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October 5, 2021 | International, Naval

US Navy acquisition chief outlines FY22 priorities

Next year will be a big one for Navy readiness, setting up the fleet for future success through F-35 sustainment, shipyard overhauls and IT transformation.

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  • Singapore wants the F-35 to replace its F-16s

    January 21, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    Singapore wants the F-35 to replace its F-16s

    By: Mike Yeo MELBOURNE, Australia — The Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter appears to have secured another export success, with Singapore announcing that it has identified the type “as the most suitable replacement” for the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s fleet of F-16s. In an announcement on Friday, Singapore’s defense ministry said that it made the decision following the completion of a technical evaluation conducted together with the Southeast Asian island nation’s Defence Science and Technology Agency. It added that “the technical evaluation also concluded that the RSAF should first purchase a small number of F-35 JSFs for a full evaluation of their capabilities and suitability before deciding on a full fleet.” According to the ministry, Singapore will next discuss details with relevant parties in the United States before confirming its decision to acquire the F-35. Singapore’s defense minister Ng Eng Hen added that this process is expected to take “nine to 12 months.” The deal would almost certainly be through the United States Foreign Military Sales program. Ng had previously said that the F-16s will start to be retired around 2030, although neither he nor the ministry’s announcement indicated how many F-35s will initially be acquired. Also not revealed was the variants that Singapore would buy. A ministry spokesperson declined to provide further details when asked by Defense News. Singapore has been a security cooperative partner in the F-35 program since 2003, and first disclosed its interest in the F-35 in 2013. Subsequent reports suggested it was keen on the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B variant. It is believed Singapore has a requirement of 40-60 aircraft, or enough to make up two or three squadrons. Singapore, which is a regional security partner of the United States, currently operates a fleet of 60 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D/D+ Fighting Falcon multirole fighters. These are a mix of 40 Block 52 C/D aircraft and a further 20 newer F-16D+ Advanced Block 52s acquired in four batches between 1994 and 2001. Deliveries started in 1998, which would make the oldest of these 32 years old by 2030. Twelve of the older Block 52s serve with a training detachment based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona embedded within a mixed USAF-RSAF squadron conducting continuation training for RSAF pilots with the remainder distributed among three Singapore-based squadrons. Singapore’s fleet of F-16s are currently being upgraded to F-16V standard, with the program expected to be completed in 2022 or 2023.

  • Britain kicks off competition to manage ground stations for next Skynet satellite program

    September 13, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    Britain kicks off competition to manage ground stations for next Skynet satellite program

    By: Andrew Chuter  LONDON — Britain’s defense secretary has fired the starting gun on an industry competition to manage the ground station element of the £6 billion Skynet 6 communications satellite program. “I can announce the launch of a new competition for an industry partner to operate and manage the ground stations, infrastructure and technology involved in this [Skynet 6] program,” Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said in a speech at the DSEI defense exhibition in London Wednesday. The invitation to industry players could see incumbent ground service provider Airbus lose the contract after more than 15 years operating ground stations and satellites in the Skynet 5 private finance initiative deal with the British Ministry of Defence. The ground station service deal with Airbus comes to an end in 2022. Earlier MoD briefings to industry said they envisioned a contract award to the winning bidder around August next year. Julian Knight, head of networks at the MoD’s Information Systems and Services organization said the government was about to enter a vital phase of the program. “We are seeking an innovative partner that will ensure effective and consistent defense satellite communications and will look to continually maximize performance and value for money,” he said. “The successful bidder will also negotiate the MoD’s access to commercial satellite services, as well as managing the U.K.’s contribution and access to systems owned and operated by the U.K.’s allies,” said Knight. Ken Peterman, president of government systems at Viasat, said he was pleased at the references to commercial capabilities being adopted as part of the program. “ We are very encouraged by today’s Skynet 6 announcement as it further demonstrates the value of commercial satellite trajectories and the need for an ecosystem that will allow war fighters to use both commercial and MoD purpose-built capabilities as one seamless enterprise.” It’s not clear whether the British intend to use the Skynet 6 ground stations for non-communications satellite applications in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sector. Airbus wasted no time officially declaring it would be bidding for what’s known as the service delivery element of the Skynet 6 program, and rivals are expected to follow suit in the next few weeks. “Airbus has an outstanding track record of being the pioneer of secure mil satcoms within a commercial framework….We look forward to offering the MoD a modernized and enhanced service with Skynet 6,” said the European-based company in a statement. Inmarsat, Viasat, Serco, Lockheed Martin UK and others are also expected to submit bids either leading or partnering in competing consortia. A spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin U Kconfirmed the company is “interested in participating” in the service delivery competition. The service delivery element of the program is the first part of a wider Skynet 6 program also planned to include a raft of capabilities to provide next generation non-line of sight communications. The competition for that element, known as enduring capability, is expected to get underway with an invitation to tender in the first quarter of 2020. Some of the same companies interested in the ground station portion of the deal will be pitching for the future capability requirement. Airbus is the main satellite player here but Lockheed Martin has been ramping up its U.K. space credentials and others like Viasat are also rapidly expanding their presence. Airbus, the European space leader, has already secured a contract with the British to provide a new satellite known as Skynet 6A for capabilities to supplement the four Skynet 5 satellites currently in operation. Airbus was selected for 6A without a competition over a year ago, but the deal has yet to be signed. A spokesman for Airbus in the U.K. confirmed the satellite contract had not been sealed but said he was optimistic the deal would be completed by the end of the year. The in service date for the satellite is targeted for mid2025. Beefing up space capabilities has become a top priority for the British and the threat posed by rival nations was referenced by service chiefs speaking at the DSEI show. Wallace referenced it as well. “Today we’re having to deal with increasing threats to satellite-based navigation and the need for robust communications has never been more vital," he said. “That’s why we’re developing Skynet 6, which will give our forces unparalleled capacity to talk to each other in any hostile environment.” The British announced earlier this year they are collaborating with the U.S. on a project known as Artemis, aimed at researching the military potential of launching a constellation of small satellites. The goal is to launch a demonstrator vehicle within 12 months. Small satellite development is pretty much dominated by the British, primarily through the Airbus owned Surrey Satellites Technology. The British are also the first international partner to formally sign up for a little talked about U.S.-led coalition effort called Operation Olympic Defender, aimed at strengthening allies’ ability to deter hostile actions by nations like Russia and China. Despite the new urgency to build a space capability, the British have still not published their long awaited space defense strategy detailing how the military intends to develop its space thinking in the decade ahead. Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, who recently took over as the chief of the air staff, declined to say when the document might surface or why its publication has been delayed for more than a year. Industry executives though were more forthcoming. One executive, who asked not to be named, said one of the principal reasons for the delay was the haggling between Joint Forces Command and the Royal Air Force over who would end up controlling Britain’s military space activities.

