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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 1 hour 40 min ago

Raytheon Snags $45.5M for Silent Knight Radar Sys | MSPV to Provide Egypt with 2-3K Panthera T6’s | MBDA to Upgrade Storm Shadows for Britain & France

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 23:50

  • Raytheon has won a $45.5 million contract modification from the US Special Operations Command for the delivery of the Silent Knight Radar system. The modification is a follow-up to an initial 2006 agreement — that tasked Raytheon with building, testing and integrating the new Silent Knight radar into a variety of special forces aircraft — and supports low-rate initial production in addition to full-rate production for the radar systems. Aircraft currently using Silent Knight include the MH-47 Chinook, the MH-60 Seahawk, the MC-130 Combat Talon, as well as several fixed-wing aircraft. The system provides operators with a color weather display, a ground map, high-resolution imagery, and threat detection and identification capabilities.

  • After 21 years of service, the MQ-1 Predator UAV will be retired in 2018. The USAF will instead opt for a full MQ-9 Reaper fleet citing better equipment and overall operational capabilities such as bigger payloads, higher flight ceilings, and top speeds. As a result, the USAF will no longer have to maintain a training pipeline or equipment on two separate aircraft, which eliminates the cost of operating two different airframes. Speaking on the Reaper, 432nd Operations Group commander Col. Joseph said in a statement “I think when we look at the legacy of the MQ-1 we’re going to be scratching our heads wondering how we did so much with so little.”

Middle East & North Africa

  • Egypt is to receive between 2,000 and 3,000 Panthera T6 light armoured vehicles for military and police from Dubai-based Minerva Special Purpose Vehicles (MSPV). Speaking at IDEX 2017, MSPV’s Emad el-Kabbany stated that the Egyptian company Eagles Defence International Systems (EDIS) is the company’s Egyptian agent – in 2014 it was reported that EDIS was producing the Panthera T6, as well as the larger S10 and K10CMD — and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) lists 50 Panthera T6s being ordered from the UAE in 2013, with deliveries from 2014-2015. Other operators of the T6 include the current Libyan government, and they have been recently used by the Indian security forces during operations in Jammu & Kashmir.


  • British and French defense ministers have contracted MBDA Missile Systems to upgrade their Storm Shadow (known as SCALP in France) air-launched, long-range missiles. Valued at $183 million, work scheduled includes a midlife refurbishment of current missile parts such as the turbo-jet engine, an upgrade of the navigational system, and a like for like replacement of items such as the cabling, seals and gaskets. The collaborative contract is believed to generate a savings of $62.3 million for both governments. Storm Shadow is currently used on French Mirage 2000, Rafale, and RAF Tornado jets, and is currently being trialed on the Eurofighter Typhoon as part of efforts to improve the jet’s long-range attack capabilities under the Phase 2 Enhancement (P2E) program. The missile will not be integrated on RAF F-35Bs.

  • Austrian prosecutors have initiated a formal criminal investigation against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium over alleged fraud relating to a 2003 fighter jet order. The defense ministry has alleged Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium charged nearly 10 percent of the purchase price of 1.96 billion euros for so-called offset deals. Such deals were part of the agreement, but their cost should have been reported separately, the ministry has said. Under the legal system used in Austria and several European countries, opening an investigation is a potentially significant step that falls short of filing charges but which indicates that sufficient evidence is available to warrant a formal probe.

  • Airbus has announced that there have been no signs of further cracks or damage in the combustion chambers of A400M transport aircraft. Safety regulators from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had to conduct investigations and safety checks into all aircraft after unexplained cracks were discovered in the combustion chamber of an A400M engine owned by Malaysia last year. The EASA airworthiness directive called for inspections of all engines similar to the Malaysian one, and follow-on checks after 500 hours, and then every 250 hours after that. Airbus has also called for fresh talks with European defense ministers in order to discuss the latest issues concerning the transporter and to agree on future steps to ensure the best interests of the program.

Asia Pacific

  • L-3 Technologies has won a $17.3 million contract to provide South Korea with 800-horsepower transmission kits. The kits will power Seoul’s next-generation K21 infantry fighting vehicles as well as their fleet of light recovery vehicles. Designed by Hanwha Defense Systems to replace the current fleet of K200 armored transport vehicles, the K21 weighs 20% lighter than its predecessor and is armed with a 105mm turret weapon.

  • The Philippines are scheduled to receive their first two leased TC-90 reconnaissance aircraft from the Japanese Maritime Defense Force on March 27, according to Vice Admiral Ronaldo Joseph Mercado. Manilla will eventually operate five TC-90s in a deal said to be valued $28,200 over the next four years, which will bolster capabilities to monitor their 36,289 kms of coastline, supplementing the existing Norman-Britten BN-2 Islander fleet in its maritime missions. TC-90s have a speed and range twice that of the BN-2.

Today’s Video

  • MSVP’s Panthera T6:

Categories: News

US SOCOM’s “Silent Knight”

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 23:49

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Your mission is to fly from 20-100 feet off the ground, at flight speeds, regardless of rain, snow, or dark of night. These journeys often take place within countries that either don’t want you there, or prefer not to admit that you ever were there. Hostile fire is a distinct possibility. You are very probably a special operations pilot, and the most important tool in whatever aircraft you’re flying is something called a terrain following/terrain avoidance (TF/TA) system that helps keep your plane at the requisite height above ground – without hitting trees, ships, and other obstructions.

As the holiday season approaches, US SOCOM is working on a new present for its future pilots. Raytheon Company Precision Attack and Surveillance Systems in McKinney, TX received a Cost Plus Incentive Fee (CPIF) contract with a potential maximum value of $164.2 million for system design and development of the Silent Knight Radar (SKR) in support of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Up to 6 low-rate initial production units are included as an option, and work will be performed in McKinney, TX from Jan. 1, 2007 through Dec. 30, 2013 (H92222-07-C-0041).

Silent Knight is a next-generation TF/TA system for US SOCOM pilots using fully modern technology. The required capabilities of the Silent Knight radar reportedly include color weather display, a ground map mode experienced as a high-resolution display, detection and location of other aircraft and/or ships; and advances in terrain following and avoidance capabilities; and will be lighter and require less power than predecessors.

As a common system, Silent Knight will eventually be fielded on MH/HH-47 Chinooks, MH-60M Pave Hawks, MC-130H Combat Talon (Hercules variant) fixed-wing transports, and CV-22 Osprey block 30 tilt-rotor aircraft.

Formally signed Dec. 12, 2006, and initially funded at $28.5 million, the contract calls for Raytheon to build, test and integrate the new Silent Knight radar. Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems is performing the work in Dallas and McKinney, TX. Principal partners include AIC in Crestview, FL; DRS Technologies in St. Louis, MO; and Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, IA.


February 26/17: Raytheon has won a $45.5 million contract modification from the US Special Operations Command for the delivery of the Silent Knight Radar system. The modification is a follow-up to an initial 2006 agreement — that tasked Raytheon with building, testing and integrating the new Silent Knight radar into a variety of special forces aircraft — and supports low-rate initial production in addition to full-rate production for the radar systems. Aircraft currently using Silent Knight include the MH-47 Chinook, the MH-60 Seahawk, the MC-130 Combat Talon, as well as several fixed-wing aircraft. The system provides operators with a color weather display, a ground map, high-resolution imagery, and threat detection and identification capabilities.

May 4/16: Raytheon Apace and Airborne Systems has been awarded a contract for the continued low-rate initial production of the Silent Knight Radar system in support of US Special Operations Command. The value of the contract has the potential worth of up to $49.5 million and will continue for the year. The contract will be funded via delivery/task orders, and depending on the requirement may be funded using research, development, test and evaluation; procurement; and operation and maintenance funding.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

ER/MP Gray Eagle: Enhanced MQ-1C Predators for the Army

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 23:48

ER/MP, armed
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Its initial battles were fought within the Pentagon, but the US Army’s high-end UAV has made its transition to the battlefield.

The ER/MP program was part of the US Army’s reinvestment of dollars from the canceled RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program, and directly supports the Army’s Aviation Modernization Plan. The US Air Force saw this Predator derivative as a threat and tried to destroy it, but the program survived the first big “Key West” battle of the 21st century. Now, the MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” is in production as the US Army’s high-end UAV. As CENTCOM’s wars end, however, the Gray Eagle may find that staying in the fleet is as hard as getting there.

This FOCUS article offers a program history, key statistics and budget figures, and ongoing coverage of the program’s contracts and milestones.

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle, and its Band of Brothers

Predator landing
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With General Atomics MQ-1A/B Predators, MQ-1C Gray Eagles, and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs all headed for the skies above the conflict zone, our readers have asked us to help them tell the difference. It’s clear that all 3 share a design philosophy, but their capabilities diverge in important ways.

View from the Air

The MQ-1 Predator is 27 feet long, with a 55 foot wingspan. Its maximum gross takeoff weight is 2,300 pounds, and it can carry 625 pounds of fuel, 450 pounds of internal payload (sensors), and another 300 pounds on its wings for up to 2 AGM-114 Hellfire anti-armor missiles or equivalent loads. Its service ceiling is 25,000 feet, which can keep it well above the 10,000-15,000 ft ceiling above which most guns are ineffective. The piston engine is a Rotax 914 turbo that runs on aviation fuel, and pushes the Predator at a slow speed of 120 KTAS. It’s controlled by UHF/VHF radio signals, and is designed to be flown by a pilot – without automated takeoff and landing.

The USAF also had an MQ-1B Block X/ YMQ-1C project underway, to develop a Predator system that would run on heavy fuel and carry up to 4 Hellfires. That project, and questions of cross-service compatibility, died when the USAF stopped buying MQ-1 Predators, and shifted its focus to the larger MQ-9 Reaper instead.

MQ-9 w. Paveways
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The MQ-9 Reaper, once called “Predator B,” is somewhat similar to the Predator. Until you look at the tail. Or its size. Or its weapons. It’s called “Reaper” for a reason – while it packs the same surveillance gear, it is much more of a hunter-killer design than its counterparts. The Reaper is 36 feet long, with a 66 foot wingspan. Its maximum gross takeoff weight is a whopping 10,500 pounds, carrying up to 4,000 pounds of fuel, 850 pounds of internal/ sensor payload, and another 3,000 pounds on its wings. The MQ-9 has 6 pylons, which can carry GPS-guided JDAM family bombs and other MIL STD 1760 compatible weapons, Paveway laser-guided bombs, Sidewinder missiles for air-air self defense, and AIM-114P Hellfire missiles or laser-guided Hydra rockets. With that arsenal the Reaper becomes the equivalent of a close air support fighter with less situational awareness, less speed and less survivability if seen – but much, much longer on-station time than its manned counterparts.

MQ-1 vs. MQ-9
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The Reaper’s service ceiling is 50,000 feet unless it’s fully loaded, but even the lower altitudes it usually flies at make a lurking MQ-9 very difficult to find from the ground, and the ability to drop GPS and laser-guided bombs makes high-altitude precision strikes fperfectly plausible. The engine is a Honeywell TPE 331-10T, which pushes it along at a rather speedier clip of 240 KTAS. Not exactly an F-16, or even an A-10, but the extra speed does get it to the problem area more quickly when a call comes in from the troops.

Several MQ-9 variants exist. An extended range variant adds fuel tanks, and lengthens the wingspan to 88 feet. US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) also flies the MQ-9 Reaper, and has its own MQ-1 Predator program, too. Both UAVs are referred to as Medium Altitude Long Endurance Tactical (MALET) platforms. If SOCOM has to bring the MALET to hammer a target down, or soften it up, they fly in enhanced variants with improved video transmission, infrared modifications, signals intelligence payloads, and “delivery of low collateral damage weapons.” The latter presumably includes precision mini-missile options like Raytheon’s Griffin, and precision glide bombs like Northrop Grumman’s GBU-44 Viper Strike and Lockheed Martin’s Scorpion, all of which allow a single Hellfire rail or weapon station to carry multiple weapons.

General Atomics’ Mariner maritime surveillance UAV and FAA-certified high-altitude Altair research UAV are both derived from the MQ-9 Reaper. So, too, is NASA’s Ikhana.

The Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle

The MQ-1C Sky Warrior/ Gray Eagle looks a lot like the Predator, but it’s a little bit bigger, can carry more weapons, and has an engine that can run on the same “heavy fuel” that fills up the Army’s land vehicles. The initial engine was Thielert’s 160hp Centurion, but the firm filed for insolvency after substantive revelations of accounting fraud (q.v. May 17/08), and in July 2013, its commercial assets were bought by China’s AVIC. Gray Eagles will continue to fly with existing stocks of the Thielert engine, but new UAVs will fly with Lycoming’s 250hp DEL-120.

Maximum operating altitude is 29,000 feet, at a speed of up to 135 knots. The sensor turret payload was initially Raytheon’s AN/DAS-2, but has shifted to the final “Army Common Sensor Payload” AN/AAS-53 variant. The Army also added a communications relay, and has been working to give the UAV “sense and avoid” capabilities for safety in crowded airspace.

An Improved Gray Eagle variant was introduced in July 2013, and this type has flown a 45 hour mission in unarmed configuration. It includes the new Lycoming DEL-120 engine, and a heavier airframe thanks to a deep belly design that raises internal fuel load from 575 pounds to 850 pounds. A 500-pound wet centerline hard point can be used to push the UAV’s fuel total to 1,350 pounds. The new MQ-1C IGE also has a maximum 540-pound internal payload capacity, compared to the MQ-1 Block 1’s 400 pounds. The end result is a maximum takeoff weight that rises from 3,600 pounds to 4,200 pounds.

Sensors and Add-Ons

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Beyond its standard equipment, the US Army is also developing and qualifying new payloads for the MQ-1C fleet, thanks to efforts by Product Manager RUS (Robotic and Unmanned Sensors) and PM-ARES (Airborne Reconnaissance and Exploitation Systems).

AN/AAS-53 CSP+. Raytheon’s base Common Sensor Payload (CSP) is being upgraded, and CSP High Definition (HD) is planned for production cut-in in FY 2013. It adds high-definition Full Motion Video (FMV) in both the Electro-optical and Mid-wave IR spectrums. A retrofit plan will begin in FY 2014 to convert all MQ-1Cs to CSP HD. The Army sees CSP Target Location Accuracy (TLA) as the final upgrade, upgrading targeting accuracy to allow timely use of GPs-guided bombs and missiles. All Gray Eagles will eventually be equipped with CSP TLA.

AN/ZPY-1 STARLite-ER. Northrop Grumman’s Small Tactical Radar – Lightweight (STARLite) Synthetic Aperture Radar/ Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI) is a lightweight, high performance, all weather radar that can track small moving ground targets, down to small car size, even in bad weather. It cross-cues with the UAV’s cameras, and enhancements have been approved to extend its range, and detect man-sized targets. STARLite ER (Extended Range) has been cut into production since FY 2011, and began fielding and retrofitting in FY 2012. The Army plans to buy 1 STARLite ER system per UAV.

Sense and Avoid. Ground Based Sense and Avoid (GBSAA) is a system designed to be aware of other aircraft, especially in civil airspace, and help avoid collisions with the MQ-1C. The Phase 2, Block 0 system will provide the operator with an air traffic display, color-coded to reflect the highest-priority potential conflicts. The Block 1 system will add recommended maneuvers to avoid crashing into others. That isn’t the full sense-and-avoid you’d see on a commercial jet, but by 2015 it will let the Army fly the UAVs from Fort Hood, TX; Fort Riley, KS; Fort Stewart, GA; Fort Campbell, KY; and Fort Bragg, NC, through Class D military airspace, to nearby test ranges without a manned chase plane. As the acronym suggests, making this work requires certain equipment in place on the ground at those locations.

Traveler Pod. BAE’s pods are designed to find and eavesdrop on electronic emitters, identify them (enemy radio communications? radar? etc.), then offer aerial precision geolocation (APG) and copying. SIGINT/ELINT pods and equipment can already be installed in larger UAVs like the USAF’s RQ-4 Global Hawks, and aboard light surveillance planes like the Beechcraft King Air MC-12Ws. The challenge is to shrink them and their supporting systems within the MQ-1C’s weight and size limits.

NERO pod. Provides electronic jamming that can prevent remote detonation of land mines, giving the UAV a very useful convoy overwatch role. It can also disrupt enemy communications. Raytheon’s NERO is adapted from the CAESAR pod that equips manned C-12 (Beechcraft King Air) turboprops. Initial deliveries took place in 2013.

The Army’s ER/MP Program

Prep for flight
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The Gray Eagle began in August 2005, as “Team Warrior” won a $214.4 million contract to develop the Extended Range/ Multi Purpose Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System (ER/MP UAS). The Army wanted its ER/MP UAV to fill both surveillance and attack roles. General Atomics’ Sky Warrior, derived from their famous MQ-1 Predator, beat the Hunter II system offered by Northrop Grumman, Aurora Flight Systems, and IAI.

That was just the first step along the US Army’s $5 billion road to fielding a true Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, armed UAV, modified from the USAF’s famous MQ-1 Predator. Its position got a boost when a 2007 program restructuring short-circuited the Future Combat Systems Class III UAV competition, in favor of ER/MP. That decision has held, and the UAVs are now operated by the US Army and by SOCOM’s “Night Stalkers” regiment.

The Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of GA-ASI’s multi-year ER/MP contract began with 17 MQ-1C UAVs, and 7 One System Ground Control Stations (OSGCS). Those pre-production Block 0 Gray Eagles began flying on the front lines, in Quick Reaction Component (QRC-1, 1R, and 2) deployments which began in December 2009. QRC drones are unarmed, and lack other key capabilities. Even so, the Army has been very enthusiastic about their performance.

As of 2013, the current plan reorganized its 152 planned buys to equip 10 active duty divisions, 2 special operation units, 2 aerial exploitation units, and the National Training Center. Gray Eagle companies are equipped with 9 UAVs and 5 Ground Control Stations each. Only deployed units get the extra 3 aircraft, drawn from stateside units, to bring their division up to 12 MQ-1Cs. Gray Eagle companies fit within each division’s Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), following a model initiated in March 2012 at the 1st Infantry Division. Once the division’s UAVs are broken down, each CAB would end up with 4 Gray Eagles, 8 smaller RQ-7B Shadows, and 35 mini-UAVs.

A few years after the ER/MP program began, General Atomics-ASI’s Steve May was already saying that “The Army is now as large a customer for us as the Air Force.” At the time, the firm saw a potential market for as many as 540 “Sky Warrior” UAVs – 45 sets of 12 UAVs each for each brigade, plus accompanying ground stations and crews. The Army’s production program grew five-fold, but it’s still only about 30% of that maximum prediction, and remains far behind the USAF.


As the MQ-1C transitioned into production, Pentagon documents began breaking the program out from its USAF counterparts. The total program, including both the initial development contract and follow-on production, looks like it will be worth almost $5 billion. Budgets from 2004-2017 include:

There’s also a manpower equation for the Army, which affects ongoing operating costs. Those aren’t found in these budgets, but they make up well over half of a program’s actual lifetime cost. Fully automated take-off and landing (ATLS) systems are becoming more common among UAVs, and the MQ-1C’s ATLS is an important difference from the USAF’s MQ-1 Predators, which have all flight operations handled by pilots. While the initial batch of Gray Eagle UAVs will be flown by Army aviators, the Army plans to assign future MQ-1Cs to non-pilot warrant officers with UAV training. That’s a less expensive proposition, in terms of both salary and training costs. It’s also less expensive in terms of lost UAVs, as ATLS seems to lead to fewer crashes.

Key MQ-1C industrial partners include:

Contracts & Key Events FY 2016 – 2017

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February 26/17: After 21 years of service, the MQ-1 Predator UAV will be retired in 2018. The USAF will instead opt for a full MQ-9 Reaper fleet citing better equipment and overall operational capabilities such as bigger payloads, higher flight ceilings, and top speeds. As a result, the USAF will no longer have to maintain a training pipeline or equipment on two separate aircraft, which eliminates the cost of operating two different airframes. Speaking on the Reaper, 432nd Operations Group commander Col. Joseph said in a statement “I think when we look at the legacy of the MQ-1 we’re going to be scratching our heads wondering how we did so much with so little.”

December 28/16: General Atomics has been contracted to perform MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper support services for the USAF. Under the $359 million contract, the company will be tasked with conducting logistics support, program and configuration management, depot repair, and additional services, with work to be completed in December, 2017. Both the Predator and its successor, the Reaper, have been used by the US and UK for intelligence gathering missions as well as targeted strike operations as part of counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East.

October 6/16: India is anxious to close a number of defense and nuclear related deals with the Pentagon as the Obama administration enters its final months. Deals including the purchase of 22 MQ-1 Predator UAVs are in advanced stages of negotiations and should be finalized within the coming months. But with a potentially radical regime change on the cards in Washington, New Delhi may want to capitalize on the good relationship between leaders Modi and Obama as the prospect of an “America First” Trump administration may spark a US pullback from Asia.

December 2/15: A US Air Force MQ-1 squadron has been deactivated in Djibouti, raising doubts over the continued use of UAVs in combat operations based out of the area. The 60th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron had flown over 24,000 hours between November 2014 and October 2015. During this period, the MQ-1s neutralized 69 enemy fighters, including five high valued individuals. Based out of camp Lemonnier, the MQ-1s were involved in operations not only on the African continent, but in the Gulf region as well. It is unclear if other units are operating UAV missions from the base or its network of camps and outposts or if the 60th is to be replaced.

October 16/15: A $121.4 million order for 19 MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs back in June has now been revealed as the first order for the Improved Gray Eagle configuration, first introduced in July 2013. The new model uses a heavier airframe and a new engine to increase fuel capacity, range, internal payload weight and take-off weight. The Army is also now looking to introduce more weapon options and other improvements for the Gray Eagle.

October 15/15: As the Army looks to standardize equipment to better enable Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T), the datalink equipping AH-64E Apaches will be replaced by one capable of operating across a broad spectrum of bandwidths used by various UAV systems. L-3 was awarded a contract last month for the MUM-TX datalink capable of operating across this spectrum, with this set to equip the future Apache fleet. In June the Army carried out a MUM-T test involving an AH-64 Apache and a MQ-1C Gray Eagle, with the Apache demonstrating the ability to launch a Hellfire missile using data remotely received from the UAV’s sensors.

Meanwhile, the Army is looking to field a wider array of weapons on the MQ-1C, with a particular focus being given to cheap, small munitions to complement the expensive AGM-114 Hellfires to which it sis currently limited. The program office is also looking for subsonic, lightweight weapons weighing around 30lb. The Hellfire currently weighs in at 105lb, with the reduced weight allowing for more weapons to be carried by the UAV. The Army also wants to implement a host of other improvements to the Gray Eagle, including more jam-resistant datalinks and assured position navigation and timing.

FY 2014 – 2015

June 25/15: The Army has successfully conducted Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) involving an AH-64 Apache and a MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAV. The Gray Eagle was used to designate a target for the Apache, with the latter then firing a Hellfire missile using data from the UAV. The test has allowed the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade to certify the Fort Stewart complex for live Hellfire tests, an important tool as access to training ranges in Afghanistan and Iraq has diminished.

In related news, the Army awarded a $121.4 million contract to General Atomics on Tuesday for nineteen MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs, with these set for delivery by 2018. This follows a comparable contract in March, also for nineteen Gray Eagles, with that contract valued at $133 million. The company was also awarded a $84.8 million contract in May for performance-based logistics to support the UAV.

March 17/15: 19 More.The Army awarded General Atomics a contract for 19 Gray Eagle UAVs, as part of a $132m contract which also included SATCOM terminals and support.

April 23/14: Sensors. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Linthicum Heights, MD receives a $40.7 million firm-fixed-price multi-year contract to provide up to 94 STARLite ground-looking SAR/GMTI radar systems. A system consists of 1 Aviation (A-Kit) and 1 B-Kit.

All funds are committed immediately, using mostly FY 2013 funds and some FY 2014 funds. Work will be performed in Linthicum Heights MD, and the estimated completion date is April 22/17. One bid was solicited and 1 received by the US Army Contracting Command in Aberdeen, MD (W15P7T-14-C-C005).

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 MQ-1C is a stable design, but:

“Program officials said they are considering a change to the aircraft tail, which would be costly and require retrofitting the entire fleet. The program is also developing a new ground control station which will not undergo operational testing until May 2015. In addition, a production readiness review conducted in support of the program’s full-rate production decision identified several high risk supplier base issues that pose uncertainty for the program’s cost and schedule.”

Supplier issues include the new engine, “…and the Defense Contract Management Agency are also tracking other risk items related to multiple suppliers’ financial concerns as well as quality control….” Program officials say that have mitigation strategies are in place if something goes wrong.

Finally, the Ground Control System has been criticized in past evaluations. The Army is moving to new hardware and software, with follow-on testing planned in May 2015. If it goes well, the Army would begin deploying the new GCS to new and fielded units.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. FY 2015 is the last year of Gray Eagle production: 19 UAVs, 19 Satellite Airborne Data Terminals (SADT), Government Furnished Equipment (GFE), Ground Based Sense and Avoid (GBSAA) Block 1 software, and site preparation and fielding for 2 locations. Payloads and Universal Ground Control Station systems will still be bought for a few more years.

For R&D, the Army continues development and integration of changes to the the Universal Ground Control Station, the GBSAA system as an alternate means of FAA compliance in properly-equipped civil airspace, and a signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability.

Nov 19/13: SOCOM. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (“Night Stalkers”) receives the 1st of E-Company’s 12 MQ-1C Gray Eagles. Sources: The Aviationist, “Legendary U.S. Army Special Operations Force gets MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones”.

SOCOM’s 160th SOAR

Dec 13/13: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical in Poway, CA receives an $110.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for continuing MQ-1C support and spares services until Dec 15/14.

$8 million in FY 2014 operations and maintenance funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Afghanistan and Poway, CA. One bid was solicited with one received by the US Army Contracting Command (Aviation) in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-14-C-0008).

Oct 22/13: Engine. During AUSA 2013, General Atomics confirms to DID that the US Army will use its existing inventory of Thielert Centurion heavy fuel engines to keep the current Gray Eagle fleet running for now, rather than doing wholesale retrofits. One presumes that retrofits would follow if Centurion stocks or part inventories drop too low.

Oct 22/13: Testing. GA-ASI uses their own funds to conduct a 45-hour MQ-1C Improved Gray Eagle flight, in reconnaissance-only configuration. They also confirm that new Gray Eagle IGEs will be built with Lycoming’s 205hp DEL-120 heavy fuel engine, replacing the discontinued Thielert Centurion (q.v. July 26/13).

A 2nd demonstration, which is planned for later in 2013, will feature an MQ-1C IGE with a wing-mounted external payload and weapons. Source: GA-ASI, Oct 22/13 release.

FY 2013

Annual order; NERO jamming pods delivered; What now for the USA drone fleets?; The pilot issue; FRP decision.

MQ-1C: what now?
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Sept 26/13: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives an $86.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to finalize FY 2013 Gray Eagle performance-based logistics product support. The contract covers both newer, armed Block 1s program and the initial few Block 0/ Quick Reaction Capability drones.

Work is performed from Poway, CA. The contract was solicited via the web with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command – Redstone Arsenal (Aviation), Redstone Arsenal, AL, is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-12-C-007, PO 0032).

Sept 24/13: Djibooted. The small but strategically critical African state of Djibouti has forced the US military to move its drones out of Camp Lemonnier, which serves as Africa Command’s main base. Their problem? Lemonnier’s runway is too close to the international airport, and 5 Predator drone crashes since 2011 have left the locals unwilling to continue done flights.

The Pentagon has moved its drone operations to a more remote base, and the Gray Eagle’s automatic landing equipment makes it rather less crash-prone than USAF Predators and Reapers. At the same time, it’s an issue that the Army’s fleet will also face. Operations over a war zone are one thing. ISR support operations to aid friendly countries that have national and international air traffic moving through their space are a totally different kettle of fish. Sources: Washington Post, “U.S. moves drone fleet from Camp Lemonnier to ease Djibouti’s safety concerns” | VOA, “US Military Relocates Drone Fleet From Djibouti Base”.

Sept 25/13: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway, CA receives a sole-source $70.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to conduct MQ-1C Gray Eagle 4.3.2 software development and depot repair of related spares.

Work will be funded from FY 2012 and 2013 R&D funds. US Army Contracting Command – Aviation in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-13-C-0136).

Sept 25/13: STARLite radar. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Linthicum Heights, MD receives an $85.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, multi-year, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quality contract to provide STARLite system support, including the SAR/GMTI features. Performance location and funding will be determined with each order. See the “Sensors and Add-Ons” section for full details re: the ZPY-1 STARLite.

This contract was a sole-source acquisition, but its duration isn’t clear. US Army Contracting Command – Aviation in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W15P7T-13-D-C118).

Sept 25/13: General Atomics announces that the Gray Eagle fleet has reached 20,000 successful launch and recoveries using their Automatic Takeoff and Landing System (ATLS). They hit the 10,000 milestone in June 2012.

ATLS has been deployed at 8 sites worldwide, including 3 overseas, with 4 additional sites planned by January 2015. Source: GA-ASI, Oct 23/13 release.

Sept 13/13: FY 2013. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives a sole-source $199.7 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide FY 2013 MQ-1C Gray Eagle production (19 UAVs), and “FY 2012 hardware backfill requirements.” General Atomics confirmed that the overall contract involves 19 UAVs, plus ground control equipment, automatic landing systems, SATCOM and data terminals, spares, and mobile maintenance facilities.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA. US Army Contracting Command, Aviation at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-13-C-0109).

Aug 25/13: Help Wanted. The USAF has a pilot recruitment problem for drones, driven by lower recognition and a true perception that promotions are less likely in that service. The US Army has an easier time of things, because they tap enlisted and non-commissioned soldiers to fly their UAVs: 15W Operator and 15E Repairer are enlisted soldiers positions, and 150U technician positions involve a warrant officer. Here’s the USAF’s math:

The USA has 61 round-the-clock UAV Combat Air Patrols, and plans to increase that to 65 by 2015. That increase is now suspect. If it’s maintained, the Pentagon’s April 2012 “Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability” says the USAF will require, at minimum, 579 more MQ-1/9 UAV pilots from December 2011 – 2015. In 2012, the 40 USAF training slots attracted just 12 volunteers, and training attrition rates are 3x higher than they are for regular pilots. Unlike the USAF’s manned aircraft training slots, only 33 RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) training slots were filled (around 82%), triggered in part by the correct perception that those who succeed will have less successful careers. Based on present rates, 13% fewer RPA pilots have become majors, compared to their peers.

Army schadenfreude aside, the Pentagon’s April 2012 report did say that the Army needed to add 820 more MQ-1C Gray Eagle positions between December 2011 – 2015. They can’t neglect this area, either. Sources: Stars & Stripes, “Unmanned now undermanned: Air Force struggles to fill pilot slots for drones” | See Additional Readings section for full Pentagon report.

Aug 22/13: Training. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives a maximum $30.5 million cost-plus-incentive fee, option eligible, multi-year contract for 1 MQ-1C Gray Eagle Composite Maintenance System Trainer (CMST) suite of equipment, plus Interim Contractor Support at Fort Huachuca, AZ. US Army Contracting Command Aviation at? Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-13-C-0127).

Aug 16/13: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway, CA receives an $11.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, option-eligible, non-multi-year, contract modification.

The award exercises an option for additional MQ-1C engineering services, and the announcement’s confusing language is “$11,423,474.37 with a cumulative maximum value of $156,370,264”. We’ve added all awards under this contract, and so far, announced awards total $81.9 million. But General Atomics clarifies that (since Sept 2009) “we have received contracts that value $156.4 million for Gray Eagle engineering services, including the $11.4 million contract that was just announced.”

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, using FY 2013 “other funding.” One bid was solicited, and 1 receives by US Army Contracting Command (Aviation) in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-09-C-0136, PO 0094).

July 26/13: MQ-1 IGE. A successful first flight of the Improved Gray Eagle (IGE) derivative of the MQ-1C Block 1, at GS-ASI’s Adelanto, CA facility.

IGE is designed for increased endurance, thanks to its “improved Heavy Fuel Engine” and deep belly fuselage with over 50% more capacity. In the field, that translates into up to 23 more hours aloft on reconnaissance missions. Overall payload capacity also improves by 50%, with an upgraded centerline wet hardpoint that can mount a 500 pound external fuel tank or a 360 degree sensor payload. General Atomics also cites the “potential of incorporating lightning protection, damage tolerance, and Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) features.” Source: General Atomics, July 26/13 release.

Improved Gray Eagle introduced, flies

July 23/13: Engine out. State-owned Aviation Industry Corp. of China buys Thielert’s commercial assets out of insolvency, and folding them into its Continental Motors division. In order to get approval for the sale from the German government, however, the firm has to divest its military business. They elect to close it, leaving the MQ-1C Gray Eagle and Turkey’s Anka UAV without an engine. Sources: Bloomberg, “AVIC Buys Thielert to Shift Company to Planes From Drones” | Reuters, “China’s AVIC to buy German aircraft engine maker Thielert”.

Thielert to China

June 14/13: FRP. The Defense Acquisition Board approved Gray Eagle for Full Rate Production (FRP), which will lead to the purchase of an additional 49 aircraft over FY13-15. Because of the current budget constraints, the FY13 buy was reduced from 19 to 15. FY14 is planned for an additional 19, with a final 15 units in FY15.

Deputy Program Manager Jeff Crabb tells DID that the program was also moved from the ACAT 1D down to the ACAT 1C level, meaning the Army is now the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA), as opposed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This makes sense since close to 70 aircraft have already been delivered after 3 LRIP lots, out of a planned total of 152. Of these, 4 have been lost in combat so far.

The program’s next milestone is Follow-on Operational Test & Evaluation (FOT&E) in early 2015, mostly around the universal ground control station (GCS) which involves both hardware and software components.


May 14/13: NERO EW pod. Raytheon announces that they’ve delivered the first 2 Networked Electronic Warfare, Remotely Operated (NERO) pods, as part of a contract awarded by US NAVSEA-Crane in 2012 for use on the US Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

NERO is an airborne electronic attack system capable of jamming enemy communications systems, including remote detonators for land mines. It’s derived from the Army’s Communications Electronic Attack with Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CEASAR) program, which is mounted on MC-12W King Air manned turboprops. Moving to the Gray Eagle doubles or triples flight time, at a similar or lower operating cost. Raytheon.

May 7/13: Support. GA-ASI in Poway, CA receives a $110.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for MQ-1C support and fleet sustainment, driving the contract’s total cumulative face value to $354.7 million.

Work will be performed in Afghanistan, using FY 2013 Operations and Maintenance funds, and other Procurement fund. The US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-12-C-0075, PO 0032).

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. For the Gray Eagle, the budget requests $627.1 million, of which just $10.9 million is RDT&E. That’s a cut of about $151.8 million from previous plans, and when combined with 2015 plans it cuts the program by $337.8 million. They’re still ordering the same number of UAVs, though.

The FY 2014 request covers continued development of the Universal Ground Control Station, a Ground Based Sense-and-Avoid system for flights at several US based locations (vid Aug 10/12 entry), 15 UAVs, 8 AN/ZPY-1 STARLite ER radars, 8 AN/AAS-53 Common Sensor Payload surveillance & targeting turrets, 16 Tactical SIGINT (TSP for signals interceptions) payloads, and 3 modular platoon sets of equipment.

April 2/13: What now? Defense News aptly summarizes the key question facing the USA’s large drones:

“On the one hand, the work in Mali shows that the signature weapon of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is outlasting that conflict. On the other, the detachment is a tiny fraction of the Predator/Reaper fleet – and just where are the rest of them going to go?”

With flights below 60,000 feet heavily restricted within the USA, there aren’t that many options stateside, and most of the MQ-9 fleet’s $8,000 per flight hour operations are funded by wartime OCO appropriations. AFRICOM may have the best combination of circumstances abroad, thanks to growing trouble in the Gulf of Guinea to the West, as well as the Indian Ocean to the East. Even a massive increase in surveillance can’t absorb all of the UAVs, and the $6,000 per flight hour manned MC-12s are a natural competitor.

FY 2012

Attack helicopter control MQ-1C in flight; Operational Testing & Evaluation; Approval sought to extend LRIP buys; Predator GCS virus won’t affect Army; SIGINT pod.

Gray Eagle in Iraq
(click to view full)

Unless otherwise specified, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL issues the contracts to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) in Poway, CA.

Oct 2/12: Support. A $102.6 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for services to support the Gray Eagle UAS.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of May 7/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0075).

Oct 2/12: Engine retrofits. A $10.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to retrofit MQ-1C Block 0 UAVs with an alternate heavy fuel engine.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of Sept 26/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0001).

Aug 27/12: A $25.9 million fixed-price-incentive contract modification will add “a platoon set of ground equipment.” Note that for these UAVs, a “platoon” is 12 MQ-1Cs.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of June 30/15. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0057).

Aug 27/12: An $11 million fixed-price-incentive contract modification, to buy more universal ground data terminals. Work will be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of April 30/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-11-C-0099).

Aug 10/12: Civil airspace. The U.S. Army has validated the design and functionality of a Phase 2 ground-based sense and avoid (GBSAA, see above) radar system that will support training flights of MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs in unrestricted airspace, beginning in 2014.

The baseline GBSAA system was demonstrated in June 2012 at Dugway Proving Ground’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) testbed, and the Army’s UAS Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center. The 2-week demonstration covered several “vignettes” involving live RQ-7 Shadow and RQ-5 Hunter UAVs as well as simulated UAVs and intruder aircraft. The testing also replicated the airspace over other military installations and used live and recorded air traffic data from Salt Lake City, UT and Boston’s Logan airports. AIN Online.

July 18/12: A $19 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for MQ-1C contractor logistics support. Work will be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of July 15/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-11-C-0001).

July 11/12: A $411 million fixed-price-incentive contract for Gray Eagle systems, initial spares, and additional hardware. Work will be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of March 31/15. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with one bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0057).

Looks like they got that authorization to continue Low-Rate initial Production.

July 2/12: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives an $8.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for MQ-1C Gray Eagle engineering support.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-09-C-0136).

June 27/12: Reliability & report. The US Army has some good news, and some bad news.

The bad news is that Gray Eagles are flying at about 80% availability rates after 24,000 combat flight hours, instead of their target 90%. The problems are mostly traceable to software issues that arise when new sensors are added.

The good news? The program is under budget. The UAVs have added weapons, ground-looking radars, and communication relays to their payload. The Army likes them a lot, and thinks they’re making a big difference, so they’ve decided to focus on expanding Gray Eagle capabilities for now, rather than trying to reach 90% availability rates. Right now, there are a pair of platoon-size 4-UAV QRC units in Afghanistan, and the “Fox 227” full-size company of 12.

May 29/12: IOT&E funds. An $8.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification supplies incremental funding to support MQ-1C operational test and evaluation. The program’s IOT&E was moved back from October 2011, and is now expected in August 2012 (a milestone that was indeed met at that date).

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

May 10/12: A $141.8 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, for services in support of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of May 7/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0075).

April 4/12: Plans. The US Army discusses its plans for the MQ-1C, which includes the addition of a new Synthetic Aperture Radar with Ground Moving Target Indicator, and the development of a Universal Ground Control Station, or UGS that can show video feeds from Gray Eagle, Shadow and Hunter UAS on a single system.

A full company of 12 Gray Eagle UAS have now deployed as part of a full-spectrum Combat Aviation Brigade, and a Pentagon Defense Acquisition Board meeting is planned for mid-May 2012, to approve another Low Rate Initial Production buy. Initial Operational Test & Evaluation is scheduled for summer 2012.

March 30/12: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012. With respect to the MQ-1C, it mentions that the Army will be modifying the UAV’s tail rudder and elevator, and the GAO is now satisfied with the automatic take-off and landing system’s technical maturity:

“However, the tactical common data link is still not fully mature… its air data relay capability has been deferred until fiscal year 2012. The March 2011 accident involving an MQ-1C in testing has delayed several key program events… The Army now plans to start [IOT&E] operational testing in August 2012 [instead of October 2011, and a]… full-rate production decision was postponed from August 2012 to March 2013. The Army has already awarded two low-rate production contracts in 2010 and 2011 for 55 aircraft. To avoid a break in production, the Army is planning to seek approval to award a third low-rate contract for 29 aircraft in May 2012. Based on the current program schedule, the Army will procure more than half of the total planned aircraft before the system’s operational effectiveness and suitability is fully tested…”

Jan 26/12: Preliminary FY 2013 budget materials discuss coming shifts in Pentagon priorities, as the defense department moves to make future cuts. The USAF will get fewer MQ-9 Reapers, but the Army’s MQ-1C is protected:

“Unmanned Air Systems – fund enough trained personnel, infrastructure, and platforms to sustain 65 USAF MQ-1/9 combat air patrols (CAPs) with a surge capacity of 85; the Predator aircraft was retained longer than previously planned, allowing us to slow the buy of the Reaper aircraft and gain some savings; we also protected funding for the Army’s unmanned air system, Gray Eagle.”

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

Jan 17/12: A $30.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to support the MQ-1C Gray Eagle Quick Reaction Capability drones in theater. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of May 7/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153).

Jan 5/12: SIGINT Pods. BAE Systems in Nashua, NH receives a $12.3 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for T-Pod SIGINT Systems. on the MQ-1C Unmanned Aircraft System. A December 2011 expression of interest stated that the US Army was looking for up to 5 tested and calibrated Traveler Pods within 4 months for integration work on the MQ-1C, and within 6 months for deployment. The pods are designed to find and eavesdrop on electronic emitters, identify them (enemy radio communications? radar? etc.), then offer aerial precision geolocation (APG) and copying. Pods and equipment can already be installed in larger UAVs like the USAF’s RQ-4 Global Hawks, and aboard light surveillance planes like the Beechcraft King Air MC-12Ws. The challenge is to shrink them and their supporting systems so that it falls within the MQ-1C’s weight and size limits.

Work will be performed in Nashua, NH, with an estimated completion date of Dec 27/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W15P7T-12-C-C009). See also

Jan 5/12: A $20.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification to pay for operational test and evaluation. It does not specify further, but the contract is the MQ-1C’s.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Dec 30/11: A $12 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Warrior A/Block 0 support services. These are the Quick Reaction Capability drones. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, until Dec 17/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-12-C-0001).

Dec 23/11: An $18 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract. “The award will provide for the modification of an existing contract to allow for incremental funding of previous change order”; it does not specify further, but the contract is the MQ-1C’s. Work will be performed in Poway, CA; Hunt Valley, MD; Salt Lake City, UT; and Lake Forest, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited, with 1 received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Nov 10/11: A $15.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee and cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification, to support the MQ-1C QRC contingents. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Jan 7/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153).

Nov 9/11: An AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopter fitted with the Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA) atop its mast has controlled the payload and flight of an MQ-1C Grey Eagle UAV, while both are in flight. This marks the 1st time an unmanned vehicle has been controlled from the cockpit of an Apache helicopter.

Lockheed Martin says that the test program proved the UTA’s design, adding that: “All goals of this phase of UTA testing were completed with 100 percent success.”

Oct 17/11: A $30.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for additional MQ-1C engineering services. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Aug 30/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0136).

Oct 7/11: Hacked. WIRED Danger Room reports that a “keylogger” virus has infected the USAF’s MQ-1A/B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper fleets:

“The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say… “We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”

Unlike the USAF, the Army’s philosophy is to operate its MQ-1C Gray Eagles in-theater. The virus doesn’t compromise Army UAVs, therefore, but it may indicate a similar vulnerability point in the Army’s network.

Oct 5/11: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives an $84.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. The award will provide for the logistics and hardware services in support of Gray Eagle First Unit Equipped system hardware.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of March 27/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-11-C-0143).

Oct 5/11: An $8.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract will fund RESET efforts for the Warrior A/Warrior Block 0 Unmanned Aircraft Systems. RESET is a program for worn vehicles and aircraft, involving tear-down and comprehensive inspections, followed by replacement of any worn parts, and restoration to “like new” condition. The question is whether these initially-fielded “Quick Reaction Capability” UAVs will be upgraded to full operational MQ-1C Block 1 status, complete with weapons.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of June 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-11-C-0001).

FY 2011

MQ-1C program ramp-up; USAF accepts last MQ-1B Predator; TRACER foliage-penetrating radar; Iraq quick reaction deployment discussed.

QRC-1 sunrise, Taji
(click to view full)

May 20/11: An $8.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, that buys additional spare hardware under the MQ-1C Gray Eagle’s logistics support contract. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Jan 18/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153).

May 10/11: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives an $9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract May 6/11. The award will provide for MQ-1C Universal Ground Control Station integration.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of June 30/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL manages the contract (W58RGZ-09-C-0136).

April 25/11: An $8.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, providing incremental funding to cover an extension of the ER/MP system development and design contract. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/11. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received by U.S. Army AMCOM Contracting Center in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

April 12/11: +26. $173.5 million of a $354 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract, for MQ-1C Gray Eagle low rate initial production. Queries to GA-ASI indicate that the contract covers 2 Gray Eagle systems: 26 UAVs (12 aircraft per system, plus 2 spares for losses), 15 of AAI’s OneSystem Ground Control Systems, L-3 Communications’ Satellite Communications equipment, and other peripheral equipment to support the systems.

GA-ASI says that part of this contract is for FY 2010 buys, and part is FY 2011. Work will be performed at Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of April 30/14. One bid was solicited and one received (W58RGZ-11-C-0099).

March 7/11: A $64.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for MQ-1C Gray Eagle product support, logistical support and sustainment operations.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA; Adelanto, CA; Palmdale, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; and Hunt Valley, MD, with an estimated completion date of Nov 7/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153).

March 3/11: The USAF accepts delivery of its 268th and last Predator UAV, an MQ-1B, at General Atomics’ Gray Butte Aeronautical Systems’ Flight Ops Facility. The delivery leaves the US Army as the only customer for MQ-1 Predator UAVs, unless the RQ-1 Predator XP variant finds some export customers.

Col. James Beissner, Air Combat Command’s Chief Irregular Warfare Division, accepted the aircraft. Aeronautical Systems Center’s Chief of Medium Altitude UAS Division, Col. Christopher Coombs, cites fleet totals of over 900,000 hours since its 1st flight in July 1994, with mission capable rates over 90%. What he does not mention is a high accident rate, which accompanies UAVs without auto-takeoff and landing capabilities. The Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle does not suffer from the same officer pilot bias as the USAF, and has adopted these technologies. Wright Patterson AFB | General Atomics.


March 2/11: +30. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives an announced $335.5 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract for MQ-1C Gray Eagle systems. In-depth discussions with General Atomics place the order in its full context, which is somewhat complex.

In February 2010, General Atomics says the US Army placed a not-to-exceed $399 million contract, but did not appropriate any money. Their first step was the $195.5 million 49% funding contract in the May 19/10 entry. According to the firm, this award funds the remaining contract with another $115.1 million, to make a total of $310.6 million. This will include the LRIP Lot 1 order for 2 systems (24 UAVs + 2 attrition), plus the FY 2009 supplemental funding of 8 UAVs, and a sizable quantity of plus-up air, ground and communication equipment.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56RGZ-10-C-0068).

Feb 14/11: Budget request. The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 budget request, which includes breakout information concerning the MQ-1C Gray Eagle program. The FY 2012 request is $805.8 million for 36 systems, which includes $137 million in RDT&E(Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation) funds.

Jan 18/11: Program ramp-up. A US Army release quotes Tim Owings, deputy project manager for Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems:

“We’re going to accelerate Gray Eagle yet again. We’re accelerating from two systems per year to three systems per year, which will result in seventeen systems being procured by FY 2014… Defense Acquisition Board in February of this year is expected to confirm the addition of two more Low Rate Initial Production Gray Eagle systems – each consisting of 12 air vehicles, five ground control stations and five additional attrition vehicles… The Army has already deployed two Gray Eagle “Quick Reaction Capabilities.” One QRC is now flying with Army Soldiers in Iraq and another is with U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan”

Nov 28/10: Iraq T&P work. A posting from the 1st Infantry Division discusses [Pentagon DVIDS | US Army] some of the work that goes into the Gray Eagle’s Quick Reaction Capability 1-Replacement 1 (QRC-1/R1) deployment in Iraq, which is working to pioneer Gray Eagle tactics, techniques and procedures before the UAVs are deployed throughout the Army. Some excerpts:

“The QRC1-R1 operators are working with aviators from the brigade’s Apache battalion to integrate their mission… The unit has flown nearly 7,000 accident free hours, more than 350 combat missions, produced over 16,000 surveillance-type images, and maintained a systems operational readiness rate of about 93 percent [in its first 6 months].

“…One of the biggest things we try to do is educate other units about our capabilities,” said [unit commander Capt. Michael] Goodwin. “A lot of units have the ability to use our assets, but they don’t know what we can do.” One of the most useful tools the unit offers ground troops is education on a portable system known as the OSRVT, or One Station Remote Viewing Terminal. “We’re finding that a lot of units have the OSRVT, but don’t know what it does for them,” said Goodwin. “Our company helps train the ground guys on the system, on how to access our feeds and use our aircraft to support them.” …The unit is working to prepare the aircraft to carry hellfire missiles, and is scheduled to conduct a live test of the missiles in Iraq this January.

Sgt. Brent Randal, a Gray Eagle operator deployed with QRC1-R1 and a native of Las Vegas, Nev., said that one of the aircraft’s best features is its new Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. Mounted underneath the Gray Eagle’s nose, the SAR can compare high resolution images of a location taken at different times to determine whether objects have been removed from or placed at a scene… The Gray Eagle can also help ground troops communicate with their headquarters over long distances. The success of [Predator drones he flew for Task Force ODIN] helped pave the way for the Army’s acquisition of the Gray Eagle, said [former scout Staff Sgt. Raymond] Ballance.”

Nov 19/10: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA receives a $31.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, providing incremental funding to cover an extension of the ER/MP system development and design contract. Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/10. One bid was solicited with one bid received by U.S. Army AMCOM Contracting Center in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Announced System Development & Demonstration contracts covered here, not including any UAV buys or any support contracts, now stand at $253.4 million.

Nov 8/10: STARLite radar. Northrop Grumman announces a contract for 40 more AN/ZPY-1 STARLite synthetic aperture ground-looking radars, bringing announced orders to 73. These lightweight radars include Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) capabilities, and will equip the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs,. Under the terms of the contract option, deliveries to the Army’s Product Manager Robotic & Unmanned Sensors Program Management Office will begin in March, 2011 and conclude in March, 2012.

Pat Newby, vice president of Weapons and Sensors for Northrop Grumman’s Land and Self Protection Systems Division. “STARLite completed all first article and government testing requirements, which led to this award. These systems are ready now for immediate deployment.” See Feb 11/10, Apr 28/08 entries for more.

Oct 27/10: TRACER radar. Lockheed Martin’s tree-penetrating Tactical Reconnaissance and Counter-Concealment-Enabled Radar (TRACER) flies for the 1st time aboard NASA’s Ikhana MQ-9, because the Army Gray Eagle MQ-1C fleet that will eventually host the external unpressurized TRACER pods are all busy on operations.

TRACER is a dual-band synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), designed to detect vehicles, buildings and other man-made objects that are buried, camouflaged or concealed under trees and other foliage. The flight tests on Ikhana focused on the radar’s performance in the harsh environment of the unpressurized pod, as the TRACER system will eventually be installed on a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft. Lockheed Martin.

FY 2010

ER/MP becomes “Gray Eagle”; Army hits 1 million total UAV hours; USAF bows out of Predator buys, ending UAV War; MQ-1C arming approved; Hellfire missile tests; 1st STARLite radars delivered.

MQ-1C test flight
(click to view full)

In 2010, the Army officially changed the planned number of production MQ-1C Gray Eagle Block I+ systems from 13 company-sized units of 12 aircraft, to 31 independent “UAS Platoons” with 4 MQ-1Cs each, plus Standard Equipment Package (SEP), and Ground Equipment. The main production program would also buy 21 UAVs to replace those lost, and 7 training UAVs, for a total of 152.

Oct 4/10: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in Poway, CA receives a $5.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for ER/MP engineering and integration support, integrated logistics support, and program management. It was actually issued at the end of FY 2009.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/11. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received by the US Army at Redstone Arsenal (W58RGZ-09-C-0136, PO 0018).

Sept 10/10: A $7.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for ER/MP Quick Reaction Capability contractor logistics support replenishment sustainment spares. Work is to be performed in Poway, CA with an estimated completion date of June 6/12. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153).

Aug 24/10: The ER/MP’s new name is confirmed during a US Army UAS panel discussion at AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America. US Army UAS US Army Project Manager Col. Gregory Gonzalez says that using both ER/MP and SkyWarrior had created name recognition issues, and the USAF had approved the name. US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Capabilities Manager Col. Robert Sova adds:

“That’s ‘Grey Eagle’ as ‘G-R-E-Y’… The naming nomenclature, of course, is usually after an Indian chief or Indian tribe and I would suggest that you look up ‘Grey Eagle,’ because there is a good history of that particular Indian chief and his lineage with the army and special operations. So it is not only a cool’ name, it has substance and meaning behind it.”

We’re not the only ones scratching our heads about this reference, which is probably a mistake that stems from believing too many things on the Internet. Though we do like Shephard Group | this Chief Gray Eagle.


May 24/10: A $38.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee/cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification that pays for new contractor logistics support; a transition to performance-based logistics for the Quick Reaction Capability 1 (see December 2009 entry), QRC-1R, and QRC-2 UAVs; and a UAS training base in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Work is to be performed in Adelanto, CA (34%); Hunt Valley, MD (24%); Poway, CA (18%); Palmdale, CA (17%); and Salt Lake City, UT (7%). The estimated completion date is May 19/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0153, #P00011).

May 19/10: +26. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in Poway, CA received a $195.5 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract for MQ-1C supplemental hardware and low-rate initial production. Work is to be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-10-C-0068).

General Atomics tells us that this is for the first half (49%) of the LRIP Lot 1 contract, and covers 2 full Sky Warrior systems (24 UAVs) and FY 2009 supplemental hardware (2 attrition UAVs). The rest of the funding is expected in a few months, and could drive this contract set to about $399 million for 34 Sky Warrior aircraft, 16 of AAI’s One System Ground Control Stations, L-3 Communications West’s airborne and ground Tactical Control Data Link (TCDL) equipment, and various other items to include automatic landing systems, spares, and ground support equipment. Beginning in December 2011, the company is scheduled to deliver over 2 MQ-1C aircraft a month through the end of 2012.

This award comes at the same time that the U.S. Army is celebrating the achievement of 1,000,000 flight hours for its entire unmanned aircraft systems fleet, of which GA-ASI Sky Warrior Alpha and Sky Warrior UAS have logged 145,000 flight hours. See also July 8/10 release.

May 7/10: Lynx radar. General Atomics announces that its Lynx Block 30 Synthetic Aperture Radar with Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI) has achieved over 1,000 collective mission hours on their 4 Sky Warrior Block 1 UAVs in Iraq. The radar has a broad area GMTI scanning mode for detecting moving vehicles in front and to either side, can cue the camera payload to things it “sees” by using the CLAW payload control software, and features very fast Coherent Change Detection (CCD) algorithms.

The US Army’s Quick Reaction Capability-1 (QRC-1) deployment began in December 2009. A second group of 4 Lynx Block 30 radars is scheduled to begin Limited User Testing with the Army later in May 2010, in support of this summer’s planned QRC-2 deployment. In addition to supporting QRC-1 operations with the Lynx radar, GA-ASI is providing full Contractor Logistics Support (CLS), including radar operation, image analysis, and maintenance support.

May 7/10: A $5.8 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for continued performance of the ER/MP’s SDD phase. Work is to be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/10. One bid was solicited with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command, AMCOM Constructing Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

May 6/10: A $15.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, exercising an option in support of the ER/MP production readiness test asset. Work is to be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of April 09/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command, AMCOM Constructing Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-09-C-0151). Asked about this contract, General Atomics spokespeople said that:

“…this is not the other half of the [April 22/10] PRTA contract, this is an additional amount for spares and ground support equipment.”

On other topics, they add that the ER/MP’s name change from General Atomics’ Sky Warrior designation to the US Army’s Gray Eagle designation is not official – yet.

April 29/10: 1,000,000 UAV hours. The US Army announces that April 2010 saw the 1,000,000th flight hour for its UAV fleets. That’s a dramatic change from the handful of Army RQ-7 Shadow and RQ-5 Hunter systems in 2001, to roughly 1,000 UAVs by 2010 that are logging up to 25,000 of UAV flight hours per month. It has taken 13 years to put together the first 100,000 hours, followed by 8.5 years to add the next 900,000. About 88% of these flight hours are from time in combat.

The Army now operates 6 MQ-5 Hunter systems that have recently been armed, 87 RQ-7 Shadow UAS systems that are likely to become armed MQ-7 variants son, 9 MQ-1C ER/MP variants, 1,300 Raven mini-UAV systems and 16 RQ-18 gMAV systems. Each system includes several UAVs, plus launch platforms if needed and associated ground control station and communications equipment. Tim Owings, deputy program manager, Army UAS:

“Ninety-five percent of what the Army has in its inventory today did not even exist at the beginning of the war… A lot of people liken Vietnam to a helicopter war – I liken these two wars as the unmanned systems wars because these are the wars where these systems hit the central axis of the way we fight and became part and parcel to the way the Army prosecutes wars… It has been absolutely amazing, no matter how many we have built there has always been a need for more.”??

A Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) of 4 unarmed MQ-1C Block 0s were deployed to Iraq in 2009 – and another ERMP QRC is slated for Afghanistan later in 2010, armed with Hellfire missiles. The idea of the QRC is to field technologies in service of the ongoing war effort as they are available while simultaneously developing a system as a program of record.

April 22/10: +4. A $17 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to finalize a contract for ER/MP production readiness test assets. Work is to be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/11. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W58RGZ-09-C-0151). In response to a query, General Atomics tells DID that the contract includes:

“…4 Sky Warrior ER/MP aircraft, 2 ER/MP One System GCS, TCDL/GDT, SGDT, TALS, etc.). The [equipment is] to be used for the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) phase that follows SDD.”

The other $23.4 million part of this contract, plus the May 6/10 contract, leaves the final price at $55.6 million for systems and support.

MQ-1C Sky Warrior
(click to view full)

March 30/10: GAO report. The US GAO audit office delivers its 8th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. With respect to the ER/MP:

“…a Secretary of Defense memorandum to field the capability as soon as possible… affected the program in several ways. According to program officials, it extended system development and demonstration by about 2 years and delayed the award of the low-rate initial production contract by over 1 year. In accordance with the Secretary’s direction, the Army fielded one “Quick Reaction Capability” system in 2009 and plans to field another in 2010. These systems lack the full capabilities planned.”

“…All four critical technologies are now mature and have been demonstrated on the final version of the unmanned air system… The ER/MP is expected to enter low-rate initial production in early 2010 with all its manufacturing processes demonstrated in a production representative environment… the program was approved in February 2010 for low-rate initial production, and they now anticipate changes in cost, quantity, and schedule. However, official, detailed information was not available in time for inclusion in this report… the Air Force has determined it will no longer acquire the MQ-1C Predator. The Army now anticipates a DOD acquisition memorandum closing the [DoD’s earlier] direction to combine the programs.”

