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30 Oct 19. Croatia cleared to buy Black Hawks. Croatia has been cleared to buy two Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters to add to the two already set to be donated by the US government.
The US State Department approval, announced on 30 October, covers a pair of the latest-variant UH-60Ms, along with other equipment, spares, weapons, training and support. The estimated value of the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) is USD115m.
“The sale of these UH-60 helicopters to Croatia will significantly increase its capability to provide troop lift, border security, counterterrorism, medical evacuation, search and rescue, re-supply/external lift, and combat support. These UH-60 helicopters will allow for interoperability with US and NATO forces in rapid response to a variety of missions and quick positioning of troops with minimal helicopter assets,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said.
If the proposed sale is approved by Congress, the new helicopters will join a pair of UH-60Ms that will be donated by the US government in 2020. At the time the donation was announced in October 2018, the Croatian Ministry of Defence said the helicopters would be used for airborne assault, air-medical evacuation, casualty evacuation, search and rescue, surveillance, command, troop and cargo transport and, if armed, for firing weapons such as rockets.
As noted by the DSCA, the two new helicopters will be used by Croatia “to modernise its armed forces and expand its existing army architecture in its efforts to provide multi-mission support in the region as well as combat terrorist threats.” (Source: IHS Jane’s)
28 Oct 19. Bulgaria plans T-72 upgrade. The Bulgarian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering investing in an upgrade of its T-72M1 main battle tanks (MBTs) in the near term while continuing rolling overhauls. Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov told regional TV channel Kis 13 on 23 October that there is a programme to overhaul all MBTs to restore their combat readiness. He said the second part of the programme foresees the go-ahead of a T-72 upgrade involving the fire-control system. The T-72M1 overhauls are being carried out at the Bulgarian TEREM-Khan Krum plant in Targovishte, a subsidiary of the MoD-controlled TEREM EAD holding company. The Bulgarian Land Forces received 10 T-72M1 MBTs in October after they were overhauled at the plant. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
30 Oct 19. Northrop’s $3bn B-2 Upgrades Lagging by Almost Three Years. The service now estimates it will take until at least until September 2024 before eight of the U.S.’s 20 stealth bombers are upgraded to have an initial combat capability, according to an Air Force statement. That’s 33 months later than the timetable established in 2016, when the project started, according to a program document submitted with this year’s budget request and the statement.
The cost of the upgrade program has increased about 11%, or $285m, since last year, to $3bn, according to the Air Force’s fiscal 2020 Selected Acquisition Report.
The latest delay is being driven by an 18-month slip, to late 2020, in certifying key software that was supposed to have occurred in June. The software must be certified before flight testing. Northrop Grumman Corp., the original B-2 contractor, is also the prime contractor on the next-generation B-21 bomber, so the company’s performance has drawn particular Pentagon scrutiny.
“An aggressive software development, coupled with software development manpower challenges, resulted in lower-than anticipated” progress, said Captain Cara Bousie, an Air Force spokeswoman. The service will declare the upgrade has achieved initial combat capability after the Global Strike Command, which operates the B-2, “has received the new system and has the ability to employ and maintain it,” she said.
First used in 1999 over Kosovo, the B-2 is the only combat aircraft that can carry America’s heaviest non-nuclear bomb, the 30,000-pound GBU-57 “bunker buster.” The upgrade program is supposed to be a key example of the “increased lethality” and prowess in penetrating enemy air space called for in the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy and by General David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff. But the delays challenge a mantra of the Trump-era Pentagon to develop and deploy systems “at the speed of relevance.”
Read More: Biggest Bunker-Buster Bomb Upgraded by U.S. for B-2 Bombers
Without the upgrade, the B-2’s current system for detecting, locating and identifying ground-based air defense radar and other sensors has shortcomings that limit “overall B-2 operational capability and survivability,” according to the Selected Acquisition Report.
In its report for this year’s defense budget, the House Armed Services Committee raised concerns about “significant schedule delays and many substantial challenges highlighted” in an April assessment prepared by the Pentagon’s Defense Digital Service unit. The committee said that unless the service makes “significant change,” delays may continue.
Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop, said the company has completed installation of the new system on the first test aircraft and ground testing is underway.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment” to “continue to aggressively complete software and air-worthiness certification efforts in order to fully deliver this next-generation level of capabilities,” Paynter said.
Still, the Air Force report — completed in mid-April but not previously disclosed — said that “despite increasing emphasis from Northrop Grumman leadership, the contractor is underperforming on its software development get-well plan.” That’s “due to inaccurate estimates” as to how long software development would take and manpower issues that “resulted in aggressive timelines.”