  • Orb Takes Flight

    August 31, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    Orb Takes Flight

    By Kimberly Underwood The Air Force’s Agility Prime program conducts first demonstration of electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft.   Last Thursday afternoon, leaders deemed the first demonstration of a flying orb by AFWERX’s Agility Prime effort a success. The event was the first in a series of steps toward the U.S. Air Force fielding electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOLs, by 2023. Held at Camp Mabry, near Austin Texas, with the Texas National Guard as hosts, the exhibition of LIFT Aircraft’s Hexa eVTOL vehicle included the service’s top brass. Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, new Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., and new Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass were all on hand to see the new aircraft, flown by LIFT CEO Matthew Chasen. “It was really exciting,” said Col. Nathan Diller, USAF, AFWERX director and Agility Prime lead, “These demonstrations start to show some of the maturity of the vehicle. And the fact that LIFT was able to do all the preparations and do an on-time takeoff and have all the maintenance pieces together [was great].” Col. Diller, who is spearheading Agility Prime’s Air Race to Certification, which aims to have a first series of initial eVTOL capability by December, spoke to SIGNAL Magazine on Saturday. In the coming weeks, Agility Prime will conduct more demonstrations like the LIFT Aircraft event, with a “handful of companies,” he said. “And when that testing gets to a level where we feel this learning campaign would bring military utility at cost, we can start to purchase hardware, data or potential services, such as flight test-as-a-service.” Following the demonstrations with the companies, they may proceed into a full test plan, using combined operational testing, the colonel added. For the demonstration, the service also had to achieve the appropriate regulatory approvals. To use the airspace for the basic maneuvering, they needed much lower altitudes than a conventional aircraft would use, and in an urban environment. “The FAA gave us authorization to operate, both manned and unmanned [aircraft] within a few miles of downtown Austin,” Col. Diller shared. “And the CEO of LIFT actually flew the aircraft, so he hopped into the orb. The Hexa has a very interesting architecture, and when you think of the reliability….and to hear the acoustics, that was something to see.” The Air Force leaders were really impressed, the colonel shared.  “There is kind of this ‘ahh moment’ where, there is actually something flying,” he said. “And then [you see] that it is actually a demonstration more of the maturity when you start to look at it, the maturity of the vehicle and the maturity of the technology. There was a build-up that allowed us to have the confidence to do that and operate at Camp Mabry. And given that is was Texas in August, with an air temperature of about 100 degrees, the colonel said it also was a test of the e-VOTL’s operations in such as environment. Col. Diller added that it was quite something to see the eVTOL aircraft as well as the Guard’s F-16s at Camp Mabry, and it put into perspective where the flying orb technology could play a role in urban air mobility. “The ability to fly one of those, with the advances in new aircraft controls, there are some interesting opportunities to think about pilot training in the future, and to think about who across our service might be able to fly these in the future,” Col. Diller pondered.

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