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  • Air Force moves to improve electronic warfare effectiveness

    July 10, 2018 | International, Aerospace, C4ISR

    Air Force moves to improve electronic warfare effectiveness

    By: Maddy Longwell   BAE Systems is transitioning its Compass Call electronic warfare system to a new type of aircraft. In a July 9 news release, the company said that under its Cross Deck initiative the system will be used on the more modern and capable EC-37B aircraft, replacing the aging EC-130H aircraft that has been used since 1981. “The cross-decking program enables the Air Force to maintain existing, unmatched EW mission capabilities in an economical business jet that can fly faster, higher, and farther than its predecessor, improving mission effectiveness and survivability,” said Pamela Potter, director of electronic attack solutions at BAE Systems. According to BAE Systems, the EC-37B is a special-mission Gulfstream G550 business jet that is heavily modified to meet Air Force requirements and will provide a more modern electronic attack platform thanks to reductions in weight and operating costs, as well as the ability to operate at a higher altitude and at longer ranges. The Compass Call system enables the Air Force to disrupt enemy command-and-control operations. The system also has enhanced stand-off jamming capability and allows the Air Force to counter communication and radar threats. Modifications to the first G550 have already begun and BAE Systems, which has partnered with L3 Technologies to transition capabilities, says it expects the first two EC-37B with Compass Call to be fielded by 2023, with a total of 10 planned. BAE Systems also said that it will continue to provide support for the EC-130H fleet while the cross-decking continues.

  • Has the US Navy thought this new frigate through? New report raises questions.

    July 10, 2018 | International, Naval

    Has the US Navy thought this new frigate through? New report raises questions.

    By: David B. Larter WASHINGTON ― The U.S. Navy is rapidly moving toward procuring the first hull in its new class of frigate in 2020, but a new report is raising questions about whether the Navy has done detailed analysis about what it needs out of the ship before barging ahead. The Navy may not have done an adequate job of analyzing gaps and capabilities shortfalls before it set itself on a fast-track to buying the so-called FFG(X) as an adaptation from a parent design, said influential Navy analyst Ron O'Rourke in a new Congressional Research Service report. In essence, the CRS report questions whether the Navy looked at what capabilities the service already has in the fleet, what capabilities it's missing and whether the FFG(X) is the optimal solution to address any identified shortfalls. O'Rourke suggests Congress push the Navy on “whether procuring a new class of FFGs is the best or most promising general approach for addressing the identified capability gaps and mission needs, and whether the Navy has performed a formal, rigorous analysis of this issue, as opposed to relying solely on subjective judgments of Navy or [Defense Department] leaders.” ““Subjective judgments, though helpful, can overlook counter-intuitive results regarding the best or most promising general approach,” the report reads. “Potential alternative general approaches for addressing identified capability gaps and mission needs in this instance include (to cite a few possibilities) modified LCSs, FFs, destroyers, aircraft, unmanned vehicles, or some combination of these platforms.” The Navy is looking to adapt its FFG(X) from an existing design such as Fincantieri's FREMM, one of the two existing littoral combat ships or the Coast Guard's national security cutter as a means of getting updated capabilities into a small surface combatant and into the fleet quickly. A better approach, O'Rourke suggests, would be to make a formal, rigorous analysis of alternatives to its current course. Failure to do so has led to a series of setbacks with the Navy's current small surface combatant program, the LCS. “The Navy did not perform a formal, rigorous analysis of this kind prior to announcing the start of the LCS program in November 2001, and this can be viewed as a root cause of much of the debate and controversy that attended the LCS program, and of the program's ultimate restructurings in February 2014 and December 2015,” O'Rourke writes. O'Rourke further suggests the Navy is relying too much on subjective opinions of Navy and Defense Department leaders, instead of a legitimate analysis. And indeed, the Navy has made rapid acquisition of the new ship the hallmark of the program. “Subjective judgments can be helpful, particularly in terms of capturing knowledge and experience that is not easily reduced to numbers, in taking advantage of the ‘wisdom of the crowd,‘ and in coming to conclusions and making decisions quickly,” O'Rourke argues. “On the other hand, a process that relies heavily on subjective judgments can be vulnerable to group-think, can overlook counter-intuitive results regarding capability gaps and mission needs, and, depending on the leaders involved, can emphasize those leaders' understanding of the Navy's needs.” Read the full report here.

