Raytheon to Work on Solar Powered Generators for Navy

One of the issues that Afghanistan has raised for the U.S. and its Coalition partners is the high cost of fuel and also the difficulties in transporting it. Due to the terrain and mine/IED threat much of the supplies and people needed are moved by air. This greatly increases the cost of a gallon of fuel at its final destination point. Demand for this commodity is not only driven by the need to power vehicles but also to generate the large amounts of electricity needed for modern combat systems.

To counter this the U.S. Department of Defense has been investing in different types of renewable energy to see if it may be used to supplement their standard diesel powered generators. This has included fuel cells, solar power and other ideas to reduce reliance on those units. Generators also provide large noise and heat signatures which could aid in enemy targeting of facilities and bases.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) continuing this trend recently awarded Raytheon (RTN) a contract to work on hybrid solar/diesel generators to support deployed U.S. Marine Corps troops.

The goal of the two year demonstration contract is to work on prototypes with the potential of a further contract to build a working full scale system.

While some have criticized the Pentagon for the amount it is spending on green fuels and renewable energy for uses such as this it makes sense as it will lessen the logistic burden as well as reducing threats through lower signatures.

Photo from USAG-Humphrey’s Flickr Photostream.

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Option Executed for More C-130 Aircraft

October 24, 2012 by · Comment
Filed under: Editorial 

The U.S. Department of Defense executed a contract option with Lockheed Martin (LMT) for another batch of C-130J aircraft. The C-130J is the latest version of the venerable Hercules in use for fifty years with the U.S. military and many allied nations. The latest option is for the FY13 budget year.

The nearly $900 million contract will buy 13 new C-130 aircraft. This includes most versions of the transport including MC-130, HC-130, KC-130 and the normal C-130 transport version.

The U.S. air transport fleet has flown millions of hours and carried thousands of tons and passengers in support of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The C-130 are normally used for shorter missions often in theater to move cargo and people around.

The largest U.S. defense contractor also recently signed a deal with Iraq for 18 more F-16 fighters worth close to $3 billion. This is part of a deal to provide 36 of the light aircraft to modernize the new Iraq air force.

Photo from ngotoh’s Flickr photostream.

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More TOW Missiles from Raytheon (RTN)

As the new Fiscal Year starts and despite the threat of sequestration and the associated reduction in spending the Pentagon continues to award contracts for equipment and services. One of the most recent is to Raytheon (RTN) for production of TOW anti-tank missiles.

The contract is worth almost $350 million and will provide for 5 years of production and will deliver almost 7,000 of the missiles. These are new versions of the systems which will rely on wireless guidance. In the past the TOW had been controlled through a thin wire connecting the missile to the launcher.

The TOW is fired from helicopters, a variety of vehicles as well as ground mounts and is used by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. The larger Hellfire made by Lockheed Martin (LMT) is laser guided and is primarily used from helicopters such as the AH-64D Apache.

These types of missile have seen heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan primarily for destroying point targets such as buildings and unarmored vehicles rather then their original planned use as heavy anti-tank weapons.

Until the final resolution of sequestration or the FY13 budget these types of contracts will continue to be awarded.

Photo from U.S. Army flickr photostream.

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C-130J Production Continues

Even though as part of the FY13 budget the Defense Department is proposing to restructure the existing C-130 fleet and cancelling the Aviation Modernization Program (AMP) production of the C-130J continues. With this the Air Force place a contract with Lockheed Martin (LMT) for 7 more of the capable transport for use by itself and the Marine Corps.

The $70 million option will procure 4 MC-130J tankers, 2 AC-130J gunships and a HC-130J for the Coast Guard. This is under the current production contract.

The next five year budget, though, due to the desire to cut several hundred billion in spending over the next five years is not so kind to the program. It sees a forty-one percent cut to the planned spending for production while also ending the AMP.

The AMP had been developed by Boeing (BA) but the plan was to have another contest to award the production and retrofit contract. Boeing under the development contract would have done some of the upgrades but the bulk would have been done by the winner of the new effort.