Feb 19/10: General Atomics Aeronautical System in Poway, CA receives a $36.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, covering in-theater support for ERMP Alpha and Block 0 UAVs for the Iraqi and Afghan theaters of war. The contract will run until Nov 15/11. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W58RGZ-10-C-0044).

Feb 18/10: Tests, and Milestone C. The US Army announces that the ER/MP has successfully completed a series of tests with the HELLFIRE II UAS missile variant, whose 360-degree targeting ability, allowing UAVs that lack a helicopter’s instant maneuverability to put missiles on target faster. Testing began on Nov 22/09, and took place at Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, CA, following cooperation from General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems, Inc.’s Software Integration Laboratory, the company’s El Mirage Flight Test Facility in El Mirage, CA, and Edwards Air Force Base, CA..

The tests began with dry runs and an inert test missile, followed by a successful “cold” pass using a live missile to verify lock-on, followed by “hot pass” firing. November and December involved testing in various conditions, from varying altitudes, against stationary or moving targets. Tests recorded 9 successful shots, which helped pave the way for the UAV’s February 2010 Milestone C approval.

Feb 13/10: The US military issues a FedBizOpps notice as it conducts market research seeking sources to provide in-theatre logistical support, to include field service representatives and maintainers to support sustainment of the AN/DAS-2 payload and the AN/AAS-53 sensor and target designation turrets. The usual winner in these cases is the contractor, especially when, as in this case, “The government does not own the technical data package for these payloads.”

The AN/DAS-2 equipped initial SkyWarriors. The day/night sensing and targeting turret contains a continuous zoom day camera, a thermal imager, a visible imager, a laser designator, and an eye-safe laser rangefinder, all packaged within a stabilized gimbal. The AN/AAS-53 “is planned to replace the AN/DAS-2 beginning in fourth quarter 2009.” FBO solicitation.

Feb 11/10: STARLite, express. Northrop Grumman announces the recent delivery of the first 2 production AN/ZPY-1 STARLite radars for the US Army’s ER/MP, under a compressed 18-month schedule. The STARLite radar is a 65 pound synthetic aperture radar (SAR) with ground moving target indicator (GMTI) capabilities. In SAR mode, the radar provides images along the aircraft’s flight path or along a path independent of the flight path. It can also provide a high-resolution image of a specific area on the ground. In the GMTI mode, the radar provides moving target locations overlaid on a digital map. It can see through battlefield obscurants at all times of day, and in all weather. It also has software that connects with the Army One Common Ground Station.

Northrop Grumman is working under a $78.5 million contract with the Army’s Robotics and Unmanned Sensors Product Office at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD, to provide a total of 33 STARLite radar systems by April 2011.

Feb 2/10: Milestone C. The Army’s ER/MP passes its Milestone C review, following success during the UAV’s Operational Assessment test phase, and a positive verdict regarding production readiness. The decision allows Low Rate Initial Production to begin. Tim Owings, the US Army Deputy Project Manager for Army UAS, states that Milestone C authorizes 2 complete systems of 24 total UAVs plus ground control and related equipment, plus 8 UAVs for training and war-loss replacement. US Army.


Feb 1/10: The Pentagon releases its FY 2011 budget requests. For the ER/MP program, Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation would jump 45% to $123.2 million. Purchases would jump about 5% to $506.3 million for 29 UAVs, including 3 UAVs under OCO/war funding purchases.

Dec 11/09: Arming begins. Aviation Week reports that the Army is beginning to arm its MQ-1Cs as its pushes toward a “Milestone C” production decision. Tests at China Lake, CA began with 2 Hellfire shots in late November, and will continue until Dec 18/09.

“The soon to be re-designated Gray Eagle UAV, currently called the extended range/multi-purpose (ERMP) unmanned aircraft system by the Army, is being rushed into service with newly-formed quick reaction capability (QRC) units in Iraq and Afghanistan… the initial QRC-1 unit is now deployed in Iraq with four unarmed aircraft… The current weapons tests… form part of preparations to arm QRC-2 aircraft which will be deployed to Afghanistan in July [2010].”

Army UAS project manager Col. Gregory Gonzalez confirmed to Aviation Week that QRC-2 will have the first real weaponized MQ-1C system.

Oct 27/09: The DEW Line highlights a Raytheon Program Manager job ad that discusses possible improvements to the MQ-1C fleet:

“[Raytheon] has proposed a significant upgrade program to the baseline CSP configuration to include High Definition (HD) EO/IR capability and Target Location Accuracy (TLA) enhancements. This position is the program manager (PM) of the CSP TLA/HD (approx $30M) development program. The selected individual will be responsible for managing all aspects of the development program including start up, gate reviews, customer reviews, customer daily interface, supplier management, build of 6 integration and test systems, quality testing and flight testing. It is anticipated the CSP TLA/HD development program will result in retrofit of up to 100 baseline CSP systems and this position would manage the follow-on retrofit business. The TLA/HD upgrade program will be run in parallel with the CSP IDIQ base program and will require integration and leveraging with the on-going CSP production program.”

Oct 9/09: Support. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in Poway, CA receives on Sept 30/09 a $16.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee engineering services contract, to support product improvements and new technology insertions into the ER/MP UAS.

Work will be performed in Poway, CA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 29/12. Bids were solicited online, with 1 bid received. U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command Contraction Center, Redstone Arsenal, AL, is the contacting activity (W58RGZ-09-C-0136).

FY 2008 – 2009

1st mission in-theater; GAO decision blasts GA-ASI; Insolvency & fraud scandal for engine-maker Thielert; UAV Wars.

MQ-1C, Block 0
(click to view full)

August 2009: QRC-1 deploys. Deployment of Sky Warrior Block 1 (ER/MP program version), as the Quick Reaction Capability-1 (QRC-1). Feedback from the field will be incorporated into the QRC-2 deployment as software and hardware upgrades, and tactical changes. Source.

March 2/09: +8. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in San Diego, CA received a $35 million cost plus incentive fee, definitization of a letter contract to acquire 8 ERMP Quick Reaction Capability UAVs, and associated support equipment. This acquisition is directed by the Joint Chief of Staff to accommodate a surge of UAVs in theater.

Work is to be performed at San Diego, CA (46%); Adelanto, CA (14%); Palmdale, CA (8%); Salt Lake City, UT (18%); and Hunt Valley, MD (14%), with an estimated completion date of Jan 15/10. One bid was solicited and one bid received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Feb 5/09: No SAR. Jane’s Defence Weekly [site] reports that:

“The US Army is suspending a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) requirement for Warrior unmanned aerial systems (UASs) in order to… speed the Warrior’s deployment to theatre, where intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets are in great demand.”

USAF MQ-1A/Bs currently carry the AN/APY-8 Lynx ground-looking synthetic aperture radar, which gives them the ability to notice certain kinds of objects more prominently, and to see through some obscurants like low clouds, smoke, etc. On Feb 5/09, General Atomics tested a Lynx II dual-beam variant, with a Space Time Adaptive Processing (STAP) upgrade developed in cooperation with BAE Systems. The modifications cancel the main beam’s GMTI (ground moving target indicator) clutter, which helps the radar detect slow-moving objects more accurately and at longer ranges.

Sept 18/08: General Atomics Aeronautical System in San Diego, CA received a $37.2 million cost plus incentive fee price contract for incremental funding for systems development and demonstration (including integration of the Hellfire Missile) for the ER/MP. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, Adelanto, CA, Palmdale, CA, Salt Lake City, UT, Hunt Valley, MD, and Huntsville, AL, with an estimated completion date of Aug 31/09. One hundred and twenty bids were solicited and 3 bids were received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Aug 19/08: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, CA received a $7.9 million cost plus fixed fee contract to acquire 3 ERMP Block 0 Unmanned Aircraft in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA with an estimated completion date of March 31/10. One bid was solicited and one bid received (W58RGZ-06-C-0208).

Aug 8/08: GA-ASI issues. A US GAO decision denies Lockheed Martin’s bid protest over the BAMS maritime surveillance UAV contract – and cites ongoing performance issues with its key partner General Atomics as the reason. The GAO summary for Bid Protest B-400135 states that:

“Agency reasonably determined, in procurement for unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft, that awardee [DID: Northrop Grumman] had significant advantage over protester [DID: Lockheed Martin] with respect to past performance where: protester’s subcontractor [DID: General Atomics], responsible for approximately 50 percent of contract effort, had recent past performance history of being unable to resolve staffing and resource issues, resulting in adverse cost and schedule performance on very relevant contracts for unmanned aircraft; record did not demonstrate that protester’s subcontractor had implemented systemic improvement that resulted in improved performance; [in contrast] operating division of the awardee also had performance problems on very relevant contracts for unmanned aircraft, many had been addressed through systemic improvement; and overall performance of awardee’s team on most evaluated contract efforts was rated better than satisfactory, while the overall performance of protester’s team on 11 of 26 contract efforts was only marginal.”

The BAMS bid in question has been based on General Atomics’ Mariner, a variant of its larger MQ-9 UAV. The GAO decision then goes on to discuss these issues in more detail, including this passage:

“In contrast, however, GA-ASI’s contract performance was a matter of great concern to the agency. Specifically, while recognizing that GA-ASI had demonstrated a willingness and ability to respond on short notice to evolving Global War on Terror (GWOT) warfighter requirements, the SSEB found that GA-ASI’s performance demonstrated: inadequate staffing, resulting in performance problems on SDD contracts for the MQ-9 Reaper (a second-generation, Predator B model) and the MQ-1C Extended Range/Multipurpose (ER/MP) UAS (a second-generation Predator model); unfavorable schedule performance on four of seven relevant GA-ASI contracts, including very relevant contracts for the MQ-9 Reaper, UAS ground control stations, MQ-1C ER/MP, I-GNAT Extended Range UAS (a version of the Predator with some differences for the Army), and MQ-1 baseline Predator; poor performance in meeting technical quality requirements on three of seven GA-ASI contracts, including contracts for the MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-1C ER/MP, and I-GNAT Extended Range UAS; and workload exceeded the firm’s capacity on five of seven GA-ASI contracts, including contracts for the MQ-9 Reaper, UAS ground control stations, MQ-1C ER/MP, I-GNAT Extended Range UAS, and MQ?1/MQ-9 maintenance support. In summary, the SSEB found the overall performance of GA-ASI on its very relevant contracts for the MQ-9 Reaper (most delivery orders), UAS ground control stations, MQ-1C ER/MP, and I-GNAT Extended Range UAS to be marginal.”

June 12/08: 1st mission. General Atomics announces that 2 MQ-1C Block 0 UAvs are now operational in Iraq. The first mission for WY-201 occurred on April 18/08 and lasted 10.5 hours. MQ-1C #WY-202 was deployed at the end of April.


May 17/08: Thielert scandal. Thielert Engines insolvency administrator Dr. Bruno M. Kubler discusses the current situation in a release, including some revelations with implications for customers like General Atomics. The statement notes that attempts are being made to keep Thielert as a an operating concern, with some flexibility shown by creditors and Frank Thielert may not be CEO, but he remains the personal holder of key permits and therefore remains involved. Meanwhile:

  • German insolvency law does not permit the assumption of warranties or guarantees free of charge for products and services supplied prior to the declaration of insolvency. Parts supplied after insolvency can be warrantied, but the firm is in no position to do so. Dr. Kubler hopes that aircraft manufacturers will step in.

  • Higher prices will be charged for engines and spares.

  • Payment in advance is now required, but assurances are made re: delivery once payment is made.

  • The firm’s #1 customer, Diamond Aircraft, has pushed for concessions and preferential deals with Thielert, using both private negotiations and public tactics. Relations are deteriorating, but the firms are still negotiating.

April 28/08: STARLite radar. Northrop Grumman announces that its STARLite has been selected by the U.S. Army Communication-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command to equip ER/MP UAVs. The initial $42 million contract will finalize development, and deliver 10 radars.

The ground looking SAR/GMTI (Sythetic Aperture Radar with Ground Moving Target Indicator) fills the niche that General Atomics’ own AN/APY-8 Lynx radar occupies on USAF MQ-1A/B Predators.

April 16/08: +8. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, CA receives $38.5 million cost-plus incentive fee contract for the acquisition of 8 ER/MP quick reaction capability unmanned aircraft vehicles and assorted support equipment.

Work will be performed primarily in San Diego, CA and is expected to be complete on May 15/09. One bid was solicited on March 17/08 (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

April 10/08: Thielert insolvency. SkyWarrior engine maker Thielert issues a release concerning their “urgent liquidity crisis.” The act is not an isolated incident, but rather a culmination of trends that include formal charges of accounting fraud and falsification of documents.

It is followed by a declaration of insolvency in May 2008.

March 31/08: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. flies the first Sky Warrior Block 1 UAV from the company’s El Mirage Flight Operations Facility in Adelanto, CA. GA-ASI release.

March 3/08: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, CA received an $18.7 million cost-plus incentive fee contract that provides incremental funding for system development and demonstration of the ER/MP UAV. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA; Adelanto, CA; Palmdale, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Hunt Valley, MD; and Huntsville, AL; and is expected to be complete by Aug 31/09. There were 120 bids solicited on Sept 1/04, and 3 bids were received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Feb 14/08: Raytheon announces 2 U.S. Army orders totaling $17.2 million for 18 common sensor payloads, as system design and development continues. The article does not give details that would confirm the Nov 7/07 entry as one of those contracts, but it is possible. The firm states that they’ve delivered 10 AN/DAS-2 sensors so far.

Nov 7/07: Raytheon Co. in McKinney, TX received a delivery order amount of $11 million as part of an $800 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for common sensors for the ARH-70A helicopter and the MQ-1C Sky Warrior ER/MP UAV. Work will be performed in McKinney, TX and is expected to be complete by Oct. 31, 2016. Bids were solicited via the World Wide Web on April 24, 2007, and 5 bids were received by the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command in Fort Monmouth, NJ (W15P7T-08-D-S602).

Raytheon’s release adds that the program calls for design and development, testing and air vehicle integration of a variant of Raytheon’s Multi-spectral Targeting System, in a project could be worth up to $1.2 billion for 875 units, if all options are exercised. See also Raytheon Feature | Common Sensor Platform product page. Raytheon’s CSP completes its Predator family trifecta; it also supplies the AN/DAS-1 system that equips MQ-1 Predator UAVs, and the AN/AAS-52 on MQ-9 Reapers. With respect to deliveries to the Sky Warrior program thus far:

“The company has delivered 10 AN/DAS-2 electro-optical/ infrared/ laser designator sensors under a system design and development contract let in May 2005. At the beginning of this year, the Army ordered seven more systems under a low rate production option.”

Oct 19/07: General Atomics Aeronautical System in San Diego, CA received a $20.8 million increment as part of a $231.2 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for system development and demonstration for the ER/MP UAV Vehicle, including integration of the Hellfire Missile.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (43%), Adelanto, CA (14%), Palmdale, CA (8%), Salt Lake City, UT (18%), Hunt Valley, MD (14%), and Huntsville, AL (3%), and is expected to be complete by Aug 31/09. There were 120 bids solicited on Sept. 1, 2004, and 3 bids were received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Oct 1-17/07: UAV Wars. DID talks to the US Army about the SkyWarrior program. Going forward, the USAF will manage the program according to jointly agreed requirements, but each service will maintain its own budget for the UAVs it wants.

A common version will be selected and approved by late 2008, but no decision has been reached re: which version will predominate: the MQ-1B Block X/MQ-1C with 4 missile pylons and a heavy fuel engine that can burn diesel, or the existing MQ-1 that burns aviation fuel and has 2 missile pylons.

Oct 1/07: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, CA received a $27.5 million modification to a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for contractor logistics support for the Sky Warrior Block 0 Unmanned Aircraft System.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (80%); Hunt Valley, MD (10%); and Salt Lake City, UT (10%); and is expected to be complete by Sept. 27, 2008. This was a sole source contract initiated on Sept. 14, 2007 (DAAH01-03-C-0124).

FY 2005 – 2007

UAV Wars between US Army & USAF; Army Future Combat System changes improve ER/MP’s opportunity; 1st ER/MP flight; ER/MP development contract issued.

MQ-1C Sky Warrior
(click to view full)

Sept 28/07: UAV Wars. In its Daily Report for this date, the Air Force Association’s Air Force Magazine Online discusses the UAV executive agency issue:

“Defending the recent Pentagon decision not to give the Air Force executive agency over medium- to high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles, Army Secretary Pete Geren told defense reporters Thursday that the Army’s modernization goals don’t fit with an executive agent approach. “The need for control with UAVs fits close to the individual soldier,” Geren said. Part of the Army’s Future Combat Systems program is to empower soldiers and give them greater control over assets such as UAVs. He noted that Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley have met on the issue recently to work out disagreements. “Some of the disagreements have arisen because these issues have not been tackled at a high enough level,” Geren said. While sympathetic to the Air Force’s perspective, he noted that an executive agent approach that’s advocated by some would make sense if we were fighting a conventional war. “It’s a different debate when you’re talking about the kind of fight we are in today,” Geren declared.”

See also’s article re: the decision fallout.

Sept 13/07: UAV Wars. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England rejects Air Force efforts to become the executive agent for all medium- and high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles, over objections from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. In his memo, England directed the Pentagon’s acquisition office to create a task force on UAV issues to “enhance operations, enable interdependencies, and streamline acquisition” of the drones. He also directed Pentagon officials to take other steps to foster cross-service collaboration on the UAV programs.

The Predator and SkyWarrior programs, however, have been merged. The exact meaning of that move remains to be seen – either to standardize the Predator on a similar SkyWarrior/MQ-1C version, or eliminate the Warrior variant and use existing MQ-1As. GovExec | The Hill.

Aug 22/07: A $5.15 million increment as part of a $215.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for system development and demonstration for the ER/MP UAV. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (43%), Adelanto, CA (14%), Palmdale, CA (8%), Salt Lake City, UT (18%), Hunt Valley, MD (14%), and Huntsville, AL (3%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2009. There were 120 bids solicited on Sept. 1, 2004, and 3 bids were received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

According to DID’s calculations based on DefenseLINK public announcements, about $167 million of the $215.4 million ER/MP program’s contracts have been issued as of this increment.

Aug 6/07: +2 YMQ-1C. General Atomics in San Diego, CA received a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for $7.3 million to provide 2 Pre-Production YMQ-1C Block X aircraft. General Atomics has confirmed to DID that these are USAF versions of the Army Sky Warrior. See the May 7/07 entry and Appendix A for details; this award should be seen in the context of the USAF’s effort to take over UAV authority.

At this time, total funds have been obligated. Solicitations began in April 2006, negotiations were completed in July 2007, and work will be complete in January 2009 (FA8620-05-G-3028-0018).

July 5/07: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego, CA received a $14.7 million increment as part of a $215.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for system development and demonstration for the ER/MP Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (43%), Adelanto, CA (14%), Palmdale, CA (8%), Salt Lake City, UT (18%), Hunt Valley, MD (14%), and Huntsville, AL (3%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2009. There were 120 bids solicited on Sept. 1, 2004, and 3 bids were received (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

June 27/07: UAV Wars. Air Force Times report: With the question of whether there should be an executive agency in charge of medium- and high-altitude UAVs still hanging in the air, U.S. deputy defense secretary Gordon England wrote in a letter earlier in June to Army and Air Force leaders asking the services to collaborate on procuring and operating the Predator and Warrior UAVs. Army and Air Force officials were asked to submit briefings to England by the end of June 2007.

June 6/07: The first ER/MP Sky Warrior aircraft flew successfully from General Atomics’ El Mirage Flight Operations Facility in Adelanto, CA. The company-owned Block 0 aircraft completed all stated objectives for its maiden flight. General Atomics release.


May 17/07: UAV Wars. The Congressional Government Accountability Office releases report #GAO-07-578, “Greater Synergies Possible for DOD’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Systems,” which explicitly discusses the possible merger of Warrior & Predator programs. It mentions that “The Air Force and the Army are currently working to identify program synergies in a three-phased approach:

  • First, the Air Force will acquire and test two of the more modern Warrior airframes.

  • Second, the two services will compare their requirements for ground control stations and automated takeoff and landing.

  • Finally, the Army and Air Force plan to compare concepts of operation and training requirements for additional synergies.”

May 10/07: The JROC directs the USAF to flesh out its executive agency plan. No firm deadline is set, and no firm decision is taken.

May 7/07: “Predator Block X”. General Atomics in San Diego, CA received a $10.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract from the USAF’s Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH. This contract action will provide a series of required tasks to design, fabricate, integrate, and test the Predator MQ-1B Block X aircraft which will utilize a Heavy Full Engine (HFE), will support a 3,200 lbs gross take-off weight, and will carry 4 Hellfire missiles (2 on each wing). The Predator MQ-1B Block X shall leverage off technology from the existing Predator B (MQ-9) program, the Army’s ER/MP program, and on-going GA-ASI internal research and development efforts. At this time, total funds have been obligated. Solicitations began June 2006 and negotiations were complete April 2007 (FA8620-05-G-3028-0016).

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the ability to operate the engine on “heavy” fuels like diesel, and to carry 4 Hellfire missiles instead of 2, constitute the two biggest differences between the USAF’s MQ-1 Predator and the Army’s Warrior UAV. This award should be seen in the context of the USAF’s effort to take over UAV authority, vid. Appendix A.

May 7/07: UAV Wars. Officials with the DoD’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) meet with Army and Air Force officials to discuss proposals to put all such UAVs under a single executive agency. See Appendix A for more background.

April 6/07: General Atomics Aeronautical System in San Diego, CA received a $5.3 million modification to a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for ERMP Block 0 UAVs. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (65%), Adelanto, CA (5%), Palmdale, CA (5%), and Salt Lake City, UT (25%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on June 21, 2006 (W58RGZ-06-C-0208).

March 5/07: UAV Wars. US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley’s circulates a memo, proposing to name his service as the Pentagon executive agent for UAVs. See Appendix A for more background.

Feb 14/07: 4 more. General Atomics Aeronautical System in San Diego, CA received an $11.7 million modification to a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for acquisition of 4 ERMP Block 0 UAVs, associated support equipment, and initial spares. This appears to be the initial installment on the test aircraft.

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (65%), Adelanto, CA (5%), Palmdale, CA (5%), and Salt Lake City, UT (25%), and is expected to be complete by Dec. 18, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on June 21, 2006 (W58RGZ-06-C-0208).

Jan 9/07: FCS changes. The US Army restructures its $160+ billion Future Combat Systems program, and “delays”/ eliminates its Class II and Class III UAVs. The Warrior ERMP is expected to be one of the existing systems filling the Class III brigade-level gap.

Dec 22/06: General Atomics Aeronautical System, San Diego, CA was received a $63.1 million increment as part of “a $215.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for System Development and Demonstration for the Extended Range / Multi-Purpose Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.”

Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (43%), Adelanto, CA (14%), Palmdale, CA (8%), Salt Lake City, UT (18%), Hunt Valley, MD (14%), and Huntsville, AL (3%), and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2009. There were 120 bids solicited on Sept. 1, 2004, and 3 bids were received by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

March 13/06: DID – Warrior UAV Program Underway. $67 million increment received for the Warrior program, as part of a “$214.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for System Development and Demonstration for the Extended Range / Multi-Purpose Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” (W58RGZ-05-C-0069).

Oct 6/05: DID – AAI Takes Another UAV Ground Control Project. A $30 million subcontract for the Warrior UAV’s ground control.

Aug 8/05: Winner! General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in San Diego, CA has won a $214.4 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for research, development, test and evaluation of the Extended Range Multi Purpose Unmanned Aerial Vehicle system (ERMP UAV).

One hundred twenty bids were solicited on Sept 1/04, and 3 bids were received. Work will be performed at facilities in 6 locations: San Diego, Adelanto and Palmdale, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Hunt Valley, MD; and Huntsville, AL, and is estimated to be complete by Aug. 31, 2009. The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL issued the contract (W58RGZ-05-C-0069). The Army’s public affairs office can be reached at (256) 955-9174.


Appendix A: US Army et. al. vs. USAF Over UAVs

US Army Air Corps

Faced with an aerial tanker fleet that’s 50+ years old, front line fighters under flight restrictions due to age and fatigue, and heavy strain on transport aircraft resources, the USAF has been making strenuous efforts to take over the UAV domain. At the moment, UAVs are bought by individual services: Army, Navy, USAF, Marines. The Army in particular has been using UAVs for reconnaissance and persistent fire support, as in-house assets that involve less organizational friction to deploy, and can be prioritized for purchase according to the needs of soldiers on the ground.

The USAF had asked for authority over all American UAVs before, but this was refused. The Pentagon’s JROC(Joint Requirements Oversight Committee) determined that an executive agent was not necessary. Instead, they created the Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center of Excellence at Creech Air Force Base, NV to share operational tips; and the Joint Unmanned Aerial Systems Materiel Review Board in order to work out best practices for materiel. There is also a US Army UAV Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, AL.

The end of the argument? No, because of the organizational and budgetary threat that non-USAF UAVs represent.

Viper Strike
(click to view larger)

One measure of the potential threat can be inferred from usage figures. As of September 2007, MQ-1 Predator UAVs had reached 300,000 flight hours since inception around 2001, of which 80% were combat flight. Fully 1/3 of those flight hours were accumulated in the previous 12 months, and total fleet flying hours had risen to 10,000 hours/month. On Nov 9/07, Jane’s International Defense Review reported that by the end of the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2007, US Army UAVs had flown a total of 295,181 hours in Iraq, nearly 18% of the total hours flown by the army aviation fleet.

Well below a Predator’s size threshold, US Army RQ-7 Shadow battalion-level UAVs are racking up 8,000 flight hours per month in Iraq (almost equal to the Predators’ recent totals), accompanied by US Army RQ-5 Hunter aircraft that sit somewhere between a Predator and Shadow in size and are accumulating their own flight time. Smaller UAVs like the popular RQ-11 Raven, meanwhile, are racking up their own significant totals, with shorter flight times offset by much larger numbers in the field to produce 300,000 flight hours in 2007 alone. The Army reached 1 million UAV flight hours for its fleet of RQ-5 Hunter, RQ-7 Shadow, RQ-11 Raven, RQ-18 gMAV, and MQ-1C ER/MP UAVs in April 2010, and is adding to that at 25,000 hours per month.

The RQ-5 Hunters have been tested with Viper Strike mini-bombs, and the Shadows may be eligible as well if the Army wishes. Shadows will certainly be eligible for NAVAIR’s 5-6 pound Spike missile project (scheduled for an autumn 2007 UAV test), and all UAVs can provide targeting for M30 GPS-guided MLRS rockets, long-range ATACMS MLRS missiles, or the 155mm Excalibur artillery shells entering service in Q3 2007. Larger UAVs like the Sky Warrior add Hellfire II missiles, the 250 lb. Small Diameter Bombs, and 250 – 500 lb. GPS-guided JDAMs or laser-guided Paveway bombs to the mix.

With these fire support assets on the airframe or on call, most close air support functions encountered in counterinsurgency missions can be covered.

Manned fighters offer their own advantages: anti-air capabilities, a payload capacity several times a UAV’s, greatly improved panoramic visibility, no need for potentially vulnerable or limited-bandwidth long-range communications in order to fly, better intimidation presence via fast flyovers, and better survivability/ fewer crashes. In counterinsurgency scenarios, however, air threats are minimal to nonexistent, fighters are usually loaded with just a couple of weapons; and except for the A-10 or dedicated COIN (COunter-INsurgency) turboprops, the planes are moving so quickly that they must rely on targeting pods with the same narrow field of view as a UAV pilot’s. That still leaves intimidation and survivability advantages, but your average jet fighter is extremely expensive to buy, has a 7,000 – 10,000 hour airframe life, costs many multiples of dollars per flight hour to operate, and offers an on-station time that is usually less than half that of a Predator class MALE UAV.

Specialty close-support aircraft like the USA’s A-10, gunships like the AC-130s, and even COIN turboprops offer combinations of affordability and/or compelling advantages that keep them competitive in counterinsurgency scenarios. Can the same be said for the USAF’s F-16s, F-15… or its future F-35 Lightning II and F-22A Raptor fighters? In their January 2007 article “UAVs With Bite,” Air Force Magazine notes that:

“The Air Force now has provisional plans to buy some 170 Predator MQ-1s by 2010 and acquire 50 to 70 MQ-9s by around 2012, for a total of 220 or more of the combat-capable drones. At present, the service plans on retiring a comparable number of F-16s over the same period.”

MQ-1 Predator:
circling to kill?
(click to view full)

This calculus is why some observers saw the UAV fight as the “Key West Agreement” fight for the 21st century, with the outcome determining the future organizational backbone and role of the USAF – and other services besides.

Hence the USAF’s persistence. The USAF’s return foray in March 2007 involved a move to take over acquisition authority for all UAVs designed to operate at “medium or high altitudes.” Battalion-level UAVs like the RQ-7 Shadow 200 might or might not escape, but even so the maneuver would neatly strip away virtually all armed UAVs, and hence the bureaucratic threat of Army UAVs evolving toward the USAF’s close air support role. Besides, with the USAF re-organizing its ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) assets into their own dedicated function, they can always come back for the rest later under a “unified ISR” claim, once a large portion of UAV acquisition and prioritization are already under their control.

The ER/MP Warrior program is obviously a front-line target in this fight, given its derivation from the MQ-1 Predator UAVs the USAF had already bought in quantity, before switching future orders to the larger MQ-9 Reaper.

Three broad-brush outcomes were possible:

# The US Army and USAF retain separate control of their UAVs, and continue to work out standards et. al. through the established joint centers of excellence; Warrior program unaffected.
# The USAF does NOT acquire executive authority over UAVs, but there is consolidation between the US Army and USAF MQ-1 variants/programs to a common version. This is the current state. The Warrior program survives only if it becomes that common version.
# The USAF acquires executive authority over “medium to high altitude” UAVs. The ER/MP Warrior UAV program is almost certainly canceled, future USMC programs are under threat, and the Navy will have to fight to maintain control of its own programs.

In the end, the answer was solution #1, with a twist. The USAF also switched its future UAV production plans from the Predator to the MQ-9 Reaper, whose high altitude performance and 3,000 pound ordnance load give it dramatically different capabilities.

There’s obviously a larger debate going on here. The Kasserine Pass disaster in World War 2, where commanders in quiet sectors refused to turn over their aircraft to units under fire, provided the impetus for today’s TacAir system, which puts airmen in charge of managing and allocating air assets in response to the needs of the ground commander. At some level, the USAF arguments hark back to that concept, and to the 1948 “Key West Accords,” which ended up turning Army Aviation into a helicopter force. There’s also a procurement angle, as noted during coverage of USAF Chief of Staff Moseley’s testimony on this issue before Congress:

“Without an executive agency, the services will likely continue their separate design and procurement efforts, and the DOD will have forfeited the considerable savings it could have realized. Additionally, DOD will have lost an opportunity to create and harness the interservice synergies that would result from building upon — rather than duplicating — each service’s strengths, General Moseley said.”

On the other hand, the US Army hasn’t always felt well served by the USAF’s procurement priorities, which many feel have tended to emphasize high-end USAF assets at the expense of some key roles (forward observation, light transport, close support) needed by troops on the ground. That fact that UAVs serve in a couple of the roles that have previously received short shrift doesn’t make the Army feel any better. They also worry that a service run by fighter jocks is likely to steer unmanned systems away from anything that might intrude on their established roles, or call high-ticket platforms into question. The last 40 years of organizational and political theory tends to support that worry.

Tim Owings, deputy project manager for the Army’s unmanned aircraft systems:

“From our perspective, consistently what has come out of theater is the need for our commanders to have direct control and ownership of the UAV application. That has played out in every theater that we have been in.”

In 2010, director of the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Timothy Muchmore brought the issue into sharp relief, when he was quoted as saying that:

“The air power provided by our sister services has dominated the third dimension, but the Army is unable to leverage that third dimension… We’ve had two combat outposts overrun by superior forces [during the past year]. Those are losses that we consider unacceptable, because we couldn’t see what was going on around the outposts.”

Anyone who has worked in a large organization can see the shape of the bureaucratic battle here. On one side, you have the staff department, preaching the benefits and savings of centralization and standards, and urging central control over the function. Some of those benefits may be real. Some of the “joint” and “team” rhetoric may also be real. But the real issue is control. On the other hand, you have the front-line business unit managers who want resources that are dedicated to their needs – and under their clear authority, in order to ensure required accountability and service levels. Some of that may be required. Still, the key is not so much the promised dedication as the control that guarantees it. Throw in a central department that has sometimes placed business unit needs lower on the priority scale than their own long term plans, add a dash of politics, and stir.

The US Navy, with a long history of running its own aviation programs, and the qualifying UCAS-D unmanned strike aircraft and BAMS maritime reconnaissance UAV programs underway, will not be watching idly. Nor will the US Marines, who also operate integrated aircraft and have UAV plans of their own.

There’s always a proper balance point in any organization, and points beyond which either central control or local control of key functions can become dysfunctional. The thing is, there’s no set recipe. It’s different in each organization, and depends on the situation, past institutional performance, and (legitimately) on the personalities involved at the time.

Where is that balance point for the US military and UAVs? Because there’s a larger issue a-wing beyond the ER/MP program – and this time, getting the answer right really is a matter of life and death.

  • = DID is aware that the US Army Air Corps no longer exists.


fn1. A communication from General Atomics to DID referred to the platform as the “MC-1C”, a designation DID subsequently used in the article. Andreas Parsch of the fine site Designation Systems asked some questions about that, and the investigation revealed that it had been a typo. DID has corrected the article accordingly. Danke schön, Andreas.

Appendix B: Who Controls the UAVs? Readings & Primers

“Predator-series aircraft have amassed over a half-million flight hours and will soon complete 50,000 total missions, with 85-percent of that time spent in combat… Predator-series aircraft are now flying over 20,000 hours a month supporting U.S. coalition forces in combat and homeland security requirements… In the past year alone, monthly flight hours have doubled. Over 300 Predator-series aircraft have been produced to date”

  • DID (Aug 29/08) – UAMS Experiment Brings Deconfliction Closer for Smaller UAVs. If efforts like UAMS succeed, the argument for single-service UAV control suffers a major blow.

  • US Army (July 3/08) – Leaders discuss new joint unmanned aerial operations. “Army and Air Force leaders met Monday to discuss developing a new joint unmanned aerial system concept of operations…”

  • NY Times (June 22/08) – At Odds With Air Force, Army Adds Its Own Aviation Unit. Project ODIN includes both manned C-12s and UAVs like SkyWarrior. “The work of the new aviation battalion was initially kept secret, but Army officials involved in its planning say it has been exceptionally active, using remotely piloted surveillance aircraft to call in Apache helicopter strikes with missiles and heavy machine gun fire that have killed more than 3,000 adversaries in the last year and led to the capture of almost 150 insurgent leaders.” See also…

  • CASR (June 22/08) – Counterinsurgency Legacy – US Army Aviation Supports its Own: US Air Force turns out to be too Tardy to be Tactically Useful. Excerpts and background the NYT article. The US Army is reportedly seeking money to raise a similar unit in Afghanistan by late 2008/early 2009.

  • (March 18/08) – Army Embarks on Ambitious UAV Program. Discusses key tactical and operational differences between the Army and USAF’s use of UAVs.

  • US Air Force Association, Air Force Magazine (October 2007) – The Big Squeeze. Describes steps the USAF is taking to improve its ISR capabilities, the challenges, and some of the platforms involved. As recapitalization of major assets is pushed back, UAV/UAS options will grow in popularity.

  • Lexington Institute (Sept 5/07) – Army Plans For Reconnaissance Drones Misuse A Vital Asset. Loren Thompson’s analysis explains the drivers at both ends of the UAV controversy without really addressing the implications of each, and without securing some underlying assumptions re: employment. Both sets of drivers and assumptions may even be true as written, and the question then becomes one of priorities:

bq. “Only 34 of the 1,200 drones U.S. forces are using in Southwest Asia can operate beyond the line of sight of ground controllers, so sometimes the wait for access to that handful of planes can be quite lengthy… Under the Army plan, if five divisions were deployed in Iraq (as is presently the case), their combined inventory of 60 Predators would be able to keep 12-15 aloft at any given time. In contrast, the approach used by the Air Force can keep nearly three times as many drones in the air because the availability of the fleet is not tied to rotation patterns and concentrating all the drones at a few sites permits maintenance efficiencies.”

Additional Readings

Thanks to DID correspondent Trent Telenko for his assistance.

Background: Gray Eagle UAVs & Related Tech

Background: Sensors and Ancillaries

Official Reports

News & Views

Categories: News

Korea’s K21 KNIFV

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 23:47

Doosan K21 concept
(click to view full)

South Korea is steadily becoming a force to be reckoned with in the global defense market. Its world-leading shipyards are successfully building and and delivering vessels that include KDX-III AEGIS destroyers and Dokdo Class LHD amphibious assault ships. Its aerospace firms are beginning to see orders from the ROKAF and beyond for trainer (KT-1, T-50) aircraft, are partnering with Eurocopter to create a new medium helicopter (KHP), and will soon offer a compelling lightweight fighter (F/A-50). On land, the indigenous K1A1 tank was followed by the XK-2 “Black Panther,” which was exported to Turkey as the Altay. The K9/K10 mobile howitzer offering is expected to grab a significant chunk of that global market over the next decade. Now, a modern Infantry Fighting Vehicle looks set to round out those offerings.

Doosan is a large Korean conglomerate, whose best known brand is probably Bobcat construction equipment. Other offerings range the gamut, including South Korea’s Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets, Doosan Feed agricultural supplies, franchised “Donga” private schools; and the new Doosan DST subsidiary, which manufactures the K21 KNIFV(Korea Next-generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle). October 2008 saw the first major order placed, and now the first deliveries have taken place…

  • K21 KNIFV: Characteristics
  • K21 KNIFV: Contracts and Key Events
  • Additional Readings

K21 KNIFV: Characteristics

The competition: M2
(click to view full)

The K21 leans toward the light end of the IFV spectrum, at 26 tonnes (about 28.67 tons), thanks in part to a chassis that will reportedly be built out of fiberglass. In addition to weight savings, this may avoid some of the mine lethality problems experienced by vehicles that use aluminum, which quickly becomes molten and creates additional hazards. As a point of comparison, the Bradley M2A3 and its aluminum chassis weigh about 33.5 tons, before reactive armor tiles are added. Doosan states that the K21 can travel at speeds of up to 70 km/h (about 42 mph) on land and 7 km/h (about 4-5 mph) in water, about the same as BAE’s M2 Bradley.

It will carry a crew of 3, plus up to 9 troops.

The vehicle is expected to share some systems with its companion, the new K2 Black Panther tank. An improved version of the K21’s D2840LXE V-10 turbocharged diesel engine is expected to equip the K2, and the vehicles are expected to share a semi-active in-arm suspension. Other expected commonalities, aside from standardized C4I equipment like Korea’s chosen battle management system, include an “active defense” system against incoming rockets ad anti-armor missiles. An unspecified armoring system that is expected to use a layered composite made of multiple different materials, but little is known except the fact that Doosan’s goal was a vehicle that could match the survivability of America’s M2 Bradleys and Russia’s BMP-3s. The fuel tanks are reportedly soft and self-sealing, in order to help absorb the impact of a projectile or blast. Automatic fire suppressors and other standard equipment will also be fitted.

Armament will include a stabilized 40mm cannon and coaxial 7.62mm machine gun for fire-on-the-move accuracy, along with the ability to mount 2 anti-tank missiles in a side box launcher. Doosan, which also plans to make missiles, refers to a “third generation Korean-made tank-to-tank missile in the future, which will allow it to attack tanks and helicopters.” That armament will be controlled by a “hunter/killer” arrangement that uses independent sensors and sights for the commander and the gunner, similar to Germany’s Puma IFV and the M2A3/M3A3 Bradley.

Wikipedia reports the current estimated cost of the vehicle at approximately KRW 3.2 billion. Exchange rates fluctuate, but if true, and if that price remains stable, it would be about $2.3 million per vehicle at March 2009 rates.

The firm intends to seek exports around the globe, which means it will compete with BAE’s powerhouse M2/M3 Bradley and CV90 offerings, Russia’s BMP-3, Singapore’s Bionix, and to some extent with Germany’s Puma at the high end of the tracked IFV market. It will also compete indirectly with wheeled APC/IFV options like General Dynamics MOWAG’s Piranha/LAV family, General Dynamics Steyr’s Pandur II, Patria of Finland’s popular AMV, France’s VBCI, and the German-Dutch Boxer MRAV.

K21 KNIFV: Contracts and Key Events

K21 in Seoul, 2007
(click to view full)

February 26/17: L-3 Technologies has won a $17.3 million contract to provide South Korea with 800-horsepower transmission kits. The kits will power Seoul’s next-generation K21 infantry fighting vehicles as well as their fleet of light recovery vehicles. Designed by Hanwha Defense Systems to replace the current fleet of K200 armored transport vehicles, the K21 weighs 20% lighter than its predecessor and is armed with a 105mm turret weapon.

Nov 27/09: Doosan DST holds a ceremony at its Changwon Plant to mark the first shipment of K-21 infantry combat armed vehicles. The vehicles are scheduled to enter service by the end of 2009. Doosan DST CEO Um Hang-seok has high ambitions for the vehicle, and said in the release:

“We are very proud that the K-21 infantry armed vehicle, a state-of-the-art weapon that has been developed and produced exclusively by us, will take root as the mainstay of the Korean military’s combat capability. We will seek to export the K-21 to many countries around the world, and develop Doosan DST into a leading global defense supplier that is representative of Korea.”

March 23/09: Northrop Grumman’s LITEF navigation systems subsidiary in Freiburg, Germany announces a contract from Doosan DST Co., Ltd. to deliver LLN-G1 inertial navigation units for the K21 IFV.

LLN-G1 is a hybrid land navigation system based on state-of-the-art fiber optic gyros and LITEF’s micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) accelerometer. Combining inertial sensors with an odometer and GPS data, the LLN-G1 provides accurate and unjammable three-dimensional position and attitude data for vehicle commanders and crews.

Jan 5/09: Doosan DST, which was established in December 2008, has its inaugural ceremony. The new spin-off, which is 100% owned by Doosan Infracore Co. Ltd., has been founded at a 200,000 square meter property in Seongju-dong, Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. The new firm has 650 employees, 100 billion won in paid-in capital, a 58% debt ratio, and 495.2 billion won in annual sales.

Doosan DST looks set to focus on combat vehicles, ground-to-air and guided weapons, and precision equipment. The firm intends to be an active exporter. Doosan release.

Nov 12/08: Doosan Infracore Co. Ltd. announces that it plans to split its defense business off into a separate company. The firm plans to finish the procedure of splitoff and incorporation registration, through the extraordinary general meeting of shareholders, by the end of 2008.

Oct 30/08: Doosan Infracore Co., Ltd. announces a 457.8 billion won ($327 million equivalent) contract with South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration, to supply the first batch of its K21 armored vehicles. Under the deal, the Company is set to begin deliveries in 2009.

Um Hang-seok, head of Doosan Infracore’s Defense Business Group, states the firm’s intentions:

“The K21 is far superior in performance to other equipment of its kind produced in advanced countries, and is competitive in terms of price. As such, we plan to actively seek its export to the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America.”

2005: A total of 11 defense equipment suppliers in Korea, including the government’s Agency for Defense Development and Doosan Infracore, work to produce 3 XK21 prototypes early in the year. Source.

Additional Readings

YouTube Video

Categories: News

Boeing Sues Chem Suppliers for Damages in KC-46 Delay | Milrem Wows ME with THeMIS at IDEX | Airbus Asking European Govs for Penalty Ease

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 23:59

  • Boeing is taking some suppliers to court after they sold mislabeled chemicals that caused the maiden flight of the KC-46 tanker to be delayed by a month. Able Aerospace Adhesives and AlfaKleen Chemical Labs, both from California, are being sued in the sum of $10 million or more for the mix up, whose incorrect chemical damaged components in the jet’s refueling system, and time was lost by Boeing in order to to replace those damaged parts. The liquid provided was certified to meet MIL-PRF-680 Type III certification; it was, however, actually more acidic than required.

  • Huntington Ingalls Industries has marked a production milestone for the USS Frank E. Petersen during a keel authentication ceremony. The company was contracted by the Navy in March 2016 to produce the Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA guided missile destroyer which is named after Frank Emmanuel Petersen Jr., who served as the USMC’s first African-American pilot and general officer. During the ceremony, Petersen’s window, Dr. Alicia Petersen said, “He wasn’t a man who wanted a lot of praise or recognition; however, if he could see this great ship being built for other young men and young women to see and look up to, he would be very proud.”

Middle East & North Africa

  • Turkey is moving closer to finalizing its purchase of the S-400 air-defense system from Russia. Negotiations between the two governments have been ongoing since last August and are in line with Ankara’s goals to import a system to cover their current missile defense needs while their own contractors work to produce a domestic platform. Turkey has had an eye on the S-400 as far back as 2013 and had intended to make a deal with China for the system before US-led pressure tried to reorient Turkey toward a NATO-compatible system. Frustration between Turkey and its Western allies and the ongoing warming in relations with Russia has, however, led Ankara back toward Russian defense purchases.

  • While probably best known for tech start-ups, Estonia’s Milrem is looking to take the Middle East and North Africa defense market by storm with their modular unmanned ground vehicle, THeMIS. Boasting three different configurations, the vehicle is capable of acting as a remote weapons station, a transport vehicle for soldier cargo, and a counter IED system. THeMIS uses technologies from Raytheon UK, Advanced Electronics Company and IGG Aselsan Systems, who have all been helping in the marketing effort, and has been on display at this week’s IDEX 2017 expo in the UAE.


  • Germany’s UN operations in Mali are looking at requesting a number of surveillance airships like the ones used by US forces in Afghanistan. Fitted with threat-detecting sensors, the tethered aerostats can be used to provide radar surveillance to detect threats such as drones or surface targets. Potential procurement options for Berlin include buying used aerostats built by Lockheed Martin for the US Army, purchasing new lighter-than-air surveillance aerostats built by Lockheed or other suppliers, or opting to lease the equipment. Germany’s move to beef up security in Mali comes following January’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated suicide bombing that killed 77 people at a military base housing government soldiers in the northern town of Gao.

  • The protest against Kenya’s purchase of 12 armed Air Tractor AT-802s from the US continues, after five US lawmakers wrote to Nairobi’s ambassador to Washington urging them to rethink the deal. Four Republicans and one Democrat signed the joint letter saying that they “have a reason to question the propriety of the acquisition.” They also said that the winning contractor, L-3 Technologies, “has no experience converting agricultural aircraft into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft with precision-strike capability.” The issue came to light after contractor IOMAX, who developed the border patrol variant of the AT-802, protested against the award to L-3, claiming they had not been notified of any competition to supply such aircraft. It may have been the case that Kenya requested the AT-802L from Air Tractor and its systems-integration partner (and prime) L3 Technologies, confusing it with IOMAX’s AT-802-based Archangel Border Patrol Aircraft (BPA) which has been sold to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and regional allies.


  • Airbus has asked European governments to ease punitive penalties against the company in relation to delays in its delivery of the A400M transporter, after the company received a fresh hit of $1.3 billion. Partner governments have been growing weary with Airbus after recent problems in regards to the plane’s delivery, gearbox issues, and delays in supplying defensive aids, and the project has been hit further by bureaucratic arguments and the withholding of cash from governments. “We cannot go on like that. This is unacceptable and puts a huge burden on Airbus and we need to do something about it,” Chief Executive Tom Enders said.

Asia Pacific

  • China and Russia have completed contracts for the delivery of the of S-400 air defense system, Su-35 fighters, and anti-ship missiles. The announcement was made by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu at the opening of the second national youth forum International Military-Political and Military-Economic Cooperation: Modern Trends at the MIGIMO University. Speaking on the matter, Shoigu said “Russian-Chinese military-technical cooperation has been developing positively.”

Today’s Video

  • Milrem’s THeMIS vehicle:

Categories: News

Adding Arleigh Burkes: H.I.I. Steps Forward for DDG-51 Restart

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 23:59

DDG-110 Construction
(click to view full)

In April 2009 Bath and Ingalls agreed to the Navy’s surface combatant plans, thus heralding a significant restructuring within the American naval shipbuilding community. Under the agreements, the USA would end production at 3 Graf Spee sized DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class “destroyers,” but shift all production from the Congressionally-mandated joint arrangements to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine, which had already made program-related investments in advanced shipbuilding technologies.

Northrop Grumman (now Huntington Ingalls Industries) would retain its DDG-1000 deckhouse work, but their main exchange was additional orders for DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers. Their Ingalls yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi would continue building the DDG-51 destroyers, beginning with 2 ordered in FY 2010-2011.

The US Navy’s Revised DDG-51 Plan

(click to view full)

With the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class ended at 3 ships, the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class ships will become more important to the future navy. The Navy’s FY 2011 budget also terminated the planned CG (X) cruiser program as unaffordable. Instead, the US Navy would field an updated DDG-51 Flight III version, starting in FY 2016.

That date has been pushed back, owing to technical issues with the Flight III ships. Under the current plan, the DDG-51 Flight IIA Restart version would remain in production from FY 2010-2017, buying 13 ships in total (DDG 113 – 125) under a multi-year buy program. Huntington Ingalls Industries ships ordered to date are both named after Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, and include:

  • DDG 113 John Finn
  • DDG 114 Ralph Johnson

Both Bath Iron Works and HII will continue to build ships of class, but lead yard status for the “DDG-51 restart” ships shifted to Northrop Grumman (now HII) during the restructuring. GD Bath Iron Works is currently contracted to build DDG 115 Rafael Peralta and & DDG 116 Thomas Hudner, as the DDG-51 follow-yard.

Beyond the Flight IIAs, US Navy plans once called for buying an undetermined number of DDG-51 Flight IIIs from FY 2016 through at least FY 2022, and perhaps until FY 2031. The follow-on DDG-51 Flight IIIs are expected to carry a smaller version of the new Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR-S) dual-band active array that was slated for the canceled CG (X), along with the upgraded power and cooling systems required to support it. Other enhancements will be fleshed out as detailed design work on the Flight III commences, reportedly in FY 2012-2013. Unfortunately, there have been early reports that integration of the AMDR radar could prove to be a problem. The new radar will need to have a power draw that the ship can handle, cooling needs that the ship’s design can meet, and a size that can fit within the ship’s available space, all without changing the destroyer’s balance and stability. That is, to put it mildly, a challenge. So, too, are growing cost estimates that are edging the DDG-51 Flight III toward the price of larger and more advanced DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class ships.

Flight III buys now appear set to start no earlier than FY 2018, if indeed they start at all. Current plans do call for an interim step, however, as part of the proposed 2012-2017 multi-year buy.

Under the current multi-year proposal, 1 of 2 FY 2016 ships (DDG 123), and both FY 2017 ships (DDG 124-125), will “incorporate Flight III capability,” but not the new radars themselves. The addition of the AMDR-S radar and other associated systems would be funded as an engineering change proposal (ECP), so it doesn’t look like it’s affecting multi-year pricing. Otherwise, the Navy wouldn’t be able to show enough savings [1] to justify a multi-year buy under US laws. The Flight III ECP won’t be awarded until the Flight III Milestone Decision Authority approves the configuration, and the greatest risk would be changes that involve significant retrofits of DDG 123-125, beyond adding the AMDR radar. Those kinds of changes are always much more expensive than installing systems during ship construction.

Contracts & Key Events

Article coverage essentially terminated in FY 2013, as the USA moved to a multi-year block-buy from both shipyards to finance remaining Flight IIA destroyers, and the initial Flight III ships.

One thing to notice while reading these is that ship construction contracts do not include important equipment like guns, radar, combat systems, missile launchers, etc. Those are bought independently as “Government Furnished Equipment,” though ship construction contracts do pay to have that equipment installed in the ships. Many of those contracts are not publicly announced, or not broken out specifically by ship. As such, any ancillary contracts covered here are suggestive and informative, not comprehensive. Indeed, those “ancillary” contracts make up the largest portion of the ship’s total cost.

FY 2013 – 2017

February 23/17: Huntington Ingalls Industries has marked a production milestone for the USS Frank E. Petersen during a keel authentication ceremony. The company was contracted by the Navy in March 2016 to produce the Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA guided missile destroyer which is named after Frank Emmanuel Petersen Jr., who served as the USMC’s first African-American pilot and general officer. During the ceremony, Petersen’s window, Dr. Alicia Petersen said, “He wasn’t a man who wanted a lot of praise or recognition; however, if he could see this great ship being built for other young men and young women to see and look up to, he would be very proud.”

July 22/15: The Chief of Naval Operation Adm. Jonathan Greenert wants to buy ten Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (DDGS) to the tune of two a year, according to his Navigation Plan announced this week. This will bring the total number to be procured by 2020 to seventy-two. The Plan also calls for the procurement of the Navy’s Small Surface Combatant frigates by 2019, as well as investment in deterrent and attack submarines. The latter would involve boosting the fleet of Virginia-class boats to twenty-two within five years, in addition to the maintenance of the Ohio-class ballistic missile boats, with a replacement eyed for 2031.

April 15/15: The future Flight III Arleigh-Burke Class destroyers are making good progress, with an order scheduled for 2019. The Navy recently told Congress that the program would take the shape of a ten-ship multi-year procurement contract.

Nov 4/13: DDG 113. HII officially lays the keel for DDG 113 John Finn. She’s the 1st ship of the DDG 51 program restart, and will become the 29th Arleigh Burke Class ship built by HII. Sources: US NAVSEA, “Keel Laid for Future USS John Finn”.

Sept 12/13: DDG 114. The Navy marked the start of fabrication for DDG 114, the future USS Ralph Johnson. Keel laying won’t take place until Q3 2014. Sources: US NAVSEA, “Future USS Ralph Johnson starts fabrication”.

FY 2012

Mk 45 firing
(click to view full) June 7/12: Lead vs. Follow Yard. Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. in Pascagoula, MS receives a $17.3 million cost-plus-award-fee/ cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with performance incentives, for DDG 51 class follow yard services. The firm explained that they remain the follow-yard behind General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works for previous Arleigh Burke Class destroyers in the US Fleet (DDGs 51-112).

As the follow yard, they offer many of the same services as the lead yard, when required. That includes engineering, technical, material procurement and production support; configuration; class flight upgrades and new technology support; data and logistics management; lessons learned analysis; acceptance trials; post delivery test and trials; post shakedown availability support; reliability and maintainability; system safety program support; material and fleet turnover support; shipyard engineering teams; crew training, design tool/ design standardization, detail design development, and other technical and engineering analyses for the purpose of supporting DDG 51 class ship construction and test and trials.

In addition, DDG 51 class follow-yard services may provide design, engineering, procurement and manufacturing/ production services to support design feasibility studies and analyses that modify DDG 51 class destroyers for Foreign Military Sales programs. Japan’s Kongou Class, and South Korea’s KDX-III destroyers, are both examples of that phenomenon.

Work on this contract will be performed in Pascagoula, MS (98%), and Washington, DC (2%), and is expected to be complete by February 2013. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC, as these relationships were set a long time ago (N00024-12-C-2312).

Feb 15/12: Naming. The US Navy names DDG 113-115.

DDG 113: John Finn, who retired as a lieutenant, received the Medal of Honor from Adm. Chester Nimitz for displaying “magnificent courage in the face of almost certain death” during the Japanese attack on military installations in Hawaii during Pearl Harbor.

DDG 114: Marine Corps Pfc. Ralph Henry Johnson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for shouting a warning to his fellow Marines and hurling himself on an explosive device, saving the life of one Marine and preventing the enemy from penetrating his sector of the patrol’s perimeter during the Vietnam War.

Nov 16/11: Jane’s Navy International is reporting that DDG-51 flight III destroyers with the new AMDR radar and hybrid propulsion drives could cost $3-4 billion each.

If that’s true, it’s about the same cost as a DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class ship, in return for less performance, more vulnerability, and less future upgrade space. AMDR isn’t a final design yet, so it’s still worthwhile to ask what it could cost to give the Flight IIIs’ radar and combat systems ballistic missile defense capabilities – R&D for the function doesn’t go away when it’s rolled into a separate program. Indeed, if the Flight III cost estimate is true, it raises the question of why that would be a worthwhile use of funds, and re-opens the issue of whether continuing DDG-1000 production and upgrades might make more sense. DoD Buzz.

FY 2011

Sept 26/11: The US Navy releases the totals for the June 15/11 contract: $783.6 million in shipbuilding costs for DDG 113. Note that this is just the shipbuilder’s share. It excludes key items like radars, electronics, weapons, and other “government-furnished equipment.” For the recent DDG 1001/1002 contract, Bath Iron Works’ shipbuilding costs were a bit more than $2 billion for 2 ships, each of which is expected to cost a bit less than $3 billion when all is said and done. The actual cost of DDG 113/114 would work out to around $2 billion each at a similar ratio. Equipment for an Arleigh Burke Flight IIA ship has a long production history, is less sophisticated in some ways than DDG 1000’s, and does not include extras from other shipbuilders – like the Zumwalt’s composite deckhouse from HII. As such, DDG 113’s furnished equipment is very likely to be less expensive in absolute terms. The question is, would it be more than 30% less expensive, which is required in order to be lower relative to shipbuilding costs?

The Navy also announces a $697.6 million fixed-price-incentive contract for DDG 114 construction. For DDG 114 construction, significant amounts of work will be performed in Pascagoula, MS; Cincinnati, OH; Walpole, MA; York, PA; Charlottesville, VA; Erie, PA; and Burns Harbor, IN; and is expected to be complete by July 2018. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was procured via a limited competition between Huntington Ingalls and Bath Iron Works, run by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-11-C-2305). See also HII.

August 17/11: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors, Moorestown, NJ, is awarded a $6,986,478 option exercise modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-03-C-5115) for management and engineering services to maintain and modify the design of DDG 51-class combat system compartments and topside arrangements. Required services include program management and operation support, quality assurance, configuration management, ship design integration, fleet lifecycle engineering support, installation support, firmware maintenance, combat system test and evaluation, Navy-furnished material support, special studies, and future-ship integration studies.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, N.J. (37%); Bath, ME (25%); Pascagoula, MO (22%); San Diego, Calif. (6%); Washington, DC (5%); Norfolk, VA (3M); Port Hueneme, CA (1%); and Syracuse, NY (1%). Work is expected to be completed by September 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, DC, is the contracting activity.

June 15/11: Huntington Ingalls, Inc. in Pascagoula, MS receives a fixed-price-incentive contract for DDG 113 construction, engineering change proposals, and design budgeting – in other words, the main ship contract. The US Navy just won’t tell anyone what the cost is. They’ll only say that “significant work” will be performed in Pascagoula, MS; Cincinnati, OH; Walpole, MA; Burns Harbor, IN; York, PA; and Charlottesville, VA. Work is expected to be complete by July 2017. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-11-C-2309). And yet:

“As this award represents the first DDG 51 class ship to be awarded for the continuation of the DDG 51 class program, and there is a competitive solicitation for [3] additional DDG 51 class ships, the contract award amount and percentages of work to be performed in each location for DDG 113 are considered source selection information (see 41 U.S.C. 2101, et seq., FAR 2.101 and FAR 3.104) and will not be made public at this time.”

