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Military Purchasing News for Defense Procurement Managers and Contractors
Updated: 5 hours 1 min ago

Colombia considers second-hand Eurofighters | Raytheon completes SBD-II Lot 1 production | Martin Baker to provide ejector seats for Taiwanese AJT

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 04:00
Americas

  • According to a story originally reported in the Spanish-language news website, Defensa, the Colombian Air Force is currently evaluating a series of options that will boost its fighter-interceptor fleet capabilities. The main option involves procuring about a fighter wing’s worth of second-hand, Trance 2 standard Eurofighter Typhoons from Spain, equipped with the advanced Meteor missile. If the deal was to go ahead, Colombia would become the first operator of the Typhoon in the region, and the aircraft itself would be one of the most advanced fighters in South America, comparable only to the future Brazilian Saab JAS-39E/F fleet. Other (mostly second-hand) options being considered by Bogota include both Dassault Aviation’s Mirage 2000 and Rafale fighter, the American Lockheed-Martin F-16 and Boeing F/A-18, the Swedish Saab JAS-39 Gripen, and even the Russian Sukhoi Su-30.

  • Lot 1 production of the Small Diameter Bomb-II, an update to Boeing’s SDB-I, has been completed by Raytheon. The firm said it is producing SDB-II bombs at its facilities in Tucson, Ariz., and that the program is nearing completion of developmental testing. The US Air Force has also contracted Raytheon to produce Lots 2 and 3, and the munition is scheduled to be integrated on the F-35 and F/A-18E/F by the USAF and Navy, and Raytheon is expected to have it prepared for integration with the F-15E by the end of the year.

  • Lockheed Martin, in conjunction with a US Air Force B-1B bomber crew, fired two production-configuration Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM) simultaneously during a test at Point Mugu’s sea range. The two missiles were launched against multiple maritime targets and successfully met all primary test objectives, including target impact. The missile is based on the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, and employs advanced technologies that reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, network links and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments, allowing the LRASM to detect and destroy specific targets within groups of ships.

Middle East & Africa

  • Raytheon has been awarded a $302 million US Navy contract modification to produce and deliver 618 AGM-154 Block III C Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) air-to-ground missiles for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. First cleared to purchase the weapon in 2013, Saudi Arabia will also receive, containers, component parts, support equipment and engineering technical assistance in addition to the missiles. Just over one-third of the contract will be performed at Raytheon’s operation in Tucson, Ariz., with the rest completed in other locations in the United States, Wales and Scotland. Work is scheduled to be completed by June 2022.

  • Eurofighter partner companies are on track to start Typhoon fleet deliveries to Kuwait from 2019. According to the consortium, “Production activities have begun in order to comply with the contract and the Customer expectations,” adding that “activities to establish infrastructures in Kuwait to operate the aircraft are also proceeding according to the plans.” Italy’s Leonardo is lead partner in the sale, which calls for 28 Eurofighters, including six two-seat trainers, with all aircraft equipped with the consortium’s Captor-E active electronically scanned array radar, Lockheed Martin Sniper targeting pod, plus precision-guided weapons including MBDA’s Brimstone air-to-surface missile and Storm Shadow cruise missile. Detailing of the program’s status comes during the annual Gulf Defence & Aerospace exhibition in Kuwait, which ran from December 12-14.

Europe

  • BAE Systems announced Wednesday the completion of the first phase of flight trials of the MAGMA small scale unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Designed and tested in conjunction with the University of Manchester, the UAV will use a unique blown-air system to manoeuvre the aircraft and utilizes wing circulation control, which uses air from the aircraft engine and blows it supersonically through the trailing edge of the wing, to provide control for the aircraft and fluidic thrust vectoring for change of direction. It is hoped that this work will pave the way for future stealthier aircraft designs. BAE said additional technologies to improve the performance of the UAV are being explored in collaboration with the University of Arizona and NATO Science and Technology Organization.

Asia-Pacific

  • Having recently completed an upgrade program on Colombian Air Force Kfir fighters, an IAI official told IHS Janes that the company is in talks with the Sri Lankan government to upgrade and return to service its own five grounded Kfir fighters. While no further details on the negotiations have been given, IAI have been offering operators of the aircraft substantial upgrades such as 4.5 Generation avionics—making the Kfir’s capabilities comparable to the F-16 Block 52—as well as guaranteed maintenance support. Sri Lanka is currently looking to replace its ageing fleet of Israeli Kfirs and MiG-27s with a new generation of high technology aircraft to replenish Sri Lanka’s air defense capability. The current front runner is Pakistan with the JF-17 Thunder.

  • Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) has signed an agreement with Martin-Baker for the provision of ejection seats for AIDC’s advanced jet trainer (AJT). Signed in London, UK, on December 13, AIDC said in a statement that the “contract between AIDC and Martin-Baker facilitates cooperation opportunities and is a major milestone in the launch of AJT systems,” adding both “parties will work together, not only to achieve the goal of making the AJT program successful, but also to extend future collaboration in areas such as ejection seats, pilot personal equipment, parachutes”. No financial details on the agreement were given. AIDC have been commissioned by the Taiwanese government to design and built 66 AJTs, with the first prototype expected to begin flight trails in 2020. Delivery of the operational aircraft will start to replace Taiwan’s AT-3 trainer aircraft and F-5 jets from 2026.

Today’s Video

  • Lockheed Martin’s recent LRASM test:

 

Categories: News

Moving Target: Raytheon’s GBU-53 Small Diameter Bomb II

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 03:58

GBU-53/B, aka. SDB-II
(click to view full)

The 250 pound GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb gives American fighters the ability to carry more high-precision GPS-guided glide bombs, without sacrificing punching power against fortified targets. The initial award to Boeing was controversial, and the Darlene Druyun corruption scandal ultimately forced a re-compete of the Increment II development program. Whereas the initial GBU-39 SDB-I offered GPS-guided accuracy in a small and streamlined package, the goal of the GBU-53 SDB-II competition was a bomb that could hit moving targets in any weather, using a combination of guidance modes.

For the SDB-II competition, Boeing found itself allied with Lockheed Martin, its key opponent for the initial SDB-I contract. Its main competitor this time was Raytheon, whose SDB-II bid team found itself sharing its tri-mode seeker technology with a separate Boeing team, as they compete together for the tri-service JAGM missile award against… Lockheed Martin. So, is Raytheon’s win of the SDB-II competition also good news for its main competitor? It’s certainly good news for Raytheon, who wins a program that could be worth over $5 billion.

Raytheon’s GBU-53 Small Diameter Bomb

SDB-II: cutaway
(click to view full)

Raytheon’s GBU-53/B SDB-II is 7″ in diameter around the tri-mode (laser, IIR, radar) seeker, with a clamshell protective door that comes off when the bomb is dropped. A GPS receiver adds a 4th targeting mode. The bomb tapers to about 6″ diameter beyond the pop-out wings, and is about 69.5″ long. The wings remain swept back when deployed, and are about 66″ across with a 5 degree anhedral slope. The bomb weighs about 200 pounds, and all of these dimensions are important when trying to ensure that the US Marines’ F-35B, with its cut-down internal weapon bays, can still carry 4 of them per bay.

The US Navy is developing a Joint Miniature Munitions BRU to address internal F-35 carriage, and SDB-II also fits on BRU-61 external bomb racks. No word yet on whether the JMM BRU will also fit in the USAF’s F-22A, which is also slated to deploy this weapon.

Range is expected to be up to 40 nautical miles when launched at altitude, thanks to a high lift-to-drag ratio in the design. Since SDB-II is an unpowered glide bomb, its actual range will always depend on launching altitude and circumstances. An F-22A would be able to extend that range significantly by launching at supercruise speeds of Mach 1.5, for instance, as long as the bomb proves safe and stable at those launch speeds.

SDB-II’s Attack Modes: Seekers & Sequences

SDB-Is on F-15E
(click to view larger)

Once a target is picked by the pilot, initial communication and GPS coordinates are transmitted between the aircraft and the SDB-II bomb using the Universal Armament Interface (UAI) messaging protocol, which was designed to make integration of new weapons easier. The post-launch datalink will be Rockwell Collins’ TacNet, a 2-way, dual band link that enters the network quickly using encrypted UHF radio frequencies from the ground or secure Link-16 from the launching aircraft, and provides both weapon and target status to the shooter. TacNet’s datalink software is programmable if other frequencies/waveforms need to added in future, and Raytheon cites a message speed of 38 messages per minute as further evidence of the system’s ability to keep pace with future needs. Link-16 makes the weapon part of a much larger system, and gives SDB-II the ability to be dropped by one platform and then targeted or re-targeted by another. The bomb can also be sent an abort command, if necessary. If the link is lost, the bomb will continue with its mission, using its own on-board seekers.

Raytheon’s SDB-II contender uses a close precursor of the tri-mode seeker technology featured in the joint Raytheon/Boeing bid for the JAGM missile, which adds some refinements. The SDB-II uses jam-resistant GPS/INS targeting like Boeing’s GBU-39 SDB-I, but its added seeker features 3 modes of operation: semi-active laser, millimeter-wave radar, and uncooled imaging infrared. By combining these 3 modes, the GBU-53 can have excellent performance against a variety of target types, under any weather conditions, while making it much more difficult to use countermeasures or decoys successfully:

GBU-53 uses IIR/MMW
click for video

Semi-active laser guidance. This is standard for a wide range of missiles and rockets, and offers the best on-target accuracy and assurance, especially in urban environments. Its flip side is problematic performance through heavy fog, sandstorms, etc. That’s where GPS/INS guidance to a specified coordinate, and the next 2 fire-and-forget modes, come in.

Millimeter wave radar will operate through any weather. It’s especially good at distinguishing metal targets and noting movement, and is used in weapons like AGM-114 Hellfire Longbow missiles to give them “fire and forget” capability. These days, most people probably hear the term and think of airport scanners.

Imaging infrared (IIR) This was adapted from the much larger AGM-154 JSOW glide bomb, and uses high-resolution thermal scans to create a target picture. It also helps with target identification, and offers better performance against some kinds of targets like humans. By using an uncooled IIR seeker, the bomb lowers both its cost and its maintenance requirements. The uncooled seeker also allows snap-attacks against targets that present themselves quickly, since the it doesn’t need any time to cool down before it begins to work.

GBU-53 uses laser
click for video

Once launched, the SDB-II relies on a sophisticated package of internal computing and algorithms that are designed to get the most out of its tri-mode sensors, and make the process of launch and targeting as simple and flexible as possible for the pilot. The GPS/INS system or datalink messages guide the bomb toward the target during the initial search phase, while the tri-mode seeker gathers initial data. A revisit phase combines information from all of its sensor modes to classify targets. That’s especially useful because the SDB-II can be told to prioritize certain types of targets, for example by distinguishing between tracked and wheeled vehicles, or by giving laser “painted” targets priority.

SDB-II warhead test
(click to view full)

Different targets require different warhead types, which is why the GBU-53 contains a warhead from General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems that delivers shaped charge, blast and fragmentation effects all at once. A scored blast and fragmentation warhead makes it deadly against buildings and people as well.

This warhead was actually redesigned mid-way through the development phase, as the USAF added a requirement to destroy main battle tanks. That initial hardship became a positive experience, as the redesign actually ended up shrinking Team Raytheon’s bomb’s size, and improving its manufacturing costs.

SDB-II: The Program

As of 2013, the Boeing SDB-I/ GBU-39 Small Diameter Bob program was finished production at 12,300 weapons, and 2,000 BRU-61 bomb racks. Another 350 specialized Focused Lethality Munitions use carbon fiber bodies to deliver more near-field blast and less collateral damage; their last order was in FY 2012. Going forward, SDB-II is expected to be the default buy.

The overall program target for SDB-II is about 17,000 weapons over about 11 years: 12,000 bombs for the USAF, and 5,000 for the US Navy. Initial fielding will take place on USAF F-15E Strike Eagles, and F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, even though the USMC and US Navy’s F-35B/C Block 4s are technically the program’s 2nd “threshold aircraft. Software development issues are likely to push F-35 fielding to 2022 or later in practice. Planned candidates for future fielding include F-16, F-22A, and F-35A multi-role fighters; B-52, B-1B, and stealth B-2A bombers; and MQ-9 Reaper drones.

Special Operations Command is even considering it for their AC-130 gunships, though they aren’t an official “objective” platform just yet. SDB-II was also supposed to equip the USAF’s A-10C close support planes, but the Pentagon is battling Congress to cancel the program.

The GBU-53 may also feature integration with other fighters, if the bombs are sold abroad. Raytheon isn’t in discussions with any foreign buyers yet, and doesn’t foresee the US government releasing the weapon for export discussions and sales before Low-Rate Initial Production begins in late 2014.

SDB-II schedule, 2010
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The SDB II Program is currently a $450.8 million Fixed Price Incentive Firm-type Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract. F-15E integration is being accomplished by Boeing in St. Louis, MO through the F-15 Development Systems Program Office using Air Force SDB II funding. The F-35B and F-35C aircraft integration contract will be awarded to Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter JPO using Department of the Navy SDB II funding.

Elements of the SDB-II design have been tested, but putting the entire weapon together with its carrying aircraft and declaring the combination ready for fielding is still a development effort. Although many military development efforts are “cost-plus” (contractor’s costs plus an agreed percentage), the US military issued the SDB-II EMD Phase development contract as a fixed-price contract with incentives. The targeted flyaway cost per unit during Full Rate Production was $FY05 62-81k, but that doesn’t include amortized development costs; just the bomb, container, and shipping. Current Pentagon documents indicate that $FY19 100-125k per unit is likely.

Right now, the key challenge is making it through the development process successfully. The program is progressing well, but in FY 2011 it hit a funding shortfall from Congress that has crimped its progress. Past and projected budgets include:

Raytheon’s Industrial Approach

Before it won the SDB-II development contract in 2010, Raytheon had secured firm-fixed price quotes in for 90% of required materials from its suppliers, and conducted detailed planning for whole program that includes reservations for setbacks and project margins. These are necessary steps for any fixed-price development program, but this is a good illustration of the fact that it’s often the work done before contracts are signed that determines a program’s fate.

In terms of the industrial team, Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ will be the final assembly center, with key items and assemblies coming in from several supply-chain partners:

  • General Dynamics OTS: Fuze and dual-mode shaped charge blast/fragmentation warhead.
  • Klune Industries: Overbody.
  • Rockwell Collins: TacNet dual-band (Link-16, UHF), 2-way datalink.
  • Raytheon Dene at NAPI, NM: Aft section.
  • Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ: Tri-mode seeker.
  • The program also uses Goodrich and Cobham to make the bomb’s deployment mechanisms, and Celestica will be manufacturing circuit cards.

Raytheon executives said that they took a somewhat different supply-chain approach to the SDB-II, picking suppliers early and then working directly with them to improve productivity at every step. While Raytheon prototyped their final assembly line, and began using lean production techniques to reduce the amount of “touch labor” and improve productivity, they brought in suppliers to do the same thing. For instance, Celestica engineers were embedded with the team, in order to run their own producibility tools on circuit card designs and refine them to improve yield and costs. Rockwell Collins, who makes the datalink, did the same thing. This is not uncommon in general manufacturing, but defense manufacturing has traditionally been more stovepiped.

Within Raytheon itself, another key industrial choice involved the uncooled infrared seeker. As noted above, uncooled infrared has lower performance than cooled infrared designs, in exchange for snap-attack capability, better reliability, and lower production and maintenance costs. If Raytheon wanted to use this aproach, they would have to begin early, and take a risk. Their engineers worked to adapt the IIR seeker in their 2,000 pound AGM-154 JSOW as a starting point, and they did eventually produce a version that fit SDB-II, was cheaper to manufacture, and more than met government requirements.

Raytheon’s initial team during development will be about 300, but this is expected to drop below 50 for production phase – in part because Raytheon has already used lean techniques, and focused from the beginning on creating a design that was simpler to manufacture.

Minimum Sustaining Rate for production is just 30 weapons/ month, with normal production at 117 and maximum surge production rising to 250/ month. Projected American buys through FY 2019 never top 140/month, which should leave plenty of room for export orders.

Contracts and Key Events FY 2017

Cheaper than expected – but F-35 lateness could endanger that; F-35 is biggest risk; Phase 1 testing done; GAO Report.

The biggest risk
(click to view full)

December 15/17: Milestone Lot 1 production of the Small Diameter Bomb-II, an update to Boeing’s SDB-I, has been completed by Raytheon. The firm said it is producing SDB-II bombs at its facilities in Tucson, Ariz., and that the program is nearing completion of developmental testing. The US Air Force has also contracted Raytheon to produce Lots 2 and 3, and the munition is scheduled to be integrated on the F-35 and F/A-18E/F by the USAF and Navy, and Raytheon is expected to have it prepared for integration with the F-15E by the end of the year.

October 04/17: Australia has been cleared by the US State Department for the possible purchase of GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II weapons. Valued at an estimated $815 million, the foreign military sale will see 3,900 GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bombs and related equipment and services delivered to Canberra by manufacturer Raytheon. Extras include weapon load crew trainers, practical explosive ordinance disposal trainers, bomb containers, support, and ground crew test equipment. Transportation, warranties, repair and return, maintenance, publications, and technical documentation round out the package. The awarding agency, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), said the sale will compliment the ongoing sale of F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force.

October 02/17: Raytheon received a $450 million US Air Force contract for engineering changes and development of the Small Diameter Bomb II. Under the terms of the deal, the firm will conduct design, development, integration, test and production engineering for changes to the SDB. The munition is currently being integrated for use on the F-35 and F/A-18E/F by the USAF and Navy, and Raytheon is expected to have it prepared for integration with the F-15E by the end of the year. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., with an expected completion time set for Aug. 31, 2024.

July 26/17: The United States Air Force has awarded a $75 million contract to Raytheon to conduct technical work on the GBU-53 Small Diameter Bomb (SBD) II guided air-dropped weapon system. Work will be conducted at Tuscon, Ariz., and covers engineering, manufacturing development and production work for the SDB II. Completion time is expected by July 25, 2024. The all-weather munition is carried on USAF-operated F-15E, F/A-18E/F, and F-35B/C aircraft.

February 1/17: Raytheon has been contracted to deliver Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) to the USAF. While the exact value of the contract modification was undisclosed, the company received $62 million at the time of the award. The contract calls for the delivery of low-rate initial production for 312 SDB II Lot 3 munitions for the branch, and also includes 413 SBD Lot 3 single weapon containers, 20 weapon conversions for guided test vehicles, 20 production reliability incentive demonstration effort captive vehicles and training and maintenance services. SBDs are being integrated on a number of USAF and US Navy aircraft, and provide warfighters with the ability to engage their targets when faced with poor weather and other adverse conditions.

FY 2012 – 2014

Cheaper than expected – but F-35 lateness could endanger that; F-35 is biggest risk; Phase 1 testing done; GAO Report.

Oct 28/14: JMM. Raytheon Technical Services LLC in Indianapolis, IN a sole-source $35 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for F-35 integration of the Joint Miniature Munitions Bomb Rack Unit (JMM BRU), including integration and life cycle technical support throughout the technology development and engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD); and EMD F-15 flight test and production phases.

Work will be performed at Indianapolis, IN and is expected to be complete by Aug 31/21. USAF Life Cycle Management Center at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8672-15-D-0054).

June 26/14: Testing. Raytheon and the USAF have concluded a series of SDB-II GTV flight tests using the IIR/MMW seeker, culminating in direct hits on stationary land targets. Those can be harder to hit than moving targets, which naturally stand out more against fixed object ground clutter.

The GTVs are full GBU-53 rounds, but with telemetery in place of the warhead. Raytheon says that there have been other Guided Test Vehicle shots between October 2013 and this announcement, including moving target shots, as part of the testing program. Live-fire shots with full warheads are expected in August or September 2014. Sources: Raytheon, “Small Diameter Bomb II nears end of development phase”.

April 16/14: Exports. The Pentagon releases is next set of Selected Acquisition Reports, which includes a reference to exports:

“SDB II is a Defense Exportability Features (DEF) pilot program and meetings were held on January 15, 2014 with the DEF Program Office, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), Office of the Director, International Cooperation and Raytheon Missile Systems (RMS). The Program Office is working with RMS to incorporate a Phase II approach for implementing design changes to support exportability requirements. The Program Office briefed the Tri-Service Committee on January 16, 2014 and a favorable decision memorandum was received on February 4, 2014.”

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. Our program dashboard has been updated accordingly. SDB-II still has good looking cost figures and a stable design, with 11/12 sub-system (all but the seeker) passing qualification testing. Bad news? There are a couple of flaws that need to be fixed, and its schedule is out of margin.

The System Verification Review has slipped 7 months to August 2014, due in part to 2 test failures (cover stuck on seeker, navigation error). They’ve also found a leak in the warhead case, and seeker encoders that died under vibration testing. The seeker encoders have a fix ready by the time the GAO report closed, but not the case leak. Meanwhile, the program resumed testing again in October 2013, and the 3 tests since went well. They need 11 total successful flight tests to pass Milestone C into low-rate production, including 2 live fire events. It amounts to 7 successful flight tests remaining over 5 months.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget/ R&D. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The “flyaway” cost per SDB-II is expected to hover around $242,000 in FY 2014, but costs are expected to drop to around $125,000 by FY 2018. Totals are reflected in the chart above. The reports also call attention to the development of an new internal bomb rack for the Navy, which is considered to be part of the program’s overall R&D:

“The Joint Miniature Munitions Bomb Rack Unit (JMM BRU) is an Air Force (AF) led ACAT III program. It is required for the Department of the Navy’s (DoN) carriage of the SDB II weapon in the internal bay of the F-35B and F-35C…. The BRU-61/A, currently in production in the AF, does not meet the needs to operate with SDB II within the F-35 internal bay in the DoN environment. The JMM BRU, designated BRU-61A/A, fills the capability gap….”

No US Navy buy totals are given in the detailed budget justifications, but the Budget Briefing contains the expected figures for FY 2017 – 2019; which indicates that the USN will be buying SDB-II at the USAF’s flyaway cost. This USAF budget justification excerpt is also relevant:

“As a result of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) (F-35) programs restructure, SDB II integration was moved from the JSF Operational Flight Plan (OFP) Block 3 to Block 4. IOC is FY2020.”

The program office hasn’t officially changed the date, in other words. F-35 OFP Block 3F operating software might be ready by 2020, but the Norwegians have been told to plan for 2022 – 2024 as the window for actual fielding of F-35s with operational Block 4 software, and hence Kongsberg’s new JSM anti-ship missile.

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The SDB-II is included in passing:

“This project addresses the inaccuracies in engineering models to predict sympathetic detonation of solid rocket propellant when subjected to non?reactive fragments and shaped charge threats. The Air Force 780th Test Squadron tested the ability of the small diameter bomb [DID: SDB-II in the labeled picture] warhead to detonate 122 mm rocket motors. The test results were compared with predictions from Sandia National Laboratories’ Combined Hydro and Radiation Transport Diffusion Hydrocode by Applied Research Associates. Analysis is ongoing, and is expected to enable further development of concepts and methodologies for enhanced vulnerability, lethality, and survivability in the area of insensitive munitions and non-reactive materials.”

Oct 29/13: Testing resumes. Raytheon announces that the USAF has concluded its series of test flights with the SDB-II GTV, using the bomb’s Imaging Infrared and Milimeter-Wave Radar guidance and culminating in “direct hits on targets moving at operationally representative speeds.” Next? System Verification Review and a Milestone C decision, which is behind schedule.

This is actually the 1st set of tests following a 6-month testing moratorium, which was prompted by seeker cover and navigation failures in previous tests. The firm says that the USAF has invested over $700 million in the program so far. Sources: Raytheon, Oct 29/13 release.

March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. Overall, SDB-II is a stable design with maturing technologies. It successfully completed a test in its most difficult Immediate Attack sub-mode, but another test failed when the front sensor’s protective dome cover refused to come off.

They’re working on that urgently, as more delays to the Milestone C/ LRIP (Low-Rate Initial Production) decision risk re-negotiation of the Pentagon’s LRIP-1 through LRIP-5 production contract years. If so, it would raise costs that had come in substantially under budget. Meanwhile, Raytheon will build 50 GTV bombs for testing and live fire before beginning Low-Rate Initial Production, which is expected to involve a whopping 40% of planned GBU-53 lifetime orders (math says about 6,800 bombs).

Unfortunately, SDB-II/ GBU-53 has been affected by the F-35’s lateness, which has forced postponement of SDB-II’s Full Rate Production decision by another 2 years, to 2020. The GPS-only SDB-I will now integrated with the F-35 2 years ahead of the SDB-II, and so will other weapons with more sensitive thermal and vibration requirements. That will help the Pentagon discover whether the F-35s conform to their design documents, or whether weapon changes will be required in several weapon types including the GBU-53. Meanwhile, SDB-II will deploy aboard the F-15E.

Jan 22/13: Testing. Raytheon touts a successful fit check of the GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II in the F-35A, with 4 GBU-53s loaded alongside an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. Essentially, the 4 SDB-IIs replace one 2,000 pound JDAM.

The weapons seemed to have adequate space, though flight testing will be needed to be sure. The F-35B will be a more challenging test, because its internal bay is smaller.

July 17/12: Testing. An F-15E Strike Eagle flying over White Sands Missile Range, NM launches a GBU-53/B, which successfully engages and hits a moving target using its tri-mode seeker’s IIR and radar sensors. Raytheon.

March 30/12: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012, which include the GBU-53. Overall, the GAO sees good progress, with 97% of design drawings releasable by the 2011 Critical Design Review, and serious efforts to achieve manufacturing maturity before production. As with any early stage EMD program, however, risks remain. The biggest may be Congressional management of weapons procurement:

“A postdesign review identified several risks related to weapon effectiveness verification, target classification, seeker reliability, and JSF [F-35B/C Block 4] integration. The program office is working to address each of these risks… However, the program’s biggest risk – integration with the JSF – will not be resolved until after [low-rate initial] production begins… The SDB II program office is managing a $53 million funding shortfall in fiscal year 2011, which could have programmatic and contractual implications. The SDB II contract is an incrementally funded, fixed-price incentive contract, and program officials stated that the funding shortfall could mean that the next part of the work will have to be deferred or the contract will need to be renegotiated or terminated.”

March 30/12: SAR shows success. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 31/11 includes the SDB-II, and validates many of Raytheon’s releases:

“Small Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II) – Program costs decreased $994.1 million (-19.1%) from $5,206.6 million to $4,212.5 million, due primarily to a decrease in the estimate to reflect actual contract pricing (-$994.3 million).”

That’s 23.6% less than the baseline estimate, a very impressive achievement for any weapons program.

Good contract

Nov 16/11: Testing. Raytheon says that things are going very well for the SDB-II’s warhead, and the entire program is on cost and ahead of schedule:

“After building the test warheads on the production line, engineers put the warheads through an accelerated conditioning regime equivalent to 500 flight hours and 20 years of aging in a bunker, followed by live detonation testing… [It] performed at twice what was required…”

Nov 8/11: Industrial. Raytheon announces that its engineers have used design changes and other improvement approaches to cut the time for building SDB-II uncooled tri-mode seekers almost in half, from more than 75 hours to 40 hours. This is part of Raytheon’s efforts to meet their promised prices.

FY 2010 – 2011

Raytheon wins; Program baseline set; Early industrial work & tests.

SDB-II test pod
(click to view larger)

Aug 16/11: Industrial. Raytheon announces that they’ve built their 5th GBU-53 tri-mode seeker in its new automated factory, which is dedicated to tri-mode seekers. That specialization may be helpful to other programs as well. Tom White, Raytheon’s SDB II program director, says that:

“Building integrated tri-mode seekers is much more complicated than just putting together three unrelated sensors, and our fifth build proves Raytheon is the only company with the technical expertise to manufacture [them]… We’re meeting predicted component build times, and as we continue to mature the program, we will find other efficiencies and cost savings we will pass on to the customer.”

Aug 8/11: Testing. Raytheon says that a series of laboratory tests on the SDB-II’s tri-mode seeker “demonstrated that it exceeds anticipated performance parameters.” Good job.

July 28/11: Support. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a maximum $70 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide Small Diameter Bomb II technical support. The AAC/EBMK at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages the contracts (FA8672-11-D-0107).

April 4/11: CDR. Raytheon announces that the SDB II program completed a USAF critical design review (CDR), clearing the way for the weapon to begin captive flight testing later in 2011.

CDR

Nov 15/10: SAR Baseline. The Pentagon releases its Selected Acquisition Report for the September 2010 reporting period. With respect to SDB-II, the total expected program cost is listed as $5.21 billion, if it continues through planned production:

“This was the initial SAR following Milestone B approval authorizing the program to enter the engineering manufacturing and development (EMD) phase in August 2010. The EMD phase contract was awarded to Raytheon Missile Systems for $450.8 million. [The gating decision for] Low Rate Initial Production (Milestone C) is planned for August 2013.”

Program baseline

Nov 2/10: Sub-contractors. Rockwell Collins announces what Raytheon had already confirmed: its TacNet datalink will be part of the GBU-53.

Rockwell Collins’ TacNet data link system is a small form factor, dual-channel, 2 waveform terminal that enables in-flight target updates, retargeting, weapon handover coordination, bomb hit assessments and better cooperation with other networked platforms.

Aug 9/10: Contract. Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $450.8 million contract to cover the GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II program’s engineering and manufacturing development phase. Delivery is expected to begin in 2013, with a required availability date in late 2014.

At first, the SDB-II will be integrated on the USAF’s F-15E Strike Eagles, the US Marines’ F-35B, and the US Navy’s F-35C aircraft. The F-35Bs should just be entering service by 2013, but the F-35Cs aren’t expected to enter service until after SDB-II deliveries begin. Raytheon Missile Systems president says that their design “fully meets the load-out requirements for all versions of the fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s internal weapon bays.” SDB-II integration is also expected to extend to other USAF and US Navy aircraft and UAVs over time. At this time, $23.5 million has been committed by the Miniature Munitions AAC/EBMK at Eglin AFB, FL (FA8672-10-C-0002).

During the fly-off’s technical demonstration program, Raytheon had to prove that its compact tri-mode seeker could seamlessly transition between guidance modes, and demonstrate claimed performance and reliability. Raytheon says that their GBU/53-B seeker flew 26 missions in 21 days, without a single hardware failure. Raytheon.

Raytheon wins EMD Phase

FY 2009 and Earlier

Protest derails; New early-phase awards; Big design changes.

SDB-I: separated.
(click to view full)

2008: Design shifts. Mid way through the 38-month risk reduction program, Team Raytheon is faced with challenges on 2 fronts. One challenge was the need to carry 8 SDB-II bombs in the cut-down internal bomb bay of the F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) fighter. That meant the weapon had to become shorter, always a challenge when space is at a premium. The second challenge came from the USAF, which wanted a weapon that could disable main battle tanks. That meant the blast & fragmentation warhead the team had begun with wasn’t going to work.

In response, GD OTS started work on an innovative ‘multi-effects’ warhead. It would use a shaped charge plasma jet to kill tanks, and a scored case design improved fragmentation effects to the point that USAF engineers reportedly dubbed it “the shredder.” Meanwhile, seeker electronics had to be repackaged in a way that provided a clear path for the plasma jet. As it happens, the warhead and seeker changes allowed the bomb to become shorter, and the seeker changes made it easier and cheaper to manufacture. Raytheon would go on to win the competition. Aviation Week.

April 17/06: Contracts. The Headquarters Air-To-Ground Munitions Systems Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, FL awards 2 cost-plus fixed-fee R&D contracts under the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) Increment II, 42-month Risk Reduction Phase. The purpose of the Risk Reduction phase is to define and validate a system concept that meets the performance requirements outlined in the SDB II System Performance Specification. Successful tests with modified JDAM recently, and weapons like Israel’s Spice GPS/INS/EO “scene-matching” bombs, strongly indicate that success is possible. Solicitations began December 2005, negotiations were complete in March 2006, and work will be complete in October 2009. The 2 winners will be competing for selection in 42 months as the prime contractor for the SDB II program, which has a potential value of $1.3-1.7 billion.

Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, MO receives a $145.8 million contract (FA8681-06-C-0151). This is actually a Boeing/Lockheed venture as of October 2005; prime contractor Boeing will supply the weapon and data link system, while principal supplier Lockheed Martin provides the multi-mode seeker that lets it hit moving targets. That leaves Boeing’s original Small Diameter Bomb partner, Northrop-Grumman, out in the cold.

Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ received its own $145.8 million contract (FA8681-06-C-0152), and is competing on its own.

Risk Reduction Phase

Feb 18/05: GAO protest. The Congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustains Lockheed Martin’s protest. It finds that Darlene Druyun had played a role in the bid process that led to changes in the bomb’s technical requirements, and the deletion of related evaluation criteria. The GAO recommends a re-opened competitive procurement for the program’s $1.7 billion second phase, which had previously been awarded to Boeing and Northrop-Grumman along with SDB-I.

In September 2005, the USAF decided to re-open the Small Diameter Bomb Increment II competition. Increment II was originally awarded to Boeing and Northrop-Grumman as part of the overall SDB award.

Protest sustained

Additional Readings

DID thanks Raytheon Missile Systems, including SDB-II Deputy Program Director Murali Krishnan and Jeff White of Air Warfare Systems, for their assistance. Any errors are our own damn fault.

Categories: News

Canada wants “trusted partner” for CF-18 successor, Boeing on the outside | Draken Intl adds SA Cheetahs for Red Air | Ukraine to test new radar

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 04:00
Americas

  • A news conference held by the Canadian government on Tuesday made clear that Boeing would not be supplying them with 18 F/A-18 Super Hornets—they will instead buy second-hand from Australia in a deal worth $388 million—and warned the US airframer that it had little chance of winning a much larger contract unless it dropped a trade challenge against Canadian planemaker Bombardier. Ottawa announced last year it wanted to buy the Boeing fighters in order to fill a capability gap while it restarted a competition for 88 jets to replace its aging 77 CF-18s fighters, after it dropped out of procuring the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. In a clear reference to Boeing, Carla Qualtrough, public works and procurement minister, told the news conference that “bidders responsible for harming Canada’s economic interests will be at a distinct disadvantage” compared to other companies participating in the competition for the 88 jets. Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains added to the Boeing bashing by saying the government wanted a trusted partner—many in the government do not consider Boeing as such—prompting Boeing rival Lockheed Martin to issue a statement describing itself as “a trusted partner”. The saga continues.

  • Draken International announced the acquisition of 12 fighter aircraft from the South African Air Force’s (SAAF) inventory. A leading provider of advanced adversary air training to the US Department of Defense (DoD), the deal saw Draken acquire nine single-seat C-model and 3 twin-seat D-model Atlas Cheetah fighters—retired in 2008 and replaced by the SAAF with the JAS-39 Gripen, with some sold to Ecuador. In addition to the sale, Draken has also formed a partnership with the Cheetah’s manufacturer, Denel, that will include follow-on service support to help ensure performance reliability. Draken hope to have the Cheetahs operational by mid-2018, where they will then provide the USAF, USN, and USMC with an advanced radar-equipped supersonic platform to train against. Developed as a variant of the Mirage III, the Mach 2.2 Cheetahs are equipped with radars, radar warning receivers, and other advanced avionics. They also have an average of 500 hours on each airframe and are considerably younger than many of the F-16’s, F-15’s and F/A-18s they will challenge in the Red Air capacity.

  • The US Navy has awarded Bath Iron Works a $23.9 modified contract to provide engineering and technical services on Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers. US Navy shipbuilding and conversion funds from fiscal years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016 totaling more than $22.5 million has been obligated to the Maine-based firm and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The agreement is also a cost-reimbursement contract that potentially could provide Bath Iron Works with an award fee, based upon a later evaluation by the Pentagon. Work on the contract will mostly be split between Brunswick, Maine, and Bath, Maine, with some taking place in Washington, DC, and Pascagoula, Miss., and is expected to be completed by June 2018.

Middle East & Africa

  • Turkish and Russian officials are expected to finalize Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 Triumf air defense system in the coming week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. It is also believed that Russia will offer credit to Turkey in a partial financing of the system, with a Russian presidential aide telling the Interfax news agency that technical issues such as interest rates were being finalized by the Finance Ministry. The first of two S-400 systems will begin delivery in 2019, with options for a third. Turkey has also signed a deal with the Eurosam consortium to help develop an indigenous system that will actually be interoperable with NATO systems.

Europe

  • Leonardo will deliver eight additional twin-engine AW139 helicopters to Italy for public service and security operations within the country. Totalling nearly $132 million, two models will be delivered to the Italian Coast Guard in 2018 for use on search-and-rescue missions, while the remaining six will be delivered by 2020 and used by the Italian Customs and Border Protection Service (Guardia di Finanza) on patrol missions. Once delivered, both services will operate 14 AW139s each, with the total number of units ordered by Rome for publicservices now reaching 53.

  • Ukranian state-owned defense manufacturer Ukroboronprom has announced that the 80K6T air defense radar is ready for factory trials. The active phased array radar has a range of 500 km and altitude of 40 km, and will be primarily tasked with target destination and is integrated with all types of AA missile systems used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It can make 12 turns per minutes and updates data every five seconds. Kiev’s 80K6T development is part of an effort to both revitalize its defence industry and re-equip its national armed forces. The 80K6T aims to provide an analogous capability to the Saab Giraffe 4A, Hensoldt TRML-3D/32 and -4D and Thales Ground Master, among others. However, while the 80K6T has promising specifications, actual performance and reliability has yet to be tested. If available on the export market, the 80K6T can provide a capable non-Western solution, especially for Ukraine’s traditional client base.

Asia-Pacific

  • Two out of six upgraded F-16C fighters scheduled to fly from the US to Indonesia this week had to make a stopover in Guam due to engine trouble. The six aircraft—part of a deal that saw 24 F-16C/D aircraft upgraded with new avionics and weaponry for Jakarta—left the continental US on Monday with a scheduled stopover in Guam before moving on to Iswahjudi air base on Tuesday—where many of the aircraft will eventually be based. However, two of the aircraft didn’t make the second leg of the journey and are now undergoing repair work.

Today’s Video

  • Ukroboronprom’s 80K6T radar:

 

Categories: News

German MoD favor the Eurofighter, Luftwaffe the F-35 | Bulgaria orders MiG overhaul as replacement effort stalls | Second JF-17B begins flight tests

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 04:00
Americas

  • A report released Monday by the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General into the US Navy’s Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program has found that the service did not effectively develop and manage electronic warfare capabilities for upgrades to the AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare Suite. The mismanagement resulted in the waste of almost $2 million and lengthened the acquisition process by about two years with inadequate results. Managed by the Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems under Naval Sea Systems Command, the Inspector General found that Navy officials waived a step of the development process—details of which were redacted from the report—in order to stay on schedule instead of correcting problems before entering initial operational test and evaluation. This skipping resulted in additional costs of $1.8 million to conduct a second phase of initial operational test and evaluation on Block 2, delaying the acquisition schedule by almost two years. Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems said it will continue to work with the commander for operational test and evaluation force to close the remaining deficiencies, according to the declassified report.

  • L-3 Communications has been tapped to provide support services for the US Air Force’s (USAF) T-1A Jayhawk advanced trainer aircraft. The work order calls for contractor operated and maintained base supply of the Air Education and Training Command fleet of 178 T-1A trainer aircraft, with work to take place at the following USAF bases: Randolph Air Force Base, Texas; Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas; Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma; Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; and Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida. Scheduled completion is slated for December 31, 2022. Total value of the contract is $79.3 million, with a total of $1.5 being obligated at the time of the award.

  • The US Army has awarded Northrop Grumman a $750 million contract for life cycle services on the service’s Special Electronic Mission Aircraft fleet. 75 fixed-wing airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes will be covered under the agreement, including RC-12X Guardrail, the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System and Airborne Reconnaissance Low variants. The period of performance is one year, with eight one-year options, and work to be carried out includes program management, systems engineering and modification, supply chain management, and aircraft modifications and elective upgrades. King Aerospace, Inc. and M1 Support Service will also participate in work under the contract.

Middle East & Africa

  • Diesel Engineering Inc will provide engines and transmission kits for Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Achzarit heavy armored personnel carriers (APC). Valued at $10.4 million, the US Navy contract includes one option, which if exercised, would potentially raise the overall total of the contract to more than $10.5 million. It also involves foreign military financing to the state of Israel. Work on the contract will occur in Detroit, Mich., and Prague, Czech Republic, and is expected to be completed by December 2019. Coming in two variants, the Achzarit Mk-2’s Detroit Diesel 8V92TA turbocharged diesel engine, offers 850-horsepower—up from the 650-horsepower found on the Achzarit Mk-1 engine—and is coupled with an upgraded Allison XTG-411-5 transmission. The new power pack can be installed without making any changes to the engine compartment or vehicle, and provides an output power of approximately 720bhp.

Europe

  • Bulgaria announced Monday that is has asked Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG to overhaul and maintain its 15 ageing MiG-29 fighter jets. The four-year deal is set to cost $49 million, and is integral to keeping the Soviet-era aircraft operational while Sofia decides a course of action over its MiG-29 replacement program. Sofia had initially set its sights on purchasing eight JAS-39 Gripen fighters from Saab, but the government that came into power earlier this year dismissed the previous interim government’s decision to select the Swedish fighter, instead favoring a new competition that will see the Gripen face off against second-hand F-16s from both the US and Portugal, and second-hand Eurofighter Typhoons from Italy. Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov has also indicated that Boeing may be asked for information about secondhand F-16s.

  • The German Defense Ministry has come out in favor of the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft as the replacement for its fleet of 85 Panavia Tornado jets. However, the decision contradicts an announcement by the Luftwaffe last month that hailed Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the best option to meet the service’s requirements of stealth and long-distance operational capabilities. News of the ministry’s preference came to light in a letter sent to a Greens lawmaker who had inquired about the deliberations, with the ministry listing the F-35, alongside Boeing’s F-15 and F-18 fighters as secondary options. Built by the Eurofighter consortium consisting of Britain’s BAE Systems, France’s Airbus, and Italy’s Leonardo, a Typhoon purchase by Berlin may come as a precursor to eventual Franco-German cooperation on a new European fighter effort, intentions on which were announced earlier this year. A decision on the Tornado’s replacement needs to be approved by parliament within the next two years and a contract signed by 2020 or 2021to ensure deliveries by 2025. However, no final decision is likely to be made before a new government is formed, which has remained undecided since elections in September left no party with a majority or workable coalition.

Asia-Pacific

  • India has put forward a new $1.87 billion procurement plan for 24 off the shelf naval helicopters, following a collapse in talks with Lockheed Martin over 16 Sikorsky S-70B naval helicopters, and an urgent capability require for such rotorcraft by the Indian Navy. Negotiations with Lockheed were terminated following the expiry of the price bid in March, and subsequently the tender was withdrawn in April, an MoD official said. An Indian Navy official added that the service asked the MoD in July to consider procuring the helicopters from the US under the Foreign Military Sales program, however, the request was turned down because Indian procurement procedures do not allow for single-supplier preference but instead prefer global competitions through which weapons or platforms are selected based on lowest price. New Delhi is also planning a major $7 billion procurement for 123 naval multi-role helicopters in the 9- to 12.5-ton categories, that will be manufactured by a domestic private company with technology transfer from an overseas helicopter original equipment manufacturer. The winning helicopter model will then be manufactured by a private Indian company—to be decided by a separate competition—in an Indian facility, despite the fact that no private Indian company has ever built a helicopter platform, having only supplied subsystems.

  • The second prototype of the JF-17 Thunder’s twin-seat variant—the JF-17B—is currently undergoing flight tests in China. A total of three JF-17B prototypes are in production after requests by potential third-party customers for a twin-seat variant that could be used for training and evaluation purposes. Two prototypes will go to the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). In addition to a tandem seat, the JF-17B incorporates several design changes to its single-seat counterpart, including a modified vertical stabilizer, dorsal spine (potentially for fuel to compensate for the space lost from the additional seat), enlarged nose and three-axis fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system.

Today’s Video

  • A look at earlier JF-17B flight tests :

 

 

Categories: News

The USA’s RC-12X Guardrail SIGINT Modernization

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 03:59

RC-12N Guardrail
(click to view full)

They’re derived from Hawker-Beechcraft’s popular King Air B200 twin-prop planes, and they look like a dog that just finished chasing a family of porcupines. Their specialty is intercepting enemy communications, and snooping on electronic emissions. At one time, these light “RC-12 Guardrail” aircraft were one of the 3 electronic eavesdropping and surveillance planes slated for replacement by the joint Army-Navy Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) jet, after many years of service in remote trouble spots and large-scale wars around the globe. Now, they’re getting a new lease on life.

The $8 billion ACS program’s suspension, “back to square one” delay, and joint status uncertainties, have turned the Guardrails into a critical asset that need to continue serving. That requires performance improvements and modernization of their electronics to match a quickly-evolving field. To that end, long-standing Guardrail fleet prime contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation has been asked to create the latest entry in the Guardrail family.

The RC-12X

Guardrails, 1971-2000

Click here to view full-size poster (JPEG, 386k).

The first RU-21 Guardrail aircraft were introduced in 1971, and the role has passed through a number of variants. The most common at present is the RC-12N Guardrail Common Sensor (System 1), delivered in 1992-93. A total of 15 were converted, and 1 was lost in an accident to leave a fleet of 14.

The 9 RC-12P Guardrail Common Sensor (System 2) planes have different mission equipment, including datalink capabilities, fiber optic cabling, and smaller and lighter wing pods. They entered service in 1998. The 3 derivative RC-12Q Direct Air Satellite Relay planes were modified in order to expand the other RC-12Ps’ ability to stay within communications coverage. Hence the notable dome on the top of those aircraft. They were delivered in 2000.

Under this contract, Northrop Grumman will continue upgrading and enhancing about half of this fleet of 27, bringing 14 Guardrail aircraft to the RC-12X version and extending their operational lives to 2025.

RC-12X Guardrail changes
(click to view full)

The new RC-12X will feature basic aircraft improvements, via a new glass cockpit and structural upgrades. Its core improvements, however, will involve sensors, electronics, and software.

Indeed, Northrop Grumman hopes to reduce the plane’s payload weight as it swaps in smaller, more powerful electronics. It happens to your computers; it happens to theirs, too. This extra space, and the ability of more advanced components to do “double duty” in some cases, will allow the program to address new threats and situations as they evolve.

Over the life of the program, the idea is to improve the Guardrail’s ability to process and exploit intercepted signals, while adding precision geo-location from a single aircraft (“Arrow”), “multi-INT” capability to perform more than 1 kind of intelligence gathering mission, upgraded situational awareness and communications by tying it into critical Army systems like DCGS, and improved overall systems performance. “Arrow” is touted as being especially important for reducing the time from signals interception to a strike on target, and the firm is also advertising the ability to find and track multiple high-value targets at the same time.

All aspects of the RC-12’s work are closely guarded, and even modern photos are rare. There are rumors that the RC-12X may contain parts of the Advanced Signals Intelligence Payload, originally developed for the U-2 spy plane and RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV.

Northrop Grumman says that the upgrades will be implemented in an incremental, evolutionary approach rather than a “big bang to standard configuration.” Despite this incremental approach, Northrop Grumman ultimately intends to provide a single standard RC-12 configuration for the entire fleet.

Contracts & Key Events

RC-12 Poster
(click to view full)

December 13/17: Contracts-Life Cycle Services The US Army has awarded Northrop Grumman a $750 million contract for life cycle services on the service’s Special Electronic Mission Aircraft fleet. 75 fixed-wing airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes will be covered under the agreement, including RC-12X Guardrail, the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System and Airborne Reconnaissance Low variants. The period of performance is one year, with eight one-year options, and work to be carried out includes program management, systems engineering and modification, supply chain management, and aircraft modifications and elective upgrades. King Aerospace, Inc. and M1 Support Service will also participate in work under the contract.

March 5/13: Spare me. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Chantilly, VA receives a 5-year, $49.3 million firm-fixed-price, sole-source, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for Guardrail Modernization System spare parts.

Given previous delivery schedule announcements, it’s likely that all 14 contracted RC-12X aircraft have been delivered.

Work will be performed in Virginia and California until March 5/18, using FY 2013 through FY 2017 Army Working Capital funds. The Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime ground at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD manages the contract (SPRBL1-13-D-0012).

July 12/12: Mission 1,000. Northrop Grumman announces that its RC-12X Guardrails recently completed their 1,000th mission since going into theater in 2011. That’s around 2 missions per day, every single day. So, yeah, they’re busy.

June 14-16/11: 40th Anniversary. The US Army and Northrop Grumman Corporation celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Guardrail System, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. With respect to the latest RC-12X, NGC says:

“The second two aircraft recently completed final outfitting and testing for operational deployment. An additional 10 RC-12X’s will be fielded in the 2011-2012 timeframe.”

Jan 8/11: The first 2 upgraded RC-12X planes leave the Northrop Grumman facility in Sacramento, CA, deploying to provide support in theater.

A Feb 8/11 NGC release states that the 2nd pair of aircraft are in the final stages of their cockpit upgrades, and will also be deploying to theater within the next month. Despite their deployment, these initial 4 systems will complete final outfitting and testing during Q1 2011 before receiving a “fully operational” designation. An additional 10 RC-12X’s will be fielded in the 2011-2012 timeframe, bringing the total modernized Guardrail fleet to 14 aircraft. See also Defense Tech.

Rollout and deployment

Jan 5/10: Testing. Northrop Grumman Corporation announces successful electromagnetic interference/electromagnetic compatibility (EMI/EMC) testing on the first modernized RC-12X Guardrail. EMI/EMC testing validates operation of the aircraft’s electronic systems in a large, electromagnetically shielded chamber. Various combinations of the avionics and sensor payload equipment are operated independently and simultaneously to identify potential sources of interference or compatibility issues that can effect operations. EMI/EMC testing is required before an airworthiness certificate can be issued. The firm adds that:

“This most recent test was one in a series of successful assessments before delivery to the Army, currently scheduled for summer 2010. Subsystem tests are underway in Northrop Grumman’s Systems Integration Labs (SILs) in Sacramento, Calif. Ground testing of communications links and basic system functionality begins this month, and flight testing is scheduled to begin in early 2010.”

See also: Flight International.

Sept 4/07: The Army Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors issues the 5 year indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contract, which has a 5-year option and a total potential value of $462 million. Under this contract, Northrop Grumman will continue upgrading and enhancing 14 Guardrail aircraft to the RC-12X version, extending their operational lives to 2025.

The PEO also awarded Northrop Grumman $25 million for the first 2 task orders, to cover signals intelligence sensor upgrades. NGC release.

RC-12X upgrade contract

Additional Readings

Categories: News

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

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 03:57

Indian Ka-28
(click to view larger)

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

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

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

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

Indian Sea King
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

Towed Sonar: Rolling in the Deep

Talwar Class
(click to view full)

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

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

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

Helicopters: Acquisition Programs

MH-92
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

AS565 Panther
(click to view full)

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

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

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

Modernized S-61
(click to view full)

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

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

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

NMRH/ IMRH Naval Helicopters: Contenders

Italian AW101
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NH90: TTH & NFH

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contracts & Key Events 2014 – 2017

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

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

December 13/17: New Plan-Off the ShelfIndia has put forward a new $1.87 billion procurement plan for 24 off the shelf naval helicopters, following a collapse in talks with Lockheed Martin over 16 Sikorsky S-70B naval helicopters, and an urgent capability require for such rotorcraft by the Indian Navy. Negotiations with Lockheed were terminated following the expiry of the price bid in March, and subsequently the tender was withdrawn in April, an MoD official said. An Indian Navy official added that the service asked the MoD in July to consider procuring the helicopters from the US under the Foreign Military Sales program, however, the request was turned down because Indian procurement procedures do not allow for single-supplier preference but instead prefer global competitions through which weapons or platforms are selected based on lowest price. New Delhi is also planning a major $7 billion procurement for 123 naval multi-role helicopters in the 9- to 12.5-ton categories, that will be manufactured by a domestic private company with technology transfer from an overseas helicopter original equipment manufacturer. The winning helicopter model will then be manufactured by a private Indian company—to be decided by a separate competition—in an Indian facility, despite the fact that no private Indian company has ever built a helicopter platform, having only supplied subsystems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NMRH winner

AW101 VVIP

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

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

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

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

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

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

NUh canceled and restarted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finmeccanica sanctions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Navy, CG buying more Dhruvs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2008 – 2013

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

Merlin & Type 23
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

India Strategic goes farther:

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

Other activities are also underway:

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

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

NUH RFP

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

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

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

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

ASW Helicopter Tender

Additional Readings

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

Current Helicopter Force & Issues

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Categories: News

USN Ship Protection: From “Slick 32s” to SEWIP

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 03:56

“Slick 32”
(click to view full)

The US Navy’s AN/SLQ-32 ECM (Electronic Countermeasures) system uses radar warning receivers, and in some cases active jamming, as the part of ships’ self-defense system. The “Slick 32s” provides warning of incoming attacks, and is integrated with the ships’ defenses to trigger Rapid Blooming Offboard Chaff (RBOC) and other decoys, which can fire either semi-automatically or on manual direction from a ship’s ECM operators.

The “Slick 32” variants are based on modular building blocks, and each variant is suited to a different type of ship. Most of these systems were designed in the 1970s, however, and are based on 1960s-era technology. Unfortunately, the SLQ-32 was notable for its failure when the USS Stark was hit by Iraqi Exocet missiles in 1987. The systems have been modernized somewhat, but in an era that features more and more supersonic ship-killing missiles, with better radars and advanced electronics, SLQ-32’s fundamental electronic hardware architecture is inadequate. Hence the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP).

SEWIP Blocks

“Slick 32” screen on
USS Iowa, 1984
(click to view full)

Overall, SEWIP is a $5.297 billion program, with spending ramping up sharply as of FY 2014.

Though SLQ-32 is a Raytheon system, SEWIP began in 2003 with General Dynamics as the lead integrator. Blocks 1A, 1B2, and 1B3 all use the improved control and display (ICAD) console, which is a GD-AIS upgrade based on the commonly used Lockheed Martin AN/ULQ-70 computing and display console.

SEWIP Block 1A adds the improved displays and a modern interface noted above, along with some hardware switchouts that add modern commercial-off-the-shelf hardware to drive the new display, and handle some signal processing (Electronic Surveillance Enhancements, or ESE).

SWEIP Block 1B1 made more changes to replace obsolete SLQ-32 electronics, some of which aren’t even manufactured any more, and improved the system’s ability to locate the source of incoming radar signals. SEWIP Block 1B1 provides a AN/SSX-1 stand-alone specific emitter identification (SEI) subsystem to ships with the active AN/SLQ-32(V) variant. For small ships, the Small Ship Electronic Support Measures System (SSESM) provides Specific Emitter Identification (SEI) capability in a stand-alone configuration.

SEWIP Block 1B2. For those ships which already have 1B1, this adds federated Specific Emitter Identification, and fully integrates SEI with Block 1A’s ICAD/Q-70 console.

SEWIP Block 1B3 adds additional display upgrades, and a High Gain High Sensitivity (HGHS) subsystem, to help ships deal with modern missiles that announce their presence less boldly and offer less warning time. It received its Milestone C/Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) go ahead in summer 2012, and is expected to hit Full Rate Production (FRP) in spring 2014.

SEWIP-2 concept
(click to view full)

Those low-cost, low-risk inserts deal with some of the SLQ-32 system’s issues, but not all. Over the longer term, the system’s fundamental receiver/emitter electronics need to be updated to modern technologies. Its software needs improvements that let ships take better advantage of the new hardware’s capabilities, make it easier to share SEWIP information with their own ship’s combat system, and allow sharing with other ships.

SEWIP Block 2 is described as an upgrade, but it’s more like a major home renovation. It replaces the old SLQ-32 receivers and antennas with modern digital technologies, adding new capability, flexibility, and signal processing muscle. Block 2 also modifies the software, creating a single, unified interface to the combat system in place of multiple interfaces to individual components of the combat system. This makes future upgrades simpler, and may also have the effect of improving performance. Lockheed Martin’s ICEWS materials touted under 200ms end-to-end latency, a low false alarm rate, and good high-pulse throughput for cluttered environments.

The Block 2 contract was awarded to a Lockheed Martin/ ITT partnership at the very end of FY 2009. June 2010 was the next key milestone, and a July 2010 contract continues development. The system passed its Critical Design Review in early 2011, and the partnership was scheduled to deliver 2 prototypes in 2012. This ACAT II program achieved Milestone C approval in January 2013, with approval to begin Low Rate Initial Production, and the contract was restructured to begin LRIP in March 2013. Contracts for production and installation are now underway.

SEWIP Block 3 and beyond could look very different. Block 3 looks to add improvements to SEWIP’s Electronic Attack (EA, or jamming) capability. The goal is a common EA capability to all surface combatants (CVN, CG, DDG, LHA) outfitted with the active V3/v4 variants of the AN/SLQ-32, mainly the (V)3 and (V)4, as well as “select new-construction platforms.” It builds on ESM improvements in Blocks 1 and 2, but isn’t expected to hit its Milestone C Low-Rate Initial Production approval until early 2017. Initial Operational Test & Evaluation isn’t scheduled until summer 2018.

A US Navy program called “Integrated Topside” aims to take all of the little bolt-ons and antennas used for communications, basic radar functions, and electronic warfare, and make them all part of 1 unified architecture. That could help improve ships’ anti-radar profiles, increase their communications bandwidth, and resolve electromagnetic interference and compatibility issues between different devices. New-generation AESA radars have already demonstrated communications and electronic jamming potential, and current research is focused on that technology as the way forward.

SEWIP Block 3T will provide “an initial interim capability of a focused application of the Naval Research Laboratory Transportable EW Module (TEWM) to meet an urgent operational needs statement.”

Contracts and Key Events FY 2015 – 2016

LM awarded $153.9M; NG awarded $91.7M

December 13/17: Report-Wasting of Funds A report released Monday by the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General into the US Navy’s Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program has found that the service did not effectively develop and manage electronic warfare capabilities for upgrades to the AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare Suite. The mismanagement resulted in the waste of almost $2 million and lengthened the acquisition process by about two years with inadequate results. Managed by the Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems under Naval Sea Systems Command, the Inspector General found that Navy officials waived a step of the development process—details of which were redacted from the report—in order to stay on schedule instead of correcting problems before entering initial operational test and evaluation. This skipping resulted in additional costs of $1.8 million to conduct a second phase of initial operational test and evaluation on Block 2, delaying the acquisition schedule by almost two years. Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems said it will continue to work with the commander for operational test and evaluation force to close the remaining deficiencies, according to the declassified report.

March 20/17: Lockheed Martin has won a $98 million US Navy contract to produce and deliver the service’s Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program systems. The modification covers work for the program’s Block 2 subsystems, which aim to expand upon the receiver and antenna groups necessary to support threat detection and improved system integration. Work will be completed by July 2019.

October 7/15: Northrop Grumman has been handed a $91.7 million contract modification for the SEWIP Block 3’s engineering and manufacturing development phase. The Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP)’s Block 3 increment is intended to provide a scalable electronic warfare and electronic attack capability, building on out-of-production AN/SLQ-32(V) electronic warfare systems. Block 2 is already in low rate initial production, following a $147.5 million contract to Lockheed Martin in September 2014.

July 13/15: Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $153.9 million contract modification to supply components for the out-of-production AN/SLQ-32(V) ship electronic warfare system as part of the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block 2 acquisition program. This follows a $147.5 million contract in September 2014 for SEWIP Block 2 low rate initial production and fielding, also awarded to Lockheed Martin. SEWIP Block 2 replaces the old SLQ-32 receivers and antennas with modern digital technologies and modifies the software, creating a single, unified interface to the combat system in place of multiple interfaces to individual components of the combat system.

FY 2013 – 2014

SEWIP 2 restructured to fixed-price components; LRIP orders for Block 1B3 and Block 2; EW simulator shortage could affect Block 2 testing.

Sept 11/14: Block 2. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Liverpool, NY receives a maximum $147.5 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed fee, and cost-type-letter contract for SEWIP Block 2 low rate initial production and fielding of 14 upgrade sets.

This would be the LRIP-2 order, with $76.75 million committed immediately from FY 2013 Navy shipbuilding and FY 2014 Navy RDT&E budgets. Options could increase LRIP-2 to $158.8 million. LRIP-1 involved 10 upgrade sets, and in July 2014, the Navy installed SEWIP Block 2 system on USS Bainbridge [DDG-96] for operational testing.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (69%); Lansdale, PA (19%); and Chelmsford, MA (12%), and is expected to be complete by September 2017. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1) – only one responsible source and no other suppliers or services will satisfy agency requirements. US Navy NAVSEA at Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024 14-C-5340). See also Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin Receives Additional Electronic Warfare Contract To Protect The Navy’s Fleet”.

Block 2: LRIP-2 order

Aug 18/14: Block 1B3. General Dynamics AIS in Fairfax, VA receives a not-to-exceed $19.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for 15 SEWIP Block 1B3 sets; FY 2014 orders are still Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) units, instead of hitting Full Rate Production as expected. $8.1 million is committed immediately, using US Navy FY 2011, 2013, and 2014 budget lines.

Work will be performed in Pittsfield, MA (50%): Fairfax, VA (18%); Thousand Oaks, CA (17%); and San Diego, CA (15%), and is expected to be complete by September 2016. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1) and FAR 6.302-1 by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-14-C-5341).

Block 1B3, FY 2014

Jan 14/14: Block 2. Lockheed Martin has been doing land based testing of SEWIP Block 2 since the January 2014 Milestone C decision, and they have now completed shore-based tests of full system operation in multiple scenarios.

Work on the SEWIP program is performed at the company’s Syracuse, N.Y. facility, which houses a new electronic warfare system test facility. Low-rate production is underway, and the program’s next steps involve ship installation, via upgrades of existing AN/SLQ-32(V)2 systems. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Lockheed Martin Completes Critical Milestone To Upgrade The Navy’s Electronic Warfare Defenses”.

May 31/13: Block 1B3. General Dynamics, Advanced Information Systems in Fairfax, VA receives a $15 million contract modification to previously awarded contract for 9 high-gain, high-sensitivity antenna systems in support of SEWIP Block 1B3 low-rate initial production requirements. The new antennas give SEWIP the ability to detect and identify additional enemies.

Work will be performed in Fairfax, VA, and is expected to be complete by March 2015. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 and 2013 funds. The Naval Sea Systems Command is the contracting activity (N00024-09-C-5396).

Block 1B3 into production

May 29/13: Block 2, LRIP-1. Lockheed Martin in Liverpool, NY receives a $39.1 million firm-fixed-price option for SEWIP Block 2 System low-rate initial production units. Lockheed Martin had originally announced it as a $57 million contract (vid. March 26/13), but if this is the same production year, the LRIP Lot 1 total appears to be $70 million instead.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (68%), and in Lansdale, PA (32%), and is expected to be complete by September 2014. All funding is committed immediately by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-09-C-5300).

