and ahead of schedule.

The line was duplicated in Columbus through a series of steps that began with partial assembly, followed by full assembly and the subsequent U.S. manufacture of major subsystems. Growth continued at Columbus, up until full build-up of the aircraft on a new assembly line in 2007.

Columbus, MS facility
(click to view larger)

American Eurocopter’s expansion of the 92,200 square foot Columbus facility grew it to to approximately 276,000 square feet to accommodate the UH-145 program. As of July 2006, this plant built A-Star AS350 helicopters at a rate of about 30 per year, and its advanced metallic production center manufactures components that include aft fuselage sections for all new production A-Star/Ecureuil helicopters sold worldwide. It also handles assembly and customization of other American Eurocopter helicopter models for U.S. customers. On a federal level, the Columbus plant was already re-engining and upgrading U.S. Coast Guard Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin search and rescue helicopters to the improved performance HH-65C version; and assembling, customizing and delivering EC120B helicopters ordered by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Employment at Columbus grew from the current staffing of 129 to approximately 330, plus 20-40 additional jobs at the company’s headquarters in Grand Prairie, Texas for program support.

Other suppliers also geared up. Turbomeca USA, which builds the UH-145’s Arriel 1E2 engines, grew its Grand Prairie, Texas facility by 35-45 new jobs. Thales USA transferred production of its Meghas avionics suite from Europe to a new facility in Irvine, California. Meghas also equips the Eurocopter EC145, EC135, EC155, EC120, EC130 and AS350 helicopters, and manufacturing of avionics for all these aircraft types, as well as the UH-145, was relocated to Irvine.

(click to view full)

UH-72A deliveries have gone well. UH-72A deliveries to the US Army commenced in December 2006; the first 7 helicopters were delivered by June 2006, whereupon the first active unit was equipped. Deliveries continued at the rate of 1 per month until September 2007, then rose to 2 helicopters per month.

By 2010, there were 7 different H-72 configurations produced on the line, and 10 new fielding sites stood up, making 31 basing locations in the continental U.S., Puerto Rico, Germany, and the Pacific Ocean’s Kwajalein Atoll.

From December 2006 – November 2012, EADS North America delivered 243 Lakota helicopters, on budget and either on time or ahead of schedule. Delivery rates can now reach over 4 helicopters per month, or up to 53 helicopters per year. As the LUH program winds down, however, that production rate is set to slow and then stop. It’s currently 3 helicopters per month, but under the proposed FY 2014 budget that will taper to 1 per month by September 2014. By June 2015, LUH production will end.

American UH-72As: Contracts and Key Events

Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued by the US Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL; and the recipient is EADS North American Defense in Arlington, VA.

FY 2013 – 2014

Orders; AAS-72X tests but ARH is cancelled; From early termination to another 90-100 training helicopters. MEDEVAC exercise
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Sept 29/14: Thailand. The US DSCA announces Thailand’s official export request for up to 9 UH-72A Lakota Helicopters, an Aviation Mission Planning Station, plus warranty, spare and repair parts, support equipment, communication equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $89 million, and the principal contractor will be EADS North America in Herndon, VA.

Thailand’s last UH-72A request became an order in under a year. The 9 helicopters will surely be welcome in the Mississippi plant, but they aren’t about to make a significant industrial difference. Read “Huey’s Departure: Thailand’s New Helicopters” for full coverage of their importance to Thailand.

DSCA: Thailand (9)

Sept 22/14: Lawsuit. AgustaWestland sues the US Army, seeking an injunction to stop its planned UH-72A training helicopter purchase. The claim states that the Sept 4/14 sole-sourcing decision wasn’t justified properly, while claiming a massive price difference of $7 million per UH-72 vs. $3.25 million for their helicopter. That price matches expected costs for the AW119Kx Koala, which is built near Philadelphia.

AgustaWestland representatives point out that the UH-72 has a restricted flight maneuver envelope, while Bell Helicopter representatives cite “a cost difference of $1,000 to $1,500 per flying hour more for the UH-72″ in exchange for training on a glass cockpit and a twin-engine platform.

The stakes are higher than usual. AgustaWestland is also touting the Koala as a replacement for the US Navy’s TH-57 Creek, which is based on the same Bell 206 airframe as the Army’s TH-67 fleet that the Airbus UH-72 would replace. The Navy doesn’t have a formal program to replace the TH-57 Sea Ranger fleet, but it is aging, and an Army trainer buy would be a natural cross-service lead in. Meanwhile, the threat of sequestration (q.v. Aug 24/14) is driving pressure to buy more UH-72As immediately. If the lawsuit delays the training buy for long enough, the Army has to choose between accepting the risk of a smaller replacement fleet, or picking a cheaper option. Sources: AIN, “AgustaWestland Sues over Airbus Army Trainer Plan” | Bloomberg, “AgustaWestland Sues U.S. to Block Airbus Helicopter Buy” | Reuters, “Finmeccanica unit sues to block U.S. helicopter deal for Airbus” | Defense News, “AgustaWestland Pitches AW119 for US Navy Helicopter Trainer”.

Aug 24/14: TUH-72. Despite Kendall’s cautions, all 4 Congressional defense committees are moving to approve a $110.8 million reprogramming request that would buy another 21 UH-72As in FY 2014. These helicopters would be slotted for the training fleet, and sequestration is the reason for their haste. The FY 2016 budget is the one under threat if sequestration continues, and Fort Rucker, AL needs a bare minimum of 60 helicopters for instructor and student training needs. The added 21 + 55 in FY 2015 would provide 76, leaving the fleet ready to go despite sequestration.

If things work out in FY 2016, the remaining 24 helicopters can be ordered to raise the training fleet to 100. If sequestration hits, FY 2015 funds could be reprogrammed, or some helicopters could be moved out of the National Guard. Sources: Forecast International, “Congress Signs Off on Plan to Buy 21 Additional UH-72A Lakotas in FY14″.

Aug 6/14: TUH-72. Pentagon Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall says that he wants to see the Army’s business case for buying 90 UH-72s to replace existing TH-67 Creek (Bell Model 206B Jet Ranger III, initial training) and OH-58 Kiowa (tactical training) machines, under the proposed Army Aviation Restructure Plan.

We can summarize the cases. The Army says that removing these helicopter types from the fleet, and consolidating on the UH-72A, will save on support costs. Bell Helicopters says that the single-engine TH-67 fleet is 16 years old on average, and can still be used and supported for some time. On the other hand, the UH-72A production line won’t be around forever. Sources: Defense News, “Kendall Wants Business Case for US Army Helicopter Swap”.

June 26/14: Support. EADS-NA in Herndon, VA receives a $14.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, for UH-72A contractor logistics support. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Army O&M budgets.

Work will be performed at Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of May 15/15. US Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal – Aviation at Redstone Arsenal, ALmanages the contract (W58RGZ-06-C-1094, P00811).

