Welcome to The War Report, your Monday morning roundup of articles and posts by Aviation Week & Space Technology Defense Editor James Drew. Send your questions, comments or news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, but for an immediate response, dial the Bat Phone: +1 202 704 8852. For personal correspondence, email Secret Squirrel via email@example.com. All exchanges are on deep background, unless otherwise expressed. Not yet a subscriber? Click here to peruse Aviation Week’s broad range of digital and print products.
From the Middle East, to India, Canada and Europe, Aviation Week’s editors take stock of recent deals and announced sales of fighter aircraft and size up how that will impact upcoming competitions.
On Nov. 8, the U.S. elected Donald Trump its next president, as well as a Republican House and Senate. Aviation Week editors explain how they think those dynamics will shape the nation’s policy and spending choices in the short term and the long run.
From detecting the placement of improvised explosive devices around battlefields to geological surveying, hyperspectral cameras have found their place in a growing number of military and commercial operations during the past decade, deploying on satellites, manned aircraft and even Predator drones. Now,Aerospace Systems (UTAS) wants to take this technology to the upper reaches of the atmosphere aboard the remotely piloted Global Hawk.
Work is underway on a hyperspectral version of the company’s premier MS-177 reconnaissance sensor that will detect hundreds of visible and nonvisible frequency bands per pixel across the electromagnetic spectrum, compared with the seven bands it captures today, allowing the detection of unique materiel signatures such as a specific type of explosive or chemical over a broad area. The company says it is completing a design study into a hyperspectral variant, designated MS-177B, and “just received” a request for proposals from the U.S. government to begin development.
An internally developed spinoff of the manufacturer’s Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance Targeting System (SYERS), MS-177 was first demonstrated on the aviationweek.comE-8C Joint Stars aircraft in 2010. Carried by the U-2S since 1990, SYERS-2 pivots from side to side, plus or minus 90-deg., whereas MS-177 also tilts forward and aft plus or minus 25 deg., capturing images of up to 960,000 nm³ during a 13-hr. mission. More at
The U.S. Air Force is “aggressively” pursuing a long-range, stealthy unmanned surveillance aircraft to go places its high-altitudeU-2S and Global Hawk cannot, according to the Pentagon’s director for defense intelligence warfighter support, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan.
Speaking after an event in Washington on Dec. 1, Shanahan—who led the aerospace service’s operational intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) arm until August 2015—confirmed what has long been suspected: the Air Force already has, is developing, or is planning to develop, a “penetrating ISR” aircraft, supporting a aviationweek.com-wide push for “high-end” warfighting capabilities to counter those of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. More at
On the heels of North Korean saber rattling concerning its growing missile capabilities, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has three major flight tests planned. In 2016 so far, Pyongyang conducted its fourth and fifth underground nuclear tests, demonstrated its new road-mobile “Musudan” rocket, launched the solid-fuel KN-11 missile from a submarine, and put another observation satellite into orbit—all while claiming to possess intercontinental-range systems capable of striking the U.S. homeland with strategic warheads.
In response, MDA is looking for some wins in three major upcoming flight tests: the first intercept test of the RaytheonStandard Missile-3 Block IIA, jointly developed with Japan; the first multiple firing of Standard Missile-6 “Dual I” against a medium-range ballistic missile; and the validation of upgrades to Boeing’s Ground-Based Interceptor and Raytheon’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle against an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Because of the significance and complexity of these weapons tests, a successful target intercept counts more than meeting proposed launch dates. Nevertheless, missed milestones cost money, and MDA has already slipped past its planned October intercept test of SM-3 Block IIA, designated SFTM-01, with no new test time frame set. “It will be conducted following completion of preflight testing to reduce the risk of anomalies during the flight test,” MDA says, adding “we’re taking all possible measures to ensure a successful flight test.” More at aviationweek.com
Canada’s 12-year search for a de Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalo replacement has finally ended, with the Canadian government announcing the AirbusC295W as the winner of its Fixed-Wing Search And Rescue (FWSAR) competition.
The $2.4 billion, 11-year contract with Airbus delivers 16 new C295Ws as well as simulator-equipped training center in Comox, British Columbia, and five years of in-service maintenance and support. Aircraft would begin arriving in 2019 with final delivery by 2022. The deal includes an option for 15 years of additional in-service support, which could raise the value of the contract to $4.7 billion.