April 29/13: Block 1B3. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems announces a $15 million contract modification to continue SEWIP Block 1B3 development and production.

Since 2003, GD-AIS has partnered with the Navy on the continued evolution of SEWIP through Blocks 1A, 1B1, 1B2 and now 1B3 as the systems integrator. For the 1B3 system, Lockheed Martin MST is supporting GD-AIS as a major subcontractor. Sources: GD-AIS, “General Dynamics Awarded $15 Million to Continue Work on U.S. Navy’s Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program”.

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.

This budget is an important inflection point for SEWIP, as critical production approvals are now in place. The procurement budget request jumps from $92.3 million in FY 2013 to $203.4 million, and is set to increase further in the coming years, reaching $372.1 million in FY 2018. The overall procurement program is $5.297 billion.

March 26/13: Block 2, LRIP-1. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Liverpool, NY receives a $30.6 million contract modification, exercising firm-fixed-price options for low-rate initial production SEWIP Block 2 units.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (68%), and Lansdale, PA (32%), and is expected to be complete by September 2014. All funding is committed immediately, and will be managed by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-09-C-5300). See also Lockheed Martin, who values it at $57 million, but subsequent orders (q.v. May 29/13) appear to sum to $70 million instead.

March 22/13: Lockheed Martin Corp. in Liverpool, NY received a $27.4 million modification and restructuring of the SEWIP Block 2 contract. The restructuring converts fixed-price with incentive-options for Block 2’s System long-lead time pre-production material to firm-fixed-price options. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY, and is expected to be complete by March 2014. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-5300).

Block 2 contract restructured, 1st LRIP order

Jan 17/13: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). SEWIP Block 2 is included only in passing:

“At present, there exists only one each of the Kappa, Uniform, and Gamma EW simulators. These simulators are flown on Lear Jets against shipboard EW systems. SEWIP Block 2 is the latest EW system under development. Two of these simulators are needed (one for each Lear Jet) so that threat-realistic stream raid profiles can be used to adequately test the SEWIP Block 2 in FY14. An estimated development/procurement cost is $5 Million.”

FY 2011 – 2012

Block 1B1 and 1B2 production; Block 2 full SDD contract and CDR; Budget documents provide some updates; Vendors thinking about Block 3.

Aug 1/12: Block 3. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon demonstrate their proposed SEWIP 3 solution during the multinational Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) maritime exercise near Hawaii. It went to sea aboard Lockheed Martin’s mobile Integrated Common Electronic Warfare System (ICEWS) test bed. Lockheed Martin.

Feb 13/12: The USA’s FY 2013 budget documents include documents that don’t break SEWIP spending out specifically, but do discuss some past SEWIP activities and future plans, as part of a larger suite of research:

“[2011] Continued the Enhanced Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Transmitter FNC effort by starting system architecture design and Low Voltage Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) High Power Amplifier (HPA) Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit (MMIC) purchases. This effort develops affordable and reliable solid state transmitter technologies to engage anti-ship cruise and ballistic missile RF seekers.

[2013] Complete Enhanced SEWIP Transmitter – Conduct a final test of the enhanced Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) transmit array in the anechoic chamber…. Complete Enhanced Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Transmitter – Demonstrate full enhanced SEWIP array performance in a relevant field environment.”

Jan 31/12: Block 3. Lockheed Martin (SEWIP Block 2) and Raytheon (original SLQ-32) announce that they’re teaming to compete for SEWIP Block 3, whose details aren’t clear yet. Lockheed Martin | Model of their proposed solution [JPG graphic, 2.3 MB].

July 18/11: Block 1. General Dynamics Advance Information Systems (GD-AIS), Inc.in Fairfax, VA receives cost-plus-fixed fee job orders estimated at $9.9 million to continue systems engineering and system software/firmware support for SEWIP Blocks 1A, 1B1, 1B2, and 1B3.

Work will be performed in Fairfax, VA, and is expected to be complete by January 2015. The basic ordering agreement was not competitively procured because the US Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, IN determined there was only one responsible source, and no other suppliers will satisfy the agency requirements (N00164-11-G-PM04).

March 16/11: FY 2011 Block 1. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Fairfax, VA receives a $7 million contract modification, exercising firm-fixed-price options for FY 2011 SEWIP Block 1B1 and 1B2 full-rate production and spares.

Work will be performed in Fairfax, VA, and is expected to be complete by July 2012. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-5396).

March 15/11: Block 2. Lockheed Martin announces a successful critical design review (CDR) for SEWIP Block 2. Lockheed Martin’s SEWIP program director, Joe Ottaviano, notes that the CDR’s success serves as the contractual go-ahead to produce 2 system prototypes by 2012.

Block 2 CDR

FY 2010 – 2011

Block 1B3 development; Block 2 development contract & PDR.

Aug 11/10: Testing. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Tewksbury, MaA receives a $36.1 million contract modification (N00024-05-C-5346) for mission systems equipment (MSE) that will be used on the US Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship, in support of the Anti-Air Warfare Self Defense Enterprise Test and Evaluation Master Plan. The equipment will support the DDG 1000 and CVN 78 classes of ships, which use the new Dual Band Radar. Raytheon will also conduct follow-on operation test and evaluation efforts for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (RIM-162 ESSM) and Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP).

July 28/10: Block 2. Lockheed Martin announces that the U.S. Navy has approved their SEWIP Block 2 upgrade design, in a Preliminary Design Review. This is a significant milestone under the initial design contract (vid. Sept 30/09 entry).

Block 2 PDR

July 8/10: Lockheed Martin Corp. in Liverpool, NY received a $51.1 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-5300), exercising the cost-plus-incentive-fee option for SEWIP Block 2 system development and demonstration.

Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (74.5%); Lansdale, PA (13.7%); and Morgan Hill, CA (11.8%). Work is expected to be complete by January 2013. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC manages the contract (N00024-09-C-5300).

Block 2 SDD

March 25/10: Block 1. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Inc. in Fairfax, VA received a $12.4 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-5396), exercising a cost-plus-fixed-fee option for FY 2010 SEWIP Block 1B engineering services. It also exercises firm-fixed-price options for FY 2010 SEWIP Block 1B1 production units and spares, and for Block 1B2 production units, modification kits, and spares.

Work will be performed in Fairfax, VA (65%), and Annapolis Junction, MD (35%), and is expected to be complete by December 2012. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages this contract.

Sept 30/09: Block 2. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Liverpool, NY receives a $9.9 million cost plus incentive fee contract for the Preliminary Design of the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block 2.

Lockheed Martin’s Nov 2/09 release says that their team will provide a modular solution based on the Integrated Common Electronics Warfare System that was demonstrated at sea in summer 2008, using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics. The company confirmed that it remains partnered with ITT, and their team will produce a preliminary design by June 2010. If development is successful, there will be no re-compete, and production options could total $166.9 million.

Work will be performed in Liverpool, N.Y. (76%); Lansdale, PA (13%), and Morgan Hill, CA (11%). This contract was competitively procured under full and open competition, and 3 offers were received (Lockheed/ITT, GD/BAE, and Northrop Grumman) by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, D.C. (N00024-09-C-5300). See also Lockheed Martin.

Team Lockheed wins SEWIP Block 2 development

March 31/09: Block 1. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Inc. in Fairfax, VA received a $40 million not-to-exceed contract for Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block 1B research and development, and production requirements. This contract includes the continued design and development of SEWIP Block 1B3, with a specialized HGHS (High Gain High Sensitivity) subsystem, to enhance the SLQ-32’s detection capabilities against emerging threats, and full rate production of SEWIP Block 1B2 units.

GD-AIS has been the SEWIP program’s lead integrator since 2003. Work will be performed in Fairfax, VA (60%) and Syracuse, NY (40%), and is expected to be complete by July 2011. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-09-C-5396).

Dec 3/08: Block 2 competition. Defense Daily offers a roundup of the SEWIP Block 2 program competition between GD/BAE, Lockheed/ITT, and Northrop Grumman, who’s thinking about adapting the system it’s developing for the Navy’s DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyers. Read: “Industry Readying For Navy’s Release of SEWIP Block 2 RFP.”

Dec 1/08: Block 1. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors wins a contract from General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Inc., to develop and produce SEWIP Block 1B3’s High Gain, High Sensitivity (HGHS) sub-system. The contract includes the topside antenna systems, the below decks signal processor, and the processing algorithms that accompany the processor. It is valued at up to $36 million including options, and was awarded after a competitive bidding process. GD-AIS.

Dec 1/08: Block 2 competition. Lockheed Martin and ITT announce that they’ve teamed up to compete for the SEWIP Block 2 contract. Lockheed Martin.

October 23/08: Block 2 competition. General Dynamics and BAE Systems announce that they’ve teamed up to compete for the SEWIP Block 2 contract. Their solution is called “Sea Lightning.” BAE Systems.

Additional Readings

Categories: News

Northrop Grumman to perform risk reduction for new Patriot radar | Japan requests funding for Aegis Ashore | Leonardo announces 2017 Linaps sales

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 04:00
Americas

  • A 20-person team from Embraer arrived December 4 at an airport in Scottsbluff County, Nebraska in order to conduct cross-wind landing testing on its KC-390 military transport aircraft. Testing was initially scheduled to take place in Texas but weather in the area at the time did not have adequate wind. Instead, Denver International Airport officials referred the team to Scottsbluff, where local winds apparently have been brisk enough for testing the jet’s handling in wind and crosswind. Brazilian manufacturer Embraer brought the KC-390 to its US facility in Jackson, Florida, in November as part of its flight test campaign for certification. A declaration of Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is expected by the end of the year, with first deliveries to commence in 2018.

  • Raytheon has been awarded a fixed-price-incentive-firm target and cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to an existing US Air Force (USAF) contract for hardware in support of AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM). The $8.5 million contract will task Raytheon with providing form-fit-function replace hardware assets to include guidance sections and integrated test vehicles under the advanced medium-range air-to-air missile lots 28-30 production. Work will take place in Tucson, Arizona, with an expected completion date of Dec. 31, 2019. The contract also includes foreign military sales for Japan, Norway, Romania, Turkey and Australia. Production funds from fiscal year 2017 of more than $2.8 million, in addition to fiscal 2017 research and development funds of more than $3.8 million, will be obligated to Raytheon at the time of award. All remaining funds on the contract will be derived from foreign military sales.

  • The USAF has awarded Boeing a $10.5 million contract for the delivery of GBU-39 laser small diameter bombs (SBD). Fiscal 2018 procurement funds in the amount of $10,521,827 are being obligated at the time of award of the sole-source acquisition. Delivery will be completed by March 6, 2019, after work is performed at St. Louis, Missouri. Boeing’s laser SDBs are considered a “next-generation strike weapon” that can be deployed from both internal and external carriage systems on an aircraft. It is equipped with an Advanced Anti-Jam Global Positioning System-aided Inertial Navigation System that directs the weapon towards the position of a given target.

  • Northrop Grumman will perform risk reduction for radar technology and associated mission capabilities intended to replace the Army’s 50-year-old Patriot radars, under a contract awarded by the US Army’s Lower Tier Program Office (LTPO). The Lower Tier Air & Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) will be the Army’s first net centric radar to be added to the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense enterprise controlled by the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS), which Northrop Grumman also develops. IBCS is the advanced command and control system that integrates air and missile defense sensors and weapons, including Patriot, to generate a real-time comprehensive threat picture and enable any-sensor, best-shooter operations. Northrop did not disclose the value of the contract.

Middle East & Africa

  • Pakistan Army AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters will be fitted with A/A49E-7(v4) gun turrets as part of a wider US Navy contract that has also tasked General Dynamics with providing the turrets to the US Marine Corps. The total value of the contract amounts to $9.06 million, with approximately $3.1 million of that earmarked for the Pakistani purchase. Pakistan will receive the turrets by August 2021, where they will be fitted with the M197 20mm cannon. Other equipment ordered by Islamabad for the helicopters—15 of which were approved for sale by the US State Department in 2015—include the Thales TopOwl helmet-mounted display (HMD) system, Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAQ-30 electro-optical and infrared turrets, BAE Systems’ AN/ALE-47 chaff/flare dispensers, Northrop Grumman’s AN/APR-39C(v2) radar-warning receivers (RWR), and AN/AAR-47 missile warning receivers from Orbital ATK.

  • A group of UN experts have examined the wreckage of missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi forces as part of efforts to identify their origin. While it still remains to be seen if Iran—regional rival of Saudi Arabia and backer of the Houthis—were behind the missile shipments, the primary conclusion found that the missiles did have a common origin. What’s more, the components examined “bore the castings of a logo similar to that of the Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group”—an Iranian subsidiary that has been flagged by Iran Watch as an entity of potential concern for WMD-related procurement. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons, saying the US and Saudi allegations are “baseless and unfounded.”

Europe

  • Leonardo has announced that over 150 units of its ‘Linaps’ artillery pointing system and over 100 FIN 3120 Inertial Navigation Units (INU) have been sold in 2017, earning the firm almost $59 million. The sales indicate a sustained interest in the company’s artillery aiming systems. Linaps, which can be adapted to fit any existing artillery, mortar or MLRS platform, provides highly-accurate weapon management and navigation, without reliance on GPS. Every new Linaps contains a FIN3120 Inertial Navigation Unit (INU), a gyro-based system which precisely measures the gun platform’s location, azimuth and elevation, and can also be bought separately for customers who want to add the sensor element of the system to a platform that already has other elements of a fire control system built-in, such as a man-machine interface. The system is being seen by customers worldwide as a cost-effective way to significantly enhance the capabilities of both modern and legacy systems, and is in use with the UK, Canada, New Zealand, UAE, Oman, South Africa, Thailand and Malaysia.

Asia-Pacific

  • Japan has requested funding to lay the groundwork for its acquisition of the land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense system. $6.4 million has been requested in fiscal 2018’s budget to cover site surveys and deployment planning for the system, which will see two batteries deployed in Akita and Yamaguchi Prefectures. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government plans to endorse the so-called Aegis Ashore deployment on Dec. 19, a government source said, as the country aims to bolster its defense capability against North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat. At present, Japan’s ballistic missile defense is handled by destroyers equipped with the Aegis combat system and Standard Missile-3 interceptors, for stopping missiles in outer space, and a ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system that can counter attacks in the lower spheres.

Today’s Video

  • The August 2016 first fire of a Brimstone missile from an Apache AH-64E :

 

Categories: News

Boeing “respects” Canada’s Hornet decision | Raytheon marks 30 years in UAE with subsidiary | Japan MOD requests JSM funding, LRSM & JASSM integration

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 04:00
Americas

  • Boeing has responded to the Canadian government’s decision to buy second-hand F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft from Australia instead of new from the manufacturer for its Canadian Interim Fighter Capability Project. A media statement from the company said it respected Ottawa’s decision and applauded the government’s “continued use of a two engine fighter solution, which is a critical part of their northern Arctic border defense, NORAD cooperation, and coast to coast to coast security.” It added that it “will continue to look to find productive ways to work together (with Canada) in the future.”

  • A USAF contract awarded Thursday will task Boeing with upgrading the cockpits of the service’s E-3 Sentry aircraft. Valued at $46.3 million, the agreement is part of the DRAGON program, a joint effort between Washington and its NATO partners to upgrade the cockpits of Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft, which is utilised as an airborne early warning and control platform capable of operating in all types of weather. Work on the contract will be performedin Oklahoma City, Okla., and is expected to be completed by January 2022. Procurement funds from fiscal 2017 monies will be payed to Boeing at the time of award, amounting to more than $4 million.

  • Bell-Boeing will acquire for the the US Navy, additional long-lead material and associated efforts required for the production and delivery of seven V-22 Lot 23 tilt-rotor aircraft. Awarded under a $19.6 million firm-fixed-price contract, work will run until December 2018 at several US locations. US Navy aircraft procurement funds from fiscal year 2018 for the full value of the contract have been obligated at the time of award and do not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Middle East & Africa

  • BAE Systems and Qatar finalized Sunday a $6.7 billion deal to deliver 24 Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets to the Gulf nation. Delivery is expected in late 2022 and the contract is subject “to financing conditions and receipt by the company of first payment” that is “expected to be fulfilled no later than mid-2018”. The deal was signed during a ceremony in Doha under the auspices of the UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Qatari Minister of State for Defence Affairs Khalid bin Mohammed al Attiyah. Williamson hailed the sale as a “massive vote of confidence, supporting thousands of British jobs and injecting billions into our economy”.

  • Coinciding with its 30th anniversary in the country, Raytheon announced the formation of a new subsidiary in the UAE that will focus on cybersecurity, effectors, air defense and sustainment, and advanced technology. Known as Raytheon Emirates, the venture will be based in Abu Dhabi and headed by John Brauneis, who had previously acted as vice-president of supply chain management at the firm. “We are focused on expanding the capabilities of Raytheon and its business partners in the UAE by emphasizing local hiring and talent development, cultivating a strong supplier base, and developing new technology solutions,” Brauneis said.

Europe

  • The Hungarian Armed Forces has announced plans to acquire new transport planes that will replace its ageing fleet of Antonov An-26 as part of the country’s Zrinyi 2026 military development program. Initially, three new aircraft will be ordered in the spring on 2018, with plans to add another three at a later date, although no details were given on how much was being made available for the purchases. Potential suitors could be Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Spartan—now in use with neighbouring Slovakia—or the Airbus C-295.

Asia-Pacific

  • Following five years of regeneration work at Hill AFB, Utah, the USAF has delivered the final six F-16C/D Block 25 fighter aircraft to Indonesia. Engineers at Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex modernized a total of 19 F-16Cs and 5 F-16Ds to the Block 50/52 standard for Jakarta, which included new avionics, engines, landing gear, and other components. Formerly flown by USAF and Air National Guard units, the jets were transferred under a 2011 Obama administration bilateral agreement called Peace Bhima Sena II, which saw the fighters given to the Indonesian Air Force under an Excess Defense Article (EDA) transfer, with the upgrades costing Indonesia approximately $750 million. The jets will depart on a five-day transoceanic flight and will require mid-air refueling and two overnight stops before arriving in Indonesia.

  • The Japanese Defense Ministry has officially requested additional funding in the Fiscal 2018 budget for the purchase of long-range cruise missiles. Requested in two parts, the first seeks $19 million to buy Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile (JSM), while the second portion—costing just over 250k—will fund research into the integration of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) missile and Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) on its of F-15, and possibly F-2, aircraft. Speaking on the decision, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the new missiles will “allow its forces “to respond to enemy fleets or landing forces” from a safe distance. Until now, Japan’s missile force has been limited to anti-aircraft and anti-ship munitions with ranges of less than 300 km Critics have claimed that this new capability to strike targets within Chinese or North Korean territory goes against its pacifist constitution, however, the government’s position is that, although the capability to attack enemy bases is allowed under the Constitution, Japan has made it a policy decision to not possess that capability in light of the nation’s exclusively defense-oriented policy. “[The introduction of the new types of missiles] would not run counter to the exclusively defense-oriented policy,” Onodera said.

Today’s Video

  • US-Mexico border wall prototypes prior to testing:

 

Categories: News

V-22 Osprey: The Multi-Year Buys, 2008-2017

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 03:58

(click to view full)

In March 2008, the Bell Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, TX received a $10.4 billion modification that converted the previous N00019-07-C-0001 advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-fee, multi-year contract. The new contract rose to $10.92 billion, and was used to buy 143 MV-22 (for USMC) and 31 CV-22 (Air Force Special Operations) Osprey aircraft, plus associated manufacturing tooling to move the aircraft into full production. A follow-on MYP-II contract covered another 99 Ospreys (92 MV-22, 7 CV-22) for $6.524 billion. Totals: $17.444 billion for 235 MV-22s and 38 CV-22s, an average of $63.9 million each.

The V-22 tilt-rotor program has been beset by controversy throughout its 20-year development period. Despite these issues, and the emergence of competitive but more conventional compound helicopter technologies like Piasecki’s X-49 Speedhawk and Sikorsky’s X2, the V-22 program continues to move forward. This DID Spotlight article looks at the V-22’s multi-year purchase contract from 2008-12 and 2013-2017, plus associated contracts for key V-22 systems, program developments, and research sources.

The V-22 Program

Documentary

V-22 Initial Operational Capability didn’t begin until 2007, about 24 years after the initial design contract. A long series of design issues and mass-fatality crashes almost got the program canceled, but Congressional industrial lobbying preserved it.

The current objective is 472 Osprey tilt-rotors: 360 MV-22 Marine Corps aircraft, 14 VH-22 Presidential squadron, 50 CV-22 aircraft for USSOCOM (funded by USSOCOM and the Air Force), and 48 HV-22 Navy aircraft.

USMC. The Marine Corps plans to field:

  • 18 active squadrons x 12 MV-22B
  • 2 reserve squadrons x 12 MV-22B
  • 1 fleet replacement squadron x 20 MV-22B

A requirements-based analysis is underway to increase the program of record to 388, which would involve the introduction of VMM-362 and VMM-212 in FY 2018 – 2019.

As of November 2014, the USMC says that they’re 65% through its transition from CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, with 13 full operational capability squadrons. Remaining switchovers will involve the West Coast, Hawaii, and the reserves, with some basing shifts, and the last CH-46E retiring from HMM-774 in early FY 2015.

Presidential. Beyond the USMC’s combat and training units, a squadron of 12 USMC VH-22s now serves in the Presidential squadron, effectively replacing past CH-46E and CH-53E helicopters. The President never rides in them, though – they’re solely for supplies, aides, etc. By FY 2016, the squadron will be full at 14 planes.

Navy. There was supposed to be an V-22 for the US Navy, but its expected roles in search and rescue etc. were taken up by the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter. Technically, a buy of 48 HV-22s has always been part of the program. In reality, the US Navy has made no moves to adopt the platform. That may change as of FY 2016, if the V-22 can win a likely competition for the next Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) platform to replace the fixed-wing C-2A Greyhound.

Indeed, on January 13, the Bell-Boeing consortium signed a memorandum of understanding with the Navy to provide the replacement for Carrier Onboard Delivery services. The big challenge will be whether or not the Osprey can handle the behemoth F-35 engine, the F-135.

The Osprey certainly didn’t compete on price or operating costs against remanufactured C-2s that use technologies from the derivative E-2D Hawkeye production line, while Lockheed Martin’s refurbished and modified C-3 Viking offered jet speeds and the unique ability to carry whole F135 jet engines inside. Boeing and Textron relied on the Navy valuing the V-22’s commonality, and ability to land on more of the carrier group’s ships, enough to pay a lot more for less internal capacity.

To date, there have been no exports of the V-22. Israel is mulling over an offer for an expedited buy of 6 MV-22s, and Japan is contemplating 20-40 MV-22s to equip their new Marines, but neither has signed a contract. As of October 2014, formal briefings have also been given to Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Italy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the UAE.

MV-22 vs. CV-22

MV-22 & M777
(click to view full)

The V-22 comes in 2 variants.

MV-22. The US Marines operate the MV-22, whose most current configuration is Block C. A subtype of the MV-22 serves in the Presidential squadrons, as the VH-22.

The current MV-22 Block C’s enhancements (software version C1.01) include forward-mounted AN/ALE-47 defensive systems, move the MV-22’s Ice Detectors, improve dust protection for the engines, and add a redesigned Environmental Control System (ECS) to keep devices and troops from overheating. A “Cabin Situational Awareness Device” displays essential mission information, including access to GPS updates for handheld devices, plus way points, flight plans, location, etc. for troop commanders inside. For the pilots, a Color Weather Radar System provides weather detection, ground mapping to 20 nm, and sea search. Electronic Standby Flight Instruments (ESFI) replace the analog standby instrument cluster, and a Day Heads-up Display (HUD) feeds its data to a helmet-mounted monocle. A Traffic Advisory System (TAS) was intended to warn MV-22 pilots of other aircraft that might hit them, but it doesn’t work properly.

As of October 2014, operational USMC squadrons mostly fly the MV-22B Block B. This mix is expected to shift in the near future: from 8 MV-22B Block B and 4 MV-22B Block C per squadron, to an even 8:8 ratio. The VMMT-204 training squadron is different, and will contain Block A and Block B aircraft until Block As are fully phased out FY 2018.

The USMC currently has a real problem escorting MV-22s, with AH-1Z Viper helicopters not really fast enough, and AV-8B Harrier jets a bit too fast. Future plans include more jamming and warning devices, as well as offensive upgrades. Weapons haven’t been very successful on the V-22 yet, thanks to the huge position arc of the tilting rotors. Fixing that requires significant changes like BAE’s IDWS cut-in belly turret, but many pilots prefer to just use the craft’s speed as a defense. Future USMC concepts of operations may not always give them that luxury, so the USMC plans to add an Advanced Targeting Sensor with full laser targeting. It would be accompanied by some kind of precision strike weapon, type undetermined. Those kinds of weapons wouldn’t suffer from the same arc-of-fire problems, but wide turbulence variations could make release testing fun and exciting.

At present, MV-22B Block D is only in the initial planning stage. Block D will serve as a mid-life upgrade, with a partial but much-needed focus on reliability, maintainability, and operating costs. We won’t see an MV-22C until the mid-2030s.

Afghan mission

CV-22. US Air Force Special Operations Command operates the CV-22, which adds more sophisticated surveillance capabilities, beefed-up defensive systems that include the AN/ALQ-211v2, extra fuel tanks, and useful capabilities like terrain-following flight. Its most current configuration is the CV-22 Block 20.

A 2013 incident in South Sudan led to several operators being injured by small arms fire that punched up through the CV-22’s belly. AFSOCOM is looking at lightweight armoring modifications to try to improve that situation.

V-22 Budgets & Buys

Excel
download

Initial Operational Capability in 2007 was followed by a big Multi-Year Procurement contract in FY 2008, which ended up buying 175 V-22s (143 MV-22s, 32 CV-22s) for about $14.416 billion.

The US fiscal situation is almost certain to lead to serious defense budget cuts, so the V-22’s manufacturers responded by trying to lock the government into a 2nd multi-year contract, creating cancellation penalties that would make the Osprey too expensive to kill, and impossible to seriously reduce. Enough contracts like that will end up gutting other USMC investments when cuts do hit, and could lead to even more serious problems if V-22 fleet operations and maintenance costs don’t start dropping very quickly (vid. Nov. 29/11 entry).

That wasn’t the manufacturers’ concern, however, and it wasn’t the Navy’s, either. The FY 2013 budget included a submission to buy 98 more V-22 aircraft (91 MV-22s, 7 CV-22s) under a 2nd fixed-price multi-year contract, between FY 2013 – FY 2017. The MV-22s will be bought by the Navy for the Marines, while the CV-22s aircraft are a joint buy involving the USAF and SOCOM. To get approval for a multi-year buy, they had to demonstrate at least 10% cost savings over the same buys placed year by year. Their proposal hoped to save $852.4 million, or 11.6% of the total, at the price of less flexibility in the number bought through FY 2017:

Proposed V-22 follow-on MYP 2013-17 Year Qty Net Proc.
($M) Savings FY13 21 1,693 38 FY14 21 1,741 185 FY15 19 1,541 226 FY16 19 1,468 229 FY17 18 1,430 225 Total 98 7,922 852 Source: US Navy, FY13 PB [large PDF].
Totals may not add up due to rounding up and FY12 Advance Procurement (incl. $50M for cost reduction initiatives).

The actual contract and budget plans ended up being a bit different, per the June 12/13 entry and the data and graphs above. Instead of 98 Ospreys (91 MV-22, 7 CV-22) for $6.5 billion, the actual MYP-II contract adds up to 99 tilt-rotors for $6.524 billion.

Contracts & Key Events

AFSOC CV-22
(click to view full)

Unless otherwise noted, US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issues the contracts, and the Bell-Boeing Joint Program tiltrotor team in Amarillo, TX is the contractor.

Note that “low power repairs” are triggered when an AE1107 engine’s Power Assurance Check (PAC) reads below 96%. It’s normal for aircraft engine performance to drop somewhat over time, and the fix involves engine removal for maintenance and tune-up.

FY 2017

 

Rocket test

December 11/17: Lot 23-Long-lead Materials Bell-Boeing will acquire for the the US Navy, additional long-lead material and associated efforts required for the production and delivery of seven V-22 Lot 23 tilt-rotor aircraft. Awarded under a $19.6 million firm-fixed-price contract, work will run until December 2018 at several US locations. US Navy aircraft procurement funds from fiscal year 2018 for the full value of the contract have been obligated at the time of award and do not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

November 16/17: Support Contract A US Department of Defense (DoD)contract has tapped Bell-Boeing for “field representative and logistic support services” in support of Japanese V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. Valued at just of $10 million, the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract will be mostly carried out at Camp Kisarazu, Japan, with other work taking place in Pennsylvania and Florida. Scheduled completion is set for December 2019. Japan received the first of its 19 ordered Ospreys in August.

August 07/17: The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office has received a $57.1 million US Navy contract modification to carry out modifications to the MV-22 Osprey fleet operated by the US Marine Corps (USMC) in support of the V-22 Common Configuration-Readiness and Modernization (CC-RAM) Program. Under the terms of the agreement, the funding will go towards the retrofit of one MV-22 as a test for improving readiness and eventual modification of the MV-22 fleet to the Block C common configuration. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania (80 percent); and Fort Worth, Texas (20 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2019. The Block C configuration includes improved environmental controls, chaff/flare countermeasures, navigation upgrades and command-and-control displays.

June 27/17: Deliveries of V-22 Ospreys to Japan will commence in September, according to the Joint Program Manager, Marine Col. Dan Robinson. Tokyo ordered 14 of the aircraft back in 2014 and it plans to base several of the aircraft on the helicopter carrier Izumo, while more will be deployed defend its territorial holdings in the East China Sea. On the export front, Japan is looking to build on the success of its lease of TC-90 aircraft to the Philippines by teaming with the US in order to boost sales of used military helicopters aircraft to South East Asia.

June 1/17: Triumph Group will continue to manufacture parts for the V-22 aircraft if Boeing Bell successfully negotiates its next V-22 Osprey Multi-year 3 contract with the US Navy. In a renewed statement of work, Triumph added that it will also manufacture cargo ramps and doors for the aircraft, in addition to components including the empennage, elevator, ramp extensions, ramp mounted weapons system floor boards, main landing gear doors. Deliveries of the components in support of the Multi-year 3 contract would begin in 2019.

March 26/17: New British Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will not have V-22 tiltrotor aircraft onboard, according to a written parliamentary reply to Lord West. Lord West, a retired Royal Navy officer and former government minister, had asked if the government was considering the Osprey for use by the state’s special forces. In response, the government stated that the aircraft was not part of plans to deliver the UK Carrier Strike capability. However, the MoD will continue to explore a variety of options to augment the capabilities of the carriers.

February 9/17: The USMC has given March 2019 as the date for declaring initial operational capability for the V-22 Aerial Refuelling System (VARS). Four V-22 Osprey’s will be part of the initial program and will be able to refuel all fixed-wing USMC fighters and the CH-53 helicopter. The V-22 joint program office is looking at the feasibility of adding a chin-mounted gun and crew-served door guns for the Osprey, the latter being of particular interest to the service.

December 20/16: The US Navy has awarded the Bell-Boeing Joint Program Office two contract modifications to perform repair services for the sailing branch’s V-22 Osprey aircraft. Valued at $246 million and $165.7 million, the awards are part of a contract with options that can reach a total value of $545 million if all options are exercised. Work is expected to be completed by December 2019.

November 29/16: The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office has been awarded a $267.2 million US Navy contract modification for additional logistics support for MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. Under the deal, both the USMC MV-22 and the USAF Special Operations Command CV-22 variant will be covered. The contract runs until November 2018.

FY 2016

 

July 21/16: Bell-Boeing has been awarded a $545 million deal to manufacture and deliver four MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The July 19 Navy contract will see the USMC variant of the aircraft delivered to the government of Japan, adding to a number of V-22s ordered in 2014. Delivery of the systems is expected for May 2020.

June 15/16: The US Navy took an MV-22 from VMX-1 aboard aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson for flight trials on June 12. Testing comes as the service moves to induct the CMV-22B variant as the replacement for the Northrop Grumman C-2 Greyhound twin turboprop in the aircraft carrier logistics role at sea. The purpose of the MV-22 tests is to allow crews to experience landing on an aircraft carrier as opposed to landing on an amphibious ship, like with the USMC. Additions to the Navy model will see the installation of extra fuel bladders to extend its range from 860nm to approximately 1,150nm, as well as a beyond line-of-sight radio and public address system so that crews can communicate en route to the aircraft carrier’s deck, or between other ships in the battle group.

June 1/16: The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office has been awarded a $58.8 million US Navy contract in order to develop and integrate the V-22 aerial refueling system (VARS) for the MV-22. Once installed, VARS will operate by using a portable refueling station that will roll up the Osprey’s back ramp and into its back cabin. Crews will use it to aerially refuel F-35s, F/A18 Hornets and other aircraft – including V-22s and CH-53 helicopters – by extending a hose and drogue out the open back ramp. NAVIR will supervise the contract execution, and the whole project is to be completed by June 2019.

May 19/16: The Navy’s V-22 Osprey program has set 2018 for the deployment of the aerial tanker variant of the USMC’s MV-22B. Once the new capability is installed, it will be possible for the air combat element of a Marine Expeditionary Unit to refuel in air its F-35 Lightning II strike fighters and CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters, and eventually even other V-22s may be a possibility. This capability will extend the reach of the amphibious ready groups for strike and assault missions.

May 2/16: A USMC MV-22 Osprey has given a successful ground refueling of a Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The one-hour test consisted of hooking up fuel transfer lines between the two aircraft with the MV-22 fueling the F-35B with an aerial refueling to follow. Both aircraft will be used to allow the Marine Corps to employ assets in austere environments on short notice without having to rely on long-term planning and fixed facilities.

April 27/16: The DoD has issued a notice to modify the V-22 so that a 18-inch gimbaled multispectral sensor can be lowered from the tilt-rotor’s cargo hold well. The new sensors will increase the ability of the US military to target enemies from afar, giving the aircraft similar situational awareness and precision targeting capabilities to the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Predator UAV. Up to four competing sensor solutions will be tested at the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) tactical demonstration next year.

April 3/16: The US Navy has given Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office $151 million to start development work on the CMV-22B, the naval variant of the V-22 Osprey. The new plane will be used a as a carrier onboard delivery plane. Work included in the contract involves adding new radios, a public address system, and extra fuel tanks to the new tilt-rotor variant by the manufacturer, and it is expected that the Navy will be placing orders by the end of next year.

March 1/16: The USAF Special Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold wants three more V-22 Ospreys before the product line ceases. 51 aircraft are already being funded through fiscal year 2016, however three more have been suggested as extra attrition reserves. According to budget documents, there are no further plans to procure the aircraft in fiscal years post 2016, so any additional orders would need to be added quickly before the end of production. Having four aircraft in attrition reserve as back-ups when an aircraft goes down will ensure that AFSOC forces are flying at its capacity of at least 50 airplanes well into the future, Heithold said.

January 20/16: Testing of a new blade for the V-22 Osprey is to take place after the current rotor blades fitted to the aircraft were deemed too labor intensive to manufacture. The new prop rotor blade has been designed as part of the manufacturer Bell’s Advanced Technology Tiltrotor (ATTR) program, which aims to reduce production costs for the aircraft. The test has been derived from ongoing development work on the next-generation V-280 with flight testing of the new modified components due to last between 2017-2018.

November 13/15: The USMC is hoping that foreign production orders will cover a gap in V-22 Osprey production between 2017 and 2020, with a planned multi-year buy appearing insufficient to keep the Boeing production line healthy until a newer variant is introduced. By bringing in orders from international partners, the per-unit price of future multi-year buys could be reduced by around 10%. Countries such as Japan, South Korea and Israel could be precisely the type of orders the Marines are hoping for. The latter of which could receive the aircraft as part of a US military aid package currently under negotiation.

FY 2015

Export prospects. Firing forward.

September 2/15: The Japanese defense budget will again break the record, but increase only 2.2 percent to ¥5.09 trillion. Programs funded include the V-22 Osprey, with this year’s expenditures covering the purchase of a dozen.

August 17/15: The Marines are exploring possible upgrades to their fleet of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. This plan would involve bringing 131 A and B model Ospreys up to the C spec in order to access the higher availability rates offered by the C variant. The C model boasts a variety of improvements on earlier models, including a redesigned Environmental Control System (ECS) to keep devices and troops from overheating. The Marines are now reportedly in talks with manufacturer Boeing to establish the likely costs of these upgrades.

July 15/15: The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office was handed a $332.5 million contract modification to manufacture and delivery five MV-22B Block C Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to Japan, following a DSCA request in May. The Japanese government requested seventeen of the aircraft, with this contract subsequently revising the number down. This latest modification has been tacked onto a December 2011 contract which covered the manufacture of MV-22 and CV-22 aircraft for the US Air Force and Marine Corps. Japan announced its intention to procure the tiltrotor aircraft last November, with this marking the first international export for the type.

June 19/15: The United Arab Emirates is reportedly showing interest in procuring V-22 tiltrotor aircraft from Boeing, following the Paris Air Show. The possible sale of the aircraft to Israel is still on hold, with Japan recently requesting seventeen Ospreys in a $3 billion sale. The company has also been chasing the United Kingdom and Singapore as possible future customers. However, the future of the aircraft is uncertain despite optimism from the manufacturers.

November 2014: rocket tests. Bell Helicopter announces on Dec. 8 that forward-firing capability was successfully tested during the previous month at the US Army Proving Ground in Yuma, AZ. V-22s refuel and reload from Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs), and Bell hopes that the installation of forward-firing weapons will reduce reliance on them. This may also reduce the need for V-22s to be escorted by slower attack helicopters, and the absence of a forward-facing gun was among the trade-offs that mired the program’s early years in controversy. Back during the program’s prehistory planners had considered turret-mounting a GAU-19 gatling gun in the aircraft’s undernose [GDAS PDF, 2002].

Nov 3/14: USMC Plan. The USMC’s Aviation Plan to 2030 has a number of sections that are relevant to the V-22. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System (VARS) roll-on capability is being developed to field with the F-35B’s West Pacific deployment in summer 2017, as a near-ship aerial tanker for large-deck amphibious assault ships. Follow-on certifications would aim to refuel other V-22s and helicopters.

The MV-22’s own ability to refuel in the air currently has flight clearance for USMC KC-130s and USAF KC-10s. The next certifications will involve Omega Air Tanker’s private K-707s, and the USAF’s forthcoming 767-based KC-46s. Deployment dates aren’t given for those.

The V-22 fleet is scheduled to get LAIRCM defenses against infrared-guided missiles in 2016, and radar-related defenses are in the Survivability Upgrade Roadmap, but not extra armor (q.v. May 22/14). The Interoperability Upgrade Roadmap makes the MV-22 the lead platform for the the Software Reprogrammable Payload communications package, with integration beginning at the end of FY 15. It’s eventually expected to include full voice/ data/ video compatibility, datalinks like Link-16 and TTNT, and even full airborne communications gateway capabilities. The other future IUR item of especial interest is integrated RFID for cargo and personnel.

Finally, plans exist to beef up MV-22 weapons and “increase all-axis, stand-off, and precision capabilities.” This will include an upgraded Advanced Targeting Sensor with full laser targeting. The huge position arc of the tilting rotors makes guns very difficult to use, absent significant changes like BAE’s IDWS cut-in belly turret. But there’s no issue for small precision gravity weapons like ATK’s Hatchet or MBDA’s Viper-E, small missiles like Raytheon’s Griffin, or well-understood weapons like 7-rocket pods with APKWS laser-guided 70mm rockets, or (less likely) the future JAGM missile.

Weight and complexity are always worth considering before making these kinds of weapon modifications, especially in light of evidence that V-22s already need more belly armor. The V-22’s wide turbulence variations could also make weapon release testing fun and exciting. On the other hand, the USMC currently has a real problem escorting MV-22s, with AH-1Z Viper helicopters not really fast enough, and AV-8B Harrier jets a bit too fast. If the weight trade-off works, a precision weapons option may help solve some operational gaps. Sources: USMC, Marine Aviation Plan 2015 [PDF].

USMC Aviation Plan

MV-22 landing

Nov 2-5/14: Israel. Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon is recommending the cancellation of several deals with the USA, including the V-22. A potential purchase of more F-35s has survived, but the V-22, more KC-135 aerial tankers, radar-killing missiles, and radar upgrades for Israel’s F-15s have not. Instead, recent fighting in Gaza, and developments in Lebanon and Syria, are pushing him toward more buys of precision weapons and ground forces equipment. The weak protection of Israeli M113s has come in for particular criticism.

The decision isn’t final, and the IDF and Mossad were both lobbying to keep the V-22s, in advance of a planned Nov 5/14 meeting of high-level ministers. That meeting showed weakened F-35 support, which may open a door for the V-22s. The USA’s Letter of Offer and Acceptance, which will expire on Dec 10/14, reportedly allows Israel to buy 6 V-22s and initial infrastructure for about $900 million, instead of the $1.3 billion mentioned in the DSCA announcement. The arrangement with the USMC would also ensure delivery by 2016, and funding arrangements involve commercial bridge loans that would be repaid with future American military grant aid. Those are fine terms, and there is both commercial and strategic value in securing Israel as the V-22’s 1st export customer. Now that Japan is also stepping up, however (q.v. Oct 16/14), this isn’t an offer that’s likely to be repeated. Then again, with new technology like Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider emerging, Israel may be field lower-cost, fully-armed options with similar flight performance by 2019 or so. Sources: Defense News, “Israeli Brass Urge MoD To Stick With V-22 Deal” | Times of Israel, “Ya’alon said to cancel aircraft purchase from US” | Times of Israel, “Ministers may look to shoot down F-35 jet deal”.

Oct 23/14: ECM. Northrop Grumman in Rolling Meadows, IL receives a $7.9 million task order for 1-time engineering in support of the MV-22’s Integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment Suite upgrade, including integration of the AN/AAQ-24(V)25 software with an electronic warfare controller and the MV-22 mission computer. All funds are committed, using FY 2014 US Navy aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed in Rolling Meadows, IL, and is expected to be complete in April 2016. Fiscal 2014 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $7,926,639 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity (N00019-10-G-0004, #00506).

Oct 16/14: Exports. Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos says that he’s pleased with the V-22 (not he’d say anything else), and specifically mentions the roll-on/roll-off aerial tanker capability as something that’s going well. He adds that a 2nd second foreign country is expected to announce plans to buy the V-22 Osprey within the next 6 months, joining Israel (q.v. Jan 14/14) as an export customer.

That country is almost certainly Japan; they have said as much (q.v. Dec 14/13), and supposedly want 20-40 tilt-rotors overall. The article adds that formal V-22 briefings have been given to Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, (Israel), Italy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the UAE. Sources: Reuters, “US sees second foreign buyer for V-22 Osprey in six months”.

FY 2014

Israel confirmed for 6; Japan to buy at least 17; Prep & orders for new ECM systems; Lots of support contracts; Still looking for an engine alternative?

MV-22
(click to view full)

Sept 25/14: Training. A $24 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement to upgrade the MV-22 Consolidated V-22 Electronics Maintenance Trainer, V-22 Sponson Part Task Trainer, V-22 Aircraft Maintenance Trainer, and Power Plants Training Article Trainers to the Block C configuration, to keep them in sync with serving tilt-rotors. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 and 2014 Navy aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (35%); Fort Worth, TX (34%); St. Louis, MO (14%); Ozark, AL (11%); Jacksonville, NC (5%); and Mesa, AZ (1%), and is expected to be complete in December 2016 (N00019-12-G-0006, DO 0092).

Sept 25/14: Training. A $10 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for upgrades to 13 Marine Corps MV-22 training devices to the MV-22 Block C-2.01 configuration. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 Navy aircraft budgets.

Work will be performed in New River, NC (86%), and Miramar, CA (14%), and is expected to be complete in September 2016. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL manages the contract (N00019-12-G-0006, DO 0026).

Sept 23/14: Support. A $36.6 million contract modification for the repair of various V-22 parts, including the Prop-Rotor Gearbox and HUB Assembly. Funds will be committed as required, using FY 2014 Navy budgets.

Work will be performed in Hurst, TX, and is expected to be complete no later than Sept 30/15. One company was solicited for this non-competitive requirement in accordance with 10 U.S.C.2304 (c)(1), and 1 offer was received by NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-14-D-039N, PO 0001).

Sept 11/14: Support. A $9.6 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for one-time engineering involving the MV-22’s variable frequency generator-generator control unit update. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 US Navy budgets.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (56%); Philadelphia, PA (43%); and Amarillo, TX (1%), and is expected to be complete in March 2017 (N00019-12-G-0006, DO 0109).

Sept 9/14: Support. A $9.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order buys spare V-22 flight display components, building up a stock of components that are no longer easily available due to production closeouts and material shortages. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2013 Navy budgets.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, and is expected to be complete in December 2016 (N00019-12-G-0006, DO 0061).

Sept 17/14: Engines. Rolls Royce seems to be taking the threat of an engine switch (q.v. Sept 1/14) seriously. Their latest release touts modifications that improve performance 17% at the US military’s standard challenge limit of 6,000 foot hover out of ground effect in lift-sapping 95F degree temperatures.

They also tout $90 million in ongoing investments under their MissionCare support costs by the hour deal. Reducing maintenance costs per flight hour by 34% since 2009 is very good for the firm’s bottom line under that scenario. Whether it’s at a level the US military would call good, of course, depends on its absolute price. As a hedge, Rolls Royce can also point to 730 AE-1107C engines delivered, ground tests that have demonstrated potential upgrades to over 8,800 shp, and the MT7 engine derivative’s role in the US Navy’s forthcoming SSC hovercraft. Sources: Rolls Royce, “V-22 flight tests validate ‘hot and high’ capability for Rolls-Royce AE 1107C engines”.

Sept 3/14: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $10.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for AE1107C MissionCareTM support, including “lower power engine removals and repairs.” All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy O&M budgets.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in February 2015. US Navy NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-C-0020).

Sept 1/14: Engine alternative? The Pentagon is still looking into alternatives to the V-22’s Liberty engine, but that has been true for years (q.v. March 8/10). The Wall Street Journal:

“The V-22 Program is continually investigating ways to reduce the life cycle costs of the aircraft,” the U.S. Navy, which manages the program, said in an email. “Knowing that more than 90% of the operational use of the V-22 is in the future, coupled with budget pressures, it is prudent to investigate alternatives to existing systems and the engine is no exception.”

The catch? The engine has to be fully retrofittable into the V-22, with minimal to no impact on the V-22’s physical characteristics, and equal or better performance, without costing more. One imagines that the Pentagon would have a candidate already, if that combination was easy to find. Lesson: if you need non-standard power output levels, for a totally different airframe concept, it’s going to be tough to replace. Sources: WSJ, “Rolls-Royce Under Threat for Osprey Engine Deal” [subscription].

Aug 28/14: MV-22 ECM. A $21.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for non-recurring engineering in support of the “MV-22 Integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment Universal Urgent Needs Statement Effort.” This order helps fund initial steps toward replacing the missile warning system and radar warning receiver system, and upgrades the capabilities of the countermeasures control system and associated software. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 US Navy procurement budgets.

AFSOC is already rolling with something like that for its CV-22s (q.v. Aug 1/14).

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (86%); Fort Walton Beach, FL (4%); Hurst, TX (2%); Salisbury, MD (2%); and various locations throughout the United States (6%), and is expected to be complete in April 2016 (N00019-12-G-0006, #0096).

Aug 1/14: CV-22 ECM. Exelis, Inc. in Clifton, NJ receives a $190 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to provide AN/ALQ-211 Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasure components and related services, on behalf of the Technology Applications program office and CV-22 program office. The contract has a 5-year base period and a 3-year incentive award period, with $8.6 million committed immediately for the 1st task order from FY 2014 US SOCOM O&M funds.

The CV-22 uses the ALQ-211v2 variant; US SOCOM also uses this system in its MH-60 (ALQ-211v7) and MH-47 (ALQ-211v6) helicopters, and each platform has a slightly different mix of components and capabilities. The V-22 has slightly weaker jamming, for instance.

Work on the base contract will continue until July 30/19, and individual task orders will be funded with operations and maintenance or procurement appropriations under the appropriate fiscal year. This contract was a not competitively procured by US Special Operations Command in Tampa, FL, in accordance with FAR 6.302-1 (H92241-14-D-0006). See also: Exelis, AN/ALQ-211 brochure [PDF].

July 29/14: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $29.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, buying Mission Care support by the hour for the V-22’s AE1107C engine, including flight hours, and lower power engine removals and repairs. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy, USAF, and SOCOM O&M budgets.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%) and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in February 2015 (N00019-10-C-0020).

July 22/14: Upgrades. A $69.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order covers Phase II non-recurring engineering of the V-22’s Improved Inlet Solution (IIS). It includes completion of preliminary and critical design reviews; installation of an IIS retrofit kit for installation on a CV-22 aircraft for demonstration and operation; installation of aircraft instrumentation to support flight test analysis; flight and qualification testing of the IIS design; and removal of the instrumentation from the test aircraft following flight testing. $31.3 million un FY 2014 USAF and US Navy RDT&E funds is committed immediately.

Work will be performed Amarillo, TX (73%), and Philadelphia, PA (27%), and is expected to be complete in December 2018. This delivery order combines purchases for the USAF ($41.8 million / 60%) and the U.S. Navy ($27.9 million / 40%). US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-12-G-0006, 0073).

July 21/14: Japan. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera confirms that the 17 MV-22s Japan plans to buy over the next 5 years (q.v. Dec 14/13) will be stationed at Saga city’s commercial airport in northwestern Kyushu. This keeps the Ospreys close to Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture, which will hold Japan’s planned amphibious force. Saga will also be usable by the US Marines when the MV-22s from MCAS Futenma conduct training, exercises, or operations in mainland Japan. Sources: Asahi Simbun, “SDF to deploy 17 Osprey aircraft at Saga Airport”.

July 8/14: Upgrades. A $14.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for research, engineering and technical analysis “of new capabilities of the V-22 aircraft.” It combines USAF ($8.8 million / 60%) and US Navy ($5.9 million / 40%), and $2.1 million in FY 2014 R&D funding is committed immediately.

Work will be performed at Ridley Park, PA (55%) and Fort Worth, TX (45%), and is expected to be complete in June 2019 (N00019-12-G-0006, DO 0089).

June 12/14: Support. Small business qualifiers Form Fit and Function, LLC in Patterson, NJ wins a $9.8 million firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to manufacture “peculiar support equipment” for the V-22: hub and blade stands, blade trailer adapters, restraint tools, and actuators. $1.8 million in FY 2012 and FY 2013 USAF/ US Navy aircraft procurement budgets is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Patterson, NJ, and is expected to be complete in June 2017. This contract was competitively procured via a HUB Zone set-aside electronic RFP, and 4 offers were received by the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ (N68335-14-D-0024).

June 4/14: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $9.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to a previously awarded for 13 MV-22 “low power engine repairs” under the Mission Care contract. All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 O&M budgets.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA, and is expected to be complete in February 2015 (N00019-10-C-0020).

May 22/14: Mods. Briefings at the annual SOFIC conference indicate that SOCOM is looking at a limited set of new options for its CV-22s. SOCOM’s V-22/C-130 program director Lt. Col. John DiSebastian says that they can’t afford $50 million to refit 50 CV-22s, but “if you’ve got a $100,000 or a $50,000 widget that can improve the sustainment, capability, or ops of the aircraft, then bring that to us.”

Some CV-22s got shot up during a mission over South Sudan (q.v. Dec 21/13), prompting SOCOM to start adding additional armoring. They’re also looking at a forward-firing gun that would be simpler than the retractable 7.62mm IDWS, and pack more punch. Sources: Gannett’s Air Force Times, “SOCOM soon getting more capable, deadlier Ospreys and C-130s”.

May 6/14: ECM. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Rolling Meadows, IL receives $18 million for cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for one-time engineering in support of the MV-22 Integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment Suite upgrade. This includes integration of AN/AAQ-24(V)25 LAIRCM software with an electronic warfare controller and with the MV-22 mission computer.

$7.8 million in FY 2014 Navy aircraft procurement funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Rolling Meadows, IL and is expected to be completed in April 2016. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-G-0004, 0506).

May 5/14: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives an $8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for CV-22 Mission Care engine support, including AE1107C lower power engine removals.

All funds are committed, using FY 2014 O&M budgets, all of which will expire on Sept 30/14. Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%) and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in February 2015. US NAVAIR in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-C-0020).

April 8/14: Israel. Israel is opting for a deferred payment plan (DPP) to purchase a range of new military equipment, including its V-22s (q.v. Jan 14/14).

“The Defense News report quotes US and Israeli officials saying Israel would only pay interest and fees until the current military aid package expires in September 2018, while the principal on the loan would be covered by a new aid package promised by President Barack Obama, which would extend the annual foreign military financing (FMF) aid until 2028.”

Sources: yNet News, “New deal to purchase V-22s relies on future US aid”

April 1/14: Support. Hamilton Sundstrand Corp. in Rockford, IL receives a $7.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for repairs of the V-22 Osprey’s aircraft constant frequency generator, which is part of the electrical power system.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy budgets. Work will be performed in Rockville, IL, and is expected to be complete in September 2016. US Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA manages the contract (N00383-12-D-011N, DO 7006).

March 26/14: Engines support. Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis, IN receives a $39.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 26,495 V-22 flight hours and 26 low power MV-22 repairs under the existing Mission Care contract.

All funds are committed immediately, and expire on Sept 30/14. Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%) and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in February 2015. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-10-C-0020).

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. Bell and Boeing worked hard to get a multi-year deal signed before sequestration, so that their orders would be locked in. That is holding true, see charts in this article.

AFSOC appears to be set to stop 2 CV-22s short of its planned 52, however, ordering just 51 including 1 loss replacement. The USMC will continue buying another 15 or so from FY 2020 onward, but the V-22 needs to win the US Navy Carrier On-board Delivery plane competition to keep things going much longer after that. Sources: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] | USAF, Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Overview.

March 7/14: A $76.1 million modification to Lot 17-21’s fixed-price-incentive-fee multiyear contract exercises an option for 1 USAF CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY14 USAF & SOCOM budgets. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (24.6%); Ridley Park, PA (19.2%), Amarillo, TX (10.4%), Dallas, TX (4.3%); East Aurora, NY (2.5%); Park City, Utah (1.7%); El Segundo, CA (1.3%); Endicott, NY (1%); Ontario, Canada (0.9%); Tempe, AZ (0.8%); Rome, NY (0.7%); Torrance, CA (0.7%); Luton, United Kingdom (0.6%); Clifton, N.J. (0.6%); Salisbury, MD (0.6%); Los Angeles, CA (0.6%); Cobham, United Kingdom (0.6%); Irvine, CA (0.6%); San Diego, CA (0.5%); Yakima, WA (0.5%); Brea, CA (0.5%); Rockmart, GA (0.5%); McKinney, TX (0.4%); Albuquerque, NM (0.4%); Whitehall, MI (0.4%); Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (0.4%); Tucson, AZ (0.4%); Erie, PA (0.3%); Vergennes, VT (0.3%); Kilgore, TX (0.3%); Shelby, NC (0.3%); Avon, OH (0.2%); Santa Clarita, CA (0.2%); Garden City, NY (0.2%); El Cajon, CA (0.2%); Corinth, TX (0.2%); Sylmar, CA (0.2%); Westbury, NY (0.1%); and various other locations inside and outside the United States (21.8%), and is expected to be complete in December 2016 (N00019-12-C-2001).

1 CV-22

March 4/14: FY15 Budget. The USAF and USN unveil their preliminary budget request briefings. They aren’t precise, but they do offer planned purchase numbers for key programs between FY 2014 – 2019.

Total V-22 buys will be unaffected, even as key programs like the P-8 sea control aircraft and its MQ-4C Triton UAV companion are cut back and delayed. This is to be expected, given the reality of an existing multi-year contract. The only real savings would have involved cutting the 4 MV-22s per year in FY 2018 and 2019. That doesn’t help in 2015, and applies to the Marines rather than the Navy. Source: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] | USAF, Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Overview.

Feb 28/14: Support. A $351 million cost-plus-incentive, fixed-price incentive-fee contract modification for V-22 Joint Performance Based Logistics support.

Funds will be committed as individual delivery orders are issued. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (40%); Ridley Park, PA (40%); various locations within the continental United States (15%) and locations outside the continental United States (5%), and is expected to be complete in November 2016 (N00019-09-D-0008).

Feb 28/14: Engines. Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis, IN receives an $8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 11 low power CV-22 repairs under the Mission Care? engine contract.

All funds are committed, using USAF FY 2014 O&M budgets. Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%) and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in February 2015 (N00019-10-C-0020).

Feb 25/14: Support. Raytheon Co. in McKinney, TX receives $14.3 million for firm-fixed-price delivery order under a previously awarded Basic Ordering Agreement for various quantities of repair parts to support the H-53 and V-22 aircraft.

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be complete by Feb 28/16. The contract was not competitively procured in accordance with FAR 6.302-1, and is managed by US NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-11-G-003D, 7008).

Feb 12/14: HV-22 COD? Vice Adm. David Buss, commander Naval Air Forces, says that the service is about a year away from picking their replacement Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft to replace the C-2 Greyhounds. “We’re still culling through all the data and very much in the [analysis of alternatives] process.” The problem of what to do with the F-35B/C fleet’s F135 engines is especially vexing, as the V-22 can’t carry a whole engine, and it isn;t likely that a C-2D could, either. Yet the F-35’s status as the Navy’s future fighter makes that a critical piece of cargo. Sources: USNI, “WEST: Decision on New Carrier Supply Plane ‘About a Year Away'”.

Jan 30/14: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $90.2 million contract modification from the USMC, exercising an option for 40 AE1107C engines on the production line (20 MV-22s).

All funds are committed immediately, using USN FY 2013-2014 aircraft budgets. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in November 2015 (N00019-12-C-0007).

Jan 30/14: Support. A $10.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for more MV-22 and CV-22 Joint Performance Based Logistics support.

All funds are committed immediately, using SOCOM, USAf, and Navy budgets. Work will be performed in Amarillo, TX (50%) and Philadelphia, PA (50%), and is expected to be complete in February 2014. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-09-D-0008).

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The Special Forces CV-22 is their focus this year. As of Aug 13/13, 34 of 50 CV-22 aircraft have been fielded, but it has a serious issue to address.

2008 had revealed serious shortfalls in the Block 5 Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures (SIFRC) defensive system. They included serious reliability issues, inaccurate and late threat awareness, and limited countermeasure effectiveness against some threats. That won’t do, so the USAF modified SIRFC with new, higher-power transmitters, cabling, radio-frequency switches, antennas, and Block 7 operational flight software.

SIFRC Block 7 improves awareness, and offers some reliability improvements, but the other issues remain. Electronic countermeasures are no better than Block 5. The decoy countermeasures dispenser has to be triggered manually, because the automatic mode doesn’t work. The system also persists in “blue screen of death” computer system crashes, which require reboots. You’d rather not be shot at just then. The DOT&E’s overall verdict was that the CV-22 is survivable with the SIFRC Block 7 system, if correct tactics and procedures are used, but they’d still like to see these things fixed.

AFSOC also switched the GAU-21 (FN M3M) .50 caliber machine gun for the lightweight GAU-18 M2 variant on the rear ramp, which improved reliability. Antennas were also switched about, after 2008 tests showed radio communications limits that were unreliable even within 0.5 nmi of ground troops. FY 2013 testing went better, and radio communication with ground troops extended to 25 nmi, and aircraft extended from 5 nmi to 120 nmi.

DOT&E report

Jan 15/14: Support. A $26.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost reimbursable delivery order for on-site V-22 flight test management, flight test engineering, design engineering, and related efforts to support the US Navy’s Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron.

All funds are committed immediately, using USN FY 2013 procurement and FY 2014 R&D dollars. Work will be performed at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, MD (53%); Philadelphia, PA (32%); and Fort Worth, TX (15%), and is expected to be complete in December 2014 (N00019-12-G-0006, DO 0067).

Jan 15/14: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $13.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide 17,226 MV-22 engine flight hours. The maintenance and work required to keep the fleet in shape for that is their problem.

All funds are committed immediately, using FT 2014 Navy O&M funds. Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%) and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and the Pentagon days that it “is expected to be complete in November 2013”. Looks like they’re paying for a past period? (N00019-10-C-0020).

Jan 14/14: Israel. The US DSCA announces Israel’s official request for up to 6 “V-22B Block C Aircraft” for search and rescue and special operations roles. MV-22B Block Cs are the USMC’s most modern variant, though the notice carefully avoids specifying either USMC MV-22s or SOCOM CV-22s. The request could be worth up to $1.3 billion, and includes:

  • 16 Rolls Royce AE1107C Engines (12 + 4 spares)
  • 6 AN/APR-39 Radar Warning Receiver Systems
  • 6 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispenser Systems
  • 6 AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning Systems
  • 6 AN/APX-123 Identification Friend or Foe Systems
  • 6 AN/ARN-153 Tactical Airborne Navigation Systems
  • 6 AN/ARN-147 Very High Frequency (VHF) Omni-directional Range (VOR) Instrument Landing System (ILS) Beacon Navigation Systems
  • 6 AN/APN-194 Radar Altimeters
  • 6 Multi-Band Radios
  • 6 AN/ASN-163 Miniature Airborne Global Positioning System (GPS) Receivers (MAGR)
  • 36 AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Goggles
  • Plus a Joint Mission Planning System, support and test equipment, software, repair and return, aircraft ferry services and tanker support, spare and repair parts, technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of US Government and contractor support.

Previous assurances (q.v. Oct 31/13) mean that Israel will receive 6 V-22 Block Cs out of the next order lot, pushing out USMC acquisitions. Israel eventually chooses to finance this and other purchases with a Deferred Payment Plan (q.v. April 8/14).

The principal contractors involved with this proposed sale will be the Bell and Boeing joint venture in California, MD, with final aircraft assembly occurring in Amarillo, TX. Implementation of this proposed sale will require up to 30 US Government or contractor representatives in Israel on a temporary basis for program technical support and management oversight. Sources: US DSCA #13-73 | Defense News, “Pentagon Advances V-22 Sale to Israel” | Motely Fool, “Pentagon Swipes V-22 Ospreys From U.S. Marines, Sells Them to Israel Instead” (refers to Oct 31/13 entry info).

DSCA request: Israel (6)

Dec 23/13: Upgrades. An $9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price contract exercises an option for 2 V-22 Block A to Block B 50-69 series upgrade kits.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 Navy procurement budgets. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (60%) and Fort Worth, TX (40%), and is expected to be complete in November 2015 (N00019-13-C-0021).

Dec 21/13: Operations. Defense News reports:

“US aircraft flown into South Sudan to help with evacuation efforts on Saturday came under fire, wounding four US servicemen…. US and Ugandan officials said three US military aircraft that were trying to land at Bor, a rebel-held city in Jonglei state [South Sudan], were fired on and forced to return to neighboring Uganda with one of the aircraft hit and leaking fuel.”

