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Study - Towards More Effective Global Humanitarian Action: How the EU Can Contribute - PE 549.048 - Subcommittee on Human Rights - Committee on Foreign Affairs - Subcommittee on Security and Defence - Committee on Development

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in May 2016 will be the culmination of a global consultation process. The three-year initiative responds to the need to adapt the humanitarian system in order to make humanitarian action more efficient and effective in keeping pace with the rapidly changing context of emergencies. Consultations leading up to the Summit have provided the opportunity to gain perspectives from different regions of the world. As a result, three main priorities have been highlighted: the need for humanitarians to protect and preserve the dignity of people affected by conflict and disaster; a call to find innovative and sustainable ways of meeting people's needs; and a demand from the global South to 'localise' humanitarian response by strengthening local, national and regional capacities to prevent, manage and respond to crisis. There is potential for the European Union (EU) to take a leadership role in the process and influence the WHS outcome. ECHO´s new need assessment tools and the Linking Relief Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD) as well as Resilience approaches offer a framework for responding to the challenges posed by protracted crises. This study recommends that the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid should be applied as a model for a 'Global Consensus on Humanitarian Action' or a 'Global Compact' recognising the diversity of today's humanitarian response system while taking advantage of all actors' complementary role. Furthermore, the EU and member states must commit to placing protection at the centre of humanitarian action and ensure that the EU´s humanitarian aid is not regarded as a crisis management tool, and allowed to become an instrument of its foreign policy.
Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP

Special aerospace issue of EDA magazine available

EDA News - Fri, 12/06/2015 - 16:35

The latest issue of European Defence Matters, the official magazine of the European Defence Agency, is now available. Timed to coincide with the opening of the 51st edition of the International Paris Air Show, it focuses on European military aerospace issues.

This eighth issue of European Defence Matters will cover a wide variety of aerospace-related topics ranging from air-to-air refuelling, satellite communications, implementation of the Single European Sky or remotely piloted aircraft systems. It includes interviews with EDA experts and key players in the area such as Général Denis Mercier, French air force Chief of Staff, or Fernando Alonso, Head of military aircraft with Airbus Defence & Space.

In addition to our European aerospace feature story, this issue also includes an exclusive opinion piece from High Representative and Head of the Agency Federica Mogherini, who shares her thoughts on the future of European defence. 

More information


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German-Swedish RBS15 Mk3 anti-ship missile completes operational test

Naval Technology - Fri, 12/06/2015 - 01:00
The German-Swedish anti-ship missile RBS15 Mk3 has successfully completed its operational test abroad the German Navy's K130 Braunschweig-class corvette, Magdeburg (F 261), at a test site in Swedish territorial waters.
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US Navy to christen tenth LCS on 13 June

Naval Technology - Fri, 12/06/2015 - 01:00
The US Navy is set to christen its tenth littoral combat ship (LCS), future USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10), on 13 June at Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.
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BMT secures research grant to support Australia’s future submarine programme

Naval Technology - Fri, 12/06/2015 - 01:00
BMT Design & Technology (BMT) has received a research grant to develop a risk analysis and evaluation of emerging technologies, challenges and design solutions to support Australia's SEA1000 future submarine programme.
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Case Study: Data Compression for Dredging International

Naval Technology - Thu, 11/06/2015 - 17:21
Dredging International (DI) is a global leader in dredging and land reclamation.
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Brexit and The City: A Security Question?

Kings of War - Thu, 11/06/2015 - 12:51

The 2017 referendum concerning the UK’s membership of the EU will turn on many factors, even if most sage observers think that the vote to remain will be won. Those factors splay across nationality and identity politics, the Scottish question, the cohesion of the Conservative and Labour parties, contested economic analyses and the various mystery x-factors such as the far more likely ‘Grexit’.

So, despite the received wisdom being that the vote to remain will be won (and Open Europe declared on the 5th June – with its methodological workings – that the chance of Brexit sits currently at 19% and the chance of the vote being lost as 28%) the City of London has begun to speak with a louder voice about why it sees its core interests being best served with a UK that sits in the EU. That the City feels moved to speak is both interesting and important: it is interesting because it implies that they feel that there is a chance of Brexit beyond that which they can reasonably sit back and ignore. It is important because 1) there are political and economic impacts to be endured by The City (and thus the wider economy) in a time of political uncertainty prior to December 2017, and thus potentially after that date too and 2) because there are other important sub-questions around Brexit too that deal with the type of economy the UK will continue to enjoy, and to whose benefit these sorts of political issues are settled.

The economic impacts to be endured are most likely to be felt as investment decisions. Uncertainty is the enemy of investment: the UK will already be being priced with a risk premium, and this will only get worse as we get nearer to 2017. As the pre-eminent financial centre in the EU (for mostly historical reasons initially, but now in terms of sheer weight of activity), the City carries great sway over the conduct of financial services in the Union. The proposed banking union (which the City and the UK government opposes) might be developed as a rival bloc to the City which would impact upon the UK’s global competitiveness, whilst the move to encourage EU level business activity away from bank-led finance to alternative forms of financial instrument would likely be led by the UK – who is the largest player in this field currently and who has the best developed understanding of the regulatory frameworks required for it in the post-2008 climate. Simple politics would dictate that European rivals will be quick to question why the UK should have an influential say over this area if it looks to be disengaging from the European project altogether.

The City and financial services amount to 9% of the UK’s GDP. Damage to this area of activity (particularly to a host of investment decisions) has a whole-economy impact. My question – as a security studies academic – is does the potential impact, and thus the roll out across the entire economy, amount to a security impact? Strapping on various different lenses – that of economic performance and the money to invest in key attributes to maintaining fighting fitness (and not necessarily military fitness) is one holistic way to assess an economic impact. Such an analysis fits closely to the far reaches of ‘hybrid warfare’, and looks at the maintenance of education and health as elements of holistic effect. The other is to look at the maintenance of the integrity of social fabric. We can draw simplistic correlations around a time of economic contraction and the emergence of complex threats generated by the disaffected.

In terms of ‘the business dimension’ to Brexit. The City wants to remain in. Small businesses, who are doing less and less trade with continental Europe, might reasonably want to leave. Large manufacturing concerns have welcomed the prospect of having more flexible regulatory conditions outside of the EU – and so divide reasonably equally. Looking at the question from a UK Plc perspective, where is our influence best felt? Where do we exercise most ‘power’? In an era that has seen and will continue to see us effectively winding down our military power (SDSR 2015 will need to do something radical to stop this rot), activities that we do that our globally important should be retained. Even in the context of the disaster of 2008, the City remains a vastly overpaid wealth generator for the nation, and a lever of power on the international stage. Looking from the outside the UK, if one was to do an assessment of what to try and undermine in the UK as part of a hybrid war, the City would be a large target. Where are the successor sources of wealth generation outside of The City?

The fate of the City in the question around Brexit is fundamental to whether the UK remains a mid-range power, or a small power with an expansive history. More particularly, it is a security question.

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Negotiations of Administrative Arrangement with Ukraine launched

EDA News - Thu, 11/06/2015 - 12:16

Following a Steering Board mandate to the Head of the Agency to initiate formal negotiations of an Administrative Arrangement with the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine earlier this year, the EDA Chief Executive, Jorge Domecq today met with the Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Ihor Pavlovskyi, and a Ukrainian delegation.

The purpose of today’s meeting is to launch the negotiation process for a possible Administrative Arrangement between the Agency and the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. This arrangement will enable Ukraine, when agreed, to participate in EDA’s projects and programmes. Specific areas of cooperation will need to be defined”, Jorge Domecq said after the meeting.

Cooperation between Ukraine and EDA on capability development including technology issues is foreseen in the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement that was signed by EU Heads of State and Government and the Ukrainian President in 2014.

More information:
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

EDA places first order for Carl-Gustaf ammunition

EDA News - Thu, 11/06/2015 - 11:45

The European Defence Agency (EDA) today placed the first order of Carl-Gustaf ammunition on behalf of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Poland. The order is the first since EDA signed a framework contract with Saab on behalf of the participating Member States in 2014. The order amounts to € 13.6 million and deliveries will take place during 2015-2016. 

“By pooling resources through this multinational agreement, participating Member States ensure they get the capabilities they need in the most efficient way possible. It also allows participating countries to purchase ammunition according to their national needs despite having different budget cycles”, says Peter Round, EDA Capability, Armament & Technology Director. 

“This unique and very flexible way of providing Carl-Gustaf ammunition ensures that our customers can maintain highly capable and deployment-ready defence forces. The proven and reliable Carl-Gustaf system offers soldiers unique flexibility and capability through its high accuracy, light weight and built-in compatibility with future innovations,” says Görgen Johansson, head of Saab business area Dynamics. 

On 30 June 2014, the EDA and Saab Dynamics AB signed a multi-annual framework agreement for the provision of different types of ammunition for the ‘Carl-Gustaf’ recoilless anti-tank weapon. The framework agreement lasts five years and includes a possible renewal of two more years, with an estimated value of up to € 50 million. 

It comes under a procurement arrangement between EDA and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Poland, agreed on 23 April 2013. Under this arrangement EDA acts as the central purchasing body, taking the leading role in the procurement procedure for Carl-Gustaf ammunition in the framework of EDA’s Effective Procurement Methods (EPM) initiative. EDA will also be in charge of managing the framework contract to fully exploit the effects of pooling demand.   

More information: 

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Wärtsilä Acquires L-3 Marine Systems International

Naval Technology - Thu, 11/06/2015 - 11:36
It has been announced that Wärtsilä Corporation's acquisition of Germany based L-3 Marine Systems International (MSI) has been finalised.
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Korea’s KDX-III AEGIS Destroyers

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 11/06/2015 - 02:36
(click to view full)

The Korean Destroyer eXperimental (KDX) surface combatant shipbuilding program involves 3 individual classes of ships. The 3 KDX-I Gwanggaeto Great Class ships are called destroyers, but at 3,800 tons, their size and armament more properly rank them as small frigates. The last ship of class was commissioned in 2000. The next 6 KDX-II Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin Class ships are indeed destroyers at 6,085 tons full load, with a hull design licensed from Germany’s IABG, and more advanced systems that include SM-2 air defense missiles. They were commissioned between 2003-2008.

With that experience under their belts, Korea entered the 3rd phase of the program. Their KDX-III King Sejong Great Class destroyers weigh in at 8,500 tons standard displacement and 11,000 tons full load. That’s heavier than the USA’s CG-47 Ticonderoga Class cruisers, making them the largest ships in the world to carry Lockheed Martin’s AEGIS combat system. They will form the high end of South Korea’s Navy, while offering a premium showcase for some of the new weapons and electronic systems developed by South Korea’s defense sector.

The KDX III Sejongdaewang-Ham Class KDX-III promo video
(click to view full)

The KDX-III is clearly intended to be a multi-purpose destroyer will full air defense, land attack, anti-shipping, and anti-submarine capabilities. It is also being designed with the ability to add tactical ballistic missile defense capabilities, and important consideration if North Korea is your neighbor. At present, however, the ships do not possess AEGIS BMD modifications, or SM-3 missiles. The ROKN has ordered 3 ships so far, and will add another 3 for delivery from 2023 – 2027.

These ships are larger than America’s Ticonderoga Class cruisers, and are Aegis cruisers themselves in all but name. Their range of capabilities falls short in the area of ballistic missile defense, but that could be changed for under $100 million per ship. In every other area, they make a competitive case to be the Pacific region’s leading modern multi-role heavy surface combatant, while providing an important platform for new South Korean weapons.


Built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan, 415 kilometers (257 miles) southeast of Seoul, the KDX-III King Sejong Class will be significantly larger than the 5,000t KDX-IIs. These ships are 166m / 544 feet long and 21m/ 69 feet wide, and 49m/ 161 feet deep, with a standard displacement of 8,500 tons, and a full load displacement of around 11,000 tons. A set of 4 ubiquitous GE LM2500 naval gas turbines provide main power, giving them a high top speed of 30 knots.

Hangars in the back allow carriage of 2 medium naval helicopters. The ROKN actually uses smaller Lynx family helicopters as their primary anti-submarine warfare platform, including the advanced new AW159 Wildcat.

Key Sensors

Sometimes described as an enlarged and updated DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class, KDX-III will also use the advanced AEGIS radar & combat system (initially Baseline 7, Phase 1) combination, with the AN/SPY-1D (V) radar and the MK99 system of SPG-62 illuminators, etc.

France’s Sagem provides their Vampir long-range IRST (InfraRed Search and Track) system for passive day and night surveillance of ocean and land targets.

For underwater surveillance, a hull-mounted DSQS-21BZ (ASO 90 family) sonar from Atlas Elektronik is paired with a Korean LIG Nex1 towed sonar.


Fixed weapons will include BAE’s 5-inch/ 127mm MK45 Mod 4 naval gun, a pair of 324mm triple torpedo mounts in KMK 32 configuration, a Raytheon RIM-116B Rolling Airframe Missile Block 1 for short-range air defense, and a 30mm Thales “Goalkeeper” CIWS system for close-in defense against aircraft and boats.

KDX-III ships real firepower lies their array of 128 vertical launch cells, which is slightly more than the American Ticonderoga Class cruiser’s 122 cells. On the Korean ships, these VLS cells come in 2 types.

The standard Mk 41 vertical launch cells are split 48 forward, and 32 aft, for a total of 80. Vertically-launched SM-2 Block IIIA/B surface-to-air missiles handle long-range anti-aircraft duties, and an upgrade to the SM-6 is planned. The ships could also upgrade to ABM-capable SM-3s, if accompanying modifications are made to the radar and combat system, but South Korean leaders aren’t interested. Mk.41 cells can also carry a wide variety of other payloads, including quad-packed RIM-162 anti-aircraft missiles, vertically-launched anti-submarine torpedoes, or Tomahawk cruise missiles. South Korea currently seems focused on filling them with SM-2s. This will give the destroyers 3-layer anti-aerial protection (SM-2/6, RAM, Goalkeeper).

Weapons variety comes from a 3rd VLS set of 48 aft-mounted “K-VLS” cells, a Korean system that holds locally-designed weapons like Hyunmoo cruise missiles, SSM-700K Haesung anti-ship missiles, Red Shark “K-ASROC” vertically launched rocket-assisted anti-submarine torpedoes, or other compatible weapons.

Passive Defense

The ships are being designed with a number of low-observable features to reduce their radar profile. These measures also include advanced infrared signature reduction methods designed to give it an IR signature far superior to comparable ships, including its U.S. contemporary the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyer. If that fails, a locally-designed LIG Nex1 SLQ-200K Sonata ESM system helps the destroyers react to and attempt to jam incoming missiles.

The KDX-III Program KDX-III Destroyer concept
(click to view full)

Official statements said that the name Sejongdaewang-Ham (“King Sejong”) was chosen for the first ship because of this importance in Korean history. Besides supporting the creation of the Korean “Hangeul” alphabet, this 15th century Chosun Dynasty monarch is also known for strengthening the country’s national defense capability. estimates that each of the first 3 ships cost about 1.2 trillion won (roughly $923 million equivalent, albeit in pre-2008 dollars).

  • ROKS King Sejong’s official delivery to the ROK Navy took place at the end of 2008
  • ROKS Yulgok Yi I was supposed to enter service in 2010, but took until 2011.
  • ROKS Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (was Kwon Yul), was commissioned at the end of August 2012.

Then what?

The program had options for another 3 ships, but the March 2010 sinking of the corvette ROKN Cheonan by a North Korean submarine temporarily shifted the ROKN’s focus away from the globe’s blue waters, and back toward its own littoral regions. Rather than continuing to build more KDX-III destroyers, there was talk in South Korea of modernizing the cheaper 5,000t KDX-II light destroyer design, giving the “KDX-IIA” ships stealthier radar and emissions signatures, and adding AEGIS radars and combat systems to give them better anti-aircraft coverage.

That talk died in 2013, with approval of a KRW 4 trillion/ $3.8 billion program to build another 3 KDX-III ships, and field them from 2023 – 2027.

The key consideration when deciding between KDX-IIA light destroyers and cruiser-sized KDX-III was the trade-off between having a larger number of modern ships in the water to handle submarines and Fast Attack Craft, vs. fleet capability for potential ballistic missile defense (BMD) missions. North Korea fields both kinds of threats, but it was the emergence of a territorially aggressive China and its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that turned the tide in favor of more KDX-IIIs. The KDX-III’s SPY-1D (V) radar, AEGIS combat system, and long-range anti-air and surface attack missiles make them a potent force for policing large naval territories.

North Korea couldn’t make that a South Korean national priority, but China did. Less than a month after China’s ADIZ was declared, South Korea had declared one of its own, and announced the KDX-III follow-on contract to give their claim more teeth.

The ships have a set upgrade path for missile defense, thanks to the US Navy’s program to retrofit DDG-51 ships, and the KDX-III destroyers should have enough on-board power and available weight/space growth to handle the BMD mission. Current plans call for adding SM-6 missiles, which are scheduled to gain a point defense BMD role in 2015 – 2016. Korea’s size and maritime geography may make that a perfectly appealing prospect, alongside land-based BMD systems with longer reach.

Contracts and Key Events

Contracts are covered where they are public, and traceable directly to the KDX-III program. This is not always true, for instance with weapons that serve on more than one ship type.


USN SM-6 test
(click to view full)

June 11/15: South Korea has requested the sale of the Aegis Combat System through a Foreign Military Sale. The potential sale of three of the systems, as well as auxiliary equipment, could be worth $1.9 billion and comes weeks after the North tested a “submarine-launched” missile. The ACS comprises the SPY-1 radar, Display System and Underwater Countermeasure System, with the Aegis system also capable of operating in a Ballistic Missile Defense capacity.

Nov 5/14: KDDX. South Korea’s Daewoo shows off models of their proposed KDDX follow-on to the KDX-III. Ship size shrinks to 8,000t, and the number of vertical launch cells also shrinks (48 strike-length Mk.41 and 16 K-VLS, from 80/48), but it retains provision for 16 SSM-700K Haesung anti-ship missiles in dedicated launchers, and provision for a Phalanx CIWS or SeaRAM launcher. This preliminary set of attributes helps explain the proposed budget of $3.8 billion for 3 ships, which is actually a bit low for a KDX-III class ship. It also helps that South Korea may possess the globe’s best shipbuilding industry.

“According to a DSME representative at Indo Defence, the KDDX is being developped as a smaller, more compact and more stealthy follow on to the AEGIS KDX-III destroyers. The main requirements from the ROK Navy are lower maintenance and operating costs than KDX-III…”

Many aspects of the ship aren’t finalized yet, including the radar, but the proposed delivery timeframe of 2023-2027 would make America’s developmental AMDR radar a possible addition, allowing the ROKN to keep the Aegis BMD combat system. There is also talk of using other radars, but unless the ROKN wants to abandon Aegis and its ballistic missile defense modes, they would have to be integrated into the same Aegis combat system. Australia’s CEAFAR/ CEAMOUNT active array radars may be able to offer better radar performance and Aegis integration by then, if Australia invests in new frigates quickly enough. Or, the Koreans could try long-time supplier and Samsung partner Thales, who are working with the Dutch to create their own BMD capable radar (APAR & SMART-L) and combat system combination aboard the Mk.41 compatible De Zeven Provincien Class. Sources: Navy Recognition, “DSME showcasing its next generation KDDX Destroyer for ROK Navy at Indo Defence 2014″.

May 26/14: No SM-3s. South Korean official rule out any deployment of SM-3s for now. Defense Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok:

“We’ve never considered adopting the SM-3 missiles… Among issues under consideration is how to boost our maritime-based intercepting capabilities, but we’ve not yet reviewed any details…. Intercepting a missile in the ascending stage goes beyond what our military aims at. It is also beyond our capability…. The KAMD [land-based missile defense architecture] has been under development regardless of the U.S. system, and no changes have been made in our position.”

Planned SM-6 missiles will give the ROKN terminal BMD intercept capabilities around 2015-2016 if they add a combat system upgrade, and that seems to be enough. The national KAMD system currently includes Israeli Green Pine long-range radars, ex-German PATRIOT PAC-2 missiles, and an AMD-Cell command and control backbone. South Korea is about to to upgrade its PATRIOT batteries to PAC-3/Config 3, and add SM-6 missiles to KDX-III destroyers. They may also field Cheolmae 4 BMD-capable missiles in future, designed in collaboration with Russia. Sources: Yonhap, “Acquiring SM-3 missiles not an option for S. Korea: defense ministry”.

May 26/14: Weapons. South Korea has been working to resolve problems with its vertically-launched “Red Shark” (Hongsangeo) rocket-boosted torpedoes since a formal complaint was filed in July 2012. They’ve just finished their 3rd consecutive successful test, which has led DAPA to resume production.

About 500 of these ASROC-type weapons have been deployed on ROKN destroyers thus far, but FFX Batch II frigates are also expected to include them in future. Sources: Yonhap, “S. Korea to resume production of homegrown torpedo after quality improvement”.

2011 – 2013

3rd and last ship delivered; KDX-III ships are tougher than contemporaries; Destroyers used to track North Korean rockets; Chinese belligerence ensures more orders. DDG-991, RIMPAC 2010
USN LHD-6 & CG-65
(click to view full)

Dec 10/13: 3 more. The Joint Chiefs of Staff didn’t even wait until Dec 22/13. Shortly after Korea declared its own expanded air identification zone, JCS chairman Choi Yun-hee approves the KRW 4 trillion (about $3.8 billion) plan to field 3 new Aegis destroyers between 2023 – 2027. That price is much more realistic, but note that it’s still about 1/3 less than the USA pays for smaller Arleigh Burke Flight IIA Aegis destroyers.

The ROK MND later confirms that the new ships will be capable of conducting ballistic missile “detection and tracking”, which is more significant than it sounds. Adding that capability involves about $60 million in modifications to radar processing electronics and software, and once it’s installed, the SM-6 missile that South Korea plans to buy will offer last-stage terminal missile defense. It’s much more diplomatic to leave this as an implied capability, but it will absolutely be present, unless the ROKN elects to use an obsolete version of the Aegis system when the ships are built, rather than the AEGIS BMD 5.1+ system that will available by 2020. If South Korea wants to go beyond last-stage terminal defense, it will also have an inherent ability to add that by simply buying SM-3 missiles. Future events will drive that decision.

We’d also like to point out the amusing refusal of China’s Xinhua to mention that Korea’s new ship decision was prompted in part by China’s new ADIZ. South Korea’s MND is diplomatic, but “ocean sovereignty defense” is pretty clear. Sources: South Korea MND, “Additional securement of three Aegis ships by the mid 2020s” | Yonhap, “(EALD) S. Korea to build three more Aegis destroyers ” | China’s Xinhua, “S.Korea to increase Aegis destroyers to six by 2027″ | ROK Drop, “South Korea Declares ADIZ That Overlaps With Chinese Zone”.

3 more approved

Dec 1/13: 3 more? Yonhap reports that China’s aggressive Nov 23/13 “East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone” declaration, which includes key natural gas fields and ROK facilities like Ieodo Ocean Research Station, is changing South Korea’s defense plans.

A proposed $2.8 billion buy of 3 more KDX-III destroyers was probably going to lose out to other priorities, but now it’s an urgent priority for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The proposal is now expected to be finalized during a Dec 22/13 meeting, and the destroyers are expected to enter service between 2022 – 2028. Note that $2.8 billion for 3 ships would be about half of what the US Navy pays for smaller DDG-51 Aegis destroyers. That would be amazing, given the 40%+ standard cost share for (often foreign) mission equipment vs. the assembled ship.

All this, and F-35s too. Lockheed Martin says Happy Cyber Monday and Merry Christmas to you too, Xi Jinping. Sources: “S. Korea to OK plan to build three more Aegis destroyers: source”

June 11-12/13: SM-6. The Yonhap news agency quotes “a senior government official,” who says that its KDX-III destroyers will have their SM-2 missiles supplemented by SM-6 purchases as of 2016, as part of KAMD. The SM-6 will complement the ROK’s existing SM-2s. By 2016, they’ll be usable as terminal point defense against ballistic missiles, while also providing long-range air defense against enemy fighters, cruise missiles, etc. If the 2016 delivery date is fixed, it implies a 2014 order for SM-6 missiles. It also implies a future system upgrade for the ships, from a standard Aegis combat system to Aegis BMD 5.0.

KAMD would integrate the ROK’s Green Pine radar, PATRIOT missile batteries, naval missile defense assets, and other surveillance systems into a single “kill chain”, reducing Korea’s dependence on American help. On land, South Korea is looking to upgrade its PATRIOTs to the latest PAC-3/Config-3 standard. The question is how compatible that system will be with the USA’s missile defense systems. A working group has been set up with the USA, and findings are expected in early 2014. South Korea hopes to have KAMD v1.0 fully ready by 2020. Sources: Yonhap, “S. Korea to deploy new surface-to-air missiles for Aegis destroyers” | Global Post, “S. Korea aims to establish missile destruction system by 2020″.

Naval BMD OKed

April 5/13: Amidst the standard threats of war that accompany changes in South Korean administrations, the South Korean military has deployed 2 of its KDX-III destroyers to the East and West Seas, as North Korea reportedly prepares to launch a mobile Musudan/ Nodong-B missile from somewhere along the east coast.

The class isn’t equipped for full ballistic missile defense, but it can pick up missile launches and track them for a period of time. Arirang News.

Dec 12/12: An Unha-3 long-range rocket launched by North Korea is detected by a KDX-III destroyer in the Yellow Sea 94 seconds after its 9:51 am launch. The 1st stage passed over the northernmost island of Baengnyeong one minute later and the 2nd stage flew west of Japan’s Okinawa.

North Korea claims that the rocket is part of a space program. Everyone else understands it as an ICBM test vehicle. A similar launch in April 2012 broke apart shortly after lift-off. Korea Times.

Aug 30/12: #3 delivered. The ROK Navy takes delivery of ROKS Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong [DDG-993], at Hyundai Heavy Industries’ No. 6 dockyard in Ulsan. She will be deployed for combat around mid-2013, after a 9-month trial period. Navy Recognition.

KDX-III #3 in service

July 16/12: #2 trials. ROKS Yulgok Yi I [DDG-992], successfully completes at-sea Combat System Ship Qualification Trials (CSSQT) for the ship’s Aegis Combat System, supported by the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin.

Qualification took place at the Pacific Missile Range Facility off the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The trials are the final tests of system design, hardware and software integration, ship construction and crew training. The anti-air warfare exercises included manned aircraft raids, electronic attack scenarios and live air-defense engagements. Lockheed Martin.

June 1/11: #2 in service. The ROKN places the 2nd KDX-III destroyer, ROKS Yulgok Yi I, into service after 9 months of test operations, and assigns her to their Navy’s 7th fleet. South Korea’s Yonhap | NTI | China’s official Xinhua.

KDX-III #2 in service

March 24/11: #3 launched – last? The South Korean Navy launches DDG 993 Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong, named after a leading scholar of the 16th century. Hyundai Heavy Industries SVP Park Sang-cheol is quoted as saying that:

“The Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong is quite different from other existing aegis vessels. Over 100 tons of steel are attached on both sides to prevent damage from explosions in and outside of the ship. This system for a destroyer is not seen anywhere else in the world.”

This ship will be the 3rd – and possibly the last – KDX-III destroyer. The ROKN anticipates commissioning the Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong in late 2012, following various sea trials. Operational deployment isn’t expected until mid-2013. After that, the question is whether the ROKN picks up the program’s 3 options, or decides to build a larger number of lighter and less expensive ships. Meanwhile, the Chosun Ilbo reports that the military is thinking of supplementing or replacing the KDX-IIIs’ medium range SM-2 anti-aircraft missiles with the new active-seeker SM-6, once the U.S. finishes developing it. Hyundai Heavy Industries | Lockheed Martin | Ariang TV | Chosun Ilbo | Forecast International | Korea Herald.

Jan 5/11: Aegis. Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Moorestown, NJ receives a $40.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee letter contract with performance incentives for combat systems engineering and installation and test aboard the “DDG 993 Kwon Yul,” the KDX-III program’s 3rd ship (which was renamed by March 2011). Requirements include the necessary combat systems engineering, computer program development, and ship integration and test support to deliver a variant of the U.S. Navy Aegis baseline 7, phase I computer program and equipment. This contract also funds an integrated test team to assist the Korean shipyard in performing installation and testing of the Aegis Combat System.

Work will be performed in Ulsan, Korea (48%); Moorestown, NJ (44%); Kongsberg, Norway (7 %); and Dijon, France (1%), and is expected to be complete by September 2012. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington Navy Yard, DC (N00024-11-C-5103, Foreign Military Sales case KS-P-LPN).

2000 – 2010

2nd ship delivered; Red Shark K-ASROC missile ready to add to KDX-III; Software glitch impairs radar tracking. ROKS King Sejong the Great
(click to view full)

Aug 31/10: #2 delivered. Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering delivers the Yulgok Yi-I to the ROK Navy, as the 2nd ship of class [DDG 992]. KBS.

ROKS Yulgok-Yi I

July 29/10: #1 qualified. Lockheed Martin announces that ROKS Sejong the Great successfully completed a 3-week series of Combat System Ship Qualification Trials (CSSQT), at the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility off of Kauai, HI. During the CSSQT, the ship’s Aegis Combat System faced comprehensive surface, subsurface and anti-air warfare exercises, as well as thorough testing of the system’s tactical data link capabilities. The anti-air warfare exercises included manned aircraft raids, electronic attack scenarios, and live Standard Missile-2 and Rolling Airframe Missile air defense engagements.

March 26/10: Sinking Shock. The Pohang Class corvette ROKS Cheonan is attacked and sinks, killing 46 of the 104 crew members. Subsequent investigation shows that it was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, fired from a submarine with what was apparently complete surprise.

The attack causes South Korea to re-evaluate its defense plans. The FFX project may end up receiving a boost, at the expense of high-end ships like the KDX-III AEGIS destroyers. Wikipedia re: Cheonan | Chosun Ilbo | JoongAng Daily | NY Times || ROK ambassador to US CSIS presentation [PDF] | Korea JoongAng Daily re: force rethink.

ROKS Cheonan corvette sunk

Nov 17/09: Aegis. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ received a $41.1 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-03-C-5102) for combat systems engineering (CSE), installation, and testing aboard KDX-III Ship 2. This award includes CSE, computer program development, and ship integration and test support to deliver a variant of the US Navy Aegis weapon system Baseline 7 Phase I computer program and equipment to support the construction of the 2nd Korean ship in the KDX-III class. In addition, this contract funds an integrated test team to assist the Korean shipyard in performing installation and testing of the Aegis Combat System.

This contract involves purchases for the Republic of Korea under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (53%) and Korea (47%), and is expected to be complete by December 2010. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington DC issued the contract.

July 20/09: New squadron concept. The Korea Times reports that their Navy plans to establish a strategic mobile fleet of 2 destroyer-led squadrons by February 2010, in a bid to develop blue-water operational capability beyond coastal defense against a North Korean invasion.

Each mobile squadron would initially consist of a KDX-III Aegis destroyer, 3 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyers, and maritime aircraft. That would be augmented by submarines and smaller ships like the FFX frigates, once a forward naval base is finished on the southern island of Jeju, around 2014.

June 22/09: Red Shark ready. The Korea Times reports that the indigenous Hongsangeo (Red Shark) replacement for American VL-ASROC anti-submarine missiles has completed its 9-year, $80 million development program, and will begin deployment in 2010.

The state-funded Agency for Defense Development (ADD) has also worked with Hongsangeo manufacturer LIG Nex1 to develop the conventional Cheongsangeo (Blue Shark) light torpedo and Baeksangeo (White Shark) heavy torpedo. The Red Shark system uses a Blue Shark torpedo, with a rocket booster for vertical launch and added range.

June 3/09: Glitched. As North Korea prepares to test another long-range ballistic missile, The Korea Times reveals quotes an anonymous Navy source, who said that software glitches in its missile tracking radar system may keep ROKS Sejong the Great in repairs. The ship arrived at the Naval Logistics Command in Jinhae, South Gyeongsang Province on May 23/09. According to their source:

“A flaw in the data transmission system linked with the missile tracking radar in the Aegis destroyer was found. Engineers from the Navy and Lockheed Martin are trying to fix the problem and reconfigure the radar system… The Navy has actually not been able to test the Aegis radar’s maximum capability so far due to the software glitch… We’re not sure at the moment if Sejong the Great will be able to participate in detecting a North Korean ballistic missile this time.”

AEGIS software problem

2005 – 2008

Ship #1 from launch to active service; Ship #2 launched; Will the destruction of ROKS Cheonan change South Korea’s naval plans? DDH-991 launch
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Dec 22/08: Active service begins. ROKS Sejong the Great [DDG 991] enters active service, making it the 94th AEGIS-equipped ship fielded and making South Korea the 5th nation to field such ships.

ROKS Sejong the Great achieved the impressive feat of on-time, on-budget delivery for a first-of-class ship. It was built and tested at Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in Ulsan, Korea and commissioned in Pusan, and completed its combat system test program ahead of schedule. Lockheed Martin.

KDX-III #1 in service

Dec 1/08: Aegis. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Moorestown, NJ received a $19.2 million modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-03-C-5102) for AEGIS Weapon System Inter Site Data Link (ISDL) integration efforts and delivery of the Baseline K1.1 Aegis Weapon System computer programs integrating this capability into the KDX-III Sejong the Great Class destroyers.

The contractor shall provide program management, system engineering and computer program development, ship integration and test, and technical manual services. This contract involves purchases for the Republic of Korea under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in Moorestown, NJ (90%) and Ulsan, South Korea (10%), and is expected to be complete by November 2009. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington DC issued the contract.

Nov 14/08: #2 launched. The 2nd KDX-III destroyer, Yulgok Yi I [DDG 992], is launched at Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) in Okpo, Korea. Yi I was a prominent Confucian scholar of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). Korea Times | Lockheed Martin.

Nov 7/08: #1 accepted. ROKS Sejong the Great [DDG 991] has its delivery accepted by the Republic of Korea Navy. Lockheed Martin.

ROKS Sejong the Great

May 25/07: #1 launched. The first KDX-III destroyer, the ROKS King Sejong [DDG 991], is launched in a ceremony at Ulsan shipyard in the southeastern port city. KOIS report | Hyundai Heavy Industries release.

March 1/07: Navigation. DRS Technologies Inc. announces a $7 million contract from the Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) Co. Ltd. to provide FODMS Navigation Sensor Distributors for the 2nd KDX-III destroyer, ROKS Yulgok Yi I [DDG 992]

2002 – 2005

South Korea picks AEGIS system for KDX-III, Kongsberg ASW system.

Apr 25/05: Fiber network. Fresh off of a win to build fiber-optic multiplexing systems for American Arleigh Burke Class DDG 110-112 AEGIS destroyers, DRS Technologies Inc.’s EW & Network Systems unit in Buffalo, NY won a $9.2 million contract to build a fiber-optic network system for the Republic of Korea Navy’s related KDX-III King Sejong Class AEGIS destroyer.

DRS EW&NS will build the Fiber Optic Data Multiplex System (FODMS), a general purpose, dual-network system that provides data and integrated communications among propulsion and power control systems, steering, navigation sensors, weapons systems, alarms, indicators, bridge systems and the Aegis combat system, and ensures interoperability between legacy systems and off-the-shelf systems. Work will include the development of design documentation and installation drawing, installation and performance testing of the system. Work will commence immediately, and continue through January 2010.

The Special & Naval Shipbuilding Division of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. in Ulsan, Republic of Korea, awarded the contract. DRS’ news release noted that the company also expects to receive future contracts of this nature, as the ROKN deploys additional KDX-III destroyers.

June 26/03: Aegis. The U.S. Navy today awarded a $267.5 million contract to Lockheed Martin to provide combat systems engineering, computer program development, and ship integration and test support, as part of the U.S Navy and Lockheed Martin’s responsibility to provide the Aegis Weapon System for its KDX-III Destroyer Program. Lockheed Martin’s release adds that the Korean Navy selected the U.S Navy and Lockheed Martin to equip KDX-III with AEGIS “in late 2002.”

June 18/03: ASW combat system. Lockheed Martin and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (KDA) announce a $21 million contract today for the KDX-III destroyers’ anti-submarine warfare control system. The contract expands a trans-Atlantic naval business relationship that began with work on Norway’s F310 Fridtjof Nansen Class AEGIS frigates.

June 17/03: VLS. Lockheed Martin announces an initial $67 million contract to continue production, delivery and installation of the MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) for the U.S. Navy. An additional contract option of $129 million to support of Korea’s KDX-III shipbuilding program could raise the contract’s total value to $196 million. United Defense, LP of Aberdeen, SD (now BAE Systems), will be issued a major subcontract to produce major subassemblies for the MK 41 VLS, as will Metric Systems in Fort Walton Beach, FL.

July 25/02: AEGIS picked. Lockheed Martin wins the contract to provide South Korea’s navy with weapons control systems for the 3 KDX-III destroyers, beating European rival Thales SA. The KDX-III will be equipped with the SPY-1 passive phased array radar and AEGIS combat system, rather than Thales APAR active array radar that serves on the German and Dutch F124 air defense frigates.


March 18/02: AEGIS request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announces [PDF] South Korea’s formal request to buy 3 Lockheed Martin AEGIS air defense systems, worth a potential US$1.2 billion, to arm the ROKN’s 3 new KDX-III destroyers.

The order will include 3 AEGIS Shipboard Combat Systems, 3 AN/UPX-29 (V) Aircraft Identification Monitoring System MK XII Identification Friend or Foe systems, 3 shipboard gridlock systems, 3 Common Data Link Management System/Joint Tactical Distribution Systems, 3 MK 34 gun weapon systems, 3 Navigation Sensor System Interfaces; plus testing and combat system engineering technical assistance, computer program maintenance, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and technical assistance, testing, publications and documentation, training, spare and repair parts, and other related support.

The principal contractors will be Lockheed Martin Naval Electronic Systems and Support of Morristown, NJ; Raytheon Company in Andover, MA; General Dynamics Armament Systems in Burlington, VT; and Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics Systems and Support in Eagan, MN. One or more proposed industrial offset agreements may be related to the proposed sale, but that hasn’t been finalized. If the sale does go through, South Korea will need 50 contractor representatives for approximately 5 years, to support integration and testing of the AEGIS Combat Systems.

AEGIS export request

Additional Readings Background: The Ships

Background: Ancillary Technologies

News & Views

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

AMRAAM: Deploying & Developing America’s Medium-Range Air-Air Missile

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 11/06/2015 - 02:33
AIM-120C from F-22A
(click for test missile zoom)

Raytheon’s AIM-120 Advanced, Medium-Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) has become the world market leader for medium range air-to-air missiles, and is also beginning to make inroads within land-based defense systems. It was designed with the lessons of Vietnam in mind, and of local air combat exercises like ACEVAL and Red Flag. This DID FOCUS article covers successive generations of AMRAAM missiles, international contracts and key events from 2006 onward, and even some of its emerging competitors.

One of the key lessons learned from Vietnam was that a fighter would be likely to encounter multiple enemies, and would need to launch and guide several missiles at once in order to ensure its survival. This had not been possible with the AIM-7 Sparrow, a “semi-active radar homing” missile that required a constant radar lock on one target. To make matters worse, enemy fighters were capable of launching missiles of their own. Pilots who weren’t free to maneuver after launch would often be forced to “break lock,” or be killed – sometimes even by a short-range missile fired during the last phases of their enemy’s approach. Since fighters that could carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 tended to be larger and more expensive, and the Soviets were known to have far more fighters overall, this was not a good trade.

Some MRAAM History, and AMRAAM’s Design Approach

Before 1991, the combat record of all air-air missiles was generally poor – and most of the kills scored in combat belonged to short-range heat-seeking missiles. The USA entered Vietnam expecting that 70% of AIM-7 Sparrow missile shots would result in a kill. The real-world total was 8%, even though the USA faced older MiG 17-21 aircraft, rather than the newest Russian fighters.

That trend began to shift somewhat in the 1980s. The Falklands War had no aircraft on either side that could use medium-range air-air missiles, but Israeli F-15s and F-16s used AWACS and poor Syrian tactics to produce an 88-0 kill ratio in 1982. The F-15s’ medium-range AIM-7F Sparrow missiles performed better in terms of fire:kill ratios than they had in past conflicts, but the vast majority of kills were still made with Sidewinder or Python short-range missiles. Further afield, the Iran-Iraq War saw Iran’s F-14 Tomcats demonstrate good performance with their long-range Phoenix missiles, against Iraqi aircraft that often lacked radar warning receivers, and never saw the missiles coming. A reprise of sorts took place in 1991, when exceptional situational awareness and poor Iraqi tactics allowed US aircraft to score around 80% of their Iraqi air-air kills in 1991 with modernized AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range missiles.

The lessons that had led to the AMRAAM program still applied, however, and the conflicts in Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq demonstrated the potential value of longer-range missiles and some of their enabling technologies. That helped AMRAAM retain its support, despite initial development glitches and rising costs. It still aimed to remove the shortcomings that made the AIM-7 a somewhat dangerous weapon for its own side. The key lay in its new approach to guidance.

AIM-120A cutaway
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In beyond-visual-range engagements, AMRAAM is guided initially by its inertial reference unit and microcomputer, which point it in the right direction based on instructions from the targeting aircraft or platform. A mid-course target location update can be transmitted directly from the launch radar system to correct that if necessary, an approach that may avoid triggering enemy radar warning receivers. In the final phase of tracking, however, the internal active radar seeker becomes completely independent and guides the missile through its own active lock-on. Most sources place its reported range at about 50 km/30 miles[1].

F/A-18C, loaded for bandits
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When coupled with modern radars, AMRAAM’s guidance approach allows a fighter to launch and control many missiles at once, avoiding a dangerous fixation on one target. Its autonomous guidance capability also provides a pilot with critical range-preserving launch and leave capability, improving survivability and helping to avoid “mutual kill” situations. Even more advanced technologies are emerging that go one step further, and allow secure “hand-off” of a fired AMRAAM to another friendly fighter.

All of these abilities, of course, assume an air environment in which it is possible to use IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe), AWACS (Airborne Warning & Control Systems) aircraft, Link 16/MIDS, etc. to safely distinguish enemy aircraft from friendlies. This has been a problem in past conflicts, resulting in rules of engagement that force the use of visual identification before firing. Obviously, that negates many of the tactical advantages of having beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles.

Customers & Performance Launch from F-22
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AMRAAM is a joint U.S. Air Force and Navy program that achieved initial operational capability in 1991, and is still in brisk production over 20 years later. At least 28 other countries have also bought AMRAAM variants, which can be fitted to F-15s, F-16s, the F/A-18 family, F-22s, F-35s, EADS Eurofighters, and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen. Germany’s aging F-4 Phantom IIs, the British/German/Italian Panavia consortium’s Tornado aircraft, and Britain’s Harriers can also carry them.

Dassault’s Mirage 2000v5 and later have been advertised at times as having this capability, but confirmation is weak, and no current Mirage 2000 customer flies with this option. The reports probably represented offers to add this capability. Dassault’s 4th generation Rafale aircraft is also listed in some venues as having AMRAAM capability, though Raytheon has never said so, and all Rafales currently operate with MBDA’s MICA missiles instead.

Even so, AMRAAM’s record of sales success has made it the global standard for medium-range AAMs, and the number of beyond visual range kills as a percentage of total air-to-air victories has risen sharply during the “AMRAAM era.”

What does this mean in practice for missile performance?

To date, RAND’s Project Air Force notes that AIM-120 missiles have demonstrated 10 kills in 17 firings, for a 59% kill rate. That’s a significant improvement over the AIM-7’s record, and AIM-120A and AIM-120C missiles split these kills equally. Victims have included an Iraqi MiG-25 and MiG-29, 6 Serbian MiG-29s, a Serbian J-21 Jastreb trainer/light attack jet, and the accidental downing of a US Army UH-60A helicopter. The last of these incidents occurred in 1999.

One caution regarding these figures is that both AMRRAM missiles, and electronics used for electronic countermeasures, have both advanced considerably in the dozen-plus since the missile’s last combat kill. A second set of cautions involves the circumstances of these victories. There are no reports of electronic countermeasures being used by any AMRAAM victim, none of these victims were equipped with beyond visual range weapons of their own, the Iraqi MiGs were fleeing and non-maneuvering, and the Serbian MiGs reportedly had inoperative radars.

These difficulties in assessing true BVRAAM (beyond visual range air-air missile) performance in the modern era are magnified by a corollary fact: None of AMRAAM’s competitors have been able to compile much of a performance record, either. With the end of recurring full-scale Arab wars against Israel, the globe’s top trial venue for full-scale warfare has evaporated, leaving few opportunities to put modern anti-aircraft systems to a real test.

AMRAAM: Upgrades & Derivatives AIM-120C

The Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) approved AIM-120A AMRAAM Full Rate Production (Milestone III B) in April 1992. Subsequent modifications have produced improvements in a number of areas, but the AIM-120D is likely to be the first really large jump in AMRAAM capabilities from version to version. It should be noted, however, that incremental upgrades add up over time. An AIM-120C-6, for instance, is a generation beyond an AIM-120A in terms of its overall capabilities.

AIM-120B was first delivered in late 1994. It had a number of electronics upgrades, from the guidance section to hardware modules and processor. Its hardware was also reprogrammable, which is not possible with the AIM-120A.

AIM-120C missiles featured a change in shape, with smaller fins that would allow 3 missiles to be carried inside the F-22A Raptor‘s stealth-maximizing internal weapons bays. A number of incremental updates brought it to AIM-120-C6 status, including guidance section upgrades, smaller control electronics, a slightly larger rocket motor, an improved warhead, and a target detection upgrade.

At present, the AIM-120-C7 is the most advanced AMRAAM approved for export beyond the USA. The AIM-120-C7 is currently in production for almost all export customers, with an improved seeker head, greater jamming resistance, and slightly longer range. Additional work continues to improve the C7’s resistance to electronic countermeasures, and this 2-phase EPIP program is scheduled to continue into FY 2017.

US-only AIM-120D missiles will feature the C7 improvements, but the D version reportedly adds a very strong set of upgrades. Pentagon documents confirm the use of smaller system components; with an upgraded radar antenna, receiver & signal processor; GPS-aided mid-course navigation; an improved datalink; and new software algorithms. The new hardware and software is rumored to offer improved jamming resistance, better operation in conjunction with modern AESA radars, and an improved high-angle off-boresight “seeker cone,” in order to give the missile a larger no-escape zone. Less-publicized improvements reportedly include a dual-pulse rocket motor, for up to 50% more range and better near-target maneuvering.

AIM-120D fielding is scheduled for FY 2015 on the F/A-18C/D Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-15C/D Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle, and F-16 Falcon. The F-22A is expected to integrate the new missile in FY 2018. At present, the AIM-120D is not available for export, and that won’t necessarily change when integration is done.