May 27/14: Support. EADS North America, Inc. in Herndon, VA receives a $33.8 million modification, exercising an option to increase contractor logistics support for the UH-72A. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Army O&M budgets.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16 (W58RGZ-06-C-0194, PO 0795).

May 23/14: Politics. The Senate Armed Services Committee has completed the mark-up of the annual defense bill, which passed by a 25-1 vote. The section relevant to the UH-72 is explained this way:

“Authorizes $612.6 million in procurement for UH-72A Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). At the request of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, the Secretary of Defense directed the Army to procure 100 additional LUH as a replacement training aircraft rather than transfer any from National Guard for that purpose. Additional funds would authorize procurement of a total 90 new aircraft to replacement of the Army’s legacy aviation training aircraft.”

$612.6 million is $196 million above the Defense Department’s budget request, and supposedly adds 35 more helicopters in Fiscal Year 2015. That creates a total of 90 ordered if the House agrees, which explains phrases like “decreases the risk and cost to the Army in their divestiture of TH-67 training aircraft”. Implicitly, it also removes the 45 helicopters and $387.6 million planned for 2016, and cuts the future training fleet from 100 to 90. Sources: US Senate Armed Services Committee, “Senate Committee on Armed Services Completes Markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015″ |, “Senate Bill would Fund Alabama Defense Programs”.

May 14/14: #300. Airbus Group delivers 300th UH-72A to the US military, on time and on budget. The UH-72A S&S will enter service with the Missouri National Guard. The firm touts an American workforce that is “more than 50 percent U.S. military veterans”. No doubt they’re all happy about the 2-year extension to Army orders. Sources: Airbus, “Airbus Group delivers 300th on-time, on-budget UH-72A Lakota helicopter to U.S. Army”.


May 6/14: Support. EADS North America in Herndon, VA receives a $25.5 million option for UH-72A contractor logistics support.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Army O&M budgets. Work will be performed in Columbia, MS, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/15. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-06-C-0194 P00787).

March 28/14: EADS-NA in Herndon, VA receives a $34 milllion contract modification to sole-source, foreign military sales contract for 6 UH-72A Lakota helicopters with AN/ARC-231 radios, the Mission equipment package, and environmental control units to deal with Thailand’s heat.

It’s a dubious purchase, as Thailand already operates similar helicopter fleets from other manufacturers, and won’t make much of an industrial difference with the Us Army committed to its training order. Read “Huey’s Departure: Thailand’s New Helicopters” for full coverage.

Thailand buys 6

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The UH-72 gets a big win. As part of the Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI) the UH-72A will become the primary training aircraft at the US Army Aviation Center of Excellence in Ft. Rucker, AL.

That means 100 more UH-72A orders are scheduled for FY 2015 – 2016, to equip the Army’s Initial Entry Rotary Wing training fleet.

Feb 18/14: +4. A $22.9 million modification for 4 UH-72A Lakota helicopters, with the standard add-ons of ARC-231 radios and engine inlet barrier filters to keep incoming air clean.

All funds are committed immediately, using Army FY 2014 other procurement budgets. Work will be performed in Columbia, MS, and the estimated completion date is March 31/15. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-06-C-0194, PO 0766).

4 UH-72As

Jan 17/14: Budgets. Congress doubles the planned buy of UH-72As in 2014, so the final order will be for 20 rather than 10. It ends up being a mid-point compromise between 10 and the original 31. It’s part of the omnibus spending package. Sources: Airbus Group, “Congress continues support of UH-72A Lakota helicopter”.

OH-58D, Afghanistan

Jan 14/14: No AAS. The US Army’s OH-58D scout helicopter fleet will be retired without a successor. This means the end of Airbus’ hopes to sell the AAS-72X to the US military, though they could still offer it as an export package if a country was willing to pay the remaining development costs.

Instead, the Army will rely on a mix of their AH-64E attack helicopters and UAVs. The Army realized that they didn’t have enough money to buy enough AH-64s, and that they were going to shrink the number of people in the Army. The current leadership has decided that 698 AH-64Es, who will be able to control the planned fleets of unarmed RQ-7B Shadow and armed MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs from the air, will provide an “80% solution.” In parallel, a rebalancing will move more UH-60 utility helicopters to the National Guard alongside the UH-72s, where they can offer useful capabilities during natural disasters etc., while shifting AH-64 attack helicopters to the active-duty force. Sources: US Army, “Army aviation flying smarter into fiscal squeeze” |, “Army planning to scrap OH-58 Kiowa Warriors helicopter fleet: Reports” | Jackson Sun, “National Guard: Tennessee could lose 30 OH-58D helicopters, including at Jackson flight facility, under proposed Army plan” | The Motley Fool, “The U.S. Army Is About to Make a Huge Mistake”.

End of US Scout helicopters

July 1/13: Support. EADS North America in Herndon, VA receives a $12.9 million firm-fixed-price option for contractor logistics support for the Army’s aviation assets. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS.

The only platform that fits is the UH-72A, and the Pentagon says that this award brings the cumulative total face value of the LUH contract to $2.265 billion (W58RGZ-06-C-0194, PO 0703).

June 20/13: Thailand. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Thailand’s formal request for 6 ready-to-fly UH-72A Lakota Helicopters, communication equipment, an Aviation Mission Planning Station, plus spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of contractor and government support. The estimated cost is up to $77 million.

It’s part of an effort by Thailand to add a new light utility helicopter to its fleet, and would represent the UH-72A’s 1s export order, but the base EC145 has been exported to a number of other countries already. If the UH-72A is chosen, the principal contractor will be EADS North America, in Herndon, VA. Implementation will require U.S. Government or contractor representatives in Thailand for a period of 5 weeks for equipment de-processing/fielding, system checkout and new equipment training; plus a Contractor Furnished Service Representative (CFSR) for a period of 1 year. Read “Huey’s Departure: Thailand’s New Helicopters” for full coverage of Thailand’s multi-platform recapitalization drive.

DSCA Thailand: 6

May 30 – June 7/13: Lobbying. EADS North America is lobbying to reverse planned cuts to the UH-72A program, and essentially restore a year’s worth of orders. The have Congressional representatives attending, but the rallies are at their own plants in Mississippi and Texas. EADS NA re: MS | | WCBI, incl. video | EADS NA re: TX.

April 25/13: #250. American Eurocopter delivers the 250th UH-72A, which will be operated out of Oklahoma City by the Oklahoma National Guard. It’s actually the 255th, if you count the US Naval Test Pilot School’s 5 machines, and it’s the 54th UH-72A S&S configuration delivered to the US military.

EADS NA says that the combined Lakota fleet’s operations have now exceeded 150,000 flight hours, while maintaining over 90% availability. EADS North America.


