25 Jan 22. USMC new CH-53K finally makes it to the fleet. The USMC Air Station New River, North Carolina, based Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 became the Corps’ first CH-53K King Stallion squadron on Monday as the Corps moves forward with its new heavy lift helicopter.
The CH-53K King Stallion, with a maximum external lift of 36,000 pounds and the ability to transport 27,000 pounds 110 nautical miles is a major improvement over the CH-53E Super Stallion the Corps currently employs.
Both helicopters are manufactured by Sikorsky. The extra lift will play a critical role in the Corps’ plan for a future fight that sees Marines widely dispersed across the littorals of the Pacific Ocean.
“Today our Marine Corps got a little stronger,” Maj. Gen. Michael Cederholm, the commanding officer of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in a press release.
The CH-53K also comes with 63% fewer parts than its predecessor, ideally making it easier to maintain in austere conditions.
Bill Falk, Sikorsky’s director of the CH-53K program, said the helicopter hitting fleet marked another step in the company’s history of working with the Marine Corps.
“While sad to see the beginning of the phase out of the venerable Super Stallion, Sikorsky is thrilled the Marine Corps is introducing the CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter into the fleet and is moving one step closer to initial operational capability (IOC) and first deployment,” Falk told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
Though the helicopter making it to the fleet is a positive step, the helicopter’s journey was a bumpy one.
The Corps originally ordered the aircraft in 2008 and expected it to hit the fleet in 2019.
But in 2018, after testing one of the first CH-53Ks, the Corps found more than 100 technical problems that caused a multiyear delay in the program.
By September 2020 the helicopter was back on track, with Sikorsky saying it had solved 118 of the aircraft’s 126 technical problems.
But with the delay and fixes the cost of the aircraft ballooned.
The current recurring flyaway cost for the CH-53K is just under $91.6m per aircraft, Maj. Jay Hernandez, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Marine Corps Times. (Source: Defense News)
24 Jan 22. For Navy’s new frigate, design changes carry risks and rewards. Analysts say straying too far from a parent design can cause problems, but so can being too faithful to it. Nearly every time a flag officer or senior civilian in the US Navy has been called to testify before lawmakers about the Constellation-class (FFG-62) frigate recently, there is one talking point that always comes up.
The use of a “parent design” — modeling the new ship’s hull form off a pre-existing, already proven vessel — will reduce the risk the Navy assumes when it begins construction, they say.
That idea has been at the core of the service’s response to lawmakers who raise concerns about the new vessel repeating the trials and tribulations of the Littoral Combat Ship, a program beaten to a pulp by Congress and analysts alike for the delays and cost overruns it suffered.
But the service’s reliance on this talking point elides a reality of every shipbuilding program: No matter how good a parent design may be, changes are always necessary to build the ship the service wants. That fact raises questions about how much the Navy, or a private shipbuilder, can tweak and tinker with a new vessel before the benefits of modeling off a proven warship begin to erode.
Experts told Breaking Defense that not all changes are as inherently risky as they might seem, and the Navy appears to have heeded lessons from previous controversies.
But for the new frigate, they said the Navy must balance the changes it needs to build a capable warship with ones that could imperil the production schedule — and untold taxpayer dollars — if problems arise.
“In terms of changes from a parent design… as you start to drive further away from a parent design, there is the risk of cost increase, especially if you have immature equipment that requires testing or fails testing,” said Steven Willis, a Navy strategy and policy expert at CNA, a federally funded research and development center that provides advice to the Pentagon.
Think Of It As ‘DNA’
The Constellation-class frigate will be built by Wisc.-based shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine. That firm used the FREMM, a class of multi-purpose European frigates designed and built by FMM’s Italian parent company, as the parent design in its April 2020 proposal to the Navy. To date, the shipbuilder has been selected to build the first 10 vessels in the class, a deal worth roughly $5.5 bn.
Some of the changes FMM made between the FREMM and its version of the Constellation are highlighted in a September 2021 report by the Congressional Research Service. They include lengthening the hull by 23.6 feet, increasing the ship’s displacement by 500 tons and various topside modification for weapon systems, among other things. When asked this month at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium about how those changes could impact the program’s risk calculus, Capt. Kevin Smith, the Constellation-class program manager, said the parent design is a starting point, but nothing more.
“I think it was clear to everyone in Navy leadership as well as congressional leadership that the parent is there as just that… think of it as a DNA,” he said. “But you do have to take US Navy standards and apply those, and also the requirements.”
In other words, if the Navy wanted to buy a FREMM, it could have, but that’s not the objective. Currently the Constellation class is in its detailed design phase, in which the Navy and Fincantieri are working to finalize enough of the ship’s layout before starting construction.
This part of the program’s life is important because the Navy never waits until a ship’s design is complete to begin building — a potentially time-saving strategy, but one with real consequences to the program’s schedule if the trigger is pulled too early.