The service’s report did cite signs of progress: Northrop has created specialized teams combining software developers and systems engineers “to further mitigate risk.” And “results of integration test efforts have been overwhelmingly positive.”
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek declined to release the Defense Digital Service report, saying it was labeled “For Official Use Only.”
“Many of the areas of concern identified by the DDS — need for more technical expertise and the need for improved software development environment — reinforced existing concerns held by the program office,” she said in an email. The service “has taken numerous corrective actions before and since the DDS report was completed and have more” in the works. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Bloomberg)
29 Oct 19. Pentagon and Lockheed Martin Reach Agreement Reducing F-35A Cost by 12.8 Percent. The F-35A is now below $80m; lower cost than legacy aircraft. The F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) finalized a $34bn agreement for the production and delivery of 478 F-35s at the lowest aircraft price during the history of the Program. This contract includes all U.S., International Partners and Foreign Military Sales aircraft in Lots 12, 13 and 14.
In the agreement, the F-35 Enterprise meets and exceeds its long-stated cost reduction targets for each variant – and the F-35A unit price, including aircraft and engine, is now below $80m in both Lot 13 and Lot 14, the F-35A unit cost represents an estimated overall 12.8 percent reduction from Lot 11 costs for the conventional landing variant, and an average of 12.7 percent savings across all three variants from Lot 11 to 14.
“Driving down cost is critical to the success of this program. I am excited that the F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin have agreed on this landmark three-lot deal. This agreement achieves an average 12.7 percent cost reduction across all three variants and gets us below $80m for a USAF F-35A by Lot 13 – one lot earlier than planned,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “This $34bn agreement is a truly historic milestone for the F-35 Enterprise.”
The agreement includes 291 aircraft for the U.S. Services, 127 for F-35 International Partners, and 60 for F-35 Foreign Military Sales customers. Price details include:
“With smart acquisition strategies, strong government-industry partnership and a relentless focus on quality and cost reduction, the F-35 Enterprise has successfully reduced procurement costs of the 5th Generation F-35 to equal or less than 4th Generation legacy aircraft,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin, F-35 Program vice president and general manager. “With the F-35A unit cost now below $80m in Lot 13, we were able to exceed our long-standing cost reduction commitment one year earlier than planned.”
The sub $80m unit recurring flyaway cost for an F-35 represents an integrated acquisition price for the 5th Generation Weapon System. With embedded sensors and targeting pods, this F-35 unit price includes items that add additional procurement and sustainment costs to legacy 4th Generation aircraft.
With more than 450 aircraft operating from 19 bases around the globe, the F-35 is playing a critical role in today’s global security environment. More than 910 pilots and 8,350 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 220,000 cumulative flight hours. Eight nations have F-35s operating from a base on their home soil and seven Services have declared Initial Operating Capability.
In addition to strengthening global security and partnerships, the F-35 provides economic stability to the U.S. and International Partners by creating jobs, commerce and security, and contributing to the global trade balance. The F-35 is built by thousands of men and women in America and around the world. With more than 1,400 suppliers in 46 states and Puerto Rico, the F-35 Program supports more than 220,000 direct and indirect jobs in the U.S. alone. The Program also includes more than 100 international suppliers, creating or sustaining thousands of jobs.
25 Oct 19. USAF Requests Proposals for Light Attack Aircraft. The Air Force released final requests for proposal Oct. 24 for a limited number of Textron Aviation AT-6 and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense & Security A-29 aircraft. The Air Force plans to purchase two to three light attack aircraft from each manufacturer to help support the National Defense Strategy’s focus on building allies and partner capacity, capability and interoperability via training and experimentation.
“Over the last two years, I watched as the Air Force experimented with light attack aircraft to discover alternate, cost-effective options to deliver airpower and build partner capacity around the globe,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett. “I look forward to this next phase.”
The Air Force worked closely with industry to finalize the requests for proposal details. The AT-6 Wolverine will be used by Air Combat Command at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners.
The A-29 Super Tucano will be used at Hurlburt Field, Florida, by Air Force Special Operations Command to develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance.
Since August 2017, Air Force and Navy pilots have flown both aircraft extensively to assess their capabilities. The experiment looked at a variety of operations where light attack aircraft could be employed with partner nations, while yielding data about new exportable, tactical network communication capabilities.
“Our focus is on how a light attack aircraft can help our allies and partners as they confront violent extremism and conduct operations within their borders,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Continuing this experiment, using the authorities Congress has provided, gives us the opportunity to put a small number of aircraft through the paces and work with partner nations on ways in which smaller, affordable aircraft like these can support their air forces.”