We’ve seen a similar pattern recently in the Littoral Combat Ship program, and the net effect is to obscure the program’s major costs from public view. Depending on how long the Navy decides to define the program as competitively solicited, and it has been built in 2 shipyards for a long time now, this could obscure costs for many years. All for a critical component of the American fleet. See also H.I.I. release.

June 15/11: Defense News reports that Saudi Arabia may be shifting their focus away from a fully armed variant of the Littoral Combat Ship, carrying the smaller AN/SPY-1F radar and AEGIS combat system. In its place, they received May 2011 briefings concerning full DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers displacing about 3 times the tonnage, with ballistic missile defense capability upgrades. The cost trade-off would be about 4-6 modified LCS ships, in exchange for about 2 DDG-51 Flight IIA BMD ships.

The unspoken threat here is, of course, Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The unspoken concern is the security of a top-level defense technology, which is critical to defending the USA and its allies, in Saudi hands.

To date, the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class has never been exported per se, though their AEGIS combat system and accompanying AN/SPY-1D radars have. Japan is the only foreign country with full AEGIS BMD systems, on board their natively produced Kongo Class destroyers. Spanish F100 frigates have participated in US missile defense tests, and are eligible for the full BMD upgrade; Australia’s forthcoming Hobart Class “destroyers” are a close derivative. South Korea’s large KDX-III destroyers could be upgraded to add BMD capabilities, but the smaller SPY-1F radars on Norway’s Fridjhof Nansen Class frigates don’t have that same upgrade path available.

Another possible option for Saudi Arabia would be used US Navy DDG-51 Flight I ships, upgraded with AEGIS BMD. That would allow the Saudis to field more ships for the same money, if an agreement was reached. The costs would lie in questions about hull life and length of service, and the Flight Is’ lack of a helicopter hangar. Helicopters have been shown to be essential defenses against speedboat threats, of the kind that Iran fields in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Defense News | Information Dissemination.

June 12/11: Looking ahead, Aviation Week reports that DDG-51 Flight III may be hitting design growth problems. Power, cooling, and weight distribution have always been seen as the most likely stumbling blocks to fitting next-generation radars like AMDR on the DDG-51 hull, and:

“As the possible requirements and expectations continue to grow for the proposed DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyers, so is the concern among defense analysts and contractors that the U.S. Navy may once again be trying to pack too much into one ship… And yet it is the need to field [AMDR] that is driving some of the additional requirements for the Flight IIIs… “Sometimes we get caught up in the glamour of the high technology,” Huntington Ingalls Industries CEO Mike Petters says. “The radars get bounced around. They get changed. Their missions get changed. The technology changes. The challenge is if you let the radars drive the ships, you might not get any ships built.”

June 3/11: BAE Systems Land & Armaments, LP in Minneapolis, MN wins a $54.6 million firm-fixed-price sole-source contract for MK 41 Vertical Launching System mechanical modules and related equipment and services. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring its cumulative value to $55.5 million.

A June 22/11 BAE release reveals that the equipment will be installed in HII’s DDG 113 & 114, and Bath Iron Works’ DDG-115. Each ship will receive 2 sets, for a total of 6. Production on the missile launchers will begin in June 2011 and run through 2013, though the contract runs to September 2015. Work will be performed in Aberdeen, SD (45%); Aiken, SC (25%); York, PA (20%); Louisville, KY (5%); and Fridley, MN (5%). Work is expected to be complete by September 2015 (N00024-11-C-5301).

June 2/11: Northrop Grumman spinoff Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, MS receives a $25.3 million not-to-exceed contract modification for DDG 113 long lead time materials, which must be bought early to keep the ship on schedule.

Work will be performed in Cincinnati, OH (60%), and Pascagoula, MS (40%), and is expected to be complete by June 2011 (N00024-10-C-2308).

Feb 25/11: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $26.7 million contract modification, exercising an option for DDG 114’s Aegis weapon system, including a multi-mission signal processor, and associated special tooling and special test equipment.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (87%), and Clearwater, FL (13%), and is expected to be complete by November 2013. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract.

Dec 20/10: Raytheon Co. in Sudbury, MA receives a $45.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising options for the production of 2 AN/SPY-1Dv transmitter groups and 2 MK 99 Mod 8 fire control systems, for installation on DDG 114 (Northrop Grumman) and DDG 115 (GD). See also May 3/10.

Work will be performed in Andover, MA (88%), and Sudbury, MA (12%), and is expected to be complete by April 2013. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-5111).

Oct 14/10: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ received a $97 million contract modification t finalize production of the DDG 113 Aegis weapon system (including a multi-mission signal processor [MMSP]); plus an additional MMSP for the Surface Combat System Center on Wallops Island, VA; DDG 114-115 advanced procurement efforts; and associated technical services. Note that DDG 115 is being built by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works.

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (87%), and Clearwater, FL (13%), and is expected to be complete by October 2014 (N00024-09-C-5110).

FY 2010

Sept 29/10: BAE Systems in Louisville, KY receives a $7.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for engineering services and supplies to convert and upgrade one 5-inch/ 127mm MK 45 MOD 4 gun mount for the future guided missile destroyer DDG 113.

Work will be performed in Louisville, KY (80%), and Minneapolis, MN (20%), and is expected to be complete by February 2013. $282,340 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. The contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Port Hueneme Division in Port Hueneme, CA (N00024-07-G-5438).

Aug 23/10: Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Sudbury, MA received a $46.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, finalizing a deal to produce an AN/SPY-1D-V radar transmitter group, MK 99 Mod 8 fire control system, and other engineering services in support of DDG 113’s Aegis weapons systems ship set.

Work will be performed in Andover, MA (88%), and Sudbury, MA (12%), and is expected to be complete by February 2014. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages these contracts (N00024-09-C-5111).

June 21/10: Philadelphia Gear Corp. announces an $80 million contract to provide main reduction gears for 3 new Arleigh Burke Class destroyers (DDG 113, 114, and 115). Options for additional ships could bring the contract’s eventual total to more than $425 million.

Philadelphia Gear has supplied supplied gears, sprockets and transmissions for US Navy ships since the First World War, and the firm now specializes in the design and manufacture of Main Reduction Gears (MRGs) for front line combat and support vessels. Main reduction gears are used to turn the very fast rotational speed of an engine, such as a DDG-51 type destroyers’ LM2500 turbines, into efficient slower speed rotation of the ships’ propellers. The entire assembly weighs over 100,000 pounds, is rated at at 51,550 shp, and uses a reduction ratio of 21.3746 to 1.

Note that this contract will supply both Northrop Grumman (DDG 113/114) and Bath Iron Works (DDG 115). Earlier this year, Philadelphia Gear announced plans to move its West Coast operations from Lynwood, CA to a renovated facility in Santa Fe Springs, near Los Angeles. The new 120,000 square foot facility is slated to open in Q3 2010, and will house all assembly and test, plus more than 80% of the manufacturing work for the US Navy’s DDG program. Philadelphia Gear Corp. | FedBizOpps solicitation, which explains the exact structure of these main reduction gears.

May 3/10: “Government-Furnished Equipment” remains a substantial share of any warship’s cost. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $91.3 million firm-fixed-price not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded contract for advance procurement of the consolidated bill of material and associated labor to support beryllium oxide resistors, phase shifters, surface mount work center production and engineering services support of production of the DDG 114 and 115’s Aegis weapon system.

Aegis refers to both the SPY-1 radars that equip these ships, and the combat system that integrates the ship’s radar and weapons into a single coordinated defensive system. It is so integral to this and related ship classes that they are frequently described in common parlance as “Aegis destroyers/ cruisers/ frigates.”

Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (85%), and Clearwater, FL (15%), and is expected to be complete by December 2011. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, D.C. manages these contracts (N00024-09-C-5110).

April 22/10: Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc. in Pascagoula, MS receives an $114 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-10-C-2308), exercising an option for long lead time materials. This includes propulsion gas turbines, generators, controllable pitch propeller, and other components to support construction of DDG 114, the firm’s 30th DDG-51 destroyer.

Work will performed in Cincinnati, OH (32%); Walpole, MA (30%); Charlottesville, VA (11%); Erie, PA (7%); Anaheim, CA (7%); Warminster, PA (2%); and various locations (11%). The effort is anticipated to start immediately, with a base period of performance ending 37 months after contract award. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contracts. See also Northrop Grumman release.

Dec 2/09: Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc. in Pascagoula, MS receives a not-to-exceed $170.7 million letter contract for DDG 113 long lead time materials under the DDG 51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyer program. Funds will be used to buy things like propulsion gas turbines, generators, air conditioning systems, controllable pitch propeller and other components, so they’ll be ready in time when construction of DDG 113 begins.

Work is expected to be performed in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana., Mississippi, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington, to be completed by January 2013. This contract was not competitively procured by The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC, since Northrop Grumman had already been picked to build the ship (N00024-10-C-2308).

The formal award of the DDG 113’s main construction contract is expected in 2010. See also Northrop Grumman release.

FY 2009

April 7/09: Rep. Gene Taylor [D-MS, Seapower subcommittee chair] announces that the Pentagon has reached agreements with General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works in Maine, and with Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls Shipyard in Mississippi. Read “Bath, Ingalls Agree to Navy’s Surface Combatant Plans” for details of the arrangements.

April 6/09: US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announces his recommendations for the FY 2010 defense budget:

“…in this request, we will include funds to complete the buy of two navy destroyers in FY10. These plans depend on being able to work out contracts to allow the Navy to efficiently build all three DDG-1000 class ships at Bath Iron Works in Maine and to smoothly restart the DDG-51 Aegis Destroyer program at Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi. Even if these arrangements work out, the DDG-1000 program would end with the third ship and the DDG-51 would continue to be built in both yards.

If our efforts with industry are unsuccessful, the department will likely build only a single prototype DDG-1000 at Bath and then review our options for restarting production of the DDG-51.”

Additional Readings

Additional Readings


fn1. The FY 2013 budget’s multi-year buy proposal estimates total savings of $1.538 billion, or 8.7% savings over buying the 9 ships with annual contracts. Current destroyers have a hardware cost of $250-350 million each for their Aegis radars and weapons systems, of which “major hardware” is an overwhelming percentage. Even if we use the low-end estimate for current systems, and assume no cost for retrofitting, 3 x $250 million would cut the projected total savings in half, dropping the proposed multi-year buy below the 5% savings threshold. [return]

Categories: News

Embraer KC-390 Dry Refueling First in Rio | SAIC Previews ACV 1.1 to USMC; Deliveries Begin in March | Germany’s Stemme AG & SA’s S-Plane Plan for OPV

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 23:30

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

  • Orbital ATK has received international orders worth $600 million in the past three months for their medium-caliber cannons and related munitions, the company has revealed. The orders from multiple customers were primarily for MK44 and M230 link-fed Bushmaster Chain Guns. Speaking on the orders, Dan Olson, vice president and general manager for the company’s Armament Systems Division lauded the cannon’s easy integration for land, air, and sea applications and added that the strong sales “reflects our core mission to work together with our integrator partners as well as our allies to create and deliver superior armaments and services for those who defend their nation’s security.”

  • The Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 by Science Applications International Corporation and BAE Systems for the USMC has been unveiled for the first time. Developed to replace an aging fleet of amphibious assault vehicles, the Marines will receive a total of 16 vehicles with deliveries to commence in March. The earlier stages of the ACV 1.1 production effort were stalled by a contract protest by General Dynamics after the company was defeated in the Marine Corps’ bidding process.

Middle East & North Africa

  • The UAE is looking to have its Pantsyr-S mobile air defense system upgraded. Speaking at IDEX 2017, Russia’s Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturo said talks will be held “on modernizing this type of combat hardware and I hope that colleagues will increase the volume of orders for new modifications. So far, we’re talking about modernization with an option of deliveries.” Officials from Russia and the UAE signed contracts back in 2000 for the delivery of 50 Pantsyr-S1 systems.

  • Its been reported that investors are betting heavily on Israeli defense and cyber-security firms benefitting from US defense spending plans under President Donald Trump. Companies such as Elbit Systems, Magal Security Systems and Check Point Software Technologies have all seen their share prices soar since Trump’s election in November 2016, and could benefit further from having their American subsidiaries incorporated in the US. One contentious project- the border wall along the Mexican border- could see firms like Magal, whose sensors and command and control systems help to secure airports, borders, power plants, seaports and prisons, provide its technology for the wall.


  • Germany’s Stemme AG has reached an agreement with South Africa’s S-Plane Automation to integrate S-Plane subsystems into the Ecarys ES15 aircraft to create an Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV). Ecarys, a Stemme subsidiary that specialises in providing platforms for aerial surveillance, reconnaissance and scientific research missions, will be powered by S-Plane avionics and ground control station, and will combine the benefits of a manned aircraft with those of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), allowing for a greater variety of mission requirements.


  • Poland’s Defense Ministry has begun negotiations with three bidders for various helicopter mission requirements. Eight are being sought to fill an urgent need for special forces missions, while eight more are required to fill a 2019 naval requirement for anti-submarine warfare and maritime search and rescue operations. The urgent nature of the acquisitions will allow Warsaw to bypass certain lengthy procurement procedures and they are believed to be talking to Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Sikorsky. Despite the apparent urgency, however, the government is still insisting on offset requirements, which must be an “integral part of the contract.”

  • Often reserved exclusively for border surveillance and protection, conceptual documentary photographer Richard Mosse has used advanced new thermographic weapons and border imaging technology in order to document the ongoing refugee crisis unfolding in the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Libya, in Syria, the Sahara, the Persian Gulf, and other locations. Capable of capturing images beyond 30km, registering a heat signature of relative temperature difference, the camera identified only temperature resulting in bodies being whiter where they’re hotter. The installation is now on show in London’s Barbican Centre until April 23.

Asia Pacific

  • Pakistan has contracted Leonardo to provide an undisclosed number of additional AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters. Deliveries of the utility and transport helicopters will begin in the middle of this year. Leonardo said that the purchase will expand Pakistan’s existing AW139 fleet, adding the rotorcraft’s high performance capabilities under extreme weather conditions make it a good fit for the country’s operational environment.

Today’s Video

  • The ACV 1.1:

Categories: News

Embraer’s Multinational KC-390 Tactical Air Transport Program

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 23:29

KC-390 refuels AMXs
(click to view full)

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

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

The KC-390: Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The KC-390: Aircraft

Initial dimensions
(click to view full)

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

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

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

KC-390 range
(click to view full)

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

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

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

Contracts and Key Events 2014 – 2017

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

Embraer re: KC-390

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazil orders 28

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

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


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

KC-390 concept
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

KC-390 concept
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

KC-390 concept
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Break-Even = 120

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Looking beyond.

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

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

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

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

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

Argentina intent: 6

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

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

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

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

Czechs join – up to 2?

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

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

Portugal intent: up to 6

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

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

Colombia intent: up to 12


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

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

Chile intent: up to 6

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

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

Brazil intent: 28

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

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

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

2007 – 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: News

Marine APCs: Peregrinations of the EFV to ACV to MPC to ACV 1.1

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 23:28

AAAV/ EFV, swim mode
(click to view full)

The US Marine Corps’ AAVP7 Amtracs have been their primary ship to shore amphibious armored personnel carrier for a long time; the AAV7A1 was initially fielded in 1972, and underwent a major service life extension program and product improvement program from 1983-1993. The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was the USMC’s plan to replace the aging AMTRACS (lit. AMphibious TRACtorS), which saw extensive service deep inland during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The personnel version of the new EFVs would carry a crew of 3, plus a reinforced rifle squad of 17 combat-loaded Marines. A high-tech weapons station would provide firepower, via a stabilized ATK 30mm MK 44 Bushmaster cannon with advanced sights to replace the AAV’s unstabilized .50 caliber machine gun. A command variant would carry an array of communications and computer systems and staff personnel. The EFV remained the U.S. Marine Corps’ top land acquisition priority, even as its price tag and development issues cut its buy sharply. Push finally came to shove in 2010, however, as the USMC realized that it simply couldn’t afford the vehicle, or its performance.

That begat a new program called the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), designed to be a more realistic version of the EFV. A Marines version designed for only light water use was called the MPC, which was iced in June 2013. That program was resurrected under increased capabilities pressures as the APC 1.1, which had its coming out party during an industry day in July 2014. A draft RFP was released in November, with hopes that a final RFP would be issued in spring 2015.

$105.7 million was requested for ACV 1.1 research, testing and evaluation.

The APC 1.1 has been examined by the Congressional Research Service, producing this report, which – in a nutshell – says that the program has a few issues, the primary one being the strategic lack of “connectors” allowing equipment onshore. Current options (LCAC, JHSV and LCU 1600) are relatively unprotected.

Amtracs Replacement, Take 1: The EFV

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle: Capabilities & CONOPS

The New: EFV Features
(click to view full)

The EFV was expected to come in 2 main variants: EFV-P infantry fighting vehicles, and EFV-C command vehicles. Even after the program’s demise, its characteristics and associated Concept of Operations remain relevant. They were developed in response to what the Marines think they need, and early 2011 indications suggest that the service’s view hasn’t changed all that much.

The EFV-P personnel carriers have a stabilized turret[1] with advanced TV, laser and thermal imaging optics for accurate fire under all conditions out to 2 km (1.2 miles). Primary firepower is provided by an ATK 30mm MK 44 Bushmaster cannon and 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, with a maximum elevation of 45 degrees (high elevation is useful in urban warfare) and maximum depression of -10 degrees (useful for enfilade fire). The Bushmaster cannon will use HEIT(High-Explosive Incendiary Tracer) rounds with a super-fast fuse for maximum shrapnel, and MPLD (Multi-Purpose Low Drag) tungsten-tipped rounds against harder targets. The MPLDs offer an advantage over current 25mm rounds because they penetrate before exploding, instead of just pock-marking the walls of fortified bunkers and buildings.

Rounds are selectable on the fly, and Col. Brogan of the EFV program office has said that the cannon would defeat any vehicle short of a main battle tank up to 2 km away. The EFV program has also completed foreign comparative testing for programmable fuse rounds similar to those slated for the XM307 machine gun, and those rounds were found to be more lethal. The goal was to qualify them as an additional standard ammunition choice.

The current AAV7 Amtracs, in contrast, offer only low-light vision optics, in a non-stabilized manned turret, firing a .50 caliber machine gun and a 40mm GMG grenade launcher. Some Amtracs have added thermal sights, but other vehicles are sporting far more advanced manned turrets – and these days, unmanned RWS systems as well.

Additional firepower comes from the EFV’s onboard Marines, which is meant to include a full reinforced Marine rifle squad of 17 (13 Marines + 4 additional or specialists, including Javelin anti-tank teams) in addition to the vehicle’s crew of 3. The AAV7 listed a capacity of 22 and a crew of 3, but in practice its limit was also a combat-loaded reinforced rifle squad. The AAV7’s original design parameters even included an M151 Jeep or trailer, or 2 supply pallets from an LKA ship, as holdovers from its role as a mere LVT (Landing Vehicle, Tracked) before USMC doctrine began emphasizing its role as an armored personnel carrier. The EFV dispenses with that.

EFV: Command variant
(click to view full)

A command EFV-C variant carries an array of communications and computer systems and staff personnel. Indeed, all EFVs were slated to carry an array of communications equipment and electronics including GPS/INS navigation systems and C2PC (Command and Control, Personal Computer). C2PC is similar to the Army’s “Blue Force Tracker,” showing an overlay of friendly units and detected enemies on a common map. The two systems aren’t interoperable yet, though things are moving that way. C2PC is used in the US Army at brigade level and information can be shared through that command structure.

Electronics and salt water don’t exactly mix, however, so the EFV program has had to take precautions. All electronics must be fully sealed, all cables have shielding & protection, and design efforts were made to remove voids and enclosures where salt might become trapped. On the outside, a series of enviro-friendly coatings were used that avoided the use of carcinogenic hexavalent chrome, and areas where dissimilar metals are mated need barriers to prevent electricity-producing galvanic reactions. If that sounds more complex and exensive than standard IFVs, well, it is.

The Old: AAVP7, ashore
(click to view full)

Beyond the difference in these variants, however, all EFVs had broad similarities in a number of areas.

The EFV was designed to have positive buoyancy, and the program office has confirmed that the vehicle will float when at rest. Waterjet propulsion gives an amphibious speed of more than 20 knots – 3 times that of the AAV7. An underwater explosion survivability requirement is incorporated, and EFVs are also meant to move at high speed up to Sea State 3, and transition/low speed up to Sea State 5 (up to 8 ft. waves). This sea state capability would match the older AAV7s, and this level of unassisted armored landing capability in high sea states is reportedly unique to the AAV7 among present-day vehicles.

Those EFV water speed and sea state requirements have driven a number of design decisions, however, raising the vehicles’ cost and increasing its vulnerabilities. For instance, the need for hydroplaning at speed forces a flat bottom, which limits the hull’s potential protection against IEDs and other land mines. It also leads to an engine bigger than a 70-ton M1 tank’s, as well as very high vibration levels in transit that aren’t very friendly to onboard equipment.

Once on land, keeping up with the USMC’s M1 Abrams tanks imposes land speed requirements that must also be addressed. EFV top speed after landing will be about 45 miles per hour, which is comparable to the land speed of a modernized AAV7 RAM/RS, and enables the vehicles to keep up with a USMC’s M1 Abrams tank’s cruising speed. An engine almost twice as powerful as the ones in the 70-ton M1 tanks they’ll be accompanying certainly helps. Maintenance and readiness are meant to be similar to vehicles like the M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley, though they never even got close to that goal before the program was terminated.

Bradley reactive armor

On the protection front, the EFV has done what it could within its specifications, but it will not reach the level of the US Army’s Bradley or similar IFVs.

Measures have been taken to make EFV detection harder, including moving thermal giveaways to the rear, reducing telltale dust via side skirts, etc. NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection is also included. For direct protection when maneuver or concealment become impossible, its LIBA SURMAX silicon ceramic composite armor is expected to provide protection from 14.5mm rounds and 155mm shell fragments. The previous AAV7’s base was 12.7mm/.50 cal weapons and 105mm fragments, though add-on armor could raise that to the same 14.5/155mm levels. The LIBA SURMAX armor adds high resilience under multiple hits from armor piercing projectiles, easy field repair, and lightness to the protection equation.

Having met that “same as” standard, the EFV program does not officially plan to include armor-up kits of its own. Reactive armor like that fitted to M2/M3 Bradleys, M113s, etc. for defense against higher-caliber autocannon and/or RPG rockets was not initially planned for the EFV; the Marines believed the its weight and hydrodynamic issues would destroy the EFV’s amphibious capabilities, and had no initial plans for “add-on ashore” kits. Nor was the “cage” slat armor fitted to Army Strykers etc. under consideration as RPG protection, for the same reasons. Some minor casualty reduction would have been provided by improved fire suppression, and by spall linings that narrow the ‘casualty cone’ of a rocket’s blast fragments in the hull from the 90-110 degree spray of the AAV7 Amtracs, to 10 degrees or so.

In response to pressure from Congress, ideas have now been floated re: removable applique armor, but no official decision was taken.

Over the longer term, the EFV had reserved computing power, a card slot, and memory to integrate “active protection systems” like the RAFAEL/General Dynamics “Trophy” being fielded in Israel, or the Raytheon APS system contracted before the Army’s FCS ground vehicle family was canceled. The EFV program office never formally evaluated any of these systems, however, as no funding or requirements were provided to do it.

Cougar 6×6, IEDed
the crew lived.
(click to view full)

EFV protection varies against the IED land mines that have already destroyed several Amtracs in Iraq. The EFV’s flat bottom remains a hazard when facing mines. Detonations underneath will remain a challenge, however, because the need for hydrodynamic lift forces a flat bottom design – and the same design that catches the full force of the water to provide lift, will also catch the full force of a mine blast. Given the amphibious distance and speed requirements, however, the EFV program office noted that blast-deflecting V-hulls were not an option. Shock-absorbing seats that reduce spinal injuries were the best they could do, given the specifications.

On the other hand, its low side skirts offer very better protection from side blasts than current Amtracs, especially since the SURMAX armor is good at absorbing “dynamic deflection.” The front is helped by the presence of the extensible plate for water travel, while the back features armor levels comparable to the sides.

This last vulnerability, to the #1 in-theater killer from America’s last 2 major wars, attracted sharp political scrutiny, and was a factor in pressure to cancel the program.

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle: The Case in Favor

EFV exit
(click to view full)

Given these uncertainties, the increasing use of AAV7 Amtracs as armored personnel carriers deep inland, and the trends toward urban warfare and IED threats, the EFV has attracted some criticism. We begin with the USMC’s case for the EFV – and since the follow-on ACV seems to share similar underlying requirements, possibly the future ACV as well.

The biggest underlying requirement concerns the Navy, not the Marines. The Marines contend that advances in anti-ship missiles and surveillance, and the spiraling cost of US Navy’s designs for amphibious ships, made protecting those ships via long-distance launch a critical requirement. Rather than buying extra hovercraft or LCUs, the Navy and Marines wanted these waterborne abilities to be part of the vehicles themselves, so that amphibious assaults could introduce armor support very quickly. The EFV’s high-speed, long-distance swim capabilities, which have so influenced its design and execution, were seen as the best option for meeting that goal, while maximizing tactical flexibility in both Small Wars and high-intensity conflicts.

That speed has 2 major tactical rationales. One is protection. The other is flexibility. Col. Brogan of the EFV Program Office noted in our June 2006 interview that the “over the horizon” launch capability (about 25 miles out to sea) requirement of 25-mile swim capability in an hour. requirement was handed down in order to give friendly forces 2 opportunities to take down enemy missiles before they could hit the Navy’s amphibious ships, assuming AEGIS-equipped ships on station plus Cooperative Engagement Capability on the Navy’s amphibious assault vessels.

Staying afloat
(click to view full)

To illustrate the implications of flexibility, imagine a release point 15 miles offshore. At 25 mph swim speed, Pythagoras tells us that a 40 mile long stretch of coastline is at risk within an hour, complicating the defender’s options. The EFV’s speed, shared software and communications means that the vehicles can modify and share plans while still in the water; instead of having to look for a 1 km wide beach where they can all land in a wave, they can come ashore in dispersed fashion to re-form nearby, or exit in column through places as narrow as a boat ramp. Faced with this array of options, the defending commander must either disperse and hence weaken his defenses, try to anticipate the vehicles’ exact moves and risk being wrong, or accept the initial landing and plan to deal with the beach-head via counterattack.

Once on land, keeping up with the USMC’s M1 Abrams tanks in particular impose land speed requirements that must be addressed, even as the situations the US Marines face sometimes require far more protection than lighter vehicles like the BvS-10 can provide. The U.S. Marines must be able to operate in a wide variety of situations and environments, contend the EFV’s advocates, and their breadth of amphibious capabilities define them. With the EFV, the USMC argues, firepower, detection and flexibility are much improved over the AAV7, while amphibious and tracked mobility are maintained or improved. This combination makes the EFV an important tool that’s required in order to maintain the Corps’ full capability set.

The EFV’s amphibious capability remains tactically useful inland, however, reducing dependence on destroyable and easily-targeted bridges. As long as the opposite bank has a shallow enough slope for the EFVs to climb out within a few miles, EFVs can swim up rivers and cross water obstacles. Of course, accompanying USMC M1 Abrams tanks would not have this option. A Marine commander with a mixed vehicle set could split his forces, possibly assigning Javelin infantry teams, amphibious LAV-ATs with TOWs, Cobra helicopters, etc. for anti-tank punch. He could also use the EFVs in security operations as a bridgehead and guard force, until engineers could bring the tanks across.

Col. Brogan added that the USMC could always elect to put fewer than 17 Marines in an EFV depending on the mission, and noted that other vehicles in inventory from armored HMMWV jeeps and MTVR trucks, to LAV-25 wheeled APCs, to V-hulled RG-31 and Cougar vehicles, are available for commanders where lack of numbers or niche capabilities make the EFV an inferior mission choice.

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle: The Case Against

RAF CH-47 w. BvS10,
(click to view full)

Critics note the EFV’s number of Marines carried and cost, contending that the USMC is simply building a very expensive, casualty-maximizing IED land mine/RPG trap, whose required protection levels against mines and incoming fire were sacrificed to the requirement for improved water speed. Despite this water speed, they won’t be useful as fire support in the littorals, either, leaving that mission largely unaddressed. EFVs will be tied to heavier and less flexible forces because they cannot handle enemy tanks or IEDs independently, and they will be too vulnerable in the urban warfare scenarios that will be common features of future conflicts.

Options to improve these capabilities, they say, will only turn a very expensive system that has demonstrated serious reliability problems, into an extremely expensive system that is even less reliable, and requires more support than before.

Other Marine forces like the British and Dutch, they note, are relying instead on smaller amphibious vehicles like the BvS-10 Viking. These vehicles are also fully amphibious, but trade less water speed and slightly less protection for more vehicles per dollar, fewer soldiers per vehicle to minimize casualties, and ground footprints that can cross all terrains and won’t set off pressure mines. When trying to keep the Navy ships safe, they argue, why not opt for systems like these that offer heliborne air mobility, giving the Marines even greater operational speed and over-the-horizon reach, and offering naval defenses even more shots at enemy missiles? Systems like the BvS10 would be equally useful in “small wars,” where their heliborne insertion and all-terrain capabilities would give the Marines new options against lightly-armed but very mobile enemies.

K21 KNIFV concept
(click to view full)

Alternatively, the Marines could buy a more conventional IFV with some amphibious capabilities, and depend on extra hovercraft, vessels like the proposed and landing ships to get them ashore. South Korea produced the K-21 KNIFV for about $3.5 million each, with better firepower and protection options than the EFV, at a cost of carrying only 9 crew and reducing water speed to 4-5 mph in low sea states.

Once built, those extra hovercraft and LCUs could even find new roles in the world’s littoral regions. Armed with rockets, bolt-on RWS turrets, or even rolled-on armored vehicles, they would have new life as impromptu littoral and riverine patrol craft, policing terrain that the US military sees as high threat while keeping larger ships out of the picture. LCT-As were used this way in World War 2 landings, and LCU/LCMs with low gunwales have mounted M48A3, M67A2, and M60A1 tanks in Vietnam and Grenada.

These options, say the critics, plus other vehicles in the Marines’ current force mix, are more likely to be appropriate in more of the situations that US Marines are likely to face going forward. They’re also far easier to buy in numbers when the EFV isn’t sucking the budgetary oxygen out of the room, a situation that tends to turn arguments that could be made as “both/and” into something of an “either/or” rhetorical proposition.

The arguments continue; indeed, they are likely to gain in intensity and strength as the USMC works to define the EFV’s successor.

Amtracs Replacement, Take 2: After the EFV

The USMC’s EFV replacement strategy rests on 3 pillars. DARPA may have added a 4th option, but like all DARPA projects, it will have to overcome significant technical hurdles in order to become even a potential production program.

Replace Me: ACV Amphibious Combat Vehicle

EFV: electronics inside
(click to view full)

The USMC hopes it can keep its Amphibious Combat Vehicle to $10-12 million per vehicle, compared to $16.8 million for the EFV. Even so, that’s still far above other Marines forces around the world. The expected schedule was an ACV technical demonstration vehicle by the end of FY 2012, and a fully operational demonstration vehicle done by the end of 2013 or 2014. Re-use of some EFV systems might help meet those deadlines, but reliability issues make that a riskier strategy than it might otherwise be. A competition between contractors will give several of them 3-4 years to build their offerings, followed by a chosen ACV around 2020.

The USMC acknowledges that their desired schedule is aggressive, which often creates testing surprises, delays, and rising costs. Their acquisition strategy isn’t set in stone, but they seem to be leaning on multi-way competition and a drive-off to offset those risks, even as that format also complies with recent defense acquisition reform directives. They’d better hope it works, because $10 million was touted for the EFV part-way through the program – and another episode of ballooning costs and delays will cripple the Marines for a generation. Even if it does work, and costs are within budget, a $10-12 million per vehicle program would be a prime target for cuts if rising interest rates cause the USA to hit a fiscal wall.

More ominously, Kurt Koch, the combat vehicle capabilities integration officer for Fires and Maneuvers Integration Division, says “the ACV will be operationally mobile in the water, capable of ship-to-objective maneuver from over the horizon.” That’s the same requirement that doomed the EFV to be a super-expensive water taxi, that wouldn’t protect its crew against cannon fire, rockets, or the #1 killer in recent wars: land mine attacks.

Extend Me: the AAV7 SLEP

AAV7s, Somalia
(click to view full)

Until the ACV is ready, the Amtracs will soldier on. The AAV Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) aims to add better protection, a modern power-train, and higher capacity suspension components. Another gap in the current force is the current turret, which is unstabilized, and can’t be fired accurately on the move. Costs and scope are still under evaluation, but the goal is to run the AAV7 SLEP program from 2012-2021.

With the ACV not even slated to begin production until 2020, and even the MPC not slated to make a difference until 2018-2020, the AAV7 SLEP becomes critical to the corps. During the next decade, any serious problems in the Amtracs fleet could leave the US Marines in a difficult position indeed.

If AAV7 Amtracs had to be built new, the last AAV7 Amtracs were produced for Brazil in the 1990s. The cost range in those-year dollars was $2.2 – 2.5 million per vehicle. Without factoring in production restart costs (or any capability upgrades for the modern battlefield), that figure translates into about $3.5 million per vehicle in today’s dollars.

Complement Me: The MPC Marine Personnel Carrier

MPC concept
(click to view larger)

The wheeled Marine Personnel Carrier program is really a replacement for the LAV fleet, and has always been seen as a separate budgeted item. The EFV program’s failure doesn’t change that, but it does mean that MPCs may end up performing some EFV roles. They may end up in a bigger substitution role if the ACV also sinks, or the USA’s slow-motion fiscal wreck starts hitting the interest rate wall, and drastic cuts follow. If so, tactical changes will follow, because MPCs won’t be designed to come ashore through surf, even in low-medium sea states.

MPCs are expected to cost up to $4.5 million each, with a buy decision in 2013 and Initial Operational Capability in 2018. Declared MPC competitors already include BAE Systems/ Iveco with their SUPERAV), and Lockheed Martin/Patria with their Patria AMV. The current incumbent, General Dynamics, won’t be sitting out. They’re expected t bid their Piranha-III, or similar vehicles.


DARPA’s FANG. The Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation ground vehicle projects aims to develop a new heavy, amphibious infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) “with functional requirements intended to mirror the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle.”

That’s unusual. The approach is even more interesting, and unusual: “The contractor will stage a series of FANG challenges, prize-based design competitions for progressively more complex vehicle subsystems, culminating in the design of a full IFV.” DARPA has had good luck with competitions before, but they generally involve more than 1 vendor.

EFV: Contracts & Key Events

Unless otherwise indicated, all EFV program contracts are issued by US Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA to General Dynamics Amphibious Systems (GDAMS) in Woodbridge, VA.

FY 2015 – 2017


February 22/17: The Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 by Science Applications International Corporation and BAE Systems for the USMC has been unveiled for the first time. Developed to replace an aging fleet of amphibious assault vehicles, the Marines will receive a total of 16 vehicles with deliveries to commence in March. The earlier stages of the ACV 1.1 production effort were stalled by a contract protest by General Dynamics after the company was defeated in the Marine Corps’ bidding process.

July 27/15: The Marine Corps is reportedly scheduled to downselect two designs for its Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) program in late 2015, with five designs currently on offer. The requirement calls for a 8×8 armored vehicle capable of transiting over open water as well as operate ashore. The five designs have been undergoing testing, with the USMC planning to progress the two downselected bids through a development phase.

May 25/15: BAE Systems has submitted a bid for the USMC’s Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) competition, with the company teaming with Italian firm Iveco Defence to develop the ACV 1.1 design.

FY 2012

DARPA’s FANG. June 22/12: Industrial. The USMC won’t be moving a $16 million hull manufacturing line out of Lima, OH and over to Georgia just yet. The Army’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center is run by General Dynamics, and the Marines will delay their decision until they compile a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed $19 million move ($6 million move + $13 million to restore the JSMC capability). It’s all part of a larger process:

“Following the Defense Department’s cancellation of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle Program, the Marine Corps began reviewing the future use of all EFV-associated equipment procured as part of that program. The JSMC was set to build the fighting vehicle, but now is using the hull machining equipment on other combat vehicles [DID: incl. Israeli Namer heavy APCs].”

June 19/12: Plan E – I’m the FANG. Ricardo, Inc. in Belleville, MI received a $9.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. This 12-month base period may be followed by 2 successive 12-month options, which could increase its value to $27.6 million. It will fund a research and development effort entitled “FANG (Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation) Ground Vehicle,” which aims to develop a new heavy, amphibious infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) “with functional requirements intended to mirror the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle.”

That’s unusual. The approach is even more interesting, and unusual: “The contractor will stage a series of FANG challenges, prize-based design competitions for progressively more complex vehicle subsystems, culminating in the design of a full IFV.” DARPA has had good luck with competitions before, but they generally involve more than 1 vendor.

Work will be performed in Belleville, MI (70.75%); Nashville, TN (13.38%); Atlanta, GA (9.26%); Brighton, MI (3.16%); San Antonio, TX (1.24%); and Troy, MI (2.21%). Work can run to June 17/15, with all options exercised. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency manages the contract (HR0011-12-C-0074).

FY 2011

EFV canceled. What now?

(click to view full)

June 10/11: Aviation Week reports that the USMC is looking to cut its analysis of alternatives (AOA) for the EFV replacement from 18 months to 9, or even 6 months. Areas of interest include “habitability” inside the vehicle, added features like an artificial horizon, and reaching out to shipbuilders for a better hull design.

The good news is that the USMC is reaching to a logical and related industry for help. The bad news is that an appetite for more and more based on notional requirements, rather than cost-driven limits that may force rethinks of what one can expect, is what sank EFV in the first place. Further bad news? The USMC say they need 38 amphibious ships, and might make do with 33, but will get 29. That will push them toward a long-swimming IFV design, as a way of compensating at sea. The question is whether that will create fatal vulnerabilities on land, or whether the shipbuilding sector can offer an EFV idea that squares the circle.

March 22/11: Plans B, C & D. The USMC outlines the 3 different vehicle programs that will replace the responsibilities the EFV would have held: AAV7 life extension from 2012-2021, wheeled Marine Personnel Carrier in service from 2018, and an Amphibious Combat Vehicle EFV replacement entering production by 2020. See above for more details.

Jan 12/10: Inside Defense reports that the US Marine Corps will pursue 3 contracts, in the wake of the EFV’s cancellation.

The first, required response involves life extension for the existing AAVP7 Amtracs fleet. The 2nd response will be to accelerate the LAV-II replacement Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC) program. Like its predecessor, MPC is required to have some amphibious capability, albeit less than the Amtracs. The 3rd response is the direct EFV replacment, currently known as the New Amphibious Vehicle (NAV) program.

Jan 6/11: Canceled. As part of a plan detailing $150 billion in service cuts and cost savings over the next 5 years, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces the cancellation of the USMC’s Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV):

“This program is of great interest to the Marine community so I would like to explain the reasons… Meeting [its conflicting requirements] demands has… led to significant technology problems, development delays, and cost increases… already consumed more than $3 billion to develop and will cost another $12 billion to build – all for a fleet with the capacity to put 4,000 troops ashore. If fully executed, the EFV – which costs far more to operate and maintain than its predecessor – would essentially swallow the entire Marine vehicle budget and most of its total procurement budget for the foreseeable future… recent analysis by the Navy and Marine Corps suggests that the most plausible scenarios requiring power projection from the sea could be handled through a mix of existing air and sea systems employed in new ways along with new vehicles… the mounting cost of acquiring this specialized capability must be judged against other priorities and needs.

Let me be clear. This decision does not call into question the Marine’s amphibious assault mission. We will budget the funds necessary to develop a more affordable and sustainable amphibious tractor to provide the Marines a ship-to-shore capability into the future. The budget will also propose funds to upgrade the existing amphibious vehicle fleet with new engines, electronics, and armaments to ensure that the Marines will be able to conduct ship-to-shore missions until the next generation of systems is brought on line.”

Responding to the announcement, USMC Commandant Gen. James Amos said that:

“Despite the critical amphibious and warfighting capability the EFV represents, the program is simply not affordable given likely Marine Corps procurement budgets. The procurement and operations/maintenance costs of this vehicle are onerous. After examining multiple options to preserve the EFV, I concluded that none of the options meets what we consider reasonable affordability criteria. As a result, I decided to pursue a more affordable vehicle… Shortly, we will issue a special notice to industry requesting information relative to supporting our required amphibious capabilities.”

Finally, the Deteroit Free Press submits a note worth remembering when other program cancellations are discussed:

“Peter Keating, vice president of communications with General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, told the Free Press on Thursday morning that the elimination of the EFV would cost Michigan 5,444 direct jobs and 5,281 indirect jobs, according to a economic study the defense contractor had done last year. The Free Press contacted one of the experts who did the study – David Louscher, a former political science professor at the University of Akron, who said those numbers represented so-called “man years” over the course of the 14-year life of the program. In other words, each of those jobs equated to roughly a full time job for one year, or 766 over the course of the program.”

See: Gates’ full speech | a href=”″>Full Gates speech and Gates/Mullen Q&A transcript | Pentagon release | USMC statement || Defense Update | WIRED Danger Room | || Cato Institute | Lexington Institute || Atlanta Journal Constitution | The Atlantic | Bloomberg | Detroit Free Press | The Hill | NY Times | Politico | Stars and Stripes || Agence France Presse | BBC | Reuters | UK’s Telegraph | China’s Xinhua.

EFV Canceled

Nov 16/10: No Plan B. WIRED Danger Room says there is no Plan B for the EFV, which means the vehicle had better pass its tests by February 2011:

“After years of delays and cost overruns, Senate appropriators voted in September to put the $24-million-per-tank EFV program out to pasture if it can’t pass its final round of tests. The chairmen of the White House deficit commission marked it for termination in their cost-cutting proposal last week. At this point, the swimming tank is a pinata for defense reformers… But a September study from the Government Accountability Office [DID: sctually. the Congressional Research Service] found few alternatives to the swimming tank (.PDF). Either the Marines could continue to use their decades-old Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or they can modify their planned Marine Personnel Carrier for ship-to-shore operations. (One option for the carrier, GAO writes, is the Italian Supernav 8×8 tank, “a 24-ton vehicle that can carry 13 Marines and their equipment and can travel up to 500 miles nonstop on land and 40 miles on water.”) But the carrier won’t be ready until 2015 as it is.”

FY 2010

EFV may be canceled; GAO & CSBA dubious about the EFV.

Sept 17/10: Inside Defense reports that: “The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee has provided funding to cancel the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program in its mark of the fiscal year 2011 defense budget.”

Sept 9/10: Carley Corp. in Orlando, FL wins a $35.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price contract to produce the EFV training system for USMC accession training, as well as for training fleet and reserve forces. The contract contains options that could boost it to $36 million. The training system will include several sub-systems: training courseware on a Learning Management System, simulators, devices, mockups, and training aids.

Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, and is expected to be complete by September 2015. This contract was a 100% small business set-aside posted in the Navy Electronic Commerce Office, with 3 offers received (M67854-10-C-0036).

Aug 24/10: Testimony. USMC Commandant Gen. James Conway defends the EFV capability, while distancing himself a bit from the current program. Defense Tech quotes him:

“It is not the platform it’s the capability… It’s not necessarily the EFV made by General Dynamics that goes 25 knots, its the capability that we need to be wed to… if that program were canceled outright we would still be looking to come up with that capability.”

He said the new batch of eight EFVs provided by General Dynamics for extensive testing are more reliable than the original prototypes and the Marines hope they’ll show marked improvement. “It has been a beleaguered program,” Conway said today at a Pentagon presser. “We are looking at affordability of the program in the out years… we have to ask ourselves are 573 (EFVs) affordable.”

Aug 19/10: Testing. The SDD-2 version of the EFV is undergoing testing at Camp Pendleton, CA, whose Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch (AVTB) at Camp Del Mar is well suited to the task. The team has also tested the EFV at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, and DoD facilities in Alaska and Hawaii. The AVTB is staffed by 53 Marines and 25 civilians who are currently conducting testing on 8 EFVs manufactured in Lima, OH.

The USMC release says that to date, more than 400 engineering design improvements have been implemented since AVTB became involved with testing the first EFV prototype in 2003. One is a “whale-tail” exhaust system that disperses heat down and outward from the vehicle, instead of straight upward. USMC.

July 9/10: Defense Tech reports:

“Yesterday at a reporter’s roundtable, House Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Ike Skelton said he expects SecDef Robert Gates and his merry band of program killers in OSD will try to terminate the Marine Corps armored amphibian, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). Skelton said he’s pretty agnostic on the EFV and that the HASC would give the Marines time to conduct further tests on the vehicle.”

See also Aviation Week | Reuters.

July 2/10: GAO still dubious. GAO Report #GAO-10-758R’s title understates its tone: “Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) Program Faces Cost, Schedule and Performance Risks” was provided to Rep. Norman D. Dicks [D-WA], n his role as Chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee. Some excerpts:

“In 2006 we reviewed the EFV program to determine how it was performing… and reported that the program faced significant risks… In 2006 and 2007, the EFV business case broke down… The program was restructured in June 2007.” [With respect to SDD-2], Reliability growth approach and other performance issues present significant challenges and risks, [the] nature of development, test, and procurement schedules add unnecessary risk… Costs could increase due to concurrency, redesign effort, and final procurement quantity… [and the program’s] history of cost growth, schedule slips and performance failures and the current challenges (including changing threats) raise the question of whether the business case for the EFV program (in terms of cost, schedule, and performance) is still sound.”

The rest of their review is quite detailed and specific. It cites serious ongoing issues with capacity and weight, reliability, and maintainability, and sees the overlapping schedule for testing and early production as especially worthy of concern. See also Eric Palmer of DoD Watch.

May 4/10: Roll-out, Take 2. The USMC rolls out the SDD-2 EFV prototype at a ceremony, and continues to press their case for the vehicle amidst rumors of its cancellation at what turned into a mini pep rally for the vehicle and its supporters. Taking direct aim at some of the concerns raised recently by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Marines may not need the EFV or that the vehicle could prove too costly, program and Marine Corps officials said the vehicle is exactly what they need to conduct operations from the sea. The EFV is meant to serve as a vehicle bridge for Marines, carrying them from Navy ships through the surf and sand and miles deep into enemy terrain. Program officials extolled the vehicle’s prowess and promise at a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps here, with the museum’s unique skyline sculpture in the background and a newly minted prototype EFV in the foreground.”>Aviation Week Ares.

May 3/10: Gates’ grumps. US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates delivers a speech at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space Convention, in National Harbor, MD. It’s widely seen as casting doubt on the future of the EFV. Excerpts:

“The more relevant gap we risk creating is one between capabilities we are pursuing and those that are actually needed in the real world of tomorrow… Two major examples come to mind. First, what kind of new platform is needed to get large numbers of troops from ship to shore under fire – in other words, the capability provided by the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. No doubt, it was a real strategic asset during the first Gulf War to have a flotilla of Marines waiting off Kuwait City – forcing Saddam’s army to keep one eye on the Saudi border, and one eye on the coast. But we have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious landing again – especially as advances in anti-ship systems keep pushing the potential launch point further from shore. On a more basic level, in the 21st century, what kind of amphibious capability do we really need to deal with the most likely scenarios, and then how much?

…And that bring me to the third and final issue: the budget… it is important to remember that, as the wars recede, money will be required to reset the Army and Marine Corps, which have borne the brunt of the conflicts. And there will continue to be long-term – and inviolable – costs associated with taking care of our troops and their families. In other words, I do not foresee any significant increases in top-line of the shipbuilding budget beyond current assumptions. At the end of the day, we have to ask whether the nation can really afford [the current force structure and platforms].”

March 30/10: GAO – what’s next? The US GAO audit office delivers its 8th annual “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs report. With respect to the EFV, it cites a 132% jump in the program’s R&D budget from December 2000 – August 2009, a 45% rise in the procurement budget, and a 42.1% drop in planned orders. When you actually crunch those numbers, that means a 249.8% rise in per-vehicle procurement costs. With respect to the program’s structure:

“The EFV’s design will continue to evolve into low- rate initial production… until 2014 as it executes its reliability growth and testing strategy. The program is addressing 180 design actions raised during its critical design review in December 2008 and plans to incorporate many of them into seven new prototypes currently under construction… An operational assessment is scheduled for April 2011. At that time, the program expects to demonstrate on average at least 16 hours of operation between operational mission failures, which will keep the EFV on the reliability path needed to reach its minimum requirement of 43.5 hours. Additional testing and design revisions are scheduled to continue through the fourth lot of low-rate production, and the program will commit to all four low-rate production lots before conducting initial operational test and evaluation to validate the performance and reliability of the EFV.

…the program will introduce new friction-welding processes during low-rate production that are expected to increase the strength of the hull and reduce weight… The Marine Corps recently formalized the IED requirement for the EFV, but did not make it a key performance parameter… If the NBC system were removed, warfighters would still be protected using mission-oriented protective suits, which they currently use on the AAV-7 legacy platform. No decision has been made on this proposal, but it is being held as an option for later in the program.”

Feb 2010: USMC Commandant Gen. James Conway tells the House Armed Services Committee that the EFV performed “about the same” as a 6-wheeled, Category 2 MRAP blast-resistant vehicle in blast tests. A single EFV prototype was subjected to 4 blasts, including 2 that simulated land mines, without its additional armor kit installed.

What the reports don’t say is whether the blasts were set to the side, where the EFV’s protection is strong, or underbody blasts, where the EFV is expected to be weak. Caveat governor. Defense News | Gannett’s Marine Corps Times.

Dec 2/09: EG&G Technical Services, Inc. in Dumfries, VA receives a $5.7 million task order for EFV support services. “Technical support under this effort includes the support services to advance the use of technology to improve system performance and operations, achieve design-to-unit production cost objectives, and to define mature production and manufacturing processes.”

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA, and is expected to be complete in December 2010 (M67854-02-A-9011, #0087).

Dec 1/09: EG&G in Dumfries, VA receives a $5.2 million for task order for EFV support services to US Marine Corps Systems Command’s PM Advanced Amphibious Assault (PM AAA). “Technical support under this effort includes the support services to advance the use of technology to improve system performance and operations, achieve design-to-unit production cost objectives, and to define mature production and manufacturing processes.”

Work will be performed in Quantico, VA, and is expected to be complete in December 2009 (M67854-02-A-9011, #0070).

Dec 1/09: CSBA ix-nay. The non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) issues a study that recommends cancelling the EFV in favor of an armored vehicle with beter land capabilities and less focus on independent water travel, which would be provided by hovercraft.

It also recommends scaling back MV-22 buys, in favor of a mix of MV-22s and more standard, less expensive helicopters. Aviation Week Ares.

FY 2008 – 2009

SDD program gets a full re-boot; Mine protection issues raised.

EFV, testing
(click to view full)

May 15/09: The EFV team conducts more EFV tests at the Potomac River training area just off the Quantico, VA. Work includes water maneuvering tests and a gunnery test of it 30mm Mk44 and 7.62mm M240 guns, and is taking place before field testing begins. USMC.

Aug 1/08: General Dynamics Land Systems, operating through its division General Dynamics Amphibious Systems in Woodbridge, VA receives a $766.8 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract that amounts to a reboot of the program. GDLS will redo the EFV, and produce 8 System Development and Demonstration 2 (SDD-2) Eprototypes. In addition, the contractor will modify existing EFV prototypes, procure preliminary spares and repair parts, order long lead materials for the SDD-2 prototypes, and conduct systems engineering, studies and analysis, logistics support and test support.

Work will be performed in VA (55%), IN (10%), MI (9%), Germany (9%), OH (4%), and various other states (13%), and is expected to be completed in September 2012. This contract was not competitively awarded. The Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA (M67854-08-C-0003). See also Defense News.

SDD re-boot

Jan 18/08: General Dynamics Amphibious Systems in Woodbridge, VA received an $12 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-05-C-0072) for the advanced procurement of long lead materials for Systems Development and Demonstration 2 phase of the EFV program.

Work will be performed in Michigan (37%), Indiana (20%), Arizona (13%), Maryland (5%), Louisiana (3%), Florida (2%), Mississippi (2%), New Jersey (2%), New York (2%), Ohio (2%), and Germany (12%), and is expected to be completed by November 2009.

Jan 17/08: General Dynamics Amphibious Systems (GDAMS) in Woodbridge, VA received a $19.5 million modification under a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for the spares material under the systems development and demonstration phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program.

Work is expected to be completed by September 2008, and will be performed in Woodbridge, Va., (24.654%); Indianapolis, IN (18.727%); Muskegon, MI (11.437%); Salisbury, MD (3.234%); Spokane, WA (2.669%); Anniston, AL (2.625%); Lapeer, MI (2.612%); Tallahassee, FL (2.581%); Broomfield, CO (2.368%); Slidell, LA (2.045%); Houghton, MI (1.994%); Tuscon, AZ (1.772%); Springfield, VA (1.647%); Black Mountain, NC. (1.619%); Minneapolis, MN (1.345%); Duluth, GA (1.241%); San Diego, CA (1.223%); Tempe, AZ (1.123%); Plainview, NY (1.12%); Ottawa, Canada (1.875%); Freidrichshafen, Germany (0.988%); Calgary, Canada (0.144%); and several other locations within the United States, each with %ages lower than 1% (totaling 10.957%). The contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Jan 9/08: The US House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Expeditionary Forces subcommittee is casting a skeptical bipartisan eye on the EFV program. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD, ranking subcommittee minority member] spoke to Inside the Navy after speaking at a conference in Arlington, VA. According to information released by his office, he and subcommittee chair Gene Taylor [D-MS] have ‘a lot of serious questions’ about the idea for additional applique armor to help remedy the EFV’s poor resistance to mines. The idea itself was spawned in reaction to the subcommittee’s pointed questions re: the EFV and its lack of resistance to IED land mines. Congressman Bartlett:

“…they would get a really thin, strong Marine who could scoot underneath that thing, because there’s only about 18 inches of ground clearance, and he would bolt on an applique of some special aluminum which would now protect them… the enemy has to be very cooperative and not shoot them while they’re affixing the armor applique, and that the Marines have to find hard terrain free of mines to do this re-jiggering [the USMC] told us that they would know that the beach wasn’t mined. I said, ‘If you can know the beach was not mined, how come our people in Iraq can’t figure out whether the road is mined or not’?”

Oct 22/07: A $10 million contract modification to previously awarded contract M67854-01-C-0001 to develop an alternative drivetrain subsystem preliminary design for the continuation of Systems Development and Demonstration phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. Work will be performed in Augsburg, Germany (81%), Friedrichshafen, Germany (1%) and Woodbridge, VA (18%) and is expected to be complete by April 2008.

FY 2007

Program problems push the government toward competing the EFV going-forward; Revised costs & budgets as price climbs.

Pushing hard
(click to view full)

Aug 22/07: The Pentagon releases its Selected Acquisition Reports for the June 2007 reporting period, and the EFV program is listed:

“The SAR was submitted to report schedules slips of approximately two years since the December 2006 SAR. In February 2007, the program experienced a critical Nunn-McCurdy unit cost breach due primarily to system reliability challenges and a quantity reduction. The department certified a revised program to Congress in June 2007. Program costs increased $4,069.4 million (+34.2 percent) from $11,902.7 million to $15,972.1 million.”

DID’s follow-on article “Costing the Marines’ EFV” explains what’s going on, delving into current and past program cost growth, why it happened, and what it means for the price per vehicle. The short answer is that each EFV will cost $16-21 million.

$21 million per?!?

Aug 15/07: A $15.5 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for System Integration Laboratory Hardware, during the SDD phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (45%); Tallahassee, FL (30%); Lima, OH (20%); and Scranton, PA (5%). Work is expected to be complete by September 2008.

On the beach
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Aug 1/07: In reply to the July 12/07 Jane’s article, the EFV program office had this to say to DID:

“We plan to compete future contracts for certain EFV program efforts, where feasible, to increase performance or reduce program costs. However, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) has been the sole EFV vehicle designer and developer since 1996 and as a result, the main design development and production efforts are planned as sole source to GDLS because no other firm can perform the requirements of development and production without substantial duplication of cost and additional, unacceptable delays to the EFV program.

GDLS has taken positive action to demonstrate their commitment to the EFV program and improve the probability of success in meeting EFV program requirements. GDLS implemented a major reorganization in early 2007 to transfer technical expertise to the EFV program and to align Director-level technical positions with their parent company, GDLS in Sterling Heights, MI.

In Jan 07, GDLS transferred their best Systems Engineer from GDLS to Woodbridge, VA to be the Director of Systems Engineering for the EFV program. In addition, they created a Director of Programs position and appointed a senior GDLS employee with proven success on numerous Defense programs to the position. GD then aligned key EFV positions with their corporate organization to provide corporate expertise and continuity across Defense programs. This included instituting a direct reporting relationship for the EFV SE Director to the GDLS Senior Director for SE and for the EFV Technical Director to the GDLS Senior Vice-President for Engineering Design & Development (ED&D).”

July 31/07: A $6.2 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001). It covers sustaining program management, as well as technical and engineering support for the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) Drive train components, during the extended Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the EFV program. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN and work is expected to be completed by September 2008.

July 17/07: A $10.6 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for the sustaining equipment manufacturing, technical, and engineering efforts in support of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) engine, during the extended Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the of the EFV program.

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (12%) and Friedrichshafen, Germany (88%) and is expected to be complete by September 2008.

July 12/07: Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that the USMC will consider alternative designs for the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) and plans to compete out future components of the $2.3 billion EFV contract currently solely held by General Dynamics. “The news follows continued scrutiny of the programme by the US Congress, which has sharply questioned the EFV’s flat-bottomed design, cost over-runs and production problems.”

Rep. Gene Taylor [D-MS], Chair of the House Armed Services Seapower & Expeditionary Forces subcommittee, is reportedly seeking legal opinions re: ownership of the vehicle design, in order to determine whether the EFV project could be turned over to another firm if Congress’ patience snaps.

June 8/07: A $5.7 million modification to previously awarded contract M67854-01-C-0001 for the redesign of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, using an alternate architecture in place of Spraycool technology, during the Systems Development and Demonstration phase. SprayCool will be kept for the more computing-intensive EFV-C command variant, but is being designed out of the infantry carrier vehicle in favor of a more modular architecture. This is bad news for SprayCool Corp., who touted their liquid cooling system for electronics in a success story release:

“In 2000, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), being developed at that time as the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV), was experiencing significant difficulties in their command and control electronics suite due to overheating. Moreover, the program office realized that this problem would only get worse as their C4I roadmap called for more electronics, increasing the number of software programs, and numerous technology insertions of faster processors to transfer the required data.

By chance the program manager for the Command Variant of the EFV saw a SprayCool Technology demonstration and consulted with SprayCool. Using a Small Business Innovative Research contract and funding from DARPA, SprayCool built a prototype multi-processor unit, called the Command and Control Server (CCS). This prototype solved the overheating conditions and has evolved into the heart of the EFV’s electronic suite where it links ten operating stations with information from the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, Command and Control Operations (C2PC for situational awareness), Intelligence Operations System, and other C4I SR (command, control, communications, and computers intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems.

