Austal Launches USNS Fall River (JHSV 4)

January 15, 2014 by · Comment
Filed under: Austal, Australia, Syndicated Industry News, U.S. Navy 

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U.S. Navy Sea Based Missile Defense Advances to Shore

In the early 1990’s in a response to Iraq’s use of Scud missiles during Desert Storm the U.S. military, led by the then Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), now the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), began investing in defenses against shorter range threats. Previous efforts had been oriented to defending the United States from the large the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (IBCM) based in the Soviet Union. All three of the major services had programs but the focus was on U.S. Army and Navy missile systems.

The Navy began developing 2 different systems that mirrored the Army’s path. Both involved modifying their current primary long range air defense system, AEGIS. This utilized large phase arrayed radars and the STANDARD Missile-2 (SM-2) interceptor. The AEGIS radars and other systems had originally been developed by General Electric (GE) but by the mid-1990’s had transitioned through Martin Marietta to Lockheed Martin (LMT). The SM-2 was produced by Hughes Missile Systems and Raytheon (RTN) but ultimately Raytheon acquired the whole business.

First, the missile, radars and command and control systems would have capability added to defense against shorter range missiles but still maintain their air defense mission. The Army was doing the same thing with their Patriot surface-to-air missile system. Secondly, a dedicated missile utilizing an exo-atmospheric kill vehicle would be developed. That meant the missile would not be able to engage air breathing targets but much longer ranged missiles.

By the early part of this century the air defense capable version, SM-2 Block IVA, had been cancelled due to budget and schedule issues. The long range SM-3, though, continued development and testing. It has proved successful including being able to intercept and destroy a failing satellite in 2008. The system has entered production and several cruisers and destroyers have been modified to utilize it. The Navy has continued development and the new SM-6 missile has just entered production at a new factory in Huntsville, AL.

The MDA has also decided as a way to supplement the current Ground Based Mid-Course System based in Alaska to develop “AEGIS Ashore”. This places the radars, other systems and missiles in trailers and containers that can be set up in different places and even moved around as necessary.

This program made a major step forward recently with the build up of the first test set that will be installed ultimately at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Kauai, Hawaii for testing. Once that system is moved a second one will be installed at the main AEGIS production and development center in New Jersey. Ultimately the first set will be set up in Eastern Europe.

Originally the Bush Administration had planned on an expansion of the Alaskan ground based system into Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe. This was cancelled by the Obama Administration and AEGIS Ashore substituted. There is also plans to utilize AEGIS ships to provide missile defense converge of parts of NATO in Europe.

AEIGS Ashore is just one part of the continued Navy and U.S. investment in missile defense as it includes upgrades to the AEGIS radars, C2 systems and steady development of the STANDARD Missile. All of this will be to the advantage of key contractors like Lockheed and Raytheon. Further developments of a new radar, the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) also include bidders like Northrop Grumman (NOC) so as the program develops there will be chances of contract wins and work for other contractors. These efforts could also flow into the AEGIS Ashore or its replacement system in the future.

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Defense Acquisition Board approves Standard Missile-6 full-rate production — Press Release

SM-6 program on track to reach initial operating capability in 2013

TUCSON, Ariz., May 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — A Defense Acquisition Board approved full-rate production of Raytheon Company’s (NYSE: RTN) Standard Missile-6. Once operational in 2013, the SM-6 will provide U.S. Navy vessels extended range protection against fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.

“SM-6 is a game-changing, transformational fleet defense missile, and we’re on track to reach initial operating capability this year,” said Wes Kremer, Raytheon Missile Systems’ vice president of Air and Missile Defense Systems. “This is a monumental moment for the SM-6 program and signifies a new era of fleet defense for our naval warfighters.”

In February, Raytheon delivered the first SM-6 from its new $75 million, 70,000 square-foot SM-6 and Standard Missile-3 all-up-round production facility at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. The facility features advanced tools and the latest processes for missile production, enabling Raytheon to streamline processes, reduce costs and add value for the warfighter.