The budget also ends the C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program which was buying twin engined transports from L-3 Communications (LLL) for use by the USAF Guard. This capability will be replaced by C-130 performing that mission. With the ending of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan the planned use of the C-27J would have been much less then intended.

There is no guarantee that any of these budget proposals are final until Congress votes on the 2013 defense budget this year. They are the final say on what is cut and what is kept but generally they follow the Pentagon’s proposals.

Photo from kingair42’s flickr photostream.

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U.S. Navy Orders 2 of Last 3 JHSV from Austal

Yesterday the U.S. Navy announced that it had executed a contract option for 2 more Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) from Australian ferry builder Austal. This brings the total number of these ships ordered to 9.

Austal is close to finishing the first and has two more in production. The contract yesterday will allow the builder to begin buying long lead items and components for the two ships.

The JHSV is a fast transport based on Austal’s ferry designs that was originally planned to be used by the Navy and Army for rapid transport of troops and supplies to needed areas. It was decided that the Navy would manage the whole program and the ships were transferred to them.

Originally it was thought that up to 23 of the ships would be procured but in their FY13 budget proposal the Obama Administration reduced the planned number to 10. This means that 9 of them are now on order with the chance that only one more will be purchased.

Austal is building the ships in their Mobile, AL yard where they also make the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). They have a contract for up to 10 of these. Interest

Photo from HerrKrueger’s flickr photostream.

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Boeing Awarded Large Maintenance Contract for ROK F-15

One of the reasons that the Indian, Brazil and U.A.E. new fighter contracts are being so hard fought among the various U.S. and European defense contractors is not only the size of the initial procurement but also because they offer long term requirements and revenue.

India has so far chosen the Rafale fighter from Dassault although there are reports that Eurofighter with the encouragement of the U.K. government is trying to offer a better price in the hope of winning that contract. Brazil is considering the Rafale and Boeing’s (BA) F/A-18 and the U.A.E. seemed committed to the French aircraft but at the Dubai airshow earlier this year seemed to have second thoughts.

South Korea chose to buy some F-15 fighters from Boeing (BA) last decade. This was a significant procurement for the company as the U.S. had stopped buying the aircraft concentrating on the F-22 and JSF. Now they have signed a contract for long term logistics support for the advanced fighters and strike aircraft. This is worth about $300 million and last five years.

Korea can be expected to use the aircraft for a few decades and Boeing along with its Korean partners should consistently receive contracts to support the systems. Often as the U.S. has demonstrated the long term support, modernization and modification of aircraft can easily cost more then the initial purchase price. Often this goes to the OEM so they have several years of revenue after production is complete. With overseas contracts the chances are even higher that this kind of work will be needed.

Modern combat aircraft are now having service lives measured in decades. The B-52 for example is approaching its 60th year of service. The U.S. F-15 over 30 and so on. Boeing can expect South Korea to pay a great deal of money for their support as time passes.

Photo from Bundeswehr-Fotos Wir.Dienen.Deutschland.’s flickr photostream.

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Israel Chooses Italian Jet for New Trainer

Update – The Israeli Government stated that one of the main reasons they chose the M346 over South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle was that it provided better compatibility with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that Israel is buying. The T-50 was supposedly not in line with “international standards”. This gives hope to Alenia Aermacchi that other countries buying the F-35 might consider the M346.

The hard fought battle between Italy and South Korea over the new Israeli trainer came to a close yesterday with Israel choosing the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 advanced jet training aircraft. The contract could have a value of a $1 billion in the end. South Korea had offered their T-50 Golden Eagle indigenous developed jet.

Both countries had been going back and forth with Israel trying to develop offset deals that would be the most attractive to the Middle Eastern state. In the end Italy’s was more valuable to Israel although now they face South Korean anger and the potential for some lost businesses.

It has been reported that beyond the offset issue the Israeli evaluators had favored the Finmeccania product over the Korean aircraft.