In developing the Multi-Processor Unit (MPU) for the Marine Corps, SprayCool won the Department of Defense Value Engineering Award for 2003 by enabling Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) technology insertions, saving the Marines over $350 million dollars over a thirty year life span.”

Work on finding a replacement cooling approach will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (34.2%), Spokane, WA (20.7%), Colorado Springs, CO (14.6%), Tallahassee, FL (11.5%), Calgary, Canada (9.5percent), Ottawa, Canada (4.2%), Los Angeles, CA (2.1%), Salisbury, MD (2.0%) and Sterling Heights, MI (1.2%) and is expected to be complete by September 2008. Contract funds in the amount of $3.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

May 2/07: House Appropriation Committee chair Henry Waxman submits formal requests to Secretary of Defense Gates and to General Dynamics Land Systems President David K. Heebner. He requests a long list of reports, assessments, and other documentation related to the EFV, by May 18/07, while citing several reports the program’s ongoing difficulties. House Appropriations Committee | Full Letter to DoD [PDF] | Full letter to General Dynamics Land Systems [PDF].

April 30/07: A $43.8 million contract modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for spares and material for the continuation of Systems Development and Demonstration phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program.

Work will be performed in Germany (38.61%); Michigan (13.38%); Indiana (7.56%); Virginia (6.04%); Colorado (5.37%); Florida (4.61%); California (4.2%); Canada (4.26%); Maryland (3.94%); Washington (3.72%); Arizona (2.52%); North Carolina (2.49%); Louisiana (2.21%); New York (0.27%); South Carolina (0.24%); Massachusetts (0.20%); Missouri (0.19%); Minnesota (0.16%); and Pennsylvania (0.02%); and is expected to be complete by September 2007.

March 19/07: A $144 million modification to previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (M67854-01-C-0001) on Mar. 16, 2007, for design for reliability efforts for the continuation of Systems Development and Demonstration phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. In other words, this money will be used to address the reliability issues covered in “The US Marines’ EFV Program: Current State Report, November 2006“,” in order to get the EFV to a point where it’s ready for low-rate production.

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (40%), Indianapolis, Ind., (24%), Sterling Heights, MI (10%), Friedrichshafen, Germany, (10%), and various other states (16%), and is expected to be complete by September 2008.

FY 2006 and Earlier

Initial EFV SDD contract, and add-ons.

Waterjets on!
(click to view full)

May 25/06: An $18.8 million cost-reimbursable modification under a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for the continuation of Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program. Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (50%); Aberdeen, MD (25%); and Camp Pendleton, CA (25%).

April 3/06: A $44.4 million cost-reimbursable addition modification under previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for the continuation of Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program. GDAMS will provide all required materials, services, personnel and facilities to complete the design and development of the EFV, perform studies and analyses, manufacture and test all SDD prototypes, prepare for production, initiate logistics support of the EFV, and successfully complete the SDD phase.

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (38%); Camp Pendleton, CA (22%); Sterling Heights, MI (21%); Aberdeen, MD (9%), and undetermined location(s) (10%), and is expected to be complete by September 2009.

July 22/05: A $42.9 million cost-reimbursable addition to a previously awarded contract (N67854-01-C-0001) to extend the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle’s systems development and demonstration (SDD) phase. Full-up system live fire testing will be included. General Dynamics will provide all required materials, services, personnel and facilities to complete the design and development of the EFV, perform studies and analyses, manufacture and test all SDD prototypes, prepare for production, initiate logistics support of the EFV, and successfully complete the SDD phase.

Work will be performed in Virginia (21.22%); Indiana (12.47%); Germany (10.47%); Michigan (8.87%); North Carolina (6.81%); California (5.31%); Ohio (5.21%); Washington (5.20%); Maryland (4.38%); Minnesota (4.38%); Colorado (2.95%); Canada (2.53%); Illinois (2.37%); Arizona (1.07%); New York (0.87%); Alabama (0.54%); Florida (0.48%); Georgia (0.14%); Texas (0.13%); and undetermined (4.61%). Work is expected to be completed by September 2009.

Nov 1/04: A $136 million cost-reimbursable addition modification under previously awarded contract M67854-01-C-0001 for the continuation of system development and demonstration (SDD) phase of the expeditionary fighting vehicle (EFV) program. GDAMS will provide all required materials, services, personnel and facilities to complete the design and development of the EFV, perform studies and analyses, manufacture and test all SDD prototypes, prepare for production, initiate logistics support of the EFV, and successfully complete the SDD phase.

This contract was not competitively procured. Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (59.02%); Indianapolis, IN (10.43%); Lima, OH (1.94%); Liberty Lake, WA (1.64%); Sterling Heights, MI (1.46%); Scranton, PA (1.38%); Linthicum, MD (1.20%); Tempe, AZ (1.18%); Arlington, VA (0.78%); Pittsfield, MA (0.69%); San Diego, CA (0.55%); Tallahassee, FL (0.53%); Frederick, MD (0.43%); El Centro, CA (0.37%); Muskegon, MI (0.02%);and Freidrichshafen, Germany (15.61%); Ottawa, Canada (1.82%); and Calgary, Canada (0.95%). Work is expected to be complete by September 2008.

EFV on land
(click to view full)

Feb 10/03: $15.9 million under a previously awarded cost-reimbursable contract (M67854-01-C-0001), exercising an option for the Live Fire Test Vehicle and initial spares for the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV).

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, Va. (30.9%); Indianapolis, Ind. (6.4%); Freidrichshafen, Germany (5.8%); Muskegon, Mich. (4.6%); Tempe, Ariz. (4.6%); Tallahassee, Fla. (4.1%); Scranton, Pa. (4.1%); Lima, Ohio (3.1%); Slidell, La. (2.2%); Lapeer, Mich. (2.2%); Boulder, Colo. (1.9%); Hebron, Ohio (1.9%); McKinney, Texas (1.9%); Boca Raton, Fla. (1.4%); Ottawa, Canada (1.3%); Jacksonville, Mich. (1.3%); Imperial Valley, Calif. (1.2%); East Aurora, N.Y. (1.1%); Tuscon, Ariz. (0.9%); Frederick, Md. (0.8%); Wayne, N.J. (0.8%); Calgary, Canada, (0.8%); Anniston, Ala. (0.7%); Clarkston, Wash. (0.6%); San Diego, Calif. (0.4%); Westbury, N.Y. (0.4%); Marlboro, Md. (0.2%); Sterling Heights, Mich. (0.1%); and all other states (14.3%). Work is expected to be completed by June 2005.

July 3/01: A $712 million cost-reimbursable contract for the systems development and demonstration (SDD) (formerly engineering and manufacturing development) phase of the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) as part of the SDD phase. Under this procurement, two different types of vehicles will be developed and demonstrated, the Personnel variant (AAAV (P)) and the Command and Control variant (AAAV (C )). The AAAV is a replacement system for the current AAV7A1 that was fielded in 1972, underwent a major service life extension program and product improvement program from 1983 to 1993 and will be over 30 years old when the AAAV is fielded.

Work will be performed in Woodbridge, Va. (57.4%); Freidrichshafen, Germany (5.1%); Indianapolis, Ind. (5.1%); Tallahassee, Fla. (3.1%); Calgary, Canada (2.2%); Tempe, Ariz. (2.0%); Sterling Heights, Mich. (1.9%); Scranton, Pa. (1.9%); Muskegon, Mich. (1.8%); Lima, Ohio (1.7%); Imperial Valley, Calif. (1.5%); Clarkston, Wash. (1.4%); Boulder, Colo. (1.0%); Frederick, Md. (0.7%); Anniston, Ala. (0.5%); Upper Marlboro, Md. (0.5%); Arlington, Va. (0.5%); Lapeer, Mich. (0.5%); Reston, Va. (0.5%); Springfield, Va. (0.5%); East Aurora, N.Y. (0.4%); Ottawa, Canada (0.4%); McKinney, Texas (0.4%); Hebron, Ohio (0.4%); Tucson, Ariz. (0.2%); San Diego, Calif. (0.3%); Acton, Mass. (0.3%); Ottawa, Canada (0.2%); Boca Raton, Fla. (0.2%); Bettendorf, Iowa (0.2%); Chicago, Ill. (0.2%); Israel (0.2%); Wayne, N.J. (0.2%); and all other states (6.4%) and is expected to be completed in September 2006. This contract was not competitively procured (M67854-01-C-0001).

SDD contract

April 5/01: General Dynamics Land Systems, Woodbridge, VA, under their subsidiary General Dynamics Amphibious Systems, is being awarded a $6 million modification to previously awarded contract (M67854-01-C-0001) for long-lead material for the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) as part of the systems development and demonstration phase. The work will be performed in Woodbridge, Va. (40%), Lima, Ohio (20%), Tallahassee, Fla. (15%), Muskegon, Mich. (10%), Scranton, Pa. (10%), and Imperial Valley, Calif. (5%) and is expected to be completed by June 2001 (M67854-01-C-0001).


fn1. Remote Weapons Systems turrets like the RCWS-30 equipping the Czech Army’s river-amphibious Pandur II APC fleet were considered at the program’s outset, but they had not developed to their present capability levels. In addition, Col. Brogan noted that Remote Weapons Systems made crew nausea issues worse during amphibious testing. Money has not been allocated for current studies, the design is well advanced, and the EFV office has no plans to recommend reconsideration.

fn2. The GAO estimates $12.3 million per vehicle. See GAO report item in the “Additional Readings & Sources” section for deeper background.

Appendix A: Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle – The Program

Previous timeline
(click to view full)

The US Marines originally hoped to replace 1,322 AAV7s with 1,013 EFVs: 935 EFV-P Personnel Variants, and 78 EFV-C Command Variants. Initial Operating Capability (IOC) was supposed to happen in 2010, and was defined as a platoon of 13 EFV-P and 1 EFV-C vehicle, ready for Marine Expeditionary Unit deployment workups, including the associated support and sustainment package. Plus a 2nd EFV platoon delivered and in New Equipment Training. Plus a 3rd EFV platoon in production. Full Rate Production was scheduled for the FY 2011-2020 period. Full Operational Capability (FOC) was scheduled for FY 2020.

It eventually became clear that 2010 wouldn’t even see the end of testing, and IOC was a long way away at FY 2017 or so, if everything went well. Even Low-Rate Initial Production wasn’t expected until FY 2013 – assuming that testing didn’t reveal additional problems, and the program survived that long. Which it did not.

The EFV nevertheless remained the Corps’ top land combat priority, right up until its cancellation by the Marine Corps – with a very hard push from the Pentagon. EFV budgets in recent years have included:

FY 2005: $291.7 million ($239.2M R&D, $52.5M procurement)
FY 2006: 272.7 million ($243.9M R&D, $28.8M procurement)
FY 2007: $348.7 million (all shifted to RDT&E following testing issues and cuts)
FY 2008 req.: $288.2M RDTE (Research, Development, Testing, & Evaluation)
FY 2009: $256.0M RDT&E
FY 2010: $292.2M RDT&E
FY 2011 request: $242.8M RDT&E, but the program was shut down.

The danger signs began when the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review resulted in a significant cut to the USMC’s EFV plans, as the service considered their total package of ground vehicles, and the schedule has foundered in the wake of serious performance and reliability problems. In contrast, blast-resistant wheeled patrol vehicles appears to have made large gains within the envisioned force mix, per the MRAP program etc.

Muddy ground
(click to view full)

Then, there were the EFV’s costs.

In 2000, the EFV program was expected to cost about $7.3 billion, including $1.6 billion for research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E). By 2006, that figure had risen to $12.5 billion, including $2.5 billion for RDT&E. At 1,013 EFVs, the final cost per vehicle had grown to $10.1 million[2] – but even this figure was true if, and only if, all planned vehicles were bought. By August 2009, the program’s estimated cost was $14.29 billion, including $3.74 billion in RDT&E; and this 14 billion dollar figure was so despite a 42.1% cut in the expected order, to just 593 EFVs. Overall, the cost per vehicle has risen almost 250% from its December 2000 baseline.

In a 2006 discussion, the program office estimated that a cutback to 573 vehicles could increase costs by up to $2 million per vehicle, to $12-13 million. Other reports have placed the cost as high as $17 million average.

Why is this? Much of it is a factor of the vehicle’s requirements. A 20 knot plus water speed, with that much carrying capacity, plus even a questionable level of protection on land, is a contradictory set of imperatives that creates a very expensive vehicle. Some of the cost jump a product of the vehicle’s rising complexity, as it gets redesigned. Some of it is also self-inflicted, and stems from cuts in the program.

Buying fewer vehicles means that the R&D is paid for and vehicles are bought earlier in the production learning curve, when the cost higher. If fewer vehicles are also bought over the same time frame, then fixed costs per vehicle increase for that reason as well. The EFV program office’s preliminary analysis showed that a reduction to 800 vehicles would raise the final average cost per vehicle by at least $1 million.

Of course, costs that rise during the R&D/SDD phase tend to lead to more production reductions, and the whole scenario can spiral very quickly. In an attempt to avoid that spiral, the EFV Program Office tried a number of improved project management techniques and procurement innovations. It was hoped that these efforts would help keep the program on its current schedule, and they did help. What they can never do, is fix a fundamental requirements set problem if one exists, or completely remove the unexpected surprises from a difficult technical journey.

Sunset battle
(click to view full)

In the end, however, the biggest killer was issues with EFV performance, as detailed in test results and GAO reports.

Full up EFV System Level Lethality testing began with an Operational Assessment between January-September 2006. Milestone C approval was expected to be followed by low-rate initial production (LRIP) vehicles in FY 2007 – 2008 for use during Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E). Unfortunately, the assessment revealed some serious issues with performance, capacity, and reliability.

LRIP production was delayed while the program was restructured, and the problems were not confined to just one sub-system, or just a few. In the end, the vehicle kept its basic outline, but got a major makeover that is still in progress.

The first step was a Design For Reliability phase, followed by what is in effect a do-over of the Systems Design & Development phase (SDD-2). Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) was delayed from 2008 until FY 2013 or so. Initial Operational Capability, meanwhile, was pushed from the original 2010 to 2016-2017 at the earliest.

As risky as that was, the US GAO cited an additional risk of overlap. EFV testing wasn’t supposed to be done until the end of FY 2014, but LRIP would start before that’s done. With up to 96 vehicles planned under the 4 LRIP production lots, problems discovered in late testing could become very expensive retrofits very quickly.

This schedule, and the growing risk of EFV program cancellation,made it clear that further upgrades and/or life-extension programs may be required for the AAV7 Amtracs fleet, in order to keep the heavily-used vehicles available to the Marines until replacements do arrive. During that interim, any serious problems in the Amtracs fleet could leave the US Marines in a difficult position indeed.

Appendix B: Additional Readings & Sources EFV Data

Official Reports

Other Readings

Categories: News

Second LM T-50A Takes Maiden Flight | UAE First in ME to Operate RIM-116 RAM | Russia’s T-90MS Ready for Export and in Talks at IDEX

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 23:58

  • Lockheed Martin’s second T-50A jet trainer has made its maiden flight. The trainer, based on the T-50, has been designed to bridge the gap between 4th- and 5th-generation fighter jet technology, and is being entered into the USAF’s T-X trainer competition to replace the service’s fleet of aging Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon aircraft. Lockheed is also offering the T-50A Ground-Based Training System, a simulator designed to provide immersive instruction for pilots prior to taking flight. If selected, pilots will use the trainer to be able to fly F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

  • Lockheed Martin has announced two successful rounds of testing of the modernized Tactical Missile System for the US Army’s TACMS Service Life Extension program. The missiles were launched using a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico last December and earlier this month. Updates to the missile include an improved guidance and control system, new software, and an upgraded fuze.

Middle East & North Africa

  • The UAE will become the first Middle East operator of Raytheon’s RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 close-in weapon system. While the number of systems ordered remains unknown, the systems will be installed on the Emirate’s Baynunah-class corvettes, of which six vessels will be manufactured. Improvements made on the system’s predecessor include kinematic and sensor upgrades to expand the missile’s engagement envelope in order to defeat more maneuverable and higher speed anti-ship cruise missiles. Furthermore, the Block 2 upgrade significantly expands the missile’s effective engagement envelope by introducing a larger dual-thrust rocket motor and independent four-canard control actuator system to increase effective range by about 50% and deliver a three-fold improvement in maneuverability.

  • Russian firm Rostec has revealed that they have signed an initial agreement with the UAE to develop a fifth-generation joint light fighter. The announcement was made at this week’s IDEX 2017 defense expo as Russian industry seeks to expand defense exports in the region. Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov said that development work on the new fighter could begin as early as next year , and it is believed that will be a variation of the MiG-29 fighter jet. The UAE is also potentially looking at purchasing the Sukhoi Su-35.


  • Russia’s latest variant of the T-90 main battle tank, the T-90MS, is now ready for export. Speaking at IDEX 2017, General of the Army Alexei Maslov said that low-rate production of the vehicle had been established, serial production processes has been fine-tuned, and they are now ready to begin taking orders. Maslov added that the tank features a high degree of process automation. It can conduct self-testing and self-diagnostics and can be integrated with foreign components, such as communication systems and air-cooling units. A number of Middle East nations are in discussions.

  • Finland has concluded negotiations with South Korea to purchase 48 used K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers. Valued at $155 million, deliveries are scheduled to begin next year and will continue through to 2024. The 155mm howitzer was tested by the Finnish Army in the Lapland region and is part of a partnership with Estonia to bulk buy the system as both government’s phase out their older Soviet artillery pieces.

Asia Pacific

  • China’s state-run Xinhua news agency has warned South Korea’s Lotte Group of grave consequences if the conglomerate allows the South Korean government to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system on part of a golf course it owns. The words of warning come shortly after Lotte reported that Chinese authorities halted work at a multi-billion-dollar real estate project following a fire inspection, indicating that Beijing was finding ways to retaliate at Seoul for going ahead with THAAD’s deployment, and includes reports of discriminating against some of their companies and cancelling performances by K-Pop artists without explanation. Over the weekend, a meeting between both nation’s foreign ministers saw China’s Wang Yi say that China understands South Korea’s need to protect their security but Seoul still needs to respect Beijing’s concerns about the deployment of THAAD.

  • Nextar has inked contracts with the Indonesian government for the provision of 18 CAESAR wheeled self-propelled howitzer systems. The undisclosed value sale adds to 36 CAESAR systems ordered by Jakarta in 2012 and will include Nextar’s FINDART firing control system and CAESAR simulators. More than 50 artillery battalion auxiliary vehicles will be assembled in Indonesia by Nexter partner PT Pindad. Indonesia has become the first customer for the V-200 UAV, developed by the joint venture of Saab and UMS Aero.

Today’s Video

  • The V-200 maritime UAV:

Categories: News

RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) Systems: Contracts & Events

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 23:55

Mk-44 firing RAM
(click to view full)

The Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) MK-31 guided missile weapon system is co-developed and co-produced under a NATO cooperative program between the United States and German governments to provide a small, all-weather, low-cost self-defense system against aircraft and cruise missiles. The RIM-116 was later called RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), because it spins during flight. To save costs, Designation Systems notes that the RAM was designed to use several existing components, including the rocket motor of the MIM-72 Chaparral, the warhead of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, and the Infrared seeker of the FIM-92 Stinger. Cueing is provided by the ship’s radar, or by its ESM signal tracing suite.

RAM is currently installed, or planned for installation, on 78 U.S. Navy and 30 German Navy ships, including American LSD, LHD, LPD and CVN ship types. This number will grow as vessels of the LPD-17 San Antonio Class and Littoral Combat Ships enter the US Navy, and the LCS will sport an upgraded SeaRAM system that will include its own integrated radar and IR sensors. Abroad, the South Korean Navy has adopted RAM for its KDX-II and KDX-III destroyers, and its LPX Dokdo Class amphibious assault ships; other navies using or buying RAM include Egypt, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and the UAE/Dubai.

RAM Systems: Fast, Flat & Flexible

From USS Kitty Hawk
(click to view full)

GlobalSecurity.orrg notes that The MK-31 RAM Guided Missile Weapon System (GMWS) is defined as the MK-49 Guided Missile Launching System (GMLS) and the MK-44 Guided Missile Round Pack (GMRP). The launching system and missiles comprise the weapon system. The RAM weapon system consists of a 21-round missile launcher, below-deck electronics, and a guided missile round pack. The round pack consists of a 5-inch supersonic missile and a launching canister, which slides into the launcher and provides the interface with the carried missile. The term “All-Up-Round (AUR)” is often used, as the canister is also used for storage/transport.

Raytheon’s partner is the German firm RAMSYS, a joint company of Diehl/BGT and EADS GmbH. These firms extended their agreement for another 10 years in June 2004.

System improvements continue. New MK-44 Guided Missile Round Packs and ORDALT kits are designed to upgrade current systems to RAM Block 1 missile configuration (RIM-116B) or above. Block 1 systems feature an image scanning infrared seeker that allows the missile to more easily counter helicopters and advanced anti-ship threats that do not employ active radar guidance. Another new feature is called IRDM (IR Dual Mode Enable). In that mode, the RAM missile is launched with IR guidance enabled, but can switch to passive radar homing when the target’s radiation becomes adequate to guide on. It also incorporates HAS (Helicopter, Aircraft, Surface) software that lets it prosecute a wider array of targets out to about 9 km/ 4.9 nm, including targets like speedboats that move at slower speeds in radar/IR clutter.

RAM Block 1. This system is installed or planned for installation on many U.S. Navy surface ships, including CV/CVN aircraft carriers, DD-963 Spruance Class destroyers, Oliver Hazard Perry Class FFG guided missile frigates, Littoral Combat Ships, the LHA Tarawa Class and LHD Wasp Class amphibious assault ships, the future LHA-R amphibious assault ships, and LSD and LPD-17 amphibious assault ships. The US Navy expects to buy around 2,000 Block 1 missiles in total.

(click to view full)

Follow-on modifications include an upgraded missile, and the SeaRAM system.

RAM Block 2. A new version that is beginning production, with deliveries beginning in August 2014. The RIM-116 missile’s effective range gets a boost via a larger dual-thrust rocket motor, while an independent 4-canard control actuator system improves maneuverability. Other enhancements include an upgraded passive radio frequency seeker, a digital autopilot, and engineering changes in selected infrared seeker components. The Block 2 system demonstration and development (SDD) program was scheduled to reach initial operating capability in 2011, but it’s 2013 and the missile is still in testing. IOC will wait until 2014.

While most of the RAM Block 2 work is Raytheon’s, the effort is a partnership. Operating under a cooperative Memorandum of Understanding for the Block 2 SDD program, German industry partner RAM-System GmbH also received funds. They’re working to develop an evolved missile radio frequency sensor with better sensitivity and discrimination, in order to kill targets that are using more advanced guidance radars.

SeaRAM. RIM-116 Block 2 missiles, and Block 1 upgrades to the MK31 system, will both be incorporated into the new SeaRAM variant, also known as the “MK 15 MOD 31 PHALANX SeaRAM Close-In Weapon System.” Once it’s bolted on and installed, SeaRAM becomes a complete, self-cueing system that can work with existing systems, or operate on its own. It packages the RAM Block 1 upgrade’s infrared sensors and IR dual-mode with the radar dome mounted on top of the Mk15 Phalanx 20mm CIWS. The penalty for its bolt-on versatility is that it cuts the 21-round missile launcher down to an 11-missile load, in order to remain within the same space “footprint” as the Phalanx 1B. It will equip the USA’s new Littoral Combat Ships, among others.

Program and Budgets

While the number of RAM missiles procured by the USA has been relatively stable each year, Pentagon budget documents show US program spending fluctuating. That’s because some annual budgets also include funds for system upgrades (generally from Block 0 to Block 1) and things like Block 2 development work:

These budgets do not include international orders.

Contracts & Key Events

Unless otherwise stated, all contracts are awarded by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC to Raytheon Company in Tucson, AZ. It should be noted, however, that the RAM Guided Missile Weapon System is co-developed and co-produced under a NATO Cooperative Program between the United States’ and Federal Republic of Germany’s governments.

FY 2016 – 2017

RAM reload
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February 21/17: The UAE will become the first Middle East operator of Raytheon’s RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 close-in weapon system. While the number of systems ordered remains unknown, the systems will be installed on the Emirate’s Baynunah-class corvettes, of which six vessels will be manufactured. Improvements made on the system’s predecessor include kinematic and sensor upgrades to expand the missile’s engagement envelope in order to defeat more maneuverable and higher speed anti-ship cruise missiles. Furthermore, the Block 2 upgrade significantly expands the missile’s effective engagement envelope by introducing a larger dual-thrust rocket motor and independent four-canard control actuator system to increase effective range by about 50% and deliver a three-fold improvement in maneuverability.

May 19/16: Raytheon’s SeaRam anti-ship defense system has undergone its most rigorous testing in recent US Navy testing. Targets successfully engaged involved two supersonic missiles flying in complex, evasive maneuvers which the system successfully took down with the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 missiles. The SeaRAM is an upgrade of Phalanx Block 1B and it swaps out the gatling gun with an 11-round Rolling Airframe Missile guide.

January 13/16: The US Navy successfully tested a Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block II from the SeaRAM anti-ship missile defense system for the first time. SeaRAM, used on the Independence class of Littoral Combat Ships, successfully detected, tracked and engaged an inbound threat, and fired a RAM Block II that successfully intercepted the target. The SeaRam system utilized Raytheon’s Phalanx Close-In Weapon System for the test which is a rapid-fire, computer-controlled radar and 20mm gun system that acquires, tracks and destroys enemy threats that have penetrated all other ship defense systems. The two systems combined can also be found on the Navy’s destroyers.

January 7/16: The DoD has awarded Raytheon $66.5 million to provide Navy Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 guided missile round pack requirements. The RAM defense system uses an infrared homing surface-to-air missile to provide anti-ship missile defense from multiple vessels, and is developed jointly by the US and Germany. The contract will see the manufacture and assembly of RAM Block 2 MK 44 Mod 4 guided missile round packs for the US Navy, with options that could include a foreign military sale to Japan. A sale to Japan would see the value of the contract rise to $142 million.

FY 2014-2015

September 21/15: The Navy has test fired a Rolling Airframe Missile Block 1A from an Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship, the USS Coronado (LCS-4). The trimaran’s SeaRAM air defense system fired the missile as part of a risk-reduction and certification trial. The SeaRAM system incorporates the Rolling Airframe Missile and the Block 1B Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) as a more flexible air defense system, trading bolt-on versatility for a reduced missile load compared with the RAM system on its own.

May 18/15: The Navy announced Friday that it has achieved Initial Operating Capability with the Block II Rolling Airframe Missile aboard the USS Arlington (LPD 24). The joint program with Germany was recently included as part of a $1.6 billion overhaul package by the US Navy intended to provide improved protection to carriers and amphibious ships.

May 11/15: The Navy is planning to spend $1.6 billion on carrier and amphibious ship defenses in order to protect the Service’s fleet of F-35s. The new defenses will focus on supersonic threats, with a series of overhauled technologies including new missiles and radars set to be integrated into Ship Self Defense Systems (SSDS). Key components of these future systems include the Rolling Airframe Missile and the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.

Aug 27/14: Block 2. Raytheon delivers the 1st RAM Block 2 missile to the US Navy, as part of the company’s 2012 Low Rate Initial Production contract. Sources: Raytheon, “Raytheon delivers first Block 2 Rolling Airframe Missiles to US Navy”.

1st Block 2 delivery

July 30/14: GAO Report. The US GAO releases Report #GAO-14-749, “Littoral Combat Ship: Additional Testing and Improved Weight Management Needed Prior to Further Investments.” It looks at weight issues within the 2 Littoral Combat Ship classes. Though Freedom Class LCS 5 and beyond will make enough changes to meet their required design margin:

“Another proposed change would increase commonality and combat capability by replacing the Freedom variant’s rolling airframe missile system with the heavier [SeaRAM] missile system found on the Independence variant. While the specifics of this potential change have not yet been determined or approved, Navy technical experts told us that such a modification would subsequently increase the Freedom variant’s weight and could also result in center of gravity changes.”

June 24/14: FY 2014. A $73.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for FY 2014 rolling airframe missile (RAM) guided-missile round pack requirements for the U.S. and allied navies, including 23% of the contract’s value for Japan, spares for the Federal Republic of Germany, and testing equipment upgrade and replacement requirements. All funds are committed immediately.

This contract involves foreign military sales to Japan (23%). Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (49.7%); Ottobrunn, Germany (42.7%); Rocket Center, West Virginia (4.5%), and Andover, Massachusetts (3.1%); it is expected to be complete by November 2016. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-14-C-5417).

FY 2014: USA, Japan

Jan 3/14: Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $52.1 million Design Agent Engineering and Technical Support Services modification for maintainence of, and improvements to, the Mk15 Phalanx, Land-based Phalanx, and SeaRAM weapon systems.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by January 2015. $12.5 million is committed immediately from a wide array of USN FY 2014 and FY 2013 R&D, weapons, and shipbuilding budget lines, plus a US Army budget. Of that, $4 million will expire on Sept 30/13 (N00024-12-C-5405).

Dec 9/13: Support. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $35 million contract modification, exercising an option for MK-31 RAM’s FY 2014 design agent engineering services. This will include improvement program support, guided-missile round pack support, and guided-missile launching system support.

$8.2 million in USN FY 2014 R&D, operations, and Deutsche Marine funding is committed immediately. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by September 2014 (N00024-10-C-5432).

FY 2013

German multi-year order; Block 2 goes from tests to fleet firing; SeaRAM may now equip both LCS types.

USN LPD 23 & 24
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Sept 10/13: SeaRAM. A $136.2 million contract to overhaul and upgrade 19 MK 15 Phalanx systems, and produce 4 new SeaRAM systems. This contract provides purchases for the U.S. Navy (80%), Japan (15%), the US Army (4%) and Pakistan (1%) under the foreign military sales (FMS) program; and all funds are committed immediately. $55 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13.

Another $94.8 million in options exist for a FY 2014 buy of 12 more Phalanx upgrades, and another 4 SeaRAM systems, to bring the total contract to $231 million.

Work will be performed in Louisville, KY (26%); Anaheim, CA (16%); Melbourne, FL (11%); Dayton, OH (11%); Syracuse, NY (10%); McKinney, TX (5%); Andover, MA (5%); Bloomington, MN (5%); Radford, VA (5%); Salt Lake City, UT (3%); and Tucson, AZ (3%), and is expected to be complete by September 2017. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with FAR 6.302-1(a)(2)(iii) “one responsible supplier” provisions (N00024-13-C-5406). Sources: Pentagon | Raytheon Sept 11/13 release.

Aug 6/13: Block 2. The US Navy has completed the first RAM Block 2 fleet firing with a pair of tests from USS Arlington [LPD 24] and the Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship. The missiles went 4/4 against sub-sonic and supersonic maneuvering targets. The USN intends to achieve Initial Operational Capability in 2014. Raytheon, Aug 6/13 release.

July 25/13: LCS standardization? During House Armed Service Committee hearings on the Littoral Combat Ship, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Sean J. Stackley says that the Navy is strongly considering standardizing both ship classes on the SeaRAM configuration. The Freedom Class currently uses the full RAM installation, while the Independence Class trimaran uses the SeaRAM system with an integrated radar but fewer missiles. HASC video.

F219 w. RAM
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March 28/13: Germany. The German government places a $343.6 million contract with Raytheon’s partner RAMSYS GmbH in Ottobrunn, Germany for 445 RIM-116 Block 2 All-Up-Round missiles between now and January 2019, to insert into their MK-44 Mod 4 RAM Guided Missile Round Packs. As one might expect, the Germans use RAM missiles on several of their ship classes. $1.3 million is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (49.7%); Ottobrunn, Germany (42.7%); Rocket Center, WVA (4.5%); and Andover, MA (3.1%). This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-13-C-5459). See also Raytheon.

German multi-year order

Dec 20/12: USA FY 2013. A $45.6 million firm-fixed-price FY 2013 option for 61 Rolling Airframe Missile Block 2 (MK-44 Mod 4) guided-missile round pack all-up-round missiles. All contract funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Tucson, ArZ (49.7%), Ottobrunn, Germany (42.7%), Rocket Center, WVA (4.5%), and Andover, MA (3.1%), and is expected to be complete by February 2015 (N00024-12-C-5450).

Dec 14/12: Ship sets. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $12.3 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 4 refurbished and upgraded Rolling Airframe Missile MK 49 Mod 3 guided-missile launch systems and associated hardware. These 21-missile launch packs will equip the San Antonio Class LPD 27 John P. Murtha (2 systems), and the Freedom Class ships LCS 9 and LCS 11 (1 each). All funds are committed on award, and there are options for 4 additional launch systems.

At the time of award, a $5.5 million option is also exercised for 2 remanufactured MK 49 launch packs, with Mod 3 updates and associated hardware. They’ll equip the Freedom Class ships LCS 13 and LCS 15.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by December 2015. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304c1 (N00024-11-C-5448).

Nov 27/12: Support. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $12 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to exercise an option for FY 2013 Design Agent Engineering Services for MK-31 RAM support services, providing maintenance and resolving issues through design, software maintenance, and engineering.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and will run until September 2013. $44,800 will be obligated at the time of award (N00024-10-C-5432).

Nov 9/12: Support. An $11.3 million contract modification exercises the FY 2013 option for MK-31 design agent engineering services. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by September 2013 (N00024-10-C-5432).

Oct 22/12: Test. Raytheon announces that its RAM Block 2 has successfully completed its 3rd guided test vehicle flight, using production-representative hardware, in a 2 missile salvo. The engagement resulted in a direct hit on the target.

“Raytheon was awarded a low-rate production contract this year calling for 51 RAM Block 2 missiles. The company is scheduled to deliver 25 [RIM-116] Block 2 missiles during the integrated testing phase of this program.”

FY 2012

Business as usual.

RIM-116 Block 2
(click to view full)

July 30/12: FY 2012. A $51.7 million firm-fixed-price contract for 51 MK-44 Mod 4 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 guided missile round pack all-up-rounds. In other words, the missiles and storage/interface tubes that fit into the launchers.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (49.7%); Ottobrunn, Germany (42.7%); Rocket City, WVA (4.5%); and Andover, MA (3.1%), and is expected to be complete by September 2014. This contract includes options which could bring the cumulative value of this contract to $105.8 million, and presumably about 105 missiles.

This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-12-C-5450).

May 17/12: Ship sets. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $57.9 million contract modification, covering FY 2012 requirements for MK 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS). It includes MK 15 Mod 31 CIWS SeaRAM missile upgrade kits and conversions in support of Austal’s forthcoming LCS 10 and 12; as well as Phalanx Block 1B BL2 upgrade kits and conversions, 2 Phalanx Block 1Bs for the forthcoming DDG 116 destroyer, MK 15 CIWS hardware product improvements and ancillary equipment, Block 1B Ordalt (Ordnance Alternation) kits; and MK 15 CIWS Block 1B Class A overhauls.

Work will be performed in Louisville, KY (39%); Germany (12%); Palm Bay, FL (12%); Tucson, AZ (9%); Pittsburgh, PA (8%); Burlington, VT (6%); Andover, MA (4%); Syracuse, NY (4%); Long Beach, CA (1%); Radford, VA (1%); Bloomington, MN (1%); Salt Lake City, UT (1%); Norcross, GA (1%); and New Albany, IN (1%); and is expected to be complete by September 2015. $24.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00024-10-C-5427).

Jan 19/12: Support. A $30 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for the MK-31 RAM system’s FY 2012 design agent engineering services. they’ll work to maintain current system capability, as well as resolve issues through design, systems, software maintenance, reliability, maintainability, quality assurance and logistics engineering.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by September 2012. $342,272 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00024-10-C-5432).

Dec 6/11: FY 2012. A $22.2 million contract modification for the production of 50 Block 1 MK-44 Mod 2 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) guided missile round pack all-up-rounds.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (49.7%); Ottobrunn, Germany (42.7%); Rocket City, WVA (4.5%); and Andover, MA (3.1%), and is expected to be complete by February 2014 (N00024-08-C-5401).

FY 2010 – 2011

US orders; Major UAE order; Block 2 initial integration & tests.

UAE’s Baynunah Class
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Sept 15/11: Block 2 tests. Raytheon and Germany’s RAMSYS announce that they have finished RAM Block 2 missile upgrade and integration testing in the 5 control test vehicle flights, meeting all upgrade requirements. They’re not done yet, however. The program will begin guided flight tests at the end of 2011, and is expected to enter low rate production in late 2012.

Aug 25/11: Ship sets. A not-to-exceed $161 million contract modification to previously awarded contract for MK15 Mod 31 SeaRAM systems in support of Independence Class ships LCS 6 Jackson and LCS 8 Montgomery, and Japan’s “DDH 2405 helicopter destroyer.” It will also buy Phalanx CIWS Block 1B class “A” overhauls, and land-based Phalanx Weapon System class “A” overhauls.

Japan’s “DDH-2405” may be the first ship of Japan’s new “22DH” project to field 800 foot, 30,000t vessels that are larger than its existing 18,000t Hyuga Class. The Hyuga Class are properly characterized as LPH helicopter carriers, and 22DHs could be classed as escort carriers, but Japan’s constitution forbids them from owning aircraft carriers. The SH-60 Seahawk helicopters on board JMSDF Hyuga and JMSDF Ise certainly proved themselves in the wake of the 2011 tsunami, which should mute any domestic criticism.

Work will be performed in Louisville, KY (30%); Andover, MA (19%); Tucson, AZ (9%); Germany (7%); Syracuse, NY (7%); Long Beach, CA (6%); Radford, VA (6%); Burlington, VT (6%); Palm Bay, FL (2%); Pittsburgh, PA (2%); Bloomington, MN (2%); Salt Lake City, UT (2%); Norcross, GA (1%); and New Albany, IN (1%). Work is expected to be complete by September 2015, but $90.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00024-10-C-5427).

Aug 1/11: Ship sets. A $7.4 million contract modification for 3 refurbished and upgraded RAM MK 49 Mod 3 Guided Missile Launch Systems with associated hardware, for use on LHA 7 (unnamed, America Class escort carrier, 2) and LCS 5 (Detroit, Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship, 1).

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).

June 30/11: FY 2011. A $57.9 million contract modification for 90 Block 1 MK-44 Mod 2 RAM guided-missile round pack all-up-rounds, and 40 ordnance alteration kits. This contract modification includes options, which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this modification to $113 million.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (49.7%); Ottobrunn, Germany (42.7%); Rocket City, WVA (4.5%); and Andover, MA (3.1%); and is expected to be complete by December 2013 (N00024-08-C-5401).

Feb 23/11: UAE. At IDEX 2011, the UAE announces an AED 800.5 million ($218 million) order for Raytheon’s RAM missile systems. The missiles equip the UAE’s new Baynunah-class corvettes, built in country by Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB).

The initial ship of class UAENS Al Hesen was a significant exhibit at the show. Jane’s.

UAE order

Nov 23/10: Block 2 test. Raytheon announces that its RAM Block 2 missile has completed the 4th and final controlled test vehicle flight. This test measured kinematic performance and stability, with attention to the missile’s rocket motor, airframe, control section, and autopilot software. Raytheon will build 25 Block 2 missiles during the design and development test period, and expects a low rate initial production contract to follow.

Oct 29/10: Ship sets. A $17.7 million fixed-price contract for 2 refurbished and upgraded rolling airframe missile (RAM) MK 49 Mod 3 guided missile launch systems (GMLS) with associated hardware. They’ll be mounted on the USA’s LPD 26, a San Antonio Class large amphibious ship. The contract also involves 1 new MK 49 Mod 3 system, which will be mounted on Egypt’s new Ambassador III Class fast missile craft. Note that the MK 49 needs to add the MK 44 guided missile round pack to become a fully effective MK 31 RAM missile system.

This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (37.1%) and the government of Egypt (62.9%) under the Foreign Military Sales program. It includes options which could bring the cumulative value of this contract to $32.8 million. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by January 2013. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-11-C-2404).

July 8/10: Sub-contractors. LaBarge, Inc. announces a $1.2 million contract from Raytheon to provide printed circuit card assemblies for the RAM missile system.

LaBarge already produces a variety of complex wiring harnesses for the system, and will perform this new work at its Tulsa, OK facility. Production is expected to begin in July 2010 and continue through June 2011.

July 2/10: Support. A $44.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the MK-31 rolling airframe missile (RAM) guided missile weapon system’s FY 2010 design agent engineering services. The support covers maintenance, and adds design, systems, software maintenance, reliability, maintainability, quality assurance, and logistics engineering services as necessary. The contract includes options which would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $167.3 million, if exercised.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by September 2010. $2.25 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. This contract was not competitively procured (N00024-10-C-5432).

May 24/10: LCS. Raytheon announces that its SeaRAM system successfully completed 2 blast test missile launches aboard the USS Independence [LCS 2], designed to test the structural integrity of both the weapon system and the ship. The launches clear the way for SeaRAM’s live-fire testing on that Littoral Combat Ship class later in 2010.

SeaRAM cuts the number of available missile pack rounds from 21 to 11, but marries the RAM launcher to the 20mm Mk15 Phalanx’s base structure and engagement radar, in order to create a truly bolt-on air defense option for ships. In the Independence Class, the system is also integrated into the ship’s wider combat system.

May 21/10: Block 2. A $10.8 million contract modification to increase the ceiling amount to previously awarded contract, for the “rebaselining of the system design and development” of the RAM Block 2 upgrade. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by December 2011.

According to Raytheon representatives, what’s really happening is an extension of the program’s schedule, as well as about a year’s worth of added work from Navy requests. The net effect is to more or less restore the requirements that the program began with 4 years ago, with some changes in light of subsequent tests. Raytheon has now run 3 control test vehicle launches, with 1 to go. Guided test launches will be next, with Navy testing expected to begin with about 25 Design-Test/ Operational-Test missiles in Q1 2012 (N00024-07-C-5454).

RAM Block 2 rebaselined

March 23/10: Testing. A Germany Navy video shows an exercise held off the Cape of Good Hope, whose stormy seas keep the area clear enough to allow live missile tests. The video shows AS.34 Kormoran anti-ship missiles being intercepted by older RIM-7 SeaSparrow missiles… but the RAM system on F215 Brandenburg misses the target drone.


Oct 16/09: Block 2. A $7.7 million modification to previously awarded contract to increase the ceiling amount for System Design and Development of the RAM Block 2 upgrade. The funds will cover additional guidance section design verification testing, to ensure that the software interfaces properly with the missile’s hardware guidance section. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by August 2011 (N00024-07-C-5454).

FY 2008 – 2009

Orders: USA, Egypt.

SeaRAM firing
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July 20/09: SeaRAM. A $16.8 million modification to a previously awarded contract for 2 more MK 15 Mod 31 CIWS SeaRAM weapon systems, ancillary equipment, spares, and support. Unlike the Mk 44 launchers, SeaRAM systems have only 11 missiles in the launcher, in order to fit within the self-contained Mk 15 Phalanx mounting.

Work will be performed in Louisville, KY (33%); Tucson, AZ (8%); Andover, MA (6%); Pittsburgh, PA (4%); Mechanicsville, MD (3%); Fort Defiance, AZ (3%); Bloomington, MN (2%); Santa Clara, CA (2%); Munich, Germany (37%); and Athens, Greece (2%), and is expected to be complete by September 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $9.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00024-07-C-5444).

June 8/09: FY 2009. A $56.4 million modification to previously awarded contract for the production of 90 Block 1 MK-44 Mod 2 rolling airframe missile (RAM) guided missile round pack (GMRP) all-up-rounds (AURs), and 40 ordnance alteration kits. This contract modification includes options which would bring the cumulative value of this modification to $118 million, if exercised.

GMRPs are the 21-round missile launchers used by the RAM system, and 90 GMRP AURs is the standard annual American order. The total FY 2009 RAM missile budget is $70.8 million.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (49.7%); Ottobrunn, Germany (42.7%); Rocket City, WVA (4.5%); and Andover, MA (3.1%), and is expected to be complete by December 2011 (N00024-08-C-5401).

Jan 16/09: Ship sets. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives an $18.8 million contract modification buy 4 of their Mk 49 MOD 3 Guided Missile Launcher Systems (GMLS), which hold the full 21-missile Mk 44 packs. The Mk 49 systems will be installed on the amphibious assault ship LPD 25 Arlington, and the first-of-class CVN 78 Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier. Another 10 ORDALT (ORDnance ALTeration) Mod 1 to Mod 3 GMLS Ordalt Kits will also be provided as part of this order, and will be used to upgrade a number of Mk49 systems around the fleet.

Work will be performed in Ottobrunn, Germany (50%), Louisville, KY (45%) and Tucson, AZ (5%) and is expected to be complete by February 2012 (N00024-06-C-5402).

Oct 15/08: Sub-contractors. BAE Systems spinoff Atlantic Inertial Systems (AIS) announces a production order from Diehl BGT Defence GmbH worth about $3 million for the second batch of its SiARS Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). The order follows AIS’ successful completion of design, qualification and initial production deliveries.

IMU systems offer a way to precisely measure distance and vector from a known launch point, without requiring GPS or external aids that may not be available. MEMS technology helps this IMU perform that job reliably in a violently spinning missile like RAM.

AIS has been involved in the RAM program for a number of years, and their release says they anticipate receiving annual production orders into the next decade. The firm has facilities in Cheshire CT, USA, and in Plymouth, UK, employing over 800 personnel worldwide.

June 11/08: FY 2008. A $59.5 million contract for the production of 90 Block 1 MK-44 Mod 2 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Guided Missile Round Pack All-Up-Rounds, and 60 ORDALT(ORDnance ALTeration, usually means upgrades) Kits.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (49.7%), Ottobrunn, Germany (42.7%), Rocket City, WVA (4.5%), and Andover, MA (3.1%) and is expected to be complete by May 2011. (N00024-08-C-5401).

Dec 31/07: Egypt. Egypt’s order comes in – see Sept 28/07, as Raytheon receives $72.5 million modification to previously awarded contract for 139 Block 1 MK-44, Mod 2 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Guided Missile Round Pack (GMRP) All-Up-Rounds.

Work will be performed in Ottobrunn, Germany (49%), Tucson, AZ (44%), Rocket City, WVA (6%), and Andover, MA (1%), and is expected to be complete by January 2011. This modification supports the Republic of Egypt (100%) under the Foreign Military Sales Program (N00024-04-C-5456).


FY 2006 – 2007

Orders: USA, UAE, South Korea; Export requests: Egypt; RIM-116 Block 2 development contract; Shingo Prize for the factory; SeaRAM picked for LCS-2 trimarans.

RIM-116 RAM Launch

Sept 28/07: The US DSCA announces [PDF format] Egypt’s formal request for up to 139 RIM-116B Block 1A Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) with MK-44 Guided Missile Round Packs, containers, support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government, contractor engineering and logistics technical support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The systems will be installed on Egypt’s new Ambassador MK III Fast Missile Craft [PDF format] boats for air defense, along with the 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx CIWS. See also Feb 10/06 entry.

The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $125 million. The prime contractor will be Raytheon Systems Corporation in Tucson, AZ. There are no offset agreements associated with this potential sale, and implementation will not require the assignment of any additional U. S. Government or contractor personnel in country.

DSCA request: Egypt (139)

Aug 15/07: LCS. A $5.8 million firm-fixed-price modification under previously awarded contract for the fabrication, test, and delivery of one (1) MK 15 MOD 31 PHALANX SeaRAM Close-In weapon System (CIWS). As noted above, the SeaRAM uses the Phalanx system’s integrated radar, and will equip the USA’s Littoral Combat Ships. Work will be performed in Louisville, KY, and is expected to be complete by September 2009 (N00024-04-C-5460).

June 5/07: Raytheon announces a contract for 7 RAM Block 1A systems with Abu Dhabi Ship Building of the United Arab Emirates. The direct commercial sale, valued at $76.5 million, calls for the systems to be delivered starting in December 2007, and installed on 6
of the UAE’s new 70m Baynunah Class corvettes. The agreement also provides for an on-shore Rolling Airframe Missile test and training system, spares support and other services. Raytheon release.

The RAM system was not originally slated to equip the UAE’s new corvettes, but in 2006 the UAE decided that escalating regional tensions and anti-ship missile proliferation required improved inner layer defenses. The system will be mounted near the ship’s rear, atop the helicopter hangar. Outer defense will be handled by Raytheon’s RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles fired from Mk56 vertical launchers, while last-ditch defense will rely on the corvette’s Oto Melara 76mm naval gun and 30mm secondary guns.

RAM backfit for UAE

May 24/07: Support. Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ received an $11.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for 70,590 engineering man-hour design agent engineering services for the MK-31 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) guided missile weapon system, and associated efforts. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by September 2007.

Support procured under this contract is required to maintain current weapon system capability, as well as resolve issues through design, systems, software maintenance, reliability, maintainability, quality assurance and logistics engineering services. The contract was not competitively procured by The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-07-C-5443).

May 8/07: Block 2. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ received a $105.5 million cost-plus scheduled event-based incentive-fee contract for system design and development of the Block 2 upgrade to the RAM MK31 Guided Missile Weapon System, in support of the Program Executive Office-Integrated Weapon Systems. “The Block 2 upgrade will enable the RAM missile to more effectively counter the emerging threat of more maneuverable anti-ship missiles.” Details regarding the Block 2 upgrade are given in the RAM System section.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by December 2010. The contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-07-C-5454).

See also Raytheon’s June 27/07 release, which announces the contract as “$145.4 million… for production and enhancement of its Rolling Airframe Missile program. Nearly $105.5 million will go to the development of Rolling Airframe Missile Block 2…”

RAM Block 2 development

March 6/07: FY 2007. Raytheon Company in Tucson, AZ received a $39.9 million firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-5456) for production of 90 Block 1 MK 44 Mod 2 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Guided Missile Round Packs, and 90 MK 20 Mod 2 RAM Active Optical Target Detectors. This represents the full FY 2007 request.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (50%) and Ottobrunn, Germany (50%), and is expected to be complete by March 2009. The Naval Sea System Command in Washington, DC issued the contract.

Feb 8/07: Shingo Prize. Raytheon Missile Systems’ (RMS) Louisville, KY facility has captured a prestigious Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing, marking the 4th consecutive year that various Raytheon facilities have won. The Louisville facility manufactures the Phalanx CIWS and RAM/SeaRAM systems. See full DID coverage.

April 11/06: South Korea. Raytheon announces a $17.4 million contract for production 30 RAM Block 1/HAS (helicopter, aircraft, surface) tactical guided missile round packs and test equipment design maintenance for the South Korean RAM program.

RAM Block 1/HAS is the ship self-defense weapon of choice for the country’s KDX II, or Chungmugong Yi Sunshin Class destroyers. Note that the KDX-IIs will also use longer range Standard SM-2 Block IIA missiles as part of their surface-air missile armament.

Raytheon reports that they also have contracts to supply launchers for South Korea’s future KDX III AEGIS destroyers and LPX Dodoko Class amphibious assault ships.

South Korea

April 4/06: RAM on LCS. Raytheon Company has announces that it will install the SeaRAM anti-ship missile defense weapon system on General Dynamics’ trimaran design for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). SeaRAM combines upgraded MK 15 Phalanx Block 1B close in weapon system’s radar & infrared sensors and Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 1A Helicopter, Aircraft, and Surface (HAS) guided missiles. Raytheon will work with General Dynamics to integrate SeaRAM with the LCS combat management system.

RAM for LCS-2 Class

April 3/06: FY 2006. Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ received a $77 million firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract for production of 90 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 1/HAS MK-44, Mod 3 all-up-round tactical guided missile round packs (GMRP). This is the USA’s full procurement amount for FY 2006, similar to the 86 GMRP requested in FY 2005 and the 90 missiles in the FY 2007 budget request. This contract also covers 120 RAM Block 1/HAS MK-44, Mod 3 ordnance alteration (ORDALT) kits.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (50%) and Ottobrunn, Germany (50%), and is expected to be complete by March 2009 (N00024-04-C-5456).

Feb 10/06: Egypt. Raytheon announces that the Egyptian navy will outfit its new Ambassador III Class Fast Missile Craft with Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launching systems. Raytheon’s Mk49 RAM launchers and associated RAM Block 1A missiles will provide the primary ship self-defense capability for the Fast Missile Craft, built by VT Halter Marine in Gulfport, MS.

Approximately 50% of the production work will be performed at Raytheon Missile System facilities in Louisville, KY and Tucson, AZ with the remaining half to be completed by RAM-System GmbH of Ottobrunn, Germany.

Egypt picks RAM for FACs

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Mwari AHRLAC to Begin Production in April | Rheinmetall & Raytheon Sign Collaboration Memo | Russian Helicopters to Commence KA-226T Deliveries to India in 2018

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 23:58

  • US President Donald Trump took the opportunity to suggest a further F/A-18 Super Hornet order while attending a ceremony for Boeing’s inaugural 787-10 Dreamliner in South Carolina. While Trump has made no clear indication or commitment to the numbers that would be ordered, he said “we are looking seriously at a big order. The problem is that [Boeing CEO] Dennis [Muilenberg] is a very tough negotiator, but I think we may get there.” Trump also had kind words for the aging, Boeing-made, Air Force One. “That plane, as beautiful as it looks is 30 years old. What can look so beautiful at 30? An aeroplane,” he said.


  • The Paramount Group is to begin production of the Mwari reconnaissance and strike aircraft this April. Based on the firm’s Advanced, High Performance, Reconnaissance, Light Aircraft (AHRLAC), up to 24 base aircraft will be made per year at their new facility at Wonderboom Airport, with the Mwari military aircraft and customized mission systems being integrated in a separate facility. The Mwari has been developed as part of a partnership with Boeing, which is developing their own integrated mission system that supports intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and light strike capabilities. Mwari will also be showcased at this week’s IDEX defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Middle East & North Africa

  • The Israeli Air Force is to change their procedures related to asymmetric flight toward landing, following the crash of an F-16I fighter last October. One pilot was killed and the second crew member injured following a crash during landing after a mission against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. The new procedure will require pilots to drop unused weapons into the sea in order to stabilize their aircraft before landing.

  • A Houthi rebel boat which attacked a Saudi Arabian frigate off the coast of Yemen in January was unmanned. Initially believed to have been a suicide mission, a US Navy official has revealed that the attack was instead carried out by an unmanned, remote-controlled craft filled with explosives. Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet and head of US Naval Forces Central Command said that the boat was likely to have been either supplied by Iran, or at least have had Iranian production help. In the last year, US and coalition partners have intercepted four weapons shipments destined for the Houthis.


  • Representatives from Rheinmetall and Raytheon have signed an agreement to cooperate on future defense projects. The memorandum of understanding signed outlines that the pact will facilitate deepened ties on missile defense systems and rocket-based solutions and the firms will also work closely on combat vehicles, weapons, ammunition, cyber defense and simulations. Popular products made by the German firm include several types of armored vehicles, various caliber gun systems, and air-defense gun systems.

  • Northrop Grumman and the British RAF have successfully demonstrated communication system interoperability between an F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon jets. The test was carried out during an MoD-funded two week trial, called Babel Fish III, and saw a Lockheed Martin F-35B communicate with a Typhoon fighter by translating its Multifunction Advanced Data Link messages into a Link 16 format. It was the first time a non-U.S. 5th- and 4th-generation aircraft shared MADL-delivered data. Northrop claimed that the test integrated its Freedom 550 technology into the F-35’s Airborne Gateway, which translates information from various sources to enhance situational awareness and interoperability.

Asia Pacific

  • The state-owned manufacturer Russian Helicopters has said that they will commence deliveries of the KA-226T helicopter to the Indian military next year. 60 units will be delivered in Russia while a further 140 will be manufactured and assembled in India under an agreement signed last October. Russia expects sales of the advanced medium multirole Mi-171A2 to increase by at least 15% in 2017 with interest received from China, as well as from the Iranian oil and gas sector.

  • Sri Lankan media reports that Pakistan has offered an F-7 fighter for free in return for each JF-17 that Sri Lanka purchases from Islamabad. The report claims that in its efforts to push a deal for the fighter, Pakistan has hired a Singapore-based consultancy group to assist with the lobbying, and that attempts have been made to pay kickbacks to Sri Lankan defense ministry officials as well as high-ranking military personnel.

Today’s Video

  • More on the upcoming production of the Ahrlac/Mwari:

Categories: News

India’s Light Helicopter Contract Hits Turbulence, Stalls. Again. Starts.

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 23:55

Austrian Alouette-III
(click to view full)

How safe are the Indian Army’s aging fleets of Chetaks (Aerospatiale SA316 Alouette III) and Cheetahs (SA315B Alouette II/III mix)? These old designs have consistently proven themselves in high altitude operations, and remain useful as long as their airframes remain safe. The problem is that at their age, the safety margin is pretty slim. Or worse.

In 2003, India issued an RFP for 197 light helicopters estimating a deal worth between $500-$600 million to buy 60 helicopters outright, with the remaining 137 being built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Eurocopter’s AS550 C3 Fennec and Bell Textron’s 407 competed in the second and final round of summer trials, and as 2007 ticked toward a close, it looked like we had a winner. As often happens in India, however, the process ended up completely derailed. A new RFP out for a successor “Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter program” (RSH) went out in 2008, and testing was done in 2010. Has the RSH competition gone the way of the 1st aborted contract, even as India’s high altitude border posts struggle for adequate support?

The Contenders

IAF Chetak
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Reports in 2013 placed India’s fleet of Army Aviation Corps (AAC) Chetak/Cheetah helicopters at about 120 machines that remain in flyable consition. These are 1970s vintage helicopters, and all have long surpassed their official safe limit of 4,500 flying hours. Nevertheless, they are routinely sent to supply and support India’s high altitude border garrisons, including places like the Siachen Glacier (19,000 feet above sea level) and Satoro Ridge (20,000 feet). Operation at these altitudes has traditionally been very challenging for helicopters, owing to reduced rotor lift in the thinning air. Aged machines lower the odds further. From 2006 to the end of 2012, 11 Cheetah/ Chetak helicopters have crashed, killing 9 pilots.

The AAC needs replacements, and wants new helicopters with better performance and support characteristics. These new machines will perform a variety of armed light utility tasks, including ferrying loads of up to 75 kg, medical evacuations, aerial photography, unarmed and armed scout roles, and even limited electronic surveillance.

Under the v2.0 Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter (RSH) competition, India upped its planned buy from HAL to 187 locally-designed LUH single-engine helicopters, accompanied by 197 LUH helicopters of a foreign design.

By 2014, India canceled the international LUH tender for a 2nd time, and turned it into a program to build helicopters in India under license. That’s expected to add several years before the AAC sees any helicopters, and effectively dissolves the competition structure. It may still be useful to know how candidates performed in previous competitions, however, so we’re keeping them in their categories below.

Previous Finalists

AS550 Fennec
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Eurocopter A550. HAL and Eurocopter predecessor Aerospatiale have a long-standing relationship, and past Indian Army helicopters have generally been modified Aerospatiale designs. The Eurocopter AS550 C3 Fennec won the Army’s v1.0 competition, and price negotiations were underway when a questionable technicality led India to cancel the deal.