  • Another win for Boeing: New Zealand commits to the P-8 with $1.6 billion deal

    July 10, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Another win for Boeing: New Zealand commits to the P-8 with $1.6 billion deal

    By: Nick Lee-Frampton New Zealand has become the fifth export customer (after Australia, India, Norway and the U.K.) for Boeing's P-8 Poseidon, with a $1.6 billion order for four aircraft. Announced July 9 by Minister of Defence Ron Mark, the order includes the cost of infrastructure and training equipment. The aircraft are expected to enter Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) from 2023 and will replace six Lockheed P-3K2 Orions that have served the RNZAF for more than 50 years. New Zealand purchased five P-3B Orions in 1966 and acquired a sixth aircraft in 1985. New avionics led to new designation of P-3K in the late 1980s; they were then given new wings as part of a life extension program in 2000. New radar and digital avionics from 2011 led to the designation P-3K2. A new title for the Orion fleet was introduced too, the Airborne Surveillance and Response Force. Always operated by 5 Squadron RNZAF from Whenuapai air base, Auckland, the squadron will operate its P-8As from Ohakea. Mark says options for a complementary maritime surveillance capability will be included in the forthcoming Defence Capability Plan review, due to be completed by the end of the year. Smaller manned aircraft, as well as remotely piloted aircraft and satellite surveillance will be considered to complement the P-8s. The Annual Report of the New Zealand Defence Force shows that last year the existing P-3K2 Orions flew around 120 hours on search and rescue missions and more than 500 hours conducting humanitarian aid and disaster relief work.

  • Germany’s choice for a Tornado replacement could undermine NATO

    July 9, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Germany’s choice for a Tornado replacement could undermine NATO

    By: Dan Goure It is clear to any reasonable observer that the state of the NATO alliance is not good. Even as a candidate, Donald Trump made it clear that he desired to see the other alliance members contribute more to the common defense. As President, Mr. Trump shifted from a request to a demand that NATO countries meet their self-imposed target of spending 2 percent of their individual gross domestic product on defense. He recently returned to this theme, possibly previewing his message to the NATO summit scheduled for later in July. “Germany,” he complained, “has to spend more money. Spain, France. It's not fair what they've done to the United States.” In February, the German parliament's military commissioner published a devastating report on the German military's lack of readiness. At the end of 2017, no submarines and none of the Luftwaffe's 14 large transport planes were available for deployment due to repairs. Much of the rest of the German military's equipment, including fighter jets, tanks and ships, are outdated and in some cases not fully operational because of a lack of spare parts. As a result, fighter pilot training has had to be curtailed because of the number of aircraft unavailable due to maintenance issues. The new head of the Luftwaffe, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, confirmed the military commissioner's findings. He publicly admitted that his service is “at a low point. Aircraft are grounded due to a lack of spare parts, or they aren't even on site since they're off for maintenance by the industry.” This lack of investment in critical military capabilities has effected NATO's nuclear deterrent. Germany's fleet of nuclear-capable Tornado aircraft are so old and obsolete that they will have to be retired beginning in 2025. Without a timely replacement, Germany will be out of the nuclear deterrence mission. Any new aircraft being proposed to fill the role played by the Luftwaffe's Tornados must meet an extremely stringent set of safety and operational standards. Because this would be a German aircraft deploying a U.S. nuclear weapon, there are two sets of standards at play. Experts familiar with certifying a new aircraft as nuclear-capable say the process generally takes an average of six to eight years and costs hundreds of millions of dollars. The obvious answer is for the Luftwaffe to acquire some number of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters to replace the Tornado for the nuclear mission. The U.S. Air Force and the F-35 team, led by Lockheed Martin, are currently in the early stages of the nuclear certification process. Italy and the Netherlands are acquiring the F-35 and will certainly use some as dedicated nuclear-delivery platforms. Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium have proposed selling Germany additional Typhoon aircraft to replace the Tornados. The German government has asked Washington if it would accept a nuclear-capable and -certified Typhoon Eurofighter as a Tornado replacement. The Luftwaffe currently operates some 130 Typhoons for air defense. There are two problems with this solution. First, given what it would take to design, develop and test a nuclear-capable Typhoon, much less the six to eight years required for certification, it is too late to go with this option and meet the 2025 date for Tornado retirement. Second, even it could be certified to carry the B-61, the Typhoon will not be able to perform the mission in the high-density, advanced air-defense environment that is already blanketing much of Europe. Delivery of a gravity bomb requires the ability to fly over a heavily defended target, and to do so on the first day of a war. Virtually all senior air force leaders in NATO agree that fourth-generation fighters, including the Typhoon, are not survivable without an extensive and protracted campaign to roll back the air defense threat. Only a fifth generation platform such as the F-35 can beat today's air defenses, much less those that will emerge over the next several decades. The German inquiry regarding the acceptability to Washington of a nuclear-certified Typhoon is really motivated by industrial politics. Germany and France hope to begin development of a fifth-generation fighter ― a project that will take at least 15 years. But if Berlin acquires even a limited number of F-35s, this could undercut that objective. In fact, the head of Airbus recently gave an interview in which he declared that “as soon as Germany becomes an F-35 member nation, cooperation on all combat aircraft issues with France will die.” The German government could not have picked a worse time to play industrial politics with its solemn obligation to participate in the alliance's nuclear deterrence mission. President Trump already believes that most of the NATO allies, including Germany, are not paying their fair share for the common defense. An attempt by Germany to shoehorn a Eurofighter variant into the nuclear weapons delivery mission is another signal that Berlin is just not serious about meeting its alliance obligations. Daniel Gouré is a senior vice president with the Lexington Institute. He worked in the Pentagon during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, and he has taught at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown universities as well as the National War College.