Other AMRAAM-Related Systems

Other AMRAAM variants exist.

NCADE. The most interesting AMRAAM modification remains an R&D program designed to see if AMRAAMs modified with an AIM-9X Sidewinder’s infrared seeker and a 2nd stage rocket booster could be forward-deployed on fighters, and used to shoot down ballistic missiles during their lift-off phase.

With the coming addition of IRST systems to American fighters, NCADE would also offer an effective no-warning long-range weapon against aerial enemies, including stealth fighters. To date, however, the US military and Congress have failed to take an interest in NCADE beyond initial development work. Raytheon has also declined to pursue a self-funded approach.

(click to view full)

SAM/GBAD. A parallel set of modifications and enhancements have seen AMRAAM missiles pressed into service in a surface-air missile role. Programs like Norway’s NASAMS, the USMC’s CLAWS (ended in 2006), etc. are often referred to by the umbrella term SL-AMRAAM, for Surface Launched AMRAAM. SL-AMRAAM contractors include Raytheon, as well as Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace of Norway, and Boeing.

Kongsberg has sold its related Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) system to Norway, Finland, The Netherlands, Oman, Spain, and the USA. There are rumors that a SLAMRAAM type system has been deployed in Egypt, and such systems have drawn official buying interest and rumored contracts from Chile, and the UAE. The key to effective deployment is integrating the system, and its accompanying IFCS control system and AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel radars, with a country’s wider air defense command and control systems.

The US Marines killed their own CLAWS program in 2006, the same year the US Army’s SLAMRAAM passed its System Critical Design Review. The Army eventually canceled SLAMRAAM in FY 2012. Even so, the USA has a deployed system to protect the Washington DC area, and exports keep the surface-launched AMRAAM option alive and well if the USA changes its mind.

The 3 surface launchers for AMRAAM at present include the 8-missile “universal launcher” which can be mounted on medium trucks, the 5-missile CLAWS for smaller vehicles, and the 6-missile fixed NASAMS. All 3 launcher types provide 360 degree coverage, with a 70 degree off boresight capability – i.e. a 140 degree target acquisition cone. In June 2007, Raytheon announced more SLAMRAAM upgrades via options to add SL-AMRAAM-ER extended range variants (likely via a rocket booster on the missiles), and an AIM-120 variant with an AIM-9X infrared seeker. The latter would allow a mix-and-match combination of radar/infrared SAM sets, similar to the Spyder, VL-MICA, etc. being fielded by international rivals. On which topic…

AMRAAM’s International Competitors R-77/AA-12 on MiG-29
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The AMRAAM’s most prominent global competitors, in declining order of prominence, include:

Russia’s Vympel R-77, also known as the AA-12 Adder and colloquially called the ‘AMRAAMski’. It is a larger missile with a similar guidance approach, and reportedly offers a slightly longer range, varying from 60-90 km (36-54 miles) depending on assessments of its drag coefficient. It looks a bit like the French MICA missiles, but its “screen door” or “potato masher” tail fins are its most distinguishing characteristic. Comparisons of its maneuverability, electronics, and hence its fire:kill effectiveness ratio remain a matter of speculation in public-domain circles, and there are also reports that the R-77 can be launched and ‘handed off’ to another aircraft. This has tactical implications, as discussed by one DID source:

“The ‘cobra’ maneuver… where the Flanker pitchers [vertically] to over 100 degrees is not a stunt, it is a missile launch maneuver for a over-the-shoulder launch on a passing head-on target by an IMFIL missile, as briefed to me by the Director of TsAGI. German Zagainov.”

The R-77 can equip modern SU-30 fighters like the SU-30MK2, modernized SU-27s, and some of the most modern MiG-29/35 offerings as well. There are also reports that India has even fitted the missile to its upgraded MiG-21 ‘Bisons,’ leveraging their new Phazotron Kopyo radars and upgraded avionics.

There are reports that the coming RVV-MD upgrade may extend the missile’s range to 110 km. A R-77M ramjet version has reportedly been developed with 150+ km range, but confirmation of the ramjet program’s success and status remain sketchy. Firmer reports[2] now exist re: Russia’s ongoing development of the Novator K-100-1, which is based on the KS-172 missile instead; it will have a reputed range of 200-400 km.


MBDA’s Meteor, which also includes Saab in the development group and adds Boeing as its American partner. The Meteor stems from Europe’s different fighter design philosophy and acquisition timing. Their 4th generation fighters were introduced in the 1990s, and feature less stealth than the F-22A or F-35. The Eurofighter, Gripen, and Rafale can be fitted with existing missiles like AMRAAM or MICA, but ultimately the Euro vision was that air supremacy against threats like the SU-30/R-77 combination required a long range (100 km/ 60 miles or more) missile – one with extreme maneuverability and ramjet propulsion that gives it Mach 4 powered flight to the very end of its range, rather than the “burn and coast” approach of most missiles. The Meteor is that missile, and it is currently undergoing testing and evaluation; it’s expected to begin service on JAS-39 Gripen fighters by the end of 2014.

Initial platforms for the Meteor BVRAAMs will include Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen (2014), EADS/BAE Eurofighter (2017), and Dassault’s Rafale (2019). MBDA has announced that it will be modified in future to fit the F-35’s stealth-enhancing weapon bays; given its characteristics, it also seems like a natural future upgrade for older planes like Tornados and F/A-18s. Forecast International sees MBDA as Raytheon’s biggest overall air-air missile competitor in the coming years.

Rafale w. MICA-RF & IR
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MBDA’s MICA family. MBDA inherited MICA from the French firm Matra. It uses a guidance philosophy similar to AMRAAM’s, and has very good maneuverability. MBDA posts its range as 60 km. What’s different is that it comes in 2 versions, and is designed for use at all engagement distances. The MICA IR version uses infrared homing, like many short-range AAMs. This allows it to be used at close range, or used to conduct no-warning attacks at longer ranges, using advanced IRST (InfraRed Search and Track) type optronics that have become common on 4+ generation fighters. The MICA RF uses active radar guidance like AMRAAM, and is in service aboard upgraded Mirage F1s, Mirage 2000-5+, and Rafale fighters.

MBDA’s truck-mounted or ship-mounted air defense versions are imaginatively named Vertical Launch MICA. The system’s ability to carry IR-guided MICA missiles allows effective operation in environments where turning on one’s radar will attract enemy strikes.

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RAFAEL’s Derby. Derby 4 looks a lot like AMRAAM, but it’s actually based on Israel’s own well-developed missile technology. It lists a 50 km effective range like AMRAAM, but this is questionable given its size and commonalities with the shorter-range Python 4; some observers place its range closer to 30 km. Derby 4 has been updated with a new seeker, has lock-on after launch capability for snap employment in short-range aerial engagements, and features its own programmable ECCM (Electronic Counter-Countermeasures) technologies. Apparently, it still lacks an in-flight datalink, and must rely on last-reported position before switching to active mode. Derby has been exported to a few Latin American countries.

RAFAEL’s truck-mounted SPYDER combines Derby and short-range 5th generation IR/imaging-guided Python 5 missiles, to create a versatile system adapted for use against a wider range of threats. A new Spyder 6×6 truck version (SPYDER-MR) was unveiled at Eurosatory 2006 that doubled mixed missile capacity to 8, and put boosters on all missiles to improve their range and performance. SPYDER customers include India’s order for 18 SPYDER systems of 5 vehicles each, Peru’s buy of 6 systems, and an order from Singapore.

AMRAAM: Program

AMRAAM continues to be funded in the USA as a joint USAF/ Navy effort, based on proportional contributions, and AIM-120C/D missiles are in active production for the US military and allied countries. The USA alone was expected to account for nearly 18,000 AMRAAMs bought, but as of the FY 2014 budget submission, expected orders would be 16,153: 11,792 for the USAF, and 4,461 for the US Navy.

The AMRAAM family of missiles has also chalked up significant export success from foreign air forces and armies. Those sales aren’t part of American budgets, but their boost to sales and production volumes does lower costs for the missile’s American customers. Obviously, export orders vary widely by country and year, and it can be many years between repeat AMRAAM buys from foreign air forces. In aggregate, however, foreign orders represent a very significant source of demand, which keeps production lines active, improves volume, and helps lower costs for the Pentagon. Indeed, the Pentagon’s cost per missile estimates in its budgets are dependent on at least 200 missile orders per year from foreign sources.

AMRAAM prices vary depending on the year, and their production quantity. The current average cost for AIM-120Ds seems to be somewhere around $1.5 million per missile. Which isn’t cheap, but if it blows up even a bargain-basement $25 million fighter, it’s a very good exchange ratio.

AMRAAM Program: Technical Challenges “Heave!”
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DMSMS. During the May 2010 AMRAAM International Users’ Conference, the USAF’s 649th Armament Systems Squadron raised the issue of “Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS).” In English, it means that companies who manufacture some parts are either going out of business, or ceasing production. The 649th ARSS said component shortages would begin as soon as 2012, unless AMRAAM customers built up spare stocks, or paid for missile redesign and retrofit work that would solve the problem. Time will tell.

Delivery Halt. Consistent problems with cold-temperature testing of AMRAAM rocket motors halted all AMRAAM deliveries to all customers from 2010 – 2012, and created almost a 2-year inventory backlog. Raytheon and ATK were puzzled, because the rocket motor’s design was the same, but subtle reformulations in the rocket motor’s fuel were to blame. Norway’s NAMMO stepped into the breach as the new primary rocket motor supplier, and Raytheon is gradually catching up AMRAAM deliveries to the USA, Chile, Finland, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. April 2014 reports indicate that ATK has qualified its own new motor, and will become a supplier again in FY 2015.

AIM-120D. The AIM-120D is still in developmental testing by both the US Air Force and US Navy at Eglin AFB, FL, and China Lake Naval Weapons Station, CA. Funding was issued to prepare the manufacturing line for full production, and production orders are well over 350 missiles. The first production set of AIM-120D missiles was scheduled to be delivered from December 2007 – January 2009, but “continuing delays in resolving developmental hardware issues and less-than-expected effectiveness in flight test execution” have stymied the program.

The AIM-120D will finish about 6 years behind its 2008 target date for operational testing, due to technical failures that include missile lockup and aircraft integration problems. Some of those issues seem to be resolved now, but the missile won’t be fielded on any fighters until FY 2015, and a System Improvement Program will be needed afterward.

AMRAAM: Contracts & Key Events CATM training
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Unless otherwise specified, The Headquarters Medium Range Missile System Group at Eglin Air Force Base, FL issued the contract, and Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ was the contract recipient.

Some definitions of terms are useful. AMRAAM All-Up Rounds (AURs) include the missile and its storage container. Air Vehicles Instrumented (AAVIs) are fully functional missiles with telemetry electronics instead of a warhead, and are used to support free flight testing. If the order says “Telemetry missiles” or “Warhead Compatible Telemetry Instrumented System (WCTIS)” configured AAVIs, on the other hand, the missile is meant to support live fire warhead testing. Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM) have seeker heads but no rocket motor or warhead; they are used in testing, training – and in combat exercises, where they can help keep score without any risk of real casualties.

FY 2015

June 11/15: Raytheon has completed lab testing of the Advanced, Medium Range Air to Air Missile – Extended Range (AMRAAM-ER), a ground-based air defense missile based on the AIM-120D and designed to be integrated with the Kongsberg NASAMS launcher. These latest tests validate that the missile can be integrated with the launcher, which will team with the AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel radar to provide a highly capable air defense system. Raytheon is also taking the motor from its Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and integrating it into the AMRAAM-ER to improve the missile’s range and engagement ceiling.

May 10/15: The US has reportedly deployed the AIM-120D AMRAAM missile to the Pacific, with recent photographs appearing to show the Raytheon-manufactured missile equipping a F/A-18E Super Hornet. Previous statements indicated that the missile wouldn’t be deployed until later this year, with the missile achieving Initial Operating Capability only last month.

March 25/15: Raytheon received a contract modification today totalling $528.8 million for the production of AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, a portion of which are earmarked for Foreign Military Sales. The company recently announced that it has begun development of an extended-range variant of the missile, with tests scheduled for later this year.

Feb 23/15: New -ER variant. Raytheon announced its newest AMRAAM-ER air-to-air missile will have extended range and more maneuverability. It plans tests before the year is out.

Dec 12/14: Japan. The US DSCA officially announces Japan’s export request for 17 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM missiles, 2 Captive Air Training Missiles (CATMs), containers, missile support and test equipment, support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $33 million. Japan already has older AIM-120C5s in its inventory. The small size of this request matches Japan’s order for its first F-35s.

FY 2014

F-35 test

Aug 12/14: Turkey. The US DSCA officially announces Turkey’s export request for 145 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM missiles, 10 extra missile guidance sections, 40 LAU-129 launchers, plus containers, support equipment, spare and repair parts, integration activities, publications and technical documentation, test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and other US Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $320 million.

This follows a $157 million request for 107 AIM-120C-7s (q.v. Sept 26/08). The DSCA says that these missiles will be used on the TuAF’s F-16 aircraft, and eventually their F-35As.

The principal contractor will be Raytheon in Tucson, AZ, and if a contract is signed, multiple trips to Turkey involving U.S. Government and contractors will be needed for technical reviews/support, program management, integration, testing, and training. The exact numbers and duration are unknown, and will be determined during contract negotiations. Sources: DSCA #13-50, “Turkey – AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM Missiles”

DSCA request: Turkey (145)

July 18/14: Lot 27. An $8.5 million a firm-fixed-price contract modification is an order from Australia, as part of Production Lot 27 (FY 2013, q.v. June 14/13). The money adds integration and testing for AMRAAM contract line item numbers 0008, 0009, and 0010, and brings the total cumulative face value of the multinational contract to $564.8 million. All funds are committed immediately.

Work will be performed at Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by June 30/16. USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBAK at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-13-C-0003, PO 0026).

June 30/14: Support. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a sole-source $163.2 million fixed-price/ fixed-price-incentive/ cost-plus-incentive contract for AMRAAM Program Support and Sustainment (PSAS). PSAS provides sustaining engineering, program management, contractor logistics support. It will also address the diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortage tasks involving the AMRAAM CPU chip, improving the AMRAAM guidance section within the current performance envelope, and developing applicable test equipment.

$88.6 million is committed immediately, using a combination of USAF and US Navy missile/weapon budgets, and some O&M budgets. This contract has unclassified 45.7% foreign military sales service/repair requirements for Saudi Arabia, Korea, Israel, Singapore and United Arab Emirates.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and is expected to be complete by Jan 31/17. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBAK at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-14-C-0026).

June 27/14: DC NASAMS. Raytheon IDS in Tewksbury, MA receives an $8.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to sustain the USA’s NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems) “interim air defense capability deployed in the Homeland Defense Area 1″ (i.e. in Washington, DC). This is a new follow-on service contract for the missile system, with 1 base year bought and options for up to 4 more years.

All funds are committed immediately, using US Army FY 2014 O&M funds. Work will be performed at Redstone Arsenal, AL, with an estimated completion date of June 27/14. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with 1 received by US Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal Missile at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-14-C-0114).

April 23/14: Industrial. Raytheon is making progress on its AMRAAM backlog, now that Nammo is supplying rocket motors that fully meet specifications. As of March 5/14, the firm has reportedly recovered $179 million (28.8%) of the $621 million withheld by the U.S. Air Force since 2012.

Bloomberg News cites USAF spokesman Ed Gulick as the source. The firm has reportedly told the USAF that it expects to be fully back on schedule by July 2014, and the corresponding funds are being released under a revised delivery schedule agreed on in December 2012.

Gulick adds that ATK has qualified a new motor, and is expected to resume deliveries to Raytheon in May 2015. Sources: Bloomberg, “Raytheon Recovering From Missile Delivery Delays, Air Force Says”.

Jan 28/14: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2013 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). They cover the AIM-120 rocket motor problem, the AIM-120C3-C7 Electronic Protection Improvement Program (EPIP) software upgrade, and the AIM-120D.

As of October 2013, Nammo had manufactured 1,000 motors in their role as the sole source provider for new production motors.

The EPIP is in integrated testing under a plan that DOT&E approved in April 2012, though the ongoing lack of a budget from the US Senate has delayed the program.

The AIM-120D’s problems since December 2011 are better known, though most details are classified. IOT&E testing resumed in May 2013, but the program continues to experience delays. Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) is progressing, and is scheduled to end in FY 2014. On the good news front, captive-carry performance has exceeded the interim Mean Time Between Failure requirement, and is approaching the mature requirement of 450 hours.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The USAF and USN unveil their preliminary budget request briefings. They aren’t precise, but they do offer planned purchase numbers for key programs between FY 2014 – 2019. The detailed documents are released over the course of the next week, and those figures have been added to the charts and background above.

The AIM-120D has been delayed for a couple of years by testing issues, preventing the US military from benefiting from its extended range, improved seeker, etc. The Navy says that “AMRAAM procurements have been deferred in FY15 to ensure adequate time to correct testing and production delays,” which fits with planned Initial Operational Capability in FY 2015 for the Navy’s Hornets and Super Hornets. Meanwhile, they’re dropping purchases from just 44 in FY14 (-10 from request) to 0 in 2015 (-83 from FY14 plan). In contrast, the USAF is moving ahead with AIM-120D buys, buying 183 missiles (-16 from request) in FY14 and requesting 200 (-15 from plan) in FY15.

The Navy says that they’ll eventually catch up with its buys, which are slated to accelerate beyond its earlier plans. They plan to purchase 138 AIM-120Ds in FY 2016 (+30), 154 in FY 2017 (+26), 233 in FY 2018 (+63), and 274 missiles in FY 2019. The USAF is saying similar things, with a planned spike in FY 2017 (+30) and 2018 (+86), and continued high production in 2019. In reality, however, promises of “more later” very rarely come true. At about $1.5 million per missile, the required increases aren’t ruinous, but if finding the funding was easy, they wouldn’t be making reductions now. Source: USN, PB15 Press Briefing [PDF] | USAF, Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Overview.

Feb 25/14: Testing. Raytheon in Tucson AZ receives a sole-source $20 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for work associated with AMRAAM Aircraft Integration, operational testing, and flight test support. The primary objective of this effort is to provide the necessary aircraft lab, flight test, flight clearance, simulation support, and repairs/maintenance during all aircraft integration efforts. If there are failures, troubleshooting, failure analysis etc. will be added as well.

$3 million in FY 2013 and 2014 RDT&E funds are committed immediately to 5 task orders (TO 0001 Simulation Support, TO 0002 Integration Support, TO 0003 Flight Clearances, TO 0004 Tech Support and TO 0005 Management/Financial Support).

Work will be performed at Fort Worth, TX; Eglin Air Force Base, FL; Hill AFB, UT; Edwards AFB, CA; Nellis AFB, NV; White Sands Missile Range, NM: China Lake/Point Mugu, CA; St. Louis, MO; Seattle, WA: Baltimore, MD, and Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by September 2019. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBA at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-14-D-0009).

Dec 19/13: AIM-120D. Raytheon Missiles Systems, Tucson AZ, has been awarded a sole-source $40 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for system improvements to include design, development, and test of the AIM-120D missile. Still working on that…

$4 million is committed immediately from FY 2013 – 2014 RDT&E budgets. Work will be performed at Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by March 31/15. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBA at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-14-D-0082).

FY 2013

Orders: USA, Oman, Saudi Arabia; 1st launch for F-35; Operational mobile SAM introduced; Deliveries & payment resume with new rocket motor supplier. AMRAAM delivery
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July 19/13: ROK.The US DSCA announces [PDF] the Republic of Korea’s official request for 260 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM missiles, creating a contingency stock for use with its KF-16 and F-15K fighters. The order will also include missile support and test equipment, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of US Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $452 million, but that will depend on a negotiated contract.

The principal contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Company in Tucson, AZ, and if a contract is negotiated, it will require multiple government and contractor trips to South Korea over an 8-year period for technical reviews/support, program management, and training. Raytheon representatives will also be needed in South Korea to conduct modification kit installation, testing, and training.


July 18/13: AIM-9X Block 3. Flight Global reports that US NAVAIR is pushing for an AIM-9X Sidewinder Block III, and hopes to give the short-range missiles a 60% range boost. That range would start to push the AIM-9X into comparable territory to France’s MICA.

US NAVAIR intends to launch the Block III’s EMD development phase in 2016, developmental testing in 2018, and operational tests in 2020, followed by Initial Operational Capability in 2022.

Part of the reported rationale involves the proliferation of digital radar jammers on enemy fighters, which lowers AMRAAM’s odds of a successful radar lock. NAVAIR doesn’t say it, but the F-35’s provision for just 2 internal air-to-air missiles forces all weapon options to be more versatile – which sometimes means more expensive. Unfortunately, programs like the “Triple Target Terminator” were seen as too expensive. Raytheon’s AMRAAM-derived NCADE was another alternative, but the US military hasn’t pursued it.

June 25/13: SL-AMRAAM. Raytheon delivers the first NASAMS High Mobility Launcher. Norway is the customer, and the electronics improvements on HML will also be retrofitted on their fixed NASAMS systems. These improvements include modern upgrades like GPS and north-finding instrumentation. Raytheon.

June 14/13: FY 2013. A $534.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for AMRAAM Production Lot 27. The FY 2013 totals are supposed to be up to $332.3 million to buy 180 AIM-120D missiles for the USAF (113) and Navy (67), and the other 51% of this order is AIM-120C-7s for Oman (F-16C/Ds) and Saudi Arabia (F-15C/D/S/SA). The cost ratios make it very likely that there are more than 180 missiles headed abroad, and their combined recent DSCA requests involve 27 for Oman and 500 for Saudi Arabia.

Given a standard 2-year delivery lag for orders, it’s likely that we’re looking at all of Oman’s request, and part of Saudi Arabia’s. The USA depends on a minimum of 200 AIM-120C orders to keep per-missile prices at their estimates, and this set should cover that. Raytheon is touting their recent ability to deliver faster than specified, which should help ease concerns about the backlog that developed from their 2010-2012 delivery stoppage.

Work will be performed at Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by Jan 31/16. USAF Life Cycle Management Center/EBA at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-13-C-0003).

FY 2013

June 6/13: F-35. First full launch of an AMRAAM from the new F-35 fighter. In this case, it was an AIM-120-C5 AAVI from an F-35A, #AF-01. It isn’t a targeted launch yet, which depends on the Block 2B software. They just want to be sure that it can be launched from the internal bay without blowing up the plane. USAF | LMCO F-35 site | AFA Air Force Magazine.

April 4/13: AMRAAM + F-15SGs. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Singapore’s request to buy 100 AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) – but it’s the context for this $210 million export request that makes it important. Sure, Singapore also wants 10 AMRAAM Spare Guidance Sections and an AMRAAM Programmable Advanced System Interface Simulator (PASIS). They also want 18 AN/AVS-9(V) Night Vision Goggles, the H-764G GPS with GEM-V Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM), and Common Munitions Built-in-Test Reprogramming Equipment (CMBRE-Plus) “in support of a Direct Commercial Sale of new F-15SG aircraft.”

In other words, they’re about to buy another 12 F-15SGs as F-5 replacements and grow their fleet to 36, instead of buying 12 F-35Bs that won’t be useful until 2018 or later.

Because the fighters are a DCS sale, Singapore will manage it themselves, and figures aren’t disclosed. They’ve done this for all of their F-15SG buys, and past estimates for their 12-plane buys have been around $1.5 billion ($125 million per aircraft + support etc.). Their support and training infrastructure is already in place, so the total may be lower this time.

The $210 million FMS request will cover additional containers, spare and repair parts, support equipment, tools and test equipment, training equipment, and US government and contractor support – though Singapore won’t need any more on-site representatives. The prime contractors will be Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ (AMRAAM); Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, AZ; ITT Night Vision in Roanoke, VA (NVGs); and ATK Defense Electronic Systems in Clearwater, FL.

DSCA Singapore: 100 – and more F-15SGs coming

Jan 10/13: Fixed. The USAF resumes AMRAAM payments to Raytheon, freeing up $104 million in immediate funds. Deliveries from now on will be based on ready missiles, rather than using a number of milestones from progressive funding.

Norway’s NAMMO AS is Raytheon’s new rocket motor supplier, and deliveries of missiles with new NAMMO motors are beginning this month. About 125 motors have been delivered so far, with production set to reach 100 per month very soon.

ATK needs to reformulate their fuel and re-certify it, which isn’t likely to take less than 18 months. They’re out for now, but the experience has reminded the USAF and Raytheon that multiple supplier arrangements have value. Enough value to justify more money in a tight budget environment? We’ll see.

The late deliveries create penalties for Raytheon worth about $27 – $33 million, which includes things like no-cost labor to install software upgrades, warranty coverage and free repairs. The USAF gets warranty coverage for 325 AIM-120D missiles, and 40 no-cost repairs. Reuters.

Motor switch, payments & deliveries resumed

Dec 12/12: Weapons. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Oman’s request for weapons to equip its existing and ordered F-16s. Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Oman involving “many” U.S. Government or contractor representatives over a period of up to or over 15 years for program and technical support and training. The request includes 27 AIM-120-C7 AMRAAMs, among many other weapons. The estimated cost is up to $117 million for all, but exact costs will be determined by any negotiated contracts.

DSCA Oman: 27

Nov 19/12: Support. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ is being awarded a $6.4 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract to provide AMRAAM flight support.

Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and will run to the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30/13. The AFLCMC/EBAD at Eglin AFB, FL manages the contract (FA8675-13-C-0052).

FY 2012

Stopped deliveries. Poland. NASAMS launch
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Sept 6/12: NASAMS USA. Raytheon IDS in Tewksbury, MA receives a $9.65 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for maintenance and sustainment services in support of the Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System. There is a NASAMS system guarding the USA’s National Capital region.

Work will be performed in Redstone Arsenal, AL, with an estimated completion date of Aug 30/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-12-C-0276).

July 23/12: Stopped deliveries. IHS Jane’s reports that Raytheon has been unable to deliver any AIM-120 missiles for almost 2 years, because they keep failing cold firing tests designed to mimic temperatures at high altitudes. Raytheon and motor manufacturer ATK say that the materials and formulation haven’t changed in more than 30 years, but consistent test failures began in late 2009, and Raytheon reportedly has a stock of 800 undeliverable missiles.

Something, somewhere has changed, but what? Raytheon and ATK are highly motivated, as payments have been suspended until the problem is fixed. As of this date, they’re still looking for that fix. Raytheon’s official statement as of September 2012 is:

“Restoring AMRAAM to full production is a top priority for Raytheon, and has the full involvement of company leadership and our rocket motor suppliers. Raytheon has continued to produce AMRAAM guidance and control sections on schedule, while we wait for our primary supplier to deliver compliant rocket motors. All resources of Raytheon and our supplier, as well as government and other experts have been engaged to resolve the rocket motor manufacturing issues. We have developed a second rocket motor supplier that has begun to deliver. Raytheon recently delivered 132 AMRAAM all-up rounds to the U.S. Air Force. We continue to work closely with our rocket motor suppliers and our customer; we expect to be on track making additional significant missile deliveries to our customers before the end of the year.”

Deliveries Frozen

May 10/12: An $11.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for “central processing unit, circuit card assembly spike extension” in Production Lot 24 (FY 2010) AMRAAMs. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and will run until July 31/13 (FA8675-10-C-0014, PO 0021).

March 23/12: AIM-120D. Bloomberg reports that the USAF is now withholding a total of $621 million in payments to Raytheon for the AIM-120D: $419 million in FY 2010 payments, and $202 million from FY 2007-2009.

Since January 2011, Raytheon has met or exceeded planned monthly delivery goals just 3 out of 14 times, and the AIM-120D production line is 193 missiles behind schedule as of Feb 29/12, according to Air Force data. Part of the problem is that ATK “has had difficulty for the past year consistently producing rocket motors to specification”. ATK says they’ve committed their top talent to the issue, and look forward to resuming deliveries to Raytheon “in the near future.” Raytheon would hope so, since the accumulating delays already cost them about $180 million in FY 2012 budget cuts, and could cost them again in FY 2013.

March 20/12: Cracked Up. The Taipei Times reports that the ROCAF currently has 120 AIM-120-C5s and 218 AIM-120-C7s in inventory, thanks to deliveries that began in 2004. Unfortunately, some of them were experiencing cracking in their pyroceramic radome nose cones. American investigators concluded that Taiwan’s high humidity, plus the pressure created by supersonic flight, were the problem. The ROCAF will respond by improving storage and rotation cycles.

The Taipei Times does note that Taiwan’s radar-guided MBDA MICA and locally-built Tien Chien II missiles aren’t having this problem, despite being exposed to the same conditions.

Nose job

Feb 3/12: Polish request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Poland’s official request to buy F-16 weapons, as well as a 5 year fleet support contract that includes associated equipment, parts, and training. The entire contract set could be worth up to $447 million, and includes up to 65 AIM-120-C7s. See “2012-02: Poland Requests F-16 Weapons, Support” for full coverage.

DSCA Poland: 65

Jan 26/12: The Pentagon offers releases concerning its 2013 budget, including some news about program cuts, but the Comptroller doesn’t have the full budget documents up yet.

One encouraging piece of news for Raytheon is that one of the areas designated for protection or budget increases involves “Improved air­ to air missiles.” Despite its problems, the AIM-120D may be safe, for now. Pentagon release | “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices” [PDF]

Jan 26/12: A $17.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide test integration of software that’s intended to update and improve the US-only AIM-120D missile. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/13 (FA8675-09-C-0201, PO 0013).

Jan 17/12: DOT&E. The Pentagon releases the FY2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The AMRAAM is included, specifically the ongoing problems with the AIM-120D. The report says that there is still no date set for its operational testing readiness review, which was supposed to happen in 2008. Why not?:

“The four key deficiencies include missile lockup, built-in test (BIT) failures, aircraft integration problems, and poor GPS satellite acquisition… Raytheon has solved the BIT fail problem and has developed a pending solution to the GPS failure problem… The Air Force accomplished the final DT/OT(developmental testing/ operational testing) shot successfully in August 2011, but Raytheon has not yet resolved missile lockup or aircraft integration problems.”

FY 2011

Lot 25. Exports. SLAMRAAM ended. SLAMRAAM from FMTV
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Aug 31/11: FY 2011 order. A $569 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for the FY 2011/ Lot 25 AMRAAM order, divided 77%/ 23% between US government sales and Foreign Military Sales.

USA & General: 234 AIM-120D All-Up-Round (AUR) missiles; 101 AIM-120D CATMs; 4 AIM-120D AAVIs; 8 integrated test vehicles; Air Force AIM 120D guidance section; 103 non-developmental item-airborne instrumentation units; test equipment; Personnel Reliability Program Phase IV.

Exports: 203 AIM-120C7 Foreign Military Sales AURs; warranty for 100 CATMs; warranty for 25 AIM-120C7 AURs (Bahrain); and Foreign Military Sale software and contractor logistics support (FA8675-11-C-0030).

FY 2011

June 29/11: Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ receives a $10.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification for the “Processor Replacement Program Foreign Military Sales software extension probability of weapon effectiveness.” The AAC/EBAC at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages the contract (FA8675-09-C-0052, PO 0032).

June 16/11: FY12 zero-out? Flight International reports that the USA may cut Lot 26 AIM-120D production from the FY 2012 budget:

“Raytheon’s production line for the [AIM-120D] is more than 100 weapons behind schedule and operational testing has yet to begin…[so] the House appropriations committee’s defence panel wants to eliminate funding [for all 379 missiles] in the AIM-120D production account… in the fiscal year 2012 defence budget. Such a move, if approved by the Senate, would gut Raytheon’s production line for one year. Since its AIM-120D and export AIM-120C7 missiles are produced on the same line, the price of the latter could rise as order quantities are reduced. That could leave foreign buyers with a larger bill or fewer missiles next year.”

Asked about this, the USAF told DID that the AIM-120D is almost finished combined developmental and operational test phase. The next significant program milestone is the Operational Test Readiness Review (OTRR) in August 2011, to determine if the program is ready for dedicated operational testing.

As of the end of May 2011, the US military has taken delivery of 225 AIM-120Ds, vs. a contract delivery requirement of 361. That’s a backlog of 136 missiles, which are only paid for after they are delivered and signed for via DD250 documentation.

June 2/11: Australia request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Australia’s formal request to buy up to 110 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAMs, 10 AIM-120C-7 AAVIs, 16 AIM-120C-7 CATMs, plus containers, weapon system support equipment, support and test equipment, site survey, transportation, repair and return, warranties, spare and repair parts, publications and technical data, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, and other forms of support. The DSCA specifically notes that:

“The proposed sale will allow the Australian Defense Force to complete Australia’s F/A-18 program under their Project AIR 5349. Phase I allowed acquisition of F/A-18[F Super Hornet] Block II aircraft and Phase II is for the acquisition of weapons.”

The estimated cost is $202 million, with Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ as the contractor. Actual costs will, of course, depend on the terms of any eventual contract. Australia already uses AMRAAMs on its older F/A-18A/B Hornets, but its F-111s did not. A larger AMRAAM-capable fleet means a need for a few more missiles. This proposed sale wouldn’t require any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives in Australia.

DSCA Australia: 110

Feb 17/11: AMRAAM component shortage? Focus Taiwan covers a ROCAF report on the May 2010 AMRAAM International Users’ Conference, in which the USAF’s 649th Armament Systems Squadron raised the issue of “Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS).” In English, that means people who manufacture some parts of the missile are either going out of business or ceasing production. The 649th ARSS said component shortages could begin as soon as 2012, and recommends that countries revise their AMRAAM support contracts to include maintenance and warranty clauses.

The longer term hope is to issue contracts for Raytheon to develop replacement components, as part of a joint logistics support plan extending to around 2030. Taiwan will join some other AMRAAM users in raising the issue of humidity, which makes it harder to store and maintain the missiles, and could accelerate their spares problem.

Component problems

Feb 16/11: Swiss budget. Switzerland approves its 2011 armament program. Biggest expense in the $450 million total? CHF 180 million ($192.8 million) to upgrade its stocks with new AIM-120-C7 AMRAAM medium range air-air missiles, alongside the old AIM-120Bs which were bought in 1992 with the air force’s 26 F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters.

The Defence Ministry no longer considers the AIM-120Bs to be up to date from an operational point of view, and is buying what it terms a “minimum number of guided missiles” to address that situation. The new AIM-120-C7s will be available alongside the older AIM-120Bs, though the latter are likely to be used more often in reserve and training roles. Swiss VBS | defpro. See also the Dec 21/10 entry, for the associated DSCA request.


Feb 14/11: FY 2012 budget. The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 budget request, even as it waits for the new 112th Congress to pass the FY 2011 budget that its predecessors failed to enact. The $579.5 million request would buy 379 missiles (218 USAF, 161 Navy), and provide $80.7 million in R&D for “product improvements such as fuzing, guidance, and kinematics.”

Jan 31/11: Support. A $15 million contract for AMRAAM technical support: systems engineering, small software enhancements, test support, maintenance and modification of special test assets, support to the Navy hardware in the loop simulation, aircraft integration, and other technical engineering requirements. At this time, no money has been committed – task orders will be issued if needed (FA8675-11-D-0050).

Jan 6/11: SL-AMRAAM. The Pentagon announces a number of changes, instead to take $150 billion from administration and weapons programs, and shift them into higher priority weapon programs. One of the proposed cancellations is the Army’s SLAMRAAM program which, like all of these proposed cuts, must be agreed and legislated by the US Congress before it comes into effect.

On the one hand, given the ongoing decline of American tactical airpower, canceling SLAMRAAM in favor of keeping older, short-range Stinger and Avenger air defense missile systems is a definite risk. On the other hand, AMRAAM ground-based air defense systems are selling around the world in Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, et. al., and will remain available as a mature system that can be implemented quickly if the need is recognized. Pentagon release re: overall plan | Full Gates speech and Gates/Mullen Q&A transcript || Atlanta Journal Constitution | The Atlantic | the libertarian Cato Institute | The Hill | NY Times | Politico | Stars and Stripes || Agence France Presse | BBC | Reuters | UK’s Telegraph | China’s Xinhua.


Dec 21/10: Swiss request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Switzerland’s official request to buy 150 AIM-120-C7 missiles, 6 AIM-120-C7 Telemetry Missiles, 24 AIM-120-C7 Captive Air Training Missiles, and 1 spare Missile Guidance Section, plus missile containers, weapon system support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documents, repair and return, depot maintenance, training and training equipment, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is $358 million.

Switzerland would use the missiles on its existing fleet of F/A-18C/D Hornet aircraft, which already carry earlier-model AIM-120B AMRAAMs. The prime contractor will, of course, be Raytheon Missile Systems Corporation in Tucson, AZ.

DSCA Switzerland: 150

Dec 13/10: SLAMRAAM. Raytheon announces the 2nd test firing of an unguided SLAMRAAM from its new carrier platform, an FMTV truck. Details and purpose are the same as the 1st firing, discussed in the Sept 9/10 entry.

Oct 20/10: Saudi Arabia. As part of a nearly $30 billion weapons export request that involves upgrading their entire F-15S fleet, and buying 84 new F-15SA Strike Eagles, Saudi Arabia also seeks export permission for up to 500 AIM-120-C7 AMRAAMs as one of the weapons in their request. US DSCA [PDF] | DID’s “The Saudis’ American Shopping Spree: F-15s, Helicopters & More

DSCA Saudi: 500

FY 2010

SAR. Radomes. Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Chile. AIM-120D into F-22A
(click to view full)

Sept 28/10: Support. A $10.2 million contract modification which will extend the period of performance of the AMRAAM aircraft integration support effort contract through Sept 30/13. $1,815,268 has been committed (FA8675-08-C-0050; PO0016).

Sept 10/10: More radomes, please! A $25.8 million contract modification to restart the AMRAAM Radome “Phase II Pyroceram” project. At this time, the entire amount has been committed (FA3002-09-C-0003; AO0017).

A USAF representative explained that Raytheon had produced a large number of missile radomes before the line shut down, and it was thought that they would cover all future requirements. Since then, AMRAAM orders have surged ahead of those estimates, and stocks of radomes have been drawn very low. Production has to begin again, and this contract modification asks Raytheon to qualify the factory to build the same design radome as before. Production of new radomes will occur under the AMRAAM production contract, awarded separately, beginning in 2012.

Sept 9/10: SLAMRAAM. Raytheon announces that an unguided version of its ground-launched SLAMRAAM had a successful test firing from an FMTV truck at Eglin Air Force Base, FL. SLAMRAAM was initially mounted on Humvees, but it has become clear that those weren’t tough enough, so the Army will be using FMTV medium trucks instead. An FMTV derivative called the Caiman is even up-armored with a V-hull to survive mine blasts.

Missiles won’t launch exactly the same way from a different vehicle, however, because the launching itself creates different turbulence effects. That can have effects on nearby soldiers, and even on subsequent missiles if they’re ripple-fired. Understanding these “dynamic launch effects” was the goal of this test, and Raytheon adds that it will “reduce risk on future potential FMTV missile integration efforts, such as the AIM-9X.” Many other ground-launched air-to-air missile conversions use a dual setup of infrared and radar guided missiles, from Israel’s Spyder to France’s VL-MICA; adding AIM-9X to SLAMRAAM would give it the same versatility.

Aug 6/10: FY 2010 order. A $492.4 million contract which will provide AMRAAM missiles to American and international customers, and appears to be the FY 2010 buy. Note that AIM-120Ds and their accompanying training and test missiles are only sold to the US military. The order includes:

  • 132 AIM-120D AURs;
  • 12 AIM-120D Air Vehicles Instrumented (AAVI)
  • 87 AIM-120D Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM)
  • Warranty for 85 AIM-120D AURs for the USAF
  • Warranty for 10 AAVIs for the USAF
  • Warranty for 87 CATMs for the US Air Force and Navy
  • AIM 120D guidance section and rear data link for the USAF
  • 273 AIM-120C7 AURs for all Foreign Military Sales customers
  • Warranty for 58 AIM-120C7 AURs for Foreign Military Sales customers Chile (13) and Jordan (45)
  • 192 non-developmental item-airborne instrumentation units
  • Test equipment; HIF/Spike life time buy; and contractor logistics support. This includes

Foreign Military Sales class customers within this order total 44% of its value, and include Morocco, Jordan, and Kuwait (q.v. Nov 15/10 entry); plus Canada, Chile, Finland, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. At this time, the entire amount has been committed (FA8675-10-C-0014).

FY 2010

April 28/10: Alternate rocket motor. Raytheon announces that it’s working with Norway’s NAMMO to begun qualifying an alternative rocket motor for the AIM-120 AMRAAM that would be interchangeable with current motors, and maintain the same performance as the current rocket engine. ATK is currently the primary rocket motor provider. Raytheon Missile Systems Air Warfare Systems VP Harry Schulte says that this is simple prudence for a key product, which has been bought by 36 countries, with more than 1.8 million captive-carry hours and more than 2,900 live firings:

“A second source of rocket motors ensures Raytheon will meet its commitment to the U.S. and international warfighter by providing a continual supply of AMRAAMs.”

NAMMO has a long-standing relationship of its own with Raytheon, and has delivered more than 40,000 rocket motors for the AIM-9 Sidewinder short range air-air missile program. It also seems like an good move if rocket motors are creating a problem for AMRAAM, which turns out to be the case. NAMMO ends up as the new supplier before all is said and done, with ATK free to pursue supplier certification without affecting deliveries. Raytheon release.

April 2/10: Support. A $13.5 million contract which provides support for 4 months of AMRAAM system engineering and program management, due to delay of Lot 24 (FY 2010 production), which would otherwise have covered those funds. At this time the entire amount has been obligated by the 695ARSS/PK at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (FA8675-09-C-0052). When asked about the delay, the team at Eglin AFB has this to say:

“The Air Force has changed contracting policy, departing from the more streamlined, “review-discuss-concur” (sometimes known as “alpha contracting”) approach of recent years, in favor of a traditional contracting approach that requires considerably more cost information and independent auditing by the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

This policy change has extended the schedule for negotiating and awarding our contracts. The Lot 24 contract, planned to be awarded in March/April originally, is now forecast for a June/July award. The four-month “bridge” contract was awarded to protect the program’s critical engineering and management workforce… [but] does not increase the ultimate cost of the Lot 24 contract.”

April 1/10: SAR. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. AMRAAM makes the list, for both good and bad reasons:

“Program costs increased $6,402.7 million (+43.0%) from $14,880.6 million to $21,283.3 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 3,887 missiles from 13,953 to 17,840 missiles (+$3,775.7 million) and associated schedule, engineering, and estimating allocations

  • (+$457.7 million). Costs also increased due to software integration efforts (+504.4 million), the realignment of Navy and Air Force missile procurement during fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2024 (+$918.6 million), an increase in telemetry equipment to support training (+$422.9 million), and increases in tooling and test equipment, diminishing manufacturing sources requirements, and production/test support resulting from the extension of the production program from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2024 (+$280.4 million).”


March 16/10: R&D. A $19.5 million contract to continue funding the AMRAAM system improvement program. At this time, the $2.8 million has been committed by the 696th ARSS at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (FA8675-10-C-0105).

March 9-11/10: AIM-120D. The new AIM-120D AMRAAM takes the first 2 Developmental Test/ Operational Test (DT/OT) live shots, at Eglin AFB, FL. Eglin officials tell DID that “Performance appeared to have been as predicted, but the [full] test data is still under review. The March 9 shot from a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet resulted in a “lethal intercept” of the target, presumably due to proximity detonation. The March 11th shot from a USAF F-15C resulted in a direct hit.

The AIM-120D Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase is complete [and] fielding will follow the completion of an extensive operational testing effort that is currently underway. The 3rd and final DT/OT shot is planned for early-May 2010, and all missiles for the testing programs have been delivered.

March 2/10: SLAMRAAM. Raytheon announces that the USA’s Surface Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (SLAMRAAM) program has received approval from the U.S. Army for long-lead purchases, not to exceed $18 million, leading to low rate initial production. The step toward LRIP status is an important milestone for that program.

Nov 15/09: Kuwait, Morocco & Jordan order. The US government executed separate letters of offer and acceptance with Kuwait, Morocco and Jordan enabling those US Middle East allies to purchase AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs).

In earlier requests to the US Congress, Kuwait had asked to buy 120 AIM-120-C7 AMRAAMs (see Sept 9/08 entry); Morocco had asked to buy 30 AIM-120-C5 AMRAAMs (C5 is the production version before the C7 – see July 9/08 entry); and Jordan had asked to buy 85 AIM-120-C7 AMRAAMs (see Aug 3/09 entry). The 3 countries will use the AMRAAMs in both air-to-air and air defense missions.

Jordan, Kuwait & Morocco

Nov 10/09: Chile request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a request by Chile to buy 100 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and associated parts, equipment and logistical support for approximately $145 million. DSCA requests are not contracts. If Congress does not block the request within 30 days, negotiations can begin for related contracts.

Chile intends to use these missiles to improve its capability to meet current and future threats of enemy air-to-air weapons. Chile is updating its military’s capability while increasing interoperability of weapon systems between itself, the US, and other allies.

DSCA Chile: 100

Oct 29/09: Rocket boost? Alliant Techsystems (ATK) announces a nearly $10 million contract to improve rocket motor technologies for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), and well as future air-to-air missile systems. The scope of the work being performed under the Counter Air/ Future Naval Capabilities program is to develop technologies that will extend missile range, decrease time-to-target, improve end-game maneuverability, and improve the rocket motor’s response to insensitive munitions stimuli.

There are 4 main areas that ATK will concentrate on: high burn rate propellants for improved kinematics; improving case stiffness for reduced weight and agility; low erosion nozzles for improved performance; and multi-pulse propulsion for better end-game maneuverability. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, CA manages the contract. ATK expects to complete the work by June 2013.

FY 2009

FMS, Jordan, Bahrain. F-18F launch
(click to view larger)

Sept 16/09: Testing. Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ received a $22.2 million modification, which changes a previously awarded unfinalized contract (N68936-09-C-0097) to a cost-plus fixed-fee contract. Raytheon will design, build, and integrate an all-inclusive AMRAAM hardware-in-the-loop simulation system for military construction project P710, at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ (75%) and China Lake, CA (25%), and is expected to be complete in September 2011. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA will manage this contract.

The hardware-in-the-loop simulation facility includes hardware mounts, a flight table that can mount the core seeker assembly etc., and an anechoic chamber, in order to create simulated missile firings. It can test the missile’s radar seeker and ECCM (electronic counter-counter-measures) against simulated targets and threats, from a variety of imagined speeds and angles, and produce Monte Carlo simulations that explore hundreds of “firings” and create statistically useful results, without using up hundreds of missiles and expensive airframe time. It can also test the signals being sent to the rest of the missile, and make sure the software and mechanics are doing what they’re supposed to do.