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

The UH-72A’s record of on-time and on-budget delivery didn’t entirely protect the LUH program. Instead of buying 31 in 2014 and the last 10 in 2015, the proposed budget would cut 31 machines, and close the program with a 10-helicopter buy in 2014. EADS North America chairman Sean O’Keefe vowed to fight the cuts, which would remove about $345 million from the firm’s order books. It will be interesting to see if he has any luck. See also EADS North America.

Feb 27/12: Support. EADS North America in Herndon, VA receives a $15.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for Contractor Logistics Support. At this point EADS North America’s site is advertising 279 LUH helicopters delivered.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/13. US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Jan 3/13: MEP support. EADS North America in Herndon, VA receives a $26.3 million firm-fixed-price contract. The award will provide for the modification of an existing contract to procure contractor logistics support for LUH Mission Equipment Packages.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Nov 16/12: +34. EADS North America, Herndon, VA receives a $181.8 million firm-fixed-price contract, to deliver 34 more UH-72A helicopters (10 standard, and 24 S&S), plus engine inlet filter barrier kits that help the helicopters cope with dust and sand.

This order brings the total number of UH-72As ordered to 312/347; so far, about 243 have been delivered. EADS North America says that the Lakota fleet has averaged an operational availability rate greater than 90% in the 21 military units that enjoy full contractor logistics (CLS) support. The spare parts fill rate under the hybrid CLS concept supporting all 33 units has averaged 97%, but there’s no word of the total availability rate.

34 UH-72As

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/14 (W58RGZ-06-C-0194). See also EADS-NA.

Oct 12/12: AAS-72X. The US Army holds preliminary flying tests of the EC145-T2 at Fort Hood. It’s related to the AAS program, but they’re flying the civilian version instead of the AAS-72X+ prototype. DVIDS.

FY 2012

Orders; #200 delivered; Security & Support variant operational; UH-72A delivering lower operating costs; Armed Aerial Scout unveiled. UH-72A at JMRC
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Sept 25/12: Support. A $10.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for services in support of the UH-72A Lakota. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Sept 28/13. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Aug 28/12: Ancillaries. A $33.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy UH-72A Security and Support Mission Equipment Packages. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/14. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Aug 17/12: Support. A $19.8 million modification to the existing firm-fixed-price contract (W58RGZ-06-C-0194) for logistic support. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2012.

August 2012: MEDEVAC. The US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) announces that after an inaugural test cycle that included Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) testing, 12 medical devices are now Airworthiness Certified on the UH-72A.

July 18/12: AFTD gets 3. The US Army fields 3 UH-72A Lakota at Redstone Arsenal, AL for the Aviation Flight Test Directorate, a part of the Redstone Test Center. They’ll be used for general support, and as a rotary wing chase platform to support the developmental testing of aircraft and aviation systems. Huntsville Times.

July 17/12: Support. A $9.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for UH-72A engineering support services. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

July 9/12: A $15.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification of an existing contract buys contractor logistics support to June 30/16. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

May 29/12: Support. A $26 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, for contractor logistics support. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

May 22/12: 100,000 flight hours. EADS North America announces that the US Army & National Guard’s fleet of 219 delivered UH-72As achieved 100,000 total flight hours on May 10/12.

100,000 hours

April 9/12: Support. A $12.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for contractor logistics support services. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. Five bids were solicited, with 3 bids received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

April 3/12: Update. US Army project manager for utility helicopters, Col. Thomas Todd, discusses the UH-72A Lakota fleet. So far, the Army has taken delivery of 209, and the fleet is in use in 42 states and approaching 100,000 flight hours. Fully 2/3 of the fleet will be located in National Guard units. Along the Mexican border, for instance, 11 Lakota aircraft have racked up 700 flying hours working the Southwest Border Mission, from operating locations in Larado and Harlingen, TX. Col. Todd:

“The real success story for us: it’s been on schedule [and] it’s met its cost targets perhaps better than any other aviation program we have got that’s active right now… It maintains consistently 90 percent operational availability rates… When we compare [to OH-58s and UH-1s] our parts fill rate is higher, and our parts cost or our contracts cost is easily 30-40 percent less. That’s a huge measuring stick for us, in these resources constrained times.”

April 2/12: AAS-72X+. American Eurocopter unveils its AAS-72X+ contender for the Army’s Armed Aerial Scout, which may or may not become a program. Unlike the LUH, it will be based on Eurocopter’s EC-145 T2, which adds more powerful 1,038 shp Turbomeca Arriel 2E engines, replaces the dual-tail rear rotor with an enclosed Fenestron, and uses the Helionix glass cockpit and avionics suite instead of Thales Meghas. American Eurocopter.

March 1/12: #200. A ceremony at American Eurocopter in Colombus, MS marks the 200th UH-72A delivered the U.S. Army, a Security and Support (S&S) variant. American Eurocopter says that the program remains on-time and on-budget. American Eurocopter.


Dec 23/11: +39. A $212.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy 39 UH-72As. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

American Eurocopter adds that 32 of these UH-72As will be produced in the Army’s Security and Support (S&S) Battalion configuration, and says that US Army deliveries stand at 198 UH-72As as of January 2012.

39 UH-72As

Nov 5/11: S&S stood up. The first battalion of UH-72A helicopters with the Security & Support Mission Equipment Package enters service with the US military, in the Mississippi National Guard’s Company C, 1st of the 114th Security and Support Battalion.

EADS says that 69 of the 100 anticipated S&S MEP installations have been ordered. Of those, 52 will be built-in, 16 will be retrofits, and the last will be the S&S MEP prototype, which was delivered and fielded in this 1st UH-72A S&S battalion. EADS NA.

UH-72 S&S

FY 2011

Orders; Haiti mission; Dedication at Crazy Horse Memorial; New Eurocopter manager; Rescue; AAS-72 testing. DC Guard UH-72As
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Sept 7/11: A $9.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, to increase the funding for contractor logistics support flight hours. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, and Trumbull, CT, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Aug 29/11: +32 S&S kit cut-ins. A $43.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification buys production line cut-in for 32 Security & Support mission equipment packages on 32 base UH-72As.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Aug 24/11: Half-time. EADS North America announces that it has now delivered more than half of the planned 345 Lakotas to the U.S. Army, with sustained output reaching 53 helicopters per year and 180 machines delivered to the US military.

UH-72A Lakota helicopters are now operating from 31 basing locations, and the U.S. Army has ordered 219/345 possible UH-72As under the current contract. EADS NA.

July 25/11: A $10.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide UH-72A spares support. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

June 16/11: +14. A $74.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 14 UH-72As and 14 airborne radio communication systems (previous contracts suggest the AN/ARC-231). Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

14 UH-72As

June 7/11: Personnel. American Eurocopter announces Peter Cutler’s hiring as VP Military and Federal Government Programs. In this position, he will be responsible for the U.S. Army UH-72A LUH program, the associated Armed Aerial Scout capture effort, and expanding sales to the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and FBI.