“The first delivery of low-rate initial production rounds to the U.S. Navy was in February 2011, which was six months ahead of contract,” said Mike Campisi, Raytheon’s senior director of Standard Missile-1, -2, and -6 programs. “The first full-rate production Standard Missile-6 is on track for an April 2015 delivery, which is three months ahead of contract.”

About the Standard Missile-6

SM-6 delivers a proven over-the-horizon air defense capability by leveraging the time-tested advantages of the Standard Missile’s airframe and propulsion.

  • The SM-6 uses both active and semi-active guidance modes and advanced fuzing techniques.
  • It incorporates the advanced signal processing and guidance control capabilities from Raytheon’s Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile.

About Raytheon

Raytheon Company, with 2012 sales of $24 billion and 68,000 employees worldwide, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, security and civil markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 91 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems; as well as a broad range of mission support services. Raytheon is headquartered in Waltham, Mass. For more about Raytheon, visit us at www.raytheon.com and follow us on Twitter @raytheon.

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F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Foreign Intrigues Continue

The F-35 “Lightning II” Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will be used not only by the U.S. military to replace its aging F-16, A/V-8, F/A-18 and A-10 aircraft but also by many other NATO countries and allies. It is being purchased as a F-16 replacement by many of these and like the successful F-16 program will have manufacturing and parts co-share agreements with different international partners.

The delays and cost increases to the program have been well documented and these have caused some early planned users to question the financial sense of continuing the program. Many of these countries, though, have already contributed through development funds as well as already had their aerospace contractors sign contracts and agreements with Lockheed Martin (LMT) to produce parts for the aircraft which continues in its Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP).

Canada, the Netherlands and Australia have had and continue to have debates about their purchase of the advanced aircraft rather then existing systems like the F/A-18, Eurofighter, Rafael, SAAB Gripens and Russian alternatives. In Canada they are reviewing the whole cost analysis that had led to the decision to continue the purchase which could technically end it and look at other aircraft. That leads to editorials and articles like this one, “The Case for the Super Hornet As The RCAF’s New Fighter” from Canada or analysis in Australia such as this: “Politics first as white paper fails on big issues”.

At the same time the U.S. has been successful in adding Foreign Military Sales (FMS) of the aircraft most notably to Israel and Japan. There has also been interested expressed by other U.S. allies like the U.A.E.

The commitment of the foreign partners is somewhat critical to the whole program as a reduction in buy quantity will have a ripple effect on the whole program. Less purchased in total and annually will cause a cost increase for each aircraft and the whole program. The F-35 PEO, Lt Gen Bogdan, identified this risk in Congressional testimony in April. If somebody drops out the price the others pay will go up putting more pressure on their budgets and perhaps cause them to drop out too. This would then become a spiral causing issues for the U.S. and all of the other nations involved in the program.

Despite the issues with the aircraft over the last decade the U.S. remains committed to the program. Over 100 are on order and there is discussion to award a new 2 year production contract this summer for a further 60-70. Training is underway for both aircrew and maintainers of the U.S.A.F., Navy, Marines and allies. The big questions remain though about completing development, how many will be built, and who ultimately will operate the aircraft.

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Boeing’s Concept Design for a Naval Manned/Unmanned Strike Fighter

April 7, 2013 by · Comment
Filed under: Syndicated Industry News, U.S. Navy 

Boeing's next generation multi-role strike fighter could be built in manned or unmanned versions. The F/A-XX is addressing a US Navy requirement for a future fighter that will be designed for anti-access/area denied (A2AD) operational environment. Illustration: BoeingBoeing's next generation multi-role strike fighter could be built in manned or unmanned versions. The F/A-XX is addressing a US Navy requirement for a future fighter that will be designed for anti-access/area denied (A2AD) operational environment...

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Budget Allows Navy to Move Forward on Carrier Contracts

The signing by President Obama of the full year’s funding bill has allowed the different U.S. services to begin issuing contracts that had been waiting to see how sequestration and the Continuing Resolution would be resolved.

On Friday the Navy moved quickly to issue a contract to Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) for the overhaul and refueling of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier. The contract has a value of around $2.6 billion.

