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November 24, 2021 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

Contracts for November 23, 2021

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  • Cash-strapped Britain eyes shrinking its order of new early-warning planes

    September 23, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    Cash-strapped Britain eyes shrinking its order of new early-warning planes

    Andrew Chuter LONDON – Britain is poised to cut an order for Boeing E-7 Wedgetails, with the airborne early warning and control aircraft possibly becoming the first confirmed victim of the government’s upcoming integrated defense review. Negotiations between Boeing and the Ministry of Defence have been underway since mid-summer over a possible reduction in Wedgetail numbers from five to three, or possibly four, aircraft as part of a wider cost-cutting exercise. Newspapers here have recently been full of leaks about possible capability cuts and delays to equipment like armored vehicles, artillery, surface warships and support ships and fighter aircraft. All of the leaks have been brushed off by the MoD as speculation, even though some of the leaks were likely inspired by the MoD itself to test the waters of political and public acceptability. This time, though, the response from the MoD was different. Replying to a tweet in The Times Sept. 22 an MoD spokesperson pretty much confirmed the cuts were under consideration. “We regularly discuss equipment programs with our partners, particularly when it comes to making savings and cutting costs, where appropriate,” they said. A Boeing spokesperson in London said the company “doesn’t comment on commercial matters.” Defense consultant Howard Wheeldon of Wheeldon Strategic Advisory said leaving the RAF with just three Wedgetails would leave the UK seriously short of aerial command-and-control and situational awareness capability. “Personally, I regard this as little short of insanity. … To guarantee  27/7 capability requires that the UK has a minimum of five airframes. Potentially reducing the number to three would have very serious consequences and if this really has already been decided it needs to be reconsidered very quickly. Assured 24/7 AWACS capability is not just an option – it is an absolute necessity,” said Wheeldon. A potential reduction in Wedgetail numbers is not the only ISTAR capability cut in the cards. The RAF remains on track to take out of service next year its Raytheon-supplied Sentinel battlefield surveillance aircraft. In early 2019 the MoD controversially signed a deal worth £1.5 billion – without a competition – to supply five of the Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft to the RAF with deliveries starting in 2023 and the final platform being handed over in 2025. The aircraft will replace the RAFs increasingly ancient Sentry E-3D’s, whose capability has been limited by under-investment going back years. The deal with Boeing was meant to restore high-quality airborne early warning to the RAF by the mid 2020s. Last year the company signed a deal with STS Aviation to modify the 737NG commercial aircraft used for Wedgetail to an AEW configuration at a hangar on Birmingham airport in England. Early work on stripping out two second-hand airliners has already got underway in the US ahead of the aircraft being transferred to the UK where the modification effort will create jobs. Wedgetail is not operated by the US military but has secured Australia, Turkey and South Korea as export customers. Much of the equipment for the RAF aircraft are due to be supplied by Australian industry. The move to reduce Wedgetail numbers comes as the government moves closer to taking the wraps off what it has promised to be a “fundamental” review of British defense, security, foreign policy and overseas development. Led by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his chief advisor Dominic Cummings, the review is looking at pivoting defense away from conventional sunset capabilities to more sunrise technologies in areas like space, artificial intelligence, cyber and undersea warfare. The trouble is Britain’s Brexit- and Covid-19-battered economy is unlikely to find much, if anything, in the way of additional resources for an MoD which already has significant funding issues. To make room for costly future technology programs the armed services are going to have to make sacrifices elsewhere. The procurement process is likely to be in Cummings cross hairs along with conventional capabilities like main battle tanks and army personnel numbers. When the review is published, possibly around mid-November, it’s likely to be a bloody affair. One industry executive here, who asked not to be named, said he thought the outcome was likely to be worse than the 2010 strategic defense and security review, which stripped out capabilities like aircraft carriers, fast jets, maritime patrol aircraft and personnel. Wheeldon said by now nobody should imagine the integrated defense review is about building Britain’s defense capabilities, but quite the reverse. “If anyone really is still under the illusion that the underlying intention behind the 2020 ‘Integrated Review’ process – that of forming a soundly based long-term strategic decision making process of where the UK wants to be in the future, why and what defense and security capability will be required to meet those ambitions – let them now understand that the reality is that what eventually emerges will primarily have been about further cutting of UK defense capability at a time when others, including our adversaries and would-be enemies, are increasing their expenditure in the sector.”