Before his hiring, Cutler spent 24 years at Sikorsky, finishing as the leader of their product support organization. He holds a B.Sc. Industrial Engineering from Rutgers University, and an MBA in Industrial Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

May 27/11: Haiti. Soldiers from Florida’s Army National Guard’s B Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation (Security and Support) return to Cecil Field in Jacksonville after a 30-day rotation in Haiti. The overwater deployment involved 2 helicopters and 12 personnel, and missions included over 140 sorties over 30 days for passengers and cargo, command and control operations, reconnaissance operations, personnel recovery training exercises, and hoist training exercises. EADS NA.

May 16/11: Crazy Horse. A ceremony at South Dakota’s Crazy Horse Memorial mountain marks the inauguration of UH-72A Lakota helicopters into the state’s National Guard. The ceremony included a Native American blessing, singing and dancing, and a commemorative blast on the mountain carving of the Lakota warrior. EADS NA UH-72 site.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Charles Murphy says “Lakota” is a word that will represent all the people in the 7 tribes in the Dakotas and Nebraska, and he says they appreciate what the Guard has done.

April 2011: Update. The Army UH-72A fleet surpasses the 60,000 flight hour milestone.

Production in 2010 saw 53 helicopters delivered, and another 41 retrofitted with new missions equipment. That includes the now FAA-certified Combat Training Center mission package. The Security and Support MEP began retrofits this month, and early 2012 will see first delivery of new-production UH-72A S&S helicopters. So far, the Army’s UH-72As have freed up at least 23 Black Hawk helicopters for military service oversees. Source 1 | Source 2.

March 30/11: +4. A $21.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 4 more UH-72A light utility helicopters; 4 AN/ARC-231 radio system production cut-ins; and 1 engine inlet barrier filter production cut-in.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of April 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

4 UH-72As

March 1/01: This is not a drill. A UH-72A operating from the U.S. Army’s National Training Center Air Ambulance Detachment at Ft. Irwin, performs a real rescue, when a man is trapped in his truck in the surging Mojave River. EADS’ UH-72 site

Feb 14/11: FY 2012 request. The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 request, though the failure of the last Congress to pass a budget means that it’s FY 2011 requests are also pending.

All UH-72 funds from FY 2010-2012 are procurement funds; there is no RDT&E outlay. Orders are tailing off slightly from $325.2 million for 54 helicopters in FY 2010, to $305.3 million for 50 helicopters in FY 2011, to $250.4 million for 39 helicopters in FY 2012. The overall program, as noted earlier, calls for 345 UH-72s, plus the 5 the Navy ordered for its test pilots school.

Feb 9/11: Update. EADS North America provides an update on orders to date:

“The U.S. Army has ordered a total of 32 UH-72A Lakotas from EADS North America in Fiscal Year 2011… The latest contract brings Lakota orders to 219, composed of 214 rotary-wing aircraft for the U.S. Army and five for the U.S. Navy. Another Army order for 18 more UH-72As is projected in the current Fiscal Year budget, with the Army targeting a total acquisition of 345 helicopters through 2015, for a total of 350 from both services.”

Jan 4/11: +12. A $52.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 12 UH-72A helicopters, 12 Airborne Radio Communication systems, and 2 Engine Inlet Barrier Filters that keep sand and fine particles out of the intakes.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion date of April 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

12 UH-72As

Dec 7/10: AAS-72. EADS North America flies the 2nd of 3 company-funded Armed Aerial Scout 72X Technical Demonstration Aircraft (TDA), at the company’s American Eurocopter facility in Grand Prairie, TX. The 40 minute flight was used to demonstrate integrated targeting sensor, manned/unmanned teaming (MUM-T) and communications and navigation capabilities. EADS NA.

Nov 18/10: Update. The US Army showcases the new security and support model at the Pentagon. The Army says that 140 of 345 planned UH-72As have been delivered. Col. Neil Thurgood, project manager for Utility Helicopters at Redstone Arsenal, AL says that Lakotas are almost exclusively being used by the National Guard in support of homeland security, adding that there are no current plans to send the helicopter into combat. US Army.

Oct 26/10: Update. EADS North America touts the 5 UH-72A variants to date, and states that 138 Lakotas have been delivered to Army and Army National Guard units (133), and the U.S. Navy (5). Overall, the UH-72A fleet has flown more than 40,000 hours in operational service.

The 5 variants are MEDEVAC, Security & Support, VIP transport, and 2 more “associated with training missions that teach soldiers how to fight aircraft and recognize friend or foe on the battle space.” EADS UH-72 site.

Oct 25/10: AAS-72. The Armed Aerial Scout 72X (AAS-72X) team of Lockheed Martin, Eurocopter, and American Eurocopter is preparing for the initial flight of their 1st company-funded Technical Demonstration Aircraft (TDA). The 3 AAS-72X TDAs will have fully-integrated Mission Equipment Packages (MEP), and the initial flight is scheduled to occur in December 2010.

The MEP has been simulated in flight tests with a weight of 2,300 pounds, and development has continued at the MEP Systems Integration Laboratory in Lockheed Martin’s Orlando, FL facility. EADS NA.

Oct 18/10: Sub-contractors. Curtiss-Wright Controls, Inc. announces a contract from American Eurocopter to provide Skyquest Video Management Systems for the U.S. Army’s UH-72A Security and Support (S&S) Battalion Mission Equipment Package (MEP). The estimated value of the contract is $20 million, based on projected helicopter production and deliveries over the next 5 years. EADS North America has 187 Lakota helicopters on order from the Army, with the potential for up to 345 helicopters through 2015.

The Skyquest airborne surveillance system is designed, developed and manufactured at the firm’s Embedded Computing facility in Laindon, East London, UK. The hardware will be shipped to American Eurocopter’s Columbus, MS facility, where it will integrate the Skyquest VMS system onto the S&S Battalion-configured Lakotas. The contract will continue through 2015.

FY 2010

Orders; Production hits full rate; Navy deliveries; New security & Support kit; New missile test copters; #100 delivered; C-17 loading test; AAS-72 tests. Kwajalein UH-72A
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Sept 29/10: +36 S&S. A $67.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 16 security and support (S&S) mission equipment package (MEP) retrofits, and 20 S&S MEP production cut-ins, for Army National Guard LUHs. Work is to be performed in Columbus, MS, with an estimated completion day of Aug 31/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

U.S. Army National Guard security and support battalions are on call to their own and neighboring states to help civil authorities as requested, and they can also be tasked for military missions. Most currently fly UH-1 Hueys. Asked about this MEP set, Eurocopter USA replied:

“The UH-72A S&S Battalion configuration includes a forward centerline-mounted camera system with electro-optical and infrared sensors and laser pointer, a 30 million candlepower searchlight, operator console, cockpit and cabin touch-screen displays with moving map, a video management system, a digital video recorder and data downlink system, plus an external hoist and additional avionics and communications equipment.”