  • French procurement office to undergo transformation

    July 9, 2018 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR

    French procurement office to undergo transformation

    By: Pierre Tran PARIS - France seeks to shake up, speed up and closely audit its arms acquisition with a “transformation” of its procurement office, the Direction Générale de l'Armement. In a July 5 speech, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly pointed to the need for a deep restructuring of the DGA in response to changing threats, international relations, technology and innovation. AS part of that process, the DGA will spin up an innovation office for key programs, with a budget of €1 billion (US $1.2 billion). Closer ties with industry will be part of the new approach, with prime contractors sitting down with the DGA and chiefs of staff to draw up a requirement – but industry must also assume responsibility and better share risk, Parly said. “Transformation of the DGA” was the mission assigned to its director, Joël Barre, when he took up the post, Parly told the audience gathered at the defense ministry. Efficiency and responsiveness were key goals, requiring greater dialog between the DGA and the military services, rather than working in silos, she said. There are now three phases in arms programs, half the previous number, she said. Those key stages are preparation, production and use of the equipment. The ministry seeks to simplify procedure, increase flexibility and acquire innovation, while pursuing new legal structures and financing. While greater conversations with industry will be vital going forward, Parly pointed up that there would “balance” in the government's relations with industry. France was ready to talk to industry but the government was not ready to pay any price. There will detailed audits to ensure a right price was agreed to, Parly warned. “The DGA is not a quartermaster's store, nor little old grandma with an open check book,” she said. One of the major reforms for industry will be to pressure prime contractors deliver on time, with the government seeking to move to an approach used in civil aviation, where most of the payment is made on delivery. That encourages a delivery on time, rather than the present phased payment, where defense contractors have no incentive to speed up the work. The DGA will send teams to inspect the contractors to ensure the right price was paid. Additionally, Parly said there will be greater sharing and use of engineering information between the DGA and industry, with increased use of artificial intelligence and large databases. Innovation agency To help drive the new culture, DGA will set up an innovation agency, intended to be the one number to call for inquiries on innovation, and ready to take risk and speed up official backing. There is a search on for director of the agency, which will merge various existing offices including Astrid, Def'invest and Rapid. The agency will have a budget of €1 billion (US $1.2 billion) for investment. There will be a greater cooperation between the DGA, Joint chief of staff and Chief of staff of each of the services, with teams working together in the same office area from this autumn. There are two pilot projects being considered: the Future Combat Air Systems, which will also consider the potential for cooperation with Germany and other European countries, and a maritime surveillance system. There is a search for greater speed by merging the operational requirements set by the services with the technical needs drafted by the DGA. The forces and DGA will, with a prime contractor, draw up a single document setting out requirement. This combined approach will be tested on a new internal communications system for the ministry. The DGA will seek greater flexibility in its staff management as the office relies on technical staff, which are in strong demand in the job market. That includes sending its employees to work temporarily in companies to learn best practice and boost cooperation between the ministry and industry. The DGA manages an average annual budget of €11 billion for some 100 arms programs, employs 9,600 staff, of which 56 percent are engineers and executives. The office has a major role in managing export deals. Parly, in her opening remarks, quoted former U.S. President John F. Kennedy in his 1960 acceptance speech of the Democrats' nomination for the presidential campaign: “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier--the frontier of the 1960′s--a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils-- a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.” The DGA was formed just a few months before the presidential candidate delivered his speech at the Democratic National Convention at the Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles.