The sources that said the planes were CV-22s turn out to be right, and SOCOM later decides that some additional armoring might be a good idea. Sources: Defense News, “US Aircraft Attacked, Fighting Escalates In South Sudan”.

Dec 17/13: Infrastructure. The Watts Contrack joint venture in Honolulu, HI receives a $57.1 million firm-fixed-price contract to build an MV-22 hangar, infrastructure and aircraft staging area for one MV-22 squadron at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Work includes a multi-story type II modified high bay aircraft maintenance hangar that uses a steel frame and metal roof, along with a 2nd story administrative space. Other primary and supporting facilities include an aircraft taxiway with shoulders, a 12-plane staging area, a Substation No. 3 feeder upgrade, and utility infrastructure. This will require earthwork in advance, and paving and site improvements include site storm drainage systems and taxiway shoulders. An unexercised option could raise the cumulative contract value to $59 million.

All funds are committed immediately, using 2010, 2011 & 2013 construction. This contract was competitively procured via Navy Electronic Commerce Online, with 9 proposals received by NAVFAC Pacific in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (N62742-14-C-1327).

Dec 14/13: Japan. Japan’s new 5-year FY 2014-2019 defense plan includes 17 MV-22s, as well as 3 Global Hawks. All will be bought outside the USA’s multi-year procurement term, pending Japanese cabinet approval and certain American export clearance.

This is somewhat amusing after the protests over American stationing of MV-22s in Japan, but Chinese aggressiveness around some of Japan’s more remote territories is pushed the Japanese to set up a force of Marines. The MV-22s are meant to offer them rapid mobility. Sources: Asahi Shimbun, “A lot of new equipment purchases in latest 5-year defense plan” | FY11-15 MTDP [PDF].

ANVIS/HUD-24
click for video

Dec 6/13: ECP – HMD. Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, TX, is being awarded a $15.6 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for additional engineering and technical support. They need to forward fit/retrofit Engineering Change Proposal #1007 into the V-22, and the contract also includes 8 helmet mounted display retrofit kits, spares, support equipment, tooling, and training devices. All finding is committed immediately, using FY 2013 US SOCOM budgets.

The V-22 uses Elbit Systems’ ANVIS/HUD helmet mounted displays, and SOCOM’s CV-22s use a new variant with color symbology (q.v. Sept 6/11). Work will be performed at Ridley Park, PA (99.9%), and Fort Worth, TX (0.1%), and is expected to be complete in March 2015 (N00019-12-G-0006, DO 0075).

Oct 31/13: Israel. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel confirms (see April 22/13 entry):

“Tonight, I am pleased to announce that we are working with the Israeli government to provide them with six new V-22s. I have directed the Marine Corps to make sure that this order is expedited. That means Israel will get six V-22s out of the next order to go on the assembly line, and they will be compatible with other IDF capabilities.”

From Hagel’s speech it can be inferred that these are MV-22s in the process of being modified for integration with Israeli systems. Israel had shown increasing interest in the rotorcraft during the last 2 years, so this 1st export is not surprising. Japan will be a tougher sell. Sources: US DoD.

FY 2013

RO-RO tanker test.

CV-22 washing
(click to view full)

Sept 25/13: Training. Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, TX, is being awarded $20.5 million for cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to upgrade the existing 15 Marine Corps MV-22 and 8 USAF CV-22 training devices; they’ll be upgraded to MV-22 Block C2.02 and CV-22 Block 20.2.01 configuration.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 & 2013 budgets. Work will be performed at the Amarillo, TX (63.5%), Chantilly, VA (29%), and Broken Arrow, OK (7.5%), and is expected to be complete in September 2016. The Naval Air Warfare Center’s Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL manages the contract (N00019-12-G-0006, #0026).

Sept 25/13: ECM. Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, TX, is being awarded a $9.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification, for non-recurring engineering and flight test aircraft modifications to incorporate the Joint Allied Threat Awareness System (JTAS) and the APR-39D(V)2 radar warning receiver into the MV-22 Osprey aircraft. JATAS detects lasers and incoming fire, and is a standard for modern Navy rotorcraft. The APR-39 detects radar emissions, and is used on a wide range of US military planes.

$5.2 million in FY 2012 & 2013 RDT&E funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (98.7%); St. Louis, MO (1.1%); and El Paso, TX (0.2%), and is expected to be completed in March 2016. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-07-G-0008). See also ATK JATAS page | DID re: APR-39.

Sept 5/13: RO-RO Aerial Tanker. The Bell Boeing V-22 Program announces a successful initial test of a roll-on aerial tanker system for the V-22 Osprey. Once it’s loaded in, it extends the refueling hose out a partially-open back ramp to refuel helicopter and aircraft. That kind of system has obvious uses for Special Forces CV-22s, and the US Marines will find a ship-based aerial refueling capability extremely useful. So would the US Navy, which has allowed this capability to shrink with the retirement of its A-6 Intruder and S-3 Viking aircraft fleets. Success could create another argument in favor of the HV-22 as the next naval cargo aircraft (COD, q.v. June 20/13), but it would be used in place of Super Hornets for refueling aircraft near the carrier. Serious refueling capability for fighter jets may require more capacity and range than the V-22 can usefully provide.

The August 2013 demonstration over north Texas used F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornet fighters, and only tested the V-22 system’s ability to perform on command and maintain stable hose positions. Future tests will involve graduated stages, leading to connections with receiver aircraft and then active refueling. Sources: Boeing and Bell Helicopter’s Sept 5/13 releases.

Aug 22/13: Support. Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis, IN receives a $10.8 million to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract modification for 11 low power repairs (see above) to AE1107 turboshaft engines, and 2 months of mission care site support, for the HMX-1 VH-22s in Quantico, VA.

Those are the new Presidential V-22s, which received so many headlines recently for being used to take the President’s dog Bo on vacation. Not to mention 2 bags of basketballs. They aren’t used to carry the President, so if you ever get a ride on one, just remember that they’re carrying you instead of basketballs.

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%); Indianapolis, IN (20%); and Quantico, VA (10%), and is expected to be complete in February 2014. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract (N00019-10-C-0020). Sources: Boston Globe, “Obamas arrived on Martha’s Vineyard” | Washington Times, “Dog days of summer: Bo Obama flies on Osprey to Martha’s Vineyard vacation”.

Aug 21/13: Japan. Japan is looking to create a small force of Marines to protect its outlying islands, in an expansion of the Western Army’s Infantry Regiment. A preparatory force is being set up, and Japan reportedly plans to equip the final force with MV-22 Ospreys.

The MV-22B has been very controversial in Okinawa (q.v. September 2012 entry), which isn’t happy to have the Marines in general. A role in the defense of Japan’s outlying Islands will help change the V-22’s perception in Japan as a whole, and Japan plans to buy early. It will take a while for the new unit to learn how to fly and use the Ospreys, and they’ll want to be ready by the time the unit is officially activated. A sharp jump in the YEN 8 million ($80,000) budget to research V-22 integration into the JSDF will be the 1st step. Sources: Asahi Shinbun, “Defense Ministry preparing Japanese version of U.S. Marines”.

Aug 16/13: Support. The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, TX receives a maximum $43 million delivery order for prop rotor gearboxes, under a firm-fixed-price, sole-source Navy contract.

There was 1 solicitation with 1 response. Work will be performed until December 2017. The US Defense Logistics Agency Aviation in Philadelphia, PA manages the contract (SPRPA1-09-G-004Y, DO 6125)

June 24/13: Engines. Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis, IN receives a $7.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for “additional engineering services for up to 9,253 [engine] flight hours for the MV-22 fleet aircraft in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and the east and west coast Marine Expeditionary Units deployments.”

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in November 2013. All funds are committed immediately from a combination of regular and OCO war supplemental budgets, and it will all expire on Sept 30/13 (N00019-10-C-0020).

June 27/13: +1 MV-22. A $60.2 million modification adds 1 MV-22 to the fixed-price-incentive-fee Lot 17 – 21 multiyear contract, using the FY 2013 funds under the Variation in Quantity clause. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (24.6%); Ridley Park, PA (19.2%); Amarillo, TX (10.4%); Dallas, TX (4.3%); East Aurora, NY (2.5%); Park City, UT (1.7%); El Segundo, CA (1.3%); Endicott, NY (1%); Ontario, Canada (0.9%); Tempe, AZ (0.8%); Rome, NY (0.7%); Torrance, CA (0.7%); Luton, United Kingdom (0.6%); Clifton, NJ (0.6%); Salisbury, MD (0.6%); Los Angeles, CA (0.6%); Cobham, United Kingdom (0.6%); Irvine, CA (0.6%); San Diego, CA (0.5%); Yakima, WA (0.5%); Brea, CA (0.5%); Rockmart, GA (0.5%); McKinney, TX (0.4%); Albuquerque, NM (0.4%); Whitehall, MI (0.4%); Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (0.4%); Tucson, AZ (0.4%); Erie, PA (0.3%); Vergennes, Vt. (0.3%); Kilgore, TX (0.3%); Shelby, NC (0.3%); Avon, OH (0.2%); Santa Clarita, CA (0.2%); Garden City, NY (0.2%); El Cajon, CA (0.2%); Corinth, TX (0.2%); Sylmar, CA (0.2%); Westbury, NY (0.1%); and various other locations inside and outside the United States (21.8%). The contract runs until November 2016 (N00019-12-C-2001).

1 extra MV-22

June 20/13: HV-22? The US Navy’s Analysis of Alternatives for the Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) fleet cargo role will lead to an RFP in late 2014, with a contract award planned for FY 2016. The V-22 reportedly did better than the Navy had expected in the initial AoA analysis, and is now expected to be a strong competitor.

Northrop Grumman will be offering a much cheaper option: remanufacture and upgrade the existing 35-plane C-2 fleet, incorporating technologies from the derivative E-2D Hawkeye AWACS plane that’s just beginning to roll off Florida production lines. The new C-2s would have remanufactured fuselages and wings, with the E-2D’s improved engines and propellers, cockpit, and avionics. The goal would be a service life extension from 2028 to 2048, for much less than the $78 million average flyaway cost of a V-22, and lower operating costs.

The original V-22 program had the Navy ordering 48 “HV-22” Ospreys for duties like search and rescue, but heavy downwash, technical problems, and high costs led them to assign HV-22 roles to the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter instead. The COD competition offers the V-22 a second crack at a Navy contract, and they’ll be touting an HV-22’s ability to deliver to each ship in the fleet, instead of offloading onto a carrier for helicopter delivery to individual ships. NDIA National Defense.

June 12/13: MYP-II. A $4.894 billion modification finalizes the previously Lot 17 contract (q.v. Dec 12/12) into a fixed-price-incentive-fee, multi-year contract. It covers the manufacture and delivery of 92 MV-22s for the US Marine Corps, and 7 CV-22s for AFSOCOM. $326.7 million is committed immediately, using FY 2013 Navy, USAF, and SOCOM budgets.

The proposal in the FY 2013 budget involved 98 Ospreys (91 MV-22, 7 CV-22), and priced the overall outlay at $6.5 billion, in order to create an $852.4 million savings over individual annual buys. When the Dec 21/12 contract is added to this announcement, the actual MYP-II contract adds up to $6.524 billion for 99 tilt-rotors.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, (23%); Ridley Park, PA (18%); Amarillo, TX (10%); Dallas, TX (4%); East Aurora, NY (3%); Park City, UT (2%); El Segundo, CA (1%); Endicott, NY (1%); Tempe, AZ (1%); and other locations (37%), and is expected to be complete in September 2019. (N00019-12-C-2001).

US NAVAIR also announced the deal, while setting the current fleet at 214 V-22s in operation worldwide, with more deliveries to come in fulfillment of past orders. That serving fleet has amassed nearly 200,000 flight hours, with more than half of those logged in the past 3 years.

MYP-II:
92 MV-22s,
7 CV-22s

June 10/13: Reuters reports that the U.S. Navy plans to sign the V-22’s second multi-year procurement deal this week, and buy 99 more V-22s. The deal was supposed to begin in FY 2013, and that contract has already been issued. On the other hand, as we’ve seen with the Super Hornet program, it’s possible for multi-year deals to reach back a year and incorporate existing commitments.

USMC Col. Gregory Masiello says the decision underscores the government’s confidence in the V-22. Alternative and possibly co-existing explanation: it underscores the USMC’s desire to make the program untouchable, helping to shield the overall force from budget cuts by making the depth of cuts needed elsewhere too unpalatable to think about.

June 7/13: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN received a $6.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 10 “low power repairs” of the CV-22’s AE1107 turboshafts.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%) and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in February 2014. All funds are committed immediately, using USAF FY 2013 Operations and Maintenance dollars that will expire on Sept 30/13 (N00019-10-C-0020).

May 16/13: Lot 18. Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, TX, is being awarded a $40 million contract modification for long-lead components associated with the manufacture and delivery of 19 USMC MV-22Bs in Production Lot 18 (FY 2014). Which is 1 more than the budget stated, but there are also OCO supplemental requests for wartime replacement. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (24.6%); Ridley Park, PA (19.2%), Amarillo, TX (10.4%), Dallas, TX (4.3%); East Aurora, NY (2.5%); Park City, Utah (1.7%); El Segundo, CA (1.3%); Endicott, NY (1.0%); Ontario, Canada (0.9%); Tempe, AZ (.8%); Rome, NY (0.7%); Torrance, CA (0.7%); Luton, United Kingdom (0.6%); Clifton, NJ (0.6%); Salisbury, MD (0.6%); Los Angeles, CA (0.6%); Cobham, United Kingdom (0.6%); Irvine, CA (0.6%); San Diego, CA (0.5%); Yakima, WA (0.5%); Brea, CA (0.5%); Rockmart, GA (0.5%); McKinney, TX (0.4%); Albuquerque, NM (0.4%); Whitehall, Mich. (0.4%); Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (0.4%); Tucson, AZ (0.4%); Erie, PA (0.3%); Vergennes, VT (0.3%); Kilgore, TX (0.3%); Shelby, NC (0.3%); Avon, Ohio (0.2%); Santa Clarita, CA (0.2%); Garden City, NY (0.2%); El Cajon, CA (0.2%); Corinth, TX (0.2%); Sylmar, CA (0.2%); Westbury, NY (0.1%); and other locations (21.8%). Work is expected to be complete in September 2016 (N00019-12-C-2001).

April 22/13: Israel. Secretary of Defense Hagel announces that Israel will order V-22s, as part of a package that includes KC-135 aerial tankers, AESA radars for their fighter jets, and radar-killing missiles:

“Minister Yaalon and I agreed that the United States will make available to Israel a set of advanced new military capabilities,… including antiradiation missiles and advanced radars for its fleet of fighter jets, KC-135 refueling aircraft, and most significantly, the V-22 Osprey, which the U.S. has not released to any other nation,” Hagel said…. Introducing the V-22 into the Israeli air force, he added, will give that service long-range, high-speed maritime search-and rescue-capabilities to deal with a range of threats and contingencies.”

“Has not released” is a nice way of saying that Israel was the 1st country to take its request to this level. Based on previous reports (q.v. Aug 2/11, June 8/11), it seems likely that Israel will either order CV-22s, or modify MV-22Bs on its own for special forces roles. Pentagon | Israel Defense | yNet.

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

The FY 2014 request is $1.867 billion to buy 21 aircraft: 18 MV-22Bs and 3 CV-22s. It represents the 2nd year of the V-22’s 2nd multi-year contract.

April 10/13: Ro-Ro Kits. Flight International reports that Boeing is working on a roll-on/roll-off kit for the V-22. The concept could apply to functions like surveillance, via kits designed for ground or even aerial surveillance. Their main focus, however, is reportedly an aerial refueller kit that would extend a hose out the back ramp. Customers like the USMC and SOCOM can use C-130 Hercules turboprops for that, but a V-22 kit would trade less fuel capacity for a refueller that could deploy from ships. There are many situations in which that’s a very useful trade. Flight International.

March 11/13: Support. A $73 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to repair 142 V-22 component types. Funding for this contract will be release through individual task orders.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (80%) and Ridley Park, PA (20%) until Sept 8/15. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with 10 USC 2304 (c)(1) by US NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-13-D-017N).

Jan 31/13: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives an $83.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercise an option for 38 AE1107C turboshaft engines (34 USN @ $74.9 million & 4 USAF @ $8.8 million).

This is part of the multi-year engine deal described on March 30/12, and it would equip most of Lot XVII: 17 MV-22s and 2 CV-22s. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN and is expected to be complete in December 2014. All contract funds are committed immediately from USN FY 2012 Aircraft Procurement, and USAF FY 2013 Aircraft Procurement budget lines (N00019-12-C-0007).

MV-22 functional check flight
click for video

Jan 17/13: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The V-22 is included, and critics are sure to take note of this paragraph:

“No additional flight testing or engineering analysis have been done indicating a change would be appropriate to DOT&E’s September 2005 assessment that the MV-22 cannot perform autorotation to a survivable landing.”

V-22 pilots seem to prefer glides instead, vid. the April 11/10 crash. DOT&E also confirms that the engine nacelles’ integrated wiring systems fail too often, due to internal chafing and wire insulation breakdown. PMA-275 has funded a program to try and fix it by replacing 13 wiring bundles, but this is another issue that’s closely connected to a tilt-rotor’s fundamental design.

Overall, MV-22 Block C upgrades have been helpful to the platform, improving reliability, availability, and maintainability. Some things aren’t quite 100%, though. The weather radar works, but only the right-hand pilot can use it, by sacrificing 1 of the plane’s 2 multi-colored displays. Electronic Standby Flight Instruments have a 1 – 5 second lag in the Vertical Velocity Indicator, which makes it hard to handle aircraft altitude. The Traffic Advisory System (TAS) was a complete fail, triggering warnings when the V-22 entered formation flight.

Dec 28/12: Lot 17. A $1,405.7 million contract modification, covering 21 FRP Lot 17 (FY 2013) tilt-rotors: 17 MV-22s and 4 CV-22s. With long-lead contracts added, the total comes to $1,629.5 million including engines. Even this may not reflect full costs, given other government furnished equipment.

The contract modification also includes long-lead items for another 21 FRP Lot 18 (FY 2014) aircraft: 18 MV-22s and 3 CV-22s. These are the first big buys under the new multi-year contract, and $1,043.6 million is committed immediately.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (24.6%); Ridley Park, PA (19.2%); Amarillo, TX (10.4%); Dallas, TX (4.3%); East Aurora, NY (2.5%); Park City, UT (1.7%); El Segundo, CA (1.3%); Endicott, NY (1.0%); Ontario, Canada (0.9%); Tempe, AZ (.8%); Rome, NY (0.7%); Torrance, CA (0.7%); Luton, United Kingdom (0.6%); Clifton, NJ (0.6%); Salisbury, MD (0.6%); Los Angeles, CA (0.6%); Cobham, United Kingdom (0.6%); Irvine, CA (0.6%); San Diego, CA (0.5%); Yakima, Wash. (0.5%); Brea, CA (0.5%); Rockmart, GA (0.5%); McKinney, TX (0.4%); Albuquerque, N.M. (0.4%); Whitehall, Mich. (0.4%); Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (0.4%); Tuczon, AZ (0.4%); Erie, PA (0.3%); Vergennes, Vt. (0.3%); Kilgore, TX (0.3%); Shelby, N.C. (0.3%); Avon, OH (0.2%); Santa Clarita, CA (0.2%); Garden City, NY (0.2%); El Cajon, CA (0.2%); Corinth, TX (0.2%); Sylmar, CA (0.2%); Westbury, NY (0.1%); and other locations, each below 0.25% (21.8% total), and is expected to be complete in September 2016. US Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-12-C-2001).

FY 2013 buy & FY 2014 long-lead items

Jan 3/13: Japan. Despite a steady stream of anti-Osprey protests on Okinawa through 2012, Japan is reportedly becoming interested in buying the V-22 for itself. The idea was actually proposed in October 2012 by ousted Prime Minister Noda’s administration, but the new Abe government’s push for more defense capabilities is expected to boost the Osprey’s odds. Sources: Defense Update, “Japan Looking At Procuring Controversial V-22 Osprey”.

Dec 28/12: Avionics. A $33.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for engineering and technical support for V-22 flight control system and on-aircraft avionics software; flight test planning and coordination of changed avionics and flight control configurations; upgrade planning of avionics and flight controls, including performance of qualification testing; and integration testing on software.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, (90%) and Fort Worth, TX (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2013. All contract funds are committed immediately, but $10.9 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13 (N00019-12-G-0006).

Dec 21/12: MV-22 upgrades. A $19.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification exercises an option for 2 MV-22 Block A to B 50 – 69 series upgrade installs, and 3 MV-22 Block A to B kits.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (60%); Havelock, NC (20%); and Fort Worth, TX (20%), and is expected to be complete in June 2016. All contract funds are committed immediately (N00019-12-C-0091).

Nov 27/12: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $52.3 million firm-fixed-price contract option for AE1107C engine sustainment services, on behalf of the USMC and the USAF. It covers “low power repairs”, turboshaft engine support and fleet site support until November 2013.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN (80%), and Oakland, CA (20%), and is expected to be complete in November 2013. “Contract funds in the amount of $52,267,510 will be obligated on this award of which $50,378,962 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.” (N00019-10-C-0020).

Nov 5/12: De-icing. A $9.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy 51 V-22 central de-icing Distributor retrofit kits and 29 engine nacelle ice protection controller unit retrofit kits. Icing up has been a recurring issue for the V-22, due to its structure and the altitudes it flies at. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and is expected to be complete in December 2014 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Oct 4/12: Crash whitewash? Brig. Gen. Don Harvel (ret.), who led the investigation into the April 9/10 CV-22 crash in Afghanistan, discusses the USAF’s efforts to whitewash his investigation, and prevent publication of a report that pointed to engine failure as the cause of the crash. WIRED Danger Room.

Oct 4/12: Support. A $204.9 million cost-plus incentive-fee delivery order for supply chain management of 170 components, over slightly more than 4 additional years, in support of the V-22 aircraft.

Work under the performance based logistics contract will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (80%), and Ridley Park, PA, (20%) and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/16. This contract was not competitively procured by NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA, in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2304c1a (N00019-09-D-0008, #0006). See also US Navy.

FY 2012

MV-22, landing
(click to view full)

Sept 26/12: Paint me. An $8.8 million modification to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-fee, firm-target V-22 multi-year production contract, to add the HMX-1 paint scheme to 14 MV-22s: 7 Lot 15 and 7 Lot 16 aircraft.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (98%), and Philadelphia, PA (2%), and is expected to be complete in November 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-07-C-0001).

Sept 25/12: Training. A $74.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 7 MV-22 Block C Containerized Flight Training Devices (CFTD – simulators) including spares and a support period.

Work will be performed in Amarillo, Texas (39%); Chantilly, VA (30%); Salt Lake City, UH (13%); Clearwater, FL (11%); Orlando, FL (3%); Lutz, Fla. (2%); Huntsville, AL (1%) and Ann Arbor, MI (1%), and is expected to be complete in October 2016. NAWCTSD received one other bid. The Bell-Boeing team delivered a first batch of 6 CFTDs (q.v. Aug 16/10 entry) between 2007 and 2010 (N61340-12-C-0033). See also FBO #N61340-12-C-0033, initiated in December 2011.

Sept 25/12: Sub-contractors. Raytheon in Mckinney, TX receives a maximum $14.7 million firm-fixed-price, sole-source contract for CV-22 support. The firm does a lot of V-22 avionics work, and there was one solicitation with one response.

Work will use FY 2012 Navy Working Capital Funds, and continue to August 2014. The US Defense Logistics Agency Aviation in Philadelphia, PA manages this contract (SPRPA1-09-G-001X-1058).

Sept 21/12: Sub-contractors. US NAVAIR announces a $3 million cost-plus fixed fee award to Mound Laser & Photonics Center, Inc. in Miamisburg, OH for “Operational Readiness Improvement of V-22 Osprey via Wear Mitigation of Key Engine Components.” It’s a backhanded acknowledgement of a problem. FBO.gov.

September 2012: Japan. In press conference after press conference, the Japanese Ministry of Defense is hounded by journalists seeking to see who will get the last word, as local opposition to the Osprey deployment continued unabated (see July 2012 entries below). The mayors of Iwakuni and Ginowan continue to express their disapproval with ongoing, though smaller, protests going on for 3 months now, despite the authorities granting official safety clearance to the aircraft on September 18.

Aug 14/12: MV-22 post-crash. The USMC releases publicly a redacted report [PDF] on the April 2012 crash in Morocco. It concludes that the co-pilot lacked proper understanding of true wind speed during take off then made errors that led to losing and failing to regain control of the aircraft. The report also regrets that the two marines who lost their lives in the accident were not strapped to their seats.

Among recommendations, they want additions to NATOPS manuals to cover the type of tailwind circumstances under which the accident occurred. USMC Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Schmidle Jr. subsequently said during a press conference that other pilots will be briefed on what happened, and training and simulators will be updated.

July 26/12: Infrastructure. Barnhart-Balfour Beatty, Inc. in San Diego, CA receives a $35.5 million firm-fixed-price task order to demolish an existing aircraft hangar at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, CA, and build a new 2-bay MV-22 hangar with adequate space to support maintenance. The contract also funds interior furniture, fixtures, and equipment, and contains options that could raise its value to $35.7 million.

Work will be performed in Oceanside, CA, and is expected to be complete by August 2015. Nine proposals were received for this task order, under a multiple-award contract managed by US Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest in San Diego, CA (N62473-10-D-5407, #0004).

July 25/12: CV-22 SATCOM. A $22.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for engineering design, integration and testing of an improved CV-22 Block 20 communications system for “trans-oceanic air traffic control and tactical communications”.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (99%), and Amarillo, TX (1%), and is expected to be complete in December 2015. $79,188 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-08-C-0025).

July 23/12: Japan. Twelve MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft are off-loaded from the civilian cargo ship Green Ridge at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, which features both an airfield and a port facility. This marks the first deployment of the MV-22 to Japan. With their range and in-flight refueling capability, MV-22s would be able to transfer marines to disputed regions included the Pinnacle Islands, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

MCAS Iwakuni Marines will prepare the 12 aircraft for flight, but they won’t conduct functional check flights until the Government of Japan confirms the safety of flight operations. After their check-out flights, the Ospreys will fly to their new home at MCAS Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, as part of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (HMM-265).

A 2nd squadron of 12 aircraft is scheduled to arrive at MCAS Futenma during the summer of 2013. However arrival of the aircraft has proven contentions with protests to its deployment making evening TV news in Japan. USMC | US Embassy in Japan | Want China Times | The Economist.

July 21/12: Japan. At a press conference in Tokyo, Deputy US Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter answered questions and described the compromise reached with the Japanese government concerning MV-22 deployment in Japan.

“…we are committed to providing your airworthiness experts with all of the data and all of the information about the entire flight history of the V-22, including the two recent incidents, and allowing them to analyze that data and take every step they need to make to reconfirm the airworthiness of that airplane… This is a process, a technical process of assessing airworthiness. I think you have to let the experts do their work…”

The U.S. and Japanese governments have agreed that flight operations will not begin until that reconfirmation has taken place. Let’s just say that it would be unlikely for the answer to be “no” at the end of this process. US DoD.

July 19/12: Japan. Fourteen governors whose prefectures host U.S. bases issued a statement criticizing the delivery of MV-22 Ospreys at MCAS Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture. They plan to ask the central government to take responsibility for explaining to prefectural authorities the impact on residents of the Osprey training flights that are to be conducted through many parts of the country, and to respect local opinions. There has also been talk of extending the inquiry to include Class-B (partial disability or $500,000+ damage) and Class-C ($50-500 thousand, recovered injury) V-22 accidents, but:

“The U.S. military regards Class-A mishaps as the major accidents,” a Defense Ministry official said. “There would be no end to the procedure if you began taking up Class-B and Class-C incidents.”

See: Asashi Shimbun | Japan Times.

V-22 onto CVN 77
click for video

July 19/12: CVN landing. A V-22 Osprey from Marine Tiltrotor Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 22 lands for the first time on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) to contribute to that carrier’s flight deck certification. V-22s had already landed on aircraft carriers CVN 77 and 72 earlier during the year, says NAVAIR.

Concepts of employment for the Navy’s V-22s published as early as 2004 [PDF] included landing on carriers for search & rescue missions and for logistics done so far with C-2As. Whether the Navy will procure its own V-22s as carrier on-board delivery planes (COD) has been discussed for years (see also Aug 11/10 entry).

July 12/12: Infrastructure. Pave-Tech Inc. in Carlsbad, CA receives $8.3 million for firm-fixed-price task order to design and build the MV-22 Aviation Pavement Project at Marine Corps Air Station, Camp Pendleton, CA. All contract funds are obligated immediately, and the firm will install or rehabilitate Pendleton’s aircraft pavement to accommodate MV-22 squadrons.

Work will be performed in Oceanside, CA, and is expected to be complete by January 2014. Four proposals were received for this task order, under a multiple-award contract managed by US Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest in San Diego, CA (N62473-09-D-1605, #0012).

June 22/12: CV-22. A $74.4 million option under the fixed-price-incentive-fee V-22 multi-year production contract, to provide 1 CV-22 combat loss replacement aircraft for the Air Force.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (56%); Amarillo, TX (43%); and El Paso, TX (1%), and is expected to be complete in November 2014 (N00019-07-C-0001).

CV-22 loss replacement

June 16/12: Japan. USMC MV-22s were supposed to deploy to MCAS Futenma in Okinawa, but recent crashes (vid. April 11/12, June 13/12 entries) led Japan’s government to halt those plans. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura says that Tokyo has asked the United States to investigate the details of the crash as quickly as possible, adding that the “Japanese government will take no further action [on the Osprey deployment] unless details [of the crash] are shared…”

The Osprey deployment has also turned into a lightning rod among local politicians, who cite safety fears. On the one hand, this is a pretext, as many of these politicians are simply hostile to the base in general. On the other hand, Okinawa is densely populated enough that crashes are a legitimate civilian concern, and a crash that killed civilians there could set off a serious political crisis. Even mainland locals in MCAS Iwakuni, where USMC MV-22s were temporarily deployed in July 2012, are restive. Daily Yomiuri.

June 15/12: Support. A firm-fixed-price, sole-source $6.5 million contract for MV-22 rudder assemblies. Work will be performed in Texas and Pennsylvania, using FY 2012-2015 Navy Working Capital Funds until Sept 30/15. The Defense Logistics Agency Aviation in Philadelphia, PA manages this contract (SPRPA1-09-G-004Y-5948).

June 13/12: Crash. Hurlburt Field announces that 5 aircrew members were injured when their CV-22 crashed north of Navarre, FL on the Eglin Range, during a routine gunnery training mission. The cause of the crash is unknown, as the lead ship didn’t see them go down. The CV-22 came to rest upside down, and there were fires in the area that had to be fought afterward. It may not be salvageable.

At a June 14/12 press conference, Col. Slife says that CV-22 flights will resume while the Safety Board and Accident Board complete their work. He adds that mission requests from SOCOM currently exceed the CV-22 fleet’s capacity to fill them. As of June 15/12, 3 of the 5 crew remain hospitalized, in stable condition.

CV-22 Crash

June 4/12: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN received a $10.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 18 CV-22 “low power repairs” to their AE1107C turboshaft engines.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in February 2013. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-10-C-0020)

April 11/12: Fatal Crash. A USMC MV-22B crashes in a training area southwest of Agadir, Morocco, during a the African Lion 2012 military exercise. The Marine Corps Times reported that it had just unloaded a group of Marines at a training camp and was returning to the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima when it crashed. That probably prevented a lot of fatalities, as the crash killed 2 Marines and injured the other 2 on board. USMC | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | POGO’s program crashes timeline.

MV-22 crashes

March 30/12: Multi-year Engine Contract. Rolls-Royce Corp., Indianapolis, IN receives a $150.9 million 1st year installment on a 5-year firm-fixed-price contract, to buy 70 AE1107C turboshaft engines for the US Navy ($129.4 million) and US AFSOC ($21.6 million).

An April 23/12 Rolls-Royce release clarifies the total award as a $598 Million contract for up to 268 installed and spare engines, to equip USMC MV-22s (232) and AFSOC CV-22s (33). The contract has 4 more option years left, and will run to October 2017. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages this contract (N00019-12-C-0007).

Multi-year engine buy

March 30/12: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs” for 2012. The V-22 program is included only in passing, as GAO notes the fleet’s current expected total purchase cost of $57.211 billion. That’s a hefty jump from even the “first full estimate” baseline, but the last 5 years have seen a change of just 5.2%.

On the other hand, most of a platform’s costs lie in Operations & Maintenance budgets, and here the V-22 remains a question mark – vid. Nov 29/11 reports that the fleet’s cost would break $100 billion.

March 30/12: Guns. A $31.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to a delivery order will design and develop improvements to BAE’s Interim Defensive Weapon System (IDWS) turret, retrofit the IDWS to incorporate these improvements, provide IDWS logistical support, and perform aero model and software updates.

Work will be performed in Johnson City, NY (95%), and Philadelphia, PA (5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2015 (N00019-07-G-0008).

March 30/12: Testing. A $28,846,120 fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to provide a new V-22 instrumented aircraft (NVIA) for testing. The NVIA will support V-22 structural tests, and replace an existing test aircraft which is “increasingly difficult and expensive to support and not representative of current production configuration.” They also expect the new NVIA bird to support the V-22 development roadmap with better flight test data, and better reliability than the existing test aircraft.

Work will be performed in Amarillo, TX (35%); Arlington, TX (35%); Fort Worth, TX (21%); Philadelphia, PA (8%); and Seattle, WA (1%), and is expected to be complete in December 2014 (N00019-12-G-0006).

March 6/12: V-22 flight costs. Loren B. Thompson of the Lexington Institute think tank fires a piece strongly in favor of the MV-22, arguing that detractors are not applying the right metrics to properly assess its value, saying they:

“…complain it costs about $10,000 per flight hour to operate the MV-22 compared with about $3,000 per flight hour for the MH-60, the Marine helicopter most closely resembling what the Air Force uses for combat search-and-rescue. However, this ignores the superior speed, range and carrying capacity of the MV-22. When the metric is changed to cost per mile flown, the MV-22 only looks about 60 percent more expensive, and when the metric is passenger seat miles, the MV-22 looks twice as efficient ($1.53 versus $3.21).”

Of course, passenger seat miles assume full capacity. Airlines know that isn’t always true, and the variety inherent in military missions makes it a poor choice of statistic. Thompson does add one point that’s more reasonable, when he says that:

“It is also worth noting that the MV-22’s computerized reporting system depresses apparent readiness rates compared with the older, manual system used for the legacy CH-46s it will replace.”

Feb 26/12: Media are picking up on previous reports of interest from Canada, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, and have added India as a potential export prospect. Most of this involves trade show visits, which don’t mean much, though some cases have involved formal requests for technical information (Israel) and even limited demonstrations (Canada).

This comes as the US military operates more than 160 CV/MV-22s, and has flown more than 130,000 hours with the aircraft. Reuters | Flightglobal. See also Aug 2/11 and Dec 1/11 entries.

Feb 17/12: Hostile in HASC. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA-12, south San Francisco) joins the House Armed Services Committee. Her position statement on defense makes it clear that she’s no fan of the V-22, or of missile defense.

Feb 14/12: MV-22 Block C The first MV-22 Block C is delivered, with enhanced displays in the cockpit and in the cabin. See also Nov 24/09 entry. Boeing.

Feb 13/12: MYP-II? FY13 Budget Request. The Navy proposes a follow-on multiyear procurement (MYP) to buy 98 V-22 aircraft (91 MV-22, 7 CV-22) under a single fixed-price contract, between FY 2013 – FY 2017. The MV-22s will be bought by the Navy for the Marines, while the CV-22s aircraft are a joint buy involving the USAF and SOCOM. Their hope is to save $852.4 million, or 11.6% of the total.

Feb 9/12: T-AKE ship landing. A USMC MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from VMM-266 makes the 1st landing aboard a T-AKE ship, on USNS Robert E. Peary [T-AKE 5]. The Osprey landed aboard Robert E. Peary while conducting an experimental resupply of Marines during exercise Bold Alligator 2012.

If the USMC can turn this test into a standard operating procedure, it would let the Marines lift ammunition directly from a T-AKE shuttle ship to shore, rather than using further transfer to other ships. US Navy photo release.

T-AKE ship landing

Feb 7/12: Support. Textron subsidiary AAI Test & Training announces a $7.7 million Advanced Boresight Equipment (ABE) award from the US Defense Logistics Agency, to provide 16 Model 310A ABE core test systems for AFSOC’s CV-22 Osprey fleet. Both the USAF and US Special Operations Command were already customers. The company has already delivered more than 40 ABE systems to the USAF, supporting more than 10 different aircraft platforms, while US SOCOM has used AAI Test & Training’s ABEs to align its fixed-wing aircraft fleet for more than 5 years.

ABE is a gyro-stabilized, electro-optical angular measurement system designed to align aircraft subsystems. Poor alignment may be bad for your tires, but it’s a lot worse in a flying aircraft. Because the ABE system supports concurrent maintenance, and does not require aircraft to be jacked and leveled during testing, both depot-level and operational-level users can maintain maintenance schedules, while spending less. These features also support increased manufacturing throughput for original equipment manufacturers.

Feb 2/12: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $55.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising a maintenance services option for the V-22 fleets’ AE1107C turboshaft engines.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in November 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-10-C-0020).

Jan 18/12: Unique ID. A $7.3 million fixed-price-incentive-fee contract modification to the MYP will prepare the V-22 production line to incorporate unique identification marked parts, beginning with Lot 16. The US military has been moving toward automated part identification since it adopted the EAN.CC standard in 2005.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (73%); Fort Worth, TX (17%); and Amarillo, TX (10%), and is expected to be complete in October 2014 (N00019-07-C-0001).

Jan 17/12: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). For the V-22, a follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) dubbed OT-IIIG that took place between August and November 2011 showed that the latest V4.01 software works as intended, as well as demonstrated Netted Weather and Blue Force Tracker capabilities.

DOTE was more reserved regarding the Interim Defense Weapon System, noting that its 360 firing radius can only work in limited firing arcs during landing approach. Coordinating targeting with the gunner also adds an extra burden on the co-pilot, and mounting this turret reduces the useful cargo and troop payload. On the other hand, the weapon has been effective when used. The competing ramp-mounted .50 caliber machine gun (RMWS) doesn’t have these issues, because it’s limited to facing the rear of the aircraft, though it is in the way on the ramp. Pick your poison.

“[V-22] Reliability, availability, and maintainability data were not available in time for this report.” They do state, however, that reliability and maintainability during OT-IIIG tests had the same issues as the deployed fleet. They mention an average 53% mission capable rate for the period between June 2007 – May 2010, though the V-22 office has been reporting a readiness rate of about 68% over the last year. Both figures are way below the promised target of 82%. DOTE [PDF].

Dec 29/11: Lot 17 lead-in. A $72.9 million advance acquisition contract for Production Lot 17 (FY 2013) long lead time components. Lot 17 includes 21 V-22s: 17 USMC MV-22Bs, and 4 US AFSOC CV-22s.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (50%), Forth Worth, TX (25%), and Amarillo, TX (25%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-12-C-2001).

Dec 29/11: Support. A $34.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order modification covers 2012 engineering and technical support for C/MV-22 flight control system and on-aircraft avionics. This includes configuration changes to the V-22 avionics and flight control software; flight test planning and coordination of changed avionics and flight control configurations; upgrade planning of avionics and flight controls, including performance of qualification testing; and integration testing on software products.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (90%); and Fort Worth, TX (10%); and is expected to be completed in December 2012. $6.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Dec 29/11: Defensive. A $33.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for engineering and flight test modifications to the MV-22B’s APR-39DvX Joint and Allied Threat Awareness System and Radar Warning Receiver.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (96%); Fort Walton Beach, FL (3%); and St. Louis, Mo. (1%), and is expected to be completed in February 2016. $6,526,986 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Dec 29/11: Test Sqn. A $28.9 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to support the Navy Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron’s MV-22s. Services will include on-site flight test management, flight test engineering, design engineering, and related efforts.

Work will be performed at NAS Patuxent River, MD (42%); Philadelphia, PA (37%); and Fort Worth, TX (21%), and is expected to be complete in December 2012 (N00019-12-G-0006).

Dec 29/11: Defensive. An $11.5 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for 12 combined CV-22 Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures System modification and retrofit kits. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (98%), and Fort Worth, TX (2%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Dec 27/11: Avionics. A $30.2 million fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-fixed-fee order covering engineering and testing efforts to redesign the C/MV-22’s mid-wing avionic units. The mid-wing avionic units include the vibration structural life and engine diagnostics airborne unit, the fuel management unit, and the drive system interface unit.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (99%), and Philadelphia, PA (1%), and is expected to be complete in June 2014. $30.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Dec 22/11: Support. $12.4 million for the repair of various V-22 components. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA, and is expected to be complete by Dec 30/13. The Navy Working Capital Funds being used will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. One company was solicited for this non-competitive requirement, and one offer was received in response to the solicitation by US NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-10-D-003N, DO 0016).

Dec 12/11: Support. A $37.6 million for delivery order for the repair of various V-22 components, under a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, using Navy Working Capital Funds. Work will be performed in Roanoke, TX, and is expected to be complete by Dec 30/13. This contract was not competitively procured by US NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-10-D-003N, #0015).

Commander’s Award
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Dec 7/11: Recognition. The V-22 Propulsion and Power IPT (Integrated Product Team) receives a Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Commander’s Award for improving engine time-on-wing and reducing costs – 2 areas where the program has been having real problems. If service experience matches results to date, the team projects that the AE1107 MGT increase will provide an 80% increase in average engine time on wing, and avoid about 200 engine removals over the next 5 years.

The AE1107 Measured Gas Temperature (MGT) Increase Team formed in January 2011 to evaluate raising the MGT limit of the AE1107 engine. They went on to develop, qualify, test and field upgraded engines for an initial field service evaluation in about half the expected time from their initial feasibility study. They didn’t cut the schedule from 14 – 6 months, but they did achieve just 7 months thanks to engineering clarity and parallel tasks. V-22 Joint Program (PMA-275) manager Col. Greg Masiello says officials approved the fully qualified MGT limit modification on Aug 2/11, released the interim flight clearance on Aug 5/11, and incorporated the MGT limit increase on 27 operational V-22s by the end of August 2011. US NAVAIR.

Dec 1/11: UAE. Boeing and Bell Helicopter sent the V-22 to Dubai’s 2011 air show, and a Boeing release is a lot more positive than usual. Of course, with a multi-year buy under consideration, and defense cuts on the table, potential exports add extra weight to economic arguments for a deal. Bell Boeing V-22 Program deputy director, Michael Andersen:

“The amount of interest in the V-22 exceeded our highest expectations leading up to the show, with many regional officials requesting briefings and demonstration flights… We are now working on follow-up visits and providing information as requested by several governments.”

Nov 30/11: Support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN received a $15.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for AE1107C turboshaft engine maintenance services.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in November 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-C-0020).

Nov 30/11: CAMEO. SAIC in San Diego, CA, is being awarded an $11.5 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide Comprehensive Automated Maintenance Environment, Optimized (CAMEO) system and software engineering support services in support of “a range of Department of Defense programs, including the V-22 Osprey.” This 3-year contract also includes a 2-year option, which could bring the period to 5 years, and the potential value to $19 million.

CAMEO is a related derivative of SAIC’s Pathfinder software series, and is used as part of V-22 fleet maintenance. Work will include software integration and test, product validation/verification analyses, product integration and release, and training. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA (50%), and at government sites nationwide (50%), and is expected to be complete Nov 29/12 – or Nov 29/14 with all options exercised. This contract was competitively procured via FBO.gov and the SPAWAR e-Commerce Central website, with 1 offer received by US SPAWAR Pacific in San Diego, CA (N66001-12-D-0048).

Nov 30/11: Sub-contractors. Sierracin-Sylmar Corp. in Sylmar, CA receives $10 million for a delivery order to manufacture V-22 Osprey windshields. Work will be performed in Sylmar, CA, and is expected to be complete in December 2013. This contract was not competitively procured by US NAVSUP Weapons System Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-11-G-011F, #5002).

Nov 29/11: $121.5 billion O&M?!? An Oct 31/11 Pentagon report is said to place the lifetime cost of operating and supporting a fleet of 458 MV/CV-22s at $121.5 billion, adjusted for inflation, up 61% from a 2008 estimate of $75.4 billion – which was already controversial when the GAO used it in a June 2009 report. Bloomberg News reports that the previously-undisclosed estimate stems from increased maintenance and support costs, over a service life extending into the mid-2040s. Bloomberg | WIRED Danger Room.

Future sustainment crisis?

Nov 29/11: Sub-contractors. Moog, Inc. in East Aurora, NY receives a $12 million firm-fixed-price order to repair the V-22’s swashplate actuator, using Navy Working Capital Funds. The swashplate turns pilot input into rotor blade motion via pitch and tilt changes.

Work will be performed in East Aurora, NY, and is expected to be complete by Dec 30/12. One company was solicited for this non-competitive requirement, and 1 offer was received by US NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-09-G-002D, #7038).

Nov 17/11: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $13.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for V-22 AE1107C turboshaft engine maintenance services.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in November 2012, but all contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-10-C-0020).

Nov 14/11: De-icing. A $10.4 million delivery order modification for 40 central de-ice distributors, and 44 nacelle ice protection controller unit retrofit kits. Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX and is expected to be complete in December 2013 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Nov 9/11: CV-22 upgrades. A $7 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for the CV-22’s Block 20/C upgrade. Work includes co-site communications; multi-mission advanced tactical terminal replacement; standby flight instrument; GPS repeater system; parking brake light; and environmental control system upgrades.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (86%); Fort Walton Beach, FL (13.6%); and Fort Worth, TX (0.4%); and is expected to be complete in December 2015 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Oct 13/11: V-22 safety data questioned. Over at WIRED’s Danger Room, a long article by reporter David Axe questions the way the USMC has recorded “Class A” accidents for the MV-22. David has earned a reputation as a solid reporter on the defense beat, and the data matters because the USMC is using V-22 safety ratios as part of its case for another multi-year contract, whose termination fees would place the V-22 out of reach for budget cutters. Excerpt from “Osprey Down” :

“A review of press reports, analysts’ studies and military records turns up 10 or more potentially serious mishaps in the last decade of V-22 testing and operations. At least three — and quite possibly more — could be considered Class A flight mishaps, if not for pending investigations, the “intent for flight” loophole and possible under-reporting of repair costs… What follows is the history of the V-22 that the Pentagon and its boosters don’t want you to read — a history of botched design, reckless testing, possible cover-ups and media spin. But mostly, it’s the history of an aircraft capable of some amazing feats, but whose capabilities still come at the cost of burned aircraft and dead men.”

The USMC’s response cites deployment statistics to date, and says:

“…the Marine Corps’ aviation safety records and standards are publicly available at the Naval Safety Center website. The mishap rate… follows Naval Safety Center standards that are applied universally across all type/model/series [of aircraft we fly]… Just because it falls under Flight Related or Ground doesn’t mean it isn’t investigated or counted… the Marine Corps does not include CV-22 mishap rates when talking about the V-22 Osprey because we are the Marine Corps, not the Air Force… since the Osprey was redesigned, the Marine Corps has not had a crash similar to the ones it experienced over a decade ago in which we lost pilots and crew…The MV-22 Osprey has proven to be effective and reliable.”

In a follow-up, Axe did not back down:

“The Marines found reasons not to count a chain of [incidents]… only by omitting officially “non-flight” incidents can the Marines claim a rate of so-called “Class A mishaps” of just 1.28 per 100,000 flight hours, compared to a rate of 2.6 for the overall Marine air fleet… [and] for all non-fatal accidents, the Marines themselves provide the data… it’s not independently derived. And the Marines have a record of manipulating V-22 data.”

See: WIRED Danger Room | USMC response | US Navy safety records | WIRED follow-up | Fort Worth Star-Telegram Sky Talk

Oct 13/11: Sub-contractors. Robertson Fuel Systems, LLC in Tempe, AZ receives a $16.8 million firm-fixed price indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification, buying 24 mission auxiliary fuel tank systems and related hardware for the V-22. See also March 31/11 and Dec 27/10 entries; this makes $47.6 million in publicly announced orders so far.

Work will be performed in Tempe, AZ, and is expected to be complete in December 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12 (N00019-08-D-0009).

Oct 11/11: Personnel. Bell Helicopter announces the appointment of Michael “Willy” D. Andersen as VP and Program Director for the V-22 Osprey, and deputy director of the Bell-Boeing Program Office. He’ll represent Bell Helicopter in the program office, reporting directly to Bell EVP of military programs Mitch Snyder, and V-22 Program Executive Director John Rader.

Andersen is a retired Air Force Colonel with 27 years of service, who directed and managed product portfolios for aircraft, weapons, avionics and cyber, and international sales.

Oct 1/11: Canada. Reports surface that Bell Helicopter and Boeing have demonstrated their V-22 to the Canadian Forces, as a possible solution to that country’s long-running on-again, off-again domestic search and rescue aircraft competition.

The competition is currently off-again, so there’s no live RFP, and no commitment yet by Boeing to bid. The notional advantage over current contenders, which include the C-27J Spartan, C-295M, and Viking’s revamped DH-5 Buffalo, is the V-22’s ability to go beyond identification and supply drops. A v-22 could simply land and pick people up. The flip side is its status as the most expensive option in the mix, but the counter-argument would be its ability to pick up rescuees if it can find a landing spot, removing the need to send additional helicopters or ground forces. AIN Online | Ottawa Citizen Defence Watch.

FY 2011

MV-22, ropedown
(click to view full)

Sept 20/11: Infrastructure. The Hensel Phelps/ Granite Hangar joint venture in Irvine, CA receives a $97.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for work at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA. They’ll design and build an MV-22 aircraft parking apron/taxiway expansion; an addition to Aircraft Maintenance Hangar 4; and Aircraft Maintenance Hangar 7. The contract also contains 2 planned modifications, which could raise the total to $103.6 million.

This work is designed to enable the operation of both the MV-22 and the CH-53 heavy-lift helicopter, with a focus on accommodating and maintaining the MV-22 squadrons so they can conduct readiness, training, and special exercise operations. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, and is expected to be complete by September 2014. This contract was competitively procured via Navy Electronic Commerce Online, with 10 proposals received by the US Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest in San Diego, CA (N62473-11-C-0401).

Sept 19/11: V-22 upgrades. US NAVAIR is working on a number of software changes to improve the V-22’s flight and maintenance performance. A test team from the V-22 Joint Program Office recently spent about 6 weeks in Logan, UT, about 4,400 feet above sea level, in order to test the effects of one software change. This one tilts the rotors about 4 degrees outward in hover mode, reducing air flow over the wings. The result lets the pilot either carry more weight, or carry the same weight to higher altitude.

The software change has already been implemented into some MV-22s, and the plan is to upgrade all V-22s by the end of 2011. US NAVAIR.

Sept 15/11: CV-22 upgrades. An $8.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for one-time efforts associated with the CV-22 Block 20 Increment 3 upgrade program. Efforts will include concept definition, non-recurring engineering, drawings, and installation/integration to design, develop, and test the enhanced helmet mounted display upgrade.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA, and is expected to be complete in December 2015. $21,544 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-08-C-0025).

Sept 6/11: Sub-contractors. Elbit Systems of America in Fort Worth, TX announces a contract to supply Boeing with a Color Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) for AFSOC’s CV-22s. The displays are based on Elbit’s widely-used ANVIS/HUD, with full helmet tracking capability and color display.

Aug 15/11: VIP Kits. USMC squadron HMX-1 in Quantico, VA is soliciting 4 installable “VIP kits” for MV-22s. This means a set of green interior wall and ceiling inserts, black seat covers, black carpeting that includes the squadron logo, and carrying/stowage cases.

Ospreys are tentatively set to begin arriving at HMX-1 in 2013. That squadron supports the USA Presidential Helicopter fleet, carrying cargo and associated people as necessary. Gannett’s Marine Corps Times | US NAVAIR.

Aug 8/11: Training. A $34.2 million delivery order to upgrade SOCOM’s CV-22 training devices to faithfully simulate the Block 20/C Upgrade. That means upgrading the Cabin Operational Flight Trainer (COFT), Cabin Part Task Trainer, and the Wing Part Task Trainer.

Work will be performed in Mesa, AZ (57%); Fort Worth, TX (34%); and Ridley Park, PA (9%), and is expected to be complete in June 2014 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Aug 4/11: MYP-II proposal. Bloomberg reports that the Bell-Boeing partnership has submitted an initial proposal for the 2nd and final multi-year V-22 contract, which would buy another 122 CV-22 and MV-22 tilt-rotors to finish the USMC and AFSOCOM’s planned buys at 410. If export deals are made for the Osprey, they would also be produced under the US multi-year volume buy’s terms and conditions, as is done with helicopters like the H-60 Black Hawk/ Seahawk series.

In order to meet the legal requirements for a multi-year deal, however, the Navy must have reliable data to certify that the proposed 5-year block buy can save at least 10% over 5 separate yearly buys. USMC Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Terry Robling told Bloomberg that they believe they can meet or even exceed that threshold. The reported goal is to have that certification ready by April-May 2012, so the 2nd block buy contract can be signed by the end of 2012, or early 2013.

The other thing a multi-year buy does, of course, is make termination costs so steep that a program cannot be cancelled. As the USA enters the jaws of existing fiscal crunch, a number of recommendations have already targeted the V-22 program for cancellation, and replacement with less expensive standard helicopters. Bloomberg | POGO.

Aug 2/11: Israel. Flight International reports that Israel’s air force has returned with a very positive evaluation of the USMC’s MV-22B Ospreys, and wants to include a “limited” initial order in the IDF’s multi-year spending plan. If that doesn’t happen, the IAF may have to use its reserve budgets if it wants the Ospreys that badly.

July 20/11: Flight International:

“Saying export discussions have intensified within the past six months, Textron chief executive Scott Donnelly now estimates as many as 12 countries could buy the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor after 2015.”

July 18/11: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $9.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 17 CV-22 low power repairs. Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in February 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-C-0020).

July 13/11: V-22 sustainability. In response to questions from DID, US NAVAIR explains “low power repairs,” and also discusses some benchmarks for the V-22 fleet. V-22 Joint Program Manager Col. Greg Masiello says that actual cost per flight hour (CPFH) is currently lower than the projected CPFH and is continuing to trend lower, with an 18% drop over the past year. MV-22s on the front lines are seeing a direct maintenance man-hour : flight-hour ratio of about 19.6:1, and current readiness rates in Afghanistan are around 69% for May 2011. Readiness rates show some monthly fluctuation but, he says, an overall upward trend. With Sikorsky reporting an 85% mission readiness rate for its H-60 Black Hawk helicopter fleet in Iraq and Afghanistan, that will be necessary, in order to avoid invidious comparisons.

With respect to the efforts described in part in the June 7/11 entry, to improve engine time between maintenance, that conversation is still ongoing, and will be published in future.

June 13/11: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $34.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, for maintenance services in support of the MV-22 AE1107C turboshaft engine. There do seem to be a lot of these.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in September 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-C-0020).

June 8/11: Israel. Defense Update reports that Israel may be re-evaluating the V-22 for use by its Special Forces, and for long-range CSAR (combat search and rescue) duties.

The V-22 had been removed from the IAF’s quadrennial procurement plan in 2009, but Israel’s needs represent something of a unique case. The IAF has intermittent but consistent needs to conduct long-range missions, over entirely hostile territory. CH-53 helicopters can be refueled in mid-air, and offer greater versatility by allowing the carriage of vehicles, but the sheer volume and hostility of enemy territory gives speed a special premium for the Israelis. Until competing platforms like Sikorsky’s quieter but developmental S-97 Raider are fielded, those combined needs make a platform like the CV-22 attractive to the Israelis.

June 7/11: Engines. A Defense News article notes that the USMC is working with contractor Rolls Royce to increase the durability of the V-22 Liberty engines’ “time on wing” by 45%. That’s an ambitious goal, and the article admits that durability is a larger problem in hostile conditions. Which is normal, but that does include many of its current and expected deployment zones.

The program is working on a range of changes, which would also cross over to SOCOM’s CV-22s. Dust filters have been a persistent problem, with a number of redesigns already, and installing them will reduce engine power without further redesign work. That is underway, and test aircraft have already flown with some of the changes. The hope is that it increases “time on wing” by 30%.

The other approach is a software change, touted as increasing both reliability and performance. Lt. Col. Romin Dasmalchi is quoted as saying that an earlier software upgrade improved power output, and increased maximum speed by 20 knots. That lends credence to the possibility, but in terms of reliability enhancements, one would have to know more about the upgrade to judge. For instance, one notional way to achieve the touted 80% drop in off-wing time would be to remove a number of the software-driven diagnostic warnings that force maintenance checks. If that approach was followed, would it be good or bad?

Major engine improvement program

June 6/11: Reliability. An article in The Hill magazine notes that the USMC continues to praise the MV-22B’s performance, but doesn’t give any specifics. It does note that “the Osprey’s closely monitored reliability rate in Afghanistan is around 73 percent, according to program officials.”

That’s above the 68.1% reported in 2008, but still below the program goal of 80%. Nor does it address how many maintenance hours are required per flight hour, or the cost of spares required, to achieve present totals.

April 12/11: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN received a $9.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 3 low power AE 1107C-Liberty engine repairs and 11,247 engine flight hours.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in November 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-C-0020).

April 8/11: Avionics. A $7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee order to install, integrate, and test Block 10.3.01 flight/mission hardware, vehicle management system math model software, computational system software, and instructor/operator station software into 6 AFSOC CV-22 flight training devices.

Work will be performed at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM (66%); Hurlburt Field, FL (17%); and Cannon Air Force Base, NM (17%). Work is expected to be complete in January 2013 (N00019-07-G-0008).

March 31/11: Sub-contractors. Robertson Fuel Systems, LLC in Tempe, AZ receives a $14 million firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract modification, exercising an option for the procurement of V-22 mission auxiliary fuel tanks, refueling kits, and accessories.

Work will be performed in Tempe, AZ, and is expected to be completed in December 2012 (N00019-08-D-0009).

March 25/11: Training. A $30.3 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to procure 2 AFSOC CV-22 flight training simulators, with associated provisioned items and spares.

Work will be performed in Broken Arrow, OK (53%); Fort Worth, TX (35%); Philadelphia, PA (7%); Clifton, NJ (3%); and Orlando, FL (2%). Work is expected to be complete in September 2013. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL manages this contract (N61340-11-C0004).

March 22/11: Combat rescue. A USAF F-15E Strike Eagle fighter catches fire and crashes in northeastern Libya due to mechanical failure; crew ejects and landed safely in rebel-held territory, before being picked up by a USMC MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor.

A demonstration of the V-22’s unique size, range, and speed advantages, as the USMC touts? Only to a limited extent. The 90 minute round trip recovery time to an objective 130 nautical miles away does owe something to the Osprey’s speed, but the MV-22s were accompanied by a pair of CH-53Es, carrying a quick reaction force. They are larger but slower helicopters that boast equal or better range. Less felicitously, the Ospreys were also accompanied by a pair of AV-8B Harrier II V/STOL fighters, whose 500 pound laser guided bombs ended up seriously injuring a number of Libyans who had come to help the American pilot. One young man lost his leg. USMC | US AFRICOM | Eastern NC Today | UK’s Daily Mail | UK’s Guardian.

Combat rescue in Libya

Feb 25/11: CV-22 upgrades. A $13.1 million cost-plus-fixed-fee order for one-time engineering services to upgrade the CV-22’s electrical system and dual digital map system. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (92%), and Fort Worth, TX (8%), and is expected to be complete in December 2015 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Feb 25/11: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $12.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for 14 low power AE1107C engine repairs within the MV/CV-22 fleet, and 6,565 engine flight hours.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be completed in November 2011. All funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-C-0020).

Feb 16/11: De-icing. A $9.8 million delivery order modification for 38 central de-ice distributor and nacelle ice protection controller unit retrofit kits, for the V-22 ice protection system. Icing has been an issue with the V-22, especially in early models, and the presence of a full de-icing kit is part of the type’s operational configuration.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete in December 2012 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Feb 15/11: Budgets. Rep. Luis Gutierez [D-IL-4] submits an amendment to the 112th Congress’ H.R. 1 spending bill for FY 2011, which would address the fact that the 11th Congress did not pass a FY 2011 budget. H.Amdt. 13 would have removed $415 million funding from the V-22 program, about 14.8% of the system’s $2.8 billion FY 2011 request. The U.S. House of Representatives defeats the amendment, 326 – 105, (17-223 Republicans, 88-103-2 Democrats). GovTrack for H.Amdt. 13 | Reuters.

Feb 14/11: Budgets. The Pentagon releases its official FY 2012 budget request. The V-22 request is for a total of $2.97 billion, to buy 30 MV-22s and 6 CV-22s, which includes 1 supplemental CV-22 to replace the one that crashed in Afghanistan. Under the multi-year buy, the USA has been ordering V-22s at this same steady pace of 35-36 per year.

The proposed FY 2012 US Navy budget for Ospreys is $2.393 billion, split $85 million RDT&E and $2.309 billion procurement for the 30 MV-22s. The USAF budget is $438.1 million, split $20.7 million RDT&E and $487.6 million procurement for the 6 CV-22s, incl. $57.5 million budgeted for the supplemental combat replacement. There’s also $127.5 million budgeted to the program for spares, which is a lot.

Feb 7/11: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives an $8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for AE1107C engine maintenance services, including 14 low power repairs. There do seem to be a lot of these contracts.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%) and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in November 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-C-0020).

Feb 2/11: CAMEO. A $6.6 million modification to a cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to provide engineering and technical services for the Comprehensive Automated Maintenance Environment-Optimized (CAMEO) and technical data systems in support of the MV-22 and CV-22 aircraft, and procure a CAMEO equipment suite and a CAMEO technology upgrade suite in support of V-22 aircraft.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (90%), and Fort Worth, TX (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2011 (N00019-07-G-0008). See Sept 24/08 entry for more on CAMEO.

Jan 27/11: Engine support. Rolls Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $22.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option to buy 17,800 engine flight hours of support services, and 17 low power repairs. Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%) and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in November 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-C-0020).

Jan 3/10: Avionics. A $24.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for engineering and technical support of MV-22 and CV-22 flight control systems and on-aircraft avionics software. This work will support configuration changes to the software of V-22 aircraft for avionics and flight controls, flight test planning, coordination of changed avionics and flight control configurations, upgrade planning of avionics and flight controls, and software qualification/ integration testing.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (90%), and Fort Worth, TX (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2011. $5.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Dec 28/10: Support. A $12.6 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee order to provide 15 sets of organizational and intermediate level support equipment sets that are unique to the MV/CV-22 Osprey, including supportability data.