  • Super Herculean Accomplishment: Global C-130J Fleet Surpasses 2 Million Flight Hours

    October 15, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    Super Herculean Accomplishment: Global C-130J Fleet Surpasses 2 Million Flight Hours

    ATLANTA, Oct. 15, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) announced today the global community of C-130J Super Hercules operators recently surpassed 2 million flight hours. These hours were logged beginning with the C-130J's first flight on April 5, 1996, through the end of July 2019. Twenty-two operators from 18 nations contributed to this achievement, adding hours through multiple missions including combat, transport, aerial refueling, special operations, medevac, humanitarian relief, search and rescue, weather reconnaissance, firefighting and commercial freight delivery. Rod McLean, vice president and general manager of the Air Mobility & Maritime Missions line of business at Lockheed Martin, announced the milestone at the Hercules Operators Conference, the annual C-130 operator-industry event held in Atlanta. "The C-130J has earned a reputation as the world's workhorse and this most recent achievement is a powerful reminder of the Super Hercules' unmatched global reach," McLean said. "Crews continue to exemplify the C-130J's proven capability and versatility with every mission they fly. The Lockheed Martin team is proud of the work of the Super Herc crews who rely on the C-130J to support vital missions, both home and abroad." Countries with military variant C-130Js contributing to these flight hours include (in order of delivery) the United Kingdom, United States (the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard), Australia, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Canada, India, Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Tunisia, Israel, Kuwait, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, France, and Bahrain. Also contributing is Lockheed Martin Flight Operations, whose crews are the first to fly every C-130J produced. The U.S. Air Force maintains the largest C-130J fleet, with Super Hercs flown by Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command, Special Operations Command, and Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units. In addition, Defence Contract Management Agency crews support C-130J test flights at Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics site in Marietta, Georgia, home of C-130 production. The C-130J Super Hercules is the current production model of the legendary C-130 Hercules aircraft. For more information on the C-130J Super Hercules, visit About Lockheed Martin Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 105,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