The move from Point Mugu was prompted by changes mandated in the USA’s 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, and the new facility is expected to begin operations in September 2011 with AIM-120C7 capability. By September 2012, the facility is expected to be fully operational, with the ability to handle AIM-120C3-C7 models. See also NAVAIR release | Thanks to NAWCWD China Lake for clarification.

Aug 18/09: R&D. A $20.1 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract for the AMRAAM system improvement program. At this time $2.5 million has been committed. The 696th ARSS at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages the contract (FA8675-09-C-0201).

Aug 3/09: Jordanian request. The DSCA announces [PDF] Jordan’s official request to buy 85 AIM-120C-7 missiles, 6 AIM-120C Captive Air Training Missiles, missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and support. The estimated cost is $131 million.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require bi-annual trips to Jordan involving 6 U.S. Government and 4 contractor representatives for program management reviews over a period of up to 5 years.

DSCA Jordan: 85

July 28/09: Bahrain request. The DSCA announces [PDF] Bahrain’s official request to buy 25 AIM-120C-7 AMRAAMs, missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, personnel training and training equipment, and support. The estimated cost is $74 million.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require bi-annual trips to Bahrain involving 6 U.S. Government and 4 contractor representatives for program management reviews over a period of up to 5 years.

DSCA Bahrain: 25

May 11/09: FY 2009 order. A $521.3 million firm-fixed-price contract to Raytheon Co. of Tucson, AZ for AMRAAM production (FA8675-09-C-0052). This appears to be the Lot 23 contract. At this time, the entire amount has been committed. The order includes:

  • 105 containerized AIM-120D AMRAAM All-Up-Rounds;
  • 72 AIM-120D captive air training missiles, and warranties;
  • 11 instrumented AIM-120D “air vehicles,” for missile flight tests;
  • 2 AIM-120D integrated test vehicles, which include guidance systems etc.;
  • 106 “non-developmental items,” including airborne instrumentation units, test equipment, Phase 1A activities related to AMRAAM radomes, quad target detection device parts replacement work to address obsolescence, US Navy AIM 120D guidance section and development infrastructure support equipment, and upgrades; and
  • 495 AIM-120C7s for Foreign Military Sales outside the USA.

FY 2009

Feb 22/09: UAE order. A Raytheon official confirms that the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. government have executed a letter of offer and acceptance for 224 AIM-120C7 missiles, to equip the UAE’s F-16E/F Block 60 fighter fleet.

Terms are not disclosed, but the number matches the DSCA sale request on Jan 3/08. That request involved a larger package that also included JDAM smart bombs and other weapons; it was worth up to $326 million. Reuters.


Feb 13/09: Newer chips. The USAF issued a $21.7 million modification to a cost plus fixed fee contract with performance incentives. Raytheon of Tucson, AZ will conduct the AMRAAM Processor Replacement Program, Phase II. At this time, the entire amount has been committed (FA8675-07-C-0055, P00022).

Some sources cite 30 MHz as the original speed for AMRAAM’s processor, in a world where computer chips that were cutting edge midway through the AMRAAM program’s lifespan are now museum pieces. Newer chips definitely offer the potential for performance improvements, but the most important benefit in this case may be the newer chips’ continued availability from manufacturers.

Jan 12/09: A $6.7 million modification to the AMRAAM Lot 22 Production contract (see May 28/08 entry). At this time, the entire amount has been committed (FA8675-08-C-0049, P00008).

Dec 10/08: Greece. Raytheon in Tucson, AZ receives a $7.9 million contract modification to administer AMRAAM-related industrial offset programs in Greece, as a modification to the Production Lot 21 contract. See also the July 1/08 entry, covering the addition of 130 AIM-120C7s to Greece as part of the Lot 21 production run.

At this time the entire amount has been obligated. 695 ARSS at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages this contract (FA8675-07-C-0055, modification P00020).

Nov 25/08: AIM-120D. The Air Force is paying $6 million to modify a firm fixed price contract with Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ. This contract will upgrade 2 guided weapons test sets to AIM-120D Capability, including spares, and additional GPS. At this time, all the money has been committed (FA8675-07-C-0055, Modification P00019).

Oct 20/08: Turkey, Denmark & Finland. Rocket motors have shelf lives, too. The USAF issues a contract modification for $12.9 million. In exchange, Raytheon will supply 436 propulsion sections (baseline rocket motors) that will be installed in AIM-120B missiles. This effort supports foreign military sales to Turkey, Denmark, and Finland, and all funds have been committed (FA8675-08-C-0049, P00005).

Oct 15/08: Testing. The AIM-120C7 AMRAAM enters the U.S. Navy’s Weapon System User Program (WSUP) evaluations, fired from Super Hornets of the U.S. Navy’s VFA-143 squadron against a BQM-167A target drone. The Navy fighters also fired one of the new short-range AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles during the joint mission, which included USAF F-15Cs from Eglin Air Force Base’s 60th Fighter Squadron.

Raytheon’s release adds that “All missiles guided within lethal range of the target and were assessed as 100 percent successful.”

FY 2008

South Korea, Singapore, Finland, Greece, Morocco, Kuwait, UAE, Turkey. F-15C fires AMRAAM
(click to view full)

Sept 26/08: Turkish request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Turkey’s official request to buy 107 AIM-120C7 AMRAAM missiles, 2 missile guidance sections, missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, and various support services. The estimated cost is $157 million.

Raytheon Electronic and Missile Systems of Tucson, AZ is the prime contractor. The Turkish Air Force uses AMRAAMs, and will have no difficulty absorbing these missiles into its armed forces. Implementation of this sale will not require the assignment of any additional U. S. Government or contractor personnel in country.

DSCA Turkey: 107

Sept 10/08: R&D. A cost plus fixed fee contract for $7.4 million, in return for work on AIM-120C3 through AIM-120C7 Counter Advanced Electronic Attack (EA) Risk Reduction and Concept Refinement (RR/CR). In English, this work will make it harder to jam most of the AMRAAM missiles in current service. At this time all funds have been committed by the 328th Armament Systems Group at Eglin AFB, FL (FA8675-08-C-0247).

Sept 9/08: UAE request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announces [PDF] the United Arab Emirates’ official request to buy 288 AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) missiles, 2 Air Vehicle-Instrumented (AAVI) missiles, 144 LAU-128 Launchers, Surface Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (SL-AMRAAM) software, missile warranty, KGV-68B COMSEC chips, training missiles, containers, support and test equipment, missiles components, spare/repair parts, publications, documentation, personnel training, training equipment, contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related support elements. The estimated cost is $445 million.

The principal contractor will be Raytheon Corporation in Waltham, MA. The purchaser intends to request industrial offsets, but specifics will be defined in negotiations between the UAE and Raytheon. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 10 U.S. Government personnel and 15 Contractor representatives to the United Arab Emirates for a period of 3 months. Also, various personnel will be required to travel to the United Arab Emirates in one-week intervals, for surveys and other program requirements.


Sept 9/08: Kuwait request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Kuwait’s official request to buy 120 AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), 78 LAU-127-B/A launchers that fit on its fighter aircraft, 78 LAU-127-C/A Launchers, Captive Air Training Missiles, missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government (USG) and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support. The estimated cost is $178 million.

The prime contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Corporation in Tucson, AZ. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of up to 10 U.S. Government and contractor representatives for one-week intervals twice annually, to participate in training, and technical review.

DSCA Kuwait: 120

July 11/08: Finland request. Finland requests 300 AIM-120C7 AMRAAM missiles, plus missile containers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, and other related support. The order could be worth up to $435 million. Finland already uses AMRAAM missiles on its F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters. DSCA announcement [PDF].

DSCA Finland: 300

July 11/08: Singapore request. Singapore requests 128 AIM-120C7, 72 AIM-120C5, and 6 CATM missiles as part of a larger package worth up to $962 million.

DSCA Singapore: 200

July 9/08: Morocco request. Morocco requests 30 AIM-120C5 missiles as part of a larger package for its forthcoming F-16 C/Ds worth up to $155 million.

DSCA Morocco: 30

July 1/08: Greek order. An $87.6 million contract modification will provide 130 AIM-120C7s to Greece, and 6 Non-Developmental Item Airborne Instrumentation Units (NDI-AIUs) to Germany, as a modification to the AMRAAM Production Lot 21 contract. At this time all funds have been committed (FA8675-07-C-0055, P00011).


July 1/08: Processor replacement. A $13.2 million modification to a cost plus fixed fee contract for the Processor Replacement Program, Phase I. This project will replace the data processor module that’s common to both AMRAAM and the new Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) naval ship defense missile. The problem is that the AMRAAM Data Processor (ADP) and the Input-Output application specific integrated circuits (I/O ASIC) in the guidance section electronics aren’t manufactured any more. The electronics industry has much shorter life cycles than the military does, so the USAF is looking to replace these obsolete parts and do any redesign required.

This effort supports the US military and foreign military sales to Greece and Taiwan. All funds have already been committed (FA8675-07-C-0055, P00012).

June 20/08: South Korea request. South Korea is requesting $200 million worth of additional air-air missiles and precision attack weapons for its F-15Ks: 125 AIM-120C7 AMRAAMs, 14 CATMs, and 2 dummy rounds; plus AGM-54G Mavericks, JDAMs, Paveway II/IIIs, and chaff. Read “South Korea Buying Weapons for its new F-15Ks.”


June 6/08: The USAF is modifying the firm-fixed-price Lot 21 production contract with Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, AZ by $44.8 million, in order to provide AIM-120C-7 Software Tapes 18A/20 to Greece and Taiwan. At this time, $17.4 million has been obligated (FA8675-07-C-0055, P00010).

May 28/08: FY 2008 order. A $412.2 million firm-fixed-price contract for Lot 22 AMRAAM production: 98 AIM-120D All-Up-Round Missiles, 11 AIM-120D Air Vehicles Instrumented (AAVIs), 8 AIM-120D Integrated Test Vehicles (ITVs), 78 AIM-120D Captive Air Training Missiles, a warranty for 68 AIM-120D AURs (USAF), a warranty for 11 AAVIs USAF, and a warranty for 78 CATMs (USAF/USN).

This order also includes 213 AIM-120C-7 foreign military sales AURs, 5 AIM-120C foreign military sales AAVIs, 269 Non-Developmental Item-Airborne Instrumentation Units, Spares (US/FMS), Test Equipment, Obsolescence to include Radome source replacement, Quad Target Detection Device parts replacements, and second source funding for the Common Air Launched Navigation System. At this time, all funds have been committed (FA8675-08-C-0049).

Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2010 and continue through 2011. See also Raytheon release.

FY 2008

May 21/08: AIM-120D. A modified cost plus contract for $9.8 million, required because the Phase IV AMRAAM SDD program to develop the AIM-120D is experiencing turbulence. “Continuing delays in resolving developmental hardware issues and less-than-expected effectiveness in flight test execution are the primary reasons for the SDD program being behind schedule.” DID asked for clarification, and the program office explained:

“The AMRAAM Phase IV SDD program has experienced unexpected delays during the transition from POD (proof of design) to POM (proof of manufacture) hardware design and integration for a variety of reasons. The hardware delays varied from late deliveries from subcontractors to minor redesigns of CCAs culminating in delayed production of POM units and a corresponding schedule slip. The program has also experienced less-than-expected effectiveness over the past year in flight test execution due to weather, aircraft and target maintenance delays(such as the recent extended F-15 Fleet grounding), and POM missile hardware availability for flight test. The POM hardware issues have been resolved and Raytheon Missile Systems is now successfully producing POM missiles for aircraft integration and test efforts.”

The current forecast date for the functional configuration audit has slipped about 10 months, from June 30/08 to April 30/09. That schedule extension increases the contract’s cost by about 10%, which is available with the existing program budget. Technical requirements have not changed, and at this time $6.8 million has been obligated (FA8675-04-C-0001, P00047).

Feb 12/08: SLAMRAAM. The Project on Government Oversight watchdog group issues a December 2007 report from the US DoD’s Office of the Inspector General, which was obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. It discusses, and faults, the US Army and Defense Contracting Management Agency’s handling of the $623 million SLAMRAAM ground-launched anti-aircraft missile program. DID includes more complete excerpts and summaries from the report, including program manager and DCMA responses, and adds more details regarding the SLAMRAAM system.

Jan 3/08: UAE request. The UAE requests 224 AIM-120C7 AMRAAMs, as part of a larger weapons purchase request to buy its F-16 E/F Block 60 Desert Falcon fighters that could be worth up to $326 million.


FY 2007

SAR. Netherlands, Pakistan, Israel. AIM-120A launch
(click to view full)

Sept 26/07: Sub-contractors. A contract modification for $7.8 million, which buys 309 replacement baseline rocket motors to be installed into AIM-120A, AIM-120B, and AIM-120C Air Vehicles. Raytheon actually buys these from ATK. At this time all funds have been obligated. The 695th ARSS at Eglin Air Force Base, FL issued the contract (FA8675-07-C-0055, P0004).

Sept 25/07: Sub-contractors. Harris Corp. Government Communications Systems Division of Melbourne, Fla. received a modification to a firm fixed price contract for $9.3 million. This action provides 86 sets of Warhead Replacement Tactical Telemetry (WRTTM) applicable to AIM-120 AMRAAMs. Also, line items are included for Data, Interim Contractor Support (ICS) required to maintain and repair the WRTTM, ICS required to maintain and repair the WRTTM Test Sets and Support Equipment, ICS required to perform services in support of approved Engineering Change Proposals, ICS services and materials required for Program Management, ICS Services and Materials required to provide Quarterly, 5 days on-the-job training sessions for Tyndall AFB, FL, personnel for the operation and maintenance of the WRTTM Test Set and Support Equipment.

At this time all funds have been obligated. The 542nd Combat Sustainment Wing at Robins Air Force Base Ga. issued the contract (F09603-03-C-0006-P00018).

Aug 24/07: Israel request. The US DSCA announces [PDF format] Israel’s request to buy 200 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air (AMRAAM) missiles, containers, components, spare/repair parts, publications, documentation, personnel training, training equipment, and other related support elements. The estimated cost is $171 million, and the principal contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Corporation, Tucson, AZ.

As noted above, AMRAAM competes to some extent with RAFAEL’s shorter-range Derby 4 missile. To date, however, Israel’s Cheyl Ha’avir has elected to purchase AMRAAMs instead for its fighters. See “Israel Requests $642M in Missiles, Fuel” for complete coverage.

DSCA Israel: 200

June 19/07: SLAMRAAM Plus? Raytheon announces SLAMRAAM upgrades via options to add SL-AMRAAM-ER extended range variants (likely via a rocket booster), and a variant with AIM-9X infrared seekers to match the combination radar/infrared surface-to-air sets like Spyder, VL-MICA, et. al. being fielded by international rivals.

April 16/07: FY 2007 order. A $180.3 million firm fixed price contract for 96 AIM-120D AMRAAM Air Vehicles, 5 AIM-120D AMRAAM Air Vehicles Instrumented, 105 Airborne Instrumentation Units, and warranty for 25 USAF Captive Air Training Missiles. This action also funds the Manufacturing Excellence Model Initiative, Test Equipment, and 2 priced options. At this time, $175.6 million have been obligated. This work will be complete January 2010 (FA8675-07-C-0055).

FY 2007

April 9/07: SAR. The Pentagon releases its April 2007 Selected Acquisition Report, and AMRAAM is one of the systems covered. Overall program costs increased $1.6 billion (+12.2%) from $13.2 billion to $14.8 billion:

“…due primarily to lower-than-expected Foreign Military Sales (FMS) projections (+$557.9 million) and an acquisition strategy pricing change (+$859.2 million). There were also increases related to a stretchout of the annual procurement buy profile (+$93.7 million), additional special tooling and test equipment (+$54.8 million), and an overrun in the AIM-120D (Phase 4) system development and demonstration contract (+$32.7 million).”


AIM-120A: preparing for a swap

Jan 29/07: Rocket switch. U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) officials and 435th Munitions Squadron airmen recently moved to shift serviceable rocket motors from older AIM-120A AMRAAMs and put them in unserviceable AIM-120B and C models, creating viable AIM-120 B/C missiles. The systems involved are part of USAFE’s war reserve assets, but also serve as a forward-positioned stockpile for the U.S. Central Command and elsewhere. The in-house weapon overhaul of 63 missiles saved the Air Force more than $31 million and approximately 3 years of time, and was the largest field retrofit in the AMRAAM’s history.

Dec 6/06: SLAMRAAM. Kongsberg announces a contract valued at NOK 345 million (about $60 million) with the Netherlands for NASMS system deliveries to the Dutch Army under the Future Ground Based Air Defence (FGBAD NL) program. The program combines systems from EADS with the SLAMRAAM-based NASAMS surface-to-air system developed by Kongsberg.

Dutch SAMs

Nov 17/06: Pakistan. A $269.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option to purchase 500 AIM-120C5 AMRAAM missiles and rehost on behalf of Pakistan (100%). Work will be complete April 2011 (FA8675-05-C-0070/P00028). This order is part of Pakistan’s $5.1 billion program to buy new F-16s and upgrade its existing fleet, and is the biggest AMRAAM export order to date. See also Raytheon’s January 15, 2007 release.


Nov 8/06: AIM-120D & AFSO-21. A USAF article discusses how the AIM-120D Production Program Manager was a bit skeptical when he was asked to be team leader on an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century rapid improvement event. By the time they were done, however, they had cut the acquisition-delivery time down from 11 months (48 weeks) to 4.5 months (20 weeks) using AFSO process improvement tools. Maj. Charles Seidel was impressed – and so were other weapons programs. Here’s what they did.

Nov 2/06: A $5.7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for AIM-120D production transition, with all funds already obligated. This work will be complete March 2007 (FA8675-06-C-0003/P00005).

Oct 31/06: SLAMRAAM. Raytheon announces that its AMRAAM-based Complementary Low Altitude Weapons System (CLAWS) air defense system finished 14 month Limited Technical Inspection in just 12 months and exceeded performance expectations, clearing the way for Marine Corps acceptance of the final 2 fire units. The tests took place at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems’ Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, MA.

CLAWS is a SLAMRAAM/HUMRAAM variant, and despite test success, the USMC decided that US air superiority made it an acceptable cancellation. Time will tell if that is wise.

Oct 17/06: SLAMRAAM. Raytheon Fires Surface-Launched AMRAAM to Test New Command Destruct/Self Destruct Capability. The successful tests took place in Sweden, following successful SLAMRAAM tests in Norway.

FY 2006

NCADE. Pakistan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia. F-16 launches AIM-120
(click to view full)

Sept 29/06: Singapore & Saudi order. A $65.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option to purchase 123 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAMM) Air Vehicles (AAVs) Air Intercept Missile (AIM)-120C-5 missiles: 9 are for the USAF and 114 are foreign military sales to Singapore and Saudi Arabia (DefenseLINK did not break that out by country). The contract also includes 51 warranties and foreign military service software configuration management. Work will be complete November 2008 (FA8675-05-C-0070, PO 0026).

Singapore & Saudi

Sept 15/06: FY 2006 supplement. A $112.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to provide for 104 AIM-120C7 AMRAAM Air Vehicles, 112 Non-Developmental Item, Airborne Instrumentation Units (NDI-AIUs), proposal preparation, L3 Communications Pulse Code Modulation, Encoder Qualification Non-Recurring Expense, NDI-AIU Test Equipment Upgrade as well as 12 AIM-120D AMRAAM Air Vehicles Instrumented (AAVIs), 50 AIM-120D Captive Air Training Missiles (they have the seeker but no rocket motor), and an option for AIM-120D production transition.

The AIM-120C7 is the most current AMRAAM missile, but the other elements of the contract certainly indicate that the transition to the AIM-120D is getting closer (FA8675-06-C-0003, PO 0003). An October 6, 2006 Raytheon release notes that this contract supplements the Lot 20A effort awarded in February 2006; the two Lot 20 contracts combined total $168 million. The first production set of AIM-120D missiles will be delivered from December 2007 through January 2009.

FY 2006 SUP

July 26/06: AIM-120D. A $25.4 million cost-plus contract modification. This action provides for AMRAAM AIM-120D system demonstration development contract re-baseline. At this time, $7.4 million has been committed. Solicitations began April 2006, negotiations were complete July 2006, and work will be complete in June 2008. The Headquarters 328th Armament Systems Group, Eglin Air Force Base, FL issued the contract (FA8675-04-C-0001/P00028).

June 28/06: Pakistan request. The US DSCA announces Pakistan’s request for 500 AMRAAMs and 12 training missiles, as part of a $650 million weapons request within a $5.1 billion program to expand and refurbish its F-16 fleet.

DSCA Pakistan: 500

May 9/06: Contract. a $21.8 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for advanced medium range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) lead time away material, and systems engineering performance responsibility (SEPR). The lead time material will cover 12 operational test missiles (AIM-120D) and 40 initial operational capability missiles (AIM-120D and AIM-120C7). Work will be complete in October 2007 (FA8675-06-C-0003/P0002).

April 28/06: NCADE. Raytheon Company announces a $7 million contract from the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) for a risk reduction demonstration associated with the evolving Network Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) program. NCADE is testing the idea that a modified AMRAAM might be able to shoot down ballistic missiles just after launch, if a fighter can get close to the launch area.

The 12-month Raytheon effort will focus on propulsion systems and seeker enhancements as part of the overall NCADE system capability. Work on this contract will be performed at Raytheon’s Missile Systems business in Tucson, Ariz. Aerojet will perform propulsion work at its Redmond, WA location.


April 21/06: Testing. Most people don’t think about the effect that all those nifty aircraft maneuvers have on the weapons it’s carrying – but weapons developers have to, and so does the USAF. This article describes April 2006 tests of the AIM-120D missile in an F-22A Raptor weapons bay, in order to check the effect of noise and vibration on the missile. Previous tests with the AIM-120-C7 had determined that vibration levels in certain frequencies were harmful to the missile’s electronics, and the AIM-120D has a different navigation system as well as a different arrangement of electronics cards. The test was used to validate Raytheon’s modeling and assumptions, and the results are fed back into ongoing development.

March 13/06: Support. A $5.5 million firm fixed price contract option, exercised as a separate contract for a 11 month repair capability and a 11 month Service Life Prediction Program for non-warranted Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) Air Intercept Missile-120 components consisting of the AMRAAM Air Vehicle missiles, airborne instrumentation units, common field level memory reprogramming equipment, missile built-in test sets, containers, Navy captive air training missile, foreign military sales AMRAAM air vehicle instrumented missiles and repairable components of these items for the Air Force, Navy and 26 foreign military sales countries. This work will be complete in January 2007 (FA8675-06-C-0073).

Feb 17/06: Industrial. A $35.4 million firm fixed price contract for production transition (1 Lot), test equipment/tooling (1 Lot), unique identification, non-recurring expense (1 Lot), and software trouble reports (USN) (1 Lot). Solicitations were complete in April 2005, negotiations were complete in February 2006, and work will be complete by March 2007 (FA8675-06-C-0003).

FY 2005 and Earlier (Partial) AMRAAM on LAU-129 rail
(click to view full)

August 23/05: Singapore request. The US DSCA announces Singapore’s request to buy 200 AIM-120C Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and 6 CATM-120C AMRAAM Captive Air Training (CAT) Missiles, as part of a “provisional” $741 million weapons order.

Singapore soon makes its accompanying choice official: the F-15SG Strike Eagle is its next-generation attack aircraft.

DSCA Singapore: 200

April 4/05: FY 2005 order. Raytheon Company announces a $200 million contract from the USAF for continued production of 434 more AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air missiles (AMRAAM).

FY 2005


fn1. It’s worth noting that “missile range” is an extremely variable number – obviously, a missile’s effective range for 2 aircraft closing head on is much greater than a situation where one aircraft is fleeing and the missile must catch up. Most missile ranges are posted for head-head engagements. See the “Air-Air Missile Non-Comparison Table” for a fuller explanation, with diagrams, and key figures for most international missiles.

fn2. Jane’s Defence Weekly, July 11/07.

Additional Readings & Sources: Current Missiles

Additional Readings & Sources

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Equipping Lebanon’s… Government?

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 11/06/2015 - 02:00
Lebanese armed forces

The Lebanese Army’s own web site is blunt: “The assistance received from Syria, the USA, and other friendly countries has played a basic role in bridging the gap between needs and available means.”

A number of countries are stepping up to fill those gaps, left in a military ravaged by foreign occupation, a long and losing civil war, and the presence of Hizb’Allah – a foreign-backed private army in Lebanon, with superior firepower. The battle for influence in that country is multi-polar, with countries including the USA, France, and Saudi Arabia moving to counter Syria and Iran’s proxies, and countries like Russia working with independent agendas. The USA has been supplying a wide range of equipment from ammunition to armored vehicles, and is adding tanks, mini-UAVs, and even patrol boats to that list. Belgium has worked to sell some of its own tanks and APCs, France has offered help with Lebanon’s existing French equipment; and in April 2009, Russia went so far as to offer MiG-29 fighters, for free, from its own stocks.

What capabilities would these systems bring? How are those sales going? And how is Lebanon itself changing, in the wake of both Hezbollah’s takeover and Syria’s civil war?

UAVS, Tanks, and Planes RQ-11 assembly
(click to view full)

The main internal threat is Hezbollah, who is currently part of a 2009 unity government that is within the orbit of Syria’s Bashar Assad, and of Iran via its Hezbollah foreign legion. Pentration of the army and its institutions is accordingly extensive, which creates hard questions about the aid’s appropriateness, and security risks surrounding systems that are turned over.

Aerovironment’s RQ-11 Raven has become extremely popular in Afghanistan, and seen extensive use in Iraq. While the hand-launched UAV is far too small to carry anything beyond cameras, and is limited to low-flying missions out to about 1-15 miles, its virtues as a readily-used, squad-portable reconnaissance system that lets troops see over the next hill, or into the next block, are well and widely appreciated.

The M60 tank is a development of the M48 Patton, and was the M1 Abrams’ predecessor in the US Army and Marines. While the M1 was developed in response to the threat of the Soviet T-72, it turned out that the M60 was the T-72’s real peer competitor, whereas the M1 proved to be a massive overmatch. Something the M1 crews appreciated during combat in Operation Desert Storm. The M60A3 was the last serving model, sporting electronic upgrades while retaining the rounded turret and 105mm gun. It still serves with a number of militaries around the world. Egypt has the largest regional M60 fleet, followed by Turkey’s “M60 Sabras” that sport significant Israeli improvements to their sighting systems and electronics, as well as a full array of explosive reactive armor.

Recent combat experience teaches that even in urban situations, when tanks enter the fray, fights usually end quickly. Tanks of the M60’s vintage, however, lack the advanced armor protection and shaped designs required to withstand hits from popular threats like RPGs and anti-tank missiles. This can be remedied to some extent by adding explosive reactive armor and other ancillary systems. In their absence, however, M60s could not be expected to last very long against even private armies like Hezbollah, which makes extensive use of anti-tank missiles. The M60A3s, and similar vintage Leopard 1A5s from Belgium, would nonetheless offer an improvement over Lebanon’s existing T-54/55 and M48A5 tanks.

Russian MiG-29
(click to view full)

Lebanon’s fixed-wing fighter/attack force currently consists of about 4 Hawker Hunter jets, a 1950s era subsonic design that remains an aviation classic, and an OV-10 Bronco turboprop observation and light attack plane. In contrast, the used MiG-29s offered for free by Russia are late 1980s high-performance fighters, intended as a competitor to the F-16. Early versions are mainly air interceptor aircraft, though some Soviet MiG-29As were also given nuclear strike roles. Subsequent MiG-29Cs were confined to Soviet forces, incorporating radar improvements and an enlarged spine with extra fuel and an active electronic jammer system. Neither variant is suitable for delivering precision ground attack ordnance, a capability restricted to subsequent MiG-29S upgrades and modifications.

An interesting but very logical shift occurred in early 2010, when Russia and Lebanon agreed to substitute Mi-24 “Hind” helicopter gunships for the MiG-29s. The Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s saw some air-air engagements involving Iraqi Mi-24s and Iranian AH-1J SeaCobra helicopters, but the Hind’s main use is as a ground attack platform. It fits Lebanon’s military requirements and base infrastructure far better than the MiG-29s would have, but it also introduces an interesting new capability into Lebanon’s correlation of forces.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s participation in Lebanon’s government is a triple-edged sword for the Lebanese military.

On the one hand, it makes hostilities with Lebanon’s army unlikely so long as the accord lasts. The other 2 edges, however, are sharp. One is that it gave Hezbollah free rein to re-arm and organize. Hezbollah’s agenda is set in Iran and not in Lebanon, which has set the stage for future conflicts within and beyond Lebanon. For instance, Hezbollah is currently functioning as Iran’s Condor Legion equivalent in Syria’s civil war.

The other edge is that Israeli officials have said that since Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government, acts carried out by Hezbollah would be considered to be coming from Lebanon’s government – i.e. acts of war rather than terrorism. The strong implication is that any Israeli response would encompass all of Lebanon, not just Hezbollah. So far, that has largely kept a lid on things.

Contracts and Key Events 2015

June 11/15: Lebanon is buying six Super Tucano ground attack aircraft from the US through a Foreign Military Sale thought to be worth approximately $462 million, including spares, support services and auxiliary equipment. The US and Lebanese governments discussed the potential sale of Super Tucanos in 2010, with the DSCA announcement on Tuesday confirming reports from March which set a deadline of 2018 for delivery of the six aircraft. The Embraer-manufactured turboprop aircraft is particularly useful in counterinsurgency operations, as well as being more very affordable. For these reasons the Super Tucano has seen export success to several African states and numerous other nations worldwide.

Feb 26/15: April set as French arms delivery commencement. France is reportedly to start shipping its planned sale of $3 billion worth of Saudi-purchased arms to Lebanon in April. The announcement appears to have taken many media organs by surprise, given the already volatile military situation in the country. Different reports ascribe various Saudi motives for the pressing of the weapons into Lebanese Army hands, ranging from expressing pique at the U.S. (UPI) – whose arms were not purchased – to a direct effort to fund a force to take on Hezbollah (MintPress). It took the French two years to get to this point of readiness. Had the Saudis sought U.S. arms, the approvals would certainly have been much longer in coming, if they ever came. That the Lebanese Army would take on Hezbollah remains unlikely, as precedent shows a long inability to deny Hezbollah anything in Lebanon the group wishes to take.


Aircraft requests as ISIS threat creeps in. IqAF Hueys

Oct 24/14: UK. After a meeting between UK Chief of the Defense Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton and Lebanese Army Commander General Jean Kahwaji. the UK sends Lebanon a $16 million donation. It includes 164 Land Rovers, 1,500 sets of body armor, a secure radio communication network, border watchtowers, and HESCO bastions that can be filled with earth to create bulletproof walls in Army positions along the frontier. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Daily Star says:

“As for the earlier $3 billion aid announced by Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdel-Aziz, it will come in the form of weapons, equipment and training to be provided by France…. [but] has not yet gone into effect with reports saying that the Kingdom first wants to receive assurances that the weapons will not benefit Hezbollah.”

That sounds like a pretty tall order, given the realities of Lebanon. Sources: Al Defaiya, “UK Delivers Military Equipment to Lebanese Army”.

Oct 8/14: France. The French defense minister says that the 3-way deal with Saudi Arabia (q.v. Dec 30/13) may finally be ready to finance over EUR 2 billion in purchases of French weapons:

“Ce projet a ete valide par la France et ce projet est valide avec les forces armees libanaises”, a-t-il declare mercredi 8 octobre, lors de la seance des questions au gouvernement. Et d’ajouter : “Tous les travaux sont termines et le president de la Republique a indique hier à Monsieur [Saad] Hariri [ancien Premier ministre et leader politique de la communaute sunnite libanaise, NDLR] que les conditions etaient desormais remplies.”

That could end up being a very substantial infusion. The question is what the government will spend it on. And who will end up controlling what they buy. Sources: France24, “Liban : conditions réunies pour livrer des armes françaises, selon Le Drian”.

Sept 17/14: Helicopter request. A little more than 2 years after asking for 6 Huey IIs (q.v. July 25/12), Lebanon requests another 18 Huey II helicopters, as well as associated spares and services, for an estimated cost of $180 million.

That’s about the same unit cost as the previous request, and comparable to a request submitted but then canceled by Iraq in 2007. Huey IIs are refurbished and upgraded UH-1Hs sold “as good as new” by Bell. The bulk of Lebanon’s current but old helicopter fleet is comprised of 23 Hueys which were used to drop bombs – a rather unusual task for rotary aircraft – on Fatah al-Islam in 2007. Source: DSCA 14-20.

DSCA request (18 Huey IIs)

AC-208B firing
(click to view full)

Sept 12/14: AC-208Bs. US ambassador David Hale says the USA will send “an armed Cessna” , and also arm a Cessna it had previously provided to the Lebanese Army. they’re referring to the AC-208B conversion, which allows the Caravan to independently carry, target, and fire 2 AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missiles. It’s hardly a regional power projection tool, but it’s a fine platform for surveillance and strikes on isolated guerrilla groups.

“The Lebanese government and army have requested additional aircraft from the United States: an armed Cessna and other light air support aircraft… It is our intention to support those requests for additional aircraft, using funds generously made available to Lebanon by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…” [q.v. Dec 30/13]

That won’t use much of their $3 billion offer, and it’s a good investment for all concerned. Beyond the usual hijinks in Lebanon, the Sunni ISIS group has reached beyond Syria and Iraq into Lebanon, taking a number of Lebanese soldiers captive and beheading them. Iraq is already using AC-208Bs successfully against ISIS, and the USA is stepping up efforts to contain the group via 3rd parties since it has abandoned its own combat presence in Iraq. The Saudis also see ISIS as a threat, one that’s approaching the level offered by Iran and its legions. Sources: Lebanon Daily Star, “US arming Lebanon military to combat ISIS: Hale” | Kuwait News Agency, “US to deliver armed light Cessna aircraft to Lebanon to combat ISIL” | Middle East Monitor, “US to deliver armed aircraft to Lebanon”.

2012 – 2013

8 Huey IIs; Man-portable radios

Dec 30/13: Saudi Arabia. Lebanon couldn’t help but be drawn into the Sunni-Shia proxy wars that are engulfing the Arab world. Saudi Arabia pledges $3 billion in military aid to Lebanon’s government, in a move that’s clearly designed to strengthen that government at the expense of Iran’s Hezbollah. Specific equipment isn’t specified, so we’ll see how all of this works itself out.

Here’s the Saudi dilemma, in a nutshell: what to provide? If the money is used to provide small arms, anti-tank missiles, and good training, it would probably make the biggest difference on the ground. The bad news? These items are small and portable. Hezbollah’s infiltration of the armed forces and power within the government means that many of the items in question won’t stay in government hands. On the other hand, if Saudi aid is used to provide higher-end items like armed helicopters, armored vehicles, etc., then the bad news is that $3 billion doesn’t actually deliver as much as one imagines. Especially in a military whose support systems and infrastructure are questionable. That high-end approach is also vulnerable to counter-strokes: all Hezbollah would need to do, in order to incapacitate new fleets, would be to threaten the maintenance workers in order to ensure that they do a poor job. Sources: CS Monitor, “Saudi Arabia promises record $3 billion in military aid to Lebanon”.

July 31/13: Radios. Advanced Technology Systems Co. in McLean, VA receives a $26.7 million multi-year, firm-fixed-price, foreign military sales from Lebanon for TETRA trunked radio communication systems. TETRA is an abbreviation of TErrestrial Trunked RAdio. It has been defined and approved by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and is a standard for radio communication in the same way that GSM is a mobile telephony standard. It’s often used to create networks for first responders and internal security forces, but a number of militaries around the world also use them.

Work will be performed in Lebanon. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W15P7T-13-C-D082).

May 26/13: Syria/Lebanon War. In the New Yorker, war correspondent Dexter Filkins reports:

“It’s official: the war in Syria has spread to Lebanon. In an extraordinary speech Saturday, Hassan Nasrallah, the bearded and bespectacled leader of the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, promised an all-out effort to keep the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria. “It’s our battle, and we are up to it,” Nasrallah said in a televised address. The war, he said, had entered “a completely new phase.”

This is a terrifying development; the beginning of a regional war. Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed armed group, has been fighting inside Syria for months, something I detailed in an article on the group in February. But Hezbollah was intervening in Syria covertly…. As more and more Hezbollah fighters died inside Syria, that lie could no longer be sustained. The truth is out.

On Saturday, by declaring his undying loyalty to the Assad regime, Nasrallah has signalled an escalation in Hezbollah’s involvement…”

Nov 1/12: Hueys. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. in Hurst, TX receives a $33.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for single-engine UH-1H+ Huey II helicopters and related support services. Work will be performed in Hurst, TX with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/13. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL (W58RGZ-11-G-0011).

U.S. Army Security Assistance Command has confirmed to us that this order will be transferred to the “government” of Lebanon. The July 25/12 DSCA request was for 6, and this appears to cover that number.

July 25/12: Helicopter request. The US DSCA announces [PDF] a potential sale to Lebanon of 6 Huey II helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training, and logistical support, at an estimated cost of $63 million. Hezbollah is still in charge, albeit somewhat weakened by the civil war in Syria, which interferes with supply lines to their masters in Iran. The US DSCA claims that:

“This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by providing Lebanon with necessary mobility capabilities to maintain internal security, enforce United Nation’s Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and counter terrorist threats… The Huey II will augment Lebanon’s aging fleet of UH-1H aircraft.”

If Congress agrees enough to avoid overtly blocking the sale within 30 days, Lebanon can begin negotiations with Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, TX. Fortunately for Bell, “Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Lebanon.”

Jan 12/12: AC-208Bs. Alliant Techsystems, Inc. in Fort Worth, TX receives a $16.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for one used Caravan Cessna 208B aircraft, continued contractor logistics support, and spares with associated repair and return effort. This supports a Foreign Military Sales Program and the Lebanon Air Force Caravan Program.

The C-208B is a single-propeller plane that’s often used for flight training and light cargo duties. The Iraqi Air Force have turned them into low-cost AC-208B “Combat Caravan” surveillance and close support planes by adding a surveillance/targeting turret, accompanying internal displays, and M299 racks for Hellfire missiles on the wings. official reports indicate that the planes headed to Lebanon are Combat Caravans.

Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA, and is expected to be complete by Nov 16/16. The ASC/WINK/FMS at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH acts as Lebanon’s agent in this matter (FA8620-12-C-4005). See also Flight International.


AMP-145 CPB concept
(click to view larger)

June 13/11: Takeover. The new Lebanese government names its cabinet, which Hezbollah and its supporters dominate. BBC.

Jan 19/11: Takeover. Hezbollah ousts Prime Minister Hariri and engineers a de facto coup in Lebanon. Lebanon Daily Star | Now Lebanon | Reuters | Ya Libnan.

Jan 14/11: Patrol Boats. Maritime Security Strategies, LLC in Tampa, FL received a $29 million firm-fixed price contract to construct a 42-meter coastal security craft and provide associated equipment, material, training and technical services to the Government of Lebanon. This will be the first sale of the firm’s AMP-145 multi-mission platform design, though their regional orders also include 2 60-meter Offshore Supply/Command Vessels under construction for the Iraqi Navy.

MSS’ managing partner, USN Rear Admiral (ret.) Robert Cox touts “new designs and features that deliver significant cost and performance improvements over the current industry offerings,” including fast reconfiguration. The hulls are an epoxy-resin composite, with an aluminum deck and superstructure. American shipbuilders have had mixed results with composite hulls, but they are coming into wider international use due to their weight advantages, which translates directly into greater speed, increased maneuverability and lower fuel consumption.

The Lebanese Navy’s AMP-145 incorporates ITAR compliant controls and automation, including embedded sensors in key components, and a non-militarized, passive Integrated Bridge System (IBS) from Raytheon Anschutz GmbH that manages the ship’s automation system, as well as feeds from CCTV and a FLIR thermal imaging cameras. Surface search X and S-band ARPA radars, a full package of navigation sensors, data management software, GMDSS A3, and all other electronics and safety equipment completes the IBS and Command and Surveillance package. The C2/Operations Center is fitted with a customized Situational Awareness Display which shares all charts, targets and craft movements with the Integrated Bridge System. Depictions of the craft show a 30mm cannon and mounts for 7.62mm – 12.7mm machine guns, but armament details were not provided.

Work will be performed in Tampa, FL, and is expected to be complete by January 2012, though the company has set a delivery date of end 2011. MSS will work with its primary design agent and shipbuilding partner, RiverHawk Fast Sea Frames, LLC, of Tampa, FL to design, produce and outfit the ship. The MSS/RiverHawk team is currently completing epoxy-resin composite hull construction and rigging in of the major engineering systems at VectorWorks Marine facilities in Titusville, FL. The aluminum decks and superstructure are nearing completion in RiverHawk’s Tampa yard, where they will be mated to the hull, and several South Florida sub-contractors will also play significant roles. The contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC, who manages the contract on behalf of its Foreign Military Sale client (N00024-11-C-2241).

  • Length: 43.5 meters
  • Breadth overall: 8.5 meters
  • Draft: ~ 2 meters
  • Displacement: ~ 265 metric tons
  • Crew Complement: 6 – 22
  • Speed: > 25 knots
  • Range @ 11 Knots: > 2600 nm
  • Effective Limits @ 12 Knots: Sea State 4
  • Survivability: Sea State 5
  • Endurance: 5-7 days

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has taken its marching orders and withdrawn from the government in Lebanon, setting up a minor political crisis as the country waits for a UN report that’s likely to indict Hezbollah members, as well as its foreign backers in Syria and beyond, for the Hariri assassination. See also: Maritime Security Strategies | Al-Defaiya | Al-Jazeera | Reuters | Voice of America | Israel’s Ynet News.


French SA342
(click to view full)

Dec 17/10: HOT missiles. Agence France Presse reports that France will give Lebanon 100 MBDA HOT anti-tank missiles to equip Lebanon’s SA342M Gazelle helicopters. A Lebanese official told AFP that: “The missiles will be delivered before the end of February and are being given with no conditions attached.”

The move has sparked concern among some American political figures. Lebanese received 12 Gazelle helicopters in mid-2007, and in January 2010, it signed an agreement to refurbish them (vid. Jan 22/10 entry).

Nov 13/10: Unblocked. The congressional hold on $100 million in military aid to Lebanon clears, as Rep. Howard Berman [D-CA] and Nita Lowey [D-NY] drop their opposition after a classified briefing and presenting results of a “thorough inter-agency review” by the Obama administration. Berman: “As a result, I am convinced that implementation of the spending plan will now have greater focus, and I am reassured as to the nature and purposes of the proposed package.” Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Resident Scholar Aram Nerguizian, whose report on U.S. military aid to Lebanon is coming out later in November 2010, has said that American aid can help the armed forces keep a lid on Lebanon, and “keeps Lebanon from escalating beyond the range of the real.” Israel, on the other hand, seemed less reassured:

“Iran’s domination of Lebanon through its proxy Hezbollah has destroyed any chance for peace, has turned Lebanon into an Iranian satellite and made Lebanon a hub for regional terror and instability”

Lifting the hold Congressional may release funds while the present “lame duck” session is still alive, until and unless future action affirmatively blocks it. Berman chairs the House Foreign Affairs committee, and Lowey heads the House Appropriations committee’s foreign operations subcommittee. They will be reduced to ranking minority members in the new Congress, however, and Berman’s likely successor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL], opposes further aid to Lebanon as well as to the Palestinian Authority. Lebanese Daily Star | Agence France Presse | Israel’s Arutz Sheva | Bloomberg | Foreign Policy Magazine | Jerusalem Post | Fox News | UAE’s The National | Reuters | Voice of America.

Aug 8/10: Blocked. The US Congress is blocking $100 million in aid to the Lebanese military, amidst concerns it is cooperating with Hezbollah. The Congressional holds come in the wake of an Aug 3 shooting of 2 Israeli officers while brush was being cleared along the northern border. One Israeli officer was killed and another seriously wounded in the firefight, which also killed at least 2 Lebanese soldiers and a journalist. There are reports that the Lebanese troops in question were using American-supplied weapons. Associated Press | Jerusalem Post | al-Manar TV (Hezbollah affiliate) | Lebanon Daily Star | Australia’s The Age/ Reuters re: clash.

June 3/10: The USA delivers $427,000 worth of weapons, body armor and bomb investigation equipment to Lebanese security officials, via a $1 million anti-terrorism assistance program for Lebanon from the U.S. State Department. UPI.

May 24/10: Rising US concern. Foreign Policy magazine’s blog The Cable documents rising concern within the Pentagon and Congress over continued military aid to Lebanon, in the wake of what they see as a blurring of the lines between the government and Hezbollah.

MI-24 Hind
(click to view full)

Feb 26/10: Make Hinds, not Fulcrums. NaharNet reports that Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has returned from a visit to Russia, and…

“Russian authorities agreed to substitute the 10 MiG-29 fighter jets previously mulled military aid with Mi-24 advanced military helicopters “based on the request of the Lebanese side that conducted technical and functional studies on the Russian fund for the Lebanese Air Force.”

The Mi-24 “Hind” helicopter gunship became famous during Russia’s war in Afghanistan, and it remains popular with militaries around the world. The most modern version is the Mi-35. Unlike most attack helicopters, it has secondary troop transport capabilities.

Jan 22/10: Lebanon has reportedly signed an agreement with the French company Euro Tech to revamp 13 Gazelle helicopters transferred in 2007, equipping the 10 Puma helicopters granted by the UAE, and training Lebanese helicopter pilots.

The Puma helicopters are expected to start arriving within the first half of 2010 in 2 batches of 4 and then 6 machines. Reports suggest, however, that France is hesitant to supply Lebanon with missiles for the Gazelle helicopters, for fear they would end up in Hezbollah’s hands. The Lebanese Air Force reportedly used up all of its missiles in the 2007 Nahr el-Bared battle against Fatah al-Islam terrorists. Nahar Net.


Nov 16/09: Media report that Russian military experts will be visiting Lebanon in the next few days and staying until Nov 26/09. They will be assessing the conditions at Lebanese airports and bases, assessing their ability to support MiG-29s and other equipment. A formal contract for the 10 MiG-29s is expected very shortly after their report. China’s Xinhua reports that the MiG deal is causing some trepidation in certain parts of Lebanon:

“Since then, the deal has sparked an internal debate about the necessity of obtaining these aircraft in a small country like Lebanon, which has a national army and an armed militia Hezbollah, which owns thousands of short and mid-range rockets.”

See also: Lebanese Daily Star | Naharnet Newsdesk | Il-Oubnan | China’s Xinhua.