The work is expected to take over 3 years and will include upgrades to different parts of the ships as well as refurbishing components and compartments along with refueling the reactors that power the ship. Included are the necessary modifications to operate the Navy’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter which will fly in a Short Take-Off-and-Landing (STOL) configuration.

HII was also awarded a contract worth over $400 million to continue buying material for the new CVN 79, designated John F. Kennedy. The CVN 79 contract was started in 2009 and is expected to be delivered in 2020. It is of a modified Nimitz design referred to as the Gerald R. Ford class.

HII is the only company able to build the large nuclear aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy.

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Navy Awards Contracts for New Ship Components

The building of a modern warship requires not only the initial large contract with the builder but numerous other ones to buy components and support for the actual ships. Other systems are purchased with separate contracts and then items are provided to the builder for installation on the ships as they are assembled. The U.S. Navy is currently building new aircraft carriers, missile destroyers, Littoral Combats Ships (LCS), amphibious warfare ships as well as support vessels.

The LCS is being built by 2 different yards under 2 separate contracts. The LCS-1 design are made in Wisconsin by Marinette Marine and Lockheed Martin (LMT). The LCS-2 in Mobile, AL by Austal America and General Dynamics (GD). While they have dissimilar hull designs the basic weapon fit remains the same and both will carry mission modules. Up to 20 LCS are on contract to be built with the Navy periodically issuing contracts for 2 from each builder.

2 related contracts were recently awarded to support U.S. Navy ship construction. First General Dynamics (GD) received one for 8 MK 46 Naval Weapon Systems. The MK 46 is a 30mm cannon mounted in a stabilized turret. These will be installed on LPD-12 amphibious assault ships and the LCS. The contract is worth $26 million and is a follow on to previous contracts under which 30 systems have been delivered.

Then ATK (ATK), the ammunition and explosive manufacturer, received a contract for 30mm ammo. This $12 million contract is for incendiary rounds for the MK 46. It is a 5 year Indefinite Delivery / Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contract with 1 base and 4 option years. As an ID/IQ the Navy will order off of the contract what is required to outfit ships with the Mk 46 weapon.

With Sequestration and the budget reductions recently passed by Congress and agreed to by the Obama Administration FY13 will probably not see many more major contracts awarded. There may be many though like these to support bigger programs already underway.

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USS San Diego declared ready for combat operations

February 14, 2013 by · Comment
Filed under: Syndicated Industry News, U.S. Navy 
The US Navy’s sixth San Antonio-class amphibious landing platform dock (LPD), USS San Diego (LPD 22), has been declared ready for combat operations following the successful completion of final contract trials (FCT). Conducted by the US Navy Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), the FCT helps ensure that the USS San Diego [...]

USS San Diego declared ready for combat operations

February 14, 2013 by · Comment
Filed under: Syndicated Industry News, U.S. Navy 
The US Navy’s sixth San Antonio-class amphibious landing platform dock (LPD), USS San Diego (LPD 22), has been declared ready for combat operations following the successful completion of final contract trials (FCT). Conducted by the US Navy Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), the FCT helps ensure that the USS San Diego [...]

Navy Awards Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Training Contracts

The LCS is the newest U.S. Navy ship. Interestingly they are of 2 designs and built at 2 yards. This was done to speed production and also because the original plans called for fifty or more of the ships to be built. The Lockheed Martin (LMT) USS Independence design (LCS-1) is built at the Marinette Marine facility in Wisconsin and the USS Freedom (LCS-2) at the Austal America yard in Mobile, AL. The Freedom is designed by General Dynamics (GD).

So far each yard has delivered 2 ships having received contracts for up to 10. LCS-4, the USS Coronado, made by Austal is almost complete and will commission this year.

The ships despite their dissimilar hull shape have the same basic performance and weapons. They will be capable of being equipped with different modules depending on the mission and these will include anti-mine, anti-surface and air defense. The first LCS are based at San Diego, CA and are already carrying out operations.