Offsets have always been a struggle with defense contracting with some countries demanding a great deal like Canada and this Israeli deal while others have had to cut back as India has done to attract more bids from large Western countries. In the case of Israel and Italy, and even South Korea, there should be no shortages of systems that the countries would like to buy.

Israel makes radars, tankers, UAV’s, missile systems as well as ground combat vehicles and other weapons that all could be considered by Italy. South Korea was hoping to buy tankers and other aircraft from Israel but now these deals may not happen or even be considered.

Photo from Ronnie McDonald’s flickr photostream

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FY13 Defense Budget Hits Aircraft Procurement

The Obama Administration submitted its FY13 budget to the Congress today and as expected the defense budget took some hits. Trying to keep spending flat compared to the 2012 budget the Administration has proposed some cuts to investment, personnel programs and benefits. Chief among these were cuts to the most expensive program in the budget: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) as well as some other aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) programs.

Even though the F-35 saw production reduced from only 31 to 29 this saved an estimated $1.6 billion. Over the next five year budget plan 179 less F-35 would be purchased then planned. Lockheed Martin (LMT) is the prime contractor on the advanced aircraft.

The V-22 which has gone into use with the U.S.M.C. and Air Force as a transport and search-and-resuce aircraft saw its planned production cut to 21 from 27. This should save about $500 million. The V-22 made by Boeing (BA) and Bell Helicopter, part of Textron (TXT), was on the downslope of the current multi-year production contract with the second in negotiation. This possibly could see reduced quantities.

All of this adds up to reduced revenues for Lockheed, Boeing and Textron although Congress does not need to accept the proposed cuts. It is expected though that a great deal of them will make it through the budget cycle as the need to reduce the deficit and government spending as a whole will require some reductions in defense spending.

Photo from Secretary of Defense’s flickr photostream.

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Navy Awards Northrop First Shipboard Network Contract

.The U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman (NOC) a contract to install their proposed solution to the Consolidated Afloat Networks Enterprise Services (CANES) requirement on a unit. Lockheed Martin (LMT) had submitted a proposal as well to meet this requirement. The goal of cANES is to be a standardized network on U.S. Navy ships and submarines replacing the current mix of systems.

The initial contract is worth about $36 million but will all options executed it could be worth over $600. The Navy is planning on outfitting 54 ships to begin but the CANES could support over 300 systems in the end.

The goal is to have the first installation complete by the end of FY12. This will follow completion of necessary testing and certification to support a Milestone C Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Decision. The first contract will cover 2 destroyers and an amphibious warfare ship.

The Navy plans ot have limited production in 2012-2013 with a larger contract competed again at the end of FY13 to support Full Rate Production. Then there will be a further contract for engineering support.

Northrop will use as a sub-contractor their former ship building division now separated as a new company, Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) to do the actual installation and integration on ships.

The CANES contract has been in work for several months with development contracts awarded to Northrop and Lockheed in March of 2010. These led to delivering systems of which Northrop’s was chosen for the first production deliveries.

Photo from Official U.S. Navy Imagery’s flickr photostream

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FY12 Defense Contracts Flow and Lockheed Martin Benefits

The Pentagon may be planning to reduce or hold spending flat in the upcoming years but with the final passage of the 2012 defense budget major contracts are now flowing to different contractors as Project and Program Offices place production orders. Lockheed Martin (LMT) benefited from this yesterday as they received the latest production contract for the PATRIOT PAC-3 missile.

The PATRIOT air and missile defense system is made up of two major parts: the radar and the interceptor. Currently Raytheon (RTN) is the prime contractor for the radar and command and control systems while Lockheed manufactures the current standard missile, the PAC-3. The PAC-3 version of the system in use since the late Eighties incorporates modifications to maximize missile defense capabilities while the missile is smaller, relies on hit-to-kill technology and is a significant upgrade to the earlier PAC-2 missile as it allows more rounds to be used by each launch unit.

The FY12 order is for both U.S. Army use as well as a follow on delivery for Taiwan. It has a value of just over $900 million and represents a rather significant contract. The work includes not only the missiles but also kits, spares, support equipment and engineering services.