  • What is 'the backbone' of the Canadian Army doing in a junk yard?

    July 9, 2018 | Local, Land

    What is 'the backbone' of the Canadian Army doing in a junk yard?

    Colin Butler Even an expert in armoured fighting vehicles thinks it's a strange place to find what the Canadian Army calls "the backbone" of its combat vehicle fleet. "I'm surprised that vehicles of this importance and significance are being stored in a conventional steel breaker's yard," said Jon Hawkes, the Land Management Editor for military information publisher Jane's Information Group. "Typically they'd be in a military facility of some kind, even if it's sort of, you know, popped out in the back out of the way in the contractors own facility." "For them to be in this breaker's yard is not where I would expect them to be." "Them," in this case are the LAV III, the workhorse of the Canadian Army. You've likely seen them on television, either helping Canadians stricken by some natural disaster, such as the 2013 floods in Alberta, last year's floods in Quebec, or, maybe overseas, carrying our troops into hot zones in such places as Afghanistan and more recently Mali. What are these LAV IIIs doing in a junk yard? So what on Earth are they doing in the back lot of a junk yard? "I think it's interesting," John Hawke said. "You could read that two ways." "On one hand, these things are being quasi-dumped in a corner somewhere to be dealt with later and perhaps that's not caring for them in the best possible way. Although as I say, they're very hardy vehicles. I wouldn't necessarily fear for their status." "Alternatively you could say that someone somewhere is actually being quite smart in finding a very cost-effective solution for storing them for a period of time. I'd imagine it's not hugely expensive to put them wherever this is." Secretive contractors Except, no one working with these LAVs is willing to talk. CBC News first attempted to visit the site in person, but was told to leave the property by staff at the scrap yard. When contacted by phone, Matt Zubick, a member of the family that owns John Zubick's Limited said "I can't talk about that" before he hung up. Steph Bryson, a spokeswoman for General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, declined to comment, referring the question to the Department of National Defence. So why all the secrecy? No secret at all "I find that a bit amusing," said Daniel Le Bouthillier, the head of media relations for the Department of National Defence. "From our perspective, the work is hardly a secret." It turns out the work inside John Zubick's Limited has been happening for the better part of a decade. After Canadian troops deployed in Afghanistan, they quickly realized the army's fleet of LAV IIIs, which they've had since 1997, needed a few tweaks to give soldiers better protection against the Taliban insurgency. Those tweaks involved better armour, blast absorbing seats and other upgrades. However, the LAV IIIs were never designed to handle the extra weight, according to Le Bouthillier. "This additional weight meant more wear and tear and affected the vehicles' what they call 'full mobility potential.' So these upgrades that are happening now address all those issues." The upgrades are being done by London, Ont.-based military manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems Canada as part of a $1.8 billion refitting and refurbishment program with the Canadian Armed Forces called LAVIIIUP, a deal that was first struck in 2010. The program will see all 550 Canadian-made LAV IIIs, getting new armour and new hulls in order to extend the life of the vehicles until the year 2035. "As part of that process, LAV III hulls, which were not designed to support the weight of upgrades are being sent to a scrap yard, taken apart and melted and this is done because these are considered controlled goods," Le Bouthillier said. "So what you're seeing in that scrap yard are parts that are not being harvested for the upgrades," he said. "These are not drive-in, drive-out full capability vehicles. These are just parts of them. They might look like full vehicles because they're so big. Especially when you look at them from above." The first batch of upgraded LAV IIIs were delivered to the military in 2012, with the delivery of the final batch expected next December.

  • Airbus and Saab consider challenge to Boeing Wedgetail for UK

    July 9, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Airbus and Saab consider challenge to Boeing Wedgetail for UK

    By: Andrew Chuter and Beth Stevenson LONDON -- Two of Europe's top aerospace defense companies are discussing combining their airborne early warning capabilities in an attempt to head off a possible sole-source British purchase of the Boeing Wedgetail. The talks are centered on a potential collaboration bringing together an Airbus-built platform with a version of Saab's Erieye radar, said two sources familiar with the discussions. But a third source though sought to dampen expectations of a deal saying the talks were not exclusive and both companies were also talking to various other potential partners. The British are considering replacing their venerable, and increasingly unreliable, Boeing Sentry E-3D fleet with a new airborne early warning aircraft for the Royal Air Force. The Sentry's are currently due to stay in service with the RAF until 2035, subject to a capability sustainment program to extend their service life. News that the two companies are discussing a potential tie-up comes just three days after UK Parliamentary defence committee chairman Julian Lewis wrote an open letter to British defense procurement minister Guto Bebb urging the MoD to ensure that any tender for a new surveillance aircraft must be open to fair competition, and not awarded sole-source to the Wedgetail. The letter said that it would be “particularly inappropriate for a competition to be foregone in favour of Boeing following their involvement in the imposition of punitive tariffs against Bombardier last year [over regional jet subsidies].” The fight with Boeing threatened Bombardier manufacturing facilities in Northern Ireland with substantial job losses. Airbus didn't confirm that talks were taking place with Saab. But in a statement, it unsurprisingly supported the calls for an open competition -- and gave a clue as to what it sees as potential platforms for a possible British requirement. “As the biggest supplier of large aircraft to the Royal Air Force, Airbus would welcome a competition to present a market leading and cost-effective solution for the RAF's future AWACS requirements,” said an Airbus spokesman. “Building on our successful experience in converting commercial aircraft into the world's market-leading tanker, Airbus is working on further opportunities to use the A330 and A320 as the basis for new mission aircraft,” said the spokesman. To the same effect, Saab also welcomed an open competition from the government to replace the Sentry fleet, although it did not go into specifics regarding the exact offering it would expect to pitch should a competition be held. “Saab, as the one of the world's leading suppliers of airborne surveillance and air battle management systems, would enthusiastically pursue an open competition to replace the UK's aging E-3D fleet, should the UK MoD choose to issue a requirement,” a company spokesman said. Potential signing Late last month, The Times newspaper reported the MoD was heading for a possible sole source buy of between four and six Wedgetail aircraft at a cost of up to £3 billion to replace the Sentry fleet. The NATO summit in Brussels, the Royal International Air Tattoo, or the Farnborough air show later this month, have been touted as possible venues for an announcement. The MoD declined to comment on whether a Wedgetail deal was likely or imminent. ‘Any decision on the way forward for the Sentry capability will be taken in the best interests of national security in the face of intensifying threats, and only after full consideration. We tender contracts competitively wherever appropriate. It