In support of the program the Navy awarded Cubic Corporation (CUB) 3 contracts for training for the ships. Due to the 2 different designs there was one contract awarded in support of each. Then third for developing mission training packages. Each contract is worth almost $100 million.

As the LCS numbers grow there will be growing demand for more efficient training. These packages will help the Navy prepare a larger number of sailors for these ships.

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Navy Proposes Multi-Year for P-8 Production

The P-8 is the new maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft developed for the U.S. Navy. It will replace the venerable P-3 Orion aircraft that have been in service for almost 50 years. It is based on a Boeing (BA) 737 commercial airliner. The program is currently in low rate production for the Navy as well as India.

The most recent production order was placed earlier this year for 11 aircraft from the FY12 budget.

Now the Navy has asked for the authority to utilize a multi-year contract for the procurement of 72 aircraft. This contract could be worth well over $10 billion. It would support FY15-19 production indicating there would be two more annual orders placed in FY13 and FY14.

Normally large aircraft programs transition to a multi-year once production is at a steady state and the service has received approval of full rate production. The Navy believes that by FY15 these conditions will be met and a multi-year is the most effective way to buy the aircraft.

The Navy also operates the 737 in transport and command and control configurations.

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GD’s Electric Boat Wins Contract to Design Next SSBN for U.S. and U.K.

One of the largest contracts to be awarded this Fiscal Year was just given to General Dynamics (GD) submarine building arm, Electric Boat. The 5 year, nearly $2 billion contract is for design and development efforts supporting a new ballistic missile submarine.

This new boat will potentially replace the current U.S. Ohio class submarines and the Royal Navy’s similar Vanguards. Electric Boat is the primary producer of submarines for the U.S. Navy. While the Vanguard replacements will be built in the United Kingdom much of the design work will be done in the U.S. due to the fact they utilize a U.S. missile.

While there has been some reductions in the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal with some of the Ohio class retired or re-designated there will ultimately still be a need for modernization of the design and new submarines. The U.S. is currently only building the Virginia class of fast attack submarines at Electric Boat and partner Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII).

Even with the potential for large cuts to the defense budget if sequestration takes effect these kind of contracts will continue to be awarded. Reductions in funding will limit how much is executed each year and potentially stretch out the work over more years then currently planned.

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5th LRIP Batch of F-35 JSF to be Awarded

Lockheed Martin (LMT), the prime contractor on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), and the U.S. Department of Defense have pretty much wrapped up negotiations for the latest batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) production. This goal was to complete and award this by the end of 2012 and it looks like that will be met.

The FY13 order will be for 32 more of the advanced aircraft split between the 3 variants. The bulk, 22, are the Air Force’s Conventional / Take Off and Landing (CTOL) version. These are intended to replace the F-16 and A-10 platforms currently in use. Then there are 3 F-35B Short/Vertical (S/VTOL) for Marine Corps to meet the AV-8A mission and finally 7 F-35C carrier based aircraft for the Navy. Estimates for the cost of the aircraft along with engineering services and other money is in the $3.8 – 4 billion range.

The F-35 program remains several years behind original schedules and cost have increased greatly but much progress has been recently made. There are now over 150 aircraft delivered or in production with this order. They are supporting test and development along with training for pilots and ground crew.

Due to the high concurrency remaining with the program Lockheed will have to go back and modify many of the current production aircraft to the final standard after they are delivered. This is due to the much more T&E remaining for things like the advanced helmet, software and other parts of the aircraft. The F-35 continues to remain on track to be the most expensive defense acquisition program in history.

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

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Contenders for New Presidential Helicopter Lining Up

Earlier this century the Pentagon started a program managed by the Navy and Marine Corps to replace the existing helicopters used to transport the President. Currently a mix of Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX), made VH-3 and VH-60 aircraft are used. Some of them are now over 40 years old. It was felt that a new system was needed that was more efficient, capable and equipped with modern communication equipment. This was the VH-71 program.