April 9/09: Naharnet Newsdesk reports confirmation of American arms shipments to Lebanon by US State Department officials David Hale and Colin Kahl:

“Hale said the shipment includes 41 Howitzer artillery and 12 Zodiac boats. He said the Lebanese military will also be receiving in May 12 pilotless Raven aircrafts that would help the army monitor any attempt to fire rockets from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Hale said the delivery also includes one Cessna Caravan aircraft, which is expected to arrive end of April to provide air support for ground forces. A set of 20 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and the first batch of 10 M-60 tanks will also be arriving in May, according to Hale.”

April 8/09: The Pentagon’s AFPS reports on progress:

“Toward helping it fulfill that role, the United States has provided more than $410 million in military assistance to Lebanon since 2006. That support has included Humvees, trucks, M-198 howitzer artillery pieces, M-4 and M-16 rifles, body armor vests, MK-19 grenade launchers, shoulder-fired rockets, spare helicopter parts and millions of ammunition rounds.

More recently, the Defense Department has been working with the Lebanese government to expedite delivery of Cessna close-air-support aircraft with precision Hellfire missiles and [RQ-11] Raven unmanned aerial vehicle systems. The United States is also working to transfer M60 Abrams tanks to the Lebanese military from other countries in the region, Kahl said. These systems, expected to be delivered by June…”


(click to view full)

Dec 19/08: Defense News quotes “a senior U.S. state department official… in Beirut” saying that he U.S. plans to deliver M-60 tanks to Lebanon in spring 2009. the official stresses that the US does not see any competition with Russia or other countries, as all assistance to help the Lebanese government is welcome.

Dec 1/08: The Pentagon’s AFPS publishes “U.S. Forces Help Lebanese Military Assert Control“, which discusses American efforts to re-equip Lebanon’s army:

“The United States and Lebanon signed a military cooperation agreement in October [2008], establishing the U.S.-Lebanese Joint Military Commission to provide an official framework for the bilateral U.S.-Lebanese military relationship… “The most important [recommendation] was that the Lebanese military needed a lot of help in the military basics… They needed trucks, Humvees, parts and ammunition more than they needed high-end, expensive weaponry.” They also need training… In 2006, the United States renewed its security relationship with Lebanon, and since then has funneled more than $400 million in foreign military sales money… “Our part of that is to help build up the Lebanese armed forces so the Lebanese government can be sovereign in all its territory.”

…The United States has sent 285 Humvees to Lebanon, and another 312 will arrive by March. The United States has sent 200 trucks to the Lebanese and 41 M-198 155 mm artillery pieces. The Lebanese army also will get night-vision equipment and some tactical unmanned aerial vehicles. “Behind it is all basics – 12 million rounds of ammo, spare helicopter parts, shoulder-fired rockets,” Straub said. “We want them to play their role in controlling Lebanese territory. We also want them to deter the terrorist threat.” The United States is committed to getting Lebanon more modern tanks, and the U.S. military is working on delivering M-60A3 tanks.”

Dec 18/08: The UK’s Times reports that Russia will provide Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets, for free, under an agreement on military-technical assistance. Rosoboronexport’s Mikhail Dmitryev said that the jets would come from Russia’s existing stock, and added that Moscow was also in talks to supply Lebanon with heavy armor. The country currently operates very old T-54/55 Russian tanks.

Aug 27/08: Belgian defense minister Pierre Crem visits Lebanon to finalize an agreement to sell 43 Leopard 1A5 tanks, and 28 M113 derivative armored personnel carriers (16 AIFVs and 12 conventional), to Lebanon. RTL Info via MplL.

M113s form the backbone of Lebanese mechanized forces, thanks to significant donations from American stocks. The AIFV model adds a 25mm gun. The Leopard 1A5 is a modernized Leopard tank, roughly on par with or slightly better than the American M60A3.

Additional Readings

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

CNAS Report on Drones: Sky Isn’t Falling Yet, But Look Out | Lebanon Getting Its Super Tucanos | China Employs Fast Trains in Troop Movement Exercises

Defense Industry Daily - Thu, 11/06/2015 - 00:12

  • Raytheon has completed lab testing of the Advanced, Medium Range Air to Air Missile – Extended Range (AMRAAM-ER), a ground-based air defense missile based on the AIM-120D and designed to be integrated with the Kongsberg NASAMS launcher. These latest tests validate that the missile can be integrated with the launcher, which will team with the AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved Sentinel radar to provide a highly capable air defense system. Raytheon is also taking the motor from its Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and integrating it into the AMRAAM-ER to improve the missile’s range and engagement ceiling.

  • The Air Force awarded an approximately $1.5 billion, eight-year contract for the sustainment and test operation of Arnold Engineering Development Complex, with $2 million of this awarded on Wednesday. The AEDC is the world’s largest and most sophisticated flight simulation test facility, with fourteen unique test units worldwide.

  • DynCorp was handed an $18.3 million support service contract modification in support of Joint Special Operation Task Force – Philippines, bringing the total value of the contract to $154 million. The US officially ended the JSOTF in the Philippines in February, with some advisors remaining after thirteen years of operation in the country. This force reduction was intended to conclude by the beginning of May, with this latest contract scheduled to run to June next year.

  • The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) think tank has released a report detailing the potential danger of proliferating small UAVs becoming aerial IEDs, including being used as ‘swarms’ capable of causing significant destruction with a low price tag. China has been developing cheap UAVs, with the readily-available cheap civilian market already significantly growing throughout the world.


  • Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces have test-fired a short-range anti-missile system in Kazakhstan, with this test coming as the country’s Defense Ministry announced that it intends to triple the number of air defense missiles in 2015 compared with 2014.

  • Russia’s new main battle tanks are not quite as modern as the Russian media makes them out to be. The Russian Defense Ministry has marketed the T-14 Armata tank as a cutting-edge machine designed to surpass rival NATO designs. The T-14 is less heavily armored and armed than the Abrams, Challenger II and Leopard II, each of which have been around for several years.

Middle East


Today’s Video

  • The Super Tucano in action…

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Germany Announces MEADS Selection for Future Air and Missile Defense System

DefenceIQ - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 06:00
The German Federal Ministry of Defence has chosen the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) as the basis for Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem (TLVS), a next-generation network-based tactical air and missile defense system. It will replace Patriot air defense systems initially fi
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

KC-46s Take Missiles in Tests | WIN-T Gets Full Rate Green Light | Germany Hands Raytheon Defeat, Selects Meads

Defense Industry Daily - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 05:26

  • NAVAIR has been slamming missiles into the side of its KC-46 tankers as part of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division survivability testing at the Weapons Survivability Laboratory. The tests used – among other sensors – ten high-speed cameras to capture the impact of the test missiles, themselves specifically designed to inflict maximum possible damage to the aircraft. The Air Force intends to buy 179 of the tankers to replace approximately a third of the current tanker fleet, which consists principally of KC-135 Stratotankers.

  • The Navy has begun “deadload-testing” the EMALS system aboard the Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). The electrically-power catapult system was successfully no-load tested in May, with Navy personnel also now qualified to operate the system, following certification earlier this month.

  • The go-ahead has been given to General Dynamics for full rate production of the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (WIN-T) Increment II, following Defense Acquisition Board approval to the Army in May. This means that the system – which is designed to act as a mobile command post, providing mobile command, control and communications – may be bought for remaining units due to receive the WIN-T system up to 2028. This increment also begins embedding WIN-T communications gear in select vehicles, such as MRAPs, bringing them Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) connectivity as well as SATCOM capability.

  • Microsoft was handed a $9 million Navy contract on Tuesday, for software support services and fixes. The contract also includes options totalling $30.8 million if all exercised up to 2017, with the base contract scheduled to finish in July next year. Microsoft began a major push into DoD contracting in 2005.


  • Seemingly a confirmation of previous reports, Germany has reportedly selected the US-European MEADS system for its air defense requirement, beating out a rival offer for upgraded Raytheon Patriots. Reports from May in the German press cited undisclosed sources indicating that the Defense Ministry had selected MEADS, with these latest reports stemming from comments made by Sen. Charles Schumer, who appears to have acquired the information from the German Embassy in Washington.

  • In what will come as a relief to European NATO states enduring repeated scrambling of interceptor aircraft over recently months, the Russian Air Force has grounded its fleet of sixty-three Tu-95 long-range bombers, following an engine fire leading to a runway overrun on Monday.

Middle East

  • Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Ltd has conducted a set of test flights of the company’s Harop loitering munition for an unspecified customer. The UAV is designed to stay on target for several hours before utilizing a 15kg warhead as it conducts a ‘kamikaze’ attack on its target. The Indian Air Force is an international customer for the system, having bought 10 Harpy systems in 2009, with Turkey also having purchased the system in 2005. Germany successfully tested teaming of the Harpy with Rheinmetall’s KZO UAV in 2011, with the country’s Defense Ministry procuring the Harpy for a demonstration phase of its WABEP (Weapon system for Stand-off Engagement of Individual and Point Targets) requirement in 2009.

  • IAI subdiary ELTA has also unveiled a new Ultra High Frequency Active Electronically Scanned Array radar system, reportedly capable of detecting targets with very low Radar Cross Sections (RCS), as well as being capable of operating as part of a Ballistic Missile Defense system. The system is modular, capable of seeing multiple units bolted together to transition the system from a mobile system with a 500km range to up to 22 units providing a strategic BMD and space-object tracking capability.

  • The Israeli and US Air Forces signed a Strategic Accord on Tuesday, with twelve joint teams being stood-up to tackle common issues, including one tasked with integrating Israel’s future F-35s into its Air Force.


  • India appears to have deployed carrier-capable MIG-29K fighters to the Eastern base of Vizag, likely a prelude to the standing-up of the next squadron of the Russian-manufactured aircraft for the Western side of the country. India will order up to 45 of the aircraft, with the Russian manufacturer expected to deliver 6 by the end of 2015, with another 6 in 2016. However, the most significant issue facing the future deployment of the MIGs is not the aircraft themselves but rather the lack of new carrier to launch them from, particularly given thelatest slippage in the domestically-manufactured INS Vikrant’s schedule.

  • Australia has established an expert panel to review the country’s future submarine evaluation process. With France, Germany and Japan all potential partners in the $50 billion program, the panel will try to maintain good procedural practise throughout the Australian government’s Future Submarine Strategy.

Today’s Video

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

WIN-T: US Army’s Connection to the Global InfoGrid

Defense Industry Daily - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 03:25
WIN-T concept
(click to view larger)

As the Army’s tactical portion of the USA’s Global Information Grid (GIG) network, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) is designed to help deployed forces tap into that global network and its databases, collectors, and connections to national agencies. At present, this requires multiple private networks, or outright forward deployment of representatives from the agencies in question. If it can be done at all.

WIN-T has absorbed the program formerly known as the Joint Network Node, and another 3 fielding increments will gradually add key capabilities to the system. Increment 1/ JNN is widely fielded, Increment 2 is being fielded, and R&D contracts are beginning fleshing out Increment 3.

The WIN-T Program

WIN-T has changed a lot since it began in 2002. The timeline below captures key shifts and events, as well as future plans:

The biggest program change involved its split into different increments. So, what’s involved?

The New Structure: Incremental Change (click to view larger)

WIN-T Increment 1 provides soldiers access to the GIG while stationary, and used to be known as the Joint Node Network. It lets small platoons on the ground communicate with the rest of the world, something they couldn’t do in the past.

The JNN-N node was originally intended as an interim bridge before WIN-T arrived. It consists of vehicles and shipping containers (the Joint Network Node, the Battalion Command Post Node, the Ku SATCOM trailer and the Hub Node) equipped with systems that provide voice over IP, dynamic IP, videoconferencing and access to the military’s classified and unclassified networks. The US Army likes the idea of using commercially available Ku-band satellites via an integrated suite of state-of-the-art baseband, switching and termination equipment. Commercial Ku-band SATCOM offers performance and availability advantages that include higher throughput rates, as well as the ability to upgrade many of the fielded Ku-band terminals to Ka-band used by the military’s own Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS).

JNN was so successful that it became WIN-T Increment 1 in 2004. By 2006, the Army had fielded JNN to every infantry battalion operating in Iraq, and was started to push the gear down to the company level. The June 2007 WIN-T program restructuring added WGS broadband military Ka-band satellite connectivity as Increment 1a, to lower bandwidth costs and offer more networking options. WIN-T Increment 1b added Net-Centric Waveform software to optimize bandwidth, and a “colorless” core security architecture.

General Dynamics is developing Increment 2 and Increment 3 under a 2007 contract. General Dynamics C4 Systems leads a WIN-T team that includes Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Harris Corporation, L-3 communications, and networking rivals Juniper Networks and Cisco Systems.

WIN-T Increment 2 is designed to provide connectivity on the move. Integrating SATCOM, line-of-sight and terrestrial signal types, the “self healing” WIN-T increment 2 is designed to provide high-bandwidth connectivity that can automatically switch as between ground-based and satellite connections. For example, if a commander is moving into a city, which begins blocking line-of-sight signals, the system automatically connects to SATCOM.

This increment begins embedding WIN-T communications gear in select vehicles, bringing them Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) connectivity. It also has to be backward-compatible with WIN-T Increment 1/1a/1b, because the reality of purchases and rollouts mean that different Army units will be equipped with different WIN-T Increments at any given time.

WIN-T Increment 3 will introduce an airborne network node to act as a relay, creating a 3-tier failover of land line-of-sight, then airborne relays, and then satellite as a last resort. The intended result is fully mobile networking, with better reliability and capacity. Inc 3 also aims to field smaller, more tightly integrated communications and networking gear.

Increment 3 was supposed to be part of the Army’s Future Combat Systems vehicles, but they were canceled in June 2009.

WIN-T Increment 4, the last of the WIN-T developmental program elements, is pending definition and contract award. It’s still supposed to cover on-the-move protected satellite communications, though that’s going to mean using the AEHF constellation rather than the envisioned T-SAT program.

WIN-T: Program Dashboards Contracts and Key Events FY 2014 – 2015

(click to view larger)

June 10/15: The go-ahead has been given to General Dynamics for full rate production of the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (WIN-T) Increment II, following Defense Acquisition Board approval to the Army in May. This means that the system – which is designed to act as a mobile command post, providing mobile command, control and communications – may be bought for remaining units due to receive the WIN-T system up to 2028. This increment also begins embedding WIN-T communications gear in select vehicles, such as MRAPs, bringing them Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) connectivity as well as SATCOM capability.

April 21/15: General Dynamics was awarded a $36.4 million contract to produce and repair components for the WIN-T, with the firm beating two other bids to take the contract.

Oct 31/13: WIN-T-3. General Dynamics C4 Systems Inc. in Taunton, MA receives another $475 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to complete WIN-T Increment 3’s research and development. Work location and funding will be determined by each order.

These funds are on top of the $921 million R&D contract to develop both Increment 2 & Increment 3 (q.v. Sept 18/07), and see also the May 23/13 SAR report for cost escalation background. GDC4S was already responsible for Increment 3, and just 1 offer was solicited and 1 bid received by US Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD (W15P7T-14-D-0002).

WIN-T-3 development add-on

Oct 3/13: WIN-T-2. The US Army announces that they’ve been approved to proceed with a $111 million WIN-T Increment 2 delivery order, as part of continued but contingent limited production. GDC4S will produce the next lot of WIN-T Inc 2 network nodes for additional brigade combat teams and division headquarters units.

WIN-T Inc 2 will be extended within 10th Mountain Division as part of wider CS 13 communications deployments, adding their 3rd Brigade Combat Team alongside 4 BCT. In addition, 2 more 101st Airborne Division BCTs will be conducting fielding and training with CS 13 and WIN-T Inc 2. The Army adds an important caveat when they note that:

“At the same time that it fields [WIN-T Inc 2] to CS 14 units, the Army will continue to coordinate with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the test community to address remaining issues and simplify the system.”

See our March 28/13 and Jan 17/13 entries for more on that subject. Sources: US Army | GD, Oct 3/13 release.

FY 2012 – 2013

WIN-T-2 on M-ATV
(click to view larger)

June 27/13: Testing. DefenseTech quotes Army officials who explain how new equipment, including WIN-T, are driving tactics in exercises – and how the results change equipment design in return. With respect to WIN-T:

“There is a lot of complexity and challenge to mission command on the move,” he said. “A commander’s got a lot going on. He’s got to know where his elements are and at the same time know what the enemy is doing. You have to manage the data elements in real time. One solution was to have another soldier take on the monitoring of the data and manage the data so that the commander is not stuck to the screen.”

After installing the second version of the system on wheeled vehicles, the Army plans to configure numerous tracked vehicles with the technology, Smith said.”

June 8/13: WIN-T. General Dynamics touts the Army National Guard’s use of WIN-T Increment 1 after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in October 2012. The system reportedly became a hub for law enforcement, other first responders, and the military after power was lost and cellular and mobile communications were down. Sources: GDC4S, June 18/13 release.

May 23/13: SAR. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 31/12 includes shifts in WIN-T: 690 nodes subtracted from Increment 2, and 429 added to Increment 3. The result is a net subtraction of 261 nodes, coupled with a $2.1 billion overall cost increase…

WIN-T Increment 2 – Program costs decreased $1,323.9 million (-20.5%) from $6,461.3 million to $5,137.4 million, due primarily to a quantity decrease of 690 nodes from 2,790 to 2,100 nodes to align with the capability sets (-$1,115.8 million) and associated schedule and estimating allocations (+$38.8 million). Other decreases were due to the removal of the Armored Brigade Combat Team recurring A-Kit costs (-$150.8 million), a decrease in initial spares resulting from the decrease of 690 nodes (-$107.6 million), and decreases in fielding, new equipment training, and software maintenance resulting from 690 fewer nodes (-$83.5 million). These decreases were partially offset by an increase due to revised escalation indices (+$82.7 million) and increases resulting from additional costs for follow-on operational test and evaluation; platform certification testing; initial operational testing; and joint command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance radio production qualification testing (+$70.4 million).

WIN-T Increment 3 – Program costs increased $3,434.6 million (+23.8%) from $14,455.5 million to $17,890.1 million, due primarily to a procurement quantity increase of 404 nodes from 3,045 to 3,449 nodes (+$1,232.4 million) and associated schedule, engineering, and estimating allocations (-$497.7 million), and a development quantity increase of 25 nodes from 39 to 64 nodes (+$158.2 million) for limited user testing. Additional increases related to the increase of 404 procurement nodes include: fielding, new equipment training and hardware end of life (technology refresh) (+$1,556.1 million), software licenses (+$230.9 million), initial spares requirements (+$99.5 million), and engineering change orders for hardware procurement (+$79.1 million). There were other increases attributable to updates to the systems engineering and program management cost estimate (+$322.7 million) and the application of revised escalation indices (+$302.4 million). These increases were partially offset by decreases resulting from descoping of the Point of Presence-Command and Modular Communication Node-Global Information Grid Interface (-$42.8 million) and a reduction in development engineering due to leveraging of the WIN-T Increment 2 design (-$42.5 million).

SAR – WIN-T-2 shrinks, WIN-T-3 grows

May 6-23/13: Testing. WIN-T Increment 2 completes a Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) during the US Army’s Network Integration Exercise (NIE) 13.2, using the JTRS-compliant AN/PRC-154 Rifleman and AN/PRC-155 2-channel Manpack networking radios as key interfaces.

During the evaluation, more than 3,800 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division conducted a wide range of on-the-move military and peacekeeping operations, both day and night, at White Sands Missile Range, NM. Sources: GDC4S, June 19/13 release.

April 18/13: Training. General Dynamics announces that WIN-T Increment 2 is now in the hands of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, whose 4 BCT is training for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan with the system. Their point of interface is their JTRS-compatible Thales AN/PRC-154 radios.

Late last year, GD says that the Army ordered 136 additional WIN-T Increment 2 network nodes, bringing total orders to 532 and extending its reach to the company level. Sources: GDC4S, April 18/13 release.

March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. With respect to WIN-T-2, the technologies and manufacturing are deemed to be mature, but:

“Based on the results of the May 2012 operational test, the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, concluded that only some of the program’s configuration items and technologies were operationally effective and that the program is not operationally suitable as six of the eight configuration items did not meet their reliability targets. The Director recommended that the Army dedicate resources to fix the program’s reliability and ability to support a 72-hour mission, and demonstrate improvements through a future operational test event. The Director also recommended that the Army consider appointing an independent review panel to determine if the program is capable of meeting its original reliability targets or recommend redesign changes. The Army is to perform a life-cycle cost analysis to determine the additional costs for maintenance support due to the program’s inability to meet its original reliability targets.”

With respect to WIN-T-3:

“WIN-T Increment 3 will not demonstrate the maturity of all 18 of its critical technologies in a realistic environment until its planned April 2015 production decision…. The program office stated that it has dropped two critical technologies from the original set of 20; the Joint Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Transmission Management Subsystem, and the Distributed Network Agent were removed due to their similarities with several of the program’s other critical technologies…. The program plans to begin employing alternative methods to assess design stability once it has completed its design review, now scheduled for June 2013, and has a stable baseline design, but has not made any final decisions about those methods. The program intends to conduct system-level developmental testing on a fully configured, production representative prototype in July 2014.”

Jan 17/13: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). WIN-T is included:

“WIN-T Increment 2 is not suitable due to poor reliability and maintainability and not survivable due to deficiencies noted in the classified annex to the DOT&E BLRIP report…. In February 2012, the Army approved a revised requirement that lowered WIN-T Increment 2’s reliability requirement by 30 – 60 percent based upon an updated operational mission summary/mission profile…. As a result of IOT&E, DOT&E assessed WIN-T Increment 2 as not survivable due to significant Information Assurance vulnerabilities that would degrade a unit’s ability to succeed in combat. These vulnerabilities are discussed in a classified annex to the DOT&E BLRIP report.

On September 26, 2012, the DAE signed an ADM… Authorized the Army to procure an additional 538 WIN-T Increment 2 communication nodes as a second Low-Rate Initial Production [while requiring further testing and corrective plans].”

Oct 4/12: WIN-T-2. The U.S. Department of Defense has authorized the Army to continue WIN-T Increment 2 as part of the Army’s Capability Set 13 deployment, after its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) was deemed to be successful during the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation 12.2 exercise.

Accordingly, General Dynamics C4 Systems receives a $346 million delivery order to buy more sets for Brigade Combat Teams and Division Headquarters units. Most production for the WIN-T Increment 2 system takes place at General Dynamics C4 Systems’ facility in Taunton, MA, with components from a variety of suppliers that include veteran-owned and small businesses in 28 states. GDC4S.

Oct 1/12: WIN-T-2. Initial fielding of the WIN-T Increment 2 network as a key component of Capability Set 13 begins at Ft. Drum, NY, and Ft. Polk, LA. Two brigades of the 10th Mountain Division begin their training using previously procured equipment. Source.

March 30/12: SAR The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 31/11 includes…

“WIN-T Increment 3 – Program costs decreased $1,600.4 million (-10.0%) from $16,055.9 million to $14,455.5 million, due primarily to a decrease in hardware costs reflecting fewer quantities of high cost Configuration Items being procured and a change in the mix of Configuration Items being procured (-$1,809.1 million) and a decrease of 123 nodes from 3,168 to 3,045 due to the removal of the requirement to replace Increment 2 hardware with Increment 3 hardware (-$291.4 million). There were additional decreases resulting from the descoping of the 4-channel Joint Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (JC4ISR) radio and antenna (-$287.2 million) and a decrease in systems engineering, program management, and spares costs due to compression of the procurement schedule by two years from FY 2026 to FY 2024 (-$262.4 million). These decreases were partially offset by a net increase in other support costs due to increased annual software license costs and the retrofit of the JC4ISR radios and antennas (+$383.8 million), an increase in hardware estimates for the Satellite Tactical Terminal-High Powered and Highband Radio Frequency Unit-Multiband Terrestrial antenna (+$352.6 million), and the application of revised escalation indices (+$325.6 million).”

SAR – WIN-T-3 reductions

Jan 17/12: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2011 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). WIN-T is included, but only tangentially:

“The Army conducted a combined WIN-T Increment 2 and Increment 1b Limited User Test at Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Lewis, Washington; and Fort Gordon, Georgia, in March 2009. DOT&E assessed the WIN-T Increment 2 as supportive of voice, video, and data communications. However, the network needs improvement in the following areas:

  • Reliability
  • Ability to support on the move communications
  • Training provided to Soldiers due to complexity of the system
  • Speed of communication due to network routing
  • Network Operations Management
  • Information Assurance

Nov 18/11: The US Army is evaluating its latest build of field networking equipment, after the 3-week NIE 12.1 event. The spring 2012 event will test NIE 13, which will include the new WIN-T Increment 2 gear.

FY 2010 – 2011

Datapath equipment
(click to view full)

May 10/11: WIN-T-2. Lockheed Martin announces a $105 million contract from General Dynamics C4 Systems, for more WIN-T Increment 2 components. Lockheed Martin will deliver transmission subsystem radios, modems, antennas, and mast systems, which will be integrated into a variety of combat vehicle platforms.

Integrating SATCOM, line-of-sight and terrestrial signal types, the “self healing” WIN-T increment 2 is designed to provide high-bandwidth, on-the-move connectivity which can dynamically switch between terrestrial and satellite sources, depending on the terrain.

April 15/11: SAR. The Pentagon’s Selected Acquisitions Report ending Dec 30/10 includes “significant” program cost change for WIN-T Increments 1 & 2:

“WIN-T Increment 1 – Program costs increased $468.1 million (+12.2%) from $3,835.0 million to $4,303.1 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 83 communications nodes from 1,777 to 1,860 communications nodes (+$119.5 million) and an increase in other support costs for modification work (+$477.4 million), partially offset by a decrease in the estimating costs for a volume discount due to the quantity increase (-$129.8 million).

WIN-T Increment 2 – Program costs increased $1,354.8 million (+27.1%) from $4,997.8 million to $6,352.6 million, due primarily to a quantity increase of 630 communications nodes from 2,216 to 2,846 communications nodes (+$983.4 million) and a resulting increase in other support costs due to an additional year of procurement and the refinement of the fielding schedule (+$476.6 million). There are additional increases in the cost of government furnished software due to the transfer in procurement responsibility from the contractor to the government (+$89.5 million) and in non-recurring production costs due to additional platforms requiring integration (e.g., the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle) (+$62.3 million). These increases are partially offset by reductions in contract costs due to definitized prices, quantity lot discounts, and a decrease in actual contract hardware costs (-$272.8 million).”

SAR – WIN-T-2 grows

March 16/11: WIN-T-2 General Dynamics C4 systems announces $295.8 million in WIN-T Increment 2 delivery orders, to equip 5 additional brigade combat teams (BCTs).

The US Army has now ordered Increment 2 systems for a total of 8 BCTs under a 3-year contract that was awarded in March 2010 (vid. April 5/10 entry).

Aug 2/10: Sub-contractors. General Dynamics awards Lockheed Martin a contract worth up to $400 million to provide communications hardware and equipment for the WIN-T Increment 2 transmission subsystem, which will enable the network to transfer data over dispersed areas. Equipment produced will include transmission subsystem radios, modems, antennas and mast systems. The initial award is valued at $71 million.

July 21/10: Testing. General Dynamics C4 Systems touts a recent 4-day U.S. Army Brigade Combat Team Integration exercise at White Sands Missile Range, NM. Its 7 realistic mission scenarios included WIN-T and JTRS radio systems, allowing widely dispersed Army units to exchange command-and-control messages, location information, voice, electronic chat and imagery while on the move.

May 13/10: WIN-T-3. General Dynamics C4 Systems announces a $12.4 million contract modification to develop a line-of-sight communications payload for the MQ-1C Extended Range/Multi-purpose (ER/MP) UAV to serve as a communication relay on the WIN-T Increment 3 network.

The payload will use the Highband Networking Waveform (HNW) to serve as a line-of-sight radio repeater while the UAS is in flight, which is especially useful to troops in urban environments, or other rugged terrain that block level line of sight.

April 5/10: General Dynamics C4 Systems in Taunton, MA receives a $164 million firm-fixed-price contract for WIN-T Increment 2 low-rate production, urgent 1st order, for the procurement of equipment for 3 brigade combat teams, 1 division headquarters, 4 regional hub nodes, and one base equipment complement to support the initial operational test and evaluation for WIN-T Increment 2.

Work is to be performed in Taunton, MA with an estimated completion date of June 30/10. The equipment then will undergo formal testing during 2011, culminating in an Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) in November 2011. One sole-source bid was solicited by the CECOM Acquisition Center in Fort Monmouth, NJ (W15PT-10-D-C007).

This 3-year contract has a total potential value of $2.8 billion, if all options are exercised. See also GDC4S release.

Increment 2 begins

FY 2002 – 2009


June 5/09: WIN-T. General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies receives a $119 million modification to an existing delivery order (W15P7T-06-D-L219) to provide satellite communications earth terminals and support services for Increment One of the US Army’s WIN-T program.

Under the contract, General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies will provide 293 satellite transportable terminals (STT), 6 unit hub SATCOM trucks (UHST) and 534 Ka-band upgrade kits and spares.

General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies’ work is being performed under an existing World Wide Satellite Systems delivery order, managed by the WIN-T program manager’s Commercial Satellite Terminal Program in Ft. Monmouth, NJ. This modification to the existing delivery order brings the contract’s total value to $378 million for 956 STTs and 17 UHSTs, which represent approximately half of the hardware quantities available on the 4-year program.

May 1/09: Boeing in Saint Louis, MO receives a $10 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract for WIN-T Point of Presence and the FCS Integrated Computer System (FCS ICS). They’re the Future Combat Systems lead integrator, and their task will be to integrate WIN-T functions (HAIPE & RFNM) and the Network Management System (NMS) with the FCS ICS on the program’s vehicles etc.

Work is to be performed in Bloomington, MN (93.02%), and St. Louis, MO (06.98%) with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/14. One bid was solicited with one bid received by TACOM Warren’s AMSXCC-TAC-AB in Warren, MI (W56HZV-05-C-0724).

April 6/09: WIN-T-2. General Dynamics announces that the US Army’s 4th Brigade – 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Lewis, WA, and 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, GA completed a limited user test of WIN-T Increment 2. A General Dynamics-led team supported the testing, during which soldiers from the 2 units planned and executed multiple missions, sharing command and control information from the command post down to the company level using WIN-T.

March 4/09: WIN-T-2. A General Dynamics-led team completes a developmental testing of the WIN-T Increment 2 on-the-move broadband networking capability. The test included building and operating a network comprising more than 35 network nodes. In a tactical environment, a network this size would support an Army division and associated brigade, battalion and company elements.

Feb 2/09: WIN-T. General Dynamics C4 Systems Inc. in Taunton, MA receives a $9 million cost-plus-award-fee contract, as part of WIN-T System Development & Demonstration. They’ll define, model, simulate, and demonstrate WIN-T System’s architecture in a field environment.

Work is being performed at Taunton, MA, and Gaithersburg, MD, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/10. One bid was solicited by sole source and 1 bid received by the CECOM Acquisition Center in Fort Monmouth, NJ (DAAB07-02-C-F404).

Nov 3/08: General Dynamics C4 Systems announces delivery of the first WIN-T Increment 1 equipment to the US Army. Increment 1 builds on the former Joint Network Node-Network (JNN) and provides soldiers with a high-capacity communications network when they are stopped.

On schedule deliveries of WIN-T Increment 1 to the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) at Ft. Lewis, WA, includes networking hubs, network management suites and network nodes. The equipment serves battalion, brigade and division/corps command posts and Expeditionary Signal Battalions.

1st WIN-T delivery

Sept 24/07: WIN-T. General Dynamics announces a $24 million contract from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command in Fort Monmouth, NJ, to provide specialized JNN-N/ WIN-T Inc 1 satellite communications earth terminals and support services. Sources: GDC4S release.

Sept 18/07: WIN-T 2/3 development. A $921 million contract to the General Dynamics-Lockheed Martin WIN-T will develop WIN-T Increments 2 & 3. Sources: GD C4 Systems, Sept 27/07 release.

Win-T Increment 2 & 3 development

Aug 22/07: General Dynamics, Taunton, MA receives an $8.2 million increment as part of a $1,179,461,286 cost-plus-award-fee contract for the development of WIN-T.

Work will be performed in Taunton, MA (77%), and Gaithersburg, MD (23%), and is expected to be completed by June 30/10. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This was a sole source contract initiated on July 12, 2007. The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, NJ, is the contracting activity (DAAB07-02-C-F404).

July 10/07: General Dynamics, Taunton, MA receives a $22.5 million increment as part of a $1,069,909,287 cost-plus-award-fee contract for system development and demonstration for the architecture of the WIN-T system.

Work will be performed in Taunton, MA (40%), and Gaithersburg, MD (60%), and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This was a sole source contract initiated on March 19, 2007. The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, NJ, is the contracting activity (DAAB07-02-C-F404).

June 2007: Restructured. The US Army restructures the WIN-T program into 4 major increments, after a formal cost breach under the terms of the USA’s Nunn-McCurdy legislation.

The former Joint Network Node (JNN) remains WIN-T Increment 1 from 2004, but it will add WGS satellite compatibility (1a) and some bandwidth management and security improvements (1b).

WIN-T Increment 2 development is valued at $126 million, to deliver initial on-the-move broadband networking using radio links that fail-over to SATCOM. Fielding is scheduled to begin in 2009.

WIN-T Increment 3 development is valued at $795 million. It will complete Increment 2’s goals and add better network capacity management, security and full on-the-move capabilities. Limited user testing is scheduled to begin in 2011. Increment Three also addresses the size, weight, power and cooling requirements for systems to be hosted in Future Combat Systems vehicles.

WIN-T Increment 4 is envisioned as an upgrades stage, based on new technology that includes enhanced satellite communications protection and compatibility with the ultra high-bandwidth T-SAT network. Sources: GD C4 Systems, Sept 27/07 release.

WIN-T Restructured

Feb 13/07: General Dynamics C4 Systems, Taunton, MA, was awarded on Feb. 8, 2007, a $44,102,000 increment as part of a $269,143,489 cost-plus-award-fee contract for a within scope change to the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical System Development and Demonstration.

Work will be performed in Taunton, MA (50%), and Gaithersburg, MD (50%), and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2007. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This was a sole source contract initiated on Jan. 5, 2007. The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, NJ, is the contracting activity (DAAB07-02-C-F404).

Sept 1/06: General Dynamics C4 Systems, Taunton, MA, was awarded on Aug. 28, 2006, a $7,259,000 increment as part of a $202,503,038 cost-plus-award-fee contract for an engineering change to the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical System Development and Demonstration.

Work will be performed in Taunton, MA (50%), and Gaithersburg, MD (50%), and is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2007. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This was a sole source contract initiated on Aug. 1, 2006. The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, NJ, is the contracting activity (DAAB07-02-C-F404).

June 3/05: General Dynamics C4 Systems, Taunton, MA, was awarded on June 2, 2005, a $7,632,000 increment as part of a $126,672,195 cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-award-fee, and time and materials contract for a further development of an initial architecture for the Warfighter Information Network Tactical Communication System.

Work will be performed in Taunton, MA (75%) and Gaithersburg, MD (25%), and is expected to be completed by Jan. 9, 2006. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. There were an unknown number of bids solicited via the World Wide Web on April 8, 2002, and three bids were received. The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, NJ, is the contracting activity (DAAB07-02-C-F404).

Nov 12/04: General Dynamics C4 Systems, Taunton, MA, was awarded on Nov. 10, 2004, a $14,987,144 increment as part of a $112,579,352 cost plus fixed fee, cost plus award fee, and time and materials contract for development of an initial architecture for the Warfighter Information Network Tactical Communication System.

Work will be performed in Taunton, MA (75%) and Gaithersburg, MD (25%), and is expected to be completed by Jan. 9, 2006. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. There were an unknown number of bids solicited via the World Wide Web on April 8, 2002, and three bids were received. The U.S. Army Communication-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, NJ, is the contracting activity (DAAB07-02-C-F404).

Aug 9/02: General Dynamics Government Systems Corp., Taunton, MA, is being awarded a $3,000,000 increment as part of a $72,294,296 cost-plus-fixed-fee and time and materials contract for development of an initial architecture for the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical communication system.

Work will be performed in Taunton and is to be completed by Jan. 9, 2006. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. There were an unknown number of bids solicited via the World Wide Web on April 8, 2002, and three bids were received. The U. S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, NJ, is the contracting activity (DAAB07-02-C-F404).

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KC-46A Pegasus Aerial Tanker Facing Schedule Pressure

Defense Industry Daily - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 02:40
KC-135: Old as the hills…
(click to view full)

DID’s FOCUS articles cover major weapons acquisition programs – and no program is more important to the USAF than its aerial tanker fleet renewal. In January 2007, the big question was whether there would be a competition for the USA’s KC-X proposal, covering 175 production aircraft and 4 test platforms. The total cost is now estimated at $52 billion, but America’s aerial tanker fleet demands new planes to replace its KC-135s, whose most recent new delivery was in 1965. Otherwise, unpredictable age or fatigue issues, like the ones that grounded its F-15A-D fighters in 2008, could ground its aerial tankers – and with them, a substantial slice of the USA’s total airpower.

KC-Y and KC-Z buys are supposed to follow in subsequent decades, in order to replace 530 (195 active; ANG 251; Reserve 84) active tankers, as well as the USAF’s 59 heavy KC-10 tankers that were delivered from 1979-1987. Then again, fiscal and demographic realities may mean that the 179 plane KC-X buy is “it” for the USAF. Either way, the KC-X stakes were huge for all concerned.

In the end, it was Team Boeing’s KC-767 NexGen/ KC-46A (767 derivative) vs. EADS North America’s KC-45A (Airbus KC-30/A330-200 derivative), both within the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress. The financial and employment stakes guaranteed a huge political fight no matter which side won. After Airbus won in 2008, that fight ended up sinking and restarting the entire program. Three years later, Boeing won the recompete. Now, they have to deliver their KC-46A.

Boeing’s KC-46A, and Its Team KC-46A concept
(click to view full)

KC-46A Pegasus production takes place in 2 phases: the 767-2C, and then the militarized KC-46A modifications.

There are still a number of things we don’t know, though more details have emerged since Boeing won the competition. The first step is to build a 767 on the commercial production line with a cargo door and freighter floor, an advanced flight deck display borrowed from its new 787, body tanks, and provisions for aerial tanker systems. Initial Boeing graphics featuring upturned winglets on the wingtips are no longer part of the design, but Pratt & Whitney’s 62,000 pound thrust PW4062s remain their engine choice. This is the 767-2C, and it receives an FAA 767 amended Type Certificate.

The 767-2C is militarized in a separate finishing center by adding aerial refueling equipment, an air refueling operator’s station that includes panoramic 3-dimensional displays, and threat detection/ countermeasures systems. The resulting KC-46A receives an FAA 767 Supplemental Type Certificate given to substantially different variants, and must also receive USAF certification that clears the way for full acceptance.

Boeing’s refueling boom is derived from the KC-10’s AARB, but adds 3-D viewing and a slightly higher fuel offload rate of 1,200 gallons/min. The centerline and wing-mounted refueling pods will now come from Cobham plc’s Sargent Fletcher, who was also partnered with Airbus for this feature. Unlike the A330 MRTT’s systems, however, the KC-46A’s wing refueling pods still need to finish testing on the 776-2C. The USAF will buy 46 wing sets for its fleet, which will allow multi-aircraft (multipoint) aerial refueling when installed.

KC-46A cargo capacity lists as 65,000 pounds, in a mix of up to 18 cargo pallets, 114 passengers, and/or 58 medical stretcher slots.

Fielding a tanker built after the 1960s allows the USAF to include a number of new systems, which would be too costly to retrofit into the existing KC-135 fleet. The net effect is to make its KC-46As front-line refuelers. The cockpit and exterior lighting are night-vision compatible for covert rendezvous. Advanced communications and secure datalinks are big steps forward for the fleet, and their classified feeds will be used by specialized ESTAR and TCS systems designed to route the tanker away from threats. NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection will allow the planes to operate in contaminated environments, while EMP hardening reduces the effects of high-frequency radiation bursts on all those new solid-state electronics. On a more prosaic level, radar warning systems, infrared defensive systems, cockpit armor, and fuel tank ballistic protection will all be welcome.

KC-46A Industrial Team Boeing’s KC-X 1.0 Team

Boeing’s industrial team has slowly announced itself over many months since the award. American KC-46A content has been touted as high as 85%, with British firms picking up much of the balance. Boeing reportedly looked hard for supply chain savings in Round 2, though, in order to lose less money with its under-cost bidding strategy.

That KC-46A design is a big change from KC-X round 1, whose KC-767 Advanced used a 767-200ER fuselage; a 767-300F freighter wing, landing gear, cargo door and floor; and a 767-400ER’s flaps and flight deck (derived in turn from the 777). A new design fly-by-wire boom with remote viewing would expand the tanker’s effective refueling airspace, and offload more fuel. Engines would be 2 Pratt & Whitney PW4062s, with 62,000 pounds of thrust each, instead of the KC-767A/J’s 60,200 pound CF6-80C2s.

Some of the suppliers also changed, as Boeing progressed from the canceled KC-767 lease deal, to KC-X, to its final design in Round 2:

Boeing’s production line had also progressed. Near the end of the KC-X bidding, Boeing added civilian 767 orders to keep its production line going. That was enough to create a cushion if KC-X faced further challenges and issues, but the reality is that civilian 767 production looks set to end soon. The US military will soon become the 767 production line’s sole support.

KC-X: The Program

A March 2012 GAO report summed up the risk driving the KC-46A program, and the current state of the USAF’s tanker fleets:

“According to the Air Force, the national security strategy cannot be executed without aerial refueling… the KC-135 Stratotanker, is over 50 years old on average and costing increasingly more to maintain and support. With… more than 16,000 flight hours on each aircraft, the KC-135s will approach over 80 years of age when the fleet is retired as projected in the 2040 time frame. In 1981, the Air Force began supplementing its fleet of KC-135s with [59] KC-10s… that transport air cargo and provide refueling. Much larger than the KC-135, the KC-10 provides both boom and hose and drogue refueling capabilities[Footnote 4] on the same flight and can conduct transoceanic missions. The KC-10s now average about 27 years of age with more than 26,000 flight hours on each, and their service life is expected to end around 2045.”

The $7.2 billion October 2012 development cost estimate includes $4.9 billion for the aircraft development contract and 4 test aircraft, $0.3 billion for the aircrew and maintenance training systems, and $2 billion for other government costs and some risk funds. The total procurement cost estimate of $40.46 billion in base-year dollars buys 175 production aircraft, initial spares, and other support items as priced in contract options.

Cost estimates as of April 2014 are stable, with an estimated $1.6 billion to cover other government costs like program office support, test and evaluation support, contract performance risk, and other development risks. That includes the cost of test flights, which will sometimes feature operational military aircraft of various kinds to act as receivers.

An accompanying military construction estimate of $4.2 billion includes the projected costs to build aircraft hangars, maintenance and supply shops, and other facilities to house and support the full 175-plane KC-46 fleet at up to 10 main operating bases (McConnell AFB, KS is MOB1), 1 training base at Altus AFB, OK; and the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex depot.

The KC-46A Development Phase: Budgets, Splits, & Dates KC-46 development

The Pentagon’s latest Selected Acquisition Report estimates a total KC-46A development cost of $5.615 billion, which would actually be $1.221 billion over the KC-X EMD phase’s original Target Cost of $4.394 billion. Fortunately for the USAF, they structured the contract so they can’t pay more than $4.7 billion, and the overall bid cost to the US government for development plus production remains below Airbus’ bid.

Here’s how it works:

  • Up to the $4.898 billion ceiling, the contract split for amounts over the $4.394 billion base price is 60/40. The difference is $504 million, so the government would pay $302.4 million ($4.696 billion total), and Boeing would pay about $201.6 million.

  • Costs above the $4.898 billion ceiling are all Boeing’s responsibility.

Current estimates show that there’s almost no chance of coming in under the ceiling. Boeing’s current cost estimate is $5.164 billion, which would raise its private liability for the cost increases to $467.5 million (201.6 + all 265.9 over the ceiling). If the government program manager is right, Boeing’s liability rises to $918.6 million (201.6 + all 717.0 over). The difference matters to Boeing, but the Pentagon doesn’t have to care which EMD Phase figure is correct, or how much higher EMD costs go. Their costs are set, at $4.7 billion, though actual dollars will be a bit higher due to inflation etc.

That’s if, and only if, the USAF doesn’t start asking for design changes. If they do, that would trigger a cycle of charges over and above the agreed contract.

As of December 2012, schedule planning looked like this:

Concurrence concerns

The USAF has maintained its Q4 FY 2015 (summer 2015) goal for a successful Operational Assessment and Milestone C decision, and this remains the official target. Success which would clear the way for 2 firm-fixed-price Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) lots to deliver the initial 19 aircraft. Full-Rate Production options would follow beginning in FY 2017 as a firm-fixed-price contract with some adjustments for outside circumstances, and a not-to-exceed cap. The USAF will be assessing the possibility of breaking out the engines as a separate government procurement in FRP, instead of having Boeing provide them.

As Airbus predicted when the contract was awarded, however, Boeing has admitted to trouble meeting these development milestones. The schedule will need to be changed, but there’s no official replacement schedule yet.

The schedule may need to incorporate other changes as well. The Pentagon’s own DOT&E testers have doubted proclaimed Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) dates (Q3 FY 2016 – Q1 2017) for some time. Beyond technical issues that have slowed the new design, testing must avoid revealing significant problems.
Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was pegged for August 2017, with Full Operational Capability (FOC) expected by August 2019, but USAF Air Mobility Command is no longer giving official target dates.

The program as a whole is expected to end by 2028.

The KC-46A Production Phase: Risks & Numbers KC-10 & F/A-18C

The current program calls for Boeing to begin delivering KC-46As to the USAF by 2015. Unfortunately, the KC-46A is too different from previous KC-767A models sold to Japan and Italy, so it will need its own development, testing, and certification time. That’s why Airbus and program skeptics have always doubted that Boeing could deliver 18 certified, fully developed and tested planes by 2017. Boeing disputes this, but the Pentagon’s own DOT&E office added weight to those concerns in its 2011 reports, which declared the KC-46A’s test program “not executable.” That continues to be a concern.

Beyond basic integration and certification considerations, a March 2012 GAO report cites 6 key technical risks to the program:

1. Weight limits. The KC-46A is close to its limit, and any more growth will start to take away fuel capacity, while increasing fuel burn rate. As of December 2013, Boeing remains confident that they will remain under the maximum take-off weight of 204,000 pounds.

2. New wing refueling pods. The KC-46’s pods will be redesigned to reduce buffeting of the aircraft’s wing, and change the way the refueling hose exits the pod. Still a technical risk as of December 2013.

3. 3-D display for the boom operator.