Work will be performed in Amarillo, TX, and is expected to be complete in January 2014. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract combines purchases for the Navy (MV-22/ $9.2M/ 73%) and Air Force (CV-22/ $3.35M; 27%). The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages this contract (N68335-10-G-0010).

Dec 27/10: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in IN received a $49 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 24 AE1107C engines for the AFSOC’s CV-22 aircraft (10 Production Lot 15 installs, 14 spares). Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in April 2012 (N00019-07-C-0060).

24 more engines

Dec 27/10: Sub-contractors. Robertson Aviation, LLC in Tempe, AZ receives a $16.8 million firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract modification, exercising an option for V-22 mission auxiliary fuel tanks, refueling kits, and accessories. Work will be performed in Tempe, AZ, and is expected to be complete in December 2011 (N00019-08-D-0009).

Dec 27/10: Support. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Hurst, TX receives a maximum $10 million firm-fixed-price, sole-source contract for MV-22 prop rotor gearboxes. The date of performance completion is Oct 31/13. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response to the Defense Logistics Agency Aviation in Philadelphia, PA (SPRPA1-09-G-004Y-5638).

Dec 27/10: Support. A $9.1 million fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for 14 “support equipment workarounds” for MV-22 and CV-22 organizational- and intermediate-level maintenance. Work will be performed in Amarillo, TX, and is expected to be complete in December 2014. $599,607 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ (N68335-11-D-0002).

Dec 23/10: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives an $8.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for MV-22 engine maintenance services. Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in November 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00019-10-C-0020).

Dec 22/10: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $121.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option to buy another 58 AE1107C Liberty engines for USMC MV-22s. Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%), and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in April 2012 (N00019-07-C-0060).

58 more engines

Dec 18/10: Cover-up? The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that senior USAF generals overturned the findings of their own investigation team, when it ruled that an Afghan CV-22 crash that killed 4 people was due to engine trouble. Chief investigator Brig. Gen. Donald Harvel gave an interview to the paper – key excerpts from the story follow:

“Crash site evidence showed that the pilot tried an emergency roll-on landing, as if it were a conventional airplane, rather than a vertical, helicopter-type landing… “I think they knew they were going down and they had some kind of power problem,” chief investigator Brig. Gen. Donald Harvel said in an interview… The pilot… “made what is in my opinion a perfect roll-on landing,” but the aircraft’s nose landing gear collapsed and the aircraft flipped tail-over-nose when it ran into a 2-foot-deep drainage ditch… “It is unlikely that this very experienced and competent [pilot] would have chosen to execute a roll-on landing on rough terrain if he had power available to go around and set up for another approach.”

…Harvel said it was clear to him early on that [AFSOC vice commander Lt. Gen. Kurt Cichowski] would not accept the findings of the Accident Investigation Board if it disagreed with the service’s own internal safety report, which was done in the days immediately after the crash… Release of the public investigation report had been delayed for months due to internal Air Force wrangling.”

See also “April-May 2010” entry.

Crash cover-up?

Dec 17/10: Testing. A $31.6 million firm-fixed-price delivery order, exercising an option for on-site flight test management, flight test engineering, design engineering, and related efforts to support the Naval Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron. That squadron conducts MV-22 flight and ground testing.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (43%); Philadelphia, PA (36%); and Fort Worth, TX (21%), and will run to December 2011 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Nov 29/10: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $26.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option to buy another 12 AE1107C spare engines for the CV-22 fleet. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in December 2011 (N00019-07-C-0060).

The Aug 16/10 entry featured a $23.2 million contract for the same thing.

Nov 22/10: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $20.3 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-10-C-0020), exercising an option for AE1107C engine maintenance services in support, including low power repairs and program management and site support.

Work will be performed in Oakland, CA (70%) and Indianapolis, IN (30%), and is expected to be complete in November 2013. $20.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. This contract combines purchases for the USAF (CV-22, $9.4M, 46.3%); US Navy (MV-22, $9.1M; 45%); and Special Operations Command (CV-22, $1.8M; 8.7%).

Nov 19/10: CV-22 upgrades. A $10.1 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-07-G-0008) for one-time efforts required to complete an engineering change proposal (ECP) for the Air Force CV-22. The fuel jettison mission management restriction removal will remove the fuel jettison restriction, allowing the aircrew to rapidly reduce the CV-22’s mission gross weight.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (70%); Dallas, TX (20%); Fort Worth, TX (7%); Fort Walton Beach, FL (2%); and St. Louis, MO (1%). Work is expected to be complete in August 2013. but all contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11.

FY 2010

MV-22 Osprey
(click to view full)

Sept 27/10: Support. A $7.3 million firm-fixed-price delivery order to buy operational test program sets (OTPSs), for the Air Force (CV-22s; $1.5M; 21%) and Marine Corps (MV-22s; $5.8M; 79%), and on-site verification (OSV) for the Marine Corps. See Sept 20/10 entry for an explanation of OSTPs.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO, and is expected to be completed in November 2012. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages the contract (N68335-08-G-0002).

Sept 24/10: Training. A $5.6 million firm-fixed-price order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for simulator software and hardware in support of 7 MV-22 simulators. Work will be performed in New River, NC (85%), and Miramar, CA (15%), and is expected to be complete in February 2012.

Sept 24/10: Support. A maximum $6.4 million firm-fixed-price, sole-source, basic ordering agreement contract for hub assembly items in support of the MV-22. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response, and the contract will run to Dec 31/12. The Defense Logistics Agency Aviation in Philadelphia, PA manages this contract (SPRPA1-09-G-004Y-5260).

Sept 20/10: Support. A $22.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to develop and deliver Production Lot IV Operational Test Program Sets (OTPSs), including production copies of the OTPSs for MV-22 and CV-22, on-site verification (OSV), and a buy of General Electric Interface Unit Weapons Replaceable Assemblies (WRAs) and standby flight instrument/enhanced standby flight instrument WRAs. This order combines USAF CV-22 OTPS ($1 million; 4%; 16 production units and OSV of 2 units) and the Marine Corps MV-22 ($22.3 million; 96%; one-time design engineering, 12 pilot production units, 72 production units, and OSV of 12 units).

Asked about the Operational Test Program Set (OTPS) sets, NAVAIR responded that they’re a tool used to test aircraft avionics systems and subsystems, and to diagnose the source of any problems found. The OTPS involves both connective hardware and software programming, and connects a specific aircraft type to the Consolidated Automated Test Station (CASS Station). The software is referred to as the Operational Test Program Medium (OTPM). It includes the Operational Test Program (OTP), the Operational Test Program Instruction (OTPI) that provides additional instructions, Test Diagrams that show the connections for each test, and troubleshooting software.

Work will be performed in St. Louis, MO (89.6%), and Ridley Park, PA (10.4%). Work is expected to be complete in August 2015. Contract funds in the amount of $13.5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ manages this contract (N68335-08-G-0002).

Sept 17/10: Near-hit. A V-22 Osprey nearly collides with a civilian de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter parachute jump aircraft at 12,000ft altitude in controlled airspace. Flight International adds that:

“Along with inherent limitations in on board see-and-avoid tactics, the NTSB (National Transport Safety Board) also faulted an air traffic controller who had been on a non-pertinent phone call during a time period where the aircraft’s pilot was expecting to receive air traffic reports.”

Oops.

Aug 16/10: Training. The Bell Boeing V-22 program delivers the 6th and final MV-22 Osprey Containerized Flight Training Device (CFTD) to the US Marines. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, NC received the trainer 6 weeks early, and now has 6 of them, plus 3 full-flight, motion-based simulators and 1 non-motion-based flight training device. MCAS Miramar, CA now has 4 CFTDs. An upgrade delivered to Miramar in August 2010 brought all CFTDs to full concurrency with the Osprey aircraft. The first CFTD was delivered to MCAS New River in 2007.

The CFTD trains aircrew on basic aircraft familiarization and handling qualities. Additional training capabilities include systems/subsystems operation, communication, malfunctions, day and night flying, use of night-vision goggles, formation flying, aerial refueling and landing on ships. The device is intended to train crews for any task that might be performed in the aircraft, while limiting the monetary and environmental costs and safety risks of in-flight training. All CFTDs can be locally networked, and the CFTDs at MCAS New River also are able to network with AV-8 Harriers at MCAS Cherry Point, NC. Shepard Group.

Aug 16/10: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $23.2 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to supply another 12 AE1107C spare engines for the CV-22 fleet. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in December 2011 (N00019-07-C-0060).

Aug 16/10: Navy plans. DoD Buzz looks at the shifting plans to replace the USMC’s 30 CH-53D Sea Stallions. The original plan was to replace them with MV-22s. At some point in 2007/08, the Marine Corps formally decided replace their aging CH-53Ds with CH-53Ks. But now USMC Lt. General Trautman is saying that he wants an east coast and a west coast MV-22 squadron to replace the CH-53Ds in Afghanistan, and “When I can do that, that’ll be the start of getting CH-53 Delta out of the way.”

Exactly what “out of the way” means is ambiguous. If it means out of service, DoD Buzz correctly notes that this raises questions about the USMC’s support for the CH-53K, and would seem to be better news for the MV-22. If it means “shifted back to Hawaii while MV-22s serve in Afghanistan,” that would be something else. The exact meaning isn’t 100% clear in the article.

Aug 11/10: Navy plans. Flight International reports that the US Navy has commissioned a 6-month study from Northrop Grumman to look at remanufacturing C-2A Greyhound bodies using tooling and components already developed for the new E-2D Hawkeye, in order to give its 36 carrier-capable cargo planes longer service life.

The C-2As were originally designed to last for 36,000 carrier landings and 15,000 flight hours, and some have already had their center wing boxes replaced. The E-2 Hawkeye is a close derivative, and with Northrop Grumman ramping up E-2D production, refurbishing or building C-2s could become a cheaper option than buying up to 48 V-22s for Navy roles that would be anchored by the same Carrier On-board Delivery function.

July 26/10: Support. A $13.8 million firm-fixed-price modification, exercising an option to a previously-awarded delivery order for 107 swashplate actuators and 137 flaperon actuators for MV-22 and CV-22 aircraft. Work will be performed in New York, NY, and is expected to be complete in January 2012 (N00019-07-G-0008).

July 20/10: Presentation. At Farnborough 2010, USMC V-22 Program Manager Col. Greg Masiello on July 20 briefs media about the current status of the program. It reiterates the basic rationale that has justified the V-22 since inception, and adds that a joint industry-government team will be trying to address the platform’s readiness issues by having more spares on hand, analyzing root causes, and making more modifications to the platform. Presentation [PDF, 9.8 MB]

July 14/10: Support. A $12.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification will buy various obsolete parts for MV-22 and CV-22 aircraft, including both life-of-type and bridge buys. As Defense Acquisition University explains:

“A lifetime [aka. Life Of Type] buy involves the purchase and storage of a part in a sufficient quantity to meet current and (expected) future demands. Lifetime buys are usually offered by manufacturers prior to part discontinuance and may delay discontinuances if purchases are large… The trick with lifetime buys is to determine the optimum number of parts to purchase.”

Parts that end their manufacturing while their military system continues to serve are common problem among military electronics, and the list of parts reflects that: Display Electronics Unit II; Dual Digital Map System; Air Data Unit; Slim Multi Functional Display; and Thermoelectric Cooler Modular Unit.

Work will be performed in Fort Worth, TX (95%); Vergennes, VT (3%); and Albuquerque, NM (2%). Work is expected to be complete in October 2014. $10.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-07-C-0007).

June 28/10: Sub-contractors. Raytheon Technical Services Co. in Indianapolis, IN received a $250.5 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract to develop and support FY 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017 V-22 Block Fleet release avionics systems software, including V-22 aircraft avionics acquisition support. The contract also provides for V-22 situational awareness/Blue Force tracking software and prototype hardware.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in September 2014. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD (N00421-10-D-0012).

June 21/10: Engine support. A $12.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-07-G-0008). It will buy 698 upgraded engine air particle separator blowers (558 MV-22; 68 CV-22; and 72 spares). “Air particle separators” help engines avoid being clogged and/or internally sandblasted by flying dust. The V-22 generates a lot of that, and as contracts covered here attest, it has been a recurring problem for the aircraft on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Work will be performed in Ft. Worth, TX (63%), and Jackson, MS (37%), and is expected to be complete in March 2014. $6.8 million of this contract will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10 (N00019-07-G-0008).

April-May 2010: Crash follow-up. Early reports indicate that the CV-22 crash in Afghanistan was caused in part by brownout” conditions, created when a helicopter’s rotors create so much dust that visibility drops to near-zero, and the engine may ingest sand and dust. In May, however Military.com’s Jamie McIntyre offers a different account:

“An investigation of the crash of an Air Force special operations CV-22 Osprey in Afghanistan last month has concluded the pilot of the tilt-rotor aircraft flew too close to the ground, striking an earthen berm, a source who has been briefed on the finding tells Line Of Departure. The conclusions of the accident investigators – which haven’t been released because they are not yet final – rule out mechanical malfunction and hostile fire… evidence suggests the V-22 was flying at high speed, at very low altitude, in airplane mode, with its massive rotors perpendicular to the ground when it struck the berm. A source says the force of the impact sheared off both engines (nacelles) and both wings before the plane flipped over… The accident report neither validates the V-22’s proponents, nor vindicates its detractors. It may just postpone that debate until the next incident… longtime aviation reporter Richard Whittle, author of the authoritative new book, “The Dream Machine: the Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey”… cautions against blaming the pilot for the crash, before the full investigation is released…”

See: Flight International | Popular Mechanics | Military.com Line of Departure.

April 15/10: Avionics. A $42.1 million fixed-price-incentive-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-07-G-0008) to swap out the MV/CV-22’s flight computer hardware for newer and better gear. Official releases refer to an effort to develop, qualify, and test and new “integrated avionics processor into the avionics system architecture,” in order to “resolve obsolescence issues, add new network capabilities, increase data throughput for legacy 1553 network, and re-host mission computer capabilities that will significantly increase avionics system and operations readiness.” Sounds like the old IAP was a problem, which may not be surprising if one contrasts the length of time V-22s have taken to develop, with the expected lifespan of computer processors.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (70%) and Ft. Worth, TX (30%), and is expected to be complete in October 2014.

April 11/10: An 8th Special Operations Sqn. CV-22 crashes 7 miles west of Qalat City, in Zabul province, Afghanistan. The crash kills 4: a civilian, Army Ranger Cpl. Michael D. Jankiewicz, AFSOC Maj. Randell D. Voas, and AFSOC Senior Master Sgt. James B. Lackey. Other troops in the aircraft were injured, and were evacuated.

As of April 15/10, the USAF has yet to offer a cause for the 5th crash of a CV-22 in the program’s history – but Taliban claims of a shoot-down were strongly denied. USAF release | AF News Service | Aviation Week | Defense Tech | LA Times | Politico | NJ.com | Washington Post | WCF Courier | Agence France Presse.

CV-22 crash

April 1/10: CV-22 upgrades. A $55.2 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-08-C-0025) for non-recurring efforts associated with the CV-22 aircraft Block 20 upgrade program, Increment III. Efforts to be provided include concept definition, non-recurring engineering, drawings, and installation/integration of brake performance enhancements and the helmet mounted display upgrade.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (91%); Fort Worth, TX (5%); and Fort Walton Beach, FL (4%), and is expected to be completed in December 2015. Contract funds in the amount of $6.5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

April 1/10: The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. With respect to the V-22, bookkeeping errors account for more than 100% of the program’s cost decrease, while manufacturing, spares and maintenance costs are listed as rising:

“Program costs decreased $1,327.9 million (-2.5%) from $54,226.9 million to $52,899.0 million, due primarily to duplication of obsolescence costs erroneously included in both procurement and operations and support (-$1,281.6 million), associated erroneous inclusion of modifications under procurement (-$367.3 million), the application of revised escalation indices (-$758.6 million), and realignment of Integrated Defensive Electronic Counter Measures funding from Special Operations Command to the Air Force (-$96.2 million). These decreases were partially offset by increases from updated learning curves and material cost adjustments (+$608.4 million), a revised estimate for completion of the development program (+$182.3 million), an updated support equipment estimate (+$380.8 million), the addition of obsolescence ancillary equipment and cost reduction initiative investments (+$218.8 million), and an increase in initial spares (+$193.1 million).”

Cost decrease? Sort of.

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 V-22, the GAO said:

“Although the program office considers V-22 critical technologies to be mature and its design stable, the program continues to correct deficiencies and make improvements to the aircraft. For example, the engine air particle separator (EAPS), which keeps debris out of the engines, and has been tied to a number of engine fires caused by leaking hydraulic fluids contacting hot engine parts. Previous design changes did not fully correct this problem or other EAPS problems… Due to the aircraft’s design, many components of the aircraft are inaccessible until the aircraft is towed from its parking spot. Shipboard operations were adjusted to provide 24 hour aircraft movement capability. Temporary work-arounds were also identified to mitigate competition for hangar deck space, as well as to address deck heating issues on smaller ships caused by the V-22’s exhaust… According to the program office, during the first sea deployment in 2009, the MV-22 achieved a mission capable rate of 66.7 percent [emphasis DID’s]. This still falls short of the minimum acceptable (threshold) rate of 82 percent. The mission capable rate achieved during three Iraq deployments was 62 percent average.”

With respect to self protection:

“According to program officials the program has purchased eight belly mounted all quadrant (360 degrees) interim defensive weapon system mission kits [DID: see RGS article]. Five kits are currently on deployed V-22 aircraft… the speed, altitude, and range advantages of the MV-22 will require the Marine Corps to reevaluate escort and close air support tactics and procedures.”

The GAO adds that the V-22 program is planning for and budgeting for a second multiyear procurement contract, to begin in FY 2013.

March 26/10: CV-22 support. The US government announces, via FedBizOpps solicitation #FA8509-10-R-21916, a sole source contract to Boeing to have 2 experts co-located within 580th Aircraft Sustainment Group (ACSG) at Robins AFB, to provide on-site technical and engineering support for AFSOC’s CV-22s. The contract will run for 1 year, with an additional 4 annual options that could carry it to 5 years.

March 9/10: Support. The US government modifies a pre-solicitation notice; NAVAIR will award Bell-Boeing a delivery order for integration and test of the V-22 Dual-Digital Map, Electrical System Improvements, Troop Commander Panel, and Holdup Power Circuit (N00019-07-G-0008/ 0092).

March 8/10: Engine support. Rolls-Royce announces a 5-year MissionCare contract from the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), to support AE 1107C-Liberty engines powering MV-22 & CV-22 Ospreys. Services will include engine management and repair, logistics support, and field service representatives at 6 operating locations in the U.S. The initial 11-month contract is worth $75 million, but 4 option years could push the total value up to $600 million.

In March 2008, however, Aviation Week reported that problems with engine durability and costs had led the USMC to examine alternatives, and Rolls Royce to reconsider its “power by the hour” type pricing framework. A June 2009 GAO report added gravity to V-22 support cost issues.

This contract appears to offer a near-term path forward for all parties. The AE 1107C MissionCare contract is a military variant of Rolls Royce’s “power by the hour” contracts, with payment calculated on a fixed price based on aircraft hours flown. Rolls Royce representatives characterized the contract as a continuation of earlier MissionCare support contracts for the Liberty engine, and said that there had been no major shifts in terms. Rolls Royce release.

5-year Engine Support deal

March 5/10: MV-22s. A $117.4 million modification to the fixed-price incentive fee V-22 multi-year production contract (N00019-07-C-0001) will add 2 more MV-22s, under the “variation in quantity” clause that allows the Navy to order additional aircraft at a set price. This is more than a simple delivery order, therefore, as it raises the total number of aircraft bought under this MYP contract from 141 to 143.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (50%); Fort Worth, TX (35%); and Amarillo, TX (15%), and is expected to be complete in May 2014. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10.

2 more MV-22s

Feb 5/10: Support. A $70 million cost-plus-fixed-fee repair contract for repairs in support of the V-22 aircraft. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (50%), and Fort Worth, TX (50%), and is expected to be complete by June 2012. This contract was not competitively awarded by the Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-10-D-003N).

Feb 4/10: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $52.5 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-10-C-0020). The change provides additional funding for maintenance services in support of the MV-22 and CV-22 AE1107C engines.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in February 2011. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract combines purchases for the Navy (MV-22, $48.2 million; 92%) and the Air Force (CV-22, $4.25 million; 8%).

Jan 15/10: Support. US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) announces that it will issue an order under Basic Ordering Agreement N00019-07-G-0008, and modify contracts N00019-07-C-0001, N00019-08-C-0025 and N00019-07-C-0040 with the Bell Boeing Joint Program Offices.

“The order/modifications will cover Engineering Change Proposals for the Retrofit and Forward Fit of the CV-22 Osprey aircraft that incorporates Block 20/C Upgrades consisting of: Co-Site Communications, Parking Brake, GPS Repeater, Environmental Cooling System, Standby Flight Instrument and Multi-Mission Advanced Tactical Terminal. Additionally the order will cover the debit/credit of Technical Manuals.”

Dec 30/09: Support. The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, TX received a $13.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to design and build 12 types of CV-/MV-22 specific support equipment for the intermediate and operational maintenance levels.

Work will be performed in Amarillo, TX, and is expected to be complete in March 2013. Contract funds in the amount of $10.6 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09 (N68335-06-G-0007).

Dec 29/09: Defensive. The Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office in Amarillo, TX received $11.9 million to provide recurring engineering for the Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Counter Measure (SIRFC) system on the V-22 aircraft. This firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement will include replacement of LRU-2 (Line Replaceable Unit, aka. “black box”) with the upgraded LRU-2B, SIRFC cable changes, and antenna radome redesign. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (98%), and Fort Worth, TX (2%), and is expected to be complete in August 2013 (N00019-07-G-0008).

ITT’s AN/ALQ-211 SIFRC system [PDF] provides detection, analysis and protection against radar-guided threats, including triangulation and GPS geolocation of threats, advance warning that may enable a pilot to route around the threat, and cueing of countermeasures like chaff dispensers via integration with the CV-22’s entire self-protection suite. It’s a modular system with multiple sensors and electronic components installed all around a rotary-winged or fixed winged aircraft. Variants of the ALQ-211 SIFRC equip US AFSOCOM’s CV-22s (ALQ-211v2), as well helicopters like SOCOM MH-47s and MH-60s (ALQ-211v6/v7), some NH90s (ALQ-211v5), and AH-64D attack helicopters (ALQ-211v1). Foreign F-16 jet fighters also deploy the ALQ-211, most recently as the ALQ-211v4 AIDEWS integrated defensive system.

Dec 28/09: Testing. The Bell-Boeing Joint Program Office in Amarillo, TX received a $29.4 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to support the Naval Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron by providing on-site flight test management, flight test engineering, design engineering and related efforts to support the conduct of flight and ground testing for the MV-22 tilt rotor aircraft.

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, MD (70%); Philadelphia, PA (19%); and Fort Worth, TX (11%), and is expected to be complete in December 2010 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Dec 28/09: Avionics. A $25.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee modification, exercising an option to a previously awarded delivery order provides engineering and technical services for the Navy and Air Force in support of the V-22 flight control system and on-aircraft avionics software. It includes supporting configuration changes to the software of the V-22 aircraft for avionics and flight controls; flight test planning; coordination of changed avionics and flight control configurations; upgrade planning for avionics and flight controls; and software qualification and integration testing.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (90%), and Fort Worth, TX (10%). Work is expected to be complete in December 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $6.1 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Dec 23/09: Avionics. Raytheon Technical Services Co. LLC in Indianapolis, IN receives an $18.7 million delivery order modification. It provides additional funding to extend the firm’s work on V-22 aircraft software until June 30/10.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN and is expected to be complete in June 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $711,200 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09 (N00019-05-G-0008).

Dec 18/09: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN receives a $160.6 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract, exercising an option to buy 78 AE1107C engines to equip Navy/USMC MV-22s (62 engines, $128.1 million, 80%) and US AFSOCOM CV-22s (16 engines, $32.5 million, 20%).

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in December 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $16 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/09 (N00019-07-C-0060).

Dec 5/09: Support. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. in Hurst, TX receives a $5.9 million ceiling-priced order contract for the repair of left hand and right hand blades for the V-22 aircraft. Work will be performed in Ft. Worth, TX, and is expected to be complete by December 2010. This contract was not competitively awarded by the Naval Inventory Control Point (N00383-05-G-048N, #0031).

Nov 30/09: Engine support. Rolls-Royce Corp., in Indianapolis, IN received a $22.6 million firm-fixed-price contract to provide maintenance services for the AE1107C engines installed on Marines’ MV-22s ($12.4 million, 54.7%) and AFSOCOM’s CV-22s ($10.2 million, 45.3%). Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN. T contract extends to December 2010, but $21.3 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. This contract was not competitively procured, pursuant to FAR 6.302-1 (N00019-10-C-0020).

Nov 24/09: Block C. A $105.4 million modification to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-fee multi-year contract (N00019-07-C-0001) for work associated with the Block C upgrade of 91 MV-22 and 21 CV-22 aircraft. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (90%); Fort Worth, TX (5%); and Amarillo, TX (5%) and is expected to be complete by October 2014; $5.5 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Block C configuration adds forward-mounted AN/ALE-47 defensive systems, Enhanced Standby Flight Instrument, a GPS repeater in the cabin area, and a Weather Radar. It also upgrades systems like the VHF/UHF LOS/SATCOM radio interface for the Troop commander, improves the plane’s Environmental Control System (air conditioning/ heating, cited as an issue), and moves the MV-22’s Ice Detectors. In addition, this contract modification upgrades the engine air particle separator and installs a shaft-driven compressor inlet barrier filter.

Block C coming

Nov 19/09: Training. The Marines take delivery of the 2nd MV-22 Osprey flight trainer at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA. The containerized flight training devices (CFTD) are used for over 50% of crew training, and require only a concrete pad and dedicated power hookup. NAVAIR quotes Lt. Col. David Owen of PMA-205, who says that reliability is about 98% (12-15 hours maintenance downtime per year), and costs have gone down from $12 million for the initial units to the current $8.6 million.

The third and fourth trainers are scheduled to be delivered to MCAS Miramar in early to mid-2010. A fifth V-22 flight trainer is scheduled for delivery to MCAS New River, N.C. in the fall of 2010. NAVAIR Dec 16/09 release.

Nov 5/09: Support. A $7.5 million cost-plus fixed-fee order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N68335-06-G-0014) to manufacture 28 peculiar support equipment items for V-22 organizational and intermediate level maintenance.

Work will be performed in Amarillo, TX is expected to be completed in April 2012; $5.3 million in contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ.

Oct 30/09: Training. Boeing announces a contract for the Bell-Boeing team to upgrade the CV-22 Cabin Part Task Trainer (CPTT), including an Aircrew Flight Simulation (AFS) that deploys a fused reality system that fuses video images with virtual reality. The AFS enables the student to view both the interior cabin environment and the simulated outside world in a composite picture sent to the student’s helmet-mounted display, allowing training for things like wing fires, hydraulic leaks and engine smoke. This modification also opens the door to future upgrades that could enable simulated mission operations with separate cockpit flight simulators, where the CPTT could ‘fly’ with the cockpit simulator on a common mission.

The upgrade will be delivered to Air Force Special Operations Command, 58th Training Squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, NM.

Oct 28/09: FY 2010 budget. President Obama signs the FY 2010 defense budget into law. That budget provides almost $2.3 billion in funding for 30 V-22s, and Congress did not modify the Pentagon’s request in any way. White House.

FY 2009

(click to view full)

Sept 22/09: Guns. A $10.6 million cost-plus fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement to design and develop improvements to the interim defensive weapon system on the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft. This delivery order includes the design, qualification testing, airworthiness substantiation; aircraft fit check and ground testing and procurement of all necessary materials and parts.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (50%) and Johnson City, NY (50%), and is expected to be complete in March 2012. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-07-G-0008).

Sept 21/09: Sub-contractors. L3 Vertex Aerospace of Madison, MS received an $8.2 million contract for UH-1N and HH-60G helicopter maintenance services, and functional check flight services for the CV-22 aircraft located at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM. At this time, all funds have been committed by the AETC CONS/LGCK at Randolph AFB, TX (FA3002-10-C-0001).

Sept 15/09: Sub-contractors. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, IN awards a set of firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity multiple award contracts with a maximum value of $14 million, to 6 firms. The firms will compete for delivery orders for various types of MH-60S/R and V-22 gun mount components, along with bore sight kits. Work is expected to be completed by September 2014. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online and Federal Business Opportunities websites, with 14 proposals being received. Contractors include:

  • Guardian Technology Group in Crawfordsville, IN (N00164-09-D-JN14)
  • Northside Machine Company in Dugger, IN (N00164-09-D-JN60)
  • MCD Machine Inc. in Bloomington, IN (N00164-09-D-JN61)
  • C&S Machine in Plainville, IN (N00164-09-D-JN62)
  • Precision Laser Services, Inc. in Fort Wayne, IN (N00164-09-D-JN63)
  • Colbert Mfg, Co., Inc in Lavergn, TN (N00164-09-D-JN64)

Aug 25/09: CAMEO. A $7.3 million cost plus incentive fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for the continued development of technical data products necessary for the integration of the Comprehensive Automated Maintenance Environment Optimized (CAMEO) System into the V-22 Osprey (q.v. Sept 24/08 entry).

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (50%); and Fort Worth, TX (40%); and New River, NC (10%), and is expected to be complete in May 2010 (N00019-07-G-0008).

July 15/09: Support. A $24.5 million ceiling-priced indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity time and material contract for the development and delivery of safety corrective actions, reliability and maintainability improvements, and quick reaction capability improvements in support of V-22 Osprey missions for the Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the U.S. Marine Corps.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (50%); Amarillo, TX (25%); and Fort Worth, TX (25%), and is expected to be complete in December 2010 (N00019-09-D-0004).

July 15/09: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems’ Defensive Systems Division in Rolling Meadows, IL receives a $6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-08-G-0012) to perform configuration upgrades to the V-22 large aircraft infrared countermeasures, including qualification testing and acceptance test reports.

NGC produces the LAIRCM system, which uses sensors and pulsed lasers to identify and decoy incoming shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. t is typically fitted to large aircraft like the C-17 and C-130. Work will be performed in Rolling Meadows, IL and is expected to be complete in June 2012.

June 29/09: CV-22 support. A maximum $44.9 million firm-fixed-price, sole source contract for depot level reparables in support of the USAF’s CV-22 aircraft. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year on Sept 30/09, but the contract runs until Oct 31/12. The contracting activity is the DLR Procurement Operations (DSCR-ZC) at Defense Logistics Agency Philadelphia, in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-03-G-001B-THM4).

June 23/09: GAO Report. The US GAO releases report GAO-09-692T: “V-22 OSPREY AIRCRAFT: Assessments Needed to Address Operational and Cost Concerns to Define Future Investments”.

Among other things, the report questions the fleet’s effectiveness in high-threat combat zones, estimates potential operations and support costs of $75 billion (!) over the fleet’s 30-year lifetime, and states that the fleet needs so many spares that there may not be enough room for them all aboard the ships expected to carry V-22s (!!). The GAO goes so far as to recommend a formal exploration of alternatives to the USMC’s MV-22.

The report is bracketed by Congressional testimony from the GAO, outside experts, and the US Marine Corps, a session that ends with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Ed Towns (D-NY) clearly opposed to continuing the MV-22 program. GAO Report | House Oversight Committee statement and full video | Information Dissemination.

Future sustainment crisis?

June 11/09: Support. A $10.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery requirements contract to provide joint performance based logistics Phase 1.5 support, which aims to improve component reliability of the US Marine Corps (MV-22: $9.9 million; 91%) and Air Force Special Operations Command’s (CV-22: $1 million; 9%) Osprey tilt rotors.

Work will be performed in Ft. Worth, TX (72%) and Philadelphia, PA (28%) and is expected to be complete in May 2011 (N00019-09-D-0008).

May 20/09: Sub-contractors. Small business qualifier Organizational Strategies, Inc. in Arlington, VA wins a $10 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase III firm-fixed-price contract for an “Advanced Training Technology Delivery System.” Phase III is the final stage of the SBIR process, and is expected to lead to a commercial product at the end.

Organizational Strategies will provide services and materials required to deliver the Training Continuum Integration (TCI) portion of the H-53 and V-22 Integrated Training Systems, including collaborative product acquisition, deployment, and concurrency data. Successful completion hopes to reduce program and operational risk, while improving safety, crew performance and operational efficiency for both the H-53 and V-22 programs.

Work will be performed in New River, NC (60%); Patuxent River, MD (20%); and Atlanta, GA (20%), and is expected to be complete in May 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured using SBIR Program Solicitation Topic N98-057, with 15 offers received by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ (N68335-09-C-0120).

May 20/09: CV-22 upgrades. A $7.3 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for one-time engineering services to retrofit 7 CV-22 aircraft per single configuration retrofit ECP V-22-0802. The order will bring the 7 aircraft to a Block B/10 configuration. The firm will also provide the associated retrofit kits for 3 more CV-22 aircraft.

Bell-Boeing plans to perform the work in Ridley Park, PA (60%), and Fort Worth, TX (40%) and expects to complete the work in November 2012 (N00019-07-G-0008).

March 31/09: De-icing. A $61.6 million not-to-exceed order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement will provide Ice Protection System upgrades for 49 Marine Corps MV-22s and 8 Air Force CV-22s under the production and deployment phases of the V-22 Program. See the March 30/09 entry for more on the V-22’s de-icing system.

Work will be performed in FT Worth, TX (99%) and New River, NC (1%), and is expected to be completed in December 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $19 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-07-G-0008).

March 30/09: GAO Report. The US government’s GAO audit office issues GAO-09-326SP: “Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs.” It compares the V-22 program’s costs from 1986 to the present, in constant FY 2009 dollars. Over its history, the program’s R&D costs have risen 209%, from $4.1 billion to $12.7 billion, and procurement costs rose 24% from $34.4 billion to $42.6 billion, despite a 50% cut in planed purchases from 913 to 458. With respect to current issues:

“…the full-rate production configuration deployed to Iraq, have experienced reliability problems… with parts such as gearboxes and generators… well short of its full- mission capability goal… complex and unreliable de-icing system… less than 400 hour engine service life fell short of the 500-600 hours estimated by program management… Also, pending modifications to the program’s engine support contract with Rolls Royce could result in increased support costs in the future. Planned upgrades to the aircraft could affect the aircraft’s ability to meet its requirements… [adding a 360 degree belly turret will drop troop carrying capacity below 24… an all-weather radar into the V-22. This radar and an effective de-icing system are essential for selfdeploying the V-22 without a radar-capable escort and deploying the V-22 to areas such as Afghanistan, where icing conditions are more likely to be encountered. However, expected weight increases from these and other upgrades, as well as general weight increases for heavier individual body armor and equipment may affect the V-22’s ability to maintain key performance parameters, such as speed, range, and troop carrying capacity. While the program office reports a stable design, changes can be expected in order to to integrate planned upgrades… The program is adding forward firing countermeasures to enhance the aircraft’s survivability; modifying the engine air particle separator to prevent engine fires and enhance system reliability; and improving the environmental control system.”

March 13/09: Avionics. A $30 million order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement to support configuration changes to the V-22’s avionics and flight control software, flight test planning, coordination of changed avionics and flight control configurations, upgrade planning, performance of qualification testing, and integration testing on software products.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (90%) and Ft. Worth, TX (10%), and is expected to be complete in December 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $5.4 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-07-G-0008).

March 12/09: To Afghanistan. Military.com quotes Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway, who says that “By the end of the year, you’re going to see Ospreys in Afghanistan.”

“One Osprey squadron is still in Iraq, but will be returning in a couple of months. The next Osprey squadron to deploy will be going aboard ships with a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Conway said, to test the aircraft’s ability to handle salt and sea and give crews shipboard operating experience… The squadron that follows in the deployment line up will then go to Afghanistan.”

The MV-22s in Iraq were criticized as glorified taxis, with the aircraft reportedly kept out of dangerous situations. It may be much more difficult to exercise that luxury in Afghanistan.

March 12/09: CV-22 upgrades. An $11.1 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-08-C-0025), for Increment II of the CV-22 aircraft Block 20 upgrade program. Efforts will include concept definition, non-recurring engineering, drawings, prototype manufacturing, installation, and associated logistic support to integrate and test the V-22 Multi-Mission Advanced Tactical Terminal Replacement Receiver, and improved crew interface of broadcast data. Additionally, this procurement provides for the supposedly one-time support to augment the contractor engineering technical support team.

Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (81%); Fort Worth, TX (10%); and Fort Walton Beach, FL (9%), and is expected to be completed in September 2012.

March 2/09: Downwash hazard. Gannett’s Marine Corps Times reveals that the Osprey’s downwash is creating new hazards on board America’s amphibious assault ships:

“For example, Kouskouris said flight deck operators [on the USS Bataan] are reluctant to land an Osprey next to smaller helicopters such as the AH-1 Super Cobra or the UH-1 Huey because the tilt rotors’ massive downdraft could blow the smaller aircraft off a deck spot. He has formally asked for this restriction to be included in the Osprey’s future training programs.”

March 2/09: Sub-contractors. GE Aviation Systems, LLC in Grand Rapids, MI received a $12.1 million ceiling-priced indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for aircraft recorders. The order includes 27 Crash Survivable Memory Units (CSMU) for the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors; 120 Crash Survivable Flight Information Recorder (CSFIR) Voice and Data Recorders (VADRs) for the E-2D Hawkeye AWACS plane; and 2 CSFIR Integrated Data Acquisition and Recorder Systems for T-6A trainer aircraft. In addition, this contract provides for CSFIR supply system spares; engineering and product support; CSFIR and CSMU hardware; software upgrades, repairs, and modifications for CSFIR/Structural Flight Recording Set (SFRS) common ground station software.

Work will be performed in Grand Rapids, MI, and is expected to be complete in March 2010. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-09-D-0017).

Feb 27/09: Testing. A $24.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-07-G-0008) to support the Naval Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron’s MV-22 efforts. The contract includes on-site and off-site flight test management, flight test engineering, design engineering, and related efforts to support flight and ground testing.

Work will be performed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD (70%); Philadelphia, PA (19%); and Fort Worth, Texas (11%) and is expected to be complete in December 2009.

Feb 17/09: CV-22 plans. Defense News reports that US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is looking to accelerate its purchase of CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to an average of 8 planes per year starting in FY 2010.

According to the report, AFSOC deputy director of plans, programs, requirements, and assessments Col. J.D. Clem says that that right now, AFSOC has 7 operational CV-22s at Hurlburt Field, FL and 4 training aircraft at Kirtland AFB, NM. They are reportedly looking to declare Initial Operational Capability before the end of March 2009. If AFSOC’s desired funding in its next 6-year spending plan comes through, it would have a fleet of 50 CV-22s by 2015, but many would not arrive until the end of FY 2011.

Jan 22/09: Support. A $581.4 million cost-plus-incentive fee, indefinite-delivery 5-year requirements contract to provide Joint Performance Based Logistics (JPBL) support for the Marine Corps (MV-22), Air Force, and Special Forces Operations Command (CV-22) aircraft during the production and deployment phase of the V-22 Program.

Work will be performed in Ft. Worth, TX (46.6%); Philadelphia, PA (41.4%); Ft. Walton Beach, FL (6.1%); Oklahoma City, OK (4.3%); and St. Louis, MO (1.6%), and is expected to be complete in November 2013. Contract funds in the amount of $84.8 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured (N00019-09-D-0008).

Dec 29/08: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN is being awarded a $221.7 million modification to a previously awarded firm fixed price contract. The modification exercises options to buy 96 AE1107C engines for MV-22 and CV-22 aircraft, along with 1 year of support services.

Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN and is expected to be complete in December 2011 (N00019-07-C-0060).

96 engines

Dec 8/08: MV-22 upgrades. A $55.6 million modification to a previously awarded fixed price incentive fee contract (N00019-07-C-0066) to incorporate Engineering Change Proposal #708R2, which will convert Lot 5 MV-22 aircraft from the initial MV-22A configuration to the operational MV-22 Block B configuration. Block B aircraft are more reliable and introduce a ramp gun, hoist, refueling probe, and an improved EAPS (engine air particle separator).

Work will be performed in Cherry Point, NC (65%); Amarillo, TX (20%); Philadelphia, PA (10%); Oklahoma City, OK (3%); and Mesa, AZ (2%) and is expected to be complete in May 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $47.9 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Dec 3/08: The USA’s 8th Special Operations Squadron returns 4 CV-22s to Hurlburt Field, FL after November’s Exercise Flintlock 2009 in Bamako, Mali. The Trans-Saharan exercise included personnel from 15 countries, and the CV-22 was used as a ferry to transport American, Malian and Senegalese special operations forces and their leadership teams to and from locations over 500 miles away. The aircraft did not require refueling, and the round trips took about 4 flight hours.

The USAF release adds that this is the CV-22’s first operational deployment. Because the exercise was held at a remote location rather than an established base, one of the maintenance challenges was self-deploying with all the parts and equipment they needed to keep the CV-22s operational for the entire exercise. The squadron had a 100% mission-capable rate, but Master Sgt. Craig Kornely adds that:

“We have a laundry list about three pages long of things we’d like to take next time… As we grow into the machine, we realize our needs for equipment and resources.”

CV-22 deploys

Oct 8/08: Support. An $18.1 million modification to a previously awarded cost plus incentive fee contract, exercising an option in support of the MV-22 Total Life Cycle logistics support effort. Services to be provided include planning and management; supportability analysis; training; support equipment; facilities management; computer resources; supportability test and evaluation; packaging, handling, storage and transportation of supplies; post-DD250 engineering and technical support; site/unit activation; on-site representative support; logistics life cycle cost; age exploration; configuration management; technical publications; and Naval Air Training and Operational Procedures Standardization support.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (45%); Fort Worth, TX (40%); New River, NC (10%); and OCONUS Deployment (5%), and is expected to be complete in January 2009 (N00019-03-C-3017).

FY 2008

CV-22 SEAL extraction
(click to view full)

Sept 24/08: Support. A $6.5 million ceiling priced order contract for MV-22 spare parts. Work will be performed at Hurst, TX and is expected to be complete by July 2011. This contract not was competitively procured by the Naval Inventory Control Point.

Sept 24/08: CAMEO. A $6.4 million cost plus incentive fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement for the continued development for a Comprehensive Automated Maintenance Environment for Osprey (CAMEO) electronic maintenance support package for the V-22 family.

CAMEO is a related derivative of SAIC’s Pathfinder software series, and is used as part of V-22 fleet maintenance. CAMEO integrates with the V-22 Tiltrotor Vibration, Structural Life, and Engine Diagnostics (VSLED) unit, and the Aircraft Maintenance Event Ground Station (AMEGS). It allows continuous integration of new technical data, and helps to automate diagnosis and maintenance. It is hoped that the system will lead to better in service rates and availability.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (50%); Fort Worth, TX (45%); and San Diego, CA (5%), and is expected to be complete in June 2009 (N00019-07-G-0008).

Sept 18/08: CV-22 support. A $9.8 million not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded cost plus incentive fee contract (N00019-03-C-0067), exercising an option for interim contractor support for the CV-22 operational flight at Hurlburt Field, Ft. Walton Beach, FL and potential deployed locations. This modification also provides for operational training support at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM.

Work will be performed at Hurlburt Air Force Base, Fort Walton Beach, FL (60%) and Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, NM (40%), and is expected to be complete in January 2009.

Sept 17/08: MV-22 upgrades. A $23 million fixed-price-incentive-fee delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-07-G-0008) for “non-recurring engineering effort for ECP-762 Pre-Block A to Block B Retrofit in support of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft.” What this means is that the funds will help upgrade some of the first MV-22As produced to the MV-22B configuration required for serving, operational aircraft. Block B incorporates systems that were left out of initial test aircraft, as well as systems added later to fix testing or operational problems.

Work will be performed in Amarillo, TX (60%) and Philadelphia, PA (40%), and is expected to be complete in September 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $15 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Sept 8/08: CV-22s. A $358.7 million modification to a previously awarded fixed-price-incentive-fee multi-year contract (N00019-07-C-0001) for 5 additional CV-22 Tiltrotor aircraft. Pursuant to the Variation in Quantity clause, this procurement will be added to the current multi-year V-22 production contract, bring the number of CV-22 aircraft on this contract from 26 to 31.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (50%); Fort Worth, TX (35%); and Amarillo, TX (15%), and is expected to be complete in October 2014.

5 more CV-22s

Aug 1/08: CV-22 upgrades. A $91.8 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-08-C-0025) for Phase II of the CV-22 aircraft Block 20 Upgrade. Additions will include integration and testing of Terrain Following (below 50 knots), Terrain Following Logic Improvements, Communication Co-Site Interference, Advanced Mission Computer (AMC) Thru-put, flight test engineering support, and logistics and supply support.

Work will be performed in Hurlburt Field, FL (70%); Ridley Park, PA (15%); and Amarillo, TX (15%), and is expected to be complete in Sept. 2012.

July 14/08: Sub-contractors. GE-Aviation announces a $190 million, 10-year contract with Bell Boeing to supply integrated systems and equipment for 167 MV-22 and CV-22 aircraft – which is to say, all of the V-22s scheduled under the new multi-year deal. Deliveries will begin in 2009.

The systems provided have an estimated value of approximately $410 million over the entire life of the program, which extends beyond this 10-year contract. They will be designed and developed at a range of GE facilities in Maryland, Michigan, Florida, California, Ohio, Illinois and New York, as well as at Cheltenham and Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom. Items will include:

  • Aircraft structures – supplied by GE’s Middle River Aircraft Systems, who was named supplier of the year for Bell on the V-22.
  • Rudder servoactuators
  • Main landing gear actuation
  • Forward cabin control station
  • Ramp door control panel
  • Optical blade trackers
  • Hydraulic fluid monitor
  • Standby attitude indicator
  • Digital data set
  • Fight information recorder
  • Coaxial cables
  • Environmental control system valves
  • Primary & secondary lighting control
  • Nacelle Blowers

July 3/08: CV-22 support. A $14.3 million ceiling priced delivery order under a previously awarded contract for repairable spare components of the CV-22 aircraft such as blade assemblies and pendulum assemblies.

Work will be performed in Hurst, TX, and is expected to be complete in December 2011. One company was solicited for this non-competitive requirement, and one offer was received by the Naval Inventory Control Point in Philadelphia, PA (N00383-03-G-001B, #0275).

June 25/08: CV-22 support. a $28.5 million ceiling priced delivery order under a previously awarded contract for spare components of the CV-22 aircraft. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX and is expected to be complete by December 2011. This contract was not awarded competitively by the Naval Inventory Control Point (N00383-03-G-001B, #0274).

June 19/08: Support. An $18.2 million modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract, exercising an option for engineering and logistics services under the MV-22 Total Life Cycle Logistics Support program. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (45%); Fort Worth, TX (40%); New River, NC (10%); and Deployment outside the continental USA (5%), and is expected to be complete in October 2008.

Services to be provided include planning and management; supportability analysis; training; support equipment; facilities management; computer resources; supportability test and evaluation; packaging, handling, storage and transportation of supplies; post-DD250 engineering and technical support; site/unit activation; on-site representative support; logistics life cycle cost; age exploration; configuration management; technical publications; and Naval Air Training and Operational Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) support (N00019-03-C-3017).

June 9/08: Avionics. A $17.7 million ceiling-priced cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for hardware and software development and risk reduction efforts associated with a common MV/CV-22 mission and avionics systems upgrade (MSU). The MSU will consist of hardware and software components of the advanced mission computer and displays, tactical aircraft moving map capability, automatic terrain avoidance for very low level and/or night flights, and weapons system control. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, PA (50.8%); Bloomington, MN (36.9%); and St. Louis, MO (12.3%), and is expected to be complete in June 2009. This contract was not competitively procured (N00091-08-C-0024).

May 30/08: Training. A $78.5 million ceiling-priced indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for the analysis, design, development, manufacture, test, installation, upgrade and logistics support of the MV-22 Aircraft Maintenance Trainer (AMT) and CV Flight Training Device/Full Flight Simulator (CV FTD/FFS) Products. Work will be performed in Amarillo, Texas (70%); and Philadelphia, PA (30%), and is expected to be complete in May 2012. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, FL (N61339-08-D-0007).

May 14/08: Engines. Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, IN received a $9.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract for 6 of its AE1107C MV-22 engines. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, IN, and is expected to be complete in December 2010 (N00019-07-C-0060).

May 1/08: A turret at last. Production begins. BAE Systems Inc. in Johnson City, NY receives a FFP pre-priced contract modification for $8 million for a CV-22 interim defense weapon system productions option in support of U.S. Special Operations Command and NAVAIR. Work will be performed in Johnson City, NY from April 30/08 through Jan 31/09, using FY 2006 SOCOM procurement funds and FY 2008 Navy aircraft procurement funds. This is a within scope modification to a competitive contract where 2 offers were received (H92222-08-C-0006-P00003). See also “BAE’s Turret to Trial in CV-22s.”

April 28/08: CV-22 support. A $19 million ceiling-priced delivery order for CV-22 spare components. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX, and is expected to be complete by May 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Inventory Control Point (N00383-03-G-001B, #0270).

April 23/08: Support. A $14.4 million for ceiling priced delivery order under a previously awarded contract (N00383-03-G-001B, #0264) for V-22 spare parts. Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA and is expected to be complete by July 2011. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Inventory Control Point.

April 16/08: Related modifications to USS Wasp. BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair in Norfolk, VA received a $33.8 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-4403) to exercise an option for the USS Wasp (LHD-1) FY 2008 drydocking phased maintenance availability. There are 80 plus work items that are repair/replace/preserve/install/clean in nature, plus the following ship alternations: LHD1-6 SCD 3263 – fuel oil compensation stability improvement modifications (requires drydock), LHD1-0248K – install additional A/C plant, LHD1-0270K – install nitrogen generator, LHD1-0274K – accomplish MV-22 service and shop modifications, LHD1-0283K – accomplish MV-22 topside modifications, and S/A 71265K – low light flight deck surveillance system.

Work will be performed in Portsmouth, VA, and is expected to be complete by November 2008. All funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center in Norfolk, VA issued the contract.

April 10/08: Infrastructure. The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company in Raleigh, NC received a $35.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for design and construction of an aircraft maintenance hangar, phases I and II, at Marine Corps Air Station New River, Camp Lejeune. The work to be performed provides for construction of a multi-story aircraft maintenance hangar to provide hangar bay, shop space, flight line operations, and maintenance functions in support of the V-22 aircraft squadrons. Work also includes mechanical, electrical support systems and telephone system. Built-in equipment includes a freight elevator and five ton bridge crane. Site improvements include parking and landscaping and incidental related work.

Work will be performed in Jacksonville, NC, and is expected to be complete by May 2010. This contract was competitively procured via the Naval Facilities Engineering Command e-solicitation website with 4 proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic in Norfolk, VA issued the contract (N40085-08-C-1419).

April 4/08: CV-22 support. $15.5 million for ceiling priced order #0260 against previously awarded contract for repairable and consumable spare components for the CV-22 aircraft. Examples of parts to be purchased are valve module-brake, air data unit, hand wing unit (manual), ramp door actuator, and torque link subassembly.

Work will be performed in Hurst, Texas, and is expected to be completed July 2011. This contract was not awarded competitively by the Naval Inventory Control Point (N00383-03-G-001B).

April 4/08: CV-22 support. $12.2 million for a ceiling priced order against previously awarded contract for repairable and consumable spare components for the CV-22 aircraft. Examples of types of parts to be bought include rod end assembly, slip ring assembly, fairing assembly, blade assembly, and link assembly.

Work will be performed in Hurst, TX and is to be completed July 2011. This contract was not awarded competitively by the Naval Inventory Control Point (N00383-03-G-001B, #0259).

March 28/08: DefenseLINK announces a $10.4 billion modification that converts the previous V-22 advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-fee, multi-year contract. The new contract will be used to buy 141 MV-22 (for USMC) and 26 CV-22 (Air Force Special Operations) tiltrotor aircraft, including associated rate tooling in support of production rates.

Work will be performed in Ridley Park, PA (50%); Fort Worth, TX (35%); and Amarillo, TX (15%), and work is expected to be completed in October 2014. Contract funds in the amount of $24.2 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00019-07-C-0001). See also Bell Helicopter release.

MYP-I contract

March 18/08: New engine? Aviation Week reports that issues that have arisen with V-22 engine maintenance in Iraq may drive the U.S. Marine Corps to look for entirely new engines. Despite a recent redesign to try and solve issues with dust, Marine Corps V-22 program manager Col. Matt Mulhern is quoted as saying that “…as we actually operate the aircraft, the engines aren’t lasting as long as we [or the government] would like.”

This is forcing a move from the proposed “Power By the Hour” framework of payment per available flight-hour, an arrangement that is also used for civil airliner fleets. Rolls Royce reportedly can’t support this model any longer for the V-22, and wishes to change its contract to a standard time and materials maintenance arrangement.

Key problems encountered include erosion in the compressor blades, and lack of power margin to handle expected weight growth. Mulhern has said that “We need to move on, with or without Rolls-Royce,” but General Electric’s GE38-1B is the only alternative engine in the same power class. It will be used in the Marines’ new CH-53K heavy lift helicopter.

Additional Readings

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

Background: V-22 and Key Systems

YouTube – V-22?????IDWS. Drop-down minigun and sensor turret.

Reports

News & Views

  • YouTube – V-22 Documentary.

  • Alpha Foxtrot (May 31/14) – 7 Things The Marines Have To Do To Make The F-35B Worth The Huge Cost. Several of them involve new V-22 roles and variants: KC-22 tankers, EV-22 AEW&C, and CV-22 CSAR.

  • WIRED Danger Room, via WayBack (Oct 4/12) – General: ‘My Career Was Done’ When I Criticized Flawed Warplane. That would be Brig. Gen. Don Harvel (ret.), who led the investigation into the April 9/10 CV-22 crash in Afghanistan.

  • Boeing (July 9/12) – CV-22: At Home With AFSOC.

  • WIRED Danger Room, via WayBack (Oct 13/11) – Osprey Down: Marines Shift Story on Controversial Warplane’s Safety Record. The US Marines made an official response, citing the platform’s publicly-available safety records, and success in Afghanistan. David Axe responds that he isn’t satisfied.

  • Seapower (March 2011) – Osprey Readiness.

  • Fort Worth Star-Telegram, via WayBack (Dec 18/10) – Findings on Osprey crash in Afghanistan overturned. “But the general who led the [CV-22] crash investigation said Thursday that there was strong evidence to indicate that the $87 million-plus aircraft, which has a history of technical problems, experienced engine trouble in the final seconds leading to the crash…”

  • Aviation Week, via WayBack (March 18/08) – Marines May Seek New V-22 Engines. As a result of issues that have arisen with V-22 engine maintenance in Iraq. Seems to confirm observations re: the Jan 23/08 USMC article. Despite a recent redesign, Marine Corps V-22 program manager Col. Matt Mulhern is quoted as saying that “…as we actually operate the aircraft, the engines aren’t lasting as long as we [or the government] would like.” This is forcing a move from the proposed “Power By the Hour” framework of payment per flight-hour, which Rolls Royce can no longer support.

  • US Marine Corps, via LMP (Jan 23/08) – MV-22 ‘Osprey’ brings new capabilities to the sandbox. The April 14/07 NY Times reported that the V-22s would be kept out of combat situations. These days, that isn’t very hard to do in Anbar province; they key to evaluating this report is clarifying what the Marines are defining as a “combat sortie.” The sentence at the end of the excerpt also hints that answers to questions re: rates of spare parts use would be informative: “The squadron has completed more than 2,000 ASRs in the first 3 months of the deployment, keeping approximately 8,000 personnel off dangerous roadways and accruing approximately 2,000 flight hours… VMM-263 has flown 5 Aeroscout missions, 1 raid, more than 1400 combat sorties and maintained an average mission capable readiness rate of 68.1%… The range and depth of aviation supply parts is the latent limitation for high availability rates.”

  • CBS Evening News, via WayBack (Oct 4/07) – Troubled Osprey Set To Take Flight In Iraq. Claims that one of the 10 Ospreys deploying to Iraq had to abort the mission due to mechanical issues, and had to return to USS Wasp [LHD 1] for repairs before resuming the flight.

  • NAVAIR V-22 Program Office, via WayBack (Sept 19/07) – 1st squadron of V-22s quietly deployed to Iraq.

  • NY Times, via WayBack (April 14/07) – Combat, With Limits, Looms for Hybrid Aircraft. “They will plan their missions in Iraq to avoid it getting into areas where there are serious threats,” said Thomas Christie, the Pentagon’s director of operations, test and evaluation from 2001 to 2005, who is now retired.” Also contains testimonials (both good and worrisome) from people who have flown in them.

  • DID (March 12/07) – Lots Riding on V-22 Osprey. The USMC is designing several ancillary programs around the MV-22, setting key requirements for vehicles, howitzers, and more based on the Osprey’s dimensions and capabilities. Is this why they’re buying a $120,000 jeep?

  • DID (July 14/05) – Osprey Tilt-Rotor Declared “Suitable and Effective”.

  • U.S. Naval Institute, via WayBack (1999) – How Will We Escort the MV-22? (registration required). If attack helicopters aren’t fast enough, and fighter jets are too fast, and Ospreys aren’t really armed…

Categories: News

Canada to shun Boeing, goes for Aussie Super Hornets | MQ-8C will enter IOC testing next spring | Su-57 prototype flies with new engine

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 04:00
Americas

  • It has been reported that Canada has scrapped an earlier plan to buy F/A-8 Super Hornets from manufacturer Boeing, and instead will sign next week a deal to buy second-hand models from the Australian government. A previous plan would have seen Canada obtain 18 new Super Hornet fighter jets as part of its interim solution to its CF-18 fleet replacement program, however, Ottawa’s anger at a decision by Boeing to launch a trade challenge against Canadian planemaker Bombardier—which the US giant accuses of dumping airliners on the American market—caused the deal to be cancelled and has likely put future Boeing military sales to Canada in serious doubt. When asked about the second-hand deal, the offices of Public Works Minister Carla Qualtrough and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan—who share responsibility for Canada’s military procurement—both declined to comment. Boeing, and the Australian mission in Ottawa were also unavailable for comment, however, the Australian Department of Defense did confirm that Canada lodged a formal expression of interest for “a number” of Australia’s F/A-18 Classic Hornets on Sept. 29. Official requirements for a new CF-18 replacement program are expected in early 2019.

  • The US Navy expects to enter the initial operational test and evaluation phase of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter this spring, with sea-based testing onboard a littoral combat ship to follow later that summer. Derived from the four-bladed, single-engined Bell 407, the rotorcraft will replace the smaller MQ-8B based on the Sikorsky S-333, and offers a greater payload, range and endurance than its predecessor. While waiting for the MQ-8C to come online, the Navy continues to fix issues experienced with the B variant such as a capability for the advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS), and is also working on an interim fix for its MQ-8B radar.

  • After a two week investigation, the US Air Force has lifted an operational pause on T-6A Texan II flights out of Vance Air Base, with students and instructors returning to the air on December 5. Aviation, medical, functional and industry experts all took part in the investigation but found no specific root cause for the physiological events experienced by a number of T-6A pilots during flights out of the base. The service said it will continue to gather technical and human performance data and the Vance team will temporarily apply local procedures to mitigate risk to flight operations and aircrew.

  • Raytheon’s next-generation military-code GPS receiver integrated onboard a B-2 Spirit bomber has been successfully tested by the USAF. Conducted out of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the first ever M-code test onboard the B-2 is being regarded as an important milestone for the US Government-led GPS Modernization effort to enhance security, positioning, navigation and timing capabilities for US military and civilian applications. Military GPS User Equipment M-code receivers will give military aircraft, ships and ground vehicles access to the modernized GPS network. The firm said the test confirmed the viability of a risk-reduction prototype of Raytheon’s Miniaturized GPS Airborne Receiver.

Middle East & Africa

  • Azerbaijan has inked contracts with Pakistan, finalizing a deal to purchase 10 Super Mushshak trainers from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). The signing took place during a trilateral meeting of foreign ministers from Pakistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan, and hosted in the Azeri capital Baku. During the meeting, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif called for greater joint defense production between the three countries, something his counterparts were amenable to. Azerbaijan and Pakistan, being the smaller defence industry players of the three countries, will likely look to limit their hard currency outflows and increase support for their respective defence suppliers by linking to the supply channels supporting the Turkish Armed Forces. This could potentially be had by Islamabad and Baku partnering with Ankara in the latter’s development programs. Pakistan is also looking to sell its JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter to Azerbaijan, and manufacturer PAC is configuring Turkish firm Aselsan’s ASELPOD targeting pod to the JF-17. This, along with potentially other Turkish subsystems and air-to-surface weapons, could make their way to Azerbaijan should Baku select the JF-17.

Europe

  • The Swiss subsidiary of Saab Defense—Saab Bofors Dynamics Switzerland (SBDS)—will produce and supply 155mm training artillery ammunition for an unnamed customer. Valued at $14.4 million, deliveries will take place over the next two years and follows another contract executed for the client in 2015 and 2016. SBDS is involved in the design, development and production of mortar rounds, warheads and other energetic products, and regards itself as a specialist in total munitions life cycle management and provides servicing of different ammunition types, mainly for large-caliber products.

  • Russia’s newest fighter jet—the fifth-generation Su-57—has flown for the first time while being powered by the new NPO Saturn “Product 30” engine. Lasting 17 minutes, the flight was carried out by the second Su-57 aircraft prototype—T-50-2—from the Gromov flight test centre at Zhukovsky AB. The new engine is slated to become the production standard for the Su-57, after the nine flight test prototypes of the Su-57 fighter were powered by NPO Saturn Product 117 engine—itself based on the AL-41F-1S afterburning turbofans developed for the Su-35. Moscow said the Product 30 will provide more thrust and fuel efficiency, with reduced weight and maintenance requirements.

Asia-Pacific

  • The last S-70B-2 Seahawk operated by the Royal Australian Navy has flown its last flight as the service completes its transition to the Sikorsky MH-60R. 24 models of the new anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare helicopter have been delivered since 2014 and are operated by the 725 Sqn from Nowra, New South Wales. The last Seahawk was flown to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, where it will be preserved. The departing model was used during operations in the Middle East from the 1990-1991 Gulf War onwards.

Today’s Video

  • The Su-57 flies with new engine:

 

Categories: News

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

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 03:58

MQ-8B Fire Scout
(click to view full)

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

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

MQ-8: The Platform MQ-8B Fire Scout

MQ-8B Fire Scout
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

MQ-8C: Is Bigger Better?