36 UH-72A S&S

July 28/10: Update. Eurocopter says that it has delivered 125 UH-72As so far, all of which have been on time and on budget.

June 6/10: Kwaj. The US Army deploys 4 specialized UH-72A helicopters to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll, Pacific Ocean. The Kwajalein helicopters arrived in a C-17, and are painted in high visibility orange. They’re also equipped with skid-mounted floats, integrated life rafts, and jettisonable cockpit doors. Source.

April 2010: Germany. The US military delivers 5 UH-72As to the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Germany. The JMRC helicopters will support pilot training for combat engagements, carry observers of war game scenarios performed against aggressor unit aircraft squadrons, and perform MEDEVAC duties as needed. The JMRC’s UH-72A fleet is scheduled to rise to 10 by January 2011. Eurocopter | UH-72 site.

EC645/AAS-72X concept
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April 15/10: AAS-72. EADS North America and its industry team of American Eurocopter and Lockheed Martin announce that they will independently fund and develop 3 armed scout AAS-72X helicopter variants, in order to demonstrate the design’s performance and (they hope) its low risk.

The first AAS-72X Technical Demonstration Aircraft (TDA) is scheduled to be operational in late 2010, and will be used for mission equipment and weapon system integration, performance testing and survivability validations. In addition to the 3 demonstration helicopters, Lockheed Martin has established a high-fidelity systems integration lab for the AAS-72X at its Orlando, FL facility. EADS NA.

March 11/10: #100. The 100th UH-72A delivery is celebrated at a rollout ceremony. Col. L. Neil Thurgood, the Army’s project manager of the utility helicopter office, said:

“The UH-72A Lakota program has progressed on schedule and within budget constraints… The aircraft has been well received by Army aircrews and we have maintained a remarkably high operational availability rate combined with an admirable safety record. We especially look forward to fielding even more of these capable aircraft to Army National Guard units throughout the United States.”

The 100th Lakota helicopter will be deployed to Germany with the Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center. US Army.


Jan 9/10: Update. The Alabama Army National Guard receives the initial 2 UH-72A Lakotas, of an expected 4 to base at Army Aviation Support Facility #2 in Birmingham, assigned to Detachment 1, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment. They will replace existing OH-58 Kiowa helicopters, and are the first new National Guard machines in many years. The unit is tasked with state level support for Alabama’s governor and state organizations, as well as federal level missions include aerial command, control and reconnaissance in homeland security operations.

EADS North America produces the UH-72 in Alabama. As of Jan 9/10, the firm says it has delivered 93 Lakotas to U.S. Army and Army National Guard locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, and 5 to the U.S. Navy. Future deployments of UH-72As are anticipated in the Pacific, Europe and Japan as well. EADS-NA release.

Dec 31/09: Ancillaries. An $11.7 million firm-fixed-price contract. It funds program year 5 for 624 hours of contractor field team in support of the main post helipad at the National Training Center, and adds 6 clip on B-kits that add MEDEVAC/SAR hoists to the UH-72A. Work will be performed in Arlington, Va, with an estimated completion date of June 30/16 (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Dec 3/09: +45. A $247.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for 45 UH-72A helicopters, 30 MEDEVAC equipment packages, 30 MEDEVAC B-kits, 30 Hoist B-Kits, 4 VIP mission equipment packages, 11 engine inlet barrier filters, 34 environmental control units, and 45 airborne radio communication 231s. This contract funds FY 2010 production (5th contract year), and brings the total number of Army UH-72A orders so far to 178.

Work will be performed in Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of June 30/11. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194). See also EADS North America release.

45 UH-72As

Nov 16/09: Update. Aviation Week reports that UH-72A production has hit a rate that translates to 55 helicopters per year, and chronicles the Army National Guard’s transition from UH-1 medical (MEDEVAC) helicopters to UH-72As.

The District of Columbia National Guard’s 121st Medical Company (Air Ambulance) at Fort Belvoir, VA is the 1st Guard unit to receive aircraft in medevac configuration: 6 UH-72As replacing 9 UH-1H/Vs, with 2 more delivered in 2012 to the 1-224th Aviation Battalion (Security and Support), replacing 2 OH-58s. They will be joined at Fort Belvoir by 8 UH-72As in the active Army’s 12th Aviation Battalion.

The D.C. National Guard is reportedly in discussion with Martin-Baker to develop a sliding, rotating seat that would let a medic treat a stretcher patient while remaining buckled in.

Nov 12/09: Navy. EADS North America delivers the 1st of 5 H-72A training helicopters for the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD, where it will be used to train test pilots from the U.S. military and allied countries. Navy H-72A modifications include jettisonable cockpit doors, a cockpit voice and flight data recorder, a main rotor blade folding kit and an air traffic advisory system. EADS release.

Deliveries to the school were completed in January 2010. US NAVAIR.

Oct 5/09: Update. EADS North America announces a successful demonstration, during which it loaded 4 U.S. Army UH-72s and a company-owned EC145 into a U.S. Air Force C-17. The loading test confirmed that 5 UH-72As can be accommodated in the C-17’s cargo bay with minimal disassembly (including no removal of the folding rotor blades), and that the aircraft can rapidly be made mission-ready upon arrival with no maintenance test flights required. The demonstration was performed at Gulfport, MS in preparation for a future delivery of 4 U.S. Army UH-72A Lakotas to the Pacific theater for basing on the Kwajalein Atoll.

EADS says that to date, more than 85 Lakotas have been delivered on or ahead of schedule and on budget. Current plans call for up to 345 Army UH-72As to be acquired through 2016, plus 5 H-72A helicopters for the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, MD. EADS North America also is offering its Armed Scout 645 variant in response to the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter competition, if it re-opens.

FY 2009

Orders; Partnership with Lockheed Martin; EC645 armed scout unveiled; New UH-72 VP at Eurocopter; 1st Full Assembly Line UH-72A delivered. UH-72A Lakota
(click to view full)

Aug 11/09: Personnel. EADS North America announces that Gary M. Bishop has joined them as VP of the Armed Scout 645 program. Bishop previously led the Boeing industry team responsible for the U.S. Army’s Apache Longbow programs at Mesa, AZ, managing managed Apache Longbow remanufacture and new production programs for Block I, Block II, Extended Block II, and Wartime Replacement Aircraft. Bishop was also responsible for the Apache Block III developmental program. Before that, Bishop served as the United Kingdom Apache program manager, and the acting director for all International Apache Programs.