The PATRIOT represents the shorter ranged part of the Army’s missile defense capability with the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system made by Lockheed providing longer range and larger area defense.

The PATRIOT has seen significant foreign military sales to countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Taiwan. It is especially valuable to those countries facing a ballistic missile threat like Israel, Taiwan and the Gulf States.

The PAC-3 missile has been in production for several years from Lockheed’s facility in Camden, AR.

Photo from Tumbleweed:-)’s flickr photostream.

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General Dynamics to Support Future Submarine Design

Due to the amount of new warships being built every year the number of suppliers is fairly limited. The U.S. Navy relies on two companies to build large warships, General Dynamics’ (GD) Bath Iron Works, and Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), which formerly was part of Northop Grumman (NOC). GD is the only builder of submarines at their Electric Boat Division. The requirements are not enough to support any more companies.

The smaller ships like the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) are being built by smaller contractors as they need less intensive facilities but for any ships bigger the Navy must rely on these defense contractors.

This is not only for future production but also for the design and development of new ships and submarines. That is why GD’s Electric Boat Division received a contract to continue work on developing the new “Common Missile Compartment” for potentially both the U.S. and the United Kingdom’s future ballistic missile submarines. The contract is worth about $190 million but has the potential to be over $700 million if all options are exercised.

Even though the U.S. defense budget is supposed to decline in the next few years the services must maintain some investment in future systems. That means that work like this must be done even if the new submarine is not ordered anytime soon. The U.S. needs to built a certain number of new ships and submarines each year to maintain their fleet and keep it reasonably modern.

While ships may be upgraded and have service lives of 25 or more years new technological developments mean that there has to be some new construction. GD and HII will be relying on this to keep their facilities and workforce employed.

Photo from Official Navy Imagery’s Flickr photostream.

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Raytheon Supports U.S. Navy Ship Production with SSDS

The U.S. Navy is still building new ships and retrofitting older ones. The future may not be so bright as budget pressures and cuts reduce the number of ships built and in service but currently contracts signed several years ago are being executed. The Navy has under construction aircraft carriers, DDG-1000 and DDG-51 destroyers, the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and the San Antonio class amphibious warfare ships as well as numerous support ships and smaller vessels.

These all need weapons, sensors and command and control systems. Raytheon (RTN) manufactures radars, missiles and the Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS) combat management system.

Photo from AdsitAdventures’ Flickr Photostream.

The SSDS MK 2 is currently in production and is being installed on aircraft carriers and the San Antonio class. Raytheon delivered the last one from the FY2010 contract for support of LPD-26, the USS John P. Murtha, this week. 5 systems were part of that contract and 30 in total have been delivered to the U.S. Navy.

Not only does Raytheon build the hardware for the system but they continue to provide engineering services and develop the SSDS to integrate new sensors and weapons as well as upgrade previous installations.

The U.S. Navy intends to build several more carriers and LPD class ships which will require SSDS or the next evolution of the system. There will also be demands to retrofit the system to older ships which will aid Raytheon if and when the naval construction budget is cut.

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ULA To Provide Launch Capability for Military

The U.S. Air Force recently awarded a contract to United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide vehicles to launch military payloads into space. ULA is a joint venture between Boeing (BA) and Lockheed Martin (LMT) and manufactures these vehicles primarily at their Decatur, AL facility.

ULA was an outgrowth of a program from the early part of this century called Assured Access to Space. The plan was to have the ability to launch when necessary and would rely on Boeing and Lockheed to provide their two main launch vehicles – the Atlas and Delta rockets. Originally the two companies would have competing contracts to control costs. After reviewing the requirements and to assure both systems were available it was decided to combine their efforts into ULA.

A contract to support various satellite launches was awarded this week with a value of over $1.5 billion. This is for 5 Atlas V and 4 Delta IV systems. The launches will all occur by 2014. The payloads include reconnaissance systems, GPS satellites and two weather ones.