“The only thing that we’ve [the Navy] done actually — it’s a change to the requirements — is buy American, because that was a statute from Congress,” Smith said, referring to legislation mandating certain parts and percentages of US warships be manufactured domestically.
Through a spokesman, Fincantieri Marinette Marine leadership declined to be interviewed for this article.
Changes Are Good… If You Choose Wisely
Where does that leave the Navy? The service must decide what changes make sense to accommodate its needs and what may be a step too far, experts told Breaking Defense.
The Gerald Ford-class aircraft carrier is one example of the danger. Lawmakers in recent years have hammered the Navy over setbacks on a variety of new technologies being brought onboard that vessel, such as the Advanced Weapons Elevators.
But CNA’s Willis said one major difference between the FREMM and the Constellation, the elongated hull form, is not surprising because of differences in how Europeans and the United States go about building warships.
“You don’t incur a lot of costs in making the ship bigger. That shouldn’t slow you down. That shouldn’t cause testing to fail,” he said. “You’re going to have to buy more steel and there will be some changes. The benefit that they seem to be going for… is they’re looking for some additional margins throughout the life of the ship.”
Matthew Collette, who teaches naval architecture and marine engineering at the University of Michigan, said fully adopting a parent design without modification is “exceptionally rare” especially for the US Navy, which has developed standards for internal layouts and adheres to congressional policy dictating supply chain options.
“Changing the overall dimensions of the ship is probably lowering the overall risk to the program, not raising it,” Collette told Breaking Defense. “Given that we are changing the internals of the design, adhering strictly to the old hull form would actually increase the overall risk to the program, as you end up adding complexity by trying to shoehorn in components in a less-than-ideal layout.”
He cited the Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships as examples where Navy programs have historically suffered because the service attempted to maintain the ships’ external design while altering its internal layout.
Collette said there are three principles a shipbuilding program should follow to reduce the risk of modifying a parent design. The first is choosing proven systems when swapping out components. In the Constellation’s case, the Navy has done just that by choosing systems such as Aegis, the Mk 41 Vertical Launching System and the SLQ-32 jammer from the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program.
The second principle is to thoroughly test new components ashore, a requirement Congress codified in law after finding out the Navy failed to do this on other systems that proved troublesome for the Ford.
The last principle is having a completed definition of the parent design, such as a 3D model, a parameter for which Collette and other analysts have no way of assessing from outside the Navy’s program office.
“Even with some changes, the program is still benefiting from access to the original design models, and the knowledge gained in building and operating vessels that are highly similar, but no longer exactly the same, to the US Navy variant,” Collette said.
Constellation (FFG-62) is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in 2026. With its arrival the US Navy will mark an official comeback for the frigate to its surface force, a type of warship the Pentagon has not commissioned since before the turn of the millennia — assuming, of course, it can be delivered on time, something that may well be determined by how the Navy pulls off its hull changes. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
REST OF THE WORLD
27 Jan 22. Indonesia, TKMS discuss HDW Class 209, 214 submarines for navy’s requirements. Officials from the Indonesian Navy and the Ministry of Defence have held another meeting with German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).
This time, it was to discuss the HDW Class 209/1400mod submarine for Jakarta’s underwater warfare requirements. The meeting was held virtually on 12 January, a source close to the discussions has informed Janes.
The matters that were discussed include the HDW Class 209/1400mod’s mission profiles and if it can undertake missions required of the Indonesian Navy including conventional submarine warfare, and other operations such as intelligence gathering and special forces insertion.
The HDW Class 209/1400mod is the most recent version of TKMS’ 209 family of diesel-electrically powered submarines. The vessel has an overall length of 62 m, a pressure hull diameter of 6.2 m, and it displaces about 1,450 tonnes when surfaced. The vessel is equipped with eight weapon tubes and can accommodate a crew of 30.
Also rediscussed during the meeting was TKMS’ Class 214 family, which can be equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems. (Source: Janes)
26 Jan 22. Egypt requests C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, air defence radars from US. The United States has approved the possible sale of a dozen Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules aircraft worth $2.2bn to Egypt, along with air defence radars worth $355m.
The US State Department said it had approved the possible foreign military sales on 25 January, with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notifying Congress that same day.
In addition to the 12 stretched C-130J-30 aircraft, Egypt also requested 12 spare Rolls Royce AE-2100D turboprop engines; 30 Embedded GPS/INS (EGI) with GPS Security Devices; and seven Multifunctional Information Distribution System – Low Volume Terminal Block Upgrade Two (MIDS-LVT BU2) Link 16 datalink terminals.
Also included are AN/APX-119 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Transponders; AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning Systems (MWS); AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing System (CMDS); AN/ALR-56M Radar Warning Receivers (RWRs); AN/AAQ-22 (STAR SAFIRE 380) electro-optical/infrared imaging systems; secure communications, cryptographic equipment, and GPS-aided precision navigation equipment.