Goldfein also said the experiment will continue to examine a common architecture and intelligence-sharing network that can connect platforms, sensors and weapons and provide a digital network for light attack aircraft.
“If I hear one thing from my international air chiefs, it’s ‘we need to figure out how to share information both ways,’” he said.
Contract award is expected by the end of the year for the A-29 and in early 2020 for the AT-6. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Secretary of the Air Force)
24 Oct 19. Army Pushes 600 Programs From Acquisition To Sustainment. The multi-million-dollar move will help Army Futures Command focus on new technology while Army Materiel Command focuses on sustaining the current force, Gen. Gus Perna told us. Army Futures Command has closed the books on more than 600 items of equipment that it will no longer seek to upgrade, handing responsibility for them to Army Materiel Command, service leaders said.
While many of the 600 items “transitioned to sustainment” are components, not weapons by themselves, a list the Army showed to Breaking Defense includes some big pieces of high-profile hardware. Some examples:
- the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer (but Futures Command retains control of the newest version now in production, the M109A7 PIM);
- the UH-60A and UH-60L models of the Black Hawk helicopter (but not the newest models, the 60Ms and Vs, nor the intended replacement, the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft);
- the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a truck-mounted missile launcher (although Futures Command will keep developing new longer-range missiles);
- the A0, A1, and A2 models of the iconic Humvee (formally the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle);
- the early Block 1 model of the Javelin anti-tank missile;
- the Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal (SMART-T); and
- the ubiquitous M4 carbine (which Futures Command wants to replace with a Next Generation Squad Weapon).
Another review now underway is looking at even more programs to get rid of altogether – “transition to divestiture” – because they are either obsolete, unneeded for future conflict, or just not worth the cost of keeping around.
The reforms are the most recent aftershock of an institutional earthquake, the creation of Futures Command in August. The Army is undergoing its most radical reorganization in 40 years as it tries to urgently modernize to meet rising threats from Russia and China.
The American Soldier is evolving from low-tech grunt to high-tech warrior. For decades, the infantry have gotten the least investment in new equipment. Now that’s changing.
“The Process Was Worthless”
Such a wholesale handover of programs is unprecedented, Gen. Gus Perna, the head of Army Materiel Command, told me in an interview. It replaces an earlier piecemeal approach that he said just didn’t work.
“The process was worthless,” Perna told me bluntly. “It was worthless.”
For years, there was an awkward tug of war between Army bureaucracies over who managed a weapon system. In theory, the Army’s acquisition program managers developed and fielded new and upgraded equipment, while Army Materiel Command sustained existing equipment. In practice, that line was extremely difficult to draw. That problem grew bigger and bigger throughout the post-Cold War era, when the Army botched so many new programs so Reagan-era weapons had to be upgraded for decades. That meant acquisition officials kept control instead of handing them over.
“The decision nine out of 10 times was, ‘it’s not ready for transition,’” said Bruce Jette, the Army’s civilian acquisition chief, in a panel at AUSA. He and Perna worked together to develop a clear checklist to determine when a program was ready to hand over. The criteria in brief, are that “there’s no modification work orders to be done on it, there’s no Engineering Change Proposals on the table,” Jette said. “Basically, the item is done. It works. It’s in the field. We’ve got to maintain it, we may rebuild it, but we’re not doing any significant changes.”
The Army reviewed over 1,200 items. The final 600-plus to transition were decided on by Jette, Perna, and, as the final authority, Gen. John “Mike” Murray, chief of Army Futures Command.
“It’s clear, the secretary designated Gen. Murray [as] responsible for the modernization of our equipment,” Perna said. “Gen. Murray calls the ball.”
This overhaul took concerted effort by Perna, Murray, and Jette. But, Perna told me, it’s just the latest example among many of how the three men and their organizations are working together to reallocate responsibilities and streamline the bureaucracy.
Army Futures Command was created last August by pulling together existing organizations from different parts of the Army that already worked on modernization, but in an ill-coordinated way. Training & Doctrine Command gave up its in-house futurists, while Army Materiel Command gave up its R&D arm, Research & Development Command. But, Perna argued, that change allowed AMC to focus on its core mission of sustaining the current force with spare parts and other supplies while the new Futures Command focuses on, well, the force of the future.
RDECOM had lots of engineers who work on current Army programs, not just scientists developing future tech, Perna told me. “I probably could have presented a very good argument that said….’they do work that I need in my role as the fleet manager of sustainment,’” he said. “[But] my personal opinion as a senior army leader was that it was more important for army Futures Command to be the command responsible for everything modernization and in that light, it was my recommendation to give REDCOM to Futures Command.”