ULA has been the primary provider of launch vehicles for military, science and foriegn payloads for several years. With the demise of the space shuttle which also had the ability to deliver satellites to some orbits unless the Air Force or NASA choose one of the newly emerging commercial space contractors, like Space X, ULA will continue to win most of the work.

Photo from Ryan Somma’s Flickr photostream.

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Gulf States Continue to Invest in U.S. Hardware

Over the past two weeks some major deals were announced between Gulf States and the U.S. defense industry. These contracts continue the Saudi and Emirates investment in their military to provide greater defensive capability most likely due to the continuing threats emanating from Iran.

The U.A.E. followed through on earlier discussions with a contract to purchase two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense systems. The THAAD is a ground based system developed by the U.S. Army that provides longer range engagements and protects larger areas then the earlier PATRIOT PAC-3 system. THAAD relies on a missile from Lockheed Martin (LMT) and a large radar from Raytheon (RTN). The overall contract including support and services is almost worth $2 billion.

Image from Bundeswher-Fotos Wir.Dienen.Deutschland.’s Flickr photostream.

The THAAD deal had been supposedly agreed two last year but in the summer the U.A.E. was seen as perhaps not going through with it but now obviously they decided they needed to.

The other contract is an even larger one with Saudi Arabia for F-15 fighter aircraft, engines and the necessary support. The Kingdom already operates the F-15 and this contract will add 84 more aircraft as well as modernize the existing ones. The value is in the range of close to $30 billion. Boeing (BA) is the primary manufacturer of the F-15 which in the U.S. will slowly be replaced with F-22 and F-35 aircraft.

Saudi Arabia is also reportedly not complete with their planned purchases for their armed forces. This will be a good thing for the U.S. and European defense industry who are facing reduced opportunities at home. These kind of contracts will help make up cuts in domestic defense spending.

The U.A.E. is also trying to decide on a major fighter buy themselves. Originally it was though they would go with the French Rafael aircraft but at the Dubai airshow last month it became clear that they may not choose that aircraft. This could open up the contract to competition to a wide variety of companies.

It can be expected that further contracts of this type and size will be announced for the next several months as Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Qatar, Kuwait and other Gulf States continue to invest in military equipment to upgrade and improve their capabilities.

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Lockheed’s F-35 Customers Grow As Japan Selects It For New Fighter

The Japanese government announced overnight that they have chosen the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter manufactured by Lockheed Martin (LMT) to be their new fighter aircraft. The advanced aircraft will replace some of the F-15J fighters that have been in service since the Eighties. The F-35 was in competition with Boeing’s (BA) F/A-18 and Eurofighter’s Typhoon aircraft.

Japan joins the list of foreign partners in the the program which is the largest acquisition program in history. Along with the United States the F-35 will also be used by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and Norway. It is designed to replace the majority of the F-16, F/A-18 and AV-8 aircraft used by these countries as well as the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Ultimately the F-35 will be built in the thousands and serve until the middle of this century.

As with many of the purchasing countries Japanese industry will be able to help build parts and components of the F-35 and assist in the assembly if a deal can be worked out. This approach worked out well for the F-16 and the F-35 is trying to mirror that. Some of the buyers also invested their own R&D funds up front for the aircraft.

The F-35 program has seen struggles with its costs and schedule since its inception. Currently the U.S. has ordered five production lots of the aircraft but a recent assessment found more issues that will have to be worked out through development indicating that there remains a great deal of concurrent risk with the program.

Photo from ngotoh’s flickr photostream.

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U.S. Navy Continues Orders for P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft

The U.S. Navy has been working with Boeing (BA) on building a new maritime patrol aircraft to replace the Lockheed P-3 Orion which came into service almost fifty years ago. They settled on a design based on the 737 airliner which the Navy already operates as a transport and command and control aircraft. The new P-8A Poseidon is undergoing testing and evaluation at the Paxtuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.

Following up on previous orders for 8 aircraft to support testing the Navy recently awarded the first Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) batch to Boeing. This contract is worth about $1.7 billion and is for eight aircraft. The contract includes training, spares and support equipment as well as the eight aircraft.