4. Threat Correlation Software. Used to help plot safe routes, along with the…

5. ESTAR software.

6. ALR-69 Radar Warning Receiver integration. Issues like figuring out precise placement, and antenna design, make fitting a large aircraft more challenging than many people expect.

Problems with these or other systems could delay the program further, and some of these issues could also make certification harder or longer. Even so, the actual risk that set the development program back wasn’t any of these. It was the need to redesign certain wiring sections for military-grade shielding requirements and mandatory separation distances.

Meanwhile, the USAF plans to respond to continued budget cuts by removing their existing KC-10 heavy refuelers entirely, adding tremendous risk by removing their inherent boom/hose versatility, and leaving no tanker alternative if the KC-135s develop a serious problem.

Fleet Risks

Over the longer term, plotting even a 3-year production delay against planned deliveries and KC-135 retirements never drops the medium tanker fleet much below present levels. The initial drop is slight, and the same final figure is reached in 2030 instead of 2027. On the other hand, RAND’s 2006 Analysis of Alternatives for KC-X highlighted a very different risk, which needs to be understood:

“The current (December 2005) assessment of the flight-hour life of the KC-135 fleet and the expected future flying-hour programs together imply that these aircraft can operate into the 2040s. It cannot be said with high confidence that this is not the case, although there are risks associated with a fleet whose age is in the 80- to 90-year range. It can also not be said with high confidence that the current fleet can indeed operate into the 2040s without major cost increases or operational shortfalls, up to and including grounding of large parts of the fleet for substantial lengths of time, due to currently unknown technical problems that may arise. The nation does not currently have sufficient knowledge about the state of the KC-135 fleet to project its technical condition over the next several decades with high confidence.”

In English, nobody knows if an airplane fleet that’s already 50 years old will remain safe, or avoid unforeseen mechanical or structural problems, because there’s no previous example of what they’re trying to do. Those kinds of sudden “age-out” problems recently grounded the USAF’s F-15A-D fleet for several months, and led to the unexpected retirement of almost 1/4 of the fleet. If anything similar happens to the KC-135, the USAF’s planned number of aerial tankers may not resemble its actual future fleet.

This risk, and the potential absence of the KC-10, is exactly why the KC-X program has been the USAF’s #1 priority. On the other hand, it’s an equally good reason not to trust the USAF’s own rosy projections for its future fleet size. The graph below shows how this kind of scenario could play out. In DID’s hypothetical example, we used actual data to the present day, plus all planned reductions in the USAF’s 2011 plan. Fleet problems lead to the forced retirement of 1/3 of the remaining fleet in 2021 over safety and cost-to-fix issues, followed by a second mechanical issue or budget crisis that grounds another 55 planes in 2029. The KC-10 fleet is not part of this calculus at all.

The USA’s looming fiscal entitlements crisis will begin to bite in earnest post-2020, and the pattern of cuts in the USA and in other countries shows a marked tendency to simply retire platforms with significant maintenance costs. KC-135 per-hour flight costs are already increasing, and a fleet that also needed expensive refits or fixes would be a prime target for future cuts. Here’s what this scenario looks like:

Finally, DID believes that there will be no KC-Y or KC-Z, so the timing of KC-135 problems and retirements isn’t critical. Any serious problems in the KC-135 fleet could create a similar end-point, even if the drops happened after 2030.

KC-46A Export Prospects IAI’s KC-767 MMTT

Once the KC-46As do enter service, they will join Italy’s KC-767A (4) and Japan’s KC-767J (4) small KC-767 fleets. Both customers have experienced long delivery delays while Boeing has worked to iron out technical problems, and their KC-767s will have a number of key differences from the KC-46A. Japan’s boom-equipped KC-767s were delivered form 2008-2010, but Italy’s aircraft with hose-and-drogue systems were only accepted in February 2011.

That’s one option, if Boeing will produce the planes.

The KC-46A’s schedule and dwindling civil 767 production are problematic for export orders, because the USAF will be Boeing’s sole focus until the EMD Phase is done in 2017 – or later. Countries that need aerial tankers before 2019-2020 will need to look elsewhere. Boeing declined to bid on India’s aerial tanker RFP, for instance. There’s also a customer commitment issue. Should customers accept the KC-767A, which is certified and in service, or wait for the KC-46A, and hope it’s on time?

Airbus sees this lock-up as an opportunity to add to its A330 MRTT customer list, of course, signing customers like India, Qatar, and Singapore. Ironically, the other big beneficiary may by Israel’s IAI Bedek, whose inexpensive KC-767 MMTT conversion of used Boeing freighters already has customers in Colombia and Brazil.

As of June 2013, Boeing was reportedly pursuing prospects for up to 20 aerial tanker exports. If so, they have been quiet pursuits. The next big opportunity will be in South Korea.

KC-X: Contracts & Key Developments FY 2015

Boom assembly

June 10/15: NAVAIR has been slamming missiles into the side of its KC-46 tankers as part of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division survivability testing at the Weapons Survivability Laboratory. The tests used – among other sensors – ten high-speed cameras to capture the impact of the test missiles, themselves specifically designed to inflict maximum possible damage to the aircraft. The Air Force intends to buy 179 of the tankers to replace approximately a third of the current tanker fleet, which consists principally of KC-135 Stratotankers.

April 24/15: Tinker Air Force Base (Oklahoma) has been named as one of four potential locations to base the Air Force’s fleet of new KC-46A refueling tankers, alongside Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base (North Carolina), Westover Air Reserve Base (Massachusetts) and Grissom Air Reserve Base (Indiana).

Jan 26/15: Flight test. Boeing conducted a flight test from Payne Field in Everett, Washington. The four-hour flight was uneventful, but well-documented.

Dec 10/14: spares. Boeing is awarded a not to exceed $84.5M undefinitized contract action modification (P00054) to previously awarded contract FA8625-11-C-6600 for 4,880 production support equipment items and 6 production spare parts. Work will be performed at Seattle, WA, and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2016. $9.5M in FY14 aircraft procurement funds and $32.2M in FY15 aircraft procurement funds are being obligated at the time of award.

Dec 03/14: wiring. Boeing Dennis Muilenburg told investors during a conference organized by Credit Suisse that wiring problems that had led to delays and charges (q.v. Sept 17/14) were now “resolved and closed out.”

Dec 01/14: Training. The USAF intends to finalize its Maintenance Training System (MTS) RFP in January 2015. The draft, released back in September, is found under solicitation IDN-KC-46-MTS.

Nov 24/14: Personnel. The Air Force Personnel center announces that the aircrew of 41 officers and enlisted members from the active force, Reserve and National Guard have been selected to staff initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E).

Nov 19/14: Schedule. The USAF publicly admits what KC-46A program watchers already know: Boeing is essentially out of schedule margin to deliver the 767-based KC-46As on time by 2017. The USAF is still describing the contract as “achievable,” but so many things have to go right that this isn’t a smart bet for outside observers. The USAF won’t really say anything else until disaster is certain, though, because the admission will make the service look bad (q.v. March 4/11). Sources: Reuters, “US Air Force sees challenges on Boeing KC-46 tanker program”.

Oct 16/14: Delays. Boeing finally admits that the KC-46A’s program schedule will have to be changed. They don’t know how many milestones will need adjustment, but they’re still holding to the idea that they’ll have 18 KC-46As delivered by August 2017.

Can they avoid proving Airbus’ March 4/11 prediction that Boeing would deliver late? It’s hard to see how Boeing’s on-time promise adds up now, given significant GAO and DOT&E concerns that the testing program as proposed is too compressed and can’t be executed (q.v. April 11/14, Sept 17/13). Boeing gets to try convincing Pentagon acquisition officials with an official submission early in 2015, and the USAF will then conduct its own “schedule risk assessment” to examine Boeing’s assumptions.

Most ways of speeding up programs involve spending more money, though that tends to have diminishing returns past a certain point. The program’s official cash reserve is expected to run dry in March 2015, but the USAF’s costs are capped, so it’s likely that Boeing will wind up spending more private funds on KC-46A development. Sources: Bloomberg, “Boeing Seeks Revised Schedule for U.S. Aerial Tanker”.

FY 2014

Competition in South Korea? Initial basing decisions; Boeing takes extra costs charge, announces delays. Workers saluted

Sept 17/14: Flight delay. First flight for the KC-46A is in question due to the same wiring bundle technical issues that forced Boeing to take an additional $272 million Q2/14 charge on the program (q.v. July 23/14). USAF spokesman Ed Gulick:

“We are disappointed with Boeing’s current KC-46 production challenges and their inability to meet internal production milestones, but we do not see anything of great concern and are confident they will overcome the issues,” said Gulick in a statement to Puget Sound Business Journal. “The KC-46 program’s technical and cost performance are on-track; Boeing has met every contractual requirement to date.”

The baseline 767 has about 70 miles of wiring in the design, and the need for redundancy in certain systems pushes the 767-2C to 120 miles, including shielding requirements and mandatory separation distances for safety reasons. The redesign will address these issues, but it sideswipes plans for concurrent installation in the 4 test aircraft currently under construction. Given the program’s known issue with compressed test schedules (q.v. April 11/14), they had better be ready by April 2015. Sources: Aviation Week, “First Flight for KC-46 Tanker Platform Slips Further” | Puget Sound Business Journal, “Air Force ‘disappointed’ in Boeing tanker delays; issues cost Boeing millions”.

Sept 15/14: Training. The USAF issues a Draft Request for Proposal (DRFP) for the KC-46 Maintenance Training System (MTS) Program. It consists of various specific component trainers, e-learning materials, and Training System Support Center build-outs. Sources:, “KC-46 Maintenance Training System, Solicitation Number: IDN-KC-46-MTS”.

Aug 5/14: Basing. The USAF announces that the KC-46A’s MOB2 Air National Guard base will be Pease ANGB, NH, which beat Forbes AGS, KS; Joint-Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ; Pittsburgh International Airport AGS, PA; and Rickenbacker AGS, OH.

Pease has apparently been the preferred alternative since May 2013, owing to its location in a region of high air refueling receiver demand and successful ANG-USAF partnership. This announcement follows the required environmental reviews. Sources: Pentagon NR-409-14, “Pease Air National Guard Base selected to receive KC-46A Pegasus aircraft”.

Basing: MOB2 ANG picked

July 23/14: Cost. During a Q2 analyst conference call, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney says that they’re absorbing a $272 million unexpected charge related to problems with KC-767 wiring harnesses:

“We bid the EMD (engineering manufacturing and development) contract for the tanker aggressively, with zero margin, with planned profitability in the production phase. Despite our disappointment in encountering these challenges, the issues are well understood, and no new technology is needed to solve them…. We have a wet fuel lab, a lighting lab, those have all been put in place to de-risk the program. We have a wet lab where we are running fuel through pumps and valves to validate that on the ground.”

Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Reports Second-Quarter Results and Raises 2014 EPS Guidance” | Puget Sound Business Journal, “Boeing: We can fix Air Force tanker problems without new technology”.

July 14/14: Cost. The KC-46A development phase could end up costing Boeing more than expected. That may concern Boeing executives, but the USAF won’t pay any more and doesn’t care:

“Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall told reporters late on Sunday that Boeing was performing “satisfactorily” on the KC-46 tanker program, but several events – including water damage caused by a sprinkler malfunction at the company’s Everett, Washington plant – meant costs were higher than expected.”

Boeing says that they’ll be able to cut costs with their testing approach. We’ll see. Sources: Reuters, “AIRSHOW-Boeing may face higher than expected costs on KC-46 tanker”.

June 30/14: South Korea. Boeing confirms that they’ve formally offered South Korea the KC-46A tanker being developed for the USAF, rather than the KC-767 model that’s already in service with Japan and Italy. They tout the KC-46A’s quick-conversion main deck cargo floor, but in the face of North Korea’s WMD arsenal, and ability to target ROKAF bases with missiles, they make a point of mentioning that:

“Unique among tankers, the KC-46 can operate in chemical, biological and nuclear conditions, features cockpit armor for protection from small arms fire, and can also operate from a large variety of smaller airfields and forward-deployed austere bases.”

Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Offers Next-Generation KC-46 Tanker in Republic of Korea Competition”.

June 4/14: Infrastructure. The Ross Group Construction Corp. in Tulsa, OK wins a $17.5 million firm-fixed-price contract with options, to built the KC-46A Fuselage Trainer Flight Training Center and the Fuselage Trainer at Altus AF, OK. Option 4 for sidewalks and landscaping, and Option 5 for additional concrete parking stalls, are exercised at time of contract award. Altus AFB was recently chosen as the KC-46A’s main training base (q.v. April 23/14), and already operates in that capacity for the KC-135 fleet.

The estimated completion date is Oct 5/15. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with 7 received by the US Army Corps of Engineers in Tulsa, OK (W912BV-14-C-0015).

May 29/14: Infrastructure. MEB General Contractors in Chesapeake, VA wins an $8.4 million firm-fixed-price contract for construction services to alter the KC-46A apron fuels distribution system and supporting facilities at McConnell AFB, KC, and to relocate fuel vents/valves at the 3-bay hangar and 2-bay hangars.

All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2014 military construction budgets. Work will take place at McConnell AFB (KC-46A MOB1), with an estimated completion date of Dec 3/15. Bids were solicited via the Internet, with 2 received. The US Army Corps of Engineers in Kansas City, MO manages the contract (W912DQ-14-C-4010).

Flight Simulator

April 23/14: Basing. The Pentagon announces that McConnell AFB, KS will be is the KC-46A’s active duty-led MOB1 Pegasus main operating base. McConnell won because swapping in 36 KC-46As for 44 KC-135s involved the lowest military construction costs, and the base is located in a high-demand area. McConnell was also seen as “an ideal central location for the new KC-46A Regional Maintenance Training Center.” It beat Fairchild AFB, WA (2 KC-135 Sqns), Grand Forks AFB, ND (1 KC-135 Sqn), and Altus AFB, OK, all of whom will continue to operate KC-135s.

By default, Altus AFB, OK will continue in its FTU tanker training role, which it already performs for the KC-135. Advantages to keeping it in a training role include co-location with both tanker and heavy receiver aircraft for training purposes, and “considerably fewer” new construction requirements vs. McConnell. Altus will begin receiving KC-46A planes in 2016.

The Air National Guard MOB2 base (q.v. Jan 9/13) remains undecided, and will be picked in summer 2014. It will be 1 of Forbes Air Guard Station, KS (whose chances have probably dropped); Joint-Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ; Pease Air Guard Station, NH; Pittsburgh International Airport Air Guard Station, PA; and Rickenbacker Air Guard Station, OH. The winner will begin receiving planes in 2018. Sources: Pentagon, “Air Force Announces Bases to House New Tanker Refueling Aircraft”.

Basing: MOB1 & FTU picked

April 17/14: SAR. The Pentagon finally releases its Dec 31/13 Selected Acquisitions Report [PDF]. The KC-46A has seen the Pentagon’s program costs go down:

“Program costs decreased $2,181.5 million (-4.2%) from $51,642.1 million to $49,460.6 million, due primarily to lower construction estimates based on site surveys of initial bases (-$715.4 million), funding reductions in FY 2015-2018 given stable program execution and no engineering change proposals to date (-$655.6 million), and the removal of construction planning and design funding from FY 2014-2024 budgeted elsewhere (-$268.8 million). Additional program cost decreases included the application of revised escalation indices (-$222.7 million), accelerating the procurement buy profile (-$157.7 million), and sequestration reductions (-$142.9 million).”

Cost decrease

April 11/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables “KC-46 Tanker Aircraft: Program Generally on Track, but Upcoming Schedule Remains Challenging“. Flight testing is scheduled to begin in June 2014 for the 767-2C, and in January 2015 for the KC-46, but it will be a bit of a squeeze making that:

“The KC-46 program has made good progress to date—acquisition costs have remained relatively stable, high-level schedule and performance goals have been met, the critical design review was successfully completed, and the contractor is building development aircraft. The next 12 months will be challenging as the program must accomplish a significant amount of work and the margin for error is small. For example, the program is scheduled to complete software integration and the first test flights of the 767-2C and KC-46. The remaining software development and integration work is mostly focused on military software and systems and is expected to be more difficult relative to the prior work completed [which is generally on schedule]. The program’s test activities continue to be a concern due to its aggressive test schedule. Detailed test plans must be completed and the program must maintain an unusually high test pace to meet this schedule. Perhaps more importantly, agencies will have to coordinate to concurrently complete multiple air worthiness certifications. While efficient, this approach presents significant risk to the program. The program office must also finalize agreements now in progress to ensure that receiver aircraft are available when and where they are needed to support flight tests.”

The GAO and the Pentagon’s DOT&E group continue to believe that Initial Operation Test & Evaluation should be pushed back 6-12 months, in order to train aircrew and maintenance personnel and verify maintenance procedures. The USAF isn’t convinced yet, and knows that this move would delay the entire project for a similar period. Furthermore, the testing schedule itself is so concurrent that any problems found during test are almost certain to create delays to the program as a whole. One technical area that could still bite them involves “lingering instability in…. the centerline drogue system and wing aerial refueling pod,” but Boeing hopes to fix that before flight testing begins.

Finally, as of December 2013, the original $354 million program reserve budget has just $75 million (21.1%) left, leaving the program at risk of running out before testing begins. As long as the USAF doesn’t change the design, however, that’s Boeing’s problem.

March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish.

The KC-46 Tanker program comes in for praise in a couple of areas. One has to do with the “should-cost” method for the final product, which will reportedly save $6.8 billion over the total program, with $6.4 billion listed as already realized. The other area that drew praise was the program’s use of all 4 best practices for development programs: (1) identifying key product characteristics; (2) identifying critical manufacturing processes; (3) conducting producibility assessments to identify manufacturing risks; and (4) completing failure modes and effects analysis to identify potential failures and early design fixes. Boeing should be motivated to do all that, because their contract makes them fully responsible for any fixes required in early production aircraft.

Costs remain almost identical to initial estimates, so far. The bad news is that test boom production has been delayed by almost a year due to design changes and late parts, but Boeing hopes to have it ready in time for initial KC-46A flight testing in January 2015.

March 4-11/14: FY15 Budget. The US military slowly files its budget documents, detailing planned spending from FY 2014 – 2019. The KC-46A program’s revised totals are reflected in the article’s charts, and the USAF has worked hard to protect the program. What’s interesting is the program’s schedule. It hasn’t been changed officially, but Air Mobility Command isn’t giving an official Initial Operational Capability date.

Previous years had listed budgets for spares, but those have effectively been revised. A contractor service agreement for the initial planes will see also spares bought as part of the procurement budgets, until the USAF takes over all maintenance itself.

Feb 20/14: KC-46 Pegasus. USAF Gen. Mark Welsh announces that the KC-46A will be the “Pegasus”. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James had approved the recommendation from Air Mobility Command boss Gen. Paul Selva earlier in the week. Sources: AFA Air Force Mag, “Introducing the KC-46A Pegasus” | Everett Herald, “Air Force dubs KC-46A tanker ‘Pegasus'”.

KC-46 Pegasus

Jan 16/14: Industrial. Boeing has begun assembling the 4th and final KC-46A test aircraft, and says that the program remains on track to deliver the initial 18 tankers to the Air Force by 2017. According to the current schedule, the 1st flight of a KC-46 test aircraft will take place at mid-2014 without its aerial refueling systems, followed by the first flight of a full KC-46A tanker in early 2015.

The first delivery of a production aircraft to the Air Force is planned for early 2016, but of course that depends on things going well during testing. Official reports to date have been skeptical, so no matter how things turn out, someone is about to be proved wrong. Sources: Boeing, “Boeing Starts Assembly of Final KC-46A Test Aircraft”.

Nov 5/13: Infrastructure. URS Group Inc. in Mobile, AL receives a $13 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery contract for architect-engineering services to support USAF KC-46 beddown in the continental United States. The 767 is closer in size to the KC-135, which means that it needs fewer infrastructure changes than the A330/ KC-45.

There will still be facilities and features to build (q.v., Oct 2/13). Estimated completion date is Nov 14/18, with work location and funding determined with each order. Bids were solicited via the internet, with 57 received by the Army Corps of Engineers in Mobile, AL (W91278-14-D-003).

Oct 22/13: Industrial. Boeing announces that assembly of the 3rd aircraft and 2nd boom are underway. They sound confident that manufacturing of the initial batch of 4 aircraft remains on track to be completed by Q3 2014.

This would be good news for their USAF client, and would also help the company make its case in South Korea (q.v. Aug 7/13), where parliament is about to review whether to proceed with a competition for 4 tankers to be delivered in 2017-19. Sources: Boeing, Oct 22/13 release.

Oct 2013: Basing. Public hearings scheduled at the end of the month in Kansas and Oklahoma are postponed on October 11 because of furloughs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the government shutdown. As of Oct 23, a new date for the hearings had not yet been released. Meanwhile the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) and the US Army Corps of Engineers are preparing infrastructure work: AFCEC | Industry Day | Sources Sought.

FY 2013

Design finalized after CDR; State of the program reports; Sequester threat; Basing competition; Training aids picked. KC-46A and B-2
(click to view full)

Sept 17/13: Testing. KC-46A program executive Gen. John Thompson offers a bit of clarity regarding testing plans. The first 4 planes will be split between the commercial 767-2C baseline, which is set to fly in January 2014, and 2 fully converted KC-46A tankers, which won’t fly until June 2015. Civil certification is an important precursor to the military supplemental certification (q.v. May 31/13), and the 767-2Cs will eventually become KC-46As to support initial operational test and evaluation.

Thompson sounds very confident about the intensive testing schedule, but then, he needs to. Past GAO and DOT&E reports have flagged it as a program risk (q.v. Jan 17/13, Feb 27/13), and have even called the test plan “not executable” (Jan 17/12). Sources: NDIA Magazine, “Newly Designed KC-46 Aerial Refueling Tanker to Undergo Strenuous Testing”.

Sept 4/13: Boeing announces that the USAF has validated the final design elements of the KC-46A, concluded that it meets requirements, and frozen the plane’s configuration. That clears the way for production and testing.

Design is set.

Aug 7/13: South Korea. Yonhap reports that South Korea may acquire 4 aerial refueling tankers by 2019. It seems to be at the discussion level rather than a firm decision. If it proceeds, Boeing’s KC-46A and Airbus Military’s A330 MRTT are seen as the logical contenders, and the 2019 date makes the KC-767 a viable possibility.

The A330’s challenge is that, unlike Australia, South Korea’s zone of action doesn’t really need the A330’s range and size. That will make the extra expense problematic. It’s also worth noting that South Korea already has significant defense relationships with Israel’s IAI. That could create an opening for IAI’s much cheaper K-767 MMTT option, which is also on offer to Singapore. Sources: Yonhap News, “Air Force to acquire 4 aerial refueling tankers by 2019″.

July 10/13: CDR. KC-46A Weapon System Critical Design Review takes place, and is successful. Source: Boeing, Sept 4/13 release.


July 3/13: Sub-contractors. Fleet Canada Inc. in Fort Erie, ON receives its 1st order from Boeing, for sub-assemblies of the KC-46A Camera and Boom Fairings. The contract is issued as part of Boeing’s industrial offset requirements for various Canadian defense buys, including the C-17A airlifter and CH-47F Chinook helicopter. Fleet Canada.

June 26/13: production. Boeing announces that production of the first aircraft has begun. The USAF’s Critical Design Review (CDR) will start in July 2013, as announced last year. Beyond that, the company is forecasting the following milestones:

  • First aircraft assembly: Nov. 2013-January 2014
  • First flight: 2015
  • First delivery: 2016
  • Delivery of the first 18 aircraft by August 2017

June 16/13: Exports. Boeing told reporters that Boeing is engaged in talks with several export prospects in Asia and the Middle East, for a total of 20 potential units. The company’s defense and civilian arms are working together to be able to make the aircraft available for sales abroad by 2017. Bloomberg | DoD Buzz.

May 31/13: Certification process. Boeing will seek FAA certification in 2 phases: first there is one for the commercial 767-2C aircraft, then a supplemental one for the military modifications to the commercial aircraft.

In March 2012, the GAOlisted the fact that Boeing planned to pursue some parts of these 2 certifications in parallel as a risk factor. John Howitt, the program deputy manager, told AIN that this is addressed with joint technical planning and work, even though the 2 certifications are separate from an administrative perspective. Sources: AIN.

May 1/13: Training. Berkshire Hathaway company FlightSafety Services Corp. in Centennial, CO wins a $78.4 million fixed-price-incentive-firm and firm-fixed-price contract to design, develop, and build the KC-46 aircrew training system, including delivery of courseware and simulator-based training systems. FlightSafety will design and manufacture the KC-46, Boom Operator, and Part Task Trainers at its 375,000 square foot simulation facility in Oklahoma; the first device is scheduled for delivery in February 2016.

FlightSafety is no newcomer to this role, with operations at 15 U.S. Military bases that include Flight School XXI; Training systems for the KC-10 Extender, C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster, AFSOC’s HC-130P Combat King, and the V-22 Osprey tiltrotors; and Contractor Logistics Support for the T-6 JPATS and T- 37/38 trainers. The KC-46A contract pays $1 million initially, with the rest to be paid over time, including additional production and operations options that could raise its value beyond $78.4 million. Warren Buffett will be glad to hear that.

Work will be performed at Broken Arrow, OK and St. Louis, MO and is expected to be complete by 2026 if all options are exercised. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, with 5 offers received by USAF Life Cycle Management Center/WNSK’s Simulators Division (FA8621-13-C-6247). See also USAF | FlightSafety International.

April 17/13: Sub-contractors. ITT Exelis announces a contract from Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) to supply its anti-jam N79 CRPA (Controlled Reception Pattern Antenna) GPS antennas, for use with Raytheon Navshield and Advanced Digital Antenna Production equipment on the KC-46A. Work will be performed in Bohemia, NY.

April 13/13: Restructure at peril. USAF AMC commander Gen. Paul J. Selva reiterates the KC-46A’s #1 priority status for the Air Force, and warns about the effects of restructuring this contract:

“…because we have a firm fixed-price contract for the development of that airplane, if we allow ourselves to get into the position where we don’t have the funds to pay for the initial development of the airplane, that contract gets reopened…. We’ll pay more…”

Probably. Boeing bid hundreds of millions of dollars below development cost to win KC-X, but 2 years into the contract, the US military’s ability to switch to Airbus is more limited. They’d have to delay their #1 priority program, while creating a lot of opposition in Congress. There are creative ways to charge more in total, and Boeing would be well placed to negotiate a few in any restructuring.

April 10/13: FY 2014 Budget. The President releases a proposed budget at last, the latest in modern memory. The Senate and House were already working on budgets in his absence, but the Pentagon’s submission is actually important to proceedings going forward. See ongoing DID coverage. For KC-X, it’s pretty much steady as she goes, hewing more or less to previous plans.

Total reductions from FY 2014-2017 are around $182 million compared to FY 2013 plans, but a fixed-price contract is going to have to reach the agreed total regardless. Current budgets show just $3.173 billion allocated for RDT&E from FY 2011 – 2018, but the USAF is near-certain to owe $4.7 billion for the EMD phase.

April 7-10/13: Basing. As the USAF prepares to make decisions about where to base its KC-46s, communities are competing. The catch is that there are really 2 initial competitions, and they’re mutually exclusive (q.v. Jan 9/13 entry). Grand Forks Herald | Lawton Constitution | Wichita Eagle.

Feb 27/13: GAO Report. The GAO’s annual in-depth look at the KC-46 program is out. The good news is that after 28% ($1.4 billion) in development work, the program costs and schedule haven’t changed much. The CDR is still scheduled for July 2013, albeit with some risks. The USAF and Boeing are evaluated as managing the project well, and have added the ability to track progress toward key aircraft performance goals.

Concerns fall into 3 areas: financial reserves, weight, and software. The GAO is one of several agencies that think flight testing and certification will need to take about 6 months longer, and the boom refueling system is changing a bit, but those are secondary risks right now.

The development contract set aside about 7% ($354 million) in reserves, and 2 years into a 7-year development program, 79.6% of those reserves have been spent, leaving less than $72 million to cover an expected $3.5 billion in work. Some of the issues driving this spending aren’t resolved yet. As we explained above, the government’s costs won’t change if this problem isn’t solved, but GAO is worried about technical problems growing and creating schedule issues.

Projected weight is now expected to exceed the KC-46’s target weight, and each pound above target reduces fuel payload by 1 pound. Extra weight could also affect operating requirements for takeoff, mission radius, and landing. The program has a mitigation strategy in place, and further weight reduction initiatives can create tradeoffs in areas like durability and cost.

Software is a good news/bad news story. They’ve cut total software development by 40%, but code reuse will be less than planned (52% vs. 76%), which means new and modified software has doubled to 48% from 24%. That means more work overall and more testing, though program officials are claiming that schedules won’t be affected.

Feb 22/13: KC-135Rs retiring. After more than 50 years of service and 22,500 flying hours, the 1st operational re-engined KC-135R Stratotanker retires from service, and heads to AMARG’s “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. KC-135R #61-0312 first flew as a KC-135A on Aug 14/62, and was re-engined into a KC-135R on June 27/85.

This plane’s retirement is budget-driven, as 1 of the 16 scheduled KC-135 retirements in FY 2013. On the other hand, the KC-135 Program Office at Tinker AFB, OK used the Fleet Health Analysis Tool to pick the aircraft. Joey Dauzat, 97th Maintenance Directorate KC-135R sortie generation flight chief, discussed KC-135 usage patterns, which will become much more relevant if something happens to the KC-X program:

“[KC-135Rs] assigned to Altus Air Force Base fly approximately 1,820 sorties per fiscal year, which averages out to 91 sorties per aircraft…. Flight hours are approximately 7,030 hours per fiscal year, which averages out to 351 flight hours per aircraft. All sorties are required to have [refueling booms] on them, so every sortie flown is a boomer training sortie.”

Feb 2/13: A USAF presentation to Congress says that if sequestration takes effect, the KC-46A program may need to be restructured, along with the F-35 fighter and MQ-9 Reaper Block 5. Flight International.

Feb 2/13: High Usage. The USAF is planning to use KC-46As more intensively than their KC-135 counterparts. That makes sense on several levels: (1) As a way to save money by flying the more expensive-to-operate KC-135s less; (2) As a way to build in surge capability for the KC-46As if the KC-135 fleet has a problem; and (3) As a pre-conscious recognition that KC-X is probably the USAF’s entire future aerial tanker fleet.

The KC-135’s average of 2.5 aircrews per plane will rise to 3.5 aircrews for the KC-46A, adding about 60 full aircrews to the force, and costing about 11.2% more for KC-46A lifetime operations and maintenance because they will be flying more often. Total operations and support costs are now predicted to be approximately $103 billion, but the $10 billion or so rise would be offset by any savings from fewer flights of the more expensive KC-135Rs. USAF.

Higher usage planned

Jan 17/13: DOT&E testing. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The USAF has bought 2 767-200s for live fire testing, and is planning the survivability assessment, including LAIRCM tests. They do have one major concern:

“The ALR-69A RWR [radar warning receiver] was selected as Contractor Furnished Equipment by Boeing; however, integration and performance on the KC-46A are high risk. DOT&E recently completed an assessment of the ALR-69A RWR on the C-130H1 and assessed it as not effective, but suitable, in a separate classified report dated October 22, 2012. Not only do these effectiveness problems require correction, but the system is required to improve its geo-location capabilities as compared to the demonstrated C-130J capability.”

DOT&E also has some technical issues with the overall testing plan. The 750 hours of operational testing over 5.5 months can establish effectiveness, but getting 76% confidence of suitability (maintainability) would need 1,250 hours. This was also pointed out in last year’s report, and it will need to be worked out one way or another.

Jan 9/13: Basing. The USAF announces KC-46A initial basing candidates, while stressing that losing bases will continue to operate KC-135s. The USAF doesn’t mention this, but the FTU training and MOB1 operating base awards are mutually exclusive: you can win one, but not both. There’s no overlap at all with the ANG’s MOB2 locations, so those have to be separate. Candidates include:

Formal Training Unit: Altus AFB, OK vs. McConnell AFB, KS. Altus already performs the FTU role for the KC-135. Winner begins receiving planes in 2016.

Active Duty Main Operating Base (MOB 1): One of Altus AFB, OK (KC-135 FTU); Fairchild AFB, WA (2 KC-135 squadrons resident); Grand Forks AFB, ND (1 KC-135 squadron resident), and McConnell AFB, KS (4 KC-135 squadrons resident). Winner begins receiving planes in 2016.

Air National Guard MOB 2: One of Forbes Air Guard Station, KS; Joint-Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ, Pease Air Guard Station, NH; Pittsburgh International Airport Air Guard Station, PA; and Rickenbacker Air Guard Station, OH. Winner begins receiving planes in 2018.

Oct 16/12: Industrial. Boeing opens the KC-46 Boom Assembly Center on schedule at Boeing Field in Seattle, WA. Boom assembly marks the program’s shift to production from design activities, and the 1st fly-by-wire boom is scheduled to enter testing during Q3 2013 at Boeing Field’s System Integration Labs. Boeing.

FY 2012

Basing plans; Preliminary Design Review; Industrial decisions. ‘Paper airplane’ risks?
(click to view full)

Sept 12/12: Industrial. Boeing opens System Integration Lab 0 at Boeing Field, 3 weeks ahead of schedule. SIL 0 will be used to test commercial avionics and software for integration into the KC-46A Tanker. Another 3 SILs will open at Boeing Field and a 5th will open in Everett, WA by the end of 2013.

Boeing Field is also slated to house the program’s Boom Assembly Center, and the Finishing Center. The Finishing Center is scheduled to open in late 2013, and will be used to install military hardware and software onto the commercial 767-2C airframe. Boeing.

July 27/12: Sub-contractors. Eaton Corp. announces a supplementary contract from Boeing, which adds the aerial refueling pump system, the aerial refueling boom nozzle, and various airframe and aerial refueling system valves and fuel/ actuation components. See also June 18/11 entry.

June 13/12: Industrial. Boeing VP and KC-46 program manager Maureen Dougherty talks about moves Boeing is making since the announcement that it was closing the Wichita, KS facility. That closure creates added risk, but Boeing is sticking to its estimates and trying to offset it.

Three systems integration laboratories (SILs) will be located at Boeing Field in the southern part of Seattle, WA, but they won’t be operational until fall 2012. Flight testing, a full lab replica of the entire KC-46 fuel architecture, and the finishing center’s 2 workstations will also be there. They’ve also begun wind tunnel testing with Cobham regarding the shape of the plane’s refueling pods, a move that underlines the developmental nature of key items. Aviation Week.

May 14/12: Initial bases. The USAF decides that the KC-46A’s formal training unit (FTU) and first main operating base (MOB 1) will be led by active duty units, while MOB 2 will be led by an Air National Guard (ANG) unit. That may be one way to ease the transition. Many ANG pilots fly for commercial carriers, and many of those carriers already operate 767s.

Exact basing decisions will be based on location, capacity, environmental issues, and cost. The USAF plans to table a preferred base and shortlist for the active-duty FTU and MOB 1 in December 2012, so the environmental impact grind can begin and the base can begin receiving aircraft in FY 2016. The ANG-led MOB 2 is expected to get its preferred base and shortlist in spring 2013, and receive aircraft in FY 2018. USAF.

May 8/12: Sub-contractors. BAE Systems announces a contract from Boeing to develop and build the KC-46A’s Actuator Control Unit (ACU), which processes commands to control the aerial refueling boom.

Engineering and development work on the program will be conducted in Endicott, NY with manufacturing at the BAE Systems facility in Ft. Wayne, IN.

March 21 – April 27/12: PDR. Boeing’s KC-46 Tanker completes its Preliminary Design Review (PDR), confirming that it seems to meet system requirements and is ready to proceed with detailed design. In addition to the successful PDR, the Boeing KC-46 team has completed a System Requirements Review, Integrated Baseline Review, a PDR for the base 767-2C freighter, and Firm Configuration Reviews for the 767-2C and the KC-46A Tanker.

The program’s next major milestone is a Critical Design Review that will take place in the summer of 2013, and demonstrate that the KC-46A is ready for manufacture. Boeing.


March 27/12: Engine contract. Boeing formally signs a contract with Pratt & Whitney’s Military Engines division for up to 368 PW4062 engines (179 planes + 10 spares). It’s a private sub-contract, however, and the parties won’t discuss its value. Suffice to say that the cost of modern jet engines makes this a 10-figure contract, once all engines are ordered.

The 62,000 pound thrust PW4062 is the highest thrust model in Pratt & Whitney’s PW4000-94″ commercial engine family, which powers MD-11, early-model 747, and 767 aircraft. It’s offered for commercial freighter and military tanker applications. Pratt & Whitney.

March 26/12: GAO Report. The US GAO audit office releases report #GAO-12-366, “KC-46 Tanker Aircraft: Acquisition Plans Have Good Features but Contain Schedule Risk.” It cites “broad agreement that KC-46 schedule risk is a concern,” and especially cites overlap among development and production work. The USAF disagrees, citing FAA certification for the First Flight of the baseline 767-2C in June 2014, and promising 60% of FAA certification and military developmental flight testing before Milestone C production approval in August 2015. On the other hand, the GAO has usually been right about these risks, and the USAF has been wrong – most recently in the F-35 program.

Key information has been fed into other parts of this article, but this excerpt deserves especial attention:

“According to program officials, a change in system requirements, although unlikely… could increase the Air Force’s exposure to additional costs… the biggest risk to the KC-46 program is the Department’s ability to minimize changes to the contract… DOD has demonstrated limited ability to maintain stable requirements and limit changes to program technical baselines on previous complex weapon system programs, and that minimizing such change is essential to the success of the KC-46… any engineering or contract changes affecting system requirements or having the potential to impact program cost, schedule, and performance baselines must be approved by the Air Force Service Acquisition Executive in consultation with the Secretary and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force… Program officials maintain that… pricing will likely stay intact as long as the contract is not opened to negotiate modifications. […]

Boeing has to correct any deficiencies in the KC-46 discovered during the development program… on the four development test aircraft and all production aircraft… at no additional cost to the government. In addition, there is a special contract provision that requires each aircraft to demonstrate a certain fuel usage rate before the government accepts the aircraft. If any aircraft burn fuel above this rate, Boeing is required to propose a corrective action at no cost… if Boeing cannot meet the required usage rates, there are contract provisions allowing for a decrease in the amount paid to Boeing.”

March 7/12: Air Mobility Command chief General Raymond Johns at a House Armed Services Committee hearing:

“We continue to execute the program to cost and schedule baselines we established, along with Boeing.”

A Preliminary Design Review is scheduled later this month. Bloomberg.

March 7/12: Basing plans. From the USAF’s FY 2013 Force Structure Changes [PDF]:

The Air Force is currently developing requirements for the first two KC-46 bases, and expects to approve basing criteria in Spring 2012, identify candidate installations in Summer 2012, select preferred and reasonable alternatives by the end of calendar year 2012, and make final decisions in 2013.”

The Air Force expects aircraft deliveries to these first 2 bases in FY16. The next round of basing decisions is planned for FY14 at the earliest.

Feb 13/12: RDT&E budget. The Air Force asks for $1.8 billion in RTDE funds for fiscal year 2013 as part of the President Budget. This would be the peak of planned research and development spending on the program over 2011-2017, at 27% of the total. Air Force budget justification [large PDF].

Air Mobility Command (AMC/CC) has not yet determined an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) date, while Full Operational Capability (FOC) is expected approximately 24 months after IOC. The Air Force schedule as of December 2011 plans to reach Milestone C in Q4 FY15. These plans have been incorporated into the program briefing, above. See next entry below on the various risk assessments made about that schedule.

Jan 17/12: DOT&E doubters. When Airbus lost the contract, they placed 2 markers. One was that Boeing couldn’t deliver to their claimed price, and that has proven true (vid. Nov 27/11 entry), though their bid remains lower than Airbus. The other was that Boeing wouldn’t be able to make the delivery schedule, and the US Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation’s FY 2011 Report adds weight to that belief. The report backs their position up with hard numbers, and bluntly concludes that “the KC-46 test program is not executable.”

To support that claim, DOT&E notes that military testing with past large aircraft averages under 30 flight hours per plane, per month. The Boeing/USAF TEMP schedule plans 42 FHPM, for flights that are “more specialized, higher risk, and more resource-intensive than FAA certification.” Worse, their planned 15% re-fly rate for military test items is even farther off; the 737-derivative P-8A, which is considered to be a successful program, has a current re-fly rate of 45%. Correcting to past averages adds 4 months to the 17-month testing schedule. DOT&E believes that even then, the 750 operational flight test hours aren’t enough, and 1,250 would be more realistic. That takes the testing schedule from 21 to 25 months.

Other serious omissions cited include no time for correction of discrepancies and/or deficiencies discovered during developmental testing, and no provision for the refueling boom control algorithm changes and/or procedural modifications that have been required for other new aerial refuelers. The report doesn’t say so, but the net takeaway is that Boeing is very likely to be late with its promised 2017 delivery. The USAF responded to Gannett’s Air Force Times with partial disagreement:

“The Air Force respects the opinions of the Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation, but does not agree with its assessment that the KC-46 test program is ‘not executable’… The Air Force does acknowledge that Boeing’s overall KC-46 program schedule is considered medium risk, in part due to its aggressive flight-test schedule.”

Jan 4/12: Wichita lineman, farewell. Boeing confirmed it’s going to close its Wichita, KS plant by the end of 2013. Wichita is currently the base for the company’s Global Transport & Executive Systems business, and its B-52 and 767 International Tanker programs. The facility also provides support for flight mission planning and integrated logistics.

Some of the 2,160+ Wichita jobs will be moved; others will be cut, beginning in Q3 2012. The move rankles hard in Kansas, as Boeing touted the jobs and state economic benefits if they won the tanker contract, and secured hard lobbying from state and federal representatives. Who now feel somewhat betrayed. The company counters that it isn’t entirely betraying those promises, as it spent more than $3.2 billion with approximately 475 Kansas suppliers in 2011, making it the 4th largest state in Boeing’s supplier network. That prominence is not expected to change, and the 24 Kansas KC-46A suppliers will still be providing elements of the aircraft as originally planned.

Once the Wichita plant closes, engineering work on the KC-46A will be placed at the Boeing facility in Oklahoma City, OK, instead. Work to convert 767s to KC-46 tankers will now be performed right on the 767 production line in Puget Sound, WA, copying a model first used with the 737-derived P-8A Poseidon sea control aircraft. Future aircraft maintenance, modification and support work will be placed at the Boeing facility in San Antonio, TX, which currently handles KC-135 and KC-10 maintenance and upgrade work. Boeing | NY Times | Congressman Mike Pompeo [R-KS-4, not happy].

Boeing closing its Wichita plant

Nov 27/11: EMD Overage rises again? Maybe. Media reports tout a figure of $500 million over maximum cost, but a breakdown says otherwise. The Pentagon’s latest Selected Acquisition Report reportedly gives a program manager’s estimate of $5.3 billion, which would actually be $1.2 billion over the KC-X EMD phase’s original target cost. Up to $4.9 billion, however, the government pays $600 million more, and Boeing pays $400 million. Costs above that are all Boeing’s responsibility. Boeing’s current estimate is $5.1 billion, which would raise its liability to $600 million (400 + all 200 overage). If the government program manager is right, Boeing’s liability rises to $800 million (400 + all 400 overage), while its overall bid cost to the US government for development plus production remains below Airbus’.

The SAR report in question appears to be an advance copy, as there has been no public release yet. It allegedly says that KC-46A engineering, manufacturing and development are “progressing well with no significant technical issues.” Given the figures above, that must be a relief to Boeing’s management. As for the Pentagon, it doesn’t have to care which EMD Phase figure is correct, since their costs are now known: $4.5 billion ($3.9 billion + $600 million). Above $4.9 billion total split costs, they aren’t paying for anything, and the estimate spread shows that there’s almost no chance of coming in under $4.9 billion. Bloomberg News.

FY 2011

Boeing wins round 2. Interim baseline review. Suppliers and components. KC-X options
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Sept 13/11: Sub-contractors. AmSafe Industries, Inc. announces that it will supply 9g-rated barrier nets, and stationary and movable smoke barriers, specifically designed for the USA’s new KC-46A 767 aerial tankers. AmSafe is a global leader in this sort of technology; they’re also known as the makers of Tarian cloth armor that can stop enemy rockets.

Deliveries of the KC-46A internal barrier systems are expected to begin in 2015, and could be worth more than $45 million for all 179 planned aircraft.

Sept 13/11: Sub-contractors. BAE Systems’ Attendant Control Panel (ACP) for Boeing’s new civilian 737 interior will be migrating to the KC-46A. The touch-screen, networkable panel is designed to control a variety of interior functions such as lighting, drinking water, and waste tanks. Prices were not revealed. Work on the KC-46A tanker touch-screen cabin control systems will be conducted in Johnson City, NY, and Fort Wayne, IN. BAE Systems.

September 2011: Sub-contractors. Vol. 16, #4 [PDF] of Rockwell Collins’ internal Horizons magazine, whose “Refueling Innovation” article discusses their development of the KC-46A’s flight controls and refueling systems.

The stereoscopic Remote Vision System, which will display the refueling operation on both standard and 3-D screens, apparently drew on internal experience that included the Mars Rover, UAVs, and a remotely-operated bomb-disposal robot. Overall, the article cites ruggedization of components, and information fusion from the wide array of sensors and datalinks, as the 2 key engineering challenges. TSAS, which emerged from the latter challenge, is even being tested on Android OS smartphones and tablet computers.

Aug 24/11: IBR. The U.S. Air Force completes an interim baseline review (IBR) for the KC-46A.

IBRs provide mutual understanding of risks inherent in contractors’ performance plans and management systems, and outline what resources are needed to achieve program goals. This IBR had to be complete within 7 months of contract award, which would be Sept 24/11. The next major milestone is the Critical Design Review, which is scheduled to happen by September 2013. Aviation Week.

July 14/11: Politics. Sen. John McCain [R-AZ], the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, sends a letter to the Pentagon that calls Boeing’s KC-X EMD bid “completely unacceptable”. His issue is that any increases between KC-X’s EMD target cost (revealed as $3.9 billion), and the $4.9 billion ceiling cost are split between Boeing (40%) and the USAF (60%). The net result is that Boeing’s lowball bid costs taxpayers an extra $600 million beyond their bid, and Boeing itself $700 million. Even that reported bid price still leaves Boeing lower than Airbus’ overall price, however, which was $2 billion higher for the combined EMD phase and subsequent production of 13 initial jets.

On the other hand, the practice of lowballing bids in order to secure contracts, then raising the real costs afterward, is correctly seen as toxic. The result is grave difficulty in budget planning, as other programs are sacrificed or compromised in order to pay for widespread overcharges.