A subsequent reorganization actually boosted AMC. It took over the formerly independent Installation Management Command (IMCOM), which runs Army bases worldwide. That fits with AMC’s new laser focus on sustaining every aspect of the current force, Perna said. Indeed, IMCOM had already redefined its mission in terms of supporting military readiness. What’s more, the Army’s evolving concept for future conflict speaks of bases, not as safe havens for troops and families, but as the “strategic support area,” a critical component of the service’s capacity to project power overseas, a component already under target for cyber attack and, potentially, for physical attack as well.
The new Army Secretary, Ryan McCarthy, and the new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, “both of them have told me to be responsible for the logistics, sustainment, and material readiness of the Army at the strategic level and to assume responsibility for the strategic support area underneath multi-domain operations,” Perna told me “That’s the reason why Installation Management Command has moved underneath us. They were a direct reporting unit to the Chief of Staff of the Army; now they report to me.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
REST OF THE WORLD
30 Oct 19. Taiwan approves F-16V procurement funding. Taiwan has approved the procurement of 66 Lockheed Martin F-16V Fighting Falcon combat aircraft to add to those already received under an ongoing upgrade plan.
The President of the Republic of China, Tsai Ing-wen, tweeted on 30 October that the country’s Legislative Yuan, one of the five branches of government, approved funding for the buy “in a multi-partisan effort that reflects our collective will to defend our liberty and sovereignty”.
The announcement by the president comes about two months after the US State Department cleared Taiwan to buy 66 of the latest F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft. The F-16C/D Block 70/72 is more commonly designated F-16V.
As noted by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) that announced the approval, the proposed deal would be valued at approximately USD8bn, including related equipment, weapons, training and support.
The procurement of a further 66 F-16Vs would boost the Republic of China Air Force’s (RoCAF’s) ongoing Phoenix Rising programme, which involves the upgrade of 142 older F-16A/B aircraft to the F-16V standard. The first upgraded aircraft was received back by the RoCAF in October 2018, and the programme is slated to be complete in 2022.
As the most advanced iteration of the F-16 to date, the F-16V features the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar (derived from the F-16E/F Block 60 AN/APG-80, and also known as the Scalable Agile Beam Radar [SABR]), a new Raytheon mission computer, the Link 16 datalink, modern cockpit displays, an enhanced electronic warfare system, and a ground-collision avoidance system. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
29 Oct 19. Babcock confirms LAND 2097 Phase 4 bid. Babcock Australasia has officially thrown its hat in the ring for the LAND 2097 Phase 4 Project, supporting the Australian Defence Force’s Special Operations Helicopter capability. Under LAND 2097 Phase 4, the ADF is acquiring 16 helicopters for Holsworthy, including the proposed provision, training and ongoing sustainment services of the fleet.
“Babcock is the largest commercial procurer of helicopters in the world and we are the largest commercial operator of helicopters in Australia,” said David Ruff, CEO Babcock Australasia.
“We understand what it takes to deliver mission-critical services to high-tempo operational customers who demand consistency, high-performance and exceptional safety.
“Our established nation-wide presence, backed-up by an extensive global supply network, integrated into an experienced defence industry capability both in Australia and overseas, means that Babcock already has the ethos, the infrastructure and the people in place to provide a unique offering to Defence as an independent capability partner.”
Babcock is the largest commercial operator of helicopters in Australia, owning and operating aircraft from the three largest original equipment manufacturers in the delivery of its mission critical service offerings, across numerous civil and defence programs.
“Our independence is the cornerstone of trust and is fundamental to our value proposition. We focus on our customers’ needs with the flexibility to design, integrate and deliver tailored services,” said Babcock’s Graeme Nayler, director of corporate development.
“Babcock will be putting forward an innovative solution that supports the ADF during both the acquisition and sustainment phases.
“Babcock offers global experience in tactical police surveillance and border protection campaigns. With no biases on particular platforms, we are an independent support partner with access to highly trained professionals, infrastructure and the capability to supply and sustain complex projects such as this.” (Source: Defence Connect)
25 Oct 19. Australian Viper team kicks off industry roadshow for LAND 4503. The joint Bell and BAE Systems Australia team offering the AH-1Z Viper to replace Australia’s ARH Tiger as part of LAND 4503 program has launched a series of industry engagement roadshows.
The Australian Army is planning to replace the current fleet of EC665 Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters (ARH) from the mid-2020s as identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper: “The government will replace the 22 Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters with a new armed reconnaissance capability from the mid-2020s.”
The acquisition strategy aims to reduce operational and in-service risk, and to allow the Australian Army to rapidly achieve operational milestones for the replacement armed reconnaissance capability, while achieving value for money.