The Navy has already ordered Long Lead Material for the third LRIP production order in September. Ultimately up to 100 of the aircraft could be built for the Navy.

The P-8 has also been sold to India in the P-8I configuration. The Southeast Asian country had originally ordered 8 of the aircraft but this spring increased that to 12. Along with Boeing’s C-17 sale it is one of the largest deals a U.S. company has made with India.

The P-8 will be equipped with new systems such as radars, other sensors and command and control systems that offer an upgrade over the P-3. The P-8 also offers range, reliability and payload improvements over the propeller driven P-3.

Photo from Iragerich’s Flickr photostream.

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Germany Receives First Euro Hawk UAV

Northrop Grumman (NOC) has been building the Global Hawk large, long range Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for the U.S. Air Force for over a decade. The systems have seen a great deal of use since 9/11. Versions are also being developed for the U.S. Navy and Germany.

Unlike the Predator or other smaller UAV used by the Army, Air Force and other U.S. agencies the Global Hawk is designed to conduct high altitude, long range missions gathering different types of intelligence rather then flying low level surveillance and strike missions. The Global Hawk demonstrated its capabilities early in the program by flying from the U.S. non-stop to Australia.

Germany this week took delivery of their first system which is equipped with an intelligence collection package made by Cassadian, part of EADS (EADS:P). That aircraft had earlier this summer flown across the Atlantic and was then received the Cassadian developed Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) package.

This variant of Global Hawk is called “Euro Hawk”.

As with all programs any sales to other customers aids the overall program health by reducing production costs. This is why overseas and FMS sales are important to the U.S. The Euro Hawk will end up making the Global Hawk cheaper for the Air Force to buy and operate.

Photo from Sugarmonster’s Flickr photostream.

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Australia to Buy MH-60R Helicoptes from Lockheed and Sikorsky

The Australian Navy has selected a version of the MH-60R helicopter used by the U.S. Navy to equip its ships. The allied country plans to purchase at least twenty-four of the aircraft. This is the first sale of the aircraft overseas. The contract is estimated at around $3 billion. The MH-60R will be used to replace existing Sikorsky S-70B SeaHawks.

Built by Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX), and Lockheed Martin (LMT)The MH-60R is the latest variant of the H-60 family developed for the U.S. Navy combining the missions of the SH-60B and the SH-60F. Originally designed for the ship based Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) to replace the SH-2 and SH-3 helicopters the missions of the H-60 have been expanded to include anti-ship, supply and personnel transport as well as communications relay. It has also been used to retire the older CH-46 helicopters from Boeing (BA) used for vertical replenishment.

The MH-60R is in full rate production and over seventy have been delivered to the U.S. Navy since 2006. This is the first Foreign Military Sale (FMS) for the system. This is the second large foreign contract for Sikorsky in recent weeks as earlier this spring Turkey announced that it would buy S-70 versions of the BlackHawk for its utility mission in a deal worth initially $3.5 billion.

Photo from jonworth’s Flickr photostream.

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L-3 to Operate Air Force C-17 Training System

The U.S. Air Force has developed various simulators to aid in the training for the operations and maintenance of its aircraft. The C-17 strategic transport which has been in service now for almost twenty years has two different ones in use. These are the Aircrew Training System (ATS) and the Maintenance Training System (MTS).

The use of these types of training aids greatly reduces the total cost of training aircrew and support staff. While it is not 100% realistic they allow skills to be learned and developed without relying on flying the aircraft which is not only expensive but frees them up to fly combat and support missions maximizing the use of the available aircraft. The training systems were developed separately and have been provided to ten sites in the U.S. and Australia.

Now the Air Force has awarded L-3 Link, part of L3 Communications (LLL), a contract to manage both parts of the training system under one contract. The base contract is for one year and has up to six option years. The total value if all options are awarded is almost $1 billion.