The VH-71 planned to use an aircraft from Augusta Westland modified by prime contractor Lockheed Martin (LMT). The program was to proceed in two stages with a few aircraft bought early to test and integrate modifications. This proceeded with several aircraft purchased and modified. The problems arose as the requirements for the second effort changed considerably over time leading to schedule and cost growth. By 2009 the program was several billion dollars over budget and was cancelled by the Obama Administration as part of their defense reforms.

A draft RFP was released this week for the new program. It plans to save money and manage schedule by requiring the use of an existing, in production aircraft which will be modified. It is requesting that the bidders plan to minimize changes to expensive parts of the aircraft such as the power train, transmission, structure and rotor system. A communication system is being developed separately that will be integrated onto the new aircraft.

The VH-71 suffered as the requirements meant new major systems had to be developed and integrated to meet power, range and hovering capability requirements. The RFP is for 23 aircraft at a cost of just under $1 billion with the first ones entering service in 2020.

Currently teams made up of Sikorsky and Lockheed and Augusta Westland and Northrop Grumman (NOC) are interested. Boeing (BA) may propose after doing analysis as to whether their large CH-47 or V-22 tilt rotor aircraft may meet the requirements.

The VXX program is aggressive in that it hopes to contain cost, schedule and technical creep. As the VH-71 program indicated it may be hard to do this. With the expected defense cuts coming up the contract is very attractive not only due to its size but also the prestige. As with other large aviation programs the winner may also expect several decades worth of support contracts which could be worth billions.

Photo from dailymatador’s flickr photostream.

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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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New Air Cushion Landing Craft Program Continues with Award to Rolls-Royce

Update – The Rolls-Royce engine chosen for this application is the engine from the V-22 Osprey. This decision offers some synergy in support and maintenance as the SSC will be operating from ships that also are able to support the V-22.

In July the U.S. Navy awarded Textron (TXT) a contract to begin initial prototype development of the new Ship to Shore Connector (SSC) program. The SSC will ultimately replace the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) used for the last twenty-five years or more to support amphibious operations.

The LCAC due to its high speed and long range was a key component of the over-the-horizon assault concepts developed during the Eighties. The SSC represents an incremental upgrade to the existing LCAC but will offer improvements based on current technology.

As part of this contract Textron has chosen Rolls-Royce (RR) to provide the engines for the SSC. Rolls-Royce will potentially provide up to 300 engines for 72 landing craft if all parts of the contract are executed.

Rolls-Royce offered an engine to be made in Indiana that should provide more power and better fuel economy.

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

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Northrop to Support HII Ship Construction

Last year Northrop Grumman (NOC) spun off its shipbuilding division into a new company, Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII). This meant that the company was no longer building ships for the U.S. Navy. HII assumed the yards owned by NOC in Louisiana and Mississippi and the current contracts.

That does not mean that Northrop no longer is part of the military shipbuilding program though. It was just recently awarded a contract to provide a component for a new amphibious warship under construction by HII. The approximately $50 million contract will provide the Machinery Control System (MCS) to HII for installation on the new ship.

The Navy is building a new class of LHA ships to supplement existing LHA’s of the Tarawa class and the LHD ships of the Wasp class. These new LHA will combine features of both previous class ships and carry helicopters, V-22 tiltrotors and landing craft. They will be able to support Marine units and transport them to shore. The new LHA-6 America class ships also have the capability to support the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter providing a measure of ground attack and air defense capability.

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Raytheon Continues Light Weight Torpedo Production

The U.S Navy exercised an option with Raytheon (RTN) for the production of Mk 54 Light Weight torpedoes. This is the standard surface vessel and air launched system used by the Navy and some allied nations. The option had a value of a little over $45 million.

It provides for one years production as well as test and engineering services for the system. The Mk 54 is carried by the SH-60, P-3 and cruisers, destroyers and frigates. It just recently completed testing from the new P-8 maritime patrol aircraft that will eventually replace the P-3.

The Mk 54 is also used by the Australian Navy and will be by the Indian as well as they will operate several P-8I aircraft.

The Mk 54 has been in production for 8 years and replaced the Cold War era Mk 50 and Mk 46 systems. It is fired from the traditional Mk 32 launch systems in use for decades, the ASROC rocket as well as from aircraft.