“The proposed sale will improve Egypt’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing airlift support for its forces by moving supplies, equipment, and people, thus strengthening its capacity in the security and humanitarian arena,” the DSCA said. “This airlift capability would assist with border security, the interdiction of known terrorist elements, rapid reaction to internal security threats, and humanitarian aid. Egypt also intends to utilize these aircraft for maritime patrol missions and search and rescue missions in the region.”
Lockheed Martin recently displayed a model of the C-130J in Egyptian markings at the EDEX show in Cairo and has been pursuing the Egyptian market for several years.
The Egyptian Air Force is a legacy C-130 operator, and has 22 C-130H and three C-130H-30 Hercules in its fleet. In 2017, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) was contracted to supply an electronic intelligence (ELINT) capability for some of thse aircraft.
Over the last decade, Egypt has been gradually enhancing its airlift fleet, for instance receiving two second hand Ilyushin Il-76MF transport aircraft from Jordan in mid-2019. Some years ago, there was speculation that Egypt was interested in acquiring Airbus A400Ms, but nothing seems to have come of this.
Other transports in Egyptian Air Force service include several An-74TK-200As, two dozen C-295Ms, several DHC-5D Buffalos and a number of Boeing 707 tanker/transports.
The proposed C-130J-30 sale to Egypt comes days after Algeria received its first Super Hercules from the United States, after ordering four (with four options) in 2018. The aircraft touched down on 23 January. The only other Super Hercules operator in Africa is Tunisia, with two aircraft received in 2013 and 2014. Twenty other nations around the world operate the type, while Germany, Indonesia, and New Zealand will also receive Super Hercules in the near future.
Also on 25 January, the US State Department approved the possible foreign military sale of three SPS-48 Land Based Radars (LBRs) manufactured by L3 Harris Surveillance Systems. The proposed sale is worth $355 m and covers spares, installation, training etc.
“The proposed sale will improve Egypt’s capability to meet current and future threats by improving the detection of various air threats. Egypt will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces since Egypt already operates previously procured SPS-48 Land Based Radars,” the DSCA said.
According to its manufacturer, the SPS-48 air surveillance radar detects and tracks airborne targets, queues weapons systems, and provides hazardous weather detection and display. Transmitter power, beam spacing in both elevation and azimuth, pulse rates, and instrumented range are all configurable so that system capability can be modified to meet changing mission requirements, L3 said. The radar has a range of about 450 km.
The proposed sales of aircraft and radars came hours after congressional Democrats urged President Joe Biden’s administration not to release $130 m in foreign military financing that was frozen in September 2021 over concerns about Egypt’s human rights record. According to the Washington Post, the US had asked Egypt to release a number of detained people, and halt an investigation of human rights defenders and civil society groups. Egypt has since released several high-profile political prisoners, but Democratic members of Congress believe more still needs to be done as tens of thousands of political prisoners remain in Egyptian prisons.
Egypt will be getting $1.3bn in military aid from the United States this year.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi denies there are political prisoners in Egypt and says stability and security are paramount and authorities are promoting rights by trying to provide basic needs such as jobs and housing.
Ties between the United States and Egypt improved after Egypt’s mediation to help end hostilities in April 2021 between Israel and Hamas militants.
24 Jan 22. Slow progress: The Royal Malaysian Navy’s modernisation challenges. In a ceremony held on 18 December at the facilities of China’s Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group in Qidong, Nantong City, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) took delivery of Rencong, the fourth and final Keris-class Littoral Mission Ship (LMS) ordered from China under a contract awarded in 2017 and renegotiated in 2019.
The 68.8 m-long vessel (with pennant number 114) arrived 10 days later at the Sepanggar Naval Base, its home port at Kota Kinabalu in Sabah in the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo. Here, the vessel joined the RMN’s three other LMSs: first-of-class KD Keris, which was commissioned in January 2021, KD Sundang, which entered service in March 2021, and KD Badik, which was inducted in October 2021. (Source: Janes)
24 Jan 22. Royal Thai Air Force eyes a new fleet of 8-12 fighter jets. In the recent news release, the Air Force has announced that it is seeking to purchase a new fleet of 8-12 fighter jets to replace the ageing F-5 and F-16 aircraft which have been in service for more than three decades. One of the options is the procurement of the US-made F-35 stealth jets, the world’s most advanced warplane, to strengthen national defense. Under the plan, the new fighter jets would be deployed from the Nakhon Ratchasima-based Wing 1.
ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya, Thai Air Force Commander-in-Chief said in an interview that new technologies are ‘vital’ to modern warfare and the country needs to enhance its airpower, a vital part of that modern warfare. The Air Force is also interested in modern air operations, including an unmanned aerial vehicle. The budget planning for the new fleet of fighter jet acquisition project will be initiated in the 2023 fiscal year, which started in October 2022.