The AS550 reportedly needed several modifications for India’s requirements, including ‘bulge doors’ so soldiers on stretchers wouldn’t have to fold their legs at 70 degrees in order to fit inside. A Technical Oversight Committee cleared the modified machine, despite a tender clause ruling out modifications. Reports from India also speak of failure in some high-altitude trials, which is surprising for a helicopter type that has landed atop Mount Everest. Unfortunately, the reports aren’t specific concerning which exact tasks were the problem.

On the industrial side, EADS subsidiary Eurocopter have entered into a Global Industrial Cooperation Partnership Agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the joint production of the civilian/military Ecureuil and Fennec family of helicopters. That agreement, signed at the ongoing “Aero-India 2005” international air show, would make HAL a global supplier of composite and metallic structural assemblies for the Ecureuil and Fennec family, including airframes for the 2 helicopters.

Kamov Ka-226 w. pod

Kamov Ka-226. Russia’s Kamov had responded to the AAC’s v1.0 Request For Proposal back in late 2003, alongside Bell and Eurocopter. Its Ka-226 Sergei uses the same counter-rotating design as Kamov’s other helicopters, which serve in roles with the Indian Navy. The Ka-226 also has a somewhat unusual feature – it can become a skycrane by detaching its body pod. Other mission pods can also be fitted for specialty roles, which gives the helicopter considerable versatility.

In the 1st competition, the Ka-226 was eliminated early during the paper evaluation, because it had been unable to obtain acceptable flight certification in time. Kamov unsuccesfully asked to be re-inserted in 2005, and the formal re-tender led Kamov to bid again, but the up-engined Ka-226T soon ran into certification issues of its own. Ka-226Ts replace Rolls Royce 250C engines with French Turbomeca Arrius 2G2s. That delivers better performance at altitude, but certification generally takes at least 2 years, and the new design had rolled out just 9 months before the 2010 trials.

The Ka-226 is reported to be significantly cheaper than its rivals. On the flip side, it has few customers at this point, even as problems with other Russian equipment and policies are creating pressure to diversify India’s supplier base away from Russia. Nevertheless, it was a finalist alongside the A550 Fennec.

Previous Contenders

AW119 Koala
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AW119. AgustaWestland had been a bidder in previous rounds, bid in the v2.0 RFP as well. The AW119 Koala Enhanced has good high-altitude capabilities, and turned out to be their platform. The uprated AW109 Power is more popular, but it has a listed ceiling of just over 19,000 feet. That’ss more than enough for most customers, but may not have been enough for India.

The firm’s civil sales have been rising in India, but it was not a finalist in the 1st round of competition. They were hoping for better luck in round 2, but found themselves bounced from the competition on a somewhat mystifying technicality.

There are allegations that the firm was solicited for a bribe during the competition, and that the firm was dismissed on a dubious technicality shortly after refusing to pay bribes. Ironically, they’ve now been barred from bidding on new Indian contracts over allegations of bribery with respect to a different competition, despite the fact that the CBI has been unable to build a case against them re: India’s VVIP helicopter procurement.

(click to view full)

MD Helicopters. Some reports also claimed that MD Helicopters’ MD500/900 series were entered in the v2.0 Indian competition, but subsequent reports indicate that they chose not to bid in round 2.

MDHI’s patented NOTAR (NO TAil Rotor) system might have offered India a very tempting technology transfer option, even as a joint arrangement with India could help complete the resurgence of this American helicopter firm. NOTAR offers quietness and survivability benefits, both of which are very important in combat situations. On the flip side, it reportedly exacts a slight performance penalty, and MD Helicopters’ ability to meet India’s hot weather, high altitude performance criteria was already the key question. The MD600N offers a single-engine, NOTAR option with a stated ceiling of 20,000 feet at full load. On the other hand, their conventional MD530F is specifically designed for those “hot and high” situations, and has been ordered by Afghanistan.

The Wild Card: Hindustan Aeronautics

HAL’s Dhruv
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The competition’s wild card is India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. If the foreign competition stalls for long enough, while their own helicopters enter service, the odds of an all-HAL solution increase. Substitution doesn’t require equivalent replacement, either, just the ability to perform the envisioned RSH missions with a different mix of assets. The longer the foreign competition stalls, the less India loses from even late development and delivery of local alternatives.

HAL certainly wasn’t shy about using its state-owned status and political clout to take 115 helicopters out of the joint Air Force/ Army light helicopter program, in return for promises of a single-engine “Light Observation Helicopter” design within 5-6 years. That eventually escalated to 187 machines, now called “Light Utility Helicopter,” for delivery within about 12 years. The LUH will reportedly be a smaller 3-ton machine with a single engine, instead of the 6-ton Dhruv’s twin engines. Expected speed is up to 120 knots, with a service ceiling of 21,300 feet, and the ability carry a 900-pound payload about 190 nautical miles. Mockups of HAL’s LUH were unveiled at Aero India 2011 in February, and it was expected that the first 3 would fly in 2013, but HAL is still working to finalize the engine.

Mass production was scheduled to begin in 2015 at 10 per year, building to 36 per year until deliveries end in 2022. That schedule now looks unlikely, but the international portions delay to 2019 or later will ease the pressure on HAL. Without easing the pressure on India’s military. HAL has had a problem with late deliveries on other projects as well, but HAL’s LUH deal allows India to reduce its HAL LUH order total and buy abroad if they’re late. Provided that foreign bought options exist to buy, of course.

As things stand right now, the only options for India’s Army belong to HAL.

HAL Cheetal
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In the mean time, HAL is offering the Army its up-engined “Cheetal” variant, which replaces the SA516 Cheetah’s de-rated TM Artouste IIIB turboshaft with a FADEC-driven TM 333-2M2, raising its payload to 90 kg at 19,600 feet. Some improvements have also been made to the helicopter’s avionics, including an electrically driven artificial horizon, directional gyro, Flight monitoring system, Cockpit Voice Recorder, and Master Flasher Warning System. If that sounds bare-bones compares to the advanced “glass cockpits” and GPS navigation in the various LUH/RSH competitors, it is, but it’s an improvement on the existing Cheetahs.

With the foreign-bought competition stalled by a poorly-run procurement process and a raft of anonymous allegations, the Army has reluctantly begun buying Cheetals an an immediate stopgap. A INR 1.89 billion (about $43 million) IAF buy of 10 Chetals in 2007 was followed by a 2013 Army order for 20 more at INR 4.18 billion (about $78 million).

The Dhruv twin-engine light helicopter, has reportedly performed well in high altitude tests, but it has also received consistent complaints about its performance in the field. The current Mk.III version uses the Ardiden 1H1 Shakti engine that was co-developed with Turbomeca, instead of the less powerful TM333-2B2 on earlier models. Orders for 166 helicopters are already underway, and the light helicopter competition’s delays have given the design a period of time to mature and prove itself. At about 5.5 tonnes, the Dhruv Mk.III is almost twice as heavy as the LUH contenders, but that wouldn’t necessarily stop it from acting as a substitute for foreign-bought LUH helicopters in a budget or timing crunch. The “Rudra Mk IV” variant adds a surveillance & targeting turret and a GIAT 20mm cannon and in the nose, while integrating missiles and rockets on the wings.

Then there’s the “Light Combat Helicopter” Dhruv derivative, a purpose-built light attack and scout helicopter that’s said to have good high-altitude performance.

Milestones & Developments

This section covers the competition for imported RSH/LUH helicopters, but the salience of HAL’s local LUH, Dhruv, and LCH attack helicopter programs means that we will occasionally cover key milestones and developments from those programs. HAL’s Light Utility Helicopter will be referred to as “LOH” in highlighting, using its original name in order to clearly distinguish it from the foreign competition.

2013 – 2017

Still waiting on international LUH, until new government cancels it; HAL moves ahead with Dhruv, LCH, but will be late on its own LUH.

February 20/17: The state-owned manufacturer Russian Helicopters has said that they will commence deliveries of the KA-226T helicopter to the Indian military next year. 60 units will be delivered in Russia while a further 140 will be manufactured and assembled in India under an agreement signed last October. Russia expects sales of the advanced medium multirole Mi-171A2 to increase by at least 15% in 2017 with interest received from China, as well as from the Iranian oil and gas sector.

October 26/16: Integration work is being carried out on India’s Light Combat helicopter (LCH) to facilitate anti-tank guided missiles. Manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is conducting the work following the successful high altitude trials of the helicopter in the mountainous Kashmir region. HAL has also commenced limited series production and intends to manufacture five LCH helicopters, confident that definite orders will come through.

March 3/15: Competition restarts. India will restart its reconnaissance/surveillance helicopter (RSH) procurement process, after having botched the first two attempts. Previous finalist Airbus Helicopters (AS550 C3 Fennec) will compete again, along with other finalist Kamov (Ka-226T2 Sergei). And Bell Helicopter will re-enter the fray. Bell had been a part of the first competition back in 2003. It will be fielding its Bell 407GT, the militarized version of its 407GX.

Nov 12/14: LCH TD-3. the 3rd trial iteration of HAL’s Light Combat Helicopter successfully performed its 1st flight. TD-4 is planned for early 2015, with IOC (initial operational certification) planned for September 2015, almost 5 years later than originally envisioned. Sources: The Hindu: “LCH 3 variant makes first flight” | Economic Times (pictures).

You fall, I rise?
(click to view full)

Aug 29/14: Canceled. Someone in government finally made a decision. The new BJP government’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) canceled the IAF’s tender for 197 light utility helicopters (LUH), and moved it to the “Buy and Make Indian” category for local manufacture of foreign designs. The move is expected to add at least 5 years before India gets any new helicopters, and delivery of tested and qualified helicopters could well take longer than that.

HAL’s single-engine LUH, meanwhile, is late (q.v. Aug 12/14). International LUH delays to 2019 or later will help offset HAL’s weakness, at the cost of Indian military capabilities and possibly Indian lives in the near term. It remains to be seen whether the government will also feel forced to buy more HAL Chetals for immediate use.

If an international LUH competition ever goes forward, private sector involvement is possible. For instance, the Union Home Ministry is understood to have cleared a proposal from the Tata Group to produce helicopters in India. That open door is a welcome policy change, but it still doesn’t help India in the near term. Sources: Business Standard, “Govt clears defence deals worth Rs 17,000 cr” | Defense News, “India Cancels $1 Billion Light Helicopter Tender” | Financial Express, “Make in India kicks off with defence deals” | Indian Express, “Centre scraps light utility helicopter tender, opens it to Indian players” | NDTV, “Modi Government Drops Rs 6000-Crore Foreign Chopper Plan, Wants ‘Made in India'”.


Aug 12/14: HAL’s LUH. The 187-helicopter order that HAL lobbied to carve out of the original LUH competition will be late. Why? New BJP defense minister Arun Jaitley, in reply to a Parliamentary question:

“Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) is a Design and Development Project by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), and it has taken some time to finalise the engine for helicopter. Acquisition of LUH does not affect the operations of Advanced Light Helicopters [HAL’s Dhruv] as these helicopters are for different purposes.”

Sources: India PIB, “Delays in Acquisition of LUHs”.

Jan 21/14: HAL. HAL issues a press release titled, simply, “India Needs More Helicopters”:

“India needs more helicopters compared to West and China as these wonder machines have proved their mettle in variety of uses by Armed Forces in general, during natural calamities and internal security threats, said Dr. R.K. Tyagi, Chairman, HAL. Pointing out that these machines ensure better governance but the country has far less copters compared to over 35,000 that are operational across the world, he said what is needed is a national helicopter policy. Dr. Tyagi was addressing the delegates of National Workshop on “Use of helicopters for Airborne Law Enforcement (ALE)”

Presumably, HAL’s Chairman doesn’t mean the helicopters that his firm has been lobbying against, even as he concedes the importance of those missing helicopters to India’s military posture and humanitarian response. Pay no attention, just implement a state-run national helicopter policy that will steer demand to the state-run firm. It’s certainly easier than competing. Public Choice Theory of Economics [PDF], anyone?

Dec 6/13: More delays. An oversight committee is now looking into the RSH final flight trials’ propriety, as it tested the Ka-226T vs. the AS550C3. Even as the bids expire this month, and unidentified MoD source tells AIN not to expect any action any time soon. AIN also quotes a HAL official who says that the HAL LUH contract is being delayed, and the machine won’t obtain initial operational clearance until 2017.

So, no decisions are being taken, and very little is forthcoming, even as the Indian Army’s Chief of Staff Western Command, Lt. Gen Amarjeet Singh Chabbewal, tells AIN that spares for existing machines are now expensive and increasingly difficult to obtain. Worse, “We have neglected fleet sustainment… the wear and tear on these helicopters is extremely high.”

India’s Border Security Force (BSF) is beginning to reach for other platforms, including a recent order for 8 Mi-17V5s, but it won’t be enough. Sources: AIN, “Big Indian Light Helicopter Buys Are Delayed Again”.

April 3/13: RSH delayed. The Indian Army has asked for a delay in the competition, and the MoD’s Director General (Acquisition) has asked Eurocopter and Kamov for an 8-month extension of their bids to the end of 2013.

The Army’s problem is Brigadier V S Saini, who is currently posted at the Officers’ Training Academy at Chennai (!). He was also in charge of the LUH field trials, and his name is on a document seized by Italian investigators into Finmeccanica’s AW101 VVIP helicopter deal. The document says that “Brig Saini” had demanded over $5 million to favour the company in the LUH deal as well, and mentions a January 2010 offer to “help to eliminate the competition.” The current conclusion is that no money changed hands, but just a few months later, Finmeccanica itself was eliminated on an inconsistent technicality.

Army chief General Bikram Singh reportedly told defence minister A K Antony that the RSH project needs to be formally put on hold until the inquiry against the brigadier is complete. Brig. Sani has denied the allegations, and reports indicate that Indian investigators haven’t been able to secure hard evidence. That means they’ll be depending on the Italians, who haven’t fully shared their VVIP deal evidence yet. India’s Economic Times | Rediff | Times of India.

Feb 22/13: Cheetal. HAL announces an INR 4.18 billion ($77.2 million, or $3.86 million per helicopter) contract to supply 20 stopgap Cheetal helicopters to the Indian Army. HAL will also provide “associated equipments,” and training to the pilots and technical crew.

This is the Army’s 1st Cheetal contract; previous buys have been for the IAF. The longer the RSH competition is held in limbo by the MoD, the more stopgap orders will be placed.

Army Chetal buy

Feb 8/13: Mrit? Sandeep Unnithan writes that the RSH tender is dead. The problem is a common one in India: poor (and often late) framing of unusual requirements, with little reference to the marketplace, followed by rigid insistence that vendors provide off-the-shelf, unmodified solutions. The RSH isn’t the only competition that has been destroyed by this combination.

Both finalists reportedly had issues with some of the requirements, as detailed in the article and explained above. Unnithan adds that a “barrage of anonymous complaints to the MOD” concerning deviations from requirements have led the Ministry to conclude that the deal would be declared improper if they were to sign it. Nobody wishes to say so publicly, because it wold make the Army and Ministry look inept.

Instead, the competition remains in an unexplained limbo, even as 11 aged Indian Cheetah helicopters have crashed since 2006 and killed 9 pilots. In order to ensure that their extreme-altitude patrols and bases can maintain their supply lines, the Army is buying up-engined Cheetah (“Cheetal”) helicopters from HAL. The RSH competitors would offer the Army advantages, but the Cheetals are available amidst a stalled process. A 2007 buy of 19 for INR 1.89 billion (about $43 million) will soon be followed by an order for 20 more, at a reported figure of INR 3.35 billion (about $76 million).

As a final note, observant readers may wonder about the Oct 13/08 date, but the article routinely refers to events after 2010. The India Today article is clearly a pre-press proof.

Feb 5/13: Stop Making Sense. Defense News talks to IAF sources that include Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, but their explanations regarding the LUH program still don’t make sense.

Air Marshal Browne told them that LUH was “presently delayed due to some technical reasons,” without giving details. Defense News adds that “Indian Air Force sources said there are issues with thrust of the engines of both the competitors.” There’s really no such thing as an issue with engine thrust, only issues with overall helicopter performance, and the AS550 at least has demonstrated an impressive level of high-altitude performance.

Meanwhile, competitors are openly asking why the process seems to be in limbo.

Feb 3/13: IOC for Dhruv/Rudra. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd announces initial operational clearance (IOC) for their Advanced Light Helicopter Mk-IV armed variant of the Dhruv. It’s larger than the planned LUH, but can perform cargo, surveillance and light attack roles to the required altitudes.

Likewise, HAL’s Dhruv-derived LCH light attack helicopter offers a very high service ceiling, and can perform surveillance and light attack roles, though it isn’t much good for cargo. Flight testing is wrapping up, and 179 are planned.

As DID noted back on Nov 30/09: “If the foreign competition stalls for long enough, while their own helicopters enter service, the odds of an all-HAL solution increase.” Substitution doesn’t require equivalent replacement, just the ability to perform the envisioned missions with a different mix of assets. If that means fewer helicopters overall, the Army will be unhappy, but the coming budgets are likely to force India’s military and politicians to make choices. Removing foreign-designed helicopters from the equation may not be the best choice operationally, but it’s a political path of least resistance. Time will tell.

2009 – 2012

Bids and trials, then 2 years of aimless waiting; HAL’s LOH/LUH alternative moves ahead to initial fabrication.

“What’s up, doc?”
(click to view larger)

Dec 5/12: Short answer: No, India’s Ministry of Defense doesn’t have its act together yet. Actual quote:

“The Ministry has not deferred its decision of purchasing of 197 Light Utility Helicopters (LUHs) and the procurement case is under examination. The Defence Procurement Procedure lays down stringent guidelines to effect utmost probity and transparency in procurement transactions. It is not a fact that these helicopters were to be purchased from Government of Italy. In the context of an allegation against one service officer, as appearing in the media, information has been sought from the Government of Italy.”

Nov 3/12: HAL’s LOH. HAL says that they are beginning to assemble actual LUH helicopters now, not just mock-ups. The first bottom structure assembly is complete, and was been taken down from the jig in October. Modern CAD diagrams and CAMS ultra-precise measurement systems are being used in production. No word on an engine choice at this point. SP’s Land Forces.

Feb 20/12: Does Sanskrit have a word for “speed”? Eurocopter has written to Indian Army chief V K Singh, to ask about the light helicopter competition. While minister Antony talks about “approved timelines,” Eurocopter writes:

“We take this opportunity to express our concern regarding the time frame for the very important programme, for which the RFP was issued in July 2008… The technical evaluation process has now taken over 38 months and has not yet been concluded due to reasons which are unknown to us… We hope that this program after so many years will soon be successfully concluded and we would be proud to contribute to the self-reliance of Indian armed forces,”

There are actually quite a few Sanskrit words for speed, and Hindi words too. Unfortunately, India’s bureaucracy may need a lexicon to find them. It isn’t clear when Army Aviation Corps (AAC) submitted their trial reports to India’s Defence Ministry, after trials wrapped up in December 2010. India’s Economic Times writes that the trial report was accepted by the ministry in October 2011, and only approved by the Technical Oversight Committee in January 2012. Which appears to make the delays another self-inflicted wound from India’s defense bureaucracy.

Eurocopter’s letter

Aug 28/11: HAL LOH. Shiv Aroor offers a progress report on Livefist:

“After freezing configuration in June 2009 and design in August last year, HAL is now in the process of identifying systems and equipment for its Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). The transmission and rotor system design has been completed, and is fully indigenous. Raising of assembly jigs and fixtures is currently in progress. One ground test vehicle (GTV) and three prototypes of the LUH are planned, with a first prototype flight in 2012 and initial operational clearance by 2014.

May 27/11: HAL LOH. HAL confirms to the Economic Times that they’re looking at other engines besides the Dhruv’s Turbomeca Ardiden 1H1/Shakti, in order to power their LUH. The problem with Turbomeca reportedly revolved around fees. If another engine is picked, it lowers the benefits of fleet commonality for India, and could create a commonality advantage for a foreign LUH competitor.

A subsequent Livefist reports says that the Rolls Royce/ Honeywell LHTEC T800, which is used in advanced variants of the Lynx helicopter family, is Shakti’s main competition. Economic Times | Livefist.

May 1-23/11: Dhruv droops. HAL’s Dhruv continues to exert a gravitational pull on this RSH competition, but results are mixed at best.

One the one hand, the helicopter will be getting the HELINA derivative of India’s Nag anti-armor missile, which has been over 20 years in development. HELINA is inferior to off-the-shelf options elsewhere, but does fit India’s self-sufficiency model, and could be seen as bolstering HAL’s bid to fill the armed light helicopter role.

On the other hand, India’s Border Security Force wants to send its 8 Dhruvs back. Representatives went on record to call them “useless,” and criticized them for altitude limitations and frequent breakdowns. These performance issues are not new, so the RSH light helicopter competition may be rising in importance to India. DNA India re: HELINA | Indian Express re: BSF.

Feb 20/11: Trials. Indian Defence reports that finalist trials of the Russian Ka-226 vs. Eurocopter’s AS550 C3 Fennec have ended.

197 foreign helicopters and 187 LUHs will be procured in order to fulfill RSH requirements. Meanwhile, a HAL LUH mock-up, draft performance specifications, and HAL’s Light Combat Helicopter design, were all unveiled at the Aero India 2011 show.

Jan 17/11: LUH mission. HAL submits an invitation for Indian companies to provide the helicopter’s cockpit, which is a break from its approach with the Dhruv, and from its expected approach to LOH. At the same time, the firm describes the Indian LUH mission, as they see it. A similar or identical mission set is likely to apply to foreign helicopters, and includes:

“…primarily utility roles with future variants for armed roles. The utility roles include Armed Reconnaissance, Aerial photography, Scout Role in conjunction with attack helicopter, Platform for Electronic Support Measure (ESM), Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) and Electronic Counter Counter Measures (ECCM). LUH will be initially integrated with systems and equipment required for basic and military utility roles. Subsequently integration and certification of the helicopter for armed roles as well as civil/commercial variant would be taken up.”

The PDF link no longer works, but Livefist has some key excerpts.

Sept 25/10: AW’s puzzling elimination. Reports surface that AugustaWestand has not been invited for the LUH Phase II final trials, which are currently going on with Eurocopter and Kamov. AgustaWestland and their engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney and has written the MoD to question its elimination.

“AgustaWestand had received a communication from the Indian MoD in April this year to the effect that there was a variance in the equipment offered (engine) in the technical proposal to that fielded in the trails and to the equipment which would be in the final production standard, AgustaWestland sources [said that]… the issue focused on the fact that the offered engine had not finished the certification process and not deemed current production standard. However, all vendors… are in the same position… The sources further asserted that the AgustaWestland AW119SP helicopter offered in the Indian competition meets all the RFP technical and mission requirements.”

Why was AW eliminated?

Feb 18/10: AW-Tata JV. At DefExpo 2010 in New Delhi, AgustaWestland announces a joint venture with India’s Tata Sons to build a final AW119 assembly line in India for the worldwide market, with an expected production rate of 30 a year and the first locally-built aircraft potentially rolling out in 2011. AgustaWestland | Defense News.

Feb 17/10: Ka-226 trials. At DefExpo 2010 in New Delhi, Rosoboronexport’s deputy director general Victor Komardin confirms that they have brought 3 Ka-226 helicopters to India for high altitude trials. DNA India.

Feb 12/10: Fennec trials. Eurocopter confirms that its AS550 C3 is undergoing trials for the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopters program, and brings the machine to DefExpo 2010 in New Delhi. The firm will also be showcasing mock-up models of the EC 725 Cougar offered for India’s Multi-role Helicopter requirement, and the AS565 MB Panther offered for India’s Indian Coast Guard.

Dec 7/09: RFP v2 Bidders. Responding to Parliamentary questions, defense minister Antony confirms the bidders for India’s v2.0 contract:

“The Request for Proposal for replacing the Cheetah helicopters was issued in July 2008 to six vendors. Three vendors, namely, (i) M/s Agusta Westland, Italy (ii) M/s Eurocopter, France and (iii) M/s Rosoboronexport, Russia, have responded. Further action as per the existing procedures including Defence Procurement Procedure, 2008 is underway.”

Nov 30/09: Heli snapshots. As the light helicopter competition stalls, HAL is the biggest beneficiary. If the foreign competition stalls for long enough, while their own helicopters enter service, the odds of an all-HAL solution increase. Minister of State for Defence Shri MM Pallam Raju offers a snapshot in a response to India’s Parliament:

“Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has designed & developed the Advance Light Helicopter (ALH Dhruv) in 5.5 ton category to suit the requirement of our Armed Forces. The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) are both at the development stage. HAL has so far delivered 22 ALHs to Indian Air Force (IAF) and 40 to Army. Contracts for supply of 159 ALHs to Army and IAF were signed in December 2007. These Helicopters are planned to be delivered during 2009-2016.

Around Rs. 6273 crores (INR 62.73 billion, or about $1.35 billion) have been collected by HAL from Army and IAF against delivery of Helicopters, milestone payments for the Helicopters contracted and Design & Development of LCH, LUH & weaponization of ALH.”

Nov 2/09: Delays. India’s Times Now reports that delays in planned trials of the 3 submitted helicopters is likely to push the contract award toward the end of 2010 or early 2011, with induction in 2013-2014 only if everything goes smoothly.

The cancellation of the v1.0 RFP has already pushed the deal back by about 4 years. Times Now reports that 3 (Eurocopter, Agusta Westland, and Mil) manufacturers responded to the v2.0 RFP in December 2008. The Indian Defence Ministry’s Technical Evaluation Committee completed its evaluations by April-May 2009, and summer trials were planned by June or July 2009. They have not been held, and Army sources added that the lack of any decision regarding the schedule makes winter trials unlikely by Feb 15/10. That’s likely to force summer trials back to April-May 2010, and winter trials would still be required.

2005 – 2008

Eurocopter wins, but competition voided on a minor technicality; RFP v2.0 released, with a carve-out for HAL; Bell bows out.

Bell 407/ YRH-70
(click to view full)

Nov 26/08: HAL LOH partnering? Flight International reports that Hindustan Aeronautics is likely seek a Western partner for its indigenous LUH design, with industry sources saying Eurocopter is the favorite to be invited to come on board in 2009.

HAL’s had originally wanted to go it alone for its LOH order, which was placed in addition to the 197 LUHs that India plans to buy on the international market. Given the performance requirements, set timelines, and penalties for delay, however (see Sept 8/08 entry), HAL has evidently decided to explore partnership as a less risky and less costly way to fill in needed skills and technologies.

That could have helped the foreign bidders, by fulfilling offset requirements and lowering relationship risk. In the end, however, HAL appears to be sticking to its original plan to go it alone.

Nov 13/08: Bell bows out. Indian media report that Bell Helicopter has now withdrawn from India’s LUH helicopter competition, as well as its attack helicopter competition. Flight International quotes a Bell Helicopters India Incorporated official:

“We have a very good product in the 407, but it was simply not feasible to take part given the high offset requirements. We will continue to look for opportunities in the Indian military market. The focus for now, however, is on the civil helicopter sector.”

The RFP required the winner to invest 50% of the deal’s value as industrial offsets to India, an amount that is higher than India’s usual 30% requirement for large foreign military purchases. Bell already has an agreement with HAL to manufacture tail rotor blades and other flight critical components for the popular Bell 206 Jet Ranger model, and there were some reports that Bell Textron was offering to make India the Bell 407’s global production hub. Bell Helicopter was contacted for comment, but declined. India Defence | DNA India | Flight International | India’s Economic times re: 407’s civil success in India.

No Bell prize

Sept 8/08: HAL LOH. In “The great helicopter challenge,” India’s Business Standard confirms that HAL is designing a new helicopter for the Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) contract: a 3-ton helicopter powered by a single Shakti engine, as opposed to the dual-Shakti Dhruv. The catch is that HAL must have 187 helicopters built, tested, accepted and delivered by 2017:

“Business Standard has learned that the MoD has imposed a strict timeline on HAL, including – for the first time ever – a penalty for delay. Top HAL sources say that if HAL overshoots the 2017 deadline, the MoD will procure more helicopters from the global manufacturer selected to supply LOHs; HAL’s order will correspondingly reduce.”

In order to meet that deadline, the report also indicates that HAL will not be bound to India’s traditional, problem-plagued approach of insisting that every single component is indigenous. Instead, HAL will buy some sub-systems like cockpit design, fuel pump systems, etc. on the international market, and act as the overall integrator.

July 24/08: RFP v2.0. India invites v2.0 bids for 197 utility helicopters: 133 for the army and 64 for the air force. The foreign helicopters are expected to be inducted by 2010, in a deal that has been valued at INR 30 billion (about $750 million). The usual technology transfer requirements would only require enough transfer for state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to perform full maintenance.

Between them, the 2 services require 312 helicopters. The size of the tender was reportedly reduced after inside lobbying from state-owned HAL, however, which assured the Indian MoD that it would be in a position to supply the remaining 115 machines over the next 5-6 years. Some statements hint that this would be a new platform, but some variant of this indigenous helicopter seems more likely. Indo-Asian News Service | ANI | Howrah News Service | domain-B | Aviation Week.

RFP v2.0

April 9/08: Bigger Tender. Press reports indicate that India plans to float a larger tender for 312 high altitude light utility helicopters, after it is cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council meeting on April 10/08. The planned tender involves 197 helicopters for army aviation, per the previous tender, but adds another 115 for the air force.

Estimates place the tender’s value at “over $2 billion dollars.” America’s ARH-70 and UH-145/LUH buys of light off-the-shelf helicopters both had program totals of over $3 billion, for similar helicopter numbers.

Bidders for this round are expected to include the same set of firms as the last tender: Bell Helicopter (Bell 407, selected for ARH-70), EADS Eurocopter (AS550 Fennec, won the canceled competition round), Russia’s Kamov (Ka-226) and Italy’s Agusta Westland (likely AW119 Ke).

Reports add that India’s army and IAF have also concluded a major deal with Hindustan Aeronautics for Dhruv 166 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), to be inducted in phases by 2011. Could HAL look to grow that number with a bid of its own? Hindustan Times | Punjab News | Times of India.

Dec 17/07: India Defence reports that Indian defence ministry officials, who asked not to be identified, said EADS was “challenging the very grounds of the cancellation of the deal.” They said a visiting delegation of French military officials would be discussing the issue with Indian counterparts.

These sorts of protests are much like disputes over a referee/umpire’s call in professional sports. They may offer some satisfaction, and they definitely indicate one’s displeasure, but even when they’re right, they almost never change the ruling.

December 2007: Canceled. The competition goes back to square one as India cancels the RFP, and plans to issue a new tender.

The key issue is that special consideration was apparently shown to Eurocopter, who was allowed to field the AS350 B3 Ecureil civilian variant for the trials instead of the AS550 C3 Fennec military version. Meanwhile, there are reports that a probe is underway regarding an army general on the evaluation committee, whose brother reportedly heads up Eurocopter’s sole distributor in India.

This has triggered denials of wrongdoing from EADS Eurocopter: “EADS and Eurocopter are keen on insisting that both companies fully comply with the very strict French and European regulations on these issues…” A company statement also insisted it was in full compliance with European regulations re: bribery, and had “duly abided by and signed the pre-integrity pact that was requested by the Indian ministry of defence” before making its bid. At a subsequent press conference later in the month, Norbert Ducrot, Eurocopter’s SVP for sales and customer relations in the Asia-Pacific region said there was no difference between the Fennec’s military and civilian versions:

“As far as performance is concerned and technically the two helicopters are the same. It is just a question of the nomenclatures… The request for proposal did not ask for the military version to be fielded for trials in India.”

Even a re-compete of the RFP may not help Bell Helicopter much, however, unless it can meet India’s requirements. India Defence reports that the Bell 407 was eliminated after the machine it sent for evaluation could not perform a 3-axis vector, which enables the helicopter perform a ‘U’ like maneuver that can be very helpful in mountainous areas like the Siachen Glacier. Bell offered to show a video of the helicopter performing a similar maneuver, or fly Indian officials to Canada to witness it, but this was rejected for lack of compliance with India’s testing requirements.

Thanks to all of our readers who have offered us heads-ups and links to various sources: India Defence | India Times | BBC | Breitbart | Forbes.

RFP canceled

Oct 7/07: Winner? The Press Trust of India reports (via Outlook India) that India has decided to buy 197 EADS’ AS550 Fennec helicopters. The Indian Navy, who also operates the Chetak helicopter, has reportedly expressed interest as well. EADS Senior Vice President for South Asia, Allain Letanoux, said that:

“We are in final phase of having a deal to supply 197 (Fennec) light helicopters for the Indian Army. The contract is expected to be signed by the end of the year… [and will involve transfer of technology].”

PTI adds that 67 helicopters manufactured in France will be purchased outright, while the rest will be built jointly with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under their partnership.

Eurocopter AS550 picked

Aug 29/07: India’s MoD, in a typically cryptic reply that appears to say no decision has been reached yet:

“The purchase of light helicopter for the army is being processed under the Defence Procurement Procedure and an appropriate decision would be taken after following all the stages of procurement process. As such, no definite time limit could be given at this stage. The exact value of the procurement would be known only thereafter.”

Meanwhile, India’s indigenous Dhruv “advanced light helicopter” debuts an armed version, adds uprated “Shakti” engines developed with Turbomeca of France, and is deployed to the Siachen Glacier high in the mountains of Kashmir, following successful tests.

Feb 27/06: Eurocopter. EADS release:

“Eurocopter is displaying its record-breaking AS350 B3 Ecureuil/AStar at this year’s HeliExpo. On February 14th, 2006, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) validated and confirmed the high-altitude world record achieved with a civilian AS350 B3 on May 14 and 15, 2005, with two landings and take-offs on top of Mount Everest at 8,850 meters (29,035 ft.) altitude. Piloted by Eurocopter Experimental Test Pilot Didier Delsalle, the two flights included peak-over landings on the mountain’s peak both exceeding two minutes as stipulated by the FAI regulations.”

Everest News has a page covering the landing, including pictures and video. Note that the AS550 is a military derivative of the AS350, and originally used the same designation.

Onto Everest

July 29/05: Bell 407. The Bell 407 wins the US ARH competition, and some predict a follow-=on effect in India. The prediction turns out to be premature, and the ARH-70 is eventually c

Categories: News

Navistar Defense Bags $35M US DoD Contract | UAE Clears $1.2B in IDEX Procurement Deals; More to Come | NATO Tanker/Transport Initiative Gains Members

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 23:58

  • The US Navy is to test a potential fix for an issue regarding the F-35C’s nose wheel in order to see if the jet still suffers from excessive vertical oscillations during a catapult launch. Testing will begin tomorrow, Tuesday February 21, at the service’s land-base test facility at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. However, if the early fixes don’t work, the Navy will be required to do more extensive fixes to the nose gear and the helmet display, or even redesign the entire nose gear for the F-35C (which could take years and further delay the program).

  • Navistar Defense has been contracted $35 million by the US DoD to provide 40 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected MaxxPro Dash DXM vehicles. The deal supports foreign military sales for the government of Pakistan and work is expected to be complete by the end of October 2018. MaxxPro Dash DXM vehicles feature a V-shaped hull to deflect IED explosions away from the vehicle and are built to withstand ballistic arms fire and mine blasts. Pakistan will use the vehicles to protect troops against attacks from jihadist militants and other insurgents operating between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Middle East & North Africa

  • It’s been reported that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) cleared $1.2 billion in defense procurement deals on Sunday, and plan to spend a total of $5.4 billion at the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) over the next week. Local and foreign industry have already benefitted from the spend, including an award to the UAE’s NIMR Automotive, part of Tawazun Holdings, for the provision of 400 armored vehicles to the UAE Armed Forces. Based in Abu Dhabi, IDEX is the region’s biggest defense expo, with over 1,200 companies participating in the four day event.

  • Despite slumping oil prices, Gulf nations are expected to continue to maintain defense spending while forced to continue austerity measures in other areas. According to defense analysis firm, Teal Group, Saudi Arabia’s total defense budget is forecast at $82 billion in 2016, steadily rising to $87 billion in 2020 while that of UAE is put at $15.1 billion in 2016 reaching $17.0 billion in 2020. The firm found that Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain would also increase defense spending, as “defense spending is linked to national security and threat perception, not resource prices.”


  • Poland has placed another missile order with Lockheed Martin for their F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet. Valued at $1.9 million, the contract will see the company provide Enhanced Laser Guided Training Rounds (ELGTR), providing realistic Paveway II Laser Guided Bomb training for pilots. The deal also covers the provision of technical data, logistics support and introduction to service training to the Polish air force.

  • Defense ministers from Norway, Germany and Belgium have announced intentions to join a European program for a new multinational fleet of aerial refueler/transport aircraft. The NATO tanker/transport initiative was started by the Netherlands and Luxembourg last year with the ordering of an Airbus A330 aircraft. Other nations are free to join the initiative and a total of eight aircraft could be procured under the program. According to NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, the initiative will reduce European reliance on US air-to-air refueling capabilities and promote greater defense cooperation between nations on the continent.

Asia Pacific

  • Japanese naval focus has switched from building one annual 5,000 ton destroyer in favor of more, smaller, 3,000 ton vessels. The decision was made in order to better patrol coastal waters and disputed islands in the East Sea. Eight of the multi-role warships will be initially ordered by Tokyo, produced at a rate of two per year, with construction likely to begin next year.

  • An official from the Russian state-owned Rostec said that he believes that contracts for the Su-35 with the government of Indonesia will be signed “in the coming months.” Jakarta is in the midst of an investigation into their procurement of the Leonardo AW101 helicopter, with the first delivered unit currently being stored in a hangar at the Indonesian capital’s Halim Perdanakusuma air base pending the completion of the investigation. Photos of the plane have shown the helicopter surrounded by police tape.

Today’s Video

  • Navistar Defense’s MaxxPro DXM program:

Categories: News

Navistar’s MaxxPro: 1st Place in MRAP Orders

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 23:57

3BCT-101st, Iraq-
no Chavis turrets?
(click to view full)

Navistar subsidiary International Military and Government LLC (IMG) in, Warrenville, IL has won billions of dollars in MRAP program contracts, to produce several variants of its blast-resistant vehicles. The Category I MRUV vehicle’s role is similar to a Hummer’s, albeit with more carrying capacity and much more protection. That has become a staple for IMG’s entry, dubbed the “MaxxPro” by its manufacturer. Their collaboration with an Israeli firm who provides up-armored vehicles for the Marines successfully overcame lukewarm initial interest, but even successful survivors of Aberdeen’s tests where challenged to offer enough protection against the ERP class of land mines that began to appear in Iraq.

Nevertheless, the MRAP program became a production race – and Navistar did very well under those competitive terms. In the end the military’s desire for standardization of its fleets exerted something of a gravitation pull on the competition. A July 2007 order vaulted Navistar into 1st place for initial MRAP Program vehicles ordered, but the US Army is divesting many of its vehicles – creating opportunities for foreign buyers…

MRAP Competitors, Navistar Totals

Dash Ambulance
(click to view full)

Navistar ended up leading the initial MRAP competition, with the highest share of any competitor at 38.3%. Additional orders for Afghan-adapted vehicles ensure that this total has crept higher vis-a-vis their original competitors, but They’re still just one competitor among many, and beyond the MRAP competition, trucking rival Oshkosh’s M-ATV has now achieved very close production figures in the follow-on, single-award M-ATV program.

To date, Navistar has produced 7 MaxxPro variants under contract: the original MaxxPro, MaxxPro Air Force, the MaxxPro Plus with improved protection, MaxxPro ambulance (production orders were for the Dash variant), MaxxPro MEAP, the MaxxPro Dash for Afghan operations, and the MaxxPro Recovery Vehicle (MRV), for towing out stuck vehicles. The firm has also developed Cargo flatbed and Tractor (18-wheeler truck’s front end, but mine-protected) variants.

A number of these MaxxPro vehicles have also received independent suspension upgrades, in order to improve their off-road performance. The MaxxPro DXM upgrade kits are delivered through Boler’s Hendrickson subsidiary, and marry Hendrickson’s advanced engineered sub-frames, sway-bars, coil springs and shocks with GD AxleTech’s 5000 Series Independent Suspension Axle System.

Participants in the MRAP and related programs, and their vehicles, have included:

Manufacturer CAT I CAT II Notes Navistar MaxxPro
MaxxPro AF
MaxxPro Dash/ DXM
MaxxPro Plus
MaxxPro ambulance (Dash) MaxxPro
MaxxPro MRV recovery Top finisher in number of MRAP orders. BAE Systems RG-33
Caiman MTV RG-33L
RG-33 HAGA (ambulance)
Caiman MTV-ambulance

Won MMPV with RG-33L derivative.

General Dynamics RG-31 Mk.5/ RG-31A2 RG-31 Mk.5E Partnered with BAE OMC, Canadian government CCC. Also received orders
before MRAP began. Force Protection (now GDLS) Cougar 4×4
Cougar ISS Cougar 6×6 Also received orders before MRAP began. Its Buffalo MRAP CAT-III is unique, and sole-source. Oskkosh Alpha
(w. PVI) Bushmaster
(w. Thales) No MRAP orders, but sole winner of related M-ATV program with its own
design. PVI Alpha
serve w. US Border Patrol Golan
(w. RAFAEL) Alpha failed MRAP testing; 2008 firm bankruptcy & fire-sale acquisition Textron M1117 ICV M1117 ICV Failed MRAP testing; no MRAP orders, but ASV variant widely ordered by Military Police and fire targeting units.        

Based on awarded contracts, MaxxPro’s price per base vehicle is around $520,000 – $550,000. The vehicles must then be fitted with electronics, IED jammers, and other equipment. That can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to that base price, before they’re sent to the front lines. Announced production orders to date include:

  • #001: 4 initial testing vehicles
  • #002: 1,200 MRAP CAT I vehicles
  • #003: 16 larger MRAP CAT II vehicles
  • #004: 754 CAT I
  • #005: 1,000 CAT I
  • #006: 1,500 CAT I
  • #007: 743 CAT I
  • #008: 4 CAT I – not publicly announced
  • #009: 822 CAT I MaxxPro Dash
  • #010: 400 CAT I MaxxPro Dash
  • #014: 1,050 CAT I MaxxPro Dash DXM with improved suspensions. Modification added 1,222 DXM retrofits.
  • #015: 250 MaxxPro MRV recovery/tow variants
  • #016: 175 CAT I MaxxPro Dash DXM with ECP I/II
  • #018: 250 MaxxPro Dash Ambulance with DXM and ECP IV
  • #019?: 471 MaxxPro Dash DXM with ECPs
  • #020: ISS retrofit kits: 650 DXM Plus
  • #021: 140 MaxxPro MRV recovery/tow variants
  • #023: Full “rolling chassis” retrofits: 2,717

Total production is currently 8,779 vehicles. Beyond American buys, Navistar informs DID that their production totals include a 2009 order from Singapore for 15 MaxxPro Dash vehicles, and they have also announced a May 2010 order for a pool of 80 MaxxPro Dash vehicles to support “coalition forces” in Afghanistan, which has reportedly included Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Solvakia, and South Korea.

As the USA withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan, they decided not to keep many of their MRAP vehicles. Quite a few Oshkosh M-ATVs and Navistar MaxxPros will still remain in the force, but many MRAPs of all types won’t remain. The question is where they end up. Some have been destroyed outright, in order to avoid paying to ship them home. A number of MRAPs, including MaxxPros, have been diverted to local government organizations in the USA. Giving mine-protected, heavily armored vehicles to entities like school districts and non-violent towns of under 10,000 people has caused no small amount of controversy, and citizen protests have even forced a small handful of local governments to cancel these “1033 program” giveaways, which are not centrally tracked or accounted for. Other MRAPs have been given or sold to foreign operators, reportedly including:

  • Croatia: 40
  • Hungary: 42
  • Jordan: 100
  • Pakistan: 22 deployed, 160 requested
  • Slovakia: ??
  • UAE: 3,375 requested

A Note on MRAPs

DID refers to the MaxxPro as the top finisher in the MRAP competition, despite greater sales by Oshkosh’s M-ATV (MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle).

That’s because the M-ATV wasn’t part of the initial MRAP program; instead, it’s a follow-on competition that aimed to bridge the gap to the future JLTV winner. Navistar’s MaxxPro competed, but Oshkosh won, and their M-ATV was also very popular. In June 2010, its order totals narrowly surpassed the Navistar MaxxPro’s. DID defines “MRAP orders” as orders placed under the original MRAP multi-vendor contracts, however, and considers the single-vendor M-ATV competition to be a separate but related effort.

MaxxPro Contracts & Key Events

MaxxPro MRV
(click to view full)

Unless otherwise specified, all contracts are issued to Navistar subsidiary International Military and Government LLC (now Navistar Defense LLC) in Warrenville, IL. Unless otherwise noted, the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA buys MRAP vehicles on behalf of 2008 requests from the US Army (12,000 by 2008), USMC (2,225), Air Force (558), Navy (544), SOCOM (344), and production verification testing (100). Those numbers rose further, via additional awards in 2010 and 2011, but the US military

2015 – 2017

Afghan National Security Forces Contract

February 19/17: Navistar Defense has been contracted $35 million by the US DoD to provide 40 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected MaxxPro Dash DXM vehicles. The deal supports foreign military sales for the government of Pakistan and work is expected to be complete by the end of October 2018. MaxxPro Dash DXM vehicles feature a V-shaped hull to deflect IED explosions away from the vehicle and are built to withstand ballistic arms fire and mine blasts. Pakistan will use the vehicles to protect troops against attacks from jihadist militants and other insurgents operating between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

September 11/15: US firm Navistar Defense has been contracted to supply the Afghan National Security Forces with nearly 2,300 mine resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, based on the company’s 7000-MV platform, according to a company press release. The US Army Contracting Command handed the company a $369 million contract for the vehicles, which will bring the total number of Navistar vehicles sent to the Afghan government to nearly 9,000. The company has also exported the 7000-MV platform to Iraq. The new MRAPs will reportedly serve in a variety of roles, including ammunition, fuel and troop transport.

FY 2013 – 2014

Export requests: UAE (3,375), Pakistan (160); Support and upgrade contracts.

MaxxPro & Lonestar
(click to view full)

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 order for 750.
  • 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 (3,375 MaxxPros of 4,569 MRAP vehicles)

Sept 19/14: Pakistan. The US DSCA announces Pakistan’s official export request for 160 Navistar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. That would certainly be an easy delivery from Afghanistan, for Excess Defense Article vehicles that the US Army was prepared to blow up rather than paying to ship them home:

  • 30 MaxxPro Base DXM
  • 110 MaxxPro Dash DXM
  • 10 MaxxPro Dash DXM Ambulances
  • 10 MaxxPro Recovery Vehicles with protection kits
  • spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and equipment training, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support.

The estimated cost is $198 million. These vehicles would be added to 22 MaxxPros (incl. 2 MRV recovery vehicles) that were already transferred under the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund. The country’s years-long civil war involving the Pakistani Taliban will certainly provide Pakistan with opportunities to use these vehicles.

The principal contractor will be Navistar Defense Corporation in Madison Heights, MI. The proposed sale will require about 2 US Government and 24 Navistar contractor representatives in Pakistan for a period of approximately 18 months. They’ll perform inspections and deprocessing of vehicles upon delivery; provide assistance in installation of vehicle accessory kits; provide fault diagnosis and repairs; perform corrective maintenance, to include accident and battle damage assessment and repairs; conduct operator and maintainer training; and conduct inventories and maintain accountability of USG provided material. Sources: US DSCA #14-32, “Pakistan – Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles” | Gannet Military Times, “Source: Pakistan already has U.S.-made MRAPs, new deal in works” (April 2014).

DSCA request: Pakistan (160 MaxxPros)

Sept 12/14: Ambulance upgrades. Navistar Defense LLC in Lisle, IL receives a $44 million contract modification to buy MaxxPro Long Wheeled Base Ambulance Medical Equipment Set A-Kits, MaxxPro Survivability Upgrade Kits, and Spring Suspension System Kits. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 and FY 2014 US Army budgets.

Work is expected to finish by Aug 31/15, and will be performed in Lisle, IL. The US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI manages the contract (W56HZV-12-G-0006, PO 0002).

July 25/14: Survivability upgrades. Navistar Defense LLC in Lisle, IL receives a $27.6 million contract modification for kits to upgrade MaxxPro Dash and long-wheel base ambulances to their final configuration. $21.7 million in FY 2012 and FY 2014 US Army budgets are committed immediately.

Work is expected to finish by May 30/15, and will be performed in Lisle, IL. The US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI manages the contract (W56HZV-12-G-0006, PO 001).

Dec 23/13: Support. Navistar Defense LLC in Lisle, IL receives a $6.9 million contract modification for MaxxPro field service support in the continental United States and overseas. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Army O&M budgets.

Work is expected to finish by Dec 31/14, and will be performed in Lisle, IL and Afghanistan. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with 1 received by US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-10-C-0011, PO 0086).

Nov 4/13: Support. Navistar Defense LLC in Lisle, IL receives a $7.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, covering MaxxPro M1235A3 Dash MSU (MaxxPro Survivability Upgrade) engineering, logistic and travel support for the acquisition of the contract data requirements list, and program and logistics support. The contractor shall include MSU content as well as variation in vehicle content for both the objective gunner protection kit manned turret and M153 CROWS remote-controlled weapon turret. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 US Army budgets.

Work will be performed in Lisle, IL, with an expected completion date of December 2014. One bid was solicited, with 1 received by the US Army TACOM in Warren, MI (W56HZV-10-C-0011). Note that the exact same award was announced on Oct 31/13.

October 24/13: AUSA. At AUSA, DRS and Navistar are showing off their privately-funded MaxxPro MCOTM (Mission Command on The Move) conversion for unit commanders and staff, which was built in partnership with DRS and Allison. That partnership’s OBVP Transmission Integral Generator has given the vehicle tremendous electrical generation capability from its Allison 3000 series transmission, with 60kW+ available to power carefully arranged command stations and screens within. That kind of on-board power removes the need for an additional generator vehicle, and drastically cuts set-up time.

A similar MaxxPro MICP is also built for communications, but it’s more of a rolling server closet. It would replace the current semi-mobile command post that’s deployed in a HMMWV shelter, plus a trailer with generator when taken outside the wire. Putting that into 1 MaxxPro that looks totally “normal” from the outside, and needs no trailer, makes the target a lot less obvious to enemies. In places like Afghanistan, where 7 gallons of fuel are needed to deliver 1 gallon for front-line use, eliminating vehicles also cuts fuel costs substantially. Beyond MCOTM and MICP:

“The Navistar Defense team is already exploring uses for the MaxxPro as a maintenance truck to weld and fix vehicles in the field; adding mortars to the back of the vehicle to produce an Offensive Weapon System; providing the vehicle architecture to support an Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance control; and adding a water reservoir body for use as a Non-Lethal Water Cannon for controlling large thermal incidents, like forest fires.”

Obviously, the goal of these efforts is to promote both exports, and possible upgrade/ conversion contracts from the US military. An “MRAP 3 study” done in fall/winter 2012 has reportedly left M-ATV and MaxxPro blast-resistant vehicles in the enduring fleet, with about 2,633 MaxxPro Dash DXM troop carriers and 301 MaxxPro DXM ambulances kept. Adding MICP and MCOTM vehicles to appropriate units would provide both short-term conversion contracts, and more vehicles in service as targets for ongoing support contracts. Sources: AUSA interviews; NAvistar, “Navistar Defense Encourages Customers to Think Beyond the Standard Vehicle at AUSA” | DRS “U.S. Army to Test DRS Technologies’ On-Board Vehicle Power System for Consistent Equipment Power on the Battlefield”.

AUSA 2013: MCOTM, MICP, and other interesting variant ideas

June 18/13: Survivability upgrades. Navistar Defense LLC in Lisle, IL receives an $18.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, increasing the funds available for the MaxxPro Survivability Upgrade to $152.3 million. FY 2011 & 2012 Procurement funds are being used by Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-12-C-0404, PO 0013).

June 3/13: Report. Navistar Defense LLC in Lisle, IL receives an $8.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, multi-year contract modification, for MaxxPro field services representatives. The cumulative total face value of this contract is now $49.8 million. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI manages the contract (W56HZV-10-C-0011, PO 0071).

Jan 7/13: Survivability upgrades. Navistar Defense LLC in Lisle, IL receives a $10.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for MaxxPro maintenance services.

Work will be performed in Lisle, IL; Yuma, AZ; Aberdeen, MD; and Afghanistan; with an estimated completion date of March 25/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-10-C-0011).

FY 2012

MRV problems. Survavibility upgrades.

MaxxPro, Farah PRT
(click to view full)

Sept 24/12: Survivability upgrades. Navistar Defense LLC in Lisle, IL receives a $138.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy MaxxPro Survivability Upgrade Kits, Vehicle Emergency Egress Windows, and MaxxPro support services.

Work will be performed in Lisle and Springfield, OH, with an estimated completion date of Sept 13/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-12-C-0404).

Sept 19/12: Survivability upgrades. Navistar Defense, LLC announces a maximum $282 million delivery order to provide more than 2,300 survivability upgrade retrofit kits for their MaxxPro Dash MRAP vehicles, plus parts and service. Work for the survivability upgrade will be done in Afghanistan beginning in December 2012, and is scheduled to be complete by July 2013.

Navistar says they have now delivered nearly 9,000 MaxxPro units in 9 major variants to all customers.

July 30/12: Spares. Navistar Defense in Lisle, IL receives a maximum $8.6 million fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract from the US Army for MaxxPro spares. Work will be performed in Illinois and Kentucky, using FY 2012 Army Working Capital Funds. There was 1 proposal with 3 responses. The date of performance completion is July 29/13. The Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime in Columbus, OH (SPM7LX-12-D-9007).

July 13/12: RPG nets. Navistar Defense in Lisle, IL receives a $59.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for 1,357 rocket propelled grenade net kits, which means QinetiQ’s Q-Net. Work will be performed in Springfield, OH, with an estimated completion date of Oct 31/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-12-C-0201).

March 13/12: A $21.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for “the long wheel rolling chassis upgrade with independent suspension on the MaxxPro [MRAP] and transportation fixtures.” Vid. Jan 9/12 entry for the full explanation; this the installation work associated with its January order to upgrade 2,717 vehicles.

Work will be performed in West Point, MS, with an estimated completion date of May 20/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received, by US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-12-C-0130).

Feb 20/12: Sub-contract. Boler subsidiary Hendrickson in Kendallville, IN and GD subsidiary AxleTech International in Oshkosh, WI get a sub-contract from Navistar Defense, LLC, to equip 2,717 MaxxPro Long Wheel Base (LWB) MRAP vehicles with independent suspension systems, per the $900 million Jan 9/12 contract.

Deliveries began in January 2012, and will be completed in October 2013. GD release.

Jan 24/12: A $109.5 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for 650 MaxxPro DXM Plus kits. Orders #002-008 add up to 5,217 vehicles. These kits, plus the “rolling chassis” order, add up to 3,367 retrofits.

Work will be performed at the MRAP Sustainment Facility in Kuwait, and is expected to be complete by the end of October 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0020).

Jan 17/12: DOT&E – MRV issues. The Pentagon releases the FY2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The MaxxPro Dash ISS and MaxxPro MRV are both included, but get very different grades. While the MRV towing and recovery vehicle passed blast and live fire testing:

“…the Navistar MRV is not operationally effective and not operationally suitable for recovery operations on cross-country terrain. The Navistar MRV has poor mobility and poor combat towing to recover damaged MRAP vehicles in Afghanistan. The vehicle could not maneuver in soft sandy soil and had difficulty accelerating on hilly terrain. The Navistar MRV demonstrated 271 MMBOMF [Mean Miles Between Operational Mission Failure] versus its operational requirement of 600 MMBOMF. These problems should have been resolved… prior to the [Limited User Test]. The Navistar MRV is [only] capable of recovering and towing damaged MRAP vehicles on flat improved roads.”

The MaxxPro Dash ISS, on the other hand, is declared to be both operationally effective and reliable. Its figure of 1,259 MMBOMF was way above its operational requirement of 600.

Jan 9/12: An $879.9 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for the procurement of 2,717 MaxxPro “rolling chassis”; 10 engineering change proposals; and 25 contract data requirements lists, for MaxxPro MRAPs.

This is the 3rd step in commonizing the MaxxPro fleet. The first step was the addition of DXM independent suspension in February 2009, which has appeared on all orders after #0014. It was followed in March 2010 by 1,222 DXM retrofit kits. Now, the rolling chassis is the 3rd step, which upgrades most of the earlier MaxxPros with the latest vehicle capabilities. We asked Navistar, who explained that “rolling chassis” replaces the chassis base, adding the DXM independent suspension, a new MaxxForce 9.3 engine, and a 570 amp alternator and driveline. The crew cab is essentially lifted off the old chassis, and bolted on to a new one.

Work will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete by the end of October 2013. All funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (M67854-07-D-5032, DO #0023).

Jan 9/11: Oshkosh control fight. Icahn’s proxy skirmish at Oshkosh turns into a war, with hard-hitting submissions to shareholders from both Icahn’s group and Board slate, and from Oshkosh’s existing management and Board. If Icahn gets his Board slate elected, spinoffs and a merger of Oshkosh Defense with Navistar become far more likely.

In that scenario, it’s likely that the Maxxpro would take a back seat to the M-ATV in the future firm’s lineup. Oshkosh 8-K | Oshkosh management’s SEC DEFA14A filing (see esp. pp. 38-44) | Icahn Group DFAN14A arguments.

Dec 20/11: A $133.7 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order under a previously awarded contract for 514 field service representatives to support Navistar’s MRAPs. Queries to Navistar confirmed the contract’s size, and their response noted that it included supplies as well as personnel.

Work will be performed in Afghanistan and Kuwait (94%) and the United States (6%), and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/12. FY 2012 operations and maintenance appropriation funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0022).

Dec 19/11: $9.6 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for MaxxPro MRV recovery vehicle contractor support, esp. re: the contract data requirements list (CDRLs).

Work will be performed in Warrenville, IL, and is expected to be complete by the end of February 2014, but all funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. The original contract was competitively procured (M67854-07-D-5032, Delivery Order 0015 under Modification 16).

Dec 6/11: Navistar/Oshkosh merger? Billionaire Carl Icahn owns 10% of Navistar, and 9.51% of Oshkosh, so his comments that the 2 companies should merge draws a lot of attention. He tells CNBC:

“I definitely think it would be a good merger. I think there would be a lot of synergy. I own stock in both and I think shareholders of both companies would benefit.”

Both Boards of Directors are maneuvering defensively around Icahn. Navistar agreed to put its Board up for election each year, but agreed not to propose his own slate of directors at the annual meeting. Things are a bit more open at Oshkosh, where Icahn is proposing Board slates, and has been increasingly critical of existing management.

FY 2011

Independent suspension systems.

MaxxPro Dash DXM
(click to view full)

July 15/11: A $142 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for 140 MaxxPro Recovery Vehicles (MRVs), plus sustainment, spares and support. That brings total MRV orders to 315. Work will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete by the end of November 2011 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0021). See also Navistar release.

July 14/11: Boler subsidiary Hendrickson, and General Dynamics’ AxleTech International, announce 2 contracts from Navistar Defense, LLC to equip 471 MaxxPro blast-resistant vehicles (vid. June 13/11 entry), and 250 MaxxPro Dash ambulances (vid. May 4/11 entry), with independent suspension systems. Their DXM solution uses AxleTech’s 5000 Series Independent Suspension Axle System, and Hendrickson’s engineered sub-frame.