Bishop holds a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY; a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA; and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, RI He also is a graduate of the Program Manager’s course at the Defense Systems Management College at Ft. Belvoir, VA.

July 29/09: Testing. EADS North America today announces the results of its private UH-72A “high/hot” flight demonstrations near Alamosa, CO. Operating at a takeoff elevation of more than 7,500 feet and carrying a simulated 2,300-pound Mission Equipment Package (MEP), the helicopter successfully hovered-out-of-ground-effect at a density altitude of 6,000 feet and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This meets the requirement included in the Army’s October 2008 Sources Sought document, which reflects the mission environment in theaters like Afghanistan.

The demonstration flights were also used to validate controllability and tail rotor authority at full altitude and load, while a subsequent flight with the simulated MEP payload completed a 2:30 flight with a 35-minute fuel reserve.

May 5/09: AAS-72. EADS North America unveils their Armed Scout 645 offering (later changed to AAS-72X) for the Army’s armed aerial scout requirement, and announced that Lockheed Martin has been picked to provide the Mission Equipment Package (weapons integration, targeting, etc.). The Armed Scout 645 will be built at the same Columbus, MS facility where the Army’s UH-72A Lakota is currently produced. EADS NA.

May 4/09: LUH to ARH. At the Army Aviation Association of America 2009 convention in Nashville, TN, EADS North America announces that it has teamed with Lockheed Martin to offer an armed scout variant of its UH-72A Lakota for the US Army’ Armed Aerial Scout competition. The EC645 Armed Scout will be based on the same Eurocopter EC145 commercial airframe as the Uh-72A, and would be produced at the same Columbus, MS facility. Team Site | EADS North America release | Flight International.

Jan 21/09: +5. A $25.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 5 more UH-72A helicopters, plus 2 MEDEVAC (MEDical EVACuation) equipment packages, 2 MEDEVAC B-Kits, 2 Hoist B-Kits, and 2 “Environmental Control Units” (air conditioning, see Nov 10/07).

Work will be performed at Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of March 1/10. One bid was solicited and one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Dec 2/08: +39. A $208.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 39 UH-72 helicopters, covering Program Year 4 of the Army’s LUH contract. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS and Grand Prairie, TX with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/10 (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

44 UH-72As etc.

Oct 7/08: Industrial. EADS North America delivers its first full assembly line (FAL) UH-72 on schedule from the production facility at Columbus, MS. The production transition process from Eurocopter to the US facility involves 3 major overlapping production phases: Light Assembly Line (LAL), Full Assembly Line (FAL) and Production Line (PL).

EADS North America’s initial UH-72A from the FAL phase was the 41st Lakota delivered to the Army. The machine completed 7 of the 14 assembly production work stations in Columbus, including the installation of flight instruments, engines, tail boom and doors to systems test, flight testing and airworthiness approval. This aircraft also incorporates the first UH-72A tail boom that was entirely manufactured at the Columbus facility. EADS NA release.

FY 2008

Orders, incl. Navy contract; Program total rises to 345; UH-72A named “Lakota”; Cramped medical space; Overheated? Hoist close up
(click to view full)

Sept 22/08: Lakota, meet the Lakota. The Lakota tribe reportedly feels that their reputation as a peaceful people is well-matched with the UH-72’s civil rescue capabilities and domestic mission focus. A pair of UH-72As from the 5th Aviation Battalion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, are present for the Lakota Sioux’s annual sun dance in Rosebud, South Dakota, with the pilots invited to participate in the traditional ceremony that honors the tribe’s warriors and elders.

The deployment also includes a fly-past of Mount Rushmore. EADS NA release.

Tribal ceremony

Sept 15/08: +5 Navy. A $24.8 million firm/fixed/price contract for the purchase of 5 UH-72A Light Utility Helicopters for the US Navy Test Pilot School. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS with an estimated completion date of June 30/16. Bids were solicited online, and 5 bids were received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194). NAVAIR release.

5 Navy UH-72As

EADS North America’s release adds that:

“Today, more than 40 aircraft are operating with Army and Army National Guard units across the country… Lakota deliveries to the Army and National Guard currently average three to four helicopters per month, with the capacity to reach five UH-72s monthly.”

April 7/08: SAR – more UH-72As. The LUH program is mentioned in the Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report to December 2007:

“Program costs increased $208.4 million (+11.1 percent) from $1,881.8 million to $2,090.2 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 23 aircraft from 322 to 345 aircraft ($139.3 million). There was an additional cost increase for modifications to address issues identified during the Initial Operational Test (+$171.1 million). These modifications included ARC-231 secure radios and cabin ventilation kits for all 345 aircraft, engine inlet (air) filters for 66 aircraft, and medical evacuation kits for 84 aircraft.”

DID note: If modifications cost $171.1 million, and additional helicopters $139.3 million, the extra helicopters cannot be “primarily” responsible for the overall increase in costs.

SAR – more UH-72s

March 27/08: Support. A firm-fixed-price contract for $7.2 million, increasing the PY03 Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) hours to ensure continued CLS coverage for the UH-72A. The action also exercises the option for PY03 Procedural Trainer Support Labor to ensure that coverage is available for maintenance of the Procedural Trainer following acceptance.

Performance locations include Fort Irwin, CA (33.3%), Fort Eustis, VA (33.3%), and Fort Polk, LA (33.3%). The estimated completion date is Dec 31/08. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Dec 14/07: +43. A $213.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for Light Utility Helicopters. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS, and is expected to be complete by Sept 30/08. There was 1 bid solicited on Dec. 12/07, and 1 bid was received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

EADS North America informs DID that the order covers 43 helicopters, plus associated items like rescue hoists, MEDEVAC kits, and training.

43 UH-72As

Dec 11/07: Update. EADS North America issues a release summarizing the UH-72A program’s achievements in 2007: meeting milestones, making deliveries, good in-service rate over 90%. Their helicopter’s recent difficulties are not mentioned.

Nov 10/07: The LUH program encounters its first spot of trouble. The Associated Press reports that during flight tests in Southern California in 80-degree weather, cockpit temperatures in the UH-72A Lakota soared above 104 degrees, the designated critical point for communication, navigation and flight control systems. In response, the Army will be installing air conditioning in many UH-72s, something that’s common on the EC145 civilian helicopters it’s derived from, but rare on military machines.

The helicopter also had difficulty with the requirement that it be able to evacuate 2 critically injured patients. It can carry them, but the cabin is too cramped for medics to actually work on more than one at a time.

Testing problems

Oct 8/07: Industrial. EADS North America announces that UH-72A production reached 2 machines per month in September 2007. Both UH-72As were accepted at the newly-expanded Lakota production center in Columbus, MS. These are the 11th and 12th UH-72As received by the Army, and the 2nd and 3rd helicopters assembled in America.