In fairness to Boeing, it’s worth going back to the original contract bids. Reports right after the February 2011 award had EADS Airbus bidding $3.5 billion for the EMD phase, while Boeing had bid $4.4 billion for the EMD phase alone. That means the USAF knew of about $500 million beyond its target costs from the outset, for an aircraft that had not been fielded or tested yet, and involved more development work than EADS’ offering. That means added risk of future increases, but the swiftness of these cost revisions strongly suggests that they were known beforehand. Actual costs for Boeing’s EMD phase are currently $5.2 billion, and the amount of the cost breach tends to lower confidence in Boeing’s ability to meet the contract schedule, a point that was also raised by Airbus after the award.

The question is whether Sen. McCain’s opposition will have any effect at this point in time. That may seem unlikely, but then, it also seemed unlikely when he opposed the original KC-767 lease deal post-9/11. McCain release | Bloomberg.

June 24/11: Costs. Bloomberg reports that Boeing’s KC-X bid is going to be $300 million over the KC-X cost ceiling, which it reveals as $4.9 billion. Because it’s a fixed-price contract, Boeing is solely responsible for those extra costs.

According to Bloomberg, a USAF statement from Lt. Col. Jack Miller said that the USAF was told after the contract award that: “it proposed a ceiling price that is less than its actual projected cost to execute the contract… There is no legal barrier that prohibits pursuing a below-cost proposal strategy and Boeing’s met all rules.”

Recall that the Feb 24/11 contract award said only that Boeing’s Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase contract was “over $3.5 billion.” Subsequent reports had Boeing’s EMD phase bid at $4.4 billion, vs. EADS Airbus’ $3.5 billion. On the other hand, the total bids for EMD + 4 planes, and another 14 planes of initial production, was reportedly $20.6 billion for Boeing, vs. $22.6 billion for Airbus – who called Boeing’s bid an “extreme lowball.” If Bloomberg’s report is true, we now have an idea what Boeing was willing to pay, in order to prevent Airbus from setting up a production line in America, and to keep the 767 alive as a military export and commercial option.

June 22/11: After months of refusing to divulge details, Boeing announces major suppliers for its KC-46A team, and confirms the tanker’s fuel capacity at 212,000 pounds, with an offload rate of 1,200 gallons per minute. The KC-46 Tanker team will include more than 800 suppliers in more than 40 states and support approximately 50,000 total U.S. jobs. Major suppliers have been added to the article’s industrial teams section.

June 19/11: Sub-contractors. Raytheon announces orders from Boeing supply digital radar warning receivers, and digital anti-jam GPS receivers, for the KC-46 tanker. Its AN/ALR-69A is an all-digital radar warning receiver designed to work with both fighters and large aircraft, and its technical architecture will speed up signal identification amidst cluttered environments.

The digital anti-jam GPS receiver, with its multielement controlled reception pattern antenna, integrates both reception and high performance digital anti-jam capabilities into a single product.

June 18/11: Sub-contractors. Eaton Corp. announces a Memorandum of Agreement with Boeing to supply hydraulic and fuel distribution subcomponents, cargo door electro-mechanical actuation systems, hydraulic system components, electrical sensing and control devices, and cockpit controls over the life of the KC-46A program.

June 7/11: KC-46A details emerge. Flight International reveals more about the KC-46A, while outlining what we still don’t know, 3 months after one of the largest contracts in USAF history.

For starters, it’s based on a cargo variant. At over 188,000 kg/ 414,470 pounds, the 767-2C’s maximum takeoff weight is about 20,000 pounds heavier than the 767-200ER, making it even heavier than the stretched 767-300ER that Boeing rejected for Round 1. The 2C is slightly stretched itself, at 6.5 feet longer than the 200ER, with a cargo floor and door. Beyond this, the winglets, 787-based cockpit large display system, auxiliary fuel tanks and provisions for tanker systems, and more powerful Pratt & Whitney 4062 turbofans are all known changes from the 200ER.

To find out if Boeing has made any other changes from the basic 767-200ER, outsiders will reportedly have to wait until Boeing completes a USAF system requirements review, and an integrated baseline review.

May 6/11: Sub-contractors. Marshall Aerospace announces that they had been picked in 2010 to supply the KC-46A’s integrated Body Fuel Tanks, and that Boeing’s win has resulted in an initial contract for the design, certification and manufacture of an initial batch of development tanks. They expect production orders for “more than 650″ tanks to follow over a 15 year period, in order to equip the KC-X program’s 179 aircraft, with a total value exceeding GBP 100 million.

Marshall Aerospace has previous experience producing integrated Body Fuel Tanks for Boeing, including the 747, 777, and the 737-derivative P-8A Poseidon programs. Boeing has refused to discuss its Round 2 partners, but Marshall appears to have elbowed Round 1 partner Sargent Fletcher aside for this role.

March 11/11: Aviation Week outlines what we still don’t know about the KC-46A. We still don’t know the actual development phase price. We still don’t know the plane’s configuration, either, which makes it impossible to evaluate the likelihood that Boeing can deliver on time. Excerpts:

“Neither the U.S. Air Force nor Boeing have stated what exactly “over $3.5 billion” means for the KC-46A development contract… [Boeing tanker VP Jean] Chamberlain acknowledged on the company’s Feb. 24 telecon post-win that this is “concurrent development” meaning flight test and developmental activities are taking place as the first aircraft are being built…Thanks to the three-time restructured F-35 development program, the term “concurrent development” has become a bit of a dirty word among some in Pentagon circles… There are a few things we do know: Somehow Boeing is putting a digital 787 cockpit into an analog 767 aircraft and there is a modified KC-10 boom to meet the gallon-per-minute offload requirement. But, we don’t know what the design entails in terms of risk reduction on the platform or on the mission systems. Finally, we don’t even know officially that work has begun on this contract. Neither USAF nor Boeing will confirm.”

March 4/11: No protest. EADS North America chairman Ralph Crosby expresses disappointment at the press conference, but says that EADS could not have undercut that “extremely lowball bid,” submitted to keep Airbus from securing a US production site. The company “will not take any action that could further delay the already overdue replacement of the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet… Much is promised by our competitor, whom we congratulate. However, should they fail to deliver, we stand ready to step in with a proven and operating tanker.”

More precise figures come from the US AFA’s report of the conference:

“…Crosby revealed – based on an hour-long debrief from the Air Force last week – that the price difference between the companies’ bids was 10 percent. Boeing bid $20.6 billion and EADS $22.6 billion on initial development and initial production of their respective KC-46A and KC-45 tankers… He expressed doubt that Boeing will be able to deliver all 18 aircraft by 2017 as called for… because Boeing will not have its first flight-test-worthy KC-46A ready until 2015. [Crosby] also revealed that EADS’ estimated cost for engineering and manufacturing development on the KC-45 – which the company would have modestly revised from the existing design – was $3.5 billion, while Boeing bid $4.4 billion for EMD on its design, which has not flown.”

The fixed price contract means that if Boeing fails to deliver, most of the financial risk is theirs. That leaves the USAF with the operational risk, if they can’t hold Boeing to its performance commitments. Read: EADS North America | Reuters | US Air Force Association | Warner Robins Patriot.

March 3/11: Flight International:

“Newspaper Les Echos published a small article four days after the contract award noting that the USAF’s decision on tankers will make it “very difficult” for Paris to purchase the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned air vehicle, which is competing against the EADS Talarion and a Dassault/Thales/Indra consortium offering the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron TP.”

The French do make another choice, at first, but costs and delivery times eventually do force them back to the MQ-9. See “Apres Harfang: France’s Next High-End UAV” for full coverage.

Feb 28/11 – March 1/11: Debriefing session with EADS North America. Meanwhile, the government and Northrop Grumman/EADS still have not reached a legal agreement on the canceled KC-45 contract. Aviation Week.

KC-46A concept
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Feb 24/11: Boeing wins Round 2. The “KC-46A” win surprises many aerospace analysts, who expected an EADS win based on leaks that EADS had scored better in the USAF’s models, and expectations they could price their planes lower. The Pentagons says that both candidate aircraft met all required criteria, but Boeing’s adjusted price was over 1% less than Airbus’. That meant the USAF did not consider various “non-mandatory” bonus criteria, which could only have made a difference of up to 1%.

Note that these are adjusted prices. Rep. Norm Dicks [D-WA], for example, claims credit for successful pressure to change the USAF’s costing model from 25 years of expected fuel costs to 40 years, which he boasts cost Airbus “billions of dollars” in the respective calculations.

As a result, Boeing in Seattle, WA receives a fixed price incentive firm contract valued at “over $3.5 billion” for the KC-X Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase, which will deliver 18 of their KC-46A aircraft by 2017. The ASC/WKK at Wright Patterson AFB, OH, will manage this contract (FA8625-11-C600). A newly opened assembly line in Everett, WA will build the tankers, including all the military modifications to the airframe, right alongside commercial 767 airliners, rather than shipping 767s elsewhere for military modifications. This approach was pioneered by the 737-based P-8A Poseidon sea control aircraft program, and will now be extended to the KC-46A.

By comparison, the Feb 29/08 award to EADS & Northrop Grumman (FA8625-08-C-6451) would have involved 4 test KC-45 aircraft for $1.5 billion, plus 5 production options for up to 64 aircraft at up to $10.6 billion. Over 18 aircraft, that leads to a “base plus averaged” total of $3.819 billion. US DoD | Boeing release | Boeing feature w. video | EADS North America || Agence France Presse | Bloomberg | Chicago Mag | CNBC | DoD Buzz | Defense News | Flight International | Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Boeing wins KC-X EMD with 767-based KC-46A

Feb 14/11: The Pentagon releases its FY 2012 budget request, which includes $877.1 million in development funding for the KC-X program. The FY 2011 request for $863.9 million is still in play as well, however, thanks to the 111th Congress’ failure to pass a FY 2011 budget.

The 112th session of Congress is dealing with the FY 2011 budget as H.R. 1, and could explicitly delete KC-X funding if its disagreements with the USAF run deep enough. The other option would be more passive, and involves continuing all FY 2011 spending at FY 2010 levels. A “2010 Redux” option would be a problem for KC-X, because that would give the program just $14.9 million to work with. On the other hand, a passive approach by Congress would allow to USAF to “reprogram” some funds from elsewhere into KC-X, whereas an explicit rejection would not.

Feb 10/11: Final Bids. Boeing and Airbus delivery their final KC-X bids. Airbus | Boeing | Flight International.

Final bids

Feb 8/11: Turbulence ahead for EADS. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that Daimler plans to sell its stake in EADS when a consortium agreement expires in June 2012, in order to focus on its car manufacturing business. If they do, the move will have large ripple effects, which is why the news has provoked meetings at the highest levels of Germany’s government.

Daimler already dropped its stake in EADS from 22.5% to 15%, in a 2007 deal brokered by the government with a German bank consortium. Germany has since tried but failed to find a long-term German investor to take over the banks’ 7.5% stake, in order to keep the long term German-French shareholder balance at 22.5% each. The banks agreed to extend the current arrangement to 2013, and France’s Lagardere media group is looking to sell its own 7.5% stake at some point after 2012, but Daimler’s planned departure revives that issue of shareholder balance as a near-crisis. A German replacement firm with deep enough pockets, technical expertise, and enough of an interest in aerospace may not exist. Deutsche Welle.

Jan 31/11: WTO on Boeing. The World Trade Organization releases preliminary information its decision re: Boeing subsidies (DS 353), the other end of the trade dispute that has already seen a ruling concerning Airbus. The release took place to the 2 companies. A full public report will not be available for a couple of weeks – which matters, because accounts differ.

Boeing implies that the WTO rejected most claims, leaving only $2.6 billion in subsidies. They contrast this with the June 2010 decision that found $20.4 million in illegal Airbus subsidies: $15 billion in launch aid, $2.2 billion in equity infusions, $1.7 billion in infrastructure, and roughly $1.5 billion in R&D support, with $4 billion in illegal launch subsidies that must be restructured.

Airbus, in contrast, points to $5 billion of illegal subsidies to Boeing in this decision, with additional figures to be determined in later stages of this dispute, plus over $2 billion in illegal state and local subsidies that Boeing will receive in the future, and an expected WTO ruling that Washington State and the City of Everett must stop subsidizing Boeing. Airbus adds that they believe the WTO will find that Boeing subsidies were more distorting than Airbus’ loans, and float a $45 billion damages figure. Time will tell, but this sentence in Airbus’ statement is certainly clear:

“Taking the cases together, the WTO will be seen to now have specifically green-lighted the continued use of loans in Europe and commanded Boeing to end its illegal R&D cash support from NASA, DoD and the US taxpayers.”

Look for this case to continue, though the emergence of competitors in Russia and China could lead to negotiations, in hopes of setting global standards around subsidies. WTO DS 353 | Airbus | Boeing | Boeing WTO mini-site | Flight International | NY Times | Seattle Post-Intelligencer. See also Sept 15/10 entry.

WTO ruling on Boeing unfair subsidies

Jan 27/11: Italy. The Italian Air Force’s accepts the 1st of 4 delayed Boeing KC-767A tankers at Pratica di Mare AB near Rome. This KC-767 is registered as MM 62229, and will now enter a series of evaluations and other activities before being placed into operational use. There have been a number of issues with Italy’s tankers, so their acceptance is important to Boeing. Flight International.

Jan 19/11: During in-flight testing between an EADS MRTT tanker plane destined for Australia’s RAAF, and a Portuguese air force F-16 fighter, the refueling boom loses 1 of its 2 stabilising fins, making the device uncontrollable. The incident resulted in the detachment and partial loss of the refuelling boom from the MRTT, and the pieces fell into the sea. Fortunately, the plane itself made it back in one piece.

Airbus is investigating the mishap, and at least they have a flying platform to test, but the timing could hardly be worse. Australian DoD | Flight International | Reuters.

A330 refueling accident

KC-30 & F-16s
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Dec 13/10: Team EADS. Britain’s 1st A330 MRTT performs the type’s 1st fuselage-mounted hose-and-drogue aerial refueling dry contacts, using an F/A-18 Hornet fighter. Airbus Military. The 1st wet refueling took place on Jan 21/11, transferring over 6 tonnes of fuel at an altitude of around 15,000 feet, and at speeds from 250 – 325kt. AirTanker.

Cobham’s belly-mounted 805E FRU (Fuselage Refueling Unit) is part of the proposed USAF KC-45’s 4-point refueling system, which shares the 2 removable digital underwing hose-and-drogue refueling pods with FSTA aircraft, but also adds a fly-by-wire ARBS boom for UARRSI dorsal receptacles. Both the belly-mounted FRU and underwing hose-and-drogue refueling pods share the same modular architecture, and all 4 systems are controlled from the Remote Aerial Refueling Operator (RARO) console in the cockpit.

Dec 1/10: Delay. USAF Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, the military deputy from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition says that the final KC-X award will take until 2011, instead of being announced in November 2010. The USAF release adds:

“Air Force officials have said the KC-X source selection process will continue despite a mistake in November, where a limited amount of identical source selection information was provided to both KC-X offerors concerning their competitor’s offering… The information concerned was limited to a single page of non-proprietary data on a CD that did not include any offeror-proposed prices… Air Force officials have analyzed the information that was actually accessed by one of the offerors and have taken steps to ensure that both competitors have equal access to this information.”

Nov 21/10: Breach. A USAF error sends the wrong documents back to EADS and Boeing, giving them material from the other firm’s bid, The data sent by computer disk reportedly included pricing information, and both sides did the right thing and contacted the USAF immediately. Defense News | The Telegraph.

Protoccol breach

Oct 19/10: Tanker analysis. Iris Independent Research releases their KC-X competition white paper, “9 Secrets of the Tanker War.” One entirely unsurprising conclusion: KC-X’s 179 planes are it, and there will be no similar-sized KC-Y or KC-Z buys for at least 2 decades, if ever.

Given demographic and fiscal realities in the USA, that strikes us as a very safe prediction. Iris release | Full paper [PDF] | DoD Buzz.

Oct 6/10: No Antonov. The US GAO dismisses US Aerospace’s KC-X protest, leaving just Boeing and EADS. The core of the decision revolves around whether the bid was late, hence ineligible. The ruling that it was late offers an effective primer on bid delivery planning:

“In partially dismissing USAI’s protest, we concluded that, while many of USAI’s complaints were potentially relevant to the protester’s proposition that its messenger was understandably confused as to the location for submitting USAI’s proposal, such complaints did not support USAI’s allegations of intentional agency misconduct… it was USAI’s decision – not that of the Air Force – to have its messenger arrive at Wright-Patterson AFB entry gate 19B with less than an hour remaining before proposals were due; it was USAI’s decision not to seek advance agency approval for its messenger to be admitted to the AFB; and it was USAI’s decision not to confirm in advance the precise location of, and directions to, the building at which proposals were to be received. Based on our review of the protest allegations and the record submitted, we concluded that USAI’s allegations of intentional agency misconduct were insufficient to warrant further consideration…”

See: GAO statement | GAO B-403464 decision | Washington Post.

Oct 6/10: Team EADS. Airbus Military obtains A330 MRTT military certification from Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Aerospacial (INTA), which follows the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) civil Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) awarded earlier in 2010. The first 2 A330 MRTTs conducted more than 280 flights as part of the certification process, in addition to another 170 by A310 demonstrator aircraft.

As one can see by the number of flights involved, certification is an under-appreciated roadblock in the military delivery process. Fortunately certification in one jurisdiction makes subsequent certifications either much easier or unnecessary, depending on a jurisdiction’s standards and decisions. The INTA certification clears the way for Airbus Military to deliver Australia’s KC-30As, later in 2010, but the USAF would insist on its own certification process. Airbus Military | Agence France Presse | Australian Aviation | The Australian | Le Figaro [in French] | Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

FY 2010

Round 2 RFP and bids. WTO dispute. AN-70
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Sept 15/10: Early reports leak out that the WTO is about to find that Boeing’s aircraft have also been the recipients of illegal subsidies. Since Boeing had been pushing the subsidy point hard in Congressional debates, a finding of that sort would be significant. It will certainly make for a more difficult argument on Boeing’s part, both because the political argument becomes less clear, and because the USAF’s decision to exclude WTO issues from the competition becomes more defensible. Boeing remains on the offensive, arguing that:

“If today’s reports are accurate that some $3 billion of the EU’s claims were upheld by the WTO… the ruling… confirms that European launch aid to Airbus stands as the single largest and most flagrant illegal subsidy in the aerospace industry. Nothing in today’s public reports on the European case against the U.S. even begins to compare to the $20 billion in illegal subsidies that the WTO found last June that Airbus/EADS has received (comprised of $15 billion in launch aid, $2.2 billion in equity infusions, $1.7 billion in infrastructure, and roughly $1.5 billion in targeted research support). Nor are there seemingly any violations requiring remedy approaching the scale of remedy required of Airbus/EADS… Neither do the public reports suggest that Boeing’s traditional market based approach to financing new aircraft development will need to change; a distinct contrast…”

WTO cases DS 353 (vs. Boeing) and DS 316 (vs. Airbus) | Boeing | EADS North America | European Union | Agence France Presse | The Australian | Bloomberg | India’s Economic Times | Reuters | London Telegraph | UPI.

Sept 14/10: Team EADS. A pair of Australian KC-30A tankers hook up and transfer fuel at 1,200 gallons per minute through the A330’s boom. That figure meets the USAF’s maximum requirement, something Boeing has yet to do in the air. EADS North America Chairman Ralph D. Crosby, Jr. also went on the offensive with regard to fuel economy:

“In any likely Air Force operational scenario, Boeing’s concept tanker will cost 15% to 44% more, measured on the basis of fuel burned per gallon of fuel delivered.”

See: EADS KC-45 Now | Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Aug 4/10: No Antonov. US Aerospace/ Antonov is disqualified for late submission. Aviation Week quotes Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell:

“The proposal was late and by law we are not allowed to consider it. We are considering two proposals and U.S. Aerospace is not one of those being considered.”

The magazine adds that:

“According to an industry executive, the company’s messenger arrived at the Wright-Patterson AFB gate at 1:30 p.m. July 9 (30 minutes before the deadline) and was denied entry, given bad directions and told to wait by Air Force personnel. As a result, the Air Force stamped the proposal received at 2:05 p.m.”

On Aug 2/10, U.S. Aerospace filed a bid protest with the Congressional Government Accountability Office, citing “unreasonable” conduct by the USAF. The firm’s bid had reportedly revolved around an “AN-112″ based on the 4-engine AN-70 turboprop transport.

July 13/10: Team EADS. The Hill reports that the KC-X bid cost EADS North America $75,000 in final printing costs alone.

July 9/10: Team Boeing. Boeing delivers its KC-X v2.0 bid. Its release mentions that its design will contain cockpit displays from the 787 Dreamliner, which may not be a change from the first round.

July 9/10: Antonov?!? US Aerospace announces that it has submitted a joint KC-X bid with Antonov at $150 million per plane, following SEC notification of an agreement with Antonov and intent to bid on July 1/10. That agreement would give US Aerospace lead contractor status and final American assembly rights only under a KC-X contract, while Antonov would be the technical lead and manufacture components.

Unlike the March 19-22/10 UAC/ IL-96 hoax, this report has much more backing behind its assertion of a bid. The question is whether it makes any more sense, or would even qualify under Round 2’s mandatory criteria. Reports indicate a bid based on the modernized AN-124-100 “Ruslan” super-heavy transport, which would offer heavy airlift options that beat the C-17 hollow, but terrible operating efficiency as an aerial tanker. Reports of a custom designed “AN-112″ make even less sense, given the years-long development and certification timelines. Unlike Ilyushin, Antonov doesn’t even have a base civilian airframe in the right size category. Defense News may have the answer that explains the hype:

“…a May 24 SEC report filed by U.S. Aerospace signals it is in financial trouble. A number of factors “raise substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” the firm told federal regulators.”

See: US Aerospace re: bid submission | US Aerospace re: agreement | Defense News | The DEW Line | UPI.

July 8/10: Team EADS. EADS North America delivers its KC-X v2.0 bid, one day before the extended deadline, and highlights key members of its Round 2 industrial team. EADS.

July 8/10: WTO. The World Trade Organization has put off a ruling on the EU’s subsidy complaint against Boeing (case DS 316) from July 16/10 until mid-September 2010. As the Wall Street Journal put it: “While the panel is likely to find that the U.S. has provided improper subsidies, it isn’t known if the WTO will be as severe on Boeing as it was on Airbus.” Meanwhile, the delay leave EADS very exposed in the political battles over the US KC-X contract. The EU is unhappy:

“The time lag between this case, and the United States’ case against support to Airbus (DS 316) has constantly increased over the six years this dispute has been running and the gap is now at nearly a year. It creates the wrong impression that Airbus has received some WTO incompatible support, whereas Boeing has not. Only when we have received both panel reports will both sides have a more complete picture of the dispute… We now expect the Panel to issue its interim report in DS 353 without any further delay.”

EADS Airbus’ CEO Tom Enders said he was “surprised and disappointed” by “the last minute announcement of yet another delay,” and appears to question the capability of the WTO to play a meaningful role in the global trade order:

“We have said time and again that the complexity, interconnectedness and industrial significance of the Boeing and Airbus cases would strain the capabilities of the WTO. Since these cases were filed, the world has changed. In aviation, the previous duopoly marketplace is increasingly being populated by government-sponsored players, leaving Boeing and Airbus as those that, by any objective measure, benefit least from government support. The ongoing struggle of the WTO to address the world as it was in 2004 (the date the cases were filed) raises the question whether it can succeed in its basic mission to create a climate for a negotiated settlement on the basis of fair market rules in the interest of both the industry and the employees on both sides of the Atlantic.”

See: WTO cases DS 316 and DS 353 | EU release | Airbus release | Agence France Presse | India’s Business Standard | Seattle Post-Intelligencer | UK’s Telegraph.

June 30/10: WTO. Boeing hails the public release of a World Trade Organization ruling on Airbus subsidies (case DS 317), which will be a lobbying point in the current KC-X competition. Airbus has its own take, of course, and the WTO also has a case involving Boeing – but it hasn’t ruled on that one yet. A columnist in Boeing’s hometown of Everett, Washington even thinks the ruling could ultimately help both Boeing and Airbus, which have seen state-owned competitors enter the marketplace in recent years. WTO | Boeing | Airbus | Everett Herald op-ed.

WTO ruling on Airbus unfair subsidies

June 7/10: WTO. Boeing teams with AgustaWestland in the US Presidential Helicopter competition. Finmeccanica’s subsidiary has produced several Boeing helicopters under license in England and Italy (WAH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinooks), and now Boeing will return the compliment with the AW101. The license will give Boeing full intellectual property, data and production rights, making its version of a Presidential AW101 bid a Boeing aircraft, built by Boeing personnel, at one of its U.S. facilities. This decision is likely to create several ripples. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute points out that:

“Boeing’s bid could create some embarrassing moments for both itself and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin spent years arguing that the AgustaWestland airframe was superior… By the same token, Boeing is engaged in a bitter dispute with Airbus concerning European aircraft subsidies, and [the AW101 has received them]…”

See: Boeing | Finmeccanica [PDF] | AgustaWestland | DoD Buzz | Lexington Institute.

June 7/10: Team Boeing. Finmeccanica subsidiary DRS announces a teaming agreement with Boeing for work on its KC-X “NewGen Tanker” offering. DRS will collaborate with Boeing on the console design and then manufacture the Aerial Refueling Operator Station (AROS), and will also provide the interconnect design and associated cable sets to integrate AROS into the Tanker. All this is contingent on a contract win, of course.

June 3/10: Team EADS. EADS says it has American partners for its KC-X bid, but won’t name them “because we don’t want to put them under pressure.” Defense News.

May 19/10: The House Armed Services Committee takes the first step toward introducing WTO subsidy rulings to the competition, as part of its recommended FY 11 defense budget (H.R.5136). The modified bill reportedly requires the Pentagon to submit an interim report, discussing the impact of government subsidies on the KC-X competition, at the instigation of Rep. Adam Smith [D-WA]. The implicit message in that name is lost on nobody. See: Congressional Quarterly | The Hill | Politico | bNet op-ed.

May 13/10: U.S. Senator Sam Brownback [R-KS] and Congressman Todd Tiahrt [R-KS] hold a bi-partisan press conference announcing the introduction of the bi-cameral Fair Defense Competition Act (H.R.5298 and S.3361). The bill attracts 39 co-sponsors in the House, and its Senate counterpart attracts 3.

These bills would require the Department of Defense to consider World Trade Organization (WTO) decisions for military acquisitions. Specifically, they would require the Pentagon to add the cost of illegal subsidies onto the price of a competitor’s bid proposal, following a ruling by the WTO. The WTO has already ruled that Airbus’ aircraft were built using illegal subsidies. A ruling on Airbus’ complaint concerning Boeing is pending, but would not come in time to affect the KC-X competition.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says that Boeing lobbyists have been lining up legislators for these measures, and Boeing itself is making rather unlikely noises about not bidding over subsidy-related issues. See also: Defense News | ABC affiliate KAKE-10 | US NPR | Reuters | Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

May 12/10: Team Boeing. Rockwell Collins announces that it is part of Boeing’s Round 2 aerial tanker team, with negotiated terms to deliver the same flight deck technology it supplies for the 787 Dreamliner, along with the KC-767’s Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) systems, aircraft networks, and other electronics.

May 8/10: A Minneapolis Star Tribune article provides a glimpse into Boeing’s PR offensive on the ground. Part of it involves a trailer with simulators for the KC-767’s new boom, and associated fighters, for some members of the public.

Ralph Crosby, EADS NA
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April 20/10: EADS back in. EADS North America announces that it intends to submit a proposal for the KC-X aerial tanker RFP based on the KC-45 tanker, a version of the A330 MRTT/ KC-30B design that won the original contract. The US unit of the European aerospace giant plans to submit the proposal on July 9/10, the last day of the Pentagon’s extended deadline.

The company said it is continuing discussions with potential US partners, but apparently the European defense firm is willing to go it alone, if need be. The company reiterated its earlier promise to build a Mobile, AL manufacturing line for global A330F sales, and KC-X finishing work, if it gets the contract.

April 1/10: Boeing issues statement critical of Pentagon’s decision to extend the RFP deadline if EADS agrees to bid:

“We are deeply disappointed with EADS-Airbus efforts to further delay this vital warfighting program and tilt the U.S. procurement process in its favor. EADS-Airbus has been fully engaged in the competition for four years and was always expected to provide the vast majority of its team’s work content…We do not see a legitimate reason for EADS’s bid deadline extension request, and we believe an extension that favors any individual competitor does not further the goal of ensuring fair competition.”

March 31/10: A group of US senators sends a letter to President Obama criticizing EADS Airbus division for receiving “billions of dollars in illegal subsidies.” The senators urge the president not to extend the KC-X RFP deadline:

“Finally, having relied on illegal subsidies to buy market share in the commercial aerospace market, Airbus now seems intent on further using subsidized aircraft to significantly increase its present in the U.S. defense market. This is unacceptable. We urge you to move forward on the Air Force tanker competition without delay.”

The letter was signed by US Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

March 31/10: Bid extension. The Pentagon announces that if EADS wishes to bid, they will grant a 60-day extension instead of the 90 days requested. This would move the deadline from May 10/10 to July 9/10. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell also said that:

“Given that this plane is long overdue, and we do not want its delivery date to slip later than it already has, we are prepared to compress our bid evaluation period to stay as close to the original award schedule as possible so as to still award the contract early this fall… [but we have no] willingness to change any of the plane’s military requirements or the way bids will be evaluated.”

Boeing and some of its supporters in Congress group of US senators criticized the decision. Boeing statement | US Senators’ letter to President Obama (Seattle PI blog) | DoD statement | Reuters

March 22/10: Russians. A Reuters report suggests that John Kirkland, the Los Angeles-based attorney who told various news media that UAC would announce a joint venture and enter the bidding for KC-X, may have been the victim of a scam.

Kirkland sent Reuters copies of letters on what appeared to be letters on “OOO UAC” letterhead, saying that high-level Russian approval of a bid was imminent, but subsequent examination showed contained several grammatical mistakes in Russian. UAC vice-president Alexander Tulyakov drove the final stake in when he told Reuters that:

“John Kirkland is not a UAC representative and we have had no communications with him… We have had no discussions whatsoever with any party about the possibility of producing air tankers for the U.S. air force.”

March 19/10: EADS in, Russians in?!? EADS requests a 3-month extension of the May 10/10 bidding deadline, because it is re-considering a bid submission without Northrop Grumman. The firm’s main foothold in the American market is its successful UH-72A LUH helicopter program, but without an established A330F production line, EADS had previously considered its American base too shallow to handle a contract this big. The Pentagon is reportedly receptive to a bid extension, citing previous examples like BAMS UAV, VH-71 helicopter, Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) II, and LOGCAP IV, among others.

The same day, Russia’s state-owned United Aircraft Corp. reportedly drops a double-surprise. The first surprise is that the firm is supposedly set to sign a joint venture with a small American aerospace firm to market Russian-designed aircraft, including promises that the JV will be announced on March 22/10.

The second surprise is that the firm reportedly intends to bid a tanker version of its IL-96 4-engined, wide body jetliner for the KC-X competition. The IL-96 is civil certified, and can be fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines, but it faces significant disadvantages, despite a price tag that could be as low as half that of a base 767 or A330 airframe. The most prominent obstacle is that the key partner is a state-owned Russian firm. While relations are better than they were in Cold War days, the USA is a long way from trusting Russia as any sort of reliable ally – and the reverse is also true. Congressional opposition to any win would be measured on the Richter scale. Other issues include expected higher operating costs from a 4-engine jet, the low esteem in which Russian airliners are held, and the fact that under 50 IL-96s have been built so far.

Given the expected $100 million cost of a bid, the effort would appear to be quixotic at best, unless the USAF changes it mind and decides to reimburse bid costs. Aviation Week | Bloomberg | Chicago Tribune | CNN | Deutsche Welle | The Hill | McClatchy Newspapers | Politico | Pravda | Reuters | Seattle Times | Wall St. Journal | Washington Post.

March 11/10: As one might expect, political rumbles continue across the Atlantic, with veiled and not-so-veiled threats of a trade war, or retaliation in the defense field. EU release | Aviation Week Ares roundup | Defense News.

March 11/10: EADS out. Aviation Week reports that EADS did not feel confident enough yet in its American footprint, to bid for the KC-X project. Its main beachhead in the USA at the moment is the $3.5 billion UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter program, which is going well but is an order of magnitude smaller than KC-X.

March 11/10: Team Boeing. Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, Inc. announces that they’ve come to terms as part of Boeing Round 2 KC-767 NewGen Tanker Supplier Team. Upon a contract award from the United States government to Boeing, Spirit will build the Boeing tanker’s forward fuselage section in Wichita, KS.

March 8/10: NGC out. Northrop Grumman has apparently bowed out of the KC-X v2.0 RFP, leaving Boeing as the only bidder. The move is not unexpected, given the requirements and the estimated $100 million cost to bid, but it will create longer-term political issues for the program. The European Union is already issuing rumbles about protectionism, and an early blast from Sen. Sessions [R-AL] may be indicative on the domestic front:

“The unjustifiable overhaul of the Request for Proposals – which went far beyond the narrow problems raised by the GAO – completely abandoned the idea of a game-changing tanker in favor of a smaller, less capable plane. Of the 14 major changes to the solicitation, 12 favored Boeing’s smaller, older aircraft. In the end, the process was skewed, and no one can fault a private company for declining to participate in a government competition engineered to guarantee its failure… American taxpayers… could now be on the hook for the most expensive sole-source contract in history.”

Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn said the Pentagon was disappointed, but does not intend to change course. Boeing’s ardent backer Rep. Norm Dicks [D-WA], soon to be head of the House Appropriations’ defense sub-committee, advocates scrapping the bidding process now and negotiating a contract directly, while suggesting an increase in production from the program’s 15 KC-767s per year to 20-25 tankers per year. Northrop Grumman statement | EADS statement | Aviation Week | DoD Buzz | Miami Herald | Politico | Seattle Times | Washington Post early report | Agence France Presse early report | UK’s Daily Telegraph | Sydney Morning Herald | Seattle Post-Intelligencer reactions roundup.

March 5/10: Team Boeing. Boeing announces its RFP v2.0 offering. The new 767 “NextGen” aircraft add a modified version of the new 787 Dreamliner’s flight deck, with its larger displays and other design improvements. Engines will still be Pratt & Whitney’s PW4062s, but the fly-by-wire refueling boom looks different, and so do the wings. Aviation Week attempted to clear up Boeing’s exact offering, but:

“Boeing officials declined to comment on whether the wings, the doors and floors and flaps were being pulled from other commercial models [DID: as in the previous KC-X entry]. They declined interview requests as well…”

The 3rd thing Boeing’s official release emphasized was a pointed reference to the flight control computers that may have been a major cause of Air France Flight 447’s A330 crash over the Atlantic in 2009, with all hands lost:

“The Boeing NewGen Tanker will be controlled by the aircrew, which has unrestricted access to the full flight envelope for threat avoidance at any time, rather than allowing computer software to limit combat maneuverability.”

See also: Boeing | Pratt & Whitney | Aviation Week | DoD Buzz.

Feb 24/10: Final KC-X v2.0 RFP is out. Most of the changes made were narrow and technical, and do not change the structure of the competition. The need for a microwave landing system was scrapped, and Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures missile defense systems will now be provided by the government as a separate item, certain items had specifications defined more tightly, etc. Proposals will be due within 75 days of the request, and there will be another 120 days after that for government evaluation.

Price remains the key factor, based on the draft proposal’s weighting system. The development contract is a fixed price incentive deal, with the contractor responsible for 40% of any overruns up to 125% of the contract value, and all overruns beyond that. Production lots 1-2 are fixed price. Lots 3-5 will see a new price negotiated, with the contractor responsible for only the first 2.5% of price inflation. Re-negotiation would happen again for Lots 6-13, but this time the contractor would only be responsible for the first 1% of price inflation.

While these provisions protect manufacturers from spiraling commodity costs, they also allow the USAF to make changes later, so long as they’re willing to pay for them. RFP solicitation on FedBizOpps | US DoD press release | DoD presentation [PDF] | Boeing statement | Northrop-Grumman statement | Seattle Post-Intelligencer rounds up politician reactions in USA | AvWeek reports that NGC is “96-98% unlikely” to bid | Aviation Week article collection | Gannett’s Air Force Times | Government Executive magazine | Miami Herald | Washington Post | Reuters: tanker chronology.

Final KC-X v2.0 RFP

Feb 22/10: Dual buy? Flight International’s Stephen Trimble looks for clues to the funding behind a new lobby group called “Build Them Both.” As one might guess, the group favors a dual-source, accelerated buy contract for the KC-X competition, with both firms receiving contracts but annual orders being determined by production readiness, pricing, and the needs of specific theaters. This was the essence of the late Rep. John Murtha’s position.

Feb 8/10: Dual buy? House Appropriations Defense subcommittee chair John Murtha [D-PA], Capitol Hill’s #1 proponent of a KC-X split buy, dies of complications associated with intestinal surgery. A Washington Post blog reports that Rep. Norm Dicks [D-WA], one of EADS Airbus’ most avid foes on Capitol Hill, is likely to succeed Murtha as chair of the subcommittee, and North West Cable News asks the obvious question.

Jan 6/10: At a Pentagon press conference, Press Secretary Geoff Morrell discusses the KC-X v2.0 RFP, among other matters:

“…we are shooting to have the RFP out hopefully by the end of the month, if not early next month. We’re in the process right now of reviewing the comments that were provided… I think we’re still on schedule to get this out in the next few weeks. …no final decisions have been made yet about the RFP, but I think it is safe to say at this point that there will be changes to the draft… We’ve gotten feedback, some of it quite helpful. Some of – some of this we just have realized ourselves. And so I think the team is in the process of correcting mistakes and altering the acquisition strategy a bit, and that will be reflected in the final request for proposal which will likely go out in the – in the next couple or few weeks.

I would add one thing, and that is that whatever changes are being made should not be construed as any attempt to favor anybody. It is — what is being done is we are trying to make the RFP as fair and as transparent as possible, while at the same time providing the taxpayers with the best value for their money and the warfighters the best — the best plane to support their operations… we hope that when this happens that we will have a full and hardy and thorough competition between multiple bidders.”

Jan 4/10: Leeham News offer their 2010 Outlook for Boeing and Airbus, which includes discussion of the KC-X competition:

“We also believe there is a strategic argument, as well as a political one, that supports buying both airplanes because there are simply different mission requirements. But the Pentagon is adamant that it will not split the order… Winning the contract is also critical to the Airbus strategy of establishing a commercial A330-200 production base in the US… Airbus pledged to build the A330-200F [in Mobile, AL] and expectations are that the A330P will follow. But no tanker contract, no US plant. And this is why we believe Boeing and its supporters are fighting so hard to block a tanker award to Northrop. This, we believe, is more important to Boeing than winning the tanker contract, though we also acknowledge Boeing wants the contract on its own merits.

“…The [A330] MRTT is running about 18 months behind schedule for delivery to launch customer Australia. About six months was due to customer change orders, according to the RAAF and EADS. The balance rests with developmental issues.

“…Because of the need for a 787 production Surge Line (see 787 discussion below), the current 767 line will be relocated to the aft part of the bay it now occupies. A Lean production line will be implemented, reducing unit costs by about 20%. Relocation begins this year and will be completed next year… If Northrop stays in, we still think Boeing will submit only a KC-767 proposal… We remain concerned that Boeing has yet to deliver the KC-767 to Italy, now some four years late. We are told problems remain with the centerline hose-and-drogue system… [and] that issues remain with the wing-mounted refueling pods, though Boeing says these have been fixed. Although Boeing intended to deliver the first of four tankers to Italy last year… that this still has not happened indicates all is not well. Since the US tanker is similar to the Italian tanker, we remain skeptical about the program… Boeing is still not forecasting any dates concerning these remaining milestones [for Italy].”

Dec 1/09: Northrop Grumman’s President and Chief Operating Officer Wes Bush sends a letter to Department of Defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics Ashton Carter. As written, it says, the terms of the KC-X RFP imposed a structure that, in Northrop Grumman’s opinion, favors smaller planes like Boeing’s, and:

“…places contractual and financial burdens on the company that we simply cannot accept… As a result, I must regrettably inform you that, absent a responsive set of changes in the final RFP, Northrop Grumman has determined that it cannot submit a bid to the department for the KC-X program.”

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman replied that both manufacturers wanted changes that would favor them, and contends that:

“The Department has played this right down the middle… [we] cannot and will not change the warfighting requirements for the tanker to give advantage to either competitor… The department wants competition but cannot compel the two airplane makers to compete.”

Alabama’s Republican governor Bill Riley has a different take:

“The Obama administration has corrupted the tanker selection process with a blatantly unfair competition… The question is why is this RFP so radically different than the one Northrop Grumman won last year?”

A final RFP is expected in January 2010, but each program has hundreds of suppliers across the USA. Refusal to submit would trigger a very large political battle in Congress, one focused on the acquisition process itself. It remains to be seen whether it is possible for a single-winner tanker process to successfully obtain American Congressional approval and funding for its choice, in the face of a transatlantic competitor whose American partners saw billions of dollars in concrete business snatched away, and a domestic heavyweight with its own deep supplier and congressional networks. Northrop Grumman’s Letter [PDF] | Agence France Presse | Bloomberg | NY Times | Politico | Reuters | Wall Street Journal | Aviation Week | Defense News.

Nov 25/09: Flight International reports that one of Australia’s KC-30Bs refueled a pair of Spanish EF-18A Hornet fighters at the same time, using its hose-and-drogue refueling system.

Nov 10/09: Aviation Week headline: “Boeing, Northrop Sour On KC-X Draft RFP.”

Nov 10/09: One of Australia’s KC-30B/ A330 MRTTs performs the 1st fuel transfers with its all-digital 905E hose and drogue system, using its left and right under-wing pods to transfer more than 9,200 lbs of fuel to a “NATO” (likely Spanish) F/A-18 fighter. The first of Australia’s 5 KC-30Bs will be delivered to Australia in mid-2010. EADS release.

Nov 2/09: The Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson writes that the EADS/Northrop Grumman bid has become a question, rather than a certainty:

“Last week, one of the two teams competing to provide the Air Force’s future aerial-refueling tanker launched an unusual campaign to overturn the service’s strategy for buying the plane. Northrop Grumman and its European partner Airbus signaled that they don’t believe they have a plausible chance of winning under the proposed terms, and began building the foundation for a formal protest. What’s unusual about the move is that competitor Boeing hasn’t been all that happy with the revised tanker solicitation either, but Northrop has elected to pursue an aggressive strategy that is sure to anger its Air Force customer. Here’s why Northrop is willing to take that risk…”

Oct 29/09: Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] sends a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Pentagon acquisition czar Ashton Carter, and USAF Secretary Michael Donley, asking questions about the KC-X v2.0 source selection process. He asks about the use of fuel usage rates and construction needs, but not full probable lifecycle cost, in the cost calculations, asks if any of the requirements considered mandatory in Round 1 were discarded RFP v2.0, wonders if the pricing requirements in the draft RFP would “…not favor mostly smaller airframes, and asks how the proposed pass/fail rating can “provide for an assessment of relative developmental and integration risk among the offerings.”

The final v2.0 RFP was supposed to be released around the end of November 2009, but delays out to January 2010 are reportedly a possibility. Aviation Week.

Oct 21/09: Team EADS. An A330 MRTT equipped with the ARBS in-flight refueling boom passes fuel to an in-flight aircraft for the first time. A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30B flew a 4:30 test flight, with more than 3,300 pounds of fuel transferred to 2 Portuguese Air Force F-16s during 13 contacts. Other systems tested included the boom’s fly-by-wire stability and 3-D vision system. EADS | Australian Defence Magazine.

Oct 2/09: Sen. Jeff Sessions [R-AL] says he will introduce an amendment to the FY 2010 Senate defense spending bill (amendment 2610 to S. 1390, currently before the Senate Armed Services Committee). When introduced, it would block the use of funds for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-X competition, unless the service agrees to disclose pricing data about Boeing’s proposal in 2008 to rival Northrop Grumman, just as Northrop Grumman’s data was disclosed to Boeing after Boeing’ asked for an explanation of its loss. Sen. Sessions release | Aviation Week | See also Sept 29/09 entry.

Oct 1/09: KC-10. In a stunning upset, Northrop Grumman beats Boeing for a 10-year, $3.8 billion contract to service the global KC-10/KDC-10 tanker fleet. Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas built the planes, modified them, and had serviced them since their induction in the 1980s. By all accounts and metrics, service quality was high – which is why some analysts see the loss as symptomatic of deeper problems in Boeing’s relationship with the USAF.

FY 2009

Draft RFP 2.0. KC-46A & B-1B
(click to view full)

Sept 29/09: Major procurement error. As legislators connected with Boeing push the USAF regarding the recent WTO ruling, Northrop Grumman puts out a statement of its own, citing issues with the process:

“Northrop Grumman continues to be greatly concerned that its pricing information from the previous tanker competition was provided by the Government to its competitor, Boeing. Access to comparable pricing information from Boeing has thus far been denied by the Pentagon. With predominant emphasis placed on price in this tanker re-competition and Northrop Grumman again proposing its KC-45 refueling tanker, such competitive pricing information takes on even greater importance. It is fundamentally unfair, and distorts any new competition, to provide such critical information to only one of the bidders. The company will continue to work with its customer to fully resolve this issue.”

The USAF had provided this data to Boeing after Boeing had lost, as part of the USAF’s requested debriefing. The Pentagon has dismissed Northrop Grumman’s claim on the basis that the disclosure to Boeing was in accordance with regulations, and that “the data in question are inaccurate, outdated and not germane” to the new bid, which is a different competition. Clearly, Northrop Grumman continues to disagree; if the impasse continues, the question may become whether the GAO disagrees during a future appeal. Northrop Grumman | Aviation Week | recent Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Protoccol breach

Sept 29/09: Alabama’s Press-Register puts out an editorial supporting a split-buy and speeded-up production, which legislators like House Appropriations Committee Chair John Murtha [D-PA] continue to support:

“With a defense contract potentially worth $40 billion at stake, expect both sides to fight over every clause and nuance they think might favor their opponent. Right now, Boeing and Northrop have 60 days to comment on the draft guidelines; this is only the first stage of the contest… By the time the lawyering and politicking are over, at least a few years will have elapsed. So here’s one more plea for a split contract.”

Sept 25/09: The USAF releases the KC-X v2.0 draft RFP, re-starting the competition. The KC-X Round 2 RFP remains structured as a “winner take all” competition, and retains its target number of 179 aircraft, will full-rate production of 15 per year beginning by the 3rd year (Lot 3 of up to 13). Each contender will provide a fixed-price proposal to develop and deliver 4 Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) planes, followed by the first 64 aircraft and necessary spares. It will also submit an upper limit on the price of the remaining 111 tankers, and 5 years of initial support.

