The War Report, Vol. 1, Aug. 22, 2016
By James Drew, Aviation Week Defense Editor
Welcome to The War Report, your weekly roundup of what’s hot on the global military scene. In this Monday morning email, you can expect lists of issues I’m tracking, stories I’m pursuing, upcoming events and highlighted news stories. I’ll also throw in goodies, like a photo or slide presentation. I encourage y0u to stay engaged. I want to hear your thoughts, compliments, criticisms, corrections and news tips.
Heard it through the Wraith-vine:
- The Northrop Grumman/Scaled Composites’ proposed T-X trainer aircraft was outed on National Aviation Day (Aug. 19) by FAA test pilot and USAF reserve fighter operator David Kern (@David_Kern). Our legendary reporter Guy Norris caught the picture and published this report, noting that the aircraft looks like the lovechild of a T-38 Talon and F-20 Tigershark. We’ve now seen the Lockheed Martin/KAI T-50A, Raytheon/Leonardo T-100 and Northrop/BAE Systems/L-3 N400NT. If anyone has any pictures or information about the Boeing/Saab T-X proposal, send it our way! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- The scramjet-powered X-51 WaveRider hypersonic test vehicle achieved Mach 5 for 210 sec. in May 2013. Since then, its propulsion system design has been significantly improved in preparation for the follow-on High Speed Strike Weapon demonstrator program. If anyone has any tips-offs on Aerojet Rocketdyne and Orbital ATK’s scramjet advancements or the HSSW effort, I’d be very interested…
- Air Force Research Laboratory’s “Gray Wolf” cruise missile team is hosting a secret industry day at Eglin AFB from Aug 30-31. The mad munitions scientists at Eglin’s AFRL Munitions Directorate want to build a “prototype, subsonic, conventional cruise missile” – potentially as a lower-cost compliment or successor to the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 JASSM? I wonder if this platform supports a grander technological pursuit, like Arsenal Plane. It might also become a low-cost, limited-life recoverable UAV for carrying different electronic jamming, sensing, decoy and strike payloads? If anyone has any (unclassified) slide presentations or info, please send them anonymously to email@example.com
- If you’re at the Holiday Inn at Fairborn, Ohio, from Aug. 24-25, Dr. Dave Walker (SAF/AQR) will be briefing industry on the U.S. Air Force’s low-cost attritable aircraft technology demonstrator program, recently won by Kratos’ Composite Engineering (CEi) group (which is also participating in DARPA’s Gremlins). USAF supposedly picked an offer based on CEi’s Unmanned Tactical Aerial Platform (UTAP-22) in pursuit of a “high-speed, long-range, low-cost, limited life-strike UAS.” I’d be interested in hearing Dr. Walker’s presentation or seeing unclassified slides.
- Earlier this month I broke a story on Australia being among the first nations formally invited to attend briefings on the U.S. Army’s Future Vertical Lift next-generation rotorcraft program. Canberra is getting in early, with the Army proposing to launch its first FVL program of record and move into the analysis of alternatives phase for Capability Set 3 (or, maybe CS1) later this year. I wonder who else is involved at this stage? I think the European nations will be forced politically to support an innovative next-generation design by Airbus Helicopters or Leonardo AgustaWestland, leaving Canada, Israel, New Zealand (yes, the Kiwis) and potentially Brexit Britain as candidates for the Lockheed-Sikorsky and Bell Helicopter shoot-off (Or, potentially Karem Aircraft and AVX).
- Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva speaks on defense innovation at CSIS on Thursday Aug. 25 from 10-11am at CSIS.
- USAF Secretary Deborah Lee James is travelling throughout the Pacific Command region through Aug. 31, visiting India, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines, she says. I wonder if she’ll be discussing the now war-ready F-35?
- Northrop T-X Breaks Cover At Mojave, by Guy Norris
- F-35 Follow-On Plan Takes Shape, by Lara Seligman
- Close Air Support Debate Needs Strategic Context, by Richard Aboulafia
- Stealth Fighters Could Play Key Role In Future Penetrating ISR, by James Drew
- Navy Considers Stealthy Shape For Carrier-Based MQ-25, by Lara Seligman
Last Week, Today:
U.S. Intel Picking Up On Chinese Sixth-Gen Fighter Plans
HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA—China has already begun defining its sixth-generation combat jet as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force introduces its first fifth-generation type, the Chengdu J-20.
Helped along by aircraft technology stolen from the West, the J-20 and exportable Shenyang J-31 are the most sophisticated, low-observable aircraft ever pursued by Beijing, and are designed to counter the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35 – which is being purchased by neighbors Japan and South Korea.
Mark Clark, director of the Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MSIC), says the Chinese government has already begun planning its next aircraft, complete with “full-spectrum signature miniaturization, adaptive cycle engines, net-centric avionics” and rounded out with long-range hypersonic weapons.
Boeing Gets Down Payment For First Two U.K. P-8 Poseidons
WASHINGTON — Boeing has received the first down payment for two of an eventual nine P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft for the U.K.’s Royal Air Force, the company confirms.
On Aug. 19, it received $68 million via the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command to begin buying long-lead parts and equipment to support production of two aircraft, cutting into the established production line as part of Lot 8. The deal modifies a long-lead parts contract awarded to Boeing in August 2014 for advanced procurement of eight American and two Australian P-8s.
U.S. Combatant Commanders Consider SBX Radar Deployment
Aerospace Daily & Defense Report Aug 18, 2016
HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA—The U.S. military is considering operationally activating the nine-story Sea-Based X-band radar currently fielded as a research and development asset in Hawaii as North Korea steps up its ballistic missile testing efforts.