This contract illustrates that the training simulator market is quite large. Not only to develop and produce the simulators required by today’s modern military but also to operate and keep the simulators operating. Training programs now rely heavily on the simulators so having them available and operational also requires investment and effort.

Photo from Bytemark’s flickr photostream.

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Air Force Moves Out on New Weather Satellite

In the Nineties it was decided that the U.S. military and the Department of Commerce would work jointly on a new weather satellite constellation to orbit near the Poles. Previously the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as part of Commerce developed and operated civil weather satellites. This decision led to the National Polar-orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) which would deploy six systems to conduct data gathering in support of weather forecasting and earth science.

The program suffered various schedule and cost challenges which led to a Nunn-McCurdy breach and a major restructuring of the program in 2005. Major portions of the program were deleted and only four systems would be built. In 2010 as part of their budget the Obama Administration changed the program again with NOAA taking over management of one part of the program and DoD the other.

Photo from wharman’s flickr photostream.

In the summer of 2010 the Air Force proposed the establishment of the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS) which will be their part of the new NPOESS program. Northrop Grumman (NOC) was the prime contractor on NPOESS and will continue to support both Commerce and the Air Force.

This week Northrop announced that they had received authorization from the Air Force to begin work on the DWSS. This means that they begin the transition from the old contract and start the DWSS work.

The U.S. has seen several satellite programs started to replace aging Cold War era ones suffer from cost and schedule delays. Now many are starting to get on their feet and begin to make solid progress. DWSS will be one of those programs and illustrates again the difficulties of conducting joint programs between different services and parts of the government.

Photo from wharman’s flickr photostream.

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Royal Navy Awards MBDA Contract for Sea Viper Support

Fresh off the first firing of the Sea Viper air defense missile from the Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Daring, MBDA was awarded a long term support contract for the system. Sea Viper utilizes the joint Ango-French-Italian company’s Aster 15 & 30 missiles. This is the primary armament for the new British fleet air defense ship.

The firing comes three years after the ship was commissioned and represents a major milestone for the program. The Sea Viper is the result of the Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS) developed by The multi-mode radar, Sampson, that supports the missile is made by BAE Systems (BAE:LSE) for the Royal Navy. Sea Viper includes the Aster missile, Sampson radar and the vertical launch canister system. The Type 45 is similar to the AEGIS missile destroyers and cruisers utilized by the U.S. Navy for self, air and missile defense.

MBDA’s support contract is worth about $270 million over the next six years. So far two ships have been commissioned with HMS Dauntless joining the Daring. Three others are under construction with a sixth planned.

The history of the class demonstrates what happens to many modern weapon systems where the development time for different components are not even. In this case the radar and hull were ready well before the missile and for a time the ships were limited to their gun armament. The Sea Viper is also not unique in having teething problems as many modern missiles have taken longer then planned.

Photo from Bob the courier’s Flickr photostream.

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India Goes With Western Europe in Fighter Contest

The Indian government has taken a step further in their ongoing contest to choose a new fighter for their military by down selecting to only two of the six bidders for the advanced aircraft contract. In a surprising move the two selected to go on were France’s Dassault Rafael and the Eurofighter’s consortium’s Typhoon.

This meant that the U.S. defense contractor’s Boeing (BA) and Lockheed Martin (LMT) who were trying to win the deal were cut out of the final selection process. This decision was a disappointment to the U.S. government who have been hoping to expand sales to the growing Indian market.

Many companies have been looking to the Indian market to offset potential declines in the U.S. and European defense budgets. The Indian contract along with the now delayed Brazilian one are two of the largest available in the near term.

That does not mean India has not bought from America. They have purchased several P-8I maritime patrol aircraft from Boeing and are potentially buying the C-17 transport aircraft. The decision, though, to move out with an American fighter would have indicated a desire to broaden their market and given hope to the U.S. defense contractors.

Photo from Shandchem’s flickr photostream.

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U.K. Orders Thales’ New Air Launched Attack Missile

As the United States military moves out with its Hellfire replacement in the form of the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) which is just about to enter into the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase the United Kingdom ordered from European defense contractor Thales (TCFP:PA) a new missile to arm some of their helicopters. Thale’s new Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) received a production contract for 1000 missiles.