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

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

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

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

MQ-8: The Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MQ-8: Past and Future

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

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

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

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

Other Markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire Scout Contracts & Key Events

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

FY 2015 – 2017

1st MQ-8Cs.

Expecting a sunset?

December 7/17: Testing-IOC The US Navy expects to enter the initial operational test and evaluation phase of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter this spring, with sea-based testing onboard a littoral combat ship to follow later that summer. Derived from the four-bladed, single-engined Bell 407, the rotorcraft will replace the smaller MQ-8B based on the Sikorsky S-333, and offers a greater payload, range and endurance than its predecessor. While waiting for the MQ-8C to come online, the Navy continues to fix issues experienced with the B variant such as a capability for the advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS), and is also working on an interim fix for its MQ-8B radar.

May 9/17: Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $36.8 million contract to integrate radar systems on the MQ-8C Fire Scout UAV for the US Navy. The pre-existing contract will include software updates, testing programs, and installation and support systems, and work will be carried out both in the US and in the UK through to May 2020. Research and development funds previously allocated for Fiscal 2016 will include $11.8 million set to expire at the end of the fiscal year.

April 12/17: An MQ-8C Fire Scout UAV has been tested onboard a littoral combat ship (LCS) for the first time. 37 recovery evolutions were conducted onboard the USS Montgomery over the course of seven days in order to verify the MQ-8C launch and recovery procedures and test interoperability between the unmanned helicopter and the ship. A larger version of the MQ-8B, the “C” variant was given Milestone C status by the Navy earlier this month and will begin initial operational test and evaluation this fall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2014

 

MQ-8C 1st flight

May 12/14: MQ-8 MUT. USS Freedom [LCS 1] operates an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and MQ-8B Fire Scout VTUAV together off the coast of San Diego, CA for VBSS (visit, board, search & seizure) exercises. Flying them together doesn’t seem like much, but operating safely in the same space as a manned helicopter is something that needs to be worked out very thoroughly before it can be used operationally.

Fire Scouts can maintain longer surveillance over a target or area of interest, but these helicopter UAVs lack the total firepower and/or troop capacity of an MH-60R or MH-60S. Sources: NGC, “Northrop Grumman, US Navy Conduct Successful Simultaneous Manned, Unmanned Helicopter Flight Tests Aboard the Littoral Combat Ship”.

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

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

5 MQ-8Cs

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. With respect to the Fire Scout:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big program shift

Jan 23/14: Sub-contractors. L-3 Corp. Systems West in Salt Lake City, UT receives a $17.6 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract modification for supplies and services associated with Littoral Combat Ship configurations of the Hawklink Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) Surface Terminal Equipment, and with Vortex Mini-TCDL Shipset components. While Hawklink is most closely associated with the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter, these supplies and services are in support of the Fire Scout MQ-8B/8C.

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

Funds will be committed as needed. Work will be performed in Salt Lake City, UT (90%), Point Mugu, CA (5%), and the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD, (5%), and is expected to be complete in December 2014 (N00019-13-D-0001).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st MQ-8C flight

FY 2013

6 more MQ-8Cs; 1st MQ-8C delivered; MRMUAS competition canceled, which will expand Fire Scout; Just how much is the Fire Scout program expanding?; Pentagon testers say MQ-8B production stopped in 2012 – very negative review explains why.

Fire-X (MQ-8C) test
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Aug 16/13: Next steps. After logging over 5,000 flight hours in Afghanistan, the Navy’s MQ-8B detachment and their contractor operators have packed up and headed home. Fire Scout program manager Capt. Patrick Smith discussed the UAV at AUVSI 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 more MQ-8Cs

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

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

MRMUAS canceled

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

Jan 17/13: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The MQ-8s are included, and the news isn’t good. The overall program has stopped production at 23 MQ-8Bs, and may supplement them with 31 MQ-8C Fire-X/ Endurance Upgrade Fire Scouts (3 test + 28 Urgent Operational Requirement).

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

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

MQ-8B stopped, panned

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

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

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

New ZPY-4 radar

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

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

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

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

FY 2012

USN commits to add MQ-8Cs, signs development contract; 2 quick crashes ground MQ-8B fleet; Experience highlights serious problems with MQ-8B targeting, communications relay; Ground control system completing Linux transition; MQ-8B & MH-60 testing

MQ-8B, Afghanistan
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Sept 27/12: Radars. A Telephonics release touts successful completion of their “AN/ZPY-4(V) Maritime Surveillance Radar.” This release touts it as “an enhanced version of the radar designed and built for the US Navy’s MQ-8 Fire Scout.” It has been upgraded with a Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) mode, and incorporates the US Navys Ocean Surveillance Initiative (OSI) in the software. With OSI, it can receive ship Automatic Information System (AIS) transponder data, and identify compliant vessels. Subsequent releases make it clear that the USN has shifted to this radar for the Fore Scout contract.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LRIP-5: 3 more

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

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

MQ-8C development

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

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

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

Grounded

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

Crash

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

Crash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2011

MQ-8B to Afghanistan; Navy will convert Army’s 8 Fire Scouts; Fire-X picked as “MQ-8C”; Navy approves arming MQ-8Bs; COBRA mine-detection tested on MQ-8B; LCS flight tests begin; Army may be also interested in larger VTUAV.

MQ-8B in Afghanistan
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Sept 29/11: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Unmanned Systems in San Diego, CA received a $7.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order for MQ-B software sustainment services. They’ll include analysis of engineering change proposals; development of plans of action and milestones; laboratory facility studies and analysis; software upgrades; configuration management and quality assurance; and keeping the technical documentation up to date.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armed MQ-8B

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

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

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

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

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

Weapon approval for MQ-8B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shot down over Libya

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

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

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

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

Conversion: 8 Army to Navy

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

Combat deployment

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

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

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

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

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

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

FY 2010

Army FCS dies, and so does its MQ-8B plan; 1st Navy deployment; 1st ever UAV drug bust; Navy wants more MQ-8Bs; Navy considering larger VTUAV; MQ-8B autonomous cargo drop; MQ-8B a bit too autonomous over Washington; NGC begins private “Fire-X” project; Program cost increases; UAE & Saudi interest

Corrosion check
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Aug 2/10: Going rogue. An MQ-8B based at Webster Field, VA loses communication 75 minutes into a routine operational evaluation test flight, then flies about 23 miles NNW at 17,000 feet, into the National Capital Region’s restricted airspace. The FAA was notified, and the MQ-8B program suspended while the fault is investigated. The problem appears to have been a software fault, and the program expects to resume testing in September 2010. Southern Maryland Newspapers Online’s Aug 27/10 article adds that:

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

See also: Engadget.

Going rogue

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

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

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

LRIP: 3 more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medium VTUAV RFI, Fire-X begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAR – Army out

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

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

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

Army cancels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st deployment

FY 2009

Slow orders continue; Army testing of UAV and ground control.

RQ-8A: Tow me, launch me.
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LRIP: 3 more

FY 2008

Navy MQ-8B moves beyond LCS, will get radar; USCG opportunity?

RQ-8A & LPD-13
(click to view full)

Sept 19/08: Sensors. One of Northrop Grumman’s company-owned MQ-8Bs uses a non-developmental (i.e. not yet part of the program) Telephonics RDR-1700B search, surveillance, tracking and imaging radar system to search for, detect, and track multiple targets during a test surveillance mission. at the Yuma Proving Ground, AZ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LRIP: 3 MQ-8Bs

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

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

FY 2007

Milestone C allows low-rate production; Army MQ-8B testing begins; 1st Navy MQ-8B flies.

Approach.
(click to view full)

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

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

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

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

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

Milestone C

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

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

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

1st Navy MQ-8B flight

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

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

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

2 MQ-8Bs

FY 2005 – 2006

1st autonomous landing on board ship; RQ-8B becomes MQ-8B; Push to finish development.

Touchdown.
(click to view full)

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

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

Development extended

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

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

1st autonomous at-sea landing

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 MQ-8s

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

MQ-8 now

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

FY 2000 – 2004

Initial contract; Program sidelined, then restarted.

General Dynamics Team
Trimaran LCS Design
(click to enlarge)

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

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

2 RQ-8s

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

1 VTUAV

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

EMD Phase

Additional Readings & Sources Background: Fire Scout

Related Platforms

VTUAV Alternatives

News & Views

Categories: News

PAK-FA/FGFA/T50/Su-57: Russia Pressing on with T-50, India or No

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 03:57

PAK-FA at MAKS-2011
(click to view larger)

Russia wants a “5th generation” fighter that keeps it competitive with American offerings, and builds on previous aerial and industrial success. India wants to maintain technical superiority over its rivals, and grow its aerospace industry’s capabilities. They hope to work together, and succeed. Will they? And what does “success” mean, exactly?

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

The PAK-FA/ FGFA

Sukhoi’s “T50”

Movable LEX
(click to view larger)

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

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

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

RT feature

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

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

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

PAK-FA prototype
(click to view larger)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Development Timelines, Risks, & Differences of Opinion Defined Design? A Disagreement

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

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

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

Russian & Indian Timelines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contracts & Key Events 2015 – 2017

Sukhoi insists it will meet new 2016 production deadlines.

Airshow demo

December 7/17: Russia’s newest fighter jet—the fifth-generation Su-57—has flown for the first time while being powered by the new NPO Saturn “Product 30” engine. Lasting 17 minutes, the flight was carried out by the second Su-57 aircraft prototype—T-50-2—from the Gromov flight test centre at Zhukovsky AB. The new engine is slated to become the production standard for the Su-57, after the nine flight test prototypes of the Su-57 fighter were powered by NPO Saturn Product 117 engine—itself based on the AL-41F-1S afterburning turbofans developed for the Su-35. Moscow said the Product 30 will provide more thrust and fuel efficiency, with reduced weight and maintenance requirements.

October 25/17: An Indian Air Force (IAF) official has made claims that the service is looking to end involvement with PAK-FA next-generation fighter aircraft program, urging the government to back out of the effort. The aircraft is collaborative effort between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Russian air giant, Sukhoi, but also involves work from various Russian design bureaus. The IAF source claimed that the “IAF is not keen to continue with the program,” and cited concerns such as an insufficient reduction in radar cross-section (RCS), especially in comparison to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, and difficulties in the Russia’s ability to demonstrate that it can produce the requisite technologies for 5th-generation fighters, such as electronic subsystems. Standing behind the program,however, is HAL, who is confident that the PAK-FA will succeed, arguing that the depth of technology-transfer being offered to India under the PAK-FA is not available elsewhere.

August 14/17: Sukhoi’s T-50 PAK-FA has been designated the Su-57, according to Russia Air Force chief Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev. The fifth-generation stealth fighter made its maiden flight in 2010 and since then has received a number of upgrades to avionics, stealth and armaments. Six aircraft are expected to be delivered to the Russian Air Force next year, with 55 expected to be in operation by 2020. The aircraft will then go into mass production.

May 9/17: After years of delay, India and Russia are close to signing an agreement for the further development of the PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). An inter-governmental pact on the FGFA project was initially signed in 2007, however negotiations over workshare, technology transfer, and IPR have hampered discussions but are now said to be mostly resolved. New Delhi has insisted on a full technology transfer, saying that it must get all the required codes and access to critical technology so that it can upgrade the aircraft as per its requirements.

May 5/17: Russian media has reported that the Sukhoi T-50/PAK-FA stealth fighter will be armed with the upgraded Kh-35UE anti-ship missile. An upgrade of the Kh-35, the integration of the tactical cruise missile will give the fighter an added anti-surface mission capability, and add to the aircraft’s weapons load which includes the Kh-38 air-to-surface missile and Kh-58UShK anti-radiation missile. Nikolai Vasilyev, chief designer of the Kh-35UE at the Korolev-based Tactical Missiles Corporation, said that the missile has already demonstrated itself effectively on the carrier-based variants of the MiG-29K and MiG-29KUBR fighter planes, and on the Ka-52 attack helicopter.

April 19/17: Russia has commenced weapon testing trials on the T-50/PAK-FA fifth-generation stealth fighter cannons, with plans to have the trials completed later this year. Designed to have similar capabilities to the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation F-22 Raptor, Moscow, with the T-50, hopes to break the US-held monopoly on fifth-generation fighters, as Washington finalizes development on its second, the long-delayed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Five T-50s are expected to be operational by the end of 2017.

February 1/17: A light-weight version of the Indo-Russian designed BrahMos cruise missile is to be developed for Russia’s 5th-gen T-50 PAK FA fighter aircraft. Already available in naval, submarine, and land variants, Indian and Russian developers will now collaborate on designing smaller variants of the short-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile with the specification that it will “fit the size of a torpedo tube and be almost 1.5 times smaller by its weight.” Other potential warfighters that could have the new munition integrated include the MiG-35, recently selected to operate as Russia’s newest multi-purpose fighter.

September 14/16: Russian media reported that the upcoming T-50 PAK-FA is having a new cluster bomb developed specially for carriage on the fighter. Dubbed “Drill,” the munition relies on satellite navigation for guidance and has an effective range of 30km. Russia is one of only 16 nations left that still produces cluster munitions.

September 12/16: India and Russia have reached an agreement on the joint production of a new fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). A detailed work-share agreement on the fighter has been released which includes production of over 100 fighters in India and will see New Delhi committing to invest $4 billion over the coming years to develop a tailor-made version of the fighter. The two nations are also expected to incorporate a new company by October for the production of Kamov Ka 226 light choppers, which would involve significant private sector participation.

September 9/16: Russia’s Deputy Minister for Defense Yuri Borisov has said that the Sukhoi PAK-FA is ready for mass production with Moscow planning to acquire a squadron of aircraft in 2017. Equipped with advanced avionics and all-digital flight systems, the PAK-FA is set to become the first operational stealth aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces. An export version is expected to be available by 2025.

June 21/16: United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) has announced that its Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA is now ready for mass production. According to Russian newspaper Izvestia, the fifth generation fighter almost fully meets the requirements of the military’s combat capabilities. UAC is also currently preparing a proposal to be submitted to the Russian Ministry of Defense on starting serial production.

December 11/15: The Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Boisov has said that testing of the PAK FA is nearly complete. The 5th generation fighter is intended to replace the Mig-29 and Su-27 currently currently in service. The fighter is part of a development partnership between Russian manufacturer Sukhoi and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The Indian Air Force may purchase 154 of the aircraft once they come into service in 2016. The PAK FA is set to rival the US made F-35 fighter, but holds a major export advantage in that it is much more cost effective.

August 27/15: Russia’s “fifth generation” Sukhoi PAK FA stealth fighter is to get the X-58USHK missile, which will reportedly reach mach 3.5. But the critical advantage the new combo would bring was expressed in the a Tass sub-headline: “The missile will be placed inside the fighter’s fuselage.” Thus the PAK FA – also called the T-50 – will remain stealthy, where the F-35’s weapons bay has grown even smaller on the new variants and most weapons will have to be mounted externally.

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

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

2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps if India hadn’t structured its MMRCA competition to completely ignore the costs of the competing aircraft, this wouldn’t be happening. But they did, and it is. Sources: India’s Business Standard, “Russia can’t deliver on Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft: IAF”.

Jan 16/14: T-50 trolling. Rosoboronexport’s parent firm Rostec decides to troll the aviation world, with claims that the PAK-FA will have better stealth than the American F-22 Raptor:

“The average [radar cross section value] for the T-50 fighter is between 0.1 and 1 square meter…. the T-50 is now ahead of not only all other fighters of the Russian Army, but also foreign models. For example, the visibility of the American fifth-generation F-22 fighter is 0.3-0.4 square meters, according to PAK FA chief designer Alexander Davidenko.”

This means almost nothing. First, the Russian PAK-FA range includes values that are a closer match for the Eurofighter than the F-22. Second, Davidenko couldn’t know the F-22’s real production values without access to American flight test data, and there are rumors that it’s smaller than 0.3 m2. The third issue is production. Davidenko’s claims for the PAK-FA back existing assessments that it’s a legitimate stealth aircraft design, but production work affects final values for any plane. If it’s shoddy and alignment is poor, for instance, a design with RCS of 0.1 m2 could easily hit 1.0 m2 in reality. Russia is known for many things, including excellent and robust fighter designs, but precision work? Not so much. A real comparison would require test data from production aircraft (q.v. Nov 12/12 caveats), including different values from various angles, and their different success levels against different radar bands. That isn’t on offer for either plane.

Other points in the release are more informative, if true. Rostec says that composite materials are just 25% of the fighter’s weight, but cover 70% of its surface. A new power system design from Rostec’s Aviation Equipment provides double the amount of electrical power offered by previous Russian systems. We hope they have better luck than Boeing has, but that power will be needed by Radioelectronic Technologies’ new avionics and related systems. With respect to the plane’s biggest current deficit, UEC has an initial-model of the next-generation AL-41F1 thrust-vectoring engines installed in a prototype now, and Rostec is feeding general expectations that the AL-41 will give the new fighter supercruise capability. Sources: Rostec, “The T-50 Fighter will feature even greater stealth capabilities” | Air & Cosmos, “Le T-50 russe serait plus furtif que le F-22”.

2013

Test flights, incl. the new 5th prototype; Negotiations and tensions with India.

T50, incoming
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Oct 28/13: #5. Sukhoi flies the 5th T50 prototype at its Y.A.Gagarin KnAAZ aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Once it finishes local flight tests, the aircraft will join the program flight tests at Zhukovsky, near Moscow.

Sukhoi pegs the number of flights to date at “more than 450”, with another 2 planes are involved in ground tests as a complex ground stand and static testing platform, respectively. Sources: Sukhoi release, Oct 28/13.

Oct 21/13: Indian complaints. Aviation Week reports that India is dissatisfied with their development workshare, in a project they came op late and close to lockdown on their partner’s side, and for which they have only recently managed to produce anything resembling their specifications (q.v. April 10/13):

“We have a major opportunity in the FGFA program,” Indian air force (IAF) Deputy Chief Air Marshal S. Sukumar says. However, “at the moment [the 15% development share] is not very much in favor of Indian development. We are flagging it through the government. It should be much more focused towards indigenous development capability.”

The problem is that 4 Russian T50 prototypes have performed about 450 test flights since January 2010, and the VVS plans to begin inducting the fighter in 2015-2016. Even if they’re a year late, it doesn’t leave much room for development. That would have required fast decisions to begin the contract early, when the design was still in need of refinement.

India’s desires and its modus operandi are in conflict once again, and the question is whether the dichotomy will become a stumbling block in negotiations for the final $11 billion system development contract. At this point, the only way to square that circle would be to increase the number of differences between the Russian and Indian fighters, or to involve India in developing the “Block 10” next iteration of a fighter whose core technologies are already a big stretch for Indian firms. Either approach would drive up overall costs for the contract under negotiation (q.v. July 15/13), and add substantial risk to India’s plans to begin manufacturing at HAL in 2022 – itself a problematic proposition, given HAL’s record. Sources: Aviation Week, “India Concerned About Fifth-Gen Fighter Work Share With Russia”.

Oct 18/13: Aircraft issues. An article in The Aviationist looks at issues with the PAK-FA, which don’t get the same exposure as western projects with their public oversight. Piotr Butowski of the Polish Magazyn Lotnictwo notes that:

“…the plane still suffers from the strict g-limits…. The plane underwent a modernization in the Sukhoi facility on the Polikarpov Street in Moscow Dec. 2012 and May 2013. The airframe was reinforced according to the flight tests and static tests that were already carried out; many new [metal strip] overlays can be seen on the airplane’s surface.”

Problems and modifications aren’t abnormal. The 1st PAK-FA prototype has structural cracks in 2011, and the 2nd had an engine flameout cancel its public MAKES 2011 air show performance. Sources: The Aviationist, “Russia’s most advanced fighter jet’s troublesome childhood”.

July 15/13: India Delays. The FGFA project’s parameters may be set (q.v. April 10/13), but there’s a problem with the R&D deal, which was pegged at $11 billion equivalent. The Times of India:

“Defence ministry sources said the inking of the final design and R&D contract for the stealth fighter has been hit by a huge delay, with Russia also jacking up costs for the futuristic project. “It’s very unlikely the FGFA final design contract will be concluded in the 2013-2014 fiscal,” said a source. “The timeframes will now have to be revised. MoD has established a committee of specialists and finance officials to verify the rise in costs. An internal contract negotiation committee is also in progress…”

Russia isn’t going to wait, and will continue development of their version while they wait for India’s signature. Operational testing is slated to begin in 2014. If FGFA negotiations stretch into 2015, the net effect will be to severely delay India’s variant, even as the base Russian design becomes more and more firmly set.

April 25/13: VVS flight. The Russian air force’s (VVS) Chkalov Flight Test Center begins flying the PAK-FA prototypes, with a 2-hour flight from the M.M. Gromov Flight Research Institute in Zhukovsky (Moscow region).

At present, Sukhoi has 4 flying test planes, which are mostly flown by company test pilots, and 2 ground test planes. Sukhoi.

April 10/13: India. Sukhoi announces that the parameters for their joint FGFA project with India are set:

“The contract to develop a sketch and technical project of the Russian-Indian perspective multi-functional 5th-generation fighter (PMI/FGFA) was completed. The fighter design was fully developed. The both parties have agreed upon on the amount and division of work during the research and development (R&D) stage. A contract for the R&D is being prepared. It is to be signed this year.”

March 1/13: Plans & Schedule. High-level Russian and Indian sources offer a bit more clarity concerning dates, but they seem to be at odds regarding electronics.

Russian VVS commander Gen. Victor Bondarev expects weapons release trials to begin in 2013, as the number of aircraft rises from 4 – 8. If tests go well, the fighter could enter series production in late 2015 or early 2016. Based on past fighter programs, that may be a bit optimistic.

Meanwhile, IAF chief of staff Air Marshall N.A.K. Browne is expecting to sign the big design & development contract for the FGFA in 2013. They’ll receive 3 developmental prototypes in India in 2015, 2017 and then 2018, rather than the wider 2014-2019 window reported earlier. That SDD version would apparently be fully common between Russia and India, making Pogosyan (vid. Feb 7/13) correct to that point. India would then fund, as a separate project, FGFA (SU-50KI?) customization for the Indian air force by a joint team of Russian and Indian engineers. The difference is described as “mission hardware and software,” though it would be surprising if Indian bureaucrats’ fetish for “indigenization” was forced to stop there. Series manufacturing would begin at HAL in 2022.

If true, it means that India wouldn’t see operational serving FGFA fighters until 2025 at the earliest, and that’s only if HAL’s known industrial issues with high-tech production are fully solved by 2022. AIN.

Feb 7/13: Avionics. At Aero India 2013, Obedinnoe Avaitstroitel’noi Corporatsii (United Aircraft Corp.) President Mikhail Pogosyan says that the new fighter will “have a single set of on-board equipment [cockpit avionics],” as a requirement of the Indian Air Force. He adds that India’s fighters will also share the Russian single-seat configuration.

Both of those statements would represent major changes from India. India’s initial plans involved a 2-seat variant that would follow the example of programs like the SU-30MKI, and create a unique cockpit avionics set that used equipment from Indian companies and foreign vendors. If Pogosyan is correct, India has backtracked toward a standard type configuration, and joint funding of upgrades. UPI.

2012

India’s timeline keeps falling back, as it cuts plans to 144 jets; No SU-50 for ROKAF; Prototype #4 flies; AESA radar testing begins.

#T2 lands
(click to view full)

Dec 12/12: #4 flies. The 4th prototype takes flight at the snowy Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO). UAC.

Nov 12/12: RCS guess. Airpower Australia uses public-domain photos coupled with the Physical Optics (PO) method for predicting the Radar Cross Section of complex targets on Russia’s T50, using VisCam View software to produce a PolyChromatic Spherical Representation (PCSR). Without flight test data, it’s still a guess, but it’s a kind of guess that Moore’s Law has made available outside of large intelligence agencies.

Their guess? It won’t match the F-22, or even China’s J-20, but if they introduce a rectangular faceted design to the engine nozzles and add radar absorbent coatings, they might beat the F-35. Sources: Airpower Australia, “A Preliminary Assessment of Specular Radar Cross Section Performance in the Sukhoi T-50 Prototype” | WIRED Danger Room, “Russia’s Stealth Fighter Could Match U.S. Jets, Analyst Says”.

Oct 9/12: During an interview with India Strategic, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne confirms that HAL has committed $6 billion to joint development. Plans have changed, and India’s 144 planned FGFAs will all be single seaters, now, hewing much more closely to the Russian baseline. In the same vein as India’s SU-30 MKIs, however, they’ll have some avionics and integration differences. According to the ACM Browne:

“… the first prototype is likely to be delivered to India in 2014 followed by two more in 2017 and 2019. The series production then “will only be ordered based on the final configuration and performance of the third prototype.”

See: India Strategic | IANS.

Aug 19/12: Even later to India. Reports now indicate that the 1st FGFA prototype flight tests should start in India in 2014, with deliveries to the Indian Air Force by 2022, a full ten years from now. This would be the start of a $30+ billion, 250 plane program over the next decade, at roughly $100 million each.

Closer to the present, Russia and India are reportedly finalizing the research and development phase at $11+ billion, split evenly between the two parties. Business Standard | AviationWeek.

Aug 8/12: Radar. Sukhoi announces that they’ve begun flight tests of the PAK-FA’s Tikhomirov “active phased array radar system” in both air-to-air and air-to-surface test modes. Initial trials toward flight refueling also take place this month. Sukhoi | The DEW Line | RIA Novosti.

May 14/12: Late to India. India is already backtracking on service dates for its FGFA variant of Sukhoi’s T50, bringing them closer to predictions made by outside observers years ago. M M Pallam Raju has moved the plane’s certification and production start date from 2017 back to 2019. Close examination shows that 2020 or beyond is more likely.

India’s Business Standard also highlights a number of areas that aren’t settled, where ongoing specifications changes and/or technical problems may end up delaying the fighter and send India’s costs skyrocketing. India reportedly wants 40-45 design changes to the current PAK-FA, including its own avionics and a “360 degrees” AESA radar. That last requirement is likely to involve AESA “cheek fairings” that need to maintain aircraft stealth levels, a tailcone radar, and the internal computing and software required to fuse all of those radars into a single picture. They also want at least 2,000 hours of certification flying, and possible configuration changes in light of tests. India now expects their fighters to prepare for service no earlier than 2019, and if the IAF fields a 2-seat version, it’s likely to take even longer. All of India’s changes add 3 types of risk.

One is technical risk. India’s history is littered with overly ambitious projects that India’s Ministry of Defense and associated state-run agencies approved, but could not execute. The cutting-edge nature of the FGFA project magnifies those risks, even with Sukhoi’s assistance.

The 2nd risk is cost risk. Sukhoi’s help, and the associated design, production, and testing of new FGFA equipment, won’t come for free. The more changes India makes, the more the project will cost them. Russia isn’t going to pick up the tab for changes to a design their air force has already approved, and even the “Tactical Technical Agreement” that specified Indian changes isn’t going to mean much if costs become a problem. Russia has forcibly renegotiated critical defense contracts with India several times, and won’t hesitate to do so again.

The 3rd risk is schedule risk. Since Russia is focused on fielding the current single-seat configuration in its current form, while India is focused on major configuration changes and is still debating a 2-seat variant, both of those timelines could turn out to be true. Russia could wind up fielding SU-50 squadrons several years before India even finishes development. India’s Business Standard.

Jan 29/12: Korea: No PAK-FA. The Korea Times quotes a DAPA spokesman, who confirms the potential F-X-III competitors:

“No Russian firm submitted an application to attend the program’s explanatory session, which was a prerequisite to participate, by the Friday registration deadline,” a spokesman of DAPA said. He noted that a representative from Swedish company Saab, which has been searching for additional export orders for its Gripen multirole fighters, successfully filed an application for the mandatory session along with Boeing, Lockheed Martine [sic] and EADS.”

This means that the Indo-Russian PAK-FA will not be part of the $7+ billion competition, despite reports (vid. July 20/11) that it was intending to participate, just as Russian disinterest kept the SU-35 out of F-X-2.

2011

Prototypes #2 & 3 fly; Testing flameout; South Korean opportunity?

PAK-FA: takeoff!
(click to view full)

Dec 22/11: #3 flies. First flight of the 3rd PAK-FA prototype from Sukhoi’s KNAAPO aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Sukhoi.

Sept 6/11: Exports? Russia & India Report highlights an analysis by Russia’s unofficial Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade (CAWAT), which takes a look at potential buyers of the PAK-FA’s export version. They see a potential for 274-388 export units beyond India or states that spun out of the Soviet Union, like Kazakhstan et. al. Their projections for possible buyers, and their projected purchasing periods, include:

  • Algeria (2025-2030)
  • Argentina (2035-2040)
  • Brazil (2030-2035)
  • Venezuela (2027-2032)
  • Vietnam (2030-2035)
  • Indonesia (2028-2032)
  • Iran (subject to lifting of the arms embargo, 2035-2040)
  • Kazakhstan (2025-2035)
  • China (“subject to certain conditions”, 2025-2035)
  • Malaysia (2035-2040)
  • Syria (2025-2030)

Aug 24/11: Flameout. Flight International conveys NPO Saturn general director Ilya Federo’s explanation of the MAKS 2011 failure:

“The motor did not fail – in fact, it was put by erroneous control input into a wrong mode that caused the surge. This is not an engine failure, but the wrong data input caused by a malfunctioning sensor feeding data to the flight control system. After what had happened the motor was checked [and] the malfunctioning sensor was replaced by a good one. Today, there is no issue with this engine.”

Aug 22/11: Flameout. After performing a basic fly-over with the PAK FA, Sukhoi intended to close Russia’s MAKS 2011 air show with a bang – and did, sort of. The pilot of its second prototype PAK-FA/T50-2 was forced to abort his take-off run, and the planned flying routine, after 2 bursts of flame erupted from the right engine.

The show’s organizers compounded the embarrassment by promising that the 1st prototype would fly instead – but it was not on site, and is believed to be in maintenance following its Aug 17/11 demonstration. Flameout: Flight International (incl. flame burst picture) | India’s Open magazine | China’s Xinhua || Appearance: Moscow Times | Pravda | RIA Novosti | Voice of Russia | Reuters | UPI | WSJ Emerging Europe blog | op-ed – Right-wing Heritage Foundation, USA.

July 20/11: PAK-FA for South Korea? As South Korea’s DAPA eases the criteria to try and foster more competition, DAPA’s Col. Wi Jong-seong says that “Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi expressed its intent to compete in the fighter jet procurement project early this year.” The report quotes him as saying that Sukhoi’s T50 PAK-FA will be up against Boeing’s stealth-enhanced F-15SE Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, and EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon. Assuming we don’t have an F-X-2 repeat, where all competitors but one drop out.

At this point, FX-III is being touted as a 60 jet buy of high-end fighters, with a budget of 8.29 trillion won ($7.86 billion). Eurofighter reportedly offered a better deal than the F-15K in F-X-2, but lost. The firm recently proposed to phase in Korean assembly for Phase III, with the 1st 10 made in Europe, the next 24 using Korean components, and the last 26 assembled in Korea. Korea Times.

March 3/11: #2 flies. Russia’s 2nd PAK-FA fighter prototype successfully completes its 1st test flight in Russia’s Far East region of Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Note that China’s Xinhua cites local reports dated Feb 23/11, but Sukhoi’s release pegs the date at March 3/11.

UAC’s Mikhail Pogosyan adds that they expect to have a fleet of 3 test aircraft by year end, and says the existing jets have now made 40 flights since last January to test the model’s aero-dynamic characteristics and electronics. Beyond that, Pogosyan tells Russian media that the Indian Air Force will “acquire 50 single-seater fighters of the Russian version” before their 2-seat FGFA is developed. If true, it would go a long way toward ensuring that India meets its 2017 induction target. On the Russian end, plans are to purchase the first batch with existing engines, buying the first 10 aircraft after 2012 and then 60 after 2016. Russia’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies director Ruslan Pukhov predicts that Vietnam will be the 2nd export customer for the fighter. Sukhoi | Russia’s Pravda | China’s Xinhua.

Feb 9/11: With Aero India 2011 underway, Sukhoi offers some additional details regarding the December 2010 agreement with India:

“This is the first of a series of documents governing the obligations of the parties at different stages of the program. The PMF project includes the design and development of a next-generation fighter, which will have such advanced features as stealth, supersonic cruise speed, high maneuverability, highly integrated set of avionics, an advanced warning system about the situation, the internal deployment of weapons and the possibility of a centralized reporting and electronic warfare system. The fighter is being developed on the basis of the Russian perspective aviation complex (PAK FA) according to stringent technical requirements of the Indian side. The further development of the program envisages design and development of a two-place version of the aircraft and integration of an advanced engine with increased thrust. The two sides are supposed to cooperate in joint marketing of the complex in other countries.”

Feb 9/11: India. Indian defence minister AK Antony reiterates their target of a 2017 induction for the FGFA. India’s defense procurement history suggests that they’re unlikely to make it. Time will tell. Sukhoi.

2010

1st flight; Russian air force plans; Contract with India.

Sukhoi PAK-FA: 1st flight
(click to view larger)

Dec 20/10: Contract. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reportedly signs a set of defense and nuclear agreements in India, including the FGFA development contract. Details remain sketchy. Bloomberg | BBC.

Dec 16/10: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Chairman Ashok Nayak tells Russia’s RIA Novosti that Russia and India have agreed on key features of the design contract for their joint fifth-generation fighter project. The cost of preliminary design is estimated at $295 million, with work expected to be complete within 18 months. The partnership will develop both a single-seat and a twin-seat version of the aircraft by 2016, focusing on the single-seat version in the initial stages of development.

Nayak said the contract could be signed by the representatives of India’s HAL and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) during a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to India on December 20-22. RIA Novosti.

Development contract

Nov 30/10: The right-wing American Heritage Foundation think tank releases an analysis of the Russia program and its implications: “What Russia’s Stealth Fighter Developments Mean for America“.

July 23/10: Testing. Sukhoi’s KnAAPO issues a release saying that:

“Sukhoi Company has completed the preliminary on-land and in-flight activities which involved all 3 engineering prototypes of the Frontline Aviation Advanced Airborne Complex (PAK FA)… These prototypes were used for testbed strength tests, on-land optimization of fuel systems and other work towards flight trials. The flying prototype has made 16 flights… enables execution of a complete program of flight trials… Vladimir Popovkin, the Russian Defense Minister First Deputy, in his interview to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper estimated the Russian Air Force’s demand for the 5th-generation fighters at 50 to 100 units. It is planned to complete all tests of the PAK FA airframe in 2011-2012, and to sign a contract in 2013 for a pilot lot of ten aircraft for testing the model’s entire weapons suite.”

July 13/10: Russia. RIA Novosti quotes senior Russian figures. Russian Air Force chief Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin confirms the expected delivery dates of over 60 planes, which they hope to begin in 2015-16, but equipped with older, “non-fifth” generation engines from existing SU-30 family planes.

“Deputy Defense Minister for Arms Procurement Vladimir Popovkin said the Defense Ministry would purchase the first 6 to 10 aircraft after 2012, based on the outcome of initial tests… The prime minister said 30 billion rubles (around $1 billion) had already been spent on the project and another 30 billion would be required to complete it, after which the engine, weaponry and other components would be upgraded.”

April 2010: Testing. The 1st flying prototype of the fighter, and the avionics testbed used for systems optimization before flight trials, are delivered to the flying test center of the OKB Sukhoi Experimental Design Bureau in Zhukovsky, near Moscow. On April 29/10, the flying prototype begins preliminary tests. Source.

March 29/10: Welcome to the new world of intelligence, where a pair of YouTube videos appear to provide insights into PAK-FA technologies. Veteran aviation journalist Bill Sweetman reports that:

“…the video highlights a new honeycomb core material designed for high temperatures. It also states that the T-50 will have no fewer than five radar arrays: the 1500-module forward active electronically scanned array (AESA), two side-facing X-band sub-arrays and two “decimetric” (L-band) arrays in the leading-edge root extensions. It also states that the goal is to fight the F-22 by closing within visual range. Another new video shows a novel inlet radar blocker… It uses flexible vanes with a rotating ring at the rear end: in the “stealth regime” it provides extensive blockage, but it clears the airflow when it doesn’t matter or you need full speed or power.”

Late March 2010: Testing. Acceptance trials of the flying prototype are fully completed. Source.

March 16/10: Russia. In “The future of the Russian Air Force: 10 years on“, RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik discusses planned buys and pending recapitalization of the Russian Air Force over the next decade:

“According to various media reports, the Ministry wants to buy at least 1,500 aircraft, including 350 new warplanes, by 2020. The fleet would include 70% new equipment at that point, said Air Force Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Alexander Zelin… The Defense Ministry has now signed contracts for the purchase of 32 Su-34 Fullback advanced fighter-bombers to be delivered by 2013, 48 Su-35 Flanker-E fighters by 2015, 12 Su-27SM Flanker-B Mod. 1 fighters by 2011, 4 Su-30M2 Flanker-C planes by 2011 and 12 Su-25UBM Frogfoot combat trainers. This year, the Defense Ministry intends to sign a contract for the delivery of 26 MiG-29K Fulcrum-D fighters by 2015. Additional contracts for the delivery of at least 80 Su-34s and 24-48 Su-35s are expected to be signed. In all, the Russian Air Force is to receive 240-260 new aircraft of these types. It is hard to say much about the specifications of another 100-110 aircraft, due to be manufactured primarily after 2015. They will probably include 25-30 MiG-35 fighters, another 12-16 Su-30 combat trainers for Su-35 squadrons and 40-60 Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA (Advanced Frontline Aviation Aircraft System) fifth-generation fighters…”

Feb 12/10: Testing. The PAK-FA prototype reportedly makes its 2nd flight at Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Times Now | RT

.

Feb 6/10: Some aviation watchers ask “How long has the PAK-FA or T50 been flying?” They believe that the first prototype may have flown before January 2010, and that there may be more than 1 prototype, based on differences in available photos.

Jan 29/10: Fly! The first prototype PAK-FA fighter lifts off from KNAAPO’s Komsomolsk-on-Amur facility for a 47 minute flight, piloted by Sukhoi test-pilot Sergey Bogdan. Sukhoi says that the plane met all expectations. Sukhoi JSC release | NPO Saturn release [in Russian] | Russia 1 TV video | Pravda | RIA Novosti | Times of India | Aviation Week | Defense News | Agence France Presse | BBC | Canadian Press | Washington Post | China’s Xinhua | Aviaiton Week’s Bill Sweetman: Preliminary Analysis.

1st PAK-FA flight

Jan 6/10: India’s Business Standard covers the workshare and capability issues that have must be addressed before production contracts and arrangements can be finalized. The project is currently expected to have development costs of $8-10 billion, and Russia and Sukhoi have already made substantial investments.

The crux of the negotiations revolves around HAL’s designated development workshare, and the areas it will be applied to. On the other side of the table, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation is wary of India’s lack of design credentials, coupled with the cutting-edge nature of this project. HAL is intent on a 25% share, to include the mission computer and critical software (building on Indian SU-30MKI work), navigation systems, cockpit displays, counter-measures dispensing (CMD) systems, composites expertise and production to complement Russia’s titanium expertise, and modifying Sukhoi’s single-seat design into a twin-seat fighter for the IAF. HAL’s Chairman Ashok Baweja seems to have a different view of the fighter’s design state, referring to existing prototypes as “proof of concept” items rather than nearly final designs.

Once the 2 sides come to a firm agreement on issues of design and funding, UAC and HAL will sign a General Contract, and set up a joint venture to design and build the aircraft. That has not happened yet, while Sukhoi has continued to push forward with general design, and has produced a prototype aircraft. Business Standard describes India’s workshare as “almost finalised,” but as we’ve seen with other Indian procurements, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Jan 3/10: Rollout. Reports surface that the first prototype of Russia’s PAK-FA aircraft has rolled out on the runway at KNAAPO’s plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, but did not fly. The test pilot reportedly switched on the engines and made 2 runs on the airstrip, while testing the brakes.

Russia’s vice premier Sergei Ivanov had promised that tests would commence in December 2009-January 2010, and the Russian Air Force reportedly plans to induct the fighter beginning from 2015. DNA India.

2008 – 2009

Russia – India MoU signed; Russia approves their version’s design; Exports could be a challenge.

PAK-FA: early concept
(click to view larger)

Oct 9/09: India. The Indian Ministry of Defence issues a release regarding the 9th meeting of the Russia-India Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation on Oct 14-15/09:

“Among the major new projects which will be high in priorities of the Indian agenda for bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries, will be projects for joint design and development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and of the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA). The co-development and co-production of the FGFA with Sukhoi Design Bureau Russia has been progressing, with several rounds of discussion already completed to finalize the technical requirements. During discussions in the meeting of the Commission, Shri Antony would highlight New Delhi’s interest in ensuring that the development phase of the FGFA is completed by 2016, as originally anticipated and that induction of the aircraft into the IAF can start by 2017.”

See also: Times of India.

Aug 28/09: Radar. Tikhomirov’s NIIP reportedly exhibits models of the PAK-FA’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. Tikhomirov reportedly says the AESA antenna entered bench testing in November 2008, and was mated with the radar’s other blocks for an initial integration test “this summer,” with a 2nd radar produced by mid-2010 for integration with the operational prototype aircraft.

The Milaz report adds that Sukhoi will complete 5 prototypes for initial testing, including 2 to be dedicated for ground test activities. Initial trials are scheduled for completion in 2011-12, with the company expecting to produce an initial batch of aircraft for operational trials by 2015.

April 16/09: Exports? Forecast International offers a cautionary market assessment of the FGFA:

“…with the PAKFA program under increasing tension and the West’s major aerospace firms seeking to shore up additional orders for soon to be closed fourth-generation aircraft production lines, Russia faces the prospect of declining presence in the world’s most high sought after arms markets… Faced with the considerable research & development costs associated with developing a new, advanced fighter platform, Russia is seeking to both distribute costs and ensure that a viable export market will exist… Sukhoi, is reported to have already invested as much as $115 million in company capital…

Several factors are working against the Rosoboronexport’s attempts replicate the international cost/production-sharing development model implemented for the F-35, which is expected to become the dominant fighter in the fifth-generation market… the unproven status of the PAKFA… its timeline for delivery its far behind its western competitors. Deliveries of the PAKFA are not anticipated to begin until 2017. Finally, as production of the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35 ramp up, the western aerospace firms currently producing advanced variants of fourth-generation aircraft are likely to push hard to gain additional order to extend production lines.”

Aug 8/09: RIA Novosti quotes the chief of the Russian Air Force, Alexander Zelin, from the MAKS-2009 arms show. Zelin says there are problems with the PAK-FA’s proposed new engines, and:

“For the time being the aircraft will use Saturn engines. There are problems, I admit, but research is continuing.”

Dec 29/08: MoU. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) sign the deal to jointly develop and produce a 5th generation fighter aircraft. HAL Chairman Ashok K Baweja:

“We (HAL and UAC) are moving forward as per schedule. We (have) just done the general contract yesterday. I went to Delhi and signed the general contract.”

According to reports, Russia and India will simultaneously develop 2 versions of the aircraft: a 2-seat version for India, and a single seat version for the Russian Air Force. India Defence.

India – Russia MoU

Sept 29/08: India Today magazine reports that the Russian and Indian designs for the FGFA project will differ somewhat, while efforts continue to define India’s participation in a project that has reportedly already had its design frozen by Sukhoi. HAL Chairman Ashok Baweja is quoted as saying that the Indian aircraft will be a 2-seat aircraft, which changes some aspects of design and has an especial impact on stealth unless carefully managed. Bajewa added that both stealth and supercruise capabilities were expected for the aircraft, adding that both sides were closer to a real agreement defining India’s participation, almost a year after the original cooperation memo was signed. India’s capabilities in composite materials manufacturing was mentioned as a possible basis for industrial participation.

Meanwhile, Russia’s the United Aircraft Corporation President Alexey Fedorov says that the single-seat T50 is set to fly in Russia in 2009 as planned; Bajewa adds that it will be powered by an ALF-31 FP engine.

The most interesting quote was Indian Air Vice Marshal Kak’s, who noted that the opportunity to gain from being part of the design process was gone, and added that “…if we have missed out on the design phase, we have to analyse the cost-benefits of acquiring only super cruise and stealth technology for $10 billion.”

A fair question. One likely to be asked in the political realm as well, when the time comes to finalize the agreement. Which leads to the corollary questions: How important each aspect is to the IAF? And where, if anywhere, might enough of these performance benefits be acquired at less cost?

Summer 2008: Design approval. The fighter’s initial design is approved in Russia, and the prototype blueprints are delivered to the KNAAPO aircraft building company based in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Source.

Russia approves design

April 3/08: RIA Novosti reports that Russia plans to begin flight tests of a new fifth-generation fighter based on Sukhoi’s PAK FA project in 2009.

Feb 28/08: HAL explains some of the timelines facing the FGFA program. HAL Chairman Ashok Baweja explains the process, which is also the set of implicit points of failure where the project can become stalled or canceled:

“We have only signed an Inter-governmental Agreement which agrees to cooperate in developing the FGFA. Now from that will flow the project report, general contract, the structure of the company that will be set up, and where the funding will come from. An aircraft design, development, certification, the complete entity with its power plant, systems, weapons, trials, is a process which takes 15 years to be completed.”

2004 – 2007

India signs key agreement, but it isn’t finalized.

India’s SU-30 MKIs
(click to view full)

Nov 6/07: India. Issues and rifts may be developing between India and Russia over the FGFA contract, which still lacks key signatories. Defense News reports that key difference include the design’s level of finalization (India wants more input and hasn’t finalized requirements, Russia says the design is final), India’s monetary share (HAL says $2 billion, agreement suggests $5-6 billion), and other issues. The Defense News report does claim that Sukhoi’s secret PAK-FA/ I-21/ T50 design has been selected as the foundation.

The first prototype of the aircraft is reportedly projected to be test-flown by 2015, but the number of aircraft to be built remains among the unsettled issues, and the 2 state-owned firms (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. & Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau) have not signed any agreements yet.

All of these things are solvable by negotiations, of course, but that means the partnership is still effectively in negotiations, rather than a final deal.

Oct 18/07: India and Russia sign an Intergovernmental Agreement for joint development and joint production of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). The agreement was signed in Moscow, Russia at the conclusion of the 7th Meeting of the India- Russia Intergovernmental Commission for Military and Technical Cooperation.

India’s Defence Minister Mr. AK Antony and his Russian counterpart Mr. Anatoly Serdyukov also signed a Protocol which envisages a ‘new strategic relationship’ based on greater interaction at various operational levels. The two countries have agreed to strengthen and expand relations in all areas, especially in the areas of more frequent joint exercises and greater R&D cooperation. Talks with Russia to extend the 2000 Military Cooperation Agreement beyond 2010 have now begun, and Antony also expressed hope that the two countries would soon sign an Intergovernmental Agreement on co-development and co-production of Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MRTA). The India MoD release adds:

“The Defence Minister described the Agreement on FGFA as a ‘major landmark’ and said that the Indo-Russian relationship is on a trajectory to reach new heights. He Mr. Antony expressed satisfaction at the outcome of discussions on other important projects e.g., supply and licensed production of T-90 tanks, SU-30 MKI aircraft and other strategic issues. He admitted that there has been a delay in the delivery of the repaired and refurbished aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov along with supply of deck-based fighter aircraft MiG-29K and said it was decided that some more studies by technical groups would be done to go through the details. He appreciated the efforts made by the Russian side to resolve issues relating to life cycle support of equipment of Russian origin.”

Inter-Governmental Agreement

Aug 29/07: India. India’s MoD issues a familiar release, in response to renewed questions:

“Co-development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft has been identified as an important area of cooperation between the Indian and Russian Government. Technical discussions to work out the details are in progress. Efforts are on for finalizing the draft Inter Governmental Agreement in this regard. This information was given by the Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh in a written reply to Shri Gurudas Dasgupta and Shri CK Chandrappan in Lok Sabha today.”

March 1/07: India.Advanced Combat Aircraft” release from India’s Minister of State for Defence Production Shri Rao Inderjit Singh:

“The co-development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft has been identified as an important area of cooperation between the Indian and Russian governments. Technical discussions to work out the details are in progress. Efforts are on for negotiations and finalization of the draft Inter-Governmental Agreement in this regard.”

Dec 10/04: The new fighter’s exterior design is approved. Source.

Appendix A: “Fifth Generation”?

MiG 1.44 MFI
(click to view full)

Russia’s SU-27/30 Flanker family fighters were invented in the 1980s and 1990s, and attempted to incorporate the lessons from America’s 4th generation “teen series” fighters (F-14, F-15, F-16, F/A-18) into their designs. They were successful, and India’s Air Force may now be flying the world’s second best air superiority fighter in the SU-30MKI. The MKI, and European designs like the Eurofighter, Rafale, and JAS-39 Gripen, are typically referred to as “4+ generation” aircraft.

The term “fifth generation” fighter is part marketing hype, and partly based in reality. There are no objective criteria for this designation, and very few examples, which means it’s mostly applied based on when the development of a front-line, advanced fighter begins. There are a few general constants on the American side: some level of stealth, and internal weapon carriage to maintain it; arrays of embedded sensors within the airframe’s structure, rather than as bolt-ons; and sensor fusion into single displays. On the other hand, level of application varies for each category, and key capabilities like super-maneuverability and supercruise (Mach 1+ without using fuel-guzzling afterburners) have not been constants.

F-22, bays open
(click to view full)

The USA’s “5th generation” F-22A Raptor offers full stealth, supermaneuverability, an advanced AESA radar, huge computing power that creates a single “sensor fusion” picture from the plane’s array of embedded sensors and datalinks, and the ability to “supercruise” above Mach 1 instead of just making short supersonic dashes. It is operated by the USAF, and just over 190 aircraft will constitute America’s entire fleet. America has refused to export it, despite interest from very close allies.

To a lesser extent, there’s also the cheaper F-35 Lightning II, with some stealth, a smaller AESA radar, sensor fusion, and even more computing power and sensors embedded around the aircraft. It lacks supercruise or super-maneuverability, and will be produced for domestic use and export in Air Force, Marines/STOVL, and Navy variants.

Russia’s MiG 1.44 (if indeed it was a real project?) and/or “I-21” type aircraft were early attempts to keep up with the Americans, but lack of funds suspended both efforts.

The obvious solution was a foreign partner, but Europe had limited funds, and had invested in its own 4+ generation projects: Dassault’s Rafale, EADS’ Eurofighter, and Sweden’s Gripen. India, on the other hand, has a long-standing defense relationship with Russia, and the funds to pursue advanced projects. From their point of view, a joint development agreement is one way to restrict Russian cooperation with China along similar lines. See Vijiander K Thakur’s “Understanding IAF interest in the MiG fifth generation fighter” for more background.

Until similar aspects of the Russian design became clear, however, it was impossible to know exactly what Russia and India meant by “5th generation.” Some of those ambiguities were resolved when Russia unveiled its T50 demonstrators.

Appendix B: DID Analysis – Under Pressure (2008)

The competition?
(click to view full)

If there’s one watchword to use for this deal, it’s “pressure.” Russia has been putting pressure on India lately to remain a customer, by giving China export rights to jet engines that will power Pakistan’s new fighters, and by working to evict India from its base in Tajikistan. Verbiage concerning deepened strategic cooperation needs to be seen in this light.

The second kind of pressure at work here is the fiscal variety. With the Navy also demanding funds for new ships, submarines and aircraft as India’s geostrategy shifts toward securing the Indian Ocean sea lanes, any additional fighters will face an extremely tight fiscal environment over the next decade and more.

India already faces cost pressures given limited defense budget and pressing need to refurbish its existing fleet, modernize its fighters via the MRCA competition, and bring the Tejas LCA on line to replace its MiG-21s. Not to mention adding new platforms to patrol India’s vital sea lanes, fulfill naval fighter needs, upgrade its transport aircraft fleet, and extend the IAF’s reach. Meanwhile, India’s SU-30MKIs remain one of the best 4th generation aircraft in the world, with a comfortable edge over regional rivals, good growth prospects, and superiority over most current and planned US aircraft as well.

SU-30MK2s, China
(click to view full)

Then there’s pressure in future, as the strategic agreement lays the foundations for something of a dilemma down the road. There are no real guarantees when dealing with Russia, only its interests of the moment and the logic of cash. Any fighter whose R&D is partly underwritten by India can easily be sold to China later on if relations turn sour, or if India does not buy enough aircraft to make exclusivity worthwhile from Russia’s point of view. One might think that this would be counterbalanced somewhat by Russian wariness about giving a potential rival its best technology, but past experience shows that even this will be for sale. China’s real military budget is about 4-5 times India’s according to most credible estimates, and is likely to remain so.

Given the amount of Russian equipment in India’s military, and the limitations of defense budgets in a democracy that prevent a massive “throw-out and re-equip” exercise, India’s options for retaliation would be very limited.

India faces high hurdles to retaining future exclusivity – and is handing a potent lever to Russia for future “negotiations” involving Russian armaments.

Additional Readings Background: PAK-FA

  • Global Security – PAK FA [Perspektivnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsyi].

  • Air Power Australia (Feb 15/10) – Assessing the Sukhoi PAK-FA. “While the failure to account for the imminent arrival of this design in United States TACAIR force structure planning qualifies the PAK-FA as a “known capability surprise”, the important advances in PAK-FA aerodynamic, kinematic and low observables design also qualify it as a “surprising capability surprise”.

  • Wikipedia – Sukhoi PAK FA. Wikipedia is a useful source for concept aircraft, because it tends to aggregate the various sources. This article is a good example. Note that all articles concerning this aircraft must be regarded as very provisional.

  • Warfare.RU, via WayBack – PAK-FA Sukhoi T-50. As of 2011. The “T-50” is an internal designation; the operational aircraft will be SU-##.

  • RIA Novosti, via WayBack – FACTBOX: Russia’s fifth-generation fighter T-50 (PAK FA). As of 2012.

  • NPO Saturn – 117S. The engine that equips the Su-35, and early T50 models. For its successor, see Aircraft Engines of the 5th Generation [in Russian].

News and Views

Categories: News

Australia’s MH-60R Maritime Helicopters

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 03:56

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

Australia’s AIR 9000, Phase 8 project aimed to buy 24 modern naval helicopters to 16 existing S-70B-2 Seahawks, along with the disastrous A$1.1 billion, 11-helicopter SH-2G “Super Seasprite” acquisition attempt. With a total sales and support value of over A$ 3 billion, it was a highly coveted award.

The finalists were familiar, and both had roots in Australia. Sikorsky’s MH-60R is a modernized descendant of the RAN’s existing S-70B anti-submarine helicopters, and Australia’s army operates the S-70A utility helicopter. On the other hand, a multi-billion dollar 2006 order made the European NH90-TTH (“MRH-90”) the Army’s future helicopter, and some MRH-90s will even serve as Navy utility helicopters. NHI/Eurocopter’s NH90-NFH naval variant builds on that base. So why did the MH-60R make Australia its 1st export win?

Australia’s Winner

MH-60R Seahawk
click for video

A combination of problems with its “MRH-90s,” slow NH90 TTH development, MH-60R naval interoperability benefits with Australia’s principal ally, and the MH-60R’s low-risk already-operational status tipped the balance. Australia’s MH-60Rs will be entirely standard US Navy designs; the only differences will be their paint scheme, and the addition of tamper-proofing to 4 avionics boxes that are considered “sensitive.” Australia’s DoD states that the fleet of 24 will:

“…provide at least eight warships with a combat helicopter at the same time, including ANZAC Class frigates [8 bought] and the new Air Warfare Destroyers [3 bought]. The remainder will be based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, New South Wales, and will be in various stages of the regular maintenance and training cycle.”

There’s a regular cycle of ship maintenance and training, as well as deployments, which means Australia never has all of these ships at sea at one time. The helicopters can rotate among ships as they enter training & service stages, allowing full coverage with some helicopters left over. Unless the 4-ship Improved Adelaide Class is added to this mix, however, the decision as discussed does raise the question of how to equip Australia’s expensively-upgraded FFG-7 frigates with naval helicopters. One option may involve some sort of service-extension program for the existing S-70B-2s, whether through refurbishment, or by rotating a larger pool of S-70Bs among a small set of operational ships.

The RAN currently has 4 MH-60Rs flying as RAN 725 Squadron, alongside 3 full US Navy MH-60R squadrons in Jacksonville, FL. Australian crews and maintenance personnel are trained in operations and tactics there, until they return to Australia with their machines at the end of 2014. They’ll become the training squadron at the air station in Nowra, New South Wales, and Initial Operational Capability for the Royal Australian Navy as a whole is scheduled for August 2015.

Deliveries to Australia will continue until 2016. The larger RAN 816 Squadron will fly the MH-60Rs from Australian ships, while using Nowra, NSW as its home base.

Contracts & Key Events 2014 – 2016

 

RAN pilot on MH-60R

December 7/17: Final Flight The last S-70B-2 Seahawk operated by the Royal Australian Navy has flown its last flight as the service completes its transition to the Sikorsky MH-60R. 24 models of the new anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare helicopter have been delivered since 2014 and are operated by the 725 Sqn from Nowra, New South Wales. The last Seahawk was flown to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, where it will be preserved. The departing model was used during operations in the Middle East from the 1990-1991 Gulf War onwards.

August 3/16: Australia has taken delivery of their last MH-60R Seahawk helicopter from manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Replacing the older S-70B-2 Seahawks, the MH-60Rs now complete a requirement for a fleet of 24 next-generation, multi-role naval combat aircraft. The cost of the replacement is believed to be in excess of $2.2 billion.

July 30/14: Testing & Deliveries. The Australians fire their 1st Hellfire missile from the new helicopter, and also update their delivery status and plans.

The RAN has 4 MH-60Rs; the first pair were accepted in the United States in December 2013, and the second pair were accepted in February 2014. They’re currently flying as RAN 725 Squadron, alongside 3 full US Navy MH-60R squadrons in Jacksonville, FL. Australian crews and maintenance personnel are trained in operations and tactics there, until they return to Australia with their machines at the end of 2014. They’ll become the training squadron at the air station in Nowra, New South Wales, and deliveries to Australia will continue until 2016. The larger RAN 816 Squadron will fly the MH-60Rs from Australian ships, while using Nowra as its home base. Sources: Australia DoD, “Hellfire missile firing a first for new Navy helicopters”.

May 13/14: Sensors. Australia’s new MH-60Rs of NUSQN 725 “commence dipping operations” with the new AQS-22 ALFS sonar off of Jacksonville, FL, as part of their training. NUSQN 725 will begin a phased return to the Fleet Air Arm’s home base at HMAS Albatross (Nowra Airport, SSW of Sydney) in October 2014, and current plans involve a full return of all members by Christmas. Sources: RAN Navy Daily, “Romeos packing a new punch”.

March 28/14: Sensors. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Owego, NY receives $13.1 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for 19 radar receiver processors, used in support of Australia’s MH-60R buy.

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed at Owego NY (56%) and Syracuse NY (44%), and work is expected to be complete by March 2017. This was a non-competitive requirement in accordance with FAR 6.302.1 by US NAVSUP Weapons System Support in Philadelphia PA (SPRPA1-09-G-002Y).

2013

Support contract Phase 2 awarded; MK-54 torpedo request; 1st helicopters delivered.

RAN MH-60R
(click to view full)

Dec 17/13: ANAO Report. Australia’s National Audit Office releases their 2012-13 Major Projects Report. Overall, the MH-60R program is seen as stable in its early stages, and its truly off-the-shelf nature is expected to keep it that way. The helicopters are arriving earlier than predicted, but basing and support facilities may not be ready in time. As ANAO puts it, “there is no float in the construction program.” The RAN is looking at temporary or shared hangar and administrative facilities, and may operate the initial MH-60Rs in the US to mitigate risk and consolidate training – whose infrastructure may fall behind its own February 2015 target date.

Meanwhile, how many ships will actually be ready to host MH-60Rs once the whole fleet has arrived, in 2016? It may be just 3-4 ships. While Australia’s ship certification baseline is the existing S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopters, there are differences. As such, the 3 new Hobart Class air defense destroyers will have to be modified for MH-60R use, and that won’t happen until their 1st docked servicing program after they enter the fleet. As things stand now, HMAS Hobart won’t even be declared operationally capable by the end of 2016, and the 3rd ship won’t be delivered until 2019. The 8-ship ANZAC frigate Class will be looking to make any required changes during their extensive Anti-Ship Missile Defense upgrade; 6 ships will be ready by the end of 2017, excepting HMAS Perth (already done), and HMAS Arunta (already in progress).

The final point ANAO makes is that overseas travel restrictions have become a problem for the project. People need to attend key engineering, project management and airworthiness activities in the USA, but can’t go. The RAN’s proposed solutions involve videoconferencing and teleconferencing, which doesn’t work especially well from Australia to Jacksonville, FL, and also using “contracted staff to represent overseas rather then ADF or Australian Public Service (APS) staff.” None of that seems like a useful solution to the actual problem.

Dec 16/13: ALFS. Raytheon IDS in Portsmouth, RI receives a maximum $42.6 million sole source, firm-fixed-price contract from the Royal Australian Navy for “the manufacture and delivery” of AN/AQS-22 ALFS dipping sonar systems. Australia has ordered 25 systems already (q.v. Dec 22/11), which is more than enough for installation in each helicopter. Spares? Upgrades? Additional reserve units? Finalized payment? Raytheon’s Dec 20/13 release is uninformative. If the 2 orders are combined, they total $123.4 million.

Work will be performed in Rhode Island, with a February 2017 performance completion date. The US Defense Logistics Agency Aviation in Philadelphia, PA manages this contract, unlike the 2011 contract which was managed by US NAVAIR (SPRPA1-09-G-001Y-5027).

Dec 10/13: Australia accepts the first 2 MH-60R helicopters, at a delivery ceremony in Owego, NY. The expected in-service date remains June 2014. Source: Lockheed Martin, Dec 10/13 release.

Delivery

Nov 5/13: Mods. Lockheed Martin in Owego, NY receives a $10.5 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for electronics modifications, on behalf of Australia. They’ll develop and test system configuration 15 series modifications to the MH-60R’s VHF Omni-directional Range/Instrument Landing System, crash data recorder, and ABS-B Out.

All funds are committed immediately. Work will be performed in Owego, NY, and is expected to be complete in February 2016. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract as Australia’s agent(N00019-09-G-0005, #4092).

Nov 4/13: Sub-contractors. Textron’s AAI Test & Training receives a $1.6 million award to provide Advanced Boresight Equipment for Australia’s MH-60Rs. ABE is a gyro-stabilized, electro-optical angular measurement system designed to align systems on any land, sea or air vehicle before a mission begins. The base system is widely used, but adds platform-specific “personality modules” for customization.

The US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division at Lakehurst, NJ manages the contract, and deliveries are expected to take place throughout 2014. Sources: Textron Systems, “AAI Test & Training to Provide Advanced Boresight Equipment (ABE) Systems for Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Seahawk Helicopters”.