Production work began in June 2011 at Hendrickson in Kendallville, IN, and AxleTech in Oshkosh, WI. Deliveries will be complete in September 2011. GD-ATP.

June 13/11: Navistar Defense:

“Navistar Defense, LLC today announced that it received a $357 million delivery order for an additional 471 International MaxxPro Dash vehicles with DXM independent suspension. The order from the U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command follows last month’s delivery order for 250 MaxxPro Dash Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) ambulances.”

Subsequent events indicate that this is probably delivery order #0019.

May 16/11: An $18.6 million delivery order modification for installation of ambulance engineering change proposals (ECP) and Dash Phase IV ECPs on the recent order of 250 ambulances. Work will be performed in Afghanistan, and is expected to be complete by the end of September 2011 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0018, mod #0001).

May 4/11: A $183.3 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for 250 MaxxPro Dash Ambulance vehicles, with improved DXM independent suspensions. Work will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete by the end of September 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0018).

This is the 1st order for the ambulance variant, which was unveiled in October 2010 at AUSA (vid. Oct 25/10 entry). These Maxxpros will serve alongside the similar Oshkosh M-ATV ambulances in theater, and will be supplemented by BAE’s heavier 6×6 RG-33 HAGA MRAP. These vehicles are a component in the Pentagon’s broad ‘Golden Hour’ initiative, which aims to begin providing life-saving care within the critical 1st hour of major trauma. See also Navistar Defense release.

April 28/11: Navistar Defense, LLC in Warrenville, IL received a $13.2 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for field service representatives (FSR) in Kuwait, to sustain operation of the MaxxPro Dash MRAPs in Afghanistan.

Work is expected to be completed by the end of November 2011, but all contracted funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0017).

March 4/11: Navistar Defense, LLC in Warrenville, IL receives a $32.5 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order to buy MRAP Recovery Vehicle contractor logistics support for spare parts, basic initial issue tool kits and training support. Work will be performed in Louisville, KY (96%), and Warrenville, IL (4%), and is expected to be complete by the end of September 2011 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0015 Mod 005).

Dec 9/10: A $123.4 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for 175 CAT I MaxxPro Dash vehicles with improved DXM suspensions, plus MaxxPro Dash Engineer Change Proposal (ECP) Phase I & II kits; and support items including associated unique base issue items for the fleet; and independent suspension system deprocessing parts kits. The order raises Navistar’s total orders for the MaxxPro family to 8,014.

Work will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete by the end of June 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 31/10 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0016). See also Navistar release.

Nov 19/10: A $252.8 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for 250 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected recovery vehicles (MRV) and contractor logistics support (CLS). Work will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete by the end of September 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30/11 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0015).

A blast-protected recovery vehicle makes a great deal of sense, in an environment where a leading cause of disabled vehicles is IED land mine explosions. Navistar originally unveiled the MRV/ wrecker variant in February 2009, and had competition in this area from BAE’s RG-33 MRRMV. See also Navistar release.

Oct 25/10: Navistar Defense, LLC announces 2 new variants at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition: the MaxxPro ambulance kit, and the MaxxPro Tractor variant.

The ambulance kit will fit into any MaxxPro variant, and include a litter assist system that helps load stretchers. The MaxxPro tractor, meanwhile, is not a farm implement. It’s the truck half of a blast resistant tractor-trailer rig.

Oct 7/10: The Romanian Ministry of National Defence announces that the first 8 MRAPs have just been supplied to the 811th “Dragonii Transilvani” Maneuver Battalion and the 812th “Soimii Carpatilor” Maneuver Battalion, deployed in Zabul Province, Afghanistan.

These are the first of 60 vehicles provided by the USA, and the lot reportedly consists of 20 new and 40 refurbished MaxxPro Dash vehicles, with improved DXM suspensions. Romanian MND | defpro | Jane’s.

FY 2010

Too many MRAP options? IP issues among contractors.

MaxxPro Dash
(click to view full)

Sept 23/10: A $9.9 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order modification (M67854-07-D-5032, #0011) for field service representatives (FSRs)/instructors/mechanic services outside the continental United States (OCONUS) to sustain operation of the Dash vehicles in Afghanistan, and FSR/instructors inside the continental United States for replacement center training in Fort Benning, GA.

Work is expected to be complete by the end of September 2011, and all contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10.

Sept 23/10: A $13 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order modification (M67854-07-D-5032, #0014) that pays federal retail excise tax on 148 MaxxPro Dash vehicles being used in the continental United States for training purposes. Work will be performed in Warrenville, IL, and is expected to be complete by the end of September 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10.

Sept 17/10: A $25.2 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order modification for instructor and field service representative (FSR) support in the United States (CONUS), outside the continental United States (OCONUS); The objective of the FSRs/instructors is to sustain operation of the Dash vehicles in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Navistar will also send more FSRs and instructors to Mine Resistant Ambush Protected University and CONUS Replacement Center Training.

Work will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete by the end of September 2011 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0011).

Aug 24/10: 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).”

June 29/10: A $13.4 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order, modification #03 under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0014) to buy spare parts related to the order for 1,050 improved suspension MaxxPros. These include suspension system authorized stockage list parts, prescribed load list parts, battle damage assessment repair, and deprocessing; the DASH engineering change proposal (ECP) Phase III upgrade; the remote weapon station system upgrade; and unique collateral material/BII. Work will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete by the end of January 2011.

June 14/10: A $60 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for spare parts to maintain the DXM off-road independent suspension system that is being retrofitted to the entire fleet of 1,222 MaxxPro DASH vehicles. The new DXM systems are provided by Hendrickson Truck Suspension Systems and AxleTech International.

Work will be performed in Warrenville, IL, and is expected to be complete by the end of March 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0013).

June 14/10: A $17.2 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for Navistar field service representatives in the Central Command area of responsibility. Work will be performed in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, and is expected to be complete by the end of June 2011.

May 28/10: Stolen IP? ATS litigation controversy. Armor Technologies, Inc. of South Africa launches the “MRAP Ripoff” web site, and issues a statement, after 3 years of litigation with Navistar. The ancillary web site details the company’s claims, which are summed up via these chosen excerpts from its statement:

“ATS believes it was tricked into transferring unique knowledge, technology and IP about mine-protected vehicles (MPVs) to Chicago-based Navistar Defense, during their relationship from March 2005 to January 2007… At issue is ATS’ belief that it has been hoodwinked into providing critical knowledge and technology on MPVs to Navistar, which before the start of its relationship with ATS in March 2005 had no such expertise… Navistar later claimed in the International Court of Arbitration that Plasan Sasa was the origin of the MaxxPro vehicle, but its own staff admitted to the court that the same team that worked with ATS on the ATS Oryx design, had secretly worked on MaxxPro simultaneously. Navistar can’t have it both ways: either the company illegally shared ATS’ knowledge with Plasan Sasa, which also had no previous MPV expertise, or it acted in exceedingly bad faith in terms of its agreements with ATS – which it then [summarily] broke once it had what it needed: the wherewithal to build a world-class mine-resistant troop carrier… In the meantime, Navistar has won U.S. Government tenders and funding… awarded tens of millions of dollars in U.S. Taxpayers’ money, and it is receiving lucrative foreign orders… none of which would have happened had the U.S. Government heeded its own policy not to do business with defense companies involved in related litigation… ATS’ matter has been taken up by the South African government, which in March [2010] formally requested an explanation from the U.S. Government on the matter.”

May 3/10: A $102.3 million firm-fixed- priced delivery order modification under a previously contract will buy various MaxxPro kits and parts to support operations in Afghanistan. Work will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete by the end of October 2010. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10 (M67854-07-D-5032, #0013). Parts include:

  • 937 gunner restraints
  • 3,251 120V wiring harnesses
  • 5,722 rear ramp hydraulics, rear ramp hydraulic – non-reoccurring equipment (NRE)
  • 3,251 rear ramp storage
  • 2,630 fire support systems kits, fire support systems kits – NRE
  • 5,716 air conditioning circulation switches
  • 822 heating, ventilation, and air conditioning kits

March 15/10: A $178.3 million modification to delivery order #0013 under previously awarded firm-fixed priced contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for 1,222 independent suspension system kits and aluminum catcher plates for MaxxPro vehicles. MaxxPros use the DXM independent suspension solution provided by Hendrickson Truck Suspension Systems and AxleTech International.

Work will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete by the end of March 2011. Navistar release

Feb 16/10: Looks like the new suspension system worked. Navistar Defense, LLC in Warrenville, IL receives a $751.5 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order #0014. This order will also be used to buy 1,050 MaxxPro Dash vehicles for Afghanistan, with the new DXM independent suspension solution provided by Hendrickson Truck Suspension Systems and AxleTech International.

Other improvements reportedly include door and insulation upgrades, as well as the addition of an inclinometer to act as a level and measures side slope during vehicle operation. The higher center of gravity involved with V-hull vehicles can make them tippy, so that’s definitely something for the driver to watch.

Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS and the contract is expected to be complete by the end of August 2010. The work is expected to add back 400 jobs at the company’s West Point, MS facility, following multiple layoffs in 2009 that had cut staffing to 120. All procurement funds will expire on Sept 30/12. This contract was competitively procured (M67854-07-D-5032 / D.O.0009). Since May 2007, Navistar says it has received orders for a total of 7,494 MaxxPro MRAPs. Navistar release | Daily Times Leader | Aviation Week Ares.

Dec 29/09: A $7 million firm-fixed-priced contract for “CAT III technical labor hour” work to support for the design and development of “the Maxxpro Dash vehicle independent suspension system,” later revelaed to be the Hendrickson/Axletech DXM. Work will be performed in Warrenville, IL, and is expected to be completed by the April 30/10 (M67854-07-D-5032).

The MaxxPro isn’t alone here. Oshkosh’s TAK-4 off-road independent suspension system has recently been used to retrofit MRAP vehicles from BAE Systems and Force Protection, in order to improve their mobility in Afghanistan’s rough terrain.

Nov 9/09: Navistar announces a 4-year System Technical Support (STS) contract worth up to $78 million to provide engineering support for its MaxxPro MRAP. Navistar’s STS award includes work to improve vehicle reliability, support combat issues encountered in theater, add new kits and hardware, as well as provide new vehicle enhancements. The STS award includes up to 143,000 annual labor hours, as well as parts, to be used within 12 months, with the option to renew the contract for 3 additional years.

FY 2009

MaxxPro variants. M-ATV loss.

MaxxPros: Tawillah, Iraq
(click to view full)

Sept 09/09: A $48 million firm-fixed-priced modification to a previous delivery order (M67854-07-D-5032, #0004) for procurement of MRAP OCONUS field service representatives (FSRs), OCONUS senior instructors, FSR instructor/mechanics, and various contract data requirements lists.

Work will be performed in the United States and Iraq and will be completed in September 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $48 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The base contract was competitively awarded, and the new requirements are sole source additions to the contract.

Aug 10/09: A $7 million firm-fixed-priced modification under contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0010) for the procurement of engineering change proposals and tire chains in support of MRAP MaxxPro Dash vehicles. Work will be performed in West Point, MS and is expected to be complete by the end of December 2009. The base contract was competitively awarded, and the new requirements are sole source additions to the contract.

Aug 7/09: A $7.8 million firm-fixed-priced modification to a previous delivery order (M67854-07-D-5032, #0006). It adds vehicle modifications (engineering change proposals), ambulance sustainment parts, and ambulance head clearance retrofit kits for Category I MRAP vehicles.

Work will be performed in West Point, MS and is expected to be complete by the end of December 2009. The base contract was competitively awarded, and the new requirements are sole source additions to the contract.

Aug 6/09: An $8.6 million firm-fixed-priced modification to a previous delivery order (M67854-07-D-5032, #0004) for MRAP OCONUS (Outside the CONtinental US) field service representatives (FSRs), new equipment training instructors, CONUS FSR instructors, and senior FSRs.

Work will be performed in the United States and Iraq, and will end at the end of September 2010. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, at the end of September 2009. The base contract was competitively awarded, and the new requirements are sole source additions to the contract.

July 16/09: A $21 million firm fixed priced delivery order under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #009) for additional initial sustainment items in support of 882 MaxxPro Dash vehicles.

Work will be performed at the Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, TX, and deliveries are expected to be complete by Nov 30/09. Contract funds in the amount of $687,470 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

July 10/09: A $71.1 million firm-fixed- priced delivery order modification under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #006) for the procurement of battle damage assessment and repair (BDAR) kits for its MaxxPro Base and MaxxPro Plus vehicle variants.

Work will be performed at the Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, TX and deliveries are expected to be completed by Aug 1/09. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The new requirements are sole source additions to the original contract.

June 30/09: Navistar announces its disappointment at their M-ATV loss, while reiterating their firms’ strong points for investors. The firm did not enter a MaxxPro variant, choosing a derivative of the MXT Husky instead.

June 19/09: A $6.4 million modification to a previous delivery order (M67854-07-D-5032, #004) for the procurement of MRAP field service representative mechanics, back ramp retrofit kits, and several contract data requirement lists outside the USA. Despite the order’s size, the Pentagon release states that: “Contract funds in the amount of $7,291,171 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.”

Work will be performed in West Point, MS and in Iraq, and work is expected to be complete in August 2010. The base contract was competitively awarded, and the new requirements are sole source additions to the contract.

June 18/09: A maximum $42.9 million firm-fixed-price, sole-source contract for sustainment spare parts in support of Army MRAP vehicles. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09, but the contract will run until Nov 9/09. The Defense Logistics Agency Warren (DSCC-ZG) in Warren, MI manages this contract (SPRDL1-09-C-0088).

June 1/09: A $44.7 million firm-fixed-priced modification to a previously awarded delivery order (M67854-07-D-5032, #0004) for the renewal of Field Service Representative services in the Iraqi and Afghan theaters of war.

Work will be performed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the final deliveries associated with this delivery order are expected to be completed by Sept 30/10. The Basic contract was competitively awarded and the new requirements were sole source additions to the contract.

April 27/09: A $16.5 million firm-fixed-priced modification to a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #004), for field service representatives for the Mine Resistance Ambush Protected vehicles in theater, Contract Data Requirement Lists (CDRLs), and ECP vehicle modifications.

Work will be performed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the final deliveries associated with this delivery order are expected to be complete by Aug 16/10.

Feb 25/09: Navistar Defense, LLC unveils 3 new MaxxPro variants at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Winter Symposium and Exposition. The MaxxPro Wrecker MRAP vehicle is designed to retrieve damaged or mission-disabled MRAPs, winching them out of trouble and towing them away. Since breakdowns usually involve mined areas, a high level of blast protection is very important.

Navistar also added the MaxxPro Cargo, and the MaxxPro Tractor for towing trailers under full protection. All 3 utility vehicles are built on the company’s International WorkStar platform, with a MaxxPro Dash cab and MaxxForce D 9.3L I6 engine.

Dec 17/08: Navistar Defense LLC in Warrenville, IL received an $8.9 million modification under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #009) Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) upgrades for Enhanced Maneuverability and associated Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) costs.

In English, it buys initial spare parts support packages for MaxxPro Dash vehicles, which have been modified for use in Afghanistan. Work will be performed in West Point, MS and is expected to be complete by the end of May 2009.

Dec 10/08: Navistar continues to pull away from its MRAP competitors, via a $362.3 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for 400 more MaxxPro Dash vehicles, which have been modified for service in Afghanistan. Manufacturing under this previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0010) will be performed in WestPoint, MS and work is expected to be complete by the end of May 2009. Navistar will complete delivery of all 400 units while the testing and evaluation of vehicles for the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) program is underway.

Navistar’s release adds that delivery of the September 2008 order for 822 MaxxPro Dash vehicles is set to finish at the end of January 2009, a full month ahead of schedule.

Dec 4/08: A $53.6 million firm fixed priced modification to delivery order under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0004: 754 CAT I MRAPS for $413.9 million) for spares and equipment items needed to support Category I MRAP vehicles in theater. This order will also be used to support the renewal of Field Service Representative contracts within the CENTCOM area of responsibility. Work will be managed in WestPoint, MS, and is expected to be complete in November 2009.

Nov 14/08: The US government issues a pre-solicitation notice for a subsidiary competition called M-ATV, essentially an “MRAP Lite” bridge buy to the JLTV. FBO pre-solicitation #W56HZV-09-R-0115. The MaxxPro Dash is likely to be a prime contender for the buy(s), which begins an expected order of just over 2,000 vehicles but could reach up to 10,000.

A subsequent Defense News article places M-ATV’s top weight at 12.5 tons empty, adding that the RFP still demands significant protection against conventional and EFP land mines. That’s likely to help the heavier MaxxPro Dash, while putting competitors like Force Protection’s 7-8 ton Cheetah at a disadvantage.

The RFP was issued in December 2008. 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.

UPDATE: By Q2 2009, Navistar had submitted its choice – but it wasn’t their Dash, it was a variant of their MXT light truck.

Nov 7/08: Another $24.8 million for 2 firm-fixed-priced delivery order modifications under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) The modifications would add gunner restraints, and cover funding costs associated with accelerated MRAP Category I production. Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS.

See Sept 4/08 entry for the $752 million order for 822 of Navistar’s lighter MaxxPro Dash vehicles, whose design has been lightened and modified for the Afghan front. On Nov 6/08, Navistar announced that by working around the clock, they were able to meet the military’s request to deliver all vehicles one month ahead of schedule. Originally scheduled to be completed by the end of February 2009, the company has leveraged its extensive relationships with its supply base to provide deliver all units by the end of January 2009. The firm delivered 70 vehicles on Nov 4/08 – 2 weeks in advance of its already aggressive delivery schedule.

That extra commitment isn’t free; the MRAP contract is structured to compensate manufacturers for their extra costs if the government needs vehicles faster.

Oct 29/08: Navistar Defense LLC (ND) in Warrenville, IL received a $56.4 million firm fixed priced delivery order under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0007) for engineering changes and spares to support MRAP Category I vehicles currently in theater. Delivery order #0007 covered 743 MRAP CAT I vehicles.

Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS, and is expected to be complete by the end of November 2008. This contract was competitively procured.

Oct 29/08: Navistar Defense LLC (ND) in Warrenville, IL received $8.3 million for a firm-fixed-priced delivery order under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0006) to fund additional Maintenance Workshop Blocks to support MRAP Category I vehicles currently in theater. Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS and is expected to be complete by the end of February 2009. This contract was competitively procured.

See also Dec 18/07, June 19/08, and Oct 7/08 entries re: delivery order #0006, which was for 1,500 vehicles.

Oct 24/08: Defense News reports that more mine-resistant vehicles could be in the order pipeline. The U.S. Army and Marine Corps reportedly plan to rapidly develop and buy a fleet of lighter 7-10 ton vehicles that offer better mine resistance than Hummers, but better off-road mobility than MRAPs. Afghanistan is seen as an especial focus for these vehicles.

Oshkosh’s Sandcat and Force Protection’s Cheetah vehicle are mentioned as potential candidates for that bridge buy. Other competitors are likely, and Navistar’s MaxxPro Dash must also be placed in this category given recent the MRAP orders for deployment of this lightened variant to Afghanistan (vid. Sept 4/08 entry).

Defense News places potential military demand at 2,000- 5,000 bridge buy vehicles – assuming that issues with JLTV issues don’t lead to the bridge becoming the road. Navistar may be covered either way, however; its partnership with BAE won one of the 3 JLTV development contracts.

Oct 7/08: A $35.9 million firm-fixed-priced modification to delivery order #0006 under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for sustainment items needed to support Category I MRAP vehicles in theater. This order will also be used to support several engineering change proposals to increase the vehicles’ capabilities. Work will be performed in West Point, MS and is expected to be complete in April 2009.

See also Dec 18/07 and June 19/08 entries re: delivery order #0006, which was for 1,500 vehicles.

FY 2008

DynCorp support. MaxxPro Dash.

Tire Kicker
(click to view full)

Sept 4/08: A $752 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order for 822 MaxxPro Dash MRAP CAT I vehicles, under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0009). Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS and is expected to be complete in February 2009.

Pentagon references to “production vehicles with engineering change proposal upgrades for enhanced maneuverability” refer to the MaxxPro Dash, a new variant which is optimized for Afghan operations. The Dash variant is 16” shorter and has an 8″ smaller wheel base, giving it a smaller turning radius of 54 feet. It’s also up to 5,000 pounds lighter, but can accept add-on armoring that will increase its weight. These changes, and the use of Navistar’s MaxxForce D engine, also give it a higher torque to weight ratio for better off-road operations. See also Navistar release.

Navistar already had a strong presence in Afghanistan, as the main truck supplier to the Afghan National Army. Despite earlier Pentagon comments that tagged the BAE OMC/ General Dynamics RG-31 as the favorite for Afghanistan, all vehicles in this MaxxPro order are tagged for Operation Enduring Freedom, and as yet there are no corresponding orders for other MRAPs. DID’s spreadsheet also shows that the 15,771 vehicle program ceiling is now maxed out.

July 4/08: An $84.8 million firm-fixed-priced modification to a delivery order under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0004) for sustainment items needed to support Category I MRAP vehicles in theater. This order will also be used to support several Engineering Change Proposals to increase the vehicles’ capabilities. Work will be performed in West Point, MS and is expected to be complete in April 2009.

Aug 1/08: A $29.3 million firm-fixed-priced modification to a delivery order under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0007) for sustainment items needed to support Category I MRAP vehicles in theater. This order will also be used to support several Engineering Change Proposals to increase the vehicles’ capabilities. Work will be performed in West Point, MS and is expected to be complete in April 2009. Deliver order #0007 involved 743 MaxxPros.

Aug 1/08: A $27.4 million firm-fixed-priced modification to a delivery order under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0002) for sustainment items needed to support Category I MRAP vehicles in theater. This order will also be used to support several Engineering Change Proposals to increase the vehicles’ capabilities. Work will be performed in West Point, MS and is expected to be complete in April 2009.

July 8/08: A $27.7 million firm-fixed price contract for MRAP spare parts. Work will be performed primarily in Springfield, OH and Springfield, MO as well as locations across the USA, and is expected to be complete by Jan 29/10. One bid was solicited on June 26/08 from the manufacturer (W56HZV-08-C-0522). Read Navistar’s “Army Awards Navistar Defense Seven Contracts For Parts And Support:
Contracts Total $125 Million for MRAP Support
,” which adds:

“Navistar has shipped more than 185,000 parts pieces to the military for use in Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 100 field service representatives in theater.”

July 7/08: A $56.9 million firm-fixed price contract for an assortment of automotive parts, including wheels, axles, air conditioners, engines, compressors, generators, and transmissions. Work will be performed primarily in Springfield, OH, with limited production in various cities across the nation, and is expected to be complete by May 4/09. One bid was solicited on April 2/08 (W56HZV-08-C-0494).

July 7/08: A $21.4 million firm-fixed price contract for wheels and pneumatic tires. Work will be performed in Trenton, NJ and is expected to be complete by Jan 30/09. One bid was solicited on June 25/08 (W56HZV-08-C-0520).

MaxxPro CAT I
(click to view full)

June 27/08: A $15.1 million firm fixed price contract for 1,426 air conditioner compressors [NSN 4120-01-555-5459] option priced at $556.11 each; 1,500 condensers for refrigeration [NSN 4130-01-562-3925] option priced at $1,653 each; and air conditioner blowers [NSN 6105-01-562-3922] option priced at $4,378 each. Riding in an enclosed vehicle through 100/40 degree plus heat, while wearing layers of heavy equipment, requires air conditioning as a matter of necessity. At present, 59% of the total condenser and blower options are being exercised, and are considered part of the base award when calculating the contract totals above.

Work will be performed at Dallastown, PA with an expected completion date of Aug 29/08. One bid was solicited with one bid received by the U.S. Army Tank & Automotive Command (TACOM) Life Cycle Management Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-08-C-0483).

June 27/08: Navistar Defence, LLC in Warrenville, IL received a $6.8 million firm fixed price contract for 2,000 pneumatic tire wheels [NSN 2530-01-555-5456, PN 2596798C91L]; 18 electric engine starters [NSN 2920-01-555-5458, PN 3610516C92[]; and 16 AC generators [NSN 6115-01-555-5460, PN 3819829C91].

Work will be performed in Trenton, NJ, and Belvidere, IL with an expected completion date of Aug 29/08. One bid was solicited with one bid received by the U.S. Army Tank & Automotive Command (TACOM) Life Cycle Management Command (W56HZV-08-C-0500).

June 19/08: International Military and Government LLC in Warrenville, IL is awarded a series of contracts amounting to about $707 million.

The modifications cover both MaxxPro Category I MRAP support and spares, and also “engineering change proposals to increase the vehicles’ capabilities.” Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS under contract M67854-07-D-5032, and are expected to be complete August 2008. The contract modifications include:

  • To delivery order #0002 (1,200 for $632.1 M), adds $29.5 million
  • To delivery order #0004 (754 for $413.9 M), adds $84.8 million
  • To delivery order #0005 (1,000 for $537.2 M), adds $146.8 million
  • To delivery order #0006 (1,500 for $1.18 B), adds $211.6 million
  • To delivery order #0007 (743 for $405.9 M), adds $234.3 million

June 10/08: A $28 million firm-fixed-priced modification to delivery order #0005 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for the accelerated production of 1,000 MRAP Low Rate Initial Production vehicles.

Delivery order #0005 was for $509.2 million (now $537.2 million), and ordered 1,000 vehicles in October 2007. This is an infusion of funds to speed up production by covering added expenses like overtime et. al., rather than an order for another 1,000 vehicles. Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS and “work is expected to be completed by the end of April 2008.”

May 29/08: The Aug 14/07 entry notes that DynCorp had become Navistar’s in-theater MRAP support network. Now, a DynCorp International release confirms the figures involved:

“Navistar Defense LLC, a division of Navistar International, Inc., awarded DynCorp International (NYSE:DCP) a five year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity Logistics Support Contract to provide field service support and training for its recently awarded Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle production contracts. DynCorp International’s Logistics Support Contract has a potential value of up to $500 million over five years with an initial award of $60 million to support deployments to Iraq.”

April 16/08: A $261.3 million for firm-fixed-priced contract modification under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for engineering change proposals to upgrade its MRAP low rate initial production vehicles. The government will procure several engineering changes to provide additional armor protection to increase the survivability of the MRAP Category I (CAT I) vehicles. The order also includes ambulance kits for the vehicles.

Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS and is expected to be complete in November 2008. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

March 14/08: A $405.9 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order (M67854-07-D-5032, #0007) for 743 Category I vehicles. Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS and is expected to be complete November 2008. To date, they have received 5,214 orders under the MRAP program (5,198 CAT-I, 16 CAT-2), 36.9% of the vehicles ordered.

N.B. Amount corrected by DefenseLINK on March 18/08.

Jan 19/08: The NY Times reports that “a gunner was killed and three crew members were wounded” on this day in an IED land mine attack. The soldiers were riding in a MaxxPro MRAP. Read “Hopes for NY Times Reporting Questioned After MRAP Story” for more details.

Jan 10/08: Israeli firm Plasan Sasa announces a $200+ million order to supply Navistar’s International Military and Government, LLC with armoring systems for an additional 1,500 armored MRAP blast-resistant vehicles, to be delivered by the end of July 2008. The Plasan Sasa release says that this armor contract continues and builds on the US military’s June 2007 order for 1,200 MaxxPro vehicles, and notes their investment in US manufacturing facilities.

MaxxPro CAT-I, Iraq
(click to view full)

Dec 18/07: IMG had submitted a variant of its MaxxPro for the MRAP-II competition. It aims to field vehicles that can protect against EFP(Explosively formed Penetrator) land mines, which are more akin to instant tank shells being fired into your vehicle than they are to a conventional explosion. After initial tests, however, only 2 vendors received contracts for additional testing at Aberdeen: BAE Systems (RG-33) and the team of Ideal Innovations, Ceradyne, and Oshkosh (The Bull).

Dec 18/07: A $1.18 billion firm-fixed-priced delivery order under a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #0006) to purchase an additional 1,500 MaxxPro CAT-I MRAP Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) vehicles. This order also includes sustainment items needed to support the vehicles in theater, as well as several Engineering Change Proposals to increase the vehicles’ capabilities. Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS and is expected to be complete by the end of July 2008. This contract was competitively procured. Navistar release.

As this accompanying DoD release notes, the Marine Corps issued a number of MRAP orders on this day. Navistar’s IMG remains on top, and even widened its lead slightly. To date, they have received 4,471 orders under the MRAP program (4,455 CAT-I, 16 CAT-2), for 37.6% of 11,862 vehicles ordered.

Dec 7/07: The Rakkasans of the 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division in Iraq received 18 MaxxPro CATR-I vehicles. Sgt. Rian Terry, a welder in Co. B, 626th BSB, from Clarksville, TN:

“I like it. It feels safe with all the additional armor. It’s much roomier and easier to access equipment, especially with all your gear on.”

Pfc. Cedric Miller, a grenadier in Co. A, 1-187th Inf., from Blakely, GA, was more direct: “It’s an all-around good truck. We need more.”

American units preparing to receive MRAP vehicles send their maintenance Soldiers attend a 5-day, 40-hour course. During the course, drivers and vehicle commanders participate in both day and night, on- and off-road driving exercises, and obstacle course-like exercises where they maneuver through jersey barriers. Soldiers who complete the 40-hour training are operationally familiar with the equipment. It is up to the unit to make them tactically familiar.

Meanwhile, each battalion is assigned a field support representative and a team of mechanics to continue training the Soldiers. Having civilian representatives and mechanics at the battalion level gives the Soldiers subject-matter experts who are available during maintenance, but will allow the Soldiers to do the hands-on work. US Army

Dec 7/07: A $152 million firm-fixed-priced modification under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for Maxxpro “sustainment items” (spares) under the MRAP program. Work will be performed in WestPoint, MS and is expected to be complete in February 2008.

Nov 28/07: A $24 million firm-fixed-priced modification to delivery order #0004 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for procure field service representatives to provide support for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in theater. Work will be performed in Iraq, and work is expected to be completed November 2008. Note our Aug 14/07 entry – this work will be done by Dyncorp.

Oct 30/07: $68.8 million attached to firm-fixed-priced delivery order #0005 under previously contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for Mine Resistant and Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle sustainment items. The Government shall purchase MRAP University requirements including field service representative-instructors, instructional material, course outlines, and special tooling, and additional sustainment items. Work will be performed at Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, TX, and is expected to be complete by the end of October 2008.

Oct 18/07: $509.2 million for firm-fixed-priced delivery order #0005 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for 1,000 MaxxPro MRAP CAT I Low Rate Initial Production vehicles. Work will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete April 2008. This contract was competitively procured.

Navistar remains in the lead for MRAP orders to date, with 2,971 vehicles (2,955 CAT-I, 16 CAT-II) contracted to date, or 33.8% of the 8,746 MRAP CAT I/II vehicles ordered so far. Force Protection is currently in 2nd place with 30.9%, and BAE/Armor Holdings come in 3rd with 26.3%.

FY 2007


MaxxPro concept
(click to view full)

Sept 21/07: International Military and Government LLC in Warrenville, Ill. received $7.2 million firm-fixed-priced modification to delivery order #0002 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for field service representatives (FSRs) to serve in theater. The FSRs will provide support for MRAP Category I MaxxPro vehicles in Iraq. Work will be performed in Camp Liberty, Iraq, and is expected to be complete in September 2008.

Sept 13/07: International Military and Government LLC in Warrenville, Ill. received a $71.5 million firm-fixed-priced modification to Delivery Order #0002 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for sustainment items and data requirements for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in theater.

The US government is buying 1-Year Forward Deployment Blocks, 1-Year Maintenance Work Blocks, training, training materials, and several contract data requirement lists for International’s MaxxPro MRAP CAT I vehicles. Work will be performed in West Point, Miss., and the deliveries are expected to be complete in October 2007.

Aug 14/07: DynCorp International LLC announces that they have been selected by International Military and Government LLC to provide field-service support and training for its MRAP vehicles. This effectively makes them Navistar’s in-theater support network.

July 20/07: $413.9 million for firm-fixed-priced, delivery order #0004 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032), covering an additional 755 Category I (CAT I) Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) patrol vehicles. Work will be performed in WestPoint, Miss., and is expected to be complete by February 2008. Navistar release.

This contract places Navistar in the lead for MRAP orders to date, with 1,971 vehicles (1,955 CAT-I, 16 CAT-II) contracted to date, or 34.8% of the 5,621 vehicles ordered so far under the 7,774 vehicle MRAP program. Force Protection is currently in 2nd place with 31.7%, and BAE/Armor Holdings come in 3rd with 30.3%

MaxxPro CAT-I,
earlier version
(click to view full)

June 18/07: An $8.5 million firm-fixed-priced delivery order #0003 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for an additional 16 of the larger Category II MRAP JERRV squad vehicles. Note that this works out to about $530,000 per vehicle. Work will be performed in WestPoint, Miss., and work is expected to be complete by February 2008. The DoD release adds, mysteriously, that “Contract funds in the amount of $9,547,248 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.”

May 31/07: A $623.1 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-07-D-5032, #002) for 1,200 additional Category I (CAT I) Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) Low Rate Initial Production vehicles. Work on the MaxxPro MPV contract will be performed in West Point, MS, and is expected to be complete by February 2008. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Which leads us to the next question… will existing MRAP vehicles be enough? They may not, and ironically, International may have declined to submit an offering of its own that could have survived in the new environment.


fn1. A shaped charge ‘squishes’ and detonates when it hits, focusing the blast into a cone with a point that’s like a plasma torch – with a wallop behind it. The immense focused energy converges right on the armor, cutting through the steel and/or blowing chunks off the back in a spray of molten metal of fragments, killing the occupants and/or damaging machinery.

Cage armor can prevent some types of warheads from detonating, especially those with a piezo-electric ‘crush’ fuze. Those of you thinking that metal screens are not 100% certain to prevent warhead detonation, depending on the angle at which the piezo-electric crush fuze hit, and other warhead characteristics, are correct. In general, one can expect cage armor of any sort to turn only about 50-60% of rounds into duds.

The other option “cage armor” provides is to start that process away from the armor, so the shaped charge cone’s focal point is moved out in front of the armor it’s designed to penetrate. Instead of a precisely focused cutting/blasting point, you get an less focused blast. Depending on how big the warhead is, how far away the detonation is, and how strong the vehicle’s armor protection is, its occupants may or may not be saved.

Additional Readings & Sources

Appendix A: The MRAP Story, and the MaxxPro Story

Dingo 2 (via CASR)

In 2005, military manufacturers began to plan for the end of the US military’s Hummer orders, and the associated battle to replace it with a new vehicle. By this time, land mines had already been the #1 killer in Iraq for some time, and a few manufacturers were also looking to break into the American market with solutions to this problem. The technology was not new; indeed, it had been in use for over 40 years. The US military had just been very slow to adopt it, aside from some limited orders the 101st Airborne had placed for South African RG-31 vehicles, limited purchases of Force Protection’s Cougar and Buffalo vehicles for Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams, and M1117 Guardian ASV armored cars for US military police units. Worse, the ASVs were produced in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina interrupted production just as it was ramping up.

By 2006, 3 years into the war in Iraq, realization began to dawn that the Hummers and their blast-catching flat bottoms needed a supplement in theater now, rather than waiting for the Humvee’s successor. The US Army and Marines began taking a closer look at mine-resistant vehicles on the market, and key manufacturers began maneuvering for position.

The new Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) program would include a smaller Category I MRUV patrol vehicles that seated at least 6 people in total, including the driver and front seat. Category II JERRV vehicles would seat at least 10, and would be large enough to hold bomb-disposal robots and other useful gear.

The expected MRAP requirement quickly began to mushroom in size, as IED land mine attacks intensified on the front lines. A large July 2007 order came hot on the heels of US Secretary of Defense Gates’ request to Congress for an extra $1.2 billion in FY 2007 to fund an additional 2,650 MRAP vehicles, on the grounds that manufacturers were ramping up production more quickly than original forecasts. Meanwhile, key inputs such as steel and tires which might have become production bottlenecks were expedited under a DX rating that give the MRAP program priority over almost all other military programs. Sen. and VP-elect Biden [D-DE], who often heard responses re: lack of industrial capacity when he began asking why more MRAP vehicles weren’t in theater, found that his “put the money together, issue the contracts, and let’s find out” speech [MS Word], embodied in Amendment #739 to the FY 2007 military budget, became the US military’s go-forward plan.

Cougar at Aberdeen
(click to view full)

By the time the competition began Force Protection, whose v-hulled Cougar vehicles had catalyzed this realization with their performance in Iraq, was set with their Cougars for MRAP CAT I/II.

General Dynamics was already partnered with BAE OMC of South Africa and the Canadian government to offer the RG-31, which was already in service with airborne and SOCOM customers. Then they signed another deal with Force Protection to share production of Cougar vehicles.

BAE Systems was busy developing their RG-33 family, an update of their proven RG-31s that incorporated new technologies and lessons learned. Meanwhile, Armor Holdings, who supplied the US military’s FMTV medium trucks and up-armoring for its Hummers, worked on an up-armored design based on the FMTV. They would eventually be acquired by BAE in a multi-billion dollar deal, after establishing an MRAP order foothold for their “Caiman” vehicles.

Lacking ready designs or American plants, others chose partnerships as their path to market. Navistar’s truck-building competitor Oshkosh entered the fray with a pair of Partnerships, signing a deal with PVI for their new Alpha MRUV vehicle, and Thales Australia for the larger Bushmaster vehicle that was already serving with Australian forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Protected Vehicles, Inc. (PVI) also submitted the Golan, designed in partnership with RAFAEL and the Israeli military.

German firm KMW’s Dingo had also demonstrated front-line performance with German forces in Afghanistan, but their American partner Textron elected to offer their own M1117 instead, eliminating KMW before the competition had even started.

That left Navistar considering what to do.

MV 7000 as tanker
(click to view full)

Navistar subsidiary International Military and Government LLC (IMG, now Navistar Defense) didn’t have expertise in armored vehicles, but they did know trucks. The firm is used to substantial production numbers, and has a field maintenance network on the front lines. In addition to to being one of North America’s largest producers of civilian commercial trucks and mid-range diesel engines (161,000 vehicles in 2006), it is producing and supporting 2,781 vehicles for the Afghan National Army, and claims 9 additional contracts with the U.S. government for more than 1,000 units each. These contracts encompass include service trucks and buses that have been used in the Iraq reconstruction effort. Production facilities include Garland, TX; Springfield, OH; West Point, MS; Melrose Park, IL (diesel engines); and Tulsa, OK (buses).

The key for Navistar would be finding the right partner, with the aim of developing an armored MRAP-candidate vehicle based around IMG’s WorkStar 7000 truck chassis. In 2005, the firm contracted with South Africa’s Armour Technology Systems (ATS), which has design rights to several mine-resistant vehicles used in South Africa, and had also developed blast-resistant SAMIL armored cab solutions for South Africa’s trucks.

MTVR + PS armor
(click to view full)

During the course of that relationship with ATS, Navistar also opened relations with the Israeli firm Plasan Sasa, who had been designing and manufacturing up-armoring kits for the Marine Corps’ MTVR trucks for several years. That gave them a solid relationship with the MRAP competition’s key client. The Kibbutz Sasa firm also had experience developing full vehicles; its own light protected vehicle called the Caracal was under review by the US Marines for a different role. Navistar decided that they had found their partner – and in January 2007, they summarily canceled their agreement with South Africa’s ATS.

The question of what ATS knowledge may have been transferred or used by Navistar remains in the hands of lawyers, and also a PR campaign by ATS that publicizes its specific allegations of bad faith and unethical dealings.

The key characteristics of Navistar’s final vehicle contender are clearer. Unlike the HMMWV‘s auto-derived frame, IMG’s heavy-duty truck chassis would have the load capacity required to handle the weight of additional armor etc., without wearing out early. The final design positions a v-shaped crew compartment on top of that truck chassis, allowing maximum production commonality while using the compartment’s armoring and shape to channel blasts around the crew area. Extensive use of components from IMG’s trucks, including predictive maintenance features, would ensure that their entry was both producible in large numbers and maintainable in the field.

In return for this positioning, Navistar’s IMG received a test vehicle production contract for their vehicle – and nothing more. IMG/Plasan Sasa’s MPV was not featured among the early-stage orders [1st set | 2nd set] from the US military for low-risk designs, which went to rivals Force Protection (Cougar), BAE (RG-33, RG-33L), General Dynamics (RG-31), Oshkosh/PVI (Alpha CAT I), and PVI (Golan CAT II).

MaxxPro Dash & Plus
(click to view full)

Yet Navistar went on to become the winner in the initial MRAP competition, with the highest share of any competitor. So why was Navistar initially shut out?

One logical conclusion is doubts about its performance. The biggest downside to capsule-mounting a blast-resistant hull on top of a frame is the danger that a mine blast will separate the capsule from the frame, or (more likely) destroy the chassis and immobilize the vehicle in an ambush zone. Moving a v-shaped blast pan beneath the chassis reduces that danger, but that solution creates issues with ground clearance; and – since it offers less of a gap from the blast – with crew survivability.

What changed? Two things.

One was the Biden Amendment in the Senate, which accelerated funding for MRAPs, even as the desired number of vehicles for the FY 2007-2008 program rose again from 4,100 to 7,774 vehicles. At that volume, existing vehicle manufacturers would be very hard-pressed to deliver the required quantity in time. Which in turn lent a higher value to producibility, as long as the vehicles offered substantially better protection than a Humvee. Especially with the US Army reportedly looking for 17,000 blast-resistant vehicles of its own by 2010 – a number that would be borne out, and more, by subsequent events.

The second thing that happened was the testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, which appears to have quieted doubts concerning IMG/Plasan Sasa’s design. Navistar received just the 2nd post-testing order to emerge from Marine Corps Systems Command, behind Force Protection’s early 1,000 vehicle order in April 2007. A May 31, 2007 report from Defense News claims that Navistar officials heard about their win from the offices of minority leader Sen. Trent Lott [R-MS] and Rep. Roger Wicker [R-MS], and Navistar spokesman Roy Wiley added at the time that “We did extremely well during the tests [at Aberdeen], and we are extremely pleased.”

Plasan Sasa does make composite armors for vehicles, and whatever it used apparently survived the trials at Aberdeen. Navistar would go on to produce its MaxxPro for MRAP orders, as well as the MaxxPro Air Force, the MaxxPro Plus with improved protection, a MaxxPro ambulance (production orders were for the Dash variant), the MaxxPro MEAP, the MaxxPro Dash for Afghan operations, and the MaxxPro Recovery Vehicle (MRV) for towing other vehicles out of danger zones.

In contrast, Navistar’s trucking competitor Oshkosh failed with both of its purpose-designed vehicles. The firm received 100 advance low-risk orders for the Alpha vehicle, which then failed testing and was removed from the competition. Despite its successful service on the front lines, the v-hulled Australian Bushmaster design never saw a single production order during the MRAP program. It would join Textron’s M1117 on the sidelines, until Oshkosh’s big win in the subsequent MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) competition.

Appendix B: MPV or APC to Face EFPs? (June 2007)

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A May 31/07 USA Today article titled “MRAPs can’t stop newest weapon” explains the dilemma:

“The military plans to spend as much as $25 billion for up to 22,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles by 2009. Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared that buying the new vehicles should be the Pentagon’s top procurement priority.

But the armor on those vehicles cannot stop the newest bomb to emerge, known as an explosively formed penetrator (EFP).”

Stryker ICV with
Anti-RPG Slat Armor
(click to view full)

An EFP is just another type of land mine, where the explosives are arranged to shape a metal disk into a kind of instant high-caliber tank round as they detonate, launching it at nearby objects. This is not a new approach; the USA’s Sensor-Fuzed Weapon, a.k.a. “cans of whup-ass,” uses this exact approach but is dropped from an airplane so it can attack through the top, where armor is usually weakest. An EFP’s mode of operation when used as a land mine is a ballistic side attack rather than a conventional land mine’s explosion, which means a v-hull won’t necessarily offer much protection.

These weapons have also been among the land mines causing problems for heavier Stryker/LAV-III wheeled armored personnel carriers in Diyala Province. The Strykers lack the level of underbelly protection found in MRAP vehicles, and their “steel cage” armor designed to defeat [1] the shaped-charge warheads on anti-tank rockets will not stop large-caliber shells – or a reasonable imitation created by an EFP land-mine.

Iran has been heavily involved in shipping these weapons into Iraq for some time now, and training both Shi’ites and Sunnis to make them. A January 13, 2007 document from the USMC says that as the USA fields vehicles with MRAP-class protection against buried mines, Iraqi insurgents’ use of EFPs “can be expected to increase significantly.”

While the US has been testing new armor compositions designed to break up EFP slugs, there is a commonly-available solution on the market. It’s called “reactive armor,” and already equips American Bradley fighting vehicles, M1 tanks, and other armored platforms.

In a sense, it’s the reverse of the EFP concept – instead of using an explosion to create a killing weapon, it reacts with an outward explosion when hit. This either blows the rocket/ tank round/ or EFP projectile completely off-course, or tips it into an easily-absorbed ‘slap hit’ rather than the precise, focused strike required to penetrate steel.

The armor is manufactured in a cooperative venture between Israel’s RAFAEL and General Dynamics, and already has a strong production base. The only counter to it would be a anti-tank missiles that use a dual-warhead charge, like Russia’s AT-13 Metis or AT-14 Kornet. Some of these weapons even have remote-firing capability. That kind of equipment can only come from a state sponsor, however – a fact that sharply ups the ante on its use as a definitive act of war in theaters like Iraq or Afghanistan.

(click to view full)

There is already an MRAP contender designed from the outset to use this kind of armor to its maximum effectiveness. Protected Vehicles Inc. MRAP CAT II Golan vehicle was designed in conjunction with RAFAEL and the Israeli MoD’s Merkava tank project office. Unsurprisingly, it was also designed from the outset to carry reactive armor as an option, without changing its outward appearance. The result of this design feature is that the enemy can’t tell if reactive armor is present or not, and must therefore assume “yes” for all vehicles of its type.

The US military ordered 60 Golan vehicles for immediate deployment to the front lines back in March 2007, in addition to its order for test vehicles.

IMG APC Concept
(click to view full)

The interesting thing is, IMG had its own vehicle designed from the outset to use reactive armor. The “International APC” was a definite CAT II sized vehicle at 30,000 pounds curb weight. Based on an International MV-7000 heavy truck cab, the APC promised a vehicle equipped with explosive reactive armor from the get-go.

For whatever reason, IMG chose not to enter this vehicle in the MRAP competition. Their APC could never have won a CAT I MRUV order, of course, as the MaxxPro just did. What it might have offered is an additional purchase option for the US military, when EFP land mines begin taking their toll on MRAP vehicles fielded in theater.

Postscript: DID predicted that a number of MRAP vehicle manufacturers were about to start showing much more interest in reactive armor solutions for their vehicles. It’s always more difficult to integrate later, of course, rather than as a design-in option. Still, it was immediately available – and better than nothing. That prediction proved false, as the Army began development of anti-EFP metal armor/add-on kits instead.

Categories: News

Indonesia’s AF Expresses Continued Interest in SU-35s

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 23:56

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Indonesia’s turn toward Russian fighters stemmed partly from necessity. Its 12 remaining F-16A/Bs and 16 remaining F-5E/F fighters experienced severe maintenance problems in the wake of a US embargo, triggered by the Indonesian military’s widespread human rights abuses in East Timor. Its 30+ single-seat Hawk 209 sub-sonic light combat aircraft, derived from the trainer jets the TNI-AU also operates, were the country’s only fighter alternative.

A $192 million contract began to address that in 2003, by buying 2 SU-27SK single-seat and 2 SU-30MK twin-seat multi-role fighters from Russia. Indonesia submitted a formal request to buy 24 used F-16s in 2011, but it isn’t backing away from its high-end Flanker fleet. In fact, the TNI-AU has steadily added more. Now, they’re reaching out to their neighbors for training and support.

Flankers for Indonesia’s Fighter Force

Flanker customers
(click to view full)

Indonesia’s TNI-AU has now ordered 16 SU-27 family fighters: 2 SU-27SK, 3 SU-27SKM, 2 SU-30MK, and 9 SU-30MK2.

The SU-27SKM and SU-30MK2 export variants are the result of parallel upgrade programs. They share many modifications, including the addition of digital cockpits with updated avionics, additional wing hardpoints, carrying capacity upgrades to 8,000 kg of weapons, a wider variety of weapon options, upgraded radars and ECM (Electronic CounterMeasures to jam enemy radars etc.), and in-flight refueling capability.

These modifications change the SU-27SK from a dedicated air superiority fighter to a multi-role fighter and attack aircraft. The SU-30, which has always been multi-role, is simply improved. Both of the new variants share the Sukhoi Flanker family’s combination of long range, large payloads, and air to air performance that can match any American fighter except the F-22A Raptor.

Those capabilities, and Russia’s policy of avoiding political conditions on its weapon sales, nudged Indonesia into a tilt toward Russia as a weapons supplier. A $192 million contract began to address the problems created by the US embargo in 2003, by buying 2 SU-27SK single-seat air superiority fighters and 2 SU-30MK twin-seat multi-role fighters through Rosoboronexport.

The TNI-AU’s tily toward Russia continued, despite the lifting of the US embargo in November 2005. Russia’s MAKS air show doesn’t have quite the international clout of Farnborough or Le Bourget, but the price and quality of modern Russian fighters ensures its place on the international circuit. For MAKS 2007, its top military contract came on opening day. Rosoboronexport State Corporation and the Republic of Indonesia signed a $355 million Memorandum of Understanding for 3 SU-27SKM and 3 SU-30MK2 Flanker family fighters, building on the 2003 deal, and taking the country’s ordered fleet to 10 planes.

A month later, that purchase was followed by a $1.2 billion wish list of Russian submarines, armored vehicles, and armed helicopters. That wish list didn’t fully materialize, but the end of 2011 saw another 6 SU-30MK2s bought from Russia, bringing the fighter deals’ totals to 16 fighters and about $1.02 billion.

Simulator training is currently a co-operative venture with the Chinese, but by 2014, Indonesia expects to have its own virtual training infrastructure.

It’s all part of an oil-fueled modernization drive, backed by increased military spending. For more on the strategic and procurement issues tied up in this purchase, see the Additional Readings section, below, for UPI analyst Martin Sieff’s “Jets for Jakarta: A Whole New Strategic Game For Australasia”, and Air Power Australia’s “Sukhoi Flankers: The Shifting Balance of Regional Air Power”.

Contracts & Key Events FY 2016 – 2017

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February 19/17: An official from the Russian state-owned Rostec said that he believes that contracts for the Su-35 with the government of Indonesia will be signed “in the coming months.” Jakarta is in the midst of an investigation into their procurement of the Leonardo AW101 helicopter, with the first delivered unit currently being stored in a hangar at the Indonesian capital’s Halim Perdanakusuma air base pending the completion of the investigation. Photos of the plane have shown the helicopter surrounded by police tape.

October 9/15: Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin is marketing the company’s F-16V to Indonesia as the country plans to replace its fleet of aging F-5E fighters. The company dispatched a cockpit demonstrator to the country this week in an effort to swoon the country’s Air Force chiefs, who appear particularly set on acquiring the Sukhoi Su-35. The Indonesian Air Force already operates 24 F-16s, with deliveries of these beginning last July.

FY 2015

September 8/15: Indonesia again indicated continued interest in purchasing Su-35s to replace its long-in-the-tooth F-5Es. Indonesia already has some earlier models, the Su-27, which appears to have been a positive influence over others being considered, such as the F-15 and F-16, of which the country already owns eight.

FY 2014

Oct 7/14: Su-35 favorite? Indonesian Military Commander General Moeldoko tells Republika Online that they’re leaning toward the Su-35 as their F-5 replacement, with the JAS-39 in 2nd place and the F-16 a distant 3rd:

“Menurut dia, jet tempur buatan negeri Paman Sam itu sudah tidak layak pakai lantaran teknologinya sudah ketinggalan zaman…. “Untuk udara, ada pengajuan penggantian F-5. Sukhoi Su-35 menjadi pilihan pertama, Saab JAS 39 Gripen pilihan kedua, dan pesawat F-16 pilihan ketiga,”…”

This isn’t the end, because negotiations, budgets and other considerations will still come into play. If that pick does stand, it would keep the Flanker family as the backbone of the TNI-AU, but the fleet would also be fragmented among 3+ types with partial commonality at best: 5 Su27SKM, 11 Su-30 (2 MKs, 9 MK2s), and 16 Su-35SK. The Su-27SKM and Su-30MK fighters will retire first, which will simplify matters, but that’s unlikely to happen before 2025 or so. Sources: ROL, “Helikopter Apache dan Sukhoi Su-35 Segera Perkuat TNI”.

Jan 7/14: Competition. Indonesia wants to replace its 11 remaining F-5E/F Tiger II light fighters with 16 modern aircraft. Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro confirmed that they “have received proposals from several jet fighter manufacturers,” and are evaluating them. Indonesian Military Commander General Moeldoko added that the TNI-AU has studied the SU-35, F-16, F-15, and JAS-39 Gripen.

Moeldoko wants the requisition plan included in Indonesia’s Strategic Plan II for the 2015 – 2020, but the air force’s choice will also depend on available funds. The F-15 is significantly more expensive than other options, and if the air force wants 16 fighters, the state of Indonesia’s economy will influence what they can buy.

There are always extraneous considerations in Indonesia. Still, if commonality matters, the F-16 is the only fighter currently in Indonesia’s inventory. The F-15 and JAS-39 are used by its neighbors, and have Asian support networks in place. Picking the SU-35 seems odd, as it would leave Indonesia vulnerable to becoming the 1st export customer, while worsening the fragmentation within an already-split Flanker fleet. Still, the existing SU-30MK fleet is a known quantity, which means the SU-35 is the only variant would require study for a full consideration of their options. Sources: Antara News, “Defense Ministry looking to replace aging F-5 tiger fighter aircraft”.

2011 – 2013

6 more SU-30s bought, financed, delivered. US DSCA request for 24 used F-16s.

Pitch Black 2012
(click to view full)

Sept 5/13: Delivery. The final 2 of 6 Su-30MK2s ordered in 2011 have been delivered at Sultan Hasanuddin Air Force Base, along with 13 technicians to help with assembly. This brings the fleet to 16, once they’re re-assembled and tested. Xinhua reports that:

“Indonesia’s Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who witnessed the last delivery of Sukhoi Su-30 Mk2 at the air forces’ base, said that the nation has spent a total of 1.17 billion U.S. dollars to buy all of those 16 planes as well as on ammunitions, pilot training programs and logistic.”

Sources: Jakarta Post | Xinhua, “Indonesia receives last delivery of Sukhoi Flanker fighter jets, completing full squadron”.

All ordered Su-30MK2s delivered

May 17/13: Delivery. Su-30MK2 fighters #3-4 arrive at Sultan Hasanuddin Air Force Base, aboard an An-124 and in disassembled condition. They’re actually a bit early, and had been expected in June.

11th Squadron currently has 12 active fighters: 5 single-seat SU-27s, and 7 twin-seat SU-30s. Once these 2 are assembled and tested, the squadron will grow again. Jakarta Post | Flight International.

March 20/13: 12-16 more wanted. The Jakarta Globe quotes Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who says that Indonesia’s $15 billion, 5-year military modernization plan will add another squadron of Sukhoi fighters. Other officials placed the number of additional Sukhois at 16 planes, which would double the TNI-AU’s Flanker force.

This purchase would be undertaken in addition to planned F-16 fleet buys and upgrades.

March 1/13: KFX/IFX. Indonesian Defense Ministry official Pos Hutabarat confirms that the KF-X joint fighter project with South Korea has been delayed by 18 months, while South Korea decides whether or not to continue. A decision is expected by June 2014, but Korean studies indicate that a 1st flight is unlikely before 2020, which means fielding rather later than 2022.

Worse, UPI says that the KFX/IFX fighter’s purchase price has already risen to $50-$60 million per aircraft, and this is before a prototype even exists. That sum is already comparable to ordering SU-30MK2s, which provide similar capabilities right now. That price, and the IFX’s delays, are good news for Sukhoi. Read “KF-X Fighter: Pushing Paper, or Peer Program?” for full coverage.

Feb 22/13: Delivery. Two out of the 6 Sukhoi Su-30MK2 jet fighters ordered in December 2011 arrive at Sultan Hasanuddin Air Force Base in Makassar, on the isle of Sulawesi. Volga-Dnepr’s AN-124-100 delivered the planes in standard condition: wings, tails, nose, etc. all removed, and no engines.

A shipment of 12 engines will arrive on Feb 27/13, and the 17 KnAAPO technicians that arrived with the planes will take about 2 weeks to assemble the first 2 fighters into flyable condition and test them. Another 2 batches of 2 fighters each are expected in June and July 2013. Jakarta Post, incl. updates on other aircraft plans.

Dec 21/12: Financing. Russia’s Vnesheconombank (VEB) won a tender from the Indonesian government, and will provide $399.5 million in financing over a 7-year term. The loan will finance 6 SU-30MK fighters and related equipment (vid. Dec 31/11 entry). BSR Russia.

Oct 17/12: Support from India. During his visit to Jakarta, Indian Defence Minister A K Antony agrees to train and support the Indonesian Air Force’s Flanker fleet. India flies a large fleet of SU-30MKIs, and is conducting manufacturing and final assembly work in India at HAL. They’ve already leveraged that base to provide similar support to Malaysia’s fleet of SU-30MKM fighters, though there are some items like engines that still need to be handled by Russia.

Note that this isn’t a contract just yet. Indonesia needs to firm up its requirements, and a India high-level Indian Air Force team will be sent to finalize the training and spares support package. The move will have an importance that goes far beyond its dollar value, as it’s part of a wider set of enhanced defense cooperation agreements the 2 countries are reportedly pursuing. Indonesia isn’t looking to antagonize China, but China’s aggressive claims in the South China Sea are contrasting poorly with India’s support for freedom of navigation, and for multilateral resolution of the disputes under international law. The result is an important Indonesian tilt toward more cooperation with India, which fits very well with India’s own strategic priorities. India MoD | Indian Express | The Jakarta Globe.

Sukhoi support: a the tilt toward India?

Dec 31/11: 6 more. It seems that the F-16 pursuit hasn’t replaced Indonesia’s desire for more Flankers. The Jakarta Post reports that Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense has ordered 6 more SU-30MK2 jet fighters, and quotes Deputy Minister of Defense Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin: “We handed over the contract yesterday. We have another contract still in progress”.

Amounts were not mentioned, but by Jan 10/12, Russia’s RIA Novosti says that Russian “defense and diplomatic sources” had confirmed a $470 million contract for the new planes, for delivery beginning “after 2013.”

The purchase would give Indonesia a total of 5 SU-27SKM and 11 SU-30MK2 fighters.

6 Flankers

(click to view full)

Nov 17/11: F-16 request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Indonesia’s official request for 24 ex-USAF F-16C/D Block 25 fighters.

This doesn’t change Indonesia’s interest in more Russian aircraft, but it will bolster TNI-AU fleet numbers if a contract is signed.