FY 2007 and Earlier

“UH-145″ wins; Initial deliveries: 6 MEDEVAC, 2 VIP. Dark horse no more

July 23/07: Update. EADS North America announces delivery of its 8th UH-72A Lakota to the U.S. Army ahead of schedule, completing the initial phase of orders. Unlike the 6 MEDEVAC helicopters at Ft. Irwin, these 2 UH-72As are the first configured for VIP transportation duties, and are equipped with removable seats that also enable their use in general support and airlift/logistic missions. They will be based at Ft. Eustis, VA. EADS North America will now begin delivering 34 UH-72As ordered by the contract option exercised in October 2006.

The UH-72A’s ability to hit cost projections and delivery targets may have wider implications as well. A number of representatives on Capitol Hill are seriously considering a recommendation to the military that Bell’s ARH-70A Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program be canceled, with funds redirected into integrating sensors and weapons on the UH-72 instead, and buying more of those helicopters for the ARH role.

June 19/07: 1st unit. The U.S. Army has equipped its first operational UH-72A unit – the National Training Center Air Ambulance Detachment at Ft. Irwin, California, which received its 6th Lakota helicopter less than 11 months after contract award.

The milestone followed Full Material Release (FMR) authorization from the Army’s Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM), confirming that the UH-72A and its production system are ready to support the LUH mission. According to Army program officials, FMR was granted at the initial request – a first in AMCOM history for an Army aviation system. Rotor News.

1st unit

Dec 11/06: 1st delivery. EADS North America officially handed over the first UH-72A Light Utility Helicopter during a delivery and naming ceremony in Columbus, MS. The helicopter will be named “Lakota,” after the Sioux Indian tribe, and 4 of the initial aircraft will be based in Mississippi.

EADS North America plans to deliver a second UH-72A before year-end, which will be used on missions within the United States. Another 40 UH-72As are currently in the production cycle for delivery during 2007 and 2008.

1st delivery

Nov 1/06: Ancillaries. A $170.6 million modification to a firm-fixed-price and cost-reimbursable contract for MEDEVAC B and Hoist B kits, along with student pilot and maintainer training, and a procedural training device for the Light Utility Helicopter Aircraft. Work will be performed in Columbus, MS (97%), Grand Prairie, TX (1%), and Tampa, FL (2 percent), and is expected to be complete by June 30, 2016. Bids were solicited online on July 26, 2005, and 5 bids were received (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

June 30/06: UH-145 Wins! EADS breaks into the US military market, as Eurocopter’s “UH-145″ (later UH-72A) beats Bell Helicopter’s 412EP, MD Helicopters’ UH-902 NOTAR, and AgustaWestland’s AW139. That victory comes with an initial order:

EADS North American Defense of Arlington, VA received a $43.1 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-level-of-effort, cost-reimbursable contract for the Light Utility Helicopter with MEDVAC B and hoist B kits, along with pilot transition and maintainer training. Work will be performed at American Eurocopter in Columbus, MS, and is expected to be complete by June 30/16. Bids were solicited July 26, 2005, and 5 bids were received by The Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-06-C-0194). For more information, call the program executive office, aviation, public affairs at (256) 842-0561.

UH-145 is LUH

Appendix A: Eurocopter – Anatomy of a Win MEDEVAC through the back

While the order is a breakthrough for Eurocopter in the military market, the firm did have US government experience to draw upon. American Eurocopter helicopters (though not necessarily the EC145) were already operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency in the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI. The EC145 itself has been deployed in a variety of roles in Europe and the USA, including medical, offshore, law enforcement and paramilitary/security uses.

While it didn’t possess the Bell 412 twin-Huey’s backward compatibility, or MDHI’s patented NOTAR system, the EC145 offered a pair of benefits that matter in combat-related situations.

One is a high-set main and tail rotor design that allows safe loading and unloading through the main side doors and rear-fuselage clamshell doors, even while the rotors are turning. That “back door” capability has a number of uses in a military context, including MEDEVAC, fast exits, and more. Only the MD-902 Explorer NOTAR matched this capability, and it did not use the EC145’s convenient clamshell arrangement.

EC145 Interior View

The second benefit is lowered noise signature. A helicopter’s external noise levels matter, as this Christian Science Monitor article about the American experiences in Afghanistan notes. Quieter helicopters are better equipped to avoid detection and targeting, and preserve the element of surprise, especially under circumstances like night missions. The EC145’s noise emissions have been a focus due to tightening civilian regulations, resulting in a profile 6.7 dB below the ICAO standards. Again, the only competitor who could match this was the MD-902, whose NOTAR design reportedly made it slightly superior.

On which topic, MD Helicopters’ acting CEO and founder and principal of the $5 billion investment firm Patriarch Partners, LLC (which owns MDHI) blasted the decision in no uncertain terms:

“Ms. Tilton said MDHI is a classic American turnaround story and did not receive the same level of consideration as its competitors. “The process was seriously flawed and perfunctory, at best. Had the military taken the time and expended the energy to conduct serious diligence and come out and kick the tires, the conclusion would have been inescapable. The simple reality is that there was no attention to substantive matters. No rational investor would commit capital absent a recent on-site review. There is absolutely no question in my mind that the MDHI bid offered by best overall product and value.”

MDHI’s NOTAR explained
(click to view full)

This may be so, but evaluations are not made public, so it’s hard to gauge such statements. It is likely that MDHI’s reorganization gave it a lower supplier stability rating than Eurocopter’s, which owns a leading share in the global civilian helicopter market. The US military has also traditionally been lukewarm at best regarding MDHI’s NOTAR (No TAil Rotor) technology, which hasn’t seen a more aggressive country adopt the design and prove it in combat.

In contrast, American Eurocopter had a strong political lobby behind it, including Sen. Trent Lott [R-MS, now retired], and may have benefited directly or indirectly from the post-Katrina focus on the state of Mississippi and the funneling of aid to that region. The winning release is even more full of politicians’ quotes than usual, a testament to the lobbying effort’s depth. Eurocopter added to that depth by fielding a very strong bid team including American military helicopter leader Sikorsky as its contractor logistics support partner, plus Westwind Technologies for special purpose helicopter systems integration and modification, and CAE USA to provide simulators. In contrast, Bell Textron largely relied on its own clout and services, AgustaWestland recruited L-3 as its key US partner, and MD Helicopters assembled an innovative team that included Dyncorp. None had the combination of political and industrial backing that Eurocopter displayed.