Having successfully launched its road-mobile Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile in June, conducted an underground nuclear test in January, and put a new satellite into orbit, Pyongyang’s recent missile test successes have been called “a game changer” by U.S. Missile Defense Agency chief Navy Vice Adm. James Syring.
The world’s largest X-band radar, SBX is mounted on a floating oil rig purchased from Norway and repurposed with a Raytheon radar for tracking intercontinental ballistic missiles. The seafaring device is capable of tracking a softball-sized object from 2,500 mi. away and was originally developed as a sensor for Boeing’s 36-38 silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile interceptors based at Fort Greely, Alaska, as part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system.
Australian Army Sends Envoy To U.S. Future Vertical Lift Talks
As some of America’s most sophisticated airborne weaponry—including the F-35A, EA-18G Growler, P-8A Poseidon, MQ-4C Triton and AIM-120D Amraam—head to Australia, Canberra is now saying g’day to the next generation of military rotorcraft being designed in the U.S. for Future Vertical Lift (FVL).
The Australian Defense Force (ADF) confirmed on Aug. 5 that the U.S. Army has formally invited it to participate in early discussions about FVL as the requirements are still being cemented. The soon-to-launch program seeks to usher in a new era of long-range, high-speed rotorcraft for the 21st century. It will produce a successor for all traditional helicopters in different size classes for all of the U.S. services, including long-serving Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, Boeing AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook aircraft.
Australia—the world’s sixth-largest importer of military equipment and a strategic U.S. ally in the Asia-Pacific region—rivals Israel in its pursuit of high-end American armaments. It is often quick to partner with emerging U.S. programs early in the requirements development stage like it did with the Joint Strike Fighter, Triton and Poseidon.
MDA’s Missile-Hunting UAV Buy Paced By Laser Development
HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA—The Missile Defense Agency probably won’t push for a fleet of ballistic missile hunting and tracking UAVs independent of a high-power laser weapon for boost-phase destruction if directed energy technology does not keep pace, the agency’s director Vice Adm. James Syring says.
MDA is advancing precision tracking of missiles using specially modified General Atomics Aeronautical SystemsMQ-9 Reapers with forward-looking Raytheon multispectral sensors.
Meanwhile, it is preparing to launch a Low-Power Laser Demonstrator program based on unmanned or UAV surrogate stratospheric aircraft, ahead of a full-scale acquisition for a tracking and shooting UAV in the 2020s.
Lockheed Considers Unmanned U-2 For MDA Laser Demo
HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA—An unmanned version of the U-2 Dragon Lady is among the list of platforms being considered by Lockheed Martin for the Missile Defense Agency’s stratospheric UAV-borne laser demonstrator program.
The Cold War spy plane’s structural integrity, modular payload bays, high power output and open mission system architecture has made it ideal for accommodating experimental payloads over the years. But Lockheed won’t confirm if it has actually chosen the GE F118-powered U-2S as its preferred airborne testbed.
Having long abandoned a Boeing 747-based chemical laser approach, the agency now wants to use remotely operated, high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft equipped with high-power electric lasers to shoot down ballistic missiles in their boost phase. To prove the concept, the government is planning a series of missile intercepts in 2020-21, using a lower-power laser at first. It will put up to two industry teams on contract this fall for preliminary design and fabrication of flying laser testbed aircraft beginning in 2018.
Canada Begins Withdrawing CH-124s As 9th CH-148 Arrives
The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has removed six 55-year-old Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King maritime patrol helicopters from flying service as it takes delivery of its ninth CH-148 Cyclone. Of those nine, three were delivered in the mission-ready Capability Release 1.1 standard.
As the long-troubled Cyclone program enters is 12th year this November, Canadian government officials say Sikorsky is now executing the program according to the contract, as amended in 2014, with initial operational capability in a limited combat role still expected next year.
Members of 12 Wing at Shearwater airbase near Halifax, Nova Scotia, have been putting the Cyclone through its paces in test and training since receiving their first six Block 1 aircraft in June 2015. “This Capability Release 1.1 helicopter has been deemed acceptable by the Air Force to be sufficiently capable and relevant to start the operational implementation process and replace the Sea King,” Baker says.
Kratos Claims Low-Cost UCAV Program
Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has bested six well-resourced rivals to win the U.S. Air Force’s highly sought-after Low-Cost Attritable Strike Unmanned Aerial System technology demonstration program.
What looks on the surface like a lopsided fiscal giveaway is actually a strategic victory for the San Diego-based company and its unmanned systems division, Composite Engineering, Inc. (CEI) of Sacramento, California. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has entered into a cost-sharing arrangement for research and development of the “high-speed, long-range, low-cost, limited life-strike unmanned aerial system” in which the U.S. government pays $7.3 million up front and Kratos commits as much as $33.5 million over the life of the program, which runs through April 2019.
But the base contract includes as many as five “technology spirals” valued at $20 million each, and the project’s ultimate goal is to demonstrate an affordable, semi-expendable strike aircraft that can be procured in volume at $3 million each for a batch of 1-99 or $2 million per unit for bulk orders of more than 100.
“We structured our bid to achieve this contract,” Kratos President and Chief Executive Officer Eric DeMarco told Aviation Week after receiving official confirmation of the contract July 8. “This is an incredibly important and strategic win for our company.”
Thank you for reading. Check back again next Monday morning.
If you have any news tips, let me know via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll endeavor to figure out what’s happening and publish a story.