F-16 request to USA

March 23/11: Chinese competition? The Jakarta Post reports that Indonesia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China regarding joint military procurement, technology transfer, and joint-development and joint-marketing.

There’s a lot that isn’t set yet, including cost, proportional shares, intellectual property rights, and of course which weapons systems are covered; China does make a J-11 Flanker copy. Exact coverage and purchases usually wait until all other aspects are finalized, however, as the point of the MoU is to provide a ready-made umbrella agreement for such projects as they arise. The 1 item specifically mentioned by the Post is that Indonesia is very interested in jointly producing “C-907 missiles”, which it supposedly bought for its Flankers in 2009-2010. Unfortunately, that designation doesn’t correspond to any commonly-known Chinese missile.

2007 – 2010

6 more SU-30s bought and delivered (a bit late); Weapons buy; Interest in more Flankers; Don’t drink the moonshine, tovarisch.

SU-30MK2 Ordnance
(click to view full)

Nov 10/10: Weapons. Russia and Indonesia sign a $54 million “contract on the delivery of munitions for Sukhoi-family fighters in service with the Indonesian armed forces.” Weapon types were not specified. BNO News | RIA Novosti.


Sept 16/10: 6 more? Indonesian Air Force Air Force chief of staff Marshal Imam Sufaat says that they plan to buy 6 more Flanker family jets, as the 10 jets bought from Russia since 2003 aren’t enough to cover its territory. He also cites Malaysia’s 18 next-generation SU-30MKMs, and Singapore’s 20 F-15SGs. At the moment, however, there is no budget or definite time frame.

Ultimately, it depends what Indonesia wants to do. If control of territory is the goal, its 30+ Hawk 209 light combat aircraft serve that role well, and so will the EMB-134 Super Tucano light attack planes it’s buying to replace its OV-10 Broncos. Over the longer term, Indonesia has signed up with South Korea to develop a “KF-X” fighter by 2022. It’s intended to be an F-16C/D equivalent, and Indonesia has made noises about buying 50 or so. The debate thus comes down to whether the country needs a high-end gap filler as a hedge against the KF-X’s schedule, and its development risks. Jakarta Post | Jakarta Globe.

Sept 16/10: Deliveries done. The last Su-27SKM arrives in Makassar for service with Squadron 11, along with 3 Sukhoi warranty technicians to replace their poisoned colleagues. Jakarta Post | Voice of Russia.

2007 order delivered

Sept 13/10: 3 KnAAPO maintenance technicians are found dead in Indonesia, and 2 more are hospitalized. Some media outlets speak of deliberate poisoning, but the deaths turn out to be from ethanol – which means they poisoned themselves with drinking alcohol.

Liquor is prohibited at Sultan Hasannudin AB, so an investigation is underway regarding the liquor’s origins. Smuggling is the theory mentioned in the media reports, though maintenance technicians for multi-million dollar aircraft would also have the skills required to set up a basic moonshine still. Jakarta Post | Jakarta Post re: investigation | RIA Novosti.

Don’t drink the moonshine

Sept 8/10: The fighter delivery to Sultan Hasannudin Airbase in Makassar is canceled when the transporting Antonov AN-124-100 air craft breaks down. Tempo Interactive.

Sept 6/10: RIA Novosti reports that Russia will deliver the last of 6 contracted fighters to Indonesia on September 7th and 16th, flying 2 SU-27SKs in via AN-124 heavy transport planes to the Makassar air base. That will make 3 SU-27SK single-seat fighters, and 3 SU-30MK2 2-seat fighters, under the current contract; the last SU-30MK2 was delivered in January 2010.

The planes are supposed to be sent to Indonesia earlier than scheduled, following a request by the Indonesian military authorities, who didn’t want to miss yet another October 5th Armed Forces Day military parade.

Dec 26/08: Deliveries. RIA Novosti reports that Russia has delivered the first 2 jets under the contract: a pair of SU-30MK2s. Another Su-30MK2 jet is reportedly due for delivery in early 2009, and 3 Su-27SKM fighter jets are due to be delivered by 2010. Russia’s RIA Novosti | Singapore’s Straits Times.

Sept 19/08: Financing. While 3 of the Sukhois were expected to arrive in Indonesia by Indonesian Defense Forces Day on Oct 5/08, the September 2007 loan agreement for their purchase has not been approved yet by Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR). Without that approval, Bank Indonesia cannot take up the loan and issue the letter of credit.

Indonesia’s DPR is not deliberately delaying the purchase, and political figures have promised to give the issue priority. Even so, resolution and delivery in time for the Oct 5/08 Armed Forces Day parades would appear to be unlikely. Philippines’ Balita Pinoy news report.

Russian SU-27SK
(click to view full)

Aug 21/07: On the opening day of the 8th International Aviation and Space Salon (MAKS 2007), Rosoboronexport State Corporation and the Republic of Indonesia have sign a $355 deal to deliver 3 Su-27 SKM and 3 Su-30MK2 fighters. This would bring Indonesia’s fleet to 5 aircraft of each type. ITAR-TASS | DefenceTalk.

6 Flankers

Additional Readings

Categories: News

2011-02: Up to the Gunwales in ELGTRs

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 23:56

Paveway-II ELGTR
(click to view full)

In February 2011, Lockheed Martin in Archbald, PA received a $21.9 million contract modification, exercising an option for 7,665 Paveway-II enhanced laser guided training rounds (ELGTRs) for the US Navy (7,217, for $20.5 million = 94%) and the governments of Pakistan (300 for $866,850 = 4%), Spain (88 for $254,276 = 1.2%), and Malaysia (60 for 173,370 = 0.8%). Those funds also buy 589 associated wooden containers for the U.S. Navy (500) and the governments of Pakistan (74) and Malaysia (15); 23 replacement-in-kind wooden containers for the governments of Pakistan (1) and Spain (22); plus associated data, and requested engineering efforts.

Paveway ELGTRs are lower-cost training rounds that mimic Paveway laser-guided bombs, right down to the carriage and release envelope, flight characteristics, and guidance system. The Enhanced LGTR provides significantly improved accuracy of 3m CEP, and is also smaller and cheaper than using a real Paveway bomb for necessary live fire training. Lockheed Martin has manufactured over 100,000 of them since 1992, for a wide range of customers.

Work will be performed in Archbald, PA, and is expected to be complete in June 2013. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract for its Navy and Foreign Military Sale customers (N00019-10-C-0092).


February 19/17: Poland has placed another missile order with Lockheed Martin for their F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet. Valued at $1.9 million, the contract will see the company provide Enhanced Laser Guided Training Rounds (ELGTR), providing realistic Paveway II Laser Guided Bomb training for pilots. The deal also covers the provision of technical data, logistics support and introduction to service training to the Polish air force.

Categories: News

M119 Howitzer to Get LBOP Muzzle Brake | FMS of Air Tractors to Kenya Targeted For Closer Review | Saab Offering Sensor Package for India’s LCA Tejas

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 23:58

  • The US subsidy of Elbit Systems, Elbit Systems of America, has been contracted by the US Army to provide and maintain mortar fire control systems for the service. An indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract, the maximum value of the deal could amount to $102 million and will be carried out over five years. The company said the shipment of mortar fire control systems — both mounted and dismounted — along with a lightweight handheld mortar ballistic computer, will improve the accuracy of mortars.

  • US Army engineers from Watervliet Arsenal have designed a 105mm low blast overpressure muzzle brake (LBOP) for the service’s M119 howitzer. This is the first time that a large-caliber device of this kind has been developed for an existing gun platform. Army engineers have said that the LBOP will greatly increase the howitzers battlefield performance by radically reducing the weapon’s recoil and will reduce its noise output from “between 13 percent to 48 percent at various quadrant elevations and crew locations.”

  • Lockheed Martin has been contracted by the DoD for Trident II ballistic fleet missile production and deployed system support. The $540 million contract modification supports production efforts for the US.Navy and the British Royal Navy, who deploy the missile on their Ohio-class and Vanguard-class submarines respectively. Lockheed Martin received roughly $453 million in weapon procurement funds from the Navy, plus an additional $50.7 million from the Royal Navy. The company also received $36 million in fiscal 2017 operation and maintenance funds, which are set to expire at the end of the current fiscal year.


  • A planned sale of 12 Air Tractor aircraft to Kenya may be halted while allegations of faulty contracting practices, fraud, and unfair treatment are investigated. The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the possible $418 million sale in January, with L-3 Communications acting as the prime contractor. However, US Representative Ted Budd has now introduced a resolution to halt the Foreign Military Sale of the Air Tractors to Kenya saying, “the proposed sale would reward a $13 billion company [L-3] that has never produced airplanes of this type and would cost $283 million dollars more than a small business in North Carolina [Iomax], which is currently producing the needed aircraft.” Citing credible allegations of faulty contracting practices, fraud, and unfair treatment surrounding this sale, Budd said that Iomax claims it can fulfil the contract for $180 million, and it has 48 weaponized border patrol aircraft in service, as opposed to zero for L-3.


  • After four years of investigation, Austria has filed a lawsuit against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium over alleged deception and fraud linked to the 2003 purchase of Eurofighter jets. The investigation into the $2.1 billion deal by the Defense Ministry found that the defense groups gave misleading information on the purchase price, deliverability, and equipment of the jets, and are seeking damages that could amount to $1.17 billion. Vienna’s purchase of 15 fighters has faced scrutiny since the outset of the deal, with allegations that money was pocketed by politicians, civil servants, and others via brokers for side deals accompanying the purchase.

  • On his first trip to Europe as US Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis warned NATO allies that they must honor military spending targets to ensure that Washington does not “moderate” support for the alliance. Speaking in Brussels, Mattis also took aim at some NATO members for ignoring security threats, including those posed by the Kremlin, but the main thrust of his words was that allies should spend the magic 2% of economic output on defense. While some of Europe’s wealthier economies are preferring to spend taxes on education and welfare rather than defense, the former Eastern Bloc nations of the alliance are all on course toward reaching that magic number.

Asia Pacific

  • Saab is continuing a defense partnership with Indian industry, offering a sensor package for India’s s LCA Tejas fighter. Included in the technology transfer is the company’s Airborne Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) fighter radar integrated with a compact electronic warfare suite. The package will also have synergies with the systems developed for the Gripen fighter, currently being pitched to New Delhi to fill their Navy requirement for carrier-based fighters.

  • India is also being offered United Engine Corporation’s (UEC) AL-41F turbofan engine as part of upgrades connected to the Su-30MKI modernization proposal. The power plant is currently being installed on Russian Su-35 and PAK FA fighters, and is being called significantly superior to its predecessors. India’s air force has a fleet of over 200 Russia-designed Su-30MK aircraft built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, and is looking to have them overhauled to the MKI standard, making them 4++ generation aircraft.

Today’s Video

  • Tactical Robotic’s Instant Eye: Now in use with the USMC:

Categories: News

Eurofighter’s Future: Tranche 3, and Beyond

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 23:48

Italian Eurofighters
(click to view full)

The multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon has been described as the aerodynamic apotheosis of lessons learned from the twin engine “teen series” fighters that began with the F-14 and F-15, continued with the emergence of the F/A-18 Hornet, and extended through to the most recent F/A-18 Super Hornet variants. Aerodynamically, it’s a half generation ahead of all of these examples, and planned evolutions will place the Eurofighter near or beyond parity in electronic systems and weapons.

The 1998 production agreement among its 4 member countries involved 620 aircraft, built with progressively improved capabilities over 3 contract “tranches”. By the end of Tranche 2, however, welfare state programs and debt burdens had made it difficult to afford the 236 fighters remaining in the 4-nation Eurofighter agreement. A 2009 compromise was found in the EUR 9 billion “Tranche 3A” buy, and the program has renewed its efforts to secure serious export sales. Their success will affect the platform’s production line in the near term, and its modernization plans beyond that.

Eurofighter: Design & Evolution

Eurofighter, Spain
(click to view full)

The Eurofighter program emerged out of a long and conflicting set of multinational efforts to design a new European fighter. By 1983, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain had coalesced around the Future European Fighter Aircraft (FEFA) program. That partnership lasted only until 1985, as differences with France over carrier compatibility, weight limits, and French insistence on the lead industrial role, ended their partnership. Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain established Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH in 1986 to manage the Eurofighter project, while France went its own way and developed their Rafale fighter.

Both projects went on to develop clipped delta, canard-equipped twin-engine fighters, whose “radar shaping” designs significantly lowered their radar signature compared to earlier fighters like the Mirage F1, Tornado, or F/A-18A-D Hornet. Even so, it would be a misnomer to call these European jets stealth aircraft. The standard term is a “4+ generation” fighter, distinguishing them from “5th generation” aircraft like the American F-22A Raptor and Indo-Russian PAK-FA.

While the Rafale’s development emphasized weapon load and multi-role capabilities, squeezed budgets and ample fleets of strike aircraft led Eurofighter’s partner nations to focus on the air superiority role. An excellent aerodynamic design, very good thrust-to-weight ratio, and fast slew-and-point capability was fused with a very integrated set of electronic sensor and defensive systems, including a pilot-friendly cockpit design that offered the first use of voice commands in a fighter. This made Eurofighter’s Typhoon very capable in its chosen aerial role, able to compete with or best serving opponents short of the American F-22A.

Typhoons even proved capable of armed supercruise during 2011 Libyan operations, but this was only possible with low-drag “4 + 2” air-to-air missile configurations, at high altitudes, to Mach 1.2.

B-2, ICU
(click to view full)

For air-to-air combat, the Eurofighter currently relies on long range detection using its mechanically-scanned, phased array ECR-90 CAPTOR radar and PIRATE IRST(Infra-Red Search & Track) system, coupled with a good array of advanced air-to-air weapons. Non-British Eurofighters will also have a 27mm Mauser cannon on board, considered by many observers to be the best fighter cannon on the market.

On defense, the Typhoon’s Praetorian (formerly EuroDASS) self-protection suite is designed for 360 degree coverage, with high automation. The Defensive Aids Computer (DAC) controls a package that includes Towed Radar Decoys, a Missile Approach Warner (MAW), wingtip ECM pods, and a Countermeasures Dispensing System (CMDS). They are integrated with each other, and with the Eurofighter’s radar and IRST.

Unfortunately for the consortium, this aerial combat strength ended up being the flip side of their biggest weakness. Initial “Tranche 1” machines were severely hobbled on the export market by their poor ground attack capabilities, a serious weakness in a world of multi-role fighters. When combined with the plane’s $100+ million cost, the result has been a slew of lost export competitions. Dassault’s Rafale, which had gaps of its own, could not capitalize on that failing, and is still looking for its first export win. Embarrassingly, the Eurofighter has usually lost to modernized, multi-role versions of the very F-16s and F-15s it was meant to supplant. That, in turn, has affected both prices and the pace of upgrades.

A list of current weapons may help snap the plane’s evolution into clearer focus:

As the list above notes, the Tranche 2 fighters that began delivery to member countries in 2008 have added precision ground attack capabilities under programs like P1E, but still fall well short of the full capabilities and weapon arrays offered by competitors like the American F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-15E Strike Eagle. Their lack of a helmet-mounted display (HMD) compounded this issue, preventing the Typhoon from taking full advantage of its new air-to-air missiles, and detracting from their ground attack capabilities. A BAE “Striker” HMSS Helmet-Mounted Display is in low-rate production now, but it didn’t become operational until 2011.

Tranche 3 Eurofighters will reportedly be based on the Tranche 2 standard, with provisions for dorsal conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) that can extend range while creating minimal drag. The other big change involves upgraded power systems and electronics that can more easily support future growth and upgrades. The weapon bus can handle fiber optic cabling, onboard computing is upgraded, and a high speed data network improves sharing with weapons or other platforms. The most important upgrade remains a CAPTOR “E-Scan” Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to replace the ECR-90. Industry is developing it for a 2015 delivery date, but there doesn’t seem to be a contract framework in place. The lack of an AESA radar leaves the Eurofighter a generation behind its American counterparts in radar technology, and until it catches up, it’s likely to suffer in export competitions.

F-35A Lightning II
(click to view full)

Even as these upgrades are being discussed, however, the Eurofighter’s export window as a leading-edge fighter choice is closing. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is aerodynamically inferior, but it offers a stealth fighter with a tested AESA radar, a wider array of sensors, and sensor fusion at an even higher level. By the end of this decade, 5th generation projects like the Russo-Indian PAK-FA will also become viable choices for some export targets.

Successful upgrades can keep the Eurofighter Typhoon competitive, even in that environment, if its production line lasts long enough. The key word will be “competitive.” As an example, see this comparison of the Eurofighter vs. Saab’s single-engine contemporary, the 4+ generation JAS-39 Gripen. Saab already has a development contract for an ES-05 Raven AESA radar, and is significantly ahead in weapons integration:

Eurofighter: What’s Next? A Weak Core

Eurofighter 2020
(click to view full)

Tranche 3 aircraft are expected to deliver a few important new capabilities, including an AESA radar and Conformal Fuel Tanks. At present, however, only Tranche 3 Eurofighters are designed to add CFTs. The biggest question at present is whether Tranche 3A aircraft will be the only CFT-capable Typhoons. The status of core countries’ Tranche 3B orders is very unclear, but Britain and Germany have already firmly ruled out further buys, and it appears likely that Tranche 3A will be the last production order from the original member countries.

In 2011, Eurofighter’s CEO placed the end of production at 2015, barring a major export win like India or Japan, or a Tranche 3B purchase from the consortium partners. By 2014, that date had been revised to 2017/18, but 2015 still marks the point that parts of the supply chain will begin to stop.

This will leave core countries with smaller fleets, for 2 reasons. One is limited orders. The other is Typhoon fleets that won’t serve in parallel. UK Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy has said that he expects the RAF to operate on the basis of a Typhoon fleet of 120 aircraft. By the time the last jets of the 3A tranche come into service, between 2015 and 2020, the first batch of Tranche 1 Typhoons would be approaching the end of their life. This is likely to be true in other partner countries as well. A 2009 Der Spiegel article illustrates some of the issues in Germany, for instance:

“The German air force didn’t get the first jets until July 2006. It now has 38 Eurofighters. But 14 of them have been sent back for repairs. Some of them still suffer instrument failure during flights. Of the six single-seat aircraft at the Neuburg air base only four are fit for service on average. That’s just enough to provide day and night cover for Germany’s airspace. The defense ministry recently admitted to budget committee members that the approved sum of [EUR] 14.7 billion would only be enough to pay for 143 Eurofighters. Parliament would have to approve an additional [EUR] 3 billion if the air force was to get the planned 180 aircraft…”

Upgrade Lifeline?

IPA7 tests KEPD-350s
(click to view full)

At the same time, remaining aircraft in these existing fleets offer strong opportunities for piecemeal upgrades, from moves to give Tranche 1 planes precision ground attack capabilities, to helmet-mounted sights, AESA radar retrofits, and even thrust-vectoring engines to create super-maneuverability. Conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) could also become possible, if Eurofighter devises an appropriate upgrade process. It would be logical to make that part of a life-extension structural refit, which would help existing customers keep expensive investments in service for longer. Key export order competitors like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-15 Strike Eagle, F-35 Lightning II, JAS-39 Gripen, Rafale, and Russian SU-30MKx/SU-35 already field every one of these capabilities – but none currently field all of them.

Weapon upgrades are absolutely expected. Expansion of the Typhoon’s ground attack weapon choices is an ongoing process. MBDA’s medium-range stealthy Storm Shadow cruise missile is in testing for full integration by 2015, reportedly thanks to Saudi Arabia and Oman. Taurus’ similar KEPD 350 will undergo partial testing at the same time. Saudi Arabia also reportedly wants to add the French Damocles surveillance and targeting pod, which makes sense because the Israeli LITENING-III runs up against their boycott.

Storm Shadow
(click to view full)

In the air, 2017 is expected to mark full integration of the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile.

Over the medium term, planned weapons reportedly include Diehl’s medium-range PILUM and HOSBO glide bombs, short-range MBDA Brimstone light strike missiles, and possibly their longer-range SPEAR-3 successors. Raytheon’s AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles have been discussed, and they would fix a critical deficiency for an important mission. So, too, would anti-ship missiles, which all of its competitors already carry. None of these items come with a schedule, however.

National budgets will play a role in the pace of these upgrades, as they have throughout the Eurofighter’s history. The question, for current and future customers, is timing. Until integration is done, the absence of key capabilities like long-range precision strike and anti-radar missiles will continue to hobble the Typhoon’s positioning as a fully multi-role aircraft.

What has changed now is the consortium’s seriousness about winning exports, along with a dawning understanding that most of these upgrades are now basic requirements for serious players. The question is whether this understanding came too late.

Exports Required

Eurofighter Display
click for video

Export wins will be necessary in order to finance the full range of timely improvements, and keep the line open past 2017/18. An August 30/09 Financial Mail article reported that Eurofighter GmbH was hoping for sales of 300 Eurofighter Typhoon to 10 export countries by 2020, but that will be very challenging.

The Eurofighter’s cost of $100-140 million each is already creating tough sledding against F-35 stealth fighters whose production quantities will eventually create prices in the $100 million range, and F/A-18 Super Hornets or JAS-39E/F Gripens that can be sold for around $60-70 million. With existing operators interested in selling some of their aircraft, even an export win or 2 may not change the Eurofighter’s overall production numbers.

The Tranche 3A release from Eurofighter cited active export campaigns in Switzerland, India, Japan, Romania, Greece, and Turkey, while “exploring possible opportunities” in South Korea, Bulgaria, Croatia, et. al. Romania (F-16s) and Turkey (F-35A) never went ahead with a real competition. Subsequent losses in Brazil (JAS-39E/F Gripen), India (Rafale, unfinalized), Japan (F-35A), South Korea (F-35A), Switzerland (JAS-39E Gripen, canceled by referendum), and the UAE (TBD, q.v. Dec 19/13 entry) have hurt.

Greece, which canceled an order for 30-60 Eurofighters in 2005, and bought F-16s instead, still had plans for an additional next-generation fighter buy to counter Turkey’s planned purchase of 100 F-35As. With Greek finances in tatters, however, don’t hold your breath.

After that, Eurofighter’s options narrow sharply. On the bright side, the Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar all have fighter competitions in progress, and successful sales to Saudi Arabia and Oman help the Typhoon’s chances within the Gulf Cooperation Council.

With Japan and South Korea out, the once-promising Asian market has few options left for Eurofighter. A MiG-29N replacement competition in Malaysia has run into trouble due to finances, and they are exploring leasing deals. That will be a tough win for Eurofighter. In Europe, Eastern European countries like Bulgaria and Croatia would normally be problematic sales due to the Eurofighter’s costs, but Germany is pushing hard, and offering umbrella maintenance agreements and training packages. Even if they succeed, however, the end result is just a handful of sales.

Typhoon at Sea?

Naval variant, cutaway
(click to view full)

India was pitched with very explicit offers to have their needs and investments drive the Typhoon’s future enhancements, and significant roles for Indian industry. At Aero India 2011, Eurofighter and BAE even unveiled an initial internally-funded design for a navalized Eurofighter than can operate from aircraft carriers. In a direct nod to potential Indian sales, they touted the plane as being able to take off from “ski jump” carriers without catapults – a design that describes all of India’s current and planned carriers, as well as the initial design for Britain’s own Queen Elizabeth Class. Eurofighter GmbH describes the goal as 95% commonality with land-based aircraft, and required changes as “limited… include a new, stronger landing gear, a modified arrestor hook and localised strengthening on some fuselage sections near the landing gear, as well as updates the EJ200 engines,” which could include thrust-vectoring as well as structural reinforcement.

It didn’t help. India picked the French Rafale, which already has a carrier-capable version, as their future M-MRCA medium fighter. The Indian Navy is currently flying MiG-29Ks as its naval fighters, and plans to add Indian-designed LCA Naval light jets.

Britain could have been a long-shot backup option, but they’re planning to use the F-35B from future carriers, which won’t be fitted with steam catapults and arrester wires after all.

Brazil might have been a future option, on the assumption that they will replace their aircraft carrier at some point. Unfortunately for Eurofighter, Brazil picked Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen as their future air force fighter, and Saab also has plans for a naval variant.

That leaves a carrier-capable Eurofighter variant without a plausible future customer.

Eurofighter: Industrial Structure & Orders

IPA7 over Manching
(click to view full)

Technically, the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) is the customer for the Eurofighter project. Eurofighter GmbH is the contractor, with joint ownership by all of the key industrial partners: BAE Systems, EADS, and Finmeccanica. Overall, Eurofighter GmbH cites a total of 100,000 supported jobs in 400 companies across Europe.

Aircraft production work shares were designed to correspond to the number of aircraft ordered under the 1998 Umbrella Contract:

  • 37.5% UK (232). BAE Systems: Front fuselage including foreplanes, canopy, dorsal spine, tail fin, inboard flaperons, rear fuselage section.

  • 30.0% Germany (180) EADS Deutschland: Main center fuselage. Airbus spinout Premium AEROTEC is the main sub-contractor.

  • 19.5% Italy (121). Alenia Aeronautica: Left wing, outboard flaperons, rear fuselage sections

  • 13.0% Spain (87). EADS CASA: Right wing, leading edge slats

The Eurofighter’s 2 EJ200 turbofans deliver 20,000 pounds thrust each in reheat mode, and are manufactured by the EUROJET partnership of Avio (Italy), ITP (Spain), MTU Aero Engines (Germany) and Rolls-Royce (UK).

The Euroradar consortium supplies the ECR-90 CAPTOR radar, and is developing the “E-Scan” AESA successor for introduction by 2015. It is led by Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems in Edinburgh, UK (formerly BAE Systems Avionics), and also includes EADS and Spain’s Indra.

The Eurofighter contract was designed to protect the fairness of each participants’ agreed manufacturing work shares, by making it very expensive to back out of committed orders. On the other hand, European defense spending continues to decline due to pressure from welfare state commitments and debt burdens, even as European military operational deployments and their costs have increased. Hence the fractious contract negotiations around Tranche 3, and also the investigation of foreign sell-offs by the member countries.

In June 2009, the partners took a diplomatic way out, splitting Tranche 3 into 2 parts. At the end of July 2009, the 4 partner nations placed a EUR 9 billion Tranche 3A order, which will keep production going for several more years. The table below summarizes the Eurofighter’s evolving production plans, from the original 1985 plan to the 1998 agreement, and then planned and actual orders for each production tranche.

Note that 24 of Britain’s Tranche 2 aircraft have been diverted to Saudi Arabia, in order to satisfy Saudi demands for early delivery. In response, Britain ordered 24 more Tranche 3 aircraft as replacements. In practice, this means that Britain has ordered only 16 of its originally planned 88 Tranche 3 Eurofighters – and high-level statements indicate that Tranche 3A agreement absolves Britain of the need to place any further Eurofighter orders. Other reports explain the gap by claiming that the other 48 British Tranche 3 aircraft will go to Saudi Arabia, meaning that all of Saudi Arabia’s 72 planes will have been siphoned off from British orders.

Maintenance contracts to keep the fleets in service involve a small core of multi-national contracts for key systems and general service, followed by a number of national umbrella contracts to address other areas, and then a set of national maintenance agreements that are less comprehensive. See the chart below for tracking of the main support contracts currently underway:

Contracts & Key Events

New dawn, or twilight?
(click to view full)

DID coverage focuses on purchases related to consortium aircraft buys under Tranche 3, platform improvement efforts, international opportunities, and sales. See the “Additional Readings” section for coverage of the comprehensive support contracts for the various countries, and of the Saudi and Austrian export deals.

2014 – 2017

Germany confirms no Tranche 3B, but how much will they have to pay?; German maintenance costs an issue; Eurofighter needs new orders, soon.

with Brimstones

February 17/17: After four years of investigation, Austria has filed a lawsuit against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium over alleged deception and fraud linked to the 2003 purchase of Eurofighter jets. The investigation into the $2.1 billion deal by the Defense Ministry found that the defense groups gave misleading information on the purchase price, deliverability, and equipment of the jets, and are seeking damages that could amount to $1.17 billion. Vienna’s purchase of 15 fighters has faced scrutiny since the outset of the deal, with allegations that money was pocketed by politicians, civil servants, and others via brokers for side deals accompanying the purchase.

January 18/17: Eurofighter will provide a five-year support deal for four NATO countries operating the Typhoon fighter. Two contracts were signed between NETMA, the NATO Eurofighter & Tornado Management Organization on behalf of core Eurofighter nations, and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH on behalf of aircraft makers Airbus Defense and Space, BAE Systems and Leonardo. The deals cover the sustainment of engineering capabilities and program management, and for logistics, repairs, and the provision of spare parts for the Eurofighter fleet.

October 24/16: Eurofighter Typhoons recently ordered by Kuwait will be fitted with Lockheed Martin’s Sniper advanced targeting pods. Under a contract with the Aircraft division of Leonardo-Finmeccanica, a member of the Eurofighter consortium, Lockheed Martin will supply 18 pods for Kuwaiti Typhoons, plus integration and logistics support. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2017.

October 10/16: Efforts to market the Eurofighter Typhoon to Belgium will be lead by BAE Systems, as Brussels shops for its aging F-16 fleet’s replacement. As part of the bid, BAE has spoken to more than 100 Belgian companies in the defense, aerospace, and space sectors. Other fighters included in the mix are Lockheed Martin’s F-35, Boeing’s F/A-18, Dassault’s Rafale, and Saab’s Gripen.

October 6/16: A lack of orders alongside a complex production process has seen production of the Eurofighter Typhoon suspended and potentially removed from the German market, at least until 2018. A joint European offering, the Typhoon receives components manufactured at four plants in Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain, which makes the production very complicated and expensive. It’s believed that Spain may soon follow in suspending production but production lines are likely to remain open in Italy and the UK. This is due to orders arranged between Italy and Kuwait as well as UK ambitions to shift Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia.

July 15/16: A UK operated Eurofighter Typhoon has commenced flight testing of the E-scan radar following successful ground trials on the aircraft. The trials are designed to ensure the radar and weapons system reach the required capability in time for first deliveries to the Kuwait Air Force, which became the aircraft’s eighth customer earlier this year. Development of the new radar underpins the Typhoon’s current and future capability evolution.

July 7/16: A Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon has dropped the GBU-48 dual-mode GPS and laser guided bomb for the first time. Testing took place in the Gulf of Cadiz in support of the Air Force´s Arms and Experimentation Logistical Centre (CLAEX) between June 20-24. According to the service, the event marks a significant increase for the C-16’s air-to-ground capabilities allowing the fighters to carry out simultaneous offensives against several ground targets.

June 23/16: Eurofighter is to target fresh export sales of the Typhoon fighter as the consortium announced deliveries of 47 of the multi-role aircraft in the 12 months running up to May. A backlog of 106 deliveries now remain, with orders from Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the UK. Targets for the fighter include campaigns with Indonesia and Malaysia, several European nations and a watchful eye is being kept on the ongoing situation in Canada.

May 10/16: With the company currently rolling out its Leonardo re-brand, Finmeccanica has reported a strong financial first quarter thanks to its recent $9.1 billion Eurofighter deal with Kuwait. However, a drop in helicopter sales is negatively affecting the company. Helicopter orders dropped a massive €964 million in the first quarter from €1.35 billion last year to €384 million, which managers are attributing to turmoil in the oil and gas sector, resulting in companies buying fewer helicopters to access oil rigs.

April 8/16: Kuwait is to become the launch customer of the Eurofighter Typhoon’s Captor-E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The country will be the first to flight test the new technology upon delivery of its long awaited order for 28 of the multi-role fighters. Finmeccanica, who has taken the lead on the Kuwait sale has said that the Typhoons that will be delivered to Kuwait will be the most advanced configuration of the type, and will include the company’s Praetorian defensive aids suite and Pirate infrared search and track system.

April 6/16: Kuwait’s delayed Eurofighter deal was eventually signed on Tuesday. The 28 jets making their way to the Gulf state will be the largest order of the jet for Italian Eurofighter partner Finmeccanica, who spearheaded the deal. The fighters will also come with a new electronically scanned radar designed by the European EuroRADAR consortium and specifically developed for the Eurofighter. Kuwait will be the first to have such radars installed on their jets as the four Eurofighter launch partners, Germany, Spain, Italy, and UK have yet to adopt the radar.

March 3/16: Finmeccanica can breath a sign of relief as Kuwait’s parliament approved a draft law to allow for a $500 million down payment on its future Eurofighter deal. The purchase of 28 jets at a total cost of $8.7 billion had been hanging in the balance since a memorandum of understanding was signed in September. A final was expected to be signed in January, but issues over final cost and training requirements had been put under scrutiny. The delay had stoked fears that the deal could be cancelled, causing a 6 percent tumble in the Italian manufacturers’ shares in early February.

February 23/16: Oman’s ordered Eurofighter Typhoon’s move one step closer to delivery according to Eurofighter partner BAE Systems. Final assembly has begun at BAE’s Warton site in Lancashire, UK with 12 to be delivered to the Royal Oman Air Force in 2017. The sale will also include eight Hawk 166 advanced jet trainers. Exports of the joint European Typhoon have been on the increase, with Italian partner Alenia Aermacchi and the Italian government leading the charge for the sale of 28 of the fighters to Kuwait.

February 15/16: Following the delays in finalizing Kuwait’s Eurofighter fighter deal, Kuwaiti Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Sheikh Khaled Jarrah Al-Sabah has said that contracts will be signed this week. Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti will visit Kuwait after both ministers discussed issues surrounding the deal during wider NATO talks over tackling the Islamic State in Brussels. With the deal originally planned to be finalized by the end of January, procedural delays over cost and training had put in doubt a deal being concluded any time soon.

February 3/16: Last weekend’s expected signing of a deal for Kuwait to purchase twenty-eight Eurofighter jets has been put off. Italian Ministry of Defense officials cited “procedural” delays on Kuwait’s behalf, and that no clear date had been set. It had been expected that the deal would close quickly after some initial delays over pilot training had pushed an agreement into 2016. News of the deal came as Kuwait’s initial plan to purchase F-18 Super Hornets from Boeing was scrapped after their frustration over congressional delays in gaining approval for the sale. The loss of the sale to the Eurofighter has put into question the security of some jobs at Boeing’s St. Louis plant. The plant specializes in the manufacture of the Super Hornet, and were set to start production of the $3 billion deal before the change.

January 28/16: After delays in gaining approval from the US to buy new F-18 Super Hornets, Kuwait instead looks set to sign contracts for twenty-eight Eurofighter Typhoon jets to replace their older F-18s. An official in the Italian Ministry of Defense said minister Roberta Pinotti would visit Kuwait on Sunday to sign papers finalizing the deal estimated to be worth $8.7 billion. Talks had been ongoing since November with issues over pilot training delaying the deal, but should be completed within eighteen months. The switch in allegiance will no doubt annoy manufacturer Boeing, and may see renewed frustrations over the lengthy congressional approval process for foreign military sales.

December 14/15: Kuwait’s purchase of 28 Eurofighter jets from Finmeccanica is set to experience further delays, as contracts may not be signed until 2016. The CEO of Finmeccanica expressed concerns last week, saying that he did not expect a sale to be agreed upon before December 25. The $9 billion purchase has been delayed repeatedly since a memorandum of agreement was signed in September. Reasons for the delay have apparently arisen due to disagreements over pilot training and the dispatching of specialized personnel. On December 1, the Kuwaiti government requested parliament to release a supplementary budget of $20.4 billion to fund military weapon purchases over the next ten years.

November 30/15: A $9 billion Eurofighter sale to Kuwait has been delayed. Italian defense company Finmeccanica announced that problems with pilot training and the dispatching of specialized personnel has resulted in the deal being postponed until mid-December. An initial memorandum of agreement for 28 fighters was signed in September and it was hoped contracts would have been signed by November. Kuwait is one of several Gulf nations currently driving to acquire high-tech aircraft and weaponry to protect themselves from neighbouring Iran as well as internal threats in the region.

November 13/15: BAE Systems is slowing Eurofighter production in order to sustain production lines out past 2018, in addition to cutting jobs on the fighter’s UK production line. The decision reflects the company’s orderbook, covering production orders which conclude in 2018 and an expected uptick in production as a result of an order for 28 Eurofighters by Kuwait, following an agreement between the Italian and Kuwaiti governments earlier this year; however a finalized deal has yet to materialize.

October 19/15: In further bad news for the German Eurofighter program, a malfunction with the aircraft’s external fuel tank grounded [German] the fleet from flying with the additional fuel pod attached, reducing the ability of the fighters to operate at longer distances. One of the German contingent of Eurofighters deployed to the Baltic region saw one of its fuel tanks fall off last week, leading to the grounding. This follows news earlier this week that the German government has temporarily suspended deliveries of new Eurofighters, citing manufacturing defects. German press also reports [German] that the EUR1 billion ($1.27 billion) contract to develop the CAPTOR-E radar system for the fighter, signed in November 2014, is now delayed by five months, as well as being above budget.

October 14/15: Germany’s Defence Ministry has halted deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters following the discovery of a technical fault with the Airbus-manufactured jets. The technical problem is thought centered around the connection between the aircraft’s vertical stabiliser and the fuselage. This is the second time quality control measures for the European fighter have caused problems, with manufacturing defects in September 2014 [German] also leading to a suspension of deliveries. In both cases BAE Systems was the consortium member responsible for manufacture of the defective parts; however this latest problem is not thought to pose any immediate flight safety issues for operators of the aircraft.

September 14/15: Kuwait is buying 28 Eurofighters through the Italian government, following an order for a dozen of the aircraft in December 2012. The order is the first in three years for the multinational Eurofighter, with the Eurofighter consortium’s partner company Alenia Aermacchi reportedly having led the marketing campaign in the Gulf state. Oman similarly ordered twelve of the multi-role fighters in December 2012, with the aircraft already in operation with six national air forces.

Dec 12/14: Weapons. BAE announces that the 1st Brimstone trial onto a Typhoon was completed, following a June 19/14 award to study integration between the missile and the aircraft. The firm says that “6 Brimstone missiles were fitted to the aircraft, each wing carrying a launcher with three missiles. Training missiles were used for the purposes of the trial and demonstrated that the weapon can be fitted to the aircraft.” Of course that’s not the toughest part in such an endeavor, and full integration is not expected before 2018.

November 2014: Weapons. The 1st release of a Storm Shadow cruise missile was performed successfully by the Italian IPA2 test aircraft, following initial tests in August. Now that inert drop tests and store release trials were performed, Phase 3 will involve environmental data gathering, followed by additional flights to assess handling qualities.

BAE Systems was also able to test the installation of a Storm Shadow onto a RAF Typhoon. Source: Eurofighter.

Captor-E concept
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Nov 19/14: Sensors. NATO’s Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) finally signs a EUR 1 billion/ GBP 800 million / $1.273 billion contract with Eurofighter Jadgflugzeug GmbH to finish and integrate Euroradar’s Captor E-Scan movable AESA radar (q.v. March 22/12, July 30/12, Nov 15/13, Oct 17/14), whose absence is currently a big disadvantage compared to every other top-tier fighter on the market. This deal was supposed to be done by the end of 2012, and the delay has been costly, but better late than never.

Captor-E is touted as having an unspecified “very large” antenna size that’s expected to be comparable to F-15s (APG-82v1) and F-22As (APG-77). That means more raw power for performance, and more T/R modules available for specialized functions; though materials, build quality, and the number of the T/R modules will all modify final performance statistics. Instead of using a fixed mounting like American fighters and the French Rafale, Eurofighter’s Captor-E will be mounted on a movable plate for an extremely Wide Field of Regard (WFoR). The current contract release appears to have expanded the touted FoR from about 120 to 200 degrees, thanks to the combination of mechanical movement and electronic beam steering. Eurofighter sees that capability as very useful for fire-and-evade dogfighting maneuvers that use the Eurofighter’s speed and maneuverability to their fullest, without breaking the launching fighter’s radar lock. The tradeoff is paid in poorer reliability and higher maintenance costs, compared to a fixed AESA array.

The contract value for Finmeccanica alone will be EUR 400 million, as the leader of the Euroradar consortium. Finmeccanica-Selex ES will produce the new radar at its facilities in Edinburgh, UK and Nerviano (Milan), Italy while Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi’s Turin, Italy site will be responsible for the navigation systems during the integration phase. Airbus DS in Germany, and Spain’s Indra, round out the consortium. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter And NETMA Sign One Billion Euro Radar Contract” | UK MoD, “€1 billion contract to develop cutting-edge radar for Typhoon” | Airbus Group, “New radar ensures superiority of the Eurofighter” | Finmeccanica Selex ES, “€1 billion contract signed between the Eurofighter consortium and the inter-governmental agency NETMA” | Defense News, “Action Pending on AESA Radar for Typhoon”.


Flying low…
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Oct 17/14: P1E. BAE Systems announces that deliveries of Eurofighter Typhoon Phase 1 Enhancement upgrades have created 17 P1Eb standard aircraft in service with the RAF. A further 18 are to be delivered by April 1/15, under a EUR 1.2 billion program that will eventually convert all 67 Tranche 2 Typhoons in RAF service; BAE offers a useful summary of key features.

Now that the UK has completed testing and undertaken initial fielding, the upgrade package will also become a proven installation option for other Eurofighter Tranche 2 customers, beginning in 2015. Meanwhile, future P2E and P3E upgrades are being planned, but the biggest wild card and competitive disadvantage remains:

“Eurofighter is still waiting for the partner nations to sign a production contract for the introduction of the Captor-E [AESA radar]…. A program source confirmed that the signing of the deal had slipped to the end of 2014, and “the staffing process within some partner nations is taking more time than originally planned.” “Germany is still sorting out some details,” a second source said.”

Sources: BAE Systems, “Royal Air force now flying their most advanced fighter jets ever” | Defense News, “British RAF Now Flying Improved Typhoon Aircraft”.

Sept 30/14: Defects. Germany suspends their remaining 32 Eurofighter deliveries, pending resolution of a manufacturing defect and negotiations re: what to do about it. They also sharply cut the estimated number of safe flying hours in each of their 108 delivered Eurofighters to just 1,500, and Austria and Britain are apparently taking similar measures. The timing is terrible, coming on the heels of revelations that budget cuts have forced the German armed forces into deep disrepair, with most of its key equipment unready for war.

BAE Systems and Britain’s RAF reportedly discovered that some of the rivet holes in the rear fuselage of the jet were drilled in ways that could introduce splinters and cracks into the rear fuselage, giving it less ability to resist wear and tear. That section is built by BAE, and tests are underway to get a more precise estimate of the effect on the fighter’s safe lifespan.

Meanwhile, the problem isn’t an immediate safety issue, and the Luftwaffe won’t hit even this low hours limit until 2018, so the planes aren’t grounded. Exports to Oman and Saudi Arabia are expected to continue.

Note that 1,500 flight hours is a ridiculously short life span, even for fighter jets whose forecasts in a capable military amount to just 150-300 hours per plane per year. Base figures of 5,000 – 8,000 are expected, with deep repair and refurbishment extending some airframes to around 10,000. The original official limit of 3,000 hours was itself just half of the Eurofighter Typhoon’s 6,000 hour design life, with the expectation that hard flight data would extend the official limit as experience offered greater certainty. It’s a very German approach, but the introduction of a big uncertainty is pushing estimates the other way for now. Sources: German Bundeswehr, “Eurofighter: Flugbetrieb der Luftwaffe aktuell nicht von industrieller Flugstundenreduzierung betroffen” | Der Spiegel, “Desolate Bundeswehr-Ausrustung: Hersteller warnt vor Mangeln am “Eurofighter” | Defense-Aerospace, “Eurofighter: Air Force Flight Operations Currently Not Affected By Flight Hours Reduction” | Agence France Presse, “Germany ‘erring on side of safety’ regarding Eurofighter defect” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-Manufacturing flaw halts some Eurofighter deliveries” | Reuters, “Austria says Eurofighter has part problem” | SwissInfo, “Austria says Eurofighter has part problem, some deliveries halted” | Russia Today, “Eurofighter hull hitch: Germany halves fighter flying hours” || Der Spiegel, “Marodes Material: Bundeswehr erfullt Nato-Anforderungen derzeit nicht” (re: massive disrepair in armed forces) | Deutsche Welle, “Bundeswehr struggles with faulty defense equipment”.

Manufacturing defect could shrink fighter lifespan

Aug 5/14: Weapons. Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi has confirmed that the 1st phase of tests for Storm Shadow long-range cruise missile integration (q.v. July 26/13, Nov 20/13) is complete.

They add that the fighter will be able to carry 2 Storm Shadows and up to 8 air-to-air missiles. That’s a good load for fighting your way in and out, which is useful to customers like Saudi Arabia and Oman who are paying for the work. The ability to add drop-tanks would be another valuable load-out, extending the Storm Shadow’s reach. Countries like Britain would find that exceedingly useful, but weight and aerodynamics make this combination a more challenging load-out. Perhaps Tranche 3 upgrades and Conformal Fuel Tanks (q.v. May 13/14) can offer this capability in a more elegant way. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Success For Italian Eurofighter Storm Shadow Trials”.

July 16/14: HMD. BAE unveils its Striker II Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD), which builds on the original Striker system flying with Eurofighter and Gripen fleets.

The new system removes the need for night vision goggles, integrating a center-mounted ISIE-11 sensor based on Intevac Photonics’ patented electron bombarded active pixel sensor (EBAPS) advanced imaging sensor technology. The result is brighter and lighter than standard HMD/NVG combinations. the system is fully digital, and new hybrid opto-inertial technology is designed to reduce jitter and other syncing issues as the HMD tries to stay aligned with the pilot’s head movement and display its symbology. Sources: BAE Systems, “BAE Systems Unveils Digital Striker II Helmet-Mounted Display System with Superior Tracking, Night Vision Capabilities”.

June 19/14: Weapons. BAE announces an initial GBP 5 million study contract from the British Ministry of Defence, to conduct initial integration studies for the dual-mode radar/laser guided Brimstone 2 short-range light strike missile. Brimstone is already operational on Britain’s Tornado GR4 strike fighters, and this is an expected development that will improve the Typhoon’s capabilities for close air support against land targets and swarming motorboats.

Initial wind tunnel tests are already underway at Warton, Lancashire, and the study also intends to explore a common launcher for future derivatives like the 75+ km SPEAR 3 light strike missile. The target date for Brimstone 2 integration is 2018. Sources: BAE, “UK Study Contract Awarded to integrate Brimstone 2 onto Typhoon”.

June 10/14: Crash. A Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon crashed just before landing at Moron de la Frontera AB, killing the pilot. The pilot was an experienced flyer with 600 flight hours in the type, and the cause is under investigation.

It’s the first Spanish Air Force plane to go down, though a consortium prototype and a Saudi Eurofighter have crashed in Spain within the last decade. Sources: The Local – Spain, “Eurofighter jet exploded shortly after 2pm shortly after take-off for a routine practice mission” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-Eurofighter jet crashes at Spanish base, killing pilot” | UK Daily Mail, “Eurofighter jet crashes just short of southern Spain airbase runway killing pilot”.

Spanish crash

June 9/14: Weapons. The Eurofighter’s weak weapons array has come back to bite it again, this time in Malaysia and Qatar. In “response” to this demand for “maritime attack capabilities,” which all of its competitors already possess in full:

“Peter Maute, the head of combat aircraft sales at Airbus Defence, said the Boeing Harpoon and MBDA’s Marte and Sea Brimstone missiles were being considered as possibilities…. work on the weapons was done by Eurofighter in its development simulator but that full integration would have to await a customer. Qatar and Malaysia are known to have stipulated a maritime-strike capability for their next purchase of combat jets.”

One hears “discussion,” study” and “plan” a lot, with respect to key Typhoon capabilities. In a competitive market, that doesn’t substitute for action. If you await a customer, you’ll be watching them buy something else: F-16s with Penguin Mk3s, F-15s with SLAM-ERs, JAS-39 Gripens with RBS-15s, Rafales with Exocets, Russian jets with Kh-31/ Kh-35s, or Super Hornets with Harpoon and SLAM-ER anti-ship and land strike missiles. It’s also doubtful that most customers would consider the short-range Brimstone missiles to be a “maritime attack capability,” unless one confines potential targets to small boats. Sources: Defense News, “Eurofighter Studying Missiles To Give Typhoon Maritime Attack Capability”.

May 21/14: P1Eb. Eurofighter GmbH formally unveils the Phase 1 Enhancements B package in Berlin at the ILA 2014 airshow. It’s essentially the EP2 capabilities (q.v. Oct 30/13) of enhancements to the existing radar for Meteor missile compatibility, DASS defensive system improvements, MIDS/Link-16 interoperability updates, as well as Flight Control System (FCS) and the Utility Control System (UCS) improvements. Plus Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which weren’t announced in EP2 because payments are coming from outside the core group. Storm Shadows should be integrated by 2015, but full Meteor long-range air-to-air missile integration isn’t scheduled until 2017.

The FCS/UCS upgrades will inprove compatibility with future civil airspace requirements, and also allow the pilot to switch seamlessly between air-to-air and air-to-ground modes.

Overall, there’s less here than meets the eye. The Eurofighter’s aerial performance is very good, and they have a reputation for implementing very good pilot interfaces. With the exception of Meteor, however, comparable or better capabilities are already fielded in competitive aircraft like the F-15. This is more of a partial catch-up than a paradigm shift in anything. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter Unveils ‘Paradigm Shift’ In Capability At Berlin Air Show”.

May 13/14: CFTs. BAE Systems has begun wind tunnel tests for conformal fuel tank designs, based on a “geometrically perfect 1/12th scale model” of the Tranche 3. The CFTs are created using additive manufacturing, then attached and removed for the tests.

CFTs are one of the big changes inherent in the Tranche 3 aircraft, which will form a small portion of the core partners’ Typhoon fleets. Removing drag-creating fuel tanks from underwing hardpoints is a big plus, but a great deal depends on good design. Boeing and Northrop Grumman managed to craft CFTs that added 3,500 pounds of fuel to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, while creating nearly zero drag at sub-sonic speeds. Even those CFTs impose a trans-sonic penalty, which will be an issue for Super Hornets, but the Eurofighter has such a good power to weight ratio that a minor trans-sonic penalty won’t matter. Sources: BAE, “British Engineers test new configuration of fighter jets in high speed wind tunnel”.

April 30/14: Germany – Costs. Germany’s Bundesrechnunghof (Federal Court of Auditors) publishes a supplementary annex to its 2013 report, and the Eurofighter is one of their subjects. The press release goes over known ground by saying that the EUR 11.5 billion budget will buy just 140 planes, instead of 180. What’s new is an acknowledgement that Eurofighter maintenance costs continue to increase, driven by added need for support and spares, and that life-cycle costs are expected to be roughly double the 1997 estimate of EUR 30 billion.

2011 and 2012 reportedly had the Eurofighter fleet consuming about 1/3 of the air force’s maintenance budgets, even though the fleet was smaller than planned and didn’t reach its maximum flight hours. By 2020, the fleet is expected to rise from 86 to 140, and flight hours would roughly triple to 28,400 per year. A comparative graph in the full report shows the rising operating & maintenance costs from the F-4F Phantom, to the Tornado fleet, to the Eurofighter fleet. The United States has seen similar trends as it fielded each new generation of fighters, but the Tornado is known to be a maintenance problem, and the Eurofighter still graphs significantly above it.

The Bundesrechnunghof adds that even Germany’s Ministry of Defence doesn’t seem to know the full cost, and explains the Ministry’s rationalizations for not knowing. Other countries seem to manage such things, somehow. Perhaps the Germans could visit those countries and find out. Sources: German FCA, 2014 Pressemitteilung 04 – Bemerkungen 2013, weitere Prüfungsergebnisse [Press release] | “2013 Bemerkungen – Weitere Prufungsergebnisse – Nr. 09 “Kostentransparenz beim EUROFIGHTER herstellen” [Eurofighter summary, incl. link to full report] | Langfassung der Bemerkung Nr. 09 [Full report, PDF].

German costs

Feb 27/14: Pessimism, or Realism? Airbus CEO Tom Enders doesn’t sound very sunny about Eurofighter’s future:

“Enders said he’s also “not very optimistic” about securing further deals for the Eurofighter combat jet…. “We do hope we can still score one or two other successes in exports,” he said. “But we also have to prepare for a scenario — due to lack of export orders plus cancellations from others — that we’ll have to ramp down production of this otherwise very impressive aircraft sooner rather than later.”

Sooner would be an end of production in 2017, which means that preparations within the supply chain would begin sometime in 2015. Sources: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Airbus CEO Says Turkish Delay in Taking A400M Threatens Ramp-Up”.

Feb 25/14: Germany. The Handelsblatt business daily says that Airbus is demanding EUR 800 – 900 million in compensation for Germany’s Tranche 3B cancellation. Britain finessed its absence from Tranche 3B by substituting Saudi jets, which were bought under a direct government-to-government deal with Britain, but the other partners aren’t able to do that.

That’s a steep price. Negotiations are expected, but even if Germany ends up paying in full per their original contract, it will still be a small percentage of what they would have paid to buy 37 new Typhoons. Obvious options involve some shifting of payments into R&D or upgrade work, or a refundable “export loan” whose repayment depends on reaching a certain number of fighter exports.

The larger question for Eurofighter GmbH is whether financially fragile Italy and Spain take the same approach as Germany, or stand by their Tranche 3B orders. Sources: Sky News Australia, “Airbus ‘wants money’ for scrapped jets” | Frankfurter Allgemeine Wirtschaft, “Airbus will Entschadigung fur abbestellte Eurofighter”.

Feb 20/14: Germany. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen removes 2 senior procurement officials: Stephane Beemelmans and Detlef Selhausen. Part of the issue involves Eurofighters, specifically, a EUR 55 million euro (~$75 million) settlement to Germany’s MTU in lieu of EUR 340 million for Eurofighter Tranche 3B engine work. Not bad, but Bundestag budget committee approval is required for contracts over EUR 25 million, and the payment was authorized without that. Relationships with these individuals were already tense, so that was the end of the road. Sources: Defense News, “Germany Plans Procurement Overhaul After Program Missteps” | Der Spiegel, “Rustungsprojekt “Eurofighter”: Verteidigungsministerium gab Millionensumme ohne Bundestagsvotum frei” | Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “Wie von der Leyen aufräumen will”.

Feb 19/14: Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia finalizes their contract for 72 fighters, agreeing on price escalation terms to upgrade the fighters bought under the Salaam program toward Tranche 3 standard (q.v. Feb 21/13, Aug 1/13, Dec 19/13). BAE was very involved in the process, but because the underlying agreement is actually with the British government, the amendment must also be negotiated between the governments involved.

BAE had continued Eurofighter deliveries during the long negotiations, which meant rising amounts of cash committed without booking any profits. Clearing this issue up frees BAE to deploy its cash reserves more freely, while also removing a source of uncertainty for potential Gulf Cooperation Council customers.

The firm describes the settlement as “broadly consistent with the Group’s prior trading outlook for 2013.” That outlook (q.v. Dec 19/13) estimated a 6-7 pence earnings per share drop without any agreement, or about GBP 250 million (~ $410 million) maximum, based on total shares revealed in a recent transaction. That’s on top of the original GBP 4.43 billion pounds/ $7.4 billion. Sources: BAE Systems, “Agreement on Salam Price Escalation” and “Feb 20/14 Transaction in Own Shares” | Reuters, “UPDATE 2-BAE Systems agrees pricing on Saudi Eurofighter deal”.

Saudi finalization

Feb 19/14: Germany. News reports are describing a German decision to cancel 37 Eurofighters, based on Deputy Defense Minister Stephane Beemelmans’ testimony before their the parliamentary defense committee. That isn’t quite true.

What it means is that Germany doesn’t intend to pay for a Tranche 3B, which would have included 37 fighters to finish their agreed purchases. A Tranche 3B offer was reportedly extended to the core countries by Eurofighter on June 9/10, but Europe’s financial woes have left the core partners uninterested. Indeed, Germany ended their plans for a Tranche 3B order back in 2011 (q.v. Oct 21/11). 2014 was supposed to be a year of decision for the core countries, but with Germany and Britain on the sidelines, Spain or Italy become that much more difficult to convince.

The wording of the July 31/09 Tranche 3A agreement, and of the broader Eurofighter partnership agreements, determine how much the decision costs Germany in cancellation fees. Britain found a way to disclaim any Tranche 3B buy the moment the Tranche 3A contract was signed, but they appear to have done so by shifting Saudi exports under their own account, which avoids any penalties.

Unless Eurofighter GmbH finds additional orders somewhere, the production line will begin shifting toward upgrades and maintenance only in 2015 (q.v. Jan 25/11). Sources: Reuters, “Germany cancels delivery of last 37 Eurofighter jets: source” | Handelsblatt, “Deutschland bestellt 37 Eurofighter wieder ab”.

Feb 9/14: Italy. The center-left Democratic Party is reportedly preparing a policy document that would cut F-35 buys from the current reduced plan for 90 F-35A/Bs to around 45 planes, while trying to make Italy invest in Eurofighter’s Tranche 3B buy.

Significant reductions in planned buys by Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, etc. will all hit Italy’s own F-35 Final Assembly and Check-Out plant. Part of the party’s push despite this incentive is ideological, reflecting a bias that’s in favor of European defense programs and less friendly toward the USA. Part of it reflects a level of general uneasiness with F-35 costs, capabilities, and delivery dates. Sources: Defense News, “Italian Lawmakers Consider New Cuts to JSF Purchase”.

Jan 15/14: Testing. Test flights with the KEPD 350 cruise missile begin from at Manching Military Air Systems Center, north of Munich. They’re technically part of the Storm Shadow integration program, thought the KPED 350 won’t be fully integrated, and will include flutter tests, air data system large store interference assessment and aerodynamic data gathering. Sources: Eurofighter, “Eurofighter Typhoon: Flight tests with Taurus KEPD 350 missile started”.


Saudis abandon local assembly; Competitions in Denmark, South Korea; Problems in Germany?; Testing begins for Storm Shadow & KEPD 350 missiles; Tranche 3 flies; 400th delivered; New CEO has a big job ahead.

Saudi Eurofighters
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Dec 19/13: Low Rents of Arabia. A BAE investors release suggests that the UAE “have advised that they have elected not to proceed with [Eurofighter] proposals at this time,” and adds that negotiations with the Saudis over Tranche 3 upgrades to their Al-Yamamah buy of 72 planes may be deadlocked.

The UAE’s decision is a very big blow to the Eurofighter’s future in the Gulf. A UAE buy offered the prospect of sustaining production for several years beyond 2018 by making Eurofighter the GCC’s de facto standard fighter, just as key competitions in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar were coming up. If the UAE goes back to the Rafale instead, their fellow Mirage 2000 operator Qatar becomes a much harder target for Eurofighter, and the standardization momentum that was bringing unlikely customers like Bahrain to the table evaporates.

The British government tried to use diplomacy on Eurofighter’s behalf, but they may have done more damage than good. None of the Gulf Cooperation Council were pleased with Britain’s failure to support the Syrian rebels. They were even less pleased when Britain’s government pushed hard for an Iranian nuclear deal that most of them regard as both catastrophically stupid and directly threatening. In contrast, France has played a leading role in pushing the Syrian issue, and was a very public dissenter regarding the Iranian deal. Sources: BAE, “BAE Systems – Status of prospective business in the UAE and Salam pricing discussions” | The Telegraph, “Blow for Britain and BAE Systems as UAE rules out Eurofighter deal” | The Telegraph, “David Cameron’s Typhoon debacle a sign of Britain’s declining Arabian influence”.