LAND 4503’s program of delivery aims to support the Australian Army and is designed to contribute to the creation of the modernisation and development of a “networked and hardened” Army, the acquisition is broken down into three delivery stages beginning with projected IOC in 2026 and FOC in 2028, including:
- Up to 24 aircraft would be based at one primary location and another five are intended at a training location. The aircraft fleet may also be co-located in one primary location; however, this is yet to be determined.
- IOC for LAND 4503 is based on a squadron of up to 12 aircraft. This organisation would be capable of generating a deployable troop of four aircraft, continued force generation of four aircraft, and an initial build-up training element of four aircraft. IOC will be supported by trained personnel and support systems.
- FOC for LAND 4503 is based on a regiment of up to 24 aircraft. This organisation would be capable of generating multiple concurrent deployed forces of up to squadron size. FOC will also be supported by a mature training system of up to five aircraft, with trained personnel and support systems.
Bell, a subsidiary of Textron, is presenting the AH-1Z Viper, currently in service with the US Marine Corps, which has been designed and built to support the expeditionary and maritime-centric focus of operations conducted by the US Marines.
BAE Systems is an established national industry participant and Bell’s dedicated partner for the AH-1Z Viper solution and sustainment proposal in Australia.
While Bell offers the AH-1Z under a Foreign Military Sales framework, BAE Systems would draw upon 65 years of experience and reputational rapport with Australian industry to introduce the aircraft into service by delivering Through Life, In-Service and Training support services.
The Bell AH-1Z Viper is the only truly marinised ARH currently in service in the world. Mature, proven and off-the-shelf ready, the Bell Viper delivers the broadest mission sets across the harshest environments.
Javier Ball, global military sales and strategy manager for Bell Helicopter, explained, “The Viper is a clear choice as the world’s only truly marinised attack helicopter in the world, with benefits that include an unequalled capability to support Army and wider ADF expeditionary and amphibious operations.”
Marinisation also includes all new advanced composite rotor blades and yoke style main rotor hubs that significantly outperform legacy “strap-pack” type systems, which are prone to corrosion and failure.
It also includes semi-automatic blade folding for quick stowage either on board ship or for rapid C-17 deployment, rotor brakes, ease of maintenance, electromagnetic environmental effects (E3) hardening, which provides safety against the ship’s powerful radars and other sensors from interfering with aircraft on board weapons and systems.
Bell’s AH-1Z Viper brings together unrivalled speed, range and capacity to deliver all-encompassing combat helicopter reconnaissance, security and attack effects anywhere and anytime.
“The combat-proven Bell AH-1Z Viper is the only marinised attack helicopter in the world that is specifically designed and built for expeditionary and maritime operations. Marinisation is more than just corrosion protection against saltwater. Unlike unproven and costly add-ons, Bell’s marinisation begins at aircraft design and is built into the aircraft at point of manufacture to ensure conformity to shipboard operations,” explained Javier “Nerf” Ball, international campaign manager, Asia, global military sales and strategy.
The Viper prioritises safety with semi-autonomous blade folds and comprehensive maritime safety features.
“Its performance in all climatic conditions whether over land or sea is unmatched. Viper can combat the broadest array of threats at an unmatched range and it has unequalled speed and payload,” Ball added.
Low sustainment and life cycle costs, combined with superior interoperability with Army, Navy, Air Force and US Marine Corps platforms, make the Viper the ideal replacement of the Australian Army’s ARH fleet.
Bell and BAE Systems represent an integrated consortium that can deliver a trusted in-service support solution. Other AH-1Z Viper benefits include its comprehensive interoperability with the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the US Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force – the only rotary wing combat aircraft in the world with this capability.
Rowan Tink, senior business development manager for land systems at BAE Systems Australia, explained, “Service personnel would be trained to fly and maintain the AH-1Z Viper in support of operations. To help ensure capability outcomes, we envisage that BAE Systems Australia will support embedded service personnel within our maintenance, repair and overhaul team.
Viper’s design philosophy focuses on maximising capability, providing high availability, consolidating support requirements and lowering total cost of ownership.
“Underpinning this effort will be Australian industry organisations capable of delivering services and a range of Through Life support activities,” Tink added.
The government has brought the LAND 4503 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Replacement program forward and aims to acquire a proven and mature, off-the-shelf manned armed helicopter to deliver armed reconnaissance effects in the close and deep contested battlespace in support of the Australian Defence Force. Register your interest for the industry roadshow hosted by Bell and BAE Systems Australia here https://gateway.icn.org.au/project/4463/land4503-arh-replacement-bid-bae-systems-australia (Source: US DoD)
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