Aug 30/13: Support. The Sikorsky/ Lockheed Martin “Maritime Helicopter Support Co.” partnership in Trevose, PA receives a 6+ year, $170.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for the RAN’s MH-60R Through Life Support program (q.v. Feb 2/12), Phase II. They’ll perform depot level Phased Maintenance Interval, and also handle the corresponding back office services of squadron administrative management of aircraft and support equipment, data and aircraft inventory reporting, and supply chain management. All funds are committed immediately.

MHSCo also performs this kind of work for the US Navy. Work on Australia’s behalf will be performed in Yerriyong, New South Wales, Australia (73%); Owego, NY (15%, LMCO); and Stratford, CT (12%, Sikorsky); and is expected to be complete in December 2019. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD acts as Australia’s agent (N00019-13-C-4000).

July 24/13: The 1st RAN MH-60R arrives at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training in Owego, NY, to have its digital cockpit and integrated mission systems and sensors installed. Sources: US NAVAIR Aug 7/13 release.

July 10/13: Weapons. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Australia’s formal export request for up to 100 MK-54 All-Up-Round Torpedoes, 13 MK-54 Exercise Sections, 13 MK-54 Exercise Fuel Tanks, 5 Recoverable Exercise Torpedoes, support and test equipment for upgrades to MK 695 Mod 1 capability, plus spare and repair parts, and various forms of US government and contractor support. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Keyport, WA is the contractor, and the DSCA says that:

“Australia will use the MK 54 torpedo on its MH-60R helicopters and intends to use the torpedo on a planned purchase of the P-8A Increment 2 Maritime Patrol and Response aircraft.”

Note that this is Australia’s 2nd request (q.v. Oct 5/10), totaling 300 torpedoes now, which they have begun buying (q.v. Oct 18/12). Australia’s uses Eurotorp’s MU90 as its standard lightweight torpedo, but that weapon isn’t integrated with the MH-60R or the P-8A. Australia decided that they’d rather have 2 separate stocks of lightweight torpedoes, instead of paying to integrate the MU90 on those platforms. The cost implications would require a full study; meanwhile, opponents have their lives complicated by knowing that they need to defeat or avoid 2 different weapon types.

DSCA: 100+ Mk-54s for Australia

June 29/13: The RAN’s 1st MH-60R Seahawk is officially delivered by Sikorsky Aircraft and accepted by the US Navy. At this point, however, it’s just the base airframe. Delivery and flight may have happened 6 months ahead of the original schedule approved by the Australian Government in 2011, but the formal delivery of the helicopter to Australia hasn’t changed, It’s still December 2013. Sources: US NAVAIR Aug 7/13 release.

Officially delivered by Sikorsky Aircraft and accepted by the U.S. Navy on June 29, the Seahawk was flown from Sikorsky’s Stratford, Conn., facility by U.S. Navy pilots to the Lockheed facility to have the digital cockpit and integrated mission systems and sensors installed.

“Delivery and first flight of an Australian MH-60R aircraft in late June occurred only two years after contract signature, some six months ahead of the original schedule approved by the Australian Government in 2011,

May 15/13: Training. The first 2 Australian crew complete NATOPS certification for the MH-60R at NAS Mayport, FL, USA, after extensive experience in the RAN’s S-70B helicopters and a 9-week, 17/7 schedule. The team have a few more weeks to absorb the aircraft’s mission and weapon systems, then they’ll move to USN test squadron HX-21 at NAS Patuxent River, MD to work on testing the Australian configured MH-60R. Initial MH-60R deliveries are still expected by December 2013. RAN.

2012

New umbrella contract for global MH-60R buys; Sub-contracts.

Upgraded HMAS Perth
(click to view full)

Dec 19/12: ANAO Report. Australia’s National Audit Office releases their 2011-12 Major Projects Report. Project SEA 9000, Phase 8 has A$ 2.91 billion budgeted. The official In-Service Date (ISD), defined as 2 aircraft in US Navy configuration, is June 2014.

Cited risks include an unapproved Helicopter Aircrew Training System (Project AIR 9000 Phase 7). In addition, staffing and work pressures at Australia’s Defence Support Group have hurt the schedule for the facilities required to house the new helicopters. The schedule has slipped by 12 months vs. its Second Pass baseline, and has become a possible issue for the helicopters’ initial operational capability milestone.

At sea, Australia’s new MH-60R Seahawks won’t achieve full capability until all ANZAC Class frigates are modified for interoperability. Unfortunately, ANAO says that can happen only after each updated ship is accepted into naval service, and a suitable maintenance period for the modifications becomes available. The same issues will be present for Australia’s Hobart Class destroyers. It seems likely that Australia’s S-70B Seahawks will be needed well past their successors’ entry into service.

Oct 18/12: Weapons. Raytheon announces a $45.3 million contract to provide MK 54 lightweight torpedo hardware, test equipment, spares and related services for the US Navy, Australia, and India. It’s exercised as an option under the current umbrella contract, but Raytheon doesn’t release numbers or proportions. Australian buys are almost certainly aimed at their forthcoming MH-60R fleet. Sources: Raytheon Oct 18/12 release.

Aug 3/12: Sensor turrets. Raytheon Co. in McKinney, TX receives a $23.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for 24 Multi-Spectral Targeting systems, which includes purchases for the government of Australia under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Case AT-P-SCF.

Work will be performed in McKinney, TX, and is expected to be complete by December 2013. This non-commercial contract was procured and solicited on a sole source basis by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, IN, acting as Australia’s FMS agent (N00164-12-G-JQ66).

July 11/12: MH-60Rs under MYP-8 contract? Sikorsky signs an $8.5 billion firm-fixed-price umbrella contract with the US government to buy 653 H-60M, MH-60S, and MH-60R helicopters, with options for up to 263 more that could push the contract as high as $11.7 billion (W58RGZ-12-C-0008). Interestingly, Sikorsky adds that:

“To reach the full baseline value of $8.5 billion, the services are ordering aircraft in the base agreement to be sold via the U.S. Government’s Foreign Military Sales program. These aircraft include Foreign Military Sale (FMS) UH-60M aircraft for several allied countries and MH-60R SEAHAWK anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare helicopters for the Royal Australian Navy… BLACK HAWK and SEAHAWK aircraft deliveries under the new contract will begin this month.”

Read “Sikorsky’s $8.5-11.7B “Multi-Year 8? H-60 Helicopter Contract” for full coverage.

June 28/12: IMDS/HUMS. Simmonds Precision Products (United Technologies’ Goodrich Sensors and Integrated Systems) in Vergennes, VT receives a $9.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for 120 various Integrated Mechanical Diagnostic System kits in support of The US Navy and Australia’s MH-60R/S helicopters. As their name implies, these embedded sensors are used to detect mechanical problems in critical areas of the helicopter, allowing maintenance to shift from a regular schedule regardless of need, to a “condition-based” response to problems while they’re still small.

The US Navy gets 11 retrofit kits and one Delta retrofit kit, 18 integrated vehicle health management units and data transfer units, and 18 production kits.

Australia receives 24 Troy kits, 24 integrated vehicle health management units and data transfer units, and 24 production kits for its 24 MH-60Rs.

Work will be performed in Vergennes, VT, and is expected to be complete in March 2014. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. US NAVAIR manages the contract (N00019-12-C-2015).

June 11/12: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Stratford, CT receives a $19.1 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for one-time engineering efforts to support delivery of 24 Australian baseline MH-60R helicopters.

Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, and is expected to be complete in September 2017. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-08-G-0010).

April 20/12: Avionics. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Owego, NY receives a $126.5 million modification to Australia’s previous advance acquisition contract, which turns its preliminary order for 24 MH-60R mission systems and common cockpits into a finalized firm-fixed-price contract. This brings all contracts related to these sub-systems up to $315.1 million, or $13.13 million per helicopter. Note that “mission systems” reach well beyond the cockpit, to include things like the maritime radar, integration of the dipping sonar and sonobuoy systems, weapons capabilities, etc.

Work will be performed in Owego, NY (58%); Farmingdale, NY (25%); Woodland Hills, CA (4%); Ciudad Real, Spain (3%); East Syracuse, NY (2%); Victor, NY (2%); Everett, WA (1%); Stratford, CT (1%); St. Charles, MO (1%); Bennington, VT (1%); Lewisville, TX (1%); and various locations throughout the United States (1%), and is expected to be completed in March 2017. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD acts as Australia’s agent to manage the contract (N00019-11-C-0020).

March 13/12: Sikorsky in Stratford, CT received a $27.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for the “advanced procurement funding services in support of the Royal Australia Navy MH-60R program.” Work will be performed in Stratford, CT, with an estimated completion date of Dec 13/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-08-C-0003).

2011

MH-60R picked, contracts begin; Australian industry; Rival MRH-90’s problems.

MH-60R TOFT
(click to view full)

Dec 29/11: Avionics. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Owego, NY receives a $103.5 million firm-fixed-price delivery order for Australia. It covers common cockpit and mission electronics to equip 24 MH-60R helicopters for the Royal Australian Navy, including non-recurring engineering, program support, and associated efforts required for the production and delivery. See also Dec 2/11 entry; the combined value is $188.6 million (abut A$ 185 million).

Work will be performed in Owego, NY (95%), Farmingdale, NY (4%), and various locations throughout the United States (1%). Work is expected to be completed in July 2018. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD, is the contracting activity (N00019-09-G-0005).

Dec 22/11: ALFS. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, RI receives an $80.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy 25 AN/AQS-22 Airborne Low Frequency Sonar (ALFS) dipping systems for the Royal Australian Navy’s 24 MH-60R helicopters.

Thales produces the system’s sonar, which is why most work will be performed in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France (68%). Raytheon in Portsmouth, RI (32%) has the rest, and work is expected to be complete in October 2016. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the sale on behalf of its Australian client (N00019-11-C-0077).

Dec 2/11: Avionics. Lockheed Martin MS2 in Owego, NY receives an $85.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for work at both ends of the MH-60R Mission Avionics Systems and common cockpit life-cycle. It includes both long-lead materials to begin building cockpits, and “end-of-life components” so the Australians have enough of certain items to support their 24 Royal Australian Navy MH-60Rs.

Work will be performed in Farmingdale, NY (53%); Owego, NY (32%); Ciudad Real, Spain (5%); Victor, NY (4%); St. Charles, MO (3%); Lewisville, TX (1%); Windsor Locks, CT (1%); and various locations throughout the United States (1%). Work is expected to be complete in March 2012. US Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD manages the contract, as the agent of their Foreign Military Sale client (N00019-11-C-0020).

June 16/11: MH-60R wins. Sikorsky’s MH-60R beats the NH90-NFH for Australia’s 24-helicopter, A$3+ billion (over $3.16 billion) AIR 9000, Phase 8 helicopter competition. The Commonwealth of Australia has signed the Letter of Acceptance with the US Navy, who will manage the acquisition on behalf of its Australian client under Foreign Military Sales procedures.

A subsequent GE release value the T700-401C engines and associated Total Logistics Support package at approximately $100 million.

“Team Romeo” includes Sikorsky (MH-60R) and Lockheed Martin (sensor/ weapon/ mission systems integration), plus CAE (training simulators), GE (engines), and Raytheon (sonar and sensors). The team has pledged to bring long-term industrial benefits to Australian industry valued at $1.5 billion over 10 years, which was a necessary move to compete with Eurocopter’s established in-country MRH-90 infrastructure. Australia DoD | US NAVAIR | Sikorsky | Lockheed Martin | GE | Team Romeo web site.

MH-60R wins.

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

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

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

March 3/11: Sub-contractors. Sikorsky signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Trakka Corp. in Melbourne, Australia. Searchlights are Trakka’s specialty, and they are integrated into a highly efficient pan and tilt gymbal, allowing slewing up to 60 degrees per second. Internal filtering allows the searchlight to choose the appropriate light spectrum for the mission, while precision optical elements and a low power light source deliver a more intense and efficient on-target beam than conventional reflector-type searchlights.

This MoU goes beyond just Australia’s naval helicopter competition. Trakka develops and manufactures aviation searchlight products in its AS9100 certified facility in Australia, but it also has operations in Scottsdale, AZ to support its U.S. customers, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard. The MoU covers H-60 Black Hawk and Seahawk helicopters. Sikorsky.

Feb 25/11: Sub-contractors. Lockheed Martin has issued a Request For Information to Australian firms to supply MH-60R weapons pylons, with selections expected by the end of 2011. The RFI is issued under the auspices of a recently signed Global Supply Chain (GSC) Deed, giving Australian companies new opportunities to compete for subcontracts on a range of Lockheed Martin products and services. Lockheed Martin’s naval helicopter program head, George Barton:

“Growth in orders for the MH-60R has resulted in an urgent need for an expanded supply base, and Australian industry has a depth of capability that would be an ideal supplement to our dedicated supplier base.”

The pylons are just the 1st opportunity, and tie into the billion-dollar naval helicopter competition there, featuring the MH-60R vs. the NH90-NFH. Lockheed Martin.

Feb 2/11: Competition. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Australia’s formal request to buy a 10-year Through-Life-Support (TLS) contract for 24 MH-60R helicopters, including associated equipment & part, at an estimated cost of up to $1.6 billion. With the ADF’s MRH-90 program facing difficulties and receiving increased scrutiny, the support offer caps what amounts to a $3.7 billion maximum (A$ 3.66 billion) offer for 24 MH-60Rs, plus 10 years of support (vid. July 20/10), to set against the NH90 NFH.

The principal contractors will be Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Stratford, CT; Lockheed Martin of Owego, NY; GE of Lynn, Massachusetts; and the Raytheon Corporation of Portsmouth, RI. Implementation would require temporary assignment of approximately 20 U.S. Government and contractor representatives to Australia on an intermittent basis over the life of this Foreign Military Sale case.

DSCA request: support

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

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

2009 – 2010

Competition announced and underway; US DSCA request.

NH90 NFH
(click to view full)

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

The paper believes that the Navy will simply declare both helicopters capable of meeting specs, so the buy could simply come down to price in the current budget environment.

Oct 5/10: Weapons. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Australia’s official request to buy up to 200 MK 54 All-Up-Round Torpedoes, 179 MK 54 Flight in Air Material Kits to mount them onto aircraft, 10 MK 54 Exercise Sections, 10 MK 54 Exercise Fuel Tanks, 10 MK 54 Dummy Torpedoes, 6 MK 54 Ground Handling Torpedoes for safe training, plus support and test equipment to upgrade Intermediate Maintenance Activity to full MK 54 capability, spare and repair parts, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of U.S. government and contractor support.

It’s an interesting request, because Australia had picked the Eurotorp MU90 as its lightweight torpedo, but an MH-60R pick would require either a MK-54 purchase or expensive integration work. The estimated cost is up to $169 million, and the prime contractor will be Raytheon Company Integrated Defense Systems in Keyport, WA.

DSCA: 200 MK-54s for Australia

July 9/10: Competition. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Australia’s formal request to buy 24 MH-60R Seahawk Multi-Mission Helicopters, along with 60 T-700 GE 401C Engines (48 installed and 12 spares), communication equipment, support equipment, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, and other support services.

The estimated cost is up to $2.1 billion, but that will not be settled until and unless a contract is negotiated. The prime contractors are Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation in Stratford, CT (helicopter); Lockheed Martin in Owego, NY (mission systems); General Electric in Lynn, MA (engines); and Raytheon Corporation in Portsmouth, RI (sensors). Implementation of this proposed sale would require the assignment of 10 contractor representatives to Australia to support delivery of the MH-60R helicopters.

DSCA requests are not contracts, and in this case, it doesn’t even indicate intent. The MH-60R is competing against the NH90 NFH in Australia, and it isn’t unusual for countries to submit requests during competitions, in order to ensure that the American equipment has full export clearances.

DSCA request: 24 MH-60Rs

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

RFP

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

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

Sole-source buy rejected

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

Australia currently flies 16 older S-70B Seahawks that lack the full range of capabilities required, and delays to the NH90 program do add risks that aren’t present in the already-operational MH-60R. That’s particularly sensitive in light of the A$ 1+ billion SH-2G Super Seasprite fiasco; the Navy is operating none of the planned 11 SH-2G helicopters, and the Labor government who made a big issue of the Seaprite acquisition is aware that delays or overruns in the follow-on program would put them in a very bad situation.

On the other hand, Australia’s Army is standardizing on the NH90-TTH (MRH-90), and Australia has invested large sums of money in building its Eurocopter affiliations through the MRH-90 and Tiger ARH attack helicopter programs. Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin are talking about A$ 1 billion of investment in local industry if the expected A$ 4 billion deal goes through, and assure the Australians that delivery under the ongoing MH-60R program could be made by late 2011. If the US government wishes to trade some of its MH-60R production slots, that date could even move up. Which leaves Australia’s Labor Party government with a decision to make.

Additional Readings The MH-60R

Other Australian Equipment

Categories: News

Successful Saudi scud downing in doubt| Boeing admits Pegasus delivery delays | Japan considers strike missile purchase despite pacifist constitution

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 04:00
Americas

  • Boeing has admitted that the planned delivery of the first KC-46 Pegasus tanker aircraft to the US Air Force (USAF) has been postponed. The firm had previously maintained, as recently as last month, that it was confident the tanker could be delivered by the end of the year, after missing the initial delivery deadline of August 2017. Now, Boeing say deliveries will now take place in 2018, and is contractually obliged to deliver 18 KC-46s and nine refueling pods by October 2018—14 months later than originally planned. Cost overruns for the program experienced by Boeing to date amount to approximately $2.9 billion pretax, or $1.9 billion after tax.

  • Raytheon has been selected by the US Navy to deliver AN/SPY-1 Radar for the unnamed Arleigh Burke-class DDG-127 US Navy destroyer. Valued at an estimated $48.6 million, the deal falls under an undefinitized contract action that modifies the terms of a previous award contract, with US Navy fiscal 2016 shipbuilding and conversion funds of $22.6 million obligated to Raytheon at the time of the award, and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Work will take place primarily at Andover, Mass., with a scheduled completion date of January 2020.

Middle East & Africa

  • A planned developmental test of the Arrow-3 interceptor system was postponed on Monday after its target missile started acting unsafely. The target—an upgraded version of Rafael’s Sparrow family of air-launched missiles—started to behave strangely shortly after launch in a way that was not conforming to safety parameters determined in advance, and resulted in testers calling a ‘no test’. Engineers are now evaluating the data from the missile target to see what went wrong. Speaking on the incident, Israel’s Defense Ministry noted that Monday morning’s planned test was part of a series of tests periodically conducted by Israel and the US to continuously validate the nation’s multitiered defense network, while Boaz Levy, executive vice president for lead contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), insisted that the planned intercept test was a developmental test aimed at validating new capabilities planned for future block versions of the Arrow-3, and thus had no bearing on the operational capability of the Arrow weapon system or its continuously upgraded Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 intercepting missiles deployed by the Israeli Air Force. Arrow-3 is Israel’s highest layer of a multitiered and intentionally overlapping network of active defenses against rockets and tactical ballistic missiles aimed at intercepting advanced, possibly nuclear-tipped threats hundreds of kilometers in space.

  • The US Army has granted Raytheon a $150.2 million foreign military contract to provide Qatar with services and support of the Patriot Air Defense System. Work on the contract will be performed in Doha, Qatar, and is expected to be completed by November 2020. More than $150.2 million of fiscal 2018 foreign military sale funds was obligated to Raytheon at the time of award. Under the terms of the deal, Raytheon will provide technical expertise and assistance in the training, planning, fielding, deployment, operation, maintenance management, configuration management, logistics support, installation and sustainment of the Qatar Patriot Air Defense Systems and associated equipment.

  • A report by the New York Times has quoted experts claiming the Patriot air defense system operated by the Royal Saudi Air Force failed to intercept a missile fired by Yemeni Houthi militants on Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid international airport in Riyadh on November 4. Five interceptors were fired at the Houthi missile—believed to be a Burqan-2, a Scud family missile popular in the Middle East—however, US officials now say that there was no evidence to prove that any of them hit the incoming missile. Instead, they said, the incoming missile body and warhead may have come apart because of its sheer speed and force. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, even US President Trump hailed the Patriot system’s effectiveness—“That’s how good we are. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re selling it all over the world”—but governments have overstated the effectiveness of missile defenses in the past, including against Scuds. During the first Gulf War, the United States claimed a near-perfect record in shooting down Iraqi variants of the Scud. Subsequent analyses found that nearly all the interceptions had failed.

Europe

  • The Czech military will pursue a new surveillance and combat drone procurement program, according to Gen. Josef Becvar, the chief of the Czech Republic’s General Staff. $46.5 million has been made available for the program, which will run until 2025, and approximately 20 percent of that funding will be spent on obtaining new ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Boeing’s subsidiary Insitu, which will be purchased in 2019. Prague is also looking to obtain combat UAVs from 2020, with the aim of increasing its air strike capability. In 2017, the Czech defense budget is to total more than $2.67 billion, a 10 percent increase compared with a year earlier. This makes this year’s Czech military expenditure the largest in absolute numbers since 2007.

Asia-Pacific

  • Japan is considering a procurement of long-range air-launched missiles that could give Tokyo the capability of striking North Korea for the first time. While no money has yet been made available for such a purchase, money is expected to be made available for a study at the start of the next defense budget starting in April, with additional funding expected to be made available to evaluate such missiles, sources claim. However, the purchase of such offensive weapons—which includes Lockheed Martin’s extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM-ER) and the Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile (JSM)—could prove controversial in Japan as restrictions on strike weapons imposed by its pacifist constitution means Japan’s missile force is currently composed of anti-aircraft and anti-ship munitions with ranges of less than 300 kms (186 miles). The JASSM-ER and JSM boast ranges of 1000 km and 500 km respectively.

  • The South Korean and US military kicked off five days of joint aerial war drills on Monday, a week after North Korea’s most advanced ICBM test to date. Vigilant Ace, which will run until Friday, will involve over 230 aircraft—including six F-22 Raptor stealth aircraft and a number of the fifth-generation F-35A Joint Strike Fighter—and 12,000 US service members, including from the Marines and Navy, will join South Korean troops. The drills—designed to enhance readiness and operational capability and to ensure peace and security on the Korean peninsula— come a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile ever in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation. Pyongyang had criticised Washington at the weekend for raising tensions and warned that Vigilant Ace exercise was pushing tensions on the Korean peninsula towards “a flare-up”.

Today’s Video

  • Footage of India’s BrahMos air-launched cruise missile test from an IAF Su-30MKI:

 

Categories: News

Israel’s Arrow Theater Missile Defense

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 03:56

Arrow test concept
(click to view full)

In a dawning age of rogue states, ballistic missile defenses are steadily become a widely accepted necessity. Iran is widely believed to be developing nuclear capabilities, and Israeli concerns were heightened after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged that Israel be “wiped off the map” (the fact that America was also placed in that category went largely uncovered).

Because missile defenses are so important, states like India and Israel have taken steps to ensure that they have the ability to build many of the key pieces. The Arrow project is a collaboration between Boeing and IAI to produce the missile interceptors that accompany the required radars, satellites, command and control systems.

NOTE: Article capped and coverage suspended in 2011.

The Arrow System

Arrow launch
(click to view full)

In general, the Israeli Arrow is a more advanced weapon than the Patriot and possesses far more range, undertaking high altitude interceptions and covering a wide area (est. 90km/ 54 mile range, maximum altitude 30 miles/ 50 km for Arrow 2) as a Theater Missile Defense (TMD) system. Unlike the USA’s THAAD, PAC-3, or SM-3 which all use “hit to kill” technology, Israel’s Arrow relies on a directed fragmentation warhead to destroy enemy missiles. It can work in conjunction with a number of systems, but its main Israeli partner is the Green Pine long-range, ground-based fire control radar. The system and its engagements are controlled by the mobile Citron Tree battle management center. Since the launchers are also mobile, and the radars are semi-mobile, the system is resistant to pre-emptive strikes if good discipline is maintained.

The exoatmospheric, 2-stage Arrow-3 will use pivoting optical sensors and its own upper-stage kick motor, instead of separate control rockets for final steering. The goal is a highly maneuverable missile that can reach more than double the height of existing Arrow-2 interceptors, using a lower-weight missile. This will also have the effect of extending the missile’s range.

In contrast, Israel’s Patriot PAC-2s are more of a local point defense system with a range of about 40km/ 24 miles. They were all Israel had during the 1991 Gulf War, but these days, Israel’s Patriot PAC-2 GEM+ missiles will only be launched if the Arrow missile fails, or the target is outside the Arrow’s protective umbrella. In that respect, the Arrow/Homa system will play a role similar to the longer-range naval SM-3 Standard missile that forms the high end of Japan’s planned ABM shield (and seems destined for Europe and other states in a land-based role), or the US Army’s THAAD.

Overall responsibility for Arrow lies with the U.S. Missile Defense Organization (MDA) in Washington, DC, and the Israel Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Israel. The program is executed by the Israel Missile Defense Organization in Tel Aviv, and the US Army Program Executive Office for Air and Missile Defense’s Arrow Product Office in Huntsville, AL. Key contractors include:

  • Israel Aircraft Industries (prime contractor, Arrow missile, Green Pine fire control radar)
  • Tadiran Electronics in Holon, Israel (Citron Tree battle management center)
  • Boeing (about 35% of the Arrow missile, manages many US subcontractors)
  • Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control in Orlando, FL (radar seeker)
  • Raytheon in Santa Barbara, CA (Infrared seeker)
  • Other American subcontractors include ATK in Iuka, MS and Clearfield, UT; Manes Machine, in Fort Collins, CO; Ceradyne Thermo-Materials, Inc., in Scottsdale, GA; and Sanmina SCI, in Huntsville, AL.
  • Rafael Armament Development Authority, Haifa, Israel (Black Sparrow air-launched target; joint U.S./Israel effort).

EL/M-2080 “Green Pine”
(click to view larger)

Israel deployed the first battery of Arrow-1 missiles on March 14/2000, and has continued to upgrade the system. The summer of 2005 marked delivery of the first co-produced Boeing/IAI missiles. Israeli and US troops engaged in pre-training for the biennial Juniper Cobra exercise in 2007, and part of that process includes working out interoperability issues between the Patriot PAC-3 system (ad PAC-2 GEM+ that Israel deploys) and Arrow.

On July 29/04 Israel and the USA carried out joint experiment in the USA, in which the Arrow was launched against a real Scud missile. The experiment was a success, as the Arrow destroyed the Scud with a direct hit. In December 2005 the system was successfully deployed in a test against a replicated Shahab-3 missile. This feat was repeated on February 11/07.

Despite some international interest in the Arrow, the USA has blocked export initiatives so far. Although India purchased an Arrow-capable “Green Pine” radar from Elta in 2001, and has expressed interest in deploying its own battery of Arrow interceptor missiles, U.S. concerns regarding compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR, an international agreement limiting the proliferation of ballistic missile technology) have effectively halted such plans for the time being. This did not stop India from using the Green Pine technology in its own November 2006 anti-missile test, using a modified Prithvi short-range ballistic missile with an exo-atmospheric kill vehicle and a hit to kill warhead.

Contracts & Key Events, 2004-Present

Arrow-3 development
click to play video

The section is still being updated.

December 6/17: Development Testing-Postponement A planned developmental test of the Arrow-3 interceptor system was postponed on Monday after its target missile started acting unsafely. The target—an upgraded version of Rafael’s Sparrow family of air-launched missiles—started to behave strangely shortly after launch in a way that was not conforming to safety parameters determined in advance, and resulted in testers calling a ‘no test’. Engineers are now evaluating the data from the missile target to see what went wrong. Speaking on the incident, Israel’s Defense Ministry noted that Monday morning’s planned test was part of a series of tests periodically conducted by Israel and the US to continuously validate the nation’s multitiered defense network, while Boaz Levy, executive vice president for lead contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), insisted that the planned intercept test was a developmental test aimed at validating new capabilities planned for future block versions of the Arrow-3, and thus had no bearing on the operational capability of the Arrow weapon system or its continuously upgraded Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 intercepting missiles deployed by the Israeli Air Force. Arrow-3 is Israel’s highest layer of a multitiered and intentionally overlapping network of active defenses against rockets and tactical ballistic missiles aimed at intercepting advanced, possibly nuclear-tipped threats hundreds of kilometers in space.

August 04/17:  Early concept work has begun on the Arrow-4 interceptor, Israel’s new air defense system designed to counter future ballistic missile threats from Iran. Involved in the work are Israel’s MAFAT Defense Research and Development Authority, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, as well as other firms, who are now evaluating the technologies needed to improve the ability to track, target and ultimately destroy such threats. While the work is in its infancy— IAI executive vice president Boaz Levy called said the effort is too early to call Arrow-4—the new interceptor will extend capabilities beyond Arrow-2, which intercepts Scud-type ballistic missiles high within Earth’s atmosphere, and Arrow-3, which is designed to destroy targets in space. The new system will specifically look into countering salvo strikes, sub-munition warheads and multiple reentry vehicles (MRV).

June 12/17: The Israel Missile Defense Organization will partner with the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to test the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system in Alaska. On announcing the upcoming test, director of the MDA Adm. James Syring stated that Tel Aviv experiences “significant range constraints within the Mediterranean” when it comes to missile testing capabilities, and bringing the Arrow test to the Kodiak Island facility would help to overcome that. The test is likely to take place next year with Alaska Aerospace Corp scheduled to help with the test.

March 20/17: Israel’s Arrow anti-ballistic missile system has been combat tested for the first time. The system came into operation in order to intercept a Syrian surface-to-air missile that was targeting Israeli warplanes returning from a raid on Syrian sites. Despite claims from Damascus that one Israeli plane had been downed, IDF officials stated that no aircraft had been lost.

January 20/17: The Israeli Air Force has received delivery of their first Arrow-3 missile defense battery. A joint-development effort by Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Arrow-3 interceptor will form the upper-tier layer of Israel’s multi-tiered Arrow Weapons System (AWS), and is designed to fly nearly twice as high at half the weight of the Arrow-2 interceptor, which covers the lower-tier segment of the network. Arrow-3 missiles will allow the IAF to shoot twice against a single ballistic target, assess for battle damage and, if needed, divert to other approaching threats, with the Arrow-2 operating as a back-up.

June 16/15: Joint US-Israel missile programs may benefit from additional funding under a Defense Appropriations Bill, following a vote in the House. The programs covered by the increase in funds include the Iron Dome, Arrow, Arrow 3 and David’s Sling systems. The last of these will receive the most significant boost, with an additional $286.5 million allocation.

Feb 22/11: An Arrow System successfully intercepts a ballistic target missile during a flight test conducted at Pt. Mugu Sea Range, CA. This test is part of the Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP) and was conducted jointly by the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The test represented a realistic scenario, and all the elements (Arrow, Green Pine radar, Citron Tree BMC) performed in their operational configurations, using new Block 4 software designed to improve their ability to discriminate targets. US MDA release | video || Defense News.

July 27/10: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense votes to fund Israel’s missile defense programs at $422.7 million for 2011, nearly $96 million above the original White House funding request. This represents a doubling of aid for missile defense from 2010, in the wake of an emerging consensus that the CIA’s 2007 estimate of Iran’s nuclear weapons program was wrong, and underestimated Iranian progress.

On the other hand, the structure of that funding is less good for the Arrow program. While the HASD added $58 million to the administration’s original FY 2011 Arrow-3 request, that provisional $108.8 million is actually less than FY 2010 funding of $157.4 million ($60M request + $97.4M Congress added). Likewise, the complementary medium range RAFAEL/Raytheon David’s Sling/Magic Wand dropped from $134.7 million in FY 2010 to $84.7 million requested in 2011. The net increase comes from a one-time, $205 million grant for the procurement of 10 RAFAEL Iron Dome batteries for defense against short-range missiles. HASD Chair statement [ PDF] | HASD Table [PDF] | AllGov | Jerusalem Post | Israel’s Globes business news.

July 26/10: Israel and the United States sign a deal to develop and field the Arrow 3 system. It will be capable of tracking and shooting down ballistic missiles at a higher altitudes, including fully exoatmospheric threats. US MDA | China’s Xinhua.

March 22/10: Defense News reports that U.S. and Israeli government and industrial partners will press ahead with Arrow 3 work through good faith understandings, until formalized government-to-government accords catch up. The goal is to deploy the new missile by 2014.

Production of the Arrow-2 is winding down, and final deliveries are planned by the end of 2010. Government and industrial partners have apparently been working together on Arrow-3 for nearly 2 years, moving the program through at least 4 of the US Missile Defense Agency’s required technology “knowledge points, and validate critical subsystems. A first fly-out is planned for 2011.

Manufacturing
(click to view full)

April 7/09: The Israeli Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency conduct a successful test of the Arrow ballistic missile defense system. The operationally realistic test was conducted in Israel, using an ASIP interceptor co-produced by Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The event marked the co-produced Arrow II’s 2nd intercept in 2 attempts, as well as its 3rd successful flight test. Boeing.

Jan 4/09: Israel’s Arutz Sheva news service reports that the Arrow missile defense system has been deployed near Ashkelon, in part because IAI has worked with American firms and developed an updated radar system named MC4. The new radar can also deal with smaller missiles, such as the Hamas government’s Kassam or Grad rockets being launched from Gaza. Using GPS and camera sensors, the MC4 system tracks the flight path, and within a minute of launch, it can determine both the launch site and projected landing site of the missile.

At the same time, pressure is building to add Northrop Grumman’s SkyGuard laser system to Israel’s defenses, a system whose technology is based on joint US-Israeli research:

“Supporters claim that the Skyguard laser based system is more suited to Israel’s needs than the rocket-based Rafael solution. Firstly, the laser can intercept short range missiles such as the Kassam rocket which hit their targets in less than 10 seconds. The rocket-based Rafael system can only hit medium-range rockets which reach their targets in more than 20 seconds. In addition, each laser round fired costs approximately $3,000. In contrast, defensive rockets for the Iron Dome system are estimated to cost over $100,000. Supporters also claim that the Skyguard system could be deployed in a short amount of time, whereas the completion of the Iron Dome rocket system is not foreseen in the near future.”

Sept 29/08: The USA has deployed an unspecified X-band radar system in Israel, manned by around 120 American personnel. Reports hint that the system may be similar to the radars deployed to Japan, or the AN/TPY-2 used as part of the THAAD system. The Guardian:

“One key feature of the system is that information from early-warning satellites – which greatly increases the radar’s ability to pinpoint launches – would remain in US hands. The satellite ground station would be in Europe and transmit data to Israel.

…The high-powered X-Band system, manufactured by Raytheon Company, would allow Israel’s Arrow II ballistic shield to engage an Iranian Shehab-3 missile about halfway through its 11-minute flight to Israel, six times sooner than Israel’s existing Green Pine radar can. The X-Band can track an object the size of a baseball from 2,900 miles away.”

Feb 14/08: IAI announces that The Israel Ministry of Defense (IMOD) / Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) has awarded a follow-on production contract to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)’s MLM Division for an undisclosed number of additional Arrow 2 Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile (ATBM) system interceptors. The interceptors will be assembled in Israel at IAI’s MLM Division, the Arrow prime contractor, with major portions coming from Boeing IDS, the U.S. prime contractor in Huntsville, AL., ATK in Luka, MS., and various other subcontractors across the U.S.

Aug 23/07: The Jerusalem Post publishes “IDF modifying Arrow deployment in the North.” Key quote:

“Following this past summer’s war and the recognition that the next war will involve Syrian and Iranian missile barrages, the Air Defense Forces decided to adopt a “wide deployment” for its Arrow missile batteries.”

Aug 6/07: Jane’s Defence Weekly: “Israel is leaning towards upgrading its own anti-ballistic missile Arrow Weapon System (AWS) rather than acquiring the US Theatre High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system. While no formal decision has yet been taken, Jane’s has learned that officials from the Israel Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation (BMDO) have informed the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) about potential complications with integrating THAAD into the country’s missile-defence alignment.”

March 26/07: An improved Arrow II missile, with modifications to its hardware and electronics under the Arrow System Improvement Program, is successfully test-fired this afternoon at Palmahim Air Force Base. The interceptor performed successfully according to design specifications, meeting all expectations and objectives. This is the 1st successful test of the improved configuration, and the 2nd test overall of a co-produced interceptor. Testing is managed by the Israeli Missile Defense Organization, in close cooperation with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

Test objectives were to collect flight engineering data for future test events, and to test the capabilities of the improved Arrow interceptor. This test marks the U.S./Israeli Arrow II program’s 14th success in 16 attempts. US MDA [PDF].

Feb 12/07: A successful ballistic missile intercept test by the Arrow missile defense system, conducted at night over the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the 1st test of a co-produced Arrow intercept missile fired from an improved launcher, using 2 Arrow batteries separated from each other. The target, called “Black Sparrow,” was launched from an F-15 fighter aircraft at which point the Fire Control Radar acquired the target and notified the Battle Management Center. A defense plan was issued and a mission command was sent to the Launch Control Center to fire the interceptor missile. This test marks the U.S./Israeli Arrow II program’s 13th success in 15 attempts. US MDA [PDF].

Spring 2005: The 1st co-produced Arrow 2 interceptor is delivered by IAI to the MoD. Source [PDF].

Feb 2/05: Israel Defense Forces carry out a successful test of the IAI/Boeing Arrow anti-missile system at a secret location in the center of the country. The Jerusalem Post reports that “an F-15 fighter jet flying over the Mediterranean dropped a Black Sparrow test missile specially designed to simulate an incoming Iranian Shihab 3 missile headed toward the Israeli shore.” The successful interception occurred at a higher altitude than previous efforts, and tested recent improvements made to the Arrow 2 system.

Israeli Air Force Patriot missile batteries also participated passively in the test, following the incoming missile with their radars. The Times of India notes that this was the 14th test of the system, which has included joint tests in the USA and advanced tests simulating advanced separating warheads. As evidenced by the Patriot batteries’ participation in this latest test, Israel is working to integrate all of its key assets and connections to US data into one national system, rather than relying on fragmented local control. Jerusalem Post | copy at United Jerusalem.

Pt. Mugu launch
(click to view full)

Aug 26/04: US Missile Defense Agency [PDF]:

“The Arrow anti-ballistic missile system was used today in a joint Israel/United States test exercise as part of the ongoing Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP). The test was the second in a series conducted at the Point Mugu Sea Range in California. It was the thirteenth Arrow intercept test and the eighth test of the complete weapon system. The Arrow interceptor was launched toward the target but no intercept was achieved. Many of the test objectives were successfully completed, and the test data is being analyzed by test engineers to determine why an intercept did not occur.”

July 29/04: A modified Arrow System Improvement Program anti-ballistic missile successfully intercepts and destroys a ballistic missile target today, west of San Nicolas Island on the Pt. Mugu Sea Range in California. Point Mugu was used, in order to offer a realistic scenario that could not have been tested in Israel due to test-field safety restrictions.

The objective of the test was to demonstrate the Arrow system’s improved performance against a target that represents a threat to Israel. This was the 12th Arrow intercept test, and the 7th test of the complete Arrow system. US MDA [PDF]

April 1/04: Boeing announces a $78 million contract from Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to produce Arrow II interceptor components. The contract, effective immediately, runs through 2006 with options for additional production until Q2 2008. The total contract value could exceed $225 million if all options are exercised.

Boeing and IAI signed a teaming agreement in 2002 to co-produce the interceptor for the Arrow weapon system. The firm is responsible for production of the electronics section, the radome, motorcases for the booster and sustainer, and the canister that holds the interceptor in the missile launcher. Boeing production and program management will be conducted in Huntsville, AL. IAI, the prime contractor of the Arrow system, is responsible for system integration and final interceptor assembly in Israel.

Boeing will manage several major subcontracts to support the Arrow interceptor production including Alliant-Techsystems in Iuka, MS and Clearfield, UT; Manes Machine, in Fort Collins, CO; Ceradyne Thermo-Materials, Inc., in Scottsdale, GA; and Sanmina SCI, in Huntsville, AL.

Sept 14/2000: The Israel Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Army, conduct the 2nd successful intercept of a target ballistic missile by the Arrow Weapon System (AWS) in Israel. This was the 8th overall Arrow-2 flight test, but the 1st intercept for the against a new air-launched, in-bound target called the Black Sparrow.

The Arrow interceptor took off and flew in a nominal trajectory, acquired the Black Sparrow target, then locked on and homed on the designated threat. The warhead was fused at the proper range and the Arrow interceptor destroyed the target. The Green Pine fire control radar and Citron Tree battle management center participated fully in the test, performing battle planning, launch operations, and up link/down link message applications, as well as post intercept verifications. Both assets worked according to plan and fulfilled all test objectives. Analysis of all data is underway to evaluate and confirm results. US MDA [PDF]

Additional Readings & Sources

Categories: News

France close in on additional Rafale sale to Qatar | KAI consider dropping T-50 cost for USAF trainer comp | MBDA deliver MMP missile to French Army

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 04:00
Americas

  • The US Air Force (USAF) will not have funding to re-engine its fleet of B-52 aircraft until 2020, Gen. Robin Rand, head of USAF Global Strike Command, told reporters at the Association of Old Crows conference in Washington. But the multi-year, multi-billion project to supply and integrate new engines to the service’s 76 1952-vintage B-52H bombers has already got industry interested, with Boeing and Rolls Royce already openly campaigning for the contract. However, some analysts are skeptical that the re-engine effort will ever happen, saying that while the “re-engining would save money from the O&M account (fuel and parts)” it “would cost money from the procurement account.”

  • Yates Electrospace Corp has been granted a contract by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory to develop and test 10 unmanned gliders that are able to deliver 700 pounds of life-saving supplies and cargo to any Marine unit. The company’s Silent Arrow platform—an autonomous cargo aircraft—will have its electric powertrain removed to meet the service’s requirement and will undergo a 12 month flight test with the USMC. Other requirements include being able to be deployed from fixed-wing and rotary wing military aircraft such as the C-130, MV-22 and CH-53 from altitudes as high as 25,000 ft. It will then glide to within 150 feet of its target point.

  • General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems will conduct the demilitarization and disposal of US Army Rockets as part of a Department of Defense (DoD) contract modification awarded Thursday. Valued at $10.6 million, the agreement covers the disposal and destruction of 14,970 all-up rounds, or equivalent Multiple Rocket Launch System M26 rockets and components by March 31, 2019. Work will be performed in Carthage, Missouri

Middle East & Africa

  • France is close to finalizing a deal with Qatar to supply additional fighter aircraft and armored vehicles, a source to the presidential office said. One deal is to exercise and option to purchase 12 additional Rafale fighter jets, adding to the 24 already on order with manufacturer Dassault Aviation. Additional deals being discussed include an order of 300 VBCI armored vehicles from French firm Nexter, and a non-military deal to manage the Doha metro for 20 years. The deals could be concluded by the end of the week.

Europe

  • The French Armed Forces Ministry has received the first batch of a fifth-generation weapon designed to replace its ageing Milan anti-tank system. So far, lead contractor MBDA has delivered 20 firing posts and 50 missiles of its MMP missile system. MBDA won out against Lockheed Martin and Raytheon’s Javelin joint venture and Rafael’s Spike system to replace some 400,000 Milan anti-tank missiles in service amid fierce international competition. The current order from Paris is for MBDA to deliver 1,750 missiles and 400 firing posts by 2025. It will be deployed to ground troops, cavalry units and special forces from next year, and will arm the Jaguar combat and reconnaissance vehicle from 2020.

  • Russian media reports that the Russian government has paused its development of a rail-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), affectionately known as “the death train”. While the rail-based system has already completed several successful tests, funding to complete development has dried up after being used for other ICBM projects. However, the Kremlin doesn’t seemed to be too perturbed, with the former head of armaments of the Russian Armed Forces A.P. Sitnova stating recent upgrades to its nuclear capabilities—specifically its submarines and carriers equipped with the new Bulava missile—gave Moscow ample nuclear missile power to deal with any aggressor.

Asia-Pacific

  • Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is considering an adjustment to the cost of its T-50A advanced jet trainer in order to win the US Air Force (USAF) T-X trainer competition. The announcement was made by the firm’s new CEO Kim Jo-won, who added that transforming company management and cutting labor costs were among some of the cost saving measures being sought to help cover the discount. KAI’s announcement came after program partner Lockheed Martin requested KAI cut costs to make the bid more competitive against a rival bid from Boeing-Saab.

  • The Indian Air Force has successfully carried out its first air-to-air refeuling of its Embraer EMB-145-based airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. The ‘probe and drogue’ refuelling was carried out by an Ilyushin Il-78 tanker, with only ten minutes of refueling necessary to keep the platform flying for an additional four hours. Ordered in 2008, New Delhi has received the first two of three new EMB-145 aircraft and have been fitted with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)-designed Netra AEW&C systems, which the IAF claims provide 240-degree coverage as well as surveillance ranges between 250 and 375 km.

Today’s Video

  • Indian Air Force’s EMB-145-based AEW&C platform has successfully carried out its first mid-air refueling with help from a Il-78 tanker:

 

 

Categories: News

France’s Rafale

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 03:58

Dassault Rafale
(click for cutaway view)

Will Dassault’s fighter become a fashionably late fighter platform that builds on its parent company’s past successes – or just “the late Rafale”? It all began as a 1985 break-away from the multinational consortium that went on to create EADS’ Eurofighter. The French needed a lighter aircraft that was suitable for carrier use, and were reportedly unwilling to cede design authority over the project. As is so often true of French defense procurement policy, the choice came down to paying additional costs for full independence and exact needs, or losing key industrial capabilities by partnering or buying abroad. France has generally opted for expensive but independent defense choices, and the Rafale was no exception.

Those costs, and associated delays triggered by the end of the Cold War and reduced funding, proved to be very costly indeed. Unlike previous French fighters, which relied on exports to lower their costs and keep production lines humming, the Rafale has yet to secure a single export contract – in part because initial versions were hampered by impaired capabilities in key roles. The Rafale may, at last, be ready to be what its vendors say: a true omnirole aircraft, ready for prime time on the global export stage. The question is whether it’s too late. Rivals like EADS’ Eurofighter, Russia’s Su-27/30 family, and the American “teen series” of F-15/16/18 variants are all well established. Meanwhile, Saab’s versatile and cheaper JAS-39 Gripen remains a stubborn foe in key export competitions, and the multinational F-35 juggernaut is bearing down on it.

Dassault’s Rafale: Variants

Rafales
(click to view full)

The Rafale is a 9.5 – 10.5 tonne aircraft powered by 2 SNECMA M88 jet engines, each generating up to 16,500 pounds thrust with afterburner. Canards are used to improve maneuverability, especially for snap-shots in short-range dogfights, and radar shaping lowers the aircraft’s profile relative to 4th generation competitors like the Mirage 2000 or F-16. Carrier capability was a prime motivator behind France’s decision to go it alone with the Rafale program, and variants exist for both land-based and carrier use.

Despite its size, the Rafale can carry an impressive set of ordnance beyond its 30mm DEFA 791 cannon: up to 9.5 tonnes of weapons and stores on 14 pylons (1-2 on center fuselage, 2 below engine intakes, 6 underwing and 2 wingtip pylons), 5 of which are “wet” pylons that can carry heavy stores or fuel tanks. Its Thales RBE2 mechanically-scanned array or RBE2-AA AESA radar can direct MBDA’s MICA RF missiles, and future integration of the long-range Meteor is also planned. A combination of Thales/SAGEM’s OST Infrared Scan and Track optronics, and MBDA’s MICA IR medium-range missiles, allows the Rafale to supplement its radar-guided missiles with passively-targeted, no-warning attacks on enemy aircraft from beyond visual range. At present, this capability is only duplicated by Russian aircraft: Sukhoi’s SU-27/30 family, and advanced MiG-29s.

Rafale Variants: Types and Tranches

Dassault: Power of One

The Rafale comes in several broad types, and also comes in different capability tranches.

Carrier-capable Rafales are single-seat fighters, and are referred to as Rafale Ms. They will become the French Navy’s only fighters, replacing the F-8P Crusader fighter, Etendard IVP reconnaissance aircraft, and Super Etendard strike aircraft. They feature the usual set of carrier modifications, including lengthened and strengthened landing gear, strengthened airframe and arrester hook for landings, and carrier landing electronics. The front-center pylon is deleted on this version, in order to make room for that robust landing gear.

French Air Force Rafales come in 2 broad types: the preferred 2-seat Rafale B, and the single-seat Rafale C. They will eventually replace the SEPECAT Jaguar, Dassault’s Mirage F1, and most of the Mirage 2000 family in French service.

Rafale & Mirage 2000D
over Afghanistan
(click to view full)

Within those designations, Dassault’s Rafales also come in capability tranches that are common across all versions.

Initial Rafale F1s are limited to air superiority missions, and included only Rafale-Ms intended as urgent replacements for the French carrier force’s 1950s/60s era F-8P Crusader air superiority fighters. Rafale F1s are capable fighters, and represented a huge upgrade for the Marine Nationale. Even so, they lack the wide weapons fit of 4+ generation counterparts like the JAS-39 Gripen or modern F-15 Strike Eagles, the optimized cockpit of EADS’ Eurofighter, or the price advantages of Sukhoi’s SU-30 family.

Surviving Rafale-M F1s will be upgraded to the F3 configuration, swapping out the core mission computer and cockpit displays, and changing the plane’s radar, electrical wiring, SPECTRA countermeasures system, and hardpoints. The 1st upgraded plane was delivered in October 2014.

Rafale F2. The F2 standard, which adds the ability to carry and use precision ground attack weapons. This standard includes 2-seat air force Rafale-Bs, single-seat Rafale-Cs, and naval Rafale-Ms. Key additions include radar ground attack and terrain-following modes, carriage of laser-guided bombs and Storm Shadow/ Scalp cruise missiles, MICA IR missile capability using the OSF IRST sensor, a Link 16 datalink, and a buddy tanker pod for Rafale Ms. The biggest thing the F2 standard lacks is integration of independent laser targeting capability, which is why French Rafales over Afghanistan had to operate in conjunction with Super Etendard and Mirage 2000D fighters.

F2 Rafales have now been upgraded to F3 status, which was much easier than it is for the F1s.

ASMP-A4 on Rafale
(click to view full)

Rafale F3. Since 2008, all Rafales have been delivered in the F3 standard, and most have now been upgraded to it. Initial changes added the ability to carry French ASMP-A air-launched nuclear missiles, allowing the Rafale to replace the Mirage 2000N in that nuclear strike role. Other modifications include full integration with the Reco NG reconnaissance pod, implementation of all currently planned modes for the RBE2 radar, anti-ship attack with the Exocet or follow-on ANF, and support for an improved tanker pack.

Further changes were forthcoming within F3. Full integration with Thales’ Damocles surveillance and laser targeting pod was executed, and Damocles-equipped Rafales were used over Libya in 2011. The current standard is F3.3, and F3.4 is expected to debut in early 2014.

The Rafale’s radar took a quantum leap forward as of Rafale #C137, with Thales’ RBE2-AA AESA radar replacing the mechanically-scanned RBE2 array on previous aircraft. The new radar has hundreds of active T/R modules, and involves about 400,000 lines of code all by itself. This compares to about 2 million lines of code for the aircraft’s entire original avionics suite. In exchange, AESA radars generally create roughly 2x-3x better range or resolution than current PESA technologies. Note that older Rafales don’t currently have AESA radars, but they’re expected to see upgrades under a EUR 1+ billion F3R program.

Nuclear ASMP-A capability is irrelevant to exports, but the addition of an AESA radar and full independent precision strike capability will go a long way toward making the Rafale more competitive with challengers like American F-16/15/18s, Saab’s JAS-39NG Gripen, EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon, and the oncoming F-35 program.

Thales Inside

Rafale F3Rs features software enhancements to make full use of the RBE2-AA radar, Meteor long range air-to-air missile integration, SBU-64 dual mode laser/GPS AASM smart bomb integration, improvements to Thales SPECTRA self-defence system, an Identification Friend or Foe interrogator/transponder with full Mode-5/ Mode-S-compatibility. Diagnostic improvements will make maintenance easier and more cost-effective, and there are reports that F3R will improve an overall pilot interface that has been consistently rated below the Eurofighter’s. As of September 2013, the DGA started referring to these planes as the 4th tranche (4T), and January 2014 saw a full commitment to develop all of these upgrades for fielding by 2018.

Efforts to include MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-air missiles are underway already, but it won’t be ready until 2018. That will make Rafale the last European fighter to integrate the Meteor, about 3-4 years later than the JAS-39 Gripen. It will also be the only fighter with a 1-way Meteor datalink instead of a 2-way link.

The Rafale remains behind in 2 other areas.

Its new Damocles surveillance and targeting pod’s 320 x 240 infrared array is far behind other international offerings, even with an architecture that effectively gives 640 x 480 resolution. Current performance is adequate, but this gap will continue to widen until the improved PDL-NG surveillance and targeting pod’s debut in 2018 with an effective 1280 x 1040 array. That’s about the same as some rival offerings in 2014, so by 2018, the Rafale is likely to modernize from a gross competitive disadvantage in a critical technology to a noticeable competitive disadvantage.

The 2nd gap is even more consequential. While the Rafale has a wide Head Up Display, an installed Helmet Mounted Display that would allow the Rafale to take full advantage of its wide-borseight MICA missiles remains the type’s most important missing piece, even after F3R.

Dassault’s Rafale: Program

Le Bourget, 2005
(click to view full)

The French Senat tallied the Rafale program at EUR 43.56 billion over 40 years, at 2011 prices. That figure was for 286 forecast aircraft, and the EUR 152 million per-plane figure was similar to the Pentagon’s “PAUC” metric, amortizing development costs as well as flyaway purchases.

Current plans call for delivery of 225 Rafale B/C/M aircraft by the end of the program, which will stop sometime around 2017 without export orders. Cutting production totals to 225 worsens per-plane raises the development cost average per plane, and slowed production will raise actual per-plane fixed costs.

If the Rafale is expensive, it’s also the heart of French military power. Its carrier and nuclear roles are irreplaceable, and the 2011 Libyan operation demonstrated that it has evolved to play a central role in French conventional wars. The Rafale program equally important to France’s aerospace industry, as the heart of France’s advanced military aerospace research. The Rafale has been responsible for significant steps forward in French materials science, engine design, computing, sensors, etc. at Dassault, Thales, and Snecma. Not to mention over 500 sub-contractors. In total, the aircraft is said to be responsible for 7,000 direct and indirect jobs.

As of September 2013, 121 Rafales had been delivered: 38 Rafale-M, 39 Rafale B, and 44 Rafale C. As of October 2014, the total had risen to 133.

Rafale Program: History

Production line
(click to view full)

Unfortunately, 1985 proved to be a perilous start date for an expensive decade-plus weapons project. The end of the Cold War led to a severe funding crunch. Development took a long time, and fielding was delayed for many years. That delay left Rafales with great potential as a 4+ generation fighter, but limited operational capabilities that compared unfavorably with the planes it was trying to replace. That has come back to bite Dassault, and France.

The first operational Rafale-M aircraft was delivered in 2000, to the Marine Nationale, and the type entered full service in 2004, in the F1 configuration. Plans call for eventual delivery of up to 60 Rafale Ms, delivered or upgraded to at least the F3 standard.

The end of 2004 saw initial delivery of 2-seat Rafale B fighters to the French air force, and 2005 saw delivery of the 1st single-seat Rafale C. The aircraft entered service with the air force in 2006. All Rafale B/C fighters have been delivered as F2s or F3s.

By 2006, the French armed forces had ordered just 120 Rafales (82 Rafale A-C for the Armée de l’Air, 38 Rafale M for the Marine Nationale) of the planned 294. About 70 had been delivered by 2009, when a new French purchase raised the order book to 180 Rafales; but 2009 also saw production cut from 14 to 11 aircraft per year. This is seen as the minimum necessary to maintain the production line, and keeping the line at even that minimum capacity required an extra EUR 1.1 billion during 2009-2014 budget period, to bring forward 17 orders planned for later years.

The challenge for the following 2015-2019 budget period was to finalize the export orders necessary, in order to maintain production while French orders were cut again.

The Rafale Program: What’s Next?

Rafale F3
(click to view full)

Additional multi-year buys will be required, but absent major export orders, a combination of deteriorating global finances, future demographic crunches in Europe, and the advent of unmanned UCAV projects like the nEUROn, will all compete with additional French Rafale orders. As those orders are squeezed, Dassaut won’t be the only firm feeling the pain. The effect would be felt throughout France’s aerospace sector, as Snecma, Thales, and their subcontractors would be forced to rethink their plans – or even their existence, in the case of some lower-tier suppliers.

That leaves 2 options for the platform.

As the British have demonstrated, one way to improve a jet’s affordability is to improve maintenance contracts. In 2008, the French defense ministry’s SIMMAD signed a 10-year “Rafale Care” contract with Dassault that paid for availability and flight-hours, rather than spares and man-hours. The British approach has been to build toward a contract that makes 1 firm responsible for all sub-contractors as well, but in 2012, a decade-long contract between SIMMAD and Thales made it clear that France prefers a set of modular performance-based contracts instead.

Once the French approach has several years of data behind it, that kind of future cost certainty could be helpful on the export front.

That would be timely, because after over a decade of failure, exports may offer the program a 2nd ray of hope. Rafale versions were picked as the preferred choice in India’s MMRCA competition, and have several potential export contenders in the wings. They need to close a few of these deals – but that hasn’t been easy.

Rafale’s Export Issues

French Mirage 2000C
(click to view full)

For previous French fighters, domestic production has been supplemented, and subsidized, by strong export sales. The Mirage III was exported to around 20 countries, and was so successful that its export profits could have financed almost 25% of France’s oil imports! The Mirage F1 was exported to only 10 countries. The Mirage 2000 has 8 customers. Rafale? None.

To date, the Rafale has lost export opportunities in Algeria (SU-30MKA – Rafale a long shot), Brazil (JAS-39E/F Gripen NG – Rafale the initial favorite), Greece (Eurofighter, then F-16), Morocco (F-16C/D – Rafale the favorite), The Netherlands (F-35A), Norway (F-35A), Oman (Eurofighter – Rafale a long shot), Saudi Arabia (Eurofighter), Singapore (F-15SG), South Korea (F-15K, Rafale won but politics reversed the pick), Switzerland (JAS-39E Gripen NG), and the UAE (F-16E/F, but could win next competition). Other losses have been rumored over the years.

Europe’s 4G+ trio

In a March 2012 statement, Dassault CEO Charles Edelstenne threw its export issues into sharp relief. Translated:

“When one is in a country like India which is an open country and in which Americans do not have the same weight as countries that are their private hunting preserve, we have a chance. And this chance, we got it… The market for the Rafale, it is countries that do not want or can not buy or American countries who want to have a second source while buying American. Now all countries, except two, where we lost, were countries that did not fit this definition.”

There’s some truth to this statement, but it also elides many of the Rafale’s genuine problems. Questionable precision ground attack capabilities for Rafale F1-F2s, coupled with limited integration beyond French weapons, hurt the aircraft badly on the export market until mid-2011.

Ground attack capabilities have been fixed, but the Rafale’s EUR 100+ million price tag leaves it occupying a high-end market segment that has historically been responsible for just 25% of fighter export sales. That price gap beyond competitors like Saab’s Gripen, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, and Sukhoi’s SU-30 has also cost Dassault sales, most recently in Brazil and Switzerland.

Despite Dassault’s rosy projections for the global fighter market as a whole, therefore, their lack of foreign orders has choked expected investments, and started to feed back into platform modernization issues.

It’s also affecting the rest of the French air force. Lack of exports is forcing extra French funding, in order to keep the Rafale production line at its minimum sustaining rate. That extra spending is delaying the much-needed modernization of France’s Mirage 2000 fleet, and is beginning to pose an operational risk for France.

Current export opportunities for Dassault include:

  • India (~126). Preferred choice, but no contract yet.
  • Qatar (36). Could rise to 72 over time. The QEAF is looking to replace their 12 Mirage 2000D fighters and 6 combat capable Alpha Jet light aircraft, but the growing power vacuum is pushing them toward a larger buy. Competition: Eurofighter, F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet, F-15 Strike Eagle.
  • The UAE (60). Mirage 2000 customer. Negotiations have dragged for a long time.

Secondary opportunities include:

  • Bahrain (12-18). Considered a low odds bid. Competition: Eurofighter, likely F-16V and F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet.
  • Canada (~65). F-35 partner. Very unlikely there there will even be a real competition.
  • Kuwait (18-24). Considered a low odds bid. Competition: Eurofighter, F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet.
  • Malaysia (18). MiG-29N replacement on hold. Competition: JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, Eurofighter, F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet, Sukhoi SU-30MKM.

Contracts and Key Events 2014-2017

Rafale F3R upgrades ordered; 1st export contract to Qatar?; Indian workshare agreement negotiated.

2013 French Air Force

December 5/17: Foreign Military Sale-Negotiations France is close to finalizing a deal with Qatar to supply additional fighter aircraft and armored vehicles, a source to the presidential office said. One deal is to exercise and option to purchase 12 additional Rafale fighter jets, adding to the 24 already on order with manufacturer Dassault Aviation. Additional deals being discussed include an order of 300 VBCI armored vehicles from French firm Nexter, and a non-military deal to manage the Doha metro for 20 years. The deals could be concluded by the end of the week.

October 24/17: Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sissi is expected to use his trip to Paris this week to raise the issue with his French counterpart over purchasing additional Rafale fighters, as well as two more DCNS Gowind 2500 corvettes. Cairo currently has 24 Rafale fighters and four Gowind 2500 corvettes on order under a 2015 multi-billion contract signed with the previous French government. However, that deal was financed with the help of loans underwritten by the French government and it remains unclear whether Paris would extend fresh loans for further purchases. French President Emmanuel Macron is also expected to raise human rights abuses with al-Sissi, after receiving criticism at home for remaining silent in the face of increasing violations of freedoms by Sisi’s government in the run up to the 2018 presidential elections.

October 10/17: A French gambit to sell a Rafale fighter jet package to Belgium that went outside the official procurement program may not succeed, if comments from Belgium’s defense minister are to be believed. Speaking in parliament, Defence Minister Steven Vandeput told lawmakers that Paris had not responded correctly to a request for proposals (RfP) covering the replacement of its Lockheed Martin F-16 fleet, adding that the two bids officially received were from the UK and USA, respectively offering the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35. However, Brussel’s has sought legal advice on the French position—34 warplanes plus a close relationship outside the parameters of the initial tender—and will be presented to the government by the end of October to inform a final decision on whether or not to rule out the Rafale.

September 11/17: The French government pulled out of a Belgian tender, due on September 7, for the replacement of its F-16 fighter aircraft. Instead, Paris is offering the Dassault Rafale as part of a military partnership that goes beyond the supply of weapons. In addition to the 36 jets required by Brussels, the French deal offers enhanced military cooperation between the two NATO countries, more training, and industrial and technical cooperation between companies on both sides. When asked about the new offer, manufacturer Dassault Aviation had no immediate comment, while the Belgian defence ministry said it would not comment until the process was finalised. Both Lockheed Martin and the Eurofighter consortium have submitted tenders to the original procurement program.

