The upcoming FY2019 will be good year for US aerospace companies. The recently signed National Defense Authorization Act allows for the procurement of 413 aircraft at a cost of $39.5 billion. The US Navy is set to order a total of 119 warplanes. This includes 24 Super Hornets, 10 P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, eight CH-53K helicopters. In addition, the Naval Air Systems Command is being entrusted with a multi-year contract authority for the F/A-18 Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft which gives it the right to negotiate bulk discounts with vendors based on a guarantee of several years of orders. The Air Force will buy 15 KC-46 tanker aircraft with a grant of $2.4 billion. The service will also be able to spend a further $300 million to procure aircraft for its Light Attack and Armed Reconnaissance (OA-X) program. Lockheed Martin will provide the Air Force, USMC and Navy with a total of 77 F-35 fighter jets. This $7.6 billion order is the largest appropriation for a single aircraft type. The company will deliver 48 F-35As, 20 F-35Bs and 9 F-35Cs. The total US defense funding rose by 2.4% to a total of $717 billion.
The US Army is investing in IED detection systems. Chemring Sensors and Electronic Systems will provide the service with a number of Husky Mounted Detection System systems. This firm-fixed-price contract has a value of $92.5 million. The Husky was initially developed in the 1970s by South Africa-based RSD, a division of Dorbyl and marketed by Critical Solutions International (CSI). The vehicle is equipped with a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) that detects mines and explosives by using hydraulically-controlled deploy and retract modes. The vehicle is fitted with automatic target recognition algorithms for GPR and metal detection data processing. The Husky’s crew is protected by a V-shaped hull and bulletproof glass. The employment strategy for the VMMD system involves a lead mine-detection vehicle searching for antitank mines. Upon detection, the prime mover would move forward towing the detonation trailers. A squad of engineers could then neutralize the mine or the trailers could detonate the mines in place. Locations of performance and funding will be determined with each order. Work is scheduled for completion by August 15th, 2022.
The Navy is contracting TOTE Services to support SBX-1. The company is being awarded with a firm-fixed-price contract valued at $11.1 million. The company will be responsible for operating and maintaining the Sea-Based X-Band Radar vessel. The X-band radar, also known as the SBX, was originally planned as a land-based system but a sea-based system became possible when the Bush administration withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. It constitutes a mid-course fire control radar based on a seagoing semi-submersible vessel. The $815 million, mechanically-slewed, X-band phased array assembly is 280 feet tall, and weighs 2,400 tons. The radome alone weighs 18,000 pounds, stands over 103 feet high, and is 120 feet in diameter. Made entirely of a high-tech synthetic fabric, the radome is supported by air pressure alone, and is designed to withstand 130+ mph winds and a “100-year storm” at sea. The radar performs cued search, precision tracking, object discrimination and missile kill assessment. The in-flight interceptor communication system data terminal transfers commands from the GMD fire control system to the interceptor missile during its engagement with the target missile. This contract is scheduled for completion by September 2019, but does include several options which could extend the contract until end of March, 2024. The total cumulative value of this contract would rise to $65.3 million, if all options are exercised.
General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is being tapped to replace the centralized 400-Hz power distribution system of three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The contract modification has a value of $9.5 million and provides for material and labor needed to add new integrated power node centers on the USS John Basilone (DDG 122), the USS Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (DDG 124) and on the USS Gallagher (DDG 127). The current centralized 400-Hz power-distribution system, consists of two air-cooled solid state frequency converters. The new integrated power node center combines power transfer, frequency conversion, voltage transformation, power conditioning, and fault protection into one cabinet. Electrical power is at the heart of any modern warship. On destroyers for example they allow the Mk41 VLS to perform its job. For each launcher there are 400-Hz and 60-Hz power distribution units to supply power to the launcher electronics. Work will be performed at the company’s shipyard in Bath, Maine, and is expected to be completed by November 2022.
Middle East & Africa
Reports suggest that the United Arab Emirates is currently deploying one of its Wing Loong II UAVs from its Assab airbase in Eritrea. In October 2017 satellite imagery confirmed the UAE as the first export customer of China’s next-generation medium-altitude long-endurance and strike-capable UAE. The Diplomat states that the Wing Loong II has been primarily designed and developed for export and has been marketed by China’s defense industry as a more cost-effective alternative to the US-made General Atomics MQ-1 Predator. The Wing Loong UAV’s fixed mid-mounted wings with high aspect ratio provide improved performance by reducing the drag. Its fuselage structure is designed to minimise the radar cross-section. It features two vertical tail fins, arranged in a V shape. The tricycle landing gear, with two main wheels under the fuselage and one single wheel under the nose, facilitates safe take-off and landing. The unmanned combat aerial vehicle can be armed with a variety of weapons including laser-guided bombs and missiles to attack and destroy air or ground-based targets. The UAE is currently fighting Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Germany is issuing a long-awaited final request for its multi-national TLVS (Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem) program. MBDA and Lockheed Martin will now negotiate the cost and technical parameters of the program with the Bundeswehr. If the German Bundestag, the country’s parliament, approves the necessary procurement funding, the Bundeswehr would receive its first-ever fielded air-defense system with a built-in 360-degree capability. The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program aimed to replace Patriot missiles in the United States, the older Hawk system in Germany, and Italy’s even older Nike Hercules missiles. MEADS will be designed to kill enemy aircraft, cruise missiles and UAVs within its reach, while providing next-generation point defense capabilities against ballistic missiles. MEADS is the product of a $4 billion development program shared by the US, Germany and Italy that incorporates Lockheed Martin’s hit-to-kill PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missile in a system including 360-degree surveillance and fire control sensors, netted-distributed tactical operations centers, and lightweight launchers. So far, only Germany has chosen to field the system.
Taiwan’s F-16 pilots are set to receive training support as part of a US foreign military sale. L3 Technologies is being awarded with a $25.8 million contract modification for an additional training system to be installed in an F-16 A/B Block 20 Mission Training Center. The Republic of China Air Force operates a total of 150 F-16A/B block 20 aircraft. Twenty F-16A/B Block 20 aircraft are based in the US for testing and training purposes. MTC’s immerse pilots in high-definition, dynamic training scenarios that enables them to practice air-to-air and air-to-ground missions under any condition that might be encountered during actual flight. Each F-16 MTC consists of four simulators that incorporate high-definition displays, image generation, databases and dynamic environments. Work will be performed in Arlington. Texas and is scheduled for completion by end of October, 2024.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is adding 12 L-15 advanced jet trainers to its training school. The PLAN Aviation University was formed in 2017 and is based in Shandong. The Hongdu L-15 Falcon made its maiden flight in 2006 and is intended to train pilots to fly high-performance forth-generation aircraft, such as the J-10 and Su-27. It is also suitable to complete all basic jet flight training courses. The Hongdu L-15 features a full glass cockpit which can accommodate two crew members, either a student pilot and instructor, or an official pilot and weapons systems officer. The jet has six hard points of which four are located under the two wings and two under the wing-tips. It can accommodate 6,000lb of payload. The aircraft can carry short range air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, bombs and rocket pods. The development comes amid Beijing’s general airpower build-up, specifically as it develops air wings for its growing fleet of aircraft carriers.
Watch: Jane’s reports of Merlin helicopter carrier deployment