UAE loss

Dec 9/13: Tranche 3. British Single Seat aircraft #116 conducts the 1st Eurofighter Tranche 3 flight, with pilot Nat Makepeace at the controls. The biggest differences from earlier versions include a structure that can mount dorsal conformal fuel tanks; and a modified nose with a new internal structure, power, cooling and electronics for the future E-Scan AESA radar.

Another development aircraft has been modified to take an E-Scan development radar for testing purposes. It’s currently being prepared at Warton, UK, ahead of its coming 1st flight. Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3 Takes to the Skies” | BAE Systems, “Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3 Takes to the Skies”.

1st Tranche 3 flight

Dec 4/13: #400. The 400th Eurofighter Typhoon has been delivered. The single-seat fighter in question was handed over to the German Air Force at Cassidian’s Military Air Systems Center, located in Manching, Southern Germany. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, “Eurofighter Typhoon Marks Delivery of 400th Aircraft”.


Nov 27/13: Testing. Flight tests of the Storm Shadow missile (q.v. Nov 20/13) begin from Alenia Aermacchi’s Flight Test Centre at Decimomannu Air Base, in Sardinia, Italy. Sources: Eurofighter, “Eurofighter Typhoon: Flight tests with Storm Shadow missile started”.

Nov 22/13: Industrial. BAE and Finmeccanica’s Selex ES announce a teaming agreement to provide Electronic Warfare Operational Support (EWOS) for future Eurofighter Typhoon customers, “and the Eurofighter Typhoon core programme where appropriate.”

Electronic warfare is often a pretty “black box”, as-is affair, but its importance makes it something that customers want to be able to modify for local threats and local needs. Technology has made that ideal easier, as software-defined digital systems are fielded. The flip side is that full export customer access to key items like threat libraries and operational modes creates a greater attack surface area for the core countries’ enemies to steal secrets. Under this agreement, the partners pledge to provide willing customers with a “sovereign” EWOS capability. That word is usually associated with full ability to maintain and modify a system, but absent further details, use of the word alone isn’t something to rely on.

Selex ES SVP Electronic Warfare, Chris Bushell, adds that the partners have “agreed to also look at non-Typhoon EW support solutions where there is mutual benefit to doing so.” Sources: BAE, “Boosting Eurofighter Typhoon Electronic Warfare Support”.

Nov 20/13: Weapons. At the Dubai Air Show, Eurofighter GmbH commits to full integration of the stealthy, medium range GPS/IIR guided Storm Shadow cruise missile by 2015. Storm Shadows are already used by Eurofighter customers in Britain, Italy, and Saudi Arabia (q.v. July 26/13). Ground tests are complete, and flight tests will begin using the IPA2 test aircraft upgraded to the P1E equipment standard.

The similar KEPD 350 missile in service with Germany and Spain won’t be fully qualified, but it will be flight tested at the same time on the IPA7 test aircraft. That will cut time and costs if a customer decides to spend the money and pay for full integration. Sources: Eurofighter, “Flight tests for Storm Shadow and Taurus stand-off precision missiles announced”.

Nov 15/13: CAPTOR-E AESA. The Eurofighter’s new AESA radar has finished its 4-nation program review at Cassidian’s site in Ulm, Germany, with antenna, repositioner, and Antenna Power Supply and Control Unit results that meet the theoretical design.

Next, the antenna sub-system will go to Selex Edinburgh for integration and test with receiver and processor. Final integration of the Captor-E radar into Eurofighter test plane IPA5 is planned in springtime 2014. Source: EADS Cassidian, Nov 15/13 release.

Nov 12/13: Bahrain. Flight International quotes Col. Salah Al-Mansoor from the Royal Bahraini Air Force’s planning headquarters, who says that Bahrain will be upgrading its 21-plane F-16 fleet to roughly F-16V status from 2014-2018, under a deal whose initial outline is already agreed with Lockheed Martin. Bahrain would represent the 3rd such F-16 upgrade, after Taiwan and South Korea. Major upgrades under the Common Capability Integration Program will reportedly include an AESA radar (NGC APG-80 or SABR, or Raytheon RACR), new cockpit displays, the Link-16/MIDS datalink, software upgrades, and Lockheed’s AN/AAQ-33 Sniper surveillance and targeting pod. Al-Mansoor also mentions GPS-guided JDAMs, an upgrade to AIM-9X short range air-to-air missiles, and “the D-model version of Raytheon’s AIM-120 AMRAAM”. That last is unlikely; the AIM-120D isn’t approved for export, and is still working toward Initial Operational Capability in the USA.

Col. Al-Mansoor says that the kingdom is considering a follow-on order of new F-16s, adding that “We must analyse and determine the cost of the future force structure.” The RBAF’s 16 F-5E/F fighters need replacement, and a winner is expected to be announced in January 2014 at the Bahrain international air show. BAE’s Eurofighter remains the front-runner, but the same outlay that would buy just 12 Eurofighters would net Bahrain around 20-22 F-16E/F Block 60s or similar F-16V equivalents, with all of these upgrades already baked in.

Questions remain. Can Bahrain buy new F-16s and Eurofighters, given the need to aid countries like Egypt and pacify its own restive population? Is the F-16 CCIP + Eurofighters their best Plan B, or could they decide to operate an all-F-16 future fleet of upgraded and new fighters, offering lower short and long-term force structure costs, and commonalities with the nearby UAE? Finally, what about Gulf monarchs’ growing wariness concerning US intentions and support? How will that play into Bahrain’s decisions? Flight International, “Bahrain to launch F-16 upgrade in 2014”.

Nov 4/13: Tranche 3. The 1st Tranche 3 Typhoon (BS116), has successfully completed engine ground runs at Warton, UK, from green screen checks through Stage C checks of the engine’s integration with all onboard systems. 1st flight is expected to take place before the end of 2013 – and does, in December. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, Nov 4/13 release.

Oct 30/13: EP2. The NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) signs a development contract with Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH for Evolution Package 2. It includes enhancements to the existing radar, DASS defensive system, and MIDS/Link-16 system, as well as Flight Control System (FCS) and the Utility Control System (UCS) improvements to inprove compatibility with future civil airspace requirements. MBDA’s Storm Shadow cruise missile isn’t mentioned (q.v. July 26/13).

Development is supposed to be done by the end of 2015. Earlier reports (q.v. July 30/12) suggested that the radar enhancements may involve a new AESA system, but current sources indicate that EP2 this just adds Meteor missile capability to the existing Captor-M radar (q.v. June 18/13). Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, Oct 30/13 | AIN, “Eurofighter Signs New Contract, Describes AESA Radar Status”.

EP2 development

Oct 28/13: P1E. The Eurofighter Typhoon Phase 1 Enhancements (P1E) program has finished flight testing in Manching, Germany and Getafe, Spain, and will be ready for installation and retrofit on existing Tranche 2 aircraft by the end of 2013.

P1E implements full Air-to-Surface capability, with full integration of a Laser Designator Pod (RAFAEL LITENING III), full smart bomb integration (Paveway laser-guided, and dual-mode Paveway IV/ EGBU-16 GPS and laser), Helmet Mounted Sight System upgrades for ground attack use, Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe, improved Radios and Direct Voice Input, Digital integration of Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (full IRIS-T integration with HMSS for high off-boresight shots, and allowing future AIM-9X integration), and an updated MIDS/Link-16 Datalink for wider interoperability. All of these enhancements will come factory-installed in Tranche 3 aircraft. Sources: Eurofighter GmbH, Oct 28/13 | Aviation Week, “Partners Chart Course For Eurofighter Typhoon Enhancements”.

Tranche 2 P1E upgrades approved

Aug 19-20/13: South Korea. Conflicting messaging from DAPA and contractors give a somewhat muddled picture, but the upshot is that Eurofighter was disqualified on a questionable technicality, and the F-35 for budgetary reasons, apparently leaving the F-15SE as the de facto winner. That was reversed in late September, when South Korea’s government decided to cancel the competition and start over. In effect, they’ve signaled that it isn’t really a competition, they want the F-35. Which is confirmed in November, when the F-35 is picked as a sole-source winner. Read “South Korea’s Reboots F-X Multi-Role Fighter Buy, Wants 5th Gen” for full coverage.

Loss in Korea

Aug 7/13: Bahrain. BAE Systems says that Bahrain “has expressed an interest in Typhoon and the British government are leading very early discussions”. That’s new, and the motivation is interesting.

Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa reportedly told British Prime Minister David Cameron that they were interested in buying Eurofighter jets to “create a cohesive defence system between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)” nations. Saudi Arabia is the linchpin of the GCC, and Oman is a respected member. This is a clear dividend from their purchases, and the king’s comment may also be good news for prospective sales in the UAE (40-60 jets), Kuwait, and Qatar. At the same time, every one of these sales is expected to be hotly contested, with competition in place or expected from Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Lockheed Martin’s F-16E/F, and Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen. Reuters.

Aug 1/13: Saudi Arabia. BAE’s 2013 Half-Year Results says that deliveries have resumed, with the Saudi fleet up to 28 fighters, construction beginning on new facilities, and pilot training in-country progressing:

“Four Typhoon aircraft were delivered in the first half, adding to the initial phase of 24 Typhoon aircraft deliveries between 2009 and the end of 2011…. A [GBP] 0.3bn contract was signed in March for the construction of airfield facilities at King Fahd Air Base in Saudi Arabia. Discussions on the provision of maintenance and upgrade facilities in-Kingdom, and further capability enhancement of the Typhoon aircraft remain ongoing. Under an order received at the end of 2012 to deliver training to the RSAF, the first graduation ceremony of cadets from the King Faisal Air Academy was held in May [2013].”

With respect to finalizing terms for Tranche 3 upgrades, BAE’s accompanying presentation cites “good progress,” and says “Significant trading bias to second half anticipated.” Translation: we expect a deal before the end of the year. That will need to be taken care of before BAE can talk about further sales, though they do cite a “KSA B2” opportunity as one of their top prospects. Half-Year Results statement [PDF] and presentation [PDF] | Daily Mail.

July 26/13: Storm Shadow. AIN reports that key Tornado upgrades may end up being funded by Saudi Arabia and Oman. RAF assistant chief of the air staff AVM Ed Stringer says that “Storm Shadow will be on the Typhoon sooner than you think.” From “Middle East Customers Funding Eurofighter Upgrades”:

“…further indication that some key upgrades to the combat jet are being funded by Saudi Arabia and possibly Oman. The four original partner nations have proved reluctant to collectively fund in the near term enhancements… such as integration of the MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile. The four partners have also so far failed to approve full development of the Captor-E AESA radar by the Euroradar consortium…. “Other Typhoon customers are involved [in providing] funding profile,” [RAF Air Vice Marshal Ed Stringer] added…. During a briefing at the IDEX show in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, a BAE Systems official said that the Storm Shadow would enter flight-test on the Typhoon this year because this is a requirement of the Royal Saudi Air Force.”

The RSAF already uses Storm Shadow missiles on their Tornado strike fighters.

July 7/13: Germany. Der Spiegel takes a strafing run at the Eurofighter program in Germany, pointing out both its budget overruns, and citing recent documents that discuss safety and quality issues with the planes. Germany and the other Eurofighter partners are expected to make their Tranche 3B decisions sometime in 2014, so the articles feed into a live political debate as an election approaches.

On the budgetary front, the Bundestag approved EUR 14.7 billion for 180 fighters, but Der Spiegel says that EUR 14.5 billion has already been spent on just 108 machines. The current Bundeswehr estimate is reportedly EUR 16.8 billion for 143 fighters (Tranche 1 through 3A) by 2018. That would average out to EUR 117.5 million/ $157 million per plane.

The 2nd issue involves quality control problems. On Oct 1/08, the military did not extend the Manching, Bavaria plant’s license to remain a Bundeswehr aviation site. Aircraft were still accepted after more detailed inspections, but that could leave the government liable in the event of a crash on German soil. Later, on April 18/13, an auditor from the Bundesamt fur Ausrustung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr (BAAINBw) in Koblenz cited the ejection seats as a fleet-wide problem area. Der Spiegel alleges that German quality control and inspections have suffered as a result of austerity measures and military “reforms,” but it isn’t the first time this has been publicly cited as an issue. In August 2010, an RSAF Lt. Col. and member of the Saudi Royal family was killed in a 2-seat Typhoon crash near Moron, Spain, when his parachute separated from the harness. His Spanish counterpart ejected safely. The accident led the RAF to modify its fleet’s ejection seat harnesses. Der Spiegel re: budgets [in German] | Der Spiegel re: reliability [in German] | Reuters.

Program problems

July 5/13: South Korea. DAPA suspends bidding on its fighter competition, after none of the entries (Eurofighter, F-15SE, F-35A) could meet South Korea’s industrial demands, and performance specifications, and budget limits. Something clearly has to be rethought, if South Korea wants those fighters. If they don’t drop the number bought, then either the budget must be increased, or cost-adding elements like industrial offsets need to be revised, or the performance specifications need to be relaxed and new competitors contemplated. Yonhap | Yonhap follow-on.

July 2/13: P1E Weapons. BAE announces that they have finished initial Paveway IV GPS/laser guided bomb trials with a Eurofighter, as part of the Phase 1 Enhancement Programme that will give Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 2 planes independent precision strike capabilities. Other elements of the program include the LITENING laser designation & surveillance pod, and EGBU-16 Enhanced Paveway laser/GPS guided bomb. BAE Systems.

June 20/13: Qatar. AFP says that the Middle Eastern Emirate intends to launch its RFP for 24-36 fighters “soon.” They own a fleet of Mirage 2000-5s, which recently flew to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.

French President Hollande will visit Doha for high-level economic talks on June 22, and France has close ties with the Emirate, but the Qataris aren’t waiting around. They reportedly spent time in May 2013 evaluating the Eurofighter Tornado with the RAF, and will soon host a Eurofighter team in-country for flight trials. Boeing also remains in the mix. Agence France Presse.

June 19/13: Industrial. New Eurofighter GmbH CEO and former Airbus Military head Alberto Gutierrez seems to understand what his firm needs to do. Now, can he do it? He tells Reuters:

“In this market, where we are, there is competition and we have to keep on going, finding out whatever improvement is available to catch up, to make the product cheaper and a way of getting into decisions leaner and faster…”

All true. The problem is, he has just admitted that his plane is behind competitors in key areas, too expensive, and hobbled by an industrial structure that doesn’t foster either lean costs or fast action. Fixing even 1 of those problems is a serious challenge. Fixing all 3 in time to land new orders, before the plane goes out of production, while keeping governments from derailing improvement plans, starts edging toward “Mission: Impossible” territory.

June 18/13: Weapons. Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH signs a full weapon system integration contract with the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) for MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile. This will reportedly include 2-way datalink integration, which will offer parity with the JAS-39 Gripen and an advantage over the Dassault Rafale.

Germany became the last of the 6 core Meteor partners (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden) to sign a contract for missile stocks, on May 31/13. The NETMA contract completes the other coverage loop, and means that MBDA now has contracts to integrate its missile onto all 3 originally-envisaged platforms: the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen.

BAE had done some preliminary work (q.v. June 20/11, July 11/12) in Britain, which led to an unguided test firing (Dec 6/12). That was an excellent set of 1st steps to cut integration time for everyone, but that isn’t the same as full integration. Further design and test work on the missile system will continue at Alenia Aermacchi, BAE Systems, and EADS Cassidian… which doesn’t seem like a very efficient way to conduct things.

What the releases don’t say is when integration will be complete. Eurofighter GmbH has now confirmed the date as 2017. That’s about 3 years later than Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen (2014), and later than original Eurofighter forecasts of mid-2015, and but a year earlier than the French Rafale (2018). Eurofighter | MBDA | UK MoD | Aviation Week.

Full Meteor air-air missile integration contract

June 7/13: Engine. EUROJET Turbo GmbH celebrates the delivery of its 1000th EJ200 production engine, of over 1,500 orders places so far. This one was assembled at ITP for Spain, and the firm touts 789 engines in service so far on operational Eurofighter Typhoons. To date, the engines have accumulated over 390,000 flying hours. Eurojet [MS Word] | Eurofighter.

1,000th EJ200

May 23/13: South Korea. EADS Cassidian reportedly announces that they would invest $2 billion in the K-FX fighter development project, and help market the plane internationally, if the Eurofighter is chosen for F-X-3. Investments would include a maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility that could extend to the KF-X, and an aerospace software center.

It isn’t a bad idea for EADS. Barring multiple orders from new sources, it’s very unlikely that the Eurofighter will still be in production by 2022. Upgrades and maintenance will continue for some time, but the C-203 KF-X design could offer EADS a new option to sell, with a fundamental design that can improve toward stealth fighter status. The question is whether South Korea wants to go forward. Yonhap News.

April 5/13: South Korea. An un-named military official tells the government’s Yonhap News Agency that after 2 years of discussions and negotiations with DAPA, EADS has changed its industrial offer. Instead of having the first 10 made in Europe, the next 24 made using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea, EADS has offered to build just 12 in Europe, with the other 48 Tranche 3 planes at KAI in South Korea.

The news report is imprecise, leaving the question of structural manufacturing vs. kit assembly unaddressed. It also fails to address how EADS can promote the idea of 20,000 South Korean aerospace jobs for a 5-year period, when the company also says that building the Typhoon for the much larger orders of the core country participants created just 10,000 jobs in Europe. On its face, the statement seems less than plausible, but it does point to the likelihood of significant structural manufacturing in Korea. Yonhap.

April 4/13: South Korea. The ROKAF has picked Taurus’ KEPD 350 long range cruise missile for their future fighter force. They’ll have to pay extra to integrate it with their F-16s and F-15Ks. The proposed F-15SE Silent Eagle is different enough that it will probably require added testing, so Eurofighter may garner a slight advantage from German & Spanish plans to add the KEPD 350 to Eurofighter by 2015. Read “Korea’s F-X Multi-Role Fighter Buys: Phases 2 & 3” for full coverage.

March 26/13: Tranche 3. The Tranche 3 Instrumented Production Aircraft 8 test plane has joined all major structural pieces, and moves on to the next production station on the final assembly line in Manching. Work is now focused on hydraulics, defensive aids, test flight instrumentation, and electrical systems with over 110 km of complex special cabling.

IPA8 will play an important role testing and integrating new features like the AESA radar, new weapons, etc. EADS Cassidian.

March 13/13: Denmark. The Danes pick up their fighter competition as promised, following their announced hiatus in April 2010. Invited bidders include the same set of Lockheed Martin (F-35A), Boeing (Super Hornet), and Saab (JAS-39E/F) – plus EADS (Eurofighter), who had withdrawn from the Danish competition in 2007. The goal of a 2014 F-16 replacement decision has been moved a bit farther back, and now involves a recommendation by the end of 2014, and a selection by June 2015.

The Flyvevabnet are reported to have 30 operational F-16s, with 15 more in reserve, out of an original order of 58. Past statements indicate that they’re looking to buy around 25 fighters as replacements, but there are reports of a range from 24-32, depending on price. Danish Forsvarsministeriet [in Danish] | Eurofighter GmbH | Saab | JSF Nieuws.

Feb 21/13: Saudi Arabia. BAE’s end of year investor presentation [PDF] discusses changes in Saudi Arabia, including a contract amendment that formally abandons Saudi plans for a final assembly line in-country. That insistence had been holding up deliveries, and the remaining 48 aircraft will begin arriving in 2013. Meanwhile, work to “expand the multi-role capabilities” of Saudi Typhoons continues, as do negotiations to continue expanding those capabilities toward Tranche 3 levels.

Pricing remains an issue several years after the contract, and the next stage of support contracts is also in long negotiations:

“Under the Saudi British Defence Co-operation Programme (SBDCP), orders totalling £3.4bn were awarded for support through to 2016, including the provision of manpower, logistics and training to the RSAF…. The initial three-year Typhoon support contract finished at the end of June and two subsequent six-month extensions have been secured. Discussions continue with the customer on the next five years of support. Discussions on Typhoon price escalation with the Saudi Arabian government remain ongoing. Negotiations are also ongoing for the provision of maintenance and upgrade facilities in-Kingdom, and further capability enhancement of the aircraft.”

Feb 11/13: DACT distilled. A veteran Eurofighter test pilot doesn’t see the logic behind Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Flynn’s recent claim that an F-35 will beat any 4+ generation aircraft, including the Eurofighter Typhoon:

“The F-35 thrust to weight ratio is way lower [than Eurofighter] and its energy-manoeuvrability diagrams match those of the F/A-18…. starting from medium altitude and above, there is no story with a similarly loaded Typhoon…. [F-35] Transonic acceleration is… better than in an F/A-18 or F-16, but mainly due to its low drag characteristics than to its powerplant. That means that immediately after the transonic regime, the F-35 would stop accelerating and struggle forever to reach a non operationally suitable Mach 1.6…. The Typhoon will continue to accelerate supersonic with an impressive steady pull, giving more range to its BVR (Beyond Visual Range) armament…. Angle-of-attack is remarkably high in the F-35, as it is for all the twin tailed aircraft, but of course it can not be exploited in the supersonic regime, where the limiting load factor is achieved at low values…. Excessive energy bleeding rates would operationally limit the F-35 well before its ultimate AoA is reached.”

Both Britain and Italy will eventually find out for sure, as they will soon have both types in service. Italy will be the best test, as its F-35As are more capable dogfighters than Britain’s F-35Bs. About 2 months earlier, the Aviationist had canvassed Italian pilots, who fly both the F-16 and the Eurofighter, for their opinion concerning those 2 platforms:

“During more or less a decade of service with the Italian Air Force, the F-16 has been extensively used to train Typhoon pilots in WVR engagements. According to the Italian pilots, the F-16 matches the F-2000 under 10,000 feet. But above FL100 the Typhoon becomes quite difficult to beat since its superior aerodynamics give the Eurofighter can out maneuver the Viper at every engagement.”

Sources: The Aviationist, “No way an F-35 will ever match a Typhoon fighter jet in aerial combat” Eurofighter test pilot says” | and “How does the F-16 perform against its adversaries in dogfight?

vs. F-35 & F-16


EUR 2 billion support deal; Oman buys 12; India loss.

Eurofighter & Paveways
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Dec 21/12: Oman. It isn’t Christmas over there, but the RAFO is getting a present anyway. The Sultanate signs a GBP 2.5 billion (about $4.057 billion) deal with Britain for 12 Eurofighters, and 8 Hawk LIFT advanced trainers. This makes them the Eurofighter Typhoon’s 3rd export customer, a status they share with their neighbor Saudi Arabia. The deal includes in-service support, and deliveries are expected to begin in 2017.

See “Oman’s Air Force Upgrades: From Jaguars to F-16s & Eurofighters” for full coverage.

Oman buys 12

Dec 6/12: Weapons. 1st firing of MBDA’s Meteor long range air-air missile from a Eurofighter Typhoon. It’s part of Britain’s Future Enhancements Flight Test Programme, and builds on BAE’s unpowered trials to verify safe separation. The flight trials were conducted with integrated support from QinetiQ and MBDA. BAE | Eurofighter.

Nov 29/12: UK Updates. BAE Systems has finished upgrading 43 RAF Eurofighters under the Retrofit 2 program, which began as its own effort but was subsumed into the wider Typhoon Availability Service (TAS) contract. Their Tranche 1 Block 5 standard installs the PIRATE forward looking infra-red (FLIR) system, improves air-to-air capability; and adds precision strike by using a combination of Paveway II family laser-guided bombs, and RAFAEL’s LITENING-III surveillance and laser designator pod. Eurofighter GmbH.

Nov 6/12: UAE. British Prime Minister David Cameron issues a joint communique with the UAE. The 2 countries will improve their defense ties, with specific commitments that include:

“Deepen our defence ties by; continuing the development of our joint plans for the security of the UAE and wider Gulf region; increasing our joint exercises and training; and by investing in the British military presence in the UAE.

Establish a defence industrial partnership that involves close collaboration around Typhoon and a number of new technologies.”

The Eurofighter is competing with France’s Rafale for a 60-plane buy, and these sorts of agreements are normal under the circumstances. It’s also normal for specific defense deals to depend on the customer’s final choice, though the joint communique includes economic relations beyond defense. UK PM | Reuters.

Nov 6/12: Flight costs. From Britain’s House of Commons:

Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average hourly cost was of flying the Typhoon fighter (a) with and (b) without fuel costs. [126215]

Mr Dunne [holding answer 1 November 2012]: The standard marginal flying hour cost for a Typhoon is £3,875, including the cost of fuel. Excluding fuel costs the figure reduces to approximately £2,670.”

Even GBP 3,875 (about $6,200) is considerably cheaper than published American fighter costs per flight hour. The comparable F-15 Eagle family is generally quoted as being in the $17,000 – $30,500 range. The difference has less to do with the respective machines, and more to do with differing approaches to calculating those costs, especially in one’s choice of what to include. A standard calculation method would be informative, but it doesn’t exist.

RAF flight costs

click for video

Oct 16/12: HMD. Eurofighter GmbH touts the new “Head Equipment Assembly (HEA), developed by BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems, [which] comprises the aircrew helmet and all the sub-system elements needed to display a real world overlaid picture on the helmet visor.” The accompanying video has a Typhoon pilot explaining why this is so powerful, and expressing his belief that it’s impossible to beat an enemy if they have a system like this and you don’t. “Once you’ve had this helmet on, you don’t ever want to be without it.”

All well and good, but American fighters have had these capabilities for almost a decade now. A fact that they have used to their advantage in international competitions against the Typhoon, and against other fighters like the French Rafale that lack an accompanying HMD.

Why HMDs matter

July 2012: Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Defense releases its “Defense of Japan 2012” White Paper. Among other things, it explains exactly why the F-35 won. All 3 contenders fulfilled all mandatory requirements, but the F-35 was rated as the overall winner based on the 2nd stage evaluation of capability, industrial participation, cost, and support.

Part of the problem is that Japan simply accepted Lockheed Martin’s paper performance and cost promises at face value, in the absence of data. Even then, the Typhoon was seen as the most fuel-efficient plane, and its bid had the best industrial benefits for Japan. On the other hand, EADS and BAE had trouble meeting Japan’s purchase cost targets while giving Japanese firms all of that work, and picking EADS/BAE would have meant deviating from Japan’s strongly American industrial links and equipment infrastructure. The Eurofighter Typhoon also had a compatibility problem with the JASDF’s KC-767 aerial tankers, who don’t carry hose-and-drogue refueling pods. KC-767 retrofits would have been required, driving up the program’s expense. Read “Japan’s Next Fighters, From F-X Competition to F-35 Buys” for full coverage.

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July 30/12: Eurofighter vs. F-22. Combat Aircraft leaks some results from the 2012 Red Flag exercises. WIRED Danger Room:

“In mid-June… [8] Typhoons arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska for an American-led Red Flag exercise involving more than 100 aircraft from Germany, the U.S. Air Force and Army, NATO, Japan, Australia and Poland. Eight times during the two-week war game, individual German Typhoons flew against single F-22s… The results were a surprise to the Germans and presumably the Americans, too. “We were evenly matched,” Maj. Marc Gruene told Combat Aircraft’s Jamie Hunter. The key, Gruene said, is to get as close as possible to the F-22 … and stay there. “As soon as you get to the [close-in] merge … the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22,” Gruene said.”

That’s interesting, and an impressive testament to the Eurofighter’s design and ergonomics. On the other hand, let’s acknowledge that it isn’t exactly easy to “get to the merge” against an opponent who is invisible to your radar at range, moving up to 50% faster than you are, and able to see you just fine on their own radar.

vs. F-22

July 30/12: AESA. NETMA(NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency) has reportedly issued an RFP to Eurofighter GmbH for the development of an E-Scan Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar. Eurofighter CEO, Enzo Casolini says the 2015 target remains, per announcements in June 2011:

“The timescale is to answer the RFP by October this year and to have an agreement with the nations by the end of the year. The target is to have a contract by the middle of next year and to have an E-Scan entering into service by 2015.”

See: Arabian Aerospace.

July 11/12: Weapons. BAE describes cockpit assessment trials for the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile. They took pilots from “each of the Eurofighter nations,” and put them through a range of scenarios in a modified simulator. That led to a series of recommendations for the final cockpit design.

On the one hand, getting the user interface really right pays big dividends in combat. On the other hand, the fact they’re doing these exercises a good indication of how early they are in the process. It also points to how much more is involved in this sort of thing, beyond just hanging a new missile on a pylon. BAE Systems.

July 10/12: Gulf opportunities. Reports from Farnborough shed some light on potential Eurofighter Typhoon sales to Oman, Qatar, and the UAE.

Dassault has been sounding quite confident about the Rafale’s ultimate prospects in the UAE, but BAE Systems’ business development director Alan Garwood told Reuters that he believed the UAE’s interest is “real and genuine,” adding that they “could tell by the questions they were asking us that they were serious.” BAE is still working with the British government to put together a package for 60 planes. With the loss in India, and the near-certain demise of Tranche 3B, the UAE represents the fighter’s largest near-term opportunity. Oman is a higher-odds opportunity, and Garwood said that:

“We’ll start formal negotiations [for 12 jets] with Oman towards the end of August [2012] I would imagine. The two governments have targeted it for completion this year and we want it done this year as well… I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do that.”

With respect to Qatar, he would say only that: “We are talking to the Qataris quite a bit.” That’s normal in a competition like this, which is reported to include Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale, Lockheed’s F-35A Lightning II, and Saab’s JAS-39E/F Gripen. Reuters | WSJ’s The Source blog.

July 9/12: Upgrades at last? At the opening of the Farnborough defense exhibition, British Prime Minister David Cameron discusses the Eurofighter’s future:

“Typhoon’s growth potential is huge and the four partner nations, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK have agreed the next steps required to further exploit this. The integration of the METEOR missile, an Electronically Scanned Radar, enhancements of the Defensive Aids System, further development of the air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities and integration of new weapons.”

With Tranche 3B fading away, and India out as a big export win, upgrades like these are the only way to keep part of the manufacturing base going for much longer, and are also its best hope for landing significant export orders. The question is when some of these upgrade “agreements” will become signed contracts with actual dollars behind them. Read “Eurofighter’s Upgrades: Enough? In Time?” for more.

March 30/12: “Contract 1”. Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH signs a major 5-year contract with NATO’s Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA), to support the fleet of Typhoon jets across the 4 Eurofighter core nations: Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. The overall contract total is not disclosed, but is estimated to be around EUR 2 billion (currently $2.66 billion).

BAE estimates its share of the total at GBP 446 million (about EUR 533 million). Finmeccanica estimates its share of the total at “more than EUR 500 million.” EADS declined to give figures.

“Contract 1” replaces previous Integrated Logistics Support (PC1-11) contracts and a number of sustainment contracts, covering items like day-to-day support, studies, and customer queries and investigations. It also includes continued development, testing, and upgrade work on the fighters’ systems. Replaced contracts will morph into Contract 1 over a period of time, but they will not include any of the major support contracts announced by various member countries in 2009. Eurofighter GmbH | BAE | Finmeccanica | Defense News.

“Contract 1” for support

March 30/12: #321. A Finmeccanica release notes that so far, the consortium has delivered 321 Eurofighter Typhoons to customer nations.

March 22/12: AESA – just a sim. EADS Cassidian touts the benefits of an “E-Scan” AESA radar for the Eurofighter, and touts its operation of the largest assembly line in Europe for the individual transmit/ receive modules that make up those radars.

The German BWB’s 2-year study, using IABG GmbH’s MILSIM (man-in-the-loop simulator), is nice enough. What it isn’t, is a development and production contract. American F-15 Strike Eagles, F-16s, and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets are offered with AESA radars right now. France’s Dassault just received the 1st RBE2-AA AESA radar for its Rafale production line. Saab is well underway developing its own ES-05 Raven AESA radar for the JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, which will join the Eurofighter’s notional AESA design in using a pivoting plate approach. They’re doing so in conjunction with Finmeccanica’s SELEX Galileo, the current leader of the Euroradar consortium. Unless the Eurofighter consortium and its governments get moving soon, their fighter will begin to find itself at a severe disadvantage in international competitions.

Jan 31/12: India loss. Dassault’s Rafale is picked as the “L-1” lowest bidder for India’s 126-aircraft M-MRCA deal, even after the complex life-cycle cost and industrial calculations are thrown in. Some reports place its cost as $5 million lower per plane. Next steps include the negotiation of a contract, in parallel with parliamentary approval and budgeting.

Until a contract is actually signed, however, India’s procurement history reminds us that even a “close” deal is just 1 step above a vague intention. The contract may take a while. Even the French government sees a deal as only an 80% probability within 6-9 months. The budgeting is likely to be even trickier. The IAF’s exclusion of cost considerations in picking its finalists means that the only question now is: how far over the stated budget will a full Rafale buy go? Some reports place the deal’s cost at around $15 billion – an increase of up to 50% from previous estimates. If economic downturns or squeezed defense budgets make those outlays a big enough issue, early enough in the process, it could have the effect of re-opening the competition. British PM David Cameron has expressed an intent to change India’s mind, and both Saab and Boeing are still positioned within India, in order to be ready for a renewed opportunity.

Eurofighter’s problem is that it’s hard to see how it might succeed in a competition that was re-opened for financial reasons. Dassault | President Sarkozy [in French] | Economic Times of India, see also their timeline | Indian Express | Rediff (thanks for using our descriptions, sans attribution) | Times of India || Aviation Week | BBC | UK’s The Guardian | Reuters report and expert roundup.

India loss


HMD at last; Tranche 3 sub-system contracts; German cuts to 3B plans; Competitions in Bulgaria, India, Japan (loss), South Korea, UAE; Opportunities in Indonesia & Turkey?; AESA by 2015?; Paveway IV and EGBU-16 bomb tests; PILUM glide bomb; Naval Eurofighter; Negative British NAO report; 100,000 flying hours.

Eurofighter over Dubai
(click to view full)

Dec 20/11: Japan loss. Japan’s Ministry of Defense announces that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II has won the F-X competitive bid process for 42 planes, beating the Eurofighter and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet International. As F-4 replacements, the F-35As will have an air defense role, but Japan does have a large cadre of dedicated F-15Js to perform that mission. Conclusion? Their undeclared role is as strike fighters.

Note that there’s still an F-XX program in the future, aimed at replacing Japan’s F-15Js. Numbers as high as 100+ planes have been floated, but that will depend on both economic straits, and local geopolitical threats. Read “Japan’s Next Fighters, From F-X Competition to F-35 Buys” for full coverage.

Japan loss

Nov 16/11: UAE. The UAE is either engaged in the mother of all hardball negotiations, or the potential Rafale sale is crashing. Critical comments at the highest levels are accompanying the invite to Eurofighter, strengthening the belief that the Typhoon is more than just a stalking horse to lower the French bid.

The question is, how big is the opportunity? Reports have surfaced that the UAE may be about to cut its planned new jet order, regardless of its choice, and buy more of its unique F-16E/F Block 60s. Read “Derailed Denouement in Dubai: What’s Up With the UAE’s Fighter Deal?” for a snapshot.

Nov 13/11: UAE. Flight International reports that the UAE must have liked their October briefings re: Eurofighter’s capabilities, because they’ve asked Eurofighter GmbH for an RFP bid to replace their current fleet of Mirage 2000-9s. The UAE has been in negotiations to buy Rafale planes for several years now, but hasn’t been able to clinch a deal.

It’s hard to tell if the UAE is just looking to add pressure and get a better price from Dassault, or if their interest is serious. One sign that they might be serious is the fact that they’ve also received classified technical briefings regarding the F-15E Strike Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet, but haven’t asked for RFP bids from the Americans. Flight International believes that this may be a prelude to consideration of the stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle or F/A-18 Super Hornet International for the UAE’s planned 2018-2025 fighter modernization. The obvious 3rd contender there is Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

Nov 12/11: Eurofighter GmbH touts their Dubai flying display, complete with a graphic showing their impressive flight plan.

They also tout a range of technologies that they hadn’t advertised much before, including thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, an AESA radar, and MBDA’s Marte anti-ship missile. The release appears to blur the line between concepts/plans, and field-ready equipment.

Oct 21/11: Germany & Tranche 3B. Germany announces further defense cuts, which include a proviso that their Eurofighter orders will end at Tranche 3A, instead of adding another 37 planes in a Tranche 3B.

With Britain also saying that Tranche 3Ais the end, and the governments of Spain and Italy under severe financial strain, it appears less and less likely that there will be a Tranche 3B. The question is how to escape termination costs. Negotiations can be expected, but one option is to count future exports as re-sales of scheduled orders from existing partner countries. Aviation Week.

Aug 18/11: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica’s SELEX Galileo contracts with BAE Systems Manufacturing at Hillend in Fife, in GBP 20+ million procurement and electronic manufacturing services contract related to Tranche 3A’s Captor radars. Work at the Hillend facility will run from 2011-2013.

BAE’s release adds that the facility has won over GBP 165 million in Captor and Typhoon DASS orders, over the last 12 years.

July 20/11: South Korea. As South Korea’s DAPA eases the criteria to try and foster more competition, DAPA’s Col. Wi Jong-seong says that “Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi expressed its intent to compete in the fighter jet procurement project early this year.” The report quotes him as saying that Sukhoi’s T-50 PAK-FA will be up against Boeing’s stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Assuming we don’t have an FX-II competition repeat, where all competitors but one drop out.

At this point, FX-III is being touted as a 60 jet buy of high-end fighters, with a budget of 8.29 trillion won ($7.86 billion). Eurofighter reportedly offered a better deal than the F-15K in F-X-2, but lost. The firm recently proposed to phase in Korean assembly for Phase III, with the 1st 10 made in Europe, the next 24 using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea. Korea Times.

June 27/11: Weapons. Diehl BGT and Israel’s RAFAEL unveil a new weapon for Eurofighter at the 2011 Paris Air Show. The PILUM long-range glide bomb concept has a range variously reported as 100-160 km/ 62 – 99.5 miles, but it’s a developmental weapon, so exact figures remain to be proven. PILUM uses RAFAEL Spice’s combination of GPS/INS and imaging infrared guidance, within Diehl’s HOSBO modular glide bomb system. HOSBO is a steamlined glide bomb that can carry a modular payload, including warheads of various sizes and types, even warheads designed to disrupt electronics. This JSOW Block III competitor will be able to attack defended targets, vehicles, ships, or even smaller targets. It will be integrated on Germany’s Tornado and Eurofighter aircraft. Will the Saudis, who fly both types, want any? Diehl BGT release | Jerusalem Post.

June 24/11: HMD. A Reuters report offers an update on progress with the Eurofighter’s BAE “Striker”/ HMSS helmet-mounted displays. HMDs are now considered a standard feature for fighter jets, as they’re required in order to take full advantage of new short range air-to-air missiles, and boost ground attack capabilities.

British RAF pilots tested the first helmets in summer 2010. So far, about 50 total helmets have been delivered to Italy, Germany, Spain and UK, at a delivery rate of about 8 per month, but none are being used over Libya. They’re expected to become operational in the RAF by the end of 2011.

June 22/11: AESA. After a year of preliminary industry funding, Eurofighter GmbH and Euroradar agree to continue development, and announce 2015 as the target date for entry into service of a Typhoon with the new “E-Scan” AESA radar. A later date wasn’t really feasible, given the delivery schedules involved in critical competitions like India’s M-MRCA. Indeed, even a 2015 date could be a disadvantage as the Eurofighter competes with France’s Rafale, which has begun testing its own RBE2-AA. The firm does say that:

“The new AESA array, larger than the ones available to our competitors thanks to the Typhoon’s voluminous radome, will be fitted on a repositioner that will provide a wider field of regard when compared to those installed or scheduled for introduction on other fighters. The new radar will offer customers the freedom to retrofit their existing Typhoons when required.”

E-Scan AESA date announced

June 20/11: Weapons. Eurofighter IPA1 has completed the first of a series of Meteor missile trials, beginning with safe separation across the flight envelope on the Aberporth range in Britain. Eurofighter GmbH.

May 17/11: Leadership. EADS Cassidian Spain has appointed 56 year old Luis Hernández Vozmediano as their new Head of the Eurofighter program. He has spent virtually his entire professional career at EADS, and has been heavily involved in Britain’s A330 Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA), and the related American KC-X pursuit. Eurofighter GmbH.

May 11/11: Turkey. Eurofighter has courted Turkey for a long time, despite Turkey’s political & industrial commitment to the F-35 program. Hurriyet reports growing interest in a fighter split-buy, to reduce dependence on the USA.

Naturally, Italy’s government is pushing Turkey to solve that problem by joining the Eurofighter consortium. Turkey might also pick a hi-low approach, and join South Korea and Indonesia in KF-X instead. The real wild card? Turkey’s current account deficit is hitting levels that worry some observers. High levels have been predictors of Turkish economic crises in the past.

April 27/11: India. Fulfilling long-standing rumors that it had gained a leading position in India’s M-MRCA future fighter competition, Eurofighter is confirmed as one of 2 finalists, alongside Dassault’s Rafale. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition” for full coverage.

April 2011: Weapons. EADS Cassidian Spain achieves the first 1,000 pound EGBU-16 Enhanced Paveway II precision guided munition release. The EGBU-16 is the selected dual mode bomb for Germany, Spain and Italy, whereas the locally-developed Paveway IV is the dual mode choice for the UK. Eurofighter GmbH.

March 7/11: Weapons. The first ever Eurofighter release of a Paveway IV dual guidance bomb takes place from development aircraft IPA6, in an hour long test flight over the Aberporth Range in Wales. BAE Systems | Eurofighter GmbH, incl photo.

March 10/11: Indonesia? The Times reports that more of Britain’s fighters could be leaving the force, if Indonesia’s interest in up to 24 Typhoons pans out. That could be politically challenging, though. Britain has led the way into attacks on Libya for bombing its civilians, but Indonesia has used its BAE Hawk light attack jets against its own insurgencies, and in East Timor. That triggered a defense export ban 12 years ago. Indonesia continues to operate a large fleet of Hawk jets, but it has since filled its high end air superiority slot with a handful of Sukhoi’s SU-27/30 Flanker family fighters – a cheaper choice with similar capabilities.

The UK MoD says it has “no current plans” to export Typhoons to Indonesia, but that means little to nothing when the statement is carefully parsed. If Indonesia really is interested in adding Typhoons, one option might be to re-export 24 RAF Tranche 1 aircraft that haven’t been given precision ground attack modifications. The Times [subscription-only] | Agence France Presse | The Guardian | UPI.

March 2/11: Britain’s reluctance to invest in additional Typhoon fighters is partly explained by the findings of an NAO report, which notes that:

“The cost of the Typhoon project has risen substantially. Despite the MOD’s now buying 72 fewer aircraft (down from 232 to 160, a reduction of 30 per cent), the forecast development and production cost has risen by 20 per cent to [GBP] 20.2 billion. This is a 75 per cent increase in the unit cost of each aircraft. The cost of supporting each aircraft has also risen by a third above that originally expected. The MOD now estimates that, by the time the aircraft leaves service, some [GBP] 37 billion will have been spent.”

There are concerns that the report might affect the jet’s chances in India. Meanwhile, a report in The Register highlights the importance of paying attention to Tranche buy totals, in an atmosphere of declining budgets. Note that the retirement of the RAF’s Tranche 1 jets will happen long before they reach their service life design limits, raising the possibility of resale:

“Probably the most dismal figure we are given is that the RAF will actually put into service just 107 Typhoons. At the moment it has received 70: the last of the 160 planes ordered by the UK will be delivered in 2015. But, we are told, “by 2019” all the Tranche 1 jets (which were still being delivered to the RAF at the start of 2008) will be “retired” – that is, thrown away. We’ll pay for 160 jets (actually we’ll pay for 232), but we’ll only ever get a fleet of 107.”

UK NAO report

March 2/11: During high level visits, British officials continue to press the case for the Eurofighter as Japan’s future F-X fighter, over offerings from Boeing (F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or F-15SE Silent Eagle) or Lockheed Martin (F-35A/B/C). One interesting wrinkle is that reconnaissance capabilities could become an important requirement, a move that would give the F-35 family an edge. BAE et. al. are fighting an uphill fight, but they’re not alone: in January 2011, the European Business Council in Japan launched a defense and security committee to promote defense-related business cooperation. Asahi Shimbun | Japan Times | L.A. Times.

Naval concept
(click to view full)

Feb 21/11: Aero India 2011 sees Eurofighter and BAE unveil an interesting wrinkle: an initial design for a navalized Eurofighter than can operate from aircraft carriers, based on an internally-funded set of studies and simulations. In a direct nod to potential Indian sales, they tout the plane as being able to take off from “ski jump” carriers without catapults – a design that describes all of India’s current and planned carriers, as well as the initial design for Britain’s own Queen Elizabeth Class.

Eurofighter GmbH describes the goal as 95% commonality with land-based aircraft, and required changes as “limited… include a new, stronger landing gear, a modified arrestor hook and localised strengthening on some fuselage sections near the landing gear, as well as updates the EJ200 engines,” which could include thrust-vectoring in flight.

India is currently planning to use MiG-29Ks as its naval fighters, but it’s currently the type’s only customer, and the Typhoon is seen as a leading contender in its M-MRCA competition for land based aircraft. Britain is planning to use the F-35C from its future carrier, but further cost increases or delays for the multinational program could open an opportunity for a jet type that the RAF already flies. Eurofighter GmbH.

Naval concept unveiled

Feb 4/11: Bulgaria RFI. Bulgaria issues another fighter replacement RFI, soliciting information from Boeing (F/A-18E/F), Dassault (Rafale, Mirage 2000), EADS (Eurofighter), Lockheed Martin (F-16), and Saab (JAS-39 Gripen) re: 8 new and/or second-hand fighter jets, to replace its existing fleet of 12 MiG-21s.

Bulgaria issued a similar RFI in 2006, for 20 jets, but the global economic crash, and Bulgaria’s own issues in trying to pay for past defense purchases, forced a hold. The Defense Ministry has taken pains to emphasize that this is just an exploratory request, and is not the start of a purchase tender. Nevertheless, November 2010 saw the formation of a National Steering Committee and an Integrated Project Team, to draft preliminary fighter replacement operational, technical, and tactical requirements. That followed October 2010 remarks by Bulgaria’s Defense Minister Anyu Angelov, who discussed spending BGN 1 billion (around $725 million) for the purchase of an uncertain number of new fighter jets to replace its MiG-21s, while modernizing its fleet of 16 MiG-29A air superiority jets. Sofia News Agency.

Feb 3/11: Upgrades. The first Spanish single-seat instrumented production aircraft version 4 (IPA4) completes 500 hours of flight at the EADS Cassidian Spain facility at Getafe, near Madrid. After a functional upgrade from its original Tranche 1 air superiority standard to Tranche 2, this aircraft is testing new technology including a Link-16 MIDS system, as well as integration trials and the launching of precision air-to-ground weapons.

The UK has already upgraded a number of its Eurofighters along similar lines, and added advanced LITENING targeting pods. Eurofighter GmbH believes that this Spanish IPA4 platform may serve as a model for the possible upgrade of the Tranche 1 fleets currently in service with Eurofighter customer nations. That’s the good news. The bad news is that an upgrade program of this type may also be seen as an alternative to ordering the final Tranche 3B set of Eurofighters. Eurofighter GmbH.

Jan 28/11: Sub-contractors. Premium AEROTEC’s Varel, Germany plant has successfully started assembling structural components for the Eurofighter. EADS Cassidian announces that Varel’s first 3/2b Eurofighter fuselage section, a 3m section that mates with the wings, has been delivered to the Augsburg plant, where the entire fuselage center section will be assembled.

Premium AEROTEC is a spin-off of the former Airbus sites in Nordenham and Varel and the former EADS site in Augsburg. It began operations on Jan 1/09, and in addition to various Airbus passenger aircraft components, it manufactures the fuselage center section for all Eurofighter aircraft, including the 4 program partners (United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Germany) and export customers Austria and Saudi Arabia. This makes Premium AEROTEC GmbH, with over 6,000 employees and 2009 revenues of EUR 1.1 billion, the largest supplier of structures for the Eurofighter. The company has production plants in Augsburg, Bremen, Nordenham and Varel in Germany; and in Ghimbav, Brasov County, Romania. Premium AEROTEC | EADS Cassidian.

Jan 25/11: Eurofighter GmbH’s CEO sees 2011 as a pivotal year, in order to avoid the end of production in 2015. India’s M-MRCA competition, and hopes of a Tranche 3B from its consortium countries, are the key underpinnings.

Britain has been very clear that there will be no Tranche 3B buy there, and the austerity programs underway (voluntarily or otherwise) in Germany, Italy, and Spain make a Tranche 3B buy extremely unlikely.

100k milestone @ Moron
(click to view full)

Jan 25/11: Eurofighter GmbH announces that the multinational operational fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons in service since the second half of 2003 achieved 100,000 flying hours in January 2011.

As aircraft are delivered and air forces declared their Typhoons to be operational, usage has accelerated. The first 5,000 flying hours was achieved by November 2005, and 10,000 hours was reached in August 2006. May 2007 included the 20,000 hour milestone, and by August 2008 the Typhoon had surpassed 50,000 hours. According to the firm, global operational fleets currently have more than 260 aircraft in service, with 6 squadrons in the UK (4 in Coningsby, 1 in Leuchars and 1 in Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands); 4 squadrons in Italy (2 in Grosseto and 2 in Gioia del Colle); 3 squadrons in Germany (Laage, Neuburg and Nörvenich), as well as 1 each in Spain, Austria and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

At present, all 148 Tranche 1 aircraft have been delivered, and Tranche 2 production is in full swing.

100,000 fleet flight hours

Jan 4/11: HMD. BAE announces that its “Helmet Mounted Symbology System” (HMSS) is scheduled to enter service with the RAF in 2011, giving Britain’s Eurofighters the same helmet mounted sighting capability already enjoyed by pilots of competing aircraft, via systems like the Israeli/American JHMCS.

The HMSS does add some advanced wrinkles. A Eurofighter pilot can now look at multiple targets, lock-on to them, and prioritize them by voice-command. This will work even for targets over the shoulder, or targets picked up by the radar but located underneath the aircraft.

HMD at last

2009 – 2010

EUR 9 billion Tranche 3A deal; Tranche 3A sub-system contracts; Tranche 3B offer on table; Private work toward a “CAPTOR-E” AESA radar.

(click to view full)

Oct 5/10: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo announces a EUR 242 million (about $333.5 million) contract for 88 Captor-M mechanically scanned phased array radars, as part of the Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3A buy. Deliveries would begin in 2012.

The CAPTOR-M is the Eurofighter’ standard radar. Contracts are in progress to develop and field new CAPTOR-E Active Electronically Scanned Array radars for future buys or retrofits, vid. the July 20/10 entry. SELEX Galileo [PDF] | Defense News.

Sept 7/10: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo announces [PDF] a EUR 400 million sub-contract from BAE Systems, to supply Tranche 3A fighters with the Praetorian Defensive Aids Sub System (DASS), delivered to the same standard as the Tranche 2 fighters. SELEX Galileo leads the EuroDASS Consortium of Elettronica, Indra Sistemas, EADS and SELEX Galileo, which shares the production of more than 20 major Line Replaceable Items (LRIs) that make up the system. First deliveries are expected in mid-2012.

The Praetorian DASS includes Electronic Support Measures (ESM) to find hostile radars, active Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) to confuse them, and Missile Approach Warning (MAW) systems, tied into an array of defensive subsystems that include chaff, flares, and towed decoy options.

Aug 19/10: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman announces a contract from EADS Military Air Systems business unit to deliver 88 inertial measurement units (IMU) for Tranche 3A of the Eurofighter Typhoon. The IMU system is the sole sensor which measures the motion of the aircraft and continuously provides motion data to the flight control computer. In a secondary function, the IMU provides backup navigation data.

The IMUs, which provide motion data for the aircraft, will be built by the company’s German navigation systems subsidiary, Northrop Grumman LITEF, which also provided IMUs for Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 of the aircraft. More than 400 Northrop Grumman LITEF IMUs have been delivered and are already in service on Eurofighters in Germany, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Austria and Saudi Arabia

July 20/10: AESA. Eurofighter GmbH and Euroradar announce that they have begun full scale development of an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to serve in the Eurofighter, with a target in-service date of 2015. The Eurofighter/Euroradar groups have been conducting preliminary AESA development and flight testing since 2007, and Selex Galileo is already working towards integrating an AESA array with the UK’s Eurofighter (vid. Feb 19/10 entry).

Full-scale development of a CAPTOR AESA successor is a new step that could become a factor in Tranche 3B discussions, or later 3A upgrades. Still, SELEX Galileo CEO Steve Mogford says move represents a standalone offer, and is not linked to the proposed Tranche 3B production phase. The Euroradar consortium has reportedly proposed retaining as much “back-end” CAPTOR equipment as possible, as part of delivering the proposed E-Captor AESA system. The consortium also plans to make CAPTOR-E a mechanically scanned AESA radar, rather than mounting it in a fixed position as American fighters have done. This will expand the AESA radar’s slightly narrower cone, and also make it easier for the aircraft to use “launch and break away” tactics against aerial opponents that are beyond visual range. Eurofighter GmbH | Flight International | Microwave Journal.

June 9/10: Tranche 3B offer. At the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, Reuters relays word from a Eurofighter GmbH spokesman that it has submitted a Tranche 3B offer to the partner nations for 124 more Eurofighters, finishing the planned Tranche 3. Defense industry sources at the Berlin Air Show said the offer was around EUR 10 billion.

To date, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain have so far taken delivery of a combined 222 Eurofighter Typhoons, out of 473 ordered. Eurofighter says a production decision is needed within a year, in order to avoid the beginning of a supplier shutdown and a production gap. The member countries will face a choice between declining defense budgets, versus the likely need to pay some cancellation costs if there is no Tranche 3B.

Feb 19/10: Finmeccanica subsidiary SELEX Galileo announces [PDF] a GBP 19 million contract from Britain’s defense ministry to install a first of type, multi-function, wide field of regard AESA radar on a British Eurofighter as a technology demonstration program.

The AESA TDP will focus on Day/Night All Weather targeting, high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), air to air targeting, and communications. It’s designed to raise the technology readiness levels of the enabling hardware, de-risk the capability and demonstrate maturity of concept. Following ground and antenna range testing, the radar is planned to fly on a Royal Air Force Typhoon around 2013.

Future weapons array?
(click to view full)

July 31/09: NETMA (NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency), Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH and EUROJET Turbo GmbH signed the Tranche 3A contract, a EUR 9 billion (about $12.96 billion) order for 112 aircraft and 241 EJ200 engines (224 engines to equip 112 planes, plus 17 spares). This new contract also sets the baseline for subsequent support contracts.

BAE cites a work value of GBP 2 billion (EUR 2.35 billion), Finmeccanica cites EUR 3 billion worth of work from Tranche 3A, divided between subsidiaries in Italy (EUR 1.6 billion) and the UK (EUR 1.4 billion). Rolls Royce values its 37% share in the EUROJET order at GBP 300 million (EUR 352 million). The EJ200 includes advanced integrated Health Monitoring, and is already supported by availability-based contracting terms. Eurofighter GmbH | UK MoD | BAE Systems | EADS | Finmeccanica | Rolls Royce | BBC | Deutsche Welle | Financial Times | Hamburg Local | Reuters says last buy for Britain | London Telegraph | Times Online | UPI Asia.

Tranche 3A

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USMC Completes Instant Eye UAV Training | Textron’s G-CLAW Achieves Results in Testing | India’s DRDO Busily Making Deals & Collaborations

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 23:58

  • Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet Block 3 proposal will focus on adding firepower and an increased ability to network with other carrier-borne aircraft, such as the F-35C, in the US Navy. The new plan moves away from the company’s 2013 Advanced Super Hornet concept which focused on stealth, instead optimizing the Navy’s integrated network architecture. Under this proposal, Boeing believes the Navy could detail a plan to procure the Super Hornet Block 3 as soon as the fiscal 2018 budget proposal, and a fiscal 2019 buy would mean Boeing could have aircraft off the production line in the early 2020s.

  • The USMC has completed their training with Instant Eye, a new hand-held UAV designed to support reconnaissance missions in heavily clustered areas. Up to 300 marines from Task Force Southwest took part in the testing, and will now go on to train, advise and assist troops in Afghanistan later this spring. Unlike most UAVs, which require either a runway or throwing for launch, the Instant Eye’s rotary wings make it capable of taking off and landing at 90-degree angles, and it has been praised for its stealth and maneuverability.

  • Textron has announced that their G-CLAW precision-guided glide missile has been successfully tested. The October 2016 test saw the munition track and engage static and moving targets, confirming its lethality. Designed for anti-personnel and anti-materiel strikes, the missile can be integrated with various aircraft, including the company’s Cessna Caravan and Textron AirLand Scorpion jet. The company is currently participating in this year’s Aero India Expo.

Middle East & North Africa

  • Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) has awarded TUSAŞ Engine Industries (TEI) a contract to develop and manufacture a new indigenous turboshaft engine. The engine will be used in Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) new clean-sheet T-625 utility helicopter, as well as the TAI T-129 ATAK attack helicopter and TAI Hürkuş turboprop-powered trainer and light combat aircraft. At present, Ankara depends on foreign turboshaft designs, such as the General Electric T700, which require them to secure licenses and approval for exports.


  • A report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), claiming that the UK government failed to reach the NATO target to spend 2% of national income on defense, has been rejected by the government. The report stated that spending had fallen to 1.98% in 2016 as a result of the British economy growing faster than the defence budget. Also found in the report was that only Greece and Estonia spent 2% or more, with the UK falling short by about $471 million. A government spokesperson dismissed the figures as being “wrong.”

Asia Pacific

  • India’s Defense Minister has announced intentions to start a second production line for the HAL Tejas fighter within the next three months. Valued at $203.47 million, Manohar Parrikar said the line will produce 16 Tejas fighters for the Indian Air Force. News of the second production line points to the Indian government’s commitment to weaning itself from foreign defense products and encouraging indigenous industry, also known as “techno-nationalism.” This, however, hasn’t come without its problems after the Indian Navy rejected the navalized version of the Tejas for being too heavy.

  • India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has claimed to be close to a deal to sell their short range surface-to-air Akash missile to Vietnam. The sale would be the first of its kind between the two countries, following a steadily growing defensive relationship that has seen New Delhi already help the Vietnamese military with training and patrol vessels, as well as the granting of a $500 million credit line in order to buy defense equipment. A further deepening of ties manifested in the missile sale is expected to draw criticism from China, currently locked in a territorial dispute with Hanoi in the South China Sea, as well as their own border dispute with India.

  • A joint venture will be launched by MBDA Missile Systems and Larsen & Toubro in order to develop missile-based solutions for India’s armed forces. Called L&T MBDA Missile Systems Ltd, the venture will collaborate with the Defense Research and Development Organization to supply 5th-generation anti-tank guided missiles for coastal batteries and high-speed target drones. The partnership will see L&T own 51% of the joint venture’s shares, while MBDA will own the remaining 49% in accordance with the country’s regulations.

Today’s Video

  • 2015 flight tests of Textron’s G-CLAW:

Categories: News