Assuming that legal and political delays don’t get in the way, first production delivery is now planned for 2015, with Initial Operational Capability in 2017. More information on the RFP’s evaluation structure can be found in the section “KC-X RFP v2.0: The New Structure.”

Next comes the 60-day comment period, after which the formal RFP can be expected. The bidders will then have 60 days after that final RFP release to submit their bids, and the government will have 120 days to evaluate them. A decision is currently expected in mid-2010. FedBizOpps RFP #FA8625-10-R-6600 | USAF RFP release presentation | DoD briefing re: competition, incl. Slides [PDF] and Q&A session | USAF | Boeing statement | Northrop Grumman statement | Agence France Presse | Aviation Week and AVWeek Ares re: selection process | Aviation Week re: people involved | Business Week | CBS WKRG in Pensacola, FL | Government Executive | The Hill | Leeham News & Comment aviation analysts | | Nextgov | Seattle Post-Intelligencer analysis | WSJ: Boeing brings flight simulator to Capitol Hill.

Draft RFP to restart KC-X

Sept 25/09: The USAF’s last serving KC-135E aerial tanker touches down at Davis-Monthan AFB near tucson, AZ, after its final flight. All remaining KC-135s are now KC-135Rs. USAF release.

KC-135E retires

Sept 16/09: US Secretary of Defense Gates says that he is giving the new leaders he’d installed at the Air Force the final say in the $40 billion tanker deal. This is a reversal from the Round 1 arrangements after the GAO ruled that the USAF had not followed its own criteria, and the US Department of Defense took over direct management of the program. On the other hand, it does put the USAF on the firing line instead of the DoD, in order to absorb any initial hits in what’s sure to be an intense political fight.

Other reports add that the revised KC-X proposal is due “in a few weeks.” USAF | Boeing statement | Defense News | Government Executive magazine | Inside Defense | Agence France Presse | Business Week | NY Times | Reuters | Seattle P.I. offers analyst’s view.

Sept 15/09: Aviation Week reports that keeping the existing KC-135 fleet in the air will become increasingly expensive:

“…at AMC, planners are wrangling with how to keep the KC-135s flying until as late as 2043… outgoing AMC chief [Arthur] Lichte points out that maintenance crews sometimes work 7 hr. for every hour of KC-135 flight. “Every year we don’t get tankers, it is costing us $55 million right off the top,” Lichte says. “When you get out to about 2018 and 2020, what started out as about $2 billion a year to maintain the KC-135 fleet goes all the way up to $6 billion… we continue to do everything we can to make sure don’t have an Aloha Airlines where the skin peels back or a TWA 800 [type incident] where frayed wires cause an explosion in the fuel tank… In total, aging-related costs are expected to add at least $17.8 billion to the price of maintaining the KC-135 for 40 years.”

The increase in projected maintenance costs is attributable mostly to fuselage skin and wiring checks, and corrosion issues which are already a significant contributor (30%-50%, by some reports) to depot maintenance costs. Meanwhile, access to KC-10 replacement parts is a worry, and the KC-10 boom control unit is becoming unreliable and should be replaced.

KC-135 costs rising

Sept 15/09: Flight International reports that KC-X Round 2 may see a supplier shakeup on the Boeing side:

“Boeing officials are determined to set “aggressive price targets” for selecting suppliers and even manufacturing locations… Boeing’s quest for cost-savings has also reopened the 777’s engine supplier to competition… all three certified engines – the GE90, Pratt & Whitney PW4000 and Rolls-Royce Trent 800 – will be considered if Boeing decides to offer the KC-777. However, engines that have not been certified on the 777, such as the GEnx family, have been ruled out. “We don’t think there’s enough time for a certification programme,” Lemaster says… If Boeing decides to propose the KC-767 in the next round, the structures and control systems will come from the same aircraft type, Lemaster says.”

Sept 14/09: US Ar Force Secretary Michael Donley says the WTO’s ruling will have no effect on the USAF’s process, as Airbus’ counterclaim is still pending, and so is the EU’s expected appeal.

A day later, 47 American politicians send a letter to President Obama that says: “Buying Airbus tankers would reward European governments with Department of Defense dollars at the same time that the U.S. Trade Representative is trying to punish European governments for flouting international laws.” Mobile Press-Register | Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Reuters via Forbes | Business Week | Seattle P.I. re: letter | Seattle P.I. offers contrasting views re: finer points of WTO trade dispute.

KC-X past & candidates:
Boeing Slide
(click to view full)

Sept 14/09: In a briefing at the Air Force Association’s 2009 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition, Boeing officially acknowledges that the Boeing 767 and 777 are both potential KC-X candidates. They also launch their own web site,, to promote their “KC-7A7″ tanker bid. Boeing release | Boeing briefing [PDF]

Sept 8/09: EADS chief executive Louis Gallois tells the French newspaper La Tribune that: “Our objective is to be in the [KC-X] competition. We are totally determined to be in the running, unless it appears that the request for proposal is biased.” Source.

Sept 4/09: The World Trade Organization issues an interim ruling that the $4 billion in aid Airbus received from European governments to develop the A380 super-jumbo passenger jet constituted illegal subsidies.

Technically, the WTO ruling could empower the U.S. to levy tariffs either against Airbus or other European imports, equal to the amount of the improper subsidies. Legally, the EU is expected to appeal the ruling, Airbus has complaints of its own on tap, and any firm action remains years away. Business Week | bnet.

July 9/09: Stephen Trimble of Flight International highlights a recent podcast interview with Boeing tanker spokesman Bill Barksdale, which seems to show a lot of enthusiasm and prep work at Boeing around the KC-777. Excerpt:

“BARKSDALE: The 777 as a tanker is just so much more capable than anything it’s got as a peer. And I know that sounds like a bit of bravado, but… I’ll give you a couple of examples. If you compare them, the 777 would provide – deliver – however you want to say it – 23% more fuel than the KC-30. It could carry 44% more payload – more cargo – in the back. And it also would carry about 42% more passengers in the back as well. So those are very generic, very general kinds of numbers… If the air force really wants to go in that direction, the Boeing company has spent a lot of time in the last year preparing for that, knowing that we have a real, true, large tanker that, like I said, is comparable in size to the KC-30. And, yet, you get so much more for your money.”

June 16/09: Northrop Grumman CEO Ronald D. Sugar, and EADS CEO Louis Gallois, issue a joint statement re-affirming their joint commitment to the KC-45 Tanker team.

June 15/09: Bloomberg reports that Boeing is preparing to submit a KC-777 for KC-X v2.0, but a DoD Buzz story clarifies. It turns out that Boeing is preparing to offer a KC-777 option if the revised requirements put a premium on cargo capability or fuel offload amounts, but the firm hasn’t made a decision and won’t until the RFP comes out. The firm had considered a KC-777 before the initial KC-X RFP as well, but the RFP’s lack of extra points for exceeding USAF specifications led Boeing to go with its smaller, cheaper, and more fully developed KC-767 instead. DoD Buzz adds:

“Still, a Boeing 777 bid raises all sorts of questions. Given the problems Boeing has had reducing the vibrations afflicting its refueling pods on the 767, and the enormous technical and engineering challenges of refitting the 777, can the company get a plane in shape in time to fill the Air Force’s first tranche of 179 planes?… But it may be that Boeing is largely conceding the first tranche of planes to Northrop and aiming for the larger follow-on buy.”

The DoD Buzz report adds rumors that Northrop Grumman may walk if the revised RFP is seen as weighted in Boeing’s favor – again, a parallel with the firm’s rumblings before the initial KC-X RFP was issued:

“…there are rumors that Northrop is weighing its commitment to the tanker program, which has cost the company financially and politically. Two sources have told me that Ron Sugar, the company’s CEO, will walk away from the competition should the new RFP appear weighted too heavily in Boeing’s favor. This could, of course, be part of the company’s gaming efforts to ensure that the Air Force does include analysis such as best value as it makes its choice. Meyers made clear, as does his colleague Janis Pamiljans in the video below, that the Air Force must include “best value” as a key component of the service’s tanker analysis.”

June 9/09: The USAF’s role in KC-X v2.0 is still up for debate.’s DoD Buzz reports that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is still deciding whether the Air Force would lead the renewed competition, or whether it would remain with the Office of Secretary of Defense. Either way, however, Gates said that former Raytheon lobbyist and current Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn would take a “very close interest” in the program.

May 27/09: The Project on Government Oversight NGO explains some of the hidden variables behind decisions about who should run the program:

“…this isn’t only a debate over who will be ultimately responsible for the program, but that it will also determine how much this program will be impacted by the new Weapons Acquisition Reform Act of 2009. One of the major revisions to the Senate’s initial version of the bill in the Senate Armed Service committee’s mark-up was changing language that would require the newly established Director of Independent Cost Assessment to conduct independent cost assessments for all major defense acquisition programs (MDAPs) to only those programs where the Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT &L) is the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA)… But as a result of this change in mark up, if DoD chooses to give the Air Force management of the tanker program, there will be no mandatory role for the new Director of Independent Cost Assessment to provide oversight and implement policies and procedures to make sure that the cost estimation process is reliable and objective. One can’t help but wonder how much DoD had the tanker program in mind when requesting this change to the legislation.”

April 6/09: US Defense Secretary Gates announces his FY 2010 budget recommendations, which will include a KC-X RFP in summer 2009.

April 6/09: The Lexington Institute raises warning flags about the new acquisition process:

“Despite Obama Administration rhetoric about openness in federal contracting, the new and improved tanker selection process has all the transparency of the FBI’s witness protection program. The performance requirements for the future tankers were blessed by the Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council with almost no input from industry, and now the acquisition strategy is being crafted in much the same way. If you were planning to spend $100 billion over the next 30 years on a new aircraft fleet, wouldn’t you want to check with the only two qualified suppliers to determine whether your terms and specifications were reasonable? We have been here before… Many of those problems could have been avoided if the industry teams had been kept informed on how the selection process was unfolding… The current buildup to a re-competition is being carried out with even greater secrecy.”

At this point, with Northrop Grumman and its suppliers believing that a huge contract was taken away from them, and Boeing treating the lobbying as a life-or-death issue, the impact may be tangential. The political reality is that lack of transparency can make the process worse, but even perfect transparency won’t remove the fundamental political bottleneck.

March 17/09: NGC endorses split-buy. A Northrop Grumman release offers figures from a KC-135 Economic Service Life Study, and claims that for each KC-45 that enters service, USAF operating costs would drop by $7 million per year, assuming replacement of 2 KC-135s with each A330 MRTT inducted. It adds:

“Congressmen John Murtha (D-PA) and Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) commented recently the only way to get badly needed tankers to our warfighters quickly is through a dual procurement acquisition process… According to Northrop Grumman analysis, a dual procurement scenario could replace the capability of the entire Air Force KC-135 fleet by the year 2022 – seven years sooner than best case single procurement strategy. Dual procurement eliminates the need to re-skin the KC-135 aircraft.

By procuring 24 aircraft per year from two contractors rather than 15 per year from a single source, as is the current Air Force budget plan, the service could save $7.2 billion in tanker Operating and Support (O&S) costs between 2012 and 2022 compared to the O&S costs associated with a single procurement strategy. Through dual procurement, the Air Force saves $10.2 billion in tanker O&S between 2012 and 2029, compared to the O&S costs associated with a single procurement strategy. [Our product is better, but]… if Congressmen Murtha and Abercrombie are correct the only way to get tankers to the warfighter quickly is through a dual procurement strategy, Northrop Grumman will support the effort.”

The crunch, of course, is that 9 more aircraft per year, at about $200 million each, adds $1.8 billion per year to actual spending. That’s another $19.8 billion from 2012-2022, or $30.6 billion from 2012-2029. The difference between those figures, and projected savings over the same time period, must come from somewhere. That means either expansion of the overall military budget, or dollars taken from other military programs. Both options are unlikely, and difficult.

March 13/09: An Inside the Air Force article entitled “Report: KC-135 Maintenance Could Reach $3 Billion Per Year by 2040″ says that KC-135 maintenance costs will escalate by almost 50% over the next 30 years, and cost twice as much as new tankers. The KC-135 Economic Service Life Study claims that it will end up costing the Air Force more than FY2000$ 103 billion to operate and maintain the KC-135s between 2001-2040. Source.

March 11/09: Reports surface that the Obama administration will propose a 5-year delay to the USAF’s aerial tanker program, as US OMB recommendations leak to the general press. The Pentagon is not bound by those recommendations, and US Secretary of Defense Gates is quoted as saying that:

“In the days to come, any information you may receive about budget or program decisions will undoubtedly be wrong because I intend to wait until the end of our review process before making any decisions.”

Assuming that the documents really do propose a 5-year delay to the KC-X program, it is not clear whether this is a classic “Washington Monument” move, proposing a cut that the weight of Congress interests are almost certain to reverse, or a genuine decision within a zero-sum set of budget decisions. In Washington, of course, it could even be both. Washington Post | Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Seattle Times | Grand Forks Herald | Bloomberg News | MSNBC | Agence France Presse.

March 11/09: Democratic Party congressmen John Murtha [D-PA] and Neil Abercrombie [D-HI] begin publicly proposing the split-buy idea that has been floated quietly in the background for several months now. Reuters | Reuters Update.

Feb 26/09:’s DoD Buzz reports that a Pentagon Joint Requirement Oversight Council met today to consider the new KC-X requirements:

“From what little I have heard about the requirements, it seems pretty clear that the Air Force has compressed and simplified the requirements to avoid the likelihood of another award protest but has not changed its mind about what capabilities are needed… But Rep. Jack Murtha’s plan to split the buy – and avoid what would seem to be an otherwise unavoidable second protest – would seem to allow both companies some breathing room… the Air Force’s opposition may be at an end – at least for the initial purchase.”

Murtha [D-PA] has been at the center of ethical investigations over his career, but he remains a powerful member of the Democratic Party. He chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee.

Feb 25/09: USAF Transportation Command leader Gen. Duncan McNabb testifies to a joint hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Air and land forces subcommittees. He reiterates KC-X as the USAF’s top priority, and says that further delays in replacing the KC-135 fleet would add significant risk to the U.S. military’s ability to quickly move troops and firepower rapidly to the globe’s combat zones. Reuters, via Forbes.

Jan 29/09: The US government’s Office of Management and Budget submits a list of potential defense program cuts in its guidance to the US Defense Department. One of the suggestions is reportedly a 5-year delay of the KC-X program. The Pentagon is not bound by these suggestions, but the recommendations will become news in March 2009, igniting controversy and lobbying. Source.

FY 2008

Boeing protest; cancellation.

Sept 22/08: Sen. Richard Shelby [R-AL] fires a broadside in a Washington Times op-ed:

“Two months from Election Day, politics seem to be everywhere we turn. However, one place we should not see politics is in our Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition process. The process to select the new Air Force tanker fleet has become so politicized that DoD allowed parochial and business interests to keep the Air Force’s top acquisition priority from the pilots who need it. The long fight over the tanker contract proves that the acquisition process is fundamentally and significantly flawed… Politics just cancelled a competitively awarded contract, solely because Boeing was not the winner. Defense acquisition policy has been stated: If it is not a Boeing plane, DoD is not going to buy it.”

Sept 18/08: A Washington Post story reports that:

“John Young, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in an interview at the Pentagon yesterday that under the tanker proposal from Northrop Grumman and its partner European Aeronautic Defence & Space, developing the first 68 aircraft would have cost $12.5 billion, compared with $15.4 billion under Boeing’s plan.”

Sept 10/08: The Pentagon announces that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has canceled the competition for the $35 billion Air Force tanker contract:

“It has now become clear that the solicitation and award process cannot be accomplished by January. Thus, I believe that rather than hand the next administration an incomplete and possibly contested process, we should cleanly defer this procurement to the next team… It is my judgment that in the time remaining to us, we cannot complete a competition that will be viewed as fair and competitive in this highly-charged environment… I believe the resulting cooling-off period will allow the next administration to view objectively the military requirements and craft a new acquisition strategy for the KC-X as it sees fit.”


Sept 3/08: Gen. Lichte of USAF Air Mobility Command says that he expects a protest after the final round 2 RFP is released. He hopes it doesn’t happen. But:

“I mean this is a lot of money, I understand the business nature of this. But I don’t understand how at some point you stop and say, this company wins, and this company loses, or this company is successful and this company is not. I don’t know how we get through something like that. With the poisonous nature of all the comments that are out there right now, I don’t know how we make peace with everybody to say, okay let’s go forward.”

He also said that he does not want a split buy…

“However, if you were to tell me that was the only way to get out of [the current situation] then I’d take it… We need a new tanker now. I don’t care which one it is. And we need to get on with this quickly.” | Agence France Presse | AP | CBS | Reuters.

Aug 14/08: Jerry Cox is a former procurement policy counsel in the U.S. Senate, and now holds the title of managing director of The Forerunner Foundation. At, least according to the article byline in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for “Tanker choice in mathematical terms“. The core claim of the article is as follows:

“The Air Force knows a tanker accomplishes nothing by flying from Point A to Point B, so what really matters is the ratio of delivery. How many gallons will the plane deliver for every gallon it burns? That’s a tougher problem, but it’s hardly trigonometry. Northrop showed the Air Force it can deliver almost two pounds for every pound it burns, while Boeing delivers only 1.6 pounds. That’s a 22 percent edge for Northrop, and the numbers hold up, regardless of the trip length.”

What the newspaper did not mention is that Cox also heads up a lobbying firm called Potomac Strategy Associates. DID spoke to Jerry Cox, however, and he told us that his PSA has not been employed by any firm in conjunction with the aerial tanker competition.

Aug 11/08: Aviation week reports that Boeing is strongly considering a refusal to bid as its response to the revised KC-X RFP.

That response would leave the field open to EADS/Northrop Grumman in a formal sense, but the political weight of that kind of protest move would force the Pentagon to think long and hard before signing a contract under those circumstances. Until Boeing makes a firm decision, of course, its bid team must continue working full speed ahead.

Aug 6/08: New draft RFP. The USAF has issued a new draft of its RFP, and appears to be adopting an approach of minimum required compliance. On the surface, there are 2 major changes. Fuel costs over a plane’s 40-year lifetime will be considered, and full credit will now be given for exceeding the stated requirements in key areas like cargo capacity, fuel offload, et. al. Neither was true under the old RFP. The catch is that different levels of importance are being assigned to various types of costs, with development and production cost estimates weighted more heavily than long-term projections for maintenance and fuel costs. The second major change around exceeding performance limits simply makes the USAF’s original evaluation approach the competition’s officially announced approach, instead of a violation of the competition’s terms.

Under those terms, Boeing is likely to lose again – which may trigger a follow-on protest upon the release of the revised RFP. The planned time line for moving forward is as follows:

  • Aug 6-13: DoD officials will take a week to discuss elements of the draft with Northrop-Grumman and Boeing. Expect a lot of back and forth over the terms of the RFP, including efforts by members of the (currently recessed) Congress.

  • Mid-August: DoD plans to issue the final RFP amendment, with just 45 days for renewed submissions. Note that this time frame would make an airframe switch very difficult, due to the hundreds of pages of documentation, cost information, and design work required.

  • Early October 2008: Renewed submissions due.

  • October to late November: Discussions with the companies about their proposals.

  • Early December: Final proposal revisions for “best, final” offer.

  • Early January 2009: Decision made and announced. If Boeing wins, the existing contract is canceled and a new one is signed. If Airbus/NGC win again, the current stop-work order is lifted.

It’s important to note that the US DoD’s desired schedule, and what politics, appeals, et. al. actually end up dictating, may end up being 2 different things. On a political level, however, introducing the revised RFP when Congress is in recess, and not issuing a decision until after the elections, will help to lower elected representatives’ political leverage. What it will not do is provide full insulation, since the decision is certain to be an important election issue in some states. The first days in a new Congress’ term also tend to provide some political insulation for issues of this type, since members are busy with other things. Nevertheless, it can also be a double-edged sword. Exceptions do occur if the issue in question is a big enough priority for enough elected representatives. In that case, the first days of a term can also be the stage for dramatic political actions whose fallout would be considered much more carefully later in their term.

See also: KC-X RFP, revised draft | US Armed Forces Press Service |

  • blog*&par=RSS">Boeing statement et. al., via CNBC | NGC statement via MarketWatch | CQ Politics | Politico re: guerilla marketing | Leeham Companies LLC | Defense News | Aviation Week | Bloomberg | Business Week | Christian Science Monitor | Agence France Presse | Money Times of India | Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Seattle Times | Mobile Press Register | Birmingham News | Pensacola News Journal.

  • July 9/08: Let Round 2 begin. American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announces that the KC-X competition will be re-opened, with at least one important difference: the Air Force won’t be running it. Meanwhile, Northrop-Grumman has been ordered to stop work on its contract.

    Undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics John J. Young Jr. will be in charge of the acquisition, and will appoint an advisory committee to oversee the selection process. , and a modified request for proposal could be issued before the end of July 2008, with a decision expected by year’s end.

    Boeing’s statement welcomes the news, and claims that life-cycle costs including fuel will now be considered in the competition:

    “However, we remain concerned that a renewed Request for Proposals (RFP) may include changes that significantly alter the selection criteria as set forth in the original solicitation. As the Government Accountability Office reported in upholding our protest, we submitted the only proposal that fully met the mandatory criteria of the original RFP… we will also take time to understand the updated solicitation to determine the right path forward for the company. It’s encouraging that the Defense Department intends to take steps …that, among other things, fully accounts for life-cycle costs, such as fuel…”

    The new competition will be challenging for all concerned, especially since it adds an element missing from the last round: European expectations, raised by the initial win, could create larger trade and defense industry ramifications if the new competition is perceived to be biased against Airbus’ offering. Meanwhile, political involvement and pressure within the USA is guaranteed to be intense, and every item from the selection criteria onward can expect contestation. US DoD | Boeing release | Northrop Grumman release | Alabama Press-Register | Montgomery Advertiser | Seattle Times | WIRED Danger Room | CNBC | Hartford Courant | AP | Aviation Week: Lawmakers Slam US Defense Acquisition | | Deutsche Welle | International Herald Tribune | Reuters | China’s Xinhua.

    June 18-25/08: The Congressional Government Accountability Office sustains Boeing’s protest The ruling validates a number of Boeing’s complaints, and recommends:

    “The GAO recommended that the Air Force reopen discussions with the offerors, obtain revised proposals, re-evaluate the revised proposals, and make a new source selection decision, consistent with the GAO’s decision. The agency also made a number of other recommendations including that, if the Air Force believed that the solicitation, as reasonably interpreted, does not adequately state its needs, the Air Force should amend the solicitation prior to conducting further discussions with the offerors; that if Boeing’s proposal is ultimately selected for award, the Air Force should terminate the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman; and that the Air Force reimburse Boeing the costs of filing and pursuing the protest, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.”

    See full DID coverage of the decision, and the road ahead, updated to include the full text decision, released on June 25/08. There are reports that the USAF may attempt to bull this one through, and someone fully committed to that side might believe this to be a realistic possibility given the full text decision. DID is not optimistic about the realism of that approach, however, and explains why not with reference to the GAO rulings.

    GAO sustains protest, program will be restructured and re-competed

    June 25/08: Defense Tech reports that:

    “John Young, the Pentagon’s acquisition czar, has reportedly drafted a letter for the four congressional committees that oversee defense spending and policy informing them of the Pentagon’s decision to go ahead and award the contract to Northrop Grumman… “Their finding is that the full document is quite different from the summary,” issued last Wednesday, said a source familiar with the issue. The source said Air Force leaders believe much of what was challenged is “procedural” and can be resolved without rebidding the deal.”

    June 23/08: Aviation Week reports that outbound U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne says the service may have to “reshape and revise” the request for proposals (RFP) for a new refueling tanker competition. One new criterion under consideration may be a flyoff of the dueling designs.

    June 12/08: Aviation Week reports that Rep. Norm Dicks [D-WA], whose constituency is closely tied to Boeing, says he is working with House defense appropriations chairman John Murtha [D-PA] to introduce an amendment to an appropriations bill preventing the KC-X award to Northrop Grumman and EADS Airbus.

    He pledges to do “whatever it takes,” regardless of the outcome of the GAO’s ruling later this month. Any GAO ruling would be non-biding, which is why the outcome of the tanker contract (continuation, repeal, or forced split) will eventually be decided in Congress no matter what; the GAO report’s primary value will be as an influencer in that debate.

    April 21/08: Reuters reports that the USAF met last week with Boeing and Northrop Grumman’s CEOs “to voice concern about the “vitriolic” tone of public statements over a $35 billion refueling aircraft program.” Particular concern was expressed regarding Boeing’s allegations of irregularities in the USAF’s process. Defense analyst Loren Thompson, of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute went so far as to say that: “The tone of the tanker debate has turned so negative that Air Force leaders are concerned that it could damage their long-term relationship with Boeing.”

    Given trends in the industry and this protest’s intrinsic requirements, the question may not be whether relationship damage is acceptable. It may be how much damage is acceptable. See “USAF to Boeing, NGC: “Don’t Make Us Come Back There” for more.

    April 11/08: Boeing claims that USAF evaluators found that the KC-767 tanker had almost 5 times as many survivability discriminators as the KC-30B, with 24 positive discriminators (11 major, 13 minor) while the KC-30 scored 5 minor discriminators.

    Some of Boeing’s major discriminators reportedly included more robust surface-to-air missile defense systems; Cockpit displays that improve situational awareness; Better Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) hardening; Automatic route planning/ rerouting and steering cues to the flight crew to avoid threats once they are detected; Better armor-protection features for the crew and critical aircraft systems; and Better fuel-tank-explosion protection features. Boeing release.

    April 10/08: Congressman Duncan Hunter [R-CA-52], ranking Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee, recommends a 3rd option:

    “The most remarkable aspect of the recent competition for the next Air Force refueling tanker contract was the absence of the best aircraft: the Boeing KC-777. The CEO of FedEx, Fred Smith, had it right when he briefed Members of Congress… one of the most compelling factors is the fuel offload of the KC-777 ER (with additional under floor body tanks) at 2,000 nautical miles… nearly three times as much as the “winning” A330. …the KC-777-200 carries 30% more fuel and 62% more cargo than the A330. And when you compare payload, passenger and aero-medical evacuation capability, the KC-777 is the clear winner at 39% more payload, 94 more passengers and 30 more patients than the A330.

    … at $40 billion plus, the dollars associated with the “tanker buy” are huge. And the profits reaped from the sale will be available for reinvestment by the winning competitor for new generations of aircraft… The tanker competition is subject to the authorization and appropriation of dollars. The taxpayers, should, through their elected representatives, make the KC-777 the next Air Force tanker.”

    April 8/08: Dueling ads. Northrop Grumman begins to respond in detail to Boeing’s assertions re: the USAF evaluations in the “Why We Won” ongoing series:

    Mission Capability | Versatility | Greater Range | Takeoff Performance (can take off with more fuel load from a 7,000 foot runway) | Fuel Offload | Air Refueling Efficiency | Past Performance | Cost and Price Comparison | Fleet Effectiveness | Development Cost | Survivability (“The Air Force had to balance survivability against other capabilities, criteria and cost…”) | Key Selection Criteria | Strengths and Weaknesses | Past Performance in Detail | Superior Air Refueling.

    April 3/08: Northrop Grumman Corporation launches the website “America’s New Tanker” as a potential centerpiece of its lobbying efforts. The NGC release adds:

    “Citizens across the nation have generated tens of thousands of letters to their respective congressman, senators and governors in support of the Air Force’s selection of Northrop Grumman to provide the KC-45 Tanker. The website also offers a capability that enables visitors to receive e-mail news updates about the program.”

    As media efforts go, the site is currently a very bare bones affair, with a single page of content, a sign-up page for email updates, and a form letter generator to Congress. It is ahead of Being’s comparable efforts, however.

    April 2/08: The USA’s Congressional Government Accountability Office denies denied requests from Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force to throw out Boeing’s protest of the KC-X deal. By law, the GAO has 100 days from the day of complaint to determine if that complaint has merit.

    While Northrop Grumman refers to streamlining of Boeing’s protest in its release, Boeing took a very different position. Tanker program spokesman Bill Barksdale said categorically that “We’re not reducing anything… We’re not eliminating anything.” Defense News | Northrop Grumman release.

    March 27/08: Britain. FSTA signed in Britain. Britain signs a GBP 13 billion (currently about $26 billion), 27-year public-private partnership deal with the AirTanker consortium, who will deliver 14 A330-200 MRTT aerial tankers and operate them over the life of the contract. This is the largest-ever Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract in the defense realm, anywhere in the world.

    The A330 MRTT/ KC-30 had been Britain’s platform choice since 2006, when it beat a KC-767 offer from Boeing and Serco. The British planes will rely entirely on 3 hose-and-drogue systems, however; unlike the KC-45A, or other A330 MRTT wins, they will not carry a refueling boom for use with dorsal refueling inlets. Britain’s aircraft carry refueling probes for use with the hose-and-drogue method, and eliminating the boom simplifies civilian use of FSTA aircraft when the RAF doesn’t need them.

    March 24/08: B311344 Protest of the Boeing Company: Second Supplemental Protest [PDF format, Public Redacted Version]

    March 13/08: Boeing launches its Tanker Facts protest blog.

    March 12/08: The Lexington Institute offers “Boeing Fights Back: How it Plans to Prevail,” explaining Boeing’s strategy as they see it.

    March 10/08: Boeing announces that it will file a formal protest on March 11/08, asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the KC-X decision. Boeing chairman & CEO Jim McNerney called it:

    “…an extraordinary step rarely taken by our company, and one we take very seriously… we continue to believe we submitted the most capable, lowest risk, lowest Most Probable Life Cycle Cost airplane as measured against the Air Force’s Request for Proposal. We look forward to the GAO’s review of the decision.”

    Interesting choice of claims. Boeing said it would provide additional details of its case in conjunction with the protest filing. Boeing release | DID’s “Boeing on KC-X: “Methinks We Doth Protest to You” has fuller details re: the protest grounds.

    Boeing files a protest

    March 7/08: The U.S. Air Force has completed its debrief for Boeing – amd Boeing appears to be getting ready for a formal protest/ challenge. Mark McGraw, Boeing vice president and program manager of the KC-767 tanker:

    “We spent several hours with Air Force leaders, listening and probing, all in an effort to better understand the reasoning behind their decisions… While we are grateful for the timely debriefing, we left the room with significant concerns about the process in several areas, including program requirements related to capabilities, cost and risk; evaluation of the bids and the ultimate decision. What is clear now is that reports claiming that the Airbus offering won by a wide margin could not be more inaccurate… Our plan now is to work through the weekend to come to a decision on our course of action early next week,” said McGraw. “It will be a very rigorous and deliberative process to ensure we’re balancing the needs of the warfighter with our desire to be treated fairly. For decades Boeing has been recognized as a defense company that never takes lightly protests of our customers’ decisions.”

    March 6/08: The Lexington Institute discusses the KC-X competition’s ratings, and claims that the evaluation wasn’t even close. DID explains why their claim might be believable when even Boeing hasn’t been debriefed yet, and goes on to summarize and annotate their comments while pointing back to the original source. Read: “KC-X: Rating the Contenders.”

    March 6/08: The USAF originally said that Boeing wouldn’t be debriefed until around March 12th, but Boeing wasn’t happy with that. The briefing has now been moved up to an unspecified earlier date. Bloomberg news | Boeing release.

    March 5/08: Northrop Grumman enters the lobbying fray to counter critics of the deal. The US industrial base, jobs, foreign content, and foreign supplier risk are all addressed. The points made echo Sen. Richard Shelby’s [R-AL] earlier points, though the firm changed the words “insource jobs” to “create jobs,” in order to avoid getting Airbus in trouble for the flip side of insourcing, which is outsourcing jobs from France. Readers should also note that the Joint Cargo Aircraft competition they refer to was a contest between 2 European aircraft: Alenia’s winning C-27J Spartan, and EADS-CASA’s C-295. NGC release | Sen. Richard Shelby statement.

    March 4/08: EADS announces the first in-flight “wet contact” that transferred fuel via the EADS Air Refuelling Boom System (ARBS). The A310 test aircraft was partnered with Portuguese Air force F-16s at an altitude of 27,000 feet, locking down one of the last milestones in ARBS’ development.

    The boom is 17 meters long at full extension and allows the transfer of 2270 litres/minute (1200 US gal/min). The fly-by-wire boom is controlled remotely from a console in the cockpit, where an operator uses an advanced technology 3 dimensional visual system to steer the boom, rather than using direct visual contact from the plane’s rear.

    March 4/08: Taxpayers for Common Sense reports on the lobbying dollars spent to date on the KC-X RFP by both sides. DID looks at the totals, and wonders if that’s the most useful question. Perhaps a better question would be: how well was that money spent? Read “The KC-X Tanker Deal: Tracking the Lobbyists.”

    March 3/08: A release from House Speaker Pelosi’s office [D-CA] says that the award to Airbus “raises serious questions that Congress must examine thoroughly… Given the ramifications of this decision for the United States, the Air Force must explain to Congress how it meets the long-term needs of our military and the American people.” The tone is not friendly, and answers to be sought during the battle on Capitol Hill include:

    • “What are the national security implications of using an aircraft supplied by a foreign firm for this essential mission?”
    • “Were the risks associated with choosing a conceptual design over a proven capability properly assessed?”
    • “Was sufficient consideration given to the impact of the contract award on jobs in America and on our technological base?”

    Both Sen. Hilary Clinton [D-NY] and Sen. Barack Obama [D-IL, where Boeing is a major presence] have expressed opposition to the award, though neither has committed to ending the deal as part of their Presidential campaigns. Republican Presidential Candidate Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] has reserved judgment, saying:

    “Having investigated the [KC-767] tanker lease scandal a few years ago, I have always insisted that the Air Force buy major weapons through fair and open competition. I will be interested to learn how the Air Force came to its contract award decision here… I’ve never believed that defense programs, that the major reason for them should be to create jobs… I’ve always felt that the best thing to do is to create the best weapons system we can at minimum cost to taxpayers.”

    Feb 29/08: Airbus wins. After all the studies, the lobbying, and the proposal refinements, the USAF picked a winner. The A330 MRTT/ KC-30B from Northrop Grumman and EADS Airbus will now become the USAF’s next aerial tanker – if the USAF can make its decision stick:

    Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles, CA won a cost plus incentive/award fee, fixed-price incentive, firm-fixed-price contract for the newly-named KC-45. This contract is awarded after full and open bidding, and provides for the system design and development of 4 test aircraft for $1.5 billion. This contract also includes 5 production options targeted for 64 aircraft at $10.6 billion. At this time no funds have been obligated. The Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH issued the contract (FA8625-08-C-6451).

    Follow-on procurement of 110 production aircraft will be split into several production lots per usual procedure; the USAF has estimated their value at $35 billion over 25 years, plus additional costs for sustainment and support. The news even came as a bit of a shock to EADS’ CEO. The Financial Times of London reports that:

    “As recently as Friday afternoon the EADS team had been convinced that Boeing would take the contract. Mr Gallois, about to leave Paris for a mountain holiday, said he had simply not believed his ears when informed at 10.25pm local time last night.”

    Gallois is also quoted as saying “no, we didn’t smash the price,” in response to questions re: the common tactic by Airbus of slashing their margins to win sales. Aerospace analyst Steve East at Credit Suisse was less convinced, and recommended “sell into strength” on the grounds that the deal may not generate significant profits for EADS. Per this article’s Jan 14/08 entry about moving A300F production to the USA, Airbus CEO Tom Enders added that:

    “All 4 System Design and Development aircraft are already in production. Preparatory work is now underway for our commitment to co-locate the final assembly of the tankers and A330 civilian freighter aircraft at Mobile, Alabama, creating the first new large commercial aircraft assembly facility in the U.S. in over 40 years.”

    Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, commander of US Air Mobility Command, said that the Northrop/EADS KC-30 had been chosen because it offered “more cargo, more fuel offload, more passengers and more availability.” The USAF took pains to stress the degree of rigor in the selection process, and the importance of the contract, in hopes of forestalling a protest. Whether or not a protest is forthcoming from Boeing, however, there will almost certainly be a pitched battle on Capitol Hill. The USAF has worked to prepare for that likelihood with a $240 million Tanker Transfer Fund that could be spent during a protest.

    A split-buy is the most likely proposal in the political arena, given both past tendencies in Congress and the political leanings of the states most affected, which tend to lean more toward the Democratic Party in Boeing’s case, and more toward the Republican Party in EADS/Northrop’s case. On the other hand, the USAF strenuously opposes a split buy, both for reasons of delay (estimated at 18-24 months) and of future operations and maintenance inefficiencies. As they say in the airlines: “We are expecting turbulence ahead. Please fasten your seatbelts.” USAF | EADS | Northrop Grumman | Cobham plc [PDF] | Boeing | Financial Times of London | Reuters | Infodefensa [Espanol] | Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Seattle Times | Times of Malta | Wichita Eagle (round-up of official statements, incl. politicians & unions) | Aviation Week (USAF’s fund) | AP, via (Pratt & Whitney loses) | Seattle P-I (Gen. Mosely re: protest prospects) | Seattle P-I (inquiry possible) | USA Today (“How Boeing blew the deal…”, cites Northrop’s political lobbying) Wichita Business Journal (lawmakers will protest).

    A330 / KC-45 wins

    Japan’s KC-767s
    (click to view full)

    Feb 20/08: Boeing announces delivery of the first KC-767 tanker to its Japanese partner Itochu Corp., which landed at Gifu, Japan, near Nagoya following a final review by Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD) Air Staff. Itochu will deliver the KC-767 Tanker to the Japanese MoD in March 2008, following in-country acceptance processes.

    Feb 13/08: Boeing announces that its KC-767J has received a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA previously certified the KC-767 for everything except passengers and main deck cargo, and this additional certification clears the way for Japan to receive its first 2 of 4 KC-767s as planned. It will also help Boeing obtain FAA certification for Italy’s KC-767s, and deliver their first 2 tankers later in 2008. George Hildebrand, Boeing KC-767 Japan program manager, said that:

    “The Japan Air Self-Defense Force asked us to complete passenger and main deck cargo certifications beyond what is normally performed on military aircraft, and we have received our FAA STC for those capabilities.”

    Feb 12/08: Let the political lobbying begin! Defense News reports that the Pentagon is delaying the KC-X’s Defense Acquisition Board review slated for Feb 13/08, owing to “inquiries from the Hill and elsewhere” about the program. No date has been set, but Lawmakers’ lingering questions about the service’s KC-X program prompted Pentagon acquisition officials to postpone a Defense Acquisition Board review slated for Feb. 13, said James Finley, deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology, still anticipates a KC-X award by the end of February 2008. Time will tell.

    Feb 7/08: Aero News Network notes that “Boeing, EADS Employ ‘Guerilla’ Marketing For KC-X“:

    “Tactics employed by both parties include “sending blast e-mails to reporters and trade journals widely read by Air Force officials and by advertising in specialty publications, on buses and subways and local radio stations,” reports The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Special publications aimed at Congressional staff and leaders in Washington, such as “The Hill,” have been on the receiving end of full page ads from both parties (as have ANN inboxes — Ed.) Radio airwaves and Metro subway stops are also not immune to the fight for the estimated $40 billion contract.”

    Jan 30/08: Defense Aerospace reports that the late March 2008 delivery of 2 KC-767s to Japan represents an additional 2-month slippage, as Boeing must still complete remaining Federal Aviation Administration certifications to allow the tanker to carry passengers and cargo before Japan will accept the planes. The March 2008 delivery is about 3 years later than initially planned.

    Delivery of 2 similar aircraft to Italy will now take place in the Q2 2008, about 2 years later than planned. As annoying as these delays have been to its customers, the key question for Boeing now is whether these delays have sufficed to iron out the KC-767’s technical risks in advance of the much larger American KC-X competition.

    Jan 29/08: Boeing announces a successful night-time refueling mission, using the main refueling boom on a KC-767 that will be delivered to Japan early in 2008. The aircrew connected the KC-767s’s fly-by-wire, remote vision refueling boom to an F-15E Strike Eagle 11 times during dusk and night conditions, and successfully offloaded fuel before returning safely. Airbus’ KC-30 competitor has yet to perform a ‘wet’ boom refueling, even during the day.

    Right now, however, Boeing’s biggest technical risk factor is its hose-and-drogue system, not its boom. Boeing release.

    Jan 28/08: EADS is also conducting testing, using A330/KC-30B MRTT aircraft destined for Australia, an F/A-18 fighter, and an A310 tanker equipped with EADS’ ARBS advanced refueling boom. During testing with the F/A-18 fighter, the KC-30 Tanker’s all-digital FRL 905E-series hose-and-drogue refueling pods deployed to lengths of 75, 82, and 90 feet during multiple deployments at altitudes from 10,000 – 35,000 feet, at airspeeds ranging from 180 – 300 knots, while in level flight and while banking. The Sargent Fletcher FRL 905E reportedly “exhibited total and complete stability, which is critical for successful refueling of probe-equipped receiver aircraft.” Nevertheless, EADS’ biggest technical risk factor is its advanced refueling boom, which is required by many USAF aircraft.

    Testing also took place regarding EADS’ advanced ARBS refueling boom, which was extended to various points throughout the refueling envelope as the Australian A330 MRTT moved to within 6″ of the all-electric fly-by-wire boom to test its suitability for large aircraft. “In the next few days, the [KC-30/A330 MRTT’s] Civil Certification flight tests with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) are scheduled to be performed.”

    It should be noted that neither the hose-and-drogue test, nor the refueling boom test, involved actual contact, let alone a ‘wet contact’ refueling. Unlike its Boeing competitor, the ARBS refueling boom has yet to demonstrate contact with a large aircraft, or actually passed fuel to any aircraft. EADS release | EADS North America release.

    Jan 16/08: The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) throws its support behind Boeing’s KC-X bid, citing the WTO case re: European government subsidies, 40%+ production in Europe, and recent scandals involving insider trading and foreign practices.

    “The IAM fundamentally believes in fair competition in government contracting. But fair competition means that all vendors must play by the rules. Yet all available evidence – including a consistent bipartisan chorus from the Congress and our US Trade Representative – indicates that Northrop’s majority partner, EADS, continues to skirt the rules of fair play at the expense of US jobs.”

    Whatever one may thing of the substantive merits of these objections, the IAMAW will be a factor re: support once the battle shifts to Congress. As it surely will. Aero News story.

    Jan 15/08: The Lexington Institute think-tank looks at the KC-X competition once more, and explains why they believe the USAF already has a very good idea of who the winner is. They add:

    “Beyond the operational merits of the two planes, a political minefield lies ahead for the Air Force and whichever contractor it selects. If the Northrop plane wins, buy-America sentiment will surge on Capitol Hill, potentially blocking a purchase. If the Boeing plane wins, legislators from the South whose region stood to benefit from tanker assembly will seek to split the buy between both teams. The Air Force will get its tanker in the end, but which contractor benefits may ultimately come down to a test of political skills, and there is no guarantee new tankers will reach the fleet before old ones begin failing.”

    Jan 14/08: Readers may recall Airbus CEO Louis Gallois’ comments about setting up “in a dollar zone” (see Dec 3/07 entry). Now Airbus announces that it will establish an A330 Freighter aircraft final assembly line (FAL) in Mobile, AL if its KC-30 team wins. The A330F currently has an order book of over 66 aircraft, and production capacity would be increased to 4 aircraft per month in order to handle civilian construction as well. Aircraft sections would be delivered to Mobile from their respective Airbus production facilities elsewhere in the world, assembled into the final freighter aircraft, and delivered to customers from Mobile, AL. EADS CEO Thomas Enders was careful to make the offer conditional on a KC-X win, however, claiming that:

    “The Dollar-Euro exchange rate makes it advantageous for us to expand our operations in the United States. While it would be difficult to overcome the cost of building a final assembly line in the U.S. strictly for commercial aircraft, it would make good economic sense to invest the incremental cost of expanding the facility that would already exist for assembling tanker aircraft.”

    That rationale may or may not be exactly true, given that Airbus is said to lose $1 billion every time the USD-EUR exchange rate drops 10 cents, and its dollarized customer contracts must be met with Euro production costs. New commercial aircraft assembly facilities are not a common occurrence for the industry, however, and this would be the first Airbus manufacturing facility in the U.S. By proposing the A330F, Airbus takes advantage of the dollar, offers added civilian work that helps it close the American jobs gap with Boeing’s KC-767, and blunts “Buy American” moves. The A330F is a less popular model than the A330 passenger variants, however, and the move also hopes to provoke less reaction in Europe as a result. earlier version of the EADS release at Defence Aerospace.

    Jan 14/08: Boeing takes the unusual step of releasing the Conklin & de Decker Aviation Information study that led to the cost savings claims in its Jan 3/08 release. Specifically, the study measures:

    “…the additional fuel consumption and the resulting extra cost incurred by a fleet of 179 Airbus 330-200 when compared with the Boeing 767-200ER where both fly similar commercial mission profiles, both fly 750 hours per year over a 40 year service life and both are operated at or near their maximum take-off gross weight. Take off at or near the maximum take off gross weight reflects the fact that aircraft on a tanker mission tend to take off with as much fuel as possible to permit the greatest mission flexibility.”

    Note, however, that operating cost per plane is very different from operating cost per mission; the latter must also factor in the number of planes and flights required to complete that mission (likely Airbus advantage), the flight routes and distances they must fly given basing options (likely Boeing advantage), et. al. Release | Full Report [PDF]

    Jan 3/07: Boeing announces that it has submitted its final bid for the KC-X program. Its release is unusually direct and specific in its comparisons, something Boeing has shied away from in the past:

    “Boeing’s tanker also will carry three times more cargo and passengers than the KC-135 without sacrificing the operational flexibility delivered by a medium-sized aircraft. In contrast, the competitor’s offering would be the second largest aircraft in the Air Force’s inventory and provide unnecessary capacity… Burning 24 percent less fuel than its competitor, the KC-767 will save the service and American taxpayer an estimated $14.6 billion. The KC-767 also will save approximately $4 billion if selected since it costs 22 percent less to maintain than its competitor.”

    Jan 3/08: Northrop Grumman announces that it has submitted its final bid for the KC-X program, in partnership with EADS Airbus. In contrast to other releases, this one is understated in terms of comparisons with the KC-767.

    ARBS connects
    (click to view full)

    Dec 18/07: Northrop Grumman announces an extension of USAF Air Mobility Command’s Consolidated Air Mobility Planning System (CAMPS) contract. This software is used to plan, manage, and track AMC’s aircraft, providing an overall view of where its transports and tankers are and where their missions plans are taking them. NGC has served as CAMPS’ primary contractor for 15 years, and they are partnered with Mosaic, Inc. of Oak Hill, VA.