  • 5 things you should know about the US Navy’s new frigate

    May 7, 2020 | International, Naval

    5 things you should know about the US Navy’s new frigate

    By: David B. Larter  WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy selected Fincantieri’s FREMM design for its next-generation frigate, but as with most new platforms it will be a long time before the first ship hits the fleet. The contract, awarded May 30, is for up to 10 hulls constructed at Fincantieri’s Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin. The Navy intends to buy at least 20 frigates. Here’s what we know about what the years ahead will hold: 1) The price tag. According to Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts, the first hull will cost $1.281 billion, which includes the design money for both the ship and for the work needed at the shipyard to set up a production line. It also includes all the government-furnished equipment, including things such as Raytheon’s AN/SPY-6-derivative radar and Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Combat System. Of that $1.281 billion, $795 million will go to the shipyard. The next hulls in the buy should cost significantly less. The Navy is aiming for a price tag of $800 million in 2018 dollars, with the threshold at $950 million. But Geurts thinks he can beat both numbers. An independent cost estimate found the follow-on hulls should cost about $781 million if all 20 are built. “The study shows this ship as selected and the program as designed delivering underneath our objective cost per platform,” Geurts said on a May 30 phone call with reporters. 2) The timeline. Detailed design of the future frigate, known as FFG(X), starts right away, Geurts said, and construction will begin no later than April 2022. The first ship should be delivered in 2026 and should be operational by 2030, with final operational capability declared by 2032, Geurts said. The contract should be wrapped up — all 10 hulls — by 2035. The intention is to buy 20 hulls, though it’s unclear whether Marinette will build all 20 or if the Navy will identify a second source. 3) What could go wrong? The Navy feels like it did a lot to get this ship deal right, which could be argued was important given a not-so-hot track record with programs lately. Improving the Navy’s performance on lead ships, in the wake of the Ford-class debacle, has been a focus of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. Among the steps the Navy took to retire risk with FFG(X) was to adapt many of the mature systems being designed for the Flight III destroyer program, including the latest version of the Aegis Combat System and a scaled-down version of the AN/SPY-6 radar destined for Flight III. “Some of those efforts are still maturing, such as SPY-6, but from my standpoint I’m very comfortable with how that’s proceeding,” said Rear Adm. Casey Moton, program executive officer of unmanned and small combatants. Bringing industry in on the process earlier will also help reduce risk in the lead ship, Moton said. “In general, even before the solicitation went out, the fact that we had industry involved in the conceptual design phase, they were there with us in the requirements; they understood the specifications; we worked with them on cost reduction. Many of the things that tend to trip up lead ships, we took proactive steps to reduce the risk there.” 4) Room to grow. The Navy considered the ability to add new, energy intensive systems on to the ship later in its calculus in selecting FREMM as the FFG(X), according to service officials. During the competition, Fincantieri highlighted that it could fairly easily grow the electrical capacity of the ship, and that all the major computer and engine gear could be swapped out without cutting a hole in the ship, as is often necessary with current classes in the U.S. Navy’s inventory. Rick Hunt, a retired Navy three-star admiral who is now a senior Fincantieri executive, told reporters that the company’s bid was designed to meet the cost specifications while giving the Navy room to upgrade. “Be flexible in what you do right now, surge to more capacity as soon as we get that [requirement] and be able to grow the ship in lot changes should you need something even greater in the future,” Hunt said. Vice Adm. Jim Kilby, the Navy’s top requirements officer, said growth will be important in Navy designs as the service seeks to move away from combating missiles with other missiles. “Understanding how fast the threat is advancing made the service-life allowance so important for us,” Kilby said May 30. “We didn’t want [to] define discretely where we are going in the future, so having some margin to include things like directed energy and other systems, that’s why it was so important. “We have an extensive laser [science and technology] program in the Navy, we have lasers on some of our ships now. We definitely view it as a requirement for the future as we move into a realm where our launchers are reserved for offensive weapons and our point defense systems are these rechargeable magazines that we can sustain for long periods of time.” 5) Lessons learned. The Navy acquisitions boss feels good about the process that produced the FFG(X) award and thinks it can be a model for other programs. “FFG(X) represents an evolution in the Navy’s requirements and acquisition approach, which allowed the acquisition planning, requirements and technical communities along with the shipbuilders to develop requirements for the platform ahead of the release of the detailed design and construction request for proposal," Geurts said. “By integrating the requirements, acquisition planning and design phases, we were able to reduce the span time by nearly six years as compared to traditional platforms. All this was done with an intense focus on cost, acquisition and technical rigor so we got the best value for the war fighter and the taxpayer. It’s the best I’ve seen in the Navy thus far in integrating all the teams together, and it’s a model we’re building on for future programs.” But it’s unclear if a similar approach would work on a clean-sheet, new design the same way it worked for FFG(X), which uses already-developed technologies and a parent design. “Having all the folks in the room early in the process helped move the process along and move it along faster,” said Bryan McGrath, a retired destroyer captain who is now a consultant with The Ferrybridge Group. “The question comes when you consider how applicable duplicating such an effort would be if you were trying to do a clean-sheet design that was incorporating revolutionary technologies, untested technologies, perhaps even undeveloped technologies. That’s a different story.” The FFG(X) will be a considerable step forward for the Navy in terms of capability, but isn’t exactly a revolutionary platform that may require a different process to arrive at a solution, McGrath said.

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