18 Mar 21. Thailand, China progress plan to establish joint MRO facility. Thailand and China are progressing plans to establish a maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facility that would support the Royal Thai Armed Forces’ expanding inventories of Chinese-produced military equipment.
The Thai government said in a statement that the plan was the subject of talks in Bangkok on 16 March between Thailand’s permanent defence secretary General Nat Intaracharoen and China’s military attache to Thailand Major General Wu Xiaoyi.
It added that the proposed facility would be intended to provide “efficient and comprehensive maintenance support” for a range of military platforms in operation in Thailand. The government also said that the plan is consistent with its wider plan to promote foreign investment in its national defence industry.
Janes understands that the proposed facility would be focused on military vehicles and would look to support the Royal Thai Army’s (RTA’s) expanding fleets of Chinese platforms including VT4 main battle tanks (MBTs) and 8×8 VN-1 armoured vehicles, both produced by China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco).
Thailand also hopes that the facility, which is intended to provide MRO services, as well as undertake the production of components, could support other Chinese military vehicles in operation in Southeast Asia.
Janes also understands that the Thai military is considering setting up the facility in Thailand’s northeast province of Khon Kaen, close to the 3rd Cavalry Division where the VT4 MBTs are operated and stationed. (Source: Jane’s)
16 Mar 21. Lockheed Martin Greenville facility inducts first F-16 for sustainment work. Lockheed Martin facility in Greenville, South Carolina, US, has inducted the first F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet for depot sustainment work.
Lockheed Martin facility in Greenville, South Carolina, US, has inducted the first F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet for depot sustainment work.
The aircraft was delivered by the US Air Force (USAF) from Edwards Air Force Base in California, US.
Lockheed Martin Greenville site director Mike Fox said: “The arrival of this first jet marks the beginning of fighter Sustainment work at the site and positions Greenville as an F-16 centre of excellence, supporting both F-16 production and sustainment operations.”
In December, the USAF awarded a $900m indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract to the company for F-16 sustainment support and depot overflow services.
Lockheed Martin is the F-16’s original equipment manufacturer. This contract will allow the company to deliver customised sustainment solutions to the fleet.
According to the company, the Greenville depot is the first in the US to support government-owned depot facilities.
Under the ten-year IDIQ contract, the US-based F-16 industry depot will provide depot-level maintenance activities, predefined programmatic work, aircraft modification and unplanned drop-in maintenance.
Lockheed Martin F-16 Program vice-president Danya Trent said: “We are excited for this opportunity to expand our partnership with the US Air Force and ensure the continued readiness and capability of the F-16 fleet.
“Our team of F-16 experts in Greenville are ready and prepared to meet our customer’s most challenging problems, partnering between Production and Sustainment operations, giving full life cycle coverage for the F-16.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
15 Mar 21. 1st At-Sea Aircraft Carrier F135 Engine Power Module Proof-of-Concept Vertical Replenishment. The Navy took another critical step forward in the future of the F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter on March 6.
The Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) conducted a vertical replenishment at sea, simulating the ability to transfer an F135 jet engine from a supply ship on board the aircraft carrier using helicopters.
During the event, two helicopters transported a load simulator, measured to match the weight of an F135 engine power module, from the dry-cargo ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) to Vinson’s flight deck. This was significant because it provided proof-of-concept that the Navy’s deployed aircraft carriers will be able to receive critical parts to successfully maintain the F-35C at sea.
“What we’ve accomplished here ensures that our fleet will be capable of utilizing the latest in cutting-edge, warfighting technology in future joint strike fighter deployments. With every success, we improve our readiness and maintain our capability to defend our nation and allies against any adversary.”
In a vertical replenishment, aircraft use underbelly slings to transport loads from Military Sealift Command (MSC) replenishment ships to Navy vessels. In this evolution, a EurocopterAS332 Super Puma from Byrd and a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 tested their ability to vertically transport the simulated weight of the engine.
“Being able to deliver the F135 module is one more thing the T-AKE platform can handily accomplish to support the fleet,” said Capt. Lee Apsley, Byrd’s civil service master. “This operation is another MSC first on Byrd. As always it was a pleasure to work with Carl Vinson and the Marines.”
Capable of embarking both the F-35C and the CMV-22B Osprey, Vinson is the first aircraft carrier equipped to support fifth-generation aircraft. The vertical replenishment exercise follows more than six months of successful integrated operations between the carrier and air wing in support of the unique maintenance and tactical operations functions of the advanced aircraft.
“We have been planning, preparing, and training for this event for months,” said Cmdr. Melissia Williams, Vinson’s supply officer. “That careful planning paid off today and I’m proud of how our teams came together for a safe and successful evolution.”
In February, another replenishment exercise was conducted by Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30 and members of Carrier Air Wing Two using the new CMV-22B Osprey to deliver an F135 from a shore-based location to Vinson.
“Using the Osprey, and now a vertical replenishment from a supply ship, ensures we are prepared to quickly and easily deliver these parts to our ships in the fleet, giving us one more tool in our tool box in support of a high operations tempo,” said Cmdr. William Gray, Vinson’s maintenance officer. “Today’s success provides an additional option when replenishing parts to maintain the F-35C Lightning II while underway.”
The F135 is the basis for the single engine of the F-35C Lightning II, the only single-engine fixed-wing jet on board Vinson, and the latest aircraft in the Joint Strike Fighter group. (Source: ASD Network)
15 Mar 21. Sabrewing targets first deliveries of Rhaegal-B UAV to Saudi Arabian customer by end of year. Sabrewing Aircraft is planning to deliver its first four Rhaegal-B heavy-lift, long-range vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) under contract with Saudi Arabia’s Arabian Development and Marketing Co (ADMC) by December, despite not having started production.