Until the full effects of sequestration are decided upon by Congress the Pentagon continues to exercise their planned FY13 budget under the existing 6 month Continuing Resolution Authority.

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Pentagon Plan JSF Upgrade Contract

The U.S. Air Force and Navy Joint Project Office for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) announced recently that they plan to tender a contract to upgrade the first 93 F-35 aircraft to be consistent with a later production version. This covers 4 years of Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) aircraft that are currently being delivered.

No value for the contract was estimated but it should be several hundred million dollars to modify that number of aircraft.

It would be expected that Lockheed Martin (LMT), the prime contractor on the current JSF development and production effort, would be awarded the contract. The announcement though did leave an opening for others to submit proposals to do the work. This would be extremely hard for another contractor to do depending on how much technical data the Government owns and is available. Just estimating the cost of the work without that information would be difficult.

The JPO is expecting this contract to take some time to develop, negotiate and award as the LRIP 5 production contract remains in negotiation with Lockheed and probably won’t be awarded until the end of this year. Those aircraft would be coming off of the production line in several months. This will allow the program to continue production, testing and training while then beginning to retrofit the existing aircraft.

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Rolls-Royce Continues Support of T-45

One of the advantages the OEM has when it comes to winning defense contracts is that they often will get the support and maintenance work from the government. It is uncommon now for the military to purchase complete Technical Data Packages (TDP) from the OEM’s and this makes it hard for some of the effort to be transferred to another supplier.

The engine in the T-45 trainer was actually developed jointly by Rolls-Royce and France’s Turbomeca originally for the Jaguar attack aircraft. That aircraft has been retired but the companies continue to support the power plant in its current uses.

The British company just received a further contract option to support the T-45 engine maintenance and parts support. This is the 4th option on the contract and is worth about $100 million.

The T-45 is a product of Boeing (BA) and BAE Systems (BAE:LSE) and is used by the Navy as a carrier training aircraft. It has been in use since 1991.

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Raytheon AESA for F-15E Enters LRIP

While the United States continues development and testing of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) it must continue to utilize its older fighter and attack aircraft. The F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 all originally entered service in the late Seventies and Eighties but have continued to be upgraded with new electronics, systems and weapons. As part of this all 3 will eventually be fitted with new Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar systems to replace the mechanically scanned systems currently used. The AESA offer better reliability and ease of maintenance over the older systems.

Raytheon (RTN) is already producing a new radar for the F/A-18 used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and several allied nations. Over 300 have been delivered for retrofit on aircraft.

Raytheon is also providing the new radars for the F-15C and F-15E aircraft used by the Air Force and Air National Guard (ANG). The F-15C variants have begun receiving them and a contract was recently awarded for the Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of the one for the F-15E strike version. Initially 6 systems will be delivered as part of this contract.

Even with the threat of budget reductions in the near future these programs will continue. They will most likely see cuts in quantities and slower development but they are necessary to provide the capabilities needed by these aircraft.

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AMDR Work Continues, Northrop Announces Testing Success

The U.S. Navy is in the process of developing the successor to the SPY-1 radar and combat system that makes up part of the AEGIS Weapon System mounted on cruisers and destroyers. Originally designed to deal with a large number of aircraft and anti-ship missiles the system has been modified to address the ballistic missile threat to the United States. The new radar program is called the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) and is currently in development.

In 2010 3 different contracts were awarded to U.S. defense contractors Northrop Grumman (NOC), Raytheon (RTN) and Lockheed Martin (LMT) to develop a version of the radar. The goal is later this year to move forward with another contract to complete development and engineering with a goal of selecting one provider. The new radar will go on ships like the DDG-1000 and new DDG-52 ships as they are built.

All 3 contractors have experience with Navy ship building, radars and missiles. In August Lockheed announced that it had already submitted their proposal for the next step of the program. Now today Northrop is showing its system and its testing. They also turned in a proposal this summer for the next phase.

Their AMDR system has completed some of its initial range testing including Near and Far field in Maryland. The testing has been successful demonstrating the capabilities of their design.