is too early to comment further at this time,' said an MoD spokesman. An Australian air force Wedgetail is scheduled to appear at the RIAT show starting July 13 at Fairford, southern England. The 737-based jet has also been sold to Turkey and South Korea. The letter raised the committee's concerns over the state of the RAF's Sentry fleet, saying it was in a poor state of maintenance and often only a single aircraft in the six strong fleet was available at any one time. A statement accompanying the letter said reports have emerged that as part of the Modernising Defence Programme review being conducted by the MoD it is considering cancelling the sustainment program and replacing the Sentry fleet with a new aircraft. The letter from the lawmakers reflects increasing concern on the committee about the award of non-competitive contracts with overseas companies for major defense equipment requirements. The most recent of those was the MoD decision to buy Artec-built Boxer mechanized infantry vehicles from Germany without a competition, but the U.S. industry has also benefited from several sole-source deals in recent times. Boeing has particularly rankled competitors after winning two major UK contracts in 2016 without a competition: the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and the AH-64E Apache attack rotorcraft, the selection of which were announced at that year's Farnborough air show. Lewis said in the letter that the committee had “in the light of convincing evidence of at least one credible alternative to Wedgetail,” it can see “absolutely no reason why, yet again, to dispense with open competition.” It's not known exactly who the committee is referring to, but an Airbus/Saab combination would appear to qualify as being highly credible. Saab's well regarded Erieye radar has sold widely around the world on turboprop and regional jet platforms with countries like Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Sweden operating the capability. Most recently it secured a deal with the United Arab Emirates for the delivery of five of the new GlobalEye early warning and control aircraft which uses the Bombardier 6000 business jet as a platform and boasts a new extended range version of Erieye. Saab executives at the roll-out of the GlobalEye in February said they had briefed the British on the aircraft's capabilities, but their view was the RAF still wanted a larger cabin than a business jet could provide. One option to meet that requirement is the possible use of almost new A330 tanker aircraft available under the AirTanker private finance initiative arrangement to provide inflight refuelling capacity to the RAF. Fourteen A330s were built for AirTanker, in which Airbus is a shareholder, with nine aircraft being available constantly for the RAF and the remainder of the airframes leased out to other users, but available for immediate return to air refueling duties in a crisis. The wings of Airbus' commercial airliners are manufactured in the UK, and uncertainty surrounding the terms of the nation's impending exit from the European Union has caused the company to issue a strong warning to the government that it may move the work elsewhere if Brexit does not favor movement of parts, or the certification of the wings in line with European standards. CEO Tom Enders has been vocal on his views regarding the situation, but opening up other areas of work in which companies like Airbus may participate - such as an open competition for the AWACS replacement – could help companies like Airbus who feel the government has overlooked their interests in the UK. Other executive though wonder whether Brexit supporting Government ministers in Britain are in any mood to do Airbus any favors in sectors like defense procurement.