The aircraft replace six 40-year-old Buffalos and 12 early-model Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules currently performing the mission from four main operating bases in Comox; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Trenton, Ontario; and Greenwood, Nova Scotia. More at aviationweek.com
Sikorsky has switched on its systems integration laboratory, or SIL, for the U.S. Air Force’s HH-60W in Stratford, Connecticut, to begin testing the new-generation combat rescue helicopter’s avionics, electronic flight controls, electrical power and integrated vehicle diagnostics systems as well as conduct flight simulations.
The achievement comes five months ahead of schedule, a spokeswoman for the Lockheed Martin-owned company says. Located at the company’s 2,500-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant in Stratford, the SIL will speed up development and testing of the Air Force’s unique Black Hawk configuration, which replaces the long-serving HH-60G Pave Hawk introduced during the Reagan administration in the 1982.
Work in the SIL also will reduce the amount of live flight testing required once the initial batch of aircraft are delivered from the as-yet undetermined final assembly location. The $8.5 billion program awarded to Sikorsky in June 2014 delivers 112 of the vertical-lift personnel recovery platforms between the start of low-rate production in 2019 and final delivery in 2029. More at aviationweek.com
The rotorcraft that Boeing and Sikorsky hope will eventually replace all of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps’ mid-size helicopters is about to begin its cross-country journey from Swift Engineering in San Clemente, California, to Boeing’s plant in Mesa Arizona and then on to Sikorsky’s flight test center at West Palm Beach, Florida.
The SB-1 Defiant trails its main rival, the Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor, in terms of air vehicle assembly, but Team Defiant is still hoping to achieve first flight by the end of 2017. Bell’s third-generation tiltrotor should comfortably beat the September 2017 goal for first flight under the Army-led Joint Multirole Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) effort, tracking toward installation of the two General Electric T64 engines by year’s end and ground vibration testing in February, at which point Valor will be 90% assembled. Defiant is Sikorsky and Boeing’s answer to Future Vertical Lift (FLV)-Medium, also known as Capability Set 3, a next-generation rotorcraft program that will develop common-configuration successors for the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, MH-60 Seahawk, Boeing AH-64 Apache and Bell UH-1 Yankee and Zulu.
In an interview, vice president of Sikorsky Innovations Chris Van Buiten and Patrick Donnelly, Boeing’s director for FLV-Medium, confirmed Swift’s handover of the SB-1’s main composite airframe, some 19 months after Swift announcing its place on the SB-1 team. Swift specializes in low-volume construction of complex, prototype airframes and also helped build Sikorsky’s two S-97 Raider demonstrators. More at aviationweek.com
The U.S. Army is looking for ways to re-engine its General Electric T700-powered Sikorsky UH-60M/Vs and BoeingAH-64E Apaches faster by accelerating the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP), if the technology proves itself and more funding becomes available.
ITEP promises to deliver a 3,000 shp-class T700-701 successor with 50% more power and 25% better fuel consumption within the same weight and volume constraints. The Army is courting alternative engine combinations put forward by General Electric (GE3000) and Honeywell/Pratt & Whitney joint venture Advanced Turbine Engine Co. (HPW3000). In August, the companies received contracts worth $256 million combined to carry their former science and technology demonstrator engines through a preliminary design review, which will inform a down-selection to one vendor in 2019.
Speaking at a Defense One forum on next-generation rotorcraft in Washington Dec. 6, Army ITEP/Future Vertical Lift chief Richard Kretzschmar said this phase could take 18-24 months, with development commencing in the 2019/2020 timeframe, followed by low-rate production around fiscal 2024. The engines should be supporting operations by fiscal 2026-27, but Kretzschmar says there are opportunities to bring that schedule forward. More at aviationweek.com
- Navy plans to begin flight testing its operational MQ-4C Triton configuration by March 2017
- VUP-19 will receive its first two operational aircraft by fall 2017 for 2018 deployment
- Triton’s full-rate production decision is pushed to fiscal 2021, tied to Multi-INT variant
- Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance aircraft to remain in Middle East region until Triton takes over
The U.S. Navy’s new “herald of the sea,” theMQ-4C Triton, is within one year of being handed over to operational users for deployment to Guam in the Western Pacific in 2018. The long-endurance unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft, named after the trumpet-blowing son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the seas, represents the Navy’s largest investment in unmanned technology until the planned MQ-25 Stingray, valued at $14.4 billion for 68 operational MQ-4Cs and four test articles.