Additional Readings & Sources

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

News & Views

Categories: News

Air Force: We Like CAS Plenty; F-35 Not So Bad | Finland Spurns Russian Offer for Defense Contract Quid Pro Quo

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 05:22

Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, joined other brass in proclaiming continued desire to perform the close air support mission. Welsh himself was an A-10 pilot in the early 1980s. The Air Force has been simultaneously fighting the impression that it wants to rid itself of CAS responsibilities and also feeding that sort of speculation with its budgeting actions. Welsh pointed out that the A-10 has about a dozen more years of life left, and that another option needs to be found for replacement, so the old but well-loved platform shouldn’t be fetishized. He spoke of the F-35 as a possible replacement, which is actually one of the fears that some ground forces analysts have. Two issues of concern appear to be surfacing with the F-35: that a platform meant for other missions is more likely to mean that a particular resource will be prioritized to non-CAS mission at any given moment of need; that the cost of the F-35 is roughly ten times greater than an A-10. Replacing the U.S.’s 173 A-10C aircraft would cost in the tens of billions of dollars. That gives rise the fear that the Air Force would merely double-duty existing fighters, eat the budget, and not necessarily have those pilots and fighters trained, configured and/or deployed for CAS as the first priority mission.


  • Having explored it with defense ministry working groups, Finland is now abruptly rejecting Russia’s offer to become closer with Moscow through defense supplier relationships. Finland’s industrial sector would become eligible for subcontractor work for major Russian defense programs, provided Finland bought adequate quantities of ships and planes. The Ukraine conflict coincides with the beginning of the stalling of the relationship. The military appears to have taken the offer seriously, incorporating it as an analyzed option in determining future options for imminent fleet replacements. Civilian leaders have been quite negative, and publicly so, on the matter. The two key fears appear to be that Russia would have access to defense platform kill switches, and also the matter that Finland is not terribly worried about being invaded and occupied by Europe.

  • Italy, under increasing pressure to further lower or nix its F-35 orders in the face of grinding budget pressure, is expressing its resolution to continue with the remaining 90 orders, especially now that it can hang its hat on a new Finmeccanica contract for maintaining the fighters.

  • England is preventing Russia from participating in an upcoming defense wares trade conference.

  • Dauria Aerospace, Russian producer of microsatellites, is pulling up stakes in the U.S. and E.U., recognizing that the current political climate is not auspicious.

  • Poland is embarking on a spending spree for defense upgrades, amounting to about $42 billion and including missiles, helicopters and UAVs.


  • Pakistan – previously facing an annoyed Russia in regard to the potential competition the Pakistani-Chinese JF-17 fighter may present on the export market – is now lining up Russian cooperation. One sign is that the RD-93 engines they buy-in are now to be acquired directly from Russia, rather than having to get them retail from the Chinese, who have been buying them for a number of platforms, including China’s stealthy J-31 in addition to the Chinese version of the JF-17, the JC-1.

  • The negotiation-via-newspapers exchange continues between France’s Dassault and India in regard to the Indian purchase of Rafale fighters. India’s MoD is now saying that upon thinking about it a bit more – for three years – they think the Dassault offer is going to be more expensive than some other, rejected bidders. Being India’s first life cycle costing contract, the RFP for 126 fighters did not demand specific information on some items relevant to that cost cycle, according to an unnamed official involved with the contract negotiation committee.


  • Labor groups are pressuring Boeing regarding its 3,000 layoffs over the past couple of years, and using aerospace tax credits as a pressure point. Union leaders are linking the $8.7 billion in tax credits received since 2013 to a sense of obligation they feel Boeing should have to keep or expand employees.

  • The U.S. declassified the yield size of the B53/W53 nuclear warhead. It was indeed 9 megatons, as has been unofficially surmised.

  • Raytheon’s Small Diameter Bomb mark II passed a couple live fire tests, this time with live warheads – the last step before low rate initial production.

  • A Deloitte forecast reportedly predicts global arms industry growth of three percent.

Today’s Video

  • A short documentary on the now-dismantled B53 nuclear bomb, which the U.S. just confirmed wielded a 9 megaton yield…

Categories: News

Russia Wins Back China Deal By Annexing Pesky Shipyard

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 06:26

Ukraine’s deal to sell Zubr hovercrafts made by the Feodosiya Shipyard to China was going along, with two of the landing craft delivered. There were disputes between it and Russia’s Almaz Shipbuilding about who owned the design (the craft does appear similar to the Almaz-designed Project 1232.2, the Bison Mark II), but then Russia went and annexed the territory on which important facilities sat. Now, it appears, Russia is selling Zubr hovercrafts to China, although the last two units in the contract were already to be built in China, so the project is largely a technology transfer to spin up Chinese shipbuilding capacity.


  • Another crash of a HAL-built Dhruv helicopter – the third in a month – has the company looking into potential common causes. The Indian Army Dhruv crashed in Kashmir. It was one of 73 in the inventory, with 151 more ordered. The recent two other crashes were in Ecuador. Of Ecuador’s seven Dhruvs it has operated since 2009, four of them have crashed. Of the two recent crashes, local media report that the January 27 incident involved a fire after takeoff from Tena. The second one – on the Dhruv that sometimes carries President Rafael Correa – happened on a flight between Guyaquil and Quito.

  • Taiwan commissioned a corvette designed and built on the island. The 502-ton Tuo Jiang was built by Lung Teh Shipbuilding Company and features Taiwanese anti-ship missiles, a 76 mm gun and Mark 46 torpedoes. Total cost: $66.39 million.

  • A U.S. analyst believes China’s pressure on South Korea to avoid installing U.S. anti-missile systems will backfire, but more interestingly, indicates China thinks the South Korean-U.S. relationship is vulnerable to pressure.


  • Sweden, as it assumes the chair of the Nordic Defense Cooperation, won approval for greater cooperation. The plan includes intelligence sharing for certain, and possibly the creation of a Nordic-Baltic Battle Group.

  • Russia’s Krylov State Research Center – a state-owned design and research shop – built a model of a very large aircraft carrier. Their design, they say, reduces hull friction by about 20 percent. Russian press (Russian) indicate that if the ongoing lab tests prove promising, they will build a 1:1 scale model for further testing.


  • Special Operations Command demanded – and got – upgrades to the AC-130 series gunships. The new AC-130J Ghostrider is testing now, with a lengthy series of upgrades, most dramatically an additional gun – this one facing backwards. Between the current inventory of AC- 130H, 130W and 130Us, the Air Force has 37 gunships, but it is retiring eight of the 130Hs and plans to retire more shortly.

Middle East

  • Israel’s IAI is going in with India’s Alpha Design Technologies to produce and market miniature UAVs for the Indian market. Domestic production is increasingly a requirement for tenders in India. The deal covers IAI’s Bird-Eye 400 and Bird-Eye 650 as well as others. The UAVs are designed to be hand-launched.

  • And on the topic of Israeli drones, the IDF formed a new unit for the expressed purpose of attaching drones to artillery units to accelerate target acquisition and spotting.

Today’s Video

  • As the Air Force tries to shed the dead weight of the A-10 program, look what showed up over Syria for refueling…

Categories: News