  • Air Force quietly, and reluctantly, pushing JSTARS recap source selection ahead

    July 9, 2018 | International, Aerospace, C4ISR

    Air Force quietly, and reluctantly, pushing JSTARS recap source selection ahead

    By: Valerie Insinna WASHINGTON — Congress is waging a public battle on the fate of the JSTARS recap program, but behind the scenes, the Air Force is quietly taking steps that will allow them to award a contract for a program that leaders say they don't need. The service received final proposal revisions for the JSTARS recap program on June 22, confirmed Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Emily Grabowski in a statement to Defense News. “The Air Force wants to be postured to move forward with JSTARS recap, if required. Therefore, we are continuing source selection while we continue to work with Congress on the way forward,” Grabowski said in a statement. Usually, the government solicits final proposals and pricing information from competitors just weeks before making a final downselect. Thus, if Congress decides to force the Air Force to continue on with the program, it's likely the service will be able to award a contract in very short order. The Air Force began the JSTARS recap program as an effort to replace its aging E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System ground surveillance planes with new aircraft and a more capable radar. The initial plan was to buy 17 new JSTARS recap jets from either Boeing, Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman. However, the service announced during February's fiscal year 2019 budget rollout that it preferred to cancel the JSTARS recap program and fund an “Advanced Battle Management System” that would upgrade and link together existing aircraft and drones, allowing them to do the JSTARS mission. The Air Force's continued source selection efforts are necessary due to Congress, which is split on the issue of whether to continue to the program. Both Senate defense committees have sided with the Air Force, and would allow it to kill JSTARS recap as long as it continues to fund the current JSTARS fleet. The Senate version of the defense spending bill also includes an additional $375 million to accelerate the ABMS concept with additional MQ-9 Reapers and other technologies. Meanwhile, the House version of the bill would force the Air Force to award an engineering and manufacturing development contract for JSTARS recap to one of the three competitors, which had been valued at $6.9 billion. However, some lawmakers have said they might be willing to accept a truncated recap program to bridge the way until ABMS is fielded. “All of the committees understand the need for moving to the advanced battle management system,” Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, told reporters in June. “If there are disagreements between the committees, it's about whether we can move straight to that and hold onto our legacy JSTARS as a way to bridge until we do that, or do we need to do one more recap of that system” The timing of final proposal revisions actually puts source selection for JSTARS recap ahead of that of the still ongoing T-X trainer jet program, which as of late June had not reached that stage. However, Congress will likely need time to resolve the JSTARS recap issue — meaning a contract decision is far from imminent. The House and Senate armed services committees began the conference process in June, which could allow them to reconcile differences in the defense policy bill as early as this summer. However, only appropriations bills can be used to fund government programs like JSTARS recap, and spending legislation could be stuck in limbo for months past that. If deliberations stretch out, “the Air Force will continue to assess contract award timelines and approvals. If necessary, the Air Force will request an extension of proposal validity or updated pricing as appropriate,” Grabowski said. Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to debate the case in the public eye. In a July 3 editorial for The Telegraph, Republican Rep. Austin Scott, one of the biggest proponents of the recap program, argued that it would be more economical to proceed with JSTARS recap than to continue to do extensive depot maintenance on the legacy aircraft. “After 10 years of work, the Air Force is considering canceling the JSTARS recap program,” wrote Scott, whose district in Georgia is home to Robins Air Force base, where the JSTARS aircraft reside. “Their arguments do not take into account the significantly improved capabilities and increased capacity that the new aircraft will provide. The Air Force has ignored its own assessments in their recommendation for cancellation.”

  • La Suisse fait redécoller son projet d’achat d’avions de combat

    July 9, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    La Suisse fait redécoller son projet d’achat d’avions de combat

    Philippe Chapeleau La Suisse a lancé un nouvel appel d'offres pour ses futurs avions de combat, après de longues péripéties qui ont conduit à l'annulation de l'achat de 22 Gripen E/F de Saab à la suite d'un référendum en mai 2014. La nouvelle flotte, entre 30 et 40 avions doit remplacer à la fois les Tiger et les F/A-18. Il va y avoir du dog fight (un duel aérien) dans les cieux de la Suisse : les autorités helvétiques ont en effet lancé un nouvel appel d'offres pour doter l'armée de l'air de nouveaux avions de combat en remplacement des F-5 Tiger et des F-18vieillissants. En 2014, les électeurs Suisses avaient dit "non" au projet d'achat d'intercepteurs suédois. L'achat de 22 avions de combat Gripen pour 3,126 milliards de francs avait été rejeté par 53,4 % des votants. Le marché porte sur au moins 30 avions, peut-être 40. Vendredi, Armasuisse, l'agence fédérale qui s'occupe des achats d'armes, a annoncé que cinq avions de combat étrangers allaient être évalués : le Gripen E suédois (Saab), le Rafale français (Dassault), l'Eurofighterallemand (Airbus), et côté américain, le successeur du FA-18, le Super Hornet de Boeing, et le F-35A de Lockheed-Martin. Des tests au sol et en vol en Suisse seront menés entre mai et juillet 2019. Un deuxième appel d'offres pour les jets sera mené en novembre 2019 et les réponses sont attendues pour fin mai 2020. Le choix des modèles devrait tomber vers fin 2020. Le parlement puis le peuple devraient pouvoir se prononcer sur la facture.

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