The contract provides for the final testing and qualification of the missile and then integration on at least the Lynx helicopter platform. The contract is the culmination of a three year development effort for the company. Similar to the JAGM the LMM has the ability to use multiple modes for its guidance including laser beam-riding or semi-active laser where the missile homes in on reflected energy. The missile also offers different warhead options like the current version of the Hellfire which has seen heavy use by the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The contract with the U.K. will see two years of development and qualification leading to delivery of the first missile in 2013. The version that will be used by the Royal Navy on their helicopters at least initially will be the beam riding version.

The LMM as it’s name indicates is small having a weight of under thirty pounds and a maximum range of 8,000 meters. The Hellfire and JAGM are much bigger and have a longer range but it is expected that the LMM will be cheaper to procure. The LMM is a natural evolution of Thales’ work with air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles as it tries to enter a new market for air launched, attack missiles.

Advances in guidance technology over the last fifteen to twenty years have led to smaller, more accurate systems that allow the use of lighter weigh warheads allowing aircraft to carry more weapons.

Photo from johan weiland’s flickr photostream.

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India Gives Tata Power a Contract for Airfield Modernization

In one of the largest contracts given to a company outside their traditional government supported arms producers the Indian Air Force awarded Tata Power a roughly $225 million deal to upgrade at least thirty airfields’ infrastructures. This contract continues to illustrate India’s determination to modernize and improve their military capabilities overall.

As part of this effort India has been attempting to broaden their base of suppliers through modernizing their offset and formation of subsidiary companies and partnerships to allow contracts with the large U.S. and European defense contractors. In the past India has tended to use Russian, Great Britain and domestic sources for most of their weapon systems.

Recent contracts include the one with Boeing (BA) for P-8I maritime patrol aircraft as well as the new fighter currently in source selection which has attracted a slew of major foreign interest. India is also planning on awarding new helicopter and artillery contracts in the near future.

The contract is for Tata Power to upgrade the airfields to be able to support and operate the newer, modern aircraft that will be entering India’s inventory.

The contract with Tata Power also indicates attempts to broaden their supplier base as it is one of the largest contracts awarded to a domestic commercial company. If India is able to draw these companies into bidding on defense work it increases competition and ultimately their industrial base which will allow them to build and sustain an effective, modern military.

Tata Power is India’s largest utility which primarily provides electricity but also does design, development and fabrication of electronics which has included defense work in the past through their SED division.

Photo from cryogenic666’s flickr photostream.

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U.S. Air Force Modifies SBIRS Contract with Lockheed for More Flexibility

The U.S. Air Force has been working with Lockheed Martin (LMT) for several years on the development, production and deployment of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS). This is a group of satellites that will be placed into orbit to detect and classify missile and other space launch vehicles as they are launched. It is replacing a Cold War era system.

The program will ultimately have six different satellites with two in a high orbit and four in geosynchronous orbit. Lockheed recently received a contract for the last of the geosynchronous satellites worth about $400 million. This follows work on the two high and the other three geosynchronous satellites.

All systems such as this also have a ground component that is used to control the satellites as well as receive data from them. Lockheed is also working on that aspect of the SBIRS system. As part of this Lockheed just received a contract modification for the Block 10 of the ground systems that is worth over $450 million. This will modify the contract to deliver a more flexible system that includes segregating the different mission areas as well as providing a means for delivering data to a variety of users. The new ground system will be deployed at at least two locations and will also be integrated with the legacy system the SBIRS is replacing.

The United States continues its investment in missile defense systems and part of this is a system that provides warning of potential threat launches. The SBIRS is one component of that and it makes no sense to develop programs like those deployed in Alaska and on Navy ships if you do not have good intelligence and support that allow you to detect, classify and engage enemy missiles. Programs like this are key to developing and maintaining that capability.

Photo from The U.S. Army flickr photostream.

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