September 1/17: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is looking at additional orders of Rafale fighter aircraft from French aerospace manufacturer Dassault, doubling its current order of 36 units. Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources state that such a follow-on Rafale order would cost 60% of the initial package’s value (the September 2016 agreement cost $8.8 billion), which also includes weapon systems, India-specific customizations and a five-year support package guaranteeing an operational rate of 75%. Dassault hopes to sell as many as 200 Rafales to India over the next decade, with CEO Eric Trappier hinting that subsequent orders could lead to the transfer-of-technology to enable India to take on a substantive share of the fighter’s sourcing. Besides expanding upon IAF orders, Dassault is also looking at the Indian Navy’s bid for 57 carrier-borne fighters as an avenue for additional Rafale orders in the country.

July 31/17: Egypt has received its first of eight single-seat Dassault Rafale C multirole combat aircraft in the latest batch of Rafale deliveries from manufcaturer Dassault. This is the fifth batch of Rafale deliveries since Cario ordered the aircraft in 2015—the previous four only containing the twin-seat Rafale B variant—and the Egyptian Air Force will eventually operate a fleet of 24—8 Rafale Cs and 16 Bs. While most fighter customers receive twin-seat variants first to allow for the training of pilots ahead of the arrival of the fully operational single seaters, in the case of the Egyptian Rafale deal it appears that the EAF intends to use the Rafale Bs in a full combat role, with the additional crew member taking on a mission commander role.

July 19/17: India’s Dassault Rafale fighters on order from France will be equipped with Israeli firm Rafael’s Litening targeting pod. Yuval Miller, head of the Israeli company’s air and C4I systems division said that the pods, produced to the latest 4I island will be manufactured in India in partnership with a local firm. The Indian air force already uses the Rafael-produced pod on several types of combat aircraft, having acquired the system in the Litening III standard. Rafael also is to supply its advanced 4I version of the system for use by the Aeronautical Development Agency’s Tejas light combat aircraft.

June 14/17: Dassault and Indian partner Reliance Defense & Aerospace will break ground next month on a components facility for Rafale fighter aircraft. Construction of the facility comes as part of ‘Make in India’ commitments stipulated in September’s $8.8 billion Rafale fighter jet deal. Dassault are also currently training the first group of Indian engineers at its facilities in France, and the Indian facility is expected to be operational and producing components by the first quarter of 2018.

May 17/17: The CEO of French aviation firm Dassault, Eric Trappier, has told French media that the firm expects to sell an additional 18 Rafale fighters next year. In an interview with French regional newspaper Sud-Ouest on Sunday, Trappier hinted that the purchaser may by Malaysia, in a deal that could potentially be worth $2 billion. India has also been earmarked as a potential repeat customer after a high profile deal for 36 Rafales was concluded last year. “India’s needs are enormous,” said Trappier. “Hence, for its navy, 57 aircraft are considered,” he added. Malaysia, however, may be the more likely candidate for a deal to be finalized in the near term as it looks to replace its ageing combat aircraft.

April 2/17: French officials have told media that the Malaysian government is in exclusive negotiations with Dassault for their MiG-29 replacement program, indicating that the company’s Rafale fighter has won out against BAE’s offering of the Eurofighter Typhoon. Malaysia is looking to purchase 18 new combat aircraft — likely to be in the region of $2 billion — to replace the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s squadron of Russian MiG-29 combat planes, nearly half of which are grounded. The decision to move forward with Dassault follows last week’s visit by French President Francois Hollande.

March 28/17: The Malaysian government has said that it has yet to decide on whether it will go ahead with a $2 billion procurement of Rafale fighters from France. Bilateral talks between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and French President Francois Hollande did see the leaders discuss the aircraft deal, which aims at replacing Kuala Lumpur’s fleet of MiG-29 combat planes, half of which are grounded. Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was reported in the media as saying the race for new fighter jets has narrowed to the Dassault Rafale and the BAE Systems-built Eurofighter Typhoon. Speaking on the decision, President Hollande said, “all I would like to say is that the Rafale jet is the best in its category, and then we propose to discuss the prices, and the specifications. I trust you will make the decision when the time comes.”

March 26/17: The French government has approved key upgrades for the Rafale multi-role fighter which will bring the aircraft up to its F4 standard. Under the program, manufacturer Dassault will modernize legacy F3-R standard jets with updated technological capabilities that will boost their performance in a network and be more effective in combat missions, with Thales and Safran providing subsystems, and MBDA supplying missiles. It is expected that the F4 standard will begin qualification in 2018 and enter service by 2025.

March 23/17: Dassault’s Rafale is being touted as the preferred selection by Malaysia for their latest fighter procurement program. A pitch in fovor of the fighter is expected to be made during French President Francois Hollande’s visit to the country next week, and could initially be worth as much as $2 billion for 19 aircraft. Hollande’s arrival will be marked by a ceremony which will see two French Rafales join a Royal Malaysian Air Force A400M in a flypast at Subang airbase in Kuala Lumpur. Also in the hunt include BAE with the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russia’s Sukhoi and Sweden’s Saab, which is selling its single engine Gripen.

October 18/16: Thales’ new-generation TALIOS laser targeting pod has successfully completed a more than two-hour first flight on a Rafale fighter. Development of the pod has been carried out as part of a major development program for French Air Force and Navy Rafales. The company reported remarkable performances in pointing and telemetry from the pod with the system collecting high-quality images taken using the “day” channel. Adjustment and performance measurement tests with the pod and fighter will continue throughout 2017.

September 26/16: Well folks, it’s finally a done deal! France and India’s defense ministers inked contracts for 36 Dassault Rafale fighters on Friday, with pictures of French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, surfacing on Parrikar’s Twitter account stating “Rafale will significantly improve India’s strike & defence capabilities.” Due to be delivered over the next six years, the Rafales are estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, haggled down from an original figure of $13.47 billion.

September 23/16: It may have taken a long while to get to this stage, but the Indian government is expected to sign a deal for 36 Dassault Rafale fighters today after the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the inter-governmental agreement (IGA) with France. New Delhi had initially intended to buy 126 Rafale before several years worth of talks with Dassault broke down and Modi and Hollande stepped in last year to agree on the smaller purchase. Friday’s signing will see French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian finalize the deal with his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, believed to be worth between $8.5 and $9 billion.

September 20/16: Dassault Rafale fighters purchased by the Indian government are believed to operate as the platform to take over the nuclear strike role from the Indian Air Force’s current fleet of Mirage 2000 fighters. It’s expected that a long awaited Inter-Government Agreement for the purchase of 36 of the French fighter will be announced over the next few days after New Delhi dropped its initial plan to procure 126 Rafales. While there is a follow up clause for an additional 12 Rafales, the IAF’s capability gap will be filled by either the indigenous Tejas fighters, or another foreign fighter such as the Gripen or F-16, both of which have been offered in conjunction with the “Make in India” initiative.

August 3/16: India and France are edging ever closer to closure on a potential $9 billion Rafale fighter deal. According to Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, New Delhi has agreed to sign a long awaited inter-governmental agreement (IGA), a key requirement for a potential sale; however, negotiations on offsets and final pricing are still to be confirmed.

July 8/16: While reports of imminent French concessions to India reported last week may have seemed too good to be true, that was probably because they were. Instead, Paris is insisting on the signing of an $8.9 billion government-to-government deal with India prior to any finalization on offsets for New Delhi’s purchase of Rafael fighters. An Indian MoD procurement official said that no negotiations on the Rafale deal between France and India have taken place in more than six weeks, and the next meeting is yet to be scheduled.

June 01/16: This week’s Singapore Shangri-la Dialogue may see sideline discussions between France and India over the closing of a multi-billion sale of 36 Rafale fighters. The defense ministers from both nations will be in attendance, and it’s expected that issues like consensus on actions to be taken in case of a material breach, stringent liability clause, and guarantees by France are likely to be discussed.

May 23/16: Selection of a fighter to be manufactured under the “Make in India” initiative will be decided by next March according to India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar. Models in the running include Boeing’s F18A, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault’s Rafale or the Saab Gripen. Parrikar also mentioned that the ministry’s negotiations over its drawn out purchase of 36 Rafales will be wrapped up in “weeks.”

May 6/16: India’s ongoing AgustaWestland helicopter bribery scandal is likely to cause further delay to the country’s perpetual Rafale fighter negotiation with France. An increasingly cautious government in New Delhi still hasn’t finalized an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with France as bilateral discussions continue to drag on. The $8.9 billion deal includes 36 Rafale fighters alongside state of the art stealth, radar, thrust vectoring for missiles, and materials for electronics and micro-electronics from defense companies Dassault, Thales and Safran.

April 18/16: After months of wrangling, India will sign a final agreement for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters within the next three weeks. France had initially wanted over $12 billion for the sale, but negotiations over the last number of months have resulted in a drop to $8.8 billion. The first lot of deliveries will not take place for another 18 months. India’s air force replacement of its older fighters is part of an effort to effectively check the capabilities of Pakistan and China.

March 31/16: A $7.5 billion deal between Qatar and France has concluded, with Qatar to purchase 24 Rafale fighters alongside MBDA missiles, and training for 36 pilots and some 100 mechanics.The deal had been initially estimated to be $6.9 billion, but extra cruise missile orders pushed up the price. The contracts were signed by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Khalid Al-Attiah, on the opening day of the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference. Despite this, the UK’s defence minister stated that a deal with Qatar to sell them Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes was “definitely still on the table” when speaking in Doha on Tuesday.

March 22/16: Qatar’s purchase of Dassault Rafale fighters has been financed with the help of Japanese banks. The Gulf state recently paid a 15% down payment on its order, which in total amounts to $6.8 billion. The loan highlights a growing relationship with Japan through Japanese business interests in areas of construction and finance. Investments and projects involving Japanese companies include construction for the 2022 World Cup, and the building of a subway system in Doha, while Qatar supplies liquefied gas to Japan. The participation of Japanese money in the deal comes as tighter EU financial regulations to European banks bring lending under greater scrutiny, while a US loan to buy French technology may have upset Boeing, a competitor to Dassault in the fighter market.

March 16/16: Dassault has experienced a 12-fold increase in defense exports in 2015. The defense wing of the company experienced an order intake for the year end (2015) at $9.2 billion compared to only $770 million in 2014. The staggering jump has been attributed to a year that involved the sale of 48 Rafale fighters to Egypt and Qatar, and further by the well publicized ongoing negotiations with India for a further 38 of the aircraft. Adding to the exceptionally good year was upgrade of the Indian Mirage 2000 fighter.

March 16/16: India’s Law Ministry has come out against the country’s Rafale deal, citing several issues in regard to the contract with French manufacturer Dassault and France. While the Defense Ministry has come out in support of the deal, refusing to answer any questions submitted by the media in relation to the issues, it seems that even a preliminary contract has yet to solidified. Costs and pricing still remain an issue, as well as a series of legal issues which are apparently weighted heavily in France’s favor. French liability has been described as “watered down,” with huge payouts not promising actual delivery. Furthermore, the French government continue in their refusal of a bank guarantee, instead offering a “comfort letter” from Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

January 29/16: India’s Rafale deal with France is expected to be complete within four months according to French ambassador to India, Francois Richier. Speaking to Indian television, it is the first time a senior official has given a time scale for the completion of the deal. President Francois Hollande had indicated earlier in the week that the process would take some time, but that there would be gradual progress on agreeing to a final sale price. Dassault had previously stated that a deal may be signed within a month after a signing of an inter-governmental agreement on Monday, but officials from both governments have admitted that the price may become somewhat of a sticking point. Richier also stated that he hoped that India would in time purchase more Rafale’s from Dassault after their initial order of 126 fighters was slashed to just thirty-six.

January 27/16: Dassault expects to have a contracts signed with India over their sale of Rafale fighters within a month. The company announced on Monday that both the French and Indian governments signed a tentative inter-governmental agreement on Monday during President Hollande’s recent state visit to India. The agreement will pave the way for Dassault to conclude the deal for thirty-six fighters once some final financial issues are sorted out over the next couple of days. The expected early delivery date for the jets were initially stated for between 2016-2017, but pre-existing contracts with Egypt, Quatar and the French Air Force may see these deliveries delayed.

January 22/16: Officials from Dassault are to fly to New Delhi to pitch a navalized version of the Rafale. With the sale of thirty-six of the fighters almost over the line, the French manufacturer looks to be capitalizing on the sale and arrangements to have parts of the aircraft produced in India. India is looking for potential suppliers for over fifty fighters for their second indigenous aircraft carrier vessel, the Vishal. Their first indigenous aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant is already under construction and will operate the MiG 29K, but no plans have been made to include it in the design for the Vishal. Sources said that India has written to four countries, including France, seeking proposals for the design of the aircraft carrier. Dassault’s visit will follow shortly after that of French President Francois Hollande’s visit this weekend.

January 18/16: The suspense surrounding India’s Rafale jet acquisition continues. With plans seemingly already in place for the deal to be finalized, India is looking to negotiate a new option to the existing deal to buy thirty-six fighters from Dassault. A visit to New Delhi by French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last week was initially seen as a final dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s on negotiations ahead of President Hollande’s visit next week. The Indian government seems to be more confident that the $9.1 million deal will be ready for the visit, claiming the contract to be “politically ready”.

January 12/16: India’s long awaited purchase of thirty-six Rafale fighters is set to be finalized as French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is scheduled to visit New Delhi next week. It’s believed that the visit is specifically for the purpose of officially concluding the high-profile deal ahead of President Francois Hollande’s visit to the country. Hollande will visit as a guest to celebrate India’s Republic Day on January 26. France and manufacturer Dassault will no doubt be happy to see the deal secured, which has been ongoing for some time, and the cause of much haggling over price offsets and a deal to produce parts for the aircraft within India.

December 21/15: After some delay, Qatar has finally made their down-payment on their order of 24 Rafale fighters. The $7 billion deal had undergone a number of delays after initially being agreed upon in May. It had been feared that the deal would have stalled in the new year, but with only four shopping days left until Christmas, any issues over the deal seem to have been ironed out.

November 27/15: India is to sign a deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighters from France it has been announced. The signing coincides with French President Hollande’s visit to New Delhi to celebrate Republic Day. It is expected that the delivery of the Rafale fighters will be completed within seven years and is part of India’s move to increase its air force strength to maintain effectiveness against both China and Pakistan.

November 16/15: Qatar have still to make their downpayment for 24 Rafale fighters from France despite contracts being signed by both nations six months ago. The deal, which is worth approximately $7 billion cannot be executed by manufacturer Dassault until such a payment is made and will no doubt be on the agenda for Qatari prime minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani’s visit to Paris this week. The visit is said to go ahead despite last Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris.

November 12/15: The United Arab Emirates is reportedly close to signing an agreement for Rafale fighters, with the sixty-aircraft deal slated to value approximately $10 billion. Similar talks between the UAE and manufacturer Dassault collapsed in November 2011, but were revived in April 2015.

October 26/15: French firm Dassault has offered the Rafale fighter to Canada as an alternative to the F-35. The new Canadian PM looks set to withdraw from the international Joint Strike Fighter program, pushing up the cost of the other partners’ fighter in the process, although this still remains to be officially finalized. Dassault has offered the country its Rafale fighter.

October 23/15: France has reportedly agreed to invest half of the value of the contract for 36 Rafale fighters in Indian industry, with negotiations ongoing. The offset agreement is now thought to have paved the way for further negotiations over the sale of the fighters, which was first originally announced in April, following the collapse of the M-MRCA competition. The negotiations reached a sticking point in August over offset arrangements, with high level intervention in September kicking talks forward. Another potential issue has been identified as the Indian insistence on installing the indigenous Astra missile on the French fighters.

August 17/15: One sticking point in the ongoing government-to-government negotiations between India and France over the procurement of 36 Rafales has reportedly been identified. The Indian Air Force wants to modify the fighters to carry the indigenous Astra air-to-air missile, with the French refusing to do so; citing the associated cost increases with the required recertification such a move would entail. These contract negotiations have been playing out since the Indian Prime Minister announced the acquisition in April. The French government has lowered the per-unit cost of the deal, dropping this by 25% in May. They are offering French missiles instead of the Astra, likely manufactured by European missile house MBDA. The Indian Air Force also wants to integrate an Israeli-manufactured helmet display system, something which the French are unlikely to allow.

Additionally, French negotiators have reportedly rejected Indian proposals for a 50% offset arrangement in the Rafale contract negotiations. The French government has responded by offering to manufacture aircraft in India through future contracts, under the ‘Make in India’ procurement framework. Indian insistence on an offset will drive up the price of the 36 Rafales, which are currently on offer for the same price being paid by the French Air Force, following the aforementioned price drop in May.

July 30/15: France is anticipating an additional pair of export orders for its Rafale fighter, with Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates reportedly the most likely candidates. Reuters also reported Thursday that negotiations between India and France are now also discussing the possible supply of additional Rafales on top of the 36 ordered in April. Malaysia is looking to replace its MiG-29 Fulcrums, with the UAE recently restarting negotiations for the Rafale as it looks to swap out its fleet of Mirage 2000-9 fighters. The Gulf state has previously articulated a potential buy of sixty Rafales.

July 21/15: Rafale manufacturer Dassault is increasing the production rate of the fighter in anticipation of more export orders. The French jet has become an export success in recent months, following orders from Egypt, India and Qatar. The production line has recently come under strain because of the mounting orders, with the delivery rate from Dassault’s assembly line in Merignac, south-west France, set to double from the current rate of eleven per year by 2018, according to the company’s CEO.

July 17/15: Photos have emerged showing Rafale fighters flying in Egyptian colors. Egypt ordered twenty-four of the French aircraft in February, recently opting to buy AASM Hammer precision air-to-ground missiles to equip its new fleet. The first three Egyptian Rafales are due for delivery before 5 August.

May 7/15: France reportedly offered India a 25% price drop in order to seal the deal for 36 Rafales in April. The French also agreed to an extended maintenance schedule, with the 36 fighters thought to be the minimum number they would sell. The deal is thought to bring the per-unit cost of the Rafale to around $220 million, far below the approximate $300 million pricetag which became the death-knell for the Indian negotiations with Dassault. The recently announced Qatari order saw a comparable cost of $290 million per aircraft.

May 5/15: Following the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighters in April through government to government negotiations – side-lining India’s negotiations with manufacturer Dassault – the Indian Defense Minister announced on Monday that further negotiations between the French and Indian governments will begin this month. The Rafale’s selection as preferred bidder in the country’s MMRCA competition subsequently stagnated, with Prime Minister Modi bypassing the negotiations following pressure from the Indian Air Force. The French Defense Minister will visit India later this week, during which time the opening negotiations for more government to government Rafales are expected to begin.

March 10/15: Egypt says yes. Egypt will buy 24 Dassault Rafale fighters. Egypt already flies predecessors Mirage Vs and Mirage 2000s, and was once looking at upgrading its already large fleet of F-16s to more modern versions. Dassault’s fighters have the benefit of not having many political strings attached, and for a government arguably installed by coup, this has a certain charm.

Feb-17/15: India recalculates that Dassault wasn’t low bidder.The negotiation-via-newspapers exchange continues between France’s Dassault and India in regard to the Indian purchase of Rafale fighters. India’s MoD is now saying that upon thinking about it a bit more – for three years – they think the Dassault offer is going to be more expensive than some other, rejected bidders. Being India’s first life cycle costing contract, the RFP for 126 fighters did not demand specific information on some items relevant to that cost cycle, according to an unnamed official involved with the contract negotiation committee.

Feb-16/15: India’s hardcore negotiating not phasing Dassault. India has been sending messages through the press that it is ready to walk away from the Rafale deal. Dassault, for it’s part, isn’t biting, expressing confidence in the 126 fighter deal. Some reports indicated India is pressuring Dassault to make unspecified guarantees regarding the manufacture of the fighters. The French procurement agency DGA defended Dassault, indicating that Dassault will not be responsible for HAL-built fighters.

Oct 6-17/14: F3.4+ Testing. The French DGA tests the F-3.4+ software upgrade at Mont-de-Marsan AB. It should enter operational service in early 2015.

The F3.4+ builds on the current F3.3 standard’s improvements to Link-16 and integration of laser-guided weapons includes many software improvements, adding full compatibility with NATO’s MGRS geographic format for GPS-related functions, radar improvements in terrain following mode, new warnings for low altitudes and unusual positions that are designed to snap pilots out of disorientation, and warnings to prevent overloading the landing gear brakes during take-off. Sources: French AdlA, “Le Rafale F3.4+ experimente a Istres”.

Oct 3/14: F1 to F3. Dassault Aviation in Merignac, France re-delivers aircraft M10 to the Marine Nationale, after upgrading it from F1 to F3 status under a EUR 240 million contract for 10 aircraft.

Modifications include swapping out the core mission computer and cockpit displays, and changing the plane’s radar, electrical wiring, SPECTRA countermeasures system, and hardpoints. In return, the jump to F3 status adds implementation of all currently planned modes for the RBE2 radar, incl. radar ground attack and terrain-following modes; full integration with the Reco NG reconnaissance pod and Damocles surveillance and targeting pod; MICA IR air-to-air missile capability using the OSF IRST sensor; carriage of laser-guided bombs and Storm Shadow/ Scalp cruise missiles;anti-ship attack with the Exocet or follow-on ANF; nuclear strike capability using the ASMP-A missile; a Link 16 datalink, and a buddy tanker pod. They do not include the RBE2-AA AESA radar antenna, but the jet could reportedly be refitted with that later on.

Of the 180 Rafales ordered by France to date, 133 have been delivered, including Rafale-M F2s and F3s for the Marine Nationale. The contract only applies for the first 10 orders, which were delivered as Rafale-M F1s. Rafale fighters are currently executing missions against ISIS in Iraq, after seeing combat use in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, and Central Africa. Sources: French DGA, “La DGA receptionne le premier Rafale Marine retrofite” | Dassault Aviation, “The French defense procurement agency (DGA) takes delivery of its 1st retrofitted Rafale “Marine” from Dassault Aviation” | Navy Recognition, “The French procurement agency takes delivery of its 1st retrofitted Rafale M from Dassault Aviation”.

QEAF Mirage 2000-5
(click to view full)

June 19-23/14: Qatar. Reports continue to predict that Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al-Thani’s visit to Paris on June 23/14 will herald a contract for 36 Rafales, with an option for 36 more. The move would represent the Rafale’s 1st export contract, and a dramatic expansion of Qatar’s fighter force from the current fleet of 12 Mirage 2000s.

With that said, the best source is France’s La Tribune. They cite government sources who are pleased with the progress of negotiations, while cautioning readers about the deal’s complexity, and doubting that the Rafale deal will be signed in Paris. That turns out to be correct: France’s Alstom wins a $2 billion light rail contract, but all “a source close to French President Francois Hollande” will says after ward is: “They discussed it. Negotiations are continuing.”

Qatar is a significant customer for French defense equipment, and their support of the Muslim Brotherhood has given then an anomalous position within the Gulf Arab states. France recently sold them A330 aerial tankers and NH90 helicopters as part of a $23 billion global splurge, and are reportedly negotiating to sell the Emirate VBCI wheeled APCs and FREMM FREDA air defense frigates on top of the Rafales. Sources: La Tribune, “Le Qatar veut le Rafale de Dassault Aviation” | Bloomberg, “Dassault Said to Close in on Rafale Contract to Lift Exports” | Reuters, “France wins Qatar tram deal, discusses Rafale jets”.

May 28/14: Qatar. La Tribune says that France’s Rafale has emerged as Qatar’s 1st choice for its new fighter fleet, against competition from the Eurofighter Typhoon and an American offer that was not the F-35 (i.e. F-15 Strike Eagle or F/A-18 Super Hornet – q.v. Nov 26/13). Talks reportedly resumed in March 2014, with Qatar inquiring about a range of options from 12-72 aircraft. The pick is expected to be announced by Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al-Thani on June 23/14, when he visits Paris.

The stakes are high for France, whose recent multi-year budget would buy only 26 Rafales from 2014 – 2019, despite a minimum required production rate of 11 jets per year. The French order would only last until the spring of 2016. Given the contract penalties involved in falling below minimum production, France would be forced to move its own orders forward, unless significant export orders arrive to rescue the production line. Sources: La Tribune, “Le Rafale de Dassault sur la piste d’envol au Qatar?” | AFP, “Qatar nears exclusive talks on buying Rafale fighter: Report” | Gulf News, “Qatar nears talks to buy ‘unpopular’ Rafale fighter jets”.

March 2/14: India. Dassault and HAL have reportedly established an initial workshare agreement for Indian Rafales, after long and difficult negotiations. Dassault will provide the first 18 planes from its own factories in fly-away condition. After that, HAL will be responsible for directing 70% of the work in India, while Dassault remains responsible for 30%.

Negotiations have included industrial coordination, as well as straight workshare. For instance, RBE2-AA AESA radar production will be outsourced to state-owned Bharat-Electronics Ltd (BEL) in Bangalore, while the corresponding radome will be manufactured by HAL. One step toward the agreement involved HAL setting up a new facility close to the one that BEL has in Bangalore, so that issues with radome or radar production won’t create compatibility problems that leave India’s Rafales unable to meet acceptance tests.

The MoD has already spent this term’s capital budget, so the deal will have to be finalized by whichever government wins India’s May election. Which turns out to be a landslide for the BJP opposition. Sources: Indian Express, “India seals Rafale jet deal with French firm” | NDTV, “A big step in India’s Rafale jet deal with France”.

India: workshare deal

Jan 22/14: Canada. Dassault SVP of NATO affairs Yves Robins is quoted as saying that they’re offering Canada unrestricted transfers of technology if it picks the Rafale, including software source codes for servicing the planes. That’s something Canada won’t get with the F-35, and it’s being touted as a long-term cost savings that will let Canadian firms do more of the required maintenance. They’re also pushing the government to declare a competition.

The CBC report goes on to show that the broadcaster doesn’t really grasp the issues, asking about the Rafale’s ability to operate alongside the USAF. France replies that this worked over Libya, but that isn’t the real question. The question is whether Canada could use its American weapons with the Rafale, without having to conduct expensive integration and testing programs. In most cases, the answer is no. Which is why Rafale is a long shot, in the unlikely event that Canada even declares a competition. Sources: CBC News, “Dassault Aviation ramps up CF-18 replacement pitch”.

Jan 10/13: F3R. French defense minister Jean-Yves le Drian hands Dassault Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier the Rafale F3R development contract, during a visit to Dassault Aviation’s Merignac plant. The contract, which is reported to be worth about EUR 1 billion ($1.32 billion), had actually been ratified by the DGA on Dec 30/13.

Key additions to the Rafale F3R include full integration with the SBU-64 laser/GPS AASM smart bomb and the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile, improvements to Thales SPECTRA self-defence system, an Identification Friend or Foe interrogator/transponder with full Mode-5/Mode-S-compatibility, and assorted incremental improvements to the plane’s navigation systems, data links, and radar.

At the same time, the DGA announces the expected EUR 119 million development deal with Thales Optronics for the F3R’s new PDL-NG surveillance and targeting pod, under the 2014-2019 budget. That’s on top of the initial EUR 55 million risk-reduction phase that confirmed the system’s architecture, integration, and development schedule (q.v. Jan 28/13). The French military expects to order 20 pods during a subsequent initial production phase, with 16 delivered between 2018 – 2019. The full program is expected to order 45.

French Rafale orders currently stand at 180 production aircraft, with 126 delivered: 39 Rafale-M naval single-seaters, 42 Rafale-B twin-seaters for the air force, and 45 Rafale-C single-seaters for the air force. Sources: French DGA, “Lancement du nouveau standard du programme Rafale” | French DGA, “La DGA lance le developpement du PDL-NG” | Dassault Aviation, “RAFALE “F3 R” standard launched” | Usine Nouvelle, “L’Etat debloque un milliard d’euros pour rendre le Rafale exportable” | Thales Group, “Thales begins development of New Generation Laser Designation Pod”.

Rafale F3R & PDL-NG pod development contracts

2013

Rafale program to end early in France, putting the pressure on exports; Loss in Brazil doesn’t help; Qatar competition delayed into 2014; PDL NG targeting pod development; Rafale F3R.

Rafale w. Damocles

Dec 18/13: Brazil. Earlier press reports that the competition was stalled for another 2 years are proven wrong by a somewhat unexpected announcement from the Ministerio da Defesa. 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. A final contract and financing arrangements are expected in December 2014, and deliveries are expected to begin 4 years later. Dassault shares fall by about 2% on the news, despite statements by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Driana that this was a:

“…disappointment on a target that wasn’t a priority…. Brazil was not the priority target for the Rafale. We have more important targets in India and the Gulf (Arab states)…. We have good reason to think that in India and the Gulf (Arab states) there will be results.”

The Gripen NG contract figure tracks exactly with previous reports by Folha de Sao Paolo, which means an additional $1.5 billion contract can be expected for long-term maintenance and support. Saab was the cheapest of the reported offers, beating Boeing ($5.8 billion) and Dassault ($8.2 billion, reportedly reduced) by significant margins. Once Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA spying on Brazil’s government killed Boeing’s chances, there was no middle ground. The Rafale’s reported $10.2 billion purchase + maintenance total made it 70% more expensive than Saab’s Gripen. Brazil’s economic slowdown, and the Rousseff government’s focus on entitlement spending, made that cost chasm a big factor. Dassault issued a terse statement pointing out the presence of US parts on Gripens, and positioning the Rafale in a different league. Which may or may not be true, but it’s indisputably true that global fighter buys have historically been heavily weighted toward a less-expensive league. Gripen is within that low to mid price range, and Rafale isn’t. Sources: DID full report, “F-X2: Brazil Picks Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen-NG over Rafale, Super Hornet” || See also: Dassault, “FX2 contest – 2013/12/18” | Le Monde, “A qui la France peut-elle encore vendre le Rafale?” | Reuters, “France soothes nerves over Dassault jets after Brazil setback”.

Loss in Brazil

Dec 10/13: Sub-contractors. PTI reports that Dassault Aviation and India’s NYSE-listed Reliance Industries are planning to set up a Bangalore facility to produce Rafale wings for India’s future order, and reportedly have the approvals they need to do so. The facility would reportedly cost about INR 10 billion ($248 million) to build, but the ultra-modern facility would leave Reliance in a strong position to leverage additional civil and defense-related aerospace work. That would be a new sector for Reliance, but Dassault is impressed with them, and reportedly wanted to use Reliance as the Rafale’s main Indian manufacturing contractor.

India’s government insisted on the state-owned HAL instead, but Dassault may still see a larger opportunity. If Reliance can produce quality assemblies at a cost savings, outsourcing some production for future orders could help Dassault lower their cost per jet, while meeting India’s targets for industrial offsets. Sources: FirstPost.Business, “Reliance, Dassault may join hands to make wings for Rafale fighter jets”.

Nov 26/13: Qatar. La Tribune cites a number of French export opportunities in Qatar, including 22 NH90 transport/naval helicopters (bought), up to 480 VBCI wheeled infantry fighting vehicles, Gowind ASW corvettes, FREMM air defense frigates, and SAMP/T Mamba air and missile defense systems.

The Rafale has been helped by the USA’s failure to respond to the fighter RFP (q.v. Nov 10/13), and their Swedish Gripen competitor wasn’t even invited to bid. Qatar already uses French weapons on their Mirage 2000s, and their defense purchases are far more straightforward than India’s, leading to optimism that the Rafale’s 1st export sale could take place in the Middle East. If Qatar really does want a mixed fleet, the Rafale’s competition narrows to only the Eurofighter. Sources: La Tribune, “La France au Moyen-Orient (3/5) : le Qatar premier client du Rafale?”.

Nov 10/13: Qatar. Qatar’s competition will be delayed because the US Dept. of State couldn’t get their act together in time to issue all of the necessary export approvals. The QEAF is looking to replace their 12 Mirage 2000D fighters and 6 combat capable Alpha Jet light aircraft, but the neighborhood’s growing dangers are pushing them toward a larger buy. A split buy within their maximum total of 72 is seen as a real possibility, and some observers even see a potential split buy among the initial planned set of 36 planes. The initial decision was supposed to come down by the end of 2013, but will now take place in mid-2014.

Dassault already has a foothold here, and the Qataris are exactly the kind of customer they need to win. Eurofighter buys in Saudi Arabia and Oman have opened the door in the Gulf, and a UAE turn toward the platform could cement it as the Gulf Cooperation Council’s future standard. On the flip side, Rafale wins in the UAE and Qatar could open doors to tougher GCC customers like Bahrain and Kuwait.

The US State Department was reportedly wrestling with a pair of Boeing platforms as alternatives: the F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the F-15 Strike Eagle family. The later group includes the stealth-enhanced F-15SE, as well as the Saudis’ new F-15SA standard. Despite ongoing rumors regarding interest in the F-35 stealth fighter, Defense News reports that it isn’t a factor yet. Sources: Defense News, “US Bid Delays Qatar Jet Competition”.

October 2013: Need for Exports. As France is working on its 2014-19 defense budget law, the need to finalize an export order becomes ever more acute. To meet the French government’s baseline financial scenario, 7 out of 11 planes delivered in 2016 would already have to go abroad, which means a firm order has to be locked in by mid-2014 as jets for foreign customers would have their own configuration. France’s DGA procurement agency pays for Rafales in 3 installments. If exports don’t pan out in time, they may have to face difficult cash management trade-offs. Source : Les Echos, Rafale : le plan B de Dassault et de la DGA [in French] | LPM 2014-19: MINDEF, Legifrance [both in French].

October 17/13: India. Deputy chief of air staff Air Marshal S. Sukumar said during a conference that the contract with Dassault will be finalized before the end of the government’s current fiscal year, which ends on March 31st, 2014. Sukumar is a former flying instructor with 4,000+ flight hours who took his current job in December last year. Dassault was really hoping to get this done in 2013, but the sudden death of chief negotiator Arun Kumar Bal on October 2 must not have helped an already slow process. Source: Reuters, India to finalize Rafale deal this fiscal year.

October 2013: Canada. Yves Robins, a senior vice-president for corporate communications at Dassault Aviation, pitched Diane Finley, Canada’s Minister of Public Works and Government Services, during an Aerospace Summit luncheon. Robins urged Canada to run a full competition to replace its CF-18s and played the industrial cooperation card by reminding the minister that Dassault buys engines from Pratt & Whitney Canada for its Falcon business jets, and promising full technology and intellectual property transfer.

Mr. Robins is familiar with the fact Canada so far selected the JSF without a competition, as this came up when he met with the National Defence Committee in Parliament 3 years ago. At the time Robins insisted on the Rafale’s open design which would let it host Canada’s US-made weapons, though he refrained to say how much that would add to the price tag. Montreal Gazette: Aviation execs seek wide open competition for Canada’s fighter jet contract | National Defence Committee on Nov. 4th, 2010.

Sept 19/13: 4th tranche. The French DGA confirms that they’ve received the 1st “4e tranche” Rafale, a twin-sea Rafale-B for the air force. It includes the new RBE2-AA AESA radar, an improved electronic warfare system, and upgraded IFF. All are part of the “Rafale F3R,” but Meteor missile integration won’t happen until 2018.

The DGA also offers a snapshot of deliveries to date: 121 aircraft, including 38 Rafale-Ms, plus 44 Rafale-C and 39 twin-seat Rafale-B fighters for the air force. Source: French DGA.

Sept 13/13: Weapons. Russia’s Tactical Missile Corporation (TRV) told journalists at MAKS 2013 that they’re negotiating with Dassault Aviation for the possible use of their missiles on India’s Rafales. India bought MBDA’s MICA air-to-air missiles for its Mirage 2000s, and Paveway-II guided bombs are already in use by the IAF, but Rafale-compatible weapons don’t otherwise feature prominently in India’s existing stocks.

The ability to use Russian weapons would help the Rafale in some export competitions, but it doesn’t come for free. Unless the TRV/Dassault partnership develops a Universal Weapon Interface for TRV’s products, and probably modifies a number of the missiles themselves, that kind of integration and testing is time-consuming and expensive. How much less expensive than buying new weapons? And what’s the capability/ reliability payoff if India buys French products instead? That’s what negotiations, and Indian business analysts, need to determine. Sources: TRV Products page, via WayBack 2013 | AIN, “Russian Missiles for India’s Rafales?”

June 20/13: India. IANS reports that India’s Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh told an audience at the 50th Paris Air Show that the Rafale deal:

“…is not stuck anywhere. It is the biggest deal of its kind in the world and, of course, a very complex one too. They are talking to HAL and the private sector companies in India as well; so it is progressing…”

In his first Le Bourget press conference

as Dassault CEO, Eric Trappier had made a similar-sounding statement a week earlier.

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 12/13: French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reminds Dassault that they will need to rely on exports after French orders are done. They can’t be all that surprised, given a minimum delivery of 11 planes per year, and the April 29/13 White Paper’s reduction of the French fleet to 225 planes.

With 180 already ordered and 120 received, orders will stop sometime between 2016-2019, probably in 2017. The problem with these kinds of public reminders is that they make negotiations more difficult for Dassault, and may end up reducing export sales instead of spurring them. On the other hand, there have been reports of frustration in Paris over Dassault’s pricing and flexibility; if true, this kind of public reminder is one way to send a message. L’Usine Nouvelle [in French].

May 16/13: Meteor. The Rafale team continues to work on integrating MBDA’s Meteor long-range air-to-air missile in time for 2018, which will make the Rafale the last core platform to become operational. It will also be the only platform with a 1-way datalink, as Rafale uses the same transmit-only system for MICA and Meteor.

Saab’s JAS-39 Gripens will be operational by 2014, and Eurofighter GmbH eventually signed a June 2013 contract with a 2017 in-service date. Both fighters will have 2-way datalinks.

Late May will see over-water release trials begin at the Cazaux flight test centre, with 2 tests (high-g, and high angle of attack) scheduled before the end of 2013. The 1st controlled and boosted launch is slated for 2015. France placed an initial order for 200 Meteors in January 2011, and missile production began in June 2012. Flight Global.

April 28/13: Coming cuts. France releases their defense white paper (Livre Blanc) for 2013, which aims to set their force structure to 2025. With respect to the air assets, by 2025 they’re planning for:

“…les forces aériennes comprendront notamment 225 avions de combat (air et marine), ainsi qu’une cinquantaine d’avions de transport tactique, 7 avions de détection et de surveillance aérienne, 12 avions ravitailleurs multirôles, 12 drones de surveillance de théâtre, des avions légers de surveillance et de reconnaissance et 8 systèmes sol-air de moyenne portée.”

Translation: 225 fighters (all Rafale, cut from 234), about 50 tactical transport aircraft (A400Ms and CN-235s), 7 E-3F AWACS planes, 12 A330 MRTT aerial tankers and transports, 12 MALE drones and an unspecified number of light surveillance planes, and 8 SAMP/T long-range air and missile defense batteries. Note that original plans for the Rafale had involved 294 planes. Livre Blanc 2013 [PDF, in French].

March 8/13: Brazil. Brazil has asked the 3 F-X2 finalists to extend their bids for another 6 months from the March 30/13 deadline, as the Brazilian commodity economy remains mired in a 2-year slump. The competitors had hoped for a decision by the time Brazil’s LAAD 2013 expo opened in April.

The length of the cumulative delays could create changes for the bids, and it effectively squashes any faint hopes that the new jets would be able to fly in time for the 2014 World Cup. Reuters.

Feb 25/13: With Rafales flying combat missions again, in Mali, Jane’s reports that France will designate a new round of improved Rafales as “F3R”. They’ll include a major software upgrade that allows the aircraft to take fuller advantage of the new Thales RBE2-AA AESA radar, improves their Thales SPECTRA self-defence systems, adds Mode-5/Mode-S capable Identification Friend or Foe, and allows the Rafale to deploy MBDA’s Meteor long range air-to-air missile. IHS Jane’s.

Feb 7/13: India. While a French Rafale-B performs at Aero India 2013, negotiations grind on. India’s defence minister, A K Antony, describes negotiations as a 6-7 layer process, which then has to be sent to the Ministry of Finance. There will be no deal during Aero India, as the contract simply isn’t ready. Antony adds that coming defense budget cuts won’t delay the Rafale deal, but an election looms in 2014.

India’s Financial Express cites anonymous “highly placed sources” who say that remaining friction involves industrial issues. The Dassault team that visited the HAL facility in Nashik were said to have been disappointed by the infrastructure in place, and concerned that HAL will have trouble absorbing the required technology. They’re also reportedly wrestling with India’s insistence on giving HAL ‘lead integrator’ responsibility for decisions about workshare with other companies, while sticking Dassault with overall responsibility for the project. The French are trying to use the RFP as a starting point for discussions, while India insists that the RFP’s terms are the final word. Economic Times | Financial Express.

Jan 28/13: PDL NG The DGA commits a EUR 55 million risk reduction contract for Thales to develop the next-generation PDL NG surveillance and targeting pod, as the successor to the Damocles pod. Another EUR 115 million tranche is expected by year end, and deliveries are expected to take place beginning in about 5 years, from 2018-2022.

The DGA touts this as a boost to the export attractiveness of French fighter jets, which is true. Targeting pods have become such an important ancillary that the Rafale can’t really remain competitive without one that meets modern high-end standards. It’s essentially part of the Fighter’s life-cycle modernization plan. Damocles’ 320 x 240 IR resolution is far behind the 1280 x 1024 arrays in current Sniper SE or LITENING SE pods, and needs improvement. Unlike its European competitors, which use LITENING-III pods from Israel, France is keeping full control over the technology and exportability by designing its own.

The bad news is twofold. One is that the Rafale will receive a pod in 2018 whose doubled-scan 640 x 520 array (effectively 1280 x 1040) is roughly equal to Sniper-SE and LITENING-SE pods being delivered in 2013. High design modularity ensures that both of its competitors will continue to evolve, swapping in better sensors and new technologies by the time PDL-NG appears.

The 2nd bit of bad news is that France’s need to do this themselves results in a final expected cost per targeting pod of EUR 10 million, in order to equip the French Rafale fleet with 45. Exports could help boost PDL-NG production, but first the Rafale must win some foreign orders. India, whose Mirage 2000s are getting life extensions, is an important target for both the Rafale and PDL-NG – and a committed customer for RAFAEL’s LITENING pod across several of their fighter fleets. French DGA | Les Echos | Usine Nouvelle.

PDL-NG pod development

2012

Thales MAESTRO maintenance contract; Preferred in India; Not taking “no” for an answer in Switzerland; Rafale with AESA radar delivered.

Rafale-M
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Oct 30/12: From Damocles to PDL NG. The unofficial site Rafale News quotes the latest issue of Air & Cosmos (N°2305), who says that the Rafale’s future surveillance and targeting pod won’t be an upgraded Damocles pod, whose 320×240 infrared sensor is very small compared to competitors.

Instead, France is reportedly planning to invest EUR 450 million to develop and produce 45 PDL NGs (Pod de Designation Laser Nouvelle Generation), to equip both Rafales and Mirage 200Ds. The new pods will reportedly have a 1280×1024 equivalent IR resolution, by using a 640×560 array plus a micro-scanning technique. Better GPS/INS geolocation will have accuracy that matches the new AASM smart bombs. In terms of its shape and design, PDL NG is expected to offer carrier landing compatibility, and provide a lower radar cross-section.

Oct 4-10/12: Meteor. Rafale B301, operating from Cazaux DGA Flight Test Center in southwestern France, successfully completes 2 successful tests of the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile.

Oct 2/12: Thales and Dassault deliver the 1st production Rafale equipped with the RBE2-AA AESA radar, an air force Rafale C. Aircraft C137’s delivery makes the Rafale the 1st European fighter in service with an AESA radar, though older American designs (F-15 retrofits, F-16 E/F, F/A-18E/F Block II) have had this equipment for several years now. French DGA [in French] | Thales Group | Usine Nouvelle [in French].

1st Rafale with AESA

Sept 27/12: Media are forecasting a signed M-MRCA fighter deal with India before the end of their fiscal year, in April 2013. That’s certainly possible, but India’s history suggests that any such expectation is a very risky bet. Usine Nouvelle [in French].

Sept 20/12: Exocet qualified. The French Navy qualifies the air-launched AM39 Exocet anti-ship missile on its Rafale fighters, using Rafale-M number 27 launched from FS Charles de Gaulle [R 91]. The firing conditions were deemed to be fully representative of an operational mission. MBDA.

AM39 Exocet

Aug 23/12: India. L’Usine Nouvelle say that any India deal will be done as a series of agreements to produce specific items, with the scope growing over time. They also say that over 50% of initial production will remain in France, even after the initial 18 fighters are delivered, until Indian production expands. Beyond the engines, which are very likely to remain in France, the article cites complex electronics, and especially Thales RBE2-AA AESA radar, as being difficult to transfer. India’s failure with its Tejas fighter’s multi-mode radar, which was a generation behind AESA, does lend credence to that view.

Meanwhile, highly placed Russian and German sources say that India and Russia are having trouble coming to agreement on technology transfer and price, and say that the M-MRCA competition isn’t closed yet. The Hindu | IBN Live | Times of India | L’Usine Nouvelle [in French].

July 11/12: India. Indian defense minister Antony effectively ends contention over the Rafale’s selection as L1, the lowest evaluated bid. Replying to the Feb 27/12 letter from Rajya Sabha member MV Mysura Reddy:

“The issues raised by you were examined by independent monitors who have concluded that the approach and methodology adopted by the Contract Negotiations Committee (CNC) in the evaluation of the commercial proposals thus far, have been reasonable and appropriate and within the terms of the Request for Proposals (RFR) and Defence Procurement Procedure, 2006.”

India’s history shows that this is a big moment for the M-MRCA program, preventing its derailment and allowing negotiations toward a contract to continue. Hindustan Times.

July 9/12: Sim upgrade. Thales announces that France’s DGA procurement agency has accepted the 1st F3.2 simulator upgrade, to the first 2 cabins at the simulation centre in Saint-Dizier. The Rafale Transformation Squadron in Saint-Dizier has a total of 4 cabins, and the 2 upgraded simulators will faithfully replicate the F3 Rafale’s ability to use AM39 Exocet anti-ship missiles, ASMP/A nuclear missiles, the advanced Reco-NG surveillance pod, and the Damocles targeting pod.

The 2 cabins at the Rafale simulation center in Landivisiau will be upgraded to the F3.2 standard in the summer of 2013.

July 7/12: Brazil. The FAB has asked the 3 bidders (Boeing, Dassault & Saab) to renew their F-X2 fighter offers. It’s the 4th consecutive 6-month extension, while Brazil dithers over its choice and the timing of the buy. France24.

July 7/12: Wi-Fi of Doom. Raytheon announces that it has integrated its dual-mode GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II laser/GPS guided smart bombs onto France’s Rafale-M fighters, after successful tests at Bisacrosse. The Marine Nationale had been using the 250 kg weapons for 6 years on their trans-sonic Super Etendard Modernisee naval fighters, and they wanted their supersonic naval Rafales to have the same capability. The challenge was how to do that without spending all the time and money that full weapon integration usually requires.

Enter Raytheon’s WiPAK. The WiPAK kit consists of a small wireless transmitter in the cockpit, a pilot interface, and a small receiver affixed to the Paveway weapon. Raytheon VP Harry Schulte explains that “WiPAK uses wireless connectivity technology similar to what is being used in laptop and tablet computers.” Hopefully, it’s more resistant to jamming. Raytheon describes WiPAK as “a combat proven system, used operationally on counterinsurgency aircraft.”

The tests open the door to competition against Safran’s emerging dual-mode SBU-64 AASM Hammer smart bombs. France’s air force already uses GBU-49s from their Mirage 2000D fighters, so a similar conversion for AdlA Rafale-B/Cs is an obvious opportunity.

July 2/12: Crash. A Rafale-M aboard FS Charles de Gaulle crashes during exercises with the USS Eisenhower’s F/A-18s. The pilot ejected, and American helicopters picked him up and transfer him to the de Gaulle. The cause of the crash is under investigation. US Navy | French MdlD [in French] | Navy Recognition | Usine Nouvelle [in French].

Crash

April 20/12: Refit. The DGA’s Christophe Carpentier discusses some of the complexities involved in the 10-plane Rafale-M refit, which is upgrading these F1 aircraft to an F3 standard that will add precision ground attack, reconnaissance, and even nuclear warhead delivery to their capabilities. The biggest challenge is that the upgrades take place on the Rafale production line, so careful scheduling is essential to avoid disrupting new-plane production. French MdlD [in French]. See also Nov 30/09 entry.

March 30/12: 1st RBE2-AA. Thales announces that they have delivered the 1st RBE2-AA AESA radar to the Dassault Aviation production line in Merignac, France. The radar will now be installed on Rafale C137, which is scheduled for delivery to the French defence procurement agency (DGA) in summer 2012.

A comprehensive 3-month flight test program conducted at the Istres air base has already been held to demonstrate the radar’s performance, and the RBE2 AESA radar was delivered in line with the contract schedule.

1st AESA

March 22/12: Rafale exports. Dassault CEO Charles Edelstenne discusses the Rafale’s export issues, while making the most of the Rafale’s win against the Eurofighter in India. His characterization is unpromising, since it concedes American dominance of the global fighter market, leaving the Rafale as the choice of countries that don’t buy American, or make reduced dependence on American arms a priority.

There’s some truth to this, as shown by Dassault’s experience in South Korea. On the other hand, it’s also true that the Rafale has lost export competitions over price and technical features. Usine Nouvelle [in French]

March 22/12: India. Indian Defence minister A.K. Antony orders the Ministry to probe all of the allegations made by Rajya Sabha (Parliamentary upper house) member M.V. Mysoora Reddy. The Telgu Dessam party representative filed an official complaint on Feb 27/12, over alleged irregularities in the evaluation process that designated France’s Rafale as the L-1 lowest cost option for India. The probe is expected to delay the process by a couple of months, if nothing surfaces. If the claims get any traction, India’s procurement process could come to a complete halt. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition” for full coverage.

March 20/12: Canada? As Canada’s government gives conflicting signals about its F-35A commitment, and braces for a scathing Auditor General report about their pledged buy, Dassault’s Rafale may get an opening:

“The likeliest contenders, should there be a competition, are U.S.-based Boeing, maker of the F-18 Super Hornet, and Dassault of France, maker of the Rafale… “In our world we’re already in a competition,” one industry insider said. “(Associate Defence Minister) Fantino himself said we’re basically looking at our options. There’s a team at (Department of National Defence) looking at the market. So it’s already on.”

Despite this report, Canada’s considerable stockpile of American-made air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons adds huge additional switching costs to an already-expensive Rafale aircraft, and makes it a very unlikely challenger. Post Media.

Feb 22/12: UK Rafales? French DGA head Lauren Collet-Billon tells a press conference that the extent of carrier cooperation with Britain will depend on Britain’s final plans and choices. With respect to fighter jets, Defense Aerospace quotes him saying that the F-35:

“…is an ambitious program, and like all ambitious programs it faces a number of challenges… If one day we have to lend Rafale Ms to the Royal Navy, why not? Personally, I’d find that very pleasing.”

Issues with the F-35 program are indeed putting Britain in a bind, but cost issues with the CVF carriers’ catapult retrofit may make any catapult-launched fighter problematic for Britain.

Jan 31/12: India’s preferred plane. 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. If a contract is signed, it would help extend the Rafale’s production line beyond 2021, which is its current closure date without export orders.

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. Read “India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition” for full coverage.

India’s pick

Jan 31/12: What is the Rafale to France? L’Usine Nouvelle’s article asks: “A quoi sert le Rafale?” – The short answer is that it’s at the heart of French military power thanks to its carrier and nuclear roles, as well as its central role in French conventional wars. It’s also the industrial heart of France’s advanced military aerospace research, responsible for significant steps forward in French materials science, engine design, computing, sensors, etc. at Dassault, Thales, and Snecma. Not to mention over 500 sub-contractors, all of whom are made nervous by uncertainty. In total, the aircraft is said to be responsible for 7,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Unfortunately, lack of exports is forcing extra funding to keep the Rafale production line at its minimum. Which is delaying the much-needed modernization of France’s Mirage 2000D fleet, and beginning to pose an operational risk for France.

Jan 29/12: Swiss cheese. Dassault makes Switzerland a new offer: 18 Rafale fighters for SFR 2.7 billion (EUR 2.24 billion, $2.96 billion), instead of 22 Gripens for SFR 3.1 billion.

This is, frankly, the kind of approach that has cost Dassault sales in other countries. If this offer is substantially less than Dassault’s earlier offer to the Swiss, the Swiss could be forgiven for asking what has changed, and why the previous offer was so high. Meanwhile, submitting offers after a competition is done doesn’t win many friends in military or ministry circles.

In this case, however, the audience is the Swiss parliament, which is supposed to begin discussing the fighter buy on Feb 13/12. Hans Hess of parliament’s security commission confirmed to Le Matin Dimanche that he had received the letter. What’s deeply troubling is that Swiss defence minister Ueli Maurer told the Sonntags Zeitung that he wasn’t aware of the offer. If that’s true, the decision to blindside the minister reflects even more poorly on the Dassault executive responsible. That kind of behavior goes well beyond a normal political battle, and can create powerful enemies whose grudges are deep, personal, and lasting. AFP via Yahoo | France 24.

Jan 10/12: Support. Thales announces a 10-year MAESTRO (MAintien en condition operationnelle des Equipements B et des moyens de Soutien Thales du Rafale Optimise) fixed-price contract from France’s SIMMAD, with specified availability metrics, to support Thales equipment on board French Rafales.

Thales announced a 5-year base contract for that service on Feb 2/10, but that one was from Dassault, as a sub-contractor. This one is directly with SIMMAD, alongside Dassault’s “Rafale Care” contract (vid. Dec 12/08), and reported deals with Snecma for engine maintenance (vid. Feb 24/10). Under the terms of this contract, Thales is responsible for supporting the Rafale’s RBE2 radar, SPECTRA electronic warfare system, avionics (displays, onboard computers, etc.), optronics (OSF front-sector optronics, cameras, etc.) and communication systems. They’ll also be in charge of optimizing replacement parts management, logistics management, and equipment repair processes; and will deploy technical and logistics advisers to work directly on military bases. Thales Group.

MAESTRO support

2011

Performance against Libya; Swiss loss; Doubts in Dubai; Bulgaria RFI; Progress for RBE2-AA radar, Reco NG pod.

Off to Libya after all…
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Dec 1/11: Swiss Loss. Switzerland announces their choice – and it’s Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen. Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer estimates the cost of the envisaged deal at up to CHF 3.1 billion (currently $3.5 billion, probably more by 2014), for 22 planes. The DDPS explicitly stated that Gripen also won because it offered lower maintenance costs that made it affordable over the medium and long term. Dassault wasn’t very happy, though they did concede that the Gripen beat them on price:

“The RAFALE’s capacities would enable the Swiss Confederation to meet its operational requirements with a smaller number of aircraft [emphasis DID’s] at an equivalent or lower cost, as was demonstrated during the assessments… The “Swiss-tailored” GRIPEN only exists on paper. Its technical development and production risk significantly increasing the financial efforts required of the Swiss Authorities to accomplish the country’s fighter aircraft program. RAFALE INTERNATIONAL extends its sincere thanks the 250 Swiss companies that took part in its industrial partnership project in the 26 cantons of the Swiss Confederation.”

The next step is for the DDPS and Saab to negotiate a draft contract, including details of the required matching value (100%) industrial offsets program in Switzerland. Contract options are scheduled for presentation by February 2012, whereupon the package will be proposed to the Swiss national parliament as part of the 2012 weapons plan. The catch is that the buy requires about CHF 600 million in savings from elsewhere. The government’s strategy is apparently to tie that savings program to the fighter order if a referendum is required, and even the proposal isn’t expected before 2013. This means that it’s likely to be 2014 before Saab has a production contract they can rely on. Swiss DDPS in French | German | Italian || Saab Group | Rafale International | Agence France Presse | Flight International’s The DEW Line.

Swiss loss

Nov 16/11: What’s up in the UAE? The UAE is either engaged in the mother of all hardball negotiations, or the potential Rafale sale is crashing. Meanwhile, the UAE may be about to cut its planned new jet order and buy more F-16E/F Block 60s, regardless of what happens next. Read “Derailed Denouement in Dubai: What’s Up With the UAE’s Fighter Deal?” for a snapshot.

June 20/11: Defense News’ Paris 2011 Show Scout covers Dassault executive chairman Charles Edelstenne’s comments re: the Rafale & M-MRCA. It includes this important point:

“The French government has made export of the Rafale a “priority” because of the perceived importance of the fighter industry in political, technological and economic terms, and also because of the domestic budgetary needs, Edelstenne said. France has written into its defense budgets export of the Rafale, and if those foreign sales fail to appear, funding must be found from other defense programs to finance an annual output of 11 aircraft, the minimum deemed for economic sense.”

May 31/11: Libya Report. In the wake of a 2-day tour of the Rafale detachment at Solenzara, Corsica, which flies France’s missions over Libya, Giovanni de Briganti of Defense Aerospace submits a report. As one might imagine, the tour wasn’t conducted to showcase unhappiness, but the reports do offer a number of useful tidbits.

One is that the Rafale has now emerged as the multi-role plane it was promised to be, using Damocles targeting pods, advanced Reco NG reconnaissance pods, GPS guided weapons, and more. The other is that the Rafale is now moving France out of narrow squadron stovepipes, and toward the full multi-role orientation the USA began embracing in the 1990s. Lacking American resources, the French AdlA is even being pushed toward the next step of that orientation, where stovepipes break down completely and one plane may fly SEAD(suppression of enemy air defenses), precision strike, air superiority, and reconnaissance tasks within a single sortie. Whether coached or serendipitous, the pilots’ special praise for their air conditioning system, and ability to cite their SPECTRA integrated self-defense system’s protection when flying early missions deep into Libya, are also significant. They’re 2 less-obvious capabilities, but both are considered especially valuable by the Rafale’s most likely buyers in Brazil, India, and the UAE. Additional excerpts:

“Pilots… routinely take off with four MICA air-to-air missiles, three or six AASM Hammer precision-guided bombs, a Thales Damocles laser targeting pod or a Reco NG reconnaissance pod and two drop tanks… [for a] six- or seven-hour sortie… “Two Rafales carry as much ordnance as two Mirage 2000-5 and four Mirage 2000D combined,” notes [pilot] Pierre G., adding that their sensor capabilities “are much greater even than that.”… “MICA is not just a missile, it’s an extra sensor as well,” says Pierre G., and its detection range is much longer than generally supposed…

Transit to Libya is flown at 50% power setting, which translates to Mach 0.9 cruise speed even with six AASM bombs and two large underwing drop tanks… Since Operation Harmattan (the French designation for enforcing the Libya No-Fly Zone) began on March 19, the detachment has flown 2,200 flight hours with over 1,500 in-flight refuellings… Aircraft turn-around, even with live weapons on board, requires only 90 minutes and an engine change requires one hour, although none have been changed during current operations… Maintenance requirements of the Rafale are about 25% lower than for the Mirage 2000, and there is no scheduled or preventive maintenance; maintenance depends only on the type of mission flown, and on the condition of components… detachment commander Lt. Col. Pierre G. says that the availability rate is close to 100%.”

See also: Flight International.

Libya experience

April 27/11: India finalist. After a close call where it was nearly drummed out of India’s future fighter competition, the Rafale rallies. India’s M-MRCA competition is now a one-on-one duel between the Rafale, and EADS/ BAE/ Finmeccanica’s Eurofighter Typhoon.

Feb 15/11: AREOS Reco NG. As the Rafale F3 prepares to take over the reconnaissance role from older Mirage F1 and Super Etendard planes, it is preparing to fully qualify Thales’ new digital AREOS Reco NG pod. The French air force has already ordered 12, and the Navy 8. Now, battlefield trials based on a hundred test flights enabled the CEAM military aircraft test center to validate the pod for basic employment, from land and from aircraft carriers.

The 1,100 kg/ 2,420 pound AREOS Reco NG pod is 4.6 meters/ 15 feet long, and can als be deployed on the Mirage 2000 if needed. Its identification range of several tens of kilometers is 2-3x the range of the Presto pod currently deployed on Mirage F1CR aircraft in Afghanistan, and it supplements high and medium altitude coverage with a low-altitude sensor that supports high speed horizon to horizon photography at an altitude of only 60 m/ 200 feet. The pod operates automatically, within its intermittent, zone coverage or terrain-following modes, and always knows its exact position in space, thanks to an inertial reference system, correlated with data from the Rafales nav-attack system. As soon as the shots are taken, they are automatically overlaid on a digital elevation model, geo-referenced, and assembled to provide a complete mosaic, then stored on a hard disk in the pod. They can be also transmitted to a ground image receiving and processing station in real time, via a high-speed microwave link. The pod can also operate in video mode by using successive images, and estimate a moving object’s speed.

The first Rafale/ AEROS crews from operational units were trained at CEAM in summer 2010. Several weeks later, the system reached its initial operational capability, and is now deployed on the FS Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier. By the end of the 2011, it will open its operating envelope to include terrain following during penetration flights, at which point it will officially be in service with full operational capabilities. Dassault.

RECO NG pod ready

Feb 9/11: RBE2-AA. Thales announces that “a comprehensive programme of flight tests conducted between September and December 2010” have validated its new AESA RBE2 radar for the Rafale. The announcement makes the Rafale the first of the 4+ generation European fighters to qualify with an AESA radar.

By confirming that the radar’s performance complies with the “Roadmap” contract, awarded by the French DGA, Thales can begin series production for installation into the Rafale Tranche 4 planes that were ordered in 2009, and will be delivered by Dassault Aviation to the French Air Force beginning in 2013.

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.

Jan 6/11: UAE. French media report that during a vsit to Paris in mid-December 2010, UAE armed forces commander Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan asked France to renew its proposal to sell up to 60 Rafales to the UAE.

The recent purchase of 200 Meteor missiles by the French government reportedly removed one of the UAE’s concerns. Other equipment like the Damocles targeting pod has been integrated late, due to budget constraints, but the French purchase ensures that this won’t happen to the long-range Meteor missile as well. A partial squadron of Rafale F3s equipped with Reco NG and Damocles pods is reportedly operating from a new French base in Abu Dhabi, in support of deployments to Afghanistan as well as the UAE sale. That still leaves issues of AESA radar capabilities, improvements to the Snecma M88 engines, disposal of the UAE’s 60+ plane Mirage 200 fleet, and possibly airline landing rights near Paris as items of contention.

On the other hand, both Qatar and Kuwait have early-stages programs going to select new fighters for their air forces, and the UAE is a very respected and influential weapons buyer in the region. A sale to the UAE would make a huge difference to Dassault, and the UAE would reap royalties if Rafales with its requested extra features are bought by other countries. Aviation Week | Reuters | UAE’s The National.