Sabrewing announced in September 2020 that it had secured an exclusive representation agreement with the ADMC. The deal included an order for 102 Rhaegal-Bs and for establishing aircraft assembly, maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facilities throughout Saudi Arabia and Africa to service the Rhaegal-B fleet, according to a Sabrewing statement. Ed De Reyes, Sabrewing chairman and CEO, told Janes on 16 February that the aircraft portion of the deal is worth more than USD600m.
De Reyes told Janes on 10 March that Sabrewing has completed its memorandum of purchase for a production facility, and is negotiating the final points of a shareholder purchase agreement. This should be completed in roughly one week, he said.
Sabrewing has made a partial payment for the facility. De Reyes declined to disclose the size of the facility, where it is located, and which company, if any, had previously operated the facility.
The ADMC has existing production lines and Sabrewing was not required to deliver a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type-certificated aircraft, De Reyes said. The ADMC required that Sabrewing build the aircraft on an FAA-certificated production line to verify quality control. This is to enable a part’s lineage to be traced if it is manufactured incorrectly, he added. (Source: Jane’s)
15 Mar 21. Pandemic, grey zone and logistics: 2021 challenges and opportunities. As part of its IFS Cloud launch last week, enterprise software specialist IFS hosted a MindFuel for Aerospace and Defence session addressing how digital transformation can help the A&D sector address its current challenges, including recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. Trade association Team Defence Information managing director Phil Williams was one of the speakers. He set out his perspectives on the market during 2020, the current situation and his vision for market recovery.
Going into the pandemic there was a slight concern from a UK perspective about funding levels. We were trying to maintain 2% of GDP; there were thoughts about, even if we maintain 2%, what will the GDP actually be at the end of the pandemic?
In November, the UK Government announced the largest ever settlement for UK defence for at least 30 years, so there was much whooping and hollering. There was two weeks later some cold light of dawn; there are still big holes in the defence budget in the UK. I think there’s still much to do, and many cost savings, but in terms of that settlement and the fact we are now looking at a longer-term settlement rather than the annual budget fight for funds gave defence some confidence.
One of the key elements for why you spend on defence, of course, is that a government’s first role is to protect its state. There’s been a perception that we’ve spent the last 30 years focusing on non-peer adversaries in the Middle East, and we’re lifting our head up a little bit from that in the last couple of years, and we’re now looking at peer threat.
To be absolutely blunt, we’re looking at Russia and China. We’re looking at the way we’re being attacked by Russia in particular at the moment, we looked at the Solar Wind attack last year in the US. The initial analysis from Microsoft at the moment seemed to imply that there were at least 1,000 engineers working on that attack; that’s a significant amount of work by one state against another.
That bleeds into that it may not be a kinetic war anymore in the way we described it. Certainly, when I was doing my first Gulf War bits and pieces from military bases in the UK and in Europe, we had no real perception that we can be attacked at home. I think now the cyber world tells us that there is no safe location anywhere in the world.
So rather than looking at that final mile for our logistics, we maybe have to look at the final 1,000, 3,000 miles; it’s a very different world. A part of what defence is going to have to do in the next few years is look at our what the threat is to us; what this grey zone is between real hard war and cyberattacks, what are we doing about that and how can we adapt our posture to do that?
I think also the spend, certainly within the UK, is now focused on the logistics element rather than buying shiny new toys. It’s about how do we support the equipment we’ve got; how do we optimise the through-life support? How do we use intelligence to look at our through-life support costs, how do we reduce them? Because it’s finally dawning on people that 80% of your military weapons systems costs are over the 40-to-50-year life, not the upfront costs so we have to sort of gauge how that’s going to be done.
The whole way we operate was based around very lean supply chains, but what COVID taught us was that maybe stockpiling wasn’t a bad idea. I think the military are getting their heads around that as well now, saying maybe there are some strategic assets we need to stockpile. I think there’s a
whole piece of new ways of thinking, and the acceleration of change is what the military is going to have to get after.
If we look at our response to Covid, last year was very much along the lines of the military getting involved; it was a national effort. We did this shift from the military being purely focused outward to looking at how they could help with things like vaccines because logistics is what the military are good at; that’s what they’ve always done.
If you go back to the times of Alexander the Great, if he ever lost the battle, he executed 10% of his logistics corps, because he thought if we lost the battle, it was their fault, it wasn’t the people fighting. It was a logistics corps that got the punishment for losing battles and I think that way of thinking and that way of support is definitely the way that our military is thinking in the UK at the moment, and that, I hope, will bleed into our NATO partners as well. (Source: army-technology.com)
12 Mar 21. USAF receives second B-52 from boneyard. The United States has refurbished and returned to service a second Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber from the ‘boneyard’ at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona.
Aircraft 60-034 had been stored by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group since 2008. It was flown from Davis-Monthan AFB to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, in May 2019, ahead of refurbishment and delivery to its new home station at Minot AFB, North Dakota, on 9 March.
Nicknamed ‘Wise Guy’, this aircraft required 550 personnel across multiple maintenance disciplines to restore it, costing approximately USD30m.
‘Wise Guy’ is one of two B-52H bombers recently returned to service to bring the fleet back up to 77 following two mishap losses. The first aircraft, nicknamed ‘Ghost Rider’, was flown out of Davis-Monthan AFB to Barksdale AFB in 2015 and delivered to Minot AFB in September 2016.
At the height of its strength, the US Air Force (USAF) B-52 forces comprised some 744 aircraft, although this number has been cut in accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia.