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January 15, 2020 | International, Aerospace

Lockheed, Boeing enter Germany’s heavy transport helicopter race

By: Sebastian Sprenger

COLOGNE, Germany — Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky and Boeing have submitted their proposals for the German military's envisioned heavy transport helicopter program, the companies announced.

Sikorsky is offering a version of the CH-53K designed for the U.S. Marine Corps, while Boeing is pitching the H-47 Chinook. The offers, due on Jan. 13, come in response to a request for proposals published by the Bundeswehr last summer. Government officials will spend the greater part of 2020 analyzing the submissions, with a second and final request for offers pegged for the end the year.

The multibillion-dollar STH program, short for Schwerer Transporthubschrauber, is meant to replace the German fleet of decades-old CH-53G copters. Deliveries from the winning bidder are slated to begin in 2024 and last through the early 2030s — that is if the program receives budgetary support from the government and lawmakers when the time comes for a contract next year.

Both companies have assembled a group of German suppliers that would oversee areas such as maintenance, simulators and documentation in an effort to maximize domestic industry participation.

The Bundeswehr initially wanted a no-frills, off-the-shelf cargo helicopter that would be easy on the defense budget. Notably, the Germans also want to use the STH choppers for combat search-and-rescue operations, with plans to raise that mission profile throughout the Air Force's ranks.

But last year's solicitation came with an unexpected level of complexity, Frank Crisafulli, Sikorsky's director of international business development for heavy helicopters, told reporters during a company presentation in Bonn, Germany, on Monday.

“Folks were caught by surprise,” he said. The added complications are due, for example, to the Bundeswehr's goal of having the helicopters certified in accordance with European civilian aviation regulations. In addition, German officials want a weather radar better than the one offered in the Marine Corps version of the CH-53K, plus a multilayered radio communications setup," Crisafulli said.

As envisioned, the STH program would plunge the German military into a model of contractor-driven support popularized by the U.S. Defense Department under the moniker of performance-based logistics, or PBL.

The idea is that the government can save money by dictating to contractors what level of readiness it wants for its hardware, and then letting vendors figure out how to meet those objectives within a given budget. Pentagon auditors previously affirmed the basic premise of performance-based logistics, with one key caveat: The government must have enough insight and clout in the programs to be able to set sensible performance benchmarks at rates favorable to taxpayers.

According to Mike Schmidt, CEO of Rheinmetall Aviation Services, one of Sikorsky's key local partners, the concept is relatively new for Germany. At an STH industry day in 2018, “nobody knew what PBL was,” he said.

At stake for the contractors is a 40-year relationship with Germany over the life cycle of the program. Boeing has portrayed its Chinook offering as a low-risk and low-cost option because more than 950 of the aircraft are already used by 20 countries. Sikorsky has played up the aerial-refueling capabilities of the CH-53K, especially in conjunction with the Lockheed Martin-made KC-130J tanker, to increase range.

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  • Macron kicks off French race to build a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

    December 9, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval

    Macron kicks off French race to build a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

    By: Christina Mackenzie   PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Dec. 8 that his country's next aircraft-carrier will be nuclear-powered and should be operational by 2038 in time to replace the Charles de Gaulle, which entered active service in 2001. The new aircraft carrier is expected to be the biggest warship France has ever built. Florence Parly, the armed forces minister, said in October that the ship, whatever its propulsion, would be designed to deploy the future combat aircraft system (FCAS) and today her ministry confirmed that the vessel would deploy about 30 of these aircraft “which will be bigger than the Rafales.” The ministry said the ship would be in the 75,000 tonne class (82,673 tons), be around 300 meters long (984 feet) and be able to sail at 27 knots (31 mph), even bigger than the second aircraft carrier that Naval Group was working on in the early 2000s until that program was shelved by the government for lack of money. In comparison, the Charles de Gaulle is 261m (856 feet) long and weighs 42,000 tonnes (46,297 tons) fully loaded. The new ship will have a crew of about 2,000, including the air group. Speaking at Framatome, France's principal nuclear-power company headquartered at Le Creusot in the centre of France, Macron announced just four minutes before the end of his 28 minute speech that he had “decided that the future aircraft-carrier which will serve our country and our navy will, like the Charles de Gaulle, be nuclear-propelled.” It will have two K22 power generators each generating 220 megawatts (hence the 22) derived from the K15 (that generate 150 MW each) that currently power the Charles de Gaulle. Naval Group, which is the prime contractor for these major ship-building projects, immediately issued a statement hailing the decision, pledging to work with its major industrial partners Chantiers de l'Atlantique, TechnicAtome and Dassault Aviation. Pierre Eric Pommellet, chairman and CEO of Naval Group, said, “We are delighted with the announcement (...) which will enable France to maintain its position in the very restricted circle of major powers holding a nuclear aircraft carrier.” Echoing what Macron had said in his speech, Pommellet stressed the importance of projects like this to “ensure the continuity of our skills” and of developing innovative solutions “in the fields of propulsion and high added-value military systems, thus maintaining France's technological lead and its position as a key geostrategic player.” Now that the nuclear option has been chosen to power France's new aircraft carrier, other major decisions will have to be taken, notably concerning the catapults which are a vital part of the project. France has no expertise in this highly specialized technology and so will have to import the catapults from the United States, as it has done for the past 60 years. Those on the Charles de Gaulle are steam-powered, but those on the new aircraft carrier will be electromagnetic. Naval Group and its partners will now start a two-year preliminary design study, which sources said may use a number of the ideas that had been worked on for the aborted second aircraft carrier. That will be followed by more detailed plans with the development phase expected to finish at the end of 2025 at which point the ministry will order the ship. The design phase up to the end of 2025 is expected to cost some €900 million ($1.09 billion) of which €117 million ($142 million) will be spent in 2021.

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  • Pentagon terminates program for redesigned kill vehicle, preps for new competition

    August 21, 2019 | International, Land

    Pentagon terminates program for redesigned kill vehicle, preps for new competition

    By: Jen Judson UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement from Raytheon. WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has moved from taking a “strategic pause” on the Redesigned Kill Vehicle program to outright killing it. The Department of Defense decided to terminate the current Boeing contract to develop the RKV — effective Aug. 22 — “due to technical design problems,” according to an Aug. 21 statement by the department. Raytheon is the actual developer of the RKV and serves as a sub-contractor to Boeing. The RKV would have replaced the current Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) on the Ground-Based Interceptor, which makes up the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system designed to protect the homeland from ballistic missile threats. It would have also been fielded on all future ground-based interceptors — a total of 64 ultimately. The EKV is designed to destroy targets in high-speed collisions after separating from the booster rocket. The EKV required technical changes in the past several years due to issues in tests. The Missile Defense Agency decided to initiate a program to redesign the kill vehicle. In the meantime, MDA has had several successful tests of the GMD system with the EKV following engineering changes. Now that the RKV is dead in the water, the Pentagon plans to move forward with a new, next-generation interceptor competition, the statement said. According to a defense official, no more ground-based interceptors will be built, and all future interceptors that are fielded as part of the GMD system will be the new interceptors. “Ending the program was the responsible thing to do,” Mike Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said in the statement. “Development programs sometimes encounter problems. After exercising due diligence, we decided the path we're going down wouldn't be fruitful, so we're not going down that path anymore. This decision supports our efforts to gain full value from every future taxpayer dollar spent on defense.” With the blessing of the undersecretary of defense, Griffin made the decision on Aug. 14 to terminate the program, one week after he told reporters at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, to expect a decision on the way forward for RKV soon. MDA and Boeing in December 2018 deferred a critical design review of the RKV “due to the failure of certain critical components to meet technical requirements as specified in the development contract,” the statement noted. After MDA assessed the issues, it issued a stop work order on the contract in May to analyze alternative options. “The department ultimately determined the technical design problems were so significant as to be either insurmountable or cost-prohibitive to correct,” the statement said. The DoD plans to take data garnered from research and testing of the RKV prior to its cancellation to inform the next-generation interceptor program, “which will include a new kill vehicle,” according to the statement. “The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is updating its requirements in the face of an increasingly complex threat environment," Raytheon said in a statement. The company “supports their decision to cease work on the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) and initiate a competition for the next-generation interceptor to meet these advanced threats. Raytheon will continue to develop and offer a wide range of advanced missile defense technologies available to protect the United States now and in the future.” There are 44 ground-based interceptorss in place at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, with plans to add 22 additional missile silos at Fort Greely to support 20 more ground-based interceptors. The defense official said the Pentagon is still working through the details of a new, next-generation interceptor competition, including when it will be initiated and the pace at which the technology will be developed and fielded.

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