    Together, they will continue maintaining and upgrading CAMPS software, providing on-site customer support and training, and software and hardware fielding support. The team is also charged with implementing a service-oriented, scalable and expandable architecture; network-centric data solutions; develop software in accordance with Air Mobility Command enterprise requirements; and provide a scalable and expandable architecture, Web applications, and consistent access across the Defense Department.

    Dec 5/07: The EADS Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS) performs its first in-flight contacts with an aircraft. The initial refueling contacts used the advanced ARBS installed on an A310 testbed aircraft, which conducted multiple boom hook-ups with an F-16 receiver aircraft flying at 27,000 feet. The ARBS’ 40 foot boom was deployed to its operational length and inserted into the F-16 receiver aircraft’s dorsal refueling receptacle. Note that this was a “dry contact” that did not transfer fuel in the air – as Boeing’s KC-767 did back in January 2007.

    ARBS uses fly-by-wire technology and an automatic load alleviation system for enhanced controllability, and can offload up to 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute. Today’s flight test was the 60th for the boom, totaling more than 160 flight hours. ARBS will equip Australia’s 5 KC-30B MRTT tankers, the UAE’s 3 A330 MRTT aircraft, and the similar KC-30/ FSTA aircraft offered to the US and Britain. EADS release | NGC release.

    Dec 3/07: EADS Airbus CEO Louis Gallois calls for increased American production of Airbus aircraft, in response to the business problem of build costs in Euros and buyer contracts in US dollars. Reportedly, every 10 cent drop in the US dollar costs EADS over $1 billion. His statements provoke a reaction in France. Can Airbus do it? And if they can, would the offered US content level in Airbus’ KC-X bid be the first place one might see those indications?

    Read “Cost Pressures Force European Aerospace to Look Outside Europe.”

    Nov 29/07: A Boeing release conveys the fact that its KC-767s still have some loose ends to tie up. While Boeing recently flight tested a newly designed pylon that attaches the Wing Air Refueling Pod (WARP) to each Italian KC-767 tanker wing, and completed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification testing for the KC-767 mission control system, other tasks remain:

    “In the months ahead, Boeing will transfer fuel to a receiver aircraft using the Italian KC-767 WARP and centerline Hose Drum Unit (HDU) refueling systems, accomplish night refueling on the Japan tanker using the fifth-generation boom with upgraded software and complete any remaining FAA certifications.”

    As of Jan 3/08, when both competitors announced the submission of their final bids, Boeing had yet to pass fuel to a flying aircraft from its WARP pods, or accomplish night refueling with its advanced boom. Meanwhile, its KC-30 competitor has yet to pass fuel to a flying aircraft at all from its own EADS ARBS advanced refueling boom.

    Nov 23/07: Gen. Arthur Lichte, the commander of USAF Air Mobility Command, places the stakes behind this contract in perspective, and discusses past aerial tanker program issues, as he addressed the Logistics Officer Association. He said that it currently costs $8.5 million per year to keep 85 unflyable KC-135s maintained per Congressional rules, and added that even if the first KC-X aircraft is delivered on time in 2011, and 15 a year are delivered after that, the last KC-135 will leave the fleet in 2048, at an age of about 87 years. However, if the program runs into any problems and slips by just 3 years, and Air Force officials are unable to procure 15 aircraft a year, the last KC-135 could retire in the year 2082, when it would be more than 120 years old.

    AMC Commander Discusses: KC-X, C-5 Programs” takes a critical look at the calculations involved, and notes the General’s other statements concerning failed KC-10 modernization programs and the C-5M refurbishment program.

    Italian KC-767A
    (click to view full)

    Nov 23/07: A Defense News report points to the refueling booms as a potential risk issue for the KC-X program:

    “The new refueling boom for the KC-30 has been installed on the Australian version of the plane but remains untested. And only after an expensive two years of re-engineering has Boeing solved aerodynamic problems with the underwing refueling pylons on tankers for the Italian air force, the same version of the plane being offered to the U.S. air service.”

    Nov 20/07: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the USAF has delayed its choice again, and now plans to award the contract in February 2008 at the earliest, instead of January. Sue Payton, the Air Force’s top acquisition official, said that final proposals aren’t expected until December 2007 or January 2008:

    “We are giving [Boeing and NGC/Airbus] every opportunity to substantiate how they are going to improve their weaknesses and mitigate risk… We will not award the tanker until we are absolutely positive we have assessed all of their inputs and they have given us their best and final offer… I cannot say that we are going to get this done in January. I think we are looking more at the February time frame…”

    Nov 19/07: If the Airbus KC-30 is selected, it will fly with upgraded GE engines. Recently, Finnair selected GE’s CF6-80E1 engines to power their A330-300s, incorporating the Tech CF6 program’s new high-pressure turbine upgrade. Since the KC-30 also plans to use this engine, and has a later delivery schedule, the USAF would also receive Tech CF6 engines.

    GE launched the Tech CF6 program in 2006; its new technologies include high-pressure turbine airfoil cooling advancements that will enhance operational reliability, lower maintenance costs and improve fuel burn retention. Tech CF6 enhancements will be standard on CF6-80E1 production engines beginning in mid-2008. GE release.

    Oct 11/07: Boeing announces a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Cobham plc subsidiary Sargent Fletcher, Inc. of El Monte, CA, to provide the body fuel tank system for the KC-767 Advanced Tanker (AT). Mark McGraw, vice president, Boeing Tanker Programs said that: “With these body fuel tanks, the KC-767’s usable fuel capacity exceeds what the U.S. Air Force requires. Sargent Fletcher’s system extends the KC-767’s range and off-load capacity without sacrificing size.”

    Boeing’s choice of Sargent Fletcher followed a best-value source selection process that focused on technical readiness, price and supportability. The MOA provides the terms under which Sargent Fletcher may be awarded subcontracts for the fuel tank system if the KC-767AT is selected in the U.S. Air Force’s KC-X tanker competition. Boeing release.

    Oct 2/07: Northrop Grumman Corporation announces that it has selected Melbourne, FL-based BRPH Companies, Inc. to lead a multi-firm team to design the KC-30 Production Center in at Mobile’s Brookley Industrial complex, directly adjacent to EADS’ Final Assembly Line where the A330 airframe will be assembled and flight-tested.

    BRPH is leading a team consisting of KBR’s Mobile, AL office and Thompson Engineering, which is headquartered in Mobile. The team will design the production facility, and will also provide ongoing technical support throughout construction if and when it goes ahead.

    FY 2007

    Bidding teams, submissions. X-48B BWB
    (click to view full)

    Sept 25/07: A BWB for KC-Y? Boeing may have a game-changer up its sleeve for stage 2. The US Air Force Association’s Air Force Magazine reports that:

    “Boeing is hoping to have its Blended Wing Body X-48 demonstrator technology ready in time to compete for the Air Force’s second big buy of aerial refueling replacement aircraft, slated for about 2020 and dubbed KC-Y. (The service plans a three-phase replacement effort, starting with the current KC-X competition and followed by KC-Y and KC-Z.) A subscale BWB demonstrator with a 21-foot wingspan recently flew, and Boeing said full-size types could fill a wide variety of passenger, cargo, or tanker functions. It expects to be able to make a proposal on a full-size tanker by about 2015. Besides offering far more internal volume than today’s tube and wing configurations, a BWB tanker could also fly with two refueling booms, doubling the speed at which USAF aircraft could gas up. The program is teaching Boeing how to build rectangular pressure vessels versus the standard tubes and about the BWB flight control laws. However, the BWB would not be a candidate for a long-range strike aircraft. With three engines mounted on top of the rear of the aircraft, it wouldn’t be very stealthy. The placement of the engines does make it quieter than today’s airliners and cargo aircraft, says Boeing.”

    Sept 25/07: A Flight International report says that Northrop Grumman will switch KC-X airframes from the Airbus A330-200 converted passenger model to the A330-200F freighter model. The current proposal adds a cargo door and localized strengthening to the upper floor of the A330-200, because the A330-200F had not received a launch customer, and would have increased the cost of the original bid. “I think [the switch to the freighter model] is inevitable, but right now it’s not in our proposal,” says Paul Meyer, Northrop’s vice-president and general manager for the KC-30 program.

    GE, who had declined to offer an engine for the A330-200F, might be the biggest winner of any switch. Winning the KC-X contract would mean that the USAF would pay GE to certify their engine on the freighter, effectively re-introducing it as an option for civilian A330-200F models alongside P&W and Rolls Royce engines.

    Sept 25/07: Advance production and the promise of early delivery worked very well for EADS Eurocopter’s EC145 in the US Army’s LUH competition. Along similar lines, Team KC-30 announces that the first KC-30 Tanker aircraft, successfully executed a nearly 4-hour flight after completing assembly in less than 75 days. “The aircraft will be ready for installation of refueling and military systems in November… and will be the first aircraft delivered to the U.S. Air Force if the Northrop Grumman team is awarded the KC-X contract.”

    Aug 30/07: Boeing announces that the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF) first KC-767 Tanker has resumed flight testing following the completion of scheduled ground modification work. See release for details.

    Aug 23/07: Northrop Grumman announces that EADS’ advanced Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS) has successfully completed ground-based electrostatic discharge tests, which ensure that the boom and its fly-by-wire control system will not malfunction if an electrostatic current is created during contact with a receiver aircraft. Electrostatic build-up can occur on any airplane because of in-flight atmospheric conditions.

    The tests involved an instantaneous electrical charge of 200,000 volts on the boom’s nozzle, and were performed with a fully functional ARBS installed on an Airbus A310 demonstrator aircraft.

    Aug 8/07: KC-Y and KC-Z. The US Air Force Association’s Air Force Magazine reports that:

    “About 2023, the Air Force plans to contract for a second batch of tankers, dubbed KC-Y, and in 2033, it goes for the third or KC-Z batch, ultimately retiring all KC-135s along the way. At no time are tanker purchases expected to exceed $3 billion a year in current dollars; that’s all the Air Force expects to be able to spend… For that money, the service expects to be able to buy between 12 and 18 per year, replacing the entire tanker fleet over 40 years.”

    Aug 6/07: USAF acquisition chief Sue Payton is quoted in the Financial Times of London as saying that splitting the deal for an initial 80 tankers would prove too costly:

    “Because we are trying to do so much, we don’t have the money upfront that it would take to carry two or three [tankers] through development and then into procurement.”

    Aug 3/07: Reuters reports that Jacques Gansler, a defense undersecretary for acquisitions during the Clinton administration who is now at the University of Maryland, has issued a study arguing that the USAF could save up to 30% on the KC-X program with a split buy. His point of comparison is the successful PW F100/ GE F110 dual fighter engine program for F-16s, and now F-15s as well. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute notes that the study refers only to procurement costs, however, not development costs or maintenance & operations. Gansler described himself as an independent third party, but his study is partially funded by EADS, which views a split-buy as a certain smaller win vs. a larger potential win against much higher odds.

    At the same time, USAF Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman told the US House Armed Services’ air-land subcommittee that changing the winner-take-all strategy now would delay the contract by 12 to 18 months, and would double the cost of development to $4 billion.

    June 12/07: The first militarized KC-30B MRTT is rolled out. The rollout clears the way for a series of flight validation tests, including refueling contacts with a variety of receiver aircraft, prior to the KC-30B’s delivery to the Royal Australian Air Force’s 33 Squadron.

    May 7/07: USAF Link’s “Air Force officials evaluating KC-X proposals” describes the staffing, acquisition system, and some of the mechanisms that the USAF has set up to get through the KC-X acquisition process… and protect it from challenges later on.

    April 12/07: Boeing successfully extends and retracts the left and right Wing Aerial Refueling Pod (WARP) hose-and-drogue refueling systems for the first time. The flight marks the beginning of a series of in-flight tests –at various speeds and altitudes –that will demonstrate the hose’s stability and result in using the WARP hoses to offload fuel to various aircraft. That last test hasn’t happened yet, however, and the competition’s KC-30s use more mature and tested technology.

    KC-X tankers, and the Italian KC-767As will carry both a refueling boom that works with most USAF aircraft and fits into the aircraft’s back, and a hose-and-drogue system favored by the US Navy and a number of NATO countries. When using the WARPs, the tanker aircraft trails a hose from either wing with a drogue (basket) attached to the end. The receiver aircraft uses a probe to connect to the basket and take on valuable fuel. When fully functional, the KC-767’s WARPs can offload 400 gallons of fuel per minute each. Boeing release.

    April 17/07: Boeing adds Delta TechOps, a division of Delta Air Lines, to their bid team as a provider of parts support and fleet management services for the KC-767 Advanced Tanker. As a result, Delta TechOps becomes eligible to supply interim contractor support for commercial aircraft parts if Boeing is awarded the U.S. Air Force KC-X Tanker contract.

    April 11/07: Boeing announces their bid submission, and touts their key selling points. Note the length of the bid…

    “The 7,000-page KC-X proposal describes a tanker uniquely designed for its primary air refueling mission, but also capable of moving cargo, passengers, patients and medical crewmembers…Right-sized to enable access to 1,000 more bases than the KC-135, this robust aircraft allows commanders to deploy more tankers, ensures more booms are in the sky, covers more refueling orbits and offloads more fuel.

    The Boeing KC-767 Advanced Tanker will be designed, built and supported by 44,000 Americans and 300 U.S. suppliers and save taxpayers nearly $10 billion in fuel costs compared to the competitor. Boeing will produce the tanker at its facilities in Everett, Wash., on the existing commercial line where it has built more than 950 highly reliable and maintainable 767s. Installation of military refueling systems and flight test activities will take place at the company’s finishing center in Wichita, Kan.”

    April 10/07: Northrop Grumman and EADS announce their bid submission, and tout their key selling points:

    “The competition to build the KC-X is as much a competition of vision as it is of aircraft,” said Scott J. Seymour, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems sector. “The KC-30 Tanker will provide our Air Force leaders and combatant commanders everything they have asked for in air-to-air refueling and more. More refueling capacity, more versatility against an uncertain future; more capability and more value per aircraft… Northrop Grumman’s KC-30 Tanker carries 45,000 more pounds of fuel than a KC-135, providing a significant boost to the U.S. Air Force’s global reach. The KC-30 is also designed to refuel Navy and coalition aircraft, and to serve as a multi-role transport aircraft to move passengers, cargo and medical evacuation patients.”

    KC-30 Concept
    (click to view full)

    March 28/07: Northrop Grumman announced its full KC-30 team.

    March 15/07: Some of the relevant excerpts from “DoD News Briefing With Undersecretary Of Defense For Acquisition, Technology And Logistics Mr. Ken Krieg From the Pentagon“:

    “But we’ve spent a lot of time talking about, you know, how we, first of all, get the right capability… we especially wanted to make sure that our — the request for a proposal we put out there was for a product that we wanted, not for a product that ensured a competition, but for a product we wanted. And we worked a lot at that over the period, thinking about it not only from an Air Force perspective, but from a joint perspective as well. And I mean, I feel pretty good about where it came out. It was that transparent of a development of an RFP as one could ever expect…

    Look, I’d always like a competition, but having to have a competition for something I don’t want is not of interest. And you always — you know, when you’re down to handfuls of suppliers on — you’re always working that balance… more competition is better than less competition, but to have to go to a competition for something you don’t want then sends you off into an environment you don’t want to be in either…

    When we did the Mobility Capability Study… one of the conclusions we came to as we looked at alternatives in that space was that as the nation looked at a follow-on tanker, that if the price was right for doors and floors, that the agility that that would create in terms of being able to have additional palette capability, additional personnel capability, you’ll pick up some additional medical capability… additional flexibility in lift, that, you know, we didn’t do a cost-benefit… But in any sustaining operation, the capability to do palettes and people through more and varied types of airplanes was worth a fair amount. It wasn’t worth building a tanker for, but if you could get it for a reasonable investment, it made a lot of sense to do it because — oh, by the way, right now we’re sending lots of palettes to places around the world, lots of palettes to the theater, in particular. We’re moving lots of people back and forth. Some of that’s on commercial carriers, some of that’s on C-17s, some of that’s hopping on C-130s.

    …it was very clear not in the first seven days of the conflict or the first limited engagement because at that time tankers are doing their tanker mission — I mean, that’s — we’re principally buying tankers to be tankers — but in a sustaining operation over time, the agility that being able to make them a cargo carrier — as long as you are trying to optimize the airplane as a cargo carrier — that that agility made a lot of sense inherently and analytically… putting pallets on a C-17 is extremely inefficient, just — I mean, it’s built for large cargo, not for pallets.”

    Consider in light of the Lexington Institute’s November 2006 brief “Fate of Huge Tanker Program Could Hinge on Cargo Role.” Note, however, that Krieg is still performing the balancing act here. Implementation of his description can mean more tankers in the air to cover a larger number of tasks, with less cargo space and better short field performance to land in more places for delivery (KC-767), or fewer aircraft available, but with more cargo and/or fuel capacity per plane (KC-30).

    March 12/07: Boeing reaches agreement with United Technologies subsidiary Pratt & Whitney on the price and terms under which it will supply its PW4062 engines to their KC-767 program. While GE’s CF6-80C2 engines power the Italian and Japanese KC-767s and many commercial models, Boeing announced in 2004 that the PW4062 would be its future platform choice for the USAF KC-767.

    The PW4062 engines have between 52,000-62,000 pounds certified thrust; they also power A310-300 and A300-600 aircraft, the Boeing 747-400, 767-200/300s, and MD-11 commercial jets.

    March 9/07: USAF Chief of Staff General Michael Moseley offers a CSAF’s Scope message to the Air Force re: The New Tanker:

    “The KC-X, our new tanker, is our number one procurement priority. The single point of failure for an air bridge, the single point of failure for global ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) and the single point of failure for global strike is the tanker. And this is not just an Air Force issue – it is a joint and coalition force issue as well. Tankers are crucial to the deployment and employment of joint and coalition combat power and are central to rapid response for humanitarian relief operations. Our KC-135 inventory has an average age of over 45 years, and all were delivered to the Air Force between November 1957 and December 1964 — seven years before I came on active duty!

    It isn’t just the age of the aircraft that concerns me. They also suffer from corrosion, structural fatigue, and deterioration in wiring, fuel systems components, and ducting — all while operating at high OPTEMPO (OPerational TEMPO) in a time of war. We recently released our KC-X Request for Proposals, which asks industry to submit proposals that meet our strict tanker requirements. Even though we have started the replacement process, the mother of the last KC-135 pilot has not yet been born. With the funding currently planned it will take over 30 years to replace the entire KC-135 inventory. We can’t buy and field the KC-X fast enough.”

    KC-767 & B-52H
    (click to view full)

    March 5-6/07: Boeing announces that an Italian KC-767 Tanker transferred fuel in flight from its advanced refueling boom to a B-52H bomber (10,000 pounds, March 5), and an F-15E fighter (5,500 pounds, March 6), under a cooperative research and development agreement with the U.S. Air Force.

    EADS’ ARBS boom for the KC-30 has yet to meet this milestone, but its hose-and-drogue refueling technology is more reliable at present.

    Feb 12/07: Boeing announces that it will offer the KC-767 Advanced Tanker for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-X Tanker competition. No 777 aircraft – just the 777 commercial digital flight deck in the USAF’s 767-200s. Their Global Tanker Team for the KC-767 includes Smiths Aerospace, Rockwell Collins, Vought Aircraft Industries, Honeywell and the newest member – Spirit AeroSystems. They are the largest airframe supplier to Airbus, manufacture the 767’s leading edges, and have contributed advanced tooling and other work to Boeing’s 777, 787 Dreamliner, and 737 Next Generation programs.

    Feb 8/07: Northrop Grumman and EADS announce that they’ll bid on the program.

    Jan 30/07: Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, announced today the posting of the KC-X Aerial Refueling Aircraft Request for Proposal to the Federal Business Opportunities website, signaling the official launch of the Air Force’s #1 acquisition priority program. The release notes that “The KC-X program is the first of three acquisition programs the Air Force will need to replace the entire fleet of aging KC-135 Stratotankers…” The RFP stipulates 9 primary key performance parameters:

    # Air refueling capability
    # Fuel offload and range at least as great as the KC-135
    # Compliant Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) equipment
    # Airlift capability
    # Ability to take on fuel while airborne
    # Sufficient force protection measures
    # Ability to network into the information available in the battle space
    # Survivability measures (defensive systems, Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) hardening, chemical/biological protection, etc)
    # Provisioning for a multi-point refueling system to support Navy and Allied aircraft

    The USAF says that final RFP defines an integrated, capability-based, best-value approach, and includes specific factors for assessing the capability contribution of each offeror, along with cost and assessments of past performance and proposal risk. DID’s initial reading is that the RFP does support “objective requirements” above the minimum. Does it set them high enough and weight them strongly enough to interest Airbus? We shall see. USAF release.

    Jan 24/07: Boeing announces that its KC-767 Tanker used the fifth generation, fly-by-wire refueling boom for the first time, to make a series of aerial “dry contacts” with a B-52 bomber assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, CA.

    Both Boeing and EADS are offering advanced refueling booms, design to improve refueling control and visibility. Boeing’s advanced boom can transfer 900 gallons/ 3,400 liters of fuel per minute, uses advanced cameras to give the boom operator a better view, and automatically corrects its position to reduce potential damage to the receiver aircraft. With 2,600 fewer parts than previous booms, it also is easier to maintain.

    As a point of comparison, EADS’ ARBS advanced refueling boom claims a capacity of 1,200 gallons/minute, but is at a less advanced stage of development. It would not undertake a similar trial until December 2007, as had yet to pass fuel to an aircraft in flight as on the Jan 3/08 final bid submissions.

    Appendix A: The KC-X Competitions

    US Debating Aerial Tanker Types, Mix” offers in-depth coverage of the lead-up to the KC-X RFP, explaining many of the military & policy issues in play as the USA contemplates its own choices. Then came the contractor decisions, and responses. What would Boeing propose? The KC-767, the KC-777, or both? Would Northrop and EADS elect to play, bringing their Airbus KC-30/A330 MRTT?

    In the end, Round 1 was Team Boeing’s KC-767 Advanced (767-200 derivative) vs. Team Northrop Grumman’s victorious KC-30B (Airbus A330-200 derivative). Each aircraft system has its strengths, and each system also had risk factors as lobbying continued right down to the wire. Boeing claimed lower KC-767 operating costs and better infrastructure commonality, and received a union endorsement. EADS offered greater fuel and cargo capacity, and promised to open production of A330F civilian jets in the USA if it won.

    The Airbus A330 MRTT was picked as the “KC-45A”, but an explosive GAO decision brought the competition to a halt.

    USAF articles tried to sell the idea that: “…the department has gone through a rigorous review process for KC-X and has validated that the RFP accurately reflects the requirements as laid out by the warfighter… The RFP includes specific factors for assessing the capability contribution of each offeror” along a set of 9 weighted performance parameters.

    That didn’t stop the contract protests, and subsequent revelations that the USAF hadn’t even followed its own guidelines destroyed the decision.

    As the clock ran out on the Bush administration’s 2008 tenure, Secretary of Defense Gates decided to give his new employers in the Obama administration an opportunity to chart their own course on this issue. The KC-X v1.0 competition was canceled. A v2.0 RFP was released in February 2010, but the decision took until February 2011.

    Boeing’s 767-based “KC-46A” won that v2.0 competition, and the way they did it was simple: they underbid several hundred million dollars below cost on a fixed-price contract. In exchange, they avoided a dent in their prestige, kept their 767 production line open, opened the door to more KC-767 exports, ensured a lucrative stream of future “KC-46A” maintenance revenue, and prevented Airbus from gaining a major industrial foothold in the USA.

    KC-X RFP v2.0 – The New Structure KC-X Round 2:
    Refueling bonus requirements
    (click to view full)

    In the wake of their initial win, Airbus and Northrop Grumman’s primary challenge was to ensure that their own potential industrial base was strongly mobilized, in order to raise the political costs of an all-Boeing reversion. Their secondary goal was to improve their position for KC-X v2.0, including blunting protectionist sentiment that opposes any purchase of Airbus planes. Declarations that they’d accept a “split buy” outcome, so long as they were left with production of 12 planes per year, were a step in that direction.

    Boeing’s challenge was simpler, and more straightforward: get at least a majority share of the USAF’s KC-X tanker order.

    The USAF stated its opposition to a split-buy proposal many times, and worked hard to avoid that outcome. They might have been convinced to pay that price, if they believe that the alternative would be a program that remains stalled for a long time. Events showed them moving toward that conclusion, albeit slowly and fitfully – but then the Round 2 RFP came out, with a clear “winner take all” approach.

    The Round 2 RFP certainly clarifies the nature of the competition. Round 1 featured 37 mandatory requirements, and 771 optional requirements that could affect evaluations. Round 2 reverses that ratio, with 373 “go to war on Day 1″ requirements that must be met to qualify, and 93 “trade space” requirements that earn extra points.

    The resulting RFP is best described as a cost-driven, best-value competition, using fixed-price bids. It’s worthy of note that the prices aren’t entirely fixed, for good reason. Imagine, for instance, that the US dollar devalued sharply over the contract’s life and imported materials became more expensive, or inflation skyrocketed and labor rates changed accordingly. Forcing the manufacturers to absorb those losses would be unfair, and could induce serious financial problems for the company. Provision 836 AESG/H025 provides a formula for adjusting prices if key inputs fluctuate, in order to create an adjusted payment price. With this safety valve acknowledged, the “fixed-price” bids as submitted will form the baseline.

    Those bids are just the starting point. “Total Adjusted Price” (TAP) reflects bid price as adjusted through 3 main filters: the same IFARA model used in Round 1 to evaluate the contenders, fuel efficiency, and military construction.

    The IFARA model will use updated scenarios to cover the expected range of contingencies, and there are several ways to have one’s costs adjusted. A larger plane that could cover a given scenario with fewer planes, for instance, might get its TAP lowered. A smaller competitor might gain under another scenario, where range, basing, and capacity suit it better. Those adjustments will be summed, and applied.

    Fuel burn will use 489 average flight hours per year rather than 750 in Round 1, as 489 is the actual average flown by the KC-135 fleet to date. This may seem to disadvantage the KC-767 slightly, but there’s another key variable that makes the effect far less clear. Fuel burn will also use the mission profiles and mission percentages laid out in the IFARA model. Again, contenders will have their bid price adjusted accordingly, depending on their fleet’s estimated fuel burn costs over a 40-year cycle.

    For military construction, the USAF picked 11 relevant KC-135 bases – which are not necessarily the tankers’ future homes, since that’s a separate decision. Aircraft that would require changes or improvements to ramps, taxiways runways, hangars, at those 11 air bases would have their bid price changed accordingly in their TAP. Actual aircraft of the submitted types will be used at these locations, in order to make the evaluations.

    If there’s more than 1% difference in the TAPs, the government buys the ‘cheaper’ airplane, which is exactly what happened. If there had been 1% or less difference, the USAF would have been directed to look at the 93 optional “trade space” requirements and their accompanying points, adjusting the TAP accordingly, and then buy the ‘cheaper’ airplane. Each trade space item is worth a certain number of points, and is either met or not met. The one exception is fuel offload, which gives between 2-10 points as different levels of capability are reached (total extra weight is therefore 1/10%). There are 103.05 total trade space points, which includes 4 requirements worth 10 points each, 6 worth 4 points, 19 worth 1 point, 49 worth 0.333 points, and 15 worth 0.25 points. The result would be a new adjusted price, and, again, the ‘cheapest’ bid selected.

    Because IFARA also ties into fuel burn, and additional range and fuel offload capacity do not factor in except through IFARA, the IFARA model looked set to be the hinge on which this competition will turn. In addition, all qualified bid teams will have access to the IFARA model. Which means one could expect arguments about some of the parameters, once the contending teams have crunched their performance through the models and gone over the criteria. Instead, Boeing decided to more or less nullify IFARA with a bid price that rendered it irrelevant.

    On another likely lobbying front, the KC-X v2.0 RFP took no position with respect to the ongoing Boeing-Airbus trade subsidies dispute at the World Trade Organization. This refusal is explicitly stated, and was fiercely defended and maintain. The RFP does include the 836 AESG/H018 clause. It states that any financial or other penalties assessed by the WTO are entirely the manufacturers’ responsibility, and cannot be passed on to the USAF in any way.

    Appendix B: The Contenders and The Cargo Factor – KC-30B, KC-767… KC-777? USAF KC-10
    (click to view full)

    During the now-canceled round 1 competition, Airbus’ A330 was matched against Boeing’s 767. In a new wrinkle, Air Mobility Command was brought into the RFP draft process, and the USAF said that:

    “the Air Force also intends to take full advantage of the other capabilities inherent in the platform, and make it an integral part of the Defense Transportation System.”

    Both contending aircraft offer substantial improvements over the KC-135’s extra capacity for cargo or people, in addition to their tanker roles.

    The KC-135s can carry up to 6 standard 463L cargo pallets, 53 people, or about 18 medical litters. Just under 2% of American aerial tankers currently carry cargo loads, but that number is likely to increase. The existing aerial tanker fleet is being handled gently, given its age and the consequences of structural issues. Once those issues are removed, however, the frequency of current C-17 flights involving people and standard pallets rather than heavy cargo, will make more frequent tanker/cargo flights an attractive trade-off, despite the additional fuel costs.

    Airbus’ A330/ KC-30/ KC-45 A330 MRTT concept,
    (click to view full)

    According to the EADS/NGC KC-30 team’s official Round 1 brochure [PDF], the A330-200 derivative can carry up to 226 passengers, or 108 medical litters, or up to 32 standard 463L cargo pallets, or some combination of the above, in addition to its full fuel load. At over 250,000 pounds capacity, it also carries more fuel than the 767, which is a particular advantage in the Pacific sector with its wide over-water expanses. On the other hand, its advanced 1,200 gallon/minute ARBS refueling boom did not actually transfer fuel to another aircraft in the air until March 2008. Competition delays have allowed Airbus to improve this gap, and an A330 conducted boom refueling in 2009.

    On the flip side, the KC-30 is a larger aircraft than the 767, which requires a slightly longer runway at full load, takes up more “footprint” on limited-space tarmacs, and costs more to operate on a per-plane basis. In response, Team KC-30 stresses costs and efficiency on a per-mission basis, such as deploying a full fighter squadron with personnel and equipment, or deploying an Army combat team using transport aircraft with tanker accompaniment. They argue that if larger tanker aircraft, with more fuel and cargo space, mean fewer sorties required, the cost figures may look more equal once the mission the tankers are supporting is complete. There had also been some speculation that Airbus might be prepared to offer a very heavily discounted price, in order to close the buying price gap between the cheaper 767 and the A330. Some post-competition reports even pegged the KC-30 offer as cheaper.

    The RFPs included more exacting data as each team made its case to the USAF, as well as final pricing. For example, Fleet Effectiveness Value (FEV), one of the 5 key source-selection evaluation criteria, is designed to communicate aerial refueling performance. The current KC-135 fleet is the baseline, with an FEV of 1.0. Calculated over 5 mission scenarios specified by the USAF, and using prescribed airbases, ramp space and resources, Northrop’s air mobility sector vice-president Paul Meyer says the FEV submitted with its KC-30 Round 1 bid was 1.62.

    There had been some talk at Northrop Grumman of using the A330-200F freighter version instead as the base KC-X aircraft, which would be a departure from KC-30s bought to date. A switch would add new timeline risk and certification issues, as well as fuel efficiency penalties, in exchange for much better cargo performance. A330-200F aircraft add 11,000 pounds of zero-fuel weight to the base A330-200 design, and cut fuel capacity by 12,000 US gallons, in exchange for boosting cargo weight capacity by 60,000 pounds to 141,000. The type first flew in late 2009, and began service with UAE Eithad Airways in September 2010. So far, the 200F has only been suggested as a potential improvement or variant option after the contract is won.

    Boeing’s KC-767 Advanced/ KC-767 NewGen/ KC-46A KC-767 Round 1 features
    (click to view full)

    Team Boeing’s KC-767 Advanced in Round 1 used a 767-200ER fuselage; a 767-300F freighter wing, landing gear, cargo door and floor; and a 767-400ER’s flaps and flight deck (derived in turn from the 777). A new fly-by-wire boom with remote viewing would expand the tanker’s effective refueling airspace, and offload more fuel. Engines would be 2 Pratt & Whitney PW4062s, with 62,000 pounds of thrust each.

    The KC-767’s advanced refueling boom had a 900 gallon/minute capacity, and had been tested successfully in live air-air refueling, including night operations. On the other hand, Boeing’s hose-and-drogue system was a technical risk factor that had undergone almost 2 years of redesign, and been a persistent problem for the Italian tanker order. That was a potential risk, and Round 1’s optimization had also penalized Boeing, due to the additional risk and certification work involved.

    Their KC-767 “NewGen” (now the KC-46A) is a sharp contrast, as Boeing decided not to discuss their plane’s features – a stance it has maintained even after the award. This made assessments of Boeing’s Round 2 offering inexact and approximate. Earlier Round 2 comments from Boeing indicated a more standard 767, but pictures and videos appear to show lengthened wings and wingtip winglets, in order to deal with previous “flutter” issues and add cruise efficiency. What is known, is that Boeing is keeping the PW4062 engines. The firm still says it’s using a new fly-by-wire boom design, but the structure is now based on the larger KC-10 boom, in order to meet the fuel offload target of 1,200 gallons/minute. At the same time, GE’s refueling pods were replaced by the same Cobham products found on the A330 MRTT. The other clear change involved replacement of the 400ER’s 777-derived flight deck with one from the new 787 Dreamliner that includes 15.1″ LCD flight display screens.

    As their relative capacities demonstrate, the KC-767 is a smaller aircraft than the KC-30. One positive consequence is that it can take off from slightly shorter runways. The USAF requires the ability to take off from an 8,000 foot runway, but would prefer 7,000 feet as this makes more runways available. The KC-767’s size can also mean the difference between, say, 5 or 7 aircraft that can fit on the tarmac at a forward base. Boeing touts the KC-767 as 22-24% cheaper to operate and maintain than the KC-30 on a per-plane basis, and its base aircraft is cheaper to buy on the civilian market.

    767-200ER based planes can carry up to 190 passengers (-16% vs. KC-30), or 54 medical litters (-50%, NGC claim)/ 97 patients (-11.3%, Boeing claim), or up to 19 standard 463L cargo pallets (-41%), or some combination of the above, in addition to its full fuel load that is now confirmed at 212,000 pounds, slightly above the KC-135. The company claims that its strengthened floors allow the KC-767 to carry a similar weight of cargo to the A330, however; it would be interesting to see validated statistics compared to the A330F. Boeing could have submitted the 767-300 in Round 1, which is 19 feet longer, but their calculations determined that the extra capacity didn’t justify the extra procurement and operating expenses. That turned out to be a mistake, but they proceeded to win Round 2 with a 767-200 freighter derivative.

    Northrop Grumman calculated a Round 1 Fleet Effectiveness Value score of 1.35 for the rival KC-767 in Round 1 (vs. 1.62 for Airbus), but Boeing did not release its number.

    Boeing’s 777 Option KC-767 refuels KC-777
    (click to view full)

    For Round 2, Boeing was openly contemplating a KC-777 offering, depending on the RFP’s criteria weightings. A KC-777 would offer 22.5% – 30% more offloaded fuel than the A330/KC-30 at 1,000 nautical miles, with the ability to carry up to 320 passengers (+42.6% vs. KC-30), or 156 patients (+44.4% vs. KC-30), or up to 38 standard 463L cargo pallets (+18.75% vs. KC-30), or some combination of the above, in addition to its full fuel load.

    These statistics are impressive, but Boeing would have faced 3 big hurdles if it wished to offer a KC-777.

    One is the 777’s cost, given the way the v2.0 RFP is structured. Boeing has almost certainly run the IFARA model to make sure, but on the face of it, the renewed RFP made a KC-777 offering unlikely. The RFP’s focus on cost, and lower value placed on extra points for the 777’s additional cargo, transport, and fuel capabilities, made the KC-777 look like a losing game. The 2nd issue was timeliness. Unlike the KC-767 and A330 MRTT, any KC-777 would have to be designed, built, tested, and certified from scratch. To add to that timeliness risk, Boeing already has a backlog of commercial orders for the 777. That 3rd issue leaves Boeing with choices that include some combination of: adding time and risk by investing or partnering to expand their production rate, convincing commercial customers to accept delays, or facing constraints on their delivery rate to the KC-777 military conversion and fit-out line.

    In the end, those hurdles convinced Boeing to offer the KC-767 once again, with modifications that made it different from the KC-767s flying for Japan and Italy.

    Appendix C: Airbus KC-30/ KC-45A Team

    (lost Round 2)

    RAAF A330 rollout
    (click to view full)

    Before its KC-X win, the KC-30/A330 MRTT had been ordered by Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Britain’s unusual FSTA public-private aerial tanker partnership. None of these aircraft have entered service yet, but the ARBS full refueling boom system finally completed its first live “wet transfer” from an A310 aircraft in March 2008. The first live “wet transfer” from an A330-MRTT boom finally took place in October 2009.

    EADS’ goal was 60% American content, to which one must add American content for corollary sales of civilian A330F freighters as production moves to Alabama. Other national beneficiaries of a US A330 MRTT order, in declining order of impact, would have been Spain, Germany, the UK, and France.

    There are differences between the consortium that bid on the KC-X v1.0 proposals, and the team that bid on the v2.0 RFP. The v2.0 team is quite extensive; main players include:

    EADS North America – American lead and systems integrator. Replaced Northrop Grumman in this role for the v2.0 bid.

    EADS – A330 aircraft, and Air Refueling Boom System (ARBS). Key American locations: Mobile, AL, Bridgeport, WVA (ARBS and SF hose-and-drogue), and Arlington, VA. Aircraft would be militarized and final assembly would take place in Mobile, AL, which would also become an assembly center for worldwide civilian A330-200F freighter sales.

    EADS-CASA in Spain is responsible for the design, testing and production of the ARBS boom, and is also likely to see work at its facilities near Seville, Cadiz, and Madrid. Manufacture of the Airbus aircraft is conducted all over Europe, with integration at Toulouse, France and/or Bremen, Germany. If final integration of the A330-200F freighters switches to Mobile, AL as promised, and the KC-45 program ends up substituting the A330-200F for the A330-200 as the base airframe, the amount of American content would rise slightly.

    ARBS at work
    (click to view full)

    GE AviationCF6-80E1 engines. The CF6-80E1 is rated at 67,500 pounds of thrust, and power a number of commercial A330-200/300s. Key locations: Evendale, OH. Estimated total value for GE units from the KC-45 program: $5 billion. Unchanged in Round 2.

    GE subsidiary Smiths Aerospace – Flight Management System; indeed, they are the supplier of choice for common Flight Management Systems for the KC-X tanker, no matter who wins. Key locations: Grand Rapids, MI.

    Cobham plc subsidiary Sargent Fletcher Inc. – Air refueling hose and drogue systems; their products are also used on the KC-135, KC-10, KC-130J, MC-130H and F/A-18 E/F. The pods carry their own power system, and their 90 foot long hoses can offload approximately 420 gallons of fuel per minute. Key locations: El Monte, CA; Bridgeport, WVA. Estimated total value of Cobham win: $1 billion. Unchanged in Round 2.

    Eaton Corp. – Actuators, pumps, valves, nozzles and other aerial refueling equipment. Mentioned in Round 2 team.

    Goodrich Corporation – “Various aircraft systems”. Mentioned in Round 2 team.

    Honeywell – Radio Management System, Mission Avionics Suite, and Mechanical Systems. Key locations: Albuquerque, NM; Phoenix, AZ; Redmond, WA; and Torrance, CA. Unchanged in Round 2.

    Moog, Inc. – Flight control systems. Mentioned in the Round 2 team.

    Parker Aerospace – Air Refueling Receptacle, a.k.a. Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI). This allows the KC-30 itself to be refueled in the air. Similar Parker UARRSI systems are currently used on the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B bombers, C-130 & C-17 transports, and KC-10 tanker aircraft. Also providing hydraulic system equipment, fluid conveyance products and fuel components. Key locations: Irvine, CA.

    Vought Aircraft subsidiary Triumph Aerostructures – Wing structures. Mentioned in the Round 2 team.

    Additional Readings The USA’s Aerial Tanker Fleet

    Related Studies and Reports

    Ongoing News and Views

    • Rockwell Collins’ Horizons magazine (Vol. 16, #4) – Refueling Innovation [PDF]. Discusses their development of the KC-46A’s flight controls and refueling systems.

    • Forbes Business and the Beltway blog, via WayBack (Feb 28/11) – How Boeing Won The Tanker War. By the Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson, who had been predicting a Boeing loss.

    • Los Angeles Times, via WayBack (Feb 28/11) – How one lawmaker gave Boeing a boost in tanker contest. That would be Rep. Norm Dicks [D-WA].

    • Teal Group – March 2010 Letter. RE: KC-X politics in America, and the European trade angle.

    • Leeham News and Comment (Jan 4/10) – Outlook for Airbus, Boeing in 2010. Aerospace analysts at Leeham look at a number of programs, including KC-X, and set them in context with respect to the firms’ overall transport/passenger aircraft portfolios. They believe that Boeing is trying to keep Airbus from establishing a dollar zone production foothold, as much as it’s trying to win the military contract.

    • Lexington Institute (Nov 2/09) – Tanker Wars: Why Northrop Grumman Thinks It Can’t Win

    • Aviation Week (Sept 21/09) – New Players Poised for Next KC-X Duel [dead link]. Looks at the people involved in the USAF, Boeing, and NGC.

    • Aviation Week (Sept 15/09) – USAF Worries About Refueler Repair Costs “…maintenance crews sometimes work 7 hr. for every hour of KC-135 flight… When you get out to about 2018 and 2020, what started out as about $2 billion a year to maintain the KC-135 fleet goes all the way up to $6 billion… In total, aging-related costs are expected to add at least $17.8 billion to the price of maintaining the KC-135 for 40 years.”

    • NDIA National Defense magazine, via WayBack (June 2009) – Defense Department Can Split Tanker Buy, And Still Save Money

    • Col. Ken Allard (June 16/08) – Air Force Tanker Contract Will Test Alabama Legal Infrastructure. An under-appreciated element. “If Boeing Co. had won the tanker contract, most of the manufacturing work would have been done in the Seattle area. EADS proposes building the aircraft at a new plant in Mobile, Ala. But are the supporting legal infrastructures in Seattle and Mobile roughly equal? Such concerns are vital, given the usual propensities for fraud and malfeasance in any $50 billion contract…”

    • Lexington Institute (March 12/08) – Boeing Fights Back: How it Plans to Prevail

    • Flight International (Jan 21/08) – Size matters in US Air Force KC-X contest. As DID noted earlier: “Is bigger always better? This is at the heart of the battle between Boeing and Northrop Grumman…” A Northrop Grumman release later elaborates on the model used by the KC-30 consortium to derive relative performance figures.

    • Flight International (Jan 16/08) – Airbus sees strong rise in widebody sales but Boeing remains stronger. Gives exact breakdowns for Boeing and Airbus’ sales across all passenger aircraft they produce. Airbus’ complete redesign of the A350 is the big reason for their rise – the original A350’s features, and the uncertainty created by the move, had slashed their 2006 widebody sales.

    • The Woracle (Jan 14-16/08) – Flight International editor Graham Warwick attends briefings from Boeing and from Northrop Grumman/Airbus, then offers a synopsis of the points being made by each side.

    • Flight International (Nov 26/07) – Boom or bust time for US tankers. Interesting comments re: political/geographic bases of support for each team.

    • AFA’s US Air Force Magazine, via WayBack (Feb 13/07) – Why the 767? As opposed to the KC-777, or even the KC-767-300. Boeing explains its choice.

    • USAF, via The Free Library (March 10/07) – Logistics officials discuss Stratotanker sustainment. Apparently, the aircraft need more spares than the USAF had planned. Real fatigue problem, or just encouraged to report, as an advert by the USAF for the KC-X’s necessity?

    • Flight International (Feb 13/07) – Crucial contests: US tankers and transport aircraft

    • Lexington Institute (Nov 28/06) – Fate of Huge Tanker Program Could Hinge on Cargo Role. “The wild card is cargo-carrying capacity, because if the request for proposals sets a modest goal, that will tend to favor the 767, and if it sets an ambitious goal that will tend to favor the A330. With cargo thresholds potentially driving the competitive outcome, Congress will be watching closely for any sign of bias. If it doesn’t like what is sees, tanker modernization could be delayed yet again.”

    • Special Operations Technology, via WayBack (Nov 19/06) – KC-X. Very good summary of all of the tankers’ envisaged roles and key capabilities, then adds: “Equally important as the strategic KC-X program, if not more so, is an ever-growing urgency to bring relief to the AFSOC tanker aircraft. The KC-Xs will keep the MC- and HC-130s topped off, but they too need attention.

    • Seattle Post-Intelligencer, via WayBack (June 1-2/06) – Landing the Tanker article series.

    KC-X: The Competition

    KC-X: The Protest Wars

    KC-X: The Lobbying War

    All sites presented in archived form via the WayBack Machine.

    • Build Them Both, via WayBack. A lobbying group that favored a dual-buy program, with accelerated deliveries.

    • Boeing – Global Tanker: KC-X Competition. It evolved over time. In 2007, it listed both a 767 and 777 option. This article offers a good KC-767 vs. KC-777 comparison. By 2009, it has evolved to focus on the “KC-767AT,” and included bid protest documents.

    • Boeing – Tanker Facts. Protest blog, launched after the loss, and discontinued mid-2009. See also, launched as a lobbying platform in advance of Round 2. It terminatedaround the end of 2011, after Boeing had secured their win.

    • US Tanker 2011, a Boeing-allied lobbying effort. Web site still up in 2013.

    • KC-45 Now. EADS North America’s lobbying site for the KC-X competition. See also the allied “Keep Our Tanker” site, and EADS’ Tanker Activity Update dedicated to news developments re: its various Airbus aerial tanker offerings. All of these sites were defunct by mid-2011.

    • Northrop Grumman & EADS – KC-30 official site. The planes would be assembled in Mobile, AL, and the Northrop Grumman – EADS consortium promised that “More than 50 percent of the aircraft’s content – from engines to avionics and systems – will come from American companies.”

    • Northrop Grumman – America’s New Tanker. Launched after the win, includes features designed to help people take political action. Effectively ended in 2008.

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    Physical Optics to support DDS systems for US Navy's T-45 trainer aircraft

    Naval Technology - Wed, 10/06/2015 - 01:00
    Physical Optics has secured a follow-on Increment II production contract from the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) for associated development, production, and delivery of 31 digital data set (DDS) systems for the US Navy's T-45 trainer aircraft.
    Categories: Defence`s Feeds