2010

Nuclear-ready Rafales; Qatar opportunity; Kuwaiti interest & opposition; UAE breaks negotiations; Algeria goes for SU-30s; M88 engine improvements; ACMI upgrade for Red Flag exercise; Active stealth?; Rafale-M crash; Joint French AF/Navy training.

Rafale-M
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Dec 16/10: UAE. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan and French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly discussed the potential Rafale deal in Paris during the Prince’s visit. Negotiations aren’t formally on again yet, but this is a form of progress. TopNews Arab Emirates | Reuters.

Nov 29/10: Splash one. The French MINDEF announces that a Rafale F3 from FS Charles de Gaulle crashes due to a mechanical failure, in Pakistani territorial waters 100 km offshore, following a mission over Afghanistan. MdlD release:

“Dimanche 28 novembre 2010, en debut d’une mission d’appui aérien en Afghanistan, un pilote de Rafale qui opérait depuis le porte-avions Charles de Gaulle , s’est ejecté de son avion en mer, au large du Pakistan.”

The pilot was recovered by helicopter, and is receiving medical treatment. An inquiry is being conducted into the accident.

Crash

Nov 17/10: Program cost change. The French Senat’s foreign affairs and defense committee releases a report on the draft budget law for 2012. It updates the Rafale program to EUR 43.56 billion over 40 years at 2011 prices, including both purchase and development costs for all 286 forecast aircraft. That’s a EUR 2.86 billion increase from the previous EUR 40.7 billion, and raises the per-plane program cost (similar to the USA’s PAUC figure) to EUR 152 million.

Some inflation factored into this increase, but other increases involved the F3/F4 standard’s technology, including upgraded M88 engines, the RBE2-AA AESA radar, the Damocles laser designation pod, the Reco NG reconnaissance pod.

In the immediate term, about EUR 1.1 billion in 2011-2013 increases stem from the Rafale’s lack of exports, which forced France to increase its 2009-2014 order by 17 planes in order to fund the plane’s minimum production rate. This is an uncomfortable position for France; the period’s orders now stand at 69. L’Usine Nouvelle [in French]

Program costs

Nov 15/10: UAE. France’s La Tribune reveals [in French] why the UAE broke off negotiations, and the new condition they’ve added for the sale:

“Après avoir gelé les négociations pourtant très avancées au coeur de l’été en raison d’un article dans “Le Figaro”, propriété de Dassault, qui a fortement déplu, Abu Dhabi a récemment rajouté dans les discussions une nouvelle exigence pour acquérir le Rafale. Selon plusieurs sources concordantes, les Emiratis mettent désormais dans la balance des droits de trafic supplémentaires (autorisations de vols) en France, essentiellement à Roissy, pour leurs compagnies aériennes Emirates (Dubai) et surtout Etihad, le transporteur d’Abu Dhabi.”

Translation: The UAE suspended Rafale negotiations because of an article in Le Figaro, which Dassault’s ownership structure also owns. Must have been quite some article.

The new condition will be familiar to Canadians – the UAE wants to double the number of reserved slots for Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways at Roissy airport, France main passenger hub near Paris. France had rejected this request when it was made recently, as its national airline Air France objected. In Canada’s case, the request was to double slots at Pearson airport in Toronto, the country’s busiest and largest passenger hub. Air Canada objected, Canada refused, and in October 2010, the UAE kicked Canada out of its “Camp Mirage” base, and denied overflight rights for Canada’s defense minister on his way to Afghanistan.

Nov 8/10: Qatar. Aviation Week reports that Qatar plans to pick its new fighter in 2012, and the Rafale is a contender to replace the current Mirage 2000v5 fleet:

“The size of the program is still under discussion, with 24-36 fighters likely to be acquired… The service is evaluating a broad spectrum of aircraft, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-15, Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale, says Al-Khayarin. Saab officials note they also have entered the competition [with their JAS-39NG].”

Oct 4/10: UAE suspended. French media confirm that negotiations with the UAE for up to 60 Rafale fighters have been suspended. Issues reportedly included the range of enhancements requested, and associated terms if they’re sold in future aircraft; and requests that Dassault exchange the UAE’s 63 Mirage 2000s as part of a deal. Usine Nouvelle initial article and follow-up [in French].

Sept 13/10: UAE. Defense News reports that The UAE has requested technical information on the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. An unnamed source cites no need to develop the platform further, which would avoid a $2+ billion effort to upgrade the Rafale with a longer-range AESA radar, better electronic warfare systems, and uprated engines. On the other hand, the UAE has seen returns on such developments before, via royalties when the Mirage 2000v5s it helped to develop were sold abroad.

Defense News says that it’s “not immediately clear why the UAE is exploring a U.S.-made option.” It could be technology. It could be politics. Or, it could just be smart negotiating tactics.

Aug 7/10: India. India’s Times Now news show reports that the M-MRCA trials will leave only Dassault’s Rafale and EADS’ Eurofighter in the race. There is no official confirmation. Brahmand | Livefist.

June 22/10: Joint French Training. The 3rd COMORAC (COMite d’ORientation de l’Aviation de Chasse) meets, as the French Air Force and Navy discuss joint management of Rafale training. They sign an agreement establishing an ETR (Escadron de Transformation Rafale), which would serve both branches from the St. Dizier air base, beginning in September 2010. Rafale-M and Rafale-B pilots will now have a common initial processing and training, and initial personnel assignments are beginning.

Part of the co-ordination effort also involves work at the Istres-Le Tubé air base near Nice. It would take over land-based carrier landing simulations from the nearby Naval Air Station Nimes Garons, which also serves as a civilian airport. These initial improvements will be made during the summer 2010, with the goal of having the French carrier’s air wing embark at Istres beginning in September 2010. French Navy [in French].

June 6/10: Nuclear strike ready. France declares the Rafale B operational in the nuclear strike role with EdC 1/91 at St. Dizier-Robinson air base. The Rafale will eventually replace all 62 Mirage 2000Ns as the launch platform for France’s ramjet-powered ASMP-A nuclear missile, which has a 500-600 km range and is carried on the centerline pylon. Combat Aircraft, August 2010.

Nuclear-ready

March 22/10: M88 upgrade. The first test flight of a Rafale fighter powered by the Snecma M88-4E “TCO Pack” engine takes place for 1:30 at the Istres air base in southern France. In January 2008, French defense procurement agency DGA awarded Snecma the “TCO Pack” contract to improve the M88-2 engine, modifying the high-pressure compressor and turbine and extending service life and time between inspections.

The first ground test of the engine was performed in September 2009. Development engines are now undergoing ground performance and endurance tests, and a series of altitude chamber tests was completed in late February 2010. The engine has been on 10 test flights, and the test program comprises some 70 flights in 2010, with different engine configurations. Qualification and delivery of the first production-standard M88-4E is now slated for the end of 2011. Snecma release.

April 29/10: UAE. Arabian Aerospace magazine repeats long-standing rumors that Dassault/ France will be asked to buy back, or find a buyer for, the UAE’s 62 Mirage 2000v9 aircraft, as a condition of a Rafale sale. The article goes on to detail the Mirage 2000v9’s capabilities and key equipment differences from earlier models; many revolve around the incorporation of technology that was also used on the Rafale.

April 5/10: No win in Algeria. Looks like the always-slim Algerian opportunity for Rafale has vanished. RIA Novosti reports that Algeria will replace its rejected MiG-29s with SU-30MKA aircraft, to complement 28 less-sophisticated SU-30MKs it has received under a 2006 deal.

Algeria

April 5/10: Active stealth? Aviation Week’s Air and Cosmos reports that France is developing active stealth for the Rafale F5 (2 versions hence). Bill Sweetman explains:

“Active cancellation means preventing a radar from detecting a target by firing back a deception signal with the same frequency as the reflection, but precisely one-half wavelength out of phase with it. Result: the returned energy reaching the radar has no frequency and can’t be detected. It’s quite as difficult as it sounds… This may not be the first French attempt to implement AC on the Rafale. At the Paris air show in 1997, I interviewed a senior engineer at what was then Dassault Electronique… [DID: which became Thales, then Dassault became Thales’ largest private shareholder]”

Sweetman goes on to explain that Moore’s Law of improved processing power may make the project more achievable now. MBDA and Thales have since confirmed that they are working on active cancellation for missiles as part of the Rafale’s SPECTRA defensive suite, and research in this area is underway in several other countries.

April 2/10: Oman loss. Oman, which was always seen as a likely Eurofighter customer but had been offered Rafales, confirms that it intends to buy the Eurofighter. As of 2012, however, it has yet to sign a formal contract. Read “British Eurofighters to Oman?” for full coverage.

Oman

April 1/10: SPECTRA. Aviation Week runs a picture taken by the new imaging infrared missile warning system being developed for the Rafale’s DDM NG warning system against incoming infrared missiles – part of the wider SPECTRA system. DDM NG lacks the level of coverage found in the F-35’s DAS, but the picture’s breadth and clarity are an impressive illustration of how far IIR has come. The DDM-NG system is slated for fielding on new Rafale F3s.

March 21/10: Kuwait. The 4-member Islamist “Reform and Development Bloc” in Kuwait’s 50-member Parliament issued a statement against Kuwait’s proposed Rafale purchase, reiterating “…its firm rejection of this suspicious deal, especially following information that the latest technical reports have recommended the rejection of the deal.” The Bloc also cites the Rafale’s failure to win other export orders to date, as a reason to avoid the aircraft. Defense Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah, on the other hand, continues to maintain that the Rafale deal remains a priority.

The word “suspicious” is code for “involves payoffs,” in a monarchy that has dissolved Parliament 3 times from 2005-2009, in order to avoid scrutiny of the royal family. In November 2009, some opposition MPs claimed the proposed 14-28 plane contract was over-inflated. In response, Kuwait’s parliament voted unanimously to ask Kuwait’s Audit Bureau to probe 3 planned arms deals with the United States and France for C-130J Super Hercules transports, an ammunition plant, and the Rafale.

The bloc’s claims regarding the technical reports are difficult to verify – a technical defense ministry team has been assessing the deal, following Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah’s approval, but its findings have not been made public. Al Defaiyah | Kuwaiti Times | Zawaya | Defense News | France 24 | UPI.

Feb 24/10: Defense News reports that the French defense ministry’s ministerial investment committee has approved a “power-by-the-hour” type arrangement with M88 engine maker Safran. Rolls Royce has trademarked the term, which refers to a contract that pays for hours flown, rather than time and maintenance costs. The M88 arrangement would reportedly include a guaranteed number of flying hours, plus the spares and support required to meet those benchmarks.

The report refers to a “contract” running from 2010-2014, with optional extensions and adjustments available from 2014-2020. At this point, however, it’s not 100% clear whether a formal contract exists, or the ministry has just given approval to negotiate a contract along specific lines.

Engine support

Feb 20/10: Kuwait. Middle East Newsline reports that France and Kuwait have resumed high-level defense talks to finalize an estimated $3 billion order for up to 28 Rafales.

Feb 2/10: Rafale Care. Thales Group announces a 10-year, fixed price sub-contract with Dassault Aviation, to provide a range of extended services and maintenance support for avionics equipment on Rafale combat aircraft in service with the French armed forces. These services will include “obsolescence management,” which is always a hazard given the short production cycle of many electronic components, and involves guaranteed availability rates.

The avionics support agreement with Thales flows from the SIMMAD contract noted in the Dec 12/08 entry, whose initial 5-year base period is followed by 5 further options of 1 year each.

Jan 22/10: ACMI. Dassault Aviation announces that it has configured the Rafale fighter to carry MBDA’s Semac Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation pod on its wingtip, enabling it to participate in the USAF’s multinational Red Flag exercise. In early 2008, the Dassault Aviation design department in Saint-Cloud had been asked to assess the impact of the new pod in early 2008, ensuring that it didn’t create aerodynamic problems, or interfere with other aircraft electronics. By the end of July 2009, Dassault had submitted this file to the authorities, and received flight authorization. In early August, 4 Rafale fighters participated in the Red Flag 2008-04 exercise.

ACMI pods relay and store position and performance information during exercises, and can also simulate the firing of missiles and calculate hit probability. The combined transmissions of participating fighters creates a complete command picture for those running the exercises, who can also replay engagements to the fighter pilots later on.

2009

France orders 60 more. modernizes 10 Rafale-M F1s; Preferred in Brazil; UAE rumors; Oman offer; Libya looking elsewhere; Crash 2 Rafale-Ms.

Rafale w. Meteors
(click to view full)

Dec 31/09: 60-plane order. Defense Aerospace reports that on this date, France’s DGA awarded Dassault Aviation a multi-billion euro, multi-year production contract to deliver 60 Rafale F3 combat aircraft (50 Armée de l’Air, 10 Navy) under “Commande Globale no. 4” (global order #4). Deliveries are expected to begin in 2015, at an average rate of 10.5 aircraft per year (q.v. Nov 12/09).

A supplementary deal would cover the modernization of 10 Rafale-M F1 naval fighters to the current F3+ standard (q.v. Nov 30/09 entry).

Defense Aerospace says that the orders have been confirmed by a DGA spokesman, while Dassault declined to comment. Related contracts have also reportedly been awarded to Snecma for M-88 engines, and to MBDA for weapons, but values and particulars were not disclosed. France does not have the same disclosure requirements as countries like the USA, and news outlets have reported that invidious comparisons between the Rafale’s French price and export price helped sabotage a sale to Morocco in 2007.

To date, France remains the fighter’s only customer. Commande Global IV reportedly brings the total number of Rafales ordered by France to 180, out of a planned total of 286 (228 air force, 58 navy). An option to order 9 additional aircraft under this order could return the program plan to 295 aircraft.

60 Rafales

Nov 30/09: F1s – F3s. Defense Aerospace reports that French defense minister Hervé Morin has committed EUR 300 million to modernize 10 French Navy Rafale-M (F1) fighters. This would bring the French Navy’s in-service Rafales to 26 F3 aircraft, plus any new-build aircraft delivered in the interim.

The retrofits were originally expected in 2012, but were moved up to 2010 as part of the French government’s economic stimulus program. Aircraft M2 – M10 will be moved from Landivisiau naval air station to the existing Rafale F3 production line, and retrofitted over a period of 12-18 months. When delivered, they will replace 11F Squadron’s modernized Super Etendard fighters, which are nearing the end of their safe flying life.

10 Rafale-M F1s to F3s

Nov 26/09: French Defense Minister Hervé Morin is quoted regarding the September 2009 crash of 2 Rafales. Both recorders have been recovered and sent to France’s Bureau of Accidents Enquiring and Analysis (BEAD) for investigation. Morin says the report is complete, adding that: “It’s evident… It’s very probable, very certain to be a human error.” China’s Xinhua.

Nov 15/09: At the Dubai 2009 air show, Thales representatives discuss the expected French contract for 60 more planes, and export opportunities. Flight International:

“[The inclusion of RBE2-AA AESA radars] is paving the way in terms of technology for the export process,” says [Thales aerospace senior vice-president Pierre-Eric Pommellet]. “Negotiations with the UAE on Rafale are ongoing,” he says. “I’m sure that this will be a very important topic at Dubai. This is the biggest project that we are involved in in this region.” Kuwait is also emerging as a strong prospect. “There have been some state-to-state talks, including on the Rafale. Kuwait could be a good customer for us, but it’s their decision on whether to progress,” he says.”

Nov 12/09: 60 approved. Defense minister Hervé Morin and France’s Comité ministériel des investissements de défense (CMI) approve a multi-year, 60-plane order of Rafale fighters for the French air force and navy, per France’s multi-year defense budgeting plans. These aircraft would be equipped with new RBE2-AA AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars and improved self-protection systems, in addition to the standard Rafale F3 fit-out.

Order estimates hover around EUR 6-7 billion, but exact costs, delivery date, and order composition will now be negotiated by France’s DGA procurement agency. The multi-year commitment is designed to provide both assurance to the supply chain, and confidence on the part of potential export customers. The DGA itself acknowledges that the presence or absence of those exports will affect overall schedules and delivery dates. Key firms involved will include Dassault Aviation, Thales, Safran, and MBDA, among about 100 firms in the overall supply chain. French DGA [in French] | Avio News | Flight International | StrategyPage.

Oct 23/09: Kuwait. As Kuwait and France sign an umbrella defense agreement to enhance bilateral cooperation, reports surface that Kuwait is investigating Dassault’s Rafale as a possible successor to its fleet of F/A-18C/D Hornets. UPI:

“Obviously,” said [Kuwaiti Defense Minister Sheik Jaber al-Hamad] after meeting with his French counterpart Hervé Morin, “we would be proud to have the Rafale in the heart of the armed forces in Kuwait.” Jaber, also deputy prime minister of the emirate, told reporters he was awaiting terms of the deal from Paris.”

Oct 19/09: Libya. Libya’s potential Rafale purchase could be in danger. Russia’s Interfax media agency reports that Libya plans to buy 12-15 Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighters, another 4 Su-30s as an immediate interim order, and 6 Yakovlev Yak-130 trainer and light attack aircraft aircraft. Reports indicate that a contract could be signed with state arms export agency Rosoboronexport by the end of 2009, or early 2010.

The UPI report adds that Libya is also interested in the long-range, high-altitude S-300 air-defense system, the shorter-range Tor-M2E and BUK-M1 surface-to-air missile systems, combat helicopters, T-90 tanks, and at least one diesel-powered submarine.

Libya has also been in talks with France to buy its Rafale fighters since late 2007. Any signed Sukhoi deal is likely to end the Rafale’s near-term chances in Libya. Libya would later help the Rafale gain international credibility – but through use in theater, rather than a sale.

Sept 24/09: Crash. A pair of French Rafale-M fighters collide and crash in the Mediterranean, about 30 km off the French coast. The crash reduces the Rafale M fleet from 17 to 15 aircraft, and kills one of the pilots involved. Aviation Week | Defense News | Flight International: body located.

Crash 2

Sept 7/09: Brazilan Rafales? Brazil’s Ministerio Da Defesa announces that Dassault Aviation is now the F-X2 competition’s preferred bidder, and the country will order 36 Rafales subject to further negotiations. Subsequent events lead to partial backtracking from the government, as the competition is still not over, and the Brazilian Air Force hasn’t delivered its recommendations yet. The Rafale has definitely achieved front-runner status, however.

This sale would be France’s 1st export order for its Rafale fighter, after numerous attempts spanning more than a decade. French technology transfer across a broad range of projects was reportedly the critical factor in the deal, and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim reportedly said that the decision to begin talks with Dassault “was not adopted in relation to the other two” competing companies. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva described the move as “definitively consolidating a strategic partnership we started in 2005” – one that would now produce helicopters (EC725), submarines (nuclear-powered and diesel-electric), transport aircraft (KC-390) and possibly fighters (Rafale). Read “Brazil Embarking Upon F-X2 Fighter Program” for more details, and full updates.

June 5/09: UAE. Rumors surface that the UAE, who chose to develop the F-16E/F Block 60 Desert Falcon instead of buying the Rafale, may be willing to replace its Mirage 2000v9 fleet with Rafale aircraft in a $10 billion deal.

If they do, however, they reportedly want some changes to the platform, including engine thrust growth from 16,500 pounds each to 20,000 pounds, an AESA radar, and integration with MBDA’s Meteor long-range missile. Funding from the UAE could help France finance Rafale upgrades, as their key requests are all already planned or in development. where negotiations become interesting is the quid pro quo. A follow-on article in UAE’s The National discusses past licensing-for-exports deals associated with funded modifications to their Mirage 2000 and F-16 platforms. Those deals made the UAE several hundred million dollars when the Mirage 2000v5 modification it helped finance were sold to other countries. Al Defaiya | UPI | UAE’s The National.

Feb 10/09: Oman. France enters the fray with an offer to sell Oman Dassault’s Rafale fighter, instead of the 24 Eurofighters reportedly on offer from Oman’s historic ally Britain. The offer was reportedly made by visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a meeting and dinner on Tuesday with Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Report.

2008 (Partial)

10-Year Rafale Care contract; Dassault becomes Thales’ largest private shareholder.

Rafale-M F1
(click to view full)

Dec 19/08: Alcatel-Lucent SA sells its 20.78% stake in major defense electronics firm Thales SA to Dassault Aviation SA of St. Cloud, France. The sale price is reported to be EUR 38 per share, or about EUR 1.57 billion (about $2.25 billion). Dassault already owns 5.2% of Thales, but this purchase will make it Thales’ second largest shareholder after the French government’s 27.1%. Read “Dassault Takes a Major Stake in Thales.”

Thales et Dassault

Dec 12/08: Rafale Care. Dassault announces that France’s Structure integrée de maintien en condition opérationnelle des matériels aéronautiques du ministère de la Défense (SIMMAD) has signed a 10-year contract to maintain the 120 Rafale fighters France has ordered to date for its Air Force and Navy.

This contract follows the nascent global trend toward pay for performance in military maintenance. The 10-year “Rafale Care” global contract does use maintenance payments based on operational availability and flying hours, rather than materials and labor. The contract also includes a commitment to reduce those costs per hour over time, in a similar manner to many corporate outsourcing agreements. Unlike Britain’s fully comprehensive “future contracting for availability” model, however, “Rafale Care” covers the aircraft but not the engine (Snecma), radar (Thales), countermeasures or weapon systems.

Costs were not disclosed, but Defense News quotes a Dassault spokesman as saying that the larger twin-engine Rafale costs about 15% more per flight hour than the Mirage 2000 lightweight fighter. The French Armée de l’Air also refused to provide figures, sidestepping the question by saying that costs were heavily dependent on key variables like flight and mission profiles. Dassault Aviation | Defense News.

Rafale Care

Additional Readings

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

Background: Rafale & Ancillaries

News & Views

Categories: News

Korea’s T-50 Family of Trainers/Fighters

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 03:57

T-50 Golden Eagle
(click to view full)

South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle family offers the global marketplace a set of high-end supersonic trainer and lightweight fighter aircraft. They’re hitting the international market at a good time: just as many of the world’s jet training fleets are reaching ages of 30 years or more, and high-end fighters are pricing themselves out of reach for many countries.

Most recently, Thailand is increasing its defense budget and the speed of its procurement process to, among other things, procure a replacement for its aging L-39. The T-50 is one of three candidates.

The ROK’s defense industry is advancing on all fronts these days. Its shipbuilding industry, one of the world’s busiest, is beginning to turn out its own LHDs, and even high-end KDX-III AEGIS destroyers. On the armored vehicle front, Korea’s XK2 tank and K9/K10 self propelled howitzer are beginning to win export orders, and its XK-21/KNIFV amphibious infantry fighting vehicle may not be too far behind. All fill key market niches, promising performance at a comparatively inexpensive price. Now its aerospace industry is in flight abroad with the KT-1 turboprop basic trainer, complemented by the T-50 jet trainer, TA-50 LIFT advanced trainer & attack variant, and FA-50 lightweight fighter.

The TA-50 and FA-50 are especially attractive as lightweight export fighters, and the ROKAF’s own F-5E/F Tiger II and F-4 Phantom fighters are more than due for replacement. The key question for the platform is whether it can find corresponding export sales.

T/F/A-50: The Planes

T-50, 3-view
(click to view full)

The T-50 was developed by Korea Aerospace Industries, Ltd., with cooperation and global marketing support from Lockheed Martin. Both firms were aware that many training aircraft fleets are aging, even as higher-performance fighters demand trainer aircraft that can keep up. The Korean government needed a fleet of trainers, and saw an opportunity to give their aerospace sector a strong boost in the process. Total investment in the T-50’s RDT&E program amounted to more than $2 billion: 70% from the Korean government, 17% from KAI, and 13% from Lockheed Martin.

With a length of 43 feet and a wingspan of 30 feet, the 2-seat T-50 is about 4 feet shorter than the F-16; overall, it’s only about 80% of the F-16’s size. The relative size of the control surfaces and tails are larger, however, to improve handling characteristics at lower speeds and make the aircraft easier to land. Larger landing gear is also fitted, to absorb harder landings, which is to be expected from student pilots. Its form’s resemblances to Lockheed Martin’s F-16 are suggestive, and include the blended mid-set wing, complete with leading-edge root extensions and rear ‘shelf’ fairings ending in F-16-style split airbrakes. The air intake layout on the sides is somewhat similar to the F/A-18 Hornet or Northrop’s excellent but ill-fated F-20A Tigershark, and the aircraft is powered by the same engine: GE’s popular, reliable and fuel-efficient F404, with slight improvements over the F404-GE-402 to enhance single-engine redundancy and reliability.

The T-50 trainer carries a basic navigation / attack system, which gives it some multi-role capability. The aircraft can carry Sidewinder missiles on the wingtips, as well as fuel, rockets, or qualified bombs on its 5 underwing and center pylons. The center pylon and 2 inner underwing pylons are “wet,” and can accommodate 150 gallon fuel drop tanks.

The T-50 family’s empty weight is 14,000 pounds, and maximum takeoff gross weight is 27,700 pounds. The plane’s F404-GE-102 engine produces 17,700 pounds of thrust at afterburner. Maximum rate of climb is 39,000 feet per minute; and the maximum speed is Mach 1.5. Service ceiling is 48,500 feet, the design load factor is 8gs, and the trainer airframe is designed for up to 10,000-hour service life (8,344 hours for the A-50).

T-50 cockpit
(click to view full)

Still, the plane is designed to be a trainer, with better rear visibility than a 2-seat F-16. An “active stick” ensures that stick movements in the front or rear are transmitted to the stick in the other seat, to improve monitoring and learning. Embedded training features, in-flight recording and post-mission debriefing capability are all built in. The standard tools of a modern fighter pilot’s trade are likewise present: “glass cockpit” of digital screens, HUD (Head Up Displays), HOTAS (Hands On Stick And Throttle) control systems to keep everything at the pilot’s fingertips, triple-redundant electrical system, fly-by-wire, advanced radio and navigation systems including INS/GPS, and a Martin-Baker zero-zero ejection seat. The seat back angle is 17 degrees – similar to the seat angles of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the F/A-22.

Per the standards for modern trainers, the aircraft is part of a larger, integrated training system that includes simulators, computer-based training, cockpit and maintenance trainers, and a training management system.

Maintenance has also received careful thought. The new trainer’s airframe will require no mandatory depot maintenance, and the aircraft boasts a “single-tier design” with some 250 access panels, allowing technicians to get at any major system. Extensive self-diagnostics are expected to help keep maintenance costs down.

All in all, the T-50 may remind some people of the F-16 that was originally designed by the 1970s “Fighter Mafia,” who were busy breaking every big-jet, multi-role, high-priced rule the USAF had cultivated for over a decade. The T-50’s 0.65:1 thrust/weight ratio ensures that it’s no F-16. Even so, more than 25 years after the F-16 entered service, the T-50 family retains one more comparison point: a similar price point in absolute dollars. Its $20-30 million cost places it firmly on the high end of the modern trainer market, but its supersonic performance and fighter versatility could still make the T-50 family very popular indeed.

Key market competitors include the subsonic BAE Hawk, Aermacchi’s now-supersonic M346, and its Russian twin the Yak-130.

T-50 Variants

Black Eagles
(click to view full)

At present, 3 variants of the T-50 are planned, beyond the basic T-50 trainer aircraft.

T-50B aerobatic variant. It has replaced ancient A-37 Dragonflys in South Korea’s “Black Eagles” national aerobatic team. This makes South Korea 1 of just 4 countries whose aerobatic teams fly locally designed and manufactured supersonic aircraft. Their Black Eagles perform in this category alongside the USA’s Thunderbirds (F-16) and Blue Angels (F/A-18), Russia’s Swifts (MiG-29) and Knights (SU-27), and China’s 1st Aerobatic Team (J-10s).

TA-50 lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT). Offers weapons training and usage, eliminating weapon training hours in more expensive jets, and allowing operational employment. TA-50s add an internal 3-barreled M61 20mm cannon, and can carry AIM-9 Sidewinder air-air missiles, AGM-65 Maverick short-range strike missiles, rocket pods, Mk80 family bombs, and SUU-20 practice bomb carriers. The TA-50 has full avionics including stores management, and the IAI/ LIG Nex1 version of the ELM-2032 multi-mode radar is an option. Some reports add Lockheed Martin’s AN/APG-67v4 multi-mode radar as an alternative option, derived from the radar that equipped Northrop’s F-20 Tigershark.

Other reports have mentioned that the TA-50 has provisions for radar warning receivers and specialty pods, if customers wish to add them, but this isn’t confirmed. That would seem like a better fit with the FA-50, as a complete low-end light fighter that’s able to add precision strike bombs and other weapons to its arsenal.

KAI’s FA-50
(click to view full)

FA-50 lightweight fighter. A slightly more expensive variant that’s fully fitted for the lightweight fighter and light attack roles, with a secondary role as a lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) if necessary. It is beginning to gain good traction in the international marketplace.

Weapons are slated to include the same lightweight 3-barreled M61 20mm gun and weapon set as the TA-50. The ELM-2032 radar is a big step forward, and the plane’s electronic architecture reportedly adds the ability to integrate GPS-guided weapons like JDAM bombs, WCMD/SFW cluster bombs, and eventually JSOW glide bombs. A targeting and surveillance pod, AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, and other advanced weapons will likely follow, as the ROKAF and other customers look to diversify their roles.

KAI on FA-50

There is a small catch. The FA-50 is a joint KAI/ Lockheed Martin project, and the associated co-operation agreements reportedly included a number of restrictive terms. One is that Lockheed Martin won’t transfer aircraft source code to other nations, leaving Lockheed as the sole integrator for key capabilities. A 2nd provision is that the T-50’s capabilities cannot exceed Korea’s F-16s. A 3rd provision reportedly banned South Korea from integrating T-50 variants with non-U.S. technology that the United States doesn’t have.

Provisions 2 and 3 had a big influence on the plane’s radar options. Instead of SELEX Galileo UK’s Vixen 500E AESA, the first FA-50s will use a cooperatively produced version of IAI’s popular ELM-2032 multi-mode radar, via LiG Nex1 and SamsungThales. The radar will be tied to additional datalinks like Link-16, radar warning receivers, and a MIL-STD-1760 databus. FA-50s will also be able to carry additional electronic countermeasures equipment, and specialty pods like LITENING or Sniper ATP for targeting, surveillance, etc.

SamsungThales and LiG Nex1 may be enough “laundering” for ELM-2032 radar exports to Islamic countries. Reports re: Iraq’s sale say nothing about a substitution, and any radar switch would require a full integration project. Lockheed Martin’s AN/APG-67v4 radar, developed for the F-20, would be an obvious alternative, and Selex ES’ Grifo is a popular global choice for light fighters. A longer-term possibility involves a step up to more advanced AESA radars, which are already making inroads into the medium end of the fighter market. An imminent program to upgrade the ROKAF’s KF-16s with AESA radars could offer KAI a way up. Once the ROKAF adds Raytheon’s RACR AESA radars to its F-16s, the FA-50 could add the same radar without violating the FA-50’s MoU restrictions. The need for Lockheed Martin’s agreement to integrate an American AESA radar would be the only remaining obstacle.

T/F/A-50: The Program

T-50 cutaway, KAI

Click here for full graphic, from KAI [1500 x 696, 454k].

Home Customer: 142 ROKAF: 50 T-50, 10 T-50B, 22 TA-50, 60 FA-50.
Export Customers: Indonesia (16 T-50i), Iraq (24 FA-50), Philippines (12 FA-50).
Prospects: Botswana, Chile, Peru, Thailand, Brunei, UAE (~48), USA (up to 350).
Losses: Israel (M-346), Poland (M-346), Singapore (M-346), UAE (M-346 picked 2009, but still no contract).

Arirang report

KAI is the T-50’s prime contractor, and is responsible for the design of the fuselage and tail unit, final assembly of the aircraft, and design of the accompanying training systems. The mid-mounted variable camber wings are manufactured by Lockheed Martin, who is also responsible for the avionics and fly-by-wire flight control system, and provides technical consulting.

The production line at Saechon is designed for a 1.5-aircraft-per-month production capability with a single shift, but the assembly process can produce up to 2.5 aircraft per month by simply adding another shift if orders increase. Man Sik Park, director of the T-50 management team at Sacheon, adds that “Getting more customers than our line can currently handle is no problem because we can increase the production rate further with additional tools and assembly jigs.”

KAI’s TA-50

The ROKAF already has production orders for 102 of KAI’s aircraft: 50 T-50 trainers, 22 TA-50 LIFT/ light fighters (with an option for another 22), 10 T-50B aerobatic aircraft that replaced the Black Eagles’ A-37 Dragonflys, and 60 FA-50s to replace the RoKAF’s F-5 Tiger II and F-4 Phantom fighters.

Outside South Korea, Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems and KAI have created the T-50 International Company (TFIC) to pursue export markets. Indonesia (16 TA-50 “T-50i”), Iraq (24 FA-50 “T-50IQ”), and the Philippines (12 FA-50) have signed contracts. Botswana and Chile have both reportedly expressed interest, as well as Brunei. The UAE has yet to sign its trainer deal for 48 planes, and wants an armed variant that doesn’t exist for its chosen M-346, so KAI may yet be able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, as they did in Iraq. The USA is TFIC’s biggest target, however, thanks to the 300-plane T-X program to replace the USAF’s supersonic T-38 trainers.

The FA-50 in particular will offer performance that competes favorably with peers like the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17, and India’s Tejas LCA. All 3 of these jets are likely to find themselves dueling for the niche once occupied by a pair of 1960s-1970s era competitors – Russia’s MiG-21s, and Northrop’s amazingly popular F-5, which still flies with the ROKAF. Both aircraft types are still flying in many air forces, and both are reaching the end of their lifespans. Hence the market opportunity. The difference is that unlike its Chinese and Indian competitors, the F/T/A-50 family’s secondary trainer role makes it attractive to 1st and 2nd world air forces as well.

Contracts & Key Events 2015 – 2017

Thailand chooses T-50 over Hongdu L15;

FA-50 & AGM-65G

December 5/17: Pricing-T-X Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is considering an adjustment to the cost of its T-50A advanced jet trainer in order to win the US Air Force (USAF) T-X trainer competition. The announcement was made by the firm’s new CEO Kim Jo-won, who added that transforming company management and cutting labor costs were among some of the cost saving measures being sought to help cover the discount. KAI’s announcement came after program partner Lockheed Martin requested KAI cut costs to make the bid more competitive against a rival bid from Boeing-Saab.

November 13/17: Potential Sales Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) announced Friday that it is in talks with as many as nine potential customers for its T-50 advanced trainer aircraft—of which Botswana and Argentina were highlighted as being at “an advanced stage” of negotiations with the two deals hoped to be completed either by the end of 2017 or in early 2019. In an effort to boost sales chances, KAI are also planning to offer loans to interested parties with developing economies through Korea Export-Import Bank of Korea and the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation in order to lessen the burden of such purchases. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin, who have partnered with KAI to offer a version of the trainer to the USAF’s Advanced Pilot Training (APT) program, have requested a price slash to the trainers so it can outbid the Boeing-Saab team who have developed a clean-sheet design known as the T-X trainer.

November 10/17: Milestone Lt. Col. Mark “Red” Ward, a retired US Air Force officer and current Lockheed Martin test pilot, has achieved the milestone of being the first pilot to achieve100 flight hours in the firm’s T-50A fifth-generation trainer aircraft. The platform is being considered for the USAF’s Advanced Pilot Training (APT) competition. A Lockheed press release said Ward passed the 100-hour mark shortly after take-off from Greenville on the way to the 2017 Joint Base San Antonio Air Show and Open House at JBSA-Lackland Kelly Field Annex in Texas, which took place Nov. 4-5. “This has been a great opportunity to be involved in a project that is so important to the USAF and the foundation for pilot training,” Ward said. “It’s a great plane to fly and will make an excellent trainer for generations of pilots to come.”

November 9/17: Potential Sale The Royal Malaysian Air Force is looking to procure a Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) capable of going supersonic while powered by a single engine. Speaking at the International Fighter Conference in Berlin, a service official said that the RMAF want a ‘low-end’ supersonic fighter that can augment its current fleets of single-seat BAE Systems Hawk and twin-engined Boeing F/A-18D Hornet and Sukhoi Su-30 ‘Flanker’ fighters. The official added that while Kuala Lumpur was considering all available options, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50 Golden Eagle/FA-50 had been highlighted as a service favorite.

October 20/17: Shaking off the ongoing corruption allegations being investigated at the firm, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has been busy chasing sales at this year’s International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX) in Seoul. The firm is currently looking to start negotiations with Thailand for an additional batch of four T-50TH trainer aircraft, adding to the eight initially procured by and delivered to Bangkok and a contract signed earlier this year for a further four aircraft scheduled to be delivered in 2018. Thailand had intended to acquire all of its planned 16 T-50s in a single go, but budget constraints forced the government to pursue a multi-batch procurement. The aircraft are scheduled to replace the Royal Thai Air Force’s Aero L-39 Albatros jet trainers. Other target nations for the T-50 include Botswana and Argentina, but these deals have been pushed back until at least 2018.

September 28/17: While a corruption investigation continues at Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has announced Seoul’s intentions to buy additional T-50 advanced trainer jets from the company. The decision was made at the 105th session of the weapons procurement committee, presided over by Defense Minister Song Young-moo, however, the model or number of jets sought remain unspecified. The project will begin in 2019 and will be procured under a “domestic purchase” program.

August 29/17: Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is looking to sell its FA-50 Golden Eagle to the Botswana Defence Force. Billing it as a cheaper alternative to Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen, which is also being looked at Botswana, KAI claims that the FA-50 has a cheaper acquisition and maintenance cos than its competitor— the Gripen’s life-cycle cost is “three times” that of the FA-50. The Korean firm is also offering a comprehensive support package which includes an “instructional systems development” (ISD) for the FA-50 as well as its trainer variant the T-50 and the Pilatus PC-7 turboprop-powered basic trainer. Last year, it was reported that Botswana was in talks with Sweden for eight to twelve JAS-39C/D Gripen fighters, believed to cost in the region of $1.7 billion.

August 28/17: A labor union for workers at Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has warned that an ongoing probe into corruption at the company could damage its chances of participating in the US Air Force T-X trainer competition. The union demanded that there be a swift normalization of business irrespective of the probe’s findings. It also wants a new KAI chief to be named as soon as possible to resolve liquidity issues and put business back in order. KAI has teamed with Lockheed Martin to enter an upgraded version of the T-50A as a solution for the USAF’s Advanced Pilot Training (APT) program, which aims to replace the service’s existing fleet of trainer aircraft.

August 1/17: The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) have moved forward with its purchase of a further eight T-50TH advanced jet trainers from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), adding to four first ordered in 2015. Valued at $260 million, KAI said that the first two models in the deal will arrive in November 2019, with deliveries to continue up until May 2020. The company added that the latest deal will also give a boost to the company’s plan to sell the jet to more countries, including the United States, Argentina and Botswana. Indonesia, Iraq, and the Philippines have all made purchases of the trainer, bringing to 64 the total number of exports sold by KAI.

July 14/17: Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been forced to defend his country’s recent announcement that it will purchase eight more KAI T-50TH advanced jet trainers from South Korea, after accusations that the order is a waste of taxpayers money. Prayut, a retired Royal Thai Army officer, urged the public to understand the necessity of the purchase, saying that there was an urgent need to replace its ageing Czech-made L-39 aircraft, which have been in service for more than 30 years. He added that the choice of South Korea as the vendor for the L-39’s replacement should also be seen as proof that the government does not favor any specific country for procurement, alluding to recent big ticket purchases from China instead of long-time ally, the US. Critics unfazed by the PM’s words are planning to mount legal action if the sale is not delayed.

July 12/17: Thailand’s military government has approved the $258 million purchase of eight T-50 advanced jets from South Korea. News of the sale comes after accusations levelled at the government that its recent defense purchases have come exclusively from China, including the controversial sale of three submarines that provoked questions over its transparency. Bangkok has moved to dissuade the acquisitions, saying that it was not buying exclusively from China and is still making purchases from other countries, including old ally the US. The T-50 sale is the second phase of a 2015 deal in which Thailand bought four jets from South Korea.

June 5/17: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to increase the number of fighter jets operated by its air force after ordering 12 FA-50 light fighters from South Korea. “By the time I am out of office, you will have about 24 jet planes,” Duterte announced. He added that Manilla will also cease to receive second-hand military equipment from the US in favor of newer models and hinted that this could be purchased from Russia and China. The Philippine budget allocates more than 100 billion pesos ($2 billion) to modernize the military’s equipment under a five-year plan, spending 25 billion pesos this year on acquisitions from South Korea and Israel.

May 30/17: The Philippines may look to Russian defense wares to arm its fleet of KAI FA-50PH fighters and AW-109 attack helicopters. Manilla has been contemplating a Russian defense deal for a number of sought items, including sniper rifles, but is also looking at acquiring precision guided munitions for its air wing. Last week, Islamist militants affiliated with the Islamic State stormed the town of Marawi, resulting in President Rodrigo Deuterte declaring martial law across the country’s southernmost island of Mindana.

March 27/17: South Korea is looking to target the Southeast Asian market with their T-50B advanced trainer after a display of the aircraft at last week’s Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia. Included in the sales push was a demonstration from the South Korea air force’s aerobatic team, the Black Eagles. Potential buyers of the aircraft include Malaysia, looking to replace the near obsolete Aermacchi MB-339CM, and Indonesia, who have partnered with Seoul to help develop the next-gen KF-X fighter.

March 23/17: Lockheed Martin has ruled the T-50A out of the USAFs upcoming light attack aircraft experiment, instead focusing on offering the plane as part of the service’s T-X trainer competition. The company stated that the T-50A, a variant of Korea Aerospace Industries’ (KAI) T-50 Golden Eagle, already has a light-attack version, the FA-50, hinting that a solution may come not from the fixed-wing side of the company but rather from its rotary and mission systems business. Last week’s invitation by the Air Force details plans to choose up to four companies to bring non-developmental, low-cost, multi-role aircraft to Holloman Air base for a capability assessment. Over a period of four to six weeks, each plane’s “basic aerodynamic performance” will be tested as well as weapons, sensors, and communications capability. On the success of these demonstrations, the Air Force aims to prove whether there is a business case for creating an OA-X program of record.

March 22/17: Lockheed Martin claims they can deliver the T-50A aircraft to meet the USAF’s T-X trainer program two years ahead of the service’s 2024 initial operating capability schedule. Speaking at the company’s annual media day, Rob Weiss, the executive vice president and general manager of aeronautics advanced development programs said “If there’s a desire for an earlier IOC, we will be ready,” adding that the off-the-shelf T-50A could be flying six years ahead of other firms’ proposals designed specifically to compete for the T-X contract, which he said could be delayed until 2028 or later because of additional hurdles that clean-sheet designs need to overcome. Lockheed Martin has teamed with South Korea’s KAI to offer the T-50A against a clean-sheet design by Boeing and Saab, and a variant of Leonardo’s M-346.

February 21/17: 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.

December 5/16: Officials from Lockheed Martin have announced that the T-50A trainer has commenced flight operations in order to test the plane’s capabilities. A joint effort between LM and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), the T-50A is based off the legacy T-50 and is being offered to the USAF’s T-X program. For combat training, the aircraft incorporates air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, an avionics suite with electronic warfare capabilities, and a multi-mode radar.

November 15/16: The first US flight of the T-50A advanced jet trainer will take place on November 17 at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Pilot Training facility in Greenville, South Carolina. Developed jointly by LM and Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI), the trainer is an upgraded version of the T-50 Golden Eagle and is being offered to the USAF’s T-X trainer competition. It was expected that RoKAF Chief of Staff Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo and Vice Defense Minister Hwang In-moo would witness the flight, but due to the recent political turmoil at home, will not make the trip. South Korean President Park Geun-hye is under increased pressure to resign following allegations that she let her friend Choi Soon-sil, a shamanist cult leader, have extensive access and influence over government policy and decision making.

October 13/16: The chief of the Republic of Korea Air Force is to visit the US next month to help promote the T-50A bid by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin. Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo is scheduled to meet his US counterparts during the trip. Washington is expected to begin its selection process for 350 advanced jet trainers next year which could reach $20 billion in value.

October 3/16: A spokesperson for the Philippine Air Force has said the service is looking to acquire 36 additional FA-50PH fighter jets from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The official said the procurement is needed “to meet a requirement specified in Flight Plan 2028 to “detect, intercept, and neutralise” any perceived threat in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).” This adds to 12 FA-50PH fighters already ordered in 2014, with deliveries set to conclude in late 2017.

September 12/16: Officials from Argentina’s air force are evaluating Korean Aerospace Industries’ (KAI) FA-50 Fighting Eagle. An Argentine delegation visited the Republic of Korea Air Force’s (RoKAF’s) 16th Fighter Wing at Yecheon on 7 September with a pilot also spotted in the aircraft. The service is looking to acquire a new fighter type following the retirement of the Dassault Mirage III and Mirage 5 fleets in late 2015, and the subsequent grounding of the Douglas A-4R Fightinghawk fleet.

August 4/16: Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) CEO Ha Sung-young is so confident in their T-50A, that he will resign if the trainer is not selected for the USAF’s ongoing T-X competition. The bold statement was made in front of 39 executives attending an executive strategy meeting held at LIG’s Sacheon Training Institute in Gyeongnam Province. Ha’s bet is said to be backed up by T-X partner Lockheed Martin making a clean sweep of contracts recently in the US.

December 2/15: The Philippine Air Force (PFA) has received the first two FA-50 Golden Eagle fighters from South Korea. 12 were ordered in 2013 in a deal between the two governments totaling $400 million. The remaining jets will be delivered in batches throughout 2017 with the first two being utilized as trainers. Weapons systems for the fighters are to be purchased later, but it is said that an Israeli firm is being looked at to meet these requirements. The purchases come at a time when the Philippines is trying to beef up its maritime and air force capabilities amid creeping expansion by China in the South China Sea.

October 27/15: The US government has put a stop to South Korean plans to sell the T-50 to Uzbekistan. The now-defunct $400 million deal would have seen a dozen KAI T-50 trainers sold to the Central Asian state, with the US reportedly fearing that Tashkent could hand over sensitive US-developed technology to Russia. The T-50 was co-developed with Lockheed Martin in the mid-2000s, with the US firm incorporating advanced technologies for several of the aircraft’s systems, including the avionics and engine.

September 18/15: Thailand has opted to buy four Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 trainer/light attack jets, with the South Korean design fending off competition from the Hongdu L15. Thailand joins South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines as the fourth Asian state operating the T-50, with the jet also participating in Peru’s light attack aircraft competition.

June 26/15: The first of twelve Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50 fighter aircraft sold to the Philippines through a government-to-government deal with South Korea in 2013 has successfully completed its first test flight, with the first deliveries expected by December, when the Philippines will receive its first two FA-50s ahead of schedule. The full dozen should be delivered by 2017, with the Korean fighter/trainers a strategic interim as the Philippines looks ahead to acquiring more capable multi-role aircraft.

Feb 4/15: Peru.The Peru tender for about $1 billion of fighters is the next target for South Korea. The decision is supposed to happen in the second half of the year. Other expected competitors include firms from Russia, Italy and China.

2014

Philippine contract for 12 FA-50s; Export prospects; Indonesian deliveries done; Does the ROKAF need stopgap rental fighters?

Dec 14/14: Philippines. Filipino President Benigno Aquino says that the first 2 of 12 FA-50s ordered back in March are on track to be received by his country sometime in 2015, with the remaining 10 to follow by 2017. That’s a couple years later than they were aiming for when the negotiations started, but the order took about 2 years to materialize. Source: Manila Standard: “First 2 Korean jets to arrive next year”.

Dec 12/14: Brunei? Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah gave a smiling thumb up aboard an FA-50 on display at the Gimhae airport. According to South Korea’s Yonhap agency, this may be more than a photo op as an envoy from Brunei visited the headquarters of KAI in Sacheon last month. Source: Yonhap: “S. Korea’s FA-50 jet to be displayed at Busan airport”.

Oct 10/14: Weapons. The FA-50 fires an AGM-65G Maverick short-range strike missile for the first time, hitting a retired ship moored 7 km away in the East Sea (Sea of Japan). The Maverick actually has an outside range of around 20+ km, but that wasn’t what they were testing here. Sources: Chosun Ilbo, “FA-50 Fighter Jets Hit Target with Guided Missile” | Joong Ang Daily, “Air Force successfully test fires guided missile.”

July 17/14: USA The USAF experiences a flight in a ROKAF TA-50, as part of their due diligence for the coming T-X advanced trainer competition. Major-to-be Lee Seong-wook and Lieutenant Lee Kwang-won from the 16th fighter wing put the American team in the backseat of their TA-50s for 4 sorties.

The American due diligence team also visited South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), 16th Fighter Wing and Logistics Command, and the 16th fighter wing’s operation and maintenance. Sources: ROK MND, “Korean Trainer Aircraft TA-50 shows its excellence”.

March 28/14: Philippines. The Philippines signs the P18.9 billion contract for 12 FA-50 jets, paid for from the P85 billion initial fund under the Revised Modernization Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. That’s currently $420.9 million, which is close to the $422 million at which the government starts paying the exchange risk. Let’s hope they’re hedged. The moves will give the Philippines a fighter force again, with 2 jets arriving for training and IOT&E 18 months after the Letter of Credit is “opened,” another 2 a year after that, and the last 8 by 2017. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had an interesting way of describing the negotiations:

“In the Philippines we have an old saying that goes like this, “Pagkahaba-haba man ng prusisyon, sa simbahan din ang tuloy. Literally, this translates to no matter how long the procession is, it still ends up in the church. What we went through these past months even years is akin to a procession: slow, tedious and full of challenges. And like a procession we knew where our destination was and why we’re doing it.”

That last sentence becomes especially interesting, in light of PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Okol’s comments to GMA News. He said “kung anong ibbiigay sa atin ngayon, we make do what is given,” while adding that the FA-50s are “a step in the right direction.” The PAF ultimately wants more advanced fighters, with full multi-role capabilities. They may find their FA-50s growing into precisely that, as the ROKAF adds more advanced weapons. Otherwise, they’ll need to be able to afford what they want. Sources: KAI, “KAI won a contract to export 12 FA-50s to the Phil” | GMA News, “PAF wants more sophisticated fighter planes, but will make do with FA-50” | Philippine Daily Inquirer, “PH acquires P23.7B-worth of fighter jets, helicopters” | The Philipiine Star, “2 contracts for purchase of fighter jets signed today” | Rappler, “PH Air Force a joke no more, gets fighter jets” | Arirang, “Korean government to sell 12 FA-50 fighter jets to Philippines”.

Philippines: 12 FA-50s

March 28/14: Exports. A post on KAI’s official blog announces the Philippine sale, and confirms that “KAI is eyeing to further exporting the T-50 variant aircraft to the U.S.A., Botswana, the U.A.E., Thailand and Peru.” Chile no longer gets a mention, but they still have a need. Sources: KAI, “KAI won a contract to export 12 FA-50s to the Phil” | KAI Fly Together Blog.

March 26/14: Fill-ins. The ROKAF needs to retire its fleets of 136 or so F-5E/F Tiger light fighters, and about 30 F-4 Phantom fighter-bombers. Meanwhile, The F-16 fleet is about to begin a major upgrade program that will keep part of that fleet out of service. The F-X-3 buy of F-35As is expected to be both late, and 20 jets short of earlier plans. The KF-X mid-level fighter project will be even later – it isn’t likely to arrive until 2025, if it arrives at all. The ROKAF is buying 60 FA-50s to help offset some of the F-5 retirements, but the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA) sees this combination of events leaving South Korea about 80 planes short.

FA-50 deliveries only began in August 2013, and foreign FA-50 orders from Iraq and the Philippines are beginning to take up additional slots on the production line. As such, the ROKAF may be leaning toward a quicker stopgap:

“The Air Force is considering leasing used combat jets as part of ways to provide the interim defense capability because replacement of aging F-4s and F-5s wouldn’t take place in a timely manner,” a senior Air Force official said, asking for anonymity. “As midlevel combat jets are mostly in shortage, the Air Force is considering renting 16 to 20 used F-16s from the U.S. Air Force…. “The U.S. Air Force stood down some F-16s in the wake of the defense spending cut affected by the sequestration,” another Air Force official said, asking not to be named. “Under current circumstances, we can rent F-16s or buy used ones.”

It will be interesting to see if the USAF will let the ROKAF lease, or just have them buy the jets at cut-rate prices. Sources: Yonhap, “S. Korea considers F-16 lease deal to replace aging jets”.

Feb 21/14: Philippines. News reports say that the 2 sides have reached agreement, with a formal contract signing to follow in March 2014. It’s reportedly a $422 million deal for 12 FA-50s, denominated in US dollars, with the Philippine government taking the exchange risk that total costs won’t climb much above P18.9 billion. They’ve also decided to reduce spare parts purchases by $500,000, which is almost always a false economy that hurts aircraft availability. In exchange, KAI accepted a much lower down payment of 15% per Philippine law (q.v. Dec 26/13), and will take risks regarding the cost of some equipment furnished through the USA.

The first 2 FA-50s will be delivered by September 2015. Sources: Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Deal to buy 12 fighters jets from South Korea reached” | Rappler, “PH completes negotiations for 12 fighter jets” | Yonhap, “FA-50 sales to Philippines make headway, deal possible as early as March: source” | The Malay Mail, “Philippines to buy 12 South Korean fighters for US$422m”.

Indonesian T-50i
(click to view full)

Feb 13/14: Indonesia. KAI has completed the delivery of all 16 T-50i jets, via a series of ferry flights between September 2013 and January 2013. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono hosts a commemoration ceremony celebrating the T-50i’s deployment at Halim Perdanakusumah Airport in Jakarta. Sources: KAI release [in Korean] | The Korea Herald, “S. Korea completes delivery of 16 T-50 trainers to Indonesia”.

Indonesian deliveries done

2013

ROKAF follow-on FA-50 buy, takes 1st FA-50 delivery; Iraq buys 24 FA-50s; Philippines pick FA-50; Loss in Poland; FA-50 potential in Indonesia; Opportunity in Taiwan?

TA-50 drops tank
(click to view full)

Dec 26/13: Philippines. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin says that they’ve recommended an exemption from laws that limit government contracts to 15% payment before goods are delivered, in order to allow KAI’s requested 52% down payment for FA-50 fighters. Ultimately, it will be President Aquino’s decision.

Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez had more good news concerning negotiations, saying that: “We have settled the turnaround time issue. We are discussing the payment scheme” (q.v. Dec 2/13). It sounds like they’ll end up pretty close to KAI’s request payment schedule, but Velez still wouldn’t place any kind of timeline on negotiations. The issue is that any delays beyond this point are going to change the in-service date for the country’s air force, and the planned 2015 time frame is already a bit late, given Chinese pressure. Sources: The Philippine Star, “DND seeks release of funds to buy Korean fighter jets”.

Dec 20/13: Poland. Poland’s MON picks the M-346 as its next jet trainer. The package includes 8 planes + 4 options, along with simulators and other training systems, spares, and technical support.

Even though the M-346 was the only finalist without certified dual-role capability, Alenia (PZL 1.167 billion / $377.1 million) was the only contender to submit an offer within the MON’s PZL 1.2 billion budget. BAE’s Hawk T2 LIFT (PZL 1.754 billion/ $566 million) and KAI/Lockheed’s T-50 (PZL 1.802 billion/ $582 million) did not fit, and consideration of lifetime costs wasn’t enough to save them from disqualification. Read full coverage at: “Poland’s New Advanced Jet Trainer: M-346 Wins“.

Loss in Poland

Dec 12/13: FA-50. Iraq signs a $1.1 billion deal to buy 24 T-50IQ light fighters, which Korean news agencies cite as an FA-50 variant. The price works out to about $46 million per plane, but it necessarily includes added costs like initial training infrastructure. If the Iraqis have learned anything from their other programs, it will also include a solid initial supply of spare parts. KAI expects a 25-year, $1 billion T-50IQ support deal to follow shortly.

These “T-50IQs” will apparently serve double duty: as the IqAF’s advanced jet trainers once pilots graduate from T-6B turboprops, and as a backup fighter force. The deal is a big save for KAI, as Iraqi interest in the TA-50 armed trainer had apparently waned in favor of the Czech L-159T. Increased instability in the region may have helped revive their interest, as it will take more than the IqAF’s 36 ordered F-16IQs to provide even reasonable airspace control. A supersonic “F-16 lite” provides Iraq with better air defense, though it may come at the cost of some counterinsurgency strike performance relative to the L-159. KAI is quoted giving a delivery window of 2015 – 2016, while Reuters cites April 2016 – 2017.

Note that the Yonhap article has a key error. The plane exported to Indonesia, Peru & Turkey is KAI’s KO-1/KT-1 turboprop trainer and counterinsurgency aircraft, not the T-50 family. The T-50 family has been exported to Indonesia, and the Philippines is negotiating. KAI hopes that the breakthrough in Iraq may trigger interest elsewhere in the Middle East. Perhaps it will re-open the UAE’s 48-plane armed trainer pick, which has been stalled since 2009. Sources: KAI, “KAI has signed the contract with Iraq for exporting T-50 supersonic advanced jet trainer & light attack” | Korea Times, “Korea exports 24 attack jets to Iraq” | Reuters, “S.Korea’s KAI sells fighter jets worth $1.1 billion to Iraq” | Yonhap, “S. Korea to export 24 FA-50 light attackers to Iraq”.

Iraq: 24 FA-50s

Dec 2/13: Philippines. As China places growing pressure on the Philippines and Korea alike over territorial claims, TA-50/ FA-50 negotiations drag on and actual fielding of useful jets is farther and farther away. The issues seem to be substantive, however, rather than bureaucratic. South Korea wants a 52% down payment of PHP 9.8 billion ($224.25 million). The budgeted funds involved 15% down, which is apparently tied to government contracting laws rather than a different self-evaluation of customer risk. The 2nd issue reportedly concerns delivery times for spares under the support contract. South Korea wants a much longer delivery time.

Philippine Defense Undersecretary for Finance Fernando Manalo says that they’re preparing a “firm position” for submission to KAI, who have to decide whether they’ll accept it. If not, however, the Philippines’ alternatives are sparse. India’s Tejas isn’t ready, and the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17 is out of the question. They could take on the risk of old, high flight hours, early-block F-16s from the USA. Or, they could seek to buy refurbished Israeli Kfir C10s for less money, if Israel is willing cross China by selling them. Meanwhile, they’ll remain helpless against Chinese aerial provocations. Sources: Rapler, “‘Major issues’ with South Korea delay PH fighter jets”.

Nov 13/13: Taiwan? Submarines remain high on Taiwan’s agenda, but they aren’t the only items. The ROCAF plans to go outside the USA entirely for its new jet trainer, but replacements for the AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chung have been canceled before. The last AT-3 was delivered in 1990, but South Korea’s T-50 family is reportedly quite tempting.

Taiwan needs to grow its fighter fleet, and a TA-50 sale would also provide Taiwan with a local interceptor and light attack jet. China has been antagonizing South Korea lately, and a TA-50 sale would certainly provide a diplomatically painful riposte. Sources: Defense News, “Taiwan Still Hungry for More US Arms”.

Oct 28/13: KF-X shrunk? Aviation Week reports that KAI has responded to the KF-X’s program’s stall with a smaller, single-engine “KFX-E/ C501” design that uses the F-35-style C103 design as a base, and proposes to reuse some systems from the FA-50. South Korea’s subsequent decision to short-circuit a competition in favor of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A fighter means that the T-50 partner is also committed to helping with KF-X, and efforts to move the delivery date earlier will add impetus to plans that reuse existing technologies. Read “KF-X Fighter: Pushing Paper, or Peer Program?” for full coverage.

Oct 22/13: Poland. President Park Geun-hye and President Bronislaw Komorowski signed a cooperation pact in Seoul, spanning issues from defense to trade and energy. President Park pitched T-50 trainers as well as submarines. Her counterpart sounded somewhat noncommittal, as the AJT competition remains open at least until early 2014.

Oct 17-21/13: Philippines. For her first state visit at home since her election, President Park received Filipino President Benigno S. Aquino III to discuss several bilateral agreements, including defense cooperation. The phrasing of her official statement implies that a contract for FA-50 aircraft has not been signed yet, but a Memorandum of Understanding has. So much for a deal signed by July (q.v. Jan 30/13).

The MoU request is confirmed at 12 jets, backed by a budget set aside of close to PHP 19 billion (about $440.5 million). After the official visit, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported that China had pressured South Korea not to sell the planes. This was officially denied by the South Korean government, but confirmed by anonymous government officials. China and the Philippines have unresolved territorial disputes in the South China Sea, in that section the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea. Sources: ROK President | Chosun Ilbo.

Sept 10/13: Indonesia. The first 2 T-50i jets take off from Sacheon airfield in Korea, en route to Indonesia. Their trip will take it to Gaishung, Taiwan; Cebu, Philippines; and Spinggan, Indonesia; before arriving at its future home base of Ishuwahyudi, Indonesia. Source: ROK MND | KAI release, Sept 10/13.

June 28/13: T-50i cert. The T-50i receives its military type certificate through the South Korean Government’s airworthiness authority committee, which is chaired by the DAPA defense procurement agency’s bureau of analysis and evaluation, MACA (Military Airworthiness Certification Authority).

KAI adds that 6 pilots from the Indonesian Air Force have been training since February 2013 with the T-50 and TA-50, accompanied by Indonesian ground maintenance crews. T-50i deliveries are expected to begin in September 2013, with all 16 delivered within the first half of 2014. Source: KAI release, June 28/13.

T-50i military type cert

Aug 20/13: FA-50. KAI delivers the 1st FA-50 fighter to the ROKAF, with another 60 due for delivery by 2016 to replace about 120 Vietnam-era F-5E/F Tiger II fighters. KAI sees a bright future in Asia, where IHS projects that defense budgets will increase beyond by 35% from 2013 – 2021.

Park Jeong-soo and other KAI officials say they aim to sell about 1,000 T-50 family planes by 2040 or so, but even factoring in Asian growth, their success or failure in the USA’s 300 plane T-X requirement will play a huge role in whether or not they achieve it. Source: Reuters, “South Korea targets growing Asian defence market with fighter jets”

TA-50 delivered

June 19/13: Indonesia. KAI representatives at the 50th Paris Air Show tell Flight Global that Indonesia will receive its full complement of 16 T-50i jet trainers (q.v. May 25/11) between September 2013 – February 2014. They’re also pursuing a deal for 12 FA-50 light fighters, which would replace the TNI-AU’s F-5s. Flight Global.

May 7/13: FA-50s. KAI borrows the people who seem to write most of the technical manuals for consumer electronics, in order to describe the 1.1 trillion won (about $1.02 billion) ROKAF contract for full rate production of the FA-50. Based on our translation of their English translation, KAI seems to be saying that foll