The program was born of the aviationweek.com(BAMS) pathfinder effort, launched in 2008. One decade later, it will begin patrolling the crowded, tense waters of the Pacific, where China is increasingly flexing its military might in support of disputed territorial claims and North Korea’s new Sinpo-class ballistic missile submarines might soon roam. In August, the Pentagon approved the start of low-rate initial production of the Triton, with deliveries from Northrop Grumman’s plant in Palmdale, California. More at
The proliferation of longer-range Russian and Chinese-origin detection and targeting sensors, anti-aircraft weaponry and sophisticated “carrier-killer” missiles has the U.S. Navy reaching for ordnance with improved ship-killing capabilities and greater striking distances.
If Russia or China and the West ever trade blows, the maritime service knows that its free-roaming carrier battle groups will be targeted almost immediately by an assortment of subsonic and supersonic adversary missiles launched from the air, land, sea and undersea from up to 809 nm (1,500 km) away. To counter these threats to its $9 billion aircraft carriers and other warships, the Navy is investing in offensive armaments for its surface fleets as a deterrent and warfighting tool under a concept known as “distributed lethality,” announced in early 2015.
Naval Air Systems Command’s (Navair) Precision-Strike Weapons (PMA-201) office is answering this need by introducing the Navy’s most significant new anti-ship weapon since the Cold War: the aviationweek.comAGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM). More at
The U.S. Air Force has put Orbital ATK on contract to launch a lightweight National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload into space aboard the company’s Minotaur I launch vehicle. The $29.2 million award for NRO Launch-111 (NROL-111) is the first launch deal sourced under the 400-4,000 lb. (181-1,810 kg) “Lane 1” category of Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 (OSP-3), a government contracting vehicle setup in 2012 to provide experimental or test launches.
Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) announced the award on Dec. 8, but did not provide any description of the payload, its intended orbital regime, or who will supply it. It did not say where or when the launch will take place, other than “no later than 24 months from the date of contract award.”
The Minotaur I is comprised of decommissioned Minuteman solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile motors for the first two stages. Its two upper stages and payload fairing are based on the company’s air-launched Pegasus XL delta wing rocket. This launch vehicle configuration is capable of deploying a 1,278-lb. (580-kg) payload into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The type’s launch record totals 11 missions delivering 62 satellites “with a 100% success rate,” the company says. The first launch occurred in 2000. More at aviationweek.com
The U.S. Air Force has released a draft request for proposals (RFP) to replace the Vietnam War-era UH-1N Hueyhelicopter that guards its intercontinental ballistic missile fields and shuttles government officials around Washington, D.C., among other odd jobs.
The contracting notice seeks input from helicopter manufacturers on plans to buy up to 84 aircraft to replace about 60 UH-1Ns remaining in service, which no longer meet the Air Force’s requirements for “speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability.” Those potentially vying for the contract include Airbus Helicopters, Bell, Sikorsky, Leonardo Helicopters and possibly Boeing, if it decides to partner.
It must be déjà vu for these companies, since the Air Force has tried multiple times to replace the 46-year-old “Twin Huey” type, most recently through the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP) program, which was canceled in 2013. In fact, the performance requirements of this latest competition are almost identical to CVLSP, demanding a production-ready armored and armed helicopter that can carry nine combat-loaded troops over 225 nm at 135 kt. with at least 3 hr. of unrefueled endurance. More at aviationweek.com
United Launch Alliance will have some breathing room in its ongoing competition against SpaceX for national security space launches if Congress adopts the consolidated fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill.
If enacted, the bill released on Nov. 30 would add exemptions to earlier limits on the use of Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines, which power the first stage of ULA’s Atlas V launch vehicle. The bill allows up to 18 more engines to be used as part of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, giving the U.S. Air Force in partnership with firms such as Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne enough time to develop and certify alternatives without prematurely pulling the Atlas V from service.
Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Congress has been on a warpath against further imports of the RD-180 from manufacturer NPO Energomash. Spurred on by ULA’s No. 1 rival, SpaceX, Congress first prohibited and then limited the use of RD-180s, and has since been debating whether to grant permission for use of nine or 18 more engines to keep the Atlas V as a viable launch contender until an alternative engine is ready at the turn of the decade. More at aviationweek.com
The U.S. Defense Department is on the cusp of beginning an analysis of alternatives of future wideband satellite communications options as the eighth of 10 Boeing-built Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) space vehicles is prepped for launch this month.
Richard Pino, principal deputy within the Pentagon’s command, control, communications, cyber and business systems (C3CB) office, said Dec. 1 that a milestone decision by the department’s top acquisition executive is expected sometime within the next 60 days. If approved, the study will examine future military communications services, including new satellites to supplement or eventually replace the current WGC constellation sometime in the 2020s as well as long-term leasing options with commercial providers.
There have been discussions within the U.S. Air Force about potentially building three more satellites beyond the 10 WGC space vehicles for constellation replenishment and to increase bandwidth for military end-users. That move would likely reduce demand for service agreements with commercial satellite operators, who are seeking more business with the Pentagon to meet a rising demand for ubiquitous, global connectivity in peacetime and war. More at aviationweek.com
Congress has decided not to completely hamstring U.S. Air Force programs to replace the antiquated EC-130H Compass Call electronic attack turboprop and E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Jstars), a radar-carrying moving target indication platform based on secondhand Boeing 707 airliners.
For Compass Call, the Air Force wants to “re-host” the EC-130H fleet’s primary mission equipment on as many as 10 Gulfstream G550s, based on the highly customized conformal airborne early warning (CAEW) airframe used by Israel, Singapore, and Italy and ordered by the U.S. Navy. It would be designated EC-37B.
But alternative aircraft suppliers Bombardier and Boeing raised red flags about the sole source to Gulfstream, saying the requirement was not openly competed and could push the Air Force toward Northrop Grumman’s Gulfstream-based offering for the Jstars Recapitalization program to maintain common fleets. In its mark of the fiscal 2017 national defense authorization bill, the Senate demanded a “full and open” Compass Call competition, and Congress’s consolidated defense policy bill released Nov. 30 drops that requirement. Instead, the legislation limits the Air Force tomodifying two G550s modifications initially until the service secretary “determines there is a high likelihood the program will meet combatant commander requirements.” More at aviationweek.com
president and CEO Marillyn Hewson is not giving up on continued Viper production alongside major upgrades for Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, despite confirming that a production gap will emerge in the third quarter of 2017.
WithLightning II production in Fort Worth ramping up at a slower pace than originally thought due to programmatic delays and the fifth-generation stealth aircraft’s high cost, the adjacent F-16 line has remained a niche money maker for the company.
The latest F-16V model is being marketed around the world, particularly in the Middle East where nations are prohibited from acquiring the F-35 due to security concerns with Israel.
Pakistan was unable to secure foreign military financing from the U.S. government for its small order, and there has been no sign of aviationweek.comapproval for a pending deal with Bahrain due to human rights concerns. There could be longer-term prospects in the Asia-Pacific region and with India, although those aircraft would be built locally. More at
House and Senate negotiators have finalized a $618.7 billion defense policy bill for 2017 that increases funding for military readiness and higher troop levels at the expense of proposed plus-ups for fighter aircraft procurement.
The massive 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) supports ongoing operations over new hardware, reorganizes the top weapons buyer’s office, and retains theJoint Program Office (JPO), senior staffers on the congressional armed services committees said Nov. 29. A House floor vote on the bill is expected on Friday, with the Senate following early next week.
Although the U.S. services asked Congress in March for money to buy additional aircraft over the quantities detailed in the president’s 2017 budget request, lawmakers chose to exclude House provisions for 11 more Joint Strike Fighters (five F-35As, two F-35Bs and four F-35Cs) and 14 aviationweek.comSuper Hornets. The House proposed funding the additional hardware through a part of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account allotted for base-budget requirements to skirt statutory budget caps. More at
The Canadian government is beginning negotiations withfor 18 “interim” Super Hornets to bridge a widening airpower gap until a new fighter can be competitively selected to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) remaining 1980s-vintage CF-18s.
Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan disclosed plans to buy the stopgap Super Hornets during a press conference in Ottawa on Nov. 22, providing another shot in the arm for Boeing’s fighter business in St. Louis. The announcement comes less than a week after the U.S.approved the possible sale of 40 F/A-18E/Fs to Kuwait and 72 to Qatar in deals worth $31 billion combined.
Speculation has been rife that the Liberal government in Canada would purchase an interim fighter fleet, having rolled back the previous government’s plan to buy 65 aviationweek.com, based on Canada’s long-running involvement with the U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter consortium. Sajjan says the fighter procurement file has been “completely mismanaged” over the past decade, and now the country has too few CF-18 Hornets to meets shared security commitments under Norad and NATO. More at
As President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January and the relatively short reign of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at the Pentagon closes, what will become of the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), Director William Roper and his merry band of innovators? Carter set up the SCO during his tenure as deputy defense secretary in August 2012 , but the office was kept secret until his fiscal 2017 budget preview at the Economic Club of Washington in February.
Most of the SCO’s 15-plus projects remain classified. The organization typically seeks to fund five or six projects each budget cycle and has requested $900 million from Congress for this fiscal year. It has already nominated several projects for fiscal 2018. But their fate, and that of the SCO will depend on who Trump picks to lead the Pentagon.
Roper, who has led the SCO since its inception, hails from the missile defense community. He says the SCO’s charter is to create an “arsenal of surprises and sleights of war” by teaching new tricks to old and recently-fielded weapons. The organization does not run programs, but instead partners with the services, combatant commanders and intelligence community to conduct two-to-four-year prototyping efforts, where they test novel concepts and ways of using weapons. SCO teams are working with the Pacific, European, Strategic and Special Operations commands to ensure projects are operationally relevant and can rapidly transition into funded programs of record if successfully demonstrated. More at aviationweek.com
The aerospace industry’s premier lobbyist in Washington, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), will make ending so-called “deficit politics” and countering antitrade rhetoric key priorities in 2017, as a new and uncalculating Trump administration moves into the White House.
It has not been a smooth ride for the aerospace and defense industry up to now. The industry relies on the government for the majority of its income, and rises and falls based on year-to-year policy and direction from Washington.
It has been five years since the “arbitrary” spending limits of the Budget Control Act of 2011 passed into law, and far longer since Congress passed a full-year spending bill within the defined fiscal year. On top of that, both Democrats and Republicans bristled against free-trade deals during the 2016 election campaign, while President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Pacific Rim nations. More at aviationweek.com
At the turn of the decade,’s production line in St. Louis faced the very real prospect of closing, with no planned expansion of the U.S. fleet and final F-15SG and F-15K deliveries to Singapore and South Korea due by 2012.
With production down to one aircraft per month, just in the nick of time on Dec. 24, 2011, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia finalized a $29.4 billion transaction for 84 new F-15SAs and an upgrade of 70 existing F-15Ss. History appears to be repeating itself, just as Boeing again faces the end of Eagle assembly by 2019 and/F Super Hornet by 2018.
No deals are final, but on Nov. 17, the aviationweek.comthrew St. Louis a lifeline by approving sales of F-15QAs to Qatar and F/A-18E/Fs to Kuwait. Those deals, respectively worth $21 and $10 billion, are now subject to a 30-day notification period with Congress that analysts expect to pass without objection, after the Obama administration finalized a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package with Israel. More at
With multiple accounts of drones being used as flying improvised explosive devices as well as low-cost surveillance assets for terrorist organizations, the Pentagon is hosting a “Hard Kill Challenge” for industry and government entities to demonstrate novel approaches for swatting small UAVs.
The Joint Improvised-threat Defeat Agency (JIDO) will host the event at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, in February 2017, an agency announcement says. JIDO Deputy Director of Mission Support Lisa Swan tells Aviation Week that “a whole slew of different technologies” will be examined, from microwave energy weapons to lasers and radio frequency disruptors.
“We’ll invite a number of vendors to come in and demonstrate their technologies,” she said on the sidelines of the Defense One Summit in Washington on Nov. 17. Swan says her agency has already fielded some technologies in response to the proliferating drone threat, but the U.S. Army is responsible for procuring devices to meet the urgent wartime needs as well as longer-term solutions. More at aviationweek.com
Thank you for reading. Check back next Monday for another edition.