The AMDR program once it completes development and goes into production will replace the SPY-1 in the role of air as well as missile defense. While the Navy program for new ships remains in flux after 2013 due to the potential reductions in the U.S. defense budget it represents a huge program as it will be used for decades requiring further development, support and production.

Lockheed is the current contractor for the SPY-1 through acquiring Martin Marietta who had purchased the original developer and producer, General Electric (GE), defense work in this area.

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U.S. Continues to Invest in Alternate Fuels

The U.S. Department of Defense over the last few years has made some investments in alternate fuels and energy. Much of this has been driven by the needs of the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan for significant amounts of batteries and electrical power. They also spend billions a year on fossil fuels to move aircraft, vehicles, ships as well as generate electricity. The cost of the fuel as well as the effort spent transporting it has led to interest in alternate fuels.

While there have been some in Congress pushing back over the cost of the “green fuels” being developed for ships and aircraft that has not stopped continued interest in the different programs.

With that in mind two contracts were awarded recently to support fuel cell and solar power for the U.S. Navy.

The first is a $3.8 million effort to FuelCell Energy to test a fuel cell battery for different uses. These include running unmanned submersibles. Fuel cell like motors have been used to power torpedoes for years and this is just taking capability already developed for commercial applications and testing them with Navy systems.

The second is worth $3 million and is with Lockheed Martin (LMT). This is to develop a fuel cell power node to provide tactical power generation. The systems will also be integrated with solar power to provide other sources of electricity. The fuel cell will be compatible with standard JP-8 fuel used in vehicles.

While the costs of development for alternate fuels seem high especially with large amounts of fossil fuels remaining it is still overall a good investment for the U.S. military. If it can cost effectively reduce fuel requirements and transport it allows more capability for other important supplies. Long term the use of these types of power sources will be necessary as well.

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F-35 Money Keeps Rolling In for Lockheed Martin

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is the largest acquisition program in history headed up by prime, Lockheed Martin (LMT). The program has suffered delays due to testing and technical issues but now is in steady low rate production with the U.S. buying 30 or more a year for itself and allies. The F-35 will be used by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. It also has countries like the u.K., Australia, the Netherlands, Norway and Canada as partners as well as already having Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to Japan and Israel.

Lockheed is not only getting contracts for the production but also for items such as training, simulators and of course spare parts. They were just awarded a contract for spares for the U.S. Navy and international aircraft worth about $200 million. As the aircraft are fielded they will also require the establishment of stocks of parts at bases and depots to support them.

The current production of F-35 is pretty much all going to the different training sites to support pilot conversion. They are also being used to continue testing and development of the system.

If the F-35 in its current plan survives potential budget cuts and restructuring between 3 and 4,000 aircraft will be made. They will fly for 30 plus years and be the main equipment of Western tactical air forces for most of that time.

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Navy Awards Prototype Production Contract for LCAC Replacement

The Farnborough Air Show in the U.K. is ongoing and normally one expects companies to announce large, aviation contracts. Even so one of the more interesting contracts awarded recently was by the U.S. Navy. This was to Textron, Inc. (TXT) and will begin initial production of the new hovercraft based landing craft for fast delivery of men and equipment from amphibious ships.

In the Eighties the Navy developed the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) for this mission. The advantage of the hovercraft based system was that it was much faster then traditional landing crafts, could drive further onto the beach and also traverse other types of terrains. The LCAC have seen heavy use in humanitarian operations as the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have not done an amphibious assault in many years.

The close to $213 million contract is to build the first prototypes of the new Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) as well as design efforts and training material. Textron was the original designer and manufacturer of the LCAC.

The SSC is an improved version of the LCAC able to carry heavier loads as well as be easier to maintain. Many of the requirements have been driven by the need to transport heavier, more armored vehicles now used by the Marine Corps. This heavier weight has been caused by the IED and mine threat most common in Iraq and Afghanistan

If things go well Textron will receive follow-on contracts to begin larger scale production of more SSC to replace the aging LCAC fleet.

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